The Perfect Gift
A Full Metal Alchemist fanfiction, By Serenanna
Warnings and Disclaimers: I don't own Full Metal Alchemist or any of the characters. I'm just borrowing them to play with. I'll return them later, promise.
Story Notes: Time frame for this fic doesn't matter and is set during the anime series. Also, this is an Ed/Winry and Roy/Riza fic (Two for the price of one!), and set outside of my previous works. I am also blaming this fic on my friend Oishii-chan, who would be a brilliant writer if she just wrote more. Being this is fanfiction, liberties were taken with the actions of the characters and certain parts of the fic are not canonal, I just don't know which ones. No roses or wrenches were harmed in the production of this piece of fluff . . . well . . .
Ed's metal foot tapped nervously on the floor making a clanking sound that was louder than the squeaking of his brother's armor. He knew it was a bad idea to show up early to Central Headquarters on a holiday, any holiday. Not only was Colonel Bastard late, but so were most of the men under him, save one.
He scowled on the bench seat, trying not to look at the smug face of Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc sitting across the room at his desk. The sandy-haired man seemed highly amused by something as he kept almost snorting into his cup of coffee every time Ed stopped fidgeting long enough to look up, as if the man was attempting to keep from laughing out loud. The tapping of the young alchemist's foot didn't change pace as the minutes passed, not until his brother's heavy hand came down on his knee, "Would you please stop that, brother?"
He blinked, oblivious to the annoy clank of his own leg, "Huh, what?"
"The thumping. I know you're nervous about today, but-."
He swatted the hand from his leg and resumed the thumping regardless of his brother's protests.
Nervous was an understatement. Petrified was more like it. Why did Winry have to be in town today of all days? And why oh why did he let his own brother talk him into this? He shouldn't have let Al help him pick it out too. What in the world was he thinking? Girls liked getting things alright, but there was no way Winry would accept that, not today, not on Valentine's Day, the one day in the year when you're supposed to tell women how you really feel about them by giving them something meaningful. At least, that was what their mother said about the holiday. But then again, their father always gave her flowers before he left, and the best they could do back then were crude little alchemy made animals and paper-folded birds.
Even if he didn't believe in religion, they always gave their mother at least something for the day just because it seemed like what they should do, and wanted to do. Regardless of whatever tacky trinket they gave her, she loved it, even if they weren't flowers. When she passed away, that tradition went to Granny Pinako and, of course, Winry, who accepted their tacky presents with forced cheerful grins. Unfortunately, for the past four years or so when they started traveling from one side of the country to the other, the tradition was all but forgotten. And then the mechanic geek showed up in Central just two days before the holiday with her bags and tools, all ready to refit him for new limbs, which would take about a week of her time. This year there was no escaping Valentine's Day tradition. For the first time in a long time, they were going to give their childhood friend something to express how they felt about her, and it scared the daylights out of Edward Elric.
How did he feel about Winry?
Honestly, the young alchemist didn't know, but he was pretty sure that the socket wrench attachment sitting in his back pocket, wrapped up in a blue box with white ribbons, didn't say enough for all the years of putting up with them. He groaned, covering his face with his hands. This would be a disaster. "I can't do it, Al," Ed muttered, "It's a nice gift, but she'll hit me on the head with it in five minutes after opening it."
"Don't be so dramatic, brother. She liked the doll we made her that one time."
"And she tossed it out as soon as you said we made it with alchemy."
"But what about that, um, set of sprockets we got her for her birthday two years ago."
"Yeah, she liked them enough, till Pinkao mentioned that they'd be perfect for the next set of automail I wrecked."
"At least this thing she can use in her work, and not use on your limbs," Al said cheerfully, oblivious to the look of contempt on his brother's face, "We even got it nickel-plated. I bet she'll love it."
Ed groaned again, sinking back on the bench, "Where is that bastard? I want to get this report over with and get out of here."
Across the room, Jean Havoc snorted again in his coffee, no longer able to keep his laughter or his curiosity to himself. He knew something was bugging the kid the moment they stepped into the office this early in the morning, but he didn't have a clue what the fuss was about until their animated off and on conversation started. From the way it sounded, it seemed as if the teenager was in a pickle with a member of the opposite sex, on Valentine's Day no less. It was too good of opportunity to waste, "Major, are you having girl problems?"
The young alchemist popped up with a start, temper flaring as his brother's clanking chuckles did nothing to stop it, "I do not have girl problems!"
In spite of the denial, the laughter from both the Second Lieutenant and his own brother didn't stop, not even as the office door opened. Breda and Fuery walked in, blinking at the three of people in the office while shuffling to their desks. "Seems like we missed the joke again, Kain," Heymans smirked as he threw down his winter coat over the back of his chair, "Want to explain it to us, Havoc?"
"The squirt, he's got some problem with a girl, probably Valentine's Day related," Jean answered with a broad grin, ignoring how Edward flew up from the bench only to be pulled back down by Al. Breda chuckled, shaking his head as he grabbed his mug, "Thirty sen says he's got a crush on some girl and doesn't have the balls to tell her."
"I do not!" Ed yelled across the office before catching his mistake, "I mean I would tell her if I did, but I don't!"
No one seemed to notice the outburst as the conversation continued anyway when Jean added, "Twenty five says he forgot what today even is."
Heymans grabbed the other mugs as well and walked across the room to the pot of coffee, "Naw, thirty sen that he knows what today is and just doesn't know what flowers she likes."
"Yeah, right, Breda. Everyone knows women go nuts over red roses on Valentine's Day," Havoc groused, scowling, "What other type of flowers are there?"
"Carnations, Tulips, Orchids, Red Chrysanthemums for example," the stout officer explained as he filled the cups, "There's a flower that says the same thing but is more unique than roses."
Jean Havoc snorted, "Since when did you become a florist?"
"Since I started getting more dates than you."
Before he could yell across the room, Fuery dropped a fresh pile of paperwork on the Second Lieutenant's desk, frowning at the miserable look on FullMetal's face, "Twenty sen says the poor kid didn't get her anything at all."
Al chuckled at the aggravated groan from his brother. The blond alchemist gave up, banging the back of his head on the wall, "I haven't forgotten what today is, and I haven't forgotten to get a present for her either, I just don't know if she'll like it . . . damn."
He realized too late that he'd just admitted to the fact that there was a girl and that he was giving something to her on Valentine's Day too. Ed looked up to see a mixture of silly grins and dumb expressions on the faces of the Colonel's men. After a silence filled moment, money was being pulled from wallets and quickly exchanging hands. He groaned again, going back to thumping his noggin on the wall, "Great, just great. Now everyone will know by the end of the day, including Colonel Bastard."
