The drive to Jim’s house felt longer than usual, the silence thick, atmosphere on edge, both of them filled to the brim with questions capped off by closed lips and solicitude. It was also out of shock. To be honest, no one expected Toby’s attempt at physical flirtation, and with such forwardness. To Pam, it was more than just shock. Disgust was mingled in there as well, and she felt the opposite of giddy. She struggled to find the word, and stared at Jim in a plea. Not for anything, exactly. His side profile was satisfying and familiar and comforting. She could tell he was tense, even if he was hiding it well for the naked eye. Concentrating a bit too much on the road to take his mind off what happened in the lobby area, perhaps. He yawned, then Pam.
While walking to their car, it was an unspoken and mutual agreement to go to Jim’s for the night. Now they were almost there, and every passing second was excruciating. Pam sighed, tearing her eyes away from Jim with great difficulty to stay transfixed on her left knee, where his hand had been. She felt contaminated, and just wanted to shed her skirt and scrub a good few layers of skin off. In the end, she just wanted a hot bath. She yawned again, for longer this time, and tears formed from it.
Before she knew it, Jim was pulling into his driveway, parking right behind a sleek, yet inconspicuous, gray car.
Jim sighed. “Mark’s home,” he said, pulling Pam’s attention from her knee with a start.
Suddenly, Pam remembered the word she was looking for, and accidentally whispered it aloud, though just under her breath. “Despondent.” It was scarcely audible.
“What?” Jim looked over at her with concern, his eyebrows quirked in sympathy.
Pam spoke slowly. “I feel weird. Can we just go inside?” She didn’t wait for an answer. She unbuckled her seatbelt and stepped out, closing the door behind her and Jim followed suit, removing the key from the ignition and leaving his shoulder bag behind. She nervously tucked her hair behind her ears, then covered them once more because it was cold.
Jim gripped her hand tight and led her inside, a lamppost illuminating the walk to the front doors. It was dark inside, save for the television flooding the living room in light, revealing Mark and Nikki situated on the couch. For once, they were not making out or pressing their noses together, but they were intertwined like pretzels. Pam thought back to Jim’s barbecue party, over two years ago, and vividly remembered sitting on that same couch as Michael sang his rendition of “Islands in the Stream”, falling further in love with Jim when he displayed his kinder side and joined the duet, feeling warm all over and her heartbeat in two places when he reached the line, “Making love with each other,” as he made direct eye contact with her. And, God, what that wink made her feel like. Most of all, she remembered how their knees had touched, and how she had to fight every instinct in her body that screamed at her to wrap her arms around him and curl up against his side. This brought her train of thought full circle, back to Toby’s finger rubbing on her knee, his hand riding just a tad up her thigh.
“Hey,” Jim called out to Mark, a little out of breath, snapping Pam back to reality. Mark looked up, raising an arm to greet them with a small wave, which pulled Nikki’s attention from the television. She gave a nod of acknowledgement with a warm smile, but instantly brought her eyes back to whatever show or movie they were watching.
Jim waved back brusquely, and sluggishly led Pam up the staircase, up to his room. While Jim was away in Stamford, Nikki had moved in with Mark, and his bedroom was left as a guest room, which he suspected was never actually occupied. This left it to be mostly untouched, except a few missing items—excluding the items he took, of course—such as his guitar and his pack of cards. His cork board, thankfully, remained untouched, and the penguin that Phyllis had gifted him was relocated next to his lava lamp. His bed had received a change of sheets on his first day back, something a bit too youthful and borderline girly for his taste; white background with many multicolored flowers, smiling. Since then, it has been changed, of course. Now it was an array of differently shaded blue stripes.
The carpeted floor muffled their footsteps. It seemed appropriate to the delicate situation, and both Jim and Pam toed off their shoes.
As Pam struggled to undo the tight knot of her trenchcoat’s belt, Jim sat down on the side of his bed, yawned while stretching for a good few refreshing seconds, and removed his own coat, tossing it unceremoniously onto his chair, where it lay a crumpled heap. He watched her fumble with the belt, and the skirmish would have been funny to him if earlier events had not occurred. He only felt sad.
