The State Army takes on the world's worst holiday. (State Army et al)
how fucking romantic
must we really waltz?
drag another cliche
howling from the vaults
"... A chauvinistic, deplorable, thinly-veiled excuse to engage in oblivious degradation, Sir, and I don't feel the men should be exposed to it. It ruins productivity for an entire day."
Roy Mustang lowered his report and raised his eyebrows, chin in hand. "You feel... rather passionately about this, don't you, Lieutenant?"
"Sir!" Hawkeye snapped her heels together, looking at some point far distant over the top of Roy's head. It was probably less a gesture of respect and more to avoid seeing the red foil boxes and piles of flowers that made it appear as though someone had thrown up an entire florist shop on her commander's desk. The pile had been more than respectable at eight when she arrived, but it had steadily grown throughout the morning, so that the Flame alchemist was now obliged to stand up if he wanted to be seen.
"I think the Lieutenant has a case of sour grapes, Sir." While the small pink notes in the cuffs of Havoc's jacket and the stack of chocolates were more than respectable on their own, his stash was practically invisible next to Roy's. "I notice she hasn't gotten anything."
"I have not gotten anything," Hawkeye said, biting off each word as though it was Havoc's head, "because anyone who knows me knows what I think of this sniveling excuse for this holiday and you, Soldier, are out of line." There were two bright pink spots on Hawkeye's cheeks as she turned crisply back to face the Colonel, and Havoc discreetly spat out the pieces of the cigarette he had bitten in half.
Roy and Havoc exchanged a look as best they could over Roy's pile of adoration, and the flame alchemist tossed his report aside with a small smile. "Well. While I sympathize with you, Hawkeye, I'm afraid it would be more trouble to stop than to just let it pass by. It's one day, and everybody will forget about it by tomorrow."
"Except Hawkeye," Havoc muttered, but had the good sense to be studiously reading a perfume-scented unsigned note when Hawkeye turned her famous stare on him.
"I'm afraid, Colonel," Hawkeye said, watching Havoc sideways like a bird of prey sizing up a mouse, "that I have taken suddenly ill, and will not be able to stay the remainder of the day. Permission to excuse myself."
"Permission denied," Roy said, cracking his knuckles and looking under a bouquet of roses for his pen. "There's lots to do today, Lt. Hawkeye, and I can't spare you. You'll just have to muddle through." He blew on his signature, folded the note over, and handed it to her. "Could you be so good as to take this down to Private Mackenzie? She sent the bourbon balls, and they're my favorite."
Roy was still thawing out when Edward Elric strode into the room past a furious Hawkeye making a frosty exit, note in hand. He took one look at Roy's desk and summed up his opinion on the day in general and the Colonel's admirers in particular.
"My sentiments exactly, Fullmetal," Hawkeye said, and slammed the door hard enough to knock Roy's State Alchemist certificate off the wall.
"Don't mind Hawkeye, Fullmetal, she's just suffering from an extremely loud biological clock." Roy held out his box. "Bourbon ball?"
Ed wrinkled his nose, peering at the box. "I think it's more likely she's suffering from a brain," he said. "The entire HQ has gone pink. It's like someone detonated a beaker of bismuth subsalicylate."
"Eh, you'll appreciate it when you're older," Havoc said, breathing in the scent from his favorite anonymous letter.
"That's something adults say," Ed replied thickly, through three chocolates, "when they're making asses of themselves in front of kids with better sense." He tilted his head towards the door. "Hawkeye's an adult, and she doesn't seem too keen on it."
"Ah." Roy stood up and tugged at his uniform jacket. "You do have a point there. I wonder what put her off on it?"
"Easy," Havoc said, spreading his hands and flicking a crumpled foil wrapper into Roy's wastebasket. "I would say from the age of twelve to sixteen she never got one lousy note or a single bon-bon, so that by the time she cut her hair off and graduated from the academy she was so bitter about the whole thing that the very notion of romance gives her indigestion. I've seen it before."
