Never Give Up by 3vasectomies
Summary: ABANDONED, WILL EVENTUALLY REPOST UNDER NEW NAME
Jim picks up the phone and dials the number, but as all his mistakes flash before his eyes, he realizes that he can't hurt her again.  Athlead is forever out of his reach.
A Season 9 reimagining
Categories: Jim and Pam, Other, Alternate Universe Characters: Ensemble, Jim/Pam
Genres: Drama, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Kids/Family, Romance, Status: Abandoned, Workdays
Warnings: Adult language, Other Adult Theme, Possible Triggers
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 21 Completed: No Word count: 85715 Read: 56124 Published: August 20, 2020 Updated: March 26, 2021
Story Notes:

DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners.  The original characters and plot are the property of the author.  The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise.  No copyright infringement is intended.

WARNING: Contains coarse language and depictions of mental-health issues. 

This story is, really, a practice in self-indulgence.  I love the show, but most of Season 9 left a bad taste in my mouth.  I wanted to provide a "how else it could have happened", given the limitations NBC had.  While several pivotal plot points will still occur, others will completely alter, and one what-if scenario will reshape the entire events of the story.

UPDATE 26 MAR. 2021: ABANDONED, WILL EVENTUALLY REPOST UNDER NEW NAME

1. Miami by 3vasectomies

2. New Guys by 3vasectomies

3. Roy's Wedding by 3vasectomies

4. Andy's Ancestry by 3vasectomies

5. Work Bus by 3vasectomies

6. Here Comes Treble by 3vasectomies

7. The Boat by 3vasectomies

8. The Whale by 3vasectomies

9. The Target by 3vasectomies

10. Dwight Christmas by 3vasectomies

11. Lice by 3vasectomies

12. Suit Warehouse by 3vasectomies

13. Customer Loyalty by 3vasectomies

14. Medical Leave by 3vasectomies

15. Junior Salesman by 3vasectomies

16. Vandalism by 3vasectomies

17. Couples Discount by 3vasectomies

18. Moving On by 3vasectomies

19. The Farm by 3vasectomies

20. Promos by 3vasectomies

21. Stairmageddon by 3vasectomies

Miami by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Unfortunately, given how busy I am with work and school, don't expect regular updates. I will get this story done, but I rather it not be rushed.

This is the only original chapter, which gives a more satisfying conclusion to Kelly and Ryan's story and expands on everyone else's summer vacation.

It’s been a great year! — Bob Kazamakis


It was the summer, and the film crew hasn’t come back yet.  Sabre is officially dead, the deranged and sex-crazed Robert California has left the company, and David Wallace — the most patient man in the paper-selling business — has claimed the title C.E.O. for the new and improved Dunder Mifflin, needing to be rebuilt from the ground up.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Dwight Kurt Schrute wants nothing more than to continue the Schrute bloodline.  It’s his dream to conceive a child, something that will ensure that his family — a proud family of German-American beet farmers — will live on for generations.  It’s what most anyone would want, and it was probably the most relatable part about him.


He sits there, in the hospital room, drinking his beet runoff energy drink (which in retrospect was a bad idea), awaiting the results.  He wants to know for certain, but his answer was concrete.  But… what if it was the wrong answer?  Miracles could happen.  It happened when Mose finally learned to read five days ago.  So maybe he could be wrong.  What if those really were Lipton’s genes, or even Angela’s?  Oh please.  Her proclamation of her being “Little Pregs” was hysterical in hindsight; Schrutes are noticeably large, genetically destined to be farmers.  He knows Phillip Lipton is really a Schrute.  Oscar all but said it himself the day he was born.  Prominent forehead, short arms, tiny nose.  It was undeniable, irrefutable.


In walks Angela Noelle Martin-Lipton, Phillip’s mother.  She’s sick of this.  Honestly, truly, sick of this.  He won’t let this go, and it’s high time that he did.  They are done, one hundred percent done.  And yet… the memory of their night together is forever etched into her mind, as much as she tries to push it away.  Because everyone, even Creed, knew that’s what she was best at: denial and deflection.


She loves Senator Lipton.  He’s accomplished, charismatic, and a Republican: the total package.  But… something about him makes her suspect.  She doesn’t know what it is, can’t place it.  She had a theory the moment she tried to breastfeed.  The breast is no longer a sin once a woman is married, at least for her husband.  It is a tool to provide for their child, after all.  It is God’s design.  So why won’t the father want to be a part of that?  Her theory was a thought she pushed back down, one of many.


There’s an open seat next to him.  “Let’s get this over with,” she says to him curtley.


Dwight takes another swig, finishing his drink.  “So, ready to admit defeat?”


She rolls her eyes.  “How many times are you—”


“As many times as it takes!” he shouts, standing up and walking towards the Biohazard waste basket to throw away the glass bottle.  “Let’s face the facts: he was conceived a month before the wedding—”


“You’ve said that a hundred times, it doesn’t prove anything!”


“You know what I think?” he posits, “Lipton has something to hide.”


“Are you saying my husband would keep secrets from me?”


“He doesn’t satisfy you.  How would you not be satisfied by your husband unless he’s not attracted to you?”


“Excuse me!  Why would I marry someone who doesn’t find me suitable for sexual relations?”


“I do,” he states, sitting back down, “but does he?”


He’s right.  She knows it.  Time to pull the guilt-trip card.  “You are not one to talk about keeping secrets, Dwight!  You murdered Sprinkles!”


Those three words manage to shut him up.  The reason they broke up in the first place, and never even considered the possibility of reconciliation.  All over a dead cat.  At this point, he’s done arguing.


“Fine.  I’ll drop it.”


“Thank you,” she responds.


They were waiting quite a while.  He falls asleep, while she gets cold (her lithe figure was to blame) and decides to cover herself with her jacket, and falls asleep on his shoulder.  She could never tell him how natural it felt to rest on that shoulder… or the truth.  And the doctor was able to play along.


“Mr. Schrute, the results are in; you’re not the father.”


“I told you,” she says incredulously.


He immediately becomes crestfallen.  The realization that he has no legacy with the woman he once loved hits him like a train, more so than it should.  He wants to cry his disappointment away… but his body has different ideas.


And that’s how Angela Martin left the hospital covered in blue vomit.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Kelly “Erin” Hannon is on cloud nine.  Her boyfriend, Andrew Baines Bernard, is now the regional manager of the new and improved Dunder Mifflin.  He just left on an “Outdoor-Bound Wilderness Adventure”, to help boost his confidence.  She even boasts about how close him and David’s pre-teen son are.  (She’s not the best when it comes to context clues.)  She is confident in her knowledge that he is the one person she wants to spend the rest of her life with.


She thinks about how much she loves not just Andy but everyone else in the office.  She sees them all as like a family, not unlike a certain father figure of hers that departed a year ago.  There’s Jim and Dwight, the funny brothers who pick on each other; Pam, the encouraging big sister; Phyllis, the doting grandmother; Stanley, the grumpy grandfather; Meredith, the fun aunt; Kevin, the fun uncle; Angela, the serious aunt; Oscar, the smart uncle; Kelly, her best friend; Ryan, her best friend’s boyfriend; Darryl, the hard-working brother; and Creed, the Creed. Dunder Mifflin Scranton is her new foster home.


She loves them all, because she has so much love to give.  But the one person she neglects to give love towards is herself.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Outside of Erin, no one in the office is all that interested in Andy’s return.  Of course most of them see him as a friend and great boss, but they’re not clamoring for his return.  They’re not dreading it, either.


All except for one Helen Bertram.


Nellie is not liked around the office, and she knows it.  Of course everyone would come to Andy’s defense, no matter how inept or annoying they find him to be.  She stole his legally protected job with no reason or warning, a job she desperately wanted but was promptly rejected.  She’s ambitious and charismatic, but lacks organization; she often says and does the first thing that comes to mind.  And these are qualities Andy can easily sniff out.  She knows why that is, but didn’t have it in her to tell anyone, much less anyone in this office.  And how Andy let her stay as a Special Projects Manager is a miracle in it of itself.


And damn it all she wants to be a mother.


But she’s met someone here who is a mother.  A beautiful mother of two who had shown her kindness and understanding in the past.  She can become her friend.  She can become someone she can confide in, to gossip with, to just… bond with.  Naturally, her husband is not a fan of her, but at the very least she can have that one friend.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

The day is relatively mundane.  No drama, no hair-brained schemes, no Creed Thoughts.  Everyone just sat down and worked.


And then Kelly Rajnigandha Kapoor bursts from the kitchen, carrying various coats.  Ravi is now a pediatrics professor at Miami University, and she makes sure that the whole office knows.


“I don’t need ’em anymore!” she proclaims, regarding the various coats, “I am going to Miami, biatches!  To hang with LeBron James and Gloria Estefan!”


Everyone just catches the coats she chucks at them.  As out-of-left-field and boastful as it is, it’s probably the most thoughtful gift she’s given to her coworkers.  The irony is lost on her but not on everyone else.


“I’m so happy for you, Kelly,” Erin tells her with a bright smile.


“Aw, thanks Erin!” Kelly beams, “And hey, text me anytime, you have my number.”


“Likewise!”


Kelly proceeds to throw her final coat at Erin and runs off.


Everyone gets a coat except for one Ryan Bailey Howard.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Kevin Malone runs over a turtle, and tries to save its life.  No one has the heart to tell him it’s dead.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

James Duncan Halpert, proud father of two, is married to the most wonderful woman in the world, Pamela Morgan Beesly-Halpert.


Ever since they met at his first day of work, he was immediately smitten.  Unfortunately, Roy was in the picture, and was more than protective of her.  And, looking back, he never hated Roy.  He hated how Roy treated her, but no longer him as a person.  In hindsight, Roy had every reason to be pissed: Jim confesses his love to Roy’s own fiancé and then kisses her, leading to them splitting up, and then ups and leaves her the moment she says no.  He would have felt just as strongly the moment Roy found out about Casino Night, though wouldn’t be as violent about it (thank God for Dwight’s pepper spray).  He also led Karen on, crushing both of their hearts in the process.  Karen is now Facebook friends with both and they are on Christmas card terms so all of that is water under the bridge.  But he’s not proud of how he handled it.


That was all in the past, though.  Waaaay in the past.  There’s no need to dwell on what happened then.  What matters is now.

 

“Dunder Mifflin, this is Erin,” the receptionist answers.  She looks over at Jim.


“Hey Jim?”


“Hm?” he asks.


“A ‘Mark’ wants to speak to you.”


He recognizes the name, and actually gets excited.


“Send him through.”


She smiles and enthusiastically does so.


Mark and Jim were always close.  They were best friends in college, and it was easy to see why.  They loved sports and grilled cheeses, a modest but strong ignition for a friendship.  He recalls the two of them coming up with an amazing idea for a company, though he couldn’t place what it entailed or what it was even called.  Pam would often visit the apartment after she and Jim started dating, the two of them starting a repertoire of their own.  Even after he left the apartment and moved in with Pam, they still talked.  But, shortly after Cece was born, they just… drifted apart.  There was no falling out, per se, but life just happened and they didn’t talk as much.


But after the monotony of his everyday job, it’s refreshing to have a change of pace.


“Mark!”


“Jim!  How’s it been?”


“Oh you know, same old.”


“How’s Pam?  And the kids?”


“Wonderful as always.”


“Hey!” Dwight interrupts, “This is a place of business, Jim, not a sports bar.”


“Hold on one sec,” Jim says to Mark, and then turns his attention to Dwight, “And how do you know that this isn’t a potential customer?”


Dwight pauses.  “Touché.”  He goes right back to work.


“Was that him again?”


“Who else?”


“Wow, Dunder Mifflin.  Still?  After all these years?”


“Yeah, not glamorous, but could be worse.”


“Well, I have something big to tell you.  And I want you to be a part of it…”


A few minutes later, Jim grabs his lunch, a tuna fish sandwich (thankfully Andy still hasn’t returned), and sits right across from Ryan Howard.  And not the good one, either.  The good one would never wear that hipster getup.


“So, how have you been?” Ryan asked.


“Eh, can’t complain.”  He suddenly notices a paper he’s signing.  “What’s that?”


“My letter of resignation.”


“Really?” Jim asked curiously, “You’re leaving?”


“Yup, moving to Ohio.”


He recalls Kelly’s grand departure.  “Ohio, huh?”


“Mm-hmm.  I’ve done a lot of market research and it turns out that southwest Ohio is gonna be the next Silicon Valley.”


“Hm,” Jim nods, not buying a word.


“They call it the Silicon Prairie, it’s a big college town.”


“Clever.”


Ryan senses his condescension.  “So, any big plans for you?”


“Well, Phillip has just started teething, so that’s gonna be a wild ride.”


“Hm, I’m sure,” Ryan replies snidely.


Jim’s getting tired of him already.  “And there’s… no other motive for moving to southwest Ohio?”


“Nope.”


“Are you sure?”


“The only motive I have is becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg.”


“You tried that twice, and it failed both times,” Jim mentions proudly eating his tuna.


Ryan’s face sobers, while Jim remains confident.


“Answer me this Jim,” Ryan asks, “do you really wanna be a paper salesman your whole life?”


“Ideally, no,” he answers, “but I have a family to provide for.”

“And you’re completely content with where you are, right now?  Wouldn’t change a thing?”


He leans forward, making sure Ryan’s paying close attention.  “Yes, I’m very happy.  You don’t have to worry about me competing with you in Silicon Valley.”


“To each their own,” Ryan concedes as he heads to the annex.


Jim’s now lost in thought.  For once, the twerp has a point.


He finishes his sandwich then heads to the break-room, where he finds Pam, Oscar and Toby; their Finer Things Club session has just ended.


Much like her husband, Pam is happier than she’s ever been.  Despite her failing art school, she still loves to paint awesome murals, especially for her kids.  She’s most proud of the one in Cece’s room.  And although she’s the modest type, the way Jim lights up and compliments her work, no matter what it is or its quality… it still makes her heart melt.  There was once a time where Pam’s demure personality hindered her, trapped her into stagnation.  She would never pursue what made her happy, always afraid of how it would affect Roy.  That was it about Jim: no matter what she tried to pursue, no matter how many times she failed, no matter the insane circumstances he put up with that led to “Michael Scott’s Paper Company”, he’s there and he’s gung-ho about it.


But now… stagnation is not such a bad thing anymore.  She’s comfortable.  She has everything she’s ever dreamed of.  The ultimate love story.  PB&J.  Cinderella and Prince Charming, as Cece often likes to call them.  So why risk it?  Why put a wrench into what’s working?  There was a time that “Fancy New Beesly” needed to be around.  But that time has ended.  Mama Beesly is here to stay.


“Hey!” Pam greets.


“Hey yourself.”  They give each other a cordial peck on the lips as he sits down.


“So what’s new?”


“You’ll never guess who called me.”


“Who?”


“Mark.”


Pam smiled, “Oh my gosh, how is he?”


“He’s great!  He moved to Philadelphia and has started his own company.  Well…”


“Well what?”


“It’s technically ‘our’ new company in that we both came up with the idea.”


She was curious.  “How so?”


“Remember when he mentioned an idea we both came up with during our college days for a sports-marketing firm but the athletes are partners?”


“Oh,” she tried remembering the name, “Athleap?”


“Athlead,” he clarifies, “But yeah, apparently he wants me to become a partner as well.”


She knows where this is going.  “Do you… think you’re gonna do it?”


“I mean, it’s worth a shot, right?” he asks.


She wants him to do it.  But he can’t.  She knows why he can’t, and he knows why, too.  Nevertheless, she let him down gently.


“Listen, Jim,” she starts, grabbing his hands with her own, “I love you.  And I want you to be happy, both at home and at work.”


“Right.”  He immediately knows where this was going.


“But… with all the factors we have to contend with for this to work, it’d… it’d be far too much.  Especially for the kids.  And you know that, right?”


“I do,” he concedes, “I figured it just wouldn’t hurt to ask.”


She can read his disappointment.  “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”


“Hey,” he assures her, “I know where my priorities lie.  And they’re not in Athlead.”


She beams at him.  She loves how understanding he is.  “Thank you.”


“No thanks necessary.”  He kisses her temple.  “Now let’s get back to work before Dwight threatens to dock our pay yet again.”


Meanwhile, Toby sits at his desk like always, letting David know that there are now two open positions in Scranton instead of one.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Kelly and Ravi have everything packed to move to their new home.


“Ready, babe?” Kelly asks with a smile.


“As I’ll ever be,” he smiles back.


She suddenly checks the GPS.  “Wait… this says we’re going to Ohio.”


“Yeah, because that’s where we’re going.”


“We’re going to Miami, that’s in Florida.”


“No, we’re going to Miami University which is in Ohio.”


She pauses, suddenly realizing what’s happening.


“ARE YOU F****** KIDDING ME?!”

 

End Notes:

This is, admittedly, very choppy and kinda rushed, so please pick apart its flaws.  I'm having to rewatch Season 9 and other earlier episodes to construct this whole AU, which is time consuming but with my schedule I can hopefully squeeze it in.

NEXT TIME: The new guys arrive, Andy reestablishes his rule, and Jim makes the right choice.

New Guys by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Basically, my plan is to watch the episode first, then pen each chapter around it.  It's not the most efficient way to write this story, but it'll be fun to see where the canon ends and the AU begins in real time.  This will probably end up being my least favorite chapter, since it's all plot summary, but I wanted to characterize Pete and Clark a lot more, as well as try to humanize Andy a bit more.  He's always been vindictive, but not heartless, and I really wanted to capture the Andy from S4-S8.

"It is a message.  It is an inspiration.  It is a source of beauty.  And without paper… it could not have happened.  Unless you had a camera." — Michael Scott


The doc crew is back, and not a moment too soon.  Andy’s return will be one of the highlights of this final season.  But, to be honest, the crew doesn’t understand why PBS wants another season.  They feel as if the Sabre buyout was enough.  And there's no way they will ever be able to top the pure insanity and sexual drive of Robert California’s stint as CEO of Sabre and practically burning the company to the ground.


But they’re just the doc crew, they don’t have a say in any of it.


In retrospect, however, they’re glad it was renewed for one more season.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Andy’s arrival is met with a hug from Erin, fear from Nellie and silence from the rest of the office.  Andy is forever changed from his stint at summer camp.


“The things we think we need.  Clocks!  Yeah, right,” Andy states with conviction.


“It sounds amazing!  Tell us all about it!” Nellie chirps up, aiming to gain some brownie points.  She is promptly ignored.


“New guys!  Clark, and…”


“Pete,” he answered


“Nah man, In Outward Bound was all about nicknames, they called me ‘The Iceman’.”  He looks down at Jim and inspiration struck.  “Hey, what’s your favorite sandwich?” he asks Pete.


“Um… I guess Italian?”


“Italian it is!”


Pete just stands there, dumbfounded.


Andy points to Clark.  “And you will be ‘Fart’, because you fart all the time.”


Clark desperately wants to be liked by the boss.  “I love it!”


“Actually, Andy, we call this one ‘Dwight Jr.’,” Darryl states amusingly.


He immediately hates it.  He doesn’t want his inspiration to be associated with him, lest he’d write him off as some amateur, or worse, competition.  It quickly becomes the latter.


“No, I prefer Fart.”


“No!  Dwight Jr.!” Andy agrees, “Infinitely better!  You guys look exactly alike!  Dwight, go stand next to him!”


Dwight obeys, much to Clark’s embarrassment.


“I don’t see it,” Dwight states.  Clark wants to be anywhere else at this moment.


“I don’t either,” Clark nervously agrees, “I-I don’t either.”


Andy analyzes them.


“Mind blown!  It’s like you’re father and son!”


And that sentence gets Dwight thinking… despite his apathy towards Clark at first, he quickly takes notice of this comparison… and sees an opportunity.


He may not have a genetic legacy, but he could have a legacy nonetheless.


“Dwight, you cool if we call him Dwight Jr.?” Andy asks.


He is met with an emphatic “Yes” from Dwight, who proceeds to wrap his arm around him and attempts to give him a noogie.  Clark is embarrassed, but in a way, flattered.


All the while, Angela just watches on in disgust, as with most everything she encounters in this office.


Andy then looks at Nellie and tells her “See me in my office later.”  He doesn’t say it maliciously, so to her, that’s a good sign.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

“Hey, New Jim,” Meredith shouted from across the room, “come sit on my face!”  She’s the only one who calls him that.


“No, Pete is not the New Jim,” Jim tells the interviewer, “The only thing we have in common is that we don’t want to sit on Meredith’s face.  And if that makes him the New Jim then every human being in the world is the New Jim.”


That wasn’t the only thing they have in common.  Pete’s presence offers the opportunity for a new perspective, a new everyman.


That was Jim for years.  The office consciousness.  The one that sees beyond all the insanity and takes it in stride.  He’s witty, charming, and the only one besides Pam and Oscar that seemed to be able to make sense of all this.  And he still is.  But, eventually… Jim just stopped commenting on all the insanity.  It came with time, he just… got used to it.  It became monotonous, a checklist.


Is Kevin gonna say something stupid?  Yup.

Is Andy gonna sing a song so loudly that it could be heard from the break room, even though he’s in his office?  Yup.

Is Dwight gonna annoy the hell out of everyone and possibly endanger them and himself in the process?  Yup.

Creed’s existence?  Yup.


And it makes sense, when one is exposed to enough crazy, it becomes normal.  Besides, with a wife and two kids the last thing on his mind would be whatever any of those asylum patients would be doing.  So someone new has to be exposed to the madhouse that is Dunder Mifflin Scranton.


That person, that New Jim, is Peter Miller.


“So this paper company needed a Customer Service Rep, I applied, got the job and now I’m here!” Pete nonchalantly tells the interviewer.


“What’re your first impressions of DM Scranton?” They asked.


“Well, it’s… just an office building.  The people here seem friendly and the job pays decently enough, so I’m not sure this will have any “wacky misadventures” or whatever.”


Pete was not having the best day so far.  After seeing his boss humiliate an innocent worker, trying to bond with another worker with sports and failing miserably, and then meeting with a woman trying to force her cat onto him, it was a weird series of unfortunate events.


At the end of the day, The doc crew manages to catch him before he gets in his car.


“Apparently, in this company that sells paper, one is allowed to makeshift a bike trapeze act.  So this is what I signed up for.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Nellie walks into Andy’s office, looking like a deer perpetually caught in headlights.


“Helen Bertram,” he begins.


“Andrew Bernard,” she returns.


There is an awkward pause for what feels like 30 minutes, even though it’s been three seconds.


“Look,” Nellie begins, “I know I messed up and I understand why you’re livid with me but I need this job to work, and I know I can offer—”


“I’m not firing you,” He interrupts.


She’s dumbfounded.  “Really?”


“Oh, I hate you, loathe you in fact,” he emphasizes, “But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Adventure, it’s to give others a second chance, even when they’ve wronged you.”


All she can think is My God, how is he acting so reasonable?  Is this really Andy?


“If this company is gonna survive, it needs new ideas.  Better ideas.  And I know you have what it takes.  And, contrary to popular belief, I don’t want you to fail at your job.”


She gets up and reaches for his hand.  “I won’t let you down, Andy, I promise.”


He, reluctantly, returns it.  “Now, you have a job to do.  Get the hell out of my office.”


“Yes, sir!” she states emphatically.  As she walks back to her desk, he’s shooting daggers at her.


“I meant what I said,” he later tells the interviewer, “I don’t want to see her fail at her job.  But I would like to see her fail at other things.”  He then gives a sinister, toothy, Bernard grin.


In true Michael Scott fashion, Andy interrupts the entire work day just for them to do a dumb activity, only this time it’s outdoors.  It was called ‘slack lining’, and although he never mentions anyone by name in his motivational introduction to the activity, she knows where this was going.  After being motivated by her coworkers, doing it in heels no less, he just pushes her down with a proud “You suck!”


The others just watch her in mutual embarrassment.  Pam has half a mind to chew him out (she kinda sees her as a friend, after all) but she knows someone else would eventually do it.  Most likely Erin, who just looks at him in shock.  She knows Nellie is not his favorite person, and for good reason.  But why go out of his way to make her unhappy?


He plans to surround her desk with waste baskets, but Erin points out that it’ll distract her from doing her job.  He begrudgingly concedes and puts them back in their place.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

“Hello, I’m Clark, I’m 22 years young, and I’m the new temp here.”  He shrugs.  “And that’s it really.”


Clark Green is a bright young lad.  He’s smart, driven, helpful, and creative.  Many call him Dwight Jr. behind his back because, if you squint hard enough, he would resemble a Schrute.


But that’s not what makes him Dwight Jr.


What makes him Dwight Jr. is his passion for the paper-selling business.  He was a sheltered child.  He’s not very good with people skills, is quiet, and can be very awkward (not unlike Dwight himself).  However, his reason for wanting to sell paper of all things is because he loves paper.  To him, one can do anything with it.  Computers can’t recreate a genuine hand-written message, or a beautiful painting, or a physical piece of sculpture.  Paper is vital to all of that.  And he wants to provide that experience to as many people as possible.


So when the temp agency sent him to Dunder Mifflin Scranton, the most prominent and best-running branch of the company, he hit the lottery.  He now sits at the temp desk, looking forward to climbing up the ladder.


And, naturally, the one employee he aspires to be the most is Dwight himself.  He’s the best salesman in the branch and has the same drive and enthusiasm he has.


Dwight thinks nothing of the temp… at first.  Things shift after Andy’s return, as Dwight beams with pride after he was compared to the temp.  Maybe he can have a son.


Dwight continually attempts to bond with Clark, leaving him awkward… mostly because he never realized just how more awkward Dwight is than him.  Still, he’s his foot in the door, and someone he respected.


He’s so desperate to go into sales, to hit the ground running, so he accepts this weird paternal thing Dwight has going on.  And then he mentions that he wants to take a look at the list of his clients.  This is his his fatal mistake.


He goes from “Dwight Jr.” to “a shark hiding in that adorable little cherub” in a matter of seconds.  Seconds!  It doesn’t help that Jim is playing into his paranoia for a laugh.


So much for climbing that ladder.


His luck would change later that day, when Clark is next in the slack lining activity.  Andy, not blinded by vengeance towards the new guy, actually supports him and sees him doing it, and Clark is met with a round of applause by his peers.  (It helps that he has gigantic inner-ears.)  It feels good.


“Go, Dwight Jr.!” he hears Darryl yell.  Maybe it’s not such a bad nickname.


Until he remembers Dwight Sr. is right there, the only one booing him.


“Alright, let’s see you do it,” Clark dares, getting real sick of his attitude.


Dwight, in his attempt to one up the temp “trying to steal his job”, keeps failing miserably, to the point where the office is basically just watching him break his dignity, and eventually his mouth.


The man who Clark aspired to be like one day befriended him, betrayed him, and failed to humiliate him all in the same day.  He thought this was about paper.


Later on, Pam gets a text, and climbs to the ceiling, only to see Dwight make the dumbest and most dangerous decision since the fire drill.


Dwight manages to get halfway through the tightrope on his trapeze bike, using a photocopier as the balance, and it suddenly turns the other way.  It was not one of his better plans.


And Clark just stands there, looking up at a struggling Dwight, and wonders what the hell he ever saw in him.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The accountants go by their usual business, and — of course — Angela brings up her cats.  She needs to find one of her precious furballs, Comstock, a new home.  Kevin tries to take him, but is denied due to the turtle incident.  So she then decides on her only gay friend (who she “prays for every night”), Oscar Martinez.


Oscar is proud of a lot of things.  Of his job, of his heritage, of his homosexuality.  They don’t define him as a person, but they are attributes he appreciates about himself.


But this?  There is nothing to be proud of here.  He’s in an affair.  An affair with her husband, Senator Robert Lipton (R).  And she’s none the wiser.  Every time he sees him, he can’t help but repeat two statements in his head.  Those are:

“How could you do this to her?  To your own wife?  The mother of your child?”

“Wow, he’s hot.”


Then he realizes… it takes two.  How could you do this, Oscar?  To your own friend?  One who would give away a beloved pet to you, free of charge?


The guilt eats him so much that he had to come up with something to avoid looking at that adorable face and be riddled with even more guilt every time.


His response is simply “I’m a dog person.”


After seeing her constantly trying to give up her cat all day, pushing him into doing it, he relents and takes the cat in.  She sadly admits that he and Lipton can’t say goodbye because of his “business dinner”.


That’s all it is.  A business dinner.


Comstock will be happy to see both Oscar and Lipton during the business dinner.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Dwight is relying on Pam to be a “counterweight” for his bicycle trapeze plan, telling her she needs more excitement in her life.  She shouts (while flaunting about her weight loss) that she intends to live her boring life and not risk losing it, because she just so happens to like it.


Oh, the difference five months will make.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


At the start of the workday, everyone is interviewed about their summer. The interviews consist of Dwight’s new energy drink and finding out he’s not Phillip’s father, Erin’s excitement about Andy coming back today, Kevin’s dead turtle misadventures, Toby filling in on what happened to Kelly and Ryan and their replacements, and — of course — Jim and Pam’s going ons.  They mention Athlead, and Mark was quite disappointed that he wouldn’t jump in, though he fully understood why.  Mark is a bachelor, so he doesn’t understand the pressures of fatherhood.  As recompense, he promised them both “An Altima or better”.


This statement Jim makes has him question his decision to back out of Athlead once he says it out loud:


“But watch this guy make a billion dollars off of my idea.”


But it isn’t his idea, he quickly reminds himself immediately after he says that, it’s theirs.  Why would he not be happy for his friend building something amazing from the ground up?  The only possible reason why he wouldn’t… is that he’s not involved.  That he can’t be.


It doesn’t help that Mama Beesly steps in after the interview ended.


“Well… I don’t think anything’s gonna change in our lives now.  With work and two kids… nothing interesting is gonna happen to us for a long long time.”


The camera makes sure to capture his regret.

Throughout the day Jim continues the monotony of his everyday work environment.  He loves amping up Dwight’s paranoia, but again, it’s another check off the list.  He sees Andy make an ass of himself towards Nellie, and all he thinks is “can we just go back to work now?”; this is a phrase he never thought he’d say, let alone think, but he does.  He tries to bond with Pete, one of the new guys and fails, so he can’t even have a new friend.  One thing he does enjoy watching is Clark’s slack lining attempt.  The guy seems like a chill dude.  Why he would be associated with Dwight is anyone’s guess.  He hopes the office won’t get to Clark like it did him.


As Jim stands behind the copier, he overhears Pete list off his dreams and aspirations for a cat he doesn’t even want.  The camera takes notice of this.


“Oh come on, Pete!”, Jim says to the interviewer, “God that’s just sad.  If he doesn’t watch himself he’s gonna be here for years!  Doing nothing!”  He just sits there, fiddling with his hands, being crushed by the reality of those words.  “Wow, maybe Pete is the New Jim.”


The day is over, and Pam is set to go, but Jim needs to make a “quick call” first.  Pam doesn’t appear to be suspect.


He deep breathes, worried what would result from this.  But he doesn’t care anymore, he needs out.


He dials the numbers.


1-215-


“Have you given any more thought to the transfer?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Good.”


...555-


“I’m in love with you.”

“...What?”


…4-1…


“Jim I called off my wedding because of you.  And now were not even friends.”


…2…7…


“There were a lot of reasons to call off my wedding.  But the truth is I didnt care about any of those reasons until I met you.”


His finger is hovering over the call button.


“Hey, I know where my priorities lie.  And theyre not in Athlead.”

“Thank you.”


He hangs up the phone and puts his head in his hands, upset he would even consider it.  He’s not doing this to her.  Not again.


Mark goes with the other guy.  At least they’ll get that Altima.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

The work day ends with Creed talking about his time at the circus located in a dog food company.

 

End Notes:

So yup, that's where I'm going with this.  The more this mess trudges on, the more it will evolve into a Jim and Pam story.  It is one, I promise.

NEXT TIME: Jim and Roy have an amicable reunion, the new guys begin to bond, and the entire office follows Taliban law for the day.

Roy's Wedding by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out.

I actually have some parts already written like "Andy's Ancestry", "Work Bus" and even bits of "Junior Salesman" just to make sure I know where the heck this is going. 

“… and you are gonna get the best sex of your life.” — Roy Anderson


“Wow, Newsweek, huh?  This election.  Crazy, right?” Clark says with a wink at Erin.


That’s another thing Clark and Dwight have in common: they have no understanding about how women work.  It comes with being sheltered as a kid and not going to parties in high school.  Not that he wasn’t invited, but his parents maintained that his studies were more important.  What he gained in drive and business skills he’s had to sacrifice knowing how people, specifically women, work.


Pete just sees this and was just… embarrassed for him.  Sure, there’s something about Erin that was attractive, captivating even, but he’s not wanting to pursue a relationship after how the last one ended.  Besides, he knows she’s seeing someone.


It gets more embarrassing during their lunch break.


“Duncan, listen, I would love to help you out, but where I’m gonna find someone that’s pretty, smart, and well informed, huh?”


Pete knows where this was going.  “What are you doing?”, he whispers.


“Shh,” Clark shushes, “Hold on.  Erin.”  He gets her attention, telling her that he knows a local news producer.  She’s flattered at the opportunity, but she answers she’ll think about it.  Clark pounds Pete’s arm in celebration.


“No, Clark’s not my friend,” Pete answers the interviewer, “He’s the guy I work with in the office.  I think the best part about this whole plan of his is… I doubt he knows that Erin and Andy are a couple.”


The truth comes out when Erin stops by Andy’s office.


“Clark wants to film you in different outfits inside his apartment?” Andy asks.


“Yeah,” Erin confirms.


The next thing Clark knows Andy is at his desk.


“Clark!  You and I need to have a little chat,” Andy announces to him, hiding his anger.


Clark freezes.  He knows he’s screwed up somehow with what he’s doing.   Was it that one spreadsheet he didn’t pay enough attention to?


“You’re aware that Erin and I are kinda like a thing?” Andy asks.


The phrase Oh, God is the only thing that Clark can conjure in his head.


“Like, we have been for a looong time,” Andy emphasizes with condemnation.


Clark struggles to formulate a coherent sentence  “Listen I’m so sorry, I didn’t know—”


“Look, as the Nard Dog, my instinct was to eat your head off.  But, hey, you’re the new guy and you didn’t know.  You’re pretty chill.  And might I say, you have a superrrb taste in women.  But just… keep that in mind, alright?” he says, raising his eyebrows so he can get the picture.


“Yessir.”  Clark immediately felt better.


Andy cordially nods and walks off, and sees Pete walking back to his desk with some copies.  He greets him with an “Italiano!” and a pat on the shoulder.  Pete returns it with a slight smile and nod.


Clark walks up to Pete.  “Did you know?”


“In this case, I felt it was best that you learned from experience.”


“God, what is wrong with me?”


“You tell me.”


“I mean, you know about women, right?”


He pauses, “I guess.”


“Do you know anything about, you know,” Clark tries to find the right term, “the art of seduction?”


Pete just sighs in disbelief.  “Clark, do you need a relationship right now?  Like, need need?”


“Not really,” he answers, “but... look at her, man.”


Pete agreed in his head, but pressed on, “Clark, you told me when we first met that you want to be a full-time paper salesman instead of a temp.  Do you still want that?”


“...Well, yeah.”


“Just focus on that.  Romance comes in your life when you least expect it, and you don’t have control over that.  But this,” Pete emphasizes, pointing at the office floor, “this is something you do have control over.  And it’s something you want.  You get me?”


Clark smiles, “I do.”  He stretches his hand out for a handshake, “Thanks, man.”


“No prob,” Pete says as he smiles and returns the handshake.


“Y’know,” Pete tells the interviewers, “Clark… he’s okay.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


When Erin finds out the whole news job was all a rouse, she still thinks it’ll be fun to at least try it out!  


After getting back from his close friend Roy’s wedding, Darryl Philbin, the new A.R.M. (Andy’s “Consigliere”), is tasked with helping Erin pursue newscasting.  He’s basically working under Andy, who seems to be more calm and collected after he came back.  However, given the other employees, it’s still a juggling act.


Honestly, it’s extremely hard to watch.  But seeing Andy supporting Erin was kinda sweet.  Most of the office has to admit, after everything he’s gone through in the past year, Andy’s become much more stable, friendly and kind… well you know, for Andy Bernard.  It helps that he’s a performer, so he can coach her on her presentation, even though he gives some very bad advice.


Erin sends the audition tape.  She doesn’t get the job, but to be honest, it was fun while it lasted.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Nellie knows she has to impress Andy.  He’s still mad at her, since he’s turned down all of her projects thus far.  Didn’t he say he wanted her to be good at her job?


But Pam has an idea.  As they were casually chatting in the break room, she advises her to find something he would refuse to say no to, lest he look bad.  And at that moment, inspiration struck.


A charity initiative.  Operation Give-Back.  This way, the workers themselves can have a hand in the charities, with $4000 to give away.  Stanley chooses the American Diabetes Association; Angela is shocked that he could be so selfish since he has diabetes, but of course it ends up being the only one that makes sense after hearing other suggestions.


Though Dwight is unwilling to participate, Andy pipes up with the charity he chooses to donate, and when Nellie compliments him on his choice, he simply nods and holds his tongue.  As much as he wants to say that he’s not doing this for her and rather to preserve nautical flag signaling, he figures it would both demotivate Nellie from pursuing an admittedly novel idea… and upset Erin.


Dwight is forced to participate, and he chooses the Global Relief Foundation, a front for the Taliban as he reveals smugly.  Everyone just yells at him disapprovingly that anyone would ever consider contributing to the Taliban (though they do provide great heroin, just ask Creed), and with that in mind he refuses to donate unless they agree on his suggestion.


Nellie’s stuck once again, but then she thinks of something.  She’ll convince Dwight to switch charities if he is willing to live by Taliban Law in Dunder Mifflin.  And, naturally, he says yes, and she thinks she’s one-upped him (the use of a silly font helped).  And the moment she’s confident she’s succeeded is the moment she dares him to cut off her hand.  But she doesn’t expect him to be so eager about it.


Darryl, knowing he has to stop these two nutcases from committing an HR nightmare, provides them with an inspirational movie to prevent this from happening, and he knew just the one: 127 Hours.


And, it actually works.  Nellie might have just found another friend.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Angela rants about Dwight yet again.  His stubbornness is the one thing she hates about him.  Telling her he had to kill Sprinkles because that’s what he did with the barn animals, her clearly over him and him trying to get her back while she was with Andy (though she admits that was a mistake), everything involving their contract.  She is much happier with Lipton, as she brags about him to Oscar while in the break room.  He reads his newspaper, attempting to drown out her gushing.


“And you know?  Despite being married over a year, we still have mystery.  I’m always waiting to see what he’s gonna surprise me with next.”


This causes Oscar’s coffee to go down the wrong pipe, her sensing he’s clearly hiding something.  She has a ridiculous idea of what it could be, but she knows in her heart of hearts it’s ludicrous.  Because that would never happen.


And even if it is happening, she’ll keep up the facade anyway.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pam’s Chore Wheel was her most ambitious project as office admin yet.  Trying to motivate the entire staff to clean up the place was an uphill battle; she still blames Dwight for being too cheap to get a replacement janitor.  To be fair, pitching in to help around and pick up after yourself is something that is taught in preschool.  She attempted to make assigning duties more exciting with a wheel, and succeeded… in a way.  Jim simply told her she had no choice than to embrace the madness and just make the wheel fun, because he knows the place like the back of his hand.  They’re not gonna do anything requiring the slightest bit of effort.  But then she had the idea of slipping in the “Tiny Wheel” to get the others to clean, and he complimented her on its brilliance.


Kevin was just happy Pam finally understands wheels.


Jim was shocked how into this little project Pam was.  I mean, it’s a chore wheel, it’s not that exciting.  And yet he saw the same face she makes when deep in one of her art pieces.  The brainstorming, the concentration, the moment her face lights up when she succeeds.  He loves seeing that from her, no matter how mundane the project may seem.


He relented that he made the right call.  And he is more than happy with his choice. However, he can’t help but want that kind of motivation and drive Pam has for himself... and it could never be found in Dunder Mifflin.


Until the day he and Pam go to her ex-fiancé’s wedding on a weekday at 8 AM.  Yes, Roy Anderson found the love of his life and is getting married this morning.  After months of knowing about it he’s still weirded out by the whole thing.  And the morning just gets weirder and weirder from there.


A luxurious house.

Butlers handing out free mimosas.

A $50,000 sports car.


How on God’s green earth is this Roy Anderson’s wedding?


The exchange with Roy isn’t as awkward as Jim was fearing, but it proves to be more cutting than anything.  Roy has everything he’s ever wanted: his own gravel company, a beautiful wife who owns a restaurant, and, well, a $50,000 sports car.


“How about you, what’re you doing?” Roy asked curiously.


“Ah, you know, same old same old,” Jim answers.


“Wait, Dunder Mifflin?”


“Yup.  Same desk and everything.”


“Wow.  You know, I figured you’d be doing something in sports, like being an agent or something.”  Jim, once again, wants to punch Roy; the worst part is it’s not even Roy’s fault.


“Well there is this company—”


Jim’s suddenly interrupted by Roy’s brother, Ken, who brags about his brother’s sports car like he’s been doing to all the other guests.  Jim laments in his head that there isn’t a way to just vanish from existence until the wedding’s over.


Pam is just as shocked at what’s happening around her.  She looks around at the amazing decor, the variety of hor d’oeuvres, the mimosa she’s still holding in her hand.  And not a hot dog in sight.


She meets Laura Anderson and the exchange is, surprisingly, not awkward at all.  She’s so pretty and accomplished, and is just so happy to have someone like Roy in her life.  As beautiful and all-too-relatable as that sentiment is to Pam, it makes her think back to her relationship with Roy.  They were both so unhappy, so drained of energy and motivation.  He didn’t try and she didn’t expect him to.  And this thought echoes in her mind: was it Roy holding her back… or the other way around?


And, of course, Roy plays the piano now too.  And he’s singing.  I mean, he’s not the next American Idol, but the fact that he’s been taking all these lessons… both Jim and Pam are witnessing some sort of Bizarro Roy.  It doesn’t help that Phyllis and Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration are having a full-on make-out sesh not even a foot away from them.


Pam posits the running thoughts in her head as a question to Jim on their way to work.  “Am I holding you back?”


Jim looks back at her, curious.  “What?”


“I mean, for so long Roy and I kept each other from pursuing what we really needed, and… I was afraid that—”


“Is this about Athlead?”


She couldn’t lie to either him or herself.  “A little.”


“Look,” he reassures, “we talked about this.  I’m not doing it.”  Right now.  “And I don’t want to do it if you’re not one hundred percent behind it.”  But one day you will be. 


“Okay good,” she sighs in relief as he parked the car.  She doesn’t want anything else, nor need anything else.  And she’s glad he doesn’t either.  “And I mean, we’re married, have two kids, stable careers… we have everything we always wanted.”


His mind goes back to calling Mark and begging him for the position.  Yet again.


When they get inside, they just continue on as if everything is normal.  As he sits at his desk, he looks at the various family photos he has, and even the picture of the two of them from around 3 months after they started dating, to remind himself why he had to say no.


Pam couldn’t help but ask, “Everything good?”


She’s perceptive like that.  He has to reassure her, just like he’s reassuring himself.  He does so through a wide smile, which was genuine but still a tad forced.


“Never better.”


Both smile brightly at each other, then return to their work.  But she still has her suspicions...


End Notes:

I took out the "surprises" subplot for two reasons: 1. there is no real "secret" Jim is keeping from Pam (in a way there is but that's addressed later) and 2. reincorporation.

I'll be taking a break to focus on other priorities, but this story will be finished at some point, hopefully during 2020.

NEXT TIME: Andy turns out to be an actual relative of Frederick Douglass, Nellie and Pam officially become friends, and Darryl gets fed up.

Andy's Ancestry by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Gonna go ahead and post this. I'm most of the way through "The Boat", probably won't post again until "Dwight Christmas" is complete, which won't be for a bit.

Turns out I'm posting these more regularly than I thought I would. 

“I dont know how I fit in with these women.” — Pam Beesly


Jim, like most people, hates going to the dentist.  And Pam’s caught on that he’s been in a funk.  He didn’t say it, he wouldn’t say it, but even after 3 years of marriage, she’s perceptive like that.  So she thought of a brilliant prank: contact their actor friend Steve, have him replace Jim while he’s gone, and drive Dwight insane.  It was a rousing success.  Steve was a natural, helped by the fact that he’s known both for so long.  And the fake family photo?  Pam’s amazing skills at Photoshop.  She even managed to sneak in some shots of Dwight’s paranoia with her phone.  It was Jim Halpert approved.


Today, she notices Nellie awkwardly tapping her pen at her desk.


“Everything okay?” Pam asks.  Nellie insists that she’s fine, not wanting to burden her with her ‘massive stress freakouts’.


She does anyway.


“It’s just that I’m taking my driver’s test in two days,” Nellie offers, “and I need to practice with an experienced driver in the car, but I’ve had no time to do that thanks to… ‘Dem-Andy’.”


As dramatic as she comes across, she’s not wrong.  Andy has proven to be more vindictive and rude towards her, asking her for ludicrous tasks like, in this instance, searching through his family history.  It’s obvious to her that he has some deep-seated issues, but she never brings them up lest she gets fired.  She was planning on pranking him by adding Michelle Obama to her family tree (since she has white relatives), but she decides against it, knowing it’ll set him off even more.  Besides, it turns out he does have a black relative: Frederick Douglass.  This will not go over well.


“Nellie I can practice with you in my car at lunchtime,” Pam quickly agrees, just to appease her.


“Oh Pam, thank you, you are my saviour!” Nellie exclaims.  She can not wait to spend more time with her new friend.  And Pam is, admittedly, excited about it as well.  Jim can’t help but smile, he loves seeing how caring his wife is towards her coworkers.


“I’m sorry I’m leaving you alone for lunch,” Pam says to Jim.


“Don’t worry about it, I have some soup in the fridge.  You two have fun,” he responds.


They take the drive together, and to Pam’s surprise, she thinks Nellie might be maybe even almost sort of fun!  She’s fearless, sharp-witted, a go-getter, and if Pam was honest to the cameras, she’d say she is fun.  Sure they almost die at least five times, but she knows that one of these days, she will have to be in that passenger seat with Cece and Phillip, so it’s good practice.  Nellie is enthralled with Pam’s artistic prowess, even with the small things like the kids’ mural.  And the two of them put their prank skills to use when Andy asks Nellie to “dig up dirt” on the various employees’ genealogies.


In short, Nellie reminds Pam of Fancy New Beesly.  She makes a great companion for Mama Beesly.


Things take a turn for the awkward, though, when the subject becomes Jim.


“What should we say about Jim?” Nellie asks.


“Um… Oh, I’ll say he’s related to Richard Nixon”, Pam replies, “It’s an inside joke, he looks really Nixon-y when he wakes up.”


“My ex behaved like Nixon,” Nellie laments, “All of the lying, none of the sexual charisma.”  She became cynical about romance after the split.  It made her feel unvalued, like her time, her body, her soul wasn’t enough.  She hates him and hated every single solitary second of the divorce.  And the worst part is it further prevented her from becoming a mother.


She promised herself she will prevent everyone she cares about from making the same mistake.


“I just made a joke then,” Nellie clarifies.


“I’m sorry,” Pam responds, “It’s just um… I actually do have this weird feeling that there’s something Jim isn’t telling me.”


“Oh no… ugh, an affair.  It is always an affair.”


“Jim?  No.”  Pam knows better, they are not that kind of couple.


Nellie sighs, “Can you be sure?”


“Because he just loves me too much,” she expresses.  He does love her, with everything he has.  So what is he keeping from her?


Nellie becomes impressed with her tenacity.  “You’re a cocky little thing, aren’t you, Pam?”


Pam chuckles.  There’s maybe some of Fancy New Beesly still in there.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“This is my research into how we might produce child-proof paper that doesn’t give you paper cuts,” Nellie explains to Andy, “We can’t.”


Andy thinks it can be done, Nellie just didn’t try enough.


“And here is a printout of your genealogy from thisisyourfamilytree.com.”


“Executive summary me, hit the highlights,” Andy says.


“Well, it turns out, you are a very distant relative of one Frederick Douglass!”


Andy is interested, “As in…”


“Fought against slavery, wrote a bunch of books, ended the Civil War.”


Andy cannot believe what he was hearing.  The Frederick Douglass?  One of the most prominent members of the abolitionist movement?  This was truly a big day for both of them.


He, of course, brags about it to the entire office.  His popularity, he says, will go through the roof.  Most of them don’t say anything (while Nellie is giggling to herself at her desk), and all Clark and Pete can do are just… clap through it, man.


The only one who doesn’t know yet is Darryl, who’s in his office explaining batching to Jim.  And he notices that Darryl seems… happy, fulfilled in fact!  If Darryl can get into his work, surely Jim can as well, right?


Andy enters Darryl’s office with a smile.


“There he is!”


“Andy, you gotta check this out,” Jim enthusiastically explains, “he just showed me—” 


“Ye-de-de-de-de-de-de,” Andy interrupts, “Right now, I need canned Tuna, okay?”


Jim just simply looks at the camera, as is his trademark, but with a look that says ‘Why did I not call the damn number?’.


“Darryl,” Andy continued, “guess which talented individual that has a killer singing voice is related to Frederick Douglas?”  Darryl guessed Tracee Ellis Ross, but Andy quickly corrects him.


“What?  Really?” Darryl responds.


Andy hesitates, “...I mean it’s distant, but…”


Darryl just awkwardly replies “That’s cool, man.”  Andy is just hyped that Darryl called him a “cool man”.  Things are going very well for him today.


…That is, until Oscar — the office’s single brain cell — clarifies the implications of being related to someone like Frederick Douglass, a former slave.


“Your connection to Frederick Douglass has some… negative connotations,” he tells Andy, “Most likely your family were… slave owners.”


The realization hits Andy like a train.  


His distraction is noticed by Darryl, who is just annoyed this is even brought up in a meeting about productivity.  “Look, Andy,” he says, “even if your ancestors did own slaves, it wouldn’t be your fault.  This is only weird if you make it weird.”


Andy proceeds to make it weird.


A lot of the office just cracks jokes on him regarding his ancestry.  (Oddly enough, Jim doesn’t participate in any of them.)  Usually, Andy would just brush them off.  And Andy… he needs to clarify some things.


He texts Nellie to get some dirt on the other employees ASAP (As soon as possible), and she and Pam do just that… in a way.  He sits everyone down and just grills them.


Phyllis’ great-great-grandmother was responsible for spreading cholera to the United States.

Kevin is related to both John Gacy and John Bobbit (Kevin would rather the movie stars John Wayne and Dwayne Johnson).

Dwight’s grandfather is a tax evader (rather than someone who’s technically not a Nazi).

Meredith is a blood relative of Lizzie Borden (“Cool!”).

And Jim is related to “Rhichahrd Nihxohn”.


“Pam always says I look like Nixon,” he explains to the interviewer, “That’s crazy, right?…” As he feels his nose, he realizes that if he works at Dunder Mifflin Scranton long enough, he really will look like Nixon.  “Oh no.”


In his attempt to prove a point, Andy digs himself a deeper hole when his mother calls back and says that they were not slave owners… but they transported them.


And Darryl thought he could get some actual damn work done and be productive today.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“I was intimidated by Andy’s family before, and now I have to talk about Frederick Douglass?  They’re gonna be like ‘What’s your stance on politics?’ or ‘What is the best Civil War?’ and I will just be like ‘Duhhh’.”


Erin is not looking forward to meeting Andy’s family.  Having a boyfriend coming from big money is stressful because family events become a list of expectations that she has to fill.  Not that she wouldn’t for Andy, she’ll do everything for him, but sometimes it can be a bit too much.


While learning French, she asks Dwight how to impress Andy’s family.  He had the answer: Dothraki.  It is a language of warriors, and who is Dwight himself but a warrior?  He’s just happy he can teach the next generation once the true game of thrones commences.


The moment she finds out it’s fake, she realizes that she is no closer to impressing Andy’s family than she was before.


And then it hits her: why can’t she just be herself?  Isn’t she enough?  She’s nice, she’s personable, she’s charming, she’s smart (at least she thinks she is).  And you know what?  She loved learning that fake language with Dwight.  She got to shout a lot, and shouting is always fun!  She doesn’t feel like putting in all of this effort just to impress a bunch of fancy people… she doesn’t want too.


It is too much.


As she and Andy walk to the car, Pete gives a cordial wave goodbye to both of them, Erin smiling wider than she thought she would.


“I like that guy,” Andy says, “We should hook him up with Meredith.”


“Oh!” Erin responds.  They would make a cute couple.


The cameras catch Pete hearing that, and he just shudders at the thought.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Darryl tries.  He tries.  He tries so damn hard.


Getting the A.R.M. position?  It excited him.  It motivated him to try and do whatever it takes to succeed.  He takes it seriously.  More seriously than he should.  Because he’s working under Andy Bernard, the man who tells him he’s not doing enough.


And to add insult to injury, he uses that productivity notebook Darryl made just for him as a coaster.


Darryl walks out to the warehouse, just overseeing the whole thing.  His job was monotonous, but it was simple.  It paid well enough, he was well suited for it, and after work, he could just head to Poor Richard’s with the others.  That was it.  Because of all of the nonsense upstairs?  He didn’t have to deal with any of that.  Things only sucked balls when they went down here.  And then he was put upstairs, and he has to deal with Andy’s growing lists of insecurities, not to mention how Michael used to be.  That’s what he gets for being motivated about his job.


He’s had it with this place.  This is hell.  And he’s breaking out of it.


Enter Jim, as if on cue.


“Hey, thanks for the advice on batching.”


“Hm,” Darryl shrugs.


Jim notices how downtrodden he looks.  He knows that feeling all too well.  “You doing alright, man?”


“I’m done,” Darryl bluntly states, “I need to get out of here.”


“Yeah, not the easiest day to be Assistant Regional Manager.”


“It’s not just today.  It’s every day.  Seems like the better title I have, the stupider my job gets.”


“Come on, it can always get better, right?”


“Huh, yeah right.”


“Nah, I’m serious, there’s always something better.”


Jim realizes that Darryl is in the exact position he’s in.  And Jim’s not even A.R.M.  He might not get into Athlead… but Darryl can.  And Darryl just might be another foot in the door.


“Like what?” Darryl curtly asks.  This was Jim’s chance.


“Like hypothetically, if I said there was another job… that you” and I “can” both “have.”


“What job?”


“Something cool, like… sports marketing, or…?  Does that sound like something you would be into?”


“Hell yeah!” Darryl stated.  He’s finally out of this hell.


“Right?”


“That sounds awesome.”


“Okay, but wait, what if I told you it was in Philly, so you’d have to—?”


“I love Philly!” Darryl replies happily.


“Right?!”


“It’s not even a thought—”


“Not even a thought!  It’s not even that far away, you” or rather I “could still commute, exactly.  Exactly!”  As Jim’s advertising this to Darryl, he realizes that he’s trying to advertise it to himself as well.


Darryl quickly realizes this is a pitch.  “What, wait wait wait, so what, is this happening?


“Oh, it’s happening,” Jim states, “A friend of mine owns this new sports marketing company and it’s tailor-made for you.”


“That’s awesome!”


“Right?!”  It is.


“You in this as well?” Darryl asks.


His face immediately sunk, “Nope.”  Every time he has to answer that, it frustrates him even more.


“Well, why not?”  ‘Why not’ indeed.


“I can’t do that to Pam,” he answers, “With us raising two kids, trying to do both jobs at once… it would be too much.”  It would.


Darryl’s sympathetic.  The last thing he’d want to see is him and Pam to split up over this.  He’s been there.  It’s not fun.  “I get it.”


“Yeah.  But it was our idea, after all, so I can put in a good for you.”


“Man, you’re the best,” he gives him a bear hug.  As they separate, he says, “And hey, maybe you can get your wife on board.”


“Yeah, maybe,” he responds, with doubt.  Hopefully.


After a fun-filled day, Pam and Nellie enter the warehouse.  When Nellie sees that ugly wall, inspiration strikes yet again: a mural.  She tells “Scranton’s most dangerous young muralist”, her new best friend, about the opportunity.


