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Here’s the truth. 

Pam likes Roy’s mom. She’s well-meaning, and she loves Pam. Like the daughter she never had (as she tells anyone who’ll listen). She helped Pam choose her prom dress, drove her to Roy’s football games, taught her how to make Roy’s favourite ribs, gave them her old couch and crockery for their apartment. 

She’s even friends with Pam’s mom.  

But she also…drives Pam mad. Sometimes. 

Like right now. When she’s clucking that July is far too soon for their wedding, and has Pam thought about the finances (as if Pam hasn’t been budgeting for her son for years), and wouldn’t a winter wedding be much better? Nicer colours too. 

And Roy, who never, ever, disagrees with his mom, is now nodding. 

It would be ungrateful, when Roy’s mom was so excited by the proposal, to point out that the wedding is not hers to plan. 

Just like it would be ungrateful to point out that the ruffled prom dress wasn’t really Pam, and that when it was pelting it down with rain and Roy was only going to get hammered afterwards, Pam wasn’t desperate to spend her fiftieth Saturday in a row watching him play. That Pam can’t stand ribs, and that the couch doesn’t fit with the rest of their apartment and Pam had already picked out the plates that she’d wanted to buy. 

Pam wasn’t raised to be ungrateful. She wasn’t raised to be rude to Mrs Anderson, who her parents love. 

So she smiles and nods too. If Roy or his mom notice her gritted teeth, they don’t comment. (Pam knows they won’t have noticed). 

On the drive back from Roy’s parents, Pam is silent. Her mom has spoken to her about this before. Men aren’t mind-readers, sweetie. You can’t just expect Roy to notice you’re upset if you don’t say anything. But Pam literally doesn’t say a word the whole journey and she thinks, not for the first time, that it doesn’t say much about her captivating presence when she’s being deliberately silent and her own boyfriend - fiancé - doesn’t even notice. 

So she finally takes a breath as Roy pulls into their drive. She’s got it all planned out, her very reasonable I still want to talk about the July wedding - only he’s already climbed out of the car. 

She shuts her mouth. Feeling stupid. Feeling stupider, because what did she expect?  Roy never takes a breath before he speaks. He just says it. And she hadn’t said it the whole car journey. She hadn’t said anything. Like always. 



She’d spoken the new guy at work this week. Like it was easy, like she was the sort of person who regularly, easily, made friends. She’d made him laugh like she was fun and funny, and it had been easy.  And then she’d stood up to Michael when he tried to involve her in one of his dumb jokes on the new guy, and again when he'd made an off-colour comment about her hair.

And if she can do that, then she can have a conversation with her boyfriend - fiancé - and tell him she still wants to get married in July. 

So she sets her shoulders and heads into the house after him. 

She forgot about the Rangers game. 

Roy is already settling down on the couch, reaching for the remote. 

“Can we talk?” 

He spares her the briefest glance. “Can it wait?” His attention is already sneaking back to the screen. 

Pam twists her hands, takes another breath. “No.” 

“Baby, it’s the semi-finals.” 

Another hockey game, she thinks, before she remembers it’s supposed to be a funny story now. That time he left her. Trying to equate this with that first date is the act of a needy girlfriend, not a fiancée. Roy asked her to marry him. What further proof does she need that he’s not prioritising a hockey game over her? 

Her brain is telling her all of those things, and her mouth blurts, “I want to get married in July.” She’d rehearsed it so many times in the car that it just slips out, only it’s the wrong words and the wrong tone and she doesn’t sound reasonable at all. 

And she sees it. The frustration that flickers across Roy’s face. C’mon, not now. 

And instead of acting as her warning to be more reasonable, it makes her carry on, voice rising in pitch - “Your mom can’t dictate our wedding. I want to get married in July. It’s supposed to be our wedding.” 

Zero to a hundred, and they’re only thirty seconds into the game. 


Roy takes a moment to process that neither the fight nor Pam are going away. And as always, any hint of challenge throws him onto the offensive. “What the hell are you talking about? My mom?” 

