Series: "Past Perfect”
Authors: austin360 and hannasus
Fandom: The Office
Summary: Hours later he finally has to admit to himself that she has nothing to say. (Jim/Pam)
Spoilers: Through “The Job”
Author's Note: Chapter 1 is here. Major props to ciachick711 for betaing.
It’s Just Waiting for You
Jim doesn’t get home from Reading until six o’clock. After four tortuous hours in the car with Stanley complaining about sharing his commission with a kid like Jim, and another two hours listening to the purchasing manager at Poole Plastics talk about fly fishing on the Allegheny, Jim’s ready to hang himself with his own necktie.
He checked his cell phone incessantly the whole trip, double-checking that it was powered on, or that he’d changed it from vibrate back to loud ring. But Pam never called him. Hours later he finally has to admit to himself that she has nothing to say. He’s kind of pissed about that, but at this point he mostly just feels numb.
Pale light spills listlessly through the blinds and his apartment feels even emptier than usual as he digs through the dresser for a change of clothes. He keeps finding Karen’s things—pajama bottoms, three pairs of socks, a Northwestern tank top—and tosses them all into a pile in the corner of the room.
After pulling on an old ’76ers shirt he wanders back into the living room, giving the cell phone on the coffee table a dirty look. He passed dead-tired two hours ago and uses the last of his energy to put on an Elliott Smith CD before flopping down on the couch.
In five minutes he’s sound asleep.
The sound of the doorbell startles him awake sometime around dusk. He sits up and blearily scrubs at his eyes, wondering what time it is. The doorbell rings again before he manages to pull himself off the couch and he feels a stab of dread that it might be Karen.
But when he swings the door open it’s Pam standing there in the last orange-pink rays of failing sunlight and he has to fight to keep breathing. In, out, in, out, he reminds himself, tightening his grip on the door.
She’s holding a plastic grocery bag and nervously shifting her weight from one foot to the other. The urge to pull her into his arms is almost overwhelming, but he’s had a lot of practice crushing those kind of urges.
Struggling to keep his expression as neutral as possible, he self-consciously pats at his nap-mussed hair. “Pam? Hi.”
“Hi,” she says carefully. Her expression is shuttered and unfathomable and he feels a familiar ache in his chest.
“What are you…what are you doing here?”
She chews her lip in an unconscious and completely adorable display of unease. “Um. Hi,” she says again.
“Hi again.” He can’t help smiling a little at the burst of pink that flames in her cheeks.
“I... I was just thinking… um…” She trails off, shifting the bag from her right hand to her left.
“Do you want to come in?” he asks, swinging the door opens wider. He can’t help but feel a tiny spark of hope. Maybe she wants to work things out after all?
“If that’s okay,” she says, glancing around uncertainly. “I don’t want to interrupt anything.”
He shakes his head. “No, I just I fell asleep on the couch.”
“Oh. I thought maybe...you and Karen...”
“No!” he says quickly. “No, Karen and I are over. Completely over.”
“Okay. I just... I saw you guys in the break room today and figured—”
“Pam, no. She just needed to say goodbye. That’s all.”
Relief floods her face and the tiny spark of hope ignites into a bonfire. He follows her through the foyer and into the living room, watching nervously as she looks around his apartment for the first time.
“This is a nice place,” she says. “Lots of new furniture.”
“Yeah, most of the stuff at my old place was Mark’s.”
“It looks good. Like a grown up lives here.” She peers at the framed prints on the wall behind the couch. “These are really great photos. Did you take these?”
He nods sheepishly. “When I went to Philly with Mark and his girlfriend—wife, I mean—last June.”
“Oh.” She stiffens almost imperceptibly and if he weren’t so attuned to her he might not have noticed. They’re treading dangerously close to the things that seem to get them in trouble. The wedding that never happened. The transfer he took to get away from her.
He searches for something safe to say. “What’s in the bag?”
“The what?” Her forehead crinkles slightly and she tilts her head.
He points. “The bag?”
“Oh! I made you a sandwich.”
“A sandwich? Seriously?” It’s so absurd he has to smile.
“Yeah. Are you hungry?” she asks, holding out the bag to him.
He tries to keep his voice light, teasing. “Maybe. Depends on the sandwich.”
She smiles and for a moment it almost feels like the way things used to be. But then she sets the bag on the table and her smile fades. “Jim, I know we didn’t have a very good night last night—”
“Pam, I’m so sorry, I have no idea what happened,” he blurts out before she can finish.
She shoves her hands in her pockets and stares at the ground. “I think maybe we have a lot to work out. I was just... I was expecting to drop right back into being... you know, us.”
“And the thing is, we haven’t really talked all year and even before you left we never...” She looks up and her eyes find his. “We were never very good at telling each other the truth, were we?”
“No,” he says, remembering all the times he could have told her how he felt but didn’t. And all the times he knew she must have known but pretended not to. “We really kind of sucked at that.”
“And then when last night didn’t go well, I was just so disappointed, but it wasn’t fair for me to... I don’t know.” She looks at him helplessly.
