Moving from the stove top, I checked the oven once more to make sure the dinner I was cooking for my daughter wasn't going to be burned while I set the table. Raising Heart told me that it still needed another two degrees before being finished so I nodded and went to get the plates. My daughter had chosen to ignore my first call to dinner so I decided that she was probably too excited about the upcoming dance to notice. I pondered if she had a date yet and flashed back to the few boys who had nervously stood at my doorstep while waiting for Vivio to finish preparing for her date. A light chuckle came and I shook my head, figuring that if Vivio had a date, I'd know by now. I turned my attention back to the baking food and removed it from the oven when my floating device told me to. A few monitors slid away from my view and I smiled down at the perfectly cooked meal. I was pleased with it, and I had improved drastically in my cooking ever since I stepped down from active duty. Turning to look at the stairs leading up to the top half of our house, I tried to contact Vivio again to get her down for dinner. Again my call was ignored, so I started walking to my daughter's room to see what was keeping her.
"Vivio?" Nanoha's voice came as she peeked her head into her teenage daughter's room, seeing the girl laying face down on the bed. "I've been trying to contact Kris for a few minutes now, it's time for dinner."
"I'm not really hungry," the reply was muffled by a feather stuffed pillow. No other words were said, but Nanoha still walked over and sat down on the bed. The teen felt a hand on her back so she moved to rest her cheek onto her pillow. Looking up at the curious expression on her mother, Vivio let out a small sigh. "Mama... I feel strange."
"Tummy ache?" Nanoha asked lightly, trying to remember if she made sure her daughter got her flu shot this year.
"No... It's just..." A small sigh made her hair flutter up and fall back onto her face. "The winter dance is coming up soon, you know?"
Nanoha felt a small frown come onto her face, which was quickly repressed. "Yes?" She tried to sound encouraging, knowing full well that Vivio was wanting to go rather bad.
"I..." Closing her eyes, she tried to voice her feelings. "I got a letter in my shoe locker today."
"Oh?" Nanoha's hand lightly scratched Vivio's back.
"Einhart... She asked me to go with her in a letter..." Reaching out slowly, she pulled the letter from under her pillow and lifted it up.
Nanoha took the letter and looked at it with a smile. The stationary was a bright blue and white with snowflake designs. Perfectly written letters were neatly on the lines in a graceful calligraphy style, making the mother pleased at how much time was spent writing the letter to her daughter. The message itself was rather long, but strangely to the point, addressing the fact that Einhart was humbly requesting a real date. The ending confirmed that a turn down would be understood and respected but wanted the chance to try and develop a closer relationship with her if possible. "It's a lovely letter," Nanoha finally spoke. "She must have written it several times."
"I know," Vivio's voice wasn't very happy, which only made Nanoha more confused.
"Are you afraid it might not end well and hurt your friendship?" Nanoha went back to rubbing her daughter's back encouragingly.
"No, it's not that... I read it after school while waiting for Syn to walk home with me. Einhart ran ahead of course...But..." Red and green eyes turned to look up at her mother. "Syn... asked me to go with her while we were walking home together."
"Oh," Nanoha's eyes widened slightly in realization.
"Syn... doesn't like dances. She actually wasn't planning on going to it at all."
"What made her change her mind?"
Vivio took a long inhale through her nose. "She knew Einhart asked me..." The hand on her back stopped moving, so she confirmed the thought before it could be voiced. "Syn... told me she didn't like the idea of me going with somebody else."
"That's..." Nanoha felt a little bit of annoyance towards the blue haired girl. "Not really a fair thing to say."
"That's just how Syn is," Vivio defended her friend. "It was okay when other people asked me but... She knows Einhart really wanted me to go with her as more than a friend and... I think she's worried that if I start dating Einhart then I won't have time for her anymore. Syn's really girly deep on the inside, even if she doesn't show it. In her own way, she is telling me that she wants to be my significant other without actually saying it."
"I see..." Nanoha wished, more than ever, that becoming a parent came with the answer book to all of her daughter's potential problems. "What do you think about this?"
"I don't know what to think... They're both my best friends, and all at once it just..." Another sigh came and she closed her eyes again, resting on her pillow. "…Became so complicated.""
The mother kept her eyes on her daughter lying on the bed and tried not to sigh as well. "How long do you have to answer?"
"The dance is this weekend."
