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Story Notes:
Authors Notes:
Firstly, I want to give a huge thank you to Liv who helped me get through this piece, and convinced me it’s of worth to post because it does deal with a sensitive topic. This is an AU piece, but something I think is quite a reality for so many families. In honor of cancer awareness month I’ve written this piece, because this reality is something thousands of parents go through every year. I would love some feedback, but even more importantly would be a donation of whatever size to the cancer research/prevention.

Disclaimer I do not own The Office, any of its characters, all rights belong to NBC.
She felt the front door slam behind him as they both walked into their home; the same home they’d lived in for the past nine years. The fridge, decorated with Elizabeth’s drawings, adorned next to dentist appointment reminders and photos of the three of them. Pam dropped her purse at the entryway staring into her living room. The cool, November wind was whistling through the cracked window, making the living room frigid. Before she could stride across the room to shut it, Jim had already made it half way across, shutting it before she could even think of doing so. That was Jim, knowing what she needed before she even knew she needed it.

Jim stared at her; his hair that had been slicked back was now falling into his swollen and red eyes. His shoulder slumped over; he quickly found the couch, collapsing into it. Pulling off his black suit jacket, he draped it over his knees, tiredly. Pam, slipping off her dark cardigan came over towards him, her hands instinctively finding their way around his neck. She could feel the tension that had begun in his neck months ago; tension that had never left, and was still residing under his temples all the way down his back. Jim reached up, the hand that held his wedding ring, and enclosed her own. She ran her thumb along the tops of his hands, moving the skin that had begun to lose its elasticity, around. She paused, praying for some sort of noise in the house to distract her, but the only sound keeping her sane was the slow hum of the refrigerator.

Pam brought her mouth down, slowly pressing a kiss into his head. She began to wonder how she’d kept herself together all today. Her eyes felt tired, weary. Pam thought back over the past week, she wasn’t sure when the last time she got a full night’s sleep was.

Carefully, she removed Jim’s hand from her own, fearful of breaking him, and sidestepping around the couch, finding his arms. Slowly she climbed into his lap, finding somewhere in his neck to bury her face. His hands, still at first, moved up to find her neck and wrapped around them. He kissed her temple, inhaling familiar scents; the room became blurry once more, before he sunk his own face into her shoulder.

”Can you catch it?” Elizabeth asked, her polka dotted leggings created a blur as she swung her legs back and forth against the bed. Jim shook his head from the chair next to her, her small hand was stretched across to his, she held it tightly.

“Nope, I can’t,” Jim answered, setting down the magazine in front of him. He dragged the chair across the linoleum floor, closer to his daughter. Her bright pink jumper stood out in the contrast of the dull, grey, room they were surrounded by.

“Can…” Her light brown bangs hung down into her eyes as she wilted over for a moment, leaning in closer to him, “can Mommy catch it?” She whispered as Jim shut his eyes for maybe a moment too long; his daughter nudged his arm. He opened them, feeling his voice lost somewhere deep in his throat.

“Nope,” His voice was high-pitched, and before he spoke again, he swallowed, “Mommy can’t get it either,” She nodded, and without a word Jim got up from the uncomfortable plush chair and hopped up onto the bed with her. Extending out his arms, Elizabeth crawled into them. Jim’s legs hung awkwardly off the edge of the bed, the paper sheet under him crinkling as he tried to situate himself. She laid her head against his chest, and with a sigh, her tiny hand reached down for his again that was secured around her waist; he’d protect her through this, he had to.

“Is it going to hurt?” She turned around to face him. Jim’s focus had gone to her mouth, where she’d just lost one of her front teeth yesterday. He’d forgotten to place a dollar under her pillow last night. Had she noticed?

“It might a little. But you’ve had a shot before, it’s going to feel like that when they put it in your hand,” He thought of Pam, who’d been pumping her with water all morning so that it would be less painful for her. He secretly thanked her for doing so; her veins were visibly larger.

“Am I gonna lose my hair?” She reached to her loose curls that fell on her shoulders. Jim leaned in; she smelled of the coconut shampoo Pam and he had in their bathroom, she’d taken her bath in there this morning.

“You’ve got a lot of questions,” Jim said with a wink as she got off his lap, and shimmied to sit across from him, in between his calves. “How about you and I play a game?” She nodded feverishly, and pulled her hair behind her head into a pony tail, securing it with an elastic.

“Okay, I’m going to grandma’s house and I’m bringing…an armadillo,” Jim raised his eyebrows goofily as his daughter giggled into her fists.

“I’m going to grandma’s and I’m bringing an armadillo and a boy scout,” Elizabeth retorted,

“Oooh, good one Beth, I’m sure Grandma really needs a boy scout,” He teased.

