Title: leavin' on your mind
Character(s): Karen, featuring appearances by Kelly, Jim, Andy, and Pam
Spoilers: through "The Job"
Word Count: 3,249
Summary: This is how Karen's last week in Scranton goes--
Author's Note: I really don't know why I keep writing these season four speculation fics now that the premiere is nearly upon us, considering they're all going to be de-canonized in less than a week (!!!) anyway. But unfortunately, I cannot seem to stop my ill-timed inspiration. And damn it, I love me some Filippelli.
Kudos to anyone who makes it through the first section. It was an accident. I contemplated paragraphs, but I just felt like it would lessen the effect somehow. And who wants that?
This is how Karen's last week in Scranton goes—
"Oh my God, Karen, I can't believe you're leaving! It feels like you just got here, like, yesterday. Isn't it weird how time goes by so fast? Seriously, time goes by so fast. Why are you leaving? It's going to be so weird without you! I don't know what we're all going to do! Like, your hair is so pretty. I told Ryan like eight times that you had the prettiest hair in the office, but he'd just get all weird and not even answer, like, apparently boys aren't allowed to care about hair? Somebody tell that to Nick Arrojo, right? But we are not talking about Ryan. Like I'm going to waste another breath on that jerk. Which I'm totally not, by the way. So are you leaving because of Jim? You are, aren't you? There's no way you're not leaving because of Jim. God, if I was you? I'd completely leave because of Jim. Does it just drive you totally crazy to see him and Pam looking at each other all cute all the time lately? God, that would drive me crazy. Sometimes I think, 'Hmm! What would I do if I was Karen?' and I seriously think I would just kill myself or something, for real. It would be way too depressing otherwise, right? To see him with Pam all the time? You know, you should have asked me right when you two first started going out and I would have entirely told you that Jim has been hung up on Pam forever, because he has been. Like, years. So it's probably good that you're getting out of here so they can be all in love and you can just be your own independent woman, you know? In New York – God, I always wanted Ryan to take me up to New York, because he entirely promised to take me to see Legally Blonde on Broadway – seriously, the second I heard about it, I was all, 'Ryan, you are taking me to that or I will seriously kill you,' because Elle Woods singing? Can you even imagine how awesome it would be? Like, the only way it could possibly be more awesome is if Reese Witherspoon was in it too – and she totally could have been, because how amazing was she in Walk The Line? So amazing -- but I guess that would have just been too great and my brain would have like exploded or something, and Reese seems like such a sweetheart, she would probably feel really bad about making somebody's brain explode. Not that it matters, because Ryan was always all, 'Oh, whatever, we'll do it next week' and then he'd just study for business school or hang out with his stupid friends or something, and I made him watch Legally Blonde with me for like five weekends straight to try to get him to imagine how much better it would be if it was a musical, but he would just roll his eyes the whole time and we'd, like, just be getting to the part where Elle gets to Harvard and then he'd want to make out, although I'm pretty sure now that it was just so he didn't have to watch the movie, and now I'm never going to be able to watch Legally Blonde again without thinking about making out with Ryan. Boys are such jerks. You so have the right idea, just going there all boyfriendless and on your own. But New York City, Karen! Can you even believe it? If I were you, I wouldn't be able to believe it. Omigod, it is so exciting, you're going to be just like Carrie Bradshaw. Or maybe Charlotte. Or – maybe sort of like Miranda in Charlotte's body. Yeah, that's it. You are so Miranda in Charlotte's body. I always have the toughest time figuring out which Sex and the City girl I'd be, if I had to pick one, because I totally want to get married and have babies, just like Charlotte, but I also feel sort of Samantha-y sometimes, and, like, it's not like I'm a big ho or anything, but sometimes I think, how awesome would it be to be like Samantha and just go have sex with all these hot guys whenever, you know? If there were hot guys in Scranton, I would be such a Samantha. But not all the time, because that