A/N: Hi again, I'm still alive and writing. Things are moving slowly so I decided to finish up a one-shot just so I can feel accomplished. I'm playing with a few stories but hung up on some plot elements, hopefully soon I will have worked through them and I can post a multi-chapter story for everyone.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Please wear a face mask, not just to protect yourself but others. Heroes wear the mask to slow the spread of Covid19, it isn't about just preventing your own sickness/death but not spreading it to people, like myself, who are immunocompromised. Thank you for taking the time to read this, now on with our story.

Nanoha Takamachi was not a happy camper. Sitting in her favorite coffee shop in Mid Childa she stared out the large bay window that framed the busy commercial street two blocks away from her new place of employment. It was her new job that was causing her so much distress at this moment. For fifteen years she had done all she could to keep her best friend by her side but this new company seemed bound and determined to separate them.

Right now across town somewhere in an upscale restaurant her best friend was being wined and dined by a man. A rich and powerful man who was clearly interested in her beloved friend in a carnal manner which was making her blood boil with jealousy. To make matters worse her best friend was slightly awestruck by the man and held him in high esteem. If he made a move on her would she even be able to say no?

Thinking about the elegant blonde Nanoha sighed in despair, it was completely hopeless but she was madly in love with the woman. She could still remember the first time she laid eyes on the blonde waif when she was nine years old. The girl had moved to Uminari with her adoptive family and the ultra-shy soft spoken girl looked terrified as she stepped in front of the class to introduce herself. By the time lunch had come the girl had been sitting slightly hunched in her seat as if frightened of moving and attracting attention to herself.

Nanoha had been struck by the girl's deep burgundy eyes that seemed filled with loneliness and longing. The soulful eyes of the rail thin girl hooked Nanoha and there was no way she wasn't going to do everything she could to befriend her. As the class emptied for lunch Nanoha captured the seat in front of the blonde and placed her bento on the desk to stake a claim on that position. The blonde girl seemed to panic and hurriedly tried to stand up and excuse herself as if she was the one trespassing. Nanoha remembered the first time their hands had touched and the spark of something life defining occurring.

The girl halted immediately at her touch and looked Nanoha in the eyes and it was like their souls had communicated wordlessly. Nanoha knew instantly this was someone who she desperately needed to keep by her side and Fate recognized in the copper haired girl a person she could trust implicitly. While Fate never seemed to have much to say she was a great listener and seemed to thrive on Nanoha's happy chatter. For three years it seemed to the outsider watching the pair that Nanoha was taking advantage of the blonde girl's quiet and unassuming nature by forcing her to be friends with her. Fate never suggested they go out on weekends or planned gatherings. She never initiated physical contact with the sapphire eyed girl. It seemed to the casual observer that Fate was placating the pushy girl by allowing her to have her way.

Then an event which redefined their relationship occurred. While out running an errand for her family Nanoha was struck by a car and nearly killed. When Nanoha awoke from her month long coma it was to the sight of the blonde sitting by her bedside. The girl had been reading aloud one of her favorite books in her soft alto voice. When she finally noticed Nanoha was awake she dropped the book and grabbed her hand with shaking fingers and tears in her eyes. It was only later that Nanoha learned Fate had visited her every day since her accident and stayed as long as she was allowed by the hospital staff. She would read to her friend and tell her stories of what was going on at their school. It was clear the burgundy eyed girl wasn't just playing along with Nanoha; she was a true friend and completely dedicated to their relationship.

The next year was incredibly painful and stressful for Nanoha and had set her on the path of falling irrevocably for the blonde girl. Having to go through the painful and sometimes humiliating physical therapy process to relearn to walk after the accident often left her feeling like she wanted to give up. Some days the pain was so bad she just wished she had died. It was on those days that Fate's presence gave her the strength of will to continue fighting. The girl truly believed in her and was a constant source of positive encouragement. Nanoha thought about the day she took her first real step without external support and how brightly Fate had smiled at her. That was the day she fell head over heels in love with the girl.

Falling in love had been easy, expressing that love was incredibly difficult thanks to the issues Fate had when it came to intimacy. The girl had suffered horribly at the hands of her birth parents and carried scars both physical and emotional from their abuse. Fate's adoptive mother noted often how surprising it was to her that Fate let Nanoha hug her since the earliest days of their friendship. But that acceptance of her hugs had been a hard won battle. The first time she had hugged the girl she had frozen up and was as rigid as a tree. She had no idea how to respond to the loving touch and the terrified tension that filled her made the youthfully naive Nanoha feel rejected. It was only when Fate saw Nanoha's hurt look that she broke out of her fearful rigidity. Shaking with nerves she had stammered a rambling explanation that she was unused to such contact but she'd try harder to be more accommodating in the future.

The idea of Fate forcing herself to accept her touch hurt something fundamental in Nanoha and she shook her head. She was ready to swear she'd never touch Fate again if it made her uncomfortable. Fate was her best friend and she didn't want to do anything to drive her away. The trembling hand that took Nanoha's was cold but as Fate closed it around Nanoha's its hold was strong and resolute. Fate had declared that Nanoha was her best friend and she wanted to learn how to be the best friend she could be for Nanoha. She asked Nanoha to be patient with her and to guide her down the path to true friendship.

The resounding hug that followed this nearly crushed the air out of the blonde girl but somehow it hadn't been as frightening as the first. Each successive hug was easier to accept until they reached the point when Nanoha could hang off Fate at will. Leaning over the back of her chair to wrap her arms around the girl without a moment's notice no longer resulted in a fearful twitch or quiet squeak of surprise. Fate seemed to recognize Nanoha's aura or presence even blindfolded allowing her to accept her touches by the time of the accident as a part of their normal friendship.

Despite their supposed closeness it was only after the accident that Nanoha finally learned the true extent of Fate's abuse. Needing assistance to bathe Fate had stripped down and entered the bathroom with her and the scars they now both carried seemed to bond them closer than ever. Nanoha had been ashamed of her body but seeing Fate's scars had pushed all thoughts of her own self-consciousness out of her head and concern over her beloved friend filled her mind. Reaching out to touch a scar that had a rough texture crossing the left side of her rib cage Nanoha felt Fate shiver at the contact. And it was at that moment Nanoha discovered lust. Fate might have been scarred by her childhood but she had grown into a compassionate, intelligent, beautiful young woman by this point. Unlike so many of their classmates Fate's transition into adulthood wasn't awkward but more like a flower blooming.

