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Author's Chapter Notes:
In which Jim meets a girl

Halloween 2008

"Hi Jim! Thanks so much for stopping by. Come in, come in." Jim nearly thought he had the wrong house when the door opened but soon realized it was Helene wearing a long raven-colored wig and form-fitting black dress. She was Mortician Addams, though with the lowish neckline and high slit up the skirt Jim wondered if it wasn't a little bit Elvira-inspired.

Jim shrugged, "No problem." He stepped in the house and glanced around at the faux spiderwebs and paper skeletons taped to the wall. "You all planning a party?"

"Oh, well, Bill's running errands right now, hopefully he'll be home and changed into Gomez when the trick-or-treaters start coming around." Helene's voice noticeably changed from cheerful to irritated and Jim didn't dare continue that topic. "So you're not going to New York or anything tonight?" she asked as she led him to the garage.

"Nah, I'm staying in tonight. I'll head there tomorrow morning, skip the Halloween crowd," Jim answered.

Helene gave Jim a short "sounds good" reply, then pointed to a group of boxes in the corner. "There are all of Pam's things, I figure if you can take a car-full of them, it would help free up some space."

Jim nodded and made his way to the corner, it was indeed a little tight for space in the garage with the entire side stacked with boxes, contents hand-labeled: "Penny's Room", "Grandpa Philip's albums", "Meemaw's Records". One label especially caught his eye as he shimmied through, Pam's Costumes. "Pam has a whole box of costumes?" he called to Helene.

"Only one?" she said with a laugh, her voice cheerful again. "Oh if you can, bring that one over."

Carefully slipping the box off the shelf, Jim stacked it on top of two other boxes and brought the whole load to the door. Helene grabbed the "costume box" and went into the house. Jim found her in the kitchen, pulling a black wig with white streaks out.

"Pammy got so mad that people kept asking her if she was Marge Simpson this year," Helene laughed, Bride of Frankenstein hair in her hands.

Jim peeked in the box, pulling out a cherry red wig that must have been part of a Little Mermaid outfit. "Lots of wigs in here, huh?"

"Oh yes, anything with a wig and a long flowing dress." Helene motioned to herself, "Wonder where she picked that up from?"

Jim smiled and he and Helene continued digging through the mess of multicolored costumes. He began pulling one out of the box, a dress with long sleeves, and he felt his eyebrows knit as he studied the bright color.

Halloween 1997

"Hey Halpert!" Mark sauntered over to Jim, who had been leaning against the hallway wall fussing with his cape for a good portion of the party. There were a handful of familiar faces but it was mostly tispy strangers stumbling around the large house. "Just 'cause the Phantom lurks in the shadows doesn't mean you have to." Mark handed Jim a plastic cup and then put his arm around Jim's shoulders. "C'mon, take a couple sips and meet some people."

Jim looked skeptically at the pink liquid in the cup then nearly choked when he took a swig of the sweet, boozy drink. "Oh my god, what's in this, Robitussin?"

"Social lubricant!" Mark replied in his Ace Ventura voice and Jim wrinkled his nose.

As he followed Mark, Jim did his best to dodge both furniture and people, and him leaning back to avoided a kid in a big boxy Transformer outfit caused him to run right into a girl. "I'm sorry!" he said, his hand instinctively going to the girl's shoulder to steady her.

"You're fine," the girl said quickly and quietly. She glanced at him briefly through waves of gold hair. Jim couldn't see too well through his mask but she looked upset, her eyes a bit red. Before he could ask if she was okay, her blonde hair and bright red dress disappeared in the crowd, and Mark tugged on Jim's arm.

As he had hoped, Mark managed to find a group of Bishop O'Hara cheerleaders dressed as various Batman characters. Mark hit it off with a Batgirl while Jim started talking to a Poison Ivy. Ivy was quite chatty so Jim mostly nodded and sipped on the sugary concoction from his plastic cup.

"So what made you decide to be the Phantom?" Ivy asked after several minutes and Jim was caught off guard by her actually asking him a question.

"Oh, um, this is borrowed from my friend, he was Phantom in the school play last year." Ivy nodded politely and Jim tried to think of something to add. "I did audition for the part but didn't make it."

"I'm sorry," Ivy said, her face sympathetic.

"Yeah turns out you gotta be able to sing to audition for musicals." He nearly cringed at how lame that was but Ivy laughed and he smiled back. "What inspired Poison Ivy here?"

Her eyes lit up, "Well, you know we decided on Batman characters and I thought Poison Ivy was fun but I didn't really like Uma Thurman's horn thingies in the movie so I decided to go classic. Plus it gave me an excuse to dye my hair red."

Jim finished off his drink and his eyes widened, "So that's not your hair color?"

"No, I would die for natural red hair! This girl on our squad has red hair and it sooo beautiful. No, I have this mousy brown color. So that was part of why I decided on Ivy. Oh my god!" Her eyes looked past Jim and he turned to see another girl in a Catwoman costume running up to Ivy. They hugged and started walking off, giggling and complimenting each other's costumes, and Jim was alone with his empty drink.

Over in the corner, he could see Mark was occupied with Batgirl, talking close and occasionally playing with each other's hair. Jim glanced at the bottom of his cup and turned on his heels in search of more punch.

This is gonna be it, Jim told himself, ladling more pink liquid from the large bowl steaming with dry ice. He was definitely feeling the effects from the first cup of punch and didn't want to return home tipsy, his older brothers has caused enough trouble for his parents with their partying. He took a sip, and over the rim of the cup he spotted the girl he ran into earlier, leaning against the wall in a red dress playing with her long blonde hair. Jim decided he had just enough punch in him to walk up to her.

