Shutting down the displays in front of me made a smile come to my lips. Finally, after waiting anxiously for weeks, my final day before vacation was over. Leaning back I stretched out widely before waving to my precious students as they walked past. Subaru took time to talk with me as we made our way back to the main section of the headquarters and waved goodbye before heading off to her own room. With a happy spring in my step I quickly made it to my quarters to prepare packing for my few days back on non-administratived planet num... Earth. I was working way too hard lately it seemed. Pushing that aside, I opened the door after a quick hand scan and was greeted by the scent of cookies. At first I thought that my roommate had bought a new candle or something but after inspecting the kitchen I discovered both Fate and Vivio talking to each other with a plate of still hot cookies between them. Normally this wouldn't bother me but lately Vivio has been eating a lot of treats with Fate and I was starting to worry about the little one's health. After talking with Fate she told me she would back off a little with the snacks and yet still went and did this... I was honestly quiet upset about it.
"Nanoha-mama!" Vivio cried out happily when she saw the other woman enter the small kitchen area and immediately held out her arms in a request to be picked up. The small girl overbalanced and almost fell from her place on the counter top but was quickly saved by a rushing Nanoha.
Fate pulled back her hands after making sure Nanoha had the girl and sighed out in relief. "Mou, Fate-mama," Nanoha scolded. "I've told you not to let her sit on the counter, she could hurt herself!"
"I won't let her fall," The blond protested as she offered a cookie. "Say Ahh."
"And I've already asked you not to feed her so many snacks." Nanoha took the cookie and placed it on the platter. "No more, you'll spoil your dinner."
Vivio's eyes watered slightly, little hand reaching to the plate. "But... but cookie!"
"No," Nanoha held firm as she carried her into the living room. "No snacks before dinner, if you're hungry after you eat then you can have some."
Fate followed them with a hand on her hip. "Nanoha-mama, aren't you being a little too strict?"
"Vivio is still growing!" She sat her daughter on the cough and turned back to her room mate. "If you constantly feed her junk food then she may not grow up healthily."
"I don't constantly feed her junk food." Fate crossed her arms. "I just want to spend time with her; you grew up in a coffee house-sweet shop so baking with your mother was probably common place. I would have given anything to bake cookies with my mother."
"That's fine and good, but after ice cream yesterday and snow cones the day before and taking her to that pizza place and arcade game center and all those little fruit snacks you feed her, she may get sick!"
"If there were healthier places that held the interest of a four year old I would, but thereisn't so I'm not." She stressed her words, showing that she was beginning to get slightly annoyed at the nagging. "You're always so 'by the book' on everything, you need to lighten up and have fun with her."
"Sitting her in your lap while doing your paperwork is not fun."
"I don't need you to tell me how to spend time with my daughter! We have fun! I'm even taking her home to see my parents for Halloween tomorrow!"
"Yeah, by my idea!"
"If you don't get a little more serious with her, she'll grow up to be a slob!"
"Better than growing up to be a work-a-holic who doesn't know how to have fun in moderation." Fate frowned at the look she was getting. "Children are easily influenced at this age, we have to be good role models so they'll grow up to mimic their parents!"
"Are you saying I'm a bad influence!?"
"I'm saying maybe you should let have have more fun instead of always being so work focused like your parents!"
"Then stop getting on my case and being such a bitch like yours!" The words hung thick in the air, cutting off all sound as soon as they were said. Fate's face went from angry to shocked instantly and Nanoha knew right then that she had crossed the line. "Fate, I didn't mean that, you're not like-"
"You think I'm like her?" Although barely whispered the sound still stung the other girl's heart deeply. "Vivio... I would never..." All at once the sadness was replaced by rage. "How dare you say that I would-" Snapping, she raised her hand to slap Nanoha for the comment but suddenly stopped in her tracks, looking at the hand with a scared expression. "I...I have to go." She quickly ran past her friend and out the door, only stopping to grab her shoes but not bothering to put them on just yet.
Slowly the blue eyed girl tore her eyes from the slammed door and looked over at Vivio. Her daughter was looking at her in shock, holding her stuffed bunny in a tight hug and looking as if she was about to break down and cry at any moment. "Why," Her words were broken by a sniffle. "Why are Fate-mama and Nanoha-mama yelling?" Nanoha looked back at the door one more time before slowly kneeling down and giving her daughter a hug.
Nanoha looked out the window from the couch and yawned to herself softly. The sun was already starting to come up, making her realize that she had fallen asleep at some point while waiting for Fate to come back. Slowly she stood and rubbed her neck as she made her way to the stairs and going up them to check her bed. No one was there except for a sleeping Vivio hugging the pillow Fate had sewn together for her a little after they had met. Ever since then Vivio had trouble sleeping if she wasn't clinging to either of her mothers or the little pillow. "Vivio. Vivio, wake up Honey." the words worked and the tiny girl slowly sat up and rubbed her eyes with both hands. "The sun's coming up, time to get ready to go."
"I'm sleepy," Vivio complained tiredly while giving her an exhausted look. "Can I sleep some more, Mama?"
At first Nanoha was going to say something about how sleeping in was a bad habit to have but the image of Fate scolding flashed across her memory. "Ah, it's okay, Vivio." Gently she leaned over to ease the girl back onto the bed. "You just rest up, Mama will make sure everything of yours is packed okay Honey?" She got a sleepy but very happy response and soon was given the vision of a pleased Vivio's sleeping face. 'Maybe Fate was right...' Taking a few more moments to enjoy the sight, she gently tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. 'Maybe I am being a little to strict... She's only four...' Nanoha let out a soft sigh. 'Maybe I wasn't really ready to take care of her... If Fate wasn't with me...' She had to push the thought aside in order to get to work on making sure they were ready. Hayate had only booked them a ten minute window for their teleportation to a warship close enough to Earth to make the second jump.
