Title: The Distance from Here
Rating:
PG
Disclaimer:
Don't own them; just borrowing.
Spoilers:
Up to 5.06 Customer Survey
Summary:
Jim. Pam. The fallout from Customer Survey. I'm buying you a house, he wants to tell her. Instead, again, "Do you want New York?"
Note:
This was written before tonight's episode (5.07 Business Trip).


He begs off the Bluetooth, some lame excuse about having to actually meet with a client that she sees right through. She sounds sad, but not surprised. She makes him promise they'll talk.

"Later," he agrees, not trusting his voice with more than two syllables at a time.

"I have class later," she reminds him automatically, as if he hasn't had her schedule committed to memory since her first day in New York.

He's silent for five entire seconds before answering. "After class, then." And he listens to her breathe.

"Jim..."

"I have to go." Another five seconds. Then, "I love you." It could break his heart.

He turns the earpiece off before she can say it, too.


After work, he meets Mark at Poor Richard's to watch Philly play Orlando. He's got both Iguodala and Howard on his fantasy team, and the office league's actually got real money on it this year, but turnovers and personal fouls and three pointers couldn't be further from his mind.

In the middle of the first quarter, he says it: "What if Pam wants to stay in New York?"

"Shit, man." Mark's bottle clanks down onto the bar, abruptly. "Did she say that?"

He has to think about it, and maybe that's what scares him the most. "No." Not yet.

"But..."

Jim pushes the pile of shredded peanut shells around in front of him. "But maybe she wants to. New York, you know. Best place for an artist. Great opportunities...She'd kinda be crazy not to, don't you think?"

Mark pushes Jim's beer towards him. "So you move to New York." He says it as if it's that simple, as if he hasn't turned down one New York job already. As if he isn't trying to buy a house in Scranton. As if it's the easiest thing in the world, to leave home because of her. Again.

But it's an out (and that's all it is), and Jim takes it. He nods at the television. "Your guy's gonna draw another foul."

Mark curses under his breath and Jim relaxes. Almost.

At 9:30, the 76ers are losing and Pam is out of class. He hits the speed dial for her number and listens to it go straight to voicemail.

At eleven, Orlando's celebrating in the locker room and he listens to her voice, again, telling him to leave a message. "You're not leaving one? Again?" Mark asks, signaling for another beer. Jim feels like a coward for the first time since the night of Toby's goodbye party.

It's after midnight when Mark is cashing out, and Jim shakes his head when he offers to drive him home. "No, I'm good." Good is relative; at least he feels strangely sober for how many beers he's had.

He drives home slowly, carefully, phone resting on his thigh. He's in no rush.


At 2:04 am, his phone vibrates on his chest. He flips it open to read the text: "Are u awake?"

A small part of him wants to ignore her, the way she hasn't answered his calls all night. But the bigger part of him, the part of him that's not been his own since the day he first walked into Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, so many years ago, will always want to hear her voice. He dials.

She answers breathlessly, only his name. "Jim."

He's laying on her pillow tonight, though it's long been void of her scent. Still, he buries his face in it, briefly, before willing his voice to work. "Just tell me, Pam...do you want to stay? Do you want New York?"

He can tell she's stunned by his opener, and maybe he should feel more smug about that. But instead, her voice, quiet and wounded: "Jim." He can't breathe with her voice like that.

I'm buying you a house, he wants to tell her. Instead, again, "Do you want New York?"

A beat. "I want you."

"Not what I asked, Beesley, and you know it." He tries for a lighter tone. Fails miserably. Sounds miserable.

"Would you just..." She, on the other hand, sounds frustrated.

She's frustrated? He wants to hit something, hard. He settles for balling his fist, grinding it into the soft fabric of her pillow. Doesn't help. "Look, Pam...I don't want to be..." He clears his throat, "Something you regret. I don't want to be...that guy. Who holds you back." He closes his eyes.

"Jim!"

His eyes pop back open at the vehemence in her voice. How many different ways can she say his name? He wishes she'd stop saying it at all. "I mean it, Pam. I..."

"Will you come open your door?"

She says it so suddenly that it takes him several moments to ask for clarification. "What?"

"I forgot my key. Can you come open the door?" When he still doesn't respond, "It's freezing out here, Jim."

He curses quietly under his breath as he abandons his phone to the rumpled bedsheets, shuffling through the darkened apartment to the front door. A moment's hesitation, during which he hears her through the door, speaking his name in a questioning manner into her phone. He releases the deadbolt and hears her voice cut off abruptly as he opens the door.

She's standing there, nose and eyes reddened, and the fall night's air chills him through his thin pajama pants and t-shirt. "It's freezing out here," he states unnecessarily, and she nods.

"That's what I said."

He watches as she drops her phone into her coat pocket, and he peers out behind her to the car parked in the space beside his. "You drove here." He is, apparently, unable to speak in anything but obvious observations.

"Can I come in?"

He starts, reaching out to touch her, finally, pulling her into the warm apartment and closing the door behind them. He keeps his grasp on her forearm and lets out a breath. "Pam." Her name, only. A caress. A mere twelve hours has reduced him to this.

And she merely nods. Yes, me, he reads her hooded eyes to say, as she silently slips her coat off, shoes following. He's afraid to ask (how long, when, where) so he just lets her take his hand in hers – she's cold – and lead them back to his bedroom.

"I had to see you," she says quietly, once, and he dips his head so his face is buried, momentarily, in her hair. And then he watches as she undresses, in the clumsy motions of someone overly exhausted, and helps herself to a pair of his basketball shorts and an old sweatshirt.

No questions, no answers. He lays down when she does, pulling the blanket up to cover them before wrapping an arm around her middle. "You have class at nine," he ventures quietly, feeling the pull of New York even with her in his arms.

"Yeah." She shifts, her leg automatically vying for its spot between his own. "I'll have to leave early; can you set an alarm?"

Maybe this is his answer. He holds her tighter before releasing her, reaching for his alarm clock and re-setting it. When he returns to her, she presses her lips to his. "Jim." His name again; he can taste it in her mouth. He's heavy, aching.

"I love you." Her voice, a whisper close to his ear.

His mouth is open on the warming skin of her throat. "I know."

fin