When she wakes the next morning, her apartment greets her. She enjoyed her time in Stamford, but this feels like home. It’s reflective of her life with Roy, and the house they shared, that this place holds meaning for her so quickly. Their old apartment was her home for years and yet it always felt like Roy.
It hits her how much she loves it here, this little space to call her own. It’s all hers.
The pastel yellow walls, cheerful and bright, like the first flicker of sunlight peaking through her blinds on a balmy fall morning. They’re hers.
The tricky back lock, that the realtor had struggled with when she’d shown her the place. Pam feels like she’s the only person in the world who knows how to angle the key just right to get it to open seamlessly on the first try. It’s hers.
She looks around her furniture, eclectic and eccentric and exactly to her taste. There’s a rug on the floor beneath the flea market coffee table that she knows Roy would have loathed. She loves it. She picked it. It’s all her.
It’s strange, but staring at the chips and cracks in the corners of her yellow walls alone in the early morning she feels the second skin she’s been wearing for most her adult life with Roy start to fall away. The moment is fleeting, a thought that drifts in one ear and out the other. The contentment it sparks stays with her.
And just like that, it’s time for work.
She dresses quickly, picking the pink cardigan that Roy had shrugged at when she’d asked if he thought she should buy it. It makes you look like a little girl he’d waved her off dismissively. She’d bought it anyway, because she liked it. She wears it now. She assesses herself in the mirror and decides she doesn’t look childish at all. It’s professional enough, but not at all clinical. She looks friendly and approachable. There’s something in her smile that looks bright and new.
Michael screeches her name as she walks into the room. She’s surprised to see him there so early, but after a moment she realizes that he’s completely keyed up, eyes wide and erratic. He reminds her of the time Roy’s nephew found the sugar jar and ate a good half dozen spoonfuls before anyone noticed. He’s buzzing.
“PAM! Pamela. Pam, Pam, Pam,” and before she has time to react, he’s wrapping his arms around her in a tight bear hug. “You did it!”
It hits her, well, like an enthusiastic hug from Michael. He’s here early to greet her. Oh Michael, bless his hyperactive cotton socks.
“What did I do, Michael?” She asks as she gently extricates herself. She hopes that keeping her tone measured will help to settle him down.
“You saved the branch.” That’s an interesting interpretation. She hangs up her coat and watches Michael bounce on the balls of his feet, smile wide.
He nods enthusiastically. “Yep.”
“Jan called me twice yesterday,” he frowns. “The first time was not good. She told me that our branch was closing. It hit me right here, Pam.” He clutches at his chest and he looks so genuinely choked up that she reaches out to pat his hand.
“But then, I remembered you and I remembered how brave you were being, going after the thing you love and it inspired me to do the same. So I drove to New York and Dwight and I went to David Wallace’s house to make a stand for the thing we love the most.”
“Oh,” Pam says, not at all sure how that fits with Josh’s betrayal and all the events that had gone down in Stamford.
“It worked, Pam,” his eyes shine brightly with unspilled tears. “We sat out there all day and then Jan called me again and said that Stamford was closing, not us.”
“You went to the CFO’s house?”
He nods. “And it worked. I saved the branch and you saved the branch because you were my inspiration.”
“Wow. Umm, Michael. That’s really something,” she manages and has to force the sincerity to color her words through clenched teeth. It’s such a Michael move. She can’t wait to tell Jim. She waits for the wave of grief to engulf her, like it has every time she’s had that thought since he left. It doesn’t come. She really can tell him now. Her heart flutters within her chest.
“I decided I wasn’t going to leave until he changed his mind and kept Scranton open. It was good Jan called when she did because I was getting really desperate to use the bathroom.” And that’s too much information for Pam.
“I’m so glad it worked out.” There’s that sincerity.
He grins at her. “It really did, didn’t it?”
“Jim’s coming back,” she breathes.
“I know,” he’s bouncing again. “He called to tell me after Jan’s second call, the good one.”
