He feels different when he wakes up. Not the first time, with Mother there and a drink in his hand, that feels very familiar. The second time, when it’s just him and the doctor. Sterling Archer had always been synonymous with power , or so Archer thinks. As he begins the hard work of physical therapy, he realizes that the power is gone. A lot of things are gone.
He doesn’t cry when he hears that Lana is married. It’s only after his homecoming party (is it really home? It’s not the penthouse apartment made for a dazzling bachelor? Or the empty castle for a man who once thought himself a king? In either case, he shoves the ache for Woodhouse deep down into his stomach. Sterling Archer doesn’t feel emotions ), where he meets her husband and likes him, does he sink into his now unfamiliar bed and cries. He pretends it’s because his legs are aching after standing and walking so much, even with the support of Krieger’s amazing cane, but deep down he knows the truth.
Out of the whole crew (Cyril, Cheryl, Ray, Pam, Krieger, Lana, and Mother), he only sees Mother and Pam with any sense of regularity. With his legs fucked up, it’s not like he can go back to the field ( who is Sterling Archer if he’s not out fighting bad guys? ), so he sits at home, darkly wondering if everyone would have gotten the nice severance package that he got, including the newly bought apartment. Mother comes and updates him on all the office drama, a drink always in her hand that she sips on when the inevitable awkward silences come. It’s new, feeling like Mother cares for him ( Sterling Archer hates his mother ), but it’s nice too. They don’t talk about what he might do now that he can’t do the job he loves. They don’t talk about how Archer has stuck to water since he was released ( Sterling Archer without a drink in his hand? But Mother’s scotch on the rocks looks amazing ). They don’t talk about how he does his physical therapy and then comes home and sits. With Pam, conversation is easier. While Mother will just order them food, Pam comes in with groceries and puts him to work. Archer finds comfort in his ability to chop vegetables or season things for Pam as she keeps up a running commentary of anything on her mind. Sometimes it’s work and how everyone is incompetent, sometimes it’s what mission she’s been working on or her last go in the fighting ring. Either way, it’s natural in a way that conversations with Mother aren’t. After all, Pam had been his best friend both Before and In the Coma. She’s also the only person he’s told about the weird coma dreams. She gets a kick out of each one and he smiles easier when she’s around.
Lana brings AJ over every weekend, and once she notices that he’s not drinking, she also brings AJ over when she goes on extended missions. If Archer had to be glad for one thing about the Coma, it would be how he now realizes that AJ is the only thing he’s proud of. He finds it really easy to be around AJ, especially now that she’s 5 and talking and in school. Some parents might get annoyed at endless chatter, but Archer could listen to AJ talk all day about space, her friends at school, and anything else that ever pops into her mind. One of the rooms in his apartment is transformed completely into AJ’s room, with dark blue walls and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. Sometimes, as she’s sleeping, he’ll stand in the doorway and just look at her. He’s constantly amazed that some part of him made this spectacular little girl.
He keeps the Glengoolie Blue under the sink. On his bad days, he takes it out and looks at it. It’s never been opened, and he hopes to never open it. He had joked about the amount of alcohol he had drunk before, but now that he doesn’t shake in the morning if he hasn’t had enough booze or salivate when he smells high-point alcohol, he doesn’t want to start again. Doesn’t want to be the man who had to have a drink or five before doing anything. Pam told him, at one of their weekly dinners, that the others weren’t sure if he could stick to not drinking. “What do you think Pam?” He asks ( Sterling Archer’s voice used to be strong, confident, and loud, but now he sounds considerate. He’s quiet. His voice doesn’t get much use after all ). She smiles at him, “you’ll be fine Archer.”
Katya visits him once. She had found out he was out of his coma. Archer lets her into the apartment with a smile, one that is returned, but quickly leaves as she notices the cane he’s using. She shares that she is now the head of the KGB and he congratulates her, but Katya seems to find him wanting ( Sterling Archer used to be the love of her life, but now he’s just a has-been ). They talk for about an hour, about nothing and everything (he shows her pictures of AJ in her Halloween costume that they made together). When she leaves, she leans in to kiss him, but he turns his head so that she hits his cheek. She smiles sadly at him and walks out of his life ( Sterling Archer would never have let her go, not without several days in the bedroom ).
