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Author's Chapter Notes:
The following is a sequel to FNF, which was a sequel to Breakdown which was a sequel to What the Kids Are Watching. In a nutshell, the series dealt with Season 4 Toby and his bizarre behavior. Instead of him just turning creepy, he was having some sort of breakdown and was hospitalized. While in the hospital, Kelly took care of him in her own special Kelly way, bringing him food and US magazine and they begin, slowly, to become really good friends and then starting a romantic relationship. When the documentary airs, Sasha sees part of it and watches her dad being treated so poorly (and realizing that his sadness is in part because of this).

For this fic series what we saw in Season 4 ended at Did I Stutter? and these events happen about a year after that. So no Costa Rica trip, no broken neck, no Holly Flax and Ryan is still living the life in NY. Also this epic was started before Toby's seminary flashback so in this fic world Toby's at least half Jewish.
Small Steps
by Steph

Summary: He described everything like he was describing the plot of a movie or a book where the put-upon, unassuming man in the corner became the hero.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Part 4 in my series. I just wanted good things to happen to him. Because he's still my favorite. Humor me.


It was sort of funny in a twisted way. Funny that everything started with Michael.

It was an ordinary day and Toby sat at his desk going through a mountain of paperwork. Kelly was at her desk, talking to a client and Toby stayed as silent as possible (not difficult for him) because the mere sound of her voice was enough to get him through this very ordinary day that just would not end.

Coffee. Maybe coffee would help. He stood up and walked into the break room. Jim and Pam were in there, sitting at a table and laughing over a private joke. He smiled uncomfortably at them, hoping he wasn’t interrupting. He wondered if he would ever feel normal around them; between everything that happened when he wasn’t quite right, the hospital visit and the fact that they were the only ones who knew about his relationship with Kelly, being around them always made him a little uneasy.

Still they both smiled back at him and he turned around to face the coffeepot.

“Pam!” Michael called. As Toby continued to focus on the coffeepot and only the coffeepot, he listened to Michael excitedly tell Pam and Jim that he just found some website where you could send in pictures of yourself and someone else and it would show you what your baby would look like. He told them that he had already tried his photo with a few celebrities (his and Angelina’s baby was particularly adorable) and now he had the best idea! He was going to put his picture with his coworkers’ pictures and discover what their babies would look like. He was giggling so hard at this that it was difficult to understand him.

“I have your picture all ready to go, Pam,” Michael said and it sounded like such a horrible idea that despite Toby’s best intentions to stay invisible, he heard himself say, “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

“What do you know?” Michael sputtered. “Pam’s baby with me is going to be beautiful. I mean look at how hot she is.”

“He does have a valid point,” Jim said. “Hey Michael, why don’t you email me that picture? I would love to be this kid’s uncle.”

Pam muttered something to Jim, but Toby couldn’t hear it over Michael’s promise to get on it right away.

Toby sighed, regretting opening his mouth. Shouldn’t he know better by now? “I just don’t think you should be doing that...on company time...using pictures of your coworkers...”

“You’re such a loser,” Michael said to him. “I’m just having fun.”

“But it’s inappropriate. Don’t you think...?” and then he stopped. It wasn’t worth it. He would take his coffee and run back to the safety of the annex.

“Just because no one would want to have kids with you...” Michael said.

“He does have a kid,” Jim said. “Remember? You met her. She’s pretty cool. And also real.”

“Oh yeah,” Michael said. “She was cute. She must really take after your ex.”

“Michael!” Pam hissed while Toby was still processing everything.

“What?” Michael asked. “I’m paying his daughter a compliment. I mean if I said to Toby that she takes after him it would be like me saying that she was weird and creepy and would probably end up in the loony bin just like her dad. And for the record, I wasn’t saying that.”

Toby slammed his empty mug down hard on the counter. Breathe, he told himself. He breathed deep, steadying breaths, just as he was taught, becoming more and more aware of three pairs of eyes on him, waiting for something dramatic.

He didn’t do anything dramatic; didn’t burst into tears or throw a well-deserved punch. Instead he rubbed the back of his neck and said, in as forceful a voice as he had ever used in this place, “No. You don’t talk to people like that. You don’t talk about things like that.”

But even his most forceful voice wasn’t a match for Michael’s sneer and Toby felt the littlest bit of courage he had slipping away and he did what he did best.