“Nellie, this is brilliant!” Pam states.


Darryl and Jim are leaving the warehouse themselves when they meet the two ladies.


“Hey!” Jim greets.


“Hey,” Pam states, “can I talk to you for a minute?”


Nellie quickly becomes the Phoebe to Pam’s Rachel.  “Anything… you have to say to her, you can say to me,” she threatens Jim, “She never left you!”


“What?  No, no, Nellie, I got this,” Pam reassures.


“This is his fault, it is not your fault,” Nellie whispers to Pam, “I’m gonna find you someone better… and rich.”  And Philipino.


As they have the conversation, Darryl is excited that Pam’s onboard, while Nellie can’t bear to watch.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

The audio guys don’t capture the conversation.  It’s for the best.


“The phone was right there, and I almost did it, but I never called them back.  I promise you, I didn’t,” Jim tells her.


“I know…” Pam admits sadly.


“Are you mad?” he asks.  He's mad at her for not trusting him, but he doesn't want to upset her even further.


“I mean, I would have liked to have known you were tempted, but I’m not gonna chastise you for not doing something.”


“Thank God,” he says with relief and a slight chuckle.  She returns that with a smile.


“Are you mad?” she asks in return.


He can’t lie to her.  As he rubs the back of his neck as he admits, “I guess I’m just… upset that you didn’t trust me when I said I wouldn’t do it.”


“That’s on me,” she admits, “You’re telling the truth, I know that.  It’s just… sometimes you make these spur of the moment decisions, especially when it involves something you really want.”


“You’re not wrong,” he confesses.


She has to know.  “What stopped you?”


He sighs, “Look, I know we promised to never bring up the past, but—”


“Casino Night,” she instinctively replies.


“Transferring to Stamford… it was hell on earth.  If I stayed in Scranton, everything could have been different.  Been better.  But none of that matters now, because I have you.  And… I can’t do that to you again.”


Pam tears up.  How could she doubt him for a second?


“Oh Jim,” she says, getting verklempt, “I’m so sorry, I—”


“Hey, hey,” he gets up and holds her, “It’s okay.  I’m also sorry, I should have said something.”  He forgives her, he does.  But it still hurt.


“You do have me,” she reassures.  How is it that even when he’s mad at her, she says just the right thing?


“I was worried over nothing,” Pam tells the interviewer with a relieved smile, “I have the best husband ever!”


Jim, in the same chair, just solemnly says, “I still can’t believe she didn’t trust me.”


Jim breaks it to Darryl, she’s still not on board, but he’ll do everything he can.  Darryl can’t thank him enough.


After Pam picks off the shrubbery from her car, she explains everything to Nellie.  As Jim approaches, Nellie gives him an apologetic hug and even compliments him on his body.


End Notes:

Yeah, a lot of summary here, but aside from the JAM parts it'll be like that until it really diverges, starting in "Lice". Put in some introspective moments to liven things up and present what the characters themselves are going through.

I wanted to figure out a big story element out before I continue: Jim will definitely be promoted with a new job that I have already figured out. I'm wondering if he should stay in DM (Scranton or New York) or go for Athlead (Philly), since both companies would definitely benefit from this job. Either way, he'll no longer be a paper salesman. I should have that figured out once I get to "Customer Loyalty", but I wanted to hear your thoughts! 

NEXT TIME: While Jim and Pam try to make each other feel better and Nellie and Erin team up, Dwight drives the office into the 21st century...

Work Bus by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

So at this point I'm done with "The Target", meaning "Dwight's Christmas" is next, and I cannot WAIT to write the legendary Belsnickel.  I'm really anxious to post these up, mostly because I want to get more feedback; I've said that prose is not my best medium of writing, so I want to go back in and tighten things up, both writing and plot wise.

In any case, enjoy! 

“I grew up on a farm.  I have seen animals having sex in every position imaginable.” — Dwight Schrute


Andy needed a slice of humble pie.  Bad.


Throughout this last month, the reasonable, compassionate, and dorky Andy Bernard was quickly becoming rude, selfish, and worst of all, unprofessional.  He’s treated Nellie worse.  He’s barely spoken a word to Clark.  He’s belittled all his employees from time to time, but Pete got the most of it.  He still doesn’t understand why.


When the office softball tournament concluded, Andy took it upon himself to compile and show the softball highlights.  Jim didn’t care enough and just handed him all the footage.


The video was just… crass.  There was no substance, no positivity, not even humor.  Only fart noises, insulting impressions, and the word [FAIL!] plastered onto everything.  And even with Jerry’s passing, Andy couldn’t be bothered to respect the dead.


But Jim found a solution: play the video he sent to Andy.


The one who cried [FAIL!] became the true failure.  And he was a poor sport about it.


Creed proclaimed Andy’s failure with righteous indignation.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Dwight has had a rough go of it.  He finds out that a baby, a baby that he knew, he just KNEW was his… wasn’t.  Schrutes have a well-known history of being fertile, both them and their cattle.  So how is this even a possibility?  It just… makes him depressed.


Dwight may not be a father, but at the very least, he’s a landlord.


He’s checking if the building is up to code, which it is, Oscar.  Toby is sensing that there is an electromagnetic field around the office, which could easily become (or rather, is) a safety hazard; Stanley presses that he’s not getting paid to work in a microwave oven.


Dwight continues to prove the office wrong, still being as stubborn as a mule, insisting that he doesn’t need to do jack squat.  Meredith doesn’t want to lose any more “good parts” (she’s already lost her uterus).  Dwight mentions that the place would have to be shut down for a week.


“A week off?” Jim mentions, “That’d be amazing.”


With this sentence, Pam has a plan brewing.  She gets up and heads to the kitchen.  And this isn’t lost on Jim.


She pops the bag for fifteen seconds before taking it out, Darryl talking Clark into showing him how PowerPoint works.


“What’re you doing?” Darryl asks Pam.


“Getting my husband a week off of work,” Pam responds.


“You popped one kernel.”


“Yup, I did,” she says heading back to the office.


She drops her unopened popcorn bag to the floor, slides it under Dwight’s desk while he’s in the bathroom, and bides her time.


Jim, wanting this week off as much as Pam does, lists off a bunch of health problems to Dwight when he gets back.  Dwight doesn’t care, at worst he’ll get superpowers.  (Though he did have his doubts when fertility was mentioned.)


Pam knows what to do next.  “Hey Dwight, I dropped my bag of popcorn under your desk, can you get it for me?”


“Come on, Pam,” he reprimands, “I know you have limited dexterity but—” he suddenly notices what’s in the bag and feels it.  “Some of these kernels are already cracked.”


“That’s impossible,” she says, “that’s a brand new bag of popcorn.”  She then looks up at the ceiling.  “Oh my God!”


X marks the spot.


The next thing Dwight does is rush into Andy’s office.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pam is worried about Jim.  He’s been quiet, not distant, but quiet.  She loves him with everything she has and wants to prove that to him.  And to her, opening doors, pushing elevator buttons, and even grape soda isn’t enough.


“Last month, Jim told me that he never called Athlead back about the offer,” she told the interviewers, “And it just proves how great of a husband and father he is.  I feel bad for thinking he would without telling me, so I need to do something huge for him.  Like… oh, I take him on a scavenger hunt to all our favorite places, leading him back to the receptionist desk where we first met!”


“I know she still feels bad,” Jim says to them, “and every time I’ve told her I’ve forgiven her she insists that she will make it up to me.  And… I wanna give her that.”  And he wants to because she matters more than Athlead.


After the popcorn plan was a success, Jim notices her moving eyebrows, falling even more in love with her.


“Beesly, oh my God!” he exclaims quietly.


He walks over and perches at her desk, Pam wearing a grin equal parts loving and mischievous.


“That was… brilliant.”


“I learned from the best,” she says with a smile.


“So, what did you want to do for the week off?” he asks.


“I was thinking we’d drive up to the lake, and give you a whole week on the water, just you, me, and the kids.”


Just what he needs, time out of this office.  Another reason to have not called Mark back.  “That sounds amazing.”


“Oh!  And we can stop by the pie stand on the way.”


“You mean Laverne’s Pies Tires Fixed Also?” Jim asks.  She nods.  “Yes, we’ll be doing that, we’ll be getting a dozen.”


As the couple lists all the pies they’ll get on the way, Andy announces that their complaints have been heard, and Dwight has just the solution.


The Work Bus!


“Say goodbye to wasteful buildings,” Dwight advertises to the camera, “These days a mobile office isn’t just for hotshot politicians.  Now anyone can rent a work bus.  If you’ve got a parking lot, a workspace is just a phone call away.  In this age of belt-tightening and less empowered workers, a work bus is how tomorrow gets things done.”


The anger amongst his coworkers is palpable.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Nellie is anxious.  She wants this, more than anything in the world.  She knows she’ll be a good mother, and will give that child the life that they deserve.  She needs a character reference from her employer to adopt a baby.  She’s already written the letter, so all she needs now is a signature from her employer.


From Andy.


From ‘Dem-Andy’.


Pam told Nellie the other day that if she can’t get it to sign it, she will.  Pam’s about had it with Andy, especially when Jim told him about turning down Athlead and he responded with “Wow, Big Tuna tempted to travel through uncharted waters.  Talk about loyalty, am I right?”  If looks could kill, he would have died by an anvil with ‘PAM’ written on it.


This statement about loyalty from Andy will become the definition of irony.


Erin notices what’s going on with Nellie.  She knows she wants to be a mother.  Nellie can give someone a home… something that Erin’s always wanted.  Nellie may have the ire of her boyfriend, but Erin has total respect for her.


Andy allows Nellie in but uses the minute hourglass on her, again.  She lets her explain, quickly, what he needs from him.


“And are you sure this isn’t some sort of plagiarism entrapment scheme?” He asks slowly.


“It’s not Andy, and I know I haven’t been the nicest to you, but I will give this child—”


With three seconds on the clock, he interrupts her with an “I’ll think about it.”  The minute was up.  With a quiet “Thank you”, she’s back to her desk.


“Sure, I’ll read her letter,” he tells the interviewer, “and if she tells the truth about how evil and unfit to be a mother she is, then yeah I’ll sign that.”


The doc crew doesn’t say anything, as is in their contract, but they already suspect that this is not about Nellie.


In the Work Bus, Erin notices what Nellie is writing.


“Oh, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Pre-Adoption Standard,” Erin reads.


“Oh, of course,” Nellie remembers, “You were adopted.”


Erin laughs it off, “I wish!  No, I um, I made some shortlists.  I had a couple sleepovers, but I never managed to get in the end zone.  I don’t know what it was.  Not loveable maybe?  Oh well.”


The topic never fails to punch her in the gut.  It trained her for rejection, for being let down.  Though she has a veneer of this happy-go-lucky innocent youth, she just wants to be loved and love others.  She wants a family, a real honest-to-God family.  She doesn’t think she deserves one, but sometimes she considers that she does.  Now she has the power to help give those children a family, a life she never had.


Nellie just feels for the poor girl, but maybe this will motivate her.  “Listen, I’m really struggling with this form.  But as you know the system, you think maybe you could—?”


“Absolutely,” Erin agrees, “I know exactly what they want to hear. I would love to help.”


“Oh thank you so much!” Nellie tells her.  She glances over at Pam, and they both smile.


Throughout the day, Erin and Nellie ready the letter to send to Andy.  And Nellie gives her the best compliment ever: “I wish I could just wave a magic wand and make you a parentless five-year-old again.  I would snap you up.”


Erin wishes that could happen.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The more people spend time on that damn bus, the more snippy they become.


“I’m so sorry for all of this,” Pam tells Jim, crestfallen.


“It’s okay, sweetie,” he says while rubbing her arm, “You know what they say, a change is as good as a rest, right?”


She can’t help but smile at his optimism.  He’s not mad at her anymore, but more so at Dwight… maybe more than he should be.


Angela’s clumsiness gets the better of her when coffee spills on Pam's dress, and she needs to get up and clean it off.  Jim goes with Pam when he notices Dwight’s smug-ass grin.


“Really? Smirking?” 


“What can I say?” Dwight says, “I love justice.  You forced me to spend money on needless repairs, and now you’re locked in a prison bus and your woman drips with beverage.”


He checks his phone, it’s a text from Pam.  He glances at the notification:

Idea: Get the bus to LaVernes, then

we can pie Dwight as payback. ;P

She has the right idea.


Jim’s used to Dwight’s superiority complex after over a decade, but now it’s getting infuriating.  “Hey, Dwight.  Pam was trying to do something nice for me.  Do you mind just, helping her out?  Can we maybe take this thing somewhere?”  Or do something to not make this the worst day ever?


Dwight, ever the most stubborn being on the planet, continues to stand his ground, “It’s not my responsibility to solve your marriage issues by spending my money on gas.”


Screw Dwight.  Screw Dwight and his punchable babyface.  He should have called Mark back.


Jim has had enough.  Pam wants this to happen.  He knows why she wants this to happen.  And he’s gonna make sure she knows its happening.


“Andy!” Jim shouts.  He tells the regional manager about the pie suggestion.


After a rousing proclamation from the workers, Dwight’s argument is immediately shot down by Andy.


“The Dunder Mifflians have spoken!  Dwight, get this bus moving.”  There was much rejoicing.


As Pam re-enters the bus, Jim tells her “Next stop: Laverne’s Pies Tires Fixed Also.”


She gasps happily, looks at Jim and whispers “I know this isn’t what you wanted—”


“But it’s the next best thing,” he retorts with a smile.  He receives a myriad of high-fives as he walks back to his seat.


As Dwight stews at the driver’s seat, Pam walks over to him with a knowing smile.  “So it looks like this work bus was a pretty good idea after all, huh?”


“Get your foot behind the yellow line,” he curtly responds.


Darryl and Clark are left behind.  Their disappointment is evident, clearly.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Shabooyah, yah yah, shabooyah, role call!”


“My name is Pam!”

“Yeah!”

“I like to paint!”

“Yeah!”

“You think you’re better?”

“Yeah!”

“Oh no, you ain’t!”

“Roll call!”


“Shabooyah, yah yah, shabooyah, role call!”

“Shabooyah, yah yah, shabooyah, role call!”


“My name is Kevin!”

“Yeah!”

“That is my name!”

“Yeah!”

“They call me Kevin,”

“Yeah!”

“’Cause that’s my name!”

“Roll call!”


“Shabooyah, yah yah shabooyah role call!”


Dwight and Angela would rather be anywhere else.  Meanwhile, Pam notices that Jim is having the time of his life.  She did make it up to him.


Then, as if by fate, Creed shows up as a hitchhiker trying to get off work.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


As the office takes the group photo, Pam can’t help but notice Dwight.


“Has he been acting kinda weird to you lately?” she asks Jim. 


“If by lately you mean the last twelve years, yeah.”  He’s still pissed about earlier, and it’s evident. 


“No, I mean he’s sulking,” she continues, “That’s not like him.”


Jim notices this.  That isn’t like him.  “Oh, he’s just mad that we’re all having fun,” he responds. 


“Then why isn’t he scheming?  Or preparing to avenge?”

  

“He’s fine,” he tells her, “He’s indestructible.”  They both know this to be true, but she can’t help but feel guilty.


As they board the bus, Kevin does the math in his head: LaVerne’s is just barely feasible.  Dwight compounds it with them being almost out of gas and refusing to stop by a name-brand place.  Jim, annoyed that his wife won’t be getting the closure she wants, pushes him to the edge, much to Pam’s fear.  All she wants is for Jim to have fun, not make Dwight miserable.


“Dwight, we just want the pies!” Jim shouts.


“Well sorry to spoil your fantastic voyage, Jim, but it’s not happening.”


“Dwight, come on!”


Pam attempts to intervene.  “Honey, it’s okay, we can—”  It doesn’t stop Jim.


“What do we want?”

“Pies!”

“When do we want ’em?”

“Pies!”


“Okay, fine.  You win.  Jim, you win,” Dwight concedes aggressively, “We have been battling for a long time, but you know what?  You win, cause you are the winner, you are the alpha male, there you go.  Alpha male, go buy your wife a pie.  Go buy the whole world a pie!”


The cameras catch Angela, rubbing her temple.  She knows what this is about.


“That’s impossible,” he replies.


And that was the straw.


As Dwight suddenly opens the emergency exit and crawls out, Jim realizes his mistake.  Riddled with guilt, he just tells Pam “I’ll go check on him.”


He walks on the roof of the bus and kneels to him.  “Dwight, I’m sorry for what I’ve done today, but you’re being unreasonable.  Pam just wanted to make me feel better and—”


“I’m barren, Jim.”


“...What?”


“My trouser hives are void of honey.  I had congress with Angela and the child that she bore… did not issue from my loins.  I thought I would be a father and instead, I am a eunuch.  Neutered by my own building.”


He could have just said ‘Angela’s kid isn’t mine.’


“Is this about the X on the ceiling?  Dwight, that was a prank, Pam planted the popcorn.”


“... You mean you and Pam flooded my building with dangerous electromagnetic radiation as a prank?”


“No,” Jim clarifies.


Dwight lightly laughs in acknowledgment, “That’s genius.  That’s the best prank you’ve ever done.”


Jim just sighs and says “I’ll take it.”


“...Why did you two do it?”


Jim gives him the cliff notes.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Nellie is granted access to Andy’s “office” and asks him to sign.


“It’s unsignable,” Andy says.  He explains that it’s inaccurate, dishonest, and “Dongwater”.  He then sends her back and wishes her luck with her impossible dream.


“Alright then,” Nellie concedes.


Pam’s day just went from bad to worse, now tears are threatening from Nellie’s eyes.  She was about to chew Andy out… and then Erin stands up from her seat, practically rips the letter from Nellie’s hands, briskly walks over to Andy’s “desk” and nearly tears the curtain.


“You’re signing it,” she demands, keeping her voice low enough to alert the others.  (They wouldn’t listen anyway, they’re too distracted by the pie.)


“Erin—”


“No, Andy.  I don’t care how you feel about Nellie, it’s getting signed.”


“Erin, you’re making a scene.”


“I don’t care!” she shout-whispers, tears threatening to fall from her eyes, “You know how I feel about this.  Don’t do this for her, or me, or you…” she’s fighting them back, “but for the one that deserves a home.”


“Well, how do I know she’ll be a good parent?”


She’s about to break, “I’m sure she can be, but you’re not even giving her the chance.”


Then the truth floweth forth.  “Well, there are some people in this world who don’t deserve to be parents!”  He makes a face as though he’s proving a point.


Then it clicks: it was never about Nellie.  It’s about Walter Bernard, Sr.


“Andy,” she asks quietly, “Is this really about Nellie?”


He knows the answer to that question, and he doesn’t want to answer it… but he does anyway when he takes the document.


“I need to make some changes… but it’s getting signed.  And I’m sorry.”


Erin kisses him on the temple and whispers “It’s okay, you’re the best.”


She heads back to Nellie and tells her the news, Pam smiling brightly as she overhears.  After a celebratory hug, Nellie looks back at him and mouths her own ‘thank you’.  He just smiles and nods.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“...Huh, I never realized how much that sports marketing job meant to you.” Dwight says in response to his reasoning.

 

“It still does,” Jim admits. 


“At least you two have children,” Dwight mentions.


Jim never wanted to have this conversation with anyone.  Especially Dwight.  But he knows he needs to hear it.


“Dwight, sometimes it takes couples years to get pregnant,” Jim explains.


“Really?” Dwight asks, “How long did it take for you and Pam to conceive?”


“... That doesn’t matter.”


“What position did you use to conceive?  Regular or ‘lady on her back’?  You used ‘lady on her back’, didn’t you, freak?  Yuck, gross, nevermind Jim.”


Jim just wants the damn pie.


He attempts to put a different spin on it, not only for his sake but for Dwight’s.


“Did you ever think because you own the building… everyone in it,” he points out with a shrug, “We’re all kinda like your children.”


Dwight, gaining a whole new perspective, smiles, “You know there’s a phrase about that in German.  ‘Bildenkinder’.  Used almost exclusively by childless landlords to console themselves.  But now?  I really understand it.”


Jim smiles at the word.  It reminds him of Michael.  It’s a nice if very Schrute phrase.


“Well,” he advises Dwight, “now you have a bus full of real …bilden…kin…” 


“Bildenkinder.” 


“Okay… And they’re all dangerously close to not getting pie.  And there’s only one guy who can save them.  It’s not me.”


Dwight then realizes what he has to do for his real child: the office.


Jim slinks back down and Pam holds him steady.


“Hey,” she asks, “how’d it go?”


“It went well.”


“Really?” she asks, relieved.


“Yeah, we bonded, we got to—” the next thing he knows Dwight’s feet are on his shoulders, and he slinks into the bus, facing Pam.


“Are you okay?” Pam asks.


“Oh, I’m better than okay,” he grabs Pam’s shoulders, “You know what honey?  You and your husband are gonna enjoy yourselves and taste that sweet rhubarb pie.”  He then briskly heads to the driver’s seat.


Pam tries to clarify, “Well, rhubarb is the one flavor—”


“Don’t,” Jim stops her.


It was time for Dwight to channel his inner Sam Silver.


“Everybody!  Hang on!”


Chaos ensues.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


They finally get the damn pie, just in the nick of time.


Everyone’s having fun, enjoying their time together while eating some rural, home-made dessert.


Nellie looks longingly at a mother feeding her child some pie.  Andy comes back to her and wordlessly gives her back the letter.


“Thanks again, Andy, you didn’t—”


“I didn’t at first,” he says, “but… I can see you as a mother.  Better than a Special Projects Manager, at least!  Oho, FAIL!”  He points at her in victory then walks away.  She let him have this one.


She reads to the cameras, "‘She’s tough in business, but tender with the people she cares about.  She'll make a wonderful mother to any child who can overlook weird accents.’"  With tears in her eyes, she smiles brightly and tells them “I’m gonna be a mum someday.”


And that’s how Nellie and Andy’s feud finally ended.


The Halperts enjoy themselves watching Kevin getting pied (as is his want).


“Oh my God, I’m so stuffed,” Pam says.


“Best idea ever, Beesly.”


“So, Dwight’s okay now?”


“Yeah, he is.  All I told him was I was down about Athlead and you just wanted to help.  Sorry, I overshared.”

 

“Nah, you bonded, remember?” she beams at him, “You did it.”


He beams back, “You did it.”


She compromises, “We did it.”  She then leans on his shoulder and he kisses her head.


Being part of Dwight’s Bildenkinder has its perks.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“My name is Andy!”

“yeh.”

“I don’t do drugs!”

“yeh.”

“Now check my style!”

“yeh.”

“Of Flatt and Scruggs!”

“...yeh.”


As Andy strums his banjo, Darryl just and moves on with his day.


“Role call.”

“Role call.”

“Role call.”

“What?”


End Notes:

So, the key difference here is the JAM conflict.  They're both extremely desperate to make the other happy, which will be a constant theme in the story... and ironically fan the flames of their communication problems.

Also, Erin.  Knowing her, I was shocked that she wasn't as proactive in-canon.  Of course I see her in tears, but knowing what she's been through, she needed to tell him up front why he needs to sign it.

NEXT TIME: It's Halloween!  Dwight instigates an investigation, Andy attempts to reclaim his glory days, Oscar has a brief encounter with the Senator, and Jim makes an investment.  Look out, Treble is Coming...

Here Comes Treble by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Got "Dwight Christmas" done already, an absolute joy to write.  I've started "Lice", but I'm probably getting writer's burnout, unfortunately.  After focusing on other interests, I can come back at this with a clear head.  Mostly because I'm finding it more difficult to really capture these character's personalities and translate them into my own writing.  Maybe will post chapters in the meantime.

I desperately want to get to "Customer Loyalty" and the infamous argument, because that is where everything will change.  I've actually prepared the chapter that immediately follows it, a subsequent one like "Miami"; those will be posted at the same time.

For most episodes, I'm having the events take place during the day they aired, so all of this happens on October 25, 2012.

Enjoy this while I'm taking a short break.

“I went to Cornell. Ever heard of it? I graduated in four years, I never studied once, I was drunk the whole time, and I sang in the a cappella group, Here Comes Treble.” — Andy Bernard


Dwight had the perfect Halloween prank to get into the spirit of things: carve a jack-o-lantern and wear it as a helmet.  He managed to get a spook out of Erin — one who scares far too easily — who was none too happy.  It was almost foolproof!


… Almost.


Jim, participating in a game of “Why am I still working here?” for the 46,853rd time, reluctantly decided to help Dwight in getting the pumpkin off of his head.


Brute force?  Nope.

Using a knife?  Nah, that’ll prove dangerous.

A baseball bat?  That would give Dwight another concussion.  Although Jim did prefer Concussion Dwight over the regular one.


Dwight did manage to succeed, through lack of vision while driving.  A blessing in disguise.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Andy’s life is a wreck, and Erin can tell.


After meeting his family, she’s deduced that they are probably the worst family imaginable.  Their pompousness and absolute distasteful behavior are astounding.  They’re the type of people that she hears about that go to extravagant country clubs and are subtly unsubtle about their racism.  She thought those types of people didn’t exist, until now.


And their absolute belittlement of their son is worse.  The fact there was a “Walter Jr.” was already a red flag, but the constant comparisons… it was awful.


But there’s one thing Andy has, something that can never be taken from him, something that — despite everything — was a great decision made by his parents: Cornell University.  His time at Cornell changed him, made him a better person (well, so did anger management), and defined who he is.  He’s well-spoken, intelligent, charming, and classy.  He does make a great replacement for Michael Scott (even though Michael didn’t initially trust him).  However, with his world crumbling around him, he fears he’s gonna fall to the cracks.


But Cornell?  No one, no one, can take that away from him.


Erin is worried about him.  She hasn’t seen him this bad since he got fired.  She wants to be — no, needs to be there for him.  But… she has a lot to deal with, too.  She wants to find her parents and is considering doing so but she’s too afraid; Jim didn’t dress up in costume, again; everyone’s confused her for a dog instead of a puppy; and beyond that… the pressure on her to be the rock in this relationship is a lot.  A whole lot.  This is way more intense than she ever— 


No.  She’s being selfish.  She has to be strong.  She will be strong.  For him.


And that strength is about to be tested.


Andy enters the office in his George Michael costume, excited for what he’s about to reveal to the office.


“You guys look great!” he announces, “Just a reminder that the party’s after lunch, so make sure you get it done before that.”  He then asks the office if they’ve seen any ‘treble’.


The entire office deduces what’s about to happen and simultaneously thinks to themselves ‘Oh God’.


In walks eight dapper young lads singing Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’, a cappella.  That’s right, folks, Here Comes Treble!


About half of the office is getting into it, while the other half just look on.


“What lab did these little clones escape from?” Dwight asks.


“To be honest, I don’t think Dwight’s wrong,” Pete tells the interviewer, “I mean, I knew Andy is not at his best right now, the entire office knows that but… wow, Erin is a trooper.”


“My Cornell a cappella group!” Andy answers.


“You were in an a cappella group?” Pam asks facetiously.


“You went to Cornell?” Darryl joins.


“Yeah, okay, ha ha ha ha,” Andy responds.  He elaborates that HCT is going to do a set during their Halloween party.  Andy’s wish — or rather his goal — is for them to call him up to solo on George Michael’s ‘Faith’, one of his signature songs.  Why?  Because when he joined HCT when he got the nickname “Boner Champ”, that is when he became The Iceman, The Nard Dog, Andrew Bernard.


The interactions between Andy and HCT are… something.  They just came to perform a set, not have some “intergenerational bro time”.  The break room is pretty nice.  Free WiFi.


However, things take a turn for the worse when one of them reveals that he thought Broccoli Rob was the Boner Champ.


No.  No, he wasn’t.  No, he was not!


He has to settle this, here and now, so he video chats with Broccoli Rob about the situation.


“I’m so sorry!” Rob apologizes, “I don’t know how this could have happened!”  Somehow, things just got hanky.


“Can you call them and just tell them the truth?” Andy asks, “‘Cause I know it’s really stupid, but it’s also really really really important.”  It’s not.


“Will do,” Rob assures, “I love you, Andy.”


“Love you too.”


HCT gets the call, they now know Andy is the Boner Champ.  (They didn’t want nor need to know this, but they have that information now.)  And now they know the story behind it too; it involved a snowman.  They wish Andy never told them.


Erin, ever the rock in the relationship, confronts the boys and tells them to do ‘Faith.’  They don’t know it, but she doesn’t care.  This is what Andy wants, so this is what he’ll get.  And, thanks to an impromptu performance from HCT, he’s going to.  He’s gonna do it, he’s gonna show all his friends and coworkers his signature song— 


Broccoli Rob shows up on the TV.  It’s his signature song, according to HCT.  ROBS song, huh?!  ‘FAITH’ ISNT ROBS SIGNATURE SONG AND HE KNOWS THIS!


Oh, and one of them thought Andy was Adam Lambert.  Swell.


“Shut up, Broccoli,” Andy snaps.


“Champ, I feel awful about this whole thing,” Rob claims, “Russel called me up, and they said they needed 20 CCs of George Michael, stat.”  Erin is wondering what that sentence even means.


“A man’s signature solo is his life, okay?” Andy argues, “That’s group policy and you know it.”


Erin realizes this is getting out of hand, so she just… unplugs the TV.  Ever the rock.  She explains to the camera why she’s even putting up with all of this in the first place.


“The more I hear about all this a capella drama, the more I think it’s kinda pathetic.”  Because it is.  “But when you’re with someone, you put up with the stuff that makes you lose respect for them.”  You dont.  “And that is love.”  It isnt.


She says some pretty ridiculous things, but in this case, she knows what she’s saying is ridiculous.  But she says it.  For Andy.


“What am I gonna do, move back to Cornell?” he asks jokingly.  She giggles, she knows he’s kidding.  “I mean what if we did that?”  Oh no, hes not kidding.  “Like we got jobs and we were happy all the time?”  This is his vision of the perfect life… one that Erin certainly doesn’t share.  Little does he know that one day his vision will come to fruition.


Erin hasn’t thought about the future, but she knows it doesn’t involve Cornell.  But, yeah, it could totally work though.


He decides to donate, much to Erin’s chagrin, though she hides it under a supportive laugh.  Because he needs to donate, he absolutely must.  He is the Boner Champ.  Cornell will not be taken from him, even by Broccoli Rob.


He decides to call his mom to donate to Cornell’s A Cappella program.  She suddenly gives him the worst news he has ever heard and will ever hear.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Clark is trying desperately to get Andy to like him.  The sooner he gets Andy to like him, the better off he’ll be.  He’s already stressed; neither he nor Pete knew how much the office is enthralled with Halloween, most everyone in extravagant costumes.


So he does everything he can.  He tells Andy how amazing HCT are and how into it he is and how are they making this magic with just their mouths?  (That’s what she said, adds Creed.)


“Am I overdoing it?” Clark asks the interviewers, “No, no.”


“Yes, he is,” Pete tells the interviewer, “I mean, sure I want him to succeed, but… okay, it’s like rooting for Rocky but he repeatedly trips down the stairs every time he gets back up.”


Creed’s just glad it’s Halloween, that is really good timing.


“I don’t think Creed knew it was Halloween,” Pete whispers to the cameras in fear.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Dwight owns Jim by comparing him to a box of Nerds candy (making Erin nearly pee herself in the process).  As he picks up the spilled candy, he notices a pill on the floor.  With his fake pig nose, he manages to sniff out exactly what it is… Dumatril.


“Dumatril is licensed to treat anxiety symptoms, such as panic attacks, excessive worrying, and fear,” Dwight explains.  This leads to one conclusion: “There’s a madman in our midst.”


Meanwhile, Nellie shows her new costume to Pam: ‘Sexy Toby’.  It’s a costume that no one asked for but happened anyway.


“Ohohoho, gross!” Pam laughs, “I love it.”


Dwight interrupts the friends’ bonding with a proclamation of ‘Dumatril’... freezing Nellie in her tracks.


“Okay, this is a pill that combats insanity, okay?”, Dwight argues, “Whoever is taking it is not only insane…” and in a deep whisper he says, “they are now off their meds.”


“Dwight, our co-workers’ health issues are really none of our business,” Nellie refutes.  She’s right, but that’s not why she says that.


“It’s my pill,” she reveals to the interviewer, “I have an anxiety issue and I’m not ashamed of that… but I’m not loving the idea of Dwight having that information.  I once saw him yell at Phyllis for sneezing wrong.”


Nellie is now put in a position where she joins him on his fool’s crusade.


“You can just say it’s Creeds,” Pam whispers.

“No, no, no I couldn’t do that, no… no no this is my thing and I’m not gonna finger anyone else.”  Thats what she said.


Pam offers some practical advice: Dwight’s wound up, so let him ride it out until he gets tired.  She and Jim do that with Cece all the time.


After they “question” some coworkers, Dwight and Nellie “confront” Darryl by seeing if he can buy into his portrayal of insanity… which is probably Dwight’s worst plan to apprehend someone yet.  Oh, and it involved Dwight smearing peanut butter on his face.  Darryl just makes a meal of it because he knows this is as productive as he’ll be all day.


After Nellie gets complimented by Toby with her novel choice in costume (which wasn’t nearly as awkward as one would assume), Dwight gets her to focus on the pill.


Nellie is fed up at this point.  “Okay, look, Dwight, let’s just call this thing off.  I mean, it’s just an anxiety pill.  Lots of people have anxiety.”


“You think I don’t have anxiety?” Dwight explains, “I have anxiety all the time.  Every waking moment of my life is sheer torture.  I have land disputes I’ve got to settle and idiot cousins to protect.  And ne’er-do-well siblings to take care of.  But I don’t need some stupid pill to get me through all this.”


He does have that list of problems to deal with, and he does have anxiety.  But that list of problems is not why he has anxiety.


Meredith walks in and tries to take the pill (because it’s Meredith) and Dwight has caught his culprit… until Nellie gets Meredith out of his oversized net, grabs the pill, and takes it in front of him.


“Oh Dwight, look, it’s just a pill, all right?” Nellie tells him, “It’s for anxiety, I take it every day, and it makes me feel better.”


She looks at his solemn face, knowing that he’s hurt inside.  She doesn’t know what it is, but she knows it has nothing to do with settling land disputes or rambunctious family members.


So she decides to help out her friend, “And maybe it could help you too.”


And, later that night, she succeeds in helping him.


“I need some of those pills,” Dwight whispers.


“Oh,” Nellie says, “well good for you. I mean, you’ll need a prescription.”


“Oh, no, no, no.  They’re not for me,” Dwight clarifies, “They’re for my cousin Mose.  He’s just having a tough time, being wifeless, and a high-pressure job and his crazy cousin Mose.”  He blows his cover, but at this point, he doesn’t seem to care.  “Other cousin Mose.”


“Mm, got it,” she responds, “Well, you tell Mose that he’s a good man and that I hope he feels better.”


“Which one?  Mose or the real Mose?”


“The real Mose.”


Dwight just simply replies, “He says thank you.”


As Dwight walks away, Pam walks up to her desk as she takes off her wig.  “Did he get worn out?”


“Oh yeah, he just… wanted to see about getting a prescription for his cousin Mose.”


“Right,” Pam responds knowingly, “Mose.”


Nellie was afraid she wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the office.  And now, they’re asking for her advice.  They’re helping her through her own life and them in return.  They’re being friendly and kind to her.  After being the “new boss” that no one liked, she finally finds a place here.


Some of her anxiety has been lifted.  And it isn’t the Dumatril’s doing.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Any questions?” Andy asks.


“The Senator will be joining us later!” Angela proudly announces.


“Not a question,” Andy responds.


“No, no it wasn’t.”


“Excellent!”


Oscar has been dreading this moment.  He knew, at some point, that he would have to see these two in the same room.  He knows how this is going to go later on, and he’s dreading it.  All he wants is to back out of this, to tell Lipton it’s over, he’s done, and the sooner he wakes up and quietly divorces his wife the better.  But Lipton… he didn’t get into politics with just a pretty face.  He’s smart, he’s tactful, he knows what to say and how to say it.  And that’s why Oscar keeps coming back.


To him, Lipton is — in more ways than one — irresistible.


As the party was in full swing, in walks Lipton, Ronald Reagan to Angela’s Nancy.


“And I told Phyllis not to put it out,” she tells him, “but she insisted, so…” Even all these years later there’s still party planning community drama.


“Anyway, hi— Oh! Oscar,” she says, “you remember my husband, the Senator.”


He does.  Oh Lordy, he does.


“Senator Lipton, nice to see you again,” Oscar greets, trying too hard to keep his cool.


“Nice to see you, Oscar,” he returns in his cumbersome Reagan mask.


While Angela complains about the spread of snacks (like she hasn’t done that 100 times already), both men have a chat.


Lipton takes off his mask, “So Oscar, you’re a dinosaur.”


“Actually I’m the electoral college,” Oscar jokes.


“Ouch,” Lipton replies, “right on target.”


Oscar prays that Angela breaks up the conversation, but instead she goes and berates Phyllis yet again.


“God it’s just so good to see you,” he tells him in that voice.  That damn voice, in the middle of a crowd full of people.  It’s like he’s not even trying!  Oscar thinks Lipton’s acting like neither his nor Angela’s feelings matter to him.


He’s acting like they don’t matter because, to him, they don’t.


During HCT’s rendition of Rose Royce’s ‘Car Wash’, he tempts Oscar into a personal conversation, and he wisely refuses, because Angela is right there!


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pam was proud of her costume.  She wants Cece to follow her dreams no matter what she pursues, but she thinks it wouldn’t hurt to introduce the prospect of her pursuing something in STEM.  However, in that two-year-old mind of hers, the only thing that mattered is her favorite princess, Cinderella.  So, in the Halpert household, Cindy becomes an oncologist after happily ever after.


Jim doesn’t have a costume.  Again.  Erin’s disappointed, but he has a good reason.


Jim explains to the interviewer, “So the sports marketing business that I helped establish.”


“Athlead,” Pam adds.


“Right.  Well, there’s a big investment lunch today which Mark invited me to, so I decided to skip the costume.”


“We want to help invest,” Pam explains, “so we agreed on some money.”


“And she is amazing for even considering this in the first place,” Jim says smiling.


She smiles back, “Well, I mean it was your idea just as much as Mark’s.”


“Yes, yes it is.”


She smirks, “Not gonna let that go, are you?”


“No, no I won’t.”


Before he leaves for lunch, he just has to make sure.


“Are you sure you’re okay with me putting in this much money?” he asks.


“Yes,” she explains, “I mean, listen, if we’re gonna contribute then we might as well go for it.”


“You’re the best,” he says with a smile.


“I kinda am,” she smiles brightly.


“I’ll see you in a little bit.”


“Okay.”


He kisses her on the temple and walks off but not before getting an earshot of Dwight’s schoolyard joke.


“Look, Jim, I’m eating you!” he jokes proudly while eating a box of Nerds.


“Shut up,” Jim apathetically retorts.


The lunch goes very well thus far.  Seeing Mark again was great, and Colin — the infamous “other guy” — really knows what he’s doing.  As much as he sees himself in Athlead, he knows Colin is gonna do a better job as the President of New Acquisitions than he would.  So at the very least, there’s some evidence stacked for him backing out.


“So the workspace looks awesome,” Wade says.


“And the graphic designer is gonna be sending in some of the logo treatments,” Isaac adds, “can’t wait to see them.”


“You guys rock,” Colin affirms, and all five men awkwardly fist bump.


“I’ve also been running the numbers,” Isaac says, “and between our backers and our own investments, we’re looking great for a full year on this.”


Jim hears this and thinks… this sounds amazing.  Better than amazing!  If he and Pam were to go all-in on this, this would be an astounding opportunity for them!  This could mean he could have everything he’s ever wanted—


“With all the factors we have to contend with for this to work, itd… itd be far too much.  Especially for the kids.  And you know that, right?”


He does.  He does.  The fact that she even agreed to this is a blessing in it of itself.  But… What if he invests that much?  What if it turns out that’s the right move?


What if calling Mark back was the right move?


“Oh, uh, is it too late to get in?” Jim pipes up.  This is his chance.


“Jim, I explained everything, so you’re all set,” Mark explains.


“Oh no, I actually talked to my wife and we’d really like to, you know, invest.”


“Wow, well, what level of investment are you thinking about?” Isaac asks.


“...We were thinking of” $10,000 “$5,000?”


“Alright, welcome aboard!” Colin says.


“All right,” Jim chuckles, “Awesome, cool.”


He returns just in time for Here Comes Trebel’s debut Dunder Mifflin performance.


“Hey, how’d it go?” Pam asks happily.


“Oh man, it was great,” he tells her, excitedly, “They were great.”  It was all great.  So damn great.


“Did you end up investing?” 


“I did, yeah.”


“How much?”


“Five thousand,” he answers, “Are you sure that’s not too much?  Because I can—”


“I mean, it is what we agreed on,” she says, “I want this to succeed just as much as you.”  He knows she does, but that pesky doubt creeps in his mind.  “Besides, it’s not like you went all-in and invested most of our savings.”


He could have.  And he was about to.  And he’s so tempted to refute her statement.

‘Look at how much they’ve done already.’

‘It was clear that $10,000 is what we agreed to.’

‘I need to look like a team player.’

‘You weren’t there.’

But none of that was smart.  So he just bites his tongue and continues.


He’s well aware of his shortcomings, that he jumps in and wants to take chances… but sometimes those chances pay off.  Despite how insurmountable the risk is, it can pay off.  Immensely.  No, buying the house without Pam’s input wasn’t the best idea in hindsight, but it paid off, just like Athlead could.  He knows Pam, and she was like this once upon a time.  Fancy New Beesly.  He wonders what happened to her, and he hopes she can show back up one of these days.


Despite all these running thoughts, he realizes that he has Mama Beesly.  And as long as there’s a Beesly in his life, he’s happy.  “You really are the best,” he says with a smile.  She beams back.


As HCT serenades Pam with Edwin McCain’s ‘I’ll Be’, she tries to get into their performance.  But she notices that Jim’s looking at the floor.  She just wonders what’s up.


She finds out near the end of the party, both Halperts discuss HCT’s ‘Monster Mash’ performance with Kevin and Angela.


“That song obviously glorifies the occult,” Angela condemns.


“Oh come on, Angela, ‘Monster Mash’ is a classic!” Kevin argues.


“Sure it is Kev,” Jim pipes up, “but when you hear it long enough, it gets old.”


Pam senses he’s talking more than just ‘Monster Mash’.  “What do you mean?”


“Well,” Jim says, “there are other Halloween songs that aren’t ‘Monster Mash’, songs that are probably better than ‘Monster Mash’.”


“Sure, there are better songs,” Pam adds, “but ‘Monster Mash’ is tradition, it’s safe, it’s comfortable.  I mean, you can always bet on ‘Monster Mash’, no matter what.”


Jim nods and concedes, “No doubt about that.”


Pam walks over to him and whispers “Are you okay?”


He sighs, “Yeah, just… that lunch got me thinking about some things.”


“Okay,” she responds.  She knows they’ll address it later.


Kevin tells the interviewer that he never realized ‘Monster Mash’ was such a hot-button topic.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The Halperts walk to their Outback after saying their goodnights, the cameras managing to catch their conversation.


Pam checks on him.  “Look, whatever it is you’re feeling… it’s okay to feel that.”


He smiles and just wraps his arm around her waist, “I know.  But, listen… I want Athlead.  A lot.  But I need you.  This,” he says, pointing to the two of them, “matters.  And it’s the only thing that matters.”


He can’t help but think he can have both.


Pam returns Jim’s words with the kiss.  They smile as they depart.

“Far above the busy humming

Of the bustling town,”


Lipton and Oscar have that private conversation, where he compliments him on his costume… and they kiss.  It was wonderful, as always.

“Reared against the arch of heaven,

Looks she proudly down.”


Andy sulks out of his office.


“What’s wrong?” Erin asks, concerned.


“My parents are broke.”

“Lift the chorus, speed it onward,

Loud her praises tell;”


As Oscar walks back inside, he notices that the cameras just caught Ronald Reagan make out with a dinosaur.


His shame is insurmountable.

“Hail to thee, our Alma Mater!

Hail, all hail, Cornell!”


End Notes:

Can I just say, I forgot how much of a downer this episode is?  I mean, my word.  JAM during the first three seasons didn't have this much angst.

Speaking of which, they're clearly not communicating, and it shows.  And that's mostly on Jim; he's one who avoids conflict at all cost, so of course he's not going to say anything that'll upset Pam, especially regarding Athlead.  I hope I conveyed that well enough, since communication is not really their strongest suit.  Everything else is pretty canon.

NEXT TIME: Andy sets sail to his mental breakdown after the Bernard family crumbles, Kevin can't keep a secret, and Jim & Friends pull one last prank on Dwight.

The Boat by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:
Got "Lice" done.  I think that's how I'm gonna do this from now on: be three to four chapters ahead and when I'm done with my current chapter, I post the earlier one.  

“Yeah, I just moved it an inch every time he went to the bathroom.  And thats how I spent my entire day that day.” — Jim Halpert


“Andy’s family had a total meltdown,” Pam tells the interviewer, “His dad blew through all their money and took off to Argentina with a younger woman.”


“And his brother, Walt Jr., locked himself in the wine cellar,” Jim adds. 


“The weirdest part is Andy.  The aftermath got dumped on him and the way he’s been handling it is just so… “


“Competent!”


“Right?”


Andy, for the first time, has to take charge of the situation.  He’s trying his best, and Erin couldn’t be prouder of him for doing so, but the fact he’s having to do all of this in the first place… why?  Why does he have to take the fall for their mistakes?  Why does he have to burden all this pain, all this turmoil, all this planning in attempting to somehow salvage the fallen Bernard Empire?


It didn’t help that Meredith attempted to get in his brother’s pants.


“Are the ‘Nards hurting?” he tells the interviewer, “Yeah, you bet.  Got kicked pretty hard.  Family shattered, super sad.  But, I’m kinda crushing it in the damage control department.  So, that’s cool. I wish my dad could see me now.  Of course, he caused this whole mess, so, f*** him.”


Andy has never hated his father more.  They never speak to each other again.


Later on, accountant Oscar, A.R.M. Darryl, and girlfriend Erin assist Andy in picking up the pieces.


“Alright, guys,” Andy says, “A lot of assets here that my dad couldn’t steal.  Now, first of all, there is the family boat.  43 foot Tartan Sloop.  My lawyer has lined up a buyer in the Bahamas, the sale would cover the cost of a condo and living expenses for my mom.”


They all agree it’s the best option.


“Totally, except it is a no-go,” Andy argues, “This boat was the heart and soul of the family.  So...what else we got?  Non-boat ideas.”


The boat should stay, right?  Because if it does, the Bernard name means something, right?  Without that boat, Andy’s life would be in shambles… right?


After Oscar plays another game of “Don’t say a damn word, Kevin!”, he returns to the conversation.


“She could get like sixty packages of Ramen noodles for five bucks,” Erin mentions, “She could eat for a month.”


“Alright, what’s the grand total?”, Andy asks, “Did we make our nut?” 


“If we sell everything but the boat, your mom should be set for about six months,” Darryl answers. 


“Guys, you don’t understand, this boat’s been in our family since before I was born.”


Erin tries to vouch for Andy, but Darryl’s Jiffy Lube experiences put the kibosh on that.  Andy relents: the boat must go.  Is he upset about it?  Not really.  Except he is.


When Pete drops by the front desk to fax something, Erin wears watermelon teeth to cheer up Andy.


“But, it’s a girlfriend’s job to know her man and I know Andy,” she laughs, “He has a juvenile sense of humor.”


“...Cool,” Pete says awkwardly, then posits, “He’s like 40 though, right?” 


“Oh no, he couldn’t be more than late 30s. Tops.” 


He just… stares.  “Awesome.  Have fun.”


“So I just found out that Erin doesn’t even know her own boyfriend’s age,” Pete tells the interviewer, “This, and with the boss’ life crumbling before his eyes… just damn.  I hope he gets the help he needs.  I needed it."


The teeth don’t make him feel better.  To Erin, this scares her.  Yeah, he’s juvenile, but… that’s Andy!  It’s who she loves.  But… his darn family did this to him, made him a shell of his former self.  But, remember, she’s the rock.  It’s her job to raise him, make him smile, help him in any way she can.  This is her responsibility.  No one else’s.


She invites him to lunch, but no avail.


“All I ever wanted to do was sail the damn thing,” Andy laments, “But dad wouldn't let me.  Said ‘You can’t be a skipper until you’re a man.’  You know, I'd reach for the wheel and he'd smack my hand away.  Well, guess what?  Now I'm the man of the family and... we're selling the damn thing.  So I'm never gonna have the chance.”


Andy was insufferable before anger management.  And this anecdote, this “happy memory”, is one of the reasons why.  But, Erin has a solution!


“Well, when does the boat leave, exactly?” she asks.


“Tonight.”


“Then screw lunch,” she says with tenacity, “Let’s go for a sunset sail.”

“Yeah right.  It’s in Stamford, Connecticut.  We have to leave like right now.” 


“Ok, well then let’s leave like right now.”


She managed to talk him into it.  She’ll finally make him feel better!


And the boat is beautiful!  It’s bigger than she thought!  And pristine!  She was shocked that this is how his family came to America.  (They would come to America in a boat like this.)


But that damn passive-aggressive, horrible, mean boat guy is keeping him from this!  He wants to sail it, Erin wants him to sail it!  And he’s not letting him!  F*** IT!  SCREW YOU, DAD!


All it takes is Erin to remind him that he is the captain now.  No, he won’t get the deposit back, because he’s gonna sail to the Bahamas himself, he paid for all the supplies in the boat, and nothing’s gonna stop him.


And now, he has a crew!  A hungover Walter Jr. and Andy are gonna sail across the seas.  Two brothers bonding on a boat, only the two of them, one last joyride for the both of them before they must say goodbye to it.  Again, nothing’s gonna stop them.


Not even Erin.


“Erin, this is because of you,” Andy says proudly, “Do you realize that?  You’re the best ever!”


“Oh, you know,” she says as she walks on the dock, trying to hide her disappointment, “Just being a good girlfriend.”


“Good?  Come on,” he compliments as he sets sail, “Above and beyond.  World’s Greatest.  You did this!  Dammit, I’m happy!”


She did do it.  And now she’s regretting it.


“I’ll see you in three weeks!” Andy shouts.  If “weeks” was replaced with “months”, he’d be correct.


“Yes, I am very pleased I did help Andy,” she admits to the cameras, “Would I have gone with him if he’d asked me?  On his sailboat cruise to the Caribbean?  Yes.”  But he didnt.  “I think it would have been really fun and romantic.”  It would.


She’s extremely disappointed.  As much as she tries to hide it, it’s evident to anyone who can see.  She wanted to do something with him, something that told Andy that she’s here for him now and always.  And now… it’s like she doesn’t even matter.  That his familial issues — issues that she wants to help him through, she needs to help him through — made him forget she was even there.  But, in the end… it gives her time to think.  About a lot of things.  And, in retrospect, she’s thankful he left without her.

The first thing she thinks is… did she ever matter?


As she packs up for work, Pete invites her to Poor Richard’s for some beers and pool, having heard of what happened and thinking she might need a pick-me-up.  She politely declines, and he completely understands why.  She needs some time to think.


She wouldn’t like Flipper anyway.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Oscar notices the cameras following him as he walks to work; he smiles at them awkwardly, but he knows it has to be addressed.


“Can you guys come with me for a minute?” he asks the crew.


“I know you saw me with the Senator,” Oscar explains, “I think I’m in love, possibly for the first time.  So yes, Senator Lipton and I are having an affair.  I hope that I can count on your sensitivity, maturity, and discretion.”


And, as if on cue, Kevin walks around the corner, so shocked that he doesn’t even notice his ice cream falling off his cone until three seconds later.


Oscar simply asks “Why?”, not to Kevin, but God.


He then walks him to the middle of the stairwell, hoping to God that he’ll keep his mouth shut.


“Kevin, listen to me,” Oscar presses, “I’m in love with the Senator, and I need time to sort this out in a responsible manner so I need your help in keeping it a secret because this means the world to me.  Okay?”


Kevin replies that he really wants to and for him to always remember that.  Oscar doesn’t know what that means.


He’ll learn soon enough.


As the day goes on, a series of poorly-timed events turned Oscar’s life into a never-ending battle of damage control.


Of course, the damn copier got jammed, so Angela says “This day couldn’t get any worse.”


“Oh, I think it can get worse!” Kevin responds through his laugh.


“What does that mean?” she asks.


As soon as he sees Oscar’s frustration from the conference room, he responds to her with “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and a thumbs up at Oscar.  Mission accomplished!


It gets worse when Kevin forgot to order more 11-38 forms.


“Literally nothing you do could surprise me anymore,” Angela chastises him.


“Oh, oh really, Angela?  That’s interesting.  Cause I do think that I could surprise you.  I think that I could surprise you—” he is shut up by Oscar and then shouts “I have to use the bathroom!” and runs off.  (This was the best cover, by the way.)


It gets worse when Angela brags about her corrupt, cheating, beautiful husband yet again.


“The Senator is exhausted,” she begins, “This campaign is wearing him out.”


“That’s a tough one,” Oscar responds.  


“That man he’s up against is so dirty.  And the Senator’s just pushing back as hard as he can.”


Of course, Kevin is stupid but no idiot, as his mind catches on to the innuendos from these sentences, and he begs her to stop.


The last one was the kicker.  “Anyways,” she continues, “last night he was tired and just wanted a little Mexican brought in.”  Kevin just walks away laughing.


It’s at this moment that both Oscar and Kevin realize that Oscar’s in big trouble.


Oscar, in a bid of desperation, claims to Toby that he is committing fraud.  And he’s not proud of it.  But… he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.


Kevin, thinking he’s getting a big promotion with his own office, readies to walk towards the annex, saying that he won’t reveal his secret.  He’s been really worried about that.


And with this, Oscar has to make things right.  He interrupts the meeting, hands Kevin the snack machine money, and talks to Toby himself.


“We had a fight and I acted vindictively,” Oscar admits.


Toby just sighs quietly, “I knew it.  I knew it from the beginning it was possible.”  He then admits to Oscar that he was pressured himself to convict an innocent man, one labeled the infamous Scranton Strangler.


Kevin, naturally, did not get that promotion.  And, as if on cue, in walks Lipton.


“Oh my God!” Kevin exclaims.


This is it, my life is gonna fall into pieces.


“Honey!”, Angela greets, “What’re you doing here?”


“I just had a little intuition that someone I loved needed a little bit of attention today,” he responds.


I love you, Robert, but you need to shut the hell up.


Oscar flinches away when Lipton touches his shoulder, leaving Angela confused and a bit offended.  He tries to explain himself when Kevin opens his big mouth.


“Come on Oscar, we’re not just gonna sit here and ignore the obvious.”


DearGodnopleasenopleasenople—


“Senator Lipton has a big election next week,” Kevin announces, “We all need to give him our support!”  He got the whole office clapping for Lipton, cheering him on, “U-S-A!  U-S-A!”


“I have to say I’m impressed with Kevin,” Oscar tells the interviewer, “Uh… he showed a lot of self-control.”


When Kevin’s sitting in the same seat, after realizing he forgot about the affair, he just laughs, “Oscar is having sex with the Senator and Angela doesn’t even know,” he says through his laughter, “Her life is a complete sham!”


In a way, it’s downright hilarious.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pam looks over at Jim, who’s lost in his work.  Again, she’s perceptive.


“Jim’s been rather quiet,” Pam admits to the interviewer, “I can tell he’s not himself.  This whole Athlead thing hit him harder than I thought.  Thankfully he’s caught up with his work and has some free time.  So Nellie and I decided he needs to have some fun today, as does the rest of the office.”


Oh, and Nellie knows most all of Jim’s pranks, thanks to her and Pam’s friendship; she is astounded by his mad genius.


Pam’s “on the phone” with a local radio station (thanks to Nellie’s cell), “Oh, great!  Yeah, um, I'll get right back to you.”  She hangs up and announces, “Hey guys!  Anyone ever heard of Iris Black on the radio?”  She discusses an opportunity that Ms. Black wants someone from Dunder Mifflin to appear on her radio show, ‘Biz Whiz’.


