Jim cast another quick glance over in Pam's direction. Talking to Dwight was not how he would like to spend the rest of his work day and Pam looked pretty bored sitting over there at her desk.
He couldn't really remember the last time that he had talked to her, anyway. Not that he had been in any kind of a rush to get things back to the way that they had been pre-casino night. It was true that Pam used to be his best friend. And so maybe, there might just be some tiny chance that they could be friends again.
With that in mind, he went over to her desk and casually leaned up against it.
"Uh," he paused. He hadn't done this in a long time. It felt weird. "Hey. I just- you looked bored."
As she was scribbling down a message for Michael (who was taking his umpteenth nap break of the day, a thought popped into Pam's brain: You look bored. She nodded in self-agreement, when she realized that it wasn't her brain talking. It was Jim, and he was leaning up against her desk.
Her hands were shaking, so she quickly picked back up the pen she was holding. Her stomach was doing jumping-jacks, and then she noticed that she hadn't said a damn thing back. Composing herself, she broke into a smile, the first real smile she'd given to anyone all day.
"Bored? In this hotbed of excitement?" she quipped. "Gosh, no. If this place gave me anymore thrills, I'd keel over and die."
Hope feels really good, she thought.
Jim smiled back at her.
"Really? Because I've just been getting tips from Dwight on how to 'maximize my productivity'. Apparently," he allowed a dramatic pause before continuing, "-it's my posture."
He paused again. Before he had left Scranton he and Pam had never had any trouble with starting and continuing conversations, no matter how utterly pointless and/or ridiculous that the topic was. Now, he found that he was having trouble coming up with anything to say.
Jim then realized that he had absolutely no clue what was going on with Pam at the moment. Nor did he know what had been happening to her while he had been at the other branch.
"How are you?" he asked. "How've you been?" he knew that these two questions were almost exactly the same, but he figured that there was no harm in asking anyway.
What else could she say that wasn't loaded? With everything? Better yet, what could she say that wasn't incriminating?
"Um...," she searched for something to say, something that would keep the conversation going. "I've been good, I mean, I've been okay." Okay, that wasn't good. That sucked. She took a breath and tried again.
"Well," she started again, I got a new apartment." It was actually more or less a decently sized closet, but it was a reasonably priced start after she moved out of Roy's place. "And I'll have you know, furnishing a small apartment out of the Ikea catalog isn't as fun as it looks. Crazy Swedes."
"Keep him talking, Beesly," she thought.
"Oh, and listen to Dwight on that posture thing," she added, with a tiny smirk. "If you slip a disc or something, the first thing he'll say is, 'I told you so'."
Jim gasped and covered his mouth, faking shock.
"Pam...are you feeling okay?" he asked. With one hand, he reached over the counter and pressed the back of his hand lightly to her forehead. "I think you have a fever," he said seriously, pulling his hand away. "This needs to go on record. For the first time in Dunder-Mifflin history...you actually told me to listen to Dwight." Jim shook his head, trying hard to remain serious and not smile.
Of course Jim had much bigger and more important questions for Pam. Like, 'Why did you move?'. That was a big one. There was also, 'Why didn't you call me?', but Jim was not about to ask her any of those questions. Not now anyway. Not yet.
He turned briefly and looked over in Karen's direction. She didn't really seem all that concerned with what he was doing at the moment. It was more like she was trying not to fall asleep.
How much could it hurt to ask why she'd moved out? It wasn't as though it was anything hugely important and Jim had no clue why he was acting as though it was.
"You moved?" he asked, figuring that it was better to keep his question as discreet as possible.
Pam's head burned from where he had touched her. As soon as he'd removed his hand from her, she shot a swift glance at Karen's desk; the poor girl's head bobbed with fatigue.
What the hell?, she thought. He doesn't already know?
Keeping her tone light, she replied, "Welll...um...I moved out after I called off the wedding." She found her voice faltering at first, then steadied herself. He doesn't mean anything by it Beesly, just making conversation. Keep it together! "It's kind of strange to be on my own, but I like it. You're not the only one who can move up in the world, Halpert."
She meant it to be a light dig at Jim, a joke. But as soon as she said it, she didn't think it sounded that way.
"Oh." Jim nodded.
He didn't want to ask her why she'd called off the wedding. Roy was a jerk and Jim guessed that the whole reason that she had called it off was because she was tired of waiting for them to get married already. It would be selfish of Jim to think that he had been the cause of it all. Pam had already made it clear that she didn't exactly want to be anything more than just his friend.
