Love in Any Season

Disclaimer: Don't own it. Wish I did, though…

A/N: You can think of this as a late Christmas fic, an early Christmas fic, or a right-on-time anytime fic. Please review – please note that gripes about the pairing will be disregarded and removed. Anything else is welcome. By the way, this is based in the cartoon.

Looking back, she supposed it began in spring.

Scarlett thought back over the past year with a smile. A year spent dating Conrad Hauser would make any girl smile.

She could easily call the beginning of her relationship with Duke to mind…

***************************

Lady Jaye came into the room at speeds usually associated with the Sky Strikers. It took Shana a moment to realize that what she'd imagined was a sonic boom was actually Allie talking fast enough to cause one.

"Whoa, slow down. Try syllables and sentences. I'm not so good with just picking out key words for my conversation."

Allie stopped for a moment, then restated, "Dash just got me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers! Roses and daisies and I don't know what else!"

Shana smiled. She'd known that Flint would probably do something like that. He was a romantic to the core. Now, if only some of that would rub off on a certain top sergeant…Ah, well, wishful thinking was all that was. Besides, she knew the rumor mill well enough to know that if anyone had seen him at a flower shop, it'd be all over the base by now. Well, a girl could dream…

Later that day, she literally ran into Conrad walking around a corner. As they got up, she noticed that he was holding satellite photos.

"Hey, can I see those?"

"Sure, I guess so. They aren't really significant to any of our missions."

She had to agree. There were three photos, and each showed terrain that she could see from her office window with a good pair of binoculars. In fact, she now realized that one of them was basically the view from her office window from a satellite perspective.

She handed them back and asked him, "Why are you looking at those?"

He was silent for a moment, then replied, "Just looking for places that are perfect for surprise attacks."

And with that, he walked off, leaving her to ponder the mysterious grin he'd had when he'd said that.

YO JOE!

She met up with him again at the entrance to the mess hall for an early dinner. She hadn't planned to have dinner with him, but she knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, he might say something flirty like last time, and she'd be able to pry his guards away long enough to find out how he thought of her.

They began chatting as they joined the line that had already begun to form. A couple of minutes passed, and suddenly Duke pointed over her shoulder. There was Wayne giving flowers to Courtney! Of all people!

She looked back over at him with a playful smile. "Okay, so where are mine?"

"Your what?" Duke asked innocently, though his face showed clearly that he knew exactly what she was referring to.

"My flowers, silly. Where are my flowers?"

Duke was momentarily saved from a reply by Ace's sudden spewing of his coffee. He'd caught only the last comment as he was taking his food to his seat. The hope on his face turned to disappointment as Alpine piped up from behind them. "Relax, Brad; false alarm. They're just bantering."

The exchange carried them to the point at which they collected their trays. Shana reached for a tray, but Conrad stopped her and simply nudged her forward. Confused, she decided to go along with it for now.

When they reached Roadblock behind the counter, he smiled and told Duke, "Here's the picnic supper you asked for."

Shana looked at him as he took the cooler full of food. He looked back at her, smiled again, and said, "Come on, and I'll answer your question."

Wordlessly, she followed him out to a waiting jeep, which he drove a short distance from the base…just within sight. He got out, grabbed the cooler and a duffel, and walked over the crest of the rolling hill she only now realized they were parked on. Curiosity got the better of her, and she took off after him.

He was setting out a blanket from the duffel when she got to him. He asked, "You were wondering where your flowers are? Well, ask and you shall receive." And he gestured out across the landscape before them. Shana looked out and saw fresh spring flowers covering the whole area. She walked over to the blanket, on which Conrad had already set out their dinner. He looked up and gestured to the spot next to him. As she sat down, she glanced back and realized that the base was out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind. she thought. She turned to view the flowers again and noticed that the sun was just now beginning to set.

The scene was truly beautiful.

She saw the food Conrad had selected for their outing and actually giggled in delight upon spotting some of her favorite picnic foods. Duke offered her a cold cut sandwich, made a second for himself, and began eating.

Shana took in what was happening. Duke was having a quiet, peaceful, romantic picnic dinner with her in a flowery field. She discreetly pinched herself to ensure that anything that developed wouldn't be interrupted by an alarm clock. "Ow!"

Conrad looked over. "What happened?"

Shana covered herself with a little white lie. "Oh, just a little discomfort. I can't seem to get comfortable like this."

Duke chuckled, "Well, unless you know a way to iron the ground without paving it, I'm afraid I can't help. Wish I could."

Shana had a sudden burst of inspiration. "Actually, sit still for a moment. I think you can." She proceeded to lean herself against him, laying her head back against his chest.

"Comfortable now?"

She smiled at his remark and replied, "Yup; I told you you could help."

They continued that way, conversing and joking, until the last of the food joined the last ray of sunshine in disappearing.

As they walked back into the base, Scarlett turned to Duke. "I had a great time, Conrad. We'll have to do it again sometime. Oh, and thanks for the flowers." And with a smile on her face, she headed down her corridor, stopping only when she reached her door to enter and wink back at Duke.

She went to sleep that night extremely happy, and dreamed of flowers, picnics, and spring love.

**********************************

Shana was nudged by Allie, who'd evidently asked her a question and run out of patience waiting for the answer. Realizing that she'd been busted in her reverie, she felt her cheeks warm, which, in turn, reminded her of another milestone in their relationship…