“Daddy, why would she need an armadillo!?” Her eyes gleamed at him, the smile slowly disappearing off her face as Jim watched the doctor walk up behind her. She’d heard his footsteps,

“Well hello there Miss Halpert,” Elizabeth crawled back into Jim’s lap, she fastened her arms around his legs, begging him to hold onto her. Jim smiled at the dark haired man, and gave him a nod as a nurse brought over a tray with instruments to start her IV. Her muscles tensed against him the minute she saw the needle, and within moments, she’d begun to try and climb into him, her tears staining his blue dress shirt

She could smell the coffee beans roasting downstairs from the kitchen. Jim always made coffee to keep his mind off things. She knew that it was a process for him; every step was something he had to think about, and it would keep him busy. She stopped in front of Elizabeth’s door. The wood was covered in crayon drawings, and near the top, two ballet slippers with Beth sewn into them, hung. Pam reached up to lay her hand upon the door, the oak knots under her fingers were results of toys being carelessly pushed against the door, temper tantrums, and bumps and bruises from not watching where she was going; carefully Pam pushed the bedroom door open.

”Beth, what the hell are you doing?” Pam cried, repositioning the laundry basket on her hip as she fandangled herself through the entryway to her daughter’s bedroom. She found her seven-year-old in front of her full length mirror, Jim’s razor and scissors in hand. Pam glanced down at the floor; her daughter’s curls had curled up around her bare feet, lost in the furs of the pink shag carpet. Beth swung around, her mouth forming an “O”, the scissors cascading to the floor, dropping with a thud on her foot.

“Shit, Beth,” Pam swore, crossing the room to kneel down. In shock, Beth just stood above her, staring at the blood soaking into the carpet.

“Mom…” she stammered, getting down on the floor and pressing her palm to her foot, “I’m sorry,” Pam looked up, resting her eyes in her daughter’s. She could see the tears forming in them. Reaching out, she pressed her hand to her Beth’s shoulder,

“Sit down,” Pam whispered. She stood up, and slipped down the hall to the bathroom. Before opening the medicine cabinet she stared in the mirror. Her face looked almost unrecognizable. Stress had formed lines under her eyes, and creases now swam across her forehead. She opened the mirror-cabinet, and grabbed some gauze and tape and headed back into Beth’s room. She was carefully picking up the strands of hair she’d cut off and placing them in a pile.

Silently, Pam sopped up the blood from her foot, and tightly wrapped the bandage around it. Elizabeth watched her mother; occasionally she’d press a finger to her mother’s soft skin, hoping she’d reciprocate the action. Giving up, she laid back on the floor, beginning to count the glow in the dark stars her father had just placed a few months before.

“Beth what were you trying to do?” Pam broke the silence. Beth propped herself up on her elbows.

“I was just…”

“This is why we told you not to go into Mom and Dad’s bathroom without us being in there, because you could get hurt,” Pam scolded and finished taping up Beth’s foot. Propping herself back onto her knees she patted one. Elizabeth got up and leaned against her mother,

“Were you trying to cut your hair?” Pam asked, bringing her jaw down on top of Beth’s head. She’d managed to butcher the back of her head. Beth just nodded, playing with the ace bandage that lay unraveled at her mother’s knees. “Why?” Pam asked.

“Daddy said it was going to fall out,” Beth choked back tears before turning around and grabbing onto her bangs,

“I don’t want to lose my hair,” a few tears spilled onto her pink cheeks before she pulled Pam closer to her.

“Come with me,” Pam wrapped a hand around her backside, lifting her up, and grabbing the scissors and razors.

“Jim!” Pam called from the stairwell, her husband turning the corner from the living room.

“You’re daughter needs one of your special haircuts,” Pam said with a smile as Jim just chuckled.

“Oh does she?” Jim asked taking Beth from his wife’s arms and bringing her to the kitchen table.

“Welcome to the Halpert hair salon, you’re here for a buzz?” Jim asked in his best New York accent, as he wrapped a kitchen towel around his daughter’s neck; his heart aching with every stroke of his razor.

Her bed was unmade; one lilac sheet was wilted over, grazing the floor. The chest in the corner still had dress-up clothes spilling out of it, and Pam noticed her favorite lipstick, uncapped sitting on Beth’s nightstand. She felt her chest tighten. Three days ago she would have yelled at Beth for touching her lipstick again. Three days ago she would have spent the afternoon helping her clean up her room, three days ago they would have pulled out hats, jewelry and costumes and paraded down the stairs for Daddy to watch. But today, she’d forget about her lipstick, she could buy another. Today, she’d leave the bed unmade. Today, she’d forget about the play clothes.

“Pam?” Jim stood in the doorway, his right leg crossed over his left. He slowly leaned his head against the frame watching her. She turned around, clutching Beth’s quilt in her hand. Jim turned away; his eyes were focusing on the blotched, muddy stains on it. She’d been throwing up every night; the washer couldn’t take the stains out. Pam squinted her eyes, she’d forgotten to put her contacts back in.

“No,” Pam began to shake her head; she could feel her eyes begin to burn. “No, Jim,” She repeated, grabbing Beth’s clothes he’d grabbed from the floor, and putting them back. “Don’t touch them,” Her tears were coming freely as she collapsed on the floor in a ball. Jim dropped the trash bags on the floor and wrapped his arms around his wife. Coddling her, she cried into her shoulder,

“I can’t do this yet,” She whimpered, Jim bringing his hand to stroke her hair.

