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Story Notes:

Just a little thing that's been rolling around in my head for a while, and needed to come out. Normal service on Hello Daddy will resume shortly.

Big thanks as ever to YB on this, especially with how long I picked it apart for. And I'm hopping on the Warrior bandwagon here with a Christmas fic in the middle of Summer.

I don't own anything here. Not even a video iPod anymore. 

7 weeks earlier... 

"That's why I'm being fired?" Devon shouted at Michael in his office.

"No.." Michael tried to say

"So you might not look like an idiot?"

"No. No," Michael said loudly, banging his hands down on his desk with so much force that his Dundie fell over. "No, there are no idiots here. Only friends. But you know, really we're more of a family, and I always say family comes first. So you know what we're gonna do?"

"What?" Devon said as he crossed his arms.

"We're gonna call corporate and tell them no one here is being fired today. Or ever. This is my branch and they can't tell me what to do," Michael exclaimed, his voice full of promise. He stood up and grabbed the phone from its cradle. "I'm not going to take this lying down. That's what she said."

"Yeah!" Devon shouted, pumping his fist in the air as Michael dialled Jan's number.

"Jan, it's Michael," he began. He paused for a moment as he listened to what Jan had to say on the other end of the line. "No, I'm not go..." he trailed off as Jan spoke over him. "No, it's my branch, I won't fi..." He paused again. "I don't care Jan, I'm not going to do it." He held the phone slightly away from his ear as Jan began a tirade on the other end. He made a face at Devon, rolling his eyes and mimicking Jan speaking with a hand movement. "You know what Jan? No. I'm not doing it. Tell John or Josh or Joe or whatever his name is in Stamford he can fire someone from his team. No one's going from Scranton. Do you understand me?" He slammed the phone down and let out a whooping noise as he clapped his hands together. "Did you see that? I stood up to her, I finally did it!"

"Yeah Michael!" Devon shouted, letting out a whoop of his own. "So I'm not fired?"

"You're not fired"

"Thank you, seriously. Come on, let's go to Poor Richard's, I'm buying you a drink." 

"Really? You want to have a drink with me?"

"Yeah, let's go celebrate. You stood up to Jan, you're the man!"

"I'm the man?" Michael said quietly, not quite believing what Devon had just said. "I'm the man!" he said louder. "I'm the man!"

--

"So when are you going to tell me who you got?" Pam asked with a small smile as she took a chip out of the packet that was laying on the break room table where she and Jim were sitting, eating their lunch.

"Beesly, we've been over this. I'm not going to tell you who I got for Secret Santa, otherwise it would just be Santa, and I'm afraid I can't grow a beard that well."

"Come on, please, I'm desperate to know who got me. I just really don't want it to be Angela. I think she'd get me like a crucifix or a bible or something."

"Well, that's kinda the origin of Christmas right? Baby Jesus and all," Jim smirked. Pam shot him a warning look as she took another chip. "I'm sure your present is gonna be great, just don't even worry about it."

"Eugh, god, I hope so. After that nudie mug I got last year from Kevin, I'm just really hoping for something good this year. How about you?"

"You know? I'm not so bothered about what I get. Christmas is about giving not receiving right?" He paused. "I'm just looking forward to the party, having a nice time, should be good. So what's the plan?"

"Oh shoot," Pam said, looking at her watch. "I'm late for a party planning committee meeting. Gotta go, I'll see you later."

Jim looked up wistfully as Pam left the breakroom. He reached for the white plastic carrier bag that he'd carefully tucked under his chair so that Pam couldn't see it. As he brought it up to the table intending to wrap the gift that was inside it, his stomach flipped a little. It wasn't so much the present itself, a teal teapot that he was going to fill with an assortment of items that meant something to him and Pam, although that was revealing enough. It was the card that he'd poured his heart into last night, the one that was going to tell Pam his true feelings for her, because he was still too scared to actually tell her to her face. He took a deep breath, pushed away the remnants of his lunch and opened the box to add in the various items. I'll wrap it now while she's in the conference room, he thought, and then I definitely can't chicken out.

--

"Nice of you to join us," Angela sniped as Pam entered the conference room. 

"Sorry," Pam said quietly. She took a seat next to Angela, tucking her hair behind her ear and ducking her head as she did so. She smiled weakly at Ryan opposite her, but he didn't return it, instead returning his gaze to the table. 

"As I was saying," she said as she glared at Pam. "Is there anything we're missing? Phyllis, you got the lights?"

"Yes, I got those cute little ones," Phyllis explained, but Angela did not look happy. "Do you think I should have gotten the big ones?"

"We'll see," Angela said curtly. "Meredith, did you get the..."

"Merry Christmas," Michael shouted as he came into the conference room, interrupting Angela. "Ho, ho, ho, pimp," he boomed, pointing to Pam, Angela, Phyllis and Ryan in turn. "I'm kidding," he laughed. "What do we got? What do we got? How many plates are we getting?"

"Fifty," Angela replied, clearly annoyed.

"Oooh, can we go lower? Maybe like half?" Michael asked, biting his lip.

"Why would we half it?" Angela asked, putting down her purple pen.

"Well, there's fourteen people in this office. Do we really need so many? What about we get twenty instead? And then if Stanley or Kevin or Phyllis want more they can have more."

"Why would you assume I want..." Phyllis said in a quiet voice, but was interrupted by Angela.

"I've already placed the order, I can't reduce it."

"Well, where else can we cut costs?" Michael asked.

