For all those who remember Rosaline and Dr. Cox's Pizza Clock, it's
A Long-Overdue Tribute to the Hardest-Working Man in Dunder-Mifflin
Toby Flenderson was more aware than most as to why positions in Human Resources were neither hard to come by nor particularly sought after, but of all the many aspects of his job that he had no especial fondness for (that did not directly involve Michael Scott), topping his list was the fact that he became de facto therapist for many of his coworkers.
In theory, Toby realized he should have welcomed the opportunity. Psychology had been his first love and he should have been glad to flex those intellectual muscles again. In practice... well, as he pulled his head off of his desk to face Kelly again, the problem became readily apparent.
"...And I can't believe he could just dump me like that after everything I did for him, especially that one thing that he made me do even though it was SO gross and it didn't even like it THAT much but he was so into it and I just wanted him to like me so I figured 'well, if I do this he'll stay with me' and then he goes and dumps me anyway just because he gets a better job, so I went on to his MySpace page and I left all these comments about what a sicko and a jerk he is, but he just deleted them anyway, so it's like I never did anything and I just hate him so much right now, but at the same time I know that if he walked in the room right now and said he wanted me back and I had to go to New York with him I'd totally do it even though I hate him so much and NOT just because of how he broke up with me, it's for everything he did, the way he was always trying to pick up other girls in front of me, the way he never returned my calls, the thing at my mom's birthday, the joke he made about my twin sister even though she died three years ago which was just the WORST ever because my mom..."
As near as Toby could estimate, Kelly had been working on the same sentence for the last twenty-eight minutes without coming up for air once. He took this in turn, though, since her angry ramblings were preferable to her long fits of sobbing and breaking things... if only slightly. He did his part, nodding sympathetically at the right times, and that was all that could be asked of him or anyone.
Toby: HR discourages office romances because they always make things difficult...
Toby: Mostly for the people in HR, but...
Toby: Well... when a relationship ends... especially if it ends badly, the last thing you want is to have to see that person... if I see my ex-wife's car in the parking lot, I turn around and drive to another supermarket... So, to have to work with someone you'd broken up with every day...
His eyes droop even lower than usual.
Toby: It's just... not a good idea.
Toby had accepted long ago that proscribed manner to approach him was to bramble over to his desk looking distracted, as though wandering there had been accident, and that the acolyte could only state their problem after they had been addressed directly. "Yes, Michael?"
"I just wanted to tell you officially that Jan and I got back together," Michael said with a certain awkward formality after the ritual stalling and pretending not to have anything to talk about was gotten out of the way.
"Okay..." Toby replied in kind, "but you know that you don't have to tell me that officially because Jan is no longer with this company, right?"
Michael's face curled into a hawk-like mask of cold contempt. "You knew."
"No, I didn't..." Toby began in the usual awkward jumble.
"You knew ahead of time and you didn't say anything!" Michael shouted, pointing his finger in accusation.
"Michael," Toby pleaded, his tone rich in calm rationality. "I found out when you announced it to the office yesterday..." he paused for a moment to look at the nothing to his left side. "...The same time you told everyone that you and Jan got back together."
"Uh-huh," Michael looked unconvinced, but for the first time Toby noticed something else in his expression: the ever-familiar look of someone who felt completely and utterly trapped.
"Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?" Toby could not have been less eager to hear the answer to this question, but it was kind of his job and he had no real choice.
Michael looked left, right, and center; Toby wasn't sure if he was checking to make sure no one was catching him asking Toby for help or if he genuinely thought Jan might have planted listening devices somewhere. Probably a little of Column A and a little of Column B. When he felt sufficiently secure (which took a good thirty seconds) he brought his face closer into Toby's airspace than made the other man comfortable and whimpered hauntedly "I just thought things were going to be different this time."
Toby nodded, that's what they always said.
Michael: I would never violate my trust with Jan by telling you what has been going on in our bedroom. That is a trust, and it is a sacred trust.
Michael: ...What I can say is... it's going to hurt me to sit for about a week.
Just before lunch, Karen sauntered gracefully to his desk for the surprise meeting he had been expecting all day. "Hey, Karen," Toby said sweetly.
"Hey," she said back, going out of her way to be okay with everything. "I'm going to transfer to another branch and I was wondering if you could help speed that up for me," she said as casually as she could muster.
"Absolutely," Toby assured her softly.
"Great," she nodded, then vanished just as quickly as she had arrived.
Karen, with the most strained smile and enthusiasm ever employed by any human being anywhere: So, I meet this guy and I really like him and... I get a job in a town I've never even driven past so I can be close to him.
Karen: And then he tells me he's leaving me for someone else.
Karen: Yeah... classy.
The low point of Toby's day invariably came at about 2:15, when Dwight would ninja his way to Toby's desk with the usual problem.
"Toby," Dwight whispered, trying his best to be discrete, which only served to give the game away, "I have another question."
Toby sighed inwardly as he prepared to plunge a few levels deeper into his own personal hell.
"We're having trouble coming up with a good safety word," Dwight confided. "I thought we could go with something religious, so it would be easy for her to remember, but..." Dwight's expression at the point spoke volumes "...that ended up causing more problems than it would have prevented."
Toby drew himself up to his full slouch. Of all the things he didn't want to know about Dwight and Angela's sex life, this ranked pretty high. Still, there was no un-knowing it, so he would have to press on. "Dwight," Toby replied evenly, "if you're going to keep coming to me with problems like this, you're going to have to disclose your relationship."
Dwight froze like the snake that had just seen a mongoose. "But I'm not in a relationship with anyone from the office," he said, his tone halting like a rogue Dalek. "I met this girl at the... um... Laser Tag Championship." When Michael taught Dwight everything he knew, there had obviously been a special course on how to improvise under pressure. "Her name is... Zelda."
Toby took a deep breath. "Just choose something that's distinct enough that you'll remember it, but that you won't shout out accidentally. Like 'toucan' or 'lemming.'"
There was a pause before Dwight shamefully admitted "There's actually a pretty good chance one of us would say 'lemming.'"
Toby could only stare in response, so Dwight, wishing to avoid divulging anything else he might be punished for later, bowed like a samurai and took his leave.
Dwight: No, fantasy is important...
Dwight, with frightening boldness: Because the reality of being with Dwight Schrute is more than the human mind can safely comprehend.
"Hey, Jim," Toby said as yet another customer made his way nervously towards Toby's desk.
The other man gave a respectful grimace and nod. "Hi."
"If you're here to register your relationship with Pam, she already did it," Toby informed him warmly. He'd never seen anyone so happy to fill out such embarrassing paperwork.
"No, it's not that," Jim replied. Toby noticed that Jim that chosen searching the air for flying elves over looking Toby in the eyes. This was never a good sign.
"Is there something you want to talk about?" Toby asked with gentle pressure.
"No, no," Jim shook his head, "it's just..." then his eyes finally looked with Toby's. "I just... I thought it would be different when we finally got together... you know?"
Toby nodded, he knew exactly where Jim was going with this.
Toby: "Did I want to be in HR growing up?"
He lets the question hang in the air like a dead fish.
Toby: I wanted to be James Bond when I was growing up. But...
Toby: It's the real world... you know?
Coming Soon: David Michael Denman IS "The Roynegade"
Roy, with wistful heroism: These days I travel from town to town, helping people with their problems... learning something about myself on the way...
Roy: I haven't really met that many people with problems I could help with... just one guy who was cleaning his garage...
Roy: Which, I guess is why I've only gotten as far as Wilkes-Barre, but...