The Lie, by DoofusPrime

Notes - This story takes place after the episode "Business School", although any details you'd need to know will be mentioned in the story. Although it is drama / romance, there will also be comedy as well. Hope you guys like it!


Schruting It

XX

Work was the last thing on Pam Beesly's mind. There were invoices to be filled out, a few papers for Michael to sign, and even a little shredding to do. All of which was normally exciting enough, relatively speaking, to knock Pam out of her stupor. But Pam had no interest in doing anything besides sitting and thinking.

She stared vacantly at Jim from across the top of her receptionist's partition. He was talking to someone on the telephone. Jim had given her a friendly hello that morning, even traded a few paltry scraps of small talk with her when they ran across each other during a trip to the break room, but Pam had been waiting for something else to come up in conversation. Something that had been weighing heavily on her mind since yesterday. She kept waiting, but Jim hadn't brought up what she really wanted to talk about: the art show.

The subject pressed down on her like a dead weight, stifling what should have been an upbeat Friday. Maybe she was being unreasonable in expecting him to bring it up. Her picture of the office was hanging proudly in its frame across from her desk, but she didn't know if Jim – or anyone else in the office – had noticed it. She had asked Jim to come to the art show, she remembered that clearly, but maybe he didn't realize it was important to her. Even as Pam thought of that possibility, it seemed ridiculous. Jim knew how much she cared about art. He had encouraged her to go to art school, before – before she changed her mind. It should have been a given that she cared a lot about the art show.

He could have been busy. But if that was the case, wouldn't Jim have given her an apology or at even a passing explanation? Or, Pam wondered, maybe he had been more interested in spending time with his girlfriend. Pam was staring idly at Jim as she considered all the possible reasons for his not showing up, but when she caught Karen noticing her vacant look, she averted her eyes quickly. It was almost as if Karen had read her mind.

Pam hadn't really expected everyone in the office to show up to her show, but it still stung a little. Hearing the comments made between Oscar and his boyfriend had been painful, but more painful than all of that was Jim's conspicuous absence. Last night would have been one of the worst nights Pam could remember in a long time if it wasn't for Michael showing up at the last moment and perking up her spirits. Her last thought made her repress a quiet snort of amusement. Michael Scott, saving her night – along with her fragile psyche - from utter collapse.

Not what she had been expecting.

"Hey Pam."

Pam's blank look at the top of her desk was broken by the sound of Jim's voice. She looked up. Jim leaned casually against the receptionist's desk as he looked down at her, then over to Michael's office. The door was closed and the blinds were drawn.

"Do you know what Michael's up to?"

"Not really. He's been in there for a while. He told me to hold his calls."

Pam was often told to hold Michael's calls, and she knew that it could mean almost anything. Michael could be avoiding someone like Jan or David, he could be surfing the internet, reading a particularly entertaining magazine article, or just taking a mid-work nap. With the blinds closed, there was no way to tell.

"What have you been up to?" she asked Jim.

"Oh, the usual. Making some sales calls. Wondering if Dwight ever wears a color besides beige and puke yellow."

"Now that you mention it, maybe he doesn't."

Jim glanced at his watch and shot another look at Michael's door. "Alright," he said, "if you'll excuse me, Dwight and I have to get Michael and attend to some pressing business."

"Schneider meeting?"

"Yup."

The two of of them jerked their heads in the direction of Dwight's desk as a loud beeping sound went off, echoing through the office. Dwight clicked something on his computer and got up, marching purposefully over to Michael's office and rapping on the door. "Michael!" he yelled. There was no answer.

"I think that's my cue," said Jim.

"Michael, it's time for us to go to the client meeting!"

Dwight rapped on the door and called out Michael's name again, but still got no response. Karen got up from her desk and walked over to embrace her boyfriend before he left for the client meeting, giving him a kiss. If Pam wasn't mistaken, she thought she caught Karen casting her a bit of a catty glance while she did it. Pam had been noticing some hints of jealousy on Karen's part recently, as if Karen needed to make it very clear in front of Pam that she and Jim were in a relationship. Pam found it unnecessary, and a bit ridiculous; Jim had made it very clear that he didn't like her, and she was trying to patch things up with Roy anyway.

Dwight's continued rapping went unanswered. It was obvious that Michael was either asleep or avoiding Dwight, so Pam picked up the phone and called his office number. The phone rang several times before Michael picked up on the other end.

"Hello?" came a sputtering voice.

"Michael, you have a client meeting."

"What? Pam, why didn't you tell me? I've been in here na – working, working on some papers here with no idea I had a meeting!"

