Fandom / Pairing: The Office, Jim/Pam, Jim/Karen,
Rating: T, a little on the strong side. Some swearing. :D
Disclaimer: Prison Mike sold me the show. Bwahahaha.
Summary: It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.
Notes: For Chrissy.
Notes II: This...has crossing over. House, CSI, and Doctor Who get a little time in the sun here. Don't ask - just run with it. Um. Yay?
She's almost glad to find a voicemail on the office machine when she walks in Monday morning, early. (It's early, too early, for anything but this, and she isn't sure what she should be thinking. She has a wedding in a month, dammit. A wedding. This wasn't supposed to happen.)
It's his voice, and a rush of something flashes across her skin like lightning. "Hey, um. My sister's in town for a while, so I'm just...I'm just going to take a couple of days off to show her around, you know. Um. I'll see you later, I guess."
She's entirely too relieved to hear that she doesn't have to face any of this yet, that she can have a little more time. But three days turns to three weeks, and a raid of Michael's e-mail proves it; he's gone. (She learns later that the day she kept receiving pitying looks from Phyllis was the day Michael made the announcement that Jim had transferred, the day she'd been glad to have been in the restroom for another of Michael's speeches. She feels the air press out of her lungs and bites the inside of her cheek until she can taste copper.)
She has all the time in the world, it seems.
It's the ache she can't shake.
Roy's got his arm curled around her waist, the heavy comfort suddenly pressing against her and making her ill. She wiggles out from under his hand, out from under the sheets from the bed and the press of the engagement ring sitting with a click on her nightstand. It's the window across the carpet that she's interested in, the pale moonlight spilling recklessly onto the floor. Slatted shadows of the blinds bend into arches against the curves of her body and she's suddenly striped in her faded tank top and soft shorts.
She can see the moon behind buildings and the hazy material of the curtains (she chose these the first year they moved in here, when she hoped beyond hope that this would be the preface to their happily wedded life) bleached white by the light.
She feels her hands move to outline this sight, but there isn't any pencil or paper; just air. She curls her arms around herself and sighs, and wishes the moon had the same intensity as the sun.
There's a rustle behind her, and she stiffens.
It's that rush of relief she gets when she sees his desk is empty again. It's not long after, and she's almost glad he's avoiding her as much as she'd like to avoid him. (She's thankful the cameras are mercifully absent; she thinks she heard Adam, the lead camera operator, mention something about lobbying for funding. She's not really sure. She's not really sure about a lot of things.)
She tries to mask her relief by busying herself with her work. But suddenly, the glossy pages of the bridal catalogues and the endless lists of things to be done loom before her like a cliff face, tall and foreboding (tall and protective, dark against the darkness) and she doesn't know how she is supposed to react.
It's the seventh day he isn't there. She wonders why she never knew he had a sister, why she never knew anything about her. It makes sense, she muses over mixed-berry Yoplait at her desk, given just...him.
She catches herself and sighs and feels the ache inside her throb.
It's June 6.
Some part of her that's feeling dark and black-humored notes that it's wildly appropriate that her engagement gets broken off on 6/6/06 - the day of evil! her mind mutters, while her other half is shaking with silent sobs.
Oh wait, that's her.
He's staying with his brother - the whole fam damily is camped out in the area, much to her chagrin - and she feels the cold shoulder in the wind blowing through the curtains. Her chest aches from hiccoughing sobs because this is the first time she's done something like this, and she hasn't got anything else but tears for comfort. Once, she reached for her phone, but instead of dialing she chucked it across the room and reveled in the dry clatter it made, in the dent in the wall.
Eventually, though, it comes to an end. The tears dry on her face leaving stiff streaks of salt and makeup, and the wind quiets down until it's just the curtains fluttering in the stillness, a mass of contradictions. Wearily, she extricates herself from the corner of the sofa, from the decade of memories and good times and hard times and breakups and on-agains and pads into the bath. She sees herself in the mirror, eyes red-rimmed and face a map of rivers and meets her own eyes.
And shakes her head.
She's halfway through carrot sticks in mid-June when it hits her.
Guilt because she lost her best friend in a fell swoop.
Guilt because she sees that broken look in his eyes when she tells him she cannot. (Not will not, never won't.)
Guilt because she should have known before he told her like that.
(Guilt because she did and couldn't - not wouldn't - acknowledge it until it was too late.)
Guilt because he's two states away and she can't even pick up the phone and wish him well.
Guilt because, ultimately, she's a bad friend.