Naturally, Dwight volunteers himself.


“The media can make you famous,” Dwight explains to the interviewer, “And do you have any idea how easy it is to sell something when you’re famous?  ‘Uh, yeah wow.  10 reams of 40-pound bond at only $690 after discount?  Um, whatever you say, Brad Pitt.’  It’s that easy.”


As Dwight does his voice exercises for his time on the radio, everyone gets annoyed, especially Jim.


“Dwight!” Jim yells, louder than he wanted to.


“Hey, hey!” Dwight asserts, “Stop questioning my methods, OK?  I was chosen for this task for a very good reason.”


“No, you chose yourself,” Jim tells the camera, infuriated.


After Dwight walks off, Pam gets another call.


Pam’s “on the phone” again, “Oh, OK.  No problem.  Thanks.”  She announces the bad news, “Hey guys, WPTU called.  The interview’s off.  They're opening a new cupcake store at the Steamtown Mall and Iris wants to cover that, so…” she shrugs disappointedly.  


“Well, why don’t I go and tell Dwight so he can stop being such a complete nipple,” Nellie says as she walks off to tell him.


“Ugh, he’s gonna be disappointed,” Pam says, feigning her own disappointment. 


“Yes,” Jim posits, “He is.  And you know what?  We cannot let that happen.”


Nellie and Pam smile at each other knowingly.  Jim Halpert, prank master, has returned.


Everything was set up in the conference room: Nellie has the speakerphone, Jim has the cue cards, Darryl provides the music, and Pam bides her time.


“Iris, let me tell you,” Dwight tells “Iris” through the speakerphone, “David Wallace is the C.E.O., but he’s not hands-on.”  A lot like Dwight to throw others under the bus to make himself look good.


Only after listening to a handful of broadcasts on her way to work, Nellie’s impression is impeccable, “So the day-to-day operations are entirely under your command?”


“Entirely is the perfect way to describe it, Iris.”


Jim’s cue cards were excellent, setting up a convoluted series of events that are just realistic enough for Dwight to believe.

— First off, they manage to get Dwight to de-robe in the breakroom, claiming that his clothes are causing interference with the call.

— Secondly, with Phyllis in the audience, they convince Dwight that the paper is toxic, thanks to Pam’s role as Sandra Mick and Jim’s well-performed freakout (complemented with his signature smirk).

— And then, they convince him that the stocks are plummeting so hard that they call for Dwight’s resignation, him throwing David Wallace under the bus (as Kevin watches him, also disrobed).  Even Jim, after all his interactions with Dwight, does not believe what he’s hearing.

— Lastly, Jim, playing Detective Bill Jackson (A character that Darryl does not appreciate) tells him that Wallace is going to be arrested for his crimes, and Dwight — trying to save his reputation — calls him and puts him on the show!  David, ignorant of all of this, just asks Dwight to not call him on his cell anymore.


And, as Dwight enters the main office, he is met with thunderous applause.


“Overall, I'd say my first radio interview went pretty much the way I expected,” Dwight tells the interviewer.


At the end of the day, the Halperts walk to the car.


“Jim, that was brilliant!” Pam exclaims.


“You planned this, didn’t you?” Jim asks knowingly.


How could he have guessed?  “What do you mean—?”


“I saw Nellie using her cell under her desk when Iris called back.”


Dammit, Nellie!  “Look, you’ve just been so down and—”


“Pam, we’ve been over this,” he says with an understanding smile.


“I know but, at the very least I want you to have fun while you’re here!”


“I did have fun.”  Pam smiles.  “But… I think this will be my swan song.  I mean… how else are we gonna top that?  Besides, Dwight’s kinda like a friend, maybe, of sorts.”


She nods.  “Yeah, he is.”


Jim wraps his arm around her and kisses her on the head, “Thank you.”


He lets go and they walk to the Outback happily.  Jim ending the pranks, for now at least, is a smart move, since he’ll soon be facing the biggest crisis of his life…


End Notes:

This one... yeah, it's plot summary.  There some added bits for the AU here and there, and a hint at what's to come, but yeah.  Honestly, the episode itself is worth a watch.  One of the highlights of S9, and a good Nellie episode.

NEXT TIME: It's Movember!  Jim loses a big client, Oscar and Angela spy on the Senator, and Pam and Dwight have a frightening reunion...

The Whale by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Absolutely no progress.  Between school and work, there won't be something done until like the weekend probably.  I wanted to post this one in honor of Earth, Wind and Fire Day (points to those who know what that means); could be posted the day after but I tried.

I wanted to post it because it gets the main conflict rolling and because it has one of my favorite lines I've written.  Enjoy! 

“Reject a woman, and she will never let it go.  One of the many defects of their kind.  Also, weak arms.” — Dwight Schrute


Andy began sailing to Jamaica with his brother.  He Skyped Erin to get in touch with her, planning to maintain his sanity.


It didn’t work.


What followed was a series of unfortunate events: skin so red he might contract skin cancer, his eyes becoming “two flaming meatballs”, wearing drawers on his head, and losing not one but both methods of getting drinking water.  It was pathetic, and with five other coworkers crowding Erin’s desk it just made him look more pathetic.


He bid them all farewell with the image of “A Man and His Boat”... and lost his laptop in the ocean in the process, losing his one real method of communication to the outside world.


It had only been 36 hours.


“Last week, Andy set sail for the Bahamas to sell his family’s boat,” Erin informed the interviewer, “and he took his brother, but not me.  I was kind of sad at first, but then I remembered that Bob Marley song: No, woman.  No cry.”


She didn’t cry in the office but she did in private.  


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Toby got us all to participate in Movember,” Pete explains to the interviewer in his newly-grown mustache, “It’s a charity for prostate cancer. You pledge money and then you grow a mustache for the month of November.”


Clark is next to him sporting the weakest mustache imaginable, “So, this is how we look now. I hope you like being turned on all the time.”


As the two of them, Darryl and Kevin hang out in the breakroom, in walks Toby, with the best ’stache in the entire office.


“Daaamn!” Darryl compliments, “It just keeps on coming, huh?”


“I have very fertile hair glands,” Toby shares.


Toby could not be happier that he got all the dudes to do Movember.  Pete, Clark, and Toby are bonding more in the annex, just three single guys getting into trouble, going to lunches, picking up babes (and in his case failing at it).


They all continue to bond in the annex, and Pete talks about it to the interviewer, “What Toby doesn’t realize is, he can be a lot of fun if he loosens up and is just himself, not having to try or keep from saying the wrong thing.  He’s super awkward, but hey, aren’t we all awkward to an extent?”


“This is fun, you know?” Toby says aloud, “I mean, this is fun.”


It is fun.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Jim’s performance has been dipping a bit.  He’s been blowing more sales calls than usual.  Pam thinks he’s just in a bit of a rut, which is true.  But it can’t be the office, it wouldn’t be; maybe he’s just tired?  Having two kids under the age of three will do that to you.  At this point he doesn’t care, his one priority is getting food on the table.  No matter how annoying his job is, he’s gonna sit down and do it.


But Dwight being the most irritating person of God’s green earth doesn’t help matters.  He also notices Jim’s performance is slipping and is taking advantage of it however he can.  It’s been over a decade and he’s still, even now, worried about who’s the better salesman?  I guess the news about the baby hit him harder than Jim realized.


Still, that doesn’t mean he’s gonna put up with Dwight’s bull.


“Dwight Schrute,” he answers.  His face lights up when he finds out who it is, then puts him on speakerphone, “Well, hi there David Wallace.  Why would you ever call me when the manager is out of town?”


Jim’s done already, and it’s not even 9:00.


“Well, I have some very exciting news,” David announces.


“And you didn’t call Jim — that seems significant.”  God, shut up!


“Hey, David,” Jim greets nonchalantly.


“Jim, good!  You should hear this too.”


“No, he shouldn’t,” Dwight insists.


Jim quickly becomes vindictive and smacks Dwight’s hand from getting to the phone, takes the phone over to his desk, and shoves it in a drawer so David will remain on speaker.  The cameras catch Pam’s concern.


The mission is compromised!  “Okay, David,” Dwight says, “I want to take you off speaker but... I don't know where I’d put you.”  Jim wants to say that seeing him like this makes him feel better; it doesn’t.


“Guys, listen, this is big news,” David begins, “The Scranton White Pages just got in contact with my office the day before yesterday.  Theyve apparently just dropped the supplier theyve been with for the last ten years.”


Dwight realizes the significance of this.


“The White Pages:” he begins telling the interviewer, “Do you want it?  No.  Do you use it?  No.  Does it inexplicably show up on your doorstep three times a year?  Yes, yes, and yes.  There’s a reason that we in the paper industry call this thing "the White Whale".”


The “White Whale” status is proven when he shows off all that sweet blubber.


“Look, we need our top salesman running point on this and Dwight,” David continues, “that is you.”


And Dwight’s world just became brighter, “I’m gonna need to put you on hold for a second.”  And here it is: “Hah!  Yah!  Woooo!  Eat it, Jim!  Eat it, Phyllis!  Eat... where’s Stanley?”


Erin, ever the loyal receptionist, yells “Eat it, Stanley!” while he’s in the restroom.


“So uh, last I remember Tom Peterman was in charge of that account?” Dwight asks David.


“No, I spoke with the receptionist over there.  Its someone new but she didnt catch her name.”


After this statement, one can hear a pin drop.


Dwight says that he’ll do it and they bid each other farewell, much to Phyllis’ fear.


“Dwight, you can’t go,” Phyllis presses, “You have a problem with women.  You can’t sell to them.”


“That is a damnable lie!” Dwight presses back, “I love women.”


“Gina Rogers at Apex Technology said you called her ‘gy-na’ for your entire meeting.”


Nellie can’t help but cringe, “That’s not good.”


“Yeah, she said she corrected him five times.”


“Gy-na said that?” Dwight asks.


Phyllis is describing how big this is and how this will influence the company.  Dwight can’t screw it up.  He cannot screw this up!  Raises!  Bonuses!  Pizza Fridays!


Jim’s looking at Dwight and he thinks… yeah, maybe he should screw this up.  He should be knocked down a peg.  Taught a lesson.  Be humbled.  He’s always had a problem with humbleness, thinking he’s the most amazing thing to ever walk the planet.  Newsflash: just because you own acres of farmland and know how to sell a product doesn’t make you the second coming.  Jim quickly neglects these thoughts, realizing how utterly selfish he sounds.  He wants Dwight to succeed because he agrees that the White Pages will do wonders for the branch, so he’s not gonna stew about it.  He’s not like that.  He’s not Dwight.


“Can you go instead?” Pam asks Jim, knowing he’ll do great.


“I can’t, meeting another client,” he responds.


“I have this sale call today with one of my former clients,” he tells the interviewer, “So hopefully I can get them to come back.  Also, this is the first time I’ve ever been motivated about work.  So, that feels... wrong.”


Jim gets in touch with them, and he made his first mistake… it was supposed to be in-person, not over the phone, and he’s not even remotely prepared for that.  Kevin talking about seasons of all things isn’t helping.  Thankfully, the client is more than willing to do it over the phone instead, so that’s a load off his shoulders.


He moves the conversation to his cell phone and takes it outside, which quickly became mistake number two.  A buzzsaw is being used across the street so loud it makes a megaphone seem quiet; he leans on Meredith’s van which causes the alarm to go off; here comes Hank to go on the defensive against the skateboarder kids; Meredith soon follows with her baseball bat; and all of this crescendos into a myriad of communication problems.


“I apologize profusely for everything that’s happened,” Jim tells them later on.


“Its quite alright, Mr. Halpert,” they say, “But weve decided to go in another direction.”


He manages to maintain his composure, cordially ending the conversation with them and hinted that he would love to work with them again; the client recognizes his sincerity, but not his salesmanship.


After he sets the phones down, he puts his head in his hands.


He sits in front of the interviewer, and with a thousand-yard stare simply says, “I should have called him back.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Angela’s realizing that her perfect marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


The Senator’s been distant.  He hasn’t been paying attention to her needs… any of them.  He’s gone from the house so many times that she is suspecting the worst.  It’s impossible, of course.  But she needs to be sure.  So she asks someone reliable who can help her.


“Spring cleaning?” Angela asks.


“More like fall cleaning,” Oscar awkwardly chuckles. 


She just needs to be honest, “I think the senator is having an affair,” she whispers. 


With that, Oscar shakily removes his entire desk drawer out of fear.  He’s struggling to put it back together, “This doesn’t... I’m sorry.  Wha... what?” 


“I think the senator is having an affair,” she repeats.


“I literally have nightmares in which what just happened happens,” Oscar admits to the cameras, “I wake up in a sweat.  And then I make Angela’s husband spoon me back to bed.”  He’s gonna miss that.


Angela elaborates that he’s always at ‘Hot Yoga’ with a woman (or man) named Blake, which gets him immediately jealous.  Who the hell is Blake?


“Angela, I’ll go with you,” he agrees.  She has to know.  He has to know, too.


They’re at the mall, sitting in the food court across from the yoga class.


“Which one is the instructor?” she asks, “They’re all fatties.”  Michael was right about her being smaller than a grain of rice.


In the yoga studio, Lipton and ‘Blake’ act cordially, as all yoga partners do.  And she just so happens to have a boyfriend!  Angela has nothing to worry about.


But Oscar does.  He looks on and sees a well-toned young man giving a huge too-long hug to Lipton.  And now they’re doing yoga positions together.  Could he be Blake?  Against his better judgment, he decides to stay, and he makes Angela stay with him. 


But she knows it’s pointless!  The yoga partner is male.  And he’s not a homosexual.  He couldn’t be.  He isn’t.


“Okay, we should go now, let’s go—” she insists.  Oscar just shushes her and watches on.  And then it hits her: her friend is a perv.


“Wait, why are you... Oh,” she shames, “are you getting your jollies right now?  Can’t get enough of the show?  Your jollies are all on fire—”


“Please,” Oscar presses, “It’s Robert who’s enjoying it.”


“What?”


“This could be the affair that you’re scared of,” Oscar explains, “Politicians are wonderful liars.  You never know who they really are.”  He’s not just telling this to Angela, but to himself: is this love even real?  Or just a fling that he can dispose of when he gets bored?  But he reassures her that he’s “probably not gay”.  M-hm, yeah.


“Oscar, what is happening here?” she asks incredulously, “Why would you say you think the Senator might be gay?” 


“I don’t know, Angela,” he tries to formulate an excuse, “I’m dehydrated.  Maybe... You heard me wrong.  We should just go.”  They should have gone.


“Look, look, look.  Here he comes.  Here he comes,” she says as Lipton leaves the studio, phone in hand.  They duck behind the table, curious as to what he’s up to, “What is he doing?”


“He’s making a phone call,” he answers.


They both crouch as he dials and calls the number.  They hear a phone ring and vibrate… it’s Oscar’s.


And with this, Angela’s mind concludes that the worst is happening.

The Senator’s having an affair.

He’s not attracted to her.

He’s not because he’s gay.

And his gay lover… is her deskmate.


The air around them is filled with emotions: doubt, fear, frustration, anger, regret, shame, hurt, disgust…


But at this moment, they’re too stunned to properly express any of them. 


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The women of the office, sans Angela, decide to train Dwight for this.  There is a lingering fear that all this is just hopeless.  But maybe not.


In the first exercise, Erin is the boss that Dwight has to sell to.  She couldn’t get into the role, and Dwight isn’t buying it anyway.


Pam volunteers to be the buyer next.  Dwight’s imposing, threatening presence towards her has Nellie posit three questions: “One, have you ever killed a woman?  Two, how many women have you killed?  Please, sir, will you not kill me?”


Pam lists off all the things you have to do when selling to women… or, more accurately, selling to anyone.  Such things as “Listen”, “Respect physical space”, and “Don’t mention body at all”.  You know, the basics.


She gets him to demonstrate and pushes him in the right direction with a smile and nod technique.  As Nellie describes her conversations with Pam on the mural, he essentially becomes a smiling bobblehead.  She can’t tolerate his face anymore, describing it as him “laboring over a stool having just eaten human flesh”.


In one last-ditch effort to get through to Dwight, Phyllis gets him to play the woman and her the salesperson.


“Ms. Thomas,” she demonstrates, “so good to see you.”


“Hello,” he responds with the voice of a creepy doll.


“Oh, are those your kids?  They’re so cute!  They could be models.”


“Thank you.  I’m so proud of them.  I carried each one of them for nine months inside of my torso and then pushed them out of my vagina.”


The women agree, it truly is hopeless… except for one.


“Ten years ago,” Pam tells the interviewer, “I didn’t care if Dwight got married or died a beet-farming bachelor.  But having kids makes you so soft.  I used to watch Pulp Fiction and laugh, and now I’m like, ‘That poor g*mp is somebody’s child!’”


She joins Dwight, knowing that this could work.  “You know,” she tells him on the way there, “I think there could be a lot of benefits if you could learn to get along with women.”


“Look, I have no problem with women,” Dwight admits, “It’s businesswomen and their, their power suits and their shoulder pads.  Don’t lie about your shoulders!”


“Dwight, listen to me.  Businesswomen are just normal, nice, reasonable people.  Who is a nice, reasonable person in your experience?”


He thinks back to a nice, reasonable person, “I had a barber once who used to comb my hair gently.”


It’s working!  “Okay, so, when you’re selling to this woman, just imagine that she’s that nice, reasonable barber.”


He’s suddenly motivated, “Okay, I can do that.”


“M-hm, Good,” Pam motivates, “Baby steps.”  He then mentions the barber used to fight dogs; she doesn’t get a concrete answer as to what that means and concludes she doesn’t want one.


As they enter her office, the secretary tells her she’ll be right in.

“Oh, great,” Pam responds and asks, “Oh, I’m sorry.  Do you mind telling me her name?  I realized we don’t have it.”


The secretary knows what’s about to happen.  She fears for them, but in this building, it’s every person for themselves.  “...She’ll be right in.”  It’s all she can manage to respond.


As Dwight is combing his hair for preparation, Pam looks around the office for clues.  She sees a giant poster of a woman skydiving; she’s seen that face before, but can’t quite place it.  She then sees some candles, with the label Serenity.  The last time she saw candles like those was… oh no.  She slowly turns, and the giant Andy Warhol style painting hanging across the room confirms her greatest fear.


“Oh my God!” she exclaims, “It’s Jan.”


The only words Dwight can muster are “Oh dear God in Heaven.”  They then turn to the door.


Enter Janet Levinson, the mythic bitch.


As Dwight slowly arises from his chair, Pam smartly turns to him and simply whispers “Forget everything we taught you.”


Jan was one of the best Vice Presidents of Northeastern Sales Dunder Mifflin has ever had.  She was professional, kept her cool, and did her job immaculately.  She maintained this illusion of the perfect businesswoman: smart, confident, savvy.  But it was shattered by more demands, the divorce, and — of course — Michael Geary Scott.  Michael not only managed to see through her despite his obliviousness but also managed to weevil his way into her heart (and eventually her chest).  The true Jan was slowly revealed to both Scranton and corporate: an irrational, erratic, terrifying woman who lusts after younger men and uses company time to buy shoes.  The moment she met Holly, Michael’s eventual wife, she advised him to not see her because, in her mind, if she can’t be happy then neither can he.  If Michael’s life in Colorado is any indication, he made the right decision that day.


She’s still, to this very day, pissed at David Wallace, not only for firing her but also managing to see through her as Michael did.  So the moment she dropped her former paper supplier, she knew just the company to call and just the man she wanted to humiliate.


And she is out.  For.  Blood.


“Hey, Jan!” Pam greets her, trying to mask her fear, “It’s so great to see you!”


“Where’s Wallace?” Jan curtly asks.


“What?”


“I was under the impression that David Wallace would be coming,” she interrogated, “He bought back Dunder Mifflin, correct?”


While Dwight tries to use his best techniques to compliment a photo of Astrid, Pam clarifies that David is in Vermont and he sent Dwight instead.


Jan is not pleased, “Molly!”  The secretary returns, looking like she’s living through the events of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  “David Wallace is in Vermont,” she chastises.


“Oh, my God,” Molly rambles, “Um, I talked to his assistant.  And I guess it did get a little confusing ’cause you said not to tell anyone your name.  And then also, those Bluetooths are very hard to hear with.  I know you love the way they look, but Tom never had us use them—”


“Molly,” Jan interrupts, “I am not Tom, I am Jan.”  Molly runs off, crying through her apology.


Jan does everything she can to contain her anger (while telling Dwight to stop smiling and nodding) as she sits them down in front of her desk.


Pam knows what this is about, “So this was all just a trick.  You don’t really have any business to give?”


“No, I do,” Jan answers.


“But not to us.”


Jan’s almost impressed, “Insightful, Pam.”


Dwight looks defeated, so Pam does everything she can to console him, “You did good, Dwight.  It’s okay.  I mean, seriously, Jan’s not normal.  Let’s just go.  She’s not going to sell to us.”


As Dwight gets up, he realizes something: this is not a businesswoman, this is Jan.  And he may not know businesswomen, but he knows Jan.  This is a challenge… a challenge that only a Schrute can handle.


“Yes, she is,” he tells her, “Now, I may not have any instincts with women, but I have an instinct for sales.  You keep her occupied.  I’ll be right back.”


Pam manages to keep Jan busy before Dwight gets back.  It was the longest 20 minutes of her life.


Dwight manages to find his Ace of Spades: Clark Green.  He knows what makes her tick, and there are four things that she loves: Astrid, scented candles, her ever-growing lust for power… and younger men.


Clark had grown tired of being just a temp and not a real salesman.  So when Dwight tells him he’s going to help him be a Dunder Mifflin liaison?  For the White Pages?  He jumped at the opportunity, not knowing what it would entail.


But Pam does, “Oh, my God.”


“Jan, may I introduce to you your own personal Dunder Mifflin liaison,” Dwight introduces Clark, “devoted to servicing this account with total client satisfaction,” he presses, trying to intimidate her, “I sensed that Molly wasn’t quite meeting your needs — nothing like, uh, your old assistant... Hunter.  Was that his name?”


Jan is confused but agrees.  “I don’t recall,” she lies, “And yes, Molly is crap.”


Pam, fearing that Clark will become the sacrificial lamb, tries to talk him out of it, “Okay, you do not have to do this.”


“Do what?” he asks optimistically, “Get into sales?  That’s what I want.”  You poor sweet summer child…


After Jan asks Clark to turn around, she tells Dwight that she’ll be in touch with him in a week.  She then struts over to Clark, him slowly realizing what this is about.  “Do you have a valid passport?” she asks him.


 “Y-yes ma’am,” he answers.  He never knew this was part of the paper-selling business, but he is not complaining.


Pam and Dwight meet Molly, telling her that she should just quit, ignorant of the exchange that happened earlier.  She gives them thanks, but Dwight has something else to add.


“I know it can’t be easy working for Jan.  Good luck with your feelings.”


Molly smiles, seeing something in him, and walks off.

“Dwight!” Pam says proudly, “That was really nice.  You should ask for her number.”


He tells her that if he has “curried favor” with Molly, he’ll let her know.


“Why me?” she asks.


“Because you are my friend and you are a woman,” he says happily, and then adds, “... And women love gossip.  It’s like air to you people.  Ugh, God.”


She smiles as he retches out of the building.  It wasn’t hopeless after all.


End Notes:

More plot summary, but this time with Jim losing his edge.  There's gonna be a lot more of that, and it's a humongous plot point for the JAM story moving forward.  Writing about Jan was so darn fun; she won't show up physically anymore, but hold on for "Dwight's Christmas".

NEXT TIME: Phyllis and Stanley take Jim out to lunch, Pam learns to embrace failure, and Angela, seeking vengeance, knows just who to turn to.

The Target by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Finished most of "Suit Warehouse".  Again, having a hard time blending in the AU with canon, but I think I pulled it off pretty well in "Lice", which won't be posted for a while.  Right now, I have work and assignments as priority so I'll be focusing on those.

Enjoy! 

“Fail!  I dont wanna fail.  Again.” — Pamela Halpert


Andy is still on his boat trip.  It’s Week 3.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Dwight can be oblivious to the point where it’s comedic… but today, he’s the most sensible person in the entire office.


“Yesterday, Angela may or may not have figured out that I’m having an affair with her husband,” Oscar tells the interviewer nervously, “So I just have to wait and see.  When she comes in, if she’s cold and awkward and cruel to me, then great, it’s business as usual.”


She walks in and… it’s very casual.  The only thing she asks about is the thermostat.  He is relieved beyond belief and says he’ll go downstairs and let someone know.  Cold, awkward, cruel.  He’s in the clear!


“She doesn’t know,” he tells them again, relieved, “I shouldn’t be surprised.  This is a woman who married a man who is obviously a homosexual.  Basically, she has her head in the sand.  In a way, I feel sorry for her.  I guess the universe rewards true love.”


He’s right in that the universe does reward true love… and he and Angela will learn that the hard way.


The cameras manage to catch Angela, staring daggers at him from the window as he sits there giving this pompous speech of his, readying a pair of scissors…


Later that day, she sees Dwight at the vending machine and makes a simple request, him behind her, as all these meetings happen: “Meet me in the old place, five minutes.  I need you.”


And he meets her there… but she made the mistake of not giving more specific instructions.


“Ugh!” she cringes upon seeing Dwight’s naked form.


“Come on in, the water’s fine,” he says.


After she makes him put his clothes back on, she asks him for his help since he can work “outside of the law”.  Reluctantly, he SMS texts a former volunteer sheriff, who’s free anytime.  That former volunteer is Trevor… who has been following people for years when getting exercise and has a $3000 gun he doesn’t even have on him.  These are, apparently, his only credentials.


For now, though, it’s good enough for Angela.


“Okay, so everything you need to know about the target is in here,” she tells Trevor, handing him the folder.


“So what’s the job?” he asks.


She hesitantly answers with “...Murder.”


Even Dwight, the second most unstable person in that broken-down minivan, can see this is a problem.


Dwight feels for her, he does, but this is a bad idea.  She can’t have someone murdered!  But she needs this person to suffer.  Why?  Because it’s proof that her life is not picturesque, it’s not perfect, it’s not something out of a Martha Stewart catalog.


But she needs to maintain this image, even if it’s a lie.  She needs to keep up the facade.  And the only way she can do that is to get rid of any obstacles… permanently.


Trevor, though?  He’s down for whatever.


“...Okay,” Dwight relents, “But it’s cruel because a woman with damaged knees can’t scrub worth a damn.”  Good thing Oscar’s a man.


Back at the office, Oscar, placating her sympathies, gives her a cookie.  And she accepts it warmly… before crushing it with her bare hands.


Dwight, noticing this exchange, sneaks up on Oscar while he’s on the phone… with Lipton.


“I just gave her a cookie,” he tells him over the phone, “and she called me an angel, so... yeah, we're good.”  He’s far from good.


Dwight wants answers.  Now.


“What?” Angela asks, “Why did you call me out here?”


“The target,” Dwight confronts Angela, “It’s Oscar, isn’t it?  He and the Senator are gaying each other.”


“...I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, feigning ignorance.  But her nostrils give it away, “Fine! It’s Oscar. So what?”


“Well, I could understand you wanting to get a stranger’s knees whacked,” Dwight explains, “But a co-worker — Dare I say, a friend?”


“Exactly, a friend,” she expresses her feelings of betrayal, “Someone who sits next to you year after year, making chit chat and smiling, and all the while running behind your back and defiling your marriage and seducing your husband!”


Dwight needs to get through to her before this gets any worse, “I can’t even imagine how painful this must be for you… but the first ones to break your marriage vows were you and me.”


She can’t refute that.  She knows she can’t.  And she hates that she can’t.


But they can’t back out now… Trevor arrives.  As Dwight gets Oscar out of the room, Angela manages to stop Trevor and distract Kevin from his sandwich cravings.


“When Angela found out that you seduced her husband,” Dwight explains to Oscar in the warehouse, “we hired a guy to break your knee caps.”


“Oh, my God!” Oscar shouts, “What is wrong with you?!”


“What is wrong with you?” Dwight chastises, “There are a million gorgeous guys in the Scranton Wilkes-Barre area, and you choose the man who’s the father of her child?”


Dwight is right on point.  And when Dwight is on point about something, you know you’ve screwed up.


Trevor, desperate to follow through with something, has to get this done.  What follows is the three men struggling with the lead pipe; Oscar wins, and thankfully, everyone’s kneecaps are still intact.


“You are incorrigible!” Oscar shouts at Dwight.


“I just saved your life!” He shoots back, “You’re welcome!”


And out walks Angela, as if on cue.


“You hired someone to hit me with a pipe!” Oscar begins.


“You deserved every bit of it!” she responds, the hurt etched in her face, “You made my husband gay.”


“What— what I did was wrong, and I have to live with that every day,” he relents, “But your husband is... gay.  He was gay when you married him!”


“No, no.”  Denial and deflection.


“Angela, until you face that, you’re gonna be confused and angry for all the wrong reasons.”  She knows this is true, but she can’t stand that it is!  “But if you want to blame me for the whole thing… go ahead — I won’t stop you.  Hit me.  You have my blessing.  Hit me.”


She grabs it, but he doesn’t let go, because it’s a lead freakin’ pipe.  She settles with a kick to the shin instead.


“You were supposed to be my friend!” she shouts as she scurries away, tears threatening to fall down her eyes.  He tries to apologize… but Dwight stops him.


The damage is done.


Dwight goes over to Angela, who’s sitting on the bench, in tears.  She’s blaming herself for the actions of another.  It’s not her who’s stupid, though, it’s jazz.  I mean, just play the right notes!  He wraps her arm around her as she leans into him.  Despite all the fights, the pining, the unsatisfying congresses… to both of them, this feels right.


Neither of them like Trevor… and yet he really likes him.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The Halperts walk in, Pam wearing far more casual clothes than usual.


“Well, well, well, it’s finally happened,” Dwight announces, “Pam has ceased caring.”


“These are my painting clothes,” Pam clarifies, then proudly states, “I think I’m gonna do it.  I am really gonna start painting the warehouse mural today.”  Jim lightly applauds in support, as does Nellie.


“You got this, Beesley,” Jim says with pride, “Actually, do you want me to come down and help you get started?”


“Jim, come on, you have reams of paper to sell,” she says smiling at him.


“Yes,” he says with reluctance walking to his desk, “Yes, I do.”


“Huh, yeah right,” Dwight scoffs, “No worries Jim, I’ll be happy to win back all of your clients.  All I ask in return is for you to feed my cattle for a week.”


“We both know that’s not gonna happen,” Jim matter-of-factly responds.


“Hm,” Dwight says with a smile, almost proudly.  Jim then looks at the camera in annoyance.  The temptation there, though.


“I will admit,” he tells the interviewer, “my performance has been slipping a bit.”


But,” Pam stresses, her hand in his, “Everything’s gonna be fine.”


“Everything’s gonna be fine.”


“I mean, I was the worst salesperson here for like a year.”


“Andy was second, and he got promoted to branch manager.”


“Yes!  Exactly.”


“And then left his post to… sail a boat with his brother to Jamaica for three weeks.”


There’s an awkward pause before Pam says reassuringly, “Everything’s gonna be fine.”


“Yup.”


Jim continues to work, cursing at himself for imputing something wrong on a spreadsheet, something he does all the time and it’s just now getting to him.  The adjacent desk clump can’t help but notice.


“Jim’s been hard on himself lately,” Phyllis laments to the interviewer, “For years, he’s never cared about his job,” she then laughs knowingly, “I certainly don’t.  I mean, Bob’s handsome body is the only reason I’m still in this building.  Well, that and the bills.”


“No, I am not close to Jim,” Stanley admits to them, “but he is the least infuriating person in this entire office, so we’re practically the best of friends.”


“Hey, Jimmy,” Phyllis says, getting Jim’s attention, “Stanley and I are going out to lunch, wanna join us?”


He thinks about it for a second and then answers, “Why not?”


Phyllis smiles brightly while Stanley smiles and nods.


They find a nice seafood place to eat.  As they order their food, Phyllis starts the conversation.


“We’ve noticed you’ve been stressed lately,” she says to Jim.


“Well, I’ve been trying my best to hide it,” he answers with an awkward chuckle.


“You’re failing at it, son,” Stanley mentions.


Jim sighs.  “I guess I’m just… pushing myself to succeed?  I mean, it makes no sense.  For years I have not cared about my job and was great at it, but the moment I try to get into it… I suck.”


“That’s your problem, Jim,” Stanley says, “you can’t get into the work.  It’s work.”


“Exactly,” Phyllis adds, “You just gotta hunker down and get it done, or else you’ll be homeless.”


Wow, this conversation is reassuring.


“To be honest, I know I’m a good salesman,” Jim vents, “But part of me just wants to shove the clients I lost to someone else so I can focus on the ones I still have and get new ones, hopefully.  That’s why I’m willing to just let Dwight take them.”  They roll their eyes at the mention of Dwight, but they know Jim wants out if he’s that desperate.  He pauses and scoffs, “I’m sorry, I’m talking to you two like you’re my therapist.”


“No, it’s okay,” Phyllis reassures, “You need to get this out.”  Stanley nods.


“The thing is…” Jim continues, “I love Pam and the kids.  They are my life.  But… have you guys ever wanted something so badly that you just wanna risk it, no matter the consequences?”


“Jim,” Stanley begins with conviction, “have I ever told you about my dream?”


“No, you haven’t,” Jim adds.


“Oh God,” Phyllis rolls her eyes.  She knows where this is going.


“Well, I do have a dream," Stanley continues, "And it’s not some MLK dream for equality.”


And that’s how Jim learned about Stanley’s abandoned lighthouse rocket ship.


The rest of the lunch goes over amazingly, to be quite honest.  Even after eleven years, there are things they never knew about each other.  Like Dwight and Stanley’s meatball prank… I mean my God that was brilliant!  And when Phyllis finds out about the twelve cliches every time it rains, she’s shocked that she’s that predictable.  And Jim apologizes again for the whole softball-in-the-face thing.  She forgives him, of course; Charles shouldn’t have kicked the ball that hard.  What an ass.


They drive back to the office, and when they pull in, Jim has a chat with them.  Of course, both of them have had too much wine.


“Hey, I just wanna… thank you two for today,” he sighs, “I guess I never knew how much I needed it.”


“Oh, by the way,” Phyllis offers, “hand us a list of those clients.  We can get them back for you.”


Jim’s in total shock, “Really?”


“Anything to keep them from Dwight,” Stanley adds with a laugh.


“You guys are willing to do that for me?” Jim asks, exasperated.


“Of course, Jimmy,” Phyllis says happily, “We love you guys.”


“Oh my God, thank you,” he excitedly responds, giving them both a big hug as they’re still in the backseat.  As much as Jim hates this office… he does care about the people in it.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“One of my jobs is to input customer complaints into the computer,” Pete informs the interviewer, “And when they’re in, I fill out one of these cards.  But the information’s already on the computer, so... why am I filling out the card?”


The crew plays footage of him stacking the cards.


“I asked Andy, and he said, and I quote, ‘Chillax, Italian Job’,” he continues, “and then went away on a big, long boat ride!  So here we are.  Don’t give me a pointless office chore, because I will build a little paper house.  Fight the power.”


Kevin and Darryl arrive and are enthralled with Pete’s activity informing him that it needs to be taller.


Pretty soon, the rest of the office arrives, just as enthralled with the activity.  The cards are being stacked, each card being a discovery of the office’s incompetence.  Pete learned more than he ever thought he would.


“This next card comes to us thanks to Meredith Palmer,” Pete reads, “who called Eastern Pennsylvania Seminary a, quote ‘sausage factory’.”


She celebrates with an “O-OOH!  Boom!”


“All right,” Pete says, holding up a humongous stack of cards, “Up next we got a whole lotta Creed.”


“Let’s find out what I did,” he says.  The rest of the office wish they hadn’t.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


If there’s one thing that Pam hates more than anything in this world, it’s failure.


Failure means disappointment, being let down, everything falling apart around her.  It’s dramatic, yeah, but there’s nothing worse than being told “You’re not good enough,” or “How could you do this to me?”, or “You let me down.”  That’s why she considers Mama Beesly such a reprieve: she no longer has to worry about failure.


“Wow, this is… a much bigger task than I thought it’d be,” she tells the camera, “I guess if I make a mistake, I can just paint over it with a shrub or something.  It’s just, I think less of paintings with a lot of shrubs.  So, I’m gonna limit myself to one shrub.”


This mural… it excites her.  She’s motivated by it.  This was Nellie’s best idea, and she wants to get into it just as much as she is!  But… where does she start?  How will she make this work?  Yeah, she can always just paint over it, but will it look worse?


Will people be let down?

Will Nellie be let down?

Will Jim be let down?


It doesn’t help that she has an audience, one Hidetoshi Hasagawa, Heart Surgeon Number One. 


“You paint wall now?”, he asks.


“Yeah,” she answers, “Painting now.  I just want to make sure that—” 


“You paint now.” 


She sighs, “It’s probably gonna be a few minutes.  So you can just go back to doing whatever you were doing.”


“I wait.”


Well, now she has to worry about Hide being let down.


As she breaks to grab some yogurt, she can’t help but notice what’s happening in the annex.


“Nicely done.  Very nicely done,” Pete continues, “All right, this next one goes to Darryl for pocket dialing a customer while having sex.”


“Oooohh... you salty dog!” Nellie compliments.  Darryl didn’t want to admit it was just him eating spaghetti.


Kevin attempts to keep it steady as he places it, and all of it comes crumbling down.  He’s near tears as his coworkers chastise him.


“Hey, hey, hey!” Pete announces, “it’s just a mistake!  Just a mistake!  That’s what this tower’s all about: mistakes.  Okay, if you’re afraid of screwing up, the tower’s not for you.  Show of hands… who here has never had a complaint?”


Pam raised her hand proudly, but quietly.


“That’s right.  Nobody.  See that?  Nobody,” he continues, “Okay?  Let’s get back to work, huh?  Come on, you in?”


Everyone’s back in.


Erin is… happy.  She’s happy because she doesn’t have to be anyone’s rock.  She can relax, loosen up a bit.  Part of her considers it selfish, but… she’s having fun.  But does she deserve this?  Yes.  Yes, she does.


Pam notices something about this moment that she hadn’t before… it reminds her of something.  Something from years ago…


“Okay, we will be competing for gold, silver, and bronze yogurt lids.”

“Phyllis by a nose. Gold medal in Flernenton.”

“Wow! Okay, no one else should even try!  Gold medals!”

“These are the Closing Ceremonies.  Step up.  Youre on the top one.”


She realizes that this is Pete’s Office Olympics.  The Old Beesly loved participating in those, and it’s one of her and Jim’s favorite memories before they got together.  So she decides… screw it.  She’ll walk this trip down memory lane.


Even if the challenge involves her failing.


They’re almost at the ceiling, nearly there, but they’re one card short.


“I could get us a complaint,” Pam volunteers.


“You?” Meredith snides, “Little Miss Priss?  You wouldn’t fart on a butterfly.”


“No, I wouldn’t,” she says, “I can’t even relate to that impulse.  But I bet I could get us a customer complaint.  I’d like to try.”


They’re all proud of her (except Creed), and she goes for it.


“Okay, the client is Heymont Brake and Tire,” Erin explains, “They’re family-owned, but dont let that take away from your edge!”


“Come on, Pam,” Nellie cheers her on, “I know you can fail.  I see failure in you.”  Thanks, Nell.


Creed advises her to think scummy thoughts.


And, with one cheesy ‘Yo Mama’ joke, Pamela Halpert manages to lose a client… the thing Jim’s been chastising himself over… while the regional manager is away.  Oof.  Whatever, the tower’s complete!


“Our crowning complaint card comes to us thanks to Pamela Halpert…” Pete congratulates, “For insulting a client’s recently deceased mother.”


“I did not know that,” Pam admits.


“A woman who struggled with obesity all her life.”


“Iamsosorry,” she apologizes sadly.  The rest of them agree that that’s… terrible.


And that terrible act is rewarded with applause and acceptance from her peers.


“I’m constantly worried about failure,” she tells the camera, “but there are times when I really shouldn’t.  I mean, do you think Kevin cares if he fails — or Creed or Meredith?  Oh my gosh, these are my role models now.  You know what?  I’m okay with that.  Besides, good things can come out of failure.

 

[Jim wears his blue-colored “medal” with pride as he and Pam smile at each other, while Michael is verklempt over winning the “gold medal”.]

 

Amazing things,” she continues, “And, if you’re an artist, you have to be okay with the idea that you can’t please everybody all the time.”


“You paint very bad!  Bad!”


“Shut up, Hide!”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Dwight and Angela have a long list of questions for Toby regarding “gayness”.  Some involve Red Vines.


End Notes:

More plot summary here so the AU hasn't really kicked off yet, but writing the Dwight story was enjoyable.  It's fun to see him be the logical one for once.

Part of me is still wondering how the whole salesman-client thing works, but given the show's history, it's not uncommon by customers to be won back and by a different salesperson within the branch.  So yeah, Jim's decline is going to be much more evident as the story moves forward, but it won't be for too long.

And some found the "tower of mistakes" thing cringy and I get why, but I dunno, I like the parallel to the Office Olympics.  It's mostly for Pam; it takes her back to a time where she was more carefree, unlike now where she's bogged down with the pressure to succeed.

NEXT TIME: It's X-Mas!  As Pam begins to worry about Jim's well-being, Pete and Erin go visit Clark for a film viewing, Darryl fears his wish won't come true, and Dwight gets the whole office into the Christmas spirit.  The Belsnickel is nigh...

Dwight Christmas by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

So, I'm finally finished with "Customer Survey" and the subsequent chapter... which isn't "Junior Salesman".  Adding another subsequent chapter like "Miami", which I'll post at the same time as "Customer Survey" since they should be read together; combining it into one chapter would prove too long, so I split it in half.  I'm really wanting to post "Customer Survey" because I'm honestly sort of proud of it, and that is when the AU portion of this really takes shape.

For now, though, enjoy this German Holiday treat.

EDIT 1 DEC. 2020: Replaced 'Scranton' with 'Stamford'.  Don't know how the hell I missed that.

“Enough of this garbage.  This is Christmas.

[Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra]

YEAH!!!!  CHRISTMAS!!!!” — Dwight Schrute


Andy is still on his boat trip.  It’s Week 4.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Jim is tapping away at his keyboard.  He’s not looking too good; his eyes are bloodshot from staring at the computer, there are bags under his eyes, even his skin is looking paler than usual.


“Are you sure you wanna leave early today?” Pam asks, concerned.


“Yeah,” he answers, “Gotta be ready for tomorrow.”


“Okay,” she responds.


“Jim is stressing himself out and I don’t know what to do,” Pam tells the interviewer, “It’s like he’s afraid to talk to me about anything other than work.  He told me that he wanted to wear a blue striped shirt to meet a potential client tomorrow, but feared that he was ‘making a statement with the blueness’.  Dwight said it makes his neck look like an old mop handle,” she leans in and whispers “It does.”


“Oh...Hey, guys, the Christmas party is today.  Merry Christmas everyone!” Erin announces while Thanksgiving decorations are still up.  (It says X-Mas party, but they all know what it’s code for.)


Angela reveals that there isn’t a Christmas Party because she forgot, but you shouldn’t blame her for something they all forgot!  Oscar over-enthusiastically agrees.  She makes very sound points (says the man sleeping with her husband).


“I knew the party was today, but nobody asked me to plan it, so I didn’t,” Phyllis says, “Hmm, funny how that works.”  She’s still pissed at Angela over the spread from Halloween.


Nellie recommends liquor and mini-cupcakes, and Kevin is offended.


“What about an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas?” Dwight offers, “Drink some gluhwein, enjoy some hasenpfeffer.  Enjoy Christmas with saint Nicolas’ rural German companion, Belsnickel.”


Dwight shows the interviewer his Dutch Christmas photo, in both sepia tint and Matrix style!


Finally, something that Jim could enjoy.  Two of his favorite things: Christmas and making fun of Dwight.


Pam beams and shouts, “Yes!  That, that, that!  We’re definitely doing that.  Are we all in agreement?”


No one agrees but Jim, who just smiles and shakes his head at her.  She smiles back; she’s missed that smile.


“Done, right?” she asks.


“No, I want Tropical Christmas,” Stanley curtly responds.


“Topless Christmas,” adds Meredith.


“Tapas swiss miss,” adds Creed.  (Spanish tapas and Swiss Miss hot cocoa do sound tasty.)


“Or, who was it that suggested the authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas?” asks Dwight, “I think it was someone really popular.”


No one wants it.


“Too weird,” Nellie says.  Pam looks at her and signals at Jim, Nellie knowing that she’s worried about him.  She mouths back ‘It’s weird, Pam!’


“I don’t understand why you guys aren’t behind this,” Pam presses, “Am I the only one who wants to try hufflepuffs a-and schnauzerhosen, and meet this baklava guy?”


Angela then issues an emergency Party Planning Committee meeting.  Up walks Phyllis, Angela, Oscar, and Pam, who looks at him and says “I’m on it.”  He smiles once again and pumps his fist.


“We’re the Party Planning Committee,” Pam passionately says, “and we did not get where we are by playing it safe.  We got here by being risk-takers.  And, yeah, Dwight’s party is gonna be terrible.  Maybe.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s going to be great.  And if it’s great,” she pauses, trying to think of the next thing to say, “I think we all know what that would mean to us!”  She nods at the camera, hoping what she just said makes any sense.


“Let’s do it!” Phyllis agrees with glee.


Angela only relents if her name is not attached to it.  Oscar over-enthusiastically agrees.


Pam announces that the Committee (minus Angela) is going to go for Dwight’s Christmas.  Jim claps at the announcement as Dwight cheers and gives him high fives.  Pam only gives him one rule… there are none.  Pam has never been cooler.


And Jim’s finally gonna take his mind off of work for once.


“Best Christmas Ever,” Jim tells the interviewer.


“You’re welcome,” Pam tells him, smiling.


“Thank you,” he responds, smiling once again.  God, she’s missed that.


Dwight takes the traditional Dutch Christmas festivities to the max. This party has everything:

Gluhwein, aka Glow-wine (also used to sterilize medical instruments)

Hog maw (stuffed pig stomach)

Candlelit poem reading

And the very spoon that guided Dwight’s soft skull through the birth canal when he was born.


And the Halperts could not be happier.


“Excuse me,” Dwight suddenly says, “I have to run to my car to take a dump.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Once Jim and Darryl hear Toby mention him being on the jury for the Scranton Strangler trial, they leave.  They don’t need to hear this again.  Stanley soon follows, telling Nellie he’ll see her next Christmas.


However, Nellie’s enthralled!  Growing up in Basildon, she loves learning some local history, and this Scranton Strangler is fascinating to her.  Toby, despite his awkwardness, is a great conversationalist, so she sticks around…


And then he keeps talking.


She gets a text from Pam telling her that Belsnickel has arrived and she needs to get here right now.  She obliges, leaving Toby alone to sigh, dejected.  He soon just gets up and joins the others.  Hopefully, Belsnickel will be fun.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pete’s on the phone with Clark.  They’ve gotten close over the past few months, even with Clark staying at an insane cougar’s apartment.


“A German Chritsmas planned by Dwight?” Clark asks over Pete’s speakerphone, “I hate Im not here to witness this absolute magic.”


“Frankly, I’m just hoping German terrorists don’t take over this Christmas party,” Pete tells him, “Make me go all John McClane on their asses.”


In walks Erin from the break room, curious as to what they’re talking about, “Wait, German Terrorists?” she asks, “That’s oddly specific. And I think— I think you mean John McCain.”


“Eh, Die Hard reference,” Pete clarifies.


“I’ve never seen it,” Erin says.


Pete pauses by the mention of this, “You haven’t seen Die Hard?”


“Mm-mmm.”


“Wait, Erin has never seen Die Hard?” Clark asks.


“She’s never seen Die Hard!” Pete confirms.


“Why havent you seen Die Hard?!”


“I don’t know, I just haven’t!” Erin says, getting excited.


“Come on, you had to have at least seen some of it.”


“Nope!” Erin clarifies.


Clark begins to quote the movie, Now, I have a machine gun.  Ho, Ho, Ho."


Pete joins in, “‘Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.’”


“None of this makes any sense to me!” Erin exclaims, half-confused, half-mistified.


Oh, yeah, and when he takes the gun off his back, and hes like, Yippee-Ki-Yay, mother—


“Actually, he doesn’t say that there,” Pete clarifies, “He says it earlier when he’s on the radio with Hans.”


“Damn it, youre right.”


Erin is surprised that he even knew that line.  She points at him and says “Nerd!  Do you know every line of the movie?”


“My brother dared me to memorize it,” Pete confirms, “and I did it, and loved doing it.”


“Hey, you guys can come over and watch it at Jans place,” Clark offers.


“Oh, we don’t want to intrude—” Erin says.


“Nah its fine!  Shes out for the weekend.  She usually has it on her singing over pictures of her daughter, but she said I can use it when guests come over.”


Pete and Erin pause at what they just heard.  “...right, well, we’ll see you there, man,” he says.


“Later.”


“Welp, guess we’re gonna go see Die Hard,” Pete shrugs.


“Guess we are!” Erin smiles.


When Pete and Erin arrive at Jan’s apartment, Clark answers the door.


“Hey, guys!”  He still has his mustache from Movember and a red satin robe.  The pair just look, perplexed.


“Um… why are you wearing that?” Pete asks.


“Oh, I was told by Jan to wear this at all times.”


Both just nod awkwardly and enter inside.


“Oh wow!” Erin shouts, taking in the pungent smells, “It’s like the woods vomited in here!”


“Yeah, this is pretty intense,” Pete agrees.


“Oh, that’s just her scented candle collection,” Clark clarifies, “Don’t worry, you’ll start to not even smell it after a while.”


As Clark’s talking, the camera pans to find more pictures of Jan, as well as various art pieces depicting Jan.  Oh, and a nice photo of Astrid.


After a bit, they sit in front of the TV.


[“Mommy, youre a princeeeeess!  Mommy, youre a supersta-a-a-a-arr!  Mommy, youre the greaaaateeeeeeeest!  How can I ever fill your sho-o-o-oooes?”]


“Wow, she has a great voice!” Erin compliments.


Pete just watches in terrified awe and says “...sure.”


“Oh my gosh, pause it, pause it,” she says.


“What?” Clark asks.


“I just got an email from Andy,” she says excitedly, “That means they hit land!”


“Nice!” Pete says.


The camera pulls her aside and has her read the email happily: “‘What up, shorty?  We got in last night, sold the boat, went out, got drunk,” she giggles, but her face sinks as she keeps reading, “saw Life of Pi, got super depressed and introspective.  Gonna hang out here a while.”  A while?  “Maybe a couple of weeks.”  It’s been four weeks, though.  “Figure this whole life thing out.  Maybe see Hobbit.  Lates.’”


A crestfallen Erin walks back to the couch and sits back on the couch.


“Hey, everything okay?” Pete asks, clearly concerned.


“I’m fine!  Let’s watch the movie,” Erin says, hiding her disappointment.


“Look, if you wanna talk about it—” Clark tries to offer.


“No,” Erin stresses, “No more talking.  It’s movie time!”


The new guys just look at each other and Clark plays the movie.


Near the climax of the movie, Erin, thinking out loud, asks a question, “Do you think Andy would ever jump off an exploding building tied to a hose for me?”


Pete chooses his words very carefully, “Yeah, definitely, no doubt.”


Erin knows he’s trying to placate her.  She’s been so scared because it’s been four weeks.  He said “three weeks”, right?  At least she knows he’s alive, but… he didn’t even bother to call.  And, yeah, he’s having a rough go of it, but so is she!  How would he feel if his boyfriend left on a boat with his brother and never thought about inviting him, huh?  How about that?!


…She’s being selfish.  Again.


With all these running thoughts, she breaks.


Pete, like most men who see a woman cry, tries to comfort her, “Hey, it’s alright.”


“I’m fine, really,” she lies, hiding it with a smile.


“Okay,” he says, not believing her.


Things take a turn for the worst when she scoots closer to him… and damn it, she’s so cute.


No, this is not the man he is.  He sees Andy and Erin around the office, and they do seem great together.  He doesn’t want to ruin that.  He’s not that guy, he doesn’t want to be that guy.  He’s not uprooting a relationship, especially not his boss’.


Besides, he fears Erin will make a big mistake… like he made with Alice. 


Clark, noticing all this, lightly smacks Pete’s arm, moving his eyes towards the pair.  He shakes his head firmly and mouths ‘No’, but Clark responds with a simple ‘Oh-kay’ through his facial expressions.


Pete just returns his attention to the movie.


After it ends, Pete and Erin eventually say goodnight to Clark and head back to the office.  Neither of them spoke.  But it’s surprisingly not awkward.


They return to Dwight running back into the office with the Pig Rib, yelling “I found it!”


“Yes!” Erin shouts.  Pete can’t help but smile.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Think you’ll stay for the entire thing?” Pam asks.


“I don’t think so,” Jim responds, “If I get this guy as a client, it’d be big, and I have to be prepared.”


Pam could not be more crushed.  Please, Jim, stay.  Stay so that I know you’re okay.  “Jim, you wanna talk?  I mean, I’m honestly worried about you.”


“Pam, I’m fine.  Nothing to worry about, I promise.”


She sighs, “I just hope that you’re taking care of yourself and—”


Suddenly, out of nowhere, the true reason for the season shows his blessed face.


With a hearty cackle, the legendary Dwightsnickel introduces himself in a thick German accent, “Judgment is nigh, for the Belsnickel ist I!”


Jim’s face lights up again, and Pam shouts “Yes, he is finally nigh!”


“I am nigh!” Belsnickle agrees.  It’s the role Dwight was born to play, “Ooh, Belsnickel has traveled from distant lands to discover how all the boys and the girls have been behaving this last year.  Whoo-hoo HOO hoo hoo!”


Jim puts his hand on the small of Pam’s back, both delighted watching Dwight march across the office.


“So he’s kind of like Santa, except dirty and worse,” Jim says.


“No,” Belsnickel answers, “much better!  No one fears Santa the way they fear Belsnickel!”


“Wow!” Jim half-heartedly exclaims, “It's my favorite part of Christmas.  The authority.”


“And the fear,” Pam adds.


“Exactly!” Belsnickel confirms with pride.  Though Phyllis has her doubts, Oscar confirms that, yes, Dwight’s insane party is indeed in-line with southern Germany traditions and folklore.  Dwight was going to have Zwarte Piet show up, but that was an obvious no-go; Nate’s whole day has been wasted.


It’s time for Belsnickel to see if the entire office has been admirable… or impish!

Phyllis is… admirable!  She gets rubber gaskets for canning jars (she’d rather have the bowl).

Oscar is… impish!  He gets a whack from his stick, much to Angela’s delight.

Nellie is… impish!  She gets a whack as well and just says, “Not the worst present I ever received.”

Pam is… admirable!  She gets a lovely gift for the kinder: a single mousetrap.

Toby is… impish!  He gets a whack as well, not responding to it at all because he doesn’t feel anymore.

Angela is… admirable!  She gets two small jars.

Stanley is… admirable!  He gets a slingshot.

Kevin is… impish!  He gets poked with a stick, which is tickling him.


Jim has to leave, unfortunately, before his judgment.


“Oh, really? Already?” Pam asks, dejected.


“Yeah, I’ll see you at the house.”


Belsnickel pauses as he sees Jim leave, “Hey, where are you going?”


“Yeah, meeting a potential client tomorrow,” Jim says, “But this was amazing.”


“But you work tomorrow!”


“Yeah, I know, I’d just like to settle in and get a good night’s sleep.”


Dwight, becoming disheartened, breaks character, “But we were gonna break the pig rib.”


It didn’t deter Jim, who needed to leave.  Belsnickel sends him off… but brings him back for his present.


“I judge your year… as impish!” Belsnickel shouts as he hits Jim with his stick with a *WHACK*.


“Ow, are you nuts?”


