Rating: T- Not even that, no warnings
Summary: Takes place during "Last Day in Florida." What could have happened between Dwight helping Jim up and when they arrived back at Scranton. Jim and Dwight friendship, some bonding, h/c thrown in there. A bit of angst on Dwight's part. Takes place during the Tallahassee arc in season 8, so spoilers for possibly for the whole arc. Just a little one-shot exploring how they handled the situation.
Author's Note: This takes place after Jim kept Dwight from getting fired, and Dwight realized what Jim had done. The amount of Dwight and Jim bonding in the Tallahassee arc was just… so satisfying and you know they had to have at least one meaningful conversation during the trip back.
"I need to pack my bags."
"I know." Jim didn't add anything else to it as they got in the cab, even though Dwight was shooting him looks. He only gave the cab driver the hotel and then sat back, staring out the window.
It was a lot to take in, it felt like the world had crumbled around him, and if that wasn't bad enough he had to accept that it was Jim that had saved him. It was like a physical pain in his gut, other than his side aching from his appendix being removed, to have been so close yet again and lost it all.
He glanced up at the cab driver and then over at Jim and couldn't help himself, "Why did you stop me?"
"He was going to fire you."
"I know, I mean…" He struggled for the words, willing Jim to understand, "Why did you stop me? Why didn't you just let me get fired?"
Jim glanced away from the window, a half smile on his face, and then back out. "Is it so hard to believe I didn't think you deserved to be fired?"
"I wouldn't have stopped you."
"That doesn't mean you're a better person or… or…"
When Jim finally looked at him he looked as serious as Dwight had ever seen him, "Just relax, okay? Just… let it be Dwight. That was really… sucky. I get it."
He wasn't used to being given such slack, for Jim to be easy on him, and he wasn't entirely sure how to handle it. A large part of him wanted to snark, wanted to try to start a fight but honestly he was just too worn down, too defeated, and if Jim was willing to play nice he'd take it.
Taking a page from Jim's book he shifted to look out the window, unable to quiet the whimper when it pulled on his stitches. He tried to discreetly look down, frowning when he realized the tussle with Jim had pulled on the stitches and he was bleeding through his shirt.
Except that Jim was crowding into his personal space and pushing open his jacket and there it was again, too defeated to even think about putting up a fight. "Oh god, did I do this? Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"No, I'm not a girl Jim."
He rolled his eyes and Dwight waited for some sarcastic comment but instead Jim was tugging at his shirt. He pulled away, embarrassingly swatting at him in a mostly ineffective manner, but there was nowhere for him to go. "Maybe we should go to the hospital, has this been bleeding since your operation?"
"Stop touching me, it's fine. It's been fine."
Jim relented, leaning away, letting Dwight tuck his shirt back in. He looked like he wanted to say more but he glanced up at Dwight's face and his softened, "Okay." He shrugged as Dwight pulled himself together, he would keep an eye on him but it really wasn't his business and somehow he couldn't bring himself to force Dwight to do anything, even though he was sure he could have.
"Good. Okay." He pressed one hand over his side, daring Jim to say something, and slouched against the door. Truth be told he felt a little dizzy, but he didn't know if that was from his operation or the shock.
He was startled by Jim snapping his fingers in front of his face, "What?"
"We're here. I've been… you sure you're okay?"
He looked around, and realized they were at the hotel and Jim looked worried. It was at least a twenty minute ride, and he didn't really remember any of it. He tried to cover it up but Jim caught it and his mouth thinned in a determined line. "Let's get you packed and head home, okay?"
Staring at him was all he could seem to do and after a moment Jim shook his head and got out of his side. Dwight watched him walk around the cab and wasn't sure why he was startled when the door opened since he had watched him walk all the way around. He shook his head hard, not sure what was wrong.
"Is he alright?"
Jim waved the cab driver off, "He's fine, just wait for us, we'll be right back down to head to the airport." When Dwight didn't move he grabbed his arm and gave him a tug. "Come on Dwight."
"Okay, you need to get out of the cab."
He absolutely did not stumble when he got out and shoved Jim's hand off him as soon as he was stable. Jim put up both hands, though he glanced at the camera and shrugged. Dwight took off towards the hotel though, seemingly snapping out of it and Jim trailed behind him.
