New and revised. I cut out most of the swearing and corrected some minor mistakes. If you find anything else, please, please, please point it out to me.
I do NOT own Pumpkin Scissors. Hope you like it!
Second Lieutenant Alice Malvin arrived at work and hour early, as always. Captain Hunks was already there, a large Golden Retriever lying in front of his desk, sleeping. She grinned at Mercury. Sure, he had a knack for biting the wrong people at the wrong time, but every now and again he'd get the timing and the person just right, like on Corporal Randel Oland's first day with Section Three. He also seemed to like the taste of the corporal's head and could often be found hanging on to it by his teeth. Oland didn't seem to mind. Mercury also enjoyed a special bond with Section Three's sergeant major, Lili Stecchin. As if on cue, Stecchin walked in to the room with a tray and two tea cups.
"Good morning, captain, I brought you some tea!" she announced. Then she turned to Alice. "I got you some too, ma'am."
Alice smiled thankfully, set her tea on her desk, and started on her paperwork after greeting both the captain and the sergeant major.
A quarter of an hour later, Sub-Lieutenant Martis walked through the door, hung his jacket over his chair, greeted everyone and bent over his paperwork as well.
Five minutes before the shift started, Corporal Randel Oland burst into the room, started apologizing for being late, looked at the clock, apologized for apologizing for being late, muttered something that sounded like "good morning," sat down, and ran a hand along the scar that stretched from under one eye and over his nose to under his other eye before picking up his pen.
One hundred and eighty seconds after that, Alice put her pen down. She hadn't been able to concentrate since Oland had entered. She stared at the clock. And stared. And stared some more. The moment it showed half past seven, she stood up, shouted, "HE'S LATE," and started pacing the room. Oland and Martis sighed. They knew trying to work would be futile until Sub-Lieutenant Oreldo decided to show, so they stood up and placed themselves on either side of Alice, halting her steps. Anything to stop her almost daily march through their office. When they had resolved to let nature take its course for a while, she had patrolled ruthlessly from precisely seven thirty until Oreldo showed up (which was at least two and a half hours total a week) with such ferocity that she was forced to buy a new pair of boots by the end of the month, distracted them from their work effectively, woke Mercury and caused the pooch to get really, really upset to the point where he would start trotting nervously from desk to desk, whining all the way. The soles of her boots had left a dark path where she had loped – in the same exact extent and area – every morning for the better part of three weeks; the floor was stained permanently. Captain Hunks had to bring an extra packet of tobacco every day until he finally ordered Oland and Martis to stop her at all costs so he could focus on the paper.
On the other side of the door, Oreldo sighed. He knew he was late. He'd have to stop in the doorway to avoid walking right into the lieutenant's dagger, but then anybody nearby would hear him getting told off again. Oh well, he thought, it's not like they're not used to it by now. He braced himself and opened the door. As expected, the point of a blade was right in front of his nose.
When she noticed the doorknob turn, Alice drew her weapon and held it towards the door. After her subordinate had stood there for a few seconds, crossing his eyes to keep track of the lethal edge, she proceeded to lecture him with her usual speech, jabbing her dagger forwards with every sentence she completed. Oreldo took small steps back to avoid being skewered. Just as Alice got to the "now repeat after me," part, Captain Hunks broke in.
"Do you remember that meeting I had nearly a week ago?"
Oreldo threw him a grateful look. Alice took a break and glared at him. "Well, what about it?" she growled.
Hunks raised a brow, amused. "Before I say anything else, I need you three –," he pointed at Oland, Martis, and Oreldo, "– to hold Lieutenant Malvin back and keep her from drawing her knife."
Alice was getting slightly pissed. "Just TELL us already, old man," she snarled.
Her subordinates just nodded at their captain. Oreldo and Martis each grabbed and arm and Oland twisted her dagger out of her hand, peeling her fingers away separately, before laying it on a table out of Alice's reach. Then he braced a shoulder on her stomach and wrapped his arms around her waist. This distracted her a bit – well, A LOT to be honest. This confused her a bit, because usually when she really got going, not much could distract het, particularly not physical contact. Or could it? Alice decided she would contemplate that later.
