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Author's Chapter Notes:

Originally posted on 8 Jan 2021

I’m a goddamn idiot.

I should have been smarter about this.  Nothing about this was smart.  I made all the wrong choices, said all the wrong things, kissed her at the worst possible time.  I cried on the way home while ‘Mr. Brightside’ by The Killers played on the radio.  Thank you, Brandon Flowers, for translating all of my pain into a song.  Exactly what I needed.

I walked in, thankful that Mark was in bed, and cried myself to sleep that night; I’d be doing that a lot the following days.  I didn’t bother calling any of my family, because I know exactly what they’d say.  My parents would tell me that everything’s okay when it wasn’t.  My brothers would insult me as always.  Larisa would call me an idiot for doing it all wrong.  I didn’t need to hear any of that shit.

As I laid in bed, in tears, I think back to the past six years working with Dunder Mifflin.  Why did I ever accept this job?  Apparently, all a marketing degree can get you is some sales rep position at a mid-range paper company.  I figured ‘Hey, it’s sales, I’m good at that, so I’ll work my way up, won’t be here long.’  I worked in the annex and got close to Toby, since he seemed to be the only guy in this building who seemed normal, unlike pretty much everyone else.  Never really interacted with anyone aside from the receptionist.  Every time she saw me walk over, her face lit up as we shared these short back and forths.  She’s beautiful, charming, and sharp-witted.  We weren’t even friends yet and I was already drawn to her.

Ed Truck wasn’t the friendliest guy, but he was good to me and at least was a boss.  Then that one salesman with bad hair and a fanny pack got promoted a year later.  Just… how does one man lack all sense of self-awareness, social cues, and cognitive thinking at the same time?  I can tell he’s a good guy at heart but the man’s an overgrown child, like Tom and Pete with their filters off.  A year into his promotion, Michael’s unwarranted and frankly frightening hatred of Toby resulted in me being moved to the bullpen at his old desk because I’m “too cool” for Toby, apparently.

As I was getting my stuff together, the receptionist signaled me to her as she whispered to me, “Yeah, enjoy this moment, because you’re never going to go back to this time before you met your deskmate, Dwight.”  That was the day I truly fell in love with Pam Beesly.

And, oh dear God, was she ever right.  I’ve never met a more infuriating person in my entire life.  Michael is the devil I know, but Dwight is the enigma I can never understand.  What a goddamn narcissistic brown-nosing sociopath.  Every time I regret pranking him, I remember the fact that he stole a whole 25% of my commission.  Fucking asshole.

And it’s not like I really got to know my other coworkers.  Kevin, who got hired shortly after I changed desks, is slow but a decent guy; the two of us became drinking buddies but that’s about it.  Phyllis is sweet, gave me some of her homemade brownies from time to time.  But I had nothing in common with Devon, Angela is off-putting, Oscar keeps to himself a lot of the time, Meredith hit on me once a week, Stanley somehow has less motivation than I do, Kelly will talk both your ears off, everyone in the warehouse thinks we’re a joke (because we are), and I’m pretty sure Creed is a drug lord.  I thought I could spark a friendship with Ryan since he’s both around my age and in the same boat I am.  But… I dunno, he’s always seemed kinda cocky and self-absorbed.  Hell, we’re probably too similar if anything.

As for Pam, we were the best of friends; she was the only one who I could call a friend in the office.  We have similar interests.  We have the same sense of humor.  We both know how insufferable Dwight is.  Shortly after I changed desks, the two of us went to lunch during our break.  When I told her that every conversation I had with her brightened my day, she told me I’d brighten her day, as well.  I was gonna officially ask her out… and then she reveals that she just got engaged to Roy, one of the warehouse guys.  And, yeah, that sucked, but hey, if she’s happy with him, great.  The first few times we interacted, he seemed cool; we shot the shit about sports from time to time.  And then I saw the way he treats Pam… good God.  She seems to be more and more upset every time she’s around him, like she has to put up an act.  And it’s not that I didn’t want to be happy for Pam, I honestly did.  All I want is for her to be happy, and something tells me she just… isn’t.  Every time I see her around Roy, I just think “why is she staying with him?”

When Katy stopped by the office, I have to admit, I was smitten.  She’s a sweet girl.  Beautiful and charming like Pam, but a bit of a ditz.  Still, she carries herself well and things were great at first.  The problem was we had absolutely nothing in common.  Whenever she wanted to do something like go to the mall or go see a chick flick or something, I eventually just went along with it because it was better than arguing about it like we did early on.  She always won, of course.  I was a grade-A jackass for breaking up with her like I did, I just didn’t want either of us lying to each other anymore.

And then Casino Night happened.  Mark was the only other person that knew what I was about to do.  Like a good friend and someone with a brain, he tried to talk me out of it, as would anyone else.  But I just wanted, needed to be honest with her.  I awaited rejection, but a sliver of hope convinced me that things would work out, that I wouldn’t have to endure the woman I love marrying someone who doesn’t treat her the way she deserves.  She said no, by the way.

Like an idiot, I had to press on.  When I entered the office and heard her talking to her mom, she sounded so unsure of what to do, so I figured the kiss was my last chance to show her how badly I want us to be more than that… and she said no.  Again.  I don’t blame her, I’d reject me.

I think what hurts the most is… I can’t help believing she wanted us to be more than that, too.

But why her?  What is it about her that captivated me so much?  Why couldn’t I just stay friends with her?  What is it about her that drove me to do something this drastic?  To the point where I have to move out of state just to get over her rejection?  I don’t get it, I don’t fucking get it.

As the crying stopped and sleep overcame me, I realized something.  Dealing with an insecure boss, making fun of a pompous ass, falling in love with a girl who doesn’t want me… is this really what I want my life to be like?  Because that’s a pretty fucking pathetic life.  My time in Dunder Mifflin Scranton, all of it, just made me realize that I have no future there; the worst part is, in a strange way, I was kinda hoping I did.  At least for a while.