Pam bites the inside of her cheek at the truth that she knows, but Michael doesn’t know she knows, that Jim had indeed called Michael with the intention of quickly broaching the news. What neither of them mention now is that Michael then proceeded to call Jim back seven more times to wax nostalgic about the whole thing. It was very sweet, at its core, despite Jim joking about needing to change his cell number immediately.
The remainder of the morning passes in familiar chaos. As much as she liked working at the Stamford branch, it took being away from them to realize just how much she adores these truly insane coworkers of hers. Ryan is particularly grateful for her return, the look of pure agony in his eyes dulling around the edges. After finding her back at her post behind reception, he hides in the annex all morning, relief radiating from him.
Jim calls her just before lunch and fills her in on a few more details. “Jan is trying to make things as difficult as possible for Josh now that he’s given his notice,” he murmurs quietly.
“There was definitely a vibe of less than impressed radiating from her yesterday,” she agrees.
“She phoned this morning and ordered me to return to Scranton as quickly as possible. I’m packing up my desk as we speak. I’m going home to pack up my apartment as soon as I’m done here.”
The relief billows in her chest. It’s all so real. She knows he’s coming, but somehow the distance between them has planted little rumblings of possible disaster deep within her.
“I should be back in town tomorrow.”
She sucks fresh, relieved air into her lungs.
“That’s soon,” she breathes. “That’s good. I’m glad.”
There’s a lull, she can hear him bumping around and guesses the thuds are his belongings he’s dropping into a box.
“Oh hey, so Karen was offered a Scranton job.”
“That’s great,” she enthuses and genuinely means it.
“Yeah. Jan gave her the same message to move as soon as possible. I think that’s part of her strategy for making Josh’s life hell.”
“What? Move on anyone competent as soon as possible?”
“Exactly,” he snorts. “Andy has been offered a job too, and Jan told him to take as long as he needs.”
Pam chuckles. “Jan knows her people.”
“That she does.”
She glances around the office and finds no one paying her much attention. “By the by, Michael and Dwight went to David Wallace’s house yesterday.”
“What?” She swears that she can hear Jim’s jaw hit the floor.
“Uh huh. In what was a harmless, I think, silent protest in response to the news of Scranton closing.”
They both know that it would have been one of them to gently suggest to Michael it wasn’t the most brilliant of ideas. Without them, well that left Toby, or maybe Oscar as the voice of reason and Michael wasn’t likely to be swayed by either of them.
“Yep. So, Michael now believes that he saved the branch.”
Jim understands what she isn’t saying. He always seems to, at least before she blew up their friendship with misinterpreted. “Good job, Michael.”
“Right.” And just like that there’s a silent agreement to let Michael keep his victory. The first rule of Stamford is that what happens in Stamford, stays in Stamford.
“I’ve got to go,” he sighs. “Desk is emptied. Time to pack up my place. Luckily, I barely unpacked in the first place.”
“See you tomorrow?” She bites down on her lip in anticipation. She can wait one more day if she has to. The thing is, she doesn’t want to.
“That’s the plan,” he smiles. “Talk to you later, Beesly.”
It takes her a full five minutes after the call ends to notice that she’s still wearing the soft smile that seems to follow her after every interaction with Jim. He’s coming back tomorrow. It’s almost too much joy for her to process.
She’s spent the past couple of months drowning, swimming around in circles and barely holding herself afloat. It’s funny how much has changed since she decided it was time to save herself.
Jim wasn’t lying. His apartment is still a disarray of half-unpacked boxes. It’s the outer turmoil mirroring how unsettled he’s felt lately.
He’s packed and on the road in less than an hour. The closer he gets to Scranton, the lighter he feels. With each exit sign he passes, another residual tug from the anchor that’s been weighing him down falls away.
The Welcome to Scranton sign greets him in the last light of the day and he feels the last of the weight slip from his shoulders. He takes a deep breath, his lungs filling more completely than they have in months.
He’s home, and not just in the physical sense. It’s the fact he knows that Pam is waiting and wanting to see him that’s adding to his sense that this is his place in the world. This is where he belongs.