"Hmm." Roy picked up his certificate, carefully placing the shattered bits of glass back in the frame. "I suppose, as her commanding officer, I should do something about it. It really isn't good for her."
"Or for us," Havoc said, kissing the broken seal on his note and tucking it contentedly into his breast pocket. "I'll be surprised if we make it through the day alive."
"Wait," Roy said, brightening. "I think I have an idea. Fix this for me, would you Fullmetal, I don't feel like bothering with an array. Perhaps we can change her tune."
"What?" Havoc said, as Ed glowered at Roy and clapped his hands over the broken glass, "Hawkeye? Her only tune is a drill march, not a serenade. I think it might be a lost cause, sir."
Roy wagged a finger. "No no, not quite. I think there's hope yet, with a little bit of teamwork. What do you say, Fullmetal? You in?"
Ed shrugged, polishing the repaired glass with his sleeve. "Eh. Why not."
"Right!" Roy rubbed his hands. "Now, the first thing--" He was interrupted by the ringing phone on his desk. "Hold on a sec--" He put the receiver to his ear. "Colonel Mustang, East City Command." His military demeanor slipped, shoulders sagging. "Maes. I know you think I'm over here counting my toes out of boredom, but you just called me yesterday to tell me--No, I'm sure that every time she eats applesauce your daughter is a new miracle of nature, but getting through my day without you calling me to tell me so would be more of a miracle--Really. Yes. FAScinating, Maes, but I really have this--" Roy picked up a box of chocolates, scowled, and reached further for his report, "Just piles of things from the Brass I've got to get though today, and--" He stopped short, upside-down report dripping from his fingers. "What? ...You're WHERE?"
"Sir?" Havoc asked, as Roy slammed down the receiver, stomped across his office, and yanked the door open.
"Yo!" Hughes said, leaning in the doorway. "Thought I'd call before I dropped by."
"Lt. Colonel!" Ed said, pleased as much at Roy's sour expression as he was at seeing Hughes. "I thought you were in Central?"
"Hadn't you heard? I've been promoted to chief errand boy and bottle washer." Hughes smacked Roy in the chest with a manila envelope. "Here. Annual report, so damned classified I had to come down and bring it to you myself. And you don't have to say how glad you are to see me. I know you won't."
Roy didn't answer, slitting the flap on the envelope and skimming the top three lines of type. "Our ration usage is up .09%? This is classified?"
"Welcome to the army." Hughes dug through the pile on Roy's desk until he turned up a box of mixed chocolates. "And for this I had to leave both my sweethearts at home today, thanks to Colonel Roy 'Homewrecker' Mustang. I see your admirers have grown since last year. Moving to East HQ didn't seem to make a difference." He took a bite out of a piece of candy, shuddered, and put it back. "Blegh, lemon creme."
"Hmph." Roy flopped the report on top of his pile of love letters and a bundle of white roses with red ones cleverly arranged into his flame array. "I suppose you haven't got any of your own."
"I myself," Hughes said, tilting up his glasses, "have a modest turnout in spite of being away from home AND a married man."
"Seventeen," Havoc said, a challenging glint in his eye. "Top that."
"I happen to be sitting pretty on twenty-three, thank you very much," Hughes rooted around in Roy's chocolates some more, "not to mention I think mine have better taste in confections, unless this box is nothing but... ahh. There's a coconut one."
Roy reclaimed his chocolates and sat down in his desk chair. "What else are you around for, Maes? Or does Central want you back right away?"
"They probably do, not that I'm in any hurry. Why?" Hughes grinned. "You're up to something."
"Hawkeye," Ed said, stealing a chocolate that was likely to be caramel. "Her only idea of romance is a loaded pistol clip. Mm, that was pretty good--"
"Earn your own, Fullmetal, I work all year for this." Roy closed the lid of the box and put his elbow on it. "How about it, Maes, got time for a little romantic espionage?"
Hughes smirked. "The Investigations department is at your disposal, Colonel."