“I judge you impish!” *WHACK*, *WHACK*


“Ow!  Ow— Okay that is three, and you didn’t hit anybody that hard!” Jim raises his voice.


“They’re not abandoning the party!” *WHACK*


“Just— Hey!” *WHACK* “That’s enough, okay?  I’m done!”


“Impish!” *WHACK*


“Ow!  Ow!”


Pam looks on, scared for both her husband and best friend… until Meredith needs to run out early too.


Jim walks outside, sore, Pam walking with him.  “Ow...what was that?  Now I’m gonna be all whipped for that meeting.  God.”  He heads to the Outback.  “Think you can survive Nellie dropping you off?”


“Yeah, I should.”  Pam sighs, she needs to know.  “Jim,” she asks “Be honest with me please, why don’t you wanna stay?”


Jim sighs, “Pam, I’m scared.  I’m sucking at my job right now, and I need to do this right.  The last thing I need is for you to worry about me.”


“Well tough, because I do worry about you,” Pam bluntly answers, “You’re driving yourself crazy.”


“Pam, you already have so much on your shoulders,” he says, rubbing her arms, “I just want to make sure that you get the life you deserve.”


Pam wants to cry.  He cares so much, so damn much, that he’s neglecting himself.  “So you’re not staying?” she asks, praying he’ll say that he is.


He grabs her hands.  “Listen, thank you so much for putting that all together.  That was the perfect Christmas party.  I’ll see you at home.”


“Okay,” she relents, trying to fake a smile, “And hey, don’t worry, you’re gonna be great.”


“Thanks, love you.”


“Love you.”  The two kiss and embrace, too many words left unsaid.


Brent is one of the cameramen of the crew, the only one of the crew except Brian to have been there since the beginning, and the infamous “interviewer” for this season and most of the series.  Throughout the documentary, he and Jim became close.  He managed to get his confession to Pam, and their kiss.  He filmed his time in Stamford.  He filmed the wedding, both of them.  He filmed Jim and Pam holding Cece for the first time, and he got to hold her himself.  And he filmed him almost calling Mark back, thanking God he didn’t.


It’s no surprise it’s usually his camera that Jim’s always looking at.


The Halperts love him and everything he does for them, and he’s just thankful he and his wife managed to find actual friends out of this whole insane experience.  He knows he can’t intervene… and it’s hurting him not to.


Another cameraman is up in the conference room.  They shoot Jim getting in the Outback, and as it leaves, Pam slowly walks back in, downtrodden.  All the while Dwight looks on from the window, seeing his best friend upset.


“What’re you doing?” Pam asks as she meets him by the elevator.


“Party’s over,” Dwight asserts, “You quit on Christmas, Christmas quits on you.”  He then shouts to the camera, “And guess what, kids.  Belsnickel isn’t real.  It’s me, Dwight!”  How disappointing.


Phyllis, feeling like Jimmy Stewart from Its a Wonderful Life, sets up a traditional Christmas party.  Justice is real after all.


“For what it’s worth, I liked your party better,” Pam consoles Dwight.


Dwight scoffs, “Everyone thought the food was gross, and that Belsnickel was some darkly erotic freak.” 


Pam pauses, “I don’t think anyone thought that.”


“I did,” Nellie admits, getting her guitar out.


“He’s not?” Meredith asks.


Pam just looks at them in confusion.


“Jim couldn’t even stay till the end of the party,” Dwight laments.


“Well, that didn’t have anything to do with you,” Pam comforts.  


“I don’t care,” he lies, “Guess how much I care on a scale of one to ten.”


“Zero.”


“Damn it!”


She offers him some eggnog, but she tells him he’ll just have another Dumatril.


“Jim taught me this really cool way to take it,” Dwight mentions, “You crush it into a powder, and you snort it up your butt.”


“Yup, I did say that.”


In walks Jim, with a smile plastered on his face.  Pam, relieved, walks up to hug him… and is beaten to the punch by Dwight.


“What are you doing?” Jim asks, “Last time I saw you, you were whipping me out of the building.”  One could tell he was still annoyed.


“Shh.  Let’s not speak of that,” Dwight says, putting his fingers over his lips.  Jim smirks, accepting Dwight’s roundabout apology.  Besides, it’s time for the Pig Rib!


“What made you change your mind?” Pam asks.


“I just missed my wife,” Jim replies.  They give each other another hug and kiss and, as Dwight finds the Pig Rib, adds, “Oh, and the meeting was rescheduled to Monday.”


The Breaking of the Pig Rib commences, and Pete and Erin make it back just in time.  Jim and Dwight, neck and neck, the office cheering them on!  Who’ll win?


The answer’s made clear after the office is splattered in what’s likely some sort of pig’s grease?


“Damn it!” Dwight shouts, disappointed, “Jim got the bigger half.”


Jim fist-bumps Kevin.  The bigger half is a sign of good luck…


—————————————————————————————————————————————


In the kitchen, Jim discusses to his coworkers what Athlead is doing after a lengthy phone call with Mark, “They’re thinking of collaborating with Mike Schmidt on some of his charity work.”


“I love Philly,” Stanley reminisces, smiling and nodding, “Dirty town.”


Dwight comes up and grabs Jim’s shoulders, “Ah-ha-ha!  Philly!  Exciting stuff, man.”


“Yeah,” Jim nods with a genuine smile, “It is.”


“So you sure you remembered everything from that call?”


“Yeah, I think so.”


The air suddenly shifts.  “Think about that for a sec,” he asks, hinting at something vital.


“Yeah, Jim called Mark about Athlead,” Darryl tells Brent, “He said he was gonna get me in, but that was two months ago.  And I haven’t heard anything since.  I mean, he said that, right?”


“What else could you possibly be forgetting?” he asks again, pushing him to say what he desperately needs to hear.


Jim’s desperately trying to remember, “Uh—”


“Things?  People?” Darryl presses.


Yeah, Jim forgot.  That son of a bitch.


Darryl decides to drink his sorrows away with Dwight’s Gluhwein mixed with some alcohol.


“Jim,” Darryl angrily slurs, “that guy,” he scoffs, “You gotta stick to your word!  Like when you say something to your buddy, a real buddy, what are you gonna do, lie?  To your buddy?” he sighs defeatedly, “It’s awful.”


He finds out he just up and leaves… which only makes him more pissed and drunker.  So drunk that he begins to be attracted to Meredith.


Meanwhile, Pam and Dwight could not be more disappointed about Jim’s departure… but Darryl?  Pshhh, he doesn’t care.  He’s gonna tell Jim to go f*** himself.


And then he comes back.  He’s too chicken to be chicken.


“Back for more, huh?” Darry asks incredulously from his office.  This ends now.


“YOU!” he shouts as he enters the conference room, ready to tear Jim a new one.


“Oh, hey, man!” Jim greets.  As Darryl approaches his challenger, Jim says “Oh, you know what?  Before I forget again, I talked to the guys about hiring you.  They’re gonna bring you in for an interview.”


This gives Darryl pause… Jim only just forgot to mention it.  He got in, he got in!  Jim didn’t lie or forget… he is a buddy!


Darryl’s drunken state can only get him to answer “...That’s great.  Thanks, man,” he says, pointing at him.


“Yeah, of course!” Jim replies.


Darryl decides to do his victory dance… that sends him plummeting onto the table of snacks, much to everyone’s shock.


Dwight, channeling the spirit of Belsnickel once more, looks at the display and simply says, “Very impish.”


End Notes:

A lot of plot summary here with Belsnickel, but Jim and Pam's central conflict has shifted (hence why Pam pushes for it instead of Jim), and it's going to remain that way.  Besides, I can't recreate the majesty of Dwight's Belsnickel, it'd be wrong to try.

As for the Pete/Erin subplot, there was a good reason why Ed Helms was gone as long as he was but I couldn't find the reason for why Clark Duke was gone for a chunk of episodes, so I was like "screw it" and had him be a part of it.  And it gave me an excuse to write more Jan.

And the Nellie/Toby subplot?  OUT the window.  Whose bright idea was that anyway?  Yeah, let's pair the most awkward woman in the office with a guy that shifts between a sad, pitiful man to a literal creep from episode to episode.  There are times where I like Toby, but tbf he doesn't deserve love.

And then there's Brent, the single OC... yeah, he's mostly a foil for Brian.  It'll make more sense going forward. 

NEXT TIME: Lice have infected the office!  Erin takes control of the situation with Pete, Darryl gets some relationship "help" from his fellow employees, Jim's internal struggles become more apparent, and Angela gets a rude awakening...

Lice by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:
To be honest, I'm surprised I got "Junior Salesman" done as quickly as I did.  My assumption is that I'm getting the hang of trying to adapt these episodes, but there's not a whole lot I changed in that entry.  I added a bunch of deleted scenes stuff, which I do in various episodes when it positively influences the plot, but yeah.  I didn't change much because it's Dwight-centered.  And it's an unwritten rule of mine to leave those plots alone because they're too good.

“If Jim has bedbugs, that means theyre everywhere. I cant risk them coming back to Schrute Farms. Our biggest attraction is our 200-year-old mattresses.” — Dwight Schrute


Andy is still on his boat trip.  It’s Week 9.


—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

If there’s one word that best describes Meredith Palmer, it’s “unfiltered”.

 

She knows exactly who she is, what she wants, and how she wants to live her life… and doesn’t give a damn what you think.  She drinks.  She parties.  She sleeps with so many guys, she’s afraid she’ll start looking like one.  She loves her son, of course, but once he was in high school, she figured he’d be fine on his own.  (She was proven wrong with the face tattoo.)  She says, does, and dresses in whatever she wants.  God, remember when Casual Fridays were casual?  She lives how she lives, and screw anyone who judges her for it.  You only live once.

 

It’s proven when her disheveled form walks in.

 

“Oh, hey Meredith!” Erin greets.

 

Actually, it’s Angela, wearing a long coat, a hat, and a scarf, “Pardon?”

 

“Oh, sorry, Angela… yikes.”

 

She just looks annoyed and walks to her desk.  This isn’t normally Angela.  Instead of her usual style of clothing, she’s only wearing whatever she picked out in her closet.  This won’t be the last time she embarrassingly comes into the office like this.

 

“The Senator’s been spending many days on the road for his campaign, and it’s certainly been challenging,” Angela tells Brent, “Yesterday, things took a turn for the worse.  I found out Phillip has lice, which is a very different beast than cat fleas.  So I was up all night disinfecting every sheet, towel, toy, item of clothing in the entire house.  I’m exhausted.  But don’t tell the Senator.  He’s as stressed enough as it is.”

 

“No, I did not join the Senator on his campaign trip, obviously,” Oscar tells him with an awkward chuckle, and then admits, “...but I would have appreciated an invite, at the very least.”

 

Later that day, a terrifying discovery is found.

 

“Hey Meredith,” Pam asks her, “I need your supplier requests today.”

 

“Jeez H. in the morning,” she responds, “Will you stop your nagging already?” 

 

She starts scratching her head more and more, and Angela looks on, eyes widening.

 

“Can you just fill out the form, please?” Pam asks.

 

“Yes,” she responds.  As Pam walks back to her desk, Erin notices what’s going on.  

 

“Oh come on,” Angela responds to Brent, “it’s nothing, I’m sure she’s just confused.  Besides, she already acts like a primate, so of course, she’d scratch like one, too.”

 

Erin summons Meredith over, and after putting her foster care expertise to use, announces the obvious, “Alright, pencils down everyone, we got lice!”

 

Angela is freaking out inside.  This is the one thing she was trying to prevent.

 

“Oh God, Meredith, lice?” she asks incredulously, “Did you not sign a pledge to shower?”

 

Jim and Pam look at each other, scared.

 

“We disinfected the house, right?” Jim whispers, frightened.

 

“I’m sure we did, why wouldn’t we?” Pam asks back.

 

“Look, if you don’t mind calling Cece’s daycare and—”

 

“What?  LICE?” a distraught Dwight shouts, entering from the kitchen.  Angela points at Meredith, making sure everyone knew it was her.  “Oh my God,” he continues, “Lock the doors, we are on full quarantine!” 

 

“Dwight, it’s just lice!” Pam says.

 

“Possibly,” Jim adds.

 

“Maybe.”

 

Just lice, Pam?” Dwight asks her like it’s the stupidest thing she’s ever said.

 

Dwight says to Brent that he got lice once when he was seven, and he’s been a social outcast ever since.  Those are some vindictive lice.

 

Dwight is all clear, and then sprays them all with his aerosol shampoo.

 

Angela’s next to get checked, “Geez Meredith, you know, this is an office not one of your bean bag orgies.”  Denial and deflection.

 

“Alright, let’s give her a break,” Pam defends, “We don’t know for sure this is Meredith’s fault.”

 

Oscar looks at Pam and just says, “Pam, really?  Come on.”

 

“Hey, what do you want?” Meredith adds incredulously, “I know who I am!  Nobody’s takin’ Meredith Palmer to the opera to meet the queen.”  As much as she doesn’t care, her being blamed for anything involving infestations or the like pisses her off.

 

Angela looks at Oscar with daggers once again.  He’s the reason this happened, not her.  He’s the one to blame.  Hell, Meredith would have brought them here sooner or later, so she might as well have done it!

 

Erin checks everyone out.

Stanley?  “Ooh yabber, lice!”

Pam?  “Yikers, lice.”  “Jim, relax.”

Oscar?  “Oh yeah, big time lice.”  “Ehh!”

Jim?  “Wowza, that’s some lice.”  “S***.”

 

“I wash my hands at least six times a day,” Oscar informs Brent, “Toilet seat covers?  Yes, thank you, even when I pee.  Apparently, none of that is protection enough.  Not when it comes to Meredith.”  He knows he’s trying to overcompensate since what he’s doing is much more disgusting than lice.

 

Dwight, sporting a HAZMAT suit, directs Darryl, Nellie, Phyllis, and Kevin to the warehouse since they don’t have any HAZMAT suits of their own (“Uh, renters.”).  The ‘infected’, meanwhile, hang out in the office and deal with the situation.

 

“Guys, I think we should all ease up on Meredith,” Pam sympathizes, “This has got to be hard for her.”

 

“Oh, no no no no no.  I have not yet begun to shame,” Angela presses, denying and deflecting.

 

Erin jumps on Stanley’s back to prevent his departure, noting how serious the situation is.  She’s a foster child, she knows.

 

“Maybe it was Meredith,” Angela pushes to Brent, “Maybe she brought in lice that are completely different from the lice that I got from Phillip.  ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’”  She can tell he’s not buying it, so she relents quietly, “Fine, I’ll tell her it was me.”

 

“Hey, Meredith I need to tell you—” Angela asks Meredith but is interrupted by suddenly witnessing the woman shaving her head in front of her.  “Oh my God, Meredith what are you doing?!”

 

“Baking a cake, what does it look like I’m doing?” she responds, “Getting rid of the lice.”

 

Angela was getting desperate, “Meredith, I can explain every—”

 

“Oh, can you hold that thought?”, Meredith interrupts, “That’s my wax.  You know, I think these critters migrated from down south.”  This elicits a groan from Angela.  “What were you saying?”

 

“...Nothing, carry on,” Angela responds as quickly leaves.

 

“Listen,” she says defensively in front of the camera, “The Senator and I will compensate in any way we can for this little… mishap.  A new wig, a makeover, proper hygiene.  That is the right way to do this.”

 

While Dwight is fear-mongering everyone, Erin takes control and tells everyone that all they need is mayonnaise in their hair to help kill them off.  This is to prevent anyone else by looking like Meredith who walks in proud of her new non-do.

 

“Shaboom!  How do you like me now?!”  Everyone just groans.  “Yeah, yeah, everybody pile on Meredith,” she retaliates, “But I’m the only one with the balls to show them lice who’s boss.”  She sits next to Angela, who gets up and moves across the room to avoid looking at her because she’s disgusting… and it’s her fault.

 

Erin presses that they need mayonnaise now.  “I’ll go,” Pam offers.

 

Angela’s the only one in the room that doesn’t thank her as if she doesn’t feel guilty enough.

 

“No, no, it’s not a big deal, please,” Pam says, “Um, Meredith can I get you something special while I’m at the store, candy, or… or one of those stylish turbans?”

 

“Thanks, Pam!” Meredith responds happily, “I’ll take a pack of Nicorette gum and a pack of Kools.”

 

“Done,” Pam says smiling.

 

After she returns with the mayonnaise (and Dwight shrieking in fear having busted his HAZMAT suit), Erin tells everyone to buddy up to apply the mayonnaise.  Meredith was exempt for obvious reasons.

Jim is buddied with Pam,

Erin is buddied with Pete,

Creed is buddied with Stanley (Creed will give him a five-dollar tip if he unclogs his ears),

And Angela… is buddied with Oscar.  Per her request.

 

Oscar is, wisely, terrified.

 

She practically slaps the mayonnaise on his head, purposefully hurting him.

 

“Ow!  Angela,” he complains.

 

“You don’t want bugs, you know?” she says snidely, “Who knows where those bugs will end up?”

 

He just lets her have this.  He deserves it, anyway.

 

About an hour later, an infuriated Angela, while sitting on her desk, gets a call from her nanny.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hello, Mrs. Lipton, its María.  It turns out little Philip still has lice.”

 

The whole office hears this and stares her down.  Meredith is especially angry, not about the shaved head, but about the fact that she let her take the fall.  Little Miss Priss who’s more of a prude than Pam with an ass so clenched she can’t sit properly… she brought in the lice.  And she accused Meredith of bringing it.  It was her.  It was all her.

 

Little Miss Priss is, indeed, royally screwed.

 

“What, no,” she scrambles, “That can’t… I don’t…”

 

“Now, dont worry, dont worry.”  At this point, Angela is picking up tissues so she can hang up the phone.  “Were on our way to a physician, but you might have lice too.  You know, lice can be very tricky.  I remember when my son got—” Angela succeeds in hanging up with her elbow.

 

Pam just looks at her and says, “It was you?”

 

“Shave her head,” Meredith snaps at her, with righteous indignation.

 

Angela needs to try some damage control.  “Alright, let’s calm down—”

 

“Shave… her… head!” Meredith stresses with gritted teeth.

 

And soon enough, everyone was yelling at Angela, the camera panning over to Jim, still at his desk, head in his hands.

 

“Everyone, listen!  The Senator’s gone, which means I’m having to do a lot of things myself—”

 

“Yeah Yeah, Princess Fancy Feast letting Jane 12 Pack over here take the fall,” Meredith replies.  Angela just sighs.

 

Oscar, unwisely, steps in, “Angela, you need to take responsibility for—”

 

“Don’t you DARE talk to me about responsibility!” Angela loudly chastises, pointing at him.  He’s cowering in fear.

 

“He’s right, Angela!” Pam says, turning her around, “Yes, it was an honest mistake.  But you point out everything we do wrong all the time.  And the one time you mess up, you pin it on someone else.  That’s not right.”  This manages to get Angela thinking.

 

“They’re right, Angela,” Dwight added through his megaphone from the Regional Manager Office.

 

“Damnit, Dwight!” Jim exclaims, “Is there a volume knob on that thing?”

 

“Yes, Jim, theres a volume knob on that thing!”

 

And with that, everyone goes back to their desks… except Meredith, who’s starring Angela down.

 

She can’t run anymore, “Meredith, I meant to say something earlier.  I just—”

 

“Just?” Meredith responds dejected, “Just what?  Just forgot?”

 

Angela just looks down and just delves into her work.

 

Meanwhile, Dwight, attempting to combat the lice, accidentally drops an insecticidal grenade in the Regional Manager’s office and counts down from ten; Erin’s surprised he got to purple.

 

“Who’s the one who didn’t bring lice into the office?” Meredith later brags to Brent, “Meredith.  Sure, I gave everybody pink eye once, and my ex keyed a few of their cars, and yeah I BMed in the shredder on New Years.  But I didn’t bring the lice in.  That was all Angela.”

 

Speaking of which, she’s still on his passive-aggressive streak towards Oscar when she bumps him on the head with the coffee pot after it’s filled with water.

 

“Ow!”

 

“Sorry,” she curtly responds.  She then practically waterboards him.  When he calls her out on it, she simply responds “Oops.”

 

Pam, hair already washed and dried, walks out of the ladies’ room to see all this.  With an annoyed “Oh my God,” she walks over and grabs the coffee pot from Angela, “I got you, Oscar.”

 

“Thank you!” he shouts in response.

 

Pam just looks at her, “Haven’t you done enough?”

 

“Hey,” Angela stresses, “I’m not the one who made Meredith into a monster.  She chose to save her head.”

 

“That’s not the point!” Pam stresses, “You need to stop blaming others for what you’ve done.”  She returns to washing Oscar’s hair.

 

Angela just looks down and walks to the ladies’ room herself… and Meredith notices her doing so.

 

It’s near the end of the day, and Angela’s on the phone, “Hey honey, it’s me.  Just trying to catch you before heading home.  I hope the campaign is going well.  Love you.”  At this point, she’s starting to tear up.

 

“Hey,” Meredith gets her attention, “You good?”

 

Angela sighs, “I’ll be fine.  I can’t apologize enough.”

 

“Eh, forget about it,” she accepts, “what are you doing right now?”

 

“Ugh, about to head home,” Angela responds, “My nanny’s been watching Phillip all day.”

 

“Let her stay another hour,” Meredith offers, “Found this karaoke bar, seems up your ally.”

 

“Meredith, I don’t go to those kinds—”

 

“Don’t be such a prude, Ang.  Have fun for once.”

 

She considers it, “Alright… I accept your invitation.”

 

“Let’s go, you’re buying,” Meredith says, laughing and hitting Angela’s chair on the way out the door.  Angela joins her, a smile forming on her face.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

“Me and Val were going nowhere,” Darryl informs Brent, “and if I’m gonna be working in Philly, I’m gonna need my freedom.  So, I convinced Val to break up with me.  Here’s how you do it: You say, ‘What are you gonna do, break up with me?’ like as a joke, and then you gain a lot of weight.”

 

Ever since he met Val, he was smitten.  He loves her to death but knows this needs to happen.  Philly, Athlead, all of it is his dream.  He’s not in yet, but he has to cut any loose ends before he ends up hurting others, including Val.  He sees the Halperts and thinks how awful it would be for them to constantly be separated when he’s working part-time.  He can’t do that to Val.

 

As they embrace one last time, Darryl gives an elated smile over her shoulder to the camera.

 

Later on, as Nellie, Kevin, and Phyllis enter the warehouse, Darryl lays some ground rules.

 

“Alright, we’re going down to my warehouse.  That means we’re playing by my rules.  No messing with the baler and be cool in front of me and Val.  We just broke up.”

 

“You got dumped?” Phyllis asks, sympathetically.

 

“Yeah, she ended things.”  She technically did, yes.

 

Nellie tells him that shepherd’s pie and Brandy (the singer, not the drink) got her through her split, and Kevin even offers him his chocolate.

 

Seeking an opportunity, he decides to gain pity points from his coworkers.  This will be his downfall.

 

The three of them see Val walk up to Darryl while they’re working, and he hams it up, talking about how his late grandmother used to make a chocolate cake.  He knowingly smiles brightly at the camera.

 

“Aw, poor Darryl,” Nellie sympathizes, “I can’t bear to see him suffer like this.”

 

“I think he needs some hugs, and maybe some chocolate cake,” Kevin quotes Darryl. 

 

“Mmm, this won’t help him,” Phyllis says while eating the chocolate muffin she was saving for lunch, “it’s a muffin, not cake.”

 

“Listen,” Nellie posits, “let’s try and get Darryl the one thing in the world he clearly wants and needs the most.”  Athlead.

 

They agree to get Darryl Val.

 

The next thing Val knows, all three workers are in her office.  “Can I help you?” she asks.

 

They explain that she made a big mistake in breaking up with Darryl; Val appreciates the concern but is then interrupted by Nellie starts describing what it really means to be a single woman.

 

“The men dry up, and the nights get lonely,” she begins, “The only calls on your machine are for collection agencies about that pair of motorcycle boots you never even wore.  You stalk your old high school boyfriend online, go to his daughter’s soccer games, and make a scene.  You buy a diamond ring for yourself, wear it on your right hand, and tell yourself, you’re all you need.  One day, you’re alone, tired.  At your feet, a dying bird.  But where did it come from?  Why did you kill it?  Is it because in some strange way it is you?”

 

And at this point, Val is very frightened, “Thank you all for your concern, but I’m gonna have to ask you to leave, okay?”  She’s not taking Darryl back, but Kevin asks her out.  It’s demotivating.

 

Later on, as Kevin is breaking the baler by shoving bubble wrap in it, Val walks up to Darryl.

 

“Okay,” she says emphatically.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Let’s give it a shot.  Let’s make it work.”

 

Oh no, Oh no, Oh no, “Oh, no.  I mean, I want to, I just...I don’t want to force you into something you don’t want to do.”  That’ll work.

 

“You’re not,” she says heartwarmingly, “I believe in us.”

 

 “But—” And with that, Val kisses Darryl.  They’re back together.

 

Yaaaaay…

 

While watching this from afar, Phyllis cheers them on, Nellie takes a cordial bow, and Kevin demonstrates what will happen in his bedroom later that night.

 

————————————————————————————————————————————— 

 

Erin and Pete have gotten close, especially after the Die Hard viewing with Clark at Jan’s apartment.  They talk a lot, have common interests, and just generally enjoy each other’s company.

 

And they’re totally falling for each other.  Neither of them is aware of it, but they are… according to Kelly.  Erin stresses that they just get along and make each other laugh, and Kelly’s like “whatever” but that’s bullcrap, because why would Andy ditch Erin for three months?  And Jamaica?  Please, it’s so overrated anyhow.  Rio is where it’s at.  It’s just like the time Ryan ditched her for the job at corporate and he didn’t even bother to say goodbye and just accepted it without even talking to her about it first?  And ugh, he’s such the jealous type.  Like she dated Darryl for a while and Ryan was so pissed at

 

It doesn’t help that, when they had to pair up to apply the mayonnaise, Pete pairs up with Erin.

 

“I only chose Erin to get away from Creed,” he tells Brent, mayonnaise already applied, “Something tells me there’s more on his head that’s alive than just lice.”

 

“Oh, there most certainly is,” Creed confirms to Brent later.

 

In the annex, Erin sits at Clark’s desk as Pete applies the mayonnaise.  “How’s that?” he asks.

 

“I feel it working,” she says with a bright smile.  He’s used to washing dogs all the time; he worked at a PetSmart before starting at Dunder Mifflin.  But this was different, because… it’s Erin.  She spins in her chair as he’s applying it, challenging him on how good he is if she’s moving.

 

After she’s all mayo’d up, he decides to give his hair a little curl at the front.  “Look… I’m Donkey Kong!”

 

“You are!” she exclaims, “But I think I can be a better Donkey Kong than you.”

 

“Is that another challenge?”

 

She gives herself that same curl on her head, and they both imitate Donkey Kong’s pose from the classic arcade game.

 

Later on, he says happily “Oh, I’m gonna see if I can give myself antennae.”

 

“Oh!” inspiration strikes as she takes as much hair as she can and straightens it up to a point, “Eiffel Tower!”  He giggles.

 

They later inform Brent about the dangers of Facial Posterioritus, aka Butthead Syndrome.

 

Unfortunately, after a while, the mayonnaise makeover had to end, and after Angela and Oscar are washed, Pete is the next to get his hair cleaned off.

 

“You’re up,” Erin states.

 

“Yeah, I’m kinda sad to see this baby go,” he jokingly laments.

 

“You do kinda look like Elvis,” she says, “but we should probably wash all the dead lice out.”

 

“Okay,” he sits down and she gets the faucet running.

 

“Is that too cold?” she asks.

 

“Nah,” Pete reassures, “it actually feels kinda nice.”  He can’t help but smile at how good it feels.  She can’t hide her smile either. Soon enough, it’s her turn.  He admits that he only has experiences with dogs to her, but she doesn’t mind.  And who’d have thought?  It feels just as good for her as it did for him.

 

But this is wrong, right?  Yeah, this is a necessity for getting rid of the lice.  But she can’t enjoy it that much, because the last thing Erin wants is to think about Pete and not her boyfriend Andy, especially considering he’s had to deal with so much.  He’s been sending her emails twice a week after Dwight’s Christmas party, but never bothers to call; he never even reads her replies, he instead sends new emails of pictures of him and his brother living it up in Jamaica.  She’ll email him about the lice, and she hopes he’ll respond.  He won’t.  But she has to be there for him.  She has to be.

 

She’s selfish if she’s not.

 

It’s after 5:00 and Erin needs a ride home.  She doesn’t want to be around Pete.  Not because she’s scared of him, but because she doesn’t know how to be around him anymore.

 

“Hey,” Erin approaches him nervously, “Andy’s car is in the shop, I need a ride home.”

 

“Oh, sure, no problem,” he agrees with a smile.  She shyly smiles back.

 

“I like Erin a lot.  As a friend,” he admits to Brent before he leaves the office, “A lot of that is because… she’s the only person I can be myself around.”  And that person is a total dork.

 

They both end up being thankful for the lice later in life.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

“Mark is meeting Dr. J today,” Jim tells Brent, “otherwise known as Julius Erving, famed 76er and my own personal hero.  And… God, I wish I was there and not here.  But hey, it’s not that bad, knowing Pam she would rather be go-karting with John Stamos than be here, so…”

 

Jim has been talking about Athlead during the talking heads a lot.  And a lot of it won’t end up in the doc.  Honestly, they just let him because it just allows him to vent.

 

And, in a year, none of that footage would matter anymore.

 

Thanksgiving was hell on earth.  Tom and Pete Halpert knew about Athlead, and kept teasing about him being in Dunder Mifflin and not there.  Jim has always had a strained relationship with his brothers, but this was beyond the pale.  Jim asked them in private and not during Thanksgiving dinner (thank God) to please, just lay off.  Of course, they didn’t, much to Pam, Betsy, and Gerald’s chagrin.  It took Larisa to step in on Jim’s behalf; she’s the youngest of the Halpert children as well as the smallest, but when she’s angry she manages to put the fear of God in them.

 

At this point, Pam knew something was up.  At first, it was just him trying to do his work and do it well, but then it became an obsession.  After that client dropped him, he tried to get into his work, getting himself overly-stressed in the process.  This was why she was so adamant on getting him to stay during the Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas, she wanted him to know that he doesn’t have to constantly focus on work and let loose.  Christmas Day was the one day he’d let himself have a reprieve, but as soon as January rolled around he’s only gotten worse.  The other day, he left because he hurt himself biting his lip.  That’s, like, a sick day.  He’s been making less and less sense.

 

And today was no different.  He flipped out about the lice but just kept wanting to work.  He wasn’t in the conference room; Dwight’s megaphone was loud enough anyway.

 

While Pam’s grabbing her stuff from her desk in a hurry, Jim’s still at his desk, typing away.

 

“Hey,” she says to him, “I’m going for the mayonnaise.”

 

“Yeah, I heard,” he said emotionlessly, “I don’t need anything, I’m okay.”  He’s not.

 

“You sure?”

 

“Yyyup.”

 

“Okay, love you.”

 

“Love you.”

 

They peck each other on the lips, and she’s off.

 

As she returns to the mayonnaise, he asks her over the phone, “Got everything?”

 

“Yup.”

 

“Need any help?”

 

“Nope,” the moment she says that he could hear two mayonnaise jars splatter on the ground, “Yup.”

 

He sighs and rolls his eyes, annoyed, “On my way down.”

 

Later, he’s applying mayonnaise on her hair as she looks up at him, upside down.

 

“You know,” she says with a smile, “That mayonnaise makes you look like James Bond.”

 

He smiles lightly in response, then sobers, “This whole thing has gotten me shaken and stirred.”

 

She rolls her eyes, “Nice.”

 

“Did you call them?”

 

She gets out of his seat and perches on his desk. “Yup, good news!  Called Mom and the daycare on the way to the store.  It’s not us.”

 

“Oh, thank God,” he loudly sighs in relief, getting back in his seat.

 

She pauses, hesitant, but this needs to be addressed, “Hey, I was curious about something.”

 

“Hm?” he asks.

 

She’s afraid of how he’s gonna react, but he needs to hear this, “You think… you need to talk to someone?”

 

“Like… a professional?” he asks observantly.

 

“Yeah.”

 

His face begins to display annoyance, “Pam, I’m fine.  I don’t know what—”

 

“Are you working late again tonight?” she promptly asks, knowing the answer.

 

“...Well, yeah, but—”

 

“Jim, this is not healthy.  You’ve been eating lunch at your desk, you’ve been coming home later and later, and you say you’re fine but you’re clearly not—”

 

He rubs his temples as she speaks and then just says “Pam, please, just… lay off, alright?”  It was a lot more stern he meant it to be.

 

Her face displays worry, and he notices this.  “Um, you wanna ease up a little bit?” she asks, clearly annoyed.

 

He sighs, noticing what he’s done, “I’m really sorry.  I didn’t mean to act like—”

 

“I know you didn’t,” she laments, “And that’s what scares me.”  She walks off to the kitchen, downtrodden.  He responds by turning his office chair back in front of his computer screen, continuing to pour everything into his work, trying to recover from all the chaos.

 

After Meredith and Angela leave, Nellie and Pam approach Jim.

 

“Nell, I cannot thank you enough for this,” Jim says.

 

“Oh, not a problem at all!” she responds.

 

“Has your driving gotten better?” Pam asks.

 

“Indeed,” she proudly states, “Yours truly only ran over two mailboxes in the past month.”  This response garners a concerned Jim look to the camera.  She grabs her coat and walks off, “I’ll warm it up, Pam!”

 

“Okay!” she responds.  She then smirks at Jim, “You know you sentenced me to death, right?”

 

“Hey, at least it’s not Dwight,” Jim responds with his own smirk.

 

The air becomes tense, as she begins to worry once again.  She crouches in front of him, “Please just get home soon, okay?  The kids… they miss you.”

 

Jim can tell she’s worried, and he wants nothing more than to see those smiling faces again.  He so desperately wants to leave that chair and go with her, but… he needs to stay.  He needs to.  For her.  For them.

 

He holds her hands in his, “Pam… I know this is really weird, and it’s really hard.”  Thats what she said.  “But I think I’m making progress.  So I’m really sorry that I have to stay, but let me keep at this.  Okay?”

 

Pam nods.  She wants so desperately to believe him, but she can’t.  And she hates that she can’t.  “Okay,” she replies meekly.

 

After they kiss and say goodnight, he gets back to work.  As she turns to leave, she looks back at him, longingly, before heading out.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

A poorly done karaoke rendition of ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper plays throughout the bar.  Meredith, bald and proud, looking as motivated as ever, dances.  Angela, meanwhile, stands behind her, the mic in both hands, looking like a deer in headlights.

 

“This is for all you ladies out there,” Meredith shouts during the intro, “who’ve had to deal with some bullcrap today and just need a load off!”  The audience claps along with her.  “Here we go!”

“I come— Dammit, come home, in the morning light,

My mother says, When you gonna live your life right?

 

A distraught Pam is crying on the steps of her front porch.  Nellie takes a seat beside her, wrapping her arm around her for comfort.  She leans in to tell Pam he’s gonna be okay, and Pam responds with a sad, small nod.

“Oh Momma Dear, were not the fortunate ones,

And girls, they wanna have fu-un

Oh, girls just wanna have fun”

 

Meredith confidently dances, pushing Angel a forward with a “Sing it, bitch!”  Angela glances at her annoyed before turning to the prompter and awkwardly starts singing herself.

“The phone rings in the middle of the night

My father yells, What you gonna do with your life?

 

Val kisses Darryl on the lips as she turns to her car.  He smiles, but the moment her back is turned, his face sobers.  He heads to his car and contemplates what to do next.

“Oh Daddy Dear, you know youre still number one

But girls, they wanna have fun

Oh, girls just wanna have”

 

Meredith then wraps her arm around her as they sing the chorus together.  Meredith’s having the time of her life, and Angela smiles, getting into it.

“Thats all they really waaaaant

Some fuuuuun”

 

Pete pulls up to Andy and Erin’s place and Erin, out of nowhere, gives him a peck on the cheek.  They both freeze, not knowing what to do next.  She hurriedly gets out of the car and briskly walks to the front door.  Pete is left shaken as he begins to drive home.

“When the working day is done

Oh, girls, they wanna have fu-un

Oh, girls just wanna have fun…”


End Notes:

For those unaware, I switched the "lice-bringer" from Pam to Angela; Jim was with Dr. J at the time and she had to do it herself.  This was a real challenge for me, taking someone's dialogue and applying it to another character, but I think I'm getting better at it.

Replacing her with Angela heightens the struggle she has with her marriage with the Senator on his "campaign" and Oscar facing the brunt of her ire.  Plus, I thought it'd be neat to pair her and Meredith together.  They are the complete antithesis of each other, so having them bond was fun to write.

Obviously the JAM section here is the biggest departure.  Again, if Jim was home the lice wouldn't have been an issue for Pam, he's a good father.  His struggle is only gonna get worse, but it'll only be for a couple more chapters.  After that is the complete AU shift.  And as for Dr. J?  Jim'll meet him one day.  He deserves it.

NEXT TIME: Clark's back!  As Jim gets more and more absorbed into his work, Dwight and Clark sell to a family business, Erin deals with some pens, Pam goes with Darryl to Athlead, and everyone else tries ALL 16 flavors of Nespresso.

Suit Warehouse by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

I'm part of the way through "Vandalism" and a combination of priorities and writers block is preventing me from moving forward.  I'm considering posting "Customer Loyalty" and Chapter 14 after this one within the next day or two, so if there are two more chapters out of the blue that's why.

Enjoy! 

“I mean, they just need to communicate, you know?” — Jim Halpert


Andy is still on his boat trip.  It’s Week 10.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


[Stone & Son Suit Warehouse

contract expired with their

paper provider!

Go get it!

- David Wallace]


Dwight just now receives this IM on his computer and already has a plan brewing.  And he knows just the man to help him: Jim Halpert.  They used to clean up a lot of family-owned businesses, and this is no exception.  They pretended to be family — brothers.


“Jim and Dwight Shrupert,” Dwight explains to Brent, “I was the dynamic, likable winner that was doted upon by Mom.  And Jim was the closeted foot fetishist pretending to belong.  The client never knew any of that, but I knew.”


Jim’s focused on his work, wearing a new large headset with a mic.


“Hey, Jim,” Dwight says to get his attention, nothing.  “Jim!”


“I just bought myself this brand new headset,” Jim tells Brent with a slight smile, “Now no one in this office can distract me from actually doing my damn job.  But, I’m sure they’ll try.”


Dwight then takes off one of the earmuffs and says “Jim!”


“Ah!” Jim jumps, “God, Dwight!  What do you want?”


“I hope you’ve been paying your wig storage bills, Jimbo,” Dwight begins as he heads back to his seat, “because it’s time for another episode of ‘Handsome and Stinky, Paper Brothers For Hire’.”


“Sorry, Stinky, can’t do it.  Too busy.”


“Oh, God, this again?  You’re Stinky.”


“Look, I’ve already got a presentation to get done.  Just ask Phyllis,” he suggests, gesturing at her, “She can be your older sister or something.”


“Phyllis, my sister?” he asks incredulously, “More like my dead great-great-grandmother who died of stupidity.”


“I have ears, Dwight,” she mutters, offended. 


“Oh, do you really have ears, Phyllis?” he makes fun of her, “Like all human beings?  We all have ears,” he turns back to Jim and whispers, “See what you leave me with here?”


Pam wants to say ‘I think you should go.  You guys are unstoppable,’ but she knows it won’t do any good at this point.  She sits there and frustratingly holds her tongue.


“Look,” Jim presses, “there’s no way I can get this presentation done and do this sale with you.”


“How is that my problem?” Dwight says to Jim who’s rolling his eyes, “Will be in and out of there within 3 hours, and it only takes 40 minutes to get there and back if we go 70 miles per hour.”


“I see,” Jim posits, “And how long would it be if we went 100 miles per hour, 200, and 300?”


As Dwight does the math, Jim puts his headset back on.  Pam just purses her lips in sympathy to the poor salesman.  Both of them.


Out walks Darryl, in a freshly pressed suit.


“Darryl, looking good!” Nellie compliments.


“Heading to Philly,” Darryl explains, “Interview with Athlead.” 


“Hey, good luck,” Pam tells him, “When you get to Philly, will you tell Mark we said hi?”


“Why don’t you two come along and tell him yourselves?” Darryl offers.


“Jim,” she taps him on the shoulder.  He knows it’s Pam so he doesn’t flip out.  “Darryl invited us to go to his interview in Athlead.”


He tries to get out of seeing everything that he lost out on, “That would be great.”


“Yeah,” Pam adds, “Kind of like ditching school, except instead of getting suspended, you get...  What do you get?  Oh my god!  Why didn’t I think of this?  Andy’s not here.”


“You coming?” Darryl asks.


“Nah, give Mark my best,” he responds, his eyes drawn to the screen.


Darryl just gives a hesitant “Alright,” and turns to the door.  Pam leans down to Jim and pecks him on the lips.


“I love you,” she says genuinely.


“Love you, too,” he returns with a smile.


“I appreciate everything you do for me.”


“I know.”


She pecks him again.


“God, get a room!” Dwight shouts.


She sighs, “I’ll see you when I get back!” she says as she departs.


“Alright,” Jim returns.


She walks out with Darryl and they head to Athlead.  She’s sure to grab all of her stuff.  Darryl is smart and he does too.


They’re on their way to Philly and Pam makes sure he can get into Athlead… if that’s what he wants, “You ready for your interview?”


“I was born ready!” he states with confidence which immediately shifts into self-doubt, “No, I suck at interviews.  I had Andy’s job in the bag until my interview.”


“Well, you shouldn’t be nervous about this,” Pam explains, “This is a tiny start-up with a bunch of guys just as dorky as Jim.” 


“Yeah, I guess…”


“Really,” she reassures, “You can’t be scared of a room full of Jims.  I love the guy, but he’s basically Gumby with hair.”  Boom, roasted.


Darry’s feeling better about it now.  Pam isn’t.


They enter the office itself and wow, does it look good.  Far above anything that any Dunder Mifflin branch has ever looked.


And out comes Mark Muller, the man himself, addressing Dennis as he sees a familiar face, “Pam?”


“Mark!” she greets, and they give each other a big hug, “Oh my God, how have you been?”


“Fantastic!  How are the kids?”


“Amazing.”


“That’s great!” he looks around, “Where’s Jim?”


Of course, he’d ask, “He’s at work, but he says hi.”


“Well, give him my best,” Mark happily responds, completely ignorant of Jim’s plight.


“Damn!” Darryl compliments, “Mark, you got a real Facebook energy going on here man.  You Zuckerberged this place out!”


“It’s pretty great, right?  I mean, we’re coming along—” he interrupts to address Wade, and realizes he has something to do, “Actually, you know what?  Give me one second, okay?  Make yourselves at home.”  Darryl does.  Pam doesn’t.


Later on, they head downstairs to do Darryl’s interview.


“Wow, this place is… so great,” Pam compliments, “I had no idea — Jim made it sound kind of dinky.”


“Well, I mean, I don’t even have the paycheck yet,” Mark explains, “It is a startup, so... these things go down all the time,” he gives a nervous smile.


“If this company’s going down,” Darryl says, “I wanna go down on it.”  Both Pam and Mark smirk at each other before he realizes what he just said, “With it.  I wanna go down with it.”


“Hey,” Mark addresses to Pam, “Sorry, I should have done something for when you were coming—”


“No problem,” Pam waves it off, “I’m fine with just hanging out.”


“Sure,” he addresses Darryl, “You ready?”


“Yeah,” he responds with confidence.


“Let’s do it!”


As they walk to the interviewing room, Pam gives Darryl a thumbs up, then loiters around… feeling extremely out of place.  And what makes matters worse is Jim would consider this his dream, and he’d think Philly is his real home; he’s always preferred Philly over Scranton anyhow.  But… she doesn’t want this.  She’s scared of it.  Scared of what Jim might think of it.  Scared that he thinks he should have called Mark back, or worse, scared that there’ll be another job opening and he’ll go all-in and she’ll have to play catch-up.  She can’t risk it.  She can’t.  Not with Cece and Phil in the picture.  Jim made the right choice.  She’s thankful that he made the right choice… and yet she’s scared he feels otherwise.


And Darryl?  She hates that she thinks this because this is everything, everything that Darryl deserves… but she wants him to still be working at Dunder Mifflin, for Jim.  It’s one thing that his college roommate started it, but Darryl being gone?  Jim’s closest friend in the office?  (Well, besides Dwight, but that’s debatable.)  It’s only gonna push him to want this even more.  But he can’t!  Besides, he said so himself!  He’s happy with his choices!  So why is she plaguing herself with this much doubt?


She’s back in her chair from earlier as she sees the male receptionist chatting with her.


“By the way,” he tells her, “Tell Jim we said thanks.  None of this would have been possible without him.”


“That’s sweet, will do,” Pam responds, “and we’re really glad we invested.”


“Trust us, we are too,” he says with a hint of relief, “It’s too bad he still has to work in Scranton, though.”


This shakes her to her core, “Yeah, but he seems really happy working at Dunder Mifflin.”


“Cool,” he simply responds, returning to his work.


God, she wants to be anywhere else.


Meanwhile, Darryl’s interview is happening and it sure is… something.  The “mandate” association clarifies that he has one gay friend.  After being embarrassed that he’s a warehouse worker, he’s immediately relaxed by the team, who assure him they’ve all had other jobs before; hell, Colin’s the most qualified one in the room!  The interview goes far more smoothly at this point, with him handing out his thoughts into booklets, all of them impressed.


“It was nice meeting you Darryl,” Sandra reassures, “I think you’d fit in great here.”


Oh my God, I did it!  “Yeah, yeah me too,” he says casually, “I think it’d be like… You know what?” The next thing he does is grab a signed basketball and aims it at the hoop, “I think it’d be like a Kevin Durant jump shot… Perfecto!”


Aaand it bounces off, hits the lamp over the fish tank, killing all the fish.  They all just look on, terrified.


After the interview, Pam tries to comfort him, “They’re the ones who put a fish tank next to a basketball hoop.  It’s like if I put a glass of milk on the edge of the table and Cece knocks it over, I don’t blame Cece.”


“So I’m like a three-year-old girl in this scenario…” he laments.  This isn’t helping.


However, she can be there for him like she is for Jim, “Say they don’t hire you.  It’s not like you’re out on the street.  You have a great job with people who love you.”


“And I’d only get to see Jada on the weekends,” he considers, “You know, I’m…  I’m not so sure I’d like living in Philadelphia.”


Thank God, its not just me!  “Right?  Thank you!  It’s just Philly.  Everyone’s acting like it’s New York or Paris or London.”


“Who needs it?” 


“Not us.”


And out walks Mark with the news, “Okay, so the consensus was that that was… something.  They’re going to make you pay for the fish, and…” a smile grows on his face, “they wanted to know when you can start.”


“What?” Darryl asks.  Mark shrugs knowingly.  He got it.  He… he got it.


“How about yesterday?” Darryl says happily as he shakes his hand.


Yay, he got it.  “Congratulations!” Pam says, feigning happiness, “I guess you gotta move to Philly after all.”


“Yes, I love Philly!” Darryl says victoriously on his way out the door, “Two-One-Five or die!”


“No, I’m not upset,” Pam lies to the camera, “I’m really excited for Darryl… Maybe I’m a little disappointed that we’ll be losing him.”  She will be.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Wow, not even Athlead got you out of that chair,” Dwight noticed.


“As I said, I’m busy,” Jim responds plainly.


“Huh, guess you are.”


“Yup,” Jim confirms as he lets go of both earmuffs and they slap back to position on his ears.


That confirms it: Dwight needs another salesman.  Thankfully, one just happens to reenter the scene after months of being absent: Clark Green.  Walking in with a fancy scarf, new glasses, and a large coat, he’s gained a new sense of confidence during his absence.  And all it took was his virginity.  Everyone besides Jim (who would if he wasn’t glued to the computer screen) greet him.  Oscar calls him Dwight Jr. yet again because of course, he does.


“Hey, so how was it?” Kevin asks, “I mean… the sex with Jan.”


“A gentleman doesn’t discuss such matters,” Clark confidently responds, “Especially when the feelings of a lady are involved.”


“Women reach their sexual peak at whatever age Jan was last week,” he explains to Brent, “I mean it was… like making love with a wild animal.  But not like a cougar, like you might think.  It was uh... like a swarm of bees.  Bees that just find something wrong with every hotel room.”  The trauma on his face is evident; Michael can empathize with his plight.


Dwight congratulates Clark on his “small” role in getting the White pages, and all he wants in return is half of the commission.  Nope.


“Hey, listen,” Dwight asks Clark, “remember how everyone used to call you Dwight Jr., and how much you loved that?”


“Ah hah ha, I loved it.”  He didn’t.  Still doesn’t.


Dwight leans in and whispers, “How would you like to pretend to by my son in order to land a sale?”


Clark just… he just doesn’t care at this point.  He’s going for what he wants.  “If it’ll lead to me being a salesman, I’ll pretend to be your friend.”


“Then looks like we have a deal,” Dwight lifts a suit identical to his own, in Clark’s size, “...Son.”


The interview goes pretty well thus far, although neither of them is the best of actors.  Jim could usually “yes, and” Dwight’s clever tactics with his charm, but since neither Dwight nor Clark is all that sociable, it’s an uphill climb.  They try to talk about hunting, where “Clarky” compares his “Pop” to a serial killer, and Dwight apparently exposed Clark to sawing off a sleeping deer’s head off when he was three.


And then… something unexpected is revealed.


“He’s a good boy, does whatever I say,” Dwight says, referring to Clark.


“I can’t relate to that,” Mr. Stone Sr. laments, “my son hates my guts.”


Uh oh.  “Oh... really.”


“Bring him into the business, and he resents me. How do you like that?”


Dwight realizes that he needs to pull a full 180, with Clark being none the wiser when he returns with the brochures.


“What took you so long?” Dwight chastises, “Were you loitering out there like a hooligan, smoking a doobie?”


He has to clue Clark in, but thankfully, he’s a fast learner, “Because the truth is… our relationship is… terr—”

“Terrible!”

“Terrible.”  Nailed it.


Things escalate when Clark discovers that Dwight’s acting is better than he assumed… and words start to get hurtful.


And, of course, in walks the son himself, Mr. Stone, Jr.  Pft, Got cat turd collector written all over him.


… And, as it turns out, Junior is the boss, not Senior.  Clark’s got it covered from here.  He plays up his strained relationship with his “father” by insulting Dwight’s suit in front of Junior, much to Senior’s chagrin and Dwight’s shock… and chagrin.


However, after Clark tries on the Italian silk suit, Dwight seeks an opportunity, and “repairs” his relationship with his “son”... and might have ended up repairing Stone and Son’s relationship in the process.


They walk out in their new suits, celebrating their latest sale.  Amongst the high fives, Clark was curious.


“Hey, so all that really specific cat turd business, that was about you, right?” he asks.


“You got me!” Dwight responds with a chuckle, tickling Clark, “I used to collect them!”


“Why?” Clark asks, just… needing to know the answer.


“Each one is very different, like a snowflake!”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


When Clark returns, he reveals the gift he got from Jan: a Nespresso machine.  The office decides to taste test every flavor… all sixteen.  What follows is a day full of caffeine-fueled insanity.  Kevin using Angela as a dumbbell, Stanley neglecting his siesta, Angela trying to open the window, and Creed pouring Stanley’s Bogota Sunrise in the office plant because he “saw the leaves twitch” are just a few instances.


Later on, they decide to move the copier to the annex, accidentally ripping up a piece of carpet… and revealing a hardwood floor.  While Nellie fears how much trouble they’ll be in, Oscar is mystified.  He always knew that hardwood floor was down there, he just never dreamed that he would actually see it.  They know what to do for the next hour and a half.


Jim, meanwhile, is oblivious to the chaos around him.  As he tries to finish up this damn presentation, he gets a phone call.  It’s the last person he wants to speak to right now.


“Jim?”  It’s David Wallace.


“Oh, hey David!  What’s up?”


“Is this a bad time?”


“Oh not at all.”  It is, but he’s not about to say that to the C.E.O.


“Good.  Ive been taking a look at your numbers,” David starts, “and they seem to be going down.  I wanna see if theres a day where we can discuss your performance.”


Oh, God.  It’s come to this.  Jim’s performance has dipped to the point that even David knows.  This is Hell on Earth.  How the hell is he gonna rectify this?


Jim stammers, trying to explain himself, “David, I’m sorry, I-I just don’t know—“


“Relax, Jim,” David reassures, “This isnt an interrogation.  I just want to work with you and see how this can be rectified.”


“To be honest, David, I’ve been doing everything I can to get my numbers back up,” Jim answers.


“Im sure you have,” David says honestly, “I was actually going to send you to Andy to discuss this, but I cant get in touch with him.  Do you know where he is?”


“Actually, he’s, um, out to lunch.”  He checks the clock on his monitor, it’s 3:30 PM.  “A late lunch.”


“Right,” David responds, suspicious, “Anyway, I think I should stop by to meet on the 31st.”


“To Scranton?” Jim asks, hoping he wouldn’t have to abandon his post for the day.


“Is that a problem?”


“No, that’s fine, I was just thinking, we can do this now— if you want.”  It’d help to get pointers from the C.E.O. rather than one of the worst salespeople in the history of the branch if Jim was being honest to himself.


“Honestly, I would prefer speaking to you in person,” David responds, “because, to be frank… this isnt like you, Jim.  Youre one of the top salespeople in the branch, and Im concerned that somethings going on with you.  Are you sure youre fine?”


No, David, Im not.  Im thinking I made a mistake by not joining my friends start-up.  Hating that my wife doesnt see the opportunities we can have if we go for it.  Fearing Im gonna forever be stuck in this dead-end job where I have to sell PAPER.  And the worst part is its nobodys fault but MINE!


“Oh, yeah, I’m good,” Jim badly lies, “But yeah, I um… I’m more than willing to meet with you in person.”  He doesn’t.  That’s the last thing he wants.


David accepts Jim’s response, but is not convinced, “Alright, Ill get back to you.”


“Thanks, David.”


“Of course.  And Jim?  Take care of yourself.”


“Will do.”  And with that, David ends the call.


Jim puts his head in his hands, resisting the urge to scream… while everyone around him is tearing up the carpet.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pam informs Erin that a shipment of pens is arriving today.  Erin is on it… but is left confused as to what she actually does with the pens.


She walks into the kitchen and sees everyone around the Nespresso machine… and in walks Pete.


“Oh, hey Erin,” Pete greets.


She freezes.  The kiss of last week is still unaddressed; he’s made no attempts to bring it up, and neither has she.  Which is why they just keep busy.  She usually greets him back but it’s only become harder and harder for her.


She doesn’t want to address it right now.  She doesn’t need to.  She has pens to deal with.


“Sorry,” she tells him, “Super busy.  Pens coming in later, just grabbing a Java before all hell breaks loose.”  Oscar hands her one and she’s off.  Pete just walks back into the annex, wanting to address it so it won’t be awkward, but she can’t right now.


“I don’t really have time to think about Pete right now,” she explains to Brent, who didn’t mention Pete, “I just have a lot going on with this whole shipment of pens.  And I have a lot of people trusting me, and I would feel super guilty if I broke anyone’s trust.  About the pens.”  Because that’s what this is all about: the pens.


Later, the shipment of pens is still on her desk, her debating what to do about it.


“The pen delivery went amazing,” Erin tells Brent, “and now I’ve got all these pens just waiting to be unpacked.  But Pam did not tell me to unpack the pens, and I’m not one of those people who’s just like, ‘Uh, sure. I’ll accept the pens when they come in, and then as soon as your back’s turned, I unpack the pens and get all this credit as some great pen unpacker.’  On the other hand…” she says holding the box, “they are just sitting here.  Pam didn’t tell me not to unpack them.  Don’t want to be a busybody, but I don’t want to be a lazybones.  Busybody, lazybones.  Busybody, lazybones — Ah!  My brain is ping-ponging around in my head right now, it’s insane!  I’m sorry, what was your question again?” Brent just waits patiently, “Oh yeah, no.  I’ve never had an espresso before.  They’re good though.”