At thirteen Nanoha knew looking at Fate that she would only grow more beautiful as time passed. She had to stake a claim on the girl as soon as possible or risk losing her forever to someone who could never appreciate the girl properly. That year for Christmas she bought them friendship rings with their initials engraved on the inside. The blonde girl accepted it happily not thinking much beyond it being a lovely gift from her best friend but everyone else around them recognized the rings for what they truly were. The first step in moving their relationship from platonic to romantic and sending a clear message to any other prospective suitors to keep looking elsewhere.

While Fate was blossoming into a gorgeous woman in front of her eyes Nanoha felt incredibly awkward as she stumbled through puberty. She became klutzy and it seemed like she would always be flat as a board even as she grew taller making her feel like an unattractive string bean. She remembered seeing Fate in her one piece swimsuit that covered her scars but emphasized her flaring curves and feeling so unworthy of the girl. The fact that Fate depended on her to give her the confidence to go to the beach or any other public place meant she had "man up" so as to not disappoint the girl. Watching as crowds of boys and even a few girls stared covetously at her made her grind her teeth in frustration.

The only thing that helped was the fact that Fate didn't even realize how beautiful she was. She didn't notice the way people appreciated her physical beauty. When they went out together Fate was always fixated on Nanoha and whatever it was they were doing. Concentrating on Nanoha was how she was able to deal with her otherwise overwhelming fear of crowds and stifling social anxiety. Without Nanoha, Fate knew deep down she would never be able to function properly, she was her guiding light, her loving guardian angel.

Knowing how Fate depended on her and worried about ruining things between them Nanoha decided to tread carefully. She stealthily guarded her position in Fate's life while taking infinitely tiny steps closer to the girl. Getting Fate comfortable sleeping in the same bed as they cuddled took years of constant work acclimating Fate to her physical presence and relaxing under her touch. Luckily the accident seemed to accelerate Fate's ability to accept more of Nanoha's physical attention. The girl still couldn't initiate contact but when feeling needy she would sit nearby Nanoha and lean slightly towards her. It didn't take Nanoha long to learn what the girl wanted when she sat quietly next to her like this. Putting an arm around Fate's waist she would pull her closer so they sat snugly against one another. Only once she was being firmly held would Fate let her head rest on Nanoha's shoulder.

By the time they were fifteen Nanoha had regained more of her self confidence since she was now filling out and was beginning to feel she was somewhat physically attractive. It was at that time she decided to push the boundaries of their friendship. The joking term "skinship" used by some of the other girls to describe their playful exploration of their sexuality with each other wasn't what she wanted with Fate. She wanted Fate to be hers; there was no question in her mind about her sexuality. Only Fate could make her feel. It was important for her to renew her claim on the blonde as the boys in their school were no longer being fended off with a mere glare from her now.

So Nanoha decided to add kissing to their repertoire of physical exchanges. She had on occasion kissed the girl on the cheek or forehead and Fate seemed okay with that for the most part. But Nanoha was hoping to add a chaste peck on the lips to their exchanges. So after Fate had come to her after winning her track race for her congratulatory hug Nanoha decided to kiss the blonde lightly. Only for Fate to freak out at the new intimacy and run stumbling away from her stammering once again. Receiving this response wasn't all that heartening to Nanoha but eventually she was able to sit Fate down to explain (downplay) what had happened between them.

It took until graduation for Fate to finally get used to exchanging kisses with Nanoha on special occasions. Nanoha pointed out family members and very close friends kiss each other all the time. Then told the flustered girl she felt like Fate was as important to her as any member of her family and she was her closest friend in the world. She refused to say she thought of Fate as a sister because to let that idea take root in the blonde's head would mean instant defeat of her romantic intentions. Fate would put her in the "sister" box in her head and never allow herself to consider Nanoha in a romantic light.

College was one of the roughest times Nanoha had ever faced because Fate was even more popular with even more fanboys and fan-girls chasing after her. Every major holiday was a battle to keep these unwanted interlopers from stealing even a sliver of Fate's time and attention. Every weekend it seemed like the blonde was busy with some club or group project and Nanoha grew desperate. She had arranged for them to live together and go to the same school but not having the same major meant there was now a great deal of time where they were separated.

The first time Fate came home drunk well after she had said she'd be home Nanoha wanted to scream and shout. She wanted to have the right to be jealous and angry but Fate was just her friend. Even the rings they once both wore had been outgrown by this time. Fearfully Nanoha wondered if the time had come for Fate to leave her behind. The late nights happened four times that semester and each time made Nanoha grow more depressed and quiet around the blonde. When the semester ended and Fate was invited to a party Nanoha felt like punching the smug girl who was trying to steal her away.

When she got the call from Fate at midnight to come pick her up her voice was slightly slurred and strained. She hadn't even pulled up to the address given when she saw Fate sitting on the curb with her long legs stretched out into the street. Leaning back on her locked arms, her head thrown back and eyes closed as the moonlight highlighted her classically beautiful features. Parking across the street she exited her car and called out to the blonde. The way she suddenly sat up wobbly and took wary notice of her surroundings worried Nanoha. The fact that Fate who was the queen of grace was now stumbling as she tried to make her way over to Nanoha set off her warning bells.

Helping the blonde into her car she noticed her eyes were dilated strangely, she wasn't just drunk; someone had drugged her best friend. Her breathing was ragged and skin pale and clammy which frightened Nanoha. Instead of taking the girl home she took her straight to the hospital and was later grateful she had. It seemed someone had spiked Fate's drink that night with an illicit substance; rape was most likely her unknown attacker's plan. Having her stomach pumped and a combination of drugs to counteract what she was given saved Fate's life that night. She was allergic to something in the roofie and it was depressing her respiration dangerously.

When Fate woke up the next afternoon it was with a terrified yell. Nanoha understood why thanks to the police who came to the hospital. After hanging up with Nanoha, Fate had found herself being tugged in the direction of one of the bedrooms by two men. It had taken a monumental amount of strength and determination to resist them and escape from the apartment. She had made a terrible scene and physically struck a number of people when they tried to crowd her. Her would-be rapists were caught with more illicit drugs and another victim in situ.

