A/N: Firstly, I do not own anything relating to the Office. I'm writing this for my own entertainment and the entertainment of anyone who happens upon it (that's you!)
Secondly, thanks to SixFlightsUp and uncgirl for beings awesome betas.
Thirdly, you know how I usually update super fast? Well, that's because the fics are all written, start to finish, before I post any of it. Not in this case though. I only have three chapters written so far, and I'm working on a Pirates of the Caribbean story that is turning out to be a lot easier to update than this one. So the first three chapters will come fast, and then you're in for a longer wait than usual. But no worries, it'll come.
Fourthly, this is a post-A Benihana Christmas story. As such, let's briefly review what was going on then: Karen and Pam have just finally become friends (having formed and then dissolved the Committee to Plan Parties together). Jim just talked to Michael about rebounds. Karen does not yet know that Jim had "a thing" for Pam or that they kissed.
All set? Back in the angsty mindset? Good! Ready, set, go!
Chapter 1: The Setup
He barely notices the sound of Angela's voice as she continues to sing that god-awful rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy." He can't pull his eyes from the sight of Pam standing in the break room with Roy. She actually gave him a hug.
What exactly did he give her for Christmas that warranted a hug? And more importantly, just what is Roy doing giving Christmas gifts to his ex-fiancée anyways? And did Pam get anything for Roy?
He is jolted from his inner monologue by Karen's voice.
"Hey," she greets him, nudging him gently so that he'll move over a bit on the desk he is leaning against. Soon she's leaning there next to him and she follows his line of sight to see what he was looking at.
"Oh, good! They're talking!" she exclaims.
Wait a minute. Something does not compute here.
"What? Who?" Jim asks dumbly, praying that Karen was actually talking about Phyllis and Toby.
"Pam was flirting with that guy earlier today. I told her she should date him," Karen says proudly.
"What did she say?" Jim asks, trying to keep the urgency out of his tone.
"She said maybe. I mean, from what little I know about Pam, she doesn't seem like the type to take chances," Karen says.
Jim holds back a bitter laugh.
"So I just figured that she'd just let this guy slip by, but apparently not," Karen continues.
He grunts noncommittally, and Karen seems to take that as response enough.
Jim decides that he is definitely going to accept Pam's Christmas gift. It has nothing to do with what he just saw in the break room, he assures himself. He had basically decided at Benihana that he was going to do it. He can't pass up the opportunity to mess with Dwight. Yes, that's it.
So as everybody leaves for the day, he hangs around Pam's desk. She looks so happy when he fills her in on the plan that he feels almost like it's last year and things are back to normal.
Together they send Dwight a covert message to wait on the roof of the building at 7:13 sharp, at which time a chopper will take him to Langley for emergency training and an ice cream social with the other agents. Pam has the stroke of genius to include that Dwight should bring with him anything that he would need to survive in the wild for six weeks.
He actually snorts when she suggests this addition, but after they share a laugh about it he feels sort of deflated. It kind of hurts because they used to do this all the time and it's just been so long. He pushes the feeling away and they send the message before going their separate ways.
At 7:15 Jim rolls into the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot with his headlights off. He doesn't want Dwight to catch sight of him and ruin the whole setup, after all. He had to be here to see it with his own eyes. What good is a prank if you can't enjoy the fruits of your labor? He thinks about gaydar and sending faxes from the future, and how he had to fight the urge to drive the two and a half hours to Scranton then.
He puts the car in park and is about to scan the roof for Dwight when he's startled by tapping at his window.
He jumps so forcefully that he thinks for a second he might get a bruise from the seatbelt that he has yet to take off. Whipping his head to the side he sees Pam at his window. She looks like she is trying desperately not to laugh.
"Pam! Were you trying to give me a heart attack?" he asks after he hits the button to roll his window down.
"I can't believe you showed up too! He's up there!" she says excitedly, motioning toward the roof.
Indeed he is. Jim catches the movement of a figure on the roof, and he sees an enormous rucksack thrown over the person's shoulder.
Another noise startles him and he realizes that it's Pam opening his passenger side door. She slides wordlessly into the seat next to him and closes the door behind her.
"How long have you been here?" he asks her.
"Since 7:00," she whispers, although there isn't really any point in whispering since Dwight can't hear them in the car.
He just smiles and shakes his head.
"Are you judging me? Because I got to see him show up with his ginormous bag of survival supplies and lug it all up to the roof. So… suck it," she says defiantly.
"No, it's just… we both couldn't stand the thought of not seeing the payoff," Jim explains, still smiling.
Pam smiles back.
"Yeah, well… enjoy your present, Jim," she says sweetly.
They both just watch Dwight amble around on the roof for a minute before Pam speaks again.
"So, Halpert… where's my present?" she asks.
Jim feels a sudden twisting in his gut, and he stutters for some sort of an excuse.
Pam's smile disappears and all of a sudden she has those concerned eyes and that apologetic frown.
"Oh, no. I was just…"
"Kidding," she finishes, at the same time that he says, "I'm a jerk."
They laugh nervously and Pam looks up at him with another adorable smirk.
"You're not a jerk," she admonishes.
"I kind of am," he replies.
"How?" she asks.
He immediately thinks of Karen and then of his talk with Michael about rebounds. He thinks about how he blew Pam off when she tried to give him his present, and when she asked him out for coffee a few weeks ago, and how he's brushed her off a dozen other times in the past few weeks. But instead of saying any of that, he just smiles and shakes his head again, avoiding her question altogether.