Just as the words left his mouth, the door opened and closed with a soft pad of boots and paws. Riza blinked at the young alchemist as Black Hayate trotted past her to nuzzle his leg, "Know what, FullMetal?"
Ed's mouth dropped open as she walked into the office, quickly shedding a long black winter coat and white wool scarf to hang them on a nearby stand. He sat there, dumb as a round of morning greetings passed between the other officers. It wasn't until the puppy nudged his ankle that the shock wore off. Looking up at the First Lieutenant who stood over him, he stammered, blundering a response as he nervously scratched the back of his braid, "Um, nothing, ma'am, nothing at all. Why would anything be wrong? Who would know what? I don't know anything."
"That's for certain," Havoc grumbled till Riza shot him a severe look from across the room. He quickly shut up, going back to paperwork. The nervousness on Ed's face dissolved as Alphonse piped up while leaning over to pet the dog, "Brother's just nervous this morning because we got a gift for Winry. He doesn't think she'll like it."
"Tattle-tale," Edward muttered under his breath, "You're the one that picked it."
"But you're the one that suggested a new tool that she could hit you with."
"I was being sarcastic, Al! Do you think I like that violent machine geek using my head for target practice?!" he yelled, jumping up on the bench, "We should have gotten her something softer that she could throw! A stuffed bear or something!"
"But she doesn't like toys anymore . . ." the suit of armor's hollow voice trailed off, joints squeaking as he twiddled the fingers of his gauntlet. Ed sighed, collapsing back down on his seat. Across the room, Heymans chuckled, "At least, she doesn't like guns. Having things thrown at you is better than being threatened to get shot in the-."
Riza's pale eyebrow twitched in annoyance, interrupting him before the statement could be finished, "I am still in the room, Second Lieutenant Heymans Breda, and I would suggest not going any further unless you wish that such a threat became a reality."
He paled, the color draining from his skin as the two other men snickered, "Err, sorry ma'am, won't happen again."
"I should think so," she sighed, settling down in her chair as Kain Fuery placed a stack of papers on her desk. It was Valentine's Day, once again, and the office's atmosphere was as usual as ever, which was entirely too humorous to be productive. How she hated holidays, and especially this particular day devoted to the notion of love. Every year on this particular day all she heard about was whom the other men would be spending the evening with and what the Colonel would be doing with his lady of the evening. And as usual, the only thing she had to look forward to was the discount the next day on chocolates. At least this year she had a puppy for some form of comfort, smiling down at Black Hayate as he curled under her desk and on top of her feet.
Still, the day could only get worse since the three officers were already joking and picking on the elder Elric brother before the Colonel had even showed up. Even Warrant Officer Vato Falman, who was usually more punctual than she was, hadn't come in yet. And it was suspiciously odd that she wasn't the first one into the office that morning. From the way Havoc and Breda seemed to plod about beginning their paperwork, she could only guess that something was amiss. Riza looked up at the Master Sergeant before he could escape her notice, "It's a bit odd that you are in this morning before me on a holiday. Is there something I should know?"
"Um, no ma'am. Just the Major is waiting to see the Colonel, and we're all-," he stopped short, glancing nervously over his shoulder at his friends. The Lieutenant's brown eyes drifted over as well, taking in the sight of both Havoc and Breda trying to signal him to shut up. Her eyebrows arched in curiosity, "Do I need to repeat the question?"
Kain fidgeted on the spot, looking down while scratching the back of his neck, "Well, you see, we're . . . um . . ."
Jean groaned from across the room as he trailed off, "We got a pool going on who the Colonel's lucky date tonight is."
"Ten sen says whoever she is she cancels on him," Edward scowled while sprawled all over the bench.
At first, Riza frowned. Betting over the love life of Roy Mustang was nothing new, but that didn't mean she had to like it. Slowly, her eyes turned back to the papers on her desk, and her lips pursed with a look of indifference to the set of eyes on her as she blindly ruffled her stack of work. Then, as if held taunt by a string, she sat up straight with her chin slightly raised, ignoring the stifled chuckles. When the chuckles turned to outright laughter, one withering glance from the First Lieutenant stopped it stone dead. After a silence filled moment of nothing but the sound of scribbling on paper, Riza's act of ignoring them shattered, "Five sen says he's just lying to you all and couldn't get a date."
Another round of laughter spread across the room, chattering amongst themselves over the betting as the First Lieutenant blocked them out. Her statement was a waste of five sen. Who was she kidding? It was Valentine's Day. Of course the Colonel would have a date. She distracted rearranged the papers again and picked up her pen to write, yet stopped to glance over her shoulder at the Elric brothers in another animated yet hushed discussion that quickly ended in silence. Somehow in the middle of the subject of Roy, she forgot all about FullMetal's own dilemma. She couldn't help but smile. It was hard to imagine how three years had passed so quickly that the boy who once thought of nothing but alchemy and research could now be worried over a girl's opinion of a present. It must have been serious from the sulk he was in, and clanking fidget of his metal brother, "It can't be that bad, can it? She did say she wanted one that was that size."
Edward didn't look moved at all, leaning his cheek on a balled up fist, "It's a tool."
Riza swiveled in her chair, unable to keep from interrupting anymore, "But it is Valentine's Day, FullMetal, so all that matters is the thought behind the gift."
"But it's a tool. We're giving a girl a tool," he argued, scowling worse.
"But you both put some thought into which tool and didn't just pick something, correct?"
"Yes, ma'am," Al chirped happily while Ed grumbled, "But it's still a tool."
"I don't see a problem with it if you think she'll like it. Practical gifts are nice," Riza tried to rationalize as his brother nodded emphatically.
Yet the scowl on the teenager's face stayed put, "It's a tool . . ."
Why didn't anyone seem to get it? Not even his own brother seemed to understand. Girls weren't supposed to want tools for Valentine's Day. And while Winry was certainly no ordinary girl, even she would be disappointed in them. He could just see it now, those big blue eyes of hers turning quickly from happiness at the present to disappointment when she saw what it was to anger as she chucked it at his head. Or worse, she would pretend she liked their thoughtfulness when she really did want to chuck it at his head. Ed unconsciously rubbed a spot on the top of his head, trying not to imagine the headache waiting for him, "Ma'am, if you got a tool for Valentine's Day, wouldn't you be disappointed?"
