“Ok, I have to ask.”
Jim reaches for a jellybean as he comes to a stop against Pam’s desk. He’s surprised the desk isn’t worn from the number of times he’s leaned over this exact spot. The jellybeans are red and green today. He’d watched Pam pick them out especially, just to be festive, and then watched Dwight throw a fit at her over the lack of black ones.
Jim had moved up his phone and nickel prank just for that.
“What are you doing?”
She’s been hunched over something for the past half hour, her brow furrowed, her lips pressed together. Whatever she’s doing, she’s clearly struggling. And ok, there are five emails that Jim could have sent in that time, instead of glancing at her creased forehead, at the unconscious way she bit her lip to focus. Instead of wondering how she made even frowning cute. Instead of wondering, if he put his hands on the slope of her tensed shoulders, how warm she’d feel, whether she’d soften -
He needs to stop. He does know this.
But there’s something about December - about the lights and the snow, Pam wrapped up in her coat, the festive excitement that even the dullest office day can’t quite smother - that makes him achingly wistful and apparently even dumber than usual. It makes him think of ice-skating hand in hand. Hot chocolate for two. Snowflakes in her curls. Holding her to him to warm her up, their shared breath clouding between them. It makes him long for really, really stupid things like taking her home for Christmas, seeing her surrounded by his family and laughing at all their cringey traditions. Stockings first thing in the morning and matching Halpert pyjamas, his mom making them dance to Wham! in the kitchen. How much his mom would love her.
Yeah. Christmas makes him dumb.
But he can’t stop the part of him that clings to those daydreams anyway, that holds his yearning close, keeps it warm and hopeful inside him.
Pam looks up at him now with a sheepish smile that does nothing to help his yearning.
“Um.” She sounds embarrassed. “Roy and I are doing homemade gifts this year.” She holds up what Jim realises are knitting needles, with some misshapen red wool between them. He’s so busy swallowing the familiar ache from that one sentence - Roy and I - that it takes him a moment to react properly. “It’s meant to be a scarf,” she adds when he says nothing, and her face falls. “Oh, god. It’s really bad, isn’t it?”
“No,” Jim says hastily, catching himself. “No, it’s-”
Ok, actually it is pretty bad. Now that he’s looking at it.
“Why,” Pam groans, covering her face with her hand. “Why did I decide to go with knitting?! I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Jim laughs. “Why didn’t you just do a sketch? You could’ve tried some of your new watercolours.”
Pam’s cheeks pinken, and he realises he’s somehow put his foot in it. “We agreed art didn’t count. You know, because I draw all the time.” She says it quickly, lightly, like it’s a joke. Jim wonders how far we agreed translates to Roy said. “I guess it would kind of be cheating.”
He tries to keep his expression neutral. “Not really?” It slips out before he can stop it.
He’s kept every doodle she’s ever given him, a drawer full of in-jokes and the now familiar strokes of her pen, memo paper that’s curled yellow with age, captions in her neat little writing that still make him grin. She’d noticed once, and she’d looked so touched, so unbelievably pleased, that it hurt inside his chest. I can’t believe you kept those. It wouldn’t even have occurred to him to throw them away. Why should it be a shock to her that anyone would treasure her drawings?
Pam flushes pinker now, her hands stilling on the desk, and he knows he’s at risk of skating too far. (Because he’s right, and a part of her probably knows he’s right, and that’s what makes it even worse).
“Well, anyway.” Jim pushes down his anger, because it’s Christmas. And she’s trying so hard to knit a scarf. He’s not going to add himself to the list of people that knock her down just for trying. He picks up the lumpy red wool instead. “I’m sure this is salvageable, Beesly.”
(She looks relieved. Which makes him feel relieved, even as a part of him can’t bear it).
“Yeah, right. I’m sure I’ll magically learn to knit in a week.” Pam shakes her head. “I don’t know. I kept seeing all these nice scarves everywhere, and I thought it would be…not this.” She prods the mess of wool with a sigh.
Jim smiles at her, opening his mouth. He’s very aware that their fingers are almost brushing over the half-formed scarf. Aware of how easy it would be to catch her hand, to give her a reassuring squeeze. “Well, I think-”
Of course Michael would pick this moment to bound out of his office and make a beeline for him. Pam gives him a sympathetic wince, and Jim heaves an internal sigh of his own and braces himself to face his boss.
Michael is a nightmare in December. Jim’s niece has fewer tantrums and sugar-induced highs than Michael Scott does the week before Christmas, and she’s three.
“Jim, Jim, Jim! I need your help with something.” There’s a manic glint in Michael’s eyes. “Top secret. Ecret Anta-say.”
Jim catches Pam’s eye, and tries not to smirk. Michael has recently discovered pig latin. And Pam has recently discovered, having been forced to write all of Michael’s emails in pig latin for a week, that she can’t stand pig latin. Jim will occasionally drop it into conversation just to see her shudder.
Dwight perks up at the mention of top secret. “Can I help, Michael?”
He’s already leapt to his feet, but Michael frowns and waves him away. “No, no, no. I need someone normal to help with this. Not you.”
Dwight frowns. “Well, Jim isn’t-”
“Go away, Dwight!”
Michael starts herding Jim towards his office as Dwight scowls and sits back down. Jim doesn’t miss the mutinous expression his deskmate aims at him. An expression that definitely means he’ll be extra annoying this afternoon. Great.
Jim has time to send Pam one last helpless look before Michael whisks him away and slams the door shut.
“Ok,” Michael says once he’s closed the blinds. “Clear your diary, Baby Jimsus! We’re going to Steamtown Mall.”
Oh, no. Jim surveys his boss, mentally adding the pieces together. “You’ve not bought your Secret Santa gift yet.”
Michael beams at him. “And I’ve got a good one this year!”
Michael has somehow managed to get Jim every Christmas since he started here, so Jim was half expecting it to be him again. But he’d caught Dwight muttering something about rigged votes as he feverishly password protected the spreadsheet, so maybe this year Michael hasn’t managed to intervene.
Or he was happy enough with his result that he hadn’t felt the need to.
This can’t be good.
