Beauty in Ordinary Things by OfficeWriter
Summary:

Sequel to The Other Pam

Jim/Pam relationship centric


Categories: Jim and Pam Characters: Jim
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Possible Triggers
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 57 Completed: Yes Word count: 168954 Read: 79594 Published: September 17, 2020 Updated: October 01, 2022

1. Chapter 1 by OfficeWriter

2. Chapter 2 by OfficeWriter

3. Chapter 3 by OfficeWriter

4. Chapter 4 by OfficeWriter

5. Chapter 5 by OfficeWriter

6. Chapter 6 by OfficeWriter

7. Chapter 7 by OfficeWriter

8. Chapter 8 by OfficeWriter

9. Chapter 9 by OfficeWriter

10. Chapter 10 by OfficeWriter

11. Chapter 11 by OfficeWriter

12. Chapter 12 by OfficeWriter

13. Chapter 13 by OfficeWriter

14. Chapter 14 by OfficeWriter

15. Chapter 15 by OfficeWriter

16. Chapter 16 by OfficeWriter

17. Chapter 17 by OfficeWriter

18. Chapter 18 by OfficeWriter

19. Chapter 19 by OfficeWriter

20. Chapter 20 by OfficeWriter

21. Chapter 21 by OfficeWriter

22. Chapter 22 by OfficeWriter

23. Chapter 23 by OfficeWriter

24. Chapter 24 by OfficeWriter

25. Chapter 25 by OfficeWriter

26. Chapter 26 by OfficeWriter

27. Chapter 27 by OfficeWriter

28. Chapter 28 by OfficeWriter

29. Chapter 29 by OfficeWriter

30. Chapter 30 by OfficeWriter

31. Chapter 31 by OfficeWriter

32. Chapter 32 by OfficeWriter

33. Chapter 33 by OfficeWriter

34. Chapter 34 by OfficeWriter

35. Chapter 35 by OfficeWriter

36. Chapter 36 by OfficeWriter

37. Chapter 37 by OfficeWriter

38. Chapter 38 by OfficeWriter

39. Chapter 39 by OfficeWriter

40. Chapter 40 by OfficeWriter

41. Chapter 41 by OfficeWriter

42. Chapter 42 by OfficeWriter

43. Chapter 43 by OfficeWriter

44. Chapter 44 by OfficeWriter

45. Chapter 45 by OfficeWriter

46. Chapter 46 by OfficeWriter

47. Chapter 47 by OfficeWriter

48. Chapter 48 by OfficeWriter

49. Chapter 49 by OfficeWriter

50. Chapter 50 by OfficeWriter

51. Chapter 51 by OfficeWriter

52. Chapter 52 by OfficeWriter

53. Chapter 53 by OfficeWriter

54. Chapter 54 by OfficeWriter

55. Chapter 55 by OfficeWriter

56. Chapter 56 by OfficeWriter

57. Chapter 57 by OfficeWriter

Chapter 1 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

Short start to sequel... will get better I hope. But here we go.

A hateful Karen has arrived at a request I received. Enough spoilers. This was all part of the The Other Pam story but I wanted to break it into two, so Pam and Jim's relationship gets equal dedication (as Roy and Pam's break up did).

His house stood seeped in darkness, like his love – empty and untended. It seemed to him, as he lay motionless so often around the various places one could lay; couch, bed, even a floor rug – that life was one great sardonic hall of mirrors, and not much else.

Waiting. All he ever seemed to be able to do was wait. First through half a decade of bitterly by-standing the whole Roy-Pam catastrophe. Through the ruins of that relationship, through her absence now, he was still lingering in the fringes of her life. The sheer length of his life that he had devoted to her, to remain in readiness for her, well, it wore a mans nerves down. In the months without her his house had grown, multiplying in spaces and empty corners that were not there before she had come. The house was bigger now without her, a wide spreading emptiness that would not be satiated by any means. In the front room, a musty smell hung with not a trace of the delicate floral scent, sweetly feminine fragrance that was unmistakably hers.

It was almost as though she had never been there.

The rooms took on a joyless air. His life became a matter of routine – work, eat, sleep. None of it brought him pleasure. He ate because he had to eat. He did not sleep and when he did it was thin and worrisome, his despair absorbing and possessing his unconscious form as well. She had been so close. They had been almost. Her absence now left him once again in the echoes of his 'normal' life. For a while she had been right next to him, filling those spaces, creating a home out of his house. And without her, he was alone again, only this time he was unused to being alone. He had been spoiled with her presence and then she had left.

It was very quiet in the living room. His cell phone lay in usual close proximity to himself – the far and few messages from her bringing brief flashes of light into life. The messages were short and to the point. Hi, how are you doing, take care of yourself. All nice and polite, of course. No mention of what happened that last day as she left. No word of when – if - she would be back.

And so, there he was again, waiting. He had made it clear to her exactly how he felt, it was now left to her to either love him or let him go. And what could he do but wait? Maybe that was the foundation of love, waiting, waiting for the storms to pass and the big thaw to come and until finally it's safe to stand under the sun with the girl who is meant to be standing right there beside you.

-TO-

Jim dragged himself upstairs to find a new place to lay down in. Flopping onto his back on his bed, his eyes were wide, sleepless; fixating on the swirling ceiling patterns. Boring, pointless. That was it. Life. Back to life. No life without her. He had tried. He had tried with Katy, he had tried with other girls. There was no spark, no feeling of fate, no touching of hearts or minds. And now, there was Karen.

Karen, who was clearly interested in him, Karen who made no secret about being interested in him. He wasn't into her at all – she was so far removed from Pam both physically and aesthetically and in temperament that they could have been a different species. Karen didn't have much of a sense of humor, she was clear about not approving of office – Dwight – based pranks at all. Karen though was almost shameless about her fondness for Jim, despite his routine politeness around her. She hovered around him, she fetched him coffee and coke from the machine, often leaning over him so that her honey scented hair draped over his shoulder. And Andy, the other new employee, a man with almost as little filter as Michael had definitely thought something was happening between the two of them and had no qualms about innocently saying so. Loudly.

What Karen couldn't see was how lovesick Jim was; literally sick with love – a love who was far away. He couldn't move forward or back. Karen was not a woman to take a hint, or sit on a hint. She was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted, said what she wanted and aimed, fired and hit her target. Should -if- Pam were to come back Karen was a complication they did not need.

The big surprise for Jim had been Michael. Who would have thought Michael Scott would be the one Jim found himself confiding in – the one person who rooted for him and Pam? Michael, the man who innocently outed Oscar to the office, who had on many, many occasions mocked Toby's failed marriage, who's relationship with Jan was so dysfunctional it bordered on psychotic. But there he was, currently Jim's best ear and confidante.

"Karen… is new to the family." Michael had told him. "She's pretty and she's professional but she's not a long termer. She's not loyal to our family here… she is like Toby in that she is very divorced from our family and she will never get you the way Pam gets you and those stupid jokes and that awesome hair of yours, which Karen makes fun of a least a dozen times a week."

And that was that. Michael could be incredibly insightful in such a clumsy way sometimes, without even be aware of it, and Jim thought he had cemented the issues rather well this time.

"Just drive up there." Had been Michael's sage advice. "Just go, there's no need to conform to relationship norms. Doesn't matter if she's offended, or scared, get real, get up there before she finds another floppy haired kid who looks like you, but younger, before they start eating their ham and cheese together each day."

Jim would have been lying to himself if he tried to deny that the vision of him racing off to her parents house on a whim hadn't appealed to him. Several times. After all, she had suggested he come visit her while she was there. But that was before things got so complicated. Jim was trying hard to avoid stepping on any landmines labelled Roy on the way forward, he certainly did not want her to feel harassed by him. She had told him she needed time. He understood that. She hadn't said no, thoughand it was this nugget of hope he was clinging to.

Rolling over languidly on the bed, he recalled their kiss. It had been an electric moment, all the held back chemistry between them had literally exploded when their lips met. She had to have felt that too. More so, he missed their hugs, the way she went to him for comfort and the way she relaxed into him, even falling asleep on him which took great trust on her part. He had fought an urge to call her every day since she had gone just to hear the soft, affable tone of her voice. Jim picked up his phone from beside him.

"Hey Halpert. We made it here safe, just. Dad almost drove us into a four by four on the freeway, Mom says he refuses to wear his glasses. He thinks they make him look old. Will call soon, take care."

The message had buzzed in on the afternoon after she had left. Subsequent texts were brief, friendly, very much impersonal. It drove him crazy. He toyed with sending a "hope to see you soon." or "Miss you." reply. Even the bolder "I still love you." crossed his mind more than once. But. He had always been respectful of her.

Jim snorted to himself. Look where respect had gotten him.

He dozed off into the hazy realm between sleep and wakefulness, swamped in depressive darkness, alone in the spiralling empty house. It was not long before the buzzing of the phone went off like a furious bumble bee. He grabbed it up with a frown, annoyed at the disturbance.

"Hello?"

"Jimmy!"

"Uh, hey-"

"Shush."

Jim rolled his eyes, hearing soft whispers in the background.

"Uh, Uncle Jimmy?"

Jim huffed in annoyance. "You did it. You actually did it. Uncle Jimmy. Really."

Loud cackling came out of the phone. Jim frowned again.

"Just Uncle Jim, Vanessa." he said pointedly.

"Just having fun, Jimmy." Tom said. More whispering went on. "Your niece has a surprise for you. Go on, sweetheart."

Jim pulled himself up to sit back against the headboard, holding the phone to his ear. Without warning, the shrill vibrating, slightly off key tones of "When the Saints go Marching In" burst brazenly into the open air. Wincing, he sat back and put the phone on speaker, laying it down beside him.

Nearly nine minutes later, Tom was back on the phone, spitting out half words between peals of laughter.

"She's getting really good." Tom said.

"I can tell she's been practising. Jim said dryly. Tom went off into more giggles.

"Uncle Jimmy? Was I good? Daddy said you wanted to hear how good I was at the trumpet."

Jim actually cracked a smile. "It sounded amazing, Vanessa. Well done. Very proud of you."

"I can play you more?" Vanessa replied in her sweet voice. Tom laughed again, and spoke to his daughter.

"Next time, honey. Uncle Pete really wants to hear you play. Nice and loud. Let's give him a call. Say goodbye."

"Uh, goodbye Uncle Jimmy, uh, Jim." she said uncertainly.

"Yep, bye Jimmy-Jim." Tom cheered and hung up, leaving Jim open mouthed. Shaking his head, he slouched back down on the bed, trying to ignore the ringing in his ears. He loved his niece and nephew to death, but god, his brother was an ass at times. Honestly.

Turning on his side, Jim pulled his pillow comfortably under his cheek. Thinking of his little niece brought a small smile to his face. She really wasn't that bad at the trumpet at all, despite how disorienting it was to have it brazenly blasted unaware into your ear for almost ten minutes. He would have to teach her how a trumpet could be put to excellent use as an alarm clock. Especially as his brother was so proud of her playing… Tom wouldn't mind a little early morning surprise, Jim thought. His birthday was coming up after all.

Suddenly Jim laughed, no longer minding the prank. His mind had left Pam for a moment, for a moment he was somewhere else, with family, with good humor. He closed his eyes. Minutes later, the phone vibrated again, scratching jarringly against the nightstand. He scooped it up, preparing to respond in kind to Tom's next prank when he stopped short at the brief words on the screen. His heart jumped into his throat as he read over the message again and again, reading between the lines.

"I miss you.

See you real soon,

love Pam x"

Jim stared at the words. He debated a response. What would the right thing be, to respond back straight away or wait a while? He lay back, tussling with himself. In the end he tapped four words into the screen and hit send before he could doubt himself any further.

With a fresh burst of energy, Jim sidled off of his bed and went to make himself some dinner.

...

In a small house two hours away, Pam sat on the fresh new bed in her parents guestroom, gazing down at her phone and the short reply that had just buzzed in. Four little words that flowed into her like an adrenaline shot. A smile formed in her eyes and she sat back, hugging her pillow to her chest.

"I miss you too."

Chapter 2 by OfficeWriter

Pam went quietly into the small bathroom and closed the door behind her. Still the thick, unwavering well loved voices of her parents worked their way through the fibreglass to reach her. Nervously sitting down on the closed toilet lid, she looked around the room with unfocused eyes. Shower, sink, toilet. Medicine cabinet. Faded jade wallpaper with an indistinct design that probably at one time someone had thought was artsy.

She hated that she would be living in a place that had jade walls.

As if she didn't have enough hideous things in her life. Jade for jealousy. Jade for purity.

She was anything but pure.

Pam pondered if she would ask her new landlady to allow her to redecorate. She wondered if she would stay there long enough to redecorate.

"Look at the potential." Helene had cheerfully advised. "It's lovely to think of all the things you'll be able to do now that you're on your own."

On her own. She had never been so on her own before. Yet, there she was, in the center of her very own circle of angels, her protectors, her guides. Her family. A trio of attentive ears and sheltering arms. She had them and they had her.

But nobody can ever truly understand another persons grief. No one could look at her and say honestly they had been through exactly what she had; no two experiences match, no reaction or emotion is identical. She knew this. No matter how many arms held her up, no matter how much empathy was offered, it couldn't drive out the splinter of ice that split her off from the people who cared about her. How could they possibly understand?

She had grown up in a safe, trusted small household where bumps in the road were few and far apart. Before she knew it she was whisked out to navigate this huge world alone. There are expectations in adulthood. Adults are expected to work, eat, sleep. Adults are expected to know how to survive. Adults are supposed to conform. When she'd first met Roy, a towering thick bodied man, over confident and strong, he exuded a naturally protective aura that was very appealing to a young woman just out of the sheltered nest of her childhood home. A young woman very unsure of herself and her ability to cope on her own. The unexpected interest Roy had shown in her had absolutely thrilled her young self. She had thought she was the luckiest girl in the world, Pam remembered bitterly.

How wrong she had been.

"Roy shocked us all." William had said early on in her visit. Out of the two parents he seemed to have taken the uncovering of Roy's true nature most personally. "He's going to be so sorry he touched you." he could often be heard muttering darkly to himself. Then he would catch Helene's eye and force out a joke or a funny story in attempt to make Pam laugh.

Her father had been against the idea of his daughter coming back to Scranton. He positively refused to let anything like this happen again, he said. Helene had been the voice of reason, as always, reminding him their daughter was an adult free to live wherever she chose. With barely disguised reluctance he drove Pam multiple two hour journeys back and forth and even helped with packing and moving to her new apartment without out too much grumbling.

For Pam's part, she had considered not returning. It would be so easy to stay with her parents, and not have to worry about a thing, to go back to that warm cocoon of childhood where everything felt safer.

Yet, over the last weeks, a new resolute determination was calcifying inside of her, her tears turning to a stubbornness she didn't know she was capable of. She didn't want to be that girl any longer. She didn't want to be the girl who always needed to rely on someone, the girl who couldn't support herself. She had a job in Scranton. She had – memories, - her mind tormented her – friends in Scranton. Jim was there.

Jim. She missed him terribly. They had barely kept in touch, although he was on her mind so much of the time. It had been hard not contacting him, a constant fight raging from her brain to her heart. They needed time apart. They needed distance. To step away from the situation they – she – had entangled them in. Both of them, the emotionless side of her brain insisted, must not be led by feverish emotions over everything else. Sure, they had kissed – and what a kiss it had been – yet for herself, she wasn't clear on what exactly it meant to her. What Jim meant to her.

"Jim is wonderful, absolutely wonderful." Helene had gushed over him.

"That doesn't help any, Mom." Pam had consistently implored her to stay impartial.

"Well, as long as you're talking about the future, then let me say that there are many, many men out there who don't have the decency that he does. That's why you went to him for help. Okay, so you didn't come to your old Mom but you did the next best thing."

Her Mom's unwavering support, important though it was to her, did little to help her untangle her emotions. Throughout the years Pam and her mom had usually been able to read each other like open, well loved books. Part of what she found so special about Jim was that almost immediately she recognized that they had the same innate, subconscious passing of words and emotions between them. They read each other well.

"You get roses in your cheeks when you talk about him." Helene teased her. "Especially the kiss."

The kiss. The kiss was physical. The future was real. She saw the two standing on two horizons, no sign of a path between them. Despite her gentle joking, Helene had cautioned Pam about the benefits of not rushing into things; about pacing herself- about being in love.

The best advice her mom gave her during her visit was simple; you don't have to be figure everything out today.

"I have a feeling Jim will wait." Helene had finished with a merry twinkle in her eye.

So, she had come back to Scranton. One thing remained unchanged. She missed Jim. She missed his sharp sense of humor, his unconditional support, his friendship. From a distance the things she couldn't consciously see before took shape– that Jim was in love with her, he did really care about her. She-

"Pam? You okay"

Pam flinched, startled by the sudden invasion into the world she'd drifted off into. She stood up, finding herself face to face with herself. Pale. Tired. Weak.

Grimacing at her other self, she snatched up a towel from the basket she had carried in earlier. Throwing it over the cabinet, she covered the mirror, confining the other Pam to darkness.

She opened the bathroom door.

"I'm fine Mom. Better get to work on the bedroom." she said smoothly, shutting the door behind her.

-TO-

It was gone one in the morning when Jim slumped back into the empty house. Swimming with enough cheap beer to make him slightly unsteady, but not enough to say he was completely wasted, he flopped down unceremoniously on the couch, his right arm hanging low.

He eyed the small blue bag he'd brought in from the driveway. He'd almost not noticed it, nestled as it was behind the old empty fern pot; if the security light hadn't flicked on – it more often than not refused to switch on, annoyingly so on late and dark, not quite drunken nights like this one – he probably wouldn't have even seen a shadow of it.

He didn't have to open it. He knew Pam had left it; he knew that small, slightly cursive handwriting on the label as well as he knew his own.

She had been there.

Jim groaned, rolling over on to his other side, away from the room. He didn't want to get up. He didn't want to see anything or deal with anything. He just wanted to sleep.

What did it mean? Pam was in Scranton? Questions swirled in his brain. She was back. What did it mean for the two of them? He rolled back on to his other side, gazing at the little blue gift bag. Lazily he leaned over, pulling at the pink paper square poking out of the top. Teasing it out of the bag – which turned out to be much more difficult one handed than he had anticipated – he snatched it up and ripped it open without a moment's hesitation.

Pure white exploded out of the envelope. Purple slashes across the front conveyed a swirling thank you message. A small, painful smile lifted the corners of his mouth. The message she had scrawled inside was short and simple, yet touched him right down to the root. His smile grew bigger as he looked down on the card.

She hadn't addressed the card, or signed it. Inside it simply carried fourteen words in red ink, stark and passionate against the white background.

'Words will never be enough to say thank you for making my heart smile."

Jim laid the card beside him, rolling over again, his gift forgotten. He thought of the last few months. She brought out his better self – there was no question of that. She made him want to do good things, to be completely unconditionally unselfish. She had taught him what it meant to always put someone else first, to have another persons welfare and happiness a priority over his own.

His feelings had not changed while she had been gone – how could they? He was bound to her in love; he couldn't break those chains. And yet he hurt, hurt so much. She had left. She had kissed him and then she had left. She had become the sunniest part of his life, allowing him to feel, at least vicariously, the sensation of being with her all the time, if not truly with her. And then, she had left – simply walked from his sky and left him behind in blackness.

He wasn't stupid or crazy. He knew things could be good for them both, really good. Perfect, in fact. They were both hurting in different ways. Again, he was left waiting. Waiting for her to point out their next move. What if she decided they could only be friends – or not at all? Could he accept that, could he live with that?

...

It was almost noon by the time he woke up, stiff and sore necked – his shoulders twisted achingly with his head almost right angled. Damn, the couch was the most uncomfortable place to sleep. He didn't know how Pam had managed it without complaint, injured as she was. But it was not his aching muscles, his screaming neck that had woken him up, it was the irrepressible ring of his cell phone.

He hesitated, griming sleep out of his eyes with his knuckles. Finally he scooped up his cell, somewhat relieved as the ringing snapped off in his hand. No caller ID.

Jim rolled his eyes – he'd been woken up for nothing, a mysterious non caller. Then he saw it, the little two circle symbol at the top of the screen. Without getting up from the couch, Jim put the phone to his ear and pressed for the answerphone.

One new message. Yesterday, nineteen twenty-seven pm exactly.

His heart swelled painfully inside his chest as her sweet, so familiar voice lilted through the darkness.

"Uh… hey… Halpert. I guess I missed you. Um…"

There was an infuriating pause. Jim held his breath, anticipating.

"I'm here, um back to stay, I guess. I actually have an apartment. The address is in the bag I left you, I hope you found it. I didn't know if I should use the key you gave me. Er, call me back, and I can come over, or you can visit me. It's weird having my own place. My parents helped me move stuff.

You gotta see the neighbors here. There's an old guy who sits outside shirtless wearing a cowboy hat and asking people the time all day. I think he might be undercover for the CIA or something. Not sure what his mission is for yet but I have a theory it involves Texas. I'll keep you posted. And the guy who lives above me looks just like Dwight. He even wears yellow shirts. I'm getting a great prank idea. Something to do with clones again.

Hey um… I've really missed you a lot. I guess I'll see you at work on Monday. Well call me back if you want to… or not. I guess we need to talk."

Jim couldn't help but smile broadly as the message ended. We need to talk, she had said. Back to work Monday.

Things were looking up.

Chapter 3 by OfficeWriter

One thing about living alone for the first time Pam was discovering was the vast emptiness suddenly surrounding her. All of a sudden there was time to fill, hours to spare, vacant spaces that had not been there before.

No one to prepare meals for, no one to answer to. No one to share her time, no one to be considerate of.

No one to hurt her.

Still, there were new pockets of darkness to adjust to. Incessant memories that cast shadows on the walls and around the corners of her new home plagued her. Things she had little control over; the past, the scars. Her emotions.

Her thoughts wandered away in the darkness to her ex-fiance. Two men in her life; as wholly distinct from each other as winter and summer, stood on each side of her. One who she had willingly allowed into her heart; and one she feared she never could.

The thing was, she knew that Jim wouldn't hurt her, he was a good natured, kind man. She knew he wouldn't lay so much as a finger on her, would never subject her to the bouts of frenzied rage that had consumed Roy. Yet her fractured trust would not let her forget that Jim was a man and as a man he was physically stronger, like Roy, physically capable of domination and subjugation over someone like herself, someone who still didn't know how to fight back and hold her own. She didn't know how to draw a line down between the past with Roy and her future – whatever the future may be. She did not want to live with the ghost of Roy, to have their past dictate her future.

She was on her own. It was a new life – but could it ever be truly free? And what would happen when she was feeling perfectly fine and confident until she inevitably caught a glimpse of the ampersand shaped scar on her thigh while in the shower – the scar that Roy's unopened beer can had inflicted at full force from clear across the room, her penalty for walking in front of the TV during an Eagles game. Five years ahead, would she still wake up in a cold sweat in the early hours, unshakeably feeling that Roy was in the room? And then there was Jim – what if she couldn't separate affection and anger, a healthy relationship with violence? Would she even know the difference?

She settled under the covers – pink floral sheets she had selected specifically, Roy had been adamant that he would have neither pink nor anything even remotely 'feminine' in his house – and scooped up her cell. The phone rang and rang – as it had on the other three times she had made the same call. Resigning herself to yet again being unsuccessful, she was preparing to hang up when to her surprise – and delight – a soft, familiar 'hello' broke off the ring.

"Uh…. Hey, Halpert."

There was a pause. "Oh.. hey. How's it going?"

"It's going… sorry it's late… been trying to reach you since yesterday." Pam said, hoping her nerves didn't show in her voice.

"Longest game of phone tag in Scranton, I know." Jim laughed.

"So I.."

"So- Oh, I'm sorry, what?"

"No, um – I just really wanted to say hi." She mumbled.

"Well, hi then. So you got an apartment? Nice one, Beesly."

Pam smiled. "Yeah. It's… different. What's new with you?"

"Me? Oh uh, you know. I just caught Rosemary's baby on, most of it anyway."

"Hey! Me too!" she said energetically. "That movie is so scary!"

"I know, right. Probably not the best thing to watch in your new apartment, Beesly."

"Yeah I know that, now. Hey I told you about the weird guy who lives downstairs?" She settled back against her pillow.

"The old guy who doesn't wear a shirt, yep. Fancy neighbors, Beesly."

"He looks like that Dr, the one that Rosemary went to?"

Jim let out a puff of air. "Creepy. Maybe you're wrong about the Texas-CIA theory. Maybe it's some kind of cult thing. Oh, hey speaking of… my brother's having another baby."

"That's great. So you're going to be an uncle of three? Congratulations."

"Thanks."

Pam chuckled. "And a demon born baby makes you automatically remember your brother is reproducing again."

"A demon born baby makes me remember my brother is… " Jim laughed out loud. "Yep, gonna have to check his head when he's born for strange symbols."

There was a moment of silence before they both burst into laughter.

"Oh, hey, we've totally got a new guy at work. He's a lot like Michael. He's… you know what? I don't wanna ruin the surprise."

Pam's eyebrows went up. "Really? Oh!" She laughed.

Jim caught her up on all the office news, including a ball to ball description of Dwight and Andy's shameless attempts to outdo each other in getting into Michael's good graces above the other. Pam told Jim about her Dad's new interest in fitness, and the various equipment that had been turning up around her parents house.

"My mum told him just to go to the gym." Pam said, grinning. "Hey, Halpert? It's almost eleven fifteen."

"What?" he laughed. "Oops, guess we broke the rules on this one."

"We did." she agreed. "Well, I guess I'll see you in the morning." She said reluctantly. She was enjoying their easy banter, the falling back into their old patterns so naturally.

"Yes, I probably should go too. Don't go and oversleep on your first day back, Beesly."

She nodded silently, unsure where to go from there. She'd thought and thought about all the things she wanted to say to Jim when she finally got to speak to him again but once they were on the phone and their old rhythm of joking and playfulness had almost immediately reconnected it all went away from her – she was just happy to be hearing his voice again, to be feeling somewhat normal about life.

"Uh, yeah, Pam?"

"Yeah?"

"Is it okay to tell you that I missed you?"

Pam's smile grew bigger. "Only if it's okay for me to say that I missed you too."

"Yeah… I mean.." Jim said, a few moments later. "You know.. making my own breakfast sucks, and now I gotta find someone else to clean my toilets-"

"Shut up!" Pam said with mock outrage. Then she burst into peals of laughter that sounded right at home in her new apartment.

-TO-

Pam went in early. She had decided to set herself back up at her desk and get herself together before the others started coming in. She wanted to be prepared. She wanted to look prepared, together. It had occurred to her that she had absolutely no idea what her colleagues knew about her and the circumstances surrounding the months she had been away. She knew that Jim would not have told anyone anything. Toby, probably not either. Darryl, Ryan – they were witness to Roy's attack on Jim, as was Dwight.

Michael. Michael was the weak link – Michael who never meant to do anyone any harm – except Toby, of course – but invariably did through thoughtlessness or as a by product of some idea Michael got in his head about things, such as the incident with accidentally outing Oscar by trying to show him how supportive he was of him.

She no longer cared much what anyone knew about her breakup with Roy, but she had no clue about what she was in for. The people she worked with had absolutely no problem butting into each other's lives, asking questions and repeating rumors. They weren't often subtle people.

She didn't have long to wait. Nine o'clock came sooner than she would have liked. Not much had changed, she found. Angela, as always, was the first one to show up, followed closely by Dwight. Then Phyllis and Oscar made their way in, minutes apart. If things were still as they were before she went away, she knew who the stragglers would be; the last ones in. She could bet money on it – Ryan, Kevin and Meredith.

Pam was setting about cleaning her desk with disinfectant wipes when familiar footsteps came through the door. Smiling widely, she got to her feet.

"Beesly!" Jim said cheerfully, knocking on her desk. Pam walked round to the other side of her desk, stretching her arms out. Warm arms snaked about her, pulling her close. Her stomach fluttered, despite her anxiety that morning. Sinking into the warmth of Jim's chest, she breathed in deeply, appreciative of his gesture of support for her. They broke apart and both spoke at once, mindless of the others nearby.

"Get a room." Stanley drawled at them on his way past, eyebrows raised dismissively.

"You've got two arms again!" Jim noticed.

"Still a bit uncomfortable, but I can lift them both again. Doesn't really hurt anymore." She replied.

"Great! Good to see you. You doing okay? You look really good."

Pam felt her cheeks burn. "Uh.. thanks." she smiled shyly. "I'm good, really good. I think. Just getting used to everything."

Jim lifted up the small brown bag he was carrying, depositing it on the top of her desk. "You know what-" he began.

"Morning."

Pam looked up at the interruption, a pretty, dark haired woman. Pam stepped backwards as the woman sidled up close to Jim, immediately reaching up and ruffling his hair.

"Did we forget to comb this morning?" she teased. Pam looked at the two of them, a strange feeling creeping up inside of her. She turned about and righted herself behind her desk again.

"Hey, uh, Pam, this is Karen. She transferred from Stamford too."

Pam fixed a smile on her face – she had much experience with faking a smile – and welcomed Karen to Scranton, receiving a not so genuine smile in return.

"Hey. Nice sweater." Karen said, her tone aloof.

Jim pushed the brown bag towards Pam, a notable flush coloring his cheeks. Standing up again, she leaned forward with a surprised exclamation.

"Oh my god. You totally looked after it!" she said, lifting the cactus out of the bag.

 Jim shrugged. "I went to an expert."

"Your Mom?"

"My Mom." Jim laughed sheepishly. "She made sure I didn't kill it."

"Thank you." Pam said. Grateful tears swum up into her eyes, blurring her vision. Hurriedly she wiped them away with her sleeve and thanked Jim again.

"Um… I was wondering if…" she began nervously, forgetting the words she had rehearsed in her head that morning.

"Jim?" Karen called over. Pam noticed her desk was opposite Jim's. Then she wondered why Jim had only mentioned Andy as the new employee and not this Karen woman. Jim turned around.

"Coffee." Karen said, pointing at a mug steaming on his own desk.

"Oh, right. I have a client call to make. Commission, you know. It's really good to see you." he mumbled, and sat down at his own desk.

It was definitely both odd and familiar being back at her job. She felt as though she had been away for years, but at the same time, she felt like she had never left. Some things had changed, she found out. Ryan was promoted to the corporate job. Jan was gone, fired. And-

"Jim?" She half whispered at his back. He swung round on his chair, smiling. Pam made waved a hand at him, signalling him to come over.

"Was Kevin covering reception?" she said resignedly.

Jim grinned mischievously. "Define covering."

"Covering everything with sticky stuff?" she mumbled, scrubbing hard on the surface. Jim looked perplexed.

"Oh, right." he said, realization catching him. "It was a dare from Michael…. Donuts… Kevin… lotta donuts." he laughed, leaning over the desk. "Wow… Is that a donut?" he said pushing her mug to the side. Pam leaned forward too. Sighing, she yanked a tissue out of the box to remove the stale chunk of pastry from her desk.

"I.. uh…. Can we talk later?" she finally asked, not looking at Jim.

"Okay." he said amiably. "After work? I can drop you off home if you want."

Pam nodded, then shook her head. "Ah, no I don't… I mean yes." she sighed, frustrated. "I mean, yes after work, and no you don't need to drive me. I have a car."

Jim tapped the reception desk jauntily. "Well, alright Beesly. Really doing that whole independence thing. Apartment, car, cactus."

Pam shook her head. "I dunno. My dad bought me the car. He insisted I have one. So I guess I have a long way to go."

"Well. We'll catch up tonight, then." Jim said, and went back to his desk.

Pam scrubbed at her desk almost absentmindedly. If only she and Jim had not kept missing each other at the weekend – now she felt like she had to book an appointment with him at the end of the day. She didn't want to have her conversation with him in the office – or in either of their homes if she could avoid it. She had spent weeks mulling over what to say to Jim. She wanted everything to be right, without any bias or interruptions between them.

She looked up, feeling a chill. From across the room, icy cold brown eyes were narrowed in her direction. Pam looked back, hesitantly holding the stare. Karen narrowed her eyes even smaller, appearing more intimidating than arrogant. Noticing Jim sit up straight, the hostility on Karen's face snapped off quickly, her eyes widening flirtatiously. Pam could see her lips moving as she pushed forward, maneuvering herself towards Jim. Her hand came to rest on top of Jim's. Pam watched the small sly grin that played across the new employee's face as Jim did not immediately pull away. From her position behind Jim, she was could see the muscles in his back tightening, his body tensing up.

Slowly, he eased his hand out from under Karen's and dropped it limply to his side. Pam observed this curiously – surprisingly feeling a small pang of hurt. She didn't have to be a woman to know that this woman had a definite interest in Jim.

Life. Always life in the way, she thought miserably.

"Wham, bam, thank you Pam!" Michael chanted, strolling into the office.

No, things had not changed at all, she thought.

Chapter 4 by OfficeWriter

After some thought, they agreed on Casa Bella that evening. Pam wanted to go somewhere where they would be able to talk in relative privacy, and she figured that the addition of food might provide a distraction, should one be needed. Additionally, it would add an air of somewhat normality for them both. They had also agreed this was not a 'date'. As it was, Pam was nervous enough and was finding herself counting the minutes until the end of the workday. She did not want the added burden of the expectations usually associated with a date.

She thought Casa Bella was a fairly good neutral setting for their talk. There would be other people nearby, and a welcome slightly more secluded atmosphere due to the spaciousness of the tables. As restaurants go, it was relatively intimate with it's soft lighting and elegant feeling, but still a public place.

As such though, she didn't know what she was expecting from the evening. She wanted to come away with a clearer understanding of where they stood. She wasn't sure what she felt ready for and was still cautiously trying to find her feet.

"Oh, you'll have a good time! You can call after if you want, though?" Helene had reassured her.

Pam had slipped back to her desk after lunch, grateful her mom had been able to talk. It filled her with such a sense of security having their relationship back; during the years with Roy they'd – she'd – drifted further away emotionally from her, leaving Helene hurt and confused and unable to figure out why her usually open daughter was closing all the doors between them. They'd had time to reconnect in the months Pam had stayed with them, and it meant more to her now than she could ever express to have her mom staunchly in her corner again.

"I was always right there, Pam. You just stopped letting me in." She remembered her mom saying one afternoon a few weeks into her visit.

She supposed it was true. But now she was taking tentative steps forward, and just having Helene want to hear how everything went after tonight, cared how she felt and knowing she would be there if things fell apart, carried her through with a new confidence.

The afternoon inched along maddeningly, her first day back being somewhat uneventful and her thoughts submerged with the night ahead.

Three o'clock came and went with a Michael meltdown. After a minute of yelling hysterically for everyone to get in the conference room now, Pam found herself perched nervously to the left of Jim, directly behind Kevin.

"Why are we here?" Stanley grouched from the back of the room.

Michael waved his arms sulkily. "Because, Stanley, it would appear that tolerance is something that is beneficial to all of us, not just guys like Oscar."

Oscar sat up indignantly. "Guys like Oscar?"

"I…. just think it is important to be aware that people have… feelings. Even Dwight. And-"

Jim cleared his throat. "Ahem, I do not believe that."

"Jim, this is about tolerance and … Dwight, nor anyone else, should be ridiculed because he has feelings and emotions."

"Emotions are a myth, like the soul." Dwight stated firmly.

"God. See here is a prime example. No matter how idiotic, no matter how much he bugs the hell out of you, Dwight is still a human with feelings. That is the point. Dwight can drive you so crazy sometimes you just wanna drive him out to the desert and leave him in a hole. But we don't do that. Why? Tolerance."

"I'm not sure about this whole human aspect. I think we're gonna need to see some DNA." Jim interrupted.

"I'm just saying, everybody gets hurt, and everybody, gay, straight, overweight, robot, Dwight, can cry. And-"

"I do not cry Michael." Dwight said tightly. "Crying is for the weak, crying is for little girls."

"What about Jack Bauer?" Jim put in.

Dwight looked at him, outraged. "The president was assassinated, Jim! His tears were for his country!"

"That's good Dwight, anger is good. Let it all out. Shhh." Michael said soothingly. "See, this is what comes of not respecting each others weaknesses."

"Michael, why are we here?" Stanley moaned again.

"Because there are some rather… unpleasant... things being said in this office about our co-workers, our friends, even a boss was insulted."

"Michael, you're the boss." said Oscar.

"Yes, and as the boss, It's my duty to tell you that it isn't cool to make fun of Oscar's gayness, or Dwight's abnormally large head, or anything we have done that that we may regret." Michael said, mumbling the last part.

"What?" Jim said, confused.

"Is this because you kissed Jan's mother?" Oscar folded his arms and leaned back.

An outcry of voices broke out in the room. Michael wrinkled his forehead in a frown and waved an arm.

"You kissed your girlfriend's mother?" Angela asked, positively disgusted.

"No…" Michael said, flicking a brief, embarrassed glance at the staff before dropping his eyes. "It was a near miss-"

"Isn't she, like, seventy years old?" Andy grinned, as a high pitched chuckling grew from behind him.

Michael paused. "Seventy three."

"Oh, Michael." Phyllis said, shaking her head.

Jim spoke. "How did that even happen?"

"I thought it was a 'moment'. I thought she.. it was a moment, okay. Don't tell me it's never happened to any of you before!"

"Stop, stop!" Stanley breathed, doubling over with laughter. "Mother f-"

"Dude!" Andy chuckled in appreciation. Pam simply shook her head and leaned to her right.

"What's going on?" She whispered. Jim bent towards her.

"I think Stanley's about to explode." he whispered back, grinning at the sight of the man shaking with mirth and swiping at his eyes with a tissue. "And Mi-"

"Here." Karen tugged Jim's arm, causing him to turn to her. She dropped a stick of gum into his hand, smiling widely.

"I just don't think we should be treating each other this way." Michael was saying carefully.

"Michael, you make fun of all of us on a daily, hourly basis." Oscar pointed out.

"This morning you told me I shouldn't wear brown. You said it makes me look like a corn dog with eyebrows. That's not funny, Michael. People work hard to make those corn dogs." Kevin complained.

"Okay, you're bald, not my fault." Michael replied offhandedly.

"You told everyone I had sex with the janitor." Meredith stated.

"He gave me a t-shirt last christmas that says 'Old Maid' on it. I'm married, Michael." added Phyllis.

"You know what? You're a bunch of idiots." Michael said with irritation, walking out of the room.

"Welcome back, Beesly." Jim grinned as they began to stand up.

She smiled back at him. "Feels like I've never been away."

Pam sat back again behind her desk, absently gazing at the back of Jim's messy head. Michael was banging about in his office, muttering loudly to himself. She thought she might give him ten minutes and go in and try to make him feel better about the situation. It was pretty funny, but also had to have been mortifying for him. After all, it was Michael and he had such a knack of falling into these incidents.

"Hi."

Pam looked up, her vision clearing, her thoughts sweeping to the back of her mind.

"Oh, hi, Karen." She said awkwardly.

The dark haired woman in front of her was practically staring her down, striking pretty eyes, impeccable pantsuit. Wearing a wide smile, she placed her hands on the reception desk and leaned forward.

"You know Jim pretty well, huh?" she said, tipping her head towards him.

Pam's stiffened at the question, reading between the lines. "Uh. Yeah."

Karen's eyes bored into her. "Oh, like that, huh?"

Pam blinked, sitting back to create some room between her and Karen. "He's one of my closest friends." she said easily.

Another stark smile. "Oh. Well, do you know what his favorite food is? I'm planning a little surprise."

Pam decided instantly she did not want to know. "Soft shell crab." she said. And with that the woman swayed away from the desk, leaving Pam to stare after her, mildly vexed.

-TO-

Jim was the first one to arrive at Casa Bella. Pam arrived minutes later, sliding her new car next to Jim's in the small parking space. They looked at each other nervously, before entering the restaurant and being seated. Pam was relieved to see that it was fairly empty, and she relaxed a little.

They ordered first, making small talk between them. The meals came on time and they fell silent as they ate.

Jim spoke first. "So… how are you? Really?" he asked somewhat anxiously.

Pam shrugged in reply, but smiled."You know. Getting used to everything."

Jim's eyebrows raised. "But things are going okay with you?"

"You know." she repeated. "Sometimes it's like everything is getting better and then I think everything is getting even more screwed up."

"You still seeing the therapist?" he asked. Pam simply nodded.

"It's going okay." she replied.

"I've...er.. I've really missed you." Jim looked at her over the table. She looked back at him, and held his stare with a small smile.

"I've missed you too." she said, taking a long sip from her glass of wine. "Do you ever have those moments.. like moments inside a moment?"

"Moments inside a moment?" he repeated.

"Where things are happening at the same time."

"Oh. I guess so?" Jim smiled.

She played her fork, pushing potatoes around her plate. "Sometimes… I'm so certain about something… and I'm clear and focused, and right into that moment comes something else, something opposite. And then I'm lost again."

"Well, what do you want to do?"

Pam was confused. "Right now?"

Jim laughed. "No, with life, with everything."

"Oh." she chuckled too. "Um.. I wanna go to art school, I think. I want to paint more. I want to…. You know what I want to do? I want to be able to enjoy every second of every day."

"There's plenty of time yet." Jim said.

Pam looked over at him, observing him without speaking. She took in his warm, green eyes. His hair, looking lighter and softer under the ceiling lights, and neatly combed back. His strong, angular chin. They way he had of always projecting an air of calm around him, in any circumstance. It was like she was really seeing him for the first time.

"What?" he questioned with a small laugh.

"What? Oh, nothing?" she replied, picking up her fork again.

"Okay." he said. He pulled a face and returned to his meal.

"Jim." Pam hesitated as he looked up, waiting for her to speak. "It's… I just don't know that I believe in it anymore."

"In?" he waited patiently.

"Love."

"Love?" Jim was confused. Pam leaned forward nervously, scrunching her arms tightly to her side.

"All those years I spent… with... it made me feel differently about things, like love wasn't for me. He'd say I made it hard to love me, that he did what he did because he loved me. I just don't think I believe in it anymore."

Jim shuffled his chair forward, his forehead creased. "I don't believe that, Beesly. Not for a second."

"I let that relationship take everything that was good about love, and good about myself and destroy it." she mumbled, looking downcast.

"Hey. I still enjoy being around you." Jim said sincerely. "You're doing fine. I still like you." he said it half jokingly, but truly meant it. Nothing had changed, not on his part.

"Maybe you just need someone to show you the good parts again." he added. "Maybe we both do."

"I'm… really scared." she admitted.

"Of what?" Jim asked.

Pam looked around the restaurant, carefully, watching a waiter darting round tables. "Of how I feel about you." she said boldly, looking away from him. Her eyes fluttered down to her plate.

"You're such a good guy. I went away thinking I'd get myself straight and know what I want. All I did was miss you even more. But…"

"But what, Pam?"

Pam slowly raised her eyes. "I'm never going to be enough for you. You're incredible, you're so smart and so funny, and you always know what you want and you have so much potential. Me? I just have old scars and heavy baggage and no idea what I'm going to do."

Jim visibly reacted. "Are you kidding me? You are everything. I fell in love with you a long time ago. I didn't care about any of those things back then and I don't now. That's not what I see when I see you."

Pam teared up, looking at him wide-eyed.

"I guess I'm just gonna have to convince you, aren't I Beesly?" he said.

Surprising Jim, she reached out and took his hand, interlinking their fingers on the table. "Can we take things slow? Nothing official, nothing public, no labels, no pressure…? Just spend some time getting to know each other…. that way…. And just let everything happen naturally."

"You don't have to be afraid of me." he told her earnestly.

"It just… it's going to take some time. That's all. I'm sorry." she added quickly.

"You set the boundaries." Jim said, his heart beating wildly with happiness. Small steps, he knew, but he had a good feeling about it, and he had waited so long for her. Gingerly he lifted her hand to his mouth, gently pressing his lips down.

Jim looked up to find Pam smiling back at him, her fingers tightening around his.

-TO-

Jim followed behind her to her new home to make sure she got home safely. He sensed she was still a little nervous about being out alone and in the dark. She seemed happy enough that he was willing to see her inside safely.

Her building looked safe enough, a little low rent and a little run down but good enough. He parked up behind her and climbed out of his car.

"So this is Casa de Beesly." Jim remarked. Pam closed the door of her own car, a sudden anxiety crawling over her.

"You don't-" she said quickly.

"Let me see you to the door. Old school." he said. Pam smiled and shook her head fondly. Together they walked up towards the entrance to the apartments.

"Dwight number two is on the top floor." She said, looking upwards.

"Hmm. Really looks-"

"Just like him." she finished. "Well, Halpert. I guess I'll see you in the morning. Thank you for a great time. And er…. Thank you for… you know… being so good about everything." Pam faced him, opening her arms up. Jim reached around her, letting her melt into his chest. Shaky arms wrapped around his neck, warm tears wet his shirt. "Thank you." she repeated and stepped back. Quickly, Pam leaned up and kissed his cheek gently, before opening the entrance door.

"See you in the morning." she said softly, and flew up the stairs to call her mom, leaving Jim standing outside, red in the face and his heart dancing madly.

Chapter 5 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

A/N - to the reviewer who asked why Karen had to be so unlikable... I had several requests for this and I liked the idea as well.

Everyone, Once I'm completely done with this story I plan to read all of your lovely fanfictions. I just have a rule about not reading other peoples work while writing my own. xx

...

Pam opened her eyes to a darkness somewhere inbetween the blurry nether region of sleep and consciousness. She sat up, panting heavily and certain she was not alone. The surface of her skin tingled like cold fingers climbing their way up to her neck, settling at her throat. Sensing movement, the air shifted around her and she stilled. The darkness pressed up close to her, robbing her of her senses. Shadows merged into other shadows into memories into six foot men with fearsome tempers.

Pam blinked the visions away, her chest bouncing frantically up and down. Wildly she scrabbled for the familiar cool touch of the lamp switch on her left, her fingernails scratching infuriatingly on the side of the night stand. Finally tracing her fingertips along  the smooth raised point of the switch, she pressed down hard, filling the room with bright yellow light. The shadows instantly vanished away.

A touch of irony played across a small smile on her lips. Shadow men she could handle. Shadow men were men she knew how to kill.

It was the voice that had woken her up, of course it was –its occurrence in her dreams had become a growing frequency. And where did it stop, she despaired. The dream itself had not been particularly memorable except for the intense fear she felt, but it was the voice, his voice, hoarse and beer thickened that broke through the barrier into her consciousness, pulling her awake – always the same voice, always growing in pitch, PamPam, Pam, Pam.

A voice she knew far too well, voice that had screamed her name in anger many times, calling her, berating her – it was this voice that had latched on to her in her dreams, a voice capable of being perfectly fearsome; and perfectly real in both worlds. Almost beside herself with distress she frantically batted away the sounds, the memories coming at her through her senses and focused on slowing her breathing down.

It had been some years into her life with Roy, as co-renter of their little house, that she had started having the night terrors. At first they had been utterly petrifying, completely unfamiliar experiences beyond her knowledge and understanding. But if she didn't understand them herself, Roy not only didn't understand, was bewildered by them, and increasingly became infuriated by the violent shaking and wiggling around, the tiny, high pitched cries and shouts, her leaving the room in the middle of the night to make a hot chocolate to calm her nerves; that her interrupted sleep became his. At first he would ask if she was okay. These somewhat generous appeasements soon deteriorated into irritable grunts and then into complaints and elbow nudges.

"I swear to god you're gonna sleep with a pillow over your head tonight!" Roy tiraded one evening as they got into bed. And then there was the terrifying night he actually did put a pillow over her head and hold it down for a minute or two, before grunting at her to shut the hell up and let him sleep.

"Go get some valium." he had grumbled, lifting the pillow and smacking her over the head with it for good measure.

Pam shook the memory from her, threw off her covers in a quick movement and went out of the bedroom to finger the lock on the apartment door. Then, she went to make herself some hot chocolate. It was her fourth night in her new place, and her first nightmare there. As she curled up in the corner of her couch, alone in her living room, she counted off the hours until daylight. She missed her Mom. Helene had told her to call should she have any problems, but that didn't mean that Pam wanted to wake her up in the middle of the night. Her mom had work in the morning also. This was the hardest part of living alone, she thought, remembering the nights Jim had sat up with her for hours after a nightmare. The nights her mom had talked with her until she was calm and helped her fall back to sleep.

She sighed. She had wanted her independence by coming back to Scranton – to not rely on anyone, to take care of herself.

But right then, huddled into the corner of her couch, she watched the shadows play menacingly over the walls and thought it had been yet another trade off. She had her independence- or was it isolation; she wondered with a shiver.

-TO-

Pam yawned sleepily, putting a lazy hand to her mouth. In the office behind her, a high pitched singing was emanating. Michael's mood was exuberant that morning. Pam almost smiled.

The staff were making their way in slowly. The big surprise of the morning had been Angela. The petite blonde had brushed by without a word to Pam as usual, but after she had hung her coat up, put her bag down and switched on her nanny cam, she came back to reception, speaking to Pam in low, emotional tones.

"Certain things have transpired. And I'm sorry about the things that have transpired… certain misunderstandings about the things, the events that have happened. About those things, I've thought about them and how we could make things better."

Pam stopped her. "Angela… it's okay." she said, relieved in a way she couldn't explain. She handed Angela a tissue and smiled at her.

"I'm glad we had this talk." Angela sniffled and walked over to her desk. In a strange way, Pam was glad too. In her own way Angela's unique style of apology felt like a vindication in the eyes of her colleagues.

Pam was on the phone with David Wallace and trying to sidestep a vintage Michael disaster before she transferred him through when Jim arrived. Michael was in 'rehearsal' for an audition for West Side Story, and was warming his lungs by ttrying to turn the office into a musical. Jim smiled warmly at her as he passed by to his desk.

"Michael I'm transferring David through for real now. No jets, remember."

"Alright, alright, Beesly-ella. Game on."

"I'm serious." she said, and transferred him through.

-TO-

That afternoon the skies clouded over, heavy with rain. Pam came back to her desk after a brief lunchtime walk. Jim and Dwight were still out on their sales call. Michael was still rehearsing, with the unfortunately boisterous assistance of Andy, who Pam now unmistakably knew was a vast enthusiast of both musicals and singing.

Not that either man were poor singers; in fact they were both better than average however two men repetitively singing about feeling pretty and charming, running and dancing.. it had a distinct charm of it's own, with Pam the nearest in earshot.

A little later Dwight came back into the office, a smug smile gracing his face. Pam smiled to herself and lowered her head. Business as usual. Jim would undoubtedly tell her about it later on. She was sure that some sort of prank had occurred; she'd noticed Jim's mischievous nod to her on the way out. She knew him well.

"Whooo!" Andy whistled, the door to the mens room clunking shut behind him. "Someone's feelin' prett-tay." he lilted as he came past the reception desk on his way back to Michael's office. Andy came up towards her and leaned over the desk confidentially.

"A word of advice milady," he said, pressing forward, speaking with exaggerated secrecy. "the WC is occupado."

Pam offered him a humoring smile. "Uh, okay, Andy."

"Andy Bernard does not nard-block a friend getting bizz-zay." he said, raising his eyebrows in meaning and tapping the desk in tune.

Pam gawked at Andy for a moment, and then smoothed out her forehead, deciding she really didn't want to know. "Good job, Andy." she said indulgently.

"Give me a whistle when the coast is clear, like pronto. I'm not good at holding it." he said in the same overemphasized tone. Pam nodded.

"Between you and me, mee-lay-day, I suspect someone will hear the pitter patter of little baby tuna's in the not too far future."

Pam's face fell with understanding as Andy two-stepped back to Michael's office. She looked over in front of her. Dwight, head down, phone against his ear. Jim's desk empty.

Pam swallowed a lump that came unexpectedly to her throat. She glanced down the office to the bathroom doors, just as quickly flicking her gaze back to the desks in front of her. Karen's desk empty.

She thought for a second, her face flushing furiously. Perhaps Dwight would know where Jim was. But Andy had said… she was confused. Oddly enough she felt an unjustified sharp sting of betrayal. What if Jim.. no, he wasn't like that she reasoned. Roy was like that, had been like that. Not Jim.

That didn't stop her from getting up from her desk. That didn't stop her walking hazily to the bathroom door. Outside the men's room she stood, unsure of what she was doing out there. She didn't plan to go in, so what was she planning on doing? She didn't own Jim. Hadn't she said, nothing official. She said those words.

Jim wasn't like that, she repeated. Roy was like that. She stood debating, recoiling as she heard a muffled giggle. A female giggle. Flirty, seductive female. Pam backed away from the door.

She wasn't sure how long she stood out there. It was only the movement from the inside – a stall door opening and closing, feet coming audibly nearer that she stepped back further, quickly ducking over beside the water cooler. With hurt filled eyes she watched as the sturdy door swung open and Jim slumped out, his shoulders low and his jaw set tight. Pam's eyebrows drew together as he went by, not seeing her there. Seconds later the door opened again, slower, quieter this time and a furtive faced Karen slunk out and followed behind Jim back to her desk.

She thought she was going to be sick. She was dizzy. Slinking into the bathroom herself, she splashed cold water on her face and stared furiously at herself in the mirror. She felt like punching the reflection in front of her. Stupid, gullible, untrusting Pam. She ruined everything. She knew Jim better than that, so why was she feeling so hollowed inside, why so hurt? And angry, even. She didn't know what to do. She went back to her desk, avoiding eye contact with the three people sitting closest to her.

She maintained a studious effort to keep her head low and project herself as very busy. What she really was doing was thinking, confused by all the conflicting emotions and memories swimming through her. She was good at keeping busy.

"Pamela?" Michael said from beside her. Pam came out of her funk, looking up at him apologetically. Michael beckoned for her to come into the office.

Once she was seated inside, holding her notepad and pen, she wished she was back outside. She wished she was anywhere else but in the office. She wished she was home, alone, lying in her bed, pretending everything was okay. Jim and Karen? Karen and Jim?

"…...Wallace and Toby no-fun-flenderson off our backs," Michael was saying. She barely heard him. At some point Michael stopped and noticed her absently tapping her pen on the notepad.

"Woah.. earth to Pam. Where's Pam gone?" he jested. Pam shook her head at him before her face crumpled and she dropped her forehead into her hands. Her brain was spinning, her fingers wet with tears.

In a rare moment of sensitivity for Michael he kept quiet, sitting down calmly beside her shoulder to shoulder and holding out a faded yellow t-shirt to her.

Pam lifted her head, brushing at her eyes with a sniff, looking blearily at the shirt.

"Haven't got any tissues." Michael shrugged. "It's Toby's from the fun run. I was gonna… well another time maybe. Feel free to cover it in mascara and snot."

Pam's mouth lifted into a watery smile. "Thanks." she mumbled, taking the shirt from him.

"I know it's a tough office out there to come back to, with Toby and Dwight. Work with a bunch of idiots. You're probably mad at me for that joke about your mom-"

Pam shook her head. "It's not you."

Michael leaned back and laughed loudly. He exhaled. "Phewwweee. Good to clear that up. I mean.." he said hastily, looking at her. "I thought that I… the joke maybe…." he pointed to her face.

Pam shook her head again. Michael beamed.

"Oh, so you're crying with laughter. I made you laugh til you cried." he said joyfully. Pam sniffed and smiled thinly at him.

"Oh sh-" Michael turned serious. "Is this because of Jim?"

She looked up at Michael in confusion. "Jim?" she said, hearing the distant noise of the office outside.

"Yeah. I thought maybe he'd dumped you or… I dunno."

She didn't say anything at first, shocked into silence that Michael had somehow gone right to the root of the issue, so uncharacteristically.

"You know about Jim?" she said after a moment, wiping her eyes on the shirt.

"Jim and I are great friends. Hang out a ton, mainly at work. He tells me everything he doesn't tell everyone else."

"Oh, uh." she sniffled, lost for words.

"Look, about you and Jim." Michael began.

"Oh, no, that's, you don't have to." Pam responded quickly, cutting him off.

Michael spoke slowly. "As your father, I feel it's my responsibility to talk to you about this. You're not on your own, in your relationship with Jim, there's you, Jim and me."

"Father?" Pam wrinkled her forehead, scrunching the t-shirt tight between her fingers.

Michael looked down at the floor, pressing his lips forward and squeezing them together tightly. "I am your boss… and as a boss I am like your father and I feel an obligation as your boss….father."

"Karen." she mumbled. Michael sat up straight.

"Karen. Oh." he said knowingly. "It's hard when a new hot girl comes into the place, all exotic and tight assed-"

"Michael." she warned him.

"Alright. All I'm saying is Karen is… she's a novelty. She will wear off. You're the hottest woman in the office, still. Don't let that drive you to tears."

New tears slipped down her face. Michael, such an idiot sometimes, with such a good heart. Ass about backward trying to make her feel better as always.

"No." she said tightly. "Karen and Jim."

Michael actually laughed at that, damn him. She looked up at him with a betrayed expression. "Why are you laughing?"

"Karen and Jim." he laughed harder. "They go together like Justin Bieber and Justine Bateman. Sounds like a match made in heaven but it's so completely wrong. Karen is way too old for Jim, she'd be his mother. And that would make it really gross."

"She's really into Jim." she said matter of factly.

"Jim has that floppy haired, good looking young Shazam thing going on. We have that in common, it makes us great friends. But Karen. She's not for him. He's not into her."

"But I- they… bathroom…" she stuttered, wide eyed.

"Karen is into Jim… yes. Listen to me, look me in the eye." Michael said, tilting his head to her.

"Jim knows, god, does he know Karen is into him. He's not interested. He is less than interested. He has more interest in Dwight than he has in Karen. He's just too polite. He's not like me. Jim is a better man than me. Okay. I am a… fool…. and an idiot. Jim is not. Listen to me." he said carefully.

"So I know better than anyone about fools and idiots. Men like Roy are on every street corner, you go to the hospital and there's a Roy there waiting to mess up your life. There was a Roy in the warehouse, really messed up a girl's life. Men like Jim… you only meet them like once a hundred years, so you gotta find them before you're old and slobbering in your gin somewhere…"

Pam raised her head, staring at Michael.

"Look at me, listen," he repeated. "Men like Jim are rare. I wish I was a man like him. I have no filter. You can trust I am telling the truth. I told Stanley's wife about his affair. If there was anything between him and Karen I'd have told you right away and probably everyone else too. I'm saying this not to be nice but because it's the truth. Total integrity. You and Jim are like bookends right now. You let the world sit in between you. And you gotta stop that. But Jim is not afraid to put it all on the line for you. He is able to be vulnerable and say how he really feels. Listen to me, your boss, your father, your friend, your mentor. You have a chance of real happiness with Jim. Don't chase it away."

Pam stood up, wiping her eyes. Michael stood next to her, looking at her kindly. Pam blinked back emotion, silent communication passing between them. Impulsively she stepped forward and reached up, enveloping Michael in a soft hug. She breathed deeply, trying to get herself under control.

"Thank you." she whispered over his shoulder, exhausted with emotion, but feeling good for the first time that day. She thought maybe she was the biggest fool of all.

Making a sudden decision, she thought she'd see what Jim was up to tonight. Maybe she'd offer to cook him dinner. Not a date. Not, not a date. Just two best friends on the right path forward.

Chapter 6 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
Thanks for all the nice reviews. I am struggling with writing again, especially now work is full time again, but I really want to finish this story. Please bear with me, and sorry that it might now be as thought out as it was in this chapter, it's a little hard to keep my head in that world these days as much as I would like to.

Jim followed the spicy aroma of cooking chilli up the stairs to the second floor. There was a chill in the small hallway and his footsteps echoed eerily around him. He found Pam's door easily, out of the two apartments on the second floor hers was unlikely to be the one with men sized combat boots tipped over on the doormat.

She'd opened the door with a shy smile, looking pretty and fresh in a simple loose sweater and jeans. He had been surprised when she'd invited him over. He hadn't expected that, she'd been kind of tense earlier when he tried to playfully flirt with her like he used to, even brushing him off a little. Still, she had asked him sincerely enough if he wanted to come over for dinner.

"Alright, Beesly." he said, sitting on her couch and taking the glass she offered him. "You got everything you need here? Kitchen, Bathroom? Place to sleep?"

"Even got a working toilet." she joked half-heartedly.

"Just one? You got screwed Beesly."

She nodded again, sitting down beside him. She crossed her legs. "Definitely."

"You like it here?"

"Yeah." she said shrilly, sounding as though the room was filling with helium. She cleared her throat self consciously. "I mean.. yeah… no…. I'm getting used to it." Using her hand to brush down the front of her sweater, she let out a small sigh.

Jim put his drink down on the table. "Didn't get much sleep last night, huh?" he said, leaning back against the couch. Pam looked away from him sheepishly.

"Not too much, no." she answered after a pause, shifting her gaze forward.

"Old ghosts?"

She twisted her hands together absently. "Yeah, I guess."

"You know," Jim leaned forward again. "If you're having a bad night, like before, you can call me, you know know that right?"

She coughed, putting a hand up to her mouth. "Yeah… it's not that bad… I mean, it's okay, really I just….." she shook her head, lapsing into silence.

Jim inhaled a slow breath, looking at her observantly. Things were off kilter tonight; there was a tension in the air between them that hadn't been there before. She had closed herself off again, her face impassive and her response to conversation was flat and lifeless. His brow furrowed as his eyes wandered to her fingers, tightly interlocked, twisting tautly against her stomach.

"Hey." he said, reaching out to her. Gently he rubbed her forearm up and down in a gesture he hoped would be comforting; but to his surprise she simply got up, mumbling she needed to check on the food and escaped to the kitchen without another word.

Jim slumped back into the headrest on the couch dispiritedly, rubbing his hands against his jeans, trying to understand what could have happened between Monday night and then – they had been fine and happy – well, as happy as possible under the circumstances on Monday. And yet tonight he felt like he was with another person. He pondered if he should follow her to the kitchen or not.

"You need any help out there?" he said as she entered back in to the room, ending his inner debate. She sat down in the lone armchair a little way away from the couch where Jim was sitting, watching her with confusion.

It had been a difficult week for her he reasoned. She'd moved homes, returned to work and then there was Monday night. There were bound to be bumps in the road, he told himself, wanting to believe it.

"It's almost ready." she said quietly, not looking at him. Jim simply nodded in response. The shift in rapport between them made him squirm, stoking inner flames of doubt he had tried hard to extinguish – fears that she would reject him again, push him away. He didn't think he could handle it a second knock back from her. He would lose her, he knew that as surely as he knew his own name.

"I know we didn't get a chance to catch up today." Jim tried again.

"No." Pam responded, with a hint of accusation in her tone. "How was your sales call with Dwight?"

Jim almost laughed momentarily, remembering Dwight and his pitch earlier – it had struck him as the most bizarre thing that they should actually make a good sales team – but there it was, wonders never cease.

"Yes," he grinned a little. Hoping to raise a smile he continued. "We got the sale. Dwight's got this stupid thing though about sitting in the back seat when he's not driving. It was weird, like I was his chauffeur or something."

"Tough day." she remarked. Jim's grin dropped at the flat edge to her voice.

"Yeah." he said tonelessly.

"Long day." she pointed out. "Long pitch."

"Had to go see Toby this afternoon." he said, looking uncomfortable. Pam hummed a little, staring at the floor.

Jim stopped speaking; baffled by her behavior. He was completely at a loss.

"Pam?" he finally asked. "Is something wrong? Do you want me to leave?"

Pam was startled into reaction; her head lifted up to face him, her mouth hanging slightly pen. "Oh… I'm sorry, Jim. I'm really tired, that's all. I didn't mean… no, I don't want you to go. Dinner's almost done." she said, her cheeks burning.

"Sure everything's okay?" he replied, eyebrows raising.

"Yeah, fine." she responded breathily. Jim stared at her thoughtfully, his mouth twitching. He decided against pursuing it further, noting her pale skin and heavy, dark eyes. He wanted so badly for them to have an enjoyable night but that forecast was looking kind of cloudy if the start was anything to go by.

"So… you finished clearing your house out?" he asked, looking around the little room. Truthfully he thought the place was kind of gloomy. It lacked many of the usual personal touches that signaled that someone lived there, that someone enjoyed living there. No photos, no books, not even a sketchpad in sight.

Pam followed his gaze absently. "Yeah. Gave the keys over last week. Got a lot of stuff in storage." she added quickly, reading his expression.

Jim turned back to her. "What did you do with all of Roy's things?"

"Boxed them up and took them to his moms house."

"I bet that was fun." he replied, wincing at the pained look she gave him in return.

"Yeah." she exhaled. "She was not happy, not at all."

"At Roy?"

"At me."

Jim was surprised. "I thought Roy and his mom didn't get along?"

"They don't. But that doesn't mean she believes me over him. Besides, it was either her or another storage fee each month."

"She didn't have much to say in court." Jim remembered.

Pam smiled dryly. "She had plenty to say at her house. Kind of blew up, actually. Her and my dad sort of got into it."

Jim's eyes went to her neck, where he imagined he saw faint traces of fingermarks there, a lingering memento in his memory. He winced involuntarily.

"Just wish he was out my life for good, you know?" she said in a soft voice. Jim nodded at her, catching the wistful expression on her face. He knew instantly what she was thinking. Before he could offer her any comfort though, she'd pushed herself up out of the chair and vanished in to the kitchen for the second time that night.

-TO-

Jim suspected she'd left the room to get her emotions under control. It was a maddeningly familiar ground for him, her pretending things were okay, her crying behind doors. In some ways it felt like the Pam she was when she was with Roy – all the old habits and emotional cues were the same.

When she finally emerged from the kitchen she was somewhat brighter, and apologized for being rude and leaving him in the living room by himself. Then she showed him to the small table she had set in the area between the kitchen and living room.

The meal she had made re awoke Jim's appetite and reminded him he had skipped lunch earlier. He ate with obvious enjoyment, happily refreshing his memory of how good her cooking was and inciting the first genuine smile out of her that day.

"Guess there's hope for me yet." she said wryly, putting her hand over her mouth.

"I've missed your chili." he said, shoveling another forkful into his mouth. "I could eat this every meal and never get sick of it. And I missed lunch today." he added by way of excuse for his table manners.

"I noticed." she commented, putting down her fork and pushing her plate away. She just couldn't eat as much as she used to.

"Jim." she said softly, her face blushing a little. He looked up at her, his smile faltering. Despite the brief respite during dinner, the tension between them remained. She looked nervous. She looked scared, he realized, his stomach sinking.

She took a deep breath. "We haven't really set any rules between us… I know I said what I said Monday night but I was wondering…" she turned away from him a little so he couldn't see her face.

"Yeah?" he said cautiously.

"Umm… about.. us… are we….. you know, just us? Or… other women…" she mumbled, eyes downcast.

Jim squinted at her for a second, before dropping his shoulders in realization. Hurt coiled in his stomach before he pushed it away.

"Other women? Is this about Karen?"

Not missing the guilty flash in her eyes, he knew he was right. He mentally kicked himself hard for not anticipating this; he should have expected it, should have talked to her about it before she got the wrong idea.

"Just…. She's really into you." she said, holding back emotion. "And this afternoon… the bathroom-"

"Hey." Jim cut her off quickly, grabbing her hand from under the table and lifting it up, grateful she didn't resist. "Is that what's been bothering you?"

Pam looked away again, her hair falling over her face. "I just thought that… you know… she really likes you a lot. And Andy said that-"

"Andy is a moron. Andy is the guy that calls me Big Tuna every time he sees me because he thinks it's funny, only no one else does. He doesn't know anything, you gotta believe me."

"I know." she looked at him apologetically. "I just.. saw you coming out of the bathroom earlier. I don't know why it got to me but it did. I'm so stupid."

Jim shook his head fervently. "No, you're not. I'm sorry. I should have said something to you about this earlier. Karen is nothing, except a huge pain who can't take no when she hears it. I did not ask her to come into the bathroom with me."

"I'm sorry. I just didn't know what to think. The way she talks about you… You knew she liked you?"

"I did – no – Pam, that's what I went to see Toby about." he stressed.

"Oh."

"I would never do that to you, you know that right?"

"I just thought…." she trailed off, feeling utterly foolish.

"Roy." Jim grumbled.

"Roy." Pam sighed.

Jim squeezed her hand tight. "We need to lay down some lines between us, Beesly."

