Jim had never intended to fall in love with the girl who sat across from him every day. He had never intended to date anyone from work, so when he found himself with a crush on a girl he had no choice but to stare at for a good portion of the day, he was almost grateful she was engaged.
"So, are you going to Angela's cat party?" she's asking him, and he laughs because the idea of a cat party is absurd, but also because he always laughs when he talks to her. Everything seems funny when she says it, and he's fairly certain he's never laughed so much in his life as he does from that spot at reception, with his hands hanging over the desk, almost touching hers.
And when Dwight pulls out the Jell-O encased stapler and she laughs like that, it's almost more than his heart can take. If she didn't laugh like that - a hiccup-y laugh that means he knows he's caught her off guard, done something extraordinary - he might have stopped pranking Dwight ages ago. But if it makes her laugh, he'll keep doing it forever. He loves her laugh.
Shit. Jim is in trouble, because he is in deep. And he is in deep over a committed woman. And God, he'd never want her heart broken the way it would be if Roy left her, but he also knows that a jerk like Roy definitely doesn't deserve a girl like Pam. He knows it's dangerous to put a woman on a pedestal like that, but he also knows that Roy is literally The Worst ™ .
Well, except for maybe Dwight. But that's a whole different story.
But really, he knows Roy keeps her from socializing with her co-workers - and yeah, okay, maybe he's being a little selfish and obvious there, wanting her to go out for drinks and then bailing when Roy says she can't go, but he DOES like spending time with...some of the people from the office. He knows Roy doesn't appreciate her art - which is REALLY good, by the way. And if he doesn't appreciate her art, does he really appreciate her?
Okay, that's a stretch and he knows it. But he still wonders.
He tries to make conversation with Roy, tries to see what she sees in him. Maybe if he could make himself like Roy, he could make himself stop loving her. But Roy is not as chatty, not as bright and bubbly and friendly as Pam. And Roy does not want to talk to Jim. Ever.
And when Jim sees Pam leave the bathroom, clearly trying to hide the fact that she's been crying, he immediately wants to comfort her. He wants to go to her, hug her, tell her whatever happened, it's going to be okay. A tiny part of him hopes that it's about Roy, but that's stupid because he knows Roy is waiting for her outside in that dumpy old truck, that nothing between them could have possibly transpired in the last 10 minutes or so. Right?
But either way, the urge to comfort her is so strong, but he knows that's inappropriate. So instead he just casually asks her about her headache, and she awkwardly asks if he wants to walk out with her, and he's about to grab his coat and really try to savor these few moments completely alone with her…when a truck honks and suddenly she's back to reality, back to her fiance. And Jim is back to being alone, watching the girl he's in love with leave to go home with the man she's in love with - the one who isn't him.
He has learned, over time, to cherish the small moments. The moments when the office is bustling and he and Pam both have nothing to do but observe the madness. The times when he can stand at reception and laugh at Dwight's antics or Stanley's unforgiving attitude. He dangles his hands over the desk, inches away from her fingers, daring himself to grab her hand with his own. He never does, but God does he want to.
It's strange to see another face at the desk when Ryan takes over reception during the horrible, awkward Diversity Day antics. Jim walks over out of habit, feeling awkward once he arrives. He makes conversation with Ryan to ease the strange tension he's feeling. He's barely listening to what Ryan is saying, but then something grabs his attention.
"She's cute, right?"
Cute? Cute doesn't begin to cover Pam Beesly. Pam is wonderful and smart, kind, open, and friendly. Pam is talented and-
"Yeah, but, y'know, she's engaged."
He tries to play it cool, but inside he is screaming. Now the temp is interested in her, too? He knows she'd never go for Ryan, but then again, he certainly didn't see her with a guy like Roy when he found out she was-
"Oh I meant the...the girl in the sketch."
….oh. And Jim can breathe again. He mumbles something about her being hot and pretends to watch whatever Ryan has on the screen. He's already forgotten, more focused on the fact that he needs to stop being jealous over a girl that isn't even his.
Later, he sneaks back into the conference room, feeling defeated over the loss of his biggest client - to Dwight of all people - and breathes a small sigh of relief that the seat next to Pam is still open. It's a small thing, being able to sit next to her. But in another life, she'd comfort him after his rough day, tell him he could go out and get an even bigger client tomorrow. He's imagining this, not listening to a word Michael is saying, when he feels a soft pressure on his shoulder. He turns, and sees her curls very close to his face. He can smell her shampoo. She's leaning on him. She's fallen asleep on his shoulder.