Hunks waited a few more moments before continuing. "Well, Major Connery wanted to talk to us about this year's dance."
At this point, Alice had already tensed up completely. The three men tightened their grip.
"Sections Four, Seven, and Eight will be doing the preparations."
Now Alice was starting to test her subordinates' hold. If they didn't have to do anything, why did he have to tell them to hold her back?
"It will take place in the library, as usual, but there are two things I need to tell all of you."
She was yanking on one arm, then the other, and then trying to stomp on Martis's and Oreldo's feet, albeit without success.
"First of all, it is scheduled for tomorrow evening."
Now Alice had lifted up her legs, so she was suspended in the air between the three men and was trying to kick Oland halfheartedly, but then she swung her leg around and hit Oreldo's shin full force. He gasped and loosened his grip. She pulled her arm free, but Martis caught it expertly and twisted both behind her back, just far enough to hurt if she moved.
"And second, you won't be wearing your dress uniforms."
Alice stopped putting up a fight and eyed Hunks carefully, wearily.
"You will be wearing your own formal clothes. Dresses for the women and suits for the men."
Oh. So that's why he told them to hold me back, Alice thought, surprisingly calm for the situation.
"And I was the one who suggested it."
After a moment of shock, Alice began struggling again desperately, completely ignoring the pain in her arms and shoulders.
"GIVE ME MY DAGGER," she screamed. Mercury, who did not take kindly to being woken, realized that she was extremely angry and had a fairly high homicide potential. He put his front paws on the table that held her weapon, grabbed the hilt in his mouth, and ran out the door. Alice fought harder. "YOU STUPID MUTT! GET YOUR FURRY ANIMAL BEHIND BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!"
Hunks was searching his desk for something. Oreldo had recovered from the lieutenant's kick and had grasped her arm again. "Sir? What are you looking for?" he asked.
"You'll see. Damn, I thought I brought some in this morning," the captain muttered under his breath. "Ah, here it is." He pulled a syringe from a drawer.
"Sedative! That's brilliant, sir," Oreldo called as Alice redoubled her efforts to break free.
Hunks walked up to his second-in-command and carefully injected the fluid into her upper arm. After a few more moments, her eyes rolled back in her head and the men carried her back to her chair. Sergeant Major Stecchin had watched the whole episode grinning like a maniac.
Alice sat in her room, silently fuming. It was a military dance, so she was technically required to wear her dress uniform. This rule had made it easy for her to avoid her sisters' dress up sessions in the past. Now on the other hand, she might as well take the day off tomorrow. It had been bad enough when they had arranged that date with Lord Schulz. A dress! A dress, for Heaven's sake! It had been uncomfortable and stuffy and she had barely made it to Lord Ian's castle when she did because of it. And then Lord Lionel showed up and dragged her off to some random ball after pulling off a few cliché remarks. Schulz, being the ridiculous idiot he was, started pathetically shouting at her fiancé about how they were even and how Alice hadn't chosen between them yet. Damn, she hated arranged marriages. She hated nobles, for that matter, even if she was one herself. Her troops (all three of them) had smiled slightly and tiredly from arresting Ian, but she thought she saw a tiny spark of something else in Corporal Oland's eyes ever since she had introduced Lionel as her fiancé. He didn't seem aware of it.
The ball had been one long and horrible nightmare. Thank God the engagement had been canceled eventually, or the rest of her life would have been like this. Sure, Lionel was better than Schulz, but that wasn't exactly difficult. She liked neither. She just couldn't be herself with them like she was at work and on missions, couldn't muster up the energy to draw her dagger and charge at something or yell at someone. Sometime she just needed a nice good fight. Or a girl chat with Stecchin or a quiet talk with that big, hard-headed, reckless, awkward, shy, dark-haired, scarred, (sometimes) smart, sweet, gentle, amazingly brave and handsome wardrobe of a man generally known as Corporal Randel Oland. Realizing that she was daydreaming – and about her corporal, no less! – Alice groaned and had the peace of mind to slam her head against the wall. Things like this had been happening regularly ever since he had offered to share his body heat with her ("like sheep", he said) in the mountains – after whispering with Oreldo for a while, he had come up to her and stuttered awkwardly until she told him to just spit it out already. That was the first time she'd had that wonderful, warm, fuzzy feeling she now had whenever she enjoyed his company. When she thought he'd sacrificed himself for the mission shortly afterwards (he did ignore orders sometimes, especially if they involved putting her in danger, as they often did) and hadn't been able to see him across that ravine in the mountains, she'd been ready to die the moment she finished shouting out to the world what and idiot he was. But when he'd answered back from a few feet under her, she could've kissed hi – urgh. She buried her head in her pillow and let out a frustrated, yet muffled yell.
