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Story Notes:
Okay, so obviously this has all been done before, but I wrote this a long time ago and Jim's revelation in Chair Model made me want to post it. Spoilers for that one as well as The Job and Beach Games and a bunch of moments from other episodes, too!

Standard disclaimers apply. These characters don't belong to me.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Chapter title from that most excellent of Emily Dickinson poems that everyone should know.

I was pretty confident going into the interview that I had a good shot at getting the job. Without all the distractions—that is, stopping to glance up at Pam every five minutes— I’ve actually been really productive this year, my best sales year ever in fact. And Wallace likes me; as much as I didn’t want to go to that cocktail party, shooting hoops with the CFO turns out to have been good for my career.

The problem is, I’m not sure I want this job. This life. In fact I’m certain I don’t want any of it.

And again it’s all because of Pam. For the last five years, everything in my life has been because of Pam. Why is our timing always, always wrong? I was over her. Mostly. I’d gotten to a point where she didn’t haunt my dreams, where every time my phone rang or buzzed with a text message I no longer snatched it up thinking maybe it’s her.

And then she threw me for a loop, again.

I admit that moving back to Scranton was terrifying. I was scared to death of seeing her again, falling into that trap again. But beyond that, I was pissed at her. I know I put her on the spot when I told her how I felt, but I knew, knew in my bones that she loved me too. She fucking lied to me. I didn’t misinterpret anything. She kissed me back, she pressed herself against me and for a minute it was just her and me, and it was real.

And then she called off her wedding and didn’t tell me—she let me find out through Kevin, whose mocking/disbelieving she didn’t tell you? I thought you two were such good friends was both humiliating and infuriating. No word from her at all, ever, during my first four months in Stamford. I wanted her to go out on her own limb, to call me and tell me she missed me too. Frankly, I think I deserved that.

But she didn’t want to talk to me. What was I supposed to think? Evidently she didn’t miss me after all. So I started looking ahead. Karen was a nice, funny, smart, damn sexy girl making it clear she liked me; what was I clinging to but more illusion and fantasy?

Karen was real. Pam was never more than a dream.

But then she had to go make that amazing speech on Beach Day. All of it meant for me, no doubt about that. There were a lot of reasons to call off my wedding...but the truth is, none of those reasons mattered before I met you.

It’s not exactly telling me she’s in love with me.

But I can’t pretend it doesn’t mean anything.


Wallace asked to see my sales figures, and when I pulled the folder out of my bag a pink memo fell out into my lap. The glint of the gold yogurt lid glued to the top first caught my attention.

Don’t forget us when you’re famous!

For a minute I was flooded with memories of our office Olympics and those amazing little origami doves she made, and somehow I knew this was not just any yogurt lid; it was the gold medal she won in Coffee Mug Basketball. How proud she’d been to beat me, her delighted, amused face as she taunted me when I missed the last shot: Thought basketball was your thing, Halpert.

Wallace was asking me something. New York, what did I think of New York? I gave some kind of generic reply about the excitement of the city and the people, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the pink memo and her neatly printed message.

Don’t forget us when you’re famous!

I tried so hard to forget her. Moved three states away, started seeing another girl. I’ve twisted myself inside out until I barely recognize myself, hidden as I’ve been behind this carefully constructed wall of cold and casual indifference. I’ve taken pleasure in seeing her face twist when she saw me with Karen. She deserved it, didn’t she? She rejected me, I rejected her.

So why do I feel like such a jackass?

Wallace said something about how they were looking for somebody to take this position for the long haul. He leaned back his chair, regarding me thoughtfully. “So, where do you see yourself in ten years?”

Not here.


Karen had not been happy when I went to talk to Pam at the beach that night, but I couldn’t just leave her there, soaking her burned feet in the lake, and not say...something. All my anger had evaporated and now I just felt...sad. I’d wanted to hurt her and had obviously succeeded, only to find it didn’t bring me any satisfaction.

“How are your feet?” I ventured.

