Oracle Mom by time4moxie
Past Featured StorySummary:

MEMBER'S CHOICE - The Jim and Pam saga affects more than just those two. Sometimes it's hard to sit by and be a mother while those two dance around the subject.

New Chapter added - more Jim/Pam holiday fluffiness.  :-)


Categories: Jim and Pam, Alternate Universe Characters: Jim/Pam, Other
Genres: Angst, Holiday, Romance
Warnings: Mild sexual content
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 27202 Read: 36807 Published: December 11, 2006 Updated: November 25, 2007

1. Chapter 1 - What She Knows by time4moxie

2. Chapter 2 - What She Does by time4moxie

3. Chapter 3 - What She Sees by time4moxie

4. Chapter 4 - What She Causes by time4moxie

5. Chapter 5 - What She Reaps by time4moxie

Chapter 1 - What She Knows by time4moxie
Author's Notes:

I've always wondered about Jim's mom - obviously he must have a great one, given how sweet he turned out. I thought it might be nice to view the world through her eyes. I picture Larissa Halpert as somewhat resembling Sela Ward. Lovely but simply put together.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, even the ones we never see on screen. No Copywrite Infringement Intented - I just want a happy ending!

Larissa Halpert was fond of saying that she loved all her children equally, but they each needed loved in different ways.

Jonathan, her eldest, was the typical over-achieving first born with an extroverted personality, a passion for soccer, and a good heart. He had the intelligence to do anything he wanted, and was currently working as a researcher and lecturer in the behavior science department of Temple University in Philadelphia. As a high school English teacher, Larissa had always been a little more than proud at Jonathan's PhD ambitions. Education meant everything to Larissa, and through Jonathan it showed.

Not that her other two children were less than extraordinary in her eyes. Jessica, her youngest, was in her final year of Journalism and Media Studies at Penn State, and had interned for a different magazine each summer. She had a good head on her shoulders and a love of the written word. She was sociable, with a long list of acquaintances, but knew to share her heart with only a handful of trusted friends, some of them going as far back as elementary school. And while she'd never fit the prerequisites for a runway model, she was lovely with dark hair and sparkling eyes, and never seemed to have trouble finding a date if she decided she wanted one. Larissa was proud of her daughter's sense of self-confidence, and her ability to function well on her own.

Then there was Jim, her middle child. Larissa herself had been a middle child, and so perhaps that's why she felt the closest to him. Jim was smart, but clearly the dreamer of the three. He was also a bit more sensitive, and as a result often was happy to sit back and let Jonathan and Jessica fight for the limelight. He did well in everything he was interested in, but never felt the need to pull ahead to be number one in anything. He was just happy to be. This often made him at odds with his father, who as a doctor and surgeon just couldn't seem to understand that a person could enjoy doing something without feeling the need to be the absolute best at it. Larissa was often the mediator between them during Jim's teenage years. She appreciated Jim's love of the process. To Jim, doing something had to be just as enjoyable as having it finished. He perhaps understood the point of education at its most basic level. Only one thing grew to mean more to him than that. As Larissa learned while watching him become a man, it was love that meant everything to him. Her greatest despair as a mother therefore, was watching while the one thing he wanted most seemed destined to elude his grasp.

She remembered when Jim first started at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. It was a word of mouth tip from a college buddy of his, who lived next door to somebody down in the warehouse. It was the spring of his graduation from college, and it fit the bill as a job he could latch onto just to prevent himself from standing in the unemployment line. It made more than working retail, and was a more relaxed atmosphere than working in banking or with some of his father's associates. He rejected the idea of immediately going on to graduate school, mostly because he had no idea what he wanted to study. His college buddy Mark was coming back to Scranton for a job, so Jim already had housing and his social life worked out. Dunder Mifflin was going to be his stepping-stone job, the one he's put up with for a year or two, until he figured out what he really wanted to do.

Larissa remembered Jim's first week at Dunder Mifflin. She'd called him that Wednesday to see how he was settling in, and that's when she first heard the name of Pam Beesly.

"So how are things working out?" She asked.

"I'm not sure I've made the right decision working there," Jim replied. "My boss is the definition of crazy, and the sales guy I sit next to is even worse. It's like working in the Twilight Zone."

"Oh, I'm sorry Jim. Is there no one normal working there?"

"The receptionist is really nice. Her name is Pam."

She could tell from his tone that her son thought this Pam was more than just nice. "Well that's something. You talk to her a lot?"

"Pretty much. We can see each other from our desks, and I can tell she feels the same away about Michael and Dwight." He paused for a moment. "I think I'm going to ask her out to lunch on Friday."

When Jim showed up for lunch on Sunday, Larissa could just tell from his whole demeanor that lunch with Pam hadn't been a success. He was helping her dry the dishes when she finally brought it up.

“Lunch didn't work out?” She asked without preamble.

“She's engaged.”

“Oh, I'm sorry, Jim.”

He shrugged. “No big deal,” he said, putting the silverware back in the drawer.

Jim was always talkative around her, so Larissa guessed that it really was a big deal, but knew to stay silent. She had no words that could comfort him. She just hoped this was a short-lived crush buoyed by the fact he had not made many friends at work yet.

She thought perhaps he had moved on from his crush, because he didn't mention her again for several weeks. But slowly, and with increasing frequency, her name kept popping into the conversation. Pam said this. Pam and I did this to Dwight. Pam said that. You should see what Pam drew. Pam, Pam, Pam. Years passed and Pam remained a regular fixture of conversation. Nothing serious, just friendly anecdotes, but Larissa could see that whenever he said her name there was still a light in his eyes which indicated while he may have convinced himself they were just best friends, deep down his heart knew otherwise.

Every now and then though, she heard in his voice a touch of sadness, or a note of despair, and she knew something had happened that reminded him the relationship wasn't all he wanted it to be. She often wondered if this Pam knew the effect she had on her son. She hoped that she didn't, because otherwise she'd have to believe this girl capable of staggering cruelty. And she didn't want to believe that her son, her sensitive middle child, could fall so hard for a woman that insensitive. She had faith that whatever he saw in her must be something so wonderful that he'd put himself through all of it for all this time. She just prayed some good would eventually come of it.

Then came that night in May. She was sitting up reading, her husband out on call at the hospital. At around midnight the phone rang. It was Jim.

“Sorry to call so late, Mom,” he said. “Did I wake you?”

“No, of course not,” she assured him. “What's wrong?”

“Can I come over?” he asked.

Fifteen minutes later she answered the door. She had no idea what had come to pass, but it was clear his heart was broken. He spent the first twenty minutes crying as they sat together on the couch, and she was helpless to do anything but hold him. As Jim began to gain control over his tears, the story became clear. He had told Pam that he was in love with her. He'd kissed her, and made it clear to his mother that she had kissed him back. But the truth was that she was still going to marry her fiance. He had done everything he thought he could do to win her, and it just wasn't enough. He looked lost and defeated and she cried for him. Sitting beside her wasn't her grown son; he was her child again, and she felt a wave of anger over the perceived injustice. How could this woman not see how wonderful he was? How could she hurt him so much? Just who did she think she was? She thought at that moment she hoped she never met this Pam Beesly, because she would not be able to resist telling her exactly what she thought of her. What idiot would reject her son?

He spent that night back in his old room, and most of the next day by her side. She understood him better than anyone, and he knew she would listen without judgment. When he told her he was taking a transfer to Connecticut he didn't even have to say why. She'd miss him terribly, but he deserved a new chance. No one was more worthy of happiness than him.

She visited him twice in Stamford. First was a few weeks after he moved. He had a small but tidy apartment, and his office window faced the ocean. She noticed he'd lost some weight, but wisely said nothing. She did make a mental note to start sending more cookies, though. He took her down to a restaurant on the riverfront her first night there, and he spoke of how different this new branch was to Scranton. She could tell that he really was trying to make an effort to be happy, so it hurt her to still see so much sadness behind his beautiful hazel eyes. Would he never be able to forget that stupid girl?

She stayed four days on that visit, and on the last day she was there was he got a call from his friend Toby. It wasn't a long conversation, and the look on his face as he hung up made her fear something bad had happened.

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

“I don't know,” he replied, putting his hand through his hair. She recognized that move as a reflex of his when he was feeling anxious or confused. “Pam called off her wedding last week.”

She watcher her son carefully as he said that, and marveled at the range of emotions that washed over his face. He seemed overwhelmed, concerned, confused, curious, wistful, hopeful and resigned all in the span of ten seconds.

“What are you going to do?” she asked softly.

“What can I do?” he replied, almost as much to himself as to her. “She turned me down. If something's changed, she knows where I am.”

She couldn't blame him for not picking up the phone, though she would have bet everything she owned that he wanted to. She wished there was something she could do, but knew it wasn't her right. For all she knew this girl wasn't right for her son. Time would have to tell. She knew his feelings were still too raw, his confidence too low, to believe anything would come of this new development.

The second visit was at the start of September. She came down for Labor Day weekend, and they had a wonderful time watching the last sailing races of summer. She didn't mention Pam, but it was clear from his silence that she hadn't called him despite her canceled wedding. And while he was clearly doing well financially in Stamford, with the new expensive suits and him treating her to the best restaurants in town, there still was something missing. The sparkle in his eyes when he used to mention Pam's name wasn't there, not matter what they discussed, only a dull acceptance in its place. She knew she'd give anything to see that sparkle in her son's eyes, but once again reminded herself that it was out of her hands.

She called him one afternoon in late October to ask if he was planning on making it home for Thanksgiving when she heard that familiar sound of bewilderment in his voice.

“What's wrong, Jim?” she asked.

“It looks like the Stamford branch is closing down, Mom. I guess I'm coming back to Scranton.”

Larissa was delighted to think that Jim would be close to home again, and proud of his new promotion as the number two in charge once back in Scranton. But she knew what he was worried about. He was coming back to work in the same office as Pam, and Larissa doubted very much that he had gotten himself over her in the relatively short time he'd been away. She hoped that either Pam had come to the realization of how wonderful her son was in the months they'd been apart, or perhaps she wasn't even working at Dunder Mifflin anymore. At this point Larissa didn't care which, she just wanted things easier for Jim.

Jim's first Sunday dinner at home was the day before his reappearance back at the Scranton branch. He'd found a new place to live mere blocks from his parents' house. His brother Jonathan, visiting for the weekend, teased him for moving back “so close to Mommy,” but he took the jib in stride. Well, that and a serious punch to his brother's arm. But truth was, he wanted his mother around right now. She was the one thing he could count on right now. And he as much told her so as he left for his new apartment that evening, getting himself prepared for life back at Dunder Mifflin Scranton.

“I hope you don't mind if I'm coming around all the time to bother you,” he said self-consciously. “It still feels very surreal to be back. I need all the friends I can get right now.”

“You better come around and bother me, or I'll start coming by and embarrassing you in front of your friends,” she grinned. “And you know I'll do it.” They laughed together for a moment, as Jim put his coat on and grabbed his car keys from his pocket. The look on his face betrayed his need for reassurance. “It's going to be okay, you know,” she told him, placing her hand warmly on his arm.

He gave his mother a big hug. “I hope so,” he said. His eyes didn't look so certain.

“Don't be afraid to go after what you want, Jim,” she said, tidying up his coat collar as only a mother could. She gave him a look that dared him to deny he didn't know what she was talking about.

“It's not all about what I want, is it though?” he replied.

“Not all, no,” she nodded. “But you severely underestimate that Halpert charm.” She smiled up at him. “You get that from your father, and he certainly didn't win me over very easily.” She suddenly worried she might have said too much. “I hope that comment wasn't out of order. I don't really know enough about the situation to know if I should be rooting for you or trying to talk you out of it.”

Jim chuckled. “Sometimes I don't know either, Mom. Some days I wish I'd never met her, and other days I wonder how I'll ever manage to live without her.” He touched her shoulder, feeling the softness of her fleece sweater. “But you'd like her. You would really like her.”

She watched her adorable middle child make his way out of the house and to his car, a light snow already starting to come down. Larissa wondered idly if winter would come early this year. She waved as his car pulled out of the drive, and made herself a silent promise. Though she always vowed she would never be the kind of mother that interfered in in her children's lives, she realized that sometimes rules needed to be broken. And while she had no idea what she would even do if the opportunity presented itself, she sure as hell knew she'd take a chance when she saw one.
Chapter 2 - What She Does by time4moxie
Author's Notes:
I struggled a bit with how much interference Jim's mother would be willing to cause, and I think what resulted was realistic. I could picture myself doing something similar for my own child, if such a crazy situation existed.


Life for Larissa started to seem a little closer to normal with the return of Jim to Scranton. They had remained close with emails and phone calls while he was in Connecticut, but now it was nothing to drop things off on his doorstep on her way home from the high school, or have him stop by for a little while some nights after work. He immediately resumed his regular place at Sunday lunches, even though she constantly assured him he wasn't required to do so.

“It sounds like you are trying to get rid of me,” he teased her. “Is there some sort of secret rendezvous I'm keeping you from these days?”

“Don't be silly, Jim,” Larissa replied, setting before him a second serving of chocolate silk pie. Her plan of making his favorite foods week after week had succeeded in banishing that gaunt look he had been sporting in Stamford. She was secretly pleased she was seeing the return of his rounded cheeks. “That's always been on Tuesday nights. You know that. It's just that I can't believe you don't have better things to do on a Sunday. I'm sure you still have friends, right?”

“And most of them are still sleeping off their hangovers at this hour,” he grinned.

“Poor Jim,” she laughed. “Caught between the partying crowd and the old-timers, hmm?”

“Same as always,” he nodded.

Jim had been back nearly three weeks and except for a passing litany of names when he first found out he was moving back, Larissa had heard little news about anyone at work. Not even Pam. Given how close they once were, Larissa thought waiting this long had shown great restraint on her part. She knew something wasn't quite right, and she didn't mind starting to pick at the wall Jim seemed to have put up between them. She felt hopeful that with just the two of them at the table, he might once again feel willing to confide in her.

“What about the folks that came up from Stamford? Aren't you friends with any of them?”

Jim shook his head at her question. “Not really,” he said, focusing his attention on his pie. “I mean I talk to them at work, but they weren't exactly buddies when we were in Stamford.”

Larissa sighed loudly at his evasive answer, putting her elbows on the dining room table and resting her head in her hands. She looked through her fingers and noticed her dramatic reaction had him finally looking at her. She lifted her head up to stare back at him. “Will you just tell me what's wrong?” She implored. “Please? I cannot take all this ennui.”

Jim put his fork down and pushed his empty dessert plate away. “What do you want me say, Mom? The more things change the more they stay the same?”

“And is that the truth? Are things just the same as when you left?”

He laughed, but eyes remained serious. “Who knows? Maybe they're worse.”

“Talk to me, Honey,” she pleaded softly. “Is Pam still there?”

He nodded, and absentmindedly brushed his hand through his hair. “Yeah, she's still there.”

“And how did that reunion go? Have you spoken to her?”

“Well, we have to speak - we work in the same office.”

“You know what I'm asking.”

He shrugged. “She gave me a big hug hello on the first day, and since then we talk when we need to, about work related things. Is it awkward? Yes, yes it is. It's not that easy to just act like nothing happened.”

Larissa nodded. “Of course it's not. But what did you expect? Do you want to be friends with her again? Do you want more? Is it hard seeing her everyday?”

Jim put his hand up to stop her questions, and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Whoa, stop the inquisition, please!”