Nanoha held her crying friend as she clung tightly to her. When the police officer entered the room with her adoptive mother Fate needed Nanoha's presence to make it through the interview. Nanoha was pissed off with Fate's attackers and not just for the attempted rape. They had pretended to be her friends using the naïve girl to bolster their grades that past semester and taking advantage of her generous nature. Nanoha had always protected her from the more unsavory types of people in the world but not being in the same classes with Fate meant she was now being exposed to all types of people.

Going home Fate was quieter than normal and when they got to their apartment she went straight to the bathroom to shower. The next few days Fate spoke rarely and spent a great deal of time in her room. Nanoha was worried but didn't know how to help Fate. Finally a week after the disastrous night Fate called Nanoha into her room. On her desk was a small velvet box and Fate paced her room like a caged animal. Seeing Nanoha she came to a stop and asked in her quiet voice for her to sit down at the desk. Nanoha's eyes flickered to the box for a second but her concern for Fate outweighed her curiosity.

That was the day her romantic hopes were dashed by reality, Fate didn't want her romantically, only platonically as her best friend. In the box was a necklace Fate had been saving to buy for Nanoha for months. The reason she had trusted those people was because they had helped her find decent part-time work. She had seen Nanoha drift away from her since the beginning of school thanks to their different majors and hoped this gift would show she at least didn't want to lose their friendship. Fate explained Nanoha would always be her best friend and the person she trusted most. The pitiful look on Fate's face when she said she hoped Nanoha would always have a place for her in her life in spite of how much trouble she could be made Nanoha feel like she'd been slapped.

Reading through the words Fate spoke Nanoha finally understood what had happened that year between them. Fate had tried to give Nanoha the space she thought she wanted/deserved to finally do the things she liked. This meant Fate had to find things to fill in her time so she wouldn't be lonely without Nanoha, so she joined clubs and volunteered to help her fellow students. Her hope was eventually she'd grow stronger and more independent and thus a more fitting friend for someone as wonderful as Nanoha. Seeing how popular Nanoha was within her department and how so many people admired her, Fate grew fearful of being left behind. So she decided to find part-time work and like Nanoha had so many years ago bought her a Christmas gift that showed how much she appreciated her friendship.

The necklace in the velvet box was part of a set with the jewel-like pendant actually fitting into an indention on the golden triangle pendant necklace Fate now wore. Without Nanoha in her life there would always be a hollow place in her heart. The girl with the beautiful sky colored eyes completed her and she didn't think she'd survive losing her friendship. So when Nanoha picked up the necklace and clipped it around her neck the weight that had been bearing down her shoulders finally lifted. Nanoha still wanted her friendship; she wasn't tired of having to constantly take care of someone as useless and burdensome as her.

Playing with the necklace now as she sat in the coffee shop Nanoha had to clench her teeth to stop her screaming in frustration. Years of companionship surely had to mean something in the end but right now all she could feel was pain at the very real prospect of being left behind.

As if the universe wanted to kick her while she was down the last person she wanted to see at the moment entered the cafe. Ducking down in hopes of avoiding eye contact Nanoha failed to prevent the evil raccoon from spotting her. Within minutes her annoying childhood friend was plopping down across from her with a steaming cup of coffee. Her devious grin foreshadowing the teasing yet to come.

"Hey Nano-chan! What a surprise to see you without Feito-chan," then leaning in with a leer she teased, "Unless you are hiding her under the table."

Blushing Nanoha grumbled, "Ohaio Hayate-san. No, she's having a dinner meeting with her boss."

Frowning a little at this news Hayate said, "Not that hunky guy I saw her with last week? Eeee I completely understand the long face now."

Nanoha stirred her drink as she contemplated murder but only shrugged in response.

Seeing how down in the dumps Nanoha was Hayate considered how fair it would be to kick her while she was down. Instead of rubbing salt in the wound she said, "Well it's not like you have to worry. Feito-chan is completely loyal. No way she'd want that beefcake when she has you at home."

Nanoha glared at Hayate, this wasn't helping. Grinding her teeth she said, "He's been spending more time with her, claims it is for "mentoring" purposes but I can tell he is interested in her. This isn't the first time a man has tried to weasel his way into her good graces, but this time she actually seems interested back."

Snorting at this Hayate shot down this thought, "Really? I didn't see her behavior towards him being all that amorous. She sure as hell didn't let him touch her, versus when I see you two together. She loves having you hang on her, maybe I should get one of those papoose that way she can carry you on her back all snuggled up."

Rolling her eyes at this Nanoha tried to wallow in her self pity some more, "She's been coming home later and later, working on a project. She is pulling away from me, I knew it had to happen eventually," sighing heavily she almost whimpered, "I just hoped we could stay together forever."

Tapping Nanoha on the head with her coffee stirrer Hayate gave her a very dry look, "If you want to stay together forever then you have to tell her that, stake a proper claim on the woman!"

Frowning Nanoha pouted gloomily, "I've tried, all that dense idiot sees is me being a good best friend! Agh! Why did I fall in love with her?!"

Barely able to control her emotions Nanoha buried her head in her arms that rested on the table. Blink back tears of frustration she continued brooding over Fate.

Not willing to give her friend a crumb of sympathy, fully knowing as well as anyone seeing the pair together that they were both deeply in love. Nope, it was time for a firm kick in the ass!

Poking the pouting dragon she said, "Put a ring on her already, maybe the reason why she's spending so much time away from you is because she doesn't think you are serious about wanting her."

Growling like a caged tiger Nanoha's eyes burned with barely suppressed possessiveness, "I love her with every fiber of my being. No one could be more serious about wanting her than me, especially not some man who doesn't deserve her."

Grinning at this sign of life Hayate said, "Big words but from where I'm sitting it looks like you're just going to let her go without a fight."

Sitting up properly, hands pressed flat to the tabletop she growled, "Never!"

Nodding happily at this proclamation Hayate said, "Good, then how about we go on a small shopping trip? You know what they say, strike while the iron is hot! Let's go find your girl a ring."

Shocked at Hayate's suggestion, Nanoha allowed herself to be dragged out of the cafe. A small flutter of hope entered her heart, maybe this time with a proper ring and being a more appropriate age she could get Fate to understand what she wanted, HER.

Across town a tall elegant blonde was sitting nearly flush with the man next to her. Her suit jacket hung from the back of her seat and the top button of her neatly starched dress shirt was undone leaving an eyeful of delicate flesh on display. Any red blooded male with a pulse would have found the excited gleam in her eyes intoxicating and in a way the man beside her was affected, but it wasn't sexual lust that had him breathing heavier.

