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I do not own these characters. They belong to Greg Daniels, NBC Universal, and Reveille Productions.

What are you going to do with your time off? Travel. It's gonna be really nice. I'm gonna find myself.
-2.07 The Client

She runs into him at the big chain bookstore they just finished building. It's around the holidays and she almost doesn't see him as she rushes by the travel section. She's two shelves past when she hears, "Pam?" Her heart drops and she spins on her heel, turning to face him. She wonders how much he knows, if someone from the office has been feeding him information and updates on her life. She wants to tell him she's taking art classes and that date she went on months ago was horrible and that she still hasn't gotten used to looking up from her desk and seeing Ryan instead of him. Sometimes, when she's not thinking too much about it, she'll find herself drawing sketches of him, his hands.

"Jim, wow." She tries to smile. "Hey."


"Are you in a hurry? I can let you go."

"Oh no," she shakes her head. "I was just looking for a book for my mom. What…what are you doing here?"

"I'm a last minute shopper," he shrugs, looking embarrassed.

"Yeah," she notices the guidebook in his hand. Amsterdam. "So how's Stamford?"

"About the same. Boring, actually, compared to Scranton. I don't have Dwight to torture or Michael to laugh at."

The way he looks at her is different than before. He doesn't quite meet her eyes. She suddenly feels so much older and notices how tired Jim looks. "You wanna get out of here?"

She feels the unexpected release and freedom of knowing she can say yes—she could spend all week with him—and not have to feel guilty or go home to face Roy. It's just her now, in that little one room apartment on the third floor. She nods and follows Jim outside into the icy parking lot.

A few steps from his car, she pauses. It all suddenly seems strange that they're doing this, catching up when really, the six month break in communication shouldn't have happened at all. Jim doesn't open her door like he used to do, but she's glad when she gets inside and his car smells like him. His iPod plays some sort of soft punk song that always reminds her of him if she happens to hear one on the radio. This song sounds familiar, but she can't quite place it.

"Who sings this?"

"Interpol."

Oh, she thinks. She remembers. If she closes her eyes and lets the music wash over her, she can feel him right there, like he was that night, neither of them wanting to leave. Swaying isn't dancing.

"Fireworks," she says softly.

"So how's Michael Scarn? He ever survive that jump?" Jim flashes a grin. Of course he remembers. She laughs.

"Believe it or not, he never wrote a sequel."

"Check his computer." He suggests and she giggles. She'd forgotten the easy give and take between them. All she remembered were the awkward silences and hurt feelings. She doesn't want to remember that anymore.

They pull into the parking lot of an all-night pancake house, but neither of them makes a move to get out of the car.

"So how long are you going to be in town?" she asks, looking down from the bright fluorescent lights of the restaurant that reflect off the windows and seem to illuminate the parking lot.

"Just the next three days or so. I have to be back at work on Tuesday."

The silence sits between them. Pam wonders why he asked her to do this and then she realizes that maybe he still misses her. She hopes.

"I'm sorry. I never--"

"No, it's okay." He shakes his head. "You don't have to explain."

"But I should have called." She twists her hands in her lap. "We were really good friends...and that was shitty of me."

Jim looks over at her sadly. "The phone works both ways. I could have called you just as easily."

You could have, she thinks, but why would you after what I said to you? "I didn't expect you to. You were--"

"I lived." He shrugs. She hates that he's so nonchalant about this. She almost wants him to be angry or upset with her, but instead he's just matter-of-fact.

Really, she wants to ask, because I feel like I haven't been.

"I think pancakes sound good," he speaks up. "Don't you?"

"Sure." She agrees as they get out of the car.

***

She orders blueberry pancakes and tea. He orders the biggest stack of pancakes they have and black coffee. She notices his face looks thinner and she wonders if she looks different to him. Sad? Older?

After she moved out, she felt lighter for awhile. She liked going home to her own place where the messes were her own. But then work started to weigh her down. She missed Jim and her younger sister was getting married before her.

"So what have you been doing, besides work?" he asks, sipping his coffee.

"Well," she looks up at him, careful to watch his face. "I'm taking art classes at the community college."

Jim sits back in the booth, his eyes wide. "Wow! Pam, that's—that's so great. How are they going?"

"I really, really am enjoying them." She can't help but smile and Jim nods encouragingly. She wonders if it would be too much to tell him that so many of her sketches consist of an outline of big hands, with thin, long fingers that she can never get quite right. "I just wanted to brush up on things because, um, I'm going to apply for that graphic design internship in January."

"That is--I knew you could do it, Pam." She watches his eyes light up and she loves the way they seem to brighten even more when he says her name.

"Well, I have to give you a little credit. You gave me that first little push."

"What? No way. This is all your doing. And I think that's amazing." He leans in as he says this and she wants to close her eyes and just take him, but she blushes instead and is glad when their food comes.


He tells her about Stamford while they eat. How beautiful it is, being right by the ocean, and how when it was still warm, he would ride his bike to work so he could see all the boats starting out in the mornings or the families taking walks down to the beach. He tells her that Josh isn't as fun to work with as Michael and that he's actually had to do his job, but that the commissions have been pretty decent. He's going to have to attend that stupid Northeastern salesman of the year banquet if he keeps it up. He tells her about what an ass Andy is and how everyone is obsessed with 'Call of Duty.' He even tells her there's a little art gallery she would like downtown.

