Her voice is soft amidst the cacophony of sounds that surround them. The words floating through the office are muffled by the break room walls and the pounding of his heart in his ears, heavy and steady. He feels hot all over, and he's sure that he's flushed, but that won't be a problem for much longer. She leans in until her scent envelops him, gentle and sweet, and then strokes the paint brush against his face. He winces.
"Just cold, sorry," he murmurs, the words barely more than vibrations on her neck.
Her face looks softer up close, even set in a firm expression of concentration. The brush drifts up and down his face, and he doesn't want to close his eyes, not when she's this close. He also doesn't want to stare into her eyes, but they're easy to get lost in. From a distance they simply look brown, but up close, they're a soft hazel, tiny flecks of gold and green mingling with hues of warm brown. When their eyes meet, she smiles at him, her teeth peeking from between her lips, and he finds himself smiling back.
"Unless you want to have golden teeth too, I'd stop smiling Halpert."
"How am I supposed to charm anyone without my million dollar smile?”
"It's going to be a dollar store gold sparkly paint smile in a few seconds."
"I guess that means no more talking for me. Dollar store gold sparkly paint smile just doesn't roll off the tongue."
"If you make me laugh, you're going to have golden hair too."
"I guess that'd make me the next Angela."
"I think you need to shrink a good foot and a half first and develop a hatred of, well, everything."
"Check and check."
"Very funny. Didn't I tell you to stop moving your mouth?"
"I don't think those were your exact words."
"Did anyone ever tell you to shut up as a child, or did they just encourage your habit of blabbering?"
"Are you comparing me to Kelly?"
"Just trying to figure out how to get you to be quiet."
There are a lot of ways that he thinks would prove especially effective, but he bites his lip instead.
"Tell me something."
"Just talk about something. I'll listen."
"There's probably someone on the planet that's actually slept with Dwight-"
"You said anything!"
"I thought that implied no stories involving Dwight naked!"
"Well technically he wouldn't have to be fully-"
"I only have so many brain cells! This story is not worth any of them!"
"Okay, okay fine.”
She hums lightly for a few seconds as she gently brushes a lock of hair off his forehead, and he almost sighs.
“Every summer growing up, my family spent a month in Salix. I don’t know if you’ve ever been, but if I had to guess, I’d say no. Salix is a tiny town, one of those places that nothing ever happens. Like here I guess, just more farmland. It’s only three hours south of here, and my Meemaw lived there in the house my mom grew up in.”
She's talking softly, as though it's a secret that only he can know, some of the words so soft that she almost breathes them into his ear as the brush glides up and down his temples.
“The house was actually built by my Grandpa when he first moved to Pennsylvania. He was a coal miner, which made sense because Salix was a coal town. He was a hardworking man who loved his country and loved Pennsylvania and loved his family, at least that’s what Meemaw’s told me.”
She strokes the brush back and forth across his chin.
“Sorry, I’m probably boring you,” she mumbles, something indescribable changing in her expression.
“No, not at all.” His voice is low and soft.
“Grampa died the year before I was born, and Meemaw was alone in a tiny town in a tiny house and deep in mourning. My mom and Aunt Amy urged her to move, but Meemaw’s..”
She pauses, and he can feel her exhale on his neck, leaving tiny hairs standing in its wake.
“That explains a lot. Must run in the family,” he smiles.
She feigns offense before dipping her finger into the gold paint and rubbing it onto his lips hard enough to stain his teeth.
“I warned you,” she smirks as his sputtering turns to laughter that mingles with her own.
He dips a finger into the paint and drags it in two neat lines below each of her eyes, letting his touch linger longer than necessary.
“Now we’re even,” he says, revealing a paint stained smile.
“No more interruptions?”
“Under threat of being poisoned, I promise no more interruptions.”
“My mom and Aunt Amy drove down to help with the house and the money and the woods behind her house, and they just never stopped. Every summer, Mom and Amy would bring me and my sister Penny and my cousins Johnny and Margot down to Meemaw’s house and we’d spend a month pulling up baby trees in the forest and weeding the flower beds and painting the garage and whatever else Meemaw needed help with. Really, it was just time for us to be together.”
She dabs at the paint on the palate before dragging the brush across his jawline. He hardly notices the cold.
“And I remember this one summer, I was maybe twelve or so. It was the Fourth of July, and there’s no firework displays anywhere close to Salix, so we bought some of our own fireworks. There wasn’t anyone to stop us.”
“Beesly getting wild,” he murmurs, his voice cracking almost imperceptibly on the last syllable.
“Johnny and Margot and Penny and I all went down into the woods and picked some wild blackberries in styrofoam cups at sunset. There’s hundreds of them everywhere, and they taste amazing. It sounds totally cliche, I know, but they taste like sunshine.”
The paint brush drifts beneath his brow line, and his eyes flutter shut.
“At dusk, we all gathered in Meemaw’s backyard and ate wild blackberries and lit up sparklers and shot up fireworks and danced to old records. Our fingers and mouths were black and blue and sticky and sweet and we twirled to music we’d never even heard before, from a time we couldn’t even comprehend, with sparklers in our hands and fireworks overhead, and we were so blissfully happy. Just to be with each other and to be alive and everything was simple and things were easy and..”
She looks into his eyes for the first time, her own shining.
”I was just happy, Jim. I know it sounds stupid but… it’s one of my favorite memories,” her words fade to a whisper.
She’s so close that he can feel the warmth emanating from her body.
"No, it's not stupid," he breathes.
He can see the golden paint reflecting in her eyes as he gazes into them.
"It's your scene, Jim," Ryan says, pushing open the break room door, reminding them of a world beyond their own.
Jim slips off the table and shoves his hands into his pockets, turning to face her.
His voice is weak when he finally speaks. "How do I look?"
"Ready to blow up an all star game."
"I'll take that as a compliment," he says with a smile before leaving her alone with her thoughts.
The kiss isn't scripted, but she's know he won't ask about it. Her lips are stained gold.