Summary: Jim gets fussy and Pam gets fed up. A post-Negotiation story.
A/N: So, slowly but surely I'm going to be posting all of my stories from MTT onto this site. I originally wrote this one right after The Negotiation aired and it was actually relevant :) Apologies for any formatting errors. I think the spacing is weird.
"Pam, I'm going to need to take tomorrow off."
Pam looks up to see Phyllis standing at reception.
"Oh. Okay. Is everything all right?" Pam asks.
"Everything's fine," Phyllis leans in covertly. "But if Michael asks, I have several lady doctor appointments that will take up the whole day. You might want to throw in something about stirrups and probes. It makes him immediately change the subject."
"Where is Bob taking you?" she asks quietly.
"We're going to New York to visit his family and see a show," Phyllis whispers.
"Your secret's safe with me," Pam says, crossing her heart.
Phyllis turns to leave, but pauses.
"Oh, Pam, I meant to ask earlier. How did things go with you and Roy? You had coffee together, right?"
"Oh, um…" Pam trails off. She immediately looks at Jim. It's a habit she has yet to break. The back of his neck is stiff and his fingers have stopped moving on his keyboard.
"Yeah. It was…" She trails off again.
She can't do this. Not with him right there. Not after what he said yesterday. "I'm sure you guys'll find your way back to one another some day." And then she agreed to meet Roy for coffee right in front of him. What must he be thinking?
But Phyllis smiles encouragingly and Pam starts to think, what the hell? She has screwed things up so badly with Jim that it doesn't really matter. He's made it clear that he wants nothing to do with her. He couldn't even look at her in the break room yesterday.
She might as well just talk, because if she doesn't he'll just assume its something so bad that she couldn't say it out loud at work. Something like 'I jumped him right there and we made love on the floor while our coffee lay forgotten on the table.'
Or something like that.
"It was actually really good," she says finally. "We ended things on a good note. He was… I totally didn't expect it to be as easy as it was. He was actually really reasonable and understanding. So… I'm glad I agreed to go."
She can't help it. She spares him another glance. He's typing again, but his keystrokes are almost violent. He has his hands raised much higher above the keyboard than need be, and he's bringing his fingers down on the keys in sharp jabs, like they have wronged him in some way.
"Good. He always seemed like a nice enough guy," Phyllis says kindly.
"Yeah. He feels like a total idiot for what happened. What he did… that's really not him," Pam says, and she means it. Roy is a good guy. He is.
"Well, sounds like it went well then," Phyllis says, smiling. "I'm going to try to fit in another sales call before lunch. I'll talk to you more then."
Pam nods, and Phyllis makes her way back to her desk. Pam doesn't look back up at Jim, but she can hear the loud staccato keystrokes continue.
She presses C-3 and listens to the metal spiral whir as it twists to release her bag of SunChips. She grabs the bag, and when she turns around he's there. He's looking at the fruit machine, and she knows for a fact that he has never bought any fruit from it before.
No one ever uses the fruit machine, yet somehow it always remains perfectly stocked with fresh fruit that nobody eats. He and Pam used to swap theories about the fruit machine. Like how it's actually just plastic fruit and the machine is a decoy sent over by Staples with little cameras in the fake apples and oranges. And how if anyone tries to actually buy fruit from it, it will self-destruct.
He feeds a dollar into the machine and hits A-3 for an apple.
The machine doesn't self-destruct.
Just another step in his evolution, she guesses. First bottled water, now machine fruit.
"Nice to hear that you and Roy patched things up."
His voice takes her by surprise. He hasn't been the one to initiate conversation in… well, she can't remember the last time. Still, she finds herself frowning.
"What?" she asks.
"Oh, sorry. I overheard you talking to Phyllis earlier. I just wanted to say that it's good that you patched things up with Roy."
"Oh. Um, no," Pam stutters. "I mean, things are good, but we didn't 'patch things up.' We're not back together."
She knew that he would think that. She's just glad that he said something so that she could set him straight.
"Hmm. Well, give it time," he says, like he's reassuring her.
"Excuse me?" Pam says. It's not really a question. She knows what this is. This is more of what he was doing yesterday.
"What? Oh, nothing," he says casually. "Just… You seem to be on your way back in that direction, so, you know. Good for you."
Did he come in here just to do this? Did he buy an apple just so that he could tell her again that she's going to fall back into a relationship with Roy?
"Why are you doing this?" she asks bluntly.
"Doing what?" he asks innocently.
"I didn't say anything about it the first time, yesterday after… When I was apologizing and you said that Roy and I would 'find our way back to each other' or whatever, but…"
She trails off, unsure of how to continue. He seems to think that she's finished, because he starts to speak.
"Hey, I'm just trying to be suppor—"
"No you're not," she cuts him off. He tries again.
"Well, I'm just—"
"You're going out of your way to be just the opposite of supportive," she continues. Her hands are shaking, but she can't stop. She stares defiantly at him and eventually the innocent, 'Who, me?' look on his face fades away.