"Hey," he started. She gave him another quick glance and smile and said hi back. "I'm real sorry about almost knocking you over earlier."

She gave a nervous chuckle, "Oh no, it's really crowded in here."

Jim chewed his lip, he hadn't really thought past the "hello" part. "I like your costume. Sleeping Beauty?"

"Thanks, um, it's Buttercup actually." Jim was drawing a blank and it must have showed in his face. "Princess Bride?" the girl added.

"Right! Yeah, great movie," Jim said overenthusiastically, this second cup of punch was definitely going to his head.

"It would be easier for people to get if I had Wesley with me," Buttercup said, her tone now annoyed.

It took a moment for Jim to place the character name, and then he realized Buttercup was one half of a couple' costume. "Where is Wesley?" he asked somewhat reluctantly.

"I don't know, getting drunk with his teammates I'm sure. Probably forgot I'm here, it wouldn't be the first time." She crossed her arms and started digging her toe into the carpet.

Jim looked to his cup and half-smiled, "I got something to cheer you up." She glanced at him with an arched brow and Jim turned back to the drinks table. He returned with another cup of punch and bowed slightly. "As you wanted."

She took the plastic cup with narrowed eyes, "As you wish?"

Jim's shoulders dropped, "Oh shit, did I screw up that line?" Buttercup giggled and he shook his head. "I did, I screwed up like the simplest, most famous line in that movie."

"You were close though, partial credit." Buttercup said, bringing the red cup to her lips. She then made a sour face, "Ugh, what is this, vodka with cough syrup?"

Jim chuckled, "The second glass tastes better."

She nodded to the cup in his hand, "Yeah I bet." She looked up to his mask, "Why did the Phantom wear a mask again? Hiding burn scars?"

"Bad face tattoo," Jim said and he smiled at her giggles. "He was going for one of those cool Chinese tigers and ended up with Garfield the cat."

"Is, um, is there like a word bubble with Garfield saying 'I hate Mondays'?" Buttercup said between laughs.

"They got that wrong too, it says 'I hate Wednesdays' and Wednesdays is spelled wrong." Jim retorted. "It was just a really bad tattoo artist." Buttercup was red from laughing so hard. What idiot would stand up a girl like this? he found himself wondering, and an idea came into his somewhat inebriated mind. "Hey, um, I'm gonna find a bathroom, will you be here in five minutes?"

She nodded, "Yeah." Jim asked if she was sure and she smiled wider, "Yes, I'll be right here."

"Okay, five minutes, I'll be back, I promise," Jim said, stumbling a little as he backed away.

After climbing the big, curved staircase to the second floor, Jim avoided various kissing couples and groups fixing each other's costumes in the hallway and found an empty bathroom. Once he got over the fact that this bathroom rivaled in size to his bedroom, he began rummaging through the drawers for something that could cut fabric. "Yes!" he said in a loud whisper when he found a pair of beard trimming scissors and he pulled off his Phantom cape and white mask.

The eye holes ended up lopsided and far too much fabric dangled from the knot on the back of his head but he still managed to make the cape into mask and with his dark clothing he was a passable Dread Pirate Roberts. With the plastic rose that had been tucked in the cape all evening in his hand, he opened the door and headed to the stairs.

He rehearsed a couple scenarios in his head, handing her the rose and saying simply "As you wish" (that didn't really make sense), maybe something teasing like "I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts, but tonight I could be" (too much like Mark). He reached the punch bowl and his heart started pumping, Buttercup wasn't there. Jim looked around frantically, maybe she was tired of standing and found a chair, but there was no sign of her in the living room. He turned towards the door saw the flash of red and blonde. She turned toward him with a smile on her face, and his heart beat even faster.

But her eyes weren't looking his direction, not even close, they were looking up at a tall figure with his back towards Jim, broad shouldered and dressed in black. Jim's heart sank when the figure leaned down to kiss her, and then sank even further when Jim saw the way she looked at the tall boy, her eyes shining and her smile reaching from ear to ear. Arm around her 'Wesley', Buttercup turned away, and Jim gazed down at the rose in his hands. He only looked up when he heard the door closed, and there was no blonde hair or red dress to be seen.

"Dude, is that my cape?" Jim turned to see Mark walking up, his hair tousled and his mouth smeared with red lipstick.

Jim slipped the knotted fabric off his head and handed it to Mark. "Yeah, sorry," he said, walking with slumped shoulders to the living room.

Halloween 2008

As he looked the red garment in his hands up and down, Jim felt his eyes get wider.

"This was a nice one, I helped her make this dress." Helene said, playing with a sleeve. "And I think she wore this one with a…" she dug through the box and pulled out a mess of blonde waves, "Ah-ha! Yes, another wig."

"When did she wear this, do you remember?" Jim wondered if his voice sounded strange at all, he felt like he was about two octaves higher than normal.

Helene didn't seem to noticed, squinting her eyes at the dress and thinking. "Oh gosh, first year of college probably, or… high school? Yes, I think maybe high school."

Jim started repacking the costume box, taking care that the red dress and blonde wig were on top. "You mind if I take this box?" he said, already sliding the box to the edge of the table.

Helene answered that she didn't minded at all and once Jim's car was loaded with that box and several others, he made some excuse about needing to run errands. After a stop at his place to drop off boxes and pick up his duffle, Jim did indeed run an errand: a trip to a pop-up Halloween shop.

With an orange colored shopping bag on the passenger seat and a blonde wig and red dress in his overnight bag in the back, Jim started heading west on a now-familiar route.

Chapter End Notes:

Kids, I think the real lesson here is don't drink that pink punch at house parties XD

if you're not placing the chapter title, it's from "Masquerade" from Phantom of The Opera. 

One more chapter, let's see if I get it done before October is over!

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