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18 November 2007 @ 02:42 am
Ashes [The Office; Jim/Jan]  
TITLE: Ashes
FANDOM: The Office
PAIRING: Jim/Jan (Jam-angst, Michael/Jan angst)
SPOILERS: "Casino Night" (2x22)
RATING: PG
SUMMARY:


*****

She taps her cigarette and watches the ashes float to the ground. Vulnerability was what brought her here. Vulnerability was what pushed things just a little too far.

"Hey, you out there?"

She takes another drag off her cigarette and blows a smoke ring, childishly proud that she still possesses that talent. Among others she had just put to the test tonight. "Yes," she responds quietly, and hears him step outside behind her.

He doesn't touch her and she's thankful for that. Just sits beside her and watches her. Just like the last time she had a cigarette. She bends her knees and places her feet flat on the cement step below the one she sits upon, drapes her arms over her knees, trying to warm herself up. It's chilly for being May. Or maybe she's just grown cold all over, all the time.

Why did I hook up with Michael? That's no longer the question of the hour. She has much bigger problems now. Her life has fallen to shambles, disintegrated into ashes, just like the ones falling from the tip of her cigarette.

"Do you want a jacket or something?"

She shakes her head, still feeling him watching her. "I'm fine, thanks."

She shouldn't be here. She knows that. Not just at this particular house, but here in Scranton. She should've never consented to attending Casino Night with Michael -- who had the audacity to ask a second woman to the event, too. Saying yes to Michael at any time would always lead to trouble.

"This shouldn't have happened," she says lowly, and flicks more ashes to the ground.

"I know."

He's quiet... so quiet that she almost doesn't hear him. Almost. "Not that it was... y'know, bad or anything, because it was--"

"Good. Real good."

"Yeah." She turns to look at him and all of a sudden feels awful for what she's done. "I'm so sorry."

He makes a face at her and she wonders why he doesn't date much. "For what?"

"I just feel like this is... kind of my fault."

"There were two of us there. Two sets of lips, two bodies..." He trails off, and images of the past hour flit through her mind, dark and far-off like a hazy dream.

"Right." She takes a long drag off her cigarette now, and blows another smoke ring... slowly.

"Nice."

She turns to smile at him and his eyes are kind... friendly. Nothing more, nothing less. "Thank you."

"You're... welcome. Wait, for what exactly? The compliment about the smoke rings?"

She can't help herself. She leans in and dusts her lips across his in a brief kiss. "For this. For understanding, for not... thinking less of me after what happened."

"Why would I?"

"Well, despite evidence to the contrary, I don't do..." she gestures between them, "this kind of thing... a lot."

His smile, two rows of perfectly aligned, sparkling white teeth, almost makes her want to drag him back inside. Almost. "I know. No worries."

"Okay."

"And I don't do... this..." he mimics her gesture, "a lot, either. Ever, actually."

"I know."

"I have to leave," Jan hears him sigh.

"This is your place."

"Scranton," Jim clarifies through a chuckle.

"Oh. I see. Because of--"

"Yeah." He doesn't want her to say her name.

They spilled their darkest secrets to each other only hours ago. Jim was in love with Pam Beesly, the pretty and soft-spoken receptionist... and Jan confessed that she could possibly be in love with Michael. Only possibly, though. She didn't want to commit to a definite answer yet.

And so they had talked. They'd left Casino Night to go someplace more private and talk about their crashed-and-burned lovelives. They had a few drinks... maybe a few too many. Before long they were back at his house... in his bed... coming together in desperation and loneliness, each needing a little solace, needing to forget for just awhile how their lives have turned to ashes.

Jim's the first person she admitted her fling with Michael to. For months she's denied it, assured everyone that there was nothing, nor would there ever be anything, there between them... until tonight. Until Jim found her smoking outside the warehouse.

And he didn't judge her, or look at her any differently. He even miraculously made her fling with Michael sound rational, if only for a moment, when he told her, "We can't pick who we're drawn to. It's just something chemical... it just happens."

And now here they sit, on his cold cement front steps, drawn together by loneliness, victims of broken hearts. She still taps at her cigarette and the ashes still fall... and now they both watch them.

"It'll be okay again," Jim says, and Jan really would like to believe him.

"Eventually, maybe."

"We'll both start over."

"There's no such thing as starting over, Jim," she tells him sadly. She knows that all too well, having learned the hard way. "It's a wonderful thought, but it's just not plausible. What happened -- or what didn't happen -- is always going to be there, hanging over you like a storm cloud. The best thing you can do is accept what happened and try to move forward from there."

"Wow. I never would've pegged you as a cynic."

She looks up at him, wondering whether or not to be offended when he gives a friendly smile. His smile is boyish and rather infectious... she can't help but give one back. "Is that cynical? I'm just speaking from experience."

"With Michael? Or with your ex-husband?"

"Both, I guess. I tried for a fresh start after my divorce and wound up hooking up with Michael after too many drinks at Chili's. Then, I tried to start over with Michael, but... he was too..." She trails off and looks to Jim for help.

He smiles and offers, "Too Michael?"

Jan chuckles and finally flicks her cigarette to the ground. "Yes."

They both watch as she stamps the cigarette out with her shoe, grinding the ashes into the pavement. They'll both be okay eventually. He asks, "Should we go back inside?"

"I don't know, Jim."

"As friends? Because I really... I don't think you should try to drive home just yet. In fact, you know what? I'm not going to let you. I'm banning you from driving home right now."

"You're banning me?" She raises her eyebrows and lets Jim take her arm and help her to her feet.

"Yes. You're vulnerable, you've had a bit too much to drink, and you're trying to recover from hooking up with a very attractive co-worker. That's no time to try to drive."

"Alright. Fine."

"And I promise we'll never have to speak of this again after tonight. We can pretend it never happened."

"That's impossible, too, Jim."

"Well, okay. Then we just won't let it happen again."

"Deal." She lets him start to lead her inside with his hand on her back.

Yes, they'll both be okay. They'll soon be able to rise from the ashes of their lovelives like phoenixes. They just need to move foward slowly...

"One step at a time," Jim says as he leads her in.

Indeed.




FIN



{x-posted to lady_levinson}
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
a.: emjay; sticks togetherregalish on November 18th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks much! :)
mcsunshine: to: michael/jan | valetinestheroomstops on November 18th, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yes! A Jan/Jim fic! They're my UC ship for The Office.
a.: emjay; needs to set ground rulesregalish on November 18th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
Oh man, mine too! Haha. I thought I was crazy seeing sparks between them, so I'm excited to find other fans. I always kind of wanted 'em to hook up, and at least use each other for consolation if nothing more :D

mcsunshine: to: jim/pam | quick pecktheroomstops on November 18th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
I know! They'd be totally hot together. Just at the end of the episode, show then making out against the wall.
a.regalish on November 18th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
HA. Absolutely! I love how, in the commentary for "Casino Night", Melora brings that up, too. How fans were expecting a Jim/Jan hookup because of that scene. Hehe!
Hadarsupertvjunkie on November 22nd, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC)
Oooh I love Jim/Jan fics :D
I've always thought that it will be so crazy and awesome if something like that will happened
a.: emjay; and hand-holdingregalish on November 23rd, 2007 06:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you liked this :)

And I agree - I always kind of wanted something like that to happen, if not for anything more than the angst it would cause Michael and Pam :D