He retreated. He retreated to somewhere safe.

To the annex. To Kelly.

He kept walking until he reached Kelly.


Kelly tried her hardest to cheer him up that night; she made him dinner and she put on one of his favorite CDs (something soft and instrumental - which was totally not her style) to listen to while they ate. And he appreciated her efforts and tried his hardest to forget about the day. He ate the delicious vegetable soup and the cornbread and concentrated on the fact that sitting across from him was his beautiful girlfriend who cared so much about him.

That should have made him feel better.

She kept up a steady stream of conversation, of stupid things clients said to her today, and something she saw on TV and this really cute pair of pants and something silly her sister said and how she really thought that Andy and Lacy would be a cute couple and do you think they’d even like each other?

“I guess it’s possible,” he said and it was easier to relax when she was around and talking and distracting him. Later that night though, she fell asleep immediately and the talking and distractions stopped and it was just him, staring at the ceiling. The white noise machine was turned on and making ocean sounds, but he still wasn’t able to turn off his thoughts.

That was a horrible thing of Michael to say earlier today. Cruel. Talking about his daughter like that. Michael had no right. Toby kicked off the blankets angrily, suddenly too agitated to stay in bed. He got up and, careful not to wake Kelly, walked out of the bedroom.

He paced around his small apartment. He had been pissed off at Michael before, but his anger always quickly diffused because it just hadn’t been worth it. It was easier to just walk away. He had always thought that it made him a bigger man than Michael, for not sinking to his level, for just shrugging off the insults and trying to stay out of his way.

He sat down on the couch, pushing a few of Kelly’s magazines out of the way. Should he just forget this? Let Michael think it was okay to talk to him like this? Well, why would Michael think otherwise? Toby had never stuck up for himself before; why wouldn’t Michael think it was fine to insult him on a daily basis?

He heard the door opening behind him. Kelly sat down beside him, rubbing her eyes.

“Sorry I woke you up,” he said pulling her close to him.

She maneuvered them into a comfortable position, legs stretched out, her head on his chest before murmuring,“It’s okay.” They lay like that for awhile and he was almost calm again with her so close. Almost.

“I just...” he paused as she sat back up slightly. She moved one hand to the back of his neck and began rubbing slow circles, dipping down to rub his shoulders.

She was way too good for him.

“I mean I know I shouldn’t let him talk to me like that,” he said, groaning as she kneaded harder. “Maybe I need to do something.”

“You totally should!” she said. “He talked about Sasha. That’s so uncool. Someone needs to give him a verbal smackdown and it needs to be you.”

He smiled. “Well...I don’t know if I have it in me.”

“Toby,” she said. She shook her head at him. “Don’t be stupid. Of course you do. Go in tomorrow and tell him what’s what.”

“But I’d have to have a plan,” he said, more to himself. “I can’t just go in without one.”

“If you say so,” she said. She leaned forward and gave him a kiss. “Are you coming back to bed?”

“Not yet,” he said. “I need to think. But you go back to sleep and I’ll be there in a little bit.”

She stood up. “I’m not going to sleep! I have something way more important to do.”

“Oh yeah,” he asked. “What’s that?”

“Well,” Kelly said. “I have to plan a kick ass outfit for you. I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be a day to remember. It’s like going to be epic and you can’t just wear anything.” She clapped her hands together. “This is going to be awesome.”

Maybe. Or the dumbest thing he ever did.


Dressed in a snazzy dark green shirt that Kelly had described as being the color of a Christmas tree, a tie that Sasha had picked out for Father’s Day and his nicest dress pants, he sent out an email to the entire staff, alerting them to a mandatory meeting before the end of the day.

He hadn’t even told Kelly his big idea that he had come up when he should have been sleeping, fearing that if he heard his idea spoken aloud, he would chicken out and decide against it, choosing instead to let Michael demean him and taunt him again and again.

At four-thirty in the afternoon, he watched his coworkers gather for the meeting. No one knew what it was about and people were already grumbling. Mainly Michael. Kelly made sure to get a seat right up front and he was so grateful that if things got really stressful at least he’d have a friendly face to focus on.

“Jim,” Toby said and his voice was oddly calm and steady. No mumbling here. Yet. “I was wondering if you’d come up here for a second.”

“Oooh,” Andy called out. “Tuna is in trouble.”

