Author's Note: Set between "The Client" and "Email Surveillance." Becomes AU at the end, which is why I'll never be invited to write for the show.
The door slammed, and Katy was gone.
Jim stared at the door, rubbing his cheek. She had slapped him, but he supposed that's what he got for calling her "Pam."
Obviously, he was farther gone than he'd realized.
He dropped his hand and tried to be sorry Katy was gone. And he was, a little. She was great in her way—pretty and lively and optimistic. Friendly and good. Too good. There was no bite to her, no darker, cynical side. She thought sarcasm was mean.
He was sorry, but his overwhelming feeling was one of relief. More and more, he'd felt he was lying to her, perhaps in an attempt to lie to himself. But tonight put an end to the lies, and Jim found that he could look at her, look at himself, and admit what he'd been denying for months.
He didn't want Katy. Never had.
He'd never seen her angry before, never heard her shout. She'd thrown his pants at him, put her skirt on crooked, and told him that if he really wanted the frumpy receptionist, he was welcome to her.
"She's not frumpy," he'd shouted back, surprising himself.
Katy laughed. "You're pathetic. Isn't she engaged?"
He hadn't said anything. Didn't need to, at that point.
Jim looked down. He'd put his boxers on backwards. It wasn't quite midnight, and tomorrow was Monday. He sighed.
He was late to work the next morning, and Pam had already settled in, coffee mug steaming beside her keyboard. She looked up as he entered.
"Are you all right?" she asked, frowning slightly in concern.
He leaned against the tall reception desk and looked at her, trying to decide if he should tell her or not.
"Katy and I had a fight last night," he finally said. He looked for the flash of annoyance that always flared in Pam's eyes when he mentioned Katy, and he wasn't disappointed. He liked to imagine it was jealousy, but knew Pam's dislike for Katy was probably personality based. Katy's perkiness chafed against Pam's reserved cynicism. "We broke up."
Pam's eyes widened, and the annoyance became something else. Before he could identify it, it was gone, smothered by sympathy. "Oh. I'm sorry." She reached up and laid a hand on his arm. "That sucks."
He gave her a small smile and shrugged. "I'm not as upset as I thought I'd be." He looked away before she saw something he didn't want her to. "Well, I'd better…work."
She removed her hand from his arm. "Yeah."
He walked the few feet to his desk.
Over the weekend, Dwight had somehow managed to increase his Annoyance Factor tenfold, and Jim found himself entertaining homicidal thoughts for the first time in his life. Instead of acting on them, he broke pencils into tiny pieces beneath his desk.
Dwight returned—unfortunately—from wherever he had disappeared to twenty minutes ago and leaned across his desk. "So, Angela overheard you tell Pam that you broke up with the purse girl."
"What, was she hiding behind the filing cabinet?"
"So it's true."
Jim frowned at him. "That's none of your business. Or Angela's, for that matter."
Dwight stared at him. He hadn't blinked since he'd sat down. "Since she dumped you, can I have her number?"
Jim waited for some kind of emotional reaction, but all he felt was tired. He took it as a sign that he'd worked here too long; nothing Dwight said surprised him anymore.
He plucked another pencil from the cup on his desk and snapped it in half. Dwight didn't blink. "What makes you think she dumped me?"
Dwight raised his eyebrows. "You have seen her, right?" He frowned, as though suddenly realizing just how much of her Jim had probably seen.
Jim briefly considered giving him Katy's number. With the mood she was probably in today, her rejection of Dwight would be priceless. But he couldn't inflict Dwight upon her. She didn't deserve that. No one did.
He blinked twice at Dwight, slowly, then turned to his computer and opened a new email.
If I kill Dwight, will you testify that he deserved it?
He heard Pam snort, and a few seconds later a new email popped onto his screen.
Testify? I'll help. I wield a mean stapler.
The afternoon crawled by. Michael was preoccupied with befriending—torturing—the temp, and Dwight was teaching himself Klingon from a website, which meant he was no longer asking inappropriate questions about various aspects of Katy's anatomy, so Jim actually completed what little work he had in relative peace. He had run out of pencils by lunch, and instead channeled his hostility into vividly descriptive emails to Pam of the many ways to murder Dwight using only office supplies.
