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The air is still thick with the scent of her cigarettes when he comes out of the office, tears dripping down his cheek and onto his sweater. He’s not sure where he’s going next. Home, a bar— anywhere but here. He doesn’t want anyone to see him like this, least of all Pam. She’s not going to follow him, Jim has enough sense to acknowledge as much. His hands are unsteady as he rakes them through his hair, trying to make sense of everything that’s happened in the past ten minutes, but he’s still drawing blanks when it comes to how to deal with all of this. He takes out his phone to type out a quick message to Mark. ‘Fucked up and told her I love her.’

Yes, he’s still crying, which is why it sucks so much that Jan is still out here, a nearly-finished cigarette hanging between her index and middle finger. She turns to face him and squints, confused as to why he looks like he’s just had his heart ripped out. An incredibly whiny part of him thinks that having that physically done to him would be preferable, as opposed to how he’s feeling right now. Desperate to not appear stupid, he wipes his cheeks with the back of his hand. Jan sizes him up with her gaze, dropping the cigarette on the floor and stubbing it out in three quick stamps of her feet, and he almost feels intimidated by witnessing the act. He slips his phone back into his pocket, mouth hanging open a little. His mother used to tell him that if he spent all his life with his mouth open, he’d catch flies in it. Fuck, he really wants his mom right now. And his dad, and his sister. But they’re miles away. And, strangely enough, Jan is right here.

“Jan, you're still—”

“Come with me.”

“Um. Okay.”

It’s kind of ironic, the command ‘come with me’ having connotations of the person proposing the demand leading the way. But she mutters something about wanting to go back to his place instead, so it’s almost funny to watch her follow his car in hers. Jim’s pretty sure he knows why she wants to come back to his house. They’re both hurting. Both desperate to have something out of reach, for one reason or another. So why not come together and…he still can’t believe she wants to do this, but with the rate at which she’s trailing behind his car, she most definitely does.

In fact, she doesn’t even stop to look around at his place when they both get through the door, choosing to slam him up against the nearest wall and kiss him. Naturally, it’ll never be better than the kiss he had not thirty minutes —as it could ever compare— but it’s certainly a lot more desperate. It’s nice to actually be wanted for once, even if it’s for one purpose only. He’s been deemed attractive enough to be with her. That ought to boost his ego, yet it only makes Jim feel like the second choice. It’s more likely it’s only because he was there at the right time. Hell, if Dwight had come out of that office, she’d still likely have grabbed his crotch and forced him to take her back to Schrute Farms, for a night of terrifying intercourse.

Before he knows it, they’re in his bedroom, and she’s ripping off his sweater so violently she tears a small hole in the hem of it— he finds it’s hard to care. The destruction of this sweater and all the memories that come with it is a more enticing idea than the thought of actually having sex with Jan. Still, he’s a man, a stupid man with a stupidly high sex drive, so he’s already at half-mast before she’s even removed a single item of clothing.

Jan pauses for a second as she removes his boxers, but it’s definitely not because she’s scared, or wants to change her mind. There’s clearly someone else on her mind, but he’s not allowed to be upset by this.

He doesn’t have a condom in his wallet, which is weirdly important. Michael keeps a whole packet in his wallet. He showed her once— like a magic trick with cards, except not impressive and relatively disgusting. She shouldn’t be thinking about Michael when she’s here with another man, a real man, but Jan gets the impression that Jim’s mind isn’t exactly here with her right now either. An even playing field.

He’s good in bed, which doesn’t surprise her, because she’s seen the kind of girls he can get. Brenda from HR, a beautiful redheaded girl who Michael once showed her a picture of, one who looked suspiciously similar to the receptionist. He must have had some other pull, besides from his height and good looks, to counteract his big nose and dead end job. Once she’s reflected on that, she feels bad about the big nose internal comment, even though she didn’t say it to his face. It’s not that big. And even if it was, it’d suit him. That’s an annoying thing about him— he manages to pull off just about anything, because he’s Jim Halpert. She doesn’t allow herself to think more about his nose and the explicit thoughts that could come with this upon further inspection, because this is a one time thing. He’s not hers to keep. And he wouldn’t want to keep her anyway, even though what they’re doing feels good, really fucking good. Very few people would, if they really knew her. Jan didn’t have to look any further than the events of tonight to establish as much.

