Our Territory of Altercation by Receptionitis15
Summary: Set during and after Conflict Resolution, bridging the gap between Jim and Pam after his complaint to picking out wedding bands.
Categories: Jim and Pam, Past, Episode Related Characters: Jim/Pam
Genres: Angst
Warnings: No Warnings Apply
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 7746 Read: 2683 Published: March 06, 2023 Updated: May 13, 2023
Story Notes:
I do not own the characters & settings of The Office, they belong to their respective creators. 

1. Coffee and Conflict by Receptionitis15

2. Carrots by Receptionitis15

3. Grilled Cheese by Receptionitis15

4. Online & Okay by Receptionitis15

5. Epilogue by Receptionitis15

Coffee and Conflict by Receptionitis15
Author's Notes:
This was originally a few hundred words of a scenario thought up by their facial expressions during Conflict Resolution during my latest re-watch of The Office. It then expanded to this exploration of the gap between their interactions between the two episodes. Perhaps the catalyst for all the confessions in the following episode. It's not all angst but we start with it here. 3 parts. 

“Hey, uh,” Jim hovered awkwardly at the kitchen cabinets as he looked over at Pam sat at the table, “I – I’m really sorry about that out there.” 

 

“It’s… it’s fine,” Pam looked down into her mug. “I’m sorry my wedding planning annoyed you so much.”

 

“No, I… it’s-” Jim sighed and shook his head, then grabbed a mug to pour himself a coffee. “It was nothing, just… it was stupid.”

 

Fiddling with her sleeve, Pam took a moment to construct her next sentence. It came out quietly, but she knew Jim would still hear her. “I don’t think it was nothing if you felt the need to complain to Toby about it.”

 

“I didn’t mean it as a complaint,” Jim tried to defend himself, leaning against the counters. Pam finally looked up at Jim and gave him a look that he knew meant she didn’t believe his argument – unimpressed, one brow raised, a slight frown. Jim sighed again, ran his free hand over his face and looked away, training his eyes on his shoes. He knew he owed her the truth, or at the very least a part of it. “Sometimes it felt like… like you were doing it on purpose.”

 

“On purpose?”

 

“To make me jealous.” 

 

“To make you jealous?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

"Seriously?" Pam shot him a look of annoyance. "That wasn't even on my list of reasons to do wedding stuff at work."

 

"Okay, well, it just felt that way sometimes." 

 

Pam stared at his profile for a minute, heart racing, trying to work out how she felt in that moment. Perhaps it was all the conflicting emotions in her that pushed the honesty to the forefront of her thoughts. Whether she was annoyed, hurt, slightly pleased with herself, or outright confused, she had no idea, but she felt Jim was being a little hypocritical. “Well, when you were with Katy, sometimes it felt like that was to make me jealous.” 

 

Jim’s brows raised in surprise for a few seconds before he turned his head to finally look at Pam again. He took a sip of his coffee to buy himself some time, gulping it down loudly. It kind of burned his throat. “Well,” he looked at her briefly again before returning his gaze to the floor, shrugging, “maybe sometimes it was.” 

 

“Oh.” Pam suddenly felt like crying, running, hiding. For once in her life, she took a second to stay put and fight the urge to deflect the truth. “Well, it worked, so… congratulations.” 

 

With that, Pam quickly got up and headed to the door, but something made her stop. This was a very new territory for her and Jim, she had tears forming in her eyes, it felt like The World vs. Pam and she was losing. Despite her need to escape, she turned around. “You know what? You really hurt my feelings Jim. You’re my best friend. You could have just told me. Or at least admitted it was you when we were discussing it in here earlier instead of saying it in front of the whole office!”

 

“I…” Jim paused, staring briefly at Pam. Usually he only saw her with this expression, this tone, when she was upset about something with Roy. He didn’t like being the one to cause it. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I should have told you earlier.”

 

“I’m always hearing about stuff you said from someone else and having to try piece it together, or I get surprise bits of information and just… like I don’t have enough on my plate, Jim, it’s exhausting. I know things are…” Pam paused, shifting her weight from foot to foot, and seemed to change her mind as she caught Jim’s eyes. “I’m genuinely sorry that all my wedding stuff made you uncomfortable. I am. It just sucks when your best friend is complaining about you to someone else. So hey, I guess we’re even.” Pam threw the last sentence in sarcastically over her shoulder as she pulled open the door, leaving behind her coffee and a stunned Jim. He saw her scan for the cameras for a moment before sitting down at reception and pulling a stack of files towards her when she noticed them following her. 

 

Unable to process his thoughts properly – she was jealous? what did she mean, surprise information? was she talking about the crush, had Michael said something? – he ran a hand through his hair, walking a lap up and down of the kitchen before grabbing both his coffee and Pam’s and leaving the kitchen. He was only going to spiral and overthink if he stayed in here, and it was his fault Pam had abandoned her coffee. 

 

Dropping his own coffee off at his desk, he placed Pam’s mug carefully on the reception desk. “You left your coffee,” he said, giving the desk two nervous knocks with his knuckles. 

 

“Thanks,” Pam said quickly, not looking up. 