A blonde eyebrow rose up quizzically on the First Lieutenant's face. That was a good question, one that gave her a few minutes pause as she mulled an answer. Head inclined slightly, Riza shrugged then turned back to her work, "I myself would not since I do not use those types of tools, but I am not Miss Rockbell. I don't know her well, but I suspect that she would be very appreciative of your gift."
"That's female code-speak for she'd be disappointed," Breda interrupted with a few chuckles before being silenced by a glare from Hawkeye. The damage was already done though as Ed's face fell again. "Great," he muttered sarcastically, "What would she want then?"
Jean chuckled, "Don't be so negative, FullMetal. Maybe you're just asking the First Lieutenant the wrong question."
Riza's brown eyes rolled, dropping her pen on the desk, "What are you suggesting, Havoc?"
"Well, ma'am, respectfully, your guns are as special and useful to you as the Major's mechanic's tools are to her. So . . . the question should be is what would you do if The Colonel gave you a new gun for Valentine's Day?"
She blinked. Roy? Give her a gun she could then use to threaten him with to do more paperwork? It was about as likely to happen as him giving her flowers or something else less useful. She sniffed disdainfully, looking back down at her paperwork, "Don't be absurd. He would do no such thing."
"But what if he did?" Heymans asked again, his interest peaked as she seemed to be ignoring everyone else again. Even the two Elrics stared at her, wondering when she'd cave to another answer. Riza didn't twitch under the silent attention, but she could feel it in the air. Really, they all were being ridiculous as it was a completely hypothetical question. Roy would never give her anything let alone a gun for her own use. And yet, the eyes boring into her demanded an answer. She sighed, "If the Colonel gave me a firearm, I would first test it at the range to see if it could even shoot straight."
"And if it did?" Jean asked, grinning broadly.
"I would send him a polite thank you card for the gift."
The entire sense of tension deflated like the air let out of a balloon. Riza fought down a smirk at the disappointed looks on their faces as she glanced out of the corner of her eyes. Really, what sort of confession did they expect from her? "Ridiculous . . ." she muttered to herself, about to go back to her work when she noticed a questioning look on Fuery's face, "What is it, Master Sergeant?"
"Well, ma'am, hypothetically, if the Colonel did give you a gun and it wasn't up to your standards . . . what would you do with it?"
The blonde's eyes narrowed slightly as a wicked grin began to form on her lips before stopping herself. Instead, she smiled at the younger officer, "Well, I would give him a personal demonstration of its usefulness . . . by shooting him with it."
The three other officers winced at the answer while Ed quickly covered his mouth with his gloved hands, barely fighting down his laughter. He still snickered nearly a minute later, muttering under his breath, "Would serve that bastard right too."
Jean snorted a quick chuckle, "I doubt he'd have that poor of taste in firearms."
"Ten sen says he does and doesn't even know what type of guns she likes," Heymans muttered, chuckling as well.
Riza groaned, dropping her pen again in aggravation, "Where is the Colonel? He's much too late, even for a holiday."
Just as the words left her mouth, the office door swung open, wide open, "Good morning! Well, if this isn't such a gathering of all my favorite people, and they all look so productive and happy!"
No one looked up from their paperwork or said a word of hello.
At the sound of the voice, she didn't want to greet the man had just walked in either. Maybe if she ignored that he was even there, then perhaps he wouldn't pull out the pictures. Yet, as she felt his presence over her shoulder, Riza knew it was too late to pretend he wasn't there. She quickly glanced over at the Lieutenant Colonel, took one look at the bouquet of daffodils in one hand and the stack of papers in the other, and looked away just as fast, "Hughes . . . aren't you in the wrong office?"
"No, I'm here to see the Colonel and to deliver these, more approval forms. I need them before tomorrow."
Ed grunted, flopped back again on the bench, "Get in line."
Maes Hughes blinked at the scowling alchemist then smirked, "Something tells me our much appreciated Colonel is late, probably because of the other line at the florist."
Riza blinked, "Florist?"
"Yeah, where do you think the daffodils came from? I ordered these a week ago and had to pay a few arms and legs, but my little baby and the love of my life will love them!" Maes crowed, nearly crushing the flowers in his excitement till he remembered himself, "You should have seen the line of saps in blue standing outside and around the block for roses."
Before she could say anything, a slumped figure shuffled through the doorway and past Hughes, using a large bunch of crimson roses to hide from view. "Good morning . . ." he muttered quickly, heading to the office in the back.
Riza blinked again, at both the flowers and the man, "Sir?"
Roy Mustang stopped dead in his tracks at the feminine voice, nearly cringing. He should have known she would have stopped him before he could hide behind his desk. The morning had been difficult enough already. From getting up late to finding a flower shop that still had two dozen roses for sale that didn't look horrible, he hated Valentine's Day sometimes, really. Actually, he hated the expectations of officers in the military to be dating civilians, period. The pressure to find a date, plan a romantic evening, and act like the lady's man he wasn't was troublesome just to keep up appearances for his nosy fellow officers. His little black book was running out of widows and female relatives of the men he lost in Ishbal to take to dinner and events.
And his situation was made even harder by her, Riza Hawkeye, his loyal, lovely First Lieutenant with the sharp, beautiful eyes. She may have acted to all outward appearances as if she didn't care, but he knew her well enough to know that she did care. The act of ignoring the world's very existence whenever she got wind of one of his supposed dates couldn't fool him. She did care about him. She wouldn't have accepted the post as his personal sniper if she didn't. If only she knew . . .
He looked down at the red roses and the simple white card sandwiched between the long stems and leaves as far down as it would go without being crushed. This had to have been one of his most stupid ideas in a long history of stupid ideas. What was he thinking? He couldn't give them to her, especially not now in front of the whole office. Roy slowly turned around, trying to hide the flowers behind his back while swallowing the lump in this throat. He grinned at her, as if everything was as normal as ever, "Good morning, Lieutenant. I know I'm late. I take it the papers in need of signing are already on my desk so, I'll just go and . . ."
She blinked, beginning make that a habit on that particular morning as the Colonel turned again and tried to slink away, "What are those?"
Roy frozen again, hiding the roses more, "What are what, Lieutenant?"
"The roses, moron," Edward smirked at him, arms crossed.
He glared at the young alchemist, "Thanks a lot, brat, but I wasn't talking to you."
Regardless of what the Colonel said, a cheerfully sunny grin sprung up on the teenager's face, much too big to be anything but sarcastic, "You're welcome, bastard, but I don't give a-."
"Edward!" Riza shouted, glaring at the both of them as she rose out of her chair, "Not another word."