Angela let out a huff of air and looked down at her notepad. "I suppose we could scrap the ice cream. And just use the paper towels we have in the kitchen instead of Christmas napkins. That would save around $20."

"Great," Michael said, smiling and clapping his hands together. "What else?"

"Michael, what's this about?" Pam asked.

"Oh you know, just making sure we look after the pennies," he laughed. Pam gave him a look as if she didn't believe him. The pair stared at each other, with the others in the room looking at them until Michael finally broke. "Ugh fine," he grumbled. "Since the whole thing at Halloween when I wouldn't fire anyone, Jan has been constantly on top of me, that's what she said, watching everything I'm doing. And she can't take away the Christmas party, but she cut the budget. We can kiss goodbye our Valentine's Day party next year. And Groundhog Day too," he sniffed. 

"Oh Michael," Pam said softly. "You know, it's not so bad. It was a really great thing what you did for Devon. And we'll still have a great time today. Plus, I don't think anyone would care if we don't celebrate Groundhog Day next year."

"I would Pam," he bit back. "Sorry, I know you're right. It's just, it's hard today. That's what she said." He paused, but no one laughed. "Josh at the Stamford branch fired someone and he got a $3,000 bonus. Could you imagine what kind of party they are having today? It's the kind of party we should be having. Booze and boobs and..."

"You do realise we can't serve liquor at the party?" Pam asked, interrupting his train of thought.

"Well, it's not like we can afford it anyway, Pamela. So what does it even matter?" he sobbed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just really wanted a great Christmas party today. I was going to buy a digital camera so we could take pictures of all the crazy things that happened, but all I could afford was a crappy disposable one. And we'll have to wait weeks and weeks for it to be developed."

"I can take it to CVS on Monday, I think they can do a seven day..." 

"No one will care about the stupid photos next week, Pam," Michael shot back and Pam looked offended. The rest of the table stared at Michael. "Just, just make it great ok? Whatever you can do for a hundred bucks. Just make it the best party we've ever had." And with that, he left the room, leaving Angela to throw up her hands in exasperation, Phyllis to duck her head down and Ryan wondering if this was one of the disasters that Angela had told him to prepare for.

--

"So are you all wrapped up?" Jim asked as he fished a jelly bean out of the dish at reception and leant his arms on the desk.

"Excuse me?" Pam asked, looking up at him.

"Dwight's little speech there," he said around a mouthful of candy. "Is your Secret Santa all wrapped up?"

"Oh, yeah, I did it last night. Just need to put it under the tree," she said as she bobbed her head. "How about you?"

"All wrapped and under the tree, waiting for its lucky recipient."

"Wow, aren't you prepared?" she smirked.

"Well, I was a Boy Scout, Pam," he said, holding his hand up in the Boy Scout salute.

"Oh I bet you looked so cute in the uniform," she giggled. Jim flushed pink at the compliment and cleared his throat as he smiled back at her. "Alright, turn around, I don't want you to see me putting it under the tree."

"Why not?"

"I don't want you guessing who I got. It's Secret Santa, remember?" she said with a raised eyebrow.

"Ok Beesly, you win," he laughed as he covered his eyes with his hand.

"No peeking!" Pam exclaimed as she grabbed the flat package from her bottom drawer and held it close to her chest as she walked over to the tree. "Hey, you didn't keep your eyes covered!" she said as she walked back to reception, a wide smile on her face. 

"I promise I didn't see, I was facing this way the whole time," he said, holding his hands up in the air. "So, I know for sure someone who didn't get you."

"Ohh, tell me!" she exclaimed, her face full of delight as she clapped her hands together.

Jim leaned closer over the reception desk, motioning for Pam to come a little closer to him. "Michael. He got Ryan," he whispered.

"Oh no!" Pam laughed, as she covered her mouth and nose with her hands to try to stifle the giggles that were coming from her. "Do you know what he got him?"

"I do."

"Tell me!" she said as she grabbed his hand.

Jim looked down at where Pam was holding onto his hand, tugging slightly as if to coax the words from him. The feel of her skin on his paralysed him from his thoughts, and left him with a mouth so dry he couldn't speak. He quickly regained his composure and plastered the smile back on his face. "It's a book of vouchers."

"Huh?" Pam said, straightening up and letting go of Jim's hand. 

"It's, um," he began, struggling to form words at the loss of contact now that Pam wasn't holding his hand anymore. "It's one of those books you make your parents when you're like five. You know like ‘this voucher entitles you to a hug' and ‘this one is for an ice cream'. That kind of thing."

"Oh poor Ryan," Pam laughed.

--

"Gather round. Secret Santa, let's go," Dwight shouted out to the bullpen. "Let's go. Come on." Stanley bent down to pick up the plug to switch on the lights, but Dwight grabbed it from him. "Stanley, no. I'm going to handle the cord. Okay? Safety reasons."

"I know how to plug something in," Stanley drawled.

"I want to do it," Dwight quickly said, snatching the cord from Stanley's hand and crouching down behind the tree.

"Alright, let's count it down, like Rockerfeller Centre. Ready?" Michael said loudly as he walked over to where a group had formed.

"Three, two, one," everyone chanted, followed by a cheer as Dwight plugged in the cord and the lights turned on.

"Not great," Michael said plainly.

"I'm sorry everybody," Phyllis said sadly.

"It's not your fault Phyllis, the lights look good," Pam said reassuringly. "I think it's just the tree. It's so small." 