 

Hovering for a moment, Jim opened and closed his mouth before returning to his desk. He wasn’t really sure what his next move was supposed to be anymore. Dejectedly, he opened up his inbox and to his surprise saw a response to an email sent earlier in the day.

 

From: Jan Levinson

To: Jim Halpert

Subject: RE: DM Stamford – Sales Manager Position 

 

Hi Jim,

 

Thank you for getting in contact about the Sales Manager opening in Stamford; it would be great to have you on the team there. Are you available tomorrow morning for an interview at corporate – say 10am?

 

Best,

 

Jan 

 

With a quick glance back over at Pam, then behind him to check Michael wasn’t lurking – thankfully he was busy doing a talking head – Jim hit the reply button. 

 

From: Jim Halpert

To: Jan Levinson

Subject: RE: DM Stamford – Sales Manager Position 

 

Hi Jan,

 

Thanks for getting back to me. I can be there at 10 tomorrow. 

 

Thanks 

 

Jim

Carrots by Receptionitis15
Author's Notes:
Fact: I completely forgot I wrote this. I was just checking what was in my selection of fic documents and started reading thinking I must have just written the first few lines to get the idea down and there was a whole chapter and a half. Thanks me from the past! It just happened to fit perfectly into this already existing fic, right in the gap between the previous chapter and the one I'm currently writing. I figured that was a sign that it belonged here... clearly I was very invested in this episode! 

“If you had asked Pam out before she got engaged, she probably would have said yes.” 

 

Jim didn’t even feel the blush that suddenly took over his entire body as he came to an abrupt halt in his fridge search for his snack. “Umm,” slowly straightening up, he raised a brow at Angela. She was sat at the table eating her carrots and hummus, her attention back on the article she was reading. “Sorry?” 

 

“Well it wouldn’t be right to do anything while she’s engaged, so you’re stuck with your silly game of Pam Pong.” 

 

“I uh-“ Jim hardly knew how to speak to Angela during a regular encounter, so this was truly… beyond his comprehension of Socialisation with Angela Martin. He went for the easiest part. “What’s, uh, what’s Pam Pong?”

 

Looking up from her article, Angela raised a brow at Jim. “Pam didn’t ever tell you? I count how many times you get up to go to talk to her at reception.”

 

“Umm… o-kay,” Jim released a half-breath, half-laugh and scratched the back of his head. That was mildly terrifying. 

 

“Did you know you make bigger sales after a high-stakes Pam Pong game?” Angela pointed a carrot at Jim. She skipped the part where Dwight made better sales after their own secret warehouse rendezvous. 

 

“I can’t say that I did.” 

 

Jim stood there having no clue what else to say. This was extremely weird. 

 

“You’re wasting electricity, Jim, shut the fridge door,” Angela pointed out. “Kevin took your sad little snack pack an hour ago.” 

 

“Oh.” Jim obliged and closed the door. Now he remembered why he spent so much at the vending machines. He decided to busy himself with making a coffee instead, because he wasn’t quite sure what Angela was trying to tell him, and he now felt extremely conscious of how many times he went to Pam’s desk. 

 

“Do you want a carrot?” Angela suddenly offered. 

 

Unsure of whether Angela had ever offered anyone anything in her entire life, Jim decided it was best to accept her offer. He sat down opposite her, elbows leaning on the table, and took a carrot. They sat silently as he crunched through the first carrot stick.

 

“So… did you slice these yourself or did you buy those little carrot batons in the store?” Jim asked, trying to break the silence.

 

Angela rolled her eyes. “Ugh, is this the kind of small talk you use to flirt with Pam? I guess only God knows why she finds you attractive.”

 

At this, Jim’s eyes went wide. “Pam fi-“

 

“I sliced them myself Jim, they’re just carrots,” Angela continued. “I’m not paying an extra dollar ninety-five for pre-sliced carrots.”

 

“Sorry, I was just… curious,” Jim munched contemplatively on his carrot. Was Angela’s statement factual or just a guess for her own entertainment? “About the carrots, that is.”

 

“Don’t lie, Jim, you prank too much for God to forgive you for lying,” Angela snapped. “I know you’re only curious because of Pam. I’m not stupid.”

 

“I didn’t say you were, sorry, I just…” Jim sighed. 

 

“It may be difficult to believe but I do notice things and talk to people in this office.” Angela rolled her eyes with such vigour Jim wondered if she was giving herself a headache from doing so. “And care. Sometimes.” 

 

Jim looked at Angela and smiled slightly. “I can believe that.” 

 

“When I told her about Pam Pong she was so mad at me, although all I’m doing is counting. It’s technically my job. But she won’t change her habits,” Angela explained, “and I doubt you will now that you have this information.” 

 

“Uh, I mean… probably not” Jim admits, though he secretly wishes Angela would evidence her statement of Pam finding him attractive. 

 

“I don’t think it was very nice of you to complain about Pam talking about her wedding at work.” Pausing, Angela put the lid back on her now empty box of Tupperware. She looked up at Jim briefly as the lid clicked firmly into place. “I don’t care for Pam talking about her wedding at work, but I think this is the only place Pam can talk about this stuff with people who care.” 

