Artist!Fate ( Briefly known as The Painter before said previous name got mobbed and lynched and turned into what it is now. Ah well.)

Part 1- Fate

'Inspiration is all around you, you just have to open your eyes and look for it.'

Fate scoffed and threw her pencil and sketchbook on the bench beside her. "Right. I've been looking around all day and all the 'inspiration' I've gotten is two ducks going at it in the pond. And like hell am I going to enter the exhibition with something like that."

She tried looking around again, but nothng really caught her interest. Which was sad, because there were so many people walking past her, alone, with dogs, with children... and none had that glimmer of inspiration that it would take for her to get out of the slump she had been in. Her mentor had forbidden her from returning to the studio until she had at least gotten a rough approximation of something that she could build on. The exhibition was in another two months after all and her mentor was counting on her to pull through, like always.

"Could this be it?" Fate sighed dramatically as she leaned back with an arm draped over her forehead. "Creativity all dried up like a dried-tomato by age 20? Real smooth, Testerossa. Real smooth."

"Ahh!! Yuuno! Hold on! Get back here!"

Fate yelped and her eyes widened as she suddenly felt something large and furry jump down the loose collar of her shirt and start squirming around, as if it had jumped into a trap and was now frantically wondering how to get back out. Through a great feat of willpower, Fate thrust her own hand into her shirt, groped around, grabbed whatever thing was squeaking at being grabbed so roughly (or grabbed at all, considering the situation), and pulled it out. Apparently, her grip had been a bit tight, and so the animal was looking quite worn out by the time she could look at it. By this time, the owner had caught up and was apologizing profusely.

Fate looked up from the animal that she could now recognize as a ferret once she stroked its fur to lie flat again. Her awe upon seeing the face of the owner nearly made her drop the ferret into her lap. It was a young woman, about her age, she guessed, who wore her rather long brown hair in a side ponytail. The running she had just done made her otherwise pale skin a healthy rosy shade, especially on her cheeks. And those eyes... she had the most stunning blue eyes...

"Um... can I... have my ferret back, please?"

Fate snapped out of her trance and looked again at the ferret and then at the girl. She asked stupidly, "This is yours?"

The young woman nodded. Fate noticed her nervousness.

"This thing that just sexually harrassed me? It's yours?"

"I didn't tell him to do that! You have to believe me!" The woman had started flapping her arms every which way as she tried to convince Fate, "Yuuno didn't mean any harm either, I swear!"

Fate looked at the ferret, which was now looking back at her curiously. She didn't really care about what the little criminal had just done, but she did care about his owner. With resolve, Fate decided that she was going to use him to her advantage while he was still in her grasp. She stood, smiling all the while. She petted the ferret affectionately so that it would have no reason to scurry out of her grasp anytime soon. "You want him back?"

The woman hesitated and gave her an odd look. Suspicious even. "Yes... he's mine after all."

"Hmm..." Fate took a step forward, and the woman took a step back, watching her. "How am I going to give him back if you don't let me approach you?"

The woman obediently held out her hands to receive her pet.

Fate didn't offer him up quite yet. "You know the city has a rule about pets that are being walked require a leash, right? So incidents like this don't happen. At least not as often."

Slowly, the hands lowered. "I... I just got him. I couldn't find a collar that would fit him."

"Ah, I see." Fate nodded understandingly, stroking Yuuno's neck, which he seemed to like. "That is a problem then."

"Umm..."

"You should come back to my place. The place I work at. I can fix something up to work until you find a legit collar and leash for him."

"Ah! I really couldn't impose on you like that. I'll be extra careful next time, I promise." The woman fidgeted. Fate could tell she really did not like sticking around one place a whole lot. Or perhaps she was nervous because she believed her ferret had suddenly become the hostage of a stranger. Well, it had, so Fate couldn't blame her for that.

Fate warned, "You know, I could have this little guy impounded for that little stunt he pulled. Would you rather I do that?"

"NO!" The woman took a breath and said quieter, "No, please. I... Really... If I could just have him back..."

"Service."

"What?"

Fate grinned, leaning over so that their faces were centimeters apart. "You've got to give me some sort of service. Something that'll make me forget that this ever happened."

She hesitated, clearly wary of the stranger before her. "L-like what?"

"Hmm... I'm not sure yet." Fate grinned. "Walk with me back to my place and maybe I'll have come up with something by then."

There was silence. Then the woman asked, "How far away is it?"

'Victory.' "It's about a ten-minute walk. Not far. You know the MiddyC on Main Street?"