With the return of Katya, he guesses he shouldn’t be surprised when he is visited by Barry. He is thankful, as Barry bursts through the living room window, that AJ is safe with Lana and her husband. He takes a punch to the face that knocks him on his ass as Barry outlines how he finally plans to kill him. Archer laughs a little, it’s been a long time since he got punched in the face and the pain is welcoming . For his laughter, Barry kicks him in the ribs, definitely breaking at least one. “Why aren’t you fighting back?” Barry pulls him to his feet, notices the cane that Archer had dropped, feels around his body for a gun (he only carries a gun when he’s with AJ. Kill him by all means, but he’d paint walls red to protect his daughter).
“I’ve changed Barry.” And Archer feels the disappointment that rolls off Barry in waves. He wonders if other people have these kind of intense feelings for people they hate (or used to. He’s too tired to hate Barry anymore. The Coma made him apathetic to a lot of things ( pathetic )). There’s blood in his teeth as he smiles at Barry and places a hand on his shoulder. “If I ever get back to myself, I’ll come and find you and shoot you in the face.” With a laugh that sounds like a sob, Barry nods. His hand caresses Archer’s face, then he pats once, and he is gone ( Sterling Archer would have tried to murder that cyborg abomination ).
Much later, Pam finds him on the ground where Barry left him, blood dried, but he’s still smiling. After she cleans him up and wraps his ribs, she calmly suggests that he talks to someone. And Archer never would have, if not when the next time he picked up AJ she accidentally kicked him in his healing ribs, and the pain felt good ( pain means you’re out there kicking ass. Chase down Barry and have him beat you down again. Better yet, beat him ). Dr. Pizzuto reminds him a lot of Ron. He has a no-nonsense attitude and constantly smells of cigars. They meet twice a week in the late afternoon in an office that reminds Archer of his old penthouse. Archer doesn’t really want to take the pills he’s prescribed, but he does. They have to try several before one finally sticks ( Sterling Archer shouldn’t have to take pills to make it through his day ). Before the Coma, then after and before the pills, he never had really noticed that he wasn’t happy. Before the Coma, he had been so busy, constantly on missions or selling coke or investigating movie stars. He hadn’t had time to realize that he was feeling unfulfilled. Then, before the pills, swimming in apathy had seemed better than falling apart. He falls apart often these days, as they talk about how much trauma he’s been through, not yet even touching on his relationship with Mother. They do talk about how he doesn’t feel like Sterling Archer anymore ( Sterling Archer is a certifiable badass and now you’re just a cripple who stays at home ), but Dr. Pizzuto constantly reminds him that he is Sterling Archer, he just now gets to make new rules about who that is. Archer cries a lot now, and he hates that he cries, but when he’s done, he feels better. And it’s strange to feel better, but he likes it.
While he knows he doesn’t have a chance in a real kitchen with how slowly he moves around, Archer does enjoy cooking. So, he invites everyone over for a dinner party. He hugs everyone who comes into the door, which freaks out most of them to his amusement. There’s also no wine or alcohol, except for what Mother bought, which also seems to freak them all out. Conversation starts out stilted, but he still has his sense of humor (though it’s not as mean anymore) and eventually everyone begins to have a good time. And slowly, as each person leaves, they whisper their reassurances in his ear. How they’re all so proud and how they’ll come back again and how it’s nice to see him back. They feel like lies ( of course they’re lying. Why would they like you how you are now? ) and he’s not sure if they are, so he pretends to understand that they want to see him again. Cheryl is the one who asks, after everyone except her and Pam have left, “You’ve changed. Why?” And Archer feels a deep fondness for her and hugs her again, which she accepts with an annoyed groan. He smiles and steps back, “I think I’m happy now.” And Cheryl doesn’t really seem to understand, but Pam does.
The first time he sleeps with Pam after the Coma, he hadn’t intended on doing so. She had been lamenting one of her recent failed dates and Archer called the guy an idiot. Her confusion was obvious, which broke his heart a little ( what’s there to be confused about? She’s fat and gross ). “You’re my best friend and the best lay of my life and if other people can’t see how amazing you are, that’s their loss.” He had only spoken the truth, so it was his turn to be confused as he found his lap full of Pam. He hadn’t slept with anyone since the Coma, his depression ( Sterling Archer isn’t depressed you fucking pussy ) making it impossible for him to be interested, but having sex with Pam was easy. She already knew exactly how to turn him on, and now that he wasn’t a selfish bastard, she appreciated his many attempts to do the same. And so their standing dinner date became an actual date. On the night he decided to actually take Pam out he got her flowers and put on one of his old suits ( doesn’t fit like it used to because all you do is stay in the house all day ). They run into Krieger at a small downtown joint with amazing nachos that Pam had mentioned to him ( now Krieger’s gonna tell everyone you’re fucking Pam. You’re disgusting ). This happens to be the date where Archer asks Pam to be in a relationship with him, officially and exclusively. At first she laughs, but then realizes he’s serious. She agrees and Archer thinks life will be good.
