Humble and Kind by JHalpert
Summary: It's 2020, and tragedy strikes the Halperts’. What happens when their world comes crashing around them, leaving Cecelia and Philip in shock, in a world that is so unforgiving, and often times, unfair. Written in the past, and present, watch the Halpert's grieve, grow, and love.
Categories: Jim and Pam, Present Characters: Jim/Pam
Genres: Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Kids/Family, Married, Suspense
Warnings: Possible Triggers
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 13 Completed: Yes Word count: 24031 Read: 19809 Published: September 11, 2020 Updated: October 25, 2020
Story Notes:
Written based on true events in my own life, the grief and love that grow when you’re pushed through the hardest times in your life.

1. Chapter 1 by JHalpert

2. Chapter 2 by JHalpert

3. Chapter 3 by JHalpert

4. Chapter 4 by JHalpert

5. Chapter 5 by JHalpert

6. Chapter 6 by JHalpert

7. Chapter 7 by JHalpert

8. Chapter 8 by JHalpert

9. Chapter 9 by JHalpert

10. Chapter 10 by JHalpert

11. Chapter 11 by JHalpert

12. Chapter 12 by JHalpert

13. An Ending to a Beginning by JHalpert

Chapter 1 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
Author Notes: I have recently popped back onto MTT this year, after not being here reading and writing since 2010, my senior year of college. I’m now 32, a lot has changed, I’ve found my Pam, and I think it’s time for me to revisit a passion of mine that I’ve been ignoring for a while...writing. Especially writing about my two favorite characters still to this day.

Just a reminder, I own absolutely nothing.
Then

She poked her head in her daughters room, getting one quick glance at her before she had to start thinking about getting Philip up, making coffee for herself and Jim, and whatever else awaited her that day in the crazy life of being a mother. Cecelia Maria Halpert had just turned ten a few months prior and she was growing so quickly in front of Pam’s eyes. Her hair, cascaded into beautiful brown curls all around her face and shoulders, and she slept with her mouth gaping open (admittedly, just like her father), and a pair of glasses, shoved casually on the sheets next to her.

“I really should get her a new glasses case,” Pam thought quietly to herself remembering how easily the last pair of glasses she’d purchased for Cece had been broken within just a few weeks of her and Philip fighting over the Nintendo Switch console. She watched her daughter begin to stir in the sunlight shining down on her bed, and sighed, wanting just one more second of peace. Cece hadn’t changed from the outgoing toddler to the boisterous little girl, to now almost becoming a tween, or something in between.
Something that was admittedly both difficult to handle (the yelling had increased) and also beautiful to watch. Cecelia had begun to ask her mother more serious questions, things that she looked forward to discussing with her daughter. Pam was proud of the young girl, she and Jim had raised together. She was confident, outspoken, and understood values even at such a young age.

“Mom?” she heard a small voice coming from across the room. Pam smiled, and moved through Cecelia’s room, purple, bright, and filled with ballet slippers scattered along what she thinks was once hardwood flooring, it’s hard to tell now. So many pairs of tights, dance trophies and countless pairs of leg warmers (she still hadn’t quite figured out the need for these accessories) were strewn everywhere. She’d get around to telling her daughter to pick it up at some point, but for right now, it was Monday, 7:02am, to be exact, and she had just a few more minutes before the house would become chaos.

“Hi my sweet girl,” she ran her fingers along her daughters’ face, stopping to tickle for just a minute, and her smile erupted all over her face, along with a fit of giggles.
“There’s my little baby,” Pam thought.

“First day of school?” Cece sat up excitedly, she’d been waiting for this day for months, ever since they were sent home back in March.

“Yep! Which means you need to get up, figure out what you’re going to wear and get downstairs for breakfast,” she stood up, sighing. She was nervous about what this school year would bring, what life would look like in this new world they were living in. A world filled with far too much CNN on every day, so many masks, too much bloodshed, and all the while, she was just trying to protect her children and keep their innocence as long as possible.

“Mommy!” Philip crashed into her waist, dressed for school, his ‘Avengers’ mask already looped around his ears. Pam smiled at him, slipping his mask off,

“You don’t need that quite yet,” she placed a hand on his back and looked back at her daughter,

“Let’s go, Cee,” she reminded her, and carefully moved her way out of the room, gesturing both of them to go downstairs to the kitchen where two bowls of oatmeal were already waiting for them, starting to cool by now.

***
Jim always slept later than her. He always needed just a few more minutes in the morning to wake up, to rub his eyes and push his hair out of his face in this boyish way she’d never grown tired of. He’d groan, mumble something about being old, and sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before getting up. She’d make them coffee once he made it
downstairs, but every morning her ritual was the same. Wake up, make breakfast, kids up, and finally, wake Jim up. This August morning felt no different as she moved through their semi-lit bedroom, finding Jim curled up on the edge of the bed. For a moment, she wished she could crawl in behind him, spoon his long body, and just lay there for the entire day. They’d spent countless days in each other’s arms before kids, taking Saturdays and Sundays as their own, and doing absolutely nothing, sometimes forgetting to eat. She longed for days like that again, but the two blessings downstairs were a countless reminder of her love for Jim.

He somehow always managed to wake himself up enough from the ten steps from the bedroom to the stairs, before turning into the kitchen and becoming “Dad.” He wore this hat with pride, also with a beard too, which was new, and ‘distinguished’ as she’d told him. He’d taken over carpool, learned how to pack lunches the way Philip liked them, (no crust, and absolutely no unpeeled clementines.) He’d immediately get to work on school days, making lunches, and doing the waltz around the kitchen with his wife. Grabbing snacks from the pantry, reminding Cece to finish the last few pre-algebra problems she’d given up on from the night before, and somehow also getting himself ready for work. But the last few months were different. The last few months involved Zoom meetings, and trying to get the kids up before noon. Trying to feed them healthy meals, wondering why there was no toilet paper for a solid month in the grocery store, and finding masks that fit the kids faces while scrolling through Amazon. Their lives had somehow become more hectic. Pam and Jim took turns doing school from home through May, they’d switch off meetings. Jim hopping off and on his meetings with his clients, and Pam trying to continue her painting classes online. It was stressful for both of them, but the summer brought a bit of quiet to the Halpert household.

Despite her initial protesting, she’d purchased the kids a Nintendo Switch, and despite her best efforts, they both continued to fight over who’s turn it was to chop down trees or plant fruit in a game they both had become so invested in. Despite the occasional argument, which was always solved by a fair best out of three, game of rock, paper, scissors. She was able to take on more painting classes, and had gotten fairly good at teaching her students over Zoom, and Jim’s work had picked up now that fall and winter sports had a guarantee to return without spectators. This morning though, the kids would be going back to school, in an actual classroom, and despite both of their nerves, Jim and Pam were confident in the Austin school system to keep both their loved ones safe.

Pam moved to his side of the bed, and rest her hand on his head, he was warm, didn’t stir, and his eyes were furrowed. He didn’t look his well-rested self as he did in the morning, and there hadn’t been any late night guests pushing themselves into the center of the bed that night, either. She pressed a kiss to his lips, and he opened an eye, and closed it almost immediately.

“Hey,” he said in barely more than a whisper. This was not their normal routine, something was different, her stomach flopped.

“Are you okay?” He hated that question. She knew it, but instinctively she was worried. These days, she was always worried.

He just shook his head no, and pulled the blankets around him.

“Sick,” he mumbled under the covers.

She laughed uneasily, and crawled into her side of the bed, putting her arms around his body, he was so warm, unusually warm.

“I’m going to need more than that, Halpert,” she kissed the back of his head and felt the sweat against her lips.

There was silence.

“Jim?” She asked, and he went to turn over to her, finding himself in a fit of coughing before laying back down in defeat.

“Stay right here,” She said knowing he wasn’t going anywhere, and went downstairs quickly to find the kids eating oatmeal, busying themselves with some show on the iPad. She’d normally, snatch it away and engage with them in a conversation before school, but her mind was only on one thing-getting her cellphone. She rifled through mail on the table, moving the kids’ lunchboxes, and items that found themselves onto the island each morning. Her phone was almost dead, but she quickly dialed the family doctor and waited, listening to the automated message. They weren’t open yet,

“Damn it,” she mumbled and Philip’s eyes opened wide.

“Mommy!” his mouth was agape. They really did try to watch their mouths around the kids.

“Daddy's sick,” she said quickly, knowing all too well what this might be. Jim had been on a plane only four days before, coming home from visiting his parents in Pennsylvania. His Dad wasn’t doing well, Altheimers had set in, and his mother needed help getting him into assistive care. And she knew. She knew he shouldn’t have gotten on that plane. He was not about to budge on this one, he needed to be with his parents, so she’d stopped fighting, and sent him with a pack of lysol wipes and asked him to furiously clean everything he’d touch, sit on, or get close to.

“What’s wrong?” Cece asked, dropping her spoon. She immediately hopped off her stool, inching her way to the stairs. Cecelia was always worried about everyone else, just like her father. The way her eyes would open wide, and gaze in concern had been a look she’d seen upon Jim’s face so many times, it was almost surreal seeing it on her daughter.

“Hey, Cece, come here,” Pam gestured, “We’re just going to let Dad sleep, you both have to get to school, it’s a big day!” Upon uttering this, she immediately regretted not taking the option for virtual learning this semester.

“But, I have to get Dad to the doctor this morning, so you’re going to have to take the bus,” She muttered, grabbing their bags, and stuffing lunch boxes inside. Eyes were rolled, sighs exhaled from both of her children’s mouth, but knowing this wasn’t their usual routine, she walked them out to the sidewalk, to make sure the bus driver would see them, she’d explain the need for the bus today, and then get back inside to bring Jim to the doctor’s. Her mind was racing a mile a minute, How would I quarantine him? How would I keep the kids away from Jim? Would he be alright? He’d be alright, he was only 41, he was healthy, he’d be fine.

Inside, she had a voicemail from the doctor’s, they asked that they wait in the car upon arrival, and they would call when Jim could go inside. Remember to wear a mask. Pam was annoyed at this sentiment...did anyone even need to say that anymore?

She heaved herself up the stairs, two at a time, awoke Jim, and the both of them threw on clothes, moving slowly out to their car.

They never made it to the doctors’ office that morning.
End Notes:
Please be kind, it's been ten years since i've written JAM fanfiction, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Chapter 2 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
We're heading into the future on this chapter. Buckle in, it's a tough one.
As a reminder, I own absolutely nothing.

Now
Pam anxiously fiddled with her wedding band around her finger, pulling it off, then on, off then on. She’d rubbed it almost raw. She sighed and leaned back in the chair, the one she’d become all too comfortable with. The nurses took pity on her almost instantly, and found her the biggest, and softest rocker in the ICU. She’d become so accustomed to this room, and the sounds and sights that were once unrecognizable, all too familiar now. There was a stack of books on a table next to her, she’d already ready almost fifteen of them to him by now. Sports Center was constantly playing on the television, and there were framed photos everywhere in the room. Photos of Philip’s missing teeth, and Cecelia’s school photo. For the first time in months, her face felt so free, maskless. She rubbed her jaw, her brain anxiously telling her not to touch her face, and remembered it was okay, it was all okay.

She stared at the frame of her husband. Though, she wasn’t sure that Jim was lying there in that bed, far too big for him, swallowing his thin frame whole. No, Jim was surely at work, or playing a round of golf with a client. It was almost 3pm, he was certainly picking Cece up from school to take her to dance, and Philip to the park. He wouldn’t be here, at this hospital on a Friday afternoon, no, this wasn’t her Jim. This was someone else.

“Pam, do you need anything?” Lacy, the day nurse slipped her head in Jim’s room, peaking around the corner.

“I’m fine,” she murmured quietly, and pulled the blanket tighter around her. The room wasn’t cold, but every bone in her body felt like ice. Pam pulled the blankets around her shoulders and walked over to the bed, she planted herself at his side, careful not to touch any of the tubes, wires, and lines attached to his body, and curled close to his frame. He looked like a child, helpless, and too thin. They assured Pam he was getting enough nutrients. Enough nutrients to keep him alive. She knew what they really meant. His face was shaved every day by his morning nurse, and Pam had no say in this. The tape wouldn’t stick right with the hair, so it was gone. His hair was always sweaty, falling in his face, and she’d move it off of his brow. He looked so much like the Jim she met years ago. Boyish, young, and always furrowing his brows. She wondered what he was thinking about, if he was thinking at all. There had been a circle of conversations, a go back and forth with every specialist, and surgeon she met with.

“There’s no brain activity, you’re going to have to make some decisions, Mrs. Halpert,”

“There’s a possibility there may be some brain wave activity, he’s been moving his fingers lately,”

“We aren’t sure right now Mrs. Halpert, we’ll just have to wait and see,”

She’d had enough of it, she’d begun tuning then out during their daily rounds. They’d squeeze Jim’s toes, lift his hands up, stare into his dark pupils, and every day, she’d close her eyes, and pretend she was somewhere else. Sometimes they’d be at the beach together, sometimes back in Pennsylvania at the office pranking Dwight, occasionally in their bed together, keeping each other warm during the cool winter nights.

“Tomorrow is March 4th,” she stated. She talked to him, even if he didn’t reply back, she knew he was listening.

“Cece will be eleven. She’s told me that she wants nothing. She told me all she wants is,” she stops. There are so many frogs in her throat, and her eyes begin to well. She’s not sure any tears will fall, she’s not sure there are any tears left.

“All she wants is for you to come home.” She finished, wiping her eyes with her sweater. Her wrist, still scarred from the minor surgery she’d had to endure for her wrist. A broken wrist, that was all she’d walked away with. A quick procedure, they’d assured her, but she had been screaming. All she could hear was the screaming coming from deep inside of her. She was screaming for Jim, she’d lost sight of him so quickly, and there was so much blood.

“You have to stop,” she’d voiced aloud. She couldn’t do this to herself for the millionth time. She’d relived August 24 over in her head multiple times a day. It had been 164 days, more than half of the year. She was certain the amount of hours she’d been in this hospital room had far outweighed the amount of time she’d seen her children. Pam began to feel the guilt creeping up again. The sickness that washed over her, and then she’d look down at her stomach, bulging under her shirt, and the constant reminder of him was right there. Kicking her in her kidneys’ at this very moment.

