For a moment, Jim contemplated just continuing his slow dance with Karen. He could find Pam later and maybe see if he could convince her some more to show off her dance moves after another drink. After all, he'd had to watch her and Roy for years, she could survive watching him dance with Karen this one time.
Only when he imaged Pam and Roy dancing together, just imagined it even now they weren't engaged, his jaw tightened and his stomach twisted and suddenly he was pulling away from Karen with a mumbled "sorry," as he took long strides down the route Pam had just taken. He would have hated if the situation had been flipped. He felt bad for Karen, realised that he should have just finished the dance and excused himself at the end of the song, but something told him he'd regret just letting Pam wander off with that expression on her face.
He caught up with her just as she reached the outskirts of the room, reaching out and grabbing onto her hand with a quiet but urgent "Pam," with a gentle pull on her fingers to stop her.
Feeling the tug on her fingers, Pam turned her head and stared for a few seconds at the messy, desperate way Jim had grabbed onto her hand - he was mostly holding her fingers, but his thumb had reached the back of her hand and his index finger was on her palm. She raised her gaze to meet his eyes and responded with a "yeah?" which sounded more like a statement in her attempt not to sound as choked up as she felt.
"Umm," Jim dropped Pam's hand so she could turn around properly to face him, and he scratched the back of his neck nervously. He wanted to ask about her famous dance moves to break the tension, but it didn't quite feel like the right moment for humor. He could feel Pam staring at his shoulder as she waited for him to get his words out. "I- will you dance with me?"
"Oh," Pam immediately looked up at him, shocked. She wanted to make some quip that he clearly already had a dance partner, but she knew this wasn't the time for it. Jim wouldn't have abandoned Karen with no reason, and whether he told her that reason or not, his gesture was enough for now. Clearing her throat, she managed a small smile. "Yeah, okay."
Although he knew it was risky - both because his girlfriend was probably definitely watching, and literally all their colleagues were in the room too - Jim held out his hand to take Pam's and led her back towards the dancefloor. His heart was racing, and he knew it was more because he was about to dance with Pam than because he was worried about what everyone else was thinking. Reaching a quiet spot on the dancefloor, they nervously assumed their positions. Jim easily stood closer to Pam than he had with Karen, though it wasn't a conscious effort.
As soon as Jim's hands were holding Pam's waist - tentatively, but a definite hold - and her hands settled up on his shoulders, their bodies close together as she looked up at him, Pam felt everything melt away. Her annoyance that Phyllis had stolen her wedding, her discomfort at Roy's comments, her heartbreak at watching Jim dance with Karen: everything was gone and she existed solely in this moment. Pam was absolutely, completely, irrevocably in love with this man. Months, years of trying to deny and change this had been fruitless. The comfort she felt in his arms overtook and silenced any niggling thoughts or trained arguments in her mind that she would normally guard herself with.
Jim could feel the way the tension left Pam's body; it almost felt like she melted into this comfortable version of herself in his arms. He held onto her a little tighter, bringing his right hand round to her back a fraction. He briefly thought back to his quick comments to the cameras about Pam hypothetically still being interested. Non-hypothetical: he was still very much in love with this woman. The fact that she agreed to dance with him and had a small smile on her face made him feel like she at least was actually interested in him romantically. He caught her eye again and his heart swooped. God, he loved her so much.
Towards the end of the second song, Pam rested her forehead gently against his chest and let out a satisfied sigh before looking back up at him. She could stay dancing in this magical bubble of theirs forever, but... he had asked her to dance. If he had the courage for that in front of all these people, she could find it in herself to have the courage to talk to him. It would be easy to pretend this meant nothing - they had years of experience with pretending, but what if it was just as easy to tell him that she loved him?
"Let's have some champagne," Pam said quietly.
"Sounds good," Jim smiled.
Pam wanted to kiss him then and there, but she wasn't going to cause a Kelly-level scandal. "I'll go get our coats and drinks. I'll wait on the bench out front."
Taking her hint, Jim nodded. "Yeah. I'll meet you outside."
As Pam slipped away from him, the real world fell back into focus. Suddenly he could feel Karen's angry gaze from their table, could hear his brain telling him that leaving her mid-dance was definitely a bad move, could see Kelly watching a few feet away with her mouth open in shock. Licking his lips, he turned on the spot and walked back to his table, sitting down next to Karen and clearing his throat.
"What the actual fuck, Jim?" Karen asked immediately, and he could tell from her voice that she couldn't decide if she was mostly angry or hurt by his actions. "Who does that? You left me there on the dancefloor in the middle of a slow, romantic song for another woman."
"I'm sorry," Jim apologised; he didn't know what else to say. It's not as though he regretted it. He could feel Karen putting it all together as she stared at him while he looked down at his shoes. If he looked up he'd be too tempted to seek out a smile from Pam for support.