“We don’t have to, I’m sorry,” He whispered, wrapping an arm around her knees that she’d brought to her chest. “C’mon,” Scooping her up, he left the room, pulling the door shut behind him; he made a mental note that they would sleep in the living room the next few nights. He didn’t want to have to walk past Beth’s room every evening; he knew it’d break Pam.

”Daddy!” Beth called as she grabbed Jim’s hand, pulling him towards the glass windows. “Look, look!” She hollered pointing at the penguins that were swimming in the pool in front of her. She beamed; she rested her forehead on the glass, pressing her tiny hands against the glass.

Jim knelt down next to her, pulling his daughter toward her.

“I told you, you would see them,” he whispered in her ear as he pushed a strand of hair away. She turned to him, pressing a sticky, lollipop, kiss to his cheek. She glanced back to the glass in awe. One penguin swam up to wear Beth was standing and tapped his beak against the glass. With a giggle, Beth winked at the bird and then pushed herself back into Jim’s arms. Jim wraped his arms around her small torso, and pressed his chin on her shoulder. It was a perfect 5th birthday.

Jim grabbed some blankets from the closet and set them on the floor by the couch. Pam sat up against the couch, a cup of coffee going cold in her hands. Jim set a hot water bottle next to her pillow and patted it. Pam crawled over, the white down comforter wrapped around her; Jim pulled her down closer to him, the heat from the fireplace turning both their cheeks red.

“I’m so tired,” her voice was muffled against his tee-shirt. Jim nodded, kissing her cheek.

“Me too,” Jim retorted,

“No, no…” Pam shook her head “I mean physically. I’m shaking Jim,” She held out her hands. Jim took them and held them steady; he could feel them moving underneath his.

“C’mere,” He pulled her to him, her body shaking violently underneath him.

“My teeth won’t stop chattering,” Pam muttered. He wrapped her tightly in the blankets like a cocoon. It was silent for a moment before Jim rested his forehead on hers, closing his eyes.

“Are we going to be okay?” Jim murmured. He waited. “Pam?” Jim opened his eyes and looked down. Pam’s eyes were clamped shut, fresh tears still lay on her cheeks, the fireplace light glimmered off them. She’d fallen asleep. Quietly, Jim inched off the floor, and crept along the creaky wooden floors to the bathroom. Flicking on the light, he grabbed his toothbrush blindly, accidentally knocking the Hello Kitty brush into the sink.

“Damn it,” He swore, picking the brush up about to place it back into the yellow cup. He stopped before placing it in the hole, the brush suspended in the air. After a moment he dropped it into the waste basket, and turned off the light, forgetting his toothbrush sitting on the side of the sink.

The church was empty. All the guests had found their way to the downstairs where food was being served as though it was some sort of celebration. Jim stood alone in the front, seated on the velour steps just below the cherry casket that supported his daughter. A hand rested in his hair, the other on his lap uneasily as he listened to the whirls of the ceiling fans keeping the room cool. He could hear footsteps moving below him, and an occasional chatter; he began to wonder where Pam was. Probably with Penny or her mother, attempting to receive condolences from guests that barely knew their daughter. He toyed with the button on the sleeve of his suit jacket, playing out the words he’d give at the burial in a few short hours. Everything sounded pushed, words that meant nothing and could never describe the past seven years of his life. Words that were just simply just that: words. Nothing else.

“Jim?” He was shaken out of his daydream. Before he could turn around he felt a firm hand press into his shoulder. He knew that hand. He’d shaken it in a job interview more than 12 years ago. That same hand that congratulated him on his wedding day with a tight grip. A hand that pressed into his back in a tight hug the day he found out Beth was sick.

“Hi Michael,” Jim croaked. His voice sounded strange to him, empty, dead. Michael found himself seated next to Jim,

“I’m sorry about her Jim,” Jim stared straight ahead, not moving his eyes to face him.

“Yeah,” Jim’s head fell to stare at the floor, a hand uncomfortably moving to rub his own neck. “Me too,” He finished. The two grown men sat in silence for a moment before Michael stood,

“I guess I’ll see you soon?” Michael asked. Jim just nodded, and once again the room grew quiet again. He coughed, possibly to just hear the sound of his own voice, before getting up to move towards Beth. The casket was open, Beth’s stuffed animals lined the inside, cushioning her body like bubble wrap protecting an important present being shipped. Jim pulled an envelope out of his suit pocket and slipped it into Beth’s hand; he shut her fingers around it. He tried to ignore how cold she felt and how unreal she looked. It was as though he was staring at a doll. He brought a hand to her cheek, rubbing his thumb against it. His lips touched her cool forehead for a moment before he pulled them away,

“Sweet dreams little penguin,” Standing up, he pressed the top of the casket down clicking it into place. Ignoring the moisture on his cheeks, he stood and forced himself down the aisle toward the sun that was streaming in from the open church door.

End Notes

I hope your enjoyed this. As always I’d love to hear what you thought.

JHalpert is the author of 10 other stories.
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