She bites her lip and gives her carrot sticks to Toby because he looks hungry and heads back to her desk.
Thirty minutes later, she's signed up for art classes at the community college. She tries not to think about the pamphlet tucked away in magazines bought fistfuls of weeks ago, about houses with terraces that she lost without ever having, about a stack of sketches of hands in the back of her closet in the darkest corner of her loft.
Her first commission isn't really. It's a favor from a friend to another, from one lonely soul to another.
She rolls up to her place, a little apartment that looks like a townhouse in a quiet, pretty area. Across the way and behind a building or three she can see the hospital and a glimmer of emerald green lacrosse fields.
Her knuckles rap against the door, sharp and staccato. She's in jeans and a faded t-shirt, hair done up in a ponytail and a bag of supplies in her other hand - paints and palettes and brushes and chalk and tape and stencils and lots and lots of charcoal.
It's Allison who answers - who else? - and Pam hasn't seen in her in too many years, for too many months. Allison moves forward and hugs her, smiling so wide her eyes glitter and her cheeks flush.
"Hey," she says quietly and draws her inside, closing the heavy door with a quiet click. "How are you?"
"Exhausted," laughs Pam. "I'm so sick of my job."
"Can I relate." She rolls her eyes and takes some of the things from Pam's hands. "You need all of this?"
"You won't tell me what you want!"
"Just a mural. Something...vibrant."
"Lots of green?"
She grins cheekily. "Pam, you know me too well."
They fall back onto the couch side-by-side, and Pam's hands are racing across the sketchbook while Allison follows every line a step behind.
"I was thinking something strong and vulnerable."
"Gee, I can't imagine why." The acid in her voice belies the smile in her eyes.
"Well, Dr. Cameron, if you're so picky give me directions."
She shakes her head, auburn curls bouncing against her shoulders. "No way, Beesley. That part comes later."
"Yeah, yeah, one mural for five ways to tame my hair." She pulls on one frizzy curl and watches it bounce back into place.
"And don't you forget it."
She laughs. "Fine, fine. But Allie, I have to have something to go on."
The brunette gazes into the blank wall, large and smooth. "I want something...broken. But beautiful in its brokenness."
Pam looks from the wall to Allison's eyes, dark lashes casting shadows against high cheekbones. "I...Are you sure?"
"Yeah," she replies quietly, and stands. "What blues do you have?"
Pam licks her lips and pulls out tube after tube of alkyd paints, of blues ranging from Alice to midnight and every shade and hue in between. She picks cobalt, and Pam has to wonder what it all means.
She's covered in paint but it's done, a week later even with four hands helping out. (Allison has an eye for detail, it seems. Not that Pam ever doubted.)
They're sitting on the couch sipping white wine and toasting each other, treadmill at her paint-spattered elbow. Even Allison looks the worse for wear; there's a faintly green tinge to her hands and if she looks closely she can see yellow flakes on her bangs.
"It's done," she murmurs against the large wineglass. The bottle sits opened on the coffee table at their knees. Sooner or later they'll be trading swigs from the bottle out of sheer laziness. (They've known each other too long.)
It's large, wide tropical leaves against a wall and a Magritte-inspired window, shattered through the panes so that the orchids bow inside. Shattered glass litters the forest floor. The dew on the flowers is actually splinters of glass. It doesn't make sense. It does.
"Do you like it?" Pam asks for the fifth time, but they're buzzed enough to have stopped counting and just tipsy enough for Pam to keep asking and Allie to keep replying.
"I love it." She turns to Pam. "To best friends."
"The very best," Pam murmurs, and tosses back the shallow swirl of alcohol left in her glass, letting it run across her tongue before swallowing.
"What's wrong?" She's too perceptive, Pam thinks, and shakes her head.
"Bull," she calls boldly, and sets her half-filled wineglass on the table, hand touching Pam's elbow and green eyes large and intense in her face.
"Am I a bad friend?" There's something quiet in Allison's eyes, some spark of something that flitters across her face as she bites her lip.
"No," she says, and there's a firmness, a steel intensity to her voice.
"Good," Pam replies, before burying her head into Allison's shoulder and crying.
She's driving home from Dunmore - she's taking her art classes for the fall term further away, at Penn State Worthington Scranton. She's set to start metalworking properly soon and she thinks of brushed steel and the glint of fiery sparks under fluorescent lights, the feel of heavy gloves on her hands and the weight of the torch in her hands.
Her cell rings and she scrambles for it blindly in the relative darkness of the passenger seat. "Hello?"
"Pam! Is this a bad time?"
