This is the other ending of "Pain".

RadiantBeam and myself own nothing.

Just... Chalk up some of the more improbable things to "Rule of Drama" here.


Ending B:

Signum simply chuckled, smiling slightly.

The smile on her face faded as Shamal came out onto the training grounds. "Shamal? What's wrong?"

The blond shook her head, sighing. "Nothing. Yuuno's still in critical condition, but..."

"But..." Vita worried nervously.

She sighed and smiled lightly. "I think, the worst has passed. We're hopeful, and he's on 24-hour watch right now, just to make sure that he'll recover."

Vita sighed, smiling lightly. "Oh thank god..." She slumped slightly, a giant weight pulled off of her shoulders.

"Not yet," Shamal warned. "He's still critical."

"But if he survives the night, he's all clear?"

"Either he survives the night or wakes up sometime today." Shamal smiled tiredly. "Until then, 24 hour watch."

Signum nodded and smirked lightly. "I think he'll be okay. He's one tough cookie. A lot like his lovers."

Vita laughed lightly, it was nice to laugh again. "He'd have to be, to survive both Nanoha and Fate."

Shamal gave Vita a scolding look. "Don't tell me you believe those horror stories you hear?"

Vita just shrugged and smirked.

Signum sighed.

"Shouldn't someone contact Fate and that thing to tell them the good news?"

"Back to that 'thing', eh?" Vita murmured.

Signum shrugged slightly. "It's better than the nickname you gave her... Calling her a devil."

"Hey! She looked like one, walking out of that inferno unharmed! Full of power, surrounded by fire and unharmed? You tell me that doesn't sound like a devil to you!"

Shamal gave a light cough to bring the pair back to reality.

Vita scowled slightly; she wasn't looking forward to trying to get through their Devices again. "Can't you do it?"

"Sorry. I have to stay with Yuuno. If something changes, I... well."

At that, the mood shifted.

"Got it," Vita mumbled.

Vita sighed before looking at Signum. "Should we head to their home?"

"What makes you think that they're there?" Signum asked her shorter companion.

"Managed to get that much information from Raising Heart before she cut me off."

Signum nodded. "Ah. Very well then, lead the way."

"Wait, why me?" Vita asked, blinking in confusion.

"Because you need closure and you need, even if it's not necessary, forgiveness from Yuuno's lovers."

As much as Vita hated to admit it, she knew Signum was right; she needed, desperately, to look into Fate's eyes, into Nanoha's eyes, and see forgiveness there.

That didn't change the fact that she would deny it until the day she died.

"Do I have to? I really, really don't want to walk in on... that."

Signum chuckled and ruffled Vita's hair. "Why, afraid of getting ideas when you're alone with Master Hayate?"

"Urk!" Vita's eyes widened as she fell onto her butt. "What the hell, Signum?!"

The pink haired knight chuckled softly. "Well, that got a rise out of you."

"You... Signum!" Vita sputtered and glared at the pink haired knight.

"Shall we go now?" Signum asked, with a raised eyebrow.

"Fine..." Vita sighed, oddly feeling a lot better from the banter between them.

Shamal chuckled, watching the pair walk away. "I'll call you if anything changes," she promised, then paused. "Oh, and Signum, Vita..."

They both paused.

"Watch out for their flying tackles." Shamal smirked. "I don't think either of you would handle those as well as Yuuno does."

"What makes you think that they'll tackle us?" Vita asked as Shamal laughed slightly. "What did she mean?"

"We'll find out when we get there." Signum said with a shrug. "Well, get going."

Vita sighed and they left the field.

(---)

Vita and Signum found themselves in front of Nanoha, Yuuno, Fate and Vivio's home, before she rang the doorbell a few times. She sighed and waited for someone to answer the door.

She didn't have to wait long.

Much to Vita's ever-lasting relief, it didn't seem like she and Signum had interrupted anything; Nanoha and Fate were both clothed, out of their uniforms and wearing loose pants and shirts. "Signum, Vita," Fate said in greeting, opening the door wider as Nanoha peered at them, resting her chin on Fate's shoulder. "Come in, come in."

Even as Vita took her first step into the hallway, Signum spoke. "It's about Yuuno."

There had been a playful light in the eyes of the two female lovers, an air of happiness and brief contentment about them. At the mention of their male lover, it dropped instantly.

"What about Yuuno-kun?" Nanoha stepped to Fate's side, tightly gripping the blond's hand.

Remembering Shamal's warning, Signum motioned for them to head into the living room, giving the pair a chance to sit down before she broke the news.

"Yuuno relapsed not long after you both left," she said. "Apparently, he sustained serious damage to his Linker Core." She held up a hand to ward off questions.

Vita sighed. "Shamal managed to stabilize him," she said, "but she makes no promises. Right now he's under 24 hour surveillance."

"But, he's alive, right?" Fate asked, her eyes reflecting her worry as she squeezed Nanoha's hand.

"For now..." Vita said softly. "He's still in critical condition." She couldn't stand the look on their faces before she fell to her hands and knees, looking at the ground. "This is all my fault! Nanoha, Fate... I... I should have done more. I couldn't do enough." Tears were falling down her face now. "I promised you two that I would take care of him, but I couldn't keep that promise, all I can do is just be there when people that I'm supposed to protect get hurt. I'm so sorry!"

"Vita." Signum's voice was low, gentle; as gentle as her voice could ever be, in any case. Despite herself, though, she didn't move to the smaller Knight. It wasn't her place, and it wasn't what Vita needed.

Vita heard a rustle of movement and cringed, fully expecting the worst; she froze, blinking in confused shock as Nanoha knelt down and hugged her. "Nanoha?" she choked out.

"You were separated from him." Nanoha's voice was soft. "You got separated, right? You tried to get back to him as fast as you could, right? That's enough." She pulled back, smiling at Vita even as her eyes watered. "You did enough, Vita-chan, you and Arf-san both."

"But... I..." Vita was silenced with another hug that held her tightly.

