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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, '11, 5:33 am
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Happy Valentine's Day, to everyone, and thanks to everyone who voted!

(February 14, AW 1286- Piata Academy)

She was right. Damn right.

With a sigh, a young purple-haired man looked at one of the framed photos on his desk; himself arm-in-arm with a beautiful redheaded woman. It feels like it was so long ago, he thought as he set the photo back down. You were right, Amy. I dwell on my past too much.

His comrade in arms against Mother Brain, Amy Sage: Beautiful. Brilliant. Innocent. They were engaged to be married at one point; she realized he still dwelled on a past love, returning his ring with tears in her eyes. "I hoped things would have worked out," she told him, barely able to look him in the eyes. "I'm sorry, Hugh."

The job offer to teach biology at the esteemed Science Academy of Piata hadn't come quickly enough for him: His colleagues wished him well, and Amy had been there to see him off, but the pain and awkwardness of a recently-ended relationship still lingered between them.

On the plus side, he rationalized, the move to Piata did him good. With some pride, he looked at the new nameplate on his desk, holding the laser-etched prism to the light in order to scatter it into rainbows: HUGH THOMPSON, Professor of BIOLOGY looked back at him, the white etchings blending into reds, blues, and greens.

Sounds like two women I know, he thought with a chuckle. Amy, with her red hair and blue eyes, and blue-eyed, green-haired-

"Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh."

The voice was the other woman he was thinking about, her voice light and childish, seemingly like the wind she claimed to worship.

"Shir?" he asked, his voice a bit louder than he intended. "Where the devil are you?"

"You know where! Look outside! XD"

Confused, Hugh span around in his chair, coming face to face with Shir. She was perched outside his office, her hands on the window's glass as she leaned against the building. Calmly, he walked over to the window, opening it to let the green-haired woman tumble through into the office.

"Hello, Shir," Hugh said as he closed the window. "Most people usually use the academic building's front door to visit."

"Yeah, well, I'm not 'most people,'" Shir replied. "Anyway, I brought you something cool!"

"...Cool."

"Mm-hmm! Take a gander at these, Hugh!"

Shir produced a large fabric bag (Where, God only knows, Hugh thought) and reached into it, humming to herself. "Oh, where is it... ah! Here we go!" she said after a few seconds. She stood straight, pulling a flower pot out of the bag. "You'll love this!"

"Thanks, Shir," Hugh replied, taking the flower pot. "What is it?"

"It's a potted 1up Mushroom, silly!"

Sweatdropping, Hugh set the pot on his desk. "Is it now? Shir, I think you've played too many video games..."

"Naaah, just kidding. It's a premature rose, set to blossom in a few months, provided someone takes good care of it! And since you're the only one I know who isn't a black thumb when it comes to this, I thought, 'Heeey, Hugh can give this mini rose bush some TLC!'" Grinning, Shir crossed her arms across her chest and continued, "So I ran literally straight up your wall, and, well, here we are."

"Well, Shir, thank you very much," Hugh replied. "I'll try my best with it-"

"Also! I got you some dinner! Tasty dinner, gooble gobble!"

Reaching again into the bag, Shir took out a foil-wrapped dish. "And do you know what the best part is, Hugh?" she asked as she set it in front of his chair. "It's homemade."

"Homemade what, Shir?"

"Lift the foil and find out, silly. =p"

Curious as to what Shir had made, Hugh lifted the foil from the plate, smiling at the scent and sight that awaited him. "Oh! It's... wow. That's a lot of roast beef, Shir," he said, looking at the large pile of meat.

"And some nice onion soup-Worces... Woreches.... sauce that I can't pronounce," Shir continued, setting a small container of brown liquid next to the roast beef slices. "And! Some rolls, too! Mmm kaiser rolls. Some mashed potatoes are in the smaller bag-"

"Shir, I'm flattered, but that's a lot of food for one person-"

"Well, there's two of us here."

"You sure you wouldn't want to share some with Rolf?" Hugh asked.

"Naaah, he's busy tonight. You didn't hear, did you?"

