Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing.
Author's Note: This is my side of the bargain I made with DezoPenguin; he agreed to write me another side story for "Daddy's Little Girl", and in return I agreed to write a one-shot of his choice. He requested that I write a reaction scene to when Nanoha gets her limiter placed back on her after rescuing Vivio. So, here's hoping he enjoys this, 'cause it's all for him.
Pain to Pain
As one of the key medics in the TSAB and one of the few who could claim to know the three Aces best, Shamal had long ago learned not to be frightened by much of anything. After being destroyed by the very thing that had created her and shot at numerous times by mages and things she didn't even care to name, she liked to think she'd developed a will of steel.
At least, that was the conclusion she came to when she found herself gazing into the eyes of one very annoyed Takamachi Nanoha and realized she wasn't the least bit afraid of the younger woman. Judging from the flare in her eyes and the way her hands were clenched, Shamal guessed the Ace of Aces had just left her most recent medical check after rescuing Vivio.
Ah, so THAT'S why she's so mad…
"Why did you put my limiter back in place?"
It was rare for Nanoha to raise her voice, even when she was dangerously close to losing her temper. Her voice was always even, calm, that one step away from snapping out and yelling. It was a trait she'd inherited from Momoko, and she was pretty damn proud of it. Shamal slowly swept her eyes over the brunette's profile and judged that it wouldn't take much more for her to snap and lose it completely. She leaned back in her chair, resting her hands calmly in her lap, and spoke. "I put it back in place because if I hadn't, you wouldn't be standing in front of me right now." Her eyes narrowed. "You sustained critical damage to your Linker Core because of those Starlight Breakers you used to save Vivio. Your pulse, heart, and breathing were off the charts when you got back to headquarters. It's a miracle you could still stand after that attack you launched at her."
"Which proves I don't need it!"
"Which proves," Shamal shot back, "that you're just as stubborn as you've always been. In fact, you shouldn't even be here right now. You should be resting and giving your body a chance to recover."
Nanoha's eyes darkened dangerously. She slammed her hands on the desk, but Shamal barely even flinched. "You placed that limiter back on me without my permission," she said, her voice shaking with a fury that threatened to engulf her whole body. "You had no right to—"
"I had every right, and you know it as well as I do." Shamal met Nanoha's gaze evenly. "I'm in such a position to make that call if I see fit, seeing as I was appointed the head medic by Hayate-chan. I wouldn't have placed the limiter back on you if you hadn't put yourself in a situation where your life depended on having it."
"You can't expect me to think of myself when I'm trying to save someone!"
For a few minutes Shamal studied Nanoha quietly, taking in her rigid posture and furious gaze. When at last she spoke, her voice was soft, but her words drove home like a bullet. "I respect the fact that you will always try to save people, Nanoha-chan," she said. "Please respect the fact that I love you just as much as I love Hayate-chan and will always try to do what I believe is best for your wellbeing." She rested her hands on her desk as Nanoha's eyes widened. "You might be willing to return to the sky when it calls you, but I can name several people who would be perfectly happy to see you permanently grounded for the next ten or twenty years."
Nanoha said nothing, her whole body taut as a bowstring; she whirled on her heel and stalked out of the room, the door whooshing shut behind her silently. With a groan of exhaustion Shamal slumped back in her chair, closing her eyes. "That could have gone better," she murmured in the silence.
Knowing this whole incident was far from over, Shamal reached out and punched in a few keys on her keyboard. The screen popped up and the connection got through instantly, much to the blonde's relief. "Fate-chan."
"Shamal-san?" On the screen, Fate frowned in confusion. "What's going on? I was just about to drop off Vivio…"
"I know, I know, but I need some help." Shamal rubbed her temples. "Nanoha-chan just found out about the limiter being placed back on her."
"I take it she wasn't happy." Fate looked away for a moment to soothe Vivio as the younger girl expressed an interest in something off-screen.
"No, I'm afraid she wasn't. Hayate-chan already pulled rank and gave her a few days off, but she's still got that anger bottled up inside and I don't think she completely understood what I said to her…"
Shamal trailed off here, but the message got through. Fate frowned.
"I'll talk to her. Just give me a few minutes to—hey, Vivio, wait a minute."