“I just worry about you, Jim,” Larissa said apologetically. “Call it a mother's prerogative. And I'm not trying to pry, honestly. It's just that you've gone from telling me what was going on with you to just about radio silence when it comes to your feelings. I guess I'm not used to being frozen out by you. By Jessica, sure - but not you.”

Jim looked at his mother and smiled wanly. “I don't have anything to tell you because I don't know myself,” he said. “I had hoped - “ he stopped for a moment. “I don't know what I'd hoped. I guess I just wish she would talk to me. Really talk to me. She seemed happy to see me, but what about all the time she could have contacted me and she didn't? Am I suppose to just treat that as if it were missing time and everything can just go back to being how it was?”

“I don't know, why don't you ask her?”

“Because I was the one who made the move the last time. At some point she's got to care enough to say something.”

Larissa shook her head. “Wouldn't it be better to stay something and get it over with than wait in misery?”

“I'm not in misery,” he corrected, albeit a bit unconvincingly. “It's just so damn frustrating.” Jim sighed. “And maybe I'm just beating a dead horse anyway. It should be obvious that if she never called after the wedding, never contacted me while I was in Stamford, and said she doesn't care if I'm seeing someone now, then I guess one can assume she really has no interest in being anything but friends, right?”

Larissa jaw dropped just a little. “You're seeing someone now?”

Jim looked at his hands for a moment. “Yeah, kind of,” he finally replied.

“Since when?”

“Right after coming back. It's really not a big deal.”

“So how did you manage to meet someone so soon? Is she a friend of Mark's?”

Jim looked increasingly uncomfortable with the conversation. “No, actually she's from the Stamford branch. I introduced you to Karen, remember? The woman that sat behind me?”

Larissa had a vague remembrance of a dark-haired, serious-looking woman. “And that started here - not back there?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Jim replied, “I really don't remember exactly when.”

“I see,” his mother replied. She wondered if he did as well, but thought better of asking. “Will you be bringing her over for Thanksgiving dinner then?” she asked instead.

Jim quickly shook his head. “No, she's going back home for the holiday weekend. She suggested I go with her but I thought you'd prefer me to stay around.”

Larissa nodded, but said nothing. She stood up and walked over to Jim's side of the table. She picked up his empty plate and fork with one hand, and rested her other hand on his shoulder. She gave him a kiss on the top of his head and walked silently into the kitchen. There was so much she wanted to say, and none of it would do either of them any good at this point. His lack of disclosure over Karen spoke volumes. The fact that Karen wanted him to come home with her and he didn't told her even more.

When Larissa came back to the dining room table, she sat down next to him. “Why don't you invite Pam over for Thanksgiving dinner?”

He looked up at her like she'd lost her mind. “I don't think that's such a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“Were you here when I was talking about the awkward part? Because I can't imagine a more frightening idea that being seated around this dinner table and having Jonathan and Jessica trading thinly veiled comments about her or me.”

“Jim - I think they've outgrown that sort of behavior, don't you?”

“It wouldn't work, Mom. Just trust me on this.”

“But don't you think getting out of the office might be what you two need to get talking? Between the impersonal office setting and those camera crews you still having around, just when do you think she's going to walk up and initiate a personal conversation like that?”

“I said No,” Jim said forcefully. His tone surprised Larissa, and she immediately shut up. Jim got up out of his chair and left the room. Larissa wondered when raising children was ever going to get easier, and stood up to busy herself in the kitchen. The number of times Jim had ever raised his voice to her could be counted on one hand, so she knew she'd said too much. She'd clearly hit a sore spot, and for that she was sorry. She just didn't know what to do or say to make him feel better.

She'd be the first one trying to keep him away from Pam Beesly if she thought it would help. But it was clear that distance didn't change a thing. And deep down Larissa knew that this woman was either going to make or break her son. There didn't seem to be any other option. His relationship with Karen was practically non-existent by comparison, that much was clear. Maybe it would grow, maybe she'd make him forget Pam. But based on her instincts, Larissa knew Karen didn't stand a chance. She just hoped she didn't get hurt too when it was all said and done.

She had finished rinsing off the last glass when she heard his steps on the kitchen tile. She put the glass in the drainer and turned around.

“I'm sorry,” they said in unison. Larissa had barely opened her arms to him when she found herself nearly smothered in his embrace. He rested his head on her shoulder while she gently rubbed his back, fighting back the tears in her eyes. Why was it really so hard for him to be happy?

They stood together like that for minutes, Larissa silently willing some of her strength and courage into her middle child. She even wished she could give him some of her foolhardiness, for surely that was the most important thing he needed in this situation.

Finally Jim broke their hug, taking a step back before speaking. “I would love to ask Pam to join us for Thanksgiving,” he confessed. “But I have no reason to believe she's accept such an offer, and right now one more rejection is just not something I can deal with.”

“I understand,” Larissa replied. “I shouldn't have said anything. I'm sorry.”

“It's okay,” he nodded. “Were things different, it would have been a great idea.”

Larissa spent the next few days with Jim's words heavy on her mind and heart. She tried talking about the situation with her husband Greg, but he told her not to interfere. She knew he was just being cautious, and that he probably was correct. But even though he was Jim's father he just didn't understand Jim like she did.

And so it was that when lunch time came that Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, Larissa found herself waiting in her car on the street opposite the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. She'd only had to work a half day at school, and still snuck out slightly earlier than she was supposed to, but she felt she was on a mission. She saw Jim's car in the parking lot, and knew she had given herself plenty of time. A short phone conversation last night with him had revealed that he planned on running errands during his lunch break, and she hoped it wouldn't be long before she saw him leave.

Fortunately she saw Jim go before her courage gave out. She pulled into the parking lot, neatly taking Jim's now empty space. She took a deep breath, looked in the rear view mirror, and fluffed her hair out a bit. She wasn't sure what in the hell she was about to do, she just knew she had to do something.

She took the elevator up, and walked toward the Dunder Mifflin sign. Larissa noticed a slight shake in her hand as she reached for the glass entrance door. She paused, considering her options. She could just turn around, go home, and Jim would never know she was here, about to step right into the brier patch that was currently posing as his love life. Was there really anything helpful she could do by walking through those doors? Or was she just being selfish, wanting to face the woman who's been as close to her son's heart as she's been, and truth be told, probably owned an even greater part of it than she ever could?

She pulled the door open harder than she intended, and stepped into the office. No going back now, she thought. Let's just hope he forgives me one day.

The woman at the reception desk stood up and smiled at her. Larissa knew immediately who she was. Had she not already known Pam was the receptionist she would have recognized her from her smile. It was identical to the one she had seen in photos Jim had of her.

“Can I help you?” Pam asked.

“Hi, I'm Larissa Halpert, Jim's mother,” she smiled, “Is he here?”

She watched Pam's face flush, and her eyes seemed to get slightly bigger. “Oh! Mrs. Halpert, h-how nice to finally meet you,” Pam stuttered.

“And you must be Pam,” Larissa replied, taking a step closer. “I would know you anywhere.”

“Really?” Pam asked, more than a bit surprised.

“Really,” she replied warmly. “I've seen your photo and Jim's talked about you so much these past years that I can't believe we've never actually met before today.”

If it was possible, Pam blushed even pinker, clearly unsure what to say. “Oh! Well, I'm afraid you just missed Jim. He went out to do some errands during lunch.”

“Oh, that's a shame,” Larissa replied, her practiced line sounding slightly false to her own ear. She stood at the reception desk, taking it all in. Pam's desk was cluttered with stacks of papers, and she saw notes and photos taped all along the top edge of her counter. Larissa was standing to the side of the reception desk, so she could easily see the faces in the photos. One such photo was taped just right of Pam's computer monitor, but sat further under the counter than the rest. It was a photo of Pam and Jim. Its location had clearly been given some thought, as someone standing in front of Pam's desk would not be able to see it. The clandestine location told Larissa that it was a special picture to Pam, and it gave her the first sliver of hope that perhaps she was right in coming here.

She noticed Jim's desk sat closest to reception, the photo of Jonathan, Jessica and him sitting near the monitor giving his location away. She saw that Jim sat with his back to Pam, whereas Larissa remembered that he used to sit facing her. She wondered if that made it better or worse for Jim these days. She had no doubt he probably still felt her presence closely.

She heard Pam say something and turned her gaze back. “I'm sorry, Pam, what did you say?”

“I wondered if you want to leave a message for him? Or if you have the time, you could wait for him in the conference room. I don't expect he'll be gone terribly long.”

Pam had just made her next decision easy. “Yes, if that wouldn't be too much trouble, I think I would like to wait.”

Pam smiled again and lead her to the conference room. She pulled back one of the chairs from the table and offered her a seat. “Can I get you something to drink while you wait? Coffee or tea maybe?”

“Tea would be lovely, if you have it,” Larissa said.

“Tea's my personal favorite too,” Pam confessed with a self-conscious smile. “Would you like Darjeeling or an herbal tea? I have new box of Raspberry Zinger I've been meaning to open up.”

“Yes, raspberry sounds good. Will you join me in a cup?” Larissa asked. “I mean, unless of course you need to get back to work?”

“I was just about to have lunch, actually,” Pam said. “I'll be right back.”

Larissa sat alone in the conference room, feeling awkward and more than a bit obvious. Pam had been extremely polite and friendly, and if she thought it was odd Larissa was there she didn't show it at all. She tried to come up with a word to fit her first impression of Pam, but 'pleasant' was the best she could come up with. Not a bad way to start, but certainly not the description she wanted for the girl her son was so crazy over. She smiled at her own impatience. Her son was nothing if not a person with many hidden layers. She should expect that someone he held so dear would probably be much the same way.

Soon Pam returned with a tray holding two cups of tea and their accessories, with a brown bag tucked under her arm. She was also accompanied by another woman, a woman with darker hair and a more boyish figure.

“Mrs. Halpert? Hi, I'm Karen,” she said extending her hand.

Larissa had forgotten about Karen, and shook Karen's hand politely. “Nice to meet you, Karen.” She fumbled for a moment to find something to say. I've heard so much about you? That was far from true. I'm glad to finally meet you? Not so much, actually. She was here to meet Pam. Pam was the crux of the problem, as well as the source of the solution. To Larissa Karen was just a potentially nice girl caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. She decided to say nothing, and just smiled again at her.

Karen continued to stand there, watching while Pam laid out the tea cups and the sugar and lemons. She finally said something about getting back to work and left the room.

Larissa noticed that Pam watched Karen walk out. “Do you know Karen well?” Larissa asked her.

Pam shrugged. “Not very, but she hasn't been here long. She's originally from the Stamford office. She's really is very nice when you get to know her.”

Larissa wondered if that statement was meant to mean more than just a polite endorsement for a colleague. Jim had told Pam he was seeing someone, surely Pam knew that person was Karen. Was Pam trying to tell her to give Karen a chance? Larissa decided to stop thinking and just drink her tea.

While they each stirred their teas and waited for them to cool down enough to drink, Larissa and Pam exchanged small talk. Larissa asked Pam about her family, the upcoming holidays, her interests outside the office. Pam's answers evolved from simple and restrained to detailed and entertaining as the two women found they shared similar tastes in movies and books. When Larissa asked Pam to tell her more about her art classes, she began to see some fire, some joy in Pam's face. Pam took a pen that was lying on the conference table and detailed some of her bigger art disasters on a paper napkin. Larissa found it almost too easy to laugh with her. She wonders again how it was possible the two of them had never met before today.

Larissa asked Pam if all the horror stories about working at Dunder Mifflin were true, and Pam assured her they were. She provided a few examples of Michael's best intentions going astray, although Larissa noted Pam always tried to emphasis that Michael was a well-meaning man, really. This lead to some discussion about the existence of Dwight, and short listing of some of the best pranks she and Jim had ever pulled against him. With her lively descriptions and beaming smile, Larissa could imagine the fun her son and Pam had shared in all this time.

“I guess the hijinx have continued now that Jim's back?” Larissa asked innocently. She peered over her cup of tea to look for Pam's reaction.

“We've pulled a few,” Pam said, smiling slightly. “It's been so good to have him back. I can't being to tell you how much I've missed him.”

It was only for a second or two, and Larissa might have been imagining it, but she swore at that moment she saw it. That look in Pam's eyes when she spoke of Jim being back. It was the same look Jim used to have when he talked about Pam. Back before he admitted how he felt. Damn it all if there isn't something there, she thought to herself.

“So what are your plans for Thanksgiving, Pam?” Larissa asked.

“No big plans,” Pam replied. “I guess I'll drive over to my parents' house. My sister and brother both have families, so it will probably be a bit overwhelming, but that's what holiday are about, right?”

“I don't suppose you'd consider joining us for Thanksgiving,” Larissa said casually.

Pam was completely taken aback by the offer. “I'm not sure I understand.”

“We Halperts tend to have very large parties for Thanksgiving. Some relatives, some friends, you know,” Larissa explained. “And I know it's late, and it probably sounds like the offer is coming right out of the blue, but it isn't. I know how long you and Jim have been friends and I just thought it would be lovely to have you join us. It would be nice for him to have someone to spend the day with besides old aunts and uncles and friends of his brother and sister.”

“He'll have Karen, surely,” Pam replied. “After all, she is his girlfriend.”

“Karen?” Larissa repeated. “No, Jim's already told me she won't be there.” Larissa looked back to be sure that no one was standing at the conference room door before continuing. “Listen, I don't want to give you the wrong impression, but he never even mentioned her to me until this past weekend when I asked about inviting you to join us for Thanksgiving this year. He was afraid to ask you because he thought you would turn him down. But that's just silly, right? I mean, Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what you have, and you and Jim have been friends forever it seems. Which is why I'm a little embarrassed that you've never shared the holiday with us before.”

Pam glanced down at her now empty tea cup. “Well, this is the first Thanksgiving I've known Jim when I wasn't engaged,” she said. “I don't suppose it would have been appropriate back then.”

“But you'll come this year?” Larissa asked encouragingly. “Please say yes, I know it would make Jim so happy.”

Pam didn't respond for a while. She had opened her brown bag and was now stirring her open yogurt pot, glancing up at his mother. Larissa felt a bit guilty doing this; it honestly wasn't part of some preconceived plan when she walked in the door. She just wanted to spend some time with her, get a feel for what kind of person she was. But within minutes she felt like she saw a glimpse of what Jim had seen years ago. She couldn't explain it, and by all rights she shouldn't have been so easily won over. This girl had caused tears by the bucketful to be shed by her son. But there wasn't an trace of guile in her, that much Larissa could sense immediately. And that made her want to know more about her, wanted to see how she interacted with Jim. And that's when she remembered her idea from Sunday. Jim was probably going to kill her, she thought ruefully, stepping in with an offer he told her he didn't want to make. But to hell with it. He'd get over it. And maybe someday he'd even thank her. That is, if Pam actually accepted the invitation.

Pam cleared her throat, which broke Larissa's reverie. “Um, okay, Mrs. Halpert,” she said with an uncertain smile. “I'd love to come over tomorrow for Thanksgiving.”

Larissa beamed in excitment, and put her hand on Pam's arm. “Wonderful, but let's go over two ground rules. First, it's Larissa, not Mrs. Halpert. 'Mrs. Halpert' is for my high school English students and for my mother-in-law, God bless her. Second, why don't we keep this just between us and surprise Jim tomorrow?”

Pam looked unconvinced. “Are you sure that's a good idea?”

“Definitely,” Larissa intoned. “Trust me. Jim loves surprises.”

