After uncharacteristically spending the morning doing anything besides sleeping, Fie Claussell took a step back and admired her craft. It was Valentine's Day and she had been determined to make some home-made sweets for her boyfriend, Instructor Rean Schwarzer.
But Fie quickly learned that her cooking ability was wholly inadequate for the task, as her cooking experience mostly extended to things like field rations and knowledge of edible flowers. Fie's focus on cooking for survival more than anything was a very useful skill to have, both in her youth as a jaeger and even now for her life as a Bracer. But soulless food that values practicality over anything else isn't exactly the best way to express your love - it's the very antithesis of Valentine's Day sweets.
In the end, Fie decided on making some simple biscuits she often used for rations back in Zephyr. Although she was disappointed that her daydreams of Rean's face lighting up after trying her sweets would never come to pass, Fie recognized that the biscuits she made ultimately only needed to look like sweets.
And for that, they worked perfectly. Their shape and black-and-white checkered pattern gave the impression of chocolate bars with alternating squares of white and dark chocolate. Being a lover of sweets herself, Fie's mouth watered when glancing down at them despite her knowing of their true nature. She placed them in a container and closed the lid before she could give in to her desires.
Fie removed her apron and brought the biscuits into her apartment's bedroom, carefully considering their placement for her devious plan later that day. Satisfied, she grabbed her coat and left the apartment to make her way to the Bracer Guild office on Vesta Street. It was a chilly February in Heimdallr, but Fie never really minded the cold. Growing up in a jaeger corps tends to make you a bit more resilient than most.
Upon arrival at the Guild office, Fie was greeted by a familiar cheerful blond man.
"Hey, Toval." Fie greeted back while walking over to the board that listed the various requests received by the Guild. Not wanting to ruminate over her plans for later that day, she decided that Bracer work would be a good way to keep her mind off things.
"So…" Toval began with an amused expression, "Rean is gonna be arriving here in Heimdallr today for this month's field exercises. You two got any plans to meet up?"
Fie sighed. She thought back to her recent conversation with Rean that led her to concocting her plan in the first place. The circumstances of Rean and Fie's current occupations meant that they often spent time apart, making what little time they did spend together all the more precious. In what Fie had initially thought was a stroke of luck, this month's field exercises in Heimdallr coincided with Valentine's Day. But Rean didn't seem to view it as the great opportunity that Fie envisioned.
"You know how Rean is. He's obsessed with working and doesn't allow himself to relax. There was also something about setting a good example, not having distractions, and blah blah blah. So we both kinda decided that getting together today wouldn't be the best idea." Fie's disappointed expression turned into a mischievous smile. "But I know that this wasn't what he wanted. All he needs is a little push." Fie recalled the time during the school festival of their first year as members of Class VII. Towa had to order Rean to go and enjoy himself. And even then he still insisted on helping others throughout the day.
"That's what I like to hear. Were you looking for my help in this plan of yours?"
"Yep. I can tell you the details later. But first I'm gonna take on some jobs to kill time." Fie answered while analyzing the board, prioritizing requests that would allow her to make good use of her speed. After all, the faster she goes, the faster she gets paid.
Moments later, a dejected fuchsia-haired woman entered the Guild office. Fie and Toval knew right away why she looked so gloomy. It didn't take long for Fie to seize the opportunity that was presented to her.
"Oh hey, Sara. Did your Valentine's Day plans fall through?" Fie asked with no sincerity in her voice, "Or was it that you never had any in the first place?" Sara looked back at her and tried to say something, but a growl was all she could mutter before finally yelling out in frustration.
"As if! I'll have you know that men are practically lining up for a chance to go on a date with me!"
"Uh huh." Fie replied unconvinced, "Although something tells me that Laura's dad isn't one of them." Upon bringing up Victor S. Arseid, Sara's eyes flashed with a look of desperation.
"Come on, Fie! You're Laura's best friend. Can't you at least put in a good word for me?!" Sara pleaded to her old student, but Fie continued the attack.
"Sorry, but I couldn't betray Laura like that. Having Sara Valestein as a stepmom is a fate I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy."
