A.N. What is it with me and thinking of ideas for holiday stories only days or months after the fact? I suck at deadlines. And I have no idea how, but even though this started out as something cute between the Elrics and Hawkeye, it somehow morphed into a Royai story halfway through. Huzzah.

Fragile Things


Hawkeye looked up from her work, surprised to see the Elric brothers standing before her desk. She hadn't had much interaction with the boys since the elder brother joined the military several months ago. Al had been a little more open, chatting with her and the others during his brother's briefings, but Ed had just turned in his report earlier that morning. They should have no reason to be back in the office so soon, especially since the colonel was out to lunch at the moment.

"Yes?" Hawkeye said, setting her pen down. "Do you boys need something?"

"Um," Ed mumbled, shuffling his feet and taking a quick peek around the office as if to assure himself that it was occupied by only the three of them. He had the oddest look on his face, a little like he was in pain, and his hands were shoved behind his back and keeping something out of sight. Behind him, Al gently nudged his brother forward. Ed shot him an aggravated look and finally faced Hawkeye square on.

"We, uh…have something…for you."

"For me?" Hawkeye repeated, nonplussed. "Well, what is it?"

Ed's only response was a grunt as a faint splash of color came to his cheeks. Hawkeye looked at Al quizzically, but he seemed equally self-conscious as he and his brother traded whispers back and forth swiftly.

"You say it, I don't want to. It's too embarrassing…"

"But you have to give that to her first!"

"This was your idea in the first place!"

"Don't chicken out now, Brother!"

"Boys," Hawkeye said sharply, and they both jumped. "I have work to do so if this isn't important perhaps it should wait for another time…"

"No, it is!" Ed insisted and seemed to regret speaking up when she focused on him. He dithered for a moment longer before he gave up and sucked in a deep breath. In one swift motion he brought his hands out from behind him and thrust a small stone pot in her face. A pot that was filled with dark soil and overflowing with bunches of green leaves and tiny purple flowers. Or they might have been a very deep blue. It was difficult to tell.

Hawkeye took the offering, unable for the moment to think of what to say. The flowers looked so small and fragile that she was astounded they hadn't come to harm from Ed's rough handling. "These are…for me?"

"Yeah, do you like them?" Al said earnestly, though he still sounded nervous. "I know people usually give roses, but violets are supposed to grow well indoors as long as they're taken care of."

"No point in buying flowers just to watch 'em rot in a vase," Ed asserted with a disdainful snort.

"But what are they for?"

Al's shoulders slumped a little. "They're for Valentine's day. Oh no, did we get the day wrong?"

Ed crossed his arms and shrugged, lowering his gaze to the violets. "It's just…we noticed you didn't get anything when we were in earlier. Everyone else had chocolates or cards or something. And well…our mother never got anything either so we kind of took it on ourselves to always bring her flowers. I mean, it's Valentine's day, you know? Every girl—er, woman—should get something."

"Oh," Hawkeye said, so amazed at the sentiment that no words would come. She touched the delicate petals with her fingertips, smiling at the light and sweet fragrance that was neither overpowering nor indiscernible. She had never been very fond of flowers, but if she had to pick then these were perfect. They weren't very conspicuous, but they still caught the eye in a subtle way and just looking at the color made her feel very tranquil.

"You do like them, don't you?" Al inquired, and Hawkeye's heart ached a little at the boyish anxiety. It wasn't in her nature to gush over such a silly gift, but their thoughtfulness touched her. She could hardly remember a time when someone had given her a gift for the sole purpose of making her happy, and the knowledge that they were casting her in the same light as their lost mother cultivated a tender, protective instinct she hadn't known she possessed. It made her feel so appreciated, so loved.

Now she thought she could understand what other women felt when their children handed them a scribbled drawing and they tacked it up on the wall to admire. It wasn't the drawing itself they cherished. It was the smiles of their children.

Hawkeye stood up and moved around the desk. Ed kept his eyes resolutely on the floor, trying and failing to feign indifference while Al wrung his hands fretfully. She surprised them both when she put her hands on Ed's shoulders and leaned down to give him a soft kiss on the cheek. Ed touched his face tentatively, watching with wide eyes as she took Al's hand and coaxed him to lean down so she could do the same for him.

"Thank you, boys," Hawkeye said warmly, looking from one to the other. "I love them. I promise I'll take care of them."

"O-Okay," Ed managed to choke out as the blush deepened and spread to the rest of his face. He and Al looked at one another, speechless.

"I hope you got a gift for your friend too," Hawkeye remarked, arranging the pot in a way that wouldn't interfere with her work. "The one in Resembool."

