Dedicated to all the scanlators in the Nanoha fandom: the people who are doing Vivid, Force, and the random doujinshi. Also, I tried to take my time with this one so I hope it shows in my writing (especially because my last few stories have been written in a more lazy way). If you like it please be sure to let me know! Special thanks to DezoPenguin for giving me some advice, and Mercurianangel for beta reading.
A late night movie filled the otherwise quiet living room with sounds of drama and action, although the movie itself was mostly ignored by me. In fact, I was sleepier now than when I had originally started watching the show while Nanoha washed tonight's dishes. With my red eyes half open, I shifted under the blanket lazily and gave up trying to get my nightgown to stay in its proper place. I watched Nanoha as the girl passed in front of me and found it more interesting than the program currently airing. Nanoha bent over to pick up Vivio's mess of binders and notebooks, unconsciously wiggling her butt in front of my face. Seconds went by before I finally reached forward and poked my friend's cheek, getting a small shriek.
When Nanoha looked behind herself, she could only smile at Fate's playful innocent face. A pillow was picked up and placed on the blonde's head and small giggling came as Nanoha poked her friend's stomach through the blankets a few times until she curled up in a ball so the attack could no longer reach the tickle points. Now unable to keep her advantage, Nanoha went back to picking up Vivio's mess and stacking the books neatly on the corner of the table to line them all back up before standing. "I'm going to give these back to Vivio and remind her to always pick up after herself."
"Okay," Fate replied back, staying in her position with one eye peeking out from the impromptu fort of blanket and couch pillows. When no other attack seemed to be coming, she shifted to re-arrange her clothing.
Walking into the small hallway of her house, the woman made her way to Vivio's room. Her hand reached to knock on the door of her daughter but stopped before she rapped her knuckles on the wood. Silence greeted her hesitation and her ear was leaned forward to listen, hearing soft snores. She gave the door a confused look and went back to the living room to see Fate now sitting upright with the blanket wrapped around her upper body. "I don't keep it that cold in here."
"It's freezing," Fate replied back simply. Her eyes watched Nanoha place the books down on the table and tilted her head curiously to the side. "Decide not to tell Vivio?"
"She's asleep." Nanoha spoke lightly as she adjusted the thermostat to knock it up two degrees to please her guest. "She's normally always trying to stay up past her bedtime."
Fate pondered the information. "Maybe she tired herself out; she has tests coming up right?" She got a nod and smiled when Nanoha sat down next to her. "I wish I wasn't away so much, maybe I could help her..."
"She's smarter than anyone I know," Nanoha replied back soothingly. "But I wouldn't mind it if you were home more. It gets a little lonely when Vivio stays the night with her friends on the weekends."
The blonde felt the familiar pain in her chest when the words came paired with Nanoha scooting closer to her. "Nanoha..."
"It's okay." Words were whispered softly as she hugged her friend, placing her cheek against Fate's chest. "I know you're busy with your work... But you're always missed here at home."
Fate leaned back on the couch and held her friend, eyes looking over the house that she barely knew. Even though she sent part of her pay to Nanoha and Vivio to help with rent and bills, she had barely spent a month in the house that her friend had declared their home over the course of almost half a year. "I know..." Fate spoke into Nanoha's hair. "I know, sweetheart."
The brunette gave a bittersweet smile at the ever so rare pet name from Fate. The feeling in her heart came again and she pulled the woman closer. "You're only here until tomorrow... Let's stay up late okay?"
"Nanoha..." Fate felt herself being pushed back onto the couch slowly. "We can't..."
"No it's not..."
"But..." Fate closed her eyes and felt her will waver when the lips came at her neck to kiss. "We both decided... that we...."
"I never said it." Nanoha told her, hugging her friend closer. "My feelings haven't changed, Fate-chan. I told you I would wait for you to make up your mind on your job... but... you're here now... with me... so it's okay."
The kissing came again, now working her way up to Fate's lips. The blonde's will gave at once, arms moving up to wrap around Nanoha. 'It will only make it hurt worse when I have to leave...' Another kiss came and she felt Nanoha shifting clumsily, standing so she could start carrying her. 'We both said we shouldn't get in a relationship... it would only-' her rational thinking left when she felt the soft mattress under her body and warmth lay on top of her. Smooth hands touched her sides and gentle lips were touched against hers. 'It will hurt so badly tomorrow...' Their fingertips interlaced and both girls looked into each other's eyes for a few moments. 'We shouldn't...But I love her so much...'
