A/N: This is the third story in my YuNaFa series, following "Midnight of the Heart" and "Divided Heart." Thanks are owed to Sunder the Gold for the particular story idea. And yes, Fate's lasagna recipe is the same as the one from "Driven by Rumor." Some things are universal across continuities!
~X X X~
"Yuuno, where do we keep the oregano?" Fate asked, studying the spice rack.
"Oh; Nanoha loves Italian food so I started buying it in the giant-sized bottles," the lean blond archaeologist said. He opened a cabinet and got down a plastic jug of the herb that had to be a quart in size-and was half-empty, proving her point.
"Yeah, I remember. Almost every time it was her night to pick dinner she'd choose pasta, or lasagna, or Tuscan-style steak, or minestrone soup, or something else along those lines." She broke off and shared a long look with her co-chef. It was weird, having conversations like this. Intellectually she understood where they were coming from, but expectations couldn't match up with the reality. It was all so new, so unexpected.
Fate T. Harlaown had been Takamachi Nanoha's lover for three years. She'd broken it off because she didn't believe that Nanoha's heart was entirely her own. She'd never stopped loving Nanoha, but hadn't been willing to carry on a relationship while some part of her lover still yearned for Yuuno Scrya. For Yuuno's part, within six months of the breakup he'd been dating Nanoha and had moved in within a year...and after two years of that the subject of marriage had never even come up because he knew that some part of Nanoha was still pining for Fate.
So now they'd decided to try something creative. It had been a month since the three of them had made the attempt to try their relationship as a trio. Thus far there hadn't been any major meltdowns, but then again everyone was still going around on tiptoe, emotionally speaking.
She wondered if Yuuno still felt the occasional stings in his heart the way she did when those "when Nanoha was with me" moments arose in conversation.
"Fate-mama! Yuuno-papa! We're home!" caroled a high-pitched voice from the apartment's front room.
"We're in the kitchen, Vivio!" Yuuno called back while Fate measured out the oregano. Maybe if we keep a small bottle in the spice rack and refill it from the jug? she thought before the pitter-patter of feet captured her attention.
Vivio, seven years old, had hair the same shade as Yuuno's done up in bright blue ribbon, a right eye also the same green as Yuuno's, and a left eye the same red as Fate's. Ironically, she wasn't biologically related to any of her three parents, being an artificial-mage clone like Fate. Nanoha wasn't the only person Fate and Yuuno had in common; both considered Vivio to be their beloved daughter.
"Look, I scored a 100 on my science test," the little girl said excitedly, holding up the dataplate so her parents could see.
"Congratulations, Vivio; that's wonderful!"
"We're really proud of you," Yuuno added.
Smiling, Nanoha entered the kitchen behind Vivio.
"You should thank Fate-chan for all her tutoring," she advised the girl.
"Mmn! Thank you very much, Fate-mama!"
"You're welcome, Vivio," Fate said, then winked at Nanoha. "That's why you took me back, right, to fill that need with Vivio's schoolwork?"
"Mou, you! Just for that, Yuuno-kun gets the first welcome-home kiss." She went over to him and brushed her lips lingeringly against his, then turned to Fate. "Wait...is that lasagna?"
"Surprise!" she began, then suddenly found herself being kissed very thoroughly.
"That's a lesson for you, Vivio," Yuuno said. "The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach, which is why Fate and I both learned to cook!"
Nanoha let Fate go at last.
"I'm going to go get changed. Yell if you need me to Starlight Breaker a killer tomato or something."
She left the room, but Vivio didn't follow her. The little girl stayed behind, staring at her other two parents with a very serious expression on her face.
"Vivio, honey, what is it?" Fate asked gently.
"Why don't you and Yuuno-papa ever kiss?" she blurted out, making both adults blush. "You kiss Nanoha-mama, but you don't kiss each other. Don't you love each other? Mika said that her parents stopped kissing and that's why they got divorced!" Tears welled up in the little girl's eyes. "I...I want Nanoha-mama and Yuuno-papa and Fate-mama to stay together forever!"
"Vivio!" They all but flew to her side, embracing her in a tangle of arms.
"It's okay, honey, really it is," Fate said.
"Fate and I are both staying right here," Yuuno added.
"That's right; we still love each other."
"It's just a different kind of love."
"D-different?" Vivio asked, confusion replacing worry.
Do you want to get Nanoha for this? Yuuno asked Fate telepathically.
No; I think the more people talking the more confusing it'll be for Vivio. I just wish she was a few years older. It would be a lot easier to explain if she already was thinking about dating.
"Here, sit down," Yuuno said, pulling out a chair at the kitchen table. Vivio hopped into it and the adults sat down across from her.
"When someone goes through life," Yuuno said, "they love lots of different people, but they don't love them all the same way. There's the way you love your parents, and your brothers and sisters, and your friends, and your sweetheart, and your own children, and that's just for a start."
Vivio didn't seem to quite get it.
She's so young that all her loves are pretty much the same, since she doesn't have siblings, Yuuno said.