“Come.” Jim beckoned Pam over. She complied, but her shaky hands continued to fight with the belt, eventually undoing it. He sighed as he reached down for the bottom button, unbuttoning it and going up, up. He breathed, only barely, as a person would with anyone or anything they deemed as fragile. Jim regrettably deemed Pam as so. It was justifiable in his eyes, though; with the Toby debacle and all their coworkers, which Pam for some unknown reason adjudged as her friends, piling onto them, she was bound to crack at some point about it. She also felt very small under his hands. He decided to walk on eggshells for the night. As Jim unbuttoned the last one, he stood up and helped Pam slip her trenchcoat off her shoulders, placing it on top of his own coat. He ran his hands down her arms to grab hers, and he rubbed his thumbs across her knuckles. “You okay?” He asked, looking down at her with a sympathetic expression. She was so beautiful.
Pam shrugged, looking away. “Just a bit cold.” She exhaled a sigh through her nose after a small yawn. “I need a bath.” Jim nodded.
“Let’s get you that bath,” he declared, planting a kiss on her forehead, releasing one hand and leading her out of his room with the other. “Come on.”
It took what felt like an eternity for the tub to fill up to their desired level, when in reality it was probably only five minutes of her staring at the running water, slowing down the feeling of time passing by.
Pam slipped off her sweater and let it drop to the tiled floor as Jim twisted the water spout’s handle. It was suddenly too quiet, and she hugged herself, feeling too cold, too exposed to the elements and Jim’s gaze on her and God his hands were at her back, a delicate May I? whispered into the air being amplified in her head to the sound of the once rushing water.
A short silence passed before Pam finally responded with a small, “Yes.” Jim unhooked her bra, a plain black, and he gingerly slipped it off her. The cold wind hitting her breasts woke her up just a bit, perking her nipples, but Pam still felt as if she might fall asleep if she became fully submerged in the warm water of the bathtub. She yawned, arms folded. She felt silly with her top half nude and her bottom half dressed with a skirt and no-show socks. Her arms were riddled in goosebumps.
Pam heard Jim taking off his shirt behind her as she slipped out of her black skirt, leaving her in her panties and socks, the latter article of clothing off of her right afterwards.
“Goosebumps,” Jim commented, and she smiled to herself.
“Or gooseflesh,” Pam added.
“Why even call it that?” Jim asked. He was unbuckling his belt. “Who in their right mind was in charge of the English language?”
“No clue,” Pam murmured. She lingered on her panties, snapping the waistband on her skin. Then she lightly ran her fingers over her underwear.
“It’s a bit horrifying—“ Jim interrupted himself with a grunt as he pulled the crumpled mass of his pant legs past his feet whilst seated on the toilet—“but I can’t say I’m not surprised it’s a word. Like cattywampus.” There was a pause. “Pam?”
Pam looked back at Jim, one hand on her mons, the other dragging up and down the opposite arm. “Hm?”
“How are you feeling? Okay?” Jim was supporting himself with his elbows on his thighs. His hands were intertwined.
Pam was silent, staring back at him with an apathetic expression. A frown started to pull at her mouth. “No.”
Jim felt his stomach drop, and he immediately stood up. “Hey. Hey, hey,” he crooned, and pulled Pam into a hug, one of his hands running through her hair and the other pressed between her shoulder blades. He felt her nipples tickle his bare skin as he began to lightly trace a multitude of intricate shapes onto her smooth back.
Pam let herself go limp against Jim, staying there for a while, his chest hair softly brushing her cheek. She had no way of knowing how much time actually passed. The only things she did know, though, were that Jim’s body was warm, that he loved her, and that she loved him. She knew that, soon, she’d figure out her convoluted emotions and thoughts that she, at that moment, didn’t have the energy to go through like files or freshly faxed documents.
She blinked, her eyelashes tickling Jim’s clavicle. She also knew that the water was getting cooler by the second. She reluctantly pulled away, and Jim studied her face. She wasn’t crying, but she looked quite dejected.
“The water isn’t going to stay hot forever,” Pam remarked.
“But you will, at least.” Jim smirked. “Right?”
Pam gave Jim a demure smile. It was a bit forced. She intertwined her fingers behind his neck. “Very inappropriate, Halpert,” she said, and sighed apathetically, glancing at his comically curved lips, then his gorgeously green eyes, and back to his lips. She pulled him down for a quick kiss, then let go.
“The fact that you’re not answering my question is deeply concerning,” Jim continued to joke as Pam yanked down her panties with a force proportional to ripping off a Band-Aid.
“Just take off your briefs,” Pam snapped. “We have to take a bath already.”
