The last thing Paintbrush expected was a snowstorm in the middle of February.
Fat snowflakes were coming down rapidly onto Hotel OJ. They silently blanketed everything the eye could see, covering sidewalks and benches in a white sheet. They stuck to the windows, chilling the guests taking refuge in the hotel.
It didn't snow often. Most of the contestants were thrilled when it started, rushing outside to snatch this chilly opportunity. It didn't last very long though. Everyone got cold quickly, and snowfall fights weren't fun anymore when your whole body stung.
It didn't take long for the snow to hide their footprints. The entrance to the hotel looked magical, the recent layers of snow left untouched. The sky was white with gray clouds continuing to spit out icy flakes.
Paintbrush sleepily glanced at the flakes collecting on their window.
Fan had convinced them to come outside earlier in the day, but the experience was highly unpleasant. The snowflakes fell onto their bristles and melted. Now their bristles were damp and Paintbrush was cold.
They hadn't woken up in a good mood to start with. They were going through another week where everything felt gloomy. Their boring life they had now couldn't compare to the excitement they felt during the competition.
They scowled to themself, reaching up to wring out their bristles again.
After their negative experience in the snow, they stomped up to their hotel room to pout. According to Fan that is.
According to Paintbrush, it was resentful silence.
As they shakily wrapped their bristles up with a towel, they gazed outside again. The snow really was breathtaking. It covered the vast competition grounds, only reminding them of their longing.
No matter what they did in the hotel, they never felt the same excitement that they used to. However, this feeling came to them and went. The only time they really felt the same was when they were with Lightbulb.
She always knew how to cheer them up, and Paintbrush could only wish that they had the same positive attitude.
Paintbrush was so deep in thought that they barely noticed when Lightbulb shoved a cup of hot cocoa into their hands.
"Hey Painty!" Lightbulb waved her hand in front of Paintbrush's face.
"Ah! Hey Lightbulb.." Paintbrush trailed off. Their gaze drifted back to the window.
"Do- is something on your mind?" Lightbulb asked with a look of concern. She paused.
"Is it something that extra marshmallows can help?"
Lightbulb smiled and gestured to the hot cocoa she gave to Paintbrush. Lightbulb sat down on the window-seat next to them.
Paintbrush laughed softly and turned back to Lightbulb. "No, it's fine.. I guess I'm just feeling a bit melancholy again. I mean- I'll get over it, it's just bad right now." They glanced away blankly and studied the floor instead of their partner's face.
Lightbulb put a hand on their shoulder, scooting closer to them. "Oh Painty. I'm sorry you are- feel down.."
Lightbulb took a moment to gather her words. "I miss competing too sometimes. But then I remember all of the friends that I made during the competition!"
Paintbrush looked back to Lightbulb, not making eye contact. They sipped their hot chocolate.
"What I mean is like..." Lightbulb looked out the window for a moment. "The- That even though the competition is gone.. the friends I made and the experiences I had aren't! So um.."
Paintbrush let Lightbulb's words sink in for a moment. "You're right.. I mean, I try to focus on that sometimes. But I always end up thinking about how it used to be. And I miss it."
"I'm sorry Painty." Lightbulb searched for what she could say to help.
"I'm here for you though. We're gonna have lots of new experiences together, and do new things! I'm gonna be by your side throughout everything."
Paintbrush sighed and gave Lightbulb a genuine smile. "Thanks Lightbulb."
"It's nothing!" Lightbulb grinned.
The two sat in silence for a moment. The only sounds in the room were the muffled conversations downstairs and the light patter of snow on the window.
Lightbulb leaned next to Paintbrush gently, resting her head on their side.
"Thanks for the hot chocolate.. It was very... sweet of you," Paintbrush joked.
Lightbulb turned towards them with a shocked expression, making Paintbrush burst out in laughter.
"You are so lucky that Cheesy isn't here right now."
They both laughed, snuggling closer and finishing their drinks. As the evening neared, the snow had slowed to a gentle flurry. The pair sat close in a comfortable silence, watching the snow falling.
