A/N: This story is set in RadiantBeam's "Shadowverse" setting, later in the timeline than any of the stories we've seen thus far except for syn's false light. It also features lemon yuri content (i.e. adult women doing adult things with each other), so if that's not your cup of tea, you'll want to step back now.

~X X X~

Takamachi Vivio was in her element. The chicken was on the grill, the knife in her hand a blur as she sliced the bell peppers so thin they were almost translucent, the tomatoes and onions washed and ready for their turns on the cutting board, the lettuce torn into pieces just the right size. Things had definitely changed since the nineteen-year-old's school days at St. Hilde's, when she'd nearly humiliated herself by making cookies for her friends and failing miserably.

"Well, Shamal learned to cook properly, and I did too," she said aloud, remembering some of Hayate's stories about the Knight of the Lake's early attempts at preparing food. The thought made her glance at the timer, making sure that it wasn't yet time for her to check the breadsticks baking to crisp goodness in the oven. Nope; everything's right on schedule.

She glanced over her shoulder at the table. Crisp white linens, tall white taper candles, glittering crystal glasses, a centerpiece consisting of a spray of fresh lilies from the flower shop...everything was perfect. A romantic dinner with her beloved of seven years, girlfriend of four years, and live-in partner of just over eight months was going precisely as planned.

Vivio hummed as she worked her way through the vegetables, turned the chicken, and sliced a cube of cheese to the right size to fit the grater. The quiet beep from her Device, Burning Glory, that indicated an incoming call caught her attention.

"Answer."

She reached for a lemon as the communications screen opened in midair.

"Miss Takamachi, I believe."

"Yes," she replied.

"I'm Dr. Bonneville with TSAB Medical Services," the man on the screen introduced himself, echoing the information declared in the caller line below his image.

"Oh, yes, I know who you—" Vivio suddenly froze, terrified. "Did something happen to Lutecia?" Dr. Bonneville was, in fact, with the NSIS's medical staff, which Vivio knew from Lutecia Alphine mentioning his name. Usually the mention was with sour grumbling, as her lover hated hospitals and treatment centers. Vivio's immediate thought was that something had happened, Lutecia had been seriously hurt or—oh, no, not worse. Please not worse.

"What? No, of course not, she's fine. It's just, I know what patients are like in general and Alphine's as bad as they get. So I figured I'd enlist the most effective force known to medical science: a concerned significant other."

"Is she supposed to avoid certain activities?"

Dr. Bonneville shook his head.

"No, no, it's just that we want to make sure she finishes the entire course of medication, not give up three days in because she's feeling fine. Magical healing suppressed the effects of the poison, but there is the possibility of suffering a relapse if traces are left in the system, so she just needs to keep taking the antitoxin for the next ten days to finish the two-week course. You know her, so I'm sure you understand why. I'm getting you to help...remind sounds nicer than nag, so let's go with that."

"Oh, yes, right," Vivio said, a little absent-sounding.

The doctor misunderstood the cause of her distraction.

"I'm sure she already mentioned this right away, but I can reassure you, there's no chance of the poison being transmitted to another person, even by intimate contact. It was insinuated by means of an attack spell, not any natural method, and has specific properties to limit its effect to the target."

"Thank you," Vivio said, not trusting herself to say any more.

"No, thank you. I was getting used to not seeing her every couple of months and I'd like to keep it that way."

The screen winked closed.

Vivio reached for the onion; she could feel the tears welling up anyway.

~X X X~

Lutecia Alphine was tired as she stepped through her apartment door. The life of a clandestine-operations field agent was often exciting, yes, but there was plenty of drudgery as well. Nine hours of sorting through secondary mission reports looking for data-matches was definitely so, even with the assistance of the expert-system programming created by the systems analysts. Black operations was an area where instincts, hunches, human perception catching ghosts of meaning among the noise was still more important than what computers could tell them.

"Hi, Vivio; I'm home!" she called out. She was so glad of it, to actually have a home. Two short years ago, she'd barely been able to imagine being alive now, let alone happy, fulfilled, even vaguely at peace with herself.

It was strange, and it left a giddy little smile on her face as she walked into the small dining area on the other side of a counter island from the kitchen. She saw the table at once, realizing how it was set up. She didn't think she'd forgotten any special occasion, and a quick run-down of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays in her mind confirmed it.

"Vivio? What's the occasion?" she asked, catching sight of the tall blonde as she came around the island. Her lover was dressed rather casually for the occasion, given the fancy décor, in a loose-fitting T-shirt and blue slacks, her hair done up in a simple ponytail that wasn't really a style so much as a means of getting the hair out of her face.

