It was not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination, but Pam couldn't remember the last time she'd felt this happy. Typical Monday through Friday workdays passed quicker with their endless stream of exchanged emails, text messages, and the occasional lunchtime phone calls. Pam kept Jim so up-to-date on the office's activities that sometimes he felt like he hadn't left at all. Well, except for the fact he could no longer see her from his desk. He missed that sight more than ever. Their desire to bridge the distance resulted in some pretty complicated Dwight pranks, most of which had hilarious results. With his mind and heart fully elsewhere, Jim's sales numbers fell slightly that first month, but he found it fairly difficult to care. The trade offs had made it more than worth it.
Friday nights were always the same: one of them left straight from work with a packed bag already in their trunk and made the now familiar three hour trip. Three out of the last four weeks it had been Jim coming to Scranton. He claimed it made more sense because he could adjust his schedule to leave early. It was a bit closer to the truth to say that he just preferred to spend the time at Pam's apartment. He had nothing but good memories from being there and somehow being surrounded by so many things connected to Pam seemed to make the next week just slightly more bearable. Friday night dinners were always served out of some sort of delivered container, and usually sat mostly ignored.
They would make plans for Saturday – go to the park, maybe run some errands, catch a movie. Invariably they did none of those things. Just being together was too important to interrupt it with outside distractions. Saturdays were always good days. The same could not be said of Sundays. For as compatible as they were, if they were going to argue over something silly, it happened on Sunday.
It took them three weeks of Sunday afternoon spats to see the pattern: the stress of their imminent separation meant it wasn't as easy to joke around or comments were taken completely the wrong way. Put simply, they both got cranky on Sunday. On the Friday morning of their fourth week together, Jim sent Pam an email.
Subject: Weekend Plans
Just so I can be prepared, which of the following topics would you like to blow out of proportion on Sunday? In addition, which one(s) would you like me to overreact about? Feel free to add any issues you think I may have forgotten. Maybe my forgetfulness can be a point of contention all to itself. Possible ideas include:
- Any reference to Roy in any capacity
- Girls I've looked at more than twice (once?)
- Why bleu cheese dressing rocks and French dressing sucks
- How you still don't trust me enough to attend a sporting event
- Personal opinions on tacky personal items (Can you please explain to me how anyone can hate Mickey Mouse?! I'm pretty sure that makes you a communist.)
- Moving to Stamford
- Moving back to Scranton
- Telling people we are dating
- Telling our parents we are dating
- Law & Order versus CSI: which spin-off shows are not lame
- Pizza toppings (don't think that one is over by a long shot, Beesly!)
Anyway, I figure we can cover a lot of ground if we're prepared.
Your cooperation is appreciated. :-)
See you in less than 10 hours, you lucky girl.
Subject: RE: Weekend Plans
Wow. I hardly know where to begin - they all sound so good:-P How about you choose this week? After all, if I've learned nothing this past month at least I know we argue on Sunday for two reasons:
1. You're a smart ass.
2. You can't admit that I am right. About everything.
So suck on that.
See you less than 9.5 hours now. Hope you can handle it.
P.S. We also argue because of this stupid distance thing, but I'm sure you've addressed that somewhere in the list above.
P.S.S. I love you. Dork.
That weekend, Sunday turned out to be pretty good too.
This was not to suggest that things were perfect. Even with their natural rapport and their varieties of ways to keep in touch, the fact was that they missed each other. Terribly. And even sharing weekends together didn't seem to make it any easier to bear on the colder mid-week evenings.
Pam was seated on her living room floor, her laptop open on the coffee table. She'd purchased a simple digital camera with her last paycheck, and was sorting through all the dozens of photos she'd taken of Jim and that he'd taken of her during their past visit. Silly photos. Happy Photos. She grinned at the photos that she'd definitely not be showing her mother. Or anyone else besides Jim, for that matter. It was just after nine o'clock when her cell phone rang. She knew who it was without even glancing at the caller ID.
"Right on time, Mr. Halpert," she answered the phone with a smile.
'Hey." He sounded tired, and Pam frowned.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing, really. Just a long day."
"Want to tell me about it?"
"I don't know," Jim sighed. "It'll just bore you even more than it does me."