Red eyes slowly opened, hazily looking across the bed in a sleepy glaze. Fate closed her eyes again for a few more moments before opening them again, this time more focused. Brown hair was noticed just under her line of sight at the same time as a body shifted against her. Soft breathing was against her neck and she recalled the previous night without any trouble. 'Nanoha…' Moving back just slightly, Fate looked down at her friend and saw the girl sleeping peacefully against her. A long sigh came from her lips and she hugged Nanoha once more, eyes closed tightly. A light mumble came against her chest and the blonde reluctantly moved away, kissing Nanoha's forehead lovingly. "I need to go," She whispered softly so she wouldn't wake her lover. Her heart ached so much that she had to place a closed hand over her chest in an attempt to steady herself after moving away from the warmth. 'We can't do this…' Her mind told herself repeatedly as she opened her suitcase to find her uniform to change into. 'I can't… I can't handle this…' a tear was wiped from her eye and a soft sniff was repressed in an attempt to stay quiet. 'It gets harder and harder every time... Nanoha…'
After looking at her naked lover in bed for a long moment, Fate finally went over to her and pulled the covers up to the girl's shoulders. 'I'm going, Nanoha… I don't know when I can visit again…' She had to swallow down her sadness and wipe her eyes. 'I should write you a note so I don't have to tell you face to face again that we can't be together… that we can't keep doing this… It hurts so much already…' Her eyes started watering again and Fate stood up completely, smiled one last time at her sleeping friend, and made her way out of the room. Silently she went into the hallway and placed her suitcase down when she heard soft sniffling coming from the bathroom. Instead of heading to Vivio's bedroom she went to the cracked door and tapped on it lightly? "Vivio?" She asked softly. "Are you okay?"
"Mama…" The word made Fate walk into the bathroom and over to the young girl sitting on the floor while leaning against the wall.
"What's wrong, Vivio?" Gentle hands moved the wild hair from the child's face and gave the god mother a frown. "You're burning up…"
"I don't feel good…" Vivio accepted the hug from her mother and found herself lifted to be sat onto the counter.
"You don't look good either, your eyes are all puffy…" Fate tried to smooth out Vivio's hair while placing her palms on the girl's forehead and neck. "You have a high fever… did you throw up?" She got a very weak nod. "Are you going to again?" This time Vivio shook her head so Fate nodded at her, grabbing a washcloth to dampen lightly before cleaning her godchild's face. "Here, let's get you back in bed okay?" Wrapping both arms around her daughter, she lifted her up and carried her out of the bathroom and into the hallway. The door at the end was opened and the small girl was laid into the bed carefully. "Get some rest, mama will call your school and tell them you'll be absent today. If you need anything be sure to call okay?"
"Mama…" Vivio held onto Fate's hand when it was being pulled back from her. "You're leaving aren't you?" The sad tone in her voice was obvious.
"…Yes, I could only stay for one day this time." Her heart broke when the multi colored eyes misted over once more. "I'm sorry Vivio." She leaned over and hugged her daughter. "I want to stay with you…"
"Please… Please Fate-mama…"
Fate gave the girl a small smile, her weak determination already being shaken to the breaking point when Nanoha had mumbled her name earlier that morning in her sleep. Now with her best friend's child sick in bed looking at her like she was, the woman couldn't say no. "I'll stay, Vivio." The smile came at once and heterochromic eyes easily closed now. "Get some rest. Fate-mama will be here when you wake up. I love you, sweetie." Leaning over, Fate kissed the girl's forehead and tucked her in.
"I love you too, Fate-mama."
Reluctantly, Fate moved from Vivio's bedside and went back into the hallway. After closing the door behind herself she turned around and stopped in her tracks when Nanoha stood in front of her in only a baggy shirt. "You were going to leave without telling me goodbye, weren't you?" Nanoha asked softly, voice clearly hurt.
"Nanoha…" Fate took a few steps forward and hugged the girl. To her surprise, arms went around her as well to return it. "I'm sorry."
"It's my fault…" Nanoha admitted gently. "I know… we talked about it…I promised I would wait… but…" Nanoha placed her forehead against Fate's shoulder and held onto the sides of the enforcer uniform. "I know we said we weren't together, that we weren't dating… that I should find Vivio a good father figure… but I don't want anyone else… I want you."
"Nanoha," Fate placed her hands on her friend's shoulders and eased her away lightly so they could look at each other. "You know how much this hurts me too. I don't… we've talked about it before."
"Let's talk about it again." Nanoha didn't give up. "I love you, Fate-chan."
Fate closed her eyes, feeling Nanoha hug her again tightly. "I'm not good for you."
"You're the best."
"I'm not here." Fate countered, shaking her head and pulling away. Tears were already on her cheeks, which were wiped away. "You deserve someone better, someone who can take care of you, someone who can… who can be there for Vivio."
Nanoha slowly shook her head. "Fate-chan is the only person who can look after Vivio besides me."
"Is my friend." Nanoha cut her off. "If something happened to Vivio, you would be here no matter what. I know that."
Fate opened her mouth to reply but slowly closed it, knowing that she had already promised Vivio to stay another day just because she was sick. "Nanoha, you're breaking my heart."
"You broke mine when you left me… I just want them to heal together. Please, Fate-chan, give me another chance, I promise I'll-"
"It's not you!" Fate finally told her loudly, voice breaking. "You know this." Her hands went to Nanoha's shoulders again and pushed her gently to make her start walking back from Vivio's door.
"Let's talk in the bedroom."
"Living room." Fate asked desperately. A small nod was given to her and the two sat on the couch next to each other. Fate slowly leaned forward and placed her face in her hands to collect herself a moment. After almost a minute of silence the blonde finally began speaking. "Back then… while we were in section six together, it was different."
Nanoha shook her head softly. "It wasn't different, it was just easier."
"I can't see you every day… I can't hold you every night… I… I sometimes go months without ever seeing you… You don't need that."
