Back to Work
The accountants of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch should have been hard at work, but today they were gathered in the Annex, their work left undone. It wasn't much different than any other Monday, actually. Oscar liked to think that he was a hard-working accountant, and he knew that Angela felt the same way about herself, as she constantly let Kevin know about it. But it wasn't like accounting for the Scranton branch took up every single minute of eight hours a day, five days a week. Even with he and Angela picking up Kevin's constant slack, they always had some time to loaf. Playing paper football games with Kevin, for instance. And today, there was more than enough gossip to go around.
"So it's official?" asked Kevin.
Toby nodded at his guests from accounting. "Yes, he called me up on the weekend and asked if he could cancel the whole thing. I'll have to backtrack on a lot of paperwork, so it's a little annoying, but I guess people change their minds sometimes. Jim is back for good."
"I wonder why he changed his mind," said Kelly, who was also listening in on the conversation with Ryan beside her. Oscar had his thoughts, but surprisingly, Angela beat him to the chase.
"I saw Roy downstairs looking unhappy," she said. "I didn't ask what happened, but I can't help but wonder if Pam did something with Jim. She always has her eye on any guy that looks her way, after all."
Oscar stifled a chuckle. Even though, deep down, he was fond of Angela, she was a total pain in the ass. She insisted that she had no interest in gossip, but she was more than happy to join in with Oscar and Kevin after putting up some token resistance.
The gossip in question had started almost as soon as Oscar got to work. On his way into the office, he had noticed Jim's car pulling up, at which point Jim had come out and greeted him, joining him in the elevator and coming into the office with him. Oscar was pretty sure Jim had a couple of days left before his two weeks were up, but at the same time, he thought he had heard Jim say something about not coming back after Friday. Once in the office, Jim had disappeared into Michael's room. Judging by the muffled screams of joy that came moments later from inside the closed door, Oscar's guess was that Jim had decided not to quit after all. Now it was confirmed.
"Karen's not here today either," Oscar pointed out. "Has she ever been late before?"
"She left the branch," said Toby. Kelly gasped in shock, and Toby let out a faint grin, apparently pleased to have surprising gossip to share. "She's in New York right now. I think she's interviewing for Jan's job, since Jan got fired, and she told me she'd probably just look for something else if she didn't get that."
"You think she was trying to get away from Jim?" asked Kelly.
"She seemed pretty into him too," Ryan pointed out. "I know from, uh – from watching her. There had to be some reason for the breakup. And my money's on Jim and Pam making whoopee."
"That'd be totally hot," said Kevin.
"Alright, that's a bit too far."
Kevin rolled his eyes at Toby. "Come on man, grow up! People get their freak on all the time."
"It's true," said Phyllis. "I've been waiting for those two to hook up forever."
Oscar did a double take at Phyllis. Not that her comment was that unusual, but he didn't even realize she was there. He thought she had been sitting in the main office; maybe she just had a nose for gossip.
"I'm telling you," said Kevin, "I've been watching both of them like a hawk. And I'm good at watching, see?" Kevin demonstrated with a very brief but intense stare at several of his coworkers. He was good, Oscar had to admit. "They've been acting fishy all day. Looking at each other all the time, chatting at the receptionist's desk, smiling a bunch. There's no way it could be anything else."
"They do that all the time," Angela pointed out.
"Not lately. Only before Jim left for Stamford, remember?"
Angela shrugged, which was as close to a concession as Kevin would ever get from her. Angela had already suggested that she thought Jim and Pam were together, anyway; she just didn't like to admit when Kevin had a point.
"And why else would Jim decide to stay all of a sudden? It has to be Pam asking him to stay."
Ryan shook his head warningly. "I dunno, he seems like a pretty indecisive guy. Maybe he just changed his mind."
"Okay guys," said Toby, "I know this is interesting, but I think it's probably time everybody gets back to work. We all have things to do. And to be honest, this conversation is a little inappropriate anyway. What Jim and Pam are up to is their business."
Kevin scoffed at Toby's tongue-wagging. "Whatever man," he said. "You've totally been enabling us."
"What? No I haven't!"
"You're the one who just confirmed Jim's back. You're like the epicenter of the gossip."
"You're a gossip queen," said Oscar, surprised to find himself amused at Toby's obvious discomfort.
"Funny you should say that," said Kevin. "Because, like, queen."
"That's clever, Kevin."
"But see, it's all you Toby! You're a total gossip queen! We're all literally gathered around you!"