She can’t tell if he’s more annoyed by the perceived slight against his mother, or the abrupt descent into unreasonable Pam with no warning, or the precious seconds of the game that he’s missing. She probably couldn’t have timed this more badly if she’d tried.  

“Your mom doesn’t get to decide-”

“She was giving us advice, Pam. And it made a lot of sense. What is your problem?” 

“I want to get married in July!” 

Her brain is stuck on that stupid sentence, and she’s messed this up so horribly, and why doesn’t Roy get it? 

“Would you stop saying that? Why are you so obsessed with July?” 

Because her daydreams about getting married have always involved a summer wedding, because a summer wedding means her mom won’t have to take a day off school, and because she knows, knows that Roy doesn’t do anything without a deadline.  Like calling her back after dates, telling her he loved her, asking her to move in, even the proposal. He leaves all of it to the last minute, and only with prompting, and hinting, and pressure from his mom and hers.  

Because she can see their engagement stretching out forever with vague promises of, soon babe, and no date and the vague fear that she’ll be stuck forever. Because she’s afraid that the longer they wait, the more time Roy will have to find things that are more important than her. 

And because she likes pastel colours and Roy and his mom still, still, don’t get that. 

“I’m not obsessed,” she half shouts back. She never shouts at Roy. She never shouts at anyone. 

Roy just shakes his head, baffled, and she turns and storms out. 

She tries to calm down in the kitchen. She tries to remember that girl in the office, the one who hadn’t been useless, who’d found the right words and made the new guy smile and told her insane boss no. It had really, really felt like that girl was her this week. 

But then she opens the fridge and sees the expired milk that Roy still hasn’t thrown out, and the replacement carton of skim milk, the kind she hates, that Roy went out and bought after she nagged and nagged him about the expired carton.  His mom had laughed about it today after Roy made a dig about Pam’s nagging and said, typical Roy. Boys will be boys. So Pam had no choice but to make a joke of it too. 

And something twists inside her now as she grabs the skim milk and - 


What’s she going to do? Throw it? 

Her parents didn’t raise her to throw tantrums or milk cartons. And besides, she’d only have to clean it up. 

She takes a breath. 

She puts the skim carton back in the fridge, slowly. She picks up the expired one and drops it into the trash. 

She times it better this time. Gets the half-time break, when Roy is less distracted. He’s calmed down too, now that he doesn’t have to worry about missing the game. 

“I just think it’s a good point, about the money.” He nuzzles her. “Don’t you think a Christmas wedding could be kinda fun?” 

She thinks of icy slush, and dark colours, and shivering in church. But it’s not like she doesn’t like Christmas, so he’s not miles off. And December is still a date. It’s not never. It’s a compromise, and compromising is what adults do.  

“I guess. Yeah.” 

He smiles like that’s settled, and she supposes it is. 

Jim is starting to wonder whether accepting this job was a mistake. 

His desk-mate is beyond weird (funny when she’d warned him, less funny in reality), his boss might actually be crazy (again, funny when the interview was a great anecdote to bring home to his roommate, less funny on a day to day basis), and it turns out paper is every bit as dull as you’d expect. Not that he’d spent much time having expectations about paper before this. 

Wearing a suit, working in an office - it had all seemed so adult on his first day. Turns out that novelty had worn off fast. He’d thought sales would be a good fit, and he’s sort of right - except he’d been envisioning selling something exciting somewhere flashy and fast-paced. Dunder Mifflin is…not that. Turns out you need more than an average GPA and a middling arts degree from a middling college for that. Maybe if he’d spent less time goofing off, and more time applying for those jobs in New York. 

His college girlfriend got one of those jobs. She’d sounded half pitying when she’d bumped into him at their mutual friend’s birthday at the weekend, and found out where he was working. His quip about the joys of Scranton had been met with a polite frown. She’d never really got his jokes. But she seems to have a serious lawyer boyfriend now who is much more her type, and Jim’s happy for her. 

He tries to picture her reaction if she saw what Dunder Mifflin was actually like, and can’t. 