Michael, despite him being Michael, recently shared the best advice anyone has ever given me: “Never, ever, ever give up.”  He wasn’t just talking about Pam, either.  And here I am, giving up.  All because of Pam.

Whatever.  In a few years, none of it would even matter anyway.

I took the next day off to move out quietly since Mark knew about me leaving beforehand, since I sorted out everything for the transfer in advance.  I found a new apartment, fully furnished, all set to go.  I decided it was best to just reinvent myself.  I got a better position so, hell, why not act like it?  Take this job more seriously, free of distraction.  I made sure that I was sharper-looking, my clothes fitting better.  I left my suit jacket on while on the clock.  I changed my diet, wanted to eat healthier (well, eat less).  Y’know, the standard “Today’s a Brand New Day!” checklist.

My first day, I decided to sit near a window so I could get some sun, enjoy the scenery.  Soon after, I got to know my new boss, Josh Porter; he was very welcoming and thankful he had a “salesperson of my caliber” under his employ.  And, unlike Michael, he seems to have a clue.  But I don’t feel I belong here yet; none of my coworkers are all that friendly, they just kept to themselves.  At least Scranton was an outgoing mental institution.  I feel like an outsider, even still.  The only one that made me feel welcome besides Josh was Karen Filippelli, who sits behind me.  From what little I’ve talked to her she seems great.  She has this air of confidence about her: savvy, driven, and ambitious.  Different from…  And she also has a great sense of humor, similar to mine.  She’s probably the least “normal” out of all the normal people here.  There aren’t a lot of people here who I feel I can talk to or interact with.

…Meanwhile, there’s Andy Bernard, the only one I don’t want to talk to or interact with in any capacity.

How to best describe him?  He’s like Dwight but… a variant, for lack of a better term.  He’s obsessive, aggressive, annoying, and a total kiss-ass, just in different ways.  For starters, he cannot for the life of him shut up about his college days.  If I took a shot every time he said “Cornell” or “Big Red,” I would die of alcohol poisoning by the end of the day.  He also sings.  A lot.  Loudly.  Oh, and he has a penchant for nicknames.  On my first day, as I was sitting there eating my tuna sandwich that tasted like cardboard (not because of the tuna), he decided to call me “Big Tuna” from then on out.  Not the worst nickname I’ve ever had.  Still not a fan.

And he sits right in front of me so he can constantly chat with me.  Fantastic.

It’s now the Friday of my first week.  I arrive and set my stuff down when I see I got a new message on my work phone.

[“Hey Jim… i-it’s Pam.]
My whole body tenses as I hear her voice.

[“I know I’m the last person you wanna speak to right now, but I need to tell you something.]
I hear her take a deep breath as mine’s taken away.

[“After the kiss, I broke it off with Roy.  Told him everything that happened between us that night.  The wedding’s off.  My family helped me move to a new place.  There were a lot of reasons to break it off but…”]  I hear it in her voice, she’s getting upset.  [“none of them mattered until I met you.]
I run my hands through my hair.  Why did I ask for this promotion in the first place?  Why didn’t I stay?  Why am I such a coward?

[“I’m sure you’ve probably moved on at Stamford since you got promoted, and I’m so proud of you, but I just…”]  She’s about to cry.  [“I need you to know.]
My heart is physically disintegrating at this point.

[“I’m so sorry,”] she apologizes through her tears, [“I needed to be honest with you, and I wasn’t.  I should have never let you walk away.]
God, Pam, please stop beating yourself up!

[“You didn’t misinterpret anything.  I… I’m in love with you, too.]
…I really am a goddamn idiot.

[“That’s it.  That’s all.  I want nothing but the bes—”] the message ends abruptly, the timer cutting off.

I set the phone down, leaning back into my chair, hand over my mouth, taking everything in, trying not to cry.  Then the running thoughts start flooding in: is she being honest?  If so, why did she lie to me?  Why did she reject me?  Twice?  Is Roy… no, he’s an asshole, but he’d never lay a hand on her.  But why stay with him?  He hurt her… but I hurt her too.  Arguably worse.  Why is she the one apologizing?  I’m the pussy that ran away from his problems, if anything it should be the other way around.  If I stayed… if I stayed… this could all have been avoided.

I’m the fucking worst.

I was hoping not to have an emotional breakdown in the middle of the office, and my coworkers still take notice.  “Hey Halpert,” Karen asks, concerned, “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, Big T, what’s got you down in the dumps?” Andy asks alongside her in his usual ‘Nard Dog’ delivery.

I try to find the words, “Yeah, I’m fine, I just… I need some air.”  I practically jump out of my seat, hurry out of the office, find a nearby bench in the hallway of the building, and breathe through my intense emotions.  The moment I sit down I fumble trying to grab my cell, hurriedly finding her number.  It rings for the longest time until, thank God, she answers it.

[“Hi.”]  I can tell she’s in the stairwell.

“Hey.  How are things over there?”

[“Eh, same old,”] she replies as nonchalantly as possible, [“Hey, how’s Stamford?”]

“New look, same flavor,” I respond, “Found a window seat.  Hell of a view.”


“Yeah.”  I keep dancing around the subject, it’s what I’m best at.  That’s not an option anymore.  I sober as I tell her the truth, “I’m still in love with you, Pam.  I never stopped.  For a whole week now I’ve tried, but… guess you’re just that unforgettable.”  The weight of my words hits me as I quietly mumble my apology through my tears, “I’m sorry, Pam, I’m so sorry.”

Fuck, now she’s crying, too.  [“I’m so sorry, Jim.  I hope you can forgive me.”]  God, I wish I was there so I could get rid of her tears.