“Okay then,” Pam nodded, starting to smile. “What can I bring and when shall I show up?”


Jim had barely hung up his overcoat when Karen bounded up to him. “Your mother is in the conference room,” she told him.

“What?” Jim looked over Karen's shoulder to see his mother and Pam talking animatedly. He walked away from Karen without saying another word, and headed straight toward Larissa and Pam.

He stopped in the doorway. “Hey, what are you doing here?”

Larissa turned in her chair and smiled. She could see the worry in his eyes and it made her want to laugh, but she forced it back. “I wondered when you'd return,” she said. “Pam's been keeping me entertained while I waited.”

“Did we have a lunch date that I forgot?” Jim continued to stand there, looking confused.

Larissa stood up, and gave her son a hug. “No, no, it's not your fault,” she said. “I only had a half day at the school and thought I'd come over and see how things were going.”

“Okay,” Jim said, clearly suspicious of her arrival. “Everything here is about the same as it was when I talked to you yesterday.”

“Great,” Larissa replied. “Well then I won't keep you from work.” She smiled back at Pam. “It was so nice to finally have a chance to meet you, Pam.”

“Oh yes, thank you, Larissa. I feel exactly the same way.”

Jim guided his mother out of the conference room and toward the door. Karen sat straight-backed at her desk, frowning slightly, watching Jim and his mother walk away from her. “Here, let me walk you out,” he said to Larissa.

“You don't have to bother,” his mother said.

“Oh no,” Jim replied. “I insist.”

Larissa smiled to herself. She knew she was in trouble.

The elevator doors had barely shut when Jim spoke. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Well I'm pretty sure I have everything I need for tomorrow, so I suspect I'll just head home now. Maybe have a short nap before your brother and his girlfriend arrive.”

He raised his eyebrow at her. “That's not what I mean and you know it.” The elevator dinged and he held the door with his arm as she walked out.

“I came to see you. You weren't here, and Pam offered me a cup of tea while I waited, and we had a nice little chat.” She smiled innocently up at her son. “What's so wrong with that?”

Jim opened the glass door to the parking lot and a cold wind whipped at their hair as he followed his mother outside. “What so wrong with that,” he said, gently holding on to her elbow as they walked toward her car, “Is that I know you too well, and I am pretty sure you weren't here to see me.”

She unlocked her car with two beeps from her key fob. “Well who else would I be here for?”

Jim pushed both hands into the deep pockets of his blue woolen coat and gave her what Larissa always thought of as “The Face” - a combination of raised eyebrows, eyes wide open and his lips pressed hard into a straight line. He looked like he was smiling and frowning at the same time. He always used that face when he was trying to call her bluff, when wanted her to know that he didn't quite believe her. It wasn't an “I'm angry at you for what you are doing,” but a “I'm going to keep bugging you until you tell me what you're up to.”

Larissa dipped her head down and let out the laugh that had been building up inside since the moment Jim found her sitting with Pam. “Okay! You win!” she practically shouted, smacking him gently in the chest. “I admit it. I didn't come to see you. I came to see Pam. I've heard about her for so many years, but with the exception of a handful of photos of yours, and a sighting across a parking lot a time or two, I know nothing about her save what you tell me. I had no feeling for who she is. When you didn't want to invite her over for Thanksgiving, I guess my patience just gave out.”

Jim's hands remained in his pockets, and he was looking down at the ground. He didn't say anything to her confession, and Larissa started to worry that perhaps she'd misjudged what she thought her son's reaction would be. Maybe he really was trying to put Pam out of his life, and she had just done the exact opposite of what he really wanted.

“So you have a feeling for her now, do you?” Jim was still looking down at the ground as he spoke, sounding more empty than angry.

Larissa involuntarily stepped closer at the sound of his voice. “A little,” she replied. “She's... she's got a great amount of sparkle to her.”

Jim looked up finally. “Sparkle?”

Larissa smiled slightly. “Yes, sparkle. She's the first person I've ever met who's as completely expressive as you are. When she starts talking about something that matters to her, her whole face just lights up. I found her quite endearing, which says a lot given how I'm supposed to be on your side.” She saw a smile tugging at the side of his lips, and she breathed a slow sigh of relief. Perhaps her instincts had been correct all along.

“What was she talking about?” he asked, glancing up at his mother just for a moment.

“Oh, this and that. The holidays, Dunder Mifflin - “

“No,” Jim interrupted tersely, “What was she talking about that made her face light up?”

They looked at each other, mother to son, and she recognized the question for what it was. She was so glad she didn't have to lie to him.

“She talked about you, actually,” Larissa said nonchalantly. “She was telling me how glad she was that you were back. She mentioned some of the trouble you two have already started to get into. That girl has missed you terribly.”

“She said that?”

“Yes, Jim, she did.” Larissa said, looking her son in the eye, “But had she not said a single word to that effect I still would know it was true. It was written all over her - in her smile, in her inflection. I don't understand how it was obvious to me after a mere twenty minute conversation and you can't see it after nearly a month here.”

“Because you know everything? At least that's what you like to tell me,” he joked.
“Besides,” he continued, sounding more serious. “Missing someone doesn't mean there's anything more to it than that. It's not like you don't miss your friends.”

Larissa heard him say the word 'friends' like it was the most distasteful thing he could think of. She reached out and held onto his arm. “You know her a million times better than I do, so maybe I'm way off here. But I wouldn't say this if I did feel it was true: there's more going on here than you are willing to consider. I could see it in her eyes just like I used to see it in yours, Jim. Don't be so quick to burn your bridges just yet. I don't think you're seeing the whole story.”

He shifted his weight between his feet and she knew to just quit talking because he was on the verge of tuning her out anyway. He had that stubborn look on his face that she always noticed when he didn't want to listen anymore, didn't want to admit that she might have some information he either missed or didn't want to acknowledge. But she knew that he'd reflect on her words long after she was left, and hopefully they would make him feel a little better.

So she opened her car door, and got in. He stood at her door as she rolled her window down. “Mad at me?” she asked, as he rested his hand on the roof of her car and leaned his head in slightly.

“Would it do any good if I was?” he replied, smirking.

“Yes, it would,” she replied seriously. “I didn't show up here this afternoon to hurt you.”

He put his free hand on window's edge. “No, I'm not mad,” he said softly. “I just don't see how this helps anything. Now I get to go back in and have Karen ask me why I didn't introduce her to you.”

“And why didn't you?” Larissa teased.

“No,” Jim shook his head. “You've done entirely too much damage today. I'm not having that conversation. Go home.”

Jim stood back from her car as she pulled out of the parking space, and waved as she drove away. The look on his face seemed to be one of hopeless acceptance, which wasn't exactly what she was going for, but at least she felt certain that he wasn't angry with her. She knew she'd been more than a little heavy-handed in having the nerve to just walk in like that, but in the end Larissa was happy that she did.

She spent the next few hours at home in silent contemplation, and was sincerely happy when Jonathan called to say he and Kathy wouldn't be arriving until hours later than expected. She couldn't get her conversation with Pam out of her head.
The one thing she did not expect Pam to be was so genuine. Pam was initially shy and nervous around Larissa when she first arrived, but once they'd settled down with their tea and her lunch the conversation flowed surprisingly well. Pam was clearly intelligent, and had a sharp sense of humor. In fact, in many ways Pam reminded Larissa of Jim.

This fact worried her a bit. She loved her son, but she was well aware of his faults, and his ability to avoid direct confrontation at all costs was one of them. How he managed to tell Pam he loved her in May was still somewhat of a mystery to her, and proof of how very much he must have loved her. Still loves her, she corrected herself. But the odds of him ever making a scene like that again were slim-to-none in her eyes. And if Pam were as much like Jim as she feared, she wondered how the two of them were ever going to find their way to each other. She hoped tomorrow would turn out to be a push in the right direction.


Chapter 3 - What She Sees by time4moxie
Author's Notes:

Okay - Thanksgiving Day at the Halperts. This one runs pretty long - but it was a long day! It was harder to write than I expected, mostly because i had so many people to account for, and I wanted to flesh it out without hopefully making it boring!

So enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Larissa Halpert arose quietly at six o'clock in the morning on the day of Thanksgiving, careful not to wake her still sleeping husband. She had a list of ingredients already floating in her head covering the many treats and dishes she hoped to serve over the course of the day. The first order of the day was to make sure the turkey was properly cleaned and prepared, and into the oven for roasting before the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Thanksgiving had always been Larissa' favorite holiday. She grew up watching the parade, her family all home to share good food and companionship. As she grew up and had a family of her own, her responsibility to provide the meal made the day a little more stressful than when she was a young girl, but she soon learned to divide the tasks and take time for herself to enjoy things as well. Together they ate, drank, played games, laughed, and generally felt things were right in the world for that one short day. It was like Christmas without the pressure of finding the perfect gift.

Over time they expanded their celebration from just her and Greg and the children. They invited grandparents, aunts, uncles, visiting friends, whoever was near and dear and wanted to take part. Jonathan, Jim and Jessica had each brought home friends and/or romantic partners at different times. Their Thanksgiving table sat anywhere from a small party of five to busting table of fifteen. You could never be sure from year to year how many people would turn up at the Halpert household on the fourth Thursday in November.

This year the count looked to be holding at nine, including Pam. Jonathan brought his long-term girlfriend Kathy home, Jessica was in from Penn State but this year came alone. Then there were Greg's younger sister Elizabeth and her partner Audrey who would be arriving mid-morning to spend the entire weekend. It was the one time of year they had the chance to spend any quality time with women Larissa loved like sisters. It seemed both a good number and an interesting mix of personalities to Larissa.

Her inability to sleep in this morning was also directly related to the upcoming surprise. Several times last night Larissa considered telling Jim that Pam was coming over for Thanksgiving. He had been in the house since last night, deciding to sleep over so he could spend more time with Jonathan and Jessica. It had brought back memories of a louder, earlier time, and Larissa just sat back in her chair and took it all in. Kathy made a nice addition to the family, even if some older, more fussy relatives didn't recognize her as such since she didn't wear a special ring or have the same last name. Larissa had known Kathy as a match for Jonathan not long after she first met her. She knew they would be together indefinitely and had no need for a marriage license to be presented to welcome Kathy into the family.

When she watched Jim that evening she realized she already felt that way about Pam. She thought the idea sounded ridiculous, even for her, but it was the truth. She could so easily imagine Pam fitting in with this bunch that could barely contain her excitement for tomorrow. This was why on more than one occasion she found herself biting her tongue instead of asking Jim what Pam would think or want in regards to food or activities on Thanksgiving. It was better to just wait and see. She feared if she let it slip, he'd have too much time to build up his defenses. If he could just be himself, be Jim, she knew tomorrow stood a chance of ending happily.

She was lost in thought over the potential outcomes of Pam's arrival when Jim startled her by walking into the kitchen. His tousled hair gave away the fact that he clearly had just gotten out of bed, and he was wearing a grey t-shirt so old and faded you could no longer read the writing. It matched well with the flannel pants he had on - dark blue and grey plaid soft and faded from a million washings. His feet were bare, and for a moment Larissa pictured him at half his age. He gave his mother a kiss on the cheek and headed toward the fridge.

"You're up early," she said as she continued rinsing vegetables under the tap.

"Happy Thanksgiving to you, too," Jim grinned, pulling out the gallon jug of milk and placing it on the counter. "It's not that early, Mom. It's already eight o'clock."

Larissa glanced at the time, amazed that two hours of solitude had passed. "Heavens," she said. "I had no idea how quickly the time has passed. Can you get the bags of bread cubes from the pantry for me?"

Jim poured himself a tall glass of milk, put the jug back and started to help his mother with the stuffing preparation. Growing up, he was the one who always seemed most interested in helping with the cooking duties, and because of it had learned he had both fun and culinary success in the kitchen. The last couple of years he had even taken over the making of a few traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and the dressing was one of them.

The next time Larissa looked up at the clock, it was past eight thirty, and she was starting to feel a bit anxious. She told Pam to arrive shortly before nine, because Pam had said she loved watching the parade as well. Larissa took that as yet another good omen, for while Jim never admitted to it, the fact was he got up early every Thanksgiving had more to do with the parade than with helping her cook. Larissa thought it was perfect ice breaker for them to start the day with. She looked over at Jim, still in his pajamas.

"Hey, uh you going to dress like that for the parade?" She asked, as nonchalantly as she could.

Jim shrugged. "It's just the parade. Aunt Liz and Aunt Audrey aren't going to be here until noon, right?"

"Well, I don't know. They said mid-morning."

"And we all know that means noon at the earliest," Jim smiled. "Do I need to be cleaned up for Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera?"

"Well, it is Meredith's first year hosting," his mother shot back, "you could show a little respect."

Jim laughed and continued mixing in the stuffing ingredients. Since Jim's appearance in the kitchen, a slow but steady stream of other waking family members shuffled in and out of the kitchen. Jim's father, already dressed for dinner, came in for coffee, greeting both Larissa and Jim with a hearty 'Happy Thanksgiving.' He gave his wife a kiss, patted Jim on the back, and wandered back out to drink his coffee in the living room.

Jessica appeared shortly after eight thirty, also looking for coffee.

"Since when do you drink coffee?" Jim asked.

"Since I started a double major three years ago, Dorko," she replied. "Honestly. I'm not twelve anymore, Jim." She made a face at him and followed her father into the living room.

"Has she always been that snotty?" Jim asked his mother with a wink.

"Oh no," Larissa replied, laughing. "She used to be worse."

"Ah, I hear entirely too much merriment going on in here," Jonathan said brightly as he walked into the kitchen. "Happy Turkey Day, folks."

Larissa was done at the sink and turned to give her eldest a hug. "Happy Thanksgiving, Jonathan," she said. "Is Kathy still sleeping?"

"No, she's just finishing up whatever it is that she does," he smiled. "She'll be in time for the parade, Mom."

It was Jonathan's running joke with his mother that the stress level rose in the house as the minutes clicked down to the start of the parade. The turkey had to be in, people had to be up and dressed, and bottoms had to be in their seats as the opening credits of the parade started.

Larissa feigned a glare at him. "Just get what you need and get out of here, boy," she said. "I don't need your impertinence."

As Jonathan left with two glasses of juice and a smile, there was a knock at the back door. Larissa felt her stomach knot up slightly. "Can you get that for me, Jim?" she asked, immediately tossing some fresh mushrooms into the sink. "I need to get these mushrooms washed."

"That can't be Liz and Audrey," he said, shooting her a concerned look. "Are you expecting someone else?"

Larissa gave her best blank stare back, but refused to say anything. She drew the line at outright lying. She watched over her shoulder as Jim walked over to the door and opened it.

"Happy Thanksgiving, Jim," she heard Pam say brightly.

"Pam," Jim replied. He stood in the doorway, just staring at her, with his hand still on the door handle. "What are you doing -"

"Happy Thanksgiving, Pam," Larissa called out, cutting off Jim's comment. "Please, ignore the poor butler service we have and come in out of the cold!"

Jim took a quick step back to let her in. "Happy Thanksgiving" he said quietly to her as she passed. He shut the door and ran his hand through his uncombed hair.

Larissa noticed he spent more than a moment staring at Pam. She was casually dressed in jeans and a burnt orange polar fleece v-neck sweater, the neckline embroidered with autumn leaves. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail with the scrunchie a similar color to the sweater. She couldn't read her son's thoughts, but Larissa thought Pam looked radiant.

