Author's note: I do not own Pumpkin Scissors or its characters. This is set after the end of the anime.

The Heart of the Matter

Sitting around a makeshift fire somewhere in the middle of no where was probably not how most women dreamed of spending Valentine's Day, even if they were in the military. Still, Alice had to admit that she was happy. Had she been home, she knew that she probably would have been bundled off on some uncomfortable Valentine's date with Lionel. He would have probably showered her with flowers, jewelry, and chocolate, and it all would have been very romantic by all standards. She just didn't think it would suit her very well.

Instead, Alice was huddled next to Corporal Oland by the fire. The others were busy setting up the tent that they thankfully had with them. The snow had been unexpected, and at the moment, the road was rather impassible. Still, they did have food and shelter, so things would probably work out.

"Ma'am?" Oland's voice was soft. "Take this."

Alice took the mug he held out to her, noting the slight flush across his cheeks when their gloved hands touched. Steam was rising from the mug, and Alice didn't hesitate to take a sip. Her eyes widened in delighted surprise, and her lips curved into a smile. She had been expecting coffee, but this was even better. She didn't know where Oland had gotten the hot chocolate, but Alice wasn't about to complain. It was a rare treat.

"Thank you."

He smiled back at her. "You're welcome, ma'am."

The two of them sat in comfortable silence as Martis and Oreldo swore at the tent as they put it up. No, this was not most women's dream of how to spend Valentine's Day. But it suited Alice quite well. She was doing work that she loved and believed. She was surrounded by people who she trusted and cared about and who understood her. At least some of the time. But the heart of the matter was this was where she belonged and felt at home. And that exactly where she wanted to be.