"Vita-chan... I can never hate you for doing all that you did. But... You and Arf-san... You two saved Yuuno-kun's life." Nanoha pulled back, smiling, tears falling out of her eyes. "If you weren't there, doing what you could for him, he wouldn't even be able to rest and fight for life now. I can never thank you enough."

"Nanoha..." Vita shook and looked at Fate, who squeezed Vita's hand tightly. "F...Fate?"

Fate smiled, though she was fighting back tears just like Nanoha was.

"Arf said the same thing," she whispered. "You both did the best you could, Vita. And Yuuno... he did what he thought was right." She swallowed hard. "He knew the risks."

"But... I... I don't..."

Fate shook her head. "No, Vita... You are our dear, close friend and you did what you could to save his life. There is nothing to apologize for. I know that Yuuno doesn't hate you either."

"Stupid ferret never hates anyone." Vita muttered softly, but tears were still falling down her face as she nodded softly.

"Vita-chan, if you think that any of us hate you over this, you're wrong." Nanoha smiled, sniffling softly at the small redhead, trying to convey that she truly wasn't angry at her friend.

"N...Nanoha!" Vita cried and hugged her friend, sobbing heavily. "Thank you... Thank you... Thank you..."

Signum's eyes softened; her lips twitched into a small, slight smile. Yes, she thought with a sigh. Vita had needed this; perhaps more than she even realized.

Leaving Nanoha to comfort Vita, Fate looked at Signum and smiled weakly. "You said he's stabilized?"

"At the moment." Signum cleared her throat awkwardly, wanting to encourage but knowing the risks. "Shamal said no promises. He's under 24 hour watch right now, in case there's a change."

She hesitated.

"I... Shamal has a strict policy about visitors during surveillance, but... I could ask her to let you two in. If... you want to see him."

Fate shook her head and sighed. "No... It... It would be better if he didn't have visitors right now. If something does happen, we would only be in the way." She sighed softly. "But, thank you for coming over here and telling us."

Signum nodded and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I can't imagine how hard it is for you."

"More than you know." Fate said, biting her lower lip. "Where's Vivio?" She realized that her daughter wasn't there and she was getting this news. "She's not at the hospital still, is she? She's not alone, is she? Is she being looked after?"

"Amy has her." Vita spoke up, pulling away from Nanoha slightly, her face damp from the crying she had been doing. "I left Vivio with Amy, so she'll be okay."

Fate and Nanoha both sighed in relief. That was one less worry that they had.

"All right then, I'll head back." Signum rose. "If Shamal needs help, I... well, if she needs help," she said somewhat lamely. "Nanoha, Fate, if you change your minds, don't be afraid to come. I think..." Here, she hesitated. Did she really have the right to say this?

"Yes?"

"I think it would help him," she said at last. "In all the old Earth movies I've watched with Hayate, when people talk to another person in a coma, it helps them wake up." She cleared her throat again. "Shamal said he'd be stable if he survives the night, but she never mentioned anything about him waking up."

Vita smirked slightly at them. "Besides, I bet he would be really happy to know that you were there for him."

The two shared a look at each other and quirked a smile, did their friends have to make liars out of them?

(---)

"Yuuno-kun..." Nanoha smiled shakily. He looked so still, so quiet. If it wasn't for the heart monitor beeping every so often, she would assume he had just passed away.

Fate hung back, her gaze flickering between Nanoha and Yuuno; Nanoha to make sure she was controlling her fear, Yuuno to see if he'd wake up.

Moving timidly, Nanoha stepped closer to Yuuno; when no nurse or doctor magically appeared by her side to scold her, she swallowed hard and gently rested her hand against his chest.

His skin felt warm beneath her hand, full of life; his heartbeat was still going strong, even if it sounded slightly faded and seemed to falter from time to time.

Nanoha felt tears prick at her eyes. "Fate-chan," she murmured, turning to the blond and asking her to come with her eyes.

A moment later, Fate was there, squeezing the hand that was on Yuuno's chest, moving it slightly so she could feel. Closing her eyes slowly, she could feel the heartbeat there, giving her so much relief. "He's going strong."

"He's fighting for us, Fate-chan." At least Nanoha thought so. "Yuuno-kun... Please... I don't want our babies to not have a father. Please come back to us. I... I want to be able to come home every day and see my Yuuno-kun, my Fate-chan, our children... I want to come home and see that every day. To see our family happy and healthy. Please, Yuuno-kun..."

Fate swallowed quietly. She'd never been good at this, at expressing her emotions in words; Nanoha and Yuuno had always been expressive enough for them to understand her.

But she wanted, desperately, to try.

"Yuuno." For a moment, she didn't know what to say or how to say it, and decided to wing it. "Nanoha... pretty much said what I was thinking." She laughed softly. "But... please. Come back. I never... I never thought I could have you, or Nanoha." On his chest, she gave Nanoha's hand a squeeze. "I want... I want you to stay. With me. With us. Please, Yuuno."

"Yuuno-kun. I... I don't know if you can hear us, but, please, if you are awake, conscious somehow, please, just... Just give us a small sign." Nanoha squeezed Fate's hand. "You, Fate-chan, Vivio... The three of you are my life. If I lost any of you..." She trailed off when he didn't respond. "Please... Yuuno-kun, I love you."

"Nanoha..." Fate said softly as her hand squeezed Nanoha's. "Please, Yuuno, if not for us, then for Vivio's sake. She was so upset and sad when she found out you were hurt. Come back for her at least."

For a moment there was no response, no change; nothing, it seemed, to indicate that Yuuno had heard them, wherever he was. Other than his heartbeat, his breathing, he gave no indication of waking.

Nanoha's face crumbled; Fate saw it and felt her heart break, even as she searched for some sign of life on Yuuno's face. "Nanoha," she said softly.

Nanoha was just about to speak when she froze.

A soft groan echoed through the room; Yuuno shuddered once, winced, and seemed to be giving a godly effort to opening his eyes.

"Y...Yuuno-kun?" Nanoha's eyes watered as she looked at him.

"Nnngh... Nanoha... Did... Did you Starlight Breaker that semi that hit me?" He asked softly as he forced his eyes open slowly.