“Of course I do,” I respond in earnest, “I’m the one who fucked up.”

[“Jim, don’t do that,”] she presses, [“We’ve both made mistakes.  Besides, I’ve already forgiven you.]

“Thank you,” I say through an all-too-noticeable voice crack.  I swallow, trying to breathe.  I need to think of something.  This isn’t the end of us.  It can’t be.

I can’t give up now.

“Um… do you want to get together and talk?  ’Cause I… I wanna give this… us a chance.”  I attempt damage control just in case.  “I-I mean if that’s what you—”

[“I want nothing more,”] she interrupts me.  That sliver of hope from last week is coming back.  [“I can leave after work, head to your new place.”]

“Oh, I was gonna drive there—”

[“I don’t mind.  Besides, I wanna see your new crib.”]

I sport an honest, genuine smile for the first time in a week, “Yeah, it’s not really anything that’ll show up on MTV.”

She smiles too, I can tell in her voice, [“I still want a tour.  VIP.”]

“So demanding, Beesly.”  She giggles in that way I already miss.

We both sigh heavily, getting our emotions in check.  [“I’ll see you tonight.”]

“Sounds good.”

[“Bye, Jim.”]

“Bye, Pam.”

The conversation ends.  There is no way I can focus on getting anything done now.  I talk to Josh, claiming that my grandmother passed and I need some time, which he allowed, apologizing for my loss.  I thank Karen and Andy for their sympathetic words, and I’m off, awaiting what the hell’s gonna happen next.

Here’s to you, Michael, I’m finally taking your advice.

3.02 “The Convention”

Michael walks into the office happily, greeting Pam with an odd question, “Pam?”


“Did you see Oprah yesterday?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I, uh… I am going to be a father.”

Um…  “What was Oprah about?”

“Angelina Jolie was on,” he continued, “And she adopted a baby from Asia, and she said that it changed her life.  And that… really inspired me.  So, I want you to look into seeing how much a little Chinese baby would cost.”

Oh, dear God.  “That’s a really big decision.”

“I know,” he responds awkwardly.

“Maybe you should wait before you adopt.”

“Just do it, okay?” he says through his nervous chuckle as he begins to walk to his office.

She needs to find a solution to this.  “Roy’s sister looked into it,” she stops him, “and the application alone costs a thousand dollars.”

He’s surprised by the price; Pam cringes in confirmation.  “Um… find out if there’s a cheaper… less expensive baby out there, okay?” he asks.

“You know, she also said the waiting list is like eight months.”

“Eight months?”


“I don’t even know if I’ll want a baby in eight months.”

She knows him too well, “You probably won’t.”

They both sigh in annoyance (his genuine, hers not) as Michael gets an idea, “You know what, Pam?  If in ten years… I haven’t had a baby, and you haven’t had a baby…”

Ew!  “No, Michael.”

“Twenty years.”

Ugh, Stop!  “No.  Michael.”


Just humor him.  “…Sure.”

“It’s a deal.”  They awkwardly shake hands and he walks off.  She sighs, knowing that she’ll call Jim later.  They usually don’t chat on Wednesdays, but after that exchange she needs emotional support.

The next day, Michael prepares for his trip to a certain convention held in Philadelphia, PA.  Ryan, Michael’s personal assistant employee, lists off everything Michael needs for the trip, making sure he has everything before he has the chance to complain.

“Alright, three pairs of pants,” Ryan lists off.
“Three pairs of socks.”
“Three packs of condoms.”
Y e s h.”

Angela enters, curtly telling Michael to sign something.  He sing-songs the phrase “Per Diem” as he signs off on it, the per diem itself a whole hundred dollar bill.  (Creed peers inside, taking notice.)

Soon after, Michael brags to the doc crew about his trip.  “Guess where I am going,” he begins, “I will give you a hint: It is a booze-fueled sex romp, where anything goes.  You are correct, sir!  I am headed to Philadelphia for the Annual Northeastern Mid-Market Office Supply Convention,” he says in amazement, “And Jim Halpert is going to be coming, which will be fun.”  He seems disheartened as he says that.  “Poor… little guy,” he’s hiding his annoyance, “He’s been stuck working under Josh, the poor man’s Michael Scott… as he is known around my condo.”

Back to the moment, he shows off the hundred dollar bill to Ryan, “You know, Ryan, it’s all about the Benjamins.”

Ryan doesn’t respond, “Uh, fun jeans.”

“Right there,” he points to the door.

Ryan just rolls his eyes.  “Fourth quarter projections for Jan?”



“Oh, yeah, have Pam give those to me.”

“Will do.”

Michael still wants him there, “Sure you don’t want to come?”


“Gonna be fun!  Change your mind we can get you a cot.”

Ryan shakes his head, attempting to accept that this is his life now.

Meanwhile, an even more annoyed Angela and a frustrated Dwight (aka the ‘Office Love Affair’) discuss the convention, their secret relationship as strong as ever.  “Don’t be mad,” Dwight reassures by the fridge, “it is a business trip.”

“But I don’t understand,” she argues by the water cooler, “It’s for managers.”

“Monkey, I am an A.R.M.  Assistant Regional Manager.”

“I know!  It— I was just really hoping we could spend some time together.”  Dwight, upset, was hoping for the same thing.  “Are you still there?”

“Yes, Monkey.”

“Don’t ‘Monkey’ me!” she snides, “You can’t wait to get out of here.  A.R.M.”  She storms off.

She tells the crew why her fears are not unfounded, “In the Martin family, we like to say, ‘Looks like someone took the slow train from Philly.’  That's code for ‘check out the slut.’”  She then gets frustratingly distracted by flies buzzing around.  She gets annoyed easily.