Pam smiled and squeezed back. "I'd like that."

-TO-

Pam felt better after they cleared the air between them. She also felt significantly worse – embarrassed at herself for having to ask Jim, ask where she felt she had no right to ask. A naked vulnerability stirred in her at her reaction to the reality of Karen having a crush on Jim. She had been hurt a little, a little possessive and.. worried. Worried, selfishly she was coming to see how she did need Jim, how exposed that made her feel, how scared. She couldn't deny her feelings once she had accepted them – that night in the gallery opened up all the feelings for him she had been harboring inside in denial, in fear. Jim was a good man, too good for her really. Karen on the face of it seemed much more on his level, intellectually and otherwise.

But Michael, in a rare moment of clarity had also helped her straighten things out in her mind. She certainly didn't know if she had it in her to fight for Jim if she had to. She thought she might. But now she knew how ridiculous she was. She could handle Karen. Jim had handled her. He had told her no and meant it. He had spoken to Toby and told him everything. Karen was being moved over near the annex with Kelly. Pam actually smiled at the thought of that.

They cleared the table together, making small, pleasant conversation interspersed with their usual joking around. Jim raved on again about how good the dinner was.

Pam laughed. "I'm sending you home with the rest of it. Someone needs to make sure you aren't just eating Alfredo's or taco's every night."

Jim was happily cheered up, having a much firmer -much more positive - idea of where they were headed. Baby steps, but positive ones, he knew. The dinner plates stacked in the sink, Pam wiped down the table while laughing at Jim's retelling of the pitch he and Dwight had given earlier. She'd been right on the money about Jim pranking Dwight, of course. Yet it had paid off, literally. They got the sale.

Jim came out of the kitchen, putting a soft hand on her back as he navigated his way past her in the small confines of the apartment. Pam flinched involuntarily at the contact and glanced quickly at Jim, a little embarrassed. She moved across the room, picking up their empty wine glasses somewhat distractedly, trying not to acknowledge that it had happened.

"Pam." Jim said quietly from behind her.

He was still standing then, when she turned around, his arms stretched out wide to her.

"Come here." he encouraged in a soft voice. Pam considered him hesitantly for a moment before moving towards him nervously.

"Trust me." Jim said as she came close. Carefully he reached out and took her by her shoulders, calmly bringing her against his chest. Almost immediately she stiffened, her limbs tightening and becoming rigid. Jim circled his arms around her, holding her close to him.

"Now, relax." he told her, using a low, gentle tone of voice. At first, she only leaned into him without reaction. Jim began to think he'd made a mistake, then after a few moments thin arms intertwined around his back, coming to rest on his sweatshirt.

"Breathe." he instructed kindly, tightening his grip around her a little. Pam felt a little flicker of happiness, he was so warm, so comforting. She didn't feel entirely safe – not yet, anyway – but she felt more secure with him than anyone else, this she knew. Closing her eyes, she let her cheek fall on to his shoulder.

"Feels pretty good, huh?" he said, running his hand over the back of her head, feeling the soft curls shifting beneath his fingers.

"I've missed your hugs." she told him, her voice muffled in his shoulder. A wide range of emotions were coursing through her. This was so different to Roy. This felt good. Although things had changed now, they both knew, he was no longer hugging her in the spirit of supportive friendliness, but now as something more, something intimate, something that meant a lot more. As a partner. As someone who truly cared. This was where their relationship was going and she felt perfectly happy with that. She stayed, wrapped up in his embrace, soaking up his warmth.

"Pam," Jim said as they sat down on the couch, side by side. "There will always be a place for you right here." Jim patted his shoulder. "No strings. Whenever you want it, whenever you need it."

Pam looked at him with a furrowed forehead and drew her eyes in. Jim laughed and motioned to his shoulder again. Realization dawning on her, she smiled at him and leaned over, gently pressing her cheek down into the comfortable groove between his chest and shoulder. A strong arm slid up and wrapped around her own shoulders. A soft kiss was pressed into her hair. Feeling almost perfectly safe, and almost perfectly happy she let her eyes close.

Things were on the right path, she knew. There would be hurdles and stumbles in the future but she felt at that moment she could handle that. The night had ended better than she'd expected, almost perfectly.

As for her, she felt one could say she was almost perfectly in love.

Chapter 7 by OfficeWriter

"Alright, knuckleheads. I want one out of each of your groups to pick a card. Don't look at the card yet. Any card. And I want you to look at the situation and answer the question. Every group has a different situation, a different vision and I have a vision that you will really go for it, be tough, be brutal. This is real life, not the office and these are not your friends today. Go for it." Michael waved an arm at the pile of cards beside him and stood back with glee.

"Any card Kevin, this isn't the counter at Dunkin's." he chided, standing back and folding his hands together.

"Uh huhhh." Stanley quirked a derisive eyebrow, smirking at Michael as he turned away with a card in hand.

"Twenty minutes people. This is no longer the conference room. This is the most important room of your life." Michael instructed. Stanley snorted in response.

"You and your partner have a baby together. You want to hire a babysitter. If you could ask just one question to discover a persons suitability for taking care of your child, what would your question be?" said Ryan, reading off his card.

"Oh man." Jim stared in awkwardly ahead, wishing he was anywhere but in that room. He had anticipated something like this when Michael had told them he was going to be overseeing team building exercises. But as always with anything that Michael had so much as a single fingertip of involvement in, he knew to expect the unexpected – and the ridiculous.

"Well. Is this babysitter a six, seven? Eight?" Ryan asked. Jim turned to him, his forehead creased.

"What?"

"Oh this is a good one," Michael sad peering over Ryan's shoulder. "Don't be afraid to get crucial, Jim. Get real. Your child's life is at stake."

"How would the babysitter feel about dating on the side." Ryan said.

"Woooo… yes, good Ryan, go with the morality. Push the lid off this thing." Michael said.

"Really, Ryan?" Jim raised his eyebrows.

"Jim, don't take that tone with your baby daddy. Teamwork and integrity are what we're working towards here. " Michael scoffed.

"I am really uncomfortable with that." Ryan said.

"Uh, yeah." Jim agreed.

"Get into it, Jim, push it. Ryan is your life partner, you should consider yourself very fortunate, as we all would."

Ryan and Jim swapped a look of disbelief as Michael continued. "You and Ryan have a baby together. What would you ask of a potential babysitter to be sure they wouldn't barbecue your baby in the oven, leave them at hooters, or sell them to a carnival?"

"A carnival?" Jim shook his head.

"So the babysitter has a job at hooters too?" Ryan said, as Michael turned away. Jim groaned, and without warning, sneezed violently.

"Hey, man, you're a salesman, not a weathergirl." Michael smirked, wiping his sleeve dramatically. "Keep the news to yourself."

"I know that patience and loyalty are good, and virtuous traits. But sometimes I just think you need to grow a pair." Angela was saying.

"Right." Karen agreed. "A good company leader is someone who knows where the dead ends are. Who knows what to downsize and what works. What losses to cut."

"Dead ends?" Angela was unmoved, her expression stern, looking up at the taller woman.

"Keep it real, Angela." Michael said, stepping up to them. Karen smiled at Michael.

"Dead ends. A boss who is tough, who knows what to cut and what to keep." Karen repeated. Angela glared at her.

"No."

"Oooh, now we have a debate. Good. This is good. Sparks, that's what we need. What makes a suitable leader of a company? Keeping in mind am your boss." Michael looked up expectantly, a goofy grin plastered on his lips.

"A good leader of a company weeds out the… well.. the weeds. Things that don't work. You would ask a potential leader if they are prepared to make the tough decisions. Like reception, it's just empty space. We could field our own calls and do our own copies. Bang, a third of the company profits saved in one." Karen pointed out. Behind her, Pam, her face red, turned towards Karen, both a little fearful and curious at the same time.

"A third. Really?" Angela disagreed.

"Reception is the most important area of any office actually." Jim interrupted them. Karen's throat worked, as if it itched to make a response but she held her tongue and settled for a sharp look in his direction.

"That's right Moneypenny." Michael grinned. "Reception and by extension Pam is essentially the face and voice of our office and she plays an extremely important role here. She filters out the dead ends, like Toby, and she does everything I don't want to do. Plus, every office needs a hot receptionist or-"

"Michael." Jim coughed.

"Alright, alright. Pam, Stanley. What's your situation?"

"Oh, uh, marriage." Pam stuttered, caught off guard.

"Ohhh tricky. Never been there. Almost been there."

"I'll tell you what I told every one of my wives, and what I'll tell the next one. The vows say obey and if you don't like it, leave." Stanley said firmly, picking up his crossword and settling down on a chair behind him.

"Umm… right.." Pam said uncertainly. Michael groaned before wandering off towards Kelly and Dwight.

"It's not sexual discrimination, idiot! Women are not good leaders. Every month they are weakened by their bodies and further controlled by the moon – no woman is capable of being in control of a whole country." Dwight stated confidently.

Pam looked around the conference room in wonder, absorbing the eccentricities of the people she worked with. Still slightly stinging from the goading comments from Karen, she caught a familiar green eye filled with warmth and her mouth curved into a smile automatically. Jim reflected the smile back at her, meaning passing between the two of them, completely unaware of anyone else in the conference room at that moment; not least the pair of dark eyes burning bitterly towards them, watching their every interaction.

-TO-

Office politics exist, always have and probably always will. Pam knew that. Work politics were part of work life. Still, she had never quite had a situation like this before. She was the girl who had always got on with everybody, too shy to cause any real drama, not confident enough to stand up for herself when the situation warranted it. But here she was, the office receptionist; who had dated the warehouse guy, been engaged to the warehouse guy, been beaten by the warehouse guy and seemingly most of her colleagues knew this. She was in a sort of, hesitant to use the word – relationship with yet another colleague, her best friend no less – the very same person her former fiancee had believed she was having an affair with. He sat about ten feet from her everyday and now there was this other person involved.

She wanted a clean start. Yet Roy's case for assaulting her – and Jim – had still to come up. She was still tied to him. And now Karen. Why could nothing go smoothly for her?

She got up from her desk and wandered to the break room, deep in thought. What did Karen matter? What did any of them matter? Jim didn't want Karen.

She had to trust Jim. She knew that, he had done nothing to deserve her doubt. It was a hard thing, trust, to give freely. Jim was a man… not Roy…. A good man. So, why did she feel so insecure?

"It's not like they mean anything to me." she remembered Roy yelling at her during an argument. It was some years into their engagement. "You're the one I'm marrying, not them. I'm a man, I have needs!" he had screamed at her.

"How many were there?" she had wanted to know. Pam closed her eyes, the memory of the fight coming back to her.

Roy had shoved her back into the wall in anger. "If you would just do as I ask, or were there for me when I need you I wouldn't have to go somewhere else!"

"If you'd just ask me once in a while instead of just expecting me to be there like a piece of meat, then you'd know!" she'd replied, hurt by his admission. Roy had simply held her against the wall and suddenly his rage had gone.

"Don't you ever question what I do or who I see. You just do it my way and we'll get alone fine." His voice had been chilling, she remembered. Pam shivered and then lifted up the two steaming mugs from the counter and took them back into the office. She put hers down on her reception desk next to her phone and took the other over to the desk in front of her.

"Hot chocolate." she said warmly, grateful that Dwight was not there at that moment. Jim smiled at her with thanks.

"Thought you could use something warm inside you. Are you feeling alright?" she asked, putting a hand against his cheek. "You're pretty warm."

"I'm o-" Jim sneezed.

"Okay." Pam said, slightly amused. "Are my hands cold?"

Jim nodded. "Yeah. Felt pretty good actually."

Pam hummed at him, and touched his cheek again softly. "I think you've got a fever."

"It's hot in here." Jim explained, not very convincingly.

"Er, okay." Pam said humorously. "So.. I guess you don't need someone to come and bring you some dinner later, check you're still breathing?"

"That depends." he said. "Is someone going to say I told you so if I still have a fever?"

Pam chuckled at him. "Idiot." she said affectionately and went back to reception.

-TO-

Six o'clock came and went and Pam had let herself into Jim's house, feeling only slightly uncomfortable about using the key he had given her when she was hiding out from Roy there. Jim had never asked for it back, and seemed happy enough for her to keep it.

Jim definitely still had a fever, and it was definitely higher that evening by the time Pam arrived. Along with the rise in temperature he had developed a cough and a new, husky edge to his normally smooth, pleasant voice. Pam took one look at him and fetched him a blanket – the same blue blanket she had so often slept under on the same couch Jim was sitting on then. She felt at ease. This was okay. Taking care of someone she could handle, she knew how to do this.

She set to work making him vegetable soup from scratch in the kitchen, glad to be busy and doing something useful. When she went back to the living room, Jim was laying sideways on the couch, and very much asleep. Pam smiled at the sight of him and kneeled down on the carpet in front of him, gently stroking his soft hair back from his forehead. Then she lifted the blanket up to his chin and went off upstairs in search of a hot water bottle. She didn't know if Jim would have one around, her mom seemed to be the only one in Scranton who ever used them.

She would bring him one from home if not.

-TO-

It was after eight o'clock when he finally stirred and sat up with a shiver, astonished to find Pam sitting in the chair adjacent to the couch.

"You didn't have to stay." he said, his voice coming out hoarse and scratchy. "But I'm glad you did." he added.

"You were burning up." she said. "And shivering at the same time. What kind of best friend would I be if I just up and left you like that."

Pam noticed the brief expression that flickered over Jim's face before he laid his head back down on the cushion on the arm of of the couch. She winced a little; they hadn't really talked about the use of the 'official' terms for each other – boyfriend or girlfriend. But again, she herself had said, no labels.

She knew though, Jim thought of her as just that, his girlfriend. Maybe that was okay. They didn't need labels. They knew where they stood with each other. That was all that was needed.

Gently she prodded Jim into sitting up again and fetched him some hot soup. Throughout the evening Pam relayed him hot cocoa and sips of water and endless blankets before he finally went up to his room, coughing and sneezing all the way. Pam followed him, carrying the blue blanket and a fresh glass of water. She sat down on the edge of the bed, a little concerned over his rising fever.

"I just need a good night's sleep." Jim mumbled hoarsely. Pam shook her head good naturedly.

"You've got flu, I think." she said seriously. "Do you need anything else?"

"Mmmm." Jim hummed as he snuggled into the warm covers, feeling surprisingly happy despite how unwell he was. "There was something actually. Something I want to know."

"Really?" Pam said, looking down at him with a small smile at the husky voice coming from him.

"Yes. Tell me. Why were you sleeping in my bed that day?" he croaked. Pam almost laughed. Not quite the request she had been expecting. Her face flushed with embarrassment, and she slowly opened her mouth to attempt to provide some sort of explanation when she realized he was asleep again.

She smiled fondly down at the man, her sort of boyfriend, her sort of partner… the man who was nothing like Roy at all, the man who had more patience and more love in him than Roy had in his own shadow. She sat, watching him sleep so peacefully from her perch at the edge of his bed. Truthfully she was worried about his fever and how quickly he had taken so sick. She considered that she may need to call a doctor in the morning if he still had a fever.

Looking at the time and glancing down at Jim again, she made a quick decision, one she didn't think he would mind too much. Leaning over, she brushed the hair back away from his sleeping head and felt his forehead again with a frown. Then, feeling a slight guilt she softly kissed his cheek before getting up and going to make up the bed in the spare bedroom.

Chapter 8 by OfficeWriter

Pam withdrew her palm from the sleeping man's temple, a worried frown creasing her forehead. The skin below was warm, clammy and not what she hoped. Turning her hand over, she gently laid the back of it against his flushed cheek. Even despite the cool temperature of the house he was radiating heat like a smouldering log. She stood thoughtfully running her fingers over the back of his neck for any change in temperature there. He was warm, his hair damp with sweat.

Sighing, she turned, frowning at the mound of ragged tissues and the half emptied water glasses standing on the night table. Twisting her lips together tightly Pam crossed the room in four gentle steps and plucked up the small waste-basket from the corner. She approached the night table with a grimace and, holding the waste bin down low, she slid the mess from the tabletop into the bin. As she gathered up the glasses, she glanced down at Jim again, worry steadily prickling within her. Not just that he was sick, but just how quickly he had gotten sick. She picked up his hand, and almost immediately hot fingers curled sleepily around her own. Not wanting to wake him up, she carefully tucked his hand back under his blanket, smoothing down the covers before heading downstairs to empty the water glasses.

On her way down she could hear the familiar screeching ring of her cell phone from the living room - she still hadn't bothered with changing the ringtone on it to something less obnoxious – and hurried towards her purse which was lying sideways on the couch. She rushed forward, forgetting in her haste the still half full glasses she was carrying. Tepid water sloshed over the edges of the two in her right hand, splattering large droplets over the carpet and darkening the front of her shirt.

"Crap." she muttered vexedly, trying vainly to hold on to the glasses. However the spilled water had made the glass slippery to the touch and before her brain could register the sound, the carpet was sparkling with clear shards, the colourless liquid sinking into the floor around them.

Pam flinched as a sudden chill flew inside her at the crashing noise the glass had made. A loud sound in a quiet house, it sounded – to her – as loud as a sudden backfire in the middle of the night, a startling as a heavy door slammed shut in a fit of temper. She stood still, rooted to the spot in shock. Blue sparks of anxiety set alight in her abdomen, flowing upwards fiery hot into her chest. She grew stiff, frightened. Oxygen, there was not enough oxygen in the room, she was going to suffocate. Then, helpless with mounting terror, the wall opposite her melted, shifting into swirling pastels and dizzying whirlpools.

Crack.

Long ago sounds of breaking china, skin striking skin replayed through her mind. Plates hurled full throttle into walls, a crystal vase slapped out of her hand, shattering dramatically over the hard kitchen floor. Dull roses of blood congealing in carpets. Skin striking skin.

She closed her eyes slowly, pulling in a long breath through her nose. She released it slowly, working towards getting herself under control. The house was silent; no telltale angry creaking from the floorboards that an enraged man was coming to remind her not to wake him up, not to be such a dumb bitch.

She listened intently, her breath slowing down. No indication she had woken Jim up with her clumsiness. No, Jim would not call her a dumb bitch, no he would not come and yell at– hurt – her.

Steadily she prodded herself to move around the mess she had made, sitting herself down shakily on the couch. The room was coming back into focus. She settled her elbows on her knees, helplessly putting her face in her hands.

She remembered her phone. It had rung; that was what had made her drop the glasses, made her forget how clumsy – stupid – she was. Snatching it out of her bag with a heavily shaking hand, she swiped the screen to find out who had been trying to call her. Releasing the tension in her shoulders in relief she didn't hesitate before tapping redial.

"Pammy!"

Pam closed her eyes again, leaning forward, elbows still on her knees. Her mom's familiar voice flowed into her like soothing balm.

"Hi, Mom." Pam said, attempting to force a calm, quiverless tone.

"How are you doing? I was hoping I'd catch you on your break." Helene said brightly.

"Well, you did."

"You okay?"

Pam paused. "Yeah…. I just br…. Doesn't matter. How's dad?"

"The old man is out the back on a stationary bike. A bike. You can imagine it can't you?" Helene laughed. Silence followed. "Pammy? I thought that would get a laugh out of you."

Pam shivered, feeling cold and sweaty. "Sorry, I just spaced there for a minute. What?"

"What's wrong? You okay?" Helene asked again.

"Yeah." Pam said quickly. She heard a heavy intake of breath from her mom. "I'm just tired. Busy week, not used to it all anymore."

"Sure? Well, you know – your dad and I actually were talking, we want to talk to you about something. I was thinking about driving over for when you get out of work?"

"Oh, uh…" Pam stuttered, wondering what her parents wanted to talk to her about. Nothing came to mind. "Uh.. okay.. is it important?"

"Yeah, kind of. Nothing to worry about, I promise."

"Oh… okay… yeah. I'm actually at Jim's and I'll probably be here after work so-"

Helene giggled softly. "Already, Pammy? Things are going that well?"

Pam sighed. "No, mom, not like that. I mean Jim's got.. uh.. I… he's got flu."

"Oh."

"Don't sound so disappointed, mom." Pam caught sight of the glass twinkling in the carpet, like a big red flag of her stupidity. She glanced at the time.

"Don't be like that Pammy." Helene gently rebuked. "I was happy for you, that's all. Are you looking after him?"

"Yeah." Pam said, trying to remember where the dustpan was kept. "Not very well though. How high should his temperature be before I need to call the Doctor?"

"He's got a fever? Umm normally above a hundred, like one oh five is really high. Or if he has any rashes or bad headaches as well. Make sure he takes some tylenol and lots and lots of water."

Pam winced at the reminder, eyeing the sodden carpet, glass glinting in the middle of it like icicles.

"Okay mom."

"I always called the Dr if one of you had a fever for more than a few days." Helene added.

"Thanks mom."

"Things are going okay with you?" Helene persisted.

"Yeah, mom, don't worry. Things are great." Pam rubbed her head tiredly. "With Jim, I mean. He's really good to me."

"Happy to hear it, not that I'm surprised. He obviously cares a lot about you."

"Well, I guess if you wanted to come here it would be okay…" Pam said slowly. "I should be going. My lunch break is almost over and I just wanted make sure he's got some soup or something."

"Put it in a thermos to keep it warm and leave it beside him," Helene advised.

"Yeah, I will. Thanks again mom. I gotta go. I guess I'll see you tonight?"

"I'll talk to your dad about it. Love you, Pammy."

"Me too, Mom."

"Pam," Helene said after a moment. "You've not heard from Roy or his family have you?"

Pam shivered again, looked down at the broken glass. "No Mom, I haven't." she said softly, closing her eyes.

-TO-

She was settled back behind her desk again for the afternoon. Jim had woken up just long enough to display his delight at finding her still there, sleepily allowing her to again check his fever. She had left him with soup as her Mom had suggested, in a warm flask on his night table and some tylenol and fresh water. He was still flushed and warm to the touch, flinching back when Pam had bent down to leave him with a quick kiss on his cheek.

"You don't want this too…" he coughed.

She had settled for brushing his hair back affectionately instead, a little of her good humor returning. He seemed to have that effect on her.

It was still raining out. Had she remembered to close the window in Jim's bathroom ? He would freeze. Shaking her head, she thought it was just her day for doing stupid things. It would be just like her to go out of her way to look after him and then do something idiotic like leaving a draughty window open and giving him another chill.

Her mind pulled back to the broken glasses. She had simply swept them up and thrown out the pieces, vacuuming the floor as quietly as she could.

She would replace the glasses on the way home. He probably wouldn't even notice anyway.

"Where's Jim?" Michael came out of his office.

"He's out sick. He's weak." Dwight said, not looking away from his screen.

"Oh right.. woah…. that's inconsiderate….yes. He is out sick. I knew that. I'm glad you knew it too. Important to know where we all are…. Okay… now I gotta find a new wingman…" he muttered distastefully to himself, hands in his pockets.

"Okay….. where's Ryan?" Michael said. "Get me Ryan."

"The temp's up at corporate now." said Kevin.

"Traitor." Dwight added.

"Damn… damn… damn… double damn…" Michael mumbled. "alright Pam, what kind of sick is Jim?" he said, leaning on the reception desk, eyebrows raised upwards.

"Uh—"

"Like is it a level one, level two? Three? Nothing that he couldn't put on hold for tonight?"

Pam stared at him, her mouth half open. "Uh.. no- what's going on Michael?"

Michael leaned closer to her. "Here's the deal… Jan and I are having dinner with her parents tonight… and due to an unfortunate incident the last time we had dinner I just thought I would bring along a wingman.. to, you know… give me a heads up if Jan's mother tries anything… "

"Michael, I thought you tried to kiss her?" Oscar said, leaning back in his chair.

"It was a moment!" Michael said defensively. "It's just my appeal to the ladies, it's overpowering. Even elderly ladies, like Jan's mother. That's why I need Jim, otherwise it'll be like I'm trapped between a toilet and a wall and the only way out will be to kill one of them."

"Michael, calm down." Kevin said.

"He's pretty sick." Pam told him quietly.

"On a scale of…..?" Michael said. "Like- playing russian roulette with a fart kind of sick?"

"Too sick." she confirmed, looking at Michael innocently.

"Hmm. Being sick… that could w-"

"No, Michael." Pam shook her head.

"You know what. Get me Ryan. Tell him I need him tonight and that it's an emergency. Or Jim."

"Michael, you know that you can just not kiss Jan's mother, right?" Andy said, with no small amount of humor.

Michael knocked on the desk again. "Great. Fabulous. Thank you Andy McFly. Why don't we just hop in the delorean and make it so it never happened…. God. Tie my hands behind my back and kick me in the balls, why don't you?"

"I'm not doing anything tonight, Michael, if you need-"

Michael turned on Toby. "You know what? If I had an actual delorean the first thing I would do is stop off in the sixties and make sure your parents never meet!"

"Michael." Pam said. "Just don't kiss your girlfriend's mother. Easy. Okay?"

"Come on Pam. If you were sitting at dinner with Jim's dad and you were drinking and you thought he was going to kiss you, would you leave him hanging?"

Pam drew in a quick gasp, dropping her head to the stack of messages on her desk.

"Wait. Jim's dad?" Kevin said, confused.

"Oh my god you and Jim are dating?" Kelly appeared suddenly, squealing excitedly. Michael stared around the room in embarrassed horror before abruptly turning hurriedly towards his office.

"Oh, so you are seeing each other?" Karen said coldly, fixing Pam with a hostile glare. Pam blinked nervously and looked away. She could cheerfully throttle Michael at that moment. She really wished Jim were there. He was great at handling the Michael – factor earthquakes. As it was, she was left to face the not so subtle enquiries of all of their colleagues.

"I'm not surprised." Angela said, sitting down prudishly and not so subtly taking herself out of the from the conversation.

"Way to go, Big Tuna! Alright!" Andy cheered happily.

"You guys are together?" Phyllis was smiling widely.

"It's great news, Pam." Oscar said, genuinely. Pam rubbed her lips together, looking around at everyone nervously.

"I KNEW IT!" Kevin boasted, clapping his hands.

"Pam, Pam, Pam !" Kelly chanted. "How did it happen? I need details. Did Jim like just ask you out or was it more romantic? How long have you been together? Oh my god I've so many questions! Double date! Double date!"

Pam was unable to stop a smile from stretching across her face. This she had not expected. Not in the least. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

"We never saw you with Roy. He was no good for you." Phyllis added.

"We're very happy for you." Oscar said.

"I'm so happy I could cry." Kevin nudged Oscar lightly, looking at Pam.

Pam stood up. "Uh… thanks guys." she said, feeling overwhelmed and a little embarrassed. She stepped over to Michael's door, knowing he was probably feeling badly about outing her and Jim.

"Congratulations." The voice from behind shot over her with the force of a missile, icy cold, and hard as nails.

Opening Michael's door, Pam didn't turn back.

-TO-

"Only two degrees, but it has gone down." Pam said cheerfully. "Looks like you're going to make it, Halpert."

He was sitting up on the couch, still red and flushed, but slightly cooler to the touch and had a brightness to his eyes that hadn't been there that morning. Pam was happy to see his fever was breaking.

"I feel a little badly that you had to handle the press conference without me." he told her.

"Me too." Pam laughed. "It wasn't so bad really. Should have expected it, it is Michael after all."

"The onus was on us." Jim said.

"Totally on us."

"Seriously. You don't mind everyone knowing?" Jim coughed. "Because you know….."

Pam nodded. "Kind of blows the tape off the whole nothing official, no labels thing, doesn't it."

"Wasn't what I was going to say. I meant there's a whole other level of interference now."

"Oh. Oh yeah." she said thoughtfully. "Ah, screw 'em."

"That's the spirit, Beesly." Jim smiled warmly at her. "No one else matters. Nothing is changed, right? Still the way you want it, okay."

Pam returned the smile. How quickly things change, her emotions like a tornado – right then her earlier panic attack felt like it happened years ago. She slid over on the couch and settled next to him, leaning against his shoulder. Weakly he tried to caution her away, reiterating he was still contagious but she didn't care. His hot fingers slid over her hand, twining their fingers together.

"My parents should be here soon." Pam said absently.

They sat in silence, perfectly content with each others company. No words were needed. Jim's head had dropped onto her shoulder, his breathing steady and rhythmically peaceful. She smiled again, rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb, happy to let him continue to sleep against her. She wasn't going anywhere soon.

Chapter 9 by OfficeWriter

 

"What about over there, by the window? It would look beautiful with the sun shining on it." Helene suggested, pointing to a small round table.

 

"Okay." Pam said agreeably. William let out an exaggerated groan and once again heaved the heavy lamp into his arms.

"Right there." Helene said, her fingernail tapping against the tabletop. William grunted pointedly and shuffled over to the spot she was motioning to.

"Wait." Helene held up a hand to her husband, ignoring the exasperated glare he threw at her. Lifting the little table, she shifted it sideways another couple of inches, stepping back to admire the placement.

"Perfect." she announced confidently.

William coughed. "Are you sure? I'd hate to miss an opportunity to experience a hernia."

Helene chose to ignore his complaining. "Don't drop it." she cautioned, eliciting a string of muttered griping about fussy women and the things men put up with. Finally the lamp was in place on the table.

"There. Doesn't it give the room a little color?"

Pam nodded dutifully. "Thanks mom. It looks good." she said, flinching internally at the flat disinterest in her own voice. She was truly grateful that her parents had thought to bring such a nice gift for her new home, but her capacity for healthy expression of emotion had increasingly dulled in the months following her escape from Roy. It was a pretty lamp indeed, and certainly it was expensive; but now that she had been living on her own she had begun to settle in her grief, the long process of coming to grips with all that she had been dragged through, all that she'd dragged everyone else through. And now there was this certain hardening around her inner feelings, a calcifying of the tears into some sort of self preservation – a new wall that was forming, trapping her inside with a fresh numbness.

Excitement was a feeling she'd long forgotten. She was overly cautious. In her own flat voice she heard little trace of the person she was as a young girl, a voice curious and vivacious. She was possessed of a practical strangers voice at times, a stranger stranded on a strange shore. How she reacted to everything, everyone around her had changed.

Except for Jim.

Somehow, around Jim so much of her old self would come back to the surface, her masks and disguises just simply fell away. Even, her mom, to an extent, was subject to this new, conflicting version of herself. Now, looking at Helene's soft, slightly hurt eyes, she hurried to reassure her.

"It's beautiful, mom. Thank you very much."

Helene smiled. "How's Jim doing? Any better?"

"Yeah, a bit. Think his fever's starting to break now."

"I'm sorry we pulled you away from him this evening – we wanted to bring the lamp up here while it was still light out."

"We?" William exclaimed indignantly.

Pam smiled at the two of them "I'll get you a drink, Dad. Coffee?"

"That would be nice, thank you." William nodded. Pam turned to Helene, eyebrows raised.

"Yes please." she answered.

Pam moved into the small kitchen and plucked two mugs out of the cupboard, reaching up to see if she had any biscuits.

"Come on, Iron Man." she heard Helene jest from the other room. Seconds later the couch creaked. She put the water on, fragments of her parents conversation drifting into the kitchen.

"Good." her father said.

There was a sound, somewhat like a sigh followed by a groaning from the couch as one of them settled themselves.

"You mustn't give him a hard time." Helene said placidly.

"I won't." William replied. "Doesn't mean I can't still put him through the paces though."

"He's not Roy." Helene pointed out.

"Thank god for that. I just worry about her."

In the kitchen, Pam slowly stirred a teaspoon clockwise around a steaming coffee mug. A shy smile reached her lips and she tucked her hair behind her ear, touched - and a little amused – by their conversation.

Attempting to feign an expression of innocence, she carried the two mugs into the other room.

"I'm sorry I don't have any biscuits." she said apologetically.

"Scandalous." William chuckled. Helene threw him a disapproving glare.

"You've not got much done here," Helene observed, glancing around the small room. "Would you like some help unpacking the rest of your things?"

"Oh no." Pam said hurriedly, embarrassed by the offer. "I've got stuff in storage still." she flushed.

"How about we go pick some of it up for you then?" William suggested.

"No, Dad, really it's fine." she stressed. She noticed Helene observing her worriedly, but fortunately her mother simply pursed her lips and didn't comment any further. Pam quickly changed the subject.

"So, what did you want to talk to me about?" she asked, feeling her shoulders tense as her parents exchanged an awkward look. She know them well, their parent language screaming in full force in front of her. She shifted on her seat slightly, bracing herself for an unwelcome conversation.

"Well… er.. you see, Pam, it's like this...your mom and I… well we er.. actually we came into Scranton last week – we had something we wanted to do and, well…"

"For goodness sake William," Helene sighed. "Pammy, we understand you might be angry at us for what we're going to tell you. That was never our intention. But we do have to tell you this."

"What mom?" Pam said as her mom hesitated. William looked tired, nervously tapping a staccato rhythm with his shoe. "Dad?" she said when her mom didn't continue.

William cleared his throat before he spoke up. "It's like your mom said, Pam. We don't want to upset you at all. However," the man said, glancing at his wife. "However, last week your mom and I… well… we went to see Roy."

Pam stared at her parents wordlessly, feeling as the though the bottom had just dropped out of her stomach.

Of all the things that had gone through her mind, this she had not expected. She held her stare, her eyes wide and unfocused. She could see them bracing themselves, waiting for her to get upset, to perhaps lash out at them. She shook her head slowly, her forehead creasing.

"Why?" she managed to say. It barely came out more than a whisper, a soft little girl voice she hadn't used in years.

Helene leaned forward, her hand moving to gently lay on top of her daughters. Pam flicked her eyes upward hostilely and pulled her arm backwards, not missing the dull hurt that flew into her mothers eyes.

"Please try to understand, Pammy." Helene spoke softly, looking at her daughter with such love that Pam felt such an urge to scream at her. The topic of Roy did not go hand in hand with actions of loving feelings. She felt dirty, sitting there on the couch, at the mere mention of his name.

"We had to see him, to try to understand it ourselves. We had to confront him, to make it clear to him how disappointed we are, how angry at him. To try to help us move forward." William explained.

"How?" Pam said hotly. "By going behind my back? By making me into some weak little thing who needs her parents to fight her battles?"

"Pammy, it's okay-"

"Don't call me Pammy. Pam, poor little Pam who can't take care of herself. Is that it?"

"No, honey, nobody is saying that, please calm down-"

"Dad." Pam spoke tightly. "I just…. I just…" suddenly her hot fury deflated. She was tired. "I just wasn't expecting this, that's all."

"We only stayed about an hour. He really didn't have much to say. Mostly he cried, probably hoping we would feel sorry for him." Helene explained.

"Why?" Pam repeated, refusing to meet her mothers eyes, absently tugging at a loose thread at the hem of her shirt.

"Listen. We've been so furious at Roy for what he did to you. And all we saw was the Roy he wanted us to see. When I think of how he treated you all those years, how he then came to us and sold himself as the best son in law we could ever imagine. Don't you think it's taken its toll on us too? We felt we had to talk to him, for you, for us. Can you understand?"

Pam gritted her teeth together. "No, Dad, I really can't understand. I put it away, you see. I put him away, I made myself forget all of the… everything. Why couldn't you just do the same? Why did you have to go see him?"

"You're my daughterPam." William stressed earnestly. "You think I was just going to let him off scot-free? When I think of what he has done to you I just, I get so angry. I wanted him to know how angry I am."

Pam closed her eyes, shaking her head in disbelief. "Mom?"

"Don't blame your Mom." William said calmly, before Helene could speak. "It was my idea. She came along to keep things civil."

"I didn't want your father and Roy ending up as cellmates." Helene added, trying unsuccessfully to lighten the mood.

Pam shrugged non committally. "Did he admit it?"

The flat, empty voice was back. Pam lowered her eyes, waiting for a response from her parents.

"I'm sorry, honey." William said. "He's a coward."

"Yeah." Pam sighed. Deep inside she felt an unbelievable hurt that they had done this, behind her back, and now just telling her when it was too late for her to object to it. "Why are you telling me now?" she added crossly.

Another shared look between the two raised her frustrations further. She was sick to the stomach, sick, tired and utterly fed up. She shouldn't have to go through her life with Roy attached to her like a ball and chain. He shouldn't still be able to hurt her.

Deep down she knew her parents hadn't intended to hurt her, wouldn't never do anything to purposely hurt her, but right then her swirling emotions had taken her over, clouding the rational part of herself.

"It's just that…" Helene sighed. "Roy told his mom and his mom called us."

"Told us to back off." William continued.

"We were worried either of them might have contacted you." Helene finished. Pam simply looked at her again with hurt filled eyes.

"They didn't." she said decisively. She was rapidly cycling through emotions, calm, angry, frustrated, calm anger and decided she wanted to end this conversation.

"I should go back to Jim's." she said, standing up. "He's not well and he's on his own."

Pam took one look at Helene's hurt face and instantly loathed herself. Her kind, loving mom, struggling to maintain her composure. Pam hated having done this to her, having put her through everything, as angry and frustrated as she was at that moment, she still was her daughter, still felt the familiar pull of love eating away at her conscience.

"I'm sorry, Mom. Dad. You can stay here tonight if you don't want to drive back. I'll come back later if Jim is doing okay. I think maybe we need a few hours away from each other right now, don't you?"

Helene nodded, but didn't look happy about it.

"But Pam-"

"Let her go William." Helene said gently. "She knows what's best for her."

Pam felt a lump rush into her throat, and before she knew it, she had thrown her arms around her mothers neck tightly. Tears pricked her eyelids. Helene was startled at first but soon her hands had moved to rub her daughters back up and down.

"Thank you." Pam said, pushing back from the hug. Helene nodded, her lips quivering with emotion.

"Please give Jim our best and tell him we hope to see him soon." Helene instructed her daughter. Pam smiled thinly, turning towards the front door.

"Hey?" William said, holding his arms out to his daughter.

Pam went to him.

-TO-

In the short time she had been back to her apartment – she couldn't bring herself to call it her home – Jim looked much better in himself. His color was more or less normal and he was alert and sitting up on the couch. Dark half moons lay heavily under his eyes, betraying his attempt to come across as almost fully recovered. Pam wasn't fooled.

She had fussed over him again, checking his temperature, making him some toast and retrieving him a clean blanket. He pretended to be put out by her attention but she could read him as easily as the alphabet; she know he was delighted by her hovering around him the way she was. When she had finally satisfied herself that he was indeed okay and not about to fall into another feverish daze, she sat down next to him on the couch and settled herself there quietly.

She brooded. She felt angry by the perceived betrayal, yet conflictingly she also felt she could understand her parents reasoning for going to visit Roy. Truthfully, she was surprised that he even agreed to see them. Of course, she remembered very well how much Roy had seemed to like her parents – certainly he always displayed his best, mostly gentlemanly behaviour around them.. And she knew that her parents, especially her dad, loved Roy almost like their own son. She understood that her parents would feel betrayed by him. Her anger though, was not that they had visited her ex fiance and abuser, but yet at the decision to keep their visit a secret from her. She thought she would have talked them out of it if she'd been given the opportunity. She supposed they knew that though, and she certainly knew they wouldn't have wanted to hurt her.

She mulled it over. Returning to Jim's gave her a little distance from the issue- she hadn't been trying to punish her parents by leaving. Neither did she want to burden Jim with yet more of her incessant problems. While it was true that she worried about leaving him alone when he was sick, that was only part of the reason she'd returned.

Jim was comparable to a gentle rainstorm. Between the two of them he was the calm, rational one. He was level headed to her dramatics, he possessed a confidence that she didn't. He was the rock, steady and resolute, unmoving in the stormy waters around him. Just being around him put things into perspective, calmed her frayed nerves.

As they sat, Jim watched her curiously. They had made small talk, Pam urging him to get some sleep. Finally Jim playfully nudged at her with his elbow, doing little more than tickling her. She turned her head to the side, frowning.

"Hey. What's happened tonight?" Jim said. Pam flinched; sometimes she really forgot how well he knew her. She couldn't get away with much with him, he wouldn't let her get away with anything if thought he could help her with it.

"Hey?" he repeated when she didn't turn back to him. He lovingly stroked his fingers through her curls, dismay rising in him. Her small shoulders were shaking up and down. In seconds he had moved closer to her, wrapping his arms around her, her tears falling quickly onto his shoulder.

"Love, it's alright." he said in a soft voice. "You're okay."

Pam let out a sob against him. "I'm sorry." she cried.

Jim held her tighter. "You idiot." he said fondly. "Don't apologize. I told you before, that word is banned."

Pam lifted her head back, pulling out of his embrace slightly. Jim frowned again, shocked at the sight of her. Her face was red and blotchy, tears falling fast down her face, her eyes tired and swollen.

"What's going on?" he asked her quickly, pulling her back against his chest.

"It's stupid really." she said through tears. "My mom and dad went to see Roy in jail."

"Huh?" Jim said, dumbfounded.

"My dad has been so mad at him...he's really cut up about everything… I feel awful I've hurt him so much." she wept, pressing her face into his shoulder.

Jim swore internally. "Roy hurt him. Not you."

"But I-"

"You didn't do anything wrong. None of this is your fault." he assured her again. Gently he rubbed her back, trying to comfort her as best as he could.

"I don't know why this upset me so much." she mumbled against him. "I just.. I thought I had it away, behind me and then… I remember everything. I can't make it go away. I remember how much it hurt. Things he said to me, things he did to me. I just want to forget but I can't."

"There's a lot you haven't told us about things that Roy did to you isn't there?" Jim said boldly, acting on an earlier hunch. She sniffled loudly in his arms, not moving, not wanting to move away from him. A strange, unfamiliar feeling was crawling up inside her- a feeling of security, a sense of being protected. Never before had she felt as safe as she did right then.

"Why did he do it?" she muttered darkly. "Why won't he admit to it?"

"I'm sorry." Jim felt his heart ripping at the sight of her in so much pain. She didn't deserve this at all. "Everything's going to be alright. Nothing like that will ever happen to you again." he promised, looking down at the shivering mess in his arms.

"Why can't I forget?" she asked again. She shuddered against him. "Why can't he?"

"One step at a time, Beesly." he said kindly. "Let's get through tonight, and we'll work out a gameplan tomorrow."

Gently he slid his fingers under her chin, lifting her face up out of his chest slightly. Lowering his head, he slowly pressed his lips against her mouth in a light, gentle kiss before pulling back. Heart swelling with feeling for her, and buoyed that she didn't pull away from him, Jim lovingly lingered a second kiss against her temple, then relaxed back as her head again nestled into the cleft between his chest and shoulder.

After a comfortable silence, he spoke again. "I will never, ever hurt you the way Roy did. Never."

He felt her body tense up in his arms before she replied in a small voice. "Promise?"

"With my life." he told her, meaning every word.

"Jim?"

"Yeah?" he looked down at her again.

"I never want to hurt you either." she said, and relaxed into him.

Chapter 10 by OfficeWriter

The apartment was empty again.

She lay curled up in the corner of her couch once more, head resting wearily against the arm. Despite the simmering tension between her and her parents following their confession about visiting Roy, Pam still hadn't wanted them to leave.

She'd never been alone before. Not like this. Alone with the memories, the history, her thoughts. It was her second weekend in the apartment and the first time she had ever lived by herself. She was teetering precariously on the edge of snatching up her cell phone and begging Helene to come back.

Too much time to think was not good for her. She now had the whole day to fill and nothing to do. Except brood. So many things she had lost control of, there was so much she couldn't change in her life. She didn't want to be alone. She didn't want to be a burden to anyone, to force her company on anyone.

"You're weak." she heard Roy say. "You'd never make it on your own."

She couldn't count the times he'd told her varying versions of that – poor weak Pam, not able to do anything for herself. She was the girl who messed up even simple things like picking up the groceries, she was the girl who couldn't keep a house clean, she was the girl who definitely couldn't make her man happy.

"You know what your trouble is?" Roy spoke again. "You need me. If I wasn't here you'd probably be killed crossing the street."

Pam groaned and turned over on the couch, pushing her face into the back rest.

"Shut up." She mumbled at the phantom voice in her head. "Go away Roy."

It was the phone call that had brought Roy back to life. Almost immediately after her parents had said their goodbyes and gone on home, her cell had rung.

Her court lawyer. Roy's court case had been set. She hadn't expected it to be so quick. She'd thought it was going to be months and months, maybe a year before she had to face him again. But eight weeks? Eight weeks? It was nerve shattering. She wasn't prepared for this. She wasn't. She'd have to go through it yet again with the lawyers, with the court, all over again. How was she expected to face him after she was the reason he was sitting in prison? Knowing the things only she and Roy knew about their life together. The private things. The nights he had woken her-

She cut off her train of thought abruptly. No. Her stomach filled with angry bumblebees as the mere thought of seeing him again, even in a room full of other people. She blinked hard.

Who was she kidding. She faced him every day.

The phone call had at least lessened her feeling of betrayal towards her mom and dad. What did it matter now. She had been angry simply for the fact they had so much as mentioned Roy, for bringing him back in to her life vicariously when what she really was trying to do was deny he ever existed.

"Your dad sure told him off." Helene had said.

She had felt a little spark of triumph at that – a little one at least – and a little gratified that her dad had felt she was important enough for him to actually go into a prison and confront her ex fiance like that. Roy had been wrong when he told her that no one else cared for her. She knew that. She had her family, her mom, dad, Penny. She had Jim. Her hand drifted up to her throat, unconsciously stroking the soft flesh, no longer wearing the ropy red bruises Roy had left her with. She inhaled deeply, feeling the air flow smoothly in and out of her body; a practice she had begun to employ almost compulsively in the last few months. It almost always worked; in those moments when she felt phantom hands squeezing her neck tight, when she was sure her cheeks were throbbing from lack of air and her head was beginning to pound; a deep breath opening all the airways calmed her nerves.

The choking was something that had begun during the latter years of her relationship with Roy. He had always moved quickly, catching her off guard. They never had arguments, only fights. What would it be like when she and Jim fought? Would they shout, scream at each other? Would they throw things? Would she panic and make things worse, making Jim feel she could never trust him? Pam lifted her hand, rubbing her temples in frustration.

She needed to do something. Heavy exhaustion weighted down her muscles, the repercussions of multiple nights of poor sleep and unrestful periods of wakefulness. Pam wearily pushed herself up and slowly made her way into the kitchen. It was far from her favorite place in the apartment; it was dark and dreary and the faded white-yellow of the walls was just one more depressing thing in her life. Still, she opened cupboards and searched shelves for items that she wanted. She needed to busy her hands; she needed to keep moving. She needed to outrun him, outrun Roy or he would forever be catching hold of her and she would always be in his grip. She needed to keep him out of her mind. She set to work, feeling comforted in just doing something so primitive as cooking, something so natural.

As she measured, chopped and stirred her memory floated back to the night at the art gallery, drawing a genuine smile across her lips.

She did not think of Roy at all.

-TO-

"Hey!" Jim drew out the word, clearly happy to see her. Catching hold of her upper arm, he leaned forward, his warm lips brushing softly against her cheek.

"You can use your key, you know." he said, pulling back. Pam smiled.

"Hands were full. How are you feeling?" she asked, feeling the warmth of his kiss spreading through her limbs. "You look better. Passable, even."

"Why thank you. I might have even showered today."

Pam lifted up the tupperware container in her hands. "Good. You think you can force yourself to eat some chili?"

Jim's eyes widened, a look of gratitude forming over his features. "Well that depends." he said playfully. "If someone is going to eat it with me."

Pam chuckled at his expression, a hilarious mix of mischievous and longing together. Happy to see him looking so much better, she nodded at him.

"Someone might." she teased. "If someone else doesn't complain about her doing the dishes afterwards, and agrees to allow her to check his temperature before they eat."

"Deal." he quickly replied with a laugh. Pam put the tupperware box down on the small hall table and turned back to Jim, tilting her head to the side.

"Of course, there is one other condition first." she said softly, fluttering her eyelashes at him flirtatiously.

"Oh." he smirked. "And what demands have you this evening Ms Beesly?"

Pam stepped forward a little closer to him. "Kiss me."

She looked up at Jim, his warm green eyes wide and swimming with love. "Come here." he whispered slowly, slipping a hand around her hip and gently pulling her towards him. The gap between them closed, Jim inclined his head towards her, his lips reaching down and softly caressing hers. Heat grew between them as she leaned into him, shivering slightly as she slid her arms up around his neck.

He had dreamed about this moment for so long. The moment where she finally gave into it, where it was right and genuine, and exactly what it was supposed to be. And she had initiated it. In his head he had seen this very moment, he had expected fireworks, electricity; expected that their bodies would fit together as well as their personalities did, to discover they were in sync in every way.

He was not disappointed.

-TO-

Jim looked fondly at the woman snuggled against him on the couch. Pam had been as good as her word, cleaning up after dinner and doing the dishes and the drying. She then slipped back into the living room, sidling herself on the couch next to Jim.

She wasn't sure what had gotten into her tonight. Ever since she had arrived she had felt an uncontrollable need to be close to him, to be as physically close as possible. Now she lay pressed up against his side, under the safety of his arm, feeling warm and a good deal happier than she had felt in years.

"How long did the lawyer say the case would last?" Jim asked.

"About a week, maybe less." she said evenly. She shifted her head, yawning. "Let's not talk about… that… tonight. Let's have a nice night off."

"Okay." he said amiably.

"Okay."

Jim snorted. "You sure are bossy tonight Beesly. I think I'm gonna have to watch out for you."

"You'd better." Pam said, amused.

"Bossy new Beesly." Jim teased.

"Think you can handle it, Halpert?" she said, yawning again against his chest.

"Bring it, Beesly." he laughed. He was certain he knew what she was doing – she was testing him, whether she knew it or not. He was gratified that she was starting to show some signs of asserting herself and becoming the person she was meant to be, even though the process was slow. That was okay with him. She could be as demanding as she wanted, for the next ten years as far as he was concerned; the fact she was starting to really trust him, feel safe with him meant so much more to him than anything. That was something you could build a solid relationship on.

They sat together like that on the couch for the rest of the evening, until Jim had to get up to answer his cell phone. Grabbing it off of the kitchen counter, he chatted affably with Pete for around ten minutes. When he returned he couldn't help but smile at the sight of her, curled up against a cushion on the couch, heavily sleeping.

He fetched another blanket, laying it over her and sat back down next to her.

An hour passed and she was still sleeping soundly. Jim stood up and stretched, grunting as he noticed that it had gone eleven. He eyed the sleeping woman thoughtfully. Kneeling down in front of her, he lightly laid a hand on her shoulder and rubbed gently.

"Beesly?"

Pam did not stir.

"Bee-eesly?" he whispered again. He didn't want to raise his voice or shake her roughly, out of concern for frightening her. They'd had such a nice evening.

"Pam?" he whispered once more, lightly patting her shoulder. Still she didn't so much as twitch an eyelid in response. Her breathing was relaxed, deep and heavy, smooth and natural.

Jim smiled at her, making a decision he hoped would not upset – scare – her if she happened to wake up. Gently sliding his hands under her side, he carefully lifted her up into his arms. Pam moaned softly, shifting comfortably, but did not wake. Slowly he made his way up the stairs, entering the small spare room. There he walked to the bed, Pam still in his arms, and laid her down carefully, adjusting the pillow and covers for her comfort. He stood watching her for a few minutes, and then, confident she was showing no signs of waking, he went off to his own room.

-TO-

She couldn't breathe – the rough, punishing hands were back, circling her throat, tearing at her skin. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. The hands were clamping tighter now and she began to drown in panic. Before she knew it, she was sitting upright in the dark, choking in deep ragged breaths of air. She reached a hand up to her throat reflexively. Her face was cool with with wet tears shed during sleep.

She looked around the room frantically, things starting to come into focus. She saw the familiar bed covers, the well known angle of the window adjacent to the bed. Panting for breath, Pam quickly flicked the lamp switch next to her, chasing away the shadows from the room.

Massaging her throat, she was filled with an almost uncontrollable terror. She knew it was just a nightmare, knew it was not real, but that did not stop the very real fear she felt from overwhelming her. Someone could have broken in. Roy could have broken out. Things like that happened all the time, it was on the news every week. Anything could happen. Roy was not done with her. She sat, frozen, tormenting herself.

According to the little alarm clock on the nightstand beside her, it was around twenty past three. Somewhere in the dark outside, an owl hooted. A car horn beeped loudly, causing her to flinch violently in the bed. Tired, she was still so tired.

Before she understood fully what she was doing, she had slipped out of the bed and was out of the room in seconds. Sneaking through the hall, she stopped outside Jim's door, carefully pushing the door open as quietly as possible. Soft light from the window fell over his sleeping person, he was sprawled out arms and legs all over the place, head pushed into his pillow.

Silently she crept over to the bed. As carefully as she could, to avoid waking him, she straightened out the covers over him. Pam stood, uncertainly, staring down at him. She didn't think she could explain it, certainly didn't want to explain it, the simple fact that the nightmare had been so real she felt as though it had actually happened. She did not feel safe. She made her way round to the other side of Jim's bed, carefully climbing in next to him. There she lay, breathing in the warm comforting fresh smell of him that she so loved, inexplicably – desperately – wanting to hug him.

As if by telekinesis, Jim shifted, mumbled and rolled over, coming face to face with her. Green eyes sleepily opened, unfocused.

"You okay, love?" he mumbled, his voice husky. Pam nodded vigorously, despite the warm tears trickling down her cheeks.

"Nightmare?" Jim asked. Unable to reply, Pam simply nodded again. Before she could move, he was up close, next to her, pulling her against him, her shivering body soaking up the warmth from his body. His arms slid round her protectively.

"You're alright, my love." Jim whispered tiredly, holding her against him. Pam lay awake for some time longer, shaking slightly but feeling safe and content enough against him. Soon the comforting heat of his body began to lull her back to sleep. She slowly started to drift off, feeling safe in the knowledge that Jim wasn't going to hurt her.

Chapter 11 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
A/N - Skyflakes - no - afraid not. I was never a fan of the documentary crew or that whole storyline in the show. So, definitely do not exist here. Thank you xxxxxxxx

"Stop whatever you are doing there, Jimbo, just stop. If that's some kind of work just let it go. We have real work to do. We are going on a major coup. Word is that Dunder Mifflin is going to be the suppliers for PP and S. So you me, Dwight, we're going on a road trip."

Jim leaned back casually. "Word?" he said suspiciously.

Michael beamed. "Oh yes. We're going to make a monster sale. Yes. We are going to kill it and set fire to the ashes. Only we won't because we're a paper company and we can't be the paper company who are also arsonists. That's not our slogan. Leave that to Corcoran."

"Hmmm." Jim mused. "Really. PP & S just decided they want to switch to Dunder Mifflin. No pitch, no deal? That's.. interesting."

Tapping the younger man on the shoulder, Michael turned to face reception. "Pam, Pam, my right hand Pam; take a memo. We are leaving today as salesmen and we will return as salesheroes. We are going to tear PP & S apart. Pun intended."

"Uh, okay." Pam said, humoring him.

Michael leaned over the desk to whisper confidentially to her. "Have you got the incentives?"

Pam nodded at him, stretching down and picking up two small silver gift bags. "Want them now?"

"I trust you told no one?" said Michael, reaching to take them from her.

Pam visibly struggled to maintain a straight face. "I was very vigilant. I don't know what anyone might conclude from me going into the bath-"

"Good work, Octopammy." Michael interrupted, spinning round on his heel. "Come, boys, let's go become men."

Pam couldn't help but laugh at the identical expressions that both Jim and Dwight had. Michael's eyes were bright, alert, his body agile and excited. Whatever his crazy plan was, he sure was fired up about it.

"Oh please," Michael said, catching sight of Jim's look of distaste. He rolled his eyes. "Take your mind out of the sewer, Jim."

Dwight immediately jumped to Michael's side, giving Jim a stern look. "That's right, Jim, this is a place of business!"

"We're taking our own cars, right?" Jim asked, lazily wheeling side to side on his chair.

"We are not. It's the journey, not the destination, Jim. Us three men, out on the open road-"

"For the half hour it takes to get there." Jim pointed out.

Michael pointedly ignored Jim. "Embracing the unexpected-"

"Gatecrashing a private office."

"-Broadening our horizons-"

"In unplanned sales calls."

"-Renewing our faith in the world, Jim. A la the Griswolds." Michael said, irritated. "On your feet."

Jim rolled back on his chair. "Oh, we're going now?" he said, a hint of sarcasm in his tone. Walking to the right of reception, he reached up for his jacket. "As long as we're clear on this, this is a really bad idea."

"Just get moving, Jim. Dwight, come on. No man left behind." Michael said, waving them forward.

"The Griswolds left the old lady behind." Jim pointed out, winking at Pam as he walked by.

"And the dog too." Pam added unhelpfully.

"Just shut up and get out!" Michael uttered hastily. "Bunch of morons." he grumbled to himself as he followed Dwight out the office door.

-TO-

"A toilet roll?" Dwight said, putting his head between the two front seats. Jim turned to look at him.

"What?"

"Incentives." Michael said, looking straight ahead. Jim prodded his own bag open and got a glimpse of white tissue paper before he set the bag down by his feet.

"Ah. Very practical. Important to establish a system if the worst happens." Dwight said approvingly.

Michael pulled out of the parking lot. "What? No." He said, looking at Dwight in the mirror. "The toilet rolls are to inspire you."

Jim groaned, not for the first time that day wishing he'd stayed home. He had his own sales call to make, one that really counted for his commission and yet, here he was. "Toilet paper?"

Michael nodded sharply. "Yes. Do you know why? It's representative. Because we are either on a roll or we're taking shit from an asshole. Which do you wanna be, Jim?"

Jim couldn't answer. "Oh come now." Michael said. "Every time you are about to do something stupid, I want you to look at that toilet paper, and remember we are here to take no crap from anyone. We are going to flush this one out of the park. We stand our ground and get the sale."

"Right. Especially since Corcoran already has a supplier-"

"For now, Jim." Michael interrupted.

"-that they are perfectly happy with-"

"They just don't know it yet." Michael added.

"-and have no plans to change." Jim finished.

"They just don't know how much they need us. Yet."

Jim sighed. "Just so we're agreed this is a really bad idea and I am not onboard with this at all?"

"Be a team player, Jim." Dwight added.

Jim shook his head and made a point of staring out the window at the moving cars. He'd had a great weekend, mostly spent with Pam, who was warming up to him much quicker than he expected. She had looked out for him while he was sick, he had found himself really touched by the care she put into looking after him. Things were on the right path and he knew it. He could be patient with her, he was happy to let things go at her pace. The way he saw it they had their whole lives to work on their relationship, to enjoy every moment and be there for each other. So it was hopeful thoughts of his future with Pam, the only woman he knew for certain he ever loved with all his heart and soul, that he drifted into; drowning out the foolishness beside him in the form of Dwight and Michael.

In his mind, he was back in his bedroom, a sleeping angel pressed up against him, trusting him. In his mind she was in the car with them, her sweet delicate fragrance drifting into him, reminding him he could deal with anything as long as he knew he would see her again at the end of the day.

-TO-

Pam was carefully carrying a steaming cup of cocoa back to reception when she spotted the lady struggling into the office. It was a warm day out and this woman looked absolutely shrivelled, dehydrated even. To Pam's growing consternation, she could see her face reddening as the woman leaned against the wall for balance. Quickly dropping her cocoa onto Jim's desk as she hurried by, she approached the lady, who was quietly drawing in deep, controlled breaths and sweating profusely.

"Hi," Pam said, somewhat nervously. "Erm are you okay? Would you like to sit down a moment?" Pam motioned to the grey chairs reserved for visitors. The woman nodded gratefully and allowed Pam to take her arm kindly to lead her to one of the chairs.

"Would you like some water?" Pam asked once she was seated. The woman nodded again. In quick fashion Pam was back with a cup of cold water, handing it to the trembling hands of the lady in front of her.

"Thank you." The woman breathed. Pam could see relief flood across the red face and felt herself relax a little.

"Do you feel sick, or dizzy?" Pam said, looking at her with concern. She sat herself down next to the woman. "Should I call somebody for you? Do you need medication?"

The woman lifted her head. Pam instantly noticed the pretty hazel eyes she had – sort of a sea green hue – an almost perfect mix of blue-green. She thought they were the prettiest eyes she had even seen before. She felt mesmerized by them. The woman was taking small sips from the cup, her color slowly fading back to what passed for normal. She looked at Pam curiously, dropping the hand with the cup to her lap.

"Oh." Pam stuttered, realizing that she'd been staring. "I'm sorry. I'm just worried about you. Can I do anything for you?"

The woman appeared touched by her kindness and managed to draw a smile. Now that her color was fleshing out again, Pam could see she was younger than she had initially thought at first glance and really quite attractive.

"Bathrooms are over there if you feel sick." Pam said helpfully.

Shaking her head carefully, the woman smiled again. "Oh no, dear, don't you worry about me. I'm feeling much better now, thank you very much. I'm afraid I didn't realize it was going to be so hot out today and I've travelled a bit of a distance this morning."

Pam smiled in return, immediately liking her. The woman had a charming, light way of speaking, her voice soft and appealing. "Please, just take your time. Ask me for anything you need, okay?"

"You're very kind." The lady said genuinely.

"How are you feeling?" Pam asked, eyeing the woman worriedly. Despite the overheated color fading from her red cheeks, she was still drawing in slow deep breaths – Pam certainly didn't want to have to leave her while she called for first aid.

"Much better now I've had the time to sit and cool down." she replied.

"Are you sure?" Pam pressed. "I can get you some more water or…." she trailed off.

"Please don't put yourself out. I really am feeling much stronger now. Happens all the time. My fault for wandering around in this sun like I did."

Pam nodded sympathetically.

"Who have you come to see?" she asked, racking her brain. She couldn't remember that Michael had any appointments that morning. It was possible Toby might be interviewing someone for Ryan's job, she supposed. "Michael, our manager, is out of the office at the moment but you can wait here or reschedule if you want?"

The woman shook her head, tiny beads of sweat dripping off her face. "No, thank you. I came to see my son actually. He's a salesman."

"What's his name?" Pam said, grateful to have something she could do for the woman. "I'll go find him for you."

The woman coughed into her hand, her face flushing again. Pam waited while she sipped some more water and got herself under control.

"Jim." she replied, her voice husky. Delicately the woman cleared her throat. "His name is Jim."

Pam hesitated, reeling back in surprise. "Jim Halpert?" she asked, unsure of what she was supposed to do. Jim hadn't mentioned his mother coming to visit him. Maybe he wouldn't want her and Pam to meet this way, without him there to introduce them properly. Surely he wouldn't have gone on a sales call knowing she was coming?

Another thought struck her, filled her with a little horror. Suppose Jim did know she was coming, suppose he did want them to meet?

Wait, she told herself. They'd only been dating a very short time. Jim wouldn't be so presumptuous as to think he could do something so momentous as introducing her to his mother so early on.

"Yes. Jim Halpert. My son." the woman told her proudly. "I'm Betsy, his mother, of course."

Pam's own face burned as she face her partners mother. "Oh, I'm really sorry, he's out on a sales call with Michael, our boss, they are trying to make a big client and I'm really not sure when they'll be back." Pam said, knowing she was rambling.

"I could try to reach him, if that would help?" Pam said, taking in the woman beside her. Now she felt a fool for not seeing it straight away, the hairline, the same dark shade of hair, the same wide shape of the mouth. The calm, gentle manner Betsy displayed – it was so characteristically Jim that she kicked herself.

"Oh, no, let's not disturb him while he's working." Betsy said. "My fault for not telling him I was coming. I wanted to surprise him. He's been sick recently and I knew he'd tell me not to fuss if I said I wanted to come visit."

Pam smiled. "Well, that's his desk right there." she pointed.

Betsy closed her eyes, giving a small amused shake of her head. "Messy as always."

Pam laughed a little, feeling herself more at ease with the woman. "Yeah." she agreed. Betsy turned to her, placing the cup on the seat beside her.

"I'm just wondering…" she said. "Are you Pam, by any chance?"

She didn't think it was possible for her face to burn with heat any more than it was already. She met the woman's kind eyes and nodded slowly. "Yes… yes I am."

"It's a real pleasure to meet you." Betsy said happily.

Pam felt her face crack into a wide smile in response.

-TO-

It was an hour or so later when the three men came grouching back into the office, grumbling at each other. Pam had moved back to reception, leaving Betsy with a whole mess of magazines, fresh coffee she had made in the kitchen and directions for the coffee house down the street if she didn't feel like waiting in the office.

Jim came in second, behind Michael. Spotting Pam he drew a quick line across his neck with his finger, rolling his eyes in silent communication. Pam got the message and wisely chose to keep quiet as Michael went past. It was then that Jim spotted his mother sitting on the couch wondering if her son was going to walk right past her obliviously.

A spark of warmth filled up in Pam as she watched Jim happily welcome his mother. Something about how pleased he was to see her touched Pam in a way she couldn't have expected. His happiness was important to her, his happiness, his joy became hers. She smiled widely, quietly watching the scene between them.

Betsy went on to tell her son how she'd felt sick coming up the stairs in to the office. Too much sun, she repeated.

"That lovely young woman there was very kind to me. A real nice girl." his mom said, her eyes twinkling. Jim, for his part, looked shocked firstly, then his face broke into a happy smile. Pam, hearing everything from her desk, flushed again and turned away, shuffling some papers in attempt to look busy.

"Pam." Michael whined, sticking his head out of his office door. She turned, eyebrows raised. "If corporate call, if Wallace calls.. tell them I'm dead, okay?"

"Uh...okay." Pam said. "And what did you die of?"

"Being fragged by my subordinates." Michael muttered.

"What?" Pam said, confused.

"Nothing. Just get in here." Michael said, ushering her to come into his office. Pam flicked on the answer machine and made her way over, giving Jim a knowing shrug and a half smile as she passed.

"So." Betsy said meaningfully. "That's Pam."

"Err, yes, yeah that was Pam." he replied. A goofy smile flushed over his face. Betsy studied him knowingly.

"Have you both finally got yourselves together?" she said bluntly, going straight to the point as always.

Jim flushed a little. "Mom. Really."

"I know you, my son. I know that girl means the world to you."

"Um, yeah – actually okay, yes we are together." he admitted. "I would have preferred this moment to have gone differently but, I guess now you know."

"It was meant to happen." Betsy said softly, mirroring her son's look of joy.

Jim shook his head, laughing and slipped an arm around her shoulders. "Come on, mom, I'll take you out for an early lunch."

"Shouldn't we wait for Pam?" Betsy pointed out.

"She has an appointment she's using her lunch break for." Jim said, knowing Pam had another counselling session that afternoon. "But we can bring her something back."

"Okay." Betsy said agreeably, walking towards the door with her son.

Picking up her purse off the couch, she sauntered through the door Jim held open, clearly much recovered from her earlier sickness.

"And Jim," Betsy said as they stepped outside. "I like her. I like her a lot."

Jim wore a huge smile all through their lunch, returning to the office feeling happy and confident.

Chapter 12 by OfficeWriter

If asked, Pam would have said that the people she and Jim worked with, the people they saw almost everyday had had no idea that she and Jim were in fact more than friends until Michael so characteristically dropped the bomb in front of the entire office, blowing up their relationship for public scrutiny.

Jim, on the other hand was much more realistic. He knew there had been talk, rumours. Suspicions. It hadn't bothered him a single bit, as long as those suspicions didn't make their way into the warehouse.

Now, anyone watching the two of them would find it difficult to not notice what Pam had denied for so many years – the mutual, natural, fire that glowed between them. The fire that would surely burn the two of them alive if they continued to deny it; to ignore it. Even the most ignorant of people could not fail to notice the signs of infatuation from one to the other. And so it was now, as Jim leaned over the reception desk, unconsciously bridging the physical gap between him and Pam without actually climbing over the desk, as Pam laughed back at him, her eyebrows raised, pupils comfortably holding Jim's gaze as he spoke – it was now the feeling between them was more obvious than if were spelled out on to the walls in neon paint.