"That's what she said!"

"Why is it so small?" Stanley asked.

"That's what she said!" Michael blurted out again. Stanley glared at him until Michael finally answered. "We don't have any money, ok Stanley?" Michael snarled.

"Why not?" Stanley asked, folding his arms across his chest, his crossword puzzle book still in hand.

"Because I wouldn't fire Devon, that's why. And you know what? I wouldn't fire any of your butts, because we're a family. And families don't fire each other. Even if it means we get a tiny Christmas tree and a crappy party and homemade gifts."

"Who said anything about homemade gifts?" Meredith asked. "I thought we had a $20 limit?"

"Sometimes it's nicer to give someone something that comes from deep inside, that means something. Something that you've poured your heart into, so that the other person knows how much you love them, because they can physically see it. That is the best kind of gift you can give someone," Michael explained in a tight voice. Jim shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he glanced over to where Pam was standing, thinking how perfectly Michael had just described his gift to her.

"That's a load of crap," Kelly exclaimed. "I went out and I bought a great gift. And I even used a coupon so actually it's more like a $30 gift I got and this person is so lucky. I don't want to get a piece of crap that someone's made."

"Well maybe some of us can't afford to spend $20 on a present Kelly, did you ever think of that? Did you?" Michael shouted and Kelly shook her head and looked down at the ground. "Ok, let's just do Secret Santa," Michael sighed.

--

After much directing and shouting from Dwight to get everyone to sit down in a circle, Secret Santa finally started.

"First present, Oscar," Dwight said, before handing the wrapped package to Phyllis, who passed it to Oscar.

"Shower radio, neat," Oscar smiled after unwrapping the gift.

"Oh good, that was from me," Kelly smiled from where she was standing behind Oscar.

"Thanks Kelly, you know I was gonna get one of..." Oscar tried to say, but was cut off by Dwight.

"Ok, ok, that's enough. Let's keep it moving," Dwight said sternly. He bent down to pick up the next gift. "Jim," he read out and then threw the plastic carrier bag over to where Jim was sitting.

"Oh, cool," Jim smiled as he began to open up the bag. He pulled out a clearly used shirt and held it up with a slightly confused expression on his face.

"That's from me," Creed said with a simple smile.

"Great, where did you get it?" Jim asked.

"I don't know. It was so long ago," Creed said as he rocked backwards and forwards on his feet.

"Kevin," Dwight shouted. He handed a large red gift bag to Phyllis, who passed it along to Oscar, and then to Jim who finally gave it to Kevin.

"Oh yes!" Kevin shouted. "I wanted a footbath."

"How did you know it was a footbath, Kev?" Jim asked. "You haven't opened it yet." 

"Um, I, you know," Kevin mumbled as Jim stared at him with a smirk.

"Pam," Dwight shouted and passed the gift wrapped rectangular box around the circle. 

Pam received the box with an apprehensive smile and began tearing the paper open, as Jim eagerly watched on, a smile on his face, but his insides nervously tying themselves in knots. She carefully opened the flimsy white cardboard box, her smile growing wide as she realised it was the teal teapot she had seen at the Steamtown Mall weeks ago and told Jim about over lunch one day. "Oh my god! Thank you very much, Santa, whoever you are," Pam beamed around the circle, but saved the biggest smile when she reached Jim. "It's awesome." 

"There's a little more to it," Jim said, pointing to the box, but Pam didn't quite hear him. He couldn't keep the smile off of his face, but realised that Pam was about to find out the hidden, and not so hidden, message of his present. He felt his palms sweat and secretly tried to wipe them on his pants. Why did I tell her there was more to it? he thought. Why would I want her to realise I'm in love with her whilst we're sitting in the middle of the office in a circle with all of our co-workers. God, I'm such an idiot.

"Alright, next. Ryan," Dwight shouted as he tried to throw the flat lightweight package to Ryan, but it flopped onto the floor.

"No, dont!" Michael exclaimed. He pushed his way into the circle and picked up the gift, brushed it lightly and then handed it to Ryan. In the commotion, Pam had stopped looking at her gift and had turned to look at Ryan as he opened his gift. Jim took a slight breath of relief as he realised that Pam might not be reading his feelings for her in front of a room full of people after all.

"Um, a book of vouchers?" Ryan asked, as he looked at the gift, turning it over in his hand.

"Fully redeemable with yours truly," Michael said with a bow.

"Um, thanks Michael," Ryan said quietly, before putting it on the floor.

"Michael," Dwight shouted, pulling the attention away from the awkward exchange. He handed Michael the cylindrical present, who eagerly took it with a smile.

"Oh hey, for me," he said. "What's in here?" he asked as he opened the gift wrap. "Oh, come on," he quietly muttered, before remembering what he'd said about homemade gifts. "I mean, oh come on, there's only one."

"I knitted it for you," Phyllis spoke up.

"And I love it," Michael said, over enthusiastically. "I just wish there were two. You really put so much love into this. Just like the love I put into Ryan's gift."

Michael carried on blabbering about the importance of homemade gifts, but Pam's eyes drifted back to the present sitting in her lap. She picked it up and looked at it, smiling to herself, not realising that Jim's eyes were focused on her. He took a gulp, hoping to clear the nausea that was starting to overtake him. He watched her turn the teapot over and feel something move inside. She slowly brought it up to her ear and shook it slightly, hearing that it had something else inside of it. She quirked an eyebrow at Jim, who smiled a terrified smile back at her, and began to peel one of the pieces of tape away from the pot. 