"It's not just... feelings, is it? It wasn't just some crush," Karen frowned. "God, all those nights we spent talking and you managed to actually convince me that it was just... just feelings and just a kiss and it's not, is it?"
Well, he wasn't going to lie to her now. A wedding wasn't the best place for deep truths and break-ups but here he was. "No."
"Fuck," Karen groaned quietly, though she was desperate to scream the word. She paused to compose herself; she was furious but didn't want to cause a huge scene at someone else's wedding who she barely knew. She got on okay with Phyllis, but she had a suspicion that Phyllis only told her about Jim and Pam on their sales call to make her jealous. "Do you know how humiliating this is? Not just abandoning me on the dancefloor to dance with Pam, but actually dating me to use as some convenient... what, shield against her? Before we moved to Scranton you weren't interested but at least I knew where we stood and we had fun as friends, but as soon as we got here it was like... I can't believe it's taken me this long to realise. Jesus."
"Hey," Jim said softly, turning to look at Karen properly. "I'm really sorry. I've pulled some really crappy moves, not just tonight, and you don't deserve that. Just because I'm not in love with you, doesn't mean I don't care about you."
Rolling her eyes, Karen scoffed out an "oh, thanks."
"It's true. I know it doesn't feel like it and maybe I didn't show that I care, but I do."
"So what, we're breaking up at a wedding now?"
"Guess so," Jim nodded. He didn't blame Karen for being angry; it was an awful place for a break-up. But equally, a great place to dance with the woman you love.
"Wow. Sure feels like you care about me."
He wanted to tell Karen that he hoped she found someone she loved as much as he loved Pam, but he figured that wasn't a sentiment she would appreciate right now. He didn't know if Pam knew he still loved her, but Karen did and that was enough knowledge for her to deal with for one night. "I know this is fucked up, and I totally take full responsibility for this all."
"Well who the hell else is responsible for this?" Karen asked him incredulously. "My God you're an ass."
"I just meant that-"
"No, look, I get it, you love Pam. Good for you. I was just some distraction to try get over her, but I guess I just wasn't enough. But hey, good to know where we actually stand. Good work with all your bullshit lies you told me while trying to convince me you were actually in this relationship with me. This is on me for choosing to believe your obvious lies and ignore all those looks between you both at work. At least I'm out of this weird triangle."
Karen stood up quickly, forcefully grabbing her clutch bag from the table with a huff.
"I'm really sorry," Jim said again, at a loss of what else to tell her at this point. She looked done with the conversation, and he didn't blame her.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Karen snapped. "Have fun. Thank you for wasting the last few months of my life. Good luck reconciling with the love of your fucking life."
Jim's brows raised as he watched her walk away. Of course he was a little upset about ending this chapter of his life, but Karen was right. He could now reconcile with the love of his fucking life if things went right. There was time in the world to explain things better to Karen, but that wasn't for a fresh break-up talk. Besides, Pam was waiting for him.
Giving an awkward smile to the three other people seated at his table, Jim stood up and scanned the room. He shook his head in half disbelief, half amusement when he saw Karen standing with Roy at the bar. He couldn't see Pam, so figured she had already gone outside to wait, and made his way to the doors. He could feel some people were watching him, but he no longer cared. Pam was waiting for him.
He spotted her sitting on a bench outside, two flutes of champagne beside her, his coat on her lap. She was tracing patterns on the fabric of his coat sleeve with her index finger, which put a smile on his face. The smile grew into a grin as Pam turned to watch him upon hearing his approach. It was like his conversation with Karen was suddenly far in the past.
"Hey," Jim couldn't help his grin; being able to just look at her for so long with no other reason than he wantedto was wonderful.
"Hey," Pam grinned back at him, holding out his coat.
He put his coat on in silence, then sat down beside Pam on the bench. They picked up their champagne flutes and gently clinked them together, gentle smiles and flirty eye contact flitting into the silence as they sipped their champagne.
"So," Jim began.
"So," Pam repeated with a nod. "How was... how did it go?"
"Well," Jim held back a smile as he looked up at the sky. "Karen and I are... no longer together."
"Oh," Pam looked down at her champagne as she bit back a grin. Of course, she was happy about this information, but it felt slightly insensitive given now someone else was single and probably broken hearted.
They sat silently for a moment, before Pam looked up at Jim and inched her hands towards his on the bench. "Thank you for asking me to dance."
"Well, thanks for dancing with me," Jim skimmed his fingers along Pam's. "I was scared you'd say no."
"I almost did," Pam admitted. She watched as Jim's fingers lightly linked with hers, mesmerised by the immediate comfort she felt from the gentle hold. "I nearly - ugh, it was stupid - nearly said that you already had a dance partner but it's... the whole wedding has been like I need a sign to remind me why I bothered coming here today. Being reminded of the wedding you were planning to throw, that you are very much alone, that the person you want to be dancing with at weddings has someone else to do that with... it just doesn't add up to a fun time. So when you asked and I realised I had this chance to just say yes... well, even if all I've gotten out of it was a dance, it was worth it to be here."