“Good,” Dwight said.

“Jim,” Toby announced once Jim had joined him, “has broken his arm.” Jim looked at Toby for a second, eyebrows raised, before holding his arm awkwardly near his chest as if in a cast or a sling.

“How’d you break your arm?” Andy asked.

“Bear hunting,” Jim said.

“Idiot,” Dwight muttered. “As if you’d know how to bear hunt.”

“I don’t,” Jim said. “Hence the broken arm.”

“Okay,” Toby said, because this could really go on for a very long time. “So Jim broke his arm and he’s in a lot of pain right now. What are a few things we could do that would make him feel better?”

He wondered if talking to them as if they were a bunch of first graders was condescending in any way.


“I could give him some M&Ms,” Kevin volunteered.

“Excellent,” Toby said. Kevin smiled proudly. “What else could we do to help him?”

“We could get him things if he needed them. Or help him carry things,” Oscar said, before rolling his eyes slightly. Toby wasn’t bothered by that. Oscar was one of the few who didn’t need lectures like this. “Good,” he said.

“I could give him a big hug,” Pam said, her voice light and teasing and Toby wondered if she was making fun of him and his little meeting. He thought it was a definite possibility.

“Yeah,” Meredith said. “I could too!”

“Pray,” Angela said. “I could pray for his speedy recovery.”

“All good ideas,” Toby said. “But it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to do things that would make him hurt more. It wouldn’t be funny to kick his chair so he’d fall. Or to trip him.”

Kevin started giggling.

“And it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to make fun of him. To call him names.” He looked around the room and said, “Now if I could just have one more volunteer...”

“Me!” Andy said, waving his hand wildly. “I can pretend to have a broken leg. Or whatever you want. A concussion! I can have a concussion!”

Kelly raised her hand too, smiling widely at him. She was wearing his favorite dress of hers, purple and flowing and he wanted her up there with him, both as support and as proof that he couldn’t be all that repulsive if this young, stunning, wonderful woman loved him.

But he decided to stick to his plan and asked if Pam would mind coming up. Pam joined them and asked if she had a broken arm too.

“No,” Toby said. He turned back to his audience. “Pam has had a very bad day today. She’s been sad for awhile.” Pam made an exaggerated sad face.

“Ah,” Dwight said. “PMS.”

“Gross,” Michael said. “That’s way too TMI.”

Toby ignored them. “Maybe some of the things we mentioned we’d do for Jim to make him feel better...well, we could do some of those things for Pam too.”

“I’d give Pam a hug,” Kevin said.

“But we’re not talking about Pam, are we?” Michael said with uncharacteristic insight. Everyone turned to Michael. “Pam’s not sad. We’re talking about you, Toby. Because you’re so pathetic.”

“Oh,” Kevin said slowly. “Well, I don’t know if I’d hug you, Toby.”

Michael laughed. “No one would hug you, Toby. Because you’re ugly and weird and...”

“I’ll hug you Toby,” Kelly interrupted. Toby noticed Pam and Jim grinning at each other, but neither of them said anything.

They were still keeping his and Kelly’s secret.


There was a moment of silence before Andy volunteered, “I’d hug you because the Nard Dog likes getting hugged too.”

“I’d hug you,” Meredith said. “I’d rather hug Jim, but you’ll do.”

“Come here, buddy,” Jim said to him, arms outstretched wide.

Toby blinked a few times, thinking about how to reclaim control of this meeting. Finally he said, “Okay, in a way we could have been talking about me. But my point is if one of your coworkers is in pain, it might help to be just a little bit nicer to them. Any of the ideas you had with Jim and his broken arm would work with other kinds of pain too. In case Pam or someone else was having a bad day and feeling sad.”

“Like sharing M&Ms,” Kevin said.

“Yes Kevin.”

“Well, I would pray for you, Toby,” Angela said, “but I’m not versed in the prayers of your people.”

“My point,” Toby said just a little bit louder, not sure if he should be offended by Angela’s comment or not, “is that we need to remember to be more considerate of each other and...”

“Okay,” Michael said standing up. “I’m glad you learned all these important lessons in the nuthouse, but...”

This was the worst idea Toby had ever had. He was so stupid to think this might have worked. He needed to go back to his desk and forget this had ever happened. Toby looked away from Michael and focused on Kelly’s eyes, apologetic. She was still smiling at him though and then she nodded at him. It was very subtle.