"Meredith!" Dwight shouted, causing Pam to snap her head up and stop what she was doing. She watched as the small present was passed around to Meredith, and nervously held her breath. 

"Oh thanks. Pam this is one of yours right?" Meredith asked after she opened the gift. 

"Um, yeah," Pam said shyly, tucking her hair behind her ear. "‘Cause you said you liked my drawings. It's meant to be all of the cocktails you like. You know the ones you get at Poor Richard's?"

"It's awesome, thanks. I'll put it on my desk, next to the picture of my kids." 

Pam smiled a grateful smile at Meredith, and as Dwight moved on to Stanley, she looked down again at the teapot. She was about to pick at the piece of tape again, when the card that had been hidden next to the teapot caught her eye. She pulled it out of the box and slowly slid her finger under the back of the envelope to tear it open, failing to notice the shear look of terror plastered on Jim's face. She smiled at the simple wreath on the front of the card and then opened it to read Jim's message. 

Jim vaguely heard Stanley thanking someone for a photo frame, and Angela getting excited about some poster, but neither registered as he stared at Pam reading the card. She'd bitten her bottom lip as she read his words, and her eyebrows were furrowed together. She seemed to be reading the message for hours, oblivious to Dwight's shouts of admiration for the shot glasses he had just received. Eventually, much to Jim's relief, she finally looked up at him, but for once, he was completely unable to read her face. She quickly ducked her head, held the white box firmly in her hands and got up to leave, not making eye contact with anyone. She pushed her way out of the circle, and towards reception, where she ran squarely into Roy. Shit, he thought. Totally forgot that her fiancé would be at the party. And might see the card. Goddammit.

"Hey babe, we leaving already? Alright!" Roy exclaimed. "I'll go get the truck started." Jim stared at the pair, his mouth hanging slightly open.

"No, Roy. Um, I just, uh, I need a minute," she stuttered, eager to get to the stairwell before he could ask her what was up. She pushed past him, clutching the box to her chest and ran to the door. Roy just shrugged and made his way over to the circle, taking a seat where Pam had previously been sitting.

"Hey man," he nodded to Jim. "What's up with Pammy?" he asked, pointing behind him with his thumb.

"Um, don't know," Jim said, pursing his lips downwards and shrugging his shoulders, looking anywhere but at Roy. Luckily Roy didn't seem to notice, instead turning his attention to watch Devon open his gift. Jim glanced at the door, and then down to the patch of carpet between his feet. Should I follow her? Should I leave before Roy can beat me up? Oh god, what have I done? Jim put his head in his hands and screwed his eyes shut.

"Um, Roy, can I talk to you for a second?" Jim heard Pam say softly several minutes later. His head snapped up to watch Roy nod dumbly, press his hands to his thighs and stand up with a grunt. He looked at Pam, who had clearly been crying, as she quickly looked down atthe carpet and turned to walk away towards the front door. She placed the white box on the reception desk. Jim followed Pam with his eyes, and then Roy, until they disappeared behind the corner of Michael's office, before hanging his head down and interlocking his hands through his hair. He breathed deeply, trying to stave off the panic attack that he felt was about to overcome him. Jim closed his eyes, trying not to think about the conversation that was most likely taking place next door, and the inevitable ass kicking that he would surely receive momentarily.

-- 

"What's up Pammy?" Roy asked as he followed Pam to the space in front of the elevator. She stopped walking and turned to face him, her face ashen.

"What have you got me for Christmas Roy?" she asked.

"Huh?"

"What have you got me?" she repeated.

"Christmas is like a week away, I'll go pick up something from the Steamtown mall next week when I can blow off work early. Why?

"So you haven't got me anything?"

"I just said, I'll go get something next week. What's this about?" he asked, completely confused.

"But do you know what you're going to get me?" she asked, twisting her engagement ring around her finger.

"Maybe a sweater? I saw an advert for one of those new iPods, maybe that if they're not too pricey. We've got a wedding to save for right?" he laughed.

"Do we?"

"What does that mean?" he shot back. 

"It means we've been engaged for three years and we have no idea when we're going to get married," she shouted at him.

"That's never bothered you before. Why now? What's it got to do with whatever I'm going to get you for Christmas."

"That's the thing Roy. It's always that. It's ‘whatever I'm going to get you', and it always has been. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries. It's never something you think that I'd want, something that means something to me. It's whatever you found in a store or what your mom got me or what someone else told you to buy for me, because they thought I might like it. Have you ever listened to anything I've said that might help you choose a meaningful gift for me?"

"Like what? You always need sweaters." 

Pam groaned and hit her palm against her forehead. "A gift shouldn't be something I need, it should be something I want. Or even better, something that I don't know I want. Or something that means something to me. You know, Michael's been talking about homemade gifts all afternoon, and he's right. Something that you have put thought into is so much better than anything you can buy."

"So you want me to make you your Christmas present?" Roy asked, scratching his head. "Like you want a pasta shell picture or something? Babe, you know I'm no good with the artsy fartsy stuff like you are."

Pam shook her head sadly. "Do you remember our first trip to the beach together?" she asked. 

"Uh, sure," Roy said, although Pam was pretty sure he had no recollection. Although, to be honest, she wasn't sure she did either. So much of their relationship had merged into one unexciting blob, it was hard to pick out anything different or new, or recall individual events. Every trip to the lake was the same, each Friday night the same food was ordered, any birthday celebrated was done at the same restaurant. 

