I’ve gotten into writing prompts recently. I find it easier to create a story when I have something to work around, so this one has two prompts I saw, and thought would work well. I finished watching season 3 yesterday, but for some reason this was really hard for me to start writing. I wanted it to be as close to perfect as I could manage, but I finally figured whatever I wrote would have to do. Here is my deeper look into “The Job,” with references to a couple moments from other episodes, though I don’t plan ahead so I don’t know what those episodes are as of writing this intro lol. Also, what I think happened on their fight date. I also like switching the POVs so that way we get a look into both minds, so there will be more of that this time around as well.
For years, he carefully planned out this day.
She tried to forget him, but never could.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All characters, episodes, storylines, references, etc belong to their rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended.
“Hey, Pam, yeah, I forgot what day the interview was, and I drove to New York accidentally. I’ll be like three hours late.”
“Okay, Michael. See you soon.”
Hanging up the phone, she sighed with relief, knowing she was free of Michael and his antics for at least the next three hours. However, turning back to the office and seeing Jim’s empty desk, her relief turned to dread when she realized that come tomorrow, he may never sit there again. It figures that as soon as they started being friends again, as soon as things were starting to resemble even the slightest touch of normalcy, he would have an interview with corporate. And, of course, not just any interview, but an interview in which Jim is totally qualified for and would most likely land. So, now it was just a matter of hours before she would get the call that Jim Halpert would no longer be a part of Dunder Mifflin Scranton, and he would be gone to live a life that was far better than anything she could imagine for herself. The thought of it broke her heart a little bit, but Kevin’s voice pulled her out of her trance, and she turned to help him with some paperwork, Meredith joining them shortly afterwards.
When the door opened, she almost didn’t recognize him without his shaggy hair covering his forehead. Instead, it was trimmed and combed back, professional. She couldn’t help the smile spread across her face, though. She loves his shaggy hair, prefers it to his new cut, but she has to admit he looks good. A part of her also wonders what it would be like to run her fingers through his hair. Wonders if it would be sticky from product or if it would be just as soft and smooth as when she held onto him on casino night. It takes her a moment to realize that Kevin, Meredith, and Jim are talking, and she tunes into the conversation just as Andy belts out “Big Haircut!!” She rolls her eyes, waiting for their back and forth to end before speaking up.
“Hey.” He turns to look at her and she almost loses her train of thought. She tries to quickly recover, though, saying, “I think it looks great.”
“Thanks, Pam.” He says it with a tight-lipped smile, glancing at Meredith, then Kevin, then looking back to his desk, getting ready to sit down and get started on work. She notices Karen give a look in the corner of her eye, though she can’t tell if Karen it was happy or concerned since she’s partially blocked by Meredith and the little tree next to Jim’s desk. She doesn’t really care, though, because she’s just trying to be a friend to Jim. It’s the least she can do after putting him on the spot and professing her feelings last week during Beach Day.
The camera crew asks Jim to follow them into the conference room, and she can’t help but watch him go with them. She has never been so tempted to ask the crew for an early look at their tapes, wanting to get a little more insight to the mind of Jim Halpert. But she knows that’s against the rules, and against Jim’s privacy. So, instead, she just stares at the closed door and daydreams until he’s walking back out and she’s called in next. She hoped that his eyes would follow her like hers had with him, but she knew that wouldn’t be the case no matter how much she wanted it.
“After I had my little outburst at the beach, Jim was really nice about it. He just basically said that he missed my friendship too and I would always mean a lot to him and I understand where he’s coming from. For the record, I am not embarrassed at all. It needed to be said, and I said it, and it only took me three years to summons the courage, so,” she pretends to bow in front of an audience, “thank you.”
“Have you guys talked at all since then?”
“We’ve gotten better, I think. It’s still not the same, and that’s okay because I get it. He’s with Karen, and that’s fine. It would probably be weird to be best friends with the girl you used to crush on. But I do wish him luck tomorrow, I know he will do great.”
“Thanks, Pam. You can go back to work, let us know if you need to talk about anything.”
With a nod, she stood up and headed back to her desk. Michael would be back in about two hours, and she wanted to get as much work done as possible before he made it impossible. As she sat down, though, and looked at the back of Jim’s head, she quickly realized it may be impossible to get any work done whether Michael was here or not.
A few hours later, after trying to fix the copier for the umpteenth time this week and dealing with Dwight periodically sobbing and then manically laughing over his new position as Regional Manager which Michael apparently gave him, Pam figured she deserved a break. Walking through the annex to get to the break room, she saw Karen sitting at a table working on stuff. She considered going back to her desk, she can grab a snack and some tea in an hour. But then she remembered her speech at the beach and her declaration to be braver and more forward, so she adjusts her shirt and walks into the break room, leaning back against the counter and quietly saying, “Hey.”
Karen looks up, repeating, “Hey.”
Pam’s not really sure why she’s bringing this up right now. All she wanted was a candy bar and some green tea, not a confrontation with Jim’s girlfriend, especially with Toby sitting right behind her. But before she can talk herself out of it, she’s saying, “Um. About the beach…”
“It’s okay. We all say things without thinking.”
But that wasn’t the problem, because all Pam has been doing for the past three years has been thinking. Thinking about the shaggy haired salesman that sits in front of her, thinking about what it would be like to date that salesman. Thinking about breaking up with Roy to take that chance, thinking about Jim’s lips on hers after he confessed his love for her. Thinking she would never see him again when he didn’t show up to work that following Monday, thinking how much that broke her heart and made her want to die. Thinking about how actually breaking up with Roy was the best decision she ever made. Thinking about how much she missed Jim every morning when she showed up for work and he wasn’t there, thinking about how much it sounded like he missed her when he called for Kevin, but she picked up instead. Thinking he would be happy to see her when he transferred back to Scranton, because she knew she was happy to see him. Thinking about how everything changed when he did come back, and how he wasn’t the same Jim that he was the night they kissed. Thinking about how much she missed his jokes, his pranks, his knowing looks, and especially his smile. No, she definitely didn’t have a problem with thinking, especially when it came to Jim. And, since he’s most likely leaving tomorrow and she won’t see him again, Pam doesn’t really care if Karen knows that at this point.