They sat silently for almost a full minute, hands gently linked, simply existing in the moment together. Jim had learned from the past that too big a move could scare Pam, even in moments like this where she seemed to be sitting somewhat comfortably on a cloud of honesty. He turned his head towards her, his heart picking up speed. He wanted so much to play this moment right for once. "I hope a dance isn't all you get out of tonight."
To Jim's complete surprise, Pam nodded and turned to look at him. There was no long pause that he'd expected, no hesitation, no pulling her hand away.
"I hope so too," Pam said softly. She bit her lip before bringing her other hand around to pick up her champagne flute so she could take a sip. Although she didn't feel the usual fear and discomfort that came along with having to leave herself open and vulnerable emotionally, she fancied the bubbles to buoy her words along slightly. "That dance was the single happiest moment in my life since we kissed at your desk on that casino night."
All Jim could do was stare at her, almost physically taken aback by her words. "I-" He cleared his throat, taking a moment to find his words. The moment almost didn't feel real. "I feel exactly the same way."
"Oh, good," Pam breathed a sigh of relief, mixed with a slight giggle. "I was beginning to think that was just such a sad thing to admit."
"No, no, it makes sense," Jim shrugged slightly. He took a sip of his champagne, allowing the fizz to remind him he really wasn't just dreaming right now. "I don't imagine the last few months have been easy for you at all. Sorry."
"It was a lot to process," Pam said truthfully, "for both of us. And while there were moments I felt happier, that dance was just..." Sighing, Pam put down her champagne flute and stared at it for a few seconds before returning her gaze to Jim's. "I wish I had been honest with you, with myself... with Roy," she shook her head, "before it got to the point that it all did. When I look back I missed so many opportunities. I could have avoided so much pain for so many people."
"Yeah, I get that," Jim nodded. "The whole time Karen was saying all this stuff and I just thought... hurting her, hurting you, that could have just... not happened. I thought I was trying to protect myself but it just made so much it worse. When we were dancing, I couldn't believe this is what I've been missing out on."
"I know what you mean. It felt right."
"It felt right."
Pam found herself hesitating for a moment and wondered how Jim had worked up the courage to tell her he loved her that night, and to come back and try again by kissing her. She realised she finally had the ‘right moment' she kept telling herself she didn't have; the power to finally do the one thing she wished she had done months ago. Hadn't she spent enough time regretting not speaking the truth? Pam found herself standing up to try control the nerves; the anxiety that this could all go wrong, the excitement that this could all go right.
"I love you, Jim," Pam announced calmly, keeping her eyes on Jim. "I hope it's not too late, that I'm not... misinterpreting things right now. If it is too late then... at least I've said it. Maybe our timing hasn't always been right, I don't know. But when you said no to going for coffee, I thought we could at least get back to being best friends, but you're right, I want to be more than that. I want to always feel the way I did while we were dancing."
The way Jim simply stared at her in surprise had Pam anxiously twiddling her fingers in her pockets. She remembered the way her whole body had felt like it was about to explode when Jim had told her he loved her almost a year ago, and that the "what?" that had come out of her mouth had been an almost autonomic response while her brain tried to catch up. Did the world stop for Jim the same way it had for her when the words ‘I love you' were said out loud?
"Pam, I-" Jim finally got out as a smile spread across his face. If she wasn't standing staring straight at him, if he didn't have the lingering taste of champagne and the chill of the light breeze grounding him in reality, he really would think this was a dream. He was at least a hundred percent sure his heart was going to explode. He shook his head in disbelief as Pam bit her lip. "I love you too."
"You do?" Pam's eyes widened slightly, and she was sure her heart had just skipped a beat with the way she felt a lurch in her chest. Part of her wanted to scream to let out every emotion running through her in that moment.
"Well, yeah," Jim shrugged, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"God," Pam breathed out, feeling her eyes tear up slightly.
"I know these past few months - God, it's almost been a year - it's been difficult," Jim scratched his chin, "and I have so many regrets. I guess we both made maybe wrong decisions along the way to protect ourselves. We have so much to talk through, and maybe it won't be easy, but I don't care. I just love you. And you... God... you love me. So that's all that matters. That's all I care about."
"It feels surreal."
"Tell me about it," Jim chuckled.
"So... what do we do now?" Pam asked, biting her lip. She had imagined telling Jim ‘I love you' a hundred different ways, but this wasn't one of them. She would be lying to herself by pretending they didn't all end the same way. Pam suddenly wished she hadn't decided to stand up to tell Jim she loved him. Why did you do this like you're heading a conference room meeting?