The grin on the teenager's face got wiped away, turned back into a scowl as he slumped back. Roy inhaled sharply. There was no point in hiding the flowers any longer, reluctantly pulling them out from behind his back, "They're just roses, Lieutenant. It is Valentine's Day after all."
Slowly, she sunk back into her seat, looking at him curiously a moment then back at the pile of papers on her desk, "Oh, well . . . I can see that, sir. The morning paperwork isn't on your desk. I'll bring it to you quickly."
"Thank you, Lieutenant . . ."
"You're welcome, sir. Also, Major FullMetal has a report and Lieutenant Colonel Hughes here wanted a moment of your time."
"It can wait a few-," Maes started to say till one look from Riza made him think better of it, "Or I can stick around . . ."
"Thank you . . ." Roy trailed off. She appeared to hear him with a slight nod of her head, but not once did she look up from the forms, not even as he stared at her.
No one else said a word, sets of eyes darting between the pair. Even Edward shut up for the moment and looked curiously as Hawkeye seemed to be ignoring the world around her again, Mustang more pointedly. There was an obvious tension between the two, and it made his eyebrows rise up. Why hadn't he noticed it before? The realization made his grin widen. Apparently he wasn't the one with girl problems.
When the First Lieutenant didn't question him further, Mustang tried to escape again towards the safety of his office, only to be stopped by a softly uttered question from the female officer, "Who are they for . . . sir?"
He looked down at the red flowers, glanced over his shoulder at the blonde and smiled, "I hadn't actually thought about that . . . do you want them?"
The sound of jaws dropping in shock reverberated around the small office. Even Riza couldn't suppress the deep shock on her face at his question. He had to be joking. He would never give her the flowers, Valentine's Day or not . . . would he? Somehow, she couldn't help but wonder despite how quickly her better judgment squashed that thought. The Lieutenant went rigid in her chair, back straight as her eyes rolled, "Don't be ridiculous. You would never give me flowers."
"But what if I did?" Roy asked, grinning slowly at the double-take she did in his direction. For a moment, her eyes caught his dark pair, and he could see the wheels turning in her head. The perplexed look that came over his precious Lieutenant made his grin widen even more, at least until her pen was slammed down on the desk, "Then I wouldn't accept them. Not only are they inappropriate to receive from my commanding officer, but they're impractical. What would I do with roses, sir, really?"
He looked down at the flowers, seeming to be wondering the same thing as he scratched his chin thoughtfully, "That's a good question. What do most women do when then get flowers? Maybe put them in a vase and look at them once in a while and think of who gave them to you . . . Would be a waste to just toss them out. Sure you don't want them?"
Riza's composure broke as she spluttered, "Sir! I can't accept them, so please, stop asking!"
"Oh, come on, Lieutenant. How can you say no to two dozen red roses on Valentine's Day?" Hughes added, grinning mischievously at her with a chuckle in his voice. Yet, the cold glare he got back from the woman cut his humor short. She stared down at her desk again, ignoring both of them as she answered, "Very easily . . . no, thank you."
Roy smirked. He slowly walked over to her desk, leaning against the side of it while he placed the roses on top of her work so that she couldn't ignore them or him, "Why don't I believe you Lieutenant? You know that it's insubordination to lie to your commanding officer."
Riza gave him the same icy look she gave Maes moments ago, pushing her chair backwards, "I am not lying, sir. I sincerely do not want them, so you just as well may throw them out. I do not even like roses."
A dark eyebrow rose up in disbelief, "Really?"
She nodded, glancing to the side, "Really. I prefer lilies."
"Yes, lilies, white ones. Red roses are much too common."
And yet, she didn't once look up at him. Roy smirked again, not believing the blonde at all as he left the bouquet on her desk, "I suppose I'll believe you then if I find them in the trash . . . though, they are just roses. It's not like they're a gun or something else more meaningful or useful."
Despite herself, Riza looked at the red roses intently. Maybe . . . he had a point. Where was the point in declining the flowers except on principles? It was a holiday after all, and they would be dead in about a week anyway. The more she looked at them, the more she admired the deep crimson of the delicate petals too. Perhaps she had lied just a little. While she did like white lilies, roses were nothing to sneeze at. And, if the Colonel wasn't going to keep them anyway . . .
Her hand reached out to touch them, but stopped when Roy picked the flowers back up first, "Then again, perhaps my date tonight would like them after all."
A dark look passed the First Lieutenant's brown eyes then went away as she stood up gracefully, hands planted on the desk. Hughes backed up slowly, not liking the waves of anger radiating off the woman, "I think I'll just come back later-."
Yet, before he could beat a hasty retreat, Riza's hand pulled the thick stack of papers to be signed from his arms and put them down on another pile on her desk. She then grabbed all of the sheets, dumping the nearly three hundred documents onto the Colonel's arms before he could flee. "All of these forms need to be signed before you can go on any date, sir," she said sternly, eyes boring into him, "And don't even think of trying to sneak out since I'll be watching you till it's done . . . after I come back from the shooting range."
Roy's arm dropped, the roses dejectedly pointed towards the floor. "Yes, Lieutenant," he droned on, watching as she turned away to walk across the room to the office's gun cabinet.
Within moments, she had a loaded rifle in her hands, a large box of rounds tucked under her arm, and Black Hayate at her heels as she left, not bothering to look back once out the door. Edward broke the silence that had descended over the office in the wake of Riza's departure first, snickering to himself, "And people wonder why I call you a bastard all the time."
The Colonel frowned, looking at him darkly, "It is not my fault neither you nor Hawkeye can take a joke, squirt."
"Who are you calling a squirt that's so little he'd drown if you spit on him!?" he screeched, launching himself off the bench until Al pulled him back down.
"Obviously not you, shrimp."
Ed bristled in anger at the name-calling, barely fighting down his rising temper to a simmer instead of full-boil, "Still, it was rather mean to tease her with flowers since it doesn't seem anyone else gets her anything for Valentine's Day."
Internally, Roy winced, knowing that the kid was right for once. Yet, even if he wanted to admit that much, he couldn't, not in public. He frowned, scowling slightly as he turned towards his office, "Major, if I wanted your opinion, I would ask for it. Besides, since when did you know anything about women?"
Edwards opened his mouth to shout an angry answer at the Colonel when Havoc beat him to it, "Since he got Miss Rockbell a present for Valentine's Day."
The young alchemist's mouth dropped open in shock. His temper flared again, amber eyes boring into Jean as he shouted, "It's just a stupid gift! It doesn't anything."
Mustang's head whipped around from FullMetal towards the Second Lieutenant, eyebrows arched in surprise, "Oh really?"