"The one and only." There's a throaty chuckle from the other end of the line, and Pam feels warm.
"Just give me a second, I'm pulling in."
"Okay." She sets down the phone and turns into her parking spot, cuts the engine, and dashes up to her loft, phone in mittened hands. She fumbles the keys but manages to jam them in the lock and turn the key and stumble into her small space.
"You sound winded. You okay?"
"Yeah," she breathes, pulling off her scarf and gloves. "I just ran up the stairs."
"Pam," she admonishes, drawing out the vowel.
"Shut up," she replies, a smile in her voice. "So, why did you call?"
"It's...well, I just felt like I should, you know?"
"Yeah." She curls into her sofa quietly, jeans swishing against the fabric.
"I...It's happening." She can hear Sara breathing on the other end and then it clicks.
"Oh my God, Sara!" There's a bubble of laughter from the other end, and Pam wonders how she didn't hear it before, that sound of overwhelming joy in the background of her voice.
"I know." She can hear the other woman's smile, feel her joy and it makes her feel even lonelier even as she warms for her friend. "It just happened, you know?"
"He just looked me in the eye and told me he couldn't keep waiting, that he loves me. He loves me, God. I just..."
"You felt huge. Like your body was too small."
"Yes! Exactly And-- Pam?" She sniffling softly, because this is Sara's moment, not hers. "Pam, babe, come on. Tell me."
"I--What if your best friend told you they were in love with you?"
"Depends on if I swung that way or not." She hears swearing. "Sorry, reflex response. I mean, what happened?"
"He told me he loves me."
"But what about Roy?" It's not accusatory, it's a leading question and she takes the bait; Sara's been with the police for too long, or maybe just long enough.
"Roy doesn't know." She sniffs. "We broke up, you know."
"Yeah, I heard. Even here, in Vegas."
"Am I...What would you have done?" She wants to know what the brave thing would have been, because right now she feels cowardly and small.
"Do you want the honest answer or the nice one?"
"I would have run."
It's two days after their first phone call in months when she runs into her. Blonde, perky, with large, pretty eyes, sitting in a café in New York - she's checking out the museums and trying not to think about how Jim's just forty-five minutes away - sipping tea and writing in a spiral-bound notebook with a heavy cover.
She hefts the sketchbook in her hands and makes her way over to the other woman; she will be brave. "Um, I'm sorry, but--" The blonde lifts her head and smiles a little.
"You want to sketch me?" She's got a British lilt to her voice, tempered by a weary sort of tone.
"Close." Pam smiles. "I figure if we both work near one another, people really won't bother us."
The other woman laughs and it sounds like bells. "You're a right clever one, aren't you?" She gestures to the chair in front of her.
Pam slides into it gently, purse quietly falling to the floor. "I have my moments."
"Name's Rose," she says, and extends a hand.
"Pam," she replies, and grasps it briefly.
They work side-by-side, a quiet corner of an already quiet café. Pam glances out the window and presses soft charcoal to heavy paper. The scratch of Rose's fountain pen echoes in their enclave, as Rose's loopy hand flies across the page.
Two hours later, they look up in tandem and smile.
"Trade?" Rose pushes her notebook toward Pam, who in turn hands over the sketch pad. Rose is working on a novel, fiction by the sounds of it, science fiction if she were to venture a guess. She sees lines and lines of loopy hand detailing the misadventures of a co-ed couple across galaxies and time, and wonders who exactly this Rose she sits across from is. The last lines turn saddening even as the light in the coffee shop turns gold. There is and isn't a sense of finality in the ending, a statement of the infinity separating the two of them. Pam raises her eyes and sniffles, blinking away tears.
"Is this the end?"
Rose turn her own glassy eyes to Pam. "I don't know," she says, and sets the sketchpad down. "I honestly have no idea."
He's seeing someone.
He walks away.
She doesn't breathe.
It's Christmas, dammit, she thinks, and curses her tinsel for not hanging right.
Her artistic obsessive-compulsiveness starts to kick in and she is quietly driving herself insane, decorating her small space for the first time and trying desperately to not feel alone and pathetic on this day of all days.
He walks out on the twenty-second five minutes before Karen, a small wave and no real acknowledgement for her. She catches herself watching him leave and turns away only to see Karen and catch the darker woman's eyes.
She looks as alone as she feels.
She breathes and stands and makes her way to Karen's desk. "Hey."
She snaps out of a fog and turn to Pam. "Hey. What's up?"
"Are you doing anything over the holiday?" The question comes out slowly, because she's not used to being alone at Christmas.
