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Author's Chapter Notes:
We're going back to the past here to relive some of Jim's memories with his kids. I love these little moments and how they relate to the larger story. Thank you all so much for your time reading and reviewing. If you haven't left a comment I'd love to hear your thoughts or suggestions!

And remember...I don't own anything. Except a goldfish, named Cookie, who lived exactly four hours.

Jim thought she worried too much. She did worry too much, but becoming a mother tends to do that to you. Once Cece was born, Pam suddenly worried about everything. Were they giving her the right food? What was baby led weaning anyway? What preschool would lead her to the right track for college. There was always something to worry about--and when three became four? The worrying doubled. Jim of course worried about his kids, like any father he wanted his children to be safe, well adjusted, smart, and happy, but Pam? Pam took the brunt of it. As Cece grew older, she became more and more like her father. She was responsible, kind, caring, and always making sure her little brother was taken care of. She held his hand on their way to school, carried him around like a baby doll when he was a toddler, and had bandaids ready any time he skinned a knee, or had a fall. She was completely patient with everyone in her world, and Jim couldn’t be more proud. Philip was just coming into his personality, more like his mother every day, but with his sloppy hair and lopsided grin, they looked almost like twins.

Philip was sensitive. Jim had bought the kids a goldfish, starting the conversation of responsibility with pets since they’d been begging for a dog. Philip was seven and close to the age when Jim got Finn, his Chesapeake Bay retriever. He’d loved that dog, and when he passed when Jim was in college, it devastated him. But, Finn had been his dog. Not Pete, or Tom’s...his. Finn slept in bed with him every night, curled against his side keeping him warm in the cold Pennsylvania nights, and could catch almost anything in his mouth. When Jim went away to Penn State, he’d cried so hard holding his boy one last time before walking into the dorm. He knew his son, and if he was anything like his Dad, he’d become attached to a dog.
So...they’d start small with responsibility. As it turned out, “Cookie” the goldfish had a short shelf life. Four hours to be exact from bag to bowl. Jim held Philip in his lap as he sobbed, boogers covering Jim’s hoodie,

“It’s my fault, Daddy, I..I” He stammered.

“Shhhh,” Jim whispered, rubbing his hand through his son’s long hair. “It’s not your fault, sometimes…” he tried to think of a reasonable answer as to why fish die, “Sometimes fish just need only a little time on earth, and then they go to that really nice place that Poppy went to, remember that?”

“Haven?” Philip pulled away, his face red and stained with tears. Jim sustained a chuckle, they were not good at the church thing.

“Sure,” the corners of his lips pulled up into a smile,

“With the unlimited chocolate milkshakes and streets made of cookies?” He looked seriously into his fathers’ eyes, seeking an answer,

“Yeah, so Cookie went there, to hang out with Poppy, and you know what? They’re probably having the best time together,” Jim smiled. Philip breathed in deeply through his nose, the unpleasant sound of his mucus sucking back in his head. Jim grimaced.

Maybe they weren’t ready for a dog just yet.
Pam, of course, saved the day by throwing out the fish sticks that Philip had found in the freezer looking for a popsicle, and called a pizza in for dinner. Pizza fixed everything, well, everything except tonsillitis.


“Cee?” Dr. Brown had warned Jim about the side effects of anesthesia, especially on a child, and he’d listened intently, however he wasn’t prepared to find his baby curled into a perfect ball, on her side, wailing, His eyes caught the blood stains on the perfectly white sheets near her mouth.

“It’s normal,” it was although her nurse could read his mind, and she’d gone back to writing down Cece’s stats without interrupting.

“Cece,” he said her name again, the wailing continued and he felt for every other parent in the pediatric wing of the Dell Children’s Medical Center recovery area, she was screaming relentlessly, and he cursed himself for telling Pam he could handle today alone. He set his hand along her back, pulling her close to him, careful not to tangle wires. She was seven years old and no longer with tonsils or adenoids, but that certainly hadn’t stopped her ability to scream.

“Talk to her,” the nurse didn’t look away from her computer screen, completely unphased by the volume of noise. Jim paused, his child in his hands, feeling like an infant again, curled up, eyes closed, and disoriented. He remembered how tiny she was when she was born, seven pounds and two ounces, and she’d fit right in the crux of his forearm. This morning, he’d learned she weighed forty-nine pounds, but at this moment, she felt weightless against him. He was exhausted, the surgery had taken exactly three hours, longer than he expected, and he spent the entire morning pacing and drinking coffee, but he was with her now, and that was all that mattered.