"Go on," she teased gently. "I'm used to bored with you."
"Thanks," he replied, unable to stop a chuckle. "That makes me feel so much better."
"I know what will make you feel better," Pam said, clicking her way through her photos.
"The ones we took this weekend. With my new camera."
"You're looking at them now?"
"Yep. You want to see them?"
"Of course. A chance to mock your photography skills will probably cheer me right up."
"Nice, crankypants," she scoffed. "I'll have you know my artistic flair extends to all types of media." She opened up a web browser. "Get online and check out the link I'll be sending you soon."
"Already online, Beesly," he replied. "So hurry up."
They chatted about how the paper industry was sucking both of their souls dry while Pam finished uploading the photos. "Okay, you should have email from me very soon."
"How many photos did we take?"
"Jesus. Pam, we didn't even go anywhere but Giant on Saturday night because we were out of - well, everything I as recall."
"I know," she giggled. "And trust me - I'm pretty sure most of these aren't going to be of interest to anyone but us anyway."
"Hold on, I just got your email. Let me look for myself."
Pam waited for his reaction. She could hear the sound of the clicking of his mouse, and after a few moments with no response she couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Well?" She prompted.
"I'm just starting to look. Give me a minute." Shortly after his reply she heard Jim gasp.
"What? Which one are you looking at?"
"Beesly, I'm not sure you're allowed to put these kinds of pictures on Photobucket. Oh my God," he immediately continued, "when did you take this one of me? Shit – or that one?"
"Which ones?" She couldn't help but giggle.
"You know exactly the ones I'm talking about. You know, those are the kind of photos they wouldn't even develop if it had been taken on film. They just would have contacted the vice squad."
"Well, thank God for the digital age," she teased. "I think they're great pictures."
"Pam, I think you've just ruined any chance I ever had for running for public office."
Pam giggled. "I think you're overreacting just a bit, don't you?"
"That's just – just no. I cannot believe you took those pictures!" His ranting was off-set by the sound of amusement in his tone, so she knew he was purposely giving her a hard time. "When did you even take these?"
"Saturday morning. Don't you remember? The camera was still by the bed so when you went off to the bathroom I grabbed it and awaited your return."
"You need to take these down right now."
"Don't worry, I will take most of these back down once you've seen them."
"And then you can delete them from your hard drive."
"Absolutely not," she insisted. "Those are mine forever. I shall make back-ups of back-ups of these babies."
"Christ," he muttered. "I didn't know your photographic interests leaned toward pornography, Pam."
"Only of you, Jim," she replied giddily. "Only of you. Besides, I had more than a few surprises myself when I first saw these, so don't act all innocent."
"What?" She could practically here the smile breaking in his voice.
"Just keep looking." Another minute or so of silent viewing and then Pam heard a low but quite emphatic comment on the other end of the phone.
"The second one on page two. Oh, and the third. And the fourth."
"Yeah, I thought so. Now who's the pornographer, Halpert? When did you take those? I mean, I'm sleeping in two of them! Talk about lack of consent!"
"Sorry. I couldn't resist," he said quietly. Pam waited for him to say more, but all she heard was the sound of his soft breathing.
"You don't sound sorry," she teased. "You've got nothing else to say for yourself?"
"I think I'm going to need a minute," he replied cryptically.
Pam leaned back against the couch. "You okay?"
He paused again, then cleared his throat. "God, you are so beautiful," he finally said.
"Shut up," she told him, feeling the heat of a blush creep over her.
"It's true," he said simply. The teasing tone was gone from his voice. "Even just in pictures. You...you have no idea what you do to me."
The atmosphere in Pam's living room seemed to change completely and immediately with his words. She shivered though she clearly felt warmer, her eyes still focused on the photos of the two of them splashed across her screen. "Tell me then," she encouraged.
He sighed. "Really?"
She knew he was asking so many things at once. "Really."
"Where would I even begin to start?" He asked, a touch of humor returning to his voice. "You know, you've been at the heart of my fantasies for such a long time I'm not even sure who I dreamt of before you."
"Shut up," she said again, an automatic response to his compliments. For as much as she wanted to hear his words, her modesty fought them.
"Hey, do you want me to tell you or not?"
