Disclaimer: I don't own The Office.
Spoilers: Nothing specific. The show?
Author's Note: This is really sappy for me. Not sure how I feel about that. Next story, I'm adding humor.
Summary: June 8th. Jam.
For What It's Worth
He had always known he wasn't going to go. Deep in the pit of his stomach, maybe outside his mind's reach at first, but the doubt was always there. His body had always been conscious of it. That was probably why it had pained him to put down the two thousand dollars for the non-refundable round trip ticket even as everyone he knew told him it would be worth it. Australia! Of course it was worth it. If he went. That was why he'd made it non-refundable he knew, why he hadn't spent the extra thirty bucks on cancellation insurance. If he knew he wasn't going to get that two thousand dollars back, he would have to go through with it. That was what he had thought, but his body had known better. Deep in the pit of his stomach he had started asking himself, 'What is two thousand dollars anyway?' It was a trip to Australia. It was four months' rent. It was half a year of groceries, it was a hundred and fifty cases of cheap beer. It was a lot. But it wasn't her.
He was willing to throw away that two thousand dollars if it meant he might still have a chance. That was why, at 4:52 this Saturday afternoon, he was missing his two thousand dollar final boarding call. Because even though he had gotten into his car that morning with every intention of driving to JFK, he had always known that JFK wasn't where he wanted to go. He had almost made it there, had crossed from Pennsylvania to New Jersey just into New York. And then he had pulled over, just to stop for lunch, and had eaten lunch – ham and cheese like every other day – and had gotten back into his car and before his mind even realized where his body was taking him, he had turned around. Back across the New York boarder, back through New Jersey, back to Pennsylvania.
It had taken him awhile to remember where she would be tonight. As much as Pam had been talking about all the wedding plans, he had been trying not to absorb any of the details. He hadn't wanted to know which church the ceremony would be at, where the reception would be held, what they would do on their honeymoon. He had focused, instead, on Australia. Now that Australia was gone – funny how fast it had left him, how little he cared now – all the information he had pushed to the back of his brain was coming back to him. The ceremony and reception would be in Scranton, but she would spend the weekend before all that at her parents' house two hours away.
He had known the town that Pam was from, heard her talk about it often enough. It wasn't until he got to the town that he realized he didn't actually know her address. Pulling over in front of a strip mall parking lot payphone, he had hopped out of his car without taking his keys out of the ignition and flipped through the complimentary phonebook to the name Beesly. There was only one listing. He didn't bother to write it down, feeling rushed for time. How could he possibly forget the address anyway? It was burned into his mind, the only thing he could focus on right now. So he had hopped into his car, turned the keys waiting there for him, and started driving around the town. Aimlessly at first. He might have known the address, but he still didn't know how to get there. So he had stopped to ask for directions, and then he had kept driving, this time knowing which way he should be going. And that was where he was now, at 4:52. He was driving down a suburban road in a town two hours outside of Scranton counting down the house numbers until he got to hers. 587, 585, 583, 581 – and then he saw it. Even if he hadn't remembered the house number, even if he'd only remembered the street, he would have known this was her house right away.
He liked to think he would have known because it seemed like the kind of house where Pam would grow up, but it didn't. There was nothing really special about the house itself. It was a regular suburban home, medium sized, a gray-green shade, with a red brick walk lined in yellow flowers leading up to the front door. It was just a normal looking house, and probably wouldn't attract much interest if it weren't for the chaos which surrounded it on this day. There were balloons tied to the mailbox of 579 and cars parked along the road to either side of it. The lawn was filled with people. There was a grill with smoke coming off it and two long tables lined in red and white checkered paper covers, both of them topped with food. There was a big banner pinned up over what looked like a badminton net: 'Congratulations Pam and Roy!' He would have to be blind not to know that this was the house. What was he doing there?
He parked his car in line with all the others. The others, of course, belonged to invited guests. Family members – Beeslies – and old friends. He didn't know what he was doing there. Until he saw, coming out of the house, walking down the red brick lined in yellow flowers, Pam.
He got out of his car. His palms were sweating and he wiped them against his pants. He wasn't dressed right for this party. He was wearing his plane clothes, clothes picked out expressly for their functionality and comfort, clothes that would feel alright the whole twenty two hours of the way to Sydney. His old jeans, the ones with the rips – and not the new trendy kind – in the knees, and a worn gray t-shirt that used to read 'PENNSYLVANIA' in maroon letters but now looked more like 'PE S LV A.' But he hadn't come here to fit in, he hadn't come here to do anything except talk to her, and now, as he walked towards the lawn with all the people and the banner he hated, he took a deep breath as he approached his reason for coming.
