A/N: Yes, more angsty Pam/Jim. This was originally the elevator ride at the end of the Secret, but it could really be any elevator ride. So, yes. Anyway. Read and let me know what you think.
Three floors down. 36 seconds at the most. His fingers grip his coat, his bag, tightly to give themselves something to do. She's watching the numbers count back to L which isn't a number and she opens her mouth to comment on it, but she stops herself. He listens to his pulse in his ears and looks at the floor of the elevator. She turns her head so she can just see him in her periphery and she wonders when it was that his face had become so sad. His skin warms when he notices her watching him from the corner of her eye. The residual feeling, however, is that persistent dull ache just behind his sternum.
They hit the second floor after what seems like ages. Really, it was a mere 13 seconds. She's holding onto her bags in front of her, her hands clenching the straps tightly. He can smell her and it's a bit of perfume, but mostly fabric softener and her shampoo and maybe a little bit of something else that he can't describe and can't place. She presses her lips together a little tighter, still watching the lighted numbers, silently willing that 1 to go to L. She doesn't mean that, though. She wants it to stay there a little longer, because she sees words in his eyes and wants him to say them. He coughs quietly, clearing his already clear throat, trying to kill the silence.
She thinks of what he reminds her of: Sunsets, chocolate, warmth, road trips she's never been on, those rose colored skies of early morning, the soft scratching sound of pencils against paper, the feeling of skin against soft, clean cotton. And ultimately the way love should feel, the way she wants it to feel: soft, slow, overwhelming. Her cheeks begin to burn. I'm not oblivious, is what she should be saying right now. You're not the only one feeling this way. I feel it too, you know. She can't though. Because when she tries, she freezes. And when she's alone and she thinks about saying it, showing him, she starts to shake. Things can't just change. She can't just abandon ten years, give it up for…It scares her more than anything. Both what would happen if she did and what will happen if she doesn't.
The light behind the number 1 begins to dim and she knows what comes next. The lobby and an unconvincing smile and a goodbye and separate ways, different cars, Roy waiting in the truck. She knows this routine all too well. His gaze will linger a little longer as she's walking away and she'll turn back just as he's looking away. It's pathetic now that she's thinking about it.
She pushes the emergency stop button, surprising even herself. She draws her hand back slowly and doesn't look at him.
He gives her a sideways glance, a confused half smile on his face. "Uh…Pam? Why did you-"
He stops when he sees the look she's giving him now. It's a look of determination, terror, shock. She stares at him like this for a few seconds, her eyes moving over his face like she's figuring something out in her head.
"Say something," she says quietly.
He brings his eyebrows together in confusion and parts his lips to speak. "What do you want me to say?"
She sighs deeply. "Jim, just say something. You want to say something. You've wanted to say something for years. Say it."
"Pam, I-" He takes in a breath and lets it out slowly, looking away from he.
"Why don't you ever say anything?"
"Because you're engaged. It's not my place to say anything," he says with his lips pressed in a firm line.
"Well, I'm giving you permission now to say something. So…say something."
He runs a hand along the side of his face and gives her another steady look, his eyes looking at her intently. "Pam, what-"
"Tell me what you wanted to say on the booze cruise."
So he does. He tells her how he wasn't happy with Katy. How he was always miserable. How it was all just a distraction. He tells her that she doesn't get Roy, because he's not what she needs or wants. He says, "I wouldn't need to be drunk to set a date for our wedding. I wouldn't wait three years to do it. I wouldn't make you stay here. I would-"
She looks like she's going to be sick. She sways back and forth on her feet and he reaches out to steady her. She looks up at him at the feel of his hands. "Say it," she says when her eyes meet his.
And he lets his hands run down to her elbows and he's grasping them maybe too tightly with his fingers, unconsciously bringing her closer to him. He shrugs, feeling defeated, and says, "I love you."
There's something in her chest then that blooms to an impossible size. She steps back a bit and leans against the wall of the elevator, trying to catch her breath or slow her heartbeat. She's shaking her head slowly as she stares at the ground.
Instinctively, he steps toward her. This is what he's meant to do, keep her calm and safe and happy. He feels all the little holes filling in when he touches her right hand with his fingers. However, her hand doesn't react, not like he had hoped it would. Her own fingers don't curl around his. It stays limp there as his fingertips run along her palm, his thumb on her knuckles.
"That scares me, Jim," she says with her eyes still focusing on the elevator floor.
She shifts on her feet a little and finally lets her fingers grasp his hand lightly. "You're the only person I've ever kissed besides Roy, you know." She laughs a little. "Yeah, believe it or not, I actually remember parts of that night." She finally glances up at him and she sighs heavily. "Roy is all I know. And…I know I need to change things. I know he isn't….I know you're…but I'm just so afraid. Where would I live? How would I tell him? What would he do? God, this is ten years being thrown away."
She breaks then, but her tears are silent. He takes a few more small steps toward her, just enough so that her head can rest on his shoulder. And he doesn't know what to say to her so he just murmurs that it's alright against her hair and hopes that it sounds convincing. He isn't sure that it does because she stars to shake then.
With her mouth against the fabric of his jacket, she says, "This was just supposed to be something fun, a distraction, you know? You were just what made it bearable to come to work. And I don't know when that became…what it is now."
He's still holding her hand and now she's gripping his tightly, almost urgently. He should be telling her that he's scared too. Because he is, he's frightened by how quickly this is all becoming reality. He wasn't prepared for this. He had almost gotten used to living in his head. He had come to terms with the fact that this would always be unrequited. But now here he was in an elevator with her grasping onto his hand, crying. Here he was in an elevator, finally saying the words that have been repeating in his head whenever he glances over at her. Somehow it feels like the end of something that had become such a part of him. And he's scared just as much as she is and he should be saying this out loud, but silence has always been there thing.
He can't say how long they're in that elevator. Minutes, maybe hours. But at some point, she wipes her eyes and backs away from him and pushes the button for the lobby again. And they emerge from the elevator changed. Different, but better for it. She turns to him as they begin to head their separate ways and he knows that there is still so much more waiting for him to do.