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Jim always assumed the people who designed airplanes were much shorter than him. He took the emergency exit row as often as he could because it always came with a little extra leg room. But now as he sat in a non-exit row with his knees turned in, nearly touching Pam's, he didn't mind so much.

It was a bold move, he admitted, to trade seats to sit next to Pam. He almost didn't do it. But he realized as soon as he saw her stand up and move toward the back of the plane, that he probably had only one more chance to talk to her before he never saw her again and the thought of that sent a panic through him. So he approached the man in the seat next to hers and said something to the effect of, "Hey man, is it okay if I trade you seats to sit next to my girlfriend?"


He's not sure why he even said it. Maybe he thought it would persuade the man more? He just hoped the guy didn't say anything to Pam. All he knows is that it worked and he would buy the guy a drink as a cover.

"So why are you flying into Philly instead of a closer airport?" he asked her.

She shrugged. "Cheaper. Just trying to…save money, I guess."

"Makes sense," he said, sensing there was more to it but didn't want to pry. "I've always liked Philly."

"Really? I guess it's fine. I don't know if I could ever see myself living there, but it's fun to visit."

"See," he said, adjusting his watch. "I always envisioned having my own business and having an office in downtown Philadelphia. It always felt like 'the big city'. I mean, I realize I live in New York City now, but I absolutely loved going to Philly as a kid. There's some nostalgia thrown in there. But I guess New York and a paper company I definitely don't own will have to do."

She looked at him and he couldn't tell if it was a change in the plane's air pressure or her smile that made his stomach flip.

"And what kind of business would you run?" she asked him.

"Garage door parts," he winked. He pocketed the sound of her laughter and continued. "No, probably something with sports. Maybe sports marketing or something. I don't know, probably just a silly dream I had as a teenager."

"I don't think that's silly at all," she said, her face painted with sincerity. He realized how close they were sitting, with their shoulders touching and their heads dipping in toward each other. The close proximity was mostly to combat the noisy hum in the cabin of the plane, but he would be lying if it didn't feel like something more.

"I have a very important question for you," Jim said, looking her straight in the eye. For a split second, she looked worried. So he turned one corner of his mouth into a smile and asked, "What drink do you get on a plane when you fly?"

"Diet Coke."

"Wrong," he stated. "The correct answer is ginger ale. Always."

Her eyes widened and she chuckled. "Really? But I don't have the stomach flu."

He shook his head. "It is scientifically proven to taste better when flying through the air at hundreds of miles an hour."

"I'll take your word for it."

"The only other acceptable answer would have been grape soda, but they don't ever serve that on planes, which is a damn shame."

She bit her bottom lip in a smile and giggled quietly. "Should I ask the flight attendant to cut the crusts off your sandwich too?"

He furrowed his brow as she continued.

"Because you're a child."

He put up a finger to correct her. "Hey. A child with good taste." Then he shrugged and muttered, "Nobody likes the crust anyway."

They continued their easy rhythm of conversation until the flight attendant made her way to their row.

"What can I get for you, sir?" she asked in a pitch only dogs should be able to pick up.

"Ginger ale," he said, elbowing Pam when he heard her stifle a laugh. He glanced at the fright attendant's name tag. "Thank you, Kelly."

"Of course! And what about you, ma'am?"

"Diet Coke, please. No ice."

Jim raised his eyebrows and looked to her, mouthing, "No ice?!"

"Perfect!" Kelly chirped. "And speaking of perfect, I totally don't ever do this and like, probably shouldn't, but I just need to say that you two are such a cute couple. Like, I wouldn't go as far as like Brangelina or anything, because they're like, next level hot, but you two are so cute."

"Oh, we aren't—" Jim started, but Kelly didn't seem to be listening.

"I'm sort of seeing this guy, but I'm not sure where it's headed? But like, I'm super into him and he's SO hot and frankly so am I, so I feel like we are a good match. I like him SO much. He works at a bowling alley, which is kind of blech, you know? But he always lets me get free nachos from the grill there. I don't really like nachos, but I think it's sweet that he makes them for me. But he kind of ignores my texts a lot so I don't know if it's going to work out."

Pam's eyes were wide as she glanced to Jim, clearly amused, and opened her mouth to speak without getting very far.

"He also didn’t want popcorn when we went to the movie theater and then I was like, well I can’t order popcorn if he doesn’t, and so all I could think about during the movie was how much I wanted popcorn. And it was a movie I really wanted to see, too. Anyway. Ginger ale and Diet Coke, no ice. Coming right up!"

Jim and Pam turned to each other, initially speechless, before crumbling into heaps of hushed laughter. Instinctively, as if to stabilize himself, he grabbed onto her hand as they both attempted to form words and talk about what had just happened. It wasn't until she pulled her hand away to wipe a loose tear that he even registered he had been holding it.

He flexed his hand, then clenched it. He wanted to remember how it felt but also told himself to forget, because the feel of her palm against his might become all he could think about and they still had two hours left in the flight.