This time Nanoha gasped. "That doesn't give us long at all!" She thought fast, going over picking out a dress, matching things to go with it since Vivio didn't have any formal wear, and trying to think if they could get her a make-over in time. Once she got over the fact that she was jumping the gun a little bit, she settled down enough to re-address the situation. "Okay... Do you... feel for either of them?" The idea of Vivio going on a date was nothing new to her, as the girl had been out a handful of times with random people, but the thought of her little girl actually developing feelings was something she hadn't pondered on much at all.
Vivio didn't answer at first. Instead, she gave a small hum to encourage the comforting back scratching to resume. After a few moments went by, Vivio opened her eyes to look across her bed and over at the picture on her nightstand that showed her with all of her friends. "The thought of turning either one down and making them sad really makes my chest hurt, but lying to either one also feels bad... Mama... I think I like both of them." Nanoha felt her heart break when Vivio's helpless expression went up at her, honestly expecting for the mother to have the answer ready to give. "What do I do?"
"I... I think..." Nanoha tried to force a smile. "I think right now you are putting too much on yourself. Come downstairs with me and try to eat a little bit and calm down. Once you've had a moment to settle you can look at the situation with a new perspective."
The daughter slowly nodded and pushed herself up from her bed before being helped to her feet. "Okay... I'll give it a try."
Nanoha looked over at her daughter as she started moving the plates from the dining room table to the kitchen. Although Vivio had managed to eat a little more than half her meal, Nanoha knew that she had forced some of it. "Vivio," the name made her daughter look up at her with a sad but attentive face. "I didn't ask, but does Einhart know that Syn asked you as well?"
"Probably," Vivio answered lightly while picking up her plate as well. "Syn's the type to make sure that Einhart wouldn't think she was going behind her back. The two are probably arguing on the phone right now about it."
"I see..." Nanoha offered a weak smile. "Regardless of which one you take, you're going to the dance, right?"
"I... Yeah." Vivio nodded and placed her platter onto the kitchen counter.
"If you think it might be better," Nanoha tried to sooth her daughter a little more by putting her hands onto her shoulders. "You could turn them both down and request to go as friends. The situation won't go away, but it will give you more time to think about this."
"Yes, but..." Vivio let her eyes fall a moment before turning to look over her shoulder and at her mother. "They both addressed me knowing what it could lead to, so I'd feel as if I were running away if I did that."
With a proud smile, Nanoha gave her teenager a squeeze before letting her go. "Okay. In that case, we can go shopping tomorrow to get you all fixed up."
Vivio felt her lips turn up just a little. "Thank you but I don't really think a make-over would fit me. Beauty salons make me feel a little weird."
"Who said we were going to one of them?" Nanoha held up a finger. "I'm going to invite Hayate-chan over." What Vivio thought was a joke made her perk up a little. "Good, you smiled. Don't think that this can't be resolved; I know you'll make the right choice, Vivio." The mother started ushering Vivio to the back door. "Don't stay out too long practicing okay? It's cold outside so be sure to go to the gym tonight."
"Yes mama," Vivio looked over her shoulder and gave a small smile. After a short wave, Vivio left the house and started jogging down the neighborhood. The normal shortcut through a neighbor's yard was taken with permission and she waved to the children still playing in the snow despite the rapidly setting sun. After only a few minutes of jogging, the large building came into view and the blonde doubled her steps to clear the parking lot faster. Once the doors opened she felt a gust of warm air wash over her and a content sigh came out at the feeling. Her ID was scanned to grant her access via Kris flying down over the designated section. Once completely inside the gym she looked around to see if Nove or any of her friends were visible.
When nobody she personally knew was spotted, she nodded to herself in appreciation of being able to practice on her own while thinking on her current situation. Her feet lead her to the changing room and her rented locker was opened so she could change into her gear. The pads and outfit were looked at briefly before being changed into them, bringing back memories of when she had gotten the training gear to begin with. 'Almost a year ago,' she thought back fondly. 'Einhart bought me this because my old training gear started weakening and getting too tight on my growing body...' A soft hue of crimson came to her cheeks. 'It took almost all of her savings to get me the entire set, but she still got it for me despite knowing that my Mama could easily afford it...'
After strapping her protective padding over her arms and flexing her fingers, the teen made her way to the Strike Arts section of the gym. Not many people were on the mats that night, allowing her to easily claim the work out equipment she wanted. A practice dummy was approached and Vivio tapped the wooden arms a few times to test how it spun before slowly increasing her pace. 'Einhart showed me how to use these all those years ago... Nove was always a one-on-one instructor it seems...'
