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Story Notes:

hi, office fans! this is my first time writing jim & pam. be gentle :)


...Then it’s a date. 

Such innocuous words have never felt so loaded. 

Mundanity has been the glue holding her world together; bits and pieces of a life she’s just barely begun to live bound by a thousand square feet of worn gray carpet, plain white walls, and scattered encounters with the guy she’s in love with. But now the mundane finally feels escapable. 

Jim’s words echo in her ears as she tears her closet apart, looking for something to wear tonight. Something… sexy? Something cute? Something with tags still on it, preferably. She hasn’t been on an actual date in years. That Freedom Fries guy did not count.

She chooses a navy blue dress with cap sleeves and a V-neck. Heels or flats? Shit. She wants to look like herself, but she also wants to look as amazing as possible. And Jim is so tall… she pulls down the dusty Marc Jacobs shoebox with the black strappy heels she impulsively spent her entire paycheck on while at the mall with some girlfriends. The silica gel packet is still nestled inside the heel. She slips them on, applies as much makeup as she’s comfortable applying (not much) and sends up a silent prayer of gratitude that her period finished four days ago. You never know. 

Why is she so nervous? He’s already told her he’s in love with her, but that was months ago. A lot has happened since then. What if something has changed? 

Jim picks her up on time, and opens her car door for her. She sits and waits the excruciating six seconds of deafening silence after he slams her door shut and hustles to the driver’s side, and they don’t say much the entire drive. Certainty, inevitability, expectation. The things she should be feeling are drifting around the car like an errant vapor but all she can feel are her nerves.

He reaches over to take her hand at some point. It calms her a bit. They’ve earned these butterflies, surely. She tries to enjoy them. 

They arrive at the nicest steakhouse in the city and are seated at a table by the window. For the first time tonight she really looks at him: gray suit, blue tie, freshly shaven. She’d told a little white lie when she said she liked his new haircut: it’s way too corporate. But it’s still Jim. Jim.

A date. We’re really doing this. 

They order drinks and he clears his throat. They’ve said virtually nothing to each other since he interrupted her interview in the conference room. She thinks of the million things they’ve talked about over the years, and how she now has no idea what to say.

Luckily, he speaks first. “Before you say anything, I need to tell you something,” he says. “Something important.”

“Okay,” she says, with trepidation. Don’t talk about Karen, is her first thought. Please don’t tell me you haven’t actually broken up with your girlfriend. 

Jim looks at her intently. He doesn’t blink. “Do you remember that… casino night we had at the office? Back before I left for Stamford?”

She pins him with an equally intense stare and can feel her cheeks getting hot. Do I remember that night? The night you told me you were in love with me? I’ve only thought about it every waking moment since it happened.

“Yes,” she stammers, eager to hear what he has to say but almost just as afraid.

“Well,” he says, suddenly looking around surreptitiously like someone is watching him. He’s probably used to that. “Here’s the thing.”

Oh God, she thinks. This is the part where he says he shouldn’t have said what he did, that it was a heat-of-the-moment utterance, that he’d overcompensated. That he’d been planning to leave, and it was merely the hail-iest of Marys.

She looks down at her drink, picks it up. Stirs it a bit self-consciously. It looks stupid and pink now, too pink. The maraschino cherry drifts to the bottom where it appears oblong, stretched out into something unrecognizable. She should have ordered something more mature, like a martini or a Manhattan or something. That’s what Jim’s girlfriend would order. 

“I just want you to know that I meant every word,” Jim says. “I meant what I said to you, Pam. I still mean it.” He looks at her and she can see his eyes soften in that way she’s seen before, like they do when things get quiet and real. Like they did on that night he said what he meant.

She still doesn’t know what to say. She knows what she wants to say, what she probably should say, but this isn’t the way things usually happen for Pam Beesly. Pam Beesly settles for a love that is just barely good enough; a love that feels just enough like something to lull her into a false sense of security. 