Most of their colleagues casually observed these scenes between them with appreciative good will. Kevin, once he had got over his fit of giggles about the idea of Jim and Pam actually being together, turned out the be quite a romantic and was genuinely excited for the two. Angela remained silent on the subject but this didn't bother either Jim or Pam – Pam herself knew Angela well enough to know her silence was as good as approval. Only one person ever eyed them with any kind of almost open hostility, something that went virtually unnoticed by Jim, but Pam, being the more sensitive of the two and with a woman's intuition always picked up on the fierce flashes of envy that flew across the dark eyes. For her part, she did not flaunt Jim in from of Karen. Having the benefit of hindsight now, she was able to feel some sympathy towards the woman – after all Jim had been in Karen's position not too long ago. No. Pam found she was starting to feel good lately, happy even, and she felt she could certainly extend some of that good feeling towards Karen.

"Dwight thinks that there's a spy from Utica among us." Jim said confidentially, locking eyes with Pam, who promptly started to laugh. "He thinks there is a monitoring station set up somewhere in the ceiling."

"That's perfect!" Pam said, still laughing. "You know what – what if someone 'dropped' a spy pen or something by his desk. Maybe loosened a few ceiling panels above him."

"Maybe left some-"

"Empty coffee cups." they said together, laughing.

"Well, hello there." Betsy's pretty, soft voice carried over to the reception desk, making both Pam and Jim jump as if a shot had gone off. Jim turned to her, smiling.

"Hey, Mom." he said warmly. "I just have to grab my keys." But on facing his desk, he stopped and turned back again. "Oh, did I introduce you yet?"

Betsy beat him to it, holding out her hand. "I'm Betsy, Jim's mother. Really nice to meet you."

"Pam." she said, taking the woman warm hand in her own. "Oh, thank you for the Tiramisu."

"Jim picked it for you. I suppose you can afford to eat those kind of things with such a beautiful, slim figure. I'm afraid not all of us women are so fortunate. I feel quite envious."

Pam smiled and blushed, lost for words. Jim rolled his eyes.

"Mom!"

"Uh, Halpert. Need you downstairs. Situation in the warehouse." Another voice, more amused, entered the conversation. Jim spun round.

"Actually Nate, I was just leaving with-"

"Trust me on this, we need you down there, man. Sorry to interrupt." Nate nodded at the women. Jim made a noise in his throat, a rough, low sound somewhere between a growl and a groan.

"Mom." he said, not hiding his annoyance. "Can you wait five minutes?"

"Might be a few minutes more than that. Might be some hanging around." Nate said, smothering a laugh. Jim threw him a perplexed look.

"It's alright, Jim. Why don't you give me your keys and I'll get a cab and see you there." Betsy suggested. Jim thought for a second.

"Umm, okay." It was better than leaving his mom sitting alone in the office for however long whatever this was might take him. He moved towards his desk, stopping again at the sound of Pam's voice.

"No, wait." she was saying. "If you're going to Jim's house I can drive you. I don't mind." Pam looked at Jim, suddenly hesitant. Maybe she was being too pushy, maybe he wouldn't want her to be alone with his mom. Her mind rewound back to Roy and his hatred of Pam and his mom spending any time together. Roy had always said that no good could come of his mother and his fiancee ever talking to each other without his presence. She waited, watching Jim's expression nervously.

"That would be lovely." Betsy replied with enthusiasm, walking around to Pam's side of the desk. "You must come inside and have coffee with me in return."

"See you tomorrow Jim." Karen appeared, laying a hand on Jim's lower back as she moved past him. Pam and Betsy shared a look between them as Karen swept by, ignoring them both.

Jim laughed at the two of them, already teaming up on the other side of the desk from him. He took no notice of Karen and let her leave without his saying goodbye in reply. "Okay, great. I'll be right down." he said to Nate, who laughed loudly and headed off towards the door. Pam bent to pick up her bag, motioning to Betsy that she was getting ready to leave, who took the opportunity to excuse herself to use the bathroom first.

"I er, didn't mean to-" Pam begun, glancing at Jim now that they were practically alone, but was silenced by a quick, gentle kiss pressed against her lips.

"See you at home, Beesly." he said, pulling back, and headed off to the warehouse, leaving Pam to stare after him with a grateful half smile on her face.

-TO-

Betsy had been utterly stunned by the interior of Jim's house. She had expected her son's home to be untidy, disorderly; what she did not expect was the neat order in which things were laid out, cushions on the couch and not on the floor, not a beer can or fast food wrapper in sight. Even the carpet was suspiciously clean, looking as though it had been recently vacuumed.

"If I didn't know any better, I'd have said that my son was expecting me." she said, taking in the sight around her. With a groan she lowered herself into the chair nearest the couch. Pam watched her curiously, struck by how many of her mannerisms were so similar to Jims.

"Oh… what, you mean it's clean?" Pam said, guessing correctly that Betsy was referring to her son's naturally chaotic style of housekeeping.

"You know him well." Betsy's mouth curved into a smile.

"Are you still feeling okay?" Pam asked. Little wings of anxiety were fluttering around her stomach as she took in her position. She hadn't been dating Jim all that long – and yes, now she was willing to agree that that is exactly what they were doing – dating – and yet she realised she very much wanted his mom to like her.

"Yes, perfectly fine, thank you for asking. Just this getting old business..." She sighed.

Pam nodded and moved towards the kitchen. "Stay where you are if you want to rest a bit, I'll make some coffee."

As she was bringing back a tray with two steaming mugs and some sugar, the vintage ring tone of her cell phone startled her, making her flinch and slop coffee over the side of both of the cups on to the tray. She really needed to changed that ringtone.

Betsy stretched down and reached into her purse, pulling out a pack of tissues. "Don't trouble yourself about it. You just take your phone call." she said kindly, wiping up the spilled liquid.

Pam pressed her lips tightly together, attempting to smile at the woman. A small sigh of relief slid out as she saw Jim's name flashing on the screen.

"Hey you." she answered.

"Hey. It looks like I'm gonna be stuck here a while." Jim said apologetically. In the background she could hear multiple noises; some yelling, more laughing, some unusual scraping noise she couldn't fathom out.

"Okay where's-" she started. There was a muffled thud as the phone was pushed against a hand or shirt.

"No! No we're not doing that. Dwight! Stop!" Jim called out. The line cleared.

"Sounds like you've got your hands full." Pam said with amusement.

"Get the hell off my baler, jackass." she heard what she believed to be Darryl say. He sounded agitated. Unable to help herself, she began to laugh.

"Yeah… you'll never guess… you know what, I don't think you should miss this. I'm sending you a photo, you know, just to let you know how things are hanging." he said. Seconds later her phone beeped. Quickly she pulled the phone away from her ear, swiping over the new message.

"Oh my god!" Pam could barely contain her laughter as the picture showed. "What is he doing?"

There it was, in full glory. Michael, the regional manager of Scranton branch, lying pressed on top of the warehouse rafters, arms held tightly around a wooden beam. Not too far below she could make out Dwight, standing on the top of some kind of machine, arms stretched up towards Michael.

"Dammit Dwight." Jim cursed loudly. "Ah yeah, I should go. Dwight's just as likely to get them both killed."

"Do I want to know why Michael's up there in the first place?"

For the first time Jim let out a chuckle. "You know that balloon-"

"Got it." Pam said, through a giggle. "Listen, try your hardest to get him down safely, okay? And keep Dwight out of the way."

"I'm only one man, Pam!" There was a loud series of thumping sounds as it sounded like something fell over. "Dammit." Jim muttered again.

"Just try your hardest, okay?"

"My… really hardest?" Jim questioned wearily.

"Your best. You know you're the only one with any sense that Michael actually listens to."

She heard a sigh, then an exclamation. "Woah…ohhhh….. Uh okay, gotta go. See you later."

Pam raised her eyebrows as the call ended. She was torn between concern for Michael and well, hysterics at the absolutely absurdity of the situations Michael always seemed to fall into. In the end, she forced herself to look at the positive side and she let herself laugh.

-TO-

Betsy sat back in the chair comfortably, thanking Pam for the drink. "I do hope this isn't too intimidating for you."

Pam paused. "Intimidating?"

"Meeting your boyfriend's mother. I'm sorry it wasn't planned out more carefully."

"Oh, no… it's okay, really." Pam waved her off. Truthfully, she really didn't mind at all. Jim hadn't planned it, she felt no pressure from either of them.

"Who was that dark haired woman?" Betsy stirred sugar into her coffee, her eyes narrowed as she thought back.

Pam was lost for a moment, trying to recall who Betsy meant. "Oh. The woman who said goodbye to Jim?"

"Yes, that's the one. She was wearing a dark suit with a light shirt."

"That's Karen. She's a saleswoman." Pam said, wondering where this was going. She took a large mouthful of her own coffee, not minding the scalding heat a bit.

"Karen." Betsy repeated. "She looked like she could swallow you up in one gulp."

Pam laughed, it was a pretty accurate description, she thought. "Yes, that's her."

"It would seem she has taken a liking to my Jim." Betsy said thoughtfully. Pam's eyes widened. Jim's mom was perceptive indeed, much more so than her son. Pam hesitated, wondering how much she could trust Betsy.

"She's not the shy type." she said cautiously. Betsy put her cup down on the table, glancing at Pam.

"Oh, dear – I didn't mean- I mean you don't have anything to worry about with my son. He isn't like that at all."

Pam looked up, surprised by her bluntness. "Oh.. yeah I know. He's not." she added, embarrassed. "I don't think he'll be long now, he'll be back soon." she said, trying to change the subject. Outside, in the early darkness a car backfired loudly. Pam ducked involuntarily, her chest thumping.

Betsy studied her curiously. Pam recovered herself quickly, smiling at her and picking up her coffee again. "I hate loud noises." she said softly, trying to forge an explanation.

Jim's mom continued to look at her kindly, not failing to observe the slight shaking of Pam's hands as she clutched her coffee. She had seen Pam's eyes grow momentarily wide, darting quickly around the room, the way she had flinched into herself as though she was expecting something to happen to her.

Pam, fully aware that Betsy was staring at her, was growing uncomfortable and slightly turned her head away so she couldn't see the other woman watching her. Then a cool hand landed gently on her thigh. Pam looked back at Betsy, her forehead furrowing, anxiety stabbing at her.

"You've really been through a rough time haven't you." Betsy said softly. It wasn't a question, nor did it feel like an intrusion. It was not what she was expecting to hear at all. She had said it in such a calm, kindly manner, as though it was a perfectly natural statement to make to a woman that she barely knew. Pam felt emotion well up inside of her. She didn't answer Betsy. She didn't have to.

"Are you alright?" Betsy asked.

After a moments pause, Pam slowly nodded her head. "I will be."

Carefully Betsy patted her thigh, looking at her sons girlfriend with concern. "Please do not be angry with Jim. He's told me some things, not all I'm sure."

Pam looked back at Betsy. "Angry?"

The older woman flinched back a little at Pam's tone. "Yes. I'm sure it was 'need to know' only. We were going to come for a visit earlier this year. Jim didn't believe it was a good time."

"Oh." Pam replied. Dawning realization sank in her. "Oh. I'm really sorry about that." she said sincerely.

Betsy moved her hand and gently replaced it on top of Pam's, patting her reassuringly. "Nonsense. We understood. We were very proud of Jim for being so considerate of you."

A warm feeling, completely unlike the sharp, crushing anxiety she'd had moments ago spread through her chest. Yes. Jim was definitely his mother's son. "He's been really good to me. I'm not sure that I wouldn't still be… there…. If it wasn't for him."

"He cares about you very much."

Feeling the woman squeeze her hand, so motherly, so kindly, Pam felt a rush of affection for her. This she was not expecting. She looked up, meeting her in the eyes. "I care about him too."

Before she really understood what was happening, what she was feeling, Pam found herself telling Jim's mom about Roy, her life with Roy. She talked easily, finding Betsy a compassionate and attentive listener. The woman didn't seem the least bit judgemental, nor false and Pam felt herself able to open up more as they spoke. She was kind, letting Pam speak and offering reassurances, never once making Pam feel inadequate or foolish for having gotten involved – and stayed – with a man like Roy Anderson. Liking the woman more and more, she was perfectly at ease in the company of her partners mother.

-TO-

Jim returned back to the house around eight, after driving his mom back home. He was feeling good, despite the long day he had had, with Michael antics at both ends, and with his mom turning up unannounced and then, of course, there was Pam. He had been worried about her, how she might react to meeting his mother, worried she might feel pressured, might think that he had set it all up.

But on opening the door when he came home the first time, after Michael was finally back on his feet on the ground and Darryl was busily – loudly - telling him and Dwight exactly what he thought of them and their intelligence, when he opened the door and saw Pam and his mom sitting together so comfortably, talking nine to the dozen like long term friends his heart rose happily. Really, it had not been a bad day at all. In many ways, Pam had been her old, playful self, taking part in pranking Dwight for example – a part of her he hadn't seen in a good while and a part of her he had certainly missed.

He smiled warmly on seeing that she was still at his house, waiting for him to return. She stood up when he came in the room and crossed the room towards him.

"Hey." he looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry, totally didn't mean to throw you in the deep end earlier. I didn't know she was coming."

The only response she had for him was a soft shushing sound, as she moved up close to him, folding her arms around his neck. Pleased at such a welcome from her, he hugged her back in kind, feeling her head drop on to his shoulder. Slowly his hands moved up into her curls, his head low, inhaling the sweet fragrance around her.

It was then that he felt something off, something not right. Her small, quivering body against him, the lightness of her earlier that day had vanished.

"Hey…" he said. "What is it?"

"Jim." she muffled into his shoulder.

"What? What's the matter?"

She didn't lift her head. "Lawyer called. They let Kenny out."

His mind swirled with her words, the implications of what this meant for them, for her. For every sunny day there was a million rainclouds waiting, it seemed. He was shocked, and rather annoyed that she had been given no prior warning that he was going to be released. No wonder she was frightened – even if Kenny was no threat to her the memories would be vivid. He knew her, he knew what she would be thinking.

"Everything's gonna be okay." he said, with strength, resolving to speak to the lawyer himself. She didn't answer him, only her arms tightened around his neck. He repeated his assurances that they were going to be okay, dismayed by the turn of the day.

"I promise." he said, kissing her forehead. From the still heaviness of her body and her unwillingness to move away from him, he wasn't sure that she believed him.

Chapter 13 by OfficeWriter

Jim pressed his hands down on the desk, concealing a mounting frustration with the situation as he saw it. "You're just being stubborn." he said, making a considerable effort to keep his voice even.

She stared at him, slightly shocked; her eyes widening with barely concealed hurt. The silence between them was an odd fusion of both the familiar and new territory. They had definitely been there before, he knew, but he still felt like he had no idea, no foothold on rocky ground. Inch by painful inch he sensed the walls building up around her again. He watched her pointedly moving papers and cups and post its around her desk, her hand coming to rest on a stack of copying sitting on the edge, between the receptionist sign and the tray of hard candy she always left out.

Looking at her, Jim felt a sudden rush of sympathy towards her overtaking his frustration. The last thing that he wanted to do was upset her more – nor did he wish to case a scene in the office, in front of their co-workers, and he certainly did not want to bring forward their first argument. Especially not an argument that had the serious potential to blow everything up.

"I just worry about you." he said softly, uttering the words so carefully and quietly that he wasn't sure she heard him.

The look Pam gave him could almost be considered striking in its defiance but as quickly as the expression formed, her shoulders sagged and her neck dropped and a blank face with a slight helplessness replaced any anger she may have been harboring.

"Thank you." she finally responded, her tone as gentle as his had been.

Jim was silent a long moment, before moving around to her side of the desk. "Hey. We're still having lunch today, right?

Pam smiled, brightening up at the suggestion. "Yeah."

"Great. It's a date." he said, touching the back of her neck lightly. The soft, smooth warmth of her skin sent a little shiver through him and he found himself thinking again of how special she was in so many small ways she didn't even realize. He loved touching her, the feel of her skin, her face, her neck, her shoulders. Not sexually touching, not in an intrusive manner, other than delicately running his fingers down the warmth of her slender neck, always hot under her curls, cupping her face in his hands before he kissed her; those were little touches of heaven that he treasured, warm and electrifying. Jim his fingers linger a moment before stepping away.

"Woah!" she heard him say as he halted and turned back to her. Dropping down to the floor beside her he squinted, looking around under the desk. "I think I dropped my….down here somewhere." he muttered.

"What did you drop?" Pam said, amused. She leaned down, scanning the floor by her feet, a little puzzled. "Can't see anything." she remarked, pulling on the little lever that lowered her chair so she could get a better look. "There's nothing down there." repeated Pam.

Jim's head popped up from the floor, his green eyes meeting hers. "Yes there is." he said, smiling devilishly. Quickly, carefully he cupped her face with his hands, urging her towards him. He brought himself close, brushing his lips against hers, just long enough to be betrayed by another shiver, just long enough to feel her hot breath and the loving warmth of her lips reacting against his.

"Found it." he said, pulling back and getting up off the floor. "See you for lunch, Beesly."

Pam watched him, feeling her heart race, warm sweat standing out on her arms and forehead. She caught herself wishing that the moment had lasted a little longer, the corners of her mouth turning upwards slightly. She was feeling better already.

Picking up the purchase orders off her desk, she stood up to go hector Michael into signing them, a headache she faced every month. That was when she saw the large bag of chips laying beside the candy. French onion, of course. Shaking her head, she smiled gratefully at the back of Jims messy hair and wondered for the millionth time what she ever did to deserve a man like him.

-TO-

They ate at one of the little outdoor seats, by the shade of the awning hanging over the restaurant, the earlier discussion swirling between them like a windstorm they both wanted to avoid stepping into.

Jim had been worried since she had told him about the lawyer's phone call the previous evening. She understood that. He had implored her, cautiously pressed on her to stay at his place with him for a little while until they were sure that Kenny wasn't hanging around. He even went as far as offering to stay with her, even he would sleep on her couch, he'd said, remembering she only had the one bedroom. He could understand her refusal in a way but he couldn't deny the small sting he felt at it, as though she had retreated away from him in some way, as though she wasn't concerned that he was worried for her. He had meant it when he offered to sleep on her couch. He suddenly didn't like at all the idea of her being alone in that apartment, especially at night. He didn't think he was overreacting. After all, he'd seen what Kenny was capable of, the lengths Kenny would go through for Roy. Who could say that he wouldn't feel some kind of axe to grind with Pam over both of them landing in prison? Or feel he needed to settle a score on behalf of Roy if he found out that Jim and Pam were in fact now dating? Yet again, Kenny would have likely escaped any jail time at all if he hadn't reacted so violently when the police arrived, that was his own fault, not Pam's. It was all so frustrating. However he thought he had a more neutral suggestion he hoped that she would agree to.

"This is really good." Pam pointed to her plate with her fork. "How's yours?"

"It's good." his plate was three quarters empty already, while she had only managed less than half. He suspected she would end up leaving the rest of it. She still didn't seem to really have an appetite, he had noticed. She looked up, catching him watching her. "So, uh, you totally won my mom over. She really liked you."

It was hard to miss her face light up at his words. "I like her too." she said in a soft voice. "She's a really nice lady."

"It was great of you to help her out yesterday. She was very grateful."

Pam felt her cheeks grow warm as she bent her head, poking her fork at the plate in front of her. "I didn't know who she was at first. When she said she had come to see her son, and gave me your name, it was a bit of a surprise."

"Hey. That's what makes you you." he said warmly. "You always want to help everyone, to take care of other people. It's one of the things I love about you."

Her face turned into a bashful rosy pink color, and she looked down, distracting herself in playing with the meal left on her plate.

"What are you thinking about?" Jim asked, studying her curiously. She lifted her head slowly, the fork twirling idly between her fingers.

A small, lopsided grin broke over her face. "Just… Remember the week you started at dunder mifflin… when Dwight brought all those chickens into the office and Toby argued with him about it for like an hour?"

A chuckle emerged from Jim, recalling the memory. "You lost your necklace that day. You were so sure one of the chickens ate it."

"Yeah." Pam laughed quietly. "Do you remember though. You told me to retrace my steps and asked where I'd been that day. Then you quietly went away and went to all the places I said I'd been and somehow came back after hours and you had found it."

"That's right, I did." Jim tilted his water glass towards him, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

"I was really upset that day. I was worried about Roy being angry that I'd lost it. He gave it to me on our first year anniversary. Then you went out and you brought it back to me. Roy never knew what happened."

"You were so relieved you hugged me." Jim remembered fondly.

Pam crossed her legs under the table. "I was. You went out on a limb, for about four hours and everyone chewed you out for disappearing and all you cared about was that I got my necklace back."

"It seemed pretty important to you at the time."

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry." Pam turned her head, idly watching a large cat pawing at a ball of red paper in the corner.

"Huh?" Jim said, sitting up straight. "What do you have to be sorry about?"

Pam swallowed nervously. "It took me too long to see both you and Roy for who you really are. You've always been there no matter what. You've been so good to me – you've put up with me, you sheltered me, you've stuck around, you've cared about me even when your own safety was at risk. I'm so lucky to have you – I could never repay you for everything you've done, and I definitely don't know how I could possibly deserve to have you in my life, let alone as my partner. I guess," she paused, subconsciously lifting her hand and pressing it to her throat. "I'm trying to say… I'm happy, with you." She turned her face away, breathing hard.

Jim blew out his cheeks, exhaling smoothly. "You don't have anything to repay, Pam. How could you think for a second you don't deserve to be happy? And," he watched her carefully. "I'm very happy with you."

The only reply she could give was a small nod of her head as her face twisted with emotion. Jim immediately stood and pulled up his chair to sit next to her. "Hey. Why the tears?"

"You're a good man. Too good." She sniffled.

Jim caught hold of her hand, leaning forward in his chair, speaking softly and up close. "Hey…. You are so special. You are so pretty," he told her, taking her hand. "I'm the one who's lucky, Pam. You're the kindest, most caring person I know. Being with you every day is everything I want. You bring out the best in me. How could I ever match that?"

She looked at him with a little disbelief, but managed a watery smile. She squeezed his hand back, not trusting herself to speak.

"Oh…." Jim said, remembering. "I was...thinking… some time alone together would probably do us both some good. Would you consider coming away with me this weekend?"

"Like a… " she said, confused.

Jim nodded. "Yeah… just the weekend, leave Friday, back Sunday. We could check in a hotel. Just some uninterrupted time together away from everybody and everything. We'll get two rooms." he added quickly, misreading her expression.

His heart sank heavily. She was going to refuse. He was moving too fast, he could see that, as she wrapped her arms around herself, dropping his hand.

"Pam, if-"

"Yes." she said, taking hold of his tie, running it through her fingers. "Yes."

"Yes?"

She nodded again, pressing her lips tightly together. Then the back of his fingers were gently stroking her cheek. "It'll be just us." he told her.

"Just us." she repeated in a whisper, and then she kissed him.

-TO-

"Yeah, I think so too." she said, legs curled up beneath her on her couch. She switched to speaker phone and placed her cell on the arm of the chair, laying her head down against a cushion. "I think I am."

"You'll have a great time, it will be good for you." her mom's kind voice floated out of the phone like mist. "You trust Jim."

Pam nodded against the cushion, forgetting that Helene couldn't see her. "Yeah… I'm just nervous about it."

"Oh, darling." Helene replied. "I don't think you have anything to worry about with Jim. You'll be fine."

"It's not him, mom, it's me. I'm the one who will mess it all up."

Helene sighed loudly. "Pammy, don't talk about yourself that way. You're a great person and that's why he cares so much about you. You'll be fine, you won't mess anything up, now or in the future."

"I hope so mom, I really do." Pam said, praying for it to be true.

Chapter 14 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

I apologize to any one this might upset or offend - trigger warning. Some parts of this were so difficult to write (yet it has been hinted at throughout even from the very first chapter of the first story), but now I believe a turning point has been reached where we're now a straight line forward from the finish line. Thank you.


A/N - I apologize to any one this might upset or offend - trigger warning. Some parts of this were so difficult to write (yet it has been hinted at even from the very first chapter of the first story), but now I believe a turning point has been reached where we're now a straight line forward from the finish line. Thank you.

...

One of Helene Beesly's often quoted advice to her daughters was that a good laugh heals a lot of hurts. Pam knew it was a quote by a philosopher or nobel prize winner, something she couldn't quite remember.. Helene liked inspirational adages. Pam had always found them rather glib, and annoying. After all they were only words; and only specious words at that. She would simply just nod in agreement whenever her mother dropped off another gem of wisdom, although she never agreed with her, she also never wanted to hurt her mothers feelings.

Yet that Friday evening, as her stomach clenched and her sides throbbed with mirth, she thought maybe Helene wasn't so wrong after all.

They had been laughing non stop that night. It had started shortly after she and Jim had arrived at the resort, and strolling through the town together they had spotted a short sleeved pale yellow shirt in the window of a shirt store. On sale, no less. Naturally then, some cheap gold square glasses were hunted down, followed by brown pants, a yellow and gold pinstripe tie and a large briefcase later. Pam was tickled by the idea of Jim going into the office dressed up in such an outfit, so much so she ended up waiting for Jim outside the store while he paid, trying to stifle her giggles.

It was as though a darkness had been lifted. The simple act of being outside of Scranton, away from lawyers and councillors, parents and nosy co-workers and ex boyfriends and ex boyfriends brothers, it simply seemed to set them both free.

As they walked through the town that evening, headed towards the pier, Jim amused her further by putting on the glasses and marching onto the beach, an uncanny imitation of Dwight.

"They say that no man is an island. False! I am an island and this island is volcanic."

This made Pam promptly collapse on the sand, giggling madly and clutching at her aching stomach. Just as she began to think she might never stop laughing her giggles began to slow down, until Jim, attempting to sit next to her on the sand stumbled over a half buried spade, landing ungracefully front down, his head falling into Pam's lap. This caused another fit of laughter, this time from both of them, clutching at each other, tears of mirth brimming in their eyes, looking every bit like two carefree teenagers high on each others company.

The remainder of Friday evening continued on in much the same vein, sharing beers at the hotel bar, tossing peanuts at each other, one very amusing prank call to Michael ("Hello, we are calling from to let you know that you are our one hundredth customer and therefore you get a surprise gift on your recent order" "I do?" "Yes. Your order consists of an hour with an exotic dancer by the name of Jasmine.")

Stumbling up to their hotel room, far too noisily for the late hour Pam was first into the bathroom they shared. She washed her face, feeling the tipsiness of the beers inside her and loped back out of the room. Standing in the doorway she eyed the connecting door that opened to the second bedroom. A soft snore broke into her thoughts and she turned her head, looking at the double bed opposite the bathroom. A fond smile stretched across her face. Jim, sprawled out on his front on the right side, cheeks flushed with alcohol, sound asleep. She made her way over to him carefully, and after prodding him gently more than a few times and seeing that he did not rouse, she climbed up on the bed herself, curling up against him. Safely nestled in the warmth radiating from his body she closed her eyes, allowing herself to float into a peaceful sleep.

-TO-

Saturday blew in with unexpected wind and heavy rain, dampening their plans to spend the day on the beach together.

"At least the room service is good." Jim remarked casually as they lay side by side on the bed, enjoying a very lengthy breakfast.

"This is so good." Pam said, spearing a large chunk of melon with her fork. "Here." She lifted her arm, motioning for Jim to open his mouth.

"Mmmm." Jim hummed, as he accepted the melon, nodding approvingly. They ate together in comfortable quiet, listening to the rain falling on the window.

"I need a shower." Pam announced, not making any effort to move off the bed. Jim grinned lazily, a devilish glint in his eye.

"Oh, is that what that is? I thought the sink was backed up or something."

"Hey!" she objected humorously, giving him a spirited nudge with her elbow. "Speaking of, you're still wearing yesterdays clothes, you dirty drunk."

Jim's eyes flew open wide, shining brightly. "Ohhhhh. Is that how you wanna play this?" he teased, full of mischief. Rolling over, he slung his left knee over the other side of her legs, trapping them and effectively half pinning her down.

"Suck it, Halpert." she laughed, half-heartedly attempting to shove him off her. "Hey-" she was cut off as Jim's fingers found her ribs and he began to tickle her mercilessly. Howling with laughter and protest, she caught hold of his hands, moving them away from her stomach.

"Get off me, you brute." she panted, pushing against him. With lively insults and an unnecessary amount of noise, they wrestled each other in the bed, a battle of will between them.

"Come on Beesly, you can do better than this." Jim laughed, not using even half of his strength. Slowly he weakened his resistance, allowing her to push him off of her, flopping on to his back against the pillow. Heaving with laughter Pam rolled over with him until she came to a stop on top of him. There she began to lightly prod at his ribcage, exacting her revenge.

"Okay! Okay! I give!" Jim yelled hoarsely after a few minutes of this, squirming away from her teasing fingers. "You win!"

Pam laughed and bent forward over him, her hair falling wildly around them. Jim lifted his arm, attempting to gain the upper hand once more, but she caught hold of him by the wrist, pushing it back down towards the pillow.

"When did you get so tough, Beesly?" he taunted. "You-"

Then her lips were on his, their tongues dancing wildly together. The whole world around them vanished, and they were alone together. Jim's fingers moved up into her hair, softly grasping and swirling and Pam allowed him to take her deeper into the kiss.

When she finally pulled back from him, his face was flushed and hot. Breathlessly rolling off of his chest, she was once again beside him, pressing herself into his body. Lazily he curled an arm over her, keeping her close. Pam shivered with the nearness of him, soaking up his intoxicating scent that she so loved. They did not speak, both unconsciously sensing words would only break the moment. Pam was struck with deep emotion, as though she were lighting up inside, that she could explode with the force of her feeling for him at that moment; even then as he was brushing her hair back from her shoulder, his burning lips caressing her neck, slowly, gently.

The rain grew heavier, swollen drops of water smashing against the windows. After a while, the kisses stopped and the arms tightened around her and they drifted off to the sounds of the raindrops falling like a lullaby.

Later, when Pam awoke, warm and comfortable and safe, she finally got up and went to take her shower.

"You kicked my ass, Beesly." Jim remarked, with a smug half grin.

"Don't you forget it." she replied happily, disappearing into the bathroom.

Jim's smile grew wide in the shadow of the morning; she was definitely growing more confident, more trusting with him. He didn't think he would forget the expression that flickered across her face when she landed on top of him during their play wrestling, a cute fusion of triumph and shock. She wasn't experienced in having the upper hand. Nor, being the one to initiate and end their fooling around. He loved watching her open up during these moments, realizing that she could take the lead with him if she wanted. He thought he'd made a point with her quite nicely.

And, he hadn't been at all wrong. She had definitely kicked his ass. On all counts.

-TO-

Late that night, Jim lay drowsily in the big soft bed, his head nestled against her curls, arm draped loosely around her.

In an almost complete reversal of the evening before, she'd barely changed her clothes before she was fast asleep. Like himself, alcohol made her sleepy. Not that she had been flat out drunk, just mildly inebriated. The day had been so good, despite the rain. He smiled, thinking of how happy, how comforted she was just by simple gestures from him – just a small kiss to her forehead, just snuggling against him quietly, nothing more, nothing less and she was happy. She'd held on to his hand through the entire length of the movie they gone to see and again walking back through a flourishing garden area, where they promptly teased and chased each other about in the rain before stopping for a meal.

A white hot feeling burned within him, a feeling that had started downstairs in the casino as they frequented the bar, played roulette and poker, a feeling that grew in intensity as he sank into sleep. He finally had her, after years of waiting for her. He sometimes still couldn't believe it, often he found himself struck with an urge to hold her, touch her simply to confirm she was real and really there.

…..

A short time later, he woke to a disorienting sensation. The first thing in his mind as he turned over to shield Pam from disaster, was an earthquake. But as he reached for her to catch hold of her thin shoulder, he realized that it was not movements within the earth's crust making the bed shake like that, but Pam. Quickly flicking on the lamp beside him, he got a full on picture of what was happening; Pam, huddled into a ball with her knees squashed into her abdomen, shivering violently. Her sleeping face was wet and flushed, her lips parted slightly passing sharp, fast breaths.

It was as though he'd swallowed a bowling ball, he was immediately filled with anguish on the sight of her and he hesitated, unsure what he should do. Thinking of how often it was said that you shouldn't wake someone in the middle of a nightmare, or he thought maybe that was wrong and that was for sleepwalkers. And he certainly didn't want to scare her any further. But, looking at her he knew he couldn't take another second of watching her and not try to do something, so he instinctively reached out to try and wake her gently.

Before he could touch her though, out of the silence a moan arose from her, long and growing in pitch, about the most horrifying thing that had ever reached his ears. It was a primal sound, desperate and heavy with pain. Panic pushed its way up into his chest, the cry stabbing at him all over like a sharp knife.

"Hey!" he whispered, barely making a sound. "Pam?"

Even if it didn't seem feasible, she was yet huddling herself together even more, making herself as small as possible.

"Love?" he prodded gently. His hand came to rest on her shoulder lightly.

It was as though he'd struck her with a cattle prod, jerking violently at his touch. Her eyes slammed open against the wet pillow.

"Hey," he soothed. Finally came a muffled response, lost in the pillow. "Hey… it was just a dream. You're okay." he said, thinking though, she really wasn't okay in the least.

"No."

"What? You were dreaming, love." he told her softly.

"No." she repeated, a little louder.

Pulling himself up until he could lean against the headrest, Jim laid an arm over her, gently urging her to move closer to him. Letting out another cry of distress, she frantically wriggled out of his arms and stumbled to her feet.

"Pam-"

"I said no! Why didn't you stop?" she cried.

"Huh? Pam…" he said, instinctively moving toward her. "It's alright, Pam, everything's okay."

"Don't touch me!" she flared up, and turning rapidly, she fled into the little bathroom, the door slamming like a gunshot in the middle of the night.

Jim sat on the end of the bed, his elbows on his knees, rubbing at his face. He was completely lost at what to do. More so he was very worried about her. She'd been in the bathroom a good fifteen minutes – he figured he'd best give her a few moments – but when she hadn't emerged his worry only grew with each passing minute. He couldn't imagine what on earth had triggered this; he had never seen her so upset before. That deadened look in her eyes when she'd told him not to touch her – she'd looked at him like she didn't know who he was. He could only assume that was the disorientation from the nightmare, or could only hope that was what it was.

He couldn't hear anything from the bathroom and that worried him too. Making his way to the door, he stood quietly listening, the sounds of soft crying coming from within.

"Pam?" he called lightly. No response. "Pam? Are you alright? Can I come in? I'm worried about you."

He waited in silence for a reply, for any sign from her at all, but nothing came and his panic began to rise again.

"Pam? Come on, let me in? I just have to make sure you're okay." Jim's features twisted in frustration and anxiety as she still refused to answer him. He could hear her – thought he could hear her, the faint sniffles and sobbing.

"Okay...I'm gonna open the door, Pam. You can yell and scream at me if you want, but I gotta know you're okay." he told her, his hand grasping the door handle. When she still made no sound or acknowledgement, he decided he'd given her fair warning and carefully pushed the door open.

For a first horrifying moment he thought he couldn't see her, that wasn't in the room at all, then a great shuddering breath from his left caused him to spin round. Spotting her, curled up with her back against the shower door, knees drawn up to her chin, he slowly went to her. Encouraged that she made no attempt to move away from him, he knelt down next to her and sat back on his knees.

"Hey…" he soothed, tenderly stroking her hair away from her face. "What is it?"

Maddeningly, she shrugged her shoulders refusing to lift her head and look at him.

"I'm trying Pam, I really am." he said with difficulty. In all honesty he was becoming rapidly frustrated and worried about her. He wished more than anything he could just lift her up and take her back to bed and tell her everything would be okay and have her actually believe him. He thought back over their day together – he just couldn't think of anything that could have brought this on, however he had more than a feeling that the root of this had less to do with him and more to do with a certain ex fiance.

"Pam…" he said slowly, grasping on to something he had only suspected before from snippets of things she had told him, or let slip, about her life as the future Mrs Anderson. "Pam… I'm sorry…. I gotta know… What did he do to you?"

He waited for her to yell, to scream, to tell him to get the hell out and never see her again, for her to explode. None of those things happened. She simply did not react at all.

"Did he…." he said, his voice shaking a little. "Did he…. You know?"

The only response was a roaring silence, and Pam, squeezing herself even tighter together, as though she was trying to make herself disappear. Jim's heart shattered, realizing he was correct in his assumption. Lovingly he reached out again and gently stroked her hair, wanting desperately for her to let him comfort her.

"It's alright." he murmured. "I'm sorry." Bowing his head, he pressed his face into her curls and kissed her head. "It's better that it's all out in the open."

At that her head jerked up violently, pushing him away as a result. Stunned to see the anger burning in her eyes, he felt paralyzed as she glared at him fiercely.

"What, so you can leave? Is that what you mean?" She climbed to her feet, her face streaming with tears.

Jim shook his head rapidly, mortified. "I… What? No I don't-"

"What you don't want me any more? I disgust you now? Now you know the truth about me?"

"What?" he cried, stung by her words. A guilty flush crept into his cheeks, he hadn't meant to raise his voice to her. "No, Pam…" he said, forcing a calmness into his voice. "Listen to me."

She shrugged helplessly. "Why would you want to stay through this? Why don't you want someone who isn't me? Someone you can be with where everyone doesn't know that she's just damaged goods, second hand trash!"

"That's enough!" he responded, mentally kicking himself again for raising his voice– he did not want to turn this into an argument. He knew he had to be the calm, rational one here. He breathed in deeply and then moved towards her.

"Listen," he said, catching her by the shoulders. Immediately she tried to push him away, but he wasn't going to allow her to walk away from him again – letting go of her shoulders he cupped her tear stained face with his hands, looking directly at her. "Listen. You can trust me, you gotta know I would never, ever hurt you, not like that," he sneered, feeling a hatred beyond all measure for Roy at that moment. "Not in any way, not now, not ever."

More tears fell from her face as she trembled in his hands, but she didn't try to move away from him. "How can you possibly… care about me after knowing what I let him do to me?" she sobbed.

Jim resisted a strong urge to pull her into his chest and crush her in a fierce hug – she was so distraught, but he knew he had to get through to her first.

"Listen. Roy made that choice to hurt you. Not you. That's not who you are. That's who Roy wanted you to be. It's not you."

She sobbed brokenly in front of him, not caring any more what he knew, or didn't know. She was so tired. "You'd be better off without me."

"Pam!" Jim said, horrified. "No! I love you more than ever before. You're so brave, you're so strong to survive that. You have so much good in you, so much love. Every second I'm with you I'm very grateful for. Without you I'm nothing."

"I'm so sorry." she cried, breaking down. "I care about you so much… I'd rather you not be with me than be unhappy."

"I'm not unhappy." he replied genuinely, letting go of her. He looked at her with love deep in his eyes and lifted his arms towards her. "Trust me?" he said quietly.

Pam studied him a moment, rubbing at her eyes. After a pause, she tilted her head in a slow nod. "I do."

Jim smiled warmly. "Then come here."

After what looked like an inner conflict with herself, Pam came forward to him and allowed him to wrap his strong arms around her frail body. Sliding her own arms around his back, she dropped her head tiredly on to his shoulder.

"It's okay to need me a little. You're not on your own any more." he said in a soft voice, all of the quivering woman pressed against him. "Whatever happens, it's always gonna be you and me from now on."

The only answer she could give him was a tight squeeze as she leaned into him heavily. "I'm so tired, Jim. I'm so tired."

"I know," he said, walking her out of the bathroom and across the room to the bed. "Come on. We can talk about all this some more in the morning. Are you alright?"

"Tired…" she drawled, slipping out of his arms and climbing into bed. Jim followed her, getting in the other side and laying next to her.

"Here." he said, moving close to her and wrapping her in an embrace as they both settled down again. "Go to sleep. When you wake up I'll be right here. I'm not going anywhere."

"Not Roy…" she mumbled.

Jim switched the lamp off, and gazed at her lovingly in the dark. "No, I'm not Roy. And you're not damaged, or trash. You're my treasure." he told her, with feeling. Soon, they had settled again in the big, warm bed, Pam nestled in his arms. She was empty, drained, conflicted… but inexplicably a great relief also ran through her. It was as though a huge burden had lifted off her in him knowing the truth about her, and that yet he still wanted to be with her. She felt very contented with that fact as she slowly floated away into sleep.

Jim himself lay awake longer feeling deeply troubled, imagining all the ways he could have Roy tortured and feeling none of it would be enough for what he had done to Pam. Then he felt the soft, warm skin of her cheek laying against him on the pillow and the dark feelings shifted and the lightness of his love for her lifted him up. Turning his head, he held a long kiss to her cheek.

"Love you." he said, before closing his eyes.

"Yes." she responded meaningfully. In the dark, Jim smiled. It wasn't quite the same as the actual words but he believed he was beginning to get the picture.

Chapter 15 by OfficeWriter

In the early hours as they slept the rain intensified, firing down at a shattering pace, pounding like angry fists against the window glass.

For Pam, who generally enjoyed the rain, the endless lashing against the walls around her only served to compound her misery and brought forward a dark sense of claustrophobia she couldn't shake.

A chill had crept over the room during the night. The hotel sheets were exquisitely soft and warm, yet despite this an uncomfortably cold feeling was gnawing at her stomach. She was conflicted; it was early out, the birds were awake and so she figured that she couldn't have been asleep more than a few hours, in spite of her extreme exhaustion.

Everything from the night before came back to her at full speed before she even opened her eyes – and the events overnight looked to her even more horrifying in the cold daylight. With a bitter – and increasingly angry – eye she replayed the words over and over again. The part that her brain was stuck on – would not let go of – was Jim, asking her...he so simply just asked her, holding up her sins in front of them both like a neon banner. She had fallen into a haunted mutism at the words, retreating back inside a hard shell. Then without warning the anger had come and she had yelled, yelled at Jim, who had only been trying to help her, cried terrible things at him. After all he did for her, and she treated him so poorly.

She couldn't blame him for what he had said, for knowing. Sometimes herself, she would be in the act of some menial task when unexpectedly she was assaulted with a sickening stench – a foul pungence of raw fish and sweaty armpits mingled together. It was a dirty smell, a smell she couldn't scrub away for all the baths and showers and soaps and loofahs she could lay her hands on. Even more so than dirty, it was offensive, a twisted miasma made of filth and humiliation. It was a badge for her subjugation, something that screamed possession of Roy Anderson.

Jim was different. Being next to Jim in bed was very different. When Roy was angry, which was much of the time, he slept angry. He would lay straight and stiff, his limbs hard and sharp like jagged rocks. His testosterone and furious pheromones seeped out and permeated the area around them, soaking into the sheets and the covers and into her. And in those moments now when she would suddenly catch a noseful of Roy-smell around her, and upon the realization that it was coming from her own person second hand – one of Roy's many gifts to her – it was a sensation that made her nauseous to her stomach.

With Jim, it was a complete opposite. He was warm, kind and beyond patient with her. He had a great sense of humor where Roy didn't, Jim could make her laugh hysterically with a flick of his eyebrow, while sometimes the simple act of Roy just entering a room filled her with panic. She knew she shouldn't be comparing the two of them, but she couldn't understand how she could have loved a man like Roy so much and yet now she was with Jim – it was like aliens and humans. There was no real line between them.

And she was fearful, so afraid that she would end up pushing Jim away from her, that he would end up being forced to leave. After everything she kept putting him through, how difficult she was making his life, she wouldn't be able to blame him. He had seen everything now, she was stripped bare last night, completely, vulnerably, spiritually naked in front of him. He'd seen the ugly inside of her, the sordid perversity she never wanted anyone to see. Least of all Jim. Things would be different between them. She knew it. She loathed herself even more at that moment, a few silent tears soaking into her pillow. Tears for Roy, for herself, for the mess she made of everything. Tears for the man who's sleeping arm was currently draped over her, curling her in a sideways hug against him, his warm breath tickling her neck.

-TO-

"How bad was it?" Helene asked. Pam grimaced. The signal was not great. Helene sounded tinny and far away. Pam hated that – she had wanted to hear her mom's voice close the distance between them and pretend that she was right next to her.

"Pretty bad." she admitted, glancing at the hotel room door again.

"It was always going to take a little time. You shouldn't rush things."

Pam shifted on the stair she was sitting on. "It's not that, mom. I just… I think I might have done some damage between us."

"Oh, Pammy." Helene's tone was sympathetic. "Jim doesn't strike me as the kind of man to be put off by a little nightmare or two."

"I know that, Mom." Pam said tiredly. "It's just that things got a little… ugly."

"Ugly?" Helene questioned.

"got ugly."

There was a pause before Helene replied. "Did the two of you have a fight, Pam?"

"No." Pam said quickly, drumming her foot against the stair below her. "No. I just… I yelled at him a bit."

"You were upset. He understood that, didn't he?"

Pam bit down hard on her lip, trying to keep her voice steady. "Yes, yes he did. That's the thing Mom. He always understands. I don't deserve it."

"Pam," Helene said with a warning in her tone. "Don't say things like that. Of course you deserve it. He wouldn't be there if he didn't want to be. Everyone can see he's crazy about you."

Wiping at her eyes with her sleeve, Pam cried silently into the phone, not trusting herself to speak.

"Pam? Where are you, are you outside?"

Shaking her head, Pam steadied herself with a deep breath. "No, I'm just sitting outside the hotel room. Jim's still asleep."

"Tell me something - how do you feel about Jim? Do you love him?"

Pam swallowed hard. "I feel he deserves better."

She could practically feel the biting worry her mother felt, even from such a distance away. "Pam, don't you do anything you'll regret. I don't think it's for you to decide what Jim deserves and doesn't. You should leave that up to him."

"I feel so embarrassed. So… used up." she stammered.

"Oh darling, everyone has nerves in the start of a relationship, everyone is scared. You're no different. Do you remember when you were little and we'd go to the market, you'd push that little toy baby carriage down the street behind me? You'd chatter on at me about your wedding day, and your babies and your big house -"

"With a pool and a room just for me to paint in." Pam sniffed.

"Right." Helene said confidently. "You can still have all of those things, you deserve them all. Try to give this a chance with Jim, okay?"

More tears slid down her face. She wished her mom were there so she could hug her. "Okay."

"I do hope this works out for you both." Helene said sincerely. "I really do like him. So does your dad."

"Thanks Mom." she replied shakily.

"Although I feel I should warn you, your father plans to give Jim the full third degree when he next sees you both."

The imagine of her father grilling Jim actually elicited a small chuckle out of her. "That really isn't needed, Mom."

"know that. He doesn't mean any harm. You know your father. He's feeling full on guilty over Roy."

"I know." Pam said again, wincing at the mention of Roy. She rubbed her forehead. "Do you really think I'm right for him, Mom?"

She heard a gentle sigh. "Pam. Does Jim love you?"

"Mom – I don't -"

"No, no Pam. Answer the question."

Chewing on her lip, Pam fell silent for a long moment. "I think so, Mom." she finally answered.

"Well, does he or doesn't he, Pam?" Helene persisted.

"He says he does."

Helene sighed again. "Let's try once more, okay?"

Again Pam was silent, feeling awkwardly on stage. "Yes. Yes he does." she said softly.

"Then how can you possibly not be the right person for him? He loves you – don't groan, it's okay to let someone love you, Pammy. If you want to have a good relationship with him, let him love you. You shouldn't hide yourself away, if you do you'll never feel that you belong with him."

Helene's words drove further tears to her eyes. She was so physically exhausted, emotionally drained. Her mind was clouded in fog and confusion, yet somehow, her mother's point of view made total sense and that made her want to cry even harder.

"Pam?"

Helene interrupted her thoughts. "I know you're right Mom. I just- you're right. I hope I haven't messed everything up last night, that's all."

"You had a nightmare, you got upset, it's not the end of the world." Helene replied.

"Mmmm." Pam hummed quietly.

"Is there more to this than you're telling me?" Helene asked suddenly.

Pam inhaled deeply, lifting her eyes to the ceiling. "Everything's fine, Mom. I'm real tired is all."

"Okay." Helene said suspiciously. "How about I call you this afternoon, just to see that you're doing alright?"

"We'll be checking out this afternoon and driving back." Pam sniffed.

"This evening then."

"Alright." Pam said quickly, hearing movement in the room behind her.

"And Pammy. Love you." Helene said.

Fresh tears appeared on her cheeks. "I know, Mom." she mumbled wearily.

"Hey." she said awkwardly as she entered back into the room. Jim was sitting up now, comfortably in bed, looking tired and anxious. Immediately she was hit by a wave of guilt, knowing it was her fault he was so exhausted.

Jim pushed back the covers and got to his feet. "Morning." he said brightly. Moving slowly, he stepped round the bed and headed towards the bathroom. Bending down to her on his way past, Jim brushed a soft kiss over her cheek, before lightly rubbing her shoulder and then shutting himself in the bathroom. She stared after him, feeling perplexed.

Pam busied herself firstly trying to fix her ruined face while she listened to the steady pulsing of Jim's shower running, and once done, she spent her time trying to figure out how to work the hotel room coffee-maker. She wasn't sure how to face him after the embarrassment she'd made of herself the night before.

All too soon he was opening the door, a rolling steam following him out into the room. Pam kept her back turned, tactically trying to appear occupied. She could sense Jim behind her, nearer but he didn't say a word. Tension hung thick in the air – she began to feel the trembling that had been shivering through her all morning speed up. He was mad at her; she could feel it. She knew things would be different between them, she had driven a stake between them, a huge filthy Roy shaped stake and nothing would be the same-

Warm, kindly arms slid around her waist from behind. Hot breath tickled the back of her neck as a kiss was planted on the crown of her head. Pam felt heat flow into her face, reddening her cheeks.

"What was that for?" she murmured dreamily.

"It's a good way to start the day." Jim simply said. Pam stood still, letting him hold her.

"Pam… I'm really sorry." he said in a quiet voice. "I'm sorry for not stopping when we were fooling around yesterday." He hung his head a little, looking very much ashamed.

Pam frowned, thinking over the day before a horrified realization fell over her. She spun round, breaking his hold on her. "Wait – you thought.. no..when I said – Jim," she spoke, finding her words. "When I said...that I wasn't talking to you – I mean I was but it wasn't you. I thought you were Roy. I didn't see you standing there, I saw him. I panicked."

Jim was visibly relieved. "I know it will be a while before you trust me-"

"I do trust you." she replied softly. "It's me I don't trust, I mess everything up. Like last night."

"Hey. You're allowed to have some crappy days. What you've gone through is horrible. But what you gotta know is that I'm signed up for this. I'm not going anywhere."

"What about.. that… aren't you sick of picking my ass up off the floor?" she waved a hand in frustration.

Jim shook his head. "I can keep saying this until you believe me, I'll always be there to catch you before you hit the floor."

"It shouldn't have to be like that." Pam struggled to keep her voice level..

"That's exactly how it should be." Jim told her earnestly. They stared back at one another, tears shining in Pam's eyes. "But… about last night…" he began in a demure tone, wincing at the anxious expression flickering over her face. "You really gotta tell the police. You know what Roy did to you – it's-"

"No." she interrupted, lowering her head. "I can't."

"You can't let him get away with this. He can be charged again, he'll get longer jail time."

Pam's breath caught in her throat. "No – I can't." she said hoarsely. "I can't Jim. It's hard enough already.. I can't talk to strangers about it… I can't do it."

Jim relented, seeing that she was on the verge of another meltdown. "What did your Mom say?"

There was a long silence between them. "My mom doesn't know." she said quietly. Jim gave her a knowing look, but chose not to comment. "I don't want my mom to know. It would really hurt her." Pam added.

"It might." Jim told her. "But I think she'd rather just be there for you. You gotta deal with it somehow or you'll be having nightmares forever."

Pam shook her head fervently. "The police? I can't. Just you. Only you."

"It will be tough, but you will get through it. And you won't be alone."

Heavy tears rolled off her cheeks again. "I can't. I can't tell the police, and then the lawyer and then in front of him in a courtroom. I can't Jim." she pleaded. "How can I tell everyone I let him-" she cut off as Jim's arms circled around her again, this time from the front, pulling her against his chest.

"Hey...you are not in the wrong here. Roy is. He did everything wrong, not you. He gave you no choice. You didn't let him do anything."

Pam sniffed against him. "I'm-"

"Don't." he said firmly. He gently took hold of her arms and peeled her away from him. Taking hold of her hand, he led her over to the bed. "I think we both could use some more sleep before we drive back, especially in this rain."

Pam didn't argue, climbing up on to the bed, feeling the weight shift beneath her as he positioned himself next to her.

"Here." he said, turning to his left. Pam looked at him, eyebrows furrowed with tiredness. Jim swung back around to face her and this time he held a small rectangular box in his hand. "I was going to give you this at dinner later, but I think since we'll have to leave early before we get flooded and stuck here, here you go."

Stunned, Pam looked at the box in his hand, hesitant before taking it from him.

"Open it." Jim encouraged.

Pam gasped as she saw the sparkling jewellery inside. Delicately she lifted up the glittering gold bracelet, completely without words.

"You like it?" he asked.

Pam nodded, unable to speak. Tears were once again rolling down her face, but this time they were warm tears of gratitude. She was completely overcome by his gift and his unwavering patience with her. Leaning over, she kissed him, her lips quivering with emotion. With great care she slipped the thin bracelet on to her wrist.

"No one ever gave me anything like this before." she whispered.

"You deserve the best." Jim said.

"I think I've already got it." she said shakily, and laid her tired head against his chest, wrapping her arm around him in a half hug.

Jim returned the hug enthusiastically, letting her lie comfortably on him as she slowly began to sleep. He was overjoyed at her reaction to the gift – he'd been afraid that it might have been too much for her too soon – but he'd also really wanted to get her something really nice after everything she'd gone through – and with last nights revelation – confirmation – of what an utter piece of garbage Roy was, he wanted all the more to do something nice for her – something normal for a relationship – things she had missed out on with Roy.

Whatever happened he knew they'd be alright. He had faith. She had her doubts, he knew this but he also knew how he felt, very clearly and although she didn't often express her feelings to him verbally, she showed him in many, small but meaningful ways how she felt and that meant more to him than anything.

Chapter 16 by OfficeWriter

Guilt was burning at him, like raging fires inside his gut, his chest, his brain.

He was an idiot.

An insensitive idiot, no less.

She had been in the shower for a long time. They were leaving soon, their few items of clothing and toiletries mostly packed into their bags ready to be loaded into the car. The sight of them only made him feel worse, compounding his failure towards her. He wasn't prepared for this – for what had happened to her. It was one thing that he had suspected it from early on – before they even got together in fact – but hearing it, having it confirmed like that, the raw, ugly truth was still a forceful punch to the gut; completely knocking the wind out of him.

At first he'd felt numb – his only focus had been her. He had been mortified on her behalf and all he wanted to do was take away the pain from her. And then the numbness had given way to a thirst for retribution that would not be quenched. He loved Pam. He wanted Roy to pay for every single thing he had ever done wrong to her. Roy should be jailed, should be punished – should not be allowed to forget what he had done. Pam couldn't – he watched her day in and day out trying desperately to scrub away the stubborn stains of the abuse Roy had inflicted on her.

Jim had handled it all wrong. He was sure of it – if there was a correct way to respond to the situation, he knew he had failed her. I can't Jim. She had pleaded with him. She'd been in the shower so long that the first pricks of panic were creeping up on him. Maybe she was mad at him. He knew he had allowed himself to be led by his fury at Roy – his wanting to see Roy face consequences the only way he knew how. Even prison was too good for him, it was true, but she was not ready. She'd trusted Jim, she'd let him in and he'd betrayed her trust by pressuring her. He was stupid! Of course that could wait, it was not the important part of all this – he finally understood, as he listened to the water running inside and the rain pouring outside, the most important thing was what had happened to her, what she had been through, what she was feeling – that he was the first person she opened up to. Everything else came second, including Roy.

Hot and cold emotions raged and surged through him as he listened to the hold music, and when he finally got through he was gripping the cell phone so hard his knuckles had turned white. Quickly, carefully he had explained the situation, laying it out in simple steps for the advisor on the other end. His girlfriend had been in an abusive relationship. There had been violence, blood, broken bones. Now she was with him. There were other kinds of abuse she had been subjected to, he had just learned. He wanted to help her – wanted to do right by her.

He felt he had got some good advice from the advisor – his now second call to the domestic abuse line for advice – and was maybe hopeful he could be more supportive towards her. Show care, show concern; he had been told. The messages came through clear and helped settle his mind. Be an advocate for her. Don't attempt to avenge the abuse for her. Don't let your own anger override her decisions. Be her partner in all ways, champion her to help her heal.

He could do it. Whatever she needed.

Finally the shower water stopped running and she slunk nervously out of the bathroom. The rain was coming down even harder, at a torrential pace as he took their bags downstairs and stowed them safely in the car. Soon they were side by side in the front seats, on the road, a delicate silence hanging between them.

-TO-

"Dammit." Jim muttered, slowing down. He was totally off base that day, moving from bad decision to idiocy in seconds. Glancing at the rearview was no help – the heavy rain obscured the traffic behind him like a sheet.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea." Pam offered in a gentle voice.

Jim smiled at her awkwardly. "Sorry." he mumbled, turning his eyes back to the road. They were now crawling so slowly he figured at this rate they wouldn't make it back before dark. If he'd had any sense he would have suggested they book in another night at the hotel and call in to the office in the morning. Pam said nothing, mirroring the same smile he had just given her.

They drove on, slowly, no sound inside the car. There was only the whining of the engine as it trailed them along behind the other cars, the rain slamming down around them like some sort of mystical cage, and the road disappearing behind them.

"Are you still angry?" Pam suddenly broke through the silence, keeping her eyes straight ahead.

"Huh?" Jim said, his grip tightening on the steering wheel.

"You were mad." she said, after a moment's hesitation.

Jim frowned, his stomach dropping. "Hey…" he said with feeling, turning to look at her. "I was never mad at you. Never. I was angry at him, not you. He hurt you, and I feel like shit that I can't take that away from you. How could I be mad at you? Pam, none of this is your fault."

She paused. "I just thought…. I didn't…"

Jim waited for her to finish, but she had fallen quiet, a pensive expression settling over her. "Pam… I feel really, really badly about everything. I can't help feeling I let you down earlier."

She looked at him quizzically, but didn't speak.

"I just wanted to say… it's your decision about talking to the police. I'm sorry for telling you what to do. I was mad. At Roy." he added quickly, seeing her expression rapidly change back to one of nervousness. "Anyway, I promise I'll not mention the police again unless you do. Deal?"

Pam considered him a moment, before nodding slowly. Limply she rolled her head to the side, looking out at the water splashing against the window.

"This changes things doesn't it?" she said with a measured tone.

Now Jim was the one with the confusion crossing his face. "Changes things how?"

"Between us." she mumbled.

"If you mean this has been a step forward for us, I agree. If you mean we can work on moving forward, together, than I also agree." he said simply.

"No." she said, looking down at her hands. "I mean… if you don't want to… how can you want to even touch me again?"

"Woah." Jim exclaimed as the car splashed through a large pool of water. "How could I not want to? You are so beautiful. I'm so proud of you. What Roy did to you is beyond horrible, and it must hurt like hell for you to tell someone about it – I can't tell you how I feel that you trust me enough to let me in like that. Even if I'm an idiot sometimes."

"You're not an idiot." she said softly.

"If I could go back and prevent it all from happening to you, I would."

Pam sighed carefully. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this."

"Hey… " he said, as the car slowed to a stop in traffic. "We're a team, right. We're even. Equals." He lightly ran the back of his fingers over her cheek, causing her to lift her head, allowing him to see the tears rushing to her eyes. "I'll do whatever it takes to help you heal from this… I'll go to counselling with you if you want me to, I'll listen, my shoulder is always open to you if you want to cry on it. I told you, don't worry about the other stuff. We've got forever to figure it all out."

"But.. what if I don't wanna… not ready…."

She looked so pitiful and small, Jim had such an urge to scoop her up into his arms and tell her things would work out. But he knew that wasn't going to get through to her – yet. She needed to hear it – he sensed it, with that unspoken communication they had between them, he could read her so well. He knew what she was thinking.

"If you're not ready, then neither am I." he said simply. "There's more to our relationship than sex. I could never, ever, pressure you to do anything you aren't comfortable with."

"But…" she said, her face flushing various shades of red. "But.. you'll want to…"

"But, nothing." he said. "How long have we known each other? I waited for you for so long. I didn't need to be with you to fall in love with you. I fell in love with you because you are you, before that was even on the table."

At that, he watched with dismay as Pam put her hands to her face and openly cried, shoulders shaking. Her tears turned to sobs, it was like a floodgate had been opened suddenly. She cried, great desperate sobs that racked her frail body. Jim looked at her with sympathy, suddenly understanding. He was so close to her pain it permeated through himself, stung his heart and brought water to his own eyes. All those feelings she had, she had been harboring for so long. All that emotion, that fear locked away inside herself.

He laid his hand on her bowed head, feeling her body tremble beneath him. "Hey." he said kindly, little more than a whisper. "Let it all out, love. It's not doing you any good keeping it all inside."

She cried on, like there was so much pain, too much for her skin to contain inside and it came bursting forth. Jim simply held on to her as best as he could, from the awkward positioning of the car seats, feeling actions would help her more than words at that moment. The rain had reached a blistering pace, grounding the cars to a halt on the freeway, while the woman inside cried herself into an ocean.

-TO-

Two hours later, and barely fifty miles further towards their destination, Pam's tears had mainly dried off. She was sitting quietly, snuggled into the warm blanket that Jim had dashed out of the car to retrieve from the trunk for her, braving the rain. He felt as though they had reached a turning point between them, their relationship had settled in the right direction. She looked thoroughly exhausted, yes, but after her tears had stopped, a new light was taking place in her eyes, a new resilience.

He looked upon her fondly, feeling overwhelmed with emotion for her. He hadn't been lying, he was very proud of her – of what it took for her to get to where she was now, and despite how insecure she was about herself, she had never backed away from the trauma she had suffered, she had faced it head on and she had let him in. There would be more speed bumps in the road ahead but he was prepared for that. After all, he was in it for the long haul.

He himself had so many strong feelings about everything – he was furious -at Roy- and he felt an overwhelming over protectiveness towards her – a determination to see no one ever laid so much as an angry finger in her direction ever again. He felt a helplessness for the fact that what had happened had happened and he couldn't take that away from her, that he couldn't take all the pain and damage and simply heal her of everything. There was a part of him that struggled to accept how Roy – how anyone – could ever hurt her that way, could ever want to. And a searing dismay at something she'd mumbled through her sobbing – that she should have been able to stop him, should have walked away.

Jim couldn't disagree more. He'd seen first hand the mental scars the physical abuse, the manipulation had left on her. He even reasoned so far she had been caught in a stockholm syndrome type situation – hadn't she told him many times how she had loved Roy? She made excuses for him, she accepted his abuse. Roy was a big guy compared to her, he didn't think it was fair to assume she could have stopped Roy if she tried.

But, he thought, given time and a chance at a normal, healthy relationship she would come to understand this on her own.

Jim smiled at her warmly, as the cars started to move along slowly again. Cautiously, she smiled back at him, reaching out to catch hold of his hand in hers, intertwining their fingers.

"You know something, Beesly?" he said mischievously. "I think I know how to lighten things up, so to speak." He lifted his cell phone with his other hand and placed it in the phone holder. Quickly he scrolled through, and pressed speaker.

"Hello?" answered the familiar voice.

"Ah, good evening Sir." Jim said, in a deep, throaty voice, thrilled to hear a small giggle come from his right. "Is this Mr Michael Scott?"

"Yes…. I'm Mr Michael Scott."

"Oh, Sir, excuse me for bothering you at a late hour however we are calling to confirm your order with our company for one o'clock tomorrow, at Carmen's."

"One o'clock… oh yes, big client lunch. Corporate, big guns. Yes, out to impress." Michael said.

"Very good sir." Jim went on. "We've got you booked in with five of our top ladies. Promptly at one o'clock. We are very professional, sir."

"Uh… five, you say? Yes, um… what is the name of your company again?"

Jim kept a straight face on. "Strippers for you, Sir. Please check your invoice. It is all booked in as requested. We appreciate your continued business."

"Oh… wait, wait.. did I … strippers for you… hang on…" There was a frantic rustling from the other end of the phone. "Did I order a stripper from you?"

"Five of them, Sir. Erotic dancers. We provide the cake and the sequins, Sir."

"Wait.. what? When did I order this?" Michael wailed.

"For the bachelor party at one o'clock tomorrow at Carmen's." Jim supplied, smothering a laugh.

"Oh God, NO. NO. NO!" Michael shouted into the phone. From the seat next to him, Pam exploded into a loud giggle. Jim beamed back at her and leaned over to kiss her gently on the cheek.

"Nooooooooo." Michael moaned in the background.

Jim smiled widely as Pam began to laugh almost as hard has she had cried. It was sweet music to his ears.

Chapter 17 by OfficeWriter

Michael shifted impatiently on one foot, hateful eyes burning towards the man beside him. The guy was a walking sad sack, a fun sucker who was continually wasting everyone's time with ridiculous meetings like the one Michael was currently stuck in.

"Due to an unfortunate incident very recently, Corporate felt this necessary." Toby stammered, before fleeting a nervous glance towards Michael.

"Corporate." Michael scowled back at him, dispiritedly shoving his hands in his pockets and scuffing a shoe along the floor. He rolled his eyes theatrically as the man continued to speak to the staff.

"And so Corporate wants us to do a review of the company policy against sexual harassment and discrimination." Toby pointedly ignored Michael and shuffled the papers he was holding up. Another flash of annoyance surged through Michael – he was the manager, he was the boss – he should be the one to give any reviews or lectures. The only harassment in his eyes, was Toby, harassing all the fun out of the staff and boring everyone to tears.

"And Toby insists on doing this right now, since you are all so extremely busy and it's the middle of the day. Take it away then." Michael waved a dismissive hand to his right.      

"Well…. Okay." Toby stuttered. "I just have to remind you all that sexual harassment is prohibited whether it takes place within the office premises or outside, including at social events, business trips, training sessions or conferences arranged by Dunder Mifflin."

"What is meant by 'Sexual Harassment'?" Dwight asked. "You have to be clear. What if Kevin, for example, is at the copier at the same time as Meredith and he accidentally brushes against one of her lawsuit zones? That's open season as far as Meredith's concerned. Where's our safety line?"

"Hey!" Meredith leaned forward apathetically, arms folded across her stomach. Behind her, Kevin giggled at the suggestion.

"No, no, no… Meredith is off the table here. No Meredith. Wouldn't even go there, nobody wants that." Michael answered brusquely, heading Toby off.

"Ahmm, the policy includes all staff. And Meredith." Toby added, drawing a fierce glare from Michael.

"Hey!" Meredith half-heartedly objected, leaning forward again.

Watching the scene with amusement, Jim lazed back in his chair, brushing Pam's elbow as he did so. He cleared his throat loudly. "I just want to say, a few weeks ago, Dwight tried to kiss me. I'm not saying he was harassing me, but I'm not sure how I feel about it, and I just think we should talk about it."

"That did not happen." Dwight stated tersely.

Jim gave a nonchalant shrug. "I just think we should get it out into the open." To his right, Pam softly chuckled, raising a grin to his face.

"It's harassment if Dwight hits on you. It's not the same as if it was Oscar." Kevin chortled, his shoulders bouncing up and down with laughter.

Oscar frowned. "That's not how it works, Kevin."

Dwight turned his head behind him to look at Kevin in annoyance. "I did not kiss Jim." he stated.

"Dwight, there is no shame in admitting how you feel. Loving another person is a beautiful thing." Michael added.

"I do not accept that. I have no feelings for Jim. Except a burning desire to destroy him."

Jim raised an eyebrow, grinning innocently. "Well, Dwight, admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it."

"I do not-"

Kevin stopped laughing. "What about Saddam Hussein?"

Glowering, Michael turned his back and pinched his nose. Letting out a groan, he faced the staff again. "You can't kiss Saddam. No Saddam."

"I mean, are you saying we can kiss anyone because love is beautiful, or just men like Saddam we should stay away from?"

Michael stared at Kevin for a moment, before shaking his head. "No, you can't… you can't… bunch of morons." he muttered. Jim smirked from his chair, catching Pam's eye with a twinkle, showing his pleasure at her amusement.

"It's a little off topic…" Toby mumbled. "Um… basic rule of thumb...Let's just say no one tries to kiss anyone else, ever."