"I do. Really I do."
"Then quit telling me to shut up," he laughed.
"Sorry," she replied. "I'll be quiet now."
"I don't want you to be quiet," he said. "I just want you to understand."
"I'll try. Go on."
She heard him sigh again. "As I was saying," he said in an exaggerated fashion, "it's been you for a long, long time."
"And I guess what I'm trying to say is that before... before how it is now, I had so little to base those dreams on. I was running on assumptions for years, and don't get me wrong - you'd be happy with all the credit I gave you. What you'd be like, how things would be between us..."
"I'm not sure I want to know - I might start feeling the pressure to meet those expectations of yours."
"But that's the thing, Pam," he interrupted. "A part of me accepted that I was probably idealizing you, idealizing us. But I didn't. I wasn't. What amazes me is how much better the reality has been."
Pam smiled. "Maybe your expectations were lower than you thought."
"God, no." He continued. "It was just impossible to imagine how good you truly feel."
She felt the flush creeping back, but she had to admit liked it. "I know that feeling," she said quietly. "There's nothing I love more than being with you."
He let out a slight chuckle. "So you'll understand if I'm currently feeling a little off-kilter looking at these photos."
Pam's laughter rang out. "Discombobulated? Where did you find that word - in your grandmother's attic?"
"No, no - I'm just teasing you. Why do you feel so strange? You took those photos."
She heard him chuckle slightly. She recognized it as the response he usually gave when he was feeling a bit bashful, and could easily picture him sitting there running his hand through his hair. It was a habit of his for as long as she'd known him, and it never failed to make her think he looked adorable.
"Oh, I don't know," he replied. "Maybe it's the impact of the added visuals. It's not like I wasn't already wishing you were here before I called. And then missed you more when I heard your voice. Now I've got photos of you to compound the problem."
"A problem? That's a bad thing?"
"Only in that you are there instead of here. Not much use for these feelings with you so far away."
"Oh I don't know," she mused, tentatively testing the waters. "There's a lot to be said for being creative."
Pam stretched her legs out in front on her and waited for his response. When he didn't seem to be giving one, she spoke again. "So where are you right now?"
"I'm at my desk in the living room," he replied.
"You sure you wouldn't be more comfortable somewhere else?"
"Probably. What are you suggesting?"
"Oh, I don't know. I was thinking stretching out on the couch might be nice for you. Or even going back to your bedroom."
"Where are you?"
"I'm currently on my living room floor."
"That doesn't sound very comfortable either."
"Yeah, I was thinking of relocating."
"Tell me where you're going and I'll do the same."
Pam balanced her phone between her ear and her shoulder as she stood up. "Given that I'm already in my pajamas, I think the bedroom is the most appropriate place to continue this conversation."
"The bedroom it is then," he replied. "Which pajamas are you wearing?"
"You don't want to know," she groaned. "They definitely aren't going to push the mood in a good direction."
"Go on, Beesly," he cajoled. "Tell me anyway."
"Um, well... my ensemble starts with my old faded pink sweatpants. These are the ones that don't even have a string at the waist because it was lost in the wash ages ago."
"Oh, they are. That's the only reason I can't bear to throw them away. They are topped off with a grey, slightly oversized sweatshirt that has one, two, three, four, five lighthouses across the front, and Outer Banks, North Carolina, below it. It was a gift from my mom, and has to be at least as old as the sweatpants."
"But wait! Don't forget the dark blue fuzzy socks. Oh, and the black stretchy headband."
"Now you're just making things up to tease me. You know how fuzzy socks turn me on."
Pam giggled and stretched out onto her bed. "See, that's why I didn't want to say anything. I figured you were already dying with desire for me." She could hear the familiar creak of his bed in the background, and smiled at the idea that they were now arguably engaging in pillow talk. Such a dork, she thought to herself, but it wasn't clear if she was referring to him or herself.
"I am already dying with desire for you," he agreed. "But it's certainly a pleasant way to go."
"So now it's your turn."
"Tell me what you're wearing."
"Nothing nearly as sexy as what you've got on, I'm afraid."
"Go on," she urged. "I want to know anyway."
