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Their history was peppered with an endless string of hits and misses. If the timing had been better they both swore now that things would have happened between them right away. Instead, as luck would have it, complications had tested them both - making their life together into a long arduous process.
They'd come so close so many times before they finally got it right.
Throughout the years Pam had relentlessly teased him, saying that in the beginning it was like that movie 50 First Dates - where Drew Barrymore kept forgetting Adam Sandler.
What she really meant by that analogy is that they'd had more "first dates" than she could count.
The first time she'd said it Jim had warned her that she was on shaky ground. She'd just referenced the romantic comedy equivalent of Groundhog's Day.
If she was going to choose to do stuff like that - perhaps she should have picked Kevin instead.
And that was just another thing they had in common.
After all it was fitting that if he hadn't ended up with Pam - Jim would have picked Kevin too.
Or if you were being nitpicky - maybe he'd actually have ended up with Kevin's mom.
Pam had been dreading taking this job. Roy had told her horror stories about Michael. But then he'd said he really didn't have a clue as to what went on up there really.
It just seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. They had pretty good benefits (not great) and she'd finally get paid vacation days. Roy was all for it since he'd also charmingly mentioned that it would save them money on gas by driving to work together.
When he'd said that she thought that he'd meant to save money for the wedding - but apparently he'd meant for a pair of wave runners.
Which also ran on gasoline - so go figure.
Typical, typical Roy. She thought with a sigh.
When Jim asked her to go to lunch with him today she'd quickly answered yes. She didn't give herself time to second guess.
Jim was great. She'd liked him instantly. He'd been so nice and helpful to her all week.
He sweetly introduced her to everyone, he took time to show her where to find everything, how to un-jam the ornery photocopier, where to find extra post-its. When, on her first day she hovered in the doorway with her lunch, he quickly made someone move over so that there would be room for her at the table in the break room.
She tried to stifle the feeling, but she found she couldn't help herself.
She often wondered what it would be like to date someone like Jim - well - not just Jim - she wondered what it would be like to date anyone who was completely different from Roy.
Not that she'd really know what being on a date was actually like - since she'd been on so few.
And all of those were with the same exact person.
For a fleeting moment, which she quickly shoved to the back of her mind, she had entertained the thought. Rather foolishly, she found herself thinking that this innocuous lunch could possibly be something, similar, close to, kind of like a date.
She felt slightly guilty, but deep down she knew that this wouldn't go anywhere anyway.
After all - she was engaged.
She was engaged even though she still didn't actually have a ring to prove it.
She was engaged, so to go on a perfectly innocent non-date with an unassuming perfectly nice guy was completely harmless.
At least that's what she kept telling herself.
Except something happened that she hadn't expected.
When she told herself that it was all completely innocent she hadn't expected her heart to skip a beat when she noticed him holding the door open for her.
He did it not once but twice. First as they leaving the office and then when they got to his car.
She hadn't been expecting her palms to get all sweaty when he laughed and told her to put her money away, that the pizza was his treat.
As soon as those types of thoughts surfaced, she skilfully pushed the thoughts back down again.
This is nothing, Pam You've just not interacted with other people for far too long. This wasn't anything special. It's just two people who work together having lunch outside the office.
Besides, she continued to rationalize in every way possible, it probably didn't matter anyway. Someone as cute as he was probably already had a girlfriend.
On a normal day Jim simply loathed his job, as opposed to completely despising it. But out of nowhere, the most amazing thing happened. The minute she walked in the door he'd felt it.
Finally. A reason to come to work every morning.
When he'd first laid eyes on her, in her conservative clothes and sparkling new Keds she looked ever so timid and innocent.
He was quite sure Michael would eat her alive.
He quickly learned that looks can be deceiving.
In almost the first hour she'd proven that she had a quick smile and even quicker wit. She could totally hold her own.
That first day he'd made his way over, simply to say hello. Before he knew it he was taking her on a quick tour, introducing her to everyone. As he did - to his great surprise - he slowly realized he was becoming more infatuated every second.
When he'd stop by her desk he'd begun to notice that the air around her smelled kind of like raspberries.
He found it incredibly distracting.
He didn't usually date people he worked with - not that there was a plethora of single women at Dunder-Mifflin. It just had the potential to get messy. But as he gazed down at her he decided he might have to start to make an exception.
In the short drive to lunch he'd found out that they had very similar taste in music, both loved the same reality TV shows and both firmly believed that free cell solitaire was the only way to go.
Every minute, every second, despite his trepidation he was all the more sure.
If she wasn't the most perfect woman in the world - she was pretty damn close.
"What's the deal with white pizza?" Pam scrunched up her nose at the display case.
Truer words had never been spoken in Jim's estimation. "I know! It's so not really even pizza."
