Title: Bonus Gifts
Summary: A twist on the Christmas Party from season one.
Cross-posted at MTT (of course)
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: This fic was originally written for the wonderfully talented Brokenloon as part of a Christmas fic exchange. I was going to get him an oven mitt, but I reconsidered and wrote this instead. It is entirely unbeta'd and therefore subject to my debatable spelling and grammar skills.
Pam knew that this would be the first and last time that she would barter for something she had just seen the owner insert into his nose.
"Pam!" Dwight exclaimed, pulling the teapot's spout from his nostril in a jerky motion that resulted in the escape of a thin stream of tea. The liquid splashed onto his nose and mouth, and he sputtered for a moment before he was able to continue.
"You caught me in the middle of administering an ancient Chinese remedy for sinus infections," he said, as if that should be sufficient to explain the display she had just witnessed.
Pam squinted at him.
"Do you have a sinus infection?" she asked.
"No, of course not," Pam said offhandedly, lightly shaking her head.
"But I didn't have green tea leaf stems either, so I was just using some instant tea bag I found in the cabinet," Dwight went on.
"Oh, was that your tea? Here, I'll bet it's still good for another use," he announced, attempting to fish the dampened tea bag from inside the pot.
"That's okay! You keep it. Merry Christmas," Pam quickly intervened.
Dwight nodded in thanks.
"Anyway, this was just a practice run," he continued. "It is important to always be prepared for a medical emergency. I might not be thinking clearly the next time I have a sinus infection, so if I perform these drills I'll barely have to think about it when I need to perform it for real."
Pam did not think it would do much good to point out that a sinus infection wasn't exactly a medical emergency.
"Always be prepared. Boy Scouts, right?" she replied conversationally.
"Boy Scouts," he spat in obvious disgust. "What do the Boy Scouts prepare you for?"
"Um… anything?" Pam guessed.
"Campfire stories and nature walks, that's what," Dwight answered his own question. "But drop any boy scout in the real wilderness and I'd like to see him last two days."
Pam was suddenly struck by disconcerting images of Dwight kidnapping the Scranton chapter of the Boy Scouts of America and leaving them in the middle of the Pennsylvania woods.
"Please don't kidnap the boy scouts," she blurted out.
"What?" Dwight asked, bewildered.
"Nothing, sorry," she replied, squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head apologetically.
"Well, I'm going to continue my drills," Dwight said, lifting the teapot back toward his nasal passages.
"Wait!" Pam squeaked, suddenly recalling her reason for seeking Dwight out.
Dwight looked at her, pausing with the spout of the teapot poised precariously over his right nostril.
"I want to trade," she said.
"Trade what?" Dwight asked suspiciously, narrowing his eyes at her as he lowered the teapot.
Pam held up the video iPod in what she hoped was an enticing way.
"Your video iPod for the teapot?" he asked incredulously.
"I think it's a fair trade, considering—"
However, her attempt at persuasion was cut off almost immediately.
"Done," Dwight barked, hastily swiping the iPod from Pam's hand and shoving the teapot at her.
Pam opened her mouth to thank him, when Dwight cut her off once again.
"No givesies backsies!" he warned. "You made an oral proposition and I agreed. That is legal and binding in 47 states including Pennsylvania. You can't change your mind now," he added.
Pam's eyes grew wide.
"O… kay," she finally replied.
Dwight seemed satisfied that she wasn't going to come to her senses and realize that the trade wasn't exactly an equal one. He gestured carelessly toward a box on the kitchen counter, the one that had contained the teapot.
"I found some miscellaneous articles contained within the teapot when I went to fill it with water. Jim probably bought it at some garage sale and didn't bother to check inside it before wrapping it. I, on the other hand, always examine everything I buy thoroughly before use," Dwight said haughtily.
"For what?" Pam couldn't resist asking.
"Nesting insects, anthrax, bugs—"
"You already said insects," Pam interrupted.
Dwight looked at her as if she was a small child who just said something incredibly naïve.
"The mechanical spying devices, Pam," he explained indulgently.
"Oh, of course. Those bugs," she nodded before turning her attention back to toward the counter. "So everything's in the box then?" she asked.
"Yes, along with the card," Dwight replied.
"Thanks, Dwight," she said, but Dwight had already immersed himself examining his new iPod. Probably checking for bugs, Pam mused.
She turned her attention back to the box, and immediately clasped a hand over her mouth.
The yearbook picture! She took great pains not to giggle aloud as she sifted through the contents of the box.
He kept the hot sauce packets? He kept them?