"Um, let's see. A white t-shirt imprinted with information about a fun run from 2003 that I don't remember being a part of, so I'm guessing it used to be Mark's shirt."
"You've just now noticed that it's not your shirt?"
"We lived together for a while, Beesly. Things got jumbled together. I'm sure he ended up with a few shirts of mine."
"Okay, what else?"
"Those old jeans you were making fun of last weekend because of the green permanent ink markings on the back of the knees. Which, if you don't mind my bluntness, are significantly less comfortable since I started talking to you."
"That weird," she teased. "Have you been eating a big meal during this conversation?"
"It's not the waistband that's tightened, Beesly."
"Well maybe you should get out of those jeans then, Jim. I really wouldn't want you to be uncomfortable while we talked. It might make you want to hang up early."
"That's not a bad idea," he replied. "I might just do that in a minute or two."
"Anything else then?"
"Not really. My watch, a pair of blue boxer briefs."
"Nope. Totally barefoot."
"Nice," Pam grinned. "I have a weakness for those feet of yours."
"It's called a fetish, Pam," Jim corrected jokingly, "and it's kind of creepy, if you want to know the truth."
"That's not what you said before," she retorted.
"I was just trying to be polite."
"So you're saying you don't want another pedicure? Ever?"
"Well, let's not be hasty," Jim replied, causing another bark of laughter from Pam. "I wouldn't want to deny you all the pleasure you were so obviously gaining from it."
"Oh! The pleasure I was gaining from it? So you'd tolerate it just for the sake of my happiness?"
"Wow. You are the best boyfriend, like, ever."
"Totally." They stopped talking as laughter overtook both of them. Pam hoped to move the conversation to a more intimate level.
"So are those jeans off yet?" She asked, aware her voice was sounding a little deeper than usual.
"Do you really want me to take them off?" His reply sounded more challenging than questioning.
"I just wish I was there to do it for you," she replied, a surge of adrenaline hitting her at her own boldness.
"That would be nice," he said. "Hold on a minute." She could hear the muffled sounds of the bed creaking, but soon he was talking again. "That's better," he said. "But what about you?"
"My pants fit fine," she grinned.
"That's a shame," he replied. "Here I thought we had some important things in common. Maybe I should just let you get back to your photos."
"Now wait a minute," Pam protested, "you didn't let me finish. They fit fine, but I have to say it's awfully warm in here. Much too warm for sweats."
"Right. In that case, I think you should do whatever it is you need to in order to feel more comfortable. I wouldn't want you to get overheated."
"You sure about that?"
"Yeah I thought so." Still, she shimmied her sweatpants down around her ankles, then threw them toward the corner of her room. "There, now we're even," she told him, lying back on the bed. "I took the socks off, too."
"Aw, now you've gone and ruined it, Pam."
"Quiet, you," she laughed. "and don't forget to take that shirt off."
"Okay," Jim chuckled. "Barking orders at me now, are you?"
"I've learned I'm happier when I ask for what I want."
"That sounded a little stronger than just an 'ask'."
"Maybe I really want it."
"Wow," Jim replied. "Yes, ma'am." A moment later he spoke again. "Done. Now what about you?"
"Tell me something first," she said.
"Those fantasies you were talking about," Pam paused, wanting so much to ask the question but unsure of her words, "back when things were, well, before -"
"You want to hear one?"
Her voice was barely louder than a whisper. "Yes."
"Wow. Well, okay." Jim let out a deep breath. "They were never actually intended for public disclosure."
Pam giggled. "I promise I won't grade you on them."
"It's not that," he laughed. "It's just there isn't much to tell. None of them were very complicated."
"You surprise me, Jim. I would have expected more in the way of complex storylines from you."
"I'm a guy, Pam. The situations might have altered slightly, but I assure you the stories all end the same way. And they get to the point pretty quickly."
"And the point being?"
His laugh was deep and unapologetic. "You were asking for that, Beesly. You know you were."
"I'm shocked," she replied, her laughter making a liar of her. "I'm deeply, deeply shocked."
"Yeah, that's why you've got me on my bed stripped down to my underwear. You're here for a book club discussion."
"Perhaps. But why are you still in your underwear?" She teased.
"Just waiting for the word, I guess."