The two looked at him for a moment, before crying his name out and hugging his prone body, crying happily, tears falling down their faces as they called out his name.

If he'd had the strength, Yuuno would have liked to hug them back; they looked like they'd been through the gates of Hell. But he was in an incredible amount of pain, and still woozy.

"What... the hell happened?" His voice was weak, almost drowsy; his mind felt cloudy, and he couldn't collect his thoughts. "I... I felt fine when you visited earlier..."

All he remembered was feeling the pain in his chest, gasping, Vivio screaming his name and then... nothing but blackness.

Briefly he wondered if Fate and Nanoha had heard him; they were still clinging to him like they feared he'd die the moment they let him go.

"Nanoha..." He groaned lightly. "Fate... Please... What happened?"

It was almost a full minute before they looked up, their faces tear-streaked. Idly he realized that he had done nothing but cause worry and tears since he got together with them. The instant that he got out of here, he was going to take time off and take a vacation with the two of them and Vivio, go to a beach or something and spend time together.

"You had a relapse." Fate said softly. "Your Linker Core was damaged badly and you weren't stabilizing at all."

Yuuno blinked.

Damage to his Linker Core? Odd, he hadn't felt it...

Except... wait...

"Well." He sighed, and winced as the simple action sent pain lancing through his body. "That explains the brilliant explosion of pain and color before I got hit by the beam and started bleeding."

"Please, Yuuno-kun... Don't joke like that... We nearly lost you again..."

Nodding at the look in their eyes, Yuuno closed his eyes. "I'm going to request a transfer away from the front lines. The superiors need to really get their priorities straight when choosing missions for everyone." He said softly, his eyes closing. "My head's spinning."

Fate and Nanoha exchanged nervous, worried looks. Shamal said it would take at least 24 hours for Yuuno to stabilize. "Do you want us to leave?" Fate asked softly.

Yuuno shook his head, and immediately regretted it as pain exploded in his temples. "Stay," he said softly. "I don't want to go back to sleep. It was too hard to wake up."

He didn't want to say that he was worried that if he fell back to sleep his body might give up and just stay asleep.

"Okay..." They said softly.

They ended up talking about nothing and everything over the course of the night, only stopping when a doctor or Shamal came in to check up on Yuuno, to make sure that he was alright.

By her fifth visit, Shamal sighed and put her hands on her hips.

"All right, nothing against you three, but you all need sleep." Very gently, she pulled Nanoha and Fate away from Yuuno. "You two have been through a lot today, and you need to rest."

She gave Yuuno an eagle eye.

"And you, Yuuno, are still recovering. You need to sleep so your Linker Core has more energy to recover and function."

Shamal saw the fear in Yuuno's eyes and sighed. You really do, she said mentally, so Fate and Nanoha wouldn't hear. I'll talk to them, all right? Go to sleep. You need it.

You think so? He mentally said back at her, when she nodded, he sighed and closed his eyes. "Night..." He yawned, quickly passing into a deep, dreamless sleep.

"Shamal..." Nanoha looked at the doctor. "I... Please? Can we stay here tonight?"

"I'd have to get another couple of beds in here, and we can't spare any, Nanoha." Shamal said, sighing at the look on their faces. "Please, you two need to sleep in proper beds..." She walked up and put a hand on Nanoha's belly. "It will help these little guys grow properly."

Shamal never felt guilty over using the babies to get Fate and Nanoha to listen; or mainly Nanoha, as it usually was. In any case, it did the trick, even as she saw them both look reluctantly at the door after leaving the room.

"Shamal..."

"Yes?"

"He'll wake up again... right?"

"He needs more rest, Nanoha." Shamal said softly, patting the woman on the shoulder gently. "The mere fact that he woke up so fast is amazing in and of itself, but he needs more rest, a lot more." She quirked a small smile at Nanoha. "He's actually tougher than you. It took you three months before you woke up like he did."

It seemed to do the trick as both seemed to release a lot of tension. "Thank you, Shamal."

She shook her head. "No need to thank me. Now, you two, go home, go to bed and get some sleep." She frowned sternly at them both. "If you don't, I'll make sure to put binds on both of you until all you can do is rest. It's not healthy for your bodies to go so long without rest and sleep."

"If something happens," Fate began.

"I'll call you as soon as there's a change," Shamal promised. "And I'll let you both back in to see him first thing tomorrow. Now go. You need to rest. I'm sure Yuuno has enough energy to create some defensive binds if I give him a good reason."

At that, Nanoha and Fate both blushed.

(---)

A bit later, both Nanoha and Fate, in their pajamas, were laying on their bed, Nanoha cuddling up to Fate's side. "Fate-chan..."

"Nanoha?" Fate blinked as Nanoha kissed her on the lips. "Are you okay?"

"No..." She pouted sadly. "I'm sore, I'm upset, I'm tired, I want to run to Yuuno-kun and hold onto him all night, I want to make love to you all night," Fate blushed heavily as she heard that, "I want to take Raising Heart, find the people responsible for sending Yuuno-kun out on that mission and give them a Blaster 3 Starlight Breaker, I want to go to my mother and hold onto her or Miyuki or dad and just cry and I want..." She was cut off as Fate put a hand over her mouth.

"Thank you, Nanoha..." She smiled and kissed the brunette on the forehead. "I want to do the same."

"Fate-chan..." Nanoha whispered as the hand was removed from her mouth. She hugged Fate and cuddled against her. "I love you so much, Fate-chan."

"I love you too, Nanoha." Fate gently drew the brunette closer, smiling. She sighed. "What a day."

"Ne, Fate-chan..."

"Hmmm?"

"I was wondering if--"

Nanoha's thought was interrupted as a call screen popped up in front of them, asking for permission to put the call through. The pair shared a confused look before allowing the call through.

Nanoha blinked. "Hayate-chan?"

"Good, you two aren't asleep yet." Hayate smiled, but it was strained. "Tell me you managed to nap, at least a little."

"Some." Fate sat up slightly. "What's wrong?"