"Oh, you are just the worst!" Sara exclaimed before storming off into one of the rooms. Fie and Toval looked and each other and shared a laugh. Teasing Sara about her lack of success in dating was practically a pastime among the members of Class VII. Sara had the looks to draw in almost any man, but her personality, drinking habits, and laser focus towards men like Victor all worked against her. Sara's apparent lack of self-awareness didn't help matters either. But Fie knew that Sara would figure it all out sooner or later.
After selecting some requests and writing down their information in her notebook, Fie set off to complete them as fast as possible while also taking care not to half-ass them. This, along with her carefree and laid-back personality, allowed Fie a good amount of popularity in the area. Fie recognized that Rean's personality rubbed off on her, and she tried to not think about how different her life would be if she hadn't met him and the others in Class VII. Fie knew she had to return the favor and hoped that tonight would allow her to teach Rean a good lesson or two.
Late afternoon came around and Fie returned to the Guild office after completing the day's requests, earning a decent sum in the process. Toval welcomed Fie back while looking as cheerful as ever, although Sara had apparently left earlier. Toval relayed Sara's message that she went to go on a hot date with a "chiseled, elegant gent." Fie thought that was a weird way for Sara to refer to her beer stash.
Fie walked over to Toval and filled him in on the details of her plan.
"It's simple. I tell Rean that I made him some chocolates for Valentine's Day but I'm away on a job. I have him come here to get a spare key from you. He goes to my apartment and picks up the chocolates believing nobody is home. And that's when I strike."
"Strike? Can't you just…meet him at the door?" Toval asked with concern for Rean's safety.
"Maybe. But this is more fun." Fie was wearing one of her signature mischievous smiles. "And more romantic."
"Man, between you, Sara, and Shirley, it certainly feels like jaegers tend to have a…unique perspective on what's considered romantic." Toval sighed. "Alright, Fie. Just…try not to break him."
"How about this: If you manage to convince Rean to join the Guild, you can spill the beans and tell him all about my plan." Fie knew Toval could never resist an opportunity to ask Rean to become a bracer. Fie certainly didn't deny that it would be a dream come true for her as well. To always be with Rean and to take on the world together as bracers was something she often thought about, especially after becoming friends with Estelle and Joshua. They even teased her about it on occasion.
"Deal. We both know it's only a matter of time before he finally cracks."
Fie handed Toval the spare key and then left the Guild office, making her way towards her apartment. She opened her ARCUS and started typing a message to Rean. A few moments later, she hit send.
Subject: made something for you.
hey rean. i know we decided to not meet up today but i still wanted to do something for you. so i made you some chocolates. i left for a job earlier so i couldn't give them to you myself. ask toval for a key to my apartment. they are in the bedroom. love you.
Soon after arriving at her apartment, Fie's ARCUS rang with the familiar "message received" sound. She removed it from her pocket and smiled when she read the sender's name.
Subject: On my way!
I'm heading to Vesta street right now. I'm excited to try what you made me! I really do wish we could be together right now. Juna even berated me for being a bad boyfriend. It seems like I still have a lot to learn. I love you, and please stay safe.
Fie couldn't help but smile as she read the message. It looked like Rean realized he made a mistake, and Class VII wasn't letting him off the hook either. She would need to thank Juna later. Fortunately for Rean, he wouldn't need to feel guilty for too much longer.
Fie took a quick shower and changed into some clean clothes. Feeling tired from a day of more work than usual, Fie jumped onto her bed and took a catnap, keeping her ARCUS close by in anticipation of Toval's call.
About 30 minutes later, the ARCUS next to a curled up Fie started ringing. She sleepily flipped it open to answer and simply stated "Fie" as her greeting. Toval's voice came through from the other end.
"Rean's on his way and should be there soon. I also contacted the Branch Campus and told them something came up, so they won't be expecting him to return until tomorrow. Good luck, Sylphid."
Fie immediately shook off her sleepiness after hearing Rean was on his way. Her pulse quickened as the reality of being together with him that night was soon to be realized.
"Nice. Thanks for the help today, Toby."
"Any time, Fie. See-" Toval stopped mid-sentence as he fully processed what Fie said, "Hey wait! Why did you just-" Fie ended the call and closed her ARCUS, never missing an opportunity to push someone's buttons.
