WARNING: The following contents follow the Rule of Crack, defined as the assumption that each character is high to explain any illogical behaviour. Further out-of-characterness should be reported to the author. Viewer discretion is advised.
Note: This is a sequel to "You Never Lose By Loving" and "Lose by Holding Back". Prerogative of the Brave takes place immediately following "You Never Lose By Loving". Reading those two shorts first would probably help with the confusion from new readers of why a teenage Vivio is chasing after an adult Hayate ^_-…
Prerogative of the Brave
"A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave."
Rein stared at the yelling brunette in front of her, both puzzled and alarmed at the exclamation. "Um, on vacation? Hayate-chan had said she was feeling a little tired and so she asked me to apply for a week's vacation for her…"
"You mean she ran away?" Nanoha steamed, crossing her arms and narrowing her blue-gray eyes into dark slits. It was the White Devil look that never failed to have her enemies and students cower in fear from her compassionate anger—Nanoha's had many years to perfect it. "How could she just run away like that? People can't work things out if they won't even speak to each other!"
"Ran away from what?" Rein was beginning to feel like she was on a whole different plane of conversation than Nanoha…
"Nothing!" Vivio quickly jumped in before her mother could say anything. The blonde teenager was nearly entirely red in the face, and she twitched towards the door as if hoping that she could slink out unnoticed. Rein saw Vivio glance over Hayate's desk and look disappointed when she didn't see whatever she was looking for. Peering at Vivio bemusedly, Rein suddenly felt things click.
"Oh, you mean Hayate-chan ran away from—"
"Nothing!" yelped Vivio, ducking her head. Now her ears were burning just as red as her hidden face. "Nanoha-mama…it's really fine. I mean…" an unbearably sad tone crept into the young woman's voice, "Hayate-san has been working really hard lately, and so she deserves some off time away from…from all this."
Rein exchanged a look with Nanoha.
Then they exchanged wide, toothy grins.
…Vivio was starting to get an uneasy feeling about all this.
It had been so long since Hayate had done multiple teleports in a row, she had to stop to catch her breath as she arrived at her final destination in the Tsukimura backyard. Teleporting across space-time often came with a tinge of nausea, and Hayate had gotten used to getting a helicopter ride everywhere on Cranagan. But it was entirely worth it, to come back to her homeworld after so many years. And seeing old friends was the best part of all.
"Hayate-chan!" A voice called out, and Hayate turned with a smile.
"Suzuka-chan!" They hugged each other tightly in excitement. Hayate pulled back and beamed, picking up her dropped suitcase. "Thank you for letting me stay here for a few days."
"Of course you would be!" Suzuka said happily, guiding Hayate to the side door of the mansion that lead into the solarium. "How could I let visiting friends stay in a hotel? We have lots of room here, and old friends are always welcome."
Hayate glanced through the solarium window, and chuckled. "I see that Arisa-chan is here too?" she teased. Both of her old classmates were pervasively vague about the status of their relationship with each other to everyone, even their closest friends. Yet they were constantly together and "single", and while Hayate, Nanoha and Fate all agreed that they gave off the same vibes as Nanoha and Fate had as teenagers, Suzuka and Arisa were considerably more ambiguous than the former and made it hard to tell for sure. Hayate would have hoped that the two of them had tied the knot by now, but maybe they had their own reasons for not admitting to anything beyond friendship for each other.
That gave Hayate an uncomfortable feeling.
"Yes, Arisa-chan is here," Suzuka replied, cheery and not showing a hint of embarrassment. "She definitely wouldn't want to miss an old friend's visit!"
"That's kind of her—Oh," Hayate remembered to ask before she forgot, "Can I borrow a couple of heavy books? I kind of need them for something…"
Suzuka looked, then raised an elegant eyebrow but simply nodded. "Certainly—Falin can take care of that for you. She does a good job with the ones we have in the garden."
Once they were inside and Falin had whisked Hayate's suitcase away, Arisa came over and gave Hayate a brief hug. The tall blonde had cut her hair shorter, giving her a business-woman mature look. "Hello, Hayate." She picked up a dozing cat from one of the seats and set the animal on the floor, offering the seat to Hayate.
"Hi Arisa-chan," Hayate smiled, sitting down and accepting the tea Suzuka poured for her. "How have you been?"
