|Loved Despite Great Faults
Author: fiona d PM
A story of Pam in love with someone else, and Jim reflecting on it. Set in Season 3. Pam/Toby some Jim/Karen, Jim/Pam, and Jim/OC . One-shot.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Angst - Words: 2,072 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 1 - Published: 03-18-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4140103
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The first time Jim suspects something might be going on it's just before eight on a Wednesday morning. Pam usually arrives first to open the office but Jim went in early that day to catch up on some work. He gets more done with no one else there.
Jim's double-checking Phyllis's sales totals for the past month when the door opens and Pam walks in. He grins in greeting but his smile fades just a little when Toby follows her in. There's half a beat of awkwardness, like when you walk in on someone and you're sure they were talking about you. Toby sort of nods at Pam as he heads back towards his desk and exchanges "good morning" with Jim. But Pam won't meet Jim's eyes all morning and he can't help but wonder why they were walking in together when Toby usually doesn't arrive until half past eight.
The second time he thinks something might be going on is two weeks later. It's a small thing, and so quick Jim's not entirely sure he didn't imagine it. Pam and Toby are in the kitchen and through the blinds Jim thinks he sees Toby gently push a lock of hair off of her face. But he couldn't tell if it really happened and a moment later they're back to drinking their coffee.
He knows something is going on three weeks after that. There's a screening of The Princess Bride downtown and he knows it's Karen's favourite movie so he buys them tickets even as it tickles the back of his mind that it's one of Pam's favourites, too. As they're waiting in line to get popcorn he hears a familiar little voice yell, "Jim!" and then he's tackled around the legs by forty-five pounds of six year old.
Scooping Sasha up, he looks around for her dad and spots Toby and Pam awkwardly making their way towards him with popcorn and drinks. Jim ignores them for a moment to introduce Sasha to Karen who's smiling but has a frown line between her eyebrows.
For about ten seconds they all just stand about staring at each other. Jim passes Sasha to Toby and she fills the uncomfortable silence with chatter about how her daddy and Pam took her to Chuck E. Cheese and now they get to watch a movie about a princess and how tomorrow they were all going to Nay Aug Park. Karen tells her that it sounds like a lot of fun and asks her what her favourite thing about the park is and Sasha goes on about the tree-house and waterslide. Karen is truly listening and Jim's never been so thankful for having her by his side as he is at that moment.
After another excruciating minute Toby says that they're going to head in and that "we'll see you on Monday." And it's the "we" more than anything that causes Jim a pang. Because Toby says it without thinking and a door closes that Jim hadn't even realised he'd left open.
The next day at work the smile Pam sends him as he enters is apologetic and he's sure he has the same expression on his face. Karen's behind him but without even looking he can feel her stiffen just a little and he reaches back to squeeze her hand before sitting at his desk.
At lunch Toby finds him eating his sandwich in the parking lot and asks if he's okay. It's not Toby's typical HR, "Are you okay?" but the query of a friend who is uncertain if the friendship has maybe been ruined. And Jim can't be mad at him because it's not like he had any claim to Pam and Toby looks so uncertain and even a little guilty. So Jim stands up and embraces him and says yeah, he's okay and they're okay, and Toby's smile makes Jim feel ashamed of even the briefest moments he's had of wondering what Pam sees in him. It's all there in his smile.
He watches for the next few days and notices things that hadn't struck him before. Pam is getting more confident. She had been for awhile now, but it's even more noticeable in the way she stands up for herself to Michael and Dwight and how she occasionally smacks down Andy and Angela. And for the first time since Jim's known him, Toby seems, cautiously, happy. It's not an overt change with him, it's something in his eyes and the way he moves. His eyes smile now, even when his mouth isn't, when it used to be the other way around. And the invisible weight that used to bear down on his neck and shoulders is gone.
Karen can't help but notice that things are a little off with him. She would be blind not to. He likes her, he truly does. Karen's fun and smart and beautiful and the sex is the best he's ever had. But it's not love. And while she might not see it, it's not love for her either.
He tells her as much one night when she asks where it's going. Their relationship. After over a year together she has the right to ask. But his answer is that it won't go anywhere because they don't love each other. There isn't a fight because he doesn't argue when she rails at him about stringing her along and bringing her to Scranton when he knew he wasn't over... She never names Pam, but it's heavy in the room. She transfers to the New York office within two weeks and Jim wonders when he'll be able to look at himself in the mirror again without feeling guilty.
