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Author's Chapter Notes:

Originally Posted 21 October, 2022

Season 9 is my genre.

She hears a faint “Hey, you okay?” from Brian.

She doesn’t respond.  She simply grabs the phone and dials the number.  The cameras catch her leaving the message, and they shut off after she hangs up again.

She can’t stop crying.

Jim’s just tired.

Tired of having to scramble, tired of having to look for investors, tired of having to compromise with the others.

Tired of being away from his family.

So he decides to throw out a name that could probably, hopefully, give them the funding they need: David Wallace.  There’s a collective sigh of relief.

Now he’s just had to throw David under the bus in order for them to even survive.  Perfect.

He gets back to his desk and sees a message on his cell.  It’s Pam.  He doesn’t know if he should be relieved or annoyed.  In any case, he gives it a listen.

[“I-I’m sorry to call back, I know you’re at a meeting, I just… what am I doing wrong, Jim?  I just keep trying and trying but I didn’t know that it was gonna be this hard… *sniffle* I’ll let you go, I shouldn’t have called.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”]

He nearly had to sit down.  He knows Pam’s a crier, any soft-spoken artist wildflower would be.  But to know that he’s the one who made her cry… it hurts.  It hurts like he’s never felt before.  How could he do this to her?  And over what, a recital?  There’ll be ten thousand more.  It was an honest mistake, and he took all of his frustrations out on her.

He calls her cell.  Naturally, she doesn’t pick up, so all he says is, “Hey Pam, um… I’ll be home as soon as I can.  We need to talk.”

And he leaves it at that.

Colin catches this from afar, and has to make a phone call himself.

It’s nearly midnight when he finally gets home.  He walks in the living room to see Pam on the couch in her PJs, trying to watch TV and failing.

“Hey,” he quietly greets.

She looks at him, noticing how uncomfortable he looks, “Hi.”

“You waited up.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” she answers honestly and turns the TV off, “You said you wanted to talk?”

He’s not even sure how to begin, “I’m sorry.”

”No, I’m sorry,” she shakes her head, annoyed with herself, “I shouldn’t have called you back.”

“No, I… shouldn’t have made you cry in the first place.”

She knows he’s being honest, but she hates how awkward, how stilted this conversation is.  They used to tell each other anything and everything.  Now, though…

“I was just under a lot of pressure and—”

“And I’m not?”  Her response is cutting, almost purposefully so.

He’s confused by that, “What do you mean?”

“What do I mean?” she asks, getting up off the couch, “Do you realize how much I’ve been doing without you?  Everything.  When you were having your meeting with Doctor J, I didn’t check Cece’s hair for lice, and it got in the office.  I had to buy mayonnaise to put in people’s hair, Jim.  Meredith shaved her own head.”  He’d laugh if the situation wasn’t so serious.  “And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.”

And it hits him: this happened all the while he was having the time of his life with his childhood hero.  He could have helped her, supported her, but no.  Better to play ball with Doctor J instead.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because I don’t want to stress you out, I’m trying to make sure you’re happy.”

“Pam, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and the kids.”

“Do you?” she keeps at it, “Do you know why I didn’t get the recital?”


“Senator Lipton called me and commissioned me to do the mural for the Irish Cultural Center.”

This annoys him, and she can tell.  “You answered your phone in the middle of a recital?”

“Yes, and I know I shouldn’t have.  But it was the best thing that’s happened to me all day.  I wanted to share the news with you and we could have celebrated together, but no.  You had to snap at me.”

“Pam, how many times do I have to say ‘I’m sorry’?”

“Dammit, Jim, I know you’re sorry.”  She keeps her voice down to not wake up the kids, but she wants to yell.  “But this isn’t you.  You’re not like this.  This job, this situation, is making you like this.”

He knows this, but tries to get through to her, “Look, things are tough right now, but they—”

“For how long?” she snaps, “How long will they be ‘tough?’  Because this, what’s happening right now, isn’t ‘tough,’ it’s unbearable.”

“What do you want from me, Pam?” he asks, infuriated, “I’ve had to make so many sacrifices so we can have something we all want.”

She gets offended, “First of all, you’re not the only one making sacrifices here.  And also, something we all want?  The only thing I want is things to go back to the way they were, before all of this happened.”

“So, what, you want me to just quit and go back to being stuck in some dead-end job?”

“Maybe I do.”

There it is.

She just put it out there that she probably doesn’t want this bright future that they can have.  She knows he’s trying so damn hard to push past all the BS and finally get to the point where they can finally be happy, together, but none of this is making her happy.

It’s not making him happy, either.

“Alright,” he simply says, “Then I’ll quit.”

Pam realizes he’s serious, and it kind of freaks her out.  “Jim, wait,” she backtracks, “I-I didn’t mean it.”

“You did mean it.”  His response isn’t accusatory or hurtful, but it’s the truth.