Kevin giggled. "What about Pam, and Jim?"

"You and Jan." Andy added, motioning to Michael.

Michael shifted uncomfortably, looking down. "If you're referring to…. That was completely consensual, a one time thing and we cleaned everything afterward. I don't-"

"Michael?" Toby railed. "You can't-"

"It didn't happen on company time." Michael shot back quickly.

Toby rubbed the back of his neck. "You can't do it on company property…."

"Well, your prude-ness, technically it was on top of personal property." Michael muttered.

"It's still against company policy, Michael-"

"Alright, alright… get on with it."

"I have a question. What if we want guys to hit on us? I don't want a guy to think they can't, like, ask me to dinner."

Toby flushed. "Well…. the policy is harassment, Kelly, so I'm not sure that's-"

"It's about control." Karen said, jumping in.

"Right." Angela agreed. "Decent people don't treat the office like it's a glorified meat market. Some of us don't need this meeting."

"Ermm… you all have to sign this review afterwards for corporate." Toby waved the papers he was holding up in the air.

Kelly raised her hand. "Can we still date someone from here.. or corporate, for example?"

Rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, Toby rolled his eyes over the staff, settling briefly on Pam. "Well.. technically you need to declare any office relationship to corporate… just you know, if anyone was…. The main other point is that if you feel you've been harassed then you come to me as your HR rep."

"I usually let Bob handle it. He just beats them up if they harass me."

Michael unfolded his arms. "Yes, I'm sure you have nothing to worry about, Phyllis."

Angela spoke with a tone of reproach. "A decent man knows when he's crossing a line."

"Oh, really, Angela? Meredith, is that accurate? Or do women harass men as much as men harass women?"

Kevin began to giggle again. "Men harassing men, Oscar."

"Let's just say that no one harasses anyone, basic rule of thumb." Toby said.

"A real woman knows how to deal with that." Karen said, somewhat harshly. "That kind of stuff doesn't happen to me, rough guys, guys being abusive or too friendly. It wouldn't happen to me, I know how to control my men. A strong man takes a strong woman."

"Not every time. Not in my experience." Meredith added nonchalantly.

"Actually," Jim said seriously, looking directly at Karen. "It should be about respect between both people."

"You can't be weak in a relationship, Jim. You can't be limp and let the guy get away with treating you badly. That's just pathetic. You're not much of a woman if you don't make yourself equal to your man." she replied, fixing Pam with a withering look.

"Woah." Kevin intoned from the back of the room.

Pam, having remained silent through the meeting, set a hostile stare directly at Karen, but chose not to speak. The room was suddenly plunged neck deep in tension; the only sound to be heard was a stray phone ringing from somebodies desk. Pam shuddered, feeling herself growing in anger. For a brief moment she considered fleeing the room – getting the hell out – as the room seemed to be shrinking around her. Her head hurt. Then she felt cool, comforting fingers interlocking with hers down by the side of the chair. Breaking her eyes away from Karen, she smiled appreciatively at Jim and squeezed his hand back tightly.

"Just sign the forms on your way out." Toby said, apparently giving up. He walked out of the conference room without a look behind him.

-TO-

Pam went straight to her desk after the meeting, leaving Jim no opportunity to speak to her. She quickly answered the phone without looking up at him. He went to his own desk, accepting she was probably angry as well as embarrassed and upset about the meeting, on top of everything else. He considered having another word with Toby – after all, Jim knew better than anyone why the review was ordered; despite his initial playing around and trying to make Pam laugh throughout it. He kept an eye on Pam throughout the afternoon, slipping out of his desk to the kitchen to surprise her with fresh hot chocolate which she accepted gratefully.

Pam herself was also watching closely; but her focus was not on Jim. She waited, her eyes on the corner leading to the annexe, for the familiar dark haired head to appear. Mid way through the afternoon, she saw her moment as Karen slipped past her desk and out of the office.

Karen was at the snack machine when Pam approached, determination playing over her face.

"Hey. Thanks for that earlier." she snapped.

Karen swung around to face her, shock set deep in her eyes. "Excuse me?"

"In the meeting." Pam told her. "You knew exactly what you were saying. And." she added, deciding she had had more than enough of games and manipulations and insults. "And. We both know why we had that meeting. If you have a problem with me, let's take it to Toby, now."

"Excuse me? I don't even know what you're talking about."

"I find that hard to believe. Considering you have made it clear how you feel about me and Jim."

Karen had the decency to blush at that. "I don't see a ring on his finger – or yours for that matter!" she replied hotly.

"Like I said, either take it to Toby right now, or leave it alone." Pam said, leaving no room for debate. Wanting to end the confrontation quickly, she decided she had given the woman enough warning and started to walk away. Karen stared after her with a stunned expression that only grew when Pam turned back to her again.

"Oh, and Jim made his choice. Deal with it." she said firmly, feeling victorious, and returned to her desk before the other woman could retaliate. Throwing a visibly confused Jim a wide smile as she sat down again, she hoped that was the end of that.

-TO-

It had been a long seventy two hours. She was tired; exhausted, emotionally wrung out. She felt like she had been drunk driving her way through the day, the events and revelations of the weekend following her around, nipping at her whenever she began feel a semblance of calm in herself.

To add to that, she'd had next to no sleep before coming into the office that morning. When the sky had finally rained itself out and the traffic thinned out enough for them to drive through, it was fairly late in the evening. Then, they'd split up and gone to their separate apartments for the night. They had kissed outside her door and bid each other goodnight, and Pam had fought an urge to beg Jim to stay the night, stay with her while she slept. She later realized, as she was laying awake watching shadows play over the darkness and form formidable man shaped silhouettes in front of her eyes, that she did in fact sleep much more easily – both in length and comfort – with Jim next to her. Coming back to her empty bedroom had been hard, scary even. But somewhere along the way, her rational mind also told her that if it was right for her, maybe that was wrong for Jim. She would be sending mixed messages, she was sure, if she asked him to stay simply because she didn't want to be alone and so she could get some sleep.

And yet, despite her giddying exhaustion, she was pushing herself with the tenacity of an Olympic runner – in spite of everything, here she was, on the precipice of another large – for her – step.

She had almost decided instantly as the idea popped into her head. Impulsively plans came to her and she followed them without question or reason. She knew Jim had a client meeting that would run over, she knew she'd have a little time before he got back. She wanted to do something nice for him. She wanted to understand something – reassure herself of one thing that was keeping her far away from him so that they could move forward together, as he had himself said.

So, she'd started with step one of her plan. She'd passed his desk that afternoon, stopping to whisper almost seductively into his ear. She offered to make him dinner that night. He'd accepted, as she knew he would.

Everything would be ready for him when he got home, she told him. And so, she'd managed to get out of work a little early and stopped off at the market for some items, then let herself into his house with her little key. First she did some spring cleaning. She set the dinner table, rounding off with two long red taper candles in the middle.

Then she got to work on their meal, preparing with great care, leaving the food ready to stay warm in the oven.

And so it had come to the point where she was upstairs in the bathroom in Jim's little house. She'd loosened her hair letting it fall around her face, smoothing mousse through her straying curls. She added a touch of lipstick. Mac Fanfare – a beautiful yellow-pink color she didn't wear too often. She wanted the night to be special. She wanted to look special. Framing her eyes with long, ebony lashes in black mascara, she then used desert rose to bring out some color in her cheeks. She worked to disguise the baggage under her eyes.

Once she was finished, she stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom. Wearing her blue-purple satin knee length dress – originally a bridesmaids dress, being the fanciest item of clothing she owned – and adjusted herself slightly. Sweet delicate fragrance floated in the air around her. She liked the way she looked that night, she hoped that Jim would. She also picked the dress because of its color, knowing full well that Jim tended to favor lighter, non shocking colors, blue's and greys etc.

She'd always loved the dress – it seemed to accentuate her collar bones and instilled a temporary confidence in her. Putting on her high heels, Pam stroked her leg, admiring the way the heels made her legs appear much longer and slinky, changing the whole shape of her posture.

Once she felt herself suitably ready, she headed downstairs to check on dinner and wait for Jim to come home, so she could surprise him. 

Chapter 18 by OfficeWriter

It would have been comical had she not been so nervous.

Her stomach clenched and slackened and clenched the way it did when she was deep in anticipation, bringing with it the bitter taste of nausea to her mouth. She wanted everything to be just right, wanted to give something back to Jim - something more than just words. She wanted him to feel the way she did in those moments when he showed her his depth of feeling towards her in those tiny but far from insignificant ways, often through small soft kisses and long warming hugs. He deserved to be spoiled for once, and she hated that she didn't return nearly enough of the care and affection he typically lavished upon her. She hated that she was so closed off, to Jim who was so open, so giving with her.

She fingered the glittering bracelet on her wrist, turning it to different angles to admire the bright sparkling sunbeams casting beautiful flashes of light over the gold chain. It was the most precious gift she had ever been given. Not because of it's extravagance - being solid yellow gold sprinkled with shimmering diamonds; not because it was clearly very expensive and, definitely not because she felt he should buy her extravagant gifts, but simply because he had chosen the bracelet, it was from him. The beauty of it was undeniable, but he could have fashioned a bracelet for her out of string and cloth and she would have treasured it just the same. Lately she was beginning to feel a little more normal about his displays of affection – as a friend he had been big hearted, caring, often there with a hug or measure of support or encouragement. That was who he was. But now things were different, partners had different rules, different lines to draw and blur, and while she treasured everything he gave to her, there was a heavy darkness hanging over it all; a sadness and underservedness, a suddenly tangible emotional starvation running through her.

The bracelet glittered and flashed at her as she flittered around the table, nervously straightening the silverware, lighting the candles with a shaking hand. A bashful smile played across her lips as she surveyed her efforts. Several times she darted to the little kitchen window on hearing the rumblings of an engine approaching. It was almost torture, she had decided, waiting for him to come home. Her phone buzzed on the table, causing her to jump involuntarily and sending a bolt of anxiety into her chest, but on scooping it up she found to her relief it was not Jim messaging her to say he was going to be late.

"Enjoy yourself. Try not to worry so much. He'll appreciate you whatever. Love Mom x."

Pam read the message with a smile. She thought it was cute that her mom always ended her messages like that. Helene was still getting the hang of the idea of a cell phone. Pam was just grateful that her mom finally had acquiesced and allowed her other daughter to buy her one, subsequently meaning she was in quick reach if needed. She tapped out a brief reply, and then shoved the phone away into her bag, turning the volume off.

It was at that moment that Jim walked in, stepping so lightly she barely heard him. Her hands fluttered nervously over the front of her dress, smoothing the satin skirt down over her thighs.

She might have laughed had her stomach not been so heavy. Jim strolled into the kitchen area, wearing a familiar half grin, his backpack slung in its usual spot over his right shoulder. Then he saw her, standing timidly behind the lit candles on the table. His reaction was quick and amusing. The goofy half smile stilled, as though he had frozen on the spot. Staring at her from his side of the room, unblinking, his eyebrows slowly rose and his mouth opened and for a crucial moment she was sure she had got it all wrong. But his glowing eyes told her different, and his lips began to stretch widely into a stunned smile.

"Ummm…" Pam mumbled, her cheeks flushing hot. She ran her hands down the front of her dress again. "I guess I went a bit overboard…. But-"

"Stop." he said, blinking. "You look so…. Incredible. Don't change a thing."

She stared back at him in wonder, her mouth working and relieved tears stinging at her eyes. Before she thought any further she was across the room and wrapping her arms around his neck. Jim responded in kind, encircling his arms around her small waist as she whispered a thank you into his ear.

-TO-

"Woah." Jim said, looking down at his plate appreciatively. "When did you find time to do all this?"

"I kinda got out a bit earlier this afternoon while you were still out." She shrugged a little guiltily.

"Candles, wine, soft shell crab…. you. I'm liking this fancy new Beesly."

"Well… you did have a stressful day… so I thought you might need something relaxing." she said and lightly nudged his foot with her toe.

"Dinner with a pretty lady works wonders, I've heard."

Pam shrugged modestly. "Well presented, anyway."

"Gorgeous."

"Oh uh…" she stuttered, going red. "It's the hair, and the dress… they hide a multitude of sins."

Jim chuckled at her, taking a sip of his wine. "You could wear a sackcloth and still be a knock out."

"I think that wine's gone to your head, Halpert." Pam rolled her eyes at him and smirked.

"In wine there is truth." Jim mused. Pam opened her mouth, intending to respond with a remark of her own, but thought better of it. She snapped her jaw shut quickly, pressing her lips together. Jim watched her curiously, but chose not to question it.

"This was really good." he said, leaning forward and placing his elbows on the table.

Pam smiled shyly, picking up his empty plate. "You stay right there. I'm taking care of you this evening."

"Okay." he replied. Even though his voice was one of amusement, he was genuinely touched and a little excited by this new assertive version of his girlfriend. All the effort she had put in had not gone unnoticed by him; she was was absolutely stunning tonight. He watched her moving delicately around the kitchen, retrieving forks and plates for dessert.

"Don't move." he said suddenly, grinning as she paused mid motion looking back over her shoulder at him questioningly.

"You look so beautiful standing there in that light. Don't move a muscle."

Pam rolled her eyes. "Oh, you…" she muttered, hiding her pleasure at his obvious approval. Moving in dainty, feminine motions she brought the dessert to the table, situating herself opposite him again. Jim happily picked up his fork, digging into his plate.

"It's delicious." he mumbled with his mouth full, by way of an explanation for his table manners. Pam laughed heartily, watching him through the candlelight. The soft glow accentuated every strand of his messy head perfectly, hair flopping casually over his forehead, little tufts lifting up at the sides. Messy, she mused. Perfectly wild and chaotic, but totally in check… it was so him, a complete reflection of his crazy-yet-in-control character. She smiled a little, lifting up her wine glass.

"To better things to come." Jim said, raising his own glass and clinking it against hers.

"Hope so." she said softly.

Jim laughed. "So, tell me more about you, Ms Beesly. How are things going for you?"

Pam looked down at her glass, swirling the wine around it with a fond smirk as she pondered the question.

"Oh you know. Crap year. Crap relationship. Crap men." she said ruefully. "Then…. I met this incredible guy."

"Incredible, huh?" Jim said, with exaggerated intrigue.

"Yes.. incredibly handsome, incredible personality."

"Tell me more, pretty lady."

"Incredible sense of humor…"

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, He's a salesman. We met at the office. He was my best friend. Still is." she added, biting her bottom lip thoughtfully. "He even has his own fan club."

"He does, does he?" Jim poked fun, knowing full well what she was referring to.

She spoke cheerfully. "Yeah, he does. 'Cause you know, he's so handsome. I have to fight off other women."

"Defending your territory, Queen Beesly?"

Pam swallowed hard. "I do… there's this woman, who is really into him in the office-"

"Woman who is deluded." Jim interrupted.

"This woman who has fallen for him – who can blame her, right? She talks nonsense a lot of the time but she is right about him…."

Jim smiled at her. "Yeah… but her views about women and relationships are way off."

Tracing her finger lightly across the placemat Pam tilted her head. "So, you don't think it's all about control?"

Jim leaned forward. "I think a real woman – as she put it – is a survivor, strong inside, strong not by dominating and controlling someone else, but because she's someone who can weather the worst and be all the stronger for it in the end."

Pam lowered her eyes to the table. "Well...then…" she mumbled hoarsely, pushing down a wave of emotion.

"And is a knockout in a blue dress. Or a sackcloth." he added mischievously.

"Oh, did I mention he's really smooth with the compliments?"

Jim smiled playfully and leaned further forward, elbows pressed into the hard tabletop. "And now…"

"And now- now he's…. he's the most important thing in my life." she said shyly, feeling herself flush a little.

"So, he's an incredibly lucky guy then." Jim said, his heart pounding hard. He wanted nothing more than to gather her up in his arms and kiss her head to toe. Just hearing her say it, everything he had dreamed of her saying to him for years, the joy he felt was enough to knock him out cold.

"The luck is all mine, believe me." she muttered truthfully. She raised her eyes to look at him. "I still wonder when I'll mess it all up. With him, I mean. If it will last."

"Is there a doubt in your mind?"

"Well…." she thought seriously. "I have so much baggage… and I am pretty hard to live with…."

"Yeah, you're right, we gave it our best shot." Jim teased.

Pam stared back at him a moment, uncertainty playing over her face. Then confusion cleared and she gave in. "Best to call it quits right now." she said with forced solemnity.

"Agreed. We'll divide our assets. I'll take Michael and you can have Dwight."

"Hey! In that case, you get Andy as well."

Jim fake groaned. "Oh man." He drained the last of his wine melodramatically. Pam giggled, shaking her head.

"You big baby." she teased, her eyes sparkling and moved to pour him another glass. Somehow, while trying to laugh and pour at the same time, she managed to lose her grip and before another word was uttered a crimson patch was spreading over the front of Jim's shirt.

"Oh my god!" she exclaimed, stepping back, flushing furiously.

Jim casually leaned back on his chair, placing a finger over his mouth. "Eau de Pinot Noir is my favorite cologne." he said innocently. Pam stared at him hesitantly, surveying him for signs of anger and saw none, she burst out laughing.

"I could suspect you did that on purpose, Beesly. You think you could stop laughing long enough to hand me a cloth- Or even another shirt?"

She fled to the kitchen and out of the room, giggling hard.

"Here." she sputtered, returning with a towel. Buoyed by his good humor and still laughing, she ambled towards him. With only slight hesitation she pressed the towel against the wet patch on his shirt and impulsively planted herself delicately in his lap. Before he could say a word, she began to gently pat away the stain in circles around his chest, shivering at the nearness of him.

Jim slowly reached up and caught hold of her wrist, stopping her in mid circuit. "Hey." he said, barely above a whisper. She looked up at him, eyes shining. Then his lips were on her neck and she closed her eyes, inhaling him. Dropping the towel, her hands made their way around his middle to his back, coming to rest below his shoulders.

"You're all wet." she said after a while, pulling back from him. She shifted on his knee, gripping the hem of his shirt and carefully manoeuvring it up and over his head. Shirt discarded next to the wet towel, she pressed her hand against his bare chest, nodding her head forward and bringing their lips together. She inhaled deeply; he smelled so good, it was the strong typically-Jim smell that she loved so much, the scent that was only attributable to him – the intoxicating scent that made her forget about everything but him.

His hands moved all over her thighs, making them burn and numb, as they kissed hungrily. Then his hands were moving up into her chest and under the dress and a fire was starting inside of her. Heat spread through her limbs and her mind and she felt truly happy for the first time in years. She kissed him back with passion, her hands cupping his face, all of the held back feelings and sexual tension over the years condensing into the moment between them.

-TO-

It felt so good. Jim's fingers, his touch was so right for her. This was right where she was supposed to be, she felt it.

They had somehow ended up upstairs, still entwined together, on top of his bed. Everything in the room radiated Jim, magnified all the things she loved about him. He lay on top of her, hands running up and down her hips, lips working their way from neck to face. She loved him, he was absolutely sure of it. It was in her eyes, in her touch – in every single way that it wasn't with every other girl he had been with. This was it.

Her hand travelled flirtatiously up his leg, to the button of his jeans. She felt him stiffen, then she took her moment, lifting her fingers higher and pushing against his bare chest.

"Okay…" she mumbled, against his mouth, pressing lightly on him. "Okay, that's enough. Stop."

She felt badly, for what she was doing. She knew it was teasing, she thought it was mean, but she had to know. She had to let it go this far to know if he would be able to stop. In her rational mind, she knew it. But she had to do it. She had to know for sure.

Jim let out a deep moan, lifting his head a little, bringing it away from her face. "Huh?" he mumbled.

"Stop. I want you to stop."

She held her breath, fearing anger, disappointment from him. Those were things she felt herself, in herself but still, she had to know. Fearful of his reaction, she closed her eyes. Then the warm pressure on top of her lifted and he turned over, laying next to her.

Just like that.

He let go. He stopped.

Despite her fear of his reaction, her heart swelled with love for him. She kept her eyes closed, feeling she had ruined the romantic evening but then she felt a warm arm curl around her and draw her close. She pressed her cheek into his bare chest, sliding an arm up over his middle, hugging herself closer into him.

"I'm sorry." she whispered, kissing his chest.

"Told you." he replied lovingly, returning a kiss to her forehead.

"I really don't have anything to worry about, do I?" she said, more to herself than Jim. She could feel his heartbeat under her cheek, strong and steady, and alive.

"Not with me." Jim said sincerely, catching hold of her hand. "Only being loved to death for the rest of your life."

Carefully she lifted his hand to her mouth in reply, and slowly kissed each of his fingers.

"Think you can handle it, Beesly?"

Pam laid another soft kiss on his chest. "I can if you can, love." she said.

Chapter 19 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

A/N This is really a two part but the other half is quite long so I split them up and will add the other half as a new chapter. 

Sorry for the cliffhanger, of sorts. If anyone is still reading - I estimate about 5-10 chapters left before the end. If there was anything anyone wanted to see in the storyline, please suggest before I get to the end. Always open to suggestions/ideas.

Thank you to those who review - and review with such insight and care - I take on board everything and I make adjustments often based on the reviews left - thank you so much.

Pam got the call the next day just as she was finishing a meagre lunch with ten minutes left on her break. Jim was already done, of course, and the two of them had been sitting in comfortable quiet together; not quite ignoring the others who came in and out of the room but not actively engaging with them either. No sooner had she picked up her cell he saw her face sag into fear, then her fingers automatically began to trace circles around the table. He knew instinctively, with the keen awareness of two people who knew each other like well worn books, that the assertive, confident woman of the night before would be forced into retreat once again. Speaking in quiet monosyllables she kept her eyes focused on the table in front of her. Privy only to her side of the conversation he plucked out snippets of information from both her sagging body language and her simple responses.

"What's happening?" he questioned as soon as she lowered the hand gripping the phone.

Pam looked towards the kitchen, and then stood up. "Lawyer."

Jim waited a minute, thinking she would explain what had been said on the call. But she didn't – she simply gathered the remains of her uneaten food and turned to the trash can.

"Okay?" he asked.

Once lunch was dumped, she walked towards the door and through to her desk, Jim shadowing her closely. The woman dug around in her purse and thumped herself down in her chair with fatigue. Above her, the light blinked once, twice drawing miniscule fragments of darkness across her face that only served to exaggerate the growing black of her mood.

"It's definitely going ahead." she finally spoke.

"What else did she say? What about testifying?" Jim rested his arms heavily on the hard edge of the reception desk and leaned towards her.

Pam hesitated. "Um… I don't actually have to testify at all. But… it would be a significant bonus for the defense if I didn't. But the case is going forward." She dropped her cell phone on to her desk, slumping her shoulders.

"So we, uh, we have a few weeks to prepare."

In silence she picked up the cell phone again, dumping it unceremoniously into her purse, shoving the bag under the desk out of sight. "I don't even want to think about it."

"You've done this already, remember. This is the end stretch now. There's nothing more after this." Jim said, reaching out to rub her forearm. Pam was in no mood for comfort – she was clearly well past fed up and she calmly pulled her wrist back, dropping it to her lap.

"This is different. This is criminal court, Jim. With a jury." she huffed in annoyance. "All these strangers have to hear everything – all of it – and then these strangers get to decide whether I'm telling the truth or not. It's not fair, Jim. It's not."

"None of this has been fair." Jim picked up on her frustration, moving round the desk to her. "Hey…. You can do this. We can do this." he said kindly, bending down beside her.

"You can't get up on the stand for me. You can't protect me from this, okay?" Her face twisted, her eyebrows drawing inward. "I can't do it." she sighed, in a quieter tone.

"If I could, I would do if for you. You know that."

"It gets worse." Pam hitched a breath, her eyes burning. "The defense-" she spat. "Want to call my Mom. As a witness. For him."

Jim recoiled in disgust at that. He laid a hand over hers and forced himself to speak calmly. "What?"

"Something about character – because he told them how much my mom and dad cared for him." she said. "That my mom has to admit under oath she never saw anything wrong – it's going to kill her."

"That is just- just cruel!" he shook his head emphatically.

"You think?" she said with anger. "This is Roy, all the way, he knows how to hit me –" she broke off, realizing the implications of her words. "– where it hurts."

"Hey-" Jim said placatingly, seeing how worked up she was becoming. "Listen, I'll come to you tonight and bring you dinner for a change. Get the afternoon out of the way first and we'll figure it out tonight."

She shook her head, looking up at him with pleading eyes. "No… I think… I just wanna be on my own tonight. I just… I'm sorry." she said.

Jim's eyebrows quirked up. "Pam…I don't know if that's a good idea. Come on, don't close yourself off."

"I'm not. There's just nothing you can do to help. Please, Jim. It never ends – it will never be over. I need some quiet time." Pushing her chair forward and away from Jim, she paused, looking over her shoulder to him. "Corporate wants this time sheet done on Michael. I should get back to work."

Jim stared at her moment before standing. "At least call your Mom tonight, talk to her." He folded his arms. She turned back to her work.

"I really need to do these for Corporate." Pam snatched up her pen, signalling the end of the conversation.

Jim huffed a little. "I can-"

A guttural, pinched clearing of a throat interrupted them. "Sorry to interrupt this little lovers quarrelBut when you're over it, Pam I need eight copies of this as soon as you can."

Jim whistled inwardly. "Oooh. As many as eight, huh?"

Karen fixed him with a scathing look and turned back towards the annexe. Pam picked up the paperwork resignedly.

"Hey, leave those for now. Or even I'll do them for you."

"Better not." she grumbled. "She'll probably think you're proposing marriage or something if you do it."

"About tonight-"

"Forget it." she said shortly. "I told you… I need some time alone."

Jim went back to his own desk dejectedly, confused and concerned. The night before had been almost perfect, they were connecting in all the ways that mattered. He found himself struggling with the feelings this brought up in him – anger, at Roy, frustration with the situation. Impatient for it to be over, as was Pam. He sighed heavily, swallowing down his frustration hard.

"You know what I found this morning?" Dwight said smugly, staring up at the ceiling. "Schematics. Amateur schematics of this office. Stowed away behind the copier. You think those flickering lights are a coincidence – false. It's them. They are up there planning a coup over us."

"What?" Jim replied, distracted. "Oh – oh, right, yes. Utica. Yes."

"Act normal, Jim." Dwight demanded. He lowered his voice. "There are a hundred ways to catch prey. A hunter stalks his prey until the hunter becomes the hunted. Then the prey becomes the predator. Then the predator and the hunter fight."

And, with a machiavellian grin, Dwight meaningfully lifted a serious looking blowtorch into the air.

"Oh, man." Jim said, leaning back in his chair.

-TO-

The sound of the phone yanked him out of sleep as effectively as a continuing series of nudges to the ribs. In the darkness he slowly sat up, a sudden chill falling over him like a cup of ice water. The ring continued persistently as his fumbling fingers scrabbled to locate the phone in the bleary-eyed blackness and he moved with frustration, finally snatching it up roughly, as though it had personally offended him. He looked at the screen, his eyes widening, cold sweat laying on his skin.

"Hey, is everything alright?" he answered urgently. She was breathing heavily. He could hear a tapping in the background, otherwise there was a bleak silence. "Pam?"

"I'm sorry for waking you." She cleared her throat. "I, uh… I…"

Jim blinked, his eyelids heavy. "Pam – you okay?"

"Um.. I'm not.. I think.. I just didn't know what to do, I'm sorry-"

"Wait- what is it?"

"I saw Kenny outside. He's outside."

"Outside?" His voice sounded hoarse. "What's he doing? You called the cops, right?"

Sliding out of bed, Jim switched on the light. The sudden bright stung his eyes. Somewhere outside, something was hooting softly in the dark. "Pam? You did call the cops?"

"Yes." she said shakily. "I did. They aren't here yet and it's really late and…."

Jim snatched up a pair of jeans from the floor. Switching the phone to speaker and placing it on the bed, he wrestled them on. "Has he tried to get in?"

"I...don't know. I don't think so."

"Don't answer the door to anyone. Stay put, okay?

"Jim – he's outside. He was just standing out there. Like he's waiting or something. What if he tries to get in the building or-"

"Stay calm. Keep talking to me until I get there." Plucking up his keys and heading out, Jim let the door slam behind him. "What's that – is that the police?"

He heard a scuffling noise, as though she was moving around. "No… it's a truck gone by."

"Can you still see him? How close is he?" Jim asked, shutting the car door and starting the engine. He reversed quickly, forgetting the seat belt.

"No… I think he's by the trees. I can't see - it's really dark out there!"

"Pam-"

"I'm… I'm scared, Jim.I mean, what does he want? Why can't they leave me alone?"

"Okay, okay," he said, responding to the panic in her voice. "I'm on my way. Let me know if the police get there. Keep talking to me."

"I can't think – why aren't they here yet?"

"Okay." Jim said, his face tightening. "I'm on the road. Listen to me, okay? Where are you?"

"In the living room."

"Is everything locked? Double checked?"

He heard a shaky sigh. The tapping sound was back, only magnified. "Yeah."

"Stay in the living room. Don't change rooms. Wait for me, or the cops. Listen to me, okay? I want you to think about something."

"Mmmm." she mumbled.

"Remember the night we sat on the roof – listening to my iPod, eating grilled cheese. Michael Scarn, Catherine Zeta."

"Yeah I do."

"Picture it - Picture that night. Remember Michael's play?"

"Yeah, poor Dwigt."

"You think that really was our first date? If you have to get absolutely technical?" Jim suggested, carefully watching the road.

There was a silence, he assumed she was thinking. "Um.. I think it might have been."

"Candles. Grilled cheese, fireworks. Music and dinner. Remember you said no one had made you dinner in a long time. You know, that was a nice time up there. Remember how dark it was - we could see out over all the lights and everything. Like-"

"Gods."

"Like Gods," Jim chuckled softly, watching out for the turn. He was almost there. "Just think about it. We could go up there again, like a second date. I'll bring the grilled cheese."

"It was a really nice night." she murmured, sounding less shaken. "A good idea."

"Yes. And now some really good news- I'm here. Buzz me in, okay? But don't come downstairs."

"Thank God –Jim- please be careful. And hurry. I don't want anything to happen to you."

Jim parked up, looking out into the darkness. Stepping out of the car, he eyed the area carefully. For a moment considered going ahead and poking around the trees to see if he could spot Kenny out there, but one glance up at the small illuminated window of the front of Pam's apartment reminded him, Kenny could wait- he couldn't leave her alone up there any longer.

- TO-

The door to her apartment was already creaking open as he climbed the final flight of stairs. She stood like a silhouette in the doorway, tucking her hands inside her sleeves.

"You okay?" Jim said, raising his eyebrows.

The only answer she had was a slight nod and then she moved towards him. Sliding her arms around his neck in sheer relief, she buried her face into his shoulder and felt the comfort of his familiar embrace pressing her against his chest. He cradled her head and for a horrifying moment Roy flashed into her mind. Roy had never held her like that – Roy's hugs were sharp, elbowy and fierce, often leaving her with dull blooms of pain throughout her ribs. Jim's chest was warm, welcoming, and although it also left her feeling a good deal vulnerable, with her weakness on full display – her need - she thought Jim's arms made it all worthwhile.

Pam froze as her apartment buzzed from inside the door. Jim walked her inside and she answered the intercom.

"Police, miss."

Pam looked at Jim with relief, and buzzed them in.

Chapter 20 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
I just wanted to say to the kind Guest review who made a suggestion about Jim (I don't want to spoil anything) but I thought it was a fantastic suggestion and yes, I will definitely write it in nearer the end, thank you so much.

I just wanted to say to the kind Guest review who made a suggestion about Jim (I don't want to spoil anything) but I thought it was a fantastic suggestion and yes, I will definitely write it in nearer the end, thank you so much.

...

She wasn't really surprised. On the surface, the two police officers who attended stayed longer than she'd expected – long enough to be considered doing their duty at the very least, but underneath the polite questions – insinuations – distrust was simmering. And then, there was Jim, she didn't even have to look at his face to realize that even he was beginning to have his doubts.

"Nothing was disturbed in the area you said you saw him, Miss. No one has been through that patch of grass for quite some time." one of the officers – the taller one – said with certainty. "It is very dark out tonight. Lotta trees." he added.

Pam frowned, pointing emphatically at the window in the direction of the trees. "He was standing there, by that tree, by the fence, looking this way."

"We scoured the area, Miss. The grass there is quite overgrown."

"It was undisturbed." the second officer added unhelpfully. "Sometimes at night, things in the dark can get distorted, things can look like other things. You're sure he was over there – right by the fence?"

Pam glared at his reflection in the window, hovering by the entrance, his squat build far too bulky for his height. His uniform looked like it had never seen an iron before. They didn't believe her, that was obvious. This was to them just one more hysterical woman to add to their daily logs.

The tall officer rested a hand on the back of the couch, taking another glance through the window. "We will run a check on his whereabouts, of course."

His calm nature was infuriating. "I know where he was." Pam said tightly, catching Jim's eye in silent meaning.

"We'll file a report."

Pam turned to face the other officer at the same time as Jim. "And in the meantime? What do I do if he comes back? If he tries to get in?" She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering.

Jim slid an arm around her shoulders, steadying her. "She lives here by herself. There's gotta be something you can do."

"We can run a check, file a report-"

"And if he breaks in and attacks her?"

The tall officer rubbed his nose, looking at Jim apologetically. "Without proof that there was someone prowling outside there's not much we can do but give the usual advice, keep all the doors and windows locked, tighten up your security. Do you have another place to stay, Miss?"

"Sure. I can hop from house to house while he's still lurking around out there. Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll get bored."

The officer studied Pam thoughtfully, poking his tongue against his cheek. "Have you been drinking, Miss?"

She recoiled, ducking her head as though the man had struck her. "Oh, for god's sake!" she cried, raising a hand to her mouth.

"On medication?"

"Hey, listen-" Jim snapped. "Listen, she's not a crank – are you taking this seriously or not?"

"Sir, please be assured we are taking this very seriously, and we will run a report on Mr… ah…uh..."

"Anderson." officer number two supplied, resting against the door.

Pam shook her head, leaning against Jim and dropped her hand from her mouth. "Well, thank you for coming." she said, slumping her shoulders in defeat.

"We'll see ourselves out." the officer added, walking to join his colleague at the door. The two men left without much more to say, and Pam followed them out, locking the door securely behind them.

"Am I staying here or are you coming back with me?" Jim folded his arms.

Pam felt her eyes narrow as she took him in, standing in the center of the room, a strange mix of concern and frustration on his face. "You don't believe anyone was out there either, do you?"

"Woah – I didn't say that. I wasn't thinking that. It's just… what do you think it's about?"

"What do you mean?" She felt her body go rigid.

"Kenny. In the middle of the night, just standing there? I know you saw what you saw. But… are you sure it wasn't a trick of the trees or the dark? What I'm saying is, you saw him clearly, right?"

"Yeah – I saw him! Someone was out there!" Her voice rose, high and stiff, full of a bitter fear that he would not believe her.

As always, he had anticipated her thinking. "I believe you." he said patiently, keeping his voice low. "Just those guys were saying that he couldn't have been where you said he was."

"Someone was out there!"

"Someone? Listen.. I know you've been expecting something like this-"

"– Look, don't patronize me like you're one of the cops, okay? You weren't here. I'm not crazy, Jim. They aren't going to leave me alone!"

"Kenny?"

She jerked her head up sharply. "I don't know!" she cried. Again, her shoulders slumped, her body sinking into resignation. The fight flickered out of her as suddenly as a blackout. "I don't know! I was so sure… it's so dark out, really dark. I got scared. I did see something, I really did."

"Hey," Jim moved towards her. "You did the right thing – calling the police and calling me. And at least we'll find out where Kenny is, that should make you feel a bit safer, right?"

"It should." she shrugged dismissively, walking across the room and slowly sinking onto the couch. She trembled at the possibility of him being correct. Her heart sank through her to the floor. She simply wasn't sure anymore. "I'm tired." she muttered. Jim turned his eyes on her contemplatively.

"Did you sleep at all tonight? Or were you…."

"Was I what?"

Jim looked uncomfortable. "Like… have you been having nightmares still?"

Pressed, Pam got to her feet, her eyes bright. "I did not dream this okay? I'm just telling you. I don't know what to tell you. I thought I saw him outside."

"I believe you," he said again. "What about tonight? What do you want to do?"

"What can I do? Really? What good is calling the cops if they don't believe me? And now, you!"

"Come on, Pam. I know you don't think that." Jim eyed her flushed cheeks, her eyes burning angrily, seeing the fear caught behind them. "Listen, let's not fight about it, okay. I'll go check outside again and then come back and make sure everything is locked up."

"Wait." she stopped him, the anger sliding away from her face. "Don't. Don't go out there, don't go anywhere. Stay."

"You don't want me to go check outside?"

She shook her head. "No, no, don't. If he was out there the cops would have scared him away probably now. On the chance that he is out there remember it's not just me he's pissed at."

Now that she had admitted the possibility to herself – the possibility that she had made a mistake – her blood ran cold inside of her and with a terrible heaviness. She had dragged him out of bed in the middle of the night, yes, she had woken up suddenly, thick with past horrors, mouth dry with revulsion. Yes, she had wandered out to the living room. She was no fool – of course Jim would see past it all to the obvious question of why she was up and looking out of windows in the early hours of the night. Sometimes she could curse that he knew her so well.

"Sure you're okay?" he asked, looking at her with concern. In a flash he was standing next to her.

"Yeah." She edged her hand towards his, brushing tentative fingertips against his palm. Guilt sat heavily on her chest. Her mood shifted and she looked up at Jim with longing, inexplicably feeling a surge of affection for him. He opened his hand up, letting her entwine their fingers together in a tight grasp, pressing their palms together.

"I'm sorry I yelled at you." she said in a soft voice.

The corner of his lip quirked up in a small smile. "You want me to stay?"

"Yeah." she turned to him without hesitation, seeming to snap back into reality. "God, you're freezing. You came out in just a t-shirt?"

"Mmhmm."

"Such a badass. Go get in bed before you turn blue. I'll bring in some hot chocolate." she forced a jovial tone to her voice, wanting to do something for him. A split second later it occurred to her that Jim had never actually seen her bedroom before – not that there was much to see – except the numerous cardboard boxes attracting thick layers of dust laying haphazardly in corners, along with the almost empty wardrobe and unemptied bags scattered and hanging off the door handles. This brought a slight flush of embarrassment to her cheeks. "Go on," she softly encouraged, putting the state of her room aside.

She went into the kitchen, taking the time out to try and pull the pieces of herself together. As the water boiled, she stared in complete unbelief out of the window, the clear image of the man she had seen earlier now murky in her memory, his shape, his solid form fraying and changing in her mind the way dreams do as they escape the immediate past. There was no sign of the man – anyone – out there now. She watched, waiting for the trees to come to life and take the shape of someone, waiting for some validation that would take away the uncertainty that cloaked around her.

-TO-

When she had gone back into the bedroom, Jim was under the blankets, leaning back against the headboard. The sight of him nestled in her bed, an unassuming grin lighting up his face was oddly endearing. Taking him in as she set the steaming mugs down, she returned his smile, it suddenly dawning on her that she had never really noticed the depth of how handsome he was. There really wasn't any one thing about him that made him so, though she thought that wild hair of his came close. She had always loved his messy head, even though others often made fun of it. It was so thick, so lustrous; it was just him, just who he was. He was attractive all the way through, his hazel eyes were deep, his voice was always soft, kind, but mostly it was the person he was within that reflected out and made him so attractive.

"Jim?" she said tentatively, sliding under the covers next to him. She sat up against the headboard, unconsciously mirroring him, her head slightly tilted to the side towards him.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you for coming over." Again she reached for his hand, slipping her palm comfortably against his warm one on top of the covers.

Abruptly his head turned, kissing her cheek. "You doing okay?"

A wry smile slipped across her lips. "Much better. I'm... sorry." she exhaled loudly.

His fingers tightened around hers. "And why are you sorry?"

"Seeing ghosts, maybe. Or maybe not."

Jim was silent a moment, taking in the implications of that.

"I didn't get you over here on false pretenses." she added quickly, turning her head against the headboard once more to face him.

"Oh." he said cheekily. "Well that's a disappointment."

Pam gaped at him, before squashing her nerves down through her stomach. The familiarity of their routines, their comfortable, joking banter warmed her inside. "Yeah, pulled you from that hot date with Pamela Anderson, huh?"

"I know, right? She was going straight for a home run unt– "

"– A home run, eh? Steamy. She was really into you, huh?"

Jim sighed with a dreamy air. "Oh yeah she was. Can't deny it, she wanted me so bad."

"Rounding out a home run, lucky guy." she teased.

"Yeah, she actually called me, she was full on all over me, sorry babe, but – "

"And then I called and woke you up?" she said with amusement.

Jim laughed. "And then you called and woke me up."

Her thoughts were starting to blur, shapes and images shifting through her mind running together with drowsiness and the comforting warmth of the man next to her. "I didn't call my mom." she whispered. She leaned against the headboard, sliding towards him, resting her head on his shoulder. Seconds later warm lips pressed against her forehead.

"I mean… she might have tried to call this evening." she said quietly.

Jim laughed, in spite of himself. "And you might not have answered her calls."

"Don't be mad." she said in his ear.

"Don't be silly." he replied, and kissed her again.

She rolled her eyes upwards, weighing up his expression. "I just really don't want my mom to have to do that."

"Probably what she wanted to call you about. Did the lawyer say she had to if they called her as a witness?"

She paused. "I'm… not sure. I think so. I don't know."

Jim was perceptive enough to realize her response was an avoidance, a side stepping the issue. Still, he didn't want to press her on it in the middle of the night, so he chose to stay silent. He looked down, smiling at her. Once more he kissed her head, then laid his cheek against her curls.

"You're all warm again." she murmured sleepily.

Jim laughed. "It's you. You're like a hot water bottle."

Stroking his hand with her thumb, she closed her eyes. "Roy always said I was so cold he needed gloves to touch me without getting frostbite."

A frown crossed Jim's forehead. "Roy's a jerk. Wrong about everything."

A warmth spread through her chest, a feeling so intense she felt she could be overwhelmed by it. A feeling of being alive in a way she hadn't felt before, her soul was piecing itself back together. She suddenly felt electrified, a new hope for the future taking shape.

"I'm glad you're here." she whispered in his ear. Then moving her head slightly, she kissed his shoulder.

"Me too."

"Stay." she whispered, and floated into sleep.

-TO-

Jim was in the shower when the phone rang. He had to head home and get his work clothes before turning up at the office. Pam was watching the time, flicking glances at the clock every now and again ready to nudge him if it looked like he was taking too long.

Then his phone rang. She looked at it, shivering away on the arm of the couch. From her perch on the other end of the couch she could make out the name on the lit screen. Plucking up the phone she hurried to the bathroom door. The shower snapped off before she got there, and there was silence.

"Jim?" she called out. "Your phone's ringing – it's your sister."

"Huh?" he grunted, sounding perplexed. "Can you grab it please? I'll be out in a second."

Pam blanched, a worried frown creasing her forehead. "Uh… okay." she said. She'd not met, nor spoken to Larissa, but she knew Jim thought a lot of her, had a great deal of respect for her. Suddenly her mouth was dry.

Hesitantly she answered the phone, nerves slipping away on hearing the other woman's voice, who was displaying much more nervous energy and emotion than Pam. Heart sinking deeply she listened to Jim's sister a few minutes, moving to the bathroom door again urgently.

"Hang on, Larissa, I think he's coming now." she said, knocking on the door.

She could hear several voices in the background of the call, a tinny, loud reception and the slapping beat of shoes walking on sheet vinyl. "I've got to go – Mom's calling me over – please tell Jim I'll call again as soon as possible."

Then came a shuffling sound, and the call cut off. Pam drew in a shaky breath, unsure of how to proceed. The bathroom door opened with a roll of steam clouding into the room, and in the middle of it Jim emerged, looking fresh and relaxed. He had dressed in his jeans again and was reaching for his keys when Pam stopped him, grasping his wrist gently.

"Jim, wait." she said. He looked at her, his other hand hovering over the keys, immediately reading her expression.

"What is it?" he said, staring at her nervously.

"Um.." she wondered how to begin. Carefully she chose her words. "Your dad's been taken to hospital. The good news is that he's not in any immediate danger, but your sister said it is serious. I'm sorry." she said, rubbing his arm gently.

Jim was lost for words. She could see it, it was so unlike him she felt uneasy. Before they could talk further, the phone shrilled again and this time Jim answered. Pam stood by watching him worriedly, unconsciously rubbing gentle circles on his upper back while he asked questions of his sister.

"I should go over there." he said once Larissa had cut off again. Pam nodded, expecting it. Jim looked around for his keys, in a daze and not seeing them beside him on the coffee table. Pam plucked them up, handing them to him and went to fetch her coat. Remembering Jim hadn't brought a coat with him, she lifted the throw blanket off the chair in the bedroom, throwing it over her arm.

Jim was at the door when she came back, waiting for her. "I'll call you once I know anything." he said hurriedly.

She looked at his pale face, and made her way across the room to him. Gently she took the keys out of his hand.

"I'm driving. Let's go." she said, gently ushering him out the door.

Chapter 21 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

A/N this is another chapter I've split into two. The other half I want to redo a bit but it goes into some canon events and follows directly on from here. I kind of feel this might be a bit boring here but stuff happens in the next chapter. When I've finished editing / redoing it I'll upload.



Pam pulled into the parking lot, slowing to a stop beside a dauntingly large four-by-four and promptly cut off the engine. The building loomed in front of them, sharp and sterile with just enough shadow to impart an extra sense of foreboding into its visitors. Not that she needed any help with that.

She hated hospitals. For herself at least, they served as an incubator of painful memories, bloody noses, broken ribs, a mirror that reflected the true, ugly inside of you for everyone to see. Did someone inflict these injuries on you, Miss Beesly? Are you safe at home Miss Beesly? She shivered. Jim sat in his seat next to her calmly unbuckling the safety belt.

Jim. She was here for Jim.

"Okay?" she questioned, hesitating slightly, then put a hand on Jim's arm. She tilted her head, her eyes soft with concern. He nodded, flashing a nervous grin and got out. Observing him casually, Pam walked round to the passenger side, softly grasping his shoulder and quickly leaned up on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. He turned to her, his eyes wide and grateful. They linked hands, trudging along the gravel together.

An attractive young woman came hurrying in their direction. Pam didn't take much notice of her, merely raising an unconscious finger of anxiety at the sudden movement until Jim slipped his hand from hers, darting towards the woman excitedly. The woman flung herself on him like a whirlwind, chattering indecipherably. Pam watched the two hug with an amused smile, her artists eyes taking in the resemblances between them. The woman was all hair, soft brunette locks that fell down to her chest in a beautiful sheen, exactly the shade of Jim's hair. Good Halpert genes. They shared the same tentative smile, the same lip shape. Pam warmed to her immediately.

"This is Larissa!" Jim told her, releasing the woman, who stepped back and looked between the two of them curiously. Larissa raised her eyebrows towards her brother, quickly dropping them and smothering her surprise.

"That's Pam." Jim clarified, draping an arm around her shoulders comfortably. They followed his sisters lead into the reception. Larissa slowed down, taking hold of Jim's other arm.

"Jim." Pam heard her whisper as they walked towards the hospital elevators. "Who's Pam?"

Jim chuckled softly. Pam smiled to herself, liking the woman all the more.

-TO-

Jim's mom was alone in the waiting room, rising to her feet as the three of them walked in. She greeted Jim in a tight, controlled voice, pulling him against her chest in a fierce hug.

"Where's Pete?" Larissa complained loudly. "I told him not to leave you here alone."

Betsy had turned to Pam, not hearing her daughters words. Gently this time, she guided Pam into a soft embrace, before releasing her with a small smile. "It's lovely to see you again. Thank you for coming."

Pam blushed and opened her mouth to reply, but Jim beat her to it. "Mom- How's Dad? What's happening?"

Betsy's eyes were suddenly shining with unshed tears. "I don't know a thing about what's happening. We haven't even seen anyone yet. He, he kept saying he felt dizzy and he was sick. He absolutely insisted I didn't need to call the doctor- you know how your father is." Betsy bit her lip – a motion that was uncannily Jim in nature. She was clearly trying hard to present a calm, controlled front. "But when his chest began to hurt him, he couldn't breathe properly, I called for an ambulance. I don't know what's happening! It's been hours!"

"Mom, please sit down." Larissa said in a gentle voice, moving towards her to take her arm.

"I'll go see if I can find out what's happening." Jim volunteered. "Just sit down and take it easy Mom." He turned, looking to catch Pam's eye. Unspoken words passed between the two, and Pam nodded her head in reassurance, sitting down next to his mom. Jim moved to leave the room, nearly colliding with a taller, older man who Pam immediately presumed to be one of his brothers.

"You'd think those bathrooms are for kids, honestly… a man has to…" the man trailed off, looking at the extra faces in the room.

"Hey, uh, I was just going to look for the doctor." Jim told him, stepping out of his way.

The man grunted his approval and followed Jim out the door. "I'll come with. Who's the girl in there with Mom?" they heard him say as the two of them disappeared. Pam's eyes narrowed as she watched his retreating form with barely concealed concern.

Larissa shook her head. "That's Pete. He's a jerk sometimes."

"Larissa." Betsy admonished wearily. Pam watched the interaction curiously, sensing this was traditional Halpert family dialogue.

"Wait 'til Tom gets here." Larissa continued with a small laugh. "Chaos. Mayhem. You can't even blink safely."

Pam smiled, her curiosity piqued. She found herself kind of excited about the prospect of hearing all kinds of amusing stories about Jim as a kid, as a teenager, imagining him to have been an adorable child with an endearing grin and mischievous knack for fun and trouble.

"Last time Tom and Pete visited they got hold of my cell phone," Larissa was saying, "They switched all my contacts to different curry places. Every time I tried to call someone I got eat in or takeout. They didn't stop laughing for like a month."

"They do take after their father." Betsy added quietly, shaking her head. Then the woman paled, as if the simple mention of her husband struck her again with the full horror of the seriousness of his condition. Soundlessly she leaned forward, lifting a hand over her mouth, her chest heaving. Not liking the woman's color, or lack thereof, Pam stood up and walked across the room, returning with a paper cup filled with cool water.

"Here." she said softly. Betsy took the cup gratefully.

"Thank you." she said, looking at Pam. "Where is the doctor?" she added anxiously, tapping her foot. It made a strange echoing sound; a lonely noise inside the distant commotion of the hospital corridors.

"They'll probably be back any minute." Larissa said hopefully.

"That's right." Pam agreed.

"He couldn't breathe." Betsy said, to no one in particular. "He couldn't breathe and he was having chest pains. What if it's his heart?"

The woman looked absolutely terrified. Pam reached out to her. "Have they let you see him yet?"

Limply, Betsy shook her head. "I should have called the ambulance sooner. I knew something was wrong, why didn't I?"

Next to her, Larissa sat up straight then leaned her head back against the wall behind her, lifting her eyes to the ceiling. "Because he told you not to Mom."

They sat in silence a while, then Larissa sighed loudly. "I hate this."

All three tensed at the sound of footsteps and low, mumbled voices just outside the door. Pam could almost feel the woman next to her turning to stone, a hard shell capable of handling bad news. But the footsteps faded away and the owners of the voices disappeared again.

"What on earth is taking the boys so long?" Betsy twisted her hands together, her eyes anxiously trained on the door.

"The waiting is torture, isn't it." Pam said with sympathy. They lapsed into a morose quiet again. She lowered her eyes to the floor, feeling awkward. Typical hospital sounds travelled through the walls into the little room, electronic alarms, carts and wheelchairs being rolled down the corridor, the regular beeps and blips of hospital machines. She wondered how anyone could ever rest and heal in such an environment. Hopefully Jim's dad was in a room with less chaos, hopefully Jim would be back with good news soon. She couldn't bear to think of him coming back and hearing the worst possible news. Even though his mom wore a tough, resolute expression Pam was perceptive enough to see underneath the carefully composed face to the much paler, terrified woman inside. Her arms trembled with an unexpected urge to lean over and hug the woman.

"Are you Jim's girlfriend?" Larissa asked curiously, crossing her ankles.

Pam blushed further, leaning forward to face Jim's sister. She considered her response. "Yeah." she replied simply, after a moment's pause.

"Hmmm." The younger woman was visibly perplexed. "I thought your name was Katy."

Biting her lip to stifle a laugh at her bewildered expression, Pam sought to reassure her with a joke. "As far as I'm aware, I've always been a Pam. Unless this is a really bad joke my parent's have been playing on me."

"Katy was Jim's last girlfriend." Betsy clarified.

Larissa's eyes widened, then her head jerked slightly. Her lips pursed with amusement, her eyebrows raising in unison. It was Jim's expression; practiced and playful. She'd seen it a thousand times. Pam couldn't help but smile.

"Ooops." Larissa smiled back at Pam, diving into her purse. From the bag Pam could hear a deep rumbling, watching as Larissa rummaged inside a few moments, finally extracting a fairly large red covered cell phone.

"Hmm. It's Marci. Maybe Tom's arrived." She turned to her mother. "I'll take it outside, better reception out there."

Pam nodded, remembering the tinny phone call she had heard earlier. "Can I get you anything?" she asked Jim's mother as Larissa left the room. "Coffee or something else?"

Betsy smiled gratefully at her. "No, thank you. I don't think I could stomach anything."

Pam bit her tongue thoughtfully, awkwardly unsure of herself. She badly wanted to somehow to make things easier for the woman; even if it just was something as simple as bringing her drinks and tissues or just sitting with her in silence if that was what she wanted.

"Tests." Betsy said. "Tests, they are doing tests on him. He has high blood pressure. I don't suppose Jim has told you that."

Pam cast her mind back. No, Jim had not mentioned anything of the sort as far as she could recall. "Has anything like this happened before?"

Betsy blinked at her, as if clearing her head. "No, not like this. He was sick this morning, then his chest hurt him. The paramedics were worried. Took him with the lights on." She shook her head again.

"That must have been terrifying." Pam said genuinely. The door pushed open behind them.

"Mrs Halpert? If you'd like to come this way."

Without a word, the both of them rose to their feet and followed the nurse, a short, excessively thin woman with a kind, albeit timid expression. She led them down the opposite direction of the long corridor and through a doorway into a smaller, brighter room. Pam's stomach sank, fearing the worst. Instinctively she inched closer to Betsy, suddenly feeling a protectiveness towards her, yet it was Jim her concern immediately went to – Jim she wanted to shield from this. Her stomach turned to ice at the thought of receiving the worst news and how he would feel about it. He hadn't said much on the fairly long drive to the hospital, but she knew him well and she knew that what he projected on the outside was not always what was happening inside of him. This morning being a prime example. She had noted the subtle signs without comment; the constant lip biting, the over abundance of cheerfulness in his tone, the ever so slight quiver in his voice that someone not familiar with him would likely fail to notice. At least she had been there when the call came and had been able to accompany him to the hospital; she had briefly wondered if he had been alone things might have played out differently.

"Okay." The nurse began.

"My sons and my daughter-" Betsy began, distressed.

"The receptionist will bring them here." The nurse stood by, crossing her arms over her front. Seconds later they were joined by an older woman wearing a white coat. Soon she had introduced herself as the doctor and began to talk, using unnecessarily complicated words and medical jargon. One look at Betsy and Pam could see it was going over her head.

"I'm sorry, I'm not getting you - hypertension, that's his blood pressure, right?" Pam asked, for Betsy's benefit.

"Yes." the doctor straightened her back, standing stiffly in the center of the room. "This kind of episode – his chest pain, his nausea, the shortness of breath can be brought forward by many causes, sometimes something as simple as age, or as preventative as weight or smoking habits. We know he is not overweight –"

"– He's not a smoker either."

"Thank you, Mrs Halpert. We have more tests to run, however your husband has been extremely lucky – we don't suspect there is any damage to his organs, although we'll know more after the tests. Currently we're treating him intravenously and administering medication to lower his blood pressure."

Pam nearly turned as she felt a cold, trembling hand slip through her arm, gripping her gently at the elbow. "Is he at risk of another episode?" Pam asked. She felt this was a fear that was playing on Betsy's nerves.

The doctor nodded bluntly. "There is always risk present with hypertension. However with proper self care and medication the risks can be minimal. Your husband appears to be in good physical health otherwise. Currently he is stable and comfortable and we'll continue to monitor his blood pressure."

"I-is he going to recover?"

Pam felt Betsy squeeze her arm tightly, and she turned to give the woman a comforting look.

"He's responding well to treatment and if he continues to do so we can look at releasing him in a day or two." the doctor replied, and turned to the nurse.

Pam felt Betsy go weak with relief beside her.

-TO-

After helping the older woman into a seat, Pam rushed outside, returning quickly with a cool paper cup of water.

"Thank you." Betsy whispered. Pam noticed her body was trembling and reached out to steady the water in her hands. "Thank you." she repeated.

Pam went over and slid into the seat next to her. "Are you okay?"

"Okay." she replied softly. "Thank god."

"Hmmm?" Pam creased her forehead.

"Thank god he's alright. He's going to be alright." slowly the stiff, rigid posture leaked out of the woman, her body slumping in relief.

"That's right." Pam agreed, reaching to pat her shoulder blade in comfort.

Betsy managed a small shaky smile, looking at Pam gratefully. "Every time I see you, you're bringing me water." she noted. Then the smile slipped off her face and was replaced by an expression of quiet distress. "I was prepared for the worst. I quite thought…." she trailed off miserably. "He was white as milk. He couldn't breathe. I really thought…."

"I'm really sorry. That must have been awful to experience."

"He simply sat down, like everything was normal, as he would any other morning. Only he was so pale. Then he groaned in pain… it was the most horrifying thing. I felt so helpless."

Pam looked at her kindly. "You weren't helpless though. You called an ambulance, you got him here. You probably saved his life by doing that." she said, taking the woman's hand and leaning forward to her.

Pam felt her hand squeeze and Betsy lifted her head. Her eyes were bright, shining. "Thank you." she breathed. She took another sip of water before placing the cup on the empty seat next to her.

"Thank god for Larissa and the boys. And you. All of you dropped everything and came here straight away. Even Pete and Tom, who have quite a distance to travel." she let out a shaky breath. "How's Jim handling it?"

Pam hesitated. "Uh… he's not said much," she fought to find the words. "To be honest… I was a bit worried."

She looked away, fearing that she was being disloyal to Jim in some way – she had no experience in this situation. If she expressed her concern to Betsy was she breaking some rule or would Jim see it as her going behind his back as Roy absolutely would have seen it? She fought with herself, trying to figure out how much she was supposed to say.

It was as if Betsy had read her mind. "Don't worry. Jim isn't going to be upset with you. He's never really found it easy to open up when he's upset about anything. I suppose that may have something to do with his brothers. Sometimes their teasing would get a little out of hand."

Pam had suspected as much from the little Jim had let on to her. "I don't think I'm much good at helping him with that. He's a really… good guy." she admitted, flushing a little. "I just wish I could do a bit more for him."

Betsy reflected quietly a moment. "It was a few weeks ago," she mused. "That my husband made a comment that Jim was happier than he'd seen him in a long time." She turned to Pam, speaking quietly. "We're you aware that we've been quite concerned about him?"

Pam drew her eyebrows together, surprised. "No, I wasn't."

Betsy nodded and went on. "It's been obvious to us for a while that he hasn't been happy. Last year he came to us for a visit and we knew something was wrong but we just couldn't get him to open up."

"I'm sorry." Pam said immediately, her insides freezing. She had been so caught up in her own problems, her own mess of a life those few years… she hadn't noticed anything especially wrong with Jim. But reflecting back now she thought maybe there were signs there – signs she had been too self involved to see. The way he had sometimes brooded quietly at his desk, the way he really only came to life when he was planning something or messing around with her. Hindsight could be cruel. "How could I not have seen it?" she mumbled to herself.

"He's like his father in that respect. He wouldn't have wanted you to see it. I also expect his mood lifted around you."

Words drained away from her. Pam felt her face grow hot, her eyes fell to the floor.

"My son needs someone like you." Betsy went on. "I've listened to him talk about you for years. I've seen you with him. My husband was right, he has changed since he's been with you. Not all striking changes, things you may not have even noticed. I've never seen his house or any room of his so clean and tidy before. There was actual food in his fridge. There's a light in his eyes that we thought we'd not see again."

"Well… I'm not sure that I'm responsible – "

"He always seemed quite indifferent with his other girlfriends, laid back and casual. He never seemed to want to become serious about anyone." she looked at Pam cautiously. "Things are different with you, aren't they?"

"He's very good to me. Even though I'm a pain in the ass."

"Nonsense." Betsy said warmly, squeezing her hand again. "You know. I never worried about Jim in that respect as much as I did Tom and Pete. They always had each other and they often tended to hold each other back, to be too laid back. Jim was the more sensitive, the more level headed out of the boys. We've always thought it was the age difference, Tom and Pete were often getting into some mischief or other, they always had each other. Always trying to impress each other, who can come up with the best jokes, the best pranks to play on their sister and Jim. They rubbed off on each other a lot, where Jim had a chance to sit back from that due to his being younger, he was able to grow into his own person. No, we knew Jim would be okay in the end, he was the one out of the boys we were sure of. He and Larissa were close when they were kids, they would confide in each other at times."

"I'd really love to see some pictures of him when he was a kid." Pam told her.

Betsy's face seemed to light up. "That can most certainly be arranged."

They fell into a comfortable silence. Pam was beginning to feel concerned that Jim and the others had not returned yet. The doctor had been and gone and still they weren't back.

"No, my Jim is going to be just fine." Betsy mused softly.

Chapter 22 by OfficeWriter

As far as first encounters went, meeting Jim's family was more awkward than she could have expected. Long anticipating a friendly, well planned out introduction to his parents, and his siblings, she hadn't foreseen that she would meet them all together. At the same time. With Gerald out of imminent danger and the tension easing off around them, the significance of her sudden introduction to the Halpert family cast a heavy shadow of anxiety over her. Flashing back to the vomit inducing nerves the prospect of meeting Roy's parents had stirred in her; how particular Roy had been – how he had instructed her how he wanted her to act, warning her his mom didn't like this, his dad didn't approve of that. The whole thing had been an anxiety attack from start to finish. Thankfully, in a way, she had been saved the pre-nerves part of this ordeal this time around – both times, both Jim's mother and father.

No, it was too sudden and too uncertain a situation to feel particularly nervous over how Jim's dad might perceive her. Undeniably right there under her surface poking at her was the strong desire that Gerald approve of her. For her, for Jim. She had thought about this a good deal since her accidental meeting with Jim's mom. And she had worried, worried a lot. Now, having been introduced to Gerald, a weak and tired looking man propped up in a hospital bed, she knew there were better ways this could have gone. For a start, the man was tired and drowsy, a long thin IV line running from the back of his hand – the hand his wife insisted on holding – and a cloudy, confused dullness in his eyes of one who is stuck somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. Add to that the strangeness of the situation – meeting around a hospital bed, there had been no time to work on first impressions. Still, a drowsy, unwell Gerald Halpert turned out to be a humorous and gracious man, seemingly happy enough to have met her. Yes, meeting Jim's dad was uncomfortable considering the circumstances, but there had been another factor she hadn't considered.

Jim's brothers. From the minute Jim had presented her to them both, she had sensed something was off, something she couldn't pin down. A tension of sorts that hadn't been there with either Larissa or Betsy when she was introduced. There was a feeling it may have mattered more – at least to Jim – that his brothers liked her, a feeling, some underlying thing she couldn't figure out between the brothers. Not competitive, not rivalry but… something else that festered in Jim. It was something she wasn't used to seeing in him.

And yet, both brothers had been polite, courteous even, towards her, their attention had been with their father and looking after their mother. It was Jim that she was concerned for. Not only had he been thrust into another crisis so unexpectedly, it was visibly obvious that he was almost exhausted – something she noticed with guilt. After all, it was her fault he was so tired, her disrupting his sleep and calling him over in the middle of the night on her own panicked notions about Kenny, a memory that caused her to shudder internally. Whether or not Kenny had truly been outside, she had once again pulled Jim into her hysteria and despite his lack of complaint, she could see it all over his face.

She knew Jim wasn't very excited by the idea of going to dinner, and truthfully neither was she, but with their father out of danger and recovering well, Pete and Tom had suggested it. Both of them, like a tag team, a double act, had large characters, not exactly loud, but a definitely noticeable presence and although Jim initially tried to refuse the idea of heading out for a late afternoon meal with them, they had somehow talked him around, without, she noted, ever asking him directly.

As they left the hospital, Pam had thought to mention to Jim that they might stay and keep his mother company.

"She's really shaken up, Jim. She shouldn't be on her own." she had told him in a whisper, off to the side where the other Halperts weren't able to hear. Jim had agreed, but it had ended up being Larissa who had insisted on staying with her parents, that she would drive her mom home later that day.

So, the four of them headed out, finding a small pasta place not far from the hospital. With the presence of beer and good food, Jim's brothers relaxed and ate heartily. Jim did not eat much, pushing his pasta around the plate with his fork, dipping in and out of the conversation occasionally. Pam, her attention on Jim, didn't do much better with her own meal.

"When did you guys get together?" Tom asked curiously.

"We didn't even know you existed until today." Pete added, directing this to Pam.

Jim pulled his eyes away from his meal to look at his brothers, dangling his fork over the food."It's actually been a while."

Tom sat up straight in his chair, his own meal dwindled to a few last strands of pasta wrapped around the fork. "Where d'ya meet?"

"At work." Jim said casually, meeting his brothers eyes. Pam watched this exchange thoughtfully, catching the look that bounced between the three of them- the warning frown on Jim's face, the wicked grin his brothers shared.

"Picking up the clients now, Jimmy?" Pete laughed, earning himself a playful nudge from Tom.

"Er actually –"

Tom cut in. "Oh wait, are you the receptionist?"

Pam flinched, his voice had grown loud and animated. Tom eyes briefly narrowed before he turned his attention on Jim, who was already answering for her.

"Yeah, she is." Silent understanding passed between the brothers. Pam looked away. She couldn't help it, feeling the discomfort growing from the seat next to her. She thought she was beginning to understand, this was a well played out routine between the three of them that only she was not familiar with.

"Take that back, we did know you existed."

"Yup, we were wondering when we'd meet you, right Pete?"

"Wow.. okay…" Jim mumbled, looking down at his plate. "Awkward…."

Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Pam studied her drink. "I guess a lot of people thought it was going to happen."

"Yup." Jim said, not lifting his eyes.

"Cute, meeting each other in the office. It's like a once in a life time thing, when it lasts." Pete said, smirking.

"Twice." Tom added, raising his hand. Jim grunted a warning, looking up at them.

"Oh that's right." Pete added. "You were married to another guy who worked there, right?"

Pam's eyes widened. "Uh…."

"Guys, come on. That's a little rude."

"That was a long time ago." Pam said softly, turning her attention to Jim. "And…"

"Pam, don't worry about it." Jim said, placing his hand lightly on her back.

"Just saying, Jimmy, she-"

"We weren't married." Pam added calmly.

"– obviously has a type." Pete finished.

Pam flushed, her mouth opening and closing in small hesitant movements. "Uh, I don't.."

She heard Jim answer, sounding far away. "He worked in the warehouse. Warehouse is not the office."

She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, pulling in a breath. "And he and Jim are nothing alike." Pam spoke gently, mustering up a calmer appearance. "At all."

"Don't worry about it." Jim repeated, looking directly at her.

"Just saying." Tom pressed his lips together tightly, his cheeks puffing out with barely concealed mirth. "I bet it gets awkward around the water cooler when you all run into each other."

"Very awkward." Pete jumped on. Jim sighed, slumping back against his chair.

"What is your problem today?" he huffed, shaking his head.

"I know it doesn't sound the greatest, but the warehouse guy was a mistake and Jim…"

"Seriously, guys?" Jim said, cutting her off.

To Jim's annoyance, and Pam's astonishment the two men in front of them exploded into laughter. Looking at Jim in confusion, he shook his head at her.

"We're sorry Pam." Tom wiped at his cheeks, hiccuping with giggles. "Jim hates it when we pick on his girlfriends."

"We were lightening things up a little." Pete continued. "Got you."

