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The Gracen & Gracen Christmas party is in full swing by the time Jim arrives. He's not the kind of person who usually chooses to be fashionably late--although sometimes it happens by design, to keep up appearances. Tonight, however, his tardiness is due to the fact that he had to wait for a call from Ireland, a call he preferred to take in the privacy of his own home, on the security of one of his landlines.

Joanne's trips overseas are becoming more frequent. Jim regrets that he has been forced to take steps towards grounding her--but he doesn't like to dwell on such things. It is Christmas, after all.

As soon as the elevator doors open he's trading smiles and nods and well-wishes with his coworkers, many of whom have clearly been indulging in the spirits of the season. Most notable is Leah Monroe from Payroll, who accosts him halfway to his office to compliment him on his holly-patterned tie; Jim takes care to be flattered by her attention, knowing full well that her crippling crush on him prevents her from striking up a conversation without the aid of rum-flavoured bravery.

Jim enjoys office parties. They can provide such valuable opportunities to network.

Leah's fortitude runs dry after only a few sentences; Jim does the gentlemanly thing and ends their conversation so she doesn't have to, excusing himself to his office so he can divest himself of his overcoat and gloves. As he turns away he hears congratulatory cheers and laughter from the small group of her coworkers that had been watching their exchange.

The party is localized, mostly, in the foyer and boardrooms right outside the elevator; the hall empties and becomes quieter the closer Jim gets to his office. As he approaches the corner, however, he hears a voice that makes him slow his pace: Bobbi's, ever-so-slightly slurred with drink and flush with the lofty tone of someone enjoying the attention of an audience. Quietly, Jim goes to the edge of the corner, stopping where he can see Gail's desk without being seen.

Bobbi's back is to him: she's perched on the desk, draped in a designer dress and diamonds that probably put a noticable dent in Chas's bank account. Just visible in front of her is Gail, much more plainly dressed, sitting in her desk chair and holding a half-empty glass of eggnog; she stares up at Bobbi, apparently held rapt by what she's hearing.

From what Bobbi says next, Jim suspects Gail has every reason to be fascinated. "So Jimmy might just be the best friend I ever had--if you measure by how long they put up with you, anyway. I've sure known him long enough. Hell, I knew him when he was still in short pants!"

The look on Gail's face makes it clear that she's never previously suspected Jim Profit of ever having had a childhood. "What was he like?" she asks, her glass dangling, forgotten, from her fingers.

Jim chooses that moment to stride around the corner at speed. "Merry Christmas, Gail--oh, Mrs Stokowski. It's a pleasure to see you again. I hope you're enjoying the party?"

As Bobbi slides off the desk and pretends--badly--that she hadn't been saying anything worth hearing, Jim reminds himself that when it comes to networking at office parties, there's a catch.

Anyone can do it.

End.