He knew where the room was, they had actually spent a fairly nice night watching tv and eating desserts in it, giggling like school girls (though he'd never ever admit it) while Nellie tried to get into the room. He'd say that Dwight had surprised him by not sleeping with Nellie, except that he actually knew Dwight pretty well, and didn't think he'd go through with it. Too much pride or too moral, could have been either.
Dwight slammed the door open hard enough to bounce it off the wall and at least anger was something that made sense to him. He didn't slam the door in his face so he followed him in and leaned against the wall, "Do you need help?"
His actions got more and more angry, shoving clothes into his suitcase and slamming the dresser drawers. Jim looked down at his feet, waiting it out, letting Dwight have his hissy fit. Hell, he deserved one. It lasted for about 3 minutes before his movements became a little more erratic and he looked like he was trying not to cry. Trying… trying but not succeeding. Jim shifted awkwardly, not sure if he should leave.
He wasn't prepared for Dwight to drop what he was doing and turn to him. "Was he going to fire me this whole time? Is that why he picked me?"
"Dwight, he said you did a great job, he was gonna tank this from the beginning, and you just got caught in the middle."
There was a pause where he hoped he got through to him but Dwight only sank onto the bed, shaking his head and pressing his fist against his mouth, "And he picked me personally to run it." He suddenly laughed as something occurred to him, and it sounded painful, "Oh."
"I don't think he planned to fire you, at the very least…"
"At the very least he let me manage a project that was meaningless."
Jim didn't know what to say to that, because honestly he thought that was exactly what Robert had done. He didn't think he had picked Dwight knowing he was going to fire him, but he did think that he gave Dwight the project to appease him because he so desperately wanted to be a manager and this was a pointless exercise. He crossed his arms over his chest, "Come on Dwight, finish getting packed. We have to catch the plane."
It worked to an extent, Jim's low key response bringing Dwight down a few notches and after a moment he started to pack again. He seemed a little shaky though, and when he startled to struggle with getting his shirts off the hangers Jim stepped forward, gently pushing him towards the drawers and getting the shirts himself. He shrugged when Dwight looked like he was going to fight him, "We just need to make up time, we're gonna miss our flight. I'm sick of Florida, I want out."
"Me too." He sounded utterly defeated, "Me too."
Jim thought about leaning over, about placing a hand on his shoulder, on patting his back, but he doubted it would be very welcome. They finally got everything packed and Jim shouldered his duffle bag, doing his best to ignore as Dwight leaned on the table with his hands flat on it, trying to get himself under control.
"Yes." He looked up and Jim quickly turned and headed out of the room, he wasn't sure what to say to him. Didn't even have the first inkling of how to turn this around for Dwight, no matter which way it went it was a blow.
The cab ride was silent, Dwight blankly staring out the window, clutching his duffle bag to him like it was a safety blanket. At least it had happened so fast they hadn't worried about switching the tickets so Dwight still had a ride home. Jim would have hated to have to stay in Florida another night and it never crossed his mind that he wouldn't have to stay.
Dwight stayed silent through security at the airport, trudging behind Jim with his eyes focused on the ground. When they slid into their seats Stanley gave them a brief look from where he sat a few rows away but went back to his crossword puzzle without commenting and Jim was thankful for that. He stowed his bag in the overhead compartment and started to shift into his seat, but hesitated as he watched Dwight struggling to lift his bag. It had nothing to do with strength, obviously, and everything to do with that it clearly pained him to lift anything after his surgery but he was flushing as he looked around, able to pick the bag up but not lift it over his head.
Jim didn't ask, didn't want to make Dwight ask, just grabbed the bag out of his hands and stowed it away with as little fuss as possible. He had the window seat but something told him that Dwight would rather hide, and he wondered why his and Dwight's seats were next to each other while everyone else's had been scattered around the plane. "You want to sit on the inside?"
"It's… not my seat…" He gasped the words out, face twisted in pain and one arm tucked protectively against his side.
"Just come on." Dwight seemed unhappy about it but nodded and slid into the seat, and Jim settled next to him.
"I don't need your help."
"I don't Jim."
