Break out your two-liter of Shasta and your all "Arab Strap" mix-tape... it's Jack138 time.

This is my first new Office story in three months, so forgive me if I'm a little off my game.

"Any Maybe We're Just Lucky..."

If absolutely anyone in the office cared even slightly, they could not miss the fact that for the first time in several days, Jim and Pam had not arrived together.

Anyone who was watching them also would have noticed that when they did arrive not so much as a word was exchanged between them.

Of course, no one in the office was watching them.

Their coworkers either didn't care about Jim and Pam and their relationship even slightly (as was the case with Stanley) or else they were so sick to death of the two of them by now that they didn't even bother to look up from their needlework when they walked into the room (which had slowly come to be Phyllis).

In fact, the only people in the entire office who were paying any attention at all to Jim or Pam were Dennis the Associate Producer and Alex the Director of Photography, who referred to Jim and Pam as their "bread" and their "butter" (respectively).

----

Jim, stilted: So... I was at Pam's house last night and she needed a twenty for the pizza guy.

He shrugs, as if to say that this was all natural enough.

Jim, having increasing difficulty pressing on: So, I told her to take it out of my wallet and... she found some of the things I'd been keeping for sentimental reasons... like my old ticket stubs... and every phone number I've gotten from a girl in the last few months.

Awkward-jim.

Jim: So, I told her that I was never going to call any of these girls, and she asked me why I didn't just throw their numbers away.

He scratches his neck nervously.

Jim: Which is a reasonable question, I guess, there's just one problem...

Pause.

Jim, very slowly: But I don't know how to do that.

----

After a few quiet moments of being beaten down by an awkwardness so potent and pure Jim felt it deserved its own name and army of minions, he slowly meandered vaguely in the general direction of Pam's desk. This was almost immediately detected by Pam, who tensed every muscle in her body like a coiled lemur. This in turn was seen by Jim, who suddenly found the ceiling fascinating beyond all measure, while his left hand somehow glued itself to his neck. Pam then found herself staring at her computer screen as though it had unexpectedly shifted from the Dead Milkmen tape-trading board she had been glancing at casually to become one of those old Magic Eye posters.

"Hey, um, I just wanted..." Jim fumbled.

Pam didn't even look up. "I have a lot of work to do right now."

Jim's mouth hung open and he froze for a dumbfounded moment to taste the raw, lethal rejection.

"Right," he wilted when his brain registered what was happening.

And then he very quickly returned to his desk.

----

Michael finally found his way into the office around 10:15. He was trying for once to sneak in undetected, but Pam caught him as soon as he passed through the door.

"Michael," Pam called, "Jan's on the phone for you."

"Can't it wait, Pam?" Michael groaned. "I mean, I've still got my coat on."

"She's been calling all morning," Pam said simply yet directly.

"Arrgh."

----

Michael: Maintaining a relationship... it's got its problems.

Pause.

Michael: Especially when one partner isn't working... And they blame the other partner for losing their house and their job and their money...

Pause.

Michael: There are trust issues that you have to overcome. Questions about whether you want the same things...

He shrugs.

Michael: But I believe that if you're a good man and you really care about the woman in your life, you're willing to put up with a little hard work and sacrifice... and humiliation... and pain.

----

Reluctantly Michael grabbed the phone. "Yes, Jan... no, I'm not avoiding you, I just had to go to the laundromat this morning... Yeah, but my washer makes things smell funny... I think there's a sewage backwash or something... yes, I'm wearing it."

At this point, Pam asked very quietly if Michael wanted to be left alone, but he shook his head.

"Will you be meeting me for lunch?" Michael asked Jan. "No? Then... can I take it off?" he asked, almost afraid to hope.

"Are you sure you don't want me to..." Pam whispered with eyes like a dog staying at Michael Vick's new kennel. Again Michael dismissed her as though it were nothing.

"Oh," she heard him say as he visible deflated. "No... no, I know I have to be punished, but..."