That face, though, carried the exact opposite message from the table. It was definitely not welcoming. The set of her lips, the banked fire in her heterochromatic red and green eyes, they were angry. And it wasn't a pose, either, or something like "you came home too early and spoiled the surprise." Lutecia knew how to read body language, and Vivio's backed up her expression completely. She was furious.

"Vivio, what's wrong?"

"What's wrong?"

She took two quick steps forward so she was on Lutecia's side of the table, and slammed something down hard enough to rattle the silverware.

"Do you mind explaining this?" Vivio snapped.

The item, Lutecia saw, was a pill bottle. Her pill bottle, the one with the antitoxin Dr. Bonneville had prescribed for her. The one she'd tucked in the bottom of her jewelry case so Vivio wouldn't find it.

Lutecia's gaze snapped up, meeting Vivio's.

"How did you get that? What did you think you were doing, going through my private things?"

"I wasn't going through anything."

"Then what were you doing in my nightstand drawers, searching through my jewelry box? I didn't think I'd have to put a lock on my things just to keep you out of them."

It wasn't a wholly bad point. Indeed, she actually was offended that Vivio hadn't respected her privacy. But it was primarily something else, a distraction technique, a change of subject to turn the conversation away from the pill bottle.

Vivio was not to be deflected.

"I was in your jewelry box because that's where my scrying spell led me in search of this." She picked up the bottle again. "And if you're surprised that I knew about it to scry for, well then maybe you understand a little of how I felt when your doctor called to recruit my help in making sure you took your entire prescription. A prescription which I had no idea you were even taking—which logically follows, because you were hiding it from me!"

She closed her fingers around the plastic bottle. Her fist trembled, and she set the pills down again before she accidentally crushed the bottle in her fury.

"Damn it, Lutecia, I thought we were past this! You promised that you weren't going to hide things from me any more!"

"Vivio, you know that most of my work is secret. I can't tell you what I'm doing on missions—"

"Not that," Vivio cut off Lutecia's second attempt to turn the argument around. "I don't care about that—no, all right, I do care, but I know you were right about it, that there really are some things you can't tell me. But this is different. You were hurt. Seriously injured to the point that even with healing magic there could be lingering effects! And you didn't tell me. You didn't even try to brush it off casually—you actively hid it from me!"

She broke off suddenly, gritting her teeth, fists clenched tightly against her thighs. Vivio was actually trembling with the effort of suppressing her emotions, and her eyes were glistening with tears of pure fury.

It made Lutecia's stomach clench. Not from fear—she didn't think for an instant that Vivio was going to try to hit her—but that she'd done something which could reduce the younger woman to this state.

Vivio took a long, ragged, shuddering breath.

"I cannot believe that you're doing this to me again." She wasn't shouting any more, and there was a hitch in her voice. It was as if the anger had been giving her energy, and in controlling it she'd also tamped down some vital force in herself. "H-how do you expect me to trust you when you conceal things that are this important from me?"

"Vivio..."

Lutecia reached out to her, but as the summoner's fingers brushed her arm, Vivio jerked her shoulder back, pulling her skin out of reach. Lutecia's head hung in the air between them for a few seconds before she let it drop helplessly to her side.

"I just didn't want to worry you," she said in a very small voice.

"You didn't want to worry me?" Vivio's voice was incredulous. "So you lied to me instead?"

"I didn't lie," Lutecia said defensively. Vivio's eyebrows shot up. "I didn't!" the older woman insisted. "You never asked if I'd been hurt on the mission, you only asked if I was all right, which I am! I'm perfectly fine physically and those pills are only a precautionary measure."

"Fine. You didn't lie. You just deceived me by deliberately omitting important information and continued the deception by hiding the pill bottle so I wouldn't notice it. There's no real difference. It doesn't matter if you lied actively or just by omission. It matters that you didn't trust me!"

"I do trust you!"

"Not enough to share your life with me!"

"Why would you want that?"

Vivio blinked.

"You can actually stand there and ask that? Lutecia, I love you. You're my lover and my best friend all rolled into one. Of course I want to be a part of your life. I don't want our relationship to be something that ends when you walk out that door and go back to your real life. We did that once, damn it, and we're not doing it again!"

Lutecia flinched back. She knew what Vivio was referring to. For the first two years that they'd been dating, Vivio hadn't known that Lutecia was a Shadow, or indeed even that the NSIS existed. Lutecia had worked hard to keep it that way, too. She'd been ashamed of the things she did, her original faith in the work replaced by a numb sickness that had her keeping on only because she didn't believe she was fit for decent work and a twisted sense that she was paying back some kind of debt to the dead.

