a/n: i don't own the office or, sadly, anyone who works there. spoilers up through the finale, casino night. thanks so much to my beta, LunaMystik, who really helped me clean up this wreck.


Jim went back into the office and he could hear Pam's voice as soon as he stepped out of the elevator. She sounded young and there was a tremble in the middle of each sentence that wasn't always there. Outside, he had walked past her through the chain link gate and stood by his car for about ten minutes before he could breathe without a hitch in his throat, and then turned around and went to find her – a man with a mission.

Pam had been fifteen when she received her first kiss. It hadn't been on a date or anything formal. She'd stayed late after school to work on the sets for the school's production of Pippin and a senior, a tall boy with messy hair called Andrew, had kissed her while they painted cardboard with the house lights up. He'd said later that she was pretty and she'd believed him.

Jim's kiss was a little like that one, like her first. Her heart raced in the same way, and his lips were warm against hers. She could feel the very tip of his tongue, wanting to push through the barrier of her mouth but holding back. He smelled like gin and his hands were big and warm against the small of her back. He kissed her again, and a third time before she pulled back to get a good look at him. In the parking lot, Jim's eyes had filled with tears and now they had the same glassy look, but this time he looked hopeful and there some something else, an additional element that she thought might be desire. Pam didn't want to keep breaking his heart.

"Jim," she said, and she sounded like a little girl. "I…"

"Pam," he said, and ducked his head to kiss her again, and her name hung like a prayer in the air around them. This time he kissed her hard. Their teeth knocked together and his arms wound around her. She felt his tongue against her lips, demanding that they part and she felt the bump of the cold metal desk against the back of her legs. This was kissing and she wondered if she'd ever truly been kissed before this moment. Her and Roy's first kiss had been after several beers at a crowded party and was kind of a blur. Oh, she breathed in, Roy.

"Stop," she said, pushing him away. His lips were wet with their saliva. "We can't do this."

"Why?" he asked.

"I'm engaged," she said. "You know that."

"But," he said. "I just… Pam," And there was her name again, sounding holy and pure. She shook her head and walked past him, unsteady on her heels.

oooo

The sad thing was that it was Dwight who drove her home. Dwight, driving with Angela in the passenger's seat, and Pam in the backseat and she'd said, snidely, "I know you came together, please, Dwight, I need a ride." Neither Dwight nor Angela bothered to ask Pam why she was crying. She got out of the car when it stopped in front of her apartment complex without saying goodbye. Her purse was still sitting on Jim's desk, next to the phone where she'd frantically called her mother, and so she banged on the apartment door until her knuckles were red.

It was hard to wake up Roy when he'd been drinking.

Dwight and Angela were long gone and she could knock until her hand was a bloody stump, Roy wasn't going to open the door. She looked around helplessly.

Jim lived four blocks over and two blocks up. A fifteen minute walk – twenty-five in the heels, but she pulled them off and took careful steps to avoid any rocks or pieces of broken glass. It was late, but not too late. The lights from the houses she passed helped light her path. Inside, she saw televisions glowing and families, warm and happy and safe.

Jim's roommate answered the door. She thought his name was Matt, or maybe Mike, though Pam was fairly certain that Jim would never live with anyone named Michael.

"Is Jim home?" she asked, trying not to look absurd in her pretty dress and her shoes in her hand. The bottoms of her feet were probably filthy.

"Uh, I think he went to bed," the roommate said. "Aren't you a work friend?"

"I'm Pam," she said and a look of understanding crossed his face. It made her shiver, and she wished that he would just let her pass. She forced her expression to stay neutral. "Can I come in? It's kind of important."

"Sure," he said. "Down the hall."

"I remember," she said and walked past him, dropping her shoes by the door. Her purse at his desk, her shoes at his door, what would be left when she finally got to him? His door was closed and the strip of space beneath it was dark. She felt as if she should knock, but instead she turned the knob and opened the door just enough to let herself in. The door clicked behind her and she heard him stir in the dark.

"Mark, man, what did you need?" he asked sleepily and she thought 'Mark!' to herself.