It was at that point that Pam realized that she could spend the rest of her life scrubbing layer after layer of bleeding skin off her body, but she would never again feel clean.

"But Jan," Michael rasped with hushed urgency, "it's starting to leave marks."

And yet there was still further to plummet.

----

Since her untimely break-up with Ryan, Kelly had been spending more and more time outside of the annex, which meant that there was no one handling the innumerable customer complaints that kept flowing in (which was bad) and that the entire office now knew in graphic detail what issues she and Ryan had come across throughout the course of their relationship (which was infinitely worse).

The whole time Jim had been walking (very slowly, as if trying subconsciously to stop himself) towards Kelly, he couldn't help but wonder at how his life had really swerved too far to one side and slammed into guardrail. He was turning to Kelly. Kapoor. For relationship advice.

"...And I said 'is it supposed to feel like this?' and Ryan said 'I don't know, you're the only to ever let me try it this way' and then I said 'well, what did the website say?' and Ryan...

Jim opened his mouth, hoping she would take this as a sign that he was trying to speak, but Kelly seemed to miss the subtle gesture.

"...And the worst part was that he made me go into the store and buy it! Can you believe that? And I said 'well, why do I have to buy it?' And he said he was embarrassed! Like I wasn't? I mean, that store's right by..."

Jim gazed across the office, wondering if there was another woman in the office he could have gone to. He looked to the left and saw Karen, who was busy working on her transfer paperwork, then he looked to the right and saw Angela, who shot him a look of withering contempt.

"...I mean, what if someone saw me! Can you even imagine that? How could I even explain what I was doing there? I mean, I guess I could say I was planning a bachelorette party or something, but then they'd ask who the party was for and if they were invited or not and then I'd have to remember that I said that every time I saw them and..."

----

Jim: Apparently the Universe is taking Pam's side on this one.

----

As the day wore on, Pam found herself coming to hate her little desk and the view it afforded her. If she kept having to look at Jim's back, she knew she'd end up convincing herself that she was seeing the swirling agony of his internal torment and start feeling sorry for him (which was miles away from where she wanted to be right now) and before she knew it, she'd be telling herself that his shallow justifications (which he somehow attributed largely to societal conditioning) actually did make some inexplicable sense, and before she knew it, she'd be apologizing for ever doubting him.

But that wasn't going to happen this time. She was the wronged party, she had to keep reminding herself, and she wasn't about to let Jim become another Roy. This time she would be strong, this time she would hold fast.

She wondered if now would be a good time to throw up.

Deciding it was, Pam rose from her desk and calmly yet very quickly made her way to towards the bathrooms, where she unceremoniously crashed into Kevin.

"Sorry," Pam gasped, horribly embarrassed.

Kevin, who counted it as half a feel, let her know that it was fine. He was, however, somewhat concerned about her.

"I'm fine, Kevin," Pam replied so loudly and rapidly that even Kevin couldn't miss her obvious discomfort. "How's... Stacy?" she asked, eager to take the focus off herself.

After a few moments of being a guilty cartoon teddy bear, Kevin finally admitted "She left."

"Oh," Pam said, casting her eyes down.

Kevin shrugged mournfully. "I was talking to a girl on the phone," he explained.

"You probably shouldn't have done that," Pam agreed, not missing for one second similarity of their situations.

Kevin nodded and seemed to shrink into himself. "I just didn't know how not to."

"Well," Pam added hopefully, "maybe she'll still forgive you. I mean, it was only talking."

Kevin seemed to brighten as he considered this... but then decided against it. "I don't think so," Kevin replied.

There was a horrible pause.

"I was naked," he admitted.

----

Kevin: Stacy, if you're watching this: I'm sorry and I'll never do it again.

Pause.

Kevin: Jen, if you're watching this... I lost your number. Call me back.

----

It wasn't very often that Jim turned to his male coworkers for... anything, really. But with his current situation he was feeling the need for a some reassurance that he wasn't alone.