An exuberant Kelly walks up to Pam’s desk, hyped.  “Oh my God!  Are you so excited for tonight?  I am so excited, you guys are going to click, I can feel it.  So what are you wearing?”

“This,” Pam said casually, presenting her work outfit.

Kelly tries to form a compliment.  “You look so pretty.”

Pam could tell it was a backhanded one.  “Thank you.”

“Yes, Kelly set me up with someone,” she later confirms to the crew, “He’s a cartoonist for the local paper, which is really neat because I like to draw too.”  She looks apprehensive discussing it.  “I’m kind of nervous.  I haven’t been on a first date in, like… four months,” she clicks her tongue and nods, “It’s hard putting yourself out there.”

“Well, remember, no matter how much you may want to, do not sleep with him on the first date,” Kelly advises, “It gives him all the power.”  No worries there.

Michael hears about the date, suggesting that she should wear her wedding dress for a laugh.  It’d be a great icebreaker.  Yeah, stellar idea.  Dwight, his usual brown-nosing self, adds to the suggestion that she should use her veil as well.

“I’ll probably just wear this,” she says politely, hiding her annoyance.

“Really?” Michael asks, puzzled, “Okay, well, word of advice: unbutton that top button.  Let those things breathe.”  Oh, screw off, Michael.  “Any message you want me to relate to Jim?”

“Um…” she answers awkwardly, subtly shaking her head no.  Michael can’t find out, at least not yet, if at all.  Not even the doc crew should know yet.  They know this office, they know the crew wants a story, they know the company might not approve, and by God, they need their peace.

“Um.  Okay, um,” Michael says, feeling just as awkward.

“Um,” Dwight parrots.
“You got that?”
“I got it.”
“Write it down.”
“I got it.”
Um…” Michael begins to sing.  Dwight joins in.  “Um-um-um, um-um-um-um…

Pam just sits there, wondering what just happened… desperately wanting to go with them just so she can see him again.

Meanwhile, Creed asks Angela about the ‘shekels’ handed out earlier; Angela confirms it was just the per diem for the trip.  While Meredith says the town smells like cheesesteaks, Angela states that the town is full of history, clearly annoyed that she’s not with Dwight.

“Andrea’s the, uh, office bitch,” Creed tells Meredith as he starts to eat ‘Andrea’s’ cereal, “You’ll get used to her.  Creed,” he sticks out his hand to introduce himself to the woman he’s sat across from for years.

Michael and Dwight’s train ride is uneventful.

Dwight asks for his neck pillow back.  Michael has headphones in, can’t hear him.  Dwight just gives up.  Good times.

After a while, they finally reach the convention center.  Michael reunites with Josh… and Jim.

“There he is!” Michael points at Jim, “There’s the traitor!  Traitor!  Traitor!  Come here, you, come here!  Yeah!” the two embrace, “The product-the proginal… my son returns.”  Michael forces a strained smile, still upset about the whole thing.

“I was shocked when he told me he was transferring to Stamford,” Michael admits to the camera, “It’s like the firemen.  You don’t leave your brothers behind, even if you find out that there is… a better fire in Connecticut.”  That’s how fires work.

“It’s really good to see you, man,” Jim says, wearing a disingenuous smile of his own, just more natural-looking.  Michael’s the one person he wanted to avoid.  Even more than Dwight.

Michael still tries to hold back his feelings, “Yeah!  Wow, I didn’t expect that.  It’s good to see you too!”  He nods his head in respect.

“Oh, hey,” Dwight addresses Jim, mocking him, “how’s it going up there?  Have you made any sales yet?”

“Yeah, sold about forty thousand.”

“Hey!” Michael compli—
“Shut up.  That’s impossible,” Dwight argues.

“No, it’s not,” Jim retorts, “I did.  Yep.”

“Well, I did it too.”  Good for you, Dwight.

“You know, when I saw Dwight, I realized how stupid and petty all those pranks I pulled on him were,” Jim reflects at the camera, “…And then he spoke.”  He considers what to do next.  “I wonder how hard it would be to get a copy of his room key.”

Old habits die hard.

Kevin shares some exciting news with Toby, “So did you hear?”


“Pam’s back on the market again.”

“Really, she’s dating?” Toby asks quietly.

“If I weren’t engaged I would so hit that.”  We know, Kev.

The unlucky, downtrodden HR rep feels his luck might finally turn around.

As Dwight attempts to make fun of Jim some more (“Ah Dwight, I missed you so much.”), Josh compliments Michael on his salesmanship, and if Stamford ever absorbs Scranton, he’ll always have a place there.  Michael shakes his head at the thought.

It’s not as crazy as you’d think.

Enter Jan, gathering her things.  “We all checked in?”

“Yes,” Josh answers.

“Great, let’s dump our stuff and meet back here in half an hour.”



And here comes Michael.  “Jan—” he clears his throat, “Look, I think we need to set some ground rules.”

She’s puzzled, “…What are you talking about?”

“The eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room.  Carol.  I’m still dating her, so nothing… can happen between us at the convention.”  As this is happening, Dwight tries to find their room, squinting at the plaque.

She’s not doing this today.  “Step away from me, Michael.”

“Thank you… for being so brave with all of this.  Thank you.”

She attempts to comprehend what just happened, asking God “Why me?” in her head.

Pam reads the paper, looking at one of Alan’s comics from today’s paper.

“Alan’s cartoon is so funny, right?”

“Mm-hmm,” she agrees.  It’s cute.

“And they’re, like, so smart.  I don’t even know what they mean half the time.”

Pam just nods politely.  You sweet summer child.

A few minutes later, she’s at the stairwell, talking to Jim on the phone.  [“I’m surprised you couldn’t get out of it,”] he says.

“Well, it’s nice that Kelly’s just trying to help, but she doesn’t take no for an answer.”

[“Did you play the sick card?”]