But it was just what he needed to keep going.

“There are many forms of harassment,” Toby said, mumbling only a little. “Not just sexual. Physical. Mental. And it’s been going on here too long. Now I take a lot of responsibility for this kind of behavior continuing.”

“Because you suck at your job, Loser,” Michael said.

“Maybe I did,” Toby admitted. “But not anymore. Dunder Mifflin has a zero tolerance policy on harassment. This kind of thing isn’t going to be okay anymore.” He looked around the room and hoped it was a good thing that his coworkers all looked surprised. “I am going to be a lot more diligent with complaints, doing a lot more follow up.” This time he was the one to look back at Michael. “There have been too many bad things happening here for awhile and unfortunately not everything’s going to change overnight. But I guarantee bullying and name calling and making fun of your coworkers’ physical or mental conditions isn’t going to be tolerated anymore.” He took one last deep breath, knowing that he was almost through, that he’d be back in the annex soon. “Now it’s time to go today, but if there are any questions or you need to report something, come by the annex tomorrow morning and I promise to listen and be proactive. And I will promise you one last thing,” he said, not taking his eyes off Michael as he said to him, and only to him, “I promise there will be ramifications for your behavior so I’d be very careful how I treat my coworkers.”

He was done. He felt exhausted, drained, more than a little nauseous and lightheaded the way he sometimes felt after running a marathon. He had to get out of here before he fainted or threw up or something embarrassing, so he left before Michael could say anything.

“Toby!” Kelly called behind him. “Wait up.”

He did. He stopped and when they both reached the annex, he asked, “So did I make a complete ass of myself?”

He didn’t think he had, but it was always possible. He frowned, all confidence fading. Damn it.

“No! You were so awesome.”

“Thanks,” he said. “I feel dizzy. Should I be feeling dizzy?” He collapsed into his chair. Kelly hoisted herself onto his desk, legs swinging.

“Toby?” she asked. “Why did you pick Pam instead of me for your skit?”

The tone of her voice surprised him; it was unsure. Not like her.

“Well,” he began. “I thought that it might be more effective for Michael if I used some of his favorite people in the office. And he thinks Jim and Pam are the coolest. If Ryan were here, I would have had him up there in a second. I would have loved having you up there, but it was for Michael.”

“Oh,” she said. “But it’s not because...I mean... Pam isn’t like your favorite person in the office, is she?”

It was strange. Usually he was the one with doubts and she was the one brimming with confidence. Usually he was the one who needed to be convinced.


“I mean I know like forever ago you liked her and everything which is totally fine...”

Her voice was too cheerful and high-pitched. Unnatural. They didn’t talk about this kind of thing often. Yes, once, a long time ago when he wasn’t really himself he had had feelings for Pam. And a long time ago Kelly had been crazy in love with Ryan. It wasn’t something that either of them wanted or needed to talk about. Both of them had been such different people then; they had each changed and grown so much.

How could she ever think that Pam was his favorite?

“Kelly,” he said softly, “not only are you, by far, my favorite person in the office, you are one of my two favorite people in the whole wide world.”

“Really?” she asked. She was tearing up and he handed her a Kleenex box. She grabbed a few and dabbed at her eyes.

“Of course,” he said, wondering how she didn’t know that, how she didn’t realize how much she meant to him. No, she had to know, but maybe she just needed to be told every once in awhile.
He could do that. He could be the one providing the reassurance now and then. “So,” he said, “you thought I did okay? I mean I didn’t sound stupid or anything, did I?”

And here he was needing reassurance again. He was hopeless.

She wiped her eyes a few more times before staring at him. She reached for his hands and squeezed them. “Toby, I am so, so proud of you.”

God, he was going to need the tissue box himself in a second.

“And also,” Kelly whispered, “watching you do that, stand up for yourself like that to Michael... it was really, really sexy.”



He stood up, all dizziness and nausea gone, and then held out his hand to help her down. “Maybe we should head home then.”

She grabbed his hand, kissed it, and then jumped off his desk, her skirt twirling around her. “I think that’s a great idea.”


He remembered a long time ago, before they had become romantically involved, when getting romantically involved with anyone was the furthest thing from his mind, talking to Kelly briefly about Pam. He had been out of the hospital a little while and was telling her how tense he was at work around the happy couple.