"I brought what you suggested, Larissa," Pam said, putting a wicker basket on the counter. "I hope they turned out okay."

"I'm going to run upstairs and get changed," Jim mumbled, scowling slightly at his mother.

Pam turned toward him, a slight smile on her face. "Why?"

"I'm in my pajamas," Jim said a bit gruffly, "and seem to be the only one around who is."

Pam's smile grew broader. "If I was at home I'd totally still be in my PJs. It's Thanksgiving morning - you look fine. Besides, do you really want to leave and take the risk of missing out on the double chocolate muffins I made?" She opened up the basket she'd been carrying to reveal an impressive array of muffins - a mix of banana nut and double chocolate.

Jim took a step closer to inspect the basket. "Are those the double chocolate ones you make one with the semi-sweet chocolate chunks baked in?" He asked suspiciously, eyebrow raised.

"You mean the ones I brought in last year, only to have them never make it to the break room because refused to let me take the container off your desk?"

Their eyes met briefly. "Hey, they were good. I just called first dibs." Jim justified.

Pam offered the basket to him. "Yes, of course they're the same ones. I made a double batch this time."

"Score!" Jim grinned, taking the muffin basket out of her hands. "Awesome, Beesly."

Larissa bit back a laugh. This was turning out better than she had hoped. She had told Pam to bring along something to eat while watching the parade. She was glad Pam was a clever enough girl to remember to bring along something she knew Jim loved. "Jim, take Pam and the muffins into the living room and get settled in for the parade. I will be right there."

"Come on, Beesly," he said. "You might as well meet the other crazies."

By the time Larissa sat down in the chair next to Greg, the first Broadway musical cast was performing. She took a sip of her coffee and glanced around the living room. It seemed Pam had a baker's touch, as everyone had a muffin and she heard several compliments on the flavor. Jim was eating a chocolate muffin, and had another one sitting in his lap. Larissa smiled.

Greg had recently splurged on a flat screen HDTV, and Larissa was still amazed how much more room it freed up in the living room. They had been able to fit matching leather wingback chairs in the corner where the entertainment center used to sit, and the television now hung over the fireplace. Jonathan and Kathy were relaxing on the sofa, Jonathan's arm stretched out along the back of the couch and his hand resting on Kathy's shoulder. Jessica had one leg thrown over the arm of the double-sized chair, and directly across from Larissa and Greg sat Jim and Pam in the love seat.

Pam was leaning against the left arm's cushion, her head in her hand as she watched the parade, and her feet tucked up under her. Her shoes were off and placed neatly to the side of the love seat. Jim held a similar pose on the right side of the love seat, his chin resting in his right hand has he leaned against the arm cushion. His long legs were stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankle. There was a narrow strip of empty cushion space between them. Larissa caught Jim's attention and smiled at him. He did not look nearly so displeased with her has he had when Pam first arrived, but it was clear he had some thoughts he wanted to share with her. She raised her eyebrows as if to say "please don't hate me" and was rewarded with a grin. Yes, things were looking good.

The Halpert clan was a vocal group, and through the years had become self-confessed connoisseurs of parade festivities. Therefore there was an on-going commentary on everything passing by on the screen. Nothing was sacrosanct from critiquing, or in some cases, outright mocking. Jessica in particular was terribly hard to please. Pam quietly listened to the ongoing commentary, but Larissa noticed her smiling a time or two. As the morning went on, Pam began interjecting a comment or two herself.

"Oh my god, what are those Rockettes wearing?" Pam exclaimed. "They look like barber shop poles!"

Jonathan burst out laughing. "I think they're trying to be candy canes, Pam."

"I agree with Pam," Jessica interjected. "Definitely not loving the stripy look."

"They look much better in the Santa suits," Pam added.

"I think all their outfits are a little strange," Jessica replied. "But the Santa dresses are definitely the best choice."

"I think you ladies are just jealous," Jim mused.

Pam kicked her foot out from underneath her and into Jim's leg. "Shut up," she told him. "We are not!"

"Ow!" He complained, grabbing her foot. "See? I'm being persecuted for
speaking the truth."

Pam rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, you're so on to me."

Jessica laughed, "Jim just wishes every girl was a Rockette. He's had a thing for them since he was little."

Pam smirked at Jim. "Maybe he justs wishes he were a Rockette," she said. Her comment made even Jim's father laugh. Jim pinched her foot in retaliation, which was still resting against his thigh.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Jim replied, crossing one leg over the other.

"You are built for it, Jim," Larissa agreed. "You could bring a whole new look to the Rockettes."

Pam giggled at the whole conversation. "I'm never going to be able to look at Radio City Music Hall in the same way," she said, looking at Jim. He said nothing but he couldn't resist smiling. When Pam looked over at Larissa, Larissa gave her a wink.

By the time Santa Claus arrived, Larissa noticed Jim and Pam had both moved toward the center of the love seat, and had noted they'd made quiet comments to each other during the show. They looked the very picture of the best of friends, and she felt a lump in her throat when she heard Jim teasing her about being excited to see Santa Claus. The look between them said nothing but love.

As soon as the parade ended a flurry of activity restarted to get the feast progressing. Jim went upstairs to change his clothes, Jessica invited Pam to help her peel potatoes and Larissa and Greg checked on the progress of the turkey.

Jonathan announced he and Kathy were going to search the attic for games to play while they waited for dinner. "But first," he announced, "We need to bring in our holiday present for you all, since I know you're all grumbling that we aren't helping out with the preparations in here."

"Don't you want to wait for your brother to return?" Larissa asked.

"Nah, it's not really that big a deal," Jonathan smiled. "I just wanted to make it sound important." Kathy gave him a nudge as they went outside.

Larissa remembered she'd left the lace tablecloth upstairs in the linen cabinet. As she came up the stairs she met Jim just coming out of the bathroom, wrapped in his old green terrycloth robe, and his hair still damp from the shower.

"Hey," Larissa said, opening the linen closet doors.

"Hey yourself," Jim replied. He leaned against the wall, arms crossed at his chest. "I imagine you are pretty pleased with yourself."

She stopped her ruffling through stacks of towels and sheets and looked back at him. "I'm doing okay. How about you?"

"A little warning would have been appreciated," he replied.

She nodded her head. "To give you a chance to come up with an escape route, perhaps?"

"Not necessarily. I just felt like a complete idiot answering the door in my pajamas."

"I don't know. She seemed to enjoy seeing you with the casual look."

"Oh, I know she did. I'm never going to hear the end of it."

"I don't mean like that," Larissa said. "I'm pretty sure I saw her checking you out."

Jim shook his head. "Now I know you're crazy."

Larissa found the tablecloth she was looking for and closed the closet. "Fine, don't believe me. But I know what I saw." She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Dress to impress, honey."

Larissa returned downstairs to the sound of jovial pandemonium. Elizabeth and Audrey had arrived as Jonathan was bringing in his gift, and the whirl of laughter and greetings temporarily put a halt to the dinner preparations. By the time Jim appeared, everyone had been introduced.

"Jim!" Aunt Liz said brightly, "We'd wondered where you were.”

“And I see you look as handsome as ever," Aunt Audrey commented.

Larissa had to agree, even if she was a bit biased. He had put on jeans but topped it with a shirt sweater combo that brought out his best features. His shirt was white, with a dark hunter green sweater over it. The v-neck of the sweater let his white collar more visible, and he had rolled his shirt sleeves up to just below the elbow. The sweater's color made Jim's eyes look even more green than usual. Larissa stole a glance over to Pam, whose face indicated she had not missed Jim's transformation. Larissa thought she really could get into playing the role of cupid.

Jim exchanged hugs with both Aunts and looked over to Pam, who was leaning against the sink next to Jessica. She smiled at him, and he walked over to stand by her.

Liz and Audrey had been partners for over twenty years, devoted to each other well before it was considered acceptable. They had met at college, fell in love, and had been together since. During the early years of their relationship, they presented themselves to the world as a pair of doomed-to-be-spinster friends. When they finally came out to their families, it was Greg who surprised them all by being so supportive and accepting. Their parents eventually came around, but Liz and Audrey never forgot the early days, and because of that chose to celebrate Thanksgiving with Greg and his family. Though Liz and Audrey lived in Chicago, they'd been there every year since before Jim started high school, and all three children grew to love their aunts even if they only saw them one weekend a year.

Jonathan clapped his hands together to get everyone's attention. "Since we are now all together, let me show you what Kathy and I have brought."

He lifted up the lid on the crate he'd brought in from their car. Inside where a dozen wine bottles. Jonathan lifted a bottle out, and handed it to his father. It was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut.

"Jonathan, you've outdone yourself," Greg Halpert said, admiring the bottle. "What else did you bring?"

"Just that," Jonathan nodded.

"Twelve bottles of Veuve Clicquot?" Jim asked, amazement in his voice.

Jonathan nodded.

"Jonathan, what's this about?" Larissa said. She began to have her suspicions that this gift was not just about Thanksgiving.

Jonathan couldn't resist smiling at his mother's question and turned toward Kathy, who had been standing next to him the whole time. They exchanged a glance, and he put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer.

"Well, we thought it would be a good idea to start this weekend off by letting you know Kathy's decided to make an honest man out of me. We've decided to get married."

Chaos reigned yet again as gasps and squeals of delight were emitted from everyone in the room. Larissa practically threw herself at the couple, and in her excitement nearly tripped over the crate of champagne. She embraced them both in turns, and then together in a group hug. Greg congratulated Jonathan, and hugged and kissed Kathy.

"Hey, let's get this champagne open," Jonathan interrupted. "Then you guys can fuss over us all day."

Jessica dug out a corkscrew from a kitchen drawer and handed it to Pam to pass to Jonathan. "Congratulations," Pam said as she handed over the corkscrew. "Sorry I'm the only non-family member intruding on your news."

Jonathan grabbed her wrist and pulled her over into a hug. "Don't be stupid, Pam. If you're here on Thanksgiving, you're family."

Jonathan handed the corkscrew over to his dad, and kept his arm around Pam while he motioned to his brother. "Jim, Pam's under the delusion she's not family," he said. "Clearly you have not been tormenting her enough."

Jim laughed. "I do my best."

Jonathan took Pam my the shoulders and pushed her next to Jim. "Work harder, my brother," he said. "I already can tell she can take it."

"O-kay," Jim replied.

"Oh, and another thing," Jonathan said. "We don't have any of the details sorted out yet, but I hoping you wouldn't mind being my best man at this thing."

Pam looked up between the brothers, smiling. Larissa was also watching, having heard the entire conversation.

"Of course, man." Jim said. "I'd be honored."

The brothers hugged as Larissa came over to hug them both. Soon everyone had a glass of champagne in their hands, and toasts to the couple and to the day were made.

Larissa insisted all non-chefs retire to the living room so cooking could continue. Jessica reminded Jonathan they still needed to go find some games, and Pam remained behind in the kitchen to see if she could help. Larissa shook her head.

"Not right now, dear. Go drink some champagne and bother Jim," she said, taking another sip of her champagne. "Oh, and that reminds me," she said, holding up her glass. "Did you bring an overnight bag like I suggested?"

Pam nodded. "It's in my trunk. I didn't know when it would be good to bring it in."

"I'll send Jim out to get it for you after dinner. It's a shame for you not to enjoy this day, so just plan on staying with us until at least tomorrow."

Pam smiled, taking a sip of her champagne. "Thanks, Larissa. I think I will."

Dinner was planned for three o'clock, but the turkey was being uncooperative. Jonathan had found their old Trivial Pursuit game in the attic, and so they spent the afternoon playing and drinking the champagne. They decided to play in teams, with the partnerships being less than surprising. There were Jonathan and Kathy, Aunts Liz and Audrey, Greg, Jessica and Larissa (who kept popping in and out of the game to check on the meal), and Pam and Jim. Even with the strength of team playing, the game was slowed by the effects of the alcohol. Simple questions seemed harder than usual, and hard questions
typically resulted in minutes of intense discussion followed by ridiculous answers.

A couple of glasses of champagne behind her, Pam was having difficulty restraining her competitive streak. She smiled when other teams missed their questions, and even clapped her hands when Liz and Audrey's wrong answer denied them a pie wedge. Jessica started trading trash talk with Pam, and soon the two women had everyone in stitches. At one point in the game Jim gave a correct answer that resulted in winning the Sports & Leisure wedge. Pam jumped up cheering, and threw her arms around him in victory. Larissa was
delighted. From the look on Jim's face, it didn't look he was minding
much either.

Larissa was once again checking the turkey when Jessica wandered in, sent on a mission to bring another bottle of champagne to the gamers.

"Having a good time, honey?" Larissa asked.

"No doubt. And it will be especially sweet once we crush Pam and Jim." Jessica laughed. "She's a real hoot, isn't she?"

"Who? Pam?"

"Yeah. I didn't know Jim had it in him to hook up with somebody that cool," Jessica grinned. "The only girlfriends of his I've ever met were nowhere near as interesting."

Larissa didn't correct Jessica's assumption that Pam was Jim's girlfriend. If that's how it looked, who was she to say otherwise?

The game from start to end took a little over two hours, but in the end Pam and Jim prevailed. Larissa was watching from the doorway when they came up with the answer to the final winning question, and she laughed as Pam jumped up and hugged Jim again.

"Winners get to set the table," Larissa called. "This turkey is finally ready."

She heard laughter coming from the dining room table as Pam and Jim put out the dishes, silverware, and table trivets. Mother and son exchanged amused grins when Jim came in with Pam's wine glass. He put it into the sink and grabbed a regular glass from the cupboard. "We're moving onto water now," he explained to Larissa.

Despite all the complications, the dinner turned out perfectly. Pam appeared to still be glowing from her win, and sitting between Jim and Jessica she continued to chatter happily. Questions from Jessica and Pam directed the table conversation to Jonathan and Kathy's wedding, and soon ideas both helpful and outrageous were being offered to the happy couple.

"I appreciate the ideas," Kathy laughed. "We really have no idea where to start!"

"Do you at least have a date in mind?" Greg asked.

Jonathan shrugged. "Maybe next September? Give us some time to do it right."

"Vegas." Pam piped up.

Jim looked at her, his amusement reflecting in his eyes. "What?"

"Vegas," she repeated. "You guys should just go get married in Las Vegas. So much less hassle."

"Oooh, I like that idea," Jessica remarked. "We could all go and spend a week out on the strip." She leaned over and put her arm around Pam. "Can you imagine the trouble we could get into?"

"Hey," Jim interjected, pushing her arm off playfully. "Find your own date."

"Okay, no fighting over Pam at Thanksgiving," Jonathan said. "and I really don't think we'll be getting married in Las Vegas."

By the time dinner was finished, everyone appeared to be moving a little slower than when they first sat down. Larissa began cleaning off the table, only to be stopped in her efforts by Jim.

"You made it, we can clean it up," he told her, taking the plates out of her hands. "Pam will help me."

Larissa sat back down next to her husband and continued to talk to Liz and Audrey while she watched the duo take away the dirty dishes and left overs. As it was all cleared away, people began to make their way into the living room to relax and watch some television. By the time Pam and Jim finished cleaning up the kitchen and wandered into the living room, the love seat had been claimed by Liz and Audrey. Jessica got out of the oversized chair and moved to the couch next to Kathy. She pointed to her now vacant chair, but Pam looked a bit unconvinced.

"Trust me, it's more than big enough for the two of you to fit," Jessica said.

