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Story Notes:
MY Secret Santa submission! My prompts were a prank, a Dwight quote, the Teapot, a good JAM kiss, Jim in a suit, getting lost somewhere, and hot sauce packets. I at least referenced all seven. Sorry for the wait for whoever I’m writing for, but the original fic I was working on turned into gargantuan monster that I could not guarantee I would finish by New Year’s, or, frankly, by next Christmas. So, the good news is this fic comes with (eventual) bonus gifts. (The bad news is this fic really could’ve benefited from not being written on a deadline. Whoops.)

Not quite canon compliant in that I went with the idea that they actually ran the entire series as the in-universe documentary. There is also behavior in here of the sort not usually attributed to PBS. Curious as to whether or not you all find that distractingly unrealistic.

DISCLAIMER: This is the first Christmas party I am throwing as head of the Party Planning Committee. The theme is "All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners; the original characters and plot are the property of the author; the author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise; and no copyright infringement is intended.” This isn't your grandmother’s Christmas party. Unless of course your grandmother was afraid of being sued by NBC, in which case it's very accurate.

Pam has a birthday party for a two-year-old to plan, and presents to buy, and Angela to wrestle with, and Christmas to celebrate, and an office to manage, and somewhere in there she is technically supposed to be selling paper. She needs this mall run to be productive. She does not have time for a thousand way-too-personal questions from strangers who think they know her. Pam gets recognized less than Jim (people are still looking for her pre-kids, she thinks), but it still happens a lot, and walking up to… this is just begging to get mobbed. Because Pam has fans now, like she’s a star.

But honestly, it’s just too much. She has to show Jim.

She sneaks a little closer, snaps a quick picture and walks briskly away until she’s sure no one can see her and the display at the same time. Then she texts it to him: “spotted right at the entrance to target.”

“you’re kidding me

“nope. it’s like a good-sized bookcase full of copies of MY GODDAMN TEAPOT”

Pam pictures him making his “wow, this is actually happening” face and smiles to herself for a second, until she remembers people use gifs of that face now.

“we should let PBS know about this. doubt they want us exploited by anyone but them”

“i mean, they’re just regular teapots, there aren’t AS SEEN ON TOAAW stickers or anything. although the sign with the price does say ‘tell people how you feel this Christmas’”

🤯🤯🤯 seriously though. where does target get off? i bought that from a legit scranton small business. not some big chain store”

It’s not really the point, but she kinda loves that he’s defending the little things in their little world.

“i’m sure hippo’s is doing great advertising as WHERE JIM BOUGHT PAM’S TEAPOT too”

“can confirm”

“oh yeah?”

Jim doesn’t reply for a second and Pam checks her email while she waits. There’s a lead on a possible client in Carbondale from Dwight and a request for an update on decorations from Angela. It’s the fourth since this morning. Pam had hoped that the cameras leaving might help her relax about the Christmas party this year. She’s glad she never shared that with anyone.

“yeah. the network is pissed but they can’t do much about it”

She smirks. She’s fond of Hippo’s and its good-humored owner and its cheap, faded awning and its dusty hardwood floors and its random collection of knick-knacks and doo-dads and its place in her personal story. She’s not planning on making a pledge to her local public television station any time soon, either.

“is there a pointing and laughing emoji?”

“there should be. you know, the teapots don’t even look right!”

“yes!!! the color’s wrong. they’re too blue. and clearly mass produced”

“disgraceful”

“if target’s gonna profit off the greatest love story ever known, they should at least get the details down”

“is that too much to ask?”

“$30 each too”

Jim responds with a selfie of him miming a pearl-clutch. She chuckles a little, because what else can she do, and tries not to think about how happy she is that expression has never been on camera. (Probably.)

She does vow Target won’t be getting any of her business this Christmas, though.

That’ll show ‘em.

---

Pam had never even really considered how the documentary audience would react to them.

