I do not own The Office: U.S. Version.
I've watched it enough though.
Free For Dinner
It took her forever to decide what to wear.
Blue. No. Green. No-
And what to do with her hair.
Up? No. Down? Well . . .
She had half a mind to dig out the dress she had worn to Casino Night and just show up on his doorstep.
Tell me again, Jim. Tell me. I'll answer right this time, I promise.
The restaurant was nice.
Homey. Familiar but new.
He had picked her up at her apartment.
Right on time, the knock on the door sending her stomach into an overexcitement of flutters.
The knock had even sounded like him.
She had opened the door.
And there he was.
Smiling as their eyes met.
And she hadn't even tried to stop the welcome smile from spreading over her own face.
"Hey. You look nice."
"Thank you. You're not too bad yourself."
They had grinned at each other for a long moment before Jim took a deep breath and spoke again.
"Ready to go?"
And bravely reached up to muss his side-parted, Karen-neatened brown hair back to casual Jimdom.
Her face inches from his, feeling his breath not on her face because he had caught it when she had reached up to touch him.
She blushed then spoke cheekily as she turned.
"There that's better. The next time you change your look, Halpert, do it because you want to. Not because somebody tells you to."
She could feel his pleased grin at her back as they'd advanced down the stairs.
"Okay. Will do."
She liked the restaurant.
Relaxing and comfortable.
The food was good.
The conversation with Jim was even better.
". . . going be crazy, but then, I swear, Pam, it got even better . . ."
It was real and natural and familar.
Familiar because it them.
Them as they had always been.
Except she wasn't looking at him through an 'I'm unavailable' lens and he wasn't pretending he wasn't in love with her.
They just were.
She suddenly reached out a hand to touch his across the small table.
Cutting off his easy flow of words as he took it, squeezing her fingers lightly.
He hadn't touched her much so far.
A light hand on the small of her back as he held open the door for her to walk through.
Subtle leaning in as they chatted and laughed while traversing the parking lot to the restaurant.
He really is treating it like a first date, she mused pleasantly.
And it was.
Except so much better.
"I'm glad you invited me out to dinner," she said.
"Well, I'm glad you accepted."
There was a pause.
They hadn't talked about it yet.
She had been taking everything in stride, just enjoying this new development.
But she really wanted to know.
"So what happened?"
He swallowed, momentarily at a loss.
"Uh, well, I found your note. And the medal that I'd hid in the bottom of my desk drawer, so thank you for stealing that . . ."
She blushed but refused to drop her eyes.
". . . and Wallace was talking about the long haul and he asked me where I saw myself in ten years . . ."
He trailed off, dropping his own eyes down to the table where his fingers were aimlessly caressing and playing with hers.
Then he returned his gaze to her again, with an added bonus of a lopsided grin that had always warmed her and made her happy.
"And all I could think of was you."
Somewhere between the happiest she'd ever felt in her entire life and on the edge of bursting into tears, Pam couldn't bring herself to speak.
"That's all I've ever really wanted since the day I met you, Pam. Just to be with you."
Her vision was tunneled now. Jim filled it all.
Jim and his eyes.
Jim and his love for her.
Who cleared his throat before continuing his story.
"So, uh, I just sat there with Wallace staring at me and I finally said, 'you know what, I just realized I'm not the person for this job. I'm sorry I wasted your time but I gotta go.' "
She gasped at him.
"What did he say?"
Jim the Shrugger shrugged again.
"Well, he, uh, looked surprised and just said, 'Is something wrong?' And I said, 'no, not at all". And the I shook his hand and left."
He looked only a little abashed at his own behavior.
"Wow. That's amazing," Pam replied, astonished.
"I just didn't want to waste any more time without you."
He paused before continuing. Taking a deep breath as if he wasn't sure how the next part between them was going to go.
"Then I texted Karen and told her that I had walked away from the job and I was coming back to Scranton and for her to stay in New York and have fun with her friends."
Pam felt herself openly gaping.
"You didn't talk to her?!"
Jim shook his head.
"Not yet. I didn't want to get stuck in a fight with her instead of coming back for you."
She thought her eyes might fall out of her head.
"Wow. I - wow!"
Jim grinned, ducking his head in embarrassment.
"Yeah, I know, it's not great. I'll talk to her tomorrow."
The fact the he wasn't trying to deflect what he had done with joking told her he was taking it deadly serious.
Which was good, otherwise she would have had to leave the date.
"Yeah, I'd say that should be at the top of your priority list. I don't want to be the other woman."
"Yeah. Me neither."
"Do you, um, do you want to come in?"
The look in his eyes as he gazed down at her and she up at him told her he did.
And she wanted him to.
But then Jim Halpert hesitated and opened his mouth that she couldn't stop staring at.
"No, I think I, uh, need to get home and feed my goldfish."
She smiled back, blushing, relief and disappointment intermingling throughout her.
He didn't have a goldfish.
And he was too much of a gentleman for that careless statement to be a pointed euphemism.
Jim was simply a good guy.
A conscientious guy.
Still . . .
"You sure? I could, uh, make some coffee."
He ducked his head away, shy little smile still on his handsome face.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm sure."
Then he squeezed her hand before releasing hold and turning away.
"Call you tomorrow?"
She nodded eagerly.
"Alright then. 'Night, Beasley. Sweet dreams."
" 'Night. Drive safe."
"Okay. Will do."
Then she stood on the steps and watched him go.
He called an hour later as she was reading in bed.
"I really wanted to come in."
"I know. I really wanted you to."
He paused and she waited.
"I, uh, I didn't want to seem like I only asked you out to try and sleep with you."
She blushed and bit her lip and dove right in.
"Well, you should have. I'm really great."
His voice came back pleasantly surprised and amused.
"Really? Wow, that's, uh, that's great."
There was a weighted pause in which she could almost hear him processing this bold new Pam statement.
And his response was the most casual she knew he could muster.
"Are you really?"
Even over the phone she hid her face in her hand.
"Well, no, not really."
Cleared her throat.
And dove right in again.
"But I think with you I might be."
She could see him in her mind's eye. Openly grinning. Probably blushing.
Just like her.
"Oh. Okay. That's a good note, thanks for sharing that."
And they shared a laugh.
Then they talked for two hours.