"Mama! Mama! He came! He really came!" The sound of Vivio's frantic calling from the living room made me open my eyes up tiredly. The young one was living in a small house along with Fate and myself. This was the first year we had a house after the incident a while ago. Shortly after everything with Jail was cleared up I had sought out a place to live and found this little house in a small community overlooking the city. Fate had moved in at my insistence and together we stayed there while not on missions. The door to our bedroom burst open and a bundle of energy jumped on my back and shook my shoulders. "Mama! Nanoha-mama! Wake up, you have to see this! I knew I saw him last night, I knew it!" Thankfully my daughter lost interest in me as soon I opened my eyes and instead went to Fate. The blonde growled low in her throat and mentally asked me what time it was. I replied a little over five in the morning and a string of cuss words invaded my head while Vivio hopped on Fate's back while still cheering.
A Nanoha Christmas Story
"Vivio, sweetheart, can you wait until the sun comes up at least?" Nanoha yawned loudly and pulled her daughter off of Fate weakly.
"Presents!" The multi-colored eye girl beamed up at her mother ecstatically. "Mama, come on, let's open them!"
Sighing, Nanoha looked over at Fate who was pleading mentally for another hour of sleep. The two of them had stayed up all night long waiting for Vivio to finally go to sleep so they could put the presents under their Christmas tree. Fate had dressed up like Santa via Nanoha's pleading and it appeared as if it was worth it since Vivio said she saw 'him' last night. In all the two mothers had gotten little to no sleep and they were going to have both of their families over for the day to celebrate. Despite all of this, Vivio's wide excited eyes caved even Nanoha's barriers. "Okay, okay. We'll be in there in five minutes. Don't open any until we're there okay?"
"Okay, hurry up!" Vivio crawled over the bed and ran out of the room, door closing a little hard despite her best efforts not to slam it in her hurry.
"Go away." Fate replied instantly with her face buried in the pillow. "Sleep."
"Come on," Nanoha crawled onto Fate's back and laid on her. "Faaaaaaate." A soft mummer came from the pillow. "Get up, she's about to explode."
"I'll make you coffee."
"You'll do that anyway."
"I'll give you a hug."
"You're hugging me already."
Nanoha pouted. "Come on, don't you want to see her excited face when she rips into the carefully wrapped paper?" Fate's lips turned up into a smile. "Ah, I saw that! Come on Fate-mama."
"I can't move with you on top of me." Fate turned her head so her cheek was against the pillow and opened one eye to look up at her. "You're nice and warm, but I'm pinned."
Nanoha laughed to herself and retracted to allow the blond enough room to sit up. As the legs moved under her she tried to crawl away but ended up tripping on herself and over balancing. Moments later a soft thud was heard and Nanoha looked up from the floor to see Fate's amused face. "This doesn't leave the room." Her answer came in the form of Fate's palm being placed on her butt since it was still on the bed and was pushed the rest of the way onto the floor. "Meanie."
Fate opened her mouth to reply but Vivio's voice came yet again, demanding as politely as she could for them to hurry up. "Coming!" The red eyed girl slid out from under the covers to help her friend to her feet. "Merry Christmas, Nanoha."
"Merry Christmas, Fate-chan." She replied in turn while putting on her house robe. Once they both were ready they opened the door and walked down the small hallway that lead to the living room. Vivio was practically hopping in place, presents lined up in front of her already. "Merry Christmas, Vivio."
"Merry merry!" Vivio cheered back, voice filled with excitement. "Ne, ne, can we open them now!?"
Fate leaned against the wall and nodded after making sure Nanoha was recording it. Paper flew thick and all at once. Gift after gift was shredded open, hugged and fawned over, then set aside to move onto the next. The entire ordeal probably lasted ten minutes but to the two mothers it only seemed to be one before it was already over. Their daughter was going back and forth between the gifts wondering what to play with first when Fate stepped in to help her. "Why don't you take them all to your room and set them there while we clean up the wrapping paper?"
Vivio nodded, quickly taking one gift at a time from the living room to her room. "Nice idea," Nanoha commented as she walked past. The video camera was sat on the small table next to the couch on the way to the kitchen. Nanoha started working on auto pilot, hand moving for her coffee grinder and the blend of beans Fate seemed to like the most. Moments later the blonde finally joined her friend in the cooking area by wrapping her arms around Nanoha's waist and looking over the shoulder to watch the process. "Hello," Nanoha greeted casually. The position was a familiar one to them, having been taken since they were only ten years old. "Vivio was cute wasn't she?"