“Oh, no, it’s not that. I’ve actually been thinking that for a long time, and I’m glad I said it. I’m just, I’m sorry if it made you feel weird.”
And with that, Pam turned to get what she originally came in here for. She heard Karen gathering her belongings and walking out, the camera crew following behind, presumably to talk about what just happened. It wasn’t until she heard the door leading to the main office area close that she let out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding.
Jim was busy doing actual work when Karen suddenly appeared next to him, pulling him away from the papers on his desk.
“Hey. What if we leave tonight? Grab a bite, get a hotel room, enjoy the city a little bit?”
“Uh… I just have so much paperwork to do.”
It’s not that he didn’t want to go. He would love to get away from Dwight reminding him of his new position of power if Michael got the new job, even though he knew the chances of Michael landing the corporate job were slim to none, so Dwight’s comments were just empty threats. But that was part of the problem. He knew he had at least a decent chance of being promoted within the next twenty-four hours, as long as he didn’t severely butcher the interview. So, looking at the probabilities, Jim knew this could very well be his last day at the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. There weren’t many people he was going to miss, so maybe a night away in order to relax and prepare for the interview would be nice. He was kind of hoping to talk to Pam at some point today, but they’re friends again, so he can always call her later. Plus, the look of disappointment on Karen’s face made him decide a night away would be good for him. So, he signed the last paper in his folder and smiled.
“Wow, done. Okay, let’s do it.”
As they get up in order to try to find Michael, they pass Pam on the way to the back. He gives her a tight-lipped smile, and he notices Karen just look at her blankly, and wonders if something happened between them. But Pam keeps walking, giving a quick smile then pushes the door open to go to her desk, and Karen is leading him to the kitchen, so he shrugs it off and walks up to Michael.
“So, I was wondering if Karen and I could get off a few hours early ‘cuz we wanted to spend the night in the city.”
After Michael makes his inappropriate jokes and confirming with him that they will be leaving early tonight in order to avoid being mooned tomorrow, Jim leads Karen back to the main office. After walking her to her desk, he turns and heads towards accounting to grab some paperwork out of the filing cabinets. Next thing he knows Kevin is next to him, asking if he thinks Karen or Pam is hotter. He feels like he’s living his worst nightmare right now.
“Yeah, I’m not going to talk about this right now.”
“Pam is taller.”
“You sure?” Even though he wants to be anywhere but right here having this discussion with Kevin of all people, he can’t help but tease him a bit.
“Yes. She has bigger breasts too.”
Jim has to hold himself back from blushing, instead just whispering “wow” while making sure he does not look at Kevin and tries to find this paperwork as fast as possible.
“I think Karen has a prettier face, though.”
“Mhm. Mhm… what else?” He figures the only way to get out of this conversation is to play along, hoping Kevin will drop it. Of course, he doesn’t, and brings Pam back up again.
“Well I mean Pam’s face is really pretty too. It’s a very tough call.”
“Hm. Really tough call.”
Finding a way to distract Kevin so he will leave, plus giving him the joy of pranking a coworker besides Dwight for a change, he asks Kevin, “You know what? Why don’t you take the rest of the day, figure it out and then come back and tell me what you got.”
“Alright.” Jim smiles, looking forward to whatever Kevin comes up with. He wonders how seriously Kevin will take this task, if he will come up with some actual comparisons or just compare their cup sizes. Either way, paperwork in hand and heading back to his desk, Jim can’t wait.
If he was honest with himself, though, he had thought about what Kevin asked him before. Not quite that bluntly, and he never made a list, but he couldn’t help but compare a little bit. Pam was a little more plain than Karen, not quite “exotic” looking, as Michael had put it. She had that innocent, girl-next-door look to her, but he would be lying horribly if he said she wasn’t also gorgeous. She was also funnier than Karen and understood more of his jokes than she did. Pam also was a little more down to earth, having grown up in a small town compared to the big city like Karen. She didn’t care as much about materialistic things or big promotions, unlike Karen. And, if he allowed himself to think about it, Pam did have bigger breasts than Karen, but that is superficial, so he liked to focus more on her other traits. Well, he didn’t think about her other traits because he had a girlfriend, who he liked, and she is great, so he tried to focus on Karen instead.
Some days were harder than others, though.
Today just seems to be getting worse and worse, she thinks to herself. First, she’s reminded that Jim is interviewing for a new job and may be leaving forever shortly after arriving at work. Then, Karen seems to be against her today, almost rubbing it in her face that she is dating Jim and Pam isn’t, which led to her confrontation with Karen in the break room. Then she found out Jim and Karen are leaving early to spend the night together in New York, and the thought of that made her want to puke. Dwight has been yelling at everyone today, claiming that almost all of us are fired once he takes over Michael’s job. Finally, Kevin has been bugging her for the past hour, asking her random questions every few minutes with comments like “That’s going to hurt you” or “You’re gaining momentum now, Pam” after she answers, and she has no idea what that is all about. Now Jan is here, which only means chaos, and Michael wants all the girls in the conference room to talk him out of anything Jan says. As she makes her way around the room to gather all the women in the office, sans Meredith, she finally reaches Karen’s desk.
“So, um, Michael needs us in the conference room.”
“Cuz of Jan again?”
Pam nods, turning to leave, but Karen speaks up again.
“Hey, uh, before I leave tonight, would you mind making half a dozen copies of Jim’s and my sales report for our interviews tomorrow?”
And even though it’s the last thing she wants to do, she says, “Uh, sure.”
And, again, she starts to turn to leave, but something inside her makes her stop. Maybe it’s her speech at the beach, maybe it’s Dwight and Kevin’s comments throughout the day that’s finally getting to her, maybe it’s the fact that she knows there’s a real possibility of never seeing Jim again, that makes her say with just the tiniest bit of snark added on, even though she tries to sound sincere, “I really hope you get the job.” This time she really does turn to leave after Karen thanks her again.