“Yup, three different ones.  Wouldn’t bite,” she sighs, “I’m not even bothering to change.”

[“I’m sure he’ll love you just the way you are.”]

“You joke, but I know you care.”  She says it lovingly, knowing she’s at least a little right.

[“No, I don’t.”]

“You do!”

[“I don’t!”]

The lighthearted exchange ends with “You care a little.”

He can’t lie to her.  He clicks his tongue, [“Yeah.”]

“It’s okay to be a bit jealous, Jim,” she comforts, “as long as you trust me.”

[“Of course, I do.”]

“I know you do.  Although I wish someone else was there with me instead of Alan.”


“Yeah, I’m kinda in love with him.”

[“God, that never gets old.”]

She giggles, “All right, break’s almost over, you boys have fun.”

[“Will do.  Have fun with your new boyfriend.”]

“Duh, okay, I will,” she mocks lightheartedly, “I love you.”

[“I love you, too.”]


She walks back upstairs… but stops when she notices the camera.  She’s a deer caught in headlights.

They know.

After the guys from Scranton call the others in record time, a camera in Philly addresses Jim in his hotel room.

“Me and Pam?  No, no,” Jim lies to the camera, “I mean, we’re friends.  Always have been friends.  Always will be.”  He suddenly gets a text, “Oh, hold on,” he reads it quickly.  His eyes widen.  His mouth is slightly agape.  He looks back at the camera.

They know.

He purses his lips as he puts his phone away.  “Yup,” he confirms through a whisper.  He tiptoes up and down, giddy just thinking about her, as he continues, “Four months strong.  We haven’t told anybody, we don’t want to tell anybody right now, but um… it’s going really great.”

“It’s going really great,” Pam parrots quietly to the Scranton crew, just as giddy.

Dwight and Michael set up their party in his hotel room, including a dartboard, a lot of liquor, and… that’s about it.  That’s why Michael chose to get a room closest to the elevator: more foot traffic.

The Stamford duo enters, feigning compliments to the Scranton duo about their epic party.

“Well, that’s how we do it in Scranton.  Or did you forget?” Michael tells Jim, half accusingly, then begins to party, “There ain’t no party like a Scranton party, ’cause a Scranton party don’t stop!”

“Huh-huh-huh!” Dwight joins in as they beatbox.

Yup, it’s a party, alright.

The other two just watch the display in front of them.  While Josh is weirded out, Jim looks… almost happy; the display is oddly nostalgic.

“We should probably head on down and hook up with Jan,” Josh interrupts.

“Hey, well, we have time!” Michael offers, “One for the road, gentlemen?”

“A shot of Midori, perhaps,” Josh jokes.  He and Jim, the “Stamfordites” laugh, while “Scrantonites” Michael and Dwight try to laugh with them but remain confused.

“Oh, no, sorry, it’s an inside joke, there’s this bartender at Stamford who, uh… you know what?  You’d just have to be there,” he tells them, still wearing a certain smile.  A smile that doesn’t feel real.  Not the smile he has when talking to or about Pam or teasing Dwight.  A smile that’s used to cope with awkward situations.  The same smile he gave to Michael earlier.

A “Stamford Smile,” if you will.

“Wish I was,” Michael (un)subtly laments, “I love inside jokes.  Love to be a part of one someday.”

As Jim’s Stamford Smile begins to sink, the Stamfordites get out of there as quickly as possible; Michael tells them they’re welcome if they change their minds.

The Stamfordites don’t come back.

Dwight tries to make Michael feel better, “I’ll do a shot, Michael.”

“Ech, that would be gross.  It’s not even lunch yet.”

At the convention itself, the Scrantonites are awkwardly standing there, happy to be included.

“SWAG!” Michael announces to the camera, “Stuff We All Get.  I basically decorated my condo for free with all of my SWAG!”  Said ‘SWAG!’ includes a neat yellow Polo shirt from Microsoft Office.

The Scrantonites have the opportunity to meet famed Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis.  No, really.  Michael invites Jerome to his shindig, and he answers with a “maybe”…most likely meaning no.  Michael then invites someone in a Blackberry phone suit.  The phone-suit just stands there.

Josh gets an email saying Jan wants the four branch reps to meet in her room.  Michael gets the email on his phone too, even though his phone doesn’t have email.  He’s annoyed with Josh, Jim’s new BFF, so he asks Dwight to dig up dirt on him, find the skeletons in his attic; he’ll call one of his buddies at the station.

Toby tries to talk to Pam a couple of times.  He doesn’t, of course, mostly due to his lack of spine.

Though Dwight fails to get some dirt on Josh in person, his friend at the station discovered some truly damning intel: he’s not volunteering today.  Again, damning intel.

“Business has been pretty crazy around the office,” Michael informs Jim as they’re getting food.

“Oh yeah?” he responds with a light Stamford Smile.

“Yeah.  Moved Ryan over to your desk.”  Of course.

“Oh, tell him I say hi.”  Or not.

“I will call him later with that message.”

“Hey, how’s um…” he tries to think of someone besides the obvious, “Toby?”

“Toby Flenderson is everything that is wrong with the paper industry.”  Clearly.  “Is he why you left?”

Jim’s stunned when he realizes he’s cornered; the question is so pointedly asked that he now has no choice but to explain.  “Oh, no, it was… you know, a good opportunity for me, a promotion.  I got a chance to—”

“Opportunity, promotion, blah, blah,” Michael interrupts, letting it all out, “You know, Jim, those are just words.”  I wish those were ‘just words’ for me, Michael, but they really aren’t.  “Have you taken into account other factors, vis-a-vis bosses?  Is Josh funnier than I am?  Does he even have a girlfriend?  Because I have two, basically.”  If that’s what you call that dynamic.