The idea that anyone would want to watch years of literal paper-pushing was hard enough to wrap her head around. (Jim had been thoroughly convinced it would never air.) And if they did, she couldn’t imagine someone caring about her little dramas when there was Michael and Dwight and Andy competing for their attention, not to mention things like being worried about downsizing that anyone could relate to.

(And of course at the time the premiere date was set, she had bigger things on her mind. It felt like her husband had stopped seeing her, who cared about people watching her on TV?)

Stupid, in hindsight. It should’ve been obvious something was coming. She’d been hearing daily from folks she hadn’t spoken to in years since the first promo went live, all of them asking about “the cute guy she was with.” But until the morning after the introductory segment ran, the morning she and Jim came into work to find their voicemail and emails overwhelmed by messages from excited viewers, it hadn’t even begun to occur to her that people would see her as…

Well, something like a star.

And not just any star. The star of a romantic comedy formerly known as her and her husband’s life.

---

A guy in a hoodie and hipster glasses near the Legos does a double take and follows Pam with his eyes as she passes. She’s still not exactly sure what to do when that happens. She tries to keep her face impassive, no reaction, no signal that “yup, ya got me!” The problem is, the world’s gotten very familiar with what she looks like trying not to react to things.

He doesn’t speak up, though. Pam sighs her relief.

Getting recognized in Learning Express would definitely mean a conversation she doesn’t want to have.

It’s always worst in these two-or-three week breaks between the… ugh, “seasons” when new “episodes” premiere Sunday through Thursday. (She keeps trying to call them “blocks” and “segments,” but no one but Jim knows what she means.) The viewers have nothing new to talk about, and they go wild with reviews and analysis and think pieces and clickbait and gifsets and video edits and playlists and gossip and speculation and it’s all about her and him and their life and can’t they just shut up already.

The network encourages it every step of the way, too, retweeting people reenacting Jim interrupting her talking head and holding contests for who could guess how Jim would finally propose and doing daily features of creators of “fan content,” not to mention continuing the aftershow. “Gotta keep building the buzz, Pam,” their network liaison keeps telling her, like that’s something she wants.

She can’t escape it.

Last week, the fifth block had ended with them finding out about Cece. Pam’s been on red alert ever since. She’s preparing herself to get tough with the first person who gets in her face about “THE JAM BABY!!!!!” like her daughter has something to do with them.

She’s been inventing sales call so she can do her shopping on weekday afternoons, with fewer people around. And it’s freezing out today, so Pam can stay bundled up and disguise herself a bit. Like she’s someone out of Kelly’s celebrity magazines.

So she’s working on tactics to deal with the “fans.” But she hadn’t expected to see a piece of her past on sale at the Steamtown Mall. How the hell is she supposed to handle that?

She’ll say this for Steamtown, at least – she can always find what she needs for the kids here. Learning Express has the perfect gift for Phil, a set of magnetic building blocks she’s sure he’ll love. He likes building things more than just about anything in the world, she and Jim are convinced he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up. Pam adores the expression he gets on his little face when he does it. So serious. Whatever happens today is worth it if she can see more of that face.

Her phone buzzes as she waits for the cashier to ring her up. It’s a few texts from Jim:

“make sure you stop by the food court, see if they’re selling the hot sauce packets too”

“‘BETTER THAN AN IPOD *OR* AN OVEN MITT, GET THE EXACT BRAND OF CONDIMENT JIM GAVE TO PAM’”

“PERFECT FOR TRIPS TO BENIHANA FOR THE LOW LOW PRICE OF $6.50. EACH.’”

Pam smiles, and feels her body loosen for the first time since the teapots caught her eye. Then she realizes the cashier is politely waiting for her to, you know, pay for Phil’s new toy.

She pulls out her credit card and starts to hand it over before she realizes her error.

“Problem with the card?” the cashier asks.

“Nope, just using cash,” Pam says. It turns out a credit card isn’t so convenient if anyone who sees your name on it immediately starts sharing their thoughts on your worst mistakes or pumping you for details about your relationship.