"Did you keep anything from it, you know, like as a memento?" 

"Huh? Like what?" Roy asked, totally confused. 

"I don't know, maybe a seashell, or a piece of coloured glass we might have found, or a cool rock."

"Pammy, what are you talking about?" he asked, scratching his head. "What's the beach got to do with anything? Do you want a seashell necklace for Christmas? Is that what you're telling me?" 

"Roy, what did you do with the picture I drew for you two weeks ago?"  

"What picture?" he asked, with no clue what she was talking about now. 

"Of your football jersey."

"That was a doodle. Why would I do anything with it?" 

"So you didn't keep it? Or put it in a frame? Or put it in a drawer somewhere?"

"Babe, it was a pencil drawing on a piece of paper. What was I meant to do with it? Treasure it forever?" he replied, somewhat softly, as if trying to let her know that the picture wasn't important. 

"Do you still have it?" she asked, her voice breaking slightly.  

"Pammy, I really don't know. It might be at home somewhere, maybe in the living room? I moved a lot of stuff around when the guys came over for poker last week, it might have ended up in the trash for all I know." He placed a hand on her shoulder, and she looked up at him, tears in her eyes. "Look if it's that important, you can draw me another one right?" 

"Who's it important to though?" she asked, blinking back tears. 

"Well, you obviously. So look, why don't we blow off this party, go home and you can draw me another and then you can tell me what you want for Christmas, ok?" he said, trying to wrap his arm around her shoulder. 

"No, Roy," she said firmly, shrugging his arm off of her. 

"What the hell, Pammy?"

"That for one thing," she shouted at him. "You know I hate being called Pammy, but you call me that anyway." She began pacing in front of the elevator. "My art isn't important to you. I shouldn't be redrawing you something because it's important to me. You should care about things that I give you. Things I've taken time to make for you, because I'm doing things I hope you'll like. I could have drawn you anything, but I chose your jersey. Do you know why?" she asked as she stopped and looked at him. Roy just shrugged. "Because that jersey was the first thing you ever gave to me."

"It was?" he asked, clearly confused.  

She shook her head slightly before looking down at the ground. "Yeah," she said quietly. "After the very first time, we, you know. I went to pull my shirt back on, but I couldn't find it, so I put your jersey on. And then when it was time to go, you told me to keep it, because it looked better on me."

"Oh yeah, I had so many of those," Roy laughed. 

"It really didn't even mean anything to you then, did it?" she asked sadly. 

"It was just a jersey, Pammy, I mean, Pam. Shit, sorry," he said, as he ran his hand through his hair. "Look, let's just go home and we can talk more, ok? You're obviously upset, so you should take some time to calm down." 

"No."

"What do you mean, no? You don't wanna go home?"

"No, I," she paused for a moment, as if looking for the right words. "I, I don't think I want it to be my home anymore."

"Jesus, on top of all this shit about your Christmas present, now you want to move as well? What the hell is wrong with you Pammy? Shit, Pam."

"I don't want us to move, I think, no, I know. I, I want to move out. On my own," she said, staring down at the brown carpet.

"What? You wanna move out?" he said, sounding somewhat defeated and confused. "Why?"

Pam continued to stare down at the carpet, twisting her engagement ring again. Rather than the usual loop she continuously made when she was nervous, Pam spiralled the ring upwards slightly so that it hit her knuckle. With a slight tug, she moved it over the joint, and then off of her finger completely. She held it between her thumb and forefinger, rubbing the metal slowly. "I don't want to marry you Roy," she breathed, tears spilling down her cheeks as she said so.

"Ok, just back up a second," Roy boomed, "how did we go from me getting you a sweater for Christmas, to you calling off the wedding? I don't get what's going on."

"You just don't know anything about me," she said, trying to wipe the tears away. "Or care about anything about me or my interests."

"Of course I do, baby," Roy said, trying to hold Pam's hand, but she pulled it away.

"What kind of chips do I like to eat?"

"Well that's easy," he smiled, "BBQ."

"No, Roy. That's your favourite flavour. I stopped buying French Onion at home because you told me how much my breath stunk when I ate them, so I stopped." 

"What's my favourite movie?"

"Jesus, is this a fucking quiz or something now Pamm, Pam?"

"What kind of paint do I like to use for my illustrations? What flavour yoghurt do I eat for my snack every day? What sort of house do I want to live in? If you can answer just one of those questions about me, I'll marry you. Just one." 

"I, I," Roy stuttered, "You use pencil right? That's what you did the jersey in. I remember that," he said, almost looking proud of himself.

"Watercolour, Roy, I like to use watercolour. And mixed berries. And one with a terrace upstairs. Did you know a single one of those?" Roy shook his head, looking down at the ground. "I think we were maybe good together once, a long time ago, but I don't think we are anymore." She reached out and held his hand. "I just think we've just grown apart over the years, and I, I don't think we're right for each other anymore."

"But I love you Pammy, shit. Pam. I love you," he said, almost begging her to stop this. 

"And I love you too Roy, but I don't think I'm in love with you anymore. If I'm honest with myself, I'm not sure I've really been in love with you for a while now. We have separate lives, we just happen to live together. We don't have fun together any more, we don't do things together, and if I'm honest, I don't think either of us really think of the other first, if you know what I mean?" 