Time passed quickly as she worked and finally managed to get everything together in a small collection of suitcases. By the time Vita knocked on her door she was ready to be off, carrying her sleeping daughter against her chest while still trying to pull along their luggage. She had been counting on Fate to be there as well and was forced to request Vita to help her lug everything to the control room. Hayate was already waiting for them with a smile, waving slightly as they came in. "Morning Vita-chan, Nanoha-chan. Fate-chan already went ahead of you two; she said she would meet up at your parent's house later on. Oh, and the rest of us will be coming tomorrow like planned. We still meeting for lunch?"
"Yes," Nanoha's voice sounded a little upset despite her best efforts to cover it up. 'Fate-chan's still mad at me,' Her mind thought absently as she stood on the teleporting area. "I'll send you a long distance letter through the usual routes if anything comes up." If Hayate noticed her change in tone she didn't show it. Instead she simply nodded and waved slightly in a farewell, taking the un-given hint that Nanoha wasn't in the mood for idle chatter that morning. The world blurred around the woman carrying Vivio once and then again almost immediately when she arrived on her midway point on another warship patrolling near Earth. Finally done, she opened her eyes and shivered when the soft wind of her home planet blew around her. The sun was up already here but not by much, giving the area a slightly chillier feel than it would have a few hours into the day.
Her normal transportation spot had remained the same as it had been so many years ago when it had first been placed here. A semi large flat stone in her parent's backyard with several markings greeted her when she looked and as always, the area around it was completely clear of anything that would hinder a transport. Shifting Vivio, she walked towards her house and decided she could get her luggage after making sure her little one wouldn't catch a cold. The door was unlocked and after stepping into the house she smelled the fresh scent of coffee and even muffins baking. Her parents knew she was coming this morning and apparently set up for her first return in almost two years. As she walked into the kitchen, she leaned against the door frame and watched her family fuss over things. Words like 'She'll be home any moment now!' and 'Are the muffins done yet?' echoed around the busy kitchen as they scrambled, not yet noticing her. With her fill of watching, she smiled and greeted them. "I'm home." The two simple words made the room go silent before everyone rushed her at once. "Shh!" She scolded them happily, eyes sparkling. "You'll wake Vivio."
"Vivio?" Her mother asked softly as she hugged with her daughter tightly. "This little girl?"
Nanoha's father hugged her next, just as close. "Wow, is she a student of yours? They must start at a really early age on that planet huh?"
After giving her brother and sister a bone crushing hug as best she could while holding the child, Nanoha smiled. "Nuh uh, Vivio is my daughter." She looked fondly at the girl resting against her breast.
"Ehhhhhhh!?" The startled cry echoed loudly from everyone in the room after a few seconds of pure shock.
"Ahhh!" Vivio cried loudly, gripping onto Nanoha hard. "Mama!"
"Hey, don't scream so suddenly!" Nanoha scolded them. "You scared Vivio!" Turning to her daughter she spoke softly to her. "Don't worry, sweetheart, my family was just surprised to see us so early is all." The words seemed to work slowly, allowing Vivio to open one scared eye and look at the people giving her weird looks.
"D-daughter?" Momoko stammered out, pointing at Vivio. "B-but she's like five or six isn't she!?"
Shiro put a hand to his head. "That time those years back when Nanoha was in the hospital for a year..."
Miyuki almost cried. "She was knocked up and was raising the child all on her own!"
Nanoha laughed nervously. "Um...That's not really how it happened..." Ignoring Vivio's patting on her chest, she turned to her father. "...What's with the look, Daddy?"
"Who's the father? Is it Yuuno? I knew you two staying together would lead to this!"
"What!? Yuuno-kun!? N-no way, we only dated for like a month!" Still ignoring Vivio's attempts to get her attention, she went on. "I don't know who her father is, she's an artificial mage." Her last words seemed to be drowned out when her brother Kyoya gasped out. "Brother, don't be like that, you don't know what I mean! She doesn't have a father!"
"Hey!" Vivio finally called out, getting Nanoha's attention. "Is Fate-mama going to be here soon?" Her innocent question made the room go silent once again.
"Um," Nanoha blushed darkly when her mother fainted. "Mom! Whoa, Mom! Hang in there!"
"My sister is a lesbian..." Miyuki spoke the words aloud to try and accept the fact.
"And has a daughter with another woman," Kyoya added in, amazed. "Well, the world is more advanced than we are..."
Nanoha stomped her foot. "Now see here! I am not a lesbian!"
Momoko, having woken up, looked at Vivio with a surprised expression a while before finally leaning forward when the little one clung tighter to Nanoha's shirt. "I have a grand daughter?"
"Y-yes, in a way." Nanoha stammered out while trying to clear up the misunderstanding.
"Hello, Vivio-chan." Momoko greeted her gently. "I'm your Mama's mama."
Vivio put a finger to her mouth in thought. "Gran-mama?" After getting a nod and smile, she accepted the offer to be held by the new woman. "Hello!" She remembered to introduce herself. "My name is Vivio, I'm four years old!"
"Well now," Momoko smiled more, ignoring the shouts and protest behind her over Nanoha's sex life. "Can you tell me who's child you are?"
"Nanoha-mama's and Fate-mama's!" Vivio nodded happily. "And, you know, I love them both very much! We always sleep together in a big bed, and, and, they always hug and kiss." In her simple childlike words, she managed to comment on how much she enjoyed being loved on by her mothers and didn't notice that her statement would be taken the wrong way. "We're a happy family!"
"Noooo, Vivio, sweetheart!" Nanoha ran over to her. "Don't say it like that, this is a misunderstanding..." The child's eyes went wide then, tears forming. "No, no! Not about that. Ohhh come here baby!" Taking her child back, she rocked Vivio in her arms. "Fate-mama and Nanoha-mama love you very much and you're our child, I didn't mean it like you took it. Please don't cry!" She felt her neck be hugged tightly. "Please, will you all listen to me now?"
Shiro put a hand on Nanoha's free shoulder and nodded at her. "We still love you, Nanoha."
"And we always will," Miyuki added in, smiling. "You being gay doesn't change anything at all!"