More and more in those days, she'd come to see her time with Vivio as the only clean, decent thing in her life. The need to protect that was so strong, she'd done everything she could to keep the filth of her existence from touching that one, tiny island of hope. That was the reason why she'd so easily, her friends' jokes aside, been able to wait for Vivio to reach her majority before taking her to bed. Vivio was her beacon of hope, her glimpse of the decent, normal world she was protecting as a Shadow.

Of course, a relationship built on illusion like that couldn't last. It would have broken, she was sure—except that she herself had broken first. Only, Vivio hadn't bolted from her. She'd clung, tightly, to the Lutecia that was revealed and that more than anything had given her the strength to pick up the pieces of herself and confront a lot of old ghosts.

"Do you think that's what I'm doing?"

"That's what it feels like!" Vivio shot back. "It's bad enough that whenever you're with me you seem to want to ignore the outside world, but when you start hiding it from me..."

"I didn't want you to worry!" Lutecia protested again.

"Fate-mama's been going out on missions ever since I was six years old. I'm used to knowing that my family's doing a dangerous job—and I'm used to trusting that they'll tell me things honestly so I can save my worries for when they matter. The way you do it, it's worse!"

"Fate doesn't do the things I do!" Lutecia yelped.

"I know, I know. Most of what you do is classified top secret or worse, and even though I have valid clearance I don't have need-to-know standing to inquire. I understand that, I do. I know I made a fuss a couple of times before but I do understand, really. This isn't asking how or why you were hurt, though, just sharing the aftermath."

"No," Lutecia shook her head. "No, that isn't what I meant."

Confusion took the lead over anger and sadness in Vivio's expression.

"It's not?"

"No. It's not that. Fate...the work she does as an Enforcer isn't just important, it's heroic. She catches criminals, suppresses dangerous Lost Logia, she actively seeks out cases where she can rescue children! She's like the face on the Bureau's recruiting posters."

"I think she actually was, a couple of times..."

"I'm not like that, Vivio. The things I do...they're important, and they're necessary, but they're not nice. They're not sunny and happy. They're not you, and I know how you feel about them." She sighed heavily. "I know how you feel about the Shadows, the things we do."

"Lutecia, what are you talking about?"

Lutecia sighed again, then turned and walked into the living room. For some reason, she didn't want to look at Vivio right then. Maybe she didn't want to see the younger woman's face, because if she did, she wouldn't have the courage to say these things, things she'd been holding on to for a while.

"I'm not saying that you're like your mother—like Nanoha. I mean, her position is clear: she doesn't think it's right that the Bureau sends people out to do the things I do, and that we'd be better off taking the risks of not doing those things instead of lowering ourselves to doing them. But you hate it, too. I see it in your eyes whenever I discuss my work. You're lousy at concealing your emotions, even from someone who hasn't been trained to read people." She couldn't help but smile wistfully even in the middle of it all. "I always loved that about you, the way you were so open and honest with your heart, right from the very beginning."

Another sigh.

"But I don't want you looking at me...the way that I used to look at myself. So I guess...I guess I have been ducking the question, these past few months. Talking about work less, holding back details..." She gave a soft, rueful chuckle. "I didn't even realize how I was falling back into old patterns, but for completely opposite reasons."

Because I didn't want to admit it even to myself, she didn't—couldn't—say out loud. Because you've been so much to me for so long that I didn't want to believe...

And then she did say it.

"You're right. You're absolutely right. All the things I said about not wanting to worry you, that's just what I was telling myself. But it's true." She turned back to look Vivio in the eyes. "I didn't trust you."

It was Vivio's turn to flinch, even to let out a little gasp. What Lutecia had said, it had hurt—it had redoubled the pain that had started the fight in the first place, Lutecia stabbing right into that same wounded spot with her own words.

It hurt, but it was the blunt truth—and as Lutecia was starting to realize, their relationship had been running off the rails because of it these past six months or so.

It hurt, but like the Takamachi she was, Vivio took the hit and came back out of her corner swinging.

~X X X~

She thinks...she thinks that I...

Vivio's mind had reeled as Lutecia dug down into the truth of her feelings—things that were buried so deep that her lover herself probably hadn't accepted them.

But hearing her say it, today of all days...

Temper flared up. Temper was good. Sometimes it clouded judgment, but it also drowned nerves, gave her the courage to say things that needed to be said even if they were uncomfortable to confront.

"Damn it, Lutecia, that is not what I think of you or your work!"

"Now who's lying or deceiving? You can't tell me that you approve of spying into innocent people's lives in case there's something rotten underneath? Of using blackmail, seduction, coercion to get information or make people do what we want? Of deciding that the best way to solve a problem is to kill a person, without trial, without due process, just point and shoot?"