Fie enjoyed employing her jaeger skills whenever she could, and the things she learned from Trap Master Xeno were put to good use for this plan. After making sure the apartment held no obvious signs of her recent activities, Fie took her place behind the open door of her bedroom. It wasn't a particularly effective hiding spot in terms of stealth, but it was the most ideal for carrying out her ambush. It gave the best viewing angle, allowed for Fie to be in the best position for the quickest strike, and had the added bonus of cutting off the only escape route by causing the door to swing and close. Rean would have no suspicions when he entered, so there would be no reason for him to check behind the door in the first place.
Some minutes later, Fie heard the rustling of keys and a click signifying the front door unlocking. The door opened and someone entered. Shortly after, she could hear them remove their boots and begin walking towards the bedroom. It was clear that the unsuspecting guest was familiar with the layout of the apartment, but there was still no way to confirm their identity yet.
The container that Rean would be looking for was placed on top of a table across from the bed. It was placed in such a way that when looking through the doorway and into the room, a person's eyes would naturally fall upon the container. The footsteps stopped briefly once they reached the doorway before starting again. The subtle pause of footsteps and their location assured Fie that her plan was working; the guest had set their focus onto the container and was heading straight for it. The footsteps grew closer until the guest had finally reached the table, entering Fie's view and at last revealing their identity.
It was Instructor Rean Schwarzer.
Upon seeing the black-haired man, Fie nearly lost her composure. All she wanted to do was run up to him and bury her head in his chest, to feel Rean wrap his arms around her and run his hand through her hair. But she wouldn't give in just yet.
Maybe it was wrong, but Fie wanted to observe how Rean acted when he was alone. To see the "real" Rean that wasn't concerned with putting up a façade for other people, no matter how small. Fie had experience with covert surveillance while tracking marks during her jaeger days, but she had never done it to one of her friends before.
Well, successfully anyway. She did try to follow Rean during the Roer field study, only to be caught almost immediately. But who could blame her? She couldn't just let her Rean fall into the arms of another woman, especially not someone like Claire. At night. In a bar. Wearing a cocktail dress. The disappointment on Claire's face when she turned around and saw Fie accompanying Rean was priceless.
Rean removed the lid from the container, revealing the "chocolates" that he came to retrieve. Fie knew Rean would probably check the container to confirm they were what he was looking for, but she was also confident he wouldn't try eating one on the spot.
However, Rean didn't place the lid back on like Fie had expected. Instead, he reached in and grabbed one, clearly intending to try it right away. Fie started to panic internally, unsure of what to do. She could leap out and knock Rean onto the bed before he could bring the biscuit to his mouth, or she could let him eat it and see his reaction. If Rean knew he was in front of Fie when he tried eating one, he would just pretend to like it to make her happy. The thought of that annoyed her more than anything. Fie decided she wanted to see the "real" Rean's reaction. She calmed herself down and brought her focus back onto him.
The moment of truth came when Rean, expecting some fancy chocolate, bit into the field ration biscuit. Fie immediately noticed a look of surprise on Rean's face as expected, but what he would do next was anybody's guess. Rean swallowed the biscuit and looked down at the others, seemingly lost in thought.
Fie looked on in shock as Rean's lips curled into a smile, even letting out a small chuckle. Fie wasn't expecting an explosive negative reation, but she certainly wasn't expecting anything close to a positive one either. In fact, Rean's face at this moment was lighting up in same way Fie had envisioned in her foolish daydreams. Rean didn't stop at one either, instead going for a second.
Once again Fie just wanted to jump out at Rean. Not to hug him, but to ask him why the hell he was enjoying her lame Valentine's Day biscuits so damn much. But like last time, Fie didn't give in. Seeing Rean's reaction, even if it didn't make sense, was intoxicating. She wanted to savor every second she could.
After eating a third, Rean placed the lid back onto the container. He closed his eyes for a moment, standing frozen and in contemplation. A few moments later, Rean's eyes opened again and his joyful expression had gone away, replaced instead with a look of longing and regret. It wasn't difficult for Fie to figure out why. Just like how Rean's happiness extended to Fie, seeing him in pain felt like a stab in the heart. Her next decision was an easy one.