"The burger place? Oh... yeah, I know it. It's not far."

Fate nodded. 'Didn't I just say that?' "My place is across the street from there. So, shall we go?"

She still hesitated. "Do I have a choice?"

Fate frowned, considering this. "Not really. Not if you want your precious Yuuno back."

The woman sighed. "Fine. My afternoon was free anyway."

Petting Yuuno, Fate asked, "Have you trained him personally yet?"

"What? No, of course not. I only got him a few days ago..."

Fate grinned even more. Holding Yuuno in her left hand, she looked at her left shoulder and then tapped it while looking at Yuuno and whistling through the side of her lips, as if she had a gap in her teeth. After she jerked her head a few times in gesturing, Yuuno crawled up her arm to her shoulder, where Fate petted him again. Fate then clapped the excess molted fur off her hands before she returned to the bench to pick up her sketchbook and put it back into her shoulder bag.

As she straightened, Fate whistled again and pointed to her hand, and Yuuno obediently went where she directed. As Fate grinned, Yuuno's owner looked on with open awe.

"That's incredible! How did you get him to do that?"

Fate chuckled as she started walking away, prompting the woman to follow her. "Ferrets are intuitively smart creatures. Plus, I recently finished nearly wringing his little neck, so he knows what happens if he doesn't obey, but at the same time..."

"At the same time...?"

Fate leaned down and kissed Yuuno's wet nose, and he reacted with a little squeak. "I think he likes me."

The woman huffed indignantly. "Oh, what, and he doesn't like me?"

Fate looked over at her and instead of answering, asked, "What's your name?"

"Eh?" The woman scratched her cheek nervously. "Takamachi. Takamachi Nanoha. What's yours?"

"Nanoha... Nanoha... nice name. I'm Fate Testerossa. Or as you might say, Testerossa Fate."

"Fate... chan?"

Fate rolled her eyes. "Call me whatever you like. I still have your ferret."

Nanoha puffed out her cheeks as she blurted out, "What's the big deal anyway? He's just a little animal. Can't you just forgive and let live?"

Fate raised an eyebrow at her and then spoke to Yuuno. "She just doesn't understand, does she?" Yuuno squeaked.

Nanoha eyed her nervously. "Understand what?"

As they stopped at an intersection to wait for traffic, Fate took the opportunity to look at Nanoha more closely. She would make a fine model indeed. Very proportionate, very neat, and at the same time, very distinct. It was the ideal base to work off of. 'But how shall I convince her...? This little ferret isn't going to carry me that far. Maybe just a sketch and then I'll leave it to luck if she comes back to see the finished product.' Fate covered her mouth with her free hand as she sniffed with restrained laughter. 'Right, so my goal is to make her willing to come back for a second modeling. Keep it professional, Testerossa. Remember, she's a potential model; not a girl I'm trying to land a second date with before the first even begins.'

"What's so funny?"

Fate smiled over at her as the crossed the street. "It's nothing. So, Nanoha. Are you interested in art at all?"

"Art?" Nanoha frowned, wondering where that had come from. "Um, sort of. Actually, not really. I took art class in school and all, but it never really held my interest. The most art I have in my apartment is a large glass-blown necklace."

Fate fought to chuckle over how easy it was to extract information from Nanoha. She was obviously still very unassuming, despite her suspicious looks earlier. "I'm an apprentice at an art studio. Maybe if you were the model instead of the artist, you'd be able to appreciate it a bit more. How about it?"

Fate had the pleasure of seeing Nanoha's cheeks glow with a bright pink blush. "M-Model?"

Nodding, Fate repeated, "Model. Specifically, for me."

"Specifically... for you?"

Fate frowned. "Did I not enunciate clearly enough for you?" She leaned in close, getting satisfaction from the way Nanoha's face instantly lit up. "It'll take ten minutes. Twenty if I go for quality. Thirty if you agree to nude."

"What?! I...!!"

Fate raised an eyebrow, watching as Nanoha flustered herself into getting tongue-twisted. She prompted, "'I'?"

"I. Don't. Do. Nudes."

"Ooh, so you like to do it with your clothes on? Kinky." As Nanoha stared at her, she simply laughed and opened the door to the studio, adding softly, "Oh, I'm just teasing. Just for the record, I prefer doing it with clothes on as well. Some clothes, at least."

Nanoha said nothing as she steadfastly looked around the small shop. She ran towards a framed painting in the corner and pointed at it. "Did you do this?"