"I know what I do and don't need." Nanoha countered her gently, scooting closer and slowly placing her hand on Fate's wrist in a silent request to hold it. The blonde moved her hand away from her face and interlaced their fingers together. "Fate-chan," the brunette went on gently. "I know it is hard for you… but you always told me growing up that this is the job you wanted to do, and that you always dreamed about a family to come home to, so why-"
"That's why." Fate interrupted her. "I have the job that I dreamed of… the job I trained so hard for… but I can't come home to you. I'm… I can't come home to anyone while I'm away… For goodness sake, Nanoha, you always call this house half mine and I don't even know where you keep the sodas!"
Silence hung over the room thickly before Nanoha broke it by slowly taking a long intake of breath. "I can move-"
"No. You can't." Fate shook her head. "There are no mobile training facilities, let alone on a warship with highly trained and experienced officials. Vivio also needs to have a steady school where she will be safe and make friends. That's why you chose this house to live in instead of staying on the base even though it would be harder on your commute and bank account. Nanoha, I just can't… You know I have baggage."
"I know, we all do." Nanoha looked down at the floor and to her feet. "I can't ask you to stay here, I know you are happy doing what you do… But I still want to be together."
"Its not like I don't want it!" Fate almost sobbed on her words. "It hurts… it hurts so bad! I can't lose you as a friend, but every time we're together it just... we… always…"
Fate stayed quiet a moment while replaying last night's love making. "Don't be. I didn't stop you."
"You shouldn't have to."
"I did it because I wanted to." Fate shook her head and sighed. "Nanoha, this isn't going anywhere."
"I know, but I want you to stay just a little longer… even if it is talking about this."
Fate smiled without humor. "I'm staying another day… Vivio is sick and asked me to-"
"She's sick?" Nanoha stood up at once and went to jog to the bedroom but stopped when Fate pulled on their still connected hands. "Fate-chan?"
The blonde stood up and smiled at her friend gently. "She's sleeping now, I already tucked her in. We shouldn't wake her because while she's awake she will feel bad, but while she's asleep she won't be suffering any. Is Shamal still her doctor?" She got a small nod. "Yes, I thought so…" Looking at the clock, she started shooing Nanoha back to the bedroom. "Get ready for work and be on your way, I'll take her to the office as soon as it's open." When Nanoha opened her mouth to protest, Fate placed a finger onto the girl's lips. "Don't argue with me." The two locked eyes briefly before Nanoha brought up her other hand and touched the one keeping her mouth closed. A small kiss was planted on the fingertip and she nodded curtly before silently going back into her bedroom.
The door wasn't closed and Nanoha's shirt came off lightly on the way to her closet. Standing in the early morning sun's rays coming down from the blinds, she allowed Fate's eyes to take in her nude body while she picked out her clothing for the day. 'Fate-chan, I never understand you…' Slowly she brought up her thigh-highs and took extra time to smooth them out. 'You always try to push me away but I know you love me… The way you look at me tells me, even if your actions did not.' Her clear blue eyes glanced over to the doorway where Fate was leaning against the frame, not trying to hide the fact she was watching. 'You can act strong but when we're together, the real you comes out… You watch me, you touch me, you give me that look like you did in the past. Fate-chan, I'm willing to give my job for you but I can't because of Vivio… why… can't you love me just as much?' The finishing touches of her uniform were completed and her boots were strapped tight over her feet. 'I can't ask you to quit, but it doesn't mean I don't want you to… I can support us… I know it.'
Nanoha stopped at the doorframe and stood in front of her ex girlfriend. "I'm off. Please take care of Vivio for me."
"Have a good day." Fate spoke gently to her. Each stayed in their spot without moving before shaking hands gently took Nanoha's and a kiss was placed onto her cheek. "I promise… I'll be here tonight. I won't leave without telling you."
"Thank you." Nanoha nodded more to herself than to her friend. "I'll be off then. I love you."
Fate visibly refrained from saying the words. "Bye-bye, Nanoha." She watched the girl nod at her and smile as if she could hear the words anyway. Turning, Nanoha picked up Raising Heart from a small pillow on a pedestal and placed the gem around her neck. With that, she looked back at Fate one more time before glancing to Vivio's door at the other end of the house and nodded before heading outside. Fate let out a long breath of air as the front door closed behind her friend and turned to look at Vivio's bedroom door.
The cool air of the hospital was inhaled reluctantly as Fate made her way through the front doors. 'I never liked the way these places smelt…' Her enforcer uniform paired with the sleepy girl in her arms made everyone look at her while making her way to the front desk. "Hello," She greeted the person there with a smile. "I need to see Shamal please."
"I'm sorry, Dr. Shamal isn't on duty for another hour. If it isn't an emergency, could you take a seat and fill out these papers?" The intern went to get a clipboard and pen but stopped when Fate cleared her throat to get her attention again.