Her movements sped up at a steady pace, slapping the arms of the dummy around and blocking the limbs that came at her. Instinctively the girl lapsed into a Kata, her body moving on its own. 'How long has it been now anyway? ' Her breathing started to get heavier, hands and legs moving faster and harder. 'Several years... I wonder how long ago they started having feelings for me?' Finishing the warm up, she took a step back and inhaled to steady herself. 'I never even noticed...'
A few moments later Vivio found herself practicing other Katas on the mat, moving and twirling her body with grace and ease that came with the years of dedication she had put into her Arts. 'Syn surprised me... I know she really cares about me, but I never knew it could possibly be romantic... I guess my parents started that way as well, they never considered it until Nanoha-mama adopted me.' Relating her situation to her parents gave her a little bit of confidence. 'But Einhart is there as well, and she obviously wants me to take her seriously... I can't even begin to imagine what is going on in her mind. Didn't her ancestor love my original self? She's a descendant, but I'm literally a clone of Olivie... Are her feelings hers or what she thinks are hers? ' Vivio's motions became weaker as her mind wandered. 'She must be worrying so much right now, she's the type to be so strong on the outside but really just wants to be loved on the inside... I hope she isn't waiting by her phone.'
Once her body started to sweat in the warm air of the gym, Vivio decided to simply lift some weights since her mind was losing focus on her movements. Two dumbbells were taken and she positioned her body with her legs slightly apart so she could cross down and touch her toes with the weights. 'Syn is probably thinking about how suddenly she acted, asking me. Are her feelings really love or is she just scared about losing me as a best friend? Fate-mama was worried about Aunt Hayate for a while but they're still so close they're like sisters now... But at the same time, I can't dismiss her as a friend without really knowing what she's thinking.' A long sigh came paired with swapping to another position. 'Just this morning I wasn't worrying about anything other than gently turning down the guys who asked me out, now I'm panicking over which friend I should take... Ugh, I don't even know how I feel about them in a romantic way...'
A look at the large clock on the wall let her know her hour long workout would be ending soon. Replacing her weights, she went back to the locker room to reclaim her clothes and spray her uniform with a spritz bottle of cleaner. Once she wiped her sweat off with a towel, she looked up at Kris. 'I really need to talk to them to find out more before I can decide…'
The cold outside air felt as if it froze the sweat still lingering on Vivio's body. An instant shiver wracked her, making the blonde jog the entire length home. Opening the front door, Vivio was greeted with the scent of fresh wassail brewing and gave a smile at the thought of drinking some. As she walked to the kitchen she heard Nanoha wishing Fate a farewell and saw the monitor close down just as her feet touched the tile on the floor. "Was that Fate-mama?"
"Mm," Nanoha answered with a nod. "I was just... checking in with her."
"I see," moving to inhale the scent of the Christmas time hot drink, she looked at the pink liquid bubbling. "Is it ready?"
"It needs to boil for a while longer. Why don't you run take a shower and get a cup when you're out?"
"Okay," Vivio agreed with those terms and went upstairs to her room to pick out some clothes to change into. Deciding on a festive pair of red pajamas with mistletoe print, she made her way to the bathroom. Moments passed and soon she found herself under the warm spay of water. 'Nanoha-mama was probably asking Fate-mama for advice on what I should do...' Turning around so the water hit her back, Vivio bent over to get some shampoo onto her hands. 'Not even Mama has advice for me... I really do have to figure this out for myself.'
Hot water washed down Vivio's back steadily as she rinsed the soap from her hair in preparation for conditioner. 'I can't put this off very long, the dance is only a few days away... Thank goodness none of us are on the student council overseeing it, so at least no school until then.' Moving her lufa over her shoulders and chest, Vivio leaned back against the shower wall. 'I think I know where Syn stands, but Einhart really shocked me... The way she wrote her letter makes me wonder just how much she cares for me... It almost seems as if she was confused herself, but was serious about wanting me to accept her...' Lifting her head to avoid soap getting into her eyes, she rinsed her hair once more and allowed the water to take the soap off her body as it ran down her skin. After a few more moments of wiping down her body, she cut the water off and pulled the curtains back to step onto the fluffy mat outside the tub.