Pam and Jim glanced at each other for a moment, then Jim shrugged and took the seat. Pam sat down next to him, and seemed surprised that they did fit. They were right next to each other, shoulders to knees resting against each other, but it was comfortable. Greg put on the end of the Lions-Packers football game, promising that It's A Wonderful Life would be beginning after the game.

Pam yawned soon after sitting down, and it was easy to see that the combination of champagne and turkey was going to take its toll soon. Barely into the opening credits of the movie, her head slowly dropped down against Jim's shoulder as she fell asleep. Larissa noticed how Jim kept looking down on his sleeping companion with a look of complete tenderness.

Larissa got up to get a drink from the kitchen, and as she did she went around the room picking up empty glasses and trash. When she was near Jim's chair she leaned over him. "Put your arm around her, silly," she said quietly in her son's ear. She turned and headed into the kitchen without looking for his reaction. When she returned a few minutes later, she noticed he had indeed put his arm around her, with Pam now sleeping peacefully with her head resting on Jim's chest. Larissa reached out and held her husband's hand as they watched the Jimmy Stewart classic.

About halfway through the film, Larissa glanced across the room, and noticed that Jim had fallen asleep as well. He was slouched back into the chairs pillows, and his arm had fallen from around her shoulder down to her waist. His head was tilted so that his cheek rested against Pam's hair. Pam's arm had also moved from her side to around Jim's waist. Larissa stood up and quietly took a blanket out of a basket under the coffee table and draped it over the sleeping pair.

“Aren't they adorable?” Aunt Liz said in a hushed voice. “You can tell how much they suit each other.”

Larissa nodded. She thought so, too.

When the film was over, Greg awoke from his catnap and readied himself for a rounds visit at the hospital. Jessica decided to escape to her old bedroom and grab a few things before she heads out to meet with some old high school friends. Aunts Liz and Audrey were taking her room for the weekend anyway, so she wanted to shift out whatever she needed so as not to disturb them when she came home late.

Jonathan and Kathy managed to stay awake for the whole film, but when Jonathan got up from the couch, he made a great show of a stretch and a yawn. After making sure their presence wasn't completely required for anything, they beg off to Jonathan's room for a short nap. Larissa made a big deal about newly engaged couples sneaking off together, which made Jonathan laugh and Kathy blush a little.

“Have a little more Veuve Clicquot,” Jonathan encouraged his mother, “and soon it won't even be like we're gone.”

Larissa shook her head. “Just go away, rotten child,” she said laughing.

Larissa brought out more wine and told Liz and Audrey to take the couch as she stretched out on the love seat with a glass of champagne in one hand and the remote to the new HDTV in the other. Larissa found that White Christmas was just starting on another channel, and Liz and Audrey approved entirely, comfortably ensconced on the sofa with champagne of their own. Still asleep in the double sized chair were Pam and Jim.

About midway through the film Larissa noticed Pam move, and while she tried very hard not to stare, she was too interested to see what happened to look away. Pam lifted her head slightly, opening her eyes. She looked up and saw Jim sleeping, her eyes seeming to study his face. Pam sighed and put her head back down on Jim's chest, closing her eyes again. Larissa noticed Pam shift in the chair, and move her hand further across Jim's chest, as if she was pulling herself closer to him. So at least one of them is happy to be in that position, Larissa thought. She looked forward to Jim's awakening.

Pam's movement must have woken Jim, because it was less than fifteen minutes later that Jim stirred. Larissa saw his eyes open first, and he remained still as he seemed to take in the changes in the room as well as in the film he had been previously watching. He sat up straighter, and in moving caused Pam to open her eyes and sit up. They looked at each other as Pam wiped her eyes, and then leaned back again, still partly resting against Jim. Larissa noticed Jim didn't remove his arm from around her shoulder. They stayed silently in that position until the film ended, and Larissa switched off the television.

“Anyone interested in turkey sandwiches?” she asked.

“I am, definitely,” Liz replied. Audrey quickly agreed. With nodding heads Pam and Jim slowly extricated themselves from the chair and followed the ladies into the kitchen. Jim helped his mother get leftovers out of the fridge while Audrey found plates and silverware to get them going. Pam stood at the kitchen counter, yawning and waiting to be of some help.

Jim brought two plates over to Pam. Larissa watched as Jim made up sandwiches for the both of them, per Pam's instructions. They seemed to be in a world of their own for the moment, and Larissa was glad of it. She had worried they might have woken up from the nap feeling awkward with each other, but it didn't appear to be the case. If anything, it seemed to be the opposite. She thought it was amazing that after all of Jim's worrying they were getting along so well, but came to the conclusion that being in such a different environment was probably the key. It's hard to fall back into old safety zones when they just aren't there. That things had gone so well so far was proof to Larissa that deep down, those two had the connection. She hoped they figured that out for themselves soon.

Larissa took her plate into the dining room, soon followed by Pam holding two plates. Liz and Audrey sat opposite Larissa and Pam, and Jim followed with drink for Pam and himself. He sat at the head of the table, just to the right of Pam.

“So what's the plan for tomorrow?” Liz asked.

“Probably the usual,” Larissa replied.

“What's the usual?” Pam asked.

“Shh,” Jim replied. “You don't want to know, or they'll rope you in.”

Liz laughed. “Now don't scare her away, Jim. We are talking about shopping, Pam. We like to join the crowds on Friday.”

“Oh, where at? Steamtown Mall?”

“No, we usually like to hit the outlet mall in Tannersville,” Aunt Audrey replied. “Have you been there?”

“I completely forgot about that place,” Pam replied. “I haven't been there in ages.”

“Well you are certainly welcome to join us tomorrow, Pam,” Aunt Liz said warmly. “In fact you and Jim should both come along.”

Pam smiled at Jim. “That sounds like fun.”

“Fun?” Jim mocked. “Are you out of your mind, Beesly?”

“Sure, it's the start of the Christmas season. Maybe we'll see Santa,” she grinned.

Jim shook his head in disgust, but Larissa noticed he didn't say no.

“I would love to join you,” Pam told them. “Will you be coming along too, Larissa?”

“I would not miss seeing Jim caught in an outlet mall on Black Friday for anything in this world,” she replied.

Jim groaned. “You are going to owe me big time, Beesly,” he told her. But Larissa saw him give Pam the tiniest of smiles.

As they finished their late meal, Larissa opened a cabinet and pulled out the Yahtzee game. “Did you think I'd forget this?” she asked to no one in particular.

“Excellent!” Pam exclaimed. “I love Yahtzee!”

Jim bumped his elbow against her arm. “I never would have guessed,” he teased.
Pam stuck her tongue out at him in response.

Dishes were cleared away and the game began in earnest. Like with Trivial Pursuit, Pam was a competitive and animated player. The dice were against her however, and Jim won the first round by rolling two yahtzees over the course of play. He took a great amount of pleasure in rubbing it in.

“Let's see,” Jim said slowly, leaning over to look at Pam's scorecard. “I beat you by how many points?”

Pam covered up her card. “Never you mind. We all know you cheated anyway.”

“Right. And how exactly did I manage that? I played with the same dice you did.”

“Hmph,” she replied. “Well then, you were just lucky. We'll see who wins the next game.”

“Oh, so I guess we're playing until you win, right?” Jim joked.

Pam smiled. “Is there any other way to play?”

The second game started off well for Pam, but by the middle of the game she was starting to despair. Jim wasn't doing much better, but Pam's frustration amused him to no end, and their banter made Larissa, Audrey and Liz giggle. In the end a surprise yahtzee by Liz sealed the game. Liz won by a margin of nearly 80 points, and Pam dropped her head to the table in defeat until the entire table had broken down in laughter.

Pam sat back up and sighed. “I'm thirsty. Can we take a break before I win the next round?”

“If by win you mean lose, then I'm all for it,” Jim relied, standing up. “I'll even help you get them.”

They took drink requests from the rest of the table and walked into the kitchen.

“So you really think Jim will come with us tomorrow?” Audrey asked. “That would be pretty amazing.”

Liz put her hand over Audrey's and gave it squeeze. “Have you seen the way he looks at that girl? I think he'd follow her into hell, much less an outlet mall the day after Thanksgiving.”

“Which to Jim is probably the same thing,” his mother laughed.

Larissa asked the women about the latest news from Chicago, and least fifteen minutes of conversation had gone by before she realized that Jim and Pam hadn't returned from the kitchen with their drinks.

“I wonder if they are having trouble finding the new bottles of soda,” she said. “I'll be right back.”

When she walked into the kitchen she noticed that only the soft light over the kitchen sink was on. She was about to flip on the main light when she saw Jim and Pam. They were standing at the other end of room, arms around each other. She saw Jim lean down and kiss Pam, and backed out of the room as quickly and as quietly as she could. Standing in the hallway, she felt a thrill like she'd just been given a five carat diamond ring. She wanted to clap but she was afraid they'd hear her. She wanted to tell someone but who? She couldn't tell Liz or Audrey without having to tell the entire backstory, and it really wasn't their business. So Larissa just took a deep breath, thanked the heavens for their intercession, and went back to the dining room.

“They'll be right in,” she assured Liz and Audrey. Then she starting chattering about what they might shop for tomorrow. Anything to bid Jim and Pam the time they needed.

When Pam and Jim did return with the drinks, they were calmer than when they left, but still smiling. It took a few rounds to get Pam back into the spirit of competition, and now and then Jim seemed a bit distracted. The round seemed to go a little slow, but Pam finally walked away with a victory.

At the end of the third game, Jim was ready to call it quits. “I am completely yahtzeed out until next Thanksgiving,” he declared.

“Oh I don't believe that, I saw the light in your eyes when you won,” Pam teased. “I bet we can get you playing again by New Year's.”

“Yeah, well, good luck with that, Beesly,” Jim said, standing up. “I think I'm just about ready to call it a night.”

“Oh,” Pam replied, looking to Larissa. “Do we know where I should go?”

“Why don't you go get your bag,” Larissa told her, “and we'll talk about it in the kitchen?”

Audrey and Liz wished Pam and Jim good night, and wandered off to their guest room to change into lounging clothes, determined to beat Larissa at cards when they returned.

Jim and Pam come back inside with Pam's overnight back, both a little chilld from the windy night weather. Larissa felt a little funny, considering what she witnessed, but she didn't want to let on about what she saw.

“Well, we're all adults here,” she began, “and the bedroom situation is like this. Jonathan and Kathy are in his old room, Liz and Audrey are using Jessica's old room so she's on the couch in the den. I could have thrown Jim out here in the living room, but we do have a folding bed, so I thought it would be okay to put it in Jim's room and let you share that room.”

If Pam was surprised at the arrangments she hid it well. “That makes sense,” she nodded. Jim looked at his mother briefly, the slightest of smirks on his face. He looked over to Pam and back to his mother. “Okay, well let's get you settled in then, Beesly.”

He walked over and gave his mother a kiss. “I assume we aren't getting up at some outrageously early hour to go to Tannersville?”

“Well I know I'm not,” she replied. “Don't worry - we'll probably head out there sometime after lunch.”

Pam walked over to Larissa. “Thanks so much for inviting me. I've had such a lovely time.”

Larissa gave Pam a hug. “You're always welcome, dear,” she said. “Have a good sleep.”

She watched the two go down the hall, still wondering what they'd managed to sort out between themselves. She hoped by tomorrow she'd be hearing some good news.

She played cards with Liz and Audrey for nearly an hour and a half before they all finally decided to call it a night. She hugged each woman good night, and went into the kitchen to rinse out some of the leftover dishes. She was cleaning up the very last of the coffee cups when Jim walked in. He was back to this morning's blue and grey flannel pants and t-shirt.

“You okay?” she asked.

He gives her a slight grin as he walks toward the fridge. “Yeah, I'm fine. We were just - I was just coming down to grab us a few drinks.”

“Still awake then?” Larissa smiled, amused as Jim's discomfort. “I thought you said you were tired.”

He pulled two cans of Coke from the fridge and shut the door. “We were. We are. We just sorta got started talking. I guess the time just got away from us.”

“Things going okay then between you?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

She noticed he had that sparkle in his eyes again. The one she hadn't seen in months and months. Larissa couldn't resist teasing him. “How good?”

She could see the tips of Jim's ears starting to turn red. “I am not having this conversation with you,” he said pointedly, unable to keep a grin off his face. “Good night, Mom,” he said as he turned to leave.

Larissa wanted to know more about his state of mind without embarrassing him. “She fit right in, don't you think?” She said.

Jim stopped walking and was quiet for moment. He turned back around to face her. “I always knew she would she would.”

Larissa looked at him. “Think she'll be joining us again next year?”

“Depends,” Jim replied. “Are you going to step in and invite her before I get a chance to?”

Larissa sighed, and made a face. “I am sorry if I upset you, Jim, by interfering like that,” she said, “but I'm afraid I can't say I'm sorry that I did it.”

He walked back over and stood right in front of her, looking into her eyes. “I'm not sorry you did it either, Mom.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I owe you.”

Larissa hugged her middle child tightly. “You can pay me back by just being happy.”

Chapter 4 - What She Causes by time4moxie
Author's Notes:

Here it is - a mostly Jim view of that Thanksgiving day, and the consequences of having a meddling mother....

Happy Holidays!

Jim swiped the key card through the lock and heard the buzz. “Now stay right here,” he told her. He pushed the door open and carried the luggage through. He rested the smaller bag against the door to keep it open, and piled the rest in the empty corner of the room. He walked back out and smiled at her. “Ready?”

“For what?” she laughed.

“You know. The traditional entrance.”

Pam giggled. “You are not serious.”

He stepped closer, and without warning hoisted her up into his arms.

“Whoa!” she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around his neck for balance.

“Man, Beesly, how much do you weigh?”

“Are you calling me fat?”

“No,” Jim grinned, “but you are way heavier than I expected.”

“Well don't forget the weight of the dress. There's at least 10 yards of material here.”

“Hmm, if you say so.” He sounded unconvinced. “Blame it on the heavy clothing.”

She smacked his chest. “Well maybe you should think about bulking up. I'm not going to be getting any thinner.” She grinned. “In fact, I think I am now entitled to completely let myself go and get as fat as I want.”

He kissed the tip of her nose. “Beesly, if that would make you happy, then go right ahead. I wouldn't care. I would still love you.”

“Even if I put on 100 pounds and sat around the house all day?”

Jim nodded. “I'd be worried about your mental health, but it wouldn't make me stop loving you. You should know by now that nothing's ever going to change that.”

“What if I became a serial killer?” she asked.

“I'd help you dispose of the bodies and provide a convincing alibi for you.”

“And what if I lost my nose in a horrific painting accident and had to wear a prosthetic one made of metal?”

Jim laughed heartily. “I would still love you even if you lost your nose.” He groaned slightly. “Can we go in now so I can put you down?”

“I guess so. But you know once we're over the threshold, there's no going back.”

He kissed her, this time fully on the lips. “I have no desire to go anywhere but forward with you.”

He carried her into the hotel room, and let her drop on the king-sized bed. “Hey,” she complained, “take a little more care next time, Halpert.”

He grinned as he pulled the suitcase away from the door, stopping its closure just long enough to hang the Do Not Disturb sign from the knob. He double locked the door, and took off his black jacket. Pam was still lying on the bed, her ivory gown spread out around her. He slipped off his shoes, then stood at the end of the bed. Lifting up the hem of her skirt to find her feet, he gently removed her shoes as well, placing them on the floor next to his. The he climbed onto the bed and stretched out next to her, resting face to face.

