"Mama, what are you doing?"
Fate pressed the thumbtack into the lintel, then turned to see her five-year-old, Vivio, staring up at her with wide eyes.
"I'm hanging Christmas decorations."
"Christmas?" Vivio tried out the unfamiliar word. "What's that?"
"It's a holiday on the world Nanoha comes from." She was glad she'd been able to cadge a couple of weeks' vacation after she'd wrapped up her latest assignment; her work as an Enforcer took her away from Midchilda for most of the year and the holiday schedule was, naturally enough, based around Mid's culture. Christmas had become one of Fate's favorite holidays during her stay on Earth, and had added meaning because it was when she and Nanoha had wrapped up the Book of Darkness incident, which had ended up bringing so many new friends into their lives. "It's really fun. Even Mom and Chrono started celebrating it when we lived there."
Fate gave the mistletoe she'd just hung a flick of her fingertip to make sure it wouldn't get knocked down if someone's head brushed against it.
"So what's that, mama?"
"Mistletoe?" Fate said, turning back a second time. "Well, it's—"
Suddenly, a pair of arms snaked around her waist from behind, pulling her back against the softness of their owner's body. One hand then slid up, gently cupping her face, and tilting her head to the side. Nanoha's mouth closed warmly over hers, and Fate sighed, remembering when she'd first learned about mistletoe.
~X X X~
Nine Years Ago
One thing Fate had discovered were that Earth holidays were a little bit depressing. The holidays she was used to—or at least that the implanted memories from her sister contained—were only known to Lindy, Chrono, and Arf anyway. None of her other friends even knew what they were. On the same note, whenever her friends were looking forward to some holiday activity with their families, Fate's adoptive family had no more idea than she did what those holidays were about. Thanks to Lindy Harlaown's incredible generosity in adopting her, Fate now had a happy family to make memories with, and yet things never quite worked out the way they did on TV.
It's probably selfish, the little girl thought as she wove her way through the crowded streets, but it would be nice to have a holiday memory of my own.
The lights shining from the store windows she passed made patterns of yellow and red and green when they shone across the people on the sidewalk, the milling crowds and their shadows making the lights seem to twinkle as they were alternately blocked and revealed. She walked on a bit, mittened hands stuffed in her pockets, lost in her glum thoughts, until she realized with a start that her feet had carried her to the door of Midoriya, the café owned by the Takamachi family.
Fate reached for the door, then paused. Through the windows she could see that the tables were about three-quarters full of diners, and that there was a long line at the bakery counter, too. They're really busy, she thought. I shouldn't bother anyone right now.
Fate looked up. The cheery voice belonged to Miyuki, the elder daughter of the Takamachis. She wore a puffy coat and a brown stocking cap decorated with prancing reindeer, and her glasses were slightly fogged by the cold.
"I'm glad you stopped by. I'm sure that Nanoha will be glad to see you."
"It looks so busy, though. I don't want to be a bother."
"No way. You're almost family anyway, right? Besides, Mom will be glad to see you, too. You'll save me some trouble."
"I'm babbling, though. Come on in." Miyuki pushed open the door, so there really wasn't anything else to do but precede her into the warmth of the café.
Miyuki waved at her brother Kouya, who was manning the cash register. "Hey, niisan; look who I found! Mom in the kitchen?"
She led Fate around the side of the counter and through the door into the kitchen. While they had a couple of employees who helped with the meals, Miyuki's stepmother Momoko reigned supreme over the baked goods. All the pastries sold by Midoriya were from her own recipes. She was busy at work doing something with a mixing bowl. Next to her, standing on a low stool to give her the necessary height, ten-year-old Nanoha applied green frosting from a piping bag to a row of small cakes. Mother and daughter shared the same reddish-brown hair and blue eyes that hinted at violet in certain light.
"Mom, I'm back!"
The two Takamachis looked up at the sound of Miyuki's voice.
"Oh! Good timing, Miyuki."
Nanoha dropped the piping bag, hopped down off the stool, and dashed over to Fate, a sunny smile on her face. She grabbed Fate's hands, the warmth of hers apparent even through Fate's mittens. Or...is it really just warm hands? Fate thought, because there was a sudden glow of warmth inside her chest as well.
Nanoha was Fate's best friend. They were the same age, or at least the same apparent age, since Fate was an artificially-created clone who'd been force-developed in the generation process. But it was more than that. It was Nanoha who'd shown Fate how to be a friend, that she could even have such a thing.
"Miyuki, can you go and help with the café? We have quite a rush on."
"Sure; just let me get out of my coat and boots and get washed up."
"Now, Fate-chan, we have something for you, too. Miyuki was going to bring it over later this evening, but since you're here, we can give it to you now. Right, Nanoha?"
"Mmn!" Nanoha agreed happily. She darted off across the kitchen, then came back with a festively wrapped box. The lid was green, sprinkled with silvery snowflake patterns, and it was tied up with red ribbon. "It's a Midoriya Christmas cake for you and Lindy-san, Chrono-san, and Arf-san!"
"Th-thank you, Nanoha," Fate said, accepting the gift, then looked up at Momoko. "Thank you very much, Takamachi-san."
Momoko shook her head.
"Oh, no, you don't need to thank me. Nanoha made the entire cake by herself."
"She did?" Fate felt her face growing warm.
"I...it's nothing much," Nanoha said. "I'm sure that it isn't as good as Mom's."
"That's not true! I'm sure anything you made would be delicious!" Fate exclaimed at once, making Nanoha join in the blushing.