Roy's shoulders visibly sagged. "I guess you're right. I think we've just got comfortable together, but, you know, we can change. We can do stuff together, we can go to movies and for dinner and stuff. You can tell me all the stuff you like, and I'll make sure I remember it all. And you can get those chips again, even if they do make you stink," he tried to laugh.

Pam shook her head. "I can't. I don't want to have to teach someone about me. I just want them to know. To want to know about me. To think about me. To look at some stupid sauce packet and remember instantly where it's from. To give me a present that I made a passing comment about weeks before and had forgotten that I wanted it. To have in jokes that make me laugh like no one else can." Roy let out a small laugh through his nose. "What?" she asked.

"Just thinking how you're gonna be pretty hard pressed to find this prince charming you've dreamt up for yourself," he laughed. "I mean, it's not like guys think this way. I think you've maybe been watching some of your chick flicks one too many times."

"Maybe," she said, staring wistfully over Roy's shoulder at the glass door to the office. "I'm sorry Roy, I really am. I do love you, and I think a part of me will always love you, but I can't do this anymore." She finally stopped fiddling with the engagement ring, and slowly outstretched her arm to give it back to him. Roy held out his hand, and Pam finally dropped the ring into his palm. 

"So this is it, huh?" Roy asked as he turned the ring over in his hand.

"I really am sorry. But, I think we'll both be happier, at least in the long run," she said, tears stinging her eyes again. He just nodded at her. "I know there's gonna be a lot to sort out, but hopefully we can do it kinda painlessly?"

"Yeah, I hope so. It's sorta cheesy, but I'd like to try be friends after," he said, his eyes watering ever so slightly.

"Me too," she replied, a small smile forming. "I think I'm gonna grab my coat and head home and pack a bag. I'll go stay with a friend or go up to my parents or something, until we can work out what to do."

"Nah, that's ok. I'm probably gonna head over to Poor Richard's with the guys and get wasted. I'll crash at Darryl's over the weekend. House is all yours."

Pam nodded. "Thank you," she whispered.

Roy leaned forward to give her an awkward hug, which Pam reciprocated meekly. They pulled apart and gave each other uncomfortable smiles, before Roy turned around to press the call button for the elevator. Pam watched him walk inside, turn and press the button. As the doors closed, Roy held up his hand as if to say goodbye, and Pam nodded her head ever so slightly. The doors finally closed, and Pam let out a breath. 

There was no way she was going back into the party, Pam had decided that much already. She knew she'd need to speak to Jim, but now wasn't the time or the place. Instead, she was going to go back into the office, get the teapot, her coat and her purse and then head home. How, she wasn't quite sure. Maybe the bus, or maybe she'd call a cab from her cell phone.  

She took a deep breath and pulled open the glass door to Dunder Mifflin, and then pushed open the wooden door into the main office. Keeping her eyes trained on the ground, Pam walked over to her desk, grabbed her purse and reached for her coat. Once it was on, she took the white box containing the teapot and quickly headed for the door. 

"Oh my god, Pam, where've you been? You've been gone for like ever, and this party is so lame," Kelly shrieked as she bounded up to Pam. "Oh wow, what's wrong with you? You look so terrible, like really awful Pam."  

"Um, just not feeling so hot. Um, I gotta go, but I'll see you next week. Have a good weekend," Pam called over her shoulder as she made it back to the door. She looked out of the window in the hallway and saw the dusting of snow that was settling. God, there's no way I'm walking to the bus stop in that, she thought. She took out her cell phone and dialled the number for a cab. She gave her address to the woman on the other end of the line and was informed it would be around 30 minutes until a car could get to her. She sighed, but agreed, before hanging up. 

She definitely didn't want to go back into the party now, but also, she didn't want to wait downstairs in case anyone left the party early and found her waiting. So, box carefully in hand, Pam made her way up the ladder to the roof.

--

Jim had been moping around the party since Pam had read the card with his gift and promptly left the party with Roy. He was sitting at his desk, staring blindly at the Christmas tree when he heard Kelly shrieking. By the time his brain had caught up with his ears and he managed to turn around, he saw the bottom of Pam's pink puffer coat running out of the door, accompanied by some low murmurings of her voice.

"Oh my god, did you see Pam?" Kelly asked as she approached Jim.

"Um, no," he croaked out, his voice cracking slightly after not being used for the last half an hour.

"Jim, she looked terrible. Like all pale and like she'd been crying or something. She doesn't look that great normally, but this was really bad. Like red eyes and her hair looked really frizzy, you know?" Kelly continued to prattle on about how bad Pam looked, and with each word she spoke, Jim felt more and more like he was going to vomit on the spot.  

I need some air, he thought, loosening his already loose tie. "Um, I gotta go Kel, I'm not feeling so great myself, I'll, um, see you later," he said as he grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and walked quickly towards the door.  

"Oh my god, is everyone getting sick? You better not make me sick Jim Halpert, I've got big plans for..." Jim heard her shout after him, but he tuned out the rest of what she had to say, purely concentrating on making sure that he didn't bring up the ham and cheese sandwich he'd had for lunch.  

He made his way over to the elevator, pressing the call button, intending to head to his car for a breather, but it occurred to him that Pam and Roy were probably down there, getting into their truck to head home. And he really didn't want to face them. Instead, he turned to the door of the stairwell and made his way up to the roof. Best case scenario, he'd be able to get some air, undisturbed. Worst case, he'd see Pam and Roy heading home together, but at least he'd be out of harm's way. He reached the ladder, took a breath and started climbing.  