"What's going on?"
"She saw Megane Alphine's daughter." Fate sighed. "Megane-san came in to speak to Genya-san and Hayate-chan today about getting back into the TSAB, and she must have left Lutecia out by the office. Vivio's completely entranced by her."
Shamal smiled. "Sounds like love at first sight."
"Ha, ha. Funny." The smile faded quickly from Fate's face. "I'll talk to Nanoha, Shamal-san."
"Yes. Thank you, Fate-chan. You're probably the only one she'll listen to."
Fate clicked her phone shut and then spent a few minutes looking around blankly as she realized Vivio was no longer by her side. She didn't have to look far; the six-year-old had made a beeline for her object of interest, and as Fate approached she saw Lutecia lean in, responding to whatever Vivio was speaking about. Amused, not sure what to make of Vivio's apparent fascination with the older girl, Fate walked up to them, smiling as Lutecia glanced up at her. "Hello, Lutecia."
It was funny; while talking to Vivio Lutecia had seemed completely relaxed, confused by the younger girl's approach but taking it in stride with an ease that had most likely been born from her friendship with Caro and Erio. Her newfound confidence only went so far, though, as she stiffened up the minute she saw Fate. Seeing some of her old self in the girl, Fate didn't take it personally. "I'm sorry. Is Vivio bothering you?" She laid a hand on the little girl's shoulder, who immediately pouted. "Fate-mama, I wasn't—"
"Not at all." Lutecia cut in smoothly, her voice sure even though her eyes gleamed uncertainly. Her lips twitched upward slightly. "I kind of enjoyed the company, actually."
Why, was that almost a smile? Fate couldn't help it as her lips curved in response. It seemed Vivio had Nanoha's talent for drawing people out of their shells. Vivio glanced up at Fate. "Mama, can I stay with Lutecia?"
"I wouldn't mind it." Lutecia glanced nervously at Fate. "Really."
Amused, sensing that her daughter's first attempt at befriending had been a success, Fate briefly knelt and stroked Vivio's hair. "Okay, then I'll leave you here with Lutecia for awhile." She smiled, though it was slightly strained at the edges. "Nanoha-mama and I need to talk, anyway."
Vivio frowned, tilting her head to the side. "About what?"
Fate gently ruffled Vivio's hair. "I'll explain it to you when you're older. It's grown-up stuff."
The door was closed, which managed to annoy Fate without totally taking her by surprise. Nanoha had a bad habit of withdrawing whenever she was angry or depressed, and she showed no sign of outgrowing it anytime soon. Knowing it was useless if Nanoha was truly as angry as Shamal claimed she was, Fate nonetheless followed old instinct and knocked on the door. "Nanoha? Are you in there?"
A muffled movement from inside, but no response. Fate sighed and rested her hand on the door. "Open up, Nanoha," she urged. "Shamal-san called me and told me what happened. We need to talk." She paused for a moment, listened.
"Nanoha, come on. Hayate-chan gave me the code for this door. I can open it at anytime, and you know it. Please don't make me do that."
For a moment there was still no response; just as Fate was preparing to enter the code onto the lock-pad, the door opened. Relived, she stepped inside and started towards the bedroom, knowing Nanoha would be there. Thankfully that door had been left open, and she entered without any hassle.
Nanoha glanced briefly at her before turning her gaze back to the window; Fate saw the tension in her shoulders and winced. "Where's Vivio?" the brunette asked. "You said you were dropping her off."
"She got attached to Lutecia. She's with her right now. Lutecia's a good kid; she'll take care of Vivio."
There was no verbal response, but the subtle relaxing of Nanoha's shoulders alerted Fate to the fact that her mood had lightened slightly. Taking it as a good sign, the blonde cautiously settled on the bed. "I spoke to Shamal-san earlier."
"I heard you say that, yes."
It was a statement, not a question, and the neutral tone of it had Nanoha turning, her eyes narrow. "Yes, I'm angry," she hissed. "Shamal-san placed that limiter back on me without my consent. I had no say in the choice."
"You were unconscious and in critical condition. I doubt you could have said anything even if you wanted to." Fate met Nanoha's gaze evenly. "As soon as you got Vivio to safety you collapsed. It was nearly a repeat of your incident."