“Who did you get?” Jim ventures with a sense of foreboding. Michael’s asking him for help, he realises, and not Pam, which must mean -
Crap. Jim mentally cringes. (Also, would it kill whoever’s up there to give him Pam just once? Last year she got Creed, who gave her a used pair of boots. The year before she got Dwight, who gave her an updated copier instruction manual. He’d had to watch her face fall each year, after all the thought she put into her own presents, until he was making up excuses like Hanukkah or New Years to give her silly gifts just to make her smile again).
And now she’s got Michael, of all people.
“I thought we could start in Victoria’s Secret,” the guy chortles, proving Jim’s exact point. He’s practically rubbing his hands together. “Packer says they’ve got an edible selection this year!”
Jesus. “You know what? My afternoon is clear.”
Jim was meant to be completing one of his bigger sales this afternoon, but if he manages to stop Michael from setting foot in any kind of lingerie store with Pam in mind, then it will be time well spent.
Michael’s face lights up. “I knew that’d get you on board! You don’t know her bra size, do you? If you distract her, I could try to look-”
“Nope.” Jim reaches for the door. “Let’s just go to the mall, Michael.”
Of course, that doesn’t stop his boss from grinning weirdly at Pam as they walk past her, or from mouthing to Jim - double D? - and then winking at him over Pam’s perturbed expression.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jim mutters as he pauses by her desk to pull on his coat. “Just…don’t ask.”
“I’m not sure I want to.”
Michael is still sneaking looks at her chest as he fumbles with his own coat. She draws her cardigan a bit tighter. Jim wishes, wishes he wasn’t now thinking about her breasts. And edible underwear. On her. Ugh, Michael.
“Hey, Michael? Do you want to get some snacks for the road?”
Jim’s suggestion has its desired effect - Michael forgets about Pam’s bra size and bounds for the vending machine instead - and Jim pulls himself together and makes a face at her.
Pam just shakes her head. Then she glances round and leans closer, lowering her voice. “Don’t you have the Hewitt sale this afternoon?”
Jim tries not to get too distracted by her proximity. “Oh, yeah. It’ll be fine.”
Her forehead bunches. “I won’t let anyone else take your calls,” she promises him in a whisper. She nods her head subtly in Dwight’s direction, and Jim’s heart swells. God, this girl.
They’re both whispering now, their heads close. He’s smiling stupidly down at her, and he wonders if he’s imagining that faint stall in her breathing. He’s close enough that he can see she’s wearing her unicorn necklace, the gold pendant so small against her collar bone. He thinks again that he’s not sure Roy bought that for her. It’s too delicate, too Pam. If he traced her collar bone to the slim gold metal -
“Call me if you need rescuing?”
He pulls back too. “Will do.”
He raps on her desk - a friendly rap, because she’s his friend - and then heads after Michael to stop him from buying his friend the world’s most inappropriate present.
Pam and Angela had formed the Party Planning Committee in an attempt to curb Michael’s increasingly wild themed events. Especially after the Pulp Fiction Christmas where he’d shown up in a yellow jumpsuit, and had to be cut out of it midway through the evening.
It had been one of the few times Pam and Angela were on the same side. Pam to stop the ludicrous decoration demands that had her running all over Scranton at the last minute, and the excessive alcohol that made people like Todd Packer even more of a creep. Angela to stop the spending. And the fun, according to Michael. (And maybe Angela).
Phyllis had shyly asked to join after Angela insisted they made it a formal group with minuted actions, and Pam had welcomed her. Angela had…allowed it.
On days like these, though, Pam regrets that the Party Planning Committee was ever invented.
The three of them have been sat in the conference room for the past hour, while Angela vetos every single one of Pam’s suggestions, and Pam’s window to cram in more knitting grows smaller and smaller.
Jim and Michael still aren’t back. She hopes Jim’s not suffering too badly with whatever Michael’s up to. She’s also worried that if she stays away from her desk for too long, Dwight will find some way of stealing his sale.
Phyllis has just made the mistake of asking about Angela’s cats, and Pam tries not to put her head in her hands. Because Angela is now stiffly - proudly - reaching for her Christmas photo album. The one with photo after photo of the cats in matching Christmas pyjamas, re-enacting the nativity, and posed around the tree with angel wings.
Pam wasn’t sure how to react the first time Angela showed her this album. She’s still not sure now. Angela’s cats are creepy. The Christmas outfits do not help. Pam doesn’t really want to think about where Angela might have got cat-sized Christmas pyjamas from. (Although on Angela they look suspiciously like kid’s pyjamas). Jim once admitted that his family insist on matching pyjamas every Christmas - only to her, because Michael would’ve had a field day - and the thought of him in something light-up and cheesy makes her feel strangely warm inside.
Angela’s cats don’t have quite the same effect.
“Could we maybe, um, get back to the party planning?” she tries politely.
It’s the wrong thing to say. Angela’s lips thin. The photo album is shut with a snick. Even Phyllis cringes, looking at Pam with something verging on reproach. She of all people knows better than to disrespect Angela’s cats.
“Maybe we could,” Angela snits, “If you actually came up with some good ideas.”
Pam manages not to grit her teeth. She can feel a headache coming on. Too long picking and unpicking those impossible stitches. Her thumbs are sore from the needles, her shoulders cramping. So stupid.
“I don’t think tinsel is-”
“Well, maybe you should just plan this yourself, then.” Angela grabs her photo album. Is she seriously going to storm out over this?
Yes, Pam realises as the blonde leaves the room with her nose in the air, her heels clipping the floor. The door snaps closed behind her.
Phyllis looks sad. “Couldn’t you have pretended to look for five minutes?”
And now Pam feels even worse.
She’d been so sure today was going to be a good day. There’d been fresh snow on the ground this morning, she got to ride in with Jim because Roy had ended up crashing at Darryl’s, and she’d even seen a robin. Jim had stopped the car to let her look, smiling at her like she wasn’t a massive dork. He’d also stopped to let her buy them hot chocolate, which Roy never -
Anyway. She’d wanted today to be a good day.
And it’s rapidly turning into a crappy one. She’s nowhere near finished the scarf, she’s managed to piss Angela off without even trying, and she has the prospect of a whole afternoon with no Jim because she has no idea how long Michael will keep him out.