Ten minutes later, Vivio sat down on her bed and brought a pink mug of wassail to her lips to carefully sip on the scalding liquid. "Ahhn...That's good." The words helped combat the silence of her room. Mis-colored eyes skimmed the area out of habit, skipping from her bookshelf to the rarely ever used gaming system her aunt had spoiled her with. 'Normally I would call my friends to pass the time when not studying or reading.' The thought made her shift back onto her bed and wiggled her legs under the covers to find some warmth. 'Rio and Corona are away with their families, so that leaves Einhart and Syn.' Turning to look at Kris, Vivio asked her question aloud. "What do you think, Kris? Ein or Syn?" Her device raised its right hand up to cast his vote for her. "Einhart, huh?" Leaning against her headboard, Vivio pulled the covers to her waist and took another sip of her drink. "Call her for me?" A monitor appeared before her and Einhart's name came up on it for only a few seconds before the girl's face appeared. 'She really was waiting for a call,' Vivio thought with a smile. "Hey, hope it's not too late for a call?"
"Not at all," Einhart replied back quickly, moving from her desk to her bed. "So... Hi."
"Hi," Vivio felt her cheeks color when her friend fidgeted lightly. "Uhm... I got your letter."
"Mmn," Einhart nodded. "Syn contacted me earlier about it."
"What did she say?"
The silver-green haired girl crossed her legs Indian style and held onto her ankles to get comfortable. "That she asked you as well, and wanted to be honest about it."
"That's Syn for you," Vivio felt herself grinning for a moment.
Einhart looked away shyly. "I hope I didn't upset you today?"
"No, no..." Vivio took a moment to sip on her drink once more. "That's kind of why I called you." Waiting for Einhart to look at her again, Vivio took a steadying breath and shifted the mug in her hands. "It was really sudden... I don't have an answer for you yet but... Can I ask something?" A nod encouraged her to go on. "What made you decide to ask me now of all times?"
"I thought you would ask that," Einhart replied softly. Her own heterochromic eyes looked down at her lap while she shifted nervously on her bed. "I guess it started a while ago, actually. You know how I've had memories from the past?" She glanced up just long enough to see her friend nod. "I always thought that my attraction to you was because of that. I never considered it romantic before, but I've always felt really close to you for some reason... A little while ago I started having dreams again, but this time..." Leaning forward, Einhart looked down even more, the tips of her ears starting to turn red. "They... weren't about Ingvalt and Olivie, but rather...You and me."
Vivio felt shocked by this sudden announcement, but at the same time a little flattered as well. "Oh... I-I see."
"I didn't know how to take it," Einhart continued, now looking up at Vivio on her monitor. "I felt so confused, like my feelings from the past were starting to come into my life now... It was as if my past was haunting me again, like when we first met." A small silence overcame the conversation while the girl tried to steady herself again. "I didn't want that to change how I felt about you, because this is my life, and you are my friend. I guess... That was what made me finally realize that I was so upset because my feelings are real. I want to like you because I like you, and not because my past tells me I should... I'm sorry, this is a lot to put on you all at once. I wrote the letter because I thought it would be a welcome buffer to this conversation."
"I see..." Vivio looked down into her cooling mug of wassail and inhaled its scent deeply while drinking a gulp of it. The warmth soothed her throat and made her sniff lightly. Her spirits lifted a little after hearing her friend's full thoughts and the uneasiness of it lessened just a little. "Thank you for being honest with me."
"I hope I didn't offend you?"
"No, not at all... I'm still just a little shocked by everything. But," She smiled at Einhart honestly. "I feel better now, knowing how you really feel. I don't have an answer for you right now, but I promise I will think about it, okay?"
"Yes," Einhart felt a large weight lift off of her shoulders. "Thank you, Vivio. I'm sorry you got put in such an awkward situation because of me."
"Don't apologize for that, it's not your fault." Vivio shook her head lightly. "Is it okay if I give you an answer in a day or two?"
"Yes," A nod came with her reply. "I'm sure you have lots to think about, and not just me. Just know that I respect you very much and... If you say no, then I hope our friendship won't suffer from this."
Vivio felt her blush return, and she spoke back in a soft tone. "If I did say no, I would still feel closer to you than before, Einhart." Her words made her friend look surprised for a moment before calming down and smile sweetly at her.
"You're the best friend a girl could ask for, Vivio."
"Thank you." Vivio sat her mug on her headboard and smiled at Einhart honestly. "I'm going to sort my feelings out as well, please be patient for me?"