"My name is Fate Harlaown, could you please page her and tell her I am here?" A smile was given and Vivio was shifted in her arms when a small moan came from her. Turning to speak to the child, Fate whispered into her ear while the person at the desk did as requested. "Don't worry sweetie, Shamal will make your tummy stop hurting really soon." Another small shift was made and Fate had to hold back a sad tone in her voice. "You're getting too big to carry…" The intern caught their attention again and after a few traded words Fate set off down a long walkway to an elevator at the end. The glossy button was pressed and doors opened for her almost at once. A short ride later and Fate found herself in another hallway, this one being a lot narrower than the downstairs version. White walls were passed, broken by the evenly spaced doorways. The florescent lights reflected neatly off the clean reflective floor and the sounds of Fate's uniform issued boots clicked loudly with each step she took until she reached the room she had been heading for. Not bothering to knock, she walked into the open door and smiled at the blonde doctor sitting at her desk. "Hello, Shamal."
"Fate," Shamal didn't hold back the pleased expression in her voice and quickly got up to walk around her black steel and marble desk to hug her long time friend. "I'm so happy to see you when you're not hurt for once." She looked at the girl being carried and then to Fate's face once more. "Sick daughter?"
"Yes," Fate gently handed over Vivio and walked with Shamal to an examination table where Vivio was placed softly on. "She said she threw up this morning." Leaning over, Fate spoke gently to the little girl. "Vivio, make sure to tell Doctor Shamal everything that is wrong with you okay? You will feel better before you know it." She got a small nod and a hum in reply so she turned to watch her friend start her job. "Thank you for seeing us before your on schedule."
"Better than making people upset because I pushed them back to see you first," Shamal replied lightly as she looked at Vivio's eyes and felt of her skin. "Vivio, can I put a thermometer in your mouth?" She leaned over and plucked the device as the girl gave her answer and placed it in it's proper spot. "Make sure to keep it under your tongue." Her hands went to get a small wrap to check the girl's blood pressure. "So, Fate, you and Nanoha are together again?"
Fate blushed and shook her head slightly. "N-no, what makes you say that?"
Not deterred by the negative reply, Shamal kept inspecting Vivio while holding conversation. "Because Nanoha won't let anyone take Vivio when she's sick, not even Yuuno. She's been scolded a few times for it, but she honestly told her superior that Vivio came before her job. Good thing she is under Hayate directly, huh?" She smiled at Fate with a sideways glance. "When I saw you with her, I just knew that you patched over your differences." Shamal took the thermometer from Vivio and looked at it. "She's sick alright, seems to be the stomach bug that has been going around lately."
"Will she be okay?" Fate tried to shift the topic from herself and patted Vivio on the head for a job well done so far.
"She will be just fine in a day or two." Picking up another object, she took the girl's hand. "Vivio, this will prick your finger, can you be a big girl for me?" She got a small nod and took the small child's finger to place on a device. "Three, two, one, prick." She felt a small flitch come but still got the needed drop of blood to place on a clean hard strip of plastic. "Good girl, much better than Fate-mama."
"H-hey now…" Fate's embarrassed voice faltered, clearly remembering her younger days where she would almost cry every time she had to have that done.
The doctor began running a few magical test on the blood right at her station, speaking to Fate as if it were the simplest thing in the world. "How long will you stay here this time?"
"I should have left this morning, but I stayed to make sure Vivio is okay."
"Have you requested another day of leave yet?" Shamal pondered while running a strand of magic between her hands and through the drop of Vivio's blood.
Fate shook her head, kissing Vivio's finger when she noticed the girl looking down at it with a sad face. The motion did its own type of magic and Vivio smiled at her godmother. "I haven't called in yet," She voiced out. "I called Vivio's school already so I figured I could contact base once I was sure Vivio was okay so I could make sure to see if I needed just today or tomorrow as well."
Shamal smiled to herself, moving away from her equipment and looking over her shoulder at her friend. "What you mean is, you want to stay with your family longer and you are justifying it by telling yourself that you have to look after Vivio so you won't admit that you need Nanoha just as much as your daughter?" She watched Fate try to respond, only to close her mouth once more. "Fate, how long are you going to lie to yourself?" She crossed her arms and gave the blonde a disapproving look. "Nanoha still loves you, why not be happy and stay with her?"
"She deserves better…" Fate looked over at Vivio to show that she wasn't comfortable talking about it in front of the girl.
Taking the hint, Shamal turned and brought up a monitor. "Are you still stationed where you have been?" She got a quiet affirmative and began to type a few things onto the display. A few moments passed and a uniformed male appeared on her screen. "Hello admiral," She greeted the man. "I am Doctor Shamal for Section Six's medical unit. It is my understanding that Fate T. Harlaown is under your command?" She ignored Fate's sudden gasp and instead listened to the person speaking to her. "Yes sir, I am afraid she has come in contact with a virus here and I need to request her to stay under my sight until I am sure she won't bring an biohazard outbreak back to your ship that could potentially infect your entire crew." Her word choice made the man look rather shocked a moment before confirming his approval to her.
Once the transmission was cut off, Fate finally spoke up in her usual concerned soft tone. "Shamal, what was that about? I haven't-"
"You kissed Vivio's finger after I took a blood sample," Shamal told her easily. "That is a first class contact of potential infection. I just told him using technical terms instead of telling him you tried to soothe your daughter." She picked up a pad of paper and scribbled down onto it. "You are to remain under my care until I release you. I'll tell Nanoha for you while you go get these prescriptions filled." Tearing out the sheets, she handed them to the blonde with a smile. Fate slowly reached up and accepted them, unable to find words to express the mixed feelings she was currently having. "Vivio should be fine tomorrow if she takes her medicine. The other one is just to make sure you and Nanoha don't get it yourselves. Please make sure she takes them, she is really bad about not doing it."
