Post Casino Night AU where Jim goes to Australia, and Pam follows.
Categories: Jim and Pam Characters:
March 09, 2020 Updated:
May 27, 2020
1. Chapter 1: Setup by Comfect
2. Chapter 2: En Route by Comfect
3. Chapter 3: Movies by Comfect
4. Chapter 4: A Brief Update by Comfect
5. Chapter 5: Work by Comfect
6. Chapter 6: Hostel Airspace by Comfect
7. Chapter 7: Food and Flight by Comfect
8. Chapter 8: The Thirsty Bird by Comfect
9. Chapter 9: Next Steps by Comfect
10. Chapter 10: An Arrival by Comfect
11. Chapter 11: Visitations by Comfect
12. Chapter 12: Night Falls by Comfect
13. Chapter 13: At Cross Purposes by Comfect
14. Chapter 14: Lows by Comfect
15. Chapter 15: Museums Galore by Comfect
16. Chapter 16: Walking Tours by Comfect
17. Chapter 17: Height Differential by Comfect
18. Chapter 18: Important Information by Comfect
19. Chapter 19: Arm in Arm by Comfect
20. Chapter 20: Drinks by Comfect
21. Chapter 21: The Same, Continued by Comfect
22. Chapter 22: Walking by Comfect
23. Chapter 23: Dinner by Comfect
24. Chapter 24: A Hotel by Comfect
25. Chapter 25: I Scream for Ice Cream by Comfect
26. Chapter 26: Lost by Comfect
27. Chapter 27: A Long Walk by Comfect
28. Chapter 28: One Hostel by Comfect
29. Chapter 29: The Night into Morning by Comfect
30. Chapter 30: Planning by Comfect
31. Chapter 31: Waiting for a Train by Comfect
32. Chapter 32: A Long Walk by Comfect
33. Chapter 33: Arrival at the Park by Comfect
34. Chapter 34: Kangaroos by Comfect
35. Chapter 35: Gift Shop by Comfect
36. Chapter 36: Venues by Comfect
37. Chapter 37: Walk Back by Comfect
38. Chapter 38: The Mall by Comfect
39. Chapter 39: Train Ride by Comfect
40. Chapter 40: Dinner by Comfect
41. Chapter 41: The Rest of Dinner by Comfect
42. Chapter 42: Sleepless Nights in the Non-Fun Way by Comfect
43. Chapter 43: Resume by Comfect
44. Chapter 44: Sky Walking by Comfect
45. Chapter 45: The Morning After by Comfect
46. Chapter 46: Breakfast by Comfect
47. Chapter 47: Tickets by Comfect
48. Chapter 48: Rugby Union by Comfect
49. Chapter 49: Phone Call Part 1 by Comfect
50. Chapter 50: Phone Call, Part 2 by Comfect
51. Chapter 51: As Close As This Story Comes to Uprating by Comfect
52. Chapter 52: A Brief and Similar Follow-Up by Comfect
53. Chapter 53: An Email by Comfect
54. Chapter 54: Bunches of Brunches by Comfect
55. Chapter 55: Beethoven by Comfect
56. Chapter 56: Rugby League by Comfect
57. Chapter 57: Choices, Choices by Comfect
58. Chapter 58: I'm On A Boat! by Comfect
59. Chapter 59: Koalas! by Comfect
60. Chapter 60: Drawings by Comfect
61. Chapter 61: It's All About the Climb by Comfect
62. Chapter 62: Pool by Comfect
63. Chapter 63: Flights by Comfect
64. Chapter 64: Back in the US by Comfect
65. Chapter 65: Who's Dunkin My Donuts? by Comfect
66. Chapter 66: First Day Back by Comfect
67. Chapter 67: The Convention by Comfect
68. Chapter 68: The Coup by Comfect
69. Chapter 69: Nice (Also, Diwali) by Comfect
70. Chapter 70: Branch Closing by Comfect
71. Chapter 71: The Merger by Comfect
72. Chapter 72: Merger Part 2 by Comfect
73. Chapter 73: A Benihana Christmas by Comfect
74. Chapter 74: Back from Vacation by Comfect
75. Chapter 75: Phyllis's Wedding by Comfect
76. Chapter 76: Business School by Comfect
77. Chapter 77: Cocktails by Comfect
78. Chapter 78: Women's Appreciation by Comfect
79. Chapter 79: Beach Games by Comfect
80. Chapter 80: The Job, Part 1 by Comfect
81. Chapter 81: The Job, Part 2 (Finale) by Comfect
Chapter 1: Setup by Comfect
Somehow, someway, he was going to stop obsessing over Pam Beesly.
OK, so he probably wasn’t going to do that. But he could maybe, possibly, stop obsessing over obsessing over Pam Beesly. Maybe?
Fifteen minutes later he was pretty sure that wasn’t possible either.
Maybe it would have been easier three years ago, when she was just the girl at work he projected his romantic fantasies on, imagining what it would be like to be in a healthy, stable relationship like she seemed to be in with her fiancée. Sure, he didn’t like seeing himself as Roy, who he didn’t particularly enjoy spending time with when they both hung out with their mutual friend Darryl, but back then it had just been a little bit of probably (definitely) unhealthy projection, mixed with wishing that some of his college relationships had been a little more functional. Maybe if he’d just stopped thinking about her then, he’d have been fine.
Or maybe it would have been easier two years ago, when they were good friends, maybe even best friends (though he wouldn’t have told Mark that), and his little bit of projection had turned into a full-blown crush. But crushes could be…well…crushed, right? And maybe he could have taken some of his relationships back then more seriously if he hadn’t always compared those women to Pam. If he could just have stopped thinking about her then, he was sure he could kept it off, cold turkey if need be.
Maybe it would have been at least possible, if not easy, a year ago, when he was definitely in love with her, but convinced it was one-sided, eternally one-sided. Maybe he’d still been caught up in the memory of those first few months after she’d told him that she was engaged to Roy, when he’d imagined they were such a happy couple that she couldn’t possibly have any feelings left over for him. But whatever it had been, back then he’d been so sure she couldn’t reciprocate his feelings, that there was at least some chance, in retrospect if not at the time, that he could have stopped, could have admitted the impossibility of it all to himself and just…pulled out somehow.
Hard as it might be, maybe he even could have done it four months ago, when in what, in a hopeful moment, he’d thought of as the worst night of his life, he’d stared at her on a boat and then had to see her actually set a date for her wedding with Roy.
Now, when he’d finally, finally, kissed her when she’d told him she too had wanted to do it for a long time, when she’d rejected him using those maddeningly ambiguous words “I can’t,” and not “I don’t,” or even “I won’t”?
Now he was utterly incapable of it, even when his rational mind could admit he had to.
And worst of all, he still had twenty-four hours of plane flights ahead of him, with nothing but Pam Beesly and kangaroos on his mind.
He resolved to do his best to focus on the kangaroos, at least until the plane reached Los Angeles, if not Sydney.
Pamela Morgan Beesly.
Pamela. Morgan. Beesly.
She’d never really liked the rhythm of her name, she realized, until Jim Halpert came along. She’d been Pammy—then Pam (except to Roy, of course)—and left Pamela well behind. She’d mostly ignored Morgan, and been increasingly eager to become Pam Beesly Anderson (never Pamela Anderson), until she’d met Jim Halpert.
Jim Halpert, who always called her Beesly, attaching a value to a name she’d been almost eager to abandon (not that her parents were anything but wonderful, and yet…).
Jim Halpert, whose kiss had turned her insides out and made the possibility of Pam Beesly Anderson recede so far into the background of her mind she couldn’t see it.
Jim Halpert, who was, according to Toby Flenderson (and there was a last name she couldn’t imagine lingering under) currently on a plane to Australia.
While she, Pamela Morgan Beesly, was sitting in a hotel room in Scranton, Pennsylvania, staring at the two, admittedly large, suitcases that contained all the items she’d felt necessary to continue her life after breaking up with Roy Anderson.
I don't know how long this will go or how often I will update, but it occurred to me and I couldn't help but write it down.
Chapter 2: En Route by Comfect
On our way.
Los Angeles airport was just as boring as Philadelphia airport, or Scranton-Wilkes Barre airport, or indeed any airport that Jim had ever been in. It should, he thought, have been more exciting. But as usual, the problem was in him (in his misinterpreting things, specifically). If he were more interested in where he was going, the places along the way would probably be more interesting too. Or maybe he’d be just as bored in LAX thinking about how awesome Australia might be as he was thinking about what he’d left behind in Scranton.
In an effort to snap himself out of it during his extremely long layover (the travel agent had been very convincing about the benefits of a three-plus hour layover: “no chance you’ll miss your second flight!”) he wandered the terminals, searching out the best food, the comfiest seats, the least annoying fellow travelers. He ended up with a burrito from some overpriced Mexican place (when in California, at least he could get something better than Taco Bell) and a chair tucked in the corner by a single gate (not his own) that didn’t seem to have much traffic.
Unfortunately, the wrapped nature of a burrito meant that, after a certain point, he couldn’t really linger out the experience or it would all fall apart.
Kind of like his life.
In order to dislodge that particular idea, he found himself wandering the aisles of a Hudson News, searching for something to read. Unfortunately, the candy was on an endcap next to the tabloids, and he kept catching glimpses of the headlines as he pondered the newly endless variety of peanut butter-based candies provided by Reese’s.
Not his favorite words, but much preferable, he quickly realized, to the ones that almost sent him to his knees in the middle of a mediocre news-and-water peddler.
It was, he tried to note dispassionately, just some minor soap star he’d never really heard of except in passing in a Kelly-sourced diatribe. It wasn’t really that important. But the thought of a broken engagement, a woman who refused to walk down the aisle because she had a better option, a wedding that never happened, was too hard to take. It made him feel like a failure. That woman had left her fiancée at the altar just for herself; Pam hadn’t been willing to do the same with the additional impetus of him.
As he started the long walk back towards his gate, Reese’s Take 5 in hand (the Fast Break had looked good until he’d thought a little more about the words) he started to wonder about that distinction he’d drawn between the starlet and Pam. The starlet had done it for herself. Wasn’t that really what he’d want for Pam? Did he want her to leave Roy just for him, or because Roy was wrong for her? The answer was both, of course, but which should predominate? Was he really Pam’s best friend, or just a guy who wanted to get into her pants?
Not even the pretzel bits in the Take 5 could make that last thought go down easily.
There was only so much on TV. Chopped was good, but the Food Network feed was grainy. Jeopardy had been fun, but it was only half an hour. The poker tournament was out, given…well…everything. Pam threw down the remote and started pacing the hotel room. She wasn’t, actually, bored. She was just unable to stop herself from thinking about Jim.
She’d broken up with Roy three days before the wedding, a day before Jim was set to fly to Australia. It hadn’t been an easy conversation, but it felt like it should have been harder: ten years of love should take more than an hour to unravel. But then again, it had been unraveling for years; the last conversation was more like flaking off a piece of dead skin than ripping off a bandaid.
Why hadn’t she done it before?
But then again, why should she have? She hadn’t known how Jim felt about her. She hadn’t really known how she felt about him until he had told her how he felt. But that hadn’t really been the thing that pushed her to break up with Roy. It had been the way he’d responded when, ever since Casino Night, she’d tried to put the same emotional burden on him that she’d realized she’d been putting on Jim for years. She’d tried to start lightly: talking to him about her day, showing him more of her art, asking him to tell her a little about his own day even. She’d realized that she didn’t just ask things of Jim; she gave to him too. She listened to him like he did to her, a give and take that made her feel both more alive and happier. So she tried, really tried, not to just ask Roy to take her burdens but to take his from his shoulders as well.
But it turned out he didn’t need or want that from her, and he had no space in his day to take on any of her concerns either. It wasn’t that he was cruel. He didn’t shout or scream or hit anything or anyone. He just…shrugged a lot. And grunted. And basically continued to be the same Roy he’d been ever since they moved in together.
If they’d really been right for each other, it would have been enough.
But it wasn’t.
And now she was pacing around a single room thinking about a man who was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Jim wasn’t her rebound from Roy; he was the man she’d actually been in relationship with (in the sense that her childhood pastor had meant when he’d talked about “being a church in relationship with the community,” responsive to its needs and concerned about its concerns). In a moment of energy, she flung open the door and stalked down to the business center. She didn’t have a personal laptop (“saving up for the wedding” was the biggest grift she’d ever done on herself, she was quickly realizing) but the hotel had to have some kind of computer she could use.
Thanks for the feedback! I'm excited to get this one going, and I hope you enjoy coming on the trip with me and JAM.
Chapter 3: Movies by Comfect
Movies and emails.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Dazed and Confused
What was this, classics hour on Qantas? Jim flipped through the movie options, but his mind was far away in both space and time, back in Scranton, back at the time he and Pam had teased each other about their movie choices. He couldn’t even remember what he’d chosen (besides Dazed and Confused, because Pam liked it too) but her list, and her comments on other people’s, were burned into his memory.
Naturally, he initially selected Dazed and Confused, as the only one of those that he actually liked, but before opening credits finished rolling he’d clicked back and started Legally Blonde. If he was going to watch something he knew Pam liked, he was going to watch something he didn’t. Just to remind him that they weren’t actually perfectly matched.
It would have helped more if he hadn’t enjoyed every moment of it. I mean, it wasn’t a top five, but then it hadn’t made Pam’s either. He issued a silent prayer for forgiveness for having made fun of her and Meredith, but especially Katy. He had been very wrong. Almost as wrong as taking a shower with a perm.
But he hadn’t been wrong about being compatible with Pam, dammit. Though at least since Katy also liked the movie, he had categorical proof that he wasn’t inherently compatible with anyone who liked it—and he wasn’t even touching the idea of Meredith.
Still, he almost regretted having watched and enjoyed the movie, especially since he still had another 12 hours in the air, and no relief from his thoughts of Pam. He squirmed in his seat and endured the glare of his seatmate, who clearly did not appreciate the movement of their shared elbow space. He smiled a pained apology and tried his best to suffer in silence. Which, he reflected, was what he was best at.
The business center was silent but open, eerie green lights from the printer reflecting off the black screens of two chunky desktops that were probably as old as anything at Dunder Mifflin. Pam sat down in one of the swivel chairs, which creaked as her weight descended upon it, and spun around slowly. The lights gradually blinked on, one by one, and it became very clear that the “business center” didn’t see a lot of business—or cleaning.
But did it have a working internet connection? She let her spin slow to a stop and slid the chair back to the desk. She nudged the mouse and waited as the ancient machine whirred into life. She held her breath, worried it might ask her for a password or a login that she did not have, but the screen, when it came up, was a standard Windows XP desktop. She clicked Start and then, with a sigh, Internet Explorer. Jim had recently gotten her to install Firefox on her work computer, so she was no longer used to IE, and somehow the lack of Mozilla on the business center computer made her feel his absence even more heartily, if that were possible. She waited (again) for the molasses-slow connection to show her her email, skipping over the seven emails from Roy (though not without noticing the increasingly poor spelling and extravagant punctuation in the subject lines with a wince) and focusing on the one from Toby, the last one she’d read on the computer back at her…at Roy’s, before the move.
I’m afraid that it’s against company policy for me to divulge anything about any other employee’s leave plans.
However, in regards to your own, I can confirm that you are still scheduled for your own leave beginning June 7 and continuing for three weeks. I’m sorry to hear you won’t be using it for a honeymoon, but company policy does not permit the unscheduling of scheduled leave. Enjoy the time off!
PS As a concerned friend, I hope you’re doing OK. You can call me on my personal cell at any time: 570 334 4591. And, as his friend, I can say, entirely separately from any official leave plans, that Jim just happened to tell me that he was flying into Sydney arriving June 8. He’s probably already left, given the time zones and everything.
Human Resources—Dunder Mifflin
So. She wasn’t going into work until late June—but she also was definitely not going to the Poconos with Roy Anderson. She’d promised him he and Kenny could go, since that seemed to be the only thing he’d really, truly wanted besides the TV and the Playstation, which she’d been all too happy not to take. Well, and her, but that, she had decided firmly, was hers and hers alone. So she was here, in Scranton for three weeks, without a honeymoon.
She supposed she could use the time to find an apartment, but…she just didn’t find the urge in her. One place was as good as another, and the hotel would do for now—she had plenty of money from the now ex-wedding fund, especially since in exchange for giving Roy and Kenny the honeymoon she’d kept most of the actual cash. And besides, her friend Izzy had offered her a couch, and while she didn’t relish couch-surfing in the abstract, she missed hanging out with Izzy until all hours, like they’d done in college. Not forever, of course, but long enough that she wouldn’t really feel any advantage to spending all her time finding an apartment any earlier.
Before she noticed what she was doing, she found herself clicking on the blinking ad in the corner of the screen. CHEAPOAIR: LAST MINUTE FLIGHTS.
So...the speed of this is impacted by being on spring break, and with my in-laws, and not having a lot to do (hence 3 updates in 2 days). I do expect it to slow down once I have other things to do, but I'm enjoying writing it so I don't expect it to grind entirely to a halt. Thanks for the reviews! It really helps to know people are out there reading.
Chapter 4: A Brief Update by Comfect
Small but mighty.
Somewhere over the Pacific he must have finally slipped into some kind of slumber, because the next thing Jim knew his disagreeable seatmate was pushing past him into the aisle and grabbing their bag. He unfolded himself from the seat and reached up for his bag, patting his pocket and finding the printouts of his hostel reservation and directions still there, which was reassuring. He pondered as he shifted the bag to his other shoulder whether he’d actually packed enough for a week in Australia. Seven days of clothes, toiletries, two jackets (he still wasn’t clear how warm or cold it was here in June) and The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde had seemed like enough when he was just trying desperately to get out of Scranton. Now that he was in Sydney (well, wherever the airport actually was, it was close enough as made no bones about being Sydney) it suddenly seemed mightily inadequate. Ah well, as his mother used to say anytime they went on a trip, Australia was a civilized country. You could probably buy things there.
He shuffled off the plane and out into the airport. It was, well, exceedingly similar to Los Angeles and Philadelphia before it. But as he changed his money (dollars into…dollars (AUS)) and wandered only somewhat aimlessly towards the train that would whisk him away to the central business district, he nevertheless felt strange. Alienated. Adrift. Maybe it was the snatches of unfamiliar slang dropped in an unfamiliar (if widely parodied) accent. Maybe it was the spelling on the signs, with all their excessive uses of the letter u. Maybe it was the sense that everyone else knew what they were doing and had direction, while he was simply letting himself float along the tide.
Or maybe it was the fact that even when he’d thought about this trip in his mind, he’d always had Pam with him. Even though he was trying to get away from her wedding, he couldn’t stop her from riding along, ticket-free, in his head.
CHEAPOAIR actually lived up to its name, a first in Pam’s experience of online advertisements. At first she dabbled around the idea that had popped up in her head, checking flights to less exciting locales: Cleveland, Biloxi, Albuquerque. But finally she zeroed into the plan she’d had all along.
Leaving today. Returning when she knew Jim did, in a week.
What the hell. It was only money.
Sorry for the very short update, but I wanted to keep up the momentum.
Chapter 5: Work by Comfect
In a reversal, more Pam this time.
A short train ride into the Sydney downtown (was there a term for that? He vaguely recalled from a class presentation in middle school that the English called their big shopping area the high street, but he wasn’t sure if that applied to the whole downtown or just a literal main street, and he knew that Australia was founded by English people but didn’t know if they kept the terms) and Jim was stumbling into his hostel, dead on his feet. His brain had turned to mush somewhere between the airport and the seat on the train, and all he was capable of was thanking providence that Australians spoke English so he didn’t have to make himself understood in an actual foreign language, different as their accents and slang might be. They found his reservation, gave him a room key, and before he knew anything else he was dead to the world.
Australian beds might not be the most comfortable in the world, but they did exist, and that was the most important part.
The fifteen minutes when he was utterly incapable of thinking of anything but a bed were the longest he had not thought about Pam Beesly in over a month.
It didn’t seem fair, Pam thought, that so much of the effort came after the decision was made. In a just world (one she was understandably certain she did not live in even before this, but which she nevertheless aspired to) once she made the life-altering decisions, they ought to unroll themselves with the clockwork precision of a movie montage, accompanied by ticking clocks or falling calendar leaves. But no. Every major choice she’d made this last month had been accompanied by ugly, hard, annoying work.
Don’t let yourself get swept up in the emotions of Casino Night. Go back to Roy. Be an adult. What do you get? Hours of conversations and regrets and apologies and effort, all resulting in bupkis except for a renewed sense of self-direction and empowerment. Which yes, was very nice, but still a lot of work and angst and pain (especially about Jim) for nothing but a realization that you controlled your own life. Which in turn led to:
Decide to leave Roy. Have a real, meaningful conversation about it in which you don’t let yourself get sidetracked or distracted or convinced to change your mind. Be an adult. What do you get? Moving expenses, choices of hotel, dividing up your items, calling every single person on your damn guest list until you worry you’ll run out of minutes on the chunky cell phone you still use because the hotel phone line won’t connect to a long-distance number even if you pay and Roy can’t be bothered to call anyone on his side of the wedding (which in turn means you also get to explain to his 87-year-old grandma who’s hard of hearing that her Royboy won’t be marrying that nice Pam Beesly after all. At least Grandma Anderson spent that whole conversation thinking she was Roy’s mother, not Pam, or else it would have been even worse). This in turn led to:
Have the hard conversation with your mother and with Roy’s about how you two are going in different directions. OK, this one was actually pretty reasonable, since Mrs. Anderson (as opposed to Grandma Anderson) was surprisingly understanding (perhaps the fact that she could literally see Roy duck out of the room to avoid having a hard talk contributed something to that). But the emotional labor involved…whew. It knocked you out. Which meant that you missed Jim Halpert even more than you had for the last when you got back to the hotel you clicked on an ad for CHEAPOAIR and bought a ticket leaving in 12 hours for Sydney, Australia. Which in turn led to:
Packing again and having to call your mother and Izzy and explain again that actually your plans had changed again and could someone very nicely drop you off at the airport and actually you meant JFK in New York and yes, Izzy, you would definitely pay for those new pumps that she’d been ogling in the online store of Saks 5th Avenue but in the real store when you got back if she’d do you this one huge favor—and then a three hour drive with Izzy in which she continually and pointedly did not ask you if you were sure about flying halfway around the world for this Jim fellow because she already knew the answer.
It was almost enough to make a girl glad to be sitting on a hard chair by a gate at JFK with nothing to read because you forgot to bring the bag with your book and it was sitting in Izzy’s trunk on the way back to Scranton.
What was enough to make her glad was the realization that, if she could manage it, in twenty-four hours she’d be in the same city as Jim Halpert again. Assuming she could find him. And assuming he still wanted to talk to her.
She’d really hoped that making the not-so-adult choice, the impulsive choice, the crazy-mixed-up choice would mean there was less work ahead, not more.
Another popcorn-quick update. Now that my university is on online-only delivery for the coronavirus, we'll see what that does to productivity. Thanks to everyone for all the feedback, I really value it especially in the age of social distancing.
Chapter 6: Hostel Airspace by Comfect
Jim wakes up and Pam flies.
Jim would have, in an ideal world, slept as long as he could. Probably at least half a day. Maybe more. One time, when he and Mark had taken a spring break trip to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, he’d actually passed out for 18 hours at a stretch because of the jet lag, and wasn’t Sydney even further away than Dublin?
He had already rehearsed to himself a long list of reasons why this was not the ideal world, a list which always began with “Pam doesn’t love me” and worked its way down to things like “Dwight exists” and “Todd Packer is not in jail.” But now there was another item for the list: while he did have a private room at the hostel (there was saving money and then there was having to deal with strangers while you sobbed your heart out over a woman who didn’t love you), the walls were paper thin, and a group of German tourists decided to make themselves at home with some very loud conversation about how disappointed they were with the Sydney Opera House. At least, he assumed it was that—the only words he could understand were “Opernhaus” which he took to be Opera House, and German being an inherently violent language he simply assumed they were disappointed or angry. If Dwight were there, he might have been able to translate, but that would not have been an improvement.
Even this might have been tolerable, had he not been hit simultaneously by two waves of related sadness. On the one hand, this was exactly the sort of anecdote he would tell to Pam, if he thought there was any chance of them ever being on speaking terms again without breaking his heart. He could imagine it now: a mild Dwight imitation with wild hand motions as he ranted about the “schönes geschwungenes Opernhaus” at full volume. She’d laugh. His heart would break just a little more.
The other wave was more retrospective. He’d never admitted it to himself before, but at this precise moment he had to confess that he’d chosen Australia not just because of the kangaroos, not just because it was or at least seemed to be the farthest place he could get from Scranton for Pam’s wedding, not just because there’d been a deal on Qantas, but because of a conversation he and Pam had had way back in that first year when he’d been not entirely completely gone yet—but still paying full attention to everything and anything she said.
He wasn’t sure exactly how they’d gotten on the topic of architecture; possibly something about the boxiness of their office building, which had led to a discussion of the worst and best buildings they’d ever seen (her: the old Quonset hut grocery store her parents used to go to when she was little and a gorgeous house with a terrace garden she’d spotted on a family trip to New Orleans in sixth grade that had stuck with her; him: Dunder Mifflin [obviously, Pam, how could you think otherwise] and Fallingwater) which had segued into him recollecting a childhood trip to Oak Park, Illinois (where his great-uncle lived) and all the Frank Lloyd Wright houses there. From that they’d started talking architecture, and it had turned out that Pam’s interest in drawing had closely mirrored his sister Larissa’s in architectural drafting, and she’d excitedly shown up to work the next day to show him a sketch she’d done as a teenager (it had made him unduly happy that she’d specified that this was “just an old thing, even before Roy and I got together”). It was a perspective sketch of a building, clearly from what Pam had called her “architectural phase.”
It was the Sydney Opera House.
So of course, when he’d decided to run as far away from Pam Beesly as he could, he’d run straight towards the single place on that side of the world that most reminded him of her. He pondered the irony—because it was probably safer to ponder that than to plan the violent murder of a gaggle of German tourists with only a pillow, a blanket, and the contents of his backpack.
The problem with air travel, Pam decided, is that there was too much downtime. Even the entertainment options on the plane were disappointing (what did she expect with Delta?). She’d started to watch the Forty Year Old Virgin, only to stop after the main character reminded her too much of Michael. Then she’d tried the music stations, only to be instantly betrayed by the Britpop station filling her ears with “Sing, Sing, Sing” and her eyes with tears. Her best first date that wasn’t a date, and wasn’t even actually their first. If she’d better known what she was doing, how she really felt, she would have chided Jim for that instead of for the audacity of broaching the idea of a date at all. She could see it now in her mind’s eye: “Our first date, Jim? How could you forget Cugino’s! Did it mean nothing to you?” followed by fake tears. Except how could she imagine fake tears with the real ones streaming down her face?
The woman next to her leaned over. “Can I offer you a tissue, dearie?”
Pam initially considered refusing, but then thought about how she must look: sitting there in the middle seat (a hazard of last-minute ticket purchases) with tears and probably snot streaming down her face. “Uh, thanks.”
“You’re very welcome.” The woman sat back and then leaned again. “Are you OK?”
It was a silly question, as the woman’s face seemed to suggest she immediately realized. But for some reason it made Pam’s tears turn into laughter, and so it was a blessing.
“No. No I’m not OK.” She dabbed and wiped with the tissue before consigning it to the seatback pocket in front of her. “But it’s OK not to be OK, you know?”
“Very wise.” The woman smiled and produced another tissue. “It’s better not to pretend, isn’t it.”
The words hit Pam deep in her gut. “You know? It really is.”
For the record, I made sure that Jim does not speak German, because they're actually complimenting the Opera House. More soon! Thanks for the feedback, it's been really valuable to me in keeping this story going.
Chapter 7: Food and Flight by Comfect
Jim goes out and Pam clams up.
After the German onslaught, Jim finally heaved himself out of bed and wandered out into the streets to seek some sort of sustenance. He stumbled past a fountain commemorating something or other (he didn’t stop to check; it was a giant ball of water, which only reminded him of how thirsty he was after an indeterminately long sleep and flight), then picked a direction—only to end up in front of the most American place he could have found: a McDonalds.
To be clear, he realized as he examined the menu through the window, the offerings weren’t quite the same as in the US. The sandwiches, McFlurries, and so on were all slightly different, slightly off, like walking through a funhouse mirror. But the fries were still McDonalds fries, he could see from the pictures, and the arches were still as golden as ever. He almost went inside—after all, he was hungry—but a little voice inside told him he’d regret it if his first meal in Australia was quite that American.
He tried very hard to ignore the fact that the voice actually asked whether he wanted to tell Pam about that.
Instead he continued on just a little further down the street until he came to a corner with two different food options: a restaurant that proudly proclaimed itself the Thirsty Bird and another rejoicing in the name Friggitoria.
He did not even try to stop the snort that came to his nose unbidden at the second name. McDonalds was one thing; imagine Pam’s reaction when he told her his first meal was at the Friggitoria. That’s what she said, indeed!
Of course, imagine it was all he would be able to do. When he came back, he wasn’t going to see Pam. And that was a good thing, he reminded himself. Or at least a necessary one. It was self-preservation that was driving him to Stamford. He couldn’t tell Pam anything, or else he’d end up insane, and still in love with her.
That might be his fate anyway, but he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to at least try. With that in mind, he pushed his way into the Thirsty Bird (not that that name wasn’t hilarious in its own right, but at least it wasn’t the Friggitoria).
It was hard for Pam to resist the temptation to pour out her heart and soul to the nice lady sitting next to her, but she resolutely sat on her hands and bit her tongue (mostly metaphorically) until the urge passed. What she had to say to Jim—what exactly did she have to say to Jim?—well, whatever it was, it was the sort of thing that had to be said to Jim. She’d spent far too much of her life venting to people who weren’t the main person involved: about Roy to Jim, about Jim to her mother, about herself to…well, Jim as well. She hadn’t spent enough of it saying the right words to the right person; if anything, she was in dun territory there, since she had decidedly said the wrong words to the right person a month ago (even if it was totally and completely unfair for him to drop that on her and expect her to react well). But she couldn’t blame her hurtful words (not so much I can’t, which was, on reflection, a fair statement of how she felt, but I’m sorry if you misinterpreted things, which wasn’t) and hurtful actions (not kissing him, which was, on reflection again, as important to her as breathing, but that little nod when he’d asked about Roy still hurt when she remembered it) on him. Nor on being drunk, though that was looking like an attractive option right now as a way to stop thinking about it. No, she hadn’t done well by Jim or herself, and she needed to make it right with him somehow, not with a stranger, no matter how sympathetic.
She laughed almost maniacally at the thought that if she’d decided to do the same with Roy instead of talking to the new guy at work three years ago, she might not have been in this mess. She didn’t think she’d be with Roy—they just weren’t as compatible at 26 as they’d been at 16 and she knew it—but she wouldn’t be right here right now feeling these things.
The maniacal laughter seemed to reduce the temptation, or at least the opportunity, to confide in her seatmate—but it also made her feel sad. Because the only times she’d really, truly laughed in the last year or so had been with Jim. Jim, who was now—she checked the seatback flight tracker—one hour of flight time, a forty-five minute layover, and another plane flight away.
Shit. Really? Only 45 minutes?
It was a good thing her white sneakers were, technically, running shoes.
Apologies to those, like JennaBennett, who might know something about Sydney, as I don't except through Google Maps. Thank you all for reading and for your feedback; it's really fueling my urge to write.
Chapter 8: The Thirsty Bird by Comfect
Jim eats and Pam runs.
The Thirsty Bird lived up to its name, both in the quantity of bird provided (more than sufficient) and in the thirstiness it engendered (sufficient for him to learn a lot about exactly how much Fosters was not Australian for beer). He made sure, however, to stay filled up on the birds rather than the brews, because he knew how he got when he was drunk.
For a moment, he let his mind cast back to the dark time that he tried so very hard to forget: the week after Casino Night when he’d just called into Toby (avoiding Michael as much as possible since he…knew things) and told him he was deathly ill and cashing in the PTO he’d accumulated over the previous three years of dragging himself into work every day he possibly could in order to see Pamela Beesly (he didn’t say that last part, even to Toby). He thought about Mark, emptying the house of alcohol and muttering something that (even though the haze of cheap Natty Light) had stuck indelibly in his mind: “she’s not at the bottom of the bottle, dude.”
She wasn’t then, and she wouldn’t be now. But he knew Mark’s point wasn’t just the literal one, or even the obvious metaphorical one. It was the words he’d followed up with that really drove it home: “and neither are you.”
Jim Halpert, the Jim Halpert he thought he was and wanted to be again, wasn’t at the bottom of that bottle. So while he sipped the beer the waiter suggested, and used it to wash down some truly excellent chicken, he didn’t give in to the thirst. He let it sit there, reminding him of where he’d been—both Scranton and rock bottom—neither of which he was planning to return to anytime soon.
Pam was actually glad, for once, that she’d been forced to check her main bag. Usually she didn’t like doing it, because she hated the awkward dance at the baggage carousel around the utterly generic bags Roy had insisted they get, because they were cheap, and which it always seemed like she or he or some stranger was confusing with someone else’s bag. This time, though, she’d had to buy a ticket that came with baggage fees included, and she’d only had the big bags anyway because she’d used them to move her stuff out of what used to be their and was now Roy’s house. She had her purse, of course, and a lightweight bag she’d used for art supplies back in college, which she’d carried onto the plane. But her clothes and her toiletries and so on were in the belly of the plane, and it was the airline’s responsibility to get them to her next flight.
All she had to do was make it across two terminals in exactly forty-seven minutes, minus time to get off the plane and the fact that they never actually let you board exactly at the scheduled push back time because then, well, they wouldn’t be pushing back from the gate. She made sure her Keds were laced up, much to the amusement of her seatmate, who had stopped talking to her when she started laughing but who still seemed at least tolerant if not actively helpful. When the seatbelt light went off, her neighbor slid out into the aisle and gestured ahead.
“Go on. My old bones have a big heavy bag to drag along.” The woman looked a spry fifty at the oldest, so Pam expected this was laying it on a bit thick, but she wasn’t going to complain. For once, Pam Beesly was going to take what the universe offered and not look that gift horse in the mouth. She mouthed her thanks (some changes, like speaking loudly, might take a little longer) and dashed up the aisle. One positive about being totally willing, resigned really, to accept a middle seat was that she’d ended up fairly close to the front of the plane. She was out in the terminal remarkably quickly, and to her surprise and delight, for once the exit to the next terminal wasn’t at the very end of the concourse from her. She blessed the graphic design gods for the wayfinding markers that allowed her to quickly and easily navigate her way across the airport without getting lost. By what seemed like a miracle, they weren’t even boarding her group by the time she made the second gate, twenty-two minutes before the flight took off (being in the last of the last groups probably helped with that, she reflected) and she was able to grab a few snacks at the Hudson News by her gate. She also grabbed a magazine blindly off the rack to make sure she had something to read on the plane.
It wasn’t until she was in her seat (middle again, naturally) that she noticed the headline.
Well, sometimes the universe just had things on its mind. She decided to take it as a good sign: she wasn’t the only one. There was always strength in numbers, even if the number was only two.
Hope you enjoyed Jim's little trip and Pam's surprisingly stress free experience. Thank you to all for your feedback; it really is helping me keep this up.
Chapter 9: Next Steps by Comfect
Jim and Pam ponder similar questions from different places.
June, of course, is winter in Sydney, Australia, as indeed it is in the entire southern hemisphere, and they do teach geography in the Scranton, PA public schools.
But despite what ought to have been quite sufficient preparation for this basic fact, Jim was rapidly realizing that he really hadn’t planned this Sydney trip farther than “go away from Pam Beesly fast.” It was colder than he’d expected—fortunately, he’d tossed a rain jacket in with his other things due to an abundance of caution, and colder than he expected still wasn’t actually cold—and after eating a ravenous lunch at the Thirsty Bird he didn’t have the foggiest clue what to do next. He supposed that when in a city you’d never been in before, you should walk around and see things, so that was what he did. He walked up and down the central business district in Sydney, and possibly beyond (he didn’t really know) staring into shop windows and pondering buying trinkets and geegaws, but always putting them back, because the person he always wanted to buy them for was getting married to someone else…sometime soon.
That was the other reason he’d gone to Australia, of course. He was terrible at time zones, and so he didn’t actually know when Pam was getting married. He felt somehow that he’d feel it deep in his gut when she was married, some kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi voices-shouted-out-and-were-suddenly-silenced thing, but until the actual deed was done he was unable to calculate the difference in his head. That was on the one hand merciful, because it meant he couldn’t stand there and say “in twenty-seven hours she’ll be Pamela Anderson” or anything like that, but it was also excruciating because it meant he was always looking over his metaphorical shoulder in fear that it was now.
But he wasn’t there for Pam. He wasn’t there for Pam. He wasn’t there for Pam. That became his mantra. He wasn’t at the little tea shop for Pam, even though the little teal teapot in the window was a painful reminder. He wasn’t at the frozen yogurt place for Pam, and so it was mere coincidence that he kept glancing wistfully over at the mixed berry flavor (created by swirling blueberry and raspberry). He wasn’t at the ice skating rink, or the basketball court, or the dojo for Pam either. And he definitely wasn’t taking a Sydney Harbor Cruise—the last time he’d gotten on a boat thinking of Pam had been bad enough.
Nor was he going to the Opera House, not right now, not when he had to work so hard to be not there for Pam.
That last promise to himself, at least, he was able to keep, if only by the happy coincidence that he found himself back at his hostel, now sans German tourists, and sat back down heavily on his bed. What was he going to do in Sydney?
Pam did not anticipate falling asleep on the flight from LAX to Sydney, so of course she did. This would have been a matter of grave frustration to her, had she been aware of it, which definitionally she was not, because she had hoped to spend the time planning what she was going to say to Jim when she got there, with a side dish of how she expected to find him in a city of several million people and probably more than one American tourist with a cute but dorky haircut.
Instead, she slept. It was much needed, in all truth, for she had not really slept, not proper good sleep, the kind that relaxes and relieves stress, worry, and obligation, for at least month if not longer. At first she’d blamed it on wedding planning stress, then obviously on Jim’s kiss and declaration, and then finally on her own nerves about the realization that no, it really wasn’t working with Roy and the painful reality of cancelling the wedding. And last night she had literally not slept, as she’d had to pack and then meet Izzy ridiculously early for the long drive to her long flight. She slept the sleep of the blessed, and it was beautifully, mercifully relaxing.
Of course, she did not sleep fifteen hours, so it wasn’t as if she didn’t have a chance to gameplan her encounter with Jim, if she could engineer one, but at least she was in a position, once she awoke, to attack the problem with new eyes and something less than a multiweek sleep deficit on her side.
Unfortunately, neither her new eyes nor her relaxation provided any more clues as to what she should actually do.
Another little popcorn update; that's probably how this whole story will go, because it's coming to be in these same drips and drabs. But I promise that at some point Pam will get off the plane. Thank you all for reading and reviewing; it helps keep me sane to write, but also to read what you write to me.
Chapter 10: An Arrival by Comfect
Jim plans and Pam lands.
It turned out that what Jim could do at the hostel, without a bunch of German tourists to distract him, was what he probably should have done before he ever set out: plan his trip.
He already knew he was based in Sydney, because he’d bought a week at the hostel and being a salesman (even a good salesman) at a small paper company in Pennsylvania didn’t really get you “have more than one hotel room a night” money, even in the off-season in Australia. Plus he’d been desperate when he’d bought the tickets but now he was more despairing, and while desperate meant spending money, despairing meant lethargy. So he wasn’t spending more than he had to in order to salvage the trip and make it something he could talk to people back home about without having to say “I moped about Pam the whole time.” And maybe even tell himself that too.
Despite it being winter, it turned out there were actually a fair number of things to do in and about Sydney in the early days of June. Just after…a certain event that would remain nameless…was the Queen’s Birthday. Not actually Elizabeth II Regina’s natal day, of course, but the official celebration that stood in for it so that the ritual calendar of empire didn’t have to change. He supposed it would be the King’s birthday if Charles ever became king, not that that seemed likely anytime soon. A change in the Queen of England was like the discovery of a new planet: you heard tell that things like that had happened, once upon a time, but you didn’t expect to live through it yourself. It didn’t seem like the holiday actually had a lot going on, but there were special hours in some of the museums, and he supposed, given the jetlag, he should take advantage of things like that that might otherwise be closed when his body felt like going out.
Besides the holiday, there were of course backcountry (or more likely, extremely managed pseudo-back-country) kangaroo tours, which were a must (or at least the zoo...) and whale-watching tours, which he supposed might be a good distraction, assuming a) he managed to see a whale and b) no one ever mentioned Moby-Dick to him. He had had the peculiar misfortune to read that book at the age of 15 in an English class, and thinking (inaccurately, as it happened) that his sophomore English grades were going to matter in the grand scheme of things, he’d actually read it with some care. It hadn’t necessarily stuck with him, but there was no way he could think of hunting for whales without thinking of Ahab and the White Whale, and that was just too metaphorical for his present state of mind.
But there were still parties on the long weekend, and he supposed it might be a fine time to explore some of the sports that were new to him: varieties of football he’d only vaguely heard of, cricket, and so on. He imagined himself strutting back into Scranton pretending to Dwight to be an aficionado of some obscure sport even Dwight didn’t comprehend, and it was a satisfying vision for the ten or so seconds before he remembered his plan was not to go back to the Scranton office ever again. Still, the sports seemed like a likely place to start, so he gathered some brochures from the front desk of the hostel and set forth in search of a ticket office.
Pam awaited the descent into Sydney with more bated breath than the flight officer’s extremely well-managed jarless landing deserved. After all, for her it was not so much a matter of whether the landing itself would go well (she actually spent almost no time worrying about that) but about what would happen after. She’d gone round and round and roundabout in her head, playing through all sorts of reactions Jim might have to seeing her (from her favorite, enfolding her in a carbon copy of the warm embrace that she’d felt so cold after slipping out of in the office a month ago, to her secret fear, a blank look of disdain and the cut direct and everything in between, including several glorious blow-by-blow arguments that had let her alternately confess all the things she felt she’d done wrong [in the voice of Jim arguing with her] and let him know in no uncertain terms all he’d done wrong to her [in her own responses]). She’d thought about how she’d greet him, how he might look, what he might be thinking.
But she hadn’t really been able to answer a major question: how was she going to find him? Because “Sydney” wasn’t, actually, an address, and Toby had either clammed right up or just plain not known any more details. She was pretty sure he’d stay downtown, because Jim hated commutes and talked a lot about how much he’d loved central Philly whenever he visited his college friends back there. She knew it couldn’t be expensive, because, well, Dunder Mifflin. But beyond that…Sydney was still a major city, and there were dozens of places he could be staying. And even if she somehow guessed right, maybe he’d be at a bar somewhere, rebounding or moving on or whatever you called it when you finally realized you didn’t need to be lingering around a dowdy receptionist who’d rejected you when you offered her your heart on a silver platter.
Well. That was a thought to bate anyone’s breath.
But she didn’t really think that was what Jim would be doing, or she wouldn’t be flying across the Pacific to tell him that she’d just needed time. No, she was if not sure then at least moderately hopeful that she could count on Jim to be…well, Jim if she could find him.
But she’d have to find him. And for that she’d have to rely on what she had, at one low point right after Casino Night, doubted most: her own instincts about how Jim would behave.
I'm back! It turns out that (according to my doctor) I did not have coronavirus, but, most likely, the normal flu. And I'm back to normal, which means this story is back on track. Thank you all for reading and reviewing; the feedback has meant a lot to me.
Chapter 11: Visitations by Comfect
Jim and Pam visit different locations.
A brisk half-hour (well, more like a vaguely meandering forty-five minute) walk took Jim to what he could definitely recognize as a football stadium. It initially surprised him how much it looked, well, like any other football stadium (big one—not like Marywood’s, but more like the Eagles). He’d somehow expected something vastly different. He supposed it was different enough to have an outdoor stadium—he knew other states in the US had those too, of course, but it hadn’t really struck him how temperate the climate in Sydney must be to have a stadium without a roof.
But then again, he was standing in front of it in the local equivalent of Scranton December in a light jacket, so it made sense.
What was satisfyingly different were the signs out front advertising what he assumed from the names must be different versions of rugby: the Australian Rugby Union and the National Rugby League. He stopped by a ticket office and made the mistake of revealing this ignorance to the ticket-seller; while he did, actually appreciate his newfound knowledge of the difference between a line-out and a scrum restart for a ball sent into touch, the half hour of eager discussion that led to that knowledge could perhaps have been better spent.
Or could it? After all, he was in Australia. What better to do than to learn Australian things and engage with Australians about them? And while he was thinking about the tactical implications of a 13-man vs. a 15-man side, or a 4-point vs. a 5-point try (which was apparently the term for what his brain insisted on calling a touchdown) he wasn’t thinking about Scranton, or anyone he’d left behind there.
OK, he was thinking about Dwight, because oh my god there was no way that if he came back to the office and started talking about rugby Dwight wouldn’t start quizzing him about the difference between rugby union and league and could you imagine how shocked and discomfited he’d be if Jim actually knew the difference? And then he and Pam could pretend to be on opposite sides of the divide, and have a whole back and forth about whether it was better to allow deliberate throwing of the ball out of bounds or not, and make Dwight stomp back to his desk in frustration while they air-fived…
Somehow everything came back to sharing things with Pam. But at least this had taken several steps to do so, and that was progress of a kind, right? He thanked the friendly box office rep and bought tickets to one match of each kind, as well as accepting directions (which he promptly forgot) to other venues where he could see the same sports if he decided he liked them. He doubted he’d spend his whole vacation wrapped up in rugby but hey, it was better than drinking and the guy was nice.
He also stopped into the ARU gift shop when he saw a flyer about a local competition in rugby union called the Schute Shield.
He ended up with a mug and a pen emblazoned with the logo and a half-baked plan about copying the font and creating an R….maybe someone he knew with graphic design skills could help…
Well, it had been nice not thinking about Pam while it lasted. He headed across the street to the cricket oval (now there was a sentence he’d never thought to himself before) and decided to see if they also had a chatty ticket-seller he could engage with in order to disengage his brain.
He really needed to stop using the word “engage.”
Pam got out of the Central train station and started walking. In the station she’d found a handful of brochures—some for hostels, since she was short on money and didn’t know when she’d find Jim (and even if she had…her mind shied away from the idea of assuming she would be able to, um, sleep in the same accommodations that he had) and some for cultural events. She’d grabbed the ones she thought Jim might gravitate toward: the National Basketball League, for instance, although it turned out (she discovered later) that they didn’t play in June. She’d also taken a few for herself. If she was here, in Sydney, instead of on her honeymoon (and wasn’t it depressing that her honeymoon with Roy would have cost less than the ticket here, and she’d been somehow proud of that, like saving money by just driving over to the Poconos again was some great idea?) she was going to do the things Pamela Morgan Beesly had always wanted to do. Like see great art—one of the brochures was for the Art Gallery of New South Wales—and visit important historical places—the Australian Museum and the Anzac Memorial joined the stack—and oh yes, see the Sydney Opera House. Apparently they were doing a Beethoven festival—she’d definitely have to go. Imagine, not just seeing the Opera House on the skyline, or visiting it on a tour, but actually going and hearing music there…her mind boggled at the idea of plain, homebody Pam Beesly doing that.
But maybe a better, fancier, newer version of her could.
The version that had finally realized that what she had with Roy Anderson, while it was always going to be important to her, wasn’t what she needed now, and had called off the wedding.
The version that had flown thousands of miles to actually be in Sydney already.
The version that was going to enjoy her damn vacation, whether or not she found Jim Halpert.
Although she did hope she’d find him.
Still, she probably wasn’t going to find him immediately, and well, the Art Gallery was open, and she’d always wanted to visit a big flagship art museum.
And that was how Pam Beesly found herself staring at a lovely painting of cows in front of a peaceful rural scene, and almost not bothering to wish that Jim were there to see it with her.
For those wondering what Pam is looking at it, it's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_Frost
and I like it very much. Thank you all for reading and reviewing! This is a lot of fun to write, and most of that is because of you all.
Chapter 12: Night Falls by Comfect
Jim and Pam find their way to beds--separately.
The Sydney Cricket Ground was legitimately delightful. Jim hadn’t been sure what he’d expected; his greatest exposure to cricket before this had come from Douglas Adams and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a secret favorite; after learning that Dwight was into Battlestar Galactica he’d been far too afraid of finding out they had something in common to admit his own science fiction interests). There, “cricket” was ultimately code for some kind of intergalactic conquesting planet and a curse word across most of the galaxy. Here it seemed…calm. Deliberate. It did turn out that the cricket ground didn’t only host cricket—apparently some major concerts were scheduled, though unfortunately later in the summer and he probably couldn’t have gotten tickets anyway—but they were nice enough to let him peek through a gate and see the clean clear lines of the oval. They too had a gift shop, and pictures of something called a “test match” for the “Ashes” which he was assured were very important and involved the utter domination of their former colonial overlords the English.
He walked back down Anzac Parade towards the hostel, but somehow got turned around, because instead of the hostel he found himself at the Anzac Memorial, which he supposed was appropriate given the street name. There was probably a turn somewhere, he thought, but then again, maybe left and rights were different down here because of the Coriolis effect. He seemed to remember something like that from middle school science.
He bought a meal from somewhere in the nearby vicinity and sat in the park. It was wide and beautiful, though he found himself missing some of the wildness of Nay Aug Park back in Scranton. Still, it was a lovely place to people watch, and for a Pennsylvanian the weather was just fine and dandy. And since he remembered passing the Memorial on his way to the hostel the first time, he was hopeful that sitting there for a little while might help him reorient himself. But for the moment he was content to watch the people go by. Eventually the light failed, and he made his way back to the hostel, focusing more carefully this time on the landmarks so he wouldn’t get lost again.
Pam could have spent hours in the Museum.