"Okay. I'm sure Syn will understand as well, so don't put so much pressure on yourself on our accounts. We talked earlier and agreed that if you wanted to put this off, we would both understand."
'Nanoha-mama understands my friends more than I thought,' Vivio felt her spirits lift just knowing that she would be alright after this was over. "Okay. I'll talk to Syn a little later as well. For now, I think I'm just going to get a little bit of rest. It's been an exciting day, ne?"
Einhart nodded in agreement. "It has, I almost had a heart attack after I finally slid the letter in your shoebox." The two shared a giggle together at the thought. "I'll talk to you later, Vivio. Sweet dreams."
"You too, Ein." Giving each other a small wave, the communication was cut off. 'That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.' Vivio shifted so she could lay down in her bed, letting Kris cut off the lights for her. "Tomorrow Nanoha-mama will want to take me shopping... I wonder what I should wear to the dance"
Vivio felt a small shaking to her shoulder and groggily opened her eyes. Nanoha was smiling down at her with the morning sun outlining her figure. "Wake up sleepy head," She teased happily. "You slept in an hour already."
"But," Vivio's voice was a little rasp from having been just woken up. "I don't have any plans today."
"We're going shopping." Nanoha went to Vivio's closet to pick out some clothes for her. "You need a dress, right?"
Realizing that her mother was right, Vivio nodded and rubbed her eyes. "I do; thanks Mama." She was handed a snug fitting black long sleeved shirt and a pink fleece vest to go on top of it. The clothes were given to her last Christmas by Fate, and the daughter had deemed them one of her favorite combos for winter wear. Taking them, she plucked a pair of blue jeans from the back of her computer desk chair. "I'll be down in just a bit."
"Okay, but don't take too long, we have a lot of shops to hit today." Nanoha closed the door behind herself.
Almost fifteen minutes later Vivio found herself looking out the passenger window of the family car. Although she didn't really need a car herself, she rather liked the sporty looking van that her parents had swapped a sports car for. She could barely remember Fate driving a customized black car that she heard was rather fast. When they began going places as a group, however, the two seater car just couldn't handle it anymore. After some conversing with Nanoha, Fate had made the swap and decided that it was time that she realized she wasn't a teenager anymore. The memory made Vivio grin to herself and she looked over to her mother. "Ne, where are we going?"
"Well," Nanoha made a motion at a stop sign to let the people standing on the sidewalk know she would wait for them to cross. "It's a formal dance, right?" A light hum let her know she was right. "Well then we'll go to the shop that normally supplies the dresses for our formal meetings at the base. They have a really huge selection and know me."
Vivio looked back out the window, voicing her thoughts aloud. "You always rent dresses, why don't you just buy one?"
"Because I need to wear different ones depending on the situation and atmosphere. If I'm going to escort someone as a bodyguard, then my dress needs to match their suit. This is so much easier."
"Oh... that makes sense." The girl leaned back in her seat. "I'm glad at least one of us has experience. I never thought about it before, but my clothes are a little tom boyish."
"You don't need dresses to practice Strike Arts, come onto the military base, or even work out for that matter. It makes sense not to have one." Nanoha blinked, suddenly realizing something. "Your ears aren't pierced either, are they?"
"No?" Vivio looked at her mother. "I wasn't really planning on having it done."
"Are you not going to wear earrings to the dance?"
"They are so tacky though." Nanoha teased. "Come on, don't be scared."
"I-I'm not scared!" Vivio puffed out her cheeks and crossed her arms. "I just never thought about it before." Looking back out the window, she watched cars go by in the town. 'But the girls were so serious about this, and Einhart probably wrote her letter so many times...Maybe I should do a little something extra.' A light sigh came out. "Okay, I'll think about it."
Nanoha seemed pleased at the thought of her daughter growing up a little more, even if the situation was a little forced on her. "I have some really pretty ones you would love." Her wrist flicked the blinker on and she parked the car in front of a classy store with large glass frontal windows. "Here we are."
"Mama..." Vivio got out of the car and had to trot a few steps to catch up. "This place looks really expensive."
"I have military discount, come on." She gave a playful wink and opened the door for her daughter. "What did you have in mind?"