And Phyllis is currently looking at her with that hangdog expression, since Angela’s bad mood will no doubt be taken out on her.
“I’m sorry,” Pam mumbles. Sorry seems to be her permanent default, and sometimes she gets so sick of herself. Although she is sorry that Phyllis might bear the brunt of this. “We can stay here if you want to give her a chance to calm down?”
“No,” Phyllis sighs, “That will just give her longer to sulk.” She clambers to her feet.
“I’ve got her for Secret Santa,” Pam offers lamely as she follows. “I actually got her something for Sprinkles.”
Phyllis pats her hand. “That’s nice.” But then she looks more worried. “I haven’t bought my Secret Santa gift yet.”
“Who’ve you got?”
“Jim,” Phyllis admits. “I just haven’t had time to go shopping. I’m hoping I can make it in before closing time this evening.”
Oh. Pam would’ve loved to get Jim. She’d convinced Michael to let her help with Jim’s presents after their first Christmas here, when she’d had to watch Jim squirm through opening a package of sex toys. (Michael had thought it was hilarious). But she’d made sure Michael’s present was much better the following year. She’d had so many ideas for Jim. She’d loved picking stuff out for him. She'd loved watching him smile when he opened the gift, loved the way his gaze had drifted to her, the gratitude in his warm hazel eyes. She’d sort of been hoping, the one year Michael didn’t get him, that it might be her.
But that was dumb.
Anyway, she reminds herself, she’s got a scarf to finish.
She opens her mouth to tell Phyllis she’d be happy to help if she can - that’s what friends do, after all - when Dwight pounces on her.
“Pam! You haven’t been forwarding calls correctly.”
Pam hasn’t even made it back to her desk yet. “What are you talking about?” Her headache is starting to feel worse as Phyllis drifts away.
Dwight glowers at her. “Jim is out of the office. As his deskmate, his calls should be going to me.”
“That’s not a rule-”
“It’s an unspoken rule,” Dwight barks back. “Everyone in sales knows it.”
Pam counts to ten in her head. “Jim hasn’t had any calls,” she responds, blandly.
Dwight’s eyes narrow. They both know the Hewitt call was due this afternoon. They also both know Dwight can’t admit he knows that, because actively poaching sales isn’t supposed to be allowed. Because, yes, Pam knows exactly how sales work.
“That seems unlikely,” is all Dwight spits in the end. But he stomps back to his desk, thwarted for the time being.
Pam represses an eye roll and heads back to her own desk.
She notices as she goes that the snow is falling heavier outside. It makes her wish for a moment that she was out there. Out in the cool air, watching the snowflakes settle and muffle everything in soothing white, instead of squinting at lopsided stitches under fluorescent lights, with Angela sniping and Dwight bristling insufferably in the background.
It also makes her hope Jim’s ok. And that he doesn’t get stuck in the snow. Would it be weird to text him?
Then she remembers that he’s with Michael, and there’s probably nothing she can do that will be weirder than that. So she reaches past the dreaded bundle of wool (just one more minute, just so she can face it) and picks up her phone.
Are you alive?!
Jim is temporarily distracted from dragging Michael out of the pet store, his face breaking into a grin as he reads her text. There’s something about Pam’s name lighting up his screen that gives him a painful thrill. Every time. He doesn’t care how pathetic that makes him.
“But they had beagles,” Michael is whining as he follows Jim out. “Everyone loves beagles.”
Since Jim has steered him away from the last three underwear sections, and convinced him that Pam’s sex life does not need spicing up with a lurid green bra - the thought of her wearing it, and Roy seeing her in it, makes him feel a little ill - Michael has decided that a puppy would be an appropriate present instead. No, not a plush one. A real one.
“Pam lives in an apartment,” Jim reminds him (again), as he texts her back.
Just barely. How was the PPC?
“But we could let her keep it in the office,” Michael keeps insisting. “No one would know! And she likes dogs.”
“Roy doesn’t,” Jim reminds him (also again), just as his phone chimes with Pam’s reply. He tells himself it must be a slow afternoon over there, but her immediate response still makes him smile into his cheek.
Don’t ask. How’s Michael?
Jim glances round at their boss. He’s now sulking like a child.
“You’ve said no to all of my ideas, Jimbo! I brought you here to help!”
Don’t ask, Jim texts back. Michael is already distracted, anyway, because he’s just seen the pretzel cart. Has Dwight tried to take over the office yet?
“How many toppings can I get?” Michael asks the man behind the pretzel cart eagerly, rooting around for his wallet. “Jim, how many toppings do you want?”
Jim shakes his head to say he’s fine, but Michael is too busy dithering over whether he wants caramel or mustard to pay him much heed. The pretzel man keeps having to tell him three toppings is the limit. Michael is not listening. Jim wonders how close he is to having another sugar driven meltdown.
He’s hovering round my desk to make sure I’m forwarding calls properly.
Ugh. Dwight. Jim rolls his eyes. Give me a sec, he types back. Make sure he gets his next one.
While Michael is trying to balance three overloaded pretzels in each hand and arguing over the quantity of chocolate sauce, Jim dials Dwight’s number.
He’s met with an aggressive, “Hello?”
Gotta love Dwight’s way with customers. He also sounds a little breathless, like he’s run back to his desk. Jim swallows a laugh.
“Hi, Dwight. Michael’s asked, would you be able to find the Victoria file in his records?”
(Michael is unaware that his name is being used in vain, because he’s now trying to order two giant syrupy coffees on top of his pretzels. Jim has to step in to take a few before the guy topples over).
“What?” Dwight snaps back. “What’s the Victoria file? That sounds like a job for the receptionist.”
“Oh, no. He only trusts you to do it. It’s secret.”
Jim can practically hear, down the line, Dwight’s pride warring with his inherent suspicion of Jim. “A secret Victoria file?” he demands finally.
Michael is now ushering Jim over to a bench, content with his sugar haul. He’s too immersed in testing the coffees to even notice that Jim’s on the phone.
“Fine,” Dwight retorts, and Jim regrets that there’s no Pam here to high five. “You can tell Michael it’s done. Wait. Where are Michael’s records?”