Hawkeye fumed down the hallway, boot heels ringing like gunshots. She was a sensible reminder of the still-winter weather in the midst of the artificial spring that was brought on by flowers on every desk and the barely restrained tittering from the steno pool.
Disgusting the way those grown men carried on, tallying numbers and scores as though romance were some vast game of tiddlywinks and they were national champions. She doubted there was an ounce of sincerity in the whole lot of them. More than anything she felt sorry for the poor misguided girls spending their pay on flowers and candy, all for a careless signature and a forgotten smile. It wouldn't make one bit of difference. They were nothing more than another notch on the proverbial bedpost, and would be better off keeping both their money and their hearts.
It had been that way in school, Hawkeye recalled, before she had entered the academy and still went to public school in Central. Contrary to the speculations of others, there had been quite a few cards and flowers, and like any fourteen year old girl she delighted in them. Until she realized they were a bribe, and given not because of her brains or her talent or the fact that she ate her spaghetti with the sauce separate, but because of how she filled out her blouse and the purely coincidental color of her hair. Hawkeye thought then, as she thought now, that the boys who gave such favors never noticed the quiet, mousey girls in the back row whose hearts beat with more ardor than all the beauties of the city together, and that none of the beautiful girls with arms full of flowers realized what they were for.
Above all things, Hawkeye loathed dishonesty. As far as she was concerned, an annual self-perpetuating lie that played on the heats of those who hadn't yet seen the array on the wall was even more reprehensible. Poor Private Mackenzie, she thought, with her signed note that had probably cost her three days' pay. She would keep it forever, likely as not, and never realize Roy Mustang had written it in as much time as it took him to decide what socks to wear in the morning, and probably with less consideration.
Which made Riza Hawkeye absolutely /furious/.
"What?" Hawkeye snapped, at the one person who couldn't tell she was Not To Be Bothered. Realizing that the girl in question was short, frizzy, and wearing glasses, Hawkeye's frown softened. The girl probably had ten times as much reason to hate the holiday as she herself did, unless she was numbered among the miserably unenlightened. "If you're looking for Roy Mustang's office, it's down the hall. But you'd be advised to take a number today, and he hates carnations."
The girl blinked. "Um, no. I mean, I'm sure he does, but I wasn't looking for his office. I'm Scieszka, Lt. Colonel Hughes' Aide. Are you ...Lt. Hawkeye?"
Had Hawkeye been a more frivolous person, she might have hugged her. Scieszka was quite possibly the only other person in the building who was actually doing work. "I am. I didn't realize the Lt. Colonel was in East City."
"He had a report to drop off, I think. I'm sorry to bother you, but I don't know where anything is, and I thought you looked familiar." She twisted her hands in her skirt, nervous. "Can you um, tell me where the bathroom is?"
Hawkeye smiled, and pointed down the hall. "The second door on the left, it's marked. And the handle sticks. Jiggle it a little and it'll work."
"Oh, thank you!" Scieszka bowed, forgetting to salute, and looked intensely grateful. "I've had to go since we got to the station, but I was with the Lt. Colonel, and--" she went awkwardly red. "Well I'd rather die than ask him, you know?"
Hawkeye actually laughed, to the wonderment of those that had seen her pass by five minutes before, and those who knew her notorious hatred of the day. "It's okay, Scieszka. Lt. Colonel Hughes has a passionate interest in potty training, to which I'm sure any poor soul who has stood next to him for more than ten minutes can attest." Hawkeye checked her watch. "Sorry, but I have to go extract Colonel Truffle Pig from a heart shaped box and make sure he files his morning report." She saluted, smiled, and continued down the hall, utterly oblivious that she left a hopelessly infatuated Scieszka behind her.
"It's no good," Roy said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "To use the ones I've already got. She'd recognize them, for one thing."
"And for another thing," Hughes said, holding out a bouquet at arm's length, "It's really tacky. Hawkeye admires going the extra mile."
"Well I'm not giving up any of mine." Havoc was adamant. "Not all of us have fifty-seven separate admirers."
Ed took the flowers out of Hughes' hands and eyed them thoughtfully. "I can do flowers. What kind does she like?"
