It's been awhile. Again. I have this whole story plotted out, and I promise it will be finished. Sometimes I just don't have the inspiration to write, and lately I've been feeling it. So, I'll keep at it. Don't give up on me! And thanks for reading!

Ashamed of Being Broken

Jim walked into the office and tossed his jacket on the back of his chair. He heard voices from behind him in the conference room, but Pam was still seated at her desk. He sat down to check his voicemail and his e-mail, but couldn't stop himself from wondering what kind of crazy conference room session Michael had planned. More importantly, though, he couldn't figure out why Pam wasn't at least sitting with the rest of the staff, attempting to avoid going insane.

He stood up from his chair and walked toward the front desk. "What's going on in there?"

Pam looked up from her work. "Information session about Diwali."

"What's Diwali?" Jim rested his forearms on the desk, but resisted the urge to lean. He didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable, and he wasn't quite sure he was ready to fall back into his old habits again.

"Uh, from what I got out of it, it's something about Hindus and gods. Kelly's having a Diwali party and we're invited."

"You gonna go?"

Pam shrugged. "I don't know. I'm kind of tired."

"Fair enough. So, you're not in the conference room because—"

"The guys were being pigs. I have a lot of work to get done anyway."

Jim nodded. He lingered for a moment, unsure of how to proceed with the conversation. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked down at the floor.

"You think you'll go to the Diwali party? I mean, the conference room meeting was weird, but there will probably be really good Indian food. And I know you like tikka masala."

Pam's question stopped him in his tracks. He wasn't sure what to say. "Uh, yeah. Probably. I don't think I have anything exciting going on tonight. Plus, you know how Michael can be if you miss out on something like this. He'll go around saying all these stupid inside jokes that don't really exist, but tries to make you feel bad anyway."

Pam nodded. "Like that time he threw a surprise birthday party for Todd Packer and only Dwight showed up?"

"Yes! Oh my God, that was ridiculous. I'm willing to bet the majority of stuff that he said happened actually didn't. But it was like, three weeks before he let the Captain Caveman joke go."

Pam reached for a nearby highlighter and uncapped, then recapped it. She wasn't looking directly at him, but Jim could see her smiling. The awkwardness was slowly subsiding and their conversation was starting to resemble the ones they used to have. But it still felt weird. He scuffed his foot across the carpet. He knew he missed these moments with Pam, but it was going to take some time before things were back to normal. After all, it wasn't like he could just say, "I love you, you're not engaged anymore, let's give this a shot." He'd tried that. Well, something similar. And he was shot down.

"So, I'm just gonna…" Jim motioned toward his desk.

"Right, right. Okay, yeah. Work." Pam nodded and turned toward her own work.

She sounded disappointed, and Jim hated that tone in her voice. He remembered it from when Pam was with Roy; he would cancel the plans she'd been talking about for weeks, but she would try to brush it off like it was no big deal. She'd try to convince herself more than she'd convince Jim; Jim knew better than to buy it. He took a breath and sat down.

He'd spent hours going through her sketches and commentary the night before. It wasn't like they were just doodles. Pam went so far as to draw maps of the office, small figures to represent other Dunder Mifflin employees and where they sat, and the various items on their desks. Sure, some of the pranks were impossible, dangerous, and/or illegal, but it was the gesture that mattered most.

The drawings were incredible. Under normal circumstances, Jim would talk to Pam at length about just how much he loved them. But something was holding him back from going to discuss them with her. Attempting to push the thought out of his mind, he opened a spreadsheet that he had been working on and started to make some sales calls. It didn't take long for his eyes to wander to reception again once he was put on hold. Instead of the familiar feeling he got in the pit of his stomach when their eyes used to lock, Jim's eyes darted away from Pam's as his cheeks flushed and Pam quickly busied herself across the room.

As if they weren't obvious before, the differences in the way Jim and Pam interacted throughout the day were incredibly obvious now.

Jim left a message for a client, rattling off his phone number, extension, and a brief message. He hung up the phone, and almost on autopilot, ended up at Pam's desk once again.

"Actually, you know, I meant to tell you… I looked through your sketches."

Pam lifted her head. "Really? What'd you think?"

"Well, some of the execution could use a little tweaking, but the art and the concept is genius." Jim winked at her. "I knew it would be awesome, but I didn't expect it to be this level of awesome. You put some time into those, huh?"

"Yeah. I did. I mean, it's not like I had to clear my schedule or anything, since most of them were done at work, but yeah. Sorry some of them were colored and some of them weren't. "

"Jeez, why are you sorry? They were incredible." Jim tapped on the desk. "Even though some of them can't actually happen."

"Yeah, we really don't want to go to prison." Pam put a strand of hair behind her ear.