“Oh, Pam will be able to tell you.” Jim keeps his voice solemn. “Make sure you ask her for the top secret records, though.”
He’ll let Pam decide whether to send Dwight all the way to the warehouse for them.
Dwight hangs up without bothering to say bye, and Jim turns back to his boss. Michael’s midway through his second pretzel, chocolate sauce all round his mouth. Jim is willing to bet he’s not going to make it to the third. And will then spend the rest of their time at the mall moaning about a stomach ache.
And insisting it’s not the pretzels if Jim tries to gently point that out.
Still, Jim sits down on the bench next to him. And he takes one of the pretzels when offered.
Pam’s reply comes a moment later. Dwight is now on his way to the top secret supply cupboard two floors down. You’re a genius.
Jim feels that glow suffuse his insides. She is, he reflects, also a genius. This pretzel’s got cinnamon on, and with the Christmas music playing over the speakers and the snow settling on the glass roof above their heads, Pam’s text in his hands, things are suddenly feeling pretty good. Despite Michael.
“What about a rabbit?” Michael asks him now, through a mouthful of rainbow sprinkles.
“I don’t think so.” Jim’s not sure what kind of rabbit Michael means - especially considering some of the stores he was angling for earlier - but either way, it’s a no.
Michael heaves a sigh. “You’re making this really hard.” A beat, and then he snickers. “That’s what she-”
“Why don’t we look in Boscov’s?” Jim suggests. “That’s one of Pam’s favourite stores.”
Jim swallows the last of his pretzel and resists the urge to break down for Michael how gift-giving is supposed to work. He’s just pondering whether it’s snowing as heavily over at Dunder Mifflin, and whether Dwight’s given Pam enough of a break to see it through the window, when a Christmas stall catches his eye. It looks pretty cute. And appropriate.
He balls up his pretzel wrapper, nodding over at the place. “How about we try there?”
Michael squints. “Ugh, boring.”
“No,” Jim says more firmly, “Let’s have a look.”
He drags a grumbling Michael to his feet and manages to shepherd him in the stall’s direction. The stuff it’s selling is all cute, actually. There’s an array of bobble hats, woollen mittens and soft scarves in colours he knows Pam would like. Jim wonders how she’s getting on with her knitting as he fingers a striped one. He wonders if Roy will put even a fraction of the same effort into whatever he’s making her. It’s hard to see, which kills Jim a little bit.
He holds the striped scarf up for Michael. It’s soft pink and cream, with stripes of pale blue and fawn and maroon. It practically screams Pam. He can see it wrapped around her neck, nestled against her pale pink coat. “This is nice.”
Michael scoffs. “A scarf? Are you kidding me?”
“I think she’d really like this.”
“No way,” Michael cries. “That’s the worst idea ever. Let’s go to the jewellery store!”
He’s already dashing off. Jim bites back a groan and reluctantly lets the scarf go.
Michael is browsing the rings by the time Jim catches up with him. Not just any rings, Jim sees. Engagement rings.
He’s enthusiastic. “Girls love diamonds, right?”
Jim thinks of Pam’s sparse diamond, thinks of her twisting it round and round on her finger like she can never get it comfortable. Nope. He can’t do it. He can’t stand here looking at engagement rings, at Christmas, noticing every single one that she’d like more than the one she’s got. Noticing and wishing and -
“I think Pam probably only wants jewellery from her fiancé, Michael.”
“But this one’s got a heart on it!”
Jim pulls himself away to look at the watches instead. Safer. He doesn’t want to look at the delicate gold necklaces either. Or the wedding bands.
And yet he finds his gaze lingering on a slender silver watch, understated and lovely, glimmering in the light. Picturing it on her wrist. Picturing her opening the velvet box, her smile. The leather strap on her old one broke, and no one’s replaced it. She’d never spend that kind of money on herself.
He’s such an idiot.
“It’s not really appropriate to buy someone you work with jewellery.” Jim drags his gaze away and makes himself go retrieve his boss.
“Ok, ok, ok. Better idea.” Michael ditches the $1000 dollar ring he’d been inspecting, oblivious to the store assistant’s alarm as the precious band is tossed to one side. “Let’s get her a blow-up doll!”
Over an hour since Pam sent him downstairs to look for Michael’s secret records, Dwight comes charging back into the office. His face is puce.
Pam has been trying and failing to use the time to make more progress on Roy’s scarf. It seems to get worse with every line. At this point she’s not sure what will be worse - Roy getting annoyed with her for giving him such a bad present, or Roy just laughing at it.
The homemade presents had been her idea. They're tight on money this year, and Roy’s initial suggestion was to not bother with presents at all. Because his mom was getting him the coat he wanted anyway. Pam had to beg him to do homemade presents instead. He’d complained that that wasn’t fair, because she could just do him one of her drawings again, and he’d be stuck gluing or cutting some shit for hours, and where was he supposed to find time to do that?
She’d pushed aside her flicker of hurt at just and again - there are only so many things she can keep waiting for, and her energy is better spent waiting for Roy to set a date than waiting for him to be careful with his words, because that really is something that will never happen - and she’d pushed aside her disappointment at not getting to draw something for him. She’d promised him her present wouldn’t be that. She’d promised him it would be fun.
So she keeps telling herself that if she keeps going, this will eventually turn into something resembling a nice scarf. Eventually, this will be what she wants. She just needs to keep at it. She’s too far in now to back out, and she already told her parents, and Roy’s, that she’d be knitting him something.
She’s committed, she repeats as she stabs herself for the hundredth time with one of the needles.
(But Dwight interrupting her is maybe not the worst thing to have happened all day).
“You gave me faulty instructions!” he bellows. Then his gaze zeroes in on her knitting. “And you shouldn’t be doing that during working hours!”
“I agree,” Angela snits from over the divider. She still hasn’t forgiven Pam for the cat album, then.
Pam is saved by the bell. Literally, as her phone rings. And even better, she sees as she picks it up - it’s Jim. She can feel herself smiling as she answers. It makes Dwight’s glower intensify, but she holds a hand up to remind him she’s just doing her job. Answering phones.
“You need to come downstairs,” Jim says into her ear, with no preamble.