The hoodie guy has apparently gotten in line next to her and turns towards the sound of her voice. “Hey, aren’t you…”

“Keep the change. Thanks!”

He doesn’t follow her. So. That’s a victory now.

---

The whole thing quickly blew up into a genuine phenomenon.

People were using her husband’s face to reply to tweets and his pranks to mess with their friends. (And enemies.) She’d open Facebook and see screengrabs of Michael being used as memes. She’d try to kill time on Buzzfeed and find Dwight giving her his serial killer stare under the headline “15 Dwight Schrute Quotes That Taught Us How To Live” (including him screaming “identity theft is not a joke, Jim! Millions of families suffer every year!” and bizarrely ignoring “in the wild, there is no health care. In the wild, health care is, ow, I hurt my leg. I can't run. A lion eats me and I'm dead. Well, I'm not dead. I'm the lion. You're dead,” which she and Jim had repeated to each other so much even Cece had started to say it.)

So it wasn’t just them.

But people went crazy for “Jam.”

Completely crazy.

Frighteningly, hurtfully, infuriatingly crazy.

Pam could’ve guessed, maybe, how terrible it would be to have her choices debated and criticized by the international community. But she’s not sure she would’ve ever anticipated how much she’d resent the people who love her and him and them. The “Jam shippers.” (#CoverMeinJAM #PBandJ #LoveMeLikeJimLovesPam #DontForgetUs #TeapotLove #JamIsRelationshipGoals #JamGivesMeLIFE)

The hardest hours of their life have become something other people feel they have a stake in. And the best ones have practically become, as Oscar says, “communal experiences.” Everyone with an Internet connection is part of her and Jim’s private jokes and private moments, is inside the space that was supposed to be just theirs.

It’s become a thing on social media, people posting openly about their crushes by calling them “Italian food.” People joking about spoiling their girlfriends with their famous grilled cheese sandwiches. Penny had sent her a YouTube video of a kid setting up a coal walk in his high school parking lot, running through it and then handing a girl a yogurt lid asking her to prom at the end. (She forwarded that one on to the network liaison, asking him to find the kid so she could ask him where the hell his parents were.)

And now this. Her teapot, her teapot, the teapot she’d spent a week getting yelled at for giving up an iPod over, is apparently the hot new item to buy for your loved ones this Christmas.

Probably only a matter of time before they really would sell hot sauce packets and Jim’s yearbook photo with it.

---

She gets a couple more “is that…” glances on her way to Wordsmiths Books, but apparently none of them are sure enough to chase her down. (And the way the last guy looked her over, she’s pretty sure she was just being objectified. So. Yay.) Pam still needs to take 60 seconds in the Self-Help section to take a breath and calm herself a bit.

She snaps a quick selfie of her rolling her eyes and sends it back to Jim. She notices she’s gotten another email from Angela. She’s not even going to bother opening it.

Instead she texts Jim again: “could you take a break from your very busy schedule and bring the big xmas lights up from the warehouse? If angela doesn’t see some signs of progress on this party soon we’re headed for another honolulu christmas incident”

As she pockets her phone, Pam notices a twenty-something brunette in a ponytail and sweats doing a lousy job pretending not to stare. The woman has enough shame to be a little embarrassed at getting caught, and grabs something off the shelves like she was browsing the whole time. It would’ve been a better cover if she hadn’t picked “MAN UP!: Why They Hate Real Men And How To Be One Anyways.”

Pam can almost appreciate the restraint. Especially coming from someone in a “Where’s My Jim?” sweatshirt.

She’s got Dakota for Secret Santa. Because at the end of a year when her marriage was in crisis and her life became public property, of course she got the person in the office she probably knows least. Pam was giving her a novel that Oscar had suggested by Hanya Yanagihara. It feels more like something Oscar might want for Secret Santa, but Pam is putting her faith in his judgment. Mostly because she’s too stressed to come up with another option.

