Toby the Lion Tamer
By Denise (kdsch123)
Spoilers: Through "Traveling Salesmen", just to be safe.
Characters: Toby/ Pam, Michael, Jim, Karen, Kelly
Toby was always the "cautious, quiet one". In a family of Flendersons that barely spoke above a whisper, that was no easy feat, either. He'd managed to get his parents attention by speaking in almost inaudible whispers instead of ear splitting screams. His wife, no, ex-wife was the only child of a professor and a librarian, so she had been quiet too. Their life together was politely simple, even after Sasha was born. They never fought and the silences were easy and comfortable. Until she decided to leave him - then she grew loud in every way, including in her silence. Toby had become used to noise by that point, though, so he simply let her have her space. Eventually, her space included another man, the smooth attorney that had handled her end of their divorce. Toby was alone in his condo, the little second bedroom a riot of color and life for Sasha when his shared custody days came up. In short, he had a pretty good life, really. Which was why at this stage of life, Toby was a bit disturbed by this restless, unquiet feeling he was having lately. It ran counter to the circumspect, discreet manner Toby had that made him so right for his career in human resources, too. He felt like he wanted to take a risk. But what risk was really the question.
Mainly, this feeling occurred at work. Working with Michael Scott, you had to be, because the Scranton office was a lot like the circus sometimes. Comparing Dunder Mifflin's Scranton office to a circus wasn't particularly kind, but it was apt. Especially with Jim Halpert back. Toby had collected ten complaints in the first day alone. To be fair, he thought looking at the accordion file he kept for such things, they were all from Dwight and Toby only kept them so that when Dwight returned to add to the grievances he'd have the others, to prove he hadn't thrown them away. The second largest section of the grievance file belonged to Jim Halpert. The largest section belonged to Creed, and Toby had stopped reading the complaints. He just filed them in Creed's section and went on with his day. Then there was Kelly. Three times in one day she had come to his desk, ostensibly to talk about her insurance benefits, but the subject would roll around to Ryan. She had even come just short of filing their status as a couple, even though Toby had informed her it wasn't necessary. Kelly and Ryan were equals, working in two different departments, therefore the rule for registering did not apply to them. The information hit her as hard as an insult might have, and Toby had to stop himself from apologizing.
"Jim and Karen registered…" Kelly pointed out, her voice edging up a bit in pitch as she worked herself up into a frothy, dramatic rage. "They're equals."
"Well, no." Toby said calmly. "Jim is Assistant Regional Manager. Karen is Executive Sales. Jim is effectively her boss."
"Ryan tells me…" Kelly began, deeply offended, and Toby shook his head.
"You're in the clear, Kelly. The whole registering thing is to help keep track for harassment purposes. It's a good thing, really." Toby recognized the bored tone in his voice but Kelly was like a skittish horse. The calmer you were with her, the faster she would settle down and focus. Which she did. Instantly. Her next question hit Toby like a ton of bricks.
"Oh." She smiled, eyes innocently wide. "So, would you have to register if you started dating Pam?"
Toby nodded. "Yes." Dating Pam had been something he'd secretly considered and only once tried to act upon. When he'd heard that Jim was coming back, Toby had given up the idea as a lost cause, until Karen had handed him the completed relationship documentation form with a cocky smile. Now the idea was bright in his mind, but he hadn't so much as said three words to Pam Beesly about it. It seemed like too big a chance to take, no matter how reckless he was feeling.
"Ooh." Kelly clapped. "So, are you?"
"Am I what?" Toby asked and then shook his head. "Kelly, did you just ask me if I was dating Pam? Because you know that's really none of your business."
"You ARE." Kelly pulled over a chair and sat down. Her eyes widened. "Tell me everything? How long have you been seeing her? Does Jim know? Are you in love with her?"
"I'm not." Toby felt his cheeks color and shook his head. "Pam and I are not dating."
"It would be so cute if you were though." Kelly gasped, disappointed by not at all unenthusiastic, clapping her hands. Her voice seemed to carry over the office, even though Toby knew it wasn't. "She's so nice and you're so nice." As if that was all it took to make a relationship work, he thought, being nice. Toby put Kelly off with some polite rejoinder or another and the girl left, giggling to herself about what she thought his children with Pam might look like. If the Scranton office was a circus, then Kelly was something bright and flashy, a trapeze artist maybe. Or the girl who shot out of the cannon, all glitter and noise.
The ringmaster of the Scranton office circus was Michael Scott. Toby often wondered what it was he'd done to make Michael dislike him so much. Michael himself was not a bad person, Toby recognized that, but the office manager seemed to save a special brand of bile to spew at the regional human resources rep. There had been a change in Michael recently, though. He was more serious, intense and seemed almost grown up. Toby hoped it was Jan Levinson's influence on the usually boisterous Michael, but didn't want to hope too hard for that. The relationship had been filed with Corporate HR. Toby was glad of that since Michael's reaction to the genuinely concerned inquiry he'd tried to make, "skeevy little perv", would have caused anyone else to file a complaint right there and then. There had been many instances during Toby's tenure at Dunder Mifflin that would have caused someone with a more volatile temperament to take Michael to hard task for his behavior, up to and including a hard right cross to the mouth. Toby looked at his watch. It was time to go in and speak to Michael about the paperwork that needed to follow Dwight's resignation on Friday. Sighing, Toby rose, picking up the Dwight's file and made his way to Michael's office.