If he whispers the receptionist’s name into her neck when he comes, all as her nails drag down his back, well. She has no right to be upset. She’s starting to think she doesn’t have the right to be upset about anything anymore.

So, no. She doesn’t allow herself to think about Jim Halpert becoming her boyfriend, because it would never happen. They’d drive each other crazy, even with his mellow temperament. Her parents would say how mismatched they look— not to her face, but the judgemental gazes would linger long after they had left the room. A highly-strung corporate woman with a mild-mannered yet lazy paper salesman. A match made in Hell.

And besides, she’s eleven years older than him, and he’s really only a kid, even at twenty something. She doesn’t want to drag him kicking and screaming from his dreams, because she’d only hold him down. Not even just weigh him down. She knows herself well enough to know she’d try and hold him down, stop him from doing whatever the fuck it is he wants to do with whatever means she had. What does he even want to do? He’s clearly not content here. And that’s another thing. She doesn’t know Jim Halpert the way the receptionist does.

When they’re done, she sits up as he takes off the condom to rifle through her handbag beside the bed, retrieving a cigarette from her tin and a lighter. It had been an action with little thought behind it, and it’s already in her mouth before she realises it might not be very respectful. This isn’t her house. It never will be. That’s not what the universe wants of them.

“Can I…?”

He gives a halfhearted shrug, which surprises her. “Go for it. Not really my place anymore.” Admittedly she feels like an idiot for half a second, wondering if he means it’s not his house anymore, or if it just isn’t his place to stop her. But then ‘Stamford’ flashes up in her mind, and Jan gives a small nod in recognition as she lights it up. She only speaks when the cigarette is in-between her index and middle finger, and she’s finally managed to get a hold of coherent thoughts.

“Oh, that’s right. The transfer. We already spoke about that.” A small pause follows. “Are you sure you're going to—”

“I’m doing it.”

“Well. That’s great.” She doesn’t know if it is, really. Stamford might be better for him, in the long run. He would no longer have to act as the Straight Man to Michael’s antics, and maybe his blood pressure would finally lower, as she suspects being in that office raises it up through the roof, the way it does hers. But he’d be losing everything that defined his life. His family. His friends. The receptionist.

“No. It isn’t.” Well, that’s clarified it for her, if nothing else. Still, it’s his decision. As Jan thinks more about this, Jim eyes up her cigarette with a weird intensity, and it’s his turn to ask. “Can I?”

Her brow furrows. “Do you?”

“Not usually. But this isn’t a usual situation.” So much for a lower blood pressure. He takes the cigarette from her and takes a deep drag from it, and a tiny part of her is shocked. But then again. She doesn’t know Jim Halpert the way the receptionist does. Or maybe there are some things that he keeps to his chest. She doesn’t want to ask, because maybe she’d get too attached. He isn’t hers to keep.

He doesn’t actually inhale it, that’s the hilarious thing. It blows through his nose, and if he needs to choke as a result, he manages to hold it in. It’s as if he’s trying to exhale every feeling all at once. Again, she ponders if he actually knows how to inhale, or if he just wants to be perceived as something he isn’t. But then he takes another drag, inhaling it so deep that it’s a wonder he doesn’t drop down dead. He scratches his temple, then hands it back to her. “Thanks. That’s my annual yearly drag complete. First one didn’t count.”

Without meaning to, she laughs. He’s funny. Could do something with that, but even though she doesn’t know him, she sees he doesn’t want to. He’d rather wallow in his own comedy than burrow out of the pit, and she gets that, she really does. “Right. You think that now, but you’ll be on a pack a day in no time.”

“Nope.” He shakes his head with foreign determination. “I have this thing…it’s weird, but. Every year I allow myself just one puff on a cigarette. When things get bad. Looks like I only made it to April. Because I know if I let myself do more than that, I will get addicted, and I’ve seen how bad an addiction to something can get if you let it fucking consume you.”

Jan immediately understands what he’s referring to, because she’s not an idiot and she can read between the lines. Maybe he doesn’t want to wallow like her. Maybe it’s not his choice to do so. The transfer says as much.