Toby becomes distant in that time and Jim's pretty sure Karen told him why they broke up. His eyes lose their happiness and become haunted as if he's waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just when Jim thinks he can't feel worse.
Pam would probably reassure Toby but she's busy in New York finishing up the graphic design internship. Toby has been everything Roy hadn't and pushes her in the direction she wants to go. She needs that kind of nudge every once in a while and Jim knows that Toby's good for her that way.
When she returns from the last of her training, it's on a Friday afternoon and she's glowing from the experience. The first place her eyes travel is back in the direction of Toby's desk but their relationship is still a secret from most of the office. From what Jim's gathered the only other person in the know is Oscar who ran into them grocery shopping. And if anyone understands what it's like having a secret in this office, it's Oscar.
Phyllis and Kelly both want to hear all about the internship and soon half of the staff is gathered in the break room eagerly listening to Pam's adventures in New York. Jim hovers by the door and notices Toby listening from the other side, eyes downcast and shoulders slumped. Unable to take anymore Jim slips from the room and returns to his desk.
In the next few weeks Jim gets the impression that they're going through a rough patch. Toby stops visiting Pam at her desk and she stops eating her lunch in the break room. Jim expected to be happy about this, and feel hope rising at the possibilities, but instead he just feels tired. And that's how he knows. It's over. Before it ever really started.
Pam seemingly decides the same thing. He wasn't in the break room, but he overhears Kelly telling Ryan about it. Kelly and Toby were taking a break and Phyllis and Pam were doing the same thing. Michael walked in just as Phyllis asked Pam if she was going to ask Jim out now that he was single again. Pam got embarrassed and said no, and according to Kelly she was blushing a lot. Michael said she should get going unless she wanted to lose him again. She wasn't getting any younger and things were starting to sag. Apparently Toby told Michael that it was inappropriate and Michael snapped at him saying that no one was concerned with Toby's love life because no one would ever love Toby again.
"And then," Kelly says, "Pam pushed Michael out of the way and said that he was wrong, that she loved Toby and she kissed him right there. Toby, not Michael. It was so awesome. And after a second Toby just swooped her up in his arms and spun her around, still kissing her. It was the most romantic thing I've ever seen in real life, Ryan. You would never be that romantic."
Pam comes by his apartment later that week to talk. She tells him that she thinks maybe that they were just never meant to be. At least not in that way. That she loves him but she's not in love with him, not like she thought she could be once upon a time. And Jim realises that he feels the same way.
A few months later he gets a 'save the date' and a few months after that he's an usher at their wedding. At the reception he mostly dances with flower-girl Sasha, but he dances once with the bride and can sincerely tell her how happy he is for her. It's actually Michael who has the hardest time with the marriage, unable to reconcile the fact that someone he loves is married to someone he hates. But he manages to make it the whole day only maligning Toby once so Jim believes there might be some hope there.
Toby and Pam move to New York the following year. Pam gets a job in the New York office as a graphic designer and Toby is promoted to assistant director of HR. Pam's replacement is cute but young and so shallow she makes Kelly look like a Rhodes scholar.
Jim clicks with Tracey, their new HR rep, as soon as he meets her. She's pretty, but it's her sense of humour that really draws him in. That and the fact that she has Dwight convinced within her first week that his HR file states that he's a security risk and that it's beyond her control to change it because the risk assessment comes from the CIA. It's not like it was with Pam, nothing ever could be, but it's wonderful in it's own way. Maybe even better because there isn't any longing or angst.
Pam and Toby come back occasionally, but not often. Toby's ex-wife moves to Bridgeport a few months after they move to New York so he no longer comes to Scranton to get Sasha. But they come for Ryan and Kelly's wedding and put money down in Kevin's divorce pool. And they come back for Toby's twenty year high school reunion and go out for supper with Jim and Tracey beforehand. Jim's afraid it will be awkward, and it is a little in the beginning, but before long they're all laughing.
Between the main course and dessert Pam and Jim pass each other near the restrooms. She pulls him aside to let him know how much she likes Tracey. There's a threat of bodily harm if he screws it up. When he asks about New York and married life her face lights up and the joy radiating from her gives him a bittersweet pang, but it's brief and he catches a glimpse of Tracey chatting with Toby and he knows.
Things might not have turned out exactly how he expected, but life is how it should be.