Disclaimer: Same ole thing: no stealing, no suing; everything is copyrighted to their respective owners. I wish that Nanoha or Fate is mine, but sadly, they're not. So all I can do is write this fic.
A Smile Through The Pane
The man looked out into the hallway as he stepped out of the elevator. He walked through with a box in his hand and a determined step towards the one door he was walking to; his ponytail waved around as his steps echo in the building. He kept his smile through his spectacles, his heart beating fast with each stride he takes. Only when he reached the door that his footsteps stopped.
"She's currently away, sir. If you want-"
"I know, she told me to wait inside."
"But there is someone inside already, she's waiting for her to come home."
"If so, then I'll wait with her."
Hesitantly, his finger touched the doorbell. The chime that responded his touch was instant, if somewhat unearthly. It doesn't take a long time for a voice to respond. What he heard though, surprised him.
"Mama, is that you?"
His ears readjusted themselves, trying to confirm that what he heard isn't wrong. When a second voice rang out, he knew his ears weren't deceiving him.
He opened his mouth, hesitant to raise his voice.
"I'm...a friend of hers." he half-croaked
The door slid open slowly. He couldn't see who opened it, until a bobbing orange head caught his attention. He looked down to see the girl who opened the door.
"Who...are you?" she whispered slowly.
He couldn't believe his eyes; there she was, a small girl, looking at him through her round, somewhat scared eyes. It wasn't someone whom he expected, but he needed to say something before the door slid shut. He gulped down nervously before he answered back:
"I'm waiting for her too."
The little girl tilted her head, unsure of what to do. She repeated what her guardian always told her:
"I, um, can't talk with strangers..."
He knew this would happen, he had to tell her what he had wanted to do. He produced the box that he brought with him.
"I have to give this to her, and I need to see her too. Can I wait here with you?"
A gift ribbon wrapped the otherwise plain black color of the small box that he carried on his palm. Two round eyes stared at the bix and the smiling man back and forth. She hesitated, and then opened the door wider. The man didn't come in though, he kneeled instead and looked at her eyes.
"Don't worry, this place is the safest place around, they won't let bad guys to go anywhere near."
With that sentence, she hesitantly moved out of the way, and said slowly, "I guess...it's okay."
"Thank you", was what he said as he entered the large room. He laid his eyes on the chairs and the furnitures before he spied the staircase leading into a raised balcony. His eyes didn't look further as the girl, holding a rabbit doll, stood before him with her eyes staring at his towering form.
The man put his box on the table and kneeled down, looking at the little girl, smiling softly.
"Want me to show you something cool?" he removed his glasses as he said so.
The girl only nodded her head slowly. Taking it as a clue, he stood and closed his eyes. A curtain of light covered him filling the room with light. The doll shielded her eyes as she holds it in front of her. When the light's gone, she put the doll down, and nothing was there.
...except for a small animal in front of her. The creature stood on its two legs, whiskers rustling softly, and whistled as it raised one of its arms up.
"Hi, I'm Yuuno, Yuuno Scrya, how are you?" it chirped happily.
The ferret relaxed its legs as it sprawled on the table, the fascinated little girl before him. The creature wasn't really in that fine a shape as it was a couple of minutes ago, thanks to a bearhug and a squealing, smiling girl responsible for it.
"So...you're Vivio, I guess I forgot Nanoha told me about you."
Vivio nodded her head happily, looking with rapt fascination as the long rodent licked its own whiskers. Her big eyes followed every movement the ferret makes, which reminded Yuuno how it vaguely resembled lion's hungry eyes before quickly dismissing the thought as rubbish.
"You look yummy, Mr. Ferret." she squealed with a smile.
Maybe that idea wasn't as far fetched after all.
"She's out on duty, isn't she?" the ferret asked with a sweatdrop still on its forehead.
"Yes, mama always works, and I'm waiting for them here." she said, still half-concentrated with the moving creature in front of her while rocking gently on the sofa. She tried to reach her hand, resulting in Yuuno climbing up to her shoulder, licking her cheek lightly. She squealed in response, trying to catch him, but being a ferret has its advantages; he was instantly on the table again as Vivio's hand reached air.