He paused at Michael's door and looked around. Everything seemed normal. Except that Dwight's desk was empty and Angela kept casting dark looks in Andy's direction. In short, all was as quiet as it could get for the moment. It was as good a time as any. Satisfied, Toby knocked.
"Come in…oh, it's you." Michael said, looking up briefly from his tenth inventory of the box of personal possessions Dwight had given to him. "I'm much too busy for you. Go away."
"Michael." Toby closed the door. "We need to get Dwight's termination paperwork filed. He may need his 401K money until he gets another job…or want to continue his health insurance coverage." Toby held out the file, but Michael continued to ignore him. "I suppose I could fax these to Jan for her to sign, or maybe have Jim do it..."
"Just leave them." Michael muttered, rifling through the box. He looked up at Toby, sharply, as if he were just discovering something. "You are just eating this up, aren't you?" Michael's tone was accusatory. "You like seeing me miserable. Seeing how I've been betrayed. You're just all happy inside about it."
"Not at all, Michael. Dwight was a good salesman, we needed him to keep our production numbers from dropping. And, I don't like seeing anyone miserable…" Toby dropped the file onto the stack of papers Michael's in box. "I don't know where you get that idea."
Michael shook his head and looked away, back into the box of Dwight's belongings. "I think the one person I trusted above all others was trying to put a knife in my back."
"I don't know what to think." Toby replied honestly, "But, maybe if we talk to Corporate, someone there could…"
"Get out." Michael snapped, slamming the box in his lap onto the desk. "You'd love to have Corporate in here, poking their noses into everything…" Michael's voice grew shrill. "Get out, you vulture."
Ignoring the vulture comment, Toby nodded, reaching for the door. "I need those back before lunch. If we get them filed early enough, they can cut Dwight his check for his vacation time and…."
"GET OUT!" Michael bellowed, and Toby opened the door, "Don't come back in here unless you're quitting. You know what? Don't come back even then. Just go."
"I'll keep that in mind." Toby replied quietly, walking out of Michael's office and closed the door behind him. The urge to do something reckless had passed, and Toby sighed, realizing what his role in this Dunder Mifflin circus was. Toby, with his calm and quiet nature, was eminently suited for one other vocation, should his career in human resources come to a screeching halt. Toby Flenderson was the Dunder Mifflin lion tamer. Smiling a little at the idea of holding a whip and chair up to keep Michael under control, Toby looked up and saw Pam studying him with concern.
"You okay?" Pam asked, standing so she could see him over her desk.
"Yeah." Toby smiled a little. He looked at Pam thoughtfully. "Have you ever had the urge to do something crazy, maybe even dangerous, just because?"
Her response was clear and sympathetic. "Sure. Everyone does, right?"
"Yeah." He nodded. "That's what I just did." Pam laughed and smiled. "Do me a favor, will you, Pam? See that he signs those before lunch. Payroll can cut Dwight a check today. The money might come in handy. You know, while he's between jobs."
"I will." Pam replied, complicit in the routine of handling Michael. "I'll get him to sign everything. Don't worry."
"Thanks." Toby went to walk back to his desk, and then, seeing Jim going over to Karen's desk, turned back to Pam. "Pam?"
"Yeah?" Pam looked up from her work. If she had seen Jim and Karen talking and laughing, she'd shown no sign. Except that her mouth looked a little tighter. Toby understood that feeling. Seeing his ex-wife with her attorney boyfriend inspired the same reaction, and Toby realized that it was time to face another lion.
"This might be weird, I don't know…" Toby moved closer and lowered his voice. "I was wondering if you'd like to go out with me sometime. Lunch, maybe?" His voice faltered, and Pam leaned forward, trying to listen. "It doesn't even have to be a date, so much…"
"Lunch would be nice." Pam nodded encouragingly. "I'd be glad to."
Toby blinked. "Yeah?" His voice was barely above a whisper now, "Today? To celebrate Michael cooperating?" He smiled shyly, hoping she'd appreciate his attempt at humor.
Pam smiled, understanding. "Yeah. That sounds like a very good reason to celebrate." She giggled. "Twelve thirty?"
Toby nodded and went to his desk, adrenaline shooting through him. He sat down and took a deep breath. Toby turned around and found Pam's desk, the top of her head barely visible over the high reception counter. That restless, unquiet feeling was gone, replaced with a confidence and assurance that Toby thought he'd forgotten. Maybe he'd found a risk worth taking after all.