Shaking his head, Hugh asked, "Hear about what?"

"Well, Rolf and I tried the whole 'we've been friends since we were ten, let's try the dating thing,' and it worked, for a few months, but we realized something."

"What was that, Shir?"

With a sigh that sounded regretful, Shir continued, "We kinda didn't work as a couple. It sounds cliche and all that cheesey teen romance movie crap, Hugh, but Rolf and I thought it'd be better if we stayed best friends forever and ever instead."

"Hmm." Closing his eyes, Hugh thought again of Amy, noting that amongst the group of seven, there was another couple that had broken apart. Unlike himself and Amy, at least Rolf and Shir seemed to still be social and remain friendly towards each other. "I'm sorry it didn't work out between you two."

"Naaah, the whole friends thing is better anyway. We can go whine to each other about significant others if we need two, plus we don't have to worry about that whole post-coital awkwardness anymore! XD"

"Shir, what the hell!?" Hugh stammered. "I didn't need to know that much about you two!"

"Well, gee, Hugh, it... kinda does happen, you know?" Shir asked. "You're a biologist, you of all people should know that! When two people are in love-"

"Shir, I know about mating. I've seen it among fourteen species, from Palman to locustas to center worms. It's..." Hugh took a deep breath, pausing, as he told Shir, "It hadn't happened between Amy and myself."

"You mean, all the time you were dating and engaged, you and Amy never..." Shir's jaw dropped. After a second of stunned silence, she continued, "Wow. That, uh... that sucks, dude."

Hugh shrugged. "I wouldn't know. I suppose it was something to do with Amy's upbringing- she wanted it to be special, she always said."

"God, are you still talking about Amy? It's been, what? Five months?" Shir asked, looking at Hugh's picture. "Hugh, it's not really healthy to keep bringing up old loves like that."

"I know, but she was a significant part of my life, brief as our romance and engagement were."

"Yeah, but you gotta move on, right?" Shir continued. "You got over Rita, right?"

"Eventually, or so I thought."

"Well, you'll get over Amy!" Leaping onto the desk and taking care not to knock anything over, Shir continued, "Soon enough you'll be the bland, vanilla, personality of tapioca Hugh Thompson we all know and lov- err, acknowledge!" She pointed at Hugh's nose as she winked.

"I think I'm more than that."

"And that's your first step!" Leaping off the desk, Shir continued, "Now, how can we help you get over Amy?"

"Well, there's the picture I have of her-"

Shir took the picture out of the frame, ripped it in half, and gave one of the halves to the purple-haired man. "See? There you go! Out of your mind already!" Shir said with a grin.

"...Now people are going to ask, 'Hugh, whose hand is that on your shoulder?'"

"Tell them it's the Unlawful Invisible, or the Hash-Slinging Slasher, or Inna-Godda-DaChainsaw. You'll get cool points for having people think, 'Heey, he's hanging out with a serial killer and making him look human!' So, what's next?"

Hugh thought for a second. "My FacePlace profile says-"

"In a relationship with [BLOCKED], I know. You should change that, Hugh!"

"Sometime."

"No, you get your visiphone and you do it now!" Shir reached into Hugh's pocket for his phone. "Or I'll do it and chunk that stupid FarmCity of yours! XD"

The threat to Hugh's virtual farm spurred him to quick action. "I'll do it, Shir!" he shouted, drawing his phone with lightning speed. "Options, relationships... done. See, Shir? 'Hugh Thompson is now single. </3' It's even got the broken heart and everything."

"What would you do without me, Hugh?" Shir laughed. "Now then... anything else I can do to get rid of the ghosts of fiancee's past?"

"Nothing I can think of. I mean, there's some gifts Amy gave me, but-"

"Say no more! I can have Daddy's private army break into your apartment, and sell them back to Amy piece by piece! Or I can go call Rudo and Anna and have them tag-team yell at Amy for breaking your heart until they both pass out, or-"

"They'd never do that," Hugh interrupted. He set his phone back on his desk, then asked, "Did it hurt?"