(Jim got Dwight. The toughest decision he’d had to make was whether or not to convince him his new Jaeger action figures would respond to voice commands if properly trained. Pam’s been gently pushing him to hold off in the spirit of the holidays.)

Fortunately, they’ve got the book in stock, and on her way to the New Literature section she finds a collection of myths of the world adapted for little kids. It looks perfect for Cece. So she’s feeling okay-ish as she heads to pay.

Then she’s not. Wordsmiths has a huge display of Dr. J’s autobiography – out now in hardcover, $19.99, perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite sports fan.

Pam clenches her hands into fists and wills herself not to spin out.

She ends up grabbing a copy. Maybe Darryl or Wade can get Dr. J to sign it. Maybe it’ll be a nice surprise. Maybe Jim will love it. Maybe he won’t just see a cruel reminder of everything he’s giving up to be with her (“sorry you can’t eat steak with your sports heroes in 32 different cities, Pickles, but look! Your friends who can will get you autographs!”) Maybe he’ll see it as her accepting that he’d rather be with her than anything.

Which is… close to the truth, and that’s something. She’s definitely doing a lot better with it these days.

Jim is texting again: “not sure I can today. first thing tomorrow, promise”

Another email from Angela comes in while she’s reading it. Ridiculous.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spots the “Where’s My Jim” girl slyly taking a photo.

Pam can practically see the tweet she’ll post with it, from an handle like @JAMandcheese or @JinxMeJim: “omg saw PAM BEESLY xmas shopping so exited i nearly got spontaneous dental hydroplosion! #butwheresjim #JAMISLIFE #teapotlove”

PBS will probably share it with a teaser for the next block in January.

She closes her eyes. At least @JinxMeJim is still keeping her distance.

Pam wonders how she’d react if she found out “Jam” almost wasn’t “endgame.”

---

She’s a private person. She’s a private person who got a little too used to having a free therapist with a camera, but still. This all would’ve been awful no matter what.

But Pam does wonder if she would have felt so vulnerable and violated if the documentary had aired in, say, 2011.

It’s just a little… disorienting, maybe. So much of the year before the premiere had been Jim living a big life doing big things somewhere else, feeling farther and farther away every day. And then he was back, and then all of a sudden the whole world is looking at them like they’re Westley and Buttercup.

Thank goodness they were already in a more solid place when the first block started, and they’re even better now. They’re happy, and they’re making good money because everyone wants to buy paper from “Jam,” and they’re working through things. They’re trying to make a point of talking to each other about the important stuff, even when it’s hard. They know they both screwed up, they both failed to communicate, they both put their life together at risk. (Sometimes she feels like they’ve almost switched sides, gone from only blaming each other to mostly blaming themselves.)

But she still hurts. And a part of her is still convinced he’ll eventually decide choosing her was a mistake. And at the beginning it seemed like every new segment of the documentary brought it all right back to the surface. She’s always too cowardly to change her life. He keeps withdrawing his affection when she doesn’t give him whatever he wants as soon as he wants it. They’re always happiest together, and going home separately.

She’d stopped watching after the one with Jan telling her about the internship, her refusing to pursue her dreams while he gave her his full support. So stupid to go back to Roy, and just… way too close to home. And Pam knew what was coming: her nearly losing Jim because she was afraid, and him sacrificing a great future to come back to Scranton for her. She’d seen enough of that already.

Jim’s kept going with it. He doesn’t talk to her about it much, and he usually watches after she goes to bed. He says he needs the reminder of everything he put at risk. She wishes she didn’t know exactly what he meant.

Because as much as watching it made her ache, as much as she wanted to scream at the Pam on her TV, there were so many good things, too. And she’d been thinking about a lot of them in the last year, long before PBS made them “cultural touchstones.”