"Yes, sir. But he doesn't think she'll like it."
Edward flew up from the bench again, ready to lay into the ever helpful Jean Havoc when his brother pulled him back down with one plated arm locked around his torso as he struggled to get free. "Oh, brother . . . You really shouldn't let them get to you like this," Al sighed, "The gift is from the both of us anyway. If you don't want to give it to her, maybe you can get her some-."
The blonde teenager turned on his brother, hissing through clenched teeth, "Thank you, but no, we'll talk about this later."
Roy chuckled, highly amused at watching the pair, "It's been a long day in coming. I thought I'd never live to see you have an issue with the fairer sex, let alone notice one of them, FullMetal. I know a lot about women, so if you're having problems with a gift for Miss Rockbell, maybe I could suggest something . . ."
Ed slowly turned back towards the Colonel, glaring darkly at the man, "I do not need or want your help. I'm not the only one with women problems today."
The grin was wiped from Mustang's face, dropping into a frown as he returned the shrimp's glare, "What are you insinuating, FullMetal? If this is about-."
"Yes, it is, bastard! I know you-."
Roy brandished the bouquet of roses in front of Edward's face, waving them wildly as he shouted, "Not another word about this! You know nothing! And if you ever speak about this, I'll have you brought up on insubordination, you little brat!"
"Who are you calling so little-!" He started to yelled, cut off as a piece of paper flew out of the bunch of roses and struck him on the nose. It fell slowly down into his hands as he blinked. The blinking got quicker while reading the name on the tiny card, not quite believing his his eyes. At the sudden silence, Roy dropped the roses down to see the young alchemist holding the slip of paper with a wide, malevolent grin slowly building on his face. The color in Mustang's face drained away in alarm. If the kid had only guessed before, he knew now. At the startling quiet, Al peered down over his brother's shoulder, trying to read the card too, "What is it, brother?"
Edward opened his mouth to answer when the Colonel suddenly clapped a hand over his mouth, pulling him from his brother's hold. "Time for your report, FullMetal. No more delays," Roy ground between his teeth, pulling the struggling kid with him as he trudged into his office.
Before anyone in the office could say anything, the door slammed shut and the muffled yelling started. Even Al looked perplexed by what just happened, scratching the side of his helm as he broke the silence, "Was it something I said?"
Heymans opened his mouth to answer when the main office door opened. A disgruntled looking Vato Falman walked in and flopped down in his chair, ignoring the odd looks from his fellow officers as he frowned, "Sorry I'm late. Had to see my mother this morning . . ."
"That's alright . . ." Havoc started to say, trying not to blink at the Warrant Officer's appearance, yet he couldn't help it, "What happened to your hair?"
The man glanced up at his hairline a moment then sighed as he tried to finger-comb the awkward part in it back out, "My mother . . ."
Breda chuckled, shaking his head as he turned back to his work, "This whole office is whipped."
"Why do you say that?" Kain asked, blinking as he pushed his glasses up his nose.
Maes chuckled from across the room, sitting down on the bench where FullMetal had just been, "Because it is, Master Sergeant. The Major would drop everything for Miss Rockbell if she needed him. The Colonel would do the same for First Lieutenant Hawkeye. And yet, both of them would deny it with their last breaths. Then you got Second Lieutenant Havoc, how's you mother by the way?"
"Fine, Hughes. I just saw her the other day when she needed help in the store, though I don't know why she always calls me for-."
"My point exactly."
Jean snorted, "Falman and his momma aren't much better, apparently."
"My point exactly," Hughes said while nodding. Fuery still scratched his head though, not understanding the discussion once bit. From the way they talked, one would think that being devoted to a woman was a bad thing. But if that were true, then why was Maes pointing it out to them? Surely he was worst than all of them since he already had a wife and daughter he was slavishly devoted. Kain grinned slightly, turning towards the Lieutenant Colonel, "Sir, if what you say is true, doesn't that make you whipped too?"
A smirk sprung up on Hughes's face, "Yes, but at least I'm glad to be whipped."
Falman frowned at the discussion, "What exactly have I missed this morning?"
The men around him broke out in chuckles and turned back to their work, no one bothering to give him an answer. He frowned at being ignored, fiddling with his pen in annoyance. Some Valentine's Day this was turning out to be. And yet, the silver-haired Warrant Officer slowly grinned to himself. On the bright side, at least he had a date that night, which was more than he could say for the rest of them.
As soon as the door slammed shut behind them, Roy released the irate teenager before he could gnaw through the hand over his mouth. Ed glared at the Colonel, his braid rising up from the back of his neck in anger as he shook his fist, "What's the big idea, you bastard?! Lay one hand on me again and I'll shove it down you-."
"Can it, FullMetal," he grumbled, grabbing the card from the young alchemist before he crumpled it, "I am not about to let you go saying things in public that are better left unsaid."
Moving past him as if he wasn't there, the Colonel placed the roses and the paper work on the desk, "You shouldn't read too much into the name on that card anyway. It wasn't meant for anyone but her to see. It doesn't mean anything, just a show of my appreciation for her hard work."
And yet, he never once looked at the kid while speaking. His amber eyes narrowed, knowing he was being lied to. He'd seen the name on the card, Riza, and it spoke volumes more than anything the Colonel could say to the contrary. Edward smirked, shoving his hands into his pockets, "How far deep into denial are you, just knee-deep or drowning in it?"
A scathing glare from the Flame Alchemist did little to remove the smug look on his face, "I could order you to keep quiet about this."
"But you won't," he said cheerfully, a vicious grin sprouting up along with imaginary devil's horns, "Because there's absolutely no incentive for me to keep quiet even if you did order me into silence. What's a little insubordination when it'll wreck this carefully built reputation of yours permanently?"
"You don't know what you're meddling with, brat," Roy's face darkened as he sat down in the chair and slumped back, "Beside, this is awfully ironic seeing as you are deep in denial yourself . . ."
The downturn of Ed's expression lifted the Colonel's spirits somewhat. So his guess was right after all. Roy started to grin himself until the kid crossed his arms, deeply frowning, "Leave Winry out of this."
He couldn't stop the chuckle at FullMetal's indignant tone of voice, stopping when the glowering look on the blond boy's face turned closer towards fury. The humor gone, Roy rolled his eyes, leaning over the desk with his cheek resting on a balled up fist, "Then we'll just have to agree to both keep quiet about our ladies, or come to some type of accord."
Ed snorted, "Fat chance."