A love that is quite simply false.

Now she looks into her best friend’s eyes and suddenly she’s living a new life; a life in which the stars align perfectly in the perfect moment with the perfect guy. This is most definitely the perfect love she’s been waiting for her entire life and it’s too much, it’s all too much to process.

She suddenly worries she could fuck this up, just like she did last spring. She could say the wrong thing. She could lose him all over again. Her head begins to spin and she sets her drink down, bringing her hand to her forehead. Is she sweating? Dammit, she should have gone with the sleeveless dress.

“It’s too much, I know, and I’m sorry to bring it up again,” he says, leaning back into his chair. He fidgets with his napkin. “You don’t have to say anything back, I’m not looking for that, I swear.” He leans forward again to cover her hand with his. “I just think I’ve hidden my feelings from you long enough, and I want us to start in a place of honesty, wherever that may be. Is that okay?”

Honesty. If she’d been honest with him from the start, they’d have done this years ago. 

His hand is large, and warm, and she can feel his fingers trembling. She’s realizing that it must be just as scary to admit this to someone when they already know it. 

Honesty. He deserves it after all this time, after everything she put him through. And if it’s too much for him to handle, at least she won’t leave with any regrets.

“I think…” she begins, “...that’s a good idea. And if we’re starting with honesty, then I need to say something to you right now, too.”

His expression is curious: hopeful, but not expectant. “Okay.”

She feels fear first, coursing through her veins like fire. But then she remembers walking across that coal at the beach. She remembers how it burned, how much it hurt, and then how good it felt when it was over: the knowledge she’d been braver than she’d ever been in her life.

She takes a deep breath.

“I’m in love with you too,” she says bluntly. “I have been for a really long time. And I should have said it back to you that night.”

His smile mirrors her own, brighter than she’s ever seen it before. And she’s made Jim Halpert smile countless times. She isn’t certain but she thinks she even sees a tear in his eye, and while it instantly reminds her of the one he wiped that fateful night she fucked everything up, she knows this time it must be a tear of relief.

He shakes his head slightly. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that, Pam.”

She nods, and their eyes connect in the same way they have for years; exactly the same, only this time there are no more barriers between them whatsoever. 

“Well, okay then,” he says after a moment. “This is hands-down the best first date I’ve ever been on.”

She laughs in agreement, unable to look away from him, and all she can think is how easy this is, how right this is. This must be what it was always supposed to feel like. And they haven’t even ordered their appetizers.

They both look away from each other simultaneously, breaking the spell a bit. Jim clears his throat and picks up his glass of red, swirling it around a couple of times. He takes a sip and she can see his ears are pink, something she’s always been able to spot even from eight feet away, even when she’s only watching the back of his neck. She wonders what he’s thinking about. Unsolicited, dozens of images flash through her own mind like slides: the two of them in the break room eating lunch, walking to their cars in the parking lot, an air-high five across the bullpen, then suddenly she’s in his apartment and she’s kissing him, taking off his jacket, tugging on his tie, running her hands through his hair and pulling him against her and now she knows exactly why his ears are pink.

Everything around them grows quiet; she no longer hears the soft clinking of glassware, the gentle murmurs of restaurant patrons. She sees Jim, hears his voice whispering in her ear like a phantom, and she suddenly wants nothing more than to leave, now.

“Jim?” She says it softly.

He looks at her, slightly startled by her change in demeanor. “Yeah?”

She leans in, resolute. “I think… I want to skip dinner.”

He looks around the room, probably for the cameras. It occurs to her that she hasn’t thought about them at all since they arrived. “You aren’t hungry?”

She’s hungry, all right, but not for surf n’ turf. 

She shakes her head slowly, making her meaning clear. She isn’t even sure she’s going to sleep with him tonight, but her body seems to be making the decisions right now. 

