Jim is a patient man. His declaration on casino night was a moment of desperation, not impatience.
He’s waited on Pam before. He can wait on her again. That’s what he tells himself and yet somehow his hands are busying themselves with stuffing the leftover breadsticks back in the bag. He tosses it to the ground beside them and then there’s nothing between them and he’s scooching over. Right as his mind reassures itself that he can wait her out and be all kinds of patient, his arm decides to do its own thing. His fingers stretch out and extend around Pam’s side and suddenly his arm is clasped tightly around her shoulders and he’s tugging her firmly against his chest.
She comes willingly, soft and pliant in his arms. He’s careful not to face her; at least that’s one instruction his brain manages to give his body that it follows. He knows that if he shifts his face even imperceptibly from staring straight ahead he’ll lose any semblance of self-control and the heady desperation from their last kiss will be back in full force.
This is enough… for now.
Pam is warm against him, unmoving. It’s funny because he’s been running ever since he left Scranton all those months ago and now there’s a calm. He’s stopped. He’s standing still. It’s only here, in this moment of peace with her that his head clears. He’s done running.
He doesn’t know what that means. Does he move back to Scranton? Is that the next logical step?
If there’s hope of a future with Pam, a reality he imagined many a time, but never really considered what that could mean, he has to figure it out.
He wonders what the endgame is for Pam here. Does she want to leave Scranton?
The questions swell in his mind and threaten to interrupt his sense of calm. There’s too much up in the air, but it feels far too soon to vocalize all these thoughts. He just wants to sit in this feeling of contentment for a minute.
Pam stirs against him. His breath catches in his throat as she dips her face into his neck and he thinks that maybe he’s hallucinating because she’s pressing the faintest of kisses into the exposed skin beside his top button.
He decides it’s not breaking too many of the unspoken rules of I’m not ready yet to drop a kiss into her hair. He breathes her in, a heady mixture of some sort of floral shampoo and something inherently Pam.
“We should get back to the office,” she groans into his chest.
He gruffs out an, “I guess.”
“This was the best, Jim. I just… thank you.”
“You’re the best,” he answers honestly before he has the chance to second guess himself. He runs his hand in soothing circles over her arm and reluctantly retreats. When he pulls away and straightens up, they’re both baring bashfully pinkened faces at his admission.
He meets her eyes and grins a little. Her answering smile makes his day even brighter.
He gathers up their things and trails her back to the car. The return drive to the office passes far too quickly. Her hand sits on the gear stick and he has to jam his under his knees to stop himself from reaching out and twining his fingers with hers. His heart trills a little at the thought that she probably wouldn’t push him away if he did make a grab for her hand.
There’s another hum under the gentle music filling the car. The air buzzes between them, loaded with the promise of things to come. I’m trying to remind myself loops in his brain, over and over again, each time tinged with slightly more desperation than the last. Soon cannot come quickly enough.
They step back to into the office and something is off. The easy joy following them back from lunch seeps away. The atmosphere is heated, and not in the painfully delightful way cramped into a car with Pam had just been. All eyes flicker to Josh’s office. He shoots Pam a confused look and returns dutifully to his desk.
It appears Josh has been awaiting their - well, his - return because his backside has barely hit his chair and Josh is summoning him into his office. He steps in to find another familiar face.
“Hi Jan,” he murmurs in greeting.
“Oh good, you’re here. Ready to talk logistics?” her gaze swings back to Josh.
“The Scranton branch is closing, Stanford will absorb some staff,” Jan replies brusquely.
The air rushes from his lungs. Oh. He doesn’t work there anymore, that’s true enough, but it’s like a phantom limb. He still feels it. It still hurts. What will it mean for Pam?
He tries to tune back in, Jan is explaining what’s to come. He needs to know what it means, he needs to know that Pam - that everyone - is okay. God, Michael will be utterly devastated.
“So, Josh will be running what is now called Dunder-Mifflin Northeast, which is all the offices north of Stamford.”
He nods, his expression blank.
“And Jim, if you want the job, you'll be his number two.”
He doesn’t know what to say. He just wants her to get to the part about what’s happening to everyone from Scranton.
He manages another brisk nod.