“What?” she laughs. “Why?”
“Go look out the window.”
Pam gets up, sidestepping a fuming Dwight, and heads for the window.
Jim is down in the carpark, surrounded by the snow. He’s squinting up at her, hand shielding his eyes against the winter sunlight, his collar turned up and his cheeks pink from the cold. His expression is pure Jim. For a moment, gazing down at him, she forgets about her aching fingers and shoulders.
Then he points, and she follows until she sees Michael lying facedown in the snow. What? Is he -
“Snow angels,” Jim tells her. His voice crackles with amusement over the phone. “I tried to tell him you were meant to do them the other way up, but apparently then they don’t have faces.”
Michael is windmilling his arms and legs up and down, churning up the snow, and she has to hold her side to stop a laugh from bubbling to the surface.
Especially since Dwight is breathing down her neck. “What’s going on? Is Michael hurt?” He pushes Pam aside to see. “Oh no. I’m coming, Michael!”
“You should come down too,” Jim says in her ear. “I’ve convinced Michael we need an afternoon making snowmen.”
Pam grins, reaching for her coat. (Dwight has already elbowed past her, coat forgotten). “Did that take much convincing?” she enquires.
“It’s team building, Pam.”
“Right, of course.” She zips her coat up tight, still smiling. The others in the office are starting to look up now.
“Is it five o’clock already?” Kevin asks hopefully.
“Can you even tell the time?” Angela snaps back.
“Michael’s downstairs,” is all Pam says in explanation.
She can see each of them weighing up an afternoon of work versus an afternoon with Michael. It’s a tough call.
But it’s snowing, and Jim is downstairs, so…
Pam pushes aside her guilt and slips past the tangled red wool sitting accusingly on her desk. She’ll limit herself to one hour in the snow with him before she gets back to it. Just an hour. Just once.
Surely, she thinks as she hurries for the elevator, she can grant herself one hour of happiness at Christmas.
Three hours later, there are six lopsided snowmen standing in the Dunder Mifflin car park.
Two of them belong to Dwight, who has thrown himself into the task with a terrifying - and entirely expected - level of intensity.
Half of one belongs to Phyllis and Stanley, who soon gave up and are now drinking something hot from Stanley’s car. Kevin has joined them.
One is Kelly and Toby’s, although Toby seems to have done most of the actual snow-rolling while Kelly put herself in charge of accessorising. Oscar has got quite into the accessories too, now that he’s finished critiquing the snow and explaining how to get the perfect globe.
Creed and Devin are nowhere to be seen, and Angela had point blank refused to come out. (Although Pam’s pretty sure she’s seen her pinched face at the office window a couple of times).
Michael is busy trying to make his the tallest snowman. He’d been forced to abandon the boobies he and Kevin were trying to fashion for it, and now he seems to be in some kind of competition with Dwight.
Jim and Pam’s snowman is the furthest away. They’d picked a quiet spot on the other side of Jim’s car. Pam’s hands are numb with cold, her lips chapped, and this might be the most fun she’s had all day.
Their snowman has been temporarily forgotten, because she hadn’t been able to resist dropping some snow down the back of Jim’s coat.
He’d been kneeling down, and she’d spied her golden opportunity - she’d never normally be tall enough to reach - and crept up behind him with a small fistful. The back of his neck had seemed oddly vulnerable for a moment, with her standing close enough to touch his thick dark hair, momentarily caught by the soft down on his nape as he crouched there unaware. He’d been focused on putting the snowman’s buttons on for her. So diligent and careful. He’d been close enough to breathe in his scent, a hint of aftershave and soap and something inherently Jim, the fabric of his coat, the cold. For a moment she’d imagined wrapping her hands over his eyes, pressing her lips to his bare neck and -
She’d startled at the thought, and then quickly dumped the snow down his coat instead.
Jim had yelped, and she’d fallen back, giggling with delight and maybe a bit of relief. Relief that might have turned her laughter hysterical, but it wasn’t like anyone could tell anyway in all the swirling snow. She’d had tears streaming down her face as Jim stood up, shaking himself. Only he could make a face at her like that.
“Really, Beesly?” His hair is now damp at the back.
“I slipped,” she protests as she backs away from him, still laughing. She’s forgotten about the others altogether, her gaze locked on the determination dancing in Jim’s eyes as he advances on her. She can see his hand reaching behind his back.
“With a handful of snow?”
She scrambles backwards, further away from the others, barely aware of the part of her that’s as desperate to be caught as she is desperate not to be.
Roy doesn’t roughhouse with her as much as he did in high school, because he always goes too far. Tickles her too hard, lifts her too high, dunks her for too long. She used to feel genuine fear under the teasing playfulness sometimes. Not fear that he’d hurt her, exactly, as much as fear that it would end in tears and he’d get baffled and annoyed and end up having to grumble an apology, and they’d have spoiled a nice time again.
She’s not scared that Jim will hurt her. She doesn’t know where that knowledge has come from, that quiet certainty that he won’t take it too far, that buried sliver of her that longs to see what he’ll do if he does catch her.
She doesn’t have time to register the direction of her thoughts, because fight or flight has taken over. Only on some level she’s not trying hard enough to do either.
“It happens,” she says weakly as she realises Jim has her cornered against his car. He’s grinning down at her, and she can’t remember what they’re talking about any more.
He lunges, and they end up scuffling, his long body pinning her with ease, his hands firm and gentle as she ends up backwards in the snow with him.
She’s winded for a second, and so is he, their pants of laughter trapped in the frigid air between them.
“Oops,” Jim manages. “Guess I slipped too.”
His arms are framing her enough that she can’t get up, but he’s careful not to lean his full weight on her. She wonders what the full weight of his body on top of hers would feel like. Jim. Her friend. She squirms beneath him, but makes no real effort to get up. She thinks he’d stand up the moment she did, and she loves him for it even as she wonders what it would be like if he didn’t. If he tried to hold onto her.
(These are giddy, snow-filled thoughts, because she’s spent too long out in the cold and Christmas makes her stupid sometimes).
He’s gazing down at her, his hair gleaming with snow. She sees his bared throat move. She thinks distantly of a half-finished scarf, bright red wool that she can’t picture him wearing. She thinks of someone knitting something just for him. Just to keep him warm. The thought makes her unbearably sad, and she’s not sure why.