 

Pursing his lips, Jim nodded. It’s not like he hadn’t known she was having to do most of this on her own. And despite all of Pam’s problems, she had a right to be excited for her wedding day whether he liked it or not. 

 

“You should remember that Pam considers you her best friend,” Angela continued, standing up, “and that you had your chance to tell her how you feel, instead of flirting with an engaged woman, then getting upset that she’s getting married when you did nothing whatsoever to actually express an interest in her. Someone as blah as Pam isn’t going to risk her long-term relationship for some mediocre vegetable-themed flirting.” 

 

“It’s not just veg- no, whatever, she still had a boyfriend!” Jim tried to argue.

 

“I’m not saying she should have cheated on him to give it a go!” Angela rolled her eyes once more.  On a better day Jim thought he would have offered her some Tylenol and stuck googly eyes on the pack. “But you didn’t do anything when you had the chance, when she could have done something about it. Aside from your obvious flaws, you’re a good best friend for Pam.”

 

“Well, how would you feel if someone you liked was getting married and you had to watch it happen right in front of you?”

 

Angela’s eyes flickered briefly to the back of Dwight’s head through the glass panel in the door. Fair enough, she’d have prayed for her to fail miserably at being able to sexually satisfy the beet farmer in question, and lose all her teeth. Dwight liked a good set of teeth. 

 

“Fine, I wouldn’t like it,” Angela admitted, walking towards the door. “You should apologise to Pam. She’s allowed to be excited for her wedding. Even if it is to Roy.

 

With a final almighty eye roll and a scoff, Angela left the kitchen. Jim watched after her for a moment and wondered if he should see how many more women from the office he could get to storm out of the kitchen in his presence. Maybe if he got a full house, it would be a good sign to accept Jan’s offer for the Stamford job. 

End Notes:

Sorry, I don't know how much carrots were in May 2006.

Also, in my mind Pam got engaged shortly after Jim started working at Dunder Mifflin! 

Grilled Cheese by Receptionitis15
Author's Notes:
This was gonna be 3 parts but due to the unexpected finding of the previous chapter there will now be four. Luckily it was quite easy to blend the extra chapter in and actually solved the little block I had in progressing the conversation. Also sorry about the random font sizing, try as I might I can't sort that out! 

It wasn’t that they looked over at each other less for the next few days. It was simply that they knew the feeling of being watched by the other so well that it made it easy to not look over at the same time. Jim avoided playing pranks on Dwight to the point Dwight actually complained to Michael that he was suspicious of Jim planning something. Pam almost laughed when she overheard the conversation, until she remembered that she and Jim were navigating a new dynamic in their friendship. The ‘interaction’ gauge was presently at zero. She’d watched Jim even talk to Angela of all people, but nothing directed to her.

 

For a few days, Pam hoped Jim would initiate… something, anything. An IM. A conversation. A hint of a prank. She craved Jim’s attention with such intensity that she spent a full workday wondering if this is what a break-up felt like. Given that she was still with the one boyfriend she’d ever had, she had no clue, and dedicated her evening to wondering if she’d feel this way if she broke up with Roy. She painted herself for the first time in her life that evening, a figure standing in front of a house with a terrace, and realised she had her answer. Pam knew it wasn’t the answer she was supposed to have. She hung the painting in the second bedroom. 

 

Pam had also come to the realisation that maybe it was her turn to… try with Jim, rather than expecting it to always be on him. She could live with the guilt of not being the perfect fiancée she was meant to be, and she could live with the difficulties her relationship with Roy created for her, but she couldn’t live without her best friend. She filed those thoughts away for another day too, figuring she could work through them while she stared at her new painting.

 

“Hey, umm, Jim,” Pam just about pinched the end of Jim's coat sleeve as he made to leave the office for the day. Jim turned to look at her silently. “I’m… could we have lunch tomorrow? Please?” 

 

Slightly taken aback by the offer – and the fact that it was coming from Pam – Jim simply nodded. “Yeah.” 

 

“Okay,” Pam gave him a tiny smile. “I’ll make pesto pasta.”

 

Jim’s mind quickly reminded him of the time Pam had mentioned that she couldn’t remember the last time anyone had cooked for her. “It’s okay, I can whip up some grilled cheese.” 

 

“Oh, thanks. Sounds good.” 

 

“Yeah. See you at lunch tomorrow.” 

 

“Yeah, see you at lunch.” 

 

She let go of his sleeve at last, feeling every bit as anxious and giddy and confused as she had when she’d invited him to lunch at Cugino’s when he’d first started at Dunder Mifflin.

 

*

 

“Oh my God, I almost forgot how good these were,” Pam said, barely just finishing her first bite before she spoke.

 

“Thanks,” Jim threw her an appreciative smile. He watched in amusement as she took another bite in quick succession.

 

“No, thank you.”

 

For a few minutes they ate in silence – not a truly comfortable silence like they used to, but not entirely uncomfortable either. With the ice broken, they threw each other quick glances as though they were making up for the last few days of completely ignoring each other. Eventually Pam reminded herself that as she was the one who had invited him to lunch, she ought to be the one to start the conversation. She had invited him up to the roof so they could have some privacy, and she had to admit that made it a little easier to get started – less confined than their confessions in the kitchen. 