As the blonde explained the designs before her and the projected costs to create the experimental aircraft the logistics clicked into place. He could see the woman had worked out all of his concerns prior to him even forming them. All the "i"s dotted and "t"s crossed so he couldn't find a single flaw to her plans. Looking over her list of potential personnel for her team he had to grin, all young but competent with bucket loads of passion for their profession. As Fate finished her presentation he felt hope blossom, their company could actually win the upcoming competition and its lucrative contract with the TSAB grand prize.

Sitting back in the booth the man picked up his drink and took a long pull from the frosted mug. They had planned to eat at the upscale restaurant where Marco had originally gotten them reservations. It was the sneak peek of the designs which had them eating and drinking in one of the more casual restaurants with private rooms.

After working out the details of the proposed project the man leaned back grinning, "You're a genius. I could kiss you!"

Gathering up her notes and schematics Fate replied calmly, "I'd prefer you didn't."

The fact that Fate was able to reply so normally to this tease was a reflection of their growing friendship. Considering how everyone assumed there was a romantic aspect to their relationship meant the man liked to flirt. Both knowing it was nothing but a joke, especially since he already had a male lover.

Snorting a laugh he said, "Ah well. You really are something else Fate. Nanoha is lucky to have you."

Blushing the blonde replied, "We're just friends...best friends. She...she could do better than me."

Tilting his head in amusement Marco said, "Umm hmm, you know if you keep acting like this you'll lose her. Plenty of guys and girls in the office have their eyes on her. Is that what you want? I've seen the way you look at her, I really don't want to deal with another brokenhearted engineer. Ugly criers the lot of you."

Frowning Fate neatly packed away her belongings before saying, "I don't deserve her."

Reaching over he pinched her cheek before saying in a brotherly tone, "It isn't about what you deserve. Love isn't earned you little idiot. Stop being so stubborn and just kiss the woman. I swear you two have wasted so much time."

Smacking the hand away the blonde stood up, "I appreciate the advice but it's better this way."

There was a sigh before the man spoke again with real sadness in his eyes, "Regret is the killer of souls Fate. Imagine a life without her in it and decide, you can't pretend forever."

This actually made her pause of a moment, she knew about his prior heartache and how he himself was struggling with coming out. The question of her own sexuality had never been a question, everyone just accepted she wasn't attracted to men so therefore she had to be gay, especially since all of her closest friends were lesbians. This man loved his boyfriend but also had a ton of social pressure on him to present himself as heterosexual. Up to and including needing to "date" women just to keep his conservative family from disowning him.

Looking down at her briefcase she tried to picture her life without Nanoha and felt her stomach clench hard. Not wanting to dwell on this any further she picked the leather satchel that Nanoha had bought her as a graduation gift, glad to have a physical item associated with the woman to ease her stress. Politely if more than a touch curtly, she said, "I'll start on the project Monday. Thank you for dinner Marco-san. Have a good evening."

Leaving the restaurant Fate headed straight home. She really hadn't wanted to make her meeting with her boss a dinner date thus despite Marco's insistence she order a meal she had merely gotten an appetizer and drink. Eating without Nanoha wasn't enjoyable, food seemed to lose its flavor when the woman wasn't there to share it. If she was lucky her best friend would just be getting home when she arrived and they could cook a meal together.

Entering the apartment building she nodded at a few people lingering around the mailboxes. Punching the elevator button she mentally counted the seconds until she'd be home. She desperately needed a hug and to share her news, she was now officially a project manager on a design she created. If this worked out it could mean a raise, along with a substantial bonus and recognition. Enough money to maybe buy the townhouse Nanoha had been dreaming of living in since they moved to the city.

Just as the elevator arrived a very familiar voice called out to her, "Please hold the door."

Turning around she saw it was one of her neighbors, a slightly older woman who liked to treat both Fate and Nanoha as quasi adopted little sisters. Smiling, she did the polite thing and held the door. Allowing her to enter she punched the appropriate button and said, "Good evening Doctor Wolkenritter, how are you doing?"

Noticing the younger blonde seemed to be in a good mood Shamal said, "Very well. If you don't mind me saying you look to be in fine fettle, did you get that promotion you were talking about? Or has your young lady finally popped the question?"

Blushing Fate had to admit, "I got the promotion, it was confirmed today. Please don't tease me over Nanoha, you know she could do so much better. There's no way she'd want to be with me."

Rolling her eyes at this nonsense Shamal said, "And who would be more suitable? That idiot man who lives up the hall and moons over her every time they pass in the halls? Or how about one of her coworkers? If you don't want her I can arrange an omiai, there are a few young doctors at my hospital who would love to have a woman like her as a wife."

Fate felt her stomach clench as her whole body began to shudder with emotion. Nanoha becoming the wife of some faceless stranger made her suppressed possessive streak rear its ugly head. Her heart and soul were screaming, 'MINE MINE MINE! DON'T TOUCH MY NANOHA!'

A gentle hand on her back broke her from her emotional paralysis, and she noticed the door to the elevator had opened on their floor. Swallowing back the bile that burned her throat she said in a soft voice, "Sorry, I got lost in thought."

Stepping out they walked for a short distance before Shamal stopped at her door. Hoping to give the younger woman a small nudge in the right direction she said, "You know if you don't think you are worthy of Nanoha then there is only one thing to do."

Fate stared with wide fearful eyes at her neighbor waiting for the other boot to drop on her. Smashing her delicately balanced life and leaving her in shambles.

Shaking her head at the silly girl Shamal said, "Become the person worthy of her, be the one she can depend on, be the one to love her more than any other person could and trust her to be that person for you."

Unable to give a verbal answer Fate nodded, her mind in a turmoil.

Patting Fate on the head Shamal said more kindly, "We both know that shouldn't be a problem for you. Trust your feelings."

Deciding she'd picked on the poor woman enough Shamal gave her a tiny nudge towards her own door, "Go get her tiger."

Turning away from her neighbor Fate's long strides up the hallway to her door seemed never ending.

Between her awkward conversation with Marco and now her neighbor Fate was wondering if maybe the universe was trying to tell her something. The same thing her heart had been screaming at her since she was a child, hold on to Nanoha and never let go. Shaking her head she decided against saying anything, she wasn't worthy of Nanoha yet. If her project won the TSAB contract then she'd take it as a sign, after all then she'd at least be able to offer the woman a proper home to compensate for all her shortcomings.

