Jim approached her. He couldn’t help it, just like he’d never been able to help it in the old days. ‘The old days’—like it was so long ago; it had only been a year since the fateful Casino Night, but it some ways, it seemed like it had been a lifetime ago.
He hadn’t talked to her since that night.
She looked gorgeous (when didn’t she?) but it was a different kind of gorgeous from when he’d known her.
And he couldn’t believe how lame he was, that the past tense in that statement still depressed him, a little.
He’d heard about her, about her cancelled wedding, about her change in jobs, change in locations, her amazing success in her new job. Seen the new logos she’d designed on every ream of paper he’d sold for the last two months.
And in all that time, not one word to him.
Which was, of course, a very good reason for him to avoid her right back. It’s just that he couldn’t help himself. Never could.
He’d moved on to Stamford, the next week after Casino Night, and since she’d called in sick the morning after, he hadn’t seen her. Hadn’t wanted to see her; at the same time, he really wanted one last glimpse.
He moved to Stamford, and two weeks later, Phyllis had emailed him and mentioned that Pam was quitting—well, being promoted, really, because of the internship (which he hadn’t known she’d taken)—and how no one was really surprised because “with you gone, and the wedding off, she had nothing to stay for”. Just like that. As if he obviously already knew about the wedding being called off.
As weeks went by with no word from Pam, he buckled down and focused on selling paper, as sad as that was. Frankly, he rocked at it, and when Scranton was closed down, he was given a little bit more authority.
Phyllis had quit when the news came: Bob could support her, and she didn’t want to move. Meredith, Kelly, Kevin, and in a surprising turn (although once the show aired people were less surprised), Michael, were all let go. Ryan, of course, was still with the temp agency, and got a new placement easily. Jim was pretty sure that all of the warehouse staff had just taken similar jobs in the Scranton area.
Toby, Angela and Stanley all got positions at Corporate or other locations; Oscar was now at Stamford. Dwight, in a twist of fate that Jim could never decide was wonderful or terrible, was now under Jim’s authority.
No one knew what had happened to Creed.
So, in Stamford, he’d concentrated on work. Yeah, he still hung out with friends, had dated a bit. He’d had very few second dates, and no third dates, though he knew that was entirely his own choice: he still knew how to be charming when he wanted to be. The problem was that he never wanted to be for very long. Because he’d always try to joke around with the girl, and then he’d remember the way Pam had laughed at his joke, and he’d know he couldn’t use another girl like he’d used Katy. He still felt guilty about that.
He never dated anyone from work.
Oddly enough, he knew that the same was true of her. One of his friends at Corporate had mentioned her to him shortly after her promotion: “You must know her, right? Scranton was a pretty small office.”
“Yeah. How’s she doing?”
“Good, I think. You never told me how hot she was.”
Jim had only been able to laugh weakly.
“I actually asked her out.”
Tensing, Jim had asked, “What did she say?”
“It was kind of weird; she seemed upset for a second, then her face just went blank and she said, ‘No. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t date people from work.’”
When he had heard about this conference in Vegas, how all the management and corporate staff would be going, well, he couldn’t deny that he had thought about the fact that she would be there, but had planned on avoiding her, like he did whenever he had to come down to Corporate. Once or twice he’d glimpsed her, through glass doors or at the opposite end of a hallway, but he’d managed to avoid actual contact. And that was the way he wanted it.
Which didn’t explain why he was walking toward her now.
He leaned up against the bar next to her, saying, “Fancy meeting you here.”
She turned to him, looking startled and so beautiful he could barely breathe. “Jim! Um…hi.”
“How—how’ve you been?”
She swallowed and stood up a little straighter. “I’ve been good. Um, didn’t get married.”
“Yeah,” he looked away, unable to keep a little bitterness from his voice. “Thanks for telling me all about that, by the way.”
He could feel her eyes on his face, and he turned to look down at her. “Well, I did think that you might be interested,” she said, sounding defensive.
What was she trying to pull? Of course he would have been interested—to hear it from her, not from Phyllis weeks after the fact! He couldn’t think of an answer to give her that wouldn’t reveal how hurt he was, which was not something he was planning on bringing up, so he simply studied her.
She was wearing clothes that Pam-the-receptionist, Pam-Roy’s-fiancee would never have worn—not that there was anything improper about them for a work-related evening function, but the colors were brighter, the fit was a little tighter, the makeup a little more pronounced, and did he see a tiny slice of fishnet-clad leg peeking out between her skirt and her high-heeled boots?
“Fishnets, Pam?” His mouth moved before he had a chance to think. “I-I mean, I’ve never seen you wear anything like that.”
She blushed a little. “Oh, yeah. Um, my coworker, Frank—well, he’s not just a coworker, he’s a…good friend—anyway, we had this little bet going on, and I lost, so he got to dress me tonight.”
A myriad of images, none of which Jim wanted in his head, whirled through his brain at her words. Jealousy bubbled up, bright green and boiling hot in his chest. Again, his mouth moved before his inner censor approved the words: “I thought you didn’t date coworkers.” There was so much bitterness in his voice that he could swear the words burned his tongue on the way out.