Jim sank an elbow on to the table top, covering his mouth with his hand. He didn't say anything, his eyebrows snapping upwards. Pam hesitantly reached out to him under the table, feeling knee deep in tension. She suddenly felt she had a much clearer idea of how things were between Jim and his brothers. They were a lot alike, a lot of similarities in their humor, their mannerisms, their quick wit but at that moment she felt very lucky she had been brought together with the right Halpert – she was sure Tom and Pete could be a lot of fun and never intended any harm – but she was grateful that Jim, despite their shared sense of humor, was at least as not as facetious to the degree of his brothers.

"Hey, remember when we pranked Jim when he was with that girl – the one who always wore the shortest skirts-" Pete went on.

"Hilarious." Tom added. "He was so embarrassed!"

- TO-

The drive home after dinner was quiet and reflective, Pam sneaking small glances at Jim in hopes that he was getting some much needed sleep. But no, he sat unspeaking, his tired face tight and drawn. Several times she had started to ask if he was okay and bit her tongue. She didn't need to ask to know the answer.

"Hey," she said, lightly running the tips of her fingers up and down his arm. "We're home."

"Thanks for coming today." he said, a little stiffly and got out of the car. Pam climbed out of the drivers side and followed him up the driveway. She watched as he fumbled with his keys, muttering darkly to himself.

Things were different. This was a Jim she hadn't seen before, not the cool, unruffled Jim she knew so well– this Jim was frazzled, tense; even angry.

"Hey," she said, with a little nervousness. "You want a coffee… or hot chocolate?"

Blithely, he shook his head by way of an answer, walking into the living room and out of her sight.

"Hey, uh, Jim?" she followed him in to the room. He was standing by the window looking blankly out, arms folded stiffly over his chest. "Jim…" she repeated, trying to make him turn to her. After a moment, he did.

"Want to talk about it?"

"About what?" he replied loosely.

"Thought maybe you could use a friendly ear right now." she said softly.

He spoke through clenched teeth, shrugging his shoulders. "I'm fine, don't worry about me."

"Is that true?" she ventured. "Can't help but think there's more to this that your dad getting ill. Talk to me?"

"It's nothing – you know I hate being frustrated."

"I know you do. What's frustrating you?"

"Do you really want to do this right now?" He said grimly, turning away from her again.

"Huh?" She was confused. "What…? Why can't you talk to me?"

"What….? Great, Pam. I'll do that. It's so easy, you know how easy it is, how easy to do that."

"To talk to me?"

"To get like that, to get… I don't know, everything is just, everything. I feel like stuff never stops happening."

Pam went cold. "Come on, sit down. Let's just…. talk."

"What good is talking, really Pam?" He began to move around as he spoke, pacing the room with a sudden energy that was disconcerting to her.

"I talk to you." she replied simply.

He turned back to her, eyes bright and emotional. "I know you do. I know, but everything is so crazy. And then that dinner –"

"I know, your brothers were a little hard on you, they took it too far – they were having fun. They didn't see anything beyond that."

"Fun? What do you call fun these days? Listen, Pam, you know me better than anyone and I love you but obviously this is not a good idea tonight."

Her heart dropped to the floor. "You want me to leave?" She shook her head worriedly. "Not like this – not when you're this upset."

"I'm not upset. I'm not. I'm…"

"Frustrated. I get it."

He moved back and forth around the room, he couldn't keep still. Pam watched him move, right, left, right, left before she stepped forward, gently gripping his arm. "Please stop."

As if startled by her touch, Jim quit pacing around. Only when he was standing still beside did he turn to look at her, with so much anguish that she felt she could cry at his expression alone. A wave of empathy for him crashed over her. She turned to him, stretching out her arms.

"Oh, it's alright. It's okay." she said soothingly.

Carefully he pulled himself out of her grasp, resuming his circuit of the room again. "Mmmmm." he mumbled to himself. Pam felt a sharp stab of hurt slice through her. Jim never pulled away from her, never. It hurt, it really hurt. And in a weird way, she realized she would rather take a beating from Roy every day for the rest of her life than ever have Jim pull away from her like that again. She stared at him in silence, her concern for him exploding.

"Okay, Jim. I get it, I do." she said with feeling. "The last year has mostly sucked for both of us, and a lot of that was my fault. But why can't you talk to me? You've been strong for both of us, but you know what – don't. I need you to be you for a while. You don't have to protect me like that. Talk to me."

"I told you I wouldn't hurt you! I promised you that!"

"Why would talking to me hurt me? You won't hurt me. You can't hurt me by needing me for once. Please, let me help. Please, talk to me."

He paced furiously up and down, his voice rising and falling in waves. "You wanna talk? Know how I feel? This morning I thought I was gonna lose my dad. Then that stupid pranking at dinner. And then there's Kenny, and Roy, and you. You know how long I waited for you? Since the day I met you! I sat around and watched you and Roy pretend to be happy for five years and I smiled and laughed and pretended to be happy for you and said nothing. I saw nothing wrong. Roy was hurting you for all that time! How could I not have seen it? That feels like shit. And you know what feels like absolute shit – I didn't do a damn thing to help you all that time, and then you show up looking the way you did after Roy had finished with you and I wanted to kill him – I really did. You think it's been easy seeing you go through so much pain? No – it hurt! And at the hotel – the worst of what Roy did to you! I feel like shit I can't take that away from you, I can't make that better for you. To hear you talk about what he did to you like it was your fault, like you asked for it – you think that doesn't hurt too? You think I don't go to sleep every night worrying about keeping you safe? Worrying about losing you? Worrying that I can't make you happy?"

"Hey." she moved towards him urgently, completely shocked by his outburst. She reached out for his hand, it was the only thing she knew to do. Again he pulled away. She spoke gently, carefully. "Listen, I'm right here. And nothing is going to happen to me – please just –"

"I'm talking about you walking away because you don't trust me – you can't trust me. Not yet. I see you, I see you flinching when you think I haven't noticed – sometimes you get this look in your eyes like you think I'm going to hurt you! I would never. You know what that would do to me if you walked away from me? I need you, dammit. I do need you!"

With that he slumped down against the couch, knees drawn up, elbows digging into his thighs. His hands rubbed at his head, hiding his face from her. The sight of him so vulnerable made her body ripple with emotion, an overpowering urge shook her to her core to rush over to him and squeeze the life out of him. It was almost too much for her to bear, he looked so miserable. His words haunted back to her. Guilt fired through her like bullets – twice now she hadn't seen the pain he was in, twice she had let him down. Blind, fools are blind Helene always said. Twice she had failed him. Her mind cast back – Betsy had told her Jim was depressed last year and she had been too self involved to notice, too selfish in her own misery to notice what was right in front of her face. And now, looking at him she was so angry with herself all of a sudden – she hadn't seen this coming. How could she not have seen this coming?

A small sniff from inside his folded hands brought her back to the present. No. She was here now. She had a chance now.

Moving carefully, she kneeled down on the floor beside him. Gently she ran her fingers down the back of his hair, her eyes filling up at the shaking shoulders in front of her. No. She would be strong. She would be there for him.

"Hey." she whispered lovingly, moving closer, pushing away all her own feelings. Taking hold of his wrists, she cautiously peeled his hands away from his head, heart pumping with relief that he allowed her to and didn't pull away. Slipping her arms around his neck, she softly brought his head down to rest on her shoulder. One hand lifted to stroke his cheek, her touch so full of love for him as his arms stole around her back, gripping at her shirt needily.

She tightened her arms around him, resting her cheek in his hair. As she carefully rubbed his back in circles, a feeling waved through her so powerfully she thought she might pass out from it – and an understanding bloomed in her. The fog began to clear, reality took shape. Suddenly everything looked bright, real.

Jim, Jim was there, real and alive and (love) was there. She breathed in deeply savoring the touch, the feel, the smell of his hair, his nearness. He was real. She cast her eyes around the room. Everything looked larger than life and bright and there. Even the stupid little things in the room suddenly felt dear to her, the cushion askew on the floor beside them, the tiny rip in the fabric of the couch. The sound of Jims breathing, slowing down, in and out, in and out, it was precious to her ears. She pressed her lips into his hair, kissing his head with such emotion she felt a slight shift from him. She shushed him, and didn't let go.

She understood. The things Jim had been trying to tell her, about needing each other, about love. Things she now began to understand. She needed him. He needed her. He was right, always right. She heard him. It was okay to love again. He had been trying to tell her all along. She had heard him, finally. It was okay to love again.

Chapter 23 by OfficeWriter

Side by side they sat, huddled on the carpet in a mutual quiet; a quiet that was swollen with introspect and words neither wished to speak.

"I'm really sorry." Pam finally said. She watched him with no trace of impatience, just as she had when he had been pacing the room. Wearily he sat up, sliding himself carefully from her grasp.

"Don't," he said through a sigh. Jim tilted his head back against the couch, averting his eyes to the ceiling. "Say you're sorry. I don't want to keep on hearing you apologizing for everything all the time."

Pam looked around at him. The abruptness of his tone shocked her, and she bit her tongue to restrain herself from the automatic urge to apologize again.

"This is shit isn't it." she said resignedly.

"Shit." he agreed, his head still turned upwards.

"Want me to get you anything? Beer, coffee… water?" she offered awkwardly. Mutely he shook his head, his bloodshot eyes twitching uneasily. Roughly rubbing at her own eyes, she squinted at him, feeling completely inadequate as she struggled to grasp the words she was looking for. She felt a wild urge to pull him into her, to touch him, to have physical contact with him in some way but she held herself back. If he pushed her away again she thought she might just break into pieces herself.

"I should have known, should have seen this coming. God," she muttered, an unreserved self hatred coating her voice. "I've been so self involved." The room was filling up in silence so thick she felt as though she could choke. "What you said-"

"I didn't mean any of it. I was just running my mouth." he spoke calmly now.

"I think you did mean it." Pam swallowed nervously. "And I think it is important to you, and that means it important to me. What you said about you not seeing what was happening with Roy, I mean, that wasn't your fault. How could you have seen it? I didn't want you to. It's really not your fault, none of it is, but I think I made you feel that way and I'm sorry."

Jim snorted angrily. "I saw things that weren't right. I suspected for a while. I pretended it was all okay with you – that I was imagining it, being overprotective when I shouldn't be, as we were just friends-" he spat out the word. "But if I had just said something sooner…."

"You pretended, I pretended. What good is this guilt now, Jim? It wasn't up to you to save me."

"I loved you! I loved you even back then, so much, so much – do you have any idea? How much that hurt?" Finally he turned to her, the corners of his eyes red, his cheeks flushed pink.

"I'm sorry." she said dully, taken aback. He made a guttural noise in his throat, it was a harsh stifled sound, as though he was close to choking on his words – or his emotion. It provoked a spasmic jerk throughout her body, a floodgate of sympathetic hurt pounded behind her eyes and she fought to keep her composure.

"Shit." he mumbled again.

Pam exhaled through her nose gruffly, leaning towards him slightly so that their upper arms were pressed together, their thighs touching. "Jim…." she said, finding her voice. "You said…"

"It doesn't matter what I said. I was just sounding off." he said dismissively, looking away from her again.

Pam couldn't help but shake her head in frustration. "Why do we get to this? You have to breakdown before you can talk to me?"

He was silent a long while. "I talk to you." he managed. His voice had taken on a hoarse, croaking sound.

"You don't. Not really. I meant what I said - I want you to be you, to be honest with me."

"It's not that I can't – okay, listen. Don't you think you're dealing with enough?"

"Don't give me that, Halpert." she recoiled. "You listen. I want things to be good between us. You always want to be there for me, and you always are. But our relationship can't be one sided any more if it is going to work. I want us to be equals, and that means you have to talk to me too. Otherwise what we have right now can't last."

"I have been honest with you." he said simply, banging the back of his head against the bed. Pam started to ask him what that meant, but stopped as she realized she already knew.

"You said you waited for me since the day you met me." Her face colored a little shyly. "Do you know during those years with Roy our friendship was the only thing I looked forward to? I let him make it difficult for me to keep in touch with my mom, and whenever Penny was around he just compared me to her, how I was letting myself go, how she made more of an effort with her weight and everything. He didn't want my friends at the house. You were the one thing he couldn't control in my life – you were right in front of me all of the time. He didn't like it but he also didn't want me to leave my job because he wanted to keep me close. But you were always there, you made me laugh, you made me smile, you made me forget it all sometimes – you made things bearable. Do you understand?"

Jim turned back to her, flashing a grateful, if not surprised smile at her.

"We've been through a lot together." she continued. "I'm worried about you. You've been holding yourself together through everything, being strong for me. You don't have to do that anymore."

"I'm just frustrated – I can't be there all the time for you."

"You can't." she smiled sadly. "Nobody can do that. You're there when it matters, always, and that's all I need from you."

"I'm not – I see, don't you get it? You've been so hurt, you're still hurting, I see it – I would take that away in a heartbeat if I could. You know that but I can't and I feel like shit about that. It hurts me to see you go through everything like that. I worry how you're gonna hold up in court next month. And then with my dad today, and that stupid dinner."

"Hey," she said softly, reaching for his hand. This time he didn't pull away. "Your dad's going to be alright, you know. This was a warning, but he will be alright."

His fingers tightened around hers. "Yeah I know. Doesn't mean I'm not now realizing I'm gonna lose him one day."

"I know." she said, tilting her head to look him in the eye. "It's normal to feel like that. I know you love him a lot. But you're not on your own in this."

"My dad's a really great guy… you know?" he said quietly. "We'd go to the Eagles games together, he never lost his cool with us, something I didn't appreciate until I left home… how hard his job was with me, Pete and Tom. We caused a lot of trouble as kids but he never lost it with any of us. Believe me he had reason to but he never did. He was always watching over us." For the first time, a small wistful smile broke over his face. "At prom, he bought Larissa flowers. He started doing that whenever she had a date. We kind of teased about it a little, until one day he told us he was doing it so that if the boy she was going on a date with didn't have the money or hadn't thought to bring her any, she would still have flowers."

Pam also smiled, imagining the sweet memory. "That's so cute." she said. "You're a lot like him, you know."

"My mom says that too." he turned morose again. "But… Pete and Tom, they just acted like it didn't affect them at all, fooling around at dinner like that. The way they messed with you as well, it was out of line."

She nodded, thinking it over. "It doesn't matter. I don't care about the dinner. I don't care about your brothers and what they said, they're just brothers, doing what brothers do. Maybe that's how they handle your dad getting sick. It doesn't matter. What matters is you, and me. You and me and us and how we get through it."

She squeezed his hand, her mind rewinding. "Do you really worry that you're going to lose me?"

A hesitancy flashed through his eyes as he paused before responding. "Sometimes… I wonder if this is all too soon for you… if I'm pushing you too hard. Maybe you'll decide you need to be alone.. I dunno. It goes through my head, yeah."

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't overwhelmed sometimes… but not because of you, because of me. You've been great, you really have. I never feel pressured or rushed with you." she bit her lip. She hurried on before he could speak. "I know it's crap, me making us go so slowly and… you really are great to put up with everything… but you're wrong."

Immediately his head turned. "Huh?"

"I do trust you. I do. Yeah, I guess I do react like that sometimes, maybe I do flinch, or startle like that… but I'm never scared with you. The therapist… said it's a conditioning thing, a fear response. It won't always happen. But it's never because of you." She stopped, sighing heavily. "You've done more for me than anybody and you don't even realize it, all you've done for me. I could not have got here without you. I'm so sure I wouldn't have left Roy if you hadn't made me face up to it- It was like you held a mirror up to my face, you made me see what I didn't want anyone- including myself – to see. You keep saying how you can't take it all away from me, can't make it better. That's just... crap!" she exclaimed. "You do make things better, you make everything worth it. Like when I have a nightmare – Roy hated it! He would kick me, put pillows over my head, yell at me, kick me out of the room. But you? You don't even care if I wake you up, and I feel so good knowing you are there – really there for me and not angry at all… and all that with Roy then hurts a little bit less. That's because of you. I would go through it all again if it meant coming back to you. I'm sorrier than I can say that it took the worst of Roy for me to see the best of you, that you were right in front of me the whole time, to see how amazing you are. I know now though that we can't change what's happened. It's just the past. We just need to move forward, and deal with it… and I need you with me."

She stopped, taking a breath, feeling like she had just run around the room to sit back down again. She snuck a glance at Jim. He had sat quietly throughout, listening carefully with a thoughtful, slightly awestruck expression. He turned to her.

"Come here." he slipped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her towards him. "I need a hug."

"Yes you do." she said, happily folding her arms around him. Their bodies pressed together tightly, Jim's head pushed into her and she felt his warm breath on her neck and knew there was no other place that she would rather be.

"No more." she said against his shoulder.

"No more…" he repeated, burying his face in her hair.

"No more holding things in until you explode." she clarified. "Equals, got it?"

She felt him nodding. "Equals." he mumbled into her curls.

Pulling back from him, Pam raised an eyebrow. "Okay, well I want to hold you to this. I want you to come to counselling with me. You did say you would before." she added quickly, misreading his face.

"You think we need counselling?" he said in surprise, locking eyes with her.

She shook her head. "No. Not between us, I think we're doing okay by ourselves… right? But just think about it… I think it would do us both some good to talk about how we're dealing together with what's happened with Roy, and Kenny…. So we can put it behind us eventually…" she broke her eyes away, squeezing his hand. "Could you just try it… once at least?"

She was so sure he was going to refuse. Conflict was all over his face. Then a tiny smile broke through the seriousness.

"Anything for you." he favored her with a teasing nudge, and kissed her forehead.

-TO-

Pam walked up the stairs, carefully balancing the two steaming mugs she was carrying. The house was completely silent now, and darkness was just beginning to fall. Things were better, undoubtedly but she still carried a heavy worry – and guilt - about Jim and everything that day. Seeing him that way, so vulnerable, so upset was not something she would forget easily. She supposed that's what happened when you cared for someone so deeply, their pain became yours, their hurt took home in you.

Stepping into the bedroom she called out his name. When he didn't respond the worry she felt began to rise to the surface – then she spotted him, quietly, peacefully laying on his side on the bed. Putting down the mugs, she stepped towards him and leaned down to brush his hair out of his face. The tell tale signs of the day immediately became visible – the redness in the corners of his eyes, around his eyelids and underneath. The pink flush stains on his cheeks, a few tear tracks still clearly apparent. But still, he was asleep, breathing fast, heavily.

Pam smiled down at the sleeping man, lifting a blanket up from the end of the bed. Very gently she laid the blanket over him, smoothing it down with her hands over his upper half, tucking it in around his chin. After a minute of watching him sleep, his breathing heavy, quick, she walked around to the other side of the bed and slowly laid down beside him, curling her arms around him from behind to hold on to him while he slept. She did not feel the least bit tired herself, and she did not sleep.

She simply chose to be there, right next to him for when he woke up.

Chapter 24 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
A little bit of light after the storms-

The first thing to reach his awareness as he was sluggishly opening his eyes was the soft gentle rising and falling of breath beside him. It was a rhythmic sound as soothing as a lullaby, as easy as a breeze whispering through blades of grass on a warm summers day. Dimly he registered birdsong fluttering energetically somewhere in the distance, his attention on the lulling sounds of the woman next to him. Her arm lay lightly over him, fingers lacing loosely the tips of his as though she refused to let go of him even in sleep.

Painstakingly, and with a fair amount of careful wriggling, he managed to turn over to face her without waking her, his head coming to rest on the pillow mere inches from hers. His heart swelled with a warmth that spread across his chest as he marvelled at the sight of her. Asleep, she was astoundingly beautiful, her eyelids twitching lightly, her skin creamy and unflushed. The usual worried lines deep across her forehead had smoothed out, her face losing its pinched look. From the window silvery light fell, draping over her like a spotlight and making her appear – in his eyes – almost angelic. It was a sight, a moment he felt privileged to experience and his smile was one of bittersweet joy, knowing he would never relive this moment with the same intensity, but yet a moment he wanted to capture in his memory and hang on to for all of his life.

The last twenty four hours had been crazy, to say the least, with prowlers and police and hospital runs and brothers and meltdowns, and in the semi darkness of the room he pondered the immediate future. With Pam's court case and the counselling he had agreed to, it wasn't looking much brighter. He had thought he would absolutely drown in embarrassment after breaking down the way he did earlier, yet he found himself unburdened, with a lightness inside of him he hadn't felt in a long time. Pam had surprised him; with all that she had said while he was on the floor. When she had said that she needed him, it was as though the sky had broken above them and a new light came over them and he understood things clearly, they needed each other. They were good for each other.

What Pam hadn't known, although he had never been able to keep anything from her - except that one secret he harbored for so long and even then he had an inkling she did know deep inside – was that she was the one who lifted the darkness from his shoulders, who broke the thunderheads above him just by being in his life willingly. The days when she was with Roy, the days he had watched them in dismay, feeling himself in the eye of the black of the blackest night – she was on the one to turn it all around for him. She always had been. And now she was with him – truly with him and his insecurities were beginning to ebb away. Overwhelmed by a surge of love for her at that moment, so peaceful and innocent, he lifted his arm and stroked her hair back away from her face.

Maybe it would take a while for her to stop bringing up the things Roy used to say and do. Maybe it would be a long time before she stopped automatically flinching at things – at him. It could even take a long, long time for her to say that she loved him. But looking on the sleeping woman with unabashed reverence, he realized; none of it mattered, it was not part of the bigger picture. No, he thought, carefully twirling a soft strand of her hair around in his fingers, right now was all that was important – making the most of what they had each day. There would be lots of good days to come. He was sure of it.

-TO -

"Hey!" Dwight announced loudly, standing rigidly over his desk, his bag over his shoulder. "Who keeps moving my bobbleheads?"

"Huh?" Jim sat up and leaned forward. He gave an exaggerated frown. "Oh, wow. That's weird."

"This isn't funny! The same last week and the week before. I demand to know who has been touching things on my desk."

"Okay, calm down. How do you know the bobbleheads didn't walk across the desk on their own?" Jim said innocently.

"Almost every day for the last two weeks items on my desk have been repositioned when I arrive. This isn't funny, this is tampering and it won't be tolerated." he fixed Jim with a withering look. "Look at this!" he exclaimed, holding up an empty chip bag. "I knew it. I want to know who's using my desk when I'm not here, right now, and why."

"Oh, wow." Jim said, furrowing his brows. "How do you know you weren't the one who ate those?"

Dwight was incredulous. "Of course it wasn't me!"

"I'm just saying you can't be sure, is all." Jim pointed out. Dwight stared at him, aghast.

"Hey, Dwight." Pam said, appearing behind him at his desk. "One of your clients called reception this morning. He said your cell wasn't going through." She handed Dwight a post-it, and flashed a smile.

"Oh. Thanks." he said offhandedly.

"Yeah… it was weird. He said he was returning your call from this morning?"

"Okay." he said, before snapping his head back up towards her. "What call? I arrived five minutes ago!"

"Woah. Did you call a client from home?" Jim asked.

"No, Jim." Dwight said, sitting down in annoyance.

"Hey, Jim." Pam moved over to his desk. She spoke softly. "Did you see that documentary last night? You know, the one about the little boy, and his toys?"

"Oh right.. I did actually. Wasn't that weird, the toys actually come alive whenever the kids not there. Who knew."

"Quit it, idiots. This is an act of sabotage." Dwight eyed his desktop suspiciously. "Pam…. Was anyone working here this morning?"

"Weren't you working here?"

"No! Someone is using my desk, leaving crumbs and food wrappers. This is infiltration. It's unprofessional and I reserve the right to request it stopped immediately!"

"Woah. What if someone is using your identity? You should check with security." Jim said, leaning back casually, stretching his arms upwards.

"AH-HA!" Dwight bellowed triumphantly, pointing at his screen. "See. That's real. Someone logged on this morning. Someone used my credentials and accessed my computer. See. It wasn't me!"

"This is a mystery." Jim said. "Are you sure you didn't come in early this morning?"

"I did not come in early!"

"I'm just saying we can't rule it out. Think back, what's the first thing you did when you got up this morning?"

"I did not do this. Someone is doing this to me. Someone is using my things and accessing my computer."

Jim shrugged. "Weird. Hey, Kev, have you seen anyone pretending to be Dwight around here?"

Kevin stood up. "No. There's only been one Dwight in the office. I'm very sharp, I would notice if there was a second Dwight in the office."

"I did see a guy leaving the parking lot this morning who looked a lot like Dwight." Pam supplied.

"Maybe Dwight has a like identical twin and neither of them know about each other." Kevin suggested.

"Ah, that sounds more like it. Stake out the parking lot. Find this other Dwight. Case closed."

"I do not have a twin, Jim. Someone is using my desk to forge my identity."

"I'm just saying, how can you be sure you don't have a twin? If it were me, I guess I'd want to know."

"This is not funny. This is unprofessional and a security issue."

Jim paused. "Hmm. You're right. We should get security up here. How do we know you're really Dwight?"

"What are you talking about, imbecile?"

"Well, if there's a second Dwight out there – how do we know you're the real Dwight How do you know?" he said smoothly.

By now, just about everyone in the nearby office was watching the scene with amusement.

Dwight looked thoughtful, before pulling open his desk drawer. "What is this?" He mumbled, pulling out a book. "Stealing your life? Who's book is this?"

"What are you reading that for?" Jim asked, looking perturbed. "Identity theft is a crime, you know Dwight. Is that really appropriate material for the workplace?"

Dwight stood up sharply. "That's it. I'm going to tell Michael. Whoever is doing this will be punished! Michael!" he bellowed, storming off in the direction of Michael's office. Jim spun round in his chair, glancing at Pam for approval.

"Michael's waiting on a call from Utica…" Pam said loudly.

"Utica?" Dwight stopped still, his stormy expression suddenly clearing. He looked up at the ceiling. "Of course."

Pam watched the man stomp into Michaels office, barely holding in her mirth. No sooner than the door closed behind him she gasped out a laugh, looking at Jim in awe. Jim casually smirked, rocking side to side slowly in his chair.

He of course, was delighted by Pam's reaction to the prank. It was stupid, yes, but it was funny, and more importantly, made her laugh. She had been eager when he enlisted her as an accomplice, eager and willing to play along. Making her laugh was a hobby he loved, something he could almost always do. The admiration and awe she always gave him inspired him. Small steps, small movements. There were heavier days, darker days ahead of them, but who said they couldn't have a little fun too. And in the end that was what it was all about.

-TO-

The break room was cold, and busy that lunch hour. Pam purposely sat at the corner table where they would be away from the others somewhat. The prank had put them both in a jovial mood, but the phone call she had received mid morning had dampened her spirits a little. She was an idiot. She had thought she would hold off until the evening to tell Jim what she had been told, but didn't think she could wait that long – she didn't know if he was going to be mad or just think her neurotic and hysterical or worse. She didn't want him to be mad, but of course he would be. He would think her stupid, which she obviously was.

He sat down at the table opposite her, unwrapping a sandwich, and they ate in relative silence until she noticed him staring at her intently.

"What?" she said, amused by his expression.

He smirked at her, shaking his head. "What is it? You've got that face – you want to say something but you don't want to say it."

Pam stared back at him with wide eyes, before giggling nervously. "Can't get a thing past you."

"Nope. Out with it Beesly." he laughed.

She sighed, then pressed her lips together tightly. "Er… well… I've been really stupid… really stupid. Don't get mad…."

"Whatever do you think you've done?" he said, slightly bemused.

"The.. uh… police called." she said sheepishly, eyes downcast.

"And…."

"Kenny was in custody Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Up in a jail near his Mom. I don't know what for." she added morosely.

Jim was quiet as he took in the implications of that. "So… he wasn't-"

"-Outside when I called you over." she finished for him.

"Oh." Jim looked thoughtful. "That's good news, right?" he said, smiling at her. She frowned back at him. "What?" he asked.

"You're not… not mad?"

"Huh?" he shook his head. "About what?"

She frowned harder, the worried lines in her forehead deepening. "About me… wasting your time like that, being hysterical… having a girlfriend who jumps at shadows and calls you out of bed at the middle of the night. Because I-"

"Stop." he waved a hand slightly. "I told you to call me if you had a bad night or wanted someone with you. And I want you to call the police if you see even a single shadow that so much as looks like Roy or Kenny. Okay?"

"Even if… there's nothing out there…?"

Jim laughed out loud. "Even if there's nothing out there, you goofball."

Pam visibly relaxed in front of him. Then she leaned forward and kissed him.

"Oh god, that's still going on?" Michael said with exaggeration, coming into the break room behind them.

The two of them separated, staring at each other with identical expressions of mirth, before dissolving into laughter together.

Chapter 25 by OfficeWriter

So far as Pam could see, most of the staff had arrived already. The parking lot was full of familiar cars glinting in the early morning sun as she leaned against her own, absently picking at a bagel, tearing and twisting it with her fingers but not really eating it. It was increasingly warm for so early in the day, and she turned her head to the sky, letting herself feel the mellow breeze awakening her senses. It was going to be a nice day, she could tell.

"Hey." Jim called cheerfully, breaking her reverie. She startled, coming back to focus. She hadn't even realized he'd arrived.

"Hey you." she smiled, leaning up to kiss his cheek as he came closer. She took a moment to feel the warmth of his lips on her skin as he returned her kiss. "Good morning, messy head." she laughed, ruffling his hair. "Here, as you were running late. Got you breakfast."

"Wow. Thank you." he said appreciatively, taking the paper bag from her. "Sorry about this morning, we'll do breakfast tomorrow, if I can – hey, quit messing up my hair." Jim lightheartedly shrugged her hand away from his head, chuckling.

"Like it needs my help." she laughed mischievously, reaching up again.

"Oh you are such a charmer. Hey, get off." he said with good natured exasperation, moving out of her reach.

"I can't help it, it's so cute when it's all messed up like that."

"So you gotta make it messier, Beesly?"

"It doesn't need my help. Call it your trademark."

"You're killing me with compliments, babe." Jim drawled, loosely draping his arm around her shoulder as they turned towards the building.

"Aww come on. You know you're probably the hottest guy in the parking lot." she said teasingly.

"Probably?" Jim said with mock outrage.

"You heard me."

"Besides, I'm the only guy in the parking lot."

"See, you're already a winner. Here." Pam pulled out of his grasp and faced him. Once more she leaned up, the sun streaming down on them, and the shiver that ran through her as their lips met was exhilarating, making her stomach tingle and her head swim as she stepped back from him. Now she knew it was going to be a great day.

"You're in a fantastic mood this morning." Jim happily observed. He slipped his arm through hers and turned her back to the building again. "Come on, you adorable nerd. I want to drop these empty bags off on Dwight's desk before he gets there." He let out a theatrical sigh. "Let's go inside and sell some paper for this wonderful company we work for."

-TO-

Ten minutes later they were both settled at their respective desks. Pam stared at the back of Jims head, drifting away on the wings of a pleasant daydream fuelled by the exhilaration running throughout her body. She almost laughed at herself; her knees were actually shaking. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt so alive, undone and almost as though she were high – high on Jim. It was definitely a sensation she could get used to. She floated away, a goofy expression taking her over, until the buzzing phone on her right brought her back.

"Jim?" She whispered after taking in the message on her cell. When he swivelled round on his chair to face her, she waved her hand, motioning him over. "My mom's coming in. She wants to come see the attorney with us this afternoon."

Jim leaned forward, resting his elbows on the reception desk. "That's cool. She can ask about the testifying thing."

"Yeah." Pam frowned.

"You nervous?"

She fidgeted in her chair. "Yeah. A bit."

"Hey, this is a good thing. This is the home stretch now, we're almost done with it for good. You okay?"

Pam held her breath for a few seconds, before letting out a small puff of air. "Yeah, I am. Can't wait to see my mom."

"Yeah." Jim chuckled softly, turning back to his desk. "Oh, Beesly?" He spun around again, a wicked look in his eye.. "Maybe I should go get this messy hair of mine cut at lunch, make myself look presentable for your mom and –"

"Don't you dare." she laughed, throwing a paper clip at him in jest. "What am I going to make fun of if you do?"

"Take your pick." Dwight grumbled as he moved past them. "It's an insult buffet."

"I don't know, I should get a hair cut, rent a tux maybe…. " Jim teased, pointedly ignoring Dwight. Pam shook her head, restraining a smile as she playfully pushed him off her desk.

"Go sell some paper, you slacker." she nodded towards his desk. "And don't you touch a single hair on that handsome head."

Jim tapped on the desk in acknowledgement before he moved away. Pam looked up, noticing the pink flush creeping into his cheeks. She watched him retreat back to his desk, smiling to herself and rubbing her trembling knees, feeling at that moment that she was a very lucky woman.

-TO-

How far they'd come. Jim watched his girlfriend with a gleam of pride in his eye. Had had expected nerves, shaking, probably tears, but as he watched she held herself together pretty well. Still, he thought that it helped a lot that Helene was there too. The attorney was very thorough, albeit brutally honest.

"It's going to be very hard for everyone." he was saying in a clear, confident voice. "There are things you must be prepared for, things that will not be pleasant and will seem unfair. The defense will pull every tactic they can to discredit you, Miss Beesly. They will most likely put forward the narrative that Mr Anderson acted in defense or temporary loss of control – including trying to manipulate you to say on the stand that you were the instigator of the physical fights between you and Mr Anderson. I understand you two are now a couple?" he asked, his eyes ricocheting between Jim and Pam.

"That's right." Jim said, nodding. Pam, feeling sick inside her stomach, looked down at the table and said nothing.

"That doesn't help our case." the attorney said bluntly.

"What do you mean, Mr… uh?" Jim responded, momentarily thrown by the mans answer.

"Please, just call me Murphy. Everyone does." Murphy said. "The defense will almost certainly try to claim that your relationship predates the abuse – that Mr Anderson was a spurned, betrayed partner who simply snapped at his girlfriends infidelity with a man he considered to be a friend."

"But that's not true!" Pam said hotly. Jim squeezed her hand under the table.

"We actually only started dating a short while ago." Jim added.

"It's not about what's true and what isn't – all the defense has to do is create reasonable doubt on your character, and portray Mr Anderson as a sympathetic and betrayed man, someone the jury can understand and identify with. Do you think you can handle that?"

Pam looked at her mom, before looking at Jim on the other side of her. "If I have to, I will." she said softly.

"It will be tough. I'm not going to mince words on that. There will be questions that relate to your past behavior. They will try to catch you out, they will look for inconsistencies in your statements, a way to impeach you as a witness. The defense will use everything they can get their hands on against you."

"She went through this at the first hearing. For the restraining order." Helene clarified, looking at her daughter.

"This is criminal court." Murphy reiterated. "They'll pull no punches – there's a lot more at stake in this case than a restraining order. The jury is going to be faced with two people they have never seen and know nothing about. We're asking them to put one of them away. The defense will take your daughters statements apart, they will try to paint her as weak and disloyal, as emotionally unstable."

"How can they do that - what about all the evidence?" Jim said with obvious frustration.

"The defense rarely brings up the evidence that is likely to convict the defendant – it's their job to disregard the facts, to show that Ms Beesly is untrustworthy and a was lousy girlfriend. The evidence is the prosecutors job, and I will certainly introduce the evidence and strongly drive it home to the jury and the judge that there is no question that Mr Anderson was responsible."

Pam slumped back in her chair, eyes downcast. Jim could see the little indicators of angst, her growing anxiety as it all became real to her again – he could almost see her eyes folding backwards, recalling years at the hands of Roy, years he knew she would bear some scars of for the rest of her life. He knew what she was thinking, saw it in her rigid posture, the tight grip of her icy cold fingers clenched around his; that she was holding herself together extremely well – on the surface. Underneath it all, in the shivering hand he held, in the paleness of her skin, in the slow, subtle hitches of breath she was taking; he knew it, she was absolutely terrified.

"I'm more than willing to give evidence." Helene spoke up, surprising both Pam and Jim, who turned to look at her. "Roy betrayed us all." she said softly. "I want to say that. I want to tell them what a liar he is and what he's done her her, to us."

"I don't want you to." Pam spoke, barely above a whisper.

Helene patted her arm kindly. "I know. If you can do it, I can too." She faced the attorney. "Roy has two sides. He can be very charming, vulnerable. I didn't see it until the hearing before. He switched from one person, the person we knew and loved like a son to this… this monster who accused my daughter of dreadful things. Who sat up in front of us all and acted like he was completely without blame for all the hurt and pain she has gone through."

"We have the psychiatric reports on both Mr Anderson, and yourself, Miss Beesly that we will introduce as evidence. Character witnesses we will be allowed to cross examine. Eyewitnesses - Mr Halpert witnessed a violent act against your daughter. I believe we have a strong case, but it's not a done deal yet."

"What are character witnesses?" Helene asked.

"Character witnesses who will testify to Mr Andersons ethics, moral qualities. To testify under oath to the court about the positive sides of his character. Then we have the eyewitnesses, such as Mr Halpert here, and a psychologist expert witness. We've got people we've called to give evidence on your daughters behalf." Murphy shuffled through the paperwork in front of him. "We've got a good line up for the witness stand. Miss Beesly's human resources representative, who was also Mr Andersons representative and the man who dismissed him from the job. Co-workers of both are testifying and also a former neighbor of theirs."

"How's Roy going to plead?" Jim bit his lip, side-eyeing Pam.

The attorney took a long drink from his water glass. "Often defendants hold out on their decision in hopes that the victim does not turn up, making a not guilty plea much easier to secure through lack of evidence due to witnesses. It is very important for the conviction that Ms Beesly attends court. He may plead guilty simply because she is there."

"Not likely." Pam mumbled under her breath. Who were they kidding – she was the one who knew Roy the best. She knew Roy would go up in court in his best saint-just-short-of-a-halo act, but she knew, knew he would never plead guilty.

"When we reconvene tomorrow," Murphy carried on. "I'll take you through the questions likely to be asked of you and ways to answer them. I would like to show you the courtroom layout, and the witness box where you'll give evidence from, so it doesn't all feel so alien to you."

Jim felt a cold squeeze of his hand. "What should we do in the meantime?"

"You want my opinion," Murphy said, looking straight at Pam. "Go home, get as much rest as possible, plenty of sleep. Do things that are distracting, things you both enjoy. Don't overthink it. Take care of each other. It's going to be a difficult ride for all of you."

Jim nodded, unconsciously slipping his arm around Pam's shoulders. Looking at the frail woman beside him – the woman who had been so happy just hours earlier, a burning fury fired up inside of him. He closed his eyes, repeating the words he had given to her earlier back to himself.

It's almost over.

-TO-

Pam was exhausted. Despite protestations, Helene had insisted on making dinner for the three of them. And Jim found out, the woman was an excellent cook. Pam barely picked at her meal while Helene struck up small talk, asking Jim how his father was feeling, how his brothers and sisters were and where they were and moving on to who the Eagles had signed. Jim was astounded at the wealth of knowledge the woman apparently had about him. A slightly smug, slightly awkward smile crept on to his face as he thought about the depth of conversations Pam must have had with her mother about him.

"You look tired, Pammy." Helene said sympathetically.

Pam nodded slowly. "Yeah. All this… it's exhausting."

Helene stood up. "I'm going to do the dishes and then I'll head home and hope that you will get an early night." She gently patted her daughters shoulder.

"I'll dry." Jim offered getting up and lifting his plate.

"No need. You two go in the other room and have a rest. This won't take ten minutes." Helene headed towards the kitchen without waiting for any disagreement, plates in hand.

"Mom, you can stay here tonight if you want. It'll be dark, and late by the time you get home."

Helene smiled at her, pushing the door to the kitchen open with her elbow. "Can't leave the old man at home alone for too long, can I? I might return to a pile of ashes instead of a house if I find he's tried to make his own dinner."

"True." Pam managed a small smile.

Helene disappeared into the kitchen. Pam slumped wearily onto the couch, feeling heavy with exhaustion and emotional fatigue. Jim dropped down next to her. He attempted to engage her in some small talk, but her mind was clouding over, the words running together. Her heavy head eventually fell onto his shoulder, and she reached out for his hand.

"You always smell so good." she murmured sleepily. Jim turned his head, laughing softly.

"Okay, Beesly." he said, amused.

"That's why I did it." she added inexplicably. Jim waited for her to continue, feeling her head grow heavier on his shoulder as she relaxed more.

"Uh, Beesly?"

She shifted slightly. She spoke sleepily, slurring her words together. "It's why I…. sleep in your bed. When you weren't there." Jim watched her struggle to lift her eyelids to look at him. "I'd go into your room and lie down and you were everywhere.. it felt so safe. I felt safe. Like when you're there. Safe like that. It felt really good."

Jim listened in silence, surprised and feeling quite touched by her revelation. He fumbled for the words to respond to her but came up short, nothing was going to come out right. He settled for pressing a long kiss against the top of her head.

"Jim…" she mumbled again, with her last seconds of consciousness before she dropped into complete sleep. "Stay..."

He smiled at her, catching the multiple meaning in her request. Softly brushing her hair away from her face, he paused, cupping her cheek. "Always." he said, and meant it.

Chapter 26 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
About another month and I will have been working on this crazy thing for a year. I owe a debt to the person who suggested writing fanfiction - as I have spent two decades failing miserably at writing anything. This has been a great exercise for me. thank you for anyone who has been here the whole ride through. Probably a few more chapters to come yet but the end is in sight. thank you x

Wind whipped savagely through the trees, scattering dead leaves into the air, leaves that soared and floated wisp-like in the distance. They lifted and tumbled in a repetitive dance. Pam watched almost hypnotically, her fingers tracing light circles over the worn fabric of the back of the couch. She pressed her cheek further into the back pillow, eyes following a blurry red circle shape, a small glove or hat maybe, bouncing reluctantly along the ground.

She guessed she could rule out sleep that night. Her left thigh ached uncomfortably yet she still could not bring herself to move. Her body was heavy, unwilling to lift her from the couch. Thoughts dropped like barbells through her mind. Court was getting too close, Roy was too close. Quarrelling fears and emotions sharp as weapons stabbed at her, hurt her. She didn't know what she felt. She was expected to be able to stand up in court – with strangers and family alike – and him – right there in front of her and say things she had never been able to say before. How could she? Everyone was acting as though she was strong enough to do this – her, Pam, her who had never stood up for herself before in her life – her who always said yes when she wanted to say no, and no when someone wanted her to say no, her who would always say she wasn't hurt when she had been. Her, who was so weak she couldn't even stand up to herself and shake some sense into her own head.

Her, who wanted desperately to run away from court, from attorneys, from him – was supposed to be able to do this – to open her mouth and vomit up the insides of her body, her soul and lay bare the most ugly, painful moments for public scrutiny. For strangers to determine if she was telling the truth or not. What if the jury was mostly men? What if they were biased? What if one look from Roy destroyed her ability to say anything? And then there was Jim. He would feel differently about her after it was all over. There was so much he did not know about her, things likely to come out in court – things that showed how weak and pathetic she was. How inadequate. How easy she was to manipulate. Roy knew it. He was skilled at manipulation, building emotional road maps leading back to planet Roy.

"You can't be there for me when I need you, not even once?" she remembered Roy whining at her. This was a short time after they had first bought the house – and a bare few weeks after the incident on the night of Michael's birthday.

She had pleaded with him. "It's her birthday, her twenty first. It's special, Roy. I won't be back late, I'm sure Penny will wa–"

"Go then, if you can't be bothered to put in the effort into our relationship, you go."

"Why won't you come with me, then – we'll go together." she had repeated.

"So I have to come to your sisters birthday dinner for you to spend any time with me? Is that how it is, Pam?"

"No, no, it's not like that! We can spend the whole weekend together afterwards. Anything you want. Please Roy, come with me."

She remembered how belligerent Roy had been that night. His standing over her, his muscles flexing, her memory of recent events had terrified her at the time. Looking back now she saw again that terror in herself – but also she saw what she couldn't see before, the small, childish man he was, pathetic and needy.

"You go. " he had said, deathly cold. "You've made it clear where your priorities are. While you're gone you think about us and how important this relationship is to you." Roy had said darkly. It had been a warning and she took it as such. She had gone to Penny's dinner, alone, but hadn't enjoyed herself. It had been the first time she had directly gone against Roy in such a blatant way. Not that he had outright forbidden her to go, but they both knew his meaning had been clear. She had expected a discussion when she got home afterwards, a loud one – nothing she couldn't handle. The incident a few weeks earlier played on her mind but she dismissed it – Roy had been so apologetic, so sweet and kind since then. After all, he had promised that would never happen again, that he would never hurt her again. She had known that Roy had a lot of stress in his life, a lot of wounds that were still bleeding. He needed her, she'd reminded herself. When she had returned home to a darkened house, contrite and ready to pander for forgiveness, she had been met with a thorny wall of silence that lasted nearly four days. She had grown desperate as the minutes stretched out. By day three she would have promised him the whole earth and all its inhabitants if only he would just forgive her and would speak to her. And he had been true to his word that time, he hadn't laid a finger on her. Not then. But, as she later found out, Roy had great difficulty maintaining a commitment to anything.

He had made her work for it that time, beg for scraps of forgiveness from him. He had been hurt, he'd said. She was neglectful, inconsiderate to his feelings, his needs. This was the first of a routine she would to get to know well in the future. And, slumped on the couch as she was currently, she recalled how the routine had become so ingrained between them that words were not always needed. Just a dark glare of Roy's eye in her direction, the tap-tap-tap pattern of his nails against the table; she always knew what the meaning was.

The attorney wanted her to think about the things that had happened during her time with Roy, to picture the incidents exactly as they happened, relive the 'assaults' on the witness stand, as he liberally referred to it, although she was not happy with him using that term. Assaults to her mind were isolated incidents, they stopped and started, they had ends and beginnings. Abuse, that's what it was – that's what was appropriate, as appropriate is it could be. Abuse was sustained, ongoing. Abuse covered it all.

She wanted this all over with. Abuse, assaults, testifying… she wanted an end to it. She wanted to go to bed at a normal, reasonable time every night and go right to sleep until morning waking up refreshed and nightmare free. But, watching broken branches whipping back and forth wildly in the wind, watching the empty streets darken under the moonless sky, she resigned herself to another night of wide eyed anxiety alone until the birds woke up to join her.

-TO-

She met Jim in the parking lot at the attorney's office. Eagerly she went to him with open arms, relishing the warmth and comfort the hug evoked. Pulling back from him, she ran her hands over his front, smoothing out his shirt. Blue. She had always liked him in blue.

"You look like you're running on two percent battery, Beesly." He remarked casually, loosely draping an arm around her waist and pulling her closer to him.

"Yeah…" she looked at him carefully, reading his expression. "Tough night. With the storm and everything." she added quickly.

"It was pretty wild." he said knowingly, but didn't comment further.

"Practically demolished the trees out front." Pam told him, as they walked towards the office entrance. "There were branches scattered everywhere this morning."

Jim looked at her thoughtfully, before pulling her to a stop by the sliding doors. "Gotta watch those trees, Beesly. They look strong and stand strong in the wind…. But they can only withstand so much harsh weather before their limbs start to break off."

"The storm did leave them pretty damaged. I hope they can recover. They looked so healthy before."

"That's the thing about… trees," Jim said with a small smile. "They can only heal themselves so far. They need someone to help rid them of the broken limbs so the tree can heal faster. Otherwise the damage spreads until you've got a major break."

Pam caught his eye, standing by the doors. "I guess."

"Yeah..." he said, holding her gaze. "Gotta take care of those trees, Beesly. Without them, surviving would be hard."

She swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat. He lightly ran a hand down her cheek, coming to rest on her shoulder. Silence passed between the two of them, before Pam softly turned and led the way inside.

-to-

The attorney pulled no punches, advising the defense would not be gentle in their line of questioning. He wanted them to be prepared for the stand, be aware that the defense could be derisive, discourteous but that no matter what, on the stand they were to remain calm and focused. It was his job to object to the questioning, he explained.

"Avoid talking about the relationship between the two of you. The defense will most certainly try to use that to weaken your case, and I will object. Do not volunteer any information, simply answer the questions asked, yes or no."

"What happens if you object to that?" Jim asked.

"I will argue that your relationship is not relevant to the case. This is a trial for assault-" he said, missing Pam wincing. "Whether or not Ms Beesly is involved in another relationship is not pertinent to either side. However, when the defense do raise that line of questioning, the intention is for the jury to hear it."

Jim nodded slowly. "So, even if you object the jury has still heard it, you mean."

"Indeed. It's a–"

Pam cut him off. "Will he admit it?"

"Pardon?" Murphy said after a moment.

"What he did. Will he?"

Murphy looked at her, his face perfectly blank. "I don't know."

Pam slumped back, shaking her head slightly. For all that had happened, for all they had suffered, Roy's consistent refusal to admit to what he had done to her stung terribly, left her with a raw anger. She needed him to admit to hurting her, abusing her – she needed it to be real. There were only two people witness to the abuse, her and him, his word, her word. Otherwise Roy would always have power over her – she would always be doubting herself.

She did not want Roy to hold any part of the rest of her life. But listening to the attorney with a stomach full of nausea, she was realistic enough to understand it would never fully be over, verdict or not.

- TO -

Pam parked up next to Jim's saab and followed him to the front door. Her stomach was twisting and churning nauseously. Every meeting with the attorney was a step closer to trial. She felt weak, lightheaded and unfocused every time she envisioned being on the witness stand. She might not even make it to the stand if she didn't get some sleep very soon. She shook her head, realising that Jim was holding the door open for her and made herself move.

"You okay?" he asked the second they had both stepped inside. She simply nodded, unable to answer. "Here." he said, draping his arm around her shoulders and leading her into the living room. "These are for you."

He turned away from her and before she knew what was happening he had turned back, his arms filled with roses. Vibrant pinks and lilacs and reds exploded out of the bouquet, a rich fruity aroma filling the room. She gasped involuntarily, stepping back slightly. There had to be a least fifty, if not sixty, seventy roses delicately arranged and wrapped around in red paper. Pam looked up in awe, her lip trembling.

"Jim…." she trailed off. "You didn't…. I mean… this is…" she sighed, frustrated. She took the roses from him, lowering her head into the flowers, inhaling. When she looked up again her eyes were bright and shining.

"This is… just…" She sighed again, placing the flowers on the table. "Oh, just come here." she said, slipping her arms around his neck. He willingly squeezed her back, his lips finding her cheek.

"Thank you." she whispered quietly.

Jim let a small chuckle as she let go and stepped back. "I wouldn't thank me just yet. I've made dinner. Well, I've still got to heat it… but if you're brave it's yours."

"You cooked?" she said in amazement, her finger tracing the top of the roses lovingly.

"I cooked."

"What a guy." she said, pushing her lips together, her eyes shiny. "Thank you. For everything."

"Yeah." he suddenly looked nervous. "I actually wanted to ask you something… I know you're doing okay right now, and you need your space and I totally understand, it's just that –"

"What is it?" she interrupted, unconsciously mirroring his nervousness.

He smiled thinly. "I was just thinking, maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if you wanted to stay here with me for a bit, you know while the trial is happening and everything. I know you want to be independent, I know that, and if you don't want to I totally understand, I just thought –"

"Yes."

"Huh?"

Pam gave a small laugh, gently nudging him with her elbow. "Don't look so surprised. I'd love to stay here with you."

"Really?" he said, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her to him again. She rested her head on his shoulder. If she was honest with herself, she had been kind of hoping he would ask. Living on her own and being precautious was well and good, but the long drawn out nights of wakefulness and nightmares, of being alone were taking a noticeable toll on her; and it wasn't that he was asking her to move in with him – she be free to leave at any time she wanted to. More than that, she was finding lately she missed him whenever they weren't together – she needed him in a fundamental way, a need she had never felt with Roy.

"More than anything." she replied sincerely.

Chapter 27 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

A/n - A couple of times I have had a question asked of me, so I will attempt to answer. 

I've not been in Pam's situation before, and not ever been in a court room. I have however been in a similar circumstance - emotionally and otherwise involving a controlling, fear based relationship. 

I will add that the remark that Karen made in chapter 17, about knowing how to control her men, was a real comment that was made to me during a conversation with a friend some years back after I saw a man I used to know on the news after being sentenced. I had cautioned her on the potential danger she herself was putting herself in at the time, and Karen's response was hers reduxed. "It wouldn't happen to me, I know how to control my men...." It's a gutting thing to hear indeed.

The evening had gone so well. They'd stayed indoors, in deference to the ever evolving and ongoing stormy weather. It was a remarkably relaxed evening despite the foreshadowing of the court case hovering over them both. It seemed they both inadvertently knew how to lift each others mood without trying. And after a quiet night of sharing food, fargo and earphones they had fallen, exhausted and weary but still remarkably cheerful, against each other in Jim's bed, both dropping into sleep almost immediately. The last image that bloomed in Pam's mind before the hazy darkness swallowed her was of Jim and a motley roomful of roses.

Then, of course, the nightmares came. She woke sharply in the dark room, her eyes frantically scanning the walls for man shaped shadows and silhouettes that moved in the darkness. She pulled herself to a sitting position, then found herself frozen in place, her breath coming fast and loud in the still of the night. Her chest heaved painfully,

she couldn't move. Vulnerable bumps raised up her forearms and a numbing chill attacked her from all sides. Something had happened, something unthinkable, and she was stuck in her body; caught in the space between dream and reality. Panic struck as she tried to blink away the heavy remnants of the nightmare but to her horror her eyelids wouldn't move, they were as stuck as she was with the shadows closing in around her like a fist. Her breath had turned ragged and she began to splutter, until a gentle hand slipped around the side of her neck breaking the spell and she let herself be drawn backwards, falling into the comfortable groove of a familiar shoulder.

Pam rested her head gently against Jim's neck, allowing him to comfort her. She flexed her toes, her fingers, the tingling inside starting to move away as her surroundings became clearer.

"It's alright." Jim whispered calmly, cocooning her against his chest. "Breathe deep." He watched as her front continued to rise and fall unevenly, lowering his head to rest his cheek against the side of her forehead.

"Okay Beesly." he said, feeling her body shift as her thin, cold fingers reached up to her chest and wrapped around his own. "Just take a pause. Breathe deep. C'mon, it's easy. Lakes, Mountains. Puppies. Cute, awesome puppies. Watercolors. The Getty, the Guggenheim, the Louvre. We're gonna visit all of them. The pyramids. You're gonna paint them." Jim carried on talking in a low voice, feeling the tension start to slip out of her limbs and her breathing slow down as her back trembled against his chest. "You got this, Pam. You got it, we got it."

Steadily she relaxed, second by second, the broken gasps of air smoothing out against his neck. "Almost there, babe. Keep breathing. Nice and slow. South of France. Pottery. Our date on the roof. Michael's car in the lake."

Jim spoke into the darkness, softly into her ear, stopping when her fingers began to move and warm and he was sure she was awake.

"A pretty bad one, huh Beesly?" he said huskily, rubbing her shoulder. She nodded into him, not trusting herself to speak. Tentatively her hand traveled to her throat, rubbing the sensitive skin with her fingertips.

The area above her left eye ached terribly, and she grit her teeth and closed her eyes, pushing the tears that were so near her surface down, shoving them down so forcefully her whole head began to throb.

It wasn't just that the dream had been bad. It wasn't that the dream had been so real she thought she had lived it. It wasn't either of those things. No. This dream was different, somehow worse than any she had before. Usually, everything in her nightmares was fragmented from different parts of her history, her reality, she relived things, she was tormented by old ghosts and demons. Usually.

This one was different. This time, she was not the one in trouble.

-to -

That morning both of them slept late. It was near noon when they eventually did get up and make their way downstairs. They ate a belated breakfast together in the living room quietly, neither fully awake. They had barely finished eating and were both quietly considering how to approach the events overnight when they were interrupted by Pam's cellphone.

"My mom." she mouthed at Jim, before lifting the phone back to her ear. Jim got up, gathering the breakfast things and setting them in the sink, turning back on hearing Pam calling to him.

"My parents are coming down today. Is it okay with you if they come here?" she asked tentatively, her hand covering the phone.

"Don't need to ask, silly." he grinned at her. "You're not a house guest you know."

When she had finished with the call she set the phone down beside her, looking thoughtfully out into the garden.

"You okay?" Jim said from behind her.

"Yeah." she said, not turning away from the window. "Sorry I woke you up last night."

"I wasn't sure if you would remember." he said honestly, moving to sit next to her.

Then she looked at him. "Thank you." she said simply.

"Does that happen a lot when you're on your own?" he said, a worried expression drawing over his features.

She paused, shaking her head a little. "Not…. Really…sometimes I guess but….."

"Hmmm. You know I seem to recall someone lecturing me quite forcefully recently about being honest when we're not okay…."

"Oh…. touché…" she mumbled, going red.

"So if someone does have a bad night, 'not really but sometimes' I guess she probably feels pretty awful when it happens."

"I guess she does."

"Mmmhmmmm." he mumbled, raising an eyebrow.

"I guess it's something to work on, huh?" Pam said, her fingers automatically fiddling with the hem of her shirt.

"Definitely something to think about. And of course the perks of having an on-call bodyguard outweigh any unnecessary embarrassment she might feel."

"Oh really?" she said, pulling an amused expression.

"Yup. I can call the police in two seconds flat. Don't even need to leave the house." he teased.

The only answer he found was a cushion aimed mischievously at his head. Laughing he swatted it away, watching it bounce to the floor.

"But Jim?" she waited for him to stop laughing.

"Yeah?" he raised a hand to shield himself from further onslaught, fighting down another urge to laugh at her expression, an odd cross between amusement and skittish.

"Erm…. Michaels car in the lake?"

Jim couldn't hold back. Bursting into laughter again he raised his hands in a mock defensive gesture. "I don't know, I ran out of things to say!"

His laughter was infectious and she soon found herself laughing along with him. The sound of their cheerful voices mingled together felt pretty good.

-TO-

"Pamela! How's life treating you?" William practically bellowed on seeing his daughter.

"Dad!" Pam exclaimed. She hugged the man tightly. "It's feels like it's been forever since I've seen you."

"And a day." he replied, releasing her. "Let me get a good look at you. Well now." William nodded approvingly. "You look a lot better than the last time I saw you."

"Honestly, William." Helene rolled her eyes. "He's so tactful."

The four of them settled in the living room. Pam filled them in on the court details and the attorney's advice.

"Well, I guess he knows what he's doing." William commented. "But I'm still not happy about the idea of you having to be in front of Roy, regardless of who else is there."

"I'm not doing cartwheels myself, dad. I don't think there's a choice though." Pam replied.

"If she doesn't testify it gives Roy a fighting chance to get away with it, the attorney keeps telling us." Jim added.

"Ridiculous." William grouched.

Pam shuddered uncomfortably. "Are you staying for dinner?" she said, changing the subject.

"Well, we need to go check in, then how about we go out somewhere?" Helene suggested.

"Yes, definitely. Good idea." Jim stretched his legs out and glanced at Pam.

"Check in?" she frowned. "Mom, why are you two in a hotel? Are you staying?"

"Well, we thought we might. We'd like to be here for you, with court being so close." Helene responded gently.

"But a hotel?" Pam exclaimed.

"You can stay here if you'd like." Jim added.

Helene shook her head. "Oh we don't want to impose on you at all. Pam-"

"Mom, you can stay at my place, you know. You don't need a hotel. I'm staying here for now anyway… you'll be like house sitting or something… it would be really good to have you so close by."

"If you're sure, Pammy."

"Tell you what, Helene, how about I run our suitcases over there now and we can decide were to eat when I get back." William stood up. Helene nodded agreeably. "Well, young man, how about giving the old guy a hand? Maybe stopping for a drink on the way?"

Again, Helene rolled her eyes at Pam, before firing a warning look at her husband. "Behave yourself." she said pointedly, as Jim got up to accompany him.

"What's going on there?" Pam said bewildered, after the men had gone. Helene sighed carefully, setting her purse on the floor and moving to sit next to Pam.

"I believe your dad wants to interrogate Jim. I can only apologize, and I will when Jim comes back."

Pam was still confused. "Interrogate him? What for?"

Helene chuckled gently. "For you, Pammy. He just wants to make sure history isn't going to repeat itself, and I guess he's going to give Jim fair warning."

"Oh no." Pam buried her head in her hands. "Mom, I really wish he wouldn't."

"I know but you know him. He feels it's his duty, it's a matter of pride with him.. he knows Jim is a much better man than Roy, he does know that… but you know your father. He's all mouth, it's all bravado. He's not going to be mean, of course he won't. Rather he'll just satisfy his own need to know you're in safe hands with Jim. He really does like him, you know. He just needs to get this out of his system."

"Oh boy." Pam shuddered. "Jim really doesn't deserve that, nothing like before is going to happen with him."

"I know." Helene said soothingly. "But one day, Pam, when you have kids of your own, you'll understand, okay? It's the most terrifying feeling in the world when your child is out there on their own in the world, that you can no longer protect them the way that you can when they are young. And when that child is hurt, and your worst fears are coming true, it's just unbearable. Your dad feels he should have done more for you about Roy. He doesn't want to upset Jim or you – he just wants to make sure Jim understands how important you are to us, and that he will always treat you right."

"I suppose." Pam said, but that didn't stop the wings of butterflies fluttering through her stomach at visions of her dad firing question after question at Jim.

"Well, we're all a little tense, with trial coming up." Helene reached over, lightly stroking Pam's hair back from her face. "Have you been sleeping any better?"

Pam felt her cheeks glow. "Um.. mostly.. but.. Mom, I had an awful night last night."

"What happened – nightmare?"

"Yeah." Pam said abruptly. She turned her eyes to the floor. "It… wasn't like the others Mom, this one was different. Sort of worse."

Helene reached for her hand. "Different how? Are you still having the dreams of being choked?"

Pam looked her at mother with emotional eyes, holding her gaze. "Sometimes I guess. This one though… it wasn't me… it wasn't me."

"I'm not following, Pam." Helene frowned.

Pam swallowed heavily. "It wasn't me this time, I wasn't the one who got hurt." She took a deep breath. "It was Jim."

Helene reacted as Pam suspected she would, sympathetic, gripping her daughters hand tightly. Somehow this made Pam feel worse. She didn't want to be comforted for having dreamed up something so unpleasant, something she never, ever wanted to dream – or see – again.

"Oh, honey, I'm sure that was just horrible. I think it's probably natural though, you've been through so much. Try not to overthink this, okay? Roy isn't going anywhere, and Jim is completely safe. So are you." Helene leaned closer to Pam. "If you're really worried about it, maybe you could ask your therapist what it means. Maybe it's you feeling vulnerable, frightened of losing Jim because of Roy."

"Maybe." Pam said quietly.

"Are you worried about that?" Helene persisted, her face now so close to her daughters they were almost touching.

Pam thought about it for a moment. "No… no I don't think so. Just… oh Mom, I just want this all to be over."

"I know, I know. It will be very soon, and then you can get on with rebuilding your life with Jim. You'll see." Helene said, smiling reassuringly at her daughter.

Pam smiled in return, still holding on to her hand. She desperately wanted to believe in her mothers optimism and believe it was as easy as that, but she knew better. She knew Roy would be a demon that would be hard to cast out. She knew that the coming week would be the hardest yet – for all of them. She was also impatient, impatient for her life to start over, life with Jim, life as her own person. She had thought she'd never love after Roy yet now that so much time had passed she was realizing she had fallen out of love with Roy a long long time ago. She had just been afraid of him. She had mixed the two up.

With Jim her feelings were much simpler and much, much clearer; she felt more for him – on a pure, fundamental level than she had ever felt for Roy.

No, she decided, looking at her moms kind face; she was not going to think about nightmares or worse – it was time to focus on the future now. Very soon Roy would be physically resigned to a stain in her history. The future would be Roy free. She would focus on this, focus on Jim and moving forward.

After all, she had a great team behind her.

Chapter 28 by OfficeWriter

"Listen to that wind." Pam reflected quietly, staring aimlessly into the thick hazy sky. "Totally getting Twister vibes."

Jim chuckled softly, his mouth full of grilled cheese. "Yup. Read my mind."

"Everything looks so far away." she said. "It's like we're sitting on the moon or something."

"Mmmmm I think there might be more light up there on the moon." he said with amusement.

The roof was an island of darkness between the wave of lights reflecting off the nearby buildings on each side. The light from the two candles had brought a welcome break in the blackness, but several strong gusts of air finished off the tiny flames, refusing to allow the candles to stay lit – or even upright – and they had resorted to using their cellphones for light. Jim heard the subtle unease in her voice and knew she was thinking the same thing.

"I wish we could stay up here all night," she said, resting her head against the back of her chair. The sky was a thick black sheet, all the lights were out.

"Yeah. Know what you mean." Jim looked around cautiously. "But I hate to say we'll probably have to go soon before it gets all Hitchcock out here and we end up with the car upside down or in a ditch somewhere."

Pam sighed wearily. "Wish we didn't have to." She gripped the arm of the chair, as if she was rooting herself to her seat. It was an odd night, in many odd ways. Pam thought of what lay ahead for them, feeling the wind blow her hair away from her neck. Below them was a sea of lights and stagnant shapes. Who knew was what happening down there. How many women were down there on the ground in caught in the same soul destroying hell she had been caught in? How much pain, how much agony went on down there?

On the roof she felt above it all, a certain detachment from her situation and the rest of the world. She felt safe, she felt hidden. She was apart. She looked up into the endless dark and felt a sense of peace settle through her. Nothing was happening up there. Nothing was happening on the roof. There were no wars, no violence, no pain up there in the empty sky. She never wanted to look away, to lose that feeling.

"Dammit." Jim muttered, after his beer had been blown over and had rolled off down the roof to parts unknown, leaving a silvery trail in its wake.

"I'm scared." she said suddenly. Jim jerked his head towards her. He leaned over, feeling for her hand in the darkness like a blind man.

"It's going to be tough." he squeezed her hand. "But you know, it won't be like it was when it was just you and Roy. You're not facing him alone this time. He can't hurt you anymore."

"No." she said, not looking away from the sky. "It's not…there are things…. whatever comes out in court, I don't want you to feel differently about me."

"Differently?" Jim heard his voice raise over the wind.

"I was really stupid wasn't I?" she chose her words delicately. "Staying with him for so long. Like my life was a dirty secret or something. There will be things that are said in court…."

"It doesn't sound stupid at all." he said. "You're human. You said it yourself, he made it difficult for you to leave."

Pam caught her breath. "I guess." She brushed her windswept hair back impatiently. "I try not to think about it… but I don't know what's going to come out, what he might say. And I don't want you hear things and feel… cheated, I guess."

"Never. You don't need to worry about me." he replied with certainty. ""I'm not here to judge you. Besides, between Toby, Daryl and Dwight, you really don't have to worry about looking foolish." he said, attempting to raise a laugh.

"Oh god.." Pam mumbled. "You think Dwight is going to help my case? I don't know what the attorney's thinking getting him up there. He met Dwight."

"Hey, if anyone in that office pays attention to the stupid shit people do, it's Dwight. Aside from me, Dwight is the closest person to reception. He heard things. He saw you and Roy together." he said. "But yeah… it is Dwight. I get you."

She fell silent at that. The wind swooped around them aggressively. Jim could hear the distant rattle of his beer can rolling around.

"You know something Beesly?" he added. "I'm scared too, I'm real scared. But you know what? In a week or so, this will be done, it will be over. We're gonna zoom through the next week, and you're gonna kick its ass, you're gonna kick Roys ass."

The only response she could give was a strong squeeze of his hand. She leaned back, raising her eyes upwards again. Truthfully she hadn't wanted to come on this 'date' with Jim. But he had asked her and he had seemed so excited about it, she didn't want to say no or disappoint him. She had much preferred to stay indoors and brood, her insides were a jumble of ugly knots and she felt in danger of vomiting whenever she opened her mouth but there now, in the dark, she was glad she came. A smile stretched out her cheeks as she thought of the lengths Jim went to for her. Sneaking her up there, on top of the office building in the dark; it was a sweet gesture and she knew he was trying to take her mind off the next morning and the days that were to follow.

"Okay." Jim said, jumping up after feeling his chair sway underneath him. "Not really into extreme sports. You wanna go?"

"No." she said honestly, allowing Jim to help her up. "But staying doesn't seem like the safest thing."

She knew that if they left they would just go home, and then sleep would most likely come – or in her case, not – and morning would just come quicker and she already felt trapped by it all, without chance of escape.