"Of course not. You don't 'approve' of it and you're the one doing those things. But you do do them and even after it nearly broke you, you went back to doing them because you know that sometimes, someone has to. I could never do what you do as a Shadow; I'd always be hoping for a better solution, too squeamish or naive or whatever you want to call it to do something awful with my own hands until it was too late. Do you think I don't know what kind of courage that takes, to do something that's wrong right now because the consequences of not doing it—and more often than not, not the certain consequences but just the probable, expected outcome—will be worse?"

"Vivio..."

"You're right, too. I do get angry or upset when you tell me about your missions. I hate when you risk yourself doing those things. I hate that you do something harder than any Enforcer's job and we can't even acknowledge that you did it, let alone give you the praise that you deserve. And yes, when you tear it all away, I loathe that we live in a world where a service like the NSIS is necessary at all, that we can't solve everything Nanoha-mama's way. But we do and it is."

"I...I never knew that you felt that way."

"Do you think I'd be with you if I didn't? If I thought you were some kind of monster I'd have broken up with you long before now. For heaven's sake, Lutecia, what is it going to take to get me down off that pedestal you've had me on since I was a little kid? I am not my mother!"

"You never said any of that, though! When I had my breakdown, you were so shocked at what I did, and I know you stayed with me, but you never..."

Vivio stared at her. Was Lutecia right, at that? The issue of Lutecia's job as a Shadow had been such a touchy one, its revelation so important to their relationship, that in the relief that Vivio hadn't left her, Lutecia's fears about Vivio's opinion, Vivio's fears about Lutecia's stability in those awful months afterwards...maybe there never had been the time, or the confidence, to put it all into words.

And words were important. They had to be backed up by actions, indeed were meaningless otherwise, but the words had to be there. If people didn't tell each other what they felt, they couldn't get closer. And now I sound exactly like Nanoha-mama.

"I'm sorry for that," Vivio said softly. "I thought you knew. I never imagined you didn't know. I should have realized and made sure you understood."

Lutecia shook her head.

"No, I'm the one who should be sorry. I should have said something, not tried to duck everything and hide from the problem. I should have paid more attention to what I felt."

"But I'm supposed to be the brash, outgoing one who's not afraid to confront things—"

"I'm supposed to be the mature, responsible adult—"

Their eyes met, and they gave way into helpless, slightly hysterical laughter. Almost falling into each other's arms, they fell onto the overstuffed black leather sofa, continuing to shake with laughter even as tears ran down their cheeks. When it passed, they sat, embracing, foreheads pressed together and near-identical sheepish expressions on their faces.

"We," Lutecia declared, "are a couple of prize idiots, aren't we?"

"Um...is there some legal defense to that?"

"I specialize in breaking laws, not using them."

"Then is there some sneaky Shadow way around it?"

Lutecia giggled.

"No, I don't think so."

Vivio gave her a mock pout.

"Well, what good are you, then?"

Lutecia leaned in and kissed her softly. Her lips were warm and the kiss sent tingles all through Vivio's body.

"How about that?"

Her eyes glittered impishly. Vivio pretended to think it over.

"Hmm, well, I don't know...I think I need to try that out a bit more to make up my mind."

"A hard sell, then, are you?" Lutecia kissed her again, this time just gently brushing her lips over Vivio's, a quick caress that was there and gone before Vivio could even respond. She did it again and again, soft, teasing strokes of her lips that left the blonde wanting. Lutecia nipped lightly at her bottom lip, brushed her mouth with a quick flick of the tongue, and Vivio felt her toes curl.

While they'd been laughing together having Lutecia in her arms had just filled her with relief that the older woman was there, that they'd made it through the fight and safely out the other side again. Now, though, she was all too aware of the sleekly feminine form in her arms, the warmth of her thigh pressed up against Vivio's even through their clothing.

Another teasing, darting kiss was one too many for the blonde. Her hand rose from Lutecia's shoulder to slide into the thick mane of knee-length hair, silken strands sliding between her fingers as she cupped the back of her lover's head, holding it in place so she could return the kiss. She did that ravenously, capturing Lutecia's mouth hard, crushing her lips to the older woman's.

It wasn't enough.

It's never enough, whispered a voice at the back of her mind, and it was true. She ached to touch her beloved, to feel her soft and yielding or hungry and passionate, but in all ways hers. Perhaps it was the three-year wait they'd been forced to endure before making love that drove them, making the chance to hold and touch each other so important. Vivio didn't know.

Nor, right then, did she care.

