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Pam sat on the steps in front of the stadium with her arms wrapped around her legs to ward off the chill and tried not to cry. Really, it was no big deal. So he'd forgotten her. He was just really into the game, right? And he'd be back in a minute. Her breath caught in her throat a little as she swallowed another stupid hiccup that was suspiciously sob-like. He'd better be back in a minute.
On either side of her people streamed out of the stadium and down the stairs, laughing and calling to each other, their breath visible in the late November air, high on victory and the satisfaction of an evening of fun. Pam closed her eyes against the sight of them and willed Roy to get back soon, before the time lapse became unforgivable and she completely forgot that he was so cute and nice, and the she had felt like the luckiest girl in the world when he had asked her to this hockey game. Of course, that was before she realized it was a group date with his brother, and before he had actually forgotten she was there when she went to the bathroom and then left without her, but whatever.
The horde of exiting hockey goers was thinning out. Shivering a little, Pam untangled her arms and lifted her wrist to check her watch. Although it felt more like an hour she had only been sitting here for ten minutes. Surely Roy had realized by now that she was missing. She knew she had been kind of quiet tonight, but damn. Maybe she should have waited by their seats. Sighing, Pam grabbed her purse and started to stand up.
"Watch out!" Pam turned just as something slammed into her, knocking her backwards. She flipped down the remaining three steps entangled with what seemed like a lanky mass of jeans, down jacket and floppy brown hair, landing at the foot of the stairs on her back, pinned down by the surprisingly heavy weight of a boy who, as shocked as she, was blinking his green eyes in confusion inches from her face.
"Woo! Nice, Jim. Very smooth, man!" Jim glanced up at Matt and Derek, who were currently laughing their asses off at the top of the steps. At him. And, oh shit, this poor girl that he had just tackled and was now lying on top of in the middle of the sidewalk. Smooth indeed.
"Oh, shit!" he repeated out loud, scrambling up as quickly as possible without kicking or prodding her or otherwise causing more injury with his gangly limbs. He had grown eight inches since the summer, and sometimes his arms and legs still felt like they were controlled off site by someone who was not him. He knelt beside the girl, who was still lying there, probably shocked by this clumsy attack from a stranger, her pale face surrounded by a mass of long brown curls. They looked soft.
"Are you okay?" Instinctively, Jim reached down to pat her, to check for injuries, but yanked his hand back when he accidentally tangled his fingers in her hair. It was soft. He grabbed her hands to help her sit up and she sat there, blinking, still dazed and silent. Stooping a little, he bent his head to peer into her face. "Hey," he was getting worried, "Seriously, say something."
Pam shook her head a little, still winded from the fall, and glanced around. The tall boy with the worried eyes was kneeling beside her, his hands still holding hers, his fingers warm and dry. He was staring anxiously into her eyes, obviously waiting for her to say she was okay. His hair was falling over his eyes and Pam had the weirdest urge to brush it aside. With a start she realized he was close enough to kiss her. And where the hell did that come from? Pam took a deep breath and answered him, carefully not looking at his mouth. "Yeah. Sorry, I'm fine. Just stunned for a second."
The relief on his face was obvious. "Oh, thank god. Look, I'm so sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going. I was in a hurry and turned to say something to my friends," he gestured to two boys at the top of the stairs, who were both in a state of near hysterics, no doubt at her, "who are idiots, by the way." He frowned and shot his friends a very definite "shut up" look. "Anyway, I am so, so sorry. Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah." Pam met his eyes for a second and quickly looked away, her stomach dropping not unpleasantly. He was still holding her hands. "I'll just, um..." She started to stand up and he scrambled to help her, unfolding his legs and grasping her under the elbows until they were both on their feet and oh my god, he was tall. Pam tried looking at him again and still couldn't quite manage it. "Thanks, um...thanks," she said to the front of his jacket. God. Could she possibly be a bigger dork?
Jim was still holding the girl by the elbows and was starting to feel kind of like a dork. Even if she was too nice to say so, she was obviously pissed off. She wouldn't even look at him. Which was a shame, because her eyes seemed really pretty, at least in the brief glimpse he had gotten. As he stared at the top of her head he realized how close they were standing, almost embracing, and that she was really kind of tiny and her hair smelled like strawberries. He abruptly let go of her elbows and stepped back, feeling himself blush.
Pam glanced at the boy one more time - wait, was he blushing? - and all of a sudden the absurdity of the situation struck her and she started to laugh. The boy whipped his head up, for one second looking mortified, but as soon as he saw her face he seemed to get it, and burst out laughing, too. For a minute they both stood there laughing almost as hard as his friends at the top of the stairs. It was the best Pam had felt all night.
"Oh god." Pam finally said, wiping her eyes, "I'm sorry, but that was hilarious. We must have looked ridiculous."
"So true," Jim agreed, still snorting a little. "Well, I looked ridiculous. You were just an innocent bystander." She was finally looking him in the face, her eyes dancing with laughter, her cheeks pink. Maybe she wasn't pissed off, after all. "I am totally sorry," he said, one more time.
She waved her hand in the air. "Seriously, don't worry about it. I was bored sitting there, anyway."
"Well, in that case, happy I could help." Jim said, and for some reason that set them off again, and this time they couldn't stop. Each time they would get it under control they would glance at each other and break out in a fresh fit of hysteria.
"It's not that funny, I don't know why I can't stop laughing." Pam finally said, holding her stomach.
"You're right, it isn't funny," Jim said, still wheezing a little, "But I, for one, am glad we still feel close enough to laugh about it together. Some relationships wouldn't survive such an incident."
"Yes," Pam agreed, going with the joke, not stopping to wonder why she suddenly felt so happy, "it could have totally ruined our non-existent relationship. Thank god we worked through it."
