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Story Notes:
This one has been simmering for a while, so I hope it comes together in the way it’s been projecting in my head.

Title for the story taken from the song “Ivy” by Taylor Swift, hallowed be her name.

(Also, I conned fluffy lil TPB into writing a summary for a fic that includes angst in it. What have *you* done today?)
Author's Chapter Notes:
Somewhat of an introductory chapter to start us off.

Chapter title comes from the song “Bloom” by The Paper Kites, which to me is the perfect Season 2 Jim song. Friendly reminder that I own nothing, nothing at all.
*squeak...squeak...squeak*

Jim sighed. How did he always manage to grab the cart with the squeaky wheel? He brought it to a stop and rested his foot on the bottom bar as he scanned the variety of bread in front of him, as if he wouldn’t just grab what he always does. He pulled a loaf off the shelf and set it gently next to the bottle of fabric softener, the six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the two bottles of shaving cream—one for him and one to replace Mark’s that he finished off this morning and had offered to replace. He mindlessly wandered the aisles grabbing what he came for. His grocery list rarely changed each time he went shopping and this time was no different. The only thing that did change, however, were the products on the shelves that reminded him of her. Sometimes it was the hot sauce, sometimes it was the mixed berry yogurt, and always it was the Pam brand cooking spray (which he bought every time he needed it, fully knowing that it was ridiculous and the store brand worked just as well). Truthfully he could look at anything in the store and trace it back to Pam. It was like a more pathetic and hopeless game of Six Degrees.

He pivoted the cart toward the freezer section. Looking up, his breath caught and he felt the familiar tingle run through his veins that happened every time he caught sight of that curly hair and perfect facial profile—but usually he only saw it at work. Now she was standing in front of the ice cream, her hands on her hips and a quizzical expression on her face. Jim’s lips involuntarily turned up as he pushed his cart toward her.

“Just buy one of each flavor, that’s the correct answer,” he said, approaching her.

Pam looked at him and then did a double take upon realizing who she was looking at, her eyes brightening as the gears of recognition clicked into place.

“Hey, you!” she chirped, giving him a gentle punch on the arm. “Fancy seeing you here.”

He leaned his elbows down on the handle of his cart, trying desperately to keep his eyes on her face instead of her yoga pants and tank top. “Yeah, of all the gin joints...or whatever the line is from that one movie you told me to watch.”

She laughed, shifting her shopping basket into the crook of her left arm. “Casablanca.”

That’s the one. Told you I watched it.” He straightened and opened the freezer door to grab a container of cookies and cream ice cream.

Her demeanor deflated. “How do you do it?” she asked him.

“What?” He gestured to his outfit, made up of basketball shorts, a t-shirt he had had since high school, and a navy zip-up hoodie. “How do I manage to look this good while grocery shopping? It’s a gift, Beesly.”

She chuckled, and just as it always does, the sound of her laughter propelled him to do anything he could to keep it ringing through his ears.

“No, I mean, how do you pick an ice cream flavor so quickly like that? I’ve been here for five minutes trying to decide.”

Jim left his post behind his shopping cart and planted himself next to her, folding one arm under the other and putting his fingers to his chin in mock contemplation. Then he quickly shrugged and glanced at her. “You just have to go for it. Don’t think about it. Your heart will choose it for you.”

Pam shifted her weight beside him. Her shoulder was now lightly brushing against his arm and suddenly his focus was drawn away from the frosty freezer doors in front of him and straight to the warmth he felt with her contact, even through the cotton barrier of his jacket. He willed himself to switch the trajectory of his thoughts back to ice cream.

“Okay,” he said, pointing to the freezer. “I’m going to count down from five and when I reach zero you need to have picked a flavor. Or…” he thought for a moment. “Or you have to buy Dwight a new bobblehead. Of my choosing.”

She squinted a look of determination up at him, a smile peeking through her pursed lips. “Deal.”

“Five...four...three...two…”

Pam swung open the freezer door and hastily grabbed a carton. Jim dropped his shoulders and looked at her in mock disappointment.

“Pam...really?! All these flavors and your heart chose butter pecan?”

“You made me nervous with the counting!! I panicked.”

He shrugged. “Now you’re stuck with it. Hope you have a good time with your old man ice cream.”

As she laughed, the tip of her tongue peeked through the edge of her teeth and he nearly had to stick his head in the freezer with the way it made the blood rush to his head.

“So, Mr. Cookies and Cream,” she said, placing her ice cream in her basket. “Any big plans for a beautiful Saturday night such as this?”

