Hey, everyone! So, I finally did it. I posted an Office fic! *insert faint applause here* This is my first attempt at Office fanfic, and naturally, I needed a little guidance and support. So, I thank JAMHands, bigbagofjam, and Robinpoppins for the beta jobs they did, the questions I asked, and the time they spent listening to me whine. I also have to thank the countless others who encouraged and supported me. And I also need to thank John Krasinski for the eye candy he provided while I wrote. And thank YOU for reading. Hope you enjoy
Disclaimer: I own a JAM t-shirt. That's really it. I own nothing else. I'm borrowing them and I'll put them back where I found them. I promise.
He hadn't slept much that night. The room was a decent temperature, his roommate didn't have anyone over, and he wasn't physically ill. He should have been able to get a solid eight hours of sleep before his first day back.
But he didn't.
Instead, he was up all night, trying to figure out how to deal with the flashbacks of that night. He thought back to the way her hair was pinned up, giving him the perfect view of her eyes. He remembered the way she teased him at the poker table and how she giggled when he teased her. But he wanted to forget how it felt to hold her in his arms after feeling the pain of being rejected.
In the back of his mind, he could hear Pam try to justify her rejection, and it made him sick to his stomach. Anger, embarrassment, and complete confusion came together like ingredients in a blender when he realized that the incident seemed to be playing on an endless loop. For a moment, he wished he could take the kiss back if only he could trade it for a sense of normalcy. To be able to saunter up to the reception desk and invent pranks. To pass the time by sending her instant messages or e-mails. To just close enough to her in the break room to be able to smell her apple scented shampoo.
To have just some of the hope he used to have before his confession.
He sighed. The hope was gone now. But even so, he didn't exactly wish he could take the whole thing back. He wanted to take select moments from that night to piece them together and make his own twisted version of reality. He knew it was stupid to be so in deep in denial over something he couldn't change, but it seemed to be the only way that he could get through another day while he was away.
He wanted to kiss her again more than anything. He remembered exactly how her hands felt, moving from his shoulders, into his hair, and then to his chest. And the kiss itself. All the emotions he had been holding in for so long were channeled in the kiss. It was by far the best kiss he ever had. And the worst. Even if things were never right between them again, he would always, always remember that kiss. As much as he wanted to pretend that it didn't matter the memory of that kiss alone would prove that he still wanted to be with her.
Sure, there was something to be said about having his feelings out in the open. In fact, it was a relief. But what good was it if he and Pam didn't end up together? Jim knew that it was a risk, telling Pam that he was in love with her. He had tucked away the possibility of being rejected in the back of his mind, never truly believing that she would reject him, even though he knew that there was a good chance that it would happen. He hadn't prepared himself, because he had hoped her reaction would be entirely different, and now the possibility had become a haunting reality.
And he was still searching for a way to deal.
But he didn't want to deal with it. He wanted to continue hiding in denial. He wasn't ready to return to Dunder Mifflin, knowing that things would be exactly the same as they used to be, and yet completely different.
He would sit at the same desk. She would still answer the phones. But he would have to physically stop himself from getting up and wandering toward the front of the office. He would have to make a conscious effort to avoid the little touches and the flirtatious smiles. He realized his daily routine had just been drastically altered.
He turned over and looked at the clock.
Jim had tried to avoid thinking about it the entire time he was away, but the moment was coming closer. He spent most of his trip to Australia trying to get in contact with Jan about openings in Stamford, Utica, Nashua, or anywhere that would allow him to get away from Scranton. It hurt too badly to stay. He hoped that being far away would help the situation. But there wasn't a single opening in any of the other branches.
He remembered the night Jan returned his calls. She seemed to have some sympathy for him, which made the whole thing worse, but she couldn't offer him a position anywhere else. Jim couldn't grasp the idea of having a full sales staff in every branch, but after some thought, he realized that with the potential downsizing hanging over their heads, it was probably true. Jan was right. They didn't have another spot for him, so he was out of luck. He was stuck in Scranton with Pam.
That shouldn't have been a bad thing. But all the old memories, all the moments they shared, and ultimately, her rejection, would haunt him every day when he walked into work. And knowing that he couldn't even dream of being with her again was going to torture him.
