She wrote him twenty-five love letters; twelve of them while she was drunk, three while he was giving a report in her office and she said she was writing notes, and ten the day after she received her orders to take on the Arcobaleno curse. She would get drunk and stamp them, only to wake up the next morning with them in her trashcan. The only solace she had was that she was just as much of a coward drunk as she was sober.
She half considered burning them, but never could and instead placed each one in a box hidden in the bottom drawer of her desk, next to her secret stash of licorice and bourbon. She never read them after writing them, too embarrassed by the flirtatious analogies and purple prose. She had an ink stain on her hand once from falling asleep on a half finished letter, a sloppy 'taste of your' marked on her palm. She had scrubbed it off the best she could, but later had to change the exercise schedule to boxing to keep Colonello from seeing. That alone kept any curiosity at bay.
Which is why when she walked into her office a week before the curse to see Colonello with his feet on her desk and a piece of licorice in one hand and her box of letters in the other, she could feel her heart freeze up in her chest.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Colonello looked up, and she couldn't see his usual half-smirk at the corners of his lips. She stuttered for a moment, before speaking up again.
"What are you doing Colonello? Get your boots off my desk!"
"Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?" he said quietly, slowly. She blinked, then couldn't help the slight flush.
"It's none of your business! I'm taking leave and that's that! I don't have to tell you anything, I'm your superior officer, now get your feet off my desk!"
He moved back, putting his feet on the floor to stand. She took a step back as he moved forward, eyes locked with hers.
"Bullshit, kora," he spat, "I know you better than anyone else in this whole goddamn army. I've seen you laugh, I've seen you scream, I've seen you bleed and then stand right back up and wipe it off like it's nothing. You don't hide anything from me, kora, you've never tried. You never hold back. I'm always there Lal, I know—"
" Don't call me that!" she ordered instinctively, "Don't act so familiar with me! Sure, you're always around, but that's because I'm training you and I can't shake you even if I tried! Don't put more importance—"
His hands dropped the box of letters and licorice on the floor and before she could scold him again he was pinning her to the door, his lips over hers. She let out a muffled noise of protest, beating her hands against his chest. He grabbed her wrists, holding them in an iron grip as his tongue traced the seam of her mouth. She growled, and her knee jerked up, connecting with his groin. Colonello yelped and jumped back, looking at her in shock.
"What the hell, kora?"
"Fuck you!" she screamed, and she was mortified by the tears she could feel welling up, "Fuck you! You don't know anything!"
He moved to touch her again, and her hand wrapped around his wrist before she twisted his arm behind his back, slamming him against the door she was just pinned to a minute prior.
"You have no idea," she hissed in his ear, "You don't know anything. You're just a kid."
"That's not what you said in your letters," he grunted, voice tight with pain. Her eyes widened and she pulled harder on his arm, "Ow!"
"I never want to see you again," she said lowly, voice venomous in his ear. She let her grip loosen and he turned around.
"Get out!" she yanked open the door and pushed him out, "You're lucky I'm not an officer anymore, or I'd strip you of every rank you ever even dreamed of having!"
She slammed the door, locking it with a scream. She snatched the box off the floor, tearing off the lid. She took the bundle of letters, snapping the rubber band she used to bind them in the process, as she gripped them between her hands, pulling. The letters began to tear, and for some reason, she hesitated. She slumped to the floor, opening the first letter with trembling fingers.
She choked as she saw the carefully folded paper, a slanted, dizzying scrawl that covered the entire page. It was three words, repeated over and over again, line after line.
I love you.