And it’s true, Pam does hope that Karen gets the job. She’s not exactly sure what that means when it comes to Jim, though. Whether he will come back or not, or if he does come back, will he come back single? Either way, if Karen getting the job means there’s even the smallest chance that Jim will return to Scranton, then she really, really hopes that Karen gets that job.
And then Michael is in the conference room with them and freaking out. After reminding him that he doesn’t need her and he’s happier without her, Michael leaves again and goes back to his office. The girls look at each other before heading back to her desk, and on the way back to hers, Pam gives a small smile to Jim, which he returns. It gives her a little bit of hope that the rest of the day will go smoothly. And it does. Well, for the next five minutes, at least. Shortly after sitting back down at her desk, Michael comes out of his office with a huge grin on his face, declaring his love for Jan, then going to the break room. Jan follows momentarily, and Pam immediately realizes exactly why Michael has a newfound love for Jan.
“Oh my God.”
She notices Jim look up and look at Jan, then turns around to look at her. She holds her hands up in front of her own breasts and whispers, “Huge!!”
“Yeah, bigger, actually.” He’s smiling, pointing at her hands to say she should have them out farther.
“That’s crazy. Wow.”
And she’s pretty sure her day is made. They’re joking around, teasing Michael like they’ve done countless times. His smile when she says it’s crazy is enough to get her through the rest of the day, no matter what Michael, Dwight, or Kevin have in store for her. It even makes her forget for a moment that he’s leaving. But then those five minutes are up, and Karen walks up to Jim, saying, “Oh my God, can you believe that?”
Of course, Karen would have to come up and interrupt them. She can’t just let her be friends with Jim, let her joke around with him for a second before returning to work. Pam can’t help but notice, however, that Jim’s comments to Karen seem just a touch less genuine or enthusiastic than his comments to her. She can’t dwell on that for long before the camera crew asks to speak to her.
“No, it’s fine. I’m sure it must’ve been weird for Jim when Roy and I were joking around… that one time.”
She can’t help the sarcasm that comes with her answer to the crew. They must have noticed her mood, though, because they excuse her back to her desk, instead of trying to pry more information out of her like they usually do. She goes back to her desk, getting lost between phone calls and games of solitaire in order to just get through the day, when she suddenly hears Dwight declare, “Okay, everyone, listen up! Time to begin the interview process! Andrew Bernard.” She rolls her eyes, and then notices that Jim is up at reception grabbing his coat.
“Alright everyone, wish us luck.” Karen says to the group, and Pam’s stomach starts churning a bit. She can’t believe it’s already time for them to leave, for Jim to walk out of this office, and she has no idea when she will see him again. Dwight is yelling, but she can only focus on Jim as he takes a couple steps towards the door. She makes eye contact with Jim and smiles, softly saying “good luck” while only glancing at Karen for a second, returning her eyes to his, with a tight-lipped smile on her face.
“Thanks.” As he waves only to her, smiling, she grins. Tears sting her eyes as he turns and walks out the door, closing it behind him. She stares at the door for a moment, almost willing for it to open back up and him to change his mind. Tell her that he’s staying, he doesn’t want the job if it means he has to leave Scranton, if it means he has to leave her. But it stays closed, and she remembers that cameras are watching her, so she turns back to her desk, not allowing her tears to fall.
“I’m happy for him. I hope he gets the job. I really just want him to be happy. And I know that sounds cliché. And I know saying it sounds cliché, sounds cliché… Maybe I’m being cliché. I don’t care. Cause I am what I am. That’s Popeye.” She’s rambling, really wanting to be anywhere but in the conference room, being interviewed. She’s lying through her teeth, hoping they don’t catch on and that they just leave her alone. Right now, all she wants to do is leave early herself, drink a glass of wine, and possibly drown in her sorrows. She really does just want him to be happy, that’s all she has wanted since she met him so many years ago. But she just had hoped that he would have been happy with her.
The night in New York with Karen was fun. They did some sight-seeing, Karen brought him to places he didn’t know existed. She was definitely in her element in New York, whereas he felt like the most obvious tourist anyone had ever seen. They ended the night by going to bar that used to be a church, and then just walking around downtown until their feet were screaming. While they were walking back to their hotel, Karen started talking.
“So, what’s going to happen to us when I get this job?”
Jim can’t help but tease her. “Oh, do you mean when I get the job?”
“Well, if you get the job then I’d move here with you. Would you move with me? I’m not stupid. I was at the beach. We won’t have a future in Scranton. There’s one too many people there.”
He knew who she was talking about. Bringing up her name, though, seemed like a bad idea. “You mean Kevin?”
“Exactly. But you get it, right? Can’t stay there.”
“Yeah, I do. C’mon.”
As he grabbed her hand and led her across the street, he couldn’t help but think of her comment. One too many people there. Of course, she was talking about Pam. He was a little confused, because he thought they had started to get along during the Christmas party. They worked together and were laughing with each other all throughout the day. They even made jokes and had planned on eating lunch together a couple times since then. But then Pam made her confession at the beach, and everything changed. It was like a switch went off, and they couldn’t stand to be near each other unless it had to do with work. But today was really off.
“Hey, I know this may seem random, but did something happen between you and Pam today? You guys just seemed off. I thought you guys had started getting along.”
Karen rolled her eyes, her sure-tell sign that she did not want to talk about whatever was being talked about. “Nothing really. I was working on paperwork for our interviews in the break room, and Pam came in. She started talking about the beach, and I told her it’s fine, we all say things without thinking. But then she said that she wasn’t sorry about what she said, she was just sorry if it made me feel weird.”
“Yeah. She said she had wanted to say it for a long time. I don’t know, she was being kind of a jerk.”
His eyebrows furrowed. Pam wasn’t usually one for confrontation, and she definitely never tried to hurt anyone. Honestly, he was glad that she was starting to stand up for herself, saying how she really feels. He couldn’t say that to Karen, especially if Pam being more assertive made Karen upset today, but he was happy for Pam and what she was accomplishing. He hoped she would continue doing that, and maybe even let him know how it’s going.