“I just did so many stupid things,” he said over the phone during one of their late night chats. The sound of his own voice, whiny and slow, disgusted him. He reminded her of the knee touching incident, of signing off on an evaluation form that wasn’t 100% accurate, that wasn’t 100% unbiased. That was of course followed by the usual guilt of unloading his issues onto poor Kelly. He needed to stop doing that. He needed to keep the conversation light. Fashion. Celebrity gossip. Anything.

“So what?” Kelly said. “I told Ryan that I was pregnant when I totally wasn’t just so he’d hang out with me. People do weird things sometimes. It’s not that huge of a deal.”

“It is,” he insisted. “I just really screwed things up and I’m as much of a loser as Michael always said.”

Shut up, Toby, he told himself. Stop whining and torturing the poor girl.

“Toby,” Kelly said brightly. “You know what your biggest problem is? That you have absolutely no confidence.”

He laughed. “I’m sorry, but that is far from my biggest problem.”

She was silent and he worried that he had done it. Been rude to the one friend he had; the one person willing to listen and talk to him.

She cut off his apology by saying, “Well, at least confidence is something you can work on.”

He thought of that conversation the day he stood up for himself, thought of it later in Kelly’s apartment, where he had her up against the wall. His Christmas tree shirt was untucked and partially unbuttoned, her purple dress was unzipped with the full and twirly skirt bunched up around her waist so he could stroke and kiss her soft skin.

“Now Toby ” she whispered and he complied. As they began to move things along, he thought about what she said so long ago. About him having no confidence.

I’m working on it, Kel, he thought to himself as he kissed her, hands tangling in her hair, pulling her even closer. And I’m almost there.


He would love to say that everything changed at work after his meeting. That Michael had stopped insulting him and everyone else was nothing but kind to him and he began to see his coworkers as his extended family.

What really happened was Michael called everyone he could think of to complain about Toby. He called Ryan and David Wallace and Kendall telling them about Toby’s erratic behavior as of late and how he was probably drinking and on drugs and shouldn’t be allowed in the office. When that didn’t work, he called every office with an HR rep and begged them to trade. When no one took him up on his offer, he held his own meetings with everyone in the office except Toby and tried to organize some kind of uprising. Kelly told him that no one took the meetings seriously and most everyone was just laughing at Michael behind his back.

Dwight was in the annex every five minutes it seemed, filing complaint after complaint about Jim and his juvenile pranks which should constitute harassment. Toby, true to his word, followed up on these complaints and, after realizing he only had so many hours in the day to deal with the two of them, told Dwight that these were being noted and asked both of them to cool it for a little bit and try to concentrate on work. That didn’t go over so well so he asked Dwight to give him just one formal complaint a day with that day’s grievances instead of his multiple visits to the annex.

He also spent lots of time talking to Angela, telling her that while the way Kevin breathed through his mouth didn’t qualify as harassment, the comment from Creed about her needing to wear shorter skirts definitely did. So he spoke to Creed about the way to talk to female coworkers. When he was done with that, it was time to talk to Meredith, telling her that yes it was considered harassment to grab your coworker’s ass even if said coworker was gay.

He wasn’t sure if he was doing any good. Creed seemed confused by their meeting and then asked him if he was still dating that sexy blonde with the birds. Toby had not dated a blonde since his ex-wife (who, to his knowledge, never had a bird) so he had no idea who Creed was talking about and left the meeting just as confused. And Meredith rolled her eyes at him when he told her about the written warning she was getting and said that guys grabbed her ass all the time and where were their warnings?

“That happens to you at work?’ Toby asked, rubbing his forehead. “If some guy does that here, let me know immediately.”

“Well, it could happen,” Meredith said. “I have a great ass.”

Even though his harassment meeting led to so much more paperwork and absurd complaints (probably five for every valid one), Toby told himself that this was a good thing. It was okay that his own situation didn’t change much; it was something just feeling more proactive.

And then things slowly began to change. One meeting Michael said something derogatory about Toby’s mental health and three different people (Kelly, Andy and, surprisingly, Angela) yelled, in unison, “Harassment!” And Michael pouted, but didn’t finish his sentence.