There had been times it seemed to her their story and their memories were what was keeping them going. Because the guy in the expensive suit walking away from her wasn’t always someone she wanted to beg to stay. But the guy who knew her favorite flavor of yogurt and got her Dundie changed? The guy who watched “fireworks” with her on the roof? The guy who gave up a great job for a yogurt lid and a note and proposed to her at a gas station in the rain because he just couldn’t wait anymore and held her like the most precious thing in the world when she found out she was pregnant? The guy who bought her that teapot? The guy she knew would always look for her even when everyone else made her feel invisible? She wasn’t going to let him go without a fight.

And that history doesn’t feel like it fully belongs to her anymore.

---

Angela is calling her now. She must have guessed the sales call was fake.

Pam lets it ring, but she decides to hit the Christmas specialty store before heading home. Seems wise to have something to report when Angela shows up at her desk tomorrow with that look in her eye. Besides, it’s called Rudolph’s Stable, and the aisles are named after the other reindeer!

It turns out it’s well stocked, as well as cute. She gets to check a bunch of items off her lists for the house and the office, including quality tinsel in the exact shades of forest green and rosewood red Angela prefers. They never save it from year to year because Angela keeps going back and forth on whether tinsel is commonplace and classless or traditional and obviously necessary Phyllis, and usually they end up scrambling to get it at the last minute in the traditional-and-necessary years. So maybe Angela will be the teeniest bit less grumpy tomorrow.

She even thinks up a solid joke to send Jim while she’s getting her change: “you know, soupsnakes is still trending. maybe we can get michael an endorsement deal with progresso and get them off us for a while?

So of course it happens here, right as she’s leaving her last stop.

“Hi, I’m sorry, but… you’re Pam, right? American Workplace Pam?”

She turns. She shouldn’t have turned, but she never remembers that when she’s caught off guard.

The woman who interrupted her does not look sorry. She looks a little nervous, tucking a loose curl behind her ear and tugging at the sleeves of her sweater, and a lot awe-struck, but not even a little sorry.

It’s maybe not too late to deny it, say something like no, people think that all the time, but politeness is a powerful reflex, and Pam stammers out “yeah, uh, that’s… that’s me” before she can stop herself.

“I thought it was you! This is so cool! I’m such a huge fan of the show, and I know you’re all in Scranton, but seeing one of the stars in person? Still so crazy.”

“Well,” Pam says with a poor attempt at a polite smile, and can’t this woman recognize her fake smile if she’s such a ‘fan’? “I’ve got to shop somewhere.” She wants to add “because I’m a regular, real-live person, not a star, stop saying I’m a star.”

“This is wild, I literally just streamed Company Picnic. I’m so excited! I was rooting for you two so hard, and seeing you starting a family… I mean, the look on your faces when you found out… it just gives me hope, you know?”

And Pam stands up a little straighter, because she is going to shut this woman down if she keeps talking about how important Pam’s babies are to her, this woman who is standing here calling Pam’s life a show and her biggest moments episodes, this woman who is soooooo excited about seeing something that was private, that they didn’t even realize was being filmed, but this woman, this fan keeps rolling on, because she’s just remembered where they are.

“Hey, are you here shopping for the Christmas party? Angela must be freaking out, right?”

Does she expect Pam to stop and commiserate or something, like they’re friends?

“The Christmas episodes are my absolute favorite.”

Episodes.

“I know everyone loves the teapot, and it’s so sweet, but I’m all about Benihana. I mean, when Jim accepted your CIA prank, and you two were working together again? Talk about giving me hope.”

She wants to scream. Literally scream. Scream “stop, stop talking to me about this like you’re part of it. You weren’t there. You don’t know what that meant. You don’t know me. Stop talking about this like it’s yours, it’s not yours.

“I’m sad they missed Christmas in Season Four. Your first Christmas with Jim! What was it like?”

Pam has an opening. She could do it. She should. This one thing the camera crew didn’t invade, and this fan thinks she shouldn’t even keep that for herself.