No, she decided, Pam would spend hours in the Museum. The one time she’d been in a museum even near this good, she’d been on a trip to Philly with Roy and they’d have Flyers tickets and he’d hustled her through in twenty-five minutes. Well, she was Pam Beesly not Pam Anderson and that meant she marched to the beat of her own drummer, and that drummer was not beating a march but parade rest. She worked her way through every room as slowly as she could, savoring every moment. There was beautiful Australian Aboriginal art she’d never even conceived of before and classic European (or European-style) art exactly like she’d always longed to do herself, and Asian art that made her wish she knew the tradition it came from in more detail, and she was simply in heaven.
It was dark when she left.
That wasn’t a problem, though, because Sydney was a city, and there were lights all around. She had…well, not forgotten, because Scranton wasn’t that kind of a city, but not really realized how bright a real downtown got at night. She felt like she’d always imagined Audrey Hepburn would in Paris (she wasn’t entirely sure if Audrey Hepburn had a movie set in Paris, but it felt like the kind of thing she ought to have), wandering down the street, watching the people and (after a strategic stop at a coffee shop) sipping a drink in one hand. She picked a hostel out of her set of flyers at random, mostly because she found the name hilarious, asked a friendly stranger where it was, and wandered that way, whistling quietly to herself.
If it was winter in Sydney, it could be the new year, and if it was the new year it was going to be the Year of Beesly.
Now, she thought as she checked into the hostel and put her single bag away, if only she could find Jim Halpert and convince him to change his calendars too.
Funny Face. Sabrina. Charade. How to Steal a Million. Paris When It Sizzles.
And this is a short, mostly moving the pieces around on the board update, but don't worry--when we get to their tomorrow they'll be back moving around in the long arc towards each other. Thanks as ever for the reviews! I appreciate all the feedback as always.
Chapter 13: At Cross Purposes by Comfect
Separate travels in a single city.
Jim woke up refreshed, with no noisy German tourists this time to interrupt his slumbers. They must have moved on, or perhaps simply become less noisy—though if Dwight was any indication of the true nature of Germans, that was distinctly unlikely. Not that Dwight was great at moving on from things either. His plan for this morning, to the extent he had made it before falling into bed and trying desperately not to think about Pam, was to wander over towards the Australian National Maritime Museum, with a possible stop at the Powerhouse Museum on the way.
Jim didn’t usually admit it, but deep down inside him (very deep down) there was a little kid who’d absolutely loved science. He hadn’t been any good at it—his skills lay in talking to, sometimes writing for, and paying attention to people, not to the natural world—but he’d always wished he’d been better. He’d loved sitting in bio class in middle school hearing about Darwin and Cook and their voyages—and also in physics in high school, learning about steam engines, rockets, and the space race. He’d always known he wouldn’t be Neil Armstrong, Robert Goddard, or Joseph Banks. But here he was with a whole museum dedicated to the voyages and vessels that had mapped the Pacific both in its human geography and in its flora and fauna—and a stone’s throw away another, also interested in the environment but with a whole section devoted to space and transportation. How could he resist?
And if, as he was definitively not, he had ever intended to go back to Scranton and talk to a certain receptionist about it, there were also almost certainly some of those gorgeous eighteenth-century maps with which Banks and Cook had traced Oceania for the British crown—and maybe even some of the first European drawings of marsupials, in all their oddly misshapen, nigh-unrecognizable glory.
Yes, that would have been pleasant to share, if he’d ever had the occasion to do that. Which he wouldn’t.
And she would have absolutely loved the gorgeous green of the agricultural steam engines on display at the Powerhouse.
But again, he wasn’t going back to Scranton.
Pam spent the morning sleeping in. The hostel was shockingly restful—or maybe it was just being in a hotel for a reason other than not being able to sleep in the home she’d lived in for most of her adult life. The sun over the Harbour was gorgeous, and she stayed in the room for a little while to sketch the view from the cramped little window. Her next door neighbor must have been a particularly quiet person, or have decamped for the day already—or perhaps the hostel simply wasn’t that full—because she quite lost herself in the project, and it was nearly noon before she stepped out to look for Jim.
Where might she find him? If her instincts were true, he’d booked this vacation mostly to avoid her wedding, which meant he probably didn’t have any grand destinations or side-trips planned once he arrived. That meant she could probably narrow it down to Sydney, or maybe a minor excursion somewhere with fancy animals, because seriously, she’d be very disappointed in him (if she ever got a chance to tell him) if he came all this way and never saw a kangaroo.
But where in Sydney?
She considered the sports arenas—the NBL was out of season, she remembered, but there were other sports—and decided to wait for a day with an actual game. He might head over there to buy tickets, of course, but he wouldn’t stick around long enough for her to catch him. She did make a note on the piece of paper she had found and decided to call her Halpert Helper to check back on one of the days where the flyers she’d grabbed mentioned a game. She even jogged down to the main desk to ask if there were schedules she could look at, and they were very helpful—union and league rugby were both playing, and there were indeed matches she could jot down on her little piece of paper. They even offered to arrange tickets, but of course she wasn’t really interested in seeing them herself—although the concept of enjoying a sport that Roy hadn’t forced her to watch a million times was strangely appealing.
Hm. Maybe she was actually a sports fan after all, if you didn’t leave her at the rink. That was worth some investigation, later, when she’d found Jim, said her piece, and figured out what she was doing with her life.
As if it were ever that simple.
With the help of the front desk man, the Halpert Helper (a name and indeed a purpose she did not disclose, out of sheer embarrassment) also got entries about museums (science yes, art maybe [was Jim really into art, or did he just indulge her? She didn’t want to speculate], war probably, civic history probably not), zoos (yes), and aquaria (definite).
So to the aquarium she went.
Please do me a favor and Google (or Mapquest or whatever you prefer) the locations I've sent them to. I do promise they'll find each other, but it can't be quite that easy, can it?
Thanks to all who've read, and all who've reviewed. This really is a nice way to break out of social isolation (after all, right now I wouldn't dare visit all these crowded public spaces...).
Chapter 14: Lows by Comfect
Pam and Jim leave their museums.
The museums were nice enough. Actually, they were more than that, he enjoyed them a lot. But Jim wasn’t feeling entirely himself, for reasons that were so obvious to him that he didn’t really care to examine them (they started with a P and ended with am’s getting married to Roy this week), so while he had fun, he didn’t really get what he thought would be the full experience for someone who wasn’t otherwise distracted.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t fully there. It’s that there was something bugging him in the back of his mind whenever he was there, like a sinus headache or an itch you couldn’t scratch.
It was, in a word, guilt.
He’d been surprised when he’d realized it, enough so that he’d wandered back out of the maritime museum and in search of a quick bite to eat and contemplate the discovery. He felt guilty. Not for telling Pam he loved her. Not even for trying to get her to call off her wedding. No, those things he felt completely and totally assured about. He felt guilty, though, for the way he’d done it.
Not for blurting it out—he hadn’t planned that, it had just come out, and you couldn’t really blame yourself for what your subconscious decided to do when it took over the reins of what was just supposed to be a quick conversation about the possibility of his transfer. Not for kissing her—he was pretty sure that would be atop his memories with a bullet and a star for a long time. Not even for leaving—that had been the respectful thing to do when she’d nodded that she was going to marry Roy.
No, he felt guilty for absolutely not giving her a second to think about it, and then disappearing.
Now, to be fair, he’d had this Australia trip planned for longer than that. It had been planned in its own moment of panicked desperation, when she’d acted like it was completely normal for him to come to her wedding and watch her stomp all over his heart on the way up the aisle. So the trip was itself not actually a part of the disappearance.
But the move to Stamford was, and the request—no, demand—he’d made of Jan that she let him start at Stamford after the trip but not have to go to Scranton in the meantime? That had been all him.
Sure, it was self-preservation. He would have died of embarrassment that next workday, and he just couldn’t go on like that day after day even if he hadn’t died (few people literally die of embarrassment, even if they might wish they would, he knew). But it was self-preservation that didn’t give Pam any options. Basically he’d transferred a whole heap of psychic baggage onto her and then let go, and that wasn’t fair.
He wasn’t sure how he should have handled it differently. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked her right then and there to declare she wasn’t marrying Roy. After all, she’d said “I can’t” and “misinterpreted,” but…really that was it, because she’d also said “me too” and “I’m not drunk” and then he hadn’t even gotten verbal confirmation that she was marrying Roy. Just a nod. And he knew Pam. Change didn’t come quickly or easily to her. She needed time, and not just time like the depth of time for which he’d loved her and begun to think she’d loved him, but time to actually think.
And he hadn’t given her any. He’d dumped his heart out, insisted she pick it up, and when she hadn’t done so immediately, he’d thrown it in the dumpster and disappeared from her life.
Just because it hurt him didn’t mean he didn’t bear some guilt for what it did to her. Or might have done to her, assuming he didn’t misinterpret.
Yeah, it definitely had hurt him. He’d known that.
But the guilt was real, and it also hurt him, and he was going to have to process it now, alone on the streets of Sydney. It was a good thing Australians were good at meat (they had to be, right? They were shepherds and cattle-ranchers, right?) because he was going to need a lot of steak to push down those butterflies in his stomach.
Pam didn’t enjoy the Sea Life aquarium as much as she’d hoped, because she kept looking for someone who either wasn’t there or was doing a bang-on impression of a sea lion, a salmon, or a wall.
And she’d been so hopeful too, after filling out the Halpert Helper.
Though she supposed it wasn’t a totally lost cause. The Helper had more entries, after all, so she shouldn’t give up just because the first one was a bust. Maybe she could find him at another museum, or a zoo, or something.
Was there a Cugino’s in Sydney? Probably not.
And hell, maybe he wouldn’t want to eat at Cugino’s again ever even if there had been. Maybe she’d ruined that for him like she’d ruined everything else.
Well, everything except herself. She was still a proud new Beesly and she was going to prove it, even if she couldn’t find Jim.
On that note she found herself strutting into Madame Tussaud’s, located conveniently next to the aquarium. Sure, Jim wouldn’t be found dead in there (or in wax in there, she supposed, more accurately) but she certainly would—and she might have to be, if Kelly found out there was a celebrity wax museum and she hadn’t visited it.
At least someone would be happy to hear about one part of her trip, she thought, as she posed next to a giant wax Superman. And hey, pretending to be Lois Lane was kind of fun in its own right too.
So, some emotional movement for Jim there, but not a lot of physical movement for either. I do think we're on the way towards our climax though--it'll probably be "today" for them, though I don't want to commit to how many updates that means before they meet. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! I greatly value each of you.
Chapter 15: Museums Galore by Comfect
Jim and Pam circle downtown Sydney.
All that guilt left Jim in a contemplative mood—also very full of very good steak—and he found himself feeling like he ought to get to know the city he’d fled so far to come to a little better. Not in terms of wandering the city, since he figured he’d have a lot of that on his plate in the coming days, but in terms of learning about it, specifically, rather than the general Australian colonization stuff he’d seen in the maritime museum. He remembered seeing something about the Museum of Sydney in the row of brochures at the front of the other museum, so he ducked back into the lobby just long enough to grab it.
A friendly local (and all he seemed to meet were friendly locals: maybe he should move to Sydney. One S city was as good as another, wasn’t it, especially if it couldn’t be Scranton? Stamford, Sydney, San Salvador El Salvador, they were all one. At least this one had nice people and good weather) noticed him staring this way and that with the brochure in hand and directed him towards the museum. Along the way he passed town hall, an ornate building that seemed quite out of place among the steel and glass skyscrapers of modern Sydney—a throwback to a more elegant but also quite probably more brutally colonial time. He slipped past Hyde Park, throwing a salute to the Anzac Memorial in the distance, and there it was: the museum.
Well, actually, as he found out a very confusing twenty-five minutes later, there it was most certainly not. He had found one of the Sydney Living Museums, but not the Museum of Sydney, although after talking to a very unnecessarily apologetic staff member he was convinced to stay for another half hour and check out this version of Sydney’s history too. In fact, as the very polite tour guide the other staff member handed him off to pointed out, both this museum—the Mint, connected to the Hyde Park Barracks—and the Museum of Sydney were owned by the same museum group, and while the Mint was primarily home to research collections that weren’t really up his alley, the Barracks had exactly the sort of old Sydney history in them that he had hoped to find.
He was pretty sure, forty minutes later, that he was really glad he had not been one of the early settlers of Australia—and even more so that he had not been one of the Aboriginal people they’d displaced. The museum was very good about acknowledging the impact of colonization on the local population—as had the maritime museum, come to that, and the Powerhouse—but nevertheless he didn’t feel quite as comfortable leaving as he’d hoped to be after learning more about Sydney.
Maybe the real Museum of Sydney would help. He wandered on up Macquarie Street looking for the turn off, and noting with real amazement just how much of the social and political infrastructure was centered on this one walk: he’d passed the Supreme Court earlier, and now the Bank and Parliament. All of these were for New South Wales, which he figured must be their equivalent of Pennsylvania, but that didn’t make them any less impressive-looking.
It was a nice walk, and for almost two hours he was proud to say he hadn’t thought about Pam.
Pam had made her way up to the Sydney Observatory: well aware, of course, that she wouldn’t be able to actually see Jim better if she were higher up, but still draw inexorably to the idea that maybe it would help anyway. After all, Jim did like tall things. Or maybe it was just that Jim was a tall thing, and so she associated them with him. But for whatever reason, it felt right.
It was a lovely view, but it was not the right place to find Jim. In fact, the very loveliness of the view made her more aware of Jim’s absence. She looked out over Miller’s Point and towards the Harbour Bridge and marveled—and with every increase of wonder in her breast there was a corresponding increase in the desire to show this all to Jim. It was silly, she thought. He was the one who’d brought her here—he didn’t know, it but it was true—so he could see this all by himself, he didn’t need her. But she wanted to show him anyway.
She just wanted him to have everything he could have, this view included.
Maybe that was what he meant by telling her he was in love with her and still letting her go when she indicated she was choosing Roy, she thought. That he wanted her to have whatever she could, even if it didn’t include him.
That thought made the view intolerable, and she scrambled down and started her hunt afresh. Maybe he’d do the BridgeClimb? Well, he probably would if he thought of it, but it was also probably one of those things you had to work yourself up to, she thought, as she stared up at the bridge from below. If he was up there, she wasn’t going to find him—she had no illusions about rushing ahead and catching up with anyone, especially Jim, especially uphill—and so she made her way back down towards downtown.
Of course, that route just happened to pass the Museum of Contemporary Art. Not just of Sydney, or of New South Wales, but of all Australia.
And it just happened to be open.
It was a serious indication of how much she wanted to find Jim that she limited herself to the museum shop, grabbing a museum map, and checking exactly when the exhibition halls were open for future reference.
I really do recommend Google Mapping where I'm sending them--it's how I'm navigating them, and I think it's informative.
Thank you to all who've read and reviewed! This is making isolation (our governor just shut down all kinds of service shops, like barbers) much more manageable.
Chapter 16: Walking Tours by Comfect
Jim and Pam wander to the northeast.
Jim discovered rather belatedly that he was apparently just really bad at following Australians’ directions. Or maybe, he reflected later, it was just not his fate to find the Museum of Sydney. It turned out that the Museum was not actually on Macquarie St., but one block over on Phillip St., down Bridge, but he didn’t know that at the time. It wasn’t the fault of the nice Australian—of either of the nice Australians—who’d given him directions. It was definitely his fault. But however it came about, he was strolling on up Macquarie past a lovely bit of park on his right and a variety of hotels, restaurants, and generally built-up buildings on the left, and he definitely did not turn where he was supposed to because he never hit the Museum of Sydney.
Instead, maybe because he was distracted by the palm trees, maybe because he was just enjoying everyone being out and about on what was a nice winter’s day, but before he knew it he was under an overpass and there was water on his left (beyond the buildings, but tantalizingly present by the sheer absence of buildings behind the streetfront). At one point the crowd actually pushed him onto a path that rose up into what he discovered were the Royal Botanical Gardens, but he decided to push on towards what he still thought would be the Museum and continued on the path that paralleled the street.
The street that was now, somewhat alarmingly, fifteen or so feet below him.
Not that he was hanging off a cliff or anything, but the Royal Botanical Gardens were clearly higher than the surrounding terrain, and not afraid to show it. So he was staring down at the heads of passers by, rather than at their level. He actually made a bit of a game of it: he’d stare down at the people and see if anyone looked up. Very few people did; he realized that if he hadn’t taken the accidental detour, he wouldn’t have either. There was certainly plenty to see at street level! But now he was up high—he snorted to himself, Pam had always told him he was too tall for his own good, but now here was proof—and no one was noticing him at all.
He was so wrapped up, first in the ascent, then in the game, and finally in the bittersweet thoughts of Pam, that he didn’t notice what he was looking at when he actually looked ahead until it was completely and utterly in view.
The Sydney Opera House, in all its glory.
And that did mean all its glory. The Opera House might have been designed to be—probably was designed to be—viewed from this very angle. It was almost night, and someone had decided it was night enough to turn on the lights in and around the Opera House, and the first view of it made him trip and almost took his breath away.
It was a good thing that when they put in the high path, they also put a fence around it to stop stupid tourists like him from falling to their deaths.
He stumbled his way to a park bench and stared at the Opera House, then scrambled up and stood at the fence, just to be a little closer.
It was glorious. Even better, from the angle he was at he could still see all the people in the pedestrian mall in front of the Opera House all taking their own pictures, oohing and aahing over the same sight he was struck by. He was struck by an urge to wave at them, and so he did. As usual, none of them looked up—only a few even looked in his direction at any level, which made sense given the presence of the freaking Opera House the other way—and so none of them waved back.
Pam walked determinedly down the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art, past Circular Quay—how was that pronounced, anyway? Kway? Kay? Key? Kwey? She’d never known, but she had a feeling that if she ever asked Jim about it he’d find some way to not only tell her but make her feel OK about not knowing and then turn it all into a prank on Dwight. God she missed him—and then past…
Well not quite past the Manly Fast Ferry, because she couldn’t walk past that sign and not get a brochure. She might never get to show it to Jim, but there had to be something she could do with that and Dwight Schrute on her own, if she had even an ounce of the pranking skill she’d believed she had over the past three-plus years.
She even asked their ticket-seller if someone matching Jim’s description had passed by, but somehow she was unable to express how her tall gangly American tourist was distinct from any other tall gangly American tourist and so the answer was either yes, a dozen of him, or no.
She decided to take no for an answer and keep on walking.
She opted against circling the circular quay—if Jim wasn’t there, he wasn’t there—and headed up Macquarie St. towards the Opera House. She didn’t know if Jim would remember, but one time she’d shown him an old picture she’d drawn of that building, back from before she really consciously knew she wanted to do art—back when she thought maybe she wanted to do engineering, like a good modern woman into the sciences, or architecture like it turned out that Jim’s sister Larissa was into—and while she didn’t for a moment think that he’d really remember that little drawing, the chance that he might at least also have an interest in one of the modern wonders of the world was excuse enough to head that way and take it in for real with her own eyes.
After all, she’d been very very good by not stopping in at the MCA, which he was so clearly not into. She could indulge safely in this way, even if he probably wasn’t there.
What were the odds he’d really remember that one time she’d shown him one piece of art? Yes, he’d said he was in love with her, and she really did believe him about that, but how long had he been in love with her? When had “it’s just a crush, it was a long time ago” morphed into “love” and “now”? And would you really remember just-a-crush’s one random piece of art?
Sure, it had been important to her, and Jim had a knack for remembering what was important to her, but that had also been back when she’d been in even more complete denial of her feelings for him, and so she probably hadn’t really emphasized how important it was. It was important because it was the first piece of art—just a perspective drawing, really—that she’d ever shown to her dad and had him not just say “it’s really pretty, Pammy,” but actually take a second look, peer at it, and tell her with a decided air “this is good.” That was why she’d kept it, unlike so much of her art, and that was why she’d shown it to Jim.
That was why it was sitting back in her hostel room, in her backpack, because she’d packed in a hurry and it had still been there from when she’d packed it away when she’d left Roy.
It was drawn from the south-west, because she’d had a picture book with photos of it from the south-west, and consciously or unconsciously she found herself altering her walk to approach from the same angle, or as close as she could come from on the street available to her. She passed by a fountain and turned a corner into a large pedestrian area that was probably over parking or a buried road or something and there it was.
The Opera House.
Large as life—actually, small as life, in that disappointing way that reality often insists on making really important things that are still far away realistically small—but still just as impressive as it had been when the picture in the book had caught the imagination of a fourteen-year-old girl.
She hugged herself and spun around in a little circle, giddy with joy. It was really here!
And then she stopped and snuck a peek at what she didn’t really believe she’d seen in her spin.
Jim Halpert. Standing twenty feet up in the park above her head.
So what do you think?
Thanks to all of those who have read and reviewed! Your insightful comments have been wonderful to read.
Chapter 17: Height Differential by Comfect
They speak to each other.
Jim waved one last time at the unsuspecting people below and then noticed that, against all odds, someone was actually looking back at him.
Unfortunately, he was so pathetic that he was starting to hallucinate, because he could have sworn the woman looked like Pam Beesly.
That was impossible, of course. Pam was in Scranton, getting married to Roy in mumblety-mumblety hours and probably going off on the world’s most romantic honeymoon after that. OK, probably not that, he was pretty sure Roy was in charge of planning the honeymoon because he’d never heard Pam say a word about it even when she was in full-on wedding planner mode and that probably meant they were going to some dingy hotel somewhere that wasn’t worthy to have her cross the threshold, but what was he doing thinking about their honeymoon anyway? He had his own problems without importing more. Problems like the fact that he saw a cute woman with bouncy curls and a cute scarf and his mind went straight to Pam even though he was in fucking Australia.
The woman raised a hand and bounced up on her toes and my God it looked like Pam. The human heart was a crazy thing.
And now she was walking over towards him with the weird little half-skip bounce in her step that Pam did and holy shit Pam Beesly was in Sydney Australia.
He pinched himself on the arm, hard, and he was definitely awake. Which meant he’d started hallucinating at some point. Maybe there were more potent “botanicals” in the Royal Botanical Gardens than he’d realized. Maybe there wasn’t actually a fence across the cliff between the gardens and the street below and he’d fallen and hit his head. Maybe he’d just finally cracked under the strain of trying not to think about Pam and now he was actively insane. But there she was, whatever was wrong with him, and he couldn’t help but smile.
She had walked over and now she was standing down on the street right below him looking up and it was definitely her. He’d seen that scarf a million times, draped over her chair at work, hung around her neck the time Michael had gotten in trouble with corporate for his “Scranton Sauna Days” initiative and had to cut the heating budget down to zero for the rest of February, unwrapped from around her throat when she came into work. He felt compelled to say something, but he was too surprised to have a filter, and so what came out was the first coherent thing to make its way past his vocal cords.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
He could not have been more surprised by her response, which didn’t explain anything but did confirm that it was indubitably his Pam (if there ever had been such a thing as his Pam) standing down below.
“Getting a crick in my neck, apparently. What the hell are you doing all the way up there?”
Of all the scenarios she’d played out in her mind, exactly zero percent of them had started with those words. She wasn’t sure where they’d come from; they were a far cry from the suave “fancy meeting you here” she’d considered, or the irate “what did you mean by dropping that whole load of emotions on me and disappearing,” or even the relatively calm “hi, Jim, can we talk?” that had been her dominant go-to in her fantasies.
But there was something so absurd about the sight of him, half-grinning, half-still-agog staring down at her that made her want to give him back as good as she got. And so here she was, hands on her hips, waiting for him to answer.
She’d realized, somewhere deep down inside, that he wouldn’t have expected her to be coming: that even though she’d spent days flying towards and then looking for him, none of that had informed him she was on her way. But the degree of his amazement was still startling to her. He was staring down at her with…well, she didn’t have a word for the emotion. It looked like he had been wandering in the desert long enough to give up hope of water and she was a drinking fountain—but part of him was worried she was somehow another mirage.
He shook his head once and then grinned, and it was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds for her. She realized then that she’d had to turn entirely away from the Sydney Opera House—the one place she’d most wanted to see in her entire life, well, except maybe the Louvre or the Uffizi in Milan, but those were all about what was inside them; this was the physical location she’d most wanted to be in—in order to flag him down, and she was happier looking at him than she’d been looking at it.
That’s how you knew, she supposed, that someone was the one for you. When they not only knew everything about you—what your favorite yogurt was, or that a particular pack of it was expired and shouldn’t be eaten—but also made you happier than the fulfillment of your wildest dreams.
But he was still standing there and she waved again to get his attention.
“Hello? Halpert? Jesus, I knew you were freakishly tall, but this is a little much even for you.”
He seemed to startle, and grinned again, but she was not going to let him throw her off again. “You going to come down and talk to me, or what?”
“Why don’t you come up?” Apparently she wasn’t the only one who could be sassy today. “I mean, you’re obviously a daydream of mine, you should be able to fly.”
She rolled her eyes. “James Duncan Halpert, you come down and talk to me face to face or so help me…”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” He held up a hand, looked around, and then turned back to her sheepishly. “Actually, I don’t know how to get down there.”
“You got up there, didn’t you?” She rolled her eyes again. This was definitely not how she’d expected her first conversation with Jim to go.
“I did, but… that was more of an accident than anything else.” He shrugged, then brightened. “Hey, do you mind, uh, paralleling me?”
“Yeah, I walk this way—“ he pointed to her left, along the path that curved towards but not to the Opera House “—and you walk that way on your path, and there has to be a way down, right? People wanting to go to the Opera House and all?”
“Is that really the best you can come up with?” Rolling her eyes was becoming a habit.
“I mean, unless you want to use that scarf as climbing rope…”
“Suck it, Halpert.” She turned to walk in the direction he’d indicated. “But don’t think I’m going to let you out of my sight.” She raised a finger at him. “I spent over a thousand dollars finding you, you’re not getting away again that easily.”
So, I hope that lived up to expectations! More to come! Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 18: Important Information by Comfect
Pam and Jim start to talk.
In all honesty, it probably didn’t take Jim all that long to find a set of steps leading down to a plaza in front of the Sydney Opera House. But subjectively, in the part of his brain that was still functioning after realizing that this was Pam Beesly and she was looking for him and she didn’t want him to ‘get away again’, it felt like eons. At first he was amused by the comedy of errors, her following along as he walked down the path, fifteen-to-twenty feet below him. But then it became just awkward, because he was hurrying along to find what he knew had to be there—a way down—and it was too quick of a pace to talk comfortably, and even if it hadn’t been there was that distance, and oh god he was just staring at her now while walking and that was even more awkward and please god shoot him now. Only, don’t, because if someone shot him now he’d never know how it came to be that Pam freaking Beesly was in Sydney, Australia, on what he was pretty sure was either her wedding day or maybe just the time of her rehearsal dinner.
He wasn’t capable of really thinking what that meant other than that it was better, infinitely better, than any scenario in which she was marrying Roy.
Unless they’d somehow decided to make it the most awkward destination wedding in history, with the bride-to-be hunting down her ex-coworker just to tear his heart out one more time before the big day?
It was a mercy that he finally reached a big flight of stairs clearly designed to deliver tourists from one location (the Royal Botanic Gardens) to another (Sydney Opera House) without the tedious inconvenience of circling around to the street. He jogged down the steps as Pam turned the corner and suddenly they were there, standing not two feet apart.
And it was possibly the most awkward moment of his life. Worse than the moment when he’d discovered she had a fiancée after their wonderful lunch at Cugino’s, when he’d been about to ask her out for real on a non-work-day date. Worse than the 27 seconds of silence (yes, he’d counted, pathetic being that he was) on the deck of a boat on Lake Waullenpaupack, when he’d almost kissed her and then she’d gone in and set a date for her wedding. Worse than when he’d had to admit, sheepishly, that he was the one who’d complained about her wedding planning to Toby. He had no idea how you greeted someone who, the last time you’d seen them except for five minutes of walking ago, you’d kissed with all the love in your heart only to hear that they were going to marry someone else. Did you hug? Did you go in for another ill-fated kiss? Did you wave awkwardly at them? What did you do?
Apparently Pam didn’t know either, because she slid to a halt in front of him and they stood staring at each other from a distance that was simultaneously too close and nowhere near close enough.
Nineteen. Twenty. Pam didn’t know when she’d started counting, but it didn’t feel like she could stop. She’d had all these speeches prepared, but the way she’d found him, crossed with the five minutes they’d had to walk in parallel but on different levels (now there was a metaphor she didn’t want to examine too closely) had made all of them seem too trite, too prepared, too phony. Only now they were staring at each other and she was getting horrible flashbacks to the last time she’d just stared at Jim in the winter by a harbor.
At least it was warmer in Sydney.
And what the hell was she doing anyway? She’d flown to Sydney for him. The least she could do now to justify that horrific expense and that long-ass day of flying was open her mouth and say something. And not “I’m cold.” She was not going to relive that moment, especially not with the awareness of how awful the timing of what had happened next was. Or how inappropriate it had been to set a date and let Jim give a toast when she’d spent that whole twenty-seven seconds (yes, she’d counted, just like now) wishing he’d kiss her.
But if she was not going to relive it, she had to do something now.
So she did.
She kissed him.
For a horrifying moment he stood stock still and she almost panicked, but then his arms came up around her and for a wonderful moment, all was right in the world. After a timeless interval his arms moved to set her a little bit away from him, and she looked up at him.
“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.”
His eyebrow quirked as he recognized the line. Thank God. She wouldn’t want to imagine that he’d somehow purged his memories of her in the intervening time, like some kind of Jim Carrey-Kate Winslet thing from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
“Me too.” She sighed in relief as he returned her line to her, but she could see his mouth start to twist and realized she really needed to make a few things clear before he had a chance to say anything more. It was her turn, after all—and there was a limit to how much of that night she wanted to relive either.
“I didn’t marry him.” She blurted it out like the words would burn her mouth if they stayed in any longer. “Or rather…I’m not marrying him. I think technically there’s still a few hours before…you know what I mean.” She blew out a long breath and took another in. He gave her the time. He was good at the little things like that. Recognizing when she needed to do something herself and just letting her be. Listening to what she was saying and what she was not saying. Giving her space, while holding space for her at the same time. Except for once…and she supposed she could probably forgive him for that, now that they were both here.
“I realized over the last month that there were a lot of reasons for me to leave Roy. A lot. Like, dozens.” She gestured with one hand outward, then waved it up and down at Jim. “But none of those reasons really mattered until I met you.” She looked him in the eye, craning her neck up from inches away. “And we really need to talk about a lot of things, but I wanted to start with that. I’m not marrying him. I won’t be marrying him. And I did it for me, but I also did it because of you.”
“Pam…” he started, his voice a little rough, and she hurried on before she lost her nerve from the other two things she desperately needed to say.
“I’m sorry I lied to you. You never misinterpreted anything. But that’s not all we need to talk about. You…that is, I…I needed time, Jim. I needed my best friend not to drop an entire emotional bomb on me…
“And disappear. Yeah. Sorry about that.” He rubbed the back of his neck in a gesture that felt intimately familiar to her. “If this hypothetical best friend of yours were to say he was sorry about that, but that it was entirely self-defense…do you think we could start our talk from that point, and go on from there?”
“Maybe. Depends on how he apologized.” She met his eyes again, and there was a gleam in them she recognized deep down in her soul.
“I was thinking about starting with ‘I’m sorry,’ and going from there.”
So. A lot dropped in there, but I feel like Pam may not have walked a fire walk this time but flying to Sydney is close enough--so she gets to start with having her say. We'll see more of how they work through this next time, and then...well, let's just say this fic isn't ending, in my current plan at least, until we work out the whole Stamford thing. Thanks to those who've read and reviewed! It really has been wonderful getting your feedback.
Chapter 19: Arm in Arm by Comfect
Jim and Pam talk and walk. Mostly.
It felt good to clear the air with Pam, Jim realized. He had been walking around Sydney, trying his best to enjoy himself, trying his best to be himself, but something had been missing. He confessed to the fact that he had basically not even been thinking when he’d left: his move had been like a wounded animal, chewing its own leg off to escape (he made her laugh when he pointed out that if he made that comparison to Dwight, the salesman would probably boast that he could chew his own leg off in half the time and then proceed to attempt a demonstration). As he admitted this, a weight rose off his chest. He could breathe again.
She was telling him, once again (not that he minded hearing more) that she was so, so sorry that she’d said he had misinterpreted things. That she hadn’t really meant that, that she’d just been on autopilot in denial and trying not to feel like she was cheating on Roy. But much as he enjoyed that she was so willing to admit that she was wrong, that she loved him, that he hadn’t misinterpreted anything, he knew that this conversation could last for hours, and they were still standing in the plaza in front of the Sydney Opera House. In fact, even though it was a public space, they were starting to get some odd looks.
And it was warmer in Sydney in the winter than in Scranton, but it still wasn’t that warm.
“Hey, we could stand out here apologizing all night, but…you want to go get a drink or something?”
She stopped mid-sentence, her mouth agape in adorable confusion for a moment.
“Yeah. I really would.”
“Great. It’s a date.” He thrust out an elbow and she slid her arm into it like it was the most natural thing in the world and they strolled forward.
“I hear a rumor there might be somewhere to drink inside the opera house.” He turned their steps that way, suiting the action to the word.
“One should always listen to rumors,” she answered, and then she blushed the deepest scarlet he’d ever seen a human turn.
“Care to share with the class, Beesly?”
No she would definitely not like to share with the class, Pam thought. Nuh-uh. No way. Because what she’d been thinking about went all the way back to last year, and the barbecue they’d had at Jim’s house. The one where she’d sleuthed out (correctly, she still held) that Dwight and Angela had a thing, and she’d tried to see if Phyllis thought the same, and Phyllis had jumped to the conclusion that she was talking about herself and Jim.
A “secret office romance” indeed. Well, Phyllis had been righter than she knew. Or at least than Pam knew. It occurred to her that Jim might actually have confided in Phyllis—they were old friends, of the “would be in a bridge club together if either of them actually played bridge” kind of way—and that Phyllis might have been sussing her out, rather than the other way around. But that wasn’t what made her cheeks red.
What made her cheeks red was the implications of that word “romance.”
You should always listen to rumors. Including the rumor that she and Jim were…knocking boots. Dancing the horizontal tango. Making the beast with…no that was a bridge too far.
And now she was still bright bloody red and she was laughing and Jim was staring at her with this adorably confuddled look on his face and it was all too much, so she pulled his face down and kissed him.
She could do things like that now.
“I was just thinking about the rumors about you and me.” She grabbed his arm again and pulled him in the direction of the Opera Bar, which she could see a sign for now that they were closer to the opera house itself. But Jim stayed obstinately in place.
“Rumors about you and me?” He raised his eyebrows in what she was sure was intended to be innocent surprise but registered for her with an underlying layer of suggestiveness, likely because of the trend her thoughts were already taking.
“Yes.” She tugged on his arm.
“You’re going to have to be a little more specific than that to get me going, Beesly.”
A quick update to keep up our momentum. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 20: Drinks by Comfect
Jim and Pam make it to the bar.
“Uh…” Pam was bright red still, and he was suddenly struck by the thought that she had never looked cuter than in that moment. More beautiful, yes: that had been one of the problems on Casino Night, how beautifully, magically gorgeous she had looked, and he would have been lying if he’d said she was that beautiful here, standing arm in arm with him in a polar fleece jacket and jeans and blushing. Beautiful wasn’t the word. She was cute. Adorable. Lovable.
“What’s the matter, Pam, cat got your tongue?”
“Oh, I’m entirely willing to shut up, if you’ll just let me know what rumors about us you might possibly be referring to.”
“Oh, just let it go.”
“Nope.” He tugged her arm closer to his side. “I don’t believe I’ll be doing any letting go of you anytime soon.”
Her eyes softened for a moment, and then she blushed again, deeper somehow. He would have sworn she couldn’t have any blood left outside of her face; he was learning new shades of red he’d never seen before; he was amazed she could still stand and breathe. He took pity on her and continued steering her toward the Opera Bar.
“May a couple drinks will loosen that tongue of yours.”
“Jim Halpert, are you suggesting I’m a loose woman?”
“Now, now, settle down Beesly, remember what happened the last time you got drunk in my presence.” He was taking a risk here, hoping she did remember, because it was the Dundies and she’d really been completely wasted when she’d thrown her arms around him and kissed him. But it was an important moment in his life, and he could no more refrain from mentioning it than he could have refrained from loving her. Which, as he’d recently proven, was not at all.
“Screw you, Halpert, this isn’t a Chilis.” And just like that he knew she remembered just like he did.
“No, I don’t think you screwed me…”
“OH MY GOD.” She dragged him bodily into the bar and to the table an amused-looking waiter directed them to. “What do I have to do to have you give it a rest?”
“Simple enough.” He shrugged and she felt the movement through the arm she was still clutching, and there was something wonderful and intimate about the gesture. “You just have to tell me about the rumors.”
“Fine.” She sat down in a chair at a square table and tugged him down in the chair next to her. “But before I do, you need to remember, this wasn’t my idea.”
“I dunno, Beesly, you’re the one who brought it up.”
“Actually, if I recall, correctly, you were the one who mentioned rumors.” She nudged him with her shoulder, enjoying the opportunity to just…touch him, naturally, without having to think about the consequences. Well, beyond the very pleasant consequences, thinking of which was making her blush yet again. Maybe she was just destined to spend the rest of her life looking like one of Dwight’s prize beets.
“Touché.” He raised the hand she wasn’t in contact with to acknowledge a hit. “But then you were the one who…”
“Yes, yes.” She waved away his objection. “Anyway, this rumor wasn’t my idea. That’s my point.”
“Rumors rarely are.”
“Point.” She looked around, avoiding eye contact with him, because even if they were…well, presumably together now, though she realized she hadn’t actually asked him about that, this was about earlier and she still felt nervous about it. “Anyway, remember your party?”
She was so grateful he didn’t ask which one. “Yeah?”
“Remember how I was so sure that Dwight and Angela were having a…well, a secret office romance?”
“Yes. Still think you’re wrong about that, by the way.”
“Oh, you have no idea. But that’s not the point. The point,” and here she gestured with the hand holding his so that he ended up pointing at himself and they both cracked up for a moment before she went on. “The point is that I asked Phyllis about it. And she thought I was…well, that I was talking about you. And me. Um. Us.”
“Good old Phyllis.” He was grinning and she swatted him for it.
“Well, I was embarrassed.”
“I can understand that, but remember, I wasn’t engaged.” He seemed to realize that referencing her previous engagement was a little bit of a misstep. “And anyway, there wasn’t anything going on.”
“Wasn’t there?” She cocked an eyebrow and enjoyed the chance to get to watch him blush for a change.
More to come! Thanks to all who've read and reviewed, this is a fun community to engage with, as ever!
Chapter 21: The Same, Continued by Comfect
Jim and Pam continue to talk.
Jim couldn’t deny there was something amazing about this side of Pam, a side he’d always assumed had to exist somewhere in there but had never had an opportunity to see before. She was playful in a way she’d never been when they were…well, when they had just been friends. If someone had told him the Pam he’d known before was flirting with him like this, he’d have had to check in to see if he was dreaming.
He still had to.
“You know I had to pinch myself when I saw you, right?” He smiled over at her. “This is still amazing, that you’re here I mean.”
“Me, too.” She pinched her arm. “Not dreaming.”
He laughed. “No, apparently not.”
She smiled at him, a different smile than he was used to seeing on her face, but one he was pretty sure he could get used to, given the opportunity. “It’s pretty amazing to me, too,” she added softly. “After all, I had to find you in all of Sydney. Like a needle in a haystack.”
“I mean, it didn’t take you that long.” He grinned. “I’ve only been to like three places and you found me at the fourth.”
“It’s not my fault you’re predictable.” She laughed, a low chuckle that spread through him like warmth in places he’d never realized were cold. “But actually, I just came here because I had to, you know? I couldn’t be in Sydney and not.”
He nodded. “I get that. And apparently, neither could I.” He told her about how he’d been intending to go somewhere else entirely—she laughed at his mistake of one Museum of Sydney for another—and ending up only at the opera house by accident. “And there I was, suddenly, looking at exactly the view that…” he trailed off. “You know that one drawing you showed me, the one from when you were really into architecture…”
She was nodding along. “The one of the Sydney Opera House, yeah.”
“Yeah. So I was looking at, well, that, and then there you were, and it was this weird like, destiny or fate or something, because it was like I’d thought you into existence.” She was still nodding, and something in her eyes made him decide to go on. “I’d been trying so hard for weeks to not think about you, and I’d almost succeeded—those museums kind of helped—but then I was thinking about you again and there you were.”
“It felt that way to me, too.” She squeezed his hand. “I’m glad you thought me into existence.”
“Well, you know, Beesly, if you didn’t exist I think I’d have to invent you.”
“What do you mean by that?” She cocked her head inquisitively. “I do exist.”
“Well, yeah…” he seemed embarrassed, so she squeezed his hand again. “But I’m not sure I function without you.” He sighed. “I’m not explaining this well, but it’s like…there’s something in me that responds to you, and if I didn’t have you to respond to, I’m not sure who I’d be.”
That was a little scary to hear, if she was honest, but as she thought about it more—the interruption of ordering drinks gave her a moment to ponder—she realized that she knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t that he couldn’t actually exist without her. He’d done fine before she showed up. It was that something about them resonated. They’d found each other, and that had made each of them more them than they’d been before, and so even though each of them was a fully functional human being, they were better as a unit.
She shared this insight as they sipped the water that had come before the drinks they’d ordered, and was gratified by his response.
“Exactly.” He put his glass down for emphasis. “That’s exactly it. Thank you for finding words.”
“Does this mean…” she licked her lips for courage. “Does this mean we’re a couple.”
He’d picked up his glass when she paused, which meant she got to watch a glorious spit-take as he heard her question. “Uh...you tell me, Beesly.”
“Nope.” She shook her head. “I followed you to Australia. Ball’s in your court, Halpert.”
“I told you I was in love with you.”
“You did.” She smiled, wanly. “Are you still?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Aren’t you going to give me a straight answer?”
“Do you really have to ask?”
Things were getting out of hand, she could tell, and she didn’t know quite how that had happened. She remembered again that she’d probably, no definitely, hurt him pretty badly when she’d blurted out all those horrible things back on Casino Night. She decided it was time for straight talk, which they’d never been that great at.
“Yes. I need to ask, because I really want you to be. Because I’m in love with you.”
He softened instantly. “Well, I’m in love with you too. And I think…” he squinted hard “that means that yes, we’re a couple.”
And so they are officially together. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! It's a real pleasure engaging with all of you.
Chapter 22: Walking by Comfect
Jim and Pam after drinks.
If you’d asked Jim beforehand, he’d have said he would have expected to remember every moment of his reunion with Pam.
Well, first he’d have told you you were crazy, and there was no way he was going to run into Pam in Sydney—or if that he did, it would have been because she and Roy suddenly took it into their heads to honeymoon there and she’d just destroy him. But then, after he’d decided to entertain your hypothetical and answer you seriously, he’d have told you he expected to remember every detail of it.
But he didn’t. He was too busy actually enjoying himself; letting out the parts of him that had been held under such strict control for so long, first to avoid Pam finding out accidentally how he felt about her, and then to try to quash his own feelings so that he wouldn’t hurt so much. So while he remembered the conversation up to the point where they officially declared themselves a couple, much of the rest of their conversation over drinks was a blur. He knew they laughed; he knew they never moved more than a few inches apart; he knew they each avoided drinking too much, because—at least on his end—they were afraid that all of this would turn out to be a drunken dream, and besides, there was the hovering cloud of “I think we’re just drunk” over everything.
Although that cloud was a lot lighter now—less of a thunderhead and more one of those whispy things you saw floating overhead on a sunny day, as if God had put them there to confirm that yes, it was an exceptionally sunny day, you weren’t mistakenly looking at someone’s very blue ceiling, because there was a cloud.
But they didn’t drink too much, and because of that it was also a fairly quick conversation. Not that it wasn’t meaningful, he was sure. He remembered feeling happy and carefree for the first time since he didn’t know when. And she seemed the same. Heck, she was the same, because the next thing he could distinctly remember her saying (when he thought back on it later) was exactly that.
“I don’t know when I was last this happy and carefree.”
They’d been paying the check (well, he had been, because apparently one thing she’d forgotten to do was change most of her money over. She could use credit cards of course, but those were still joint with Roy, so it was a little awkward, she’d admitted haltingly. So he’d paid, because his dollars were Australian now, and she’d promised to get him back, which he’d waved off but appreciated as an offer). She’d taken his hand after he’d handed over a stack of bills and swung herself around on it—he was always amazed at how small she was, not petite but compact, like a Campbell’s Condensed Soup of Wonderfulness—and she’d let out that line and he hadn’t been able to do anything but kiss her, right then and there.
Fortunately the waitress thought they were cute, so she stood there with his change until he was done.
He wasn’t sure exactly how long that was, but it was worth every second.
Pam held onto Jim’s hand as they walked back down towards Macquarie St. under the streetlamps, occasionally twirling herself around. She wasn’t drunk. She was just floaty, like a gigantic weight had been loosed from her soul, and only her connection to Jim’s hand was keeping her from sailing away into the sky over the opera house.
“Hold on there, Beesly.” He dragged her back and she realized they’d come to the end of the pedestrian area, and she’d almost stepped straight into the street. “I’m not going to lose you that easily.”
“Lose me? You’re going to have a hard time getting rid of me.” She squeezed his arm and set off again, this time down the actual sidewalk. “You’re stuck with me for the duration, Halpert.”
“I like the sound of that.” He wrapped an arm around her—mostly for affection, but she could tell that part of it was also to make sure she didn’t walk out into the street again—and they meandered on in companionable, joyful silence.
Until her stomach decided that drinks were all well and good, but lunch had been far too long ago.
“Sorry about that.” She pressed on her stomach. Her mother had always told her that a growling stomach was unladylike, and while she knew that was ridiculous (women’s stomachs, like men’s, had gastric juices and whatever else it was that caused the growl) Roy had always made fun of her for her loud stomach and she’d never gotten over being embarrassed about it.
Jim, on the other hand, looked at her a little strangely and shrugged. “About what? About the reminder that tonight I get to take you out to dinner?” He kissed the top of her head. “I appreciate the chance to think about it. Our first date.”
“Hold on now.” She came to a stop and let momentum swing him around to face her. “It is not our first date.”
“But, I…” she could see the flinch behind his eyes, and she wished she’d phrased it better, but she bullrushed on past the feeling, ticking off fingers in front of his face with one hand while the other kept hold of him.
“One. We just had a date, at the Opera Bar.”
“Fair, fair.” He started to cut her off but she went on inexorably. “Two. I seem to recall someone making me grilled cheese on top of our office building and dancing with me.”
“I seem to recall that it was swaying, not dancing.”
“Come on Jim. Even I knew that was bullshit.” She rolled her eyes.
“Hah.” He smirked, but shrugged. “Anyway, it’s not really a date if the girl goes home to her fiancé.”
“Not usually. But sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. Anyway, three.” She gestured with a final finger. “Cugino’s. Your first week of work.”
“No buts. You thought it was a date, didn’t you.” She didn’t even leave it a question, but he answered anyway.
“And I hadn’t told you about Roy because…” she realized what she was about to admit but what the hell. “Because I kind of wished it was too.”
“Beesly…” he started in for a kiss and she stopped him with her three fingers across his mouth.
“So. Three dates. This will be our fourth date.” She removed the fingers and leaned up for the kiss. “So remember that when you’re picking the place.” Her stomach rumbled again. “But, uh, please pick quickly?”
I hope you enjoyed our heroes working out a little more of their past and what it means. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! More to come, including that (fourth) date!
Chapter 23: Dinner by Comfect
Jim and Pam dine.
Jim and Pam wandered down Macquarie St. in search of food. This should not have been particularly difficult, he thought, as logically there had to be plenty of people who ate before whatever show was on at the Opera House. His attention had been mostly focused on Pam, for obvious reasons, but he had had enough brain space available to notice that there were a lot of different shows on at the opera house, not just opera, and so there logically had to be food for those people.
On the other hand, he was doing a very good job of not finding such places. And now his stomach as well as Pam’s was rumbling, which fortunately she seemed to find amusing.
No, not amusing, apparently. Adorable.
“It’s just…” she tried to explain as she laughed. And while she was, indubitably, laughing at him, he found that he didn’t mind it. He’d worried for years about Pam laughing at him, about the possibility that she and Roy were going home arm in arm in the evening and just laughing at the patheticness of the salesman who thought he mattered to her. But now he was finding that the actual thing, Pam laughing at him, was perfectly fine and dandy—adorable even, to use her word—as long as she was laughing at him while she was with him.
“It’s just?” He prompted her as she failed to finish her sentence because of the laughter.
“It’s just that everyone in my life has spent so much time telling me how wrong it was to let my stomach rumble, as if I had any choice in the matter, and here you are rumbling away like…like a subway car, and paying it no mind.”
“A subway car?”
“Yeah, you know, like in New York. All rrrrrrr-bmbmbmbm-clunk.”
“My stomach did not go clunk!”
“I’m not sure you were listening hard enough.” She collapsed into laughter again and he decided that the next open door, they were asking for directions. She wasn’t drunk, he thought at least, but she was definitely loopy, and that meant they needed food stat.
It turned out that the next open door, which he’d thought was a hotel lobby, was….well, was a hotel lobby, actually, but was also the entrance to a seafood restaurant with a full-wall glass window overlooking the harbor, with ferries going to and fro sparkling with lights.
“Dinner, milady?” He bowed and she curtsied.
“Why thank you, sir.” She winked at him and took his arm again and they slid up to the host stand, where a very snootily-dressed staff member turned out, against all odds, to be a lovely human being.
“Ah, young love.” The man smiled hugely, and what had felt like a looming confrontation about how they were dressed turned into being seated at a table for two directly overlooking the water. “Drinks? No? Then Jeremiah here will be back in a few minutes to take your orders.”