And now he's seeing them curled up on the couch, watching a movie. Seeing a life where Pam falls asleep on his shoulder all the time - she seems the type to fall asleep and then wake up and ask when they're going to bed. And he's hearing her voice, sleepy and wistful, and he's carrying her upstairs-
And suddenly everyone is leaving the conference room. And he waits, cherishing this moment, trying to get back to his imagined reality before the real world comes crashing down around him. He smiles as he wakes her. He whispers softly to her, the same way he imagines he'd wake her up if she had fallen asleep on the couch. She wakes up and walks out of the room with barely a word.
It's the first time he's ever sad to see the end of a Michael Meeting.
"Uhhhhh, not a bad day," he tells the crew. The champagne celebration long forgotten, he knows he's going to remember this day for a long time.
It actually kind of amazes Jim sometimes that no one has called him out for his time at reception. He tries to do it subtly, casually, when no one is really looking that way, but then someone interrupts them and he feels caught, cornered. Even if the conversation is innocent and casual, he feels like he should be in trouble for being at reception, talking to Pam.
He also finds it hard to hide his annoyance at the constant interruptions. He knows it's wrong to be annoyed, because really, he's not supposed to be there anyway - for a multitude of reasons - but he can't help but roll his eyes when Michael interrupts a sentence with some offensive impression or random question for Pam.
But when Michael interrupts one of his favorite moments of the day to ask him to do some menial task, Jim finds himself extra annoyed. He barely listens to whatever it is Michael wants him to do and instead offers an immediate escape route for himself: "Dwight."
He does not, however, anticipate the consequences of his actions. The power that goes to Dwight's head over the smallest task is amazing. He and Pam decide to confront the beast together. They enter his lair - his workspace, if you will - and face him side-by-side. It does not go well.
The good news is that now he has another excuse to talk to Pam as they make up - er, properly notate… - diseases together.
"Don't write Ebola or Mad Cow Disease," he warns her, and he laughs at her surprised face. She thinks he doesn't want her writing anything false, making a joke out of this nonsense Dwight has presented them with? Pshaw, she should know him better. "Because I'm suffering from both," he adds, and she finally laughs, relief evident in her smile. They spend a good chunk of the day - time he should be spending making sales calls - creating fake names.
"Spontaneous Dento-Hydroplosion," he suggests, with a look of confidence. He relishes in the look she gives him in return, clearly impressed with his idea. He sticks that look into the compartment in his brain of Things He Loves About Pam.
Later, another interruption when he is just trying to spend some time with his girl- erm, best friend. This time, from Dwight. He barely listens, but one thing sticks out in the list of false diseases Dwight is reading:
"Killer nano robots?"
"It's an epidemic," Pam responds. And it's his turn to be impressed.
As payback for this interruption - and, of course, for just generally being a jerk to the whole office - he locks Dwight in his workspace. Dwight calls from inside the room and Jim is humoring him until, oh thank God, there she is. The extension number for the reception desk pops up on his phone. And with Dwight yelling in the background, they have a meaningless conversation, where he can picture her face while not even looking at her. And he know it was just a prank on Dwight, that she's just being silly, but he'll always take any excuse to talk to her that he can get his hands on.
Of course, Dwight hands him another "talk to Pam ALL DAY" gift the day he asks for an alliance. The downsizing rumors haven't really bothered Jim all this time. He does his job. He arrives on time, never leaves early. He hardly ever calls off. He tries his best to stay under the radar, not doing so well as to be named Salesman of the Month, ahem, but doing well enough to get by. And he's competent enough that Michael seems to always want to give him all of these tasks, despite the fact that he never wants to take them on.
And maybe, on the off-chance that he did get let go, he could actually move on with his life and stop thinking about the girl at reception that he had to see day in and day out for all these years.
And yet, he spends his time in this alliance with Dwight, talking with that very girl. He has an excuse, as far as Dwight is concerned anyway.
"There may be chatting and giggling and you just gotta pretend to ignore it, wipe it away," he's telling Dwight. And he buys it. So now he can just sit at reception and talk to Pam about absolutely nothing, and someone will back him up if he's ever asked why.