Still. It’s not like this job is forever. And the pay and hours aren’t bad. And - well. There is kind of a plus. One thing that makes him temporarily forget about Dwight and Michael and how mind-numbingly boring paper is. 

An engaged plus, he reminds himself. 

Although she seems a little down today. And he’s restless. Barely three weeks in, and already he’s counting down the minutes to twelve as the morning stretches interminably, as if a ham and cheese sandwich in the poky break room is some kind of treat. 

He stretches, turns his head slightly. It’s a new habit. At this angle the reception desk is in his periphery, and he can just about kid himself he’s scanning the office. That the glimpses of red curls, pale cardigan, the curve of her cheek, are all incidental. More often than not she catches his eye. The thrill when she does is close to painful. Come on, Halpert. 

She doesn’t now. He allows himself to glance at her properly. She’s not even looking at her computer, he realises. She’s staring into space. She’s still doing it when his gaze slips to her ten minutes later. Which must be some kind of record. 

He slides to his feet and saunters over. 

It takes her a moment to realise he’s even there, and her jump when she does makes him smile a little.

 “You need to save me,” he informs her. Her eyes widen. Almost startled. He lowers his voice, leaning closer to her on his elbows to ensure Dwight and Michael don’t hear. “I need to get out of this office. ASAP. I think I’ve forgotten what the sun looks like.” 

She laughs. The sound is enough to clear some of the fog in his head. “There’s a bench round the back that I sneak out to have lunch on sometimes,” she informs him. Also in an undertone, like it’s a secret between the two of them. 

“Amazing. Do you wanna come?” 

She hesitates, and he hadn’t realised how much he was hoping she’d say yes until she grins and nods. 

“Oh, but-” she’s suddenly serious, beckoning him closer, and he tries not to get too sidetracked by her proximity, “We need to leave separately. Otherwise Michael will want to come too.”

“Done. You go first, and I’ll meet you down by the entrance in five minutes?”

“Yes!” She pauses. “Um. Should we invite anyone else?” 

Behind them, Dwight is loudly and aggressively sharpening pencils (Jim’s not even sure he uses pencils). Pam follows Jim’s gaze. Dwight immediately glares at both of them. 

Jim turns back to her and shakes his head no. Firm.  

She has to catch her tongue between her teeth to stop laughing. It’s indescribably cute, and there’s another thing to add to his list of useless facts about Pam Beesley, Dunder Mifflin as he heads to the refrigerator to retrieve his lunch.

There’s a yogurt pot next to his sandwich. Nestled side by side. He picks it up with a faint smile. Mixed berry, with a foil lid. He’s noticed that she has one every day around 3, her afternoon pick-me-up. Always mixed berry. He thinks she must bring them from home. Although, he realises, this one is actually a day past its expiry date. 

He should probably - 

Someone clears their throat behind him. 

He turns to find that blonde lady from accounting scowling at him. Her lips are pursed, arms folded. “Is that your yogurt?” 

Jim feels a weird rush of guilt as he follows her narrowed eyes. “Uh, no.” 

“You should know that taking other people’s food is frowned upon here.” 

“Oh, I wasn’t-”

Her eyes narrow further and he quickly returns the yogurt to the fridge and backs out of the room with his sandwich.

Man, this place. 

Pam is just sneaking to the door as he emerges, and she throws him this quick tentative grin that makes him forget about accusations of food theft. 

The five minutes at his desk have never felt longer. 

As he stands up to get his coat, Dwight hones in on him. “Where are you going?” 

Jim shrugs. “I thought I’d get some fresh air.” 

“You have fifty minutes for your lunch break.” 

What is this guy’s problem? “I’m aware.” 

“Starting from the moment you got up from your desk. I’m counting.”

Jim looks at him in disbelief. “You’re counting?” 

“Fact. People who leave the building for lunch take liberties.” Is he for real? “And Michael takes tardiness very seriously.” Jim is almost a hundred percent sure that can’t be true. “You will not be allowed to slack off on my watch,” Dwight continues brusquely. Then adds - “That’s forty-nine minutes left now.” 