“Well, Mrs. Halpert,” he said, a smile spreading across his face.

“Yes, Mr. Halpert,” Pam replied, her expression matching his exactly.

“So this is it,” he said.

“Yep,” she replied, “Looks like it.”

“It was really quite a day.”

“I thought so. I hope everyone had a nice time.”

“I'm pretty sure they did. I know Michael did. He told me about ten times over the course of the night what a great party it was.”

Pam laughed. “Well, he told me about dozen times what I beautiful bride I was. The last couple of times he started crying over it.”

Jim reached out and touched the opal and pearl necklace she was wearing. It was a gift he'd given her early this morning, before the festivities started. “Well he was right. I told you that at least a dozen times, too.”

“Yes, you did. But you never sounded like you wanted to be the bride!”

They laughed and moved closer together. Jim put his hand on her waist, gently tracing the beading, watching the light catch the sparkle of the rhinestones.

“This is pretty amazing,” he said, fascinated with the intricate lace pattern over the satin material. “I didn't really get a chance to look at this detail before.”

Pam's chuckled deeply. “You never cease to amaze me,” she said, feeling a rush of love. She knew she'd married the right man. No one else would be so naturally interested in something so characteristically unmanly. She was so glad he was like that. “Come here,” she said, her voice a bit deeper than usual. Her tone turned his interest away from fashion and he leaned over her. She pulled him down to her for a kiss.

Minutes floated past, and when they finally separated, they laid next to each other, sharing the same pillow. She smiled as she pushed the hair out of his eyes. “Now tell me the truth,” she said, “Was it really so awful to have Dwight as one of the groomsmen?”

Jim rolled his eyes. “I knew you were going to bring that up.”

“Because I was right. He was so sweet today.” she grinned. “He didn't even smell like beets!”

“Yeah, and he didn't even make a fuss when we told him he couldn't wear his grandfather's tux. But I still can't believe you actually wanted him to be in the wedding party.”

Pam reached out and took his hand, intertwining their fingers. “It only made sense, Jim,” she explained, “if it wasn't for him how can we be sure we would have ever ended up together? I mean how many hours did we spend together plotting pranks against him? He made us what we are - we had to ask him.”

He kissed her hand. “Okay, maybe you have a point. And I will never forget the look on his face when I asked him.”

“Oh my god, I remember. He didn't believe you were serious for the longest time.”
The two laughed together, and once again returned to kissing. Jim moved even closer, reaching around Pam's waist and up her back, in search of the gown's zipper.

“Oh, wait,” Pam interrupted. “Did we give an apartment key to your mother?”

Jim kissed her neck and continued to work on freeing Pam from her dress. “Yes, we gave it to her last night, remember?”

“So she was taking all the gifts and cards over there, right?”

“Uh-huh,” he murmured against her skin. He had finally found the top of the zipper. Suddenly he stopped. “Damn. I nearly I forgot to give you something,” he said. He got up off the bed and rummaged through the bags on the floor until he came back with a small rectangular wrapped box and card. He sat on the edge of the bed, and Pam moved to sit next to him.

“What is it?” she asked, putting her arm around his back and resting her head on his right shoulder.

“My mom gave it to me before we left the reception. She said we were to open it as soon as we got settled in here.”

Jim opened the card. It was a simple white note card, with two hearts in a watercolor design on the front. Inside she had written:

Dear Jim and Pam,

It's not very often that a couple can precisely pinpoint the moment they made that important connection; the time they can remember back to and say “that's when I knew we were meant for each other.”

It's even rarer when there's physical proof of such a moment.

I am so blessed to be able to say that I was there at your moment.

I love you both more than I can say, and I know you love each other enough to get through anything life hands you. Don't ever let go of each other, or you'll have to deal with me.

Love,
Mom

They smiled at each other, and Pam rubbed his back as he opened the box. Jim pulled out a silver picture frame, and they stared at the photo in the frame.

“Oh my god,” Pam said, her hand covering her mouth.

It was a picture of Pam and Jim, asleep in each other's arms in the oversized chair at his mother's house. Jim's arm was around her, her arm around his waist, and their heads rested together. A blanket had been neatly tucked around them, and they looked incredibly peaceful and cozy.

“Thanksgiving,” they said in unison, then laughed at the unspoken jinx.

“Man, I will never forget that day,” Jim smiled, still looking at the picture.

“Hard to believe it was taken nearly two years ago,” Pam said softly.

He looked over at her. “It seems like a lifetime ago now.”

She hugged him closer. “It does. I just remember how nervous I was when I knocked at the door that morning.”

“You?” Jim laughed. “When I opened that door, I think my heart stopped for a full minute. You were the last person I expected to see. You looked incredible, and there I was in my old flannel pajamas, no shower, no nothing.”

“I thought you never looked better, actually,” she replied, kissing his shoulder. “Scruffy was looking pretty sexy that morning.”

“We did have a lot of fun that day though, didn't we?” He mused.

“Yeah. It was so nice to just be somewhere other than the office with you. It was so much easier. And of course you had to go and have a great family, which really was icing on the cake. Your aunts were a blast when we all went shopping the next day. I remember not wanting to leave on Friday night.”

He grinned. “I remember you not wanting Thursday night to end.”

She bumped him hard. “Shut up, Halpert,” she grinned, still blushing at the thought of that evening.


%*%*%*%*%*%*%*

They'd agreed to refill drinks during the break in the Yahtzee competition, so they both went into the kitchen. Jim took glasses down from the cabinet.

“I have had so much fun today,” Pam said, “I wish this day didn't have to end.”

“Hey, it's not over by a long shot, Beesly. In case you forgot, you committed us to hours upon hours of crushing shopping to look forward to tomorrow.”

She laughed. “It's not going to be that bad. We'll have fun.”

She looked up at him, and her face fell serious. She stepped closer to him, leaning back against the counter. “I've really missed that,” she said softly, “all the fun we have together.”

He stared at her. “Yea, we do have fun,” was all he could manage to say.

Pam put her hand on Jim's chest, her fingers tracing the knit weave on his sweater. “I've missed you so much, Jim. I really want you back.”

Jim couldn't bring himself to look at her; he wasn't prepared to believe what he was hearing. “I am back, Pam,” he tried to joke.

“You know what I mean, Jim. Today's been one of the best days of my life,” she continued. “Please don't make us go back to how we've been lately. I couldn't bear it.”

Jim finally looked at her, and was shocked to see tears forming in her eyes. “Hey,” he said, bring both arms up to touching her shoulders. “Pam, please don't cry.”

She brought her other hand up to his chest and seemed to study her hands for a moment. Then she looked up, and with only a moment's hesitation, reached up and kissed him softly. “I love you,” she whispered against his mouth, and kissed him softly once more. She rested her head against his chest, afraid of what his response would be.

He put his arms around her, and rested his head atop of hers. He felt a bit like he was in a dream - a beautifully vivid dream that he never wanted to wake up from. She'd just kissed him and told him she loved him. And now she was crying softly. He knew he was the cause of it and suddenly the only thing he could think of was making it stop. She didn't deserve to cry.

He brushed her hair out of her face and kissed her tenderly on her forehead. “It's going to be okay,” he said. He rubbed her back and kissed her forehead again. When she looked up he leaned down and kissed her lips. “I promise you it will be okay,” he said again when he finally pulled away. “We'll talk about this later, hmm?”

She nodded and stepped back. He pulled out the ice bucket, remembering his mom and aunts waiting for them in the dining room. She wiped the tears from her eyes as he poured the different drinks. Before picking up the glasses, he pulled her into a hug again. “I'm so glad you're here,” he told her. “I've missed you so much, too.”

The final Yahtzee game went by in a bit of a blur for Jim. Sitting with his mother and aunts pretending to be interested in a dice game was hard for him to pull off when his mind had taken his scene with Pam in the kitchen and put it on an endless loop. She kissed him. She loved him. She kissed him again. She wanted him back. What the hell was he doing making small talk with relatives at a time like this?
As soon as the game ended, he made it clear he was done for the night. He probably came off a little rudely, but he really didn't care.

He'd walked out with Pam to get her overnight bag, and she had been quiet around him since the end of the game. When she unlocked her trunk, he pulled up the lid and said to her. “I hope you're not uncomfortable staying here.”

“No, I'm not,” she said, finally looking into his eyes. “Are you?”

He grabbed her bag and shut the trunk. “No, not at all.” He hoped she could see in his eyes how much he meant it.

It was no surprise to him that his mother had assumed they wouldn't mind sharing Jim's old bedroom. She'd orchestrated Pam's appearance for Thanksgiving, that was bold enough. Pushing them together in the same room for the night? That seemed like a mere afterthought on her part. Deep down he knew he should resent this clear manipulation. What if things wouldn't have turned out this way? It could have been the world's most embarrassing day ever. But somehow it wasn't, and he wondered if his mother was really that skilled at reading people that she knew it would work out. Maybe he would be thanking her one day for being so outrageous on his behalf.

When he led Pam upstairs to his room, he felt her eyes burning into his back. He was as nervous as he would have been 10 years ago had he been bringing a girl up to his room. Shutting the door behind them seemed dramatic and final. All day they'd interacted with the background safety net of his family. Their conversation stayed light, they relaxed and were able to be playful with each other. They even flirted a bit - that harmless, funny kind of flirting that says 'hey you're cute'. But now it was just them. Would the playfulness still come as easily, or would they be as awkward as a day together at Dunder Mifflin?

Jim was still lost in thought when Pam sat down on his bed and began bouncing up and down on it.

“What are you doing?” he asked, a slip of a grin starting to show.

“I'm testing the bed,” she grinned.

“Testing it for what?” he asked.

“Comfort, support, bounceability. You know, the usual.” She stopped and patted the space beside her. “Come over here.”

“Beesly, are you drunk?”

“No,” she said, “absolutely, completely not. It's been hours since I've had any champagne.”

He walked over and sat on the bed. Before he knew what she was doing, she turned toward him and kissed him. Unlike the soft kisses she'd given him in the kitchen, she seemed determined and persistent. She ran her hands up his chest and around his neck, her fingers mixing with the curls at the back of his neck.

His response was quick and automatic. He wrapped his arms around her and she moved onto his lap. “I'm so sorry,” she whispered in his ear as she began to kiss his jaw and cheeks. “I'm so sorry about everything.”

“I know,” he replied hugging her tighter. “I'm so sorry about things, too.”

She pulled back. “You're still seeing someone, aren't you?”

He didn't want to talk about this now, but he knew he had to. “Yes, but it's not serious. It's never been serious.” He looked at her, and bit his lip. “I thought I had to move on, I thought any chance with you was over. But I just couldn't put my heart into it, you know? It didn't take me long to realize I never would be able to.”

“Oh, Jim,” she sighed, embracing him. “We've have really both make such a mess of things.”

Her understatement made him laugh. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“I know it's Karen.” She said it so softly he barely heard her. She looked at him and he slightly nodded.

“It's not going to be easy or pleasant. She's a great person and I never intended to hurt her. I never even told her about you.”

She held his face between her hands, and closed her eyes. “It's up to you to decide what you want to do about this.”

He mimicked her position, putting his hands on her face. “Pam, open your eyes.”
She did and he continued. “Look at me. Does it look like I have any decision to make? It's always going to be you. If this - you and me - is want you want, you tell me and I'll make it right.”

She kissed him again, softly stroking his face with her hands. “Yes. Always,” she replied between kisses. “I love you.”

They kissed and talked for quite some time. Pam cried over the struggles he'd gone through, while Jim felt sorrow for all the lost time gone by and all the damned missed opportunities they had to reconcile sooner. They talked about their guilt over hurting Karen. They tentatively discussed what the future might be like, but to Jim it felt surreal to even consider such a thing. He's spend so many years wishing for life that included Pam. Even so, it felt good to be sitting next to Pam, talking about a future that included him and her together at every turn.

They were getting thirsty, so Jim offered to run down to the kitchen for drinks. He grabbed his pajamas and changed in the bathroom before going downstairs. By the time he came back up, Pam had changed into hers. Their styles matched, as Pam was wearing a pink long-sleeved t-shirt and pink and grey flannel pants. She was reclining on Jim's bed.

“So I see I'm stuck with the cot,” he joked as he passed her a Coke.

She opened the can and took a long drink. “Not necessarily,” she said slowly.

Jim felt a surge of electricity somewhere low in his gut. “Oh,” was all he could think to say.

Pam took another sip and put her coke down. “We can share the bed, can't we?” she asked?

“Pam, it's an extended twin bed. It's going to be an awfully tight fit.”

She stood up and pulled the blankets and sheet back. “I don't mind being close to you.” she replied, indicating he should get into bed. “I think it's about time.”

Jim wondered where all of this would lead, and then decided to just stop thinking. Here was Pam, in his bedroom, wanting to be in his bed with him. What else was there to think about?

He got into bed as she flicked off the lights. She crawled in next to him. The best position was on their sides, facing each other. He threw his arm around her waist as she snuggled up close. “Not so bad now, is it?” she asked.

He could see her face clearly by the street light glare coming into the room. She looked pleased with herself, and he couldn't help but smile. “No, this isn't so bad,” he admitted.

“So tell me the history of this mattress, Halpert,” she said. “How many girls were notched into this headboard?”

“Amazingly none,” he replied.

“None?” She looked at him as if she didn't believe him.

“It's true. We had a house rule of no members of the opposite sex in our bedrooms.”

“So, like you never had a party with your parents gone and brought a girl up here?”

Jim shook his head. “Nope. Not while I lived here.”

Pam said nothing, but she was clearly thinking. “So that means I could be the first.”

Jim tried not to show how floored he was by her comment. “Yes, I suppose you could.”

Pam moved closer and slid her hand up his arm. “Let me be the first, Jim,” she implored quietly, eyes locked on his.

He didn't reply. He didn't trust himself to. He just kept looking at her. She kissed him, warm and open, and ran her hand down his side, slipping her hand under the waistband of his flannel pants. She moved her hand around to the small of his back, and pulled him closer.

“Wait,” Jim said, pulling back slightly. “We can't do this, Pam.”

“Why not?” she whispered.

“There are six other people on this floor, and the walls aren't very thick.”

“Then we'll be quiet, won't we?” The smile she gave him was one he'd never seen before. There a confidence in it that said she wanted him and she expected to have him. And it was by far the the biggest turn on he'd ever experienced. He pulled her back to him and kissed her, knowing he'd never be able to refuse her like this.

They both knew where they were heading but they didn't rush it. Their attempt to be quiet resulted in slow, deliberate love making. It was if they were determined to memorize each other's bodies in just that one night. By the time they were finished, there was no question of where they stood with each other. They were together, finally, completely. The rest was just a matter of tying up loose ends.

%*%*%*%*%*%*%*

Jim stood up and placed the card on the counter, and stood the frame up next to it.
“Speaking of not wanting a night to end,” he said, looking back at Pam, “what do you say we quit the talking and get to what a wedding night is supposed to be about?”

She stood up and walked over to him. “And what exactly is a wedding night supposed to be about?” she asked, as she started to unbutton his silver vest.

“That's a very good start,” he said gruffly, as she slipped his vest off and let it drop to the ground. “Now turn around.”

She complied, and Jim pushed some curls onto her shoulder. In a slow but deliberate manner he eased the zipper down on her wedding dress, and when it was completely undone he gently pushed her sleeves down off her shoulders. He took Pam's hand and helped her step out of the yards of material now billowed at her feet. She stood before him in lacy underwear and matching bra and began to unbutton his shirt while his hands enjoyed the feel of both the lace and the softness of her skin.

