Characters: Jim Halpert, Pam Beesly, Karen
Dedication: myst56, who requested Jam based on: rooftop, fireworks, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, stars, cuddling.
Author's Note: Karrie, I think I cheated and didn't work in "stars." I'm sorry!!!
Disclaimer: The characters used in this fictional piece are owned by NBC and the producers of The Office. The author does not claim any rights over the material.
Jim and Karen were, for the most part, very careful to keep a professional distance between them when they were at the office. It was a detail that Pam in particular appreciated, though for reasons she had yet to admit even to herself.
Once, though, she came upon them unexpectedly in the break room. It was lunchtime, and she had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat (the wedding food had run out a few days previously), but she lost her appetite very suddenly when she opened the door just as Karen detached her lips from Jim’s.
Jim had enough sense to look mortified, the color draining from his face as he quickly averted his eyes, but Karen smiled nonchalantly and said, “Hey, Beesly!”
Only Jim had ever called her Beesly before. Pam walked into the room and pulled out a chair, attempting to smile at Karen. “Hi, Karen. Sorry to interrupt…”
“No, sorry, that was—” Jim faltered, his eyes darting from his soda can to Pam.
“Don’t worry about it.” Karen shrugged easily. “Hey, do you know anything about the fight that Phyllis and Angela got into today? It sounded pretty heated, but I didn’t catch much of it.”
“Um, yeah, I dunno. Angela probably just tried to show Phyllis her kitty scrapbook one too many times,” Pam said. “Pushed Phyllis over the edge.”
Karen laughed. “Yeah, she is totally into her cats, isn’t she?”
Pam nodded, focusing on unwrapping her sandwich. She took a small bite but it tasted dry and felt heavy in her mouth, and she had nothing with which to wash it down.
“So you can definitely help me move in this Saturday?” Karen said to Jim, obviously continuing a previous conversation. “And your roommate’ll be able to help?”
“Uh, yeah, yeah, I think so.” Jim nodded, and glanced very briefly at Pam. She was watching her sandwich as if in a staring contest. “And he’s willing to take his paycheck in pizza, I already checked with him.”
“Perfect,” Karen laughed. “I can definitely afford pizza, but not much else right now.”
“Oh, shoot.” Pam looked up suddenly, feigning a look of sudden realization. “I just remembered, Michael got an important fax this morning. I need to get that to him, he’ll want to start procrastinating on that right away.” She stood up, leaving the sandwich on the table as she walked toward the door.
“She works too hard,” Karen commented as soon as the door fell shut behind Pam. “She needs to date around, have some fun. Hey, you know Roy, from the warehouse?”
Jim pursed his lips and nodded.
“He’s really cute. I think they should totally hook up. Want to help me play matchmaker?” Karen grinned and nudged Jim with her shoulder.
Jim winced. “Probably not the best idea, actually…”
There was no fax. Pam went back to her desk and stared blankly at her computer screen for a few minutes. Outwardly her face was empty, her expression completely devoid of emotion. Inwardly, she was screaming.
She cast a quick glance around the office, quickly determining that one cameraman had followed Michael to the warehouse, where he was taking b-boy lessons from Darrel, while the other camera was trained on Ryan and Kelly in the conference room. She was safe, and so, feeling short of breath and panicky, she stood up and took quick steps to the ladder that led all the way to the roof. The same ladder she and Jim had climbed the night they had their picnic and watched Dwight and Kevin nearly kill themselves with possibly illegally-begotten fireworks.
It was daytime, and the chairs Jim had conveniently kept in the back of his car were gone, so the setting had an entirely different feeling. Plus, this time she had accessed the roof alone.
She wasn’t entirely sure why she’d come here, but she knew that as soon as she stepped through the door and felt the cold January air hit her face, she felt a sense of relief wash over her. It was easier to breathe up here, away from Karen and Jim and all talk of moving and all chance of observing anything coupley happen between them.
Not that she minded. No, no, she was happy for Jim, of course, and Karen was a sweet girl.
Sighing, Pam wandered toward the edge of the roof, not for any reason more morbid than to glance down at the parking lot and ensure that Karen and Jim had come to work in separate cars that morning. They were parked next to each other, which was something, but there were mornings when they carpooled, which suggested that they had spent more time together than Pam cared to consider.
She was always in a better mood when both Karen’s and Jim’s car were in the parking lot.
The roof-access door opened with a quiet swish, making Pam turn around quickly to see who was intruding on her private pity session. It was Jim, and he had a coat draped over one arm and her sandwich in the other hand.
“I ah, think you forgot this.” He held the sandwich toward her but didn’t walk forward, making her close the gap between them so she could take it. “And I thought you might need a jacket. It’s cold up here.”
Pam nodded, agreeing, and let Jim drape the jacket over her shoulder. “How’d you know where I was?”