 

“You were right, you know.”

 

“About what?”

 

“Well, when I thought it was Angela who complained, you asked me what Roy thought. So the other day I told him someone at work complained about my wedding planning.” Pam paused to take another bite of the sandwich as she watched Jim chew slowly. She figured he hadn’t expected her to bring Roy up this early in the conversation, if at all. “He said ‘who cares, it’s just someone you work with’ and turned the volume up on the TV.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“That’s why I don’t bother him with this stuff. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t realise that ‘someone I work with’ is my best friend – and I know you’re thinking he should know this stuff, he’s my fiancé and he should care. I wish he did too but maybe that’s just what happens when you’ve been with someone for so long. I mean, maybe I wouldn’t care either if he said… I don’t know, Darryl, got annoyed with him planning his wedding at work. I don’t know, I guess they don’t have the same… dynamic as we do and-” Pam huffed as she looked at her almost-finished sandwich. She knew she was rambling; her thoughts seemed to run around hand-in-hand with her anxiety sometimes. “The truth is sometimes I’d just rather… talk to you about stuff. Not just because you listen, but because your opinion really matters to me.”

 

“Oh.” Jim’s brows raised up in surprise – not necessarily because he didn’t know that she really did value his thoughts, but because he had never expected Pam to tell him just how much.

 

“Yeah. I don’t know what that says about… me as a person or as a… as a fiancée, but…” she shrugged, looking shyly up at him. “Anyway, I think that’s why I was so upset that you had complained – or, at least, one of the reasons – and I’m… it also mattered to me that you were upset about it.” 

 

Watching as Pam continued with her sandwich, Jim took that as his natural cue to continue the conversation. He cleared his throat and put his plate on his lap. “I mean… I meant what I said the other day, and… I guess I’m not sure what that says about me as a person either. Or as your best friend.” He could feel Pam staring up at him, so he stared at his knees for a moment. “But I am sorry that it went that far.” 

 

Nodding, Pam bit her lip. She knew the feeling well. While she hoped Jim could understand what she wasn’t saying out loud, she for once felt pretty sure of what he wasn’t saying out loud. “Even if it makes it more difficult for you to say or for me to hear – or the other way – can we maybe agree to just… not make it into some whole office drama?”

 

“Yeah,” Jim let out an awkward chuckle. “I think that’s fair.”

 

They were silent again as they finished eating, deep in contemplation. After dabbing at her mouth with a napkin, Pam opened her soda can and frowned. “I hated arguing with you. I hated being upset with you. I know we’ve had… weird moments before but that was never…” Pam sighed. “These last few days have been like I keep getting the wrong drink. I ordered a black coffee but got a latte. I selected a Coke but I got sparkling water. My best friend was there but I got… nobody.”

 

“No, I can’t say I enjoyed it either,” Jim agreed. He knew Pam never had the courage to tell the barista if her drink was wrong, and if she got the wrong drink in the vending machine she wouldn’t bother getting the correct one. He appreciated that being the one to reach out first was a big step for her. “I know you were really upset about the complaint even before you knew it was me and you’re right, I should have just spoken to you about it. I just thought it might make things weird since… well, lesson learned.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And Pam, I hope you know that I really am on your side. Even if the wedding planning stuff feels weird for me, or even if we’re having a weird moment or arguing or we're just out of sync, I’m still on your side and still your best friend.”

 

“It’s nice to hear that,” Pam smiled. She figured somewhere deep down she did know that, but it was nice to hear someone voice their support for her after days of feeling on her own. “Just… almost didn’t feel like that I guess – and I know you’re sorry, it’s… it is what it is – so it’s just nice to know.” 

 

Clearing his throat, Jim took a sip of his soda. He hated that Pam had felt as though he wasn’t on her side anymore, but he knew that was partially his own fault for keeping such a distance. It hadn’t felt normal but he thought in some ways maybe they had needed it. “You know, Angela gave me carrots. And told me about Pam Pong.”

 

“Angela gave you carrots?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Wow,” Pam snorted. “I almost don’t believe that.”

 

“I forgot how much I like carrots. They make a good addition to my lunch.”

 

Wiping a splash of soda fizz from her knee, Pam sighed. “Her Pam Pong scoreboard must be empty for the first time in the history of Pam Pong.”

 

“Yeah,” Jim smiled. Visiting Pam’s desk was generally the best part of his days, or the times she would come and lean against his desk instead. He recalled Angela telling him Pam hadn’t been happy when she found out about the game and furrowed his brow, not looking directly at Pam as he asked his next question. “Do you… does it bother you?”

 

“What, Pam Pong?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

There was no point in lying, Pam thought. She loved him coming up her desk; she was always more than happy to give up whatever she was doing to talk to him or pull some prank or, in rare cases, help with some other actual work-related issue. She went to the store that sold the good jellybeans because the local one didn’t stock them. She’d intentionally ignore IM’s so he would come over to her desk instead. It had bothered her that Angela had made a game of it and that maybe things weren’t as subtle as they seemed, but she had no plans to permanently stop Jim visiting her desk throughout the day. She knew he wasn’t asking just about the desk visits, though. “Umm, no, not at all.” She waited until he looked up at her and threw him a smile. “The higher the score the better the day.”

