Charlie heard his soft chuckle, and could have quite happily melted into the floor, slithering in between the floor boards to hide from her shame. She was being ridiculous! Her entire body- mind included- was slipping out of her control, and he didn’t even do anything yet!
Yet. I said ‘yet’. Why did I say yet!?! Am I really expecting him to do something in the future? Far OR near? What exactly is implied by that ‘yet’? At this rate, there won’t even be a ‘tonight’!
No, that wasn’t true. Royce was smiling (albeit at her, not with her), and hadn’t mentioned anything thus far about cancelling their just-barely-made plans for that evening. He even drudged up some heroic sense of pity, and tried to pull her away from her desk via the chair. What was that she had wished for earlier? Ah yes, that he bring himself even nearer to her- the first in a line of steps that, in her head, would end with her snuggled in his embrace with their foreheads touching and lips leaning in for- No! Behave!
It didn’t at all help that she could feel him, standing as close to her as he was. He seemed to radiate warmth and comfort and security and so many other wonderful things (although, admittedly, mostly warmth- he felt like a toaster!) that she could embrace if only she would just lean back and- No! Stop that right now! No more! She squeezed her hands into fists as if to reinforce the fact that touching Royce would be a Bad Thing. One that she suddenly and without any real reason wanted very very much, but was most certainly Bad nonetheless. Her inner, less noble side sighed in impatience.
Royce tugged lightly at her chair once more to get her attention, and she turned enough to fix him with a single wary eye.
He smiled, trying to look innocent, and in her mind, he was very, very much no such thing. With her being the way she was at the moment, he was dangerous, but she let him speak anyway. “ So, mental breakdown aside, should I bring anything over for dinner tonight? Chips. Dips. Flowers?”
It was that catch in his voice that actually made her sit up and turn so she could study Royce more closely. Inside, the other voice was trying to get her attention, pointing excitedly at the fact that Royce was offering to bring her flowers, one of the most traditional methods of courtship there was. It was certainly important, and the other voice was trying to get her to see this, but frankly, Charlie was distracted. His voice had been suspiciously… neutral, on every word save for the last one. There was an undertone to it that she tried to identify, and once she did, her eyes narrowed at him.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” she demanded, only slightly piqued. “Watching me sink into insanity- what, is it entertaining?”
There was dead silence, which could only be translated to guilty acquiescence. Charlie reached behind her, grabbed what felt like the dish towel used for cleaning the desk and filing cabinets, and proceeded to pelt Royce with harmless attacks with her weapon of choice. A more controlled person would have managed to do it all while maintaining an irritated scowl, but after he raised his arms to shield himself, laughing along the way, Charlie couldn’t help but laugh back.
“Butthead,” she told him as a parting shot, but finally turned to basket toss the towel into a bucket in the corner of the room. “Insanity isn’t something to laugh about, you know. It’s serious stuff. Dangerous, even. You never know when I might snap and stab you with a meatball,” she said straight-faced.
“And besides, I already told you earlier, this is a thank you present. For… just being nice and making things here nice, too. I don’t know, make of it what you will, but you’re not allowed to bring anything for the dinner itself. All that is for you and… well, I guess I can wrap a leftover plate, because half of it is for her, too. Does that even make sense?”