A/N: Here's another "what if" story from me. This one is nine chapters long. I'll probably post a chapter a day, as usual.
Remember how freaked out you were when Cocktails ended and you heard Roy say, "I am going to kill Jim Halpert"? Okay. That's where our story begins.
Thanks to SixFlightsUp and WildBerryJam for beta'ing!
The wine is good, the shrimp is excellent, and she successfully fooled her boyfriend into thinking that she'd slept with half of her male coworkers.
Karen decides that, all in all, it's a pretty fun cocktail party.
After finally extricating herself from an incredibly awkward conversation with Jan in which the words "vodka" and "aspirin" are mentioned multiple times, she's relieved to see Jim return from his impromptu basketball match with the C.F.O.
He's smiling and his hair is slightly tousled from the physical activity. She loves that hair. When he notices her, his smile grows into a big, goofy grin, and Karen can't help returning it with one of her own.
She is so in love with this man.
It isn't like her to get so invested this quickly. She is always the one in relationships accused of having a "commitment problem." She hates guys who try to celebrate weekly anniversaries. She doesn't "meet the parents" unless it's been at least eight months (and even then, only grudgingly). And frankly, she thinks that flowers are a waste of money. They just wilt within a week anyway. She'll take a copy of the newest strategy guide for Call of Duty over a dozen roses any day.
If she called up any one of her ex-boyfriends and told them that she moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania for a guy she'd been dating for less than a week they would have assumed it was a very strange prank call.
There is just something so freeing about being with him. He can make anything fun. He's one of those people that just lights up a room. He brings out the best in her, makes her feel funny and appreciated and brilliant. It's impossible not to love him.
She supposes that's the problem.
The image of two sombrero-ed figures huddled together and giggling over a patch of broken drywall creeps into her thoughts before she can stop it.
She promised herself that she wouldn't think those thoughts tonight, but it's like when she knows that there's a mosquito in the room. She can never totally enjoy herself, because she knows that damn mosquito is there, waiting to bite her. She might forget it for a while, but then she catches a glimpse of it out of the corner of her eye and she's on edge again. She could just wait and swat it, but honestly, it's just a harmless little mosquito and it's not its fault that it likes blood. That usually doesn't stop Karen from killing it anyway, but she still feels a little guilty about it.
Jim successfully draws her thoughts away from mosquitoes and sombreros by pulling her in and giving her an exuberant kiss on the lips.
"What was that for?" Karen exclaims happily as they pull apart.
"I'm just happy," he says, and it's obvious that he's telling the truth.
She's gotten very good at being able to tell when he's honestly happy. There have been times, occurring with increasing frequency, when he says he's happy but she can tell he doesn't mean it.
"So I take it basketball went well?" she asks him, smirking.
"Well first of all, you were right," Jim says grimly. "He's so not over you."
"I warned you," she replies, shaking her head sadly. "I'm irresistible."
"Obviously," he says.
He grins again, and the mosquitoes that she thought she saw fluttering around the room take their leave.
"So, come on. What happened?" she prods.
"Nothing, really. I mean, he didn't offer me a promotion or anything."
"Well damn it. I've been wasting my time on you Halpert. I was just biding my time until I could use your heightened power within Dunder-Mifflin to get some real perks," she says.
"I would think that just basking in my presence is enough of a perk," he replies, feigning indignation.
"As far as basking goes, I've had better," she says nonchalantly.
He nudges her with his elbow, causing her to giggle. That's another thing.
Shegiggles when he's around.
Karen Filippelli is not a giggler. She laughs. She occasionally guffaws. She's even been known to snort sometimes when she's had a bit to drink. Yet when she's around him every now and then it just slips out. It always surprises her. She momentarily wonders where that strange noise is coming from until she realizes her own mouth is the source.
Jim smiles again and throws an arm around her shoulders.
"I don't know. He just turned out to be a really cool guy. I wasn't expecting to have a good time tonight," he muses.
And just like that, the mosquitoes are back.
She knows he doesn't mean it as a slight against her, but it hurts just the same. She hadbeen looking forward to tonight. She knew that she'd have fun just because he was there. Apparently he wasn't so sure.
"Well, I'm glad you did," she says, covering up the hurt with a smile. She's gotten used to doing that.
"So, I figure I can't top this. The night can only go downhill from here. If we stay any longer we run a serious risk of undoing any good that has occurred," he says, unwrapping his arm from around her and tugging at her hands.
She looks at him incredulously.
"What could undo the good?" she asks.
At that very second, her answer arrives in the form of Michael Scott. He sidles nervously up to Jim, shooting an anxious glance at the camera before speaking.
"Hey, Jimbag, I'm in desperate need of some man-help," he says in an exaggerated whisper.
"Man-help? Like… Michael, please tell me this doesn't in any way involve… man parts," Jim says with a mixture of horror and amusement evident on his face.
"No—what? No! It's Jan. There's something seriously wrong with her. She's like an animal or a sex-addict or something! I think she's a necrophiliac." He pauses to consider his statement before adding, "I wonder if that's covered under the company's insurance plan."
Jim's eyes get as wide as saucers and he looks into the camera with a barely concealed smile when he replies.
"I seriously doubt it."
"I just don't know what to do," Michael says miserably. He sounds like he might be on the verge of tears. His voice is choked with emotion.
Jim looks at Michael and seems to soften. Karen loves this about him too. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body.
"You know who would be the perfect person to ask for advice? Dwight. He's been dating his girlfriend for a while now."
Michael screws up his face in disgust.
"Oh—gross! Dwight would have no idea what I'm going through."
"Okay, first of all, you don't know that. Dwight's girlfriend could be a sex maniac."