"Dead ones," Havoc mumbled, around his cigarette, and then sighed. "...Violets. She mentioned once there were lots in her backyard, as a kid."
"Orange blossoms," Roy murmured. "She smells like them, sometimes in the morning, if she's just washed her hair."
"Orchids," Hughes echoed. "They need effort and care, and aren't like everything else, not overdone like roses."
"Mom always liked tiger lilies. She said they were strong and free." Ed put the flowers down in the middle of the table. "Like she wanted to be."
He pressed his palms together.
"Candy?" Ed asked, stowing the fruits of his labor in the gap behind the filing cabinet.
"You can transmute anything she liked, right?" Havoc had seen alchemy before, but Ed's floral endeavors had left him suitably impressed.
"Well we could," Roy said, "If someone didn't stop eating all the elements."
Hughes stopped chewing, guilty, and tried to somehow get rid of the large wad of chocolate-covered cherry wrappers in his hand. "...wot?" He swallowed. "I didn't have any breakfast; I was on a train at oh-dark-thirty this morning."
"Doesn't matter." Roy frowned. "She's not the candy and sweets type, and transmuted food never tastes quite right." He drummed his fingers on the tabletop, thinking hard. "She usually drinks tea, though I think she had some of Breda's birthday cake last week."
"Don't sprain anything, Roy," Hughes said, as he and Ed started in on a box of pralines.
"Got it!" Roy snapped his fingers triumphantly, and there was a brief hubbub as the four men discovered that the baby's breath in Roy's flower arrangements was extremely flammable.
"You were saying, Sir?" Havoc prompted five minutes later, beating ashes off the front of his jacket.
"Right." Roy caught Ed by the shoulder, and dusted some soot off the sleeve of his coat. "Tidy up there, Fullmetal, you make the army look bad-- Wine."
"What?" Ed said, thinking these two things somehow went together. "I wasn't whining, I was just saying, you should watch where you put those damn fingers of yours--"
"No no, Wine. Something dry, in point of fact. White. She likes a glass of wine sometimes in the evening; I heard her talking to Farman about it the other day. And where my fingers go," he shot Edward a look, "is none of your business, Fullmetal."
Edward met his gaze, and blandly popped the last of Roy's pralines into his mouth. "Yeah like I'd wanna know." He avoided reprimand mostly because Roy was discussing vintages with Hughes, and also the large amount of caramelized sugar and pecans in his mouth made his words less than clear.
"Wine, and flowers." Hughes slipped the bottle behind the filing cabinet. "What now?"
"Love letters," Ed grinned, from his perch on the edge of Roy's desk. "Lots and lots of them. Really steamy ones." He shifted uncomfortably in the sudden silence. "What?" He demanded, his face suddenly matching Roy's crimson roses.
"Kid's got a point," Havoc said. "Even if he needs to lay off the bon-bons." He pulled his well-loved note from his jacket, and blissfully brushed it across his lips. "Too bad I don't know the name of the lady that wrote this one; it's damn near divine."
"No good, anyway." Roy cracked his knuckles, and the other three took a nervous step back. "She needs a man to write her letters, and one with better taste than to send them to you, Havoc. No offense."
"Oh, right sure." Havoc clung to his note. "None at all."
"I expect you have a dozen outlined already." Hughes crossed his arms, waiting expectantly. "Let's hear it."
"Oh, it's no good if I write them," Roy smiled in a way that none of them liked. "She knows my handwriting. Says I have mushy "e"s or some such. It needs to be someone else." He picked up his fountain pen and held it out.
"Well don't look at me," Hughes said, holding up both hands. "Only one woman gets love letters from me."
"Oh come on, Maes." Roy said. "Elysia won't be jealous." His smirk broadened. "And we both know what Gracia puts up with."
Havoc choked on his cigarette, and Ed stuck his fingers in his ears, muttering, "Don't wanna know, don't wanna know--"
"Havoc?" Roy brandished the pen in a way that was not entirely benign.