Instead, Pam says she has to go, and says thank you when the fan tries to speak, and practically runs away, wrapping her scarf around her face and not caring if it looks weird as long as no one can recognize her.

Her phone buzzes. She grabs at it like a lifeline, hoping it’s Jim. It’s Clark, forwarding a tweet: “sales call my ass”

It’s her in the bookstore, Dr. J bio clearly visible under her arm. So much for surprising Jim.

@tiffersisback has posted “spotted #pambeesly @steamtownmall today! so we know what jim’s getting for xmas but is pam getting #TheCard?? #TOAAW #JAM”.

The network’s official account for the documentary has retweeted it, adding… “Guess you’ll have to tune in and find out! 😉 What do *you* think Jim wrote? @ us w/your take and maybe win some #TOAAW Christmas swag 🎄🎅🎄🎅”

---

She texts Jim that she’s going to drop her purchases at home before going to get the kids. He shoots back a reminder to grab Phil’s stuffed goose while she’s at the house or he’ll melt down in the car. Like she needs the heads up.

Her phone buzzes again. “i think i saw it in your studio

And now she has to do the preschool pickup, and the teachers have mostly gotten it out of their system, but sometimes other parents are there, and her mom is going to be able to tell something’s up when she goes to get Phil, and her mom absolutely does not get what bothers her so much about this and she’s so upset and so frustrated and so pathetic and so uncomfortable and she doesn’t know how much more of this she can take…

…it takes her a second to process what she’s seeing.

Their two folding tables have been pulled out of the basement and set up in a V in the middle of the studio. There’s a bunch of stuff lined up on top of them, food and drinks and glasses and papers and toys and a lot of picture frames. And there’s…

…there’s a note hanging from the table to the left. Pam grabs it and sees Jim’s distinctive scrawl.

“These things are ours and ours alone. No matter what they think they know.”

Then she looks at the first set of drinks. It’s two mini bottles of champagne, one full and one empty. There’s a framed picture leaning against them, a cartoon she remembers drawing of Jim running away from a red-faced, shouting Dwight with a flag that reads “Deckerd.” “Hey, you always have one of these to celebrate closing this sale. Isn’t it even more important if you’re stealing it back from Dwight?”

“Oh my God,” she whispers to herself.

Pam runs her fingers over the rim of a Chili’s glass, with a single tube of strawberry lip gloss in it – the kind she wore in the fall of 2006.

She picks up a framed photocopy of an article explaining the state of Wyoming was named after the Wyoming Valley. There’s a note covering half of it: “I was right and you were wrong. You owe me another dinner!” and a cartoon of Pam dancing in triumph while Jim sobbed. There’s a card tucked into the corner of the frame, with details of a reservation for January at a new Asian fusion restaurant and the words “time to collect.” They’d argued about it for at least 10 minutes on the roof last night, and she was pleased with herself. But that wasn’t why she was slipping this in with his messages. She was telling him he was forgiven for his crack about Roy, because she was tired of not talking to him.

There’s a box of jasmine-flavored green tea with “‘I promised I washed it’ – Pam Beesly” written across the top. “Come on, Jim, it’s your present, we should share the first cup.” “You know Dwight tried to put that up his nose?”

There’s a framed print-out of an email from Dwight to dorgan@cia.gov, dated July 18th, 2007. He graciously thanks Agent Dorgan for getting back in touch even after he was compromised, and reports that he has secretly switched his manager’s coffee to decaf as instructed. Sitting next to it is a bag of coffee beans from the place by the community college she can never get to without being late for work.

There’s a framed post-it: “Italian food loves you too!” And another post-it attached to the glass, “IOU one spaghetti dinner for the whole family at any time. No advance notice required, no questions asked.”

There’s pre-prepped ham and cheese and tuna sandwiches in plastic triangle boxes, a Diet Coke and a grape Fanta. Behind them, a framed copy of a receipt for those same items from a rest stop gas station in New Jersey. Total: $0.00, and “congratulations you two!” in pen below it.

