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Author's Chapter Notes:
As it turns out, April 22, 2006 was actually a Saturday. Also, by coincidence, April 12, 2008 was ALSO a Saturday. So apparently The Office takes place in an alternate universe where days are slightly different and also you can’t lose your job even if you literally give a co-worker a heart attack by pretending the building is on fire. Explains a lot, right?

(Honestly, this could probably use another draft or seven. Or a blowtorch. But if I don't post it now, Lorde knows when I will. The ghost of the tooth mug haunts me, calls my name, beckons me into the darkness. I must escape or perish. So. Hope you enjoy anyways, but if you don't: know that it's not my fault.)


That whisper kills him every time.

Jim looks away from the spreadsheet he’s been staring at for the last 20 minutes, trying to summon the energy to make cold calls while the documentary crew is off chasing Creed and there’s one less thing to distract him, and sees one of his favorite Pams at reception. Barely-Able-To-Contain-Her-Excitement Pam. Her eyes are bright, her smile’s wide, she just radiates warmth and sunshine, and…

…and she crooks a finger at him in a come-hither gesture that he knows full well is meant to be friendly, it’s quick and jaunty and not seductive, her face says “come look at this awesome thing I found on the Internet” not “come on over here and let me have my way with you, stud.” He knows that.

He also knows the image is now tattooed in his brain.

(It’s moments like these Jim’s sure Pam has no idea what she does to him. She’s not cruel, she wouldn’t… whatever she’s doing. All these things, the way she leans into him during interminable conference room meetings, the way she perches on his desk just a little too close to him, the way she holds his gaze a little too long to be appropriate… she’d go out of her way not to do any of that if she knew he wanted her.


He goes to her, leans on the reception counter. Even if he wanted to resist, he doubts he could pull it off. He has to see whatever it is that’s put that look on her face. It’s all totally out of his hands. He should be used to the feeling by now

“What seems to be the trouble, Beesly?”

Look,” she says, turning her monitor towards him, and Jim forgets every bit of his angst.

“Oh my GOD.”

“I know!”

“Great find, Beesly!”

“This is the greatest day of my life.”

“How did you even…”

“Penny sent it to me.”

That catches him off guard. “Why would she…”

She cuts him off. “We have to do something.”


“I mean…”

“Yeah, this is basically our holiday.”

“Totally. Can you blow off sales?”

Jim puts on a scandalized look. “Of course not, I have that super important meeting with the Central Northeastern Pennsylvania United Public Association of Private…”

Pam rolls her eyes and giggles, smacks his wrist lightly. Then rests her fingers on the back of his hand, just for a moment. And his entire world is reduced to the places where her skin touches his.

(She doesn’t know. She would never touch him like that. Unless…)

“Okay. I just restocked, so we’ve got a full arsenal of jelly beans ready to launch. What are we gonna do with them?”

(Jim freezes, because if he can’t give her this, than what good is he to her? And there are moments when he is not the funnest most super awesome source of entertainment, there are moments when he can’t come up with some new game, there are moments when he just wants to drop the act he always puts on for her and just be honest, be a man and not a playmate, and he’s…

He’s got it.)

“Okay, we’re going to need 20 plastic cups and an excuse to close the blinds in the breakroom.”


“Practicing Jim’s sales pitch, and he doesn’t want anyone to steal his trade secrets” turns out not to be the best scheme to hide their vigorous game of jelly bean basketball. Mentioning trade secrets to Dwight was like waving a red cape in front of a bull, although they have a fun hour trying to convince him that throwing jelly beans into plastic cups is just a cover for what they’re really up to.

But their scuffles manage to draw Phyllis and Kevin into the game, then Kelly and Ryan, and pretty soon Pam has convinced Michael that a jelly bean basketball tournament was a great team-building exercise. Then she gets him to send Ryan out for enough jelly beans to feed a small nation. Pam crows that it’ll take even Jim all summer to finish them.