"It's me," she said and the movement increased. He turned on the lamp with a click, and it was bright. She closed her eyes. When she opened them again, he was sitting up in the bed, the comforter covering his waist and his chest bare. She felt a little dizzy.

"Is everything okay?" he asked.

"I left my keys at the office," she said. "I'm locked out of my apartment."

"But what about…" Jim couldn't say his name.

"Jim, I wasn't fair to you earlier," she said. His hair was even messier than usual and she couldn't help looking at the flatness of his stomach, the way his arms curved with muscle, the way he looked at her so steadily.

"What do you need?" he asked. The room was just as she remembered and it took her five steps to reach his bed.

"I need help with my zipper," she said.

oooo

Jim thought for a moment that his heart had stopped and when she turned around to offer the back of her shiny dress to him, he stood up, not caring that all he had on was a pair of boxers that were rapidly failing to hide his reaction to her. His hands were trembling as he extended his arms to the top of the dress; to the small metal tab that controlled the zipper. His fingertips brushed the top, the subtle curve of her spine and she inhaled sharply. He thought he might faint. He never understood want, desire, aspiration before, until now. He wanted Pam, he desired her, he aspired her. Jim liked living in a world in which aspiration was a verb, not a noun. His only goal for the last four years had been Pam and it seemed appropriate to feel aspiration for her.

The zipper slid down smooth, the sign of a well-made dress.

Her back was white with a few freckles and there was the black, horizontal stripe of her bra and he wasn't sure he could do this and maintain his cool exterior. She turned around and faced him, and looked down at his underwear and her face went red.

"Now you know," he said, unashamed.

"I know from before," she said. "But now I know this, too." She bravely reached out and grasped his erection in her small, warm hand. Jim groaned and she smiled and felt powerful.

His sheets were blue and his pillows soft and he laid her down like she was precious. She thought she would never get tired of his tongue in her mouth or his hand on her breast. The expensive dress was on the floor and her underwear matched her bra and he ran his tongue along her collarbone at the same time that he slipped his hand into her panties and she thought, yes.

But later, when they were tangled and breathing and still, she didn't know what she was going to do. He was rubbing his fingers in little circles over her skin and an acute sense of guilt began to settle in.

"I've never…" she said, but stopped.

"It's okay," Jim said.

"But that's the thing," she insisted, sitting up, holding the sheet to her chest. "It's not." Jim blinked a few times but didn't let go. "I've only ever…Roy is the only man…" she didn't know how to say what she needed to say.

"Why do you love him?" Jim asked, sadly.

"I just always have," she said.

"What about now?" he asked, pulling on her so that she rolled on top of him, so their hips were aligned, so that she had to squint to look into his eyes clearly because their faces were so close.

"Ten years is a long time." Pam said and it occurred to her that fear might be more powerful than love. Jim knew when to shut up and so he did. He didn't try to convince her with more words but she was there and she was naked and she was on top of him and so he took her again one more time before she slipped away forever.

He didn't tell her he was leaving.

oooo

Pam walked home that morning; a few hours after the sun had come up. He offered to drive her home but instead she put on her dress and found her shoes at the door and blushed as she walked by Mark who watched her leave and watched Jim bite his lip and go back down the hall to his room, shutting the door behind him softly.

Roy opened the door to their apartment before she even lifted her fist to knock.

"Where the fuck have you been?" he asked, looking at her messy hair and last night's dress. Pam just shrugged and walked inside. Roy asked questions but she locked the bathroom door behind her and didn't come out for hours. She didn't talk for the rest of the day and finally Roy went out drinking with Darryl. Sunday morning, as they sat on the couch watching infomercials, she turned to him and said,

"How many people have you slept with?"

Roy didn't miss a beat when he answered, "Only you, babe." Pam knew that was how it should be, but it wasn't. Roy and Pam's first time was on Prom night, and Pam had turned her face away from him and watched the white wall of the motel room until he was through.

"I'm not an idiot," Pam said. "How many?"

Roy looked at her and turned the television off. "What are you doing?" he asked.