“Stop” she whispered, rubbing the butterflies in her belly. She glanced out the windows to make sure no one was looking in, and undid one of the straps around Jim’s wrists, and placed his hand on her stomach. She’d let him feel their child, their little girl. She had to know. She desperately needed to know. How the airbag hadn’t removed any possibility of this miracle baby, she didn’t know.

It wasn’t until days after she’d been in the hospital did she find out about the baby. At first, she believed it was hope. A sign from God, or whoever was looking out for them, that Jim would wake up. He wouldn’t leave his children, he wouldn’t leave this baby, he wouldn’t leave her. But he hadn’t opened his eyes, not willingly anyway, in 164 days. As days turned into weeks, and then into months, this feeling grew inside of her, along with that baby. Feelings of, “How could you leave me with three children?How am I supposed to do this alone? I can’t do this alone” She wasn’t prepared for mothering her children alone.

She closed her eyes, listened to the whir of his ventilator, lulling her to sleep, wrapping an arm around his body. She did this every day, spent hours in his bed with him. She was certain the nurses didn’t like it, but it wasn’t going to stop her from being close to Jim. He had finally had the bandages removed from his head, and his jaw, and he was healing. On the outside, she saw progress. He was warm to the touch, his heart was beating, but dear God, where was he?

“Mrs. Halpert, your son is on the phone,” She stirred, jumping out of the bed, careful not to knock into Jim, and moved toward the nurses station, peeking back once at him before stepping into the hallway.

“Mommy!” Philip was screaming on the other end of the phone, her stomach flipped.

“Where ARE you?!” He sobbed on the other line, and she heard the sound of busses driving past him. His teacher, Mrs. Avery grabbed the phone,

“Mrs. Halpert, it’s been three times this past month that you haven’t picked Philip up from school, I really feel as though-”

“I’ll be right there,” she stopped her mid sentence. She was not about to hear whatever was going to come out of Mrs. Avery’s mouth. She was a good mother. She had given every last ounce of energy to Philip and Cece. So much so when she looked in the mirror she felt she’d aged ten years. She felt too old to carry this child. Too stressed for it to survive. She wouldn’t get attached to her. She couldn’t.

***
Pulling into the lot, she saw Philip sitting on the sidewalk, his head in his hands, with one of the after school monitors standing close by. She put the car in park, and ran out, taking her son into her hands; he refused to look her in the eyes.

“Phil,” she put her hands on his shoulders. He didn’t move,

“Philip,” she tried again.

“Why do you hate me?!” He suddenly looked up at her, his eyes swimming with tears, his brown bangs hanging in his eyes. That was it, she was the worst mother on the planet.

“I don’t hate-”

“You do! You keep forgetting I’m at school, you don’t talk to me at night before bed anymore, you can’t remember how to make my sandwiches right, and you’re with Daddy all the time! Why can’t you just bring him home?” He’d broken. He was sobbing, uncontrollably in her arms, and she pulled him close. There was nothing to say. What does any mother say to her child in this situation, she rubbed his hair, hugging him against her frame, her knees bruising on the pavement.

“C’mon,” she picked him up, his weight felt so heavy in her arms, and placed him in the back seat.

“Cece’s going to kill me,” She mumbled to herself, and quickly drove to the middle school down the street, finding her eldest kicking a soccer ball, entirely alone, in the grass field.

“Cecelia!” She hollered. Her daughter looked up, grabbed her ball and her backpack, and wordlessly moved to the car. She climbed in the front seat, something Pam had been protesting for months, and buckled in.

“Again?” She said quietly, and her face burned red. For a moment Pam sat there. The car engine roaring, almost deafening.

“I’m sor-”

“Stop.” Cece laid her head back against the seat and closed her eyes. Before she knew it, there were airpods in her ears, and Philip quietly crying in the back.

“Jim,” she whispered, her forehead now resting on the steering wheel. “Please, please wake up.”
End Notes:
Reviews and Jellybeans keep me happy and motivated! I love to hear if you're interested!
Chapter 3 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
Thank you all for hanging on with me, I know this has been tough, but I promise it's not as bleak as it seems. I appreciate the reviews and jellybeans so much!

Reminder, I own nothing.
Then

“Babe, I’m fine,” Jim laughed which quickly turned into a cough as she shoved clothes into his arms.

“Jim, can we please just rather be safe than sorry?” Pam asked, pleading with him. She knew her husband, the doctors’ office was just about the last place on earth he’d like to go. He was even awful in the hospital when their children had been born, anxiously shaking his legs, rubbing his palms across his jeans, riddled with anxiety.

“Listen, Courtney from work just had the test done. I promise, it takes two seconds and then after we can come home, I'll make you your favorite breakfast.”

“You’re going to make me grilled cheese at 9am?” He winked at her and slipped a foot into his jeans, overhearing the kids downstairs yelling about...something.

Pam scoffed, “pizza eggs?” she raised an eyebrow,

“Deal,” he smiled at her, bringing her close for a kiss. She put her finger against his lips.

“No way Mister, not until we know,”

He walked out into the hallway, “If I’ve got it, we’re all screwed!” he hollered playfully and moved down the stairs finding the kids in the doorway, and an irritated bus driver outside their house.

“Just today!” Jim exclaimed, raising his hand into a wave to thank the bus driver. He watched his two loves bound out the door, forgetting a kiss and a hug, far too excited for school.

“Keep your masks on!” He yelled, but they were already bounding into the bus, taking the first row of seats. He remembered how much of a treat it felt to ride the bus to school for the first time. He smiled to himself, and shut the door behind him.
***


“I’m telling you Pam, this isn’t Covid, I’ve just got allergies, or I got something from the kids, you’re overreacting,” She rolled her eyes at him, and continued to drive. It was a busy Monday morning, rain was pelting down on her windshield and she could barely see the road in front of her. It was a quick nine minute drive to their family doctors office, and Jim was fiddling with the radio, changing the channel. She knew it was anxiety,

“Jim, the q-tip doesn’t actually touch your nose,” she snickered at him, keeping her eyes focused.

“You don’t know!” he balked and nervously laughed. “That thing could be swabbing my frontal lobe,” she glanced over and smiled at him. Even when he was sick, sweaty, and wearing clothes that were wrinkly, she was still so enamored by him. The way his hair flopped into his eyes when he hadn’t styled it, how he was still too tall even for their SUV, and so he’d slouch into his seat. She loved all of him, this beautiful man, the other half of her soul.

By the time she looked forward, the light had turned red, but the only thing she saw before darkness was yellow, so much yellow, canary yellow coming directly at them. It was fear and beauty mixed together, and then suddenly as quick as it came, darkness.

***


Cece was holding her brother’s hand lovingly, and looking out the window at the rain. She loved the rain, it made her feel like she lived in London, so much like her favorite characters from the Harry Potter books her Dad had read her. She’d pretended she was on the train to Hogwarts, trying to remember spells in her head, thinking of how her first day of school would go. She’d known she’d have a new teacher, and that this year would look a little different than usual, but there was a ham and cheese sandwich in her lunchbox, and surely a note from her mother as well. And if she was lucky, maybe two chocolate kisses. One from Mom and one from Dad, for good luck of course.

Philip looked at his sister anxiously, she could tell he didn’t love the bus. It was bumpy and loud, as it turned through the suburban streets of Austin stopping every few seconds until the bus was almost full. She’d looked down at her phone and saw that it was almost 8am, almost time to start school, she tried to see if she could notice any familiar sights near her school, but the rain blinded her from seeing anything other than large pelting puddles across the window.

Within seconds she heard a scream from her bus driver, shouting words she knew her parents had said they weren’t allowed to say. She popped her head up over the large brown leather seat back in front of her to try and catch a glimpse of what was happening, and that was when she saw it. The blue Toyota in the middle of the road, the one with the Kermit sticker that Philip had put on the window that her Dad had tried to scrape off, but the little green frogs face remained, smiling back at her. There was only a moment before her head hit the leather seat in front of her and pushed her back into the seat, her ears ringing and sight blinding.

***


“That’s my Daddy!” There were men and women surrounding the bus, chaos was abundant. The intersection had been blocked off, bystanders had pulled their cars off to the side of the road, within minutes at least ten police cars had shown up, as ambulances followed. There was an older boy in the back of the bus going through each aisle, looking at every child, “Are you hurt?” he asked over and over, and Cecelia was pushing up against the two women blocking the exit to the bus.

“We have to wait until the EMT’s get here,” there was crying and wailing coming from all around her, head hurt, Philip was on the floor, visibly shaking. And she’d pushed her body weight against these two strangers blocking her from the door,

“Let me out, that’s my Daddy!” she continued to scream, tears rolling down her face. She continued to stand on her tiptoes to try and see out the window, trying to find their family car in a blur of rain and red flashing lights.
It felt like hours later, but within moments an EMT had entered the bus, followed by another.

“Is anyone hurt?” They shouted over the commotion. Some older kids in the back mentioned just a few cuts and bruises, but no major injuries. The bus driver was being helped out of the bus, and all Cecelia could see was blood, covering his face. She wanted to throw up, she hated blood. This looked like something she’d seen in a scary movie she wasn’t supposed to watch at a sleepover. The two strangers blocking the door moved out of her way for the EMT’s and she had an opportunity. She pushed herself through the EMT’s, one of them trying to grab the back of her shirt, noticing blood on her neck but her adrenaline pushed her through the adults and toward what she thought, was their car.

She stopped. Standing in the middle of the road staring. There was dozens of firefighters surrounding the car, she stared at the Kermit sticker. Her eyes focusing only on the Kermit sticker, the rain pelting her in the face. Her glasses cracked down the center, mirroring the image in front of her.

Someone had grabbed her from behind lifting her off the ground, and she began to kick. She kicked as hard as she could against this man bringing her toward an ambulance,
“Let me go!” she cried, “Let me go!” It was only then did she realize the watery red substance across her hands and face. Everything around her began to spin, and suddenly she felt a prick in her arm, and her body went limp.

***


Cece opened her eyes and blinked a few times, feeling tightness in her forehead, a pounding headache, and bright lights blinding her.

“Hey sweetie, you gotta stay still okay?” She heard an unfamiliar voice and went to jump, but she couldn’t move her head, or her neck and panic ensued.

“Please let me go,” she whimpered, barely able to get her voice above a whisper. She felt drowsy, pained, and like her body felt as though it weighed 400 pounds.

“You’re okay baby,” the nurse rubbed her arm, inserting something into her IV, and she felt a wave of exhaustion fall over her. She wasn’t asleep, but she wasn’t awake either, she stared at a picture of giraffes on the ceiling until she couldn’t keep her eyelids open any longer.

***


“Oh my God,” Pam pushed into her daughters room, holding her wrist against her chest, pieces of glass still in her hair, and two nurses following her into the room,

“Mrs. Halpert, you’ve got to get an X-ray,”

There was no stopping a mother.

“Cecelia,” she never used her full name.

“Cecelia Marie,” she moved toward her daughter, her right arm extending and rubbing the staples in her daughter's forehead carefully. Her neck was in a collar, and her head restrained and she looked tinier then ten in this gigantic bed. Cece opened her eyes,

“Oh thank God,” she laid her head on the side of the bedrail, grabbing her daughter's hand.

“Mommy,” Cece whispered,

Pam looked up, moving toward Cece’s nurses eyes,

“Ketamine…” she replied, “She’s sedated” Pam nodded. A sigh of relief came over her,

“Is she-”

“She’s going to be just fine, she hit her head pretty hard. We’re waiting on the results of a CT scan, but she’s going to be just fine,”

“Mrs. Halpert, you REALLY need to come with us to take a look at your wrist,” The nurse set a hand on Pam’s shoulder.
“No!” she barked. She’d already been removed from enough rooms.
“I’m staying with her,”
“Mrs. Halpert-” a gentleman in a white coat with sandy brown hair came through the door,
“I’ve been looking for you, your husbands conscious-” Pam stood up, she glanced down at Cecelia, who was nodding off again, and squeezed her thumbs “I’ll be right back,” she promised, and kissed her cheek. It was cold and damp, and Pam wasn’t sure if it was tears or the never ending rain outside.
Chapter 4 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
As promised, good things are coming the Halpert's way. I’m so grateful you’ve stuck with me through this, there’s much more to come. I hope you enjoy all the subtle references in this chapter. As always, reviews keep me going and help the creative process! And of course...I own nothing.
Now

Eleven. She didn’t feel eleven. Cecelia didn’t really know what eleven was supposed to feel like. Fifth grade had been a blur, she missed about a month of school recovering from her injuries, visiting her father, and then finally had been brought to Helene’s. Her grandmother had moved to town not long after her family had moved to Texas. She didn’t really remember Scranton, at least, not the way her parents described it, but she knew she was born in Pennsylvania, and she’d heard rumors about the big secret of her parents' wedding. She was their secret, and something they’d fondly reminded her of. She flipped through the music on her phone, the sound turned up as loud as possible in her air pods, Billie Eilish blasting through the tiny speakers in her ears, so loud she didn’t hear her mother open the door and move to the bed.

“Happy Birthday, baby,” Pam reached her hand out to touch her leg, rubbing her thumb against the fleece material of her pajama bottoms. They were covered with unicorns and kittens, a fad she’d long grown out of. Cece didn’t move, she reached out, and pulled out an earbud,

“Hey!” Cece turned over angrily, and moved to grab it back from her mother. Pam slipped it into her pocket, ignoring her daughter's anger.

“What are you listening to?” She asked carefully, not daring to look at the screen and breach her privacy. When had her daughter turned into a teenager?

“Ocean Eyes,” she mumbled, and turned over to face her mother.

“Dad’s favorite,” Pam murmured, glancing down.

“What are we doing today?” Cece asked, breaking the tension. She had become very good at staring contests since the accident, and Pam felt her eyes burning through her.