Screw Hunks, she thought angrily. Despite the round trip her mind had taken, she was still mad as hell. She took a few deep breaths, and when she'd calmed down enough, she got ready for bed, complained to her pillow what a torture the next day was going to be, and tried to go to sleep.
When Alice opened her eyes groggily, she was alone in the office. She shut her eyes again, against the light. Then the light went out.
"Too bright? Are you okay?"
Maybe she wasn't alone after all. She blinked her eyes open a second time and saw a hulking figure sitting on the chair next to hers. Ignoring Oland's questions, she asked, "Where are the others?"
He grinned. "The team considered it to be safer if only I was in here when you woke up. They said I was the only one who had even the slightest chance of keeping you calm after that episode. 'The Malvin Whisperer', that's what they called me. Do you remember anything? We had to sedate you."
Now Alice was pissed again. "YOU SEDATED ME!?"
"Well, no, we didn't – the captain did, but- "
"Did he say anything afterwards that might save his life?" she broke in.
"Well, he muttered something about an overreaction and Oreldo mentioned something about PMS- "
"That's it, they're both dead. Where the heck are they?" She reached for her belt. "And where did you put my dagger? Which reminds me, Merc better run if he's anywhere near."
"Ah, your dagger. Ummm, well… Stecchin decided to lock it up for a bit, at least till you've calmed down a bit."
"What're they trying to do, turn me into a serial killer? She's gonna follow those two good-for-nothing idiots. Gimme your gun," she demanded in her usual don't-fuck-with-me tone.
"What?" Alice sounded completely surprised. "Look, Corporal, that was an order. Now hand it over!" Her anger was obviously returning.
He slammed his heels together, standing at attention. His eyes stared straight ahead, boring into a spot in the wall behind her, a good two and a half feet above her head. "Sorry, MA'AM! I have orders from above to not give you any weapons, MA'AM!" he barked. His posture relaxed and he said politely, "Also, Captain Hunks gave you the rest of today and also tomorrow off, so I'm sorry, but I don't have to accept orders from you, Lieutenant."
Alice's eyes narrowed to slits. "Randel Oland, are you mocking me?" Somehow she overheard the faint giggling coming from the general vicinity of the couch.
He grinned openly, a playful spark bouncing around in his usually serious storm-grey eyes. "Maybe."
She swatted his arm, a small smile forming on her face against her will. "You so are."
"Yep, I am," he admitted cheerfully. "Come on, the captain told me to take you out to lunch, Section Three's paying. Then I'm to walk you home and give you something to do until tomorrow evening, maybe buy you a book or something on the way, also courtesy of Section Three."
A muffled choking sound came from their superior's desk. Alice perked up. "Did you hear something, Corporal?"
Said man had already grabbed both of their jackets and suddenly looked up. "Wha- oh, no, ma'am. Did you?" he asked, somewhat distractedly.
"I don't know. Maybe I'm getting paranoid." She grinned at him. "So where are we eating?"
He smirked back. "Wherever you want, milady. The budget is open to anything. Shall we?"
"We shall, my lord," she joked. The pair awkwardly linked arms and marched out the door before deciding that their position was too uncomfortable due to their difference in height. They released each other and blushed, not sure what had come over them.
Back in the office, several people crawled out from under diverse furniture. The door to a broom cupboard opened and a dog came racing out, followed by a somewhat confused dark-haired woman.