In the meantime she'd at least share her good news and maybe if she was lucky Nanoha will let her snuggle with her on the couch. She pushed open the door only for her heart to sink into a pit of despair, Nanoha wasn't home causing all her happiness to ooze down the drain. Dropping her things messily at the door, shoulders sagging she whimpered quietly. She hated coming home to an empty apartment, this sanctuary was only effective when her angel was there to greet her.

Blinking back tears since she seriously needed a hug Fate slapped her cheeks. She would fortify her nerves with a hot shower then begin dinner. Once again trying not to let her boss' words affect her, imagine a life without her. Fate didn't need to imagine it, she had nightmares about that scenario at least once a month since she was a child. Nanoha nearly dying had only made them worse, she could only be thankful Nanoha seemed to instinctively know when she was having a nightmare and climbed into her bed to sooth her. Waking up with the auburn haired angel beside her was the closest thing to heaven she'd ever experienced.

Not even fifteen minutes later the front door opened again and a disgruntled Nanoha found herself tripping on Fate's briefcase. She cursed as she rubbed her bruised knee and contemplated kicking the stupid thing when the realization that Fate was home struck her. Looking around she saw shoes kicked off haphazardly and a jacket cast off on the couch. A sick feeling of dread filled her stomach, had Fate brought that man home with her? Were they now doing things in Fate's room?

Suddenly the pain of her bruised knee receded as her heart began to tear in two. How had she let things get to this point? She should have just admitted her feelings years ago and dealt with the fallout one way or the other. Losing Fate without even trying, god she really was a coward. She deserved this pain, she..

Her morose moping on the floor was interrupted when Fate's door opened and the blonde came out dressed in her nightwear. The tiny spaghetti tank top and leggings that had fueled hundreds of dirty fantasies for Nanoha over the years. Seeing her best friend on the ground the normally calm beauty turned into a frantic mother hen. Coming over to check Nanoha for injuries and seeing the bruise she began berating herself for her carelessness.

Reaching out Nanoha cupped Fate's pale cheek and in a voice of resignation asked, "Why are you here Fate-chan? Why aren't you with Marco-san?"

Looking down at the bruise Fate mumbled, "I finished my meeting with him. There didn't seem to be any reason to hang around."

Nanoha felt a small surge of hope at that but was also worried Fate had hurt her chances of a promotion by probably being rude to her boss. In a calm and disinterested voice as possible she said, "I hope you didn't just make your presentation then run, sometimes being social and friendly can be the tipping point in professional settings."

Rolling her eyes at this Fate said, "Marco can deal with eating a meal alone, he's a big boy."

Nanoha felt her throat tighten, she'd very rarely seen this side of Fate, she was only able to joke around like this with her closest of friends. Talking so casually about her boss made her wonder what exactly they'd been up to during all that overtime.

"You two seem to be getting close, I hear rumors…"

Seeing the bruise on Nanoha's knee and how it was slightly swollen Fate decided to forgo trying to have Nanoha stand. The stubborn woman would likely try to walk on it even if it was broken, it was her job to make sure she never overtaxed herself.

Letting her gallant knight persona out Fate said, "Never mind him, we need to ice your knee," then with zero hesitation she picked up her friend and carried her to the couch.

'God damn it all,' Nanoha groaned in her head. She absolutely loved it when Fate acted this way.

Setting her down Fate then went for the first aid kit and put on some ointment on the bruise before wrapping the swelling and icing it. The meticulous care the blonde bestowed on her made it a million times harder not to love the woman. She also took another small measure of hope in the fact that Fate seemed completely dismissive of Marco now that she wasn't in his immediate vicinity.

Pulling Fate to sit next to her Nanoha snuggled into her side. It was stupid and only fed the feelings she'd been trying to quell for years but at this moment she needed her Fate-chan cuddle pillow more than air. She also swore to herself mentally she would indulge only for a few minutes then she'd start the most important conversation of her lifetime.

They sat like that in comfortable silence for five minutes, Fate half dozing in the sweet scent of her friend while she played with her hair. Nanoha's arm securely wrapped around her as her fingers wrote out indistinguishable words on her back. At least Fate had never paid close enough attention to figure them out, until now… 'I…L...O...V...E...Y...O...U...F...A...T...E...C..H...A...N."

Heart quivering Fate asked tentatively, "Nanoha?"

Humming a response the auburn haired woman snuggled in closer.

Smiling at the kittenish behavior Fate hugged her before saying, "I have some good news."

Tilting her head up cutely Nanoha looked at the blonde questioningly.

Feeling her heart skip at the adorable woman Fate felt her smile broaden, "I got the promotion. Marco thinks we have a good chance at winning the TSAB contract. Starting Monday I will be working with my own R&D team."

Hugging Fate tightly, Nanoha cheered, "Oh that's fantastic Fate-chan! I knew you could do it."

Then realizing this meant that Fate would be working more overtime Nanoha sighed, "I want you to pace yourself Fate-chan. The last thing you need is to get sick from overworking yourself."

Squeezing Nanoha's hand Fate said, "I'll be careful. I want this to succeed. If it does then I'll be in line for a pretty big bonus. I… I was hoping we could use it as a down-payment on that house you liked so much."

Heart trembling with overwrought emotion, Nanoha hid her face against Fate's shoulder before lightly punching the woman, "Baka Fate-chan, you shouldn't say things like that."

Petting soft hair Fate asked, "Why not? I thought you'd be happy. I thought you wanted our own home."

It was completely unfair how Fate could say these things to her. They weren't lovers, yet Fate seemed to treat her as if she was her de facto wife. She had always spoiled her and tried to make all her wishes come true. If only Fate was willing to fulfill her most secret desires, then Nanoha could say wholeheartedly she was living in a personal heaven on earth.

Threading their fingers together again Nanoha kept her face hidden as she admitted, "I was scared of losing you to him. That you'd leave me and I'd be all alone."

Surprised by Nanoha voicing such a fear, one that mirrored her own Fate kissed the top of her head before whispering, "Never. My place is beside Nanoha, now and forever."

