Title: Five Avril Lavigne Songs Pam Would Never Admit to Having Had Stuck in Her Head
Fandom / Pairing: The Office, mentions of Jim/Karen, but mostly Pam
Rating: K+, because it looks funny.
Disclaimer: I was with a group called Dunder-Mifflin.
Summary: I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing!
Notes: Literally built around my JAM mix that has "Girlfriend" as Track One. Seriously.
1. sk8er boi

It was so incredibly easy for her to forget just how male Jim was. Is. Whatever. Somewhere in the mess of things she'd forgotten that Jim wasn't just there. She didn't feel flustered and flirtatious when he bent down over the counter, when he leaned into her side to whisper some funny phrase. Hands on her elbow, on her shoulder, touching hers at lunch - it didn't strike her. Somehow, she'd labeled Jim asexual in her mind, and she wondered how she'd been able to do that when she spent an hour every week trying to capture his hands.

Katy had brought it to the forefront of her mind, somewhat. Seeing Dwight be a boy about the pretty girl in the conference room and having Jim lean in so-so-so close and run a color commentary left her feeling warm well after his presence had departed. Seeing Jim walk out with Katy made her stomach twist and she wonders why and how and if.

That night, she looked out the window as Roy drove her home. She almost wished it were raining so she could trace the lines of water down her window, but it was a nice, warm summer night like it should be. She dreamt of her future with Roy, an ongoing three-year engagement weighing down on the ring finger of her left hand. At a stoplight she held up the small band and the small diamonds perched precariously on her knuckle, watching as the sodium lights alongside the road colored the gold an impure yellow and the diamonds a faded gray. She imagined an equally thin, equally heavy wedding band joining the paltry engagement ring, thought of long drives home like this spent in silence. The weight of it all was set to crash down on her when Roy cut the engine and told her they're home in a quiet, sparse voice to which she was almost unaccustomed.

The next day, Jim came up to her desk and poked through her candy dish idly, and she just looked at him, hands poised above the keyboard. She stared. And stared. And stared. And he noticed.

"What, is there something on my face?" He pointed at himself adorably, and she felt the edges of her mouth rise.

"No. I'm just...seeing you for the first time."

He laughed a little and closed the lid on the jellybean jar. "Pam, you've been here for two years. You see me every day."

"I know," she replied, and smiled enigmatically.

2. he wasn't

The ceiling fan spun round and round and round. It was starting to give her a headache. With a sigh, she sat up abruptly and rubbed the spot where her ring should have been; it itched to not have it there.

Her little tiny apartment was dark because she hadn't had the energy to turn on the light. Then she remembered that she didn't have power yet. With another sigh, she fell back again, rolling onto her side to gaze out the little window in the loft where her bed was laid out. No blinds, no curtains - her space, a blank canvas upon which to impose her will.

Outside of her window, she saw the dark outlines of tree branches, heavy with large leaves that created dappled patterns against the carpet by her bed where the moonlight fell. Rolling over, she faced the large, red numbers of her sole clock. 8:48.

Groaning, she sat up again and pulled her hair out of the ponytail she'd set it in. Quietly pulling half the mass into a braid over her shoulder, her eyes focused on the barest outline in the shadows behind the red numbers. Her pale phone and cradle stared back at her as she finished twisting the rubber band around her second pigtail. She curled her feet under her, leaning her weight heavily on one hand braced on her bed as she played with the end of one of her braids.

The numbers on the face of the clock changed and her eyes traced over every contour of the phone and its cradle, noting the shadows and the curves of it. She turned away from it and lay back on her pillow once more, spread-eagle, watching the ceiling fan rotate lazily in the darkness. She tried to follow just one blade, but her eyes started to ache, so instead she focused on the still center.

Closing her eyes, she breathed.

3. complicated

She typed a reply to Jan's periodic queries about the efficiency of their office and clicked send. And then she looked up.

She always felt so tired every time she looked at him. Not just physically - emotionally tired. It's taxing to want someone who seems to have moved on. Because she wants so much to keep trying, because she knows it's really of no use.

She said she'd be more honest. That meant with herself, too.

She sighed quietly and leaned her chin on her fist, the surface of her desk pressing into her propped elbow. After everything, it came to this. She had received her copy of the first "season" of the show, which apparently had started airing on some small, specialty cable channel that had decided to release the serialized documentary on iTunes. Cult smash or no, she'd seen the way they had used to be. It was hard to believe that had been a year and a half ago. Just that long.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, truth.