"Consider it given then."
"Not until I hear that sweatshirt of yours is gone."
She sat back up, and brushed the edge of her collar against the phone as she pulled the offending garment over her head. "Hear that sound? That's the departure of my sweatshirt."
"About damn time, too."
"Why, do you have someplace you need to be?"
"Sort of," he said. "And on my own I'd probably have been there twice by now."
"Oh Jim," she sighed dramatically, "Don't you know it's all about the journey?"
"I don't know about that," he countered. "I've heard some amazing things about the destination."
"If you're in such a hurry I could let you go – you know, attend to these matters" she dragged the end of her sentence out slowly, "all by yourself."
He chuckled. "Okay, now you're really being a tease."
"Besides," she continued, "I bet you started without me a while ago." He laughed again, but didn't reply. "I'm right, aren't I?" She asked.
"I guess it depends on your definition of 'started'."
"Are you trying to sound like Bill Clinton? Because it's scaring me."
"Don't be shy, Pam. Just ask what you are obviously dying to ask."
Pam closed her eyes and giggled slightly at the delicious perversity of it all. "Jim Halpert, are you playing with yourself?"
Like vaudeville act waiting for the set up, she could practically hear him smiling. "Absolutely, I am."
"Unbelievable," she laughed, aware of just how turned on she was at this information. Assuming was one thing, but knowing... "I have to say, you've sure changed your tune since last time."
"Yeah, the last time I got to witness your self-love."
"Hey, not about me, it's all about you. And excuse me for not being an exhibitionist before I met you."
"Oh, so now that's my fault."
"That's okay - I can live with that. Just limit your urge to expose yourself to one person, okay?"
"Is that ONLY one person or one person at a time?"
"Only ONE person - namely, me."
"Hmm...I'm not sure. Think you can handle sole responsibility for that?"
"I've seen you," she teased. "And I certainly can."
"Wait...that doesn't sound like a compliment."
"Don't be so sensitive," she replied. "If I didn't want the job I wouldn't have offered. Or are you going to be the type who needs their ego stroked continuously?"
"Amongst other things."
"Nice," she laughed. "I still don't understand why you were embarrassed that night anyway."
"Well, obviously unlike you, I'm not in the habit of jerking off in front of other people."
"Unlike me? Trust me, nobody's ever been to that particular show."
"Noooo... Why would that be so hard to believe?"
"I guess I just assumed... I mean you were in a relationship a long time... Seriously? Never?"
"Let's just say that Roy was the type to think masturbation was for people who weren't getting it regularly, and why do it if you could just have sex instead? He would have taken it as a blow to his pride had he known I ever did it."
"But you did. Do it, I mean."
"Yeah, occasionally. Maybe a little more often late in the relationship."
"Oh really?" Jim sounded a bit amused at this revelation.
"Do I sense a confession?"
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
"I just think it might make you feel better getting it off your chest. Just like that bra I'm going to have to ask you to take off."
"Relax," Pam laughed. "We'll get there, Halpert." She paused. "And if you really want to know the truth there were times I had someone else on my mind."
"Beesly, you hussy!"
"Shush," she replied, unable to stop a giggle. "I felt guilty enough at the time."
"Did you really?"
"Well, yeah. It was kinda of like cheating. At least to me."
"Well, I hope you had a good time hypothetically cheating with this other interest."
"I did," she said thoughtfully, "but like you said earlier, the reality turned out to be so much better."
A silence fell heavy between them, but it was comforting and warm, and it only highlighted the electricity between them. Jim cleared his throat before he spoke again.
"So you've never - with anyone?"
"That's what I said."
"Will you show me?"
Pam smiled. Despite everything she thought he sounded slightly nervous, as if there were even a possibility she'd say no. Like she'd deny him anything at that point.
"I suppose that's something I'd be open to." She mused. "Reciprocity is expected, of course."
"Good. I quite enjoyed the show last time."
"Well, just so you know, I do encourage audience participation."
"Kind of like now?"
"Very much like now, except it's more hands-on, if you get what I mean."
"Yeah," she laughed, throaty and low. "I definitely got that impression."
"Speaking of that, how's that bra coming along?"
"I think I need some help with it, actually."
"What sort of help?"
