Title: against the gloom and the fluorescent lights
Pairing/Characters: Jim/Pam, with a hearty dose of Dwight
Rating: G
Word Count: 1,744
Spoilers: Set pre-series
Summary: It takes three days for Jim to decide that the new receptionist is pretty much the greatest girl ever.
Author's Note: Whoa. I'm actually . . . writing about Jim and Pam. Surely, the world has gone flat!!

But seriously. Even if I do sort of get annoyed at them sometimes, and get tempted by the exquisite lures of Pam/Toby and Jim/Karen and Pam/Karen and Pam/Roy, I do love them deep down.

--

It takes three days for Jim to decide that the new receptionist is pretty much the greatest girl ever.

He knows she's cool right away, because when she comes in on the first day she pulls a little glass bowl out of her purse, and then a bag of jellybeans. Jim gives her a thumbs up, and she smiles at him as she pours them in. He can hear the cheerful clinking of the candy against the glass as he looks down again; the sound reminds him of laughing, for some weird reason, and it takes a second before he even notices that his phone is ringing.

They bump into each other – literally – at lunchtime, when he's walking into the kitchen and she's coming out. She stumbles a little bit and he steadies her, right hand under her left elbow.

"Whoa," he says, his fingers grazing the bare skin of her forearm for just a second as he pulls away. "Sorry about that."

"It's dangerous around here," she replies teasingly, instead of saying 'that's okay,' and it kinda makes him like her more.

"I'm Jim," he says, and thinks about shaking her hand, but it seems lame for some reason. So instead he stands up a little bit taller and announces, very importantly, "Jim Halpert, Dunder Mifflin Salesman. And not to freak you out or anything, but I'm pretty important."

He's a little surprised (in a good way) when she doesn't crack a smile; instead, she keeps her face grave and replies, "How important?"

"I'm afraid I can't disclose that information," Jim informs her. "Classified. You see . . ."

"Pam," she supplies. "Beesly."

"Pam," he echoes, and he's having a hard time not smiling. "If you're gonna last around here, you've gotta learn how things work. And rule number one is, no questioning the importance of the salespeople." He drops his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Except Dwight Schrute. And yes, that is his real name."

"I know," she whispers back, leaning a little closer as she does it. "He introduced himself earlier."

"Oh, man," Jim says, and does his best abashed flinch. "Sorry. I didn't know you'd already suffered through the important salesman speech once today."

"The difference is," she says, giggling a little, "I think he was serious."

"Oh, he was definitely serious," Jim says grimly.

"He told me that if I do anything to compromise the integrity of this workplace, he will know, and he will do everything in his power to thwart my deviant antics," she informs him.

"Sadly? All true." He shakes his head. "Oh, man, Pam. You've got a lot to learn."

She laughs. "Teach me?"

He pretends that it's actually something that requires contemplation. "You know, I'll consider it."

Pam smiles at him, and she's not really his type, if he's got one, but man, there's something about her.

"Uh, guys?" Kevin asks from behind him. "Can you move out of the doorway?"

Jim doesn't mean to keep thinking about her, but when he goes home that night he somehow winds up mentioning her to Mark, who figures it out right away. He doesn't really give him a hard time, though – just grins and punches him lightly on the shoulder, saying, "It's about time, man."

And Jim hasn't really seen anyone since his last girlfriend, Sarah, who always laughed at his jokes but never played along, and maybe Mark's got the right idea.

On the second day, it snows for the first time this year, and she comes in with snowflakes glistening in her hair, looking flushed and cheerful and strangely, radiantly alive against the gloom and the fluorescent lights. She glances in Jim's direction as she's taking off her coat and smiles. He smiles back.

"So, Jim," Dwight says, and sort of lunges toward him, the wheels on his chair squeaking, and Jim had never really thought that an office chair could be irritating or dangerous until he met Dwight.

"Yep?" Jim responds, and only looks up at him for a second before focusing his attention on the computer screen again.

"What do you think," Dwight says, his voice low, "of the new receptionist?"

For a second, he finds himself struck by something almost like panic, specifically of the oh, Jesus, it's so obvious that even Dwight sees it variety.

But then Dwight hisses, "Friend or foe?"

Ah. Right.

"Friend," Jim replies slowly.

Dwight narrows his eyes. "What makes you say that?"

"The jellybeans," Jim says.

"I don't understand," Dwight replies, and Jim can tell he's torn between being impatient and intrigued.

"Well, Dwight," Jim says, and leans forward on his elbows, "It's a pretty nice gesture, don't you think?"

"Either that, or she's trying to poison us," Dwight says, his eyes flying fiercely across the room to fix on Pam.

"That could be it, too," Jim agrees easily.

"Sylvia never brought in jellybeans," Dwight remarks, studying Pam with ferocity. "This is abnormal."

"Because you're the expert on all things abnormal," Jim points out.