Pam had definitely noticed that he grabbed her hand. The moment it happened, all the blood pulsed to her chest as her heart leapt and she clenched his hand back. But she could tell it was an innocent reaction and not flirtation, so in an attempt to avoid any awkwardness, she slipped her hand out to wipe her eyes. If he didn't mention it, she wouldn't either.

"What just happened?" she asked him, coming down from her laughter. Quickly she felt the need to clarify that she was talking about Kelly and not the feeling of his hand encasing hers. "Bowling alley? Popcorn?"

"Free nachos?"

"Actually that part doesn't sound too bad."

She wasn't sure if she should mention the fact that they had just been mistaken as a couple. She definitely knew shouldn't mention the rush she felt when it happened. But maybe, just in her own head, and just for this flight, she could pretend they were something more. It felt harmless enough.

She watched as Jim began scrolling through the in-flight movies.

"Nope…seen it…definitely not…possibly…noooope…"

She leaned in, catching the scent of him again. They really could make a cologne out of it. "Let me look." She glanced through the list of box office flops and straight-to-video titles. "These are terrible," she laughed.

"Truly terrible," he agreed with a smile.

"Oh wait! I found one! Pretty in Pink! A literal gem."

He furrowed his eyebrows. "Is that the one with Molly What's-Her-Face?"

Her mouth fell open. "Molly What's-Her—Jim. That is Molly Ringwald and she is a national treasure and we are watching this."

"And I don't have a say in it?"


He chuckled. "Fair enough. Isn't the guy in it named like Froggy though?"

"JIM. Duckie. Now give me your earbud."

Jim cocked a smile and began untangling the cord of his headphones, handing one side to her. It occurred to her then that they had both just assumed they would watch a movie, and that they would watch it on one screen, and share headphones. It was as if they had flown together countless times and this was their routine, when in reality, she didn't even know his last name. The fluidity and ease of their instant friendship continued to amaze her. And that's all it was: friendship.

She had to lean in slightly in order to see his screen, and once again, the close proximity caused her heart to flutter. The opening credits rolled and a smile came to her lips as the familiar scenes played on the screen.

"Is that Goosey?" Jim whispered.

"Are you kidding me?" She punched his arm playfully when she realized he was just messing with her.

It didn't take long before her day started catching up to her. Her eyes felt heavy as she tried to concentrate on the movie. She didn't want to fall asleep because she knew she only had a couple hours left with Jim and she didn't want to waste them. Even if they weren't talking, just watching, she still felt like it was something she didn't want to miss. Time felt fleeting and precious.

But she had woken up very early.

And it had been a long day.

So she decided she could rest her eyes, just for a couple minutes.


At first, he wasn't sure if she was asleep when he felt her head rest on his shoulder, so everything but his pulse froze. Slowly, he craned his neck to catch a glimpse of her face. Her eyes were closed and her shoulders were moving slowly and rhythmically, but what he noticed first was the faint smile on her lips. She was definitely asleep, but she looked so content, so peaceful. He couldn't help but smile to himself.

He paused the movie, figuring that since it was one of her favorites, she wouldn't want to miss it. If he was being honest, he was actually very much enjoying it, more than he thought he would, but he wanted to watch it with her.

Suddenly he didn't know what to do with his hands. Instinctually, he wanted to put a hand on her knee, but that couldn't happen. So he kept switching between folding his arms and just laying them in his lap, cautious not to wake her.

Kelly came by with their drinks and she made a pouty face and doe eyes, mouthing, "Sooooo cuuuuute!" as she handed both drinks to Jim. He smiled uncomfortably and thanked her. Gently, he placed the Diet Coke on Pam's tray table, but the movement caused her to stir. When it registered that she was laying on his shoulder, she blushed.

"Sorry," she said with a nervous giggle. "Guess I was more tired than I thought."

"Don't apologize," he said quietly. "I'm told I have very comfortable shoulders. Nobody would blame you."

She smiled and rubbed her cheek. "I just hope I didn't drool on you."

Jim pulled on his sleeve so he could look at this shoulder. He flashed her a winking smile. "All dry."

"Good," she grinned.

For the first time in hours, he wasn't sure what to say next. Not because they didn't have anything to talk about, he was sure they did. They could probably discuss cardboard and still not want the conversation to end. But he felt time closing in on the two of them and it was suffocating. There was so much he wanted to know, learn, and memorize about her that he didn't know where to start. He didn't know if he should joke and keep things light or dive deeper and use their last fleeting moments to discover more things about her he'd come to miss.

And as if the universe could feel his inner turmoil and wished to make it worse, the pilot came on the overhead speaker to let them know they would be beginning their descent into Philadelphia. His stomach churned. He simply wasn't ready to say goodbye.

The look on Pam's face mirrored his. He wanted to go back to watching Pretty in Pink and feeling the weight of her head on his shoulder as he breathed in the scent of her shampoo and forgot about everything else. He wanted to stay in this bubble they created where he didn't know her last name but knew she picked the pickles off her hamburger and wanted a house with a terrace and that she broke her arm in the third grade.