"Was that what I think it was?" said woman asked the other occupants of the room.
Two of them nodded and answered her question even though it was meant rhetorically. "They are so in love. That was some flirting session!" shouted the tall blonde one. The smaller black-haired one just smiled conspiratorially and pushed his glasses up his nose, causing the light to glint off the lenses.
A third, older male seemed dazed. "One and a half days off – lunch – book – budget open – what!? I didn't clear any of this!" he muttered.
"Aww, let them have their fun, at least she spared your life! And he made her forget the whole ordeal, at least for now," the woman said.
At approximately three o'clock, Alice decided it was pointless. She would never be able to sleep, not tonight. She got dressed quietly and snuck out of the mansion through her window, well aware that waking her sisters or father would bring more dispute between her and her family than there was already. She left the grounds and wandered around town until she stood in front of the barracks. She was shocked.
"Whoa. Not here. Not now. Just nothing that has anything to do with the dance or Oland. I took a walk to clear my head, not to stuff it full with worries about tomorrow – well, this evening – and distracting thoughts about Randel," she murmured to herself.
She was referring to him by his first name just like that? Sure, she'd done so to his face, but that was always when she was worried or annoyed. She'd even done so once when he'd walked her home after lunch. She realized that now. It had seemed so normal, so natural, for her to say his name. Alice grimaced. He must've noticed. That was going to be so embarrassing the next time she saw him. She needed to stop this, and fast. She had no idea how to get her mind off it permanently, so she dragged herself to the nearest river.
Alice sat and stared. Her hair was dripping, but soaking her head only seemed to spur on thoughts about her corporal.
Her corporal. She liked the sound of that, but she knew it was just wishful thinking.
She got up and turned to walk to the stairs next to the bridge she'd been sitting under. Suddenly she tripped over something. It was soft but firm. Maybe and animal?
"Mew," that something said, staring up at her. She looked down and saw about half a dozen cats surrounding her, mewling at her, pacing around her, walking towards her, stopping, and backing up again. Maybe they sense Mercury on me. Alice fondly thought of their courier dog.
All of a sudden, she heard something big move under the bridge. Alice tensed instinctively, prepared to draw her dagger (which she'd found wrapped in a cloth on her doorstep with a note from Stecchin: Please spare us, Miss Alice) and fight whatever it was.
"What's wrong, you guys?" a deep male voice asked groggily.
Oh HELL no! Not now, anytime, just PLEASE NOT NOW! Please don't find me here – wait, what's HE doing here anyway? It's the middle of the night! Why did-
"Lieutenant? What are you doing here in the middle of the night? And, um, why are you so wet?" Corporal Randel Oland asked awkwardly. "You look… lost."
OH MY FUCKING GOD, WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN!? FIRST THOSE DAMN BARRACKS – THOSE WERE BAD ENOUGH! AND NOW RANDEL – I have to stop doing that – I MEAN THE CORPORAL! I WANT TO CLEAR MY HEAD, NOT CRAM IR FULL OF WORRIES, NERVOUSNESS, AND THE FACT THAT I LOVE THE CORPORAL! Wait, WHAT WAS THAT!?
"I'm, ummm, well you see – er… um. Justwaitasecondalright? Thanks." Alice almost ran back to the water. Then she stuck her head in up to her shoulders once again and screamed.
After that, she waited.
And waited some more.
Just as her brain started forming coherent thoughts, her breath started running out and she felt two strong hands on her shoulders, pulling her up. "Are you alright?" Oland asked worriedly as he helped her sit against the side of the bridge.
He's probably more worried about my sanity than my physical health right now, Alice thought. And to be honest, so am I. he's my subordinate, my coworker. I can't afford to, well, fall for him, and seeing how he's kinda my best friend, I can't tell him because that might mean losing him completely. Damn, I hate clichés like this, but when they happen in real life it's even worse than it is in books or movies.
She snapped out of it. "I'm sorry, Corporal?"
"I asked, are you alright?"