"Fine," he says. And then he sighs. He has a smile on his face now, but it's one of those angry smiles that you put on when you're about to do something mean and enjoy it. "You caught me. You picked up on the sarcasm. Can I help it that I'm not too fond of the guy? He tried to beat the crap out of me."
"Yeah. So… why don't you go find him and direct your sarcasm there?" Pam says. She can't really believe that it came out of her mouth, but she knows by the look on his face that it did.
"Whoa," he says, frowning. What, does he think that he can make his snide comments and she won't respond? Well, yes, he probably does, she realizes.
"Look, you want me to be honest?" he asks. He doesn't wait for a response. "I'm just saying that I wouldn't be surprised if you wind up with him again, and I think it's a bad move."
"Well, we aren't going to get back together," Pam says firmly.
"Yeah, okay." He says it in an insincere way that makes her skin feel hot and her throat tighten.
"Stop," she says. It comes out in a harsh exhalation.
"You got back with him once already," he continues, shrugging his shoulders as if this is proof enough of his claim.
"Yeah, well I'm sorry," she says, sounding anything but sorry. "I was with Roy for ten years. I'm not in love with him anymore, but I was lonely, and he was there, and I made a mistake."
Jim raises his eyebrows as if to say, 'You think?'
"I realize that it was a mistake and it's not one that I'm going to repeat," she continues in what she hopes is a calm, resolute voice.
And then it's back. That patronizing 'sure whatever you say' look. He tosses his apple a few inches into the air and catches it. He nods once more and starts to move to the door. She can't let the conversation end that way, with that look. So she speaks again and she says what she's wanted to say since he came back.
"I guess I'm just not one of those people who can instantly get over someone that I loved. I don't expect you to understand that."
He's still facing the door, but he's stopped moving. He doesn't turn to look at her when he speaks.
"What does that mean?"
His voice is demanding and intense. She doesn't respond. At her silence, he slowly turns around. Her heart is thudding against her ribs, reverberating in her quaking stomach. Her hands are still shaking but she clasps her bag of chips and prays that it isn't noticeable. She focuses very hard on keeping her breathing at a slow and measured pace, even though she feels like she might hyperventilate at any moment. She refuses to show weakness, and meets his eyes defiantly.
"You have no idea what you're talking about," he says, and he sounds so angry and wounded that she almost falters. But then her own anger takes over again.
"Yeah? Well ditto," she replies. "So… maybe you just shouldn't comment on me and Roy."
She expects that to be the end of it. She's made her point. But he's still looking at her and when he speaks again he sounds more wounded than angry.
"You think I got over it instantly?" he asks incredulously.
He says "it", not "you," but they both know what he's talking about.
Pam doesn't answer. He's with Karen, isn't he? He's done an excellent job of showing that he wants nothing to do with her. She doesn't speak, but raises eyebrows as if to say, "Well, yeah."
He lets out a little half-laugh, half-sigh. He shakes his head and looks back up at her and now he's all wounded and no anger.
"Pam, I spent the entire week I was in Australia lying on the bed in my hotel room staring at the ceiling."
Part of her feels guilty, but she quickly shoves that feeling aside. She's wasted months feeling guilty about what happened last May. The fact is that she had more to lose, more to change. It took her longer to be ready. And when he came back in the fall, she was ready. But he had given up on her already.
"Wow. A whole week, really? That must've been tough," she says, and her voice sounds dead, robotic.
Jim pulls back sharply, and he looks like he's actually be slapped. He blinks once slowly, like he can't believe that she just said that. He opens his mouth but no sound comes out, and she knows that she's gone too far.
The look on his face… he somehow looks even more hurt than he did in the parking lot that night. She didn't think that was even possible. At least in the parking lot, he was able to form a response. Now he seems robbed of the ability to reply.
"Jim," she whispers. She feels tears forming in the corners of her eyes. "I'm sorry. That was… I'm just…"
He snaps out of his daze and cuts her off.
"No, it's cool. I'm just going to go back to my desk. I'm glad that we got all of this worked out."
His voice is cold and bitter. She can't even stop him as he leaves.
She doesn't get any work done the rest of the day. She has spent the last five hours alternately staring at the back of his neck and trying not to. She hates herself. The lovely feeling of self-righteous anger that she felt this morning has faded completely away. She messed things up so badly in the break room. She went from defending herself to attacking him, and now all she feels is guilty.
She's not even angry at him anymore. He can keep right on thinking that she's going to run back into Roy's arms. He can continue to make all of the obnoxious digs if he wants to. She just can't leave things like this. With him thinking that she doesn't care. That she thinks his feelings were superficial and meaningless.
Because she knows she broke his heart last May. She actually saw it break in front of her. She's only seen that happen with one other person. She wonders how bad it is that it hurt so much more to see it happen to Jim than to Roy.
He and Karen don't leave together; they took separate cars today. Pam remembers how she felt slightly triumphant about that this morning, although the sentiment strikes her as pathetic now.
Toby needs him to stay an extra couple of minutes to sign some paperwork for corporate. He does that now that he's second in command. He signs off some of the stuff that Toby knows Michael will just shove in the back of a drawer and forget about.