Before Fate could reply, a casual knock came on the door leading into the room and both girls turned to see Signum walking into the room. Her standard uniform was torn in several places and a cut was healing along her cheek. "Testarossa," The older woman greeted the blonde fondly. "I didn't know you were here."
"…For a few days," Fate replied back softly. "Did you just get back from a mission? Are you hurt?"
"Let's have lunch?" Signum ignored the question while glancing over at Vivio on the table. Judging from the smile on Shamal's face, she assumed the girl would be just fine. "I'll bring it by in an hour or so?"
Fate nodded lightly and helped Vivio down from the bed and took her hand now that she seemed well enough to stand on her own. "Yes, please, I'd like that." She looked at Shamal again and knew her cheeks were still colored at what had just happened. "Thank you Shamal, I appreciate it." A happy wave came to her, paired with a sucker for Vivio to distract herself with. "Well then… I'll see you soon. Come on, Vivio, let's get our medicine and then go home okay?" Her godchild smiled up at her and nodded.
Signum watched the two leave and turned to Shamal when the door was closed. "Are she and Nanoha…?"
Shamal shook her head. "Fate still doesn't understand it herself, she's still blaming work." The woman shook her head lightly. "I've known them for so long, it really pains me to see Fate so hurt. She still gives Vivio little pet names to show her affection but she can't bring herself to take responsibility again. Caro and Erio really upset her when they moved off. Poor thing has been through so much, I wouldn't be surprised if she hasn't had a break down because of it." She looked over at Signum to get her opinion. "Maybe denial is what is keeping her going?"
The pink haired warrior sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Testarossa…"
Fate brought her hands up to allow her short sleeved shirt to come down over her body before she straightened it out and checked to make sure the tag on it didn't come up when she flipped out her hair. Now fully clothed again, the girl put her hands into her jeans pockets to make them straighten out. Her enforcer uniform was placed neatly on hangers and placed in Nanoha's bedroom closet, on an almost empty rack that Nanoha had proclaimed to be Fate's since the day she moved in. Her slipper clad feet went silent over the carpet as she made her way into the hallway, heading for Vivio's open door. The little one was laying on the bed on her stomach, a book in front of her. Mis-colored eyes looked up at her and a smile came paired with them. Fate gave a small wave and loving smile before moving to answer the now sounding doorbell.
"Signum, hi." Fate greeted her friend as she opened the door the rest of the way to allow her in. "Thank you for lunch."
"Not a problem." Signum nodded at her as she went inside the cool house. "Nanoha loves the air conditioner, doesn't she?"
"So does Vivio too, apparently." Fate accepted the drinks to help carry the load to the dining room table. "I asked her what she would like the thermostat set to and she requested the same as it was already on." Heaving a small sigh, the blonde set down in a chair and pouted. "I feel like I'm in a freezer."
Signum smiled at her knowingly and passed over her share of the meal. "I got you honey seared shrimp."
"Thank you, it's my favorite." Fate accepted the carton and opened it, inhaling the scent deeply. "Smells delicious."
"So," Signum stirred her contents around a bit before spearing some meat with her fork. "Shamal tells me that Vivio isn't feeling too good?"
"The medicine perked her up noticeably. Although she's not running around outside like I'm used to seeing, she's not really looking like she'll be out for more than today. Just a little stomach bug it seems."
Signum nodded in agreement. "You are a lot more level-headed when it comes to things like this than Nanoha. She normally takes the day off when Vivio is sick. I guess she's counting on you to take care of her then." Her words hit their mark and Fate slowed down her eating just enough to be noticed. "Tell me, Testarossa, how are you two doing these days?"
"...The same as before, Signum," Fate replied back softly, eyes looking at her meal. Another bite was taken to avoid having to continue her statement but her silent request was denied when her friend spoke again.
"You're still using work as an excuse to stay away, I take it." She gauged the reaction carefully, knowing that the topic had been breached and there was no turning back now. "Really now, I expected you to figure it out by now."
"I don't want to just watch anymore, Testarossa. You were always there for me since we became friends. We worked and served together and shared many things that we would normally never tell anyone. I know you don't place your job above all else, that's too shallow for a girl like you. What I want to know is why." She met Fate's shy eyes when they looked up and stare fiercely into them, sending a clear signal that she wasn't to be lied to.
"I... am not a good mother figure." Fate replied back softly, voice almost not making it to its mark. "She doesn't need that."
"You don't need that." Signum countered her. "Nanoha and Vivio do need you. Knowing Nanoha, she isn't keeping that a secret." Another bite was taken in an attempt to give Fate time to let the words sink in. "Tell me, Testarossa."
"Why do you call me that?" Fate asked in return, looking at Signum with a little more confidence now that she had a question that had been denied before in the past.
Signum judged the words and knew that Fate was, in her own way, seeking to give herself more confidence. Having refused to answer it in the past, she closed her eyes and took a breath. "Because," The single word made Fate almost visibly flinch in shock of getting an answer. A moment of silence passed and Signum opened her eyes again, meeting Fate's fully. "There is something in your past that you have not let go of. Until you can move forward from that, this knight can't acknowledge you completely."