"So I was told." The fire in her eyes never dimmed. "It doesn't change the fact that I don't want it."
"It also doesn't change the fact that you need it." Fate struggled to keep her voice calm as she stood, even as her eyes narrowed to match Nanoha's. "At this rate you'll die, Nanoha."
Nanoha's jaw locked and she jerked her chin up, her eyes flashing like a brilliant pair of sapphires. "I'm not afraid of death," she said coldly. "I never have been. I fully expect to be shot down one of these days. With or without this limiter—"
Something inside Fate snapped.
Her speed hadn't become legendary for nothing; Nanoha had barely started to finish her sentence when she found herself slammed hard against the window, and all she had time to see was a pair of blazing burgundy eyes before Fate's mouth crushed against hers, ignoring her yelp of surprise and protest. Indeed, the Enforcer was letting her have no say in the matter; her hands tightly gripped her shoulders, keeping her locked firmly in place, locking Nanoha between the glass of the window and her body. In some hazy corner of her mind, Nanoha was amazed that the window was still intact.
It was a kiss born of fury, of desperate anguish and a driving urge to show what she couldn't say; Fate's tongue left no part of Nanoha's mouth untouched, and after a few seconds the Ace of Aces ceased trying to resist and retaliated. After a few minutes Fate broke the kiss and rested her forehead against Nanoha's shoulder, her breathing ragged; Nanoha realized she was shaking, and she swallowed. "F-Fate-chan?" she squeaked.
"I told myself I wasn't going to do this." Fate's grip on her shoulders loosened, though her hands didn't fall away. "I was going to stay calm and talk you into seeing the good side of this. I told myself that."
"Well, ah… I'm not exactly complaining about your method." Her laugh breathless, Nanoha gently wound her arms around Fate's waist, and was amazed to discover the blonde was trembling just as she was—but for an entirely different reason. "Fate-chan?"
"I know you don't want it." Fate blew out a long breath. "Believe me when I say that, Nanoha. But please… try and understand. If you don't have this limiter, next time… next time you might not come back."
Because she had nothing to say, Nanoha simply shifted her grip on Fate and hugged the blonde close, so her cheek was resting against her shoulder. Keeping one arm around Fate's waist, she gently laid a hand on her head and stroked her hair.
"I watched you almost die once, Nanoha." Fate's voice was soft, barely above a whisper. "Please don't make me watch it again."
Nanoha gently rested her cheek against Fate's hair. "Okay." Her voice was gentle. "I'm sorry, Fate-chan. You won't have to watch that again."
Nanoha still hated the limiter.
But if it soothed the minds of the ones she loved most, then she'd endure it. If only for their sakes.
"See? What'd I tell you? No problem at all."
Shamal sighed and gently clicked the screen off, switching back to hallway cameras as Hayate smiled at her. "You didn't see her when she came in," she murmured. "She was ready to spill blood over it."
"I knew Fate-chan could calm her down. She's always been able to." Hayate's eyes lit up as she watched the screen. "… And what have we got here?"
Curious at the change of her mistress's tone, Shamal looked back at the screen. The image was crystal clear, and there was no mistaking what she saw: six-year-old Vivio Takamachi, leading ten-year-old Lutecia Alphine through the hallway. The little girl seemed to be having the time of her life, while her older companion appeared to be the calmest she'd been since Erio and Caro had left for the sanctuary.
"Well, well, well," Hayate murmured, and a gleam entered her eyes. "And here I thought Lutecia-chan was hung up on Erio-kun." She smirked. "Is it possible that we'll be seeing a repeat of Nanoha-chan and Fate-chan?"
"They're only children, Mistress." Shamal laughed before studying the moment. "But give them a few years, you never know… where are you going?"
Hayate paused, grinning over her shoulder.
"What? Just because we have to wait a few years for them to mature doesn't mean I can't get the betting pool started."
I wrote this over a span of two days and, personally, am very proud of it. I don't completely know why, but I am.
On that note... yes, I'm sorry, I couldn't resist a few Vi/Cia kiddy scenes. I have to admit I was chuckling the whole time I wrote those paticular scenes... because we all know what happens ten years later, at least in my series.
Read and review, please!