He only nodded and looked up and down the aisle, people watching, tilting away from Dwight to give him some semblance of privacy. He wasn't sure what would happen when they got back to Scranton, he assumed Dwight would just keep his job, but there was going to be a lot of questions, and people were going to want to know why he wasn't still in Florida. It wasn't his job to protect Dwight from a little embarrassment, to come up with something, he had done his part and made sure he didn't get fired. That was already more than enough.
Jim and Stanley had both driven to the airport, luckily, and Jim assumed that Dwight would ride back with the other man. He was surprised when instead Dwight wordlessly loaded his luggage in Jim's car, slipping into the passenger seat and putting his seat belt on. He looked to Stanley for help but the other man was already in his car and there was nothing left to do but get in. He gave him a curious look, "I thought you always sit in the back on the driver's side… safest right?"
"I don't care."
He couldn't help cringe at that, it was painful to hear anyone so desolate, but he tried to keep it out of his voice, "Alright." He was struggling to say something, he tried to stop himself but just like he had sat on that staircase next to him while he was heartbroken, years of friendship, as hostile as it may have been couldn't be pushed down. "You want a coffee or something?"
"Stop!" Dwight looked like he had startled himself with the outburst and curled in on himself. "I'm… I'm sorry. I'm fine, please, just stop."
"Okay, I was just trying to help." They spent the rest of the ride in silence, though Jim was a little encouraged when he turned on the radio and Dwight looked disgusted with his station of choice.
When they were only a few minutes away from the Office he could see Dwight start to visibly tense, though it fell to the wayside as he was quickly becoming more excited about seeing Pam. In fact… he pulled out his cell phone and flicked it open, glancing down at it and back up at the road before trying to dial.
"What are you doing?"
"Calling Pam to let her know I'm almost there-"
"That is dangerous and illegal." Before he could stop him Dwight snatched the phone out of his hand. "I will call her, you drive."
"Dwight, no just…" His attention was pulled away as a car in front of him stopped suddenly and he sighed, resigned. "Okay, please let her know we'll be back in a few minutes."
He could hear her answer, and she sounded excited, and he almost felt bad that it wasn't him on the phone. "Pam. This is Dwight."
"We will be arriving at the office soon." He went to go hang up, but Pam was already talking.
"Everything okay? What happened?" She hesitated, "You're… back?"
He sighed, eyes darting to Jim, but they both knew that Pam was a soft spot for him, "Yes." He didn't elaborate and on the other side of the phone Pam was talking more but too quiet for Jim to hear and Dwight looked down, the tense lines of his body easing a little. There was a pause and Dwight broke in, "I… I have to go." He closed the phone, ending the call, probably while Pam was still talking and handed it to Jim.
Dwight only turned towards the window and crossed his arms. Several moments after Jim had given up on him saying anything Dwight shrugged, "She's glad we're back."
He smiled at the road, proud of how well Pam handled the situation. They pulled into the parking lot and Jim pulled in next to Dwight's car so he wouldn't have to carry his luggage too far, mindful that he was still injured. He turned the car off, unbuckling but hesitated without opening the door. Dwight hadn't made any attempt to move. "Hey, you'll be okay. Let's just go inside."
"Why does this keep happening?"
"Dwight…" What could he really say to him? He suspected it kept happening because Dwight just wasn't capable as a manager but that would be kicking him when he's down. "You're a great salesman."
It said everything and Jim suddenly needed to lighten the situation, "Hey. On the upside, at least now you know that when the cards are down, you can absolutely not count on Ryan. You probably already knew that though."
He expected him to agree, or at least smile, but instead Dwight's head snapped to look at him, dead serious. "But I could count on you."
He rubbed the back of his neck, uncomfortable with that. "I did it for the company, not for you."
"That's not true. You agreed because I wouldn't have had a chance otherwise."
"You did it for me."
It was the truth and it was clear that neither of them were entirely comfortable with that and after a painfully awkward silence they both reached for their doors at the same time, meeting Stanley at the door and heading in.
Jim didn't see Pam when he entered and figured she was probably near the break room and started to head that way when Kelly started talking. Dwight stumbled a little as Kelly asked him what he was doing there, asked him why he wasn't in Florida still and he couldn't help step in.
"Hey… funny about that… did you lose some weight?"
It was easy to get Kelly off topic and Dwight glanced at Jim, grateful for the intervention and unfamiliar with the feeling, before hanging his head and heading to his desk. Always back to his desk.