Well, really all love is the same; it's the other feelings mixed in with love that define the relationship.
Maybe an example would help?
Okay. I'll try.
"When I was a little girl, your Grandma Lindy adopted me like Nanoha adopted you," Fate said. "I love Lindy-mama very much, but because she's also my mother, I looked up to her and trusted her to teach me things and to protect me and take care of me-to be a strong person that I could always trust."
"Exactly like that. Now, Signum is my very good friend. I love her and trust her, but it's an equal relationship. Sometimes she's the strong one and helps me, and sometimes I'm strong and help her. We like to spend time together and do fun things, but I can't just run to her the way I can to Lindy-mama."
"It's like Jenna from school," Yuuno said. He knew more about Vivio's life than Fate did, so he could fill in parallel details. "You really like her, but don't think of her the way you think of Nanoha, Fate, or me, right?"
"Mmn," Vivio declared.
"Then there's how you feel about your sweetheart. Sometimes we call that being 'in love' instead of just 'love,' but that's pretty confusing. It's more like you see on romantic holidays like Valentine's Day, or fairy tales where the prince and princess live happily ever after. That's what most parents feel for each other, and sometimes they stop feeling that way and then they break up."
Worry flickered in Vivio's eyes.
"Nanoha and I are sweethearts," Fate said.
"Is that why you left? Because you stopped feeling that way?"
Fate winced mentally, though she managed to control her expression.
She's a smart girl. I should have guessed she'd think of that.
What are you going to tell her? Yuuno asked.
...The truth, Fate decided after a moment. She can figure out how weird it is when she grows up.
"No, Nanoha and I have always felt that way for each other. The reason I left was that Nanoha and Yuuno also felt that way about each other." She sighed. "I...was hurt and jealous, so we broke up. But our feelings never changed, so we decided that we should all try to live together as a family."
"So Fate-mama is Nanoha-mama's sweetheart?" Vivio asked.
"And Yuuno-papa is Nanoha-mama's sweetheart too?"
"So Nanoha-mama has two sweethearts?" The little girl wrinkled her nose while asking, as if she was in deep thought.
Both adults nodded.
"But Yuuno-papa and Fate-mama aren't sweethearts?"
"No. Yuuno is my very closest friend, but I don't want to live happily-ever-after with him."
"We love each other, but it's like friends or brothers and sisters."
"Like how I feel about Chrono-niisan."
"Except," Yuuno added with a grin, "Fate's a lot less annoying than Chrono."
"Don't let him hear you say that."
"I'll hide behind Vivio. You'd protect me from the wrath of Chrono, wouldn't you?" he asked the child.
"I don't know, Yuuno-papa. Mama says that you deserve most of what Uncle Chrono says about you."
Yuuno hung his head.
"E-even you, Vivio...?"
Nice one, Fate told him.
Vivio, however, was not to be distracted by moments of humor.
"So...you don't kiss each other?"
"Well, maybe a peck on the cheek once in a while, but definitely no grown-up kisses."
"And we are absolutely not going to leave you," Fate added. "Yuuno is staying here, and so is Nanoha, and I'm never going away again. I don't want to be away from the people I love any more." She looked her daughter in the eyes. "That's a promise to you, Vivio, for now and for always."
Vivio broke into a big smile.
Her face then fell, turning serious, and she bit at the tip of her thumb.
"Is something wrong?"
"Is there something you still don't understand?"
"Yes, honey?" asked Yuuno.
"Well, it's just...is that dish supposed to smoke like that?"
Fate and Yuuno spun towards the stove.
"The ground beef!" they shouted, and Vivio smiled, happy to see her parents in perfect agreement.
~X X X~
Vivio's Happy Family Magical Theater!
"Where do you want this?" grunted one of the deliverymen, staggering under the weight of the sofa. A tenth-floor apartment was a nice thing...if one wasn't delivering furniture that didn't fit in the elevator.
"Nanoha said she wanted it over against the wall, there, in the living room."
"Oh, man, I think my arms are gonna fall off," said the second man, who was skinnier than his boss.
"I did offer to bring it up by transportation magic..." Yuuno noted.
"Damn union rules," the boss muttered under his breath. "They're gonna hear about this one next meeting..." Gritting their teeth, the two started to haul the seating-for-four sofa through the foyer.
Suddenly, a small blonde missile exploded from the kitchen, arms wide, squealing, "Papa! You're back!" Vivio darted straight at Yuuno, barely even noticing that he was standing next to a man carrying a sofa, which was why she bounced off his leg. The surprise more than the impact made the deliveryman's foot slip, and he started going over backwards, the sofa following him down in a leg-crushing arc-
-until it stopped cold when Yuuno caught it about six inches before it started rearranging the man's bones. Yuuno straightened up, bringing the couch back to level; the burly deliveryman was too busy staring at the slender librarian to scamper out of danger for nearly a minute.
"How...how the heck...?"
"What? All those books Chrono makes me hunt through are heavy!"