Hearts and Sparkles

A/N: Well, it had to be done. A nice series in credit to Valentine's day. It's a trilogy of stories that'll turn up along this week: I have extra time to write, and it will be on time. Here to cheer everyone up who maybe isn't going to be receiving the joys of bright pink cards and hearts. Enjoy!

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There weren't many festivals celebrated in the office. The Day of the Dead was, of course, statutory, and they'd probably all troop out to a Christmas party just to see how Manny was going to make a fool of himself this time: it got better every year. However, one of the smaller ones, only celebrated if you had the good luck to work on the top floor, was Valentine's Day.

It was, all in all, nothing special. A spattering of an ego boost or (more probably) a blow to any self esteem you had left when you discovered that, walking into your office early in the morning, there was no capsule waiting to be opened with some kind of device inside that declared another skeleton's undying love for you.

Manny and Eva had a custom of swapping said pleasantries just because they could. Not cards, lockets or anything, but a slip of paper with some kind of derogatory yet endearing message inscribed on it. Last year, Manny received something to the point of 'your report's late and Copal's kicking up a stink, hun.' He of course, replied back, asking when her computer was being delivered. Somehow, it was easier to be able to use the message tube system then get yourself off your chair and walk outside into the corridor.

But, it was that time of year again, and everyone was getting ready to brace themselves for whatever would be hitting them next. For some reason, death rates seemed to rise dramatically around that time of the year: people insisted on throwing themselves off the highest structure near to them because they hadn't got a flimsy paper card (with flowers on it, for that matter- what kind of message did that give out?), plus false sentiments and tacky fake jewellery attached inside for good measure.

So, when Manny picked up the tube lying in his in tray, opened it to find he couldn't see anything inside, then held it up over his head upside down (only to get covered in black ink from a typewriter's inner workings), he knew it was going to be one of those interesting days.

Feeling he'd better return the sentiment, he emptied the hole puncher's contents back into the capsule, and sent it back. No love lost between them, after all.

It was then that he heard the bellow coming down the hallway, echoing through the corridor as it went.

"Eva! Where's my valentine?" Eva simply turned to Don Copal, wondered bleakly why she, of all people, was being asked this, and continued typing. Accounts, sadly, refused to do themselves.

The fact that she had cards on her desk: one from him, a stack of paper circles and a surprisingly sentimental message sent that morning by Salvador probably didn't help. But, then, she wasn't planning to give out something purely for the heck of it: with Manny, it was simply an inside joke. Hence, she ignored him, and kept on typing. If she continued long enough, maybe he might get the message and leave her be, but she doubted it. Copal wasn't that type.

He continued to bluster for quite some time until she finished the sheet of paper she was typing up, ripped it from her typewriter, then replaced it with a blank one, typed 'HAPPY VALENTINES, BOSS', and pulled it from the machine and slid it across the desk to him.

Obviously appeased (for the moment, anyway,) Copal retreated back into his office to tackle the crossword that had been in the paper that morning. Meanwhile, she inserted a new sheet into her machine (which was protesting about being blatantly abused, as it was refusing to hold the paper properly, instead insisting to have it at an angle), and typed a message to Manny.

I love you too, Manny. How about that report you owe me from two months back? Folding it into an envelope, she put it back in the capsule (which now looked like a badly homemade valentine itself: all sticky and covered in dots of paper), and sent it back.

However, Manny wasn't paying attention, as Domino had waltzed into his office, and scoured the room for any hint of celebrating the season.

"Now, you see, Cal, if you were more like me…" If Manny didn't know that Dom had a punch bag in his office and sported an uppercut that would leave your jaw in pieces, he would have hit him. However, he instead had to sit through it.

"Looking at the amount of chicks that sent me valentines today, I seem to be luckier with the ladies than you are, Cal."

"Really? How many did you send yourself this year?"

Domino, rather than deigning him with a reply, walked along the corridor and into Don Copal's office, not really sparing a word to his secretary. Although Domino seemed like the type who would sleep with the office secretary, he didn't spare time for Eva: which she was rather thankful for (like she'd even think of going near him: she could do so much better).

"Any new disasters, suicides or deaths I should know about?" Leaning on Eva's desk, Manny got into her face and smiled, hoping for something to come up. Today was not the day for him to get entirely bored and have to spend the afternoon seeing if he could hack into Domino's computer.

"Any new progress on your report I should know about?" Manny straightened up abruptly. "Go and start it, Manny. The big boss won't stay happy for that long." However, as she finished, a shout came through the door.

"Four down: day where the Living give cards and trinkets, thirteen letters!" Eva sighed, but Manny got there first with the answer.

"The answer's Christmas, Copal," he said loudly, through the door. Eva shook her head in despair, and continued to type the invoice that was demanding her attention.

"Where's your report, Calavera?" Manny stepped away from Eva's desk, and hightailed it down the corridor into his office as fast as his legs could carry him, as the gilded door flung open to reveal a somewhat rabid Don Copal, who was obviously working himself up. Again. Well, this was no surprise, seeing as this piece of paperwork was weeks late, but Manny had been doing other things. Quite what these other things were, Eva didn't know, and she wasn't sure of she wanted to either, for that matter.

"He went down to the coffee machine, Boss," Eva told him, and you could almost feel the steam coming off him as Copal stomped into the lift. Things never got easier, did they?

However, the ping of the message system caught her attention, and she swivelled on her seat to see how much of said message was intelligible.

Client number over the last few weeks: 0 (Domino always has them, though…)

Amount of Double N tickets sold: 0

Amount of cigarettes smoked: too many to count

Amount of times I've been lectured by Dom: 15 in the last week and counting

Number of times I've felt like sprouting myself: not enough to do anything about it

What I've done this week: played a lot of solitaire and drunk a lot of coffee

Percentage towards getting out of here: 0.03 (and falling)

Manuel Calavera

Well, it was a start, but she couldn't file that. Although, it was better than his last attempt… Hence, she decided to tell him. In written form, of course: expended less energy.

Do I need to tell Dom who borrowed his whisky last Friday to take home and drink themselves into a stupor simply because, and I quote, he felt like it?

Seconds after she'd sent it, the reply found itself in her part of the tube.

You wouldn't do that to me

Things never changed.

0-0-0-0-0

Domino had gone out to get a client. Finally. This meant Manny could see if he'd been lying about the amount of female skeletons had sent him the dreaded pink cards and entirely slushy romantic messages. Plus, he needed to replace the whisky decanter he'd 'borrowed' (ahem). Sliding through the narrow opening that he'd given himself between the door frame and the door, he poked his head into the office.

The room was completely covered in hearts, cards and chocolate.

Furtively, Manny picked the first card up, and inspected it. Sickeningly sweet message… check. Unsigned… check. He then replaced it back on the floor and picked up the next one.

The fact that it was exactly the same handwriting didn't escape him.

Half an hour later, Manny emerged from the room, reasonably sure that every card inside had been addressed to and sent by the same person. At least fifty cards sent to Domino Hurley, from (guess who) Domino Hurley. Well, someone had serious Narcissism problems.

"You do realise that Dom sent himself valentines this year, right?" He asked Eva, who was packing her handbag, ready to leave.

"It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. Write that report when you get home, Manny, or Copal will probably snap your spine tomorrow morning."

Making his way to the elevator, Manny called back over his shoulder. "No worse than threats I've had before- he'd normally be coming to my flat and snapping my spine. Definite improvement."

It was only halfway back to his flat that evening, inspecting the contents of his pockets, that he realised he hadn't given the decanter back yet.