“Um,” she started, “No school,” she started. Cecelia wasn’t phased,

“What do you want to do?” She eventually asked with a sigh. She hadn’t planned this day well, she’d relied heavily on her mother to bake a cake, she’d let Cece pick a restaurant, and Philip would haphazardly make his sister something the night before. Jim did birthdays. She had joked he’d already thrown the worst birthday possible for their old friend Kelly, so it couldn’t possibly get any worse.

The thing is? They were perfect. Jim had a knack for that...perfection. He was by far not a perfect man, he had his flaws. He rolled around too much in the bed, he was a procrastinator when it came to his job, he’d sometimes watch sports center so long he’d forget about giving the kids a bath and she’d come home late night from a painting class to wash them up quickly before bedtime. He wasn’t perfect. But, almost.

Last year, their daughter had turned ten. And somehow, Jim had managed right before the pandemic had completely overtaken their lives, to sweep his daughter away to Disneyland for a day, just the two of them. She’d been begging to go to the West Coast. He’d woken her up early in the morning, had a bag packed, and told them they were going on a secret mission. Six hours later they were riding the Matterhorn and eating churros. Pam had so many photos of that trip, she’d never looked happier. She adorned a princess outfit, her hair pulled into a perfect bun, complete with pixie dust, and rode “every single ride,!” she’d told her mother when they returned home a few days later. She smelled of salt air, the beach, and a sweet faint reminder of all things confectionary.

“I want to go to the hospital,” she stared at her mother. Pam’s face fell, she knew why. She believed her presence would be enough, that it would make Jim awake from his slumber. Like Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, and the other princesses her daughters had seen last year, she believed he’d awake.

“Honey,” she started, “Don’t you want to-”

“No,” she said firmly. “I want to go see Dad,” he’d gone from Daddy to Dad so quickly. He went from a person she knew, she trusted to always be there, and to take care of her, and as quickly as she felt that from her father's embrace, it was gone.

“Okay,” she knew better than to argue with her, Pam wouldn’t win this fight. Cecelia had been in the ICU with her father a total of three times over the last six months. Each time, she’d worried Cece would break, that she wouldn’t be able to look at Jim in that condition, but she hadn’t. Her eyes were brim with tears, but she’d sit there, a chair pulled close to his bedside, and rest her cheek on his arm. She constantly was talking to him, so quietly Pam had no idea what she said to him, but she would put her earbuds in his ears and play music for him. She’d read books from school aloud to him, and after six hours or so, Pam would pry her from her chair and take her home, red eyed and they’d sit silently. She’d grown so accustomed to silence this year. She longed for noise. She’d tried to get Philip a drum set, just for any noise in the house, but he’d refused to touch it.

***


The television was off, Pam noticed when she first walked in. Something was amiss, his television was never off. She’d insisted it, insisted he needed to hear every bad commercial, and every game that had come and gone. She noticed a group of doctors standing, blocking her view of Jim, a nurse in the door.

“What’s going on?” She moved Cecelia behind her, out of view.

“Oh, Pam, you scared me,” It was Nadia, the nurse she’d known best, who’d seen Pam at her lowest, and always been by her side, more often when she wasn’t even working. She sidestepped to let Pam in the doorway,

“They’re extubating him,”
“What?” Pam’s voice rose, concern filled her voice, and tears, her eyes.

“No, no,” Nadia grabbed her, “He’s breathing over the tube, they’ve been weaning him all morning, it’s okay,” she stared Pam in the eyes, her own filling with tears. She’d known everything about this man, that Pam was willing to share. Nadia knew that Jim’s full name was James Duncan Halpert. She knew he was born on October 1, 1978, and that he had a complete aversion to mushrooms. Nadia knew that he ate, slept, and breathed basketball, and that there were only three things in life that mattered the most to him. His wife, and his children, and on a bad day, sometimes a strong cup of coffee. He knelt whenever he spoke to children, he cared so deeply for every animal he’d grown up with, and he cried at the end of Marley and Me, every time. Nadia knew he laughed so hard when he’d watch late night television, and that he secretly loved watching The Devil Wears Prada when he thought Pam wasn’t looking.

But there were things about Jim Halpert that Nadia knew that Pam didn’t. Pam didn’t know that at night, they had to up his Versed because he’d begun to stir and bang relentlessly on the side of his rails with his knuckles; so hard, he’d bruised his torso. Pam didn’t know that when he began to breathe on his own he began to fight the tube, and became agitated. She didn’t know how much brain activity there was inside Pam’s husband’s mind. She knew he would wake up a different man. Nadia just wasn’t sure how different, and she wasn’t about to tell Pam any of this.
“Pam, sweetie, why don’t you just wait out in the waiting room, with your daughter, until they’ve extubated him, and you can come back-”

Pam moved Nadia aside, and moved into the room, Nadia, holding Cecelia back as Pam moved cautiously to the bed.

“James Duncan, you are such a baby,” she playfully nudged his knee as he sat on the emergency room table.

“I am not!” he protested with a laugh. “This really hurts!” he held up his hand, stung multiple times, leaving his hand the size of a football.

She just shook her head at him, and smiled, “What’re you going to do when our kids get hurt?” She smiled.

“Kids, huh?” The idea of not just one, but multiple children with him excited and terrified him.

“Yep, they’re going to need shots you know,” Pam laughed.

“I’ll be fine,” he closed his eyes smugly. She knew he wouldn’t.

“Mhmmm,” she joked, slapping his knee.

“I’ll just look away like this,” he whipped his head to the side, bonking her in the side of head, and they both burst out laughing.

“Pam, I’m so sorry,” he grabbed her face as she chuckled,

“I’m fine,” she gasped with laughter.

“Maybe just don’t do that with our kids,” Pam giggled, rubbing the side of her head.

Jim winced as the doctor bandaged his hand and injected some medicine into the site, “You’ll be just fine in a few days,” He said, and stepped out of the room, leaving Jim with a prescription for antibiotics.

“A big baby,” she’d muttered, patting his bottom as they’d walked out the double doors.


“He’s bucking,” she heard someone shout, not understanding what was happening, she saw Jim’s body moving forward as though wanting to vomit, a doctor by his side, assuring him he was fine, and they were trying to move his breathing tube but he needed to let them suction it first. She watched his brows furrow, and his body furiously push itself forward. He looked out of control, like a caged animal, and she quickly moved to his bedside.

“Jim,” she shouted, over the sound of so many machines beeping erratically.

“Jim!” she exclaimed again, and he stopped. His body stopped convulsing and she had thought she had his attention. That’s when she saw it, her daughter, wide eyed, standing near the bed, out of sight from his doctor, she’d grabbed his finger. Just his pointer finger, and held tight,
“Daddy,” she whispered with intense emotion.

“It’s only going to hurt for a minute, just like shots, it’s only going to hurt for just a minute,” there were tears streaming down her face, begging her father to listen to her. Pam stepped away from the bed, and moved to Jim’s feet, She watched as her daughter stroked Jim’s arm, up and down, and he laid there, without movement, his eyes closed, and let the doctors finish what they were doing. His eyebrows furrowed, and he gagged, and when he would, Cece would rest her chin against his hand. The doctors were finally able to extubate him successfully, and move him to a face mask for oxygen.

“Is he?” Pam started, the doctors stopped her, and pulled her into the hallway.

“We don’t know, Mrs. Halpert. We have to wait, we have to wait for him to wake up fully, and we’ll see where we stand. Right now, your husband is breathing. Go, be with him.:” He walked away to the nurses station and began charting.

The room cleared, and it was just the three, well, four of them. Cece hadn’t moved, she was on her knees, pressing into the hard linoleum, and Pam went to her, pulling a chair up behind her daughter, gently putting a hand on her back.

“Baby,” Pam tried to get her attention, she didn’t stir, “Honey, I’m sorry you had to see that,” Cece turned around and looked Pam directly in the eyes.

“He needed me, Mom. He needed me to be here before they could do that to him. It hurt too much, he needed my hand,” she looked back to Jim, his chest rising and falling in the most natural way she’d seen in weeks.
They sat there, and for the first time in months, Cecelia spoke to her mother. Not just any words. Words that were meaningful. Within hours, Pam watched her eleven year old daughter become a little girl again. She began to notice every freckle around her face, and how when she cried, she’d look away from Pam, not wanting her to see her tears, like Jim. She was brave. She was fierce. She was everything, their first born,

Cece had beaten Pam at Skip-Bo at least four times before they heard it. It was low, raspy, and didn’t sound like words.

Pam jumped up, and moved toward the bed, Jim was stirring, his eyes fluttering open and closed. Every muscle in her body had tensed, terrified of who this person would be upon waking up.

Cece had moved to the bed to join her mother at her side, and when his eyes finally were able to stay open and focus, he caught his daughters eyes, brimming with tears, noticing a deep scar on her forehead.

“My girls,” he whispered, and Pam choked. She screamed, tears streaming down her face, and began to yell for Nadia. He had no idea how many of his girls were actually in the room.

Cecelia grabbed his hand into hers and moved her fingers into the sign for I love you, in ASL.

“It’s okay Daddy, talking hurts, it’s just like my tonsils, I know.” she muttered, holding her fingers against his palm, and she sobbed as she felt him squeeze back.

***
Chapter 5 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
We're going back to the past here to relive some of Jim's memories with his kids. I love these little moments and how they relate to the larger story. Thank you all so much for your time reading and reviewing. If you haven't left a comment I'd love to hear your thoughts or suggestions!

And remember...I don't own anything. Except a goldfish, named Cookie, who lived exactly four hours.
Then

Jim thought she worried too much. She did worry too much, but becoming a mother tends to do that to you. Once Cece was born, Pam suddenly worried about everything. Were they giving her the right food? What was baby led weaning anyway? What preschool would lead her to the right track for college. There was always something to worry about--and when three became four? The worrying doubled. Jim of course worried about his kids, like any father he wanted his children to be safe, well adjusted, smart, and happy, but Pam? Pam took the brunt of it. As Cece grew older, she became more and more like her father. She was responsible, kind, caring, and always making sure her little brother was taken care of. She held his hand on their way to school, carried him around like a baby doll when he was a toddler, and had bandaids ready any time he skinned a knee, or had a fall. She was completely patient with everyone in her world, and Jim couldn’t be more proud. Philip was just coming into his personality, more like his mother every day, but with his sloppy hair and lopsided grin, they looked almost like twins.

Philip was sensitive. Jim had bought the kids a goldfish, starting the conversation of responsibility with pets since they’d been begging for a dog. Philip was seven and close to the age when Jim got Finn, his Chesapeake Bay retriever. He’d loved that dog, and when he passed when Jim was in college, it devastated him. But, Finn had been his dog. Not Pete, or Tom’s...his. Finn slept in bed with him every night, curled against his side keeping him warm in the cold Pennsylvania nights, and could catch almost anything in his mouth. When Jim went away to Penn State, he’d cried so hard holding his boy one last time before walking into the dorm. He knew his son, and if he was anything like his Dad, he’d become attached to a dog.
So...they’d start small with responsibility. As it turned out, “Cookie” the goldfish had a short shelf life. Four hours to be exact from bag to bowl. Jim held Philip in his lap as he sobbed, boogers covering Jim’s hoodie,

“It’s my fault, Daddy, I..I” He stammered.

“Shhhh,” Jim whispered, rubbing his hand through his son’s long hair. “It’s not your fault, sometimes…” he tried to think of a reasonable answer as to why fish die, “Sometimes fish just need only a little time on earth, and then they go to that really nice place that Poppy went to, remember that?”

“Haven?” Philip pulled away, his face red and stained with tears. Jim sustained a chuckle, they were not good at the church thing.

“Sure,” the corners of his lips pulled up into a smile,

“With the unlimited chocolate milkshakes and streets made of cookies?” He looked seriously into his fathers’ eyes, seeking an answer,

“Yeah, so Cookie went there, to hang out with Poppy, and you know what? They’re probably having the best time together,” Jim smiled. Philip breathed in deeply through his nose, the unpleasant sound of his mucus sucking back in his head. Jim grimaced.

Maybe they weren’t ready for a dog just yet.
Pam, of course, saved the day by throwing out the fish sticks that Philip had found in the freezer looking for a popsicle, and called a pizza in for dinner. Pizza fixed everything, well, everything except tonsillitis.

***


“Cee?” Dr. Brown had warned Jim about the side effects of anesthesia, especially on a child, and he’d listened intently, however he wasn’t prepared to find his baby curled into a perfect ball, on her side, wailing, His eyes caught the blood stains on the perfectly white sheets near her mouth.

“It’s normal,” it was although her nurse could read his mind, and she’d gone back to writing down Cece’s stats without interrupting.

“Cece,” he said her name again, the wailing continued and he felt for every other parent in the pediatric wing of the Dell Children’s Medical Center recovery area, she was screaming relentlessly, and he cursed himself for telling Pam he could handle today alone. He set his hand along her back, pulling her close to him, careful not to tangle wires. She was seven years old and no longer with tonsils or adenoids, but that certainly hadn’t stopped her ability to scream.

“Talk to her,” the nurse didn’t look away from her computer screen, completely unphased by the volume of noise. Jim paused, his child in his hands, feeling like an infant again, curled up, eyes closed, and disoriented. He remembered how tiny she was when she was born, seven pounds and two ounces, and she’d fit right in the crux of his forearm. This morning, he’d learned she weighed forty-nine pounds, but at this moment, she felt weightless against him. He was exhausted, the surgery had taken exactly three hours, longer than he expected, and he spent the entire morning pacing and drinking coffee, but he was with her now, and that was all that mattered.