“Maybe,” he shrugged. “If by ‘big plans’ you mean watching the Phillies most likely get destroyed by the Sox while this carton of ice cream sits in front of me, then yeah,” he laughed. “Huge plans.”

Not wanting her to leave, he attempted to keep the conversation going. He braced himself, knowing full well the answer to his next question probably involved Roy.

“What about you? Planning on watching some Antiques Roadshow, then popping out the dentures at 8:00 and turning in early like the old, butter pecan-loving old lady you are?”

“I don’t know,” she winked as his heart sped up. “Might live life on the wild side and stay up until 8:30.” She shifted her basket over to her other arm again. “No, actually, Roy left this morning to North Carolina for a couple weeks. His great-uncle died. So I’m just going to stay home and watch all the chick flicks I can while eating ice cream.”

Jim’s mouth turned down into a slight frown. “Two weeks for a great-uncle? Wow. Must have been pretty close with him.”

Her eyes shifted downward and she kicked an invisible spot on the floor with the tip of her shoe. “Well, the company allows a week of bereavement if it’s out of state…”

“And...the other week?”

Suddenly she seemed to gain great interest in anywhere that wasn’t his face and she couldn’t seem to look him in the eyes. “The other week he just...used vacation days to stay a little longer.”

It was convenient, Jim thought, that she couldn’t meet his gaze because his eyes rolled back before he could stop them. Of course Roy made the death of a relative into a vacation.

“Wait,” he remembered. “The vacation days you were both saving up to take that trip to Boston?”

She finally found his eyes again and shrugged sadly, her own eyes giving a slight roll. “Yeah, I guess. But we decided we probably shouldn’t do the trip to Boston anyway. Save the money for the wedding.”

Jim knew by this point in their friendship, that this is where he should stop talking. He wanted to say, “But a two week trip to North Carolina is okay?” Or “And he didn’t have you come along?” or “What do you see in that guy?” (Okay, he wouldn’t actually say that last one, even if it was a constant thought in his head).

No, he knew it just led toward hostility and defensiveness, and he was enjoying spending this time with her. It was rare to see her outside of work and it felt oddly intimate, even if they were only grazing shoulders in Aisle 7 at Price Rite.

Instead, he changed the subject. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy melted ice cream, even the good kinds. Do you have anything else you need to get?”

She shook her head and so the two of them made their way to the registers together. There was something so stirring about seeing her live a life outside of her office chair. He latched onto little details, like the color of her wallet or how organized she was when she loaded her groceries on the conveyor belt. She had one of those personalized debit cards donning a photo of a golden retriever he could only assume was her family dog, and he made a mental note to ask her about it sometime.

He let himself daydream for just a moment that they had come to the store together and that they would be leaving together. They would sit on her couch, legs tangled like string, and he would steal spoonfuls of her crappy ice cream and she’d do the same while they mocked the cheesy Hallmark movie they were watching, both secretly loving the storyline and both eventually suggesting they watch it again the next weekend.

He was jostled out of his thoughts with the persistent beeping of the scanner as the cashier pulled his groceries over it. Glancing over, he saw Pam lingering at the end of the register waiting for him to pay, presumably so they could walk out of the store together. He swiped his card, trying to contain a smile, and gathered his groceries in his hands.

Halfway through the parking lot Pam slowed, finally stopping in front of a pickup truck Jim recognized as Roy’s. She poked her thumb over her shoulder, gesturing toward it. “This is me, I guess. I hate driving this thing. But I guess I should be happy he left it with me so I could get around while he’s gone.”

“Yeah, how nice of him,” Jim mustered, hoping he masked enough of the sarcasm in his tone. “So, I guess I’ll see you Monday?”

“Yeah,” she smiled brightly. “See you Monday.”

Raising a hand to wave, Jim watched as she lifted herself onto the step bar of Roy’s truck and slipped into the driver’s seat. Her small frame looked so out of place behind the wheel of the giant truck, just like how Jim always felt she looked out of place next to the owner of it.

Pam was soft, warm, intricate. And Roy was...none of those things. Roy probably didn’t appreciate her the way Jim would, either. He probably doesn’t notice the way she picks up and absorbs the emotions of those around her—something she thinks is a flaw, but Jim sees as a strength. He probably doesn’t recognize her ability to find the good in nearly every situation and light up a room just by being in it. He probably doesn’t spend nights lying awake, marveling at how the moonlight casts perfect shadows against her delicate features, and he’s pretty damn sure Roy has no idea how lucky he is to be the one laying next to her every night.