The tender action made tears spring to Nanoha's eyes as she clutched at the blonde's thin tank top, how easy it could be to whip off the article of clothing and finally lay claim on her heart's desire. Fate had just all but promised to stay with her till death do they part, surely it couldn't hurt to consummate their relationship?

Running her fingers through Nanoha's hair Fate tried to soothe her further, "Nanoha, you know I'm never going to leave you. You are the most important person in the world to me. I can't function properly without you by my side."

Pushing away, Nanoha rubbed her face as she asked pointedly, "I need to know something Fate-chan, so be honest. Am I just a security blanket for you?"

Blinking at the absurd thought Fate answered bluntly, "Of course not. You're my best friend. It's true when we were younger I did see you as a protector, my white knight. Or as Hayate would put it my guardian White Devil."

Giving her friend a disbelieving look Nanoha wasn't sure how honest Fate was being with herself. With a sigh Fate shifted on the couch so she was now facing sideways and looking Nanoha nearly in the eye, "Nanoha, when I said I need you to function properly I mean it. Not because you are a security blanket but because I know no matter what you'll be there to help pick me up if I fall and be the person to celebrate all my accomplishments with me. When I am faced with a task that seems insurmountable I picture your face and I can hear you say, 'You can do it Fate-chan!' in my head. You've always believed in me."

Taking Nanoha's hand she stared at their fingers which naturally intertwined, "I love you. I can't imagine my life without you in it."

Then the visions her prior conversations had invoked rushed at her and she had to blink back tears that suddenly rushed forward, choking a little Fate admitted, "Actually I have imagined it, a lot, especially today. I don't like it, I hate it. I don't want a life without Nanoha in it."

Worried Nanoha wiped at the hot tears and asked, "Why would Fate-chan worry about that? She knows I love her most in this world, I'm not going anywhere. If anyone has to worry it should be me, Fate-chan is so popular these days."

Shaking her head and now desperately needing to hold on to Nanoha so as to prove she wasn't going to disappear Fate said, "Nanoha could have such a better life without me. I am always being a burden…"

She was cut off by a very angry Nanoha pushing her down on the couch and climbing onto her. Glaring down Nanoha decided now was the time to finally get this dense woman to understand her feelings. Giving her friend a poke to the chest she said, "You are not a burden! You were the one who stood by me during the worst time of my life. You gave me hope and encouragement when I desperately needed it."

Then calming down a little Nanoha said in a much softer tone, "When I opened my eyes and saw you there I thought, she really does care. I had worried I was just being pushy, that maybe you never wanted me in your life."

Reaching up to caress a cheek Fate said, "I like it when you are pushy."

Covering the hand with her own Nanoha leaned into the touch closing her eyes, "I sometimes worry about that. I love you Fate-chan but I'm scared I have stolen away your ability to say no to me."

Laughing at the idea the blonde used her free arm to pull Nanoha down, snuggling her against her chest she said, "You have never asked anything of me that I didn't want. Some things might have been a bit scary or uncomfortable at first but the end results were always worth it."

Melting into the hold Nanoha thought about how rare it was for her best friend to initiate this kind of contact. Anytime Fate held her she instinctively gave into it, to pull away or struggle would only make them both feel bad and be a waste of a good cuddle.

Playing with the strap of Fate's top Nanoha finally asked the question she'd been terrified could ruin everything, "I uh, I want to ask you something that might be both but I hope will bring us both a lot of happiness. Fate-chan will you be my girlfriend?"

Immediately her mental/emotional shields kicked in and refused to accept the reality of what was being asked of her, dense as a brick Fate replied, "We are already girl friends."

Groaning with frustration Nanoha lifted herself up, glaring again she looked into scared burgundy eyes and realized Fate knew what she was asking but her insecurities were holding her back. She had no idea how to overcome them, yelling and screaming would just make things worse. She couldn't just sexually assault her best friend to prove her point. Sitting back she covered her face with her hands again, her resolve waning and heart breaking.

Fate could see Nanoha's normally strong shoulders tremble. The defeat and acceptance that they couldn't be more than they are now. It was like a lightning bolt striking her, mentally she screamed, 'No! I want you! I want us!'

Mustering her courage she shifted she could also sit up and carefully pulled Nanoha into a hug. The gesture had her crying and a choked voice say, "I'll be okay. I… I…"

Fate couldn't stand it, Nanoha's tears burned her soul and finally had her voicing her desires.

Whispering softly she said, "Yes," then lifting Nanoha's head, ignoring the surprised look on the face she loved most, she leant in and initiated her first freely given kiss.

Why this kiss should feel different from the dozens she'd shared with Nanoha over the years she didn't know but the second their lips met she felt her heart try to explode out of her chest. Tightening her left arm that was curled around her best friend's back Fate sneaked her hand lower, pulling Nanoha's shirt loose so she could finally indulge in the soft skin. This earned her a moan allowing her to deepen the kiss.

Nanoha was sure this was all some delusion, maybe she'd hit her head when she tripped and when she woke up this would all disappear. 'Fuck it,' her heart screamed, she'd indulged in enough fantasies involving Fate in the past, why rebel against this one? Wrapping an arm around her best friend she yanked her possessively closer. Her right hand dove into silky blonde tresses and tugged gently making Fate gasp. Taking the opening she slid her tongue forward and tasted how sweet her best friend's mouth really was.

The warmth of two bodies now rubbing against each other made Fate's head swim as if she was now suffering heat stroke. It was too much, all the while not enough, she needed more. She couldn't believe this was what she'd been denying herself for years. She was a fool of the grandest scale imaginable. Rolling them so she could push Nanoha back down onto the couch she straddled her lap refusing to give up the feeling of her beloved's body pressing so willingly against her own. When they finally came up for air Fate hid her face in the nook of Nanoha's neck. She was trembling from all the strange and wonderful feelings bubbling through her.

The pale flesh of Fate's shoulder and neck beckoned and Nanoha refused to let this dream end with her being dissatisfied. Pressing hot open mouth kisses on the tender skin she was rewarded with moans and sighs of pleasure. Biting a sensitive spot hard enough to leave a red marks she growled, "Mine."

That was all it took to make Fate pull out from her retreat and kiss her best friend like there was no tomorrow. If Nanoha meant to claim her then she sure as hell wasn't going to stop her. She'd lay herself out on a silver platter and never complain about the repercussions. Tipping over so she was on her back with Nanoha on top Fate broke the kiss just long enough to say, "Make me yours. All yours."