Jeremiah was indeed back in a few minutes, although neither Jim nor Pam had actually taken the time to look at the menu, or indeed anywhere but at each other and over the water. Pam was about to ask him for more time when Jim, very smoothly in her opinion, turned the question around.
“You can probably tell we’re not from around here; what would you get if you’d never been here before?”
Jeremiah described what seemed to Pam to be a heavenly dish primary composed of fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables. She clapped her hands. “One of those, please!”
“Two, actually.” Jim handed Jeremiah the menus and winked at her. “And a yogurt parfait to start.”
Pam hadn’t even noticed him checking out the menu—but then, she saw as she looked at Jeremiah, he hadn’t had to. The front page was all appetizers in large type, and at the bottom of the list there it was: “yogurt parfait: mixed berries and cream.”
If she hadn’t been in love with him already, she was pretty sure that would have been the moment.
The rest of the meal was as delightful as the start. Jeremiah’s recommendation proved superb, and while Pam slightly regretted that she and Jim had the same meal, so they couldn’t share and compare, she realized as she cleaned her plate that she wouldn’t have wanted to know that Jim was missing out on something this delicious just to have a second dish to try.
When she expressed as much to her date, he nodded. “My only regret is that I never got to find out how that parfait tasted.”
“Oh.” Her hands flew to her mouth. She’d eaten the whole decadent concoction as soon as Jeremiah had put it down in front of her, and she’d thought he’d been happy watching her eat. But obviously that had been a selfish impulse; no matter how hungry she was, his stomach had been rumbling too, and no matter how much she loved mixed berry yogurt, she’d eaten the first thing to arrive in front of him without offering him a bite.
Just before she was about to apologize, he put a hand over hers. “I was kidding, Beesly. I ordered it for you.”
She blushed. “Thank you. I was worried…”
“Don’t be.” He squeezed her hand. “It’s me, alright?”
“That’s the problem.” She tried to explain. “I know it’s you, Jim, my best friend, but you’re also, like, Jim.” She could see this wasn’t getting through to him. “I mean, I did my best not to let myself notice because I was engaged, but come on, Jim. You’re the hottest guy I know. When we were stuck outside after Ryan started that fire, every single woman in the office said they would do you. Jim, Jim, definitely Jim. And now I’m on a date with you. And I’m in love with you. So I really, really don’t want to screw this up.”
He squeezed her hand again. “Well, the way I think of it, you have a couple advantages here, Beesly.”
“Well, for one, I’m in love with you too.” He smiled, and his eyes twinkled reassuringly—and lovingly, she realized. How had she never noticed before how expressive his eyes were? “And two…” he drummed his fingers on hers and she enjoyed the feel of his hand, but she did have to wonder why he didn’t lean over and kiss her. “This isn’t our first date. Remember?”
“Yeah, but it’s not like the first two ended all that well.”
“I don’t know…we’re here, aren’t we?” And now, finally, he did lean over and kiss her, right before Jeremiah brought over the menus for dessert.
I think there are one or two more chapters in this day, and then some more for the rest of the vacation. Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 24: A Hotel by Comfect
Some angst. Sorry.
As they strolled back down the street after dinner, Jim was aware of a strong desire for this evening to never end: for an endless array of moments just like the ones they’d just shared, with this particular, amazing woman by his side. They had turned down dessert at the restaurant for precisely that reason. Another place for dessert would mean another opportunity to find magic in the everyday moments around them. After all, who’d have expected that they’d find themselves in a restaurant overlooking the water where a genial waiter simultaneously took care of their every need and left them entirely alone most of the time? Another chance to strike gold like that was all he needed to keep this evening going.
Or at least that was why he’d turned down dessert. He hoped it was why Pam had too.
She was breathtaking to him, her inner glow illuminating something about her hair that made her shine in his eyes like an angel stepping foot down from heaven into the world. He was well aware that was a complete cliché, but he also could not think of another being that would fit the description so aptly. Maybe a saint, as her hair in the streetlights and her own inner warmth turned into a halo. He felt like Moses must have watching the rear end of God pass before him in Sinai—a thought which immediately turned his eyes to her rear end, and he blushed deep red, glad she was so caught up in whatever she was looking at that she hadn’t noticed.
Or perhaps not, he realized as she slid to a halt and stared upwards at something that was, regrettably, not her own butt, or her hair, or anything down at street level, but in fact the sign on an awning belonging to a hotel they were about to walk by, one he must have walked by on his way out but had completely missed.
The SIR STAMFORD.
In her eagerness to see Jim, and to explain everything she’d done to him and for herself, she’d forgotten about Stamford. But here it was, a literal sign above her, reminding her.
He’d transferred to Stamford.
He hadn’t just not shown up for work for a month, like she’d been pretending to herself that he had, deep down. He hadn’t just left her in the lurch without her best friend. He’d moved on. He’d gone somewhere else, not just Australia but Connecticut.
She could understand it. As he’d said, it was self-preservation. It was self-defense. She’d hurt him, and she knew it, and she could understand it. But that didn’t change the fact that when they got on their planes to go home in a week or whenever it was, they would not be going to the same place.
He didn’t live in Scranton anymore.
She remembered now what she’d been trying to block out in her own quest for self-preservation: the sight of Michael bounding into the main office from his own, bellowing about traitors and turncoats and someone named Josh. He’d swooned—she still wasn’t sure if it was real or fake—when he looked at Jim’s empty chair, and had insisted from that moment on that Ryan come out of the annex and take the spot “so that he wouldn’t be reminded of the betrayal by that Benedict Fat Arnold.” Dwight climbing up on top of Jim’s desk and declaring his victory over the “weak and ineffectual distraction of the now-forgotten Quisling.” Ryan packing up his things (a little quickly, she thought) and hustling into Jim’s spot while Kelly asked how long he would be out there.
One of the worst days she could remember—which is why she’d tried so hard to forget it.
She turned and saw Jim seeing the same sign she had been looking at a moment before, and noticed the way his eyes instantly turned to hers in silent inquiry. And she noticed his wince.
“We should probably talk about that.” He sighed and leaned up against the side of the building looking…just so defeated she couldn’t stand it.
“Yeah, we should.” She tugged his hand until he came off the wall. “But we’re going to do it over dessert.”
So I saw that hotel on Macquarie St. and couldn't resist. I promise they'll get through it, but what would this be without at least a little in-person angst? Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 25: I Scream for Ice Cream by Comfect
Pam and Jim catch dessert.
There was a nice little ice cream place down the block—at least, Jim assumed it was nice, because everyone else seemed to be enjoying it immensely. A nice Australian couple was sitting two seats down from him and Pam, devouring massive quantities of creamy goodness in a manner that strongly suggested that this place was pretty good.
He wouldn’t know, because while he could tell whatever he was eating was cold, he had no idea what else it might be. Edible, definitely. Maybe vaguely chocolate-flavored, but he might be getting that more from color than anything else since it was definitely brown. Brown. Cold. These were things he could hold onto.
Because he didn’t really know what to say to Pam about Stamford.
Well, he knew what to say. It even had the benefit of being the truth. But how to get her to understand that Stamford was just a place to be that wasn’t where she was? A place where he could maybe piece together something resembling a normal life?
A place that he now deeply and intensely regretted ever having suggested to Jan that he might ever possibly be happy?
“Come on, Halpert.” Pam tapped his spoon with hers to get his attention. “Spill.”
“I don’t know what to say, Pam.” He figured honesty was the best policy, given that trying to hide his feelings from her for years had led them to…well, actually a pretty good point when you looked at it from a certain angle, but to a lot of really low points before that. “Stamford was, I don’t know, a mistake?” His voice rose at the end of the sentence, which annoyed him, because he wasn’t used to expressing himself uncertainly without anticipating it and making a joke out of it. “I needed somewhere else to be. Someone else to be. And the assistant regional manager at Stamford seemed as good as anything else, and a lot quicker.”
“Wait, they made you the ARM? Not the assistant-to-the, but the actual thing?” Pam seemed surprised by the news.
“Yeah, didn’t Michael mention? Nice little raise, extra vacation days,” he gestured around, “supposedly an ocean view. According to Jan I’m ‘moving up in the company.’” He put air quotes around it to emphasize how little he cared about that.
“That’s great, Jim.” She ducked her head to get into his line of sight. “Seriously, I’m glad someone else finally recognized how great you are, even if it’s at selling paper.”
He tried to grin at that, but it came out crooked. What could he say? “It’s nice, I guess, but I wouldn’t have taken it if I knew…”
“But you couldn’t know. Hell, Jim, I didn’t know.” She was shaking her head. “You did the right thing.”
“You did. But now we need to figure out what we’re going to do about it.” It bothered her that he was so listless all of a sudden. It was wonderful that he’d gotten a promotion, even if it hurt her heart to think that it was only her presence in Scranton that had been keeping him down, and he needed to realize that not all was lost just because they had an obstacle to overcome. It couldn’t be as bad as the distance between Scranton and Sydney, after all, and they’d overcome that.
“We?” She rolled her eyes.
“Yes, Jim, we. Or did you think that that couple thing only went one way?” She pulled a pencil and a piece of paper out of her purse—even an aspirational artist was never unprepared—and handed them to him. “Since you don’t want to eat your ice cream, here’s something else to do with your hands.”
“That’s what she said.” He sounded distracted as he said it, but she’d count it as progress.
“Right. So. Ideas.” She wasn’t actually sure where to start, but she knew that starting somewhere was important. “Long distance?”
“Not my preference, but better than pining away to nothing in a cheap apartment in Stamford.” He shrugged, and she could see a little bit of her Jim coming back into him. “Scratch that, because apparently there are no cheap apartments in Stamford. In an expensive apartment in Stamford.” He wrote down Long Distance with a minus sign next to it, and Pining Away with a whole series of them. “You moving to Stamford?”
She grimaced. “I mean, I would, you know that…”
He cut her off. “But I’m not Roy, and I’m not actually going to ask you to give up your independence just to date me.”
She nodded, relieved that he and not she had put it into words. “Put two minuses down.”
He wrote Pam Moves- - and then looked up at her. “Unless you could become the receptionist there.”
She shook her head. “Polly’s too nice for me to wish her any ill.”
“I should have known you all knew each other. What about like an art job or something? Art school?”
She smiled. “I mean, eventually maybe.” It made her happy that he thought of her that way, but she was nowhere near ready to make that kind of commitment to art. She was busy making other commitments right now, and art took time anyway.
“Fair enough.” He sighed and reached for his spoon, which she took as a very good sign.
“How about you moving back to Scranton?” she suggested, as he took a bite of his ice cream.
“I’d do it in a heartbeat, but I may have burned that bridge with Jan.” He swallowed and stared at the spoon. “Hey, this is pretty good.”
She giggled, and he had the good grace to look abashed. “I guess I wasn’t really paying attention before.”
“Well, pay attention now, Halpert.” She tapped her fingers together. “What if we gave her a sacrifice?”
Cliffhanger! Not a major one. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! I really appreciate the human contact during this time.
Chapter 26: Lost by Comfect
Jim and Pam wander.
“A sacrifice?” He knew he was just echoing her. But he was still so shocked at how calmly, how well, she was taking the thought of Stamford. His heart hurt thinking about being so far from her now that they were so close; he was nowhere near calm. But here she was, making lists and coming up with plans. She was amazing. He’d always known that, but now…he shook his head in wonder, which she took as a negative.
“No sacrifice?” She pursed her lips. “But how are we going to get Jan to let you come back?”
“I mean, I could burn down Stamford…” he mused, but quickly moved to clear up the confusion. “I wasn’t shaking my head no. I think a sacrifice is a great idea.”
“Then why were you shaking your head?” She cocked her head to the side like a little bird, considering him. “You know, Halpert, in modern American culture, shaking your head is generally interpreted to mean no.”
He stuck out his tongue at her. “I know that. But it was more of a ‘no way is the universe nice enough to me to make you love me back’ kind of no.”
“You’re right.” Just like that she threw him off-kilter, only to reel him back in with her next words. “The universe didn’t make me love you back. You did.” She tapped her fingers. “And maybe I did a little bit too.”
He smiled and she smiled back and it was only when an employee came by to wipe down the table next to them that they realized they’d been just staring into each others’ eyes for what was probably an embarrassingly long time, if one were inclined to feel embarrassed in front of total strangers in another country.
“I guess we should get going.” His voice was tinged with regret.
“I guess so.” Hers was too. “Think about that sacrifice idea, ok? Or anything else you can think of?”
“Will do.” In fact, besides thinking about her, he couldn’t imagine he was going to do anything else tonight. Certainly not sleep.
They rose as one and headed out the door of the ice cream shop and into the street.
“Now, where the hell are we?” Jim always had a way of cutting right to the point that Pam truly enjoyed. Yes, he could be a goofball (a lovable goofball) and a prankster and all those things, but when he actually had to get something done he usually got it done quickly and efficiently—in order to get back to the pranking of course. That was what made him such a good salesman: for instance, until Dwight had intentionally and completely wrecked it, he’d arranged things so that he only had to make one phone call for a full quarter of his sales. Efficient. Direct.
Also, apparently, a bit lost—as was she.
“I have no idea.” She confessed it gladly, because even that minor honesty with Jim was somehow a relief of the years and years of repressed feelings and unclear expressions.
“Me neither.” And they were standing staring at each other with goofy grins again until someone coughed and politely pushed past them into the shop. Well, as politely as one could push past two idiots who were just standing in front of a door doing nothing but stare.
“Well, Macquarie St. was…” he trailed off. “Somewhere.” He shrugged.
She grabbed his hand. How liberating to be able to do that and not look over her shoulder for someone to tell Roy. She pulled him down what looked to her like a main thoroughfare. “Let’s try this.”
Ten minutes later they ended up in front of the same ice cream shop.
“Maybe it’s a chain?” she offered up, in a small voice.
“I mean, I don’t know Australian chains, but I’m pretty sure that’s the table we sat at.” Jim pointed through the window and she blushed.
“I think you’re right.”
“Shall we try again?” This time he took her hand, and somehow it made her whole body thrill.
And this time they did not end up in front of the same building again. They also did not end up anywhere Pam could particularly remember being, until they emerged at length in front of a large expanse of green space with a giant reflecting pool and a tall building at one end of it.
“Ah, the Anzac Memorial.” Jim rubbed his chin and essayed what she knew to be his wise-old-man look. “I knew I’d find it eventually.”
“You did not.” She swatted his arm, and he used the motion to pull her into a hug, which quite effectively disarmed even her mock annoyance.
“Ah, but I did. You see, Beesly, this is the great advantage of we seasoned Sydney travelers.” He squeezed her a little closer. “We know that all roads eventually lead to the Anzac Memorial. It’s just a matter of getting lost enough.”
A bit of a filler, but I wanted to flesh out their interactions a bit more. I promise all will eventually be figured out. Assuming I can figure it out myself.
Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 27: A Long Walk by Comfect
Jim and Pam walk home.
“So…” He didn’t really want this night to end, but it was getting very late and neither he nor Pam were entirely over the jetlag. He knew this about himself—he’d gotten a very late start this morning—but he’d realized it about her when she’d started to sag on his arm as soon as they sat down on a bench beside the memorial.
“So.” Her response seemed to lack the indefinite trailing off of his. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“I guess so. If you twist my arm. Maybe.”
She leaned up against him and took his arm. He squeezed her tighter, and then realized what she was doing. “I didn’t mean it literally!” He rubbed his arm where she’d twisted it.
“I didn’t want to take any chances.” She grinned up at him. “But seriously, tomorrow?”
“Of course, Beesly.” He hugged her close. “Unless I can tempt you to…”
She shook her head. “I mean, yes, you could definitely tempt me, but I’m pretty sure I’d just fall asleep on you. Like I’m doing now.” She yawned. “And if I’m going back with you, I don’t want to just fall asleep.”
“Beesly, are you saying what I think you’re saying?” He wanted to be very sure; after all, he’d been burned on this before, and even though they were a couple now, you didn’t forget a night like Casino Night that easily.
“I don’t know, Halpert, what do you think I’m saying?” She stared up at him and he found himself blushing. He never blushed, except around her. How many times had she made him do it just this night?
“I…think you’re talking about coming back to my room with me.”
“Yes.” She smiled up at him. “And a lot more than that.”
“Jim, I’m talking about sex.”
He blinked. He had definitely not just heard Pam Beesly say that.
“Oh my god!” She jumped up. “Jim Halpert, am I embarrassing you?”
“You do know what sex is, right? Like, your mom and dad had that talk with you, at some point?” She was having a lot of fun. Not as much fun as she expected she’d have if she weren’t falling asleep on her feet—stopping walking had been a bad idea on that front—but a lot of fun nonetheless.
He groaned, and she laughed again.
“I swear, Beesly…”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but come on, it was right there…”
“That’s what she said.”
“No, I’m afraid I’m not going to touché you, that’s the whole point.”
“You’re literally cuddling me right now.” She stuck her tongue out, and this time he laughed.
“I suppose I am. But you’re right, we’re both beat. Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow.” She stood up. “Meet here?”
“Sounds good to me.” He hesitated. “Unless I can walk you home?”
“Thank you. That sounds lovely.” She realized he was waiting for her, and stood up. “This way. I think.”
They wandered down the street together, holding each other up and making small talk, and making slow but definite headway towards her hostel. They passed the turns and byways she’d taken on her way in yesterday and her way out today, and she shared the stories of what she’d done.
In exchange she got a brief version of what Jim himself had done in the same time, and an invitation to a rugby game two days from now.
“Come on, Jim, you know my record with sporting events and dates,” she teased.
“Ah, but that was your first date. This will be our fifth.” He said it with such confidence she felt the need to puncture him, just a little.
“Oh, are you saying we won’t go on a date tomorrow?” She batted her eyes. “I was so looking forward to it. But if you don’t want to…”
“Hey now, I never said…”
“I know, I know.” She patted his arm. “I’d love to go. Maybe a sport where neither of us knows the rules will be a better experience.”
“Ah, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Beesly, but I happen to have listened to a very long lecture on the rules of rugby from a very obliging Australian man with nothing better to do.” He grinned at her. “But I do promise not to leave you there.”
“How very obliging of you.” She sighed. “Well, I guess since you do already have the ticket, I suppose I might tag along even if you do know the rules.”
“How very kind.” They smiled at each other again. “And I suppose, if I’m very good, you’ll let me come to whatever event it is you want to go to at the opera house?”
“The Beethoven series. How did you know?”
“Come on, Beesly. We’ve met before.”
“Really? I didn’t notice.” She leaned up and kissed him—and what a wonder it was that she could just do that—and with the motion looked up and realized where they were. “Oh, this is me.”
He glanced over his shoulder and turned back, making what she thought of as a classic Jim face with his eyebrow cocked. “I’m sorry to have to correct you, Beesly, but this is me.”
So. No two people, one bed, but two people, one hostel has to be worth something, right?
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 28: One Hostel by Comfect
A conversation in a hallway.
“Wait, what?” She looked up at him in total surprise. “You’re staying here too?”
“Seriously?” He was just as surprised as she looked. “Out of all the hostels in all the cities in the world…”
“But, no, wait.” She cut him off. “I’m staying here because I grabbed a brochure at the train station and they happened to have a room. You had time to plan. Months, if I recall correctly. Why are you staying at the ‘Jolly Swagman Backpackers Sydney Hostel.’” She did the air quotes as she said the name. “The ‘Jolly Swagman’ Jim? Really?”
“Hey, if it’s good enough for you…” she swatted him on the arm again.
“That’s my point! It’s good enough for me coming on absolutely no sleep with absolutely no planning! They happened to have a shiny brochure and a room available. You booked tickets! You made plans! You should be doing better for yourself! Is this really how a Dunder Mifflin ARM travels, Jim?”
“Woah, Pam, I hadn’t taken you for such a company loyalist,” he teased. “And besides, do you know what a jolly swagman is?”
“Neither do I,” he confided. “But I do know that it’s got something to do with the song ‘Waltzing Matilda,’ and I know that that song is very important to the Australians. So I figured that if the hostel was named for something so important, it had to be good.” He hadn’t, in all honesty, actually thought about it at all. He’d blown so much money on the ticket that he’d been scrimping and saving around the rest of it, and if he were totally candid with himself (which hadn’t been a real strength of his in the months leading up to and through Casino Night) he hadn’t ever really expected to stay here. Everything in June had been a blank for him, and so the issue of where he’d sleep had seemed utterly immaterial. But he’d remembered snatches of the song (which he hadn’t identified until it was on a plaque at one of the museums today) and so he’d picked the place because he liked the name.
“Jim.” She rolled her eyes. “Would you stay at ‘The Star Spangled Hostel’ or the ‘Big Apple Hostel’ in New York?”
“Oh.” Yeah, this had been a bad choice, when you put it that way. “But hey, it worked out, right? Different routes, same destination?”
“You and me? Yeah. You might call that a metaphor, Jim.”
“I might, but you wouldn’t?” He grinned down at her.
“Exactly. So. You made a very bad choice of hostel that I happen to have copied by complete serendipitous coincidence crossed with my own set of very bad choices...”
He cut her off. “Which bad choices were those again? Because if we’re assessing choices, I happen to be a very big fan of a lot of your choices in the last few days.”
She smiled up at him. “I mean, so am I, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t objectively bad choices anyway.”
“And who said we should be objective about this? That is sounding like some Dwight Schrute talk, young lady, and I won’t be having that in my hostel.”
“What about in my hostel?”
“That either.” He grabbed the door and bowed. “Would milady like to enter her hostelry of choice?”
She curtsied—or tried to, she had clearly not taken two summers of theater camp and been forced to learn both bows and curtsies for curtain calls, but it was cuter that way—and sauntered into the hostel lobby. “Milady would.”
As she and Jim trailed upstairs, Pam began to run through all sorts of ridiculous scenarios in her mind. What if the hostel had gotten mixed up and her and Jim’s room were the same room? No, that couldn’t be, because hadn’t they both slept there last night? But what if it were? Or what if she found someone else booked into her room, or into his room, and they did have to spend the night in the other room? Was she ready for that? Were they? How would they deal with it?
She was interrupted by Jim pulling out the large novelty key that she recognized as similar to—but slightly different labeled than—hers. “Well, this is me.” He waved a hand in the air. “Any idea where you are? I’m happy to walk you to your door.”
She pointed down the hall. “One further.” So her wild musings hadn’t been that far off.
“So you’re the quiet German.” He laughed at her confused expression. “The day before there were a bunch of loud Germans yelling about the opera house while I was trying to sleep. When they were quiet this morning I didn’t know what to think.”
“Yeah, that was me, sleeping in.” Pam smiled at him. “Speaking of which…when do you want to meet up in the morning? I don’t suppose we need to find a meeting place, since we can just step out into the hall.”
“Whenever you like, Beesly.” He leaned against the door frame and she was impressed once again with just how tall and lanky he was, especially compared to her. “I’m not sure I’ll be getting much sleep, with all of this to process.” He held up both hands as if afraid of what he’d just said. “Good processing only! I’m really excited to be dating you.” He lowered his hands. “We are, uh, dating, right? That’s what being a couple means?”
“I generally think that’s what it’s interpreted to mean in most cultures, yes.” She winked. “Shall we say 8? And are you suggesting I’m going to be keeping you up all night, Halpert?”
“Oh my god, Beesly, you never quit, do you?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know? 8 o’clock, don’t be late.” And with that, she skipped away from him down the hall, blew him a kiss, and slipped into her room.
Because she really was tired, so if she didn’t get into bed soon, she was literally going to fall asleep on him. And she really didn’t want her first time with Jim Halpert to be remembered as the time she couldn’t stay awake.
Though if she mentioned that to Jim, she suspected he’d take it as a challenge.
With that thought, it ended up taking her a little longer to fall asleep than she’d originally projected.
Next stop: tomorrow morning. Thank you to all who've read and reviewed! Remember, they have plenty of time in Sydney to end up in the same room at night.
Chapter 29: The Night into Morning by Comfect
An account of two nights.
Jim’s night was actually better than he’d expected. He did manage to sleep, mostly because his body was absolutely knackered after the emotional rollercoaster of the last twenty-four hours. He did spend some time staring at the ceiling, a lot of which was involved with thinking very deeply about the person one small wall away. But ultimately he slept, and for once in his life (it felt like) slept well, deeply, and fully.
He awoke, with the aid of a very insistent alarm that almost seemed to echo after he turned it off at 7. If he was going to meet Pam at 8, he needed to be ready to face her, even if it was just a matter of opening up the door. He shaved carefully—this was not the morning to have a little bit of tissue paper sticking to his face to cover a nick—and took a long, full shower, long enough that the steam billowed out and the mirrors fogged and he could finally relax. His muscles were aching—he’d been walking all over downtown Sydney and his usual routine in Scranton involved nothing more strenuous than maybe choosing the stairs in the office park or (since he’d been on extended vacation) wandering downstairs to watch basketball in the morning—and the rest of him needed the time in the shower as well.
He stepped out and toweled himself dry with fifteen minutes left. He looked at the clothes he had left, and wondered what he had been thinking when he’d packed for Sydney. Bright pink? OK, that one, a long-sleeve tee, had been a gag present from his sister Larissa, and it was breathable and lightweight, which he’d thought would be important back before he’d remembered that June meant winter in Australia. The short-sleeve tee with the garish WINGS OVER SCRANTON logo was also out—he loved Mark like a brother, but the gigantic plane dropping a wing-bomb on the Scranton skyline was not first-but-really-fifth date material. Ditto the lime-green Henley (thanks again, Larissa).
Wow, he realized, he really had just grabbed whatever was clean in the house and decided not to do laundry before he flew out here.
But of course, he’d been in a pretty bad place then—and he didn’t mean Stamford. Not only that, but even in his wildest dreams he hadn’t expected to run into Pam Beesly, much less to find himself dating her. He pinched his arm again, and it hurt, and it also served as reminder that if he was dating Pam it was not a good idea to start out by being late. He threw on the most normal-looking of his remaining clothes, ran his fingers through his already-combed hair from nerves, and opened the door into the hallway.
Maybe he hadn’t needed to pinch himself after all.
Pam had probably been asleep before her head hit the pillow, but her sleeping mind had made up for the early night by being extremely hyperactive, and for once she’d remembered her dreams. There was something to do with a pineapple and coconut cream lube, and another episode involving a position she was pretty sure only praying mantises could achieve, and finally one in a belfry a la Hunchback of Notre Dame (though Jim was very definitely not slumped in any direction) and she woke up already blushing.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Jim was not there to see her embarrassment. Definitely unfortunately, it was already 7:23, because that insistent ringing during the belfry scene had apparently been her alarm trying its best to wake her up for a ridiculously long time.
She hurried through her morning routine as quickly as she could, but there was only so quickly that she could do what she needed to do, and this was Jim. She could remind herself as much as she wanted that Jim had seen her almost every day for the last several years and apparently decided that frazzled receptionist chic Pam was the person he wanted, but that didn’t change the fact that they were going out today in Sydney, Australia, and she wanted to look good.
On the plus side, she had every piece of clothing she’d ever owned, more or less, in these suitcases, because she hadn’t really bothered to repack after moving out from the house she shared with Roy and before getting in Izzy’s car to go to the airport.
On the minus side, she had every piece of clothing she’d ever owned. She never threw anything out, because she’d been saving for a wedding (ha), and she was naturally frugal anyway and it wasn’t like her clothes wore out from sitting at the receptionist’s desk. Kelly had made fun of her more than once for “re-wearing pieces”—though fortunately never throwing anything out meant she didn’t actually repeat outfits that often, since she still had more than a few things, and so Kelly mostly backed off—but she had a lot of “work-appropriate” things that she knew, or had realized in retrospect that Jim liked.
But how was she to choose? She ended up with her least-beige outfit short of going full rainbow (her sister Penny had funny ideas about how she should “branch out,” which Kelly encouraged when the three of them hung out that one time) and was out of the door in record time.
Of course, Jim was already there, pacing a hole in the floor and looking heartbreakingly disappointed.
A look which lifted instantly when he saw her. He tried his best to tamp it down, and mock-scolded her: “I believe someone told me 8 am? Was I mistaken?” But she could see right through him and his face had, for one moment, looked exactly like she imagined her own must have looked when she’d caught sight of him the day before: like Balboa seeing the Pacific Ocean, or Joshua gazing on the promised land.
And now the next day dawns! I promise they'll have fun today.
Thanks for every review! I really appreciate all of you reading.
Chapter 30: Planning by Comfect
Jim and Pam plan where to go next.
Jim gulped. He’d never actually thought about what it might be to see Pam like this…just, around. Naturally. Normally. Dressed fairly casually, like she had just gotten out of bed (and she had just gotten out of bed, his mind reminded him, followed by flashes of what it might be like to have been just getting out of that same bed). Just, well, being her. Not dressed up for work, or even for a barbecue. Just completely and totally Pam.
He’d thought quite a bit about seeing her as his girlfriend, though that didn’t necessarily mean he was prepared for that, either. But there was something gobsmacking about default Pam; ordinary Pam; the Pam that (God willing) he’d get to see every day if things went on as he hoped they’d go on.
He was vaguely aware she wasn’t as gorgeous as she’d been on Casino Night, when the lilac of her dress had shimmered against her eyes and her hair to make her look like a creature of ethereal light grounded impossibly in the curves that the dress knew just how to accentuate without hugging. He knew in some sense that he probably could have recounted if you’d given him a few minutes alone that he’d seen her look more classically beautiful at the office too: not just at camaraderie events like the Casino Night or the Booze Cruise, but the times she’d been a little more careful with her attire and her makeup, like when Roy’s mother was coming to dinner (he could always tell when Roy’s family was going to be around, because Pam looked a little more nervous and yet a lot more put together). He was cognizant in some part of him that was definitely not in control right now that he would probably see her looking even more beautiful someday, if he played his cards right.
But right now he would have put every dollar he had, Australian and American and whatever other nations used dollars, on the proposition that she was as beautiful as it was possible for anyone to be.
Did he express any of this? Did he, perhaps, break out into a Shakespeare sonnet or at least a Byronic ode? No. Of course not.
He said “guh.”
And then “um.”
And by then she was laughing and somehow that made everything OK in the world.
When he finally picked his jaw up off the floor, he was able to make a little more sense, and he asked her what the plan was for today.
Of course, she immediately put the ball back in his court. “I don’t know; you’re the one with a trip planned. I’ve already achieved everything I was planning to do on this vacation.” Somehow without seeming to move she was standing next to him, in a perfect position for him to hug, and so he did. “And you’re the experienced Sydney traveler, remember? All roads lead to the Anzac Memorial?”
“Uh, right.” He wracked his brains for a ‘plan’ of a ‘visit’ and had nothing besides the two rugby games, both of which he’d invited her to but neither of which was today. “Well, I’d hate to just bring you to the exact same places I’ve already described to you in what I’m sure was mind-numbing detail.”
“It wasn’t, but go on.”
“So, uh, that leaves somewhere new?” He used the hand not holding her to rub the back of his neck. “I hadn’t really planned past the ‘arriving in Sydney’ part of the trip. Or maybe the ‘not being in Scranton’ part.” He blushed. “I mean, I did manage to fill two days, but you know what I mean.”
“I do.” She hugged him. He hugged back. “So if we’re both at sea, what does one do in Australia?”
“Apparently meet up with people from back home.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “Besides that.”
“Uh, get confused about what day it is? Flush toilets to see if they really run the other way? You’ll have to give me a clue here, Beesly.”
“See kangaroos, dummy.” She elbowed him in the ribs. “It’s Australia, Jim. Can we really go back home if we haven’t seen a marsupial at all? I’m not sure they’d let us into the country.”
“You’re right. They wouldn’t believe we’d actually been where we claimed.” When he didn’t spring into action she elbowed him again. It was nice having Jim’s ribs all to herself.
“So, where do we go to find kangaroos?” At his blank look she rolled her eyes again and fought the urge to laugh. “Jim, did you do any preparing for this trip at all?”
“That would be a no.” He looked sheepish and she wanted to kiss him, so she did.
“Then let your amazing new girlfriend show you how it’s done.” She took his hand and he let himself be led downstairs towards the front desk of the hostel.
“Wait, wait, I’m with you on the amazing new girlfriend thing—you are amazing, it’s definitely new, and I’m glad beyond measure you’re my girlfriend—but you didn’t plan this either. Did you?”
He looked so confused she took pity on him. Well, she would have done that anyway. She liked him. She definitely loved him. So she would have anyway. But he also looked confused.
“Of course I didn’t. But I did arrange all my travel out of a hotel— ” he looked more confused somehow so she briefly explained “—I was staying there when I moved out of our…Roy’s place—and I know that they have information. A business center or…” she reached out triumphantly with her non-Jim hand and seized a flyer “a stack of brochures for local sights.”
She waved the brochure in his face. “The Australian Botanic Garden. With a kangaroo on the cover.”
“Wait, isn’t that the place I was when we met? The Botanic Garden?”
She flipped open the brochure. “No, apparently that was the Royal Botanic Gardens. This is the Australian Botanic Garden and it’s out west of the city.” She showed him the map. “See?”
“Ah yes, how could I be so silly as to get those two confused.” His eyes twinkled and she laughed.
“Exactly. Well, shall we?” She waggled the brochure. “It’s a ways out, and time’s a wasting.”
“Only because someone took forever to get ready.”
“Shut it, Halpert.”
And we're back to the travelogue! Don't worry, they're going to work things out about Stamford eventually. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! This really keeps me going in quarantine times.
Chapter 31: Waiting for a Train by Comfect
Title says it all--thanks to JennaBennett for the idea.
It turned out that the Australian Botanic Garden was accessible by public transit, which was good, because neither Jim nor Pam wanted to figure out how to either get or drive a car in Australia. He figured that his license would be legally good enough, but he didn’t even know which side of the street they drove on here—a fact he made the mistake of admitting to Pam, who pointed out that he’d been walking past cars for the last three days and somehow hadn’t noticed which side of the street they were on.
OK, it wasn’t a mistake. He liked the way she laughed, joyous and carefree, like spring coming out in buds after winter. So he deliberately gave her the opportunity to laugh at him, with him, anything he could do to get her to laugh. Just like he had in Scranton, but now with the added bonus that she wasn’t looking over her shoulder all the time to see who would notice her laughing.
He said this to her too, as they waited interminably for a train at King’s Cross Station. She sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder and that was even better than her laughing.
Not that he didn’t try to get her to laugh again a minute later when the train was finally announced. “Wollongong via Wolli Creek!” He found that just repeating the Australian names in a variety of bad accents he could get her to laugh again and again (starting with Australian, of course, but moving through Russian, German—Dwight-inspired, of course—and Deep Southern kept the laughter going).
The train ride was short—but only because they were going to transfer at Central Station to a much longer train ride of about an hour.
“Why did we bother to take this train?” he asked as they got out three stops later. “Didn’t I walk this far each of the last three days?”
“It’s what the map said to do.” Pam intoned this like it was a gospel truth. “Always follow the map.”
“But what if the map is wrong?”
“Then we follow the map wherever it goes. The map knows, Jim. It knows.”
And this time he was the one to fall over laughing.
Pam settled in for the second long wait for a train that morning and realized that despite her normal frustration at waiting for promised services, there was actually nowhere else she’d rather be at the moment. Oh, obviously she’d like to get to see the kangaroos eventually, but for now, sitting next to Jim, holding his hand, was pretty damn good.
Her hands were getting clammy, though, so she shifted to lean further against him so that he moved his arms around her waist—a lovely feeling, much less grabby than when Roy had tried to do the same thing and always ended up groping her “accidentally”—and pulled out a sheet of paper.
She was busy sketching the train station when she noticed Jim was watching over her shoulder.
“Nice lines, Beesly.” He caught her looking up at him and smiled. “I especially like how you’ve given the impression of motion on the other tracks, but left ours stark blank.”
“Thank you!” She hadn’t expected him to actually pay attention to the artwork—the best she’d really been hoping for, if she was honest, was the best she’d ever gotten from Roy, which was a tolerant shrug and a “go ahead Pammy”—but that was, she realized, decidedly unfair. Jim, even non-boyfriend Jim, had always been supportive of her work, always observant of what she was doing. Boyfriend Jim was…well, he was still Jim. And also her boyfriend. She snuggled in closer. “That was exactly the effect I was going for.”
“Well, you’ve achieved it.” He squeezed her. “Is it OK that I’m watching you draw?”
Roy had never asked that, would never in a million years have thought to ask that. “Sure!” jumped out of her mouth before she could think, but when she did think she decided this was actually an invitation, or at least an opportunity, to have more fun with Jim. Pranks were, after all, their primary form of foreplay, were they not? And this wasn’t a prank, per se, but teasing was somewhere in the same village.
“Actually, would you mind not?” She raised an eyebrow. “We artistes are very temperamental you know.”
“Oh yes, I’m sure.” He covered his eyes. “Is this better?”
“Hmm…no. I’m afraid I’m going to need to see your eyes so that I know you’re not finding some way to sneak a look through the gaps between your inordinately large fingers.” Really, she just liked looking at his eyes. That would be the next thing she sketched, although she probably would actually want him not to look at that one.
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you, Beesly, if you can see my eyes, I can see your sketch.”
“Not if I turn it around like this.” She whirled so that the paper was between them, sketch towards her, and immediately felt the loss of his touch. Before she could say anything, though, he’d grabbed the sketch out of her hands and was gesturing to something on the other side.
“Halpert Helper? Really, Beesly?”
“Hey, give that back!” She hadn’t realized what she’d been sketching on the back of, but of course it was the top piece of paper in her purse. “And anyway, it worked didn’t it?”
He handed it over, another thing she hadn’t expected based on past experience. “I suppose it did at that. And what do you know—it did help me.”
“How did it help you?”
“I mean, we’re here aren’t we?”
“Point.” She leaned back into him and started to sketch again. “Just for that, you can totally watch me draw.”
“Nothing would please me better.”
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! Next time: the train.
Chapter 32: A Long Walk by Comfect
Jim and Pam get a little lost.
It was a long train ride. That was Jim’s primary impression, and it did not wane for over an hour. Which, he supposed, proved the point. But it was an enjoyable hour when you didn’t have anywhere else to be, and he definitely didn’t. In fact, he was currently finding it difficult to imagine there being a justification for not being in the same place as Pam Beesly at any point in the future, which meant a vehement denialism about the fact that when they got back home he was supposed to be moving to Stamford, Connecticut.
But for now, with Pam resting her head on his shoulder and then staring out the window at the passing scenery, he was content. No, beyond content. Actually happy, a feeling he hadn’t experienced in longer than he could truly remember.
Even resting and watching palled eventually, though, so he and Pam started playing little games along the way, starting with “I Spy” and working their way up to a game he invented on the spot that involved whispering “That’s not a…” whatever, “THAT is a…” whatever it was whenever they saw something that looked particularly Australian. It had started with yelling that, but an elderly couple had glared at them and he and Pam had wilted.
“That’s not a house. THAT is a house,” Pam whispered to him as she pointed at a sprawling ranch they were passing by.
“That’s not a car. THAT is a car,” he whispered back, gesturing at the clearly used Jeep sitting in front of it.
“Jim, we have Jeeps in Scranton.” Pam stuck her tongue out at him.
“That dusty though?” The train had swept on, but he still knew what he’d seen.
“Then you should have said ‘That’s not dust. THAT is dust,’” she harrumphed, and he melted a little internally at how seriously she was taking this silly little game he’d made up to pass the time.
“Well I will next time.” They exchanged smiles as the train pulled into Macarthur Station and his one remaining brain cell not focused on her face remembered that that was their stop. “But now it’s time to get off.”
“That’s what she said.” But Pam was already running towards the train doors and he didn’t have time to laugh at that properly.
They giggled to each other as they waited for the next piece of transit, the bus down the street towards the botanic garden. Or at least they started out giggling. Enough waiting will turn even giggles into eye rolls. Fortunately, they were still rolling their eyes together at the situation, and not at each other yet.
Pam enjoyed the bus ride, although it was disappointingly normal in a sense: it turned out that pavement in one country was much like pavement in another, and Narellan Road was just another road. There was even a shopping mall at the station, which had excitingly different stores in it, but still, you know, stores, in a mall. Like home.
But the scenery was different and the company was excellent so she enjoyed it.
What she did not enjoy was trying to figure out when to get off, or how to get to the gardens from there.
“A short ride,” she huffed in Jim’s ear. “A short walk. How short, Jim? How short?”
“I have no idea.” He whispered back. Maybe we should ask the driver? Or…” he glanced out the window. “SHIT.” He looked around frantically and found the signal for a stop. “That was it.”
“How do you know?” She looked around frantically.
“There’s a brown sign that says ‘The Australian Botanic Garden’ on a post.” He swore under his breath, and she realized she rarely saw him hot and bothered. “I’m sorry, Pam, I should have been paying more attention. I have no idea where the next stop is. It could be miles.”
“Kilometers.” She couldn’t resist.
“We’re in Australia, Jim, I think they call them kilometers here.”
Before Jim could respond to her, she thought quite witty, repartee, the bus had pulled to a stop. “Apparently the next stop wasn’t far.” She hurried to the doors and threw a hasty “thank you” at the driver before stepping off. “Do you remember which way it was?” The bus had turned after Jim signaled the stop, so she was disoriented again.
“I think so.” He held out a hand and she grabbed it. He led her back down the street and hesitated for a moment at the intersection before decisively turning one way. “This way.”
“Fifty-fifty, right?” She liked this opportunity to tease him.
“Come on, Pam, it’s at least sixty-forty.” He glanced ahead. “Maybe even seventy-thirty.”
“Oh, seventy-thirty. I bow before your superior navigational skills.” She sketched as good a bow as she could without letting go of his hand.
“As well you should.” He pointed at a series of flags on poles and, yes, a brown sign. “One hundred-zero.”
“Well done.” They came up to the entrance and she noticed something distressing. “Uh, Jim?”
“The sidewalk doesn’t continue into the park. I don’t think this is the entrance.”
“Shit. Well…it’s definitely not on this road then. But this is definitely the park.” He scratched his head, and she tapped her fingers on her lips until an idea appeared to both of them at once.
“It must be on the other road.”
“Jinx.” She blurted it out before she thought. “I think you can skip buying me the Coke though—we have a long walk ahead of us and it’s going to suck if you can’t talk.”
“But I thought the rules of jinx were unfailingly rigid?”
“Only the American rules, Jim. This is Australia. Live a little.”
“Oh I intend to.” He dipped her down into a quick kiss. “But before I let myself get carried away, let’s go find the entrance. We have some kangaroos to see.”
They traced back their steps to the intersection between Narellan and Mount Annan and turned left down the latter road. Then they walked. And walked. And walked some more.
Eventually Jim leaned over and whispered in her ear. “That isn’t a walk. THAT is a walk.”
It was probably for the best she’d let him talk, but she was reconsidering.
Next time, the actual gardens. I think. Maybe I'll just have them walk more.
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! I really appreciate hearing from y'all.
Chapter 33: Arrival at the Park by Comfect
Jim and Pam prepare to find kangaroos.
It was a long walk. Jim realized that it probably felt even longer for Pam: her legs weren’t as long, for a start, and she was wearing, while they were Keds, less helpful shoes than he was. Mark had tricked him once into joining a trail-running group; he’d thought it was more about the destination in the park than the journey, wooed with stories of picnics overlooking the lake with beer and bro-time before heading back. He’d realized after one run that there wasn’t a lot of beer or food on offer if you were running back the way you came, and so he’d quit right after. But he still had the shoes, and they were extremely comfortable (for shoes) over long distances.
He didn’t think Pam’s Keds, which were looking a lot less white than usual, were quite that comfortable.
He asked later, and it turned out that they’d walked about four miles including the walk inside the park to get to the actual visitor’s center. It felt like a lot longer, even to him.
Once they got there, he took one look at her, gingerly hopping from foot to foot while trying her best to look ready for anything and only succeeding in looking adorable and suggested, gently, that they should definitely rest underneath the large awnings at the Visitor’s Center for a little bit.
“It’s not that hot out, but I could use a cool down,” he offered gently, and then, once he had her seated and settled, ran into the Visitor’s Center, got two cool drinks, and returned to sit next to her before anyone else could grab the best seat in the house (that being whatever was beside her, naturally).
“So, Beesly, had enough walking yet?” He stretched out his legs and noticed that her eyes tracked as he did so. “It sounds like our best bet to see the wildlife is to…walk some more.”
She groaned and he laughed. “Yeah, that was my reaction too. The Visitor Centre has some good displays about what we’ll see, but I figure that’s not any better since we’d still have to be on our feet. Might as well chill for a bit and then try if we can go see it for ourselves.”
“Agreed.” She stuck her legs out next to his, and giggled.
“I was just thinking…you’re so long.” She blushed bright red. “Don’t say it!”
“What would I say?” He winked.
“You’d say that’s what she said!”
“But you did, didn’t you?” He put on his best innocent, confused face. “Why shouldn’t I say you said it if you said it?”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” She swatted his arm lightly.
“But you did say it, Pam!” He leaned closer so no one else could hear them. “And I’m hoping that might not be the only time in my life you ever say it.”
“JIM!” She had been a little red from exertion; now she was the color of a cardinal who’d taken a swim in a can of red paint while eating peppers.
“What?” He put the innocent face back on, with a little raise of the eyebrows. “If we hang out together more, obviously we’ll have more opportunities to spread our legs. Like this, obviously.” And he stretched his legs out and uncrossed them ostentatiously.
“I’m going to kill you.” She ground it out, but couldn’t keep her jaw locked hard enough to stop a giggle popping out at the end. “I swear, Halpert, you are so dead.”
“At least if you’re there with me, I’ll die happy.” He crossed his ankles again and god help her she couldn’t stop thinking about how long his legs were and the implication he’d made out of it.
“Weren’t you listening, Jim? Of course I’ll be there. I’m going to be the one who kills you.” She smirked. “Honestly, sometimes it’s like you don’t listen.”
“Oh, I’m listening, Beesly. I think you’re the one who didn’t listen—if you’re there, I’ll be happy.” He crossed his hands behind his head and now she was thinking about how long he was in the other direction and that led right back to the dimension she was as yet unaware of.
All the blood in her body, she was pretty sure, was in her face right now. She might need a transfusion if he kept this up, just so she could blush adequately.
“Let’s go for a walk!” she blurted and hopped to her feet. “I wanna see a kangaroo.”
“Your wish is my command.” He stood slowly, causing (forcing? No, this was her choice. Allowing) her gaze to wash down his body and then up again as he towered just a little over her. “Let’s bring the drinks, though.”
“That’s the first good idea you’ve had all day,” she grumbled, and then thought better of it. “OK, the second. The sitting was nice for a bit.”
“I live to serve.” He handed her her drink and pulled a map out of his back pocket that he’d clearly taken from the Visitor’s Center. “Shall we do the easy wilderness walk or the easier not wilderness walk?”
“This is a trick question, isn’t it?” She grabbed the map, ignoring the drink for a moment, and checked her intuition. “The woodland walk.” She handed him the map and took the drink. “That’s the one with the wallabies. And wallabies, as everyone knows, are kangaroos.”
“Well deduced.” He took a sip of his drink and gestured forward. “Lead on.”
“Jim, I gave you back the map.” She took her own drink—he had good taste, the lemonade was delicious and slightly fizzy—and gestured herself. “You lead on.”
“Fair enough, Beesly. Would you object greatly if we went together?”
“I think that could be arranged.” She slipped an arm through his and off they went. It seemed like her feet barely hurt at all anymore.
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! Next time: KANGAROOS.
Chapter 34: Kangaroos by Comfect
The much-promised kangaroos appear.
The Cumberland Plain Woodland (as the map told Jim it was called) was not a particularly long walk—though with tired feet, anything could feel long. It wound its way around the Visitor Center and indeed crossed the path they’d taken to come in—not that they would have known that, because they would have had (and indeed did have) no idea what the path crossing their own meant. It took them through scrubland that, Jim had to admit, he would have instantly dismissed if he hadn’t been told it was ecologically significant. It looked unimportant; uneventful; ripe, if he had been, say, a developer looking for somewhere to build, for development.
His walking partner clearly did not see it that way. Pam spent the first part of their walk exclaiming over the colors: it looked mostly brown and a little green to him, but then again he didn’t quite have her vocabulary of color: umber and sage and Kelly green (that one, high up on the branches of a tree, he couldn’t resist suggesting was probably talking all the other colors to death, which might explain all the beige), and yes, she did see beige but also taupe and fawn and buff.
It was like he was dating a Crayola factory, and he couldn’t have been happier, because she was so obviously in her element.
They stopped every few feet, it felt like, for her to make a sketch of some kind of tree shape or just gaze on the midday light hitting the underbrush (he was so glad, in retrospect, that they hadn’t been there in high summer; the cooler winter sun was a perfect balance of illumination and heat). The constant stops gave their feet a rest and also gave him a chance to read the little descriptive booklet that came with the map.
“Oh look!” he shouted, pointing excitedly.
“What? Is it a kangaroo?” Pam spun around from examining a little burst of white flowers (spiked rice flower, said the all-knowing guidelet) and peered over his shoulder.
“No, much more exciting,” he deadpanned. “It’s a Cumberland Plain Land Snail.” Someone—he could just see a back disappearing around the next bend, which had to be the person—had turned over a log and the snail was still struggling to get back under cover. “They’re endangered, you know.”
“I did not.” She winked up at him. “And I’m pretty sure you didn’t either, until about twenty seconds ago.”
“Give me some credit for doing my research, Beesly.” He winked back. “It was definitely like five minutes ago.”
“Oh, well then.” She smiled at him and flipped to next page of the sketchbook that had seemingly spontaneously manifested in her hand as they began the walk. “In that case, I bow to your superior wisdom.” She sat down crosslegged on the path and began sketching the snail. “And since it’s endangered, I really ought to record this one for posterity.”
‘Posterity’ put ideas in his head—ideas about chubby little children with her hair and his eyes—and distracted him from making any further quips. He stood over her as she sketched, trying not to too obviously check in on her drawing, which was coming along nicely. He also, conveniently, had an excellent angle on her from above, which was a view he’d rarely gotten in an office environment. He could do with more of that, for sure.