“Good,” Jan replies. “I -”
And Josh cuts her off, “excuse me, Jan, I'm sorry... I'm going to have to stop you there. I, um, will not be taking the job.”
Jan pales noticeably. “Wha... excuse... why not?”
“As of today, I have accepted a senior management position at Staples.”
He swears he hears all the air in Jan’s lungs whoosh from her body.
“Today?” Jan’s pallor shifts from chalky to red. Jim knows that look. It’s the someone (usually Michael) has done something very stupid and potentional detrimental to the company look.
Josh offers her a sharp nod.
“You leveraged your new position with us into another offer?” Jan shakes her head, tacking on, “damn it, Josh. This whole restructuring thing was based around keeping you. I…”
“I'm sorry, all right? It's done, it's done,” he shrugs and Jan throws out that quietly disappointed glare that she’s perfected from years of managing Michael Scott.
“I’m going to make some calls,” Jan sighs.
Jim follows her out, softly mentioning, “say what you will about Michael Scott, but he would never do that.”
Jan stops for a moment and purses her lips at him. “You know what. You’re right,” she concedes and offers him a half-smile.
What. The. Hell. his thoughts whirl. His personal life is finally coming together - sort of, only to have his professional life fall apart - sort of.
He just wants to sit on the shore with Pam and watch the waves roll by, and yet the tide is coming up fast, threatening to wrench them from the sand and toss them back to sea.
There are whispers as Jim is called into Josh’s office. Pam finds herself mirroring everyone else in the office and keeping her eyes locked on the shut door.
Karen appears in the corner of her vision. “There’s a rumor,” and her voice is laced with worry.
“What?” Pam murmurs.
“Umm. It’s just I know you work there, so… I don’t want to worry you?”
Pam pulls her gaze from the general direction of Josh’s office to frown at her friend.
Karen sighs heavily. “Apparently the Scranton branch is being closed.”
“Oh,” and her eyes prick with tears, sharp and biting. “Oh.”
“Yeah,” Karen watches her, concern etched over her countenance.
The phone rings and she answers on autopilot.
“Pamela,” Dwight demands over the line. Her gut clenches at his voice. She aches for them all, herself and her strange, strange people.
“Hi Dwight,” she tries to sound brighter than she feels.
“When are you returning? You need to clear out your desk.” And this is Dwight’s way of saying he misses her and he doesn’t know how to handle this news.
“Why?” She needs confirmation.
“Jan called Michael. We’re all fired.” There it is. Oh god.
“Are you okay?” She doesn’t know if she is.
“Please. I have a perfectly profitable beet farm to fall back on. The rest of you are doomed in this economy.”
He’s not completely wrong. Her mind flashes to the few hundred dollars that she has to pay each month to cover her car loan. That’s going to be trickier without a steady paycheck. Her rent is higher now that she has a place all to herself too.
Still, she can be a silver linings kind of person when she feels like it. Does it make her a terrible person if the best silver lining she can think of right now is Valerie never returning to work and Pam taking over her position in Stamford permanently?
At least Jim’s job is safe she rationalizes.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back, Dwight,” she sighs. “Please don’t go into my desk.”
It’s almost as if she can hear his hand freeze midair. She loses some of the politeness. “Don’t go into my desk,” she orders.
“Ugh. Fine. You have twenty-four hours.”
Dwight starts to say something else, but she doesn’t hear him. Josh’s door opens, and Jan fills the doorway.
She steps towards the conference room, Jim on her heels. He murmurs something and Jan pauses to listen. Pam almost swears that she can make out the words Michael Scott on his lips.
Jim drops to his desk, his eyes wide on hers.
“Bye Dwight,” she cuts him off mid sentence that she’s paying zero attention to and the phone slips back into its cradle.
Karen lays a comforting hand on her shoulder. She wants to pull her eyes from Jim’s and offer her a grateful smile, but she can’t look anywhere but him.
She moves here now, right? That’s the only logical thing to do. She can up and pack her life and make this interlude in Stamford permanent.
She actually kind of likes the idea. She has friends here, as in multiple. Stamford is on the ocean, it’s kind of beautiful. She’s always wanted to paint the sea at sunset.
