Sandwich

"'Well, you're not the most motivated person I know.'

I admit it. 'That's pretty accurate.' I swig. 'And I wouldn't call taxi driving a real job.'

'What would you call it?' Ritchie asks.

I think awhile before speaking. 'An excuse.'"

I Am The Messenger, Markus Zusak.

"Jim Halpert, you are a creature of habit." Pam speaks the words defiantly to the stale air of the break room, setting her equally stale chocolate muffin down. Jim follows the elegant line of her arm down to the scratched plastic, and wonders absently when the filthy thing was last cleaned. Then he traces the line of the fluffy blue cardigan back up, to discover that Pam is now poking him in the chest.

Interesting development. Why didn't he notice this sooner? What was it she was talking about again…? "Pardon?"

"I mean, come on, you eat the exact same sandwich every single day of the week. Why don't you ever try turkey and havarti? Or potato salad? There's a number of other sandwich opportunities out there, and you are only harming yourself by not taking advantage of them." Pam's trying- she really is- to keep a straight face, but Jim's well enough trained that he can sense the edge of laughter in her voice.

He waxes philosophical. "Well, Beasley, perhaps you never stopped to consider that ham and cheese may just simply satisfy my body's nutritional demands," he pauses for a moment, to listen to her snort, before continuing, "and eating it for lunch everyday is all that's keeping me from a crippling dietary deficiency that could land my sorry butt in the hospital with some terrible, incurable disease…"

Pam laughs. For just a moment Jim allows himself to listen to it, storing the sound away before his carefully placed walls of self-preservation go back up. She takes another bite of her muffin, and it does terrible things to him. Small pieces of Jim flake off and land with a soft flutter on the break room floor, and he watches them accumulate with the same sardonic smile he has been wearing for years now.

At some point he realizes Pam has started talking again. "You need to try new things, Jim! Break out of your shell a little! Tell you what- you bring something different for lunch, and I'll take you out for a drink. My treat."

He can't resist ribbing her a little. "Can we go to Chili's?"

Pam's shudder of revulsion is quite apparent. She's mortified, despite herself. "No. Not on your life, Halpert."

"You're going to pay my medical bills for whatever untreatable disease I'll contract- right? Because I won't do it otherwise." Jim raises his eyebrows, waiting for her reaction.

Pam waves her hand dismissively. "With the wonderful health care here at Dunder Mifflin? You won't even need my money. Besides- if it's incurable, then what's the point in treating it anyway? A total waste of money, and effort." She smiles at him, eyes wry, before finishing the last bite of her muffin and wadding the wrapper into a small ball.

"What indeed…" His words fade away, unfinished, into the dry, conditioned, air. Pam doesn't notice.

- - - - -

Jim is packing his lunch, and the irony is not lost on him. Pam might not have realized it, but the discussion never was about a sandwich.

Who is he, to lecture on her being content with a life half lived?

She had dreams. Pam was going to buy a house with a terrace, and decorate it with her own paintings. Maybe that would never happen. Maybe she realizes that. But it was somewhat reasonable, and sweet, and so completely her it hurt, and made Jim want to tear reality into thin, little, insolent, uncaring ribbons.

And Pam, at least, had had a goal.

Jim can't even claim that.

He sells paper for a living, pining away for a girl he will probably never have, and contents himself like she did or does with a succession of faceless women to keep at arms length. He lives in a tiny, shared house and hasn't talked to his mom for over four months, or a friend other than his roommate for even longer.

Dundler Mifflin is nothing but the latest in a series of highly unimpressive jobs (postman, cashier, scalper, dog groomer, and while he will never admit it to Pam, a receptionist at a dentist's office, among other things) that will likely continue until the day he dies, or throws himself in front of a train like he promised long ago.

And Jim eats the same sandwich, day in and day out, like the creature of habit that he really is and no longer has the strength to break away from. Things will not change. Matters will not improve.

He wants… he wants… he wants to want things.

The taste of ham and cheese disgusts him. Always has.

- - - - -

Jim is choking on his lunch, and the irony of that is not lost on him either.

The world has narrowed to a small blackish purple patch of wall across from his desk. Beyond the ringing of his ears, something sounds like wheezing, or coughing. A small part of him laughs bitterly when he realizes it's him. Another part wonders if Michael will decide if the best thing for the company is for no one to know about his death, and if Dwight and he will bury poor Jim's body in the patch of grass like an island in the middle of the parking lot. His mind goes off on a small tangent, imagining some mangy dog digging up his rotting foot and trotting back to proudly present the limb to it's owner.

It never occurred to Jim, just how sticky peanut butter actually is. Of course, it probably didn't help that he also put honey and bananas on the stupid thing, then forgot a drink. And cash to buy a new one. And was too proud (ashamed) to ask for change.

The words are the first thing he realizes, the only fuzzy thing coming from a fuzzy outside world. Jim, Jim, oh my god, are you alright? Please, Jim, c'mon, breathe, just swallow, you'll be fine, don't leave me along with Dwight, please don't die, Jim?!

But all this thinking only takes a matter of seconds, and Jim eventually manages to swallow, the room begins to right itself, and Pam is at his ear, face white with worry. Some hand shoves a cup of lukewarm water from the "cooler" at him and he greedily gulps it down between gasps of air.

Dwight is leaning over the side of his desk, with something like genuine concern drawn crudely upon his ugly mug. The mere sight starts Jim laughing, at the sheer absurdity of Dwight feeling that wayfor him, and the thought that he himself was very likely the rough color of one of his idiot coworker's idiotic beets. And the laughing, of course, turns into more coughing and the whole farce starts over once more.

This time when he comes to, Jim makes a point of focusing on Pam.

"You… look pale." His words are stunted, crumpled over from lack of air and they fall heavily upon the ground at her feet.

Her laugh (sob) is shaky, and she hands him a water bottle with jittery hands, right after tearing the cursed sandwich from his fingers and handing it to Kevin for disposal, who promptly takes a bite and nods appreciatively.

"You think I'm pale? You should see yourself!" Pam's eyes meet his tired ones briefly, before dodging safely to the scribbled doodles on his desk. Her next words are quiet, leaking out like air in an old balloon. "First you got all red, and then… all the color just went out of your face and you kind of slumped over and stopped coughing, and stopped moving, and… I was so afraid, Jim…"

Jim perks up at that, and is suddenly, acutely aware of just how close they are sitting. He takes her hand, because it just seems like the right thing to do, rubbing comforting circles with his thumb. She doesn't pull away, but instead slumps toward him just a bit. Jim smiles.

Maybe it isn't so bad here. Words are murmured, thick with love and sorrow and desire that she probably can't even see.

"I would never leave you alone with Dwight."

A/N: MURDER IN THE OFFICE! DUN DUN DUN!

First Office fic… and probably the last. I dunno. But since I'm new here, forgive me if this has already been mentioned- PB & J. Get it? Huh? It's like JAM only better. XD

I really don't know when this is supposed to take place. –whistles-

Hope I spelled Chili's right. –shifty glance- The restaurant doesn't have a y in it- right?! Because then it would be like cold… I am so confuzzled…