“Honey, it’s Daddy,” he adjusted her closer to him, his face moving towards her, her screams continued, “you’re safe, you’re right here with me, you’re going to be just fine,” he spoke quietly, and she finally began to settle in. He felt her tense shoulders relax, her arm tug at the sleeve of his flannel shirt, and her hand rested against his stubble; she liked to rub this new feature of her Dad’s face. It tickled, but he’d let her do it, if she was quiet.
He grabbed the sheet and wiped away the tears on her face, and she opened her eyes slowly, staring at him, She was disoriented, he could tell by her shifting eyes, and furrowing brow. She went to say something, and he held a finger to his lips,

“You’re okay, baby,”

The nurse handed Jim a bright red popsicle and her eyes moved toward it, hand stretching out. He sat her up against him, propping his long legs up on her tiny bed, and held her back to his chest. She breathed in long sighs, sucking and chewing until her mouth was entirely stained red, and drifting in and out of sleep between licks. When he came home later that day, he found his shirt stained in multiple places from the droplets. She sighed against him, tugging at the tubes in her nose, and he’d carefully take his hand, and pry hers away, and hold it, running his thumb along the tips of every one of her finger nails. She’d whine briefly, and then stop, settling back against him, He’d forgotten what this felt like, for her to need him completely. She’d become so independent, wanting to walk into school alone, not needing training wheels any longer, telling the doctor this morning she was a superhero and she wasn’t scared ”not one bit!”. Yet here she was, needing him for everything, and for a couple hours, he didn’t want that feeling to end.

***


“Mrs. Halpert, your husband has sustained some very serious injuries, honestly we’re shocked he’s alive,” the doctor spoke candidly and quickly outside of the trauma room in the emergency room. Pam glanced between him and her husband's body lying motionless on the table, surrounded by people.

‘He’s fractured his skull and sustained some pretty serious brain damage. He has a fractured sternum, and a shattered femur. Honestly?” He paused, “He’s only alive because of his height. Had he been hit the way he was and was a few inches shorter, he wouldn’t be with us right now,” The words weren’t processing as quickly as he was saying them for Pam. She just wanted to be by his side, touching him, telling him he was fine, but she knew what this meant. She knew this was far from over,

“You can go in and talk to him for a few minutes but we’ve got to get him back to the OR, but he’s awake. Don’t expect much, he’s in shock,”

Pam had no idea what the hell that meant. She’d been in shock before. Shocked by her father’s new girlfriend, shocked to find Cecelia looking at half naked boys on her phone, but this? This wasn’t shock.

“Jim,” she’d come to the side of the bed, his head, similarly to Cecelia’s being restrained, blood pooling out from one side; she glanced away, and focused on his cheek.

“Can you hear me?” He wasn’t moving, his eyelids only fluttering slightly.

“Babe,” she choked, begging for him to look at her. She ran her eyes down his body, unsure of what he’d put on for clothes that morning. They were tattered, torn, and bloodied. He’d been cut out of what she thought were jeans, and exposed. She’d never seen him so vulnerable. She moved her fingers to a gash on his lips, and wiped it with her hand, she felt him stir beneath her, and moved her eyes quickly to meet his.

“You’re here,” a terrified laugh escaped from her mouth, the tears forming in her eyes falling, “Honey, you’re okay, we’re at the hospital, the kids are okay,” she began to ramble and soon found the confused look coming over his face. She stopped.

“Jim.”

“Say something,”

He parted his lips and nothing came out, he stared at her as multiple doctors made their way into the room,
”We need to prep him for surgery, Mrs. Halpert you’re going to have to go back to your room,” he looked toward a younger doctor, “I’m going to need a razor,” the younger doctor shuffled away.

“Wait,” she stammered, grabbing his hand. His veins, bulging across his knuckles, bruised from the crash.

“I love you,” she brought herself close to his face, “I love you, and you’re going to be fine, okay? And when you wake up, I’ll be here and I promise everything is going to be just fine,” He was being wheeled away before she could finish, and she found herself alone, the bright lights blinding her before she felt her knees collapse underneath her, and her body hit the cold linoleum floor.
Chapter 6 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
Recovering from a major accident takes time, and patience. Something that's not easy for everyone, especially not for Jim. Cecelia may just hold the key to helping her Dad pull through.

Remember, I own absolutely nothing except two adorable puppies who step on my laptop while I try to write.
Now

Jim’s eyes would flicker over to the dozens of flowers and plants situated around his room, some had balloons tied to them, others-small stuffed animals. Since he’d been moved to an inpatient room on the 1st floor of the Ascension Seton Medical Center he was allowed to have gifts delivered to his room, 143, as often as people liked. It had become somewhat of a florist in his room, and he’d been asking Pam to bring some home so he could continue to see out the large windows at the city skyline. The kids, though, brought presents every time. Those gifts, Jim knew, would stay right by his bed on his side table. Usually, they were drawings of himself and Philip driving a racecar, or a book report Cece had gotten an A on. These were his prized possessions. His favorite though, was a photo of the five of them, circled around him in his bed the day after he came back.

Despite Pam’s protests, both kids had gotten on top of the bed, Philip giving his dad bunny ears, Cece with her arms wrapped around his neck, and Pam looking down on all of it. His nurse had captured it after he’d been moved out of the ICU; he looked at it at least ten times a day. Jim knew his journey was far from over, the migraines were terrible, he hadn’t even begun physical therapy to walk again, and for now, he moved from place to place in a chair. It may have left him with a little less dignity, but feeling the spring breeze against his face in the courtyard, and sitting in a cafeteria with his children drinking grape sodas and playing checkers was worth the feeling of a little less pride.

He glanced up at the clock, it was noon, Pam was working on a sketch on the other side of the room, possibly something for the class she was teaching, maybe another charcoal of himself, he wasn’t sure, but he’d loved to watch her. She’d glance up every few minutes and smile softly at him, making sure he was still there with her, and then go back to her drawing. His job had been so accommodating during this entire time. Clients had sent him dozens of gifts, cards, and notes of encouragement. Athleap continued to remind him that work would be there when he was ready, but truth be told, he didn’t know if or when that day would come. Sure, he would work again, but when? The migraines made it impossible for him to look at a phone screen, and when Pam had given him back his iPhone, he didn’t even know what to do with it. Thousands of emails cluttered his inbox. He’d find himself going back through photos of last year and begging Pam to show him what he had missed from her own phone.

There wasn’t much, she had admitted to him. Taking photos had been something they’d both always cherished and been great at, but this year, things had been different.

“So when did he finish therapy?” Jim asked that afternoon, breaking Pam out of her daze. She looked up from her sketchbook,

“About two months ago. Suzanne felt as though they’d gotten through the majority of his fears, but he is still dealing with some separation anxiety,” His stomach turned, filled with guilt. He needed to know these things, but felt so much responsibility for the trauma that his family had gone through. He knew logically this wasn’t his fault, and had of course spent his awake hours with Pam expressing to her she wasn’t at fault either, it was an accident. Tears were shed, she didn’t believe him, but he was there, and right now, that was enough for her.

“Should he go back?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.

Pam focused on him for a moment, confused by his question,

“I mean, I don’t see why, you’re here and-”

He laid his head back on the bed, the light bothering his eyes,

“I’ll shut them off, hang on,” Pam got up and moved to the lightswitch, darkening the room, Relief swept over him.

“Pam, I’m not going anywhere,” he started,

“I know,” she gave him a toothy smile,

“No,” he spoke seriously, “I’m not leaving here anytime soon, and I don’t want the kids to just think things are going to go back to normal, I don’t want them-” he was rambling. She moved to the side of his bed,

“Jim,” she took his hands in hers, “If you think he should go back, I’ll take him back. They know this is just the beginning.”

“Do they?” He met her eyes. She watched as they brimmed with tears,

“Does she?” He pointed to her stomach. Pam moved her hands toward her stomach and set them on top of her bump.
“She’s going to be fine,” Pam attempted to convince herself, “We’re both going to be fine,”

“I can’t be in the room for the c-section,” Her breath caught in her throat as she remembered this conversation with the OBGYN. “And you’ve never had surgery, and I don’t want you in there alone,” Jim. Always concerned about her, and never himself.

“Babe, I’m sure they can make it work, I’m sure we’ll figure out a way for you to be there,”

He turned immediately and looked out the window, refusing to let tears spill out of his eyes, he knew he’d be in a waiting room, or in this very bed when she gave birth, and not with her, holding her, putting the baby on her chest when she couldn’t do it for herself.

This pregnancy had become more complicated than the other two, and Pam had been ordered to stay on bed rest until the C-section in two weeks, but bed rest for Pam, just meant spending her days in a recliner, and continuing to make the kids dinner and putting them to bed.

“Push over,” she mumbled, and he picked his body up carefully on his palms, lifting himself slightly to the left. His legs felt like dead weights. She’d moved next to him, running her thumb around his forehead, wondering if the scars would ever fade, wondering if these memories would ever fade.

“Cece’s asking to be here more,” He stated, breaking the silence. Pam popped her head up,

“When did she say that?” Pam questioned, lifting an eyebrow.

“She’s been texting me...on her ipad” Jim answered carefully.

“Jim, you know we’ve told her not to do that, she’s not supposed to be talking to anyone without our permission first,”

“It’s me, Babe,” he furrowed his eyebrows.
“I just don’t like the idea that she’s figured out how to do that,” Pam shook her head, “Pam, she wants to finish school remotely so she can be here more, and home to help you with the baby,”

“No.” she shook her head matter of factly. “She’s already missed so much school, she needs the socialization, and you’re here every day after 3:15. No.”

“So that’s it, we're not even going to discuss it?” Jim cocked his head,

“Jim, I’ve been with her-” she stopped herself mid sentence, eyes widening. She’d hit a nerve and shut him down, he’d turned on his side facing the door and closed his eyes. This was his tactic. How he told her he was hurt, and was done talking for the time being. She cursed herself and got out of the bed.

“Honey, I just don’t think that she’d handle the transition well,” she walked around so she could face him, but his eyes were snapped shut,

It was quiet for a long time before he spoke. It felt like hours had passed, maybe days, before he looked up at Pam seriously.

“Cecelia thought I was dead, Pam. She saw me get hit by her school bus. Frankly, if she wanted to quit fifth grade all together, I’d let her. I will never be able to save her from that memory. I never can take it back. She saw me a bloodied, crumbled mess. I know you think I haven’t seen the photos from the accident, I have. I have access to Google. I want her here.” He paused, closed his eyes, and pulled the blanket around him. And that was that.

***


“Wait...seriously?” Cece’s eyes lit up that afternoon when Pam picked her up from school. She glanced at her mother from the back of the car in the rear view mirror, eyes bugging out of her head.

“I can just stay with Dad, all day?” she asked, a bit hesitant.

“Until the baby’s born, and then I’m going to need some help. Grandma is going home soon,” Pam pursed her lips. She thought this idea was awful. She wasn’t okay with Cecelia quitting soccer, so the agreement was, she could homeschool with her Dad during the day, but soccer after school hours and helping around the house at night. She thought it was a fair compromise.

Cece pulled her long hair up into a bun, brown curls slipping out and around her face, and shoved a pencil in to hold it up.

“One other thing,” Pam glanced up again, “Two rules. You don’t text anymore on the ipad without permission. even if it’s Dad.” she nodded, sheepishly. “And two, you and Daddy can watch one movie a day. One and it better be educational,” she smiled to herself, careful not to let her daughter see her upturned lips. Maybe this would lift his spirits. Maybe his daughter would bring him some hope and will to work harder, to think positively, and to pull him out of his funk. Maybe you couldn’t be somebody’ss everything.
End Notes:
I'd love to hear your reviews, they keep me going, and help me determine where this story may lead! I thank you all so much for your kind and thoughtful reviews!
Chapter 7 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
First, we do have to return to the past, and while I know it's not easy, trust me, the ending of this chapter is some nice payoff.

Music for me is the key to getting in the right headspace for this story, I thought I might share some of the music that I listen to while writing this story. Theres a wide variety but I'll share some that get me thinking about Jim and Pam.
In my daughters eyes- Martina McBride
Ordinary Miracle- Sarah McLaughlin
Out of my League- Stephen Speaks
Basket Case- Sara Bareillis
Humble and Kind- Tim McGraw
Father and Daughter- Paul Simon
Closer to Fine- Indigo Girls

Remember, as much as I wish I owned these characters, I own absolutely nothing.
Then


Her wrist hurt and she felt the heaviness of her eyelids keeping her from looking around the brightly lit room. Her ears regained their ability to take in sound next, and she could hear an obnoxious beeping coming from somewhere behind her, and instantly, she remembered,
“Where is he?” she mumbled hoarse, her throat feeling incredibly sore.

“Pam,” she recognized that voice instantly, and willed her eyes to open seeing her mother standing over her, she began to shake, trembling from her feet to her fingers. She was suddenly freezing. She watched a nurse move past her bed silently and check her vitals.

“Are you in pain, Pamela?” the nurse asked,

“It’s Pam,” she corrected, and shook her head no. She couldn’t feel anything, “just, cold” she felt her teeth chattering.

“I’ll go get her some warm blankets,” Helene grabbed a seat near the bed, and pulled her mask down, putting a finger to her lips. “She’s gone, it’s okay, honey,” She moved her hand to Pams, and covered her wedding band.

“Mom, where is he?” She blurted out. Helene immediately went to work, propping her daughters head up on additional pillows, checking to see if her wrist bandages were still intact, and when she went to pull Pam’s hair out of her face, she was swatted away.

“Mom,” her eyes darted with urgency, filling with tears,

“Where. Is. Jim?”

Helene glanced down at the floor, “He’s in ICU sweetie, they did surgery but,” she stopped.

Pam stared at her mother, mouth slightly ajar waiting,
Helene paused, choosing her words carefully. “They’re not seeing,” she bit her bottom lip, “ brain wave activity honey,”

She felt the air slip out of her lungs, and just like that, she couldn’t breathe. This is what hyperventilating must feel like, she thought, as she clasped her hands around her chest. Or maybe this was a panic attack, maybe both.
Helene’s eyes widened and she stood up quickly moving to the door,

“I need a nurse in here now!” she hollered, demanding all eyes on her with her very tone.

“What’s going on?” A young female doctor rushed into the Post Anesthesia Recovery Unit, and pushed past Helene moving to the bed.

“Pam,” she gently took her arm,

“Hey, can you hear me?” she was heaving in loud breaths, erratic breaths, ones that felt as though she was dying. The room felt as though it was moving, and she couldn’t see straight, When she felt this woman’s touch was when she let the tears spill over.