His eyes widen and he visibly gulps. He’s nervous, she ascertains, to her very great delight. It’s exciting and terrifying all at once. She can’t wait to wrap her arms around him, to kiss him properly. It feels like the hard part is over, and she just wants to get to the good stuff.

Almost comically, Jim attempts to call for the check, thinks better of it, and opens his wallet, laying down twenty bucks, more than enough to cover their two drinks and the practically nonexistent service. He stands and offers her his hand gallantly, and she takes it, allowing him to lead her through the crowded restaurant, past the hostess stand, and directly out the front door. She barely has time to register the butterflies flapping wildly in her stomach before they are outside, and Jim is pressing her against the brick wall next to the entrance. 

His kiss is somehow soft and intense all at once, but he doesn’t open his mouth; she knows he is waiting for her to give him permission. She isn’t typically one for public displays of affection, but she can’t wait anymore for him, she can’t. Her breath catches in her chest and all she can feel is reliefThis nightmare is finally over and he is hers, all hers.

Fully aware of how exposed they are, she opens her mouth and he takes her cue, responding in kind. She moans softly, and he wraps his hands around her waist, so large it feels like they’re encircling her completely. They are kissing, really kissing, the way they should have on a different night, right next to his desk. 

This is Jim, this is finally real, she marvels, and just as they had all those months ago her hands move to his face, and he pulls her close, and there are no more obstacles, no more miscommunications. She is kissing Jim Halpert the way she’s wanted to for years, and she doesn’t even have to feel guilty about doing so.

His hands slide to the small of her back and he pulls her into him gently. She can physically feel how much he wants her and she can’t remember the last time she felt like she genuinely turned anyone on this way. Sex had become so routine with Roy over the years, but that’s what was supposed to happen. Wasn’t it? 

He pulls back, lips slightly parted, eyelids droopy, and she’s never seen Jim drunk before but she’s positive this is what Drunk Jim looks like.

Drunk on her. 

“I... think we should stop, Pam,” he says. “I’ve thought about this so many times, so many ways, and none of them involved me embarrassing myself in a public place.”

She laughs. “So many ways, huh?”

“So many.”

“I’d like to hear about those sometime.”

“Oh, you can count on it.”

She smiles, closes her eyes, lets her head fall against his chest. Then her eyes fly open.

“Jim.”

“Hm?”

“Do you think they followed us?” she asks, peering around him. She doesn’t have to say who she means; the camera crew has been as ubiquitous in their lives as their unspoken love for each other. He turns around and they both scan the parking lot. No cameras, at least from what she can see. There’s actually no one in sight at all except for a couple approaching the restaurant, holding hands. 

“That’s… odd,” he muses. She silently agrees, as the camera crew is usually underfoot whenever something big happens. And this night is, without a doubt, the biggest thing that’s happened since the cameras arrived.

“It is odd,” she says. “Odd enough that I actually don’t quite believe it.” She continues to scan the area, but sees nothing.

“Maybe we ought to get out of here,” he suggests. “We shouldn’t press our luck.” He takes her hand in his and with this simple touch the camera crew is forgotten. Their fingers intertwine and they head back to the car, the evening air ripe with promise.

Once inside, Jim turns, grins, and leans in to kiss her again softly. Her hand touches his cheek and she still can’t believe any of this is happening.

“Where to, Beesly?” he grins, pulling back.

“You mean, my place or yours?” Her own boldness surprises her. But the heart wants what it wants. And hers is finally getting its wish.

“Doesn’t matter to me,” he grins stupidly.

“Is... your roommate home?” she asks.

“No roommate,” he says. “Not since I moved back.”

“Ah, well I’m glad I waited around for Fancy, Grownup Jim,” she teases as she buckles her seat belt. When she finishes, she glances over at him and he’s still gazing at her, one hand on the steering wheel, with a gentle, serious countenance.

“So am I,” he says, and his sincerity shakes her to her core.



***



Don’t forget us when you’re famous. 

