This all felt so surreal, Pam thought, her eyes coming across at least five things she’d picked out for her own wedding as she scanned the ballroom. She should feel more nostalgic, more guilty, more…something, but she and Roy discussed his involvement (or lack thereof) in their wedding planning, she began to remember exactly why her own walk down the aisle had been called off.
She had meandered over to the bar to avoid yet another sympathetic smile from one of her coworkers, and partially to avoid the bride altogether. “I could make an announcement, if what you want is credit…” Phyllis had said, tight-lipped, and Pam had felt panic rising inside her at the thought- like what she really needed was to draw attention to the fact that her wedding had been a failure- and stammered through some kind of response. It was much safer here, she thought, where it was easy to blend into the bar counter. Maybe no one would notice she was here and she could just push through the rest of the evening, make it home to her pajamas and couch without anyone seeing her.
“Hey…” she managed, swallowing as her throat suddenly felt dry.
“So when are we going to see some of those famous Beesley dance moves?” Jim asked, his familiar smirk forming on his face.
She rolled her eyes, “I’m such a dorky dancer!” It was beginning to feel like their old routine, and she started to settle into the comfort of not expecting anything more.
“I know. It’s very cute.”
Her throat tightened, a lump forming, and she began to wish she’d actually ordered a drink. She glanced around, embarrassed and sure that her cheeks were turning red. She shouldn’t feel this way, she thought, shouldn’t feel like a teenager again. He probably didn’t even feel that way about her anymore, not after she’d shot him down. He moved all the way to Stamford to get away from her, after all. But still, their normal banter now felt lined with something more, and she wished she could turn back time, make this even a little less awkward than it was.
“Come on, I’ll even dance with you. Give the people what they want!” he joked, his smile widening and in turn, melting her heart.
“Okay. Fine. One song.” She gave in, following him to the dance floor despite the raging protests whirling around in her head. The song had a fast-paced beat, and they swayed across from each other, both laughing at her lack of coordination. This would be fine, she thought, this was fine.
But the song ended, replaced by the romantic chords of a ballad, and Pam shifted her eyes uneasily as couples pulled together around them.
“Well,” she started, hating how unsure her voice sounded, “The song’s over.”
“That doesn’t count,” he replied, “It was only the last thirty seconds. You still owe me a few verses.”
They linked eyes and she allowed herself to be pulled closer, hoping he couldn’t hear how her heart was beating as fast as if she had run up a flight (or ten) of stairs. She kept her eyes focused down, avoiding eye contact for fear that she would get too caught up in the moment and forget that this was only a deal, her promised one song. She swayed with the beat, trying her best to look collected even though her head was spinning at being this close to something she would never have.
She focused on the music, trying to keep herself grounded. She vaguely identified the song- was that Michael Buble?- and she was prepared to make it through the dance this way until she paid attention to the lyrics.
Put your head on my shoulder,
Hold me in your arms, baby,
Squeeze me oh so tight,
Show me that you love me too…
Put your lips next to mine, dear,
Won’t you kiss me once, baby,
Just a kiss goodnight,
Maybe you and I will fall in love…
Jim’s arms had tighted slightly around her and she made the mistake of looking up, meeting his eyes. His gaze was soft, content, as he looked down at her. She couldn’t look away, not now, not while he was looking at her like this. His eyes calmed down her nervousness and she let go, resting her head against the shoulder of his tuxedo jacket as they swayed to the melody.
After a moment had passed, she had no idea how long, she let her eyes wander up to his once more. It would be so easy, she realized, so easy to just reach up until her lips were touching his. For the first time, she didn’t consider the consequences, just contemplated how much she wished he would just close the gap. She closed her eyes in the realization of how right his arms felt around her, how warm he was, how wonderful this moment had become, with the music, and the lighting, and her wedding flowers decorating the room…
Put your head on my shoulder
Words I want to hear tell me,
Tell me that you love me too.