"I don't know, I was just expecting to wear something nice before I had a date." Looking around, she tried to take in the absurd amount of formal attire. "Oh wow..." Nanoha took a bright pink dress off of a rack and held it up to show to Vivio, who smiled nervously. "Mama, I like pink, but I don't think it will match anybody's dress at the dance…"
"I guess you're right." Nanoha put it back down and smiled at a saleswoman who offered to help them. "My daughter needs a dress for a school sponsored, winter themed dance at the church."
The woman nodded happily. "I see. Well then, miss, did you have anything specific in mind?"
Vivio gave a helpless grin. "I really don't know."
"Well then, my name is Tasha and I will help you find out just what you want." The woman inspected Vivio. "Do you know your size?" Getting a shaking of the head, Tasha reached to her hip to pull out some measuring tape for tailoring. "Well I guess we'll start here."
Nanoha nodded at Vivio as the teen was lead away to a place with more room and began inspecting different types of dresses that she thought would look nice on her daughter. A few were picked up and inspected before being placed back down and taking note where they went so she could find them later. A few moments passed and Vivio came back to her, slightly red in the face. "Always fun to find out exactly how big you are isn't it?" Nanoha teased her at once.
"Not funny." Vivio pouted, still blushing. "She said there were a lot of dresses to fit my figure, but I would have to have one tailored to me if it was too tight... around my chest."
Nanoha nodded, expecting this. "You did develop rather fast; I guess it makes up for my size." Ignoring her daughter's sudden fit about saying something like that aloud, Nanoha put a hand on her hip. "Okay, time to make up your mind so we can start. What style?"
"I... don't know." Vivio shifted nervously. "What do you mean style?"
"Do you want something to show off your curves? Something to draw attention to yourself, do you want to blend in, or have people compliment you?"
"I guess something that stands out a little."
Nanoha nodded, putting a hand to her chin. "Show any skin?"
"Well..." Vivio felt the blush already on her cheeks grow just a little worse. "Yes, a little bit, but..." She crossed her hands over her chest. "I'm a little shy about anything with cleavage..."
Nanoha nodded. "Good, saves me worry as a mama." Catching Tasha's eye, she got attention and gave her request. "Can we see your backless dresses in her size?" The two were lead over to a section of the wall and were shown what area Vivio would be interested in. "Thank you," Nanoha smiled and started looking along with her daughter. "Color?"
"Uhm... Well, black fits me."
"Just like Fate-mama," Nanoha mused.
Vivio looked at the selection embarrassedly, picking out dress after dress to observe before replacing it. Several minutes passed by quickly as a handful of them were picked out before being tried on one by one. Despite being embarrassed by being turned into a dress-up doll, Vivio found herself actually enjoying the time spent with her mother. Comments and advice was given freely, turning into happy chatter while changing clothes. It only seemed like a little while for the excited girl, but when she found a dress that she simply loved, she realized that she had been trying on clothes for almost an hour and a half. "Thank you, Mama," Vivio spoke up while putting on the new dress. "For spending so much of your day off with me."
"That's why I took a vacation day," Nanoha waved it off while waiting outside of the little dressing room Vivio was changing in. After a few more moments, Nanoha started to giggle at the frustrated sounds coming from the room. "Having trouble?"
"I can't get it to clip," Vivio mused with another small grunt. "Can you help me?"
"Sure," Nanoha waited for the door to click and slipped in quickly. Vivio was standing before her in a black dress that went to her mid thigh, but had several layers coming from the sides of her waist that went down in a fashionable wave before peaking at the girl's knees to give it a much more modest appearance. The fabric clung to her sides and flared out for her chest before turning up into a mimic of the lower design for her neck to cover more of her breasts. "It looks fantastic," Nanoha breathed out.
"I can't get it to clasp behind me," Vivio turned around, showing the back of her dress. The design was almost the same as the front, but was a lot smoother, running to the back of her knees before going up just enough to cover her rear before splitting to show her entire back. Her sides were covered up to the base of her shoulder blades before the black fabric started to very gently arc back to close together in a small clasp right at the base of Vivio's neck. Nanoha took the sides from her daughter and clipped it together easily for her. Turning around, Vivio observed herself in the mirror while voicing her thanks. A small pose was struck and she turned, beaming at her revealed back and the daring design that dipped so low. "Oh wow… I love it, mama!"
"It fits you," Nanoha agreed, letting Vivio turn around for her. "Are you sure about the back? We can use pins to make it close sooner."
