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Author's Chapter Notes:
This chapter has admittedly very few moments of Jim and Pam, but I hopefully made up for that with some Michael Scott moments. Enjoy!
“I’m not kidding, Pam, he told jokes for the entire last hour of the drive.” Jim switched his cell phone to his other hand and leaned up against the wall in the hotel hallway. “Like, bad jokes. Bad, bad jokes.”

He heard Pam’s chuckle rattle through the speaker. “Were they dirty jokes?”

“I would say about 40% of them were. But some of them were just so incredibly dumb. Too dumb to laugh.”

“Aww,” she cooed. “But you faked a laugh, right?”

Jim pushed himself off the wall and paced the length of the hallway. “It wouldn’t have mattered. I don’t think he would have been able to hear my laughter over his own.”

“Well, now you have to tell me some of them.”

Jim ran his fingers over his beard. “Let’s see. So, he opened with: Want to hear a joke about ghosts? I said sure and he said, ‘That’s the spirit!’”

Pam laughed in his ear. “Oh, come on! That’s a good one. Tell me more.”

Despite his efforts, he smiled. Her laugh had that effect on him. “Okay. What’s blue and smells like red paint? Blue paint.”

Again, her giggles echoed through the speaker and he felt himself let out a small laugh himself. “Okay, here’s one he definitely made up himself. What’s the difference between a boxer and a duck hater?”

He heard her guffaw. “The set up is as good as a punch line! Tell me,” she said in a delightedly high pitch tone.

Jim ran his hand down his face, completely unable to contain the laughter escaping his chest. “One ducks punches and the other punches ducks.”

Pam snorted and then went quiet, which meant she had tipped over the edge and had entered into the realm of silent laughter where he felt like he needed to remind her to breathe.

He started giggling himself, biting the tip of his thumb, hating that Michael Scott’s jokes were making his wife laugh so hard but also being simultaneously happy to hear her gasping for air between fits of laughter. Ever since he met her, he made it his mission to hear that sound as often as he could, and if these crappy jokes brought it out, so be it.

He smiled into the phone. “I would ask you if you had been drinking, but I know you haven’t.” He fixed his eyes on the light fixture in the hallway, suddenly feeling a pang in his chest. “Hey. I miss you.”

“Babe, you’ve been gone for like 6 hours.”

Jim kicked a spot on the carpet. “I know, but I just feel like it’s going to be a long three days.”

He heard her laughter finally settle and he could picture her wiping the tears from her eyes that were brought on by it. “I know. I miss you too. When is your first workshop?”

Jim flicked his wrist upward to glance at his watch. “In...about 30 minutes. Just waiting for Michael to finish changing out of his ‘driving clothes’.”

“Oh no.”

“I’ll send pictures.”

“Please do. I love you!”

“Love you too,” he smiled, then pressed end. He scrolled through his camera roll to find the picture he sneakily snapped of Michael wearing a NASCAR jacket, freshly dry cleaned jeans, and a pair of black cotton gloves with the fingers haphazardly cut off. He sent it to Pam with a text that said, “I commented on his jacket and he said, ‘Did you know NASCAR is an acronym? And it’s also a palindrome.’ Yeah, it’s definitely not a palindrome.”

He pressed send as Michael walked out of the hotel room, a tie in his hand.

“Jimbo, can you tie this for me?”

Jim’s brow dipped. “You don’t know how to…”

Michael waved his hand at him. “All my clip-ons were dirty, Jim. And my girlfriend usually does this kind. Just do it? Please?”

Jim sighed and took the tie from Michael, wrapped it around his neck, and made sure to stand as far away from him as he possibly could while still being able to tie a windsor. “You can just, uh,” he dropped the tie to Michael’s chest and backed away. “Tighten that yourself.”

“Thanks, buddy. You ready?”

Jim adjusted the strap on his messenger bag. “Let’s do it.”