Put your head on my shoulder…
Her eyes shot open as the music swelled and she felt his arms loosen when he noticed her tense up.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked, concern filling his eyes.
“I…it’s just…” tears began to fill her eyes and she felt her throat closing up, hating that she couldn’t keep herself composed. “I’m sorry.” She managed, breaking away and walking, as fast as she could in her heels, across the dance floor and out the nearest door.
He found her on the steps of the banquet hall a minute later, tugging her wrap tightly around her shoulders.
“Hey…” he said quietly, sliding down to sit beside her on the cold concrete. “I’m sorry if…I didn’t mean to upset you.”
She turned to him, shaking her head. “No, it was…it was just too much.”
He didn’t reply, just looked at her expectantly.
“It’s just…with the song, and the flowers, and you, it started to feel like…” she dropped her eyes as tears tried to fight their way in, “Like how my wedding was supposed to feel.”
She didn’t realize she had started to cry until he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into him. Everything she’d been holding in, all the anger at Phyllis taking her ideas, all her frustration at not being able to say to him what he’d said to her, all the lonliness that had plagued her even after he returned from Stamford, it was all rushing out quicker than she could stop it.
When the tears had slowed, she heard his voice whisper, “Pam, why didn’t you marry him?”
She froze in his arms at the question, pulling herself slowly out of his grasp.
“Roy was safe,” she said, “he was there, he was all I knew for so many years of my life, and I think I loved him once.” She admitted, looking away. “But on Casino night, when I got home and had to look him in the eye, I just…I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t marry him when all I could think about was you.”
He didn’t respond, just glanced towards her.
“It felt so empty, being at work without you. And when you came back, when I thought I could make everything right again, I…found out you had moved on, and I finally realized what you’d been feeling all of those years. And it sucks. It feels like someone’s ripped out your heart and stepped on it, and I’m sorry I put you through that for so long.”
“Please, let me finish.” Somehow along the course of her meltdown, she’d started a confessional, everything she’d been feeling for months pouring out. “I hope she makes you happy, Jim, because you deserve that. You deserve to be happy. But you need to know that you didn’t misinterpret anything. I’ve loved you for a long time, longer than I even realized. And I don’t expect you to still feel the same way about me, and I should have told you sooner. I shouldn’t have waited until it was too late.”
He was rendered silent now, looking at her with an expression halfway between pain and guilt.
“I realized that I didn’t have a reason to wake up in the morning until I met you, Jim. You…you’re everything.”
He opened his mouth to speak and closed it again, unable to find a way to react.
When his lips crashed onto hers, it felt like the first time, years of pent up feelings boiling over. But unlike that night, he was the one that pulled away.
“I’m sorry.” He said, seeming to be on the verge of tears himself. “I’m so sorry. But…I can’t do this to her.”
When he stood up, holding her hand in his as long as possible, she suddenly felt cold again, emptiness settling around her.
She could feel his eyes still on her from the doorway, and she wondered what he was thinking. Was he going to leave Karen for her? Probably not, she reasoned. After all, she hadn’t been able to give up what she had with Roy for him after he’d put everything on the line for her. But she suddenly knew how he must have felt that night, like all of the air had been knocked out of her.
“I’ll never love her the way I love you. Not even close.”
His voice was hoarse and pained, and she let her tears spill over as he walked back into the banquet hall. But among feeling hollow and broken and utterly alone, she could see the glimmer of hope. She repeated his final words to her over and over again in her head, and she wiped her tears and headed inside and to her seat, determined to look composed even as her heart was breaking.
Because it would happen, she told herself. They would get the timing right someday. As she watched Jim dance with Karen, she pushed the hurt down as their eyes met from across the room. She looked into his eyes as deeply as she could from far away, and when he nodded ever so slightly, she knew he’d gotten her message.
She would be waiting.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: The Office and all of its characters, including Jim and Pam, are property of NBC. I do not own the show or its plotlines, which have been borrowed for the sake of this story.
NYCBound91 is the author of 2 other stories.
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