They stared at each other in silence for a moment as Jim tried to extend the conversation organically. Ultimately, he decided that it probably wasn't the best idea. As awkward as it was, this was the sort of thing that would heal itself with time. "But, yeah, I should get back to work, but I just, uh, had to tell you. So."

"Thanks." Her smile grew bigger. "I'm glad you enjoyed them."

"Look out for the goose one sometime soon, all right?"

Pam nodded. "Will do."

Jim took a seat at his desk. Before long, the rest of the Dunder Mifflin staff left the conference room and returned to their seats. "You're late." Dwight stood at the end of Jim's desk and checked his watch. "It's 9:56."

Jim sighed heavily. "Thanks for the information, I wasn't quite sure if my watch was wrong or the four times I hit the snooze button did me in."

"Your sarcasm is not appreciated, Jim," Dwight shot back, raising his voice. "There was a conference room meeting this morning. You did not attend."

Jim reached for the phone. "Pam gave me the gist of it."

"You know what? One of these days your behavior will be recognized and punished."

Jim shrugged, dialing some numbers. "I guess you're right. I can only get through life on good looks alone for so long."

Dwight opened his mouth as if he was going to say something else to Jim, but when Pam transferred a call to Dwight's extension, the tirade stopped. Jim glanced in Pam's direction, casually rolled his eyes, and turned to his desk.

She didn't look back.

"So are you coming tonight?" Kelly cornered Jim in the break room later as he attempted to walk back to his seat.

"Uh, well, I'm not really sure," Jim stammered, stepping back just a bit.

"Diwali only comes once a year, Jim. This is big. Like… bigger than my party for Pirates of the Caribbean 2's release. And you know how hot Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom are. I need you to be there, Jim!"

Jim raised his eyebrows. "I'll see what I can do."

Kelly looked over her shoulder and gently put her hand on Jim's arm. "Is this about Pam?"

"Is what about Pam?"

"This whole, 'a woman broke my heart, so I'm moping' thing. Is it about Pam?" Kelly took Jim by the hand and pulled him toward a table. "Because if it is, I am a great relationship counselor."

Jim raised his eyebrows, attempting to stifle his laughter. "You are?"

"Yes. My friend Becky broke up with her boyfriend a month ago, and now she's engaged to another guy. We just talked it through, and sorted out her feelings and stuff. Sort of like therapy, only with ice cream and hot guys."

"Thanks for the offer, but uh, I'm not really into hot guys. So."

Kelly shook her head. "No, no, Jim. It would be about hot girls for you. Duh."

"I'm still gonna have to say no. But I appreciate—"

"Are you kidding me? I'm your friend. I'm trying to help you here. You're being an ungrateful jerk!" Kelly crossed her arms and stood in the doorway of the break room, preventing Jim from returning to his seat.

Jim knew he was going to regret it the instant he said it, but in order to get her to move, there was only one thing he could say. "You know what, why don't I come to your Diwali party to make it up to you?"

Kelly shuffled away from the doorframe. "That's much better."

Jim arrived at the Diwali party, feeling slightly embarrassed that he was manipulated by Kelly, but more embarrassed that he was that guy. That guy who tried to shoehorn a friendship on the mend into something he wanted it to be. That guy who just threw his feelings out there like in any of a myriad of romantic movies, and expected her to just abandon everything she'd known for years to be with him.

And worse, he was now that guy who stood in the corner of the room while everyone else was dancing, watching and waiting to see if Pam would show up.

He grabbed a plate of food and took the whole experience in, trying to forget about Pam. It was easier said than done. Sometimes, when he was around people from the office, he remembered little inside jokes he and Pam had about them. Bet Dwight will end up on Survivor or Fear Factor, or one of those shows. As the antagonist. Maybe Angela was kicked out of the convent. What if Kevin was the inspiration for Peter Griffin on 'Family Guy'?

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Pam make her way onto the dance floor. Her hair was down. He liked when her hair was down. He smiled to himself as he watched her dorky-dancing and enjoying herself. Jim grabbed another plate of food and decided to let things happen organically. Pam would come around when she was ready; after all, he hurt her badly. And as much as he wanted to talk to her and fix it, it was going to take some time.

He watched as Michael proposed to Carol in front of the entire crowd, and took some comfort in the fact that at the very least, he was not that guy.

After a frustrating conversation with Dwight, Jim decided that maybe it was time to head home. He walked into the hallway, attempting to retrieve his shoes, when he felt a hand wrap around his arm. He turned around to see that it was Pam.

"Hey, can I talk to you for a sec? You're the only person I can say this to."

You're the only person I can say this to.

Jim nodded. "Sure, we'll go over there."

The two walked to another corner of the hallway, away from everyone else, and Pam sat down on the floor. She leaned her back against the wall and stretched out her legs, pointing and flexing her toes as Jim attempted to sit down next to her.