Hayate sighed. Of course they could tell, she thought.

"I'm holding Vita and Signum back by the collars of their shirts right now." She frowned. "Some scientists from the higher-ups are sniffing around for Yuuno. Something about studying the effects of a damaged Linker Core and its effects on the body. Extra bonus points because 'the specimen in question is still alive', as he so kindly put it."

"What?" The tone in their voices was deadly, silent and utterly terrifying. And it wasn't even directed at Hayate.

Rubbing her eyes, she nodded. "Yes. Vita and Signum both look ready to kill someone." Not that she blamed them, she wanted to go out in full battle garb and blast the whole group of idiots. "Zafira and Shamal are making sure that no one gets near Yuuno right now."

At that exact moment, Agito and Rein appeared by Hayate's side, arguing fiercely about something. Hayate ignored them, turning back to Fate and Nanoha. "I don't want you two to panic," she said. "We're holding it down here, but it might help to have you hanging around... as visual reminders."

Beside her, the argument between Agito and Rein got more heated.

"How are you even sure it's the same man? You said so yourself, you didn't recognize him!"

"I wouldn't forget that voice, that carelessness for life!" Agito exploded. "Who the hell looks down at a guy sound asleep and fighting for his life and says it'd be so much easier to do the experiment if the damage had killed him?!!"

"They said what?" Hayate practically growled as she heard that last bit.

Still in a fury, Agito whirled to Hayate. "I know that man, dammit! He worked on me... before! If I hadn't been in the room, he would have pulled the damn life support plug!!"

An instant later, she noticed the screen. She paled. "Oh, crap," she whispered and trembled, looking at Nanoha and Fate, she now knew why they were so feared by the enemies of the TSAB.

"Hayate... We'll be down there in three minutes..." Fate said quietly as she held Bardiche, Nanoha holding Raising Heart. "If those men aren't gone, we're going to hit them with so much pain that they'll wish they were dead." She may have been pregnant, but she couldn't stand this.

"Nanoha-chan! Fate-chan! Stop!"

"Hayate-chan..." Nanoha's eyes softened as she looked at her friend. "We can't just..."

"I know!" Hayate took a deep breath and sighed out. "Just come down here, you two might be able to convince them to... Huh?" Hayate looked off-screen, her eyes widening. "Okay, you two, just hurry up down here, please?"

"Hayate?" Fate was worried now.

"We just some some reinforcements down here." She smiled tiredly.

"Reinforcements?"

"Just come on down. You'll see." Hayate chuckled.

As the screen clicked off, Nanoha could hear Hayate asking someone off-screen, "How did you convince Nove to come?"

The two looked at each other before getting dressed and heading out.

(---)

When Nanoha and Fate got there, they weren't surprised to see Nove there, but Wendi, Cinque, Dieci and Subaru was a shocking surprise. "Ah..." Nanoha blinked in surprise, she didn't even know Subaru was in town.

"We heard that there was a problem at the hospital." Cinque said softly as she nodded to them.

Subaru saluted the both of them. "Admiral Lindy was talking to father when she got a message of a potential problem taking place and asked us to come with."

Nanoha blinked. "Where's Teana?" It seemed almost unnatural to see Subaru without Teana somewhere nearby.

"She's on her way." Subaru grinned. "She had to stop and pick up Erio and Caro. They'd just landed to visit when the news broke."

Now Fate blinked.

"Erio and Caro are coming?"

"They wanted to." Subaru nodded. "They even brought Megane and Lutecia with them."

"I'm glad." Fate sighed, blinking as she felt hands on her shoulders. Turning, she smiled at Lindy. "Mother..." She didn't waste any time hugging her. "Thank you ."

"It's okay, Fate-chan." The older woman said softly as she hugged her daughter. "I told you that my information network is the fastest around." She smirked slightly. "Oh, and that scientist that tried to pull the plug... Agito's having some fun with him."

Cinque got a small chuckle at hearing that. "I remember that guy. He and Scagiletti talked at times. I couldn't let him go."

Nove stared at Cinque. "You didn't," she said softly, wondering just how far the smallest of the former Numbers went.

Cinque smirked and shrugged. "Hey, it's not my fault the door was locked when he tried to get out," she replied, then looked at Shamal as she came outside to greet Nanoha and Fate. "You need to have your locks checked. I think they might click into place too easily."

Shamal returned Cinque's smirk. "I'll keep that in mind."

At that instant Teana appeared, flanked by Erio, Caro, Lutecia, and Megane. Nanoha knew the instant she arrived because she saw Subaru's eyes light up.

"TEA!"

"Subaru." Teana replied much more sedately, getting a soft pout from the purple-haired girl, before she turned to Nanoha, who had turned around and smiled at her. "I apologize for taking so long to get here."

Nanoha smirked slightly at her. "Not at all. I'm glad that you came." She really was, things might calm down with Teana there. At the very least, Cross Mirage could be very intimidating to look at.

"Fate-san..." Erio and Caro walked over to her cautiously, before hugging her tightly as she let go of Lindy.

Fate closed her eyes and hugged her children, just happy that they were there to give her support. "Thank you both." She whispered to them, making them both flush slightly.

Megane and Lutecia hung back slightly; both looked nervous, but it was clear that they intended to help any way that they could. Smiling at them, Nanoha stepped forward to greet them. "Thank you for coming," she said softly. "It helps."

Megane smiled slightly in return, but Lutecia shrugged. "Caro and Erio care about him," she said simply. At that, the pair flushed even deeper.

"Mou, Tea..." Subaru pouted as Teana walked towards her. "Couldn't you be a little happier to see me? I know circumstances aren't the best, but..."

Without a single word, Teana gripped Subaru's collar and yanked her into a kiss that had her sisters making wolf whistles and cat calls.

Dieci looked at Nove, they both had a small smirk on their faces as they looked at the scene. "Reminds you of anything?" Dieci asked, causing Nove to blink at her.

"Nope."

Dieci leaned in and whispered softly. "How about you and Wendi?" She knew that Wendi wouldn't hear it, since both she and Nove could barely hear anything with the background noise going on.