"Did what hurt?" Shir asked, taking a small slice of the roast beef from the plate.

"You and Rolf, when you two stopped seeing each other."

"A little, yeah," Shir replied. "But let's be fair, (munch munch) it should. That means that you both gave a damn about the relationship, and wanted to see it through."

"Like Amy and myself."

"Or like me and Rolf, yeah. It hurts, Hugh." With a weak smile, she added, "But only for a little bit."

"I... I see. I remember being like that when Rita left me, too." His turn to smile, this time. "You know the feeling, Shir. You think you're going to be together with someone forever."

"And that you're gonna get married someday," Shir added.

"But instead, you're left with nothing but memories. And that's what hurts, Shir. It's like you're missing part of your body."

"But that's the funny thing about life, Hugh!" Taking more meat from the plate, Shir swallowed it after some hasty chewing, then continued, "Sometimes you'll find someone who can at least make it feel better."

"That'd be good."

"Hugh."

"Hm?"

Rolling her eyes, Shir said, "Look at your dinner, Hugh."

Hugh looked down at the big plate of roast beef, confused. "You took a few slices of it, Shir. That's fine."

"No, silly! Look at it!"

It took him a couple of seconds to piece it together, but the realization hit Hugh: The roast beef slices had been arranged on the plate in the shape of a heart- a heart that practically oozed with French onion soup and Worcestershire sauce, but a heart nonetheless. Blushing, Hugh asked, "Shir, what is this, really?"

"Roast beef with sauce, silly! I thought we could, you know. Have dinner together."

"Well, dinner's nice, but-"

"Sssh." Shir placed a finger to Hugh's lips, setting herself carefully on the desk. "A nice, quiet dinner together. Just us. No regrets, no anxieties about the past."

"Mmph."

"And maybe, Hugh-" She slid off the desk, landing in Hugh's lap. Shir stretched her legs, keeping them from falling backwards as she pulled herself to Hugh. "Maybe after dinner, well, maybe we can just do something like..."

She closed her eyes, then tilted her head forward, bringing her lips to meet Hugh's. He balked at first, memories of kisses with Rita and Amy coming to mind, then slowly allowed himself to relax, recalling Shir's words: Don't dwell on it. No regrets, no anxieties.

He could feel the tip of Shir's tongue playing at his lips for a moment before she pulled away. "Well?" she asked, grinning, her blue eyes sparkling with mischief and delight.

"You taste like roast beef, Shir."

"Well, duh. Silly Hugh."

"I didn't mind, though. Thanks."

"No problem!" Springboarding herself over the desk, Shir asked, "So! We still on for dinner tonight?"

"Sure."

Hugh watched Shir pull a chair up to the desk, then asked, "So, what is it about me, anyway, Shir?"

"You've got Meseta. Purely monetary, Hugh. Once it's transferred to my super-secret Dezolian accounts, I'm outta here like the wind. XD" She laughed, then gave Hugh a warm smile. "What can I say? Sometimes I like the quiet type. Someone who listens."

"Hmm. I'll be honest, Shir, I did think my life was lacking a bit of... excitement. I think you're an exciting person."

"You bet I am!"

"Perhaps we can see each other again like this?"

With a small blush, Shir asked, "You mean like, actual date date, Hugh? Or just break into your office and bother you?"

"Either way. I don't mind, Shir- my door's always open."

"Hey now!" Shir pulled two wine glasses out of the fabric bag, setting them on the desk between them. "What did I say before, Hugh?! Doors are for ordinary people! >_<"

Hugh chuckled, watching Shir take a bottle of wine from the bag. "And you're no ordinary person, Shilka Gold. Never forget that."

"And you're more of a charmer than people think, Hugh Thompson. Never forget that."

With a grunt, Shir opened the wine bottle, pouring some for each of them. "To Valentine's Day, Hugh," she said.

"To Valentine's Day, Shir."

The glasses clinked together, and as they started eating their dinner, both Hugh and Shir couldn't help but think the same thought- You're wonderful.

Coming Up: The other half, with Rolf and Amy.
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