“I need him,” she wailed, words coming out between breaths,

“I need Jim, please get me Jim,” Helene stared at her in shock, watching her daughter writhing, and shake, and was tortured by the sight of it.

“Give her something,” Helene demanded angrily, “Please, give her something right now,” Within seconds, Pam had relaxed, her breathing steadied, and the Ketamine quickly went to work. Helene moved out of the room, cursing under her breath that she’d said anything at all. How easy it would have been to lie? She moved quickly to find her granddaughter and cried silently as she paced through the halls making her way to the pediatric inpatient unit.

***


It had been two days since the accident, and two days since Cecelia had spoken a single word. She wasn’t eating, and wouldn’t drink, and even her mother’s promise of giving her soda hadn’t done the trick to get her to hydrate, even a tiny bit. She was being pumped with nutrients and fluids, but her refusal to speak had her doctors, and her family, the most worried.

Helene moved into Cece’s room, seeing the instant change of pops of color everywhere around her. This room was much different than Jim or Pam’s, and had large polka dots splattered everywhere on the wall. Cece had stuffed animals surrounding her beds, video games at her disposal, and every nurse and doctor it seemed were in such good moods all the time. She found the Child Life Specialist in the room when she walked in, and careful not to distract him or her granddaughter, she moved to the corner of the room where a pull out couch sat, and placed herself upon it.

“So,” the young man moved his chair closer to her bed, and Cecelia’s eyes didn’t move from his own. “I know you don’t want to eat, and I know that everything going on right now is a lot, you must be feeling very anxious,” He spoke softly and kindly. She gave him no recognition that she even heard him. “So your doctors spoke with me this morning because later this afternoon, they have to give you something called a nasogastric tube, or NG tube for short,” he reached into a bag and pulled out a long clear tube. “See this end?” he pointed, “that will go down into your belly, and this tiny end?” He touched the side of his nose, “will come right out here, and that’s how we’re going to give you food, until you’re ready to eat again,” He studied her carefully, wondering if she would signal any indication that she’d refuse treatment, and eat. She didn’t. She lay silently in bed, staring at him motionless as he stood up.

“I think your grandmother’s here, so I’m going to go, but Dr. Wagner will be in soon to put this in, do you have any questions for me?”

Her voice was so quiet, he wasn’t sure she’d even spoken, “Yes.” she stared at him, “I want to see my Dad,” Helene stood up, unsure of what to do with herself.

“Cece, Daddy’s in surgery,” she lied, “but do you maybe want to go see Mommy?” She didn’t move,

“You need to come talk to her on this side, she can’t hear out of that ear,” he motioned. She’d forgotten. How could she have forgotten this piece of vital information? She moved across the room,

“Honey,” she caught Cece’s eyes, “Let’s go see Mom, huh?”

“She really shouldn’t leave the floor,” the young man looked out the door, peering both ways, “but if you go now, and are back within the hour, you’ll be back just in time for Dr, Wagner making his rounds.” he smiled at them, and moved out of their way.

Cece said nothing, but stood up, the yellow hospital pants they’d given her far too big were rolled on her waist, and an old Dunder Mifflin t-shirt covered her top half. It was her mother’s shirt, and she’d stolen it many years ago when her parents had gone out on a date, leaving her behind with Philip and her grandparents. She cried hysterically when they left, but the sweet smell of lilac perfume on her mothers’ shirt brought a sense of stability to her then seven year old self, and she’d kept the shirt since. It had become a security blanket of sorts to her.

She hopped into a wheelchair near her bed that had been used to take her throughout the pediatric wing to give her breaks from being in bed. She mostly used it to visit the audiologist, which had become a regular occurrence for her over the last couple of days. The impact of the accident had left her entirely deaf in one ear, and with partial hearing loss in the other. She hadn’t even begun to process this information, the constant headaches distracting her most of the day.

Helene found Pam back in her inpatient room a floor above them, sleeping quietly in the bed. She was leaning against the bed railing, her arm draped over, and the other pulled close to her face. Cece crawled out of the chair, dragging an IV pole with her, and lifted the blanket on the other side of Pam, crawling into bed with her. She smelled strange. Cece couldn’t quite place it, but it was a mix of plastic, and sour, and not like lilacs at all. She moved her mother’s wrist carefully, and laid down, staring at her, and closed her eyes. This was the most calm she’d felt in days. Cece didn’t know what PTSD was, but she’d heard that term when the doctors thought they were being quiet outside of her room. She knew something was wrong with her, but she didn’t know how to say it, or what to say. She just wanted to go home. She wanted to be with Philip, but he wasn’t allowed in the hospital, and she didn’t even know if her little brother was okay.

***


when she wraps her hand around my finger, it puts a smile in my heart. It’s giving more when you feel like giving up

“How long has she been here?” Pam pulled Cece closer to her, listening to her soft snores, and pulling curls out of her sweaty face.

“A few hours,” Helene responded, sitting in the darkened room, “I was supposed to bring her back hours ago, but I wasn’t about to disturb her,” Pam shifted onto her elbow,

“She still won’t eat, honey,” Pam knew this all too well. She’d held out as a child, refusing to eat when she wouldn’t get her own way. She’d known what Cece was doing, but she’d never expected she’d last this long. She for sure had endured trauma, but she wanted her father. Pam couldn’t help but feel as though she had failed the most important thing in her entire world, her family.

“This is my fault,” she whispered, not moving her eyes from the bandages on Cece’s ear. They’d attempted a minor surgery to correct hearing that hadn’t been successful. “She’ll be at a disadvantage, you know?” She spoke rhetorically. “She’ll hate wearing hearing aids, kids are mean, they’ll make fun of her, she’ll have to learn ASL in case she loses it entirely, I did this to her, Mom,” she was crying now, silently, but heavily.

“You did not, Pammy, you did not do this to her, or Jim or yourself, it was an accident

Pam was quiet, pressing kisses to her daughter's head every few minutes.

“I’m going to get her to eat,” she sighed, and put her hand out, “I need your phone,” she asked her mother. Her’s had been broken in the crash, and she didn’t even know what remained of it.

“What are you-”

“Please give it to me, Mom,”

Helene handed it over apprehensively, and Pam dialed a few numbers, hesitantly. She tried to remember the number as she carefully typed them in,

The phone rang only one ring before an answer,

“It’s Pam,” she started, listening to the voices on the other line, “I need a favor...” she paused, “How quickly can you get to Austin?” She’d hung up within seconds, a small smile creeping on her face.

If there was anyone other than Jim that could convince Cecelia Marie Halpert to do anything, it was her Uncle Michael.
End Notes:
I couldn't write a story without Uncle Michael, right?

Reviews make me happy, and jellybeans make me giddy!
Chapter 8 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
This chapter is near and dear to my heart, you'll see why.

As a reminder, I own absolutely nothing.
Now



“Checkmate,” she beamed at her father, looking up from the board, completely pleased with herself. He’d let her put him into checkmate a thousand times if it meant getting to see that smile plastered on her face. She looked older to him, different somehow, he’d missed half of a year. Cece’s hair was longer, straighter, (she’d done that herself, no doubt) and her clothing was different. She’d switched from bright pink sweaters to more muted tones, athletic wear the only thing she adorned, and behind her ear, there was a tiny strip of purple in her hair. He’d noticed, but not dared say anything. It wasn’t his favorite addition to this new and improved Cecelia, but he was a Dad. And being a Dad meant one thing, you pick your battles. After this morning’s battle of chess, it was time for him to get into another.

“So, Mom said,” He was practicing, it was hard. His hands were sore, weak, and this was so unfamiliar, but the pediatric audiology team had been so patient with him and Pam, as well as Cece, but she’d picked it up the quickest, he moved his thumb to his chin, “that you’re not too thrilled about the hearing aids,” She immediately rolled her eyes at him, and moved back away from the table. Her good ear had been turned toward him, but he watched as she carefully adjusted herself in her seat. This new tactic of his daughters was a way for her to literally tune him out. He was rendered pretty helpless in that bed unless he could sign to her, and that had become his newest challenge yet.

He wiggled his fingers in her direction, You need to wear them, don’t you want to be able to hear everything around you? He struggled, but managed through a sentence. English order first he’d been instructed, and they’d move to more accurate ASL order later. She looked up at him surprised. Cece was convinced her Dad only knew maybe 30 signs or so, but every day when her Mom picked her up from the hospital, and in the weeks prior, he studied. He couldn’t go far, so it was youtube tutorials, and meetings with her audiology team, and finding a local resource center in Austin that would give him lessons virtually. He was as invested in learning this language as he was motivated to get out of the hospital. Neither of these things seemed very achievable each day, but he kept going, and mostly because every morning, he’d wake up to Cece eating her breakfast on his side table, ready for their day of school.
She stared at him for a long moment, and slipped her hearing aids in from her pocket, and he smiled at her. One of the Dad he smiles he saved for special occasions, she knew them all too well. When he saw her in her dress for their Daddy-Daughter Dance in first grade, when she’d taken her first Holy Communion, when she’d fessed up to lying about cheating on a test. Those smiles were just for her, and she immediately moved herself over to his bed,

“Push over,” she instructed, grabbing her notebook and her laptop and pulling them into his bed. The two of them fit rather comfortably side by side, and she’d show him her work for each class, he’d assist when necessary, and continued to keep her motivated by asking for treats from the nurses station most of the day. Ginger ale had become Cece’s new favorite beverage of choice, and she knew every nurse by name. They ended their day with a quick ASL lesson she’d give her Dad. Today, she was showing him how to sign classroom.

“Classroom sure looks a lot like the sign for family,”
“Yeah,” she muttered, showing him the sign again.
“Do you miss school?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.
She paused, taking the time to ponder. She was never one to answer quickly, always thinking, “No,” she said firmly. “The kids in school don’t know how to sign, I can’t hear very well with everyone talking, and I’d rather be here with you, Daddy,”

Daddy she knew the key to his heart. He sighed, pulling her off his lap and next to him in bed. He was so glad to finally be wearing his own clothes, and surrounded by familiar blankets and pillows from home.

“I get to ask you a question now,” she spoke up after a few minutes, her face scrunched up into his side.

“Go right ahead,”

“When are you going to stand up?”

He’d tried. Well, maybe tried was a strong word. He’d made some attempts, became frustrated, and moved back to his chair or the bed,

“Honey, I don’t know,”

“Mom says she knows you can do it. But that you don’t think you can,” she immediately covered her mouth as though she’d let something Pam asked her not to say slip out. Cece had a way of always keeping him on his toes. She was so much like him, yet Pam’s reminder of his abilities and his purpose was always on the verge of Cece’s lips. She was full of gratitude, reminders of courage, and wanting to support him; when all the while, he’d been concerning himself with how to support his daughter in these new challenges.
He hung his head for a moment, then reached up, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Can I tell you a story?” He asked. She nodded, moving to face him so she could easily read his lips.

“A really long time ago, wayyyy back before dinosaurs, your Mom and I were pretty cool,” she giggled, pulling a pillow to her chest. She’d loved his stories. “But,” he paused, “We weren’t always so honest with ourselves, and we certainly weren’t as brave as you are,” she cocked her head in disbelief. Her mother and father were the bravest people she knew.

“See, I ran away when I got scared to a really busy, and smelly land called Connecticut,” she chuckled at him,

“Dad, I know where Connecticut is,” she rolled her eyes at him and smiled,

“Annnnyway,” he continued, “Your mom and I spent a long time when I moved back to Pennsylvania not trying our best, to be honest with ourselves, and each other. We avoided it because it was hard,” she was listening carefully, he filled in with signs as he remembered them.

“Your Uncle Michael, took us to the beach one day, right before Mommy and I became boyfriend, girlfriend,” he always tried to use verbiage she understood,

She started laughing, “I remember, and Kevin ate so many hotdogs Mom puked, and you sang songs on the bus, and Uncle Michael made everybody play stupid games to see who would be manager, I know Dad,” she replied with confidence.

The kids weren’t old enough for the documentary. Maybe they’d never be, but they’d been kept from it, out of the limelight of their two seconds of fame with PBS, and the DVD’s were stashed away in the house. She may have known some of their story, but only the parts they chose to share,

“Did you know your Mom walked on fire?” Okay, so he was improvising...a little.

“What?” she yelled, her eyes widening.

“Yep, Uncle Michael was going to do it, but he chickened out, and your Mom walked across fire, and then she came and talked to me, and she was the bravest I’d ever seen her. Until now. Mommy’s been pretty brave lately,” guilt made his stomach turn,

“Why are you telling me this?” she asked him, pulling one of his quilts around her, the cool air in the hospital sending a shiver down her spine.

“Because, your Dad’s not being very brave right now,” he stated matter of factly.

“I’m scared,” he paused and let the silence sit between them, his hands clenched lingering near his chest, signing to her.

“It’s my turn now,” she broke the silence between them. He tilted his head, “to tell you a story,” she finished.

“Dad,” she glanced down at her hands, fiddling with a mermaid mood ring on her pinky, and chipping away at the yellow polish on her nails.

“I saw you,” her eyes made direct contact with his, and he watched as they filled, and told him so much with so few words, “I saw you that day, The day we never talk about,” She wiped an eye,

“Cee, you don’t have to-”

“Mom thinks I don’t remember. I told her I don’t remember, because I don’t want to do what Philip had to do. And when I have nightmares, I just stay in my bed, and hold my pillows and I sing the song we sing all the time together, do you remember, the one about being brave?”

“I remember,” his voice was barely audible,

“When I went to Emily G’s house for her birthday last summer, I lied and told you we watched Frozen 3, but really we watched this scary movie about zombies, and I was so scared I couldn’t sleep all night,” she wrinkled her brow, apologizing with every tone in her voice,

“Daddy,” she’d begun to weep, “you were all…” she stopped, putting her hands up against her face, pushing her fogging glasses up against her forehead.

“C’mere,” he put his arms out, and pulled her around his torso, her legs dangling on both sides of him, her head on his chest. She was so tall, so heavy. He moved his fingers through her curls, separating them, and rubbing his thumb against her scalp,

“We’re not always brave Dad, and that’s okay,” she mumbled through tears, “I wasn’t brave that day,” she looked up at him, “but I never thought I’d hear you talk again, and I never thought we’d play games together, or watch Top Gun together when Mom wasn’t home ever again,” her voice was mixed with sobs, and he continued to rub her head, then her back and finally she quieted down after a moment or two.