It was time to strike.
Rean must have sensed something as he had turned to look in the direction of Fie, but by then it was too late. Her great speed ensured that Rean had no chance to react. Fie landed on top of him, the force causing him to step backwards and fall onto the bed just as she had planned. Rean opened his eyes to get his bearings and found himself staring back into green ones, a familiar mess of silver hair strewn about. Fie thought he must have been feeling déjà vu from their reunion back during the civil war. Seeing his look of disbelief, Fie lowered her head and pecked Rean on his lips, casting away any doubt of his about her being real.
"F-Fie?!" Rean stammered, now convinced of Fie's physical presence, but still at a loss over how she could possibly be on top of him. Fie continued to stare down at him with a warm smile, wanting to give him another kiss but not before letting him process the situation. Rean closed his eyes and sighed, seemingly having realized that this was all a set-up, and an obvious one at that. He opened them again and gave Fie a hard-eyed stare.
"I can't believe you…" Rean said as if talking to an unruly student, as he did many times to people like Fie and Crow whenever they acted in a troublesome manner. Which she admitted was often.
"Don't you mean 'I can't believe how awesome you are!' or 'I can't believe how much I love you!'" Fie corrected, giddy from her plan's success. The comment elicited an affectionate laugh from Rean.
Feeling that she had given Rean enough time to process everything, Fie leaned in for another kiss. Much to her delight, this time Rean responded. Although she would have liked the moment to last longer, Fie pulled back after recognizing that Rean was probably not in the most comfortable position, still pinned after Fie's unexpected tackle. Once able to move freely again, Rean stood up and surprised Fie by pulling her back into an embrace.
"I'm sorry, Fie. I shouldn't have ignored your feelings like that." Rean apologized as Fie closed her eyes and buried her head in his chest, feeling a mixture of relaxation and excitement. "…or my feelings for that matter." Fie smiled upon hearing his words. He always tried to consider the feelings of others, but often struggled to consider his own.
"Don't beat yourself up too much. There was no way I was just gonna let us give up an opportunity to be together like this. We're a family, and family members look out for each other, yeah?" Fie said proudly as she raised her head to look into Rean's eyes. She had always lacked the strength that she desperately wanted in order to protect her family, but meeting Rean had helped her finally achieve it.
"...You're right. I guess I really should have known that you would try to pull something like this. I don't really know what to say except...thank you, Fie." Rean spoke in a soft voice and with a glimmer in his eyes that made Fie nearly melt. She couldn't stop the blush forming on her face, silently cursing his ability to so effortlessly make a woman's heart flutter. It just wasn't fair! Fie slowly closed her eyes, tilted her head up and waited for him to pull her into a kiss.
Instead, Rean once again revealed himself to be a man that seriously needed to get a clue.
"Oh! I almost forgot." Rean let go of Fie and grabbed the container filled with her home-made Valentine's Day biscuits. He sat down on the bed and Fie reluctantly went to sit beside him. She had hoped Rean had forgotten about them, even if he seemed to have liked them. "Thank you for making these for me, Fie." Rean said as he looked over at Fie with a beaming smile.
Fie couldn't help but feel a bit embarrassed. The biscuits had already served their purpose; they were made to lure Rean and that was it. They weren't made to make Rean happy. They weren't made to make Rean feel special.
And yet he reacted to them as if they were. Fie felt frustrated, thinking that maybe Rean did know Fie was there all along and was pretending to like them for her sake.
"But why? I wasn't able to make you what everyone else is able to. In the end it was only useful for tricking you into thinking it was something worthwhile." Fie looked down, unable to make eye contact with Rean.
"Fie. I don't care if they were the fanciest chocolates on Zemuria. When I ate them, I couldn't help but think about how they were just so… Fie. They made me feel closer to you even though I thought I had pushed you away. Remember the time during the civil war when we tried to make rations for everyone? We failed over and over to make something edible until mom finally took pity on us and showed us what to do."
The memory was clear as day for Fie. It was one of the few bright spots during a time filled with uncertainty.