All she knew was that the anger, the fear that Lutecia was drifting away from her, was gone, and she wanted, needed to fill that sudden void in her emotions with her lover's taste and scent.

"I love you," she murmured against Lutecia's lips, then kissed her again, hard. "I love you." The summoner's lips were wet under hers, parting slightly. "I love you."

Lutecia moaned softly against Vivio's mouth, letting her lips open even further to admit Vivio's tongue. It dipped within, exploring, tasting as Vivio filled her senses with Lutecia's essence. Her lover responded, answering the caress, and their tongues danced together, exploring, touching.

She wanted more.

Vivio released Lutecia's head so she could use both hands to push the stiff blue uniform jacket off her shoulders. Lutecia rolled her shoulders, making it easy for Vivio to slip the jacket down her sleeves and toss it aside. Through her blouse she stroked Lutecia's back, feeling its sleek contours.

Lutecia tugged the hem of Vivio's T-shirt loose from her slacks and slipped her hands underneath. Still returning the kiss with as much passion as had been offered, she began to explore the softness of the skin beneath, using just her fingertips and nails in tickling, teasing caresses. Her touch left trails of fire as she stroked Vivio's toned belly, her nails tracing the hints of muscle definition and drawing a sudden gasp from the blonde.

As if by some unspoken agreement, they pulled back from the kiss and for a long moment just looked into each other's eyes. In Lutecia's carmine gaze Vivio saw reflected her own emotions, that aching need to touch, to feel, to connect with her beloved and renew again some of what had been pushed aside by their fight and more than that by the emotions behind it.

Vivio's fingers felt a little clumsy as they worked loose the knot of Lutecia's uniform tie and pulled the strip of fabric free. She coiled it around her fingertips, recalling more than one occasion when that same tie had found its way around the wrists of one or the other of them. Not this time, though. Neither one of them was in the mood to play, and she flicked it aside to join Lutecia's jacket before attacking the buttons of her blouse. She got them undone and pushed the shirt open, revealing the pale skin beneath. The baby blue satin of Lutecia's bra framed her cleavage in lace, and on finding that it was a front-clasp type Vivio greedily opened it.

Her eyes feasted on the surprisingly lush curves revealed, the pale rose nipples against the alabaster skin, but her attempt to touch was frustrated when Lutecia tugged up the bottom of Vivio's T-shirt, making Vivio pull her arms back while her lover whisked the shirt up and over her head. She could feel a faint blush coming into her cheeks as her plain gray sports bra was exposed; she'd dressed comfortably for cooking, intending to change for dinner, but the call from Dr. Bonneville had made her skip that past of the program.

Perhaps Lutecia didn't find Vivio's bra sexy either, since she tucked her fingers under its lower edge and tugged it up and over Vivio's head and flipped it aside to join the T-shirt on the floor. Lutecia's gaze was avid as she openly stared; Vivio could feel her nipples drawing up, tightening as if her girlfriend was caressing them with more than just her eyes.

"That's better," Lutecia said, smiling, and she leaned in again, sliding her hands up Vivio's flanks in gentle, teasing caresses, stroking up to Vivio's breasts, cupping them in her palms. She scooted forward on the couch, swinging one leg down and around Vivio's so that she was straddling Vivio's left thigh, and Vivio could feel the heat of her even through Lutecia's skirt and her own pants.

They kissed again, mouths hot, open, and wet on one another while Lutecia stroked Vivio's breasts. Her light, feathery caresses were maddening, and Vivio moaned in frustration into her lover's mouth. Lutecia responded to the unspoken plea by capturing Vivio's nipples between her thumbs and forefingers, gently pinching, tugging, rolling them between her fingertips. A surge of pleasure shot through the blonde, and with it an urgent need to get her hands on her lover. Her arms slipped around Lutecia once more, one hand fisting in her shirt back, pulling it up and free from her skirt. Her hand slipped up under Lutecia's blouse, stroking along her back, fingertips playing along the older woman's spine.

Lutecia rocked forward, deepening the kiss, and Vivio responded by pushing up with her thigh. Her free hand cupped her lover's bottom, urging her down, making Lutecia give a little gasp as Vivio urged her on, rocking the violet-haired woman against her leg. The heat of her was like a furnace and Vivio reveled in it, knowing that the older woman's passion was something for her alone.

Savoring how much Lutecia was enjoying it, though, just made her want to do more, touch more, and she broke off the kiss, tearing their mouths away from their duel. She dipped her head even as she slid the hand under Lutecia's shirt further up, fingers spreading wide for better support, and took her lover's left nipple into her mouth. She sucked lightly, laving the taut nub with her tongue, feeling it grow fully erect between her lips.