Jim was taken aback at Pam’s tone, as he rarely ever heard it. He’d heard similar tones though, such as when she got offended that he even dared to think she was unhappy with her choice to be a receptionist, that instead she was fine with her choices. He remembered that he had decided to walk on eggshells, and made a note to settle down his risqué comments. It only seemed to have formed more cracks in her delicate mood.
“Yeah…” Jim trailed off, eyeing Pam in a muddled fashion as he gingerly slipped off his briefs. By the time he straightened up, Pam was already lowering herself into the water. He just stood there gawkily, unsure of what exactly to do. His hand went to cover himself, but he stopped it short and dragged his fingernails across the skin below his belly button, ruffling up his trail.
Pam looked up to meet his eyes. “Are you joining me?” she asked, her tone now soft and meek, and Jim’s heart almost couldn’t take the way she brought her knees up to cover her chest when he didn't respond and instead stared at her in a daze. He caught her glancing down a few times, but her tired, beautiful eyes were chiefly focused on his.
He snapped out of his head with a realizing blink. “Yeah, yeah of course,” he managed to stutter out, and feigned a saunter when instead he felt all jittery, like a foal taking his first steps. He stepped into the all but scalding water, behind Pam, exhaling a shaky sigh. He lowered himself, the water rising about an inch as small ripples covered its clear surface. Even after a couple months of them being together, Jim was still surprised at how enthralled he was by Pam’s every aspect, physical and others. Her velvety back, her firm yet seemingly delicate and dainty shoulder blades that maneuvered elegantly underneath her skin with every movement of her arms, her lush figure, how her hair shone underneath the sun’s illumination.
All these observations cycled through his head until his entire being was taken over by a yawn that produced a ringing in his ears as he rubbed his eyes awake. During this, he felt a tentative hand place itself on his knee. Once finished, he got the signal and spread his legs to make room for Pam to lay there, allowing Jim to maybe hug her, kiss her head whenever he felt like reminding her of his love, and provide her with his chest as a placeholder for a pillow. Sometimes he’d wash her hair for her too, maybe gently turn her face toward his for a chaste peck or something deeper.
Pam comfortably situated herself between Jim’s thighs after he gripped and adjusted himself so they wouldn’t repeat the painful mistake they made in the excruciatingly awkward, yet strangely intimate and laughable first bath they took together. Pam had backed up too quickly and damn near fractured his dick. Well, it wasn’t exactly laughable at the time, but every now and again one of them will mention it, and the chain of reaction would be routine. An embarrassed chuckle from Jim, and an adorable giggle from Pam as she apologized and teased him on how much he overreacted. He had almost called the hospital.
But since then, they were careful, of course.
Pam felt as if the hot water was sterilizing her thigh and knee of all the Toby bacteria she felt were spreading everywhere in odious waves. Feeling Jim’s steady and supporting body behind her and the water warming her down to the bone was as comforting as it could get, and she was already feeling better, until a nagging question she’d had ever since what happened in the lobby area resurfaced and made itself known. She struggled to form it into coherent words, and so she kept her mouth shut for a while, just trying to actively enjoy herself. Jim wrapped his arms around her waist comfortably.
God, I need to know, though. It hasn't been this difficult to summon the courage for anything in a long, long time.
She felt the question rise right up to her lips, and pushed it out before it went back to sitting in her stomach like an unanswered rock: “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Jim felt such a powerful and nauseatingly contrite wave crash down on him out of nowhere, and felt like heaving. He tensed, thinking. He was momentarily convinced to play dumb, but decided against it with guilt. “Um. I… don’t really know. I don’t, I’m sorry,” he prattled on, caught a bit off guard. “It was just so sudden, all in—all in the moment.”
“How come? It lasted maybe a good ten seconds, Jim.”
“Oh, come on, it was at most five,” Jim retorted, just a bit exasperated.
Pam had no sooner pulled herself away from him to twist around to look him in the face than seethingly inquired, “Why are you arguing about this with me? I don't think it matters how long it lasted, it would have been nice to see my boyfriend, whom I love, stand up for me.” Despite her tone, her eyes were wet and staring at his with expectation, sadness, and, goodness, is that disappointment? Jim wondered in joyless surprise.
“I tried, okay?” Jim borderline whined. He wanted to take it back. I really didn’t.
“All you did was look down at his hand, I’m pretty sure.” Pam folded her arms frustratedly. “The closest thing to you standing up for me tonight was when you said, ‘That’s not a nice thing to say.’ It was… a little pitiful. Sorry.”