Fate giggled to herself before replying. "It made it all worth it."
"Just wait until I show everyone the pictures of you playing Santa last night."
"You took pictures!?"
"Shh!" Nanoha shushed her quickly. "Don't let Vivio hear."
"Delete them," She insisted, voice lower now. "Don't you dare show anyone those."
Nanoha smiled to herself. "Make me." Almost at once hands found her ribs and fingers played over her sides. The brown haired girl gasped loudly before breaking into loud laughter. "S-stop it! Hahaha!" Moving backwards to try and make Fate get off her tickle spot, she pinned the blond between herself and the refrigerator. "Ha! Pinned!" She gave Fate a pleased look and kissed her nose. "When I let go, you have to promise not to tickle me anymore."
"Okay," Fate clearly lied to her.
"Do you want water logged coffee?" Nanoha challenged back, this time getting a helpless look. "Good Santa." Leaning forward, she kissed Fate's nose and went back to the beverage."Hayate-chan is getting here early today but everyone else should be here around lunch time or near dinner."
Fate went to the kitchen entrance and watched Vivio make yet another trip after a small debate on which present to take to her room next. "The first time we've all been together in over a year..." Her words were soft, filled with a happiness that she couldn't quite express without making it seem underrated. "I can't wait."
The brown haired girl gave Fate's back a small smile before pouring the cup and walking over to her. "Here, sweetheart." The small pet name made the taller girl soften her gaze even more and put an arm around Nanoha to draw her closer. Once Vivio was done, the parents moved to clean up the mess and finally sat together on the couch. "Merry Christmas, Fate-chan." Nanoha picked up the simply wrapped box sitting on the table and handed it to her wife. "I hope you like it."
"You know I will." Fate took the package and slid her finger under the folds to neatly break the tape holding it together. A few folds later, the girl was left with something that resembled a clothing box. When she opened it, however, she didn't see clothes but instead a collection of framed pictures. She just looked at them all at first, mouth turning up in a cross between a pleased smile and one on the verge of crying tears of happiness. The pictures were a mix between Nanoha and Fate's wedding day, moments with their friends, and casual times around the house with Vivio. "Nanoha... thank you. I know just where I'm going to put them..."
"There's one more," Nanoha whispered in the early morning air. "Lift them up." Her spouse did as she was asked and gently sat the frames next to them before picking up a black hardback book that had images of both Raising Heart and Bardiche on the cover. Slender fingers moved to open the book and she was instantly greeted with photos of when she was only nine years old. "I know you don't like being away for so long on missions anymore," Nanoha explained the gift. "So I thought you might want to take some of home with you." She looked over to see Fate's astonished face as the page was slowly turned. "I tried to make them go in order as we grew up but I might have misplaced a few... But I have the book mostly filled. What do you think?"
"Nanoha, it's a perfect gift." Fate had to force herself to stop inspecting every image. "It's a gift that means a lot....so much." She reached over and hugged the girl rightly. "Thank you. I'll treasure all of it."
"I'm glad." Nanoha told her gently. As to not break the mood, she waited patiently for Fate to carefully gather everything and replace it in the box so she could safely place them on the table.
"Yours is still under the tree." Fate told her while going to the rather large and bushy tree that Vivio had picked out herself. "Let's see....Hayate... Tia...Caro...Ah, here." A semi large box was pulled out and handed over to Nanoha. "Merry Christmas."
"Thank you." Nanoha beamed at the carefully wrapped gift that had several bows and string all over it. "How long did it take you to wrap this?"
"I'm not really sure," Fate admitted shyly as she reclaimed her seat. "Go on,"
"But it's so pretty..." Nanoha savored the moment, slowly untying each string one by one. Finally she couldn't take it anymore and began to neatly tear the rest of the way into the gift When done, she opened a box to reveal a sparkling pink dress. "Oh Fate-chan!" She placed the box next to herself and stood so she could pull it out all the way to see it better. Sheer mesh was wrapped around parts of it, catching the light of the now raising sun and sparkling. "Is this silk? It must have been so expensive! You shouldn't have!"
"You're doing so many formal meetings now with your new position teaching the elites," Fate stood next to her and felt pride swell in her chest when Nanoha held the dress to herself to get a feel for it. "You're going to need something pretty to wear."