And now, his return to Dunder Mifflin Scranton was merely hours away.
He wondered how everything would go that morning. He knew she would be there. He would walk through the door, and then what? He had visions of wedding and honeymoon pictures floating around the office. Visions of Kelly begging to help Pam prematurely choose names for her children with Roy. Visions of Michael giving Roy the 'atta boy' look every time he came upstairs. Visions of sitting at his desk, looking up at Pam and knowing that she would no longer look back at him and smile like she used to.
And he wasn't sure he could deal with that.
The alarm clock buzzed, jolting him out of his thought process. Normally, he would hit the snooze button a few times, roll out of bed and get dressed before arriving fashionably late to work. But today, he found himself agonizing over everything he did, trying to find a way to push back his return a little bit more. He brushed his teeth twice, and actually ironed his shirt. He made and ate a second breakfast before finally giving up. What was it going to do for him? He wasn't trying to impress anyone. All he wanted to do was delay going back to Scranton as much as possible.
Jim got in the car and started the drive to work. On a morning when he had a meeting with a client, the drive would have taken much longer than it should have. But this morning, he found himself sitting in his car, parked in the Scranton Office Park, in less than ten minutes. There wasn't much sense in waiting, he decided as he grabbed his messenger bag, threw it over his shoulder, and got out of the car. Putting it off wasn't going to make him feel any better.
He took a deep breath as he locked the car door and walked inside the building. As he waited for the elevator to make its way up to the office, a little part of him wanted to get back in his car and go home. Okay, a big part of him wanted that. He glanced at the buttons, seriously considering making an escape before anyone saw him. Instead, he stuffed his hands in his pockets, forcing himself to accept the idea of returning to work.
The elevator arrived on Dunder Mifflin's floor and Jim made his way inside. The moment he walked in, as if on cue, everyone in the office turned to look at him. He shot the cameras a confused glance and then turned toward Pam, who was completely oblivious to the whispers and the activity going on around her as she answered the phone. He wasn't sure if he should approach her, walk right past her, or give an awkward wave from his desk.
He shook his head at his own indecision and walked past Pam's desk, taking a seat at his own. He knew that no matter how he acknowledged Pam that day, she still chose to marry Roy. Things weren't going to be the same. It wasn't like stopping to steal a jellybean before he sat down was going to erase what happened between them. Jim reached over and turned on his computer. As he waited for it to start up, he looked over at Pam's desk once again. Sure, it was against his better judgment, but he couldn't seem to keep his eyes away from the front of the office.
He watched as she hung up the telephone and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. She reached for a pencil and turned toward what he assumed was her sketchbook to continue what she was doing. Jim picked up his phone and grabbed a pad of post-its, listening to his voicemail but not really paying attention. He was too busy chastising himself for continuing to stare. She looked up from her work and glanced in his direction. At first she seemed startled to see him there. Her eyes widened as she quickly reached for a random folder on her desk to look as though she was busy. After a moment of pretending to occupy herself, she glanced up once again. The way she did it made Jim feel as though he had been punched in the gut. It was definitely a curious glance, almost as though she was looking to see if he was still staring at her. Determined to at least try to alleviate the awkwardness, he motioned toward his phone and rolled his eyes as if he were complaining about the number of messages he had to listen to.
Her face flushed and she gave him a half smile. For a moment, their eyes locked, and he started to feel a twinge of guilt for being unable to keep his eyes off of her. But the way she looked back at him gave him an odd sense of normalcy, which he thought should bother him more. Things were hardly normal. He felt the familiar spine tingling, the familiar stomach flop, and the familiar rush of happiness he was trying to avoid letting into his life.
He tried to convince himself that he couldn't possibly feel exactly the same about her now that things were so different.
Or could he?
Before he had much of a chance to think about the ramifications of their new dynamic, Michael's office door swung open.
"Crikey, look who has returned from Down Under!" Michael said in a terrible Australian accent.
Dwight emerged from the office, standing next to Michael. "I'm surprised he wasn't eaten by a pack of dingoes," he said, crossing his arms. "He has no survival skills."
"You're talking about him like he isn't here, Dwight. Do you realize how rude that is? How do you think he feels? That's not a very nice welcome back for a weary traveler like Jim."