"It's just like having cheese and bread." She shakes her head. "And then more cheese." She sounds solemn. "Plus - I think it's so sad to kick the tomato sauce right out of a job."
He smiles, and suddenly he's even happier he got up the nerve to ask her out today. He'd been agonizing over it but he knows now he's made the right decision.
She taps a finger against the glass and looks up at him - seemingly disgusted. "Same with ziti pizza. I say pick a meal and stick with it. Don't try and shove a plate of pasta in your mouth without a fork."
He agrees wholeheartedly. "It's amazing how lazy people can be."
She laughs as they take their ordinary, plain cheese slices over to a table. He stands next to the table, waiting for her to slide into the booth before he settles on the other side.
"So. How was your first week?" He asks as he takes a bite.
She smiles and it fills her whole face. "It's been fine. Not at all challenging but yet completely bizarre."
"And that is Dunder-Mifflin in a nutshell. We should put it on t-shirts."
"Or coffee mugs." She replies, giving him a nod in agreement. "Like Michael's."
"Ah yes. World's Greatest Boss. He bought that for himself you know."
"Really? I find that so hard to believe." She says sarcastically and giggles.
Hmm. This was getting better every second. Cute and quick with the comeback. Jim thinks with a shake of his head as he smiles back at her.
She hides her smile behind a napkin before loses it and bursts into laughter. "And oh my God -Jim. The stuff you think of for Dwight? That thing with the phone and the nickels was pure genius."
"Thank you." He nods his head. "And you are nothing short of brilliant yourself. After today - you can consider yourself drafted. I'll give you your Jell-O mold back on Monday."
He looks at her with a lopsided grin. "I still can't believe you actually own a Jell-O mold."
"I can't believe you have the nerve to mock me." She gives him an incredulous look. "It certainly is coming in handy when you need it."
"True enough." He says with a wink. He stares into her eyes for a moment before he goes on.
"So. Now. Officially. Let's get to the real reason I've brought you here today."
Her stomach drops and she sits stock still until she hears him continue.
"Pam Beesly - your mission, should you choose to accept it - is to officially become my partner in crime."
He stares at her intensely. "Do you think you are up to the challenge? I mean, you need to really think about it. It's a lot of responsibility. Do you think you can handle it?"
Her stomach flutters again. When he looks at her like that she sees that his eyes are almost pretty.
It's entirely unfair. She sighs. His lashes are longer than hers.
She realizes she's staring and clears her throat. "Oh, absolutely."
Concentrating on their lunch again they sit in silence for a second and even though it's quiet it's not at all awkward. At one point Pam barely makes a move before Jim hands her another napkin, almost like he instinctively knew that's what she was reaching for.
Their fingers brush as she takes it from him and a jolt shoots up his arm. When he looks at her face again he could swear that she's blushing.
Unnerved, she tries to will her heart from pounding as she wipes the edge of her mouth. "So - um - How long did you say you've worked here again?"
In a similar state, he blinks to focus on her question. "Two years. Well - a little more than one and a half. I was actually thinking of doing something else but…I don't know. I'm kind of good at it - in a warped way." He shrugs and takes another bite of pizza.
She mimics him and as she does he watches her mouth. He's struck by how she nibbles and chews incredibly carefully.
He notices that her lips are a pale shade of pink, even without lipstick.
And because he's become mesmerized with her lipstick-less mouth he realizes all at once that she's speaking again.
"You know - that's exactly why I applied for the reception job. I'm very adept at phone answering."
"So I've noticed." He smiles back at her.
"I'll have you know I always have been. I was a child prodigy. I was able to speed dial before I could walk."
As they joke about their respective "careers" he knows that there has to be something else she'd rather do. It's suddenly really important that he finds out what it is.
"If you could do something else what would it be?" Jim begins on his second slice; Pam isn't even half done with her first.
"What do you mean?" She's startled by his question.
"Do you have any - oh I don't know - hobbies? Anything you're really good at? Like croquet or candle making?"
She stifles a laugh. She can't remember the last time someone had asked her so many questions about herself. She ducks her head and sighs a little.
"Um…I kind of like drawing, you know sketching. Stuff like that."
"That's very cool." He says easily. He gives her a look of genuine interest. "What kind of things do you like to draw?"
She's so used to being ignored she's surprised that he heard her. She sits a bit straighter in her seat and leans forward a bit, her face coming more to life with each word. "Oh. I mostly just doodle - so anything really. I took oil painting in college but I don't have much room for it in my apartment now. Plus the light is awful. I do illustrations. Mostly pencil drawings. "
"Illustrations?" He ponders for a minute. "You mean children's books? Kind of like Maurice Sendak?"
She almost chokes on her pizza. She can't believe the words that have just come out of his mouth. She's shocked, simply shocked to actually talk to someone who even knew who he was, let alone bring him up as an example.