Karen shakes her head. "My brood went over to Italy. I...can't afford that."
"Oh my gosh, my mom and dad are going to London, so we're supposed to go to my brother's, except my sister-in-law hates me, so I'm not going."
Karen laughs. "Sounds like we're in the same boat."
"Come over." It's the boldest thing she's said, and she waits with bated breath.
"Like, sleepover?" Karen raises an eyebrow.
She feels self-conscious. "Well, I mean, yeah, sorta--"
"That sounds awesome. Can I bring my X-Box?"
"Sweet, I'll teach you how to play Call of Duty." She makes little rock on hands and Pam bursts into giggles. "What?"
"You are too cute," she breathes between giggles.
"Anytime. Be over tomorrow around five." She grins conspiratorially. "I'll make Grandma's special eggnog - no egg, all nog."
"See you, then." She returns to her desk, and Karen walks out, a little bouncier than usual.
Or maybe that's just her.
It's a three-night sleepover. They started out sipping wine and by the second day (Christmas Eve) they're perpetually half-drunk and reduced to playing teenage girl games.
"Truth or dare?"
"I dare you..." Pam looks around her loft and then out her window. "I dare you to flash my neighbors."
Karen gasps. "What?"
"Hey, you know the rules."
"What about the corollary?"
"The one that says no dares that'll get your friends arrested."
Pam huffs. "Well, that's no fun. Um. I dare you to stand on your head."
"Lame," Karen retorts, but does it anyway, her tank top sliding up to her face. "Okay, my turn. Truth or dare."
She takes a big drink of egg-free eggnog and licks her lips. "Truth."
"Were you and Jim involved?"
She feels all the lightheadedness drain out of her. "What?"
"It's just," she shifts to her stomach, head propped up on the palms of her hands. "You two act like you broke up or something."
She looks away and plays with the hem of her pajama pants. "No, nothing so interesting. We were good friends. Just a falling out; distance, moving. You know."
"Really? No big love story?"
She snorts. "Hardly. I was engaged, remember? And that's two, so I get two, now."
"Oh, we're playing Quid pro Quo now?"
"Fine. Two truths, go."
"Does he seem happier here or in Stamford?"
She turns her head to the side and thinks. "I don't know. Second question?"
She swallows. "Are you two involved?"
Her mom calls her on New Year's.
"London is gorgeous. Cold, but pretty."
She laughs. "Get me postcards?"
"We're doing you one better."
She laughs. "Mom!"
"Patience, darling. Aren't you an artist?"
"Yes, but that's for art. This is gifts!"
Her mother's laughter echoes along the line. "Just a few more days, Pam. You should get them soon. "
Pam makes her best skeptical face. "If you say so..."
"I know so - I'm your mother." She pauses, and she can hear breathing on the other end. "So, how's work?"
"You mean, 'How's Jim?'"
"Close. Are you two together yet?"
"Well, the boy told you he was in love with you."
"Yeah, I know." It comes out harsher and more bitter than she expect. "Oh, Mom. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"I know, I know." If she closes her eyes, she can almost pretend her mother is there, giving her a hug. "It's okay."
"Really; it's okay."
It's him pressing her against the wall of the elevator at the end of the day, three weeks after Karen and him split up and three days after she finally decided that it would happen this week, whatever it was.
His hands are at her waist, bracing himself against the wall for leverage. Her own hands grip the rail so tight the square edges cut into her palms. But all she can feel is the press of his lips on hers, the way his spine arches to cover her - he's so tall - and the way this sweater feels under and between her fingers. His tongue skims her lower lip and hers touches each of his teeth in turn. Diamonds linger behind her eyes.
She tastes his soul between infinities.
1. "and yet it tasted like them all" - Emily Dickinson, "It was not death, for I stood up"
2. "It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts." - K.T. Jong
3. Allison Cameron is from House, M.D.
4. Sara Sidle is from C.S.I.
5. Rose Tyler is from Doctor Who (new series).
This was actually inspired by a challenge. And the fact that all my favorite female characters on TV tend to have an element of tragedy to them, and yet only Pam has a true outlet for that. And I always did want to connect them. Most of these characters have ties to New England (Rose being the sole exception, and yet I see her traveling after her grief subsides) and it's not all that far fetched to have them connect somehow. How these people were / are friends is up to you to decide, dear Reader. But I did enjoy writing this, and I did enjoy tying all these strong, defined women together. I felt they deserved it.
Written about two weeks after A Benihana Christmas.