"God, no." Havoc shook his head. "I can't write stuff like that. She knows my writing too. And my spelling's lousy. I'd just piss her off."
Ed considered the pen under his nose and then, gingerly, took it from Roy. "Fine," he said, but stalled Roy's triumphant smile by adding, "but just one. And I'll see if I can get Al to write one, I think he kinda likes Hawkeye anyway. If she gets more than one from the same person, even unsigned, they're gonna look fishy."
"We need somebody else," Hughes said. "Somebody who can write, preferably well read and articulate on paper, at least, someone genuine, someone she would never suspect."
It was then that Sergeant Major Fury opened the door to Roy Mustang's office, and wondered uncomfortably why everybody was staring at him.
"Scieszka? Is that you?"
Scieszka started guiltily, clutching her steno pad to her chest, and peered around the HQ main lobby. "What? Oh! Hello, Al. How are you?"
The younger Elric brother waved; a force of habit since his fixed metal helmet wasn't really capable of smiling. "I didn't know you were in town," he said, after Scieszka explained. "Though if Lt. Colonel Hughes is visiting, it would explain why Ed didn't come to lunch."
"I think they're all holed up in his office," Scieszka sighed, and toyed with her stubby pencil. "It must be something really really important.
"I guess I'd better wait here, then." Alphonse squeezed awkwardly into the small wooden chair next to Scieszka, and fidgeted with the box lunch he had brought for Ed. "It's um, it's very festive, in here, isn't it?"
Scieszka made a noncommittal noise, looking at her steno pad.
"Did you get any flowers?" Al asked, and wished instantly he hadn't, as Scieszka's face wobbled.
"No," She said, curling protectively around her notepad. From the receptionist's desk there was a shrill chorus of feminine laughter as yet another bouquet appeared. "Girls like me don't get flowers."
"Why not?" Al asked, when any sensible man would have retreated, and fast. "You're so smart and pretty, I thought you'd get lots."
Had Alphonse followed that statement up with a proposal of marriage, Ed would probably have had a sister in-law in less than twenty four hours. As it was, Scieszka just clutched his arm, eyes shining. "You-- you really think so?"
Al's armor was slightly pink. "Um, of course! It must just be because you're away from home, right?"
"Oh, Alphonse, you're so sweet!" Scieszka was so busy hugging the least spiky part of Al that she could get her arms around that she didn't realize the notepad had slipped out of her lap and flopped onto the floor. Al bent over to pick it up for her, thinking it must be an important report. The army seemed very big on reports, in his observation.
"Eep!" Scieszka put her hands to her mouth. "Really, that isn't anything, I'll take it--"
"It's a thank you to Lt. Hawkeye, isn't it?" Al's eyes glowed a little brighter, as they always did when he was smiling inside. "That's so thoughtful. She's very nice."
"You think so too?" Scieszka chewed her lip. "Except, I'm having a really hard time writing it. Which is silly, since I know entire books on writing letters, don't you think it's silly?"
"Well," Al considered, "sometimes, if I'm having problems with an array, I'll show it to Ed, so he can check it. A second pair of eyes helps a lot sometime."
"Oh! That's right! It's so sweet of you to help me out! Let me finish this part and you can tell me what you think, okay?" Scieszka began writing furiously, and even though that wasn't exactly what Al meant, He didn't want to be rude. Besides, Ed was probably doing something really important.
"Okay, so you don't have to talk about her figure if you don't want to." Ed was absently juggling three of the roughly six-dozen cupcakes that Roy had just gotten from the coffee-ladies downstairs. "Just make sure to say that you think she's really pretty."
Fury sat in a chair at the worktable, blue with horror and surrounded by more heavily starred and striped epaulettes than he was prepared to deal with in general, much less all focusing on him and Roy's best fountain pen. "Um, I'm really not sure I can do this."
"Sure you can, kid." Havoc whipped out his cherished note and brandished it at the Sergeant Major. "Just make it like that."
Fury looked at the note and went a deeply unflattering shade of off-white.