Nanoha flushed. "Mou, will you listen to me?"
Momoko gasped out. "Ah, the muffins!" running to the oven she opened the door to take them out. "Miyuki, get the plates ready please! Kyoya, is the table set? This is our Nanoha's first home cooked meal in years, let's make sure everything it right!"
Defeated, Nanoha looked at Vivio face to face while holding her. "Well, I suppose I'll just tell them later about how our magic works." The two looked at each other a few moments longer before Nanoha kissed Vivio's forehead. "Come, let's get you introduced properly to the rest of your family."
Nanoha opened the door to her house after hearing the soft knocking on the front door and was greeted with the image of Fate shyly looking at her. "Um, hi." She welcomed her friend, stepping aside to allow her entrance to the house. "...About last night," Her words were cut off quickly when Vivio's voice came from across the room. With her little arms spread out she ran quickly towards them. "Vivio, be careful, your shoelace is untied!" Nanoha took a step forward but Vivio had already tripped, landing gently into the arms of an awaiting Fate. "Is she okay?" Worry was in her voice as she jogged across the living room towards them. There was a small scuff mark on the floor, an obvious sign Fate had employed her Sonic Move ability.
"She's fine," Fate replied softly as she tied Vivio's shoe. "Sweetheart, don't run with your shoelace untied okay? Remember how to tie them?"
"I'm sorry," Vivio looked down sadly.
Nanoha was about to start worrying about waterworks but Fate was already ahead of her. "Don't worry, we know now right?" Fate got a small nod. "Then later let's sing the bunny song while we practice tieing our shoelaces again, okay?" She got another nod, this one a little more happy.
"Bunny song?" Nanoha inquired, once again amazed at Fate's ability to handle their child.
"If you want to teach them something, you need to make it fun," Fate replied in a matter-of-fact tone. "Otherwise you lose their attention span."
Nanoha looked towards the floor, once again faced with the hard truth of Fate being a much better mother than she was. "I see," Her words came out softly, her pain evident in them. "I'm sorry, I'm a bad mama."
Fate stood up, missing the whispered words thanks to the sudden greeting she was getting from Nanoha's family. "Hey everyone, it's been a long time." She hugged each of them in turn, pleased at the tight embraces she was receiving. "You all seem so giddy today, has Vivio been making you run around too much?"
Momoko laughed happily. "No, not at all! She's been the perfect little angel. You and Nanoha have done a great job in raising her."
Shiro stood up next to them also and hugged Fate once more. "We always said you were part of the family, now it's becoming true!"
Fate blinked. "Eh?"
"Daddy!" Nanoha blushed darkly. "Not now!"
Looking back over to her friend, the blond blinked. "What do you mean?"
"Now now, don't be shy! Nanoha told us already, congratulations!"
"Mom, I told you-"
Nanoha was cut off by her sister. "Fate, how long have you and Nanoha been dating?"
"Dating!?" Fate gasped, looking over to her partner in shock. "Whatever do you mean by-" She stopped talking when Nanoha pointed frantically towards a startled Vivio. "Oh! Um, I dunno, hehe, time sure flies, you know? Haha..." Her laughter was weak but it still fooled Vivio, making her smile once again and latch onto her mother while declaring how much she loved her. "Um, Nano-er-Darling, can I have a little word with you please? Like right now?" Walking over to her, she pinched her friend's arm hard when she tried to make an excuse to avoid the upcoming confrontation.
"Hey-ow- okay already." Speaking louder, she smiled to her family. "Um, going to show Fate what you did to my room, we'll be back down shortly." Nanoha giggled uneasily while Fate almost dragged her up the stairs. "Fate-chan, that kind of hurts."
"Sorry," She apologized briefly before closing the door. "Okay, why am I suddenly gay and dating you?"
"Geez, you don't have to be so pissed about it."
A brief look of sadness passed over the girl's face before being replaced by a slightly annoyed one. "Mou, Vivio was having a fit about it when I tried to explain it to my family, she probably thought we were splitting up or something! I didn't have a choice, I was going to explain it later tonight when Vivio was asleep."
"You can't just agree with something like that and drag me into it, what if they talked to my mother before you said anything?" Fate looked at Nanoha's face and tried to soften up as best she could. "Look, I'm sorry, I'm just... I dunno." Crossing her arms, she faced away from her. "...Maybe I am a bitch after all..." Her voice went from angry to sad all at once, making Nanoha look down in shame.
"Fate-chan, about that, I-" Her words were cut off yet again with a call from downstairs. "Coming!" She shouted back instantly. With one last look to Fate's back, she decided now wasn't the best time to take her hand and instead simply opened the door again. "Come on... let's get you something to eat?"
"Mm..." Fate nodded sadly to herself. Together the two walked downstairs again, stopping only to allow the blond to pick up Vivio and carry her. "Um, thank you for taking my stuff here." She looked over at Nanoha and saw a slight twinge of a smile at her lips. It wasn't much, but still made the uneasiness around the two best friends a little easier to deal with.
Vivio, not noticing her mother's situation, hugged Fate's neck happily. "Hey, hey, Fate-mama?" She got a hum in response. "Will uncle Yuuno be here too? He promised me candy."
Fate sighed out, making Nanoha speak up quickly. "Um, Vivio, Uncle Yuuno meant candy in a few days, for Halloween. On that night you can eat as much as you want, okay?"
"Halloween?" She asked, head tilting to the side.
This time the blond responded. "Halloween is a holiday here on Earth where little children dress up and try to scare people. When you go to a house you yell "trick or treat!" and the person will give you candy for being so scary."
Vivio put a finger to her mouth and sucked on it softly. "But, why do they give candy for being scared?"
"Um..." Fate thought about it. "Yes, it really doesn't make much sense does it? Anyway, they just do. It's for fun, right Nanoha-mama?" She looked over at her and saw Nanoha biting her thumbnail. Turning back to Vivio, she watched her suck on her finger. "Well, I wonder where that habit came from."