The next morning, they woke up bright and early in order to shower and get ready. And even though they arrived an hour early to their interview, Michael was already there, reading a magazine. After dealing with Michael’s constant comments about New York and corporate and how he knows everything and everyone, and then borderline sexually harassing Jan’s assistant Hunter, Michael was finally called back to interview. They sigh with relief when the door closes behind him.
“I never thought he’d leave.” Jim said, eyes scanning the newspaper Karen was holding out in front of them.
“Do you think he has a chance?”
“Maybe. Not a very big one, honestly, but I can see why they would want to at least interview him.”
“Well, I can’t wait to start working up here. It will be great to live in the city again, having so many options of things to do, I missed it.”
Jim rolled his eyes, but he was smiling when he did it. “You mean when I start working up here? And hey, Scranton isn’t that bad. Yeah, everything is closed by eight and there’s only a handful of bars, but the town is cool, and the people are nice.”
“Most of the people, anyway.”
And then Jim frowns a bit. He doesn’t want to get into it right now, but he can’t help the little tug at his heart when Karen makes her little snide comments about Scranton and the people in it, especially when she makes it clear she is talking about one person in particular. He changes the subject to something about the newspaper, and before long Karen gets called back for her interview. He wishes her good luck before turning back to the newspaper.
Oh, how she wished Jim were here today. He would love to know that she was now Secret Assistant to the Regional Manager, who’s real Assistant to the Regional Manager was the Regional Manager himself. He would have teased her about her new title and would have done anything in his power to make himself the Secret Assistant to the Secret Assistant to the Regional Manager. She’s sure he also would have been very proud of her for remembering his “Absolutely, I do” rule that he taught her a few years ago. He also would have figured out a way to make Stanley Nickels a real thing, if only to mess with Dwight.
But every time she comes back from a break, or glances up from her desk, she’s reminded that he’s not here. He isn’t making jokes or pranking Dwight or photoshopping Stanley’s face onto a nickel. She’s reminded that he is over two hours away, interviewing for a job that will take him away from her for good. She glances at the clock and wonders what he’s doing right now. Is he in his interview? Has he not started yet? Does he already have the job and he’s making living arrangements?
Ever since he walked out the door yesterday afternoon, she couldn’t help but constantly wonder where he was and what he was doing. 4:07 PM, was he at home, packing a bag? Did he and Karen stop for an early dinner before going home? 5:35 PM, were they on the road now? Did he have to stop for gas? 7:27 PM, they had to be in New York by now, she thought as she was microwaving herself dinner. They’re probably holding hands while walking through central park, watching the sun set. 8:42 PM, did they call it an early night? Did they find a club and decided to have one more night of fun before becoming professionals? 10:09 PM, she wondered if he was sleeping as she crawled into bed herself. Were they at a nice hotel, or something on the cheaper side? She liked to think they had separate rooms, or at the very least separate beds, though she knew that most likely wasn’t the case. She knew he was probably holding Karen at that very moment, whether they were walking the streets of New York City or in their hotel room, cuddled under the sheets. She shook her head, turning off the lamp on her nightstand and laying down. She couldn’t think of him right now. She tried to sleep, but thoughts of Jim clouded her mind. When she finally passed out, he followed her to her dreams as well.
And now that she’s at work, handing out Schrute bucks and yelling at everyone to listen to Dwight, she finds that she still can’t stop thinking about him. She covered up the clock on her computer with a post-it note and tries not to look at the one hanging above the door. She doesn’t want to know what time it is, because then she can imagine it’s still bright and early and Jim hasn’t even gotten dressed for his interview yet. Because then, he still has a chance to back out. To tell Karen that he is coming home and wish her luck in New York. She quietly laughs at herself, realizing she sounds crazy. She just couldn’t believe that she was losing him again. But he deserves this job. He deserves to be somewhere where people respect him and he’s not stuck making sales calls all day. So, as Dwight calls her into the conference room again, she shakes her head and tries to forget about Jim. He was doing something with his life. Going out into the real world and doing something he will be great at. She really tries to forget about him, but quickly realizes as she passes his desk on her way to Dwight, that she never could.
Karen had come out of her interview smiling. It wasn’t until she reached him and started telling him that Jan burst through the door in the middle of it, yelling at David and practically flashing the two of them, that he realized why she was smiling. He was just about to ask how the interview went before Jan’s breakdown, when Jan herself came through the doors carrying a box. She was hugging her assistant goodbye and then picking up items she dropped, and Jim couldn’t help but just stare in wonder. He would miss the craziness and the chaos that the Scranton branch and its employees brought with it, he thought as Jan cursed at David while leaving the building.
“Wow, that was some serious, hardcore, self-destruction.” Karen laughs after Michael “respectfully withdraws his name from consideration” and follows Jan out the door.
“Yeah. Kinda feel bad for her, though.”
“Don’t. She’s nuts.”
They laugh and then he tells her that she can get going, saying it may be a while before he gets out of here. She gratefully accepts his invitation to leave, wishing him good luck before walking out the door. He turns back to the magazine he was reading before Jan got fired but was distracted when he heard the receptionist say “Dunder Mifflin, this is Grace.” He looks at her for a moment, and he can’t help but think of Pam.
He wonders what her reaction would have been to Jan’s outburst. Would she feel bad for her like he does? Or would she just mark her off as crazy like Karen? He wonders if her had told her that she can leave while he waits, would she have gone? Or would she have stayed, insisting she wanted to know what happened as soon as he gets out? He thinks he knows the answers to those questions and smiles to himself when he realizes just how alike they are. He wonders what she’s up to right now, if she’s having a good day or if Dwight is driving her insane. The thought of texting her crosses his mind, but before he can seriously consider it, David is back and calling him to his office.
It’s nearing the end of the workday, only a couple hours left, when the front door opens. She sees Michael stroll in, immediately impersonating the terminator. She asks how it went, but really all she can focus on is the fact that if Michael has already interviewed and come back to Scranton, then where was Jim? Was he interviewed before Michael? Was he just being interviewed now? He probably already has the job and is celebrating with Karen. She realizes she wasn’t listening to anything going on but catches on to Michael saying something about work and a hospital and a graveyard. She doesn’t bother trying to understand what’s happening. She just needs to know if Jim is coming back as well.