One of Lutecia's hands closed on Vivio's bare shoulder, the other cupping Vivio's head, pulling it against her chest. Vivio sucked harder in response to the wordless urging, closing her lips tightly around the nipple in almost a bite and drawing hard on it. Lutecia's moans and soft cries began to rise in volume now that her mouth was free. She didn't need the urging of Vivio's hand to rock back and forth, thrusting her hips down against the blonde's firm thigh. The rocking motion had caused her skirt to ride up her own thighs, and only the thin silk of her panties covered her sex as she rubbed herself more and more urgently, feeling stabs of pleasure surge through her. She half-fell forward, her torso sagging down over and around Vivio and her hair tumbled down over her shoulders, a silken caress over Vivio's bare skin.

Lutecia could feel the fluttering sensation deep inside her starting, knew she was right on the cusp, and she tried to slow down, but it seemed that Vivio was having none of that. No doubt aware of how close to climax her lover was from the rising volume and pitch of her cries, Vivio sucked harder, working the nipple with her tongue, while she ground her thigh up between Lutecia's legs and pulled the older woman down harder onto her, until she crested the peak and surging waves of pleasure crashed through her, suffusing her entire body and bursting from her lips in a high, soaring cry. She sagged onto her lover, limp and shuddering as tiny aftershocks ran through her.

She'd needed this so badly in the wake of that awful fight, needed to touch and be touched, to feel the proof of the connection between them with her body. But it wasn't enough. She needed more, to share with Vivio what she was feeling. Even that quarter of an hour or so while anger, distrust, and fear had divided them had exposed the gulf within her that could only be filled with one thing, with Vivio.

Lutecia came back to herself with the blonde's arms around her, softly cradling her while stroking her hair. Her head lay in the crook between Vivio's neck and shoulder, and that seemed an excellent place to start, pressing soft kisses against her throat. She moved down slightly, flicking her tongue against the hollow at the base of her neck and sucking there, just a bit, drawing a quick, gasped "Ah!" from her girlfriend. Lutecia then began to press gently, nibbling kisses out along Vivio's collarbone, knowing how sensitive the skin there was, pausing every so often to swirl her tongue against the soft skin, tasting her. When she got out to the shoulder she bit down, hard enough that Vivio would have yelped in pain were she not so aroused but gave quite a different kind of cry in her current condition.

Her mouth moved down, then, to the upper slope of Vivio's left breast, and began to move in slow, wet circles, drawing in closer and closer to the aureola.

"Lulu," Vivio whimpered, "stop teasing me."

Lutecia smiled against her lover's skin. Vivio only called her "Lulu" when they were making love, maybe because "Cia" was associated with those years of do-not-touch frustration—and for Vivio it had been sheer frustration. She hadn't had any of Lutecia's personal issues holding her back, just a need for her lover that couldn't be fulfilled.

"But I like teasing you," the Shadow purred. She did, too. She loved to see how high she could build Vivio's desire for her, then send her over the edge in a thunderous crash that would be all the more intense for its slow, maddening build-up. But she also knew how badly Vivio must need this, if her feelings were anything like Lutecia's own, and so in this case gave the other girl some of what she wanted. Lutecia's hands dropped to Vivio's waist and undid the button of her pants. She pushed her hand inside, cupping her lover's wet heat through her soft cotton panties. Her fingers stroked gently but firmly, exploring every fold through the dampening fabric.

"Lulu!" Vivio cried in a sound that was somehow halfway between a plea and a growl, her voice husky with desire. Lutecia obliged, pushing her hand underneath the cotton, through damp curls of hair to Vivio's center. The heel of her hand came down just above the top of her slit and she rotated it, causing the lips to stroke against the taut bundle of nerves there, while her fingers explored beneath, tracing and exploring.

Vivio shuddered as Lutecia ran the tip of her forefinger up the length of her, just within her outer lips, brushing against the slick wetness therein. Lutecia kept it up, stroking, caressing her inner lips with maddening touches, while she kept up touching-without-touching to send sparks of pleasure rising from her clit. The blonde canted her hips forward, wordlessly begging for more, then pushed Lutecia's head back down to her breast.

Obligingly, Lutecia sucked her nipple into her mouth and drew on it, hard, and Vivio felt a line of fire seem to run, electric, between her breasts and groin. Lutecia's teasing fingers continued to work between her thighs, dipping one between her lips at last, just a fingertip's length, moving in and out in quick, darting strokes. Vivio shuddered with pleasure as her lover kept up the dual assault. Lutecia's caresses were maddening, building her higher and making her crave more all at once. It felt like she would go mad if the older woman didn't stop with this teasing and take what Vivio was so desperately offering.