Nove went stiff as a board and twitched slightly. "What the hell?" She hissed as Dieci shrugged, smirking lightly.

Sein was right, it was fun to tease her sisters about that.

"All right, everyone." As much as she was enjoying seeing her friends like this, Shamal knew they had more important matters. "Hayate wanted to talk to you all herself, but she's busy fighting off a few nosy scientists who can't keep their hands to themselves. Last I checked, I think Miyuki managed to run one of them off with a wooden practice sword."

Nanoha blinked, awed. "Onee-chan's here?" she murmured.

Lindy smiled at her. "I ran into her on the way here, she was bringing some get well soon stuff for Yuuno when she ran into me and followed."

Nanoha smiled, relaxing a bit more after hearing that.

Teana chuckled slightly. "Well, I'm pretty sure having an entire brigade of bodyguards would keep anyone at bay."

"I hope so." Shamal said as she looked at Nanoha and Fate. "You two still haven't gotten any rest, have you?"

"We were about to when we heard about this commotion." Fate said as she let go of Caro and Erio, both of them still hovering around their mother protectively.

Shamal nodded and rubbed her eyes tiredly. "I don't know who's doing what or why things are the way they are right now, I won't pretend to know. But I'm sure that..."

"ARRRRRGH!"

"What was that?!" Teana asked, her eyes wide.

She wasn't the only one wondering.

Cinque looked down the hallway and smirked. "I think Agito's getting some payback."

There was a long pause.

"Should we stop her?"

Another long pause; Shamal smirked and shook her head. "Let her have fun," she said lightly. "We have bigger fish to fry."

Shamal hoped Yuuno was sleeping through all this. Nanoha and Fate were already agitated enough; seeing their male lover up and about when he was still so weak would be the final straw.

The last thing she wanted to do was cause a miscarriage due to stress.

"I believe I can finally say what's going on." Lindy said, catching everyone's attention.

Clearing her throat, she took a deep breath. "As most of you probably guessed, there's a lot of secrets with the upper brass of the TSAB." Seeing nods around, she continued. "This is mostly to make sure that things can get done and people can go about their daily lives without worrying about things one way or another." There were a lot of secrets that she knew, some she didn't, and others she wish she had never found out. "The High Council having Jail Scagiletti running around and the late Regisus's use of him to make Combat Cyborgs was just one secret."

"Question!" Wendi raised her hand, getting Lindy to nod at her. "Wasn't the research done to make all cyborgs illegal?"

"Unfortunately, yes. That's what makes many of the secrets so bad." Hell, her former colleague Gil had horrible secrets himself, she still couldn't believe that he would risk so much on something that had no guarantee to work. Still, it was better than anything she could have done at the time. "The scientist that Agito is currently showing her displeasure to is another nasty secret." Seeing the blinks, she sighed heavily. "There were a lot more remnants from Ancient Belka than are publicly known. And the Bureau authorized full research into them, no matter the consequences, to find out just what the remnants could do."

Shamal's eyes widened. "Wait, I always thought that was secret and illegal. You're telling me that Agito's torture was authorized?"

"As much as I hate to admit it, yes, it was," Lindy confessed. "I myself didn't know all the details until the JS incident was settled. It seems that whoever approved that little adventure also turned a blind eye to Jail's raising and training Lutecia."

At that, Megane protectively pulled her daughter closer.

Lindy cleared her throat to continue. "As it is, I can only guess this man was pulled from the project and assigned to a new one to keep him quiet."

Wendi's hand shot up again. "Question!"

Lindy nodded again.

"What does any of this have to do with damaged Linker Cores? That's what they want Yuuno for now, right?"

"Damaged Linker Cores are one of the top threat to mages." Lindy sighed. "It's rare for someone to sustain damage and last for more than 24 hours."

"So, they want to turn Yuuno-kun into a test subject?" Nanoha asked, her knuckles white as she clenched her fists tightly.

Lindy was glad that Teana and Subaru both got to Nanoha and reassured her quietly, she really didn't think that the younger woman could take too much more stress right now. "Sadly, yes."

"And doing so would let them see a damaged Linker Core in action." Dieci muttered, frowning softly. "If it was known then... Then they could stop other people who got their cores damaged from dying easier because there would be more data on it." She held up her hands as people looked at her. "I'm not saying we should let them, I'm just saying what they're probably thinking." The number of glares at her sent shivers down her spine, that was scary!

"Fate-san..." Erio said softly to his mother. "You won't have to worry about Yuuno-san. No one here will let them hurt him."

"Thank you, Erio." Fate smiled and kissed him on the forehead, getting a blush from him. The only thing keeping anyone from making teasing comments was the weight of the situation. "Mother, please, is there anything we can do?"

Lindy sighed.

"As tempted as I am to just leave Miyuki at the door, beating off anyone who comes by, with Hayate ready to use the Tome of the Night Sky if needed, it's not that simple." She hesitated. "Dieci makes a very good point."

"Thank you!" Much to Dieci's everlasting relief, the glares stopped.

"And I hate to say it, but you know Yuuno would agree with the idea if he was conscience enough to have a say in anything." Lindy met Fate's gaze gently. "You and Nanoha both know that, Fate."

"But, he's not conscious." Nove spoke up, getting attention drawn to her. "I... I don't think that it's right to have experiments done to someone when they can't say yes or no if they have a choice." Too much of that happened in her life, to her, to the people around her, and such a thing was just painful when the person thought about it. "Couldn't they just use the observations that Shamal has on him?"

"Shamal?" Fate and Nanoha looked at the sheepish blond.

"Sorry, but I have his Linker Core under surveillance to make sure that it recovers and, well, the recordings that are being done are incredible." Plus it was a lot better than what those scientists were talking about doing, but she was not going to bring that up around Nanoha or Fate at the moment, they didn't need it.

Nove blinked as Wendi wrapped an arm around her shoulder, hugging her softly. She sighed and tried to relax, but it wasn't easy. She really wanted to go and beat up on that scientist as well.