They were moving silhouettes in the night as they walked across the roof to the access hatch. She followed Jim down the ladder and was immediately surprised by the chill inside.

"Guess they turn the heat off at night." She felt her body go stiff.

They made their way out of the building and to the parking lot. Pam slowed down as a familiar shape took form in front of her.

"Wait." she tugged Jim's sleeve from behind. He stopped and turned to her expectantly. "What's Dwight's car doing here?"

Jim laughed, putting an arm around her. "Oh, right. Didn't I tell you? Ah well… Dwight thinks there's a spy from Utica-"

"Who's using his desk, yes." she said.

"He thinks they set up base in the ceiling.

"So, he's on a stakeout? That's brilliant." she said, trying unsuccessfully to hold her hair with one and hand and stop her coat blowing out with the other.

"He's on a stakeout." Jim confirmed with a smirk.

"Oh my god…" she laughed breathily, climbing into the passenger side of the car. "Too perfect."

They drove off slowly out of the parking lot, the wind continuing to pick up speed. The journey was cautious, due to the weather and the unnerving moment when the car was rocked from side to side in a particularly hostile gust of wind. They both stared at each other knowingly.

"What the hell is with this weather?" Jim muttered, trying to flatten his hair back down again while managing the steering wheel. Pam laughed. It felt good.

-TO -

They narrowly missed the rain that came lashing down in great shimmering waves moments after they closed the front door behind them. They straightened up the kitchen and Pam headed off to call her Mom. By the time they were reluctantly settling down into Jim's comfortable bed, Pam – anticipating a sleepless night – watched as a fork of lightning flashed down, briefly illuminating the bedroom. Moments later the thunder followed.

"I think the storm's moving closer." she said thoughtfully. She lay back and then turned to her side, resting her chin on Jim's chest. In the half light of the room she huddled closer to him, moving with the rhythm of his upper body. Running her hand lightly over the soft skin of his stomach and chest she felt something pulling at her from inside, a strong pull inside her body. She shivered. Sensing Jim's head move to look at her with concern, Pam looked up at him through her eyelashes, drawing light circles on his chest with her fingers.

"Kiss me." she said softly. Jim immediately lowered his head and brought his lips to hers. She responded enthusiastically, relishing the moment and the sensation of falling, falling so deeply, craving so much of him. They pulled back, taking deep breaths of air.

Pam fluttered her eyes. "Now here. Kiss me here." she said, moving her head to the side, allowing him to lean into her neck. Gently he moved, planting small soft kisses up and down the smooth length of her neck. She closed her eyes, letting her body flow with him, her breathing deep and luxurious.

"Here." she cooed suggestively, cupping his head and this time moving it towards her chest. Lowering his head he carefully pressed his lips down on her breast eliciting a sensual shiver from her, before a whisper halted him.

"No shirt. Not with the shirt."

Jim lifted his head and locked eyes with her. Then she felt his warm fingers gradually lifting up her tee shirt. He tickled her ribs as the shirt went up and over her head and he resumed the kissing. She encouraged him, directing him lower and lower and their clothing began to heap up on the floor. She guided him all the way down and then up again, coming back to her lips.

Kissing him back just as needily, the longing in her body merged into a necessity. She was excited, she was alive and out of the world. She wanted, needed to be a part of him, to always be with him.

"Love me, Jim." she breathed. Almost begged.Her body was opening up inviting him in; wholly, trustingly. He loved her; she loved him back and she sizzled underneath him, her toes curled and flexed and her stomach clenched until she simultaneously knew she wouldn't be able to let go nor could she hold on. Her back arched and she felt the first moan escaping out of her; his hands were everywhere at once, all over her body. The thunder rose to a crescendo and the wind screamed through the trees and his touch was electric and so right and she never wanted it to end.

-to-

Jim's breathing was soft, light – and she loved the even rhythm, the soothing sound of it. He had fallen asleep first, as she knew he would, but that was okay. The storm had died down to a light patter of rain on the window and the occasional whistle of wind soaring past.

She was full of emotions. It was very late and court was due in five and a half hours. Yet her emotions were on a high, full of sensations she had never felt before. She was peaceful, spent, fulfilled, Not only did she feel a deep trust in Jim, he fully trusted her as well. She felt purified, clean in a way she did not completely understand. Jim loved her, he loved her in a way that no one else ever could. That would not change no matter what was to happen. His arms were wrapped around her, holding her tight to his chest even in sleep. She had never felt so safe, so protected. So loved. What could harm her now? Or him? It wasn't I, or her, or me, or my any longer. It was us and we now, him and her, you and me.

"Jim." she whispered. He did not respond, he was sound asleep. That was okay. She had something to tell him, but it could wait. It wasn't going to change, it wasn't going anywhere. For the first time she felt okay about what lay ahead. She almost felt invincible. She would go into court with her head high and she would not let Roy hurt her any further. She was different now. Soon without her even realizing her eyes were closing and she drifted away.

She slept pretty good.

Chapter 29 by OfficeWriter

All she wanted was to escape. To turn on her heel and flee down the courthouse steps and through the raindrops over the leaf-strewn street and keep running like her life depended on it.

She supposed in a way it did.

Running away was not a new urge for her. For all the years she had endured with Roy, she had craved escape. She had, whether she had known it consciously or subconsciously, been preparing to flee. Twenty dollar bills curled up inside an empty tampax box, tucked into the back of picture frames, stashed surreptitiously between the pages of a copy of Atmospheric Watercolors that she knew Roy would never pick up. She had told herself they were there just in case of emergency. Roy kept track of her money – their money. In some strange way she had been preparing for this moment from the start, from the first bruised cheekbone, the first black eye.

She had focused so much of her efforts on outrunning Roy, on his needs, his wants, on surviving that escape became secondary to the immediate, short term needs of dodging Roy's ham sized fists and ducking his violent outbursts. In order to escape, one had to first survive. So she had believed.

And here she was, standing in his shadow once more. Only this time she was standing, upright and determined. She would no longer cower in front of him. When she went into the courtroom and she saw him she was determined that she would look him right in the eye and not let go. She would speak the truth and he would have to listen and he would not be able to do a thing to her. She would get through this in one piece and she would shower away any traces of her past life once it was all over. Leaning herself into Jim, she gritted her teeth and sucked in a breath, squeezing down the physical urges to run, down from her chest through her stomach all the way through her trembling legs until the comforting numbness settled through her.

"You okay?" Jim asked.

Pam nodded slowly, breathing in deeply through her nose. She was prepared for anything, she repeated to herself, absently watching a faded red scrap of fabric being buffeted along the ground by the wind.  It was then that she spotted the familiar heavyset dark haired woman dashing through the rain towards her, her flushed faced twisted with indignation.

"Well…" she spoke, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Well. I hope you're proud of yourself."

Pam watched as the round pudgy face continued to twist and contort in front of her, and a hostile finger was jabbed at her. Standing so close to her that Pam caught the scent of something sharp and sour in the woman's breath. She stared back at her defiantly. She wasn't going to look away. Brown eyes, dark and wintery glared back at her. Eyes. He had his mothers eyes. Hard, unmovable, as if it were impossible for the world to ever please her. They stared each other down before the woman wrinkled her nose, shook out her hair and pushed herself away and into the courthouse.

"Who wa-" Jim began, his eyes following the angry woman.

"-Roy's mom." she replied, pre-empting his question. As soon as the woman was out of sight the tight, determined expression dropped from her face and nervousness once again took its place. This was just the beginning.

"I think that's your dads car." Jim pointed. Pam raised her hand – only slightly trembling – to shield her eyes as she looked in the direction of his finger.

"Yeah, that's them." she sighed, spotting the car slowing down before slipping out of sight into the parking area.

"There they are…" Michael crooned, suddenly appearing on the steps beside them. He wore a wide grin. "Who ordered the PB and J?"

"Oh uh.. hey Michael." Pam felt her hands go stiff and cold.

Michael beamed. "So get this place. Is this where the lobster boy trial was? Man that guy was wild. Hey, real quick, imagine when the judge called 'order in the court'. He'd just have to hold up those hands, right? Oh… in your case, it would be PB and J sandwich right there. The jury would just die."

"Wow. That's…. funny. I thought we discussed that you didn't need to be here. Nor do you need to speak, at all." Jim pushed his hands into his pockets.

"No, really, Jim. If one of us is on trial, we're all on trial. My employees, my rules."

Pam's gaze quickly shifted to meet Jim's in a knowing gesture before flicking back again. "Michael, I'm not on trial. It's not me who's on trial."

"Uh, okay, all right. How much are you gonna get if you win?" Michael asked, leaning forward.

Jim frowned. "What?"

"Oh!" Pam said, easing away from Jim and moving around him. "Mom." she lifted her arms, hugging the woman happily. "Hey dad. Oh my god. Penny!" Pam almost squealed as she caught sight of her sister.

"Woah…" Michael muttered, a little too loudly for Jim's liking. "That whole family… Is that Pam's-"

"Boyfriend. She's got a boyfriend. Yeah, long term thing." Jim quickly interrupted.

"Mom's pretty good too."

Jim winced sharply. "A little loud." he said.

"Hello." Pam's dad said, stepping towards the two men. He ran a hand through his hair. "Hey, Jim. This wind is atrocious."

"Hi. How are you?"

"A little nervous actually," Helene appeared next to her husband, looking fresh and appealing in a silvery white jacket and skirt. "My stomach is doing cartwheels."

Pam hurried to introduce them. "Mom, dad, Penny. This is Michael Scott."

"Hello. Enchante." Michael said, looking at Penny.

"Ixnay." Jim mumbled quickly.

"You ready?" Helene turned to Pam.

"Showtime." Michael added. Like a funeral procession the six of them walked into the courthouse, making their way towards security for searching. Pam stood, feeling light-headed at the reality sweeping over her as she watched a stark faced worker wave a scanner over her mother.

"Jim?"

Looking back in surprise, both Pam and Jim saw the approaching form of Jim's mother. She had clearly hurried there, looking hot and more than a little windswept. Jim was shocked to see her.

"Mom?"

"I hope I'm not out of place. I thought I'd come and offer some moral support. If that's okay." she added, looking between the both of them. Pam felt unexpected tears sting her eyes, and she blinked harshly, then swallowed.

She stepped forward, hugging her tightly.

"Thank you." she said, almost a whisper. "It means a lot that you came."

"That's w-"

"Stop." Jim cut Michael off rapidly, watching Pam and his mom thoughtfully.

Finally passing security, they filed in to the courtroom as directed by a small court worker. As they were sitting, Murphy appeared, offering some words of encouragement and about the upcoming day, sitting next to Pam on the Plaintiff's side, the right side. There was a hush over the room as Roy was brought in to sit at the defendants table. Pam turned her head away, refusing to look at him. Not yet, she told herself. The time would come when she would look at him, stare him down. She had to hold herself together first.

"Hey," Michael whispered, leaning towards Jim in the row in front. "Hey, they let women on the bench these days, right?"

"What?" Jim whispered back, slightly vexed.

"If it's a woman up there-"

"No. Stop." Jim replied sharply.

- TO -

Michael had been right about one thing, and the Judge was indeed a woman. Pam didn't know whether this helped her case or not – the judge had a gentle, but stern face and Pam was once again hit by the realization it was really happening, they had reached this point.

Pam studied her nervously. She thought the judge was surprisingly pretty – not at all the picture of the stern, dour faced judges shown on television – she was slim, young-ish with delicate fingers and lustrous dark box braids that pulled off an amazing feat of looking dramatic and sophisticated at the same time. Despite how much Pam wanted to warm towards her, the fact that this woman would be making a decision that would shape the rest of her life put her on edge.

The morning was tedious. Jury selection, swearing in twelve people was an arduous task she did not enjoy sitting through. Those people – six men, six women – knew absolutely nothing about her or Roy or the life they had lived together. They knew nothing about the situation or Jim or her hospital visits or how she woke up in the night and how Roy used to beat her into submission with just a fierce look in her direction. How could they make a judgement about this, about her life? To decide that she was, or wasn't telling the truth. That's what it all came down to in the end, she brooded. Truth. It wouldn't matter what Roy said – she was the one they would be looking at, she was the one they would be doubting, who had to convince them, who had to show the burden of proof only for Roy and his side to tear to it shreds and twist the facts and history like worthless bits of paper, worthless and not worth a second of consideration.

Then came openings. If not equally tedious, it was much more torturous. Having her own lawyer lay out her years with Roy – private, embarrassing, deeply personal things she had spent years delicately hiding away under layers of lies, layers of clothing, layers of denial. Of self protection. He spoke for over forty minutes. It was hard to hear. It was stark and real. "This is a case about pain. Ms Beesly's pain and suffering at the hands of this man." "Pam Beesly wanted nothing more than to be a good girlfriend, an exemplary potential wife and mother." "A young woman of spotless character." "Lived in fear." "Beaten, belittled, abused, harassed, stalked. Terrorized."

On it went. He did not pull any punches. He was brutal, aiming to play off the sympathies of the jury, driving the point home. He sugar coated nothing. Pam's face burned as she listened, trapped with the words bouncing around her. Murphy's voice was deep, clear and strong, yet gentle and compassionate at the same time, sounding like a presenter on the air coming to you live from the Scranton courthouse.

"Make no mistake, we are here today to see justice achieved, for this woman who sits before you – this woman who did nothing but try to be a good partner, a loving fiancee to the defendant – this woman who was brutalized, held captive in fear and beaten to the bone because she had the misfortune of falling in love with this violent man, the defendant."

Pam felt her resolve start to crumble as the man spoke on. She bit down on her lip hard in attempt to keep herself under control. She could taste blood flowing on to her tongue.

And then after the attorney had exhausted himself, the defense attorney stood up.

Despite being thoroughly prepared by her attorney, warned of the tactics employed by the defense, once he was up there in front of her opening his mouth she knew realistically nothing could have prepared her.

The differences between the attorney techniques were striking. The prosecution had laid the facts out nakedly, using harsh, bold, graphic words to describe the case against Roy.

The defense however was far more sketchy and vague, skipping over incidents of abuse, and not rebutting the allegations – barely even referencing them - as though they weren't even worth a second of consideration. He spoke about the deterioration of their relationship – how Mr Anderson had had doubts about going through with their wedding. How upset she had been that he had not wanted to marry her right away. How things deteriorated further when Mr Anderson had come to suspect her of infidelity with her co-worker and friend. How she had simply snapped one night, without warning leaving him and going to this co-worker. How she had attacked him that night, leaving him forced to push her away. How she was of disrepute in character, untrustworthy and a proven liar. How for years when said abuse was allegedly occurring she told no one, she did not seek help from anyone.

It was torture beyond her imagination and it was only just beginning. Diligently she kept face forward, determined not to look at Roy's side of the room until she was up on the stand.

The defense continued on. She didn't know whether he was convincing or not – whether people were actually buying this. It was all so humiliating. Unexpected hatred for Roy bubbled up from deep inside of her; for putting her through all of this. Hatred she had not been ready to admit to or accept before then.

"The prosecution wants you to believe Mr Anderson is a monster and without redemption. I ask you to look at him, sitting here in front of you. Look at him, a broken man, beaten down and desolate – and thoroughly and rightfully distressed by these vicious allegations against him – allegations without merit or worth. Did he make an error of judgement the night Ms Beesly left him? We know there was a scuffle between them – Ms Beesly by her own statement fought with him that night – physically. My client is a man and as a man he is stronger physically, powerfully. But does that make him an abuser? If there was such an error of judgement that night allowing Ms Beesly to suffer an injury that was not a deliberate action by Mr Anderson, is that a reason to find him guilty? To commit him to a cell?"

The words ran over themselves and she grew tired in listening, in holding the down pangs of emotion that frequently stabbed at her unmercifully. Her hands and feet tingled and turned to ice. Near the end of the defense opening, the room began to swim in front of her eyes, began to blur and things, people began to multiply. She felt afraid, alone. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply through her nose, casting her mind back to the night before. She wished herself so strongly back that she could feel it, feel being under Jim, hot, warm, safe. She allowed the memory to play out, she was in his arms afterwards, she was protected. She had been loved, she was loved. Slowly the loving feelings washed through her and she opened her eyes again. The defense was finishing up. She found she no longer cared what lies he fed the courtroom. She had the power of right on her side. She had good people around her, a circle of angels. That was all that mattered, that was enough to carry her through safely.

The judge called a ten minute recess before the first witness was due. In the small waiting room Pam quietly leaned up to kiss Jim's cheek. Slowly she let her lips linger, not caring that her parents, her sister, her boss, Jim's mom were filing into the room after them.

"I love you." she said quietly, carefully into his ear, controlling her voice before folding her arms around his neck. For a moment there was no reaction at all from him, before he moved and returned the hug. Pam couldn't see his face nor his emotionally overjoyed expression, but if she had she would have burst into grateful tears right then.

Chapter 30 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

10 days until my anniversary of starting the whole thing :) this is wrapping up in the next few chapters, so anything anyone would like answered in the story, speak now etc

.................................................................................

Pam was sure she didn't remember the man at all. Her memory of that night was misty, a cloud of shapes and silhouettes. The long dark tunnel she had fled through, running for her life. Her feet, they had hurt so much. Blood, stark and vivid pooled into the grooves between her knuckles. She had been so cold her bones had shook. This was what she remembered of that night.

"...what went down when we got there, she went up the drive and starting talking to a guy, and I was waiting for my money, I had another fare to get to. They keep us on a pretty tight leash."

The words slipped in and out of her ears. She truly could not recall this man. None of what he was saying was connecting to her; he was a stranger, not even a speck in her history.

"You've told my colleague, Mr Murphy, and the courtroom earlier that Ms Beesly instructed you to drive her to a specific residential address – at no time asking for you to take her to a hospital, or the police station?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Did she ask for help in any way?"

"No, she was real clear about where she wanted to go."

The defense attorney strode across the courtroom, waving his arms dramatically. "This woman, sitting right here. This was the woman you picked up off the street. You said she was 'beat up' when she waved you down?"

The young man nodded. "Yes, sir."

"What did you think had happened to her at that time?"

As Pam watched, the man shifted uncomfortably. He was so young, maybe only a year or so out of his teens. They let kids become cab drivers these days, she thought. Then she felt the familiar guilt tidal wave through her. This was a kid – a kid who was probably very new on his job and here he was, testifying in criminal court because he had the misfortune to ride down her street that evening. Poor kid probably had nightmares because of her.

"I guess I thought she'd been jumped. She weren't telling me anything. She was totally spaced out. I asked her lots of times if I should drive her to the hospital but she kept saying no, sir."

"You're saying Ms Beesly refused to go to the hospital?"

"Yes, sir. I did tell her I thought I was supposed to take her there, but she kept shaking her head and she was only like my fourth or fifth fare since I started working and I didn't know how these things go or anything."

She hadn't realized that she'd been holding her breath until her chest started to throb. The numbness in her body was slipping away with every word, the empty spaces filling up with bruises and abrasions in places she had never felt before. Although she could not recall this kid on the stand, other memories were being prodded into existence, pitchforked in front of her eyes.

The defense attorney was talking rapidly.

"Would you please tell the courtroom again what happened when you got to the address she had given you?"

The witness scratched his neck nervously. "Um, she got out and I noticed there was blood on the door handle and some on the headrest. I was a bit scared, like I had worried she would puke in the cab and I'd have to pay the cleaning charges, but then she left blood in the cab. She went up to the door of this house saying to me she had no money and had to get the fare off someone, or something. Then when she was at the front door a guy came up behind her and they spoke for a minute, then they went inside. The guy came back outside with the fare. He gave me the hugest tip." he added.

"What did you make of this scene as you saw it?"

"Um… I wanted to know if the place I dropped her off was the place she got beat but she swore it weren't. The guy was definitely shook by seeing her – I couldn't hear them talking but I did hear him say 'oh my god' a lot. He got her indoors pretty quick. Then he came back out and gave me the money."

"Did he say anything to you?"

"He thanked me for bringing her there."

The defense paused for effect. "So, to sum it all up, she got into your cab, bruised and bloody – 'beat up' you called it, she refused all offers of help and she insisted you take her to this gentleman's – Mr Halpert's – house. No police, no explanation. Did you think that was strange in anyway?"

"Well… yeah… I was pretty shook myself."

"You stated, under oath, that you offered several times to drive her to the hospital. Did you believe she needed medical treatment?"

He nodded vigorously. "Yeah, she had blood coming out of her nose and her lip was split. She was breathing funny, like she couldn't get all her air in. Sounded like my brother did when he cracked a rib during soccer practice. I told her I thought she should go to the emergency room."

"Yet she was conscious all the time, physically capable of climbing out of the cab without assistance and walking up the driveway unaided and you didn't insist on her seeing the emergency room. You felt she was well enough to leave her there."

He chewed his lip, contemplating. "Well I don't know what went down after I left. I only know what I saw."

"Did she mention Mr Anderson at all to you?"

"No, sir."

"What was her emotional state like, was she crying when you picked her up?"

More chewing. "She had tears on her face but there was some blood and her cheek was blowing up, it was hard to tell in the dark. No she didn't cry in the cab or anything."

The image of her bolting out of the room flashed before her eyes. As well prepared as she had been for this, nothing could describe the torture of listening to someone autopsy the worst night of her life in front of a gallery. She knew about half the people in the room. She was on the sidelines of her own life. Murphy had given her the best advice and preparation he could – defense is going to twist everything, call you a liar Ms Beesly – but no, even he couldn't help her now.

It was still only the first day and the first witness. Already she was feeling broken down, doubting herself. Why hadn't she gone to the hospital or the police that night? She couldn't remember. Had she done the right things that night? She was the one in doubt, her actions were being scrutinized, not Roys. This was exactly how it was going to go. She knew it.

- TO-

There was no recess between witnesses. The second – and last – witness of the day was, to her relief, someone who had known both her and Roy before. This man she had fonder – and actual – memories of, although Murphy had briefed her on why he was calling this man as a witness, she found her mind empty of any relevance.

Routine questions were asked of him, how long had he lived next door to Pam and Roy, when did he leave, why did he leave. He was asked to describe them as neighbors.

"The man, Roy, he kept himself to himself a lot. The young lady was kind. She would always tap on the door and ask if I needed anything from the market. I didn't know them very well."

Pam found her lips moving into a smile, remembering the genuine gratitude he would bestow on her when she routinely knocked on his door.

"Thank you, Mickey. Can I call you Mickey?" Murphy asked politely.

"I would like that." Mickey said. He had aged a lot since Pam had last seen him. His voice was shaky and hoarse, weak sounding. "Please do."

She was discovering that sitting in the courtroom listening to testimony was a lot of sitting through tedious routine day to day questions. Studiously she kept her eye on her watch, waiting for the adjournment so she could go home and crawl into bed. She was exhausted enough.

"I'd like to ask if you recall a date in January, about four years ago, just after new year. Ms Beesly came to your home with some butterscotch candy for you. Can you remember this?"

Mickey took a long time to respond. He looked towards Pam apologetically before speaking. "I do. She brought it as a gift. She was very kind."

"Was there anything unusual in her visit that day?"

Another long pause. "Yes…" came the slow reply. "She had a limp. She said she had fallen down. Stairs maybe, my memory isn't good. She was wearing a scarf. It was hot as fried heck outside. I remember because I took my afternoon nap earlier that day as it was so hot I couldn't even take notice of the stories I usually watch on TV."

"And, did Ms Beesly give you any cause for concern during that visit?"

Once again his gaze flicked on Pam. "She...uh.. she wasn't right. She was moving around stiffly, as though she was hurt. She just seemed away with the fairies. She wasn't all there."

"What did you think of this at the time?"

"I thought that she and her man had got into a fight. She looked unhappy."

"Did Ms Beesly tell you she had had a fight with her partner that day?"

"No, she didn't, and I didn't ask."

Murphy nodded at the man, before walking over to Pam and lifting a stack of notes off the table. Shuffling through them he continues his questioning. "Were there other causes for concern you witnessed between Ms Beesly and Mr Anderson while you were living next door to them?"

"Yes…. you see.. there used to be a lot of shouting, and a lot of noise often that sounded like something being thrown around. My daughter was visiting one day and we heard that man bellowing fit to wake the devil. We heard her pleading with him – pleading to calm down, leave her alone. She made this this loud yelping noise a few times. It was a terrible sound, it left us feeling cold." Mickey replied.

"Did you report this to anyone, the police, or go next door to check on them at anytime?"

"No, never." he said, a look of shame coming over this face.

"If you thought Ms Beesly was in danger, why did you not inform the police?"

His face grew stern. "Times were different back in my day. What goes on in ones house stays in the house. It's nobodies business but their own. This sort of thing was very common when I was growing up. It wasn't done to be poking your nose into other peoples affairs."

"Did you ever see Mr Anderson strike Ms Beesly at any time?"

"No."

"Did you ever witness any incidents of violence between them?"

"Once I saw him yanking on her arm so hard she fell down. He was dragging her up the driveway to their front door, calling her all kinds of filthy things I could not repeat in a courtroom."

Pam dropped her head and covered her face with her hands in shame. She did not want to look up, she could feel Roy's furious eyes burning into her, she could hear the sounds of his vehement muttering to his attorney. He would be so angry – she could feel it all the way across the room, like a wildfire it spread, his anger touched her. Her hands were cold against her face. She was done with this already.

- TO -

Outside the courthouse, William Beesly was pacing angrily back and forth. The courtroom had emptied for the day, it seemed like none of them knew what they were supposed to do with each other then.

"Jail's too good for scum like him." William ranted.

Helene stood observing her daughters pale face and gaunt expression and moved to seize hold of William's elbow. "Okay, you are going to have to calm down." she said firmly.

"Can we just go?" Pam turned to Jim. "Please?"

Jim was already moving. "I think that's a good idea." he said, catching sight of Michael approaching them.

Pam stood back and let Jim say their goodbyes to everyone for the day and tried not to be seen. She was so tired her head hurt. Helene came towards her, swallowing her up in a hug. "See you tomorrow, honey. Promise me you'll call if you need to, okay?"

Pam mumbled her agreement, before moving quickly down the steps, her tight, drawn face softening a little as she saw Betsy waiting at the bottom.

"Hey Mom." Jim greeted her.

Betsy looked at Pam sympathetically. "I'm so very sorry to see you put through this." she told her.

Pam nodded tiredly. "How's your husband?"

"That's kind of you to ask. He's not completely well yet, but he's mending. Here," Betsy rummaged in her purse. "I brought you something I thought you might like to have. There." She handed a large rectangle to Pam, who took it apprehensively.

"Oh my god. Ohhh no!" Pam brightened up as she studied the photo.

Jim looked over her shoulder, frowning. "What is that- wait… Mom.. what the hell did you show her that for?" he said, stifling a laugh.

"You were so dorky." Pam giggled.

"Thank you." he replied with amusement, raising an eyebrow to his mother who simply shrugged nonchalantly.

"I remembered that you wanted to see a photo of Jim as a child. He was about eight or nine there… wearing his little church suit." Betsy smiled.

"It's really cute. Thank you."

"Of course, if he looks a little upset in the photo, it's because the boys had stolen his batman action figure that day and thrown it into the holy water font. He was inconsolable. You used to carry that little batman with you everywhere didn't you?"

Jim threw his hands up good-naturedly, going slightly red. "Okay Mom, you made her laugh. Wanna go now?" he motioned Pam to towards the parking area.

"Of course. It was lovely seeing you again. I'll see you tomorrow." Betsy opened her arms up, moving towards Pam. Hugging the woman gratefully, she thanked her again before stepping back.

…..

"Batman, huh?" Pam said once they were home.

Jim groaned. "I'm officially denying that ever happened."

"That's your story?" she smirked.

"That's my story. I've never even heard of this batman before." he said, gliding off into the kitchen.

Pam followed him in cautiously, watching as he moved around, plucking mugs out of the cupboard. She waited until he had set the cups down and then without saying a word, pressed herself against him, hugging him gently. She felt hollowed out, emptied. She refused to think about the day they had had – tomorrow it would only be worse. She wasn't going to think about it until she had to.

"Last night was amazing." she told him quietly, content to hang on to the moment between them.

"Yup." he said, kissing her forehead.

"Love you." she said, kissing his cheek in return before she moved out of the embrace and made her way upstairs without another word.

After around half an hour had passed, when she still had not returned Jim followed her earlier retreat upstairs to check on her. What he saw when he pushed open the bedroom door brought a soft grin to his face.

There she was, curled up in, so small and childlike on his side of the bed. In her hand she clutched the photo that Betsy had given her. He stood, watching her sleep for a few moments before his own consciousness began to ebb away and he found himself stifling a powerful yawn. Stripping his clothes off, he moved around the bed, crawling in on the other side of her. Carefully he extracted the comforter from underneath her and lay down beside her, pulling the cover over them both. Almost immediately he felt her shuffle towards him, pressing herself against his side. As the heavy darkness of sleep began to overtake him, he slid the photo from Pam's grasp, studying it. She was right, it was dorky. But it had made her happy, and that was the important thing. Carefully he slipped the photo under her pillow, moving reverently, as though the laughter she had found in the old image could rise up into the sleeping woman's dreams, warding off any nightmare that might dare to come her way.

Chapter 31 by OfficeWriter

A hard frost overnight had smothered the grass and paths with shimmers of white. Her leg unconsciously bounced up and down, a disjointed flat beat against the porch floor that penetrated the calm quiet of the morning. She contemplated scurrying indoors for a sweater to ward off the chill seeping through her clothes and into her bones but settled for wrapping her arms around her middle.

Her mind was going too fast. The fresh air had not helped, only numbed her nose and reddened her cheeks. What was fresh and cool when she stepped out of the warm house had quickly become hostile, icy air nipping at her fingers and freezing her toes. Still, she did not turn back inside. Thoughts were speeding around her head like bullets, puncturing her composure, her sense of certainty. This was day two. She was tentatively scheduled to testify on day four. For the first time since she had left Roy, something akin to true anger – rage – was bubbling inside of her. Seeing him in court sitting so calmly, such the image of a decent, wronged man of course, had stoked a fire in her she hadn't known was burning. Her mind was speeding in reverse, going back, back, backwards through shades of red, blood on the carpets, blood in the sink, splatters of red over the collar of her favorite shirt. Words shaped into blades, piercing her with practiced precision. Manipulations, the way everything was always twisted back at her. The control he had had over her. She had truly come to believe she was worth nothing, had nothing going for her. Roy had known what buttons to attack; he'd always known. Aiming for her vulnerabilities, slowly chewing her down to the bone, feeding off her insecurities. If you really loved me, you wouldn't make me do this. He'd say afterwards, as she was cleaning up the mess under his glaring eye. That's right, go ahead and cry. Be the victim. It's pathetic. No wonder you're losing your friends.

But she hadn't lost her friends, had she? She'd pushed them away, because it was easier, easier to hide it, easier to avoid the questions. Because it was what he had wanted.

Her nails dug into her elbows savagely as she pulled her arms around herself even tighter. Roy deserved whatever was coming to him.

- to -

"Good morning Beesly."

She had no idea how long she had been hovering there on the porch, and the arms winding around her from behind felt blissfully warm against the cold air. She leaned back against him comfortably, murmuring a reply.

"What are you doing out here?" Jim asked after a moment.

Pam kept her eyes forward. "Just thinking about things."

"Dammit it's cold. You feel like an icicle." Jim huddled closer, lowering his head to rest his chin on her shoulder.

"We didn't have to do this." she said finally, chewing her lip anxiously, her eyes cast downwards. Overhead the sky was growing dark, thick swirls of grey swept in by the wind promising rain. "didn't have to do this."

"Do what, love?"

She hesitated, sucking in a deep breath. "If he had just admitted it, if he would have just said he was guilty we wouldn't…. I wouldn't have to go through this." she fired out, surprising herself with the animosity she heard in her voice. "It's not fair."

"It's not fair." Jim agreed softly. "None of this should ever have happened. Fair would be to throw him into a rumble with Ali, Tyson and Sugar Ray. See how tough he thinks he is then. Or just shove him in a room with your dad."

Pam snorted, despite herself. Tilting her head against his, she inhaled deeply, feeling the chill settle into her lungs. "I just… thought I would forgive him. I want to forgive him. It would be so easy. Then it would really be over." she sighed, shaking her head. "I don't know if I can."

"Maybe forgiving him isn't what you really need." Jim said, moving closer to her for warmth. "Maybe, it's facing him. Not being afraid of him, to say what he did to you."

Silently she nodded against him. "I hate him." she mumbled quietly, so quietly she thought he hadn't heard her until moments later he spoke.

"This is good, this is really good. Does this mean you now understand none of this was your fault?"

Pam's forehead creased. She hadn't considered that, her sweeping changes in emotions and what it meant to her. What he now meant to her.

"You hate him, because you know he was wrong, that you didn't deserve to be treated that way." Jim clarified.

She stood against him, unaware of her fingers pressing lightly at her throat, absorbing his words. "Sometimes he would cry afterwards," she said reflectively. "He would cry and say he was sorry and beg for forgiveness. Say he wanted to do better. Then," her tone shifted rapidly, become harsher, gravelly. "He would make a remark about how if I hadn't done this or that or said whatever, I wouldn't have caused him to hurt me. Pathetic, huh?"

"Pathetic." Jim repeated, feeling it.

"For so long I believed him. It's…. crazy to realise… it was all an act. All of it. He was never sorry. He never thought he did anything wrong."

Jim squeezed his arms around her, hugging her hard. Underneath his hands that were clasped over her chest her heartbeat was fast, uneven. She paused, looking down at her socks.

"That's why we're here now. This is why I have to go through it again." she sighed in frustration.

Tilting his head to the side, he managed to catch her eye. "Listen…." he said kindly. "When you get up there, remember you don't have to say anything you don't want to say. Got it?" he said meaningfully, holding her tentative gaze.

Slowly she nodded.

"You know something else, Beesly?"

"Yeah?"

"I totally can't feel my face right now."

That drew a small laugh out of her and she moved to go inside. When she started to walk, she found her legs were wobbly. She shoved her tingling fingers into her pockets. "It's like hell freezing over." she remarked quietly, and went inside.

-TO-

Day two was personal – and that was how she absorbed it. Somehow seeing someone she knew so well up there, speaking about her, for her brought a reality into the case that she had only briefly flickered upon the day before. She sat still, straight as a line and looking directly at him, but shifting her eyes just low enough to avoid any possibility of catching his eye.

The questions initially were banal, routine. Is she on time for work, has she been late for work this year, was there a time when she was late into the office? Then the more intrusive questions Murphy had attempted to prepare her for were coming. Toby, to his credit, was coolly composed and controlled in his answers, perfectly at ease with being on the stand.

"Thank you, Mr Flenderson. I'd like to ask you now about the date of March 15, 2003. What happened on that date in the office?"

Toby shifted thoughtfully and rubbed his neck, eyes drooping. "Um that was Michael's birthday party…"

"Where was the party held?" Murphy said, standing directly in front of him.

Toby cleared his throat. "Uh, in the office, after work. All of the employees were there."

"Everyone. Okay. Can you describe Mr Andersons behavior that night?" Murphy asked. "Was he cheerful? Was he drinking, behaving unusually in anyway?"

Toby glanced at Roy nervously before speaking. Pam didn't have to look at him to know he was glowering at Toby, at her. "Uh… he was kind of on edge, I guess. There was a complaint filed after the party. I didn't see what happened at first. Jim and Pam had been pranking one of the employees, I guess and they were laughing together at reception and Roy saw them."

"And how did Mr Anderson react to this?"

"Uh he was mad… and you know he's a big guy and it's not great to be around when he's mad. It's sort of uncomfortable to be near. It's like wearing a jacket when you're driving and it gets really hot but you're in charge of the car so you can't do anything about it but sit there and burn and try not to get into anything while the guy in the passenger seat leans out the window and cusses out the other drivers."

Murphy stood silent a moment. "So...uh…, so Mr Anderson was angry that night?"

Leaning closer to to microphone, Toby cleared his throat again, a familiar Toby-gesture Pam recognized as nervousness or unease. She'd witnessed it enough in meetings with him and Michael. "Yes." Toby replied. "He started yelling at Jim at reception and he sort of lunged at him, I guess, kinda like… " he lifted his arm, shifting forward to demonstrate. "And then Pam got in the middle of them and tried to cool him off. Then Roy sort of grunted something at Pam, like 'c'mon' or something and he pushed her out the door."

"Mr Anderson pushed her?" Murphy repeated, raising his arm to gesture at Roy.

"Yes."

"What was he shouting?" Murphy persisted. "What words did he use?"

"He um… he wanted to know what was going on, something like what the hell is going on. And uh, that he said that Jim was making a move on Pam."

"And you say he lunged at Mr Halpert?"

"Yeah."

"You saw him lunge at Mr Halpert, just as you described?" Murphy once again gestured to Roy. Pam thought she was beginning to notice a pattern in the attorneys questions and gestures. He was carefully and quietly linking Roy's currently fuming expression to the images of violence described as they came. A one-two relatable association. Violence, Roy. He was making clear that the jury knew exactly who was on trial and why.

"Yes. Like.." Toby once again demonstrated.

"In your opinion with intent to cause harm to Mr Halpert?" Murphy lifted his head.

"Objection!" The sudden bellow of the defense attorney caused several people to startle in their seats, including the judge. "Your honor –The question calls for the witness to speculate on my clients intention. Objection!"

"Counsel, rephrase the question to the witness or move ahead." Judge Summers replied sternly, recovering quickly.

Murphy grinned politely at the bench. "My apologies your honor. Now, Mr Flenderson, you say there was a complaint filed regarding this incident. Can you describe the complaint?"

Toby looked at him from drooping eyes. "There was a complaint made by an employee, who said they felt intimidated by Roy's anger."

"One complaint? Thank you. In your role as human resources representative, did you speak to Ms Beesly about the incident?"

"Yes.. about a week later when she came back to work. She had been off sick after that night."

"Off sick." Another pointed look at Roy. "Can you describe her emotional state when you spoke to her?"

"She was calm, quiet. She was very apologetic and pretty subdued."

Pam watched the exchange tensely without moving so much as a fingertip. She felt the heat of eyes on her, eyes looking through her – Toby was now looking at her with regret. She could feel Jim's attention on her, her mom, dad, but most unnervingly from the other side of the courtroom. From the left she could hear bitter noises as Roy muttered to his attorney. It was distracting and she leaned forward, keenly trying to shut Roy out of her awareness as the testimony moved on to another day she couldn't fully remember.

"It was yourself who notified Mr Anderson that his fiancee had passed out in the office and was being taken to hospital?" Murphy was asking.

"That's right."

"What was his response to this, was he upset? Concerned? Did he immediately rush away to join her at the hospital?"

Toby's mouth hung open, sightly slack a moment. "Uh… he wasn't there at the time… he was out on a lunch break. I, I waited downstairs for him to come back. He went into the warehouse first and then he left to go to the hospital."

Folding his arms thoughtfully, Murphy continued. "Was he concerned about his fiancee? Worried that something serious could be wrong with her? Upset that she had been taken to the hospital?"

Toby flushed, his hand once more travelling to his neck. "Ummm…. Well… he ummm…. made a joke, he laughed and said something about how they go through this once a month with Pam. And he said…" Toby stopped, face red with unshed embarrassment. "Uh, he walked away with someone from the warehouse and he said damn if he wasn't getting any that night."

Pam closed her eyes, almost puncturing her lower lip with her teeth. She briefly reflected how thorough Murphy really was, recalling him cautioning her that things she didn't know about would come out in court, things that might be painful. Roy was disgusting, truly disgusting.

Murphy clearly agreed with her. Throwing a revolted look at the defense, he turned back to Toby, shaking his head. "And what time of the day was it that Mr Anderson left the workplace to go to the hospital?"

"It would have been around half one to two midday."

"Thank you." Murphy spun round efficiently, picking up sheets of paper. "Your honor, I have a record here of Mr Anderson not parking nor attending at the hospital until nearly five o'clock - almost three hours after he left to go to the hospital." Murphy walked over, allowing the other attorney to look at the paper, before showing it to Toby. The judge allowed it to be introduced into evidence.

Pam shrugged involuntarily, recalling the perfectly scrubbed and polished lower floor of the house she shared with Roy once he had driven her home that day. At the time she had been so hazy, so tired she hadn't really thought of anything other than her bed, in her confused state it hadn't seem that unusual that he'd been home cleaning rather than at the hospital frantically worrying about her. She supposed she could harbor another grudge against Roy for that, but all she felt was a lightness in her chest when she thought of that day. The day Jim and her talked, really talked. If Roy had turned up when he was supposed to, it would have meant that Jim wouldn't have stayed with her and seen her in the hospital room after the doctor had been in and he wouldn't have confronted her, at least not then…..who knows what path she might have deviated on to if things had been different. Maybe she would still be with Roy.

"...saw everyone one the ground, choking and coughing. Except Dwight, one of the salesman, who was holding mace and choking pretty hard himself." Toby was saying. Pam shook her head out of her memory fog, trying to bring herself back to the present.

Murphy nodded. "Did you see the defendant strike Mr Halpert at any time during this confrontation?"

"No… uh...they were all on the ground when I got there. Except Jim was getting up. And, uh, Roy's brother was there, he came on office gatherings and parties with Roy sometimes – and he shouted, really angry back at Jim that Roy didn't do anything Pam didn't ask for."

"You heard Roy's brother say this. You heard him?" Murphy clarified. "He said 'Roy didn't do anything Pam didn't ask for?'" he turned towards the defense.

Pam zoned out again. It had been hard for her to hear details of Roy attacking Jim, and she realized she had never known the full details. She had never asked. She silently applauded Murphy. Of all the people with the potential to make things worse for Roy, she would not have bet a cent that it would have been Kenny. As it was she could hear Roy spitting and muttering irately and the soft, hushed tones of his attorney trying to calm him.

If only she believed in karma.

-TO-

"You really should eat something." Helene was observing her daughter worriedly. "You need your strength, you need to look after yourself."

Pam looked down, clutching the hem of her jacket. "I'll throw up if I eat anything. I'll eat tonight. Promise." she said half-heartedly.

Helene hovered in front of her, holding out a wrapped sandwich. "At least have a little something. Just to keep your strength up."

"Here, I'll split it with you." Penny took the sandwich from their mother.

Pam sigh loudly. "Alright." she gave up and took her half from her sister. As the minutes moved forward she mangled more pieces of bread between her fingers than reached her mouth. In a corner further away Helene and William were having a heated discussion in loud whispered tones.

"Dad's totally freaking out." Penny said, watching the two of them. "He's really pissed."

"I'll say…" Pam mumbled back. "He just about threatened Jim with death last week."

Penny's eyes flew open wide. "Woah! What did you do?"

Jim laughed softly. "Nothing, really. He just informed me of all the…uh... creative… ways he could make me regret it if I ever lay a finger on Pam."

Penny looked at him sympathetically. "Post Roy regret… all the things he wishes he could say to Roy."

"Mom spent the entire evening apologizing for it. It was actually kinda funny at the time." Pam said, smiling at Jim. "Because Dad actually really likes Jim a lot."

Penny nodded agreeably. "I never liked Roy as much as they did." she informed Jim.

"True." Pam replied quietly. The minutes cut away faster than they should and before she was ready they were standing to go back into the courtroom.

"Roy's a pig, isn't he." Penny stated matter of factly as they were leaving the room.

"No." William said, bumping forward behind her. "Pigs are smart."

"And clean." Jim added.

"Damn right." William said and looked at Jim appreciatively.

Pam found a smirk stretching across her lips. She messed up with Roy, messed up big time, but right then, she was very grateful for the men in her life.

-TO-

Going back into the courtroom made her stomach roll. She stood helplessly, waiting for her attorney to reappear, feeling vulnerable at her seat without him there.

"Beesly." Jim said in a low voice. She turned around, noticing Murphy up at the bench talking animatedly with Judge Summers. She picked up Jim's hand automatically as she leaned towards to him to hear better.

Then came the commotion from the defense area.

"Hey!" Roy yelled, banging his hand on the table violently. He was staring directly at her then, giving her his blackest look. "Are you kidding me! I told you! Hey, Pam? Pam! What the hell do you –"

Pam froze in place, staring back at Roy with open fear in her eyes. He glared fiercely, hatred firing bright in his eyes, his expression. Before she knew it he was on his feet and there was suddenly layers and layers of voices closing in on her both familiar and unfamiliar. She closed her eyes. Someone grabbed hold of her arm, pulling her backwards. The room grew dark and heavy around her.

Somewhere inside the gloom she heard a loud banging sound, and the irate voice of Judge Summers calling for order. When Pam slowly opened her eyes she saw the reason for the darkness - it was Jim, Jim and her Dad standing in front of her. Dimly she felt a tingle in her arm where one of them had pulled her back behind them. As they all moved to sit again she saw Roy, now seated, head in hands, fiery red cheeks apparent.

"Counsel, instruct your client to control himself or I'll have him removed from the court." Judge Summers ordered sternly.

She almost wished he would have another outburst. He was both predictable and wildly unpredictable. She sat in the hard wooden seat shaking her head miserably. Nothing changed.

And there it was, half the problem she had created in the past. He never changed. How she had believed his promises of change, his lies. She had expected him to change for the better. That had been her big mistake. But she hadn't been the only one making mistakes.

After all, he had made the mistake of believing she would never leave. And in the end, she had been the winner in that game of trust.

Chapter 32 by OfficeWriter

The remainder of the day went on without further dramatics. Jim's attention though was split three ways from then on. Three different people, three different reasons. Right, left and center.

The brief spark of horror that had lit inside him the second that Roy jumped out of his seat had been intense, and the adrenaline still flooding his emotions was almost to much to bear. For a split moment, Jim had sensed a wild – frantic – fear for the woman that he loved so much. His instinct reacted first, despite knowing, despite seeing that Roy could not have possibly have escaped the security around him in order to make it the twenty or so steps across the courtroom to reach her. Yet he had witnessed firsthand the damage that Roy was capable of inflicting barehanded and without a thought he had been standing, pulling Pam backwards, backwards, willing himself to keep her out of danger.

He wasn't stupid and neither was she. He was sure he knew exactly why the man had imploded like that, what the spark was that lit the fire of rage. It was him, him and Pam. And that was it – Roy had seen them, seen her hold his hand and exploded like a solar flare.

He found himself thinking the unthinkable, runaway visions of Roy somehow overpowering the guards and getting his beefy hands on her again. It sat in his stomach like a bowling ball, and for the remaining afternoon he maintained a vigilant state of alertness, regularly shifting his eyes between the witness stand, his girlfriend, and the man who had taken so much from her.

-to-

Jim was pissed off; he was as close to anger as he liked to get by the time they got home. When he thought back on the afternoon, he had a hard time understanding why the judge hadn't simply removed Roy from the room. The man was a loose wire; and the first one burnt would undoubtedly be Pam when he inevitably erupted once more.

She had been quiet, plaintive on the journey home. He hadn't made any attempt at conversation, wanting to let her speak first. He had been sure she would have batted the words away without even looking at him.

"Wanna talk about it?" He said once they were indoors., casually leaning against the kitchen counter. She carefully kept her back turned to him, moving with slow, delicate precision as she lifted plates down from the shelf.

"Do we have to?" she said flatly. "It's been a long day… I just want to get dinner out of the way and then go to bed."

He watched her, eyes narrowed as she moved around the kitchen without pause. He began to feel winded just looking at her. "Stop." he said finally. "You don't have to do that."

"It's just pasta." she replied, bend downing to snatch up a pan for the stove.

"I'm not talking about the pasta."

She was quiet, seemingly trying to find the words to answer him. "Please Jim, not now." she said through a small breath. Jim raised his head, nodding slowly and drifted over to the sink to fill the pan with water for the pasta.

The meal was nourishing and pleasant. They ate relatively quietly together, neither showing much interest in the food, as good as it was. Jim maintained a worried frown, tense with the awkwardness between them. Pam, eating little, made no sign that she noticed and seemed far away in her mind.

It was as they were back in the kitchen doing the dishes after they had eaten that he approached her again.

"You know he wouldn't have got anywhere near you, right?"

Pam hummed under her breath. "Doesn't have to." she mumbled quietly.

"I just thought-" he broke off, coughing loudly. "I just- what's that smell?" he squinted his eyes. Pam visibly tensed in front of him.

"Oh damn." she said tightly, after a moments pause. Striding forward, she slung open the oven door, releasing a billowing cloud of blackened smoke. "Damn."

"What was that?" Jim ventured, waving away the smoke with a hand.

Pam shrugged forcefully, bending down. "Garlic bread, but it's garbage now."

"Woah, Pam – don't that's gotta be hot!" Jim cried out, wincing as she snatched up the charred chunk with her bare hand. She dropped it into the garbage, the burned bread clunking to the bottom like a rock.

"Did you burn your fingers?" he said. He reached for her hand. She pulled back quickly, and busied herself stacking the cutlery away. "Hey, come on, it's just bread, it doesn't matter." he spoke quietly, looking down at his feet.

Swinging round to face him, she fired back in frustration. "It's not just bread - look at it. Look at the mess in there. I'm such an idiot that I mess up something as easy as garlic bread."

"Hey, relax Beesly. Everybody burns stuff, it's no big deal."

"Yeah? Really? Will you feel that way when I set the bacon on fire or you get food poisoning or something?" It had started out angry but her voice took on a pitiful tone, the fight quickly leaving her. She looked up at him, her eyes pleading.

Jim allowed a small smile at that. "Yeah, probably I would. Don't worry so much." He stooped and swung the oven door shut. "You're not an idiot."

He could see her biting her cheek thoughtfully, looking pensively across the room. She looked so small, so lonely standing there in the middle of the kitchen, her eyes sunk far back inside some unpleasant thought or memory. The trouble was, she wasn't alone, whether she felt it or not. Jim was the most patient man, he often felt because he was so laid back, but it was hard for him not to feel flashes of hurt at the small red flags – like right then – that she still didn't fully trust him, yet.

"Pam?" he questioned, pulling her out of her thoughts, back to the moment.

"Yeah…" she said, lifting a trembling hand to her forehead. "I mean… he always said… he said…" her voice cracked, drifting off and she let out a small cry, her hand hurrying to cover her mouth. Sobs shook her small body, causing her to sway on her feet.

Jim moved towards her cautiously, knowing from past experiences she would feel overwhelmed or cornered if he rushed at her too quickly. Instead he slowly curled an arm around her, muttering quiet reassurances. She fell against his chest, uttering repetitive apologies.

"Don't you see, can't you see?" she was crying into his shoulder. "He doesn't have to hit me, or get near me to hurt me. He's angry, so angry."

"Lotta memories, huh?" he said. She nodded against him, grasping the back of his shirt tightly.

"You don't understand." she sobbed. "He told me, no one will believe me. The first time I told him I was going to leave, he, he…"

"S'okay." he mumbled, breathing rapidly, holding her shaking form against him.

"..choked me.." she forced out. Jim closed his eyes tightly, a stark ache stabbing through him.

He pulled her away from him, his hands on her shoulders and looked at her face. She hung her head limply, anxiously grasping at his shirt and twisting it in her hands. Jim's eyes flickered around the room helplessly, a brief display of frustrated self recrimination. He was so lost, so ill equipped to help her. If only love could cure it all, he thought.

"I'm sorry." he whispered softly, lifting his hands and delicately cupping her cheeks. "I'm sorry." He was barely audible, already closing his eyes. Tenderly resting his forehead against hers he paused, feeling all of the trembling woman between his hands. "Sorry." he barely mumbled, lifting his head and slowly bringing his lips to the space between her eyebrows with gentle familiarity. Lingering lightly, he drew back, only inches away from her face. She stared back at him, eyes wide and filled with shed and unshed tears and unbound fears. Carefully his hands moved over her cheeks, stroking damp strands of hair back. "I love you." she breathed. "Don't leave me." Jim took in the bright vulnerability in her eyes, eyes that were filled with a stark fear that made her seem suddenly much younger than her years. Her thin fingers had crept up around his neck, softly caressing – holding – him needily, almost desperately.

"I love you." he whispered intimately, caressing his lips over hers in a velvety kiss before pulling back enough to allow her to fall against his shoulder again. Both arms wound around her seeking to comfort the woman. "I'm sorry." he said soundlessly, holding her against him. "I love you so much." He couldn't say it enough, over and over he repeated it. "Everything is going to be okay. It will be over soon." he reassured.

He didn't know if she believed him or not, but after a short time he felt the stiffness leave her body and the woman relaxed in his arms, her breath smoothing out. Eventually the tears dried and they led each other upstairs for another restless night together. As they lay, intertwined, both pairs of eyes began to close, but neither slept. Pam lay awake, absorbed by a strong, irrational fear she could not name – a loss. Losing the case, losing her family, losing Jim. Being bound to Roy for the rest of her life, that he'd be her achilles heel, always be there even when everyone else was gone. That no matter how much she healed, how strong she was, there would always be that one vulnerable part of her that he would forever target.

Jim on the other side of her, lay swallowed up in helplessness and a burning desire to see Roy suffer. He didn't know what he would do if Roy wasn't given a decent sentence, or unthinkably, if he was acquitted. How would he keep her safe, how would it ever end?

The fact of their future hinged on the very next few days; he understood this more clearly than ever. He would fight for her, he would stay calm, stay positive. He would bolster her spirits and her confidence when she was low. He would show her love. That he could do.

-to-

The following day was by far the most nerve wracking day by that point, for Pam. Once again perched tensely on the wooden courtroom seating she looked on nervously, carefully avoiding the other side of the room. So far the witnesses who had testified had mostly been helpful on her side, had portrayed a sad picture of a man with little emotional regard for his fiancee, the woman he supposedly had loved enough to propose to.

Murphy had told them before entering the court that morning, Toby's testimony was damning for Roy. Daryl's testimony, the last witness of the day yesterday, had given the prosecution an unexpected boost as well. A bittersweet win for her, Murphy had said, keenly aware of how upsetting Daryl's questioning had been. Daryl described in detail how Roy had made a large number of rather prurient comments and jokes with the warehouse staff over the years involving Pam and other women. It was incredibly uncomfortable and painful for her to hear. What was almost as painful was Daryl's frequent apologetic glances in Roy's direction, as though he were truly sorry to have to do this to him. As though he were selling him out, rather than telling the truth for her. She had felt sick by the end of it all.

But as hard as that was, it was nothing when she thought of the next people to testify. Murphy had warned that Jim was most likely to be called that day, a day earlier than scheduled. Then there would be the defense witnesses – her mom, Kenny, Roy among them. And she herself had to go up there – something that turned her stomach into a tornado. As she sat, squirming on the hard seat, she waited as Judge Summers entered, calling session for the morning, calling order and allowing Pam's attorney to call the first witness of the day.

This was one she was nervous about – whether he would be a help or a hindrance. Whether she had any more unpleasant surprises to come. She watched him stride confidently up to the front of the room, wincing as he failed to navigate the small step up and stumbled forward on to the stand, knocking the microphone to the floor with a loud clang that reverberated around the room.

Several people laughed, including, much to Pam's chagrin, her sister. She exchanged a knowing glance with Jim, turning back to the front. Watching the judge rebuke Dwight for not his physical clumsiness, but his clumsy apologies as he scrabbled on his knees for the microphone with an unnecessary amount of noise and time, she felt this was just more of what was to come.

"Get it together, man!" Michael called out with exaggerated exasperation from the back of the room, causing more laughter among the people. Pam shook her head as the judge called order.

And so day three began, and she held her breath, half expecting another explosion from Roy, half expecting Dwight to somehow get himself in contempt of court and disqualified as a witness.

Yes it was only day three, and it already had been an eternity. Anxiously once again she began counting the minutes, sometimes the seconds, until this was all over and she never had to step into the same room as Roy again.

Chapter 33 by OfficeWriter

Pam purposely kept her eyes on the witness box. She had abandoned her will to be strong and look Roy in the eye, to stare him down as he had done to her so many times; for now she could only look ahead, dim dark pupils taking in the dust motes sailing aimlessly in the stagnant air. She did not look to the left of her, she did not look behind her. There would be time for courage when it was her turn in the witness box. Resolutely she kept her head forward as she had done the previous two days, not wasting a second of sight on the man on the other side of the room.

On the stand, Dwight was dressed as he almost always was, indistinguishable from his office attire. Clad in a typical mustard yellow shirt, a check tie she recognized well and a gray suit jacket – the combination of clothes that were his own unique style. He sat very straight and stiff, a hint of slight smirk across his lips, forming his answers confidently.

"Would I consider us friends? Friendship is bounded in mutual affection. First impressions get locked in forever. When I first met Pam, she said something that slightly rubbed me the wrong way. Since then I've loved working with Pam and she's frankly wonderful, but I hate her." Dwight was saying.

"And Mr Anderson? What was your interaction with him on a day to day basis?"

"I'm assistant regional manager and the top salesman. Roy worked in the warehouse. We were not friends. How would I describe him? Coarse, boorish. Not a motivator. He was engaged to the same woman for three years and never impregnated her, obviously he was not attracted to her sexually."

"Objection, speculation, your honor." Mr Thorne practically leapt out of his seat, shaking his finger derisively towards the judge.

"Sustained." Judge Summers leaned towards Dwight with a stern face. "The witness will refrain from making personal observations."

Murphy then asked Dwight to tell the jury what happened on the night of Michael's birthday, in his own words. Pam could feel the stinging of her breath caught in her throat.

"I had formed an alliance with Jim. Because of potential downsizing. Big mistake, due to his alliance with Pam to manoeuvre me into going to our Stamford branch undercover to spy on them. In Connecticut." Dwight glared at Jim.

Murphy's face was a perfect picture at that moment, a unique blend of amused and bewildered, a most certainly comical. Quickly he recovered, forming a more neutral expression and folded his arms. "And you were all in the office that night, for this birthday party?"

"Yes."

"What was Mr Anderson doing that evening? Do you recall where he spent his time during this party?"

"I didn't see him in the office. Until he came to get Pam." Dwight smirked. "Jim was in the act of double crossing our alliance with Pam when Roy arrived. I could tell, from the body language that he was enraged. That and the yelling."

"Can you tell us what happened then?"

"I was in the annexe, when the I heard the commotion. As an ex volunteer deputy sheriff, assistant regional manager and an honorary voluntary corporal in charge of assisting security for Dunder Mifflin Scranton it is my duty to investigate and curtail activities that are lawless."

"And when you went to the source of the commotion, what did you see?"

Dwight hoisted himself up the witness seat, clearing his throat loudly. "I saw Roy, in the throes of fury, shouting at Pam and Jim with Pam standing in the middle between them."

"What was Mr Anderson shouting?" asked Murphy.

"He was shouting about cops. It made no sense. Would Al Capone have called for police before picking up a baseball bat and beating a man to death? No, he would not have." Dwight shook his head.

Murphy paused for a long moment, arms crossed. He looked long and hard at Dwight before speaking. Pam began to grow nervous as she followed the line of questioning. "So, Mr Schrute, from your view, Mr Anderson was angry, furious even, that night. You've stated that you are in charge – voluntarily – of assisting security at your office – you rushed to the source of the commotion – is it possible you felt the incident had the likelihood to escalate physically?"

The prosecutor jumped to his feet eagerly. "Objection! Mr Murphy is just leading the witness your honor!" he whined, in a rather high pitched, nasally voice.

"Your honor –Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior, as defense counsel well knows and establishing intent in Mr Andersons actions is key to this case." Murphy pleaded.

"I'll allow it, but be brief, counsel. Mr Schrute, you may answer." Judge Summers replied without a trace of amusement.

Dwight spoke. "Absolutely it would have escalated physically. Roy encompassed all the classic signs of pre-attack. Contracted pupils, reddened facial skin, balled fists."

Pam grew lightheaded. Hearing the different views on that night – the night that had really started it all, the physical part at least – was almost laughable in her mind. They had only seen the almost, they had not seen Roy, full on raging supernova, ferocious shock waves flying out in all directions. They had not seen her body the next day, the nail marks in her forearm, the red and purple choker he had bestowed upon her with his bare fingers.

And systematically, a new dismay began to creep in – a strange betrayal, one she did not fully understand. Dwight was talking about that night, the first night; Toby had testified to it also. Jim would undoubtedly be asked about what had happened, as would she. All of them, forming the same picture. Roy, a hotheaded, quick to violence, intimidating man. She couldn't stop the sharp fragments of abandonment spiking up, fever bright against her core, however unjust they may be. They had seen – on some level – they had known, laid out in court like it was it was difficult to see how they couldn't have known something was happening to her. Her eyes closed, the anger sweeping through her. She knew, realistically, she couldn't blame anyone, if blame existed at all in this case it should be laid squarely on the heads of Roy and herself, but she couldn't push down the tide of dismayed fury she had plunged neck deep into. Still, she was not going to allow herself to create more demons to chase, fury be damned. She knew better than anyone that people refused to believe what they saw right in front of them, especially if what they saw got in the way of what they believed, what they wanted to believe.

She tensed, more than she felt was possible. Murphy had asked Dwight about the day of the attack on Jim.

"Two perpetrators, Roy and his brother, assailed Jim outside the building during a fire drill. When I came upon the scene, Perpetrator one, Roy was standing in front of Jim, his arm cocked, fist closed. Perpetrator two; Roy's brother had Jim in a police-hold, arms behind his back. Perp one hit him with a roundhouse to the left of the face. I removed my weapon from its secure hiding place. Discharged it at a distance of a little over a meter into the perpetrators eyes, nose, and face area, rendering them utterly and completely disabled. Then I contacted the authorities. I kept the perps at bay until the authorities arrived."

"Thank you Mr Schrute. Were there any words exchanged during this incident?"

"Many words. I had successfully disabled Roy, rendering him unable to speak. Perp two, Roy's brother said that Pam got what she asked for. Jim raised his voice at Roy. Called him an animal for putting Pam in the hospital. Really went to town on him, told him off. I didn't think he had it in him, frankly, Jim's always been a bit of a nerd. It was an interesting revelation."

A sharp, mirthful snort sounded from further back in the room, immediately followed by a suspiciously muffled noise. Pam looked up; the judge was staring witheringly towards the exit, where the last rows of seating were situated.

"Uh, excuse me, your honor… got a little… you know…" came the pacifying voice of Michael. Pam closed her eyes. It wasn't always that Michael evoked any feelings of pity, but at that expression the judge was wearing – stiff and unbending – Pam saw a hard, impenetrable core. This woman and her courtroom were not to be messed with.

"Continue, counsel." she said, not moving her eyes from the back of the room.

Murphy strolled in front of the witness box. "Mr Schrute, do you consider Jim Halpert a friend of yours?"

Dwight leaned forward importantly. "During the First World War, there were many starving wolves that had amassed together in a great pack, so many that opposing German and Russian forces formed a temporary alliance in order to fight them off. I saw two people breaking the law and I interceded in order to stop any bodily harm from being sustained to Jim. Are we friends? Jim Halpert is my worst enemy. But Pam Beesly is my best friend. And she is having intercourse with Jim. So the best friend of my best friend is actually my friend. And the best friend of my best friend is often a jerk, so Jim is actually a jerk, but actually he is my friend."

Murphy waved a hand casually. "Mr Schrute, is it correct that you have witnessed other incidents involving Mr Anderson at your office?"

Dwight nodded keenly. "Correct. There was an incident involving him manhandling Pam out of the office one evening."

"Manhandling." Murphy parroted, looking sickened. "Could you describe the manhandling?"

"Manhandling – gripping her by the elbow and leading her out the door."

Murphy now paced. "Were they engaged in an argument, for example?"

"No. Roy wanted to leave on time. Pam was taking too long gathering her possessions."

"What was her reaction to being manhandled in this way?"

"She looked like the sheep when he sees the slaughterhouse." said Dwight.

The attorney stopped pacing, and turned on his heel to look at the defense. "Was this a common occurrence between the two of them?" he said, glaring at Roy.

"Yes, regular."

"Did you think anything was wrong with this at the time? Did you report this to anyone, or address your concerns to either of them?"

Dwight seemed to swell with importance. "Roy by nature is boorish, ungentlemanly. He has a thuggish exterior. Jim got a bloody nose from him in a staff basketball game. One would assume from that that Roy is intrinsically rough and clumsy. When he enters a room, the tension level rises perceptibly, as it does when a bear enters a room."

"You did not report this to anyone, or approach Ms Beesly at all?"

Dwight fell silent, looking down at his hands. Pam studied him hard, feeling the room being to pulse with his hesitation. Finally, he lifted his head but it was not the attorney that he looked to, but her. "I did not." he said, finally, eye to eye with her. Pam held the stare, meaning passing between them. "To this moment I state my regret."

- TO-

Pam did not have a moment to dwell on her own regrets, as the judge called recess until the afternoon, she and Jim were whisked away into the attorney-witness conference room by Murphy. Pam's nerves grew, firing around her body and she quivered under the pressure.

He came straight to the point. "I'd like to call you up next." he said, looking towards Jim. If Jim was fazed in anyway at the early proceeding, he didn't show it.

"Okay." he replied simply. He felt Pam lean into him and slipped an around around her.

Murphy pulled out a thick batch of papers. "Just a few things. The jury is getting a picture of Roy's character and abusive nature – I want to call you on the back of Mr Schrute's testimony. We can drive this home, Roy is abusive, he's mean, he's physically violent. The two of you are the most crucial witnesses to our case – other than Roy. We need to go over some points. One; as previously stated, Jim, avoid discussing your relationship at any length. The defense will absolutely question you on it. Stay brief, yes or no answers as much as possible. However," he said, his gaze rebounding between the two of them. "However, the fact that you are in a relationship, that you Ms Beesly, have found love again with someone other than Roy is not a crime; do not make it sound like one on the stand."

It made sense, Pam thought. She didn't understand what her relationship with Jim had to do with the one she had had with Roy, it was apples and oranges. She didn't want it discussed in Roy's presence either – it would make him mad, this she knew without a doubt. Her head was drowning in the past, Roy's past, Roy's rules – she couldn't avoid it any longer while she was having to sit through multiple discussions about her and Roy's relationship as though they were just spectators in the mess they had made of their lives.

After going through points raised by the earlier morning testimony, Murphy rose to leave the room to prepare himself. Turning to Pam he offered some words of comfort.

"I feel very confident that we're going to nail his abusive ass to the prison door." he said, rather uncharacteristically. Pam smiled, a watery smile at that but still a smile all the same, and thanked him again for all he had done so far.

The two of them left alone, Pam and Jim gave each other knowing glances, unsure which of them should begin speaking first. In the end, it was Jim that broke the awkwardness.

"I can't believe Dwight called me a nerd." he complained halfheartedly. "Under oath as well."

"I can't believe he called you his friend." Pam replied, studying his face nervously. "Uh, are you…. You sure about doing this?"

Jim smirked at her. "Of course I am." he said, pulling her close against himself.

She looked up at him, putting her hand on his chest. "I just hate that you're having to do this because of me."

"I'm doing this for you, Beesly." he said plainly.

Emotion welled up inside of her. Breathing rapidly she leaned into him, slipping her arms around him in a gentle embrace. "You know something Halpert." she uttered softly, resting her forehead against his shoulder. "I really love you."

His response was immediate. "Love you too, Beesly."

-TO-

Hand in hand they walked out of the conference room, and back into the room which her family were in.

"How are you doing?" Betsy stood up and moved towards her.

"Good." Pam replied, still gripping Jim's hand.

"What's next?"

Pam turned to face her father. "Um… well… Jim is." she said carefully. Something about the idea of Jim on the witness stand was giving her chills, now that the moment had arrived.

"I'm prepared for everything." Jim said, noticing Pam's pensiveness around the issue. "That lawyer has had us go through every possible question and answer a thousand and one times. There's nothing I can't answer."

"Hope so." Pam replied morosely. "It's almost time."

"Trust me," Jim turned to her. "Everything is gonna go smoothly."

"Of course it will, honey." Helene carefully brushed Pam's hair off her shoulders, straightening out her shirt. Pam simply nodded, and squeezed Jim's hand. They were all so confident it was all going to work out okay, that she was inclined to believe them too.

Together they stepped out of the room and headed back to the court room, a positive, united family. They entered the room, Pam and Jim turning at seeing the figure approaching them.