"Eh!?" Nanoha stopped instantly with a small blush. "Mou, you said you thought it was cute!"
Momoko walked between them happily. "Now now girls, you can flirt when you've finished having lunch; Fate must be hungry." She accepted Vivio when the little one opened her arms out to her and carried her towards the kitchen with the other two embarrassed ones in tow. "The others are coming later?"
Nanoha nodded to herself. "Mm, they are going to be staying with Arisa-chan and we're all heading back the day after the Halloween party held by Suzuka-chan's company. They should get here tomorrow sometime."
Momoko smiled happily when Vivio looked around the kitchen and started eyeing the cookies she had made for their café. "Is it okay to give Vivio a cookie?"
"Um," Nanoha spoke up before Fate could. "We're... trying to get her to like healthier snacks..." Her words trailed off, feeling Fate's eyes on her. "So...um...well... Maybe one wouldn't hurt..." Slowly she turned to her friend but found her already involved in a conversation with her brother. "...Yeah..."
Nanoha looked across the bedroom, sitting in silence while waiting for her friend to come back from her bath. Vivio had already fallen prey to the spoiling grandparents and was snatched up for the night in their bed, leaving her alone with her supposed girlfriend. Minutes ticked by slowly as she sat there, warmed only by the small heater in the room. Hey eyes glanced around, still feeling a little odd being in her old room that seemed so different than before. Her walls were now a cool cream color, showing various pictures along the wall. It was obvious her room was turned into a guest room, as almost nothing of hers was left behind save a teddy bear that would forever grace the bed. A clock on the wall slowly ticked the seconds by with a small clicking sound for each one that passed. Along with the silence of the small house, it was starting to drive her mad. Ever so slowly her eyes started getting heavy, already being past her bedtime. More than once she almost fell forward onto the floor but caught herself in time with a quick jerk upwards.
Finally Fate entered the room slowly, carefully closing the door behind herself as if to not make a noise. "I'm awake," Nanoha spoke softly above the pillow she was holding and couldn't help but smile to herself when Fate was startled by her words. "Have a nice bath?"
"You shouldn't have stayed up," Fate scolded instead of answering her question. "It's late, you need sleep."
"I can sleep in." She knew she was lieing; when the sun was up, normally so was she. "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell my parents tonight."
"Don't bother," Fate sighed. "After calling each other 'Darling' all day they won't believe it anyway." She walked in the dark room until she made it to the bed and sat on it. "I'll just have to tell my family before it gets out of hand."
"So it's okay if mine thinks we're gay?"
"You don't seem too phased."
Nanoha looked down. "Fate-chan says such mean things..."
"You started it yesterday."
"I was trying to apologize all day."
"You don't sound sorry."
Nanoha fumed. "Well, after that comment, maybe I'm not!"
"Christ, why are being so stubborn lately?" Fate turned on her, glaring. "Can't you just be nice to me during this time!? Why all of a sudden are we fighting?" Her words once again changed drastically as they were spoken, ending with a more of desperate plead then anger. "We've never argued before now..."
"What is up with your mood swings lately? Is it your time of the month already?"
Fate gasped, again getting angry at the statement although it wasn't intended to be an insult. "Never mind, just forget I said anything. Goodnight." With that she crawled over the bed and got under the covers, facing the wall.
"Ugh, fine." Nanoha got under the covers as well, looking away from her. "See you tomorrow."
"Yuuno-kun?" Nanoha gasped happily as she walked into her backyard, seeing her best male friend walking around while holding Vivio on his shoulders. "When did you get here!?" She ran over to him quickly and hugged the man as best she could while he still held onto her daughter. "Oh wow, how long has it been? Three months? Four?"
"Way too long," He agreed readily while kneeling to allow Vivio to hop onto Nanoha and then be placed on the ground. "I just got here a little while ago; I can't believe you slept in."
"Eh, I didn't sleep really well last night so I couldn't help it." She scratched her cheek. "But anyway, I'm glad to see you again!" She gave him another hug and got it returned with a laugh. "I missed you! Are you doing well? Eating okay? You're sleeping enough right?"
"Yes, mother," He grinned. "I'm just fine, so how are you and Fate doing?" The sudden loss of playful air made him blink. "I'm sorry, did I ask something bad?"
"Um, we're kind of... arguing right now."
"Arguing? You two? Over what?"
"I...really don't know." Nanoha sighed and rested her forehead against his chest. "We've both tried to apologize but it just keeps turning out wrong for some reason...She's being really difficult to handle lately, her emotions are way out of whack."
"Yeah it always happens around this time, huh?" He stroked her hair.
"This time?" She blinked, looking up at him. "What do you mean this ti-" her eyes went wide, hand going to her mouth. "Oh! Oh-oh-oh!"
"Youforgot!?" Yuuno looked shocked. "You of all people should-"
"Iknow!" Nanoha looked ready to cry at any moment. "It was around this time of year when her mother died and all of that stuff happened! Ohhh, and I said all those things! No wonder she's so unstable right now!" Pacing, she hugged herself. "I'm horrible..."
"Hey, whoa, hold up." He grabbed his friend's shoulders to keep her still. "You know how Fate is, she's just easily hurt when it comes to things like this. If you clearly try to make up with her and apologize, won't it be better?"
With a slow nod she agreed. "But... What to do? Last night I really tried but she's just so defensive and...well, no, I suppose it was more my fault..."
"Weren't you both into tennis while living on Earth?" He raised an eyebrow at her knowingly, getting a nod. "Why don't you take her to play while you're here? Work off some steam, have some fun, and then apologize?"