At 4:45, no longer having the energy to look busy, he decided to rifle through the supply closet for more pencils and anything else that looked interesting. The supply closet was across from the break room, and had a sign taped to the door:
DOOR CANNOT BE OPENED
FROM THE INSIDE
REMEMBER TO PROP OPEN!
The latch had broken months ago, and Michael had yet to authorize the funds necessary to call a locksmith for repairs.
Jim opened the door and pulled off one of his shoes, which he used to prop the door. He hit the light switch and started scanning the shelves. He grabbed a blue Sharpie, a white-out pen, and a pointless plastic cube that dispensed mini-post-it notes. He found a small Steno notebook with green pages that he liked better than his blue one and added it to his pile. Nothing else caught his eye, and he frowned as he realized he hadn't seen any pencils. He worked his way through the shelves once more, but still came up empty-handed.
He retrieved his shoe and walked back to his desk to drop off his new supplies. Pam was just shrugging into her coat. Most of the others were gone.
"Hey," he said, walking up to her desk.
She pulled her hair from beneath her coat collar and looked at him, half a smile on her face. "Why are you still here? I thought you'd snuck out."
"Without saying good-bye?"
He couldn't help but smile back. "Can you help me? I can't find any pencils in the supply closet."
"I just restocked them last week."
He shrugged. "I didn't see any, but maybe my male refrigerator blindness has advanced to new territory."
She rolled her eyes and said, "Come on, you helpless baby. I'll find you some pencils. What'd you do with all yours anyway? You had three dozen of them."
"Twenty-seven, actually. And I broke them," he said, following her down the hall, "to keep myself from breaking Dwight."
She laughed and pulled the supply closet door open. "You," she said, pointing a finger into his chest, "stay here—" she pointed down, "—and keep the door open."
He saluted and held the door for her, then took half a step into the closet and leaned against the door, holding it open a few inches. Pam moved to the back wall and shifted some boxes of index cards.
"Huh," she said. "They were right here."
"There, see? I'm not helpless."
She moved down the shelf, picking up things and looking behind them. Jim scanned the shelves, and thought he saw a familiar box tucked into one of the uppermost corners.
"Are those them?" he asked, pointing.
Pam looked at him, then up toward the corner. "Where? I don't see them."
"You're not looking high enough," he said, taking a step forward. "Right th—"
The door clicked shut.
He and Pam exchanged a look.
"Oops," he said.
They dove for the door. Pam worked the handle while Jam banged against the door, hollering, "Hey! Let us out! We're stuck!"
"It won't open," Pam said, slamming the heel of her hand against the door.
"We knew that," Jim replied. "That's why there's a sign."
She turned on him, slapping his arm and shoulder.
"Ow, ow, hey!" he shouted.
"You had one job!" she said, pointing a finger in his face. She turned her panic on the door, beating her fists against it and screaming, "Help!"
Jim backed up a step, rubbing his arm. "I think everyone's gone," he said.
"No, no, no, they can't be!" she cried, "Help!"
"Hey, hey," he said, trying to sound soothing. He grabbed her shoulders and gently pulled her away from the door. "Let's think about this. Do you have your cell?"
"It's in my purse on my desk. Yours?"
He checked his pockets and swore. "I put it in my coat. Okay, does the janitor come tonight?"
She shook her head. "He switched to mornings for the winter so he could go to his kid's basketball games."
They thought for a moment.
"Won't Roy wonder where you are?" Jim asked, feeling the warmest toward Pam's fiancé he could ever remember.
Pam's face fell. "He's out of town this week. His Uncle Bert died."
"Oh, yeah." He had known that. He'd been excited about this week.
"And you broke up with Katy," she said. He didn't bother to correct her statement, liking that she assumed it this way. "So she won't wonder where you are."
He shook his head.
She crossed her arms. "Okay. What now?"
Jim looked around the closet then back at her. "We could beat on the door some more…"
They sat on the floor, leaning against a shelf of file folders. Jim couldn't quite stretch his legs out in the narrow closet. Pam's legs were crossed at the ankle and lay on her coat to protect them from the cold tile floor.
"At least we have light," he said.
"I'm starving," she moaned.
He pulled a half-empty box of Tic Tacs out of his pocket, and she snatched them out of his hand.
"You've been holding out on me!" she cried, smiling.
"I was saving them for an emergency."
"What time is it?"