She drummed her fingers on her desktop, unsure of what to do now. Sketching just made her depressed after Gil's more-than-honest critique of her work - was she truly so soulless? She stared blankly at the computer screen and wondered when she'd lost that carefree dreamer quality she saw in the younger artists in her class. She wondered when she'd lost a lot of herself.

She caught a motion in the corner of eye; he stood and stretched, long limbs pulling out to reaches beyond the imaginable. She allowed herself a moment to imagine his form from this angle, reaching for a star, then shook her head. The Jim she knew didn't need to reach for anything. Her Jim was happy with what he had and didn't feel the need for more, even when she had insisted he try for greatness.

This Jim, this stranger before her in blazer and tailored suits and shined shoes and long sleeves with cuff links, moved towards Karen and tapped the darker woman on the shoulder, gesturing to the break room. Karen nodded and turned off her monitor.

Pam turned back to her inbox and saw Jan had replied.

4. girlfriend

There are moments when she catches him looking tired.

It's in those unguarded moments when she feels like her eyes take up her face. Her hands twitch against her forearms because her arms are crossed, and she wishes she could just whip out a sketchbook and just draw him like she always used to do. She knows his form better than she probably should, but it doesn't stop her from looking. And if anyone asks, she has art on her side as an excuse.

In those moments, those dark moments when she asks herself if she's seen what she's seeing, if it's not wishful thinking, if - and this is the quietest question of all - if he's really and truly happy with her, she wishes more than ever that they were friends so that if nothing else she could have the liberty of asking him what was wrong, and then maybe give him a verbal kick in the pants.

But she doesn't. So instead she watches with large eyes - the kind she sees in some of the works of her classmates, in the manga style that seems to be blossoming lately - and twitchy fingers, and hopes beyond hope that maybe, if she can be honest she can be proactive, too.

The lights flicker (or maybe that's her vision) and the mirage of him and his tired figure is just that - a mirage.

5. i'm with you

The cold lake water feels so-so-so good against her aching feet. She doesn't want to look at them yet, doesn't want to deal with the repercussions of her actions just yet. For now, she wants to stand in the water. She managed to grab her sarong out of her pack in a quick, fluid movement that she was grateful for. She unfurled it as the traces of the first of the night breezes pressed against her flushed skin, against her curls.

She closes her eyes and breathed deeply, taking in the smell of fresh water and algae and night and moonlight, letting the long fabric flutter behind her, sure of her grip on the corners. She feels the goose flesh rush across her skin, feels the way the air curls around her, cold and comforting. She feels the lapping of the water on her ankles and the chill that settles in her bones and doesn't move in spite of all of it. She feels the barest hints of a smile play at her features as she drinks in the sheer sensation of this moment, of this night. For her, this - today - is special.

There's the soft pad of footsteps and she turns, one hand releasing the fabric so that it's now a banner in the wind. There is Dwight, and behind him is Angela, pretending to be fascinated by the moonlight on the water. Pam feels herself smile softly at the picture the two of them make and can't help but be happy for them.

"Pam," Dwight says, oddly subdued. She hasn't seen him this way since...since he helped her in the hallway when she cried. There's that look in his eye, that one that makes her happy to know he's there in that moment with her. That both of them are there.

"I know," she replies, and right then, she does. Dwight nods, and Angela casts a glance their way as she bends down as if rooting for seashells in the dark.

"I believe Angela packed aloe in the bag she left on the bus for fear of a sunburn. I'm sure if you asked, she wouldn't mind sharing." Angela nods imperceptibly from beyond Dwight, and Pam feels warm in spite of the cold air.

"I'll keep that in mind." She catches the other end of the length of fabric and wraps it around herself. "Thanks, Dwight."

Dwight nods curtly, then makes to turn away, but then he pauses. "Pam, I know I'm...driven, but even I'm not so cold." He turns to Angela, and Pam can see just how much he cares for her. And then he moves away.

After a moment, Angela moves toward her. "Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil, for You are with me," she murmurs, and places a hand on Pam's elbow. She can feel the other womans hands even through the material. She turns away abruptly and makes her way towards the fire.

Pam watches her retreating figure for a long moment before turning back to the water. She didn't notice, but the water reflects the moonlight so nicely, and there's even a few stars. Not a lot, just a handful more than if they were in city. Still, it's something, and she closes her eyes to drink in the moment. In the morning, she knows, she'll feel the full weight of her actions, the full effect of what she has done.

For now, her feet ankle-deep in murky lake water, she feels weightless.

[1 "I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing!" R. W. Emerson

[2 "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil, for You are with me," Psalm 23.

[3 I'll be straight - I can't stand Avril Lavigne the person. But her music I hate less. I don't love it, but sometimes the strangest of songs will ring true.

[4 Originally published 13 May 2007.