Everyone else has left, but she remains at her desk. Five minutes later she sees Toby exit, but no Jim. She realizes that she doesn't even know what she's going to say to him, and that makes her feel a little panicked.
But then it's too late because he's walking out through the kitchen with a stack of papers under his arm. He sees her and immediately averts his eyes, looking determinedly at the door.
He stops at the coat rack and while he's struggling to put it on his jacket with the papers still under his arm, she speaks.
"How did you do it?" she asks.
She thinks for a moment that he's going to ignore her. That he's going to put his coat on and walk out the door without saying a word.
"Do what?" he asks reluctantly. He still won't look at her.
"Move on," she replies.
This time a full ten seconds pass and he just struggles with his coat instead of answering.
"I realized that maybe I'm just jealous because I can't move on," she says all in one quick breath.
"I can't," she repeats, and it comes out ragged and painful.
He sighs and gives up on his coat for a second.
"Pam, I'm not going to stand here and give you advice about how to not hook up with Roy again. If you can't stop yourself then that's just…" he trails off and shakes his head.
"You're such an idiot," she says.
He purses his lips and nods.
"Awesome," he says. "Anything else? You want to, like, throw something at me? That mug looks pretty solid. Probably leave a nice bruise."
She smiles, and he seems taken aback by that. She walks over and takes the papers from his hands, gesturing for him to put on his coat the rest of the way. He does so, staring at her warily.
"I'm not talking about Roy. I'm over Roy," she says once he's got the coat on all the way.
"Then who?" he asks. He frowns at her, and she can see the wheels in his mind slowly turning.
Five seconds pass and she hasn't said a word. She wants him to realize it himself. But then another few seconds pass, and then she decides that she doesn't want to wait for his wheels.
She drops the stack of papers in her hands. Well actually, 'tosses' is a better word. Fluttering pages fill the space around them, cascading spirals of white marred with black. He looks bewildered, glancing around him at the paper, about to ask her why the hell she did that.
But then her hands are at his neck right beneath his ears, and his eyes shoot back to hers with a surprised, almost scared look. Without another hesitation, she pulls his face down to hers. Her fingers slide around to the back of his head and tangle themselves in his hair, holding him to her.
For just a split second it's only her lips moving. He's frozen in shock. But then his hands are on the small of her back and she finds herself pressed completely against him. Their bodies collide with a jolt and he opens his mouth against hers at that exact moment. She follows suit and she can't really remember much else about the kiss except the sensations of wild, erratic fluttering in her stomach and the twin feelings of desperation and release.
She is the one to pull away. His eyes are unfocused and he looks completely dazed. She lets out a shaky breath and shakes her head.
"I'm really s—" she starts.
She can't finish, because he pulls her in desperately and covers her mouth with his. He marches her backward and she feels her head knock into one of the arms of the coat rack, the one that she helped Jim move telepathically last year. He shifts her to the right and her back finds the wall. She's wishing that she hadn't helped him get his coat on first, because she's finding it difficult for her hands to find their way under it when his mouth on hers. He has his arms folded around her at the small of her back and every inch of his body pressed into hers but somehow it's not enough.
She can't tell how long this goes on, but at some point they separate. They're both panting a little and she busies herself by tugging down her top, which has ridden up above her waist from the movement of his hands. She's trying desperately think of something to say, but she can't.
"After… After Casino Night, I was… it was bad," she hears him say. His voice is hoarse.
She looks up at him and sees moisture in his eyes.
"I'm sorry," she whispers. "It was bad for me too."
He nods. He's not smiling and neither is she. They're just staring at each other.
"I know," he says.
There is a brief pause.
"It wasn't just a week in Australia," he says.
"I know," she replies. But then she has to know for sure, so she just asks. "How long?"
"Let's see…" He rubs the back of his neck with his right hand, looking thoughtful. "It'll be… a year next month."
She feels the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth before she can stop it. His is less subtle. It's rapidly becoming a grin. He moves slowly toward her again, bringing his hands up to cup her face. He leans in and she feels a little panicked.
"Karen." It comes out of her mouth in a desperate, breathy way.
He pauses, but doesn't move away.
"Yeah," he says, in a similar breathy voice. But then he's moving closer again like he can't control it. "I just want…"
He freezes. Then he pulls away completely.
"Yeah." He looks lost. He looks deflated.
And then she realizes what he thinks she meant. She reaches out and graces the palms of his hands with her fingertips. When he looks back at her, she slides her hands around his and squeezes.
She adds the addendum that she should have added on Casino Night.
"Not yet. But soon."
He looks up, a little disbelieving. But when she returns his look with a confident smile, he allows himself to smile too. He squeezes her hands back.
This is it. They're going to get it right this time, she knows. And hey, he's waited for her for five years, so she figures she can wait another day for him to end things with his girlfriend.
She looks behind him and sees paperwork scattered in a wide circle across the floor.
"Crap," she says.
He follows her gaze and lets out a chuckle.
"We've got a bit of a mess to clean up," he says.
"Yeah," she says. "But it's going to be worth it."