“Did… Karen get the job?” She asks, trying not to sound too obvious that she’s really asking about Jim.
Michael glances at her but then says to everyone, “Back to work!” and asks Ryan for his coffee.
She sighs, not sure what that means. Does Michael not know, or does he not want to break the news to her that Jim isn’t returning? Then Dwight is at her desk, thanking her for her service, and all she can do is salute.
“No, I don’t know what the future holds, but… I’m optimistic. And, uh, I had fun goofing around with Dwight today. Jim and I… are just… too similar. Maybe one day I’ll find my own Karen. But— you— that is, a, um, you know, not— A man. A man version. But, uh, until then… I can hold my head up. … I’m not gay.” She cringes at what she just said. She’s not in the right headspace for an interview and can only think about Jim and if he is a New Yorker now or not. They must be done interviewing now, right? Shouldn’t she have gotten a call by now, informing her who would be their new boss? As she walks back to her desk, she realizes maybe there’s some truth to what she said after all. She did have fun goofing off with Dwight today, and maybe her and Jim are just a little too similar. Maybe that’s why their timing is all off, they had to clash in some way. Whatever, she gets to leave work soon and until then she’ll just lay low. She can’t help but hope, just a little bit, that he will walk through the door, though.
His heart all but stopped when he saw the yogurt lid covered in gold sharpie. He’s pretty sure his heart actually did stop for a moment when he read the note that went with it. “Don’t forget us when you’re famous!” scribbled in her neat handwriting. It wasn’t anything special. Just something a friend had written for him, in order to encourage him and wish him luck. But the longer he looked at the little gold circle, the more his heart hurt. He had to slightly shake his head to pull him back to reality, barely able to focus on what David was asking him. He remembers rambling something about the buildings in New York.
“You’ve been in the Scranton branch for a long time. What did you like most about that place?”
He looks down at the note again, and only one answer pops into his mind. “The friendships.”
“Well… we want the person who takes this position to be here for the long haul. So… the long haul, where do you see yourself in ten years?”
And he has to stop and remember to breathe. He was prepared to answer questions about sales reports and greatest weaknesses. He was prepared to throw in a joke or two about easy access to New York pizza. He was not prepared, however, to be asked where he saw himself in the future, and then only being able to think about owning a house, having a couple of kids, traveling the world, all with one curly haired receptionist by his side. A curly haired receptionist who was currently two hours away from him right now. Two hours too far.
“Um. I’m sorry, David.” He looks down, studying the note that he hasn’t let go of since it fell out of his folder. He looks back up and David is frowning, eyebrows furrowed with concern. Jim stands up, saying, “I’m sorry, I have to go. My future isn’t here.”
“What do you mean? Are you quitting?”
“No, no… I just can’t take this job.”
“Okay, but why? Where is your future?”
He smiles to himself. “She’s back in Scranton.”
He walks out of the building, dialing a number on his cell and holding it up to his ear. He almost winces when she answers, feeling bad for what he’s about to do.
“Hey, Halpert! How did it go? Did you hear anything?”
“Hey, Karen. Um.. listen, are you done with lunch? Can we meet up?”
“Yeah, sure. Is everything okay?”
“Kind of. Meet me in front of the fountain in front of our hotel. I’ll see you in a few.”
“Okay, see you soon.”
She hangs up and he calls a cab, going back to the hotel. She’s already there when he pulls up, and he walks over to her after paying the driver.
“Hey, babe, how did it go? Did you want to tell me that I got the job in person, or what?” She’s smiling, and he’s anything but. He can’t meet her gaze when he responds.
“I need to go back to Scranton.”
“What? Did you not get it?”
“I didn’t finish the interview.”
“Why not? I thought you wanted this job. To move on.”
He sighs and runs a hand through his hair, a touch of residue coating his fingers since he now has to use hair gel in the mornings. Another reminder that she decided he needed to change for her, instead of for himself. He couldn’t help but think that Pam wouldn’t have made him cut his hair, wouldn’t have said he looked homeless.
“I did. But then David asked me something and it just got me thinking—”
“What did he ask you?”
“He asked me where I saw myself in ten years.”
She hesitated, he knew she didn’t want to ask her next question, but she did anyway, her voice small. “What did you say?”
“I told him my future isn’t here. He asked me where it was and…” he met her eyes for the first time since she left him a couple hours ago, his look was apologetic, and he could tell by her face that she knew what he was about to say next. “I told him she’s back in Scranton, answering phone calls.”
Tears were slowly streaming down her face now, but she didn’t break her gaze from his. Eventually she nodded, wiping at her eyes and glancing down at the floor. “Okay” she whispered, just loud enough for him to hear.
“I’m sorry, Karen. I never meant to hurt you or lead you on. I just can’t…”
“Whatever, Halpert. Just leave me alone.” She turned on her heel, walking back into the hotel.
He sighed, partially with guilt, but also with relief. He knew he should go after her, apologize, give her money for a cab ride home, but it was getting late and he wanted to get back to Scranton before Pam left. He fishes his keys out of his pocket, walking to his car, thankful that he put his overnight bag into the car this morning before walking to corporate with Karen. He thought maybe that was a sign as he buckled up and started the engine.
He merged onto the highway going south, excited and nervous about what the next few hours would hold. He hoped that Pam would still be at the office, he should be arriving there just after five. He hoped that he could surprise her, he loved the look on her face when she’s not expecting something. He hoped, and prayed, that she would say yes to his dinner request, he wanted nothing more than to go on a date with the gorgeous Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch receptionist.
He thought back to the beach day, when it was her turn to confess to him. He remembered how liberated she was after walking on the coals. How she couldn’t seem to stand still, whether from excitement or because her feet were burnt, he didn’t know. He remembered how she told him that she called off her wedding because of him, and she missed him, really missed him, and how she just wants to have fun with him again. But what he remembers most from that night is walking over to her as she cools off her feet in the lake water.