It was probably that element of the view that distracted him for a few extra seconds. But when he finally looked up, there was a furry face with Chihuahua-style ears staring back at him.
Make that two faces. One where he’d expect it; the other down by the ground underneath what his confused brain eventually realized was its mother.
“Uh, Pam?” He tapped her on her shoulder.
“What? I’m trying to get this spiral right.” She gestured at the snail shell, which did indeed have a nautilus-like spiral to it.
“Maybe you could come back to that after you see the kangaroo?”
“What?” Pam was so shocked that she stood stock still—a reflex that, if she were feeling more introspective, she might have realized was the result of living with Roy Anderson’s temper for years, but which fortunately in this case served her well without traumatic implication—and her voice came out not in a shout but a whisper.
“Over there. A mother and a joey if I’m not mistaken.” She glanced at Jim who was nodding with his chin, then out in the direction he’d indicated.
“Oh they’re gorgeous.” She looked down at her paper, whipped the spiral out (perfectly, if she did say so herself) and waved a little at the slow-moving snail. “Bye friend. Glad to have seen you.” She looked back up at the kangaroos—well, she supposed they were probably wallabies, but wallabies counted, dammit—and then up at Jim, who was really towering over her. “I wonder if they’re as surprised as we are.”
“Probably less so. They see humans all the time, I bet.” His voice was also a bit hushed with what she assumed to be wonder. “Well, maybe not the baby.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you going to draw them?”
“I was hoping to?” She made it a question, much as she wished she hadn’t, because she wasn’t entirely used to getting her own way on things like that.
“Then I’m going to stay very still here, because I think I might spook them if I move.”
“You do have that effect.” She flipped to the next page of her book. “God, the way the gold highlights stand out in her fur…” she sketched a general outline, then started shading. “And the red by her ears—do you see it Jim?—kind of a russet, like sundown over the lake.” She had a private system for coding color, since she so rarely had anything to color with when the urge to sketch came over her. She’d do a whole black and white (well, gray and white—pencil lead was never really black) drawing and just indicate with a few alphanumeric designations what colors she was imagining. It never looked right to other people—Roy had once accused her of writing “in code or something” and insisted she tell him what it meant—but to her it made perfect sense. A4 by the ears meant red shading into G7 at the more gold-colored face, and B1 for the black on the snout. She could write very small when she needed, and the variations on this beautiful creature were going to demand that of her.
In times like this it was like she became one with the page, or with the pencil, and there was nothing in the world except her subject and her art. Or it usually was. But today she could feel a great warmth behind and above her, empowering and strengthening her every move. Each line was more defined; each shade more precise; each stroke of the pencil more carefully controlled because somehow she felt like anything she did wrong right now didn’t matter. With Jim watching her sketch, she couldn’t put a line wrong—and if there was ever a moment to capture so perfectly, it was this one.
The wallabies were the first to break the moment, turning and galumphing back into the brush from which they’d come. She took what felt like her first breath in minutes, if not hours, and felt Jim relax too.
“I can’t believe we just saw that.”
“Neither can I, Beesly. Neither can I.”
And more of the walk (and the day) to come! Thanks to all who've read and reviewed; this is really a wonderful community to be part of.
Chapter 35: Gift Shop by Comfect
The end of the walk.
It would be a lie to say the rest of the walk was uneventful. They saw more wallabies, and Pam insisted…no, Jim thought, he should be fair, they both insisted…on stopping each time and admiring them as they deserved. They saw birds, and plants Jim had never imagined, much less seen, and a few other hikers, though fewer than Jim had expected before he remembered it was wintertime for them.
But mostly what they did was thoroughly, completely enjoy themselves. Jim couldn’t remember when he’d had a less stressful, more fun day. Even on the best of days with Pam before—making up names of diseases to mock Dwight, the time Pam slept on his shoulder, having Pam in his house in his room—there’d always been the shadow of Roy hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, ready to fall at any moment, as indeed it had that time he’d caught Jim holding Pam’s hand.
Pam had been angry that day, insisting it was innocent. He knew better, and in that moment so did Roy. Although apparently he’d forgotten by the next year when he’d so casually told Jim to look after Pam.
Well, it might not be the way Roy would have liked—it definitely wasn’t—but it looked like he’d be keeping that promise after all.
But today was not a day of Roy-thoughts, at least not mostly. It was not even a day of Stamford thoughts. It was a day of pleasure, of finding out how Pam was when she was excited and actually let herself be excited. He’d always suspected that she was one of the more joyful people he knew, if she allowed it, and today she was apparently allowing it.
That he too was allowing himself pleasure was not something he really internalized, but it was nevertheless true.
They finished the walk and collapsed (again) into the chairs outside the Visitor Centre.
“We’re never going to actually go in there, are we?” Pam asked, as she fanned herself.
“Speak for yourself, Beesly. I’ve already been. And it’s amazing.” He grinned over towards her tiredly. “Spectacular bathroom, if I do say so myself.”
“You should not have said that.” Pam shook her head. “Now I have to go see for myself.”
“It’s not that amazing…” he changed tack immediately, but as she put it, the damage was done.
“If you hadn’t mentioned bathrooms…” she added as she hurried inside.
“My mistake!” he called after her, and promptly fell asleep in the chair.
Pam wasn’t kidding—the moment Jim had mentioned bathrooms the fact that she hadn’t used one all day sprang to her mind and refused to leave. She raced into the Visitor Centre and was very grateful that there was a universal sign for bathrooms visible as she entered—though as she reflected later, they did speak English in Australia, so she could probably have found it anyway. Or asked someone. But at the time it felt like deliverance.
After washing her hands and exiting the bathroom, she poked around corners in the Visitor Centre, confirming her impression that while it was quite nice Jim had definitely been exaggerating for humorous effect, not serious, when he’d described it as amazing. There was plenty to do and see, but none of it better than sitting with Jim would be. Except maybe the gift shop.
She strolled through that on her way out, looking for something to convey to Jim just how much she’d enjoyed seeing kangaroos for the first time with him. Something small. Something cute. Something like the little bits of memory he’d kept for her, tucked inside the teapot he’d given her at Christmas. She still had the teapot, obviously, but what she doubted he expected was that she also still had the gifts too, tucked in a little zipped pocket of her purse where she could never lose them (and Roy could never find them, though that had ceased recently to be a concern). Thankfully TSA, or whatever the Australian import equivalent was, had not noticed the little hot sauce packet.
There it was, sitting on a shelf with a discount sticker on it (all the better, since she actually had no idea how Australian dollars converted to American). A kangaroo pencil sharpener, with the slot for the pencil where the joey should be. It was cheap, it was tacky, it fit in perfectly with the pencil from the minigolf game—she had to buy it.
Again, she found herself surprised at how easy that was: she could just see a thing and do it, and no one made fun of her or made it more difficult or anything. She was freer than she’d realized, or else her previous life had been more stressed and confined than she’d ever let herself think.
She made her way out of the gift shop with the little brown paper bag around the pencil sharpener stuffed in her purse and found Jim in his chair snoring away. This was the opportunity she’d been waiting for: a chance to sketch him when he definitely wouldn’t ask to see the sketch. She sat down opposite him, pulled out the book, and sharpened her pencil in the kangaroo (he wouldn’t mind—after all, all his gifts to her had been technically used too).
The next half hour passed in gentle silence, punctuated only by the background noise of the business of the botanic gardens and Jim’s gentle but occasional snores—and the scritching sound of pencil on paper.
Thank you to all who've read and reviewed! Your feedback means a lot to me!
Chapter 36: Venues by Comfect
Jim and Pam at the Gardens.
They spent a lot of the rest of the day relaxing, mutually acknowledging the need to rest their feet and refresh their bodies. The Australian Botanic Garden turned out to have an excellent cafe, and after drinking and eating their fill there, they gently wandered back around the bird-watching locales, marveling at the crests and colors they’d never seen before.
Pam filled up her sketchbook, and Jim noticed before she did (he, after all, wasn’t drawing in it). So he snuck back to the Visitor Centre on a pretext (well, not so entirely pretextual—cooling drinks had consequences) and came back with a new pad under his arm, this one emblazoned with a cockatiel on the cover. When Pam flipped the last page and exclaimed in dismay that she guessed she was done for the day, he slipped the new pad into her hands and leaned back against the tree they were currently under.
“Guess again.” He linked his fingers behind his head. “I wouldn’t want to miss out on any genuine Beesly originals.”
“Jim! You really shouldn’t…actually, I really appreciate it.” Pam clearly swallowed whatever else she’d been going to say. “Thank you.” She cracked the cover and began to write. He could tell, somehow, that that was what she was doing; the sound of the pencil was different than when she drew. More staccato, less fluid, less at ease. “There.” She held the book open so he could see.
“The Australia Sketchbook. A Beesly/Halpert Production.” He grinned. “I mean, I’m glad you like the book, but it’s not like I’m going to be contributing anything other than cash to this sketchbook enterprise.”
“Don’t you know that most producers are the money behind the talent? And anyway…” but he cut her off before she could continue.
“Are you referring to yourself as the talent?” Before she could take advantage of the opportunity to either confirm or deny he rushed on. “Because you absolutely are.”
She blushed. “Err…thank you.” She held up the pencil. “But I meant to say, anyway, I’m not letting you off the hook that easy.” She pushed pencil and book into his hands. “Draw, Halpert. I want my own genuine Halpert original to go with the Beeslys.”
“You sure? This is going to look like crap.” He took the pencil, because he couldn’t resist her offering him anything, but he held it like he’d never held a pencil before in his life—like he’d once seen an exterminator hold a squirrel carcass, by one toe with decided misgivings. “I’m serious, Pam, I can’t draw for beans.”
“Fortunately, beans are not on offer.” She grinned, and he softened as he always did. Though in a sense, he did something very opposite. “Just draw something, Jim. It’ll mean a lot to me if you do.”
So he did. He tried his best to render the tree they were sitting under, a spreading Eucalyptus with a long white trunk and tufts of green leaves like broccoli florets far above them.
It ended looking a lot like broccoli, when he was done. Pam took one look at it, and looked him square in the eye. “Thank you for trying.” She took the pencil back too. “And don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. I’m going to teach you how to do better, one of these days.”
“Are you saying my art is not the best art of all the art?” He chuckled. “Yeah, I did warn you it was gonna be crap, didn’t I.”
“Well, I would rate it above crap, at least.” She was back to sketching mode herself, the pencil moving over the paper as she spoke. “But wouldn’t you like to be able to draw something that means something to you and see it on the page like it is in your mind?”
“I would.” One thing—one person—in particular. “So I guess that means you’re offering me lessons?”
“I did say I’d teach you, didn’t I?” She smiled up at him and then put her head down in the book again. “After all, we have all the time in the world.”
But one sense in which they did not have all the time in the world was brought back to Pam when they headed back to the Visitor Centre after an hour or so of constant drawing. They went hand in hand towards the building when a very busily dressed Australian woman intercepted them.
“Are you my couple?”
“Excuse me?” Pam and Jim looked at each other. “Your couple?”
“You must not be, then. Hello. Angelica Taylor. Venue and Planning.” She stuck out a hand for each of them to shake. “But you really should consider it, even if you aren’t my couple.”
“Consider what?” Pam was thoroughly confused, and a glance at Jim said he was equally at sea.
“The wedding venue, of course!” Angelica pulled a piece of paper out of a folder she was carrying. “Here, take this, I always carry around a few spares. You two are obviously in love, and there’s nowhere better to make that love an established fact than here at the Gardens.” She looked them over briefly. “From your accents you’re American, but that’s absolutely fine. We specialize in destination weddings too.” She turned at looked behind them. “Ah, that must be my couple. No rush, dears, obviously, I can see you’re not even engaged yet, but do think it over. It’s such a lovely spot.” She hurried on and Jim and Pam looked at each other with wide eyes.
“I…don’t even know how to process that. How to begin to process that,” Jim admitted, rubbing his neck in a sign that she knew was nervousness.
In that moment she remembered, as if it had all been dammed up behind her feelings for Jim, all the craziness of the last month. She wasn’t engaged—that Angelica woman was right. She didn’t have all the time in the world with Jim—she’d only just found him again and he was working for the Stamford office. And even if she was sure this wasn’t a rebound—and she was sure it wasn’t, for her at least, and what would it even be a rebound from for Jim? Her rejection of him? She knew there was such a thing as an offensive rebound but that idea was…well, offensive—she was also sure that talking about engagements or marriage with Jim right now was a really bad idea.
“Uh…you want to check it out?” Jim broke into her reverie with a hesitant voice. “Not that…not that we’re getting married or anything, but this flyer does say it has the best view of the entire Garden complex.” If he rubbed his neck anymore he was going to give himself rope burn.
“I think I’m feeling a little tired,” she found herself saying. “Can we just head back to the hostel?”
“Yeah, I suppose.” He squeezed her hand, and she realized he’d never dropped it the whole time. “And Pam?”
“Yeah?” She fought to keep the sudden worry and world-weariness out of her voice. Honesty was important in a relationship, yes, but maybe dumping all your feelings on the other person wasn’t the right way to do things.
“You can talk to me about it when you’re ready, OK?”
Ah, more necessary angst. But it will all come out in the wash. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed. I'm really overwhelmed by the response and I appreciate you all greatly.
Chapter 37: Walk Back by Comfect
Jim and Pam head back.
Pam’s nod was the only sign that she’d heard him, that and the fact that she aggressively (for her) and immediately changed the subject to how they were getting home. Well, to the hostel. But he thought of it as home, and she used the word at least at first, and it was nice to think of going home with Pam.
“Um, I’m afraid it’s the same way back as in.” He shrugged. “2 klick walk and all.”
“Klick?” She raised an eyebrow. “Klick?”
“It’s slang for kilometer. I think in the military.” He shrugged. “I picked it up somewhere.”
“Where?” She openly gaped. “Jim Halpert, did you go to a military boarding school?”
“What? No.” He laughed. “Trust me, Beesly, you’d have heard.”
“I don’t know, maybe you have this deep dark past I’m only just getting to know.” She seemed in better spirits as she teased him, so he didn’t try to change the subject even as she paused. “But seriously, Jim, what?”
“OK, so, it’s a little embarrassing,” he started, and she latched onto that with glee.
“Oh, now you have to tell me.”
“Uh, the guys—and I guess the girls too, everyone—at Stamford apparently play this, uh, military game? Like, as teambuilding or something?” His voice rose at the end of each sentence making it a question, a habit he thought he’d left behind in high school. “And, I guess, I did some research? On the whole military-warfare-gaming thing?”
“Jim, I’m pretty sure you don’t need to know anything about the military to play video games.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, probably not. But I thought, hey, maybe if I found something interesting I could share it with people, like trivia or something. And since a bunch of the books the library had were on World War II, I thought maybe Dwight…” he trailed off and realized something he hadn’t told her yet. “Not like he’s in Stamford, but I do have some of his stationary. I’ve been planning, once I get back to the office, to fax him instructions from his future self. And I was thinking some of them could reference deep dark family secrets from the second World War.”
“That’s brilliant.” She hugged him and he hugged her back, enjoying the feel of her in his arms. “Not the video game stuff. That was silly of you. But the Dwight prank?” She kissed her fingers. “Bella.”
“Thank you.” He frowned. “You really think the game stuff was silly?”
“Jim, if they play video games as teambuilding—what is it, America’s Army, Wolfenstein, Rainbow Six, Call of Duty?—they don’t care if you know about the military. They care if you can play the video game.”
“Fair point.” He paused. “Wait, how do you know that many games? I didn’t know you played. Are you the one with the deep dark secrets?”
“Roy was into them.” She said it like it explained everything about both how she knew and why she hadn’t mentioned it before. “And believe me, he may not have been great at them, but none of what skill he had had anything to do with knowing anything at all about anything military.”
“I suppose that makes sense.” He shrugged again. “It’s Call of Duty, but I don’t know anything about it. The strategy guide for it was checked out of the library.”
“All that research and you couldn’t get the one thing you actually needed?” She clucked her tongue. “I expected better of you, Halpert.” They had been walking as they talked and were just reaching the entrance to—well, from this direction, the exit from—the park. “Right or left?”
“Right.” He jerked his head and she followed, enjoying the walk a lot more now that she actually knew that they had done this in the other direction.
She didn’t want to talk about Stamford. Not here, at least, not in the middle of nowhere in suburban Sydney. Maybe later, if they could find a teashop and she could cuddle up with a nice hot mug and look at him across the table and then slide up next to him and let his arms fold over her as he reassured her that he’d find a way not to leave her…maybe then. But not here on the side of a dusty road with a two hour bus and train ride ahead of them.
Maybe that made her a coward. Maybe it just meant she was marshalling her strength. Because she’d spent so much of it already—it took a lot to end a wedding, an engagement rather, and to fly halfway around the world and confess your love—and she needed to husband a little of it (ironic word) before she exposed her vulnerabilities again. Or maybe she was just enjoying being a couple with Jim for a little without having to think about the entire future. Even if that future was hurtling towards them at a distressingly rapid rate of one second per second.
They reached the bus stop—or what she assumed was the bus stop—and stood around to wait. Fortunately this time the bus was serendipitously present almost at once, and whisked them toward the train station at speed.
Of course, that just meant more time waiting at the train station, but there was something solid and reassuring about a train station. You knew where you stood (back of the yellow line please) and there was a board that told you just how long you had to wait, or at least that the train you were waiting for had a delay. Bus stops were a catch as catch can business, and that had the potential to fail; a train station was reliable.
Reliably late, in this case. But then again, that gave them enough time to rummage around the shops next door in the mall, and while she was no Kelly, she wasn’t going to turn down a chance at a shopping trip to a foreign mall. Who knew what they might discover?
I promise I won't keep teasing and removing Stamford forever, but this really didn't seem like the moment they'd hash it out. Next, the mall, and then the trip back hostelward. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 38: The Mall by Comfect
Jim and Pam start shopping.
Pam and Jim wandered the Macarthur Square mall like their lives depended on it—and maybe, in a way, they did, he mused, as he looked fondly at Pam standing next to him and bouncing with excitement, when she’d been vaguely morose only a few minutes before. Well, not to be dramatic, not their lives. But some kind of relaxation from their walk and the spectre of Stamford at the moment, maybe.
She pointed to the directory. “Jim! It’s a Woolworths!”
“Yes?” He raised an eyebrow. When she looked at him expectantly he dared another syllable. “And?”
“Those went out of business ages ago.” She bounced again, and he admired the effect. “My mom and grandma were always going on about them though. I can’t wait to shop in one myself.” She dragged him by the hand and he let himself be dragged (of course), only throwing out a muttered “Are you sure it’s the same Woolworths?” as she did so.
On the one hand, perhaps he should have muttered louder, since this was emphatically not the same Woolworths Five and Dime his family had also used to shop at. But it was a modern grocery store, but with Australian products, and so he had a good time. So did Pam after she got over her initial disappointment.
“But I was hoping to get, like, dresses and things.” She’d pouted for a moment and then shrugged. “But this licorice is nice too.” They wandered around the store throwing in random things into a basket. He was sure half of what they bought was just the exact same as he’d have gotten in an American store with a different logo, and the other half was candy and soft drinks.
Seriously, half the cart was candy. It turned out they each had a sweet tooth and the candy selection was entirely different here, so of course they had to get two of each. They’d have been willing to share, but…why bother?
Walking out of the store feeling refreshed and peckish, he pulled out a candy bar (a “Violet Crumble” it assured him on the wrapper, which rather made him think of Willy Wonka) and munched. “Where to now?” he mumbled around the honeycomb toffee—emphatically not what he’d expected from the name, but delicious anyway (though it made him wonder about the Cherry Ripe sitting next to it in the bag)—and gestured Pam onward with the other hand.
“H&M?” she said in a small voice.
“We have those in America, you know.” He grinned to take the heat out of the sarcasm in his tone. “But go ahead.”
“I know we do, but…” she shrugged and trailed off and he couldn’t let that go.
“But Roy never let me go shopping at one,” she finished in a small voice. “They aren’t in Scranton, you know, so…”
“So even though it’s like the world’s least expensive clothing store, you’ve never had the chance to shop in one.” He nodded. That was Pam’s life before, and he needed to stop forgetting that even if she was with him now she still had those expectations. A sudden feeling of warmth—sudden and surprising because he hadn’t thought he could feel warmer about her—swelled up through him. They’d figure out Stamford. They’d figure out everything. All that mattered was that he have this amazing woman with him along the way, and that they loved each other. “Go nuts then. I’ll go see how their selection of gray V-necks is.”
She looked him oddly. “Jim, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a gray V-neck.”
“Inside joke, sorry. Mark used to wear nothing but gray V-neck T-shirts when we were in college, and he still has a bunch of them. This one time when we were rooming together, his girlfriend dragged him to the H&M in Philly, and he bought nothing but four more gray V-neck T-shirts.”
“Ah.” She didn’t have anything really to add to that story, but there was something nice about knowing one of his inside jokes with his friend. “Does he still have them?”
“Last I checked, yeah. It’s all he wears to the Y for basketball, actually. I started wearing gray too, and so did a couple other guys, so when we play together we pretend it’s our uniform. I know, it’s dumb…” he raised a hand and she felt compelled to correct him.
“I think it’s nice. You all supporting him in his bad fashion choices.”
“Exactly my thought. Terrible. But you go into the H&M anyway.” He grinned. “I’ll be over here.” He pointed at a shop across the way.
“Sportsgirl?” She giggled at him. “Jim, I don’t know if you noticed, but you’re only half of that at best.”
“Ah, but you never know when you’ll need good support on the basketball court.” He pointed at the sports bra in the window. “Actually, I meant down the hallway.” He moved her to face where he was looking, and the feel of his hands on her shoulders was surprisingly nice. Whenever Roy had moved her to show her something it had felt invasive, but this just felt—calming. “I forgot my shaving cream.” She saw “Shaver Shop” on a sign down the hallway and nodded. “Makes sense.”
“See you in…whatever it takes you.” He smiled and she smiled back and he had to shoo her into the H&M. “Go, shop, enjoy.”
“Thanks.” She turned into the H&M and then turned back. Huh…where was Jim? She looked out towards Shaver Shop and didn’t see him. She started walking down the mall hallway and then stopped. This was silly. Why was she checking up on Jim? He’d probably just walked behind one of the advertising pillars in the middle of the walking area.
She walked back into the H&M, not noticing Jim slip into the Swarovski in the exact opposite direction of the Shaver Shop.
Next: a trip back to the center city. Thank you to all the reviewers and readers! I appreciate each of you.
Chapter 39: Train Ride by Comfect
Jim and Pam shop and catch the train back.
He wasn’t sure exactly what came over him, but something about the situation made him realize that he wanted Pam Beesly in his life for the rest of his life. He’d always thought that, it seemed, at some level, even before he’d known her—like she was his dream girl, or something silly like that—but it had intensified over the years and now it crashed over him like a wave a thousand miles away from the earthquake that caused its tsunami. He realized later that it was because now, when the thought occurred to him, there was something he could do about it. It wasn’t just a useless desire, a pointless wish in a world full of empty hopes. She was his girlfriend now. They were together.
He could show her that he wanted her in his life forever.
He could buy her a ring.
Of course, he couldn’t give her the ring. Certainly not until they’d figured out what the hell to do about Stamford, and even then probably not like five minutes later. They had to take the right time to wear together, to become not just best friends and in love, but an actual functioning couple. He was looking forward to it, too. These weren’t just moments to jump over and skip. He was actively eager to get to just be in a relationship with Pam, so it wasn’t like he was going to try to rush her into another engagement immediately (and God knew that he couldn’t ask her to marry him without a definite plan of when that would happen: the last guy to do that had fucked everything up royally). No, he and she needed time to get there, and then they would get married.
But he could buy her a ring now, because that made it more real for him, made it something that he could fall back on in his own mind while thinking about their future. Something that would remind him how serious this all was, as if he needed reminding.
So he walked into the Swarovski store—he’d drop by Shavers Shop on his way back to H&M, it wasn’t like he cared what shaving cream he ended up with—and spent a good long time rejecting all the over the top rings the clerk proposed to him. No, that wasn’t Pam. That wasn’t either. He’d know it when he saw it—and then he saw it. Tucked away behind the more expensive, more flashy pieces the clerk wanted him to buy.
If getting Pam was the search for the Holy Grail (as Mark had teased him about a few times), then this was the cup of a carpenter.
Several hundred dollars later (it helped that they were Australian dollars at least), he walked into the Shavers Shop, grabbed the first shaving cream he found that didn’t look ridiculously overpriced, and went to wait for Pam.
Pam quickly got over whatever wonder she had that she couldn’t see Jim and enjoyed the H&M thoroughly. It helped that the prices were in Australian dollars, so she could always convert and convince herself it was a very reasonable price in American dollars anyway. She didn’t do what she knew Kelly would have done—MAKEOVER TIME!—but she did end up with a couple tops, a nice pair of capris, and some underclothes that she was very interested in seeing what Jim thought of them—even if she did blush when she thought it.
She was worried she’d taken too long, so it was a relief to see Jim walking out of the Shavers Shop down the way just as she stepped out of H&M. He couldn’t make fun of her for dragging her feet in H&M if he was that slow picking shaving cream, she thought as she waved him down.
“So, they have a good selection over there or what?” she grinned as he leaned down to kiss her (and wasn’t it just lovely to be able to do that?).
“Yeah, I guess so.” He grinned back. “I’m a little disappointed, actually, Pam.”
“What?” What had she done? She thought…but she didn’t know what she thought, because he’d continued speaking.
“I expected to have to carry at least three more bags than this.” He scooped up her shopping and nodded down the mall hallway in the direction back towards Woolworths. “I noticed a bakery down there on the directory—you want to check it out before we have to catch the train?”
“Do I ever?”
Twenty minutes later they caught the train, still munching on a delicious baguette (Pam) and some kind of fancy roll (Jim). It was a long train ride, again, and as soon as Pam had eaten her baguette she let herself fall asleep on Jim. He was comfortable in a way she hadn’t expected; she was used to thinking of him as thin and wiry, compared to Roy, but he obviously had muscles and even fat enough to make a good headrest. And unlike Roy, he didn’t complain.
He never had. She remembered one especially boring conference…which became the very pleasant subject of some quite explicit dreams before she woke up to find the train pulling into Central Station, Jim’s body still under her.
It had been rather the other way ‘round in her head.
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed (and guessed this chapter's topic)!
Chapter 40: Dinner by Comfect
Jim and Pam eat.
By mutual unspoken consent they walked back from Central Station towards the hostel, ignoring the siren call of yet another long wait for a short train ride. Jim could hardly say he had not enjoyed this last ride—Pam settling her head on his shoulder had not lost any of its charm by his actually being her boyfriend. But nevertheless it felt almost silly to wait now that they knew how short the ride from King’s Cross to Central (or in this case, back) truly was.
They meandered not in silence but in companionable quiet through the streets of Sydney, neither feeling any obligation to make small talk but each choosing to speak only when something of particular note caught their eye or occurred to them. Jim pointed out that they were approaching the Anzac Memorial as they strolled up the street towards it, and Pam laughed at the fact that they were indeed passing right alongside it again. Before they could reach it, though, Pam pulled on his arm.
“That place looks nice.”
“What place?” He was of course looking down at her, and not at the street.
“The Soda Factory.” She pointed. “I love diners.” She sounded so wistful, he almost said they should go eat there right then and there. “Do you think they have a soda fountain?”
“Hm…” he glanced at the sign. “With a name like that…nope.”
“Jerk.” She swatted his arm.
“No, if they don’t have a soda fountain, I doubt they’ll have a soda jerk.”
“I meant you. A jerk.” She stuck out her tongue.
“What? Here?” He grinned down at her suddenly red face. “I’m game if you’re game.”
“Oh, suck it Halpert.” She started towards the restaurant and he followed, but he couldn’t resist a follow-up.
“I think you have that confused with something else.”
She couldn’t believe he just…went with jokes like that. But then again, she supposed he’d always been holding himself back before. They couldn’t…well, the only word she could think of for it was flirt like this before. There was always the shadow of Roy. And now there was the shadow of Stamford, but she realized that was something else entirely. That was an obstacle they’d have to get over together; Roy had been an obstacle to Jim, but she’d kept on insisting that he was her future. It must have been hell for him; thinking about Stamford was bad enough for her, but what if Jim had kept telling her that Stamford was his dream job or something?
That would be awful.
They got a table by the door, framed in a window, and she was pleased to note that while there was not a soda jerk, there was a very exciting list of soda-themed cocktails. She had a feeling that some booze would be a real benefit tonight, with her thoughts as flustered as they were.
“So, Beesly. One night in Australia and we’re having American-style food?” Jim winked at her and she laughed.
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for a diner anywhere.” She held up a finger. “Don’t say anything.”
“Would I do that?” He gave her his best puppy dog eyes and she went from laughter to a full chortle.
“Jim, I think I know you well enough to say that yes, yes you would.”
“Fair enough.” He was grinning, and she felt like this was a safe time to raise the question that had been on her mind for the last several hours.
“Jim, what are we going to do about Stamford?” She reached out over the table and grabbed his hand. “And I do mean we. I’m not asking because I think you have to do whatever it is alone.”
“Thank you.” He squeezed her hand. “Honestly, I don’t know. You said something about a sacrifice?” His voice rose to make that a question. “I’m not sure exactly what you meant.”
“Oh.” She fussed with her napkin in embarrassment. She’d hoped he’d had a better idea since then. “I just meant…”
The waitress came to take their orders and she took refuge in the momentary distraction of ordering a cherry cola with vodka and a chili dog.
“You just meant…” he prompted kindly when the waitress had taken her order and his (a local lager and fish bites) and left them alone again.
“I thought, if they had someone else from Scranton instead of you, maybe it would just…all balance out?” She gestured with her hands. “Like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
He raised an eyebrow. “You remember that Indy had to run for his life from a deadly trap after that? And ended up being faced down by natives with arrows?”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.” She grinned. “Or have you take.”
He clapped a hand across his heart. “For you, anything.”
“I know.” She grabbed his hand again. “But hopefully not another round of pining.”
“Hopefully not.” He nodded. “It’s not the worst idea I’ve heard. OK, it’s the only idea I’ve heard. But it could work. Who though?”
“Dwight?” It was the first idea that occurred to her, not just because suddenly moving Dwight to Stamford would be the ultimate prank on him. “He is the branch’s best seller. Sorry.” She didn’t mean to imply that Jim was inferior to Dwight in any way.
“A thought. Unfortunately, when she gave me the transfer Jan said something about how ‘not being like that Dwight guy’ was one of my greatest strengths.” He tapped his fingers on the table, and it reminded her of her desk back in Scranton.
“Hmph.” She took the cherry cola-vodka drink from the waitress and took her first sip. “And I suppose it has to be someone in sales?”
“Since they want me to sell paper in Stamford, I would say so.” He grinned. “But I like the way you think. Can you imagine sending them Kelly? Or Kevin?”
She laughed. This drink was really good, and Jim was really funny. “Or Angela?”
“Oh my god, Beesly, can you imagine Angela as an ARM?”
The rest of the night was definitely looking up.
So they're talking about it! I promise a solution soon(ish). Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 41: The Rest of Dinner by Comfect
Jim and Pam finish their meal.
“But seriously, who?” Jim was wracking his brains and there didn’t seem to be an answer. “Phyllis wouldn’t move even if they doubled her salary: she’s too involved with Bob-Vance-Vance-Refrigeration for that. And anyway, I wouldn’t do that to her without warning.”
“And Stanley would just look up from a crossword for a bit and grump ‘no’ before going back to it.” Pam was definitely a bit giggly—their food still wasn’t here, but her cherry cola was clearly more vodka than cola. “Todd Packer?”
“He does have the experience. Maybe it’s time for him to come in from the road.” Jim drummed his fingers on the table. “After all, he’s been out there…what, two years? Three?”
“Ever since the sexual harassment lawsuit.” Pam hiccupped. “This is really good.”
“OK, drunky, that’s enough for you.” He reached for her drink and she pulled it back towards her.
“It’s not been even one drink!”
“I still think you’re drunk.” A flashback to the last time he’d seen Pam drunk flashed through his mind. “I’m not going to wait until you’re at the second drink stage to cut you off this time.”
“Why not?” She cocked her head and he realized that he actually had no idea what her recollection of that particular night might be. He’d assumed for a while that she simply didn’t remember it at all; after all, how could she have acted the way she did if she remembered kissing him? But now he was beginning to doubt, as the red rose up above her shirtline (did that mean it had started below? A thought for another time, when he had the opportunity to appreciate it). It couldn’t all be just a reaction to alcohol. She had to be blushing. “I suppose it wasn’t the best kiss, but…” she clapped a hand across her mouth. “Oh my god, I can’t believe I said that.”
“I can’t believe you remember.” He took advantage of the hand across her mouth to grab the drink. “But nice as it was—and it was nice—we’ll have plenty of opportunities to do that without chemical assistance if we can just figure this out.” He pushed her water glass towards her. “Or even if we don’t. It’s not like a few hours drive is a worse barrier than Roy.”
“Heh. You’re right about that.” She sipped the water. “And yeah, I don’t remember…all of that night. But I definitely remember kissing you.” She took a gulp.
“It was pretty memorable on this end, too.” He put aside his own beer in solidarity and waited for the waitress to bring their actual food. “But we were discussing Todd Packer, and I don’t want to sully that memory with his ugly mug.”
She supposed some of why she was laughing was the alcohol. Now that she thought about it, while their food hadn’t arrived, the waitress had come by and replaced her glass, and so it was at least her second drink. She hadn’t really thought it was that strong but…cola masked a lot. So it was probably good she was drinking water. Also, she might be drunk, but she could see the point of Jim’s objection to thinking about kissing and Todd Packer in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence.
“Todd Packer.” She shook her head and instantly regretted it.
“Does his very name make you queasy?” Jim’s voice had a teasing lilt, but she could hear the concern in it as well.
“No, that would be the alcohol.” She smiled at him. “But now that you mention it, if they wouldn’t take Dwight I’m guessing they wouldn’t take Packer either. Remember the sexual harassment case?”
“I remembered something about it. Jan was his direct supervisor.”
“Right.” He shook his head, and he at least didn’t seem to have any nausea associated with the action. They exchanged a look of frustration—but it was interrupted by the extremely late but nonetheless welcome arrival of their food.
She devoured the chili dog without a care in the world about how it made her look, which was probably for the best since she discovered twenty minutes later that chili had somehow gotten behind her ear (and probably other places as well, but that was the most improbable to her at the time). And as she did so she felt her mind begin to re-emerge from the mushy state it had been in. When they were done with dinner and had called for the bill (mindful of how long the food had taken to get there, they didn’t really trust the waitress to bring it herself), she spoke up.
“What about Ryan?”
“Seriously? The temp?”
“He’s not a temp anymore. Michael made him a salesman when you, uh, left.” It was still a sore spot.
“Huh. How’s he doing?”
“Distracting me, mostly.” His eyes came up to meet her with shock and she realized she should have phrased that differently. “He sits in your old seat, that’s all.”
“Oh.” He still looked annoyed.
“And that’s really all he does, because he hasn’t made a single sale yet.”
“Ah. That’s not really going to help us then, is it?”
“I suppose not.” She frowned and he squeezed her hand.
“Oh well.” Jim tossed down some money to pay the bill and helped her up. “Let’s go back to the hostel and sleep on it. Maybe something better will occur to us in the morning.”
I promise a resolution, but Jim's going to have to sleep on it to come up with it (I do actually have an idea). Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 42: Sleepless Nights in the Non-Fun Way by Comfect
Jim and Pam can't sleep.
After leaving a still-tipsy Pam at her door with a promise to figure something out about Stamford, Jim found himself somewhat at a loss. What could he do? They’d already gone through everyone at Scranton. There was no one to transfer to Stamford in his place, even if he could convince Jan to go along with it.
He could quit.
He’d never meant paper to become a career, after all. Basketball, yes. Sports journalism, yes. Sports marketing even, yes. But none of those had really panned out—as his dozens if not hundreds of no responses (and responses of no, from those that had bothered to respond) over the years before he’d started at Dunder Mifflin had showed. He’d given up on basketball in high school when he’d realized that his jump shot was really only NAIA material at best. He’d given up on sports journalism when the first ten (and the next ten) newspapers had turned him down and his blog was getting hits measurable on his own fingers—without taking a second hand on the keyboard. He’s given up on sports marketing when he’d realized it probably meant moving to Philadelphia and applying for jobs with no cash reserves and no one he knew. And after applying for a lot of jobs from Scranton, of course.
He’d ended up in marketing, well, sales anyway. But not the kind he’d wanted. So he could quit.
But somehow that didn’t feel as liberating a decision as he’d always assumed it would be. Could he really enter into a new relationship with someone he really cared about at the same time he became penniless and unemployed? He hadn’t been bad at socking away savings (after buying every console he wanted, he’d had relatively few expenses after all) but student loans had still sucked out enough of his Dunder Mifflin income that he really needed this promotion to be truly financially independent as opposed to living paycheck to paycheck. Not that there was anything wrong with that. But it wasn’t “quit your job and throw yourself on your receptionist girlfriend’s income” money.
And he wasn’t going to be another mooch off Pam either. Sure, Roy had had a job, but he’d been a mooch all the same—and Jim was determined not to be that.
So no quitting. Which meant he had to find a way to get back to Scranton.
Maybe there was a problem with the paperwork on his transfer? He was pretty sure he’d have heard something about it by now, what with not reporting to work for days-to-weeks, but maybe not. Or maybe it was something they would normally ignore but he could make a stink about it.
He made his way down to the row of computers in the lounge at the hostel, logged into his Dunder Mifflin email for the first time in a month, clicked past a series of emails (from Kevin about fantasy football; from Dwight about…really nothing, he hadn’t realized how much Dwight missed him, even if it was couched as “instructions for how to ensure that you do not undermine Stamford in the way you undermined Scranton”; from Michael and Michael and Michael asking why he’d left.
There were the emails he needed: from Toby and his HR equivalents at corporate and Stamford; from Josh, his new boss; and from Jan.
Well, this was where he’d find out if there was anything he could use. He sat down to do something he rarely did when he was actually at work: try.
Pam couldn’t sleep. At first it was because she felt bad about this being the second night in a row she’d bailed on Jim at the door to her room and not invited him in—though with Stamford on their minds neither of them had been particularly in the mood, unfortunately, and he was definitely too much of a gentleman to do more than chastely kiss her on the lips as she left him.
Though it was, she recalled, a particularly nice chaste kiss on the lips.
One of the best she’d had.
That was the second reason she didn’t sleep—imagining all the less chaste things she might have been doing at that time.
But eventually she got to her third, fourth, and fifth reasons for not sleeping.
Three: what if Jim couldn’t find a way to get back to Scranton from Stamford? Could they really do this long distance? They’d try, for sure, but could they really manage? Or would the time difference—fine, they were in the same time zone, but it felt far—doom them as it had doomed her friend Izzy and her boyfriend who went to Purdue?
That gave way to four: excitement. What if Jim didn’t come back to Scranton at all? What if she went to Stamford? Could they find a way to get rid of the receptionist at Stamford, get her that job, and ride off into the sunset? After all, her family wasn’t really in Scranton anyway, and Jim was already planning to move away from his. They could start a new life in a new city; after dating Roy for a decade she’d ended up separated from most of her friendships anyway, and Izzy was too reliable a friend to lose just because of something like distance. So it really could work. Who was the receptionist at Stamford anyway…
Unfortunately, the answer to that was followed by five: guilt. The receptionist at Stamford was Polly Wood. She was married with two children. Pam hadn’t met them, but she’d seen pictures: the receptionists had a group email chain, and Polly was an active member. And Polly’s husband was a schoolteacher in Stamford. They weren’t leaving, and schoolteachers weren’t notorious for being able to support families.
Besides, Polly had like three years seniority on her. So even if she’d had a plan, it probably wouldn’t have worked.
In the throes of guilt, she wandered downstairs to the lounge, searching for some comfort food.
Instead, she found Jim Halpert, printing something off with his back to her and circling something on the page.
I promise to address what Jim has found next chapter. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 43: Resume by Comfect
Jim and Pam begin to plan.
Jim waited for the printer to spit out the second document and started in on the first. God, Pam would be so helpful for this; she could do a much better job than him. But he wasn’t going to wake her up for it; plenty of time to deal with it in the morning, assuming he could sleep. And anyway, he could get started—she’d probably appreciate it if he’d at least made a stab before dragging her into it.
“Hey.” He almost jumped at the sound of her voice. It was like his very thought had conjured her out of thin air. “I couldn’t sleep. Whatchya up to?” She might not have been able to sleep but her voice was full of the same sleepiness that pulled at his every move.
“Oh, uh, this.” He brandished the paper and then realized there was no way she could read it. “I think I might have found a solution to Stamford, assuming I’m not just delirious from lack of sleep.”
“I’m not sure how much help I can be in that regard, but I’m willing to try.” She took the paper once he stopped waving it. “What is this?”
“The job description for the Assistant Regional Manager at Stamford.”
“Your job?” She looked puzzled. “But you already have your job. I thought maybe we could look for my job, but then I thought about the kids and…” she ground to a halt, and he realized his face must be conveying the full extent to which he was lost. “It doesn’t matter. What’s this about?”
Oh, right. He hadn’t explained anything yet.
“I figured that if we looked at my job description, we could figure out who could replace me there. And as an added bonus, I found out that I’m not qualified.” He pointed at the requirement he’d circled. “See? No degree in Business or Retail Management.”
“It says ‘preferred,’” she pointed out. “But nice try.”
“Oh well. But it doesn’t really matter anyway, because look at the rest of it.”
She furrowed her brow—she was so cute when she concentrated—and read down the page. “What am I looking for here?”
“The other preferred qualifications—and I still say that the college degree is required, it’s up here, see?” He pointed and she swatted his finger away.
“Yes, the degree is required, but the type is preferred…” she scanned further. “I still don’t see whatever you’re talking about.”
“MBA in hand or anticipated…” he prompted.
“Oh! Ryan!” She smiled but then frowned. “But we agreed he doesn’t have the experience.”
He grinned. This was the best part of the prank—and he’d already decided that the best way to think about getting out of his commitment to Jan and Stamford was as a prank—and he couldn’t wait to share it with her. “No, he doesn’t. But he doesn’t need it.” He pointed to the next line. “MBA accepted…”
“…in lieu of sales experience.” She raised a hand and he high-fived it. “But it still says he needs two-to-five years of additional relevant experience.”
“That’s where you come in.” He reached to the printer and handed her the other file as it finished printing.
She put the job ad down and took what he handed her, glancing at the page as she did so. “Ryan Howard, 410 Clay Avenue, Scranton…” she looked up. “How the hell did you get Ryan’s resume?”
He grinned the grin she always associated with him messing with Dwight. “Come on, you can’t guess?”
She swatted him with the paper. “Not at 3am I can’t. Tell me.”
His grin widened. “Remember when Ryan joined the company?”
“As a temp or as a real boy?”
“Good one. Does that make Michael Giapetto?” He chuckled. “Either, but I meant as a temp.”
“Vaguely…didn’t Michael make like an embarrassing splash about it?”
“He did.” Jim nodded his head towards the paper in her hand. “So big of a splash he actually emailed out Ryan’s resume to all of us to show us what a ‘catch’ he’d made.” He made the finger gestures at “catch” and she smiled. This was the side of him she liked best—the part where he had fun with everything.
“And you kept it?” She fingered the paper. “Is there something I should know about you and Ryan? Are you competing with Michael for his favors?” She tried her best to keep a straight face, and she must have succeeded because he looked very confused.
“Come on, like you haven’t noticed how Michael stares at him.” She rolled her eyes and he nodded.
“Fair point. No, I just never delete anything.”
“Well, hardly ever.” He winked. “And definitely not things that make me laugh, like Michael’s email about Ryan.”
“Oh god.” She was starting to remember. “Is that the one that starts in all caps?”
“WE GOT HIM, yes.” Jim mock-yelled the all-caps portion. “And it just got better from there.”
“I think you mean worse.” She looked at the document in her hand. “Look, I hate to burst your bubble here, and I’d like nothing more than to get Ryan hired in your place, but there’s no way the resume that got him a temp job at Scranton is going to get him the ARM position at Stamford, Jim.”
“Ah, but that’s where time, a small office, and we—or more specifically, you—come in.” He led her over to a table in the lounge and sat her down at it, kneeling beside her.
“Explain.” She was beginning to get the outlines of his idea, but it was 3am, and this was important to get right.
He held up his fingers and ticked them off for her. “Time: he’s been working at Dunder Mifflin for at least two years. A small office: we know exactly what he’s been doing with that time. Us: you can punch up that resume to make it look like the Ryan Howard we both know—slacker, arsonist, mediocre-to-bad boyfriend to one Kelly Kapoor—is actually the Ryan Howard Michael thinks he is. And you know when Jan calls Michael he’ll back it up, as long as he doesn’t realize he’s going to lose Ryan in the process.” He batted his eyes at her. “Please, Pam? For us?”
“You’re ridiculous.” She reached out and ruffled his hair, then—because she’d always wanted to and she could—leaned over and kissed him. “Of course I’ll do it. But don’t think you’re going to get away with sticking me with all the work. I’m not the one who’s in sales, and this is going to take a lot of salesmanship.”
“Maybe, but you are the one who sees everyone’s job applications because Michael’s too lazy to do it himself.”
“That’s true. And you should be grateful that it’s not Dwight who does that—or you’d never have been hired.” She kept her hand in his hair, enjoying the feel—and enjoying it even more when he kissed her again.
“Does that mean you chose me, Beesly? Because I’m ever so grateful if you did.”
She looked him in the eye and made sure he was paying attention before answering. “I always choose you, Halpert. Now let’s get to work.”
Next chapter: they get to work.
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! I hope this solution meets your approval. I figure if he's going to be apparently qualified to take Jan's job in a year, he's got to be at least at ARM level now...with the proper massaging.
Chapter 44: Sky Walking by Comfect
Progress is made.
Jim had definite opinions on a lot of things.
The Flyers, Phillies, 76ers, and Eagles were the forces of good and right in the world.
Their opponents on any given day (but especially the Giants, Cowboys, and Redskins at all times) were the forces of darkness and deserved to be destroyed.
Madden was better on an Xbox than any other system, even if theoretically it was the exact same game. But NCAA Football was a better game than Madden.
It was better to draft at the end of a snake draft in fantasy football than the start, and if trading picks were only allowed (which it was not, Mark), he’d have shown Kevin that last year.
Some of the things he believed didn’t even have to do with sports.
Harry Potter was actually a good book.
Wuthering Heights was not.
West Side Story was the best Shakespeare adaptation, and Romeo+Juliet was just a crappy Leo DiCaprio vehicle for all the teenage girls to swoon over (this was a particularly sore spot because Jim himself had been just turning 18 when the movie had come out and looked nothing like a young DiCaprio. Or an older one, as it turned out).
Buying upsold wine was for suckers.
Parsnips were universally superior to carrots except for the color.
He kept that last one secret from anyone, for fear that Dwight would hear of it and give him a three-hour lecture on vegetable color, taste, and whatever residue was.
But beyond all these truths he held to be self-evident, there was one shining beacon of veracity that illuminated the depths of his soul, and it was not that all men were created equal (though he did consider himself as patriotic as the next man, assuming the next man was Dwight with his Nazi grandfather).
Pam Beesly was awesome.
This evening/morning/whatever you wanted to call it had only confirmed that truth, like a miracle performed for the already converted.
“So, you see, we can just tweak the language here a little bit—” she pointed at the page, where it said Ryan had run a student store at the high school he’d transferred to after his parents moved from Scranton to the Boston suburbs when he was 16, “and wow, would you look at that. ‘Experience selling in the Northeast market.’ Actually…” she frowned, turned to the computer and started frantically Googling, stifling a yawn. “Yes. That store still exists, and it definitely sells school supplies. ‘Experience selling stationary in the Northeast market.’” She yawned again. “It’s almost too easy.”
“I love you.” It slipped out without volition or intent.
“I know.” She flashed a grin and then yawned again. “I’ve always wanted to say that, you know. Han Solo…”
“To Princess Leia, yes, I’m aware.” He smiled. “I think everyone is aware, Pam. It’s only one of the most popular movies of all time.”
“Yes, but just because everyone else likes it doesn’t mean I have to like it.” She yawned again.
“But you do like it.” He was confused. What was she trying to say? He too yawned. It was contagious, and also now verging on 5am.
“Yes. But not because it’s popular. I like it because I like it.” She pointed at her chest, and he took a moment to admire where she was pointing. “So I wanted to say it. And now I have. Thank you, Jim.”
“Wait…you’ve always wanted to say it? Why haven’t you before?” Now he really was confused.
“We weren’t dating before, silly.”
“No, not to me…” he stopped. He really didn’t want to go down that road.
“Oh. Well, actually, I did say it to Roy once, but he just rolled his eyes and asked if that meant he didn’t need to say it anymore.”
“Oh.” Ouch. “Well, you can say it to me as much as you like.”
“I know.” She tried to grin, he thought, but it turned into another yawn.
“OK, Han Solo, time to encase you in carbonite.” He held out a hand. “Ryan’s resume can wait. After all, it’s…actually, I have no idea what time it is in Scranton. Or New York. Not that they’re different times.” He had come to Australia, after all, because he didn’t really know the time change, so he couldn’t count down the minutes to Pam’s wedding. And now that she was here, he had even less reason to be aware of it.
“Huh. Neither do I.” That wasn’t the half of it. She put a hand over her mouth as she realized the other half. “Jim, I don’t even know what day it is anymore.”
“Yes, I know that.” She stuck out her tongue. “But I think it’s the 11th now? Or is it the 12th?” She shrugged. “Anyway, I was supposed to be getting married on the 10th, and now I don’t even know when that passed by.”