Pam heard a very deliberate crinkling sound on the other end of the line, probably Michael's attempt to convince her that he did in fact have a number of important business papers in his hands. "I did tell you," she said patiently. "Several times. Once yesterday, once this morning-"

"Okay, okay. You don't have to get testy, Pam."

Pam hung up the phone. Scheduling client meetings for Michael on Fridays was always a bad idea, but Schneider had been the one to call her and set it up. Jim and Dwight waited in front of Michael's office – Jim patiently, Dwight standing on his tip toes and trying to see through the closed blinds. Despite being awake, for some reason it took Michael several moments to actually open his office door, at which point he gave a frightened start to find Dwight standing directly in front of him. Michael waved him away as he entered the main room of the office.

"People, people," he said, gathering everyone's attention, "Jim and Dwight and I are off to make sure a major customer renews its contract to buy Dunder Mifflin paper. We might be gone an hour or two, maybe a couple days – no way to know!"

Jim raised an eyebrow at Pam, who gave him a grin, before turning to Michael.

"A couple of days, Michael?"

"Dedication Jim. It takes as long as it takes."

"Yes Jim," said Dwight. "Dedication."

"As I was saying, we will be gone from the office for a while. Until we get back, Stanley the Manley – you're in charge, my man. Think you can handle it?"

Stanley ignored Michael, who waited for several moments before realizing no answer was forthcoming.

"Why can't I be the boss?" asked Dwight.

"You're going with us, idiot."

"Well, I can tell people what to do over the phone."

"I could do that myself, Dwight! That's the whole point of appointing a new – because-"

Michael trailed off as he rubbed his temples in exasperation. The rest the office stared at him blankly until he motioned for Dwight and Jim to follow him out. Pam watched them go, hoping that Jim might wave goodbye, but he did not. She noticed Karen watching him go as well before giving her a brief look and returning to her desk. Pam sighed. She hadn't gotten the chance to bring up the art show and ask why Jim didn't show up. Then again, maybe it was better not to bring it up, at the risk of sounding whiny.

Jim's return to Scranton had been a happy day for Pam, as she had missed his friendship. She enjoying having him around the office, and yet she couldn't help but notice how different things were now. The camaraderie they shared together before Jim left for Stamford, that bond that she could always rely on to get her through even the worst work days, seemed to have shriveled away. In its place was a different kind of friendship. A little colder, a little less exciting. They didn't even pull pranks on Dwight the way they used to. Their shared prank against Andy had been promising, almost as it they were beginning to return to their old ways, but then – much like Karen's friendliness towards her – Jim had seemed to pull away a little.

The new friendship was still valuable to Pam, better than Jim's absence, but in a way, a part of him was still absent. Maybe he was holding himself back, afraid of being open with her again. Pam couldn't blame him. Things between them had gotten complicated, no matter how much she wished they could be simple.

XX

Michael's Sebring convertible made its way through the streets of Scranton, top rolled down and cold February air pouring over the heads of its occupants. Jim gathered his coat closer around himself as he thought about his sales strategy. Mostly he was just trying to amuse himself and ignore the freezing weather; there really wasn't much sales strategy when it came to selling paper, unless you asked Dwight. Jim had the impression that it ultimately came down to whether or not you could be friendly enough to cajole the customer into buying paper so expensive that it negated any minor gains in terms of customer service.

"Aren't you glad we took the Sebring?" asked Michael.

Jim glanced back to Dwight, at whom Michael was directing the question, and Dwight gave him a brief eye roll in response. Jim couldn't help but share the sentiment. There had been a considerable argument over whether to take Dwight's Trans Am or Michael's Sebring when the three of them stepped into the office parking lot, and - thanks to having the power of authority over Dwight, which worked even when Michael wasn't actively pulling his boss card – the Sebring won. Jim idly wondered whether Michael actually had a boss card for a moment. He wouldn't be surprised. Michael had insisted on putting the top down, despite the cold weather, and was now pretending to enjoy it to save face, even though it was clear that he was freezing just as much as his passengers were.

"My two wingmen," said Michael, half to himself and half to his two passengers. "Starsky and Hutch. Goose and Mongoose. Schneider has no chance against our complete sales penetration."

"Triple penetration!" spoke up Dwight from the back seat.

Jim groaned at their unfortunate choice of phrasing.

"Could we turn on the radio, please?"

"Excellent idea, Jim."

Michael tried to fiddle with the radio dials, ignoring the road until Jim slapped his hand away and tuned to a station himself. Sweet Scranton tunes played over the airwaves as he waited patiently for them to arrive at the restaurant where they were meeting John Schneider.