"There has to be something I can do to persuade you to keep my feelings towards the First Lieutenant to yourself. What is it?"
So, it turned to bribery now. Normally, Edward would have been beside himself in joy at having the upper hand over his dastardly underhanded superior, but for some reason he couldn't see the point in being too cruel to him. Maybe he had to do with the First Lieutenant's involvement, or maybe not. While he may have hated Colonel Roy Mustang, the men working under him were different, and the lady in particular seemed to be of the opposite temperament of the man sitting across from him. Yet, he couldn't understand why he wasn't the least bit kinder to her, if he did like her in the more-than-friends sense and all. The wheels turned in the young alchemist's mind, thoughts visibly passing over his eyes till he asked, "Just a few minutes ago, why were you such a bastard to her if you are going to give her those roses eventually?"
"If I answer the question, will you shut up?"
"No, just humor me and answer," Edward smirked again, holding down his glee as the Colonel's eyebrows furrowed in annoyance.
"Because I cannot let it be known that I favor her in any way, romantic or not, when I really do. If I tease her and keep her at arm's length, then she's safe . . . I don't expect you to understand that since you're already one of the military's number one brats no matter how much of a pain in the rear you are to me and the rest of the chain of command," Roy admitted, scowling at he looked down at the flowers, "The reality is that one word of any involvement with her and our dear Lieutenant will be yanked out of my command so quickly that she'd be sent packing before the ink was even dry on the orders. I can't let that happen, not after how much work I went to get her somewhere safe in the military . . . At least you have the luxury of liking a civilian."
For a moment, a twinge of pity passed through the young alchemist. Even if he didn't like Roy Mustang, or thought he was the biggest bastard ever to exist in Amestris, he did feel sorry for the poor man for being in love with a woman he could only express his feelings to in secret. It made sense now why that sorry looking bunch of red roses and the little card with her name on it seemed to matter so much to him. Today, on Valentine's Day, he'd finally worked up the courage to let Riza know the truth. Suddenly, Edward didn't feel much like announcing that fact to the rest of the office. "So, what did you get the Rockbell girl, anyway?" Roy asked, idly flipping the tiny note card over in his gloved fingers.
FullMetal slumped, remembering the present sitting in his back pocket, "A new wrench bit . . ."
The Colonel chuckled harshly, smirking, "Did you get her a box of bolts too?"
"This isn't funny," Ed scowled, trying not to sniff at the thought of giving it to her, "Like Al said before, it's from the both of us. It doesn't mean I like her or something. It's a gift, to show her how much I appreciate her hard work . . ."
"Because if you did like her, then you'd be worried more over what it would really say, wouldn't you?" Roy asked, already knowing the answer to his question as the boy's glance fell on the roses, "It's not too late to find a florist, you know, or whip together your own bouquet for her with a little alchemy. You made tons for your first practical exam after all."
"Alchemy-made flowers aren't the same."
"What? You can't get them right anymore?"
"No, they're a little too perfect . . ."
Roy's eyebrows arched, obviously not following Edward's reasoning. His frown deepened, amber eyes still looking over the flowers on the desk, "Alchemy flowers I make never look like the real ones. The color is too vibrant, the petals too even and unmarked, the stems and leaves are too green . . . they're so perfect that they look fake. My father's roses to my mother always had at least one imperfection among them, or at least that's what she said. I don't think . . . that Winry would like something too perfect."
As the reasoning sunk in, Mustang slowly nodded in understanding, "It's why real roses still sell for more than alchemy ones . . . good luck trying to find any more though. The shops are probably sold out by now."
"Give me one of yours then," Edward said suddenly, staring at him.
"Why, FullMetal, I didn't know you wanted a rose on Valentine's Day . . ." Roy chuckled, grinning broadly at the insinuation as the kid glared at him.
"It isn't for me, bastard, it's-. Just give me one and I'll keep quiet about you and the Lieutenant."
The Colonel seemed to be pondering the proposed blackmail, rubbing his chin thoughtfully till he shook his head, "No."
"What?! Why not?! It's just a rose!"
"Because twenty-three is not two dozen," he said matter-of-factly, nodding, "I can't give a woman anything less than two dozen."
"She's not going to even noticing one is missing, bastard! You're just being difficult to make me angry!" Ed shouted before realizing that the Colonel's tactic had worked. He was angry. Growling while calming down, he shoved his hands back into his pockets while muttering under his breath, "Just give me one and we have a deal."
"I don't know. Blackmail has never seemed fair to me . . ." Roy wondered out loud, looking thoughtfully at the card he still played with, "How do I know you won't use this information against me later?"
"Then court-martial me for slander or something. I don't know. Knowing you, if I ever did say anything once I leave this room, you'd find a way to make me regret it."
Mustang smirked. The young alchemist seemed to know him well, after all. Slowly, he stood up from the desk and pulled the roses closer. After slipping the card back down into the bouquet, he pulled one of the blooms free from the bunch, holding out the stem toward Edward. Somewhat hesitantly, the teenager reached out to take the flower, stopping when Roy pulled back slightly. He looked up to see the seriousness in the man's dark eyes, "Not a word after this. You saw nothing, and know nothing."
Ed nodded and took the red rose, "What card? I didn't see any name on it."
A smile spread across the Colonel's face a moment then faded away as he sat back down, "Alright, your report?"
If the Major heard him, he didn't say anything as he was too busy looking over the long-stemmed rose. Suddenly, a weight felt like it was sitting right on his chest, making it harder to breath. Even the scent of the blossom seemed oppressive. This was it, a flower; he was going to give Winry a flower . . . what was he thinking?! He was going to give Winry, supreme automail geek and generally irritable female along with being his childhood best friend, a flower?! On Valentine's Day?! Had he gone temporarily mad to bargain away his one chance at blackmailing the Colonel into almost anything for just a flower!? Maybe he had since the more he looked at the red rose, the more he liked the idea of giving it to the girl. Ed bit his lip, just imagining her eyes widened at shock instead of disappointment when he gave her the flower. The image of her beaming at him in his head made his hands shake. He was going to give Winry a rose . . .
"FullMetal, your report?" Roy asked again, not sounding pleased as the teenager shook off the dazed look on his face. Nearly jumping to attention, Edward quickly jabbed the rose into an inside pocket of his longcoat, hiding it before grabbing a folded up paper from his pocket. He tossed it onto the Colonel's desk, who frowned at the bent, crumpled document, "Get out of my office, now."
Grinning to himself, Ed did just that, tearing out the door and out of the main office altogether before his brother could catch up to him, "Come on, Al! Winry will kill me if we're late for lunch!"