Lindy noticed the look in Shamal's eyes and made a mental note to speak to her later; she had a feeling things were going on, things Nanoha and Fate wouldn't like to hear. "How has he been?" she asked.

Shamal sighed.

"Still sleeping, which is good. I thought he'd wake up a few times, but he keeps drifting away before he can even open his eyes." She scowled. "Having those scientists around doesn't help as it is. The way they look at him..."

Lindy nodded and rubbed her eyes as she looked around, the exhaustion was starting to catch up on some of the people in the room, not that she blamed any of them, it was almost... She glanced at her watch and her eyes widened. "Oh my." She got a look from some people. "It's almost four in the morning." She smiled at everyone. "While I know that some of us can go awhile without sleep, there are some of us who do need some sleep." Granted everyone in the room could go days without sleep if they needed to, none of them ever would want to risk performance over missing a day or two of sleep if they could afford to.

"Unfortunately, there's no extra beds." Shamal knew this, she had looked around when Nanoha and Fate were at the hospital, otherwise those two would be in the room with Yuuno right now. "And I'm not letting anyone sleep on the floor or in the waiting room." Which was too small for them anyway.

"I don't feel comfortable with leaving Yuuno-kun alone." Nanoha said softly.

"I'll stay here and guard him." Nove spoke up, getting a nod from the rest of her sisters. "Nanoha-san, Fate-san, you two need your rest, so do the rest of you." She blushed slightly at the looks of bemusement on her face. "Look, I know that I'm younger than some of you, but we can stay up for a week straight before we start to feel tired if nothing happens." Granted none of them ever were forced to go that long. Insane or not, Jail did actually take care of them. It was the only reason that they had stuck with him so long.

"Shamal..." Lindy whispered to the blond as she worked her way over. Seeing her nod, the two slipped off and behind another door, one where Dieci was standing by and she spoke in low tones to the doctor. "Is something wrong?"

In the other room, Lutecia asked Megane if she could keep the Numbers company while they guarded Yuuno.

Shamal sighed heavily and rubbed her eyes, checking to make sure that no one was within hearing distance. "I knew you had to be cold-hearted to be a scientist for the higher-ups," she murmured, "but this is horrible. None of them look at Yuuno and see a man fighting for his life. They just see an experiment, a chance to solve a problem." She smirked coldly. "Agito's lovely young man isn't the only one who thinks it'd be easier if he was dead. I've lost count of how many bribes I've been offered if Yuuno's plug was 'accidentally' unplugged or his body 'was destabilized' again."

Lindy rubbed her forehead, this was very problematic. "Thank you for not telling them."

Shamal nodded, grimacing. "I think if Nanoha or Fate went through any more stress that they'd miscarriage right now." In fact, she was almost certain of it by now.

Lindy didn't need to know that if such a thing happened that Nanoha and Fate would never forgive themselves over it. "I agree. Keep this to yourself, okay?"

Shamal nodded, she wouldn't even tell Hayate about this. "Lindy, look, I know that experiments to find out limits are important but..."

"I know, there's no way to know if they would stop before going too far..."

"Nanoha and Fate..." Shamal sighed softly. "They don't need this. They lost their childhoods way too soon because of the magic that they have, they should at least be allowed to have a family." Especially now that they were expecting children.

Lindy nodded quietly; she knew what Shamal was leaving unsaid, and agreed with her completely.

A moment later Shamal went stiff, feeling a change in magical pressure. "Oh, don't tell me," she growled, before leaving the room.

"Shamal?!"

Cursing mentally Lindy shot after the other woman, hoping to keep the crowd at ease.

(---)

Shamal moved quickly, almost like flying down the hallway. The scene she reached made her want to curse out loud.

One of the doctors had been thrown against the wall, eyes wide and face pale. Standing between him and a shaken Miyuki was Yuuno; he looked dead on his feet, weaving, barely even full strength, but she saw the shield fading.

"Dammit, Yuuno!"

Yuuno smiled shakily at Miyuki. "Now I'm in trouble," he murmured. "I'm sorry, Shamal, this man was getting rough with Miyuki. She doesn't have magical powers."

Shamal rubbed her forehead and pushed Yuuno back onto the bed. "I'm glad that you're okay, but dammit, you're still weak! You yell at Nanoha for pushing herself too hard."

"Eh heh... Sorry..."

Lindy frowned at the doctor. "Just what were you thinking?"

"That studying him would help our medical scientists get a better understanding of how to fix damaged Linker Cores?"

Nove frowned as she walked in after hearing that. "I thought something happened to Yuuno-san, I didn't know that some rat was trying to bite off more than he could chew." At least Nanoha and Fate had been dragged off by Caro and Erio, so they had missed this. "You know what, Shamal, I say you should be the only one allowed in and out of here."

"I'm beginning to think that way myself, Nove." Shamal sighed and frowned at the doctor. "This is my patient, not yours, mine, now I would kindly ask of you to not bother him anymore."

The doctor scowled at that, struggling to his feet. "I did nothing wrong!" he retorted. "I merely asked if I could visit him for a few minutes, and the girl refused to let me in! I simply moved her aside--"

"You threw her into the wall," Yuuno called from the room. "With your Device. She was bleeding."

At that, Shamal glanced at Miyuki, and winced when she saw the red blood soaking through the back of her shirt. "He did that?"

"Nicked me with his Device." Miyuki shrugged. "It's shallow. I've had worse."

Shamal sighed.

"You're bleeding too much for it to be shallow. Nanoha's going to kill you when she sees it."

Shamal went over to Miyuki and helped her up. "Let me see it." She said as Miyuki turned around and lifted up her shirt. Shamal went quiet and frowned, looking at the doctor. "I do hope that you can live without being able to practice medicine."

"What right do you have to threaten me with that? You aren't any higher up than I am!"

"But I am." Lindy said, frowning as she stepped forward, the doctor looked at her, his eyes slightly wide. "Right now, good sir, I am afraid that you are no longer needed here at this hospital, nor will you be needed anywhere else."

"But..."