"Didn't the other ones look after you?" Yuuno asked as the orange-haired girl looked ready to pounce again.
"They're...training with both of them...and Mr. Doggy has something to do..." Vivio looked at Yuuno, a change in her tone making it obvious about her thoughts.
He climbed over to the window, looking at the sunlit skyline of Mid-Childa. He heaved a sigh at the deceivingly peaceful days.
Yuuno may be very far from anyone in the Riot Force 6, or from any Bureau personnel for that matter, but his vast amount of intelligence sources always caught him up to speed with whatever's going on. Several days ago, Yuuno had heard of an inspection to the very unit that Nanoha is in, and he knew who wanted it, and why. It's easy to piece the puzzles, but he can only watch helplessly; just like the spectator at a chess game. He held no position, he is a civilian, which means that he will never be there when she needs him.
If she needs him at all...
Yuuno looked back to the girl, staring intently to the sky in front of him. Vivio was as if an angel sent from heaven. It's easy to piece things together; his absence, Vivio's and Fate's presence, and the never-ending jobs separating both of them, he knew his place without that much of an effort. That thought begs a painful question, one that resounds greatly as Yuuno briefly peeked at the small box he left on the table.
"The sun looks so good...I wish I can go out..." Vivio sighed. Yuuno looked to the little girl's longing eyes. He stared deep into them, something inexplicably absorbing him in his thoughts with each passing second. Then, the idea hit him. Yuuno strode off the window and landed on the carpet.
"Vivio, want to go out?"
The girl's ears perked up on the words. She quickly turned towards him with her eyes filling to the brim with anticipation.
"I know a good place to go. I'll tell Nanoha and Fate where to find us, and I'll take you there. How does that sound?" Yuuno said with a smile between his whiskers.
If Vivio was playing before, this time she isn't, at least that's what Yuuno thinks as she leaped happily from the sofa to him. He transformed just quick enough for him to catch her safely, looking to her half-authoritatively.
"That is dangerous Vivio, don't do it again." he chided her. The girl looked at Yuuno, half in disbelief, half in surprise, and another half in regret. "I'm sorry, Mr. Ferret.", was what she said. The long-haired male simply put his glasses back on again and replied tenderly, "Just don't do that again, okay?" Yuuno looked tenderly to Vivio's face, to which she stared back with her round eyes, so intently that for a second Yuuno thought he had something on his face. Vivio slowly nodded her head, blushing somewhat.
"Well, now that that's done, shall we go, or do you need to change?" Yuuno rose and asked her while pocketing the small box that he took from the table. Vivio shook her head slowly, but then she walked to the sofa, and took her doll with her. She turned towards Yuuno, but he just smiled and nodded, "Sure, you may bring it." Vivio smiled as she held Yuuno's free hand.
With that, they walked towards the door. Yuuno spend an extra second looking at the cozy residence before they leave, ensuring that nothing is off, while he took a simple mental note; it's a nice place to live in.
"Yes, ma'am, they just left here about an hour ago." The housekeeper told the brown-haired woman.
"Did any one of them say anything?" She asked.
"Vivio left a message for you. She said that she's going with...lemme see what's his name..." she looked at her database.
"How can you let her go with someone you don't know?"
"Oh, I've seen his face a lot of times, it's just that his name escaped my mind each time...ah here it is. His name is...Yuuno Scrya. He also did say that he is waiting for you. I take it you two know each other?"
"Ah...Yuuno-kun...yes, I know him very well." the woman pondered with a slight smile and a sigh of relief on her face. Just then, a blond-haired woman approached her. "Did you find where Vivio's at, Nanoha?"
"Yes, she's with Yuuno-kun. I don't think there should be any worry, Fate-chan." the brown-haired Instructor said with a happy smile on her face. Fate sighed in relief in response, her worry alleviated with that information. "So where is Yuuno-kun taking Vivio-chan?" Nanoha asked the officer once again.
