Because his presence was always foremost in her mind, she was also very good at sensing his moods. Sitting across from her desk, Pam could look at the curve of his back, the slant of his broad shoulders, and know if he was in an approachable mood, or if he would be distant to her. The raise of a brow, a tentative bite of his lip, these were all part of Jim's body language that Pam was fluent in. The only part of him that remained a mystery to her were his eyes. All too often, in the small fragments of moments they shared these days, there seemed to be something behind his eyes when he spoke to her. Something she couldn't understand, something that had nothing to do with whatever trivial thing they were discussing. In bed at night, she let herself hope that it was a flicker of the love for her he hadn't yet lost. That it was a sign that she still had a chance. In the light of day, with Karen's presence tangible, she couldn't bring herself to hope like that. Not usually, anyway.
But because of her awareness of Jim, she started to see tiny little signs that maybe hope wasn't completely unreasonable. The first came the day she found Jim sitting alone in the break room. He was simply radiating unhappiness and she found it impossible not to cross that invisible line he'd drawn between them. She had to know what was wrong. She had to try and help him feel better. Her courage was rewarded when he surprised her by opening up to her, the first time in so long she could have cried at the contact.
She saw that unreadable look in his eyes again when he told her about his fear of Karen living too close to him. What her heart said was that maybe his hesitation meant that he knew Karen wasn't the one for him, maybe he wanted to give her, Pam, another chance. What came out was that he should go easy on Karen. It was a common miscommunication problem between Pam and her heart. And when he thanked her for being a friend, she saw that look again, and pretended that maybe it meant he'd heard what she really wanted to say.
Maybe that's why she wasn't as afraid the second time she approached him to ask what was wrong. They had laughed together over Andy's meltdown, examining the destruction he was capable of incurring on half-inch plasterboard. She noticed that he'd laughed louder than at any point since his return. He laughed like her Jim, and when their eyes met, she saw warmth and humor. She saw nothing unreadable behind his eyes. But a moment passed and he retreated, saying he needed to talk to Kevin. She nodded and moved to mix back into the crowd, talk to Toby, listening to Kelly give fashion advice. But her eyes followed him, and she always knew where Jim was.
She saw him go into the conference room alone, looking deep in thought. She was about to make a move to join him, to keep their connection open, when she saw Karen move first. Pam sighed, opportunity lost. She had no choice but to covertly observe them because that's the price she paid for missing her chance months ago. She didn't expect to see Karen almost immediately leave the conference room, nor watch her take her purse out of her desk, grab her coat and walk out of the office. Karen's departure was noted by no one but Pam.
Pam walked toward the conference room, but the look on Jim's face told her it was best to leave him alone. She eventually went back to her desk, but her eyes never left his face. Minutes later, she watched him grab his coat and walk out the door. He didn't once look at her as he passed.
Pam remained after hours, offering to clean up the piñata debris so the others could fight their way home in the snow. She insisted she felt safer driving after the congestion of rush hour, but it was Jim's messenger bag still under his desk that told her to stay. She was alone with her wastebasket, kneeling on the floor in front of the copier picking up bits of crepe paper and hard candies when she heard the office door open. She knew before she looked up that it was Jim.
"Hey," she said quietly, looking up at him as he walked over to his desk. "I thought you might be back."
"What are you still doing here?" He asked. Even from where she sat, she could see that something behind his eyes.
She indicated the explosion in front of her. "Cleaning up the crime scene," she said, offering a piece of candy his direction. "Peppermint twist?"
She saw him smile despite himself. "Sure," he said. "Let me help you get this stuff cleaned up."
He took the candy out her hand, and she tried to not to think about the fact that it was the second time today that he'd touched her. That those brief exchanges had each made her heart beat just that much faster. That she knew she'd spend tonight thinking about his touch for so very much longer than she should.
He kneeled down across from her, popping the candy in his mouth and tossing the wrapper in the trash. Pam fought the urge to pick it back out and pocket it, a little souvenir of the day. The only reason she didn't was that he would have seen her do it, and she had no acceptable explanation for doing so except to tell him that she loved him and everything he touched meant something to her. She wouldn't have even known how to form the words to make such a statement. So she let it go, like so many other moments she'd let pass her by since his return.