After a moment, Nanoha turned to Momoko and asked, "Hey, is it all right if I walk over with Fate-chan when she takes the cake home? Oh, unless you're going somewhere else, Fate-chan?"
Fate shook her head.
"No, I don't have any particular errands."
"Well, then, please, Mom?"
"All right, but don't stay too long. I'm going to need some more help later on."
Nanoha got her coat, and the two girls left the café. Snow had started to fall, not much, just occasional lazy flakes. For some reason, as they walked along to the nearby Harlaown home, the lights seemed brighter and more cheerful to Fate. The trip seemed to go by almost at once, an instant's blur.
"I'm home!" Fate called as they removed their winter gear in the foyer.
"Welcome back, Fate!" Lindy's voice echoed.
The girls went through the front hall into the living room, where they stopped in the entryway.
"Wow!" Nanoha marveled.
"Lindy-mama, what is all this?" Fate asked.
"Do you like it? Arf and I have been decorating for most of the afternoon—though we did make Chrono hang the lights. That's a man's job, after all."
"I've never seen a room so totally decorated!" exclaimed Nanoha.
As the carol said, the Harlaown halls had been quite thoroughly decked. The living room was actually an atrium with a landing that ran round three sides; the balustrade had been garlanded in an artificial pine bough studded with glittering, multicolored lights. Though there was no fireplace, a large wreath tied with red ribbon hung on one wall, and below it hung a row of bright red stockings with white, fluffy edging and names embroidered in bright green: Lindy, Chrono, Fate, Arf, and Amy. Lights were hung in the windows, and the centerpiece of it all was a fifteen-foot-tall tree wreathed in lights and half-hung with ornaments. Under the tree was a white tree skirt like a fluffy snowfield, and a tiny miniature village had been painstakingly laid out. Boxes of assorted decorations were spread out on the chairs and sofa, with the coffee table littered with hooks, fasteners, and other supplies.
"Mama?" Fate asked again.
"Well, we are supposed to be European, so it seemed like a good idea to treat Christmas like they do in the West, as the biggest holiday of the year. And besides, it's fun! It's nice to make some memories together as a family, don't you think?"
The words so mirrored Fate's earlier thoughts that she could barely believe it.
"Mmn!" Nanoha chimed in. "It's a great idea!"
"Do you want to stay and help trim the tree, Nanoha?" Lindy offered.
"I wish that I could, but Mom and Dad need my help at the café," she answered.
"Well, that's just another kind of family memory." Remembering the sight of Nanoha working alongside her mother in the kitchen, Fate decided that Lindy was right.
"Nanoha made us a Christmas cake!" she said, holding up the box.
"How nice! You're a sweet girl, Nanoha."
"It's not that big a deal," Nanoha demurred.
"Midoriya's cakes are some of the best around!" Lindy countered at once. They say you have dozens of pre-orders for Christmas and sell out every year. And even if that wasn't true, it's still a gift you put your heart into for a friend."
Nanoha blushed at the praise.
"Thank you for walking over with me," Fate changed the subject to save Nanoha further embarrassment.
"Oh, you're welcome. It was fun to see everything." She took another look around the room, absorbing all the details, then paused as she happened to glance up. Nanoha grinned, then reached for Fate and took her by the shoulders.
The brunette leaned in, and before Fate could figure out what was happening, pressed her lips to Fate's. Her mouth was warm and soft, and the sweetness of it was like nothing Fate had ever felt. Then, all of a sudden, it was over.
Nanoha pointed upwards.
"Mistletoe!" A leafy sprig had been hung from the top of the doorway. "If two people stand under it, they're supposed to kiss."
"What? Oh, I..."
"Strange custom, but we have as many equally obscure ones on Mid, I suppose," Lindy said. "It's kind of cute."
"Oh," Fate repeated. "I'm sorry; it's just that I've never been kissed on the lips before, so it took me by surprise." And still is, else why is my heart pounding like this?
~X X X~
Fate chuckled as their lips parted.
"You stole my first kiss under the mistletoe, Nanoha."
"Steal? Hey, it was my first kiss, too."
"I'd wondered about that. I didn't know then, but when I found out that your culture cares a lot about a girl's first kiss..."
"I know...but it just seemed that if it was with Fate-chan, it would be okay."
Fate smiled back at her.
"You were right," she said, and returned the kiss.
~X X X~
A/N: This was another request from RadiantBeam. I swear, without her I'd never have any ideas for NanoFate stories! Oh, and I'm not sure if it's actually supposed to be true for MGLN, but I adopted the idea of Momoko being a second wife from Lyrical Toy Box.
~X X X~
Vivio's Magical Omake Theater!
Nanoha's tongue flicked at Fate's lips, seeking entrance, while her hand slid down her side over the curve of Fate's hip and then back to cup her bottom. It might only have been a mistletoe kiss, supposed to be a quick peck, but there was just something about Fate that she found intoxicating. Fate's hand was up at Nanoha's shoulder, but the pressure there was weak—she definitely wasn't trying too hard to push Nanoha away. But that's how it always was: Fate might hesitate based on place or time, but in the end she always gave in because—
Startled, Nanoha jerked back, and the sudden respite let Fate push her away.
"V-Vivio?" Nanoha glanced down. She hadn't realized that their daughter was helping Fate with the decorations.
Fate and Vivio glared at Nanoha with identical expressions, left hands on their hips, right index fingers wagging. As one, they chorused, "Grown-up kisses are for mamas' alone time!"
"Mou, I thought I was supposed to be the strict one!"