The great thing about Jim, she was realizing—or really, was finally letting herself realize after years of taking advantage of it—was that he always knew the right thing to say to her.
“Neither do I.” OK, that wasn’t it. “But I do know the feeling. I came here to Sydney because I wouldn’t know—because I couldn’t let myself know or I’d go insane. But now, Pam? Now I’ll happily grab a calendar and look it up, if you want, or pull it up on that computer, or whatever you need, because now that you’re here? I can let myself know what day it is again.”
That was more like it. She was going to continue the conversation but another giant yawn ripped through her and interrupted whatever thought she was going to have.
“OK, seriously, bedtime for us both.” Jim took her hand and hauled her up out of the chair. “We have a lot to do tomorrow.”
“Do we?” She couldn’t remember anything except the stuff with the resume and calling Jan.
“Well, no, actually, but it sounded good.” He sounded sheepish. “And we do need to get some sleep.”
“Can I sleep in your room tonight?” She felt silly asking but she wasn’t going to get what she wanted any other way, and even exhausted she felt like she deserved to get what she wanted. “Just to sleep.” Another yawn racked her body. “But I’d like to be with you.”
“I think we can manage that.” And up they went, holding each other upright up the stairs, almost teetering as Jim had to fumble for his key to open up his door, and collapsing into the single bed as soon as they piled through the door.
One bed! Two characters!
Thanks to everyone who's read and reviewed!
Chapter 45: The Morning After by Comfect
Jim and Pam awaken.
Jim was swimming in the open ocean. That was how he knew it was a dream.
He would never swim in the open ocean. He would barely swim, period. A pool was fine—but he never really swam in them. You existed near them. You dipped into them for relief, or to hang with friends, or something like that. Something chill, relaxed, easy.
Swimming was the opposite. Not that he couldn’t swim. Betsy and Gerald Halpert had been insistent that none of their children were going to drown, thank you very much, not when the YMCA was just down the street and had such reasonable classes. Tom and Larissa had taken to water like baby turtles finding their way down to the beach and never looking back; Pete had been a normal swimmer; Jim had been like the eggshell left behind on the beach. But like a turtle eggshell, he still could float, and if the tide pulled him out to see he probably wouldn’t go under immediately. His parents had decided that was enough, and so had he. He could swim competently enough that if the Wallenpaupack Princess had gone down he could have saved himself, and maybe someone else if that person also knew how to swim.
Pam Beesly did. He knew because he’d asked her once, in passing, about the dangers of a pirate life, oddly enough (he’d been singing Gilbert and Sullivan under his breath and she’d called him out). She’d mentioned that she knew how to swim “as long as I start on top of the water,” which was something like his own experience, and he’d avoided any further followup because even at that point (fairly early in their friendship, actually) his mind had immediately filled with images of her dressed for that activity, and he’d needed to change the subject or not stand up for an hour.
As if his subconscious had conjured it up, and of course it had since he was aware this was a dream he was apparently incapable of waking up from, there was Pam, dressed not in the lascivious (or even vaguely revelatory) costumes he’d fantasized about for days after that conversation, if not years, but in a Victorian bathing costume that he recognized from a prank he’d pulled on Dwight with her help. The prank itself had not involved the bathing costume per se, but it had involved convincing Dwight that the most recent fashions among the Hollywood set were a “return to modesty.”
He’d even convinced Kelly to keep a straight face and assist them when Dwight grew suspicious of his and Pam’s assurances and had turned to her for information. He’d had to slip her Ryan’s cellphone number on a Post-it, but it had been worth it. Dwight had believed it for a full day until apparently his cousin Mose had printed out a picture “the true nature of which he did not choose to reveal in public” but which had fully disproven Jim’s thesis.
Why Dwight hadn’t bothered to Google it himself was not Jim’s problem.
So here was Pam, dressed head to toe in a modest and thus frustrating bathing costume and shouting something. His name, in fact.
That wasn’t in the dream.
“JIM.” She shook him again. The man appeared to sleep like the dead—although she had probably been doing the same a moment ago, or else they wouldn’t be in this situation. She was somehow tangled up in him, the sheet, and her own clothes in a way that simultaneously put pressure on her bladder and prevented her from in any way getting out of the bed.
This was at least partly because, although she had not really processed it before falling headfirst into it, Jim’s bed, like hers next door, was a true single bed. Not just “only one bed in the room” single, but “what comes before twin in mattress size” single. So not only was she twisted and turned and really in need of a bathroom break, but she was also pressed up against the wall.
In any other situation, being in the same bed with Jim Halpert pressed up against him and the wall might not have been so bad. Would not have been so bad. Would have been pretty darn amazing, especially given the muscles she could feel under his clothes and the way she knew he looked at her when he thought she wasn’t paying attention. But it was almost noon according to the radio clock on the table, the sun was shining through the blinds exactly into her eyes, and her bladder was screaming that she hadn’t emptied it since basically dinnertime last night.
“JIM.” She pushed again and his eyes slowly opened.
“Pam.” It was like watching a room fill up with light after hitting the switch. “PAM.” He tried to sit bolt upright and only succeeded in tumbling them both out of bed onto the floor, precisely the outcome she had been trying to avoid by waking him up. Though to be fair, she could escape to the bathroom now.
But she found herself curiously unwilling to do so. Instead she lay on top of him and looked deep into his eyes, thinking to herself how she had never had any such inclination with Roy. Well, not since they were like seventeen, and only a little then.
“Pam, what are you doing in my bed?” He looked adorable when he was confused.
“We aren’t in your bed,” she pointed out.
“What are you doing on my floor then?”
“Lying on top of you. Or should that be laying? I never can remember.” She leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Kissing you.”
“No you ar…” the rest of that quarrelsome sentence was swallowed when she did as promised.
All in all, she decided as she skipped away in his befuddlement to take care of her bladder, not such a bad morning.
The day will actually start next chapter. I think. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! I appreciate you all!
Chapter 46: Breakfast by Comfect
A short chapter to get them moving.
Jim wasn’t sure exactly how he managed to recover from that morning. It wasn’t that it was a bad thing to wake up underneath Pam Beesly. It was just difficult to focus on anything else for the rest of the day. After getting dressed (unfortunately, Pam chose to go back to her own room to do that, but maybe it was for the best since it meant he got up off the floor) they wandered out in search of food before the rugby game in the afternoon.
They strolled down Darlinghurst Rd in search of a place to have breakfast. Pam pointed out the same McDonald’s he’d discounted earlier in the week, and they shared a laugh about their common inclinations. They passed by the Friggitoria and, to his delight, he was able to maneuver things so that she saw the sign without realizing he was leading her toward it.
“Jim.” She tugged on his arm. “Jim!”
“What?” He was pretty sure he knew what, but he made sure to keep his eyes directly on her face so that she had no idea he knew what she was looking at. Not that that was a hardship; looking at Pam’s face had been an indulgence for years, and the opportunity to do it freely was intoxicating.
“The restaurant.” She pointed and he deliberately chose to pretend to misunderstand.
“The Thirsty Bird? Yeah, it’s pretty good, I went there a couple days ago.”
“No, the…” her face got a bit redder and he realized to his delight that she was actually going to work through her embarrassment and say it. “The Friggitoria,” she whispered.
“The Friggitoria?” he asked as loud as he could, and she smacked his arm. “What about it?”
“The Friggitoria, Jim.” She cocked an eyebrow and he was surprised to see her switch over from embarrassment to challenge so quickly. Apparently making fun of him was a trigger. “Do I need to explain the word to you?”
“Do you think you could? Will there be pictures?” He expected her to splutter, but she brazed it out.
“If you’re good, there might be an interactive tutorial.” She clearly had decided she had the last word there, and she turned them up the next street and pulled him along behind.
Had she really just said that? Had she just had a conversation about…that…with Jim in public? She’d imagined, at some lonely points in the last few years and especially the last few weeks, having a conversation about that—and more than that—in person, in private, maybe in a nicely positioned bed larger than a single. But in public? Even surrounded by strange Australians, it was still an audience. An audience that had not seemed interested in what she had said at all—they’d probably heard all the jokes before anyway—but still.
She pulled Jim up the street, not really paying attention to where they were headed, but looking for something to distract her from the conversation they’d just had. What were they doing? Oh right, looking for food.
They could have eaten at the Friggitoria, she supposed, but now that was behind them and she was definitely not heading back.
She might, however, be heading forward. As if the Friggitoria wasn’t enough, there was another restaurant sign right in front of her with almost as embarrassing a name. But she was a new Pam and she was not going to let herself be cowed by mere words.
“Let’s eat there.” She pointed and watched Jim react to the sign.
“The Silly Tart?” He glanced down at her. “Really?”
“None in the world.”
It turned out, somewhat to her disappointment, that the Silly Tart Kitchen was actually a really normal place. But the “toastie” sandwiches were delicious, and hit the spot precisely, and Jim seemed to be enjoying his as well.
“Where to next?” He paid the bill—she was going to have to do something about that—and held the door for her as the stepped out into the street.
“Well, we did kangaroos…” she tapped her chin. “And you have those rugby tickets for later…what else is particularly Australian?”
“Hm.” He shrugged. “You’d think I’d know, but I have to admit I don’t.”
“Didn’t you do any research before you headed out here?”
“I already knew everything I needed to know about Australia before I came here, Jim.”
“And what was that?”
“You were here.”
Thank you to all who've read and reviewed! This was short, but I figured it was good to get them moving a bit.
Chapter 47: Tickets by Comfect
Jim and Pam walk around.
“Bullshit.” He nudged her shoulder. “I saw you at the Opera House. You knew more than that.”
“Yeah, I suppose so.” She poked him in the chest. “But which way was I facing when you saw me?”
“You were…” oh. She was looking at him. A warm feeling spread in his chest. “I guess I stand corrected.”
“That’s right you do.” She smiled. “Now, speaking of the opera house…”
“You want to go get those tickets, don’t you?” It was only barely a question. “Beethoven, right?”
“Right.” She took possession of his arm and he let her once again lead him out into the street. He could very easily get used to having her just…touch him like this. Like it was just natural. He was so used to grabbing whatever he could in terms of affection from her—a touch here, a look there—and he’d been a little worried that he wouldn’t know how to deal with it if he actually had a relationship with her. He’d had multiple nights where he’d bored Mark with worrying about it: “what if it’s all in my head? What if it’s just the chase? Or what if it’s not but I just freeze up when the time comes to actually do anything with her?” Mark had gotten pretty bored with this, actually, and he’d had a one-line response ready: “dude, that’s really not what you should be worrying about.”
He’d been right back then, because he was really worried about Pam’s feelings for him and her feelings for Roy.
He was still right now, but in a completely different sense. It felt natural; normal; easy. It felt, in short, exactly like he’d always hoped it had, but been afraid to expect.
They picked their way down the street and up the next, passing by the Anzac Memorial again (he couldn’t resist pointing it out) and up towards the opera house. Then he stopped, pulling her to a halt by sheer unwillingness to move.
“That’s the turn I missed.” He pointed down a side street. “The museum is that way.”
“What?” She tugged on his arm. “What are you talking about?”
“The day we met; I was trying to go to a museum and I got lost. Then I got double extra plus lost so I ended up above the street. But first I missed this turn.” He pointed. “See? The Museum of Sydney.”
“Do you want to go?” she offered. “I mean, if you were missing it…”
“Nah. We can always go back now that I know where it is.” He folded her arm back around his, and gave her hand a squeeze. “We have some tickets to buy.”
“Right.” They sauntered up towards the opera house, and she braced herself, but the sight still took her breath away.
“You OK?” Of course he’d noticed.
“Better than that.” She leaned against him and just took it all in. She didn’t even want to sketch; she just needed to see.
“Good.” He let her lean, and she reflected that this was what she really needed in a partner. Someone who understood that she didn’t always need to be doing something or talking or drinking or watching the game. Who could just let her be when she needed to be.
A few minutes later she pushed herself back up off his chest, letting her hand linger for a moment before taking his arm again.
“Tickets. Right.” He huffed and led her on, as if their little pause had never happened. Or, more accurately, like it was just normal. Natural. As it should be.
They bought the tickets, and high-fived over the fact that they now had plans for three days in a row: today’s rugby, tomorrow’s concert, and the next day’s rugby (other version).
“You know what this means, Pam,” he said as he turned to her after they’d finished confirming their schedule.
“I get to decide what we do the day after that?” she smiled up at him.
“Uh, actually, yes.” He rubbed the back of his head adorably. “I should probably get used to us thinking similarly, shouldn’t I?”
“Are you not?” She grinned. “Because I gotta say, it’s pretty much normal for me.”
“I mean, it’s not like I’m not used to us agreeing, but…”
“Is this because I said you misinterpreted things?” she said in a small voice. She realized there might still be unhealed wounds there that she’d have to salve to make this thing work.
“No, no.” He waved that away. “I’m pretty sure following me to Sydney makes up for pretty much anything you could have said.” He smiled at her reassuringly. “I’m just not used to being in a relationship with someone who actually understands me.”
“Me neither.” She hesitated for a moment then decided to go on. “And I don’t mean that Roy was a bad man, or anything, but…”
“But that’s important. Yeah.” He nodded. “It’s just so amazing, it takes a little getting used to.”
“Well take your time. I’m not going anywhere. And if we can get Ryan onboard, neither are you.”
Hope you're still enjoying them! Time difference is an issue so they can't actually deal with this right now, but I promise they haven't forgotten things! Thanks to everyone who's read and reviewed!
Chapter 48: Rugby Union by Comfect
Another quick one to get us to the main plot again.
The rest of the morning and the early afternoon passed quickly—surprisingly quickly, from Jim’s point of view at least. He hadn’t expected to slip so quickly and quietly into a routine with Pam. He’d expected to take more than a week to be comfortable being her boyfriend (well, to be fair, before this week he hadn’t expected to be her boyfriend, but even in the fantasies he’d woven himself about it, he hadn’t thought it would be so easy. Then again, he hadn’t expected to have already bought a ring either). But it was natural. They wandered down the street, took about hour to explore the Museum of Sydney (not bad, but hardly worth the intensive focus he’d spent on it before, back when he was desperately trying to distract himself from Pam). It was an old government house, and he did love the little models of ships they had—and Pam quite enjoyed sketching them—but they were done quickly, and found themselves poking around the central business district for another bite to eat.
That accomplished at a little hole in the wall with great Lebanese food, they started the long walk over towards where the rugby match was being held. They spent the walk chatting about nothing—and if you’d told him a week ago that he’d have been able to not remember any detail of any conversation with Pam he’d have blessed you, though he wouldn’t have thought it was for that reason—and honestly, he probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you two details about the rugby match either, except that it turned out Pam really enjoyed rugby union. They’d been able to find a second ticket near his, and a couple of very generous people had swapped seats so they were actually sitting together, and while he’d been willing to just sit there and let the event wash over him, Pam had remembered that he’d said he knew the rules, and pestered him (enjoyably) to explain everything.
She picked a random side (or at least it seemed random to him) and started rooting for them, and oddly enough it turned out that she drew him into the pleasure of the game.
Apparently being with Roy Anderson for ten years meant you learned a thing or two about sports fandom. Not that she hadn’t had those tendencies all along—she’d been on the volleyball team, after all, and there was a reason she and Roy had gone to a hockey game as a first date and it wasn’t all him—but they’d been honed by years of trying hard to be a part of a couple, part of a team. She didn’t just know rules, or sports, she knew how to be a fan. She knew that a rooting interest, even a feigned one, mattered. And she knew that becoming a part of the collective effervescence of a rooting crowd was the major pleasure of it all.
So she picked a side.
She started rooting.
And by the end of the game, when her team the resounding victors at what was, apparently, their home stadium (she had an instinct for that, too, it turned out), she threw her arms around Jim’s neck and gave him a smacking kiss, to the emphatic enjoyment of two women sitting in the row in front of her with whom she’d bonded in the course of the match.
“Get him, girl!” one of them shouted, and she was surprised to find herself not blushing.
“I’m pretty sure she already ‘got’ me.” Jim was quicker on his feet than she was. “Years ago.”
“Years ago, hmm?” she asked, her arms still around her neck.
“So what have we been doing for the last week?”
“Making up for lost time.”
Now that the time zones might start matching up again in the evening/morning, they might be able to move forward with Ryan and/or Jan. Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 49: Phone Call Part 1 by Comfect
Jim makes a key phone call.
“Hey Ryan.” Jim didn’t have any great hopes of this conversation, but Pam had convinced him that you couldn’t just uproot someone’s life and career without telling them anything at all. She had said it felt a little too close to home, and he’d been unable to disagree with her. In fact, it had made him realize that he was maybe, just maybe, a little bit more like Roy than he’d thought. Not that he’d promised any of these people, not even Pam (at least before they were dating), the sorts of things Roy had promised Pam. He had not accepted, as his brother Pete the nurse would say, a duty of care towards them. But his parents had instilled in him an ethic that said that even if you didn’t sign up for owing people something, some things were owed anyway by virtue of being human—and he was a little worried he might not have fully been living up to that standard.
Not that he was really going to take a no from Ryan Howard on this. But at least he’d inform the guy before dropping him in Jan’s, and Stamford’s, lap.
Besides, he thought he had some good ideas about how to convince him to take the job.
“’sup Halpert. How are things in sunny Stamford?” Ryan sounded alarmingly chipper—which was weird, since it was only just 9 am in Scranton. That made it 11pm here in Sydney, which he’d had to learn after trying this call twice earlier in the evening, getting Ryan’s voicemail, and eventually caving and checking.
On the plus side, that meant that he and Pam had been able to have a lovely dinner out again—this time she insisted on paying, which he was aggressively OK with since apparently she viewed it as some kind of feminist victory for him not to always pay and he just thought of it as not that big a deal except that it made her happy—and spend the evening planning strategy for this call and the one he was hoping to make right after it to Jan.
Pam was sitting in the corner right now by the phone at the front desk—one disadvantage of cell phones was that they didn’t actually work here in Australia, or rather, the ones they’d brought from the US didn’t, as he was sure that Australia was also capable of providing cellular service—while he used the designated phone that this hostel thankfully had for out-of-network guests to use, once they bought a prepaid phone card from the front desk at any rate. She was bouncing up and down, unable to sit still, which was still adorable to him.
“Hey Ryan. I wouldn’t know, since I’m actually in Sydney, Australia.”
“No way, man, you actually went on that trip?” He could almost see Ryan leaning back in his chair (according to Pam, actually his chair) and crossing his legs. “Tell me all about it.”
“What do you want to know?” He didn’t know Ryan all that well—they weren’t not friends, but they weren’t really friends either—but even he could tell that something was up.
“How’re the chicks down there?” Of course.
“I mean, there’s this one girl in particular…” he flashed Pam a grin. “I don’t know, Ryan, I think she might be the one.”
“C’mon, Jim, the one? Aren’t you over that kind of…” Ryan’s voice petered out and suddenly he shifted registers. “Ah, I mean, how romantic.”
“Kelly’s there, huh.” It wasn’t a question.
“Exactly. It’s so weird that you know exactly how it feels too.” He had to hand it to him, Ryan was good at saying sentences that meant two things at once. It was the one thing that made him sure that Ryan was not going to fail as a salesman, even if he hadn’t made a sale yet—and therefore the thing that made him feel OK about dropping the ARM position in his lap and walking off.
“Right. How would you like it if I offered you a way out of that?” This was line one of three that he’d prepared to convince Ryan, and he was not surprised it was the first one he got to use.
“That sounds fantastic. You just read my mind.” He could hear Ryan lift his ear from the receiver and shout to what he presumed was Kelly. “It’s Jim! He’s talking about a girl he met in Sydney.”
“JIM!” Suddenly Ryan was replaced by Kelly. “You can’t possibly have met someone in Sydney! You haven’t heard the news yet? Ohmigod, I thought someone would have told you, but then again, who would have told you, Michael might have but he’s been sooooo bummed since you left, he keeps moping in his office like you’d think someone died, and then Pam’s been sooooo sad too, but then of course she has, I would just die if I had called off my wedding barely a week before the date, not that I blame her of course, who would want to be married to Roy Anderson? But I just couldn’t see myself calling things off…” he was pretty sure she went on for a while like this, but Pam was sending him panicked eyes from the corner where she could clearly hear everything Kelly was saying so he cut her off.
Thank God Jim didn’t expose her to more of Kelly’s “sympathy,” Pam thought. It wasn’t that Kelly was a bad person. They were actually friends. But she did have a weird thing about relationships, and voluntarily ending one where the guy in question had already proposed, bought a ring, and set a date was not in the cards. Or at least not yet—Pam was pretty sure Kelly had a little more romantic and less pragmatic in her than she liked to pretend.
But being on the other end of the pretending was not all that fun.
Fortunately Jim must have gotten her back on track, or else Ryan had repurposed the phone, because she stopped being able to hear the other end of the conversation—which probably meant it was Ryan, now that she thought about it.
“Yeah.” She wished she knew what Jim was responding to—but then again, she wasn’t sure she did, because what if it was about her? She’d enjoyed the way he’d casually misled Ryan about exactly whom he’d met in Sydney, because it really wasn’t any of Ryan’s business, and besides, she wasn’t entirely sure how Ryan would have reacted to the news. He was a firestarter, not just in the joking way they talked about the time they’d ended up outside the office for a fire drill but in the sense that he enjoyed poking at people’s weak places and setting them up for difficulties for his own amusement. He read people well; and he’d see Jim’s desperation of a hint of the Pam situation (as she herself had referred to it over dinner) came to his attention.
So she admired Jim’s deft handling of the issue, distracting without lying.
“Yeah, so I realized…I’m really just not into this whole Stamford thing.” She held her breath. This was a key moment.
“Yeah, it’s a big raise, but…my whole life’s back here in Scranton.” They’d agreed that Ryan would have zero sympathy for this line, but also that he was exactly the sort of person who would think that other people thinking that way was something to take advantage of. “And well, I guess not having Michael around makes life surprisingly dull.” Nicely done, she thought. Good work dropping in the absence of Michael as a seemingly side note.
He laughed, and she wondered what at. “No, don’t tell him I said that. And no, it’s not like Sydney’s boring—as I said, I met this girl---but anyway…oh, I’ll tell you all the details when I get back.” He shook his head at Pam as he said it and grimaced. She grimaced back. He better not! “But I don’t suppose….no, it would be too much to ask of you. Forget I said anything.” He rolled his eyes at her as Ryan responded. “Are you sure? Well, then, what I was going to ask was…”
Sorry for the cliffhanger, but I wanted to be back in Jim POV for the meat of the conversation. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 50: Phone Call, Part 2 by Comfect
The rest of the phone call.
“Well, then, what I was going to ask was whether you’d take my promotion to Stamford if I can convince Jan to give it to you instead.”
There. It was out there. The temptation to elaborate, to beg, to say something more was almost irresistible. But he and Pam had discussed it: Ryan was the sort of person who sought out weakness, who noticed it, and who tended to take advantage of it. Even his relationship with Kelly, much as he seemed to be aggressively uninterested in it most of the time if not actively annoyed by her, was an example. He noticed that Kelly was interested in him (OK, a dead person might notice that, but still) and he knew she was the sort of person who didn’t give up easily—and so he could do pretty much whatever he wanted and she’d still be there.
Including, Jim expected, move to Stamford, but he wasn’t going to say that right now.
Still, Ryan was the sort of person who took advantage. And that meant you had to let him think he was taking advantage. You couldn’t make it seem like there was more advantage to be taken, more opportunity to squeeze you, or he’d push. Well, he’d probably push anyway, but you had to make sure he didn’t push in the way you didn’t want him to push. So—state the problem. Simply. Let him think he was winning because of Jim’s personal issues. Don’t blather.
He reached across and squeezed Pam’s hand in order to stop himself from talking when Ryan was silent.
“You can’t be serious.” This was classic Ryan—fishing.
“I mean, if you don’t want…” he made sure it came out slowly, calmly, in the closest he could come in the stressful moment to his typical Jim-leading-Dwight-on voice.
“I didn’t say that.” There it was.
“Right.” Wait. Wait. Wait.
“How much is it?” He could hear Ryan’s fingers tapping on the desk, which meant he was thinking.
“Technically, that’s confidential information.” Let him think he’s getting something hidden, secret, exclusive. “But let’s just say…they said they’ll put me up in a hotel for as long as I want before I found an apartment, and that kind of expense doesn’t even touch the compensation.” This was technically true—they didn’t come out of the same budget—but didn’t really answer the question. “Of course, that includes the cost of living adjustment for the New York area.” That, at least, was true.
“Of course.” Ryan was, of course, waiting him out in the same way that Jim was waiting him out. But Jim had a secret weapon that Ryan didn’t. One he could summon with just one sentence. Or really, any number of sentences, as long as Ryan was sitting at his desk and Jim raised his voice.
“But of course, I don’t expect an answer right now,” he went on. “Just think about it. And give my love to Dwight.” That last with a raised voice received exactly the reaction he’d expected: the brief sound of a tussle and a sudden change in the voice on the other end.
“I want to be extremely clear that I do not accept anything from traitors.” Ah, Dwight. He was surprised to realize he actually had missed him. “Please cease use of this line unless it is for official Dunder Mifflin paper-selling business.”
“Ah, Dwight,” he cooed, winking at Pam. Right on schedule. “This is official Dunder Mifflin paper-selling business. How can I trust that my replacement is properly trained if I do not…”
He had never really planned the other end of that sentence, because as he’d known he would, Dwight had cut him off.
“I will take care of any training needs, James.” Dwight must have cupped the phone with one hand because his voice became slightly muffled but still quite audible. “Temp! I am ending this phone call, and we will be leaving for your training immediately. Bring a trowel.”
And the line clicked dead.
“How’d it go?” Pam was almost bouncing out of her seat, anchored to the ground only by Jim’s hand which was still holding hers.
“I expect an email from Ryan in the next two hours saying he’ll do it. Assuming Dwight lets him near anywhere with internet access.” He chuckled, and it made her giggle, and before she knew what was happening they were both almost rolling across the floor laughing, only the fact that they were crammed into a phone booth clearly designed for about one and a half people keeping them upright as they clung together. They must have looked deranged to the front desk of the hostel, but then again they were Americans spending good money on calling back home, so the front desk would accept some deranged.
It was, she reflected, a bit of a mean trick to sic Dwight on Ryan, but then he’d started looking at her really weirdly over the last month—mostly because, she admitted in the comfort of her own head, she was looking at him, occupying Jim’s seat, a little too much, but just enough more weirdly than that that she almost worried he might be getting strange ideas in his head about her potentially being interested in him. Which she emphatically was not, even if Jim had never existed. Even if Jim and Roy had never existed.
So she didn’t really feel all that bad about it. Bad for Kelly, maybe—but as she and Jim had discussed, she didn’t think that odd relationship was likely to actually be stopped by distance, time, or the heat death of the universe, and if it did, well, Kelly was probably the one getting the better of that.
When they both quieted from the laughter—which took a while, since they kept almost getting there and then one of them would start thinking about it again and giggle, or chuckle, or even smile and set the other one off—she nodded towards the computer room.
“Shall we begin the second phase? We need a name for that, by the way.”
“I thought we were calling it Operation Jan.”
“I love you, Halpert, but you need to come up with better names.”
Thank you for the reviews! Operation Jan (????) to commence next chapter.
Chapter 51: As Close As This Story Comes to Uprating by Comfect
Also, an email is written and sent.
“Operation No Stamford? Operation Kelly-Will-Kill-Me? Operation Suck-It-Dwight?” He’d spent the last ten minutes pitching names to her while Pam sat typing at the computer, and she’d rejected every one. He was down to the dregs, and he knew it.
“It’s like you’re not even trying.” She laughed, though, so he counted it as a win.
“Hey, now, I was going to say you had to give me credit for trying. It’s been ten minutes. And I still think Operation Jan was a perfectly good name.” Well, actually he didn’t, but he had been profoundly unable to come up with anything better and it had at least the value of being short.
“Well, I don’t. So I won’t.” She stuck her tongue out at him and then pointed at the screen. “But while you were tiring my ears with your pathetic attempts at code names, I was doing real work on Operation Scrantonicity.”
“And don’t think I’m not grateful. But…Operation Scrantonicity?” He raised an eyebrow at her as he slid into the chair she’d just vacated. She stood over him for a moment and he realized what she was waiting for and patted his lap. She settled in with an arm around his shoulders as he read her words and spoke directly into his ear.
It was rather distracting, especially for certain parts of him.
“Operation Scrantonicity, yes. For three reasons.” She laid one finger on his shoulder—his far shoulder. “One: did you know that Dwight offered Kevin and his band the gig for our wedding? I desperately need a better association for that name.” She ran the finger down his chest.
He gulped. He was definitely not getting the email she’d written to Jan read at this rate. “I suppose that makes sense. And the others?”
“Two.” She put two fingers on his shoulder again. “It has the right sound, you know—just enough Scranton in it, a sense of motion in the ‘-nicity’ part, but not quite as simple as something like ‘Operation Scranton.’” Given that he’d suggested Operation Scranton seven and a half minutes ago, he supposed she had to have a reason it was better than that name. Not that he cared, but he would keep playing along as long as she kept sliding fingers, two this time, down his chest.
“And the third?” She met his eyes, which were definitely not looking at the computer screen, and put three fingers on shoulder.
“Well, it is, Kevin’s band name, and since you told everyone when we were waiting outside during the fire, everyone knows exactly who it is in Scranton that you’re absolutely dying to see again.” She slide the fingers down his chest. “Which is Kevin, obviously.” And with that she jumped up from his lap, kissed him on the cheek and headed for the door. “Now read that email, and come on upstairs when you’re done. I’ll be waiting.” And then she was out the door to the computer room with a little wave.
Well. He really hoped she was as good at writing formal emails as she was at driving him insane, because he’d have Jan agreeing to this switch in no time if so. He flirted with not even reading it, but no—she’d probably ask him at some point what it said, and he wasn’t going to be the kind of boyfriend who lied about whether he’d actually read her work when he said it was good. Besides, they’d agreed that he needed to approach Jan in writing about this first (once he knew Ryan was onboard) and only then talk to her by phone, so there were high stakes here, higher than one night.
That didn’t mean he didn’t read it really, really fast. And there was one typo, which he suspected Pam had put in there intentionally (it was in his name), so he at least had something to confirm he had read it when she inevitably asked.
She ran up the stairs and into her room, knowing full well that Jim was definitely, 100%, for sure going to be coming up those same stairs in only a few minutes. The email she’d drafted to Jan was short and to the point, but that had actually made it much harder to write: long and flowing rhetoric was all very well, but how did you flatter someone, suggest that they do you a favor, and make it seem like their idea all in short, normal sentences? Normally, of course, that would have been Jim’s job—he was the salesman—but Pam actually handled most of the correspondence for Michael (OK, almost all of it) and so she knew a lot about what made Jan Levinson-Gould tick. As a manager at least—she had no idea how the woman worked as a human being, given that she was apparently at least a little interested in Michael Scott. But she knew Jan’s business style inside and out in a way she didn’t think she could exactly express to Jim in order for him to write to her, so the easiest solution had been just to write it herself.
But now she was not focused on that, not at all. She was focused on the fact that Jim was coming up the stairs probably already right now (it really wasn’t a long email) and for once it was a really good thing that she’d just thrown all her clothes into these two suitcases when she’d moved out of her…Roy’s house. Because if she’d made decisions; if she’d actually packed for this trip only; if she’d thought about it for more than one second, she would not in any of the infinite possible worlds imagined by Gottfried Liebniz, not even the best of all possible ones that he believed we lived in (Pam had taken a freshman philosophy course in college that had really stuck) have packed the lingerie that she frantically pulled out of (of course) the second suitcase she looked for it in.
It was red. It was stringy—but only in all the right places. It was, in fact, what she’d been given at a very embarrassing bridal shower by her aunt Ginny, of all people, in front of God and everyone. They’d all—not her, but her relations, Izzy, and Kelly—been pretty well soused at that point, and the revelation of this particular gift had been greeted with whoops and hollers.
She’d never intended to wear it. She hadn’t even planned to wear it on her wedding night (which meant, thankfully, that she had neither any compunctions about having kept it—there was no way she was acknowledging its existence enough to return it to aunt Ginny or the store, anyway—or about wearing it now). It had no relation, in her mind, to Roy, to her old life, to anything but the fact that for once in her life—or really, for one person in her life; no, make that two, she was a person in her own life too—she now felt sexy and empowered.
She was a fancy new Beesly, and she was going to show Jim Halpert just how important those two adjectives were. Although, if she was honest—and she was honest with herself and him, if no one else, about this—she loved that he hadn’t needed her to be either one to fall in love with her.
Just as she finished dressing in record time, and before she had time to do more with her hair than let it fall down (and out, and poof, and dammit there was no time), there was a knock on the door. She peeked out through the eyehole and saw Jim leaned up against the wall. She took a moment to ogle him, then realized she could do that just as well inside.
She opened the door, grabbed him by his forearm (thank God he kept his sleeves rolled up even in the winter, because she liked him that way) and pulled him into the room.
In the end, her brand new lingerie ended up being worn for less time than her family had laughed about it at her bridal shower. But then again, she wasn’t counting.
We'll see how Jan responds in the morning after. Thanks to you all for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 52: A Brief and Similar Follow-Up by Comfect
Just a transition to get them up in the morning, so we can get to the plot next time.
Jim woke up at three a.m., his pulse pounding. He was in bed. With someone’s arm draped over him. What was going on? He was in a hostel room; not his. The arm and the body covering his were warm, which he assumed was what had woken him up. That or the bedclothes, which he had apparently kicked onto the floor and off of himself and the person…
The person was Pam.
The last three days, and especially the last night, came crashing back into his mind. It was all he could do to stop himself from whooping and waking up Pam. Instead he smiled at the ceiling, wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and stared at the ceiling for a little while until sleep pulled him back under.
Pam woke up at seven a.m., her arms wrapped koala-like around Jim. Koalas! That was another thing to see in Australia.
Where she was.
This was not a dream. She had had this dream—the last night before flying to Australia, she’d found herself wrapped up around a pillow imagining it was Jim—but this was Jim. Actual Jim. Jim whom she’d finally had sex with last night.
Finally? Well, from one perspective, at least. That perspective, which was definitely growing on her, emphasized years of longing looks, a lot of fantasies that she’d pushed aside at the time as just the result of frustration with Roy, or spending too long at work with no one else to talk to, or confusing hormones. It talked to her about the realizations she’d made over the past month about how everything Jim had ever done with her had had that strong undercurrent of interest that she’d pushed aside “because she was engaged,” and that the interest had definitely been going in both directions. As had the desire, which she now felt tugging back at her from pretty much everywhere where she was touching Jim. Which was, well, pretty much everywhere.
From another perspective, which was abashedly on the retreat, it was definitely not finally. They’d been dating for what, a couple of days? But then again, even this perspective had to admit, they’d agreed they were long past the first, or the second, or even the third date. So this wasn’t finally, but it also wasn’t too fast. It was pretty much…normal. Expected. Excellent.
It definitely had been excellent.
And even more definitely not normal, if by normal one meant her history of experience with Roy. Not that she was thinking about Roy right now. She was definitively thinking about Jim Halpert, who was splayed underneath her like the bedspread itself.
And if even the guilty part of her brain that spoke with her mother’s disappointed voice was accepting that this was the time to sleep with Jim—this had entirely certainly been the right time to sleep with Jim.
And right now would be an even better time.
It had been an excellent evening.
It was a nice morning, too.
Also, I can't resist a canon joke even if it's in the totally wrong season.
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! Next time: morning, food, and emails.
Chapter 53: An Email by Comfect
Jim checks his email.
Jim woke up the, uh, third time and this time he and Pam actually got dressed and headed out of her room. Well, in his case that meant a quick dash down the hall to his room, where he got dressed in clothes that did not smell like he’d been wearing them for most of twenty-four hours. But by the time they met up in the lobby both of them were fresh, clothed, and ready to begin the day. Well, the part of the day they could tell other people about.
Which, in this case, involved heading right back into the computer room and checking what Jan had replied to his—well, Pam’s—email.
Fortunately, since his out-of-office reply had been up for almost a month, he had relatively few other emails to ignore before he got to the one he was really waiting for.
He almost didn’t want to click. Scratch that, he really didn’t want to click. But Pam was sitting next to him, and it felt like—well, it probably was—cowardice not to. So he did.
Well, at least it didn’t start out “Dear Mr. Halpert.” He’d heard tell of emails from corporate that started out overly formal, and they were always bad news.
Thank you for reaching out.
Well, that was dangerously neutral.
I can only assume that the reason you are contacting me about this now is that you finally took my advice.
I do wish you had done this a little earlier.
Fair. That sounded like a bad sign, though…
However, I am not unsympathetic to your request.
Wait, did that mean she was sympathetic?
I believe it may be possible to return you to working at the Scranton branch.
YES! He almost didn’t read the rest, but a part of him was still worried she’d reverse course mid-email.
This would, of course, be subject to certain conditions.
It may be possible to charge some of your vacation time to the ARM search at Stamford account, especially given the work you have done in vetting and recommending Ryan Howard for the position. However, while I will write to both Katie Mansfield here at Corporate and Toby Flenderson at Scranton about this, I believe it will be necessary to re-charge much of the last three weeks to unpaid leave. This does not, of course, include the already-approved paid leave you are, I believe, currently taking in Australia. As a result, there will of course be some significant paperwork.
Could be worse.
In addition, I believe the Scranton branch has already reassigned the majority of your clients. While you will of course take over most of Ryan’s client list, that list may not be as extensive as yours was, and you will be responsible for acquiring new clients to make up any shortfall in your numbers.
Definitely could be worse.
Given the unusual nature and urgency of your request, I will assume these conditions are satisfactory, and direct HR accordingly.
Vice President, Northeast Region
Dunder Mifflin Paper Company
Best of luck with it. I hope it goes better for you than me.
He sagged with relief, ignoring that cryptic post-script for a moment, and checked the rest of his email. Exactly as Jan had promised, there were three other emails from her, one about charging his leave, another directing Toby to put him back on the rolls at Scranton, and a third, CCing him and sent to someone he assumed must be in charge of HR at Stamford, noting the change in assignment for the ARM position.
Jim was oddly silent as he read. Pam resisted the temptation to push in over his shoulder and read, trusting that he would let her know how it had gone, but his silence was starting to gnaw on her.
He sagged in his seat and started clicking, and she had a sinking feeling in her stomach. It must have gone wrong somehow. He must be looking for new jobs, or trying to find something for her in Stamford, or something. He would have said something otherwise, right?
So she was totally shocked when he finally turned to her with the biggest grin she’d ever seen splashed across his face.
“I’m in!” He threw his arms around her surprised body and hugged her close. “I mean, I’m back. I mean, I will be.” He put her at arms length to look at her and then pulled her in and kissed her. “She okayed the re-transfer, put Ryan at Stamford, all of it.” Then he scooted out of the way so she could read it for herself. “Look! You did it! We did it!”
She glanced through the email, latching onto key words. “Not unsympathetic.” “May be possible.” “Certain conditions.” And finally “direct HR accordingly.”
She could read bureaucratese. This was a total win.
“What does she mean, ‘took my advice’? And why does she wish you ‘good luck with it’?”
Jim frowned in concentration—and now that she was less nervous, she could tell the difference easily between that kind of frown and the actual sad or disappointed kind—and rubbed his neck.
“All I can think of is something she said right before…well, on Casino Night.” He looked suddenly vulnerable and she grabbed his hand for mutual reassurance. “She asked if I’d told anyone about the transfer. I said no. She said I should.” He laughed shortly. “That was what I actually meant to tell you when I ended up blurting out that thing about being in love with you.”
“Oh.” That made sense. “So you had meant to tell me?”
“Of course.” He rubbed harder, and she was worried he’d hurt himself, so she grabbed the other hand too and squeezed his between both of hers. “It was just…after what I did say, it didn’t feel like ‘oh by the way I’m transferring’ was a good thing to add.”
“Fair enough. And look where it got us.” She gestured around at the general Sydney-ness of their surroundings, but also the fact that they were there together. “Water under the bridge.” She smiled at him. “Not that I’m ever going to let you forget it, mind you…”
“I would hope not.” He smiled back, thank God. “So yeah, I guess that must be what she meant.”
“And the other bit?”
“She had an overnight bag in her trunk. On Casino Night. I think she was planning to stay with Michael…”
“Except he had a date. Ouch.”
“Yeah. So that’s what she meant by that, I think.”
She held his hands in hers and looked deep in his eyes. “Can you promise me you won’t be Michael?”
“I’m pretty sure I can.”
“Then I think we’re going to be OK.” She squeezed his hands. “After all, Jim, you’re coming back to Scranton.”
So the plan for the rest of this fic is: finish out the vacation in Australia and then hit some highlights of what would be the new S3 if all of this AU had taken place, probably ending with a proposal (but maybe not). Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 54: Bunches of Brunches by Comfect
Jim and Pam eat.
After whirling Pam around and kissing her thoroughly, Jim checked the rest of his emails (with Pam, no longer nervous, by his side) and found that what he’d thought were insignificant spam were actually vitally important in light of Jan’s email: one from Toby confirming the changeover (and another asking if that meant he was available to babysit Sasha again—apparently Toby hadn’t had a night out in weeks); one from the HR rep at Stamford asking for clarification, and another, apparently after Jan had emailed her again, expressing confused acquiescence; one from Michael that was in all caps and suggested a night out at Hooters; one from Kevin confirming that accounting was going to be re-charging some of his vacation time as unpaid and so he should expect a smaller paycheck (“which just means you have less to lose at poker, man”).
There was also a short message from Ryan when he refreshed his inbox, consisting of only four words:
Don’t tell Kelly.
And that was it. Apparently when the wheels of Dunder Mifflin moved, they really moved. But then again, he’d already known that, since his transfer had been approved in the same manner.
“Hey.” He nudged Pam. “I think this calls for a celebration.”
“You’re right. And I know just the place.”
Pam rustled in her purse for one of the flyers she’d grabbed on her first day, and felt the warm caress of Jim’s voice wash over her as she did so.
“I don’t think the Friggitoria opens until noon.”
“It doesn’t.” Apparently they’d both been paying attention to the sign the day before. “But this place does.”
“The Naked Duck?”
She flattened the flyer on the desk in front of them. “Exactly.”
“Beesly, should I be worried that you had a flyer for burlesque poultry in your purse? Got any kinks I ought to know about?”
“I mean, yes, but not that one.” He blushed scarlet and she mentally chalked up one for Team Fancy New Beesly. “Besides, ducks have corkscrew penises.”
“Wait, what?” This led them down a delightful twenty minute Wikipedia hole about ducks, penises, and corkscrews (apparently the South American lake duck had the world’s largest avian penis; spiders had something called “pedipalps” that were basically penis arms; and there was a corkscrew in the Museum of Modern Art, which Jim promised to take her to). After they resurfaced, she was able to point out to him that the Naked Duck had breakfast finger food suitable for eating while walking, so they could continue their exploration of the city; it was directly across the street from the Anzac Memorial, so they knew where it was; and it would, as she pointed out, continue their streak of eating at vaguely naughtily-named places.
“OK, I admit, it sounds perfect.” He grinned. “But Pam, really, ‘vaguely naughty’? I’d expect that language from Phyllis or Angela, not you.”
“You really have no idea about Phyllis’s youth do you?” And the rest of the way to the Naked Duck she refused to elaborate, reminding him that he was going to be back in Scranton so he could just ask her himself.
“Be prepared to be surprised.”
Both of them were surprised by how pleasant it was just to sit together and people-watch at the Anzac Memorial while sharing takeaway from the Naked Duck. They made a game of it: each of them in turn would pick a person walking by and narrate that person’s inner monologue as they watched. It was based off a game she’d had seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but Pam was sure that none of the comics on the show had ever been as funny as Jim was. Or maybe it was just that she wasn’t in love with them (well, except Colin Mochrie, a little, as a kid. Who could resist a man with a killer velociraptor impression?). But he had her rolling off the bench, and she was apparently pretty good at it herself since he had the same reaction to her comic stylings.
It was only after a good hour of this that they tired of it, and went in search of different entertainment—mostly, as she had expected, more food and drink. She had never traveled all that much before (certainly nowhere near as far as Sydney before, but not that much in total quantity either) but she’d always imagined herself as a gastrotourist: one of those people who knew the best little holes in the wall and authentic local joints and made their way from meal to meal to meal across the city. She might not have that local flavor here, but she and Jim were definitely doing their best to achieve the meal-to-meal part of it.
It was only when they stumbled out of their third coffee shop, buzzing with caffeine, that she remembered.
“Jim, the Beethoven!”
For Colin Mochrie: https://i.imgur.com/LULdW.gif
Thank you all for reading, reviewing, and otherwise interacting with this story! It would not be the same without all of you, and I hope you enjoy the travelogue portions of this even (or maybe especially) with them together.
Chapter 55: Beethoven by Comfect
The frantic rush to get to the opera house in time for their ticketed time of 2pm was probably a good thing, Jim decided, because it meant he was far too excited when they did get there to fall asleep at the concert. He had been surprised when they came in and there was a whole orchestra “on stage”—only a quick glance at the ticket which told him it was a music-only event saved him from embarrassing himself by asking why—and he knew that he always fell asleep when he listened to classical music.
His parents had once, at great expense and effort, gotten tickets to the New York Philharmonic and driven up with teenage Jim and tween Larissa for a concert. This was the sort of thing they’d started doing once Tom and Pete were out of the house; six tickets were prohibitively expensive, and anyway everyone knew neither Tom nor Pete was interested in “cultural activities.” Jim was interested. He really was. He just turned out to be completely, constitutionally incapable of staying awake if there was any chance he could fall asleep. So he’d slept through a Tchaikovsky, a Gershwin, and a Ravel, even though if he listened to any of them on CD or tape he’d have enjoyed them, and he had to endure Larissa’s razzing all the way home.
Panic, it turned out, kept him awake. And that was good, because the Beethoven was solid. He wasn’t a real Beethoven fan—if he could stay awake through it, he preferred twentieth-century jazz-adjacent classical, the kind Larissa was always playing when she studied—but he could appreciate good playing when he heard it. Maybe he wasn’t meant for the finer things in life, but he wasn’t a Philistine. And this was the best-played classical he’d heard in years.
Well, it probably helped if you stayed awake, so that wasn’t really fair. Even if he had been to a lot of classical concerts, first at Larissa’s high school (where she played a mean violin, he was told by those capable of staying awake) and then at the University of Scranton, he hadn’t really given them a chance, had he? But the Sydney Opera House had gorgeous acoustics, and the orchestra was top-notch, and oh yes, he was actually listening.
He’d have to thank Pam for that some day, when he could figure out a way to do it without saying “I literally have fallen asleep at every concert I’ve been to before this.”
Maybe that was it, though. He loved his sister of course. But he loved Pam. Part of what was keeping him awake once the initial panic of getting there literally at the time printed on the tickets faded was the sheer pleasure of watching her react. Larissa was a student of music (not literally—she’d opted for architecture—but when she listened to music she listened for the closely for technical details, eyes focused and body still). Pam was an enthusiast. She listened with her face and her shoulders and her hands. She clearly wanted to listen with her feet too, but equally clearly someone had taught her along the way that toe-tapping and dancing were inappropriate in these kinds of spaces, because every little jerk was ruthlessly stilled.
It was absolutely adorable, and definitely worth staying awake for, even if the Beethoven hadn’t been.
Although, he thought once again, it was.
Was all live classical music this good if you could actually listen to it?
Pam was in heaven. She had no real interest in opera qua opera—arias and foreign lyrics and repetitive singing—but she loved music, and she loved classical in particular, and she was in the freaking Sydney Opera House listening to it. She didn’t have synesthesia, not really, but something in music, especially classical music, spoke to her love of fine art in a deep way. She didn’t see pictures as she listened, but her soul sang with the notes and she could imagine the art she might make in response if she ever had the time or the materials at the right moment. There was a crashing cord that might inspire a strong line scratched across the page; there was a moment of delay, of almost infinitesimal restraint (it was Beethoven, so this was rare) that spoke to her of the shading of a gentle curve; there was the resolution of a theme repeated a dozen times that reminded her of the final strokes of a finished painting. To hear it all here was in man ways the culmination of a lifelong dream.
The only way she could have been happier was if…no, actually, there was no way she could have been happier. This was it. The acme, the apex, the zenith. She was in the Sydney Opera House, listening to gorgeous classical music, and the man she was there with was actually following along. She’d dragged Roy to a few of these kinds of events—well, not this kind, not in Sydney, not with absolute top-notch musicians, but good classical nonetheless—and he was always fidgeting and trying to find an excuse or a way to get out of it. Jim was actually listening, god bless him, and it made the experience so much better.
God, he was amazing.
At the interval she practically hopped in her seat as she turned to him and started asking how he’d enjoyed it. He grinned at her, the smile slowly spreading across his face like a prelude morphing into the main movement of the music.
“I, uh… I enjoyed it more than any performance I’ve ever seen.” He rubbed the back of his neck and she kept quiet, wondering what was bothering him.
“Aw, hell, Pam, I should probably…” she was beginning to get worried as he mustered his thoughts. “Look, you’ll meet my sister Larissa someday, right? And you should know, she’s really into this kind of stuff.” He swung his other arm around him. “Classical music. She’s a violinist, you know.” He was going to rub the hair off the back of his neck at that rate. “And, uh, I’ve literally never managed to sit through a full one of her concerts without falling asleep.” He looked down at the ground. “I, uh, wasn’t planning to tell you, because you seemed so excited, but then,” he looked up. “I actually stayed awake this time! And it was so good.” He grinned again. “Is it always like this?”
“Honestly? No.” She smiled. It wasn’t ideal that he had a problem staying awake at concerts, of course, but at least he told her. And he seemed genuinely contrite about his earlier difficulties—and happy about having been at this one. “So you chose a good concert to stay awake for. This is amazing.” She beamed and he beamed and she could see him relax behind his eyes.