"Put that away," Roy snapped. "For the love of god, we want something good, not that misdirected drivel. Now, Fury," Roy put a familiar arm around the young man, who had now gone rather red in the face, "We all know that you're literate, well-spoken, and intelligent. After all, it's why we have you on the radio! So all you have to do is jot down a nice line or two and say something flattering about the Lieutenant. It seems that the day has put her off a bit, and we just want to cheer her up. You can handle that, can't you?"
Thus cajoled, Fury could do little else but nod. Roy clapped him on the shoulder.
"Good! Well, that's about it, isn't it? Have you finished yours, Fullmetal?"
"Yeah, yeah." Ed said, opening his mouth at the right time and suddenly juggling only two cupcakes. "I puft it ovpher wif da fowerrs."
Havoc rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah. Mr. Suave."
Ed swallowed. "I outrank you, you know."
Havoc quickly changed the subject. "How's the letter going?"
Fury covered the upper part of his letter with his arm, and looked sheepish. "Sorry, Lt. Havoc, but um, I-- I really don't--"
"Don't pester him, Havoc." Roy tucked his hands in the small of his back and rocked on his heels: a man happy with his morning's work. "You don't need to read it anyway. Save it for Hawkeye."
Fury exhaled, greatly relieved. "Thank you, Sir."
"Man." Havoc chewed the end of his unlit cigarette, and looked for a new distraction. He found it quickly enough; Hughes was sitting at Roy's desk and scribbling something on official letterhead. "I thought you weren't going to write one, Lt. Colonel."
Hughes blinked over his glasses, and then beamed. "Oh, no. This is just a little thing I forgot to do this morning, we left so early. I'll just drop it off with the aide outside." He folded the note deftly and strolled out the door. Havoc sprawled on one of Roy's leather sofas, fresh out of diversion.
The lull didn't last long, as Hughes yanked the door open again and flung himself against it. "Code Red! She's coming down the hall!!"
"What?" Fury's pen left a long terrified mark across the page.
"Stay calm." Roy was unruffled, even as Fury's chair began to rattle with his uncontrollable trembling. "As we planned, gentlemen."
Three minutes later, Hawkeye opened the door on a scene so blandly predictable that she was immediately suspicious. Roy was doodling arrays on the border of his report, chin in hand, and doing his best to ignore Hughes' oration on Elysia's innate jump-rope talent. Havoc was bragging to Fury about how he was certain his number one admirer was the scrumptious redhead down in supply; Fury was looking rather pained. Ed was lying crosswise on one of the sofas, his head in a thick book of advanced material reconstruction.
Hawkeye twitched one blond eyebrow, glancing left and right as though expecting dancing elephants in tutus, at the very least. Roy turned a page, Hughes waxed elaborate on double devil dutch death, and Ed blandly pulled a paddleball out of his jacket and began bouncing it, eyes still on his book.
Hawkeye frowned and shut the door. Fury looked like a man facing a firing squad, but really that wasn't anything odd for him, and easily explainable in the face of Havoc's lush hand motions to illustrate his imaginary redhead's finer points.
She crossed the room to Roy's desk. She stood beside it. Finally, after a long stretch in which Elysia's reflexes surpassed three-ring circus trapeze artists and Roy's eyes became considerably more glazed, she coughed.
"Lieutenant!" Roy said, shaking himself. "Sorry, I didn't see you there."
"Afternoon, Lieutenant," Hughes made a motion that those who knew him considered more threatening than reaching for a gun: his hand dipping into the breast pocket of his jacket and pulling out a photograph. "You're just in time to hear about--"
"Hawkeye!" Roy said suddenly, standing up, palms on his desk blotter. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to duck over to the east wing for me, would you? I've got a report for Richter." He paused, and as if on cue Hughes launched into the finer arts of toddlers singing the national anthem through pureed peas. "Though if you'd rather stay here and have your lunch, I understand."