Roy cringed at the slamming of doors in their hasty exit, rubbing his forehead to relieve the growing headache, "I am not a babysitter . . ."
He then looked over at the stack of papers Riza had dumped on him, and frowned as that headache began to feel worse, "I am not a pencil-pusher either . . ."
Yet, if he didn't get started soon, the whole night would be ruined. Grabbing a few pages off the top and his pen, Roy started signing. Maybe it wasn't so bad of a Valentine's Day after all . . .
But, as he stopped as his office door opened and Kain Fuery walked with more forms to sign, the Colonel could feel that optimism slide right out from under him. He groaned, pointing to the pile already on his desk, "Over there."
The Master Sergeant put the papers down as he directed then hovered over the desk, waiting for something. Roy could sense it and see it in the wringing of the young man's hands, a question he was on the edge of asking. He frowned, not looking up from signing the papers, "Is the First Lieutenant back from target practice yet?"
"Then what do you want, Fuery?"
"Well, sir, we're just curious who the woman you're going out with tonight will be."
Roy's dark eyes narrowed, "No one, Master Sergeant . . . not at this rate."
"No one, sir?" he repeated, the shock evident in his squeaking.
"I won't say it again, Fuery," the Colonel growled, his pen scratching harsher into the paper, "And no one else will be going out tonight for dates either until all the work is done."
Before Roy could utter words of dismissal, the Master Sergeant was already gone when he looked up. Exhaling slowly, he looked back down at the papers, then over at the roses briefly. Their scent filled the small office, but it didn't comfort him any. He should have just given all of them to the kid. It would have made the perfect gift for the Rockbell girl rather than his Lieutenant. Who was he kidding? Riza was right. She would never accept flowers from him or the sentiments behind them. Shaking his head, his pen scratched on the forms again, the only sound filling the office.
The front door to the Hughes's house banged, and Winry's hand slipped on the screwdriver at the sudden noise. She cringed, dropping the tool as she heard Mrs. Hughes shouting across the kitchen, "Edward Elric! Alphonse Elric! Where are you manners?!"
With a sigh, the mechanic moaned and rubbed her head. Those two were as loud as a herd of elephants sometimes, even this many years later, but, they were still her friends. And knowing the pair, they were perhaps in a hurry to see her. Smiling to herself, the blonde girl picked up the screw driver and turned back to the half-assembled arm in front of her, light shining on the metal from the window she sat in front of.
Another Valentine's Day, and another limb for Ed had crossed her work bench. The difference was this time she was working on putting it together in the Hughes's tool shed at the back of the house and not in her own workshop. It fitted the holiday that her best work to date for the most important person in her life would be completed on a day that was supposed to be devoted to love. Not that Edward would ever notice the irony of that day's date. If it didn't involve alchemy or books, he tended not to notice. Perhaps if she painted an alchemy circle on her somewhere, he'd finally notice her, but that was just as unlikely to happen.
At least neither of the brothers ever forgot to give her something small on Valentine's Day.
She knew it was coming when the door to the right of her shoulder squeaked as it opened. The pair grinned from the doorway as she smiled, turning towards them on the stool after placing the screwdriver down, "Come in already."
"We're just here for lunch. Mrs. Hughes invited us," Al explained as his brother moved to lean on a workbench, holding his coat stubbornly closed.
"We won't get in your way much. I know you're busy working . . ." Ed trailed off, fidgeting slightly, "We just wanted to visit, since . . ."
Winry giggled, "I know what today is, bean boy. You don't have to explain it to me."
"Who are you calling a bean so small that-!"
"Brother . . ." Al groaned, sounding sorry enough that his sibling's temper faded into grumbling.
She didn't mind their antics, still giggling, "So what is it this year? Stone ponies?"
Edward's nose scrunched up in distaste, "Whatever gave you that idea? I thought you grew out of toys?"
"Brother . . ." Alphonse trailed off, armor clinking in jittery anticipation, "Just give it to her already. You know she'll like it."
Winry's pale eyebrows arched as his brother sighed, digging into his back pocket to pull out a blue box with white ribbons. She blinked as he placed it on the table in front of her, rather than in her hands. This was different. Usually the Elric brothers never went to the trouble to box and wrap their gifts to her, so this one must have been special. She pulled at the ribbons, not paying much attention to Ed's explanation, "It's from the both of us. Al picked it out and I paid for it. So if you don't like it, you can blame him."
"On come on, it's-."
"It's just what I need!" the mechanic beamed, lifting the small, shiny tool bit into the light. Bounding off the stool, she caught both of them around their necks in a hug, hanging off of Al while nearly bowling Edward over. "You two are the best friends a girl could ask for!" she cried even as the older Elric wiggled out of her hold.
He scowled even as she twirled around the workroom with her new tool piece, "It's just part of a wrench . . ."
"But for once you both found something I can actually use! Thank you so much!"
"I told you she'd like it, brother," Al said in a whisper that was too loud to go unheard by the girl who giggled. His older sibling's scowling only got worse as he crossed his arms over his coat, still holding the garment protectively closed. So Winry liked it after all. Ed slumped back against the workbench, defeated, "Yeah, I can see that."
There was something in his brother's stance that he knew was off. Why wasn't he happy? All of his worrying was for nothing after all since she liked their gift. So then, what was Edward's problem? Al nudged his brother, seeing if he could prod an answer form him, "What is it?"
"Nothing . . . you should go see Mrs Hughes about lunch. She might need help. I'll be there soon," Ed tried to grin, failing horribly when Al hummed thoughtfully, "Just go. I want to talk to Winry about the new limbs . . ."
In all the years that he had traveled with his brother, Alphonse Elric had learned exactly when he was being lied to for his own benefit. Momentarily, his sight slid sideways towards the blonde girl, their best friend, as she obliviously fitted the new bit onto her wrench. Something told him their conversation wouldn't be on automail at all as soon as he left. "Alright," Al capitulated, clanking back out the door, "Don't take too long, brother. We're eating as soon as Mr. Hughes is home."
Ed nodded as his brother left, closing the door behind him. He pulled the rose out from under his coat, making sure that it wasn't crushed. It wouldn't take long at all to give the flower to her. Winry didn't seem to notice at all as he slid across the room and up behind her. All he heard was the clink of the metal pieces being tightened and her voice humming a tune to herself as she worked. He couldn't help but smile slightly. She always was oblivious to the world when focused on the heap of metal in front of her. How she could make sense of all the gears and parts never failed to amaze him. How she could block out his presence so completely amazed him as well. "Winry?" he asked softly, but she didn't turn towards him, quickly ratcheting the wrench on a bolt, "Got a moment?"
