Chapter 1: Part One : The Reunion
"He is. Jim is fine."
"Jim! Did you get this email, too?" Pam wondered when Jim arrived home from work. She sat at her computer, looking over an email titled 'Reunion?'
Jim glanced over it for a moment before giving a shrug. "Who knows? Probably," he replied with a cough.
Pam shot him a look and stood. "We should go," she started, "It'll be good for us. We haven't been out of the house in a while, and Cece can watch Philip with our neighbor."
"I dunno, Pam. Maybe. I'm not sure I can do this again after ten years. I'll think about it," Jim finally said, giving a weary sigh as he set his briefcase down. Pam hugged him tenderly, closing her eyes while he returned the favor. She felt safe in his arms, but that thought made her sad and she found tears in her eyes.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Jim asked her gently, pulling back to gaze down at her. "Hey, woah, it's okay."
Shaking her head, Pam wiped at her tears and tried to gain control of herself once more. "It's not, Jim. It's not."
He rubbed at her arms morosely, unable to think of what to say to help her. "If it makes you feel better, we can go to the reunion, alright?"
Pam gave a simple nod of her head, still wiping tears from her flushed cheeks.
The drive up to Scranton was long and quiet, except the occasional question Pam asked and the radio. Jim was surprised to find he still knew the route like the back of his hand.
He pulled over when they reached about halfway, and let Pam take over. He gave a few more coughs, pretending not to notice the concerned looks Pam was giving him.
"How much longer?" Jim wondered another hour into the drive. Pam exited the highway and smiled over at him.
"Don't worry, Jim, we're almost there."
Jim wasn't worried. He was nervous, yes. He was also dreading this encounter with an intensity he wasn't aware he possessed. But he wasn't worried. He knew what to expect, he'd worked at the place for nearly ten years, he was used to these people.
They pulled into the Scranton building where the others were waiting patiently outside with drinks in hand.
Stanley had a cane in his left hand, leaning back against the wall of the building as he chatted idly with Phyllis and Kevin.
Pete was trying to avoid Maredith while Oscar sat in one of the chairs pretending not to laugh in pity.
"Hey, guys!" Pam exclaimed happily. Oscar was the first to stand and give her a hug.
"Michael, Dwight, and Angela will be here soon," he informed them.
"Did you get elected mayor, Oscar? We never got that memo, for some odd reason," Jim hunched his shoulders by his ears and gave the shorter man a knowing look.
Oscar dropped his head and grinned, looking a little embarrassed. "Yeah, I did. Not the first time, but I ran again," he said.
"Oh, Oscar that's wonderful. I'm so happy for you," Pam commented gladly.
"Yeah, real wonderful. Now he's famous enough to screw any guy he wants," Maredith spoke up, hopping over to stand by them.
"Maredith! That is very distasteful," Angela remarked as her and Dwight walked up. She held a look of disgust on her face. Dwight gave Jim a hug and looked him over with an appraising eye.
"You've lost weight, Jim," he pointed out without emotion.
Jim glanced down at himself and shrugged. "Did I? I hadn't noticed. Pam likes to starve me at home, that's probably why," he gave his wife an accusatory glare.
Pam nodded along, serious as ever while Dwight's eyes went wide. "It's true. I never feed him. I give all his food to the children."
"I see what's happening. You're joking," Dwight told them, making Angela roll her eyes in disbelief.
"Of course they're joking, Dwight. Don't be ridiculous," she reprimanded.
"Of course I knew Pam was joking," Dwight told the camera crew easily, his arms crossed across his chest as he leaned back into the wall.
"I was just humoring them," he added, a small scoff following his words.
"Does anyone know when Michael's getting here? I plan on leaving by then," Stanley spoke up suddenly, Phyllis agreeing.
"Yeah, I hate to say it, but I don't really think I can handle Michael right now," she said.
"Guys! You can't just leave when Michael gets here. He's coming to see us all," Pam told them.
"I just think it's really mean of them all to leave when Michael gets here.
He was our boss for - like - ever. And I'm sure he's missed us too," Pam looked over at Jim while he stared at the cameras.