Utter silence. Without warning the brothers bolted for the door and stampeded down the hallway, their voices clearly audible.

"Damn it, I didn't even think of that—!"

"Is there even time to find a gift?"

"Jewelry! We'll grab the first pair of earrings we find and overnight them!"

"But we'll still be a day late!"

"She can't say we didn't try—oof!"

"Ouch! Watch where you're going, Fullmetal. You're quite easy to overlook."

"Oh, you want to talk about overlooking people? Even I notice her more than you do!"

"Excuse me…?"

"Sorry, Colonel! Brother, wait up!"

Mustang stumbled into the office, throwing an irritated look over his shoulders. Halfway to his desk, he paused midstep. His head tilted to the side, nostrils flaring when they caught an unfamiliar scent. Mustang raised an eyebrow when he saw the violets on her desk, looking from her to them and back again. "Where did those come from?"

Hawkeye looked at them fondly. "Ed and Al gave them to me."

His face screwed up a little in consternation. "I, ah…thought you didn't like getting gifts for Valentine's day," Mustang said, his tone mildly accusatory. "At least that's what you told me…"

"I thought so too," Hawkeye said simply and picked up her coat. "I'm going to lunch now, sir."

The colonel's answer was absentminded, his confusion tangible as he kept staring at the flowers. And then, just as Hawkeye reached the door, he smiled. "Those brothers have good intuition. Do you know what violets represent in the language of flowers?"

"No, sir. I don't."

Mustang walked up to her desk and pinched one of the violets between his fingers, examining it. "Faithfulness. Peace and virtue. A watchful and modest nature, and affection that can be either romantic or platonic. Someone who is willing to give all of their heart for a chance at happiness."

Once again, Hawkeye was left at a loss for words as she left. She pondered the violets and their hidden meaning all the way to the mess and continued to mull it over as she ate. It was ridiculous, but…somehow it made her love them all the more. Of course the flowers had had meaning before, but Hawkeye still returned from lunch in high spirits. And this time she didn't feel quite so sickened when she walked past open offices and saw desks cluttered with cards and chocolates and other lovey-dovey paraphernalia.

But some of the nausea returned when she opened the door and found her desk drowning under six elegant glass vases containing a dozen red and pink roses each. Hawkeye rescued her violets from the chaos, frowning at the petals strewn all over her desk. Her suspicions were confirmed when she noticed her superior watching her reaction with eyes half-lidded smugly. "You seem to have a secret admirer, Lieutenant," he said unconcernedly, chin propped in his hand.

Hawkeye picked up her phone and dialed swiftly. "Yes, Amy. Would you and the other secretaries be interested in some free roses? Yes, they're quite fresh, and I have them by the dozens."

"You're not keeping them?" Mustang exclaimed, the complacency wiped away in an instant.

"I can't get any work done in this mess," Hawkeye said, gesturing. "Moreover as this admirer has chosen to remain anonymous, I have no obligation to accept his gift."

"But—but those are expensive!"

Hawkeye narrowed her eyes, and Mustang sat back in his chair quickly, clearing his throat. "Uh…for him, I mean."

A knock came at the door and a line of women, and some men, filed in and carted the roses off several at a time. Some even took entire vases. The colonel observed the entire process in mild devastation and then proceeded to glare at Hawkeye as she brushed away the remaining petals briskly. She carefully removed the remaining vases to a far corner, replaced the violets on her desk and calmly resumed her work, not even looking up.

"You know, Lieutenant," Mustang grumbled. "Most women find it arousing when men compete for their affection."

"Most women are simple creatures," Hawkeye said evenly. "I have no desire to be pursued by a man that is feeling threatened by the Elric brothers, of all people. Insecurity is not a desirable trait."

Mustang cursed and stomped out of the office, muttering under his breath about the fickleness of the female species. Hawkeye paused in her writing and listened carefully to his footsteps growing fainter. Only once they had faded entirely did she open her desk drawer and pluck a pale pink rose from its confines, one she had managed to purloin without arousing suspicion. Hawkeye leaned back in her chair and twirled it between her fingers, carefully avoiding the thorns. It was such a silly thing. It was just a plant, one that had been given to her in a fit of jealousy and masculine pride. It should mean nothing more than the stalks of grass making up the lawn outside.

There was no excuse whatsoever for the way her lips curved into a small, secretive smile or the way her heart thumped just that little bit faster. Just one was all she needed. Really, it was a shame flowers were such fragile things, and especially roses. This one would probably die before the day was out even with a vase full of water.

But she still laid the rose on her desk to keep the violets company as she worked. And if the colonel noticed its presence when he returned, he at least had the wisdom to keep his satisfaction to himself.