"Just shut up." Shamal ignored it as she went about casting healing magic on Miyuki's back, getting the blood to stop. Well, she had been right, it was kind of shallow, but it was a lot still. Shamal knew that there was no way that Miyuki was going to get away without having scar damage from this. "Right now, there's an injured man in this room, a woman who you injured and a very, VERY stressed out admiral, if you want to have any chance of having any sort of career after this stunt, you had better give me your name tag, put in your resignation papers and never step foot inside this hospital again, do you understand me?"

The doctor slipped away, grumbling.

Miyuki sighed. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "He said a few of the government officials hanging around asked him to get in, but you said no visitors."

"It's not your fault. You did the best you could." Shamal chuckled weakly. "Miyuki, how do you plan to hide this scar from Nanoha? She asked for you to come over tonight."

Miyuki shrugged. "I'll think of something," she murmured. "It's not a big deal. I'm amazed Yuuno could make a shield in his condition, though." She frowned. "He looked ready to keel over."

"Hey!" Yuuno's insulted voice rang out from the room, making the three women chuckle.

There was a sound coming from outside, Nove opened the door and cursed loudly. "Don't they ever give up?!"

"Guess not!" Wendi's voice, a bit too cheerful piped in. "Oh, wait, these guys... I know these guys."

"You do?" Nove blinked as she opened the door, there were a few of the government officials on the floor, but they looked a bit different than the ones that were trying earlier.

"Yeah, these are the guys that gave us our evaluations back before letting us go, remember?"

"You kicked me in the crotch on purpose, didn't you?" The one curled in a ball by Wendi's feet groaned.

She shrugged. "Eh, I needed to kick something. Why are you here?"

"To... Urgh... Get some data from the labs here in the hospital..."

Shamal started laughing lightly. "Sorry about that, we're just a little on edge."

"I... Figured..." The man groaned and stood up unsteadily. "The labs... Are down this hallway... Right?"

"Yep, just keep going and take a left."

"T...Thank you."

Miyuki blinked and looked at Shamal as the doctor was fixing her up. "What was that about?"

"Oh, just some lab work done on various injured and sick people in the last few weeks. The medical group comes in every month and takes our lab results to study and see what they can do about it in the future."

Lindy blinked at her. "Then why didn't they wait for Yuuno to get done and just take his data?"

Shamal shrugged slightly. "Guess they're impatient, plus there's some things we can't release. Data such as his might fall into that."

"Why?"

Shamal shrugged. "Number of reasons, really. Probably the most likely reason would be that if more people had access to how Yuuno ended up here, then we might have even more mages ending up here due to damaged linker cores."

Miyuki frowned. "There's more to it than that, isn't there?"

"You're Nanoha's sister, all right." Shamal smiled slightly. "I was trying not to mention it..."

"Mention what?"

Lindy, Wendi, and Nove looked at Shamal. Miyuki would have done the same, but her injury was still being tended to.

Shamal sighed.

"There are... certain advantages to taking Yuuno as he is now, alive and recovering. It's true that the study team wants to find a way to prevent damage to Linker Cores, but they also want to study the exact effect that damage has on the body. Basically they want to know a mage's breaking point when they have damage, how well they do in battle or in daily life, so on and so forth. Since Yuuno is still alive, they could conduct those kind of experiments and see right away how the changes affect him."

Yuuno twitched slightly. "Uh, do I get any say in this?"

"You wouldn't." Shamal sighed heavily. "That's all I can do for healing, Miyuki." She went and got some bandages. "You'll have to heal naturally on your own."

"I know, thanks, Shamal."

Nove twitched and snarled. "They're no better than Scagiletti... No, wait, they're worse. At least his subjects were dead before." Then again, considering what he did to her and her sisters, he was still inexcusable. "Why does the TSAB have people like that on board anyway?"

"Necessary evil, I'm afraid." Yuuno sighed and looked at Shamal. "Can I go home tomorrow, please?"

"If you don't have a relapse by noon, I won't have too many reasons to hold you. Plus I can put a bell around your neck to monitor you until you fully recover." She smirked at him. "Maybe you should be a ferret while you wear the bell?"

At the mention of his ferret form, Yuuno shuddered. "No," he said, a little too quickly. "No ferret form."

Lindy raised a brow. "I don't remember you hating that form, Yuuno."

"I don't hate it... just one time, I used it while Nanoha and Fate were around, and... yeah," he mumbled awkwardly, leaving the rest to the imagination.

Miyuki snorted quietly with laughter and stood. "Well, I have to head out," she said. "Nanoha's probably sitting on the couch waiting for me." She smiled at Lindy. "You coming, Lindy-san?"

"Sure thing." Lindy smiled at her and walked with her. "Are you going to change your shirt?"

Miyuki shrugged. "I've got some clothes, I can change."

Shamal looked at Yuuno, smirking lightly. "You're just saying that because she bit you one time while dreaming and thinking you were a baked potato."

"Don't remind me." Yuuno groaned, why would Nanoha dream about eating food in her sleep, he wasn't sure.

Shamal laughed lightly and walked out with Nove. "Just call if you need anything, Yuuno."

He sighed and slumped down. "What a night."

Outside, Shamal shook her head. She was really thankful that she could go a long time without getting too tired at that moment. "Please make sure that no one gets in until I come back." The younger cyborgs nodded as Shamal left them.

Dieci looked at her sisters, then at the room, then at her sisters. "Um..."

"Yeah?"

"What do you think will happen now?"

Wendi shrugged, she wasn't sure. "Dunno, I hope someone tries to go in again though." Kicking that guy had been a lot of fun.

"I don't." Nove muttered as she sat next to Wendi and leaned against her slightly. "Dealing with idiots makes me irritable." She hoped that Vivio would show up in the morning. The little girl really did make her day seem brighter, no matter what.

(---)

Wendi, Dieci, and Nove weren't surprised to see Nanoha, Fate and Miyuki right away that morning, even if the three of them still looked very tired, it was after eight and they were up. "Morning." They said as they walked in. "Where's Cinque?"