Spontaneously, he speaks again. “Also because I smoked weed in college, and I don’t want those temptations to come back. Those are arguably worse.”

A smirk reaches her lips as she takes another drag. “Makes more sense. In the nicest way I can put this, you always gave me a stoner…vibe.” There’s no other word for it. His shaggy appearance attests to her statement, but once again, he’s Jim fucking Halpert, so he can pull it off without having the people around him see as much.

“Maybe seven years ago, yeah. Not anymore.” There’s an almost wistful look in his eye. It’s funny to watch him think he’s any different now than he was then. Funny to watch him think he’s wiser now, when really he has absolutely no idea about what lies ahead. But tonight is the night of indulgences, so she’ll let Jim indulge in his delusions of grandeur if it’s what he believes to be the truth. Perhaps he’s secretly allowing her to do the same. If he is, he’s inevitably much nicer about it.

“Well. I admire your…resilience. Even if it’s a little wasteful.”

He doesn’t say anything in response. They might not speak for the rest of the night. In a selfish turn of events, she doesn’t want to be the last one to speak. It undermines her whole identity. How selfish is that?

But it’s like he knows, because he’s perfect, so of course he knows. “Thanks. It’s also partly because I don’t want to die of lung cancer. No offence or anything.”

“It’s fine. It’s basically part of my thirty-year plan now.”

If he finds this funny, his expression remains stony for a minute or two, as he simply watches her smoke her cigarette until it’s incredibly short, and eventually stub it out on a nearby tissue from a box full of them.

She fixes her hair, running her hands through it. “Well, for the sake of our dignities, I won’t ask why you have a tissue box so close to your bed.”

“I’m going to guess the answer of ‘sneezing’ won’t suffice. It is April, after all.”

“It’s been a dry month.” It’s something of an understatement.

Jim purses his lips, then turns to look at her, feeling strangely tense. “That reminds me. This…won’t make it awkward going forward, right?”

Jan shrugs, getting up to put her clothes back on. He doesn’t want to get back into that fucking sweater, so he grabs his boxers when her back is turned (he has a theory that if she sees his ass, it will most definitely make things awkward) and begins to search his drawers to find a sufficient t-shirt. She gazes over her shoulder at him as he searches, though she can only see his back. It’s a nice back, which is an incredibly strange thought. Maybe it’s only a big deal to her because she’ll never get to see his bare back again. “Only if we make it awkward. Do you have any plans of making it awkward?”

“No.” He admits. An awkward relationship with the woman who had more or less bagged him this transfer is the very last thing either of them need right now.

“Good. That’s settled, then.” Once he’s put on a shirt, he follows her downstairs to the front door. They’re not going to kiss goodbye, because that would certainly make things awkward. “So. I will see you around. In Stamford.” She adds on, just in case he wants to change his mind. He doesn’t.

“Alright. Bye, Jan.”

“Goodbye, Jim.” He opens the front door and lets her leave. And because God seems to have it out for him right now, she’s walking down the path to her car when Mark begins to walk up it, having returned from visiting Stephanie early. They murmur something to each other, likely just a ‘hello, goodbye’, and he notices Jan begins to pick up the pace as she walks, and although he can’t see her face, she’s probably blushing from head to toe. He wouldn’t blame her— he’d be embarrassed too.

Naturally, Mark gives him a wide-eyed, mouth-open look as he walks up to the front door. “Okay. So.” He starts to speak once he’s inside, and Jim closes the door behind his soon-to-be-ex-roommate. “How have you spent the last four years pining after one girl, a girl who you today informed that you're in love with her, only for me to come home to find a different girl doing the walk of shame to her car?”

“Long story. She works at corporate.” He explains, like that extra piece of information is any kind of good reasoning behind what he’s done. Jim’s not even sure why he added that. It’s certainly not to brag about what he’s done.

Shaking his head, Mark shrugs off his coat, a smile on his lips. “You're literally going to have banged every girl in that company by the time you're forty.”

“You always manage to put a romantic spin on everything you say.”

“I know. How are you feeling?”

He doesn’t think he can get it into words, but he tries his damndest to keep it short. “Crushed. Soulless. Like I’m moving to Stamford very soon.”