The afternoon was filled with workshops, classes, lectures, and following Michael to each booth as he collected every piece of free promotional “swag” that was offered. Dwight was with them every step of the way, generating arguments with all the booth workers as Michael schmoozed them into giving him duplicates of everything. It was pretty much exactly as Jim had expected it would be.

When dinner time rolled around, Michael approached Jim.

“Hey, Halpertosis. Dwight and I are going to go grab dinner somewhere else because I have to go get supplies for my presentation tomorrow. ‘Magic Tricks for Your Next Assembly’.”

Jim suppressed a smirk. “Um, wasn’t your topic supposed to be about strengthening the administrator and teacher relationship?”

He could see the annoyance dance across Michael’s face. “Magic brings people together, Jim. Works both ways.”

“Alrighty then. See you back at the hotel?”

“You got it, man. Thinking about throwing a mini rave in my room tonight,” Michael sang with raised eyebrows, bobbing his head to music that was definitely nowhere to be heard.

All Jim could do was lower his head and let out a deep sigh.

After getting his plate of mediocre catered food, he found an empty seat and pulled out his phone to text Pam all about the recent Michael Scott gems, when a man and woman sat across from him. The man, who Jim thought he recognized, pointed to their chairs.

“These taken?”

Jim placed his phone on the table and shook his head. “No, all yours.”

The man held out his hand.

“I’m Danny Cordray,” he said. “And this is Karen Filipelli. We are the principal and vice principal at Hazelton High School.”

Jim lit up. “Hey! Fellow Pennsylvanians! I’m Jim Halpert. I teach English at Edward Truck in Scranton.”

Karen looked down to her plate and then back to Jim. “Yeah, we uh, actually know who you are.”

“Oh?” He tried to mask as much confusion as he could in his voice.

“Yeah,” Danny started. “See, we have a very…special basketball team.”

“They suck,” Karen said bluntly.

Danny blushed and then laughed. “Anyway, we saw what you did with that team of yours in Scranton. Dude, you turned that dumpster fire of a team into a playoff team in one season. And I know high school sports aren’t everything, but it would be great for our school if we could get some recognition in that area. I don’t know if you have made any agreements yet with your administration, but…”

Jim could see where this was going and he was fully ready to turn down the offer. But he let Danny continue.

“If you want to, we would love to bring you on as our head coach. We got clearance to double the pay from what the last coach was getting.”

That tripped Jim’s thought process. He wasn’t getting paid at all to coach at ETM. They had needed a coach last minute and he stepped in to fill the position. It was fun for him, so he never thought twice, but with a baby on the way and living on teachers salaries, the extra money was enticing. He would have to talk to Pam, of course, but suddenly he wasn’t so quick to reject the proposition.

“Wow, uh, thank you. You know what, let me talk it over with my wife and get back to you, okay?”

“No problem,” Karen smiled. “But know we would love to have you in the Hazelton Hornet family.”

Their conversation shifted as they continued their meal, but in the back of his mind, Jim couldn’t shake the offer they had made him. Hazelton was just under an hour away, which wasn’t ideal but it was doable, especially just for the season. His team last year was mostly comprised of seniors who had since graduated, so he wouldn’t be leaving a great number of his previous players. He’d have to deal with breaking the news to Michael, but he could find a way to cushion the blow. And Darryl, who had been his assistant coach last year, would make an excellent head coach, so ETM would still be in good hands.

But none of this mattered if Pam wasn’t on board. So he finished up his dinner, shook Danny and Karen’s hands, and made his way back to his hotel room to call his wife.

He dropped his bag on the desk, slipped his shoes off, and sprawled himself on the bed. He was grateful Dwight insisted on sharing a room with Michael, because it meant Jim got the second room to himself, since Oscar was supposed to come but came down with the flu the day before they left. Even with the room to himself, he knew his vice principal well enough to know he wouldn’t be alone for most of the night. Relishing the quiet time before Dwight and Michael returned, he pulled out his phone and called Pam.