Almost as though Jim was reading her thoughts, he quirked a brow at her and smirked before saying, "you could at least sit down, you know."
"I'm sorry, I was nervous!" Pam laughed, finally removing her hands from her pockets to shake the nerves out. The second Pam sat down beside Jim, he'd grabbed her hands and pulled her back up quickly. Confused, Pam stared at him and began trying to ask "what-"
"Shit, sorry, I don't know, I got nervous," Jim squeezed her hands as he let out an awkward chuckle, "I thought it would be funny or like, spontaneous prank?"
"Spontaneous prank?" Pam raised a brow in jest. "Jim. Now? Seriously?"
"Yeah, sorry, I should've just gone with a romantic moment kind of thing, I just-"
Jim's words were cut off as Pam tiptoed up to kiss him. He could feel her smile at his equal nervousness as she started the kiss in the few seconds he simply stood there in surprise. Once he came to his senses, bringing one hand to hold her face and one to her lower back, he felt Pam's smile fade as he responded to the kiss, encouraging her along. Her hands, which had started on his shoulders, glided down his arms only to make their way up his chest where they paused briefly before she wrapped her arms loosely around his neck.
While Pam had only intended for this to be a short kiss to seal whatever they were becoming, she had no regrets about deepening the kiss slightly. After all, she had been waiting for this moment since Jim had kissed her at the casino night; based on the way Jim instantly reacted she figured maybe he had too.
As the thought I can't believe I'm having an actual open mouth kiss with Jim floated around Pam's mind, she let out a giggle.
Pulling away slightly, Jim grinned as he asked "what?", tilting his head in amusement at Pam's antics.
Pam blushed as she shook her head. "Just... it's so silly, umm," a small giggle escaped her again as she looked up at Jim. Both his hands were on her lower back now, and she leaned back slightly, enjoying the pull towards his body his hands were creating. "I was thinking like, wow, we're having an open mouth kiss and it felt my brain was back in high school."
"Wow, you went from Fancy New Beesly to High School Beesly real fast," Jim chuckled. He started swaying them ever so slightly as he shifted his weight from foot to foot in time to the music they could hear spilling out from the band inside.
"Oh, yeah, and High School Jim would have done any better?" Pam challenged, with a raised brow and slight smirk. Their swaying, which she quickly decided still counted as dancing, felt incredibly soothing.
"Hmm," Jim tilted his head from side to side in contemplation before deciding on a simple "nope, not at all."
"Thought so," Pam giggled. "I guess-"
This time it was Jim who paused Pam mid-sentence with a kiss. He leaned down, pulling her closer towards him. The kiss was intense enough that Pam felt one of her knees buckle slightly, but short enough that their thoughts were still in order when Jim pulled away. "You wanna get out of here?"
"Uh-huh," Pam nodded instantly.
"Do you need anything else from inside?"
Pam grinned up at him. "Nope, I have all I need."
"Great," Jim gave Pam a look of adoration and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before reluctantly letting go and holding out his arm.
About to take his arm, Pam suddenly turned back to the bench. "Shoot, the champagne glasses. I don't really wanna go back in there."
"Me neither. Umm... we can leave them just inside the door?"
"Yeah, okay," Pam picked up her flute and had the final sip of her champagne, feeling Jim do the same next to her. As they walked up to the large front doors, Jim passed his flute to her and she placed them on a ledge inside. Turning to head back down the stairs, she bumped straight into Jim who had stopped suddenly. "Jim, what - oh, hey guys!"
Pam waved awkwardly as she saw Dwight and Angela heading up the steps, both looking in opposite directions as though it had been choreographed; they had both stopped with the same foot on the same step when they heard Pam.
A brief look of surprise crossed Dwight's face before he schooled his features back to a neutral expression and cleared his throat. "Jim, Pam. What are you doing out here?"
"Same thing as you, probably," Jim said, noticing the way Angela was just about hiding her discomfort about the situation with a clearly forced, tight smile, "which is taking a walk. It's noisy inside."
"Alright then," Dwight nodded, as he looked Jim and Pam over once more. He cleared his throat again and headed up the stairs.
"We're just leaving," Pam said as she took in Angela's stare. She knew part of it was judgement over finding Jim and Pam outside on their own, but most of it was from being seen outside on her own with Dwight. Pam was pretty certain that Angela knew that her secret relationship with Dwight wasn't much of a secret to Pam, but she had no idea whether or not Angela and Jim had any form of understanding of their own about it between them. "Enjoy the rest of your evening, Angela."
Angela looked from Pam to Jim and back again before replying with a stiff "thank you" and making her way up the stairs.
"That was weird," Jim raised a brow.
"Yeah," Pam agreed. She figured she'd leave the prying for another day. Holding her hand out to Jim, she smiled. "Ready?"
"Lead the way, Beesly."