“Thank God. I’d hate to have been missing out on this.” He shrugged. “But I should warn you, Beesly—if you want to go to a lot more of these with me, you’ve got the wrong Halpert. Oh, I’ll go, but you really want Larissa.” He smiled. “She’ll be delighted she has someone else to commiserate with about my ‘musicological narcolepsy,’ as she calls it.”
He expected her to get to know his sister? That was a good sign, right? Pam thought as she smiled back. “Oh, don’t think I won’t enjoy that, Jim. But from my experience, you seem pretty engaged—maybe you just had the wrong company before.”
“I think I just might.” The lights flashed, and they sat down again, and she spent the second half of the wonderful concert checking in on Jim whenever the music left her enough out of its grip to care.
He was awake every time.
One tourist activity down! Thank you to all who are sticking with me on this story. I really appreciate your thoughts and feedback!
Chapter 56: Rugby League by Comfect
Another day, another activity.
If you’d asked Jim what he expected out of the next day’s rugby league match, he’d have said he expected something similar to the rugby union game earlier in the week: Pam getting super involved and him sitting back and enjoying her enjoyment. In fact, that had been the theme of each of the last few days; he was getting as much if not more bliss out of this relationship simply from being able to actually show how much he enjoyed her pleasure (in every sense) as from his own active enjoyment of their various activities. That didn’t mean he hadn’t been enjoying himself anyway: the rugby union game had been good, the Beethoven concert was honestly the best he’d ever heard, and the days (and nights) he was spending with Pam were wonderful.
It was just that watching her actually have fun too, and getting to be an active part of that, and not just sit around on the sidelines and hope she’d notice him, was a rush he had never known before, and so he was high on it all the time.
Hopefully, he thought afterward, the rugby league game was like that for her.
For reasons he could never adequately explain, not even after he bought himself a subscription to a streaming video service that let him watch the games back in Scranton, rugby league spoke to Jim Halpert. Maybe it was the caveman in him that loved watching a scrum restart play. Maybe it was the sheer physicality of the running and tackling without helmets, much in the way of pads, or any concern for the players’ frail human bodies. Maybe it was simply that having watched a game of rugby union a few days earlier, he was better prepared to understand the nuances of rugby league today. Whatever it was, he found himself transported by the fluid action of the game, and not (to his surprise) missing the forward pass or the highly structured timing of American football at all. On the contrary; it seemed like almost the basketball of football to him, a balletic (if still violent) game where motion and position mattered more than pre-planned maneuvers or even brute force. There was also an element that reminded him of ultimate Frisbee, when after a tackle the defenders moved back away from the ball, that kept things flowing and exciting.
He was aware of Pam next to him also enjoying the match, and they agreed on the same side to support so there was no conflict there. But at the same time he experienced something akin to the thrill he experienced at a 76ers game or the one blessed time Mark’s parents had indulged him with two tickets to March Madness and they’d road-tripped out for the first- and second-round games in Philly. He was awash in the sport of it, and the collective effervescence of the crowd, and while Pam’s presence was as always a balm to his soul, he was joyously connected to every single member of the crowd.
He spent much of the rest of the day talking to her about the game (fortunately she was a good sport and let him prattle on as much as he liked) and decided that he was, all in all, quite indebted to that one prosy guy at the box office who’d sold him those tickets back when he’d just been a depressed single man wandering aimlessly around Sydney.
Pam had always hated it when Roy got so into a game that he lost track of everything else. She appreciated, of course, the pleasure of fandom and of live sports in particular, but there was something about the way he ignored the world to focus on what was in front of him that made her feel pushed away and ignored. Maybe it was a holdover from their first date, when he’d proven that that was an actual possibility; maybe it was just the way he seemed to assume that food and beverages would just appear in his hand without his doing anything, and act surprised when she expected him to get his own; maybe it was the sense that he didn’t really care if she was there at all, as long as he got to enjoy his sports.
She did not feel that way with Jim, even as she could feel him getting pulled into the action in a genuine, spirited way. With Jim she felt elevated, not used; drawn into his excitement rather than nibbling around the outskirts of it for attention. While in the rugby union game she had decided that fandom was the better part of valor, and would increase her enjoyment, at this match she just let Jim’s enthusiasm carry her, and surfed the wave of his emotion with him. Roy got introverted and almost sullen, even when his team was winning, with the exception of extreme outbursts of passion when something extremely good or bad happened. Jim, on the other hand, was a bubbling fount of happiness, sharing that joy with her constantly with almost childlike vigor—“did you see that?” was his native state, just as a furrowed brow was Roy’s, and he high-fived her every time a “cool thing” happened, in his words.
She was vaguely aware that she might have been embarrassed in another life, since he was just so excited that it was a bit over the top. But who cared? They were in Sydney, Australia. They’d never see these people again. And Jim was having fun. Hell, she was having fun. It was fun.
The fun washed over her, and she let it do so, and it was almost as good as the Beethoven had been.
It wasn’t as good, but then again, what would be? Even a second day of Beethoven would never be the first time she listened to music in the Sydney Opera House again.
But every day could be the first time she did something. And this was a pretty damn good something to have chosen—especially since Jim loved it so much.
Thank you to all who've read and reviewed! I appreciate the feedback as the story transitions!
Chapter 57: Choices, Choices by Comfect
Jim and Pam deliberate koalas.
Jim realized the next morning, once he and Pam decided to actually get up, that they only had a couple more days in Australia. At least, he did, and from various hints that she had dropped he assumed that Pam had weaseled his trip details out of Toby somehow, at least in terms of dates, so he suspected she did too. And in either case, they only had a couple more days in Australia together, and that was an important consideration anyway.
He started the day asking Pam, over brunch at the Silly Tart, what she wanted to do that they hadn’t done yet. To his surprise, this time she didn’t have to think about it at all, blurting out “koalas!” in an excited voice.
“Not that I want to do koalas, mind you. I hear they all have Chlamydia. But I do want to see one, live in person.”
“Wait, what? Chlamydia?” He stared at her. “Are we thinking of the same koalas? Cuddly, bearlike, primarily eat eucalyptus, genuinely idiotic, massively cute?”
“Uh, yeah, Jim. It was all over the news. Like, every single koala in the world.”
“Wow.” He leaned back in his chair. “And you still want to see them?”
“We don’t stop seeing people just because they have STDs, Jim. Otherwise when would we see Meredith?” She slapped a hand across her mouth. “I did not just say that.”
“Uh, I’m afraid you did. And I don’t think she’d be as embarrassed as you are about it. Have you and Meredith been having parties in my absence? Because I didn’t think there was much risk of you seeing her…” He grinned as she blushed deeper.
“No, but…that was really mean of me.”
“It was a little.” He shrugged. “But you know if we’d brought it up at work she’d probably have been the one to announce it herself. Like the time a couple years ago she walked in, high-fived Phyllis, and told us all she’d gotten laid.”
“That was pretty special.” Pam’s skin tone had returned to its normal hue from the beet red it had been a moment before. “But still…”
“I mean, we’re here in Australia. No one is going to tell her. I’m certainly not. Scout’s honor!” He did the three-finger salute.
“Were you really a Scout?”
“Yes.” He waited a beat. “For a few meetings, anyway. But I still have my honor.” He raised his fingers again. “And also, I have no real incentive to embarrass you in front of Meredith, even if I do love making you blush.”
“I think you have other ways of doing that.”
This time they both blushed.
Pam quickly found out from an information desk at King’s Cross station that there were two relatively easy places to see koalas in and around Sydney, both wildlife reserves or zoos (unsurprisingly, they didn’t exactly roam wild in the city streets). One was across the water, a short trip from the quay she’d walked by before she found Jim the first time. The other was, like the kangaroos had been, a metro ride and then a bus away. However, the nice lady said, you could always see the koalas up close at the further one, while the closer one required advance notice.
She went back and forth between the two, looking at the two brochures the lady had given her and forcing Jim to read her one while she compared its details to the other. He had pointed out early in the process that the advance notice appeared to just be calling ahead, so they could head back to the hostel and do that before getting on the boat; but that had just made the decision harder, because both were equally possible. Jim had insisted that this was her choice, because it was her activity, and she could see the justice in that, but since she didn’t actually know either park, she was worried about choosing the wrong one. Eventually she just sat there staring at both brochures and shuffling them a bit in her hands until Jim popped her out of her trance with his voice.
“Have you developed a preference, yet, Beesly?” Jim cocked an eyebrow at her and smiled, and she couldn’t help but smile back.
Suddenly, she realized that since either one was fine, either one was fine. There wasn’t a right choice, necessarily, but that also meant there wasn’t a wrong choice. Why was she wasting the time she could be spending with Jim on deliberating? She had two good options. In the one case, they spent a long time leaning up against each other on the train. On the other, they were together on a boat crossing the bay.
If there was no wrong answer, then there was instead an opportunity. Jim was teasing her about making a choice? Well, she could tease him back.
“Well, I don’t exactly mind a long train ride with you…” she started, and watched his eyes dance at her tone. “But then again, I do have these recurring thoughts about what I might do with you if I ever got you on a boat again…”
She watched his eyes focus harder as he registered what she’d said. “What do you think?” she asked, holding his gaze. “A couple hours together on the train? Or are you ready for another…cruise?”
Which one will they choose?
Thank you all who have read and reviewed! I really appreciate all of your feedback as you follow this along with me!
Chapter 58: I'm On A Boat! by Comfect
Jim and Pam take the boat to Taronga Zoo.
The next half hour was hazy in Jim’s memory, because it was all done at absolute full speed. They rushed back to the hostel, where they looked up the phone number of the Taronga Zoo, dialed, and Pam talked to what sounded like a very nice man over the phone. Then they hurtled back towards the wharves at Circular Quay, which he had only vaguely noted previously, but which now took on a profoundly increased importance as they waited for the every half-hour ferry to Taronga across the way. It was conveniently labeled; the route to the zoo was apparently a popular one. To their left the massive Sydney Harbour Bridge lofted into the sky; somewhere to their right the Sydney Harbour Tunnel was boring into the earth; unsurprisingly, in front of them Sydney Harbour stretched out blue and waiting.
It could not have been more different than that night on Lake Wallenpaupack when he’d gone onboard the Princess with Katy and come off of it single—or when he’d stared down Pam Beesly for twenty-seven interminable seconds. It was winter then; he supposed it was winter now, by virtue of the change in hemispheres. But it was not winter in his soul, and Sydney appeared to agree. It was a nice day.
He and Pam boarded the Golden Grove and made their way as best they could, not to the bow or the stern, but to the side. He supposed for other tourists this might have been an attempt to see the bridge better, or to view the Opera House once they rounded the peninsula (was it right to give such a grandiose name to a small point?) on which it stood.
But for Jim and Pam it was a chance at a do over—or at least it was for him, and the fact that Pam followed him without a word suggested she too knew what she was doing. They settled in against the railing and waited for the ship to get underway, their silence now a much more positive echo of their silence then. Then they had been frozen solid physically and emotionally, separated by a few feet and a lake’s worth of emotional misunderstanding. Now they leaned against each other, his arm around her shoulder, and contemplated the water.
The hum of the engines turned into more of a roar and they were off. They were, he realized, on the side of the boat that would face the opera house, not the bridge, and so they were looked at the reverse side of the view they had had from the place they’d eaten their first meal together on that mad, amazing, brilliant day they’d found each other halfway around the globe from home. He pointed out to her what he thought was the restaurant, and they peered at it until distracted from it by the sight of the Sydney Opera House itself rising around the promontory.
Pam had never enjoyed boats. She didn’t get seasick, exactly, but beyond sitting on one stationary as could be and doing what her father had called “fishing” and she’d called “hangout time,” she didn’t really see the point. The Booze Cruise in January had just clinched it for her. Nothing good could come of setting foot on a boat.
Except, apparently, a perfectly lovely time with Jim, if one allowed oneself to have it. If, instead of drunken revelry and an engagement date one hadn’t actually thought through, there was companionship and comfort. If, instead of saying you were cold, one just nestled into his chest and relaxed. It was delightful.
But it was also not why she had decided to subtly push Jim in the direction of the boat.
No, she didn’t plan on a passive, calm revisitation of that day in January. She had a much more active intent. Even if she was going to let herself luxuriate in the passive version just a little longer.
They watched the Opera House as it appeared around the cape, and if she hadn’t seen it from the other side, she would have believed this was the most beautiful way to see it. The scoops and lines of the Opera House, thrust against the Botanical Gardens in the background, took on a new nature that thrilled her soul, and she could feel rather than hear Jim gasp behind her as he too caught sight of it. It was a pleasure to know he was not insensible to the details of the world that she so relished; she had spent years convinced that men just didn’t have the inner emotional life that women did, because Roy seemed unwilling to engage with beauty outside of the human physique and art beyond advertisements. But of course that was false; and it wasn’t just Jim, she was sure, who could prove that to her. But she wanted it to be him, and she was so happy that it was.
As the boat started to turn away from the Opera House as well, she realized that she might not have as much time left in the journey as she’d expected, and she started to put her plan into practice.
“I’m cold.” She couldn’t resist, and from the slight stiffening before he relaxed again she was sure he noticed as well.
“Really?” His voice was slightly hoarse.
“Mhm.” She turned so she was looking right up at him, only to find him already looking down at her and become caught for a moment by the intensity of his gaze. “Would you mind…warming me up?”
“That’s what you’re going with?” He grinned down at her. “After four months?”
“To be fair, I only really started thinking about it…OK, four months ago.” She wasn’t going to lie to him. “I only started thinking about it every day like a month ago.”
“And what, pray tell, made you change your mind?” He was staring her down, which should have felt intimidating—it would have with Roy for sure—but instead just felt electric.
“Oh, I don’t know. Something minor, I’m sure.” She cocked an eyebrow in challenge.
“Minor, was it?” His tone was light, but with a hint of gravel underneath it.
“Well, I’m certainly hoping it wasn’t the best I’ll ever have.” She tugged lightly at his coat. “After all, we have all the time in the world to get it right.”
“Best kiss of my life and she says I need to get it right,” he grumbled as his lips closed over hers.
A lot more than twenty-seven seconds later, they parted for breath.
“Second-best kiss of my life,” he amended, and kissed her again.
Koalas up next! Thank you to everyone who read, reviewed, and suggested they should go on the boat!
Chapter 59: Koalas! by Comfect
Jim and Pam meet some koalas.
From a certain perspective, it might have been anticlimactic to spend the rest of the very short trip cuddled up together by the side of the boat, but Jim was in heaven. It was only with the greatest reluctance and a desire to indulge Pam’s excitement about koalas that he unfolded himself and followed her off the boat when it docked at Taronga Zoo.
OK, and maybe a little excitement himself. He wasn’t made of stone where koalas were concerned.
They disembarked and made their way over to the ticket office, where they paid for and picked up the tickets Pam had ordered over the phone almost an hour before. Because it was the low season and they were lucky, they had been able to pick up tickets to the Koala Encounter, which was after all the whole point, and it happened to be before the end of the surprisingly limited hours in which the encounter was available.
“The koalas sleep twenty hours a day,” explained their guide as they walked around the habitat. “And while we can’t guarantee that their four hours awake will correspond with the time our visitors are here,” she shrugged, “we don’t want to risk interrupting their beauty sleep too much.”
And beauty sleep it was. They weren’t allowed to touch the koalas (which was perfectly fine with Jim—cuddly they might look but they were definitely wild animals with Chlamydia, so he was good over here) but they could admire them as they lazily consumed eucalyptus and snoozed the day away.
The guide told them a number of fascinating details about koalas that Jim didn’t really catch, since he was focused on trying to figure out what the animals reminded him of. It wasn’t until they were almost done that he snapped his fingers, eliciting a questioning look from Pam.
“Stitch. They look like Stitch.” She stared at him and he explained further. “From Lilo and Stitch?”
“Duh?” She looked up at him and cocked an eyebrow. “There’s even a reference in the movie, where one of the characters thinks he’s a koala for a while.”
“Oh yeah.” He looked around and bent to whisper in her ear. “So which one do you think is going to snap and attack with its claws first?”
Pam looked around at the sleepy, adorable animals, and found one with a small notch in its ear. “That one.” She pointed. “He looks battle-hardened.”
“That one is actually a female,” chimed in their guide, who had been watching them and listening with amusement. “But yes, the little notch in her ear is an old injury. Not from battle though. She, uh, fell out of the tree.”
Jim and Pam joined the guide in laughter. “Well, maybe not that one then,” she conceded. “But I’m sure they’re all eager for you to figure out they’re alien genetic experiments.”
She spun around looking at all the pseudobears in the trees. This was like having her childhood stuffed animal collection come to life—all the more so because she had insisted on “feeding” her animals grass and particularly leaves at their tea parties, and so these cute lumberers stuffing their mouths with eucalyptus seemed familiar.
“Do they really only eat eucalyptus leaves?” Jim asked, which told her he hadn’t entirely been paying attention when the guide told them exactly that a few minutes ago. Probably thinking about Lilo and Stitch.
“Yes. I’m afraid there’s not a lot of nutrition in them, so they have to eat a lot—and we can’t really feed it to them because they won’t eat it off anything but the tree.”
“Wait, what?” Pam interjected. “What do you mean you can’t feed them?”
“Well, koalas have what we call a smooth brain: they don’t have the folds and furrows that humans and most other animals have. They can’t do higher order thinking like pattern recognition—which means that if you give a koala a plate of leaves, it doesn’t realize they’re the same leaves it eats.” She smiled. “It also means they don’t have the sense to come out of the rain, so they do get just a bit damp.”
“Just a bit.” Pam smiled back at the guide. “How strange.”
“It is, isn’t it,” agreed the guide. “But we love and care for them all the same. Even more so, in some cases.”
“How did they ever survive in the wild?” Jim wondered, and Pam was secretly glad he had asked the question that was also bothering her. They were dear adorable creatures, but that seemed like a bad adaptation if she’d ever heard of one.
The guide grinned wider. “Not a lot of competition for eating eucalyptus leaves. As I said, they aren’t exactly nutritious.” She waved a hand. “And now, we humans just think they’re too adorable for words.”
“They are that.” Pam grinned, and went back to admiring the fuzzy idiots.
When they exited via the gift shop later, she was unsurprised to find that both she and Jim were now the proud owners of stuffed koalas.
“Going to name yours Stitch?” she teased as Jim showed her his in excitement.
“I was, but now that I know he’s way smarter than them it feels rude.” He waved the koala. “Pam, meet Dwight.”
Thank you to all who have read and reviewed! I am continually grateful for the response to this story!
Chapter 60: Drawings by Comfect
Pam draws what she sees.
The rest of their time at the Zoo was extremely similar to the time they’d spent watching kangaroos, partly because, of course, there were kangaroos here too. Jim wasn’t entirely sure why this place hadn’t come up when he’d looked for places to find kangaroos—maybe he’d looked for “wild kangaroos” and these were technically enclosed. Not that the others could actually leave the reserve, of course.
He was, as before, quite happy to watch Pam in her element as she got basic sketches of all the wild variety of animals they had never seen before. Buttontail merged into pygmy goose into honeyeater and he honestly had no idea what birds he was looking at. The kangaroos were even more confusing, if it was possible. Apparently his brain had one category labeled “kangaroos” and everything with a pouch and two big legs and two small arms was one. Wallabies, both agile and swamp might as well be the same—and don’t get him started on the red-necked wallaby and the red kangaroo.
He pointed this out to Pam, who asked if that meant that Roy was a kangaroo when he wore a hoodie.
Jim agreed that he was.
He also thought that the fact that they could joke about Roy was progress.
The one creature that truly amazed him, jolting him out of his haze of novelty into sheer excitement, was the platypus. Apparently early explorers had sent platypus skeletons back to Europe and been accused of gluing parts of various animals together (a duck, a beaver, a stoat, etc.). Well, Jim could respect that, because he could see the living thing and he still thought it must be three muskrats, a duck, and a beaver in a trenchcoat.
Pam somehow made it look graceful on the page, but he knew what he saw.
On the other end of the spectrum, wombats were both cuddlier and smarter than koalas, he discovered, and he desperately wanted one until Pam pointed out that it was not only illegal to steal them but probably hard to smuggle them into the US.
He still kind of wanted one.
Pam was having so much fun she was extremely sad when the time came for them to leave and head back to the rest of Sydney. Normally she would have been ecstatic about the opportunity to recreate the kiss they’d just shared on the trip over, and if she was honest she still was pretty excited, but she was also sad to have to leave before she’d filled up every page of her notebook with sketches.
OK, she had filled every page of her notebook with sketches, but there was still the emergency backup notebook shoved into the side-interior pocket of her purse, which was only like 98% full.
They got back to Circular Quay with night falling over the lights of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and she used some of that precious last 2% to capture the grandeur—after Jim had captured her lips again. She could definitely get used to this kind of silence with him. It was hard to speak mid-kiss, but she definitely wasn’t cold anymore.
They had a lovely dinner out—almost at the same place they’d had that first dinner, but as they were walking up to it they turned to each other at the same time and, perfectly in synch, suggested that they really ought to try a new place. They’d doubled down on the Silly Tart, but they only had so many other chances to try the food in a place neither of them necessarily expected to ever visit again.
Instead they found themselves eating street food again under the stars by the Anzac Memorial, trading quips and thoughts about the day and just generally enjoying each others’ company. This was what she’d wanted, she thought, from a real adult relationship. Not just the sex (though she was not adverse to heading back to the hostel soon); not just the kisses (though the boat had been a very good idea); not just someone who loved and supported her (though Jim did and it was like breathing after too long underwater), but a relationship where she could be entirely herself and be sure that the other person was being himself too.
Knowing Jim like she did meant that she was pretty sure this was unadulterated him. He was loose; he was free; so was she.
When they got back to the hostel Jim sorrowfully excused himself, saying he really had to get back in touch with Jan and Ryan and Toby about the transfer-that-wasn’t. He ducked into the computer room while she headed upstairs, swapping her notebooks for her secondary backup notebooks in her luggage.
She had always had a ton of blank books, courtesy of well-meaning parents and friends who had no idea what else to get her, and she hadn’t wished to leave any of them with Roy, so she had a lot of available pages to sketch on still.
An idea struck her as she put the filled notebooks away, and she carefully ripped out a couple pages of the newest blank book and set to work. She traced and copied from the day’s sketches, filling in details as they occurred to her minds’ eye. That was the blessing of her mind—had been the blessing ever since it had become obvious that Roy didn’t really want her to spend any time actually painting or sketching in their home (but not so obvious that they could actually have it out and talk about it)—that she was able to keep whole scenes in memory in sufficient detail to put them into her private notebooks when she had a moment. Now she used that skill, honed over years of repression, for a different purpose, recalling tricks of light and details of shading that she hadn’t had the time to capture precisely in the frantic rush to get everything down and remember it. She pulled out proper pens and colored pencils—also remnants of gifts from her parents over the years, and wasn’t it odd that none of them came from Roy, who supposedly knew her so well—and added color and depth to the black and white and gray.
When Jim knocked on her door later that evening, she flung it open and hustled him inside, not like that first night together when she’d jumped him immediately, but with a similar excitement and singularity of purpose.
This time, however, when she dragged him towards the bed she gestured with her leading hand at the array of drawings clustered on the duvet. There were a series of caricatures drawn lovingly from life: Phyllis the quail, her round body quivering with suppressed merriment; Ryan the kookaburra, his gelled crest rising off his beaklike head; Michael the bandicoot, peering hopefully across the page; Kelly the lorikeet, pleased with her plumage; Angela the cassowary, ready to attack; and high above them all staring down from the eucalyptus tree in which he perched, Dwight the koala munching on a handful of leaves.
They ended up in Jim’s bed that night, because he didn’t want to disturb the pictures.
It turned out that bed was just as good—because of course, it was all about the company.
OK, one more full day in Australia, one day of travel, a first day back at Dunder Mifflin, and then it's on to the greatest hits of AU S3. Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 61: It's All About the Climb by Comfect
Jim and Pam on their last day.
Their last day in Sydney together dawned clear but not especially warm—not that Jim or Pam saw the dawn, since they were nicely tucked away in Jim’s hostel room—and even after they finished their morning routine it remained jacket weather alongside clear skies.
For Jim, this meant only one thing: the Harbour Bridge climb. He hadn’t really been sure about, at least not that sure, until last night, actually, when the vision of the bridge from the boat had made him realize that the best view would, of course, have to be from, rather than of, the bridge.
He’d certainly thought about it before. It had been one of the elements of Sydney that the travel agent had hyped to him when he was first buying the ticket to Australia, actually—not that he’d had to do much selling, since Jim had opened with “what’s the farthest I can get from Scranton for the money I can afford to spend” and gone from there. But it appeared to be an important part of the travel agent code that you had to talk up the area you were selling the trip to, even if you had a guaranteed sale on the line—or maybe this guy just really liked Sydney—and so Jim had heard a steady patter of information about the important and exciting landmarks of Sydney in between handing over credit card numbers and relevant dates.
He hadn’t really paid much attention, obviously, because he had been completely at sea when he came, but he remembered the Opera House and the Bridge—and because he remembered the Bridge, he remembered the Climb.
Pam, it turned out, had grabbed a brochure for that too, and they spent a little bit of time poring over it to figure out what they wanted to do. Jim had, to his surprise, a surplus of cash on hand, because he’d taken out money assuming he’d be desperately throwing himself at entertainments to forget Pam and, well, that had turned out not to be the case for some reason. Pam was a little uncertain about her head for heights, though, and when she mentioned it he felt obligated to admit that, while the climb seemed completely awesome in the abstract, he too was not entirely sure how he felt about the summit-summit. They agreed that the halfway “Sampler” climb was more their speed: plus, it took half as long because it went half as far, which would leave them more time for bumming around the city together, which was their other priority for the day.
After the success of calling ahead to the Zoo, they decided to do the same here, and Jim arranged an early afternoon climb, thanking his lucky stars that it was not only the off-season but a day when the midday sun wouldn’t be too much of a bother.
They wandered their way over the city towards the bridge climb through the neighborhoods they’d come to know over the week together. It was nice, actually, to have developed a familiarity with a part of the city; it made it feel a little more like they were living life together, and a little less like it was all some sort of strange dream they had wandered into. They had places they liked, inside jokes they made every time they saw certain signs or businesses, and even a street they jokingly pretended that they needed to avoid “because it was cursed.”
It was exactly the way Jim had always expected things to be with Pam—except it was all in Australia, and they’d never see it again. On the other hand, of course, they did know Scranton pretty well, and he was looking forward to getting to this point with her there as well.
Pam snapped the last buckle in on her safety harness and looked over at Jim, who had already finished and was watching her with a look of open adoration on his face.
Had he always looked at her like that? She was beginning to think he might have, when she wasn’t looking; that like water to a fish, Jim’s love had been the medium she had wandered through for long enough that she had no word for it. Well, there was love, obviously, but she’d been using that all her life and she’d never felt the same way she did now about anyone else—nor did she think anyone who hadn’t had the massive investment of bringing her into the world had ever had her best interests at heart in the way that Jim did. And maybe not even them.
So she was beginning to think, no she did think, that she had made the best decision of her life by coming to Sydney, because seeing just how much Jim and she fit together (she was pretty sure a similar expression to his was on her face, even if it hadn’t been there as often in the past) was pure joy. And that was before she considered the fact that she was about to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and look down on the Opera House from above, a view she’d never even imagined seeing even if, under consideration, it had always been possible.
In that way, she supposed, the adventure she was on now was a metaphor for Jim: it had always been available to her, if she just looked up from her expected, normal, routine life and decided to make a grab for it.
Speaking of which, she grabbed Jim’s arm and pulled him down for a kiss before linking in to the larger group of climbers they were part of. They trooped up the outside of the bridge, harbor beneath them, downtown behind them, Opera House delicately placed on its promontory to their right.
It was a glorious sight, matched (if it was matched at all) only by the fact that she was directly behind Jim’s ass as they climbed.
Just a little more Australia left. Thank you to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 62: Pool by Comfect
Jim and Pam go to relax.
The bridge climb had left Jim with indelible memories, a renewed sense of wonder at the beauty of the universe, and one holy hell of an aching back. He was used to physical exertion of course, but basketball and bridge climbing weren’t the same muscles, and (he had to admit) he’d probably been overdoing it the last few days walking all over creation when his normal day’s work had nothing in it more stressful than walking to the copier or the break room.
Pam didn’t appear to be quite as aching, or maybe she just hid it as well as he hoped he was hiding his aches from her, but she did seem extremely willing when he suggested they find a pool to soak in. They had to walk back to the hostel first, of course, but along the way they found the perfect place: a public pool across the street from Hyde Park that advertised heated pools year-round.
Jim wasn’t too proud to admit it, not to Pam, but he’d really forgotten it was winter, given the unusually moderate temperatures, and he hadn’t thought about it at all when he’d been packing, so he’d definitely packed a swimsuit. He wasn’t sure what he’d planned to do with it exactly: he hadn’t had a beach tour or anything and even he knew Sydney wasn’t the sort of place you jumped in the water from the street or anything. But he’d brought it because it was a vacation to a place he thought of as warm.
Pam, apparently, had brought a suit too—or as she put it to him “my whole damn wardrobe’s in these suitcases”—and so they suited up in their respective rooms (under the clothes of course) and headed back out.
He couldn’t deny that the aching in his back was less of a concern now that he was wondering what, exactly, was hiding under Pam’s clothes. It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen her naked; it wasn’t even that he hadn’t seen her in revealing clothing, because the image of her lingerie from that first night together was burned into his mind forever; but there was something about knowing she was wearing a swimsuit that felt special, and he was definitely distracted; enough to almost walk past the pool before a laughing Pam dragged him back to the front doors.
Pam was usually pretty shy about her body. Sure, she knew she wasn’t entirely ugly or anything. Even if Kevin had called Katy Pam 6.0, that still meant she was on the Pam spectrum, and she could definitely tell that Katy was hot—and anyway, she owned a mirror and a sense of self-esteem. But she hadn’t exactly been swimming in compliments her whole life, and it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to show herself off in public even at the best of times, even at her most confident.
But she didn’t think of it as showing herself off in public. She was there with Jim, and a bunch of Australians she’d never meet again. So it was really just showing herself off in front of Jim and that she was happy enough to do. After all, she’d worn that lingerie she’d never really intended to wear, and a whole lot less. And they were going to be under water most of the time anyway.
So of the three swimsuits she owned she originally planned to just wear the skimpiest. After all, she liked it when Jim looked at her, when his eyes focused on her, just her, and everything else seemed to fall away. But after a little deliberation, she opted instead for the most conservative, most respectable, least revealing swimsuit. Not because she didn’t want to show herself off, but because of the reason she’d bought it in the first place.
She could tell Jim was just a tiny bit disappointed when she emerged from the changing area in a suit that covered her not from head to toe but close enough. It wasn’t a wetsuit or anything, but it was definitely, she could tell, not what he’d had in mind when he’d been envisioning going to a pool with her.
She figured she had better explain.
“So, I, uh, got this for the booze cruise.” She shrugged as his arm came around her and they walked towards the leisure pool together. “And I figured that gave it some sentimental value.”
“For the booze cruise?” He looked confused, then snapped his fingers. “The memo.”
“A toothbrush, rubber-soled shoes, a ski mask…”
“And a swimsuit.” He nodded. “But why this one?”
“Don’t you see? Or more precisely, you don’t see. Can you imagine being at a company event, with Michael and Dwight and Kevin, and wearing a regular swimsuit?”
“Yep.” She smiled. “Kelly made a big fuss about it, but she wasn’t the only one who bought a swimsuit for that one. I just didn’t feel like mentioning it.”
“And I’m guessing hers was a little bit more…”
“I think you mean a little bit less.” They grinned.
“Yeah, I’d say that does make for some sentimental value.”
She slipped into the water and smiled up at him as he waited for her to clear the entry ladder. “Hey, Jim?”
“Just so you know, if it had just been you coming on the cruise, I wouldn’t have bothered buying another bathing suit.”
She pushed away from the wall as fast as she could in the shallow water and he splashed after her laughing.
It wasn’t so bad a thing when he caught her, either.
Hope you enjoyed the fluff. More on the way when they get to their flights home tomorrow. Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 63: Flights by Comfect
Jim and Pam fly back.
The next day, the last day in Australia, was somewhat ruined by the fact that Pam, buying her tickets last minute, had a 9:30 am flight, and given the nature of international travel (as well as travel to the airport) that meant getting up ungodly early.
Jim’s flight, admittedly, was at 10:30. So it wasn’t as if they really were getting up that much earlier than if she’d managed to be on his flight together. But he felt the injustice of it as they rolled into bed much too early and he stared at the ceiling.
He didn’t blame Pam. How could he? She’d come to find him. No flight could have been early enough to unmake that gesture. She could have asked him to get out of bed at 1 am after going to bed at midnight and it would have been his pleasure to do as she asked. It was the universe he blamed. Why had the cheapest ticket been the one with the earliest departure? He supposed no one else wanted to get up that early either, and given the massive time dilation on the way (and the second flight needed to get back to the east coast) no one was trying to “get there early” or anything like that. At least no one buying at their price point; he supposed maybe business class or something might be doing that.
Maybe Ryan would be flying places business class now. It seemed like the sort of thing he would do, and maybe the sort of thing assistant regional managers might do? Jim had only a vaguely fuzzy idea of what they did. He hadn’t been interested in the job, after all, just the fact that it was in not-Scranton. Probably they didn’t—after all, he didn’t really think Dunder Mifflin spent money on anyone—but who the hell knew? Not him, and now, never him. Because he wasn’t going to be an assistant regional manager. He was just going to be happy.
The train ride to the airport felt faster than the ride out had; maybe it was because they knew where they were going, or because of the sensation of time running short, or simply because somehow it actually was. But they held each other as they rode, and that made the short trip also more pleasant that the trip out.
Since they both had boarding passes for flights, they were able to pass through security together, even if Jim’s flight was later in the day, and he waited with Pam by her gate until her section was called. They made plans for what they’d do once they got back to Scranton—he via Philly, her via NYC—and promised to call once they were back in the land where their cellphones worked.
Neither of them had deleted the other’s contact information, so that was easy.
He watched Pam as she made her way onto the jetbridge and blew her a kiss when she turned to wave goodbye.
Pam’s flight was extremely uneventful—which was nice, because for she found herself completely focused on wondering if things with Jim would actually work once they were out of the magical, distant world of Sydney. Was it just an Australian thing? Was he really serious about all of this? Was he really going to move back to Scranton?
She went round and round and round until she fell asleep somewhere over…she wasn’t sure where. Maybe Vanuatu? That seemed like a nice name of a place.
When she woke up she felt better, and they came around with snacks and drinks, and she recharged herself body and soul. She remembered that she and Jim had written the emails together, that she’d heard him talk to Ryan on the phone, that she’d seen Michael’s ecstatic reply and Toby’s more restrained one herself. She remembered that This Was Jim—the man who, while he’d run away when she’d said no, had obviously never stopped loving her. She remembered that Sydney wasn’t a vacation for them from real life, but an opportunity to reconnect.
That the Jim she’d been with in Sydney had been the same Jim she’d been with in Scranton—only more so.
And that while she was a fancy new Beesly, he was unlikely to become a new Jim Halpert anytime soon.
It was a nice thing to remember. And she slept the rest of the flight back, except for the brief and disorienting changeover in LAX, in a much more peaceful mood.
I'm not doing the long-flying thing again. We'll be back in the US next chapter.
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 64: Back in the US by Comfect
Jim and Pam land.
Jim drove himself back from Philadelphia, regretting briefly the expense of having parked his car at the airport (even in the most economy lot, Philly wasn’t cheap) but realizing as he drove towards Scranton that it was a relief not to have to talk to anyone else right now. Not having to talk to anyone meant not having to explain himself to his mother (who had offered to drive him to the airport), or Mark (ditto), or Larissa (double ditto) or his father (who hadn’t, but would probably have ended up in the car if he’d taken his mother up on her request). He didn’t have to figure out how to put into the words the last amazing week, or the sudden and radical change in his plans. He didn’t have to talk at all. He could listen to sports radio (how about them Phillies?) and focus on the road, ignoring everything else.
Everything else, that was, except for his thoughts of Pam, who should have landed in New York about two hours before him. Her layover was ridiculously short—another artifact of having booked late—and so they hadn’t even really tried to meet up in LAX despite both having stops there. She would have been boarding already by the time his flight landed, and even his layover was short, so they’d agreed that she would come to his gate if her plane got delayed—or if she missed her flight, which she had evidently not done. But neither of them had counted on it, and so he had no specific plans to see her until after they got back to Scranton.
Thinking of her, he turned down the radio, pulled off the highway (he needed gas and a bathroom anyway) and, once he was refueled, dialed her number.
She picked up.
“Hey.” He could hear a smile in her voice, the same smile she’d had on her face when she’d last turned to see him from the jetway in Sydney.
“Hey yourself. Isabel get you?”
“Yeah, I’m here with Izzy. Say hi to Jim, Izzy.” He heard a muffled ‘hey’ and then Pam was back. “We’re just pulling into Scranton now, actually, so she’s heard aaaaaaaallllll about you.”
He heard another muffled shout, this time something that he was able to decipher without too much difficulty as being along the lines of “too much.” He shook his head. It was nice to know Pam was gushing about him the way he’d drowned Mark and Larissa’s ears about her for years.
“Only good things, I hope.” He tried to project his grin, like hers, through the phone. “So, uh, how was the flight?”
“Honestly? I don’t remember any of it.” She laughed. “It’s like we hit the international date line and I was out. Then there’s a brief bit of LA in there, but I’m not sure that was from this flight or the last one, and then I was getting nudged by my seatmate to get up in New York.”
“Gee, I really wore you out, didn’t I?”
“Worth it.” She laughed again. “Yours?”
“Similar, except I distinctly remember trying to read Moby-Dick and utterly failing.”
“I don’t blame you. Why were you…”
He knew where that question was going. “I thought I’d have a lot more time to kill in Australia, so I figured I might as well better myself.”
“Well, I don’t need a better Jim. I’m happy with the one I have.” He vaguely thought he heard Isabel retching in the background. “Oh, we’re turning down my street. I have to go. Call me when you get in?”
“It might be pretty late.” With a two-hour drive ahead of him, it would be dark before he got to Scranton, and it got dark late in mid-June.
“Did I stutter?” She laughed again, and he marveled again at how different it sounded when he could just revel in it, instead of worrying about Roy coming around the corner. “I’m coming!” This clearly directed at Isabel. “Call me.” Back to him. “Love you!”
“I love you too.” And then he heard the click of the phone, turned the radio up, and kept his focus on the road.
Pam and Izzy ordered a pizza, grabbed two beers, and sat down to debrief. It was a short one, given that they’d spent the two-and-a-half-hour drive doing the same, sans alcohol. And anyway, she didn’t really want to have her next call with Jim where Isabel could hear; there was something….dampening to enthusiasm about having someone, even your best friend, listen to that call.
But even when Izzy caught her not-especially-subtle hints and showed her to the guest room, she couldn’t sit still. She separated her laundry—dirty here, to run in Izzy’s washer tomorrow, clean in the other suitcase, but now folded—and flipped through the mail that she’d had forwarded to Izzy’s place. Bill, bill, condolences on her non-wedding…nothing important. She drummed her fingers. She rearranged her art materials in their special pouch.
Finally the phone rang. She hurried to pick it up.
“Hi, honey!” It was her mother. Of course. She hadn’t actually told her parents she’d arrived safely in Australia, much less gotten back. “We were so worried, but your father kept saying ‘Pammy will be OK, you worry too much.’ Well, you know him, that’s how he says he worries too, but really, would it have killed you to drop us a line? Still, we knew you’d be back. You are back, right? You actually did go?”
“I did, Mom. And before you ask…” Pam resigned herself to a long conversation, pulled the phone away from her ear for a moment and quickly texted Jim.
Parents demanding attention. Tomorrow? Breakfast?
She got a response halfway through her mother’s reaction to the fact that she and Jim had in fact found each other.
You got it. Want to be disgustingly American and go to Dunkin? Mulberry St? Love you.
She shot back a quick OK! Love you too! and went back to the long, long call with her mother.
Probably 1-2 more "getting back" chapters and then time jumps through S3 (though "Gay Witch Hunt" will probably be replaced by "Jim's first day back"). Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 65: Who's Dunkin My Donuts? by Comfect
Jim and Pam meet for breakfast.
Jim had, of course, nowhere to stay, technically. He was supposed to sleep one night at his old place, go get a moving truck and then pick up all his stuff, and drive to Stamford in the morning via a storage locker on his way out of town, then stay in a company-provided hotel for a week while he looked for apartments and got started up at Dunder Mifflin-Stamford.
That was obviously not happening.
Besides thoughts of Pam (which were the dominant theme, of course) his entire internal monologue on the way back to Scranton was composed of speculation about what he was going to do. Was he going to have to hope him mom was willing to re-sacrifice her sewing room as his bedroom? Should he beg Mark to kick out whatever new tenant he’d lined up and let him stay? He obviously couldn’t move in with Pam—he wasn’t even sure where she was staying, and anyway it was way way way too early in their relationship for that—and Larissa was still in college dorms and he didn’t really know anyone else in Scranton well enough to ask. There were his old friends, and the dudes he played basketball with at the Y, and obviously his coworkers, but no one you could ask to crash with, let alone for an extended period. So it was home or Mark, and he composed little speeches in his head all the way through southern-central-eastern Pennsylvania.
None of them were necessary, because Mark, bless his soul, was the laziest man alive and Jim was paid up on his half of the rent through June, so he hadn’t thought it was a priority to line someone up for July until, like, a couple weeks later.
The fact that that would have put him almost into July was one that Jim forcibly restrained himself from pointing out, for three reasons: one, he was so relieved he couldn’t have quarreled if he’d tried; two, they’d had this talk about Mark’s procrastination so much that it would just have been the same old words in new costumes; and three, he was definitely not dumb enough to look this particular gift horse in the mouth.
So what he’d anticipated being a lengthy discussion of pros and cons (though why he’d anticipated this, given that the longest serious conversation he’d had with Mark had been about five minutes of ‘yeah, man, let’s do it’ about moving in together in the first place, was as yet a mystery unsolved by humankind) was instead a fist bump, a toast with the two most expensive beers left in the fridge (passing up Natty Light for Bud), and grabbing his keys back from the cupboard where he’d left them for Mark to give to the new guy. This was doubly convenient, because not only did he have somewhere to live, but he also had time to call Pam.
Well, he would have if she’d been available. But her text reminded him that he owed his own parents a heads up that their prodigal son was becoming distinctly less prodigal, and he too spent the evening catching his family up on the substantial changes in his life in the past hundred or so hours.
The next morning he shot Pam a good morning text, confirming their time (a relatively relaxed 10 am—they’d landed on a Saturday and it was now Sunday, the day he’d planned to move to start at Stamford on Monday, so they didn’t have to hurry into work), and made his way down to the Mulberry Street Dunkin Donuts a jittery ten minutes early. He wasn’t jittery because he thought she might have changed her mind—he had no doubts of her interest—but because this was the first time he was going to see Pam at a place where they’d been before, but this time with her as his girlfriend. For him, it marked a seismic shift in his life—but seismic in the sense that Iceland’s geothermal energy is seismic, a blessing without which life as he knew it would be impossible.
Pam was sitting in the window of the Dunkin on Mulberry staring out the window, a steaming cappuccino in her hand, another coffee and two donuts on the table in front of her. She usually preferred tea to coffee, a fact she was warmly aware Jim knew too, but Dunkin wasn’t a really a tea place—and foamy milk was a benefit in anything hot, tea or espresso be damned. She picked up the apple fritter in front of her and took a bite.
“Starting without me, Beesly?” Jim had apparently chosen the other entrance, the one she wasn’t overlooking, and surprised her. She swallowed quickly and turned to embrace him, grateful for the height of the chair that brought them into closer proximity than usual. He hugged her back, and if they hadn’t been in public she got the sense that neither of them would have objected to deepening and intensifying the clinch.
“Just being prepared,” she returned once they came up for air, and gestured to the seat across from her. “This place doesn’t have many two person tables.” She glanced around. “Especially in the morning.”
Jim surveyed the room around them and nodded. “Good thinking.” He started for the line and then seemed to notice the food and drink. “Wait…is that for me?”
“Yep.” She bounced in her seat. “I figured you had to do so much of the paying in Australia, I might as well start by getting us both breakfast here.”
“You didn’t have to do that.” He slid into the seat across from her. “But I’m not gonna say no, so thank you.” He took a sip of the coffee. “Double cream. Nice.” A grin. “Just like I like it.”
“I love you.” He blurted it out like it had been bubbling in his stomach and simply overflowed.
“I know that too.” She grinned at him. “Check out the donut.”
He frowned at it. “Filled.” Picked it up. Rotated it around. “Not especially powdered.” Took a bite. “Boston Cream?”
“Yep. It was the closest I could come to Connecticut. You know, to thank you for not going there.”
“You really don’t need to thank me.” He wolfed down the donut, though. “I mean, let’s be honest, Beesly, the moment you told me you loved me back, moving to Connecticut really stopped being an option.”
She shrugged. “I’m still glad you didn’t. I don’t want to look up from my desk anymore and not see you.”
“Does that include your desk at home?” He grinned, and then paused. “Actually, where are you staying?”
“With Izzy right now. We’re going apartment shopping this week, if you want to come.” She tried to play it off nonchalantly, but she was pretty sure she was beaming as she said it, and he definitely was as he answered.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. But speaking of seeing me from your desk…” he leaned forward. “I know Michael probably already told the whole office I was coming back, but we really need to make sure we take the opportunity to get Dwight, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do. And I have an idea.” She leaned forward too. “Here’s what I’m thinking…”
Want to know what they're planning? Tune in next time!
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 66: First Day Back by Comfect
Jim's first day (well, morning) back, and the prank on Dwight.
The next morning Jim picked up Pam for work early and drove them both into the familiar parking lot at Dunder Mifflin Scranton. It was vital for their plan for Jim to arrive early, and Pam didn’t want to be left out of any of the fun—plus they liked going places together.
Jim had laid some groundwork for the plan after their date the day before, calling Phyllis, Kelly, Kevin, Toby, and Oscar at home. One benefit of being the only coworker interested in making sure they all got together outside of work and not at a bar immediately after working hours for happy hour was that he had everyone’s numbers. Sure, he’d really only been interested in making sure that Pam came over, but he’d gotten everyone’s contact information for cover, and it served him well in this instance. Much like the day he’d paid them all five dollars to call Dwight the wrong name, they were more than happy to play along, especially when he told them that (respectively) he’d take on their hardest client (Phyllis), find her Ryan’s new number in Stamford (Kelly), pay his buyin to the fantasy football league (Kevin), babysit Sasha on Wednesday (Toby) and keep whatever nonsense he was up to out of the annex (Oscar). Pam had spent some of the little time together they’d spent not making out on his and Mark’s couch filling him in on all the details he’d missed while he was away, work-wise, and he felt good and ready for the day—and for the prank.
He checked around and kissed Pam soundly once he was sure no one was watching, not even Hank the security guard (they weren’t shy about their relationship, but it just didn’t feel like anyone else’s business) and then he headed up while she took a short walk to go get them some breakfast at the café down the street (more of a hole in the wall that ought to be a gas station but didn’t have pumps, but it did have donuts, even if they weren’t Dunkin). It was vital that he be alone for this part, or else Dwight would twig that someone else—especially Pam—was in on it.
It was also very important that he got there before Dwight. They had about an hour or maybe two before Michael strolled in at ten or later, but Dwight was an early riser.
He slipped into the office and surveyed the scene. Ryan’s desk was cleaned out—which was good, because it wasn’t Ryan’s desk anymore, but Jim’s desk again. He put down the box he’d been carrying, carefully filled with exactly the stuff he’d always kept at his desk before Casino Night, the very same box he’d cleared out the day he’d left. He then went around to Pam’s desk, where she’d blushingly confided to him that she kept a couple of things that he’d left behind, including an old mug that was distinctively his—ugly and orange. He arranged his equipment precisely, grabbing a few handfuls of papers from the recycling bin behind Pam’s desk (which was emptied on Wednesdays, meaning it was pretty full on a Monday) to create the standard impression that his desk had always given off: that he, Jim Halpert, was dug in for the duration and had never cleaned up in his entire life, but also that it was a vibrant, eclectic working space.
Or at least that’s what Larissa would say. His mom would call it a mess. Pam called it adorably shabby. He called it lived-in. And Dwight had once memorably called it a pigsty.
It was perfect.
He logged into the computer, printed out the couple of forms he actually had to fill out and put them on Toby’s desk to confirm his re-transfer and the various charges that had been modified to his PTO and the Stamford search, and went into the break room to wait.
At exactly 8:45 on the dot, despite the fact that work began at 9, Dwight walked in, made his way to his desk, and began his morning routine. He got halfway through his neck exercises when he abruptly stopped, causing a brief grimace of pain to flit across his face—so Jim could see from the reflection in his computer screen through the blinds. He was a most accomplished lurker, was Jim.
Dwight stood up and circled the desk. He was murmuring something to himself that, as Jim approached him from the break room, became audible as a low-pitched “no, no, no.”
“Hey, Dwight.” Jim slipped past him, coffee in hand and sat down at his computer. “Hand me the Gustafson report, would you? I need to run some numbers by Mr. Gustafson.”
“Jim. When did you get back?” Dwight looked annoyed. “Who authorized you to occupy that desk?”
Jim looked up with his best puzzled mien in place. “What? Dwight, I’ve been working across from you for years. This isn’t the time for one of your little jokes. I need the Gustafson report.”
“Fact: you used to sit across from me, a reality I have long deplored. Fact: on May 12, 2006 you abandoned this office and your post and defected to the enemy in Stamford, Connecticut. Fact: you then proceeded to lure other members of this once-loyal crew to Stamford with your nefarious ways.” Dwight sniffed. “Fact: you have not sat across from me for over a month.”