“How are your feet?”
He can’t help but smile, his grin only growing bigger when she looks up and smiles back at him. He missed her too, a lot. And if she could walk on literal fire and be honest with him, then the least he could do is be honest with her.
“The real reason I went to Stamford was because I wanted to be… not… here.”
“I know” she says, as if he had already told her this, ages ago. His heart breaks a little when he sees she must have come to this realization by herself. He wonders if she blamed herself for his actions, he hoped she didn’t.
“And even though I came back, I just… feel like I’ve never really… come back.”
It’s silent for a moment, her slowly nodding as she debates on what to say next. He can only watch her, not daring to break eye contact, when she says, “I wish you would.”
And as he passes by a sign that says Scranton is 30 miles away, he can’t help but smile. For the first time in months, he feels like he’s coming back home. He hopes she can feel him coming, too, as he accelerates a little more.
Ten more minutes. Ten more minutes before she can get out of this office building and get on her way to vegging out in front of the tv in her pajamas. Michael is making her stay a little late, claiming he needs her here for emotional support while he “unsells his condo” and “does damage control on his ebay reviews.” She agreed but told him she is leaving at 5:30 on the dot, no exceptions. She watches as the camera crew start to pack up their things, realizing nothing is going to happen within the next ten minutes of her sitting at her desk and Michael frantically typing away at his computer, everyone else was slowly filing out themselves, leaving only a couple people in the office. Then, at the last second, the head cameraman asks her for a final interview, to talk about what she thinks happened with Jim. She almost declines, wanting nothing more than to just forget about him and his stupid new job and stupid girlfriend. But she finds herself agreeing anyway, if only to pass the time until she can get as far away from this building as possible for the next two days.
“I haven’t heard anything, but I bet Jim got the job. I mean, why wouldn’t he? He’s totally qualified, and smart, everyone loves him… and, if he never comes back again… that’s OK. We’re friends. And I’m sure we’ll stay friends. We just, we never got the timing right. You know? I shot him down, and then he did the same to me, and… But you know what? It’s OK. I’m totally fine. Everything is gonna be totally—”
The sound of the conference room door opening makes her jump, the camera quickly following the noise. She looks up and her heart is in her throat, she can’t breathe. She was hallucinating, there is no possible way that he is standing here in front of her. Then he’s saying her name, pulling her out of her trance, and apologizing to the camera for interrupting them.
“Um. Are you free for dinner tonight?”
Her world stops spinning. If she was able to form coherent thoughts right now, she would ask him so many questions. How did the interview go? How was New York? Where’s Karen? What happened to Karen? Why are you here? What are you doing? Instead, she just stares at him for a second, still trying to determine if he was real. She manages to get out a “Yes” before he’s smiling at her and tapping the door frame.
“Alright. Then, it’s a date.”
He closes the door, bringing her attention back to the camera sitting in front of her. She smiles and bites her lip, looking down for a moment, lost in thought. She almost forgot the camera was even there before she looks back up and asks, unable to hold in her excitement, “I’m sorry, what was the question?”
They dismiss her, knowing full well she isn’t going to be able to form any actual sentences after what just happened. They leave the room, and she sits there and wonder if everything that just went down was a dream. It couldn’t be, right? She isn’t that mentally unstable to where she’s seeing things, is she? She stands up, thankful that the clock reads 5:32 so she can grab her stuff and leave. She looks around and doesn’t see Jim and wonders if he already left, or if he was even here at all. Maybe she was crazy.
But then she exits the elevators, walking out to the parking lot, and he’s there, leaning against her car, waiting for her. She smiles up at him as she walks towards him, still not believing he’s actually here. He’s here and he asked her out on a date. She has so many questions, so many thoughts racing through her head, but all she can manage is the dorky grin plastered to her face.
“Hi” he says, his grin matching hers.
“Hi” she repeats, reaching out and touching his arm, if only to confirm he’s not a hologram. She watches him as he moves his arm to grab her hand, linking her fingers in between his. She looks back up at him, her smile faltering for only a second when she asks, “What happened?”
He chuckles, “A lot happened. I turned down the job.”
“But why? Where’s Karen?”
He shrugs, “Probably still in New York. I don’t know, I kind of left her at the hotel.”
Her eyebrows furrowed, clearly confused. “I don’t understand. Why did you turn down the job? What made you change your mind?”
“I’m looking at her.”
She looks at him almost dreamily. She feels bad for Karen, being left somewhere in New York, but she was so, so glad that he was here, holding her hand.
“I’ll give you the full story at dinner, you’ll love what happened during Karen’s interview. But, for now, go home and get changed. I’ll pick you up at 6:30, just text me your address.”
“What should I wear?”
“Something nice, but you don’t have to be too formal. Whatever you think will work, I’m sure you’ll look great.”
As he smiles down at her, the butterflies in her stomach fluttered that much harder. She was going on a date with Jim Halpert. He was going to pick her up and take her out and probably kiss her goodnight. She probably would have melted to the floor at the thought of it had he not chosen that moment to wrap his arms around her, kissing the top of her head while whispering, “I’m so excited for tonight.”
“Me too.” She hugged him back, then he pulled away and stepped back to open her door for her. She got in her car and he watched her as she backed up and pulled out of the parking lot, waving as she turned left.
Well, she wasn’t going to be able to veg out with a glass of wine after all, she thought. However, she thinks tonight may turn out better than she ever imagined.
He was scared he wouldn’t make it in time before she left the office. He didn’t have the address to her new apartment, and he really didn’t want to wait until Monday to ask her out. He hit some traffic on his way home, and he grew more and more frustrated as the minutes ticked on. He finally pulled into the Dunder Mifflin parking lot at 5:28 and was relieved to find cars still lined up, hers parked right in the middle. He ran inside, greeting Hank with a smile before running up the stairs, too impatient to wait for the elevator. He paused at the door to their office, taking a deep breath to try to compose himself. He pushed open the door and was disappointed to see she wasn’t sitting at her desk. He walked further into the office, trying not to catch anyone’s attention in order to slip in and slip out. Luckily, only Stanley and Creed seemed to be in the main office area, so he was able to slip by Michael’s cracked door without drawing any attention. He was about to head back to the break room or kitchen to look for Pam when he saw her through the blinds of the conference room. She was talking to the camera, and he debated just waiting until she was done. He almost turned to wait by her desk but stopped himself.