"Jim?" She spotted him before he even made it to the lawn. She looked surprised to see him, but he wasn't surprised to see that.
"Hey Pam." He stared at her. He had come here for her. And now he was here, and he couldn't think of anything to say.
"What are you doing here?" She didn't sound disgusted, did she? No, just surprised. Shocked. He had sent her into shock.
"Oh, you know…" He shook his head and swallowed, trying to think of how to begin this. It always looked so easy in movies. Boy meets girl, boy finds out girl is dating someone else, boy shows up at exactly the perfect moment and says exactly the right thing and wins girl over. "I was just out for a Saturday ride… Thought I'd stop by."
"A ride?" Her expression was completely flat.
"Jimbo! Big Jim!" Roy's voice. Roy's hand, slapping him, maybe a little harder than friendly, across the back. "What are you doing here buddy?"
Jim looked at Roy. He hadn't actually thought about Roy before. He hadn't thought there would be an actual party going on at the Beesly residence, certainly hadn't imagined the banner. Jim looked at Roy who looked different now, on this lawn, in the middle of this party thrown half in his honor. He was wearing normal clothes and holding a beer and there was something very real about this Roy that Jim hadn't thought about before. This Roy wasn't just a warehouse employee at Dunder-Mifflin, this was Pam's fiancé.
"Pammy, you didn't tell me you invited Jim…" Roy looked between Pam and Jim, back and forth. There was a painful silence.
"I must have forgotten." Pam broke it. She gave a smile – Jim could tell it was her reluctant smile, the one she sometimes gave to Michael when she wanted him to go away – and a shrug. "Yeah, you know, Jim was going to be in town, so I just figured…"
"I thought you were gonna be in Europe or something?" Roy sort of shook his head at Jim. Jim sort of shook his head back. "Oh well," Roy smiled, warmer than Jim would have expected. Warmer than he deserved. "As long as you're here, enjoy yourself. There's beer in the cooler-" Roy pointed and Jim watched his hand dutifully "-and there's lots of food." Roy paused, then slapped Jim on the back again. "It'll be good to have another Scranton boy here. We can make fun of these small-towners later on, eh?"
And then Roy smiled and walked off, towards a group of guys standing around the cooler Roy had just pointed out. Jim bit his bottom lip as he watched Roy walk away.
"Jim, why aren't you in Australia right now?"
"Pam, I…" He shook his head. He didn't know what to say exactly. He caught Roy's eye, saw Roy pointing to him and saying something to the group of guys standing around the cooler. "Can we talk somewhere? Somewhere else?"
For a second she looked like she might say no. He was sure he saw her start to shake her head, but then she stopped. She tilted back her head – that was her way of letting on that she was annoyed, he knew her code, knew what all her movements meant – and sighed, and then nodded.
"Sure. We can go inside."
She led him inside then. Up the red brick walk and into the gray-green house. She started to take him up the stairs – he knew she didn't want to explain him to whoever he heard talking somewhere else on the ground floor – but he stopped her halfway up the staircase. How could he not? Climbing up the wall were pictures of Pam through-the-ages. Pam in kindergarten, Pam playing little league – though she had always said she hated sports – Pam holding a certificate standing next to a painting.
"I thought you hated sports…" He pointed to the little league picture.
"My parents made me play until I was twelve." She spoke with a curtness he didn't like. She started walking again and he followed her without interrupting to ask questions again.
She took him to her room and shut the door behind them. It was the room of a teenager, obviously unused for years now. Everything was peach colored, the walls and the curtains and the bed covers… And there were stuffed animals too, a lot of them. Pam sat down on the bed, its old unused springs creaking as she sat. He watched her as, what looked like unconsciously, she grabbed the white stuffed bear that laid between the peach pillows and pulled it onto her lap. He smiled.
"Well… Are you going to talk now?"
"Pam…" He threw back his head. Usually when he did that he was exaggerating, but today it was how he really felt. He really felt like throwing back his head, biting his lip, closing his eyes as tight as he could and wishing he knew exactly what to say. There was silence as he waited for the words to come to him. When they didn't, he just started talking on his own. "My flight doesn't leave until 5." She stared back at him blankly. "You keep saying I should be in Australia, but my flight doesn't leave until 5 tonight, so there's still…" He looked at his watch. "There's still negative three minutes to go. Alright, so I missed my plane-"
"I can see that…"
"But, Pam, I had to come here. I couldn't go to Australia without seeing you again."
"You saw me yesterday, at the office-"
"I know, but I didn't… I don't know. I didn't say everything then."
She sighed. He knew that was her annoyed sigh. He had to get this out. He had to find the right words. He closed his eyes as tight as he could, took a deep breath in, and let it out-
"Pam, I love you."