Nanoha looked up at him for a few moments before breaking into a smile. "You know, Yuuno-kun, that's a really good idea!" The girl took up a thinking pose with one hand on her elbow and biting the thumbnail of the other. "I bet I can get Suzuka-chan to loan me some Earth money now and later, when she's approved to visit Midchilda, I can give her T.S.A.B issued money to spend there...Okay it's settled! Come on, let's get going." She grabbed his arm and started pulling him to the house. "Viviooooo! Stay where Gran-mama can see you okay?" She got a happy drawn out reply from the small girl running around happily. Yuuno stumbled at first but caught himself enough to walk with her and inquire why he was going too. "Because," She replied easily. "I'm going to have to buy things and you're going to carry my bags." She smiled cutely up at him. "Right?" Yuuno sighed out, nodding in defeat. "Yay!"
Fate looked around the house absently, wondering where everyone could have gone. Finally deciding to look outside she went to the door to retrieve her shoes but stopped when it opened up quickly and banged into the wall from the force of it. "Fate-chaaaaaaaaaan!" Nanoha yelled out happily before stopping and looking at the girl not a foot from herself rubbing her ears. "Oops." disregarding deafening her friend she kicked off her shoes sloppily and trotted towards the couch. "Come here!" She merrily sat a few bags down and made room for Yuuno to collapse down with the rest of it. "You saw Yuuno-kun this morning right?"
Fate nodded, still a bit surprised by Nanoha's sudden happiness. "Uhn, we had breakfast together."
"Good, then I don't need to wait." She offered the blond a rectangular white box. "Jaaan! This is for you!"
Slowly reaching out, she took the box timidly. "What is it...?"
"Open it and find out," Nanoha was bending over the couch while rooting through the other bags around Yuuno. "I have more, just give me a moment to dig them up."
Doing as she was told Fate ran her fingers around the edges to make sure there was no tape holding it together and then popped the top off it, revealing an oddly shaped carrying case. "Is this a...?" Dropping the box in a rare moment of carelessness she unzipped the bag and took out a glossy black tennis racquet with neon yellow strings. The handle was wrapped firm in matching painfully yellow binding as well to maximize it's performance. "It's lovely..." Slowly she drew a finger around the edge and bit back memories of her high school life when she would often play the sport with her friends to ease the stress of being mages. "But Nanoha-" The rest of the sentence was cut off when she saw what the other girl was holding out.
"I thought these would look good on you," Nanoha explained briskly. "Although I wanted something a little darker since you like those colors I could only find..." Her words went on and on but were mostly tuned out by Fate as she accepted the gifts and inspected them. A white miniskirt with black trim running along the bottom and a red curved stripe going from the middle front along one side and ending in the middle of the back. Paired with the skirt came a black sleeveless shirt that would show off her stomach when her arms were raised. Red trim looped around the neck, sleeves, and bottom of it along with a red line around the chest area that would make her breasts appear larger than they really were. Finally there were two black wrist sweatbands to complete the outfit. "...But they didn't have any sneakers that I thought you'd like so I...Fate-chan? You listening?"
"Eh? Oh, sorry, I was lost a moment..." She looked at them again before meeting Nanoha's eyes. "But why?"
"Because," Was her simple answer. "Go get changed, let's go to the park. Yuuno-kun, will you watch Vivio for us while we're there? She would want to play at the playground probably."
The man sighed. "Nanoha, I really need time to help set up for the Halloween party soon and-" his vision was cut off with an upside down image of Nanoha bending over the back of the couch with her eyes looking straight into his. The two stared at each other, Nanoha's smile getting bigger and bigger as his willpower faded. "...Fine, I'll babysit."
"You're a doll." She gave him a quick peck to the forehead. "I don't know what I'd do without you!"
Yuuno stood up and stretched out widely. "Sure, sure. I'll hunt the little one down you two go ahead and change."
Nanoha was already ahead of him, grabbing her outfit and running off to her room with Fate in tow. Inside her box she revealed a white casual shirt with a thick blue stripe starting under her short sleeves and running down the side of the shirt. Matching blue sweatbands were tossed on the bed as she wiggled out of her jeans and pulled up a white miniskirt that looked much like a cheerleader's. Finally she slid down her simple orange panties in favor of pink frilly ones she just bought. "Nanoha," Fate's voice met her ears making her turn slightly to look at the blond holding up a pair of panties that matched hers, only in yellow. "What gives with these lacy things?"
"If we're going to panty-shot everyone while we play, might as well give them something to drool over?" She closed her eyes and smiled, meaning it as mostly a joke to try and make her friend laugh. "You always told me everyone always came to watch us play just to see our panties remember?"
"That was high school!" She protested with a dark blush. "And-and we were on the tennis team! It was... normal!"
"Aw come on!" Nanoha giggled. "Live a little!"
"You're an exhibitionist, I swear." Despite her words she still changed into them. "Always flying around in skirts, giving people little shows..."
"Hey!" She blushed. "Those skirts are standard issue! I can't help it if the pervs decided to give the air force miniskirts to fly around in." Nanoha turned away from her friend and pressed her two index fingers together while pouting. "You don't really think I'm an exhibitionist do you...?"
"Yes." Fate watched Nanoha turn around quickly, face splashed darkly with color. "But since I'm wearing them too, I'll say no this once." With that she winked and grabbed her racquet before running out the door.
"You little hussy!" Nanoha called after her as she grabbed her own before giving chase. "You take that back!"
The sound of a ball being hit echoed loudly around the small caged off area that held three tennis courts. Crisp dead leaves fluttered across the ground as two girls darted across their respective sides to try and return the simple yellow fuzzy ball back to where it had come. Wind blew softly around them in a slight chill to cool the sweating figures as they danced to the rhythm of squeaking shoes and thumping of returns. Blond hair flew thickly from the ponytail it was restrained to, black ribbon flaring from the motion and wind. Focused red irises eyed the moving object and followed it across the court and over back onto her side. Shoes scuffed the ground, heartbeat roaring in her ears along with the gentle breeze, and swung her racquet quickly. Hair caught up with her body when the motion stopped and splashed against her frame only to be removed from another twist and run towards the other side of the field. This time she knew she couldn't make it and was confirmed when she had to reach out early in an attempt to simply bunt the ball back. Her goal glanced from the tip and spun wildly out of control until it touched the ground and rolled silently out of bounds.