Never in her wildest dreams had Fate said those words to her. She wasn't fool enough to believe the blonde would be willingly owned by anyone. If she ever honestly tried she was sure to be slapped and called any number of names. Pulling away Nanoha sat up and rubbed her eyes trying to stop the tears. She pinched herself and choked back sobs as she found she couldn't wake up.

When Fate saw this she stopped her from hurting herself further and asked, "What is it? Nanoha, please don't cry. If you hated it we don't ever have to.."

Blazing sapphires turned to look at her as tears fell unbidden, "This is just a damn dream. My Fate-chan would never…"

Covering Nanoha's lips with a finger Fate said, "Nanoha, I've always belonged to you. Since the day you sat down next to me and offered your hand of friendship. How could it be otherwise? Who else would I trust with my body and heart?"

Crying noisily Nanoha clung to Fate and with a weak fist she pounded her back as she complained, "Stupid, stupid Fate-chan! Baka! Idiot!"

Enjoying the feel of Nanoha being so close Fate took the abuse and mumbled back, "Shh now, I know. I know. But if you still want me I'm willing to be your idiot."

Pulling back and giving her best friend a scrutinizing look Nanoha said, "Don't say things you don't mean. I want you in a non-platonic, one hundred percent completely carnal way. I'm in love with you. I want to touch and taste you, how I've been able to keep from jumping you over the years is a goddamn miracle."

Shuddering at the blatant lust in Nanoha's eyes Fate felt the strange heat only this woman could stir in her rise up again. Taking her left hand she placed it on her breast before saying, "I'm yours. All of me. If you doubt that I can feel the same, touch me and you'll see how much I want you. You've been making me feel strange things for years, no one else has ever made me aroused but you've done it unknowingly since we were teens."

Cursing Nanoha could feel the pebbled hardness of an erect nipple under her palm. Taking a steadying breath she declared, "If we do this, you can't leave me. You're mine, now and forever. I won't share you. If a man tries to…"

Kissing her best friend to shut her up Fate pulled away only when Nanoha seemed to have lost all conscious thought and then whispered, "Just remember one thing, the same goes for you. You belong to me now Nanoha. You can't leave me. I'll die without you."

Then with a feat of strength that made Nanoha's wet core tighten Fate lifted them both off the couch and walked them to her room. Fate's private space was dominated by a king sized bed and Nanoha was suddenly thankful for this excess. She had years of fantasies to work through and some took room to maneuver.

Waking up naked in Fate's bed was a first for Nanoha. As was the experience of having her favorite blonde nude and pressed against her in such an enticing manner. Brushing back her messy bangs she looked down at the sleeping face of her best friend and wondered how years of pussyfooting around could just imploded into red hot sex at the drop of a hat. What had been different this time around? There had been boys who'd tried to come between them before. There had been arguments and all manners of stupidity as they had grown up which mixed with teenage hormones should have been enough of a catalyst to get them to fall into bed together. Yet it was only now that they had finally voiced their feelings outright and took action.

Groaning as she rubbed her face against the side of Nanoha's breast Fate grumbled, "Stop thinking so loudly."

It was a running joke among their friends that the pair could communicate telepathically. Sometimes it felt like that and at other times Fate was a complete mystery to her. Combing out long blonde hair with her fingers she finally asked, "Why now?"

Frowning in her drowsy state Fate hummed her confusion. Clarifying her question Nanoha asked, "Why did you kiss me?"

Blushing Fate answered with her own question, "Why did you finally ask me to be your girlfriend?"

Realization that she'd actually done that hit Nanoha like a bomb, 'oh shit, I really did it.' Then the full repercussions of the last few hours set in, Fate was her girlfriend, they were lovers. The blonde hadn't been shy about her desires either, she could still feel the love bites and scratches on her back. Tightening her arms around Fate, Nanoha said, "I had to ask you before someone finally stole you away from me."

Rolling her eyes at the idea Fate curled in tighter to her lover, clinging on tightly as she mumbled into Nanoha's skin, "Not going anywhere."

Kissing the top of her head Nanoha hugged her back, "That's right. Fate-chan is all mine now."

She could feel Fate relax at that, and it made her wonder if she was as scared over the situation as she was. Currently her heart had to be pounding like a jackhammer, frightened Fate was going to announce she hated everything that had happened between them and she never wanted to see her again. Yet here was the blonde being a cuddle monster while they were both naked as the day they were born. Which was another reason why her heart was racing, heaven help her but she felt good.

Chewing on her lip Nanoha couldn't help picking at the topic, she needed the reassurance that this was what Fate wanted, "So you didn't hate it?"

Not even Fate could pretend to be this dense, releasing her hold on Nanoha's body the blonde turned away but then pulled her arms around her so she was now the little spoon. No longer able to see Fate's face she couldn't see the bright red blush she was sporting, "Of course I didn't hate it," then as if she was unsure about this situation she let Nanoha go completely as she asked, "You weren't disappointed, were you?"

Kissing Fate's neck Nanoha left a small love bite before answering, "You are everything I have ever wanted."

Groaning at the treatment Fate spoke without thinking, "I wish you'd said something sooner, I've been wanting this for years."

Happy by the admission but also slightly annoyed, Nanoha pinched Fate's side before saying, "You could have said something too. Why didn't you?"

Letting out a small yelp and covering Nanoha's hands with her own again Fate pulled them so they were resting on her breasts. Distracted by this Nanoha almost didn't hear Fate's response, "I was scared."

Kissing her shoulder Nanoha admitted, "Me too."

Turning over again Fate wrapped her arms around Nanoha's neck and asked, "Promise me you will always be pushy, tell me what you want. I'm scared to ask for more, I don't want you to hate me."

Pressing her forehead to Fate's, Nanoha said, "Silly Fate-chan, I could never hate you. Never be scared to ask me for anything. I want to give you everything."

Feeling shy Fate looked away from piercing sapphire eyes as she asked, "Kiss me?"

Grinning Nanoha didn't give a verbal reply but closed the gap.

There was very little talking done after that.

It was nearly lunchtime before they finally got out of bed as the need for food became urgent. Nanoha was starving, having skipped both dinner and breakfast in her pursuit of making up for lost time. Sitting down to eat with Fate she was pleasantly surprised when the blonde linked their free hands. Clearly she was going to do her best to make this relationship work, even if Nanoha could tell by her blush that it was taking a toll on her emotionally. Squeezing the hand holding hers she smiled before saying, "Itadakimasu."