Jim wants to tell Michael.  He’d understand, he’d understand better than anyone.  But he can’t know.  Not even because of the relationship (of which Michael would be overbearingly supportive).  Because it’s still a wound.  It’s long since healed, patched up, cured by long talks and long weekend visits and hugs and kisses.  But a wound like that can be reopened.  Not for long, of course, he’s still as happy as ever and she’s here, even when she isn’t.  It’s just he doesn’t want to deal, especially not with Michael, the only one here trying to get an answer out of him.  So he has to cover it, hide it.  As best he can.  With a Stamford Smile.

“Michael, it’s really not a competition.”  It’s the best he’s got, hoping it’s a satisfactory response.  It’s not.

While the Stamfordites, the Scrantonites, and Jan all have lunch, Josh brags to Jan about Jim and the leads he’s obtained.  After giving the busboy a healthy tip (aka the per diem), Michael invites her to his party as well.

Her response is curt and to the point.  “Michael, um… Jim and Josh are in meetings all day.  And I am in and out of meetings.  I can’t stay on top of you 24/7.”

Michael expresses a ‘That’s what she said’ to the camera, using only his facial expressions.  He can’t help but snicker.

“Yes, I’m aware of Jan and Michael’s… history,” Josh informs the camera, “Um, I don’t really like to talk about it ’cause it’s unprofessional.  Kind of gross.”  Yes, their history is very unprofessional, Josh… like asking Jan out.  In the hotel lobby.  Not six hours later.  You wouldn’t be that unprofessional, right?

Phyllis advises Pam for her date that she has to order the most expensive thing on the menu.  Pam smiles, happy that Phyllis is being so supportive.

Stanley mentions that if Pam does that, she has to put out.  She shakes her head at that.

Phyllis agrees with Stanley.

‘Jane Doe’, a petite blonde woman sporting a purple work shirt, black shirt, large sunglasses, and a large coat, checks into the same convention center.  She’s going to have a little chat with one of the convention attendees.  It looks like she took the slow train to Philly.

Michael walks to the front desk right after her, asking if there were any messages for Room 308.  None.

Back at the convention, the Stamfordites need to leave for their meeting with Uni-ball, but not before Michael tries to engage in some “friendly” paper airplane competition before they leave.  Josh agrees to the challenge, as does Jim, with a Stamford Laugh this time.  It’s interrupted when Michael gets a call from someone.

“Hey, Pam, what’s up?  Ye— ech, no.  Tell him I will give him general specifics tomorrow, okay? … Yes.  Say hi to Pam!”  The other three greet her, Jim wearing a real smile this time, the cameras catching it.  “Yes.  That is Josh and Dwight and Jim.  Pam says hi.  Have fun on your date!”  Jim sighs.  Get over yourself, Halpert.  It’s not even a real date.  She’s gonna tell you how bad it was anyway.  “Very good, talk to you later.  Bye.”

Pam sighs as she hangs up, looking longingly at Ryan’s desk yet again.  It’s just a night out, Beesly, and he trusts you.  It’s not even a real date.  We’re gonna laugh about it later tonight.

While Josh misses the mark with his paper airplane, Michael misses it worse; though he tries to get them to do it again (to prove something), the Stamfordites have to go.  He’s disheartened, but Evan tells about some new and exciting advances to Hammermill Paper’s product line!

“Jim and I have different definitions of friendship,” Michael laments to the crew in his hotel room, “I think it’s talking and being friends, and Jim thinks it’s moving to Connecticut and being best friends with Josh.  Well… phooey on that.  I, um… I’m done.  I am not going to be speaking with him anymore.  Whatevs.  Long-distance relationships never work.”

If only he knew.

“That is so true,” Evan agrees, who shows him everything Hammermill Paper has to offer.

Later, he meets with Jan, Dwight, and the Stamfordites and delivers them the good news: Michael Scott just got Hammermill Paper to switch from the conglomerate Staples to little ol’ Dunder Mifflin.  There’s an enthusiastic “Yes!” from Dwight who wants a high-five, but Michael leaves him hanging.

There aren’t many moments when Michael Scott’s true salesmanship skills shine through.  This, however, is one of his best moments.  Something Josh Porter could never dream of accomplishing.

“Well, Michael, I,” Jan’s so impressed, she can’t even find the words, “I underestimated you.”

“Yeah, well… maybe next time you will estimate me,” he spits at a confused Jan.  Dwight’s still left hanging.

Meanwhile, Jim manages to get access of a copy of Dwight’s room key to plan his next prank.  Old habits do die hard.  As he begins to sneak in, however, he doesn’t hear Dwight’s voice…


but a woman’s voice instead.

Jim, stunned beyond all comprehension, closes the door and strides down the hallway in shock, addressing the camera quietly, “Oh my God.  Dwight got a hooker.  Oh my God, I can’t wait to tell her about this,” he chuckles through his shock, “Dwight got a hooker!”

There’s that Non-Stamford smile.

“So, Alan,” Kelly breaks the ice, feeding an apathetic Ryan some fries, “Pam is obsessed with your cartoons.  She reads them every day.”

“Oh, great,” Alan responds, not even seeming to care.

“don’wanketchup,” Ryan mumbles, fries in his mouth.

“You love ketchup!” Kelly reminds him, “He loves ketchup.”

C’mon, Pam, don’t be so quick to judge.  Just talk to the guy.  “So how do you come up with your cartoons?” Pam asks Alan.

His impassioned, bored shrug says it all, “Well, I just, uh… I kinda think about stuff that I see, or dream them.”

Okay, I can work with this.  “You dream in cartoons?  How fun!”  No response.

Kelly’s bright grin does all the heavy lifting in carrying this dinner.

One of the convention-goers heads up to Room 308, confused because he thought there was a party going on.  Michael confirms this is the party, and the guy walks off.  As if Michael hasn’t felt defeated enough.