"Thanks for the advice earlier," Paintbrush started. "I'm feeling better."
Lightbulb looked up at them and smiled. "I love you Painty," she bit the inside of her cheek and smiled to the floor.
Paintbrush was flustered for a moment before they were able to gather themself.
"I- I love you too Lightbulb."
Paintbrush turned around to glance at the door. Fan probably wouldn't be coming up the room for a while.
Paintbrush looked back at Lightbulb. She had a sneaky smile. They felt butterflies fluttering in their stomach as they met eyes with her.
Lightbulb reached up to their face, gently putting a hand on their cheek. She felt her face getting warmer as the two got closer to each other.
In a fleeting moment, Lightbulb noticed the grooves in their wood and small scratches and dents on their metal. Had she not noticed those before?
As Paintbrush closed the gap between them, Lightbulb fluttered here eye shut and raised her other hand to hold Paintbrush's back.
Paintbrush focused on Lightbulb's gentle breathing, and how she still smelled like hot chocolate, and the way her lips were chapped from the dry air. Their heart felt like it was beating a thousand times a minute.
Paintbrush pulled back softly to look at her eyes. They sparkled in the light from the window. Lightbulb took a breath and pulled them into another kiss.
It felt so intimate. Alone together in each other's gentle and warm embrace.
How much time has gone by? Paintbrush felt like they could stay like this forever. They placed their hand on Lightbulb's, gently interlocking their fingers with hers.
Paintbrush could barely feel their face when Lightbulb pulled away suddenly.
Lightbulb raised both hands to her lower lip, squinting a the cushions.
"Whoa- what's wrong?" Paintbrush asked with a concerned expression. "Did I do something?" Their heart was still beating so fast.
"No I- I think I got a splinter!"
Lightbulb continued to feel around her lip, finally raising her gaze back to Paintbrush.
"It's kinda funny honestly.." She chuckled softly.
"Oh my gosh.. I'm so sorry that happened," Paintbrush uttered. They raised a hand to their cheek feeling how warm it was. Where Lightbulb's hand was just seconds before.
They paused for a moment. "Let's go downstairs and take care of it."
Most contestants had already drifted upstairs for the night, leaving only a few stragglers behind. The kitchen and living room were very quiet. Only whispered conversations could be heard.
Paintbrush and Lightbulb tiptoed down the stairs, walking into the kitchen. Bright moonlight was shining through the window, casting shadows on the kitchen tile.
"I'm pretty sure OJ has some medical stuff under the counter," Paintbrush whispered as they opened the cupboard. They dug through the bottles and supplies for a few seconds, their hand skimming over lids and caps. They reached back farther and pulled out a first aid kit. "Here we go." They set it on the counter with a quiet rattle and opened it up.
Lightbulb hopped up on the counter, running her fingers over the glossy countertop. They nervously watched Paintbrush dig through the kit.
It didn't hurt as much as Lightbulb thought it would. As soon it was over she rubbed her hand over the spot where the splinter once was.
"You got it!" She smiled at Paintbrush. "Thanks for helping me.."
Paintbrush laughed to themself as they put the kit back under the sink.
"Funny how it happened."
Lightbulb blushed and looked at the floor, stifling a smile. "Oh, shh you!"
The pair walked in silence as they returned to Paintbrush's room. Upon entering, Lightbulb scurried back to the window seat, Paintbrush following.
Lightbulb scooted up to them, raising their hand to Paintbrush's face.
"Where were we Painty?"
Paintbrush smiled, closed their eyes, and moved their face forward-
The two looked up in shock, spotting Fan sitting in his bed, covering his mouth with his hands.
They remained motionless, looking like two deer in the headlights. Lightbulb sprung up and quickly walked to the door.
"Uh- I should- I should go."
She glanced at Paintbrush and tried to cover up a laugh with a cough.
"Enough splinters for one night, dontcha think?" She winked at Paintbrush, stepping outside and shutting the door.
Fan turned towards Paintbrush, hands still covering his face.
"Paintbrush, I don't even want to know."