Erin tries to stack the pens, but Pete jokes that she’s stealing Pam’s job… oh no.  Nonononono he honestly doesn’t think that, does he?  He can’t!  Kevin comes in and says the same thing, and it doesn’t help!  Ahhh!  She apologizes to the pens, what a day they’ve had!


Pete just ignores it and heads back to the annex.


“Look,” Pete explains to Brent, “I wanted to talk about it but I think it’s best if we just… don’t.  It was the… heat of the moment.  She seems to have enough on her plate anyway.”


She does.  It has nothing to do with the pens.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


As a cacophony of car horns perform in the parking lot, Jim calls up Pam and Darryl.  He’s gonna have to work late.  Again.


“Kill their fish, and they still hire me,” Darryl happily says as they got home, “That’s how you do that, baby.  It’s all good, I’m ready.  Y’all ready for this?”  Pam reluctantly joins him in the singing of C+C Music Factory’s ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’ when she gets a call.


“Oh, hey Jim!” Pam decides to put him on speakerphone, “How are you?”


“Eh, Im managing.  Howd the interview go?”


“Two-One-Five, baby!  I’m in!” Darryl celebrates with a laugh.


“Never had a doubt!” Jim says happily.


“You all right?” Pam asks, concerned, “You seem a bit shaken up.”


“Oh, its nothing, I got a call from David today.”


“Is everything okay?”


“Yeah, Ill… tell you about it when I get home.”


Her face displays concern once again, “Another late night?”


“Unfortunately.” Pam sighs in disappointment, but tries to hide it.  She fails.


“Don’t worry, man,” Darryl offers, “I’ll drop her off.”


“Darryl, you are a lifesaver.”


“Hey, it’s the least I can do after you got me in,” he responds happily, still giddy over his new prospects.


“Just… please come home soon,” Pam says, “I know I say that constantly, but—” 


“Ill get home as soon as I can, Pam, I promise.”


He does keep that promise.  Every time.  “...I know,” she quietly responds.


“Alright, I’ll see you then.”


“See you then, love you!”


“Love you too.”  He hangs up, not even greeting Darryl.  She sighs dejectedly.


“Is everything good with y’all?” Darryl suddenly asks, curiously.


“As good as they can be,” Pam answers honestly.  They don’t address it for the rest of the way.


Back at the office, Jim just sighs.  As he remorsefully removes his headset so he can go to the restroom, he finds all the desks moved besides his own and the carpet torn.


“Wooow,” he mouths quietly, looking around.  He sees Erin frustratedly striding to the front door from the kitchen, “Hey, Erin, what happened here?”


“Pam left me in charge of the pens, Jim,” she responds curtly as she walks, “That’s what happened.  The pens happened.”


He just looks at the camera incredulously, as is his brand.


End Notes:

This chapter was another round of "What does a sales rep actually do?".  I needed Jim to not attend and be overworked so much that he can't go with Dwight, so in the end I just decided on the presentation.

Everything else is pretty canon, except for the conversation with Wallace.  I'm thinking back to when he goes to Scranton to fire Andy, so I figured Jim's sales record would be just as important of a reason because, like he said, this is not normal.

NEXT TIME: Nellie assembles (and quickly disassembles) a new task force, Erin continues to struggle with Andy being gone, and Dwight attempts to convince Darryl to stay in Dunder Mifflin.  It's also the day of Cece's ballet recital!  Her proud parents manage to attend it, but afterwards, everything bubbles to the surface...

Customer Loyalty by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:
No progress on "Vandalism".  I'm gonna go ahead and post these two chapters so I can focus on my break and see what you guys think of them.  Enjoy!

“Well, I dont think Ill be here in ten years, but…” — Jim Halpert

“Thats what I said. … Thats what she said.” — Michael Scott


Andy is still on his boat trip.  It’s Week 11.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Gotta clear out these file cabinets people, a lot of these are dead accounts.”


Dwight — who’s pretty much taken over for Andy at this point — sifts through the files until he finds a letter… from one Robert Dunder.


“‘A valuable artifact has come into my possession,’” Dwight reads, “‘I have hidden it until such time as a person of strong intellect may safely recover it.  This golden chalice is of immeasurable historical and religious significance.’”


Yes, Robert Dunder found the Holy Grail and hid it in the building.


Or so Dwight thinks.


Pam, tapping Jim on the shoulder, signals him to the kitchen because she’s just gotta know.


“Did you send Dwight on a quest for the Holy Grail?” she asks him, whispering.


“Pam,” he whispers back, “I’m a little too busy these days to—” and then it hits him, “Oh, my God.  I did send Dwight on a quest for the Holy Grail!” he says through a chuckle.  She can’t help but chuckle along with him.


The Dunder Code!” he lowly tells Brent, “I completely forgot about that prank!”  Brent didn’t, he was there; he got the footage.  “That had to be like six or seven years ago.  Stayed late every night for a month,” he sighs and laments that he “Had a lot more free time back then.”


The first clue?  ‘HIGHER THAN NUMBERS GO’... The ceiling above the accounting clump.


“God,” Jim quietly chuckles, “I can’t wait to see his face when he gets to the end and finds the… fake grail?  No grail?”


“You don’t remember?” she asks.


“I don’t.”


Second clue: A key with an x… The annex.

Third clue: ‘SEDES INTROIT’, Seat of Entrance… A couch cushion.

Fourth clue: Playing cards that form a flush… The men’s restroom.

Final clue: A toy forklift… The warehouse!


The office spreads out and searches for the grail.


“There’s nothing down here,” Pam informs Jim, using her cell phone to call his business number while he’s upstairs.


“Oh,” he says disappointed, “I expected more from young Halpert.”


With the warehouse in disarray, the whole office eventually gives up the search for the grail… not realizing it’s in the possession of Glenn, who’s using it for his morning coffee.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Darryl walks in from his new part-time job in Philly, not realizing the day that awaits him.


“Pfft,” Dwight insults his gym bag, “‘Athlead’?  Please.  They’re too lazy to call it Athletes Lead?  They should just call it ‘Stumpany,’ for ‘Stupid Company’.”  Dwight looks at the camera for approval of his sick burn.


“Nothing stupid about working for yourself,” Darryl responds honestly, “Hanging out with pro athletes, getting free tickets to the games.  That’s why I’m doing it.”


“You’re working for ‘Stumpany’?” Dwight responds, legitimately shocked. 


“Yeah, just weekends for now, but pretty soon, I’m switching over.” 


Dwight couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “What?” 


“Yep.”


Next thing he knew, he was calling Athlead.


“Hello?”


“Mark Muller, this is Dwight Schrute of Dunder Mifflin Scranton.”


“Ah, its been a while, Dwight!  How ya been?”


“What’s the big idea?  First, you try to lure in Halpert, now you’re stealing Darryl too.  When will it end?”


Jim, knowing this would happen, warned Mark a while ago; thankfully, they have the same sense of humor.


“Well, take your worst fear and multiply it by infinity.”


“You won’t stop until you’ve poached us all.”


“Yup, even you,” Mark responds while greeting the investor they’re meeting with from his desk.


“No,” Dwight presses, “I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let us lose me.”


“Have a good day, Dwight.”  Mark hangs up the phone and properly greets the investor.


And with that, a new challenge arises for Dwight: keep everyone working for Dunder Mifflin Scranton.


“Hey, everybody,” he announces, “Uh, coffee order is going around — on me.  Just sign your name below.”


Phyllis is excited, but like the form he had after Stanley’s heart attack, she’s suspect, “Wait.  This says ‘Dunder Mifflin Loyalty Pledge’?”


“This — uh, what?” Dwight feigns ignorance, “Double mocha latte, please?  You got it.  Just sign your name below.  Whatever you want.”


“Loyalty pledge?” Oscar asks.


“Come on, Dwight,” Darryl speaks up, “stop overreacting.  I’m getting all my work done here.  No customers have complained.  Nobody even knows.”


“We’ll see about that,” Dwight snaps back.


He heads to the annex to find Clark, who is just so tired of being a temp.


“Bust out your complaint files,” Dwight demands, “I need everything you’ve got on Darryl since he started working for Athlead in the last few weeks.”


He begins to list them off when Clark interrupts, “They got us set up with Windows ’95, so… you’re kind of dreaming here.”


“Okay, I’m gonna need you to print it out.”  The dot-matrix paper tries its best.  Clark pulls a Jim look at the camera, and like Jim, he’d rather be anywhere else.


He instead does what every branch manager in Scranton does when they want others to solve their problems: hosts a meeting.


“Customer… Loyal… ty,” Dwight begins, “What is it?  Can you hold it in your hand?  Can you nudge it with your finger?  Can you dump it on a woman?  No.  Why?  Because it’s an idea.  But what does it mean?”


After a Grade-A example from Kevin, Mr. Romanko — a DM Scranton customer for 20 years — is used by Dwight to guilt Darryl into staying.  Of course, Romanko is a reasonable and forgiving man, but that’s not enough for Dwight.


After the meeting turns into the Erin and Pete debate thanks to Nellie (the guilt from earlier eating away at her), Dwight ensures Darryl’s loyalty to the company.


“Thank you so much for coming,” he greets Mr. Romanko, “Darryl and I will be here to serve you for years and years and years and years.”  The elevator door closes, and Darryl just looks at him confidently.  “So, should we go call Athlead and tell him to go screw themselves?


“Dwight, look, I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with this, okay?” Darryl explains sympathetically,  “Athlead is my future.  No disrespect to Dunder Mifflin, but if I can have fun at work, I want that.” 


“It can’t be more fun than selling paper and paper products!”


“It can.” 


“...Are you pretending to be crazy, huh?”


And now, there’s Plan D: luring Darryl into doing a delivery with him.  He knows what’s happening, and yet he’s still dreading it.


“You looking for fun?” Dwight cheerfully says, “It just found you!  Woo!  Ha Haa!  Here we go!  Yeah!”


The cameras effectively capture Darryl’s dread.


Dwight lures him in with cheap tactics like strobe lights and a miniature basketball, to no avail.  To make matters worse, he pranks an employee of a fast-food joint by throwing a milkshake back at him… and this sets Darryl off, as he grabs the keys from Dwight who tries to make a getaway.


“Wait, what are you doing?” Dwight asks in desperation, “No, I need the k— We have to go!”


“You just threw a milkshake in a restaurant where they make minimum wage!” Darryl rightfully chastises.


“It’s a YouTube thing!” Dwight makes an excuse as the employees approach him.


Dwight and Darryl walk into the kitchen, as Dwight has to clean the milkshake up, and is immediately hit with a milkshake himself.


As they get back to the building, Dwight confuses Darryl’s cough for laughter.  This is awful.  The last thing Dwight needs is his (well, Andy’s but let’s be honest with ourselves) employees to leave and be suckered into something less fun than selling paper.  He has failed…


…but really, he hasn’t.  Darryl watches Dwight get a milkshake thrown at him on YouTube, laughing his ass off.


“And… replay!” he says happily to the camera, hitting the spacebar.  After another giggle fit, he simply states “I’m gonna miss the paper selling business.”


He really will.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Erin has become far more assertive as of late.  She’s standing up for herself more, she’s being honest, and she’s letting herself call the shots, not anyone else.  And she concludes this is for two reasons: 1) Pete and Erin discussing the kiss.  Yes, it was addressed, and yes, they concluded that it was just the heat of the moment, and yes, they’re still close friends.  Having an adult solution to the problem at hand?  It felt reassuring.  It meant that not everything has to work out by chance or just waiting for things to work out automatically.  And, unfortunately, there’s 2) Andy’s absence.  She loves Andy so much, she misses him like crazy, and she fears that this new personality of hers… it’s making her mean.  It’s making her more grumpy and less friendly.  And she doesn’t want to be that person.  She’s becoming more and more selfish, and this isn’t like her.  Andy makes her happy and friendly, and that’s who she wants to be.  She’s upset with him, sure, and she wants to address it, but after that everything can go back to normal, and she can be her old self again.


And yet it still feels great to be assertive.


Nellie’s latest special project is a stroke of bonafide genius: pair two young office employees with creative minds and great work ethic to create a social media initiative.  And, naturally, that pair is Pete and Erin.


The creation of “Derek McBlack” (aka Pete in sunglasses) and a handful of imaginary friends liking Dunder Mifflin’s Facebook page is working wonders.


“You two are geniuses,” Nellie compliments, “And I am a genius putting you two together.”


“Pete and I work well together,” Erin tells Brent, “— not that there’s anything special about Pete.  It could be any guy... or girl — not that I’m into girls.  Not that I'm into Pete.  Ahh!  What was the question?”  The question was ‘How’s the special project coming along?’.


After the two get their first real ‘Like’, Nellie couldn’t be happier… until the pair start being cute.  And now, there is genuine fear in her eyes.


“Oh God”, she panics at the camera, “Andy has just started to be nice to me, and now I just sent his girlfriend into the arms of a younger man… and I CC’d him on every incriminating memo.  ‘Pete and Erin don’t hold back, our social media presence should be hot, hot, hot.  Go at it vigorously.’  I did everything but unzip their pants for them,” she allows the words she just said to sink in, “Oh, God, Nellie.” 


During Dwight’s Customer Loyalty meeting, Nellie makes a point that loyalty is exactly right.


“Yes,” she continues, “I mean, it is everything.  Let’s all ask ourselves, have we been faithful in our relationships?” she makes a point that Darryl is “dating” Dunder Mifflin, but “flirting” with Athlead, “And we all know what flirting can lead to.”


Erin isn’t the best at picking up context clues… but she’s getting better at it. Furthermore, she’s getting pretty irritated with everyone talking about her personal life like it’s their business.


As Mr. Romanko tries to leave, Nellie continues talking, “So let's-let's use an example.  Take Erin.  Erin’s boyfriend Andy, is away across the ocean.  So is it all right for her to flirt with Creed, for example?”


“Let’s try it out,” Creed says.  Erin is shaken with fear.


Oh, God, NELLIE!  “No, let’s-let’s-let’s not say Creed.  Let’s say, Mr. X.”


And, of course, Angela has to open her big mouth, “Well, I think it would be immoral for Erin to cheat on Andy.”


Erin is getting fed up with her, “Oh, I’m sorry, didn’t you cheat on Andy?”


“Yes,” Angela curtly replies, “And he didn’t like it.”  Not quite denial, but definitely deflection.


“Does Mr. X know that Erin has a boyfriend,” Phyllis asks, “or did Erin keep that from Mr. X?”


And, like a certain office couple that got together years ago, Kevin connects the dots.  “Okay, this is really hard to follow.  Can we just say Pete because that’s the guy that Erin’s flirting with?”


And the two of them wish they could just disappear as the office continues to not mind their own damn business, as is the staple of Dunder Mifflin Scranton.


Phyllis’ “urges” come through again, “Well, Andy’s cute, but he’s too vanilla, whereas Pete — he’s just one sick dude.  I mean, you know this guy likes to get weird.”  The camera is sure to pan to his horrified face.


“Remember when my job was about customer service?” Pete asks Brent, “I do.  I miss those days.  I was so young back then…”


Erin is getting even more fed up, “I’m just gonna say this one more time: Pete and I haven’t done anything.”


“It’s true!” Pete asserts.


“Yeah, right,” Meredith interjects, “With slammin’ bods like that, they ain’t playing checkers.”


“People, it’s 2013,” Oscar contributes, “Erin is a strong, independent woman.  Who says she has to end up with any man?”  He tries to get the room to clap and fails.


Erin has had enough as she stands up and faces the crowd, “Okay, can everyone please stop speaking for me?  Andy is my boyfriend.  Pete and I are just friends.  And that’s the end of it,” she shrugs, “Right, Pete?”


“That is correct,” Pete says, “Come on, guys, where is this even coming from?”


Kevin mentions his feelings for Erin, mostly from his heart… and a bit from his penis.


“Nellie,” Erin tells her assertively, “you have to shut down the task force.  I’m not sure if you need to start a new task force to do that, but please just do whatever it takes.”


What a relief!  “I suppose that will— that will be alright, yeah,” Nellie replies.


“Most relationships eventually die on their own,” Nellie informs Brent, “but sometimes they just need a little pillow over the face.  You’re welcome, Andy.  And you’re welcome, my own ass.”


Later on, she tries to find Erin to get some copies (because God knows she can’t work a bloody copier), but after not finding her in the entire office, she thought she took a walk outside.  A natural response to what just occurred.  She finds her… on the stairwell, with her cellphone.


“Andy,” she begins, leaving a message, “It’s Erin.  I hope you’re having fun.”  She’s smiling, but it’s not genuine.  “I got all your emails, and I saved them in a special folder.  Anyways… I miss you.  I miss you a whole lot.  Because today…” she sighs deeply, “I’ve acted very mean and rude and that’s not who I am.  And the more you’re gone, the more I’m gonna act like this.  So please…”  At this point, she’s getting emotional.  “Please call me back.  Call me.  I miss your voice and I know I’ll be myself again when you come home.  Please, Andy, I—” and the message timer runs out.


She leans at the wall, deep breathing to keep from breaking down.  She has a job to do.


Nellie watches all of this, her heart separating.  She cares about Erin a whole deal.  She helped her get the adoption form as well as Andy, she’s been working the social media initiative like a charm, and she’s the one who helped Andy be more patient with her in the first place.  Oscar’s right: she is a strong, independent woman, one who’s not getting the respect she rightfully deserves.


And Pete is her friend, and he respects her.  It doesn’t matter what their friendship is like, that’s all it is.  And Nellie realizes something: first Pam, then Darryl, now Erin.  She can’t let her past relationship affect the relationships of those she holds dear.


Later on, Pete awkwardly walks by the front desk to make his copies, Erin and Pete longing to talk to each other but fearing what the others would say.


“Hey.”


“Hello, Peter.”


And Nellie thinks… screw it: the social media initiative is not being shut down, and the roster is not changing.


“I am sorry that was so awkward for you two in that meeting,” Nellie begins, both of them looking at the table, “But I am going to have to reassemble the youth task force.”


“Oh, no,” Erin insists, “I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”


“Well, that is not your call,” Nellie makes clear, “I made the decision.  You have no choice in the matter, and everybody knows it.”


The pair look at each other, realizing that they have no choice, and they’re gonna be interacting a lot more… and they walk out of the room with the biggest smiles on their faces.


“I don’t know what’s going to come out of this,” Nellie admits to Brent, “Most likely and, hopefully, nothing.  But they’re just friends, and that’s been made very clear for me today.  It is not my place to pry, and I need to accept that.  And to Andy, you are a good man and I respect you.  But it’s as the Queen once said: ‘If you like it, put a ring on it’.”


Erin walks into the annex, needing to talk to Pete.


“What’s up?” he asks.


“I just wanna apologize for earlier,” she says.


He shakes his head, “You’re the last person who needs to apologize for whatever the hell that was.”


“It’s just… with Andy gone, I’ve just been so stressed and I’m getting tired of everyone telling me what’s going on in my own life.  But… I came across as so mean and rude, and that’s not me, that’s not how I act.”


Pete smirks as he packs up, knowing this feeling all too well, “Erin, there’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself.”


She thinks about it, “That’s what that was?”


“It certainly was,” he said, walking out, “took me years to learn that.”


She feels like a weight has been lifted, “Thanks, Pete.”


“Of course.”


They smile once again as they walk out of the annex together, Nellie looking at them from the table with a small smile of her own.


Toby walks in and sits at the chair next to her, “Hey, really nice job in that meeting in there.”


“Ugh, thanks I guess,” Nellie groans at the thought of it, “I was just concerned for Andy.”


“Well, uh, something tells me they’re not gonna make it,” he admits.


“Well, it’s no skin off my nose,” she chuckles.  He joins her in chuckling… and then touches her leg.  She quickly takes notice of this, “Oh my God, what’re you doing?”


Toby is intensely embarrassed, “Um, I-I—”


“No.”


“I’m sorry, I just—”


“No, no, no.  No.  God no,” he gets up and sadly leaves to his office to pack up as she continues, “No, no, no, no, no, no.  Oh my God, no.  No.  No.”


She’s asked about that moment by Brent and just shutters.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Cece’s ballet recital is today!” Jim tells Brent, with a warm, proud smile, “I cannot wait!   I've been working with her on her move.  It’s called the Cece Spin and Kiss.  Do you want to see it?  It’s kind of like this,” He gets out of his seat and demonstrates it, keeping that same proud smile, “It’s pretty cute, right?”


He then hears a knock from outside the conference room.  Brent pans over to Dwight, staring at him through the window.


“That dance made you look like a dork,” he insults through the glass.


“Dorksayswhat?” Jim replies.


“What?— Ugh, damn it!”  Dwight gets back to work.


Jim just looks back at Brent with the same wide smile, “Every time.”


Later that day, Pam and Jim are on their way to the recital with an excited Cece in tow.


“Hey, Cece,” Pam tells her, “We’re all gonna have dinner after your recital!  Are you excited?”


“Yeah!” she enthusiastically replies.


“Um, I’m actually gonna have to work late tonight,” Jim clarifies sadly.


“What?” Pam replies, shocked.


“I’m behind on cataloging my sales and I gotta get that done.”


“Hon, I wish you would have told me an hour ago when you knew you weren't gonna make it,” she chastises.


“Pam, I can’t put it off.  I barely have time to go to the recital.”


“I want Daddy,” Cece says, her disappointment evident.


Pam’s heart is breaking and so is Jim’s; he needs to find a way to fix it, and fast, “How about we have dinner tomorrow and you can spend the night with Grandma?  Does that sound fun?”


“Yes!” Cece replies, feeling better.


Pam’s at least relieved that she won’t leave the daycare center crying, “All right!  Let’s call her,” she tells her enthusiastically, “Hey mom!”


“Hey, honey!  I was just about to call you.”


“Are you close?”


“Already here.  Ugh, It was hard saving two seats.”


“Listen, Jim needs to work late tonight, again,” she says with a hint of annoyance as Jim frustratedly shakes his head, “and I’ve got some stuff I need to get done as well.  So we were thinking she and Phillip could spend the night at your place after the recital, and then we’ll all have dinner tomorrow.”


“Oh, that sounds great!  No problem!  Are you excited to spend time with Grandma, Cece?”


“Yeah!” Cece shouts.


“Thank you so much for keeping them tonight, by the way,” Jim tells Helene.


“Really, Mom, you’ve gone beyond the call of duty,” Pam adds.


“Guys, enough with the thank yous, Im more than happy to do it.”


“I’d let you film it for me, Pam, but I’m not sure you know how to film a video on the phone,” Jim points out.


“Jim, please,” she replies, “I think I know how to point a rectangle at something.”


“Hes got a point, dear,” Helene adds.


“I know how to operate my phone, okay?” she tells them, annoyed once again, “Listen, we're getting close.  We’ll see you later.  Say, ‘Bye, Grandma!’”


“Bye Granma!” Cece says.


“See you all soon!”  A beat.  “Youve still got to press ‘End,’ Pam.”


“There it is,” Jim sighs.


“Pwess end!” Cece adds as Pam annoyingly presses the button.


“Wait,” Jim asks, “Why do you have to work late tonight?”


“Well, if we’re not having dinner, I figured that I can catch up on some stuff,” she responds far too casually, “Besides, I was thinking we could talk about something.”


Jim sighs, knowing that arguing this would be pointless, and just sinks into his seat, waiting for the sweet reprieve that is the recital.


“Ladies and gentlemen, the Little Ladybug Ballerinas!” the dance teacher announces as the recital begins.


Thank God Jim decided to be here in person.  Watching her little girl do the Cece Spin and Kiss flawlessly is something he would have hated missing.  But the thought crosses his mind of how many other things he’d have to miss.  And this goes beyond dinner.  Phillip’s first steps?  Cece learning to read?  Potty training Phillip?  Future recitals?  Family gatherings?  All these little “Dad events” that he may have to miss out on because of his work, things that he’s looking forward to being a part of.  But he needs to provide for them, he needs to get better at his job, he needs to bring those numbers back up ASAP.  Besides, Pam at least knows how to take pictures, he’ll still be able to see it, but it wouldn’t be the same.  He knows this.  He can’t stand not being there when he wants to be, but he can’t give up now.  He can’t.


Pam, unsurprisingly, is thinking the same thing.  He was tempted to stay there, tempted to rely on her mediocre phone skills.  The last thing he needs to miss is this, especially considering how excited he was for it.  She glanced at him doing the Cece Spin and Kiss in front of Brent earlier and it warmed her heart.  He’s such a good father and she knew that the moment she found out she was pregnant.  But… he’s killing himself.  He’s neglecting his family, even though she knows, with confidence, that’s the last thing he wants to do.  There’s something wrong.  Severely wrong.  And she’s gonna find out what it is and fast.


After the recital, Cece goes with Helene, but not without a myriad of hugs and kisses from two very proud parents.  It’s late afternoon when the couple returns to the office.  Pam brags about her little Cece to the accountants, showing them the full show; thankfully, Helene is more tech-savvy than her daughter, so she managed to get the whole thing.  Jim, meanwhile, sits back at his desk, eyes glued to the monitor, headphone set on, as always.


Hours pass as the other employees depart, and Jim, returning from the restroom, sits down and looks knowingly at Pam, sifting through a folder.


“So you really have work you need to catch up on?” he asks knowingly.


“Yup,” she says matter-of-factly, putting the folder away.


That’s it.  “Pam, I know what you’re doing.”


“Good,” she replies, swiveling her chair in his direction confidently, “Because we’re talking about this.”


There’s no turning back now.  “Look, I know this has been difficult, and I’m sorry, but I—” 


“No,” she presses, “No more apologies.  We’re getting to the root of this.”


“Pam,” he emphasizes, frustrated, “I don’t know how else to tell you, okay?  I’m doing everything I can every week to bring home something—”


“I am— I am trying to help you, Jim, okay, how could you not see that?” she pushes firmly, trying to wake him up, “For the past four months, I’ve been doing everything I can to make you happy, but you’re not telling me what’s actually wrong with you.”


“There isn’t anything wrong,” he insists.


“Yes, there is!  So just be honest and tell me, please.”


“…Fine.  I should have called Mark back,” he finally admits with a frustrated shrug, “Got it all out in the open, are you happy?” he looks at her knowingly.


She knew it was coming, but she still feels hurt, “...Of course, I’m not.”


“Which is why I didn’t say anything,” he points out incredulously.


“Jim, this entire time, you have constantly told me that you made the right decision not calling Mark back.”


“I know I did,” he explains with a hint of guilt as he rubs his forehead, “I just… I don’t understand why you’ve been so resistant to the idea of us—”


Mama Beesly interrupts him, “Honey, I’m sure Athlead will be a huge success, okay, but you working there is not a risk I’m willing to put our family through.”


“What risk?” he asks, desperate for a suitable explanation, “The risk of a better life?  Something better than…” he gestures from his chair at the empty, mundane prison that surrounds him, “this?”


“Jim, Athlead is a really big risk,” she points out, her voice firmer, “And this isn’t the first time you’ve made a huge risk and not run it by me.”


“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” he’s genuinely shocked at her response, “You’re not serious, right?  I mean, how is that fair?  I didn’t call the number, we agreed to it.”


“I know you didn’t, it’s just that…” she sighs.  She regrets how she approached it but she has to be honest.  “Jim, you bought a whole house without consulting me.”


“The house I bought for us?”


“We should have talked about it,” she presses.


“Why shouldn’t it have been a surprise?”


“Because that was a major milestone in our relationship that I wasn’t aware of,” she tries to be understanding so she can get through to him, “Look, it can’t happen, okay?  And I hate that it can’t because I know you want it—” 


“Like you wanted Pratt and Michael Scott Paper Company?” Jim emphasizes, his anger hidden by his demeanor but no less evident, “From what I recall, you did those without consulting me, have you not?”


She can’t argue with that, but his delivery is intimidating, “You’re right, I did,” she admits plainly but genuinely, “And I’m sorry.”


“Don’t be,” he replies, “I mean, you went for something no holds barred, and I was there for you, so…” 


His face is getting more punchable by the second.  “Um, I don’t appreciate how you’re acting right now,” she tells him, rightly frustrated.


“I’m sorry, I just…” he puts his head in his hands but suddenly shrugs his arms in confusion, “cant figure out why on God’s green earth you don’t wanna give this a shot!” he says through a humorless, tired chuckle.


“Jim, we have two mouths to feed,” she argues, her tone getting harsher, “Okay, we can’t just move to another city for something that could fall apart within a year!”


He can’t fight that argument either.  Instead, he asks, “And you think the kids can’t enjoy life in Philly?”


“Jim, Cece’s not even three yet!  Besides, you know how she is, she-she’s shy and demure and resistant to change—”


“Is she the one resistant to change or are you?” he raises his eyebrows, already knowing the answer.


Pam, realizing that Jim has called her bluff, goes on the defensive, “I’m-I’m sorry, Jim.  Okay, I’m sorry that I’m not willing to uproot our entire family and ship us all to Philly just so you can have everything you want!”


And it’s at this very moment that Jim Halpert reaches his breaking point.  Leaning forward, with a sharp tongue and a booming voice, he takes out all of his frustration, his anger, and his insecurities on his wife in just four sentences.


“I’m wanting this just for me?  Is that what you think?  I’m wanting it just for me?  If that’s what you think, then this is a really sad night!”


This is the loudest and most frustrated he’s ever been to her, and it shakes her to her core.  How do you respond to that?  When the man you love, your other half, just… snaps?  Yells at you?  Gets so intense that you’re honestly frightened of what you should say next?


You can’t respond.


So she just looks towards her monitor, trying to cover her emotions


“You know what?  I’ve got work to do,” he frustratingly concedes.


The whole fight ends with a quiet “Okay” from Pam as she sniffles and tears well up in her eyes… which Jim takes notice before putting his headset back on.


His heart sinks.  This… this is a nightmare.  A nightmare he can’t wake up from.  This is something that he’d promise that he’d never do to her again once they started dating.  Something that, even in their most intense fights, never happened.  Something that if Jim Halpert from ten years ago saw this, he’d be kicking his ass.


He made Pam cry.


He made Pam cry.


He made.  Pam.  CRY.


The past five minutes don’t matter anymore because HE MADE PAM CRY!


…He’s no better than Roy was.


And now she’s about to sob.


He drops the headset and practically leaps from his chair and briskly walks to her, getting on his knees and swiveling her office chair facing him.  “Oh God, Pam…” his voice full of guilt and desperation, “Pam, I’m so sorry.”


She can’t even look at him right now, she keeps her head in her hands and simply asks, “What am I doing wrong?” she begs to know through her tears.


“Nothing, Pam,” he responds, softly holding her hands with his, bringing them from her face to her lap, “I’m what’s wrong.  I just…”  She waits for him to finish his sentence, pleading that he’d say “Something’s wrong with me and I don’t know how to fix it.”


One would think this will make her more upset… but in a way, she can’t be more relieved, regaining her composure.  Admitting is the first step.  “How long have you felt like this?”


“Four months, like you said,” he clarifies, “I’m becoming someone I don’t want to be and I don’t know why.”


It’s not only him that thinks he needs out of here, but her as well.  She releases one of her hands and holds his cheek, “Do you think you need help or a leave of absence?”


“…Yeah,” he admits, “I thought I could handle it, I… I didn’t know that it would be this hard.”


It’s practically instinct for her at this point as she smiles and says, “That’s what she said.”


He can’t help but lightly laugh at her Scott-ism, “Nice.”  He then realizes what he needs to do next, “Can you, um… email Toby and David?”


“Of course.”


“Thank you,” he swallows, trying to maintain his composure, “I’m, uh… gonna go pack my things.”  They both mindlessly turn the computers off and get their stuff together.  Jim puts on his coat at his desk when she walks up to him.


“Okay.  Ready to go?” she simply asks.


He turns to look at her.  Just… look at her.  This beautiful woman that he’s so lucky to have married.  And he… he’s losing her.  He’s losing her and it’s all his fault.


He once again holds her hands.  “…I…”  He suddenly embraces her, clutches onto her fiercely, fearing that this moment — that the past decade — was nothing but some cruel dream.  His eyes close, praying that she won’t force him to let go and walk out on him, even though it’s what he deserves.


She just stands there, arms out, still not knowing how to respond, “Jim, it’s okay.”


“No, it’s not,” he shakily responds, “I… I hurt you again.”


Breaking up with Katy.

Australia.

The complaints to Toby.

The confession.

The kiss.

Breaking the engagement.

Stamford.

Never calling her.

Stringing Karen along.

Her art show.

Roy’s murder attempt.

The house.

The Cathy incident.

Not being there for the kids.

Lying about Athlead.

And now… making her cry.


“I just keep hurting you,” he whispers.


Her heart is breaking.  “Oh, Jim…” she whispers as she wraps her arms around his neck.


The two embrace each other tightly, trying to take each other’s pain away.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The office, knowing about Jim’s leave, is quiet, which is extremely unusual.


Pete walks from the copier, and out of the corner of his eye sees Erin at her desk.  She’s shuddering, clearly from a round of crying, eyes bloodshot with tear stains on her makeup.


“Hey, are you alright?” he asks, genuinely concerned.  He knows who this is about.


She sniffles before answering “Yeah, I’m okay.”


He can’t help it, he just has to say it because he’s that worried about her, “Well if you ever need someone, I’m here.”


She smiles brightly and replies with a quiet “Thank you.”


“No problem,” he responds, wearing a smile as well.  As Erin deep breathes before picking up the phone, the camera tracks Pete walking away… and then stops to zoom in on Dwight at his desk, who is visibly upset.


“Dunder Mifflin, this is Erin.”


End Notes:

Like I said, I'm quite proud of this one, mostly because I was worried that I couldn't pull it off.  Nellie and Erin's character development weren't in the original episode, but I saw Erin's assertiveness and Nellie's involvement in relationships and found an opportunity.  And, yeah, added the Toby leg grab in there, but 1) that's the only Toby/Nellie there'll be, 2) it demonstrates his lack of social graces, and 3) Toby will get a happier ending in this than the finale, so his actions will have consequences but he'll get help and be better...ish.

The fight was REALLY tough.  I first sought to make both parties in the wrong, but I realized it was smarter to tip the scale in Pam's favor.  Jim's been breaking down little by little, and the fight should reflect on how far he's fallen.  Sure, Pam could have handled it better, but if this is gonna be the apex of Jim's crisis, and his cry for help, he's gotta be the one in the wrong.  And I figured I'd add the famous "Paper Airplane" embrace, because it's a very similar situation.

Next time... the aftermath.

Medical Leave by 3vasectomies

“Depression? Isnt that just a fancy word for feeling ‘bummed out’?” — Dwight Schrute

“Dwight, you ignorant slut!” — Michael Scott


And this is where Brent stops the camera.  He can’t stand to watch any more of this, and neither would the audience.


“We’re done here,” he coolly tells the rest of the crew.  They pack up their things, most of them leaving briskly to give them some privacy.


The Halperts were still there, holding each other like either of them could disappear at any second, not caring about who or what is happening around them.


“I’m so sorry.  I-I shouldn’t have said any of that,” Jim says through his tears.


“I’m sorry, too,” Pam admits, “I was out of line.”


“I don’t wanna be like this, Pam.  I don’t wanna hurt you again,” he continues in frustration.


“Shh, it’s okay, baby, you’re okay,” she whispers in his ear, “We’re gonna figure this out, I promise.”


They pull apart, foreheads touching.  She’s seen Jim cry before, of course.  His grandparents’ funerals.  The Niagara wedding.  Cece and Phillip’s births.  When they got home after Michael left.  But nothing like this.  His eyes are glassy with unshed tears.  His red cheeks are a contrast to his pale skin. It’s as if life has been immediately sucked out of him.  The last time she saw him cry like this was

 

“Im really sorry… if you misinterpreted things.  Its probably my fault.”


Her heart isn’t breaking anymore, it’s shattered.  She can’t help but cry as well, “Please, Jim,” she begs, “don’t blame yourself, please.”


“Pam,” he blubbers, his own heart shattered.  Not wanting to see the other so distraught, the couple gives each other a long passionate kiss, just wanting this terrible night to end. 


“IloveyouPam,” Jim whispers, barely getting it out after they pull apart.


“I love you too, Jim,” Pam returns through her tears.  After another quick kiss, she asks, “Wanna sit down on the couch?”


Jim can’t even speak, he simply nods.  They sit down on the couch next to the Regional Manager’s office, both of them breathing to regain their composure.


Meanwhile, Brian is looking at them. He wanted to step in and defend Pam that entire fight, but he knew he’d be reprimanded at best, fired at worst.


“I’ll check on them,” he tells Brent.


“No,” Brent insists, “I’ll call them later.”


“But I need—”


“Brian,” Brent interrupts, “They’re in no mood to talk to either of us or anyone else.  We’re leaving.”  And with that, they leave, not even acknowledging them as they sit on the couch.


“I’m gonna call Mom and ask her if she can keep the kids tomorrow, okay?” she tells him.  He just nods again.


Helene picks up the phone almost immediately, “Hi honey! … Hey, whats the matter?”


“Mom,” she begins, “Jim is extremely stressed and anxious and he…” she swallows.


“He what?”


“He wants to take a leave of absence from work.”


“Theres no shame in that.”


“Yeah, but we need tomorrow to get this sorted out, so we need you to keep the kids at your place.”


“Of course, honey.  Dont even worry about it.”


“But you’ve already done so much and—“


“No.  Ive already told you, I will always be there for both of you.  No matter what.  You both need this.  Ill be fine, and so will the kids.  Understood?”


Pam just nods, “Yes, ma’am.”


“I love you, Pam, with all my heart.”


“I love you too, Mom,” Pam tells her, relieved.


“Oh, theres someone here who wants to talk to you!”


“Give me a minute.”  She deep breathes, his arm resting around her shoulders.


“Hi Mommy!” a little girl’s voice rings through the phone.


“Hi Cece!” she greets, smiling.


“You O-K Mommy?”


“Yes, honey, I’m okay,” she breathes, “Daddy’s very sick, he’s been sick for a while now.  Mommy needs to take care of him.  So you’ll be staying with Grandma until Saturday, okay?”


“O-K.”  She doesn’t sound disappointed at all, she loves her Grama.  Besides, at least she now realizes why he hasn’t been home.


“Now you be good for Grandma, okay?”


“Yes, mam.”


“You,” she looks over at Jim, who’s calmed down, “You wanna speak to Daddy?”


“Yeah!”


“He’s right here.  I’ll see you soon, sweetheart.”


“Bye Mommy!  Wuv you!”


“Bye Cece, I love you so much.”


Jim, feeling better to talk, takes the phone, needing to hear her voice again, “Hi, Cece!”


“Hi Daddy!  You sick?”


“Yeah,” he says, “That’s why I haven’t been home.  But don’t worry, Cece, I’m gonna be okay.  And I’ll be able to see you and Phillip a lot more.”  Pam, finally regaining her composure, smiles; the fact that the first thing he wants to do is spend time with the kids as he’s recovering warms her heart.


“Dats O-K, I come home an, an kiss you all better!”  Hearing this just wants to make him cry again; he leans back and shakily exhales, fighting the tears.  God, she’s perfect.  He doesn’t deserve her, either.  Pam just clutches onto his other hand which rested near her shoulder.


“Thank you, sweetheart,” he responds happily despite his shaky voice, “I have to go now, but I love you so, so much.”


“Wuv you, Daddy!  Goonite!”


“Goodnight, Cece.”


A different voice comes through the phone, “Jim, listen.  I know youre worried about providing for your family.  But right now, you need to get better.  Youll get in the right headspace again.  Pam is right there by your side.  Im here, and so are your friends, family and coworkers.  Youre gonna recover from this, okay?”


He sighs, taking in Helene’s words.  “Thanks, Helene, I needed to hear that.”


“Of course.  Love you, Jim, take care of yourself.”


“Will do.  Love you, too.”


After around 10 minutes of hugging, deep breathing, and a bit more crying, the couple gets up and heads home, Hank locking the door.


After they arrive home and eat dinner, Pam emails David and Toby about Jim’s leave.  Staggeringly, about 30 minutes later, everything’s ready for tomorrow’s appointment, much to the couple’s relief.  Immediately afterward, they take a quick shower (together), dry off, get dressed, and head to bed; she’s on her back as Jim is tightly wrapped around her middle, her right arm wrapped around his upper back while her left reaches over to play with his hair.


“I’m done with Athlead,” Jim says softly, stirring Pam from his stupor.


“What?”


“I can’t stand Dunder Mifflin, but I know Athlead is making you upset.  Calling Mark back seemed right at the time, but you’re right.  I’m a risk-taker, but I’m not risking this.  I’m not risking you.”  Im not hurting you again.  Im not making you cry again.


“Jim, it’s okay,” she states understandably, “We invested in it, it’s your baby.  Of course, you care about it.”


“Not as much as you.”  Pam couldn’t contain her smile, him smiling lightly back at her after she kisses the top of his head.  He sighs in desperation as he says, “I just want to know what’s wrong with me.”


“We’ll figure that out,” she reassures, “and then we can go from there.”


“I can’t wait.”


After saying goodnight and multiple ‘I love you’s, they fall asleep, mentally preparing for tomorrow.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Helene hangs up the phone and breathes.  Pam didn’t say it, but she knew there was a fight.  A big one, too.  She’s just as intuitive as her daughter.


She turns to her granddaughter, “Now, who wants chicken nuggets?” she asks enthusiastically.


“I do!  I do!” She responds, jumping happily.


Helene Beesly, or as Jim likes to call her “God’s gift to humanity”, doesn’t mind taking care of the kids.  After the divorce, she hasn’t had much time for anything else.  And honestly?  She’s glad Will is out of her life.  He was never that close to the girls, not like her, and it didn’t feel like he made an effort… unlike Jim.


Both Pam and Penny are her life, and she wants the best for them.  As much as the sisters love each other, their personalities could not be more separate.  Penny knows what she wants and she goes for it.  She doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t put up with anyone’s bs, and just exudes confidence.  Pam, however, is usually quiet and is often afraid of taking risks.  It makes her responsible and organized, but it has a history of keeping her from what she needs.


Helene quickly became a “JAM fan”, a status far before its time.  She never hated Roy.  To this day she and his family still talk and even organize church events together.  But from the moment he showed up to the house for the first time, she knew that he wasn’t “the one”.  Sure he was handsome and a good conversationalist, but not one who was interested in commitment… and this was proven with the engagement.  Ten years, ten years she’s had to watch her daughter stay with him.  It was hair-pulling-ly frustrating.  It’s the only way she’ll learn, she figured, but she was constantly tempted to intervene.


That was until she met that boy from across the receptionist’s desk.


Helene has heard all the stories about Jim, and Pam never left out any details.  He was perfect for her… and she pushed him away.  The moment he was dating someone else, she consoled Pam but had half a mind to drive over there and smack her upside the head.  Thank God Pam woke up and told that boy the truth because she would have never been happy.  Pam was crying tears of joy after their first date, and Helene was crying right there with her because she was scared.  She was so scared Pam would let this slip away.  But she didn’t.  And from that day on, Helene promised to be there for Jim just as much as Pam, as thanks.


And her darling grandchildren?  A constant reminder of Pam’s happiness, of Pam’s fulfillment, of Pam’s love for Jim.  She sees those chubby faces and can’t help but smile every time.  Cece likes to call her “Faiwy Granmothur”, because — in a way — she is the couple’s Fairy Godmother.


She knows about Athlead and the sleepless nights that resulted from it.  But she knows that this, too, shall pass.  She doesn’t doubt that they’re gonna make it.  She and Will didn’t make it.  Roy and Pam wouldn’t have made it.  But Jim and Pam?  No.  They’ll be fine.  They’ll make it.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Thursday, Jan 24, 6:15 PM

Jim’s Leave of Absence

FROM: pbeesly@dundermifflinpaper.com

TO: dwallace@dundermifflinpaper.com, tflenderson@dundermifflinpaper.com

CC: abernard@dundermifflinpaper.com, jhalpert@dundermifflinpaper.com


Dear David and Toby,


This is an urgent email regarding Jim; he needs serious mental help and requests time off work due to job-related stress.  He would be writing this email himself, but to be honest, he is distraught at the moment, so he’s requested that I help him write it.


We would normally give 30-days notice and apply for FMLA, but unfortunately, the stress is too much for him to handle right now; if at all feasible, we request that we negotiate a solution for him to leave as soon as possible via an appointment.


We both can’t apologize enough for the inconvenience.  We recognize that this is out of nowhere, so please take your time to respond.


Sincerely,

Pamela Beesly-Halpert

Office Administrator, Dunder Mifflin Scranton



Thursday, Jan 24, 6:22 PM

RE: Jim’s Leave of Absence

FROM: dwallace@dundermifflinpaper.com

TO: pbeesly@dundermifflinpaper.com, tflenderson@dundermifflinpaper.com

CC: abernard@dundermifflinpaper.com, jhalpert@dundermifflinpaper.com


Dear Pam,


DO NOT apologize for sending me this email.  Quite frankly, I’m relieved you did.  I’ve noticed Jim’s behavior as we spoke last week.  He seemed to be overwhelmed and even agitated when we talked about his numbers.  And we both know this isn’t like him.  I agree that taking time off will get him in a better state of mind.


We were going to have a meeting discussing solutions to improve his performance on the 31st, but of course, that can wait.


I am more than willing to attend an appointment with Toby over the phone where we can discuss a leave of absence.  If he needs to leave immediately, it can be done tomorrow morning, as early as 8:00 AM, before the workday begins in Scranton.


And tell Jim, from me, that right now he needs to take care of himself and not even think about work.  Boss’s orders.


All the best,

David Wallace

Chief Executive Officer, Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc.



Thursday, Jan 24, 6:30 PM

RE: Jim’s Leave of Absence

FROM: tflenderson@dundermifflinpaper.com

TO: pbeesly@dundermifflinpaper.com, dwallace@dundermifflinpaper.com

CC: abernard@dundermifflinpaper.com, jhalpert@dundermifflinpaper.com


I have already made an appointment for 8:00 AM tomorrow.  I’ll have all the forms ready by then.  I apologize, I should have accommodated him before it got this out of hand.


I will meet you all in the morning.


Sincerely,

Toby Flenderson

Human Resources Representative, Dunder Mifflin Scranton



Thursday, Jan 24, 6:45 PM

RE: Jim’s Leave of Absence

FROM: pbeesly@dundermifflinpaper.com

TO: dwallace@dundermifflinpaper.com, tflenderson@dundermifflinpaper.com

CC: abernard@dundermifflinpaper.com, jhalpert@dundermifflinpaper.com


We cannot thank you two enough for your patience and understanding.  Jim will be happy to hear that this will be sorted out as soon as possible.


Toby, don’t feel responsible.  He admitted that he wasn’t aware of how bad it was.  I’m just glad it’s now being addressed.  Also, after the appointment, is there any way you can email the rest of the employees in the office and let them know?  He wants them all to be aware so it won’t come as a surprise.


Again, thank you both so much.


Sincerely,

Pamela Beesly-Halpert

Office Administrator, Dunder Mifflin Scranton



Friday, Jan 25, 8:38 AM

Jim Halpert’s Leave of Absence

FROM: tflenderson@dundermifflinpaper.com

TO: dkschrute@dundermifflinpaper.com + 14 Others

CC: pbeesly@dundermifflinpaper.com, jhalpert@dundermifflinpaper.com, dwallace@dundermifflinpaper.com


Dear fellow Dunder Mifflin employees,


Jim Halpert has requested a medical leave of absence due to job-related stress for six weeks and will return on the 11th of March.  Pam asked me to inform all of you so that you would be fully aware.  David Wallace and I have sat down with both and discussed the details of his leave.


Be sure to wish Jim a smooth recovery while he’s away.


Sincerely,

Toby Flenderson

Human Resources Representative, Dunder Mifflin Scranton


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Hey, Mom.”

“Hi, honey.  How did things go?”

“As good as one could expect.  He’ll be gone until March.  Right now we’re just trying to figure out the next step.”

“Do Gerald and Betsy know?”

“He called them last night when we were on the way home.  They were thinking about coming down but he told them he’ll be fine.  He also texted his siblings.”

“Right.”

“How’re the kids?”

“Amazing as ever!  Ceces drawing a Get Well Soon card for Daddy.  And Phillip just laughs when I tear the paper in front of him!”

“Aww!  You tell them that Mommy and Daddy miss them very much and that we can’t wait to see them tomorrow.”

“Of course!  Send him all my love.”

“Will do.  Bye, Mama.”

“Bye sweetheart, I love you!”

“Love you, too!”


“Hey, Nellie.”

“Just checking in.  Doing alright, love?”

“As good as I can be.”

“Hows Jim?”

“He’s… okay.  We just had breakfast, he’s washing the dishes.”

“Wow, must be a full moon!”

“Hahaha, must be. …”

“Oh, Pam…”

“I’m sorry for crying, it’s just— he’s blaming himself for everything.”

“Its alright, Pam, get it all out.”

“What I said last night, I-I was so selfish and indignant and—”

“Oi!  Ill have none of that.”

“But—”

“I was suspicious of love after the split.  Then I met you.  That man downstairs?  He loves you.  Otherwise, he wouldnt be doing this.  Got that?”

“...Thanks, Nell, I needed to hear that.”

“You two need anything?”

“Not at the moment, we’ll let you know.  Thanks again.”

“Give the man my best.”

“Will do.”

“Alright, Love you, Pam!”

“Love you too, Nell.”


You have 1 new message

[“Hey Pam, its Brent.  Hope you guys are doing alright.  Ill swing by if you guys need anything.  Have a good one, and get some rest.”]


Brent

Thanks for checking on us, Brent!

Of course! Tell him to not sit on his ass and dwell on work. The man needs some sun.

Trust me, he’ll hear that in stereo LOL. Thanks again! <3

No prob!


Phyllis

I just read the email, I am so sorry!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out, Bob and I are happy to help in any way we can.

Thank you so much, Phyllis!

Of course, we love you guys!

Love you guys too! <3


“Hey, Darryl.”

“Hey.  Everything good?”

“Yeah, things have calmed down at least.”

“To be real with you, I was gonna say something if you didnt.”

“David and Nellie could certainly tell something was up.”

“Its not just them, either.  A lot of us could tell, even Kevin.”

“My only thing is… I just hope he isn’t bitter about Athlead.”

“Honestly?  Its for the best that hes not working there.  We lost a big investor last night.”

“Oh, gosh.”

“Yeah, Mark called me.  Theyre scrambling.”

“He told me last night that he’s done with it, anyway.  I just don’t want him to placate me.”

“Pam, not to overstep, but I think this goes deeper than Athlead.”

“...I think you’re right.”

“Hey, Im really busy at the moment, but I’m sure can squeeze in some time if you guys—”

“Darryl, you have enough on your plate.  Don’t worry about us.”

“Well, just know Im here.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course.  Take care.”

“You too.”


You have 1 new message

[“Hey, its Brian.  Just reaching out.  Pam, if you need anything, absolutely anything, you know where to find me.  Alyssa sends her best, too.  Love you two.”]


“Hm.  Hello?”

“Hey, Barbara, its Creed.  Heard the tall guy broke his coccyx.  If you guys don’t mind lending me some acetaminophen, its um, for a friend.”

“Creed, how did you even get this number?”

“...”  *click*

“…Right.”


Angela

Robert and I send our best wishes and prayers to Jim.

Thank you, Angela. <3


Oscar

Tell him to be mindful of his blood pressure and exercise regularly.

Will do Oscar, thank you.

Of course.  Take care, you two!

You too! <3


“Hey, Dwight.”

“Pamela.”

“What’s up?”

“Please tell Jim that everything will be taken care of during his absence.”

“Of course, thank you, Dwight.”

“Youre welcome.  Oh, and… tell him that I do hope he gets better and that I consider him a true friend.”

“...He’ll appreciate it.”

“Take care.”

“You too.”


“Hello?”

“It’s Erin.”

“Oh hi, Erin.  Everything okay?”

“Im just worried about Jim…”

“I know, but he’ll be fine.”

“He-Hes gonna come back, right?”

“Oh, Erin, of course he will.”

“Wait, is that Erin?”

“Hold on.  She’s crying, she’s worried about you.”

“I’ll take it.  Hey, Erin.”

“Please come back soon, Jim, p-please come back!”

“Erin, I promise you, when I’m ready to come back to work, I’ll be there.”

“…I know, Im just s-scared.”

“I know, but don’t worry, if I try to skip another day, Dwight will drag me out of the house kicking and screaming.”

“Hahaha, yeah, he would!”

“Handing the phone back to Pam.  Have a great day, Erin.”

“You too, Jim.”

“We gotta go, but everything’s gonna work out sweetie, we promise.”

“…I know.  I know.”

“I’ll see you Monday, Erin.”

“See you then!”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


They’re sitting next to each other on the bed.


“Wow, I didn’t know they all cared that much about me,” Jim admits, perplexed, “Even Dwight.”


“Especially Dwight,” Pam says, “He considers you a true friend.”


“Really?” he asks in surprise.


“Really,” she echos.


He sighs deeply, “...There were times recently where I told myself that I’d love nothing more than to be out of that nuthouse.  But after hearing all this I…” he attempts to hold back his tears.


She scooches over and hugs him as tightly as she can, “They know this isn’t about them.  They just want you to get better.  And you will.”


He wraps his arms around her, “I know.”  Eventually, they share a deep kiss, and another, and another.


They have a very nice morning.


Before they drift off to sleep once again, Jim whispers “You are… everything” with the first genuine smile he’s had in days.  Pam smiles back as they share one more kiss and then sleep in each other’s arms.


It’s all uphill from here, no matter how difficult the climb.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Schrute, Dwight Fart

so, Pam tells me you consider me a true friend?

Yes.

you know all your friends are weirdos, right?

Well, by YOUR definition of the word, yes.  But that’s highly subjective.  To me, you’re the true weirdo.  Weirdo.

well, I consider myself a weirdo, by both of our definitions, so I guess that makes us true weirdo friends

...Agreed.

Get well soon, Jim.

thanks, man, will do :)

Stop doing those emoticons, they make you look like a teenage girl.

ok ;)


End Notes:

So this one was fun to format.

The part I'm proud of the most is the Helene monologue.  We see her throughout 7 and 9 lending a hand with just about everything involving the kids, and seeing how close she is to her daughters it made sense to expand on that.  The hardest part was writing Cece since, well, she's nearly three and I don't know how toddlers talk!  Playing with the various mediums and multiple reactions was fun, too.

And yup, there's Brian, boom man himself.  There're hints of things to come, but to be honest with someone like Brent he's gonna be set straight, and his behavior was unnoticed, but will be later.

Also, Creed. 

NEXT TIME: Behind the cameras, Erin recruits Phyllis to search for her birth parents.  Meanwhile, Darryl tries to secure another investor for Athlead in the form of David Wallace, Pam copes with Jim being gone, and Dwight tries to find a Junior Salesman to cover for Jim.  And Dwight finds some very reputable candidates...

Junior Salesman by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Squeezed in some time to finish "Vandalism".  And, naturally, came up with another JAM related AU fic because I have a million ideas and a single braincell.  And it's a "Casino Night" continuation, because isn't that always the way when it comes to this site?

So I'm once chapter ahead and, while I would rather be 2-3 chapters ahead, I really like sharing this and seeing what others think.  With that said, enjoy!

“Would I ever leave this company?  Look, Im all about loyalty.  In fact, I feel like part of what Im being paid for here is my loyalty.  But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly… Im going wherever they value loyalty the most.” — Dwight Schrute


Andy is still on his boat trip.  It’s Week 12.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


It was the Wednesday after Jim’s leave; the crew was setting up for the next day.


“Hey, Pam, you got a sec?”

“Oh, hey Brian.”

“I just wanted to check-in, everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine.”

“How about you and Jim, everything squared away?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Cool.”

“Dunder Mifflin, this is Erin.”

“Well, thanks for being a good friend.”

“Sure, anytime.”

“Pam, phone call.”

“Um… hey, say hi to Alyssa.”