For years, he carefully planned out this day, and although he didn’t quite expect it to start out how it did, he couldn’t wait any longer. It was time for them to move on, together. He opened the door and although he could hear himself talking, all he could focus on was Pam. She looked beautiful. He had to pause for a moment to gather his thoughts before he asked if she was free for dinner tonight. His heart exploded when he heard her answer with an earnest “yes.”
“Alright. Then, it’s a date.” He smiled at her before closing the door. His smile turned into a grin that he felt covered his whole face as he turned and walked out of the office and towards the elevators, not caring if anyone saw him now.
But now he was at home, and he was freaking out a little bit. He was going to take Pam Beesly out on a date in less than an hour. He has wanted to do this for years, imagined how it would happen over and over again in his head. But now it was real, not just a daydream. He stared into his closet, trying to decide what to wear. He settled on a light blue button down tucked into black slacks. As he rolled up his sleeves to his elbows, he realized he hasn’t done this since moving to Stamford. He wondered if Pam noticed, wondered if she preferred his sleeves rolled up or down. He figures he can ask her at some point, and whatever she says he’ll do for the rest of his life.
He smiles to himself when he realizes he would do anything Pam asks of him for the rest of his life, as long as it meant she was standing right there next to him.
He quickly made sure his hair was in order and brushed his teeth before going out and buying flowers and a card. Once in his car, he quickly jotted down a note in the card, then sealed it and laid it down next to him, realizing he was going to be late if he didn’t leave right now.
As soon as she got home and the fact that she was going on a date with Jim in about 45 minutes hit her, she felt like she was going to puke from nerves. She was so beyond excited, couldn’t believe that this was actually happening, but she was also so nervous. They’ve barely talked for months. Small smiles and brief conversations were their new normal. Telling jokes had once been a part of her daily routine, but were now like a special treat. How was she supposed to get through tonight? Would it be awkward, or would they be able to pick right back up from before he left for Connecticut? How much of his life for the past few months would he be willing to share, if any of it? Did he want to just forget the past and start new?
As she sorted through her closet, trying to decide which dress to wear, she hoped he would want to talk to her about everything. She wanted to know his feelings when she turned him down last May. She wanted to know if he made any friends outside of Andy and Karen while in Stamford. She wanted to know how he felt when he found out he would be coming back to Scranton, how he felt when he found out he would be coming back to her. She wanted to know if he ever thought about her while he was away, and why he never responded to her text from Kelly’s Diwali party. She wanted to know what happened in New York, what made him decide that she was the one he wanted and not some new fancy promotion?
She shook her head, deciding on a maroon sundress that hugged her comfortably, a pair of black flats to go along with it. She wanted to know every detail of his life, she just hoped he would be willing to share them. As she curled her hair and touched up her makeup, she glanced at the clock and realized he should be here any minute.
As if he read her mind, there was a knock on the door. She had to hold herself back from running to it and throwing it open, instead casually opening it and taking him in, a smile growing across her lips.
“You look gorgeous.” He says, handing her a bouquet of lilies, then a card. “For you.”
“Thank you.” She takes the flowers from him, smelling them and humming her approval before turning and setting them on the counter, then holds the card up. “Should I open this now?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
“Okay, come on in, then.”
He takes a step inside, closing the door behind him. She knows she should be focused on the card in front of her, but she can’t help but look at him again. She wonders if he knows how much she loves the color blue on him, and when her eyes rest on his forearms, her smile grows bigger. She wished she had asked him at some point why he didn’t roll up his sleeves anymore, but she figured it wasn’t her place to ask. She was glad that it was her place, now.
She brought her attention back to the card, opening the envelop and pulling it out. On the front was a picture of a cute little cartoon bear, with the text “I like you beary much” written above it. She grins and rolls her eyes at the pun before opening it to read what was inside. It was blank, except for a small handwritten note.
To My Future Everything,
Thanks for being so patient with me, I’m not sure I deserved it or even how I got the right to be your date tonight. Thank you for saying yes. I hope I don’t disappoint.
She looked up at him, and he’s smiling shyly down at her. Tears sting her eyes, but for the first time in months, they’re for good reasons. She sets the card down next to her flowers and grabs his hand, pulling him close.
“You couldn’t disappoint me if you tried.”
He kissed her forehead, rubbing his thumb across the back of her hand. “I don’t deserve you.”
She finds it a little strange, how easily they slip into this new role of theirs. How easily he kisses her forehead and whispers sweet nothings to her, and how easily she accepts it, wanting nothing more than to show him how much she loves him. But then he nods towards the door and they leave her apartment, getting into his car and they start driving, fingers interlocking over the center console. She does find it a little strange how easily this is happening, but then again, she feels like this is all long overdue, so maybe the universe is just giving them a break for once.
When she opened the door and he saw her standing there in a maroon dress, black flats, and simple jewelry, it took all he had not to gawk at her. Instead he settles for the best compliment his mind can come up with, which is pretty good considering it’s turning to mush as he speaks, and hands her the flowers and card.
Now they’re driving, hands intertwined, and he’s telling her about Jan’s breakdown in New York today. She’s laughing at his story, asking questions and paying so much attention to him that he feels he may just faint.
“Wow. I feel kinda bad for her.” She says as they pull into the parking lot of one of the nicer Italian restaurants in Scranton.
He smiles, thinking about how he thought she would feel bad earlier, after Karen called Jan nuts. He unbuckles and run around to her door, opening it for her while she’s grabbing her purse.
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’re quite welcome.”
She links their fingers together once again after she steps out and he closes the door behind her, and he can’t help but smile at the thought that she doesn’t want to let him go.