She felt her cheeks grow hot, and a light fluttering in her chest started up and didn't quit even after she found the mini-golf pencil and the Boggle timer. In fact, if anything, the sensation only grew stronger.
She knew immediately that she had to repackage everything. Jim had expected her to find these little surprises when they were all sitting in the Secret Santa circle. He wanted to see her face when she discovered them. And to be honest, she wanted to watch him watching her. So there was nothing wrong with a little fib. She would rinse out the teapot, dry it, and put everything back inside so that he could believe she was just finding them.
She smiled to herself, pleased that she would be able to fix the mess she'd made when she traded his gift away. And then her eyes landed on the card. She reached eagerly for the white envelope inscribed with her name and gently pried it open.
She almost guffawed at the image on the front of the card. It featured a little boy in the snowy outdoors, his eyes closed and mouth wide open to catch snowflakes on his tongue. Above him, perched in a tree, were two turtledoves. One turtledove had a speech bubble above it that read, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
She rolled her eyes, but could not wipe the smile off her face.
However, as she opened the card and her eyes scanned what was written inside, the smile slowly slipped away. Her heart began a slow crescendo, and soon it was beating a violent rhythm against her breastbone. She could hear the blood rushing to her face as though large ocean waves were crashing against her ears.
So, I'm guessing you know that the teapot is from me and I'm not ruining some big secret Santa surprise by saying--- this is Jim.
I've been meaning to tell you something for a long time, and I finally decided not to chicken out… Although I guess writing it in a card might qualify as chickening out. Anyway, here goes:
I'm kind of in love with you.
Not kind of. God, that sounds terrible, but I can't cross it out. That would look even worse. Ugh. Okay, here goes again:
I love you, Pam.
I know you're with Roy, and I know that I'm taking a huge chance here. Heck, for all I know you're going to read this and never speak to me again. (Please don't do that, by the way. It would leave me with only Dwight for conversation and then I'd have to leap out the window and I'm not entirely sure that the fall would kill me.)
Anyway, if you don't feel the same way, that's fine. Just don't mention the card, and I'll take the hint. It doesn't have to mess up our friendship. I'm happy just staying friends if that's all I can have. But I just needed you to know, because Christmas is the time to tell people how you feel. You are the only reason I come to work with a smile in the morning and the only reason I've kept my sanity in this madhouse.
You are the person in this world that means the most to me. Merry Christmas.
She felt the camera on her, and knew that Tim the camera guy was moving swiftly around her so that he would be able to zoom in on the card. She snapped it shut before that could happen and only then did she remember to inhale.
Taking in a deep, gasping breath she closed her eyes and exhaled. She looked guiltily up at the camera and gave it an apologetic smile. With trembling hands she slipped the card back in its envelope and reached for the teapot.
She almost dropped it in the sink about a half dozen times as she rinsed out the tea, taking extra effort to clean the spout. She barely remembered drying it out and replacing the little trinkets in it. She walked like a zombie back to her desk and refastened the top of the teapot with two pieces of scotch tape. The card sat to the left of her arm, looking as unopened as ever.
And she sat. And thought. And panicked.
What was she going to do? Should she pretend she never opened it? Should she open it with him watching and allow him to explain himself? Should she pull him aside later, away from the cameras, as tell him that she read it?
And if she did tell him that she read it, what should she say? Should she tell him that it was impossible because she was engaged? Should she tell him she needed time to think about it?
It was all so confusing, and she knew that whatever she was going to do, she couldn't do it that night. She had to call her mom and her sister. She had to—
"You know, you don't have to answer calls during a party," came a familiar voice.
Pam's eyes shot up to meet his. There was Jim. Standing at her desk with that amazing smile.
"Um…" she laughs, because she can't figure out what else to do.
"Just thought you should know," he continued teasingly.
"No, I was just, um, checking out my present," she stuttered.
She lifted the teapot and placed it on the counter next to the jellybeans.
His face changed, and he seemed stunned.
She didn't let him finish.
"I traded with Dwight. Um, just—I figured, you know, you went to a lot of trouble and that means a lot. And also Roy got me an iPod or, uh, was going to get me an iPod, so…"
She trailed off, cursing herself silently for bringing up Roy.
"Well, either way. This is an amazing gift because it comes with bonus gifts," he said, once again smiling brilliantly.
Pam looked at him with what she hoped was curiosity.
"Look inside," he prompted.
Pam smiled, readying herself for her performance.
"Oh my god!" she squealed with glee. "The yearbook picture!"