"No, I like it," Vivio looked again, pulling the back down just a scant inch to reveal her panties, then covered them while tracing the noticeable line. "Hmmm…"
"You won't notice once you're in a thong."
"Oh," Vivio nodded. "I see-wait did you say thong?"
"Of course, you'll be able to see the lines otherwise, and you might flash your panties if you have a normal pair." The mother nodded. "Don't worry, Victoria is on the way so it'll only take a second."
"I-I'm not wearing a thong!" Vivio whispered in a nervous tone.
"Oh grow up," Nanoha teased her with a touch to her nose. "You won't even tell you're wearing one."
"A-anyway," Vivio looked back at the mirror. "What about my breasts? They…" She hopped in place, frowning at the complete lack of support. "Ugh."
Nanoha couldn't help but giggle again, making Vivio demand not to be teased. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Nanoha waved her hands in an apologetic motion. "We'll have to get you a special bra for this dress." Turning the girl around, she inspected the revealed skin. "Looks like we'll have to go the adhesive route."
"I'll show you later, it's a bra that doesn't have straps or go around to your back." With that confusing statement, Nanoha crossed her arms to give Vivio a once over again. "Is this the one you want?"
"Yes," Vivio agreed instantly. "I love it."
"Okay," Nanoha put both hands on her hips. "We'll get you some matching things and complete the outfit. I'll put the other dresses up, you change back okay?" She got a hug for a reply and the mother couldn't help but smile to herself.
Vivio looked around the store nervously, her eyes skimming the different type of earrings available to her. Nanoha was beside her, bent over slightly to look at the display case closer to eye level. A few different types were pointed out and the younger girl finally decided on a simple pair of emerald studs. Only a few moments later and Vivio found herself sitting down on an uncomfortable stool, waiting for the store clerk to finish prepping a gun looking device that she didn't trust at all. "This won't hurt, right?" She had to ask. Pain wasn't new to her, having been beaten up more than a few times in sparring sessions, but she had developed her mother's fear of needles one hundred fold. The thought of having them shot through her ears was a little less than pleasing, and each second that ticked by made her question her choice of having this done.
"It will sting for a second, then won't hurt at all." The clerk replied simply, putting a small dot on Vivios' ears to make sure she was centered. Putting the gun by the blonde's head, she smiled. "Ready?"
"Yes," Vivio closed her eyes, heard a clicking sound rather loudly in her ear, and jumped slightly at the feeling. When the woman pulled away from her, she meekly opened her eyes and blinked a few times. "That's it?"
"Mmhmm." The woman moved to Vivio's second ear and repeated the process. "There, all done."
Vivio nodded and slid off the stool in favor of looking into the mirror, turning her head both ways to see the sparkling gems now in her ears. "Hey... they're pretty. What do you think, Mama?"
Nanoha gave an approving smile. "They look great. I'm glad you picked the green ones instead of the diamonds."
"Well, I like green." Vivio walked over to her mother but stumbled a little bit. "Oh wow..."
"I felt a little dizzy my first time too," Nanoha mused with a teasing grin. "Here, let's get you out so you can sit down a little bit." After paying, Nanoha lead Vivio outside of the store in the strip mall and helped her sit down onto a bench. "Give it a second, just please don't faint like Fate-chan did."
"She fainted?" Vivio seemed highly amused at the mental image.
"Oh yes, it was the cutest thing ever. She stood up from the chair, took two steps, and fell right onto her face. Managed to knock off a woman's shoe next to her, not quite sure how."
Vivio covered her mouth and gave a small giggle. "Wow, I never knew." Before she could say anything else she heard a familiar voice call her name. Turning to look, she saw Syn walking over to her with the usual grin on her face. "Syn!"
"Hey-ya." She waved lightly. "Hello, Nanoha-san."
"Hello, Syn," Nanoha replied back in turn. Her eyes quickly glanced at the two girls and her smile turned into a knowing look. "Vivio, I need to go in that store for a while; stay seated for a bit okay?" She got a nod and the mother excused herself in favor or heading into a store she didn't have any interest in so her daughter could have some privacy.
Syn sat down next to Vivio and leaned forward a bit. "You feel a bit awkward?"
"A little, but I'm not going to run away from you over it." Vivio smiled at her friend.
"Thanks... Sorry about this, by the way."
Vivio shook her head, her breath fogging as she spoke. "Don't be. You did what your heart wanted you to, so I can't get upset over that." She gave a small chuckle. "But did you have to spring it on me right after I was recovering from Einhart?"