"Ah yes, he took her...here." she pointed at a spot on the map on the table.
"That place...isn't that..."
"Now don't stick your head out, Vivio!" Yuuno slightly shouted.
Vivio clearly couldn't listen, the merry-go-round's song blocked out Yuuno's voice. But for him, it doesn't really matter; she was clearly enjoying her time. Repeatedly, Vivio would wave her hand out to him as she passed on her horse. Yuuno sat outside the ride, watching her closely in case something happens, despite the unlikelihood. He gazed at her cheerful, laughing self as she repeatedly passed him as the ride keeps going around. Before long, his mind wandered again.
He was right about her. Yuuno went through many, just like Nanoha and her friend Fate. He was involved directly in the incidents that changed his and his friend's lives forever, yet the circumstances are different. Nanoha was a child who never had a true friend until that day. Fate suffered during her childhood, being abused by her mother. That would explain why both of them are so drawn together. Yuuno himself had no parents, he was raised by his tribe until the day when he decided to live apart from them.
Yes, to live apart from the ones close to him.
Yuuno realized that that may be the keyword after all. He had left the Scrya clan, and now he had left Nanoha very often for the course of his work. And so, it would be of little wonder why she would turn to someone who is closer, who understands her, who accepts her. And with her and Fate's past combined, Vivio fell in as the last piece of a puzzle. Nanoha did tell him about Vivio, being a child who lost her mother, and may not even know how it is to be raised with affection and love, something that both Nanoha and Fate knew all too well. But Yuuno knew about that too, he never had a parent, and he knew how to live in solitude, just like now. Perhaps it's what drew him towards that cheerful little girl who's standing in front of him and--wait, what?
"You look horrible, Mr. Ferret. Does your tummy ache?" Vivio asked, looking to Yuuno's eyes. The asked person snapped back to reality, realizing that his stomach does need some attention after all. It wasn't a tummy ache though, its...
"No, I'm just a little hungry, Vivio-chan." Yuuno smiled warmly, "Let's get something to eat, shall we?" The girl nodded happily, her newly-bought white hat flapping somewhat.
Vivio gulped her food down with a satisfied smile. Yuuno had bought her and himself an ice cream, in keeping with Yuuno's excuse of being hungry. He had taken her to many rides and attractions in the park and despite her profound dislike of the Haunted House and Roller Coaster, she enjoyed everything else, smiling and laughing all the time. Yuuno also bought her a nice, white hat with a ribbon on it; that particular hat felt nostalgic, somehow.
"Say, Mr. Ferret," said Vivio as they both sat inside a Ferris Wheel while licking her ice cream. "Why are you so nice to me?"
"Hmm...that's a nice question, you know." Yuuno wondered as the question hit him on the mark; why is he very nice to her?
"Maybe...it's for the same reason Nanoha and Fate looks after you too." he sighed, looking at the sunset decorating the horizon. Down below, he spied a little boy getting his balloon with his father. He looked very happy with his balloon that he ran around playing with it, his father seemingly forgotten.
"Mama is very kind to me too." Vivio said, finishing her ice cream. She looked intently at the man in front of her, before he suddenly changed once again into a ferret. The small creature hopped to her lap and looked straight to her eyes.
"You know, there's something in you that makes all of us want to look after you. I can't really put it into words, but..." The rodent spun around while it talked, seemingly unable to say anything. Resignedly, it perched itself on the window ledge and said "...perhaps because you really remind us of what we've been through, and that alone is enough to make us want to care for you."
"What...been through...?" Vivio looked puzzled.
"It's alright, Vivio, nothing to worry about." His small eyes looked down again as he saw the previous boy crying, his balloon stuck to a tree.
"...I miss my mama."
The sentence brought his attention back to the girl just beside him. He hopped back to her lap and noticed her watery eyes. "Don't worry, Nanoha and Fate should be here soon. You'll meet them when they do, alright? Or, do you not like me?"