Everything was silent. When he opened his eyes she was still sitting there, holding the bear, looking up at him. She didn't look like she was in shock anymore. She didn't really look like… anything. Just blank. He bit his bottom lip again.
There was silence. Only, there wasn't. He looked at Pam because he couldn't take his eyes away from her. He saw her sit there, looking blank, holding the bear. And then he saw the first tear run down her cheek. And then he saw another come. And another. And soon she was crying, and he was kneeling down in front of her.
"No, Jim." She shook her head. He heard her swallow. "I don't want to hear about you right now." He nodded, even though he didn't understand. He stayed kneeling in front of her. He was eye level with her now, he could see the tears close up and saw that they hadn't stopped coming. They stayed like this, for awhile, he thought. It was awhile before she spoke again. "Why now?"
"Because it was either come here today or wait until tomorrow or wait until the next day for the wedding, but… I was going to lose you forever, Pam, and I couldn't stand that. I know I never had you, but I couldn't lose you-"
"I don't really care about Australia." He didn't finish with I care about you. He didn't want to talk too much about himself right now, if that wasn't what she wanted to hear. He only wanted to tell her what she wanted to hear. He wanted her tears to stop, for her to throw her arms around him, or even just lean forward into him. He wanted to take her face in his hands and feel how soft her skin was and dry her tears himself. He wanted a lot of things, but he didn't want to talk about himself if that wasn't what she wanted to hear.
"I wish you had said something earlier." She didn't look at him as she spoke, but twisted the arm of the bear in her hands. And then everything was quiet again.
They sat there in silence once more. Her tears stopped. He watched them stop. Saw one roll down her cheek, and then didn't see any others follow. No more tears to be shed over Jim Halpert.
When the tears stopped he stood up to go. It took him a minute to stand, maybe because his joints were stiff from kneeling – how long had he been in that position? – or maybe because his body was telling him to stay. The pit of his stomach was telling him not to go, that it couldn't be over yet. The same knot in his stomach that had made him throw away two thousand dollars and the trip of a lifetime was now begging him not to leave, to stay kneeling in front of Pam forever. But he knew his stomach must be wrong this time, because Pam would be missed from her party. Roy would wonder where she was, and why he was gone too. The banner… The banner needed to congratulate her some more. And he had to leave. Had to go.
It took him a minute to stand, but once he was standing all he wanted to do was go. Run. With the same urgency that he'd felt as he'd driven to her house this afternoon, Jim wanted to run to his car, to drive away. Far away. Not back to Scranton. Maybe to the airport. He could see how far he could afford to get and he would go there.
He made it as far as the door to her peach colored room before he heard her speak again.
The doorknob was in his hand. He just had to turn it and he would be gone. He heard the bed springs creak, and then he felt her hand on his back. Right below his shoulder. He wondered if she could reach his shoulder.
He turned around, slowly. Her hand stayed against him, It floated over him as he turned so that it moved across his back, over his side, to rest against his chest, below and to the left of his shoulder.
"Please don't go." She brought her other hand up, rested it against his chest too. Her hands felt like fire through the thin cotton of his worn out t-shirt. He thought her touch might burn him, but he didn't want her to take her hands away. "I wish you had said something sooner… But I'm just glad you're saying something at all. I wanted to… I wanted to say something, to do something, but I never could…"
His hand is still on the doorknob, twisted around behind his back to rest on the doorknob. He takes it off the cool metal and brings it to rest against Pam's face, to the trail her tears have left behind. Her skin is soft. He brings his other hand up, tries to tuck it in behind her hair to rest against her neck. His fingers – clumsy now, not believing that they're really doing what he's always imagined – get tangled in her hair as they reach for the back of her neck. The curls at the back of her neck are damp – it's hot out today – and his palm is sweaty, and so they stick together, her hair to his hand. He feels the skin of her neck flutter and hopes he's not pulling her hair too hard. He starts to take his hand away completely, but before he can, she's getting taller. Standing on her toes, he realizes, trying to bring her face closer to his. And he leans down and watches as the space between them closes. The knot in his stomach grows, his whole body is tense. He swallows, hard, as his nose presses against her cheek, and it takes him a couple tries, dipping in, pulling out again, his lips hitting the soft flesh of her cheek, the tighter line of her jaw, before his mouth finds hers. And then everything is warm and he feels like if he died in this exact moment, it would be alright. Because the knot in his stomach, the knot that has grown impossibly tight, has always known that everything would be alright.
This is worth the two thousand dollars. This is worth way more than that.
A/N: Next time I'm writing something funny. I swear.