 

Jim couldn’t help the smile lighting up his face, so he turned away slightly. He knew Pam had caught his smile and he was glad they had that understanding between them. Even if Pam was only talking about the actual desk visits, he was still happy. Once he managed to tame his smile down slightly he held out his soda can to hers. “To Pam Pong.”

 

“To Pam Pong,” Pam grinned, clinking her soda can against Jim’s. She hadn’t thought too much about Angela’s game since she’d brought it up, nor had she thought she’d ever take a particular liking to it or make jokes about it, but here she was making light of it with the very person the game was about. As she watched Jim for a moment, she wondered what other things she could casually admit to in that moment that went beyond the limits of Pam Pong. 

 

I kissed you at the Dundies and we never spoke about it and maybe we should.

 

That lunch we had at Cugino’s when you started here was a date.

 

I don’t know who to talk to about the fact that I’m not actually sure I want to marry Roy.

 

Dwight and Angela are totally doing it.

 

Angela found me upset in the bathroom the other day and it felt like being back in high school.

 

You didn’t IM as much whenever Katy used to phone you and that kinda sucked.

 

My cousin thinks we’re a way better match and she hasn’t even met you.

 

Your shirts are way too big for you.

 

Why didn’t you kiss me on the booze cruise?

 

Haven’t you known me long enough to know I need a bright-flashing-lights sign to commit to a big move?

 

It was Jim’s question of “so… are we back to normal?” that broke Pam away from her thoughts. She realised she had taken too long to say anything. The hollow sound Jim’s soda can made as he tapped his fingertips against it made it clear he was almost done with his lunch. Maybe it was better to end on a positive? Pam figured she could still blurt out a truth – any truth – at this point – and what? Fight? Argue again and make things weird between them? Was she supposed to make some joke like put your boxing gloves on Jim because we’re not back to normal and hope he was up for it? Had they not just discussed that it had sucked and they wanted to avoid it?

 

Pam finished the rest of her soda to swallow the no she wanted to answer with and stood up. “Yeah, back to normal.”

End Notes:
It may seem like the conversation is over but... it's not over just yet! 
Online & Okay by Receptionitis15
Author's Notes:

It's done! This chapter references a deleted scene from 'Diversity Day' which you'll catch on the Superfan episodes or you can view on The Office YouTube page (timestamp 4:58).

This was definitely the hardest chapter to write so I hope I did the situation justice! We finally properly bridge that gap between where the show left off with Jim's redacted complaint against Pam and Jim helping Pam choose a wedding band. Sorry in advance for the angst... 

As Pam waited for the water to boil, trying to re-pack the thoughts she had almost told Jim back into their airtight storage containers, she heard the kitchen door open and turned her head to see Angela walk in. She gave her a polite smile, expecting Angela to tell her to move or simply walk past her. To Pam's surprise, Angela joined her at the counter. 

"Pam," Angela reached for a mug. 

"Hey Angela," Pam said, sliding the box of teas over to Angela. 

Angela pretended to peruse the options, although she already knew which tea she would be having. "I saw you went for lunch with Jim."

"Yeah," Pam nodded slowly. "Umm, I just... wanted to talk to him."

"Okay," Angela dropped a tea bag into her mug. "I still agree you have a right to be annoyed, but I don't think you should be as mad at Jim as you were the other day."

"Oh... no, it's okay," Pam smiled slightly, trying to sound convincing. "I guess we kind of discussed it and... yeah, it's okay."

"Are you sure?" Angela raised a brow as she poured some of the now boiled water into her mug.

"What do you mean?" 

"That you discussed it properly." 

"Oh," Pam pushed her mug towards Angela as a silent request to fill her mug too. "I think so."

Angela gave an indignant sniff as she finished pouring the hot water for Pam, then picked up her mug, making her way to leave the kitchen. "Would you like it if Jim was planning his wedding right in front of you?"

Pam was left with her mouth hanging open slightly in surprise as she watched Angela leave the kitchen, forgetting her hand was getting hot from holding her mug. Of course she would hate it. She barely handled having to forward Katy's calls to Jim when they had been dating, let alone when Katy had started showing interest in engagements and weddings on Michael's crazy boat trip. If she was having to watch Jim plan a wedding in front of her she would-

"Oh," Pam exhaled softly as the realisation hit her. She recognised suddenly that her hand was close to burning and hissed as she pulled it off her mug. Rubbing the space between her brows, she sighed deeply before shaking her head and picking up her mug by the handle and making her way back to her desk. 

Pam sat down at her desk, putting her tea down and briefly staring down at her hands before opening an IM chat with Jim. She knew that although their conversation had gone well over lunch on the roof, there were things she hadn't said; things she hadn't asked. Things Jim hadn't had a chance to say, maybe, given Angela's statement.

Receptionitis15: Thanks again for lunch. :) 

JIM9334: Any time Beesly.  

Receptionitis15: I still had some questions.

Receptionitis15: If that's alright?

Receptionitis15: And this is easier.