They worked without speaking for a while, finishing up on the primary colored burro only to move on to the parrots that had hung on either side of Karen's desk.
"Dwight certainly took out his enthusiasm to be back on these poor creatures," Pam joked. Jim nodded silently in agreement. She was happy for his help but could see he was back to being tense.
"Are you okay?" she asked. His head jerked up, and he met her gaze briefly, only to look back down at the floor.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just want to get this done so I can go home."
"Then go home. You don't have to stay and help," she said, feeling more than a little hurt at his words and his brusque tone. "I can finish this myself." She got up and moved into the conference room to clean up the broken pieces of the burro left in there.
She didn't turn the light on in the conference room, as there was plenty of it spilling in from the main office area. She also didn't want to draw attention to the fact that she felt tears coming to her eyes and she just didn't have it in her to stop them. She sat on her knees with her back to the door, trying to focus on just breathing normally. Was it always going to be so hard to be near him? Couldn't he see she was trying so hard to be his friend?
She heard him walk in so she shut her eyes and wiped the tears away. The last thing she wanted was for him to see her crying. She was relieved when he sat down next to her, the shadows preventing him from noticing her tears.
"I'm sorry, Pam," he said, resting his chin on his bent knees, his arms hugged around them. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded." He sounded so sad Pam forgot her own tears instantly.
"What's happened, Jim?" she asked softly, instinctively putting her hand on his shoulder. "What's wrong?"
He didn't answer at first, just stared at the nothingness in front of him. "I'm pretty sure Karen and I are through," he finally said.
Though a part of Pam couldn't resist feeling relieved, she loved him too much to be happy at his obvious misery. "Oh," she replied. "I'm so sorry, Jim."
He shrugged. "It's probably for the best," he said, "she deserves more."
What more any person could ask for was lost on Pam, but she kept that thought to herself. She hand was still on his shoulder, and she found herself gently rubbing her thumb against the cotton weave of his shirt. Her heart ached for him, seeing him so melancholy, while she felt the tears returning because she wanted so much for him to want her, not pining for what he'd lost with Karen. Before she even realized what she was doing, Pam leaned over and wrapped her arms around Jim's shoulders. "I'm sorry," she said again.
Jim sat completely still, and Pam thought perhaps she'd overstepped her bounds. She started to sit back, already feeling embarrassed, only to feel Jim's arms suddenly wrap around her and pull her close as he sat up straighter. She instantly hugged him tighter, melting into his embrace. She said a quick prayer for time to stop instantly, but it went ignored. They clung to each other for what seemed like ages, and tentatively Pam eventually pulled back to look at him. She saw that look behind his eyes again, and thought maybe she finally knew what it meant. She kissed him - or he kissed her, she really did not know. All she could think was that she was finally were she wanted to be, and if this was her only chance, she was going to make the most of it.
The sound of a beeping truck outside broke the spell, and Pam pulled away, feeling uncertain and worried. "I'm - I'm sorry," Pam said, completely unable to look at him.
"God," she heard Jim say, his voice full of anguish, "please don't be sorry."
Those five words suddenly explained everything to Pam. His distance from her. Karen's leaving this afternoon. What had been behind his eyes this whole time. She immediately kissed him again. And again.
"You're right, I'm not sorry," she finally said, her lips close to his ear. "There are so many other things I'm sorry for, but not this. I love you so much, Jim."
Jim held her face in his hands. He rested his forehead against hers. "Where do we even begin - "
"to talk about things? to make up for everything?" she said, her voice betraying her returning tears.
He nodded. "I have really missed you."
"Not as much as I've missed you," she replied.
Jim let out a laugh, and let his hands seek out hers. "Is this a competition?" he asked. "Because I'm pretty sure I'll win if it is."
"I wouldn't be on it, if I were you," she grinned. "I think I started missing you even before you left."
He shook his head, looking down at her hands that were now tightly locked in his. "Let's get out of here," he said. "We'll clean this stuff up tomorrow."
"Anywhere. How close is your apartment?"
She looked up at him, and felt herself go a little weak. "Not far," she replied.
Jim stood up and offered his hand to help her stand as well. "Could we go there?" he asked, his eyes full of meaning. Meaning she completely understood now.