Pam probably hadn’t intended it, but her words had slammed into him with a weight he thought he’d rescinded: Don’t forget us. Hoped, rather than thought, he supposed.

Don’t forget me

Forgetting her was exactly what he’d failed to do for months. It only took a foil yogurt lid attached to some paper clips to make him realize he never would. 

Two years ago he’d kept Pam’s makeshift Olympic medals; wrapped them around his desk lamp, treasured them the way an actual athlete would an actual medal. It never once struck him as strange or unusual. Pam had made them with her own hands; a supplement to his attempt at making the day just a little less unbearable. Perhaps he should have told her then that she was the only thing making all of his days bearable. 

David Wallace had asked him what he enjoyed most about Scranton. He’d replied it was the friendships but that was only partly true: it was really just the one friend. And as for where he saw himself for the long haul… well, there was no answer to that question that didn’t somehow include Pam. In that moment he knew he had to try again: one final shot at the buzzer, because after everything she’d said to him at the beach, he knew he’d be a fool to turn down one last chance with her. 

He’d declined the job offer, leaving the CFO alone in his office. Unfinished business, he’d cited apologetically, and from the stunned look on Wallace’s face he was certain that had he not done so he’d be on the corporate fast track, headed to New York right now. Headed towards a real future.

But it wasn’t the future he wanted. 

He’d texted Karen, met her outside on the sidewalk. The breakup was quick and he could tell it was painful; not because she hadn’t seen it coming but because she very much had, and holding onto something that’s slipping through your fingers makes losing that thing even more difficult.

He hadn’t shied away from the truth, however: that the reason was Pam, is Pam, would always be Pam. And it wasn’t fair to Karen to lie, even if only to soften the blow.



She nods, a tear forming, but she does not let it fall. She knows. He’s pretty sure part of her has always known. 

“Are you mad?” he asks stupidly. 

She looks at him, and her expression hardens. “Not at you,” she admits. “I’ve never settled for being second best. I’m mad at myself for letting you take that away from me.” 

He doesn’t want to hurt Karen; he never has. Oddly, he thinks of Roy and how he must have felt when Pam broke off their engagement. The collateral damage of his and Pam’s inability to get their shit together has been staggering.  

“I’m sorry, Karen,” he says. “I should never have let this… us... get this far without dealing with… everything.” 

Her stare is icy. “Well, don’t expect brownie points from me for trying, Halpert.” 

He deserves this. He deserves worse. But he wants nothing more than to get into a cab and let it take him far, far away from here. A bus honks. It smells like garbage. Someone yells from across the street. He thinks of Pam and prays to god she still wishes he’d come home… all the way home. 

I’m coming home, Pam, he thinks. 

Jim tilts his head a bit, not out of pity but more out of helplessness. Does he just walk away? Does he say goodbye?  

“I hope you get the job,” he says.  

“Just because we’re no longer dating, don’t think it changes anything else,” she says.“If I don’t get the promotion I’m not quitting on your account. I’ve worked hard to get where I am in this company.” 

He nods slowly. He really, really hopes she gets the job. 

Karen turns and walks away without a goodbye. He sees her hail a cab and, just before she gets in, wipes the tear from her cheek. 




 

Jim and Pam walk into his apartment and the door closes gently behind him. She’s never been here before, and he watches her as she looks around, taking everything in. 

“Feels different from your old place,” Pam notes. It is different. He has fewer possessions around; two moves within a year has thinned his belongings significantly. 

“Well, it hasn’t had you in it, for one thing,” he says. He takes her coat and removes his own, then walks over to his vintage record player. She grins, impressed, as he turns it on. He doesn’t remember which LP he’s got in there until he hears Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar chords fill the room. 

He turns the music down to an acceptable level and grins at her. She brings her hands up to hug herself protectively, for the first time appearing a bit vulnerable. He’s suddenly aware this isn’t the same Pam from the restaurant who’d practically propositioned him over a couple drinks.