Fate chuckled. "Did you wish I did?" She looked at the portrait Nanoha had pointed out. It was a dual portrayal of the puppy-form and grownup-form of her dog. From cute to fierce in ten short years. She was amazed Arf's senses hadn't dulled in the slightest, but in fact grew sharper. "My mentor drew it for my Arf's tenth birthday."

"Your Arf?" She looked at Fate with something akin to confusion and amusement.

Fate frowned at what she interpreted as the condescending way Nanoha repeated her dog's name. Whistling from the back of her teeth, she summoned 'Arf'. She made sure to keep a good grip on Yuuno, because she knew he would start squirming and try to get away the moment her dear Arf came around the corner. Nanoha, to her credit, only draped herself over the rack behind her rather involuntarily.

"Hey there, Arf. You been good?" Fate smiled as she affectionately stroked her head. She watched as Arf in turn eyed Yuuno. Her tongue hung out as she panted eagerly. "No, Arf. You can't eat him." Arf whimpered, and Fate hugged her.

"T-That's allowed inside a store?!"

Fate huffed at her rudeness, calling Arf a 'that'. Though she supposed it wasn't every day one saw a crossbreed quite like her. When Fate had found her as a pup, she had decided Arf was something akin to what would happen if you successfully crossbreeded a fox and a wolf. She got her full size from the latter, though she was smaller than the former when she'd been found. Now, she took up a whole aisle and then some. But Fate had trained her well, and she was careful not to knock things over when she was indoors.

Fate turned to Nanoha. "This is Arf. My dog."

"That's not a dog."

Fate rolled my eyes. Nanoha wasn't the first to be skeptical of Arf. But she didn't care. "Either way, she's mine. You can look around the shop on your way out. For now, let's go upstairs. Come on, Arf."

Arf 'arf'ed and led the way up the back stairwell behind the counter. Fate comfortingly stroked Yuuno's back, knowing full well that Arf ate animals like him for mere snacks. Arf was a good guard dog, and didn't mind going after rats on occassion either. At the top of the stairs, Fate turned back to make sure Nanoha was following her, which she was. At a little pat from her master, Arf went to lie down in the pile of blankets in the corner that was her bed. Yuuno seemed to calm down considerably at that.

Fate made a grand sweeping gesture at the haphazardly organized studio and said, "Voila, my humble abode."

Nanoha looked around uncertainly. "You live here too?"

Fate nodded. "The rent is cheaper that way. I can spend more of my money on other ventures."

Nanoha said nothing as she looked around, giving Fate the chance to set Yuuno down and gather her things. Eventually however, Nanoha asked, "What are you doing?"

Fate blinked and looked down at her sketchpad. "Getting ready to sketch you. I said I would, didn't I?"

Nanoha flushed. "Y-you were serious?"

Fate huffed. "Of course I was serious. What do you take me for, a cheap porno photographer?"

"Um... no..."

"You just thought 'I only thought it for a second' didn't you? Just now."

"Umm... no?"

Fate sighed as she sat down with her box of pencils and propped the sketchbook on her lap. "Well, I'm ready whenever you are."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Anything you like. As long as you don't leave the room, don't try to hide your face, or move too much once you've settled."

"You're not going to ask me to take off my clothes, are you?" Nanoha hugged herself insecurely.

"No," Fate smiled. "But you're welcome to if you like."

Nanoha ignored the latter statement as she found herself looking over at Arf. "Can I... can I pet her?"

Fate smiled at Nanoha's willingness. "She won't mind, as long as you don't act scared of her. She's actually quite nice. Playful too."

Nanoha walked over and spoke a few words of greeting to Arf before sitting down amongst the bed of blankets and pillows. Arf licked the hand that petted her before resting her head on Nanoha's lap, giving her better access.

Fate reached for her polaroid and took a quick snapshot. Setting it down, she started to sketch. A ghost of word filtered past her lips as she started her attempt to transfer transient beauty to inadequate paper. "Perfect..."

"Fate?"

"Mm?" It hadn't even been five minutes yet, was she going to talk the whole time? Well, that didn't really matter. Fate had performed well enough under worser conditions.

"Why do you sketch if you have a camera?"

"Because the camera only catches objectivity. Art adds subjectivity, and thus comes closer to the subject's true beauty."

Nanoha laughed nervously before she turned her gaze to the spot of fur where she was petting Arf.

It was peaceful for a good few minutes more.

Then, "Fate?"

"What, now?"

"Oh, sorry."