"No! I mean, you're so kind and all...I...just miss them..." the girl sobbed a little, holding her doll tightly to her chest. Yuuno went back to his seat and changed back to his human form, once again looking at the setting sun. "Ah well, can't be helped. After all, what with everything that has happened to them they can never let someone like you feel sad." He sighed, the sun somewhat reflecting on his glasses.
"Mr. Ferret...are you lonely?"
Yuuno couldn't respond immediately, the words brought him back to the days with his clan, to the days where he and Nanoha would go around the city, finding and sealing Jewel Seeds and ultimately meeting everyone, and the day of the final battle where he assisted everyone in containing the Book of Darkness's berserk Defense Program. And there were days where Nanoha was struggling for her life in the hospital. He and Fate were there, encouraging and supporting her with all their might, but Fate has always been there more than he ever could. There were many times where he had to leave them both in the room so that they can get some privacy. And there are times where his work would not permit him to even leave the Library.
Yuuno turned towards Vivio at last, taking off his glasses. He put his hands on her cheek, and said, "Nanoha and Fate knew what it meant to be lonely. We've all been there, Vivio. That's why we can never leave children like you unhappy. I guess the same goes for me, too." he smiled tenderly, looking straight into her clear eyes. "I'm not really that different from them, in some ways or the other, and that similarity may be the reason why I want to look after you the same way they do."
Vivio went silent for many seconds, her eyes closed, and her hand shook. Just about when Yuuno was about to say something, she hugged him, her doll wrapped behind his neck.
"Thank you Mr. Ferret, thank you very much." she said to his ears. Yuuno could only do what he is supposed to do; he patted her head tenderly, "Your welcome...you're most welcome, Vivio."
"There you are."
The blond-haired woman stood outside the Ferris Wheel, her partner beside her waving at Vivio. Vivio ran with all her might as soon as she saw them. She hugged Fate and Nanoha as strongly as she could.
"Sorry to take her without much of a notice, Fate, Nanoha." The librarian slightly bowed his head towards the girls.
"Nah, it's okay, she needs some time to go out, actually. Though you could ask someone to accompany her too, like Zafila or at least notify the Bureau personnel." Fate reprimanded him.
"Come on, Fate-chan, Yuuno-kun is still an accomplished mage too, you know. And besides, everyone would be too busy to take her out, which is why we left her in the first place, right?" Nanoha replied while patting Vivio who was still hugging her legs.
"Guess so...oh, Yuuno-kun, can I talk to you for a second?" Fate pointed at a tree.
"Huh? Sure..." Yuuno replied, not knowing what she wanted to talk about.
"Nanoha, we'll be going for a second, please take care of Vivio, alright?" to which Nanoha replied with a smile as the two of them walked away. Yuuno saw the boy from before begging his father to get his balloon from the tree. He couldn't concentrate much on that view as Fate gestured for him to come with her.
"So, how is she?" Fate asked.
"She's a good little girl, to say the least." Yuuno replied, wiping his glasses with his shirt. "She looks just like you and Nanoha combined." he somewhat absently added.
"That's what surprised me too. She looks like our child, doesn't she?" Fate confirmed, looking at the said person playing around with Nanoha.
The words didn't come as good when it reached Yuuno's ears. He slowly put his glasses to his pocket, his mind wandering again. "A child, huh...can't really deny it."
"That makes me a mother of two now, after taking in Erio." Fate smiled as she added. "And by the way, she looks somewhat like you too. Maybe she could be our child, Yuuno-kun?"
Yuuno chuckled at the words as he observed her, the long, orange-yellow hair does look like his own hair, to an extent. He noticed how she is now running in circles around Nanoha, still in the happy mood she was on; the sight put a smile on the Yuuno's face. "Could be, maybe we should get married." he replied with a laugh. The sentence did make Fate took notice as she stared towards Yuuno. The person stared at looked back; it didn't take long for both of them to analyze each other's expression before coming to a simple conclusion.
"Naaaah." they both concluded with a slight laugh.