She's dumbfounded. Roy had no idea what she was talking about when she talked about art. He knew 'the guy who chopped off his ear' and 'the one with the Mona Lisa'. He rarely acknowledged the people Pam truly admired.
She nearly bounces in her seat. "Oh my God. YES. Exactly like Maurice Sendak."
He keeps talking, clearly not understanding the magnitude of his comment. To him, it's simply obvious. "Where the Wild Things Are. One of the greatest kid's book of all time."
"I know. It's amazing." She agrees, her eyes sparkling and holding his for a long moment.
He sees her shake her head and he thinks he's just heard her sigh. They seemed to be so in sync about so many things. He thinks this is quite possibly the best first date of his life and he's already craving a second. He suddenly wonders if he could convince her to go out for a drink after work tonight.
"I would love to do something like that someday - or even just the tiny illustrations they do at the start of some chapters in children's literature. Just even book covers would be beyond cool. I don't draw as much as I used to and I really miss it."
There's a light in her eyes now that makes her suddenly ten times more attractive.
As if that was even possible.
It was weird because she wasn't really his type. Not that he really had a type but curly brunettes had never really done it for him. His last girlfriend, Diane wore her blond hair all short and swingy.
He wonders what Pam's would look like curling loose around her shoulders.
She sighs and smiles softly. "I used to go to the bookstore and spend hours in the kids section, flipping through. It used to give me great inspiration. There are some really talented people out there."
Suddenly brave, sensing an opportunity he decides if he's going to do this, he might as well get on with it. It's torturing him not to know if she'd actually say yes to seeing him again - outside of work of course.
He fiddles with a straw to keep his hands from shaking. "You know what? I just remembered. I was at Barnes & Noble the other night - and I think I saw that there's a children's book signing next week sometime." He ducks his head so he can't see her expression. "We should - um - go check it out."
"Oh." Her face falls. She should have known better. This was too dangerous. She was too naive. She feels awful to know she's led him on.
He's playing with the salt shaker, his eyes downcast so he doesn't notice the change in her right away. He keeps going, oblivious.
"I mean - if you're free. We can even bring a kid with us as a cover. We could borrow Toby's daughter Sasha if you think we might need it. I baby-sit her sometimes. I know she'd love it."
He's smiling widely as he looks up and meets her eyes.
And in an instant, the smile vanishes.
He swallows. She doesn't need to say a word. "Wait. Don't tell me. Let me guess. You're dating someone."
She's suddenly incredibly flustered. "Ummm. Not dating. Engaged…actually. He...um...was the one who told me about the job opening. He works downstairs in the warehouse..."
Jim takes a steadying breath and stares at his hands for a moment. He does a mental inventory of the warehouse guys, figuring it out in an instant.
She's with Roy.
And not just with him. They're engaged.
Wow. When you fall you fall from real high and land real hard, huh Halpert?
He's suddenly kind of annoyed at her for not saying something sooner. There had definitely been something going on between them. He's pretty sure didn't imagine it.
"I'm sorry. I hope you didn't get the wrong idea. I'm just um…kind of…surprised. I didn't see a ring or anything." He comments.
She blushes, visibly ashamed as she runs a thumb over her ring finger. "No. Not yet. It just happened...not too long ago."
Liar, Pam. Why did you say that? She chastises herself. Six months ago isn't exactly last week.
Jim leans back in his chair. He desperately tries to find the right joke - the right witty thing to say to begin to remedy this.
He needs to say something that will make him feel like he didn't just find out that the most seemingly perfect girl he'd ever met - he'd met too late.
He makes himself smile widely, while all the while he feels like his heart had been torn from his chest. "You better tell him to get cracking on that. You'll need a ring - for your own protection. You'll need it to deter Michael or oh God. Definitely Kevin."
Pam sighs wearily. He's describing a near impossible task. She's tried to get Roy moving for more than seven years. Problem was, Roy does nothing before he's good and ready.
When she doesn't reply he desperately struggles to clear the air. "Anyway - think about the book signing thing OK? I'm sorry to make things all weird all of the sudden. I didn't mean for you to get the wrong impression."
"No. Don't be silly." She shakes her head at him and twists her hands together, suddenly beyond uncomfortable.
He stands and gestures to the door jingling his car keys in his hand. He's suddenly desperate for this "date" to end. "So. Ready to go?"
As they reach the car he feels the need to say more. ""Listen. Pam. I hope you understand. I wasn't exactly expecting it to be a date. I mean, I actually suggested bringing a kid along and all. If you still think you'd like to - we can totally just go as you know…friends."
Instantly she feels like she can breathe again. She feels incredibly foolish and can't believe the concept hadn't occurred to her. She may not be able to date him, but there was nothing wrong with being his friend.
She mulls it over and blows out a breath.
"Friends huh?" Looking up at him she smiles softly. "That might be nice."