Dinner went well. They talked about what he saw in New York and she bragged that she was the Secret Assistant to the Regional Manager, even if it only lasted for a few hours with no pay raise. When he said that he would have fought to become the Secret Assistant to the Secret Assistant to the Regional Manager, she had to laugh, and tell him that she knew him too well.
Once they finished eating and headed outside to the car, she looked over at him as he finished sitting down, reaching behind him for his seatbelt. They had talked about so many things during dinner, but she still had so many questions left unanswered. When he looked over at her and smiled, she couldn’t help but smile back, though behind it was a little bit of concern.
Of course, he would pick up on it. Grabbing her hand, he asked if everything was okay.
“Yeah, yes, everything is great. Perfect. I’m really happy that you’re here and that we’re here, together.”
She sighs, leaning back against her seat, looking down and rubbing his thumb with her own. “I don’t know. Tonight was great, I had a really good time. But so much has happened between us and I just feel like we need to get it out, so we can start fresh. No regrets, no secrets.” She looks back up at him and he’s smiling softly at her.
“That’s a great idea.”
So, they went back to her apartment and she led him inside. She poured them each a glass of wine and they got comfortable on the couch, his arm around her shoulders and her head against his chest.
“So, did you want to talk about Jan moving in with Michael first, or how we’re gonna get Dwight back for making everyone miserable today?”
She smiled up at him, knowing he’s just trying to lighten the mood, get them into good spirits before they get into the heavy stuff. “Actually, I wanted to talk about you.”
“Hit me, Beesly.”
She shifts so that she’s still sitting against him but now she is able to look at his face. “I just want to know about you. I feel like we’ve been coexisting in the same space for months, but we never really knew each other. What kind of stuff did you do while you were in Stamford?”
“Well, I played a little bit of golf. I started biking to work because Josh biked to work, though that only lasted about a day and a half before I gave up. Besides that, I just hung out at my apartment, watched movies and played video games. I lead a very exciting life, as you can tell.”
“Did you think about me while you were gone?”
He laughs lightly, “More than you could ever imagine. If I wasn’t typing up a sales report or worrying that Andy was about to kill me over a stupid prank, you were on my mind.”
She smiles shyly up at him. “I thought about you a lot, too. Like every other minute something would happen, and I’d want to tell you, but I’d look up and you weren’t there. It was weird.”
He nodded, “I know the feeling.”
“But what was even weirder was when you came back. Because then, I saw you sitting there, your back to me. And Michael would say something, or Dwight would do something, and I’d look over at you to tease them, but you couldn’t see me. You might as well had been in Antarctica with how far away it felt like you were from me.”
“No, don’t be. I get it, really, I do. But it was weird. It was almost like you were just a figment of my imagination. Like I conjured you up in my mind, pretended like you came back so hard that I was actually seeing you, but you weren’t actually there. Then someone else would talk to you, and I’d get to hear you talk to them like you used to talk to me, and I’d realize you were real, you just weren’t there with me.”
He nodded, taking in her words. “Like I said at the lake, I felt like I had never really come back. Not until today, when I was driving home from New York. I felt like I was just existing. But then I’d get those little moments with you. Smiling over Prison Mike or sending Dwight on a CIA ice cream social. And I’d feel alive again, if only for a moment. But I couldn’t handle those moments for longer than they lasted, because I had to remind myself that I wasn’t with you, and you weren’t with me. We were living our separate lives, and just so happened to be in the same space as each other.”
“So… what made you come back? Like, for real?”
“I got to New York last night, and it was cool. I was having fun, walking around downtown and checking out a few of the restaurants. But, for some reason, the farther I felt from the Scranton, the more things reminded me of you. I’d see a mural on the side of the building and think about how much you would like it. I’d see some strange food item on the menu and wondered if you would be brave enough to try it. I’d see a sculpture downtown and just imagined you running your fingers gently over it, admiring it. And then I was talking to Karen, and the more she talked the more I realized we weren’t compatible. She loved the big city, wanted to move there and settle down, when I knew I couldn’t handle it for the long haul. She wanted to keep moving up in the company, when, honestly, I’m kind of happy right where I am.”
She just stared at him intently, listening to every word he said, waiting for him to get to the moment when he turned around and came back to Scranton.
“And then today, Karen had just left the lobby after I told her she could leave, and the receptionist answered the phone. She sounded so much like you. It was like you were everywhere, and yet I couldn’t find you. Then I went into the interview, and your note fell out of my folder. I almost got up and walked out of the interview right then and there. Then, David asked where I saw myself in ten years.” He had been looking down at his glass of wine for most of his monologue but looked up and into her eyes when he got to this part. “I saw you, Pam. I saw you walking down the aisle in a beautiful white dress. I saw you helping me paint the walls of our new house. I saw you holding a little baby in your arms, smiling down at it. I saw you accomplishing your dreams, with me cheering you on in the audience. I saw you in every vision I pictured.”
Tears were slowly staining her cheeks. He reached up to wipe them away, caressing her cheek as he rubbed his thumb gently under her eyes. She reached up and ran a hand through his hair and was glad to know that it was still as soft and smooth as it was that night he held her against his desk. They stayed like that for a moment, holding eye contact and gently caressing each other. When she couldn’t handle the distance between them any longer, she closed the gap, bringing her lips to his. They started off slow, but quickly gained momentum as everything from the past year came to the surface. They held on tight to each other, not willing to let the other go, to let this moment end.
Finally, they separated, her on top of his lap, foreheads touching, breaths heavy. Neither opened their eyes for a little while, instead just enjoying each other as they continued to caress the other’s face. They slowly opened their eyes when she pulls away slightly, looking at him with everything she’s got.
“I love you.” She whispers, her breath still only inches from his face.
He kisses her lips softly again, then pulls away and looks back at her. “I love you too.”
The rest of the night consisted of stolen kisses and soft touches between sips of wine. They talked some more about topics both light-hearted and deep, until passing out well after midnight, holding each other close. Before she fell asleep, though, she reminded herself to ask if he would be willing to grow his hair out again. She really did miss his old hairstyle.