“I came home early to see how you were doing after I got your message. Thought you could use some cheering up, but looks like you sorted that for yourself.” Mark claps him on the shoulder, then heads into the living room. Jim watches him walk away, mind still elsewhere.

At the very least, he’s tried to dream up a connection between himself and every woman he’s ever slept with. Katy could be good fun, for all her flaws, and even he could recognise in himself that he liked to let loose from time to time. Brenda had been polite, and pretty mellow like him. But Jan? What link could he draw between himself and her? Two polar opposites, and not in the Paula Abdul playful way. Opposites didn’t really attract, and even if they did, he finds himself realising he wouldn’t want them to. As fucking awful as it is, she had meant absolutely nothing to him, and he has little trouble believing Jan felt the same about their encounter.

“Ha. Hardly.” He murmurs, although Mark has long since walked away, and he hastily goes up the stairs, desperate to escape the horrifically turbulent events of the night. And definitely change the sheets.


She doesn’t say much to him when the Stamford-Scranton transition goes pear-shaped, no thanks to Josh. He doesn’t expect her to. Admittedly, Jim momentarily wonders if his elevation to Assistant Regional Manager at Scranton has anything to do with their prior liaison. After all, he’d be ripping the rug right out from beneath Dwight’s feet, after his years of sucking up. But he doesn’t entertain such an idea for very long. He’s simply better suited to the job than Dwight, and less insane. That’s what he tells himself, more often than he’d like.

But Jim eventually has to admit that he subconsciously takes note Jan’s gaze lingering on him, when one of them leaves the room. She’s not exactly subtle with it, and her gaze is always colder than ice. It’s no wonder she managed to bag a husband in the past— she likely froze him in place with her piercing stare.

He wonders what she’s thinking when she’s staring at him. If she misses him, for whatever fucking inane reason. If she hates him, for some reason that is probably justified, but one that he can’t think of. If she’s indifferent either way, but still drawn to him, like a moth to a decently acquainted flame.

He doesn’t think he wants to be left alone with her, for fear of finding out which of these it is.


They’ve maintained a professional working relationship, but he can tell tonight’s different. She’s been drinking, and Michael’s antics have no doubt driven her crazy, and it occurs to him that she might say something to him that she’ll regret, in such a state. He pushes this to the back of his mind, but anytime she’s in the same room as him, it’s at the forefront of his turbulent thoughts.

So he avoids Jan as much as he possibly can, while trying to maintain a strong front for Karen’s sake.

But he can’t escape her— or rather, their perceived past, forever. Eventually he’s looking around one of the many rooms in David Wallace’s unreasonably huge house when he hears a pair of heels on the floorboards, and somehow he just knows it’s her. Jim gives himself a moment to prepare, then turns around, and sure enough, there she is.

It’s no big deal. Really, it isn’t. Just two colleagues talking. Nothing at all out of the ordinary.

“Hello, Jim. How have you been?”

He scratches the back of his head, throat feeling tight. “I’m alright, thanks. A little busy at work, but you know how it is. Good days and bad days peacefully coexist for another forty years, then I retire and take a depressingly small pension. Or go insane and emigrate to Scotland. Or both.”

Jan gives a delightfully forced smile at his lame attempt at humour. “Right. Yes. I bet you really missed working with Michael.”

“Man, how could I not? Everyday is…worse than the last, in that regard. I can’t even try to joke about it.” He feels a momentary pang of guilt. Michael’s an idiot, and a huge distraction, but he’s also a constant in his life, and without said constant, he feels lost. God knows how lost he felt in Stamford.

Jan presses her lips together, nodding as she folds her arms. She looks down at her feet, causing a strand of hair to fall out of her bun and cover her cheek, and he feels strangely obliged to fix it for her, despite the fact they’re ten feet apart. “Well, you know, I might be able to help out with that. There might be —don’t quote me on this— a corporate position available soon. A pretty senior position.”

“Shit, really?” Luckily for him, the cameras are taking a short break, because if they filmed everything he and his coworkers did, they’d have hours of boring footage that no one in their right minds would want to watch, even tonight.

“Yeah, I think so. The current guy is planning to retire pretty soon, so all that’s left to do in the meantime is sort out his pension salary. He’s only sixty two, but everyone’s so desperate to retire these days.”