JIM9334: Go ahead.

Receptionitis15: Thanks.

Receptionitis15: Though... can you not reply for like 5 minutes? 

Receptionitis15: I think it's easier that way for me to get these things out of my head. Is that ok? 

JIM9334: Of course. Zip it, lock it, put it in my pocket.

Sure enough, when Pam looked up Jim mimed the actions of zipping his lips, locking them and pocketing the invisible key. Despite the nerves she felt over the questions she wanted to ask, she found herself grinning. Jim looked down at his watch and held up a finger, and she could tell he was waiting for the time to change to the next minute. Just as she thought, once he looked up and pointed a finger at her, and she looked down at her screen, the minute changed over. 

Okay, Pam took a deep breath. Things had always been easier over IM. Sometimes she wished she had the courage of her IM self when she stepped away from the keyboard. Jim himself had joked that she was flirtier on IM when she'd gotten addicted to a new game on her computer, and she knew that was true. She sent winks and kissy-face emoticons, flirty jokes and mildly suggestive comments that made her blush behind her computer. She also made bolder statements, found it easier to start a conversation when she was upset about something with Roy or just needed the support her fiancé was supposed to provide but didn't. That was all much easier to admit online. Sometimes these conversations continued into the break room or car park or the stairwell if she was particularly upset, but they started behind the safety of an IM message. 

Almost three minutes passed before Pam found it in herself to type anything. She felt Jim look over at her occasionally, and one time she caught his eye and could see the concern on his face. Brows furrowed, a slight frown as he rubbed his chin. But he waited. He could have distracted himself with work or getting a soda or pranking Dwight in these five minutes, but he waited for her.  

Waited to listen to her. Pam's heart ached in a good way over the fact that he did that. 

Receptionitis15: Okay.  

Receptionitis15: I don't know how to ask this so I guess I will just... ask it.

Receptionitis15: Do you want me to just not mention any wedding stuff at work? 

Receptionitis15: Some of it is easier to do at work where others can help out and to be honest Roy doesn't help with much of it at home. He says it's not his thing and I'm just... whatever, I'm not wasting my energy on that argument anymore. I've given him his tasks. So some of it I did here because of time and having some extra hands. 

Receptionitis15: And Phyllis and Kelly are kind of interested in the wedding which is a change. I mean it's not that I don't talk to ANYBODY else here, but they just don't talk to me much usually and generally I'm ok with that. 

Receptionitis15: But if you want I'll just not mention it or do any of it here. Just let me know.

Receptionitis15: I realised I wouldn't really like it if the tables were turned and I kind of want to delete that and not send this message but I'm going to because it's true. 

Receptionitis15: After this we can go back to normal stuff. It's just that I realised I didn't ask everything I wanted to and I want to make sure we're on the same page. That you're ok with everything? I don't want things to be weird. 

Receptionitis15: I know that's ironic because... this was weird. 

Receptionitis15: Anyway. I think that's it. Thank you for my 5 minutes. :)

Pam stared at her screen briefly before looking up shyly and catching Jim's eye. He gave her a reassuring smile, one that made her non-IM self feel as safe as she felt behind the keyboard. She gave him a tiny shrug with her right shoulder as if to say ‘I guess that's out there now'. Jim's gaze lingered on her for a moment before he returned to his screen and a fresh wave of nerves hit her as she realized she didn't know which answer she would prefer from him. 

If he's not okay with the wedding stuff at work, she has some thinking to do. Her best friend would have a good reason not to want to hear about her wedding anymore; perhaps that was something she should reflect on. Making a complaint one time and redacting it was different. Jim could feel jealous for a lot of reasons - couldn't he? He'd never said anything to her about how he felt regarding her getting married to Roy. But if he was okay with the wedding planning... Pam sighed deeply. If he was okay with the wedding stuff, Pam figured maybe she was misreading things. His complaint had just been a bad day, he was jealous because he didn't have what she had, it was weird because his best friend was getting married and that might change things. Pam briefly felt like she both wanted to cry and scream that Jim was her best friend no matter what her relationship status was. 

Huh. Pam wondered if she should Google search whether your fiancé should be your best friend. Or ask someone married. Maybe not. 

Taking a long sip of tea, Pam watched Jim as he re-read her messages. She hated when she couldn't tell what he was thinking; it was a rare occurrence that she'd never get used to. Pam could at least tell he was concentrating because he didn't even throw her any glances. Or maybe she had gone too far? Said too much? Putting her mug down, she dropped her hands to her lap, nervously fidgeting with the sleeves of her cardigan.  

Jim tried to pretend like his heart wasn't racing as he re-read Pam's messages again, and again, and again. He had sensed that maybe she'd wanted to say more while they had lunch on the roof, but he knew Pam sometimes found it difficult to find the courage needed to be completely open. He thought she found it difficult to be judged; that her emotions would be seen as some inconvenience. Jim figured that was something she'd unfortunately become accustomed to. He watched another minute tick by on his computer and pushed his sleeves up slightly, knowing leaving Pam waiting would just make her more anxious. 

JIM9334: No need to thank me Beesly. :)

JIM9334: You don't need to not talk about your wedding stuff at work. It was just weird at first, you know how it is, but it's all good.