"She's right," he nodded. "And, yeah, Michael's a little - I dunno - crass, but we all know he means well."
"Yeah!" Pam exclaimed. "And it's not fair to him." They both stared at the camera for a moment more.
Jim started coughing again, making Pam force him to sit down.
"I'm fine, Pam. Soda went down the wrong pipe," he assured the others at their worried looks.
"Looks like Jim's choking," a familiar voice made them all turn to see Michael. His salt-and-pepper hair had turned all gray, and the wrinkles had deepened. He looked old. "That's what she said," he added after a pause, making himself and Dwight laugh.
Stanley and Phyllis both straightened and started walking to their cars. "Sorry, Michael. Vance is awfully sick today, and I should probably go check up on him," Phyllis said as an excuse.
Michael simply shrugged and looked to Stanley. "I've got a doctor's appointment," the man muttered half-heartedly. Michael dipped his head in understanding and turned back to the others.
"That's alright, you two. We'll all have plenty of fun without you two, anyway. Who needs ya?" he called over his shoulder. He played it off, but Pam could tell he wasn't happy anymore.
"No, I don't really care," Michael claimed with a shrug, his smile didn't seem to reach his eyes. The camera wobbled slightly as the cameraman shifted.
"If they don't wanna spend time with me, then who cares? It's not a big deal," he sniffled softly.
"Hey, Michael!" Pam tried to sound cheerful, but her tone sounded flat even to her ears.
Jim pulled Michael into a short hug, patting his back. "It's good to see you, man. How've you been?" he asked.
Michael's smile grew a bit wider again. "I don't know how you two dealt with two kids, but four is - like - impossible."
Pete gave a small laugh at that. "Hey, Pete! Where's Erin?" Michael wondered happily, eyes shifting as if she were hiding somewhere near.
"Oh. She's - uhm - she's actually sick. She was really upset she couldn't come, she told me to tell you she misses you."
"She's sick? That's terrible? Will she recover?" Michael asked with worry.
"Yeah, I - she will. It's just the flu, Michael. She didn't want to get anyone else sick," Pete answered. Confusion settled heavily in his voice.
"Ah. Right," Michael gave a nod.
"I wish I could stay longer, but I really should be getting back to my office," Oscar stood and shook Michael's hand. "It was good to see you all."
"Bye, Oscar," Pam called hesitantly. She could see Michael's smile fading once again.
"Me too. I don't have an excuse, I'm just bored. Not enough strippers," Maredith nodded as she headed to her own car.
"Really? Guys? It hasn't even been two hours yet!" Dwight pointed out.
"Nah, that's okay, Dwight. It doesn't matter. Let 'em go," Michael waved it off. The hurt in his voice was evident, though.
"Michael, would you like to join us all for dinner?" Pam found herself asking without a second thought.
"I'm not really that hungry."
"Sure you are. Come on, Michael. You can tell us all about your kids. How's Holly doing?" Jim questioned, giving Michael a warm smile.
"She's good. It's good the kids are older, or she wouldn't've let me come," Michael chuckled.
"We could go to Poor Richard's," Dwight suddenly suggested, looking down at Angela who nodded in agreement.
"Yes. Let's do that," her tone wasn't convincing, but it was enough for
Michael, especially when Pete started chanting "Poor Richard's" and Michael joined him.
"That sounds great!" said Pam excitedly. She glanced over at the camera and smiled in relief.
"At least some people care about Michael," Pam told the camera. "He's done a lot for us, in his own ways."
Poor Richard's wasn't busy. All six of them were seated at a long table by the window. Pam and Jim sat on one side, Dwight and Angela on the other, Michael and Pete sat at the ends.
"I feel like a king down here," Michael joked, lifting his eyebrows like a happy child.
After ordering, Michael seemed to notice something was off with Jim.
"You haven't eaten much, Halpert," he pointed.
"Pam and I ate before we left. I guess I'm just not that hungry," Jim shrugged it off.
"False! It's been two hours already, and it would have taken you over two hours to get here with traffic. You would've had to wake up almost two hours before you left to eat and get dressed. Therefore, it's been six to seven hours since you've eaten," Dwight growled at him, eyeing Jim suspiciously.