Jim gave her a sort of lopsided smile. He wasn't really sure what to say to her. This was definitely a touchy subject, especially since they were at work. There was also the fact that Karen was not all that far away. Karen. There was still so much that she didn't know, so much that Jim had not told her. He'd kept just about everything about Pam from her. He didn't see why it was important, anyway. Pam was in the past. Obviously she was moving on. So why couldn't he?
Karen was nice. He liked Karen. So why was it that Jim felt happier than he should have when Pam said that she had called off the wedding.
"Well," he said lightly, "you deserve better."
A wave of relief spread throughout Pam. Awkward moment kind of avoided. Why does everything have to be such a dance between us now? she thought, then stopped herself. Let's leave that til later. We won't touch that now.
"And, now I think so, too," she replied quietly, looking up at him, willing him to look in her eyes.
You see that, Jim? I'm being brave today.
Jim looked down at his feet and nodded. He smiled, but it was directed more at the floor than at Pam.
Pam was different now. Not all that much, the change wasn't all that big, but it was something. Before he'd left, Jim never would have thought that Pam would leave Roy. In fact, he had been absolutely positive that she and Roy were going to get married and he'd never hear from her again. This was quite the opposite.
He nodded again, not sure what to say that wouldn't make things awkward he said, "Good." And luckily Karen 'rescued' him from having to go into any sort of detail.
Karen yawned and looked over at where Jim was standing. He was over at Pam's desk; having what seemed like a long conversation. She didn't want to intrude but since she had to make copies of a document that had to be mailed -- two hours ago. She got up from her seat, walked on over to the copy machine, staggered a bit at first, got straight, and headed on over.
She was so tired she didn't even hear them talking; just mumbles. She didn't want to be rude to make it seem like she was listening, so she spoke.
"Hey, guys," She says with a yawn. "Sorry if I'm interrupting anything; Michael will have my ass if I don't send these in on time."
Jim turned his gaze from Pam as Karen approached.
"Hey." he said, smiling at her. "I doubt Michael's will do...anything."
Hardly anything ever got done when Jim had worked here and it seemed like everyone's work habits had not changed all that much. Usually, if any work was getting done, it was done when they were not messing around. But, now that Jim had more responsibility around here, he had to at least pretend that he didn't really miss the little things about Scranton. Stamford and Scranton were two very different branches, with very different people.
"Oh," Jim added. "You're not interrupting," he paused "-anything. I'm avoiding Dwight so..."
Karen smiled awkwardly; she did feel rude for interrupting whatever they were talking about. Part of her thinks that she made up an excuse for herself to go up there. She wasn't eaves dropping --- she was just casually copying papers.
"Have fun avoiding Dwight," She said, with a small laugh. "Well -- I'll leave you two back to chatting."
She gave Pam a smile and Jim a light touch on the arm; suddenly she felt like she was in them middle of something she had no idea about.
Pam had said nothing in the exchange between Jim and Karen, only offering a smile that she hoped didn't look fake.
You're not interrupting - anything, he had said. Them finally talking again wasn't anything? Pam's shoulders fell slightly. She had been mentally high-five-ing herself, for nothing. She'd become just a diversion.
"Look, I have to give Michael his messages, a.k.a. rouse him from his slumber,"
she said, rising from the desk. "We can finish this 'chat' when I get back." Her smile was tight lipped, and she sounded a little curt.
She needed to breathe. She needed to take a walk.
Jim couldn't help but feel like he might have done or said something that he should not have. Even though she was smiling, there was something different about the way that she was acting. Jim knew Pam all too well. So well that he could tell that something was bothering her.
"Wait-" Jim figured that Michael could wait just a little longer. He looked back a Karen for a second before looking back at Pam again. Pam was one of his best friends or rather she used to be and now he wasn't exactly sure what he and Pam were. And there was no harm in trying to figure that out, was there?
"Pam. Did you want to go get dinner or something?" He paused before adding, "Now that Roy can't keep you from saying yes..." They would just talk, anyway. There was a lot that they needed to talk about.
Dinner? With Jim?
She crumpled the messages in her hands from the shock of his question. She had also seen the look he'd flashed Karen before he asked.
"Roy can't keep me from saying yes, but apparently Karen can keep you from asking me to dinner," she taunted. It'd slipped out, before she could catch her tongue. She bit into it, chastising it a little.