She’s halfway to opening up a web browser and searching for jobs in Stamford when she remembers her family. It’s far enough away here that she feels like she’s in a different time zone. But you know what, there are phones and busses and trains and they can visit. When Jim was here and she was in Scranton it had felt far. Too far.
She offers Jim a weak half-smile before turning and offering Karen the same. “It’s nice here in Stamford,” she says, “maybe I’ll start over here.”
She starts to type receptionist positions + Stamford, before she jams her finger onto the backspace button and squares her jaw. Her fingers hurry across the keyboard to form art school + Stamford.
Her search is cut short as Jan emerges from the conference room. “We need to close a branch,” she announces, “and, uh, it looks like Scranton is going to absorb Stamford.”
The room erupts into general chaos and Jan pinches her brow sharply. “Josh will inform you if you will be offered a position in Scranton. I’m leaving him with the list now. If there isn’t a position for you, you will be offered a severance package.”
Jan ushers Jim back into Josh’s office and whatever conversation they have is short. She’s in and out within a couple of minutes, leaving a cluster of very angry and confused people at Josh’s door.
Pam swears she sees a whisper of a smile on Jan’s face at the mayhem waiting for Josh. Jim also hastily scrambles back to his desk.
Jan pauses in her escape at reception. She looks at Pam carefully for a moment before informing her that, “you best get back to Scranton, Pam. You’re needed far more there, than to wrap things up here.”
“Oh, okay. Sure.” And she clicks the search browser closed and lets herself forget that it was more than a fleeting thought. She loves her art classes in Scranton and that’s enough for now. She lets herself feel the relief at her job being saved. There’s plenty of it to feel.
“You can take the rest of the day,” Jan tells her. “Josh can get one of the sales staff to man the phone lines for the afternoon.” Another little smirk quirks her lips and Pam is hit with the realization that maybe Josh annoys Jan more than Michael does.
She nods and makes a show of closing her emails and logging off the computer. Jan seems satisfied with that. “See you in Scranton,” she offers her a courteous smile and strides into the elevator without a glance back at the pandemonium behind her.
Pam releases a breath she doesn’t realize she’s been holding in. She meets Jim’s gaze again and he jerks his thumb at the relative privacy of the break room and she nods her agreement.
They meet at the same table they’d sat at yesterday, it feels like a world away. There had been so much nervousness and uncertainty. Now they know where they stand, but not where they stand.
“Jan told me to go back to Scranton - immediately,” she confesses.
“Jan offered me the number two position, at Scranton,” Jim grins. “I accepted.”
Her face breaks into a wide, toothy smile.
“Looks like we’re both going home.”
She dives across the table and into his arms. He chuckles, a strangled thing as her fierceness knocks the air from his lungs, and holds her tightly to his chest.
Home. That’s what this is, the warmth of Jim surrounding her. She’s struck with the strangest thought, she was never the Rose in her silly Titanic analogy. She’s the Jack. She’d practically let herself drown instead of demanding the space she needed on the door. She’s done with that. She’s a bolder, braver Pam who gets what she wants.
“I’ll call you tonight,” she promises Jim.
Karen lingers at the break room door, pausing her exit. “What’s Scranton like?”
Pam grins. “Completely crazy. You’ll love it.”
She’s met with a puzzled half-smile. “I don’t want to be unemployed,” Karen groans, her almost-smile fading. “It could be okay to move I suppose, especially knowing I’ll have a friend there,” the smile returns.
“Definitely. I’ll show you the sights.”
“Not the Chili’s?” Karen teases.
“Everything but,” she laughs. “If you think of any questions, call me.”
“Okay. Thanks Pam,” and she’s opening her arms and embracing her in a quick hug.
It doesn’t take Pam long to pack the few things she has at Valerie’s house. She makes a quick call to fill her in, and thankfully Valerie’s fairly nonplussed at her likely redundancy. “I can finally do that trip I’ve been planning,” she shrugs off Pam’s sympathies.
Pam wishes her well and tells her to look her up if she’s ever in Scranton and that’s that.
She scratches Socks between the ears. “I hope that slacker granddaughter remembers to feed you,” she murmurs in farewell.
With that, her time in Stamford comes to a close. She starts the drive home and is struck with the thought that she’s accomplished what Michael requested of her.
She’s bringing their boy home.