Disclaimer: Don't own. Blah blah.
Author's Note: This is a one-shot written from Karen's point of view while she and Jim are dating and Pam is quasi with Roy. It's sort of like the camera crew guy is asking her to tell them about her relationship with Jim in retrospect.
When was I sure that things wouldn't work out with Jim?
Well. I suppose it was a long time ago. I mean, I'm a whole lifetime away from Scranton now; I have a new job, my own family. But yeah, I guess I remember enough to tell you when I knew there would be no happily-ever-after with Halpert's initials on my monogrammed towels.
It was a Tuesday, come to think of it. I only remember because it was the day after Monday night football, and Pam had come into the office unusually pale and exhausted.
"You look like you were dragged here on the back of a truck," I said to her in the break room as she poured herself an ice water.
She rolled her eyes at me good-naturedly. "I think I'm coming down with something. And Roy and his buddies kept me up all night yelling at the TV."
"Sucks," I said empathetically. "Take it easy."
She nodded, walking lethargically back to her desk.
The day was also distinctive because Jim showed up two hours late for work. His car had stalled, and he was so preoccupied as he blustered into the office, I noted with some satisfaction, that he didn't even look up at Pam. Even then I could sense that there was some unspoken edge of competition between us, and this petty victory was a victory nonetheless.
I saw a faint crease of disappointment on Pam's brow, but I ignored it, shifting my attention to my computer instead.
Not even two minutes later Michael strode out of his office and proclaimed that it was officially Kill Obesity Day, which I suppose was his usual crass way of saying "Fitness Day."
"We have to kill obesity before it kills us," he announced profoundly, ushering us into the conference room.
It wasn't all that bad. We were supposed to partner up Obesity Awareness Exercises, which basically consisted of any ridiculous repetitive dance move that crossed Michael's mind. Midway into dancing an elaborate version of Cotton Eye Joe with Jim, I leaned over and said to Pam wryly, "Glad I wore heels today."
She laughed breathlessly, and I noticed she looked worse than she had that morning, her skin tinged unhealthily. She was uncharacteristically at a loss for a witty reply, and muttered something under her breath before quickly leaving the room.
"Pam—" I started, concerned.
"It's Kill Obesity Day, Karen!" Michael chastised me. "Keep dancing or it'll get you, too!"
"I have to go to the bathroom," Jim said smoothly, leaving the room. He knew how to handle Michael better than I did. I waited a minute and followed suit.
I could hear them talking as I approached the break room.
"You feeling alright there, Beesly?" Jim asked without quite making eye contact, like a guilty child.
Pam was leaning over the sink, her back turned to him. "I'm alright," she answered, sounding anything but.
Jim pretended to look for something in the fridge and an awkward silence ensued. They didn't notice me standing outside the door or the conversation might not have continued, but after Jim grabbed a soda and allowed himself a good hard look at Pam, he shook his head.
"You look like shit."
Pam laughed weakly. "You sure know how to flatter a girl."
"Seriously, kid, maybe you better sit this one out."
I watched her reaction to the word "kid"; the way her shoulders tensed and her entire body seemed to go rigid in defense, as if to reflect a blow. "I'm fine," she insisted, stronger this time. She turned around so that she was facing him and walked toward the door. "I don't see why you even—"
Her footsteps halted abruptly and she grappled for the chair in front of her. Her face turned to chalk and she managed to gasp out the word "Jim—" just before she crumpled.
I'd never seen Jim react so quickly in all the time I knew him. Like some sort of miracle he raced to catch her, and her body seemed to fall effortlessly into his arms, gentle as a safety net. I felt a rock growing in my throat, felt my heart skip a beat.
That was the moment, I guess. The moment I knew that Jim would never really be mine. The next few moments only reinforced what I already knew.
He kneeled down to the floor, cradling her, his concern raw in his expression. "Pam?" he said softly, just a traced of panic in his voice. "Pam. Pam, wake up."
Her eyelids fluttered and as they opened, her eyes locked on him, widening in confusion. "Jim," she managed, her voice rasping. "What—"
She tried to get up but he stopped her. "Just relax. I've got you."
I could see her eyes glistening from where I stood as she let out a little sigh and slumped in his arms. Even as she looked absolutely miserable and mortified there on the break room floor, I envied her. It was all too clear where Jim belonged, and it would never be with me.
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