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Jim Halpert very rarely gives more than fifteen, maybe twenty percent at his job.

Maybe its because its insultingly easy. Maybe its because selling comes very naturally to him. Maybe its because the whole thing is pretty automated, seeing as how he'd inherited a lot of clients from the salesman he'd replaced and all it took was one phone call for an account to renew and a commission check to come in. He figures--why expend more energy than it takes to have a comfortable life? His bills get paid, his hobbies get funded, and the rest goes into savings. So it doesn't really matter than four out of the five days of the week saw a minimal amount of effort.

On the days that he actually tries, he's always surprised at how well he can do. Landing the Deckerd Auto Sales account happened on one of those days. Deckerd had long been a name--the name--in Scranton for a new or certified pre-owned vehicle. Its a huge account, responsible for a quarter of his yearly commission. It was his first big sale and also a huge account (responsible for a quarter of his yearly commission) so that night he'd gone out and bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Pam had teased him mercilessly the next day, when the fluorescent lights were too bright and and the whir of the copier too loud.

Renewing the Deckerd Auto Sales account, however, always fell on one of the low effort days. Mostly because they love him over there, for one reason or another. Earning that 25% of his commission takes nothing more than a quick phone call and its generally the only thing he has to get done that day. That, and sneak about half of a miniature champagne bottle over to the reception desk.

The same day she'd teased him about coming to work a little hungover was the day she'd asked him to invite her next time he drank champagne on a work night. He remembers that (because he remembers everything about Pam) and so the next time the account came up for renewal, he shares with her. Because he knows that she likely won't go out with just him for a drink (even on a work night) so why not just split a mini-bottle of the cheapest champagne money could by on a random weekday afternoon?

90 or so milliliters of champagne is just enough to get Pam Beesly good and giggly. She also gets just the tiniest pink tint to her cheeks...not enough for anybody to notice really, except for him. He likes that her cheeks flush because of their secret, likes that she shares part in his celebration, likes that she laughs a little louder at his cheesy jokes and holds eye contact a little longer. Her eyes get bright and her smile gets extra wide and she tries to hide it with the sleeve of her cardigan and that's something that makes a warm feeling settle in his chest, kind of like a purring and contented cat.

He knows he balancing precariously on a tightrope, one without a net underneath. There are many nights that he promises himself that he'll cut it all out: the jokes, the pranks, the laughing, the barely there flirting. She is engaged; he's setting himself up for heartache. But then the morning after he tells himself that, she'd invariably come sit on the edge of his desk and roll her eyes at something Michael said and he'd convince himself that he can do this.

It just so happens that one of those night is the night before the Deckerd account is due for renewal. Resolve steeled, he gets in early so that he'll be able to hang his coat up near reception and not be tempted to stay. When he throws his keys in his bag he hears them clink against the miniature champagne he'd bought a week ago. He pulls it out and felt himself waver for a minute: seeing Pam without tension rolling across her shoulders and a flush that crept down her neck to hide behind her shirt collar was...well, if he was being honest, it was the stuff of his fantasies. But he can't think about things like that so he tucks the bottle into a desk drawer and tries to forget about it.

A chunk of his morning is spent in the kitchen, staring at the coffee pot while his coworkers trickle through the door. He only heads back to his seat with a full mug once he sees that Pam has gotten in and is checking voicemail. He's able to get away with a wave and a mouthed greeting from ten feet away. The doc crew calls him in for a talking head before she's done writing out the messages and she's busy in Michael's office when he gets out. So far, so good.

He gets some paperwork done, answers some emails, sends some invoices over to accounting. Probably the most productive day he's had in a while and its was only 10:00. He figures its as good a time as any to call Mr. Deckerd. Dwight conspires against him, however, (with or without meaning to, Jim isn't quite sure) and he thinks he might go insane if he has to sit at his desk for a minute more. He's on his feet and headed towards the reception desk before he even knows what he's doing. As he leans against the counter his mouth starts watering and he recalls freshman psychology and Pavlov's dog. Whether he's salivating at the jellybeans or at the girl behind the counter, he doesn't know. That's a lie, he does know. He just doesn't want to think too much about it.

But they can be friends. She puts those jellybeans up there for everyone, right? It's just a coincidence that they only appeared after Jim's first day, when Michael had put him in the middle of the conference room and asked about all his favorite things. And friends can offer advice on computer card games, that's totally an innocent thing. He can do this, talk about dumb stuff that doesn't really matter and eat free candy (that happens to be his favorite) and slowly but surely try to put a little distance between him and Pam, for his own sake. Never mind that he feels his resoluteness being chipped away every time she smiles at him.