“Are you… okay?” he asks.

“I’m good,” she replies quickly. “This is just…” she shakes her head. “It’s a lot, is all.”

He approaches her, rests his hands on her hips again and bends his head down towards hers in invitation. He doesn’t want to be presumptuous but all he’s been thinking about for the past twelve minutes as the car sped away from the restaurant is how much he wants to kiss her again; how much he wants to keep on kissing her until he either dies from happiness or wakes up. 

Thankfully, she tilts her head to receive him and their lips touch once more, this time more urgently. The privacy his space offers seems to make her braver. She slides her tongue into his mouth and she tastes like heaven; like berries and sugar and Pam, Pam, Pam. 

It seems like they are kissing for a long time, although his brain feels like it’s short-circuited. She moans again softly, pressing her body against his. He reaches around to the back of her dress, and just as he reaches for the zipper he hears her say the word he’s been dreading all evening.

“...Wait.”

He stops, leans back to look at her. “Is it... too soon?” The last thing he wants is to make her uncomfortable.

She looks nervous again. “No, Jim, it’s not that… I mean, not really,” she stammers. “I want to, believe me.”

He tries not to feel embarrassed. He thought he was being smooth, but at his core he really is just that dorky guy in the yearbook photo she’d been so fond of. “But..?”

“This is going to sound so stupid, but... I think… I don’t want to rush this.” She reaches up to put her hand against his face, and he closes his eyes, leaning into it. If she just wanted to hold her hand against his cheek all night, he’d be perfectly content to let her.

“Sure, yeah,” he nods. 

“Most people don’t get ‘I love you’ on the first date, at least the sane ones don’t,” she chuckles. 

“You’re right,” he agrees. And he really does. His breakup is still fresh, and while he doesn’t owe it to Karen or even to himself, he owes it to them to do this the right way.

“I’ve never really had the opportunity to enjoy this part,” she says by way of explanation. “The beginning part.”

He wonders at this, at what she means. How had it been with Roy? How could a three-year-long engagement have possibly progressed to that point without a ‘beginning part?’

“Can I ask why?”

She looks up at him, almost confused. “You... want to know that stuff?” 

He nods. “I want to know everything about you, Pam. Everything you want to share.”

She smiles with a slight shake of her head that betrays her disbelief. “You two are like night and day,” she whispers to herself. And rather than saying no shit, Sherlock, which is his first thought, he opts for silence. He knows he isn’t Roy, could never be like Roy, but he wants to know what Pam needs. He’ll try to give that to her, whatever it is.

“Things moved… quickly for us, at the beginning,” she explains. “I was caught up by his attention, he was this super popular guy in high school. And I probably let my emotions get the better of me.” Her eyes dart to the floor. “He was… you know. My first.”

Jim suddenly feels a chill go up his spine. “He didn’t… pressure you, did he?”

She looks up. “Oh, no, it wasn’t like that,” she says. “It never felt like that. But looking back, I think, maybe… I’d have done things differently.” She stops, and while he is curious to hear more, he figures this is the most he’s probably going to get out of her right now.

“I understand,” he says. “Slow it is.”

She lets out a sigh of relief, her eyes closing. He isn’t sure what to do next, what exactly she wants, how far she wants to take things tonight. But he doesn’t have to wait long before her arms are around his neck again, their lips pressed together. He lives inside the kiss for as long as he can, and as her hands find his hair and she tangles her fingers within it, messing up his shitty new haircut, he feels as if his soul is leaving his body, actually lifting up above them. He has to pull away from her to ground himself.

“I can’t really believe this,” he says quietly. He closes his eyes, worried if he looks into hers at this moment he might pass away. “It’s... this is all I’ve wanted for way too long. It doesn’t feel real.”

He doesn’t see her but he feels her fingers move from his hair to his face. “I know what you mean.”

“Do you?” he asks, eyes open now.  He covers her hands with both of his. “I mean, do you really?”

