Summary: After a comment Andy makes, Erin is left feeling completely insecure, giving Pete a chance to come to the rescue. Fluffy Pete/Erin oneshot,
The Sun Still Shines in Winter
It was a quiet work day at the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company: faxes were being sent, copies were being made; keyboards clacked, mouses clicked, and papers shuffled. No one spoke, other than quietly on the phone. Pens scratched on notepads, and pencils scribbled on post-its. Nearly everyone kept to themselves as they worked – even Stanley was being productive, due to the peaceful silence that had settled over the small workplace. These kinds of days were one in a million.
…Alas, if only it could last.
"Reh de de dah doo! What's up, err-body!" Andy burst out of his office with all the subtlety of a 747 Airliner. "What's the haps? How's the workload doin', huh?"
Nobody answered, though they all wore expressions of disgruntled annoyance, as if they had been rudely awoken from a peaceful nap. Andy, of course, didn't notice.
"'Sup, Tuners," The boss meandered over toward Jim, who looked up from his work. "Got any big plans for the weekend?"
Jim frowned, "It's Monday."
Andy threw his hands up in a surrender position, "Whoa-hoh! Well ex-cuse me. I ask a perfectly normal question to my employee, and he gives me cheek! Not cool, Tuna, not cool… trying to make me out as, how the Dutch say, 'El Boss-o, Imperfect-o'…"
Pete and Clark, standing near Darryl's office, glanced at each other.
"Um, no, Andy, I wasn't –" Jim began, but Andy interrupted him:
"Whatevs, dude… just try to watch that attitude in the future, 'kay brah?" He slapped a surprised Jim on the shoulder and turned toward reception.
"Hey sweetie," Andy grinned at Erin, walking up to her. Erin smiled back.
Andy stopped at the counter, looking at Erin, and his smile faded. He frowned slightly, and glanced up at the fluorescent light bulb right above her head. Erin followed his gaze, looking confused.
"What is it?"
"I don't know… it's just…" Andy turned back to his girlfriend, looking at her face. "Have you always looked that pale?"
Erin's eyes widened, staring at Andy. She immediately lifted a hand to her cheek.
"…Yeah, I dunno, you look kinda paler," Andy squinted, examining his girlfriend's skin. "Are you feeling okay?"
Erin's face went red, and she dropped her hand. "Yeah, I-I feel fine…"
"Hm," Andy said thoughtfully, still looking at her. "Maybe you're turning into a vampire…" he suddenly brightened. "A-ha, yes! That's it!"
He began to laugh, and pretended to ward off Erin with a cross symbol made with his fingers. Those listening all cringed slightly in sympathy. Poor Erin – she looked rightly horrified as Andy continued on, oblivious to her embarrassment.
"…Okay, okay – enough goofin' around here," Andy finally stopped fending off Erin and turned toward his employees. "It's really time to get back to work… Back to work, gang! Chop chop!"
He clapped his hands together. Those who had been watching the proceedings turned back to their computers, clearly wanting to restore that peaceful quiet they had had before their boss made an appearance.
As Andy turned back toward his office, he glanced over to the other side of the room. "Yo, Plop! Gimme five!" he held up a hand for Pete to air-five. However, the latter wasn't paying attention – his eyes were fixated on Erin, who was frowning down at her bare forearms, rotating them so she could see them from all angles.
"I got'cha covered, Boss!" Clark quickly lifted his hand and air-fived Andy instead.
"Good work, Fart," Andy pointed approvingly at the younger man before turning and disappearing into his office.
Clark grinned, looking self-important. Pete just walked away without a word.
The rest of the day passed by with little incident, so it actually turned out to be a rather productive workday at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Five o'clock eventually rolled around, and everybody began to pack up for the day. Andy was stationed at reception, saying goodbye to everybody as they passed.
"'Later Skater," Andy said to Creed as he moved toward the door. "Keep it fresh!"