After eating the pair cleaned up together and Nanoha found herself pinning Fate to the counter, she was so damn CUTE! Kissing her was the most amazing thing on the planet and she couldn't get enough.

Breaking apart Fate gasped, "More."

Nanoha felt her brain melt, this woman was going to be the death of her. Spending an entire day snuggling and kissing was now on the agenda, to hell with any other plans they might have had.

Curled up on the couch Nanoha was practically purring as she used Fate as a pillow.

In a moment of honesty Fate said, "I can't believe this is real, it feels like a dream."

Nuzzling perfect breasts Nanoha had to agree, "Best dream ever, I'm never waking up."

Fate laughed at that, Nanoha could be ridiculous sometimes. It was that side of her best friend that had always made her feel special, she never acted this way with anyone else.

Playing with auburn hair Fate said, "I'm going to be getting teased a lot at work now. Marco is going to have a field day telling me, 'I told you so.'"

Going rigid at the name Nanoha growled, "I really hate that guy."

Poking Nanoha's cheek Fate reprimanded her, "Be nice. He has been trying to get me to confess to you for weeks. He actually thinks we make a good couple. Just yesterday he was talking about how stupid I was being by not confessing."

Confused by this Nanoha looked up, "I thought he was trying to get into your pants. He's been flirting with you in the office and dragging you around with him everywhere."

Unsure if she should spill Marco's secrets but knowing Nanoha would never tell Fate decided to share in order to explain the situation. It would also help in keeping Nanoha from trying to kill the man the next time he decided to do something foolish.

Looking a little uncomfortable Fate admitted, "He's gay but in the closet. Him flirting with me is just him playing the role his family expects from him."

Frowning now Nanoha sat up, seriously annoyed that anyone had to live like that, "Are you serious Fate-chan? Or is he just feeding you lines to make you feel bad for him?"

"I've met his boyfriend, they are really sweet together."

Surprised by this Nanoha asked, "When did this happen?"

Shrugging a little, "I accidentally caught them one evening when I was working overtime. He thought I had left already and they were… well it was pretty clear they weren't just friends."

Nanoha blushed and wondered if it would be best to drop the subject now, she really didn't need to know all this about Fate's boss.

Unable to stop herself from complaining a little, Fate continued, "The reason he drags me around with him is so he can use me as a cover story. When we leave the office for working lunches he is meeting up with Louie. He tells me to find someplace close to eat and to keep my phone nearby. The least he could do is buy my lunch, half the time I have food in the office refrigerator and it goes to waste."

The little pout Fate was now wearing made Nanoha smile, giving her cheek a poke she said, "Next time he does that to you call me. I will meet up with you wherever you're at and we can eat together."

Unlike Fate, Nanoha had a lot more flexibility to come and go from the office. She just needed to get through her first year probation then her boss would let her begin working from home. A goal she was dead set on since it would mean she could set her own hours and be available whenever Fate needed her. Right now, even though she had a fixed schedule she often finished her assignments well before the end of the workday. Her boss was very impressed with her performance and driven nuts by her hyperactivity if forced to stay with no meaningful work now rarely made her remain the full workday.

Smiling at the offer Fate said, "That would be nice but you running out of the office every time we went out would get a little obvious."

Huffing at this Nanoha said, "He's going to have to stop using you as a cover story anyway, no way I'm going to keep US a secret."

Fate pulled Nanoha back down for a kiss which she was very relieved was reciprocated fully, "I don't plan on that either."

Resting back down on Fate, Nanoha decided to change the subject by asking, "What did he say to you?"

Reminded of the conversation blunt nails dug into Nanoha's back as Fate tried to form the right words, "Basically that if I continued to pretend like all we are is friends then you'd eventually get tired and find someone who could make you happy."

Snorting at this nonsense Nanoha said, "Even if we never had sex I would consider living my life with you by my side a well lived life. You are my happiness."

Needing to get it all off her chest Fate admitted, "It wasn't just Marco, Shamal-sensei really gave me a push yesterday. By the time I got inside the apartment I was a complete mess, I wanted to tell you how I felt but could feel all my self doubts telling me it was doomed to failure."

Shifting so Fate was now laying on top of her Nanoha cradled her as she rubbed soothing circles on her back, "It all worked out in the end. Now we are together and nothing is going to change that, Fate-chan is all mine."

Shaking with emotion Fate admitted, "They both kept pushing the idea of you leaving me for someone else who would love you properly, I couldn't stand it. The idea of someone else touching you. Of you loving them more than me. I can't. Oh Nanoha, I am a terrible person, every time someone hits on you or I hear rumors about some guy having the hots for you I want to commit murder."

Squeezing Fate tightly, Nanoha felt a mix of annoyance and thankfulness to the two busybodies. Upsetting her darling blonde was the fastest way to earn her ire but if their words had given Fate even a hint of courage to accept her then she would forgive them.

Deciding Fate deserved the full truth, Nanoha lifted Fate's face and kissed her gently before admitting, "Fate-chan, I have felt the same way for a very long time. Since we were in grade school and my possessiveness has only gotten stronger over the years. You have no idea how many hours I've spent at the gym beating my frustration out on a punching bag."

Then sighing, "Hayate-chan has been teasing me over my feelings for you since we were kids. She even antagonized me yesterday while I was moping over you having dinner with Marco," this brought back the memory of their shopping trip and she sat up with a loud, "OH!," tipping Fate over in her excitement.

Suddenly eager to stake her claim she jumped off the couch and scurried over to her purse. When she came back with the small velvet box she could see Fate sitting up with a very confused look on her face.

Apologizing for her exuberance, "Sorry Fate-chan, um I have something for you." Climbing back into the couch she smiled shyly before saying, "Hayate gave me the push I needed to buy this for you. I know I just asked you to be my girlfriend but," she paused to take a deep calming breath to steady herself. Taking Fate's hand she looked into the burgundy eyes she loved most, "I really want to ask you to marry me. I don't want there to be any confusion about our relationship, I want you to be my wife."

Handing over the ring box Nanoha watched as Fate's face took on a surprised smile and then tears ran down her face. This time both of them knew what the ring meant, and were ready to stop settling for the next best thing.

Lunging forward Fate pinned Nanoha down to the couch and said, "Yes!"