She wants to tell him about her horrible first date and how she's avoided Kelly trying to make plans ever since then. Instead she settles on how Michael got busted for Movie Mondays and how the quarterly camaraderie event had to be held at Chuck E. Cheese this year, because Michael had spent too much money on a weekend getaway for Carol. She tells him about how Dwight came so close to getting fired for trying to overthrow Michael and that there are rumors of Toby transferring. And Phyllis is getting married in February and how Ryan has tried to get Michael to rearrange the desks about four times.

"It's not as much fun without you," she finishes, before she realizes what she said.

"Yeah. I bet you would be really good at Call of Duty," he teases.

"No," she shakes her head. She hadn't wanted him to tease her. "I'm not just talking about missing your tricks on Dwight. I miss you. I miss you, Jim and I don't know what to tell you, except that."

He raises her eyebrows, but he doesn't try to stop her from talking. "Well, I--"

"Please say you miss me. Please." She whispers, closing her eyes and feeling the warm tears as she blinks against the lights of the restaurant.

"Pam." A chill runs through her body as he says her name that way: low and strong. "Of course I miss you. Are you kidding me?"

"Yeah?" She squints across at him. "So we're both idiots."

This makes Jim laugh. She smiles, liking the way it echoes in their booth. "I guess so."

"So I can email you now when Dwight is acting like Dwight?"

"Oh, absolutely." She glances down and notices how close his hand is to her arm, even from across the table. She doesn't let herself think about what it would be like to sit next to him in meetings like she used to, her arm slightly pressed against his.

They are both quiet for a minute and can hear the wind whistling against the windows. "I kind of hope it snows this weekend so I don't have to go back to work," he says, looking towards the window. "We could go sledding." He turns back to her, his eyes bright like a little boy, and she remembers this is his idea face. The same face that she would find when she looked up from her desk and he would be bending down over the counter, a plan percolating in his head about how to best torture Dwight.

"Oh, wow, sledding. I haven't been sledding since I was about fourteen."

"Well," Jim sighs when the waitress brings the check.

"I guess I should go get that book before the store closes."

"What book is it?"

"Some book about knitting."

"Mind if I tag along? I need to do some shopping of my own."

"Didn't look like you were getting very far to me."

"I always get distracted by the travel section."

She doesn't tell him that she dreams about traveling, looking out the window of an airplane and he's besides her, laughing at the cheesy in-flight movie. She brushes her bangs off her forehead and grabs her coat. "Oh, you're in trouble now. I'm a professional last minute shopper."

"Oh really?" He widens his eyes at her, chuckling as he follows her out of the restaurant.

***

She delays him in the bookstore as long as she can, but she knows it's inevitable: the store closes at 11. At 10:45, he makes his way to the counter with his armful of books and movies.

"Thanks for sticking around," he tells her as they head back out into the cold.

"It's better than cleaning my apartment. My parents are coming down for the holidays. My mom will be here tomorrow."

"That'll be nice."

"Yeah. I hope your niece likes her present."

"I'm sure she will. Thanks again, Pam." He looks like he wants to say something else, but she interrupts.

"Call me before you leave town, okay?"

"Yeah. Maybe we can do this again sometime."

"Sure," she nods. "Who knows, I may come visit Stamford. Not as exciting as Amsterdam, but--"

"It'll do," he grins.

"Have a good Christmas, Jim."

She watches his Adam's apple bob in his throat. "You too, Pam." She notices him watching her as she gets in her car and starts it up. He opens his door and waves as she drives by. She waves back, still humming that song.


She's glad to see her mom the next day. She would be happy to see her anyway, but now her visit is something to keep her mind off of him. But her intention is ruined when she pulls out an envelope scrawled with her name (and no address) in the mail that afternoon. She smiles, recognizing the writing. Standing outside her apartment door, she slits the envelope open with her nail, her hands shaking. Inside is a train ticket to Stamford. She lets out a little shriek when she notices the date: Dec. 31, 2006. There's a note, too: "Will you spend New Year's Eve with me? –J"

When she gets back inside, her mom notices the smile on her face. "I just got a really great letter in the mail," she beams, setting down the envelope in front of her mom.

"Pam, is this…?" Her mom asks with wide eyes.

She shrugs, blushing. "I ran into him the other night at the bookstore. It was—it was good. It was like it used to be."

"Oh sweetie, that's so great." After dinner, she tells her mom she needs to run a quick errand to get one more present. Her mom just nods and turns back to watching television. She realizes as she leaves that her mom probably knows exactly what she's doing, but she doesn't care. She'd found his parents' address in the phone book, remembering that his emergency contact all those months ago had been Larissa Halpert. She doesn't see his car in the driveway when she gets there and for a minute, she debates delivering the present personally or just sticking it in the mailbox.

Instead, she leaves it by the door, wrapped in red paper with penguins and his name in looped cursive across the front. She'd been torn at the store, trying to pick between the different guides, but when she saw the blue cover, she remembered. He loved the Lonely Planet guides; they had taken up half a shelf in his bedroom. That seemed forever ago, the bar-b-que, the two of them drinking too much beer and laughing at their co-workers singing karaoke. She'd slipped a note inside: "Maybe one day we can travel somewhere besides Stamford." She smiles at the wreath on the door, the glow from the windows as she drives back down the street, back home to her apartment.


The day after Christmas, she wonders if he's driving back to Stamford and if it looks less gray there in the winter. When the phone rings, she notices she's holding her breath.

"I don't want to go back to Stamford."

"Then don't." She tells him, blinking away tears. "Come over."

"I'll be there in five minutes." She can imagine the wide grin on his face.



mixedberries is the author of 13 other stories.
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