"Yeah," Syn gave a light laugh as well and rubbed her hands together between her knees. "That all happened so fast."
"...Ne, Syn?" The blonde looked over at her friend again. "Can I ask... what really made you suddenly do that?"
Syn let out a loud sigh, the white mist fanning away from her face as she exhaled. "It was like I told you... We've been together for so long, I just never realized how close we were until something could come between us."
"Even if I did date Einhart, she wouldn't come between us. We're all still friends."
"Not just that..." Syn replied back softly. "It's... I just want to be the one closest to you, you know? Like your parents are, I suppose."
"They were best friends for so long, always there for each other... To the point where you started calling them both your mama, even though you knew that Fate-san really wasn't. That kind of relationship with a friend is special, and... when I thought about having it, I could only picture you by my side."
Vivio nodded slowly and looked down at the ground between her feet. "So when Einhart asked to take that spot...?"
"I got... jealous." Syn snorted. "Yeah, me, jealous. Who would'a thought?" The joke made the two give a small laugh. "I'm sorry, I know that this probably made you see our friendship in a different way."
"No, you're still the same. Well, a little different because of you wanting to make our friendship a little... deeper." The word made her cheeks color slightly. "But you're still my best friend, and I know you wouldn't ever do anything to take advantage of that, right?"
"Of course. Hey, I never even thought about it until this happened. I guess I was just... waiting for it to come naturally."
"Yeah." Vivio smiled over at her. "Thanks for telling me."
"Welcome." The two gripped each other's hands for a moment to give a small reassuring squeeze. "I talked to Einhart about this as well. She knows I asked you and is okay with it. She wanted me to follow my feelings just like she did, and we both promised that if you picked one of us or not, we would still be good friends and support each other."
"Wow, what did I do in a past life to deserve you two?"
"Ruled a country?" The remark got Syn a slap upside the head. "Hehe, I'm sorry, I had to- did you get your ears pierced?"
Vivio rolled her eyes. "Thanks for noticing."
Syn smirked and stood up when her mother came walking over to her along with Nanoha. "Seems like it's time for us to split up. I'll talk to you later?"
"Mmm, I'll call you later... with my answer, okay?"
"No pressure." Syn told her honestly.
After a quick greeting and a little small talk to Syn's mother, Vivio and Nanoha said their goodbyes and started walking down the rest of the strip mall. "Anything else you want to get while here, Vivio?" Nanoha asked curiously.
"Ah, well," Vivio put a finger to her chin. "I need some shoes since all I have are sneakers... and a purse since I won't have any pockets...I don't know, maybe a bracelet or a necklace or something?"
Nanoha hummed. "I think that would be wise." With a bump of her hips, she sent Vivio steering into a shoe store.
"What kind do I get?" Vivio mused while looking. "I don't need heels, but my purse should match my shoes as well, right?"
The mother grinned to herself. "I see." Vivio didn't catch the knowing tone in her voice, so Nanoha let it go. "There are some pretty flat shoes, or maybe some with one inch heels if we can't find any to match..."
Only a few minutes passed before Vivio found a pair on display that caught her eye. "Mama, look at this." Holding up the simple black shoe, she nodded to herself. "It matches my dress perfectly, doesn't it?"
"Sure does." Nanoha gave her approval. "And it's even flat bottom, wow you got lucky these are really hard to find in dress shoes. They have purses over on the wall over there as well, go take a look while I get this in your size okay?"
"Thank you, Mama." Vivio went to the far wall of the store and skimmed the many different types of purses hanging on hooks. 'I need a black one...' Skimming more, she looked at a few closer before grabbing a fifth one that seemed to fit her needs. 'It's not too large, looks pretty, is kind of formal... I like it. Not like I'm going to wear it anywhere else besides the dance, so it's okay to buy it just for this reason, right?' Taking it, she turned to head back to her mother, who was just being handed a box of shoes. "Mama, I want this one."
"Oh, nice choice." Nanoha complimented while leading them to the check out. "I have some jewelry at home if you want to go through it?"
"Well, I'd rather..." Vivio shifted nervously, knowing full well that her mother had already spent a ton of money on her today. "I'd rather have my own... I'll pay for it with my allowance over the next few weeks, I promise!"
The mother giggled and lead Vivio out of the store with their bags in tow. "Come on, let's get you something nice."