He looked at his watch. "7:36."
"It's an emergency." She popped the lid open and poured some Tic Tacs into her hand. She offered them to him, and he took one with a nod of thanks. As she leaned back against the shelf, her shoulder brushed against his and stayed. He smiled at his lap.
"It's your turn," he reminded her.
She sucked on her Tic Tac in concentration, then said, "Pets, name and type, in chronological order."
"You comfortable? This could take a while."
She popped another Tic Tac in her mouth.
"All right. When I was eight, I had a guinea pig named Bugs."
"Bunny. I wanted a rabbit, but my mom said their cages were too big."
"You poor thing."
He bumped her with his shoulder and stole a Tic Tac. "I had an aquarium for several years, but I couldn't begin to tell you the names of all the fish I went through. When I was thirteen my mom bought me a puppy. A Beagle named Lunatic."
She twisted to look at him, pressing her shoulder more firmly against him. "That's an odd name."
He raised his eyebrows. "You didn't know this dog. He lived up to his name. After he got hit by a car—" She made a tiny oh sound he thought was adorable. "—I got a lab mix we named Clarence. Had him for a long time. And my mom always had cats. I think she's on her fifth one. The dogs had to live outside." He paused. "Your turn."
"I never had any. My dad was allergic."
"Not even fish? A parakeet?"
"What about now?"
She shrugged. "Roy's allergic, too."
They were silent a moment, and she straightened, pulling away from him. His shoulder felt cold.
"Okay," he said, "if you could have any pet, what would you have?"
A smile slowly blossomed on her face. "An Irish Setter. Named Tara."
He took another Tic Tac. "Why an Irish Setter?"
"Did you ever read Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard? It's about an Irish Setter. I loved that book when I was younger."
He scoffed. "I didn't read books about animals. I read manly things like the Hardy Boys."
"No boy-and-his-dog books for Jim Halpert?"
He shook his head proudly, then said, "Well, maybe a few. But don't tell anyone."
She pulled herself onto her knees and leaned forward slightly to study his face. "Admit it," she said, "Where the Red Fern Grows made you cry like a girl."
She grinned. "It did! You cried like a girl!"
He tickled her. She squealed and fell backwards to the floor with a thump, then scooted to the opposite wall.
"You stay over there," she said, her smile at odds with her stern tone.
They smiled at each for a while, until Pam's face fell into a contemplative expression, and she looked away. Jim leaned his head back against the shelf, banging it lightly, wondering if God was laughing at him.
"So," Pam said, "do you want to play pictionary?"
Pam yawned again, and her eyelids drooped.
"Come here," Jim said, scooting across the paper-strewn floor— they'd gone through an entire legal pad worth of pictionary—to sit beside her. He put and arm behind her shoulders and pulled her against him. She stiffened for a half a second, but then relaxed, shifting closer to him and turning her face into his shoulder. "It's not even eleven o'clock yet," he said.
"So?" she mumbled. "Close enough. I'm totally allowed to sleep."
"But who will entertain me? I can't guess my own pictionary drawings."
"No one can guess your pictionary drawings. You're terrible." She shifted and repositioned her arms. "Mmm, scoot down. This isn't comfy."
"You're just jealous because you lost." He scrunched down.
"No, that's worse." She sat up, frowning at him.
"What?" he asked. "You don't want to sleep anyway."
"Oh, yes, I do."
"If you fall asleep, I'll draw on your face with a Sharpie," he threatened.
"If you draw on my face," she said, leaning forward, "I'll slap you until you can't remember your name."
He raised his hands in a placating gesture. "All right, all right. I've been slapped around twice in the last twenty-four hours. I'm not looking for another go."
Pam straightened, looking more awake. "She slapped you?"
His eyes flicked away from her face and he inwardly called himself every name he could think of.
"What you'd do?" Pam's mouth hung slightly open, and in the dim light from the closet's single bulb, he couldn't tell if she was appalled or amused. He looked down.
"You have to tell me now," she said, ducking her head to try to see his face. "Spill it. And I'll know if you're lying."
He met her gaze, and her voice softened. "Come on," she said, touching his shoulder with her fingertips. "Please tell me."
He looked at her for a moment, at the real concern in her eyes. He sighed. "I forgot her name."
Her brow furrowed. "How could you—are you blushing?"