"But seriously though, she needs a parent to take care of her. And we're the only ones who could do that, at least now." Fate stated matter-of-factly. Yuuno stared to her face, fixated at the little girl who is sitting happily besides her brown-haired guardian, chatting animatedly. Yuuno stared again elsewhere, seeing the previous boy. Said boy wasn't playing with his balloon, in fact, the balloon flew away; he worriedly clung to his father who was rubbing his back. The father then hugged the boy and the boy smiled, his balloon all but forgotten. The balloon flew to the endless, crimson-stained sky as people beneath it continued their lives.
"...don't suppose...you need any help with her? I mean, taking care of Vivio?" Yuuno said, half-whispered as his eyes stared to the sky. Fate stared at his pensive expression upon hearing his words. Fate could not help but took note of his eyes, longingly staring at the sky. The wind blew, answering the question with silence. Fate drew a deep breath before she finally gave an answer of his own.
"I appreciate your concern, Yuuno-kun, and thanks for your offer, and for today." She began, "However, me and Nanoha can still cope with her ourselves; we have an entire Riot Force 6 who can assist us." Yuuno had expected this answer; he took his glasses and wore it. "And besides," Fate added "You're pretty much busy and far away from us, so it would be a problem if we ask you specifically for this. Nanoha and I are pretty good mothers, as we find out each day."
Yuuno knew that was coming, his question was finally answered. He rose from his bench and said, "You three make a good family." Fate smiled as she rose too, "Yes, we make a happy, peaceful family." Yuuno heaved a heavy sigh at her statement, further reinforcing what always have nagged his mind. "Very well then, I wish all of you luck. I need to go now."
They both walked to where Nanoha and Vivio are; they were still chatting together when Yuuno and Fate came to them.
"And, it was this big." Vivio explained happily, stretching out her arms, illustrating the giant candy she saw. The person Vivio's talking to smiled as she listened to her story. To her, watching Vivio so happy and smiling made her warn on the inside. She had made a promise to herself, to watch over Vivio until somebody would take her into their family. For Nanoha though, she would be more than happy to raise her, for everyone in her unit is like her own family. Nothing, not even the recent inspection and even the threat of disbandment will make her flinch; her mind was resolute, just like her friend's. She will protect the people that she held close to her heart, because they all have a special place in her heart, because she knew what it meant to be lonely.
"We're back, Nanoha. Vivio, did you bother Nanoha again?" Fate subtly interrupted them, to which Vivio replied with a pout, "No I didn't!"
"It's alright, Fate-chan, she didn't bother me at all." Nanoha replied with a slight smile. "Ah Yuuno-kun, thanks for taking Vivio out today." She added to the bespectacled man standing behind her blond-haired friend. The addressed man's eyes were hidden behind his glasses, reflecting the bright sunset. As he tilted his head upwards somewhat, his eyes can be clearly seen; a pair of eyes filled with an emotion that Nanoha is familiar with, all too familiar.
"Yuuno-kun...are you okay?"
Nanoha rose from her bench, looking straight to Yuuno's eyes. Nanoha had forgotten how tall Yuuno is, especially when he is very close to her; their last meeting was as if by chance, and she had never met him again, endless work, stress, and beyond separating them. Today was as if another coincidence, him appearing again before her. Nanoha reached a hand towards him, before his hands stopped hers.
"Thanks for asking, Nanoha, but I'm fine." Yuuno smiled through his glasses. "I asked Fate whether you'd need any help with her, but I guess you don't need it, am I right?" he added, still smiling.
Nanoha had not been expecting for such a question, coming from Yuuno. Nanoha knew she wanted someone to take Vivio in, and to have another person caring for her is a bliss, but something sounds wrong for her.
"After all, I'm busy with what I do as it is. And you've got someone who has a lot of experience with kids, right Fate?" Yuuno added further, still smiling from behind his glasses. Fate nodded in approval at his sentence, but Nanoha still feels wrong about something. She knew what those eyes meant, and she rarely had it wrong when she saw them.
"Yuuno-kun...why are you here...? You told me that you wanted to see me...but why...?" she asked slowly.