"Maybe having someone talking me through it. You know, so I do it right."
"Well you are in luck, Beesly."
"You are. I happened to be a qualified bra remover."
"What are the odds?" Pam couldn't help but roll her eyes. "So what sort of qualifications do you have?"
"I studied for years under the finest talents in Europe."
"Wow, that is impressive."
"And I've been through your underwear drawer, so I'm familiar with every bra you own."
"Well you do sound well-suited for the job. Care to give me a hand?"
"If only I could, Pam," he said wistfully.
"Well I've got a hell of a good imagination if you do," she replied.
"Okay," he said, his voice deliberately more cheerful, "are the hooks in the front or the back?"
"Ah - is the beige or the blue one?"
Pam was impressed. "The blue. You really have been going through my drawers."
"I notice details, Pam. Especially those sorts of details."
"Okay," she grinned. "You know what I'm wearing. Now what?"
"Well, here's where it gets complicated. You'll need to unclapse all three hooks."
"Starting from the top or bottom?"
"Definitely the top."
She took a deep breathe and was aware of a tingling spreading through out her body. "Okay, there's the first." Pause. "And the second." Another brief pause. "And finally the third. Now what do you want me to do?"
"It's completely up to you, but I'd probably take it off."
Pam was quiet. So quiet Jim spoke again. "Still there?"
"This is so weird," she replied.
Jim seemed genuinely confused. "In what way?"
"I don't know - I guess I didn't expect things would stay so much the same."
"I'm not sure I follow you. Do you not want to do this?"
"No! No, of course I want to do this. It just hit me."
"I mean, look at us. We've been on the phone for nearly an hour, both half-undressed -"
"...actually I'm completely undressed," Jim interrupted.
"Well, exactly," she replied. "Yet even in this scenario we continue to giggle and laugh like we're just having some sort of high school sleepover."
gI'm sorry. Do you want me to be more serious? I just didn't want you to think I was trying to rush you into anything. You seemed more interested in taking our time, and despite my earlier comments, I really don't mind."
"I - No, I don't just mean now. I guess the idea just hit me that I never expected being together like this would be so much fun."
"You know what, Pam? I really don't want to think too hard on what your past experiences must have been like to form that idea, because I'd just get angry." Jim's voice sounded strained and Pam worried she'd upset him. "But trust me, things are only suppose to get better when you move beyond friendship. Not worse, and not entirely different. Who we are hasn't changed. You're still my best friend; why wouldn't it be this easy to laugh and joke around despite the fact that I'm still dying to make love to you?"
"I know," she replied apologetically. "It's stupid."
"No, it's not. You're just not used to being loved the way you deserve to be. I've been turned on since you picked up the phone, and hell, Pam - just the sound of your laugh makes me harder every time I hear it. So, I think I'm already pretty damn serious when it comes to you."
Pam rolled onto her side. "I'm sorry. I know I've ruined the moment."
"Hey, you haven't ruined anything." Jim sighed. "I'm still here completely naked, and you're still there hopefully removing your bra, so we're good as far as I can tell."
Her laughter was contagious. "I'm glad you're not losing focus on what's important."
"I love you, Pam. That's what's important. That and the fact this erection is not going to away as long as it thinks there's a chance at getting you out of the rest of the clothes."
She moved onto her back once more, tossing another clothing item onto the floor. "Well, you'll be happy to know that the bra is now gone. And I really love you, too."
She heard him chuckle. "So tell me, is your skin as soft as I remember?"
"You mean since Sunday?"
"Seems like it's been much longer than Sunday."
"It does." Pam ran her hand across her belly, her fingers brushing across the waistband of her briefs. "And yes, my skin is just as you remember."
She thought she heard his breath hitch and felt a shiver at the thought of what he was doing. "I wish I was there to help you," she said.
"Oh, you're doing just fine," he assured her. "I wish I could be doing more for you."
Pam slipped her panties off. "Trust me, there's no complaints from this side."
"Uh-uh." She felt like she should tell him what she was doing, but the words simply weren't forming. "Do you know what I really love about you?" She asked instead.
"No, tell me."
"I love your voice. I could listen to it all day long. In fact," she added, "I have a little confession."