"Fine. Work and all that." Despite being a multimillionaire heiress, Arisa had studied to become a lawyer and had workdays that nearly rivalled Hayate's own work hours. The years had mellowed her outspoken friend, and despite her tiredness Arisa seemed at ease. "How about you? I keep hearing from Nanoha that you and Fate work too much."
"She's one to talk!" Hayate tried to defend herself. "Well, Nanoha-chan has eased off her workload lately, but I had to steal Vivio for the Ground Forces to keep Nanoha home and not burning herself out on missions," she half-joked, trying to hide her little twitch when she had mentioned Vivio, the name suddenly reminding her of why she had run away on vacation in the first place.
"I…really like you, Hayate-san."
The memory made Hayate's jaw clench.
Unfortunately, Suzuka was alarmingly sharp-eyed. And when she shared a brief look with Arisa, the unspoken language of very familiar souls passing between them, Hayate felt a sense of apprehension seep into her.
"So how's Vivio-chan?" Suzuka smiled and shook her head bemusedly. "It's hard to imagine Nanoha-chan as a mother sometimes!"
"She's a great mother," Hayate nodded fiercely. "Vivio's a great girl. She's a 2nd Lieutenant and a squad leader already in the Ground Forces Defence Corps Strike Team—um, it's an elite attack team for trouble in the city. Like a S.W.A.T. team here, I suppose. Do you want to see?" Tapping Schwertkreuz, a holographic picture sprang up from Hayate's Device. It was their most recent GFDC group photo, and Hayate proudly pointed out Vivio in her sharp new uniform with the crest of the elite Strike Team on her sleeve. "It's a very prestigious team, and she's definitely working really hard. Everyone on her squad really respects her, despite the fact that she's younger than all of them."
"Sounds like mother, like daughter," Arisa remarked. "They're both pretty determined when they know what they want, eh?"
Hayate nearly choked on her tea. "Um…yes." She laughed awkwardly.
"Speaking of Nanoha-chan," Suzuka said. "How is she doing with Fate-chan? It's too bad that the last time we could visit was when they got married." Having best friends who lived on a different planet was hard, and as much as they all tried to keep in touch it was inevitable that their messages became scarcer than as they grew older and busier in their lives.
"They're good," Hayate said, and then sniggered. "Didn't Nanoha-chan mail you that copy of the GrapeVine cover?"
Arisa set her cup down before she spilled tea over herself as she shook with laughter. "I can't believe you actually kissed Fate! And let yourself get photographed for it!"
"I only kissed her on the cheek," Hayate grinned. "It's not my fault that the photographer got the shot at that angle! Besides, I had arranged for the GraveVine to be one of the sponsors of the charity auction, so that a portion of the proceeds on their next paper was going to be donated. I think that issue broke their previous sales record."
Nanoha had confronted Fate about the "kiss" over breakfast, and she and Hayate had teasingly fanned the flames of Fate's stammering embarrassment as she tried to convince her wife that no such kiss had actually happened. Hayate had let up on the teasing when she had noticed Vivio coming into the kitchen, a mixed expression on the young blonde's face as she had looked at the tabloid cover, then at Hayate. While Vivio had laughed as well once she had seen her Fate-mama's flustered state, a shadow of some dimmer emotion had clung to her vivid eyes. Sadness? Envy? Or a kind of wistful longing…
"Hey! Earth to Hayate!" Arisa snapped her fingers in front of Hayate's face, jolting the brunette out of her reminiscing. "Did you hear Suzuka's question?"
"No, sorry…what did you say, Suzuka-chan?"
The purple-haired woman smiled patiently. "I asked you if you were seeing anyone recently, Hayate-chan."
Hayate really did choke on her tea this time. Arisa slapped her back as she coughed into her napkin, feeling a flush rising on her cheeks. "Wha…Why would you ask that?"
"Well, you're not getting any younger," Arisa said dryly. "We're curious. Any romances you want to share with your old friends?"
Very deliberately withholding the urge to turn the remark of not getting any younger back on her questioners, Hayate calmly bit into one of the biscuits, chewing to give herself time to compose herself before answering. "No, no romances," she replied lightly. "Being a Lieutenant-General sounds impressive, but the amount of paperwork I have to deal with every day practically isn't worth it. I don't have time for a relationship, and it's not like I'm lacking for love with so many great family and friends. It all works out perfectly."