“Dwight.” Jim sighed and stood up to face his coworker. “I don’t have time for whatever this game of yours is. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I mean, I wasn’t here yesterday because it was Sunday, but…” he shrugged. “Do you have the Gustafson report or not?”
“What do you even know about the Gustafson report?” He could tell Dwight was beginning to doubt himself, his favorite moment of every prank. “You weren’t here when Ryan and I put it together.”
“I’m sorry, some of us have to go do sales calls.” Jim held out his hand. “Which is precisely why I need the report from you.”
“Oh, hey Jim.” Pam stepped into the office as Dwight was grinding out Jim’s name in the particular tone of voice that told her that Jim was exactly where he was supposed to be in the execution of the prank—right on Dwight’s last nerve.
“Hey, Pam.” He gave her a wave and a wink and she felt warm all over, but pushed it down—there would be plenty of time (seriously, plenty of time) to express those emotions later. Right now it was time for teamwork.
“Did you get those forms filled out?” She slid behind her desk and started putting away her things as if she saw Jim every morning—which, she thought, she had, for over a week now. “Remember, Michael said two weeks ago he wanted them today.”
“I know. I’m just waiting for Dwight to give me the Gustafson report, and I’ll be all set.” Jim turned to Dwight, who was now gawping at her like a fish. “Which is why I was in early. The report, Dwight?”
Dwight had found his voice. “Pamela.” He glared at her. “Jim was not here two weeks ago.”
“Of course he was.” Pam looked at Dwight strangely. “Where else would he be?”
“Do you not recall standing in this very office when Michael told us all that Jim had transferred to the Stamford office?”
Oh, she did recall. She recalled only too well. But he wasn’t in Stamford, he was here, and he was here because of her. “Dwight, are you sure you’re OK? Ryan is the one who’s transferring to Stamford.”
“Only because Jim here came scuttling back with his tail between his legs.” Dwight turned to Jim, who looked unimpressed. “What’s the matter, Jim, afraid to be an ARM?”
“Isn’t that the position Ryan’s taking?” If she hadn’t known he was taking the piss, she would genuinely have thought Jim was bored. “Can we get off your little obsession with dropping the ‘to the’ and get back to the Gustafson report?”
Before Dwight could burst a blood vessel, Phyllis slipped through the door at 8:57, followed quickly by Angela, Oscar, Stanley, Kevin, Toby, and Kelly. Angela shot Jim a sharp glare and sniffed at Pam, which seemed to buoy Dwight’s spirits, but the others greeted Jim as if his presence in the office were as everyday as—well, as it had been before Casino Night. She was pretty sure Jim hadn’t talked to Stanley, but he kept his head down upon entering and barely noticed anything, so that was as normal as anything. Dwight seemed to expect something from Kelly, who no doubt had made some kind of fuss when Ryan’s transfer had been announced—but when she walked back to the annex with just a cheery “good morning Jim! Good morning Pam!” he deflated, sat down at his desk, pulled out the Gustafson report, and handed it to Jim.
I hope you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 67: The Convention by Comfect
Into AU S3 we go!
Pam and Jim weren’t making a particular secret of the fact that they were dating, but they also weren’t advertising it to the office. For one thing, Roy still worked in the warehouse, and while that was definitely 100% over and done (according to Pam, who got to decide after all) both of them agreed that he was definitely the jealous type. For another, they just didn’t really want to get running commentary from the rest of the office on their relationship, especially after Michael outed Oscar as gay and showed his usual lack of tact about it. Most of all, though, they didn’t want to end up like Kelly and Ryan, whose off-and-on romance was definitely off, which was causing her to mope around the office.
This being Kelly, moping often took the form of extremely loud and almost venomous consideration of Ryan’s character wherever she happened to be—in the break room, in the annex, or, as now, at Pam’s desk at reception.
“I mean, he had the sheer gall to call me, Kelly Kapoor, unnecessary!” she went on. “I mean, like, duh, hello, that’s the point? No one likes things that are necessary. That’s like, rice, or a toilet, or Spanx.” She tossed her head and Pam marveled at her ability to continue a conversation without the need for the other party to intervene. “I am not the rice of a relationship. He is the rice. I’m, like, the amazing awesome stuff you put on it. Rice is boring. It’s the other stuff that’s the shit. I’m the shit. He should be so lucky…”
Jim messaged Pam via IM so that Kelly wouldn’t hear (they’d long since stopped allowing their IM notification to make any noise, except for the one time Jim had subtly trained Dwight to react to it with panic).
Did she just call Ryan necessary?
And herself shit?
Pam smiled—fortunately Kelly took it as a confirmation of whatever point she’d moved on to—and messaged back.
You know, I think she did. To both.
Jim grinned and replied.
Do you think I should tell him?
She was grinning now, and that was dangerous around Kelly in full flow.
“So you’ll do it?” Kelly suddenly stopped and looked Pam straight in the eye. “Pam, puh-leeze tell me that smile means you’ll do it. I’ll, like, even do your hair and nails and stuff.”
“What…” said Pam weakly, and Jim could tell she’d lost the thread of the conversation. So had he, unfortunately, so he couldn’t help her when she looked at him like a deer in the headlights.
“Oh, it’s going to be so great!” Apparently ‘what’ was a sufficient yes for Kelly. She frowned at Pam. “This is going to take a little while. We’ll leave for my place right after work.” She turned on her heel and flounced back into the annex, waving a “see you later” over her shoulder as she did so.
Pam made her way over to Jim’s desk. He cocked an eyebrow.
“So what did you agree to, Beesly?”
“I have no idea.” Pam shrugged, and Jim felt concerned. Whatever it was, he couldn’t help—he, Dwight, and Michael were heading down to a conference in Philly for the weekend, and they had to leave tonight because of some stupid teambuilding thing Michael wanted them to do on the way “as three amigos.”
“Pamela is going out on the town with Kelly tonight, Jim.” Dwight surprised him by interjecting. “As you would know if you kept your ears open. A good salesman is always listening.” He creased the edge of a piece of paper for no reason Jim could see. “Always. Listening.”
“Oh…kay…” Jim drawled it out, and then turned to Pam. “So, like a girl’s night out?”
“I hope so.”
It was not a girls’ night out, at least not like Pam had ever had with Izzy or Penny. Kelly had kidnapped her, as promised, at 5 on the dot, and proceeded to spend the next two hours half-making over Pam’s look and half-grabbing the things she’d pulled out for Pam and deciding they looked better on her. It was harmless fun, really, and she was enjoying the idea of showing Jim some of the looks Kelly had tried on her (especially the ones that suddenly revealed a great deal more of her chest than she was used to showing at work).
Then Kelly dropped the bomb. “You’re going to love the guy I got for you!”
“Oh, he’s a cartoonist. You’ll love him. His name’s Alan.” Kelly finished applying another layer of something to her lips. “I mean, he’s nowhere near as hot as the guy who’s coming for me, but you two have so much in common. All that art.” She waved a hand. “And anyway, Pam, you need this as much as I do. We’re two ladies who’ve lost the loves of our lives, it’s totally time for us to get right back out there.”
Pam considered telling Kelly that Roy was definitely not the love of her life, but was stuck between that and pointing out that even if he wasn’t, he and she had been engaged, not whatever it was that Ryan and Kelly had had. By the time she’d figured out how to balance those two in her head Kelly—and thus the conversation—had moved on.
“So get those girls out!” Kelly reached over and pulled her shirt down a little. “Who knows, maybe I won’t need to give you a ride home!” She winked. “Which is good, because I might not be available, if you know what I mean.”
Pam suddenly needed to text Jim very badly.
Unfortunately, his last text to her told her that they’d arrived at the hotel and Michael had insisted on both Dwight and Jim coming to his room “for the teambuilding event” and bring an entire ream of paper each.
Jim was usually a pretty good texter, so that should get his attention.
Hey yourself. It turns out that teambuilding is just watching The Three Amigos. Pretty chill.
What did you need the ream of paper for?
Structural support for Michael’s pillow fort.
She snorted, and unfortunately Kelly noticed.
“Pam! You cannot, cannot, cannot snort at dinner tonight! I don’t know what kind of women cartoonists like, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t snorters!” She paused. “Although maybe we, as women, should reclaim the snort. Like, who the hell are you to tell me what sounds I can and can’t make!” She experimentally snorted. “No, that is definitely not cute. No snorting tonight, OK? And seriously, where did you even get that from?” She pulled the shawl that Pam had draped over her shoulders off and looked at it. “Since when do I even own this?” She threw it in the corner and went to find something else, apparently for Pam’s shoulders.
So apparently Kelly got me a date, Pam typed while Kelly rustled in the closet.
I didn’t know! It was important that he realize that.
I know. Can you get out of it without disappointing her? That was Jim in a nutshell—he knew that for all they made fun of her, disappointing Kelly, especially when she was fragile like now, was not something Pam relished.
Well, then you owe me two dates—and a blow by blow recounting of this one.
Blow by blow? That’s what she said. She smiled at her phone, which buzzed with Jim’s response.
Michael would be so proud.
The date came to an ignominious end when Alan tried to look down Pam’s shirt and she slapped him. Kelly was so in awe of the slap that she did a total 180, threw a drink in her date’s face, and got them both banned from Applebees. Pam reflected that she was rapidly running out of midtier chain restaurants to eat at—but that was a small price to pay for ending up eating ice cream on Kelly’s couch while watching Bend It Like Beckham and texting with Jim.
I hope this worked for you all! Thanks for the reviews and the reading; it means a lot to me to know people are still with me after all this while.
Chapter 68: The Coup by Comfect
S3 AU of The Coup
“Jesus.” Jim looked over towards the entryway to the room and saw Jan peering in as the theme from Varsity Blues started to play.
“Hi Jan! Hope you brought the Milk Duds!” Sometimes Michael was his own worst enemy. Jim and Pam exchanged a look—someone was going to have to bail him out of this one.
“Michael, can I have a minute?”
“Sure, Jan!” Michael hopped up excitedly, clearly oblivious to the mound of shit that was about to slide down onto him—as Jim could already tell from Jan’s expression—and made his way across the room. “Don’t start the movie without me, guys!”
Jim and Pam’s looks were more urgent this time. She hurried over to the TV and hit eject, while Jim followed Michael out of the room. Not quickly enough as it happened: by the time he reached them they were already in heated discussion.
“How would a movie increase productivity Michael? How on earth would it do that?”
“People work faster after…” Michael started and Jim realized he was floundering—well, realized was generous. Jim knew he was floundering, but it still amazed him that Michael hadn’t had a single idea of how to defend Movie Mondays if corporate (aka Jan) found out. Jim liked Movie Mondays. On normal ones where Jan didn’t interrupt, he and Pam could sit in the corner and surreptitiously hold hands where no one else could see. It was a relief from working at Dunder Mifflin, honestly.
“Magically?” Jan, for obvious reasons, was not as much of a fan of Movie Mondays it seemed. Time for Jim to insert himself.
“Actually, no.” He gave Jan a half-grimance half-smile as he interjected. “Michael’s been using the movies to teach us about how to work together. Varsity Blues is about teamwork, after all. Entourage was about…” he paused for a moment. What the hell was Entourage about?
“Always believing in yourself.” One of the great things about Michael, dumb as he could be sometimes, was that he always found something to say. In this case, he managed to even make it appropriate.
“Exactly.” Jim smiled at his boss. “So we work faster afterwards not because of some magical thinking, or because we have to because we spent half an hour watching a movie and so didn’t get any work done”—which was the case, but Jan didn’t need to know—“but because we’re working smarter, not harder. I cover her phone while Phyllis is on a sales call. Dwight never backs down even when a client is being difficult. That sort of thing.” He gave Jan an apologetic look. “I know it seems silly, but it works.”
“It does…” He was pretty sure the next words out of Michael’s mouth were going to be “not seem silly” so he stepped on his foot.
“Ow! Jim, watch where you’re going!”
“I think I know where Jim is going.” Jan gave him a look that said she knew exactly what he was doing, but she would let him get away with it for now. He always knew she had a soft spot for Michael, it was just a matter of giving her an excuse. “Upwards in this company.”
“Thank you, Jan.” He made a face that he hoped said sorry without embarrassing Michael too much.
“Well, I suppose, keep up the good work.” She shrugged and then shot Michael and Jim both a hard look. “But no more than half an hour, understand? If I hear you’re spending half the day on a movie…”
“Understood.” Jim nodded hard, hoping Michael would catch on—and thankfully he started nodding too.
“Exactly. Half an hour. You got it, Jan.”
Pam was only mildly surprised when Jim and Michael walked back in and Jim popped the video back in. “Jan says keep it to half an hour, guys,” Michael said, as if they were the ones who had been asking for this. “No more, no less.”
“I don’t think she said no less,” Pam whispered to Jim, who had sat back down next to her.
“You would be correct, Ms. Beesly,” he whispered back.
“Wait, Jan approved this?” Angela stuck her head into the conference room. “How is that possible?”
“It’s a teambuilding exercise, Angela,” said Michael smugly. “Now, come in and sit down. You can’t build a team without your teammates, now can you?”
“I will thank you to never refer to me as a mate again,” Angela shot back, but Pam noticed that she sat down—next to Dwight.
“Speaking of mates, I still think those two have something going on,” she whispered to Jim.
“Come on…” he scoffed under his breath. “Just because you and I…”
“No, seriously. Look at them.” They both turned away from the screen and looked at their coworkers backs. “I mean, if you and I were sitting like that, it would mean we were having a fight, but the two of them?”
“First, should I be worried that you’ve thought through what we’d look like having a fight?” Jim teased. “But second, I think you’re right. Dwight is leaning ever so slightly towards her.”
“About five degrees, yup.” Pam nudged Jim. “And Angela…”
“Is letting her ponytail touch his shoulder when she turns to glare at Michael.” Jim nodded. “I think you might be on to something.”
“Of course I am.” Pam grinned.
“Of course you are,” he agreed warmly, and they slid their hands together in the space between their seats, where no one—not even Angela, who had turned around to shush them—could see.
I don't plan on doing every episode of S3, but The Coup was irresistible. Thank you to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 69: Nice (Also, Diwali) by Comfect
Jim and Pam help Kelly.
“All right, all right, all right, all right. This isn’t Lord of the Rings.” Only Michael could insult both Kelly and Dwight with one sentence. Jim sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Kelly, can you at least tell us what to expect this evening?” He hurried the question in before Michael could move them onto another topic. “Like, anything?”
“Um, Jim, I already said there was going to be food. And dancing.” Kelly gave them an impromptu demonstration. “What more do you need to know.”
He caught Pam’s eye in desperation, and thankfully she came to the rescue.
“Kelly, I just think you should tell us a little about how your family celebrates the holiday,” she chimed in.
Jim jumped on the assist to bring down the hammer. “Before Michael feels the need to ‘inform’ us about ‘the Hindus.’”
“But I had…” Michael was just about to object (of course) that he had a very informative lecture planned when Kelly suddenly caught on. And while Michael was a champion at getting attention, no one yet born could talk over Kelly.
“:Oh! Yeah, so, we all get dressed in our nicest clothes—like that outfit I was telling you guys about before, it’s just so amazing, like, my mom usually makes me wear the same kind of sari she wears and it is so totally like a mom suit…not even a mom suit, a grandma suit, even though like no one in my family has kids yet, get over it mom, I’m just trying to live my life…and anyway this time she wasn’t in town when I got my sari and let me just tell you it’s the most amazing thing ever, you guys are going to just die when you see it. Well, maybe not you, Jim. Or you, Dwight, or…OK, you ladies are just going to die!”
“I hope I do,” Jim heard Angela mutter under her breath to Dwight.
“And anyway, we eat like the best food—my mom and my sisters have been cooking like, all day, and I would be too except, thank god, I have this job.” She smiled at Michael who seemed somewhat mollified for the loss of his Indian culture lecture. “And like, everyone is just there to see and be seen and eat the best stuff and dance the night away and you should totally dress up except not as much as me—but who cares, because it’s not like any of you losers are ever going to outshine me—and we’ll have just an amazing time.” She grinned at this and sat down, apparently done with her description of Diwali. Jim was not particularly more informed than he had been when she started, but Michael was nodding along and tearing something out of the notecards that Jim had noticed in his hands, so it was definitely time well spent.
Pam was glad Jim had gotten Kelly to give a little more detail about Diwali, because she had not previously understood how much she was expected to dress up. She’d been planning on wearing a just the same clothes she was wearing now—a white shirt, a light blue cardigan—but with Kelly’s insistence on dressing up she definitely needed to kick her game up a notch. She wasn’t sure, though, when she’d manage to do that, because she had scheduled an apartment viewing for right after work, and the Diwali party was not much after that. And she’d been so hoping that she and Jim could treat it like a date…
“Heya Beesly.” Jim popped up at her desk as if she had summoned him. “What’s up?”
“Nothing much.” She smiled at him. It was nice, she thought, to be able to just smile at him at work and not worry that her fiancé was going to walk around the corner. She’d had such a load of guilt trapped under her denial, she was realizing, and the lifting of it was like land after glacial retreat: slow, ponderous, and inevitable. “I was just thinking…”
“Oh, that’s a very important activity. You’ll want to keep that up.” He grinned. “But not too much if you want to stay at Dunder Mifflin and not go insane,” he added so that only she could hear.
She giggled. “Well, then, I’ll do my best. I was thinking, though…could you maybe pick me up for Diwali?”
“I was hoping to.” He grinned and she smiled back, but she hadn’t gotten to the meat of her request.
“Well, I was hoping you would. But that’s not all I was going to ask for.”
“Say on.” He swept a hand in a munificent gesture and then spoiled it by grabbing a jellybean and winking. Well, spoiled its munificence—it was still pretty cute.
“I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind, kind of, chauffeuring me around tonight?” She did her best puppy eyes impression. “It’s just, I don’t know if you remember, but I also have an apartment viewing set up, and with Kelly’s insisting that we dress up I’m not sure how well I’d be able to do that, make it home in time to change, and not make you wait.”
“So your solution is to bring me along with you.” He grinned and popped the jellybean in his mouth. “An admirable idea, if I do say so myself. There is one flaw I can identify in your reasoning, though.”
“And what is that?”
“You’re assuming I wasn’t already going to ask to come see the apartment with you. After all,” he lowered his voice. “I feel I have some minor investment in where it is you end up living.”
“And what on earth would make you think that?” She tried to be arch, but she somehow didn’t think people who could pull off arch—like Angela—dissolved into a fit of giggles afterwards.
“Nice, Beesly, nice.” He laughed and tapped the desk twice. “OK. Halpert Chauffeur Service engaged. Meet m in the parking lot at 5. And don’t be late. Don’t forget—I’m going to know where you live.”
The apartment was, unfortunately, disappointing, but the party was not. She made Jim cool his heels in Izzy’s living room while she changed in her friend’s bedroom—guiltily rationalizing it as an excuse to get the two of them to know each other better—and she was more than a little afraid at how he’d react to how she chose to dress for the event.
She shouldn’t have worried. The periwinkle dress, frantically ironed while he waited downstairs after being crumpled up and thrown in a corner on Casino Night then shoved into a bag when she left Roy, still fit like a charm, and the same warm glow filled his eyes when he saw her in it as she had recognized—without admitting to herself that she did—that night. Fortunately Izzy had cleared out as soon as she’d heard Pam coming down the stairs—just as they’d planned when she’d hurriedly called her on her lunch break.
“Now where did you get that dress from, Beesly?” he asked, his voice husky.
“What, this old thing?” She twirled and felt his eyes follow her. “I happen to have some very nice memories of this dress. I was wearing it when my boyfriend first told me he loved me.”
“Correction. That he was in love with you.” He reached out a hand and she grasped it firmly.
“Correction accepted. But you know what?”
“What?” She could see it was difficult for him to pay attention to her words while he stared.
“My one regret is that this dress never got to hear me say it back.” She grabbed his other hand. “Jim, I’m in love with you.”
It wasn’t like they hadn’t kissed in Australia, or since Australia, or really pretty much every day since they’d found each other again. But there was still something special about this one.
“Do we have to go to Diwali?” It was a whisper, a caress of the voice, as they broke fractionally apart.
“Kelly needs us.” She whispered it back.
“Yeah, if we don’t go Michael will probably do something stupid.” Jim sighed and kissed her softly again. “And anyway, I need to show you something.”
“What?” But he was already pulling her out the door and over to his car, where he was grabbing something out of the back seat and pulling it over his head.
“Jim.” She couldn’t believe it. When exactly had he found the time to grab a sweater in midsummer—and how was it the same one he’d worn on Casino Night too?
“Pam.” There was a wealth of smiles in that word—and of course he could read her mind, just a little. “Lunch break.”
“Of course. Shall we?” Not that anything was going to be better than just dragging him back to Izzy’s and making mad passionate love—but she had promised Izzy her apartment back for the night, and it was rude to make love on someone else’s bed—or couch—without their permission.
“I suppose we should.” Jim looked just as regretful as she did—and the fact that he didn’t suggest going to his place probably meant Mark had a similar situation to Izzy at the moment, expecting an empty house. “But promise me one thing.”
“If there’s poker at this thing, you’ll still take me all in.”
And there is our Diwali fix-it, mixed of course with the other episode. Thank you all who've kept with this! I appreciate your readership and your reviews!
Chapter 70: Branch Closing by Comfect
I mean, this one I literally could not skip. You know what happens in it.
“Listen up, everybody… I have some news. We are screwed. Dunder-Mifflin, Scranton is being shut down.” Michael did have a way with words, Jim had to admit. He’d quieted everyone in the office with just three sentences.
Well, almost everyone. Toby was of course telling Michael that he shouldn’t be announcing that, which to Jim suggested that things were maybe less final than Michael thought? Or at least less finalized. Jim himself had had an inkling about this from Pam, who said Jan had seemed “more somber and willing to put up with Michael’s bullshit” this morning—and then, even more worrying, that Michael had seemed actively down after they had spoken. Given Michael’s preternatural ability to turn every conversation with Jan into a positive, that meant something bad was coming down the pike. But he hadn’t expected it to be this bad.
“What are we going to do?” The fact that Pam was turning to him in this crisis felt good. Well, it would have felt a lot better if he’d had any idea what to do. But it felt good all the same.
“Well, it sounds from what I’m getting from Michael,” which had not been much except some muttering about traitors—which apparently included both Toby and Ryan—and Stamford, “we might be doing that move up to Stamford anyway.”
She shook her head. “I won’t be. Well, I mean, I won’t be working for Dunder Mifflin. Polly’s got seniority on me—and she has kids.”
“Yeah.” He remembered her mentioning something about that back in Sydney. “But we could still go, right? I mean, I don’t really want to leave here, but…it’s a job, right?”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “And I had a great apartment for us to view today too.”
“Do you want to play a round of What’s-Wrong-With-It?” They’d developed this game as a response to Pam’s ever-hopeful, never-successful apartment hunt. The first place they’d looked had been too expensive; the second, even optimistic Pam hadn’t been able to ignore the black mold in the bathroom; the third was definitely not up to fire code, and so on. “I personally am betting that this will finally be the one that’s nothing but kitchens. Three, four, maybe more. No bedroom, no bathroom, just kitchen.”
“As far as the eye can see.” She laughed. “Thanks, Jim, I needed that. And yes, of course, if you’re moving to Stamford, I’m moving to Stamford. I think Izzy would be glad to see the back of me by now, and it’s not like Connecticut is any further from my parents than Stamford, really.”
“Yeah.” His parents were here in town, but that couldn’t be helped. “So, uh…I’d been meaning to ask…”
“I mean, no pressure, and just because we’d be moving to Stamford wouldn’t mean you’d have to say yes—there’s that severance Stanley is giddy about, so you could afford your own place—but if we are moving, which it sounds like we are…”
“Jim Halpert, are you asking me to move in with you?”
“I’m asking you to…consider it?”
“So you’re not asking me to move in with you.”
He sighed. Fish or cut bait, his dad always said, and with Pam he had found he couldn’t cut bait if he tried. “I guess I am.”
“Then I’m accepting.”
“I mean, it would be pretty silly for me to move to another state with no job and no income just because my boyfriend’s there and not be willing to move in with him, wouldn’t it?” She smiled and him and he grinned at her and they were so wrapped up in each other that neither of them had noticed Kelly walking up to reception.
“Ohmigod, Pam, are you and Jim dating?” Well, that was one way to get other people not to be talking about the branch closing. “Is that why you slapped Alan? Was he trying to get you and Jim to do a threesome? Ohmigod, that’s totally why the two of you danced so much with each other at Diwali! My mom was like ‘who’s your friend’s boyfriend’ and I totally had to explain that you didn’t have a boyfriend and you were still getting over Roy but you do have a boyfriend and you’re totally over Roy and Jim this must be totally like exactly why you didn’t go to Stamford!” All of this was said, despite the obvious need for pauses and punctuation, in one breath.
Jim looked around. Dwight was staring at him like a hawk, mirrored by Angela, who for some reason was at his desk (score one for team Pam’s-theory on that). Phyllis was holding her hands together under her chin looking like she wanted to run over and give him a hug. Toby looked…well, Toby-like, so hangdog, while Michael wasn’t paying attention and Stanley was busy doing something—either a crossword or another calculation of what severance might mean for him. Kevin was coming out of the break room and, as Jim took in the scene, came over and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Nice work. Pam’s hot.” And he was moving back to the back room. That seemed to break the stasis everyone else was in, and he and Pam were bombarded with questions, mostly from Dwight and Kelly in very different tones, and reminded by a surprisingly starchy Toby that they “would need to fill out a form about that.”
All in all, he’d rather have kept talking about the branch closing.
Pam took a deep breath. After the scene upstairs she was afraid she had to do something she’d been putting off for a while. Jim had offered to help, but this was something she had to do for herself.
“Oh, hey, Pammy! Did you hear? Bob Vance is hiring the warehouse staff. We get to keep our jobs!” He suddenly changed from excited to almost shy, a look she hadn’t really seen before. “But, uh, I’m sorry about yours…you doing OK?”
She thought about it for a moment—and to her surprise, Roy let her. “Yeah, actually, I am.” She nodded. “I really am. But I need to talk to you, Roy.”
“Oh?” The anticipation in his voice was palpable. She was reminded of the first day back from Australia, when he’d revealed that the caterer had accidentally not been canceled and had delivered a whole pallet of chicken and fish entrees for their wedding that never was. He’d offered to bring them for lunch and share with her—“after all, we paid for it”—but she, realizing that would be a really bad idea given that she and Jim were definitely going to eat lunch together had convinced him that they should instead throw a lunch party for the entire office. He’d been holding back since, but she could tell there was hope behind his eyes that she was going to have to dash.
Well, it seemed like everyone was getting some bad news today.
“Yeah.” She took another breath. “I wanted to tell you this myself—I kind of started seeing someone.” She pressed forward into the silence. “Not kind of. Did. I’m seeing someone.”
“What?” He looked crestfallen, not a look she was used to seeing on him. “I mean, I know we didn’t get married, but I was kind of hoping…”
“I know. That’s why I wanted to tell you. I’m glad—really glad—Bob Vance is buying the warehouse, because I want only the best for you, but…”
“But you are the best for me, Pammy.” He interrupted her. “You always were.”
“Maybe I was. But I’m not now.” She remembered to breathe again. “Look, this isn’t up for discussion. I just wanted to let you know. Personally.”
“Gee, thanks.” He was hurting, she could tell, and so it was time for her to let him deal with his emotions himself—it wasn’t her responsibility anymore.
“I’m sorry, Roy.” She turned and walked upstairs, hearing a thud that she thought might be a ream of paper hitting the ground but not turning back to see.
In the office, everything was pandemonium—of course. Why had she imagined she could get peace and quiet to deal with her emotional turmoil? And turmoil it was, not because she regretted any part of what she’d done after Casino Night, but because it never came easily to her to hurt people she cared about, and she would always care about Roy.
“Pam.” Jim pulled her aside. “How’d it go?”
“Eh.” He nodded and folded his arms around her—and it was nice, in that moment, to be out to the office, even if it did mean she’d had to have the conversation she’d just had.
“Very fair.” He sighed. “Ready for some more big news?”
“Sure, why not? What happened, did Michael and Dwight accidentally kill the CEO?” They were out on some quixotic quest to get the branch to stay open.
“No. But Josh did some kind of corporate switcheroo with Staples, and Ryan did one with Office Max, and so Stamford is closing instead of us.” He swallowed and rubbed the back of his neck, and she knew he wasn’t done.
“There’s more than that,” she prodded. “What is it, Jim?”
“And since Josh and Ryan are leaving the company, they want me to be the ARM. Here. In Scranton.”
“That’s great!” She threw her arms around his neck. “Why were you nervous to tell me this?”
“Because I’d rather be moving in with you in Stamford than promoted here in Scranton.”
She rolled her eyes. “Jim. I’m not going anywhere. We can look for a place together here. Because we’re not going anywhere.” She spun him around in a circle. “I still have a job. A crappy, terrible one that has me answering my cellphone ‘Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam,’ but still!”
He grinned down at her. “Now, as your ARM, I have to say, your attitude towards your job needs some work.”
“Oh, suck it Halpert.”
So they're out to the office! Hope you enjoyed that. Thank you all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 71: The Merger by Comfect
Jim and Pam meet some new folks.
Michael had been able to talk of nothing else but the “new blood” all week, and Jim was very ready for them to be in and done and it all to be over. He and Pam had been planning various ways to mitigate the damage he would inevitably do, but they were more than moderately hindered by Michael’s surprising secrecy about his plans. Jim knew Michael was capable of keeping secrets—he’d mostly kept Jim’s for a long time, after all—but it still shocked him when Michael was quiet about something. If anything, it was more worrying than Michael at his worst.
Still, they had come up with something. Pam was on the front lines, of course, because she was the receptionist and Michael (in an odd moment of what seemed like compassion, might be poor planning, and probably had something to do with whatever surprise he was planning) had allowed the Stamford people to come in late their first day. That meant Pam would be in position to head off whatever Michael was planning, and also to do triage: which of the new people were like Dwight and which like Phyllis. Jim had called this, in a reference back to when he’d gone to Sunday School a lot more frequently than he ever would now (a fact he avoided telling Angela about like the ten plagues of Egypt) separating the sheep from the goats: those they could befriend from those who were going to be problems.
This was Dunder Mifflin—there were definitely some who were going to be problems.
He had looked over their names the night before, and done some basic Googling, but nothing really stood out. He supposed he would just have to do his part of the plan he and Pam had worked out—when she signaled him, he’d wander up to the Phyllises in the bunch and “turn on the Halpert charm,” as she’d put it. He didn’t know how much Halpert charm there was to turn on, but he’d do his best—anything to get some more friends out of this ridiculous situation.
Pam got to work on the dot of nine and waited impatiently (for once) for the workday to start. She and Jim had still not found a place to move into together yet, but she was strangely at peace with the decision. Izzy had suggested politely, and her mom not so politely, that this was exactly what she’d done with Roy: move in with him before he’d made her any definite promises of anything, and as her mother had put it, “where had that gotten her?”
Out of a toxic relationship, she thought. Not that she’d felt that way then—she was well aware of what both Izzy and her mom were referring to, the years of heartache when she and Roy had lived together “in sin” as Angela had (repeatedly) put it, or simply without commitment as she’d realized after he made no move to ask her to do more than live with him. Yes, he’d proposed, a year later, when his mother had made some kind of comment (to him, thankfully, not to her) about when he would make an “honest woman” out of her (at least so he said to her later) but it had been clear from the start that he hadn’t really meant to go any further than they’d already gone once they were living together, and that had hurt her.
Jim wasn’t like that, though. More importantly, she and Jim, as a unit, weren’t like her and Roy as a unit. She could trust him. She did trust him. And she could and did trust herself. She was a fancy new Beesly in action and thought as well as word, and she wasn’t going to let anyone, even someone she loved, walk all over her.
And of course, she knew Jim wouldn’t do that either.
She stopped this woolgathering as a tall gangly man who reminded her of dimestore Jim walked through the door alongside a shorter, attractive brunette. Since she didn’t know either of them, she was pretty sure that these must be their new coworkers—and so it indeed proved.
“Andrew Bernard, Cornell University—and Dunder Mifflin.” The tall man bowed and her eyes went, without volition or intent, towards Jim, who quirked an eyebrow. She noticed as her head tracked that the brunette with him was also looking less than impressed.
“Karen Filippelli.” She stuck out a hand and Pam shook it. “Just Dunder Mifflin.”
“Pleased to meet you both.” Pam smiled and gestured them into the office. “Pam Beesly. I run reception here. This is Jim Halpert, one of our sales…I mean, our assistant regional manager, and Dwight Schrute, our assistant to the regional manager.” Her smile widened into a grin. “Jim, could you show Karen around, and Dwight, would you mind doing the same for…Andrew, was it?”
“You are not my boss, Pamela, and I do not take instructions from you.” It was probably too much to hope that Dwight would take a hint.
“You do, however, take instructions from me, your new ARM.” Jim slid quickly into the breach. “And I think Pam’s suggestion is a good one—I think you two will get along swimmingly.” Pam smiled to herself. Jim wasn’t slow on the uptake, no sir. And more to the point, he knew how to handle Dwight—just start doing what you wanted and ignore him as needed (unless there was a good prank to pull). “Karen, have you met Phyllis Lapin? She’s another one of our salespeople…”
It was going to be a good day, she could already tell. And she and Jim were already planning to meet for coffee after work to talk about the new arrivals—maybe if Karen had the sense of humor that she thought she might have, they could invite her along. It would be nice to have another friend around at work.
And now we have met Karen and Andy! Thanks to all who've read and reviewed! I promise a new apartment and a new friend (well, Karen) coming up soon.
Chapter 72: Merger Part 2 by Comfect
The new people were alright, Jim decided. Andy was clearly a little…off—Pam had noticed that right away and correctly steered him towards Dwight, whom he had a lot in common with in the way that hydrochloric and sulfuric acid had a lot in common: both dangerous, not great together. Karen, on the other hand, seemed pretty normal, in a good way. She wasn’t Phyllis, who he thought of as his work mother, or Pam, who he was very glad he was dating, but she seemed like she could be a friend, like Toby or Kevin only, well, a little less of a sad sack. Not that he didn’t like Kevin and Toby—they were good people—but Karen just seemed fundamentally different.
He had agreed to Pam’s suggestion that they should invite her out with them this evening—after all, the two of them would be going to his place together afterwards, so it wasn’t like they wouldn’t have time to debrief together, in every sense—and now that they were here he was content to sit back and watch Pam and Karen together. Karen was sharp, that was the difference between her and all the Scrantonites—himself included. She had a wit, which had come out when Michael had tried to do standup about the new hires (a terrible idea since he clearly hadn’t done any research about them or about how to do standup) and he’d heard her whispering to herself under her breath. She dressed more formally—though that might just be an attempt to make a good first impression. She was alert and held herself erect in a way that only Dwight did at Scranton, but she didn’t give off the Dwightlike vibes that Andy gave off.
All in all, a good person to have on their side, he thought as he walked towards the two of them from the men’s room. And it would be nice for Pam to have another friend besides himself and Izzy—though he definitely hoped Pam didn’t end up living with Karen, since once they moved in together he was hoping they’d never live apart.
Pam was surprised that Jim was letting her lead with Karen, although she had to admit that there was something exciting about having another young woman in the office, so maybe it was more that she had taken the lead and let him follow. Right now they were sitting in August Coffee sipping their drinks (tea for her, a mocha for Jim, cappuccino for Karen) and she and Karen were talking about Jan.
“I don’t know, I’ve always found her really supportive.” Karen had just suggested that Jan was, perhaps, a little too focused on herself. “She’s given me help without my asking, and don’t get me started on what she did for Jim…”
“For Jim?” Karen turned in her chair towards this new object of their conversation, who was apparently checking out the decorations on the wall on his way back from the bathroom.
“Yeah. He was supposed to…well, it’s not really a secret, so I suppose I can tell you.” She realized halfway through the sentence that maybe Karen didn’t know about the switcheroo with Ryan. “He was supposed to take Ryan’s job as your ARM, but, well, he didn’t.” And now she was blushing in front of her composed, beautiful new potential friend. Great. “And, um, Jan was really helpful in making that work out. So he could stay here.”
“So that’s what it was.” Karen slammed her drink down. “They told us there was a new ARM and then jerked us around for a month before this muppet shows up and acts like he’s God’s gift to—well, everyone.”
“He hit on you, didn’t he.” It wasn’t a question. Pam had sometimes gotten the sense that Ryan would have hit on her if Kelly hadn’t kept an eye on him, and there was no doubt he would have hit on someone who looked like Karen once freed from that connection.
“He tried,” Karen snorted.
“Yeah. Well, I’m afraid that’s kind of Jim and my faults.” Jim slid into his chair as she said it and she turned to him. “Isn’t that right?”
“Isn’t what right, Beesly?” Jim grinned.
“It’s our fault that Ryan ended up in Stamford and hit on Karen.”
“Oooh. Yeah, sorry.” He grimaced at Karen. “I hope you’ll forgive me. I had strong reasons for needing to stay in Scranton.” He put his hand over Pam’s. “Ryan was really my only option.”
Karen looked between them. “So you two are…what. Dating?”
“Yes.” Jim and Pam spoke together.
“I knew it!” She took a drink. “I suppose I can forgive you…as long as you’re serious about her.” She gestured at Pam with her cup. “I wouldn’t want to be stuck with Ryan Howard over a mere fling.”
“Oh, I assure you I am.” Jim grinned. “As I’m pretty sure you knew before you asked it.”
“I had an inkling.” Karen smiled at them both. “So, you two…I’m currently living in a hotel, courtesy of Dunder Mifflin’s expense account, but I’d really like that to stop as soon as possible. Where should I be looking to live?”
“Funny you should ask.” Pam bounced in her seat. “We’re looking for a place ourselves.”
“Want to join forces, then?” Karen picked at the label on her cup and Pam suddenly realized that the other woman was actually nervous. She looked at Jim and got a brief nod in response.
“Absolutely we do.”
I couldn't leave this ep without detailing a little more. We'll move forward with the season next chapter. Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 73: A Benihana Christmas by Comfect
Jim and Pam and Karen work together.
“So what’s wrong with this one, Beesly?” Jim lounged on the couch next to Pam, who was sorting through apartments on a laptop with Karen standing at the kitchen island making free with Mark’s liquor cabinet. “I think it hit all of Karen’s preferences.”
“That’s right.” Karen came further into the room and handed Pam a glass. “It’s close to work, it’s cheap as hell, and I didn’t see any black mold.”
“Come on, Karen, I know you’re not that easy,” Pam piped up without lifting her head from the computer. Karen jiggled the glass and the clink of ice made Pam look up. “Thanks.” She took a sip. “OK, I take it back. Maybe you are that easy—or at least you will be after one of these.” She took another sip. “Yeah, I think after finishing this I wouldn’t care where I was.”
“It’s not that strong.” Karen rolled her eyes and headed back to the island. “Jim?”
“None for me, thanks.” He was nursing a beer that still had some depth left to it. He reached over and took a sip of Pam’s drink though, purely for research, and almost spat it out. “Yeah, definitely none for me. What did you find over there, airplane fuel?”
“You’re both weak, and you should feel bad.” Karen’s smile took the sting out of her words. “Seriously, though, Pam what’s wrong with the last apartment I looked at?”
“I just got a bad feeling from the landlord,” Pam insisted. “He was looking at you…well…” she went a little quiet and Jim nudged her.
“You OK there Bees?”
She smiled sadly up at him. “Yeah. I was just going to say he was looking at you,” she nodded at Karen “like Roy used to look at women when he thought I wasn’t looking.”
“Roy?” Karen looked quizzical. “Roy in the warehouse Roy?”
“Oh, you don’t know.” Pam handed Jim the laptop and took her drink back. “Yeah, we used to, uh, be engaged.” She took a pull of the drink and grimaced. “It went exactly like you’d think.”
“I don’t know, he’s kind of cute…” Karen mused, but then picked up her own drink. “But I’ll take your word for it.”
“Yeah. He’s not a bad guy, but he had a bit of wandering eye.” Jim held his tongue. He didn’t think that was all Roy had, but that wasn’t his or Pam’s problem anymore.
“Ugh. I hate that.” Karen sipped her drink, notably without any expression at all. “So that explains why it was so weird when we had that all-staff meeting last week.”
“No, that was just Michael,” Jim interjected, and Pam barked a short laugh. “OK, it was a little bit that too.”
“Yeah.” Pam shrugged. “It wasn’t a bad breakup, you know, but anytime you’ve been together that long….”
“Ten years,” Jim supplied for Karen’s benefit, and she let out a low whistle.
“Yeah,” Pam said, and Karen reached over and clinked glasses.
“Well, here’s to new beginnings.”
“To new beginnings.” They toasted and Pam made another face. Karen laughed and made a show of draining hers.
“So, no on that one,” she went on as she headed back to the island and started mixing herself another. “Gee, Jim, it’s a shame I can’t just move in here. Your roommate knows his liquor.”
“Why can’t you?” Jim surprised himself by asking. “I mean, assuming Pam and I find a place, I’m moving out anyway, and I know from experience that Mark is as lazy as it gets about finding a new roommate—he’d probably appreciate you taking over the lease.”
“And it’s definitely affordable on my salary and commission if a slacker like you could make rent,” Karen added, smiling again to disarm the comment. “Seriously, do you really think so?”
“I do.” He looked at Pam, who nodded. “Does that work for you?”
Karen took a look at the bottle she was pouring from and nodded to herself. “I think I could do that. As long as you agree to take full responsibility for the damage I’m doing to this magnificent collection right now.”
“Wait, how do I end up owing you a favor,” Jim grumbled, but his heart wasn’t in the complaint. Now he and Pam just had to find a place.
“Seriously, she’s a bitch,” Karen ground out as Pam joined her outside of the party planning committee room.
“She’s not…OK, right now she is, but she’s not always,” Pam placated her.
“Does anyone ever stand up to Angela, or…”
“I think one of her cats did once. She came in with scratches all over her face.”
“Right.” They laughed, but then there was a beat of silence, and Pam felt compelled to fill it. Karen was her friend, after all, and friends didn’t let Angela mistreat friends.
“Do you want to plan our own party? I liked your karaoke idea.”
“That sounds great. And thanks. We do a raffle too.”
“Sweet. How does this sound…”
The next few hours flew by. The Committee to Plan Parties was rocking, and Angela was not permitted to come a-knocking. They roped Jim in as well, since he clearly had nothing better to do, and as ARM he had authority to institute a party as long as it fit within the discretionary budget—a point he made to Dwight in no uncertain terms.
“What is our budget, anyway?”
“Well, the Party Planning Committee has two hundred dollars,” Pam started, when Jim raised his hand.
“Actually, the party planning committee has one hundred dollars.”
“What?” Pam looked across at him. “When did that happen?”
“When Michael put me in charge of the discretionary budget. Or, more accurately, when I decided to change the discretionary budget that Michael put me in charge of two minutes after Jan reminded him that someone had to be in charge of it three weeks ago.” He grinned. “We have two party planning committees, but only one line item in the discretionary budget, so I have officially decided that they get to split the budget.”
Pam threw her arms around his neck, while Karen looked aside with a smile on her face .
“OK, so one hundred dollars. What do we do with that?”
“What do we do? We raid Mark’s liquor cabinet.” Pam held out her hand for Jim’s keys, which he tossed to her.
“I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” But he was grinning.
“That depends. Do you like vodka?”
By the end of the day Pam had managed to reconcile the two parties, but she nevertheless felt triumphant. Maybe it was the vodka; maybe it was finally having a female friend at work who could validate her feelings about their coworkers; maybe it was the fact that Jim’s contribution to the party had been to write letters on the back of each streamer they put up in the break room that spelled out nonsense words, which Dwight insisted on trying to read as some sort of code. This was partly her fault, because she’d been setting him up for weeks to believe that the CIA was recruiting him—but it was no less funny for all the preparation that had gone into it.
“Do you think he’s still trying to figure it out?” She leaned against her desk next to Jim in the wake of a successful party. Karen had left a few minutes before and now she and Jim were alone, except for a suspicious glow underneath the men’s bathroom door where Dwight was (they thought) working on the “puzzle” in a stall.
“Probably. You know, I’m a little disappointed in him,” said Jim in her ear.
“Why’s that?” she whispered back.
“It’s a simple Caesar cipher: three letters off in each direction, if you started at the door and moved around the room clockwise. And it says ‘meet on the roof.’” Jim’s head suddenly snapped around and he pulled her down to the floor. “Quick, he’s coming out.”
They crawled under the desk as Dwight moved swiftly past them muttering to himself—and they heard the distinctive creak of the trapdoor to the roof.
“I put a camera up there, streaming to Youtube.” Jim stood up and offered her a hand. “Want to watch it on your computer?”
“Ohmigod yes.” She sat down and logged in and Jim stood behind her with his arms around her as they watched Dwight desperately try to figure out what was going on with the camera.
It was the best Christmas ever.
Thanks to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 74: Back from Vacation by Comfect
Jim and Pam find a place.
“OK, what about that one?”
It was, by now, a familiar scene. Pam, sitting at his kitchen table, going over apartments. They had somehow not yet found one; neither of them knew quite why, but somehow every apartment in the Scranton area that met their fairly reasonable requirements (no other roommates; space for Pam to paint [Jim’s insistence]; a large enough living room for Jim’s Xbox and Playstation setup [Pam’s insistence]; a kitchen they could both be in at once [mutual insistence]; affordable) was either already rented by the time they contacted the landlord, in serious disrepair, or at least forty minutes from Dunder Mifflin.
Which was impressive considering that nothing in the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area was forty minutes from anything else.
Jim and Pam (and frequently Karen, hauled in as an objective mediator to make sure they were seeing what they thought they were seeing: was that bathroom really covered in mold? Were those actual scratches at human height on the locked door in the attic? Was that hole in the wainscoting seriously large enough for Jim’s head?) had hauled themselves from Amelia Ave to Winfield St, from Adams Ct to Webster St, and they’d been disappointed every time. By now Karen and Mark (who had become fast friends) were starting to drop heavy hints to Jim about how maybe some people were a little too picky about where they lived, and Izzy’s mom had apparently talked to Pam about how it would be nice to maybe sometimes be able to visit her daughter overnight on her fold-out couch.
And anyway, while Pam was over most nights, it wasn’t the same as living together.
“What about it?”
“Well, what do you think is wrong with it? It’s a whole house but it’s in our price range.” Pam pointed at her screen. “Missing every fourth wall? Landlord with creepy doll collection prominently displayed in the house and not subject to negotiation? Mandatory violent masked orgies every third Thursday of the month with the neighbors?”
“How violent are we talking?” Jim leaned over and scanned the website. “Because once a month…”
“Jim Halpert, is this a previously undiscovered kink of yours?” Pam’s eyes danced and he decided to play along.
“I’m not sure I have any previously undiscovered kinks, but if you’d like to go experiment…”
She blushed crimson, which was endearing. “Maybe later.”
“I’ll hold you to it.” Embarrassing his girlfriend was, he already knew, great fun.
“Pinky promise?” Well, apparently she wasn’t that embarrassed, and it was his turn to sputter.
“That’s what I thought.”
Later that day at work, Pam waited for Jim to make his customary midmorning stroll up to her desk. Like clockwork, at 10:23 he was standing there, eating jellybeans, and she made her move.
“I talked to the landlord. We can tour it tonight, if you want.”
“Tour what?” He popped the bean into his mouth. “Oh, the orgy place?”
“Exactly.” She grinned. “And it’s the third Thursday of the month, too.” She laughed as he stared at her desk calendar and did a doubletake. “Anything you want to confess?”
“I guess you’ll just find out when we tour the apartment tonight.” He winked. “Where is this place again?”
“Just down the street from you and Mark.”
He nodded. “Excellent. Won’t be too hard to move then. Assuming the orgies aren’t too much for us, of course.”
She was trying her best not to get her hopes up, so when the door to the apartment creaked open seemingly of its own volition she tried not to be too disappointed. “Creepy Addams Family-style doorway” wasn’t quite disqualifying, anyway, not in her mind at least. But then she looked down and realized that, no, it wasn’t moving on its own after all. A girl who appeared to be about ten and was as far as one could possibly be from Wednesday Adams while remaining in the same general category of child had opened the door, and Pam, so used to looking up at people, had missed her entirely.
“Are you Wilhemina Pennysworth?” Jim asked, a laugh lurking behind the back of his voice.
“Yes.” The small person answered. “But so’s my mom. I think you want her. MOM.” The voice that emerged as she called for her mother would have fit a person three times her size—or more, since she was probably less than a third of Jim. “THE NEW PEOPLE ARE HERE.” She eyed them both. “I LIKE THEM.”
“Well, thank you Wilhelmina.” Pam figured it was good to stay on the good side of this diminutive shouter.
“You’re welcome.” She smiled and pulled the door fully open. “I have a sense about people. Mom and I live across the street.” She pointed at a pretty yellow house covered in vines. “My gramma and grandpa used to live here. Then they died.” She skipped into the house and gestured them to follow. Pam decided that her initial assessment about the Addams Family was perhaps more on the nose than she’d believed.
“Oh, hello there.” A harried-looking woman with a wrench and a ponytail came out of what Pam could tell was probably the kitchen and wiped her hands on her jeans before sticking one out to shake. “Willy Pennysworth. I see you’ve met Mina. And you must be Jim and Pam.,” she said, shaking first Jim’s hand and then Pam’s. “Or is it Pam and Jim? I never like to make assumptions.”
“Right the first time.” Jim grinned at her and then at Mina, who smiled sunnily back.
“Glad to meet you. I was just making sure the new dishwasher was correctly installed. They sent a man, but you know how it is—I like to check. One time I had a toilet delivered and they put it in the wrong bathroom by mistake.” Willy started walking with Mina skipping beside her and Pam and Jim were pulled into their orbit. “Shall I give you the tour?”
Pam and Jim exchanged a look. “Lead on,” they said at once.