would be so slutty, don't you think? Sometimes when I watch the show, I'm just like, 'Oh, Samantha, you are such a slut!' but in this totally nice way, because it's not like I don't love her or anything, it's just that she is, like it's an actual fact, you know? So maybe I'd be like a part time Samantha, like maybe just one month out of the year? Do you think April or May seems sluttier? But anyway. Sometimes I so want to be like Samantha, especially when she gets that hot actor boyfriend in the last season, oh my God. But then it's like, well, I am so Carrie, too, even though honestly I'm not always, like, one hundred percent okay with her fashion choices. Like, sometimes it drops into the seventies, when she wears tutus out on the street and stuff, but whatever. And you know how Mr. Big was a total a-hole sometimes but it didn't change the fact that he and Carrie were so right together? I totally used to be able to relate to that, because it was so like me and Ryan, but not anymore because obviously he and I are totally wrong together, because he's a big stupid loser. Don't you think he's a big stupid loser? He's totally a bigger big stupid loser than Jim, because at least Jim dumped you for true love, you know? Not just some stupid job promotion in New York. Hey! If you see Ryan in New York, can you fully just kick him in the balls for me? Seriously. If you're, like, just walking down the street and all of a sudden he's coming towards you, you totally need to just kick him in the balls and be all, 'Kelly says hi, bitch.' Oh my God, ha, I can't believe I just said that! I swear, I don't usually say stuff like that, it's so mean, but he deserves it, right? He so deserves it. And I've been listening to all this Kelly Clarkson lately and it's like she speaks to my soul, I swear. Do you think Since U Been Gone or Walk Away or Never Again is the best boys-suck song? I've been trying to decide for like ever but I still haven't been able to, and I think maybe I couldn't even do it if someone was holding a gun to my head, because how do you just choose about something like that, right? It's way too hard. Anyway, have you heard any of the stuff off Kelly's newest CD? I could totally burn you a copy of it. Or maybe I'll just make you a copy of my Boys Suck, Girl Power Forever! mix that I've been listening to on the drive in to work every morning lately. Seriously, Karen, it is so empowering, it's like a religious experience. You know how Katie Holmes just got, like, reinvented when she started going out with Tom and embraced Scientology? It's like that, only maybe not as creepy. I feel sort of bad thinking it's creepy, because Suri is like the cutest baby I've ever seen who does not have the hottest parents of all time – you know, Brad and Angie, because oh my God, Shiloh, right?? – but at the same time, all of that was a little weird, right? Remember when she used to date Joshua Jackson? I liked them together so much better. Joey and Pacey – oh my God, do not even get me started! Because the point is, you are your own woman, Karen, and you're way too awesome to let stupid Jim make you all sad. And you're going to have such an amazing time in New York, because New York is amazing, and you're amazing, and if you get some new clothes that maybe fit a little better, nothing will be able to hold you back from being the very best you can be. Seriously. Nothing."
Jim and Pam get together. It's not like they broadcast it or anything, but it's hard to miss the looks they shoot at each other across the office, and she walks into the breakroom one day to Phyllis and Kelly gushing over it, singing out words like "obvious" and "finally."
She feels Jim's eyes on her sometimes, but he doesn't actually try to approach her for a couple of weeks. She keeps on calling him a coward in her head, because it's easier to deal with than the idea that he might just not care.
It's the end of the day and she's in the elevator, so beyond ready to go home and spend the evening with her boys Ben and Jerry on the couch. The doors are almost shut when Jim reaches out to stop them, and just seeing his hand is enough to turn her stomach. She focuses on making her face a mask as he comes in to stand next to her.
"Hey," he says tentatively. The doors shut, and they're alone.
There's this part of her that actually wants him to keep talking – she wants to see how the hell he manages to justify this. Knowing him, he'll manage to make it sweet and charming and real, and she'll wind up believing she's the one who did something wrong.