Fate took the words and let them slowly run through her mind, picking at them to try and find reason to them. "What?" she finally requested when she couldn't figure it out.
"I can't tell you." The woman answered simply. "You have to discover it out yourself."
Again Fate thought about it, running several instances over in her memory. Long minutes passed by in silence as they ate and thought, finally ended by the food running out and a small moving to throw away the dishes. "I'm sorry, Signum," Fate told her finally. "I don't understand."
"I hope you do soon," Signum put both her hands on Fate's shoulders. "Or you will let someone you cherish slip through your fingers before you can close your hand. I don't wish that on anyone, least of all you."
Fate swallowed. "You...know what that feels like? But... with who?"
Signum smiled at her fondly and moved to place her forehead against her friend's. "Think about what I said, Testarossa. You are lying to yourself to avoid confronting it. The longer you wait, the more you will never be able to see." With that, she moved back and gave Fate one last look before turning. "I need to be getting back to base now. How long before you leave?"
"The day after tomorrow probably, thanks to Shamal." Fate's voice was weak, confusion laced into it. As she walked with Signum to the front door, she looked up at her again and tilted her head to the side. "I'll think about it. I promise."
"Thank you." The woman smiled, waved lightly with one hand, and turned to walk down the stone path leading to the sidewalk and to her car.
"I'm home!" A weak but enthusiastic voice came along with the sounds of the front door opening. "Ugh, what a day." Nanoha's boots were taken off thankfully and house slippers were slid on just as her best friend came into site paired with Vivio. Before she could ask how they were, Fate was already there with a concerned greeting.
"Nanoha, you look exhausted, are you okay?" She allowed Nanoha to hug Vivio and fawn over her a few moments before pressing the topic. "Really, you are shaking!" She reached over when Nanoha's hands were free and took both of them into her own. "How hard was today?"
Nanoha tried to reply with an easy answer but Vivio spoke up first. "Nanoha-mama is always tired like this after work, she tries her best every day!"
"Nanoha!" Fate said the word in a scolding manor, making her friend blush and giver her usual smile. "Don't even try that. Go take a shower this instant and I don't want you out of there until at least twenty minutes are up, you hear me?"
"Fate-chan," Nanoha almost yelped when an angry finger pointed away from her and down the hallway. "...Okay, I'm going." turning to look at Vivio, she tried her best to regain some of the dignity she had just lost. "Are you feeling better, Vivio?"
"Yes mama, I'm almost completely better now!" She nodded contently. "I'm helping Fate-mama with dinner."
Fate nodded. "Twenty minutes Nanoha, then get dressed, and then come for dinner."
The brown haired woman gave Fate a gentle look and smiled, making the blonde blink. "I missed that," Nanoha told her softly before heading off to her bathroom and shower.
The two blondes left standing at the doorway looked at each other a few moments before Vivio broke out into a wide grin. "Fate-mama is amazing. Nanoha-mama never listens to anyone when they tell her that she needs to rest." She giggled happily. "Aunt Hayate gave her the weekends off to settle down but Nanoha-mama threw a fit about it for the longest time."
"Really...?" Fate mused the word while looking at the now closed bathroom door. 'Hayate makes her take two days off every week? Vivio gets both days off at her school because they're still so young, but I'm sure it's more than just Hayate wanting Nanoha to be able to spend time with her daughter...' Reaching out, she took Vivio's hand and started walking with her into the kitchen. Once there, she picked Vivio up and sat her on the counter. "Vivio, does Nanoha-mama look that tired every single day?"
"Yes ma'am?" Vivio tilted her head to the side. "But everyone is tired after work, right? Even Uncle Yuuno looks exhausted after working."
"That's because Uncle Yuuno is an idiot who doesn't realize how long the moon's been up sometimes." Fate said the words to herself while stirring around the mashed potatoes so her daughter wouldn't catch them all. "What do you and Nanoha do on the weekends usually?"
Vivio swayed her legs that were dangling over the counter as she thought about the question. "We started a garden in the back a few weeks ago, but other than that Mama normally does paperwork or takes my friends and me out somewhere."
"I see," Fate breathed the words out as she thought. 'Sounds like Nanoha, we always did want a garden… too bad she can't cook well enough to properly use one.' The blonde moved to cut off the now beeping base of her probe thermometer and reach to open the oven to pull out their chicken. "Vivio, could you please start setting the table?" She got a hum and the girl hopped from the counter in favor of moving around the kitchen. Now left to herself, Fate placed their main course on the stove and began to fiddle with it. Contents in pots were transferred to bowls and carried to the table via Vivio while Fate went to recover Nanoha from the now silent bathroom. "Nanoha?" A soft moan replied to her so Fate knocked on the door and peeked into it, seeing Nanoha sitting up in the bathtub. "Did you fall asleep?" Her friend tried to stumble out a negative but the rubbing of eyes and unfocused speech told her that she was clearly sleeping. "Dinner is about ready, come on now." The soft words were mixed with a smile and concern at the same time, something that Nanoha didn't seem to miss. After the door was gently closed again, the blonde went back to the kitchen to carve the bird. "Vivio, you like the breast meat right?"