Pam’s face changed: she suddenly glared at him venomously. “Excuse me? You don’t get to do this, Jim. You don’t get to ignore every attempt I made to contact you and then care about who I’m dating. It doesn’t work that way.” She whipped around and flounced out of the room.
As soon as what she had said registered, Jim was after Pam like a shot. “Pam! Pam, wait!” She didn’t hesitate, but Jim easily caught up with her in the hallway outside the bar and turned her around to face him; her eyes still burned with anger. “What attempts to contact me?”
“Oh, I don’t know, all the emails you never replied to, the voicemails at your old house that you obviously told Mark to ignore…what did you think I meant?”
He felt as though everything he’d built his life—his new life—on was crumbling. For the first time in a year, he could remember what hope felt like.
“If Mark did any ignoring of voicemails, it was on his own, and I never got any emails from you.”
“Oh, right…as if I didn’t know your…shit! I’m such an idiot!”
“Your new position…it made you part of Corporate—so your email address changed. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it! I just, I was…” She looked as though tears were threatening, so Jim put his hands on her forearms comfortingly. “I just…didn’t want to look at anything that had to do with your transfer—but I should—I should—should have realized when I moved to Corporate, and my address changed! I’m so stupid!”
Feeling almost as though he was in some surreal dream, Jim said softly, “Hey, hey don’t do that. You were under stress, right?”
Pam’s eyes locked with his again, but this time they were searching his desperately: “So, are you saying, if you had gotten my emails, you…” She didn’t seem to want to finish the sentence.
It seemed pretty obvious what she wanted him to say, but he didn’t want to presume too much. That hadn’t turned out well in the past. “That depends,” he said, startled at how much his voice resembled a growl. “What did the emails say?” Inadvertantly, his hands tightened slightly on Pam’s arms, as though to prevent her fleeing.
She didn’t seem to be attempting to flee. In fact, it seemed like she might be pressing towards him. He hadn’t known until that moment that he was holding her in place to keep her at a safe distance from him, although near enough to talk to. “Well…the first one, the morning after—after that night, said, mainly, ‘I’m sorry’. It said that I was sorry for treating you thoughtlessly for three years, sorry for lying to you about the nature of our…friendship. Then it said that I had called off the wedding to Roy that very night and that I thought I might be in love with you, too, and would you please not hate me—”
Jim couldn’t take any more: any more words, any more of Pam’s pleading eyes, any more distance between their bodies; he pulled her toward him. Just before he covered her lips with his own, he whispered, “I would have come running.”
He pressed her up against the wall, and she was moving against him in a way that reminded him that they were technically in a public place, and if they didn’t want to get arrested for indecent exposure, they needed to stop. He pulled away, panting. She was in a similar state.
“Hi,” he said, smiling at her joyfully.
“Hey,” she said back, just like on the day when—“Remember when I jinxed you and the Coke was sold out?”
“Whoa, Beesly. We just had, like, a mental jinx or something. What’s the consequence for that?”
She tilted her head, thinking. “I don’t know. Maybe…a long-overdue conversation?”
He chuckled, “That sounds fair. Let’s go somewhere—else. I’d rather not have all my coworkers privy to this conversation.” She nodded emphatically.
They’d been talking and drinking for at least an hour and a half, working through all of their issues from the past four years. Jim had been informed of the fact that Frank was simply a very good, very gay friend of Pam’s (“He didn’t literally dress me, silly.”)
He slowly became aware of the fact that they were drunk.
“Hey, maybe we should take a walk—get some fresh air.”
“Sure,” Pam replied, and got to her feet, a bit unsteadily.
Jim put his arm around her waist as an anchor, inwardly rejoicing that there was no longer any reason to remove it. He didn’t.
They wandered the streets of Vegas, talking, laughing, apologizing, reassuring, hugging and kissing.
They had somehow found themselves on a street that catered to last-minute weddings, and they were making fun of the tacky rent-a-dresses on display, when Pam said, “You know, I’ve thought about doing something like that—eloping. I mean, last time I planned a beautiful dream wedding, it didn’t go very well…or at all.”
“I thought you wanted to have your parents there.”
“Yeah…I guess I thought that I could have the big dream wedding later, but there would be less stress because we’d—” she glanced away from him, “I’d already be married, you know? That’s probably silly.”
Then, hesitantly, she added, “We should get married like that. I mean, when—if we do.”
Jim couldn’t believe his ears. That was not something he’d expected her to say so soon—not that he was complaining, exactly, but…then he paused, realizing what she’d just done. She’d taken a step like his a year ago, and he shouldn’t leave her hanging. “Yeah, we should. When we do.”
She smiled and kissed him.
Pam had decided that the only way to properly mock the dresses was to try them on, so she’d gone through a series of tacky gowns, many of them 80s-inspired. When she fluffed up her hair to complement the style, he hadn’t been able to resist kissing her, because she was just so ridiculous and adorable.