"Precisely," Dwight agrees, and he keeps his eyes trained on Pam for the rest of the morning.

Jim goes up to the front desk at six minutes after ten and grabs a handful of jellybeans from the bowl.

"Hey, uh, Jim?" Pam asks as he leans against the desk. "Dwight keeps staring at me."

"Oh," Jim says. "Right. He thinks you're trying to poison us with the jellybeans."

"Seriously?"

"Would I lie to you?" He almost cringes after he says it because wow, that was pretty obvious.

Luckily, she doesn't seem to mind. "Well, we gotta do something."

"What?" he asks, a little caught off-guard.

"Like, we can't not use this information against him, right?" she asks, glancing at Dwight for a split-second. "It's too good."

Pranking Dwight has always been Jim's thing – his sacred, solitary responsibility. His destiny, if you will. But he's always figured he'd be okay with sharing if somebody worthy came along.

"What do you have in mind?" he asks, and leans a little closer.

At three forty-seven that afternoon, Jim takes five jellybeans (one green, one orange, three yellow) back to his desk and eats them casually while Dwight looks on, sharp gazed. Five minutes later, he starts feeling weird – like, really weird, where he can't stop coughing and it kinda feels like his throat is swelling closed and wow, is the room really spinning around them? – and excuses himself to the bathroom. He's just coming back out, miraculously cured, when Michael stops by the front desk, gives Pam a few moderately offensive compliments, and grabs a generous handful of jellybeans. Dwight hollers at Michael not to eat them, but Michael just stares at him like he's crazy and pops a few into his mouth. Jim grins at Pam from across the room, and Dwight attempts to shove his fingers down Michael's throat so that he'll vomit them back up. He's successful, which isn't so fun – but the point is that they accomplished something here today. Something legendary.

"Phenomenal work, Mr. Halpert," Pam says later, her eyes sparkling.

"Thank you, Miss Beesly," he responds, rapping his knuckles against her desk. "And a commendable effort from you, as well."

"I just brought the jellybeans," she says, feigning modesty.

"But without the jellybeans," Jim points out, holding up a finger, "the carpet would not be sporting the attractive vomit stain it will now bear for the rest of eternity."

"That's true," she says as solemnly as she can, and they maintain their honorable stoicism for about five more seconds before both of them totally crack up, because life here is nothing if not disgusting and depressing and just . . . sad, and if you can't laugh about it, then you're probably going to wind up driving off a bridge.

"Wow, Jim," Dwight says scathingly the next morning. "Your fatal jellybean poisoning wore off very quickly."

"What can I say, Dwight?" Jim responds, and shrugs. "I have an excellent immune system."

"Michael won't talk to me anymore, and it's all your fault," Dwight says, glaring daggers – or maybe paintballs – at him. "You and that receptionist."

"That's a pretty hasty accusation there," Jim replies casually.

"Pfft! I knew it the second I laid eyes on her." Dwight drops his voice; it's dangerously quiet. (Or at least he'd probably like to think so, anyway.) "She's just as bad as you are, Jim. You two might as well just go off and get married so you can spore legions of evil offspring just like you."

"Maybe we will, Dwight," Jim says seriously. "Maybe we will."

Dwight rolls his eyes so hard that they almost wind up in the back of his head. "Jim Halpert, you are an idiot."

"Whoa, Dwight," Jim says, holding up his hands. "Maybe you should settle down. Because that's just harsh."

"I'll have you know that I brought my spud gun today," Dwight hisses, and he's downright deathly now. "Just . . . in . . . case."

"Wow," Jim says, and decides that now would probably be a good time to get up and walk away. "You know what, I think I'm gonna go visit Pam."

"Oh yeah?" Dwight snarls. "Then why don't you marry her??"

"I'm workin' on it, Dwight," Jim assures him as he stands and walks away. And even though Dwight is completely nuts, Jim kind of thinks that, in the very loosest of interpretations, he might have a semblance of what could constitute the right idea going on.

Pam glances up at him as he nears the desk.

"Working hard?" he asks.

"Solitaire," she confesses.

"Ooh. Slacking on your third day," Jim says, and winces. "Unimpressive, Beesly."

"You're not at your desk," Pam points out.

"That's because Dwight is threatening to shoot me with his spud gun," Jim replies.

"Ah," Pam says, and nods sympathetically. They just look at each other for a second, and all of a sudden he's feeling either brave or stupid, and right now it doesn't exactly seem important to make the distinction.

"Hey," he says, and takes his hands off the desk so she won't see them shaking. "You wanna maybe grab lunch at Cugino's today?"

A radiant smile breaks out onto her face, and for a second it seems like maybe he's not just wasting his life working here. Not that he believes in meant-to-be or anything like that, but God, when she smiles—

"Yeah," she says, and her voice is warm. "That sounds really great."