He looked to the gravel below his feet as he walked to his own car. His jaw clenched as his old familiar friend Jealousy tightened its grip on him, pushing him ever closer to complete suffocation.

******

By the bottom of the fifth inning, the Phillies were down seven runs and Jim clicked off the TV. It wasn’t so much that his team was losing, it was more that he couldn’t focus on anything other than the thought of Pam home, by herself. Was she lonely? Maybe she was happy to have the couch to herself and sole control of the remote. He wondered if it was a relief to have Roy gone—like she could breathe. He picked up his phone and flipped it open, his thumb hovering over the “2” button. Though he rarely called her (their interactions were confined to mostly work or quick back-and-forth text messages), he had her phone number programmed into his speed dials. Just like buying name brand cooking spray, he knew it was pathetic.

He snapped the phone shut. What would he even say if he called? As he rolled the phone around in his fingers, contemplating the proverbial line marked “too far” in red ink, it buzzed.

New TxtMsg: Beesly

His thumbs fumbled around the keys, frantically trying to open the message. His heart seemed to be trying to escape his rib cage as he finally read what she sent.

Call me an old lady, but butter pecan actually kind of rocks. ;)

He grinned and let out a small laugh into his empty apartment before responding.

I’m going to need photo evidence that you actually ate it, Beesly. What movie did you settle on?

He put the phone down on the couch next to him and stared at it, his left knee bouncing in anticipation. Minutes passed without a response and he worried he had somehow misstepped, though he couldn’t see where. Overthinking was his specialty when it came to Pam. Finally, the screen lit up.

Check your email.

He shot off the couch to grab his laptop. He placed it on his kitchen table and booted it up.

Come on, come on, come on…” he willed his computer. He had purchased the laptop last year after a fairly sizable commission check, but it was still the cheapest model and took ages to start up. When he was finally able to connect to the internet and log into his email, his smile spread seeing her name next to: “Subject: Photo Evidence”.

He clicked on the email and the only thing in the body of it was a picture of Pam that she had obviously taken herself. One arm was stretched in front of her, holding the camera. She was sitting cross legged, holding a DVD case of Sleepless in Seattle in her other hand while a half-eaten carton of ice cream sat in her lap. Donning an oversized sweatshirt and the cutest smirk on her face, she looked absolutely perfect to him.

He felt a sudden rush of longing—an ache so tangible that he could almost pluck it out of thin air and keep it stashed in his back pocket, only to be pulled out again when she did something simple, like exist near him.

Right clicking on the picture, he saved it to his computer after staring at it a minute longer. He knew she was someone else’s. He knew he probably shouldn’t be saving a picture of her to his computer. But the way she made him feel, somehow broken and whole simultaneously, sent all rationale out the window.

He loved her.

He had never said that out loud to anyone. But he loved her.

He slowly closed his laptop and rubbed his face with his hands then through his hair. Then sighing deeply, he pushed himself from the table and dragged his feet up the stairs where he took a cold shower and slipped between his sheets. He grabbed his phone and rolled onto his back.

Got the picture. Have to admit I’ve never seen Sleepless in Seattle.

Less than a minute later, her reply came through.

Guess we better watch it sometime! It’s a classic.

Oh, great. Something for Jim to overanalyze tonight. He didn’t want to sleep anyway. He’d rather daydream about watching a movie with the girl he was enamored with who is perfect for him in every possible way except the damn ring on her finger. Closing his eyes, he could almost feel the weight of her head on his shoulder again. He could smell her lavender conditioner that he probably shouldn’t recognize but does. He squeezed his eyes tighter to match the tightness in his chest and pulled the pillow out from under his head so he could slam it over his face and groan. Then he peeked out from under the pillow so he could formulate a response.

I’d actually really like that. Your place or mine?

He stared at the message without pressing send, his gut a flurry of nerves. Something about knowing that Roy didn’t have his arm around her made him feel a boldness he usually suppressed.

But the ring. She still had his ring on her finger.

He erased the message and typed another.

Maybe we can convince Michael to show it at work sometime. Haha

Not a bad idea, Halpert. We’ll sell it as “Movie Monday”.

You know how much Michael loves a good alliteration.

LOL yes. But we’ll have to make our master plan Monday because this old lady can’t stay awake much longer. Night, Jim! :)


He replied with a “Goodnight, Pam!” and rolled over, hugging his pillow to his chest, imagining for a moment that it was her pressed tightly against him and began to doze off, his head swirling with what-ifs and if-onlys until all he saw was her.
Chapter End Notes:
Thanks for reading! I only have a slight idea of where this might go, so hopefully you stick around to find out with me! :)

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