"Dwight is right, of course, Jim," Angela said. "What's going on?" she wondered.
Concern filled Michael's eyes as he watched Jim and Pam share a look.
"Guys, come on. If there was something wrong with me, I would've told you," Jim finally answered, turning his head into his shoulder to cough roughly.
"I dunno, man. That was back when you live here. Now that you're in Philly, we've kinda grown apart," mentioned Pete.
Jim laughed and shook his head. "There's nothing wrong with me!" he exclaimed, his hands thrown out to make a point.
"Your hands are shaking, Jim!" Angela raised her voice in disbelief, and Jim quickly drew his arms back into himself.
"I'm fine," Jim insisted.
"He is. Jim is fine," Pam repeated, her voice unsteady and wobbly. Michael noticed because he shot her a troubled look. Tears filled her eyes and she stood in a rush, forcing the chair back and rattling the dishes on the table.
"Pam, come on!" Jim called as she hurried out of Poor Richard's.
"Jim?" Dwight asked suddenly, realization settling in his perturbed eyes. "That can't be," his voice held a minute waver, and Jim knew he'd figured it all out.
Chapter 2: Part Two : The Problem
"But I can't lose him."
Michael followed after Pam, insisting Jim stay inside with the others.
"Hey, Pam-chop. What's going on, huh? What's wrong?" he asked when he found her sitting on the steps alone. He sank stiffly to the ground next to her and drew her close with an arm around her shoulder.
"I just can't handle all of this, Michael," Pam cried sadly.
"No, Pammy, it's okay. Tell me what's going on with Jim, maybe I can help," Michael pleaded gently. Pam was surprised at the tenderness in his voice, she'd never seen him be so sensitive to someone else. Maybe Holly and the kids had changed him after all.
"You can't help. None of you can," Pam admitted through racking sobs and sharp intakes of breath.
"Well, how do you know unless you try?"
"I just know, Michael! Nothing helps Jim," Pam sniffed, leaning into his side.
Michael looked disturbed at that thought, and stared into the camera for a moment. "Why not, Pammy?" he wondered.
"Dwight, just stop!" Jim finally yelled at him.
"Stop? Jim, you are dying," Dwight argued adamantly.
"Stop saying that word," Angela ordered, glaring up at him with pursed lips.
"We can't just avoid the word for your own sake, Angela. That isn't how life works," Pete told her. She switched her spiteful gaze to him and crossed her arms.
Jim started coughing, one hand at his stomach and the other covered his mouth. When he pulled back, he grimaced at the blood.
"Oh my god, Jim!" Pam exclaimed as she came back in. "Come on. We should take you to the hospital," she ordered.
"No, Pam. I'm not going through that, it's worse."
"Jim is correct, Pam. Chemotherapy will only extend his life for a few months at least," Dwight agreed.
"I know that!" Pam suddenly snapped, hands clenched at her side. "But I can't lose him," her voice went quiet.
Jim swiped his hand over his pants and swept Pam into a hug. "It'll be okay, Beesly."
"Why didn't you tell us?" Michael wondered.
"We haven't talked to any of you in like ten years," Jim said. "And I figured lung cancer wasn't the best thing to bring up at a reunion."
"Jim, can we please just go to the hospital!?" Pam tugged at Jim's arm, waving her hand at the camera to get them to shut it off.
"I believe she wishes for you to switch the camera off," Dwight turned to the cameraman and glared at him. He shook his head.
"Turn it off!" Angela ordered, lunging forward and pressing blindly for the button to power it down.
"Stop it!" the cameraman called (his name wasn't known to anyone of the office, though some suspected it was close to Paul or Peter), batting her hands away.
"Hey, you guys are going to need to leave. Take the camera with you," someone from Poor Richard's commanded as he began to usher them out.
"Why must you insist on filming?" Angela wondered harshly, eyes narrowed at the cameraman as her and the others patiently waited in the hospital waiting room.
