He was in the breakroom with his coffee the following morning as she swept in with what he guessed was a renewed sense of determination to make some sort of amends with him.
“Jim, I have to talk to you about something very serious,” she stated, but the laughter lacing her tone assured him that it was anything but.
She settled on the chair next to him. “You’d better sit down,” she entreated, her words still a stark contrast to her smile. He leaned back into the chair he was already seated on and raised a brow at her. She chewed on her lip and shrugged at him. “I rehearsed this whole thing and you were definitely standing in my head.”
How was it that she could always make him smile even when he wanted to remain indifferent at best?
“Do you want me stand up?”
She shook her head and met his eyes with a bright grin. For a moment, it was a year ago and nothing had changed – he still loved her fiercely and secretly and she hadn’t sent his life spiralling off course. But this was now. And now he was trying not to.
“Anyway,” she murmured mostly to herself. She cleared her throat, “stick to the script, Pam.” She levelled him with a wink and his heart stuttered in his chest at how she managed to make the most meaningless gesture into a thing of aching beauty.
“Jim,” her tone was hushed and solemn, however, her eyes still twinkled with humour. “I need to break this to you.”
“Yes?” he managed to croak. So much for indifferent.
“Jim,” his name was a plea on her lips. “The people here,” she flicked her head around, as if to ensure that no one was listening in. “They view you as the Dwight of this office.”
It was something he’d gotten used to over the years. These little moments where it struck him as to just how completely and utterly perfect she was for him – that they were for each other. He didn’t believe in soulmates as a concept, but in these little moments like this maybe he did.
So yeah, he was used to this.
First, the realisation that they were meant to be in that crazy deigned-from-the-heavens that shouldn’t even exist kind of way… That was always followed by a steady ache in his chest, where he envisaged was another crack forming in his heart because she wasn’t his. No matter how destined they were for each other, it wasn’t to be.
He braced himself for it again now, the next crack. He wondered how many cracks it would take before his heart just full on shattered? The events of the casino night had left it riddled and oh so frail. There wasn’t much more it could take.
This time though, the crack didn’t spread like usual. Sure, he felt the initial sting, but he didn’t feel the spread.
Pam was gazing at him with careful concern etched over a barely veiled smile. She thought this particular titbit was somewhat hilarious. She was waiting for him to share in the joke.
That wasn’t new, what was though, was the almost entirely faded tan line on her bare ring finger that he couldn’t keep his eyes from resting on as she cupped her cheeks in her hands and leaned towards him expectantly.
After masking himself so carefully yesterday, a thin smile managed to slip through.
“I know,” he stage-whispered and shuddered theatrically.
She giggled. “This won’t do.”
“I’ve been,” he mouthed the word like it was dirty, “working.”
She scrunched up her nose. “Lame.”
He shrugged. “I had nothing else to do here.”
She frowned ever so slightly, but didn’t push because of course she knew why. “If you’d like to change up your image, you know where to find me.”
She offered him a final soft smile and rose to settle herself at reception and start the day. He watched as she switched the phone over from straight-to-voicemail.
The half formed thought that he’d considered yesterday afternoon shifted into a definitive plan. He could shake up his image as Pam had so delicately put it and show her that maybe he was ready to broach whatever it was that she’d come to Stamford to tell him.
It had to be something, Pam wouldn’t have shown up just for the sake of showing up.
She was more careful than that. More considered. He’d spent his entire evening and a rather sleepless night ruminating on it all.
She wasn’t cruel. She wasn’t here to toy with him. Of that much he was sure. Of anything else, he was decidedly less sure…
There was the thought that she was here to attempt to rekindle their friendship and nothing more than that. She’d made that clear enough back in May.
Then there was the second train of thought, that was more difficult to wrap his mind around. This was the one that he tossed and turned over through the night. He couldn’t stop himself from wishing that the Pam who was here, was the Pam who smiled at him softly from beneath her lashes and whispered me too and kissed him back.
It was that Pam who had called off her wedding to Roy, he was sure of it. He had all his fingers and toes crossed that this was the Pam who followed him to Stamford too.
He really wasn’t sure though, and that uncertainty was enough to keep him anchored in place. He wasn’t going to throw caution to the wind, but he was going to nudge. He was going to let the boat above him take up all in the slack and drift a little in her direction.
He had a plan.
A quick glance over to reception as he took his seat only increased his hopes that the Pam who was here with him was the Pam he willed it be. Carefully placed on the counter sat a glass jar, filled to the brim with blue, pink and green jellybeans. His top three flavors.
She flashed him a wide smile and he couldn’t help the matching one that formed on his face in response.
Her gesture prompted a gesture of his own. No sooner had he settled in his chair then he was rising out of it again. He stuck his hand in the jar, his face still spread in a grin.
She waited until he’d chucked a couple in his mouth before she spoke. “What do you think of Andy?”
He swallowed roughly. “He’s not really my type.”
“Noted,” she shook her head ever so slightly and prompted him with her hands as if to say seriously.
“If Michael Scott and Todd Packer could somehow conceive a child together, it would be Andy.”
Pam shuddered. “Ugh, can you imagine?”
“We don’t have to imagine… because Andy,” Jim grimaced.
“So?” Pam hedged.
“So what?” he asked, even though his heart was both sinking and desperately trilling at where he suspected she was headed.
“I think we should put his stapler in Jell-O.” Yep, exactly where he thought.
“This isn’t amateur hour, Beesly.”
He didn’t miss the way she flushed at the familiar way her name rolled off the end of his tongue. It emboldened him.
“Tell you what, you brainstorm your best, original ideas and meet me in the breakroom at lunch?”
“Deal,” she murmured, eyes still shiny with what he hoped was emotion.