"Point!" Nanoha cheered out happily as she thrust one fist up into the air with a small hop. "I haven't lost yet!"
"I'm still ahead," Fate reminded her as Vivio scurried across the court to retrieve the small ball and bring it back to her mother. "Thank you, Vivio." She smiled fondly at her before turning back to Nanoha and narrowing her eyes. "I still win if I score before you do!" With the taunt set she threw the ball into the air and smashed it against her racquet. Nanoha got serious all at once and dived to the side, back slicing and sending the object back over. The blond's eyes narrowed once more and timed her breathing with her steps. The ball clashed against her black and gold racquet soundly with a small clacking sound. Over the net it went and bounced at a low angle, making Nanoha literally roll across the ground to return. Her feet slapped against the ground and kicked away from it hard in an attempt to clear the distance across the court in time. Her return made it but just barely. Fate cried out in shock as she darted forward to get the ball that was lazily dropping onto her side of the net. It bounced once before she dropped under it and clicked it back up and over the net slowly.
Nanoha was already there, shoes slipping lightly on the fine dust and crushed leaves on the court as she swung hard. The ball picked up it's momentum immediately and crashed against Fate's racquet just as hard. The two fought back and forth with each other as they slowly backed up from the net by sending their drives a little higher as they went. Finally the brown haired one ran forward after a return and took Fate by surprise by almost literally spiking the ball back onto her side and away from her. "Point!"
"That was out of bounds!"
"Yuuno-kun!" Nanoha turned to the side where Vivio was hurrying to get the ball for them. "Tell her it wasn't out of bounds."
The male smiled lightly. "Sorry Fate, it was in."
"Mou!" Fate stomped her foot and glared, not trusting the biased judgment. "Nanoha could tell the biggest lie in the world and you would swear your life to it!"
The other girl giggled. "That's the advantage of having an ex still be your best male-friend." She stuck out her tongue but quickly sucked it back in when Raising Heart formed a monitor in front of her. "Ah! Captain!" She saluted the female on the screen quickly.
Vivio watched the two people talk a moment before deciding to return the ball to Fate instead. "Fate-mama," She greeted, holding the ball up high with both hands so the blond could pluck it. "Who is that?"
"That," Fate told her while watching her friend. "Is Nanoha-mama's training superior. When Nanoha-mama goes out to learn new things, that's who she goes to... But why she's calling here on Earth during Vacation is beyond me."
"Ma'am!" Nanoha saluted again with a large smile plastered on her face. "I'll be there tomorrow! First thing!" She got a smile back and the screen cut off.
"Tomorrow?" Fate asked as she got back into position to serve. Vivio ran back over to Yuuno and hopped into his lap after climbing up onto the observer's bench.
"I was chosen to come to speak to the new recruits at the introduction ceremony!" Nanoha replied happily. "The one I was planning on attending!"
"But... You got vacation time and had to miss it." Fate told her, unsure of what was going on.
"I know!" Nanoha chirped out, still smiling. "But a speaker couldn't make it and they asked me to come! This is so great, I was looking forward to this!"
"But you're on vacation!" Fate protested. "Tomorrow we're taking Vivio trick-or-treating and then to the Halloween party!"
"A few hours won't hurt," Nanoha waved it off.
"A few hours will hurt!" She went on. "Nanoha, you can't miss this! This is Vivio's first time trick-or-treating! We promised to take her together!"
Nanoha lost her smile. "Fate-chan, this is really important to me! I'll still be there for the party."
"Vivio needs you with her before then!"
"Vivio understands that my work is important! Why can't you be happy for me!?" Seeing as Fate wasn't going to serve she picked up a ball and swung it over to the other side. "This is a big part of my life!"
Fate dropped her ball and returned the serve out of instinct rather by intention. "You are a bigger part of her life!"
Nanoha hit it back, purposely making Fate run for it. "I'll be there! An hour won't hurt!"
Fate glared, foot tapping the ground and sparking off as her speed increased out of her anger. The world slowed down, blurring into black and white as she charged the ball. ' You idiot!' Her mind through harshly as she swung her arm as hard as she could. ' I want you to be with us!' The ball screamed out, ripping the air in it's wake. Half way across the court Fate wondered briefly why Nanoha hadn't moved yet before realizing that she was still in her accidental sonic move. "Nanoha!" The spell was broken but it was too late. The ball hit Nanoha's hard on her face, forcing her off her feet and flying back a few inches before crashing on her shoulders and cracking her head on the ground.
Instantly one hand went to grip the back of her head while the other grabbed her face. Nanoha kicked her feet out in shock while trying to understand why she was suddenly in pain. "Nanoha!" Yuuno was already next to her in an attempt to calm her down. "Stop moving, let me see!" He soothed her enough to get to look at her face before turning and glaring at the blond. "Dammit Fate! She did this to try and make up with you! Why couldn't you just be happy for her!?" Not waiting for a response he scooped her off the ground and into his arms. "Vivio, I'm going to go heal Nanoha-mama, stay with Fate-mama for now okay?" With that he ran away towards the changing rooms next to the courts for privacy
Fate sank slowly to her knees, racquet falling onto the ground as tears rolled down her cheeks. 'I hurt her... I hurt her...' The words repeated over and over in her mind, even when Vivio walked up to her and gave a questioning look.
"Mou, Fate, why are you so glum?" Arisa put a hand onto the other girl's shoulder and gave her a knowing look. "You're normally the life of the party and hanging all over Nanoha, what gives?"
Fate blinked, startled out from her thoughts by her old friend. "Um, sorry, I'm just... not feeling well. Sometimes... when you teleport to another planet it messes you up for a while..."
"Oh, okay then." Arisa nodded, having heard that line since they were in junior high together. "But try to perk up okay? Everyone is having a blast." She nodded over to the jam packed house full of all their friends, even the forwards under Nanoha. "It's ultra rare we all are able to get together so feel better okay?"