Pam didn't know. She shrugged, angry, and said, looking down at the ring on her finger, the gold band and the small, dull diamond-

"Maybe something needs to change." Roy was easily frustrated with mysterious language and so he nearly growled.

"What?" he asked. She shrugged again, and delicately slid her engagement ring off her finger.

"You don't make me happy anymore," she said. It was, by far, the boldest thing Pamela Beesly had ever done and she felt light-headed, like she might be sick. Roy was staring at her, trying to figure out if she was serious.

"No one is happy," he said, finally. There might have been something that Roy could have said to make her stay, but that wasn't it, and so she left.

oooo

On Monday, Pam woke up at her mother's house, a good two hours away from Scranton and Jim woke up in his bed, where he had been since she left and neither went to work. Her mother had sat by her for a few hours, stroking her hair while she cried and that had been nice. It was surprisingly easy to cancel a wedding.

"Maybe you should wait a few days," her mother said. "See what happens." But Pam knew that she needed to do it now; she needed to make a decision that was final for once. She didn't want Roy to weasel his way back into her life like he always did. She didn't know how many people Roy had slept with, but she knew it was more than one and that had to be enough.

"Mom, I have to tell you something," Pam said, standing her the kitchen. Mrs. Beesly was just relieved to see her daughter out of bed. "Remember Jim?" This was an almost comical question for Pam's mother, but instead of laughing or rolling her eyes, she just nodded. "I think I love him, too."

"I see," Mrs. Beesly said.

"I slept with him," Pam continued, pushing the words out as fast as she could. This surprised her mother and Pam could see that her mother didn't know what to say. "Mom," Pam said, starting to cry again, but she was tired, tired of crying. Mrs. Beesly shrugged helplessly and Pam saw a lot of herself in her mother. The indecisive fall of their shoulders was just the same.

oooo

Jim thought that Roy showing up at his apartment to punch him in the face wasn't proof that Roy knew Jim had slept with his fiancée. Roy probably had his suspicions and just needed someone to take his frustrations out on. Jim answered the door in his boxer shorts and a Ren and Stimpy t-shirt. Roy punched before he spoke and the blood poured from Jim's face.

"Stay away from Pam," Roy said, shaking his fist. He paused, looking at Jim holding his face, tears mixing with the blood. "Whoa man, that… dude, sorry."

"Nah," Jim said, sounding stuffy. Speaking hurt more than the punch. "It's cool." Roy hung around on the doorstep while Jim went to get a towel but he didn't stay long. Finally he left without saying anything else. After Jim was sure Roy was really gone, he drove himself to the hospital and left five hours later with the worst headache of his life and a bandage on his nose that he thought made him look like a badass.

At work on Tuesday, Jim was half an hour late and Roy had quit and everyone knew there would be no wedding. Jim jumped every time the door opened and flinched every time the phone rang, but Pam never came in. When Jim called her apartment, Roy answered and he hung up without speaking. Alone later, in his bed, doped up on the Vicodin they'd given him for the pain, he found one of her hairs underneath his pillow and thought he might just go crazy because of all of this.

He called her cell phone ten times and finally, finally she picked up.

"Hi," she said.

"Pam, where are you?" he asked, desperately.

"I'm at my mom's house," she said. "Look, Jim, I just need a little time."

"That's fine," he said. "I just wanted… I just wanted to tell you something." She waited for it.

"What?" she asked, finally. She tried not to love Jim just as hard as she tried to love Roy.

"Today at work, Dwight was changing the water cooler and knocked the whole thing over and spilled five gallons of water everywhere."

"I'm sorry I missed that," Pam said, giggling. "Did he ruin anything?"

"We get the new copy machine on Thursday," he said. Jim hadn't laughed at the time, but now he laughed telling her and she laughed on the other end and he thought this might all end up okay.

"I'm going to be back tomorrow," she said. "Maybe we can get lunch."

"Okay," he said. "I'd like that." She hung up a few minutes later. He looked down at the phone and said, "I aspire you, Pam Beesly."

Before Jim went to bed, he weaved the wavy brown hair through his fingers, and fell asleep with it clenched in his fist.