Character(s)/Pairing: Karen, Toby, Jim/Pam
Spoilers: through "The Job"
Word Count: 761
Summary: Her first thought is that she’s gotta be in really depressing shape if Toby’s feeling bad for her.
Author's Note: This is me, trying to get back into the Office-writing swing of things. And oh, man, writing this made me all wistful. Oh, Jim/Karen and Toby/Pam. I loved you dearly.
An office picnic seems kind of unnecessary, considering Beach Day was, what, a little over a month ago? But Michael is Michael, and he’s apparently decided that the number one priority of the moment is to promote office unity – or, if you want to use Michaelspeak, Limitless Office Loyalty, which he picked because that way he has an excuse to say ‘LOL’ whenever he wants to. He’s developed this habit of glancing really pointedly at either her or Jim every time he brings up the subject, like they can’t quite be trusted because they dared to interview for the job at Corporate. While casting shifty, deliberate glances their way, Michael always seems to conveniently forget that he was in New York, too.
She really needs to find another job. A far-far-away-from-here-type job.
It sounds great in theory, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s standing here, digging her fingernails absently into a styrofoam cup of Coke and trying not to stare at Jim and Pam. She’s not doing so well. They’re maybe thirty feet away at the swingset, Pam on one of the swings, arms curled around the rusty chains, ankles dangling merrily. She’s talking, looking up at the sky instead of back at Jim, who’s grinning and reaching out to push her every time she falls back towards him. Their laughter blends with the steady squeak of the chains; a gentle back-and-forth-back-and-forth rhythm. They’re about the most unabashedly perfect thing she’s ever seen. It makes her want to puke.
She thinks she might take off early. It’s not the best day for a picnic, anyway. It’s only sunny in that halfhearted way, where just when you’re getting used to it, it slips away behind the clouds.
Yeah, leaving early is definitely the best option. Which totally explains why she just keeps standing here, not even attempting to make conversation with anybody, just staring back at her ex-boyfriend and the girl he abandoned her in New York for.
She hears footsteps, and tears her eyes away to find Toby coming up next to her. He’s wearing a baseball cap and clutching a paper plate with a half-eaten hotdog and a handful of potato chips on it, and looks about as cheerful as ever.
Her first thought is that she’s gotta be in really depressing shape if Toby’s feeling bad for her.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” she replies, not bothering to force a smile.
He squints a little when he looks at her, because the sun’s choosing to stick around for the moment and it’s right in his eyes. “Having fun?”
“Tons,” she replies in deadpan. “You?”
“Oh,” he says, tonelessly, “yeah.”
She laughs a little, quiet and bitter, and he does too. There’s a weird solidarity to it.
And then Pam lets out a sudden shriek of laughter, and Karen looks back over without even realizing she’s doing it. Jim’s got his arms around her from behind, so she can’t swing forward again. She swats at his arm, beaming bright.
That’s all it takes – all of a sudden, Karen’s got a lump in her throat and her eyes are starting to sting. She’s not used to being a crier. It’s getting old real fast.
“Damn it,” she mutters, blinking a couple of times. She glances over at Toby, expecting him to be staring at her all sympathetically, but it turns out he’s watching Jim and Pam, too. There’s something faraway and wistful in his face. The sun disappears behind another cloud.
“I was gonna ask her to dinner,” he says after a moment, in this way where it feels like he’s talking to himself more than her. “Pam,” he adds, like that needed any clarification. For a second, he just keeps on watching; Pam squeals out “Jim, knock it off!” and Karen figures he’s probably thinking about how beautiful she is or something stupid like that. He breathes in, and finishes, “I . . . didn’t, though.”
She doesn’t know whether he’s trying to comfort her or what. If he is, it’s kind of working.
“Oh,” is all she can think of to say.
“Yeah,” he answers after a couple of seconds, and sighs.
Pam turns her head back to face Jim, and kisses him quick. She misses a little, barely catching the corner of his mouth. He lets go of her, a reward, and she swings gracefully forward, old metal singing out.
Karen grabs a couple of chips off of Toby’s plate without asking. He sort of smiles at her, in that sad way he has.