“No, you’re right,” he says, stepping forward. “I had this whole perfect evening planned in my head and none of it turned out the way... it seemed like the only good thing about last night was…” He stops, suddenly embarrassed.
Something about the way she’s looking at him gives him the courage to say it. “The only good thing about last night was finally getting to your apartment and you were wearing that amazing dress and...” He feels his face getting hot but he keeps going. “...I kissed you. We kissed. And then everything went so horribly wrong and I thought we’d never... I was afraid I’d never get a chance to do it again.”
Her eyes are glittering when she looks at him. “When you said you’d broken up with Karen for me, I was really… I don’t know...” She falters.
He’s dying to rush forward and fold her up in his arms but he doesn’t move. He waits to hear what she’s going to say because he needs hear her say it.
She closes her eyes briefly and then looks up at him. “Jim—” she starts, then takes a deep breath. “I want this. Just so there’s no more misunderstandings. I want this. I want you. To be totally honest, I’ve wanted this for five years.”
He takes another step closer and wraps a finger around one of her curls. When she looks up at him he smiles, but he doesn’t say anything.
“Jim? Did you hear me?”
He smiles wider. “So... you want me?”
“That’s what I just said,” she says, smiling back at him.
His hand travels lightly through her hair. “Well, that’s headline news, isn’t it?”
“Is it?” Her eyes flutter closed as his fingers graze against her neck.
Moving even closer, he curls his fingers into her hairline. Her eyelids blink open and she gazes up at him. The air between them is buzzing like an electrical storm.
“What about last night?” he says quietly. His other hand flutters low on her hip, skimming the skin between her t-shirt and the waist of her jeans.
“What about it?” she whispers. Her hands move to his chest, right over his heart, and he knows she can feel it racing, but he doesn’t care.
His other hand untangles from her hair and he gathers her up in his arms. “It, uh...” he starts. And then she kisses his throat, right below his Adam’s apple. “Pam,” he breathes.
He feels her smile against his neck and she places another kiss at his collarbone. Then another near his ear and, oh god, he wants it to be like this forever. But he knows it won’t be. If this is going to work they have to be able to move past this perfect moment and into the maybe not-so-perfect moments waiting for them.
“Look at me,” he says quietly, because there’s something he has to say before it’s too late. She looks up and his arms instinctively tighten around her. “You’re the one, Pam. You’re it for me. I’m sorry for all the stupid crap, I’m sorry for last night, I just… I love you, okay? We’ll figure out the rest.”
“You—you still love me?” Her voice is thick and he can see tears welling in her eyes.
He grins and lifts her up off the floor, feeling her toes brush against his shins as her flip-flops slide off her feet. “Yes, Beesly. There was never anyone else.”
She giggles and tosses her hair out of her eyes as he puts her down. It feels like the most natural thing in the world to hold her like this, warm and breathless in his arms. When their lips meet he feels joy bloom inside him, driving out the cold emptiness that had been chilling him all day.
It’s a long kiss—a really long kiss—longer than the one last night or the one a year ago that he doesn’t like to think about. When they finally untangle themselves a few minutes later, Pam’s cheeks are bright pink and Jim’s stomach is flip-flopping like he’s sixteen again.
“So, this sandwich,” he says. “Is that meant to be some kind of peace offering?”
She grins and leans over the coffee table for the bag. “Well…sort of. I just figured that our second date didn’t go as well as—”
“Second date?” Jim interrupts.
“Yes,” she says, straightening up. “Our first date was on the roof. Remember?”
“I remember,” he says, and he knows, somehow, in that moment, that it’s going to be okay. Whatever else happens, they’ll figure it out together.
“So anyway I made us grilled cheese sandwiches,” Pam says, pulling plastic containers out of the bag.
“Good, because I’m getting really tired of ham and cheese.” He quirks a smile and reaches for the empty bag, but it’s not empty. “What else is in here?”
She shrugs lightly and flashes that mischievous smile that he adores. “Just a movie I rented.”
He pulls a DVD case out of the bag. “You rented Stranger Than Fiction?”
“Would you mind watching it again with me? Because I’ve been meaning to see it and, you know, I’ve got half a bag of flour that I don’t understand in my cabinet now, so—”
He grabs her and kisses her again. “Dinner and a movie sounds perfect.”
They spend the evening on Jim’s couch eating grilled cheese sandwiches and watching the movie. Pam leans over and kisses him when she finally gets the flour joke, and again when the credits start to roll.
By that time they’re curled up in each other’s arms and neither of them wants to move so they just stay there, talking, long into the night. They talk about movies and about really bad reality TV. They talk about Pam’s art classes and about Jim’s life in Stamford and they even talk about the wedding that Pam didn’t go through with and how hard it was for her starting over on her own. And Jim tells her how proud he is of her, and she tells him how glad she is that he came back. And sometime after midnight they end up falling asleep, with Pam’s head resting on his chest and his hand tangled in her hair, and the DVD menu still running on an endless loop.
And the very last thought that goes through Jim’s mind, just before he drifts off, is, oddly enough, that he can’t wait for work on Monday.