“I think I have some idea.”

“How long, Pam?” he asks. He thinks of endless hours spent pining away after her, all the moments he wanted her and she was with someone else. All the times she turned a charged moment between them into some kind of misunderstanding. “How long have you had feelings for me, really?”

She looks up at him and he’s never been this close to her, looking into her eyes this way. He might just fall all the way into them. 

She brings their hands down from his face and holds them against her heart. “For a long time, Jim,” she says softly. “Long before I admitted it to myself. It wasn’t obliviousness. I knew there was something between us, I’ve always felt it. So that night…” she trails off, looking down. “I just… I lied.”

He’d believed her when she told him he’d misinterpreted things. What choice did he have? After everything, she still picked Roy. He’d convinced himself he’d been entirely alone in his feelings. The amount of time he’d spent agonizing over every moment they’d shared, seeing it all through the lens she herself had given him, and now to find out she’d just... lied?

“Why?” he asks, shaking his head. 

She shrugs. “It should have been so easy,” she says. “But things like that don’t happen to me. I didn’t know how to react. And all I could think about was the ripple effect choosing you that night would have caused in my life.”

He must look lost in thought, because she continues. “If it makes you feel any better, I regretted it about a millisecond after I told you no.”

He shakes his head. “It doesn’t.”

They both just look at each other for a moment, and he hears Stevie Nicks singing behind him: But she'll leave you crying in the night.

Ironic, he thinks. The pain he’d gone through that night is still palpable.

He thinks about that night, really thinks about it. How hopeful he’d been despite all of the obvious hurdles; how her rejection had hit him like a tidal wave, washing him out to sea. How he had cried, so much he’d felt like drowning. 

How he hadn’t ever fully gotten over his heartbreak, even as of this morning.

Pam seems to read his mind. “Jim... I’m really sorry I hurt you,” she practically whispers. “You have no idea how sorry.”

There’s nothing either of them can do now about what had gone down that night, and he knows that. They can’t change it, or make it so Roy wouldn’t be hurt, so Karen wouldn’t be hurt. So both of them wouldn’t have been miserable. They can’t get back all the months they wasted not telling each other the truth.

He then thinks of his own poor timing; that there had been three people involved in his overtures that night, not two. That he knew Pam better than he knew anyone, and that he should have known she would put Roy’s needs above her own, regardless of her true feelings. What happened afterwards was just as much his fault as it was hers.

He can’t change the past. So instead, he smiles. She’s here now, and she loves him, and there are no more obstacles. There is no more waiting. They have a future in sight now, together. He doesn’t remember ever being this content in his life.

“Let’s not give it another thought,” he decides. He lifts her hands to his lips and kisses them, his eyes never leaving hers. She nods, and the past is in the past.

He leads them over to the couch, kicks off his shoes and collapses onto it, throwing his feet up onto the coffee table. She nestles into him, relaxing into his arms. 

“Can I just say, it’s nice being here with you. Alone,” he says pointedly.

She grins into his shoulder. “I’m shocked. They knew we were going out, why didn’t they follow us?”

“Uh,” Jim mutters, a bit guiltily. “I actually have a little confession to make.”

Pam eyes him. “What?”

“I might have told Dwight that the crew was planning a coup,” he explains. “I saw him locking them in the office park before I left this afternoon.”

She grins, impressed. “And you didn’t want this momentous occasion caught on film?”

He swipes a tendril of hair away from her face. “Pam, this is about you and me. Only. It’s no one else’s business.”

She nods. “Do you think… should we keep this quiet, then? Just for now?” 

He pictures Michael, his jubilant face, probably finding a way of somehow taking credit for their relationship. Angela, rolling her eyes and calling Pam a tramp behind her back. Or maybe even to her face. Dwight, using this information against him in some diabolical way. And Karen, who for all intents and purposes, might show up at the office tomorrow. The body of their dead relationship isn’t even cold.