Jim considers saying something back, but Pam’s waiting for him, so he just scoffs under his breath and leaves. 

Again - this place. 

“What’s wrong?” Pam asks when she sees him downstairs. He thought he’d managed to rearrange his face into something less pissed off, but clearly not enough for her. 

He follows her out of the building. “Dwight is counting how many minutes I’m away from my desk.”

Pam snorts. “Let me guess. He told you he’s doing it for Michael.” 

“He’s not?” Jim asks drily. 

“Ok.” Pam shakes her head. “The next time Michael comes over, tell him Dwight is monitoring everyone’s time. Just see how he reacts.”

Jim laughs at her. “You’re on.” 

She glances up at the sky, which is great and overcast. “I’m sorry. Guess you won’t get to see the sun after all.”

Yeah, Jim thinks as he sits down next to her on the bench without looking at the sky. Shame.

“So how was your weekend?” 

She almost hesitates and he wonders for a second if his hunch was correct, but then she nods and says it was good. 

“I went to my boyf- Roy’s parents.” 

Right, because she’s someone else’s future daughter-in-law. The reminder is like a kick to the stomach.  It really shouldn’t be. He tries to think of a follow-up question that won’t kill him, like, are you close, but obviously she is. 

“Fun,” is all he manages instead. Should he be joking about in-laws? 

She suddenly looks a bit embarrassed. “Uh, yeah. So that’s my wild life.” She clears her throat. He opens his mouth to say that wasn’t what he meant, except he can’t really explain what he meant, and there’s an uncomfortable pause.  “And, um,” she casts around when he doesn’t manage to fill it (because he’s an idiot), “I was thinking about maybe taking an art class?” 

He jumps on that. “Oh yeah? Do you like art?” He thinks he could see that, actually. 

She brightens a bit, and he’s glad. “Yeah. I do sketches, sometimes.  Well, they’re more like doodles. They’re not great.” 

“That’s really cool,” he says, and he means it, because she clearly thinks it is. “You have to show me.” 

Her cheeks are still pink, but she’s smiling now, squirming. “Yeah? Ok.” 

“So what art class would you do?” 

“I was thinking of maybe trying watercolours? There’s this class at the weekend, and I thought I was going to be too busy with wedd- well, I’ve got time now.” 

He doesn’t miss the way she caught herself, but he doesn’t push it. “You should do it! Definitely.” 

“It’s kind of expensive though.” 

He thinks about the new jet-skis that she mentioned her fiancé had bought the other day, and holds his tongue again. He reminds himself that he doesn’t know the ins and outs of her financial situation. Or her fiancé situation. 

So instead he tells her she should look into online tutorials if it’s too expensive. Because she clearly wants to do it. She says she will. 

“How was your weekend?” 

He finds himself telling her about the birthday party, his old college friends and the run-in with his ex. He makes it into a funny story, and she laughs, but then she says quickly, lightly, 

“Don’t worry. You’re not gonna be stuck here forever.” 

“You don’t think I’ve got a future as the next Michael Scott?” 

“No,” she says, and her conviction probably shouldn’t make him feel as pleased as it does. 

“I don’t mind sales,” he admits. “I thought in college that I might want to go into marketing.” 

“Well,” she reflects, “One thing I’ll say for Michael. He’s a terrible manager. Probably a terrible human. But...he does seem to close sales? It’s very weird.” 


She nods. “And that is the nicest thing you’re ever gonna hear me say about him.” She looks so resolute that Jim chuckles. “But,” she fidgets, “You know.  You could think of it as good experience?” 

“Yeah. A stepping stone on my path to dizzying career heights.” 

She knocks her arm into his. He tries not let that moment of contact totally throw him off balance. Get a hold of yourself, Halpert. 

 “It will be.”

He’s not sure how she can sound so confident of that, and so unsure that her artwork might be good. But he grins anyway. “Ok.” 

He feels considerably lighter by the time they go back upstairs. 

