A/N: I wasn't planning on a third, but the idea was too good to pass up…

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VIVIO'S QUEST FOR UNDERSTANDING

by Shadow Crystal Mage

Chapter 3: "Gender Roles" or "Vivio Learns How To Cook"

Disclaimer: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha does not belong to me. I'm making no money off this.

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Vivio looked at the results of her career assessment test, feeling strangely hollow. For most girls her age, being declared the new champ of the Inter-Middle, having their own religion for all intents and purposes at her back and call, with a loving, supportive family, close friends, and enough raw magical power to qualify her for a limiter unless she actually joined a branch of the TSAB was living the dream. It was a dream considerably sweetened by the results in her hands, which pegged her as having high aptitudes in several fields such as high-energy particle research, applied high-energy magic, professional Strike Artist, Enforcer, Ace Combat Mage… it was literally every little girl's dream, all tied in one neat little package.

So why, despite all this, did she feel strangely unenthused by it all?

She glanced at the other paper in her hands. She had been too embarrassed to get it herself, and had eventually begged Shamal to get it for her, since the older woman could pass it off as being for her son. She'd found a confidante in the other woman, who despite being a military doctor had been into some surprisingly un-feminine things. Vivio had been startled at this revelation. The Belkan Knights and their leader, the classically feminine Queen of the Night Sky, had always seemed to her pillars of womanhood (and in Zaffy's case, manhood). She had this image, one romanticized by the popular media— to whom the old Belkan Wars were less a political and religious sticking point and more of a great setting for adventure shows and dramas and would you people please get over it already— of warrior women who were one with their weapon and were everything one should strive to be. Still, as Shamal had said, those had been wars, and in wars everyone was needed everywhere, and not just where they were 'traditionally' supposed to be, and she had picked up some skills that were both useful and not considered suited for ladies. And she'd found she was good at it, and she had nothing to be ashamed off.

"Tell your parents," Shamal had advised her when she'd given her the paper and Vivio was fretting about how to get both the 'Parents Permission' signature and how to find a way to pay for it. "I'm sure they'll understand. Your Nanoha-mama might be more understanding than you think…"

Vivio wondered if Shamal had been making fun of her. After all, though she did the cooking at home, Nanoha-mama was the most womanly woman Vivio knew. Her dishes were always simple, though delicious, and Vivio figured it was just a remnant from being raised on a magicless backwater like Unadministered World 97. Her Fate-mama, who had had a traditional Mid-Childan upbringing, could barely cook at all except to make tea and coffee, but given how she didn't so much as bat an eye at what Nanoha-mama did, Vivio figured she should be a little more receptive.

Vivio swallowed, and decided to take the plunge. Her parents loved her after all. She knew that, trusted that, had made it the cornerstone of her universe. Still, she couldn't help but feel she might be putting that love to the test…

...

"Okay, sure. I'll sign it after dinner. Just tell me how much you need." So saying, Nanoha went back to eating the food Fate had brought home. Vivio and Fate just stared at her, speechless. She blinked owlishly at them. "What? Do I have something on my face?"

"Nanoha-chan!" Fate said. "How can you be so casual about something like this?" She turned to her daughter, staring at her like she'd grown a second head, or revealed she was actually an unregistered futanari, which was closer to the reaction Vivio had been expecting. "Vivio-chan, this isn't because I'm away from home all the time, is it?"

Nanoha sighed. "Fate-chan, you really need to work on your self-esteem issues. Not everything is about Vivio rejecting you as her mother. In fact, NOTHING is ever about Vivio rejecting you as her mother."

As Vivio blinked, several of her Fate-mama's weird bouts of depression suddenly making more sense, a blushing Fate retorted, "Nanoha-chan! Don't treat this subject so lightly!" She turned back to Vivio with worry-filled eyes. "Vivio-chan! Why would you want to go to such a class?" The incomprehension in her mothers' eyes made Vivio want to squirm.

Nanoha blinked, looking back and forth between them with confusion. "Fate-chan? What's wrong? It's just a cooking class."

Just a cooking class. Life was so unexpected. The mama she'd expected to make the most fuss seemed to think nothing of it, while the mama she thought would be supportive was… well, making a big fuss.

"'Just a cooking class'?" Fate repeated, sounding as surprised as Vivio felt. At Nonoha's still-befuddled look, she apparently realized there'd be no help there, and turned back to Vivio. "Vivio-chan, I realize I'm not home a lot, but that doesn't mean I don't love you. You don't have to do this to get my attention."

Vivio took a deep breath. "I'm not doing this for that, Fate-mama. I… I want to learn how to cook!"

Nanoha held up a finger, still looking lost. "I feel I'm missing important context here…"

Fate sighed. "Nanoha, I know you were raised differently on Earth, but on Mid-Childa, cooking is something men do. It's unbecoming for women to do something so masculine."

"It… is?" Nanoha said, blinking slowly.

Fate nodded. "Women are supposed to do things like high-energy particle research, win Strike Arts Championships, things like that. Men do archaeology, library sciences, cooking... You know, guy things."

Nanoha stared… and stared… and stared…

The next half hour was spent trying to keep Nanoha from asphyxiating as she laughed herself sick.