She gave me a wry little smile. “Medium-rare.”

After the directness of her speech, it seemed pointless to talk around the subject. “I left because I wanted to be somewhere not...here,” I said.

She nodded, staring down into the water. “I know.”

“And even though I came back, I don’t feel like I’ve really...come back.” I shoved my hands in my pockets.

She looked up, met my gaze squarely. “Well I wish you would.”

Her expression...I didn’t know what to say. I knew I should say something about Karen and time lost and phone calls never made and text messages left unreplied and too late but some of my fortifications started to crumble and a very distinct flash of longing and regret and hope flooded though me so strongly that I couldn’t say any of those things. So I said nothing, just opened my arms to embrace her and for a brief moment my world was filled with her scent and the surprisingly strong grip of her slim arms around me, and I missed her, missed her, and I still love her, there’s no denying it.


I looked up at Wallace and cleared my throat. “I’m sorry, David, this is a mistake.”

“Excuse me?” He sat up, stared at me in surprise.

“I don’t belong here. I have, um…unfinished business. In Scranton. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.” I stood up, extended my hand.

“Hmm.” His expression was more thoughtful than put out, and he shook my hand. “Well, good luck to you, Jim.”

“Thanks.” I slung my bag over my shoulder, slipped Pam’s note into my jacket pocket, and had to restrain myself from breaking into a run for the elevator. It was just after one in the afternoon; if I hurried, I could get back by four...



“You’re done already?” she exclaimed. “Wow, that was fast.”

That’s what she said. “Yeah,” I said evasively. “Where are you? I—we need to talk.”

She was silent for a minute. “Is everything okay?” she asked warily.

This is going to be unpleasant. “Where are you?” I asked again, avoiding the question.

“La Trattoria,” she said in a lower voice. “Sixth and Twenty-third. Jim—”

“I’m on my way.” I snapped my phone shut before she could answer.

She’s going to be furious, which I can handle, and I deserve; but also terribly hurt, which is a lot harder to bear. I fancy myself a nice guy in most ways, but I don’t do conflict, and I’ve never been good at breaking up. Like with Katy on the boat, for instance. Not one of my finer moments.

Karen is a great girl. She’s beautiful and smart and funny. I don’t know if she’s in love with me or if she just considers me good raw material--a guy with potential--but I made a bad mistake with her. I should never have suggested she move to Scranton. I did it so I’d have a shield against Pam, and now Karen knows it, and she’s going to want to cut off my balls when I tell her what I’m doing, and I guess I deserve it. She’ll say spiteful, cold, nasty things that are all true, and I will take it and say nothing because I don’t have any defense for what I’m doing.

But I’m so exhausted. I can’t keep this up, trying to be someone I’m not. The corporate climber, the slick city dweller. And I hate this too-short ‘respectable’ haircut that shows my ears and makes me look twelve years old. Karen has been trying to mold me into what she wants, because she likes me but she doesn’t really know who I am, and the part of me that isn’t weighed down by guilt over using her as a distraction from Pam feels utterly free: I’m going back to Scranton, I’m going to take Pam’s invitation to come back and hold her to me and never let her go.

That’s where I see myself in ten years.


Karen was at a table with three other girls, college friends, all of whom looked up at me with expectant, attentive expressions that told me Karen had been talking about me. “Hey,” she greeted, her voice warm for the benefit of her friends; but her eyes were guarded, suspicious.

“Hey.” I gave a polite nod to her friends. “Can I talk to you?” I asked her quietly.

“Sure,” she said brightly. “Can you guys excuse us for a minute?” She pulled her purse over her shoulder and stood up to follow me.

We walked down to the fountain at the plaza a few blocks away without speaking. At one point she started to reach for my hand, and I quickly shoved my hands into my pockets.

“What happened?” she finally asked. “I take it the interview went badly?”

Out with it. Quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid. “I decided I don’t want the job.”