"Um, yeah." Fate smiled as best she could. "Hey, have you seen Nanoha?"
"Her mother took her upstairs a moment ago." Arisa pointed to stress her comment. "I think they were checking up of Vivio's nap time."
"Thanks." With that she made her way through the mass of laughing people and walked up the stairs slowly. The girl took a steadying breath before rounding the corner. "Nano-" She was cut off by Momoko shushing her happily and motioning for her to come over. The red eyed girl obeyed the request and peeked through the cracked door to look into Nanoha's room. The brown haired girl moved slightly so Fate could see in as well and the two observed what was going on inside while Momoko went back downstairs.
Vivio was awake now, standing in front of a mirror while wearing Fate's enforcer jacket top. Her little arms barely allowed it to stay on her body but she didn't seem to mind, swinging them out as she held an imaginary conversation with herself in the mirror. "What's that?" Vivio asked herself with a pose. "Drones in the city? I'll have them done in time to bake cookies tonight!" With those words she gripped her hands together as if she was holding Bardiche and fought the imaginary enemies flying around her until she tripped on her own baggy shirt and fell to the ground. Nanoha chuckled to herself, ignoring Fate's hand on her back while trying to peek in better without being discovered. The child in the room wiggled out of Fate's clothes and instead put on Nanoha's flight uniform skirt despite almost being able to wear it as a dress. "Oh?" She asked herself again, pretending to be in another conversation. "You need the best Ace of Aces to attend a conference! Why yes I can come! My friends?" Here she made a tutting motion and looked like she was stating the most obvious thing in the world. "My work is more important than that!"
Nanoha gasped loudly and stood up straight, hand covering her mouth. Her eyes shook in fear, already beginning to water. Slowly she turned to Fate started to shiver. Her mind raced quickly to decide if she needed to run away and think or if she should take refuge in her friend's arms despite what they had been going through lately. By the time she chose to run Fate had already met her eyes and opened her arms up acceptingly. The motion overpowered any doubt in her mind and she could only see the kind and loving friend that she had known for more than half her life. Her first sob was loud, breaking her breathing as she buried herself tightly against the breast of her friend. "Ssshhhh..." Fate soothed her, stroking her hair softly. "Come," She felt herself be embraced fully and shifted to be carried. Where they were going was lost on her, only repeating the words spoken by Vivio again and again in her mind. Each time it went through it was changed slightly, finally ending up with Vivio stating that she didn't need friends at all.
By the time Fate stopped moving Nanoha was calming down from her initial fit and instead chose to simply cling onto her and sob silently into her chest. "Fa-Fate-chan..." She whispered as she was placed down and embraced from behind. "I'm a... horrible mother..."
"No," Fate told her softly, gently making Nanoha look up at her. "You're new at being a mother." She smiled calmly, meaning the words. Nanoha's face changed slightly as she thought about the opinion and looked away from her to chew over the thought. Despite having a broken nose not three hours earlier, Yuuno's healing magic had fixed her up as good as new. The only remnants was a stopped up nose that made itself even more apparent now with the tears added in. Wind blew around them softly and Fate gently hugged Nanoha closer to share her warmth. She had taken them through an open window and out onto the roof of the house for privacy and in hopes that the setting sun would ease Nanoha's troubles.
"Vivio..." Nanoha sniffed again, trying hard to calm herself down enough to talk. "She's... growing up just like me..." One hand went to her face, wiping away her tears desperately with her palm but not succeeding in making them stop flowing. "I..." She coughed on her own words and refused to look at Fate anymore despite the gentle urgings. "I wanted her to be like you," Nanoha's confession only seemed to make her even more upset. "I don't know how... I just can't... without you I..."
"Shhhh," Fate soothed her again, pulling her closer in the embrace. "Calm down first then we can talk. I won't go anywhere." She felt Nanoha nod slightly and simply held her friend closely while the time ticked by. Minutes passed by before the sobbing turned into slight gasping and then into simple crying. "Now, calm your breath and tell me what you're thinking."
"Why...?" Nanoha finally looked behind herself towards the one embracing her from behind. "After everything I've done..."
"Silly," Fate told her, once again giving the gentle smile. "I'm the one who was wrong, I know that now. You was trying to do everything you could so you could take better care of Vivio. We have different views about things, but even if we argue over them, I won't ever stop being your friend."
"But I... I was wrong." Nanoha gripped a handful of her friend's casual house shirt. "Fate-chan... You're so good at being a mama... I know now that I dived into this too soon. I'm not..." She swallowed, finally accepting her own words. "I'm not ready yet to be a mother. When I think about what would happen if... if you wasn't with me." Nanoha swallowed, once again wiping her eyes. "Fate-chan... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!"
"For what? Our arguing? Nanoha, there's no reason to-"
"No!" She sniffed again, shaking her head. "It's not that! I just... I can't say it."
"Tell me," Fate encouraged her softly while rubbing her arms.
"I can't... You will never see me the same way again."
"When I was nine," Fate suddenly brought up the past. "I was someone who wouldn't listen to others no matter what. It wasn't until I reached out my hand that I was able to see things as they really were. You were the one who helped me then, Nanoha, and no matter what you say or do I will never forget that you are my friend, that I care about you deeply."
"Promise me... That you will still be here?"
"I promise." Fate stroked her hair again. "Now, tell me what's causing all of this. I can tell this isn't just about Vivio."
Nanoha took a slow steady breath. "Fate-chan... The reason I suddenly started becoming so obsessed with work... the reason I stopped cuddling with you and started working late hours..." Gathering her courage, she looked up into her friend's eyes. "I realized something. When I adopted Vivio, when she called us both 'mama' for the first time, when we all slept together in our bed... I wanted more."
"More?" she encouraged.
"Yes... I wanted to be like a real family... I wanted... love."
"Vivio loves you very much, as do I."