"He's hardly a weary traveler," Dwight snorted. "His symptoms of desynchronosis would have faded yesterday if he had any."
"Dwight, seriously, you're being completely insensitive to Jim, after all he's been through."
Dwight shook his head. "I'm sorry, Michael, I don't speak to traitors."
"You do realize that I'm sitting here, right?" Jim interrupted as he hung up the phone and leaned back slightly in his chair. "And why am I a traitor?"
Michael looked at Dwight, and then at Jim. "Yeah, why's he a traitor again?"
Dwight glared at Michael as Jim shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had a feeling that he knew what was coming. He tried to avoid conversation by turning around in his seat to face his desk. Suddenly, he felt a hand on the back of his chair, and he was jerked around to face Dwight and Michael. Dwight grasped the arms of Jim's chair and leaned in closer to Jim.
"Jim Halpert put in a request to be transferred to another branch," Dwight said in a low voice.
Michael nodded as the information that he had previously received came back to him. "Yeah, God, Jim, you're such a traitor! I can't believe you would want to leave Scranton! Scranton is a family, why would you want to leave your family?"
Jim shot Pam an uncomfortable glance as he tried to pull his chair away from Dwight. She looked away as soon as his eyes met hers, but he saw the expression on her face before she turned toward the phone. She was definitely hurt. And just like that, the comfortable familiarity they had for just a moment slipped away. He was crushed when he realized that he had to explain his actions not only to Michael and Dwight, but to Pam. He took a deep breath. "I'm not a traitor, let me—"
Dwight grabbed the arm of Jim's chair once again, pulling it toward him and nearly knocking it over. "As Lackawanna County volunteer sheriff's deputy—"
"Didn't you give up your badge?" Jim interrupted.
"I had access to the company's phone records. I have friends who can see any phone call you made to Jan, as well as the times and dates they were placed. How do you know we didn't already have your phone lines tapped? Do you care to retract that statement?"
Jim shook his head. "Uh, no, not really."
"You could really do that?" Michael asked, his eyes wide with disbelief. Dwight turned toward Michael as if to answer the question and Michael shook his head firmly. "Forget it, Dwight, you can't interrogate Jim. He is still a member of our family, and we welcome him back. Like the guy with the rainbow coat. But he does owe his family an explanation of why he wanted to leave us!"
"Michael, you realize that if Jim talked to anyone from corporate, that's confidential, right?" Toby asked, approaching Michael and Dwight.
"You know what, Toby? I wouldn't be surprised if Jim didn't want to leave because of you. You are the pimple on the ass of this office—" Michael took a deep breath, regained his composure, and continued. "But, you know, Jim, you and I are friends, we're buddies. And I think that I deserve to know why you wanted to leave."
"Why would I tell you that?" Jim asked.
"Because, Jim! You and I have a bond! We share our deepest, darkest secrets—" Michael said as he shot Jim a glance. Jim knew that Michael was trying to entice him to share more, so he fought to avoid further questioning. He stared blankly at Michael, trying not to give him any hints. Confused, Michael looked at Jim, and then at Pam, and back at Jim again. He gasped. "You don't know, do you? Jim doesn't know!"
Jim rubbed his temples for a moment, hoping that Michael would soon leave him alone. He put his chin in his hand and leaned against the arm of his chair. This couldn't be good. He glanced over once more at the reception desk, where Pam had stopped in her tracks on the way to the filing cabinet.
"What doesn't he know? He's a traitor; he knows everything about this office and he is probably feeding information to other branches. I don't trust him," Dwight added.
Jim motioned to a stack of papers on his desk. "You know what, I really have a lot of work to do, so—"
"He doesn't have to feed information to any other branch," Michael interrupted. "He can stay right here, everyone, because guess what? He left because of Pam, who broke his heart because she was going to marry Roy." Michael looked down at Jim, almost as if he were seeking confirmation. When Jim didn't react, Michael continued. "Well, Pam didn't marry Roy, and now the only other branch Jim needs to consider consulting with is the— what's that branch you give to someone, metaphorically, when you want to make up with them?" Michael asked, turning to Dwight.
"Olive branch," Dwight answered quickly.
"Yes, that's right, the olive branch, to make peace, so he can be with Pam now."