Even better, Toby began to notice that while Michael still bitched about him and he still called Toby stupid and ugly and said every single idea of his was pointless and he was pretty worthless, the “nuthouse” and “funny farm” comments and jokes about Toby’s state of mind seemed much less frequent.

Small steps. When talking about Michael and how he usually treated Toby, that was a definite improvement. Small steps, Toby repeated to himself. Things were heading in a good direction.

Like that one day where after he spoke with Kevin about whether being called a moron by Angela was harassment or not, Kevin came by the annex and surprised him with a big bag of M&Ms.

“Wow,” Toby said. “Thanks.”

“Thank you,” Kevin said. “I told Angela that if she called me a moron again I would get her in trouble for harassing me. And Oscar backed me up so she stopped.”

After Kevin left, Toby ripped open the corner of the bag and shook a few candies into his hand.

I did this, he thought to himself, savoring the sweetness of both chocolate and the rare feeling of accomplishment. I’m not just sitting back waiting for things to happen to me. I’m making things better.

He popped a few more M&Ms into his mouth, smiling to himself, before putting the rest of the bag on Kelly’s desk.


He told the therapist all about the meeting. He described everything like he was describing the plot of a movie or a book where the put-upon, unassuming man in the corner became the hero.

He described it like he was talking about someone else, like he still couldn’t believe it was him.

But it had been him. He stopped mid-sentence, took a deep breath, and decided to re-tell it a different way. To own his actions. He described the adrenaline coursing through his veins, the rise and fall and rise again of his confidence level, of being so conscious of trying to speak without his usual mumbling and stuttering. He described the feeling when he was done: shakiness, nausea as he second guessed himself followed by the satisfaction that he had actually done something positive.

The therapist didn’t respond and as the seconds passed he wondered what she would say next. He leaned forward in anticipation, putting his hand on his leg to stop it from shaking.

“And how do you feel about it now? About yourself?”

That was difficult to answer. He thought about the night in Kelly’s apartment (and then the next morning), thought about the M&Ms from Kevin and the slight decrease in Michael’s insults.

“I feel like I...” he said and then stopped, face heating up. No. He would not say that.

“What were you going to say?”

“It’s silly,” he said.

“I’d like to hear it.”

He exhaled loudly. “I feel like I can do anything.”

It was silly and he was about to clarify it somehow, saying he meant within reason of course, but the therapist stopped him with a kind smile.

“Toby,” she said. “You can.”


It was a wonderfully lazy Sunday morning. Kelly was in the shower and Toby was in her kitchen making a breakfast bread pudding. He hummed along to the music on the radio as he followed the recipe.

“Oh my God!” Kelly exclaimed as she walked into the kitchen. “It smells awesome in here.”

“It’s the cinnamon,” he said. “I just put it in the oven so it’ll be about half an hour. There’s some fruit if you’re too hungry to wait.”

“I can totally wait,” she said. She took a deep breath. “There’s this company Philosophy and they make shower gels that smell so good - like cinnamon rolls and cookies. I don’t know if they have a bread pudding one, but they totally should.”

He smiled and sat down across from her at the table. She was telling him that she knew he was picking up Sasha this afternoon, but there was a Keeping Up With The Kardashians marathon on so she would probably just do that today. Maybe hook up with Lacy later.

“Sounds fun,” he said.

Kelly then mentioned Lacy’s last date and how badly it went and he was listening really he was, but his mind kept wandering and he thought to himself that yes, he really was going to do this now.

“Kelly,” he said.


And there were so many things he had been planning to say, had a speech written in his head, but he was worried it would all come out as one continuous, incomprehensible mumble, so instead he kept it simple and told her how much he loved her.

“I know,” she said. “And I love you too.”

He walked around to where she was sitting. She watched him with an expectant look on her face. Did she know what he was doing? He wasn’t sure and didn’t say anything at first when he put his hand into the pocket of his pajama pants and pulled out a small box.

Kelly clapped her hands and started wiggling and bouncing in her seat. Her grin was so wide and she began to squeal, just a bit.

He got down on one knee and smiled back up at her. “So...” he said. “Kelly, will you marry me?”

“Yes!” she shrieked. “So, so, so yes!”

He slid the ring on her finger and she was crying and giggling and kissing him and he thought to himself that maybe thinking you could do anything wasn’t that silly after all.