His lips part, and she swears time stills, frozen in the middle of the car park between the snow and the heat of Jim’s body as he reaches slowly down to her.
But he moves lower, and he’s picked something up. It takes her a second to realise it’s her necklace. It must have fallen out of her coat.
She looks at the tiny gold unicorn pendant in Jim’s long gloved fingers, the delicate chain cool around her neck, his touch infinitely gentle as he examines it.
“I think this one’s my favourite.” His voice is low and hoarse between them.
She’s not sure whether it’s his voice or the things he’s saying that make something shiver inside her. Maybe it’s the way favourite catches at the back of his throat. His lowered lashes as he takes in the detail of a pendant that she’s twisted and toyed with a hundred times, that she could trace with her eyes closed. She thinks she might be the only person who’s looked at it that closely before. Most people wouldn’t bother. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice what necklace she was wearing, let alone have a favourite. How can Jim have a favourite?
“Thanks.” Her own voice is stuck. She thinks dizzily that she’s never anyone’s favourite anything. Even Roy -
Her senses trickle back to her then, and she wonders if the fluttering in her stomach is actually nausea.
“Roy bought it for me.”
Her words should be enough to break the spell. They’re just enough to make Jim flinch. Just the barest fraction. She pretends she doesn’t notice, and so does he. But he doesn’t move off her. Not just yet. She’s relieved and terrified at the same time.
“Oh.” His brow has knitted. He still hasn’t let go of the necklace. “Roy’s, uh, got good taste.”
She feels her cheeks heat. “Well…I mean, technically, I chose it. He gave me the voucher.”
Jim looks down at her. His eyes flicker back to the pendant. “Then you have good taste,” he says softly. There’s something that might almost sound like a challenge there. If she let it.
“I know a unicorn’s kind of lame.” She finds herself babbling, and she’s not sure why. She still feels breathless. Maybe because of the way Jim’s still looking at the necklace, and at her. “Roy would never get me anything that - girly. But I wanted to pick something out for me. And…guys aren’t great at buying jewellery, right?”
She tells herself she’s imagining it, the way Jim’s gaze ghosts over her engagement ring. It’s hidden by her mitten, anyway. And she’s probably just projecting because it’s where her own thoughts have turned. She couldn’t really be disappointed with her engagement ring, not when Roy had picked it out for her, not when he’d finally given it to her.
“Right,” is all Jim says at last.
The silence settles between them, and for some reason her eyes feel like they’re on the verge of pricking with tears. Which makes no sense. It’s the snow, she thinks. It’s the cold.
“We should finish our snowman,” she says at last. Her voice comes out stiff now.
She sees something shutter in his expression, and when he finally lets go of her necklace her stomach drops. But he climbs quickly off her, and helps her up, because he’s Jim.
They make the finishing touches to their snowman in silence, and it’s a different kind of relief when Michael yells that it’s time for them all to be judged. A dull, familiar relief.
Michael also announces that he will be doing the judging. Of course.
As they gather together before the snowmen, Pam sees that Angela has appeared outside. Her arms are folded in clear disapproval, but she seems to be looking forward to the judgement. Pam would be willing to bet she’s hoping for scores.
Phyllis and Stanley’s half-finished snowman is quickly disqualified. Stanley doesn’t even look up from his crossword. “Does this mean I can go home now?”
Phyllis is also looking hopefully at her watch, and Pam remembers her Secret Santa with a pang.
Jim has shoved his hands into his pockets at her side, and he’s not quite looking at her. She’s not quite looking at him either. But it’ll be fine. They’ll go inside and warm up, and -
“What is THAT?”
Michael has moved onto the first of Dwight’s snowmen.
Kelly starts laughing, and Pam feels something clench as she follows their gazes.
It’s her scarf. Roy’s scarf.
Dwight has crammed it onto his snowman, the already mangled wool stretched and now soaked with snow. It sort of looks like the snowman is bleeding. Pam stares at it in slow-dawning horror, her hands bunching at her sides. Kelly is still laughing, oblivious, as Michael screeches that it’s the ugliest thing he’s ever seen.
Dwight has ruined it. Even more than it already was.
She turns speechlessly to him. There’s a triumphant glint in his gaze, his chest thrust out. But it’s when she catches Angela’s smirk out of the corner of her eye that Pam finally loses it.
“I can’t believe you.”
Her voice is choked and pathetic, and now she really is crying - her fault, because she left it on her desk while she was out here, while Jim was -
She can see the concern written all over Jim's face, but she can’t take that either, and she pushes past him as she turns and runs away.
Michael is deeply thrown by Pam running off in tears. Even Dwight looks awkward for a moment. Almost unsure.
Michael scratches his head. “Is it her time of the month, or something?”
“Probably,” Dwight attempts, trying to recover. “She’s-”
“No,” Jim speaks up. “It’s not. That’s the scarf she was knitting for Roy. Dwight took it.”
Michael’s eyes boggle, unused to dealing with an angry Jim. He turns to Dwight uncertainly. “Is that true?”
Dwight pulls himself upright. “She was knitting on company time-”
“That’s theft, Michael,” Jim interjects. “And defacement of personal property.”
Dwight chokes. “It is not!”
“It is, actually,” Toby clears his throat. He baulks under Dwight’s glare, but manages to repeat meekly, “It is.”
Phyllis, Oscar and Kevin are all frowning now too, and Dwight is starting to look distinctly wrong-footed. Jim can’t even really enjoy that, though, because Pam is somewhere in the parking lot crying. And the look on her face couldn’t have said any more clearly that she didn’t want him to come after her. Which he’s not sure he can blame her for after the weirdness he helped create down in the snow, but still feels like a gut-punch.
“Well,” Michael struggles, uneasy with the growing tension, “Sounds like it was all just a harmless prank! Right?”
“Pam’s upset, Michael.”
Michael’s face falls, at that, and even Dwight looks down at the floor.
“Ok, ok,” Michael says at last. “Dwight, go home. You’re dismissed for the day.”