"Maybe...I just wanted to see you...checking up on you, see how you're doing. But I guess it doesn't matter now; you've got a great partner, and a lovely child. You'll be okay, I'm sure of it." Yuuno replied, his voice somewhat shaking, but keeping his slight smile on his face as he fixed his glasses. Now his eyes once again hidden beneath the glare of the sunset reflecting on his glasses.
"Mama, let's go home."
Nanoha had almost said something, the words had nearly gotten off the tip of her lip, but Vivio tugged her sleeve, looking at her. "See, Nanoha? She wants her mama. Go with her." Yuuno added, seemingly agreeing with Vivio. He kneeled, patted Vivio's head, and said, "Mr. Ferret has to go now, Vivio. I hope you had some fun. I'll see you again, okay?" to which the little girl nodded slowly. Fate then ushered Vivio off Nanoha, holding her waist.
Fate watched closely as Yuuno stood from his place and looked at Nanoha deeply. "Nanoha," he said, "...guess this is goodbye again. Take care now, and--"
Nanoha interrupted him with an embrace. "We'll meet again, won't we?" she whispered softly. Yuuno wanted very much to reciprocate what she did to him, but when his eyes locked with Fate's face looking at Nanoha, he knew what he needed to say.
"You'll have better people than me to meet, Nanoha." Yuuno finally said, pushing Nanoha gently off him. "Don't worry, I'll be fine." was what Yuuno said. He gazed at Nanoha's clear eyes before he finally turned and started to walk away. Nanoha watched as his figure go smaller and smaller.
"Well, that's that. Come on, Nanoha, let's go home." Fate said shortly. She took Vivio's hand and started to walk away.
Fate stopped at her tracks, seeing that Vivio didn't move, even as Fate pulled her gently. Vivio stared at the same direction where Nanoha stared too. "Vivio, what's wrong?" Fate asked gently, kneeling beside her. Vivio only said one word as she reached to a direction, to a figure now lost amongst the crowds:
Fate raised her head, looking at the direction where Vivio pointed, but the ponytailed librarian is nowhere to be found, the multitudes of people obscuring his presence, only a brown-haired girl gazing intently to the same direction.
I just wanted to say hi to you, and perhaps to say 'I'm sorry', for not being with you all these time. I know for a fact that your unit is going well, and that you've been doing well too, but I can't help but think, with what has been happening lately, that you may not be as fit, or as good as I might think.
So, I've secured quite some of my salary and some periods of vacancy out from my work. I was thinking to spend it with you, with this little gift from me. I hope you'll like it.
Yuuno closed the letter that he had written and put it inside the small box that he had brought. Along with it is a small, simple ring, sitting nicely inside the box. Yuuno heaved a deep sigh as he stared at the innocent box. Without much of a thought, he pulled the ribbon tying his ponytail, tucked it in safely inside the box, and closed it tightly.
The seagulls flew all around him and the crimson-stained sea beyond him stretched miles wide. The large bridge he was standing on was deserted, save for a couple of seagulls landing and taking off. The sea wind blew his brilliant long hair backwards as he raised the box high on his arm. With a breath, he threw the box as far away as he could. A small splash sounded before long, confirming that it had landed safely on the surface of the water and will sink soon.
Yuuno stared at the sea for some more time before he finally went and made his way to the nearest street. He stopped a taxi and hopped into passenger's seat.
"Where to, sir?"
"To the Time-Space Administration Bureau Infinity Library. I have a lot of work there."
"Very well, sir."
As the taxi made its way through the busy streets, Yuuno glanced to the mirror. He noticed something and said promptly to the driver.
"Before that, do you have any good barbers nearby? I need to get a haircut."
Last time I watched Nanoha series was at ep. 14, so please forgive me if inconsistencies abound, but hey, it is semi-AU after all.
For those who didn't get what the title meant, a pane is like a "windowpane", which is also a window, but it also refers to glasses. The title is also a pun on words.
And lastly, any implications on pairings will be left to the reader's interpretations.
I may make a sequel, but very unlikely, as it needs just a simple, single inspiration and idea, but a lot of diligence to see a fic through. In fact, I knew I should be working on Crimson Triangle, but well...I just lost the initiative.
Until next time.