"Go on," Jim encouraged.
"I still have every voice mail you've sent. Some nights I lie in bed and listen to them over and over."
"You are such a dork, Beesly," he said softly.
"I do," she insisted. "You have no idea what your voice does to me."
"What's it doing to you right now?"
"Making me feel very good."
"Are you sure that's all because of my voice?" He teased.
"It's certainly helping."
"Helping what?" Jim replied. "Pam Beesly, what are you doing?"
"Whatever you want me to be doing."
"Yes," she replied. "Aren't you?"
"I don't think it will be for much longer though," he paused. "Not while imagining you like that."
"That's okay," she said. "Keep talking and I won't be either."
"What do you want me to talk about?"
"Anything. Where should we go on a vacation." Her breathing was heavier, more audible, and she knew he could hear it. She wanted him to hear it.
"I... I guess it depends on the time of year," He said. She could hear the change in his voice, in his breathing, too. She thought perhaps she was being a bit cruel in having to make him actually think, but maybe it was more fun that way.
"How about this winter?" She supplied helpfully. "Where would you like to go that's warm?"
"To be honest, Pam, right now a week in bed with you sounds like the best plan I've ever heard."
"That would be warm," she replied. "Let's take the first week of February off and do that."
"Deal," he said softly.
Pam felt like she was coming close. "Jim?"
"Me, too." She wanted to say more, to ensure that he knew how much he affected her, just by being there, just by listening to him breathe, most of all by just how safe she felt with him. "I am so in love with you, Jim."
His response was muffled as she felt herself slipping under, and she didn't try to stop the sounds of pleasure she made as she climaxed. She had barely returned to her senses when she could hear him saying her name. She closed her eyes, willing that sound into her memory. She hugged the phone to her ear silently, waiting for him to return. It seemed like forever until she finally heard his voice again.
"Hey, you still there?"
She smiled. "Yes. You?"
Something in his tone made her doubt his words. "Are you sure?" The quiet on his end of the line was deafening. "Jim?"
"I don't want to end this conversation in an argument," he finally said.
Now it was Pam's turn to be confused. "Why would it? What's the matter?"
"I don't know how much longer I can bear this."
She guessed what he was talking about, but didn't want to take the risk of misinterpreting things. "Bear what?"
"I know we haven't been together all that long, but at the same time we have. And maybe I just feel the weight of all that missing time. I know I shouldn't push you."
"I miss you too, Jim. You know that."
"I know. And I know this hasn't been easy for you either, but I've been really thinking about things."
Pam's heart skipped a little erratically. Was he going to break up with her? It didn't seem possible but it was the first fear that crept into her mind. "What things, Jim?"
"I know we agreed to wait a little while before talking about plans for the future. But if tonight's taught me anything, it's that I can't bear to wait. I know... I know when we first got together I asked you about moving down to Stamford, and you weren't interested."
"It wasn't that I wasn't interested. It was just all a little too much too fast to process. So much had changed in that one week."
"Yeah, well I know how much of your life is wrapped up in Scranton. I mean, it's not like my family isn't in the area too." He took a deep breath before continuing. "So I just need you to know that I'll move back to Scranton if that's what you want – if you really don't think you would be happy here. I just need you, Pam. Where ever that is."
The intensity of his words and the vulnerability she knew was behind them made her heart ache for him. "I need you too. You know that. And I feel the same way. I really do." Pam wanted to reach through the phone to assure him they were on the same side of this. "You're right, it is time to talk about things like that. But let's do it in person, okay? I promise we'll talk about it this weekend."
"I'm not saying one of us has to uproot in the next week – or month even. I just want a plan. I want something concrete I can look forward to, knowing we aren't going to be in limbo like this forever."
"Me too. We'll work this out, Jim. I'm not afraid to make plans – I just want to make sure they're best for both of us."
"Well by this point the only thing best for me is being with you – wherever you want that place to be."
"Wherever we want that place to be," she corrected.
Despite her sincere intentions, the coming weekend did not result in talking about their future. When Jim arrived at her door early Friday evening, it was to find a very unwell Pam sitting on the floor of her bathroom. What they'd hoped would be another weekend of quiet escape in each other turned into Jim's transformation into quite a respectable nurse, looking after Pam while she spent most of the weekend asleep in bed.