When Jim pranks Dwight alone, it's pretty good. He's come up with some insanely creative ideas, some more subtle than others. But when Jim and Pam combine forces and prank Dwight together, they're unstoppable. By midday, they've got Dwight in a box in the warehouse, listening to pretend phone calls that Pam is making about the downsizing.
They work so well together, and he can't help but love her even more whenever they do stuff like this as a team.
"She's...so...great," he hears himself tell the crew during an interview session. At this point, they've all gotta know how he's feeling. Of everyone in this office, that crew has to know. Michael is oblivious to everything, and everyone else there is so absorbed in their own stuff, there's no way they've noticed. They're also nosy - unapologetically so - so if they'd noticed his constant visits to reception, one of them would have questioned him about it ages ago.
But the camera crew, they know. They see the look on his face when she walks in, see the tension whenever Roy comes upstairs. They see everything; it's their job. And maybe it should occur to him that someday, this will all be aired for the entire world to see, but at that point, he'll hopefully be long gone, the girl at reception long forgotten.
His real fantasy, of course, isn't that she's long forgotten, but that they're together. In this imagined future, she leaves Roy, comes to her senses, and he can finally tell her how he feels. He really, truly thinks there are times when she feels something, too. He also knows that she'd never give into any of those feelings while engaged to Roy. She's definitely not that type. And her feelings for Roy are real, he knows that, too. But the feelings she would have for him, he strongly suspects, would be much stronger. He tells himself on a daily basis that it will never happen, but he still holds out just a small shred of hope. Hope that, one day, when the camera crew finishes filming, however far into the future that may be, he'll be watching the final product with Pam by his side, and maybe their kids. Maybe a dog, too.
So he doesn't care when he slips up and says things that expose how he really feels about Pam. Not really.
The excitement of the final nail in the coffin on Dwight's alliance is killed immediately when Roy comes rushing in. Jim really is innocent, just playing a prank on an annoying workmate; he just got overly excited and affectionate with Pam. He'd been grabbing her hand to tell her how excited he was when suddenly the door slammed open and Roy was asking him if he was trying to cop a feel.
He's embarrassed, caught off guard. He's never had such a close call before, in all the times he's stood at that desk, so obviously flirting with her. He tries to explain, but of course Dwight is no help. Roy seems to back off once Pam explains that it's just office pranks.
He really should have been ready for that to happen eventually. But he usually stands on the opposite side of the desk. He's never had anything to worry about before.
But when he thinks of how her shampoo smells, how soft her hands are, he doesn't regret being that close to her. He doesn't, for one moment, wish he'd said his piece from the other side of that desk. Even if she hadn't stopped Roy and he'd come right across that desk and decked him square in the face, he doesn't think he would regret it.
The only reason he thinks twice about it is because Roy practically shoves Pam out the door. He knows Roy doesn't hit her; he knows Pam well enough that he'd be able to tell if something like that was going on, or at least he hopes so. But he does get rough, and Jim doesn't like that.
But, as always, there's nothing Jim can do. He's not her protector. He's just some guy, sitting at a desk, in love with the girl who sits across from him.
The day Michael makes them all bring gym clothes to change into just might be one of the most bizarre since he's started working at Dunder Mifflin. It starts off with Pam making a phone call about a toaster she'd received at her engagement party. Three years ago.
He's not happy that she's upset. He hates that she's upset about anything at all, ever. But he's a little happy that they still haven't set a date. How committed can Roy really be if he doesn't even want to set a date? He doubts Roy will do anything else when it comes to planning, so how hard is it for him to just pick a damn day? But again, Jim is a little happy that Roy is such a flake, just this once. It's bad enough pining after a girl with an engagement ring on her finger, reflecting in the bright fluorescent lights every day, reminding him that she's taken. But adding a wedding ring to that, making her Mrs. Pamela Anderson...well, that would be too much. All jokes about the name aside, it would be too much.
If they ever do set a date, he really might lose his mind, as if he hasn't already.
So, maybe he sounds a little smug when he talks about Pam needing to return something that was an engagement gift. But that's only because he really believes they'll never get married. She'll come to her senses. Even if she doesn't end up with him, she can't end up with a guy like Roy.
She just can't.