As Kelly clutches on to Ryan’s arm lovingly(?), Alan shows Pam his skills in his trade, “See, this one is great, because it can work on a couple of different levels.”  Drawn on a napkin, it depicts a French restaurant, where a waiter serves the couple french fries.

Wow, clever.  “Huh.”

“Freedom fries for the table,” he says in his best French accent, with a creepy-as-all-hell deep voice.

Yeah, I get it.  “Freedom fries.  Yeah.”

“Yeah.  I mean, people always say, like, ‘Don’t be edgy’,” he continues, “But I don’t know any other way.”  She just nods and laughs.  “Yeah, you get it.”  I shoulda bought a train ticket to Philly.

Michael waits for more party-goers.  None arrive.

As Kelly and Ryan exit the restaurant with Alan and Pam in tow, she tries to end this as nicely as possible, “Well, it was, uh, it was really nice meeting you, Alan.”

“Yeah, next time bring some of your illustrations, I’ll let you pick my brain.”  No thank you.

She laughs awkwardly, “More freedom fries.”

“That’s great.”
“Okay.”  And she walks off to outside the restroom doors to talk to the camera.

“Well, I will say, it um… it wasn’t the worst first date I’ve ever had.”

Jim walks to Room 308, following the techno music.  He enters, the music blasting, lights off, strobes light flashing… with Michael Scott perched on the business chair, sadly and disappointingly playing with a stapler.  A depressing dichotomy.

“Michael,” Jim gets his attention by shutting the music off and turning the lights on.  He tries to lighten the mood with one last Stamford Smile, “So am I the first to arrive?”

“People have been filtering in and out,” Michael responds bitterly, tossing the stapler to the side.

“…Can I get a drink?”


“Can I get a drink?”

“Sure.”  He slinks over to the table.  “You like Cosmos?”

“Sure, sounds good.”

“So why are you here?  Is Josh busy?”

Oh, no.  “Michael—”

“I get it!”
“If I did something to—”
“No, no, I totally get it.  He made a better paper airplane, Stamford is better in sales, it’s just… I get it.”  No, Michael, you don’t.  “We had some fun.  We had some laughs.  And that’s just…”
“Michael… I didn’t transfer because of you.  You’re a good boss.  You’re a great boss.”

Michael scoffs, not buying it, “Mm, I’m not better than Josh.”

“Michael, it’s not about…”  He doesn’t need to know about us… but he deserves to know why I left.  “I transferred because of Pam.”

Michael, taking notice of the ever-so-subtle voice crack, has a realization that hits him like a bus.  Like The Bus.  “…Oh, my God.”

Jim’s dealing with something that Michael’s dealt with for years: rejection and heartbreak.  And Jim only hid it from him because… he wanted to spare his feelings.  His friend, his real friend, was hurting right before his eyes and he didn’t even know.

And he’s crushed for him.

“You don’t even know,” he tells Jim, trying to make him feel better, “She’s single now.”

“No, I just— I heard something about that,” he lies, “It’s just,”  I’m so sorry, Beesly.  “I decided to move away because she said no.”  He’s put together, but he wants to cry.  “It was… brutal.”

And now the wound’s just been reopened, with no Stamford Smile to hide it anymore.

It shouldn’t sting this hard.  It really shouldn’t, logically speaking.  They’re together now, isn’t that enough?  She broke a nine–year engagement and drove to his apartment on a Friday night just so they can be together, even when they’re apart.  But he didn’t want to revisit it, especially not with Michael.  The one he knew would be hurt the worst with him leaving, second only to Pam.  The one who told him to never, ever, ever give up.

Because he gave up anyway.

“I’m sorry, man.  I’m sorry.  That—”  Michael sits by him while Jim drinks tiny sips of his Cosmos.  He briefly pats Jim’s shoulder, and they exchange small, sad smiles.  Michael can tell that this smile, no matter how small or sad it may be, is real.

Michael needs to be there for his friend.  He needs to dig him from the dark.  “Hey, you know what?” he offers to Jim, “I will talk to her.”

Oh… GOD, no.  “Nope, that’s okay.”
“That’s all right.”
“I will.  I’ll talk to her.”
I appreciate it, man, but please, don’t do… anything.

While Michael’s misguided support makes Jims feel better, he’s still not a hundred percent.  And Michael continues to make things worse.  “You should at least talk to Roy.  I mean, he knows exactly how you’re feeling.”

Jim playfully nods and purses his lips in consideration.  “Yeah… Okay, maybe.”  Not a chance in hell.

In comes Evan and another representative of Hammermill Paper.  Michael introduces Jim to Evan, who asks “Do you guys work together?”

“No, we used to,” Jim answers with a real smile, “Now we’re friends.”

“Best friends,” Michael states with confidence.  …Sure.

The Stamfordites didn’t come back… but Jim does.

“Some people need dozens of friends to say, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m popular’,” Michael reflects to the crew, “But not me.  I’m very picky, I need three, maybe two.

“When you meet that someone special, you’ll just know.  Because a real relationship,
Cut to earlier, when Michael annoys the person in the Blackberry suit, pretending to push the buttons.

“it… it can’t be forced.
Earlier still, when Scrantonites wave Jerome Bettis farewell, he looks at them oddly.

“It should just come about effortlelessly.”

Jim’s now alone in his hotel room, sitting criss cross on his bed in his PJs, talking to Pam over Skype; the crew managed a setup that can film from the outside window.



|“No, Way!”|

“Hand to God, Beesly.”

|“Wow… Dwight Schrute.”|


|“Who knew he had it in him?”|


|“How was Michael?”|

He pauses for half a second.  “Oh, y’know he was… Michael.”

|“He doesn’t know, does he?”|

“Oh, God no.”

|“Okay, good.”|  He smirks at that.