“Why would anybody want to do that, when they could spend years upon years working for such a wonderful company.”

“My thoughts exactly.” She’s finally reciprocating his somewhat playful energy. Like she’d only just remembered she was allowed to have fun, once in a while. That it wasn’t going to breach some part of her contact, an unprecedented detail in the fine print. “God. If I could take early retirement I would. Fuck being a successful career woman until I physically can’t go on any longer. Any excuse to get out of this shithole.”

‘Be careful what you wish for.’ A strange voice in his head chastises her like a wise old school teacher, and he wonders to himself why he’d have such a spontaneous and almost nonsensical thought. Though Jim’s always supposed that he had sort of prophetic dreams— once he dreamt that his parents caught him with a cigarette, and sure enough, they caught him and his brothers a week or so later. Though perhaps that was a real life situation-induced dream as opposed to telling of the future. Besides, he comes to realise that thoughts and dreams are very separate entities. He should know that better than most.

The room begins to fill up with people, corporate men with strong jawlines and receding hairlines, and more corporate women, with heavy makeup and bored yet polite expressions— or rather, masks. Jim realises that Wallace is here to show people his postcard collection (“I’ve managed to collect thirty seven out of fifty states.” Wallace had previously informed him, and Jim had had to do his best ‘I definitely give a shit about this’ forced smile and nod).

Making the same connection, Jan sighs and begins to rifle through her handbag, no doubt searching for her cigarette tin. He begins to ponder on the most mundane questions about her, feeling like they desperately need an answer. Does she roll her own cigarettes, since it’s cheaper? Or does she not care about cost, simply wanting the job already done for her? Maybe if he knows the answers to such an unimportant aspect of her life, he’ll get a little clarity. Though that obviously makes no sense, and Jim feels like a fool for having such panicked thoughts. He feels like even more of a fool for panicking in the first place. It's not as if they’ve been caught out. Nothing happened now. Nothing will ever happen again.

They both begin to walk towards the hallway, but before he can make his escape and get back to his non-cynical, non-smoker girlfriend, she gently takes hold of his wrist to stop him in his tracks.

“You were the best out of all them, you know.”

Before he can ask her to explain herself, she’s already gone, lost in the crowd. The best at what? Sex? Companionship? Actually listening to her problems? Jim mulls it over as he leans against the doorframe beside him, even though she’s already long since disappeared. It’s always such a gut-wrenching moment, to watch someone walk away from him, someone who, if he squints hard enough, could be the woman he knows he still wants.


When Karen calls Jan crazy, he says he kind of feels bad for her. Maybe because he knows nobody else will, and maybe because he knows how it feels to have the world throw whatever it can at you to ensure that everything is just awful. And it’s even worse for her. No one’s ever, ever going to extend Jan Levinson an olive branch, and although he’s not doing much in the way of countering this, a small part of him likes to think she knows he doesn’t believe she’s as insane as the rest of them do. Karen looks at him for a moment like she doesn’t know him anymore, like he’s also crazy, but if he notices, he finds it hard to care.

His mind isn’t with Karen anymore. He doesn’t think it ever has been, not really.

And as much as it pains him to say, he has no reason to have his mind on Jan anymore. She no longer works in New York— and a small part of him knows that he never will either, before the interview has even started.


Jan does go a little crazy, to Karen’s credit. She shacks up with Michael, makes his life Hell, and definitely doesn’t think about Jim while she’s doing it.

If she sees him and Pam being close during the fun run, as the pair walk past her water stand, she doesn’t say anything about it. He doesn’t look at her once. And if she finds out about the two of them dating being exposed by Toby to the rest of the office, if she finds out about them moving in together, finds out about their baby— well. It’s not her place to be upset about it. It never was, and it never will be. But Jim can’t shake the feeling that he’s being watched, whenever she comes into the office to gloat about how good it is to be unemployed, or to shoot snarky remarks at Ryan. But he’s well over it, by now. He could walk past her in the street, and not once would he think about what they did together. Jim wonders if she wishes he could say the same. He really was the best out of all of them, but she’s never been his best. She may never be anyone’s best. But Jan won’t ever, ever let that stop her.

onedaymore is the author of 12 other stories.

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