He found several of them in the breakroom, doing their very best not to speak to each other, not even by accident.

"Hey Oscar," Jim began, trying his best to seem like he was making disinterested conversation, "do you... this is really stupid... do you keep stuff around... you know... from your old boyfriends? Like letters or...?"

"I burn everything as soon as possible," Oscar answered bitterly.

Jim nodded for lack of anything else to do, Gil was clearly fresh in Oscar's memory.

"Right," Dwight snorted, "only cowards and women cling to the past."

As was nearly always the case with most Dwightism, Jim should only respond with a jim-nod. He looked hopefully to the last man in the room. "Andy? Do you ever keep anything from girls after you break up?"

"I've stolen a pair of panties from every girl I ever slept with," Andy replied blankly.

Jim made a note to distance himself even further from Andy in the future.

-----

Andy, baffled: "Do I wash them first?"

He looks at cameraman like he had eight heads.

Andy, as though it should obvious: Dude, that totally would defeat the purpose.

----

Pam took comfort in the fact that she didn't throw up or cry this time despite twenty solid minutes of trying. She guessed she really was getting stronger and more confidently.

At least relatively, she sighed internally.

As she passed through the kitchenette, she saw Creed lingering by the counter, making what she could only assume was tea.

"Do you have a girlfriend, Creed?" Pam asked. Then, noticing the horrifying smile forming on his lips, she very quickly amended "I'm just curious. I have a boyfriend."

"Yep," Creed replied, smiling wistfully, "Katie Kelly."

"Oh, so she has two first names?"

"So?" Creed bit back.

"I was just saying..." Pam replied with a sad little apologetic shrug.

Creed returned the shrug, having forgotten the previous slight, perhaps literally. "Here's a picture of us together."

Pam winced, they were indeed together in the picture. Far more together than she was comfortable seeing.

"We're very open," Creed said, smiling broadly. "You can keep the picture."

----

Pam: There were a few things about Creed's picture that made me feel uncomfortable...

Pause.

Pam: Like the fact that Katie Kelly looks a little young for Creed.

Pause.

Pam: A little very young.

----

Creed: Well, age of consent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 16, so I try to use that as my measuring-stick...

Shrug.

Creed: Age is one thing, though, and breast size is usually another...

He takes out another picture of Katie Kelly and shows it to the camera. It is thankfully blurred out.

Creed, nodding proudly: Booming system up top AND in the back.

----

"I know I should just throw it all away, I should put it all behind me, but... that's so much of my past, you know?"

While Jim was emotional enough that to have been ruled a homosexual and treated accordingly by a panel of select football players, rednecks, and certain members of his extended family during his adolescence, he was never really one to express those emotions. It always seemed easier to keep everything inside in front of others and save it all up for later brooding when he was safely alone with his iPod.

All things considered, though, he recognized that maybe the problem was that whenever he did open himself up, it was invariably to the worst possible person.

"Jimkata," Michael said proudly, "I can't tell you how much it means to me that you came to me first."

"Of course," Jim mumbled guiltily.

"If it makes you feel any better," Michael assured him, "I completely understand where you're coming from."

Despite the source, Jim genuinely did feel better hearing that. "Thank you."

Michael nodded. "I mean, we all love Pam, but the last thing you want is to be caught without an exit strategy."

And suddenly Jim felt very, very dirty.

----

Jim: You know, I'm starting to understand what Pam might be upset about.

----

"Kelly," Pam called, "Ryan's on the phone for you."

Kelly's great, expressive eyes contorted in unspeakable hatred. "You tell that sick pervert that..."

"He said he has a job for you in the Corporate office," Pam interrupted.

"Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!" Kelly screamed, bouncing up and down on her heels.

----

Ryan: I thought Kelly would be easy to replace in New York, but...

Full-body sigh.

Ryan: It turns out there just aren't too many people who are willing to do what she is willing to do...

Pause.

Ryan: ...For this company.