Dwight pounces on Pam before she’s even sat down. “You left four minutes before Jim. That’s a fifty-four minute lunch break. Where were you?” 

Jim gets the sense that Dwight might be taking out his annoyance at not catching Jim on her. He’s about to interject when Pam says, coolly, “I was taking care of some business for Michael.” 

She’s entirely straight-faced, and Jim is impressed. 

“What business?” Dwight demands. 

Pam doesn’t even flinch. “I can’t tell you that.” 


“Are you trying to get Pam to break Michael’s confidence?” Jim enquires. 

Dwight wheels on him. “You are not in Michael’s confidence!” 

He’s so vehement that Jim glances at Pam. Is this a normal reaction? 

Pam nods fractionally. Normal for Dwight. 


In the interest of peace, Jim is considering telling his desk-mate that he’s not, in fact, in Michael’s confidence (whatever that means) - but Dwight has spotted the interaction between him and Pam and is now positively spitting. 

“As if Michael would tell you anything! The new guy and the receptionist.” It’s a sneer. 

Ok, then. 

“Why don’t you ask him?” Jim asks idly. “I bet he’ll be pleased with you shouting his private business all over the office.” 

Dwight’s mouth snaps open to shout back - and then closes again. 

He stomps back to his desk. 

As he mutters feverishly in the background, Jim and Pam exchange glances. Her eyes sparkle with humour.  Her mouth is curled in mischief, and there’s another useless fact to add to his list. The only thing better than making this girl laugh is laughing with her. 


He gets caught up in seeing how far he can push the Dwight thing (an enigmatic shrug every time Dwight tries to question him, surreptitious glances towards Michael’s office, covering his screen while he pretends to send an email), and doesn’t realise it’s past 3 until he sees her coming back from the kitchen, yogurt in hand. 

And then he remembers. 

She clearly hasn’t spotted the expiry date, though, and is about to dig in. 


He considers for half a second and then slopes over to her desk. 

“Hey.” She smiles up at him, spoon in hand. 

“Hi.” He’s dimly aware that he might sound like a bit of a stalker. “So, this might sound weird...” 

She blinks in surprise at the news, but he has no time to judge how weird she finds his knowledge about the expiry date of her yogurt, because Michael bounds out at that moment. 

“James!” He claps Jim on the back. “How’s week three going? Have you given any more thought to that thing we discussed?” 

He drops to a stage whisper for the second question, and it takes Jim a moment to realise he’s talking about the shadowing thing. Which Jim had been avoiding getting back to him on (on the basis of pretty much every interaction he’s had with his boss to date), but...if Michael can actually close sales, then Jim wants to see it. 

“Uh, yeah. I’m interested.” 

Michael beams like a loon and Dwight suddenly barges over. He’s bristling from head to toe. 

“Michael!  I think I deserve to know about this.” 

“What?” Michael looks irritated. “Sit down, Dwight. This is none of your business.” 


Michael waves him away. “Scram.” He turns back to Jim. “Swing by my office at the end of the day, Jimminy, and we’ll talk details.” 

Dwight is shooting him a look so venomous that Jim can’t resist adding, “In private?” 

“Yes! Of course.” 

Michael skips off and there’s a loud snap as Dwight splinters one of his overly sharpened pencils.


Jim glances back down to Pam, triumphant - then realises with a start that she’s staring at him. Her spoon is frozen over her untouched yogurt, and there’s a funny expression on her face. He can’t quite interpret it. 


She seems to shake herself. “Oh. Just...Dwight. That was really something.” 

He’s not sure if he believes her, but he doesn’t know her well enough to question her further. Maybe she still thinks the yogurt thing was weird. Smooth, Halpert. So he plays into it, because Dwight has just snapped another pencil with alarming violence and it really is something. 

“I know, right?”

As he’s leaving the office later (via a lengthy conversation with Michael that’s already starting to make him regret his decision to agree to the shadowing), Pam calls - 

“Bye, Jim.” 

He thinks it’s the first time he’s heard her say his name, and his final useless fact of the day is how good it sounds on her lips.

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