"I couldn't sell it if it wasn't," Creed smiled, and shook Andy's hand before leaving.
"…Yo, Tunes – Mrs. Tunes," Andy turned to Jim and Pam, who were following Creed out the door. "Have a good one!"
"You too, Andy," Pam said kindly as she and Jim passed by.
"…Alright, Pete!" Andy waved at Pete, who was walking out of the break room toward the front door. "Where have you been hidin' all day? Headin' out?"
Pete did not answer. As he got closer to reception, he turned toward Erin, who was sitting at her desk. "See you tomorrow, Erin."
"Oh… yeah, see you," Erin glanced up. Pete offered her a smile before turning and walking out the door.
"Huh. Guess he didn't hear me…" Andy frowned after him. He shook his head and turned back around. "…Hey-y, Kevin! How's it goin' big guy?"
Erin's eyes lingered on the front door for several seconds before she turned back to face her computer once again.
The next day dawned bright and cold; it was mid-January, and though the day was cloudless and sunny, the temperature was below freezing. All the office workers, bundled up in their coats, hats, and scarves, hurried from their cars to the front doors of the Scranton Business Park, their breath coming out in little cloud puffs.
Pete walked into the Dunder-Mifflin office, shivering as he removed his layers. Erin wasn't in yet, and his mood instantly sank – he enjoyed walking through the office doors to her smiling face first thing every morning.
"Hallelujah! St. Peter walks among us!" Andy stepped out of his office, grinning toothily at the younger man. "How's it goin', dude?"
"Fine," Pete looked at Andy, then frowned, glancing over at reception. "Um, is Erin in today?"
"What's that? Oh, yeah, she's here. She just said she had to step out for a little bit, though. She'll be back answerin' phones in no time…"
Pete nodded, and Andy turned his attention to Oscar, who had also walked in. "Good mornin' Oscarito! How's my favorite accountant…?"
Pete walked away, leaving Oscar in the hands of their ridiculously boisterous boss. He hoped Erin would be back soon…
An hour had passed, and still Erin wasn't back. Pete began to worry: why had she been out so long? He glanced out the window, and saw that her car was still in the parking lot. His worry mounted – was she still here? Had she lied to Andy about going somewhere? Pete remembered that comment Andy made yesterday about Erin looking pale, and a mixture of anger and heartbreak immediately surged in his chest. He suddenly decided at that moment to make it his mission to find out where the receptionist had gone off to.
Twenty minutes later, the door leading to the warehouse opened, and Pete walked through, bundled up in his winter jacket. After having checked every other possible place Erin could have been, Pete decided to move his search downstairs. The warehouse was ice cold, and he shivered as he moved down the steps, glancing around. The whole place seemed deserted…
"Hello?" Pete called as he got to the bottom step. No answer.
"Get your asses back to work right now!" Val's stern voice sounded from near the back. Pete turned and hurried toward it.
As he walked around a large palette of boxes, Pete saw all the warehouse guys crowded together around a high window, talking excitedly. The foreman Val faced them several feet away, her arms crossed and her face set.
"I will not hesitate in calling Andy down here to fire you all if you don't get back to stacking boxes at this very moment!" she shouted angrily at them. Pete walked up to her.
"Hey, what's going on?" he asked, staring at the commotion. The warehouse guys looked far too happy about whatever they were looking at for it to be any good.
"I don't know, apparently some girl is sitting half-naked outside," Val scowled. "And in this weather, she must be crazy or something… she's distracting all of my workers!"
"A girl?" Pete asked, glancing toward the window. His eyes suddenly widened. "Oh God."
A minute later, Pete was outside, hurrying around the side of the building toward the back. He turned the corner, and saw exactly what he dreaded to see:
"Erin – what the hell are you doing?"
Erin was reclining on a lawn chair in the middle of the back lot. She wore only a strapless shirt and tiny shorts, and she was clearly shivering as she held a tanning mirror up to her face. She glanced around.