Knowing an escape when she saw it, Hawkeye affirmed that really she wasn't the least bit hungry. Envelope secured, made it out the door before it occurred to her that if there was a way to get out of the Lt. Colonel's latest offspring bulletin, that Roy Mustang should have taken it himself.
Roy exhaled as the door to his office clicked shut. "Peas? Honestly, Maes, I don't know where you come up with this stuff."
Hughes put his hands behind his head, triumphant. "Not a single successful wire tap in the army since I took watch. Nobody sticks around for some reason. It's easier, now that Elysia's around."
"What did you talk about before?" Ed wondered.
"The wedding," Havoc said, trying without success to look over Fury's shoulder at the half-finished letter. "And the way the cake was frosted. And filled with lemon custard. And Gracia's dress. And how the Colonel got drunk beforehand and almost lost the rings, and how during the speech he--"
"More boring than baby talk, really," Roy said, as though it were all one word. "And though it's delightful, we haven't got the time. She'll be back any minute, and we've got to get this stuff out of here. Sergeant Major, how's that letter coming?"
"Well," Fury began. "It's done, but I think it's kind of--"
"Yes, yes, I'm sure it's brilliant," Roy said, snatching it from his hand without looking at it. "Fullmetal, get the flowers. Operation Oblivious Degradation is in its final stages."
The first bouquet arrived shortly after Hawkeye returned from her errand, when Roy and Hughes were innocuously occupied with the stagnant troop movements in the south and Ed, showing no signs of having moved from his spot, had only turned around on Roy's sofa, paddleball in his left hand now and twenty pages further in his book.
It was a modest arrangement and one of the first ones Ed had done, violets in a simple pot, practical and somehow fundamentally different from the cut hothouse blooms littering the other offices.
"No, it says Lt. Hawkeye, East Army HQ, right on the card." The delivery boy accepted Hawkeye's reluctant signature, tipped his hat to the officers, and left the room. Hawkeye stared at the violets for a long moment, turning the note over in her hands, and finally went back to her paperwork.
"Well, Lieutenant?" Roy prompted, with a poker face most men would have given good money for, "Aren't you going to tell us who they're from?"
Hawkeye turned a sheet over. "Is that an official request, Sir?"
Roy shrugged. "Not really."
"In which case, I don't think I will." She signed her name at the bottom of the form. "Sir."
Havoc raised his eyebrows at the Colonel, but Roy just sat back in his seat, smiling.
They had plenty of time.
The tiger lilies came after that, in a bouquet Ed had been secretly quite pleased with, bright and sunshiny, heavy golden flowers as fresh as ones picked off the roadside in June. Hawkeye still offered no comment to the other men in the room, but she did spend a few minutes trying to decide which side of her desk she liked the flowers on. She was still making up her mind when Roy's orange blossoms arrived. These he had done himself, and though he admitted a complete dearth of artistic sensibility for such things, they were still waxy and sweet, nestled in with white roses and an utter lack of carnations.
It was probably then that Hawkeye began to get a little suspicious. The boy delivering the Orange blossoms practically ran over the one bringing the orchids, and there was a slight traffic jam as a girl from the reception desk brought up the wine and Fury's note. She read it, lips a tight line, face unmoved, as the conspirators in the room watched with bated breath and Ed's paddleball rolled across the floor, forgotten.
"Seems to be quite the haul, Lieutenant." Roy folded his hands across his stomach. "It appears that your admirers don't know of your aversion to flowers."
"I don't have an aversion to flowers, Sir." Hawkeye looked at him, and for a moment it seemed she was on to all of them. "Just insincerity." She rustled the tiger lilies. "Thank you, Edward. Your note was very sweet."
Ed looked as though he wanted to crawl into the alchemy book; all that was visible of him was a shock of blond bangs and a violently red stripe of forehead. "Grmmupgkl," he said.
"You signed yours--" Havoc began, and shut up abruptly.
"Do I look stupid?" Ed hissed, though considering the paddleball and his coloring that might not have been the best question. "Of course I didn't, I told you she'd figure it out--"
At that moment the door opened on a rather unlikely pair even for the holiday, Scieszka looking as flustered as a girl who had gotten involved in her work and forgotten the time, and Al like a boy's soul bonded to a suit of armor that had done the exact same thing.