--

Pam sat on one of the old lawn chairs that her and Jim had left there a few weeks ago, and placed the white box on the other, pushing the snow that had settled on the chair off of it first. She opened the lid, and took out the card, sliding it out of its envelope. She opened it, and reread the words that Jim had written, her eyes watering as they had done the first time. But this time, she read it with a different lense. Rather than the initial shock at Jim's feelings for her being revealed, she allowed herself to let her own feelings for him finally escape.

The first time she read the card in the circle, it felt like she'd been punched in the gut. She'd felt completely winded at his admission and had no idea what could come of the terrible situation she found herself in; her best friend was in love with her, but she was engaged to another man. Her best friend, who she'd denied to herself for so long that she had feelings for. Her best friend, who knew every detail about her and could read her like a book. Her best friend, who made her feel whole. 

But the other man. The other man, who made her feel worthless. The other man, who didn't know the difference between dating and engaged. The other man, who she was pretty sure had no idea about who she really was. The other man, who she was engaged to.

It was at that point she'd run out of the office and into the stairwell to cry her heart out. Once her tears were finally under control, she'd opened the box and looked at the teapot again. The teapot that she'd briefly mentioned weeks, months, before. How on earth had Jim remembered, and even better, how had he found the exact one that she'd wanted? Pam looked at the top again, and the slightly peeled tape caught her eye. She'd slowly peeled two of the pieces away and took the lid off, peering inside.

The small yearbook photo had caught her eye first, and she'd carefully pulled it out, letting out a throaty laugh, tinged with tears as she did so. She remembered how at home she'd felt sitting on Jim's bed that night, wishing that she could have stayed in his room all night, even though it would have been wrong to do so. Because, engaged and all. Next, she'd pulled out the Boggle timer, giggling at that particular incident. And so it carried on, with each item she took out, she was instantly transported back to a vivid memory of her and Jim. Of her and Jim having fun. Of her and Jim laughing. Of her and Jim, just being her and Jim.

It was whilst she was looking at all these mementos that Jim had saved and inside jokes that the two of them shared together, that she realised she didn't have anything vaguely like this with Roy. Pam tried to think of something, anything, that could compare. But absolutely nothing could come to mind. It was at that point she realised, she knew, that she no longer wanted to be with Roy. She didn't want the best moments of her life to exist Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, she wanted that all of the time. She'd put the items back into the teapot, closed the lid and took a deep breath before heaving herself up off of the stair and going into the office to change her life.

But this time, as she sat and read the card again in the cold of the Scranton night, all the resentment she'd felt for her old life was gone. Instead, she was filled with hope. Hope for a life filled with laughter, filled with someone that cared so deeply for her, filled with appreciation. Although tears were stinging her eyes again, this time, they were happy tears. She opened the teapot again, and took out Jim's yearbook photo, smiling at the dorky face staring back at her. She let out a small laugh, wishing Jim was there so she could tease him again about the picture, and realised she really needed to speak to him. All he knew was that she'd received his gift and promptly ran out of the office crying, never to return.  

She took out her phone, her thumb hovering over his name in her contacts, but her thoughts paralysed her from calling. What would I even say to him, she thought. Hey Jim, thanks for your present, just broke up with Roy, yeah I love you too. Oh and I'll be your girlfriend now. Yeah right. Pam shook her head. What are the rules for moving on? How soon is too soon? Do I need to give myself some time? Do I want to give myself time? Or do I just want to be with Jim? Sighing, she closed her phone and tucked it back into her purse. I'll sleep on it and call him tomorrow.

Pam sat, staring out at the night sky as a light dusting of snow began to fall again. She looked up at the flakes falling and shivered slightly. She glanced at the open box, and quickly closed it up, before standing up and hugging it tightly to her chest. She took one last look at the lawn chairs, and made her way over to the hatch to descend back into the building. But as she walked over to the ladder, a brown mop of hair, followed by a pair of bloodshot hazel eyes, appeared.

"Jim," she said, her voice in a state of shock.

"Oh, um, hey. I, uh, I didn't think anyone would be up here," he stammered. "I, um, just needed some air."

"Party that bad, huh?" she tried to laugh.

"Something like that," he weakly smiled back. They stared at each other in awkward silence for what seemed like forever, until Jim glanced down at the box that Pam was holding and the bile began to rise in his throat again. "I'll, um, I'll just get out of your way," he said, unsure which way to move, but knowing he had to be anywhere else but where he was currently standing.

"No, wait," Pam shouted as he began to move away from her. He looked at her and she felt him pierce her heart with his wounded eyes. "I, um, I haven't had a chance to thank you properly for the gift." 

"Oh no, you know, that's ok," Jim quickly said.

"No, I..." Pam tried to say, but Jim cut her off.

"I'm really sorry, I'm not really sure what I was thinking. Giving you all that trash in the teapot. You should just throw it out. And probably the card too. Just forget what it said. Really not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to give you that. At work. During Secret Santa. The Secret Santa that your fiancé came to. So, um, I'm really sorry and I hope it hasn't caused you any trouble with, um, Roy or anything. But, uh, yeah," he wiped a tear that had spilled down his cheek, "just throw it all out." He bit the inside of his cheek to try to stop any more tears falling, and stared blindly past Pam's shoulder at the wall behind her.

"I can't," she said softly.

"What?" Jim asked, training his focus onto Pam.