After a damp haired Nanoha joined them at the table, she found a fully prepared plate placed down in front of herself. A smile crept up on her lips as she cut into the dark meat of the bird. "It looks delicious." A bite was taken and the girl closed her eyes while chewing. "Fate-chan, this is amazing."
"Really juicy," Vivio added in, her eating noticeably slower than the others due to her upset stomach.
"Of course, it's chicken." Fate replied simply before sipping on a glass of milk. "Why wouldn't it be?" Her sharp eyes caught Vivio glancing sideways at Nanoha, who suddenly looked away from everyone else. "Oh."
"H-hey!" Nanoha sniffed indignantly. "At least I can bake cookies without them smoking!"
The counter made Vivio look at Fate expectantly, a childish glint of excitement in her eyes. When the blonde lost the small skirmish without much effort, the child went back to her meal, pleased at having both her parents back at the table at the same time again. "Fate-mama," She asked curiously after swallowing. "Did you make dessert too?"
"Yes I did," Fate told her happily. "Pudding, from a box. It should be ready soon." She noticed the girl smile and felt herself do the same. "Save some room for it, okay Nanoha?" She got a curious nod and the family lapsed into a moment of silence while they ate, broken only for the occasional random chatter. Once the older blonde was sure that Vivio had eaten enough to be able to take another dose of her medicine, she went into the kitchen to recover their dessert cups. Vivio's gel-cap pill was nipped at the end and the powder was sprinkled onto her pudding before being stirred up. After a moment of pondering, she smiled and took down the smaller pills that Shamal had given her to make sure she or Nanoha didn't catch the same bug that was hanging over Vivio's head as well. Once done she walked back to the dining room and placed the cup of pudding in front of her friends and sat down herself to enjoy her own.
"Thank you, Fate-chan." Nanoha ate a bite and smiled at it, pleased to be sharing a moment of dessert with her family. "Is it good, Vivio?" She got a happy nod paired with a hum, making her smile. "It's amazing how Shamal can always make her feel better so fast."
"She takes after you," Fate spoke her thoughts aloud. "Never sick for more than a day at a time." Her red eyes watched Nanoha finish her treat before taking out her medicine and gulping it down with a small sip of her drink.
"What's that?" Nanoha asked her curiously.
Fate smiled and started helping Nanoha pick up the plates once they were all finished. "Shamal gave them to me to make sure we didn't get sick as well."
The brown haired girl hummed while following Fate to the kitchen. "You're not going to force me to take one?"
"I put it in your pudding, like I did Vivio's." Fate told her casually, getting a bewildered expression. "I knew you wouldn't take it without a fuss so I took care of it for you." She turned and placed a finger onto Nanoha's mouth before her friend could speak. "Don't argue with me when it comes to your health. I know about you Hayate forcing you to take days off."
Nanoha pulled away and averted her eyes, starting on the dishes. "She was over reacting. I had a small fainting spell while teaching and Hayate-chan and Shamal ganged up on me."
"You push yourself too hard," Fate countered the argument. "You know you do, and you never give yourself ample time to rest. Teaching magic takes a lot out of a person, and going on missions as well without any breaks is not good for anyone's body, let alone yours."
"My body isn't weak." The words were stated a little firmly.
"I don't care." Fate told her back, voice soft and caring. "If you keep going at this rate, what would happen to Vivio if you got hurt?" The words made Nanoha slow down her washing to almost a standstill. "What are your plans tomorrow?" She went on after being handed a plate to dry.
Nanoha shook her head lightly. "I just need to take Raising Heart to the base for her checkup. After that I was hoping to spend some time with you?"
"Let me take her; you need to sleep in for once. Is that okay, Raising Heart?"
A slightly robotic female voice picked up before Nanoha had a chance to reply. "All right. That would please me."
Fate smiled and placed the now clean plate back in the counter. "You can't say no to that." Instead of a counter argument she was simply handed a new plate while Nanoha pouted slightly, eyes looking into the soapy water in front of her.
The glow of the nightstand lamps illuminated the master bedroom of the house lightly, having been set to dim so both girls could see their floating monitors better. Each sitting on the bed next to the other, their red and blue eyes focused on the task in front of them. Fate's fingers were typing away lightly, each press of the floating keyboard almost not registering from her fluttering fingertips. A document was on her screen, her official report on being held on extended leave due to a medical crisis. Of course the report was mainly the fault of Shamal, but Fate did her best to write it without lying. She had, in fact, possibly infected herself with the small bug going around there, but knew that she would be just fine thanks to the medicine she had taken. Beside her, Nanoha sat with a furrowed brow, reviewing the recent battle plans and strategies she had been working on to teach her current set of thirty students. Several smaller monitors were floating around her main one, each holding a face of a mage so she could quickly access their profile if need be. The minutes ticked by in silence for them, taking comfort in bed by shifting every now and then to leaning against pillows for added support. When Fate finally closed her monitor down, she yawned lightly and looked over at Nanoha. Her friend noticed and saved her work, closing the monitor and keyboard with a wave of her hand.