“You can’t make any more treats like this until after the wedding,” Kelly said as they fed each other pieces of the sweet, gooey bread pudding. “I have to fit into my wedding dress and I can’t be fat.”

“This is definitely not an everyday breakfast,” he said feeding her the last piece. “But I thought for celebrating...”

She nodded. “And we’re definitely celebrating.” She stared at her ring again. “We’re getting married! I can’t wait! And my future husband is such a good cook and this is so yum that I could eat it every day. But I shouldn’t so I won’t get fat. But Toby, will you still love me if I get fat?”

“Of course.”

“Good,” she said kissing him again. “But I definitely won’t. Because ew.”

He reached for the now empty plate and their coffee cups and went to the sink. With the water running, he asked. “Will you still love me if...?”

If he got sick again. If he ever got so sad again that he forgot himself.

No. Why must he think about things like that now? On one of the happiest days he could remember? Way to bring down the room, Toby.

“If...uh...I get fat.”

Lame, but better than what he was going to ask.

“Toby, you eat like super healthy and do marathons. You’re not going to get fat. But yeah if you get fat I’ll still love you.”

“Good,” he said.

She hopped out of her chair and walked over to him. She put her two warm, sweet smelling but slightly sticky hands on either side of his face, and said, “And I think I know what you were really going to ask me and if that happens again, yes, I’ll still totally love you. Forever and ever, okay?”

“Okay,” he said. “Okay.”

Forever and ever sounded really great to him.

“Believe me?” she asked.

He moved his mouth down to hers, tasting cinnamon and sugar. His fiancee.


“Always.” he murmured before kissing her once more.


In between calls to her parents and sisters, Lacy and a few other friends, Kelly asked him if he had told Sasha that he was proposing today.

“No,” he said. “I’m picking her up soon and I’ll tell her.”

“Cool,” Kelly said. “She’s obviously going to be my flower girl. And let her know that Christina is definitely invited to our wedding. I know I told her that it was okay already, but please remind her.”

He looked up from the newspaper. “You told her it was okay? When did you two talk about the wedding?”

“Long time ago,” Kelly said. “At the restaurant that one time. She asked if we were getting married, I said I hoped so and Sasha asked if Christina could come. Which is totally fine, because she seems super cute. Not as cute as Sasha, but who is really?”

Right. The Italian restaurant where Sasha asked to speak to Kelly alone. He suspected there was something more to that secretive conversation, but Kelly had told him earlier that everything was fine and he had never really pushed.

Should he have pushed for more details? He wasn’t sure.

He put that thought out of his mind. He remembered what Sasha had told him after seeing the documentary. She said that he and Kelly should get married. Seemed quite alright with the idea.

She was pretty damned wise, that daughter of his. But still he would talk to her today, gauge her reaction to his news, reassure her in any way possible if that’s what she needed.

“So,” Kelly said. “I have so many things to plan. I can’t wait! I have some ideas in mind like for my dress and Sasha and my bridesmaids’ dresses and cake and for our hon--” She stopped mid-sentence.


“Wait right here,” she said.

When she came back she had an envelope in her hand and something behind her back. “Look inside,” she said and pushed the envelope toward him.

He opened it and whistled softly when he saw all the money. Tens and twenties mostly. “Did you rob a bank?”

She laughed. “No! Now turn it over.”

He did and saw what she had written on the front of the envelope. Honeymoon.

“Wow,” he said. “This is...for us?”

“No, Toby, it’s for that other guy I’m marrying. Yes! It’s for us! And guess where we’re going?”

“L.A.?” he guessed. “To see celebrities?”

“Nope,” she said. “Want to guess again or want me to just tell you? No, let me just tell you. Or show you. Here!” she said reaching behind her back and handing him a brightly colored brochure, with pictures of surfers and beaches.

Costa Rica. He said it out loud, but just barely, more like an awed whisper.

“Costa Rica,” she repeated before announcing that she had to make another urgent call to her mom. He stared at the brochure and the money and finally his coworker/annex-mate turned fiancee and shook his head in amazement.

This was happening to him. All of these crazy fantastic things were happening to him.

He reached for his jacket. It was time to pick up his daughter and tell her the good news.

The end

Steph is the author of 37 other stories.

This story is part of the series, What the Kids Are Watching. The previous story in the series is Fancy New Flenderson. The next story in the series is Family Resemblance.

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