Pam was full of apologies during her waking moments, but Jim didn't mind. He would, of course rather she'd not been sick, but looking after her was something he took pleasure in. It was something he was confident that he was good at, and he wanted to be the person she could turn to when she needed help. It might not have been a weekend as full of passionate encounters as the others had been, but when he left for Stamford on Sunday, he felt he had somehow managed to fall even further in love with her.
That following week Pam felt like she was watching her life from the outside looking in. She wondered what it was that as keeping her in Scranton. As she scanned the faces in the office that Tuesday morning, she realized she had an attachment of some sort to everyone in that office. Even when they made her crazy, there was a comfort in being there. Then her eyes rested on Jim's desk, and she knew she would trade everyone in that office for just him. And suddenly the answer seemed to simple.
He'd left Scranton to get away from her and the life he thought she'd chosen. He left to try and find something new for himself. And for all his years of talk that selling paper wasn't something he wanted to do, she was so proud of how well he'd made it in Stamford in such a short amount of time. Even if she knew that part of his focus was driven by his earlier need to try and forget her, the fact was he was now reasonably established in Stamford. He'd reached some level of success, and she couldn't see a single reason to take that away from him. She was the reason he'd left Scranton; it was only fitting she come to him in Stamford.
Decision made, Pam spent the rest of Tuesday and all of Wednesday learning everything she could about her new future hometown. She studied maps of the area, read the classifieds online, and sent for more information on the Connecticut Institute of Art, which was located in nearby Greenwich. The more she thought about it, the more certain she was of her decision. She carefully printed out everything she found, tucking it into a neat red folder. She was driving to Stamford this weekend, and she decided she'd wait until then to tell Jim.
She arrived home Thursday night to the welcome surprise of Jim sitting on her front porch steps. "What are you doing here?" She asked. "I thought I was driving to see you tomorrow."
He shrugged and stood up, pulling her a hug. "I have a surprise for you that just couldn't wait."
"Well, let's get inside, you feel frozen." She replied, rubbing his arms. She unlocked the front door and followed him inside, the weight of her red folder heavy in her bag. She smiled to herself as she took off her coat.
"Actually, Jim, I have a surprise for you as well," she said, her smile shining brighter. "I was going to tell you tomorrow, but seeing as you're here..."
He turned to face her, still standing. "Why don't you go first then?"
She noticed how he was shifting on his feet, and wondered why he looked a bit nervous. "You don't have bad news, do you?"
"Oh no – nothing bad," he assured her. "I'm just interested in your surprise."
"Do you want to sit down?"
"Is this something I should sit down for?" He asked, a slight smile crossing his face.
Pam grabbed his hand and pulled him down on the couch with her. "Yeah, probably." They sat semi-facing each other, Jim's arm draped along the back of the sofa, his hand resting near her shoulder. "Okay, here's the thing," she started, glancing up at him. "I decided I want to move to Stamford."
"Pam...wow," Jim stuttered. "That's not even close to what I expected you to say."
"What were you expecting?"
"I don't know," he half-laughed. "But it wasn't that. I -"
"Please," she held up her hand. "Let me finish saying everything."
He bit his lip and nodded slightly, allowing her to continue.
"I want to be with you," she said. "I've been thinking about all the good things you've accomplished down there, and how beautiful it is, and even though all my family is here – the truth is that you're my family now, and as long as I'm with you I'm going to be just fine."
She pulled her bag onto her lap and pulled out her folder. "I have a bunch of stuff inside to show you – an art school I was thinking I could attend, some companies that might be needing a receptionist – I really think this could work."
He held up his hand to stop her animated chatter. "Okay, I get the picture."
"Aren't you happy with the news?" Pam was feeling a bit worried by his lack of reaction. "Isn't this want you wanted?"
He shook his head adamantly. "No, it's not about that. I am delighted you made a decision – that you're willing to take such a big leap for me. But I think you need to hear my news."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, it's nothing life-threatening. Or bad, really." He ran both his hands through his hair and gave her a lopsided smile. "It's just that Jan told us today that they're closing the Stamford branch next month. I'm coming back to Scranton."