It was his therapist’s idea for him to start writing about his life, but it comes easy for Archer. Spelling and grammar can go suck a dick, but the actual writing he enjoys. He sees more of himself when he writes about past missions, is able to smirk ironically at the selfish asshole who’s still amazing at his job (despite every sign pointing out he shouldn’t be). Archer chats with his friends, forcing himself out of the house and meeting them for dinner or coffee, laughing over shared misadventures and finding new things to do or talk about ( is therapy really working if he’s having fun with Cyril Figgis? ). He gets closer with Ray, who takes him running through the park and doesn’t make fun of him when he can’t keep up with literal cyborg legs. Archer only shares his writing with Pam who laughs loudly as she reads, ignoring the silent societal rule that laughing while being entertained is now taboo. She asks him to publish it, and after a lot of hemming-and-hawing, he gives it a shot. Well, a lot of people hate it ( only fucking nerds write. Sterling Archer is not an academic, he doesn’t write ). Spite is an old friend to Archer though and he resolves to keep writing and rewriting until they love it, until they publish it. And they do. And people think it’s clever and fun. It’s been a long time since Archer felt proud of something, but when he signs his first book for a fan, he calls Pam on the way back home and she’s proud of him too. So he asks her to move in.
Living with someone again full-time takes getting used to. Pam is awful about leaving mugs in weird places and Archer often ends up spilling half-full cold cups of coffee all over their floors. The first few times he has to clean it up, he has to pull up a YouTube video on his phone, and when he’s done, he goes and visits Woodhouse. He never says much, but he always leaves flowers. AJ loves Pam and it’s easy to see that Pam loves her too. They’re both so silly and they both laugh so easy. It’s a normal Saturday and Archer goes to get them for dinner, but both of them have fallen asleep in one of the living room chairs, having started reading a story, but sleep getting the better of them. And Archer knew that he loved Pam, but when he kissed her awake, he finally told her. And when she kisses him again, he knows she feels the same.
But loving someone with a dangerous job is just that, dangerous. So when he races to the hospital after a frantic call from Mother and is told by a doctor that they’re unsure if Pam will make it through surgery, he panics. He’s in the waiting room with everyone, but the walls are closing in and he can’t be here and he leaves. He goes back to their apartment that smells like her and he reaches for the scotch under the sink for the first time in years, but it’s empty. There’s a note that says “IOU” with a heart and Pam’s name and it breaks on the floor because he’s dropped it to grab his face and scream his rage and pain into the air. He falls on his hands and knees with the bottle and he doesn’t realize he’s bleeding or crying as his thoughts spiral. It can’t have been more than 5 minutes when there’s a knock on the door. And his face is snotty and tears are still falling and he’s covered in blood, but he opens the door to Cheryl who is also crying (“I can’t be around them right now”). And he hugs her and they cry together because they both love the same person and they’re so scared.
Pam is okay. She had almost bled out to multiple gunshot wounds, but she was okay. Archer stayed by her hospital bed and snuck in terrible food to her. And when she found a diamond ring with her onion rings, she screamed so loud that the nurses came running (and got them both in trouble). She said yes though.
The wedding is small. The gang from work, Lana’s husband, AJ, and Pam’s family. If it had been up to Archer, he wouldn’t have invited Pam’s terrible, judgemental family, but it was nice to see Edie freak out over Pam’s wedding ring and her dress. He’s not ashamed to admit that he started crying when AJ walked down the aisle tossing flowers, and as Pam walked down the aisle with her dad (looking back, he’s not sure if he stopped crying through the entire wedding). Ray, his best man, pats him on the back as Cheryl, the maid of honor, openly laughs at him. Archer doesn’t remember either of their vows, but he remembers that when he kissed Pam, it felt like fireworks went off (and later, when he got a bill for damages, he found out that Krieger had set some fireworks to go off and almost burned down the entire forest behind their park venue).
He still has a lot of work to do (Dr. Pizzuto is his #3 speed dial, only after Lana and Pam), but he’ll get through it. He is Sterling Archer after all ( are you? Yes, I am).