Schneider, one of Dunder Mifflin's biggest clients, was the CEO of a local eponymous grocery store chain. Michael had secured him as a client a number of years ago, during his free-wheeling years as a salesman, and the company made sure to periodically renew Schneider's contract, as he was an older man who valued personal business relationships. Jim wasn't sure if he and Dwight really needed to go with Michael since it was just a renewal, but it wasn't unprecedented for the three of them to handle sales calls together. And he knew Michael probably just wanted the company, if only to show off what Jim knew were some surprisingly sharp sales skills.

The sound of ringing reached Jim over the wind's shrill hum and the radio's blare; he had almost missed it, but it sounded like it was coming from his left.

"Michael," he said, "I think you're phone's ringing."

Michael turned off the radio and fished his cell phone out of his pants pocket.

"Hello? Oh, hi Jan."

Dwight leaned forward a little in an attempt to hear Michael's phone conversation, shooting Jim a dirty look when he caught Jim's amused expression. Jim always enjoyed it when Dwight invaded Michael's personal space – he seemed to be intrigued by anything his boss was doing which did not directly concern him. As if he was being kept from a secret. Michael let out a giggle at whatever Jan was saying on the other end.

"That does sound pretty awesome, but – hey, get away!"

Michael twitched his neck at the feel of Dwight's hot breath coming from behind his seat.

"No, not you Jan. It's just that I have this sales call I'm going – what? You're already there?"

Jim frowned. He understood Dwight's interest in Michael's relationship with Jan, although his own interest was more like the kind of morbid fascination you got when you saw an ambulance driving by and wondered what kind of horrible accident had occurred. Or maybe that was just him. Either way, judging by Michael's giggling, Jan wasn't calling him on business. Not that kind of business, anyway.

"I just think I should –"

Michael was cut off again. Jim caught a wheedling tone in Jan's voice coming from the phone, although he could not hear what she said. Michael tried to protest further, but the tone shifted from wheedling to anger as Michael shot him a nervous look. Whatever Jan wanted, she seemed insistent.

"Okay, okay," he said, "but it has to be quick. I'll be there in a minute."

Almost before he had returned his cell phone to his pocket, Michael swerved the car down a side road, clearly not going in the direction of the meeting place anymore. "Uh, Michael," said Jim, "where are we going?"

"I have to make a quick stop at my condo."

"Do I want to know why?"

"That's inappropriate, Jim."

"Okay then."

Jim had never been to Michael's condo before, but as Michael drove on with a strange mixture of anticipation and concern on his face, it became apparent that it was nowhere near the restaurant where they were supposed to meet John Schneider. The Sebring pulled into a residential area, and Michael slowed as they passed rows of houses. At one point he slowed down almost to a complete stop, and several moments passed before he pulled into a driveway. Jim got the feeling he wasn't sure which condo was his. He couldn't blame Michael; most of them did look almost identical. As his boss opened the car door, Jim couldn't help but speak up.

"Michael, do we have time for this?"

"Lots of time, Jim. I always leave some buffer time before my meetings, and this won't take long. Just chill out, bro! I'll be right back!"

Jim sighed and sat back in his seat. Now that Michael was gone, at least, he could put the convertible's top up and get some heating going inside. He knew Dwight would appreciate it too, even if Dwight would die before he actually said anything about it or threw his sense of masculinity into question by doing it himself. As Jim glanced through the windshield while the black top was going up, he noticed Michael opening the door to his condo. While he didn't get a good look, Jim thought he caught a glimpse of someone else who was already inside.

Jan Levinson.

Jim's brow furrowed as the condo's door closed. While he got the feeling that Michael was setting himself up for being late, he couldn't bring himself to care about it very much. It was Michael's head on the line, not his. And it wasn't like Jan could blame Jim, or even Michael, if they did end up being late to the meeting.

XX

Jan had been waiting in Michael's condo for a few minutes before calling him; she didn't have a key yet, but she planned to get Michael to make her a copy before long, and fortunately his door had been unlocked. She wondered if he ever actually remembered to lock his door. Although it should have been a work day for her, Jan had called in that morning pretending to be sick, spent the next few hours lounging around at home, drinking a glass or two of wine, and then decided to visit Michael in Scranton. She had been working hard lately. She deserved a day of self-indulgence.

Unfortunately, halfway to Scranton, Jan realized that if she wanted to visit Michael at work she would have to show up in front of all his employees. She could pass it off as a business visit, but it might seem suspicious. And they'd have to have sex in his office. The idea was arousing. Degrading, in a way. And yet it seemed risky when Jan was still wrestling over whether or not to make their relationship public. It was corporate policy, but a part of her liked the rebellious thrill she got from keeping it secret. From doing it right under everybody's nose. And a part of her was afraid of what might happen it the relationship became legitimate. How it might affect way others saw her. What it would do to her.