“Cecelia, you are the bravest girl I know,” he lifted her face up to face him, “look at this scar on your forehead,” he ran his thumb over it, “you are bad ass” he grinned at her.

“You're brave too, Dad,” she sat up.

“That’s why I did this,” she pulled the curtain away from both of them, motioning behind her at his wheelchair in the room. It was covered in slime. Green, wet, sticky, slime. The absolute bane of his existence as a father. He couldn’t help but laugh at what his daughter had pulled off sometime in the midst of a science project, and an afternoon nap.

“Today, we’re going to walk to the window,” she stood up, off the bed and moved around putting her hands out. He wrapped his large hands around her tiny ones, noticing every nail bed was perfectly intact. She’d stopped biting. Who was this girl in front of him?
End Notes:
I'd love to hear your thoughts! They make me so excited to continue writing this for you!
Chapter 9 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
This chapter came so naturally to write. I was nervous about writing Michael, but it just fit so perfectly. A little longer this time, please leave reviews, I love hearing your thoughts!
Then



Helene had long gone home into the late hours of the evening, it was nearing 9pm, and Pam had been moved back to her inpatient room, Cece, still by her side. Pam knew she should have had her mother bring Cece back to her room, but she wasn’t giving up on this effort, and if there was one battle she could win today, she was getting Cecelia to eat.
She’d let her daughter sleep up against her most of the evening, Cece only turning to adjust herself in her mother’s bed, opening her eyes briefly when they were rolled upstairs, and only when a nurse tried to pick Cece up to bring her back to her own room, did Mama Bear come out. Pam saved that side of her for special occasions. She promised herself years ago she wouldn’t be a helicopter parent, but in the midst of Covid, and the uncertainty of her husband’s life at this very moment, she wasn’t letting Cece out of her sight.

“She’s going to stay with me,” Pam stated, matter of fact, wrapping an arm around Cece, pulling her tight. She felt her stir within her grip, “She’ll be fine, for one night. You can check her vitals in here, just let her doctor know she’s with me,” Pam was certain this was violating so many hospital policies, but tonight she didn’t care. When the nurse had left, her mother’s phone hummed slightly beside her and she glanced at a text.

MichaelJust landed, be there in a jiffy lube :D she smiled, setting the phone down. Within minutes it was buzzing again, she sighed, wondering if this back and forth would continue until Michael arrived at the hospital, but immediately pressed the green phone button when Philip’s face appeared on the screen.

“Hi baby,” she said quietly,

“Hi,” he looked utterly exhausted. She’d never seen bags under her eight year old’s eyes before, but she knew he wasn’t sleeping.

“Mommy, can I come there soon and see you and Daddy?” He asked, pleading. She looked at the time, 9:14pm
“Soon, sweetie, soon. They’re being really strict about visitors right now because of the virus, remember,?” His eyes widened in fear,

“Wait, you and Daddy have the virus?”

She shook her head quickly, “No, no, Phil, none of us do, we’re all okay. We’re just staying here a little while longer because we got hurt. Remember when you were teeny tiny and you had to have surgery?”

He shook his head no,

“You were four years old, and Mommy and Daddy took you to this very hospital and you had to have surgery in your ears, and you were so brave. She closed her eyes, reassuringly.

“I was?” he asked. She saw Larissa come into view,

“Hey Pam,” she waved, an attempt of a smile on her young face. She sat down next to Philip.

“Hey Larissa,” Pam said quietly,

“Baby, can I talk to your auntie for just a few minutes?” He bit his lip, debating, as he usually did when he didn’t want to do something, “please?” she prodded, pouting slightly at him. He sighed, handing the phone over,

“You can talk to her again in just a minute, okay?” Larissa promised, and waited until he shut the bedroom door behind him and they were alone.

It was silent as they both stared at each other. Pam knew she wanted information, she was young, impressionable, in her early 30’s and recently out of a relationship. Her brother was her world, and she’d spent so much time with them and the kids in Austin, coming back at a moments’ notice was no issue for her. She’d been with Philip at their home for the last few days.

“He’s in an induced coma,” Pam started, Larissa’s concerned face didn’t change,

“They don’t know what’s going on right now, his vitals are stable, but we won’t know anything for a while. They told me,” she glanced down to make sure Cecelia was still asleep, “they told me..” she choked on something creeping up the back of her throat, it felt like vomit, and despair, and the idea of being a widow all coming up at once, “that if he wakes up, he may not be him anymore”. Pam stopped, she wasn’t sure how much more she could say without having another full breakdown. It had been hours almost a day since she’d had a glimpse of her husband, and talking about him in this way just felt wrong.

Larissa said nothing and just nodded, swallowing hard. Pam watched as her eyes filled up with tears,

“I haven’t told my Mom,” she muttered,

“Don’t.” Pam closed her eyes, “Please don’t tell her anything just yet, Betsy’s got enough on her plate with Gerald being sick right now,” she rubbed her hand against her forehead.

Larissa followed suit, rubbing her temples. She stood up, and Pam watched as she walked out of her and Jim’s bedroom where Larissa had been sleeping, she caught a glimpse of their latest family portrait on her side of the bed. The four of them had been in Galveston on a beach trip over the summer just to get away. With the help of a tripod and their camera, they’d managed to catch some great shots, but her favorite was this candid. Philip was sitting on his Dad’s shoulders’, Cece looking up at her Mom in admiration, and she and Jim looking at each other laughing. They were wet from being in the water all day, their hair, strewn with salt, and their sun kissed. That day had been perfect. In the midst of so much chaos, that day had been exactly what they’d all needed.

Her mind wandered back to her son when she heard the door to her room open up, and shut a little louder than she’d liked.
She watched her old friend pop around the corner. Every bit of aging he had done had come so gracefully to him. She saw the joy in the wrinkles in his forehead, and the greying of his hair reminded her of a time when Michael seemed so young to her. She smiled, as his eyes widened at the sight of both of them, particularly Cece, who didn’t look much like her typical self. Michael stared briefly at the staples in her head, and the bandaging around her ear, and looked to Pam. Pam stared back in disbelief that his next visit would be in these circumstances.

She watched as he carefully set a backpack on the floor he’d no doubt stuffed with all of the essentials for a few days in Texas. With absolutely no surprise to Pam, he pulled out a pair of rubber teeth, stuck them in his mouth, and grabbed some oversized sunglasses and delicately placed them on his face.

Pam noticed there was no Visitor sticker adorned to Michael’s t-shirt and she laughed to herself, knowing he’d creatively snuck his way inside. Frankly, seeing him brought a sense of relief she hadn’t felt in days.

Michael had been in a hospital exactly six times. Once, when he fell off a skateboard that Jeff had told him was safe to ride, it wasn’t, again when he needed to bring Dwight to the hospital for being a complete idiot, again when Meredith made a miraculous recovery from rabies and had an unfortunate run in with someone’s vehicle, when Pam delivered Cece, and finally, the birth of his first two sets of twins. This was his seventh time. And since seven was such a lucky number, he was sure this visit would be exponentially better than the others. Pam hadn’t shared many details with him, but he was seeing his niece tonight, and that was all that mattered.

He snuck up the side of the bed, knees on the floor, crouching low, before lightly tapping on Cece’s shoulders.
“You order a pizza,?!” He hollered at her, and she jumped, almost entirely out of the bed, to find her Uncle Michael at her side. Grinning wickedly at her, he pulled the teeth out, and the glasses off, and his eyes danced. He’d loved that little girl. She was a spitfire, and much to his own work, and her parents disapproval, she knew exactly when to say, “That’s what she said,”.

“Uncle Michael!” she screamed, nearly at the top of her lungs. Pam thought back to the following year, it had been at least a year and a half since they’d been to Colorado, and maybe two since Michael had been to Austin. She’d facetimed him a couple times a month, mostly to see her cousins, and of course, Holly, but seeing him in person was always a treat to Cece.

He laughed that hearty laugh, sounding so much like Santa Clauss in every Christmas movie, and she moved herself so she was standing on the bed, putting her arms out. He lifted her out of the bed, and onto the cold linoleum floor.

“What are you doing here?” Pam was shocked at how much she was speaking, and the delight in which her voice was coming through.

“I told you already,” he touched her nose, leaning down to her, “I brought you a pizza,” She snickered at him, but watched as he pulled out two triangle shaped boxes with Sbarro plastered on top. Pam knew these were 100% cold, and probably had stuck to the inside of the box, but if Cece ate them, she didn’t care. She’d let her eat a pixie stick right now if it meant food in her stomach.

“I brought you two slices of New York’s finest,” he told her sincerely, opening the box,

“But the plane was a little bumpy, so..” he trailed off.
Before she could say anything, she’d grabbed one of the melted slices, pulling it to her face, and taking a huge bite. Pam felt a sigh of relief, and her head relaxed into her pillow in a way it hadn’t in ages.

Between bites she was asking him so many questions, “Did Mom tell you why we’re here?” she finally moved to a more serious question after finishing not one, but both slices of pizza, and eating a cookie or two Michael had shoved in his pockets.

His eyes glanced over to Pam. Entertaining Cece and Phil was his expertise. Telling Pam she could use a facelift, and giving Jim a sandwich or too to fatten him up, was what he was great at. This was...uncharted territory.

“Honey,” Pam placed her good hand on her back,

“Can you do Mommy a favor and go down to the nurses station, it’s almost 10:30 and I really need something to drink before we go to sleep, can you get us a pitcher of water?” Her voice was, higher than usual, the one she used to ask favors. Cece tilted her head in annoyance, but grabbed her IV pole and headed down the hallway.

Michael smiled at her warmly,
“You look good,” she sighed, sinking down into her bed.

“You don’t,” he chuckled, and moved himself into an uncomfortable plastic chair.

“How’d you get in here, anyway?” Pam asked, turning her head to face him,

“This hospital’s a joke, I just said my wife was up here and she was going into labor with noctuplets,” he shrugged, Pam snickered, feeling warmth deep in her chest.

They stayed quiet for a moment,

“How long will this take?” He motioned to the door,

“We’ve got at least 5 minutes, there’s a cute nurse out there she likes,” Pam rolled her eyes at the thought of her daughter showing interest in boys. Albeit older boys. Men. She shook the horrifying thought off and focused back on Michael,

“Michael,” her voice trailed off, her eyebrows furrowing.
He stared at her with concern, moving to sit on the end of her bed,

“I don’t think Jim’s-”

“Hey,” he reached out grabbing her shoulder, she broke into a fit of sobs. This touch was so familiar.

“Hey, he’s going to be okay,” he reassured her. She kept shaking her head no,

“You don’t understand, this is all my fault,” she pulled her hands up to her face, covering her eyes, liquid pooling out of her nose onto the blanket.

Michael instinctively grabbed some tissues and handed them to her, chucking the box back on the table haphazardly.
Cece walked in at that moment, staring for a moment at her mother, and then back to Michael.

“Mommy?” she was concerned.

“Cece. I bet you can’t stay up all night,” Michael smiled, wickedly, turning his attention.

“I can too!” she challenged him, a smile plastered on her own face.

“No way, you’re going to fall asleep so fast. I’ve got a story to tell you,” He stood up, “But, I have to tell you in your room, because your Mom’s room is boring and I heard you’ve got video games, and if you’re staying up all night, we need entertainment. Plus... “ he looked around, clearing the air, “I’ve got candy in my backpack, and a story for you about an evil witch named Jan Levinson,” she looked back at her Mom, Pam mouthed “thank you,” and laid back on the pillows.

“Hey…” she heard Michael moving down the hall, “Where is your room anyway?”

“I dunno,”

Pam smiled, pulling the blankets around her. She grabbed her mother’s cell phone next to her bed and started flipping through her Mom’s photos. She landed on a photo that her Mom had sent in a text message to her sister, Penny. It was of Jim, his head heavily bandaged, and hooked up to a thousand machines. She immediately set the phone down, and turned over in bed. She forced her eyes closed, and willed herself not to cry again.

***


She was asleep in under a half an hour. It only took Michael about five minutes of impressions of the evil Jan Levinson before she’d giggled herself to sleep. He’d slipped out of the room, and moved out of the pediatric ward. It was a little past eleven when he moved up to the ICU and found Jim’s room. He stopped in front of the glass windows, making sure none of the night nurses caught a glimpse of him. He remembered the day he hired him, just a boy, twenty-four years old. He was goofy, unmotivated, and just the kind of guy to be a great salesman. Michael never looked back. Jim had become his best friend. He watched Jim’s chest unnaturally rise and fall, and looked away.

He continued to stare in silence for what felt like hours,
“Never, ever, ever give up,” he whispered quietly, and pulled his cellphone out of his pants moving out of the ICU and toward the elevator.

“Holly?”

“Hey, I made it, I umm…” he paused, “I just wanted to tell you I love you, kiss the kids four times tonight for me, okay?” He hung up and moved into the elevator letting the doors close slowly in front of him, his eyes to the floor.
Chapter 10 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
As this story moves toward the beginning of an end, we discover some of the lurking thoughts of Jim, as well as a surprise at the end.

A reminder, I don't own anything.
Now



When Cece walked in that morning the large bag swung over her arm encapsulated her entire frame. Jim looked surprised as she moved toward the bed, and sat it as his feet, unzipping the zipper and revealing the beat up acoustic that hadn’t been touched in some years. He smiled, running a finger over the cords, cringing at the out of tune beauty in front of him. He hadn’t touched it since she’d been in his room, ran her fingers over the strings, and even though he didn’t really know how to play at the time, he vowed to learn so that one day he could place it in her lap, and move her fingers across the fret. He shook his head back to where he was now, and briefly forgot about that apartment back in Scranton. The one he’d first called his own, and even though he shared it with Mark, it was his.

“What are you doing with this?” he raised an eyebrow, his signing slightly improving as he spoke, grinning in her direction.