"I'm so sorry," Scieszka gasped, hanging on the handle. "I didn't realize it was so late."
"Niisan! It's nearly three and you haven't come down to get your lunch yet!" Al took in the piles of empty candy boxes around Ed's sofa. "Have you been eating chocolate all afternoon?"
"Oh!" Scieszka noticed the flowers on Hawkeye's desk, oddly bright next to Roy's austere red and white roses. "What nice flowers!" She leaned over to smell the violets. "You get so tired of seeing the same thing, you know. You boyfriend must really know you well, to get you things that suit you. The orange blossoms are just right."
"Boyfriend?" Hawkeye said, looking rattled for the first time that afternoon.
"Wait!" Scieszka put her hands to her mouth. "Unless they're all from secret admirers?"
"I'm sure it's some mistake, really," Hawkeye's voice was strangely distant, and Roy's face had gone oddly still, missing entirely the look that Hughes and Havoc were giving him. Ed was too busy getting a thorough dressing down for having bon bons for lunch. "I don't have a boyfriend. And I'm not the secret admirer type."
Scieszka was lost in adolescent fantasy, and not about to be swayed. "I bet he's someone you really know and don't know he likes you, tall and dark and handsome..."
Hughes leaned over Roy's shoulder. "Well, not very tall."
"Shuttup," Roy growled. "You probably knew this was going to happen."
"Of course I did." Hughes chortled behind his glasses. "You forget I'm the only one in this crowd who's actually married and has any idea how to handle women on more than an hourly basis. You spent more time thinking about what she'd like than an entire army of love struck boys could have possibly managed. You were actually nice." He paused. "In a real asshole kind of a way."
Havoc swallowed. "It's not like we could send her flowers any other way. She'd tear us limb from limb."
"Gosh." Scieszka said, winding down. "You're so lucky. I never get flowers. Not even from my dad."
"Er." Hawkeye smiled awkwardly. "It's um, probably because you're in the military. That intimidates lots of boys your age."
"I guess so," Scieszka sighed, and turned around into the large bundle of gerber daises Al had just accepted at the door.
"They're for you." Al said, beaming over them. "They came just now."
Scieszka stared. "What?" Al pressed the flowers into her hands, as Scieszka's eyes flickered over the empty 'From' tag without comprehension. "Who would send me flowers?"
"Maybe that someone tall dark and handsome you were talking about." Hawkeye tapped her papers on edge. "You never know."
Scieszka's eyes shone. "You really think so?"
"You're a real smoothie; you know that, don't you?" Roy said, out of the corner of his mouth.
"You should be grateful I'm retired," Hughes answered. "Besides, I hate to see a girl not get flowers, and I work her for it, believe me. If an unsigned bouquet can give a young girl some dreams, I'm all for that."
"Well." Hawkeye tucked her folders in the crook of her arm. "This has been simply delightful, really, but some of us have work to do." She shifted her paperwork and reached for the door.
"Wait, Lieutenant," Havoc bent down and picked up a note from the floor. "You dropped your letter..."
Ed blinked at the folded slip of paper. "Is that the one Fury wrote?"
Havoc didn't answer, his hand trembling as he slowly pulled his well-loved letter out of his breast pocket, and held it up to the one Fury had written. All the color drained out of his face, cigarette falling out of his mouth.
"What?" Ed stood up on the couch to see over Havoc's shoulder. "Hey...it's the same...handwriting." He put a hand over his mouth to stop the sudden burst of laughter, but failed.
Hawkeye sighed at the ensuing chaos, and gave up the day for lost.
The violets she took home and put on her windowsill, the orchids and tiger lilies shared company on her kitchen table. But the orange blossoms stayed on her desk until they faded beyond recall. And though Roy never mentioned them again, and she did not either, one bloom remained pressed in the pages of her diary, on a day that had passed for many years unmarked.