Disclaimer: I do not own The Office
A/N: The further I get in this story the more I realize that a lot of it doesn't work together. My writing style has changed a bit from the first chapter to this one so sometimes it may not feel like one coherent piece of writing. I'm tempted to go back and rework the first few chapters.
March 14, 2012 3:13 am
"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.
--John Cusack, Say Anything
He didn't really dream anymore. There just didn't seem to be any time anymore for something frivolous like dreaming.
Wonderful, wonderful sleep.
When he was younger he had hated going to sleep. Hated the idea of missing out on that much… life. Not that anything ever really happened in the middle of the night but what if…? What if something important did happen in those late hours? What if there was something more important to be done? To be thought? To be planned?
Many nights had been spent staring at the ceiling and thinking, thinking, thinking… until he finally, unwillingly drifted off to sleep.
Now though, sleep was like a precious commodity, something he could only really dream about – but again, if only there was time to dream.
A sharp cry from the other room broke the quiet that night, and Jim groaned inwardly, forcing one eye open.
The alarm clock glared back at him in angry, red numbers.
It was ungodly.
The crying continued and continued and he knew he should get up, knew he should try to move from the comfort and softness of his pillows and blankets but his head was pounding and his body ached and – wasn't it only a few minutes ago that he had finally fallen asleep? Wasn't it only a few minutes ago that he had fallen into bed and let the golden bliss of sleep over take his body?
His eyes squeezed shut again when he felt Pam stirring, felt her turn around, felt the look of death she was giving him. But he just continued breathing steadily – in and out – in and out – keeping his eyes firmly closed.
She finally sighed heavily, muttered something under her breath and slipped out of bed.
The door opened in the next room and he could hear her talking in soft whispers until the crying quieted.
Jim rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling.
Yes, he felt guilty and yes, he had always promised himself he wouldn't be that guy that pretended to be asleep while his wife stayed up all night with the baby. But dammit, he was tired. He was completely and utterly worn out and exhausted and he wasn't even sure he had the energy to even make it to the next room.
It wasn't a good excuse. Okay, it wasn't much of an excuse at all because he knew that she was tired too and he could see it under her eyes when he came home at night and she put the baby into his arms and wandered off to the bedroom so she could get an hour of sleep before dinner.
He could see it when she fell asleep at her drawing board (whenever she actually got a chance to draw), when she fell asleep at the breakfast table, when she fell asleep against his arm in the elevator on the way down to the lobby of their apartment building.
They were both completely tired and yes, he was a jackass for pretending to be asleep.
He threw his legs over the side of the bed and somehow managed to pull himself up and shuffle toward the door, yawning widely and scratching his head.
It had been just a little less than a year ago that they had been sitting and waiting, waiting, waiting to see if there was a pink line or a blue line on a little white stick.
He really hadn't known then what he was waiting for, what he was hoping for because after the first time…
And they don't really talk about the first time much. The first time when she had come bounding out of the bathroom and thrown herself at him and told him that he was going to be a daddy. The first time when he went out and bought a little yellow stuffed elephant that's still sitting on the top shelf of his closet. The first time when he got that phone call at work and -
No. They don't talk about that much. And it wasn't until the second time – until she sobbed in his arms on the bedroom floor that he had really realized how much she had lost. How much she had gone through and that maybe he couldn't completely understand.
She had been scared. Scared the first time they went to the doctor's office to confirm the pregnancy. Scared the second time and third… and the fear didn't really stop.
They waited to tell people until she was further along, after the first ultrasound, after the doctor said that magical little word: "healthy." At that point Pam was already starting to outgrow most of her clothes and she had never been so beautiful to him before.
At night she would stand in front of the dresser mirror and pull up her shirt and just look at her reflection and they would talk about things like baby names and nursery colors. Somewhere along the way it started to feel safe again. It started to feel real again.
Especially when morning sickness kicked in and she spent the better part of her day feel nauseous.
Especially after the first time she had really yelled at him for no apparent reason and had begun crying and laughing and hiccupping all at the same time and all he could do was stare at her in amazement.
Especially when those hormones translated to something else and she had touched his thigh in the car and whispered something in his ear so entirely – unmentionable – that he had almost run off the road into a tree.
Those were the moments that made it real.
When she was sixth months pregnant he got a new job – at a paper supply company in Stamford, Conneticut. He would be working for a direct competitor of Dunder-Mifflin and the irony of the situation sent them both into bouts of laughter when he told her about it over dinner.
The move took them out of the city, which they both wanted and Pam was able to quit her job and begin working out of the house, illustrating for a children's book series that had finally been bought by a publisher.