After an over-zealous Dwight throw ends up leaving a perfect jelly bean-shaped bruise on Oscar’s forehead, Jim proposes a switch to jelly bean bowling, which ends up requiring too many judgment calls about whether or not a bean has been moved to work, and Pam finally gets everyone to agree to jelly bean curling. It’s “a sport of champions, people! You roll your jelly beans across the conference room table, like so, attempting to get them as close to the edge as possible without going over the side, and the player with the most jelly beans on the edge after 10 rolls each wins.”

Curling was a “misnomer,” as Dwight explained ad nauseum, driving Jim to organize those watching to make signs declaring the “Jelly Bean Curling World Championships” and tape them all over Dwight’s desk.

Stanley disappears around 4:45, and everyone else starts to drift off at 5:00. Michael hangs in there until 5:30, having the time of his life, before he remembers to his bitter disappointment that he has improv. Pam and Jim politely decline to promise they’ll still be there when he’s done.

They’re playing for the title, and they’re both in it to win it. Pam’s got the finesse to put her beans wherever she wants them, but Jim’s leaned into Meredith’s “purposefully roll into your opponent’s beans to take points off the board” strategy. They’re deadlocked after 25 rounds, after 30, after 40. Their trash talking gets more and more brutal. Jim can’t remember the last time he’d had this much fun.

Finally, on Round #47, a breakthrough. Jim has last roll with a tie score… but it’s zero-zero, he’s been spot on hitting Pam’s point-beans. He can put this game to bed… but he has to ride the edge this time.

“Well, I’m going to limber up for Round #48. No way you’re pulling this off, Halpert.”

“You underestimate me, Beesly. I’ve been lulling you into a false sense of security, and now I’m ready to spring my trap.”

“Oh, I’m sure. Dynamite lulling. I mean, your imitation of a broken man when you had that one pineapple that hung on for like five Mississippis before falling? I was sold.” She grips the edge of the table, staring at the spot where Jim’s fate in Round #43 had been sealed with trepidation and clenched teeth, before letting her jaw drop and her shoulders sag in defeat in what he’s pretty sure was a perfect re-creation of his heartbreak, and sinking into one of the conference room chairs with her hands over her eyes.

“Oh, bravo, bravo,” Jim gives her a sarcastic slow clap. “Encore.”

Pam pops up with a smile on her face and bows. “Thank you, thank you. Please tip your waitresses and stick around for my evening show, where I’ll be playing the title role in ‘Jim Halpert’s Field of Screams.’”

“You really think you’re gonna psyche me out?”

“I don’t need to, Jim. I’ve seen you roll. I would bet you literally anything you’re not landing this one.”

“Really? Anything.”


And all of a sudden they’re there again.

(He feels like he never sees it coming, how one second they’re them and then out of nowhere they’re them, and the air is heavy and there’s something in his throat and she’s looking at him with those eyes and she’s not smiling so much and she’s breathing a little faster...

He knows, in this moment, that she does know. That she knew exactly why he bought that ticket for June 8th, that she knew exactly why he wouldn’t let go of her hand even after she had gotten the hang of skating again. That she knew that things always seemed a little brighter to him when she walked into the room.

And that she felt it too. She wasn’t cruel, she leaned on his shoulder and invaded his personal space and stared into his eyes because she felt it too, she was just scared to leave Roy behind without a clear sign, and if he just gave it to her…

He could bet a kiss. He could bet a kiss, and right now, in this moment, he knows she’d let him kiss her.

But that’s the problem. He doesn’t know. Anymore than he knew in the parking lot the night they swayed or on that goddamn boat.

In one of those chick lit books Kelly is always going on about while Ryan rolls his eyes and pretends he’s not hanging on every word, he would know. He would be sure, and it would be perfect.

But Jim’s life is not a romantic comedy. He is not Hugh Grant or Colin Firth or whatever stammering, awkward English dude women find charming these days. There is no music swelling to tell him the moment is right. The lighting is the same harsh fluorescent it always is. There’s not even the camera crew there, trying so desperately to not attract attention to themselves he can tell they think something big is happening.