Toby blanched at Kevin's accusation. "That doesn't mean anything. Back to your seats, everyone."
Kevin grumbled a little, but there wasn't much else to say anyway. Oscar gave him a sympathetic pat on the back; Kevin clearly wasn't ready to give up gossip and get to actual work, and Oscar couldn't help but share his sentiments. Ryan and Kelly returned to their cubicle as Toby swiveled back to his desk, looking a little nervous as a result of Kevin's accusations that he had been gossip-mongering with the rest of them.
Leading the way, Oscar led his two fellow accountants out of the Annex, through the kitchen, and back to the main office. He passed Jim's desk on his way to his seat; Pam looked up suspiciously, as if noting how strange it was that all three accountants were returning from another room at the same time. Oscar was wondering if she knew something was up when he heard Kevin speak up behind him.
"Hey Jim," said Kevin.
Oscar turned around and saw Kevin standing beside Jim's desk, who looked up at the greeting. He anticipated something awkward, seeing as Kevin had about as much tact as Angela, even if he was nicer overall.
"Are you and Pam going out or something?"
The office fell silent. Not that it had been very loud in the first place. Meredith stopped sipping on her plastic cup, Creed looked up from what must have been some kind of stupor, and even Dwight raised his eyebrows, intrigued. Oscar jumped a little as Michael's door suddenly flew open. Michael stood in the doorway, his eyes wide.
"Us?" asked Jim. "Going out?"
Jim looked over at Pam and gave a nervous laugh, to which Pam responded with her own laugh and a helpless shrug. Jim looked around at his coworkers as if asking whether they were really that interested. It was obvious they were.
"We're – well, I mean, we're – yes. Yes, we're going out."
A murmur rose up from around the office. Oscar thought he heard Creed say something lewd from his desk near the back, although he couldn't be sure. He was about to congratulate the two of them when Michael suddenly leaped on Jim, grabbing him and squeezing him in his arms.
"Oh my god," he said. "I never would have guessed! This is amazing! Cupid has planted his seed deep inside both of you. I knew it all along. This is such a surprise!"
"Michael, I can't breathe."
Michael released Jim from his grip and stood back, trying to hold back tears. "This is just like me and Jan," he said. "I mean, before things got really weird and I had to break up with her, because of how she was with the sex and everything. But still, I kind of miss her."
As Michael stared off into space, everyone waited patiently for the awkwardness to be over..
"Michael," said Oscar, "I'm not sure if that's a good comparison."
"No. No, Oscar, it was just like Jim and Pam. It was the romance of the twentieth century."
"Stop being jealous, Oscar. You'll find a man sooner or later."
"Michael, you're not even with-"
Oscar gave up trying to be reasonable, as Michael was ignoring him and Kevin was tittering at his last comment. Strangely enough, although Michael was mostly talking nonsense, Oscar realized that he had inadvertently said something true. Oscar did feel a little bit jealous. He had been waiting for Jim and Pam to see what was right in front of their faces all this time – watching the two of them swim in their own awkwardness on Friday at Poor Richard's was like torture - but apparently it had been an eventful weekend for the two of them.
Oscar watched as Michael forced Pam to leave her receptionist's desk and kiss Jim in front of the office. Normally it would be verging on some bizarre form of sexual harassment, but despite Michael's best attempts to warp the good news, Oscar could tell that Jim and Pam were in the early stages of something new and exciting. Pam didn't want to kiss Jim in public, but once she gave up trying to avoid being herded towards him by Michael, the two of them still kissed each other happily, ignoring their boss as he clapped wildly behind them.
Although he was a little jealous when he thought of his own highly imperfect relationship with Gil, Oscar couldn't help but feel happy for Jim and Pam. They were a cute couple. Just looking at them put Oscar in a good mood that drowned out any hints of envy. It was nice to see two people finally find each other. Maybe Pam had been off to see the wizard over the weekend, because she had definitely gained a little courage.
"Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam."
The familiar refrain made Jim glance up from his work. Pam was on the phone, but she stuck her tongue out when she noticed him looking. He smiled, and just before he returned his attention to his computer, he noticed Dwight mocking his expression out of the corner of his eye. In a weird way, it was encouraging to see Dwight being a jerk. His behavior in Michael's office when the two of them had been apologizing was unnerving. Jim had gotten so used to Dwight being a pain that he almost didn't realize how much of a fixture it had become in his life. A fixture which wouldn't be going away anytime soon, now that he wasn't leaving after all. At least not quite so soon.