Giving in to Vivio's cravings, Lutecia curled her middle finger to its full length within her, feeling her slick inner walls clench reflexively around the intruder. The heel of her hand had to slide down a little lower to allow her entry, which let it stimulate Vivio more directly. She did that with short, circling strokes, working the sensitive bud until she felt the blonde's channel shuddering around her finger. Vivio trembled as Lutecia commenced stroking in and out of her, caressing deep within her.

"Ah! Nnh!" Vivio gasped wordlessly, her whole body shaking. Lutecia could feel her wetness coating her finger, easing its passage in and out of her, and she slipped her forefinger inside as well, sliding back and forth within the younger woman, taking possession of Vivio's most intimate self. She sucked harder at her lover's breast, hearing the mewling, sighing cries and felt the shuddering response, the eager rising of Vivio's hips all telling her the effect she was having on her beloved. She loved this, feeling Vivio respond to her this way, knowing that it was her hands, her mouth that were doing these things to her—and that it was Vivio's love for her that was allowing her to do them.

Wanting more, wanting to feel her lover dissolve beneath her, she kept it up, plunging harder within her, driving her fingers into Vivio's slick heat. She needed this so much, just then, to feel Vivio responding to her, and she drove the blonde higher and higher, feeling Vivio's inner muscles clench down around her fingers, her body matching Lutecia's thrusts, craving more and more of the stimulation she offered.

Then, finally, Vivio went over the precipice, her entire body growing taut, every muscle in her seemingly drawn up tight. Her back arched and a high, gasping sigh rather than a scream like Lutecia's forced itself from her lips. She felt like a star was exploding within her, suffusing her body, felt the spasming of her inner walls, her sex offering Lutecia's hand its own caress, her nectar flowing out of her across the fingers that so relentlessly drove her. Her nerves sang as the moment seemed to go on and on, a few seconds stretching out to an eternity, until finally the pleasure receded, slipping away like an ebbing tide.

Vivio's body went limp all at once and she fell back prone onto the couch, dragging a surprised Lutecia down on top of her. She lay, exhausted, her eyes slightly glazed in the aftermath.

"Wow," she breathed, her voice shaky. "That was..." Conventional adjectives failed her, or maybe her brain just wasn't functioning quite right just yet, and she gave it up as a lost cause. Smiling, she added, "You're such a tease, though."

"I am?" Lutecia raised her head so Vivio could see her impish smile.

"You know you are." She lightly stroked Lutecia's hair with fingers that were still trembling slightly. "I love you."

Something changed in Lutecia's smile; wetness stung at the corners of her eyes.

"I love you too, Vivio." She let out a long, ragged breath. "I love you so much it hurts, sometimes."

She slid up along Vivio's body, the soft fabric of her blouse and the perspiration-slick skin an intriguing combination of sensations against Vivio's naked torso. They kissed softly, lovingly, savoring the afterglow of their lovemaking, while Vivio folded Lutecia in her arms.

"I do too, you know," she told the older woman. "That's why you've got to tell me when something's worrying you. If I'm doing something that bothers you, you need to say so. I mean, I'm really glad that we got the chance to clear the air at least, but it would have been better to do it without the fight, don't you think?"

Lutecia smiled and kissed her again.

"I'll remember that."

"You'd better," Vivio teased.

"I liked the making up part, though."

"Mmn, that was good."

"I'm sorry I ruined your romantic dinner plans, though."

"It's okay. The salads are all finished and chilling in the refrigerator, so we can eat whenever we feel like it. I was halfway done when Dr. Bonneville called, and I didn't want to waste good food just because I was mad at you..." She blushed at that. "I guess I sound a little silly, being practical in the middle of being furious."

"I like it," Lutecia said. "It makes me feel a little less guilty over having the fight, for one thing." She paused, then added, "What was the occasion, anyway? Did you just feel like doing something special?"

Vivio shook her head. She shifted slightly, taking Lutecia's weight on her in a more comfortable position.

"No, it's an anniversary. And one which is pretty ironic, given what you were thinking about me before."

Lutecia looked at her expression closely, alert for any sign of hurt, but there was only a faint twinkle in Vivio's red and green eyes. Now that the fight was over, it seemed that she could appreciate the humor in whatever it was, without dredging up anything bad.

"Um...I'm not in trouble again if I say I don't remember? It's not when you confessed, or when we started dating, or when we moved in together; I know those by heart."

"It's two years to the day when you told me that you were a Shadow."

Lutecia gave a little gasp.

"How is that an anniversary?"