...

She had, at the last minute, chickened out.

"Now, you can come home any time you want, Vivio-chan," Fate said to her gently. "You don't have to push yourself. We'll understand."

Nanoha looked as she had whenever this subject came up ever since Vivio had announced her intentions: desperately trying to keep from breaking out into maniacal laughter. Both members of her family felt slightly affronted by this, feeling she was mocking them. "Fate-chan, it's going to be all right. The worse that can happen is a grease fire, maybe a first degree burn, or a small cut from one of the knives. And Kris here will see to it that doesn't happen, won't you Kris?"

The little Device on Vivio's shoulder saluted. In deference to the fact that Vivio was in disguise, the usual rabbit shell had been exchanged for a suitably masculine turtle. In deference to the fact he was still Vivio's, it was still soft plush, usable as a pillow.

Vivio herself was quite cleverly disguised as a boy. At least, she felt she was. Her long blonde hair was all hidden under a large, bag-like cap with a little feather-shaped badge pinned just above the brim. A pair of goggles hung around her neck, partially to obscure the fact she had no bump on her throat. Yuuno had recommended it, along with the rest of her outfit. The shoes and fingerless gloves were plain and unisex enough, but the blue cape and mantle were definitely boy fashions, along with the matching cape-tie broaches and apron. The rest of her outfit was pretty plain by boy standards, though Yuuno had lent her some of his old belts and belt pouches, and even Vivio, who claimed ignorance as to the strange intricacies of male fashions that made it unacceptable to wear white after Effort Day, could tell they were on the plain side, almost girly. Then again, her uncle Yuuno was a bit on the feminine side…

As Vivio looked around the class at all the boys in their more worn but more fashionable hats, coats, capes, mantles, vests, waistcoats, aprons, and lace-trimmed shirts, all chatting and comparing their haircuts and manicures, she wondered if she'd be able to pull this off. She sighed. She just wanted to learn how to cook, darn it! Why did things have to be so complicated?

...

Vivio had planned to leave as soon as class was over. The less contact she had with people in class, the less likely she'd be found out. Her personality, however, wasn't the kind to coldly shoulder away people who made friendly overtures towards her, and all the boys had been very friendly. They'd said very nice things about her outfit despite the fact even Vivio was wiling to acknowledge it probably looked like she was trying too hard to look 'in'. They'd called Kris 'cool', and commented about the excellence of his stitching and the fluffiness of the material. They'd invited her out to tea and cake, and she'd listened attentively as they talked about the summer catalogue and what the star of the latest spy thriller movie was wearing.

Being a boy, Vivio decided, was a lot of work.

...

"-— so after the next class, we're going out for manicures," Vivio finished telling Yuuno. She looked at her fingernails and sighed. "I don't really see the point of manicures, though. I mean, it's just going to get scuffed up when we're practicing Strike Arts!"

Yuuno smothered the urge to laugh maniacally, something he and Nanoha had been coaching each other on a lot recently. "Well, it's not really something meant to last," Yuuno said. "It mostly about the psychological effect. Sometimes it's nice to be pampered, and while it lasts, you have to admit it does look good."

Vivio still looked at her nails skeptically. "I guess… still, all the money boys waste on stuff like this! Nails and scarves and capes and hats and whips and the latest teacup designs... Okay, I understand the teacups, they're pretty nice, but still..."

Yuuno patted her reassuringly. "Well, understanding the teacups is the first step," he said.

Vivio looked at him sideways. "Uncle Yuuno, do you get manicures?"

"Sometimes," Yuuno admitted. "I'm getting one later with a friend, in fact. But with me, it's mainly because I need to keep my fingers neat. Just a trim and maybe a polish, that's all. I need to keep them from getting caught on things." He showed Vivio his fingers, as if to demonstrate. For her part, she couldn't see why he thought he'd need it. They looked pretty clean to her. Still, best not to say so…

"By the way," Yuuno said. "Did you happen to bring that summer catalogue? I need a new cape and whip…"

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- END!

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A/N: for those who don't get the joke, this is an EXTREME parody of how gender roles seemed to be reversed in the Nanoha-verse, with Acceptable Feminine Goals starting at 'Ace TSAB Captain' and going up from there, while the boys *cough*Yuuno*cough* have increasingly non-action roles that in another shonen series would be pushed on a female character.

Let us just, for the sake of humor and the space of this one chapter, pretend Fate can't cook, shall we?

Semi-canon manga anthologies had shown that Fate has self-esteem issues regarding her closeness to Vivio. Check out the various Nanofate translations for more info...

Also, the reason Yuuno has such a girly haircut is because he IS a bit feminine, what with all the combat…

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EPILOGUE

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Yuuno was midway through his manicure when his friend finally arrived. "Hey," he greeted. "You're late."

"Sorry," Nanoha said, voice mildly deeper and masculine under the spell she'd mastered long ago to disguise it. "It's exam season. There was more paperwork than usual." She expertly flicked her cape over the back of the chair of the stylist's station and held out her had for her usual stylist. Her hair was hidden under hair large, floppy hat. "So, what's new?"

Hey, she was an Earth girl, after all…

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Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.