Dwight’s head jerks up, outraged. “But-”
“Go home, Dwight! No one makes our receptionist cry. Except me,” Michael adds after a beat. “Am I right?” He turns, hopeful, and then sees Jim isn’t smiling. “No one,” he amends, turning back. “And…I’m revoking your stapler privileges for a week.”
Jim’s pretty sure the guy has never had stapler privileges, or that Michael would even know what those were, but Dwight still looks devastated by this news.
“Phyllis,” Michael yells. “Come with me. We’re going to fix this!”
He marches off, dragging a bemused looking Phyllis, and as Jim calls after them that Pam went in the opposite direction, he prays she won’t need another person to comfort her after whatever comfort their boss has got planned.
Because if she won’t let Jim be that person, then he doesn’t know what to do.
Pam’s teeth are chattering by the time Michael eventually finds her. She feels frozen to the bench, but the thought of going back up there and everyone seeing that she’s been crying, the thought of seeing Dwight and Angela’s smirks, seeing Jim’s face after she’d made him feel bad for no reason other than her own guilt and stupidity -
She tries not to wince, turning her tearstained face away from her boss as he sits down beside her. The bench must be freezing for him too, but for once he doesn’t comment.
She feels his tentative hand on her shoulder. “Hey, come on now. No one wants to date a girl who cries all the time.”
“I’m engaged,” Pam points out dully.
Michael seems nonplussed by this. She shifts further down the bench, but he just moves with her.
“Come on, Pam-Pam. It’s not that bad.”
She gives up trying to edge away from him. At least he’s warm, she guesses. “You said it was the ugliest thing you’d ever seen.” Her voice is thick.
“Really?” Michael blinks. “I, uh, don’t - no, I think Dwight said that.”
Pam gives him a look through her tears.
“I’m pretty sure,” Michael adds unconvincingly. “Anyway, we can fix it.”
“How?” Pam mumbles. She feels weary all of a sudden. “Michael, I can’t knit to save my life-”
“But I know someone who can!” He’s practically beaming now as he waves someone over. “I brought back-up.”
Pam turns, confused, and sees Phyllis edging towards them. Michael must have told her to wait over at the side. Pam wonders if she’s also wondering what’s going on.
“Phyllis knits all the time,” Michael explains as the older woman approaches. “She’s great at it!”
Phyllis blushes in surprise, looking quite pleased with the rare - and actually nice - compliment from their boss. “I didn’t know you’d noticed.”
“Yeah, you’ve always got that stuff all over your desk.” Michael waves a hand. “It’s so good, I didn’t realise you’d made it all yourself.”
Phyllis blushes deeper, and Pam nearly smiles despite herself.
“See,” Michael goes on proudly. “Phyllis can fix your scarf for you.”
Pam swallows. “But it’s meant to be home-made.”
“And it will be! By Phyllis.” Michael is not to be deterred.
Pam rubs her eyes as she looks towards Phyllis. “I couldn’t ask you to-”
“She’d be happy to help!” Michael interrupts. “Right, Phyllis?”
At that, Phyllis looks uncomfortable. “Actually, I’ve been a little tight on time this year-”
“Oh for god’s sake, Phyllis! It’s Christmas!” Michael glares at her. “What is wrong with you?”
Phyllis hangs her head, and Pam jumps in before Michael can bite it all the way off. “That’s ok, don’t worry about it.”
“Well, I could make a start tonight,” Phyllis offers slowly, thoughtfully. “If you could maybe…help me with my Secret Santa?”
Pan gulps. “Really?”
“Deal!” Michael crows. “Pam is the best at helping with Secret Santa.” He nudges her. “Ok, problem solved.”
“I said, problem solved!”
He’s already leaping up, waving Phyllis off to get started on the knitting.
“Come on. Let’s get you inside before you turn into an icicle. A Pam-cicle!”
He’s cracking himself up over that one as he tugs her to her feet and offers her his coat. He’s so enthusiastic about helping her that Pam finds herself letting him bundle her up and usher her along. Sometimes it’s better that way, with Michael. And there’s a part of her that’s touched in spite of herself. Michael genuinely trying to be thoughtful is almost endearing. Sometimes.
To her relief, the office is empty by the time they get back up.
She checks that Phyllis is really ok with taking over the knitting, once Michael is out of earshot. Phyllis assures her she’d much rather be doing that than facing the mall tonight, and that this way she doesn’t have to worry because she knows Pam will pick something perfect for Jim.
“Because we’re friends,” Pam confirms quickly.
Phyllis gives her a smile. “Sure.”
There’s no sign of Jim. Part of Pam is deflated at the thought of him going straight home, even though she knows she has no right to be.
It’s as she’s hurrying down to catch the bus to the mall that she sees him.
He’s sat in his car, the sky darkening above him.
She waves a hand in careful greeting.
He waves back, and she feels something inside her settle.
As he turns the ignition and she makes for the bus stop, she tells herself he could have been waiting for anything - for anyone - and that her smile only hurts, and her chest is only tight, because it’s cold.
“Ok, Secret Santa time!”
It’s reached that stage of the afternoon where Michael is bouncing off the walls. The tree is up, despite Michael’s wailing that the one they’ve picked is way too small - “Next year, I’m in charge of the tree!” - and there’s tinsel on the walls (apparently a last minute allowance from Angela, who’s been a fraction kinder to Pam since the scarf incident), and industrial grade vodka, courtesy of Meredith, snuck into the festive punch.
Jim helped Pam hang the tinsel, and things are feeling like they’re back to normal between them. Which is a relief. Obviously. They’d spent most of the morning trading bad Christmas jokes over IM, and Jim is safely back to basking in every grin she shoots him, every soft giggle, every exasperated glance. Just basking. Nothing more. Like that moment in the snow never happened.
And Michael is wearing his Santa hat. So there can be no doubt that it’s Secret Santa time.
Dwight starts doling out the presents with his usual officiousness. Although Jim has noticed that he’s a little subdued today. Whether that’s the lack of stapler privileges getting to him, or the fact that his boss actually reprimanded him, Jim can’t tell. But Christmas miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Dwight hasn’t even insisted on wearing the elf ears.