"I know it was awful for you," Vivio said, "and that it was only because you had a breakdown after that incident that you did it." She brought her hand around and up to cup her lover's face. "But it was also that day that I first met Lutecia Alphine, the real one, not the 'Cia' that you'd shown to all of us in the past. You opened yourself and trusted me with all the things that you were scared I'd hate, and let me see what they were doing to you, what it had cost you to hold it all back." She raised her head and kissed Lutecia again. "To me, that will always be the day that I fell in love with you. Not infatuation, not a childhood crush, not an illusion, but genuine love."

Lutecia's scarlet eyes were wide.

"That's really what you think of, when you remember that?"

Vivio nodded.

"Mmn. It really is."

"No wonder you got so angry when I accused you of hating that I was a Shadow. You'd considered it an intimate moment between us worth celebrating, and I carried on as if you thought the exact opposite." She thought a moment, then added, "Of course, you never told any of this, either, so that advice of yours about telling me things goes both ways." She tapped Vivio playfully on the tip of the nose with her index finger.

"Point taken," Vivio said, chuckling. "It's kind of lowering, though. We just had a big, ugly fight that vented several months of hurt feelings, and we could have avoided it all if we'd just taken the advice Mama has been giving out since she was nine."

"Okay, but I seem to remember that no one ever listened to her until she blasted them into unconsciousness. By that standard, we're doing much better!"

"That's true, I suppose."

Lutecia grinned.

"At least we can claim it is. And even if not, then hey, you did say that you don't mind me being a sneaky covert-ops type who among other things plays games with the truth, right?"

They both giggled, savoring the ability to relax and be silly with one another.

"So how about this for an idea?" Lutecia suggested after the laughter stopped. "We get up, get out of what's left of these outfits, put on something nice, and have that dinner."

"And what, exactly, did you mean by 'something nice'?"

Lutecia wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

"Well, I was thinking maybe that white negligee of yours, and my lavender satin nightgown?"

Vivio sighed.

"I don't know about you, but if you're going to wear that to the table. I'm not going to be able to taste the food."

Lutecia smiled back at her.

"Then do you have any suggestions?"

Vivio squeezed her thighs together, clasping them around her lover's hand.

"We save the salads for later, get the rest of these clothes off, and have the main course now."

Lutecia dipped her head to kiss her again.

"There's definitely something to be said for the direct approach."

~X X X~

A/N: Lots of thank-yous to go around for this story. First and foremost, I'd like to thank my wife, Tarma Hartley, for acting as technical adviser, not only for providing a woman's needed perspective on the lemon scenes but for twelve years of marriage which gives me plenty of experience on how a couple can have these kind of fights and still be a couple at the end of it all. Thanks so much, sweetie! ^_^

Next, I have to acknowledge my friend Fuyu no Sora for inspiring this story in the first place. Sora wanted to see a story with Lillet and Amoretta (from GrimGrimoire) having a "real" fight, that is, over something that one of them genuinely did wrong instead of just a misunderstanding, so she could see how that works out. I couldn't come up with something for them, but Vivio and Lutecia seemed to work just as well, and had the history between them that there would actually be the kind of lingering issues that get lodged under the surface between a couple.

Finally, RadiantBeam, who pretty much created this particular pairing and certainly popularized it, for letting me play around in the Shadowverse and for confirming, in "It Never Hurts With You," that Vivio and Lutecia's Jail Bait Wait would finally come to a happy end, thereby opening the doors to others of us to write stories where they're together emotionally and physically. Seriously, I've wanted to write something like this for a year or so now. ^_- I also hope you note the way I sneakily salvaged something there from losing the "Lulu" debate, RB! ^_^

~X X X~

Vivio's Magical Omake Theater!

"So I'm a main course now?" Lutecia murmured against Vivio's fall of blonde hair, long since removed from its ribbons. She was spooned, naked, around the younger girl, a patterned throw blanket pulled over them to keep them from getting too chilled as sweat dried from their skin while they snuggled together.

"Mm, what?" Vivio murmured drowsily.

"You said making love with me was the main course. Usually if you're talking food and sex, you use dessert metaphors."

"Supposed to be that way, 'fore the fight."

Lutecia translated the sleep-muddled phrasing in her head.

"You mean, you intended to seduce me after dinner to round out the evening?"

"Mmn. Dessert."

"But it turned into a main course...what, because we made love before eating?"

"Mmn. An' I didn' wan'ta get up for...chocolate sauce..." Vivio barely got out before drifting off into a justifiably exhausted slumber.

Lutecia snuggled up closer to her.

Hm, usually sweets after midnight is a bad habit, but maybe I should make an exception later tonight? she thought as she closed her eyes.