“Oh, he uh actually made a very impressive sale tonight.  Scranton got Hammermill Paper.”

|“Wow, nice!”|

“Yeah.  Yeah.”

|“Did you guys reconnect at all?”|

He can’t not be honest with her.  “Well, he was upset because he thought I” he scratches his head awkwardly before continuing, “…I left Scranton because of him.”

Pam can sense something’s up.  |“…What did you tell him?”|

He sighs deeply, “I told him why.”  He attempts to shrug it off, looking downtrodden.  “Didn’t go into specifics, but… yeah.”  A beat.  “I’m sorry, I-I just wanted him to—”

|“Don’t apologize, Jim.  You needed to give him an answer,”| she comforts, |“I’m glad he was there for you.”|

He nods.  “He really was.”

|“Hey, I didn’t tell you about my date,”| she mentions, lightening the mood.

“Oh, yeah, how did that go?”

|“Ugh, I mean, he was nice, but… kind of a wet blanket.”|


|“And I did try, y’know?”| she sighs, |“To be honest I don’t even have the energy to tell you about it tonight.”|

“Oh well.  I’m sure you’ll find love someday.”

|“Well, I mentioned that guy I fell in love with.”|

He’s curious where she’s going with this, “Oh yeah.  What’s he like?”

|“Well, he’s tall.”|


|“And handsome.  He has a great bod.”|  He snickers.  |“Shut up!”|

“I-I’m sorry, continue.”

|“His hairstyle is kinda like a… punk-rock guitarist style, y’know?”|

“…Interesting description.”

|“He has a great sense of humor.”|  He nods.  |“And he has just the right amount of chest hair.”|

He smirks and raises his eyebrow, “There’s a wrong amount?”

|“You know what I mean.”|

“No, no I don’t.”

|“Anyway,”| she concludes, |“My favorite thing about him is… he’s always there for me.”|  Jim’s heart skips a beat.  |“Like, even though he’s not here, he’s always there.  You get it, right?”|

His face slowly brightens up.  “I do, yeah.”

|“He’s willing to work out of state so that we…”| she’s controlling her emotions while trying to find the words, |“we can both pursue what we wanna do.  And pursue them together one day,”| she sniffles, |“And that just goes to show how much he loves me.”|

Jim just looks at her with loving, glassy eyes, “Um, actually I-I ran into him, earlier, at the convention.”


“Yeah, and um… he told me to tell you that he loves you.  So much.”  They start to giggle.

The wound’s patched up once again.

Dwight’s back in Michael’s hotel room, the blacklight set up.

“Now, would you do the pleasure of hitting the lights, sir?” he kindly asks Dwight as he turns on the blacklight.  He does so, the blacklight in full effect.  “Hahaha-ha” he enthusiastically fake laughs at how cool it looks.

Dwight, of course, joins in, “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-”

Whoa.”  Michael notices humongous white splotches on and around the bed.  “What’re all those stains?”

“Blood, urine, or semen.”

“Oh God, I hope it’s urine.”

Chapter End Notes:

The Monologue — Jim’s retrospective is the part I enjoyed writing the most.  I wanted to establish how poorly he handled a lot of things, and though they are both completely in his character and managed to work out in the end, it still establishes him as irresponsibly impulsive at the beginning of the show (The beginning of the show, Season 9); with that said, that doesn’t mean he can’t make things right for himself, because he has the motivation to do so.
Gave him quite the potty-mouth.  Then again, after everything, most would.
I brought up Katy because, honestly, she was treated worse than Karen.  At least Karen was shown to be far too determined to have Jim in her life and can be overly-controlling at times despite all of his errors, but Katy was nothing but herself and got dumped on a boat.  And they weren’t a fling, either, they were together for quite a while.  What the hell, Halpert?
The cellphone conversation may have been over-the-top; my attempt was to fit in a year’s worth of unexpressed emotions into a single phone call after a week.

The Episode — The fact that I could tie the episode and the monologue so well is nothing short of serendipitous.
This was a fun one to watch.  I feel for Michael here, having felt betrayed by someone he considers a friend.  His conversation with Jim was really sweet and uplifting, and I’m glad I could present it all here, just in a different (and even more uplifting) context.  Again, very plot summary, but with the conflict shifted and some added JAM spread.  (I hate that I typed that.)  Also, forgot how much of a suck-up Dwight was in the early seasons; goes to show how much he’s changed in Season 9.  Oh, and Josh.  Don’t like him.  Not a fan.  You can tell.
Y’know, considering Peacock is doing the whole “Including deleted scenes!” thing for their presentation of The Office, I decided to just forgo the run time thing and just add stuff.  I’ll treat it like the doc crew could in-universe: a full 26–8 minutes instead of 21, no ads.  Thanks, PBS.
I enjoyed writing the JAM cell phone/Skype calls here.  My goal with this, like Never Give Up, is to blend the episode and the AU material effectively, something I’m not confident in, but I feel I’m getting better at least.
Lastly, I can’t take all the credit for the “Stamford Smile” concept.  Some of it goes to Wondering Watchtower and their story Good Things Fall Apart.  Thanks for the inspiration!

The Timeline — The timeline of events in the show is very fuzzy, and since I can be OCD at times, I compromised.
Jim started DM either in 1998 or 2002 depending on who you ask (the latter seems to be the most in-canon year given the finale).  Let’s say he graduated high school at age 17.  Given his birth date, his graduation would be c. May 1996, meaning he’d have his bachelor’s (which is at least preferred for a sales rep) and starting in Dunder Mifflin soon after by mid-to-late 2000.  That can align with him working in the annex with Toby briefly and being moved out of the annex by Michael after his promotion.  That’ll put him being in the bullpen — and Pam’s engagement — squarely in early-to-mid 2002.

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