“Will do.”

“Okay, thank you.”

“Sure.”

“Hey, boom guy.”

“Oh, hey Meredith.”

“When are you gonna boom me?”

“Uh, listen, they’re cracking down on us talking to the subjects. It-It’s a lame rule, but, you know, I wanna… I, I’ll see you later.”

“Got it.”


One of the cameras was accidentally on, placed on the chair next to the Regional Manager office, and it caught that entire exchange.  As Meredith slinked back to her seat in disappointment, it was picked up by the camerawoman, who turned it pointing at the kitchen door.  It filmed Brian walking off towards the kitchen… and Nellie, leaning by her desk, eyeing him briefly before the woman turned it off.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


When Dwight found out about Jim’s leave of absence, he was crushed.  Despite his stoic face, he wanted to cry, realizing that all this time, despite everything he’s done to him, Jim is his friend.  And Jim considers Dwight his friend in return.  So today, when David Wallace asks Dwight to find a Junior Salesman to take over for Jim, he decides to help his friend… in the worst way imaginable.


“Wallace is letting me hire a junior sales associate to sit at Jim’s desk while he’s on medical leave,” Dwight informs Brent, “Finally, I’ll have someone at my desk clump who gets me.  It’s like, ‘Really, Jim?  You don't understand the difference between a slaughterhouse and a rendering plant?  Uhh, remind me not to lend you any dead cows or horses.’  Wow.”


Pam walks in and is greeted by Erin.


“Hey, Pam!” she gestures Pam to approach her desk.


“Hm?”


“I know Jim’s needing to recover so I got you guys a ton of Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe coupons,” she explains, handing her a stack of them.


“Aw, Erin!” Pam says, genuinely touched, “Thank you, that’s really sweet.”


“Of course!” Erin responds.


“Over 90 percent of the coupons are expired,” Pam informs Brent, “But, don’t tell her, she put a lot of work into it,” she ends with a smile.


“Hey Dwight,” Pam asks about sitting down, “You emailed Jim and I about a junior salesman?”


“Yup,” he responds, “Big changes coming to the old desk clump.  Invited a couple of buddies to interview for the position.  With Jim out of our hair for a while, you and I can bond with a man of culture.”


“Sounds great,” Pam feigns excitement.


“I know, right?” Dwight says happily.  She just purses her lips and looks at the camera.


“Jim’s going through a lot right now, and I’m really worried about him,” Pam tells Brent, “And if his recovery is gonna mean doubling the Dwight in my life, that’s only gonna make things worse.”


Clark is perplexed.  Why is Dwight doing this?  I mean, Clark’s job title is to fill in for people when they’re gone.  Jim seems pretty cool and he admires Pam for her artistic talent.  So why not?


So Clark just… bites the bullet and asks him about it, “Hey, so I hear you’re bringing in some people to interview for the sales job?”


“That’s right,” Dwight confirms, “a couple of old friends.  Ballers only.  Must be this cool to ride.”  Dwight holds his hand in an imaginary ruler.  Clark was there, but he raised it.


Clark once admired this man.


He’s pretty infuriated at this point.  He thinks about everything he’s had to sacrifice: his time, his patience, his chastity… all for Dwight to invite one of his weirdo friends to sit at a place that he’s well-earned at this point.


So he makes things crystal clear, “You know what, man?  I deserve this job.”


“Mm-hmm,” Dwight says, still not convinced.


God, what a prick.  “I scored Stone and Son Suit Warehouse with you, and God knows, to get the Scranton White Pages with Jan, I went above and beyond… and under.”  He’s still recovering.  It hasn’t been easy.


Dwight placates him, “You know what?  You’re gonna get your interview, okay?  I know that you're going head-to-head against some real superstars, but you got a really good chance!”


“Clark has no chance,” he tells Brent, “I mean, he's up against my buddy Rolf, for God’s sake.  Guy goes fishing with hand grenades.  And Trevor — he’ll make you laugh so hard, you’ll puke your pants.”  A week after Brent’s close friend leaves and now he has to film all of this.


“This sucks!” Clark admits to the camera.  He’s right.  “You know, you put in twelve grueling weeks at a company, and what do they do?  They make you compete for a promotion, like an animal.  You know, I thought this was an office, not the Thunderdome.”  He’ll realize that it is no doubt the Thunderdome once the doc airs.


The omen of things to come is when he brings Rolf Ahl who intimidates Clark before he’s called for the interview.


“And this chair's gonna be yours!  And this desk!  Ha!”


Rolf walks up to Pam who’s immediately unnerved, “I hope you like Norwegian black metal,” he says, “because I don’t do earbuds.”


“Oh ho!  No earbuds!” Dwight laughs.  Good God, there’s two of them?  And there’re more?


Nellie walks up to her, “Pam, you’re going through so much already,” she points with her thumb at the Regional Manager office, “You can’t put yourself through this.”


Pam sighs, but wears a small smile, “It’s fine, Nellie.  It's just a seating arrangement.  Doesn’t matter.”  Nellie gives her a supportive pat on the shoulder as she walks to the copier.  (She’ll learn how to master it one day.)


Pam looks over to the empty desk, praying that Clark gets it.  He’s a good kid, and she knows that they’ll get along, even though she desperately misses her old deskmate.  Seven and a half years ago, she was longing for him to be back and sitting at that desk.  Now, it hurts more because the desk is, like the two of them, so much closer.


Eventually, Clark sits at Jim’s desk and asks Pam if he can look over those price sheets before he starts the interview.


“Oh, sure,” Pam says, “go ahead.”


“Thanks.”


“Of course,” she says with a smile.  She starts to look at him intently.  She needs to know if he’s the right choice; of course, he is because, hell, look at the others.  But if she’s gonna be without her old deskmate for another five weeks, she wants to make sure he’s at least friendly.


Clark catches her staring, “You— you sure it’s okay?  ’Cause you’re kinda—”


“Yeah, absolutely,” she concocts an interview of her own, “Do people like sitting next to you?  You’re clean, right?”


“Oh, Dove Men,” he clarifies.


“Nice,” she continues, “Music.  Do you listen to it in earbuds?” and she concludes, “You don’t listen to it at all because we're in an office, not a Backstreet Boys concert, so—”


“Yeah, could I just have a minute to prepare for this?” he interrupts.


“Oh, of course,” she says, “Do whatever you need to do.”


“Thanks.”


“Right after you do one thing for me.”


“Hm?”


“I need you to breathe in my face.”


Why is everyone in this place this damn weird?  “Why?”


“I need you to breathe in my face right now, come on,” she gestures him to her.


“...Alright.”  He swivels his chair to her and exhales,


“...Are we working with peppermint or wintergreen?” she asks. 


“Wintergreen,” he says with a chuckle.


She smiles proudly, “I knew it, I knew it.”


“Yeah, good nose,” he responds with a smile of his own, swiveling back into place.


“I’ve seen you around, and I thought, ‘Wintergreen.’”


As they chuckle and bond over flavors of mouthwash, Dwight looks on in fear.


“I can’t hire Clark,” he says to Brent, “Yeah, he looks like a Schrute, but he thinks like a Halpert and he acts like a Beesly.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Let’s meet our contestants, boys, and girls!


First, there’s the aforementioned Rolf Ahl, Dwight’s best friend.  He seems to be calm, cool and collected when in reality he’s an intimidating presence that looks like he’d scream at rabbits’ faces.  A lot of his resume is private information, and then asks Dwight why he’s qualified for his job.  Rolf says they’ll be in touch.


Next up is Trevor, former volunteer sheriff, and buster of kneecaps.  His talent is jumping on people when they least expect it.  When he’s asked what makes him an effective paper salesman, he passes.  Is he a team-player or a self-starter?  No, no, and no.  He asks Dwight if he validates parking… and hands him a bus transfer.  Dwight sees no fire in him today, which is odd because he loves to start fires.


Clark Green is up next, and he… aces the interview.  Clark, knowing Star Trek rules as well as Dwight, concludes he got Kobayashi Maru’d the whole interview and got it.  Dwight considers this a challenge and invites all of his friends, who’re all better than the losers who work here.


Next up: Mose Schrute, Dwight’s cousin, a people person who has a natural fear of paper so that’ll motivate him to get rid of it.  He spent the last fifteen years as a sales rep for Dow Chemical.  That last sentence isn’t true, but he can run really, really fast.


Zeke Schrute, Mose’s brother, overheard him talking about it with Mose while they were in the cow shower together.  He likes Darryl’s hair.  It’s dense.  Like bread.


Nate Nickerson, Dwight’s assistant, heard about the job from his mom (Dwight didn’t know he moved out).  He’s a proven entity, but his flaws include hearing, vision, and basic cognition.  He needs his resume back; he only has the one and there’s a chili recipe on the back.


Melvina, Dwight’s former babysitter/ex-girlfriend was invited as well.  Dwight was a passionate lover and the cutest little baby!  She’s double-parked for five hours and her car was towed; jokes on them, she lives next to the tow yard.  They saved her gas money.


Gabor is gifted.  He went to X-Men school with Dwight.  He has many powers, including night hearing and getting dogs to understand where he points.  His training included picking carrots, scrubbing tubs, sewing imitation Levi’s, and a lot of telemarketing.  (Dwight found out the X-Men private school was a con; some never figured it out.)


Troy Underbridge is literally one of a kind.  He’s a goblin, or a hobbit, or a kobold (a type of gremlin).  And he likes to blow-dry his pants with a hand dryer.


After that, there’s Wolf, paintball master, and a total goof!  Dwight gives him a scenario where he sells one piece of paper.  He… says it’s not very good, wants to keep it when Dwight is asking for it, and when Dwight offers him money, no, it’s over.


And lastly, Sensei Ira.  He has no experience in sales, but he is a shyster.  He takes pictures of everyone else, and won’t delete them until they delete the pictures they took of him.  He downs his myriad of vitamins with Hide’s gay energy drink.


Speaking of which, Hide goes for it as well.  It’s not gonna work out.  He thanked Dwight all the same.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pete, who had to go to the dentist, greets Erin and suddenly sees the mess before him in the conference room.  He pauses, looks for a minute, and just… keeps walking. As he sits at his desk, tells the camera, “Well, it looks like Dwight has gathered his entire barn into the conference room.”


The rest of the office is just as terrified, staring in unmitigated awe.


Mose, in (a)typical Mose fashion, looks out the window, examining all of Dunder Mifflin.


All Stanley can bring himself to say is “This… is not natural.”


“Just—” Oscar begins “I don’t wanna make assumptions based on people’s physical appearances.”


“Well, of course not,” Pam agrees, “but does physical appearance include smell?”


“They smell so bad,” Darryl says, his disgust evident.


“If I ever get that bad, you’d tell me right?” Meredith asks her coworkers.


“Meredith, I tell you all the time,” Kevin responds.


“Hah!  Walked right into that one.”  She smacks his arm as he just addresses the camera as to what that means.  It’s something else when Kevin’s perplexed.


“I don’t want to sit next to any of these people for the next 20 years,” Angela complains, “Someone, say something!”


“I said something when they were thinking of hiring Dwight,” Stanley laments, “Didn't work then.  And now look what he’s doing to us.”


“Hold on,” Nellie posits, “Why isn’t Jim involved in this?  I mean he’s the one that should have more of a say than anyone in this office.  Am I wrong?”  Most everyone nods in agreement.


Pam shakes her head, “Guys, I’m not gonna get my ailing husband involved in this.  David gave him specific instructions to not even think about anything work-related.”


“Pam, he loves you,” Nellie informs, “This goes beyond work.  This is about your safety,” she emphasizes.


“No, Pam’s right,” Oscar adds, “Anxiety is very real, and is only worsened by job-related stress.  It can spike your blood pressure, leading to heart disease.”  Pam thinks back to when Jim got that prescription.  “The only one to blame here is Wallace for giving the weirdo this much power.”


“Yeah, but Oscar, Dwight’s a weirdo,” Kevin argues, “We can’t blame a weirdo for bringing weirdos.  But Jim’s a normal, so he can stop the weirdo from bringing more weirdos.”


“Exactly, Kevin,” Nellie agrees.  Many of them wonder if Kevin considers himself a normal or a weirdo.


“How do you think I feel?” Pam frustratingly vents, “Okay, I’m the one who has to sit next to this weirdo while Jim’s recovering.  I’m in a position where I’m rooting for Nate, and that just feels… wrong,” she just sighs dejectedly, “Forget it.  I need to work on my mural.  I have some pointy trees that I need to round off.”


The office looks on in sympathy as she walks away… until they turn their heads back to the freakshow in the conference room.  The camera pans up to Darryl, walking back into his office.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“When are you talking to David Wallace?” Wade asks Darryl when the workday starts.


“I’m talking to him this afternoon, but don’t get your hopes up.”


“Too late. My hopes are up.”  Darryl rubs his head in nervousness.


“Last week, my side job in Philly lost a big investor,” Darryl explains to Brent, “so we’re scrambling to find new funding.  Luckily, they have a solution — me, who doesn’t even work in acquisitions, asking the boss of the company I’m abandoning to give us a gigantic influx of cash.  So… problem solved,” he says sarcastically, “Thanks, guys.”


The last man he wanted to talk to today was David Wallace, especially after Dwight’s failed attempt to get him back into the paper business on top of Athlead losing the investor.  But he saw the mess outside and Pam’s frustration… and he might as well try something.  He’s the A.R.M. after all.


“Hey Darryl,” David greets, “I thought our call was for later.”


“Yeah, this is actually about the new sales guy,” Darryl begins, “Uh, Dwight has brought in a bunch of real weirdos.  And as A.R.M. I was wondering if I could have some input—”


And, as if on cue, Dwight bursts through the door and presses the speaker button, “This is Dwight Schrute.  Who am I speaking to?  And don’t lie, I can tell if you’re lying.”


“Hey, Dwight.  Its David.”


“David!” 


“Darryl says hed like some say in the hiring process.”


Dwight looks at Darryl, knowing what he’s up to.  He’s not about to let a man who’s leaving influence his decisions, especially after he tried so hard to get him to stay.  He knows one of his friends will get in, he’s confident in it.  “Really?  That’s interesting.  ’Cause I was thinking that since Darryl is about to work here part-time, he might not be as invested in the decision-making process as someone like me who’s here every day, and frankly, killing it lately.”


“I was just thinking that because I work directly under the Regional Manager, I ju—”


“Darryl, another thing,” David interrupts, “Since youre about to work part-time, I am going to have to pay you only for the days that you actually work.”  Dwight quietly celebrates.


This gives Darryl pause, “...Oh.”


“Yeah.”


Darryl sighs, “Alright, that’s fair.”


“Sounds fair to me, David,” Dwight adds, with a snide look at Darryl, letting him know what he’s missing out on.  Darryl wants nothing more than to smack it right off of him.


“And I know we have a call scheduled for later—”


“Oh, yeah, that-that can be done later.”


“No,” Dwight snidely suggests, “Why not do it now?”


“Yeah, Darryl, whats up?”


Damn it, Dwight!  Darryl clears his throat, “Well, it’s about Athlead, um… I’m sorry.  Does Dwight need to be here for this?”


“I’d love to be in the loop, David,” Dwight says with confidence as he squats down inches away from Darryl.


“Its okay. Go ahead.”


Darryl takes a deep breath, “Well, there’s a very exciting opportunity to be a core investor—”


“Okay.  Darryl, Im gonna have to stop you right there.”


Of course.  Thanks, guys.  “Alright, cool,” he says as he awkwardly hangs up, “Bye.”


Dwight, once again, remains victorious as he whispers, “I’d love to invest.”


“No, thanks,” Darryl curtly replies.


“I’d like to give you 100 million dollars,” Dwight can barely get through it without laughing as he slinks to the floor.  He gets back up and heads to the office before Darryl interrupts him.


“Hey!” she shouts, getting Dwight’s attention, “I know what this is about.  You’re still bitter about me leaving, right?”


“Nothing personal, Darryl,” he explains, “It’s just business.  Whether or not said business makes you realize the error of your ways is completely coincidental.”  And with that, he walks off.


Well, gotta break it to the others.


Later on, he stands with Pete and Nellie in the kitchen as Dwight grabs his coffee.


“Dwight, you can’t just hire someone ’cause they’re your friend,” Pete says.


“I’m not,” Dwight responds, “These people are the best of the best.  I find talent an attractive quality in a friend.”


“They’re freaks, Dwight,” Nellie says with tenacity, “All your friends are weirdos and freaks.”


“You know who else was a freak?” Dwight argues back, “Spider-Man!  And he was also a hero.”


“Your friends are like Spider-Man,” Darryl adds, “if he had gotten bitten by a spider and then got really into masturbating.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“All of them?” Jim asks Pam over the phone as she paints the mural.


“Yes,” she responds.  She knows talking to him on the phone while she’s painting is a bit of a distraction, but damn it she needs to hear his voice over the sensory overload from earlier.


“In one room?”


“Yup.”


“My God… I wish I was there to see it.”


“No, no you don’t,” she jokes, “There are sights and smells that I will never recover from.”


“Wow, Bees,” he pauses, “I mean if you want me to call the office and—”


“No way, Halpert,” she commands, “You’ll just get yourself in trouble.  Besides, I’m calling you because it’s Dwight, not business.”


“I just wanna make sure youll be okay.”  She knows he’s joking, but she can still hear the genuineness in his tone.  It makes her smile.


“Please,” she explains, “I’ve survived childbirth twice, the new guy will only be half the pain.”


“Why you make trees into bushes?  You don't make paper from bushes!”


“Ugh, hold on,” she turns around and looks down at Hide, “Hide.  They’re giving out jobs upstairs.  Why don’t you go up and get one?”


He considers it for a second.  “Thank you,” he heads upstairs with a slight smile.


“Yeah,” she sighs, turning back to the mural, “Sorry about that,” she says to Jim.


“Im thinking Hide would be a good choice, he is the number one heart surgeon in Japan.”


“Shut up,” she says through a laugh, “Hey, how did therapy go today?”


“It went really well,” he says happily, “Kicked my ass, though.”


“That’s how you know it’s working,” she replies.


“Yup.  Thinking about napping it off.”


“Not a bad idea.”


“Well, Ill let you get back to your bushes.”


“Screw off, Halpert.”


“With your rounded trees, then.”


“Thank you.”


She hears a deep breath from Jim, followed up with “I love you so much, Pam.”  It hits her, and she can’t help but stop what she’s doing.  He means what he says, but she can tell it’s also code for I’m so sorry, please forgive me.  It’s been a week and he’s still kicking himself over it.  She wants nothing more than to drive home, have him hold her in his arms, kiss him over and over and say that she loves him and she forgives him.


He knows she does.  He hasn’t forgiven himself yet.


“I love you so much, baby,” she lovingly replies, “Get some rest, you deserve it.”


“Will do.  See you when you get back.”


“Okay, love you,” she repeats.


“Love you too.  Bye.”


“Bye.”  She presses ‘End’ (Thanks, Helene) and gets back into her painting after a deep, heavy sigh.  Hes getting better.  Hes getting better.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


To no one’s surprise, none of Dwight’s friends are good candidates.  Who would have thought?


Melvina tries to comfort him, while Trevor, Wolf, and Zeke go and reassure him.


“Hey man, we get how difficult this is,” Trevor begins sympathetically, “And no matter how you choose, we’re still gonna be your friend.”


“Yeah,” Wolf adds, “whether it’s me or Troy Underbridge, or Gabor, or Melvina—”


“Or none of you,” Dwight says through a nervous chuckle.


“Yeah, you’d bring us all down here, put us through the wringer, and then choose none of us.”


“Can you imagine how insulting that would be?” Trevor asks, “The contempt that a person like that would have to have for you.”


Oh, God.  “I wish I could hire all of you,” Dwight responds through a fake smile.


“I could start Monday,” Zeke says happily.


Dwight then figures something out, “Hey, let me run this by my number two, see what he thinks.”


“Okay, cool,” Wolf says.


Dwight’s in Darryl’s office now, trying to placate him.


“And I was thinking it’s only fair that you help make this decision since you know, you work directly under the Regional Manager and all...”


“But you know I wouldn’t hire any of these all-stars,” Darryl says.


“AAH!  God, that sucks!  Aah!” Dwight says through his bad acting, “What are you gonna do?  I mean, it’s your call.”


“Nope,” Darryl responds, “Your friends not turning out to be as great as you thought?  Not even Gabor?”


“I guess I just have higher standards for my work colleagues than for my friends,” Dwight “concedes”, “I just couldn’t picture any of them in the old gold and gray.”


“What?”


“I designed a uniform for Dunder Mifflin.”  It comes in Summer, Winter, Jungle, and Formal.


Darryl walks in with Dwight, “Well, as Assistant Regional Manager, I was shocked to see how qualified everyone was for the position.  You?”


“Yes,” Dwight “agrees”, “Thank you.  Amazed.”


“I have to admit this is a tough decision,” Darryl continues, “so I had to go with none of you.”


“WHAT?” Dwight “yells”, “This is such BULLcrap!!”


“Well, you know, Wallace put me in charge, so you have no say.”


“WOW!  So much crap, it’s just a load of B.C.  How could you do this to them?”


“Tone it down,” Darryl mumbles.


“Okay.”


And, naturally, they’re all pissed and decide to leave.  But it’s too late to start a slow roast but too early for a Swanson’s.  Wolf has it: paintball!


Dwight asks if they could wait for him, but Trevor’s anger and everyone else’s frustration makes them decide that they’ll leave without him… with Creed following close behind.


“Well, that went well,” Darryl said as he walks back to his office.


Later, Pam walks back into the office and finds Dwight helping out Clark.


“Pam, meet your new deskmate,” he announces with feigned pride.


“What’s up, good lookin’?” Clark greets.


“Oh, hey!  You got it,” Pam says happily.


Dwight sadly walks back to his desk to finds an email from Pball1239 (Wolf) containing an image of his friends flipping off Dwight with the phrase ‘Glad you’re not here’.


“They say that everyone outgrows their friends at some point in their lives,” Dwight laments to Brent, “Well…  I just outgrew them all in the span of three hours.”


“Hey, Pam,” Clark says, “I’m going to the kitchen.  You want anything?”


“I’m good,” she responds.


“Oh, hey, I’ll take a coffee,” Dwight mentions.


“Oh, I’m sorry,” Clark mocks, rubbing it in, “You gotta be this cool for coffee.”  Dwight just scoffs dejectedly at the remark.


As much as Pam loves making fun of Dwight, and knowing he deserved what he got today, she wants to cheer him up.  He did this for himself… but he did it for Jim, too.


“Hey, Dwight,” she gets Dwight’s attention, “Wanna haze the new guy?”


“Who me?” he asks.


“Us.”


“Absolutely, I do!” he says through his giggles.


What follows is a saran wrap prank gone terribly wrong.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The cameras were so encapsulated with Dwight’s nonsensical plot that they completely ignored Erin.  And she was just fine with that.


Pete has been helping her get a bank account online.  It’s official!  She’s a nerd now.  However, she becomes disheartened when it comes to the security questions… all involving her family.


“Wow, they do not make these orphan-friendly do they?” Pete asks.


“Mm-hm,” she replies, “You know what, we can just take care of it later.”


He noticed that she needs some time to herself, “That’s fine.”


The search for her birth parents has proven to be difficult.  She longs to find out who they are, but those darn security questions hit her where it hurt.  But there is one question that she thinks she can answer: ‘What street was your first home on?’


And she turns to the one woman who understands better than anyone else: Phyllis Lapin-Vance.


Phyllis is an enigma.  She’s a sweet, kind-hearted grandmother figure one day, and a manipulative, cold-hearted bitch the next.  It can switch from day-to-day.  In reality, similar to Erin, she’s basically an overgrown teenager.  An overly hormonal, gossiping, high-on-life teenager.  She longs for the days of her youth, knowing that her best years are behind her.  Her husband, Bob Vance, brings back that fire in her, that childlike innocence that throws caution to the wind; when they’re together, she’s fifteen again.  The baby she gave away was a crushing reality that came out of nowhere, and she hopes to one day meet her and tell her how proud she is of her, how she would love nothing more than to have raised her herself.  That day will come sooner than she thinks…


“I’m just looking for answers,” Erin tells her, “To the security questions.  I’m not looking for answers to life,” she clarifies, “I don’t smoke dope.  I just know you had a baby in Scranton around the same time I was born.”


“I mean, I guess we could’ve been in the maternity ward around the same time, yeah,” Phyllis responds with a smile.  She doesn’t like to think about those times.  Giving up a baby is so hard, and the food in the maternity ward is a joke.  “You know what?  My mother videotaped the birth and I’m pretty sure there’s footage of other babies in the nursery.”  She kept it because it’s the best record of her young body.


“You were pregnant,” Erin mentions.


“Yup, my boobs were amazing.”


So both parties sit through the birthing video, Erin with a face of disgusted confusion, and Phyllis with a nostalgic smile.


“How long does this go on for?” Erin asks.


“I was in labor for 56 hours,” Phyllis answers.


Darryl does not appreciate walking into that.  (“THOSE PEOPLE ARE SICK!  THIS IS A WORKPLACE!  THIS IS A WORKPLACE!!”)


Eventually, they get to the hospital nursery, and Erin can’t help but grin.  She wants to be a mother someday.  They pause and see a clue: a small, red-headed baby with the name St. Margaret’s on the small crib.


“Do you think that’s me?” she smiles, “My real name is St. Margaret?  I must’ve been a super religious baby.”


“No, silly,” Phyllis gently corrects, “that must be the church you were given to.  Maybe you’re from the neighborhood around St. Margaret.


But reality sets in for Erin, “Oh I mean it probably isn’t really me.”  It’s not.  “I mean, it’s fun to imagine, but… What’s that neighborhood like?”


“I don’t know,” Phyllis shrugs her shoulders.


She finds Pete in the breakroom after his rousing discussion with Dwight.  “Hey,” she asks, “Do you mind driving me through the neighborhood around St. Margaret’s?”


“Uh, sure,” he answers, all too curious, “What’s the occasion?”


“I think that’s the street I was born on.”


He pauses, understanding the significance of this request.  She’s made it clear that she wanted to find out this information herself, so the fact he’s asking him about it must mean she needs a friend right now.


“Sure, no problem.”


They walk around the neighborhood, looking through the scenic suburbia.


“It’s a good street,” she thinks out loud.


“Good street?” Pete asks, “This is a great street.  You got trees…”


“Amazing trees,” she adds, “Mailboxes.”


“Oh, on this street, you’re getting your mail.”


She stops, getting discouraged once again, “I don’t know, though.  The card just said St. Margaret’s.  I’ll probably never know.”


“Hey,” he comforts, “You came from somewhere.”


“Yeah,” she shrugs.


“And,” he continues, “from what I know of you… it was a place like this.”


Those words… for some reason, they hit her.  She doesn’t know why they do. She knows Andy would say something similar, and he really would.  But coming from Pete, they felt… different.  A good different.  A different she’s scared of, but can’t help but embrace.


She smiles brightly once again.  He returns it.


As they mention how there’s no trash on the street, Erin realizes that this is where she wants to start her own family.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Wait,” Clark asks, referring to the framed picture of the Scranton Business Park, “That’s you?”


“Yup,” Pam answers with pride.


“Nice,” he compliments.


“Aw, thanks, Clark!” Pam is touched, “Do you draw?”


“Well, I mostly doodle.”

 

As they continue to bond, the crew goes ahead and shuts everything down.  The camerawoman from yesterday moves her camera, incidentally catching Brian looking at Pam longingly, and Nellie staring at him suspiciously from behind while leaning on her desk, before it shuts off again.


End Notes:

I have... a lot more to say about this than previous chapters. 

The episode was, in canon, dunking on Jim for working so much at Athlead (which is honestly sort of deserved).  But with him out of the picture, I had to reframe things.

Switching the investment conversation from Jim to Darryl was easier than I thought.  It contributes to the conflict that was established previously: Darryl wanting to leave the paper business, and Dwight being bitter about it; this is in place of both Jim and Dwight being equally kinda in the wrong like in canon.

The Erin story is pretty much 80% of the deleted scenes, but Pete is less involved.  It got me to think about Phyllis more, and why she acts the way she does throughout the show.  Also, I'm sort of proud of the barn line I gave Pete, it's something he'd say and that's exactly what happened.  And yes, everything — included deleted scenes — happened when Dwight interviewed his friends.  It's... so wonderful.  The canon one is worth watching for them, they're just... magnificent specimens.  My writing cannot do them justice.

And then there's Brian and Nellie.  Yes, she's learned her lesson from two chapters ago, but Pam's her closest friend and she'll be damned if she'd let anything impact her negatively.  She won't do anything but she's obviously thinking worst-case-scenario.  Again, Phoebe and Rachel dynamic.

NEXT TIME: Someone from the warehouse defaces Pam's mural.  As she, Dwight, and Nellie sniff out the culprit, the accountants attend a political event/Phillip Lipton's first birthday party, and Erin and Pete reflect on their love lives before Andy's return...

Vandalism by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Finished "Couple's Discount", which was a lot of fun to write and what ends up shaping the events of the AU.  "Moving On" is going to be a challenge, since very few moments from the canon episode will take place.  (It's probably my least favorite, only worth it for Bob Odenkirk's Mark Franks.)

Enjoy! 

“This is an amazing prize.  I mean I dont even want to give Pam a compliment because shes so bleh, but she did a good job.  I really want that coupon book.” — Angela Martin


Andy is still on his boat trip.  It’s Week 13.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Have you seen Darryl?” Nellie asks Erin as she approaches the front desk.


“He’s around here somewhere,” Erin answers.


“Hm,” Nellie responds as she leaves… while the camera catches Erin’s knowing grin.


“Yeah, Darryl’s here,” Erin explains to Brent, “So is Santa Claus.  It’s just a regular Thursday.”  After she checks if other people are listening, she leans in and tells him, “Neither guy is here.  And, it’s Friday.  Welcome to me and Darryl’s world of lies!”


Her happiness is through the roof.  No one knows Darryl’s started working in Philly yet, so he has to sneak outta here like the sneakiest little sneaky-sneak you ever saw.  And shes his helper!  It’s SO fun!  Her latest trick?  ‘Bear-yl’, a stuffed bear she won at the carnival!


In actuality, everyone knows that Darryl’s been saving up his sick days and that he’s going.  But he went along with it because she was so excited.


Erin’s not used to this shady stuff, but since Andy’s been gone for three months, she could cut loose a little.  She’s good at it, too!


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The following Thursday, Erin’s sitting at a table in the breakroom when Pete stops by and takes a seat next to her.  She’s smiling widely, replying to an email on her phone.


“Well, you seem chipper,” Pete says.


“Andy’s coming back next week!” she replies, exuberant.


“Really?”


“Yeah!  He’ll be back in the office next Friday, and I cannot wait.”  It’s confirmation that he’s not dead, that he does care, and that he’s coming home.  And on the most romantic day of the year, too!  (Well, close enough.)


“That’s awesome!” he responds.  He’s thankful Andy’s coming back, too, both for her sake and the fact that the whole office can get a reprieve from Dwight.


“It really is!” she happily says, “We’re having a belated Valentine’s Day day.”


“Redundant, much redundant?”


“Shut up!” she nudges at him, chuckling.  He chuckles with her.  “So, how’re you gonna spend your Valentine’s Day?”


“I dunno,” he perplexes, “Go to Poor Richard’s, play some pool, watch Die Hard again.”


“You’ve seen it like 30 times,” she rolls her eyes jokingly.


“Hey,” he says faux-seriously, “you can never watch it too many times.”


“Seriously, though,” she wonders, “you must have something planned.”


He sighs, “To be honest, I’m not really into the whole Valentine’s scene.  Haven’t been in a while.”


“Why’s that?  Rough break up?”


He looks down at the table, “Yup, far too rough.”


Erin can see the sadness etched on his face, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean—”


“It’s fine,” he responds with a small smile, “It was just a toxic relationship.”


“Wanna talk about it?” she asks.


He’s not sure how much he should share, but he feels they’re close enough friends, “We met about three years ago.  I was working at the PetSmart right across from the marketing agency she works for, and when we parked next to each other in the plaza parking lot, we hit it off.  I was a rising junior at the local community college, she was impressed, and then we started dating.  Things were great at the beginning, and then she… wanted me to change for her.”


“Change what?”


“Everything.  How I acted, how I dressed, how I spoke… she literally said the phrase ‘You don’t need to be embarrassing yourself’.  It was only after therapy that I realized that meant she didn’t wanna be embarrassed by me.”


“Wow.”


“After two years, we broke up.  And three months after that, I graduated and applied for this job,” he sighs again, “And that’s it.”


“Wow,” she repeats, beginning to get angry, “She sounds like a real jerk!”


“Yeah, she is,” he lamented.


Inspiration strikes for Erin, “You know what we should do?  Hire a hitman.”


The memories of Alice begin to fade as Pete hears Erin out, “A hitman?  In this economy?”


“Oh please,” she waves off, “I have money in my new bank account,” she brags.


“Are you crazy?” he pretend-chastises, “They’re gonna trace the purchase back to you!  We can’t have the government finding out.”


“Ohh, shoot, you’re right,” she concedes.  “We’ll figure out a plan later.”


“Awesome.”  They do their handshake.  “So what do you and Andy have planned?”


“Hm, I dunno,” she replies, “He hasn’t said anything.  I assume we’re having dinner, chocolates, flowers, the standard fare.”


“How’d you two meet?”


She tells him about the first time he asked her out back to right after Cece Halpert was born, the first time he asked her out.  Michael was trying to play matchmaker (because it’s Michael) and Andy tried to ask her out… and made her cry in the process.  It was well worth it, though.


“Oh, God, no.  Im... Just read the fax.”

“You read the fax!”

“Im… Im asking you out.”

“Oh, my God.  Thats amazing.  Let me just fax this, and Ill check my planner.”

“So, its a date.”

“Yes.”


“Wow, that’s… really sweet.”


“I know, right?”


It’s really sweet and that’s what doesn’t make sense to Pete.  He can tell Andy loves her, but the handling of the whole boat thing was out of hand.  The way she describes him, he seems to be a lovable, personable guy.  The whole response to his family’s fortune makes sense — he’s had to overcome his own demons — but she looks to be genuinely worried about Andy and he’s not giving her the answers she’s needing.  He concedes in his mind that he’s digging too deep into this, that it’s not his place.


“And before he asked me out,” she continues, “he tried to give me the entire twelve days of Christmas.”


“Like, everything?” he asks.


“Yup!”


He pauses, “Aren’t the first four verses of the song just ten birds?”


“Yeah!” her face suddenly sobers, “It was truly awful.”


He purses his lips, “Well, at least you got five golden rings out of it.”


“Actually, he spent so much on the birds that he gave me five Ring Pops instead.”


“Can I be honest with you about something?” he asks.


“Yeah?”


“I kinda prefer Ring Pops instead of actual rings,” he’s joking, of course, but he doesn’t expect the reply.


“Oh my gosh, thank you!”  He lightly laughs at her response.  “I mean, you can literally eat the diamond, you can’t do that with a normal ring.”


“I mean, it’s a fraction of the cost.”


“Exactly.”


“And you still get to keep the ring afterward!”


“Finally, someone who gets me!” she shrugs off the true impact of that statement.


She adds on the twelve drummers drumming, who stopped by the office.  She continues with some tidbits of her and Andy’s relationship, such as their first date when she was sick (He has questions about Reed that he doesn’t ask), Gabe’s scavenger hunt that they participated in on Valentine’s Day (“Wait, that was Gabe?”  “Yeah, it’s the least creepy thing he’s ever done.”), and driving to Tallahassee the whole twelve hours to get her back.


“Wow,” Pete comments, impressed, “All that time, there and back.”


“Yeah, he was engaged to Jessica at the time.”


“Wait, they were already engaged?  How did that go?”


“Get out!  You ruined my party!  Who does that?  Are you kidding me? … Yeah, run away!”

“Youre disgusting!”

“I cant believe youre not gay!”


“...It was something.”


“I can imagine.”


“Part of me knows she didn’t deserve it,” she says, “She was really nice.  But he knew it wasn’t meant to be.”  She thinks about Jessica, and probably the most embarrassing night of her life.


“Hey, you know, you cant say that okay?  Thats my girlfriend that youre talking about.  You and I are not together anymore.  You need to get over it!  Take your wish back.”

“Too late!  Its already been wished!  And you promised it would come true.  You wrote it in an email!  So, which one are you?  A murderer or a liar?”


“I just… I handled everything so poorly,” it’s just hitting her now how jealous and angry she got because he found happiness.


“Hey, we all make mistakes,” he says reassuringly.  It doesn’t work.


“I was so distraught that I decided to be a live-in maid to this lovely old woman named Irene.”  She smiles, they still talk on occasion, and Erin sees her as a guardian.  “She’s the one that pushed me to go back with him.”


“Erin, I think youre making a big mistake right now.  Andy is a nice boy.”

“Really?  Cause youve been kind of a b to him all afternoon.”

“I was protecting you because I thought he was no good.  But I can tell you really like him.  And hes willing to lose his job for you, in this economy with Europe on the brink—”

“Irene, what would you do without me?”

“Were not your concern, sweetheart.”


“Y’know,” she continues, “I’m really thankful for her.  If she never said anything… I wouldn’t be back here, right?” she says with a smile.


He smiles back, her optimism is infectious.  “I hope she’s doing okay,” Pete says.


“Oh, she’s great!” Erin says with a bright smile, “They got a lot of money from the Home Depot lawsuit.”  He doesn’t ask for further information.


She pauses as she mulls over everything he did for her, and every event she had with him:

The twelve drummers drumming.

Their first date, while she was sick.

When he announced their relationship at Sid & Dexter’s.

The search for the leads.

Sweeny Todd.

Gabe’s scavenger hunt.

Tallahassee.

All of them when the relationship was fresh, new, and exciting… or when there wasn’t one at all.


And then she mulls over everything that happened while they were seriously dating, each of his decisions infuriating at best, an emotional punch to the gut at worst.


His gestures are grand and elaborate, full of thought and care.  His voice is so sweet and gentle, bolstered by his talents as a singer.  Despite all of his flaws, his heart is loving and genuine.  And yet… and yet…


She wasn’t looking in his direction anymore, but into space, lost in this overwhelming barrage of thoughts.  “Hey, Erin,” Pete asks, “Are you alri—”


“We love each other more when we’re apart than when we’re together.”


She blurts it out of nowhere, thinking out loud.  She didn’t even mean to say it out loud, it catches her off guard.  It does Pete as well.  He doesn’t know what to do next.  He notices her face, which is stoic, very unlike her.  He wisely decides to just let her think and not try to comfort her.


Then her fears get the better of her once again, “I just… I don’t get it, I don’t GET it!” she raises her voice and pounds the table in frustration, getting emotional.


“Whoa, hey, let’s relax,” he pushes softly.


“I’m sorry,” she apologized, embarrassed, “It’s just… I don’t understand him.  He wanted to keep our relationship a secret to avoid drama, and it just caused more drama.  He did so much for me on Secretary’s Day, but he was never honest about his relationship with Angela.  He drove all the way to Florida and sacrificed his job to win me back… and left on a boat trip without me.  For three months.”


Pete continues to stay silent as she goes back to Florida…


“Andy, you broke my heart.  Do you know what it feels like to be constantly rejected by you and… to have to watch you date someone else?”


“Admittedly I haven’t been the perfect girlfriend either,” she concedes, “And he is going through a lot.”


“You broke my heart too.”


He sighs, “Sometimes timing can be off.  And it’s not your fault, or his.  It’s just… how it is.”


“You— broke my heart more recently and more often.  And I think at some point, in my head, it just sort of clicked that were not meant to be.”

“Im so sorry that we have not loved each other at the same time.”

“I know.”


She knows Pete by now.  She trusts him.  That’s why she has to ask him the question she’s been asking to herself over and over and over…


“Am I being selfish?”


He simply leans in and reassures her, without a second thought, “Absolutely not.”


Those two words make her want to cry.  They mean she’s not wrong for reacting the ways she is to all this.  They mean that she’s not mean, or rude, or any negative critique about herself.  “Thank you,” she whispers with a wide smile.


“Of course,” he responds, “And, look, whatever’s happening with you and Andy…” he begins, “It’s gonna work out.”  And it will for both of them, just not in the way they think.  “It didn’t with me and Alice, but you and Andy are different.”


She smiles at him, “Thanks again, I needed this.”


“Of course,” he responds, getting up and putting his trash away.  “Me too,” he says walking back to the annex.


She just smiles.  As she heads back to the front desk, the camera catches her face, deep in thought.


“I… I honestly don’t know how to respond to any of that,” Pete admits to Brent later, “All I can say is… I hope it works out for them.”


“I hope it works out for us,” Erin parrots in the same chair.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Excuse me, everyone,” Angela proudly announces as she enters the office, “Is it okay if I leave early from work today?  It’s Phillip’s first birthday and the Senator and I are hosting a party at our house.”


“Aw, cute!” Erin says happily, “So there’ll be a bunch of kids.”


“No,” Angela responds, “No children.  Our house is not kid-friendly.  Most of our furniture is sharp.  Also, ew.”  Erin didn’t appreciate that last remark.  “It will mostly be campaign donors.”


Kevin is prepared to donate a whopping… eight dollars to Lipton’s campaign.  Kevin can’t go because he — like everyone else in the office — couldn’t make the cut, which she’s so sad about!  She’s mostly sad that they’re not “Martha Stewart catalog” levels of sophistication.


Oscar is the one exception… because Lipton invited him too.


“What?” she asks curtly.


“He said he wanted me there for support,” Oscar explains.


“I’m his—” beard “his wife,” she presses.


“Angela’s husband and I are in love,” Oscar elaborates to Brent, still convincing himself, “But, as a politician in this town, you still need the conventional blonde wife on your lawn signs.  He is risking everything to have me there today,” he laughs “Me!”


Angela, rightfully pissed, decides to get back at her gay husband, by bringing a stud of her own… Dwight.


“Hey,” she approaches him with a bright smile.


“What is it?” he asks hurriedly, “I have vengeance to exact.”


He’s not interested in going, and she’s made it clear why he doesn’t.


“What?  Wait,” she gently pushes, “The state transportation secretary will be there.  You could sell your beet salt idea to the highway people.”


“If I get the deicing gig, it’s not gonna be on merit.  Not because I played politics.”  This hits Angela harder than she expected.


“Hey,” Kevin approaches her, “So, a little birdie just told me that Dwight can’t come to your son’s birthday.  So, do you want me to go with you?”


“No,” she quickly replies.


“Okay,” he says, attempting to gain sympathy points, “I understand.  I’ll just stay here, then.  Alone with the money.”


“Aw, crap,” she quietly concedes.


And the three accountants now stand in a scene straight out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  A piano player, fancy hors d’oeuvres, and men and women dressed in their Sunday best.


“Opening with pub pastries?” Kevin says, analyzing one of the hors d’oeuvres, “That’s a bold play.  They’re saying, ‘It’s only gonna get better from here?  Good luck.’”


That’s just it about Kevin Malone: many assume he got dumber and dumber as the years went by.  When, in reality, he’s a lot more perceptive than people give him credit for, and has remained that way.  He knew about Jim and Pam’s love affair before anyone else did, and was their biggest cheerleader besides Michael.  He realized Michael’s bad ideas from time to time.  He’s still a master of gambling and a smart betting man.  Despite many rightfully calling him out for being bad at his job, he can still do complex math in his head.  He even makes fantastic chili (the trick is to undercook the onions).  And, yeah, he’s dimwitted and maybe has gotten dumber over time.  But he sure as hell doesn’t care, he’s just happy to be included.


Oscar, meanwhile, wonders how Angela, a woman who weighs less than a guinea pig, can be that terrifying while staring at a portrait of her.


When Lipton, Angela, and baby Lipton are introduced, she hams it up to keep it a secret.  As she needs to.


As Lipton and Oscar get along with the guests, one of them says “You two seem very close.”


“Yes, we’re good friends,” Lipton proudly says, “Good friends.”


“Yeah,” Oscar agrees quietly.


“You know, I suppose that may ruffle a few feathers,” Lipton starts, doing what politicians do best, “For a long time, our party has turned its back on the Hispanic people.  Well, that is not who I am.”  He puts his arm around Oscar, but not in the way he’s used to.  “I am a friend of the Latino community.  And if you ask me, it’s time we bid bigotry hasta luego.”  The guests give their standard brunch laugh, as Angela looks on, ashamed, and just… tired.  “Now, does my embrace of Hispanics make me more electable?  Given demographic trends… I don’t know, and I don’t care.  What I care about is Oscar.”  He lightly slaps Oscar’s cheek, in the way he is used to.  “My friend.  Mi amigo.  Oscar.”  And as he hugs Oscar, the guests applaud.  Angela is just… done.


“Maybe I should be insulted that he only invited me here to be his token Mexican friend,” Oscar confesses to the camera, “But, he could have invited any number of Hispanics that he knows.  His gardener, Rogelio.  Or he could’ve invited… Rogelio.  But, he chose me.”  And then he remembers something,  “Rogelio’s Malaysian… The son of a bitch is Malaysian.”


Looks like Angela is not the only one skilled in denial and deflection.


And then there’s the photo… God.  Of course, he’d use a shield of minorities, Oscar included, to block his wife from being in the damn photo.  It got the three lovers to start arguing with each other.


As the party ends, Lipton has the gall to confront his lover and wife, “Well…” he begins, “have we all calmed down?”


As Oscar and Angela put the blame on themselves, and Lipton advises them to do better next time… out walks Kevin.


“Kevin, great to see you,” Lipton greets.


“Yeah, thank you for the food,” Kevin responds, “Oh, and also, you suck.”


This gives the other three pause.  “I beg your pardon?” Lipton asks, offended.


“You are, like, a terrible person,” Kevin nonchalantly chastises, “These guys care about you and you’re just using them.”  There’s a beat as the corrupt politician realizes his lies can’t fool everyone, even the least assuming person there is.  “Again, the food was very good,” Kevin compliments, his tone cheery once again.


As Oscar and Angela walk to the car with Kevin… they both feel content, proud that their struggles are being acknowledged, by their slow and overweight deskmate of all people, as Lipton stands there, feeling disappointed rather than guilty.


“I’ve sat next to Oscar and Angela… for fourteen years,” Kevin tells the camera, “they’re my people.  If you just go by distance… they’re m— they’re my best friends.  I-I don’t know why you go by distance though, I guess, that’s…”  It’s okay, Kevin, they feel the same way.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Jim offers to drive Pam to the office with her supplies while he’s out with the kids for the morning.  She instead asks Helene but he insists he at least picks her up.  She acquiesces.  


“I’ve really been putting in the hours on this mural,” Pam states proudly to the camera as she enters the warehouse, “And my boss is totally okay with it because he’s in the Bahamas and has no clue what anybody is doing.”


Cut to a shot of Creed flying a kite at his desk.


“I’m usually very self-critical,” she continues, “I hate what I paint.  But, I don’t know, this time I feel like it’s, um, it’s really coming together— Oh, my God!”


She makes the mistake of turning to the left.  A cacophony of orange butts litters the mural, along with the phrase THIS SUCKS.


“Wha… You’ve gotta be kidding me!  What it… are tho— are those butts?”  She looks across the various blue-collar workers.  “Huh?  No way.  No way!”


The camera pans to the culprit filling out some forms.


Royally pissed off, she decides to ascend on the lift, needing to get to the bottom of this.  “Attention, everyone,” she begins, “Can I have your attention, please?  Yeah, I don’t know everybody’s name down here, but whoever did this, please raise your hand.”


Nothing.


“Hello?”


Still nothing.


“This is not over, okay?  I will stay up here all day if I have to.  Is that what you want?”  Val closes the door, and everyone else just continues.  She has work to do.  “Yeah, I will also come down if I want to, it’s my choice.”  Nate nods in respect.


She wants to call Jim, just needing to vent, but she doesn’t.  She would like him to be in the office because she knows he can do something about it.  But she’s not making him drive here to deal with this.  He’s got to focus on himself.  He’s making great progress, that shouldn’t be stunted.  He’s been extra sweet to her, being there for her more… but she knows he’s making up for everything he’s kicking himself over.  He doesn’t need to go this far.  But he does, for her.  She doesn’t deserve him.


“I don’t demand justice often,” she quietly tells the camera, “I’m not like Angela, who calls a lawyer every time someone watches a YouTube video of animals doing it.  But, someone should get fired over this, right?  Val’s no help.  Andy’s gone.  Jim’s out.  I just feel like I’m on my own here.”  She notices the boom mike drop and hit her in the forehead.  She lightly smiles, appreciating the help.  “I mean, okay, not completely on my own.  But, in terms of people who can do something.  Thank you, Brian.”


Brent, behind the camera in this instance, takes notice.


She’s out of options, except one: her crazy coworkers.


“Conference room!  Everybody!  Now!” she announces, bursting through the entrance.


Dwight tells her she doesn’t have the clearance, but she claims David Wallace gave it to her.  Dwight, thankfully, buys it.  She tells them the terrible news.  (Erin was confused, she assumes paint on the wall is what Pam wanted to begin with.)  She wisely uses the words ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ to rally everyone up, but they don’t buy into it and they all leave… except for two.


“Pam,” Dwight arises from his chair as the others leave, “I’ll help you.”


“You will?”


“If there’s anything I hate worse than art, it’s crime.”


When Jim’s not here, Dwight is the next best thing.  “Thank you.”


“I am in too, Pam,” Nellie proudly announces.


“Yeah?” Pam says smiling.


“Yes, of course!” Nellie responds, “You are my friend, I believe in you, I believe in your art, and I am bored.”


“Great!”  Pam wanted a righteous mob, but she got her two closest friends in the office… who at least have a mob mentality.  (She’s pretty sure Dwight has a pitchfork in his car (he does).)


Dwight gets started, sitting all the workers on a table, “I am handing out pieces of paper, on which you will draw one human butt.  What I do with said drawings, is no one’s business but my own.”


“You’re gonna compare ’em to the butts up there,” Frank says.


“Incorrect,” Dwight lies, “It is my fetish.  Oh, also, sign them.  My fetish is signed drawings of butts.”  Val wisely stops this in its tracks.


“Well, this is getting us nowhere,” Nellie comments.


Pam brainstorms since Nate is the weakest one, they can get him to crack.  Dwight, knowing him better than anyone, tells him that his mother is dying and that gets his attention.  Dwight lures him in with chewing gum and Nate lets them know it is, in fact, Frank.  There was no chewing gum.  Nate is disappointed.


Nellie, Toby, and Pam confront Frank in the conference room.  If Katy was Pam 6.0, Frank is Roy 6.0.  He’s burley, unsophisticated, and can be off-putting to some.


“So, Frank,” Nellie begins, “Do you have any thoughts about what was done?  By you?”  He remains silent… and looks annoyed.


Pam gets the ball rolling with Toby next to her, “Um, Frank?  Hi.  Pam.  Um, I am so sorry if I’ve done anything to offend you.  I’m sure it isn’t easy for you guys to have an upstairs person coming down in your space.  So, truly.  If, if, I apologize.  But enough about me.  Your turn.”


He just picks at his ear.


“You sort of deserve an apology here,” Toby quietly pipes up, “Frank?”


He finally responds, “I’m sorry I didn’t like your crappy doodles,” he “apologizes” in a condescending tone, “I drew a butt.  Big deal.  Butts are funny.”


The absolute nerve of this guy!  At least Roy pretended to care about her art!


“Well, I didn’t think that butt was funny,” Pam argues.


“Well, maybe if you got the stick out of yours!”


“What was that?”


“You know what?  You people can’t fire me!  So, screw you!”


And he’s right, they can’t.  Nellie says that at least the first sorry sounded sincere.  It didn’t.


Nellie and Toby couldn’t do anything, so Dwight’s up… and they have the perfect solution: an eye for an eye!


“Normally, I find Pam to be a comforting, if unarousing, presence around the office,” Dwight tells Brent, “Like a well-watered fern.  But, today, she has tapped into this vengeful, violent side.  And I’m like, wow, Pam has kind of a good butt.”  Jim can attest.


They get Clark to infiltrate for them… and he ends up shirtless, duck-taped to a chair, and texting Pete for help.  They then call up Darryl to see what he says (before he can complain about Mark’s sloppiness in their shared apartment), and find out that he cares about his pickup truck.  They find some water-based white paint and get to work.


Dwight, in a true testament of his and Pam’s friendship, paints a mural on the butt of his truck as recompense, “Eye for an eye, Mamasita.”


“Aw, Dwight,” she says, genuinely touched, “That’s really sweet.”


And though Pam is embarrassed with hers, Dwight thinks it’s amazing!  A caricature of Frank riding the truck, leaving a trail of poops, and having saggy boobs.


Dwight has had the best day.  “I have to say,” he admits, “I like hanging out with a vengeful bitch.”


Pam cares about him, so she needs to be there for him after today, “I know.  You miss Angela, don't you?”


“Ugh!” he groans, “Don’t sympathize, you’re ruining the mood, back to work.”  And she continues defacing the truck.  “Draw his penis!”


As Pam walks back to the front door, she tells the camera that she got back at him with art, the most fitting way possible.  “But, I think the lesson will last a very—”


“HEY!” Frank shouts, exiting the building in righteous anger, “My truck?!” he shouts, “You had no right!”


“No, you had no right!” She shouts back.


“It’s a $40,000 truck!”


“So?  You started it!”


“So?  So someone needed to shut you up!” Frank shouts, running towards her.


He goes to attack her but is stopped Brian makes his first real appearance in the doc.  Out of nowhere, he hits Frank with the rod of his boom and fights him.  As Pam instinctually runs into the building, two other crew members try to break up the fight.  The cameras just… keep rolling.  There’s nothing they can do, he’s dug his own grave.


After 5:00, Pam and Brian are stationed in the crew’s locker room, her fighting for his defense.  Brent films from outside.


“Well, I’m gonna say something to the producers,” she presses.  


“No.  No, it’s…”


“You shouldn’t be fired.  I mean, you were just protecting me.”


“It’s all good.  I knew what I was doing.”  He did.  “It’s… I’m sorry about your mural, though.  I mean because you put so much into that.”


“Forget about my mural,” she comforts, “It’s stupid.”


“No.  You, you worked hard on that.  That guy’s an animal.  I’m glad they’re firing him too.”


She sighs, “It’s crazy.  Brian, I’m so sorry.”  


“Look.  I don’t… I don’t wanna put myself where I don’t belong.  If you ever need me, you just call me.  And I’ll be there for you.”  He would.


That last sentence makes her suspect, but she nods her head, “Thanks, Brian,” she says.


“Seeya.”  And just like that, he departs.


Pam slowly walks from the room and shuts the door, but pauses when she gets a call.


“Hello?”


“Beesly!” Jim says with pride.


“What?” She asks.  As she’s talking, she heads to her desk and gathers the rest of her things.


“Dwight texted me what happened and what you guys did to that jerks truck,” he explains, “He told me to guess which one was yours.”


She smiles brightly, “You guessed the poops didn’t you?”


“Seriously, Beesly, way to take the high road,” he jokingly chastises.


“Oh, screw off, Halpert,” she jokes back, “Like you wouldn’t do the same thing.”


“Touché.  Im here.”


“Oh, I’ll be right down.  So, how was the park?”


“It was great!  Cece and Phillip had a lot of fun.  She found this amazing flower for you.”


“Aw, that’s so sweet!”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


As the three accountants are in the car, Kevin thanks Angela for all the free food.


“We had way too many appetizers anyway,” she responds, “I don’t know who did the ordering.  How hard is it to buy for forty?” she asks Oscar.


“Some people are just terrible at math,” Oscar responds.


“It’s embarrassing.”


“It is.”


“Totally,” Kevin adds.


End Notes:

This was a fun one.  My favorite — and most canon — part was the accountant trio.  This was such a joy to write and plays on this oddball friendship they all share and it's amazing and wholesome.  There were only two deleted scenes I put in this one and both were for this plot.  (The others aren't worth it, especially the one where Pam imitates Hide... Yikes.)