"Now what?" The shorter girl asked quietly, even though she knew that the sounds of her room couldn't wake Vivio up from down the hallway. Her blue eyes took in Fate while waiting for the reply. The blonde's standard nighttime attire was on, the black cami holding onto Fate's skin lightly. A strap fell over the girl's shoulder, making the fabric dip just enough to draw Nanoha's eyes to the smooth skin. Black lace designed with roses trailed over half of Fate's breasts before turning to a sheer fabric that did little to hide the milky white skin or the faint areas of pink just below. Upon noticing the loving eyes on her, Fate turned a slight shade of red and slowly brought a hand up to cover herself. "Hey, don't hide." Nanoha's voice came out soothingly, suddenly changing the mood as she reached forward gently to take Fate's hand and bring it down. "You're too lovely to hide…"
"Nanoha…" Fate shook her head and pulled back lightly, making Nanoha look both scared and hurt.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have…"
"No, it's okay…" Fate looked to the side a moment before turning back to Nanoha. "But thank you for the compliment." She got a small smile back and the awkwardness dissipated around them. Nanoha moved her hands out in front of herself and stretched them out, popping a few of her knuckles before bending backwards. When a grunt came from her mouth with no cracking from her back, Fate gave her an amused look. "Shall I?" A small nod came and the two shifted so they were facing the same way with the blonde behind Nanoha. Wrapping her arms around the slender waist, Fate braced herself and waited for the familiar nod before pulling back and up. A low popping noise came and Nanoha tensed up a second before letting out a sigh of relief. "There, better?"
Nanoha leaned forward a bit and then back into Fate's arms. "Oh, yes. Thank you, I've been needing that for a while now."
Fate placed her hands on Nanoha's shoulders and frowned lightly at the feeling. "You're tense… Nanoha your muscles are all taut, have you been stretching properly?"
"Of course I have been. I just haven't had someone I could trade back rubs with when I get sore." Nanoha looked over her shoulder and grinned at her friend. "Hey, know what I would just love right now?"
The blonde gave Nanoha a light nod. "Okay, lay down." She watched as slender fingers undid the buttons on the pink nightshirt before shamelessly exposing her breasts while folding the shirt to lay on the bedside. Ruby eyes glanced downwards lightly, taking in the slightly tanned skin on Nanoha. The other girl didn't miss this, and gave a small pose, moving her hands up and behind herself so her breasts would stick out more. "Nanoha?"
"You always did like looking at me for some reason?"
Fate blushed and had to avert her eyes. "…You're beautiful, you know." She chose not to focus on the fact that she looked at her because she simply loved her. "Turn around?"
"Okay," Nanoha shifted so she was on her stomach and scooped both arms under a pillow so she could rest her cheek on it comfortably. "Thank you for this."
"Don't worry about it." Fate rubbed her hands together quickly, pressing them together until she felt the friction start to heat her hands. Once ready, she placed them both on Nanoha's shoulder blades and pushed down. A pleased moan came at once and she couldn't help but feel a little proud from it. Although not skilled in back rubbing, she did know Nanoha's body well. The usual sore spots were paid careful attention to as she massaged her friend's stiff back. Her thumbs pressed and kneaded the skin as her hands trailed over the almost purring girl laying down. 'I wonder if she wants me to do her lower back still…' Fate's face still held the tint from before and could tell it wasn't going to go away when she reached the small of Nanoha's back. Her friend shifted noticeably an got comfortable again, letting out another moan as the area was paid attention to. The top of Nanoha's panties were pushed up by Fate's little fingers, working her hands under the fabric and caressing Nanoha's sides. "Like this?"
"You know what I like," Nanoha replied in a blissful half asleep mutter. "Fate-chan is the best…"
Smiling, the blonde pressed just a little harder. Running her hands along Nanoha's sides, she pushed them up her body and looped to the shoulders only to come back down again. The fabric was shifted again and she put her weight in the rub there, deeply kneading the soft skin and getting a mix of sounds coming from her friend. After paying a little more attention to Nanoha's favorite area, she moved down to her thighs, embracing each leg in turn. Each curve was catered to, down to her feet, which were embraced in Fate's hands. Memories came back to girl rubbing, eyes glazing slightly as she watched Nanoha's back rise and fall lightly. Her lips were turned up in a small smile, breath slow and even but not fully asleep yet. 'I used to rub her back several times a week,' the words came into her mind easily, recalling the pleasant times when they lived together. 'I remember her selfishly asking for it after we made love, that same smile on her face… How she would tell me that she loved me so many times while I massaged her.' She took in Nanoha's figure. Tones muscles, smooth skin, and faint traces of scars that almost went unnoticed unless someone knew where to look. 'I remember…' Moving on her instincts, Fate bent over and kissed Nanoha's back softly. 'I… miss it so much…' Soft intakes of air were coming from Nanoha now, eyes closed contently. Moving carefully, Fate brought the covers up over both of them and laid behind Nanoha. One arm went over the girl and she closed her eyes, burying her face in Nanoha's hair. 'This once… I can be selfish.' She inhaled through her nose, almost tasting the intoxicating scent of her past lover. Moving closer, she cuddled Nanoha and felt the body shift to accept the new warmth behind it. 'Sweet dreams, Nanoha.'