They were still in an apartment but he put flowers out on the small balcony and told her that one day it would be more.
She told him it was enough.
He stepped into the apartment and shut the door behind him with his foot as he flipped through the mail and shrugged out of his jacket.
"Hey, Pam? You here?"
"In the bedroom."
Jim dropped his keys on the hall table, kicked his shoes off in the living room and loosened his tie as he walked toward the back of the apartment.
"What'd you think about - ?" He stopped short and laughed, "What are you doing?"
Pam, clad only in a bra and underwear, was lying on the bedroom floor directly in front the air conditioner. Her hair, curlier with the pregnancy, was blowing wildly around her face and she looked up at him with a weary expression.
"It's fucking hot in here."
Jim leaned against the door frame and watched his wife in amusement.
"You know, that kind of language probably isn't good for the baby."
"What do you know?" She propped herself up on her elbows and wiped a piece of hair from her face, "Are you the pregnant one? Are you the one growing a human person inside your uterus? Are you the one with the back cramps and the swollen ankles? Hmmm? Cause when you are, then you can tell me to watch my fucking language all you want. Okay?" She dropped her head back to the ground and groaned.
"Okay, okay. You win. But, only until that day when I finally do get pregnant."
Pam scowled, "I hate you."
"Yes. I know." He slid down to the floor next to her and settled her feet in his lap. "Long day?"
"Mmmhmmm." She groaned again when he began working his fingers over her ankle and calf. "The garbage disposal started spewing some kind of weird black liquid this afternoon."
"Did you tell the landlord?"
A smile worked at her lips and she opened one eye to gaze at him sheepishly, "Yeah."
"You freaked him out again, didn't you?"
"Maybe a little. He doesn't seem to like me very much."
Jim laughed, "I'll go talk to him later."
His hands continued to move over her feet, pressing his fingers into all the tender spots. She watched his face until he looked down at her, met her gaze, smiled. Their eyes locked and they were silent for a moment until Pam bit her lip and moved her hand down to her swollen stomach.
"Hannah. I like the name Hannah."
Jim ran the name over in his mind and then nodded, "Hannah. I like it. Of course it's not -."
She slapped at his arm and rolled her eyes, "For the last time, we are not naming our daughter Dwight."
Maybe it would be enough for her to never quite reach that dream. But not for him – he still thought about that documentary footage that had been shot all those years ago. The way she had looked at the camera and talked like those dreams meant nothing, the way her face had crumbled, the way everything had come so close to never happening. And he was never going to just let her give up on all that.
Enough was not enough. Not for her. Not for them.
And that was what he wanted. That was what he wanted to do with his life.
When he was six, his teacher, Mrs. Gibson, has asked each student what they wanted to do when they grew up. Being that they were in second grade and had already figured out everything they wanted out of life each boy and girl had stood up in front of the class with an air of decisiveness and determination and answered. A teacher. A doctor. A lawyer. A policeman.
When it was Jim's turn he had stood in front of the classroom, his hands in his pockets, a wide smile on his face and said, "When I grow up, I want to be a northeastern Pennsylvania-based mid-sized paper company regional salesman."
Alright. Not really.
What six year old even considers a life in paper or computer software or any other meaningless product that needs to be processed, sold or bought?
He can't even really remember what he answered that day in front of the class. He wonders what those other kids are doing now. He wonders how many of them became teachers or doctors or lawyers or policemen. How many of them became receptionists or human resources personnel or northeastern Pennsylvania-based mid-sized paper company regional salesman. He wonders how many of them actually remember what they used to want out of life.
Not that there's anything wrong with forgetting. It's just something that happens. Something gradual over time that wears away at the most fundamental wishes of a child. He just forgot.
For so long he had been afraid that paper – selling paper would be his life. Selling something would be his life and he was determined to not let that happen. To try and grasp onto anything else that came his direction.
It had been a long time though since he had thought about that fleeting idea of becoming a teacher. And it had never really been a dream. Just something to strive for – something better to reach toward. He didn't really need it anymore.
Because his life wasn't paper and it wasn't selling something and it had absolutely nothing to do with his chosen career.
It was them.
He had woken up to the sound of a crashing noise. It was four o'clock in the morning and her side of the bed was empty. A faint light showed through the crack in the door and he wandered toward the living room in confusion.
She was sitting cross- legged in front of the hall closet surrounded by boxes and odds and ends and an enormous pile of socks that had lost their match.
"Hey." Her voice was all too cheerful and she grinned up at him and held up an undistinguishable black object for him to look at. "Do you know what this is? God, half this stuff, I don't even know what it is." She bit her lip and looked at the pile of junk with a shake of her head.