 

The Erin/Pete subplot is what I'm most worried about because it was made out of whole cloth.  No source material, no previous dialogue, nothing.  I wanted to write it for two reasons: 1) the original C-plot sucks.  Yeah, let's make Jim both a crappy husband to Pam AND a crappy roommate to Darryl!  I mean, I'm a slob myself, but you gotta respect some boundaries, dude.  (Though they are two sexy-ass roommates.)  And 2) I wanted to give an honest analysis of Andy and Erin's relationship, because to me it's more than just "they were perfect" or "they were terrible".  They had some incredibly cute and endearing moments, to be sure, but they also have a lot of flaws, and I wanted to explore Erin reflecting on all of it, the good and the bad.  Plus, I wanted to expand on Pete with his backstory because, let's face it, the canon Pete is Wonder Bread and had little substance to him.

 

The main plot — the JAM one — is relatively unchanged, actually.  The key difference being Dwight texting Jim pics of the truck and her not telling Jim about it until afterwards.  Brian still gets fired, and yes, he's gonna keep showing up.

 

NEXT TIME: It's Valentine's Day!  The office celebrates one more day without Andy before he surprises everyone with his presence.  Erin is happy things will go back to normal, while the rest of the office feels differently, especially Dwight.  Meanwhile, after an uncomfortable lunch with Brian, Jim and Pam begin to open up and let each other in...

Couples Discount by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Finally got "Moving On" done, probably the biggest challenge for this story yet.  I'm proud of some aspects of it, but I always have this habit of thinking my writing won't mesh with the show's canon all that well and leaves a lot to be desired.  Nevertheless, I'm seeing this story through so I hope the readership of this site enjoys this concoction that I've created.

Also, some canon tidbits: Despite this being the Valentine's Day episode (February 14, 2013), it was aired alongside "Vandalism" on February 7.  So I was like forget that, this takes place on February 14, and "Moving On" takes place on February 21.

Enjoy! 

“Dwight may have won the battle, but I will win… the next battle.” — Andy Bernard


After 14 weeks — just over three months — Andy will FINALLY return from his boat trip tomorrow.


Erin is elated of course, but she has other plans before Andy returns.


“Hey!” she whispers from her desk, getting Pete’s attention, “Wanna play hooky today?”


“Oh,” he said with a smile, “maybe.  What do you have in mind?”


“We can do anything you want.”


“I really wanna have fun today, because tomorrow is going to be a nightmare,” Erin explains to Brent, her cheery demeanor suddenly becoming cold and back to cheery, now a bit forced, “Andy’s coming back from his boat trip tomorrow… his stupid, dumb boat trip.  Yeah, he’s been rude, selfish, a big jerk, things will go back to normal after I set him straight, and tell him that he royally messed up.  Bam, Andy!  How do you like me now?... I hope as your girlfriend.”


“Erin says she’s happy that Andy’s coming back, but I’m not sure,” Pete tells Brent, “He’ll be back tomorrow and surprise, today, she wants to do whatever I’d like.”  He thinks back.  “You know, when I was a kid, we had a dog who got real sick and we had to ‘send him to a farm’.  And on his last day, we did everything he loved.”  His name was Darby.  Beagle mix.


Erin grabs out a frisbee, “Wanna play catch in the parking lot?”


Pete is surprised by her choice, “Sure.”


“Great!”  Pete happily says yes… but with a nervous look plastered on his face as he glances at the camera.  They do it, and then it lands under the car; Erin whistles for him to get a stick.  Because of course, she did.  So, after the frisbee gets lost again, he decides to have a little fun by digging through some homeless guy’s stuff, much to Erin’s concern.  She gets the frisbee herself.


Meanwhile, Dwight is preparing his ultimate victory against his old nemesis, Andy Bernard.


He knocks on the Regional Manager’s office door.  “‘Come in,’” he mocks in a Kermit-esque voice as he enters, “Andy, hi!  I just made another huge sale for the company that you manage.  I need you to authorize that expense report and sign off on that contract.  ‘I would be happy to.  It would be my pleasure, Mr. Schrute.  Rick-a-dick-doo, rick-a-dick-dick-dick, rick-a-dick-doo.’”


“I really like Andy these days,” Dwight confesses to Brent, “He’s pretend and he does exactly as I tell him to.  All that will change when real Andy comes back tomorrow.  Unless he comes back as pretend Dwight.  In which case, we’re in for an epic… confusing showdown.”  One for the ages.


The office reflects on their time without Andy… and they miss him just as much as Dwight does, that is to say not at all (except for Meredith, for the reason you’d expect).  They enjoyed having a boss-less period and are sad to see it go, so they decide to celebrate with a bang: making use of Valentine’s Day Couple Discounts at the mini-mall, as suggested by Phyllis.  Nellie makes it official as they pair up: Nellie/Clark, Stanley/Phyllis, Kevin/Angela, and Darryl/Oscar.  Darryl feels awkward about it but acquiesces to appease the latter.  Oscar gives him some pointers, but Darryl wants him to stop talking about it, he says he’s fine with it.


As a majority of the nail salon employees are excited for the return of Angela the ‘tiny, poor lady’, Nellie and Clark get their mani as one of the employees and Nellie makes fun of him for looking feminine.  He suddenly shouts that it’s full price and that Nellie is living a lie.  Turns out, she can’t even be in a pretend relationship!  Darryl and Oscar try to get in, but the owner doesn’t think their relationship works (as she demonstrates with her fingers); Darryl might be straight, but he doesn’t put up with homophobia of any kind.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Pam attended Jim’s fifth therapy session with him.  As they extrapolated on their relationship’s history, the therapist was floored by their lack of communication skills.  The Athlead discussion lasted two minutes, that’s not a discussion!  So she gave them some new homework: straightforward communication.  If there’s something that’s bothering them, or that they feel is going to impact their relationship, even in the most insignificant of ways, air it out and let the other know, calm and collected.  The moment they do that, the healthier and happier their relationship will become.


A few days later, she’s awaiting her Valentine’s Day dinner with Jim.  As she sits on her desk, she makes sure to get the most vital piece of their meal.


“Psst.  Hey,” she leans towards Dwight to get his attention, “Did you get the stuff?” she whispers.


“Oh,” he responds with a smile and confident nod, “I got the stuff.”


“Bring it,” she says, gesturing to him to give it to her.


He hands her a bottle of red wine across the table, “Freshly brewed.”


“Yes, thank you!” she exclaims with an elated smile.


“Don’t thank me,” Dwight says happily as he looks towards the camera, “Thank the beets.”


“Schrute’s Beet Wine,” he advertises to Brent, “Made with all-natural ingredients, and home-grown beets from the most fertile soil and finest manure.”  He kisses the bottle.


Before Andy’s impromptu arrival, she calls Jim in the kitchen.


“You got chocolates?”


“Yup,” Jim answers, “Didn’t have Russel Stovers but I did manage to snag some Lindor truffles.”


“And that is why I married you,” Pam says happily, “Oh, and Dwight got us a bottle of his beet wine.”


“Yes!”


She chuckles, “Oh, and I made us a lunch reservation at State Street Grill.” 


Oh my God, thats so romantic.” 


“It’s with Brian and Alyssa,” she adds.


“Oh, my God. Thats less romantic,” he jokes, but she can tell he’s not into it.


“I know,” she gently presses, “But we should go.  We need to thank him for, you know, what happened last week.” 


“Yeah, yeah.  No, totally.”


Jim doesn’t know why he’s not looking forward to meeting his friends.  Part of him just feels guilty for not being at the warehouse to fight for her, while another part is kinda annoyed at Pam for not telling him about it.  Dwight told him before she did.  If she did, she knows he would have been the first one there to defend her against that a-hole.  He knows that’s the last thing she wanted to happen because all she’s focused on is his recovery, so that’s why he bit his tongue.  Besides, he feels it’s not even worth bringing up, so he just shrugs it off and just enjoys every moment he has with her.  So much for airing things out.


“I’m very excited to see Brian,” Jim tells the camera in the Outback, “Brian’s a great guy.  And Pam and I have gotten really close to he and his wife, Alyssa over the years, and…” he shrugs, “he got fired for protecting my wife from a jerk in the warehouse?”  He’s still lamenting over this.  “I’m sorry, but you know him.  He’s a good guy.”


As they walk into the restaurant, Pam tries to grab Jim’s hand, which he gladly reciprocates after being lost in thought for a sec.  They greet Brian, who greets them and the crew, as they sit down.  After Brian makes a joke about his no-carb diet, he thanks the couple for coming.


“Are you kidding?” Jim asks, “Thank you, man.  I mean, I’ve wanted the opportunity to say thanks for... everything.  And I’m really sorry about the job.  That just seems crazy.”


“It’s fine,” Brian replies, “What are you gonna do, you know?”


“Yeah, but I just wished there was something I could’ve done to prevent it.”  Pam takes notice of his downtrodden tone.


“Eh, I’ll live.  But, if you guys know of any work, I’m fully available.”


“Well, my dad can’t hear a thing,” Pam jokes, “You could boom his whole life for him.” 


“That’s... Okay, great.  Does he pay well?”


After a small chuckle, Pam asks “Where’s Alyssa?”


“Uh, yeah,” Brian awkwardly begins, “Um, you know, Alyssa’s, she’s not gonna make it today.”


“Oh.”


“Actually, we’re not gonna make it,” he says almost too casually, “Um... we’re splitting up.”


The Halperts are crushed.  He and Alyssa were soulmates.  They were at their wedding!  How could this have happened?


What happened… was Pam.  That’s not what he said, of course, it was called a “huge fight”, one that could have easily split Jim and Pam up if he didn’t get help.  Brian, like the rest of the crew, knows that audiences will fall for Pam, and he couldn’t help but be drawn to her as well.  It’s not love love, nothing like how Jim feels about her.  But… he was there when Jim came back with Karen, when she went to Pratt, and when Michael Scott Paper Company was somehow a thing.  He got to know this woman for so many years and see her evolve into the wonderful person she ended up becoming.  And the way Jim treated her that night, it struck a nerve.  More than it should have.


He’ll always love Alyssa, she was always the one.  Always will be.  But she doesn’t think he feels that way anymore.  And she has good reason to believe that.


“We were telling two different versions of the same story,” Brian explains, “And then, everything just went numb.”


“Well, I mean, that’s okay,” Jim reassures, “It doesn’t mean that it’s over, right?  I mean, couples fight.”


“Yeah, that’s the thing,” Brian responds, “When we were fighting, it weirdly felt like the relationship was still alive.  And, it wasn’t until we stopped fighting that, we realized that it was over.  You know, it’s over.”


As Brian gets emotional, Jim and Pam just hold hands underneath the table.  They’re concerned for their friend, realizing that he’s in mourning, and conclude that this could have easily been them.  If he didn’t stop the arguing and apologize, if she didn’t forgive him and be his rock, they’d be another Brian and Alyssa, a perfect couple broken by their lack of communication.  Jim thanks God every day that he took that headset off; the moment they got home that night, he shoved it in a drawer, and he refuses to use it anymore.


“I’m sorry, this is... Oh, my God, okay,” Brian says, regaining his composure, “We have to stop seeing each other like this.  We have to find a different way to communicate other than breaking down in front of each other.”


Jim begins to feel extremely uncomfortable with that statement, remembering Brian was there recording that night.  Pam soldiers on, tightening the grip of his hand with hers, “I mean, you guys caught us crying all the time, so,” she awkwardly responds.


Jim feels like he needs to breathe, “Um, I-I’m gonna go wash up,” he says as nonchalantly as possible.


“Oh, okay,” Pam responds, feeling just as on edge.


Brian nods as he walks off, and then looks at Pam, who just feels awkward, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”


“It’s fine,” she says with a smile, waving it off, “You’re going through a lot right now.”


He sighs, “I’m just glad he’s doing better.”


“Oh yeah,” she smiles with pride, “He’s gotten a lot better.  He’s been more patient and spending more time with the kids, and…”


“That’s great,” he says genuinely, “I dunno, I just didn’t expect him to be that angry.  We both know he’s not that kinda guy.”


And he’s right, Jim isn’t.  But… why even bring that up?  While Jim’s out of earshot, no less?  He’s going to therapy, he’s happier than he’s been in months, he’s conveying his emotions better.  This is a Valentine’s Day outing, not an intervention.  She wants to grab Jim from the restroom by the arm and bolt, but she has to be there for Brian, so she pulls whatever she can just to stop the topic.


“I mean,” she shrugs, “I know I could have handled it better,” she remembers, still wanting to own up to her own mistakes but not sure how yet.


Jim thankfully comes back, grabbing the menu and just wanting to eat and leave.


It’s not 3 minutes after their ride back to the office when Pam pipes up, “You wanna talk?”


He sighs, “After that, I think we need to,” he looks over and smiles lightly, “Ladies first.”


She returns it with a small smile of her own, “You were talking to Brian about being there to prevent him from getting fired.”


Her perception is a blessing and a curse.  He takes a deep, short breath through his nose, wanting to get it out, “It’s just… you told me about the whole warehouse thing after it all happened.  Hell, Dwight told me before you did.”


He said it as politely as possible, but she could still sense the annoyance in his voice.  “Yeah,” she sighs, “I’m sorry, you deserved to know.”


“I just… I feel like I needed to be there.  Kick his ass myself.”  She can tell in his voice he feels frustrated about it but feels better when he smirks.  “Borrow Dwight’s pepper spray maybe?”


She snickers, “Okay, one, you’d still end up getting it in your eyes,” she sobers, “and two, if you got involved then you could have gotten fired.”


He shrugs, “That’s a good point.”  A beat.  “I dunno, Pam, I guess I just… feel like a chump.  Who had to rely on the sound guy to defend his own wife.”


She feels guilty, but she needs him to understand, “I didn’t tell you about the mural because it would’ve stressed you out and the last thing you need is stress,” she sighs, her eyes glassy, “You’ve been doing so good, baby, and I didn’t wanna screw that up.”


Noticing a sniffle, he grabs her hand and rubs her knuckles with his in an attempt to calm her down, “You wanted to protect me.”  She nods.  “You can’t protect me from everything Bees.”


“I’m sure as hell gonna try,” she says, determination and love in her voice.


“You always do,” he responds sweetly, “But you don’t have to walk on eggshells around me.  I’m still Jim.”


“You are.  I just appreciate you for letting me in.”


His grip on her hand tightens, “I’m sorry for not telling you how I felt,” he apologizes, “I needed to, a hell of a lot sooner.”


“I’m sorry I didn’t call you when it happened.”


He smiles brightly, “I’m just glad Dwight and Nellie were there as well.”


She chuckles, “They’re the only two insane enough to help me.”


“That’s true,” he pauses and says, “Wow, we really need to do better with this whole communication thing.”


She smiles, “Hey, it’s a start.”


With a smile of his own, he brings her hand up to his lips and kisses it.  “It’s a start.”


After her smile grows, it slowly fades again as she mentions the obvious, “That lunch was… really awkward.  Didn’t you think so?”


“Thank God, it’s not just me,” he admits, “I mean, he mentioned my breakdown in front of us, Pam, during a Valentine’s Day lunch.  I know he’s going through hell right now, but it just… it felt inappropriate, right?”


“I agree.  I think this whole Alyssa situation messed him up.”


“Yeah, I can tell the split’s hitting him hard.”


“Plus…” she pauses, but he deserves to know, “while you were in the restroom, he asked how you were doing, and he brought up the fight saying that you’re ‘not that kinda guy’.”


He raises his eyebrow, “What?” he asks, “Why did he say that to only you?”


“I dunno, it just… put me on edge,” she’s feeling more and more upset as she continues, “I told him I could have handled it better—”


“Don’t put any of that on yourself,” he interrupts, “That was all me.  You… you saved me that night.”


She wants to cry but instead smiles as she brings his hand over to her and kisses it.  “I honestly wanna forget that lunch ever happened.”


“Me too, all I wanna focus on is Valentine’s Day dinner.”


“You’re right,” she says, “The only thing we need to worry about tonight is beet wine.”


He nods happily, “Beet wine.”  They briefly look at each other as they chuckle.


She suddenly gets a text.  “Oh, it’s Nell.  Andy’s back.”


“Good for him.”


She continues reading, being angrily stunned, and just says “Oh, that motherf*****!”  Jim’s eyes widen and lip purse at his wife’s sudden outburst.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


As Dwight continues to mock Andy in his own office, he makes a grand entrance… looking like he just came back from a Jimmy Buffet performance at Woodstock.


“You’re back,” Dwight says, stunned, “...and you’re disgusting.”


As the other employees slink back into the office, they notice Andy perched on Phyllis’ desk.


“I guess I can cancel my order from Zappos.com because, oh, the loafers have arrived,” Andy lightly jokes.


“Andy!” Erin shouts, elated that he’s finally home.


“Hey!  Sweetheart!” he exclaims as they embrace, “I have missed you so much.”


“Welcome back,” she says happily.


“I have been dreaming of this moment,” he responds, just as happy.


That sentence hits her so much, because she has, too… but it doesn’t feel like it.  “Me too,” she confesses as her face begins to fall, “So much.  I’m so happy.”


“What happened?” Oscar asks, sort of disappointed, “We thought you were coming back tomorrow.”


“Well, Valentine’s surprise for Erin.  Hello?  Super romantic.”  Erin forces a smile, and Pete notices, upset.  Andy gives her two bamboo sticks, and when you clop them together it’s called “Bembe”.  She tries to get into it as he breaks out his güiro and plays with her, Kevin joining in.


“Hey, Burning Man,” Dwight insults, “if it’s not selling out too much, you might want to throw on a tie. David Wallace is gonna be here in an hour.”


Of course, Andy had no idea, “Obviously, that’s why I’m here.  I mean, I came back early to surprise Erin.  Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart.”  They embrace once again, Erin looking more and more disheartened.  “But, I’m just saying, I’m also excited about the Wallace meeting.”


“Why?” Clark asks, “Isn't he just coming in to rip you a new one for being gone three months?”


Dwight reassures Clark that Wallace knows… he does know, right?  “I have no idea,” Andy nervously answers Dwight, “I don’t know what he knows or doesn’t know.  But we’ve been in touch the whole time.  I mean, it’s not hard to get high-speed internet in Turks de Caicos, people.  It’s in every Bembe cafe.”


Erin just looks at him, hiding her disdain.  How could he not reply to her responses to his emails?  Was he too “busy”?  Or better yet, take the time to call her because he was “busy”?


“Question,” Andy asks, “Where’s Jim?”


“He and Pam are having their Valentine’s Day lunch.”


“For two hours?” Andy asks, “Really?”


The entire office is now getting infuriated, neglecting the fact that one of his employees has suffered an emotional breakdown.  “So, you’re concerned about peoples’ long absence from their place of work?” Oscar snidely asks Andy.


“If the shoe fits,” he answers, as he plays his güiro.  Erin is fuming on the inside.


Andy’s arrival has brought with it all types of incompetency.  Each realization and failure is more damning than the last, such as:

— Andy losing the White Pages because the price point was not approved by the head office.  Jan Levinson, ever the ball-buster, does not respond well to this and drops Dunder Mifflin.  Dwight tries to remind her that Clark gave her everything, everything, but to no avail.

— Angela revealing to Andy that the branch exceeded its targets over the past quarter.  Despite Jim’s absence and dip in numbers, Clark, Stanley, and Phyllis managed to maintain all of his clients and then some, not to mention Dwight’s ever-stellar performance.  This is the same quarter that Andy’s been gone.

— And Nellie having to talk down Andy from talking to Jim and Pam about their attendance because Jim’s halfway through his medical leave due to job-related stress, and that Nellie assumed he already knew that because he was CC’d the entire conversation regarding his leave.  Andy blames it on internet connectivity, and she walks out of his office muttering “arse” to herself.


The entire office is up in arms as they all vent in the break room.  Dwight criticizes the fact that they lost the biggest sale the branch has ever seen, Clark suffering from PTSD once again as a result.  Kevin misses his chunky lemon milk.  Dwight’s tempted to rat him out, but his ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ dynamic with David Wallace (more like ‘Man Who Cried Genetically-Engineered Monster Wolf’).  Nellie doesn’t want to do it after all he’s done for her, and Meredith ain’t no narc.  Pete has to be the one who stops her from listing off what Meredith is besides a narc.


Erin, ever the rock, has to step in and cover for Andy’s misdeeds.  “Guys.  I know that a lot of people are mad at Andy and, believe me, I am too.  But, he has been through a lot and we all love him, right?”


“Oh please,” Angela pipes up, “You’re only defending him because you’re dating him.”


“Exactly,” Dwight adds, “Your bias is showing.  How do we know you two aren’t in cahoots?”


“Hey hey,” Peter chastises, coming to Erin’s aid, “You leave her out of this, alright?  None of this is on her.  If he’s gonna get in trouble, just let it be his fault, not ours.”


She realizes that she’s back to the same position she was in before she left: having to constantly be there for him, lift him, and defend his foolish, unjustifiable, and heinous actions.  She thought things would go back to normal… she’s slowly realizing they are.  This is normal.  And now, she’s caught in the middle of her boyfriend and her office family.  She wants to cry.


“Fine!” Dwight scoffs, “The state he’s in, Wallace will take one look at him and probably fire him anyway.”


… And then Andy comes into the break room, cleanly shaven, in a nice suit, as he snaps his fingers at everyone to get back to work.  Dwight is not pleased.


Later, Andy starts a conference room meeting, with most of the office in there… excluding Pam.


“I need you guys to tell me all the highlights from the last three months in case David asks.  Just a few things I could sprinkle into conversation…  Any big sales or office gossip.”


“Jim’s halfway through his medical leave,” Nellie adds.


“Yes, you mentioned that,” he responds, “Where’s Pam?”


“Oh, she’s at her desk,” Erin casually replies.  The camera pans over to Pam, angrily working away.


Andy pokes his head out to greet her.  “Heyyy, Mama Tuna!”


“DON’T TALK TO ME.”


“Okay!” he says as he slinks back into the office, “Anything else?”


“Well, we had the Scranton White Pages,” Dwight snidely mentions.


Andy sighs, “Come on, guys!  Let’s stay positive, people.  Okay?”


And in walks David himself, who couldn’t be happier with the numbers.  Dwight just cringes in response.  Andy asks what was happening with the warehouse that Wallace has to address.  Andy is informed that Frank got fired, not for the mural, but for burning the entire warehouse down.  The cameras manage to catch Pam chuckling at that exchange.  Phyllis mentions that they started selling balloons, and Clark brought up a topless Kathy Ireland.  Clark still wants to punch him out after the White Pages.


Naturally, Wallace does not buy any of Andy’s coworker’s lies as he says them… but he catches on quickly, managing to cover himself.  After David walks out, he becomes disheartened by his coworkers, getting a taste of how they’ve felt for months.


Erin walks in and tries to get to the point because this needs to be addressed.  “Fish sounds great,” she starts, addressing his güiro.


“Yeah, I guess,” he replies sadly.


She has to ease him into it, “Really playing the scales, huh?”


“Yeah, it just sort of sounds like noise to me now.  You think I need a new fish?”


“You’ve been a rude, selfish jerk.”


He’s taken aback, “What?”


She sighs, “I still love you, but you were gone a really long time.  And, you never really got in touch with me all that much.  You retweeted me, a lot to be fair.  But…” she sighs, “Things aren’t the way they should be.”


“Okay, I get it,” he explains, “You’re unhappy.  I’ve been gone a long time and we lost a little bit of juju.   But, you and me, we have a future.  There is a lot of love here.”  She sighs heavily, wanting to believe him.  “We’re just out of sync right now.”  Were never in sync, though.  “But that’s just timing, it’s timing.  I mean, my parents lasted 38, 40 years.  They were never happy at the same time.”


“I guess,” Erin says flatly.  When will we be happy at the same time?


“I mean, what do we have left?” he continues, “35, maybe 40 years?  If we’re lucky.  I mean, I have spent a lot of time in the sun.”


“You got really sunburned.”


“I’m gonna be a prune in like, 3 years.”  She groans.  “I know you may not be feeling love for me right now but, if we just put all of this behind us, we’ll be right back to where we were.  What do you say?”


She’s upset but optimistic.  “You really think we can get that back?”


“Yes.”  He reaches out to hug her.  “Come on.  Totally.”


She smiles sadly.  She wants this but doesn’t know how this will work… or if it will at all.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


As Pete is wiping snow from the rear window of his car, Pam greets Jim who’s leaning against the back of the Outback.


She walks up to him and notices a brown bag.  “What’s this?”


“Happy Valentine’s Day,” he responds, “Sorry, I didn’t have time to wrap it.”


She opens it to find one of her sketches she drew back while she was in Pratt, framed.  “Wow,” she says, genuinely surprised, “I didn’t know you kept this.”


“Yeah, I did.”


Getting misty-eyed, she hugs him, “Thank you.”


“No problem,” he replies, hugging her back.  Whatever awkwardness happened earlier today melts away for the both of them.  Things aren’t 100%, but they don’t need to be right now.  They’re here to stay.  And they’re here to fight.


When they get home, a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner and a very nice evening ensue.


Meanwhile, Erin walks up to Pete, “Thank you, for what you said earlier.”


“Oh, of course,” Pete responds politely.


She needs to ask him, “I… I want to not be mad at Andy, but I don’t think he understands everything I’ve been through while he was gone.”


She looks so damn downtrodden.  “Does he know?” he asks.


“I tried to get through to him but,” she shakes her head, “knowing what’s been going on with his family…”


“I know you don’t want to hurt him,” he explains, “but you should be honest with him.  Tell him how you really feel.  Then he’ll understand.”


A realization hits as she wraps her arms around Pete, him not knowing how to react.  She pulls away and holds his upper arms, wearing the first genuine smile she’s had all day.  “Thank you.”


He can’t help but smile back, “Happy to help.”


With newfound vigor, she storms up the stairs of the complex and back into the office, ready to fully confront Andy as she bursts into his office.  She’s become a volcano, ready to burst.


“Three months, Andy Bernard,” she begins, “THREE MONTHS, you were gone having fun in the Caribbean, and I’ve been left here, missing you like crazy!  You never bothered to call or text or anything!”


“Hey Erin, can we—”


“Hey, Andy?  What was that about three months?”  David Wallace is still on speakerphone.


“Erin, I know you’re upset but can we add—”


“No, I’m addressing this now!”


“Yeah, no, lets address this now.”


“Nobody in the office has had the slightest idea of where you were or what were you doing!  You might as well have been dead because you never bothered to get in touch with any of them!”


“Is that right?”


Andy flounders like the fish he caught and ate.  “Erin, I—”


“Jim had a mental breakdown, Andy, how did you not know that?!  Pam got in touch with you, too!  Did it not cross your mind to check your email, especially considering you had constant WiFi access?!”


“Constant, huh?”


“We all had to work our butts off while you were gone, and I’m sorry Andy, I really am, but…” it’s taking everything in her not to cry, “I’m tired, Andy, I’m so tired.”


The realization is hitting him like a train.  This isn’t the Erin he knows, and he’s making her this way.  “Erin, I…” he says softly, “I know I’ve messed up, but I promise you, I will do everything to make this up to you, the office, everyone.”


His voice is sincere.  She knows he’ll keep to his word.  But words can only do so much.  For his sake, he better follow through.


Her face becomes stern and unyielding, “I love you, Andy Bernard,” she says pointing at him, “but you are on the thinnest of ice.”  He’s still stunned and silent.  She meekly says “I’ll be in the car,” about to cry her eyes out as she walks out of the office.


There’s a pause before Andy addresses David once again, “Sorry you had to hear that,” he says through an awkward chuckle.


“Yeah, were gonna have a long talk tomorrow.”  *click*

 

End Notes:

I was surprised how true to canon this ended up being.

The biggest thing is Erin, her staying with Andy rather than dumping him.  In canon, it was Erin herself that said Andy should just let Andy be in trouble because it's his fault; part of me didn't like giving that line to Pete because it kinda makes him come off as a white knight, but I knew at this point Erin isn't that confident yet and would still stick up for Andy, hence why others would accuse her of being on his side.  I also turned down Andy's douche meter only a bit to make him more sympathetic, and turned it waaaaay the hell down in the next chapter.  My favorite part of this was the conversation between Erin, Andy, and Wallace; I always imagined what would happen if she argued with Andy more and Wallace heard the whole thing.

Then there's the JAM plot.  Much different but much of the same.  I still wanted them to have a conflict, but I wanted them to healthily work it out instead of resorting to fighting (though I did throw a nod to that since I love the quote).  And Brian... he's pretty much the same as he was in-canon, but I framed the scene differently; beyond the conflict exclusive to JAM, the canon lunch felt so damn awkward to watch and that was 100% because of Brian.  I wanted to heighten that, especially with the breaking down line.  Like I wrote, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt because of Alyssa, but there was just so much there that felt inappropriate to say.

As for Pam's treatment of Andy?  Eh, a bit harsh, but knowing Pam as a character that would totally be her reaction. 

NEXT TIME: Andy gets a rude awakening, Erin and Pete learn from their pasts, Toby confronts his biggest demon, Dwight and Angela accept the inevitable, Jim reevaluates his hopes and desires, and Pam makes a choice for her family.  All of them are moving on... 

Moving On by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Got done with "The Farm"!  It's pretty accurate to the real thing, with a huge divergence with the cupcake plotline; this chapter will pave the way for that divergence, as well as the rest of the JAM plot.

Enjoy! 

“Fear plays an interesting role in our lives.  How dare we let it motivate us?  How dare we let it into our decision making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?” — Robert California


The day after David Wallace and Andy’s (and Erin’s) phone conversation, a heated argument occurred in the conference room.  Kevin and Erin were mystified by the reception desk.


“No, you lied to me, Andy!  You pretended to be in this office for three months and you were sailing on your boat!”

“I resent that.  I n— I never lied to you.”

“Really?  ‘Hey David, all is good in Scranton PA.’”

“And all was good in Scranton PA that day—”

“‘By the way, Oscar says hi.’”


Dwight side-eyed on what was happening in the conference room.


“Oscar says ‘hi’ all the time.  He says all kinds of greetings. ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ ‘Hola’—”

“Andy.”

“But you’re calling me a liar.”

“Andy!”

“By the way, that reminds me, I want to ask you about some of the lies you’ve been telling lately.”


Kevin was eating the candy at reception, enjoying the show.


“Watch it, Andy!”

“Oh, here we go, January 17th, 2013.  ‘Hey Andy, all’s well.  Been meaning to make it down there but my wife’s sick.’  Well, which is it?  Is all well or is your wife sick?  BUSTED!”


Pam and Nellie looked at each other, nearly laughing in disbelief.


“My wife?”

“Okay, complete transparency, this has been a really tough time.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Has it?

“Erin and I had a huge fight last night and I can’t remember any of the aha moments I had on the boat, and I know it sounds weird to say but I really miss my beard.”

“Shh.”

“It was like a security blan—”

“Shh… I’m not gonna fire you.”

“...You’re not?”

“No.”

“That’s awesome.”

“I wouldn’t own the company if it wasn’t for you.  So...I owe you that.”

“David, I’ll be there for you.  These five words I swear to you.  When you breathe, I want to be here for you.  I’ll be there for you.  That’s a poem by J.B. Jovi.  I want you to have it.”

“We are even…now.  Understand?  Got it?”

“Crystal.”

“You are on very— hey, very thin ice.”

“Vanilla. … Vanilla Ice.  He was a band.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Morning everyone!” Erin politely greets the office, and they greet her back politely in turn.


“Goood morning!” Andy greets the office, “And how are you all on this fine day?”  Dead silence.  “Euh, tough room,” he says, tugging on his collar and awkwardly walking towards his office.  Erin just looks at him, wanting to fade out of existence.


“Oh, no, things are great!” Andy assures Brent through a wide smile, “Sure, my relationship is rocky, my job is in jeopardy, and everyone in the office hates my guts.  But, on the plus side…” he tries to think of something.  “Oh, there is— no.”  He continues to think.


The office looks at him through the blinds, seeing him visibly upset.


“He looks like a wounded animal,” Pam says, almost feeling sorry for him.


“Should’ve put him out of his misery and just fired him,” Stanley comments.


“I can’t be around sad people,” Phyllis laments, “it makes me sad.”


“I’m the same way with horny people.”


“Okay,” Pam stops that in its tracks.


Later, Andy walks out to see Pam getting her coat.  “Where are you going?”


“Oh, you know, on a boat trip,” Pam replies, “I’ll be sure not to contact you.”


“Ouch!” Andy attempts to shrug off as she leaves, “felt that burn.”  He then notices Dwight and Angela walking out as well.  “Uh, excuse me.  What, everyone can just leave whenever they want now?”


“How dare you,” Dwight curtly responds to that comment as he and Angela walk off.


Andy’s getting annoyed with everyone’s BS.  “I’m the boss!” he emphasizes.  No one cares.


He then faces the entire office, “Thank you!” he announces incredulously, “Thanks, thanks a lot.  Really appreciate it.  You guys are supposed to have my back, okay?  Instead, you guys are shutting me out.”


“Hey boss,” Meredith tells him, “if it’s any consolation, I’m happy you’re back.”


“Why thank you, Meredith,” he responds courteously.


“You can never have too many ding dongs on the dance floor.”


“Okay,” he pinches his nose in frustration.


“Andy,” Phyllis speaks up, “you’ve acted extremely unprofessional and you hurt all of us.”


“I’m hurt too, okay?  Deep hurt inside of me.  Apparently, that doesn’t matter.  Do you know how badly my family is screwed over right now?  I feel like the prodigal son who found peace with God only to come back home to see his dad stealing his inheritance and f***ing a younger woman.  And guess what?  That son… also had feelings.”


“Hey, Andy,” Darryl adds.


“What?!”


“You’ve got a… booger bubble going on there.”


He wipes his nose, “Sorry,” he sniffles.


“It’s okay.”


Andy ends his spiel with “My whole life is a booger bubble!” and slinks back into his office, slamming the door behind him.  His employees slowly begin to realize why he’s acted the way he is for so long.


Soon after, Pete and Clark are talking in the annex when Andy enters with an emergency “bro-zone lair” meeting with him, Italian and Clarker Posey (aka Clarkwork Orange, aka Zero Clark Thirty).  While Clark recommends therapy (which he needed after his absence), Pete advises him that he shouldn’t go that far yet, just be patient with her and she’ll come around (which he doesn’t think will work).


Andy smiles, “May not seem like it, but this really helped.  So, thank you.”  The two “new guys” look at each other.


“Wow,” Pete commends Clark, “You were surprisingly chill in front of him.”


“Oh, believe me, my first instinct was to toss him through the break room window, but I know I shouldn’t hold on to bitterness.”


“Good for you,” Pete nods.


“Besides, I don’t have the upper body strength for that.”


“Wasn’t gonna say anything, but yeah.”


“Hm.”


Later, Erin enters Andy’s office with some messages, “I—”


“I love you.”


She pauses.  “Love you too,” she says with a small smile that quickly returns to business, “I just have some messages for you.”


“Are they from you?” he asks.


“Well no, they’re from clients.”


“I can’t focus on them right now,” he says with those big blue eyes, “I want to focus on us.”


“Andy, you need to respond to these messages.”


“Why?”


“Because they are from clients who want to buy paper.” 


“I don’t want to talk about work right now.”


“Well, I only want to talk about work right now.”


“What about us?”


She’s getting fed up, “Us can wait, Andy!”  He’s shaken by her assertiveness.  She sighs, “I’m sorry, Andy, I—”


“Nah, it’s all good, I just…” he sighs, remembering what Pete said, “I gotta be more patient.”


She nods, smiling at his understanding.  “Thank you,” she responds as she sets the messages on the front of his desk and walks off.


After deciding what to do about Erin, he then calls Nellie into his office, “Alright, Doctor Who, got a new special project for ya.”


She’s already annoyed, “And what would that be?”


“I want you to find out what I can do to, you know, reinstate my rule, so to speak.”


“Hm,” she purses her lips and nods slowly, “…And why should I get involved in this?”


He rubs his hands, “Because you are a clever, unintelligible woman,” she keeps from rolling her eyes as he continues, “and if anyone can help me, it’s you.”


She breathes in, she’s not gonna enjoy this.  “…Well, first off, you need to understand where you went wrong before you attempt to fix it.”


“Right.  Do you mind recounting all of that?”


She is shocked, but not surprised, at his obliviousness.  “Are you sure you want me to do that?”


“Yes,” he said like it was obvious.


“Alright,” she accepts, “But I’m warning you, it’s not gonna be pretty.”


“Is there any way you can soften the blow?”


“No.  There isn’t.”


“Can you at least try?”


“No.”  He rolls her eyes as she begins.  

“First off, there’s Dwight, who had to take over for you when you were gone for three months and felt he did a superior job.

Then there’s Pam, who emailed you the fact that one of your top salesmen, Jim, her husband, required medical leave and you were none the wiser because you didn’t bother to check.

Then there’s Clark, who gave up his time and chastity to maintain the White Pages as a client which you single-handedly destroyed.

Then there’s Darryl, who emailed you about him working part-time at Athlead and ended up having that conversation with David himself.

Speaking of which, there’s David, for reasons I don’t even have to explain.

Then there’s pretty much everyone else for having to deal with Dwight taking over for you.

And, last but not least, there’s me, because I’ve had to waste my time recounting s***e you should already know.

And the only person in this entire office that doesn’t hate you is Erin.  And she can’t.  Because she is your girlfriend,” she ends by leaning in with a knowing whisper, “I think that about covers everything.”


“Wow,” he says, taking it all in, “you’re making me sound like a total douche-nozzle.”


Her face remains stoic.  “Here’s an exercise for you, Andy,” she chastises, “Imagine there are consequences to your actions.  Imagine the whole world does not revolve around this,” she emphasizes, waving her pen around, “There are others.”


“Hey,” he defends, “I’ve had it pretty hard myself, all right?”


“I’m sure you have,” she states matter-of-factly.


“My father single-handedly destroyed our entire fortune, okay, what was I supposed to do, not have a mental breakdown?” he says through a humorless laugh.


“Andy, I sympathize with your plight, everyone does.  But you should have handled this much more logically.”  It’s something else when Nellie is explaining logic to someone.  “You just decided to do something on a whim not understanding how it would affect your work or your personal life or… anything.”


He sits back, taking in her words, “Wow, the Nard Dog’s getting neutered today ain’t he?”


“And spayed.”


“…Well, now we gotta fix all this.”


“Nope, that’s your special project,” she says as she gets up, “Have fun with that.”


“Wait, that’s it?” he asks, shocked.  She stops by the door.  “I let you work here, I gave you the Special Projects Manager role, I signed the adoption form and you’re gonna leave me in the dust?”  He sounds legitimately desperate and hurt.


She sighs, “Andy… I will always appreciate everything you’ve done for me.  But you have a lot to atone for.  And I can’t help you with any of it.”  The silence is palpable as Andy just looks at her, not angry or bitter, just… sad.  “I’m sorry,” she whispers with a look of pure sympathy.  She slowly leaves and closes the door behind her.


It’s eventually the end of the day, and Andy has not moved out of his office since he met with Nellie.  “You ready to go, Andy?” Erin drops by, now in a much better mood.


“Yes, muh dear,” he responds, clicking the print button dramatically before he turns off his computer, “just gotta pick something up from the copier first.”


“Oh, I can get it—”


“I got it.  You get the car runnin’.”  He tosses the keys underhand to her.

She catches them with a smile.  “Got it,” she nods casually and walks out of the building.


“Not gonna lie, today’s been kinda painful,” Andy self-reflects to Brent, “the old one-two punch to my scrotum pole, translation: penis, translation: my manhood.  But I think I’m starting to pick up what others are putting down.  When I was growing up, I thought that when life gives you lemons, you’ve just gotta eat them, rinds and all.”


The camera shows him packing a job application for a position at Cornell University in his bag.


“But y’know… I’d much rather make lemonade.”


Andy Bernard is moving on.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


After Andy enters his office, Pete arrives, smiling at Erin as he picks up his letters and heads off.  She returns the smile.


“Yes,” Erin confirms to Brent, “Andy and I are still together, and he knows that Pete and I are just friends,” she says with a small smile, “So everything’s patched up, nothing to worry about,” she leans in, “Now my biggest concern is what to do about Darryl.  He’s leaving tomorrow and Bear-yl doesn’t have a lot of milage left.”


After Pete and Clark’s brief discussion with Andy, Pete gets a text.  It’s Alice.


“Wait,” Clark asks, “isn’t she—?”


He looks with uncertainty at his phone screen, “Yup.”


“Apparently,” Pete explains to Brent, “my ex-girlfriend who I ended a toxic relationship with months ago wants to have lunch with me!”  He sighs heavily and makes a choice.  “Can’t believe I’m doing this,” he says as he texts her back.


“Why would you do that?” Erin asks him in the break room.


“I dunno, I just,” he sighs, “I’m sure she just wants to apologize.  I mean, we’re both adults and we’ve both moved on.”


“Pete, I— I don’t wanna see you get hurt.”  He looks down.  “I mean, from what you’ve told me, she’s really toxic.”


“She is, I just… wanted to give her a second chance.”


“I wanna tell you something I saw on brainyquote.com,” she says, “‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time’.”


He purses his lips, “I didn’t know you visit that website.”


Her tone is lighter this time, “How else do you get smarter unless you read stuff said by smart people?”


“You know, I can’t refute that.”  She shrugs knowingly and they smile at each other.


During his lunch break, Pete arrives at the Chinese restaurant.  And there she sits, Alice Walker herself.  The blond hair, the ponytail, the jacket, it’s all her.  She’s beautiful, and he hates her guts.


He sits across from her.  “Hey,” he attempts to break the ice.


“Hi,” she returns with a cordial smile, “It’s uh, been a while, huh?”


“Yeah,” he sighs, wondering how this is going to play out.


Meanwhile, after Nellie closes the Regional Manager’s office door, she suddenly hears the faint sounds of Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’.  She walks into the conference room, looks out the window, and finds… him.


“Oh, God, it’s the Skeleton Man again!”


Of course, this gets everyone’s attention, besides Andy’s.  Erin recalls the last time she heard Nellie say that, and looks at the camera, pure unadulterated fear etched on her face.  “Oh no,” she barely whispers as she walks down the stairs briskly, awaiting a horrifying reunion.


Her worst fears are realized when she reaches the front door, and there stands Gabriel Suzan Lewis, with an iPod speaker, dressed as Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything….


“Hello, beautiful,” he addresses her with that smile.


Erin wants to be literally anywhere else.


The others are staring up from the conference room window, as is a tradition for events such as these.


“Oh, look!” Creed exclaims, “It’s the birdman!”


“Didn’t those two used to do it?” Kevin asks.


Back at the restaurant, Alice instigates the conversation after they order.


“So where do you work now?” she asks.


“Dunder Mifflin,” Pete responds, “Scranton Business Park.”


“Huh,” she replies, “Any marketing jobs available?” she jokes.


“Unfortunately, no,” he replies through a forced smile.  Thank God.  “How have you been?”


“Oh you know, same old.”  There’s an awkward silence before she cuts right to the chase, “I want us to get back together.”


He chokes on his water, “Seriously?” he rasps.


“You know, times were tough,” Gabe explains to Erin, “I was unemployed, I was still heart-broken over you, I’ve lost a good fifty pounds.  But as you can see I put all that weight right back on,” he walks up to her with his butt facing her, “Feel how fat my buttocks are.  Yeah, it’s crazy.  Touch it.  It’s like a warm pumpkin.”


“I will do no such thing,” Erin says as politely as possible.


“I heard from the grapevine that you and Andy broke up.”


“Oh no, he and I are—”


“You must be pretty horny,” Game interrupts.


Erin just looks at him like he’s an alien.


“We were not right for each other,” Pete stresses, “like at all.”


“I don’t get why you’re so opposed to the idea.  I mean, we had a pretty amicable breakup right?” Alice asks.


“Oh,” Pete accuses, “Well as long as we’re rewriting history, you never had a drinking problem.”


“Oh, like you never drank while you were in college.”


“It’s college, that’s what you do.”


“Yeah you’re also supposed to go to classes, so there’s that.”


“I have a bachelor’s, don’t I?”


“Well, you’re clearly putting that to good use.  Moving up in the world, Pete.  By the way, how’s that P.E. degree coming?”


Pete should have known it would come to this.


“Gabe,” Erin stresses, “I don’t want to be in a relationship with you.”


“I still wear your button-downs around the condo sometimes,” Gabe admits, “So it feels to me like we’re still in a relationship—”


“Gabe!” she cringes, disgusted.


“I got a tattoo for you,” he continues, pathetically.


“I didn’t ask you to get that Nike Swoosh,” Erin replies, annoyed, “Nobody did!  You did that for you!”  


“Just do it.  You were the it that I was just doing.”


She looks up exasperated and rolls her eyes, “Gabe, can you stop talking?  Because every word out of your mouth is like the squawk of an ugly pelican.”


Erin longs for death.


“Don’t you get it?” Pete asks Alice, frustrated, “This is what you do, all the time, you pin me to the wall and call me the bad guy for trying to live my life.”


Alice just laughs incredulously, “Well, excuse me for wanting what’s best for you.”


“No, you want what’s best for you!” he emphasizes, “I was always the little project that you wanted to fix and change to suit whatever you wanted!”


“Come on, Pete, there’s a difference between that and trying to make you a little more sophisticated.  I mean, did you even attempt to use chopsticks after we broke up?”


“You say that like using chopsticks is the measure of a man,” he stresses, “It’s so not.”


Alice scoffs, “And here I was hoping that we—”


“You were hoping that we’d get back together?” Pete asks, “No, that was never going to happen.”


Alice doesn’t know where all this assertiveness is coming from.


“Erin,” Gabe implores to her, “I’ve been to Japan.  I know how to use chopsticks so well,”  he gestures her towards him, “Come back.  One night.”


“Gabe,” Erin responds, “I don’t want—”


“Give me one night with you.”


“What is that supposed to mean?”


“I have shaved… everything.”


“I don’t want you to shave everything—”


“I am as smooth as a porpoise for you.”


“GABE!” Erin finally shouts, him flinching back, “What will it take for you to understand?  I don’t want to be with you!  At all!  You are living i-in a world of delusion!  Please, for both of our sakes, leave!”


Gabe looks like he’s about to cry, but then again, that’s what he always looks like.


Pete sighs, “What were you even trying to accomplish here?”


Alice looks guilty, staring at the floor and looks back up at him, “I’m sorry, Pete, I know I’ve been a bitch and you don’t deserve—”


“I know you’re sorry,” he interrupts, “You’re always sorry.  When you’ve heard it enough times, it only goes so far.”  He yanks out a twenty and slams it on the table before the food arrives.  “Keep the change.”  He storms out of the restaurant, leaving a dejected Alice behind him.


It’s ten minutes later when Pete’s car arrives back at the lot and parks at his spot.


“So that’s it, huh?” Gabe asks Erin, “A year’s worth of great memories—”


 “It wasn’t even a year.”


“Fine.”  He looks back at her, loitering as much as he can picking up his iPod speaker.  “Goodbye my love,” he leaves with a gentle air kiss, which makes her cringe once again.  As he walks off, he runs into Pete and, hearing all the stories, just raises his eyebrow and walks past him.  Gabe mutters a “walkaway,bitch” to himself before walking back to his car.


“Hey,” Pete greets Erin.


“Hey,” she greets back as they enter the building, “How was lunch?”


“Terrible.  You were right.  Didn’t even get to the food.”


“I’m sorry,” Erin sadly says, pushing the elevator button.


Coming from her, he knows she’s being genuine.  “Eh, not your fault,” he admits.  The elevator door opens, “So that was Gabe, huh?”


“Ugh, yeah.”


Their conversation continues when they reach their floor.


Pet Cemetery?” Pete asks, “For a first date?”


“I know, right?” Erin says laughing.


“Mm, mm, mm,” he says as they enter the building, “That’s not right.”


“No, it is not.”


Spending time in front of their exes, looking at what they managed to escape from, it put things in a whole new perspective.  Andy’s not perfect, but at least he’s been patient and loving to Erin.  Pete doesn’t need to put himself through the ugliness of the past, learning that some people will never change.


Erin Hannon and Pete Miller are moving on.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Toby H. Flenderson has always been dealt a bad hand.


The man is a complete wreck.  He’s one who longs for affection, purpose, and meaning, but doesn’t know how to obtain or maintain any of them.  His marriage with Cathy was a bust, his crush on Pam was and always had been one-sided, and his former boss just kept bullying him for no reason other than he existed.  And Michael’s grudge was always about him and not HR because when Holly came into the picture, he found the love of his life.  While Toby’s still at the same desk, doing the same thing, enforcing the same rules, and getting carpal tunnel from all the damn relationship forms he’s had to sign and none of them involving him.  Sasha, his beautiful and doting daughter, is the only thing keeping him alive.


And then there’s Jim.  Jim, the one who everybody likes, the one who’s so nice and charming.  He could get away with whatever he wanted and still get the girl and have the picturesque family Toby’s always longed for.  He’s grown to be infuriated with Jim, and he hates it because Jim’s completely unaware of why he can’t stand him.  He and Jim became close at first: they hung out a lot, Jim babysat Sasha for him, and Jim is nice and charming after all.  He should blame Michael for separating them before they even got the chance to really know each other.  But after that, he was just annoyed.  Yeah, he’s not proud of what he’s done to Jim (and Pam for that matter), but the fact that Jim had Pam and he didn’t still kinda made him frustrated.


And then he met the Halperts for Jim’s medical leave.  Jim Halpert, the man who was so perfect and had everything together, just… God, he looked so broken.  At that moment, he saw himself in Jim for the first time, and every little petty thought or grudge he had against Jim immediately disappeared.  And he’s still kicking himself for not trying to stop Jim’s downward spiral before it got so out of hand.  When the two embraced before he left, Jim quietly gave him a “Thank you” and he said, “Of course”, like he would do anything for him.


As much as he wants to follow in Jim’s footsteps, he’s always been hesitant to push himself to actually do something about his situation, so he needed to be pushed by someone else.  And that someone else was Nellie.  He keeps waffling on once again about his notes on the trial — like he has the past damn month — and she’s fed up.


“No,” she insists, “Toby, you cannot keep blathering on about this Scranton Strangler.  Do something about it.  Get it out of your system, whatever it takes.”


“I’ve been drafting a letter.”


“For two years,” she emphasizes, “Then what?  Another year picking out a stamp?  Another six months before you decide to lick it?  Just— I don’t… want… to hear it!”


This gives Toby pause.  This trial was the one thing, the only thing, that defined him.  Hell, he has nothing else going for him, so why should he not move on?  But he should wake up and realize he’s so much more than the trial.  Is that what he wants to be famous for?  Being a juror on some random murder trial?  No.  He wants to be a novelist, and that’s what he should be known for.  So he makes a stand.


“I’m going to the prison,” Toby announces to Darryl and Nellie as he enters the kitchen, “This afternoon.  Gonna talk to the strangler.”


“Probably best to use his real name rather than ‘Strangler’,” Nellie responds.


“Don’t use his real name,” Darryl emphasizes, “George Howard Scubb.  It’s a devil name.”


Toby ignores it and turns back to Nellie.  “Well, I just wanted to say I’m doing it.”  With a smile, he heads back into the annex.


“He’s doing it,” Nellie nods in respect.


Later that day, he walks up to the prison ready to see George Howard Scubb himself.


“This is the prison,” Toby informs the cameras, “Uh, I am not going in there with expectations, per se.  Um, I will meet George Howard Scubb.  I will tell him that I believe he is innocent.  I would understand if he felt motivated to hug me.  I would understand if a friendship began.  How did, how did Bogart put it?  ‘I think thish ish the shtart of my firsht friendship’.”


…And this visit results in him being strangled, wearing a neck brace provided by first responders, not being able to speak, and needing to be picked up by Nellie.


“Well, the good news is, no more guilty conscience,” Nellie reassures on their ride back to the office, “At least you know he is the Strangler.  The proof is in the grip,” she smiles, “Did they say when the vocal cords would heal?”  He barely nods.  “One week?”  He shakes his body, signifying no.  “M’kay, two weeks?”  He barely nods again.  “’Kay.  You offered your neck in search of the truth,” she chuckles, “The proud neck of justice, isn’t that the expression?  No, well— Anyway, it was… it was very brave,” she commends, “It really was quite brave.”


He wanted Nellie.  But after the whole leg debacle, he figured he couldn’t have her.  (He knows how well that went the last time.)  But hearing those words from her?  It was reassurance.  Reassurance that he did the right thing.  Despite his vocal cords being shattered like glass and the cumbersome neck brace, he’s still here, and he’ll be able to make more things right in his life.


And this reassurance puts a smile on his face.


Toby Flenderson is moving on.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Dwight meets Angela in the break room (popping from the side of the vending machine), informing her that his Aunt Shirley is on her last legs.  Mose keeps complaining and the nurse they had left (apparently she was ‘poisoned’), so he recruits her to help him take care of Shirley.  She’s sympathetic but doesn’t see how this is her problem.


“Angela,” Dwight stresses, “You owe me one, remember?”  She remembers she does.  “Now please, she’s an old woman Angela.  She needs a woman’s touch.  It’s all hanging out—”


“Ugh.”


“And there’s parts of her I don’t even recognize.”


“Gah!”


“There’s this one hanging part, in particular, that’s some sort of flap.” 


“It’s fine.”


“It’s like a prehensile wing or something, you know?”


“Ugh!  God, alright, I can’t— okay, I’ll—”


“It’s a divet…”


“I’ll help you!”


“…where it was and it needs, it needs a…”


“Ugh.”


Aunt Shirley wakes up to find “Big City Dwight” and “Kitchen Witch” enter her home, ready to take care of her.  Dwight has to calm her down with “a nice, crisp liter of schnapps” after she slaps Angela in the face.


“Gosh, she drank so much,” Angela says, genuinely shocked, “And so quickly.”


“In her prime, Shirles could put away homemade schnapps morning, noon, and night,” Dwight responds as the aunt coughs and laughs in her sleep, “Now all it takes is half a liter.  She’s dreaming.  Alright, let’s get her out to the yard so you can spray her down.”


“Spray her down?” Angela asks, perplexed.


“No, it’s a lot better than it sounds,” Dwight reassures, “There’s a private shower area.  Very tasteful, very rustic.”


Angela refuses to hose Shirley down, but Dwight tries to get her to, and Angela accidentally hoses him in the process.


And, as the one human being that can stand up to a Schrute, Angela puts her foot down, “I’m gonna give your aunt a proper bath and a haircut like a lady!  And you two are gonna shut up about it!” she turns to Dwight, “Do you have a bathtub?”


“Yes ma’am,” he responds, intimidated.


“Good.”


Angela’s way seems to be the best method, even though Shirley feels like a show pony.  Dwight looks on, seeing the woman he fell in love with.  A natural mother, a natural caretaker, a natural breeder.  But still with the intensity and vengefulness to wrangle even the most stubborn of his family.


She notices his looking and doesn’t know how to feel.


During dinner, Shirley looks on at the adorable couple, the man giving his woman the stink sack because she’s the prettiest girl.


“So, when’s the wedding?” Shirley asks sweetly.


They pause.  Little do they know, fifteen months later…


“Oh,” Angela awkwardly corrects, “um actually uh, we are just friends.”


“That’s what Mose said about his lady scarecrow, and look what he did to that poor thing.”  Angela decided to not ask any more questions.


The day has reached its conclusion, and Dwight walks Angela out to the porch.  He thanks her, for her perspective was very useful, and she says that it wasn’t an unpleasant way to spend an afternoon.


Feelings intensify… and kisses are shared.  She stops him; he brings up the horseflies, but that’s not why she stops him.


“No, Dwight.  The Senator.”


He’s in love with her.  “Leave him.  He probably won’t even notice that you’re gone.  Be with me, Monkey.”


She… she can’t.  “I can’t be your Monkey, Dwight.” 


“I’m not talking about some frisky romp in the warehouse.”  He doesn’t want to do that.  He wants to be more than that.  “We have wasted too much of our lives ignoring the fact that we belong together.  The eighty or ninety years that I have left in this life… I want to spend with you.”


“I made a vow.  I gave my word.”  She’s sorry that he misinterpreted things.  It’s probably her fault.