"So, what did Roy get you?" he asks, partly because he's been dying to know and partly because he wants to change the subject.
"Oh. Um, a book," she replies. She seems surprised that he knows Roy got her anything.
"Nice," he says, because he has to say something.
"On figure drawing," she adds awkwardly.
He doesn't really have anything else to say so he just sort of nods and she nods back and they sit in silence for a moment, watching Dwight continue to move around on the roof. Again it is Pam who breaks the silence.
"Karen is great."
"Yeah. You guys really seemed to hit it off today," he says conversationally.
She smiles, and he can tell that she genuinely had fun with Karen today.
"Yeah," she says.
Then a thought occurs to him, and he can't help the question that escapes his lips.
"Whose idea was it to merge the parties?"
"What?" she asks, confused about why he would be asking that, he guesses.
"It was nice. For Angela's sake, I mean. Whose idea was it?"
He knows the answer. Only Pam would actually feel bad for Angela.
"That was a joint decision made by the now disbanded Committee to Plan Parties," Pam replies diplomatically.
Jim grins and lets out a laugh that sounds sort of like a sigh.
"It was you though, wasn't it? It was your idea," he prods.
She doesn't reply, but looks at him curiously, like she still can't figure out why he wants to know.
"You're so nice, Pam," Jim says before he realizes how dumb it sounds.
Pam laughs and rolls her eyes.
"Karen's nice too," she says dismissively.
"Yeah," he replies automatically, because sure Karen is nice, but she's not Pam nice.
"How long are we going to make him wait?" Pam asks, and Jim redirects his attention to the roof, where Dwight has now begun to pace. He smiles again. So nice.
"It is pretty cold out there, isn't it?" he concedes.
Pulling out Karen's phone from his coat pocket, he starts to type a text message.
"What are you texting?" Pam asks. She sounds like a little kid and she tries to peek over at the screen. "And fancy phone!" she adds.
"It's Karen's Blackberry. Dwight knows my number. Unfortunately," Jim explains.
"And apparently you know his," Pam points out. "By heart I'm guessing, since I assume Karen doesn't have Dwight's number in her contact list."
He doesn't respond, because he has no way to defend himself from that. It's true. He knows Dwight's number by heart, just like he knows Dwight's middle name. So sad.
"Oh, Jim. That is so sweet," Pam says mockingly, clasping her hands and bringing them her chest dramatically.
"Shut up," he grunts.
"I was worried that there was some sort of rift between the two of you since you aren't sitting next to him anymore, but I can see that you still care," she continues in a sugary tone.
"You are hilarious," he mutters.
"Thank you. What did you type?" she asks, craning her neck to see.
He lets her take the phone, and he feels a physical shock when her fingertips brush against his palms. Some insane part of him wants to snap his hand closed over hers, and he almost does, but he comes to his senses at the last moment. Their eyes lock for a split second, and he lets himself believe that she's a little shaken by the contact too. She quickly averts her eyes when she inhales, he can swear he hears her breath hitch.
The moment passes and she makes a show of clearing her throat before she reads the message aloud.
"''You have been compromised. Abort mission.' Excellent," she says. Then it looks like a little light bulb went off over her head, because she gets a grin and types something else out before handing the Blackberry back to Jim. He finds himself feeling disappointed that she drops the phone into his hands so that there is no chance of accidental contact.
"'Destroy phone?'" he reads incredulously.
"I'm not that nice," Pam says. She is trying, and failing, to hold back a smirk.
"Apparently," he replies, but he's grinning back at her.
He hits send, and they wait with baited breath to see what happens. They watch as the figure on the roof checks his phone. Pam giggles, and Jim shushes her playfully. Then the figure winds up and chucks a small object clear into the next parking lot and Pam lets out something that is halfway between a laugh and a yelp.
Jim can't help himself from gaping openly. This has turned out better than he could have hoped. He joins Pam in giddy laughter, but he's more focused on her than he is on Dwight. He loves to watch her laugh. Her entire face changes. At work when nothing is going on she can look sort of world-weary, but say something that makes her smile and she turns into the most beautiful…
Stop it, he scolds himself. You have a girlfriend. What are you even doing here, sitting in a car with Pam when Karen is at her apartment thinking that you're actually a decent boyfriend? Jerk.
"Oh my god," Pam whispers suddenly.
"What?" Jim asks. He has the ridiculous thought that maybe she sensed what he was just thinking.
"He's going to see us!" she exclaims.
Jim looks back at the roof and realizes that Dwight is no longer there. He's on his way back to the parking lot. He turns back to Pam with wide eyes, and sees her reaching for the door.
"I have to go!" she squeaks, ready to make a mad dash for her own car.
Without thinking, Jim lunges over the center console. He throws his right hand on the back of Pam's seat for support, and his other hand closes over her wrist.
She freezes, and looks at him in complete bewilderment, but he doesn't back away. He stares right back into her startled eyes and tries to ignore the fact that she is so close that her breath is stirring the hair on his forehead.
"Pam, there's no time," he says urgently. He let's go of her hand and leans back in his seat, feeling a bit breathless. "We've got to go. Now."
End Notes: Nine out of ten dentists recommend reviewing this chapter. Apparently it prevents tartar buildup. I wouldn't ask any questions. Trust the experts. Plus, reviewing is easier than flossing.