Suddenly Alice wanted to scream something along the lines of, "NO, I BLOODY WELL AM NOT ALRIGHT! I JUST REALIZED I AM IN LOVE WITH MY CORPORAL; HOW COULD I BE ALRIGHT AFTER THAT?! AND THEN I NEARLY DROWNED MYSELF IN A FUCKING RIVER AND THERE'S A FUCKING DANCE TOMORROW AND I CAN'T WORM OUT OF A FUCKING MAKEOVER SESSION BY MY SISTERS THIS TIME BECAUSE OF THAT DAMN CAPTAIN! DOES THAT ANSWER YOUR QUESTION?!"
Instead she just swallowed and muttered, "I guess."
He looked extremely doubtful but didn't pursue the subject. "You want a towel?"
She stared at him. "Um, sure. You got one?"
"Obviously. Would I have asked if I didn't? Do you want anything to drink? I don't have anything to eat, besides cat food, that is," he said naturally.
She was now thoroughly confused. "Er… why not?"
He filled a cup with water from his military canteen and handed it to her along with a towel from his bag.
She hastily buried her head in the latter and hoped he hadn't noticed the no-so-faint blush that now adorned her cheeks. She thanked him through the coarse material. Suddenly she realized the towel smelled like him. Alice's face turned even redder than it already was and sighed slightly. Then she felt just the tiniest pressure in her lap, uncovered the top half of her face so she could see, and promptly came eye-to-eye with a black-and-white cat. She stared at it for a moment in shock before she squealed and recoiled so quickly she hit her head on the brick wall of the bridge.
Oland looked at her. The feline was now curled up in her lap, looking extremely happy with itself. "Are you sure you're alright? You seem a little jumpy, Lieutenant." The smile in his voice was unmistakable.
She glared back. "And what's so funny, Corporal? I nearly had a heart attack."
"Oh, don't worry. Slippers does that to everyone, and so far they've all survived. I fell for it a few times at first, too, though I suspect he was rather intrigued by the color of your face." He now openly grinned.
She just grunted in response and buried her face in the towel again after a final glare. So he had noticed, in spite of the darkness. Hopefully he'd put it down to the water temperature. Then a thought came to her. "Wait a minute. Slippers? That creepster cat is yours?"
His eyebrow went up, his face showing clearly what he was thinking. Duh. "Would he be here if he wasn't?"
"So Oreldo didn't tell you? Knowing him, I was almost sure the entire army would know by now. I was kinda wondering when the first person would come tease me."
"I kinda still don't know what you're talking about. Get to the point, Randel." Here his first name was okay; he really was worrying her, what with the dramatic sigh he'd just released and everything.
Another sigh came from him. "Well, frankly, I'm here in the middle of the night because I've got nowhere else to go." He eyed her carefully, watching her reaction, expecting her to just get up, leave and get him fired. His heart dropped down to his stomach when she stood up, knocking Slippers off her legs.
And yet, instead of turning and marching off into the night, she took a couple steps toward him before settling down again right next to him, her shoulder pressing against his side. "You want help looking for an apartment? There's a couple cheap ones not all too far from the office, you know."
He looked completely and absolutely touched for a moment before his face cleared and he looked at his cats. "Well, yeah, but they don't allow pets," he said, picking up a pure white kitten and placing it on his lap.
She grinned. "I could pull some strings, you know."
He stared. "You'd do that? For me?" he said incredulously.
Alice rolled her eyes. "Of course I would, you idiot. Gotta make sure my subordinates are housed properly, don't I?" she smirked.
"Oh," was all he said, sounding slightly disappointed.
Alice could've smacked herself. All she'd meant to do was loosen the tension up a bit, but it looked like she was no good at things like that. She sighed. "You wanna go for a walk or something?"
"Sure, where to?" His voice lightened considerably.
"I don't really know this area. I was just randomly wandering around town when I decided I might need to soak my head to clear it."
"At three thirty in the morning?" he raised a brow doubtfully.
"Um, yeah. I kinda couldn't sleep. So I snuck out my window and here I am. The soaking part only worked halfway, though," she admitted.
"I noticed," he remarked. "And you weren't worried you'd catch a cold?"