There’s a framed handwritten note from The Desk of Dr. William Reynolds with instructions on how to treat a sprained ankle, ending with “keep it elevated – put your feet up while you still can.”

There’s a framed sketch of a dove, wearing what looks to be an Olympic medal, flying through the clouds towards Scranton. “Thank you for coming home to me” is printed across the bottom. This one has three post-its: “Every time I forget, you remind me.” “P.S. There’s key lime pie yogurt in the fridge. Bet they don’t know you switched.” “P.P.S. Check the next table too, Beesly.”

She’s having a little trouble catching her breath as she crosses the room.

This time, the note hanging off the table reads: “We’re so much more than they’ll ever see.”

There’s a set of new tap shoes in Cece’s size, and below it a post-it reading 2003. “What are you talking about?” “Jim here was attempting to convince me women find it sexually appealing when a man can tap dance. Would you please...” “Mmmmmm. I’ve been trying to get Roy to take lessons for ages.” She laughs. It was like shooting fish in a barrel Jim’s first year.

There’s a box of Godiva hot chocolate labeled 2004. “You really don’t have to stay with me, Jim. I’ve been through a perfect storm before, he’ll finish eventually.” “But then who would make the cocoa?”

There’s a single daisy labeled 2005. In a world where her fiancée doesn’t get a good deal on waverunners, this would be her wedding day. Instead she’s lying in a field of flowers with her best friend, desperately afraid he’s about to kiss her and desperately afraid he won’t.

There’s just a post-it under 2006: “Dark chocolate gelato from that farm is in the freezer. This time we don’t have to double with Ryan and Kelly. Or risk getting lost on our way back to Scranton.”

There’s a box of strawberries labeled 2007. She frowns for a second, then her eyes widen. She’s purposefully blocked out most of the Second Annual Dunder Mifflin Scranton Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, Memorial, Historical Reenactment and Race Relations Summit. But it wasn’t 100 percent terrible. Not at all. (Just 95 percent.)

There’s a stuffed giraffe also labeled 2007. The post-it goes on: “When the giraffe licked Vanessa and she jumped into your arms, I realized for the first time you might actually be the mother of my children.”

There’s a piece of paper covering something. All it says is “2007” and “hurry down the chimney tonight.” She lifts it to find a Santa hat and blushes fiercely.

There’s a print-out of the website of a hotel in Mystic, Connecticut tagged 2008. “The one we were going to stay at when we eloped closed. But IOU one trip here anyways. Let’s get married a third time.”

She’s crying a little.

“Hey, don’t stop there, Bees.” She hadn’t heard him come in behind her. “You’ve got one more to go.”

There’s a box with the Hippo’s grumpy hippo logo stamped across it at the table’s far end. She tears it open to find a work of art.

She realizes after a moment that it’s a fully-functioning telescope, but it’s the look of it that gets her. It’s a gorgeous midnight blue with a matching mount, inlaid with an intricately designed pattern of silver. She’s already looking forward to spending hours trying to figure out and recreate how this was done, because it looks for all the world like looking up at the night sky.

There’s a final note tied with string to the mount.

“I still love you as much as I did the night of Dwight’s dance recital. And I’m sorry I ever made you doubt it.

“I’ll do my best to never lose sight of you again. But here’s something you can use to knock some sense into me if I do. And in the meantime, we can go see some real stars.”

“There’s a star map in the box, too, and some recommendations for where to stargaze around here. Figured we could take an overnight trip or two this summer,” Jim says softly. He’s leaning against the doorway to the studio, looking at her like she’s sacred.

“You want me to take this beauty outside? With the dirt and the rain and the telescope thieves and everything?” she asks. Her eyes are wet, but her cheeks are starting to hurt from smiling so wide, the way they only do around her babies and him.

“Oh, God, no. No, we’ll get an ugly but functional one for that. I’m not sure how great a telescope this is, honestly. Hipolito said that’s not why he had it in stock.”