“Mom said you, can play, and that you can teach me,” she stated, matter of factly, “But first,” she moved to the left of his bed, pushing the bar down with a loud metal clunk, “we’re going to walk to the nurse’s station.” Jim stared at Cece, trying to muster up energy at nine in the morning, and wondered how she ever was able to sit in school for six hours a day and be focused and energetic this early. At 9am, he was able to sip his morning coffee, browse through his emails, and not make any appointments with clients until after ten thirty. Jim Halpert was not a morning person. He let out a yawn and brought his large hands under his gym shorts, moving his legs to the side of his bed, and sat for a moment.

“Remember last time?” she asked him, moving his wheelchair out of the way of the door to his room. A few of his nurses were watching on with knowing smiles. They’d become so comfortable with Cecelia in the last few weeks. They’d all known her by name, and she, the same. She knew how to check herself into the hospital and how to make her way to his room each time without assistance now, she was growing up before his eyes, and he was thanking whomever was looking out for him that day, that he was there to see it.

Before he stood up though, he eyed Cece with suspicion, “What made you bring that guitar today?” Jim gave her the all knowing look, his eyes widening and brows raised, a smile perched on the ends of his lips.

Cece was quiet for a moment, tilting her head to the side, “I found the DVD’s,” it was barely a whisper as she ducked her head.

“You what?” he raised his voice. One of the nurses looked in, concerned. Maybe it was a bit of an overreaction, but he had no desire for his children, especially Cee to know anything about his life before Pam.

She immediately stepped back, biting her bottom lip. “I’m sorry, I was…I was looking in your closet for some photos for a school project and I found the box, and I just…” she stammered, “I was curious, and I wanted to know why you were on TV,” she was tripping over her words, and he wasn’t sure whether to be embarrassed or agitated or both.
“How much did you watch?”

“I saw Mom in your house, at your barbeque. And, I saw the guitar, and you never touch it, and so I asked Mom about it. I’m sorry Dad, I was just curious,” she was pouting, her eyes glossing over.

He sighed, running a hand through his unkempt hair.

“It’s because of Roy, isn’t it Dad?”

And Karen

There was a heavy silence between them.

“You didn’t want me to find out about him, right?”

Why was she so smart?

“Come here,” he motioned, and patted the bed next to him.

“Um,” he felt twenty-four all over again. He looked at Cecelia and Pam was immediately with him. He felt redness in his ears, years of telling himself that he’d have to learn to live without the receptionist in his life. Years of regret, until finally she was his. Keeping those reels was a beautiful depiction of their love story, and once in a while they’d pull one out, and remind each other of their time before Austin. “Roy was,” he paused, “he wasn’t great for your Mom. They just didn’t work. You know umm,” he scratched his head, closing an eye, “you know when we’re doing a puzzle, and sometimes Philip will put two pieces together and they don’t fit, but he can make them fit together for a little while. But when the puzzle is almost done, and we see the bigger picture, they don’t fit and we have to fix the pieces?” She nodded furiously at him, “that was your mom and Roy. They made it work for a little while, but it wasn’t great for either of us. I guess we are just aren’t ready to talk about that with you and your brother yet. I think I thought you weren’t old enough. But, I think I was wrong,” he gave her a lopsided smile.

“I want to watch more, Dad,”

“No way, not yet. And definitely not without me and Mom. There are certain things, certain people I’d rather you didn’t see just yet,”

“You mean Todd Packer?” she grinned, her tongue between her teeth. Jim let out a snort,

“I guess I’m too late,” he grabbed the edge of the bed and stood up, feeling the weight in his legs immediately hit his feet, and pain shooting up. He inhaled through his teeth.
He balanced himself for a moment, gripping into the bed. The past three weeks he’d been able to make it around his room a few laps before needing to sit back down. The rehabilitation specialist had been so impressed with his progress, and the assistance of his daughter, they’d told him he could probably go home within the next couple of weeks.
The pain wasn’t the only thing laboring Jim, though. It was what he held behind his eyes, especially in the quiet moments. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they’d called it. Common with accidents. Common with traumatic brain injury patients. But for Jim Halpert, someone who’s greatest fear in life had been losing his wife and children, he was reliving that fear day and night. In the middle of the night, when everyone had gone home, when the FaceTime calls had finished, his evening medication had been delivered and his head hit the pillow, that’s usually when the torment started.

Sometimes, he’d imagine the impact of the front of a bus hitting the car, and pictured himself crushed underneath it. Occasionally, he’d be driving, and he’d see his wife get hit before his eyes. Sometimes it was the kids. On one particular evening, he’d awoken in a cold sweat, screaming from his room, nurses at his side, assuring him he was fine. Philip and Cece had been in front of their car and he’d hit them both straight on. He didn’t know why he was saved that day, and he had no recollection of the months following. To be frank, he had no memory of that day, only the stories (which had been limited) that he’d been told. Regardless of the reasons which had let him up to this Mid-April morning, he was struggling to think about what life would be like again at home. There were so many stairs and so much noise there. His head pounded at the least bit of sound from a baseball game these days. Never mind the children fighting, Pam yelling for them to get dressed from downstairs, and the usual routine of their lives. He was ready to be home, but if he was being honest, the hospital was easier. At 4pm he said goodbye to Cece. Philip joined him until dinner time and he helped with homework and discussed his upcoming ball games, and had even had the energy to give him a haircut. Pam had no idea how to use the clippers. At 5pm, his wife would join them, and they’d have some precious alone time while the babysitter brought Philip home to join Cece and start to make dinner. He’d hold Pam in his arms, as tight as he could, to make sure she was still real, still there, and he’d feel the baby move, fluttering under his fingers. She was getting bigger by the minute. That afternoon after his usual routine with Cece, followed by a quick guitar lesson (she could now successfully play Smoke On The Water), they were laying together, discussing names.

“Charlotte?”

“Too royal,” Pam laughed, moving her head to Jim’s chest, attempting to get comfortable in the bed that paled in comparison to their king.

“Hazel?”

“Too old!” he shook his head at her,

“Astrid,” she barely could get the name out without snorting into a fit of giggles. He laughed, doubling over, bouncing her against his chest. He missed these moments. The ones in the privacy of their room, holding each other in bed, their legs intertwined with each other.

He kissed the top of her head with a smile,

“I think we’ll know when we see her,” she looked up at him with a smile before moving a hand to her stomach,

“Jim,” she glanced cautiously at him, her eyes widening, “I think…”

“Your water broke,” he looked down at his shorts and the bedding around him soaked.

“Shit,” she mumbled.

Jim grabbed the remote, hitting the call button, and immediately finding his cellphone to call the sitter, instructing her to take the kids home. This was all too early, her c-section wasn’t scheduled for another month, this little girl, however, was coming whether they were ready or not. And ready, they were not.

Pam hadn’t had time to pull all of Cece’s old baby clothes, and Philips’ crib out of the attic. The guest bedroom would become a nursery, but in the time her husband hadn’t been present, she hadn’t spent it decorating the nursery. Nesting was not her priority. In fact, she had only recently been showing Jim paint samples for the room; they were not prepared.

“Jim, she’s not ready,” her eyes widened in fear as he moved to the edge of the bed, carefully sliding himself off, and putting his flip flops on.

“She’s ready, Pam,” he moved to cup her hands on her face, “We need to be too,”

She nodded, pursing her lips, her hands hovering over her belly, rubbing small circles.

When the nurse rolled a wheelchair in, Pam looked to Jim. He laughed through a smile,

“I’m terrified,”

“Me too,”

“Let’s do this,”
End Notes:
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Chapter 11 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
Bringing the past to the present! Some of the italics, if not for emphasis, are in ASL :)

Reminder, I own nada.
Then


“Do you like to be called Philip or Phil?” She was pretty, this stranger, sitting across the room from him. Not pretty like his Mom, no she was pretty in a way that reminded him of girls he’d seen in superhero movies with his dad. This girl, in particular, reminded him a lot of Captain Marvel, and he liked her best. He was thinking of Captain Marvel’s belt and how he’d like one just like that when she waved her hand in front of his face,

“Yoohoo?” she asked playfully. His eyes met hers, and he smiled for a moment.

“Philip,” he responded, and picked up some of the markers on the table in front of him, removing the lids and smelling a faint whiff of watermelon.

Amy Rinaldi was sitting on the floor, at the same level of Philip the day she first met him, and she quite liked him. He was different than many of her other clients, willing to talk, albeit about things unrelated to his trauma, but he came, every week, twice a week, and while his mother usually sat outside the room waiting, she would fill Pam in about whatever they’d discussed each week. The first time she met Philip, though, her curiosity about his past had pushed him a little too far that day and she immediately regretted it.
“Can you tell me about your Dad?” she asked. Philip looked up at her, and his eyes furrowed, looking frustrated and a bit confused. She wondered if she’d overstepped asking about him so soon.

He was quiet for a few minutes, then, “What do you want to know?” he eyed her suspiciously.

“Whatever you want to tell me,”

“I don’t even know you, and…” he trailed off, his eyes glancing to a picture on her desk. He saw her, Amy, and a man, tall, thin, dark haired with their two children, presumably. For the rest of the forty-five minutes they had together, he didn’t speak again.

Amy motioned Pam to come into the room, and she picked up Philip’s backpack from school and thanked her politely, putting a hand on Philip’s shoulder, she glanced back.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, and Amy just nodded, puzzled on what had made their conversation end so abruptly.
“I’ll see you in a few days!” She smiled eagerly as he walked out of the small room and didn’t glance back.
***


Cece spent a lot of time these days alone. Sure, her grandmother was there most of the time, or her Aunt Larissa, or someone to watch her and her brother while her Mom was at the hospital, but most of the time she was in her room alone. This January afternoon, the weather had cooled, and sometimes she dreamed of snow in her backyard. She would try and think if she could remember snow when she was tiny, but only photos popped into her mind. She loved looking at a photo of her Mom and Dad building a snowman with her when she was maybe three years old, they looked so young to her, and happy. She’d forgotten what it looked like to be that happy.

“Cece!” she barely heard her name called from downstairs, but the light flickered in her bedroom. A doorbell of sorts that had been installed earlier that fall. She sighed, getting up from her bed, and stomping unnecessarily hard down the stairs.

“Oh,” she stopped when she saw Pam walk through the door.
“Hi honey,” she set down the bag she brought with her to the hospital and pulled her into her arms. Cece awkwardly let her body rest against her mother, Pam’s arms tightening against her, as she laid them flat against her sides.
What was she doing home?

She glanced around briefly looking for her grandmother but she wasn’t in sight. She figured Philip must have been in his room upstairs,

“I am so sorry Pam mumbled into Cece’s sweatshirt. Cece carefully brought her arms up, around her mother’s torso and hugged her back for a moment. “I miss you,” Pam whispered, and stroked her daughter’s long brown hair.
Cece pulled away and she signed, I miss you too. Are you home for a while?

Pam was still learning, but attempting to get better with lessons almost every day at the hospital when she wasn’t tending to Jim. She’d gotten very good at bathing, and shaving him from bed, watching as he’d get a quick haircut to keep his bangs out of his eyes, and putting lotion on his hands in the colder winter months; his elbows and hands always dried out. In the evenings though, she’d sit down with her dinner, and do a quick online lesson. She was picking this language up quickly, but she knew that for her to really learn, for her family to truly be able to engage, they needed to be immersed. That was the afternoon she had been told about the Tennessee School for the Deaf. Her friend Melanie, who was partially deaf, was teaching her ASL, (they’d met at the Pediatric Audiology department) and they’d have coffee or virtually do a lesson multiple times a week. That day though, she had slipped a pamphlet into Pam’s hands. She knew about the trouble Cece was having in school, and that her hearing had decreased to a profound level of hearing loss.

“Just think about it,” Melanie signed, as she showed Pam the cottages that the students’ lived in. They were adorable. Pam smiled reading about how the children lived in oversized cottages that were similar to their own homes with house mothers that would assist in homework, and they had time to watch movies, play video games, and continue their ASL immersion 24 hours a day, even outside of the classroom. The tuition was hefty for an out of state student, but she knew that something had to change for Cecelia, if nothing else in their life did. And if they lost Jim? Well, she knew she’d need a support system bigger than what their small family could give her. Jim was Cecelia’s entire world, and the reality of him not coming back was becoming more and more real every day, as was the little girl growing inside of her.

There’s something I want to talk to you about She set her hand on Cece’s back and motioned her to the island. She jumped up on the stool and Pam came around the corner into the kitchen, grabbing them both some juice that was in the fridge. Cece watched as she poured two glasses.

I know that I haven’t really been around much, because of Dad. And I know that school hasn’t been easy for you Cece scowled at this, she was fine. Pam raised an eyebrow in return,

Melanie told me about a really amazing school today. It’s for kids just like you, all the way through high school She was choosing her words, signs rather, carefully. It’s in Tennessee

Cece stood up, she pulled her hearing aids out, and turned around, storming away towards the stairs,

“Cece wait!” This did absolutely no good, and Pam moved quickly to the stairs, turning her daughter around, there were tears in her eyes.

You’re sick of me Cece signed, and let a few tears spill onto her freckled cheeks.

Pam pinched her thumb and two fingers together, over and over. “Baby, I am not sick of you,” she sighed, “It’s just, I haven’t been here, and I know you need more. And I don’t know if Daddy is going to be-” she stopped. Cece was staring through her. She was worried every time she saw her daughter there was a little less going on deep within her. Her eyes had become so dark, and she could barely read her most days.

“I’m not moving away,” she stated, and moved up the stairs, taking the time, even though she couldn’t hear it well, to slam her door, so that Pam, a floor down, was shook by the noise.

***


“So it’s in Tennessee,” Jim’s hand scrolled through the website, watching short clips of the children at the school signing, playing sports, and learning. He smiled, watching a group of kids cheering on at a basketball game, and thought of what it would be for Cece to be surrounded by students just like herself. “How long ago did you find out about this place?”

“It was back in January, Melanie told me about it,” she smiled weakly. Jim had been awake only a few days but he wanted to know everything, and the conversation about Cecelia’s hearing had been a point of interest for the majority of that day. “I don’t know if we should just send her away though Jim, she was pretty insistent about not going anywhere,” she pulled her thumb to her lip and bit the corner of it.