"Listen," he begins. "Karen—"
"Can you not?" she interrupts bluntly. "I know you're just dying to ease your conscience, but I'm not really in the mood to hear it right now."
He seems like he's going to protest at first; she just glances at him for a second, and he's got that yearning lost-puppy look on his face. She's still just as in love with him, she realizes, and it doesn't seem fair: she's not an idiot, he is an asshole, and it should be enough to make her hate him. And still all she can think is standing shoulder-to-shoulder here a few weeks ago, his fingers curling affectionately into the pocket of her coat. One of those small, stupid gestures that finally convinced her it was going to last.
"Okay," he finally says, quiet.
It's the only time he tries to talk to her. She doesn't know why she's surprised.
She winds up hiding out in the kitchen at her own going away party. The celebration consists of one melting ice cream cake that Michael's already devoured like half of (which is a pretty strong indicator of how things are going with Jan) and a sign that says 'ARRIVEDERCI FILIPELLI' in sloppy, slanting letters. She's pretty sure that Kevin wound up making the sign, despite the fact that he's not usually allowed to come anywhere near the Party Planning Committee. Clearly, it was just Christmas spirit that got Angela to temporarily bury the hatchet over the whole Committee to Plan Parties fiasco.
Standing there for the first fifteen minutes, she's really, really tempted to point out that there's a P missing from her last name, but even that small urge toward rebellion gets crushed pretty fast. Then she notices that Pam keeps glancing over at her, like she might want to talk or something, and there's no way Karen wants to deal with that. Hiding is clearly the superior option here.
She sinks down at the table in the kitchen, wondering what the hell inspired her to move here in the first place and then not allowing herself to actually answer that question.
After a couple of minutes the door swings open, and it's probably a bad sign that she actually feels relieved to see it's only Andy.
"Ahh," he says, with his usual ridiculous flourish. "The Lady Filippelli."
"Andy," she sighs, "just spare me, 'kay?"
He scrunches his face up in exaggerated confusion. "I don't know what you mean."
"I mean, I get it," she replies impatiently. "You're the last one standing. I'm drowning in a chocolate river, or whatever. Can you just not get into it, please?"
"Waaasn't gonna," he replies smoothly.
"Yeah, you were," she retorts.
"Okay, maybe I was," he admits. "But because you asked so nicely, I shall refrain."
"Thanks," she says shortly.
He doesn't go away. Of course.
"So," he says, and sinks down at the table next to her.
"So what?" she asks impatiently.
"So, how, uh, are you?" He actually looks a little nervous, which is kind of sweet, for Andy. "Since Tuna turned out to be a big douche."
"I'm okay," she replies. It's a relief to discover that it actually sounds like she means it.
"Yeah, sure, okay," Andy says, then coughs loudly. He manages to sneak the word "Liar!" in the middle of it. So impressive.
"I'll be fine," she insists.
"Aha!" Andy exclaims triumphantly.
She'd think about hitting him if she could actually muster up the energy. "What?"
"You'll be fine. Which means you're not fine." He drums his fists triumphantly against the tabletop. "So called it."
"My boyfriend abandoned me in New York to go get with the love of his life," Karen reminds him sharply. Maybe she shouldn't take this out on the guy who punched a hole in the wall, but whatever. "Would you be fine?"
"I don't know, 'cause I'm not gay," Andy returns, along with an implicit 'duh.' "Duh."
Make that an explicit 'duh.'
"Right," Karen says, rolling her eyes.
The uncomfortable silence doesn't really get the opportunity to show up, because Andy starts humming that winning song from this season of American Idol. It kind of makes her sad that she recognizes it. She never got into the whole Idol thing until Jim, who claimed he just watched for the mockery potential but was actually dorkily into it.
"Jordin Sparks?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Please!" Andy scoffs, offended. "Blake Lewis version."
"He lost," Karen reminds him.
"Your mom lost," he shoots back.
"Seriously?" Karen frowns. "That's the best you can come up with?"