“No, I didn’t,” she lies, “I’m just tired and frustrated and—”

“So am I,” he interrupts, “It’s this damn job.  The two of us, we never talk anymore, and every time we do, we just fight.  God, Pam, tonight, hearing you cry… it was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.  And it wasn’t even the crying, it’s that it was my fault,” his eyes start to water, “Being away from you and the kids, it hurts, Pam.  It hurts like you wouldn’t believe.  It’s not worth it anymore,” he slowly walks up to her and gently holds her cheek, “I miss you.”

This simple gesture is the first time they’ve shared any physical affection all week.

Her own eyes start to water, “I miss you, too.”

And they kiss.  It almost feels like Casino Night, Jim thinks, him trying to reach out, begging, pleading.  Pam, thinking the same thing, deepens the kiss, wanting to say so much but having no idea where to even begin.  After they separate, they just hold each other for dear life, both of them fearing that the other will let go.

“I don’t wanna fight anymore,” she finally says.

“Me, neither.”

“Can we sit down and talk instead?”

He can actually feel himself smiling, “Certainly.”

They walk over to the couch, Pam leading Jim by the hand.  As they sit down, he jumps up slightly, realizing that he nearly sat on one of Cece’s dolls.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it makes him laugh.  Pam wants to chuckle, and she usually would, but she’s too tired to even emote, and he picks up on it.  He starts after he gently tosses the doll to the side.

“Tell me what you’re feeling,” he tells her, holding her hands with his, “Be honest with me.”

She’s finally honest, “I understand you’re busy and I don’t want to stress you out more than I already have.  The frustrating part is I’ve just been doing everything by myself.  And Mom helps, but she can only do so much.  It’s too much to handle.  And when you’re here… I don’t feel like you’re really ‘here.’”

He nods, “Right.”  He knows it’s true, the job has required his full and undivided attention, attention away from his family, from the ones he’s doing this for.

“But I know you’re doing this for us and I’m super thankful for that,” she acknowledges, “But having to do everything without you…”

“To be honest, I never realized you were going through so much,” he says, “I’m just so concerned about the company and it’s longevity.”

“And I get that.  But it’s like I’ve had to sacrifice my own happiness for yours.  And I know you’re not doing that on purpose, but…” she trails off.

“You should never have to sacrifice your happiness for mine.”  He then considers something he would rather not be possible.  “Pam, I want you to be completely honest with what I’m about to ask.”


“Do you really want me to keep at this?  Do you want to move to Philly?”

She can’t keep lying to him, or herself.  She has to be honest, even if it hurts.

“I… No, I don’t.”

“Why?”  He doesn’t seem angry or offended at all.  He simply wants to know.

“Because everything has become such a mess, and honestly…” the truth comes out, “I like our life in Scranton.”

She never said anything because some part of her shared his hope that their life in Philly will be just as perfect and idealistic as he kept saying it’d be.  But she just doesn’t want that.  She’d rather live her boring life rather than support him and his passion, his baby, something he put all this time into.  Despite all the times he’s supported her.  She’s clearly shown him how selfish she is.

It hurts.

“Okay,” he considers it, and after a few seconds, “Then we’ll stay in Scranton.”

She’s floored.  He’s really willing to give this up for her.

“Are you sure?” she asks hurriedly.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

All she can do is nod back, “Okay.”  She doesn’t resist, she doesn’t stop him, because this means she can have her Jim back.

“I’ll talk to the guys today and tell them that I have to bow out,” he explains, “They may want to meet with me the next couple of days just so they can find a replacement.”

“Right,” she understands that.  She can deal with that if it means having him back.

“Then I’ll call David and let him know.  Need to talk to Phyllis and Stanley about my clients.”

His clients.  He’ll have to get back into sales, the very thing he wanted to escape from.  She’s taking that escape away from him.

She needs to show her appreciation, “Thank you for doing this.  I know this isn’t easy.”

If he was honest, he’d admit this isn’t easy, but she’ll never know that.  He doesn’t love everything about Athlead, but it’s fun and new and it’s the first time he’s ever cared about work.  But he shouldn’t care about work right now.

“That doesn’t matter to me,” he says honestly, “You’re the only thing that matters, Pam.  I can’t apologize enough for putting you through this.”

His sincerity pierces her, “It’s okay, Jim.”

“No, it’s not,” he has to hold back tears again, “I promise you I’ll never put you in this position again.  From now on, we’ll make these decisions together.”

Together.  Just as it should have been from the start.

She can feel the thousands of pounds fall from her shoulders, “Thank you,” she says in relief.

“I gotta go back to Philly, but I’ll be at work this afternoon,” he embraces her and gives her another deep kiss, “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

After a small smile, he departs, hopefully for the last time.

She decides to go back to bed, knowing that she’s still not going to get any sleep before her alarm goes off.

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