“Honey, it’s Daddy,” he adjusted her closer to him, his face moving towards her, her screams continued, “you’re safe, you’re right here with me, you’re going to be just fine,” he spoke quietly, and she finally began to settle in. He felt her tense shoulders relax, her arm tug at the sleeve of his flannel shirt, and her hand rested against his stubble; she liked to rub this new feature of her Dad’s face. It tickled, but he’d let her do it, if she was quiet.
He grabbed the sheet and wiped away the tears on her face, and she opened her eyes slowly, staring at him, She was disoriented, he could tell by her shifting eyes, and furrowing brow. She went to say something, and he held a finger to his lips,

“You’re okay, baby,”

The nurse handed Jim a bright red popsicle and her eyes moved toward it, hand stretching out. He sat her up against him, propping his long legs up on her tiny bed, and held her back to his chest. She breathed in long sighs, sucking and chewing until her mouth was entirely stained red, and drifting in and out of sleep between licks. When he came home later that day, he found his shirt stained in multiple places from the droplets. She sighed against him, tugging at the tubes in her nose, and he’d carefully take his hand, and pry hers away, and hold it, running his thumb along the tips of every one of her finger nails. She’d whine briefly, and then stop, settling back against him, He’d forgotten what this felt like, for her to need him completely. She’d become so independent, wanting to walk into school alone, not needing training wheels any longer, telling the doctor this morning she was a superhero and she wasn’t scared ”not one bit!”. Yet here she was, needing him for everything, and for a couple hours, he didn’t want that feeling to end.


“Mrs. Halpert, your husband has sustained some very serious injuries, honestly we’re shocked he’s alive,” the doctor spoke candidly and quickly outside of the trauma room in the emergency room. Pam glanced between him and her husband's body lying motionless on the table, surrounded by people.

‘He’s fractured his skull and sustained some pretty serious brain damage. He has a fractured sternum, and a shattered femur. Honestly?” He paused, “He’s only alive because of his height. Had he been hit the way he was and was a few inches shorter, he wouldn’t be with us right now,” The words weren’t processing as quickly as he was saying them for Pam. She just wanted to be by his side, touching him, telling him he was fine, but she knew what this meant. She knew this was far from over,

“You can go in and talk to him for a few minutes but we’ve got to get him back to the OR, but he’s awake. Don’t expect much, he’s in shock,”

Pam had no idea what the hell that meant. She’d been in shock before. Shocked by her father’s new girlfriend, shocked to find Cecelia looking at half naked boys on her phone, but this? This wasn’t shock.

“Jim,” she’d come to the side of the bed, his head, similarly to Cecelia’s being restrained, blood pooling out from one side; she glanced away, and focused on his cheek.

“Can you hear me?” He wasn’t moving, his eyelids only fluttering slightly.

“Babe,” she choked, begging for him to look at her. She ran her eyes down his body, unsure of what he’d put on for clothes that morning. They were tattered, torn, and bloodied. He’d been cut out of what she thought were jeans, and exposed. She’d never seen him so vulnerable. She moved her fingers to a gash on his lips, and wiped it with her hand, she felt him stir beneath her, and moved her eyes quickly to meet his.

“You’re here,” a terrified laugh escaped from her mouth, the tears forming in her eyes falling, “Honey, you’re okay, we’re at the hospital, the kids are okay,” she began to ramble and soon found the confused look coming over his face. She stopped.


“Say something,”

He parted his lips and nothing came out, he stared at her as multiple doctors made their way into the room,
”We need to prep him for surgery, Mrs. Halpert you’re going to have to go back to your room,” he looked toward a younger doctor, “I’m going to need a razor,” the younger doctor shuffled away.

“Wait,” she stammered, grabbing his hand. His veins, bulging across his knuckles, bruised from the crash.

“I love you,” she brought herself close to his face, “I love you, and you’re going to be fine, okay? And when you wake up, I’ll be here and I promise everything is going to be just fine,” He was being wheeled away before she could finish, and she found herself alone, the bright lights blinding her before she felt her knees collapse underneath her, and her body hit the cold linoleum floor.

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