“The camera guy in the conference room saw you headed toward the ladder. He let me know where you’d gone,” Jim explained.
“Did he follow you?” Pam glanced over her shoulder, half-expecting to find a camera lens in her personal space.
“Nah. I slipped him a twenty and mentioned that I thought I’d seen Dwight downloading porn on Andy’s computer. He took the bait.” Jim smiled a little hesitantly, then relaxed when Pam gave a soft laugh. “Um, listen, are you… okay? I know that was awkward, in the break room, and I wanted to apologize for…”
Pam shook her head. “There’s nothing to apologize for. You and Karen had no way of knowing that I was going to walk in right then.”
“Still, it was unprofessional of us.”
Pam didn’t say anything. She had just noticed that the jacket around her shoulders was Jim’s, and if she turned her head just slightly to the right she could smell his cologne on the collar.
“So, um, what brings you up here?” Jim glanced around, then nodded pointedly toward the nearest edge of the roof. “You weren’t thinking of checking out early, were you?”
Pam laughed. “No, nothing like that. Though I’m sure it would boost the documentary’s reviews…”
Jim gave her a look of warning. “Come on, Pam, don’t even joke about that.”
“Sorry. Just kidding. Um, I dunno why I came up here. Just, like, memories.” She pushed her hair behind one ear, her other hand still holding the sandwich. “Of, you know…”
Jim cleared his throat. “Memories of us?”
“I didn’t say that,” she whispered.
“But we were both thinking it,” he returned, in a voice as quiet as hers.
Pam hesitated for a beat, then nodded. “I’m sorry I said no, Jim. I regret it… all the time. I’m sorry it made you leave, I’m sorry I drove you away…”
“No, Pam, you didn’t make me leave.” Jim’s hand rose from where it dangled at his side, reaching halfway toward her before it retreated back to its original position. “Leaving was the last thing I wanted to do, but I thought it would be… easier. For both of us.”
“Was it?” Pam asked. “Easier? For you?”
“Not at first.”
“Not until you and Karen started dating?” she asked, with no trace of meanness in her voice.
“Karen is a really great person,” Jim said. Pam looked away, nodded, and stayed silent. “Karen is fun, and smart, and I love hanging out with her, but come on, Pam, isn’t it obvious?”
“Isn’t what obvious?” Her voice wavered slightly, and the hand holding the sandwich was trembling.
“Karen is there to make sure I don’t hurt myself,” Jim murmured. “I can’t exactly put myself on the line like that again if I’m with someone else. But if… another party… were to… I dunno. Reach out, in some way. I’d probably grab on.”
Pam bit her lower lip, looking at him from below half-lowered lashes. A question hung unasked in the air between them, growing larger, refusing to be ignored. The pathway to the door was clear; Pam could, if she so chose, bolt. She could shimmy down that ladder and go back to the break room, eat her stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pretend this had never taken place. That was Option A.
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich slipped from her lax grip. Her eyes bore into Jim’s as she reached out and wrapped her arms around him, reaching up on her tiptoes so that she could bury her face against his warm neck. She felt tears press against the back of her eyes but she swallowed hard and kept them back, her entire body freezing as she waited for Jim’s reaction. This was Option B.
Slowly, carefully, his arms rose from his sides. He hugged her back, tentatively at first, then with greater force, until they were veritably clinging to each other on the rooftop.
Pam pulled back just enough to look into his eyes, a very serious expression on her face. “Jim, I have to tell you something.”
He sucked in a breath. “Okay.”
Pam paused, looking hesitant, and Jim held his breath until she spoke again. “I agreed to have Michael’s baby.”
A look of pure shock took over his face, and he exhaled very sharply. “You what?”
Fighting back a grin, Pam explained with rushed words. “One morning he was talking about adopting a baby, and I told him how difficult it was, so he gave up on that idea and instead asked me if, in ten years, I’d be willing to… you know. And I said no, so he upped his offer to twenty years, and I said no. Then he said thirty years, so I said okay. Because, you know, if I don’t have a kid in thirty years, I just might be that desperate.”
“Desperate enough to… do that… with Michael?” Jim said.
The look of pure horror on Jim’s face made her crack. She laughed, shaking her head, and admitted, “Okay, it would take about fifty or sixty years for me to get that desperate. No contracts were signed, so I’m safe.”
“Don’t you ever scare me like that again, you hear me, Beesly?”
Jim’s arms started to loosen their embrace. Pam knew that she had only a split second to make a choice, to either change their relationship forever or allow him to step back, climb back down the ladder, and go back to Karen. He had laid it all on the line for her, twice, and had made it clear that he wouldn’t do that again. But she had her chance, right there, right then, her chance to reach out and see if he was willing to grab on.
Pam hugged him fiercely, her cheek smooshed against his chest. A second later she felt his arms tighten once more, holding her close.
“Jim?” she whispered.
“I love you.”