Receptionitis15: :)

JIM9334: And hey, if you need a hand with anything, let me know. 

Receptionitis15: You sure?

JIM9334: Totally. If we're not wasting time on a prank we might as well do something productive! 

Receptionitis15: Ha ha. That's true. :D

JIM9334: Thanks for asking though. And for sharing. I get that it feels totally weird. 

Receptionitis15: Yeah. 

JIM9334: Now, back to normal for real?

Receptionitis15: Umm, I actually had one more question. If you don't mind?

JIM9334: Shoot. 

Receptionitis15: My question is... did you have anything else you wanted to ask? Or say?

Jim looked back over at Pam. She tilted her head slightly as he caught her eye, watching him for a moment as she nervously bit her lip before tearing her gaze away from Jim and back to her computer screen. Jim could tell that she was hoping to not wait long for an answer, so turned his own attention back to the messages she had just sent as he mentally replayed their lunch. 

Of course there were other things he wanted to say and ask. There were signs that maybe he should. She had admitted that she wouldn't like it if the tables were turned; had alluded to there being something more than friendship during their talk at lunch. God, she had even admitted that him being with Katy had made her jealous! He wondered if she was expecting him to have something to add; the phrasing felt... specific. Targeted. Almost as if she wanted him to have something to say that he hadn't yet voiced aloud. But her signals were always so mixed; she was going ahead with her wedding planning, clearly. But maybe it was what they needed? Just as their little argument in the kitchen a few days back had unleashed unexpected truths... but he couldn't ignore the fact that she'd just made sure to check he was fine with her talking about her wedding to Roy. He felt like he was at a malfunctioning traffic signal with both solid red and green lights. 

Pam knew when she hit send on her final question that she wanted Jim to have something to say. She hadn't been sure until the message had been out in the open, out of her hands. What she wanted wasn't something she knew how to put into words. Nine years of a relationship sounded great on paper but as a result, Pam just felt... vulnerable. Putting her heart out there felt humiliating, but if she had some sort of... concrete evidence that her feelings would be reciprocated; that she'd have her best friend by her side while she faced some big changes - then maybe it wouldn't be so bad. If Jim had nothing more to say, nothing to ask... she knew where things stood. Stay put. Figure out a way to be truly happy with what she had. But if he had something to ask her? If he needed to tell her something? She'd be back on that roof in a heartbeat.  

She didn't want some huge declaration of love coming out of nowhere. That was an intensity she knew she would find difficult to handle right now. Finding out about Jim's crush and him confessing to it had been scary enough; she'd almost revealed her own crush in the middle of a workday in front of prying cameras. No, she needed... clear but simple signs. 

A kiss on the roof. Just them. No words. Just evidence that he felt something for her beyond friendship. A prompt to re-evaluate what she really wanted. Who she really wanted. The reassurance that she wasn't going to be left to pick up the pieces of her heartbreak on her own. 

An IM with a simple if you're not sure you're doing the right thing, I'm right here if you need me, or I'll give you space until you're ready. It would be enough. Not too scary but reassuring that she wouldn't be on her own. 

Or a kiss on the roof followed by a quick guarantee that he'd wait for her if this was what she wanted too. 

A cheese toastie lunch the following week where he confessed that his crush wasn't over and were they both thinking about kissing on that freezing cold deck? 

Even just a breakroom chat at the vending machines where he bought her a pack of chips and expressed his regret that he'd never asked her out before the engagement became official official and did she have any regrets too?

As the scenarios flitted through Pam's mind, causing her to stare blankly at her screen, Jim was briefly distracted by an incoming email notification in the corner of the screen. Seeing who it was from and the subject line, he glanced quickly over at Pam before opening it. 

From: Jan Levinson

To: Jim Halpert

Subject: DM Stamford - Sales Manager Position 

Good afternoon Jim,

We really appreciate you coming up to New York regarding the Sales Manager Position. Your sales record speaks for itself, and you have certainly proven yourself a valuable member of the Dunder Mifflin team over in Scranton. 

Having liaised with Josh Porter in Stamford and the team here at Corporate we are pleased to offer you the position. I understand you wanted some time to think about what the move would entail and we appreciate relocation can be a big change. Do give me a call when you are available and we can discuss a timeline and what support is offered for relocating internal staff. 

Congratulations, Jim - we do hope you accept the position; you would do well with the market in Connecticut and it's a brilliant opportunity to begin moving up the ladder. 

Best, 

Jan

Jim let out a deep breath through his nose, feeling himself sink down in his seat ever so slightly. He couldn't decide if this email had come at just the right time or the absolute worst time. Did he really want to up and move his whole life to Connecticut? Was making this job his career the best move for him; was this really what he wanted to be doing? Especially with Pam... did he want to work somewhere that wasn't five feet away from Pam Beesly? 

But Pam was getting married. To Roy. Checking with him if she could talk about wedding stuff at work. 

Clicking back onto the IM chat with Pam, Jim rubbed his hand over his face as he contemplated his answer. Of course he had things to say, they just weren't things one should say to a woman about to get married. Jim briefly wondered again if perhaps she wanted him to say or do something that would shatter her world, what with her request. But then why would she have made sure he was ok with her wedding talk in the first place if that was what she wanted? 