Pam paced, biting at her nails. Dwight's knee jiggled in his nervousness, elbows rested on the armrests and chin cradled idly in his hands. Michael had his hands covering his face, eyes closed and shoulders hunched.
Even Pete seemed at a loss for words, one hand clenched into a fist on his knee and the other tapping at the armrest.
"Can you please turn off the camera?" Pam asked softly, tears in her voice. The cameraman gave a skeptical look, not wanting to start another spat like at Poor Richard's.
"Please?" Pam asked, she wouldn't look at the camera directly.
"Look, Pam, I wish I could," he answered.
"It's Peter, isn't it?" she asked him. He gave a nod. "I can't let the people who watch us see Jim like this. It would break their hearts as much as it does mine."
Peter glanced up at the new boom mike guy. "How about this? I shut it off until everyone goes to see him. I'll even give you two time without the camera," he offered.
Pam gave a grateful sob and nodded, wiping the back of her hand against her cheeks to swipe the tears away.
"Ok, the rest of you can go in and see him now," said a nurse.
Peter stood as the others did to film it. The camera's red light switched on as he followed the others to Jim's room.
"Hey, Jim," Dwight greeted when the door opened.
"Hey, guys," Jim replied. Despite the tubes and things hooked up to him, his face held a smile - as always.
Dwight stood closer to the door while everyone else filed into the room. Jim gave him a slight glance but quickly focused his attention on the others. "How could this happen?" Angela wondered softly, voice full of emotion Jim didn't know she could show.
"It runs in my family. Skipped my dad, though. I just got unlucky," said Jim with a shrug. "Speaking of, they should be up here soon."
Michael was unusually quiet, his eyes sad. "This is terrible," he finally announced. "I can't believe you'd do this to me, Jimbo."
Jim couldn't help but laugh at that. "I can't really stop it, Michael. It's not like I wanted it either," he said.
Michael sniffed and stared down at the ground. "Whatever," he muttered darkly.
Pam stood beside Dwight, her arms cradled close to her chest as if she were cold. She seemed to shudder from the sheer audacity of Michael's words. What the hell was wrong with him?
Dwight stared at the camera with barely a hint of interest. "I have no feelings on the matter. Jim and I worked together for many years, that's all."
Despite his words, his eyes were filling with unwanted tears.
"I'm not crying. I have an onion in my pocket," Dwight argued in a strangled voice, reaching into his pocket and retracting his hand.
Half of a crumpled onion rested in the middle of his palm. His lips bunched together tightly in an effort to keep his cries silent.
"Jim? You have a few more visitors," announced the nurse as she led his parents into his room.
"Hey, mom and dad!" Jim exclaimed happily, holding his arms out for a hug. Michael refused to move for a moment, staring down the two newcomers before reluctantly stepping out of the way - his eyes dodging their attempts at eye contact.
Jim glanced at him over his parents' shoulders in disbelief, raising his eyebrows slightly to show that Michael had no right to block them. Michael simply licked his lips and pretended not to see the motion, hands stuck deep in his pockets as he gently rocked back and forth between the heels and the balls of his feet.
It was a tense half hour filled with awkward conversations that died on peoples' tongues after a few words and strain unlike anything Jim had ever witnessed.
Kevin was staring out the window at a bird at one point, his tongue sticking out between his thin lips as he focused on attempting to track its movements. Stanley was distracted by something that was far more important on his phone, and was paying no attention to anything else.
Maredith was practically already out the door, half her body outside the confines of the stuffy room.
Angela was leaning back against Dwight's side, arms crossed tightly over his chest as Jim's parents conversed with him. Pam had stepped forward to speak with them as well. A smile lit Jim's face at something she uttered, and his parents couldn't help but give soft laughs.
"Jim, I'm sorry, but we should go. I've got to get back to the house," his father interrupted the reverie.
Jim's smile faltered, though is his family noticed they gave no indication. He nodded and brought them in for another hug, wishing he was able to embrace them tighter than he currently was.
He felt weaker already. And he hated it with ever fiber of his being. He hated being pitied, and the looks on everyone's faces only furthered his hatred. Jim didn't hate a lot of things. But this? He could make an exception for.