"Ow." Jim stood up and tossed someone's abandoned high heel toward the pile of shoes. "So, what's up?"

"I don't know what it was, but in some weird Twilight Zone-y moment, Michael tried to kiss me out there."

"Wait, what?" Jim had no idea how to respond to that. There were so many thoughts running through his head. Michael tried to kiss Pam? Did he miss? When she says tried, exactly how successful was he?

"I stopped him before he could even get close, but… it's just sad. I don't know. The whole thing is so weird." Pam tugged at a string on her sweater.

"That is weird. Did he make you feel like, uncomfortable or anything?"

She shook her head, laughing. "No, not really. Well, no more than usual. This sounds bad, doesn't it?"

"It could sound worse, but it's definitely not good."

Pam shrugged. "I mean, I get that he was upset about Carol. But what made him think that proposing tonight would be a good idea? I mean, can he just not read her? Granted, I don't know if they've like, talked about getting engaged before, or something, but… they came in costume."

"Yeah, she had that grumpy-face on all night. He was kind of oblivious to the whole thing. How did he not notice that? This night keeps getting weirder."

"Why, what happened to you that was weird?"

Jim shook his head. "No, no, trust me. Whatever happened that was weird definitely isn't as weird as this. This would win the Nobel Prize for weirdness if there was one."

"Nobel Prize?"

Jim laughed. "You know what I mean. So tell me again what happened. And start from the beginning."

"Well, I went out to make sure he was okay, you know? Like, that he wasn't bothering any random people with his sob story, or drunkenly trying to steal a boom box to pull a Lloyd Dobler."

"That reference is spot on, by the way." Jim stretched out his legs. "But where would you find a boom box around here?"

Pam shrugged. "I don't know. With Michael I've learned to never underestimate him. He's capable of a lot."

"True. Continue."

"And then he said something about us both being people who had broken engagements, and how he knows exactly what I'm going through now. Like we now have this strange bond or something."

Jim laughed. "He was never engaged! I'm pretty sure he just decided to propose to her right as he did it! In fact, I'm sure the thought entered his brain, bypassed any filters that normal human beings have, and he just blurted it out."

"So, you mean, he acted like Michael Scott?"

"Exactly." Jim laughed, resisting the urge to scoot a little closer to Pam. He was enjoying the flow of the conversation; things were going exactly as they should be. This was just like he remembered. Jim watched as Pam continued the story, gesticulating for effect, and doing her best (still bad) Michael impression as she gave him a word for word recap of their conversation on the front steps.

"And then I told him that I thought something would happen tonight, too. And I guess he took that as some sort of sign that I was definitely talking about him. And he just slowly started to lean toward me, eyes closed, and I realized what he was doing." Pam shook her head. "And then he asked me for a ride home. I told him I'd give him a ride home if he sat in the back."

"Wait, what did you think would happen tonight?" Jim couldn't help but ask. It probably wasn't wise, but he wanted to know. Maybe it was something with Roy. If there were roadblocks to their possible eventual reconciliation, Jim wanted to know now, before he put his heart out there again.

"It wasn't anything even related to his situation. I mean, it's obvious that he really just can't interpret feelings properly, you know? Some guys just… can't do that for some reason. It's like, whenever you're there for them, as a friend, they want to try to hit on you, or something. It's crazy! I mean, it's Michael, so— " Pam stopped mid-sentence. "Jim, I didn't mean it like that. Not with you, I mean. I just—"

Jim stood up. "No, no, it's totally cool. I get it."

"I wasn't talking about you, honestly. I wasn't trying to make you feel uncomfortable. I'm so sorry. That definitely wasn't what I meant." She stood up and followed him to the shoe pile.

Even if she wasn't talking about him, he realized what a jerk he was for what happened on Casino Night. He put her in a bad spot. And then just left. And then came back, expecting everything to be okay. "Yeah, I know. It's cool, don't worry about it. I can give Michael a ride home, if you want."

Pam put each hand up the opposite sleeve of her sweater and hugged her arms close to her chest. "Are you sure? I don't mind, really."

"No, no, it's… I'm going to that area of town anyway. So. Don't worry about it, Beesly. I got it."

"Okay. Don't feel like you have to. He got himself into this mess, you know." Pam looked down at the pile of shoes.

"I don't. It's okay. I guess I will just… see you at work, then." Jim grabbed his shoes and went to look for Michael. He couldn't help but wonder if he'd ruined things for good. Maybe things would have to get worse before they got better, but every time he started to feel like staying in Scranton was a good idea, he ended up second-guessing himself.

After listening to Michael try to 'bond' with him using the same 'heartbreak and loss' angle he did with Pam, Jim dropped Michael off at his condo. Jim made his way back to his apartment and drafted an e-mail to David Wallace.

to be continued