Jan has arranged for the company to cover a hotel for the next week to give him time to find a place and get situated. Mark has given his old room away to a cousin, but excitedly tells Jim he will kick him out. As they catch up, Mark laments that it’s been a harsh reminder that sometimes it’s easier to appreciate family from a distance.
Jim chuckles at that. It’s another silver lining to this whole thing. He’s close enough to hang out with his sister again. He can go to his parents for their long-standing Sunday brunch tradition. So yeah, it’s good to be back. Although, all these bonuses to the move back pale in comparison to this budding thing that awaits him with Pam.
He’s in a fluster as he heads into work the next morning. He knows everything is okay. Yet, there’s a tiny fear that flits through his mind that Pam will be different back here surrounded by their colleagues. Less open, less eager. He hopes dearly that he’s wrong.
He steels himself, and desperately tries to tamp down on his expectations. He pushes the door open.
Pam glances up as he steps over the threshold. She grins widely at him. He hasn’t even had time to hang up his coat when she’s around the desk and throwing herself into his arms.
He feels her smile against his shoulders and knows what he has to do. “Hi, I’m Jim. I’m new here,” he teases, mirroring her hesitant greeting from Stamford.
“It’s really you,” she smiles, her tone lilting and playful. She gets the joke, because of course she does. She always does. God, he loves her.
Despite everything in the past few months, all the ways he’s tried to forget, to move forward, his love for her has only grown. He’s been fooling himself to think that moving on was something that had been happening for him. Any notion of forgetting her had been tossed from his mind at her appearance in Stamford. She fought for you. She wants you. His hopes flare at their easy interaction.
They’re still in the doorway. She pulls back ever so slightly and glances around the office. Dwight is glaring at them. It’s all for show, they all know he’s delighted that Jim’s back. Other than that, no one is paying them much attention.
Michael is in his office and the wall is doing a wonderful job of obstructing Jim from his view. One more step and they’re in his line of vision.
Pam seems to notice that Jim is yet to garner the attention that his return merits too, and she presses her small hands into his chest and prods him to back up.
They’re out of the office and into the hallway in a couple of shuffled steps. Her hands are still bunched at his chest. He glances down at them and warmth pools low in his stomach. She follows his gaze and blushes, letting her hands drop to her side.
He doesn’t say a word, just watches and waits on her. Something that looks a whole lot like courage flashes across her face. She slips one of her hands into his and tugs him into the stairwell.
It’s silent. All he can hear is the erratic thumping of his heart. Her blush deepens. Her gaze has been determinedly locked on his chest, but she lifts it now and tilts her head towards him.
He has a moment of clarity, that this is it. His future starts now, but then his mind is too overwhelmed to process any sort of coherent thought. Pam presses her lips to his and all he sees is stars. There’s none of the hesitation and pain burning below the surface. He responds enthusiastically, opened mouthed and a little desperate. She deepens the kiss instantly. She tastes like day old jellybeans, peppermint tea and second chances.
He didn’t know you could feel the beginning of the rest of your life in the press of someone’s lips to yours, but here he is. He’s ready for his life to change. He’s free of all that anchors him to the ocean floor.
The last time her lips had been on his, he could feel his life ending. He could feel her slipping away. This time, his head spins with the possibilities and his heart pounds with the promises of things to come.
She starts to pull away, but he wraps his arms around her and tugs her in for another brush of his lips over hers. “Are you,” he breathes into her skin, “free for dinner tonight?”
“Yes,” she gasps and the heat from the tiny puff of air as she answers him brands his very being with joy. This is what it is to be truly happy.
“It’s a date,” he states, his tone rich with emotion.
He feels her lips curl as she smiles into the kiss. He leans back to gaze at her, he wants her to see the pure wonder that he feels radiating from him. He finds her eyes sparkling with watery tears. She’s as overcome with emotion as he is.
They stare at each other for a long moment. His hands rise to cup her cheeks. All that’s left is the calm. They’ve weathered the storm, they’re no longer at sea. All is well.