Karen shudders and Jim can't hide his grin when she clutches his hand even tighter.
"Ew, God! No way! I don't even want to think about that! Just—Jim, come on man. You two must… you know," Michael mumbles, gesturing vaguely at the Jim and Karen. "Both good-looking consenting adults in a monogam… monogrammed relationship. You probably… You get freaky all the time, right?"
"Oh my God," Karen mutters.
"Ooookay, Michael. The last time I saw Dwight he was on the roof. I think you should go find him. Karen and I were just about to leave anyway."
"Fine. But just… if you see Jan just don't mention anything—the necrophilia or anything," Michael pleads.
"Scout's honor," Jim says solemnly.
Michael leaves in a huff and Jim immediately turns on Karen.
"Do you see what happens when you question my instinct?" he accuses.
"Never again," Karen says, wide-eyed. She holds up her hands in mock surrender. "I should never have doubted you."
They grab their coats and slip out of the party unnoticed.
They spend the first fifteen minutes of the drive discussing the possibility of anonymously requesting health coverage for necrophilia. Then they try to figure out where they can find literature on necrophilia to give Michael, who could in turn pass it on to Jan to help educate her on her illness. They decide to check wikipedia for links, neither wanting to know what sites might pop up if they just google "necrophilia."
It's at about this time that Jim realizes he's running low on gas. They pull off at a little two-pump place and Jim gets out of the car.
He's making goofy faces at her through the window when his phone rings. Karen is about to open the door and hand him the phone when she sees the name lit up on the caller ID.
She glances quickly at Jim and sees that he's turned his attention to trying to stop the pump at exactly twenty five dollars. It's a little game they play. She is always able to stop it on the exact dollar amount. He usually goes one or two cents over. The loser has to listen to the winner gloat for the entire car ride home. She's gotten very good at gloating.
She slips his phone into her hands and cups her palm over the speaker, muffling the sound.
She hates herself so much right now, but she can't help it. Why ruin a perfectly good night? Why end on a sour note that will keep her up at night thinking about sombreros and seamless cell phone pass-offs and long late-night talks?
So she turns his phone off. He can listen to the voicemail tomorrow.
Sometimes you just need to swat the mosquito.
It's nothing personal, Karen tells herself. She likes Pam. Pam is a great person. She's fun. And funny. And nice.
She just also happens to be the woman who her boyfriend had "just a crush" on and shared "just a kiss" with. Only he never manages to make "just" sound convincing, and he knows it.
She hates being jealous. She's not a jealous person. It's just hard to be completely invested in another person and feel like half the time their thoughts are centered on someone else. It makes her feel stupid, like she's been used and discarded.
So when Jim reenters the car victorious over his ability to stop the pump at exactly twenty five bucks, Karen cheers him on, and doesn't mention the phone call. And she doesn't feel guilty. At least, not too guilty.
"Is everything okay?" he asks a few minutes later. "You're quiet."
"I'm fine," she quickly replies. "But you look a little tired, actually."
"Well, schmoozing is extremely hard work," he says importantly.
"Oh really?" she asks. "Then maybe I should drive the rest of the way back. You really do look exhausted."
"Think I'm too weak to make it home, huh? Are you questioning my manliness?" he asks her.
"Yes. That is exactly what I'm doing," she responds.
She finds herself giggling again, and he assures her that he can drive the rest of the way home. It's a good thing too, because she feels her eyes closing and the next time she opens them she sees signs welcoming them to Scranton.
"Your place or mine?" she hears him ask, and that really wakes her up. It sounds incredibly sexy coming from his lips. Fatigue has made his voice low and rough.
"Yours," she answers.
"Do you need to grab anything from your place?"
"Nope. I have my toothbrush in my purse."
"That was very presumptuous of you, Filipelli. One might get the impression that you've done this before," he teases.
"Well, you know me. I come prepared. I'm no stranger to dipping my pen in company ink," she replies as she sits up and stretches.
He makes a face.
"I'm pretty sure that saying only works for guys," he says.
"I'm pretty sure you're right," she replies.
They smile a little, but then Karen can't stop little chuckles from escaping her lips.
"What?" he asks.
"I can't believe I fooled you so easily. Did you honestly think I slept with the CFO?"
"Well, I don't know! We never really talked about all of our past relationships. It's not like I know you that well," he says.
He's still smiling, but he sounds a little defensive, and Karen could swear she just saw a mosquito fluttering near the steering wheel. She knows that Pam never could have pulled off a prank like that. He knows Pam too well.
The silence is awkward and she's happy when his house comes into view. The feeling is short-lived.
"Is that your mailbox in the middle of the road?" she asks warily.
He frowns and squints at the large object in the street.
"Yeah, I think so. Damn it. Some idiot coming back from a party with a few drinks in him probably plowed into it and kept going," he mutters.
They get out of the car and she stands in the driveway while he drags his mailbox into the front yard, deciding he'll wait until tomorrow to stand it back up.
They're at the front door and just as he's about to turn his key in the lock, a truck comes barreling into his driveway.
"Who's that?" Karen asks uneasily.
But Jim isn't answering. He's just staring at the truck as two figures pile out.
"Hey, doesn't he work in the warehouse?" Karen asks.
When he replies he sounds serious and anxious and it's a combination that Karen has never heard from him before.
"You should go inside."
End Notes: Next up, Jim and Roy ahem "talk," Jim and Pam fight, and Roy and Karen... well... they have an interesting little discussion that brings some secrets to light.
Additionally, you may be interested to learn that NASA scientists have recently discovered a positive correlation between reviews and the kick-assedness of the people who leave them. I don't know why NASA was studying this, but there are our tax dollars at work.