He dipped his hand in the jar again and retreated to his desk chewing on the sugary goodness.
He had a good feeling about his plan.
She’d been in a such a good mood all morning. Two promising interactions with Jim. It had felt like old times, but in the same breath there was a sense of new possibilities.
Sure, he’d rejected her coffee invitation yesterday. She was content with telling herself that she’d blindsided him.
He’d been surprised. She had hurt him deeply back in May. It was natural that there was some residual anger.
Still, she couldn’t have made any other choice in that moment, she needed time to process. And, that was Jim in the breakroom yesterday – surprised and without adequate processing time. She wasn’t giving up until she gave him that.
She let herself bask in the positives. He’d come for jellybeans. He hadn’t completely shot down the idea of pranking Andy. He’d kind of suggested that they would eat lunch together. So yeah, the basking was going well.
The glow was interrupted shortly before lunch. Andy.
Andy, with the very creepy and yet completely harmless vibe would not let up with the staring. Worse still, he was now sitting on the edge of Jim’s desk and ogling her.
Their conversation was muted, she couldn’t make out a single word. What she could make out was that Jim’s expression was completely sincere and earnest. It was an artform he had perfected with the years at Dunder Mifflin, his genuine sincere and forced sincere were exactly the same expression. So were hers. You couldn’t work with Michael for that long and not perfect it.
She had no idea what they were up to.
Before she had time to really consider it, Andy had crossed the room to stand before her desk.
Her instincts scream oh no and as it so happened, her instincts were not wrong…
“Pam-a-lama-ding-dong,” and this man-child before her somehow defied the rules of time and space to be Michael’s love child, it was as good as confirmed.
“Listen, you’re cute. There is no getting around it.”
There’s no getting around the terrible feeling she had about this.
Despite pretending to work, she could tell that Jim was straining his ears to listen in, although Andy was speaking far too loudly and making the task all the more easier for him she was sure.
“So… I don’t know if you like country music,” she does not. “But I was thinking maybe one of these days we could drive out to a field,” sounds like a good way to get murdered, “crank, up some tunes, smoke a few Macanudos… maybe even toss a disk around.”
Is she dreaming? She’s dreaming. This is the stuff of her nightmares.
“Utway ooday ooyay inkthay, Ampay?” Literal nightmares.
She clears her throat and tries everything in her power to keep her tone even, “wow… I – ”
“Shh. Think about it. I’ll hit you back.”
There’s no mistaking the silent laughter wracking Jim’s body.
She sits, stunned. She’s barely had time to compute the conversation when Jim is easing back in his chair and heading for the breakroom.
She waits for the door to swing shut behind him before she trails him in. His eyes are on her the moment she enters the room.
“Wow. That was… wow,” she managed to mutter, slowly shaking her head, her eyes still wide with it all.
“I’ve still got it,” it’s a statement, but she treats it like a question.
“Oh,” her eyes run over him, her tone low, “you’ve still got it.” She watches him shiver at the double meaning. Yes, she thinks, I meant it exactly like that.
His voice is gravelly when he speaks, “so you’ll stop with the comparisons to Dwight?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” she grins cheerfully.
Jim shakes his head seriously at her, but his smile belies the movement. “For that… just you wait to find out what else I’ve told him you love.”
He’s smiling at her like it’s a year ago and she’s seriously considering making some sort of dramatic declaration…
The door to breakroom swings open and the moment is lost.
Karen drops into the chair beside Pam, not before shooting Jim a look. And oh, right. She doesn’t like him. She thinks he’s a stiff suit. The goofy grin he lopes across the table confuses her momentarily and Pam senses that she softens somewhat. Even so, she angles her chair towards Pam.
“We should go out for drinks tonight,” it’s nice to know their blossoming friendship has survived the night.
Pam’s about to answer in the affirmative, when Karen adds, “there’s a Chili’s just down the street.”
“Umm,” she manages and even in that one attempt at a word she comes across as a flustered mess.
Karen eyes her carefully. “As friends,” she clarifies. “Not like a date.”
Jim chokes on his water.
Pam blushes furiously. “No, no. I didn’t think that, it’s just that.. Jim?” she struggles to find the words.
“Beesly here, is the proud recipient of a lifetime ban from all Chili’s restaurants,” Jim shrugs.
“Oh,” Karen laughs. “So, Chili’s is out. How the hell did you manage that?”
Pam once again flounders and looks to Jim to provide the words.
“Second drink,” is all Jim says like it clears up anything for Karen.
Pam’s head drops into her hands. “It’s so embarrassing,” she murmurs through her fingers.
Karen shakes her head, “if anything, I’m now more interested in being your friend.”
“I was a mess that night,” she groans.
“We’ve all been there,” Karen shrugs. “So, we’re on for drinks tonight? At a non-Chili’s venue?”
Pam nods her head from where it rests in her hands.
“Cool. You can teach me what second drink means.”
When she manages to raise her eyes from pressing into her palms, Jim is watching her quietly, his gaze awash with something that transports her back to that night. A warmth rises within her and starts to spread.
She matches his gaze, locking eyes. She senses Karen watching and hears her slowly back her chair away. “Okay, talk to you later, Pam,” and then she’s gone.
The air between them electrifies. She’s beginning to think they could power a city when Jim clears his throat. “How much of that night, do you, uh, remember?” he swallows roughly.
“All of it, I think,” she murmurs and she watches flickers of it float through Jim’s memory as she gazes into his eyes.
“Even the part, where you…”
“Kissed you?” she supplies.
“Yes?” she says, even though obviously he already knows. And just like that, she feels clear of the rip. It becomes easier to swim, she’s no longer straining with every stroke. Jim is leaning towards her like she holds all the answers and maybe she does.
She takes a deep breath and starts to swim for the shore.