"Thank you!" Nanoha gave her friend a tight hug before holding out the dress again. "Wow, I love it! Thanks so much!"
"You're very welcome." Fate was about to give her one more hug but her legs were suddenly attacked by a small bundle of joy known as Vivio.
"Mama, mama! Come hook up my gaming system!"
Fate gave Nanoha a lopsided smile before turning to her daughter, who was now tugging on her arm with wide sparkling eyes. Although the system in question had been debated by both parents for over a month, each had finally come to the conclusion that it would help to improve the child's hand-eye coordination along with teaching her how to manage her time in a round-about way. Now being dragged along, Fate was subjected to trying to figure out how exactly the shiny new console could be hooked into Vivio's viewing screen alone with everything else she had. Several plush figures were scooted out of the way and Vivio's collection of dolls were shifted to allow herself room to maneuver.
When the blond was finally done setting Vivio up to play she went back into the living room to find Nanoha already preparing everything for when their guest arrived. The presents under their tree were all neatly stacked once more and the smell of whastle overpowered the coffee to give the air a strong Christmas scent. "Fate-chan," Nanoha spoke while arranging the kitchen. "Will you get the goose from the brine? We need to get it dry and prepare to start cooking it."
"Sweetheart, it's too early." Fate told her in her normal soft tone. "We need to wait at least three hours."
"Yeah, but I'm bored."
"Then come here." Fate finally finished her cup of caffeine and sat it down next to the couch. When Nanoha got to her, Fate took both her hands and pulled the girl into her lap. "Christmas hug."
Nanoha gave Fate a lopsided grin, but still hugged her. "Hugs only last a few moments."
"This one will last longer." She insisted.
"Mou, you." Nanoha gave in and simply hugged her wife. "...You smell good."
The constantly knocking on the front door quickly turned into a rhythm of a popular Christmas song while Fate trotted to answer it. What the door revealed was her long time friend Hayate, dressed in a brown dress that went to mid thigh before showing fuzzy trim. Her shoulders were bare but she had matching gloves that went past her elbows before the fuzz returned. On her head was a headband with reindeer antlers complete with jingling bells on them. "Merry merry!" The short girl exclaimed with one hand up in the air in excitement.
"Hayate," Fate addressed her happily while offering a hug and getting it taken. "You look really cute."
"Tis the season!" She replied happily with sparkling eyes. "Come help me take in my presents?" She got a nod and pulled Fate into the cold to crunch the frozen grass under their shoes. "I'm so happy to see you again, it's been several months since we met in person."
"I know," Fate stood by the car while Hayate popped her trunk. "I'll be happy once everything settles down and we can all be together again."
"You know it." Hayate beamed at her while offering a large box. "But for now, it's Christmas! Let's forget everything and have some holiday cheer."
"Mm," Red eyes shined at her as another three boxes were placed on the large one. The rest, being in bags, were hailed out by the girl and together they walked into the house once more.
"Aunt Hayate!" A small voice called out, followed shortly by Vivio appearing into view. "Merry Christmas!"
After setting down her bags, Hayate knelt down and hugged the girl tightly. "You've grown so much!"
"It's only been a little while," Vivio puffed out her cheeks at the standard compliment.
"But I wouldn't feel like an aunt if I didn't say it." Hayate looked up to see Nanoha walking into the room as well and quickly gave her a crushing hug. "Merry merry!"
"You too, Hayate-chan." Nanoha smiled brightly and hugged her friend again after looking at her a while.
"Oh," Hayate grinned. "Did you know your reindeer outside were doing the nasty?"
Fate blinked and quickly looked out the window around the side of the house where Hayate wasn't parked. "...Oh my."
Nanoha went to the side door and opened it, jaw dropping when she saw her light up deer decorations positioned in the standard 'humping' position. "What in the world!?" She jogged out quickly and moved them to their standard way. "I bet it was those kids the other day! Mou, I just scolded them!"
Hayate looked over at Fate, who explained with a chuckle. "All of our neighbors have children and a few of the younger ones were playing out in the street here. Since we live on the end of the road, the only people who drive here are the ones who live here basically... but Nanoha still felt the need to warn them that it was dangerous."
Hayate repressed a laugh. "She's sounding like an old maid already."
"I'm not old!" Nanoha's protest came from the yard as she was finishing.