She watched his face closely, and everything she'd been wondering was confirmed in his eyes. He loved her. The way he was looking at her now assured her of this. She couldn't look at him anymore, so she focused on the other contents of the teapot, saying the appropriate things as she "discovered" each bonus gift.
But as she put on the show, she couldn't suppress the mad fluttering that has returned to her chest. She was engaged. She was engaged so she shouldn't feel like this, like a high school girl who just found out the boy she likes has a crush on her too. No, this shouldn't have been happening at all. But as he walked away she came to a sudden and inescapable conclusion:
She might kind of love him too.
Well, that significantly complicated things. She couldn't just ignore this now that she knew for sure, could she? Of course, if she didn't say anything he'd assume that she just wanted to be friends. That was what he said in the card, wasn't it?
And that's when it hit her.
It was gone. She franticly picked through the papers spread across her desk, double and triple checked drawers that she knew she didn't put the card in, and even shook the teapot upside down for good measure just in case she had somehow managed to cram it in there absentmindedly.
But then across the room Jim reached up to give an excited Kevin a high five and she saw the edge of a white envelope peek out from the back pocket of his pants.
Her heart plummeted until she was sure it settled somewhere below her navel.
He took it back.
Oh god, he took back the card! What did that mean? Freed up from desperately trying to come up with a way to respond to Jim's written admission, she was now left in the position of desperately trying to figure out why he took the admission back and what she was supposed to do about it.
She supposed that she should feel relief because things could go back to the way they were. But all she felt was slightly sick.
There was a snowball fight in the parking lot that she halfheartedly engaged in just to keep her thoughts on anything but that card.
On the ride to Poor Richards Roy asked to see her iPod. When she told him why that wasn't possible, he responded, predictably, by freaking out. She barely listened to his shouting, but caught a sentence every now and then.
A teapot? Seriously?!... Pam, do you have any idea how much those video iPods cost?... I mean, what, is this teapot made of gold or does it brew gold or something?... Seriously, what were you thinking?
What was she thinking? Not about a stupid iPod, that was for sure.
She slipped out of the truck and walked determinedly into Poor Richards without so much as a backward glance at her fiancé. Roy yelled once more inside the bar, embarrassingly loud and in front of her coworkers, but Darryl pulled him aside and distracted him with a game of pool.
Pam settled herself at a table near the door and stared at her hands. She heard someone settle into the chair next to her.
"Hey. Is something wrong?"
There he was. Looking at her with those concerned, honest eyes.
"What? No, I'm fine," she lied.
He was sitting on her card. The card he took back. It was under him right now, and part of her willed him to pull the envelope out now and make everything better. Well, maybe not better, but…
"Because, I was thinking," Jim continued, oblivious to her inner monologue. "If you've just come to the realization that the retail price of a video iPod is slightly higher than the price of a teapot then I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to trade back with Dwight."
She looked up at him, eyebrows drawn together in confusion.
"What?" she asked.
"I mean, you'd have to convince him that it was a good trade. I don't know, maybe we can pretend that there's a new super virus on the loose that can only be cured with nasal enemas," he continued, smiling amiably.
Was he actually encouraging her to give the teapot back? Part of her knew that he was trying to be a nice guy.
Well, screw him for being a nice guy. There was such a thing as being too nice for your own good, she decided.
"No," she said firmly. Her tone seemed to shock him. "I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't take back something that I gave someone."
He didn't get it. Clearly he didn't get it, because after a brief flash of confusion, the smile returned to his face.
"Well, it would technically be a trade. You'd give back the teapot. It's okay Pam. I know that Roy is sort of pissed and I mean, you got the stuff out of it so… It would be okay. If it'll make things easier for you."
She couldn't even reply. She just pushed past him and made her way to the bar. She knew that he must be bewildered, but she couldn't trust herself to continue speaking to him, or anyone for that matter, without saying something rash.
The bartender asked her for her order, and she realized that she needed more than a beer tonight.
"What can I drink that will make me forget how much my life sucks right now?" she asked bluntly.
"Gin, straight up?" the bartender suggested.
"And that doesn't taste like fire," Pam added.
The bartender smiled.
"How about a Long Island iced tea?" he tried.
Pam managed to smile back.
The drink was halfway gone when Roy slid into the seat next to her.
"Hey babe, let's go," he said, perfectly cheerful.
"I'm not ready to go," Pam said, not looking at him.
Roy did that thing he always did when he thought he was in the doghouse. He sighed and sort of rolled his eyes, like a kid sucking it up before he had to give a forced apology.
"Look, I'm sorry I yelled. But you gotta get why I'm kinda pissed, right? I mean, a teapot?" he said.
He was terrible at apologies.