“So let’s not,” he looked up at her, and away from the computer. She looked at him puzzled, “let’s not send her away,”

“Doesn’t that sort of defeat the whole purpose of this conversation?” she was confused, and slightly frustrated they’d spent two hours discussing this school and affordability for nothing.

“If she resides in Nashville, it’s free right?”
Pam stared at him, this thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. Sure, she knew he was thinking of not going back to Athleap, that he’d think about getting back into teaching again and recertification once he was feeling back to normal, the stress tolling on him even when he wasn’t at work, but moving? All of them just uprooting their lives, and their home, and her mother, and moving to Tennessee?

“Just think about it, okay?” he asked her, his eyes widening and a smile crossing his lips. He was always more spontaneous than her, ready for his next adventure, and she loved that about him, but it terrified her to death. How could he be so sure they’d be fine, wherever they went. Where would they work? How would Philip handle another transition? How were they to make such a big decision about their family?

***


“So, you talked to the realtor?” Jim asked, as he pushed a curl out of his wife’s eyes,

“Yeah, she’s found a great rental for us now in Mt. Juliet. She said the schools are awesome for Philip, and that Cece will be in the right district for TSD, she said as soon as we’re ready we can go up,” her eyes widened, as she raised her shoulders into an excited hug.

Jim swallowed, for the first time in months he saw a vision of what would be like after the hospital. A better reason to get up every day and fight for the strength back in his legs. He’d told Athleap that afternoon he was giving his formal resignation, and already was looking into recertification for his English education degree. If this move was anything, it was a chance at a new life for them, to get away from this place that had been the source of so much sadness over the past year.

“Mom said she’d go up and get the rental ready for us,” Pam smiled. Jim was so grateful for everything Helene had been doing these past few months, he wasn’t sure how he’d ever be able to thank her.

“What about this little lady,” he tapped his fingers on her stomach, “we really need to think of a name, you know,” he grinned at her, planting a kiss on her head.

“What about Charlotte?”
***
End Notes:
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Chapter 12 by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
We've caught up to the present. A quick but sweet update. More to come very soon, but in a new place!
April 24, 2021


“She’s beautiful,” he whispered, touching her nose, so tiny, so warm, and pulled her closer to his chest. Pam lay next to him, sharing a bed the three of the, their other little ones fast asleep on the pull out couch in the birthing suite. Philip’s arms entwined around his sister’s back, holding her close. They’d slept like this many a night after the accident when he’d sneak into his sister’s room, and it was too sweet not to watch the moment, but they’d never tell either of them; embarrassment was the center of their world for those two.

“Take a photo,” Pam motioned quietly to the phone on the nightstand as Jim quickly got a capture attempting not to wake Cece and Philip up with the flash.

Cece stirred, “Shit,” he mumbled, a laugh escaping his lips, as he laid next to Pam, closing his eyes, the both of them pretending to be asleep.

“Coast is clear,” Pam smiled, opening an eye and pulling her husband, and her baby toward her. He planted kisses on her head for hours before, during, and after the procedure, and his lips had become raw from giving love to this beautiful, amazing, little girl, and her mother.

“Can you put her on me,” Pam asked, as Jim carefully placed the baby on her chest, opening her gown, and feeling her warm skin meet the babies and they were in sync. He watched her take tiny little breaths, her body, so small, 5lbs and 8 ounces, wrapped up in a swaddle, she was no bigger than Pam’s chest.

Jim took two fingers and slowly moved them around his face. Beautiful.

Pam pointed to Jim, and then nodded toward the baby.

“Beesly, that’s all you right there,” he whispered, pulling her close to him, an arm wrapping around her shoulders. She was impressed at how tight he was able to grip her in this moment, and she figured it must have been adrenaline.

The delivery was different. Not easy, not hard, but a different, terrifying, and beautiful experience. She watched her baby be pulled out from behind a drape,

“She’s perfect, Pam,” he’d choked, holding her knuckles to her face, tears hitting her fingers.

She gasped when she saw her, she had so much hair. This beautiful taft of auburn hair, and the lightest of eyelashes, she’d opened her eyes, and Pam swore she looked directly into her mother’s soul. This baby was the epitome of a miracle. So many miracles she’d watched over the past eight months, and yet this little girl grew into this world when everything felt as though it would never be better, when life was filled with despair. But in this moment...At this very second, at 11:33pm, Olivia James Halpert was the epitome of perfection and everything right in her world.
Pam knew the first few weeks would be difficult, Jim couldn’t help her as much as he usually would, and she’d be recovering from surgery. She knew eventually the kids being enamored by the baby would wear off, they would have to start to pack the house, and the crying would become exhausting. However, that night, her entire world was in one room together. And they had suddenly become five.

“When should we tell her?” Jim asked, watching a small yawn escape from his baby’s mouth, and he couldn’t help but smirk. Sometimes, every once in a while, he’d look up expecting to see a camera pointed at him. This was one of those moments, and he wished for a split second, someone could have captured the look of pure joy on his face.
Tomorrow Pam signed, and looked to Cecelia. She had become so tall, her legs were hanging off the side of the bed, and yesterday’s clothes were still on her. She was snoring slightly, her head draped over her arm, and the other arm, pulling Phil close to her.

“She’s going to be upset,”

“Not when she sees the stall in the yard,”

Jim’s head jolted to the right, and his mouth was agape,

“I sort of did a thing,” she couldn’t help but lift the edges of her mouth into a grin,

“Babe, do you remember the ‘Cookie’ ordeal?”

Pam snorted, bouncing Olivia lightly on her chest, “She’s older, Jim,” she glanced at Cece,

“And she’s been begging me for ages,” her smile faded, “we only have a few more years until she’s off to college,”

Jim turned, “Oh come on now,” he pulled her chin to him, “it’s not for a long time”

Whether it was exhaustion, hormones, or both, Pam shed some tears, and as he wiped them away, she mumbled, “We have to protect them.”

“I know,”

“You can’t leave me, Jim, promise me we won’t do this alone,” she eyed him fiercely.

“I’m right here,” it was quiet for a while longer, “I’m right here…”
An Ending to a Beginning by JHalpert
Author's Notes:
Woof, we have come a LONG way. This is the ending to Humble and Kind, and a lovely one in my opinion. However, I will be starting a sequel here in just a few days that takes place in Nashville, and I truly hope you'll come back around for that! I've felt so overjoyed to work through a true story from my life, and to bring the Halpert's even closer through it. I thank you ALL for your contributions through the discord, your AMAZING reviews, and I hope to see you all back very very soon!
May 31, 2021


“So here’s the deal, Ollie,” Cece was packing the last of her bedroom into a final box, Olivia in her car seat looking on.

“When we get to Nashville, I’m getting a pony, well, it’s apparently a horse, but I’m going to call it a pony,” she babbled on, signing as she went, “and as long as I work hard in school, I can go ride her every day, and when you get big enough, I’ll let you ride her too,” she walked over and touched Olivia’s nose with her pointer finger.
Jim and Pam were grabbing the last few boxes to put in the moving truck, helping the moving company, meanwhile Philip was running around their lawn outside saying goodbye to every blade of grass, each bush, and all the trees, and it was Cece’s job to watch the baby for a little while. She felt pretty proud of herself, getting to watch Ollie all by herself, she was one step closer to being able to babysit. She was one step closer to being a teenager. There was only one rule this afternoon, don’t unhook the car seat, and don’t pick Olivia up, even if she’s crying; just go get Mom or Dad.

Ollie was the easiest sibling she’d ever had. Unlike Phil, she was the best listener. She watched Cece pick up the last few of her dolls and shove them haphazardly into a box. She’d listen to her tell her stories, and when Mom was watching, she even let her practice putting diapers on her. She was perfect in Cece’s mind. She even asked to let the baby sleep in her room, but Pam quickly told her that she’d been such a huge help during the day, and with the move, she wanted her to get her “beauty sleep” at night. Cece pulled the shipping tape across the top of the box, snapping it shut, and moved herself to the floor, sitting cross legged across from her sister.

“I gotta tell you something Ollie,” she looked up, glancing around the empty room that she wasn’t sure she was ready to say goodbye to. She remembered back to painting the mural of ballerinas on her wall with her mother, and adding the pink touches to their tutu’s. She noticed the height lines on the wall her Dad had marked over the years, and the peeling window stickers she couldn’t quite get off. This room had been her entire life, for all she could remember. And it’s view of the quiet suburban street, facing the driveway, and her tire swing lulled her to sleep most nights. She would miss Austin. “I’m scared to move,” she stated quietly.

“What if we don’t make any friends”

“What if people are weird there, and they think I’m weird, and they don’t understand why I dance, or how I dance even though I can’t hear well?”
Olivia just stared at her, bubbles spilling out of her tiny lips.

“You’re right, we’ll probably be just fine. I mean, if anyone sees your pretty little red hair and your cute little smile,” she laughed to herself. “They’ll want to be friends with both of us immediately. And Philip?” she glanced out the window at her brother, running around the yard with a superhero cape, her Dad pulling him into his arms and above his head, plopping him on his shoulders as they put boxes in the truck, “Philip will be fine. He’s just like Dad, he makes friends so easy. He knows all the right things to say,” she felt tears sting in her eyes, “things are just easier for him, you know?” Olivia kicked her feet in agreement.

Cece sighed, standing up, “I think it’s time to go, Mom’s coming back inside,” she watched as her mother, adorned in overalls, her hair in two messy french braids, coming up the front stairs two at a time. She sighed,

“We’re going to be fine,” she assured her sister, “Just fine,”

***


“Is that the last one?” Jim watched Pam and the movers load out the last few boxes from the house. He’d been instructed to only lift very light things, no furniture, so they’d hired movers, and honestly on this hot, almost summer day, they were all grateful for it. He’d had at least three glasses of lemonade and still sweated through his t-shirt, and Philip was acting especially clingy today. He knew he was nervous, and that was probably the reason he wanted to be on top of both of his parents today, but Jim didn’t really mind. He’d spent too many days without him. He’d forgotten how much of a joy it was to listen to his son talk about the trains he’d been watching come in and out of town with his grandmother. He adored hearing about the new tv shows he’d been watching, and that he discovered that he loved pineapples on pizza. Jim didn’t understand that one, but he could listen to Phil babble on all day if it meant getting to spend another day with him. Every day since he’d left the hospital had felt like a gift. This day, although they’d all been dreading it a bit, felt so exciting. He’d been working to get his teaching degree recertified, and to both his surprise and Pam’s, he passed the Praxis 2 test without issue. He couldn’t believe how easy things had come back to him from college, and he was so excited to jump back into the classroom; now to just find a job.
They’d be in a rental for a while, but the location was perfect for the kids, and more importantly, Cece would be going to an incredible school, surrounded by kids just like her, and the schools parental programs for immersion and ASL instruction were no match to any other institution. He couldn’t wait to get started in all of the programs, and for Pam to start her new job. She had accepted a position at the local art museum as a curator, and would be teaching courses to the public interested in art. He was so excited for her, and when she found out she got it just two weeks before, she had literally jumped into Jim’s arms and squealed. This was a dream job for Pam. His world was starting to become so bright, so fast.

Pam nodded, wiping sweat from her brow, and joining him in the grass on the freshly cut lawn, and laid back against his damp chest.

“I forgot how much moving sucked,” she laughed, letting out a tired breath. He handed her the glass of lemonade sitting next to him. Philip had roamed to the back of the house to the swing set.

“It all pays off,” he reminded her, and pressed a kiss to her head. They were quiet together, and he ran his finger up and down her arm, drawing circles with his thumb.

“You nervous?” he asked quietly. She nodded, not turning around.

“You’re going to be amazing, you know,” he wrapped his other arm around her front, pulling her between his legs.

“It’s not that,” she shook her head, and relaxed against him.

“Then what is it?” she pursed her lips, and moved her head in the general direction of the new car.

He glanced at it, knowingly. They’d barely been driving around much since he’d come home, and he knew why, but he didn’t dare speak of it. They’d discuss it when the time was right.

She inhaled quickly, and he felt her shoulders tense up, she was holding back tears,

“Hey, it’s okay, I’m right here,” he twirled a finger around a braid,

She shook her head, pulling his arm tighter around him,

“You and me? We’re going to be just fine. And that perfect little girl upstairs, she’s going to be just fine. And our other two ragamuffins? They are too. We are a family we have gotten through the most difficult times together, I promise, this move? It’s going to be so smooth for us, in comparison,” She turned around to face him and copped her hand on his face, shaved, smooth, and scars present. He wasn’t hiding his story. He would never not tell it. They’d been through hell and back, and he wanted to be reminded of the gift of life he was given back.

“I love you, so much, did you know that?” She asked him, carefully kissing the mark on his jaw, and again behind his ear, his unruly hair tickling her lips.

“I think you may have told me once or twice,” he smirked.

“Come on, let’s go get the kids before they decide to leave without us,” She nodded. Pam trusted every word he said, he hadn’t ever brought her astray, and everything felt overwhelming and just right at the same time. But that’s what life was all about, right? Things being terrifying and exciting. Things being difficult and so easy. Their story had been made up of dichotomies, and this beautiful, amazing, crazy, next chapter--well, it would be no different.

***

“Dad, can you please turn the music up,” Cece was whining from the backseat, exhausted from driving, but they were so close to their new home.

“Louder!” she hollered again. Jim shook his head, he couldn’t wait until she got her bluetooth hearing aids so they wouldn’t be blasted with music in the car.

“I don’t like this channel, can you change it?” Philip whined.

“Sorry guys, but country music it is, this is Nashville after all,” he glanced up at them in the rearview mirror and smiled at the three of them. Olivia fast asleep in her car seat. Pam looked over at him with a grin and turned the dial up.

Don't take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you're going don't forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind
End Notes:
That's all folks! For now! I can't wait to introduce you all to my sequel, "Tennessee River Run" it will be coming very soon. In the meantime I'd love to hear your reviews of the ending of this story!
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