"Hey, nerd.Michael said, and snorted.

Chapter 34 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

This chapter kicked my ass - been through a lot of rewrites as has the next part... I hold my hands up at having no real knowledge or experience with legal stuff, so creative license and all that... not my best work, but it was very hard.

And Jim's not done yet obviously... still the rest of his to go, plus then Roy's lawyer will get his turn at him (!)

Thank you for reading.

Jim left Pam with a quick hug and a kiss to the forehead before he started off across the corridor with the attorney. Pam crossed her arms over her chest, trying to quell the small, subtle shaking of her limbs. There was something final, something she didn't understand, in Jim walking away from her. As though they were setting something in motion they wouldn't be able to stop. Fear flowed into her, filling up all the empty spaces inside of her. She wanted Jim to turn around and come back. Back to her. She wanted, at that moment, desperately for someone to come along and tell her this whole thing was a dream, a nightmare and shake her until she awoke in her bed.

"Come on, honey." her mother said kindly, drawing her into a one armed hug and then leading her into the courtroom.

"It's all my fault."

"What's that?" Helene said, walking Pam to her seat. Pam turned to her mother, pale of face and unaware she had spoken. She blinked.

"I..er just… it's all my fault, mom. He's up there because of me. They're going to crucify him."

Helene fixed her with a sympathetic look. "Oh honey, I know. He'll be fine. You'll see." she said, gently rubbing her back. Without a word of reply, Pam bent down to take her seat, withdrawing her fingers into the warmth of her sleeves.

Far too quickly, Judge Summers was back on the bench and the room plunged into a tense quiet. As in the previous days and that morning, she had begun to expect and follow the court system, and to her it seemed only a blink before Jim was sitting in front of her and Murphy was standing, arms clasped courteously behind his back.

As they went through the opening questions, she found herself anxiously scrutinizing Jim, deliberating on all the body parts of him that were visible outside of the oak beams of the witness box, looking for any signs of distress or discomfort – or even anger. However he showed no outward signs of duress, he was calm, relaxed, answering in a polite, even tempered manner. Jim, being essentially Jim. But, she knew him better than almost everyone else in the courtroom. She knew how much he hid inside of himself, how he was as unrousable as Roy was volatile. Small, hesitant gestures; the slight scraping of shuffling feet, a small pink flush coloring his cheeks, darting hands, all unspoken language she knew well that pointed to his true feelings at that moment. An image flashed like sheet lightning in front of her eyes, the image of that night – of him calmly kneeling on the floor in front of her with a towel full of ice, perfectly composed and controlled – betrayed only by the slight shiver of his hands as he very gently cleaned the blood off her face.

Murphy followed up his opening questions, settling on a more relaxed tone than he had used with either Dwight or Toby. "Thank you for testifying today, Mr Halpert. May I call you Jim?"

"Sure." Jim was not a man who enjoyed formalities.

"Thank you." Murphy nodded appreciatively. "So, Jim, could you tell us how long you have known Miss Beesly?"

Jim looked upwards thoughtfully. "I'm not sure exactly, about six or seven years."

"You were introduced to her through your current job at Dunder Mifflin, is that correct?"

"Yes."

"And after you were introduced to her, you very quickly became friends?"

"Yes, sir."

So far, so good. Murphy spoke softly, his manner a mixture of conversational and authoritative. Pam pressed her knees together wearily, not taking her eyes away from the stand.

"And when did she make you aware she was in a relationship with the defendant?"

There was a pause, a shuffling of feet from the witness box. "Almost right away – my first day on the job."

"You formed a close friendship with her almost immediately, is that fair to say?"

Jim smiled softly. "Yes, I guess so."

"And over the course of your employment you've maintained the friendship between you?"

"Yes."

"With regards to the office, your desk is situated nearest to the reception desk, where she sits, making you the closest person to her on a day to day basis?"

"Yes, sir."

"What was it you that drew you to Ms Beesly when you were first introduced?" Murphy said, returning the same smile.

Jim bit the inside of his lip, looking thoughtful. "Uh.. it was like I already knew her. I didn't seem like we just met. There was no awkwardness or anything."

Pam, watching intently, spotted a little sparkle in his eyes as he spoke, it was the same sparkle that showed up whenever he was passionate about something. Unaware, her mouth drew into a shy smile, her heart warmed a little.

"And she would confide in you as time went on, if she wanted someone to talk to?" Murphy continued.

"Yes. I sort of became Pam's go to guy for advice or problems."

"And Mr Anderson – were you friends with him as well?"

Jim turned his head slightly, looking like he was chewing on something rotten. "Not really." He answered dismissively.

"You had known him for as long as Miss Beesly, correct? You were friends, close friends, with his fiancee, you went out after work together, but you and Mr Anderson never became friends?"

"No, no we didn't." Jim shrugged. From his side of the room, Roy grunted loudly.

"But you and Miss Beesly were close." Murphy said, ignoring Roy. "You were her go to guy for advice. Did she feel comfortable confiding in you about more private things, like her relationship?"

"Sometimes, yeah."

Murphy nodded thoughtfully. "Can you give an example?"

"Uh… we would talk sometimes.. sometimes we do errands for our boss, you know, pick up the staff birthday cake, that sort of thing. And she would be out of the office and away from Roy and she'd talk about things in general – if something was bothering her or she was upset about anything."

"This confidence, this was reciprocal – she'd sometimes come to you if she needed to talk about something that was upsetting to her, and you in turn would confide in her also?"

"Right." Jim nodded fervently.

"Was there ever a time that Miss Beesly confided to you that anything was wrong between her and Mr Anderson?"

Jim looked uncomfortable. "No, not directly, I guess. I had a sense that things weren't going the way she wanted, she wasn't happy but she didn't say so directly.

"When did you first become aware of this sense that something," Murphy came to a stop and cleared his throat loudly. "Was wrong in her relationship with Mr Anderson?"

"I guess in some way I always knew." Jim spoke carefully. "Never really thought he was very good to her. He could be a little… thoughtless towards her, controlling. He was bossy, like he'd sit in the parking lot after work and keep laying on the horn if she was taking too long. More and more she stopped hanging out after work with us. I'd say we're all going for a drink later and she would say she wanted to come and then Roy would show up and he would just say to her no. And she rarely argued with him about it that I saw."

"You say you didn't think her was good to her, he was controlling. Had you any suspicion that there was something more going on; for example, the relationship had turned violent?"

Jim looked at the attorney for a long time. When he finally spoke, his voice had shrunk to an unsteady murmur. "I didn't want to believe it. Yes, I think I knew something was happening but I didn't want to believe. I mean, how could something like that be happening?"

"Did you ever see her with any injuries or bruises?"

"Yeah, I mean she would have bruises on her arms and she often had a stomach ache or a headache. She had a couple of broken fingers at one time or another, her wrist was broken once – she said it was a fall. She had a sprained ankle, she said she fell down the stairs."

"She never stated that these injuries were caused by Mr Anderson?" Murphy continued.

Jim swallowed hard. "No. I tried to talk to her about Roy a few times. I saw them together at lunch not long before she left him, and I thought I saw him do something to her – I didn't know what but it looked like it really hurt her. I didn't want to ask her about it in the office. I was worried about her. We had an office party that night at Chili's and I tried to talk to her afterwards but she wouldn't talk about it to me." he said, his face thinning with sadness. "It took a concussion for her to admit something was going on."

Murphy turned sharply. "That was the day you accompanied her to the hospital? When she was treated for concussion?"

"Yes, it was."

Murphy paused as he considered his next question. "And she told you, that day, that she had been abused physically by her fiancee?"

"Yes, pretty much."

"Where did this conversation take place?"

"In the hospital coffee shop."

The attorney was sympathetic "What was her emotional state at that time? She had just been treated for a concussion, she was at the hospital with you – not her fiancee. Was she… upset? Distraught? Calm?"

"She was pretty upset." Jim said, lowering his eyes. "She said that Roy didn't mean to do it, and it was an accident that she got hurt."

"I see." there was a pause as Murphy pondered this. "And during this conversation she began to open up to you about the injuries she suffered?"

"A little, yes."

"Okay." The silence between the words grew heavy in the room. "During this conversation, you asked her point blank if her fiancee had caused the concussion, by physical abuse?"

"Yes. I did, several times." Jim's eyes rolled down. More shuffling sounds escaped the witness box. "At first she got angry that I was asking, really angry but also it was obvious she was scared too. Then she began to cry and said Roy didn't mean to hurt her."

"After she began crying, what happened then?"

"She just seemed so… so lost. She said she felt like nothing, like she didn't exist." he said, his voice hoarse. "I'd never seen her like that before. It scared me. She was exhausted – you could see it in her eyes, and her body and the way she moved. It was like she'd come to a point where all the lights were out."

"What as your reaction to this?"

"My immediate reaction was one of complete…. terror." Jim winced, his cheeks paling. "I guess it's something to only suspect it's happening, but to hear her say it…." he trailed off, breathing heavily. Every eye in the room was locked on him, a church-like hush had fallen over the entire courthouse.

Pam's heart was pounding painfully in her chest. Jim had raised his chin slightly, tilting his head back, seemingly trying to gather himself. She stared at him, shame reddening her own face as the first tear tracked down her cheek. She mentally willed him to turn to her. When they were in the office and she wanted his attention she would stare intensely into the back of his head, a series of mental nudges to make him turn around to her. This was what they did. More often than not he would sense her and spin his chair around to reception. Other times she would whisper his name or toss a paper clip neatly at his head.

He did not turn. His eyes – suspiciously bright and watery - remained averted from her. However, her attorney did turn to face her, a look of concern settling over his face.

"Mr Halpert?" he said cautiously.

"I tried…" Jim suddenly became talkative. "I said I would help her get away from him – I told her she could come stay with me, I'd go to police with her, I even said I would call her mom for her. She just kept shaking her head and saying no to everything. She didn't seem to realize where she was – she was sitting there in a hospital, disoriented and about half the weight she used to be, with a concussion and a sprained wrist and still she just wouldn't… couldn't – " Jim came to a stop rapidly, drawing a deep breath. Before the attorney could gather himself and utter a single word, Jim spoke again.

"The thing about Pam, is that she's so caring. She really cares about people, no matter what they do to her. She doesn't ever want to hurt anyone. I'll never understand how Roy could have done the things he did to her, she would never-"

"Objection!" the defense attorney all but screamed, cutting Jim off jaggedly. It came out of the blue, like the man had just been sitting there spectating and suddenly remembered his duty. Several people in the room were momentarily disconcerted, and Pam felt the all too familiar stab or fear blazing through her at the jarring sound.

"On what grounds, counsel?" Judge Summers asked calmly, raising a perfectly shaped eyebrow.

He was on his feet. "My client has not been convicted of anything, has not been found guilty of abuse – move to strike. Move to strike!" he stormed.

"Sit down, Mr Thorne." the judge said dismissively.

"Your honor, the witness comments presupposes a-"

"The witness stated that he was told by the victim that she had been physically abused by the defendant. That does not come down to presupposition. Furthermore, do not shout in my courtroom. You may continue." she said, with a brisk nod to the prosecutor.

"Thank you, your honor. Jim, how did this conversation between you and Miss Beesly end up?" asked the prosecutor. "Had she come to any decision about her future with the defendant?"

"We were talking still when Roy showed up. And she just got up and left with him without argument."

"How did that make you feel, to see her walk away with him?"

"I was angry.. frustrated… I was scared for her. She didn't want to leave him and I didn't understand that. It was like he had this control over her – everything she did went by him first. When we talked about her leaving him it was like there was just this wall there, you just could not get through it."

"I understand. Did she say why she did not want to leave Mr Anderson?"

Jim looked mutinous. "Despite everything… all that he did to her…" he said heavily. "She didn't want to leave him. Because." Jim paused, exhaling through his nose. "She said she didn't want to hurt him." he replied, his voice cracking.

-TO-

It was excruciating for her to sit through – and she wasn't on the stand herself. Not yet. Two things were happening. Jim was testifying, that was happening and with that she was seeing, seeing things happening in front of her. Things that made her chest heave and fuzzy black spots plague her vision. Things she had put away, memories she thought were buried. Events she didn't recall at all. She was being thrust back into those moments of peril, moments of terror… because it was Jim talking; Jim, who had been the closest person to her during the worst times… Jim. Jim, now describing for the court the day she had left Roy, her breakdown, her disappearance.

A fierce fury exploded in her. She wanted Jim to stop talking – she wanted the images that were assaulting her to stop, the pain that she suddenly felt in her head – where Roy had yanked her hair so many times, pain in her side from her broken ribs, the searing agony that was circling her neck inside the hands that were squeezing the life out of her. The sudden rage swelled inside her, threatening to overtake her. She was angry, she was confused.

Jim's soft tones continued and she clamped her eyes shut, biting viciously down on her lip. Silently she willed him to stop talking, feeling a hatred beyond her understanding at that point. Roy was going to be so mad about this, he was going to kill her for it. Everything closed in around her – and then a separate, softer, kinder voice cut through the noise in her head. You are everything. That's not what I see when I see you.

Instantly her anger turned inwards. Jim was not the catalyst, he was not at fault. She mentally flayed herself, pushing away the swarming emotions. She saw herself leaping up into the air and fleeing the courthouse. She saw herself running to the witness box, protecting him from the obvious hurt of him recalling it all. She would not be selfish. This was Jim's moment – he was the one under questioning, because of her, for her. She would be strong for him, she would not let herself break down while he was up there.

"During the period directly after Miss Beesly left the defendant, she spent three weeks or so in your home as a guest, is that right?" Murphy was asking.

"That's right." Jim replied.

"Had she ever stayed at your home before?"

"No, never."

The attorney folded his arms casually. "How many times had she visited you there before?"

Jim thought carefully. "Uh, maybe four, five times."

"She never stayed overnight, never stayed with you as a guest?"

"No." he answered easily. Pam bristled, the necessity of the questions withstood, she hated the implication she was sure Roy and his attorney would bring.

"Did you ever invite her to stay?"

"No." Jim was confident, fully prepared for this series of questions.

"So, when she came to stay with you for those three weeks, had you invited her?"

"Not… directly. She knew that if she needed a place to stay, she could come to me." he explained.

"What were the circumstances around her coming to stay with you at that time?"

"She showed up at my house late evening after I'd been out looking for her following the earlier scene with Roy, she was in a really bad way and she needed somewhere safe to stay."

"Jim," Murphy said, emitting a great deal of sensitivity. "I apologize for asking this, but you've said she was in a really bad way. Would you describe this for the court please."

Opening his mouth slowly, Jim paused, letting his eyes roam the courtroom, the jury leaning towards him breathlessly, the wide eyed spectators from front to back of the room, his own mom, Pam's mom, her family.. and Pam herself. For the first time that afternoon, they held each others gaze. Pam looked back at him with understanding dawning on her and she lifted her head higher, giving him a small nod. Jim held her stare a moment longer, anxiously chewing his lip and searched her face carefully before his eyes turned apologetic. Nodding subtly himself, he faced the prosecutor again, inhaling heavily.

"When I saw her, I first thought she'd been in a car accident… or something." Jim said, his eyebrows drawing together at the memory. "Her face was all swollen and her lip was bleeding, her forehead was cut. There was blood under her… her nose. She, uh, she didn't have a jacket or anything with her and her shirt was torn and had blood on it too. It was like nothing I ever thought I'd see… she didn't look like herself." he came to a stop, chest heaving.

Murphy stood respectfully by the lectern, allowing Jim to take a moment. Pam bowed her head, tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. From behind her came a gentle sobbing, and she lowered her head further, her shoulders shaking.

"This is hard," Jim said, so quietly that Murphy asked him to repeat. "This is so hard… she had.. had blood in her hair and on her hands, her fingernails were ripped and bleeding, one of her eyes was really red inside… there were some pretty big welts on her arms and some sort of burn on one of them… I think she said it was from a carpet. But…" he swallowed. "But her neck… she had scratches all over it, fingermarks, it was really red and bruised and she had difficulty swallowing."

Murphy had turned a strange shade of white as Jim spoke. Slowly he turned and scowled at Roy. Then he faced the witness again, a look of sadness in his eyes. "Jim, I know how difficult this is to relive, so I thank you for taking the stand today. Just a couple more questions, okay?" he said kindly.

"Yes, sir." Jim ran a shaky hand through his hair.

"Firstly, we can agree there is little more abhorrent than a person who will abuse and physically hurt another person, a person they are supposed to love and –"

There was a clatter as the defense leapt up. "Your honor!" he screeched. "Prejudicial! Inflammatory! Unacceptable your honor! Strike!"

"Rescinded, your honor," Murphy jumped in hastily. "My apologies, this is an emotive issue and extremely distressing for all involved."

"Sustained. Mind yourself, please, Mr Murphy." Judge Summers warned, without any real conviction in her voice.

"Mr Thorne, unless you want to be held in contempt, you will keep your voice to a respectable level in my courtroom."

Roy grunted his disapproval at this.

"Jim, can you tell us what happened after Ms Beesly arrived at your home that night?" Murphy continued.

"Uh.. yes," Jim said, carefully avoiding the urge to glare at Roy. "We went inside and she was limping, so I helped her to the couch. I helped her get cleaned up a bit, got her a blanket. She was freezing, her skin was ice cold. She was sort of hunched over, sitting on the couch with her arms wrapped about her stomach like she was holding herself together inside. She was really shaking, she couldn't hold on to a glass of water. She couldn't lift her arms either."

"And emotionally, how was she?"

"She was… very emotional.. she was absolutely terrified. She didn't… she was spaced out, confused."

"What did she say to you that night?" Murphy tilted his head, arms still folded.

"She was petrified that Roy was going to come over and find her there. She said that she was stupid for going back to the house, she went back to end things with him and leave, she didn't expect him to be there. She'd gone back to get her things and make it clear she was gone but very unfortunately he was there and he attacked her. She said…"

"Go on." Murphy said quietly.

Jim's eyes dropped. "She said he was angrier than she'd ever seen him and if she hadn't managed to get away from him that night… he wouldn't have stopped… she was was sure he would have killed her." he said quickly, pressing his lips together painfully.

Pam felt her fragile self control vanish at that moment, her face scrunched up and her head dropped. She brushed the palm of her hand upwards over her face, stopping at her forehead as her body shook with muffled sobs as the night flooded back to her in full color. She was dully aware of crying coming from behind her and Murphy speaking quietly to the judge.

Addressing the courtroom, Judge Summers called for a ten minute recess.

"This is bullshit!" Roy suddenly exploded, looking at his attorney as he stood up. "Why don't you ask him why she left, why she went to him – it's all bullshit. Wanting everyone to feel sorry for her when I'm here in jail-"

What happened next she did not know as Roy exited the room with the officers, but the echo of his voice continued to thunder on down into the room long after he had left. Pam, feeling physically weak, made no attempt to move from her seat, and simply looked up at to see Jim stepping down and walking away with Murphy. As the door was being opened he looked back at her, emotional green eyes imparting a message to her that only she understood.

As she trembled in her seat, she looked back him meaningfully, returning the message as she felt her Mom's comforting arms slip around her from behind.

Chapter 35 by OfficeWriter

The mirrors in the courthouse bathroom were enormous. The woman on the other side of the glass seemed to tower over her. Pam stood mesmerized, studying the other woman, taking in the gaunt, sallow complexion and sunken cheeks with red tear tracks that she had hoped to never see again.

Why don't you do something with that face of yours, you look like death.

The voice haunted back to her once more, bitter words she had heard many times in different variations, wrapped in the same mocking tone that aimed right for her self esteem. And here she was, back again. And there he was, his seat in the courtroom not twenty feet away from hers. Her mind, the mind of the woman in the mirror – whipped back to the young girl in the Scranton times that morning. This girl – a lovely young woman by accounts of all who had known her, had a history strikingly similar to her own, with one fatal distinction. This lovely young woman had not survived. She had not escaped her abuser.

The story was so familiar it was almost indistinguishable from her own, excepting the outcome. Pam had felt a deep kinship, solidarity with the unknown – to her, anyway – woman. This woman would forever be defined by her abusers actions, labelled as a victim. She would never outrun her tormentor. And that would be her identity from that point on. Murder victim first; domestic violence victim, and lovely young girl last of all.

She had seen her own face superimpose over the murdered womans. Perhaps her own story would have had slightly different facts, but the salient, same facts would be there in both stories. Maybe it would have been a stormy night, Roy staggering in from a bar, hot with beer, fuelled with some misdemeanor or other she had achieved in his eyes. Perhaps he would not have intended to kill her, perhaps his hands, strengthened with alcohol would have squeezed her neck a little too hard, or maybe she would have fallen after a particularly well aimed punch and fractured her skull or snapped her neck.

That could well have been her own photo in the Scranton times. It could have been her own mother, crying over her daughter, gone forever.

Pam had no illusions about the fact of this. She ran the faucet, letting the cold water numb her fingertips before she and the other woman ran their hands over their face. The cold water was soothing and awoke her senses a little. The other woman studied her back, worried lines creasing through her forehead. Her eyes held a dazed, lost stare, set back in her ghostly skin.

A wave of unexpected pity for the woman in the mirror overwhelmed her. Reaching into her purse she lifted out a small compact and a mini mascara tube. Beginning with the powder she began to add colour to the pale face.

"Need some help with that?"

Pam turned gratefully away from the mirror, handing the compact over with a shaking hand.

"You definitely need color. This is gonna look so good." Penny said jauntily, carefully gliding the brush over Pam's cheekbones. "Oh yeah. This color is perfect for you." She said. After a minute or two, she stepped back. "Good thing this stuff is waterproof, right?"

Pam simply nodded. Penny smiled at her and tilted her head. "You know… what.." she said thoughtfully, delving into her purse. "You need some blush. Melba." She pulled out another compact.

"Penny…." she said. It was the other womans voice.

"Hold still."

"I should have listened to you. I mean," she said, an eyebrow raising, her eyes moving to the left thoughtfully. After a second they shifted back and her head dropped slightly, eyes lidding. "You were the only one who didn't like him – you were trying to warn me." Her eyebrows drew together. "You were just a kid when he and I met. You knew, even then didn't you?"

"Yeah I guess I did." Penny nodded gently.

"I'm sorry," Pam's eyes slowly rose up to meet her sisters. "I didn't listen."

"Me too." She replied softly. There was an awkward silence before Penny turned Pam back to the mirror and waved dramatically. "Well… here goes. All done."

Pam was surprised by the transformation. Very little evidence remained of her earlier crying jag, Penny had indeed managed to make her look somewhat human; somewhat recognizable. She hoped Jim noticed it when they were back in the courtroom. She had to look the part. She couldn't fall to pieces like that while he was on the stand – it wasn't fair to him and it was the reason for the recess as it was. She owed it to him to be composed, strong.

"You're really special, you know that?" Pam told her sister. It was her own voice again.

"Okay." Penny laughed. "Just so you know I totally love Jim. Love him for you."

Pam smiled and moved forward, hugging her sister gratefully. Then with a swarm of hornets flying in her stomach, they reluctantly made their way out of the bathroom to head back to the courtroom.

"Hey!"

Pam automatically spun round at the angry tone, groaning internally. As she expected, Roy's mother was stalking down the thin corridor towards her, angry jaw set, teeth clenched.

"How long do you expect to get away with this?" she snapped. "Putting my son through this, it's –"

"Oh, shut it." Penny said rudely, gently herding Pam into the courtroom and out of her sight.

- TO -

Once again back in the courtroom, Pam immediately sought out Jim, studying his eyes as he looked back at her – searching for the same reassurance in each other; that she was okay, that he was doing okay.

"Thank you, once more for taking the stand today. I'd like to take you back again to the night Ms Beesly came to you for help after the attack." Murphy had picked up again, his arms once more clasped behind his back.

"Yes, sir."

"On this night, you stated for the court that she had a number of injuries to her head and body, including her neck area. She was petrified. She had been beaten severely. You retrieved a blanket for her, ice for her cheek, water. Did either yourself or Ms Beesly call for a doctor – or an ambulance?"

Jim bit down on his lip hard, shaking his head. "She went to the hospital first thing the next morning, then the hospital alerted the police and she made a statement to them."

Murphy walked back to his lectern, picking up a sheaf of paper. "Forgive me for asking, but why did she wait until morning before seeking medical attention?"

"Because she begged me not to call anyone." he said, head lowered. "She was broken, confused. She got really upset when I asked her about going to the hospital or getting police, it terrified her. She said she couldn't take any more. She was pretty exhausted and she fell asleep very quickly after that."

"She became distraught at the idea of going to the police or hospital?"

"Both."

"So you accompanied her to the hospital the next morning?"

"That's right."

Murphy waved the papers in his hand. "I have here medical reports from that examination, and subsequent treatments she underwent. How was she affected by the injuries she suffered that night?"

Jim drew in a breath. "Um… well physically she had problems moving around, it was hard for her to lift her arms because of her ribs and her shoulder, she couldn't brush her hair herself for example. Her nose would bleed sometimes on its own. They gave her some pretty strong pain medication, which kind of made her sleepy but she said she couldn't sleep well because of the discomfort and pain in her side. She coughed a lot, which really hurt her."

"She had physical limitations, she couldn't move around well, the attack had taken quite a toll on her?" Murphy asked.

"Yes, definitely."

"So, following the hospital examination and the successive days after, how did she react to the trauma of this? For example, did she leave the house at all, go to work, go anywhere?"

"No… she didn't leave the house at all, she didn't go to the office or anywhere." Jim replied quietly. "She was… different. She was very quiet and emotional. Started sleeping a lot. As I said she was terrified of Roy coming there and finding her. She had nightmares, a couple of times she actually screamed in her sleep. She was confused, jumpy. She would say she didn't want to talk about Roy, and the things she did say were… well you wouldn't forget."

"Could you elaborate on that?" Murphy said. He was holding on to the papers in a tight grip, but he wasn't looking at them.

"Uh… she had this idea that no one would believe her, not the police or anyone. I mean, she really believed this- said Roy had been telling her no one would ever think it was the truth that he hit her." Jim continued, his voice dropping in level. "Something that she said really stuck with me, she said that it was the worst thing to not be able to feel safe in your own home. That really got to me, it's the truth and she said he took that feeling of security away from her. I couldn't imagine how terrifying it must be to feel like you don't have a safe place anywhere in the world to go."

There came a rush of whispering from the gallery and some unintelligible muttering. Murphy look genuinely saddened. He spoke carefully, slowly pronouncing each word. "Going back a little further – during the years you have known Ms Beesly, had you ever seen Mr Anderson hit her?"

"No." Jim slowly shook his head.

"Other than the incident at lunch you described, you also described for the court how Mr Anderson violently threw her down at their home on the day that she left him. Did you ever witness any other violent incidents between them?"

"No, I didn't."

"What about other fights or arguments between them that you were witness to?"

Jim considered his answer. "There were typically things with Roy, he's kind of aggressive on a normal day. He'd say things to her like 'do it my way or you'll be sleeping in the car tonight' that kind of thing. Sometimes on staff events after work Roy would complain a lot about being there, and then after about half an hour he'd stand up and tell Pam they were leaving. He never asked her anything, he made all the decisions."

To Pam, watching the exchange, it was surreal. Her emotions were circling from minute to the next. Jim was doing well up there, she thought. She guessed that he was being tactful for her benefit and she was grateful for this. She felt very lucky that he was on her side, very blessed to have him in her life. Somehow her own turn in the witness box seemed less daunting to her – so far – after seeing Jim go through it first. For her.

She sat, estimating that the witness box distance from her seat was probably only marginally larger than the distance from Jim's desk to hers in the office. That somehow made her feel a little better also. As Murphy was finishing up his examination, Pam marvelled at his competent, unruffled mannerisms. She didn't think she could have handled an excitable or impulsive attorney working for her.

Her reprieve was brief though, as the time came for the cross examination by Roy's attorney. She knew the easier part was over now. People were drawn to people with qualities similar to their own – as much as her own attorney was calm, sympathetic and controlled – just as Jim was – she knew Roy had managed to obtain an attorney who was the opposite; bold, impetuous and brash – much like Roy himself.

- TO -

Roy's attorney -Mr Thorne – swaggered along the way to the witness box, buttoning up the front of his jacket as he did so. The man cleared his throat theatrically, leaving the room in silence for a moment before he opened his mouth.

"Mr Halpert. Jim." He began in a smooth voice. "Thank you for being here today. I have some follow up questions for you regarding your friendship with Pam Beesly. Generally what I ask you will call for yes or no answers, okay?"

"Yes, Sir." Jim replied, looking somewhat amused at the man.

"You have testified that you have had a close friendship with Pam for many years. You spend a lot of time with her, you confide in each other. Is that right?"

"Yes."

"Now, during this period of friendship, which endured over five years, Pam alleges she was being abused by Mr Anderson. Up until the events of her leaving the relationship, you were not aware of this?"

"No."

Mr Thorne pounced. "Ah, but you were, to use your own words, her go to guy for advice for problems. Why is it that she never said anything, never asked you for help for over five years?"

"I don't-" Jim started, but the clatter of Murphy climbing to his feet cut him off.

"Your honor, objection. Mr Thorne is asking for speculation here – the witness cannot speak for Ms Beesly." Murphy pointed out.

The judge sustained this, thankfully. Pam was sure it was a question that Jim should not have to answer to – after all it had been her secret – her reasons, not his.

Thorne was off again. "So, Mr Halpert – you have also stated that you became concerned about Pam's welfare following an incident in the lunch room at your office – an incident that you did not see clearly, of course. Let me clarify – you had no concerns before this incident, this incident that you cannot be sure actually happened?"

"Yes, I said something did happen, and no, as I said earlier, I always felt something was wrong."

"But you didn't see anything wrong and she never admitted anything to you for five years? Never said to you, my boyfriend caused this broken finger, or my boyfriend hits me?"

"No, she didn't."

"Isn't it true that, as you testified that you and Mr Anderson never became friends, that it would be fair to say there was a certain sense of rivalry between you?"

"Some I guess." Jim shrugged nonchalantly.

"You spent time with his fiancee, she confided in you – about some things anyway, you were the person she talked her problems through with. Both your human resources rep, and your colleague, as well as yourself have testified that Mr Anderson made accusations that your interest in Pam went beyond the boundaries of friendship. Is this an accurate picture?"

"Roy thought so, yes." Jim replied. Pam squinted her eyes, tilted her head, watching Jim carefully.

"And did you?" the attorney continued. "Did you harbor feelings for Pam while she was engaged to Mr Anderson?"

"Yes." Jim said honestly. Pam blinked, reddening a little. There was no guilt or remorse in his words, and somehow Pam felt a little warmth in thinking there might have been someone looking out for her all those years, unbeknownst to her.

"And Pam, was she aware of these feelings you had for her?" the attorney was saying. Jim's expression – neutral, calm – did not change.

"I don't know."

"You don't know?" The attorney repeated, his words laced with slight mockery.

"We never talked about it." Jim said evenly.

"But you are in fact, in a relationship with her now, isn't that the truth?"

The man was persistent. Pam's breath caught in her throat, remembering Murphy's advice.

However, before Jim could answer, Murphy was on his feet again. "Objection. Irrelevant, your honor."

Judge Summers thought for a moment. "I'll allow. But be brief, Mr Thorne. Answer the question please, Mr Halpert."

"Yes." Jim said simply.

The attorney nodded smugly. "Were the two of you seeing each other behind her fiancee's back?"

"No."

"Mr Anderson had a right to be jealous, didn't he? He was aware that you were maintaining a friendship with his fiancee, under false pretenses."

"Ah, Your honor?" Murphy was up again.

"Not true at all. I did-"

"Isn't it true that you are in love with Ms Beesly?" the attorney pressed.

"Yes. Very much so." Jim answered, without a second of hesitation.

"Your honor, this is totally irrelevant. Jim is not on trial here – this is nothing but badgering." Murphy tapped his hand pointedly on the table as he spoke.

Fortunately this time Judge Summers sustained in agreement. Mr Thorne looked vexed, and carefully pulled at his tie, straightening up and turning back to the witness box with overstated confidence.

"Mr Halpert," he said loudly. "Jim – that day that Pam left Mr Anderson and came to you – you stated that you visited her at her home earlier that day. What time did you arrive?"

"It was around 8.30 in the morning."

"And Mr Anderson was not there?"

"He'd left for work. I saw him leave."

"Did you make a habit of visiting Pam so early in the morning?" he said with a deliberate air of patience.

Jim started to roll his eyes, but seemed to stop himself. "No. I wanted to check she was okay."

"You wanted to make sure Mr Anderson was out of the way first, didn't you?" the attorney pushed.

"That's right."

He folded his arms, looking down at Jim seated in the box. "Why was that? Why would you sneak into her home, behind her fiancee's back a half hour before you both were due for work?"

"I wanted to make sure she was okay." Jim repeated. "No sneaking around, I knocked on the door and she let me in."

"You waited for Mr Anderson to leave, you knocked on the door, she opened it. Was she injured in any way at the time?"

"Not that I could see, but-"

"-In fact, she was physically fine, wasn't she?"

"Not at all."

"But not injured?" Mr Thorne contested.

"That I could see."

"And during that day you spent how long in her house with her?"

"Just the morning, until Roy came home for lunch."

Straightening up, the attorney fired back hotly. "And you stated that Mr Anderson was angry – furious to see you there, and pushed her, in which she fell back-"

"No, he threw her down."

"Ah, but isn't it true that it was you and not Mr Anderson who reacted violently that afternoon?"

A strong, metallic taste flooded into Pam's mouth. She ran her tongue over the inside of her cheek, feeling the warm blood pooling around her gums. She hated this man – almost as much as she hated Roy at that moment. She could feel the tense eyes of every single person in the room, eyes burning into her, into Jim.

"Not exactly." Jim said uneasily. Pam was rigid in her seat.

"Well, how exactly do you mean?" Mr Thorne said with a belligerent manner. "You did assault Mr Anderson, is that not a fact? You did punch him to the floor in his own home that afternoon?"

"I did."

"Well, is this how you would normally act in another mans home? You sneak around with his fiancee, you punch him out?"

Once more Murphy clambered to his feet in the small space beside Pam and objected. Jim continued on, in a battle of wills with the attorney. Judge Summers leaned forward; Pam prayed she was going to intervene.

"No, not at all. I hit him because-"

"-You were jealous, weren't you? Jealous of their engagement, jealous of Mr Anderson." Thorne challenged.

"That's not why I hit him, it-"

"He came home and found you, another man in the house with his fiancee. He was angry."

"Because-"

"Objection, objection, objection. " Murphy called firmly, still in control. "Argumentative – your honor not to mention shockingly unprofessional. He is putting words into the witness' mouth."

Judge Summers to her credit looked appalled at the exchange. "Agreed. Do not try and lead the witness. Dial it down counsel, and take this as a warning."

"Most apologies, your honor." Mr Thorne said glibly, brushing off the warning like a speck of lint on his jacket.. "Jim – what happened after you punched Mr Anderson?"

"Roy and I argued some more and Pam left the house."

"Did he attempt to hit you back?"

"No, he didn't."

It was curiously at this moment Roy chose to start muttering angrily from his seat, throwing the attorney off course. Thorne swaggered back to Roy and the men whispered aggressively between them. In a flurry of moving hands and angry lips, the discussion stopped and Thorne was back in front of Jim.

"And then what happened?"

"I left to try to find Pam. I can't say what Roy did then." Jim answered.

Thorne looked at him accusingly. "So, let me recap this. Jim, we know later that day Pam turned up at your home injured. Where were you when the alleged assault occurred?"

"I was out looking for Pam."

"How long did that take you?"

"A couple hours I think."

"Did you search on foot, or by car?" The man was stubborn, firing rapid questions at Jim.

"I drove."

"Were you alone or with anyone?"

"Alone."

Thorne seemed disappointed with Jim's responses. "So she came to your home, you stated she was in a bad way, bleeding, she didn't look like herself." he said flatly.

"Yes."

"And she came to you first. Not the police or hospital, not a shelter for abused women, not her family; she came to you, that's the truth isn't it?"

"Yes, that's right."

"Well, what was she expecting you to do for her that the police, the hospital, a shelter or her family couldn't, or wouldn't do?"

Jim looked genuinely unsure of the question. "Understand, I guess." he said thoughtfully.

"Understand?" Thorne barked; no longer bothering to disguise the condescension in his voice. The room around them was absolutely silent, not a sound or breath could be heard from the spectators, the jury or the judge. It was just the two mens voices slashing through the silence like the clashing of duelling swords.

"Yes." Jim said. "I knew the situation. I had told her I would help her if she needed it. She didn't have to explain anything to me. It took a long time for her to admit even just to me that Roy was abusing her, I think it was a relief to her that she had told someone and that's partly why she came to me first."

"So, she came to you for help after allegedly being attacked, and you've told the court that she came in, you helped her to the couch, helped her get cleaned up a bit, got her a blanket. What exactly did you do to help her get cleaned up?"

"I got her ice for her cheek and helped wash some of the blood off her face."

"So right away, you began to help her remove the blood from her face, helping her clean up. Rather than take her to a hospital, or call the proper authorities, you helped her remove the evidence from her person-"

Pam jolted suddenly. She hadn't thought of it that way. But what was happening that night? She had little memory of it and what she did have was hazy, foggy.

Murphy was also not impressed. "Objection-"

"Washed away blood from injuries-" Thorne steamrolled on. Jim glared at him.

"No I didn't. She was in pain. She h-"

"-Objection! Argumentative." The man's expression was stony, tapping his hand on the table once more to get the judge's – and gallery's - attention.

"She was in pain, but you didn't take her to hospital that night, did you?" Thorne challenged Jim.

"She didn't –"

"-Objectionyour honor!" Murphy said, his voice rising.

"Overruled."

"This woman, who you had been friends with for years, who you secretly had feelings for, came to you for help, allegedly injured and distressed, but you didn't take her to the hospital right away?"

"No, in the morning, as I said." Jim said. His face remained impassive but Pam saw the muscles moving and tightening about his forehead and jawline.

"You said-" Thorne cleared his throat impatiently. "That Pam was terrified – terrified- that Mr Anderson was going to show up and find her at your home. But what did you both do that night? Did you seek help? Protection? No, you cleaned up and went to sleep for the night, isn't that the truth?"

"Yes."

"Well we seem to be miscommunicating here, don't we – after all, what do you do when you've been attacked, excuse me, beaten severely – do you go to the home of your best friend for bed and breakfast, have a nice sleep while fearing for your life?"

"Objection! This is outrageous!" Murphy stood up once more. A second later he laid a compassionate hand on Pam's shoulder.

Thorne folded his hands in front of him, in a sickening ingratiating manner. "I do apologize, your honor."

"Mr Thorne – this style of interrogation will not be tolerated in my courtroom. Do you understand? This is the last warning." She said sharply.

"Yes, your honor, I do understand." Thorne said, appearing unfazed by the rebuke.

"Also step back from the witness." the judge added, her expression hard.

"Jim," Thorne said stepping backwards. "You stated she that Pam fell asleep very quickly that night. What room in your house did she sleep?"

"On the couch, where she crashed out. I put a blanket on her." Jim replied, looking slightly puzzled.

"And you, where did you sleep that night?"

Jim hesitated. "Downstairs as well."

Thorne's mouth lit up at this. "Why was that? Why not go to your own room?"

"She was scared enough that Roy would come looking for her, as I said." Jim fired back. "I didn't want her to wake up on her own in the room and think I'd just left her alone."

"How noble." Thorne said. "According to your statements, Pam fought with Mr Anderson because she wanted to leave him. Earlier that day, they fought over you, as in other occasions. Is it fair to say you were the cause of some of the problems in their relationship?"

"I don't know. It wasn't a three person relationship, so I really can't say."

"But you did counsel her to leave him, a couple of days before she actually did leave him?"

"Yes, I did."

"And indeed after she had come to your home, you advised her not to go back to him, that's the truth isn't it?"

"Yes."

Thorne was relentless. "Was this because you were in love with her?"

"No, it was because she was sitting on my couch, with half her face swollen out and huge fingermarks around her neck, telling me that Roy literally tried to kill her and yet she was still saying it was her fault and that she deserved it. Let me tell you, nobody deserves that, nobody." Jim said fiercely, looking not at the attorney, but at Pam.

She looked back at him with pleading eyes, her head aching and her heart pounding as the attorney continued on. With her moms continuing crying from behind her and her dads regular snorts of exasperation and grunts of fury and Jim being attacked by the slimy attorney, she had fought so hard to maintain her own composure but as a wetness appeared on her cheeks she began to lose her battle.

"But, you have only her word for it that it was Mr Anderson who caused these injuries, correct?"

"Well she certainly didn't do it to herself." Jim fired back at the man.

Pam leaned to her left, whispering quietly to her own attorney. The man listened attentively, and nodded at her with an expression of understanding and, patting her shoulder kindly, he rose to his feet.

"Permission to approach the bench, your honor?"

Pam had had more than she could take watching this, watching Jim get dissected like that, treated like a criminal, Jim, who had managed to somehow remain cool and dignified under duress. She watched blurrily as Murphy and the Judge spoke quietly together. Then Murphy turned and thanked the judge, returning to his seat beside Pam, giving her a reassuring nod.

Judge Summers called for adjournment until the next day. Pam smiled wearily at Murphy, then at Jim, who looked incredibly relieved to be released from the stand.

"Mr Thorne?" the judge beckoned him.

"No further questions, your honor." the attorney said. Pam breathed outward a heavy sigh.

"See me in my chambers please." Judge Summers said sternly, standing up. The officers on the other side of the room moved forward to the defense area to escort Roy back to prison.

"Thank you." Pam turned to Murphy, taking his hand. "Thank you. I couldn't…." she mumbled, lowering her head with emotion.

"I know." he said sympathetically, picking up his paperwork.

"Couldn't take seeing him go through that any longer." she finished, her voice shaky.

"You're welcome. We'll reconvene in the morning. Try to get some rest tonight." With that he headed off out of the room.

Pam didn't wait around for anyone – she headed straight out of the courtroom and to the waiting area. Somewhere behind her in a fading voice Helene was calling to her, but her mind was in one place. She waited, dully aware of her family filing into the room behind her, but took no notice, until she saw the familiar messy head through the corridor full of people. Instinctively she moved straight out of the room, nervously approaching him.

Although he looked tired and drained; his face weary and pale, he broke into a smile on seeing her. This was enough for her and she moved forward quickly, seizing him a desperate hug.

"I'm so sorry," she mumbled against his neck. "I'm so sorry you had to go through this."

"Hey now." was all he said as he returned the hug.

Pam felt lightheaded with exhaustion. "You were great in there, I'm so proud of you." she said, emotion heavily lacing her voice.

"So were you." he replied softly, turning his head and kissing her cheek.

In the waiting area, Helene stood against the doorway, watching the scene between her daughter and Jim thoughtfully. Penny sidled up beside her, following her moms gaze.

"Think I'll find a guy like that Mom?" she said.

Helene turned to look at her youngest daughter. "I do hope so, honey." She shifted her eyes back to the corridor, watching the pair talk quietly together. Her sharp eyes observed Pam's hands, now pressing gently against Jim's chest as she smoothed out his shirt, observed his bent head as he put his forehead to hers, winding an arm around her back. Most of all, she did not fail to see the look of adoration that adorned both faces. A heartfelt smile spread across her face.

"That's my future son in law." she mused quietly.

"What's that?" William enquired, craning his neck towards her.

"Oh, nothing." Helene said airily. "How about we give those two a moment and wait for them outside?"

The family filed outside into the rain and huddled under the shelter of the courthouse front.

Inside, neither Pam nor Jim noticed them leave, their shared relief that one of them had made it through interrogation was overwhelming, and the immense comfort they both felt at having each other close by again drowned everything and everyone else out until they forgot where they were and a court employee asked them to leave the building for the day.

Chapter 36 by OfficeWriter

The remainder of the day did not grow any easier for Pam. Indeed, it was a relief that Jim's time in the witness box was likely over – unless further questions of him were warranted. It wouldn't be beneath the slimy man defending Roy to drag it out endlessly. She knew that Roy himself was growing restive in the court room, and a restive Roy was a dangerous Roy. Undoubtedly the fact he had managed to remain reasonably calm throughout the proceedings so far would be hailed, in his own eyes, as nothing short of heroic. After all, as far as he was concerned he had done nothing wrong.

There had been the growls and grunts and snarlish whispers she was so familiar with at various points throughout Jim's testimony but the man had not risen. No. But now it was her turn and she knew, with that unshakable certainty burning in her gut that he was saving his rage for her.

As he always had, of course.

She was stroking her fingers despondently along the pebble colored workdesk, absently feeling the grooves of the wood when William walked in.

"Hi Pam." he said, with exaggerated cheerfulness. "I was out for a drive. Just thought I'd swing by and check up on you."

There was a long pause, as they stood looking at each other, while Pam considered the unexpected visitor nervously. He was still wearing the shirt and pants he had worn to court not three hours earlier, except he had loosened his collar. "Oh.. I'm fine, Dad." she finally replied.

"Big day tomorrow." His eyes shone with concern for his eldest daughter.

"Yeah." she said wearily. Her fathers shadow made a sad spectre against the white wall behind him, she could not take her eyes away from it.

"Jim told me you were out here." William looked curiously around the garage. "What are you doing?"

Pam let her hand drop to her side. "I'm just going through this stuff. Jim cleared out this space so I could paint out here."

"That was thoughtful." he said, moving slowly towards her.

"I'm not sure about what I'm going to work on." Pam turned her eyes back to the desk, looking for something – pencils, brushes – anything to busy her hands with, as if that small action would prove to her father she was in control of things.

"It would be good for you to start painting again." William said. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. His eyes, kind and soft bored into hers. "You've come such a long way."

She bit her lip. "Sometimes it feels like I haven't come very far."

"Sweetheart," he said. His voice sounded so genuinely sad it caused her to flinch. "You've been so brave. It will be over soon, just hang in there a little longer, okay?" He rubbed her shoulder affectionately. Pam squinted her eyes at the man, suddenly feeling like she did not recognize him. Grey, so much mottled grey had infiltrated his beard, framing his stricken face. Unfamiliar lines branching out from the corners of his eyes, a hollow to his cheeks that she was sure hadn't been there the year before. Her hand crept towards the desk again, tracing the edges with her fingertip.

"Why couldn't I see it?" his voice brought her back from her thoughts. "All this time, you were under my nose and I didn't see anything."

Pam fell awkwardly silent, mashing her lips together. When she spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper. "I hid it."

"You didn't want me to know?"

"No…" her voice trembled. "I didn't."

He didn't say anything. His expression sagged, his face ashen and his forehead wrinkled tragically. For many moments, neither uttered a word, they only stood avoiding each others eyes, waiting for an interruption of any kind.

"I remember my first day of school." she said unexpectedly. "You and mom took me. I didn't want to go."

A small smile softened his face. "You cried all the way there."

"So did Mom."

"She was convinced you were going to be chopped up in the school cafeteria and served for lunch in the teachers lounge."

Pam was thoughtful, her eyes shifting to the wall behind him. "Do you remember the picture I drew for you?"

"Superdad. I remember."

"That's how I saw you." she said. "Back then."

"Superman?"

"Superdad." she stressed."I drew that picture on the first day. You told me to be myself and the other kids would love me."

"I was right, too."

"You also told me if a boy asked me for my lunch to kick them in the balls."

"Well no one took your lunch did they?" he said, laughing. "Your mom was so mad at me for that. Said it would be all my fault if you were kicked out in the first week."

An automatic laugh slipped out of her; she found nothing funny in the memory at that moment but it was better than tears would have been. In that respect, Jim and her father were a lot alike – both men thrived on using humor at the most difficult of moments to lift her up when needed. It was their way of pumping air into her balloon, rising her above the darkness.

"I thought you had a special power, the power to fix anything." she said, her face reflective. There was a pause. Her voice was soft, fragile as if it would crack at any minute. "You kept us safe, you made us happy. You scared the scary things away and gave us the best you could."

Her father did not respond verbally, simply placing his hand over hers on the worktop, bringing to a stop the circles it had been following over the wood. His fingers closed around her smaller ones and he looked at her meaningfully.

"I didn't want you to know." Pam's eyes were still on the shadow behind him. "When I was a little girl you always made things better. Your hugs were like magic." She came to a stop, her breath catching in her throat. Finally, she looked up at him. His eyes were damp, kind and his face attentive. "I still wanted to be that little girl where all it took was a hug from her dad and everything was okay again. I didn't want that to change."

Her fathers eyes had misted over. He swallowed hard, looking at her with that same blend of adoration and apprehension that can only be achieved by a father with the cruel knowledge that happiness could be as fleeting as a flash of light. She remembered that expression well, gazing down upon her as she rubbed sleep out of her eyes with her little hands before he kissed her goodnight.

"Listen to me," William said, his other hand resting on her shoulder. He bent his head towards her. "You never stop being a dad, no matter how old your kids are. You and Penny, you are my girls and that's something you can't change."

Her body visibly slackened in front of him and her head dropped, her eyes flickering across the dusty concrete. She couldn't look at him, couldn't even raise her face to the shadow on the wall.

"I understand that you didn't want to tell us what was happening," he said, brushing a finger over her glistening cheeks. "And if you never want to talk about it to me, I will understand that too. But, if you ever feel ready, I will be there."

Wordlessly she nodded, her face wrinkling and her lips rolling together. Her inner eyebrows drew upwards as she fought to hold back the overwhelming surge of emotion swelling up inside her. She blinked harshly, her vision becoming blurry. William bent his head closer, speaking softly.

"When you go into court tomorrow, you do it with your head up. You get up and you tell the judge the truth about everything. I don't want you to worry about your mother and I being there to hear it, we are not important in this, you are. We will think no differently of you no matter what you say, we won't love you any less. When your mother cries; and she will, and when I get mad, which I will, it won't be because of you. It's because we love you. And we are so proud of you. You have come so far. When you are on the stand tomorrow, I want you to remember one thing," he said, pausing. Gently he prodded his finger underneath her chin, slippery with tears, and lifted her face up. Emotional green eyes met his apprehensively.

"That," he continued. "You have done absolutely nothing wrong. You have every right to want to see Roy punished for what he has done to you, and to make him hear every word you have to say. You stayed silent for so long, now he will have to hear you."

Tears pooled steadily in her eyes and coursed down her cheeks. "What if I can't?" she whispered. William frowned, stretching closer to hear her.

"But," he said. "What if you can, hmm?"

Pam had no answer for her father. Her shoulders continued to shake and she just stood weakly staring at the floor.

"Roy took something much more valuable from you than your lunch money. Now is your time to really kick him in the balls, like I taught you." he said, prodding her chin upwards once more. He grew contemplative and quiet, looking over her sadly.

"You're still my little girl," he said, and now his voice was low and gentle. "My little girl who was never afraid of ghosts or monsters or spiders, who's heart has always been bigger than she is. You're going to be just fine, I have no doubt about that."

With that, he let go of her chin and stepped back, opening his arms up. Pam contemplated a moment and then moved wearily into the hug, suddenly overcome with love for the man.

"I have a feeling things will come right for you." he said. "You'll see."

- TO -

Inside, Jim was lounging on the couch, talking amiably on his cell phone when Pam and her dad came in from the garage. William, not wanting to leave Helene alone for too long, made his exit quickly after almost suffocating his daughter in another hug. Pam suspected that she was not the only Beesly he had had to comfort that evening. The memory of her mother in the courtroom, pale of face, tears pooling in her eyes as she held a shaking tissue to her face was not something she was ever going to forget.

She waited until Jim was done with his phone call and then decided she was going upstairs for a bath and to get ready for bed. If he noticed the redness of her face or the puffy, swollen eyes he didn't comment on it. He simply yawned and stretched, intimating he'd follow her up shortly. She turned to leave the room, hesitating at the doorway.

"Thank you." she mumbled, turning back. "For.. uh… I know how much you hated that today but you were really, really great and I...um.."

"I know, Beesly." he said, lazily hauling himself to his feet and crossing the room to her. She nodded slowly. Then, leaning up on her toes, she quickly kissed his cheek before turning and leaving the room.

"See you later, Mrs. Schrute." he called up the stairs after her. Seconds later a muffled giggle echoed down the staircase.

"Later, jerk."

Jim smiled and shook his head fondly.

…...

Once she was upstairs she realized just how exhausted she was. She bathed and changed for bed, her tired hands refusing to cooperate with the undoing of buttons and manoeuvring of clothing around her body. Her eyes were heavy, her muscles limp and weak. She had thought that she would not be able to sleep that night, but already her eyelids were closing as she crawled under the covers. Tomorrow she would be on the stand, the most intimate and difficult parts of her life would be dissected into tiny pieces and examined and devoured by the attorneys and the people on the jury and her family, people she didn't even know. If the day she had just sat through was any forecast, she could expect that tomorrow would be excruciating. Roy's attorney was going to rip her apart. Despite everybody's attempts to buoy her about her day in court, her stomach tingled terribly. She felt like she had swallowed a cactus whole.

Carefully, she slid her hand under her pillow and took out the photo that Jim's mother had given her.

She was so touched that Betsy had chosen to give it to her. The prospect of seeing more childhood photos of Jim excited her. There was a strange sense of security in the pictures, a closeness to Jim and his family that she hadn't felt before. It was like the photo was really a special door that opened into a place where their pasts and their futures began to merge together. It was a nice, comforting feeling.

"That photo really makes you laugh, huh?" Jim appeared in the room, the bed dipping down beside her as he got in.

She sleepily opened her eyes. "You were so dorky… it's cute. You look so innocent. Uncorrupted."

"Unco-" he exhaled, shaking his head with a bemused smile. "You actually met Tom and Pete, right?"

"Yup. After meeting those two, I came to the conclusion that you might have been raised by jesters."

"Well now you know. I was born a baby, perfectly proportioned."

"Oh really?" she yawned. "You didn't spring fully grown from the head of Zeus?"

"Well… I don't really remember the trip down the birth canal, but my mom seems to think not. Pete, on the other hand, our dad swears he came from a jackal."

Pam let out a brittle, tired laugh. "Your dad has a great sense of humor." She said, closing her eyes and turning over, to face him.

"Sure does. Once, he pranked our Mom by…." he slowed to a stop. She was asleep, head nestling into his chest.

It was a deep into the dark of night before he fell asleep himself. It grew late and quiet around the two of them and they lay in a beam of moonlight, his arm curved protectively around the small woman.

He would never let on that his fears for tomorrow were greater than his anxiety about his own time under oath. How knew how afraid she was, the body quivering against him even as she slept was more than enough evidence as it was. Jim was scared for her, scared, nervous, vulnerable – her fears, her nerves had become also his. He wanted to keep her safe, safe from Roy and from the memories of Roy. Having her testify in front of the man who had abused her for so long made him uneasy. This was one thing he could not protect her from and that made him extremely uneasy. He wanted to be that man who wasn't Roy, wanted to be the man who could light an eternal flame at their door to keep the predators away. For her.

-TO -

She couldn't eat anything that morning. It was difficult enough for her to keep what was left in her body down – she wasn't going to add any more she could throw back up. She choked down a mug of unsweetened coffee while perched on the couch as the shower ran upstairs. The procession of events were blurry – shower, dress, coffee, car; she couldn't separate the tasks from one another.

Jim came downstairs looking as sick as she felt and she was hit with a world of guilt at the dark shadows around his eyes and the paleness of his skin. Her eyes shifted from him, settling on the front door. If only… she was fighting a wild urge to shake off the numbness and run for the door and just keep going until she was a million miles away from Roy and the courthouse and everyone around her.

Then, through the haze Jim was there, tugging gently at her sleeve, lifting her up, steering her towards the car. She could not run away. Robotically she climbed into the car at the door Jim held open for her.

The journey was slow and torturous. Jim's attempts at light conversation fell flat. He stayed quiet until they were near the destination.

"I hate that you're going through this," he said, breaking the silence between them. "But I know you got this."

She felt a grateful smile stretch across her face. "Thank you." she said sincerely, turning to him.

It was an unusually empty morning, the sky still and cold and grey, the lack of birds, lack of people unnerving. The air was stolid and thick around them when they stepped out of the car, as if the atmosphere was dried out and dead.

"Jim…. Can we go in at the other entrance… I don't think I can handle seeing anyone else. My mom will just make a fuss and get upset… can we just make this painless as possible?"

Jim nodded, understanding. "C'mon then." he replied, draping an arm around her shoulders.

Murphy was waiting for them inside the conference room. Pam stopped at the doorway, facing Jim hesitantly. Reaching out to him, he opened his arms to her in return and they folded into a tight hug together. Pam buried her head into his shoulder, not wanting him to leave. She inhaled him deeply, trying to soothe her fraying nerves. Murphy, who had been diplomatically standing to one to side and riffling through paperwork could wait no longer and finally beckoned her into the room apologetically. She looked back at Jim with sheer terror.

"Love you." she said somberly.

Jim grinned at her, a little flush creeping into his cheeks. "Say it again, Beesly."

Pam smiled back, her first genuine smile that morning. "I love you, Halpert."

Jim moved forward, brushing a warm kiss to her lips. "Love you more."

Then he was off, moving away down the corridor, away, away from her and she was alone in the bare little room without him.

"Let's get down to it, shall we? We're in session in fifteen minutes." Murphy said, all business. Pam nodded agreeably, feeling at that moment she could happily take on Roy, and Kenny too, and anyone else who stepped up to her.

Chapter 37 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:

Sorry for splitting the scene up.. but it is a long task and I felt it would have more impact if broken into two parts. I hadn't anticipated how complex this story would become.

About Roy's attorney - I had thought about him a lot - what kind of man is a defense lawyer representing someone like that? I couldn't make him a nice person, nor a particularly competent one. Although I felt the characterization of Thorne as a bit sleazy and mean was definitely a cliche, I just couldn't bring him to life any other way.

  

Strange faces crowded out the courtroom. For three days she had seen the same people come and go, with a healthy handful of new observers mixed in each day the trial went on. Looking to the right, through the aisle between the public seats she could see a cluster of older people dotted around. A chill ran through her at the sight of them, some winking and waving to each other as though a criminal courtroom was their old meeting place. She supposed the reason they came to the court was for some sort of entertainment. They probably went home afterwards and when they bumped into each other on the street or in the supermarkets they would gossip about who went to the wife beaters case and who was at the trial of the kid who burned down his neighbors gazebo, their very own real life Judge Judy.

The sight of such a large crowd turned her already quavering stomach. She hadn't anticipated so many people staring back at her. But then again, she had not faced the gallery before as she was now. Her momentary bravado dissolved the second the wide eyes crawled over her. Not for the first time that morning she had the urge to vomit, and the possibility that she might do so in the stand intensified the anxiety bubbling throughout her body.

She was here. Literally facing judge, jury and her almost-executioner.

And there he was, right there in front of her. For the first time since that night, since she left – escaped – him, she looked at him. He did not look angry. Of course he didn't – he looked pitiful, and that was what he wanted, had always wanted in the end, to be pitied, as if pity could subside any culpability he may have felt over what he had done. His head was bent slightly and he was whispering rapidly to his attorney. He did not look up at her.

So many faces, familiar and strange, all transfixed on her. Behind Roy sat his mom, a dark scowl tugging the corners of her mouth down. There was a whole sea of people she couldn't place sitting in the defense side of the room, except for one very familiar tuft of dark brown hair as she spotted Michael, up in the end rows, just as she figured he would be. And she noticed with surprise that there next to him, looking very uncomfortable and stiff was Dwight. Pam's dazed mind skipped over this, not fully registering their presence or the fact that they were sitting in the defense area. Of course if this was some other situation she and Jim would likely have had a good laugh over that, making up their own guesses as to why the pair of them had – presumably mistakenly – sat in the area assumed to be reserved for those who were there for Roy.

The proceedings got underway and the Judge went through the morning schedule as usual and then bang, it was all happening fast, faster and Murphy was talking, using her name, pulling her back to the courtroom. Pam cringed, shrinking back against the seat. Her heart was beating too fast, her mouth and throat dry and rough as sandpaper.

"Pam," he spoke patiently. She wondered if he had had to call her name more than once. "Some of the things I'm going to ask you about may be painful for you. Please feel free to say if you need to take a moment, okay?"

Pam nodded slightly. Murphy frowned, holding his gaze at her expectantly. Quickly she mumbled a shaky "Yes, sir." at him, blinking rapidly.

Murphy observed her a moment longer before beginning. "You and Mr Anderson had a seven year relationship, isn't that correct?"

"Yes." said Pam.

Murphy stood straight and stiff, clasping his arms against his back. "How did the two of you meet?"

"It was...uh, in the office. He was working in warehouse and I started upstairs on reception." She smiled a small smile. She wasn't really sure why. Roy had been already employed in the warehouse when she took the job. She hadn't really paid much attention to him, not finding much that made him stand out for her until he made his interest in her clear.

"As time went on, how did the relationship progress?"

She thought about it. "He… he would come upstairs and kinda… not flirt, but come up to talk to me sometimes. Eventually he asked me to go on a date with him."

"What was it that you liked about him?" Murphy asked.

"Roy was very.. direct and he seemed to really like me. He was nice to me and I thought we'd have a good time together." Pam said. She looked away from the attorney. The expression of sympathy showing on his face was almost too much for her to bear.

Murphy continued. "Where did you go on your first date together?"

Pam shifted her eyes uncomfortably and looked down at her hands. "Um… a minor league hockey game, actually."

"This was your first date, you went to a hockey game. Did you have a good time?"

Pam knew what he was driving at, they had been over this in the preparation. She'd been embarrassed then to talk about it, but now was a whole new level of shame. "It….It wasn't great...He brought his brother too." A flush crept into her cheeks.

Murphy nodded slowly. "His brother accompanied you on your first date?" he said, scratching his head.

"Yes."

"It wasn't great because his brother was there too?"

"Yeah… and," she said timidly. "Also when I went to the bathroom, the game ended and they forgot about me. They had to come back for me."

"Ouch. I'm sure that was very unpleasant." Murphy said with obvious distaste. "But you did agree to go out with him again?"

"Yes I did." It sounded ridiculous even to her, coming out of her own mouth. And why had she agreed to see him again exactly?

Murphy was thinking the same. "Why was that?"

Pam considered her answer a moment before replying. "I liked him." she said, finally. "He thought what happened at the game was funny, but he did apologize."

The mans lips pursed thoughtfully and he moved to the other side of the witness box. "And during those first few months of dating, he was good to you, he treated you well?"

Pam turned towards him. "Yeah.. I mean, he could be thoughtless but he treated me okay." She tugged at her shirt, twisting it in between her fingers.

"As things went on it was a typical relationship, you did things together, you went on dates?" He asked.

"Yes."

"Did he, say, bring you flowers?"

"Once or twice I think."

"Jewelry?"

"Not at first." Pam said.

"And his brother, did he accompany you on further dates with Mr Anderson?" Murphy said, looking curiously in Roy's direction.

"Yes, sometimes." Truthfully, she remembered Kenny being with them more often than not, something she had accepted without complaint during the early stages of the relationship although she had never truly been comfortable having Kenny there during their dates.

"So, we've established that up until a point the relationship was, for the most part normal." Murphy concluded, gazing at her carefully. "I want to take you back to the night of your boss's birthday party. Could you tell us in your own words what happened that night?"

Silence rang out through the room.

She looked around uneasily. There it was. Her breathing quickened – she knew this was the part when her testimony actually began. Her stomach rolled. "Um… we had a party in the office for Michael," she said, after a moment. "Jim and I were, were laughing about a prank and Roy got angry."

"He was angry because you were laughing with Jim?" Murphy asked.

"Yes. He said Jim was trying to… to… well, you know. And uh, he sort of came at us fast." Her eyes dropped back to her hands, twisting in her lap.

Someone in the courtroom sneezed. "What did you do when he came at you?" Murphy continued.

Pam had an urge to close her eyes. She could see everything, it was as though that night was playing out in front of her, memories on a stage. Her instinct, even back then had been to put herself in the firing line first. "I got in the middle and I tried to calm Roy down." she said, frowning. "I told him we were just laughing, but he was really mad."

Murphy straightened up, moving back to the other side of her. "You got in the middle – between Roy and Jim? Did you assume they were going to fight?"

"No." she said. "I thought he was going to hit Jim, so I got in the way of that."

"He was s– " Murphy cut off as a fierce snort exploded from Roy. Heads turned to him. Pam looked up herself, but not at Roy. She noticed the Judge, fixing Roy with a hard expression she took as a warning. He would be bristling about that, she mused to herself uncomfortably. She knew the warning signs well.

"Mr Anderson was so angry that you were laughing with Jim you thought he was going to strike him?" Murphy resumed.

"Uh…. yeah." Pam said, momentarily distracted.

"What happened then?" He encouraged.

Pam shook her head. "Roy and I went home."

"Right away?"

"Yes."

"And after you arrived at home, had Mr Anderson calmed down at all?"

She saw the concern in his face. "No." she swallowed hard. "He was still mad. But he didn't say anything in the car, we didn't talk. He was driving really fast and I didn't like it. I asked him to slow down but he wouldn't."

"Pam," Murphy said, and she heard the caution in his voice. "I appreciate this is difficult for you, but would you please describe what happened once you arrived home?"

Her whole body went rigid. Inside herself she fell silent, not finding any words to respond and she only stared with wide nervous eyes at the man. Squirming awkwardly, she roughly pushed her hands into her pockets. Even through the material of her jacket the cold seeped through as they rested against her thighs. They felt like frozen slabs of meat.

That was when her fingers closed around the smooth paper. Blinking, she felt around in her pocket and slid out the photograph. She stared at it in surprise, taking in the meaning of the picture having made its way into her pocket. Slowly her eyes lifted and moved over the front row of people, her family, settling on Jim. He smiled knowingly, a small smile meant for her alone. Understanding passed between the two of them and a small appreciative smile of her own curled the corners of her mouth. She looked at him with awe.

"I don't know what happened." Pam lowered her head. The words came to her. "We went indoors.. Roy was behind me. He closed the door and I turned around to say something, and, and he just… hit me."

Murphy squinted at her. "I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you." he leaned forward. "Would you repeat that for me?"

"He hit me."

"He hit you? If I'm understanding this correctly, you had just come through the front door of your home, and before you had a chance to speak, he hit you?"

"That's right." Pam said. Her voice shook. She could hear the sympathy growing in the attorneys own voice and it threatened to undo her.

Murphy seemed to notice this and adjusted his tone slightly. "Did he hit you with an open hand or a closed fist?"

"He… it was a punch." she said. It sounded far away from her, as though she had become disconnected from her voice.

Murphy glanced around sharply at Roy. "Where on your body did he punch you?"

"Side of my head."

"How many times?"

"Once."

"After he punched you, what happened then? Were you knocked to the ground?"

"Yeah…He.. uh… hadn't ever hit me before. I was so shocked." she said, feeling further and further away from herself. "Yes I was on the ground. It was really…. hazy…...I didn't know what had happened, how long I was on the ground, didn't know what to do or say. I think I said something like 'why, Roy'. He was yelling really loud and…" she shook her head, inhaling heavily through her nose.

Murphy's eyes flashed. "What was he shouting?"

"Something about me and Jim." She glanced solemnly down at the photo in her hand. "I didn't understand and he said that we were laughing at him and making him look like a joke in front of everyone. I remember feeling dizzy when I got up, trying to tell him it was just office pranks and that I was sorry but he kept yelling."

"And then?"

"And then….I tried to move past him to go upstairs. I wanted to go to the bathroom – I wanted to get away from him but he grabbed my arm really, really hard."

"Go on."

She grimaced at the memory. "I remember hitting the wall pretty hard. And…" her breath jumped in her throat, as a half gasp, part sob that, to her, rang out loud enough in the courtroom so that even anyone outside could hear. Her hand shook as she reached for a tissue from the box in front of her.

Murphy allowed her a moment before nudging her for a response. "What did he do then?"

Making a physical effort to keep control of herself, Pam took a mouthful of water. It tasted fishy and old, nearly causing her to gag. The next words brought up another kind of bile in her throat. "Grabbed me by the throat." she said.

"Mr Anderson choked you?" The man was disgusted. He shook his head.

"No.. not then." she said. "He.. uh just h-held me against the wall and – I'm sorry. Sorry." she finished in a whisper.