"No... I want love." She stressed the word to get her point across. "I... wanted to love you." Nanoha winced inwardly when Fate's body tensed up. "Fate-chan... I'm gay. I just accepted it recently and.. and I like you. In that way. I'm sorry." Silence washed over them slowly. The leaves scattered around the two girls as they sat on the roof together without speaking. The only noise came from the slight whistling of the breeze and the happy cheers down below muffled by the walls of their home. Not sure of how long they had sat there like this, Nanoha slowly pulled away from Fate and found no resistance stopping her. "I started hating myself," she went on eventually. "How I could fall for my best friend, how I could ruin our friendship, how I might make Vivio sad again if we split apart because of it." Her eyes drifted towards the setting sun. "So I tried to hide it, to bury it under work. If I worked non-stop then I wouldn't be with you as much, wouldn't feel you cuddle with me while watching movies... wouldn't... want a family with you and Vivio... But I went too far, I pushed you both away too much. I'm sorry, I didn't know it would end up like this... us fighting, Vivio thinking like that... By trying to push you away I ended up doing just what I was trying to prevent: hurting our friendship and ruining Vivio's family."
"I'm... going to go inside." Fate stood up slowly. "You should come too, you'll get sick if you don't get warm, okay?" Her words were soft, unsure of what she should say.
Fate opened the door to Nanoha's room slowly and stepped into the darkness. "Nanoha?" She asked lightly. "Are you awake?" Her response was only gentle breathing sounds coming from the bed. Pausing just long enough to gather her courage she closed the door and walked over to the place her friend was. Sitting, she scooted over until she was right next to the laying girl. "We need to talk." Again she was only replied with soft breathing sounds. "I shouldn't have gone away like I did... I'm sorry for that." Still soft breathing. "... Nanoha, I know you're awake. You snore like a chainsaw when you sleep."
"I do not." Nanoha protested instantly before kicking herself mentally for revealing that she was, in fact, awake.
"Nanoha, I'm sorry. That was so much of a shock...I didn't know how to respond."
"A simple 'I'm not gay' would have been enough." She whispered softly into her pillow, fighting back tears.
"Nanoha..." Fate reached out slowly and touched her friend's head but didn't pull away when she flinched under the touch. "I know running away was a really horrible thing to do, but I was just so scared..."
"It's okay. Please, just leave me alone a while." Her voice got tighter. "I can't handle this."
"Nanoha," The blond repeated her friends name yet again. "I've known for a while now that I'm not like most girls. I... don't really know if I'm gay but I can handle being bi for right now...I think."
"Fate-chan?" The words made her open her eyes up and stare at the outline of the dark figure of her friend.
"I... really don't know what to say," Fate stammered out. "Um, I like you, a lot, but you know... never thought thought that... I mean... I wouldn't mind... you know, because it's... I don't know." She tried to hide her face in her hands. "Nanoha, I'll try it... dating you."
"But if you're uncomfortable..."
"I am," Fate admitted readily. "I'm uncomfortable with myself... My feelings are... I've always liked Nanoha; I don't feel anything different from yesterday or today. The idea of us being together, holding hands...kissing... it's the same to me, all this time I've felt like this... I just... never wanted to admit I was gay... I don't think I am, but with you I wouldn't mind... Nanoha, I'm still so very, very, confused..."
"It's okay," Slowly sitting up she reached out and touched Fate's cheek. "We can...take it slow?"
"No," Fate shook her head. "I'd feel like, I don't know... I'd feel like I was using you, or something... I just need to confirm for myself..."
Fate laughed nervously, wiping away her own tears. "How strange... I can't stop crying..." She found her hands being gently taken and a nose touching hers. "Nanoha?"
"Can we... see for ourselves? What this is?"
Fate swallowed. "Promise me something first?"
"This... isn't just making up for our arguing."
"No, this is for us."
"And... If one of us realizes in this kiss that the emotions we feel arn't-"
"Okay. Still friends. Forever. It will be awkward if that's the case, but we'll overcome it."
Fate slowly took a breath. "Right..."
"You kiss me."
The two girls stayed silent a moment before each gave out their own nervous giggles. "Okay," Nanoha steadied herself. "Here goes." The breath of Fate danced across her mouth lightly as she leaned forward. Slowly she moved her hand out to find her friend's and gently slid their fingers together. Her other reached up to lovingly caress Fate's cheek with the back of a finger before slowly touching their lips. The intimate contact made them both tense up for a moment, making the kiss awkward at best. Pulling back, she licked her lips and tried again. This time Fate accepted a little easier, pressing forward ever so slightly to make the contact more meaningful. A third kiss followed shortly, this time started by Fate. One hand moved to Nanoha's side and gently pulled her down onto the bed on top of her.
Another kiss. Breathing was getting hard now, each trying to figure out how to take in air that didn't belong to their partner. Small gasp came before their lips met again, wetter now that they were getting used to it. Bodies pressed against each other, getting comfortable under the covers as their hearts started beating faster. Hands trailed over sides and arms, trying their best to sooth the nervousness still emitting from each other. Finally Fate made the first move, arm looping around the small of Nanoha's back and hugging her close. Lips parted, tongues escaped. Their question had been answered, their feelings confirmed. It didn't matter now, they had found each other and nothing could break the new feelings of love discovered in one simple night. Days of frustration with each other faded, now just something to look back on and laugh about. Weeks of uneasy feelings left, replaced by warmth of each other's bodies. Months of longing and questioning had been confirmed, and years ahead would be given to the new lovers as they explored each other with a passion long suppressed.
No motions to stop were given, only encouraging gasp and curious hands fueled the fire needed to keep going. No longer were they doing it for themselves; now it was more personal, wanting to share the feelings discovered. The two parted slowly, staring deep into each others eyes in silent questioning. Fate's face was gentle, staring up at her lovingly, as she nodded slightly. Their mouths met again, bodies shifted to become closer, hearts beating in unison.
To be continued...
Special thanks to Haru for both the Nanoha and Fate Mega Pack as well as the constant scanlations of wonderful Nanoha doujin that, for once, isn't hentai. Here's to you buddy, keep up the good work.