"Errr…," she stared at him. A cold had been the last thing on her mind. She cursed quietly. "You know, not all my ideas are as thoroughly thought out as yours."
His eyebrow went up again, but he left the topic alone. "How about that walk?"
As they trudged side by side, Oland showing her the way, they talked about anything from their latest mission to the pros and cons of shoelaces and coats with buttons. Then Alice suddenly stopped.
"Say, Corporal, what are you wearing tomorrow – I mean, this evening?"
He halted a few paces away and turned to face her. "What?"
"The dance. Remember? Hunks announced it yesterday morning, right before I had that tantrum."
"… Oh, crap."
She groaned. "Please don't tell me you forgot. It's gonna be hard enough even if everyone's there. Do you have anything you could improvise with?"
"Not really. Unless you count a turtleneck sweater and a jacket as formal." To his credit, he really did look ashamed.
Alice grinned like the Cheshire Cat. "In that case, you and I are going shopping this morning."
He eyed her, unsure if that was good or bad. He decided on bad when he realized something. "But I don't have any money. I kinda, well, spent it. On cat food. And if I get a bank loan, I'll never be able to pay it back. And I-"
"Listen, you blabbermouth, it's on me, alright?"
He stared at her, alienated. "But I-"
"Don't you dare say you can't pay me back. Showing up tonight is enough." Damn, did I really just say that? "I mean, ummm… never mind. The stores open at eight. You, um, wanna come over for breakfast or something?" She took a step to the side so he couldn't see her beet red face illuminated by the streetlight.
Oland's hand went to the back of his head as he started stuttering. "I-I really, um, I m-mean, s-s-sure, i-if it's no t-trouble, I g-guess." He started walking again.
Alice matched her pace to his, relieved. "Oh, and, er, we're gonna have to climb in through my window, seeing as I'm not really supposed to be out. And I'll have to get the food while you wait in my room." Telling him this was the truly awkward part. "My family should be asleep till about six thirty, so we should be quiet, because if we wake them up, they'll only decide to lock me up again." She crossed her eyes. "I just wish they'd let me live my own life for a change, but noooooo, I'm a noble and should live as such," she imitated. "I don't even get a goddamn choice."
Realizing she was rambling, she turned to apologize. But he was no longer next to her. She sighed and searched the street behind her, hoping he hadn't decided to run. He's not that type of man, she reminisced. Her thought was confirmed when her eyes found him standing behind a lamp post, rubbing his head. Completely confused, she walked back again.
"Um, what happened?" Did he walk into the pole or what?
"After that first part I kinda forgot to watch where I was going," he mumbled sheepishly.
You're kidding me. He really did! "Sorry about that," she told him.
"About what?" he frowned.
"Well… you know. Rambling and not noticing you'd walked into the lamp post," Alice explained.
"Don't worry about it. That happens to everybody every now and then." He grinned. "Happened to me with my old captain with the 901st A.T.T.; nearly put me on laundry duty for a week," he chuckled.
"Oh." She clicked her tongue against her teeth and shook her head, as if she were to tell him off. "Bitter."
"You could say that." He threw a sideways glance at her. They'd passed the barracks and Alice had silently taken over the lead, though they were still side by side.
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"You should be happy you didn't know him; he smoked like a chimney, ate a lot of garlic, sweated like a pig, and never washed his feet. Washing his clothes would be a nightmare. Enemies ran for their lives when they smelled him coming. Plus, the food he made us cook was absolutely disgusting. I won't tell you what it tasted like."
"Oh, come on. I don't have that weak a stomach."
"Trust me, you don't want to know."
"Yes, I know, there isn't much you can't handle, but if you really want to know, at least wait until after the dance. We don't want our LT to have to call in sick, now do we? Like you said, it'll be hard enough even with everybody there," he smirked.
She huffed and looked away from him. "Fine, I'll wait. But you have to tell me after the dance, deal?"
Oland grimaced. He didn't have much of a choice, now did he? "Deal," he sighed.
So that was the first chapter. Please review and tell me what you thought of it! Chapter 2 is in progress and will probably not be as long as this one. Might take a while for me to update, still trying to figure a lot out for Chap. 2.