"Michael!" she exclaimed as the condo door opened.

"Hey Jan, how's it going? How'd you get in here? Did you – did you steal my key?"

"You just used your key, Michael. The door was unlocked."

Jan was about to embrace Michael, but she caught a glimpse of his convertible right before he closed the door. The top was going up, but she could have sworn she saw Jim Halpert in the passenger's seat.

"Michael," she asked as the door closed, "were you on a sales call?"

"Well yes, I told you that on the phone, I-"

"Is anybody with you?"

"Jim and Dwight are waiting. But we have time before the meeting."

"What?"

Michael took a step back at Jan's sharp rise in tone. She should have paid more attention to him on the phone, but she had been insistent on his stopping by the condo, and she knew it was around his lunch break anyway. Something about Michael just set her off. Some kind of magnetism he had. She wondered if Jim had seen her through the doorway, although she would only have been visible for a brief moment. The thought of Jim and Dwight waiting outside was-

Well, thought Jan, what is it?

The more she thought about it, the more she liked it. She was in charge, she called the shots. She would get the day off whenever she wanted, Michael had to please her before he went on a sales call, and his employees would have to wait outside while the two of them engaged in a lunch break of debauchery. It was wild, irresponsible. Scandalous. Jan felt an irrepressible excitement rise from inside her as she grabbed Michael and pulled him into a deep kiss.

"Dmf fyou havf wrmf?"

Jan released Michael from her grip.

"What?"

"Don't you have work today?"

"I took off. Now let's go upstairs and have some fun before you go on your sales call."

Jan wondered if she should have brought her video camera with her. They'd have to try that some other time; she might need to ease Michael into the idea anyway. She took her boyfriend by the arm and led up him up the stairway, flashing a predatory smile he laughed nervously.

XX

One of Jim's favorite rock songs played on the car radio. He hummed along to the tune, tapping his fingers on his leg as he sat in the front passenger side seat. A look in the rear view mirror told him that Dwight did not enjoy the song nearly as much – or, more likely, he was feeling nervous about how much time Michael was taking to get back to the car. They were still parked in the driveway outside his condo, but Jim couldn't bring himself to feel very worried about the whole situation. Michael was going to get himself in trouble if he wasn't careful.

At least fifteen minutes had passed since Michael went into his condo. Jim had a good guess as to what was going on inside, and he was fairly certain he had seen Jan through the doorway. The idea of his boss and his boss's boss doing the hanky panky while he waited in the car was a little gross when he thought about it, but he knew it would make a good story later. He'd have to tell Pam when they got back to the office. He would have considered telling Karen, but for some reason Jim felt like Pam would appreciate Michael's antics more, whereas Karen might gravitate towards the fact that Jim wasn't taking the sales call very seriously. But it wasn't like it was really his sales call in the first place.

The clock on the car radio ticked up by another minute, and Jim began to wonder if he should do something. They were going to be late if they sat around for this long, after all, and as much as Michael could annoy him sometimes, Jim knew he'd probably feel guilty if Michael got in too much trouble. He hadn't met John Schneider personally, but from what Michael had said, Schneider's Groceries was a fairly important customer for the company. He sighed as he glanced at Dwight in the back seat, who was sitting stiff and still as he waited for Michael to return.

"'Sup Dwight?"

"You know what's up, Jim. We're waiting for Michael to finish his business at his condo."

"Doesn't it bother you that we're wasting time?"

"For your information, Jim, I assume that Michael's business must be very important. Otherwise he wouldn't be putting off the sales call. We have to trust in Michael's judgment."

Jim snorted. He looked at the car radio again; he could almost see the seconds ticking away as another minute changed over. Michael's detour was definitely getting a little excessive.

"When is this meeting, anyway?"

"Fifteen minutes ago."

The song on the car radio came to a stop, plunging the car into silence for several moments as Jim stared at Dwight. Dwight stared back, his expression stoic and humorless.

"Are you telling me that this meeting was supposed to start already?"

Dwight did not move or say anything. Although Jim could not read Dwight's mind, he had worked with him long enough to tell when Dwight was wrestling with a mental conundrum, and it looked like his head was the center of a war zone. Jim wondered if Dwight's need to please Michael was finally being overwhelmed by the obvious fact that Michael was being an idiot and missing an important meeting with a valued customer.

"Alright," said Jim, "I'm just going to go ring Michael's doorbell and see if he's ready to go, and you try calling up Mr. Schneider and telling him we'll be a little bit late."

"I don't have his number, Jim. Michael's the one who set up this meeting."