She was smiling right into his eyes and Jim felt it almost like a shock. Like a delayed reaction, he could feel the phantom memory of her warm body underneath his. He shifted his weight uncomfortably and glanced back at her face. She was still smiling, and it gave him courage. "Listen, how about I make this up to you?"
Her smile got a little bigger. Wow. She was really cute.
"No, really, I'm fine. Now, when someone intentionally pushes me down the stairs," she teased, her eyes dancing a little, "I always make them make it up to me. But since it was an accident, you're off the hook." She waved a hand at the arena behind them as if to reference sports terminology. "No harm, no foul."
Jim fixed her with a faux serious look. "Hey, never be afraid to call a foul. They know what they did."
She laughed again, as he had hoped she would, the giggles bubbling up. "What, is that some kind of obscure sports rule?"
"If by 'obscure' you mean 'known only to me', then absolutely." Jim grinned back, taking a step closer. "But seriously, I feel terrible. Let me take you out for a pizza or something." He saw her eyes widen, making her even more adorable. "You'd be doing me a favor, actually. You know, assuaging my guilt, and all. I promise, we won't have to sit with my friends."
"Oh." Pam felt a sudden swooping, warm feeling in her stomach as she realized that this cute, funny boy was asking her out. Could feel that warmth moving up, through her chest, ready to break across her face with her smile, when a hand on her shoulder suddenly and swiftly turned her around. There stood Roy, panting, panicked, contrition written across every inch of his face.
"Oh my god, Pam, I am so sorry." Both of his hands were on her shoulders, and he was leaning over, speaking to her softly but urgently. His brother was no where to be seen. "I am the biggest idiot ever, ever." His eyes flicked over at her shoulder at the cute boy, and his expression subtly shifted, growing more concerned. "Hey, are you okay?" He dropped his voice even lower, "Is this guy bothering you?"
"What? No, no..." For a second Pam couldn't quite get words out. Roy's appearance was so surprising it was almost as though she had forgotten she was waiting for him. "We were just talking..." She turned her head to see that the boy was already backing up, going back to his friends. He caught her eye for a second, raised his hand in goodbye.
"Hey, see you around, okay?" He shot her one last mischievous grin, shifting his eyes briefly to Roy and then back to her. "Remember to call those fouls." And then he turned and ran back up the stairs.
For a second Pam felt disappointment, like a small weight in her chest, but then Roy was putting his arm around her and his voice was in her ear, so anxious. "Pam? Are you really mad? I will do anything you want to make up for this, okay?" She was really mad, but somehow his voice was softening her. He was so worried, he must really like her. She hadn't been stupid to think that he did.
"I swear I don't usually leave my dates behind." Roy was almost tripping over his words in his haste to make things right. "Please, let me take you out again." She raised her eyes to his, unsure, and he must have seen her hesitation because his words came even faster. "Please? I swear I won't mess up again. I really like you."
Pam felt her heart stutter a little. He really liked her. He'd actually said it, out loud. She'd been thinking about this moment ever since they were assigned seats next to each other in third period study hall and on the second day he had picked up her pencil for her, showing her his dimples. Slowly, shyly, she smiled up at him. "Okay. You get another shot. But no sports next time."
Roy let out a huge breath, obviously relived, "Awesome. You're awesome." As they started to walk towards his car, he squeezed her shoulder, "I knew you'd understand."
Pam smiled back, so thrilled that he'd said he liked her that she carefully didn't think about the fact that, actually, she didn't understand. But that didn't matter, because he really liked her. And so what she wasn't as totally thrilled as she thought she was going to be? She told herself that it was just because she was disappointed that he had forgotten her. Pam looked up at Roy, who was still beaming at her, dimples and all. Everything was fine, now. Really.
At the top of the stairs Jim turned around just in time to see the girl walk away, her boyfriend's arm around her shoulder protecting her from the chill. She had been waiting for him the whole time. He wondered where the boyfriend had been. What jerk would leave his girlfriend by herself alone at night in a crowd of strangers? Shaking his head, he turned back to Derek and Matt. He was being stupid. Probably the guy was awesome. He must be, to have such a cool girlfriend. The guy had probably been pulling the car around or something. Warming it up so it would be toasty when she got in.
Derek reached over and popped him in the shoulder. "You are the luckiest guy ever. If I had tackled some chick, I am so sure she would not have stood there giving me goo-goo eyes."
"She's cute." Matt agreed. "You gonna call her?"
Jim felt a little wave a disappointment as he realized he couldn't call her. "Yeah, she was really cute. Too bad she's got a boyfriend." He kept his voice carefully casual.
Matt pushed off the railing and shrugged. "Oh, whatever, man. Call her anyway. What's her name?"
Jim stared at Matt blankly for a second before letting out short laugh. "Shit. I totally don't know, I forgot ask." He thought for a second. "And she doesn't know mine."
"Well in that case, I guess calling her is out." Matt laughed, but his face was sympathetic. "Forgetting about her is the way to go."
Jim laughed too, rubbing the back of his neck. "Wow. I guess so," he raised his eyebrows and shook his head ruefully. "Hey, do you guys still want to get a pizza? We could go to Sal's."
"Hell, yeah," Derek piped up, "and Christine told me that she was going to be there tonight with Sarah." He waggled his eyebrows. "Christine says she likes you."
Jim jerked his head around to stare at Derek. "Really?" He had liked Sarah for a month, this should be momentous news. For some reason he wasn't as excited as he'd thought he'd be. But still, pretty cool.
"Yeah, man. She wants your bod."
Jim snorted, pulling out his car keys. "I am so sure. Hey, let's do this."
They set off towards the car. He knew it was stupid and pointless, but he hung back a second and glanced down the stairs. She was already lost in the crowd.