"It's quite alright, take your time." Murphy said, stepping back to his seat.

"Thank you." Pam nodded, drawing in a breath.

"Okay?" he asked. "Okay, good. If you need to take a break, we'll stop, alright? Alright. So that night, Mr Anderson – Roy –" he stabbed his thumb in Roy's direction. "Punched you, grabbed you, pushed you into a wall and put his hands to your throat and held you there?"

"Yes." Murmurs ran through the gallery. Pam kept her eyes low, her chest rising and falling heavily.

"Can you tell us what happened next?" Murphy's question floated over her.

She let her eyes close a moment. "Nothing. Nothing happened. Roy uh.. said I was to stay away from Jim, he hit the wall next to my head and then he let go."

"What did he do then?"

White-faced and red nosed and eyed, she lifted her head. "He got a beer, turned on the TV and sat on the couch like normal. I..I took a bath and I went to bed." Her voice was sounding further and further away from her, as though it was someone else speaking, and it had taken on a stuffy, nasally tone. "He came up later on. I was still awake. I think I was in shock, I was so numb. I didn't feel anything."

The worried frown that Murphy wore deepened, wrinkling his forehead. "Did he say anything when he came up to bed?"

A shiver rolled over her. That night, and countless others were clear in her memory. On her bed, knees drawn up to her chest, some part of her stinging or throbbing or just outright burning with pain, feeling cold and so alone. How many times? How many injuries? She sniffed. Her eyes were back in her lap. "He said things, things he would say every time. He said he was sorry, he never meant to do it. He said he didn't want me to leave him, because he needed me and it would kill him if I left him. He was sorry it happened but he couldn't help but getting mad when he saw me with Jim."

"Did you think his remorse was genuine?"

"He was crying." she stated simply. "I believed him."

"Did you confide in anyone what had happened?"

Guilt dropped into her stomach like a bowling ball. They were all there in the room, her family, the same question they had all asked her. "No…. I couldn't. I was ashamed that it had happened. I didn't think anyone would understand."

"During the relationship, from this point on, this type of violence became a regular pattern, is that true?"

"Yes."

Murphy looked a little sick. "The violence grew worse as time went on."

"Yes."

"Roy would hit you, er, punch you, push you, leave you with bruises and injuries?"

"He uh.. kicked me, threw things at me." she said, and shuddered. "He'd pull me by my hair. He just seemed to always be mad about something. I didn't even know what for half the time."

"Did Roy ever hit you with anything other than his fists?"

Her blood froze. Mental images swarmed her vision and she found herself breathless. It was like being caught in a trap and she looked to the attorney desperately. "Yeah." It came out a croak. "Yeah. Just sometimes... whatever was nearby."

"He'd get angry and pick up something that was lying around?"

"Yeah." her eyes were swimming.

"What sort of objects did he hit you with?"

"Like..," she said, drawing a heavy breath. "A shoe, a cup, a broom, anything."

The attorney ran a quiet hand over his mouth, contemplating her. "This abusive behavior went on for years. Prior to the week you left him for good, how many times would you estimate you sought medical treatment for injuries you had received?"

"I'm not sure. I remember a lot of times."

"What sort of injuries were you treated for?"

"Uh… broken fingers, toes. Sprains, stitches. Ribs. Muscles. Back pain. Broken wrist." Pam glanced shakily over at her mother, her heart falling to the floor at the sight of the tears on her cheeks. She looked away again.

"And all of these injuries were sustained by Mr Anderson, this man sitting right there?" Murphy said, pointing.

She barely trusted herself to speak. "Yeah." she said. Her voice came out frail, quavery.

"During the-" Murphy was saying, then Pam jolted almost out of her seat at the sound of a loud thud as something struck wood forcefully on her right, a resounding explosion that drove waves of startled terror throughout her body. Frantically she threw her hands to her head and covered her face, horrifying scenarios flooding her mind.

"Goddammit!" Roy yelled. "That is not what happened! Your honor -"

"That's enough Mr Anderson." Judge Summers rebuked sternly, standing up. From behind her hands Pam heard the nasally tones of the defense attorney imploring him to stop yelling. "Sit down, now."

"I was not the one screwing around with him, sitting right over there-"

"Stop." Thorne said, as the bailiffs approached.

"You're a liar, Pam. Nothing but a liar."

"Enough. That's enough!" The judge was losing her patience.

Roy's mom decided to enter the row. "What do you expect, your honor? She's sitting up there and everything she's saying is not the truth, what do-"

There were shouts of protest from both sides of the room, followed by the Judge's ire.

"Quiet!" she hissed. Two bailiffs stood behind Roy, waiting for an order to remove him from the court room. "Mr Anderson," she said firmly. "Control yourself, or you will be removed. Is that understood?"

There was not a sound in the room as Pam slowly lowered her hands, and tentatively looked towards the bench.

"Is that understood, Mr Anderson?" Judge Summers repeated.

"Yes, your honor." Roy said sulkily.

"If there is one word from anyone during the hearing," she now addressed the room. "One word, on either side, you will be removed and you will be arrested. I hope that's clear." Nodding at Murphy, she sat back down primly.

"Pam," Murphy began.

She did not hear him. She was not in the room. Everything in her body had come loose and turned to water. Water was coming down her face and there were waves thrashing in her head, watery fists punching at her brain. She needed to run. She needed to get out of the courtroom, away from Roy and his hands, hands that could squeeze the life out of her, literally. Away from his burning anger before she was set aflame. Her eyes closed, wet lashes clumping together. Rough fingers were around her neck, crushing her windpipe, cutting off her oxygen. No one was going to save her, no one could.

Somewhere on the other side of the sea around her Murphy was calling for a break. There were voices talking through the waves but she couldn't reach out to them, couldn't say a word, she couldn't breathe.

Then, as everything grew dim around her, the hands clutching her throat softened and melted away and suddenly they were arms, warm, comforting arms that wrapped around her whole body and she felt the cool relief of oxygen flowing into her. Carefully her eyes began to open again and the courtroom began to focus. Murphy's concerned face just in front of her. Her mom, dad, both looking stricken, unable to take their eyes off of her. Penny, her head pressed into their fathers chest, her shoulders quivering, Betsy whispering to Helene, her hand resting comfortingly on the womans forearm.

And Jim, standing, prepared to come to her as he always was. The ghost memory of being held against his chest wrapped around her, of his hug outside the conference room that had stayed with her.

And then she understood. Memories were powerful things, her bad memories dragged her to the darkest places, but her good memories held so much more strength – the good feelings would win in the end. She felt the photo in her pocket again – the photo that had become more than a picture, had become a totem between her and Jim, past present and future.

"Pam," Murphy brought her back. "Let's take a break, okay?"

Wordlessly, she stood and allowed the man to lead her back to the conference room to prepare herself to get the rest of it over with.

Chapter 38 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
Well I had a whole ton of stuff on the next part following this, and in being so meticulous at backing up what I write, I was saving this part and lost the rest... and all the stuff/reminders I'd been keeping for it for a long time... so yup. Gotta have a rethink and try to remember it all. Oh well. Sorry for all the heavy... 

Pam was back inside the witness box.

The photograph was in her pocket. She was looking past the attorney, past the gallery to the back courtroom wall in a fugue-like state, her arms squeezed tight against her sides. It was like being in the hospital room again, stripped to her underwear and poked and prodded by men with needles, trying to draw answers from her like blood. She felt naked, exposed. There wasn't a limb on her body that wasn't trembling.

It was hot and stale in the windowless courtroom and the telltale scent of wet earth told her it was raining again. Juror number three's beige mud streaked pumps bounced up and down in the corner of her eye. She wondered why anyone would ever wear beige shoes outside, it was just asking for trouble. Roy hated muddy shoes. Time and again she had walked barefoot up the drive to their home, sneakers swinging from her hand, careful not to leave a mud print anywhere that he might find it. She had learned the first time she had come indoors with dirt on her sneakers exactly how strongly he felt about clean footwear.

Looking back now, from the witness box, it seemed a trivial and petty thing to fret over but over the years she had been meticulous over such habits – keeping the carpets clean, keeping the fridge stocked with Yuengling at all times, and not ever, ever walking in front of the TV while there was a game on and a thousand other sins she could reel off at will. She had read somewhere – or maybe been told by someone – that some countries even allowed wife-beating in some circumstances, if the wife had been suspected of infidelity being one such circumstance. It was a chilling thought that a simple matter of geography could draw the line between right and wrong. She still struggled with the implications of that. It seemed to her that often the standards of right and wrong nothing to do with what was actually right and wrong. It was, in the world, whatever someone said it was or how many people believed in the right side or the wrong side. How else could she explain what had happened to her – that she was now having to convince everyone to believe her truth. Not only for herself, but for future women like her if Roy was set free without consequence or therapy for what he had done.

And yet, her future was now in the hands of twelve strangers – the six men, six women responsible for deciding who they believed, her or Roy. And who could guarantee fairness in the deliberation? Who was to say the twelve people, who would of course have lives and problems and responsibilities of their own, wouldn't make a decision based on an arbitrary reason? What if the parents among them made their decision quickly as they needed to pick up their child from daycare, or they were worried about having further time off work so they rushed the process? Or worse, what if all they did was sit and discuss how she was dressed and whether or not she was unfaithful and whether the women thought Roy was hot or not?

It was a thought that wrapped around her heart like a cold hand. After all, as Plato said, the worst form of injustice is pretended justice.

-TO-

The court was back in session much too quickly. She had desperately wanted a few minutes with Jim and her family before she had to go back, but she had stayed in the conference room with Murphy. As it was, her family were in the courtroom just feet away from her but it seemed that she was looking at them through a dozen windows. She felt so far away from them.

"Alright." Murphy resumed. "Pam, you described various injuries that you sought medical treatment for. According to your human resources representative, you were out sick from your job for almost two weeks during the summer of two thousand and six. You advised at the time that you had injured yourself in a fall, later agreeing that you may have had too much to drink which led to the accident. Was that the truth?"

She closed her eyes, shaking her head slowly "I did fall." she said softly. "But I hadn't been drinking. Someone at work joked that I must have been drunk when I fell and I agreed with them. It.. it seemed the easiest thing."

Murphy removed his glasses, wiping the lenses against his sleeve. "What did happen?"

Pam rubbed a hand underneath her eye. "Roy and I were upstairs at home and we had a fight and… he grabbed me. And I just.. ended up at the bottom of the stairs."

"Okay. Did you fall or were you pushed?" Murphy slipped the glasses back on. The room was deathly quiet, waiting for her response.

"Pushed." She said, barely moving her lips.

Murphy stepped forward, straining close. "What injuries did you come away with that time?"

"My ankle was badly sprained and I had broken my little finger." she said, coming to a stop as a sharp sniff of breath jerked her head back. Murphy looked at her steadily, the hard lines around his eyes softening, a proffered sympathy unnoticeable to anyone in the room other than Pam.

"Alright." he continued, his voice serene. "So, there were regular occurrences of violence in the relationship. How often did this happen, Pam?"

"I uh.. I… it was like anything could set it off." she said, a faraway look glazing over her eyes. "It could happen two, three times a day, or things would be calm for weeks. It felt like it was all the time because I was always expecting it."

"Did anyone ever witness Roy use violence against you?"

"I don't think so, not that I know of." she said, breathing stuffily, the pads of her fingers rubbing slowly over her throat feeling the healed skin there, an unconsciously reassuring gesture. Murphy watched her, his eyes wide and sad.

"Okay. You were also out sick from your job in April two thousand and four, for a period of almost two weeks?"

"Yes."

"Alright. What was it that caused you to be out sick that time?"

"I had come back from-" she stopped, remembering the crowd in front of her – including her Mom. It was taking a great effort for her to not only restrain her own surging emotions, and coupled with not wanting to make things harder for her family and have them upset any further she absolutely felt like she was being ripped right down the middle. How well she remember that night, and how voraciously Roy had objected her taking those few extra hours with her Mom. "Come back later than I expected from somewhere and.. um… Roy was waiting when I got home."

"How late were you?"

"A couple hours I think." she said. Her heart was thrashing wildly against her chest, and it was at that moment she found herself looking at Roy. It was the first time she had really looked at him since the trial had begun and the first time even since the day she had left him for good.

Her breath flowed out of her, leaving her airless. Words were gone. Roy was much thinner, physically, than she remembered and his face had achieved a hardness that was much more pronounced than the last time she saw him. He looked weathered and toughened, his face scarlet with rage as he scowled at her in return. Perhaps the most terrifying thing was that despite the physical changes, Roy was still extremely intimidating, even sitting in standard issue prison clothing with two officers placed nearby should he make any kind of movement towards her.

"Pam?" Murphy's tentative voice brought her back and she turned to him. His own face was kind and reassuring; much like Jim's. She nodded weakly, swiping a finger under her eye to rub at the sting there. It came away wet. "Pam. Look at me, please. Stay focused on me okay? It's just you and I talking, alright?"

She nodded again, pressing her lips together tightly. Her shoulders hitched up and down with her breath as she forced herself to speak. "I was a couple hours late." she repeated, stringing the words out through her teeth with difficulty. "Roy p-punched me. Several times. I had a broken rib or two."

She swiped a trembling hand at her eyes again, her chest heaving. Murphy looked conflicted, she half thought he would request another break but when he spoke it was to ask her another question.

"I know this is very difficult for you. So I'll try to keep it simple. Just a few more questions for the moment. The night in question, the night that brings us here to this courtroom – the night you left your fiancé for good. Could you explain what happened?"

"I wanted to leave him." she swallowed heavily. "After everything that happened and leading up to Roy and Jim getting into it that day, I went out by myself and made up my mind. When I went back home Roy wasn't there. I was relieved. I wanted to, wanted to get my things and go. I wanted him to know I wasn't coming back and so I got some things and left my engagement ring for him upstairs in the bedroom. But when I got downstairs and opened the door to leave, he grabbed me from behind and um, pushed me against the wall."

"You weren't aware he was inside the house?"

"No."

"What did he do then?"

"He yelled at me to get away from the door. He was holding me against the wall and yelling."

"So, Roy was physically holding you against the wall, restraining you from leaving the house." Murphy said carefully, screwing up his forehead trying to see it happening. "How was he holding you there? For example, were you facing him or facing the wall?"

"He had hold of my hair and he was pushing my face into the wall. And… and he was holding one of my arms back."

"And then what happened?"

Pam was silent. She inhaled through her nose, now stuffy and tight, squeezing air into her body. "It's blurry." she said finally. "I went numb when I hit the wall. I remember being on the floor and he was pulling me along the carpet by my hair. And then he left me at the other end of the hall and he starting throwing things out of my bag."

"Things you had planned to take with you?"

"Yes. I remember getting up off the floor and leaning against the wall. He was yelling that I was running away with Jim, that he was right all along about me. I think that's what he…." she shook her head and exhaled shakily. "I was so determined to leave. I just wanted to leave."

"What did you think at this point, Pam?"

Her eyes narrowed. "It – it was like it wasn't really happening. It wasn't real. I was so scared and...and -" she stopped, rubbing her fingers under her nose. The words tangled in her throat, caught in a surge of panic attacking her. She sniffed loudly, her head down. "I'm sorry." she said, through shaking fingers.

"Take your time." Murphy said, stepping back.

Pam nodded, plucking a tissue out of the box. She dabbed at her eyes and nose with it, not looking up at all. She wasn't there in the courtroom. She was back on the floor of the house she had shared with Roy, pain spiking over her scalp like shards of glass, terror seizing her muscles.

"I wanted to leave." she blinked hard. "And I was so scared, so scared and I thought he was going to kill me, but I thought, he's going to kill me anyway whether it's now or later so I told him again I was leaving and he said I wasn't going anywhere." the words tumbled out of her rapidly, the memories coming at her head on. "He hit me in the face, really really hard and then I remember him being on top of me on the floor and I was trying to fight back, trying to get him off me but he just punched me and punched me and he just kept hitting me, he was holding me by the throat and there was blood on the carpet." she cried, blinking to clear her vision.

Murphy was looking towards the judge, who in turn sat back in her seat quietly, soft eyes on Pam. Pam leaned forward wearily, resting her forearms on the hard wooden bench top of the witness box. She didn't dare look up into the room, discreetly pressing her tissue to her eyes.

"Somehow I pushed him off me," she heard herself say. Her words were jerky and disconnected. "Or I managed to get out from under him. I remember him falling over something and I managed to get up and run out."

"Thank you." Murphy said quietly. Roy snorted loudly and Pam found herself turning towards him. He was all arms and anger as he threw his hands up dramatically, muttering fiercely at his attorney. His nostrils flared, he was literally swelling with rage.

"Pam," Murphy got her attention again. When he was sure she was looking at him he continued. "You've stated here twice that Roy held you by the throat on two occasions. Your statement to the police refers to other incidents involving him choking you. Jim," Murphy gestured to him as he spoke. "stated that you had scratches and fingermarks on your neck that last night. Was the choking something that happened regularly?"

She nodded, her face feeling hot. Pressing a cold, clammy hand under her nose another sniffle escaped her. "Y-yes. When he was r-really mad sometimes he would ch- choke me."

"Alright. Thank you." Murphy paused. Conflict was scrawled over his face, between doing the job he was hired to do and the obvious compassion he was feeling displayed towards her. "So, your police statement says that you left the house, you took no possessions with you and you vomited before you hailed a passing cab. We've heard that you directed the driver to go to Jim's home. How did you feel when you arrived there?"

"Feel?" she practically gasped. "Numb. Almost completely numb. But at the same time I was terrified. I thought no one was home and I then didn't know what to do."

"Can you tell us why you went to Jim's house in particular?"

She was still, searching for the words. "It was… that morning, Jim told me he was scared that Roy could end up killing me. Roy always said me no one would ever believe me, and when I had a broken wrist, or fingermarks on my arm, most people did just believe it when I said it was an accident, like they just knew that I was that clumsy." she brushed agitatedly at her eyes. "But Jim said he was scared Roy could really kill me. And I realized that someone would believe me, someone did see what was happening."

"To have him see what was happening to you?"

"Yeah." she said slowly. "He said I could stay at his place if I wanted to leave Roy. He said he'd get me to my parents or my sister, even his parents or anywhere I wanted to go if I left. But I didn't want to see anyone or have Roy come after me there. I knew he'd come for me… so I went to Jim's because he understood, I trusted him and we'd talked about it and I knew he'd let me stay."

"Okay. So, once you are safely at Jim's house and away from Roy, you got cleaned up, you went to sleep. Can you tell us why you did not want to go to the police right away?"

"I don't.. I was confused. I was really scared and I couldn't face having to go to police and go through everything again when all I wanted to do was sleep and not think about it."

"Pretend it wasn't happening?"

"Yeah."

"Alright. So you also waited until morning before going to the hospital."

"Jim wanted to take me there but I begged him not to make me go. It was like… like I just couldn't face it, all those people, all over me knowing what had happened to me, feeling sorry, feeling judgmental.. I don't know." she touched her hand to her throat again, feeling her shoulders sag. A small sob jerked her body and she slumped forward, crossing her arms on the bench top, her head dropping to her arms momentarily before she wearily remembered where she was. The entire room was in silence, waiting on her. She exhaled slowly through her mouth, pressing another tissue to her nose.

"Okay. Pam," Murphy said. "Following all that has happened to you over the years, following the vicious assault you suffered that night, how has this impacted you on a long term basis?"

She held her breath. "How?" she said, now looking straight at him. Her hands slipped off the bench top and she shoved them between her legs. There was a wetness left behind on the oak where she had bent her head. "How has this impacted me?" she was unexpectedly bitter. "I have treatment for post traumatic stress. I wake up in the night feeling that I'm being choked and I can't sleep some nights. I have chronic pain in my lower back. There are scars on my body that I have to see every day. I lost nearly all my friends, I was distanced from my family. I get headaches. I have had to try to rebuild my entire life. I was dependent on Roy for almost everything. He controlled everything, money, where I worked, what I ate, who I talked to, who I was. Every day I ask myself what I could have done to stop it. Could I have loved him better? Couldn't I have done something? I have flashbacks that cause panic attacks. I feel guilty because I couldn't stop it, and because everyone around me has turned their lives upside down to help me." she said, feeling the anger stir within her. "So many things have changed. I have to live my life with this past I have to accept is mine and I have to live with the terror I feel that somehow he will kill me."

"You've been left in a position where you constantly fear for your life, is that what you are saying?"

"Yes. Very much." she said, and broke down.

Murphy stood looking at the quivering woman with her head in her hands sympathetically. "No more questions for the moment, your honor."

Judge Summers sat back, a sad expression on her face as she gazed at Pam. Then she called for another recess, granting the woman a few minutes respite before she had to come back to cross examination by the unpleasant defense attorney.

Chapter 39 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
She's still not done up there yet - thanks for all the reviews and nice comments. Forgive the weak attempts at humor in this one.

"Just try to stay calm, no matter what questions you're asked." Murphy said to Pam. "Take your time before you answer and remember a little silence is fine, too. It's not your job to fill in the gaps."

Saying that to Pam, who'd utilized silence as a survival tactic during the course of her life with Roy, was like telling the trees to drop their leaves in the fall. She was a pro at not answering unspoken questions – who wouldn't be when their safety was on the line?

"And," Murphy went on. "Remember – your role is to answer the questions asked of you, my role is to object to those questions. Okay?"

Pam nodded her understanding. Murphy observed her briefly before giving a quick nod of his own and excusing himself. Alone in the room, Pam sagged against her chair. Her eyelids drooped shut as she inhaled slowly, deeply through her nose, exhaling through her mouth.

"Hey," Jim said, startling her. Eyes springing open she looked behind her sharply and relaxed a little, allowing a small smile.

"Hey. What are you..."

"Heard a rumor you were on your own in here..." Jim said, smiling at her. "So here I am."

She smiled wanly. "Here you are."

"So.. uh…" He began, pulling out the chair closest to hers. He swung it round so he was sitting facing her. "Dwight has decided he has a future in the judicial system." he said.

Pam tapped her fingers ruefully on the table without looking back at him. "He wants to be a judge, I guess?" she said.

"Yes. He's stalk-" Jim coughed theatrically. "errr- shadowing Judge Summers as we speak. Think maybe I should give him some tips? You know, like to how to bow and call her Ma'am…."

"Kiss her ring, maybe?" she said half-heartedly, her eyes cast on the table.

"Oh, definitely." Jim laughed. "So, uh, you doing okay?"

He sensed the truth in her silence. "Yeah." she said hesitantly. Her head lifted tiredly. "Glad to see you. Feels like the walls are creeping up around me."

"You know, I've been thinking," he said. He waited until she turned to him. Looking in her eyes he leaned forward. "Let's make a bucket list. The places we'll go, things we'll experience. Anything we want."

She shifted slightly. "Like… things to look forward to?"

"Yup."

She looked at him without a word, her eyes dull and filmy, her mouth moving uncertainly. Then she leaned over, pressing against him and carefully rested her head on his shoulder.

"You know what," she said softly. "Life is pretty crummy most of the time and when you start thinking you have the right to expect anything from it, life goes and punches you right in the gut. No, I'd be happy with the simple things, settling somewhere where there is plenty of fresh air and I could watch the sunset every evening and not be afraid of the next day or the day after that."

Jim held a long kiss to her forehead. "Is there room under that sunset for a guy to sit beside you, you know, to bring you hot chocolate now and again, sharpen your pencils and occasionally remind you life isn't always crummy?"

The frightened gleam in her eyes softened for the first time that day. She shifted her head, nestling further into his shoulder. "Of course." she said with ease. "There'd be no sunset without him."

-TO-

The sweet moment between them was brought to a reluctant end as they were shepherded back to the court room, bringing reality crashing down around them once more.

Too soon she was back in the witness box and there stood Thorne, small and slippery, looking like he had been dunked in a vat of oil.

"Miss Beesly," he began with the nasally tone she had come to expect from him. "How are you doing?"

She glanced down, fingering the photograph that was back in her hand. "Not so good, I guess."

"Why is that, Pam?" he said silkily. "Can I call you Pam?"

Her eyes narrowed at the mans stupidity. "This is difficult."

"I understand that." He took a step towards her. His movements were light, oily and excessively ingratiating. "You obviously find it difficult to talk about your relationship with Roy."

"Yeah." she nodded cautiously. Thorne straightened up, an audible pop emanating from his person.

"In fact, you didn't want this case to go ahead at all did you?" he said, his voice smooth and sickeningly slick.

Thorne was looking at her with smug satisfaction. Already she had been blind sided by the man. She fumbled for an answer. "We- well no-"

"You thought that no one would believe you." He cut in, using the same arrogant, stuffy tone he had used when Jim was on the stand.

"Yes."

"But you're here anyway."

"Yes."

"So," he said, getting going. "You claim that Roy abused you for five years. You say he beat you, choked you, held you captive in the home you shared."

"Yes." she repeated rotely.

Thorne looked at her closely. There was a hard, unbending expression on his face that made her empty stomach sink to the floor. "In those five years you never once told anyone about this?"

"No, I didn't." Tension strained at every muscle in her body as she forced herself to look back at the man.

"Did anyone ever ask you if you were being abused in your relationship?"

Pam let the question hang for a moment. "No. Not until Jim did."

"So," the attorney flashed a sickly smile. "You never told anyone anything and no one appeared to notice anything. And after you left Roy, did you tell anyone other than Jim about this alleged abuse?"

Her lip wobbled. "Not at first, no."

"You didn't want anyone to know, isn't that correct? In fact, you didn't even want your parents to know."

"Right." She swallowed harshly. He was going at her like a verbal battering ram and she was going to cry. She was afraid if she did, this time she might not stop. She bit down on her lip, hard.

"Why was that?" Thorne said. "Were you ashamed?"

"I didn't want to hurt my mom." she said truthfully, leveling her eyes with the man.

"Is that the truth?" he countered. "Or were you afraid that she wouldn't believe you?"

The mans words caused her to blink rapidly. A metallic, bloody taste had filled her mouth. "No. I wasn't. It was just hard for me to talk about."

Thorne pounced. "But isn't that exactly what happened? Your mother didn't believe you when you told her that Roy had abused you?"

Pam could almost hear her jaw hitting the floor. Rapidly her eyes flicked to her mother, to Jim, to Murphy before coming uneasily back to the attorney. She didn't answer, running back over the previous days in her mind, trying to light upon when exactly that fact was revealed – she was positive she hadn't told even Murphy the details about the fight she and her mom had had.

"Objection your honor." Murphy interceded coolly, coming to her rescue. "Leading question."

Judge Summers didn't need convincing. She fixed Thorne with a stern look. "Counsel, would you care to rephrase your question."

It wasn't a request. Thorne hastily complied, his face impassive. The man was cool, collected – to everyone in the courtroom except Pam who was well skilled in picking up on unspoken body language and it was her experienced vision that saw the slight muscle movements that betrayed his calm facade, saw the slight clenching of his jaw, the lips squeezing together.

Thorne repeated his question.

"No, that's not what happened." Pam answered him. She carefully steered her eyes from her mothers area of the courtroom. "My mom never questioned it at all."

"But you did fight after you told her?" he strode on. "That's the truth, isn't it?"

Murphy stood up again, but before he could open his mouth the deep clear voice of the Judge addressed the defence attorney.

"Counsel, this is your second warning. Do you wish to continue examining the witness?" The threat on the surface of her words was clearly apparent to Thorne, as the man struggled to worm his way into the judge's good graces.

"Ah, yes your honor. My apologies."

Pam rushed in to answer his question. "No, that's not the truth. My mom and I had a small fight after I told her I'd left Roy. Because things got messed up, because he called her and told her all these lies-"

"Lies – you were staying at Jim's house, were you not?" he demanded.

"Yes but-"

"And did you admit this to your mother? Or did you remain deliberately vague as to your living situation?"

"No...I just wanted to talk to face to face, that was all."

"That was all?" The man mused. "I wonder if you could tell the court how many partners you have had including Roy?"

Pam struggled to find an answer. She wondered briefly what her silence meant to him, to the jury, to the room. It was the question she didn't like – it made her feel cheap and she was suddenly certain that was the intention behind it.

Murphy saved her from answering. "Not relevant, your honor."

"I assure you it is quite relevant your honor." Thorne said greasily, his lips smirking up at the corners. "The integrity of the witness is paramount to this case."

Pam's breath seized in her throat as the judge decided to allow the question. She didn't know what Thorne's endgame was but she was very much at his mercy. "Um.. altogether.. four partners."

"Excluding Roy, were any of those relationships serious?" Thorne continued. His voice rose in pitch, thin and reedy, as though he was speaking through his nose.

Pam shrugged her shoulders, trying to appear nonchalant. "Um.. just one."

"How long did those relationships last?"

She frowned, thinking back. "The first two were... one was in high school and never really got serious. The second was after high school but didn't last more than a few months. Not long after that I met Roy." She blinked as she came to a stop, realizing how succinctly he had caught her. Murphys advice replayed in her mind.

"And?" Thorne said impatiently. Pam looked at him questioningly. "The fourth partner?"

She shifted her eyes towards Murphy, who gave a reassuring nod.

"A few months." she replied after a moments pause. "So far."

A sense of satisfaction gleamed in the attorney. "So far? This would be your current relationship, correct?"

"Yes." Pam answered. She knew exactly what the man was aiming at. Keep your answers simple, Murphy had advised her repeatedly.

Thorne walked back to where Roy was sitting. The move was an obvious one, standing beside Roy in a show of unity – it was everything akin to putting an arm around him. "Pam," he spoke again, his gaze on Roy. "It's fair to say that your fiance had concerns about your fidelity, isn't it?"

"He was very jealous, yes." she responded cautiously, thoroughly disliking the man and his dirty tactics. Now by looking at the attorney, Roy was in her line of vision.

He didn't move from Roy's side, but his eyes locked on her intensely. "Would you support the conclusion that he was correct in his assumptions about your loyalty to him?"

"No." she said firmly. "I was never unfaithful to Roy."

"He believed you were having an affair with Jim, your best friend." he fired back. "Was there any truth to this?"

"No."

"No truth at all?"

"None."

"Well?" Thorne pressed. He was like a pitbull chasing the scent of a squirrel. "What about now?"

"Yes." she replied without hesitation. Just as Murphy had advised her. "We're together now."

She could have predicted a reaction from Roy – and she was not disappointed. An almost explosive snort shot out of him and she flinched back unintentionally, anticipating the second explosion she had come to learn that usually followed.

However the defense attorney's presence had a somewhat calming affect on her former fiance and he remained silent. "Roy was correct about there being something between you." Thorne prodded. "Did you have feelings for Jim while you were with Roy?"

What was she supposed to answer to that? "I- I didn't realize it until much later, after I'd left." she admitted sheepishly.

"Mmmm." Thorne hummed. "Have any of those three other partners ever hit you?"

"No."

"What do you think would drive Roy to use violence on you?"

"W-what?" she fumbled, part stunned, more disgusted by the question.

Murphy was on his feet with more than disgust hardening his eyes. "Objection!" he called in harsh tone.

Judge Summers turned grimly towards him. "Yes, counselor? On what grounds?"

Throwing his hands up, Murphy spoke calmly. "Well, frankly your honor – Ridiculous."

"Ridiculous?" she repeated.

"Exactly." Murphy said easily. "Ridiculous. The question, your honor."

"Yes counselor, I'm aware of what's ridiculous. I was referring to your choice of legal definition."

"Your honor." Thorne practically whined, obviously deciding it was the right time to seize his moment. "He can't object just because he doesn't like-"

"The witness can't be asked to postulate the defendants motivations for assaulting her. She is not a psychiatrist. The type of speculation defense is asking for cannot be unbiased nor accurate." Murphy broke in.

"Sustained." she said, turning her eyes to Pam. "Refocus your line of questioning, Mr Thorne."

Thorne looked like he was choking on the response he was trying to swallow. Swinging round he turned back on Pam. "You were with Roy for over five years. You agreed to marry him. Why didn't you leave if you were being abused? You had a job, you had money you had family, friends. Why?"

She responded in a soft voice, attempting to defend herself. "I tried to-"

"You didn't seek out alternative living arrangements. You didn't tell anyone. You stated no one asked you if you were being abused. Did you save money for the day you were going to leave?"

"I hid cash around the house." she said simply.

"Did you have a plan?"

"Yes. I wanted to leave."

"Did you look into shelters to go to?

"I did." The man was relentless. She felt the beginnings of anger start to slip through the cracks in her fragile composure. She glared at the attorney, willing herself to remain calm.

"Did you inquire at any of these shelters if there was a place for you?" he continue to push.

"No."

"What about your visits to the hospitals for your injuries? Did you make enquiries there as to help available for battered women?"

"No." A bright flare of pain seared across her bottom lip as she mashed her teeth down, hard. Water sprung into her eyes.

"Because you didn't tell them did you?"

"No." she shot back, hurt by the question. Blood flowed into her mouth, salty and warm.

Folding his arms, he leaned back casually against the desk. Pam could see he thought he had her on the line, right where he wanted her. Positioned next to Roy, as he was, she couldn't see a whole lot of difference between them at that moment. Thorne waved his hands languidly as he spoke, affecting a carefully confused tone. "Didn't any of the doctors or professionals you saw ask you how you were injured, spot the signs of abuse?"

"Yes."

"Yes they did ask how you came to be injured?" he said incredulously. "And what did you tell them? For example, this broken wrist you had – what was your explanation to the hospital staff?"

"I said I fell." she rubbed her eyes, trying to unblur her vision.

Thorne smirked arrogantly. "You fell? You told the staff you were injured in a fall. Did you continually and intentionally deceive the doctors about your injuries over the years?"

"Yeah… but-"

"So, you agreed that you lied to the staff about your injuries." he said, speaking so rapidly she didn't have a chance to object. "Have you been completely honest with this court so far this afternoon, Pam?"

She looked back at him, stunned as well as hurt. "Everything I've said has been truthful, sir."

"Really?" he raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "I asked you if anyone had ever asked if you were being abused. You answered no. Yet here you are telling us you had a team of doctors and staff asking you this very question over the years."

"No – I thought you m–"

Thorne overrode her, stepping forward. Behind him Roy smugly pursed his lips. "Are you being truthful with the court about why we're here today, Pam? Is it the truth that this man, your fiance, who you agreed to marry, abused you physically?"

"Yes!" She felt her voice raise for the first time in the courtroom. Rubbing hastily at her eye with the heel of her hand, she sniffed loudly, her nose stuffy, desperately fighting to stay calm.

Murphy also stepped forward. "Objection."

It was as if the prosecutor hadn't spoken at all, Thorne simply continued his diatribe against her. "Which is it Pam? You lied to people about how you got your injuries, you didn't tell anyone – or you are lying to us today. Which is it?"

"Objection!" Murphy declared loudly. Pam wondered how he managed to stay so composed when dealing with men like Thorne and Roy. "Your honor, argumentative."

"Sustained." the Judge pointed to the defense attorney. "I don't like that Mr Thorne – I won't have these hollywood antics in my courtroom. I'm giving you a chance to rephrase, understood?"

Through the excessive greasy apologies of the man to the judge, Pam wavered, looking blurrily around the courtroom, her cheeks burning and sticky with drying tears – tears she had fought so hard to keep inside her eyes. She found herself looking at Roy, who was carefully watching the debacle between the attorneys and the judge. Looking at him, with his thick stubble amassing his chin and upper lip, his thinner, but still bulky appearance something caught in her throat. She didn't know whether it was anger or sadness or a fusion of the two, but it was his expression that began to stoke the rage she was starting to feel. That expression; the hurt, sad expression she had seen too many times. The 'victim' expression was what she had come to know it as – the look that signposted to everyone that he was the injured party, he was the one who had been wronged, he had been the victim of a cruel, hard life.

That he could pull that off in a courtroom, that he could still pull that off right in front her, when they both knew what he had done to her. It was outrageous! Roy, a victim? For so long she had believed that he was the wronged person, not her. He was no victim. Her dad was right. Roy was going to hear it from her.

"Pam. Moving forward," Thorne said with reluctance, bringing her attention back to the room. "What was your relationship with Roy like over the years?"

Something strange was happening inside of her. She was burning up but not with a fever. An energy was possessing her – an energy she hadn't felt in so long, so many years and months of numbness. Bright, red, hot rage was stirring within her. "What was it like?" she said, her voice raised above the meek, timid tone she had been using so far. "Sometimes it was good, and then it was really really good between us. It started out good but then it the bad began to overtake that. It was living through hell."

Thorne looked taken aback, clearly not anticipating her sudden turn in emotion. "Ah. What was your sex life with Roy like, Pam? Was it compatible, active? Exciting? Regular?"

She blinked, raising her eyebrows, disgust drawing over her face. "Umm. Yes. Regular." she threw the words out quickly.

"You were compatible sexually, the relationship was healthy that way?" he prodded again.

Her face whitened. She took a long time searching for the right way to respond, that felt right to her. To tell the truth was not an option, even if it weakened her case. She couldn't do it. Her heart was in her throat, along with a scream she suddenly wanted to let loose. She looked down at her clothed body, feeling the layers and layers of filth grow back over her – layers that belonged to Roy – not her. She didn't understand that before but being there, in the courtroom – it became clear. Those layers of filth belonged to him. They were not part of her. Every time Jim touched her, he was not plunging through thick coatings of dirt from Roy – he was touching her, clean and whole. Whatever she said right then would not change that. She raised her head.

"Yes. We were compatible like that." she said in flat voice.

"So the relationship-"

"– However I didn't often enjoy it." she broke in, making a clear point. With a great deal of courage, and spurred on by her new found anger she lifted her head even higher and turned to Roy. Her tormentor, her abuser. They locked eyes. His face was turning a dark shade of red, making his eyes – once so fearsome – look small set back in his flushed face. She could see his chest expanding and shrinking rapidly. This was Roy when he was furious. Whatever it was, it did not have the hold on her it used to – at least not that day. She stared at him, eyes narrowed, a power struggle between them – a fierce tug of war. The whites of her eyes began to burn, as they stared each other out and then, the once unthinkable happened.

Roy looked away. He looked down.

She couldn't believe it. She felt a sense of triumph flood over her that was completely foreign. She looked him over, his bowed head and felt nothing but pity at that moment. There were no winners between them.

She turned away from him. Thorne was asking her something but the words were lost on her. Her eyes, blurry with tears sought out Jim. There he was – always on her right side, by her side. His eyes were bright, emotional, and proud and she knew that he understood what had happened. Reassuringly he nodded to her with a small half grin. She wanted to hug him desperately at that moment. She was free of Roy. Whether he was convicted or not, whether she still dreamed of him or not, whether she ever saw him again after this day – it didn't matter. She would continue to heal. She would have her good days, her bad days. She would be forever tied to Roy in some way – but she was free of him. It was liberating.

Chapter 40 by OfficeWriter

The defense attorney was relentless – he had a keen instinct for exactly the soft areas to poke and pry at to twist her response to suit his agenda. This man was not interested in the truth. What actually happened was not a factor for him – it was what he could make believe happened that was his driving motivation.

She kind of felt sorry for him, ridiculous as he was – in her opinion there were definitely more dignified ways to make a living.

And looking back at Roy once more, his head bowed and his hands pressed together, she thought there really wasn't much difference between the two men. Aggressive, lying, abusive men – that was who they both were.

They couldn't hurt her anymore. Not any more than she had been. The worst had been done to her and she had survived it. She was alive. She was in love – for real, for the first time in her life. A love that was not reaped from seeds of fear – but actual love. She had a future. She had something to fight for. Her future; their future. Jim wanted a future with her. How many times, how many ways had he indicated that he saw them together for years to come?

She was beginning to see it too.

Nothing that was said or done in the courtroom that day mattered any more – not in the long run. The end goal was getting Roy out of her life for good – physically at least. She took her eyes off of him and looked back at the defense attorney. Curiously he was heading right out of left field this time.

"The first few months you were dating," Thorne was saying. "How did you feel towards Roy?"

She considered the question, tilting her head. "Truthfully…" she began, with some trepidation. "Truthfully I.. was overwhelmed. I thought he was...well… amazing. He was the kind of guy I never thought would look at me once."

He tapped his fingers against his lip. "Did you feel comfortable with him?"

"Yes, for the most part, I did. In the beginning."

"What was it that you found amazing about him?" That obnoxious look was back on his face, the look that said plainly that she was a liar and that he had no time for liars. She involuntarily crinkled her nose.

"At first he treated me like I was special," she said. "And I felt special because of it. Even when he left me places and forgot about me. He never wanted to be around anyone else, unless it was his brother."

Thorne crossed his arms. "So when did your feelings toward him change?"

"Um," she said, looking to Murphy for reassurance. "I don't really understand the question."

"In your statement to the police you stated–" Thorne half shrugged and fished through papers on the desk. "Excuse me – this is what you said –" He cleared his throat. "You said 'I hadn't been in love with Roy for a long time, I was just afraid of him."

Her cheeks reddened. "Oh…" It felt like one of the most intrusive things Thorne had asked of her so far. She struggled to respond. She shifted her eyes to the public crowd sitting in front of her, but the weight of all eyes directly on her so uncomfortably forced her to return her attention to Thorne. "I'm not sure…. It wasn't all of a sudden, it was a gradual thing."

Thorne paused and looked at her with barely concealed contempt. "So, allow me to ask, why is it that you agreed to marry him?"

She pressed her hand to her throat. "Roy.. had that side when we first started dating, a nicer side." she swallowed. "He promised me over and over things would be better once we were married. He said he needed me."

"I see. You were unhappy – you say you were being abused, but you still agreed to become his wife."

"Yeah." She said. It was getting hard for her to keep her voice level and patient.

"And you made plans for a wedding, although you hadn't set a date. You had selected a venue, a band, you even discussed honeymoon destinations. Why did you do that?"

"We were engaged. I thought we would get married."

"But did you at anytime ever tell Roy, or anyone else, that you didn't want to marry him?" he asked.

"No." she said honestly. She almost willed herself to glare back at the man and his fake smile. She was finding a very passionate hate emerging inside her for that plastered on smile he wore. It was like he was sending her a private message – you're a pain in the ass but I can't tell you that, so have a big fat fake smile instead.

"The night of your boss's birthday party." Thorne said, suddenly changing lanes. "Could you tell the court please, once more, what happened when Roy saw you and Jim laughing together at the reception desk?"

Pam was confused, but mentally shrugged and complied with the request. "Um...We were laughing about pranking Dwight and Roy got mad, came over to us and I thought he was going to hit Jim."

"And you got in the middle of that, as you told Mr Murphy."

"Yes, I did." She resisted an urge to add a reminder that she had already repeated this fact as had both Jim and Toby, not to mention Dwight.

"Because you thought he would hit Jim." He said smugly, looking at her through narrowed eyes.

"Yes."

Pausing, he brought a curled finger to his lips. "Mmm." he said. "So, it was Jim his anger was directed towards? Not yourself?"

Pam was visibly taken aback. "Uh… I guess at that moment…"

"At no time did he strike Jim?"

"No."

"So would you say Roy is capable of controlling his anger?" he pressed.

"No, I wouldn't say that exactly." Her mind suddenly became sharp. "I would say he's capable of restraint when he wants to. I would say that when Roy is angry that's the warning sign. It's when he's in a rage that he can't control himself."

"Was Roy ever disciplined for, say, punching a colleague? Ever arrested for assault to your knowledge? Other than to yourself, of course."

"No not to-"

" – The answer is no, he hasn't ever been arrested or accused of assault before. But you say-"

"I say it because he did it." she replied firmly.

"You've told the court how you left Roy, that you went to Jim's home that night and how you feared for your life, that you didn't want to go to the police. Yes?"

Pam stared at him. "Yes."

"Why was that?" He challenged. "Why did you clean yourself up before going to the hospital or police?"

They glared at each other across the witness area. Pam answered his question, her expression not changing. "I was scared. I was confused. I had a concussion. I can't tell you what I was thinking that night."

"That's right." Thorne seized on her words. "But you knew enough to know you didn't want to go to the police?"

"I was injured, I was in pain and I was terrified!" she flinched and drew back, suddenly remembering the full room – all of which were watching her, listening to her.

"Okay." Thorne said coolly. "Have you ever used violence towards Roy?"

She rubbed at her forehead. "The night I left." she said, speaking clearly. She would swear the attorney was five steps closer to her than he had been a moment ago. "Not before, not after."

"What did you do to him?"

"What did do to him?" she repeated, appalled. "What did to him was that I tried to kick him off of me when he was on top of me on the floor, I tried to hit him to make him let go of me because he was hurting me. I scratched his neck because he was trying to choke me. That's what I did."

Thorne jumped clear over her words and straight into another question that sounded like an accusation. "Was Roy injured during this fight?"

It was all she could do not to openly snort at the man. "I think he might have bled when I scratched him. Other than that I really don't know."

Thorne turned a nasty expression on her. "So, you were both on the ground, fighting -"

"Hey - he was trying to kill me!" She objected hotly.

"Roy isn't on trial for murder." he reminded her.

"Only because I got away." she shot back.

A note of hysteria had crept into her voice and she drew away from the man. Now it seemed to her that he was standing so close to her that she could pull on his tie if she stretched her arm a little.

"Were you angry at him for not marrying you, for keeping such a long engagement?" he asked.

"No."

"But everything was going along as expected, you had good jobs together, you shared a house, you were compatible sexually, you were even engaged – why wouldn't you be upset about it?"

"I wasn't." she said. She saw it that time, the small step towards her. She hadn't been imagining it. She pressed her fingers together in her lap, feeling the cold skin seep through her skirt. Twisting her hands against each other, she rubbed away at the numbness in the tips of her fingers.

"Objection." Murphy called out, clear and soft. His voice cut through the hostility, a cool calming presence. He stood up.

"Mr Thorne." Judge Summers barked not a second later.

"Your own mother doubted you at first and you didn't tell her the truth – " Thorne continued as though the Judge hadn't spoken. Pam flinched once more, red in the face. She was angry. She was scared. She was also starting to think this man had some sort of personal vendetta against her.

"No, you listen!" Pam's eyes were blazing. Her voice raised above the Judge's, who was summoning the attorney to the bench. "He attacked me, he tried to kill me, he all but kept me locked away for over five years! He's perverted and he's wired wrong and I'm telling you if I hadn't got away from him that night I might not be here now!"

"Are you quite sure, Pam? Your m– " Thorne said, closer still. Judge Summers was standing then and shouting something across the room. It was at this moment Roy jumped to his feet, yelling furiously. His face had gone from dark red to a swollen, shiny mess; rather like an overripe tomato.

"Step away from the witness immediately." the Judge said, her voice hard and sharp. She turned towards the two officers who had been stationed by the middle side door and were moving quickly forward.

"Yes! I am!" Pam could smell the mans breath now. Sticky, sour and revolting. Small pools of spittle were dotted haphazardly on the witness box front bench. Pam looked at him with disgust, her voice raising. "I have told the truth. Nothing can change the truth and the truth is that Roy is abusive, he's mean and he's a danger to women!"

"Are you kidding me?!" Roy let out a furious roar from the deep of his throat, guttural and harsh. Pam reflexively scrambled to her feet and turned to him, her hands rising together over her chest. "I'm not a danger to anybody! You tell them, Pam! Say to everyone right now you're lying!" he shouted at her, shaking off the two officers grip on his forearms. Spit flew everywhere. Pam froze, staring at him with wide eyes. His face, his eyes, were wild and chaotic with unbridled rage. This was the Roy of that night, this was the image that she saw when she went to sleep – those hard, uncontrolled eyes, fury exploding all around them; uncontainable, unstoppable.

"Take him away, take him out of here now." Judge Summers repeated to the officers. Later Pam would be amazed at the woman's ability to remain so calm. And then Roy did exactly what she had known he would do – he lunged towards her. It was a move so agile and with as much force as he could muster he almost got away from the officers. Almost. Pam squeezed her eyes shut, scampering backwards until she collided with the dock behind her with a forceful thump. A hot flare of pain shot upward from her lower back.

"I'm a good man!" Roy shrieked from somewhere further away on her right. Thorne was standing in front of her, blocking her view of the officers manhandling Roy out of the side door. "I treated her right! This ain't right!" Roy wailed as he was pushed none too gently through the exit.

Pam, still pressed against the wall, looked to Thorne with shock, surprised to find the mans face nearly mirrored her own. She couldn't believe what had just happened. Again. The noise in the room swam around her like a stormy sea and she shook her head disorientedly. The Judge was calling for quiet in the room.

"Officers." she said. Two more officers had approached the bench – and it suddenly became clear to Pam why there were so many officers stationed around the room.

"Take him out too." the judge said clearly. The men moved to the witness bench to seize Thorne. "Remove him from the courtroom immediately." she repeated.

"What? Your honor-" Thorne said, shrugging out of the officers grip on his arm.

"Now, officers." The judge repeated firmly, sitting herself down again. "Take him away."

Pam didn't move from her position against the wall, quite thankful for the support it offered. Her upper thighs were trembling and she didn't know if she was supposed to sit down again or what she was supposed to do, but she wasn't sure if she stepped away from the wall that her legs would not give way. She felt terribly exposed, standing in front of the crowded room, her family, strangers. Her legs wanted her to fall down if she moved, her legs wanted to run, to take her away from the eyes riveted on her.

"Ms Beesly." the judge said calmly, having waited until the two men were gone from the courtroom. "I apologize on behalf of the defense and counsel. I would like to thank you for your composure and dignity during your testimony today. I appreciate this was difficult. We are going to adjourn until Monday morning."

The judge continued to speak but Pam heard little of it. All she took in was that she would be out of there in a moment, away. She could shut herself away from everyone. She could try to sleep and not think about anything.

It was only as people began to file out of the room that she realized they had been dismissed. She made to move away from the wall and there was Murphy as she turned, holding out his hand to help her down off the stand.

"Don't be too discouraged." he told her as she successfully navigated the step. "What happened just now was pretty unusual. Both the defendant and the counsel being removed. You were very credible, you held yourself very well."

"What happens Monday?" she said in a tired voice. Murphy pushed his lips together and nodded thoughtfully.

"Defense co-counsel will most likely take over. I doubt Mr Thorne will be allowed back in the courtroom, at least not on this case."

Pam sighed through her nose, feeling thoroughly exhausted. She thanked Murphy, in what sounded like someone else's voice, and turned, almost colliding with Jim. Startled, she looked up at him.

"Beesly." he said, sounding as shattered as she felt. Then he hugged her to his chest. "God, Pam. He's a madman." She heard the crack in his voice and shuddered against him. "Absolute madman." he mumbled into her hair. She didn't say a word in response, she just let him hold her and then, putting an arm around her, lead her out of the courtroom.

-TO-

Her mom fell on her as soon as they stepped outside. After a moment of consenting to allow her mom the comfort, she gently tried to ease out of her grip. Then her dad was bearing down on her and it was all too much, the pleading questions, wanting to know if she was alright and how she was doing and wanting to talk about the lawyers and Roy when all she wanted to do was let it go until Monday. Finally she began to plead her excuses, she was tired and wanted to go and would talk to them later. Finally after another smothering hug from her dad, she was able to break free and make her way to Jim's car.

Helene was right behind them. "I'll walk with you." she said, not waiting for a response. Pam didn't give her one.

"Do you want me to come back with you?" Helene said, when Jim was unlocking the car.

Pam winced at the idea – and then forced a small smile to her face, for Helene's benefit. "No, Mom, really. I'm sure you're tired too and want to go home for the weekend."

"Oh, no honey, we're not going to leave you here. We'll stay until all this is over. C'mon, I'll make you both some dinner."

"It's really okay, Mom." she said, wincing once more. Food was the last thing she wanted right then. "Really, I just want to get some sleep tonight. I'll call tomorrow." she added.

Helene looked doubtful. "Well, if you're sure. You'll call if you need anything, right?"

"Really mom," Pam said, reaching her limit. "Stop worrying." Then she burst into sudden tears.

"I'm sorry, mom." she cried into her shoulder. "I'm so tired, mom, I'm so so tired."

"I know." Helene said sympathetically. "I know, honey."

When Pam drew back from her, Helene handed her a small pack of tissues and gently pushed the damp curls from her face. "Sometimes I forget you're all grown up now. You go back home with Jim, and get yourself some rest. Call if you need anything, either of you, okay?"

Pam stepped forward and softly hugged her again. "Love you, Mom." she whispered.

"To the moon and back, Pammy." Helene smiled tearfully at her daughter, and then helped her into the car.

- TO-

It was in the soft lamplight later that evening she understood. On the way home Jim had asked her no questions. Indoors he remained quiet about the day, instead talking to her about mundane things and a prank he was planning for when they were both back in the office, which raised a half hearted chuckle from her.

Then she was sitting curled up on the couch next to him, he sat, arm dropped loosely around her shoulders, saying little. He had put the Breakfast Club on for her as neither felt much like making the trip upstairs, despite their shared exhaustion.

Pam was quite content as her head lolled against his shoulder, to sit peacefully beside him and grateful he hadn't fussed around her like her family had. And she was more than grateful that he hadn't spoken of anything at all from the courtroom that day, or Roy or the case itself since they returned home.

This was so typically Jim and something she loved so much about him – he just knew what she needed. Somehow he knew when she needed to talk and when she didn't want to and he respected that. And in his own, typically Jim way he did it while still being there for her, letting her know he was there, without words – like putting on one of her favorite movies and simply letting her curl up against him and rest there.

Her parents meant well, she knew that. But Jim understood her a little better, and he understood that sometimes silence said a whole lot more, and that was exactly what she needed.

Chapter 41 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
Sorry, filler chapter. Have had a complete block so I needed to put away the legal stuff for a chapter to see if it helped. Not really but anyway.

"The rain's stopped." she commented, looking detachedly through the front window of the cabin. Her right index finger tapped idly against her knee, drawn tight up against her chest. Jim barely stifled a yawn, half heartedly stretching his arms upwards, then dropped on to one of the plush seats opposite her.

"It's getting dark early tonight." he said.

"Yeah." she mumbled thoughtfully. The clouds were moving fast, shifting and tiny beams of sunlight were sneaking through. "I'm pretty tired of all this rain."

She fell silent, watching the branches of the giant pine trees gently bending in the breeze. The pit of her stomach gnawed at her as she tried to push the memories from the last week out of her mind. As relaxing as her current view was, she still wasn't entirely certain that they had done the right thing, spur of the moment as it had been.

Or had it truly been a spontaneous impulse? Part of her suspected Jim had thought this up some time ago and had picked his moment. The plans had come together rather quickly. She had looked at him like he had lost his sanity at first when he suggested it, thinking the whole idea potentially damaging on behalf of her reputation in her case against Roy. But as Jim vigorously told her, it wasn't like they were leaving the country.

"We aren't even going outside of Scranton," he pointed out.

"What if the attorney wants to meet or something? Won't it look bad?" she had worried.

"We can be back here in an hour. Besides, nothing's gonna happen over the weekend, Beesly."

She had resisted, almost routinely, but then he had smiled that smile, the slightly lopsided, puffed cheeks smile that reached all the way up into his eyes and then the battle had been over and her bag packed.

It certainly was a secluded place– and even more to her liking it was quiet. The peaceful area and the slightly cleaner air gave the illusion of being away, further away than they were. The sweet, sharp piney odor was refreshing and already she felt her knotted muscles relaxing.

"Let's go outside." she said, to Jim's surprise.

"Outside?" he rubbed his chin. "All the way out? I don't know Beesly. That's a pretty big step. Maybe we should think it over first."

Pam rolled her head to her right, raising her eyebrows in mock exasperation. "You think you could commit yourself to coming for a walk with me?"

Sliding a hand over his mouth, Jim yawned with exaggeration. "I'll do it." he said, grinning lazily. "I'll come with you. For protection."

"Protection, okay.." she shrugged nonchalantly, getting up from her seat. "What are you going to protect me from?"

"Protection, for me." he laughed. "Urban legends Beesly. Don't wanna be that guy in the cabin in the woods alone in the dark who goes out to investigate a strange noise and never comes back."

Pam suppressed a giggle and attempted to look serious. "Come on, nerd." she teased, tugging at his sleeve. "Don't worry I'll look after you."

"You better Beesly."

Together they put on their jackets and stepped out of the cabin door. The night had fallen and the trees were lined up as enormous silhouettes against the dark sky.

"Try not to scream like a girl if any snakes or bears or boogeyman show up." Pam said playfully, slipping her hand into his much larger one.

"What about the Scranton strangler?" Jim responded, straight-faced.

"Well you wouldn't know he's the Scranton strangler until he's got you by the throat, at which point you wouldn't be able to scream."

"The Scranton strangler – " he began, stopping as they both broke up. Their sudden burst of laughter sent a flock of birds flying out of a nearby tree as though it was on fire. They stumbled forward, both enjoying the sound of each others happiness, their laughter weaving together in the quiet night. Pam's joy began to dwindle first as she let go of Jim's hand to wipe at her eyes, her thoughts turning dark again. She had forgotten for a minute, allowed herself to forget.

Jim seemed to sense the change in mood. Turning to Pam he reached out and closed his fingers over hers once more, gently tugging her hand away from her throat where she had been tracing the soft flesh there.

"Let's go downtown. Wanna check out that new food place, which has the bar and the games inside?"

A quick pull on his hand signified her enthusiasm for the idea, and she happily ambled alongside of him, her nervousness over their weekend getaway waning with each step and the warm feeling of her hand in his.

- T0 -

The bar-arcade-restaurant was busy, yet it was a relaxing kind of busy where the diners were all occupied in either playing, eating or socializing at the bar.

"This was a great idea." she said, daintily wiping her fingers on a napkin.

"Definitely." Jim agreed, around a mouthful of grilled cheese.

Pam got up to get them each another drink. At the bar she looked back at their table, smiling fondly at the windswept hair and relaxed manner that Jim was lounging back against the seat. "So," she began, setting a full to the brim glass down in front of him. "So, tell me something."

Jim looked at her curiously. "Give me a clue, Beesly."

"When did you come up with the idea of this weekend getaway?"

"A while ago, actually." Jim looked sheepish. "But when we were in the holding room and you said that you wanted fresh air and to see the sunset… maybe it's just for the weekend…"

"Sampling the dream, right?"

"Yup. How's it stacking up?"

She smiled, her eyes clear and warm. "I love you for it."

Jim looked down, his cheeks turning slightly pink. Then, he cocked his head to the left at the red and black gaming table bearing the words fast track. "Loser buys breakfast?"

Pam uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, gulping back her drink until the glass was empty. She stood up. "Pancakes and eggs and lots of coffee."

"What?"

"What I want for breakfast tomorrow. Better get up early, Halpert." she said, picking up one of the red strikers from the center of the game table and then positioning herself at the end goal nearest the wall.

Jim plucked up a blue striker, laughing. "Bring it, Beesly."

Pam whooped as she shot the first goal. She was having much more fun than she'd expected to – whether the wine had loosened her up or the fresh air or just being away from home, something was working. And, as they shot the puck back and forth between them, playfully insulting each others skills of the game, she felt a strongly growing gratitude to Jim for caring so much about her – for loving her enough to want to make her happy and take her mind away from everything. She was beginning to understand that he truly did love her, no matter how hard that was for her to accept - her who had had love measured and used against her like weaponry throughout her time with Roy. Her, who had learned that love could be given and taken away at will for the smallest of infractions.

"Bank shot!" Jim called out, nodding appreciatively as she shot her second goal.

Pam threw him a look of amusement. "A what?"

"A goal scored off the corner. Neat, Beesly."

She laughed and half-shrugged at him. "You're just making these rules up, right?"

"Nope. And you've never played before, right?"

"Nope."

She shot the puck like a woman possessed. She couldn't remember when she felt so relaxed, had so much fun. Maybe the wine was going to her head, whatever it was that was making her feel giddy and almost deliriously unrestrained, she knew that it was only temporary. Monday would come and they'd be back in the stuffy courtroom listening to two strangers argue about whether or not she was telling the truth. Back in the same room with Roy, the four walls she had finally escaped, would be closing in around her again by tomorrow night.

"Goal!" she yelled, then whooped again. Jim leaned forward against the table, not even trying to hide his mirth.

"Are you drunk, Beesly?" he gasped between peals of laughter.

"Hey!" she objected. "I can win without being drunk. So suck it."

When they finally left the restaurant, tired and merry, it had grown fully dark outside and there was a gentle breeze in the air, slightly cloying, with no sign of the earlier rain that had come down mercilessly.

"I think it's gonna be a big breakfast tomorrow, Halpert." she teased. The end of the game had been very close, with her edging out over him with another shot off the wall that flew unstoppable into his goal. She giggled as they trudged back through the grass to their cabin.

"Enjoying this, aren't you?" Jim smirked and turned around, walking backwards.

"Yup."

"Worth it."

"Huh?"

"That look on your face. You look so… relaxed and happy. Totally worth it."

"Goofball." she nudged him gently with her elbow as he righted himself beside her. "I do appreciate all the things you do for me, you know. Big and small."

"I know." He stopped still, fishing in his pocket for the keys to the cabin.

"Wait." she called, causing him to stop and turn to face her. Pressing her hand into his again she looked up at him, her eyes wide and pleading. "Let's stay outside a while. I want to be outside."

Something in her tone caused him to frown at her. "You okay?" he said slowly.

"I just don't want to go inside yet. Please. It feels like forever since I've been outside." she struggled to explain. How could she explain the utter darkness she had lived under for so long, being in a cage none the less. How could she explain that right there and then it felt like they were far away from home, from Scranton even, although they were only up at the lakes. Not even far enough away to technically be called a vacation but that she felt free for the first time in a long time and she didn't want to lose that feeling.

Jim rubbed her arm reassuringly, then went ahead and unlocked the door. Pam stood on the porch, absently shifting from one leg to the other. Within seconds he had returned, carrying a large cream colored blanket.

"It's not cold out here." she pointed out.

"It's to sit on." he clarified, shaking out the blanket. Pam caught hold of the end and they spread the blanket on the ground – settling for a particularly grassy area beside a hedge under the shadows of the giant pine trees. The spot they had chosen was almost directly opposite the cabin door and Pam flopped down on to the blanket, rather ungracefully. Jim snorted a little in amusement before sitting down next to her.

She drew her knees up, looking around her with quiet wonder. She felt like a child out in the night for the first time, like she was looking out into the world with a new pair of eyes. She felt fresh and new. Everything was bold, green, coming to life right in front of her. She ran her hand through the cool grass, letting the soft blades fan through her fingers.

"It's so beautiful out here." she said, breathing in the natural scents around her. Seconds later she felt the warmth of Jim's lips pressing against her hair.

She loved it when he did that. It was something unique in a relationship for her and it made her feel special. There was something intimate, something protective about it, they way he held on to the kiss like he didn't want it to end. She felt herself leaning into him, and her head falling on to his shoulder.

"Jim…" she said quietly.

"Yeah?"

She looked up at the sky, a beautiful, thick glittering roof over their heads. Several moments passed quietly.

"I don't know if this is worth it anymore." she said, her voice trailing off into a whisper. She could feel Jim's eyes turn on her in the dark as she said nothing else. Moments later his arm slipped around her shoulders.

"Roy?" he said instinctively. She couldn't help the small smile that tugged at her lips as he waited patiently for her to respond.

"Yeah."

"I know you don't really believe that, Beesly. I know you need to see him put away for everything he did to you."

She lay still and limp against him. She knew he was trying to comfort her but it was difficult for her to explain her fears. "It's just so….. hard. I'm not strong enough." she said wearily.

"Beesly." Jim said. "Do you really want to do this to yourself again?"

"No." she conceded, shaking her head against his shoulder. "But I just don't want to do this anymore. Why can't I just put it all behind me?"

"That's not the way it works, love." he pressed another kiss to her hair. "Hang in there, just a little while longer, okay?"

Idly she plucked a strand of grass up between her fingers. She couldn't find the words to explain how she felt and it frustrated her. "Sometimes I don't think I can."

"Hhhmmm." Jim's voice was low, and blessedly calm. "You know, I remember a girl who came to my door with nothing but the clothes on her back and bruises all over her body. Her feet were bloody and raw but she still walked away. They must have hurt like hell but she still walked away on them and came to me."

Pam sighed carefully, taking in his words. "You know what I wish – I wish I was eighteen again and young and naive enough to believe that the world is a good place, and I'd go out every night to bars and clubs and to Chili's and feel safe and not think twice about getting drunk or making a fool of myself. I'd have a lot more fun. I'd believe in a happy future and make better choices for myself."

"Yeah, that getting old really sneaks up on you, doesn't it." he mused.

"It's scary how quickly it all just disappears. Suddenly you're feeling old and all the plans you made, the dreams you had are gone." she said softly, her eyes drifting aimlessly over the grass.

"We can have all that again you know. Once this is all over."

She thought about that. She knew Jim wanted to reassure her but her recent spirits had sunk again along with her energy and she couldn't share his optimism.

"I... I thought I'd have a lot more out of life by this age. I think I'd make different choices if I could do it all over."

"What about Roy?"

"There is no Roy." she said firmly. "Roy doesn't exist in this do-over."

"Let's do it." he said, shifting on the blanket. "Once this is over, we'll redo everything. Start from scratch. Put it all in the past."

"Best future ever." she mumbled, feeling decidedly happier for the time being – for however long her rapid cycle of emotions would let her stay happy, anyway. She pulled herself into a sitting position and leaned into Jim, rewarding him with a long kiss to the mouth. His body softened over the welcome affection and she began to brush the tips of her fingers lightly over his jean clad thighs, prodding away the loose blades of grass that had mounted there, with a little help from herself. Jim sat back on his elbows not speaking while her fingers removed the offending stains from his clothes. His eyes were full of wonder and want for her. She knew what she was doing.

Pam did know exactly what she was doing when the grass was gone and her fingers continued their work, dancing enticingly high up his thigh towards the center of him, relishing the feeling of his body loosening under her hands, relishing the effect she was having on him.

And she knew what she was doing when she leaned forward and kissed him again – longer this time, slowly, seductively caressing her lips against his. Then she was lying on the grass and her hands were clutching at his back and her breathing was hard and fast and sharp. Above her was the sky, the stars burning bright as candles. Jim flowed into her and the hurt began to drive out of her, there under the long hanging needles of the pine trees. All thoughts of Roy and court and the past ebbed away, dissolving dark and blank as the sky until they were gone completely and she felt nothing but the moment she was living in.

Chapter 42 by OfficeWriter
Author's Notes:
Oh what a struggle this has been. It's not a good chapter... it was really tough :(

While Pam sat stiff legged next to her attorney, her eyes widening at the unexpected change of events in front of her, Roy approached the witness box and went through the necessary protocols; that he was to tell the truth. The whole truth.

"Don't overthink it." Murphy had told her. "This isn't strictly uncommon. The defense isn't going to want the jury's last impression of Roy to be a poor one, if he were unable to control himself on the stand for example, so their strategy is to call him up now and try to repair the damage afterwards."

That was all well and good as she absorbed it, but now that Roy was up there in front of her – facing her, her blood had turned to ice. Murphy rose, patting her shoulder awkwardly as he buttoned up his jacket and approached Roy, a calm expression on his face.

She didn't hear the opening questions. Her brain, ears, chest were all on high alert, on standby waiting, listening only for the sounds of impending explosion. The simple act of Roy's presence, directly in front of her and she had immediately fallen back into her old behavior, her old safety practices, absorbing every facet of Roy's body language, his tone, scavenging for changes in his emotional weather.

The questions Murphy began to put to him were not what she expected. He seemed to be taking a different route to the sympathetic, kindly manner he had adopted when questioning her. Towards Roy he was unfailingly calm and polite, as he was typically, yet there was an exaggerated sort of reasonableness to the attorneys technique. His approach was careful, gentle – in plain contrast to Roy's own hot nature.

"How do you feel about the allegations against you, Mr Anderson?" he asked, raising his chin.

Roy looked at him reproachfully. "Would you be happy if you the woman you loved with all your heart and soul had turned on you like this and you ended up in the hotseat with your life on the line?"

"Please answer the question, Mr Anderson." Murphy said, not missing a beat. "Would you like me to repeat it?"

Roy huffed loudly. "First, I'm not my father so call me Roy. Second, I heard you fine the first time and I am very unhappy that Pam hates me enough to put me in jail."

"She has made very serious allegations against you. Do you understand that?"

"Ye