“Yeah, maybe, at first,” he says. “That’s probably a good idea.”

She snuggles into him. “And it’ll be kind of fun, too.”

Fun. God, he’s missed fun. Especially with Pam.

“Yeah.”

He sighs. She sighs. They simply sit together in the quiet comfort of two friends having laid everything on the table. His air conditioner kicks on, breaking the silence.

“I’m actually getting hungry now,” she says. “I’m sorry I ruined dinner.”

“You didn’t ruin anything,” he grins. “Given the option I’d much rather be making out with you, anyway.”

She laughs. “Do you want to… go back out, somewhere?”

“Sure, or we can just stay here. I can order in.” He turns to look her in the eyes, his next words layered with meaning. “Anything you want.”

She thinks for a moment, then gets an idea. “How about you make us a couple grilled cheese sandwiches?”

He does. They eat them on his couch and she stays all night: talking, laughing, kissing. She falls asleep on his shoulder and he doesn’t wake her this time.

It takes him exactly one week to buy the ring. He knows which one to get her, has daydreamed a hundred times about slipping it onto her finger after she tells him yes. He quietly tucks it away into the drawer of his bedside table for another day, a perfect day, the perfect moment. Whenever that may arrive.

That night, when she unlocks his apartment door with the key it took him only two days to have made for her, she takes off her coat and leads him into his bedroom. They share very few words; the weight of it surrounding them both like a warm blanket, this thing they’ve been destined to consummate feeling right and real and honest.

“Are you okay?” he asks afterwards, moving a sweaty lock of hair away from her eyes.

She nods, eyes closed. She looks happy. “I’m perfect.”

“Known that for a while,” he says softly. He leans down to kiss her forehead. He’s the luckiest guy alive.

He falls back onto his pillow and Pam nestles into the crook of his shoulder. He feels the ring’s presence in the drawer a foot away from his head. He could give it to her right now, he thinks. He could make her his forever. He’s tired of waiting. He’s tired of dreaming.

“Hey Jim?” she suddenly asks. 

“Mm?”

“Remember that day at work when Jan came in and took all of the women into the conference room? And Michael took you guys down to the warehouse?”

“I do remember,” he says. He remembers that it sucked. He remembers missing her the entire time.

“Jan asked me about my hopes and dreams,” she said. “I had to think about it. My dream wasn’t Roy. Even then.”

He’s quiet for a moment. “What was your answer, then?”

“Well, when I was twelve…” she stops. “It’s stupid, never mind.”

“It isn’t,” he assures her, and wonders how often those words had fallen out of Roy’s mouth whenever Pam had something to say. He will be different. 

She sighs. “I used to read this book, I don’t remember what it was. But there was a girl in the book who had a house with a little terrace outside her bedroom window. She had flowers in it, and when she woke up every morning she could see them. I don’t know, I just always associated happiness with the way she must have felt. It felt like that could be my dream… something simple that made me happy.”

She sighs against his chest, traces a finger along it. He drags his own along her shoulder.

“I don’t have a terrace,” he says. “I don’t even have a house. But I’ll get you one someday, if it makes you happy.”

She laughs. “That’s not what I’m saying,” she smiles. “I just wanted to tell you my real answer to her question.”

“Yeah?” He knows what it is, at least he’s pretty sure. But he wants to hear her say it.

“It’s not the terrace, or the house, or the flowers that could make me happy,” she says. “It’s this. It’s… us. It has been, always.”

He closes his eyes and feels the same: real happiness. It crashes into him like a wave, and he is washed out to sea again, but this time he’s with her. 

Always with her.

He doesn’t need to pull out the ring for today to have been a good day, a perfect day. And he’s not in a hurry. He will know when the time is right.

Jim looks at the ceiling, searching like a reflex for the obligatory lens pointed at him to make a face, share his triumph. But there’s nothing; no one else here but her. 

He smiles, just fine with that, and holds her closer.




 


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