----

Silently, Jim wandered over to Pam's desk. "Hey, Pam," he began softly, "I need you to take charge of a project for me."

Pam said nothing, which spoke volumes.

Jim nodded and reached into his back, pulling his wallet out and placing it gently on her desk. "My wallet really needs to be cleaned out and I was hoping that you could take care of it for me."

"Sure," Pam replied, her voice completely without emotion or effect.

"Thank you, I appreciate that," Jim said softly. "Oh, and there's some stuff that I really need to clean out my closets... could you help me with that after work?"

"I'll be over," Pam replied, her business-like tone somewhat hindered by the ghost of a smile she was trying to fight down.

Jim nodded brightly, at least it was progress.

----

Michael: But, in the end what makes a loving relationship work... whether it's the love between a man and a woman or the love a boss has for his employees... it's commitment.

He pauses to let that sink in.

Michael: You have to be able to look at that person every day and say to yourself "I'm not going to find anyone better."

He smiles, but it doesn't go anywhere near his eyes.

Michael: "This is really it."

----

It was really ridiculous that it had even been a fight, Jim thought. He might not have the best track record in relationships, but this was Pam, the woman he'd dreamt about more than any other in the world (except Dawn Yanek, which was just a pipe dream), what kind of idiot would throw all that away?

He couldn't help but laugh at it all, never questioning why he seemed to be wandering in the direction of the annex.

Toby looked like he was having a particularly rough day. Actually, he always looked that way, Jim reflected.

"Hey, Jim," Toby said warmly.

"Hi," Jim replied nervously.

"If you're here to register your relationship with Pam, she already did it," Toby said beamishly.

Somehow this made Jim feel so much worse about himself. "No, it's not that..."

An odd recognition passed across Toby's eyes. "Is there something you want to talk about?"

"No, no... it's just..." Jim had to struggle to find his voice, as though what he was about to say were somehow high blasphemy. "...I thought it would be different when we finally got together... you know?

Toby nodded sadly. That's what they always said.

----

Alex the Director-of-Photography will be back in "Trading Spouses"

"So, what about Gandhi?" Jim asked, terribly amused with himself.

"What about him?" Angela snapped, hating every last one of Jim's little games.

"Well, you said you believe that everyone who doesn't accept Jesus as their personal savior goes to Hell, right?" Jim continued, his smile annexing more and more territory by the second.

"Of course," Angela replied coldly.

"So, by your logic, Gandhi is in Hell right now," Jim concluded happily.

"No one is in Hell yet because Jesus hasn't risen the dead and judged us," Angela corrected, every word dripping frozen hatred.

"Or if he has, we were all left behind," Jim offered helpfully.

"...But, yes, Gandhi will go to Hell," Angela said with total certainty.

Jim shrugged. "Then I'm going, too."

"What?" Angela was shocked, this was beyond blasphemy.

"Well, I don't want any part of a Heaven that won't accept Gandhi," Jim answered philosophically. "And if Gandhi's going to Hell, I'm sure he'll have it turned around in no time, so... it's really an easy decision."

----

Angela: Am I upset by Jim's constant heresy?

Pause.

Angela: Of course I am, but Jesus teach us to hate the sin, but forgive the sinner, and I always do...

Cold, evil smile.

Angela: After the appropriate punishment, of course.

-----

Dwight had felt horrible calling in sick. Michael had taken it all in stride, of course, that was what made him a hero, but Dwight knew his presence in the office would be sorely missed by all.

He was just about to run back to the farmhouse for his hourly check-in phone call, when a hand reached out to stop him.

"I don't think we're done fertilizing the beetroot fields," Pam said sweetly.

Dwight smiled. Those teenagers really knew what they were doing.

----

Creed, ruffled, shirtless, cigarette dangling from his lips: I couldn't be happier with way things turned out.

There is a horrifying crash in the background, followed by what seems to be Kevin screaming.

Creed: Could not be happier.