But he also knew that wasn't possible.

She looked at him and gave a tiny shrug and a sad smile, seemingly reading his mind. And it was then he realized they didn't have to talk. They could just be. He could spend his last thirty minutes with her simply being in her presence. Because if he was honest with himself, he also wasn't so sure he could refrain from saying something he shouldn't.

Because of the limited space and Jim's long limbs, their legs were flush together and had been since they began watching the movie. As he ran his hand down his leg, he felt her own hand next to his. His heart stuttered with the contact, but Pam didn't pull away. Slowly, and without looking at him, she spread her little finger out and grazed it over top of his, nearly linking them together. The thought crossed his mind that she might have a boyfriend and perhaps this gesture was instinctual. More evidence that he shouldn't be doing what he was doing. But he caught her gaze—a fleeting glance, really—and he knew it wasn't an accident on her part. She knew what she was doing.

They sat together in silence, fingers touching and eyes out the window looking down on the city lights of Pennsylvania below them, Jim's heart beating wildly despite the calm he felt. This would have to do. He knew all the time in the world would likely never be enough, so this moment together would have to do.

They touched down in Philadelphia and the cabin lights turned on.

"Hello, passengers," a voice buzzed above them. "Welcome to Philadelphia! If this is your final stop, please make your way to the front of the aircraft to exit the plane. If your final stop is the JFK airport, please remain in your seat while we refuel and continue on to New York. Thank you for choosing to fly with us today."

Jim met Pam's eyes. "Guess this is it," he said quietly.

"Guess so," she whispered.

They stood up together so Pam could slide into the aisle. Jim reached into the overhead bin and grabbed her bag for her.

"Thank you."

"Happy to," he said, forcing a half-smile.

She put her hand on his arm. "No, really. Thank you."

He understood. "Happy to," he said more sincerely. For a split second he considered saying "screw it" and asking for her number, or if anything, her last name. But his gut told him it was best if he didn't. She hadn't asked and neither would he.

She gave his arm a slight squeeze, then tiptoed up to give him a soft kiss on his cheek. "Bye, Jim."

"Bye, Pam."

Her eyes were glossy as she gave him one last smile and walked down the aisle and out of the plane.

Jim collapsed in his seat, a feeling of complete emptiness washing over him. He still was in utter disbelief that in only a matter of hours he had connected with someone so fully and deeply, that her absence was now all-consuming. That the thought of never seeing her again burned a hole in his stomach.

So why was he still on the plane?

He shot up, nearly banging his head on the overhead bins, grabbed his belongings as fast as he could, and decided to go after her.

He weaved through the crowds, apologizing to those he bumped and nudged along the way, making his way to baggage claim. Pam had about a five minute head start on him but he was sure he could still get to her. Fate had aligned so many situations today, so finding her seemed like the only possible outcome.

Finally, he caught sight of her curly hair and smiled. Just as he was about to call out for her, a man appeared from behind a group of people and wrapped his arms around her. She hugged him back tightly, and as they broke apart, he leaned down and kissed her. She smiled, took his hand in hers, and the two of them walked away together.

The room spun a little and Jim could feel his heart pulsing in his head as his brain registered what his eyes had just seen. He knew there was always the possibility she was unavailable, but the confirmation of it sent an intense flurry of disappointment through him. He mindlessly ran his fingers over the cheek she had kissed just minutes before, confused, hurt, and angry at himself for ever believing it could be anything more than two strangers in an airport.

He ran his hand over his face and turned back toward the terminal.

By some miracle, they let him back on the plane and he sank back into his seat. He put in his headphones and turned on his music, but none of the melodies seemed to hit his cerebral cortex because all he could think about was every interaction and conversation he had with Pam. He tried to recall any sign she may have given that she had someone back home, but all he could remember was connection. He wasn't looking for connection, but it was impossible to deny.

He got back to New York close to midnight. Normally he liked the way the city was always awake. He liked the buzz and life it seemed to carry. But it all felt like too much as he hopped on the subway to go back to his apartment. He got off a stop early and walked the remainder of the way, because he knew as soon as he walked in his door, his normal life would officially resume and his day with Pam would continue to be pushed into his past with each passing day. He climbed the seven flights of stairs, each one taking him further away from her.

He unlocked the door and dropped everything in the entryway, ready to deal with it in the morning. He changed into a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and slid under the covers. He felt the bed move beside him and a pair of hands that were much more familiar before today wrap around his waist and a pair of lips press against his shoulder.

"Welcome home," a sleepy voice said.

"Thanks," he whispered back. "Get some sleep. We'll talk in the morning."

She hummed in agreement and turned back over. Suddenly he was racked with guilt. He was a hypocrite and he knew it.

"Karen?" he whispered into the dark. But she was already asleep.

He didn't sleep at all.
Chapter End Notes:

(Also, big thanks to TPB for helping me with the Kelly portion, even though she'll never read this.)

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