The rest of the morning distracts him from doing much of anything--work related or otherwise. It's frustrating that he can't get done the one thing he'd set out to get accomplished that day but he's not thinking about things he doesn't want to think about, so...it's okay. He's confident that he'll get in touch with Mr. Deckerd soon enough. In the meantime, he's glad for conference room meetings and diversity day and is even kind of looking forward to the ridiculous/offensive game Michael thought up. Is, until Pam looks towards him over her shoulder with an index card reading JEWISH affixed to her forehead and an incredulous expression on her face. He doesn't trust himself, not when she's looking how she looks (kind of insane but mostly adorable) so he ducks out of the room and tries to call Mr. Deckerd again. No luck there, though, but he isn't ready to head back into the meeting so he wanders over to where Ryan is sitting at Pam's computer. It registers in the back of his mind that his mouth doesn't water, but he can't be bothered with dissecting that just now, so he chats and eats a jellybean and eventually leaves Ryan to pirating Chappelle's Show with his own reminder of "she's engaged" ricocheting around his brain.

The rest of the afternoon passes in a blur. He avoids Pam (mostly), watches his boss make an ass out of himself (completely), and connects with Mr. Deckerd (finally). It stings like a bitch to hear that somehow, somehow, Dwight has snuck in under Jim's radar and stolen the account. And it isn't even like Jim hasn't been trying; he's been working all day to make that sale and try to keep his mind focused on something else other than a soft voice and red curls and a striped button down.

At least this solves the dilemma of what to do about the champagne, he thinks as he awkwardly shuffles to the only empty seat in the conference room. It happens to be next to Pam but that's okay, because they can be friends and friends can sit next to each other in conference room meetings.

But then he sees her move towards him out of the corner of his eye and thoughts of being "friends" fly from his mind the second that her head gently bumps against his shoulder. They're replaced with one singular realization that flashes across his brain with blinding clarity: he loves her. He smiles in spite of himself, in spite of knowing that she's engaged, in spite of knowing that it can never happen. He smiles because he has never been more sure of anything in his life, except for maybe the fact that he will happily sit in an uncomfortable chair in the conference room of his boring job for forever if it means that Pam Beesly stays sleeping serenely on his shoulder.

The universe zeroes in to the place where Pam's head is touching his shoulder and he closes his eyes so he can make sure he's burned this moment into his memory. Everything else goes away: the meeting, his coworkers, his own voice saying the words "she's engaged." With his eyes closed, he can pretend that this is normal, that she does this all the time, that afterwards they would stand up and walk out and head home and she would rest her entire body against his because that was something they did. But then it almost starts to feel like something he made up, so he opens his eyes again so he can see for himself that she's really there, really this close, really a gentle and warm weight against his shoulder.

And then, it's over. People are leaving. He debates with himself--could he sit there a little longer? Could he sit there all night? But his eyes meet the camera across the room that had been trained on them (for who knew how long, had they caught all that?) and this probably wouldn't look that great when (if) the documentary ever airs.

"Uh, hey." She makes a sound, the type of sound that you make when you wake up on a Saturday and the sheets are all twisted around your legs and there's someone else in the bed with you asking what you want for breakfast. That's what flashes through Jim's mind, anyway. "Hey. We can go." But we don't have to, if you want. We can stay.

She glances up at him, meets his eyes, and he wants to die or melt into a puddle or just do something to deal with just how....how much everything is. But he doesn't and she says "sorry" in an small and tired voice and he says it was fine instead of saying what he want to says. Her hand pushes against his knee for support as she stands up and that's another thing he wishes would last forever but unfortunately it doesn't.

She smiles at him as she leaves and he knows then that he'd been kidding himself all damn day. They can never be just friends; he can never be just friends. He will always be more than that because to him, she will always be more than that.

He takes his time getting his things together to leave. His shoulder is on fire from where she'd been leaning against him and he puts his hand on it, trying to trap the warmth and the feeling inside his skin so that it stays there a little longer. It's only after the sound guy calls his name a few times, asking for another talking head, that he takes it away.

"So, Jim, how are you feeling after today? Pretty crazy day at the office, right? Dwight stealing your account, the diversity seminar, Michael's behavior...how are you feeling about the day and how it went?"

"Uh..." It went awful. It went great. I'm in love with her and I can't do anything about it, but she slept on my shoulder and trusted me enough to let her guard down enough for that and I'll take it. He smiles.

"Not a bad day."

Chapter End Notes:
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