When he looked up, Jan Levinson was staring at him through the store window. She entered the store looking shocked. “Jim Halpert? What are you doing in a bridal shop in Vegas with…Pam??”
When Pam heard Jan’s voice, she whispered to him, “Just follow my lead,” and winked. Then when Jan recognized her she said, “Jan! Hi! You caught us! We were just going to get a license before the office closes. Would you like to be our witness?”
For the first time, Jim noticed that Jan was also a little tipsy as she said, “You’re finally getting married? It’s about time: you two have made your respective coworkers miserable for the past year. I would love to help put you two out of your misery and be your witness.”
The two of them exchanged surprised looks, but decided to keep the joke going. Pam whispered to him, “After all, how much fun will it be to have a Vegas marriage license on the wall, even if we never use it?”
In the meantime, however, they managed to make it to the office before midnight and get their license. Before they could announce the joke to Jan (it wasn’t until the next morning that they realized the joke wasn’t really that funny, and maybe it wasn’t a good idea to play that kind of joke on a boss that was not Michael), she grabbed Pam’s arm, saying, “Here, I saw a chapel only about a block away.” Pam looked back helplessly at Jim, who was following.
They arrived at the chapel Jan had seen and saw that it was only open till 12:30, which of course gave them an easy out. It looked pretty seedy, anyway. “Aw, Jan, that’s too bad,” Jim said, “looks like we’ll just have to wait till tomorrow. It’s already 12:20. Hey, can I grab Pam here for a second?”
He led Pam a few yards away and murmured, “Hey, I know you started this joke, but I…I just wanted to make sure you understood—I’m not joking about marrying you someday. It might seem kind of sudden, but I love you, and I want you for my wife.”
Pam’s eyes got big, and she responded, “I love you, too, and I’d love to be your wife.”
“Okay, that’s good enough for me!” a stranger’s voice cut in on their conversation. “Smile!” He snapped their picture and put his hand out for the license, which Jan handed to him. He signed it, Jan took it back and signed in the witness’ spot. “That’ll be $50, please,” the man said, handing the Polaroid to Pam.
“We were just—”
“We didn’t mean—”
“We weren’t actually going to get married tonight!”
“Well,” the man complained, “how was I supposed to know that? You’re standing in front of a wedding chapel, she’s wearing a bridal gown, you’ve got a license and a witness, and you’re talking about wanting to marry each other…looks like a wedding to me.”
“But…well, don’t we need rings or something?” Pam asked.
“In Nevada, all you need is a license and for each of you to state that you want to marry the other in front of an officiant, with a witness. It’s not my fault if you’re sending mixed messages. Can I have my $50, please?”
Jim mechanically took out his wallet (Pam’s purse was in the bag of clothes that Jan was carrying) and handed the man $50.
He looked down at Pam. “We need to talk about this development, but…maybe we should get Jan back to her hotel room first.”
“Yeah. That’s probably a good idea.”
Just as they were about to enter the hotel lobby, Pam exclaimed, “Oh, no! I can’t walk through the hotel in this!”
Jim saw her point, and said, “Well…can you change in the hotel next door or something? I’ll get Jan to her room and we’ll meet back here in 20 minutes?”
When they reunited, he started, “Well, Mrs. Halpert…” He was unable to stop a grin from spreading across his face at the idea of Pam as his wife.
She smiled back at him. “Well, if we’re married, we might as well have a honeymoon, right?”
The next morning, Jim woke up at 8:30. He had a 9:00 mandatory meeting—mandatory since he was leading it. They were in Pam’s hotel room, so he didn’t have any clothes with him.
He stopped, sitting on the edge of the bed with just his shirt and boxers on.
He was in Pam’s hotel room. On Pam’s bed. With a naked Pam next to him. A naked Pam who was his wife. “Wow.”
“Hey, baby,” he leaned over and kissed Pam’s forehead. “What time do you have to be ready?”
“Okay, well, you’ve got an hour and a half.”
“Did we really get married last night?”
“I guess so.”
“Good.” Pam appeared to drift back asleep.
Jim grinned. He finished getting ready, programmed their cell numbers into each other’s phones, and scribbled a quick note to Pam before heading to his meeting.
Jan Levinson was there, and she gave him a big wink when she asked, “Have a good night last night, Jim?”
Jim blushed and nodded. “Thanks, Jan.”
When they arrived back on the east coast, Jim immediately began the application process to transfer to Corporate. Pam framed a scrap of hotel stationery and hung it on her wall as soon as she got home.
Man, I wish I could stay with you—you’re absolutely gorgeous in the morning, did you know that?
I will definitely see you later. Call me as soon as you get a chance.
Do you think that what happened in Vegas…could possibly come home with us? Think about it.
They had the big dream wedding six months later. The first page in the wedding album, however, was reserved for a Polaroid featuring a startled Pam in a tacky gown, a confused Jim in jeans, and half of Jan Levinson’s face.