Fate shook her head, her eyes continuing to flick from her work to the model to get appropriate proportions. "It's fine. What is it?"

"Um... Why did you want to... have me as your model? Aren't there a lot better things to be drawing?"

"You think so? You should consider yourself honored." Fate smirked at her confused expression. "I was two seconds away from considering drawing the two ducks I saw doing it on the lake."

Nanoha blinked rapidly. "You saw what?"

"Yeah, I was surprised too. But trust me, this right here, it's great. Much better material to work with."

Nanoha frowned, a little confused. "Why?"

Fate looked at her, slowly realizing that she simply wanted to know more about the thinking process than anything else. Shifting in her seat before continuing her sketching, Fate explained, "Well, I happen to specialize in drawing females for one thing. So it'll turn out better. And I needed something that would capture my attention as well as that of whoever else looked at the finished product."

Fate realized too late that her comment had been suggestive. "What are you going to do with 'the finished product'?"

Without missing a beat, Fate answered, "Hang it up in my room, if it's good enough." It wasn't a lie. It would just go to the exhibition first. It'd go to her room if it failed to fetch a high bidder.

Nanoha was suspicious again though, and Fate was glad she had finished with the facial expression while Nanoha was still sporting a peacefully content smile. "Is that all?"

"Oh? You're not bothered by that. So you don't mind a stranger hanging your picture up on their wall?"

Nanoha flushed. "Not if I know who it is and I know it's there."

"Hmm..."

"What?"

"Nothing."

"You were going to say something."

"No, I wasn't." Fate held her pencil out in front of her, measuring by eye the scale proportions. The crisp sound of pencil against paper threatened to echo around the room. "My room's pretty dinky, so only the best work is there."

"Can I see it afterwards?"

Fate raised an eyebrow. She teased, "I don't bring girls into my bedroom on the first date."

Nanoha flushed and her response was lost in her embarrassed stammering. "Why do you keep doing that?"

"Doing what?"

"T... teasing me like that."

"Oh? Would you rather I made good on my word? You're cute enough; I wouldn't object if you don't."

"I object, I object!"

Fate chuckled as she finished the general outline and started putting in the details. "It's really a mess right now, in all seriousness. I'd feel bad if you saw it right now."

"Worse than this room?"

Fate huffed. "This room is ten times cleaner than my room."

"Oh." Nanoha looked down, no doubt imagining what ten times messier than a pigsty looked like. "Then... could you bring out some of your artwork? I want to see."

"Want to see proof of my skill?" Fate smiled offhandedly. "I don't mind, but I'm not really that skilled yet. I improve noticeably with every piece I finish though. That's good enough for now."

The silence that followed was both peaceful and short.

"How old are you?"

"Older than you probably." Fate continued to sketch unheeded.

"I'm 20."

"So am I. Birthday?"

"Exactly a month from today."

"Oh? Mine's in two weeks."

They had a little staring contest. Nanoha looked away first.

Realizing talking about mundane things made Nanoha less nervous, Fate offered, "How long have you lived in this town? I moved here when I was in 3rd grade."

"I was born and raised here."

Fate nodded.

"My family runs a bakery."

"Okay."

"It's really good stuff. The paper raved about them just the other day."

"I'll take your word for it."

"Do you like sweets?"

"I like sweet girls." Fate smiled up at her. "I also like sweet girls that know how to make sweet things. Does good baking run in your family?"

"I..." Nanoha half-smiled sheepishly. "I know the recipes by heart."

"What about your own creations?"

"Um. I'm not very creative."

Fate chuckled. "I'll taste test for you. If ever you decide you want to try to bake something new, bring it over and I'll try some. I may not be some fancy hot-shot newspaper critic, but I can at least be honest."

"What if it makes you sick?"

"Then I'll sell this painting and pay the hospital bills with it."

Nanoha blinked. "You're making a painting out of it?"

Fate shrugged. "I haven't decided. My mentor says I don't improve in anything because I pride myself in being a jack-of-all trades. I'm a painter, a photographer, a sculptor, and on really good days, I can make a real mean glass-blown object."

"Oh wow. Do you write, too?"

"No, not really. I've tried; I'm not all that good at it. I'm more visual than... verbal? I guess that would be it."

"Do you make money off of it?"

"Off of what, my work? I get money as a paid cashier here. On occassion, some of my stuff is out on display, but I've only sold a few."

"Oh... why?"

Fate smiled. "What kind of person do you think I am?"

"A dirt poor one?"

"Hey!" Fate pouted.