"Call Pam then, she probably has it."

Jim got out of the car and walked up to the condo's doorway as Dwight stayed inside, fumbling with his phone. He rang the doorbell, adding a couple knocks for good measure, and waited as he huddled beneath his coat. The breeze had picked up a little, and it was a harsh contrast with the comfortable heated air inside the Sebring. Jim wondered if – just thinking about it forced him to repress a gag – maybe Michael and Jan were being too loud to answer the door. He was about to ring the doorbell again when Michael finally opened it, looking a little disheveled.

"What is it, Jim?"

"We need to go, Michael."

"I told you we had some time before we're-"

"We're fifteen minutes late."

Michael stood tight-lipped, his skin tone going several shades whiter in the course of a few seconds. He looked back at the stairway for a moment before grabbing his coat from the rack by the entryway and stepping out onto the patio. "Alright Jim, we're leaving now!" he said in a particularly loud voice. Jim smiled as he closed the door and locked it.

"Finished with your condo business?"

"Yes, I am."

"What was it?"

"I had to check if the oven was on."

"It took you fifteen minutes to do that?"

Michael paused for a moment.

"Yes – no, I did other things after that."

"So what was that call with Jan about earlier?"

"Call – just a call. Unrelated call, Jim. Work, she – Mifflin forms! She needed me to fill out the Mifflin forms."

"Mifflin forms? Don't think I've seen one of those before."

"They're very special, only for managers. Now come on!"

Jim followed Michael back to the Sebring and got into the passenger side again. As they pulled out of the driveway, he looked back at Dwight to see if he had let Schneider know they would be late, but the expression on Dwight's face did not look good.

"What's the problem, Dwight?"

"I called Pam and she didn't know Schneider's number, but she gave me the number of the company, and then I called the company and they didn't have a number for him either."

"He's probably at the restaurant already," said Michael. "Schneider's an old guy, he doesn't have a cell phone. Probably doesn't even know what a cell phone is, he's like a fossil. We'll just have to get there first."

The three of them made their way back on the route they had taken to get to Michael's condo, returning to the restaurant. Jim had almost expected Michael to deliberately put down the convertible's top again, but Michael ignored it; either he was enjoying the heating too much to prove a point with Dwight about owning a convertible in Pennsylvania, or he was just too distracted by his late meeting to notice it was up again. Either way worked for Jim. Dwight tried to fiddle with the radio controls as they drove, but Michael slapped his hand aside.

"We should have taken my car," said Dwight. "I can't get my killer instinct going if I have no metal CD's I can listen to before we to go to the lunch."

Jim smirked. "Killer instinct, Dwight? Are you planning to murder our customer?"

"It's a metaphor, Jim. Murdering a customer isn't going to sell paper. Unless he needs it for printing his funeral invitations."

"How can he print funeral invitations if-"

"Stop arguing!" snapped Michael. "Both of you, get into sales mode!"

The car pulled into the restaurant's parking lot. Jim had to wait a moment while Michael smoothed out his suit and calmed himself down, checking the side-view mirror to correct his mussed up hair. Mussed up from checking the oven and getting an assortment of other things done at the condo, of course. Dwight did a few lunges, apparently to make up for his lack of classic rock, and finally the two of them nodded to Jim, who followed them into the restaurant. Michael stopped and looked around for several moments. A seater standing behind a podium a few feet away smiled politely at them.

"How many?" asked the seater, stepping out from behind the podium

"There should be someone here, waiting for two more," said Michael. "Old guy by the name of Schneider?"

"Um, I'm not sure. There was an old man here earlier, but he left."

Michael breathed a silent curse and brushed the seater aside as he strode through the restaurant, making sure to check all the booths, as well as a side room with more seating. Jim didn't know what John Schneider looked like, but as he watched Michael looking around, he knew the search was fruitless. They had arrived too late, and apparently Michael's customer was not a man who was willing to sit around for very long.

"So, what," asked Jim, "we just reschedule the meeting?"

Michael nodded vaguely.

"Maybe."

It was not a very optimistic 'maybe'. As Michael paced in the middle of the restaurant at a loss for what to do with Dwight standing officiously by his side, Jim wondered if his boss had gotten himself into more than just a little trouble.

Either way, it was not long past lunch. Since they were there, Jim was going to make the best of it. He clapped Dwight on the back, who shrugged it off angrily, and pointed to a nearby booth.

"Let's eat!"

XX


Notes - That's it for the first chapter. Reviews are welcomed, as they tend to give me a little boost to my writing motivation and I like hearing what people think. I guess with the way this story will go, it could be seen as an alternate continuation of season 3 since it continues after "Business School." Thanks for reading!