Jim gave her a blank stare, blinking rapidly to clear the fog in his head. "What are you doing?"
"Cleaning. I suddenly realized that we've never cleaned this closet. We just keep adding to it and…"
"It's four-o'clock in the morning."
"I couldn't sleep."
He shook his head at her and turned back toward the bedroom, "Pregnant women are crazy."
Pam threw the unnamed black object back into a bag and looked up at him with her hands on her hips, "Hey, if it's not too crazy of me ask-" She paused and gave him a dirty look, "You think you'll be able to drag yourself out of bed in a few hours to drive me to the hospital?"
He spun around, his heart suddenly racing, "What? What's wrong?"
She waved her hands at him and sighed, "Nothing. Everything's fine. I was just thinking that I'd rather not have the baby right here in the middle of the hallway."
Jim's mouth dropped open, "Now? Right now? Why didn't you tell me? You should have woken me up. We've got to go to the hospital and call your mom and…"
Pam snorted and began rummaging through another box, "Chill out. I've got time. Go back to sleep. I'll let you know when I have to go."
"Sleep? You want to me sleep?"
She raised an eyebrow, "Are you going to be like this the whole time?"
"I don't know Pam. Are you going to be this calm?"
"Most likely not. In a few hours I'll probably hate you and wish that we had never met. You should enjoy this while you can. In fact, this is probably going to be the last peaceful moment we'll have for awhile."
Jim stared at her for a moment, a slow smile spreading across his face, "Pam…"
She smiled up at him, "Yeah… I know. Now-" She pushed the pile of socks toward him, "Why don't you sort through these. There's got to be at least one pair of socks in there."
Seventeen hours and twenty-seven minutes and – thank God for epidurals.
Hannah Kathleen Halpert was finally born on December 18, 2011, weighing in at 7lbs, 6oz. She had her father's eyes and her mother's smile and Jim had fallen in love with her the moment she wrapped her tiny hand around his finger.
And they were his life. Pam and Hannah. Loving them was all he wanted, needed to do with his life.
The light was dimmed in the nursery, shedding a soft yellow glow over the rocking chair where Pam sat with Hannah nestled against her chest.
Whatever his life was before…
She looked up at him with heavy eyes and sighed, "Guilty conscious got the better of you huh?"
He shrugged, "I was up anyway, thought I might be of some assistance."
"How noble of you."
Jim gently lifted Hannah out of Pam's arms. "I do my best."
"Hmm, leave it to a man to come in at the easy part."
He smiled as he settled his daughter back into the crib, resting his palm on her tiny stomach when she stirred a little in her sleep. The gentle weight of his hand calmed her and he could feel her steady heartbeat against his fingertips.
"It wasn't that bad tonight. She actually went back to sleep pretty quickly."
"That's good news."
"Tell me about it." Pam yawned and rested her head back against the chair, "I'm starting to think she'll never sleep through the night.
Jim turned around at the slight desperation in her voice, "It'll happen." He offered his hand and pulled her out of the rocking chair, kissing her forehead when she stood next to him. "It'll happen."
He felt the way she shifted against him, pulled him closer as she wrapped her arms around him, moved her hands up his back between his shoulder blades. It still amazed him, the way she fit against him as he cupped the back of her neck and kissed her forehead again.
She murmured something against his chest and he glanced down as she sank deeper into him.
"Are you falling asleep on me?"
Jim laughed quietly, "Come on. Let's go to bed."
"Bed? What's that? I've forgotten."
Pam placed a kiss on Hannah's forehead and followed Jim out of the room, smacking him on the arm as he shut the door quietly.
"I told you to watch the language around her."
She walked ahead of him into the bedroom and he shook his head at her with an amused smile.
"You're full of contradictions. You know that?"
"Suck it Halpert."
They collapsed back into bed together, Pam curling up next to him and settling her head on his pillow.
He opened his eyes and smiled at her, "Ten years."
Pam ran her fingers across his jaw line and up into his hair, "Do you remember what you were doing exactly ten years ago?"
"Sleeping most likely."
"Sleeping. Huh. What's that like?"
His eyes began to flutter shut and he yawned widely, "Hard to say."
It was quiet again before he forced his eyes open to look at her, "Ten years is a long time."
"Sick of me already?"
"Good to know." Her eyes closed and it only took a moment before she was breathing steadily, her face buried in his pillow, her hand pressed against his chest.
Jim brushed a kiss over the tip over her nose, settled his hand on her hip and finally fell back to sleep.