Pam giggles, gently sets her gift down, and goes to embrace him. She laces her fingers behind his neck as he takes hold of her waist, and she wishes they could always stay like this.

“Thank you, baby. Did you do all this today?”

“I’ve been waiting for the right time to pull it out, and then when you saw the teapots? I figured you might need it.”

She grabs his tie. She remembers PBS posting a photo set of Katy doing just this and her reaction, and shoves it out of her mind. For the first time in… God, months, Pam is able to just let it all go.

She pulls him down to her and kisses him gently. She lingers, enjoys his hands starting to roam across her back, breathes him in, lets her senses be flooded with him, lets herself be surrounded by him, filled with him.

It’s almost hard to believe how raw she felt just a few minutes ago.

She rests her head on his chest. “Even by your standards, this is a pretty awesome Christmas present, Jim.”

“Oh, this isn’t your present. This is just stocking stuffers. Your present-present I went all out for.”

“This isn’t all out?”

She feels him tense up.

“Feels like all out should mean something different this year.”

She looks up to meet his eyes.

“Jim…”

“I have a lot to make up for, Pam.” The way he’s looking at her… she can’t stand him feeling like that, and she kisses him and kisses him again and kisses him again and feels his hands working at the buttons of her blouse while she starts to undo his tie and then remembers.

“Fuck, the kids!”

“Your mom’s keeping them for dinner. Said she was thrilled to have them for the evening, and didn’t even give me crap about Cece’s outfit!”

“You should really be nicer to my mom, Jim.”

“I really should,” he says, nodding faux seriously, and she rolls her eyes at him and laughs. She pushes past him into the house, adding an extra swish to her hips as she heads for the stairway, letting her coat and shoes and shirt drop behind her.

She feels reassured and cherished and loved and seen, in this space that’s just his and hers.

And she thinks to herself, I have a lot to make up for, too.

Pam shimmies out of her skirt at the top of the stairs, and listens to Jim pounding up the staircase behind her, and makes a mental note to call Darryl after the holidays.

Chapter End Notes:
It turned out Angela wanted the tinsel in carmine red and emerald green. Pam told her to get it herself.

This was a breakthrough for Pam which set her on the road to Austin and towards a slightly more positive attitude about the documentary as seen in the finale. (Although she has asked me to inform you all that both she and Jim had a bunch of talking heads that didn’t make it into the finale, all of which *just so happened* to be harshly critical of the documentarians and PBS.)

Fun 2013 notes:

The Hanya Yanagihara book referenced is her debut novel “The People In The Trees,” which I cannot recommend because I also received it for Hannukah in 2013 and still haven’t read it. But I’ve read pretty much everything girl7 every wrote, so there.

In a bit of serendipity, with an emphasis on the “accident” part, Dr. J *did* in fact release an autobiography in November 2013, just in time for the Christmas season. I had long since decided Pam was going to see something about Dr. J in the bookstore when I found that out, but it’s neat.

The Jaegers are a reference to Pacific Rim, which came out in 2013 and I’m sure Dwight would’ve been into. Jim hated it because Stacker Pentecost made him weirdly nervous.

Twitter did not go to 280 characters until 2017. At the time, this change was hugely controversial. Having written three 140-character tweets for this story, I have come to feel the choice was both wise and generous.

Less fun 2013 notes:

As far as I can tell there is no connection between the Linden Avenue house itself and the garage/studio when we go through it in Frame Toby. Let’s just say that they added one sometime between then and this fic.

All mistakes, demonstrations of lack of cultural familiarity with social media and the fandom world and run-on sentences are intentional hints as to Pam’s state of mind and how in touch she is with the world she’s been plunged into and are in no way the fault of the author. The anachronisms I’ll cop to.


darjeelingandcoke is the author of 16 other stories.
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This story is part of the series, Secret Santa Fic Exchange 2020. The previous story in the series is shalom. The next story in the series is A First Time for Everything .

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