“You know, Mrs. Halpert, perhaps you should have done away with the dress and worn just this lovely ensemble.”

“Somethings are meant for your eyes only,” she smiled. “Besides, it's November in Scranton. I don't even want to think about where I could have suffered frostbite.”

“Hmmm,” he mumbled as he began to kiss her neck. “Are you keeping the tiara on?”

Pam caught her reflection in the mirror, and thought about their wedding day. It was Jim's idea to go with a tiara instead of a veil, and his enthusiasm in picking one out won her over to the idea. And it was true: she had felt like a queen all day long. She was amused to see that the tiara actually matched the underwear nicely. “Yeah, I think will keep it on,” she said.

“I'm glad,” he replied with a smile, “I suppose now is a good time to mention the whole list of princess fantasies I'm dying to try out.”


Chapter 5 - What She Reaps by time4moxie
Author's Notes:
It's been 11 months since I posted the first four chapters of this little story, and at the urging of a few wonderful people, I thought revisiting this little universe for another peek at Thanksgiving would be fun. Just a little wish fulfillment.....

Pam woke with a start. She felt disoriented for a moment, the dark room seemingly unfamiliar. She started to roll onto her back, but was stopped midway by firm presence of Jim, his erratic light snore betraying the fact that he was still sleeping soundly. He must have claimed the middle half of the bed in his sleep, she thought somewhat grumpily. She turned over to face him, fully intent on giving him a hearty push back to his side of the bed.


But before she started to poke him, her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she remembered where she was. She sighed in resignation, and instead of a shove she placed a tender kiss on his brow and cuddled up closer to him. It would have been rude to push her husband out of his childhood bed, especially so early on Thanksgiving morning. Pam just hoped as she drifted back to sleep that next year she could be thankful for a bed that was truly big enough for both of them.


It had seemed like mere minutes had just passed when Pam felt the familiar scratch of Jim's morning cheek nudging against hers. "Hey sleepyhead," he said softly, kissing her hairline from her temple to her ear. "Time to get up."


"I don't know whether to be happy or annoyed," she sighed, snuggling closer to steal some of his warmth.


"Why?"


"Because I wish I could sleep longer, but only if I was in a much bigger bed."


She could feel him smile against her cheek as he continued to nuzzle her. "How can you say that, Beesly? This bed is where it all began."


"I know," she replied, her fingers lacing through his as their hands met across her stomach. "Which is why I've put up with it for a third year in a row." She turned her head to look him in the eye. "But I really don't think my back can take much more of it."


"And here I thought every bone in your body was romantic," he teased.


"No, I'm afraid my spine has always been more of a realist," she replied. She tugged on his hand until he took the hint and shifted position. "That's better," she grinned as he hovered over her. "Now what were you saying about getting out of bed?"


Jim's legs threaded between hers as he started to kiss her bare left shoulder. "I believe I was saying how overrated it was."


----


It was a few minutes after seven o'clock when the couple finally made their way downstairs. They had hoped to beat Jim's mother Larissa to the kitchen to start the dinner preparations, but the smell of coffee and cooking sausage as they came down the stairs told them they were too late.


"Nice one," he whispered to Pam as they walked through the empty living room. "So much for surprising her."


"Me?" She shot him a teasing, incredulous look. "I was trapped under you. You're the one who wouldn't get out of bed."


Jim snaked his arm around her waist, stopping her before they walked into the kitchen. "Trapped?" He echoed, his eyebrows raised disbelievingly. "That's a bit of an exaggeration, don't you think?"


She smiled as she leaned into him. "I was being held against my will."


"Oh, that explains it," he nodded. "Those sounds you were making were cries for help."


"Shut up!" Pam said, her voice raising in protest. "You were louder than I was!"


"I can hear you, you know," Larissa called out, startling them both. "You might as well finish your conversation in here."


Pam felt her cheeks burn as she buried her face into Jim's sweatshirt. "Oh, my God," she whispered.


"Come on," he laughed, pulling her by the hand into the kitchen. "I'm pretty sure she knows we're married."


"That's not the point," she replied softly but adamantly as she allowed herself to be dragged into what was clearly the heart of the Halpert household. She couldn't help but smile when Jim released her hand to greet his mother with a kiss and warm hug.


"Happy Thanksgiving," Pam said, waiting her turn to embrace her mother-in-law.


"Happy Thanksgiving, Pam," Larissa smiled, moving to hug her as well. "I take it you both are doing well this morning?"


"We are," Pam nodded, her cheeks still pink from her earlier embarrassment. "but I was telling Jim that maybe next year we'll sleep at home."


Jim slipped his arm around Pam's shoulder. "Yeah, apparently the over sized single bed I spent my formative years in is no longer good enough for her," he teased.


"I can't say I blame her," Larissa replied, her attention returning to the potatoes she was peeling in the sink. "I'm surprised you've put the poor girl through it for this long. I was telling your father last year that we needed to put a bigger bed in there."


Jim stopped in mid-step, on his way to the refrigerator. "And what would you do with my old bed?" He asked, clearly shocked at such a suggestion.


"Jim, it's a twenty year old twin mattress. I think it's time for it to be retired to the great bedroom heaven in the sky, don't you?"


"But it's mine!" He continued, pulling the gallon jug of milk form the fridge and closing the door. "And it's a long twin I'll have you know."


"Oh, I know," Larissa replied, rolling her eyes comically at Pam. "Every time I have to buy sheets for that bed I am reminded of just how special it is."


Pam couldn't help chuckling aloud over their banter. She loved watching the two of them together. It was so clear how much they loved and admired each other, and Pam could see where Jim had honed his quick wit. As mother and son continued to harangue each other over the fate of Jim's old bed, Pam poured herself a glass of milk and just took in the show. She observed how they shared the trait of saying so much with just the raise of an eyebrow. Then Pam noticed something else.


"Wow," Pam said, a little louder than intended. Jim and Larissa both gave her a questioning look. "Sorry, I can't believe I just noticed something about the two of you."


"That I continue to love him despite his many, many faults?" Larissa quipped with a grin.


"That my mother is a smart ass?" Jim countered.


"No," Pam laughed. "You both have the exact same smile."


And she was right. Wide-mouthed, full teethed, the right side raised slightly higher than the left, Jim and Larissa's smiles could be swapped in a PhotoShopped picture and the only way you could be sure it had happened would be the uneven chip in Jim's front right tooth. Well, that and the fact that Larissa looked slightly better in Maybelline's Ruby Luster lipstick. But those were the only significant differences.


Jim shrugged and drank his milk. Larissa grinned. "Oh, he gets all his best features from me, Pam. I thought you knew that by now."


"He does," Pam agreed, winking at Jim who mock scowled in return. "Now what can we do to help you will dinner?"


Larissa jerked her head toward the back door. "There should be yams in the closet by the back door. You can get those ready for baking." She turned off the sink tap and grabbed a hand towel. "You," she said, indicating to Jim, "can get started on your famous stuffing. As you can probably smell, the sage sausage is already waiting for you in the oven." She finished wiping her hands and folded the towel neatly, placing it on the counter. "I'm going to go make sure your father is awake."


They watched Larissa bustle out with her usual efficiency, and Pam turned to find the yams in the closet. She had just opened the wooden door when she felt Jim slip behind her, his arms wrapping around her waist.


"How much time do you think we have to be alone down here?" he asked, kissing her behind her left ear.


"Why?" Pam asked, "what did you have in mind?"


"Lots of things," he grinned, kissing her again. Pam pulled away slightly as she concentrated on her task.


"I can't find the yams in here," Pam complained, pulling out a bag of red potatoes and then a netting of sweet onions. Jim looked over her shoulder and agreed with her assessment. There were no yams in the closet.


"She probably already took them out," Jim shrugged. "I guess we'll have to find something else to do until she comes back."


Pam turned around in his arms and shook her head in mock disapproval. "You have stuffing to make, Mister Halpert. We don't have time for your shenanigans."


"Shenanigans?" Jim smiled, stalling yet another kiss. "Is that what you call it?"


"Come on," Pam pushed him back gently. "I want to see what you can do in the kitchen."


By the time Larissa had returned, Pam had successfully diverted Jim's attention to stuffing making, and Jonathan had appeared for his morning coffee.


"You look a bit sleepy," Larissa told her eldest child, kissing his cheek. "Did Ceres keep you awake?"


Jonathan took a long sip of his coffee and smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, we're still working on that sleeping through the night thing. Cerys is quite the party girl."


Cerys was the newest member of the Halpert family: Jonathan and Kathy's six-month old baby daughter. As befitted her position as the first (and only) grandchild, she had been the center of attention from the moment they had arrived from Philadelphia yesterday afternoon.


"Will she be down soon?" Larissa asked, trying not to sound too eager. "I could make up her rice cereal if you like."


Jonathan laughed. "You have plenty to worry about this morning, Mom. When Kathy brings her down I'll take care of it."


"It's not a bother at all," Larissa insisted. "I'm just asking."


"You'll be the first I tell when she arrives," Jon said, heading into the living room with his coffee mug.


Pam watched Jim finish mixing up the stuffing and remembered her lack of yams. "I didn't find the yams in the closet, Larissa," she told her mother-in-law. "Could you have put them somewhere else?"


Larissa frowned in thought, then walked back to the closet to see for herself. "Damn it," she muttered, "I must have forgotten them when I was shopping. I was sure I'd bought some." She looked in a few other cabinets and even in the refrigerator. "Damn it," she repeated.


"Do you want us to go out and get a few?" Jim offered.


"Is there any place open this morning?" Larissa wondered.


"I'm sure Price Chopper is open," Pam replied. "It's always open."


Larissa sighed. "No, don't worry about it. We'll survive without sweet potatoes."


Jim could tell his mother was disappointed to have forgotten the yams. "We'll be back in twenty minutes," he assured his mother, opening up the coat closet in the hallway and grabbing his and Pam's jackets. "You can't have Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes."


----


Well, they would have been back in twenty minutes had things gone to plan. In retrospect Jim wondered why he'd ever made that silly assumption. When was the last time anything he and Pam ever did go as planned?


Price Chopper was surprisingly busy at such an early hour. Even accounting for the shopping in search of forgotten ingredients, Pam was amazed by the crowd. "It's not as if they didn't know the holiday was coming," she complained. She wanted to head straight for the yams so they could get back in time for the parade. Jim, on the other hand, seemed determined to browse the bakery first.


"We definitely need to get another pumpkin pie," he explained, putting one in their cart. "You have no idea how much pie Jonathan can put away."


"Or you?" She replied, raising a skeptical brow. "I seem to recall there nearly being a fist fight last year between the two of you and the last piece of pie."


"Well, exactly," he nodded with a grin. "There wouldn't have been an argument if he didn't eat so damn much of it."


"So that pie's for him then?"


"No, that one's for me."


"But your brother is the one with the pie fetish?"


"Yes," Jim insisted emphatically.


Pam grinned and knew better than to try and make sense of it all. "Come on, we need yams."


Pam headed in the direction of the fresh produce while Jim disappeared down the main aisle, claiming that they needed more whipped cream for the pie. "Of course we do," she sighed under her breath as she grabbed a plastic bag to fill with nicely sized sweet potatoes.


She had forgotten to ask how many were needed so she was putting the eighth and final yam in the bag when Jim materialized next to her. He took the overloaded plastic bag out of her hands, only to replace it with a bouquet of harvest colored flowers.


"Do you think my mother would like these?" he asked, dropping the potatoes and the can of whipped cream into the shopping cart.


"Oh those are lovely," Pam smiled, breathing the light smell of mums, carnations and mixed greenery. "That's a really nice idea."


"And what about these?" Jim produced out of seemingly nowhere a second plastic-wrapped bouquet, this one of a dozen or so orange-peach roses.


"Wow, those are gorgeous," she enthused. "Mixing the two together will look so pretty."


"Well, no, that's not what I meant." He paused. "The roses are for you."


Pam looked up, clearly surprised. "Oh, you don't have to do that," she replied brusquely. "You should get them for your mom."


It was one of the things Jim loved so much about her. Despite the fact that they were now married and there was no doubt whatsoever of his love and devotion to her, the slightest token of his affection was always received with such unexpected delight, sometimes even embarrassment, as if she didn't feel she deserved such attention. It would not have occurred to her that the flowers would be for her. And that was one of the reasons he'd wanted to buy them.


"Today is Thanksgiving, Pam," he finally replied. "Can't I get flowers for my wife to show her how grateful I am for her?"


Pam brought the roses to her face to smell them again. "You are such a dork," she said lovingly. "Thank you." She reached up to thank him when she noticed him frown.


"Oh, no," Jim muttered, oblivious to his wife's attempt to kiss him.


"What?" She asked, confused.


Jim nodded his head forward. "Look who's here."


Pam looked over her left shoulder. Standing on the far side of the produce department, frowning quite fiercely at the piles of green and red and savoy cabbage was Dwight K. Schrute. "We should go say hello," she responded.


"I was afraid you were going to say that."


"Be nice," she warned, bumping playfully against him. "It's Thanksgiving."


"I don't care what day it is. You cannot make me grateful for Dwight."


"You don't have to be. But he is our friend."


"Says you."


"Yes, and he's our friend. We're going over there."


Jim sighed and put his arm around her shoulder. "He's your friend," he corrected as Pam started to push the cart in Dwight's direction.


"He's your friend too. Admit it."


"Never." Jim licked his lips and looked away so she couldn't see him starting to grin.


"Liar," Pam smiled.


"He's not!"


"And that's why you nearly cried when he gave that toast at our wedding."


"Hey, I've told you a hundred times: You poked me in the eye with your veil right before he started. It was watering from that."


"Jim, I didn't wear my veil at the reception." Pam shot him a smug look as they approached Dwight.


"Whatever," Jim whispered. "He's not my friend."


"He is," she whispered back. "Get over it." She stopped their cart a few feet from Dwight, who's back was toward them. "Hey Dwight," Pam said cheerily. "Happy Thanksgiving."


Dwight quickly looked over his shoulder at them, acknowledging them with a dissatisfied grunt. "Pamela," he said slowly, turning around. "Jim."


"Forget something for the big meal today?" Jim asked, wondering why he'd said something so inane.


"I forgot nothing," he practically spat back. "Angela decided the original menu was unacceptable."


Jim and Pam exchanged a puzzled look over Dwight's obvious black mood. "Is everything okay?" Pam asked gently.


"No, nothing is okay," Dwight replied, directing his attention back to the cabbages. "But that's hardly your concern."


Pam frowned and stepped toward him. "What's the matter?" She asked, putting her hand on his arm. Jim remained by their cart, but he had to admit Dwight was being grumpier than usual.


Dwight stared down at Pam's hand, as if he was debating flinging it off or responding with a hug. He finally did neither, simply sighing. "Angela's parents are in town. This is the first time I've been able to spend time with them since -" Dwight stumbled over his words, as if uncertain what to reveal. "They haven't been in Scranton for the holidays in years, mostly because that damn sister of hers plays the grandchildren card so they go there instead. So this year they'll be out of Guatemala long enough to make a stop here. It's really important things go well, and then this morning as we were preparing the meal Angela tells me her father has an aversion to beets. Beets!" he practically shouted. "This wasn't something she should have mentioned a little earlier?"