“Stand by your man,” he advises, “It’s what I would want if you were mine.”  It’s not her fault.  He’s sorry he misinterpreted their friendship.


A forlorn and remorseful Angela willingly walks away.  “Good night, D.”


Dwight accepts that the woman of his dreams is staying with someone who treats her horribly because it’s comfortable.


Angela accepts that she has a comfortable lie to live, knowing that she’s allowing herself to be unhappy.


This is their Casino Night.


Dwight Schrute and Angela Lipton are moving on.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


At around 9:30 am, Pam is gathering her things.


“On your way down?” Jim says through the phone.


“Yup,” she says.


“Jim has to be in Philly for a huge investor meeting with Athlead tomorrow,” Pam tells Brent with a smile, “so we decided to just spend a couple of days there and make a little vacation out of it.  And yeah, he told me he was done with Athlead, but I dunno.  After everything he’s done for us, he deserves a trip to Philly.  Besides, it gives me the chance to meet his Second Life avatar in person.  Jim Samtanko, Sportswriter.”


She gets in the car and she and Jim greet each other with a loving kiss, not unlike the one the cameras caught before they revealed they were dating.


“So, what’s on the agenda?” she asks.


“Well,” he begins, “Mark called, and they want us to meet with one of their customers after we check into the hotel.”


“What?” she asks, perplexed.


“Yeah,” he adds, just as confused, “Apparently someone’s gonna pick us up at around one.”


“Wait… isn’t Athlead’s clientele famous sports stars?”


“Yup, he didn’t tell me who.  He was all cryptic about it.”


She looks at him, surprised at how nonchalantly he’s treating this.  “I mean, you’ve gotta be excited, right?” she asks knowingly, “It’s not every day you meet a celebrity.”


“I mean, sure, but I’m not gonna be a fanboy about it,” he responds, “They’re a person, like us.”  A beat.  “I’m really excited!”


“I knew it!”


After the two check into the hotel and get in their room, they walk outside to see a large limo and its driver, holding a handwritten sign that says ‘Halpert’.


“...Oh my God,” is the only thing Jim can bring himself to say.


“Come on!” Pam says excitedly as he gets him to join her.  He just mouths ‘A limo!’ to the camera.


As they get in, she asks the limo driver, “So, who are we meeting with?”


“Oh, they didn’t tell you?” the driver informed, “Mr. Erving requested a meeting with you.”


Jim’s eyes widened, “Wait, Mr. Julius Erving?”


“Yessir.”


Pam couldn’t help but be elated by the pure shock etched on his face.


They had an enjoyable ride with freshly-squeezed OJ.  “Hey, are the snacks complimentary?” Pam asks as they reach their destination.


“Oh, yeah,” the driver said, “Take some home if you want.”


“Oh, no, no, no, that’s okay,” Jim responds.  As he’s saying this, Pam is already stashing some in her purse.  Once they get out, they see their destination, but he’s confused, “Um I’m sorry, is this the conference center?” he asks.


“No, Mr. Erving called,” the driver answered, “Said he’d rather meet you at his private court.”


Jim looked shell-shocked as Pam had to drag him with a “Well, come on!”


Jim just shakes his head and says “You gotta be kidding me!” to the camera.


And the Halperts come face to face with Dr. J himself.


“I hope you two don’t mind me bringing you out here,” Julius says, “I can’t get my knees under a desk.”


“Are you kidding me?” Jim says, taking everything in, “I can literally scalp tickets to this.”


“Well, Jim, do you think you can sink one from deep?”


“Listen,” Jim jokes, “I don’t mean to intimidate you, but I did play a little high school ball.”


“Okay,” Julius nods with a smile.  Jim effortlessly manages to impress his personal hero with a single shot.  “Wow, Halpert’s got game!”


Pam can’t help but smile.  This is everything he’s ever wanted, everything he’s always dreamed of… and this realization, ironically, makes her upset.


He looks so happy, its like hes ten again… am I keeping him from this?  I mean, he chose to not be in Athlead for me and the kids, right?  He chose Dunder Mifflin over this.  Hes either certifiably insane or its because of me.  He loves me so much that


“Pam?”


She snaps out of her trance, “Huh?”


“Did you wanna give it a shot?” Jim asks.


“I mean, not sure I can ‘sink one from the deep’, but…”


“Here,” he passes the ball, and she flinches but manages to catch it.  Remembering the technique she learned during middle school P.E., she does manage to sink it from behind the free-throw line.


“Beesly!” Jim shouts proudly with a laugh.  She can’t help but smile, she loves when he calls her that.


“Watch out, Jim,” Julius smiles, “A few years and she’ll have you beat.”


And here arrives the waiter with smoothies.  Of course, there are smoothies.  Now I can literally drink my guilt.


“I can’t believe this is happening!” Jim tells her quietly with the widest grin on his face.


“Me neither!” She responds just as enthusiastically.


“Hey,” he wants to let him know how thankful he is, “I know sports aren’t your thing, so you didn’t have to join me.”


“I mean, I’d just be alone in the hotel room killing time,” she answers honestly, “so I might as well…”


“Hey Jim,” Julius asks so he can hear, “what size do you wear, man?  I got a pair of Japanese Nikes with your name on them.  What do you think?”


“I love it!” they both chuckle as they toast their smoothies.  Oh, come on!


She supportively stands there seeing her giddy husband in Nirvana bonding with his childhood hero, still looking as upset as ever.


“I made him choose Dunder Mifflin… over this,” she emphasizes, pointing behind her.  The camera quickly moves to show Dr. J reliving one of his most famous shots to Jim, happy as a lark.  She shakes her head, “I’m the worst wife ever.”


Jim and Pam’s dinner reservations were in a couple of hours, and they needed to get home and get ready.  After Jim and Dr. J shake hands, she wanted to get Julius alone, “Mr. Erving I—”


“Please, call me Julius.”


“Sure.”  God, Jims the best judge of character.  “I just wanted to thank you.  I think Jim really needed today.”


“Of course.  I mean, he’s the reason Athlead’s in business.”  Yes, he is.  “I can see it going places.”  Yes, it will.


“Me, too,” she responds with a smile.


On the limo ride back, Jim is the child that just got back from the candy store, which for Pam is equal parts adorable and upsetting to be around.


They’re back in the hotel room when Darryl calls Jim, the latter thanking Darryl profusely for the day he just had.


“How?” Jim asks, still in disbelief, “How did you guys manage to set that up?”


“Mark knows about what happened a month ago and he wanted to make you feel better before the meeting tomorrow, and you know Julius, he kicks ass.”


“Oh, he is just the best guy.”


“By the way, you talk to Wade and Collin?”


“No, I just saw I missed their call.  Why?  What’s up?”


“We got a new offer on the table.”


“What kind of offer?” 


“A buyout.”


Jim couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “WHAT?”


“Were in play, baby!”


“Oh, my God!” He runs his hands through his hair, not even bothering to contain his excitement.


“We did it!”   Both parties were laughing with joy.  This was it: Athlead, after months of uncertainty and fear, will finally be a household name.  “Hey, and look, the buyers wanna make sure its not just a Philly play, so get this: theyre gonna pay for us to go pitch out west.”  Out west?!  “We talking Spurs… the Jazz… Cowboys… Blake Griffin, baby!”


“Wow, that is… wow.”


“Yeah, we did it!”


“Yeah, you did!”  Then curiosity gets the better of him, “Hey, how long do you think that’s gonna take?”


“It doesnt start for a while, but Wade said we could do the whole country in three months.”


He could only focus on those two words.  Three months.  Three months he’d have to leave Pam to fend for herself, to raise the kids, to be his rock.  And God knows she would because she is actually Wonder Woman.  But, after everything that’s happened in the last 28 days, he could never actively put her in that position.  “Oh, man.”


“Yeah, this is everything!”


“Yeah,” Jim says, reflecting, “It really is.”


“Hey man, I just wanted to say thanks again.  For everything.  This is all I ever wanted.”


“Hey, you deserve it.”  He really does.


“And, hey, I know youve been through the wringer, so just so you know, youre pretty much guaranteed a job here.”  I… Im not sure I want this anymore.


Despite his contemplation, he replies with a smile, “Thanks, man.”


After the conversation, Pam walks out, fully dressed.  “What was all the excitement?”


“Athlead found a buyer!” Jim shouted happily.


It takes her a second, but she finally figures out what that means, “OH, MY GOD!”


They have a giggly, celebratory embrace, knowing that their investment is going to pay off in dividends.  After a loving kiss, he says “They did it.”


She smiles supportively and clarifies, “You did it,” and gives him a peck on the lips.


He sighs happily, knowing that he’s honest-to-God made the right decision.  “Ready for dinner?”


“Yeah, let’s go,” she says.  The camera catches them in the stain-glass elevator, hand in hand, their smiling faces fading as they both become deep in thought.


Outside the restaurant, Jim simply tells the camera, “Three months?  I… I couldn’t do that to Pam.”


Pam makes her own confession to the same camera, “This is everything Jim deserves,” she swallows, “I can’t keep doing this to him.”


During dinner, Pam comes clean.  “I have to be honest with you.”


“Hm?” he asks.


“Athlead is the stupidest name.”


He can’t help but laugh, “Yeah, yeah it really is.”


“Which one was it: you or Mark?” she asks, intrigued, “I have to know.”


He jokingly sighs and says “Guilty.”


She rolls her eyes, “Of course.”


“Hey, in my defense,” he pushes, “I was hammered at the time.”


“That’s the only logical explanation.”  She sighs. Get over yourself, Pam.  Stop being such a damn wuss.  Hes everything to you and he deserves the best.  “So do you see yourself working at Athlead down the line?”


“To be honest,” Jim states earnestly, “I… don’t think so.”


Dammit, Jim, dont say that.  “Jim,” she attempts to say as casually as possible, “you don’t have to placate me.”


“I’m serious,” he emphasizes, her taking in his words, “I don’t think I wanna work there anymore.”


She can’t help but be curious, “Why’s that?”


“When I got that call from Mark, it felt like a dream come true.  And I’ve always wanted to go into marketing and I love professional sports,” she nods, “so Athlead was everything.  And today was… great!  I met Dr. Freakin’ J, Pam!”  She smiles at how happy he is.  “And now that they’ve been bought out, we’re practically set for life!”  His face sinks again.  “But… I dunno, now that it’ll really take off, I’d have to deal with a lot of traveling, late nights, and inflated egos.  I mean, Erving’s an awesome guy, but who knows how many of my childhood heroes are not who I think they are?”


These are all points that he’s never considered until now, as he’s saying them out loud.


“Besides,” he continues, “I’m the Nicholas Tesla of Athlead, I’m gonna get some great perks out of this.”


“Like the Altima,” she points out.


“The Altima,” he echoes with a smirk, that fades when he becomes lost in thought, “God, it all makes sense now.  The reason I broke down was that… I’ve not cared about my work for years, and I’m tired of it.  Of the tedious calls, the multiple spreadsheets, the boring presentations, hell even the pranks.  I’ve been doing it for a decade now, and frankly, I feel like I’m trapped, hopelessly going through the motions, while I know there is something out there that I can enjoy doing.”


“That makes a lot of sense,” she responds, hiding her guilt yet again, “You still wanna go into marketing?”


“Yeah, but I don’t know where anymore.  I’m back to square one.”


It was one thing her keeping him from Athlead, knowing that’s where he wanted to be.  But this… is even worse, somehow.  He needed her to guide him, to help him find what he wants, what he needs, and she neglected him.


She blurts it out, wanting to know the answer but still too afraid to ask, “Do you regret Dunder Mifflin?”


His face softens, knowing that she’s scared she’s holding him back, “Oh, Pam,” he grabs her hands gently, rubbing her knuckles with his thumbs, “Dunder Mifflin led me to you.  And that’s why I want to make you happy.  Seeing you light up and get excited about being an artist, a saleswoman, an office admin… I just hear you talk about the mural and think ‘Wow, I’m so proud of her’.  I want you to be as proud of me as I am of you.”


And it hits her.


“You got to take a chance on something sometime, Pam.  I mean, do you want to be a receptionist here, always?”

“Oh, excuse me!  Im fine with my choices!”

“You are?”

“Yeah.”


She really is holding him back, keeping him from taking a chance on something, living a boring life as a salesman there, always.  He’s been kicking himself for everything he’s done wrong and it’s all her fault.


…She’s no better than Roy was.


And with this realization, she breaks down, taking her hands from his and burying her face, too guilty to even look at him. 


Naturally, he starts freaking out.  He moves to her booth and wraps his arm around her shoulder, the other hand rubbing her arm in comfort,  “Hey hey hey hey…” he leans over and kisses the top of her head, “what’s brought this on?”


“I’m s-so so-orryy,” she cries.


Please calm down, sweetie, I can’t make you cry again.  “You don’t need to apologize,” he comforts.


“Yes, I do,” she insists, “I-I’m afraid— you’re gonna resent me.”


Resent you?”  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.


“You’re giving up so much.  That’s not fair to you.”


“Pam, that was my decision—”


“I f-forced you to give it up, Jim.”


“Pam, don’t say that,” he tells her softly, “You never forced me to do anyth—”


She looks him in the eyes.  “You deserve more than some 9 to 5 where you’re answering phone calls a-and writing spreadsheets all day, okay?  Y-you deserve more than that.”


Those three words… how could they be used in a completely different context and yet still have such an impact?


“Jim,” she begins, swallowing and regaining her composure, “everything I have, everything I am… it’s because of you.  The day we became friends, you taught me that I deserved better, that I should go for what I want.  And when I went for something, you were there.  No matter how difficult it was or how many times I doubted myself, you were there.”  It’s at this moment that Mama Beesly and Fancy New Beesly become one and the same.  “And it’s about time I returned the favor.”


He’s confused, but he’s willing to hear her out, “What do you mean?”


“Jim, I’m really scared of moving out of Scranton, okay, I’m petrified.  But I’ve always had this habit of fear keeping me from what I need.  And what I need is a husband and father who puts his passion and energy into something he loves doing.  And it’s okay that you don’t know where that is yet.  Because I’m gonna help you find it.  No matter where it is, or what company, or even how long it takes… it’s what you deserve.”


He’s too stunned to know how to respond, but he tries to anyway, “I promise you… you don’t have to do this for me.”


“I’m doing it for us,” she gives him a quick kiss on the lips, holding his cheek, “because we deserve it.”


He opens his mouth like a fish, trying to find the words to say to her… but because of the impact of her words and her sheer beauty, all he does is just wrap his arms around her middle and lock his lips with hers, bringing her impossibly close to him, and she does the same.  They know they’re in public and that the cameras are on, but neither of them cares.  He loves that she’s willing to take a risk for him, knowing that she could never hold him back but comforted to know that she wants him to make a better life for his family.  He couldn’t love this woman more if he tried.


When they pull back, he looks at her with love, admiration, happiness, pride, every single thing he felt the day they became friends.


She smiles brightly, “And Jim?  I’ll always be proud of you.”


All he can bring himself to whisper is “Thank you.  For everything.”


They kiss once again, shorter but no less passionate.  They pull back again, foreheads touching with bright smiles on their faces, and — for the first time in months — the two are finally in sync once again.


“I love you.”

“I love you.”


Jim and Pam Halpert are moving on.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The next day, Oscar walks to the kitchen door from his desk, seeing a metal bar and hooking the large boots he’s wearing onto it, upside down.


“I watch way too many ads online,” Oscar explains to Brent, “and I don’t do enough sit-ups.  So I bought these.  Now, every time an ad pops up online, I get 30 seconds of ab blasting.  I call it “Ads for Abs.”  Ironically, I learned about the boots from an ad online.”


As Oscar unsuccessfully tries to do his sit-ups and gets a head rush as result, the camera manages to catch one particular ad on his computer…


[Coming this May:]

[The Office: An American Workplace]

[Ten years in the making, a look at the

lives and loves of an average American

small business office.]

 

End Notes:

...This was a monster.

Aside from the fact that the episode was an hour long, something I was foolishly ignorant of, I had to weave in so much new stuff in this.

The Dwight/Angela and Toby plots are canon, pretty straightforward with some reflection here and there.

Writing Andy's was better to deal with, but not by much.  I basically had to split his plot and Erin and Pete's plot in half; try to stomach through the episode proper and you'll see why I decided this.  The conversation with Nellie I had planned for a while.  I figured it would be nice for someone he once considered a sworn enemy give him the most practical advise.  It adds to this oddball frenemies dynamic I established for them.  And, yes, that application means no more A Capella Sensation plot.  Damn, that was stupid.

The Chinese restaurant scene with Pete and Alice was loads of fun, switching the drinking problem line (The fact that Pete had that was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser) and really diving into why Alice is such a blight on his life.  She was difficult, admittedly.  I wanted to present someone who's not cartoonishly evil, but the right amount of manipulative to get to Pete.  And 95% of Gabe's lines are from the episode, but all of them stayed because they're perfect.  Love that spindly creep.

And then there's JAM.  Oof.  The dinner scene was planned for a while, too, including the "in sync" moment.  I wanted Dr. J to show up, finally giving Jim a chance to meet his idol, but I wasn't sure how; I don't know how investor meetings work, J admits that he hates being in desks, and why would a client be in an investors meeting?  So I decided "screw it" and took everything from that subplot from "Lice" and added Pam.  I figured J was a cool guy, as he was in the show, so not only would he agree to do this but he'd be a wonderful guy too.

Final thing: Athlead.  It's funny, for the longest time, it was endgame.  But the more I looked it up, the more I realized how much time Jim would have to sacrifice not being with his family, same goes when he's working there in Austin post-series.  And after a whole month of being there for Pam, he wouldn't.  The buyout wasn't for three months in canon, so I decided to put it here purely because of the national tour; he's not doing three months.

I just hope this long mess was worth the build up. 

NEXT TIME: Aunt Shirley, to Dwight's surprise, wills him and his upper-class siblings (Jeb and Fannie) her 1,600 acre farm.  Meanwhile, as the Halperts plan their future, Todd Packer — the infamous “Pack-Man” — returns bearing gifts for the office, leaving everyone suspicious.

The Farm by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Not done with "Promos" yet, but I wanted to go ahead and post this because I know I'll have time to finish it (My school decided to have its fall break during the US elections).  "Promos" has been very fun thus far and I love experimenting with the promos themselves.  It'll also be a prominent chapter for Brent...

Also, for those of you who read soon after this was originally posted, I rewrote it slightly to get rid of instances of the word "qu*er", a homophobic slur that Todd often calls others.  While the use of that word is in-character for probably one of the most infuriating characters on planet Earth, the last thing I want to do is make the readership uncomfortable with the usage of the word.  My sincerest apologies.

Enjoy!

“Right now, this is just a job.  If I advance any higher in this company then this would be my career.  And uh, well, if this were my career, Id have to throw myself in front of a train.” — Jim Halpert


The day after Jim and Pam’s dinner, they attended the investor’s meeting at Athlead.  It was the first time he’s been at Athlead, and he was shocked at how nice it looked.  Jim had a blast reuniting with all of his college friends, and they all grabbed drinks after the meeting was over, while Pam hung out and ordered room service for Jim and herself.  In the meeting, though, he was with a crowd full of surprisingly big names, at least big local names in Philly that invested.  Jim’s marketing expertise was put to use, extrapolating on ways to market themselves now that they have been bought out; as beneficial as this buyout is for Athlead, the parent company needs to be reassured that their purchase doesn’t go to waste.  Pam, despite being one of the core investors herself, said practically nothing.  She instead just looked at her husband as he spoke, beaming with pride, him noticing and flashing a smile of his own.  Their last day consisted of them seeing the sights, ending with Jim playing his guitar for Pam back at their hotel room; the sight was both romantic because of how loving the gesture was, and fascinating because she got to see Jim Samtanko in his final form.


Jim’s therapist had the perfect term for what Jim was dealing with: career dissatisfaction.  The tedium of staying in one position for years and never reaching his full potential had put a strain on him mentally, causing him to stress himself out and believing that he’s meant to work there and nowhere else.  The revelation compounded the guilt Pam was already feeling; Jim reassured her that they’re moving forward, together, as a family, and that’s all that matters now.  The rest of his recovery went amazingly, the cherry on top being Cece’s third birthday on March 4th.  She’s a big girl now, and her parents couldn’t be happier.  A week later, Jim began working as a sales rep at Dunder Mifflin Scranton once more, comforted in the knowledge that he’ll eventually leave this job.


The couple made a promise to each other while job hunting: to find something that they love and want to do and pursue it.  The only rule?  No settling.  Yes, it has to be within reason, but there’s no way that Pam is going to put Jim’s dreams by the wayside anymore.  He is everything, and that’s what he deserves.  And the kids?  They need to see their parents pursue their dreams so they can be inspired to do the same when they get older.


Jim and Pam’s searches are going to pay off, sooner than they believe.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


The Halperts started searching on Jim’s first Wednesday back… but not before Dwight entered the office in a very Schrute outfit.  (Creed noticed he got new glasses.)


“Dwight, what a ridiculous, fancy clown you are,” Erin complimented.


“I am dressed according to the Schrute codes of mourning,” he announced, Erin’s face falling, “My aunt Shirley has died.”


“Oh, Dwight, I’m so sorry,” Pam said genuinely, “Were you guys close?”


“I would say that she raised me, but let’s not kid each other.  I raised myself.  She was, however, the closest thing I had to a mother.”  His mother was the closest thing he had to an aunt.


“My condolences,” Jim said sadly.


“Keep them,” Dwight retorted bluntly.


Jim accepted that as a natural response.  “Now, what do we got in these two pails?” he asked.


“In keeping with Schrute custom,” Dwight continued, “I will either invite you to tomorrow’s funeral by sprinkling red, fertile dirt in your face.  Or, I will ask you to keep a respectful distance during my time of grief, with a dusting of black, slightly acidic soil.”


He started with Erin: Black soil.

Phillys: Black soil.

Kevin: Black soil.  Kevin tasted it, so he knows.

Oscar: Black soi— “Oh, thank God.”  That remark alone got him the red dirt out of spite.

Meredith: Black soil.

Angela: Black soil.

Creed: Black soil.  He managed to dodge it.

Clark: Black soil in his coffee.

Darryl: Black soil.

Stanley: Black soil.

Nellie: Black soil.

Pete: Black soil.  “Well, not the weirdest day I’ve had here,” he told Brent with soil still on his face.

Toby: Black soil.

And then there’s Jim, who was nervous either way.


“I’m sure... I’m sure she’s in a better place,” Jim said, wanting to avoid the dirt.


“I really hope so,” he admitted almost threateningly as he threw the black soil straight to his right, hitting Pam square in the cheek.  She can’t help but stifle a giggle.


And then he grabbed some of Jim’s coffee and tried to make a black soil ball.  Jim told him it’s not possible, but he cried to gain sympathy.  Jim accepted his fate as he’s hit in the face and shirt with muddied coffee.


Dwight leaned in and whispered, “Good luck with the job search.”


“Thank you,” Jim quietly replied, wiping the dirt off him.


The ceremony ended with him busting into Andy’s office and moving the pail so a bunch of Black soil hit him.


Andy was none too pleased, “Dwight, what the hell?!”


Dwight didn’t respond and walked out of the office saying “Farewell.”  The camera panned over and zoomed in on Jim, who’s gotten all the dirt off of his face.


All he said to Brent was, “Good to be back.”


—————————————————————————————————————————————


“Theres a bright, golden haze on the meadow,

A bright, golden haze on the meadow.

The—”


Mose’s dulcet cover of Gordon MacRae’s ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’ is interrupted by Zeke, pulling up to Dwight’s porch on his motorcycle, ready to pick them both up.


“Are you going?” Dwight asks Mose.


“Will there be ghosts there?” the cousin responds.


Dwight just sighs as he and Zeke argue about who gets the sidecar, the argument ending with both of them on the motorcycle.


They arrive at the gravesite, Dwight finding Oscar.  “What are you doing here?” Dwight asks him.


“You invited me,” Oscar reminds him, “You threw the red dirt in my face.”


“Oh, yeah,” Dwight smirks.


Oscar wants to leave until he sees a Mustang.  “Who is that?”


“Jeb, my brother.”


“You have a brother?”


“Uh-huh.”


One Jebediah Schrute makes his grand entrance, him almost running over the grave itself with a suped-up car (it’s a rental).  Dwight is, surprisingly, happy to see Jeb, embracing him tightly and then roughhousing with him.  Zeke smiles at the two brothers reuniting, while Oscar looks on, a forced smile hiding his fear.


As the German Minister commenced the funeral, Jeb and Dwight have a brief argument about the soil since it’s not fertile.  Jeb insists that it’s crap soil, and Dwight says that’s the point because it’ll prevent zombies.


“Would the family care to say something?” the Minister asks.


Dwight steps forward.  “You had black hair and then gray hair.”


Then Zeke.  “You were the aunt to my cousins.  Most of your life you were five-foot-four, at the end, you were five-foot-one.”


Oscar realizes that the Schrutes are descriptive people.


Arrives Dwight’s sister, Frances Schrute, with her son Cameron.  Oscar comments on her beauty; Zeke doesn’t see it.


“Hello, little man,” Dwight greets his nephew happily, “Haven’t seen you in a few years.”  Cameron offers a handshake, but a very weak one.  “What is this?  Oh, God.  Wha—” Fannie just gets Dwight to stop.


Enter Henry Bruegger in his truck, his five daughters sitting in the trunk… one of them catching Dwight’s eye.


“I see Esther’s back in town,” Dwight says.


“Hi, Dwight,” she greets.


“Hi, Esther,” Dwight greets back, “Nice of you to come today.”


“This was on the way.  We’re going into town after.  I need yarn.”


“Well, if you can snap two chicken necks with a single motion, why use two motions to slaughter those chickens.”  Fannie has to remind him that he’s at a funeral.


Henry, to pay respects, says this: “Shirley, at 1,600 acres, you have the largest farm in the area.  Sharing borders with six other farms.  Including my own farm.  And your nephew Dwight’s.”  And with that, he’s off.


Long ago, due to an unlucky streak of burying some heavy sleepers, the Schrutes decided it was best to ensure their dead were completely dead… with a shotgun.  Out of kindness.


As soon as Dwight starts firing, Oscar decides to bolt.


Shirley, in her video will, expresses how disappointed she is in Fannie, a single mother, and Jeb, a pot farmer.  With that, she wills the two of them and Dwight… her farm.


Dwight takes it all in.  Her farm.  She willed him and his siblings sixteen hundred acres of farmland.  He sees this as an amazing opportunity… while his siblings know what this means, and are shaking in their designer shoes.


Dwight is, naturally, gung ho about the idea, but Fannie has no intention of moving back.  The farm lacks a certain… sophistication that her and her son are drawn to.


Brent — who decided to be here because he just… had to see this for himself — asks Fannie a question that he already knew the answer to.


“Yes, I— thank you for asking me.  I actually have written a little bit of poetry.  That’s crazy.  And, I was recently published.”  Hartford-womens-lit-quarterly.com.  “A Willing Ignorance” by Fannie Schrute.


Jeb — despite comparing his own family to a fart — decides to stay a couple of nights.  Fannie is still opposed, but Dwight makes her say yes on “one”.  She doesn’t but Zeke says “Absolutely!”


“Growing up with Dwight and Mose was not easy,” Zeke admits to Brent, “Uh, Dwight was obviously the cool one.  And, Mose was the visionary.  Which left me to be the comedian.”  Brent knew it was against the rules, but he texted this priceless exchange he had with Zeke to Jim.


Later, Dwight uses the power of nostalgia to get through to Fannie, with the Schrutes and Brueggers playing The Decemberists’ ‘Sons and Daughters’.  He knows that nostalgia is truly one of the great human weaknesses (second only to the neck).


Fannie, kinda getting into it, notices something as they played on.  An old Schrute custom is in play.  “If a man is interested in courting a woman, he may throw the beaks of a crow at her,” she explains, “And then, if she’s interested in accepting the courtship, she has to destroy the beaks.”


Dwight sets the beaks in front of Esther… and she crushes them under her boot.


That night, Dwight shows Cameron how to farm.  He teaches him to grab eggs from killer chickens and milking goats.  Despite Cameron’s lack of knowledge in farming and his inability to tell a cow from a goat, he must admit… it was fun.  It was fun to teach him how to do these things, even though he sucks at them.  It makes him long for a son, someone to pass on his knowledge to.


What Dwight doesn’t realize is he’s already met his son.


As far as Cameron goes, he has potential, but if he doesn’t put in some farm time, he’s gonna stay like that.  Fannie doesn’t care.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Out of everything in life, Pam hates art theft the most.  But the runner-up is Todd Finch Packer.  Or as he calls himself “Todd Fudge Packer”, because he can’t go five damn seconds without being the most offensive person on the planet.


To her, Jim is everything a man should be, while Packer is the complete antithesis: he’s crude, crass, annoying, uncouth, perverted, racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, downright repugnant, and just the most flawed human being she has EVER met.  Honestly, Michael could sometimes be anything on this list but 1) it was never all at the same time, and 2) it was never meant out of malice.  Thank God Holly was there to turn Michael from a man-child to the goofball everyone knows and loves.


She can feel Todd’s presence like a dark, alcohol-and-feces scented cloud emitting out of nowhere.  She decides to ignore the warning sign, but then he greets Erin.


“Hey, Moonface.  Nice to see those shiny, little Chinese eyes of yours.”


Oh, God no.


Jim and Pam look at each other with what could only be described as unmitigated fear.


Clark walks from the copier over to Pam and asks, “Who’s this guy?”


The only word she can conjure is “Bad.”


The Halperts are not alone in their fear.  The rest of the office is immediately suspicious, with Erin holding the phone ready to call Hank.


“Okay, let’s get right to it, I guess,” Todd begins, “My name is Todd Packer and I am in recovery.  I’m working the steps.  I’m on step eight of Alcoholics Anonymous and step nine of Narcotics Anonymous.  I’m here to make amends.  I’ve been hard to deal with over the past years.  Kind of a jerk.  I know it.”  Jim looks at the camera because that’s the natural response to this.  “I don’t need you to accept my apology, but I’d love it if you did.”


Kevin does, and everyone vehemently disagrees.  However, Todd goes about a certain way of doing this.


First, Jim.  “Jim, I have constantly called you gay.  But you know what?  You are gay… for your wife.”  The camera pans over to Pam, already done.  “And that is a beautiful thing.  I’m sorry that I’ve insulted you all these years.  Keep on tappin’ that in holy matrimony.”  Jim just looks down as if to say ‘Yup.’


Then there’s Pam.  “Speaking of which, Pam-Pam and her pam-pams.  Wow, I have said some crude things about those.  But, they are beautiful.  And, I guess that’s why I acted out.  Pam, I’m sorry I objectified you.  And, personified your breasts.  Sorry, guys!”  Pam is not amused.


Next up: Phyllis (and others).  “Oh boy.  I have not been nice to you.”  She rolls her eyes.  “Philly, I’m sorry for the things I said about your size.  To your face, behind your back, and in the form of drawings.  Actually, that goes to all you double XLs.  Stanley, Kevin,” he points to Clark, “this kid in a few years.”


“Todd, you’re just saying insults in the form of an apology,” Pam astutely points out.  But the apologies are part of it, the big thing is making amends; he stopped by the Steamtown Mall and bought the office a bunch of cupcakes from that store Nibbles (mispronounced by Todd as “Nipples”).


As he hands them out, Pam says nothing… until she notices that Jim’s cupcake is red velvet, his favorite, and fearing for his husband’s life she stops everyone.  “Hey, hey, guys.  Wait.  Before we accept these cupcakes, I think we need to have a conversation privately in the conference room.  Don’t eat the cupcake.”  Kevin is sorely disappointed.


When they are gathered, Pam begins, “I don’t think we should eat Packers’ cupcakes.”


“She’s right,” Jim mentions, “We can’t give him the satisfaction.”


“I agree,” Phyllis says, “Even though that place has a way of making those cupcakes so they’re dense, but, they’re also really fluffy…”  The temptation is real.


“Guys, we can’t let him buy our forgiveness with cupcakes,” Pam retorts, “He was awful to us!  And, he still is!”


“How much is a cupcake?” Jim asks, “Like, 2.50?  Is that the price of our dignity?”


“3.75 a cupcake, actually.  3.67 if you buy a dozen,” Creed responds.  He never forgets numbers, that’s why he’s an accountant.


Meanwhile, Todd walks into the annex and finds Pete.  “Oh hey,” the latter greets, “I’m Peter.”


“I’m Todd,” he says cordially (well, for Todd Packer), “Sorry for calling you a discount Justin Bieber lookin’ gay earlier.”


“...You didn’t call me that,” Pete points out, “In fact, this is the first time we’ve spoken.”


“No?  Wow.  I’m in this mode now where I’m apologizing for thoughts that are in my head, to people I don’t even know!”  Pete gives him the fakest smile to try and shrug it off.  “Hey.  I have a crazy feeling that you are really gonna like this.”  He slides the cupcake on his desk.


“Huh, coconut,” Pete points out, “Thank you.”  Todd gives him an appreciative smile… well what one could assume is an appreciative smile, anyway.


The discussion continues back in the conference room.  “Maybe we should eat the cupcakes,” Stanley points out, his taste buds kicking in, “Haven’t we done enough to Packer?  I mean, we sent him down to Florida on a prank.  And you did fire him,” he mentions, pointing to Nellie.


“I did, I did, yes,” she admits, “And it was purely political.  He did nothing wrong.”


However, Pam wisely points out that it’s only because the cupcakes are high-quality ones from Nibbles, and they all agree to steer clear.  With Phyllis’ declaration of “Packer can go to hell”, the matter was settled.


Before Todd departs, he makes his last round of apologies, lastly to Meredith for screwing her (she’s not sorry, but he is, because it was an all-time low).


As Pam and Angela try to distract Kevin from the cupcake with the Bond movie Skyfall, Todd takes his leave… and Pete suddenly bursts from the kitchen.


“Is he gone?” Pete asks, breathing heavily.  Everyone, looking confused, nods.  “Did anyone eat their cupcake?”  They shake their heads.  “Thank God.”  And everyone’s eyes widen.


“When this Packer guy gave me the cupcake, two thoughts came to mind,” he tells the other interviewer, “First, this guy looks like he snorts coke off a prostitute and calls it “Tuesday”, and second, I hate coconut.  So, with that in mind, I investigated further and as it turns out, he carefully carved the frosting from the top” he then shows off his cupcake with something inside of it, “and layered the cupcake with a variety of drugs.”  He just shakes his head in disbelief, “Just another day at the office!”


“Took me six hours,” Todd reveals to that interviewer out in the parking lot, “There’s a variety of drugs.  Some legal, some not.  Some laxative, some constipating.  And yes, I am going through a twelve-step program.  I'm currently on step zero… which is “Have a ****load of fun”.  You don’t fire the Pack-Man… and expect to get away with it,” he says while sitting on the trunk of his car.


All of the cupcakes are thrown away with Pam holding the wastebasket.


“Wow, so we’ve learned that Todd Packer is officially the worst human being,” Jim points out, “Who knew?”


“Guys, I’m proud of us,” Pam commends with a smile, “We did the right thing.”


Kevin angrily gets out of his chair and marches to the exit.


“Wait, Kevin, where are you going?” Pam asks.


He turns around, a righteous fury in his eyes, “I was cheated, Pam!  We were all cheated out of a delicious cupcake!  And I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to stand here and be cheated!  I’m going to Nibbles.”


“I’m joining him!” Phyllis stands up in solidarity, “We did the right thing, so I wanna reward.”


Stanley joins in, “That goes double for me.  Two cupcakes.”


“Do cupcakes really matter this much?” Pam asks, exacerbated.


Kevin looks at her in disgust, “Are you even American?”


“Guys,” Jim stands up himself, “You do realize this is a workplace where we conduct business, right?  We can’t just drop everything to get cupcakes.  Besides, Andy’s our boss, if anything this is his decision.”


Andy, with a thankful smile, strolls next to Jim, “Thank you, Tuna.”


“Of course.”


“And I say… road trip to Steamtown Mall, let’s get some cupcakes!”  The Halperts just look at each other while everyone else around them cheers.


Pam leans over his desk with a playful smile, “Guess you’re gonna get that red velvet cupcake after all.”


“Guess so,” he says, smiling back at her.


Nibbles is now bustling with business as the employees get themselves one (or two, or a whole dozen) cupcakes.


Andy sees Erin sitting by herself, lost in thought, and he joins her.


“Hello, muh dear,” Andy sweetly tells her.


“Hey,” she responds, sweetly but hesitantly.


Andy notices her hiding something.  “Hey, if this is about recording over Glee, I have a—”


“I saw the application.”


Andy is shaken, “What?”


“The admissions director job at Cornell.  I saw your application.”


This gives him pause.  He didn’t want to go for it without her input.  He knows she’s hesitant about going with him to Cornell, but she should give it a chance.  It is awesome!


“Erin, listen, I wasn’t going to do anything without talking to you first.”


She smiles sadly and grabs his hand, “I know.  And I trust you.  But… to be perfectly honest, I don’t want to move to Cornell.  It doesn’t seem like my home.”


“Are you… are you giving me an ultimatum?”


“No, I’m not,” she says, shaking her head, “I’m telling you that it’s your home.  You’re gonna be a lot happier there than you are here.  You should go for it.”


“But… what’ll happen to us?”


She’s silent, biting her lips, trying to compose herself.  He already knew the answer.


Andy still needs to know, “What’re we gonna do now?”


She shrugs and answers honestly, “I don’t know.”


They sit there in silence, eating their cupcakes.


Meanwhile, Jim meets Pam at a table with his cupcake, sitting across from her.


“So, I wanted to run something by you,” Pam says.


“What about?” he says while chewing through his first bite.


“That dinner after we met Dr. J got me thinking and… I think I wanna go back to Pratt.”


Jim was pleasantly surprised, “Really?” 


“Not for graphic design, though.  Traditional art.”


“Did you run this by anyone else?”


“Mom, Penny, and Nellie.”


“What about the mural?” Jim asks.


“Nellie said she’ll find someone else.”


“I’m sorry,” he says, “I know you put a lot of time into that.”


“Honestly, I’ve lost the motivation to finish it,” Pam admits, “As it turns out, painting a mural about the history of paper isn’t all that fun.”


“Well, speaking of New York, I found a Vice President of Marketing position available.”


Pam gasps, elated, “Really?”


“Yup.”


“Ooh, fancy title.  What company?”  He hands them his phone and she reads it aloud, “Vice President of Marketing at” her face begins to fall when she reads off the company’s name, “…Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.”  She looks back at him intently, “No.”


“Pam—”


“No, we’ve been over this,” she says in her firm-but-fair voice, “I’m not allowing you to settle just for me.  That’s not happening.”


“Pam… this isn’t me settling.”  Her eyes begin to widen, understanding that he’s serious.  “I think I really wanna go for this.”


Pam is ten types of confused, “Didn’t you say you’d rather be hit by a train than advance in Dunder Mifflin?”


“I did, didn’t I?” Jim admits with a smirk, “I mean, David Wallace and I have a strong professional friendship so that’s a foot in the door.  I can do what I’m passionate about and get home at a reasonable hour.  I’m still gonna get the perks of being the co-founder of Athlead.  And I’m not sure how crazy this sounds, but… I think I actually like this company.”


“Out of your mouth?” Pam points out, “Yes, that does sound crazy.”


“I guess it’s more the people in it rather than the company itself if I’m being honest.”


She thinks back to the Office Olympics.  The Fire Games.  The Beach Games.  The Company Picnic.  Even recently with the Work Bus.  As much as he likes to shrug off and be embarrassed by his coworkers, he does care about them and loves to just have fun with them.  Hell, even after saying that they were all in a working office, he still joined Andy and the others for cupcakes.


“Besides, if it wasn’t for this company, I wouldn’t have everything I’ve always wanted.”


“Really?”


“Yeah,” he looks at Pam with a smile, “I’m looking at her.”


Pam couldn’t help but get verklempt, “Such a dork.”  He chuckles as she keeps herself from crying.  She reaches over and grabs his hands, “Is this really what you want?”


“It’s what I want,” he responds with love in his eyes, “for all of us.”  The two brightly smile at each other as they finish their cupcakes.


Their path is set, and all they have to do now is follow it.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


It’s the next day when a friend calls the office.


“Dunder Mifflin, this is Erin.”

“Hey, Erin, its Darryl.”

“Darryl!”

“Todd Packer dropped by Athlead today and gave me this, cupcake?  I was making sure—”

“Don’t eat it.”

“Are you sure?  Because he seemed sincere—”

“Darryl… don’t.  Eat.  The cupcake.”

“Gotcha.”


With that, Darryl hangs up the phone and throws the cupcake in his wastebasket.


Later that day, on Schrute farms, Cameron gives Dwight a proper handshake before he leaves.  Jeb notices how much of a beast Shirley’s farm is, and the farmer has a hell of a job to do.


Jeb?  “Not it.”


Fannie?  “Not it.”


Dwight?  “...It.”

 

End Notes:

I've made a self-imposed rule while writing this story: anything Schrute related stays intact and how it was in canon.  So everything in this story pertaining to Dwight remains the same.  Zeke's quote about growing up with Dwight and Mose is just... magical.

The cupcake plot is both the same and different.  First major difference: Jim and Pete.  Neither were in the office at the time (Jim was in Athlead and Pete was... elsewhere), so with them both being here, it results in the radically different ending.  I also wanted to write specialized insults for both of them because, knowing Todd, any man remotely conventionally good-looking is automatically gay.  Also, Pete intervening was always part of the plan, since he seems to be a curious tinkerer and Lord knows he needs to see some of DM Scranton's insanity first-hand.

Spoilers: they eat the cupcakes in-canon.  I hate I couldn't use the scene with Kevin and Andy high of their asses, but it's for the sake of the plot.

The second major difference was the Steamtown Mall scene.  Yes, Andy and Erin are through.  It was bound to happen, but I wanted to handle it with care; I love both of these characters a lot, and they will be happy, just not with each other.  Hopefully I did their relationship here justice, instead of S9's awful execution of it.  As far as JAM goes, I've always wanted Pam to get an art degree before she became a freelance artist, it would help hone her craft and give her the upmost confidence to do what he loves.  As for Jim?  To be honest, I just hope his feelings regarding staying with DM come off as genuine here.  I mean, he's never liked it there, but given the work he does, yeah I'd want to move on, too.  But I also wanted him to have a moment here of "It's what you do, not where you are", if that makes sense.  And in a large part, that's true.

The JAM plot points were actually inspired by a story on this website.  I want to give kudos to Comfect and their 81-chapter epic "Date Line".  It's an amazing story that reimagines the post-Casino Night Australia trip and the entirety of S3.  A long read and absolutely worth it. 

NEXT TIME: Several promos for the doc are released!  Angela, amongst the others, are terrified of what they caught and what they're going to air.  Her and Oscar scramble to save the Senator's reputation, Nellie has a plan, and Pam has her final encounter with Brian.  Meanwhile, Dwight needs Clark's help regarding a transaction, Erin and Andy deal with their split, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard stops by Athlead (Eat Fresh), and Jim meets up with David in a meeting that will determine his path going forward...

Promos by 3vasectomies
Author's Notes:

Not finished with "Stairmageddon" yet.  I've finished 3/4 of it though.  Nothing more to report.

Enjoy!

“You love drama.” — Erin Hannon

“I know, I do, right?  Im a total drama queen.” — Andy Bernard


Phyllis, much to the disgust of everyone in the office, had been listening to an audiobook of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.  They go to Andy and Toby for help, but the latter clarified that she is legally allowed to have feelings of arousal, they just can’t be acted upon.


Dwight took control of the situation as always and just dumped a bucket of water on Phyllis.


“What the hell?!” she shouted.


“It’s okay, guys,” Dwight announced, “she’s no longer horny.”


“Excuse me, dirty birdie,” Andy said as he took Phyllis’s iPod, “You can have this back at the end of the day.”


Cut to Andy listening to the story himself, feeling the same sensations Phyllis was earlier, which earned him the same punishment from Dwight.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


Darryl was shocked to hear that Jim wasn’t going for Athlead… and a bit disappointed if he was being honest.


Sure, he wants what’s best for his buddy, and Jim is a buddy, otherwise, he wouldn’t have this job.  He’s gotten along with Mark, he’s a chill dude and he sees why he and Jim have been friends for so long.  (Mark’s roommate skills aren’t the best, though, just ask the t-shirts he uses for rags.)  And naturally, Pam and the kids take priority.  But… why Dunder Mifflin?  Still?  He’s working with paper instead of with the biggest names in the world of sports.  There’s no comparison.  Why would he want to pass that up?


Today is the day Darryl gets where Jim is coming from in the form of Ryan Howard.  Not failed entrepreneur Ryan “Bailey” Howard, mind you, but rather Phillies first baseman Ryan “The Big Piece” Howard.  Y’know, the one people like.


“Hey man,” Mark introduces himself, “how you doin’?  Mark Muller.”


“Nice to meet you,” Howard returns happily, “Eat Fresh.”

“Hey, man.  Darryl,” he says, wondering what just happened.


“Hey there.  Ryan.  Nice to meet you.  Eat Fresh.”  He then turns to the camera.  “Eat Fresh,” he delivers once again with a point and a wink.


Mark and Darryl just look at each other as they head to the conference room.


Mark, knowing that baseball players like Howard aren’t getting any younger, assures him, “With our firm, you’ll be building equity for long after they’ve retired your number.”


“And we all know,” Darryl adds, “baseball does not last forever.”


Howard already has his own plan, “I look at these actors on TV and I think ‘C’mon, I can do that.’”


“Right?” Mark laughs.  No, they can’t.  Just ask Michael Jordan and the Loony Tunes.


Howard proceeds to demonstrate, “Watch this: ‘Eat Fresh’.  Now, what does that make you think of?”


“Subway sandwiches,” Darryl answers.


“How?” Howard asks, “I didn’t say Subway sandwiches.  It’s called playing the subtext.”  It’s actually called marketing.


“Wow,” Mark says, not pointing out the obvious.


“I actually wrote a screenplay,” Howard promotes, “it’s called The Big Piece.”


“Based on his nickname,” Mark says with a smile, “Like it already.  Let me guess, it’s autobiographical.”


“Half-biopic and half-superhero movie.”  Oh God, is this another Space Jam waiting to happen?  “A mild-mannered professional baseball player, Ryan Howard—”

“Okay.”

“—hits a home run into outer space.  Ball comes back with space dust on it, which transforms him into… The Big Piece.”


“The space dust does it,” Darryl compliments.


“I actually brought some copies of my script if you guys wanna read it together.”


“Sure, yeah.”  Ryan shows off three humongous screenplays for them to read.  This really is another Space Jam.


They get a good way into the script.  Darryl reads for ‘The Big Piece’, “‘Together we will win this baseball game against the evil space Yankees.  Eat Fresh.’”  That line will pay for the exploding helicopter.


Howard reads off the stage direction, “‘Suddenly, the evil thugs break into the stadium.  The Big Piece hits baseballs at the evil thugs.’”


“‘Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks,’” Darryl reads.


“Come on man, sell it!” Howard pushes.


“Yeah, Darryl,” Mark tells him halfheartedly, wanting to get this over with.


Darryl complies, “‘Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks!’”


“Yeah, that’s better,” Howard says, “‘A bunch of hot women go Oh yeah!’”


Darryl continues, “‘Megan, I was too shy to tell you this when I was just a normal professional baseball player, but I love you.’”  He’s starting to get Threat Level Midnight flashbacks.


“‘They kiss,’” Howard keeps reading the stage direction, “‘It is super emotional. Like in Toy Story.’”  Good God.


Mark had to stop this, “Wow.  I tell you what, it’s really strong.  I can’t wait to read the rest of it later and see how it ends.”


“It’s so strong,” Darryl compliments out of desperation.


“Keep reading then,” Howard says.  They’re trapped.


Darryl hates this.  “‘Gotta go! Darth Vader’s launching a huge attack!’”  Are you serious?


“Um, another thing,” Howard adds, “I’m gonna need you to get me the rights to Darth Vader.”  Mark and Darryl say they’ll look into getting Darth, but they don’t know how to go about it.  Howard presses that they need Darth, and that’ll be their first priority.


Darryl naturally calls Jim later, the latter laughing in disbelief; Darryl threatens to drive over to his house and show him that entire screenplay for himself since Howard had multiple professionally made copies.  He now understands why Jim decided to stay with Dunder Mifflin despite how mundane it seems.


Darryl wouldn’t trade Athlead for anything else in the world, but he’s learned that even the best of jobs come with an asking price.


Eat Fresh.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


At the start of the day, Andy sees Erin at the front desk.


“Hello, Erin.”


“Hello, Andrew.”


He turns without stopping and briskly walks back to his office.


“Last week,” Andy explains to Brent, “Erin and I decided that it is best if our relationship would be proceeding without me,” he sighs, “Now I have to see her every day at work!  Which is… brutal.  When people say office relationships are a good idea, they never talk about what might happen if you break up.”  Andy does make a strong point.


“I am really, really bad with breakups,” Erin admits to Brent, “Technically, I’m still dating my first-grade boyfriend.  I mean, we just had our 20th anniversary.  And, I forgot to get him something.”


They don’t interact much outside the mixed company.  The only other time they do is after the revelations in the warehouse.


“Oh, Erin, check this out!” Andy calls in his office.


“Huh?” Erin walks inside.


“Someone complimented my banjo playing on 0:19 of the trailer.”


“Oh yeah!  You and Dwight playing ‘Country Roads’.”


“Well, one ‘ChobbleGobbler’ says it’s “aight”.”


“Um, calm down, internet!” she responds, excited.


“Right?” he agrees happily, “Oh, and in a reply, ‘Bongripper’ says that I’m “hawt!”.”


“Well, they’re not wrong,” she shyly agrees with a shrug.


An alert.  “Ooh, another reply,” Andy quietly announces, “‘JasonJasonJason’ says “he’s not hawt, he’s gay”,” his face begins to fall.


Erin knows just what to say.  “Wow,” she scoffs, “Nice name.  Not!”


“Yeah!” he agrees, “And, guess what, I’m not gay!”


“What an idiot!”


“And hey, ‘Bongripper’ thinks I’m hawt, so…”


“Yeah, ’cause they have a brain.”


“Exactly!”


Once again they’re in sync, and it felt just like old times.  No drama, no separation, no miscommunication.  Just two close friends, being happy in each other’s presence, making fun of obvious trolls online, such as ‘TexasPoonTappa’ who says Andy is “butt”.


It’s the end of the day, and all of Erin’s belongings are packed into the trunk of her car.


“Alright,” Andy announces, “That’s the last of it.”


Erin sighs deeply, “We did have some good times, huh?”


“We did,” Andy smiles, “Like Gabe’s Scavenger Hunt?”


“COME OOOON!” Erin bellowed in her ‘monster voice’, along with the pose.


“Yeah, that’s right!” he said through a laugh.


“Oh!” she recollects “And our first date when you dropped by when I was sick.”


“Yeah,” he remembers, “Still don’t understand your relationship with Reed.”


She gives an inquisitive look, “In retrospect, I don’t either.”


“Welp, I’m just glad this breakup is drama-free,” he says, making the swipe motion with his hands.


“That’s a relief,” she says through a knowing smile, “Because you love drama.”


“You got me!” He laughs, and so does she, “My heart is breaking at the seams!” he overacts, clutching his chest.


“Ugh, it’s such a tragedy!” she overacts as well, posing in the cliché fainting pose.


“You’re the first woman I ever loved!” he continues.


“I’ll never regret a single second we had together!” she continues… until both of them realize the crushing reality of their words, staring at each other intensely.  “Not a single second,” she repeats, this time in earnest honesty.


“You really are the first,” he admits, the emotion flowing through his voice.


The two embrace each other once more, knowing that this is it.  The highs, the lows, the mediums, all of it.  Yes, they’re still going to be seeing each other in the office, but at least there’s nothing more hanging over their heads.  A weight has been lifted for both of them.  And, in the end, they’ll still be there for each other.  It was all worth it.


As they separate, they give their final goodbye as a unit, eyes glassy.  “Goodbye, Erin.”


“Goodbye, Andy.”


He walks over to his car as she’s opening her car door when suddenly she hears a “Hey!”  She whips her head around, it was Andy again.  “He’s a good guy.  You should go for it.”


Erin, knowing full well who he’s talking about, gives him a bright smile his way, which he returns.  As Andy departs, he loudly sings a very fitting song by Fleetwood Mac.


“You can go your own wayyy, go your own way-y-y

You can call it anooother lonely dayyy...”


Erin’s not comfortable asking him out yet.  However, she’ll find out sooner rather than later that he’s the one, her one.


And, in about a month, Andy will find his one as well.


—————————————————————————————————————————————


It’s been about three weeks since Esther Bruegger showed her interest in courting Dwight, and he needs some advice from Clark.  They’ve been out a few times, there’s been physicality, but one night they and her father Henry are looking at a farm catalog, next thing Dwight knows Henry wants to lease a tractor with him!


And Angela’s not jealous.  At all.


“Ugh,” Clark groans, feigning relatability.


Dwight laughs in disbelief, ignorant of Clark’s sarcasm.  “What do you think?”


“The same thing that you think,” he lies in solidarity.


“A long term tractor lease is going to put pressure on a relationship,” Dwight mentions.


“God, one of my buddies is going through the same thing right now.  Something in the air.”  He’s already taking over for Jim.


Angela congratulates Dwight on his new relationship, saying that she hopes she has “kind eyes”.


“Dwight is dating a brussel sprout farmer named Esther,” Angela explains to Brent, “She’s coming here this afternoon with her father.  Who knows?  Maybe she’ll be pulling the horse cart!”  She laughs awkwardly, following this by attempting to compose herself.  Denial, deflection, etc.


Dwight, preparing for her arrival, tries to find her a snack, Angela attempting to make conversation with passive-aggressive comments that go unnoticed.  Before he continues regarding her teeth, Erin lets him know that the Brueggers have arrived, thinking they’re from the forest where the paper is harvested.


As Henry complements the structure of the Scranton Business Park and Clark is drawn to his other daughters, Dwight greets Esther with a kiss on the forehead.  Angela guesses men find Esther attractive.  She’s not jealous, though.


Out in the parking lot, Clark hits on two Bruegger sisters while sitting in the tractor.  The two think Clark would be a great one to buy an auger with; he has no earthly idea what the hell that means… but he senses something fishy’s going on.


Meanwhile, Dwight and Henry discuss the terms of the exchange.


“The lift capacity’s up at two thousand pounds,” the salesman informs, “That’s a lot of beets.”  Indeed, it is.


“Let’s talk terms,” Henry begins, “If you agree to a forty-sixty split on this tractor, I’ll store it in one of my barns.”


“Mr. Bruegger,” Dwight begins, “are you trying to take advantage of me because I’m interested in your daughter?  Fifty-fifty split or no deal.”


That kind of talk nearly gets Henry walking, “Esther, get in the truck.”


“Wait-wait, okay, wait,” Dwight stops him and concedes to the deal, “You win.”  With the shaking of hands, the salesman gets the paperwork started.


As the two begin to close the deal, Clark steals his pen and caps it, offering a perspective Dwight hasn’t considered: maybe Esther is using him to get the tractor, mentioning her sisters and the auger from before.


“What?” Dwight asks, “Has the warranty expired on the auger you have now?”


“I don’t even know what an auger is!” Clark stresses.


Dwight further considers Clark’s point when he says, “No woman would ever want a man who doesn’t know what an auger is.”  He’s right.  He then pulls him aside, saying that this deal may really be too good to be true.


As Clark tries to make Dwight feel better about his supposedly failed courtship (through used tractors and planting seeds by hand much to Clark’s annoyance), Esther arrives with some important information.


“Dwight, we need to talk,” she says intently.


“I don’t know that there’s anything left for us to talk about, Esther,” he retorts, feeling betrayed.


“Look, we’re gonna have the tractor for the same amount of workdays but my dad is planning on leasing it to the Vanderkirk brothers on the weekends.”  Dwight couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “So you’re going to be paying more, bu