"Ah, sorry, sorry! It just slipped out..."

Fate chuckled. "No, it's okay. Yeah, I am pretty poor these days. Mainly 'cause what I could make money off of, I give away."

"Why?"

"Because I make trinkets for kids. Simple stuff that they can enjoy too. They're so cute when they're happy, I can't help but indulge them a little."

"You're... really nice, aren't you?"

Fate smiled. "On my good days." She wondered if she should tell Nanoha that she had finished the sketch and had even added shading. Doodling below the sketch, making an enlarged sketch of her eyes, Fate hummed, "I also donate some to the church. They sell it, but they keep the profits."

"Oh..."

"This painting is going to be for the Church's auction/exhibition coming up soon. I actually feel kind of bad, because to date, I've only given the Church the pieces I wasn't really personally satisfied with."

"...Oh."

"Which brings me to a dilemna 'cause I'm thinking that if I don't keep this one, I might be able to sell it for a really good price. It might even be the one I make my name with."

Nanoha looked away, and Fate didn't even have to look up to know she was blushing.

Deciding that she had put Nanoha through enough torture, Fate set her things down and walked over to Nanoha. Leaning down, she kissed her cheek, which instantly made Nanoha turn towards her.

Fate grinned. Softly, she said, "Thank you for your time. It may take a while, but when the final product is done, I'll notify you. If you give me something I can contact you by."

"Come by the bakery." Nanoha's cheeks were still pink as she searched her purse and took out a business card. "Can you find your way there?"

Fate looked at the address and nodded before pocketing it. "I've been down that way before. Do you live where you work too?"

Nanoha nodded. "The house is behind the bakery."

"I'll make note of that."

Nanoha looked at her oddly, but seemed to shake it off. "So... I guess I should go now? Leave you to your... work?"

"You can. Unless you want to stay."

Nanoha blinked. "Do you want me to stay?"

Apparently, she hadn't figured out that Fate had spent the last hour or so projecting her desire for Nanoha to stay. She smiled. "I wouldn't hate it."

Nanoha opened her mouth as if to agree, but just then her cell phone went off. It was a nice, catchy little tune, and she quickly picked it up. After a few minutes of talking, she hung up and apologized. "That was my mom. She... wants me to get back home."

"Pity." Fate stood up, offering a helping hand to Nanoha, which the latter accepted. "Well, feel free to come by later if you like."

"Okay."

Fate walked her to the door, making sure Yuuno followed his owner. Nanoha stopped on the sidewalk just outside the door. Fate watched her, amused. "What's wrong? Forget something?"

"Yeah." Nanoha turned, and before Fate knew what was happening, soft lips touched her cheek. Blushing, Nanoha whispered, "Thanks for being nice. I really hope we can be good friends in the future. I'll come visit, I promise."

"Don't make promises." Fate met Nanoha's gaze full on. "If you don't see me, just call my name, and I'll find my way to you."

Nanoha didn't say anything to that, nodding simply before hurrying off.

Fate leaned against the door, watching her go.

"Was that a customer or a new girlfriend?"

Fate turned to see her mentor walking up the road towards her. She straightened and smiled. "Neither. She... is my newest inspiration."

Her mentor chuckled and walked into the store as Fate opened the door for her. "So it's the latter for the sake of the former. I suppose that's decent enough. You need to get out more though, Fate."

Fate smiled as she followed her in. "I'm sorry I was out while you had to go get supplies. I would have picked them up for you if you'd told me before I left, Precia-san."

Precia shook her head. "No, it's fine. I wanted to talk with the supplies store owner anyway."

"Ah, are you and Father getting along well these days?"

Precia laughed. "Define 'well'. I believe I challenged him to a bet."

"What sort of bet?"

"That my little artist could beat his little #4 any day. Specifically, on exhibition day."

Fate stared. "Precia-san, you didn't..."

"I hope this new inspiration of yours does the job, Fate. Your 'allowance' for the next six months depends on it."

"Six months?!" Fate groaned into the palm of her hand. But after the surprise wore off, she couldn't help but smile.

This was one bet she could help Precia win. With Nanoha's help, of course.

End Chapter

A/N: This will be posted in conjunction with another story of mine that I'm preparing. This story is already finished at 3 chapters, roughly 12000 words, and has already been posted on the wwWeb. However, I'll still be posting the chapters in weekly intervals and I still ask for reviews to get feedback. XP Please and thank you 3

Oh, and Disclaimer: I don't own anything that isn't mine to own.