Again, solid green and red lights. 

Nobody was moving in case they were the one to cause the crash.

He figured he had some time. He'd probably take the job. But he'd find an opportunity for Pam to give him a clear sign in the meantime, one way or the other, within the next week. If she was going to marry Roy, that was his sign to take the job. 

With a sigh, Jim clicked into the chat box to type his reply. 

JIM9334: Nope, all good. :)

Receptionitis15: Okay. :) 

Contradictory to her reply, Pam felt her heart drop. Her cheeks felt heavy and the intense need to cry took her by surprise. Mustering up a small smile to throw at Jim, she got up quickly from her desk and made her way through the kitchen and annex into the hallway. Maybe she'd been reading his signs wrong all along. 

Just best friends it is.
End Notes:
Now, I know, I hated that ending too. Kinda broke my heart. That's why I wrong a cute little epilogue. See you in a hot second! 
Epilogue by Receptionitis15
Author's Notes:
Yeah I needed to add something cute and less angsty to the end of this story after all that, so we fast forward a couple seasons. This also references a deleted scene from Launch Party! 

"Hey," Pam sat up, lifting her head from Jim's shoulder but keeping their arms linked. "D'you remember the first time we had a real argument?"

"What d'you mean?" Jim raised a brow, wondering what this had to do with pizza and old kiss confessions and the online party being held downstairs. 

"I don't mean like those disagreements over art lessons in New York or whatever. It was when you did that complaint to Toby." Smiling despite her topic, Pam unlinked their arms and reached for another slice of pizza. "We came up here a few days later."

"We did." 

"It sucked." 

"Yeah."

As Pam chewed on her pizza, Jim watched her with a mix of amusement and confusion. Sometimes he had no idea where Pam was heading with a conversation, and it often surprised him in a good way. He sipped on his soda as he waited, remembering pieces of their confessions that time they'd been up on the roof when she'd braved asking him to lunch after days of mutual silence. Being with Pam felt so... forever that it felt like that whole situation had been another lifetime. 

"So, I just told you about that kiss at the Dundies," Pam finally recounted, linking her arm back with Jim's. 

"You did," Jim grinned. 

"It was one of the things I really wanted to tell you when we had our lunch that time before you asked if we were back to normal." 

"Oh?" Jim raised a brow. It may have felt like a lifetime ago, but that silence he remembered very well. 

"Yeah. I had all these things I wanted to say and I just realised now... there's one thing I've still not asked you." 

"O-kay," Jim said. He felt slightly nervous.  

Pam bit her lip. "Why didn't you kiss me on that cruise?" 

"Oh. Well... you went inside. You said it was cold."

"No, before that," Pam gave him a slight nudge. "You were going to kiss me. I know that face very well now."

"I don't have a face-"

"You do!" Pam insisted. "You get all serious, it's super cute." 

"I do not."

"Not all the time, but you do sometimes," Pam asserted, "now answer the question."

"I... I don't know," Jim sighed. "I guess I chickened out. I thought maybe you... maybe you'd not want to."

"Jim," Pam tilted her head up to look at Jim, smiling slightly when he kissed her forehead, "I one hundred percent would have kissed you that night. I was... I was hoping you would." 

"Oh," Jim breathed out. "But... you left. You went back inside." 

"Yeah. I guess I chickened out too. It was just... a long time and by then I got into my own head. I figured if you were gonna kiss me, you would have by now." Pam sighed. "Sometimes I think... if you had kissed me and I wouldn't have gone inside that soon, I wouldn't have felt so lonely... I wouldn't have set a wedding date that night. We wouldn't have needed our first argument to be over my stupid wedding. At least saved a few months of heartbreak."

Jim could only nod in agreement as he thought about Pam's statement, then held her a little tighter to him. She was right, but nevertheless he was grateful to just have her in his arms now. Her confession of being slightly buzzed but knowing what she was doing when kissing him at the Dundies had been fun, but this one was completely different. "I do wish I'd kissed you that night. I suppose at least our first argument was out of the way before we were even together."

"Mm, true," Pam agreed, relaxing into his embrace. "Arguing last night over me watching TV too loud and you not taking the laundry out before leaving for work seems so... tiny in comparison." 

"You do watch the TV too loud," Jim smirked. 

"What're you gonna do, complain to Toby about it?" Pam smirked up at him. 

"Maybe," Jim turned and gave Pam a gentle kiss, "but I'll redact it on one condition."

"What's that?"

"I forgot to start the tumble drier this morning and I'd appreciate you not being mad about that." 

"Jim! I don't have any clean clothes left at yours. God, everything's gonna smell all gross and damp!"

"So let's stay at your place." 

"I haven't tidied. There's-"

"I know. We've had dinner already with all this pizza. We'll get some beers and clean underwear on the way to yours." 

"Mm'kay," Pam agreed, smiling as Jim gave her another kiss she knew was to cut off any further argument.

End Notes:
Now, we're done. :) 
This story archived at http://mtt.just-once.net/fanfiction/viewstory.php?sid=6225