“Jinx, you owe me a Coke.” Pam grinned. “Too slow, Halpert.” He just shook his head and they trailed behind Willy as she started the tour, quite proudly, with the new, correctly-installed dishwasher and the kitchen around it.
Several rooms later, Pam was in heaven. Jim had quite expertly mimed to Willy (with Mina’s loud attempts at translation) about Pam’s painting and she’d led them into a large, well-lit room in the back of the house that was simply perfect. She spun around in delight and caught sight of Jim, hands moving quickly, communicating something to Mina, who promptly grabbed Pam’s hand and dragged her towards a door, heedless of her mother’s “Mina, don’t bother the…”
That was all Pam heard before she was through the door and stopped thinking about Willy at all.
It was a terrace. It hadn’t been visible on any of the online photos—she had looked at them all. It wasn’t visible from the street—she’d driven down this street before and never seen it. She didn’t even think they made houses like this in Scranton. But here, on the second floor overlooking the backyard, screened from the street by a pair of mighty oaks but open to light from above, was the terrace of her dreams.
“My grampa put it up himself,” Mina said proudly. “He said every house ought to have its own character, and this was going to be his house and his character.” She looked around and gestured Pam down to her level. Pam crouched and Mina whispered in her ear. “He had a mustache.”
Apparently that was all she was going to get. Pam nodded solemnly and it must have been the right response because Mina skipped away bellowing about how she liked these people, could she keep them?
Pam looked for Jim but didn’t see him—which surprised her, since he should have been gleefully cackling about what he and Mina had conspired to show her. She followed Mina through the doors back into the house and looked around—but still no Jim.
She found Willy, who showed her another bedroom, but yet again no Jim. Pam was becoming worried, and trying to figure out how to politely point out to her potential landlady that there were supposed to be two of us—was this how horror movies started?—when the front door creaked open loudly.
Jim walked in, handed her a Coke, and cleared his throat.
“I say we take it, don’t you?”
And there we go! Thank you to all who've read and reviewed!
Chapter 75: Phyllis's Wedding by Comfect
Jim and Pam go to the wedding.
“It’s exactly. The. Fucking. Same.” Pam was marveling at the details of the wedding venue as they waited for Phyllis and company to walk down the aisle. “Exactly the same. Seriously, precisely, exactly the same.”
“As what?” He peered around and gave a wave to Karen, sitting across the way with her plus-one, which she’d surprised him by using on Mark. Mark nodded, he nodded, and the two of them turned back to their respective dates. Frankly, it surprised him that Phyllis had given Karen a plus-one, but the two of them had hit it off during one of Michael’s weird pranklike training rituals and hey, the venue was large enough that they all could have had plus-ones. Not that he wanted to be here with anyone but Pam.
“As my wedding with Roy.” Pam glanced around, and, evidently convinced that no one was watching them, started pointing. “P&R—no one calls him Robert, he’s Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration— ”
“The R could stand for refrigerator,” Jim added as he tried to figure out how to best support Pam in this moment.
“Heh.” She gave him a small smile but kept on trucking. “The same colors. The same decorations.”
“Not the same bride or groom.” He grabbed her hand.
She squeezed. “Yes, and thank God for that. She and Bob are well-matched, while Roy and I…”
“Well, I didn’t want to be the one to say it…”
“You did, though, didn’t you? In a thousand little ways. And one big one.” She squeezed his hand again. “But seriously, did you not notice?”
“I kind of tried to ignore your wedding planning as much as possible. I even complained to Toby about it, remember?”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “That’s what I meant by a thousand little ways. And honestly, I’m glad I didn’t end up with this wedding. That color scheme is fine, but it’s not really me, you know?”
“It might be Phyllis.” He looked around. The colors were the same as the ones he’d been forced to watch Pam plan with, but he hadn’t noticed because they suited Phyllis and her aesthetic so much better. They’d never seemed Pam-like to him, but they were Vance-y.
“It might at that.” Pam seemed somewhat mollified.
He looked more carefully at the program. “She even got Kevin and his band to play the reception.”
“Wait, what? I didn’t plan that.” She grabbed his program, putting her own down in the process he noticed, and stared at it. There was something coupley about it that made him smile.
“You might not have, but Roy did, remember?”
“Oh my God.” She looked up with a grin. “You know, in the whole monthlong trying-to-figure-things-out-with-Roy period that completely slipped my mind?” She laughed. “That, right there, should have been enough of a sign.”
“So you’re saying that’s a no on Scrantonicity from you? Good to know.” He smiled back at her and then the music started and the wedding itself began.
At the reception Pam was still trying to figure out how she felt: about the wedding, about the way Michael had tried—was trying—to take over, about that little comment Jim had made about the band. Was he going to propose? They were living together; it was very nice, honestly. Much nicer than it had ever been with Roy. Oh, Jim wasn’t perfect (he needed to realize that you could clean before a patina formed on the shower) but he was perfect for her (once she pointed out the patina he did something about it—oh, and he also did most of the cooking, which freed up her evenings for art). Would she mind if he was thinking of proposing? Silly question. Would she like to be engaged to Jim? Sillier question. Was she ready to be engaged again?
Better question. Still not certain. Peering into her own mind was like shaking a magic 8 ball: reply hazy, please try again.
One thing she was certain about, though, was that she was glad this wasn’t her wedding: that she hadn’t gone through with it with Roy. The man himself had found his way over to her when Jim was off getting drinks, mumbling something about “Halpert, huh?” that strongly implied that Darryl (who was hovering over his shoulder) had clued him in earlier, and she’d smiled and said yes and then grabbed Karen as protective coloration when he’d tried to say something about how it might have been them. She knew somehow that he didn’t recognize the decorations or the themes or any of it—and it was for the best not to poke that wound, even if it was healing very rapidly with how happy she was with Jim.
“Look at them go.” Jim gestured at Mark and Karen sliding around the dancefloor to an upbeat Police song.
“I expected it of Karen, but when did Mark learn to dance like that?” she asked.
Jim shrugged. “There was a while there, when things got really bad last year, when I was dragging him out to the Y multiple times a weekend. He’s a good sport, he never said no, but at one point he pulled me aside and said ‘dude. I don’t like basketball that much.’ So he signed up for the only class they were offering during the time I was playing pickup hoops: ballroom dance.”
“He’s pretty good.” Pam sipped her drink and looked at the two of their friends whizzing around out there.
“Any chance I can convince you to join me for a whirl?” Jim stood up and held out his hand. “After a while he started dragging me to that class too.”
“Oh, no, I’m such a dorky dancer,” she started, but he kept his hand out.
“Don’t you Han Solo me.”
“Come on, give the people what they want.” He started a mock-cheer. “Beesly! Beesly!”
“Okay, okay.” She took his hand and let him lead her out onto the floor. “Anything to make you shut up.”
“I can think of some other options.” He winked and pulled her into his arms.
“Well, be sure to let me know.” And they were off. It turned out that dancing was something she was bad at, but dancing with Jim she no longer cared.
Hope you enjoyed this fix-it too! Thanks to all who've been reading and reviewing; I really treasure your feedback.
Chapter 76: Business School by Comfect
Who doesn't love a good art show?
One of the major positives of dating Pam—besides the baseline positive, of course, that he was dating Pam—was that Jim got to get a quick look at her art before she showed anyone else. Not that she showed a lot of other people. But she was in this art class at the community college, so she did end up showing her classmates, or at least her teacher, a lot of the pieces she was working on. Of course, they got to see the finished works. He got to see the drafts she did in what he called her studio and she called “my studio, well, not really a studio, more of a…” before he nudged her and she smiled and said “my studio” (this had happened three times already). She was protective of the more finished versions, which she always made sure to do when he was at the Y playing ball, telling him repeatedly that he’d have to wait to see them. But the drafts she either didn’t care about or had accepted that he did, so he got to see them.
They were good.
But today was the day he got to graduate from seeing drafts to seeing final pieces, because Pam was in the class art show, in “the real studio” as she called it, and he was very excited. Pam had to go early to set up, and she had absolutely barred him from coming to help (“you don’t get to see my finished pieces any earlier than the show, buster” was the way she put it). So he and Karen and Mark were getting dinner at Cugino’s (including a take-out box for Pam) and then heading over to the show as soon as it opened.
He wasn’t sure who else from the office would be coming. Pam had put up some flyers, and he had particularly recommended it to Toby and Oscar, the only ones in the office who seemed into the kind of art Pam’s class did (or really, any art beyond the pop music Kelly was into or The Police). But regardless of who showed up, he was looking forward to the chance to see Pam’s work for real and to get to watch her watch other people see it too.
Pam was nervous. Not pants-shittingly nervous or anything, not even breaking-up-with-Roy nervous or telling-Roy-about-Jim nervous. Just nervous. She was chewing a thumbnail, specifically, something she had tried to kick as a habit.
She’d gotten her pieces up early, because Jim had had the bright idea of pre-attaching the wires on the back so that all she had to do was find a hook or drive a nail. But that meant she had nothing to do but help others get their stuff up and then wait. It was three minutes before the show opened, no one was there yet, and she was nervous.
What if no one liked her work? She had a mix of pieces, because they’d done a mix of art styles this semester: a landscape of the office building, a still life (stapler-in-jello), and a series of increasingly complex scenes with movement and (she thought) emotion. It was all representational, because the class was (wait for it) Representational Art, so there were no Pollocks or Rothkos (or, she admitted, more likely sad imitations of those) but she had been confident twenty minutes ago that there was good art.
Now she was less so.
The clock ticked over and their teacher went and unlocked the door. A small group shuffled in, mostly family of other students, she thought, and then she caught sight of four figures making a beeline for her.
“Hey.” Jim grinned at her as she hastily pulled her thumb out of her mouth and tried to pretend she hadn’t just been gnawing on it.
“Hi.” She smiled at him, Karen, and Mark, and she explained the concept of the show to Mark, who had apparently not heard all of it from Karen—or who was kindly letting her get her jitters out by explaining it. Karen then dragged Mark away to go look at one of her classmates’ sculptures (Representational Art could be in any medium) and Jim handed her a nondescript box.
“Contraband.” He grinned. “A Cugino’s calzone, so you can eat while you stand.”
“Thank you.” She suddenly realized she was ravenous—she hadn’t had a full meal at lunch because she was so nervous.
“Anything for you, Beesly.” He lowered his voice and looked around. “Listen—you know I’m dying to see your pieces, but I also know you’re worried about what I’m going to say about them, so I’m going to go check out everyone else’s and let you eat your calzone without worrying about what I’m going to say.” He kissed her on the forehead. “And then I’m going to come back and we’re going to talk about their stuff and then I’m going to look at yours. Deal?”
“Deal.” She smiled up at him. “Start with Jeremy’s. It’s really good.”
“Orders received and accepted.” He saluted. “Which one is Jeremy again?”
“There.” She pointed with the calzone at the short, squat man standing in front of a gigantic watercolor of a squid.
“Gotcha.” He winked, kissed her quickly, and headed over towards Jeremy. She could hear a “hey! Pam says you’re pretty good” as he greeted her classmate before the buzz of the room overtook him. She ate the calzone as calmly as she could, but it was still gone before she expected.
Apparently the calzone had been more engrossing than she’d thought, though, since she’d apparently missed Oscar and his boyfriend Gil slipping into the space and coming up to her pieces. She was behind a pillar to them, so she stood stock still and overheard them talking about her art. They were standing in front of a particularly complex piece modeled off of how it had felt to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and look out over the skyline—it was intended as a representation of the city imbued with the mingled triumph and exhaustion of reaching the viewpoint: a light touch on the details of the skyline mixed with the strong bold strokes of the details that popped out.
“I like it,” Gil was saying. “That is motel art. No courage, no honesty.” He gestured back at the painting of the office building. “But this? There’s really something here.” He sauntered over to the next piece, a koala where she had tried her best to fully express the vapidity and idiocy of the species. “And this? This is a judgment on the human soul.”
Maybe Dwight’s, she thought, remembering Jim’s souvenir koala that was currently sitting on top of the mantelpiece at home and smothering a laugh. She decided to step out from behind the pillar before they said anything else—nice or hurtful—about her art.
“Hey, Oscar. Hey, Gil. Thanks so much for coming.”
Twenty minutes later, Karen and Mark came up and made their excuses, which Pam suspected had more to do with the 76ers game coming on at 8 than anything else. They said some nice things about the koala, punctuated by Karen pulling her half-aside and asking in all seriousness “is that Dwight?” and breaking into a sharp laugh that surprised them both. But then they were gone, and it was just her and her art.
Well, and Jim, who slipped up next to her as soon as Karen and Mark departed.
“So, Beesly, it looks like my ride left. Any chance I could bum one off of you?”
“I don’t know…what will you give me in exchange?”
“A serious consideration of your art?”
They spent the next half hour, though, not talking about her art but about her classmates’. Jim had fulfilled his promise and looked at each and every one of their pieces, and she was surprised by how much he’d absorbed.
“Wait, you’re saying that Laney’s landscape conveys sadness to you? I thought of it as a carefree, open space.”
“There is that element in it, but I think if you look at the edges, you see a darkness, an almost emptiness, that implies that this is maybe the one happy place surrounded by…”
“Oh I see! Yes.” The piece in question was about 10x10 and in place on the far wall, so they could both see what they were commenting on. “Almost as if it were a dream, or at least unreal somehow.”
“Exactly.” They traded smiles. “You ready to talk about yours?”
“I…” she was, but then Michael intervened. She hadn’t seen him come up, but she could definitely not ignore him now.
“Pam-casso! Jimbo!” He gave them both big hugs. “So, our resident artiste. And her big hunk of man. Let’s see what we have here!” He walked up to the painting of the stapler in jello, which she was beginning to realize was her weakest work—it was the first one of these she’d done, and it showed. “Wow! You did these… freehand?”
She and Jim exchanged a glance. “Yep.”
“My God, these could be tracings!” He nudged Jim. “Remember when you used to prank Dwight, like all the time with this sort of stuff?”
“Uh, yeah. Used to.” Jim rubbed the back of his neck, but Michael was already on to the painting of the office—her simplest and most purely representational piece, representing a particular moment, with a few improvements.
“Ohh! Look at this one. Wow! You nailed it.” He sighed. “How much?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t see a… price.”
She looked at Jim for confirmation that she was hearing this correctly. “Um… you wanna buy it?”
Michael bounced on his toes. “Well, yeah. Yeah, we have to have it for the office. I mean, there’s my… window, and there’s my car! That your car?”
“And that’s…is that you and Jim?” He peered at the paper. “Jimster! You made it onto the art!” He punched Jim in the arm. “That is our building… and we sell paper. … I am really proud of you.” He reached out to punch Pam in the arm but stopped himself before completing the motion.
But there was something about his sheer exuberance, his joy, that made her take advantage of his motion to turn it into a hug.
“Thank you, Michael.”
“You’re welcome.” One of the best things about Michael was that he unlikely to refuse thanks even if he had no idea why he was getting them.
After selling the art to Michael—a strange experience but not an unpleasant one—it was time for the show to end. She and Jim finally had time to talk about her pieces as they took them down and stowed them in her trunk, but the conversation continued on through the night until they looked up at the clock and realized it was well after any reasonable bedtime if they were going into work the next day. Which, unfortunately, they were.
Jim leaned over and kissed her.
“Pam, I just wanted to say—your art is amazing, and I’m really proud of you.” He paused. “Probably not in the same way Michael is, but still.” He grinned. “I enjoyed your show. And would you mind terribly if I told you your art was the prettiest of all the art?”
She cocked her head. “That depends. What do you mean by pretty?”
“I mean that there’s no one else’s art I wanted to see hanging from the walls of our house.”
“That’s a shame, because I already bought Jeremy’s giant squid…”
The rest of her joke was smothered by the throw pillow whose name Jim took rather too literally.
I hope that worked for you! Thank you to all who've been reading and reviewing. It really does give me strength to read what you have to say (even criticisms)!
Chapter 77: Cocktails by Comfect
Jim and Pam go to a party.
“Thanks for coming to this.” Jim pulled up to David Wallace’s house and turned to Pam, who was busy unbuckling herself from the passenger’s seat. “Seriously, I know this isn’t your kind of thing…”
“Is it important for your job?” She smiled up at him.
“Yes?” Where was she going with this?
“Will you feel more comfortable with me there?”
“And is there free food and drink?”
“Then of course I’m going, silly.” She punched him in the arm and jumped out of the car, forcing him to follow. He felt warm inside—this was, he supposed, how relationships worked? You did things with each other because it was better than doing them alone?
They walked into the house and started to do their best version of mingling. Neither of them felt particularly comfortable around what Jim had called “corporate types,” but then again no one actually seemed to feel that comfortable, and Jim was able to crack a couple of jokes that eventually got a little circle of people around them chatting away.
One of them turned out to be David Wallace, to Jim’s surprise. They got to talking about basketball—both of them were certain that the 76ers were right to go with The Process—and from there to, well, basically everything that wasn’t paper. This was good, because Jim cared very little about paper, and that had been him main concern about this event beforehand: that other people would care about it.
“Hey, Rachel!” David waved a woman over towards the group. “Jim, this is Rachel, my wife.”
“Charmed.” He shook Rachel’s hand and took the opportunity to inveigle Pam into the conversation as well. “This is Pam, my girlfriend.”
“Pleased to meet you both.” Rachel smiled at David and then at them both.
“Wait, Pam…do you also work at Scranton?” David’s forehead crinkled. “I seem to recall Jan saying something about a Pam who ran interference for Michael.”
Pam nodded, and before she or Jim could say anything Rachel charged into the breach. “Oh, that’s right!” She grabbed Pam’s arm and pulled her aside. “You must tell me how you manage him.” She gestured over towards another part of the room where Jim could make out Michael and Jan talking to another group of partygoers. “Seriously, I can use all the help I can get.”
“I…” Pam looked up at him and he made his best ‘I’ll back you up whichever way you go with this’ look. “I’d love to.” She turned to him and grinned. “Don’t get into too much trouble without me.”
“He won’t.” David slapped him on the shoulder. “Unless you consider getting his butt kicked at HORSE trouble. What do you say, Jim, want to shoot a few hoops? I have a court out back.” Rachel rolled her eyes as she escorted Pam away and Jim found himself somehow, improbably, playing basketball with the CFO.
“Seriously.” Rachel pulled Pam into a side room. “How do you deal with him?”
“On a case by case basis.” Pam shrugged. “What did he do now?”
“Well, he and Jan are…talking…about some…personal details?” Rachel looked uncomfortable, and Pam immediately understood—the gist at least.
“So, in that case I’d suggest divide and conquer.” She looked around the room, which was hung with some really remarkable paintings—including what she was pretty sure was a Turner. “Jan doesn’t really like talking about that kind of thing, so if you can separate them and then get Michael to talk about something else you’ll get them both on a new track.”
“OK…but how do we get him to talk about something else?” Rachel sat down and waved Pam into another overstuffed chair.
“I mean, with Michael it could literally be as simple as ‘ask him about something else.’ As long as he’s not next to Jan.”
“Ah. So the divide part of divide and conquer…”
“Is key, yes.”
“Makes sense.” Rachel noticed Pam looking at the paintings. “You like art?”
“Yes?” It came out as more of a question than Pam had intended, but Rachel didn’t seem to notice.
“This is really my room. David has his basketball court out back, but the walls in here? They’re my passion. Would you like a tour?”
“Shouldn’t we separate Jan and Michael first?”
Rachel waved that away. “We can do that anytime. It’s so rare that any of David’s guests have any interest in art.” She clapped her hands. “Let’s start in the red room!”
“The red…” but Rachel had popped up and opened a door into a room completely filled with paintings, the dominant color of which was, well, red.
“This is going to be fun!” gushed Rachel as she ushered Pam inside.
And what do you know? It was.
And that is that. A bit shorter this time--not as much angst to catch up on once we drop Roy out. Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 78: Women's Appreciation by Comfect
This chapter has nothing to do with the episode except it is set around that time.
“So what did Rachel want?” Jim asked as Pam joined him on the terrace after finishing her phone call. It was strange to think that he was the sort of person who was on first-name terms with the CFO and his wife, stranger still that Pam was too—and that while David Wallace might call him at work, Pam and Rachel had exchanged cellphone numbers. They’d actually been talking quite a bit recently; apparently Rachel Wallace didn’t have a lot of friends who were into art, and Pam was blossoming under the attention, he could tell.
“Well, first of all, she told me that you have been holding out on me, mister.” Pam crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow at him. “Did you or did you not get a call from David this afternoon?”
“I did,” he acknowledged with a nod.
“And did or did not this phone call happen to include the offer of a job at corporate?”
“It did,” he nodded again. “Or really just an interview. Nothing more than that.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me?” She crossed over and punched him in the shoulder. “I was dying over there playing FreeCell and you got a job offer—OK, an interview, but you know how much he likes you—and you didn’t tell me?”
“Well, he called at 5. Exactly 5.” Jim leaned back and watched his girlfriend. He could tell a real pout from a fake one, and this one was doing a very good job of being fake. She was clearly as excited as he’d been when he’d gotten the call. “And you may recall that someone has art class on Thursdays, so she’d already left by 5, while her darling boyfriend helped distract Dwight and Michael. And you might also recall that she was already on the phone when she walked in the door at 7, mouthed ‘Rachel’ at said darling boyfriend, and went and hid in the bedroom.” He crossed his arms behind his head. “So I would say that by any fair definition this constituted the first opportunity for me to tell you.”
“And?” She cocked her head to the side again.
“And by the way, Beesly, I got a call from David Wallace today”
“The CFO?” she put her hands to her mouth and mock-gasped. “What did he want?”
“He wants me to come interview for some corporate job next month, up in New York.”
“Fascinating.” She grinned and plopped down in his lap, while his arms instinctively came up to cuddle her. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“Of course.” He squeezed her tight. “Now, answer my question.”
“What question was that?” She kissed him and he briefly considered letting it go before deciding that he’d rather like to know.
“What did Rachel want?”
“Oh yeah.” She curled up in his lap and leaned her head against his shoulder. It was a good thing the patio furniture her dad had dropped by (gruffly commenting that ‘we barely use it anyway’) was sturdy enough for two. “She said David was offering you a job he really wanted you to take.”
“I knew that, thank you.” He squeezed her tight and she snuggled in closer.
“And I think she wanted to talk me into talking you into taking it.”
“Oh?” Jim had a way of being quiet when he wanted to hear what she had to say that could sometimes be annoying, but was usually helpful. Like right now.
“Yeah.” She sat up enough to see his eyes as they talked. “She thinks it would be a really great opportunity. For both of us.”
“Both of us?”
“Yes…and of course, she’d love it if we lived, how did she put it, a little closer to civilization.” They both laughed. Pam and Rachel got on like a house on fire, but both she and Jim were well aware that for all that they liked her, Rachel thought of Scranton as somewhere akin to the depths of furthest Siberia in terms of cultural cachet, and was continually trying to get Pam to visit.
“Hah.” Jim had been supportive—‘go ahead! I know you’d love to see the museums in New York’—but she had balked at imposing on her new friend’s hospitality.
“Yeah.” She smiled nervously. This was the part that Rachel had really been pushing under cover of telling her about Jim’s job offer. “She was telling me about this little art school she knows a professor at…”
“What’s it called?” Jim perked up at that.
“The Pratt something. It’s in Brooklyn, I think.”
“Cool.” He shifted under her. “What did she say about it?”
“She suggested I should look into it. Apparently Dunder Mifflin has scholarships for employees and dependents who take classes there? She took one, that’s how she met the professor.”
“Very cool.” He smiled up at her—an experience only available when sitting or lying down, given their difference in heights—and she smiled back. “Am I correct in assuming that this isn’t about distance learning? That Rachel was hinting that you should go there if I got the job at corporate?”
“I’m not sure hinting is the right word.” She grinned, glad that he seemed to be taking this well. “She outright said it. More than once.”
He threw back his head and laughed. “Well, she’s right. I mean, it’s just an interview, and I’ve never been sure that I want to make Dunder Mifflin a career…but you totally have the talent.” He made a motion indicating he wanted to stand up and she slid off him to her feet. He stood, keeping an arm around her, and squeezed. “I wasn’t sure I was interested when David suggested the interview, but this sounds like a real opportunity for you.” He started walking inside and she moved along with him. “I think you should look into it.”
OK. There are three chapters of this left: one for Beach Games and a two-parter for The Job. Thanks to all who've stuck with it (or who've discovered it partway through): I really appreciate all your feedback!
Chapter 79: Beach Games by Comfect
AU of Beach Games--note that we're getting further and further from canon here.
Karen’s head popped up over the divider between the bus seats, like an excited fourth-grader on a school fieldtrip—which Jim supposed this functionally was. Her head swiveled left, then right, a parody of caution, before she turned to the two of them with a grin. “Can you keep a secret?”
He and Pam exchanged a glance. “From who?” he asked, as they leaned closer to her.
She waved an arm. “Them. All of them.”
Pam shrugged. “Probably.”
Karen leaned further over. Stanley was asleep; Phyllis was knitting; Dwight and Angela had their heads together in the front seat, while Michael and Toby were arguing about something in the seat across from them. Kelly was reading something with a big splashy picture of J. Lo on the cover, and Kevin was trying to convince Andy to join their fantasy football league; Meredith was passed out in the back; Oscar was reading a novel he was currently two hundred pages into; and Creed was talking animatedly to the empty seat beside him, which appeared to be disagreeing with him on something important.
The upshot was that somehow no one was paying attention to any of them.
“I got an offer to interview at Corporate.” She raised her eyebrows. “I’m guessing you got one too, am I right, Jim?”
“I wonder if anyone else did. Dwight? Andy?”
“Probably not.” He shrugged. “Can you imagine either of them at corporate?”
“Heh.” She smirked.
“If it’s just you two…” Pam piped up. “I hope you don’t mind, Karen, but I’d really rather Jim got it.”
“Well of course you would say that.” Karen stuck her tongue out at Pam while rolling her eyes. “He’s got you wrapped around his little finger.”
“Oh, he wouldn’t fit around my little finger,” Pam started and then blushed. Oh God, Jim thought. That’s totally not what she meant, but here we go. Karen guffawed, and suddenly the moment was broken because everyone was looking at them.
“Good one, Pam,” choked out Karen. “I really needed that image, thank you very much.”
Jim debated letting it go and decided what the hell. Karen was their friend. He shrugged casually. “Just ask Mark. He and I go to the Y all the time.” Karen and Pam both stared at him and he did his best to look innocent. “So he hears me calling Pam to ask how her art class went and he knows how important she is to me. Get your minds out of the gutter.”
Michael’s announcement that he was “interviewing for a job at corporate” and clearly “the most qualified” was only really a surprise in that Jim and Pam (and Karen) all knew the second statement to be false. Pam brokered a treaty between her friend and her boyfriend that left neither of them competing all that hard—but it was frustrating to have Michael decide that of course she had to take notes on this day of all days. Jim tried to intervene, but Michael was adamant: something about how “the search for his successor must be documented like the historical artifact it was” or words to that effect.
She spent her time doodling pictures of her coworkers as Australian animals again, only this time exaggerating the caricatures even more than she had before, almost to the point of a political cartoon. Angela the cassowary now had blood dripping from her beak, with a ragged hole in Kevin the quokka’s back indicating where it had come from. Dwight the koala was staring at a dish of leaves labeled “Regional Manager” while hanging from a tree labeled “Assistant To The.” Karen was a new sketch: her alert dingo stared from the page in the direction labeled “Bigger and Better Things.”
“Nice work, Beesly.” Jim came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “Ooooh, is that Angela?”
“Thanks. And obviously.” She leaned back into him. “How’s the competition going?”
“I think Stanley’s gone insane. The crossword puzzles might be his Kryptonite: deprived of them, he’s a force.” Jim shrugged. “Not too bad overall though. Aren’t you supposed to be keeping track?”
“Do you really think Michael is going to let any notes I take stand in the way of his decision? Assuming he even gets the corporate job?”
“Well, no.” He hugged her even closer and she reveled in the feeling. “Thanks for having my back with Karen. Even if you did make reference to having…”
“That was not what I meant.” Her cheeks were already red with a touch of sunburn, but now they were crimson for other reasons. “And you know it.”
“And so does she.” He kissed the top of her head.
“I suppose she does.” She leaned up and kissed him again. “Now go make me proud by not competing for Michael’s job.”
“On it. You know I’m great at not doing my job.” He kissed her again, saluted, and ran back to the others.
Later that afternoon, after Dwight had burned himself on the coals and Michael had made even more of a fool of himself in front of the group (as if there were room for him to be sillier, she thought) Pam stood in front of the coal walk and thought about New York. She knew there was a good chance Karen would get the job—Michael was unlikely, but technically senior—but she couldn’t shake the feeling that Jim was going to get it. He was funny, he was smart, he was good at his job (even if he didn’t always take it entirely seriously, that was probably a good thing) and anyway David Wallace liked him.
But if Jim got it, what did that mean for her?
Was she the sort of person who followed a man? She had decided she wasn’t when she didn’t marry Roy, but then again this wasn’t “a man,” or even “Roy.” This was Jim. Would she follow Jim to New York?
If she did, would she have the guts to try to go to art school, or would she just get another receptionist job?
This wasn’t the first time she’d thought about this. Nor the hundredth, if she was honest, and who could she be honest with more than herself. Well, Jim—but this was something she needed to think through in her own soul. Was she really a fancy new Beesly, or was she the same Pam she’d always been? Or worse, Pammy?
Did she need Jim to get the job in order to justify her going for art school? There was a new perspective on the issue. She’d looked into Pratt: there were some residency requirements but she could do a lot remotely, going in a weekend here or there. She could do it from Scranton even if Jim didn’t get the job—or even if he did.
Was she going to New York if he did? Was she going if he didn’t?
What were they to each other? Oh, they were in love, they were boyfriend and girlfriend, but…were they more? She thought they were. She was pretty sure they were. But she wasn’t going to be the one to push Jim. Yes, he’d taken steps towards her, culminating in that world-changing Casino Night confession and kiss. But she’d taken steps towards him too: flying to Sydney, Australia, for a start. And she had already been in one relationship where she did all the pushing—Roy would have said nagging—and ended up not where she actually wanted to be.
Where did she want to be?
But how? Married? Dating? Here? New York? And doing what?
She took a deep breath. She couldn’t decide all of this. It was a mutual decision; that was what a relationship was. But she could decide one thing for herself. Was she brave enough to go for art school, even knowing it might not work out: that she might be bad at it, or too old, or lose interest, or so many other things?
Afterward she found Jim and Karen with the others, sitting by the fire, quietly exchanging mocking insults about their chances in the interview process. As she approached Jim got up and reached for her and she threw her arms around him.
“I’m going to apply to Pratt.”
She felt him nod beneath her. “Good. You’re going to be amazing.”
Thank you to all who've read and reviewed and just stayed invested in this very long story! Two-parter The Job finale coming next.
Chapter 80: The Job, Part 1 by Comfect
Thoughts before interviews.
Jim was still somewhat in awe of how quickly things were moving. Pam had applied to Pratt and expected to hear very soon after she had an in-person interview with a faculty member—something called rolling admissions that he’d never experienced before, not that he’d applied to a lot of schools in his day—and he was busily preparing for his interview with David Wallace. He still wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to spend a career in Dunder Mifflin: he’d always imagined himself working more in the sports world, maybe sports marketing or consulting even if not playing or managing. Dunder Mifflin was the only job he’d ever actually successfully held down (summer youth camps aside) but that didn’t mean it was the be-all and the end-all for him.
That said, it would be pretty cool to make a lot more money and live in New York with Pam if she got into Pratt.
Of course, it would be pretty cool to live with Pam wherever they were. And to watch her blossom at Pratt if she got in (when she got in, he thought loyally) even if they were still in Scranton. But it wouldn’t hurt to live in a bustling metropolis with the kinds of cultural capital she enjoyed and have a little extra spending money to boot. Not to mention that he was pretty sure he wouldn’t have to do direct sales anymore if he got this position, which was a plus. He was good at sales, but he was always better at the people-management part of it than at the brass-tacks side of it. Hammering people for the last cent on recycled paper wasn’t his forte as much as building up a relationship and figuring out what would motivate the other person to buy, and he figured there were more relationships and motivations and less paper-qua-paper or money-qua-money at the corporate level.
He hoped so, anyway.
And there was another reason he was thinking about corporate more seriously than he’d ever expected to. He knew Pam was it for him—had been for as long as he’d known her—but that didn’t mean he wasn’t looking for the right time to make that official. He didn’t want to be Roy, proposing to her and then postponing it out indefinitely. He wanted to propose to her at the right time, and the perfect time, and that meant two things: he needed a moment, and he needed a transition. It wasn’t right to propose to Pam over pancakes in the morning or at night while he watched her paint (or tried to—she was still a bit shy about being watched as the actual paint went on the actual canvas, though she’d let him watch her sketch). She deserved better than that, more epic than that: a real moment of joy to have and to hold onto.
So he wasn’t unaware that a major life transition like starting a new job or a new school or a new city was exactly the sort of moment that might be best crowned with a proposal. After all, if you had to overhaul a bunch of things anyway, why not one more? And one more that he’d been waiting semipatiently for for years—or at least months since he’d bought that ring.
“Hey, Halpert, how’s prep going?” Karen broke him out of his train of thought as he sat staring at his computer monitor. “May the best woman win, right?”
“Right.” He half-grinned at her. “How about the best person?”
“I could live with that.”
“Fool.” Dwight was, of course, listening in. “The female of the species is much weaker than the male. By accepting Jim’s offer of the best person losing you have lowered your chance of victory by 38%.” He sneered at Jim. “Although it is Jim you have chosen to compete with, which improves the odds substantially in your favor.”
“Uh, Dwight, no.” Jim didn’t have time for rampant sexism right now, especially with his friend and his girlfriend listening in. “Just no.”
Dwight just sniffed and went back to his work, and Jim gave Karen a sympathetic smile. She rolled her eyes.
“Anyway, I just came by to ask if you wanted to carpool.”
“Nah.” He gestured with his head towards Pam. “I’m giving her a ride in for her in-person interview.”
“Oh, right.” Karen nodded. “Good luck, Pam!” she said, raising her voice. “Pratt would be stupid not to take you.”
“Thanks.” Pam smiled at Karen. It was nice to have a friend around the place, even if all of them were actively trying to not be in the place after today. She’d managed to get her in-person interview at Pratt scheduled for the same day as Jim’s interview, but now she was starting to think that was a bad sign. What if one of them went badly? What if both of them did? Would they be stuck in New York being angry at the world?
But would she really want to be in Scranton while Jim was in New York waiting to hear about his fate? Or vice-versa?
It was better to take the risk of a terrible horrible no-good very bad day than to risk two; and it was better to have Jim there for her and her there for him.
She sighed. She had already sent in her portfolio and her personal statement and her old (old) transcripts, and she didn’t really feel like there was anything more she could do. The centerpiece of her portfolio was a series of watercolors she’d done of Mina—the little girl’s quicksilver changes of attitude and pose serving to highlight (she hoped) her own range of abilities. The one she was proudest of showed Willy and Mina almost like a Madonna and child: except while Willy showed the patient pride of a Madonna to a T, Mina’s mischievous stare was like no Christ-child she’d ever drawn. Alongside those character studies were oils of the Sydney skyline, highlighting the Opera House, and (because the Pratt application specifically asked for one ‘lighter subject’) her animal caricatures of her officemates.
She just hoped it was all good enough.
She had, oddly, no such worries about Jim. Who wouldn’t want Jim? He was totally qualified, and smart, everyone loved him…she acknowledged she was biased, as his girlfriend, but come on. He was going to get it. She just hoped Karen (and Michael, to a lesser extent) wasn’t too crushed when Jim got the job.
She also hoped—well, really, expected, because she was not going be insecure about this, dammit—that things would be OK with her and Jim if he got the job and she didn’t get into Pratt, or vice-versa. They were strong. They’d do fine. It would be better if they could do things in parallel, of course, but they would support each other no matter what.
It was nice to finally be in a relationship like that.
OK, our The Job Part 2 finale is up next. Thank you to all who've read and reviewed! Your feedback is the lifeblood that has kept this story going (only less liquid and creepy than that sounds).
Chapter 81: The Job, Part 2 (Finale) by Comfect
This is twice as long as any other chapter in the story--I hope you enjoy. You know where we are in the story.
After Jan’s…complete and total meltdown and Michael’s “you can’t fire me, I quit” routine (well, “not hire me” and “I withdraw”—he was definitely still at Scranton), Karen and Jim looked at each other.
“At least he gave us his endorsement?” Jim tried to find the silver lining.
“Yeah, but how much weight do you think that has?” Karen shrugged. “Good luck, Jim. I meant it—may the best person win.”
“Me too. It’s been a pleasure working with you.” They shook hands and then hugged.
“Oh, and Jim?”
“If you do get it, and keep in mind I’m not at all suggesting you’re better at me than this, but if you do—you and Pam have fun here, OK? Because you don’t get to take my two best friends in the office away to not have fun.”
“Got it.” They hugged again and she headed out for lunch with her friends. Honestly, that was probably a sign that Karen would get it, Jim thought. She was a New York kind of person. She already had friends here; moved in those kinds of circles; had that kind of confidence. But he wasn’t going to just let her have it, even if they were friends. After all, he didn’t relish the idea of Pam commuting to Pratt from Scranton—and he had no doubt at all she’d get the job.
“Jim, we’re ready for you.” David stood at the door and waved him in. They shook hands, and Jim took his seat.
“Just so all our cards are on the table, here,” David began. “And there are no surprises: I don’t know how I feel about hiring a Sixers fan.”
“Oh, I should leave.” Jim started to get up and then sat down again as they both laughed. He and David had bonded over basketball like their wives bonded over art—David didn’t like the Sixers but respected The Process, and was himself a self-avowed doomed Knicks fan—and they’d established a comfortable banter about the respective incapacity of their teams.
David riffled through the papers in front of him. “Uh, let me ask you a question, Jim. You’re clearly a very bright guy.”
“Thanks.” Where was this going?
David went on in the same vein. “Always hit your numbers, personable, you make a great impression on everyone you meet—“
Honestly, this kind of complimentary lead-up made Jim nervous. It reminded him of his mother, who loved him dearly but would often, back when he was just treading water at Dunder Mifflin, wind up this kind of list with “so why don’t you have a girlfriend.” He wanted to head David off before whatever the Dunder Mifflin Corporate equivalent was—so he cracked a joke. “I’m sorry, wait, so is the question ‘How’d I get to be so awesome?’ Because, I don’t have an answer for you.”
David laughed, but apparently the interruption sidetracked him. “Uh, oh, hey, do you have your quarterly numbers?”
Now he was on firmer ground. “Yes, absolutely.”
“And that, uh, questionnaire.” There was a long HR form that he and Karen had spent a good time that morning making fun of to each other and wondering if Toby had had a hand in making it. “Sorry to make you fill that thing out…”
Rule one: don’t make your boss apologize in an interview. They don’t like it and it makes them feel bad. “Oh, no, absolutely.” What was he saying? Why had the absolutelys he used on Dwight started to crop up? But David was still talking.
“…that’s a HR formality. We have this very irritating HR guy here, he’s probably the only person you’re not gonna like. Kendall. Ugh.” David laughed and Jim reached down to pull out the questionnaire from his briefcase. Papers cascaded, including one attached, if he was not very much mistaken, to a cleaned-up gold yogurt lid like the ones Pam had made for the Office Olympics a while back—or like the one Pam had eaten for lunch yesterday. Attached was a note, or rather a caricature—of him, as a red kangaroo with boxing gloves, and the tagline “knock ‘em dead.” His heart warmed. If he were the Grinch, it would have grown six sizes—since he wasn’t, he was worried it would burst out of his chest.
“So, first up…” David was still going on, so Jim hurried to catch up.
“There you go.” He handed over the quarterly numbers—he’d done really well since coming back, partly because for once in his life he felt motivation towards the future—and the questionnaire.
“How do you think you function here in New York?” OK. A real question. Game face. Do this for Pam, who thinks you can knock ‘em dead.
“Honestly? Pretty well. There are places open here after eight, which is a plus.” David laughed. “I haven’t spent a ton of time here, but it reminds me of another city I know, a city where I really turned everything around: Sydney, Australia.” He went on to describe how he (and Pam) had explored the city and how the energy and vitality of the city had ignited his creativity (mostly to get out of moving to Stamford, but he omitted that key detail).
“Great, great.” David nodded. “You’ve been in the Scranton branch a long time.” Jim tried hard not to think of that as a condemnation. “What have you liked most about that place?”
Without hesitation he knew the answer to that. “The friendships.” Pam. Karen. Toby. Kevin. David himself, although he wasn’t actually at Scranton. Even Kelly, Dwight, Michael…all of them were, in one way or another, his friends. Even if in Dwight’s case it probably didn’t make sense to anyone but him and Pam—not even Dwight.
“Okay. Well, we want the person who takes this position to be here for the long haul. So… long haul. Where do you see yourself in ten years?” This was a classic, and one he’d prepared for with Pam when they’d done mock interviews in their living room. Although they hadn’t mentioned the point he felt compelled to start with.
“Well, personally, I’m kind of hoping to be married with a couple of kids by then.” He grinned at David. “But I’m going to assume you meant professionally, in which case, David, I don’t think I’m going to be VP of Northeast Sales at Dunder Mifflin.” This was the shock start, intended to get attention. “Because I don’t think there will be a VP of Northeast Sales at Dunder Mifflin.” He leaned forward. “We’re going to have to pivot from our traditional way of doing things. Do you remember what happened when Stamford closed? Josh Porter and Ryan Howard tried to steal business away and join with our larger competitors. We’re going to see a lot more of that over the coming years: moves towards consolidation, moves towards acquisition.” He straightened. “But I don’t think we should be playing those games. I think what makes Dunder Mifflin Dunder Mifflin, what makes it tick, is the personal touch. That’s why Michael’s actually surprisingly effective at Scranton: he has some odd ideas, but they’re his, and our customers respond to that. I think ten years from now Dunder Mifflin is going to look different: we’re going to use the Internet more, we’re going to provide things we don’t provide right now, and we’re not going to be organized the way we’re organized now. But I want to be here; I want to be a part of it. I think we need to move ourselves towards providing a more all-inclusive product: not just paper and stationary, but more graphic design, more website production, more marketing and development in general. I said I want to be a part of it, but ten years from now I want to be running that. I want to be making sure Dunder Mifflin provides everything people use paper for—not just the paper they use for it.”
David nodded, then grinned. “Well put. I’m guessing Pam came up with the part about graphic design.” He winked. “But we won’t hold that against you. We believe in teamwork—friendships, right?”
Jim grinned back. “Right.”
David leaned back. “I have a bunch of other questions here that HR is making me ask. I’m going to ask you them, but Jim—I think we both know where we stand. You dirty Sixers fan.”
Pam was very confused. This would ordinarily not be a good thing when one was in a final-round interview that one wanted very badly to do well on, but that was itself the confusing thing. This didn’t feel like any interview she’d been on before.
“And this is where we do the classes that don’t need quite as much room.” Her ‘interviewer’ led her into a hallways filled with what looked like, and probably were, normal classrooms. “Things like our cartooning class—which I’m sure you’ll want to take, with your eye for the ridiculous—and of course the computer-based design courses.” They passed a classroom filled with Apple desktops. “But what I really wanted to show you is up ahead.” They entered a much larger room, and unlike the others this was filled with people: students, intent on their canvases, an instructor circling the room, and a man standing in the middle who was, unless she was very much mistaken, extremely extremely naked.
She was not mistaken.
Heads swiveled towards them as they entered the room.
“Hello, Audrey,” called the instructor to her guide. “What can we do for you? Make it quick, Inigo here is paid by the hour.”
Inigo grinned slowly. “By which she means please, take your time.”
“I’ll be just a minute, Dale.” Audrey—that was the woman’s name! Pam had been so flustered by the lack of interviewing in this interview that she’d forgotten—waved at the students. “Everyone, say hello to Pam. She’s one of our admitted students for the fall.”
“Hi, Pam,” the class chorused, but Pam barely heard it. Admitted? Surely there was some mistake.
“Now, Pam,” Audrey continued, “this is our figure-painting room. Don’t worry, the models aren’t always naked.” Pam was well aware she was coloring up, but it had nothing to do with Inigo, impressive as he might be. It had to do with the idea that she was going to have to explain to this perfectly lovely woman that she was not yet an admitted student and she was dreading that conversation and its attendant embarrassment. “I thought, since you did such lovely work with your young model back in…Scranton, right?...you’d be spending a lot of time in here. We have voluntary as well as scheduled class times here.” She apparently noticed that Pam was discombobulated, because she took gentle hold of her arm and steered her back into the hall. “Thank you, Dale!”
“Bye, Pam!” Everyone in the class chorused again.
“Now, Pam, you’re not going to clam up on me just because of a naked man, are you?” Audrey chuckled, and Pam felt her heart sink through her shoes.
“No, it’s not that, it’s just…I think there must have been some mistake. I’m here for an interview?” She avoided Audrey’s eyes. “I’m not an admitted student.” She slowly raised her eyes. She was a fancy new Beesly. She could say this to someone’s face. “I think you might have meant someone else.” Although, if so, what was all of that about her portfolio? This woman had clearly seen it.
“Oh, I see!” Audrey clapped her hands and started walking, which required Pam to move to keep pace with her or be left behind. “There has been a mistake, but it’s not the one you think it is, dear.” They quickly reached what Pam realized was Audrey’s office, where they’d started the tour—the floorplan must have been circular—and entered. Audrey went straight to her desk and picked up a folder Pam recognized as her own portfolio. “This is an interview, but it’s not an admissions interview.” Audrey flipped the folder around to show Pam the giant “ADMITTED” sticker on the front with a blank underneath it. “This is an advisor interview. We’re checking to see if you and I are compatible, or if you’d like to work with another faculty member.”
“Oh.” Pam sat down heavily in the chair in front of Audrey’s desk. “I see. Uh, thanks?”
“You’re very welcome, dear.” Audrey sat down at her desk and put her hands flat on the desk itself. “Shall we start over?”
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” No wonder the woman knew her portfolio well enough to comment on it! “I’d be happy to work with you.”
“Excellent. Then that’s settled.” Audrey picked up a pen and wrote her own name in block letters underneath the ADMITTED on the sticker. “Now, is there anything else I can tell you about Pratt?”
An hour later, dazed with success and still only barely really accepting that she was in to art school, Pam sat at the fountain where she was supposed to meet Jim. Neither of them had known which of their interviews would finish first, so they’d agreed to meet as close to halfway between as they could without being in the water—at least, as close as they could and could also easily find on the map.
“Hey.” Jim walked up to her—she must have been really deep in her own head not to notice his approach—and smiled down on her. “How’d it go?”
She took a deep breath, and could see the look of concern that passed across his face. “It went…” suddenly things clicked into place and she bounced to her feet in front of him and threw her arms around him, burying her head in his chest. Everything she’d experienced that morning poured out of her in a single rapidfire sentence into his pectoral muscle. “It was really weird because apparently I’m already accepted and the lady interviewing me was just trying to figure out if she should be my advisor and now she is my advisor and I got in. I got in, Jim!”
“I’m not sure I heard all of that, but it sounds to me like you got in?” He gently moved her away from his chest and bent down to kiss her. “That’s wonderful, Beesly.”
“Thank you!” She was suddenly full of air, like a parade float when they turned on the helium. “I’m going to art school!” She spun in a little circle and then looked up at him quizzically. “What about you?” Oh no, her heart said. This is when he tells you the bad news. He didn’t get it. He’s not moving here. You’re going to have to do this long-distance, either from him or from school. Well, from school, because she wasn’t moving if he wasn’t. She started to brace herself.
He must have noticed it because he brandished his cellphone at her. This was confusing for a moment until he explained. “Just got off the phone with David Wallace. It sounds like we’re both moving to the Big Apple.” He bent down to kiss her again, but she put a finger across his lips.
“Did you just call it the Big Apple?” He nodded, her finger still against his mouth. “Dork.” She leaned up and kissed him, and he spun her around in a circle until she was facing the fountain and he was between her and the bench. “Like I would ever let you live in a different place from me, Halpert.”
“Speaking of which…” he put her down and she instantly felt the loss of his arms around her—but only for a moment, because he was getting down on one knee and fumbling in his pocket. Oh my god, she thought. This was really happening. There were no jitters, which surprised her a little—just pure excitement, the exact level of excitement there had not been the last time she’d been proposed to. Assuming that was what he was doing and he wasn’t about to tie his shoelace. “Would you care to make that official?” She started to nod frantically and he grinned. “Pamela Morgan Beesly, will you marry me?” She nodded harder and he quirked an eyebrow. “I’m kind of gonna need a verbal yes/no here, Pam.”
“Yes, you dork, I’ll marry you.” She launched herself at him but he caught her on his knee, where she perched as she kissed him again until they had to come up for air, not that she wanted to.
“Thank God.” He grinned. “After all, I might have told David Wallace that in ten years I wanted to be married with kids, and that was going to be pretty difficult if the only woman I want to marry turned me down.”
“You told David…” she slapped his shoulder. “After all the times we rehearsed that question?”
“Hey, I told him the other stuff too.”
“You better have.”
He shrugged the arm not holding her on his lap. “It worked, didn’t it?”
“I guess so.”
“So….” He drawled this out. “I don’t really believe in long engagements…”
“What do you say to a fall wedding?” He held up a hand. “Late enough that we can plan it around the start of my new job and then your fall semester. Say, October? 8th?”
She smiled. This was what an engagement was supposed to be like. A decisive decision to spend the rest of their lives together from that moment on. “October 8th it is.”
He squeezed her close. “All right. Then it’s a date.”
It makes me both happy and sad to mark this one completed. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart to all of you who've read, reviewed, jellybeaned, and otherwise interacted with this story. It has been a sincere pleasure to hear from you and to know that this has been appreciated. I hope the finale lived up to your hopes, and thank you again!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.