She stared at me, waiting for me to finish. I forced myself to meet her eyes. “I’m going back to Scranton. I… don’t belong here.”

“What’s in Scranton, Jim?” she asked icily.

I wanted to crawl out of my skin, I was so uncomfortable. Did I mention how much I despise conflict and confrontation? She knew very well what was in Scranton. My punishment was being forced to say it.

So I did, more bluntly than I intended. “Pam.”

She took a step back as though I’d actually hit her. “Pam,” she repeated.

“I’m really sorry,” I said, painfully aware of how lame it sounded.

“You’re sorry.” Her eyes were like daggers. I had to look away.

“I never meant…” I cleared my throat, staring at my shoes. “I am sorry,” I said softly. “You have every right to hate me but it’s something I have to do. I can’t go the rest of my life wondering what might have been.” A quote came to me, unbidden: Of all the words of tongue or pen/The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’

Karen was strangely silent. I hadn’t expected that. Screaming, crying, even punching; anything but silence.

“Okay,” she said finally.

I waited, but she seemed to have nothing to say. “Karen—” I began.

“Shut up, Jim,” she said coldly. “Just—shut up. Go back to Scranton.” She turned to look at the fountain, and I saw the tears in her eyes, and I felt like such a shit. I made her think I wanted to make it work when really my heart was never in it, and no amount of I’m sorry would ever make it up to her.

“Can I…give you a ride, or…?” I offered haltingly.

She turned back to glare at me with glimmering, disbelieving eyes. “I don’t think so,” she said in clipped tones. “You go on back now. I hope you get—everything you deserve.” She swung on her heel and walked back toward the restaurant.

And I was free; and I felt elated and terrible and relieved and terrified that I’d made another mistake, all at once. And still I saw Pam in my mind, and knew what I had to do.


Even speeding ten to twenty over all the way back to Pennsylvania, I got to the office barely fifteen minutes before quitting time. Michael’s car, thankfully, was not in the parking lot. But Pam’s little blue Yaris was there and that was all that mattered.

Three hours on the road and I still didn’t know what I was going to say.

Marry me. Too much.
I miss you. Not enough.
I love you. I never stopped. This was the truth. Maybe the truth, for once, was the best place to start.

Pam wasn’t at the reception desk. Angela, however, was on her way out. “Jim!” she said, surprised. “I thought you were interviewing in New York.”

“Uh, yeah, I mean no, I decided to stay here,” I mumbled, peering through the blinds to the break room, the conference room—ah, there she was. I could see her curly hair through the window; she was being interviewed by the camera crew.

“Michael didn’t get it either,” she said cattily.

“See you Monday, Angela,” I said, walking away from her to the conference room. I was done with waiting: I was going to have to do this in front of them. I pulled open the door, and both Pam and Ron, the camera guy, turned toward me.

“Excuse me,” I said to Ron. Pam was staring at me. “Pam,” I said. “Are you free for dinner tonight?”

Her eyes lit up. “Yes,” she said immediately.

I smiled. “Good.” I drummed my fingertips nervously on the edge of the doorway. “Then...it’s a date.”

Her smile was radiant. I grinned and shut the door, desperate to escape before anybody else saw me.
Angela was still standing by the coat hooks, staring at me. “Did I just hear you—”

I fixed her with my sternest possible expression. “I think what we do outside the office is nobody’s business,” I said, casting a significant glance at Dwight’s empty desk. Where was Schrute, anyway? I didn’t see him in the break room.

She followed my gaze and her white face paled even more, if that was possible. She cleared her throat. “I completely agree,” she said quietly, and swiftly bolted out the door.

I followed after her. I didn’t want to see anybody else that day. I sent a text message to Pam’s cell phone to call me when she left the office, and raced home to get ready.

Chapter End Notes:
I did this as a back-and-forth between Jim's and Pam's perspectives. Next up, Pam...

Comments/reviews are always appreciated! And a big thanks to all who reviewed my first story. I think y'all are stuck with me now...this is too fun!

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