He knows it's dumb to be so competitive against Roy in this dumb game of basketball. At least he has the excuse of not wanting to work on Saturday. And honestly, if Roy and Pam hadn't started making out right next to him, maybe he wouldn't have gotten quite so competitive on the court. He tries to get Michael to let him guard Roy, but Michael is being Michael and won't hear it. Which is a shame because he has some choice words ringing in his ears that he'd love to get back at Roy for, suddenly:
"Tip it my way or you're sleeping in the car."
Still, Jim hears Pam's tiny little "Woop!" when he scores. And he loves that she's cheering for him. He loves it more because they both know she shouldn't be. After the close call at the desk, especially. But she cheers him on anyway, and he plays all the better for it. And when Michael finally gives in, lets him guard Roy, he plays better than he has since high school. He's blocking, stealing, shooting, scoring. He knows basketball isn't the way to Pam's heart, but it sure can't hurt to show her that he's better than Roy at something.
When Roy elbows him in the face, he feels like maybe it's karma. Like he deserves it for loving Roy's fiance, for trying to impress her. He keeps playing, but it's with a little less drama, a little less flair. A little less trying to impress Pam.
And he's excited his team wins, disappointed that Michael ruins it by being his usual self and now he'll have to come in on Saturday. But he's mostly excited that he actually is better than Roy at something. He's excited that Pam cheered for him. That she was impressed with more than just his pranks on Dwight. That she smiled at him while he played.
And now he's seeing her at one of his pickup games with his buddies. There's a hoop down the street and sometimes they'll play on an odd weekday holiday when they're all off with no plans. And he's imagining Pam sitting with all of the other wives and girlfriends, rolling their eyes at this group of grown men, playing basketball on their day off. And she's smiling at him in the same way, and they're remembering this moment right now, when he's just wiped the floor with the guy she was supposed to marry. And it's like this little inside joke-
But it's not real. She's really engaged to Roy and she's really leaving with him, talking about getting him into a tub. And Jim is really, really disappointed in that reality.
When a cute girl enters the office a few days later, he shouldn't be at all surprised by the ruckus it causes. He should know by now that anything with a slim figure and nice eyes will get Michael Scott's weirdest side to come out.
Still, he doesn't really see the big deal. She's just a girl. (Of course, he guesses, to some people, Pam is probably just a girl, too).
He wonders if the irony of Roy asking him what his type is will ever be humorous. He wonders if it's a moment he'll look back on and say, "See Pam? See the way I looked at you before I answered? And you didn't even notice!" or if he'll watch that moment alone, or with some other girl, and think about how weird it was for the fiance of the girl he was in love with to ask him what kind of girls he was interested in.
He wonders if he'll ever stop feeling weird about his awkward answer: "Moms."
He doesn't have to wonder if he'll ever stop hating Roy, though. That's a definite yes. Everytime Roy opens his mouth, Jim hates him more and more.
"We're not dating, we're engaged," and she's gone. He feels awful for Pam, truly. He feels awful that she's been with this guy for so long - high school sweethearts? He feels like maybe, just maybe, if she went on just one other date with one other guy, maybe she would realize that Roy isn't normal. Roy isn't the standard for dating. Normal guys, guys who care about the women they're with, don't make comments about other girls in front of them. They set wedding dates soon after proposing and then they stick with those dates. Normal guys, guys who are really in love with the person they're with, want to get married as soon as possible so that the rest of their lives can begin.
Still, after a day of antics, a day of awkwardness, a day which included Pam being tickled by Roy on Jim's own desk, Jim is pretty frustrated. So he asks Katie out. Not because he thinks she'll be the solution to his problems. But because she is pretty, and she's nice, and she took a chance coming into this office. And she put up with a lot of crap from Jim's weird co-workers, so he's gotta give her that; she's tough.
And maybe it's wrong for him to ask someone out to distract himself from his real life, but he can't help it. And maybe he's hoping that Katie will be The One. That she'll finally get his mind off of the engaged girl at reception.
But when he sees that tiny twinge of jealousy in Pam's eyes when he tells her he's going out with Katie this weekend, he knows that will never be the case. He still hopes he'll end up wrong, but he knows that little bit of jealousy has just reignited every feeling he's ever had for Pam. That bit of jealousy has kickstarted his hope that maybe, just maybe, he's got a chance.