“But then he stopped!” Nope. Just shut it. Shut up, Jim, he berated himself. He chose to ignore her second comment, as he knew she was right. He had nothing to say against it.
“He was embarrassed and saw everyone else looking. At him. Like you were,” she rebuked.
“Look, I…” He mulled over his next choices of words. “I know I should have said something, and all that, but you saw how everyone was piling onto us tonight, right? They were just so angry with us. With me. Angela would have definitely found something to say about you.” Jim smiled apologetically, hoping Pam would understand.
And she did. Slowly, at first.
Realization set over her and her glossy eyes widened a bit along with her mouth. When she registered everything he said, she chuckled thickly at his last comment. “Yeah, she definitely would have, to be honest. Look, I'm… sorry. For taking this out on you—”
“And you had every right.” In the heat of their argument, Jim didn’t have much time to admire the beauty that was a naked Pam. He grinned widely, suddenly happy and more content than he’d been in his life. Her face was a bit flushed from her almost-crying, and she looked, as corny as it sounded, absolutely beautiful.
“I know,” Pam sighed, smiling softly as well now. She then twisted her whole body around to face Jim and, placing her hands on his upper thighs, she leaned over and kissed his ready lips, having now temporarily forgotten about Toby, about their coworkers, about anything else other than Jim and the tub and the bathroom and the now lukewarm water.
Not much else happened. Jim got a semi, but it didn’t matter. They washed each other’s hair, each closing their eyes when it was their turn as their partner’s hands massaged their scalp. Pam scrubbed her left thigh a bit too vigorously with a loofah.
Ten minutes later, they were out of the bathtub and wrapping a towel around themselves, Jim on his waist, and Pam along her chest and wrapped around her hair. As Jim bent over to unplug the tub and let the water drain, Pam cupped his towel-covered butt in both hands and giggled as he instantly straightened up in surprise.
“Hey! Hi,” Jim exclaimed, chuckling.
Pam balanced on her toes and twisted her head to give his neck a quick peck that tickled nicely. “I love you,” she gushed, and then gave an appreciative squeeze before mischievously rushing out of the bathroom with no thought about whether anyone, namely Mark and Nikki, was passing by. She didn’t hear anything from downstairs, so assumed they were already in their room.
When she reached Jim’s room, she went straight for the overnight bag she always left by his television stand. In there, she had main essentials: extra clothes, underwear, a pair of shoes, sanitary products, a hairbrush and an extra toothbrush. She let her towel fall to the floor and slipped on a green pair of hiphugger panties before rummaging through his drawers. Even after countless times she’s been there, Pam still couldn’t remember for the life of her in which drawer Jim kept his casual shirts.
“Third one,” Pam heard Jim say from the doorway.
“Thanks.” She pulled out a long sleeved crew neck and put it on after taking the towel off her head.
Jim closed the door after him as Pam started brushing her hair, put on a pair of boxer briefs as she finished up, slipped under the blanket as she tied it in a ponytail. Pam made her way to the light switch by the door and turned it off. She got a bit of a running start and jumped onto Jim’s bed, landing on her knees and wrapping her arms around him as the springs creaked and groaned.
Jim gripped her waist and pulled her onto him so he could pull the blanket down. “Get in here,” he mumbled, eyes heavy and already closing. Pam covered herself and nestled her head underneath his jaw, kissing his Adam's apple absentmindedly. He chuckled. “You down to clown?” Jim joked in a tired, gruff voice.
She giggled, subtly shaking her head. “Not really.”
Pam felt him shrug. “Not brushing our teeth tonight?” he murmured.
“Remind me not to make out with you in the morning.”
“I’ll conveniently forget, you know that.” She smiled against Jim’s throat, nose getting softly scratched by his stubble.
“Yeah…” Jim drifted off, too tired to continue their banter.
Pam twisted her body around so he was spooning her, his hand automatically snaking around her waist and up her shirt to cradle one of her breasts comfortingly. Pam welcomed it, a wave of white tranquility washing over her, spreading down to her stomach.
The last thing she felt before she fell asleep was Jim’s other hand resting on her bare thigh that Toby had touched, erasing the mental mark that he had left there what felt like a lifetime ago. This man can do anything, Pam thought in loving awe as she drifted off as well into a calm and dreamless sleep.