Jim drowned out the rest of the conversation and turned toward Pam's desk. She didn't marry Roy.
His head started pounding. The revelation was supposed to make this whole situation easier to deal with. Technically, it did. He still had a chance. Pam didn't go through with the wedding. All of the scenarios he imagined that morning were irrelevant now. Why wasn't he happy about that?
Maybe it was because the only way he could deal with Pam's rejection was his naïve mantra that if Pam was truly in love Roy, then he was happy for her.
But she wasn't in love with Roy. She didn't marry Roy. She still rejected him. He just couldn't deal with that.
He needed to talk to her. He didn't want to. But he had to.
He looked up at the desk to find that Pam was gone. Part of him felt incredibly guilty. He wanted to go after her and try to patch things up. Or at least try to explain his reasons behind transferring. She would understand, right? But the other half was relieved; he had a chance to practice the avoidance technique he had mastered since the night in the office.
Jim turned back to his desk, reaching for the telephone once more. He realized that he didn't really stick around to see how she dealt with his confession. He took off to Australia, determined to be as far away from Pam as possible on her wedding day. He didn't even intend to return to Scranton. Ultimately, he wasn't really sure how she was feeling. Was she just as confused as he was? He glanced toward the break room, wondering where she had gone to escape.
He felt like he had been punched in the gut. He felt like he had somehow betrayed Pam by trying to transfer. For years, she was the only person in the office who he cared about. Pam was his best friend, and he hurt her. Not only was she reeling from adjusting to the idea that her best friend was in love with her, and the breakup with Roy, now she had to deal with her personal life being flaunted around the office. She was probably embarrassed, angry, and confused, just like he was. Jim hated knowing he was directly responsible for those feelings she was probably having.
His head pounded as he attempted to put the entire situation in perspective. It wasn't fair that she had to find out about his almost departure from Michael. Sure, he could have contacted her from Australia, but he wasn't the only one who was wrong, was he? Pam wasn't exactly secret-free herself. He didn't deserve to hear about Pam's non-wedding from Michael. He deserved to know from Pam.
Jim couldn't stop thinking about the idea that Pam wasn't married. He had prepared himself for the day with the knowledge that when he walked through the doors that morning, he would have to deal with the fact that Pam would be Roy's wife. It wasn't like he had exactly come to terms with the idea, but it was the only thing about the whole ordeal that he kept constant in his mind.
The news that she wasn't married almost taunted him. For some reason, he couldn't allow himself to get comfortable with the idea that she wasn't Roy's wife.
He couldn't stop questioning everything about the situation. Why didn't she marry Roy? How soon after the confession did it happen? How was Pam handling the breakup? Did Pam think about Jim at all in this decision? Who did the breaking up? Who was the one that was dumped? Did Pam tell Roy about the kiss?
Jim sighed. Did she break up with Roy over what happened that night? Was it possible that she had feelings for him, too?
He couldn't help but wonder if he shouldn't have told her how he felt. Maybe things would have been different if Jim hadn't said anything. If he didn't, would she still be with Roy? Maybe. But there was also that slim chance that if he would have just kept his mouth shut, he could be with Pam right now. Jim sat back in his chair, trying not to think about it. There was no use in playing 'what if' when Pam wasn't married to Roy.
Michael and Dwight continued to discuss Jim and Pam's love life and Jim's attempted departure. He tried to ignore them and concentrate on his voicemails, but he was unable to avoid thinking about Pam.
Sure, she wasn't married to Roy. But did that mean that Pam and Roy were done for good. Were they officially over? Maybe they were still engaged, but they just postponed the wedding again. What if they were really done? Would Roy try to win Pam back? Had he already tried? What would Pam do in that situation? Would Pam take Roy back?
He shuddered. Jim wasn't prepared to deal with the idea that Roy could still be involved in Pam's life. If Roy was still around, Jim knew that he wouldn't be able to stand it. They would be back to where they started. Jim was sure that he would have to look for work outside Dunder Mifflin if Roy and Pam were still together. He simply couldn't take going back to square one. Not after all they had been through.
But for now, Jim needed to focus on what he did know. Pam wasn't married to Roy, Jim was still in Scranton, and somehow, the entire situation just got more complicated.
to be continued