He makes a face at her, but thankfully gives up on trying to come up with witty retorts. "So you're really goin', huh?" he asks instead.
She shrugs. "That's the plan."
He stares at her for a minute; she watches the harsh, determinedly cheerful smile he's been showing off ever since anger management training flicker a little, then fade away. He looks weirdly human without it.
"I'm gonna miss you, Filippelli," he says earnestly.
She's caught a little off-guard by the cry-or-smile feeling it gives her. She'd never really stopped to think about what she might miss. She'd been too busy running like hell out of this mess.
"You too, Bernard," she replies. She only realizes she's smiling when he grins back, looking a lot less strained and psychotic than usual.
"Pound it," he orders cheerfully, holding out his fist.
What the hell, she thinks, and bumps her knuckles against his.
All her stuff is in boxes, more or less. She's still got some dishes and the coffeepot out, and she's sitting at the table Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and two cinnamon Pop Tarts. She sort of wishes she hadn't already packed the TV up, because it's really hard to ignore how pathetic you are when you're surrounded by complete silence all the time. She reminds herself that this isn't forever; she's on the verge of moving forward.
It's not as comforting as she wants it to be.
She's so used to her good buddy silence that she actually jumps when the doorbell rings. It's not like she's got a whole lot of friends here – or any, if she's being realistic – and her heart leaps before she can stop it, because she's developed this sad Pavlovian response where the doorbell means Jim.
Her hair's still wet from the shower, and she's wearing a tanktop and a pair of pajama pants. She finds herself struck by the sudden depressingly lame wish that she actually looked decent right now. Her heart's beating way too hard as she makes her way over to the front door.
She swings it open, and Pam's standing there.
"Um," Karen says. She's so surprised that she can't even tell if her heart's sinking or what.
"Hey," Pam says. It's disorienting to see her close up like this: she looks luminous, dressed in rosy pink with her hair hanging loose. Karen knows she never looked that happy when she was with Jim; the worry was always there around the edges.
"Hey," she replies, harsh by default. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh!" Pam says, her face falling slightly with realization. "Yeah. This probably seems weird."
"Yeah," Karen agrees. She figures she's allowed to be a little bit merciless.
"I just . . ." For a second Pam looks like she's going to give up on whatever this is, but then her expression shifts, and it feels a little like Beach Day all over again. "I wanted to tell you that I had a really good time with you at the Christmas party."
It's about a million miles away from whatever it was Karen was expecting.
"I was going through a really hard time back then," Pam says. Her hand comes up to fiddle awkwardly with her necklace, but she keeps her eyes trained on Karen's. "And that whole thing – the Committee to Plan Parties, and everything – . . . it was the most fun I'd had in a really long time. And I'm sad we never really got to be friends."
For a long time, Karen's just silent, because if there's something you're actually supposed to say to that, then she doesn't know what it is. If she actually wanted to admit it, she could say that she's sad too – she can still remember the exhilarating, stupid giddiness she'd felt throughout the whole day. It had felt a little like affirmation, like she had made the right decision in coming there after all; like Jim wasn't the only thing that Scranton held for her. Like she could build a life there after all.
"Oh," she says.
Pam just watches her for a couple of seconds, like she can tell that there's more Karen wants to say. It would be easy to do it, maybe, but it would be so damn mature, too, and she's allowed to be bitter about this. She shouldn't have to forgive Pam. She shouldn't want to, either.
"And, okay, this is definitely weird," Pam finally relents a little nervously. "So I'm gonna go. But I just wanted you to know that. And that I'm sorry. About everything. I really, really didn't want you to get hurt, because I know how much it sucks, and . . . good luck in New York."
Her mouth curves up in a tentative half-smile, and for a second it seems like she might hug her. She just winds up turning around, though, and Karen watches as she begins to walk away.
It's like an accident; she breathes in once to steady herself and then calls after her. She figures she needs a little practice when it comes to starting over.