Hayate playfully covered her mouth and grinned. "She heard."
Vivio chose that moment to make herself noticed again and came up to Hayate, looking up in excitement. "Can I open my presents?"
Before Fate could scold her, Hayate knelt down and reached into her purse. "Only one, then you have to wait until everyone else is here and when we open them all at the same time. Okay?" She got a nod. "I recommend.... this one." She pulled a tiny package from her purse that was decorated with shiny wrapping and a bow. "Do you want to open this one?"
Vivio, taken in by the sparkling expensive wrapping, nodded quickly. Nanoha crossed her arms and pouted at the action, however. "Hayate-chan, we shouldn't-"
"It's okay," Hayate turned and winked at her. After getting a reluctant nod, she faced Vivio again. "Remember, only one, then you can't ask again until it's time for everyone. Promise me?" She held up her pinky and shook with Vivio. "This one? You sure?" She waved the wrapped gift back and forth, grinning as Vivio's followed it.
"Uhn!" The girl accepted the present and ripped into it, pausing as she realized that it was simply a pack of gum. "Ah..." To test the theory, she opened it and blinked when she realized it was, in fact, just gum. "Aunt Hayate?"
Hayate smiled brightly. "Guess you picked the wrong one to open, huh?"
"That's... that's not fair!" Vivio gasped out, shocked as her parents tried to stifle their laughter. Despite this, she still reluctantly put a stick into her mouth and went followed the group into the living room, where her aunt started arranging the gifts along the tree. Now with so many gifts, the boxes started to move away from the carefully decorated Christmas standard. Although many, Vivio was still too excited to see what it would look like once everyone showed up. "Ne, Mama?" She walked over to the girls and was holstered to sit into Nanoha's lap. "When will everyone else be here?"
"Sometime," Nanoha told her as best she could. "Between now and lunch." Vivio accepted this and sat with them as the older girls talked, lost trying to follow the conversations of the adults that ranged anywhere between their normal days, dates that Hayate has been on, and how her parents were still the ideal couple.
"Merry Christmas!" Subaru's voice rang up loudly as she walked up the yard while holding bags filled with different sized boxes. To her delight, Nanoha heard her and ran out to greet her star pupil. The two shared a hug and quickly fell into conversation while dividing up the loot to carry together. "Wow, nice place." Subaru looked around the house and all the decorations of the season. "I never expected Nanoha-san to be so into Christmas."
"I get it from my mom. We have a similar holiday back home." Nanoha helped Subaru deposit the gifts on the pile by the tree and then lead her into the kitchen for something warm to drink.
"Tia!" Subaru explained excitedly when she saw the other girl already there. Without warning, she jumped forward and hugged the girl close, nuzzling her almost like a cat would. "It's been so long!"
"Ha-has not." Tia stammered, blushing hard when the girl didn't let go. Her embarrassed face looked around the room but only saw smiles and happy looks back. Giving in, she hugged her friend back and held her close. "...I missed you too."
"I knew it!" Subaru told her loudly, making Tia jump in shock. The two went nose-to-nose and the blue haired girl grinned widely.
"D-don't read into it!" Tia sniffed and turned away, only to be hugged again from behind. "Subaru!"
"It's Christmas, I can hug you if I want." She defended. The orange haired girl finally gave in and relaxed, even going as far as to put one hand on top of her friend's holding onto her stomach. The motion lasted for a few seconds before he hyper girl moved away to greet everyone else, sharing hugs and quick conversation before moving onto the next person. Before she was even done, the door was knocked on again, this time revealing Yuuno. Nanoha tackled the long term friend and made fun of the small beard that he had going for himself. Presents and food were brought in yet again before the atmosphere settled down for the time being.
Only an half hour passed before another knock at the door came, this time revealing both Caro and Erio. The girl of the group was wearing a red female version of the Santa outfit while the male was clad in a more simple attire of jeans and a long sleeve shirt. The thing connecting them was that Erio seemed to be wearing Caro's Santa cap. "Merry Christmas!" The two spoke together before getting pulled into the house to be fawned over. Hugs were passed around, yet again, as Lindy finally made it into the house along with Chrono and Amy. All five of the group placed their presents and then went around greeting everyone at the same time while Fate passed out warm cups of winter cheer.