"Hey Dwight," he said. "Did I ever thank you for apologizing for what you did? I didn't think you had it in you."
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Dwight.
"Whatever, Jim. Leave me alone."
Jim nodded in acquiescence. Apparently, now that Dwight was assured that Jim wouldn't be leaving, he was back to his usual jerkiness. Jim got the feeling that he'd be more hesitant to back up Michael if he ever lied in the future, however. And hopefully Michael himself had learned a little bit from the whole affair. Michael had been periodically coming out of his office and making small talk, even asking Jim to lunch earlier, but Jim had to turn him down as he already had a lunch date with Pam. He looked at her again, unable to resist. He must have looked at her a hundred times already that morning.
The weekend had been a whirlwind - while Jim had called poor Toby to make sure there were no problems with backing out of his two week's notice at the last moment, most of the weekend had been spent with Pam. It was like they were moving through the beginning of their relationship at lightning speed; like they had already been so familiar with each other that they didn't need to worry about those tentative first steps. The two of them had jumped right into the deep end, and Jim was enjoying every minute of it.
Pam, once again, returned his look with a smile, but this time she suddenly jerked her head to the left, staring in shock at the office doorway. Jim couldn't see around the corner, but his question was answered a second later when Andy Bernard appeared, coming up to Pam's receptionist's desk and tapping on it in greeting.
"Andy! You're back?"
"Sure am. Got out of anger management a bit early due to good behavior. Er, not that it was like prison or anything. Just kind of an informal team seminar kind of a thing. But Andy Bernard is back for good! What's the haps, everybody?"
Andy turned to the office with an overly theatrical wave, and Dwight leaped up on his feet, the chair clattering behind him. He reached underneath his desk and pulled out something that looked like a throwing star right before Jim leaped up himself and held his hands out at Dwight.
"Dwight, sit down!"
"I am Assistant Regional Manager, and it is my job to protect every-"
"That's to the Regional Manager, and you have to sit down."
Changing the command to sound like something one would give a dog seemed to do the trick. Dwight gave Andy a piercing glare, then looked at Jim for a moment before finally sitting back down and muttering faintly. The impending disaster was averted. All the hubbub caused Michael to come out of his office, and he stopped abruptly at the sight of Andy.
"Oh. You're back. Already."
"Sure am, boss! New and improved, same old guy. Call me Drew."
"I will not be doing that."
"Okay," said Andy, his smile faltering for a fraction of a second. "That's cool. You're the boss. So, uh, where should I be sitting?"
"Take Karen's old seat," said Michael. "It's free since Jim broke her heart and left her for Pam. Just kidding, man," laughed Michael as he slapped a silent Jim on the back.
"Dude, you and Pam are going out now?"
"Congratulations, tuna! Looks like the early fish caught the worm!"
Andy continued smiling as he sat down in the empty desk where Karen had once been, opening his briefcase and taking some personal belongings out to use for decorations. Jim watched him out of the corner of his eye, not wanting to attract too much attention. A new relationship with Pam, and now Andy Bernard returning to the office. God giveth, and God taketh away, thought Jim. Maybe Andy would be a little less annoying now that he had spent some time mellowing out in anger management training, but somehow Jim doubted it.
Behind the receptionist's desk, Jim noticed Kevin emerge from the accountant's corner and walk towards him. He girded himself for more probing and uncomfortable questions about his relationship with Pam – Kevin had already visited him several times that morning – but instead, Kevin bypassed him entirely and stopped by Andy's desk to say hello. Jim smiled as the two of them began to chat. Maybe Andy's return was a blessing in disguise. He and Pam hadn't really intended to go public so soon with the fact that they were an item, as they didn't really want the attention. Andy had arrived just in time to soak it all up, which meant that Jim was free to focus on his own distraction.
And with a certain Dunder Mifflin receptionist sitting a few yards away from him, it didn't matter if Jim was back on the job; there was no way he was getting any work done anytime soon.
The way Jim sat buried in his menu was possibly the cutest thing Pam had ever seen. She watched him as he intently studied Cugino's lunch options, his eyes visible from over the plastic menu's top as they shifted from item to item. Why is he so absorbed in the menu? Pam wondered. Maybe it was because he was looking for the same thing he always got, if it was available, but couldn't find it here. Pam had checked her own menu; it definitely wasn't showing up anywhere. Not even in the kid's section.
"Are you guys ready to order?" asked the waitress.
"Do you have a ham and cheese sandwich?"