"I can't throw it out. I can't forget what the card said. I don't want to. To either of those," she replied calmly. Jim tilted his head to the side slightly and lifted one eyebrow ever so slightly as if in question. "This gift," she said, lifting the box slightly, "your gift to me, was the best present I've ever received. From anyone. Period. As soon as I saw the teapot, I knew it had to be from you. There's no one else on this planet that knows things about me like you do, and as soon as I saw a glimpse of teal, I knew it was from you. How you found the exact teapot I told you about, what, six weeks ago? I honestly don't know."

Jim stayed silent as his eyes flickered across Pam's face, watching the snowflakes fall all around her. He let out a small breath, the puff of air visible in the cold night air, as she carried on speaking.

"When I read the card, I felt paralysed. I was reading these words, words that for so long I couldn't, wouldn't dare admit to myself. And there they were, in black and white." She looked down at the ground and shook her head slightly. "And my first thought was how sad I felt for myself. That there's someone out there that loves me as much as you do, but I'm marrying someone else. Someone who doesn't care for me nearly as much as you do. And that's why I ran out. I just sat and cried, thinking how stuck I was with Roy. How he'd never know me like you do. How I don't think he'd ever really love me like you might do."  She took a deep breath. "And then I opened the teapot and memory after memory poured out. The fact you'd kept things that anyone else would have thrown out, it just," she shook her head again, "it meant so much to me. And with each thing I took out, I vividly remembered the moment that it was from. That stupid spicy hotdog. And the time that I beat you at mini golf," she laughed. 

"I won," he whispered with a small laugh.

"Hey don't make me throw this box at you," she laughed, a tear falling from her eyes as she did so. Jim moved slightly closer to her so that he could reach out and wipe it away, stroking her cheek lightly as he did so. Pam held her hand over his and brought it down in front of where they were standing opposite each other. They stood, Jim's hand in Pam's, both staring at where they were joined. Slowly Pam pulled her hand away and looked up at Jim. "But, um, it just made me realise I didn't have any of that with Roy. It wasn't just that he didn't care about me that much, but I realised I don't care about him as much as I used to. We've just been existing together, not living, for a long time now. So, um, I spoke to him just before and I told him that I don't want to marry him." 

Jim's eyebrows shot up and his mouth hung open slightly in shock. Pam pursed her lips and nodded slightly, another tear falling, but this time she quickly wiped it away and sniffed. "So I guess this weekend I'm going to be looking for somewhere new to live and there's tons of stuff we have to sort out, but, I just knew I couldn't marry him or be with him anymore." Jim nodded slowly as she spoke, unsure if he should say anything. "And I guess I've been talking for a long time now," she laughed lightly, "and I think I'm just trying to say in a roundabout way, that I feel the same about you." She took a deep breath. "I love you, Jim."

"Oh my god," he breathed, a smile breaking out across his face.

Pam took his hand in hers again. "But, I don't know how to do this. I don't know what we do, how we do it, when we do it. I don't know if I'm ready to jump into a relationship straight away, but I don't want to lose you." There was a fear in her eyes that he wanted to kiss away.

"You're absolutely not going to lose me Beesly, I promise you," Jim said sincerely. 

"I just don't want you to think I'm messing you around," she said, biting her bottom lip at the side.  

"I would never think that. I'll do anything," he said, stroking the back of her hand with his thumb, "whatever you need, if it means we can be together eventually. I meant what I said in the card. I've never felt the way I feel for you about anyone else." He paused, looking down at his feet as he took a breath. "I just, I'm so in love with you

Pam smiled up at him and pulled him slightly closer to her by his hand, only the box she was holding stopping their bodies from touching. He gently took it from her hands and placed it on the floor, pulling her slightly closer. "Can I kiss you?" he whispered. She nodded her head, rising up on her toes to press her mouth to his. His hands immediately slid around her back, holding her tighter to his body, as hers travelled up over his shoulders, before her fingers found their way to the hair at the nape of his neck. Their lips moved against each other as if they had kissed a thousand times before. It was a kiss that spoke of love and friendship, as mouths opened and tongues met. They eventually pulled apart breathless, but smiling. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that," Jim smiled at her, their foreheads pressed together.

"Me too," she replied, staring up at him as if she was speaking directly to his soul. "Wow, it feels good to finally admit it," Pam giggled. Jim pulled her into a tight embrace, placing a kiss onto the top of her head through her hair. She took a slight step backwards and picked up the box from the group and looked up at him again. "Thank you so much for the gift. Not just the teapot, but everything."

"You're very welcome," he smiled as he stroked her cheek, before ducking his head down to briefly kiss her again.

"It's funny," she began. 

"What is?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"Michael. I mean, what he said earlier today about the best gifts coming from the heart. When he was going on and on about pouring love into a gift, I was just rolling my eyes thinking about what he'd made for Ryan. And here I am now, literally holding physical proof of your love for me. I honestly didn't think a gift like that was possible.

"Well, I think there's only one question left to ask Beesly," he said, with the hint of a smirk.

"Oh yeah?" Pam asked, her pulse racing at the thought of what he might ask her.

"What gift are you getting for me?"

"Wow," she laughed. "Well, you already got your Secret Santa, so..."

"Creed's crappy old shirt?"

"I bet you'll look super sexy in it," she giggled.

"Wow," he smiled at her. "So no Christmas present then?"

"We'll see," she smiled up at him, before pressing another kiss to his lips. "We'll see."

 



MrsKHalpert is the author of 17 other stories.



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