"Getting us some breakfast." Wendi smiled lightly, her smile increased as she saw Vivio running to them. "Hey, kiddo."

"Hi, Wendi, Nove, Dieci!" She smiled brightly. She had heard her papa was awake and just got extra tired after yesterday.

"Did you have fun at Amy's yesterday?"

Vivio nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, yeah! And then Aunt Miyuki came over and spent the night, but Nanoha-mama was mad at her because she was bleeding."

Miyuki laughed sheepishly and rubbed the back of her neck, wilting slightly as Nanoha aimed another glare in her general direction.

Wendi chuckled and ruffled Vivio's hair. "Tell your mama your aunt got a battle scar protecting your papa," she said lightly. "Nothing to be ashamed of."

"I hear voices," Yuuno called. "Can I get up?"

"Shamal said stay in bed, ferret boy."

"Vita's in there with him?" Suddenly, Nanoha felt a lot better, knowing that Vita would rather die than let Yuuno get hurt again.

Nove nodded and rubbed her head. "She hit each of us over the head and said that she was going to make sure that nothing that could get by us could get to him." She grumbled something about Graf Eisen not being meant to be used the way it was used.

Vivio grabbed Nove's hand and smiled at her. "Aunt Vita's just happy that papa's safe."

Nove chuckled lightly and picked up the little girl. "Yeah, I know... Still hurts though."

"When can he be released?"

"In a few hours." Cinque answered Fate's question as she rolled in a large cart full of food. "Breakfast time."

"I stood up fine last night, Vita," Yuuno grumbled from inside the room.

"You were dead on your feet. Down means down! Oi, stay! Don't make me use Graf Eisen on you!"

Walking up to greet Nanoha and Fate, Shamal cringed. "He's been antsy all night," she murmured. "Didn't sleep well after that whole incident." She looked at Miyuki. "Lift up your shirt."

Miyuki raised a brow.

"I need to check your injury."

Miyuki nodded and turned around, pulling her shirt up, but leaving her front covered. "Sure..."

Shamal nodded as she took the bandages off, they were red, but not horribly so. "Well, still looks bad." She said softly as she cast some more healing magic over it, to stimulate the healing better. "Just don't do anything strenuous for awhile, you'll be fine."

"Of course, mother." Miyuki said, getting laughs from everyone as they settled down to eat some of the food.

"Shamal, can Yuuno-kun come home?"

"I just want to be safe, that's all, Nanoha. I need to get some observation equipment and put on him to watch him for awhile. I think he'll be okay, he just needs to take it easy." At least he could still walk after that injury, which was more than Nanoha could say for herself when she had gotten badly injured.

"Besides," Shamal said with a chuckle, "Vita's having so much fun with him right now."

Remembering the argument they'd heard in the room, Miyuki chuckled while Nanoha and Fate exchanged sheepish looks.

"Yuuno-papa can leave today?" Vivio asked after finishing up her pancakes. She much prefered Nanoha-mama or Aunt Hayate's cooking to this stuff, it was bland, but it filled her.

"Yes." Shamal smiled as she got really excited. "We just need to make sure that he won't pass out on us, make sure that he's got something monitoring him so that he won't get worse, and he can go..." She smirked at Nanoha and Fate. "I suggested a bell around him in his other form... He said something about walking in on you two." She got a laugh as the two of them blushed heavily. "That's gotta be a heck of a story to hear."

"When Vivio isn't around," Nanoha promised as Fate rested her head on her shoulder to hide her blush.

Miyuki slanted her sister a narrow-eyed look. "You never told me about that one."

Shamal chuckled.

"Well, our second option is to Superglue Vita to Yuuno's side, but I don't think he'd appreciate it."

Well, that and Shamal knew that Vita didn't relax too much at night unless she was sleeping with Hayate. The girl never missed an opportunity to sleep with Hayate every chance she got, not that their mistress discouraged her. There were times that Vita's devotion to Hayate was a bit more than platonic, but Shamal would never ask that.

"Four hours is awhile..." Nanoha muttered, but she could wait. It just got boring waiting those four hours.

Shamal laughed softly. "Well, you two didn't have to come straight here, you know."

"That's what I said," Miyuki mumbled, wincing as her wound throbbed briefly.

"We were worried." Fate said, smiling as Vivio took her dirty dishes from her. "Too much happened last night."

Shamal nodded as she finished up working on Miyuki's back. "Nove, will you get Vita to give you some bandages? She knows where they're at in that room."

"Sure."

Shamal smiled as Nove got her some bandages. Maybe she could convince Nanoha, Fate and Yuuno to take a vacation when this was over, they needed one.

After several minutes, Vita stalked out of the room. "For the record, I tried," she growled. She jabbed a finger at Nanoha. "Why couldn't you just run off with Fate? She's much less stubborn than the moron behind me."

The "moron behind her" was Yuuno; looking pale, still a little shaky, but fully dressed except for his bare feet, leaning slightly against the doorway.

It took less than a second for him to be grabbed and held by both Nanoha and Fate, fussing over him as he leaned on them. "Sorry..." He muttered before giving each of them a kiss.

Vivio was holding onto Yuuno's legs. "Papa... Can you come home?"

Shamal sighed and shook her head. "I can't, in good conscious let him go home just yet..." The looks on their faces was tearing at her heart, but she couldn't not yet. "Vita, go get a wheelchair for him."

The redhead nodded and took off.

"Shamal?"

"I can't let him go out of the hospital, but I know you want to spend some time with him, so the very least I can do is let you four walk around..." She smirked as they thanked her. "But you're going to have some guards... Nove, Cinque, Wendi, Dieci... Any of you care to help out?"

It pleased Shamal immensely when all four stepped forward without hesitation.

"What about me?" Miyuki asked.

"Down, girl, I still need to check your wound." Shamal smiled at the small family. "I know you want to spend time together, but don't push him too hard. He's still recovering."


This chapter was emotionally draining.

Lutecia and Megane were staying at Hayate's place and were going to show up later, Subaru and Teana were on their way. Sorry that I didn't cover that in the chapter.