Pam snorted, at which Jim narrowed his eyes indignantly at her.
"I'm afraid we don't, sir."
"Okay. Um, I'll just get the spinach calzone."
Jim folded up his menu, and after Pam gave her own order and menu to the waitress, the two of them were left alone at their table. Pam stared incredulously at Jim. 'A spinach calzone?" she asked him. "Somebody's going crazy today, huh?"
"Hey, it's not like I always eat a ham and cheese sandwich. Come on."
"Um, I think it's pretty close to always."
The two of them grew quiet for a moment as they waited for their meal, but it was not an awkward silence. That was one of the many things Pam liked about being around Jim; even when they had nothing to say, she felt completely comfortable around him. Not that they didn't have anything to talk about today. For a Monday, things had been eventful so far. Their relationship had been the talk of the office until Andy came in, which in itself had been a surprise. His new persona cracked Pam up, although she got the feeling he was just trying too hard on his first day back. He still seemed like the same old Andy Bernard, in the end.
"You know what?"
Pam looked at Jim, who was casting an eye over the restaurant. "What?" she asked.
"This was kind of where we had our first date."
Pam frowned for a moment, trying to figure out what he meant.
"Our first date... wasn't that, like, Friday night? Or Saturday? I'm not sure what counts as a first date, exactly."
"It wasn't an official date," said Jim. "It was the first time we went out to lunch, remember?"
Their first lunch together had been a long time ago, but Pam remembered it quickly. "Oh yeah," she said. "That was a lot of fun. But I was still with Roy."
"Yeah, I sort of thought it was a date though. Before I found out you were taken, I mean. It was kind of a shock, but I guess I've still sort of thought of it as our first date ever since then."
"Interesting," said Pam. "And I wasn't really taken, you know."
"I guess not."
Their meals arrived after another few minutes of waiting. There wasn't really enough time to eat at Cugino's during a lunch break, since it was in Dunmore and you had to wait for your meal, but Pam didn't mind. She and Jim were enjoying themselves, and one of the benefits of working in an office run by Michael Scott was that you could take hour and a half long lunch breaks, come back, and rest assured that your boss would be oblivious. The two of them dug into their meals. Although it wasn't a ham and cheese sandwich, Pam was happy to see that her boyfriend liked his adventurous choice of calzone.
Her boyfriend. The word lingered in her mind. It sounded nice.
Pam wondered if Jim was jumping into things as quickly as she felt herself jumping in. They had only gotten together on Friday night, but somehow Pam already felt like they had been going out for a long time. She had been hesitant to call Roy her boyfriend when she first started going out with him, she remembered, arguing with herself over what the word meant and how much commitment it implied. But with Jim, she seemed to have no doubt in her mind. He was definitely her boyfriend.
Maybe it was all the time they had already spent together. Or the fact that, now that they were together, Pam realized she had been head over heels for Jim for a long time, even if she was in denial about it. What had seemed to complicated in the past was now simple, clear as day. She even found herself thinking about what her boyfriend might become in the future.
"I kind of feel bad for Karen," said Pam. "You know she tried to get me to tell you how I felt about you?"
"Yup. I was surprised."
"That's pretty much why she broke up with me, I guess. She knew I liked you."
"I guess we should thank her sometime."
"Well," said Jim after fanning his mouth from a bite of a hot calzone, "if she gets that job in corporate, technically she'll be Michael's boss and end up coming to Scranton sometimes, so I'm sure we'll get the chance."
"Do you think she's going to get it?"
"Probably. I'm not taking it, and I heard Michael sabotaged Ryan's chances so he'd stay in Scranton."
"Poor Ryan," laughed Pam.
"Don't make fun of them, they really have something magical together."
"Sorry. I'm just jealous of their love."
"I don't blame you. I mean, being with you is okay and all, but what they have – it's one in a million."
Pam almost choked on her food from laughing.
"Maybe that's why Michael broke up with Jan," said Pam. "Lots of people switching around lately."
The two of them kept laughing, although Pam felt a little guilty about it. Poor Ryan and Michael both. Although, she reminded herself, Michael freeing himself from Jan was probably a good thing.
After their laughter subsided, Pam managed to dig into her food a little more. She found her thoughts turning to more serious matters as the conversation turned to people leaving – or not leaving – the Scranton branch. "Jim," she asked, "tell me seriously, did you turn down an interview for corporate because of me? I mean I know I asked you to stay, and I'm totally glad you're staying, but I guess I'd just feel a little guilty if you didn't take an opportunity because of me."