"Merry Christmas, mom." Fate told the woman softly, giving her another hug before Chrono nudged her to get one more himself. "And you too, Brother, and Amy." The small family looked over the bustling living room together for several long moments before a final knock rapped on the door. Vivio, being the closest, answered it. The door opened to reveal Signum, Shamal, Zafira, and Vita huddled together. Light flakes of snow were on them, making Vivio greet them all really fast so she could go outside and inspect the area. The sky was shedding small flakes on the ground, sticking in some of the shady areas of the lawn. As the house greeted the last set of people available to make it to the gathering, Vivio ran around in circles in the yard in an attempt to catch snow on her tongue.
An hour passed by quickly for the group, followed closely by another one before their food was all prepared and gathered. Several desserts were lined up on the scarce counter space provided and the rest was filled with stacks of plates, silverware, and a giant goose paired with a country style ham. Side dishes were being kept warm on the stove while cold salad was filling bowls. Glasses were passed around, filled with variety that could only come from such a gathering. The rolls, almost burnt from being forgotten about, were saved by Tia on a passing by while Subaru declared her mashed potatoes to be the best everyone would ever taste in their lives. The table was filled with guest and the spare card table was brought out for the remainder of people before finally resorting to a few eating while sitting on the couch. The goose was brought out and Fate allowed everyone to compliment her on it's looks before starting to carve it. After the first few cuts, she gave Lindy a small smile and turned over the utensils so the mother could do it properly.
As the group ate, stories of times past floated around, paired with jokes of the present. Despite the food being so good, everyone chewed slowly to savor the moment. Friends, family, and accepted family were all gathered together for the first time in far, far too long. Bowls and plates were passed all around the group, sometimes moving along the table and sometimes before handed over the back of the couch to get to the rest of the company. Running gags were yelled over the conversation, breaking the topic into helpless giggles and laughter from those that got it. Fond moments were shared and promises to gather in the future to make this a tradition were sewn into their hearts. Finally, after many compliments on the food, and Hayate proudly proclaiming that she made the salad, everyone gathered together to fuss over the many presents littering the room.
"Okay!" Nanoha spoke up, getting everyone's attention. "Since everything is just piled together, I'm just going to hand them out with Santa's Helper Hayate." She got cheers so she grabbed the first one in sight and read it. "To Amy!"
"Amy!" Hayate echoed, taking the box and then giving it to the woman.
"To -ooh!- Nanoha!" Nanoha stuffed the gift behind herself and ignored the laughter while getting another. "Yuuno-kun!" Through the laughing and teasing, everyone shouted thanks over each other while inspecting their gifts. Nanoha, being the last to start along with her best friend, started on her largest present first. "Hayate-chan, it's huge!" She fawned over the large box before opening it to reveal packaging peanuts. "What is it?" She mused while rooting through it. Near the bottom she pulled another box out while trying not to spill the styrofoam everywhere. "Another box?" She curiously opened t as well, being greeted with more filler. A third box was found that produced a fourth and finally, after digging through thousands of the packaging chips, found a jewelery box that was opened. "Hayate-chan! Oh, I forgive you for that stupid prank, come here!" She hugged Hayate with one arm while staring at the sparkling earrings.
"You could use them for that lovely dress Fate-chan bought you." She teased happily. "She called me countless times while shopping to get my opinion."
"Hayate!" Fate blushed hard.
More laughing came, making them all look to the side to see Signum holding up a rather colorful bathrobe that matched her hair. The spotlight was quickly stolen by Caro, however, when she cried out in shock at the rather large gift that Erio had gotten her. The pink haired girl hugged the boy's neck hard, thanking him happily as others commented on how cute they were. Tia was flustering over the locket that Subaru had given her, refusing to let anyone see the picture that Subaru had chosen to place in it. Yuuno contently hugging Nanoha for his present of a collection of books her had wanted for casual reading while Vivio was busy hopping in her seat in front of everything she had received.
After everything settled down a little more and the presents were all opened, Fate retreated back to the kitchen to pour herself another cup of whastle. The sweet warm liquid soothed her chapped lips and the small hint of cinnamon made her sigh out contently. Before too long she found both Nanoha and Hayate alongside her, also getting cups. The three friends looked out over everyone talking and having a good time while smiling at each other. "You know," Hayate spoke after a while. "This is the best day I've had in a really long time."
"Same," Nanoha agreed with a nod.
Fate placed her cup down on the counter and leaned against it, gazing at all of her loved ones. "Definitely," she whispered out fondly. "The best day ever."