"Can it wait, Ed? Wow, this is a great bit! It moves so easily too! I'll be able to knock off at least a few minutes during assembly with it now!" she said happily, wiggling on the stool. Edward frowned, trying not to clench the rose in hand. This was so stupid. He should have been able to give it to her. She should have been disappointed over the stupid piece of a wrench, but she wasn't. He sighed in defeat, "Yeah, it can wait."
Silently, he laid the rose down to the side on her table, and quickly turned away for the door. He stood just in the doorway when he heard the wrench stop and fall with a loud clunk on the table. Silently, Edward slipped out the door and smiled to himself while walking down the hallway, the weight hanging over his heart lifted. It didn't matter if she said anything about it or not, but at least now she knew, or could guess. His feet stopped as the workroom door squeaked up. He looked over his shoulder to Winry peeking from a crack in the door, the rose clutched in her fingers. Her blue eyes stared at him in wonder, slightly smiling, "Thank you . . ."
"You're welcome . . ." Ed said in return, grinning slightly himself.
A blush spread over her face, "Does this mean you . . .? Why did you give me a . . .?"
His grin diminished slightly as he scratched the back of his golden hair, "I don't really know myself . . . it just felt like something I wanted to do . . ."
The wonder in her eyes faded into disappointment, "Oh . . ."
He didn't mean anything by it after all, and to Winry, it felt ever worse than not getting a rose at all. She started to close the door again when she heard his boots on the wooden floor, coming closer. The mechanic stood frozen as he put a hand up to stop her from closing the door, but he didn't push it open any further. Edward reached out to touch her forehead, the back of two fingers pushing a wayward pale blonde lock of hair away. He smiled at her, half-hearted even if the look in his amber eyes said more of how he felt, "Happy Valentine's Day."
Her voice stuck in a lump in her throat, "You too, Edward . . ."
He still smiled as he turned away, walking back down the hall with a slight spring in his step. Winry closed the door once he was gone, unable to keep from beaming ridiculously to herself as she looked at the single red rose. It was perfect to her at least as she breathed in the scent. Now she wouldn't be able to get enough of the scent of roses. Brushing the petals over her lips, she sighed happily, musing to herself, "So . . . he does like me . . ."
Riza's pen scrawled along fluidly on the form until the glare of the setting sun through the office windows became too much. She just had to wait a few more minutes anyway till it was gone, behind the line of buildings on the horizon. The day had been long, and looked to be even longer as it was almost twilight and she was still filling out forms. But then again, it wasn't like she had anywhere to go in such a hurry, even if the puppy at her feet looked anxious to be turned loose. He mewed, looking up at her pitifully as she sighed, "Not yet, Hayate. Not till the Colonel's done . . . which I hope won't be much longer . . ."
She looked up at the close door into Roy's office. Knowing him, he was still probably scribbling furiously on all the papers remaining on his desk. He hadn't moved since she came back, not even for lunch, and only took two short privy breaks before getting back to work. The others had left long ago already, all done for the day, and early. She couldn't help but sigh at his desperation to be finished in time for his date. Whoever she was, Riza knew she must have been lucky or an incredible women to have a man such as the Colonel working this feverishly just to see her. For a moment, she felt like releasing him from her threat, but with the sun already setting, she knew there was no time left for him to make the date in anyway.
Picking up her pen again, Lieutenant Hawkeye went back to writing, trying not to think about Roy or his date. A few minutes later, the door to his office opened. Riza didn't look up from her work. She didn't need to as he walked loudly enough behind her to be noticed. Instead, she looked into his open office door, seeing a neat, tall stack off to one side of the desk. "All finished, sir?" she asked, turning back to her writing as she heard the main door open.
"Yes, Lieutenant . . . Are you staying?"
"Yes, sir, I just need to finish this before I leave. I don't know how long it'll take me . . ."
"Oh . . . don't stay all night then. I don't want to find you sleeping on your desk in the morning," Roy muttered as she fought down a laugh, "And remember to lock up when you're finished . . ."
"Yes, sir . . . Good luck on your date tonight," Riza added, her voice as clear and unaffected as she could make it, "You may just make it in time."
"Oh . . . that . . ." he trailed off, and she could hear the disappointment in his voice. Slowly, the Lieutenant's head turned to see him standing in the doorway, holding up the roses and looking at them in contemplation. What was he doing? Before she could wonder for long, his dark eyes met hers as he walked across the space. Roy put the red roses on her desk and on top of her writing, beating her to speaking when the shock spread across her features, "No arguments, Lieutenant. I want you to have them . . . my date canceled, something about having to stay late at work. I'm sure I can send her some more another day . . ."
Her jaw dropped open in shock and stayed that way, only moving to utter words again once his explanation had finished and he had turned to leave, "Oh . . ."
Roy stopped in the doorway, his hand on the knob, "Good night . . . Lieutenant."
"Good night . . . Roy."
He was gone, leaving her staring at the roses in the fading daylight.
Slowly, it sunk into Riza that the gift of the flowers shouldn't have been as shocking as it was. They weren't meant for her, but for another woman as he kept pointed out so clearly, making a chill spread over her skin. For a wild moment, she thought of throwing the roses out as she lifted them from her desk, counting the odd number blooms, "Twenty-three . . . he can't even get two dozen right."
She frowned, still thinking about the trashcan at the side of her desk when a glint of bright white caught her eye. Her frown deepened. It was a note for another woman that wasn't her. And yet, she couldn't suppress her curiosity at whom the roses were originally meant for. Hayate murmured at the crunch of tissue paper being pulled out of the way, the dog-tags on his collar rattling as he stood up from his spot at her feet. Riza pushed away from the desk and reached deep into the bundle of flowers, finally pulling the card free.
The crimson roses dropped from her hand and slid off her lap, forgotten at the sight of her name in cursive script. They were meant for her.
Fingers shaking slightly, she opened the card and read the rest. Her hands still shook when she folding it back over again, "He . . . he does love me . . ."
She stared down at the papers on her desk and then down further at bundle of roses fallen on the floor. In that instant, she made a choice that moments ago would have had her scolding herself.
She decided that the office work could wait till morning.
Riza scooped up the roses, her coat, and the rest of her things as quickly as she could, wasting no time her rush to leave. Her puppy followed, running past her and into the hallway once the door was open. Locking it behind her, she stopped, taking in the intoxicating, overwhelming scent of the flowers that filled her arms, "Happy Valentine's Day."