Valentine Yaris tapped her foot impatiently.

The vagaries of interdimensional transit had never been her favorite part of travel. Her husband Marc was a "numbers guy," not unnaturally for a man who dealt in the world of business law, of equity stakes and debt-asset ratios and return on investments and other financial esoterica. He could sit down with a travel schedule and plan out which combination of teleports and ship travel would take a person from World A to World B in the shortest possible time within twenty minutes, half an hour at the most.

Yaris just knew that if she wasn't on board the Fortune when it left, she'd be on Andorel for another eleven days before a window opened up to transport back home to Mid.

It had been four days already since the capture of Blake Montana. The pending charges were going to be interesting. On the one hand, his motive for stealing the Circlet had been essentially what the Enforcers had suspected, a desperate attempt to resurrect the memories of his late wife. Ironically enough, it seemed that Thessidor, too, had lost his own wife a few months before he created the Circlet, having built it for virtually the same reason as Montana had wanted to use it. Quite possibly it was this sympathy of emotion that had led to Thessidor's feelings being unlocked within the Circlet's record, fueling the steady blending of perception and memory that had engulfed Montana. By the end, he'd barely been able to tell reality from illusion, present from past. He certainly hadn't intended any violent acts.

On the other hand...unintended consequences were pretty much inevitable when dealing with Lost Logia. That was why the Bureau had laws restricting their use. Like yelling "fire" in a crowded building, while the act itself might be harmless, the consequences were sufficiently predictable that banning the act was the only sensible course.

Throw in acute grief and clinical depression, and the fact that by the time the Enforcers had arrived to arrest him at the spaceport he'd been in no mental state to acknowledge them let alone choose to surrender into custody, and the matter looked more and more like a mess for the attorneys to sort out.

"I'm sorry I'm late, Val!" Fate called, hurrying up to her. "They stopped me at the exit screening because the guards wanted to thank us for saving everybody." Yaris had both of their suitcases as well as a large shoulder bag with souvenirs; Fate had only a single piece of luggage: the Circlet of Thessidor itself. Yaris grinned at her.

"And now you know why I had you carry the Lost Logia and hence get dragged through the extra security checks."

"I thought you were just being nice to take the bags!"

"One of the perks of being the senior operative is getting to save the cushy jobs for myself. Just think, in another five or six years it'll be your turn to foist off the public relations problems on your aide."

Shyly, Fate returned her grin.

"So you don't like dealing with people after a case?"

"No way. If the case was a failure, then they all want your head. And if it was a success like this one, then all the gratitude and stuff is completely embarrassing. Of course, then there are the ones who get mad at you either way, like the protestors at the museum yesterday who were angry about the TSAB taking away a piece of Andorelan heritage."

"Don't they understand that it's dangerous, and that until our researchers can make sure it can be used safely it shouldn't be left where this incident could be repeated? We were really lucky there was just some property damage and only three people injured enough to need more than on-scene first aid!" Those people hadn't been hurt by Montana's magic directly but by debris and shrapnel. One man had been in critical condition when they got him out of the crumpled wreck of his car, but the emergency medical team had gotten him stabilized and to the hospital in time to save him.

"Well, it's like Dr. Accord said. Passionate ideals and extremism are pretty standard for the university years."

"I wonder if I'll be like that when I'm their age."

"I doubt it. By that time you'll have been a serving Bureau clerk for eight to ten years. It's hard to hide in an ivory tower when you've been out in the real world for half your life. And as for passionate ideals, well..." She let go of one of the suitcase handles so she could reach out and ruffle Fate's hair. "You've got those now, don't you?"

Fate blushed hotly, her eyes dropping, and Yaris couldn't help but smile.

"I just hope that I can get better at investigations," Fate said. "I nearly derailed the entire case that first time, and I didn't even notice about Professor Montana's defenses and that was in combat, where I supposedly know what I'm doing."

"You had some pretty good ideas that helped us identify him, though, and let us start looking before he started blowing up stuff. And don't forget that without you there's no way we could have stopped him without anyone getting killed. That's pretty good for your first official job." Yaris tugged on one of Fate's pink ribbons. "Looks like the luck came through for you."

Fate's blush hadn't gone away, but it was renewed even more brightly than before.

"Besides, at least you're trying to learn. That's more than I see from a lot of hotshot rookies. Heck,, even I learned a few things on this case and I've been doing this for over a decade."

"Really? What did you learn?"

"Well, for one thing, that babysitting jobs don't all have to suck."

~X X X~

A/N: As is so often the case, I'd like to thank everyone at the AnimeSuki Nanoha Fanfiction Thread for being the guinea pigs for my draft chapters of this story and for all their helpful suggestions and beta-reading. Seriously, without their useful input, chapters 5 and 6 would have contained a number of serious clunkers and distractions, so thanks a lot!

~X X X~

Vivio's Magical Omake Theater!

"So whattya think, Vivio? Is she your type?"

Vivio and Corona both blinked at their dark-haired friend.

"Um...what are you talking about, Rio?"


"Is she my type of what?"

"Girlfriend! Geez, Vivio, I've seen your grades; you're supposed to be smarter than this!"

"Well...I'm not really sure I'm ready to start thinking about girlfriends yet..."

Rio sighed. "Bor-ing!"

"...but if I did, I don't think it would be Ein."

"Why not?" Corona asked.

"Well...she's shy and has trouble expressing her feelings...and she gets into fights with my friends and me but not for bad reasons...and she's haunted by the influence of someone else's memories that she carries around in her mind."

Helpfully, Sacred Heart floated over and pulled his ears down so he looked like a lop-eared bunny.

"Thanks, Cris! And there's the way she wears her hair in twintails, too. I mean, I'm not really sure what my 'type' is or even if it's girls or boys just yet, but...going out with Ein would be just like dating Fate-mama!"