Toby is very happy with the book on Costa Rica that Jim bought him - he’s got big plans to go there this summer - and Angela is so pleased with the mini cat couch from Pam that she actually gets up to thank her. Very rigidly. Jim hopes she’s feeling even guiltier about the scarf incident now.
Pam’s gift is next, and Jim finds himself holding his breath.
Michael is jiggling up and down in his seat, his smile wide, and Jim can see the trepidation in Pam’s eyes as she sees the same thing.
She tears the paper cautiously, as though afraid of what she’ll find inside.
“It’s - oh.” Her eyes widen as she pulls out the soft striped scarf, the tension disappearing from her shoulders. “This is lovely.”
Her gaze flickers to Jim, who just raises his hands.
She turns back to Michael, still amazed, and the man looks pleased as punch.
“Merry Christmas, Am-pay.” He winks at her.
“Thank you, Michael.” Pam is quiet and genuine as she wraps the scarf around her neck.
Jim feels pleasantly warm as he watches her smile, her fingers running over the fabric. Things are good.
Then it’s his turn for his gift.
He’s worked out, by process of elimination, that Phyllis must have got him this year. Which should be nice. Right? Even if Michael getting him again last year ended up meaning an indirect gift from Pam, it’ll be nice to actually get a real Secret Santa present. It’s not something to feel wistful about.
And he knows Phyllis’s gift will be thoughtful.
He’s aware of Pam watching him as he opens the paper. He’s ready to force a smile regardless of what’s inside, but the gift is - oh. Wow. It’s really nice.
It’s a scarf. Soft and striped in blue and black.
He pulls it out, wondering. “Thanks, Phyllis,” he enthuses. "This is great.”
Pam is now fiddling with her own scarf, and it hasn’t escaped Jim’s notice that they’re not entirely dissimilar. This scarf feels as soft as Pam’s had when he’d held it up the other day. Did Phyllis come across the same stall?
“Ok,” Michael yells, dragging the attention back to him, “Gift time is over! Which means it’s officially…party time!”
He hits play on the boombox he’s brought in, and jarringly loud Christmas pop fills the office.
“Bring out the punch!”
Meredith is already running to fetch it. Dwight has seized the boombox and set himself up as DJ, and Kevin is reaching for the plug-in disco ball that Kelly gifted him for Secret Santa.
“Party time,” Jim mouths over to Pam, and she shakes her head back. She’s still wearing her scarf. He smiles, fingering his own.
They’re both still wearing their scarves a few hours later.
Roy and Darryl have led the exodus to Poor Richards, and Jim and Pam have ended up staying to keep an eye on a beyond drunk Michael. Turns out he didn’t realise what was in the punch. They’ve had to stop him from calling Jan several times, and Jim suspects corporate might start cracking down harder on alcohol at these events in future.
The guy is currently sprawled on Jim’s desk, snoring.
Jim and Pam look at each other over his prone body. Jim can see that Pam is trying not to laugh. The Christmas music is still playing - one tape that Michael’s had on a loop - tinsel and plastic cups strewn about, the Christmas tree lights casting everything in a soft glow. The snow is still falling thick and heavy outside.
Jim’s also had too much punch. He thinks Pam has too.
“Did you see Meredith grinding on Packer?” she asks him now. She’s giggly and a bit flushed.
“Every year,” Jim groans. “Without fail.”
“Do you think they-”
“Nope.” Jim shudders. “Nope, nope, nope. Don’t even want to think about it.”
Pam giggles again. “Maybe it doesn’t count when you’re drunk,” she murmurs, fiddling with her necklace. (He’s drunk enough that he’s let himself notice it’s the unicorn one again).
He moves closer to put his cup down. “It definitely still counts, and I definitely still don’t want to think about it.” He points at her. “Stop, Pam.”
Her grin is so cute.
He drags his eyes away.
“What are we gonna do about Michael?”
Usually Dwight would be here to take care of him, but Dwight had - for once - ended up leaving the party early. Jim wasn’t sure if it was Roy’s presence after the scarf incident, or the conversation he’d overheard between Dwight and Phyllis about buying more wool. Either way, Dwight had muttered something about needing to tend to his animals before he slipped out.
“We could cover him up in a blanket,” Pam suggests. Like she’s being very logical.
Jim looks at her, and starts laughing. “What?”
“What? That’s a great idea!”
Jim’s had too much punch to do more than continue laughing. “I’m sorry, yes. You’re a genius. Let’s find a blanket.”
They can’t find a blanket in the end, but between them they manage to locate a throw from one of the couches in the women’s bathroom. Pam proceeds to then very seriously tuck it around Michael, with Jim’s help, until the man is snug as a rug in a bug. Or…something. Definitely too much punch.
Pam gazes down at their ridiculous boss with something verging on fondness. Jim will again blame the punch. “He looks almost peaceful when he’s asleep,” she sighs.
“Almost,” Jim agrees.
“He’s gonna to be a nightmare tomorrow, isn’t he?”
They’re now standing at Michael’s feet, closer than they’ve been all evening. Pam is swaying slightly to the music. Jim can feel his own head dipping in response. Cheesy music that makes them both grin, self-consciously. Won’t you please bring my baby to me? The Christmas tree lights catch the gold in her hair. Her scarf has come loose, trailing the length of her body.
She tilts her face up to look at him, and the movement makes her stumble into him. Too much punch, he remembers as he steadies her.
One of her hands has caught in his own scarf.
He glances down at it.
When he lifts his head, their mouths are closer than he thought. She’s so warm. He can see the green in her eyes, the lights and tinsel reflected in them. She smells of punch and a hint of candy cane. She swallows. He can’t tear his gaze away from her.
Michael releases a loud snore from behind them.
Pam ducks her head, smiling.
And then, just as Jim is concluding that’s it - the moment's over, if there ever even was one - she leans up on her tiptoes and presses a kiss to his cheek. Her curls brush his face, her lips soft. He feels the thrumming in his blood, just from that one chaste kiss, all the way down to his feet. His cheeks are burning. Hers look like they are too.
“Merry Christmas,” she whispers before she pulls away.
She’s definitely drunk too much, and so has he.
But he finds his mouth curving upwards as he murmurs back, “Merry Christmas, Pam.”