"I have some grocery shopping to do after we leave here. We can eat around 8, maybe?
Jim tried his best to ignore the part of Pam's statement about Karen and nodded. He wasn't exactly sure why it was that Pam was acting this way. She really didn't have any reason to. The last time that he had checked, Karen hadn't done anything to her and more importantly, he hadn't either.
"I-" he wasn't about to let anything as simple as his looking at Karen to mess up the little bit of friendship rebuilding that they had manged so far.
"Okay. Eight." Jim said, nodding once more.
Pam noddded in agreement with the time, and turned to walk to Michael's door. She was still feeling sheepish over what she had said, and wanted to get on some neutral ground.
"Oh," she exclaimed, suddenly turning back to Jim, "Where are we eating? I just want to know how to dress?" She gripped Michael's doorknob a little harder than she needed to as she spoke.
How embarassed would she be if she dressed in her best...and they ended up eating at McDonalds?
"Oh, just casual." Jim said quickly.
He hadn't really thought about where they might be going before he had invited her. It had just sort of come out of his mouth before he could stop it.
"Listen," Jim said, "you can pick. It doesn't matter. I just need to talk to you. You should probably go wake up Michael." he finished, nodding his head in the direction of Michael's office. It probably looked odd. The two of them just standing there.
"Cugino's is always good," she replied quickly, already feeling she was loosing his attention. "I guess we'll go over details at lunch."
With that, she deftly swung into Michael's office and shut the door behind her. Michael's office, neutral ground...ha! she thought. Tonight was the night, and there was no way to avoid it.
Michael's soft snores brought her out of her reverie. Time to wake up Sleeping Beauty. But how?
"Hey," she fibbed loudly, "Isn't today Preztel Day?"
Michael popped up, and knocked a mug of coffee onto his lap; ah, the perks of her job.
Karen looked over at the two of them from her desk; it looked like Pam was a little pissed off about something Jim had just said.
Jim looked at Karen quickly then turned back to Pam; she was suddenly confused and her stomach did a flip.
"Jim," She calls out before he sits back down at his desk.
Did she do something wrong?
Why do I feel like I'm the bad guy?
Jim walked quickly over to Karen, hearing her call his name.
"Hey." he said, standing off to the side and ignoring Stanley's 'You should be working' face. He smiled at her reassuringly.
"What's up?" he asked, seeing that she looked somewhat confused about something. Certainly not anything that he and Pam might have been talking about. That was probably the last thing she'd have to worry about around here.
She was still confused at what she just saw a few minutes go; Jim quickly walked over to her and she was relieved.
"What are you up to tonight?" She asked; normal conversation always works. "It seems like work is taking longer to get over than I thought."
She glanced over at Stanley who was giving them the 'Get back to work,' look. Like Jim, she ignored it.
Jim bit his lip. He wasn't exactly sure what to say. He wasn't going to lie. That would put him in a huge mess that he wasn't all that sure that he would be able to handle.
"I was just-" he paused, struggling a bit with what to say next, "I was going to go to dinner with Pam. To talk about-I don't know- things that we should've talked about before I left...but I-" he paused again and looked down at the floor for a moment before looking back up at Karen again, "Did you want to come? Because I'm sure it'd be okay."
He said the last part very quickly. Pam couldn't get mad at him for inviting Karen, could she? No, of course not. It might be awkward, but everything was already weird to some degree. It really couldn't get all that much worse.
Karen wasn't sure what she should say; her mind was racing. What did they have to talk about? She missed out on a lot of things, she didn't know a lot about what happened between him and Pam. No, she can't do that to him, she had to let them talk on their own.
Then the sudden jealousy and paranoia hits her.
"No, I-- I don't want to impose on anything, I mean --" She stammered. "Just, um -- thank you for inviting me but I think it should be you two."
She was lying through her teeth and by the look on his face she could tell he knew it too.
Jim just looked at her for a moment, trying to process everything that was going on.
He shook his head, "There's nothing for you to impose on." When he spoke, his tone was serious. This was obviously bothering her, but did she actually think that anything was going to happen?
"Just let me know if you change your mind," he said finally, turned and walked off.
Karen watched as he walked off; part of her wanted to tell him to wait but the other part didn't. There wasn't anything to worry about; so she should stop worrying. Absolutely nothing to worry about --- at all.
"Yeah -- I'll call you or something," She finally said; but it was very doubtful that he heard her since she was barely audible.
I shouldn't worry, should I?