"Oh. H-hey Pete," she said, her teeth chattering.
Pete ran up to her, appalled. "How long have you been sitting out here?"
"Oh, I d-don't know," Erin shivered, sitting up; her lips were tinged blue. "After the f-first hour or s-so I started t-to feel r-really t-tired and I f-fell asleep …"
"Oh my God," Pete immediately shed off his own winter coat and, ignoring the cold, draped it over Erin's shoulders, covering her up. "What the hell are you even doing out here?"
"I wanted to try and get a t-tan," Erin bundled herself up in the large coat, already warm from Pete's body heat. "What Andy s-said to me yesterday…"
"Erin," Pete knelt down in front of her, exasperated. "It's the middle of January!"
"So? Last time I checked, the sun still shines in winter."
"Yeah, but the sun in summer won't give you hypothermia," Pete reached forward and tugged his coat tighter around Erin's body, making sure she was completely covered. Erin stared at him for a moment before glancing away.
"I don't know if you realize this, but all the warehouse guys are watching you through the window right now," Pete looked over at the building. Erin looked appalled.
Pete turned and stared at her, "Well... I dunno... because," he gestured awkwardly at her tiny outfit. Erin buried her face in her hands.
"Ugh, I knew this wasn't a good idea! I just…" she paused before lifting her head up and letting out a frustrated sigh. "I didn't know what else I could do…!" she shook her head, groaning. "I feel so stupid…"
"You're not stupid," Pete interjected seriously, and Erin looked at him. "You're beautiful, Erin."
She stared at him, her eyes wide with surprise. She was silent.
"You are," Pete said in emphasis. "And Andy would be an idiot not to see that. Sure, he might say something stupid now and again, but what he says shouldn't ever prevent you from knowing just how amazing and smart and wonderful you really are. Tan or no tan."
The sincerity in his voice made Erin's heart melt. "Really?" she whispered, and Pete nodded.
"I see it. I want you to see it too."
Erin smiled, his words warming her far better than his coat wrapped around her shoulders. Pete smiled back, causing her heart to flutter.
"Thank you," she muttered, glancing away. "I want to cry right now, but I think my tear ducts are frozen…"
Pete chuckled, "Let's get you inside, then."
He helped Erin to her feet and they began to walk together toward the side of the building that led to the front doors. Pete shivered as a cold wind blew.
"D'you want your coat back?" Erin joked, glancing at him.
"Yeah, actually, if you don't mind," Pete reached over toward Erin, who dodged him, giggling.
"Oh, very funny."
"What? I'm freezing my ass off here," Pete complained, though he smiled.
"You poor thing," Erin pretended to pout, smirking. She moved ahead of him.
Pete shook his head, following her. "I hate you."
"Sweetheart!" Andy exclaimed as Erin and Pete walked in to the office thirty minutes later. Erin had changed back into her normal work clothes, and Pete had bought her a hot chocolate in the lobby. The color had returned to her cheeks, and a warm smile alighted her face when she saw her boyfriend.
"Hey," Erin hurried forward and kissed Andy hello. Pete looked away. "Sorry I'm late - I had some car troubles, and Pete was helping me out."
"Really? Oh, well, that was very kind of you Pete," Andy grinned over at the younger man as he hung up his coat. Pete pressed his lips together, nodding.
"Happy to help," he said, looking down at his feet. "Well... see you."
As he turned to walk toward the annex, Erin piped up behind him: "Pete?"
Pete turned, "Yeah?
Erin looked at him for a moment before smiling."Thank you. You know... for the hot chocolate."
He smiled, "You're welcome."
There was a lingering moment, where the two just looked at each other, until Andy broke it:
"...You couldn't spare your ol' boss a cappuccino, Plop? For shame."
Erin turned toward her boyfriend and laughed, "Andy!"
"What? The Nardog likes some of that chocolatey goodness...!"
Pete turned around and walked away, leaving Andy and Erin to themselves.