"Well, it is because of you, mostly," said Jim. "But that's not a bad thing. It's my choice, and I decided I'd rather stay with you here. There are other jobs out there, but I don't think there are other Pams."
"There's lots of girls named Pam, Jim. Take your pick."
"But you are fine with it?"
"Staying here? Definitely. I honestly think I just decided to quit because I didn't know what else to do if you were getting back together with Roy. I guess it was a ploy to get your attention."
"Then my plan is complete!" said Jim with a cackle as he wrung his hands together theatrically. Pam rolled her eyes at his dorky humor, and Jim continued with his explanation. "The thing is, I didn't really make any plans for what I'd do if I quit, and I sort of think I'd miss all the crazy stuff that goes on at Scranton. Michael and Dwight can be a lot of fun when they're not too riled up, after all. And I don't think I'm the type for corporate."
"We should think about getting out of here eventually, though," said Pam.
Just for a moment, she felt a flash of hesitancy when she heard herself use the word 'we'. Was it presumptuous of her to include Jim in her future plans already? Would Jim catch it? Was she being overbearing?
"Definitely," agreed Jim. "I'm happy being right here with you, but we'll figure everything out when we get to it."
Pam gave a little sigh of relief. Jim felt the same way she did.
"Speaking of the future," said Jim, "you given any thought to art school? Maybe Dunder Mifflin still has that program you were talking about a while ago, remember?"
Pam nodded. She did remember. Come to think of it, she had completely forgotten about her art class over the weekend; she'd have to apologize to her teacher when she came to the next one. Jim had crowded out the rest of her thoughts over the last couple of days, but now that he mentioned it, art school definitely seemed like a possibility. She had pushed it away from her mind for a while, but there was nothing holding her back now.
"What would you think if I went?" she asked Jim.
"Well, hopefully you don't start tomorrow, because I think I'd miss you too much," said Jim.
Pam laughed. "Right."
"But if you want to, you should definitely go sometime. I think you'd do a good job. You're a great artist. And I'd be behind you all the way. Oh - speaking of which, I'm really sorry about missing your art show a couple weeks ago."
Pam was surprised to hear Jim bring it up; she had almost forgotten about the art show. "It's alright," she said.
"Karen wanted me to spend time with her that night, but it wasn't really her fault. I guess I was avoiding it because I knew how much it meant to you. It's weird – it was like I knew if I went, there was no way I'd be able to pretend things would work with her. It would be like I was admitting I couldn't get over you. I was lying to myself, and going to the art show when you were so excited about it would be like forcing myself to see the truth. Things would be too obvious."
Pam could see where he was coming from. She definitely preferred his explanation to some of the things she had imagined, like maybe Jim didn't understand what it meant to her, or he just didn't care. But neither of things made any sense, when she actually thought about Jim. She knew him too well to believe those things, even if she let her insecurities get the better of her sometimes. She thought it was amusing that Jim's absence at the show had said more about his feelings for her than Roy's presence. But that was in the past.
"I'm sure I'll have more art shows in the future," she said. "Don't you worry."
"Just you watch. I'll be at every single one."
Pam smiled. It was just what she wanted to hear. She knew that Jim would be there for her, whatever she chose to do. And she would be there for him. She shared Jim's feelings about wanting to take it easy and enjoy each other's company for a while, but art school was definitely a possibility for the future.
She drank the last sips of her water, her plate empty, and looked at the time on her watch as Jim finished his own meal. The waitress came and gave them their bill as their lunch drew to a close, returning a moment later after taking their credit cards. Pam signed her receipt and thought about the rest of the day. The future looked bright. But right now, she and Jim had to get back to the office.
"Done?" she asked
"Yup. You ready to go?"
Pam nodded, and the two of them left a tip before leaving the restaurant.
As they walked through the door, Pam reached out to grab Jim's hand in her own, but found him halfway there already. It was a dreary looking Monday outside, and Pam had a lot of things to do when she got back, but she was so happy she thought she might explode. For a new week, this wasn't half bad. She couldn't remember ever being so happy to go back to work.
That's the end of the story. Hope you guys enjoyed it, let me know what you thought, and thanks for the reviews so far!
As for when I will write another Office story, I don't know. I had an idea for a short story taking place right after Michael leaves for Colorado with Holly (that is where he went, right?) but I have so much to write, and I'm in the middle of other stories, and I've been feeling pretty lazy when it comes to writing anyway. So I don't know, we'll see.