And perhaps most importantly, if he’s wrong, there will be no cut to black. Jim will have to live with the fallout.

They’d never be the same. He’s not sure of much, but he’s sure of that. And he loves her, in this awful, all-consuming, genuinely sort of self-destructive kind of way… but he also likes her, the best friend he’d ever had, the person he’s closer to than he’d ever been with anyone. Can he risk that when it’s not a sure thing?

The odds have always been against him. The idea that Pam was secretly harboring feelings for him, enough that she might leave Roy, while also dragging Roy kicking and screaming to the altar? It just didn’t make sense. And if he says nothing, he can keep what they have, and maybe eventually he’ll learn to live with just that. Maybe. But if he puts himself on the line and fails…

He just wants to know for sure. Before he tries. Is that too much to ask?)

“Okay… loser pays for dinner?”

Pam nods, maybe a little too quickly, maybe like she didn’t trust herself to speak, maybe like she was disappointed… or maybe like she was nervous he was going to try to kiss her and she’s relieved she won’t have to gently let him down, or maybe like she’s hungry and she’s ready for this game to wrap up. He just… can’t tell.

He bends down over the table as Pam crosses the other side. He practices his wind up, once, twice. He looks up to find she has mockingly (maybe?) matched his hunched-over stance and is staring at him. She raises a challenging eyebrow.

He rolls.

And his little blueberry Jelly Belly rattles its way across the conference room table towards her, kisses the edge…

…and holds there.

Game over.


Roy had texted mid-afternoon that he was going to Poor Richard’s with the warehouse guys, so they’d planned to do dinner together from the beginning. Not unusual for them on Roy’s nights out. They’ll go somewhere cheap and well-lit where they’ll get served from behind a counter by a bored-looking kid in a paper hat and they’ll sit on hard plastic benches and try to guess what the rowdy gang of teenagers a few tables over is going to get arrested for that night and steal each other’s fries and it’ll still be the romantic highlight of Jim’s year.

Well, now Pam will be paying. So there’s that.

It’s freezing when they get down to the parking lot, and Pam had dressed for the 40-degrees-warmer weather they’d had in the morning, so he tells her to wait and heads off to bring his car around. She doesn’t even bother to try to talk him out of it, so maybe she needs some time alone too. Or maybe she just has no intention of freezing her ass off.

(There are times when he’s almost looking forward to this being over. To knowing it’s over.

He’s not stupid. He doesn’t need a therapist or a roommate or a know-it-all little sister to tell him he’s been frozen in place. There’s possibility, and as long as it exists, he can’t let go of it. Maybe when he gets back from Australia and she’s A… he can finally move on. Just be the friend she deserves, the friend she wants, and maybe start figuring out what he actually wants to do with his life, “like you said you were going to do when you first took this job, remember, Jim?” Yes, Larissa, he remembers.

And since Roy set the date, it’s been… hard. He can feel himself getting impatient, getting mean. He’d actually run to Toby and complained about her wedding planning, who does that?

He’d hurt her a little on Valentine’s Day, and while it hadn’t been the point, he’d kind of liked knowing he could. He wishes he doesn’t know that he’d liked that.

But it also feels like there have been more and more of these moments recently, like in the elevator the day he’d told her about his “crush,” like when she’d hugged him after he nailed the Virtuis Hospital Systems sale, like in the break room when she talked about how her dad had taken her mom on the perfect honeymoon… and it crushes him each time, and he wants it to be done, but it also feels like the universe is maybe giving him a sign. Or, as Larissa insists, like Pam is giving him an opening.

Like he needs to take a chance.

Because after all, what is there to lose? He can’t bring himself to call her Anderson in his head. Does he really think he’s going to be able to braid friendship bracelets with her when she’s someone else’s wife?

Things are going to change. This thing he’s desperate to protect, it’s going to go away.

He wants a guarantee. Something, after all this time, that he can control.

Maybe knowing it’s ending, one way or the other, is the only guarantee he’s going to get.)

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