He looked away.
"Oh!" she said. "Oh." She started laughing.
Jim inched away, knowing what question would come next, knowing he couldn't lie to her, knowing that now, while he was trapped in a closet with nowhere to flee, was the worst possible time to make this sort of confession. He stared at the back wall.
Pam calmed down enough to ask, "What did you call her?"
He didn't answer.
"Jim? What did you—"
He looked at his lap and swallowed.
"Oh, God," she said quietly. She sat back. "Oh…God."
He glanced up. She was staring at him, but he couldn't read her expression. He stood and moved the last few steps to the back of the closet. He glanced at her again. She was breathing heavily, staring blankly at the floor, her forehead wrinkled in shock and confusion.
Jim lay on his back, knees bent, and threw an arm over his eyes, wanting nothing more than for morning to come.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed—it couldn't have been more than half an hour—when he heard her move. He didn't react until her knees bumped into his side. He pulled his arm away from his face and let it drop to the floor.
She looked down at him, twisting the hem of her shirt in both hands. "Jim, I—"
"No, look," he said, propping himself up on his elbows. "I'm sorry I said anything. I never intended to." She looked slightly hurt, but he barreled on. "I never wanted to horn in on your life and mess things up. I've been thinking, and it might be best if when we get out of here tomorrow, I give Michael my notice. That way you won't have to freak out about things and—"
"Stop talking," she said. She sounded angry, and he obeyed. She looked at the door, then at her knees. "Can…can we just…?"
"Yeah," he said, dropping back to the floor. "No problem." He folded his hands across his stomach and closed his eyes. He felt a pang of guilt, but shoved it beneath his own anger. They couldn't just go back. Not now. And maybe if he pushed her away, it wouldn't hurt as badly when he left.
He heard her shift again, and silently willed her to the other side of the closet, but her knees didn't leave his side. He refused to open his eyes, however, and instead concentrated on keeping his breathing slow and steady.
He jumped when her fingertips touched his forehead, and his eyes snapped open. She brushed his hair to the side of his face.
"Don't leave," she said quietly.
"No," he answered.
She continued to run her fingers across his forehead, trailing them down the side of his face, and her eyes wandered over his features. He took a deep breath and her eyes came back to his.
"I want to kiss you," he said.
She pulled her hand away and looked at his stomach, biting her lip.
Then she lifted her gaze and said, "Okay."
Oscar's mechanical pencil was out of lead. He sighed and pushed his chair back. He hated the supply closet. It would probably take him twenty minutes to find more lead, as the closet didn't seem to follow any organizational system he was familiar with.
On the other hand, he didn't have a whole lot else to do.
He opened the door and stopped, staring dumbly into the closet.
Jim and Pam lay on the floor, Pam's head on Jim's chest, her arm thrown around his waist, his arm angling across her back.
Pam moaned a little and lifted her head. She blinked at Oscar. Oscar blinked back.
She shook Jim. "Hey," she said softly, "We've been rescued."
Jim grunted and sat up halfway in a sudden jerk. He blinked at Oscar as well, then grinned. "Our knight in shining armor. Boy, are we glad to see you." He clambered to his feet and helped Pam up.
"What happened?" Oscar asked, still standing in the doorway.
"We got locked in last night," Pam said. She bent and picked up her coat, which Jim had been using for a pillow. "Right at five, and no one heard us yelling."
Oscar stared at her. She looked different, and it took him a few seconds to realize he'd never seen her hair down before. "Why were you in the closet at five?" he asked.
Jim snapped his fingers. "Pencils! I needed pencils." He reached up and pulled a box out of the corner. He shook it with satisfaction and grinned at Pam. She grinned back. Oscar watched them in confusion, his head moving back and forth.
Jim checked his watch. "Dude, it's only 7:30. What are you doing here?"
"It's quiet," Oscar said. "And I like to hide Angela's planner."
Jim clapped him on the back, then looked at Pam. "I don't know about you, but I'm taking a sick day. Hungry?"
"Good. Pancakes are on me."
They walked down the hallway, laughing and smiling. Oscar stared at them until they turned the corner. He could have sworn Jim's shirt was buttoned wrong.
He looked down at the pencil in his hand and shrugged. It was early, and he hadn't had his coffee; maybe he was just imagining things.