“Hey you!” she answered after two rings. “How’s the conference?”

He sunk right into conversation with her, telling her about the classes he attended, the number of free pens he now owned, and Michael essentially preparing for a magic show tomorrow.

“Pam, it’s going to be a disaster. I don’t even know why they asked him to present anyway.”

She chuckled. “I bet he won a raffle or something. Only explanation.”

“Yeah,” he laughed. “Probably. Hey, something else happened today during dinner, actually.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, uh,” he said, as he sat up and ran his hands through his hair, suddenly feeling a little nervous to bring up his conversation with Danny and Karen. He had really tried not to make up his mind before talking to Pam, but he had to admit to himself that he actually wanted to accept the offer.

“So I was eating by myself because Dwight and Michael had left to gather supplies for tomorrow’s trainwreck, and two people from Hazleton High came and sat by me. I guess they knew who I was because of last season’s basketball team. Seemed pretty nice.”

“Oh, cool! What did you talk about?”

“I guess they--”

But before he could finish telling her, he was interrupted by banging on his door.

“Halpert!! Open up!”

It was Michael. Jim sighed. “Houdini is back. I can tell you later.”

“Oh, okay. I’m probably heading to bed early tonight so I guess we can talk tomorrow?”

“Sounds good. Love you. Wish me luck.”

“With what?”

Jim glanced toward the door. “I don’t know yet, but I’m sure I’ll need some luck.”

She laughed. “Then good luck. I love you! Goodnight!”

The banging on the door persisted. “I’m coming, hold on!” Jim yelled. He opened the door to find a very excited Michael wearing a feather boa and plastic top hat. He lifted up two bags.

“Come one, Jimmy Boy, let's get this party started, HA!”

Jim ran his hand over his face. “What party?” he said dryly.

“Dwight and I are throwing a party in our room tonight! Come on, help us set up!”

“Michael, I don’t think---”

Michael cut him off. “No, no! There are no party poopers in Scranton. It’s going to be fun! Come on, Jim, live a little!”

With another deep sigh, Jim grabbed his room key off the table and followed Michael across the hall to the other room, where he ended up standing in the corner, watching Michael and Dwight scattered cheap decor, blacklights, and streamers all over.

"So, who did you even invite to this thing anyway?" Jim asked.

Michael looked up. "Oh, you know that smoking hot lady at the front desk?"

"The concierge?"

Micheal scoffed, "I don't know, I don't speak Italian. Her name's Marie. Anyway, I told her to tell everyone about it."

Jim shook his head. " No way she's actually going to do that."

"Of course she will! And everyone else will come quickly once they hear how much fun we're having."

Jim braced for it.

"That's what she said!!" Michael yelled, followed by an outburst of laughter.

The night went on, and it became very apparent that Concierge Marie seemed to have forgotten to pass on Michael's message. The only people who showed up were two teenagers who left immediately after poking their heads in door, and an elderly couple who came in to scold Michael about the volume of the music. Eventually, a member of management showed up and timidly asked if Michael could shut the party down due to complaints.

Michael shut off the music and sat on the edge of the bed, dripping with defeat. "Complaints...my only complaint is that guy. Kyle. Pffffft…"

Jim shrugged. "Hey, I had a good time."

"Yeah...whatever. Wait," Michael asked, eyes spanning the blacklit bedspread he was sitting on. "What are all these spots?"

Dwight stood square, assessing the cover. "That is either blood, urine, or semen."

Michael stood up quickly and turned to look at it.

"Wow, I hope it's urine," Michael said under his breath.

Jim took that as his cue to leave, making mental notes of everything he needed to tell Pam in the morning. But for now he needed sleep. There was a big magic show in the morning and he wanted to be very well rested.
Chapter End Notes:
My brother made up the duck hater joke, and I just had to include it. ;)

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