"These made me think about all of the time we've spent together and how we've both grown together. But most of all, they made me think about how much I want to keep growing with you by my side."
Fie lifted her head and looked back to Rean again.
"It doesn't matter if you couldn't do what everyone else could. What matters is that these are a better expression of love than the most extravagant chocolates ever could be. So…thank you, Fie."
Fie was at a loss for words. She could never explain how Rean could just pull out a speech from nowhere that completely changed everyone's perspective. She realized how dumb she was for thinking that she needed to be like everyone else to make him happy. All he wanted was her, after all. Looking back into his eyes and seeing his smile, Fie once again felt like she was going to melt.
And then he opened the container and pulled out a biscuit.
"And look, our hair colors match the pattern! It's like a representation of how we are always connected!"
Fie couldn't believe he just said that with a straight face.
"Rean. You're a massive dork, you know that?" Fie should have never underestimated Rean's propensity for cheesiness. But she would be lying if she said she didn't find that aspect of him cute.
Rean let out a lighthearted chuckle before eating the biscuit.
"You know, these really aren't bad." Rean said as he grabbed another one. In a flash, Fie used her teeth to snatch the biscuit from Rean's hand and then looked directly at him, grinning as she munched on it.
"Hey! I thought those were meant for me!" Rean said jokingly.
"Fie tax." she deadpanned. She was surprised at how good it tasted. Fie had heard that things taste better when you are with someone you love, but she didn't believe it until now.
After the two enjoyed some more surprisingly good field rations, Fie moved closer to Rean and gently placed her hand on his cheek. She gazed into his eyes, silently communicating what she wanted to do next. Rean gulped nervously as a rare blush appeared on his cheeks. A few more seconds of silence passed before the two slowly inched their heads closer, Fie's heart pounding in anticipation. In the last moment, Rean looked like he remembered something and pulled back.
"W-Wait! I'm on a field exercise right now! I told them I was just going to pick something up and they're expecting me to return soon!"
"…Seriously?" Fie asked, annoyed over him ruining the moment, "I've already gotten that taken care of." She held up her ARCUS with a sultry smile, "I'm all yours until morning."
Rean brought back his hard-eyed stare.
"Okay, now I really can't believe you…"
The pair shared a laugh and the mood soon returned. Their lips met with greater urgency, their time apart making each eager to lose themselves in the warmth of the other.
Fie woke up to the morning sun shining through the bedroom window. She gazed across the room, silently admiring her collection of Strega shoes that were on display. Her eyes wandered to the floor; their discarded clothes strewn about the otherwise uncluttered carpet. She turned her body to her left, eyes landing on Rean's sleeping face. She could never get over just how cute it was. It wasn't long before he stirred, eyelids opening as he slowly became more cognizant of the situation.
Their eyes met and they didn't need to say anything for them to know what they both wanted. Fie moved over to Rean's side, resting her head on his chest. Rean loosely wrapped his arms around her, using one to run his hand through her hair. Fie closed her eyes and purred. Being with him like this soothed her, removing any doubts or worries and confirming to her each and every time that she was right where she belonged. She felt Rean plant a kiss on the top of her head before nuzzling his face in the same spot. They silently enjoyed each other's company before Rean's ARCUS sounded. He reached over to grab it and flipped it open, reading the message he had just received.
"Well, looks like our time is up." Rean said as he reluctantly let go of Fie. He leaned over and gave her a brief kiss. "I love you, Fie. And I know I've said this a bunch of times already…but thank you."
"I love you too, Rean. And you can thank me by taking some of the lessons you learned last night to heart."
"You got it, Fie." Rean said as he got out of bed. Fie enjoyed the eye candy as she watched him get dressed, her grin making sure that he knew exactly what she was thinking. The blushing man grabbed the container before making his way to the door, turning back one last time to meet Fie's gaze, silently saying goodbye before turning back again.
Fie let out a yawn, exhausted from spending so much energy the day before. She decided it was time to catch up on her napping schedule, conveniently avoiding having to deal with a hungover Sara at the Guild office. With a strong feeling of contentment, Fie smiled as she closed her eyes and drifted into a much needed sleep.