"I'm going to get a ride. I'll see you at home," Pam replied, not bothering to get mad at him again.
Pam heard Roy sigh again.
"Whatever. God, Pam. Sometimes you're such a..."
She finally looked up from her drink and pinned him with a dangerous look, and he had the good sense not to finish his thought.
"Never mind. Whatever. I'm going," he said.
"Bye," Pam answered apathetically, turning back to her glass.
When she was two-thirds through the drink, Jim timidly approached.
"Hey. Um… Are you… Are you mad at me?" he asked carefully.
She met his gaze and saw genuine worry in them. A part of her melted just a little.
"…No," she finally replied, because she wasn't really mad she supposed. Just confused and upset.
"Okay, now say it again, but this time try it a little more convincing," Jim said, his voice soft but playful.
"You're always joking," Pam said with a sigh.
Jim's eyebrows drew together in confusion.
"Sorry," he murmured, not sounding quite sure of why he should be sorry.
"No. Don't be. It's one of the things I love about you," she replied.
Pam watched his eyebrows rapidly change positions, shooting straight up in surprise.
"Um, what have you been drinking?" he asked, grinning in a somewhat nervous way.
"Taste?" Pam said by way of reply.
She held the glass up toward him and watched, entranced, as he took the straw into his mouth without reaching for the cup. He took a small sip and smiled knowingly.
"Long Island iced tea, huh? That's pretty potent stuff," he said, before adding, "Also, very girly."
"Well, in case you haven't noticed, I am, in fact, female," Pam teased.
"Really?" Jim responded in mock-surprise. "Health class has failed me."
"Clearly," Pam concurred.
"Seriously though, are we okay?" Jim asked pleadingly.
Pam almost said yes.
But instead, she reached around him and wiggled two fingers into his back pocket.
Jim leapt back in total shock, eyes wider than she had ever seen them.
"Whoa, Pam? Hey, so I think maybe you've had too much and—"
She stood from her own stool, and reached once more, managing to snatch the card from it's hiding place.
"You took it back," Pam accused, holding the card up in front of him.
It was only then that Jim realized Pam had been reaching for the card and not trying to grope him. When it dawned on him a second later that this meant Pam actually knew about the card, his mouth opened and closed a few times before any sound emerged.
"You read it?" he asked, his voice cracking.
"You took it back," she repeated sternly.
"You read it," he said again, only this time it was more of a dazed statement than a question.
"Why did you take it back?" she asked.
He seemed at a total loss for a moment. When he finally met her eyes his mouth hung open a little, and he shook his head in lieu of words. He looked so confused and surprised.
"I shouldn't have," he said finally.
"You didn't change your mind?" Pam asked.
"About how I feel? No. No," he said firmly. "I just… I…"
"Chickened out," she offered.
"Yeah," he sighed, his arms dropping tiredly to his sides.
"I thought Christmas was the time to tell people how you feel," she said.
Jim lifted his eyes to hers again and she was shocked to see that they were glassy with emotion.
"Yeah, well… your turn," he said softly.
Pam steeled herself for this. His request was only fair. She knew how he felt. He had written a card, after all, even if he did take it back. She hadn't given him the slightest indication of her feelings.
"I'm not drunk," she stated firmly.
"Okay," he replied, a bit confused.
"Not even close to drunk. This had four shots in it and I've been nursing it for over an hour. And there's still some left."
"I don't know. It kind of looks like what's left might just be 'second drink,'" Jim said with a small smile, peering into her glass.
She gave him a look and his smile became apologetic.
"I'm kidding. Again. I believe you," he amended.
"Good. Because I want you to know I'm not drunk before I do this," she explained.
He was unable to finish his question, because at that moment she kissed him. She wrapped her fingers around his upper arms and literally pulled him toward her. The instant their lips met she loosened her grip on his arms and slid her hands up to his head, burying them in his soft hair.
It was only then that he seemed to snap into reality. His hands found her waist, pressing her gently against him so that there was no space between their bodies. She felt him sigh against her lips, and she smiled.
"Merry Christmas," she said softly as their lips parted.
"Yeah," he replied dazedly.
She wasn't sure that he was completely conscious. Then, slowly, his head seemed to clear and his eyes refocused on her. He took in a huge breath and let it out in a stunned laugh. He seemed to be trying desperately to control his grin, but failing miserable. Suddenly he pinned her with a mischievous look. There was a dangerous twinkle in his eyes when he started to speak.
"Hey, does this present come with bonus gifts?" he asked innocently.
God, that smile was going to kill her. This was so much better than a video iPod.