Before Pam could comment, Dwight continued. "Besides, who in their right mind doesn't appreciate beets? So now the starter and the three of the six side dishes need to made beet-less. And according to Angela, it's my fault if the day is ruined."


"Guatemala?" Was all Jim could think to say.


Dwight nodded. "Angela's parents are full-time missionaries in Central America. You have no idea what a big deal this is. Mose even shaved off his beard because Angela asked him to. So he'd look more presentable, she said. Do you have any idea what that means?"


"Nope," Jim shook his head amiably.


"Only an Amish matriarch would have the authority to issue such an edict. And yet he still listened to her. Which is probably why I'm standing here holding onto a head of red cabbage." He tossed it down in disgust. "Why am I even doing this?"


"Because you what to make her happy," Pam said supportively.


"A task I feel less and less confident about being able to reach," he said morosely.


Jim watched the two of them. For reasons he never fully understood, Dwight and Pam had developed a report that almost made him feel a bit jealous, as ludicrous as that sounded. Ever since the 'dark days' of their relationship (as they referred to it in the rare moments they need to speak of it at all) Pam and Dwight had their moments of understanding, of something deeper than casual friendship. She was one of the few people he'd ever witnessed Dwight drop his defenses for, and she had a loyalty and protectiveness toward Dwight Jim thought she was joking about until they practically had an argument over a prank Jim wanted to pull that Pam didn't approve of. No, it was a relationship Jim was not sure he'd ever understand, but he was willing to accept. Just as long as they could get back to the house in time for the parade.


"Why don't we go get some coffee?" Jim heard Pam say. "That way it gives Angela some time to calm down. She'll be fine if you just give her a little time."


Jim glanced at his watch nervously. "Who's open for coffee on Thanksgiving morning?" he asked pointedly.


"The Dunkin Donuts I passed on the drive here had customers," Dwight replied. "She was bordering on hysterical as I left. I guess giving Angela a few minutes to miss me might not be a bad idea." He picked up two red cabbages. "I should probably buy these. Just in case."


As they walked toward the check-out, Jim leaned down to whisper to Pam. "We don't have time to go get coffee."


"What else can we do? He's upset and we can't just leave him like this."


"We can't?"


Pam glared at him, only to find he'd been teasing. "I promise we won't stay long," she said. "You don't think I want to be late getting back to your mom's, do you? Jessica and Daniel will steal our chair otherwise."


The chair. Jim smirked in memory. Ever since that infamous photo was taken their first Thanksgiving together, Jim's sister had given them a hard time about the ownership rights of that oversized chair. "I'll phone my mom and let her know we might be delayed. She'll hold the chair for us."


"You mean the chofa," Pam corrected with a grin. Jessica had insisted on calling that particular piece of furniture by a trendy design name that Jim abhorred.


"The chair," he insisted, opening up his cell phone as they waited in line.


----


It was eleven o'clock by the time Jim and Pam returned to his parent's house. Jim had barely shut the back door when Larissa appeared in the kitchen. "Where have you guys been?"


"Long story," Jim groaned. "Long, long story." He dropped the grocery bags on the counter and took one of the two bouquets out of Pam's arms. "We come bearing gifts."


Larissa smiled at the site of the flowers. "They're lovely, but I thought you were going out for yams."


"We got those, too," Jim assured her.


"And a pumpkin pie," Pam added, unable to resist smelling the roses she was still holding.


"Another pie?" Larissa exclaimed. "But we already have three."


"Three?" Jim echoed. "I thought you said last night we had two."


"We did have two last night. Pam's mother called shortly after you left and asked if we could make use of an extra pumpkin pie she'd made. I know how you and your brother get over pie and so I told her of course."


"So now there's four pumpkin pies?" Pam grinned.


"Hey, that sounds about right to me," Jim smiled.


"So what happened to you guys?"


Jim gave an accusatory glance at Pam. "Ask Dear Abby here."


"We ran into Dwight at Price Chopper, and he was having a rough morning," Pam explained. "We took him to Dunkin Donuts to talk and calm him down."


"He's okay though, right?" Larissa was concerned. She had met Dwight on a few occasions over the years, most notably around the time of the the wedding, and she had always been struck with how in control he always seemed to hold himself. She couldn't imagine him being upset, much less in a public place.


"Oh, I think he'll be fine," Pam assured her, "but I'm beginning to wonder what it is about this particular holiday."


Larissa took down a crystal vase from the cabinet. "What do you mean?"

Pam took her roses over to the sink. "It turned out that the root of stress was that he was having dinner with Angela's parents, and he was planning on talking to Angela's father." She raised her eyebrows knowingly.


"Oh no," Larissa gushed. "Really? He said that??"


"What he said was that it was his first chance in five years to 'do the right thing'," Jim interjected. "Then he gave me a look which made it pretty clear his opinion on how we did things."


"Well you did leave it to me to tell my father," Pam teased, ripping open the paper around the roses. "Here, mix these in as well," she told Larissa.


"Jim! Did you really?" Larissa exclaimed, taking the flowers from Pam's hands. "You never told me that. I thought we raised you better than that."


Jim rolled his eyes. "She's lying."


"I am not!" Pam squealed indignantly.


He leaned toward his mother. "I wanted us to tell her parents together. I thought we had agreed to tell them together. But apparently somebody couldn't wait."


"Hey, they arrived earlier than expected. I had to go to lunch with them all by myself because you were in a business meeting with Michael and Ryan, and they know me too well not to notice how happy I was. They kept asking what I was in such a good mood about until I caved. I was defenseless!"


"Children, children," Larissa laughed. "Take your argument to the living room. You've already missed most of the parade."


Jim reached for Pam's elbow. "I bet Jessica's got the chair, huh?"


Larissa shrugged. "I couldn't hold it forever, Jamie dear."


Pam's ears perked up. "Jamie dear?"


"Come on, let's go watch the rest of the show," Jim said quickly, pulling her closer to him.


Pam wasn't deterred. "No, wait. Who is 'Jamie dear'?"


"Oops!" Larissa laughed. "Didn't I ever call him that in front of you before?"


"No, you've haven't." Pam replied, clearly interested.


"Thanks, mom," Jim grumbled. "I thought your promises used to mean something."


Larissa laughed again as she gave the flowers a final arranging. "I promised nothing, my love."


"Come on, Pam," Jim tried to end the conversation and pulled her away from the sink.


"I want to hear about Jamie," Pam grinned.


"I'll tell you all about him later," Larissa called. "I think I know where the pictures are, too."


Pam followed Jim into the living room, where they sat down on the floor in the corner of the crowded room. Jim's dad was in his usual chair, and as expected Jessica and Daniel were sharing the big chair. She shot Jim a smug grin as they were walking in, which Jim cordially responded by sticking out his tongue at his sister. Jonathan and Kathy were sitting on the couch, the lovely little Cerys sitting contentedly on her father's lap.


Pam leaned against her husband. "Jamie?"


"Shut up." Jim focused his gaze on the television, as if the Illinois State marching band was the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen.


"Oh, come on - I love it," she whispered, linking her arm through his. "Can I call you Jamie?"


"Absolutely not," he whispered back, his eyes never leaving the television.


"Please?" She cuddled up to him, kissing his arm. "Please? Please? Please??"


Jim let out a laugh despite himself. "We'll talk about it later. But no."


"You missed the Rockettes, Jim," Jessica said, unaware she was interrupting Jim and Pam's pseudo-argument. "Where the hell did you guys go?"


"Oh no," Pam said. "What outfits did they where this year?"


"Those candy-striped disasters," Jessica replied. "and it looked they had mistletoed swim caps on their heads."


"Jealous as always I see," Jim mused.


"Oh yeah, so jealous," she laughed. "I'm just lashing out because I'm the only member of this family under five-foot ten."


"Just more proof you're the mailman's daughter," Greg Halpert commented dryly.


"Given that I look like a female version of you," Jessica replied, "it's more like I'm the mailwoman's daughter."


Larissa had chosen that moment to walk back into the living room. "I'm not sure I want to know what you guys are talking about," she said, walking over to the couch, "So I will just focus on this adorable little girl over here." She sat down on the floor in front of Kathy and eagerly took the baby from Jonathan's arms. For Cerys's part, she drooled and grasped onto the front of Larissa's apron tightly. Pam covertly watched the duo from across the room, equal parts mesmerized and terrified. She had never been comfortable around babies, and seeing that she was considered one of Cerys's aunts, Pam was afraid that at some point that weekend she'd be asked if she wanted to hold the baby. She really didn't know if wanted to or not. She was too afraid she'd break it.


----


When Santa Claus arrived into Herald Square, Pam realized she was still wearing the faded sweats she'd thrown on early that morning. With her parents due to arrive in an hour, she slipped upstairs to find something a little more festive to wear. She'd just put on jeans and a new dark green turtleneck when Jim walked in.

"There you are," she said, smiling at him through the mirror as she worked on pining back the wildest of her curls. "I thought you were going to go with the casual look this year."


"Funny," he replied, walking up behind her. "It just so happens I had to pick up something from my mother." As he finished his sentence he draped a length of ivory pearls around her neck. "I thought it was a lucky coincidence you decided to wear that sweater today. It shows off the necklace nicely, don't you think?"


Pam mouth dropped open slightly as her hand immediately came up to touch the pearls. "Where did these come from?"


"My grandmother. Or maybe my grandmother's grandmother." He dropped his hands to her shoulders after he finished securing the clasp. "I just know they're pretty old."


"They're beautiful. Why am I wearing them?" Pam seemed confused.


"Because I'm giving them to you?" Jim grinned, pulling her back against him as they both stared into the mirror.


"Giving them to me?"


"Yeah. I'm sorry - did you hit your head before I came in? You seem a little slow to get the whole 'I'm giving you a gift' thing."


She ran her finger slowly across the front pearls. "They're just so pretty. Like something you save to wear for a special occasion."


"Well, my mother told me months and months ago that she would be happy if I wanted to give them to you, and today is sort of an anniversary, wouldn't you say?"


Pam nodded, then turned around in his arms for a kiss. Thanksgiving certainly had become an important holiday in their relationship. Two years ago Jim's mother had pushed them together by inviting Pam without Jim's knowledge. Today they laughed about how nervous Pam had been when she knocked at their door, and how completely stunned Jim had been to see her. When he'd gone upstairs to change his clothes that morning, he nicked himself twice while shaving and spent nearly ten minutes staring into his closet wondering what in the world to wear. It was if they both knew on some level that This Was It.


Last Thanksgiving had been equally as momentous, if a bit less anxiety-producing. Pam arrived to watch the parade with the family, and once aunts Liz and Audrey arrived, Jim said he and Pam had a special gift they wanted to share with everyone before the meal started. They then proceeded to bring in a crate of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut from Pam's car. Jonathan was the first to get the meaning.


"Hey, wait a minute," he said, pulling a bottle out of the crate. "Can't you people find a more creative way to make your announcement? Must you settle for mimicry?"


"Mimicry?" Pam tried to look shocked as she put her arm around Jim's waist. "Your brother insisted it was the Halpert family tradition."


It took mere moments for Larissa and Jessica to figure out what was going on, and after the multiple rounds of squeals and congratulations the day was spent in an even mix of turkey and wedding plans for the second year in a row. When Jessica reminded Pam about her previous comments about a Vegas wedding, Pam had the grace to blush.


A knock at their bedroom door about ten minutes later finally separated the amorous couple. Pam glanced in the mirror in dismay as she discovered her nose, cheeks and chin were now vivid red from Jim's unshaven face. She discretely tried to powder down the flush while Jim opened the door to find Larissa.


"Just wanted to let you know that Liz and Audrey have arrived," she said, "and they have already managed to embarrass Jessica more than I ever thought possible."


"What happened?" Pam asked, turning away from the mirror.


"Well, Liz asked if she and Daniel were supplying the champagne this year."


"Oh, no," Pam laughed.


"Wow," Jim remarked. "They must have hit pretty close to the mark to get her that upset."


"Yeah, that's what I thought, too," Larissa agreed. "Wanna take bets on when it finally happens?"


"That anxious to get us all married off, are we?" Jim teased.


"Not at all," Larissa shook her head, leaning against the door frame. "Speaking of which, don't be surprised if you guys get some embarrassing questions from those two as well."


"As in...?" Jim prompted, pulling his dressier clothes from his suitcase.


"As in they just met Cerys and are already in love with her." Larissa crossed her arms in front of her chest and attempted her best Audrey impression. "So are the two of you ready to have your own baby soon?"


"No!" Pam replied emphatically, though whether she was replying to the actual question or just the audacity of it being asked was tough to call.


"No?" Jim turned toward his wife, clearly surprised by her conviction.


"No," she shook her head firmly.


Jim looked back at his mother and shrugged. "I guess that's a no."


Larissa laughed. "Hey, that's fine with me. You're the ones who have to raise them. I better go back downstairs and make sure Jessica hasn't retreated to a closet for the rest of the day."


Jim glanced at the alarm clock as he shut the door again. "Damn, I'm not going to have time to shave before your parents get here."


"Well you've already done enough damage," Pam replied, pointing to her face. "So I wouldn't worry about it. Besides, my mom likes you with a bit of scruff."


"What?"


"She does!" Pam insisted. "She told me."


"When?"


"That weekend we went up for her birthday and you forgot your razor."


"And she told you she liked me unshaved?" Jim's eyebrow quirked as if he couldn't believe they were even having this conversation.


Pam nodded. "She said, and I quote: If I were you, I'm not sure I'd ever let him shave."


"Wow," Jim chuckled as he pulled off his sweatshirt. "Good to know."


Pam sat down on the bed. "And why exactly is that good to know?"


Jim finished buttoning his white oxford shirt before answering. "Well, you know - if you and I don't work out....."


"One Beesly is as good as another?" She replied helpfully.


Jim slipped his sweatpants off and threw them on the suitcase. "Exactly. Just like the Transformers."


"What??" Pam looked seriously confused.


Jim tilted his head. "Wait. That's not what I meant." He sat down heavily on the bed next to Pam, jeans in hand. "That doesn't even make sense."


"No," she laughed. "It doesn't."


He leaned over and kissed her again. "Well, whatever," he finally said. "I'm pretty sure this thing is going to work out."


"Your confidence is inspiring," she smirked, kissing him once more. "Now get dressed."

She stood up and was headed for the door as he reached out and grabbed her hand.


"Just give me a minute," he said. "You really don't want to face Liz and Audrey all alone, do you?"


"I love your aunts," Pam replied.


"I know, and they love you. But do you want to handle the embarrassing questions all alone?"


Pam leaned back against the door. "Good point. But while you finish getting dressed you can try and answer a question for me."


Jim tucked his shirt into his jeans. "And that would be....?"


Pam smiled wickedly. "Why can't I start calling you Jamie?"


----


Jim and Pam were back downstairs for only a few minutes when Pam's parents arrived. Between the family re-introductions and the flowing wine and spirits and the antics of one very cute baby that had clearly inherited the Halpert gene for hamming it up, it was one of the loudest and most chaotic Thanksgiving any of them could remember experiencing. It also was a day full of picture taking, storytelling and laughter. Greg Halpert was found saying several times how the dining room/family room expansion they had done over the summer had already paid for itself by the lack of stress over this one holiday.

When the evening arrived, some people left while the others scattered between card playing in the dining room, leisurely reading in the family room, or the holiday moviefest in the living room. And as pumpkin pie made its second round of the day, Jim helped himself to another large slice and nestled up next to Pam in the oversized chair.

 

 

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