From her years of experience spotting subtleties in her subordinates, Hayate easily caught the second quick glance between Suzuka and Arisa. Great, they were going to tag-team her…
"So, Hayate-chan," Suzuka started, and Hayate braced herself for the coming questions that she wasn't going to like. "Did you have any plans for your week off?"
"Uh…" Caught off-guard, Hayate took a moment to gather her thoughts. She hoped that her surprise hadn't been evident—she wasn't used to being off-balance. Hayate usually was the one making other people off-balance! The past day must have really shaken Hayate up more than she had thought. "Um, no plans, really. I just wanted to chill and do nothing for a few days. Military life can get uncomfortably regulated, sometimes."
"Good," Arisa declared. "You have to make time to go and watch Suzuka's next concert. It's a joint one with Kaioh Michiru, and Suzuka has some new pieces that are really good."
"A joint concert?" Hayate repeated, impressed. While she had gotten the first viewing (well, probably truthfully the second one, since undoubtedly Suzuka had given Arisa a live performance many times before) of Suzuka's first violin piece a few years ago, her first friend's skills must have improved greatly for her to be holding a joint concert with a distinguished artist like Kaioh Michiru. Suzuka blushed bashfully, while Arisa gave her an affectionate and proud smile. "Of course!"
"I'm sorry, all the evening tickets were sold out," Suzuka said apologetically. "I do have tickets for the matinee showing, and I'd love to see you there. I have a few different days, so you can probably take your pick first."
"Why do you have so many tickets?" Hayate asked curiously as she looked at the fancy tickets that Suzuka had placed on the table.
"Well, I'll need some for—" A flash of light outside in the garden interrupted Suzuka, making Hayate snap her hand to her Device. "Ah, that must be them now."
"Them?" Hayate asked blankly, confused.
"Suzuka-chan!" Falin opened the solarium door, bowing. "The rest of your guests have arrived."
"The rest of—"
"Suzuka-chan!" An energetic and bright-eyed Takamachi Nanoha waved from the doorway, her other hand clasped around a smiling Fate's. "Arisa-chan!"
"Nanoha-chan, Fate-chan, what are you doing here?" Hayate asked stupidly, still very confused.
"Can't a girl visit her sister-in-law/old friend?" Nanoha answered with blinding good cheer, falsely oblivious.
"Welcome, Nanoha-chan, Fate-chan," Suzuka greeted, ignoring Hayate's dumbfounded gaping. "I'm so glad all of you could find the same vacation time to come and visit."
"The…same vacation time?" Hayate remarked suspiciously.
"Of course!" Nanoha said innocently. "It's so hard to find time for family vacations these days, so we have to take what time we can get, right? It's a good thing the Corps activity is slow with you on vacation, Hayate-chan, or else it would have been hard getting any vacation time at all."
"A family vacation?" Hayate suddenly realized…
"Yup! Suzuka-chan, Arisa-chan, it's been a while since you've met Vivio, right?" Nanoha gently nudged Vivio forward, and the normally friendly blonde girl had her head down, revealing her red ears.
"Nice to meet you," Vivio stammered, looking up politely to greet Suzuka and Arisa. She seemed determined to look everywhere but right at Hayate, trembling with the effort.
Nanoha had been right so many years ago when she had swore to get payback for Hayate's meddling in her love life. Seven days with Vivio while under the mediating force of these resourceful friends?
Hayate was doomed.
She had known the signs, so when Vivio had placed that rose down on her desk Hayate had done her best to keep her conviction strong, despite little lapses. But things hadn't exactly gone the way she had wanted, and so this vacation was supposed to help Hayate get her head together…
Vivio's gaze drifted, and Hayate couldn't look away from the girl's red-green eyes, staring so nervously and yet so keenly back at her. And all the logical arguments and conviction promptly melted from Hayate's thoughts.
Hayate's head dropped onto the tabletop with a thunk.
Author's Note: Just like the one-shots "You Never Lose By Loving"/ "Lose By Holding Back", Prerogative of the Brave takes place in the Hayate and Vivio Files.
Kaioh Michiru is a cameo Sailor Moon fans would recognize ^_-.