Please Don't Hurt Me
Fate Testarossa grinned as her Barrier Jacket changed and she dodged Signum's sword slash in a sharp turn, streaking in an arc to come flying back at her opponent, Bardiche raised in Scythe form.
"Not fast enough!" Signum somehow had whipped around fast enough to block the strike, shoving Fate back with her superior strength.
Fate dodged the flaming sword, flying backwards to put some distance between them. They were both toying with each other for now—it was their first duel while being on the same side, and while they hadn't ever wanted to actually hurt each other, fighting and sparring still felt a little different on principle. The last fifteen minutes had been more of a warm up as they tested each other.
Fate cast the arrowhead bolts and immediately shifted Bardiche to Zanber Form, charging at Signum with her own glowing energy sword behind the Plasma Lancer bolts. She saw Signum cast a shield as her bolts struck, creating a blinding flash of purple lighting.
"Sprite Zanber!" Fate yelled as she struck down with Bardiche into the area of light where Signum was. To her shock, she felt Bardiche cleave through nothing but air.
Where did she—
She heard it—Fate had heard Laevantine change forms. There was a moment where Fate even turned enough to look over her shoulder and see the bladed chain whip towards her, the edges flashing in the training field light.
Then Laevantine's Snake Form smashed into Fate's back, sending her spinning off in the air. Sonic Form meant that any blow Fate took dealt more damage than if she had a heavier Barrier Jacket, but it wasn't a debilitating blow.
Except that Fate's arms refused to move.
Her mouth was dry, and she couldn't feel anything but numbness and the sharp burn of the gash across her back.
The ground was spiralling up towards her.
Then in a sickening crunch, everything went black.
Fate could hear herself screaming.
She never begged—she couldn't quite do it. It hurt so much, the pain lancing through her body and into her mind before sinking into her heart like heavy stones.
This was her fault.
She made Mother sad. That was why Mother was hurting her. Mother just wanted to teach her what's right and wrong…
She could see the purple energy whip slide back for another blow.
Fate screamed soundlessly, her vision blurring.
Fate shuddered awake, biting her lip so hard she tasted a hint of blood.
"I think she's awake!" That voice was familiar…Shamal's voice, speaking to someone else in the room. Fate shivered, holding her whimper deep in her throat. She cracked open her eyes, squinting up at the white ceiling. That was how she woke often, lying flat and staring blindly upwards—
She was in the medical bay at Headquarters. Fate recognized it from the time she had visited Nanoha in her sickroom, after the start of the Book of Darkness event. Shivering again, Fate struggled to sit up. A pair of hands gently grasped her behind the shoulder to help her up.
"Careful," Lindy Harlaown cautioned, her eyes deep with concern. She was wearing her navy blue admiral's uniform, meaning that she had probably rushed over directly from work. "You crashed during your spar with Signum."
"I did?" Fate whispered.
"You don't remember?" Shamal asked, her tone worried. She sat on the other side of the bed from Lindy, scanning Fate with one outstretched hand. "That's not a good sign—Lindy-san, could you hand me that—"
Fate cringed away. "No, I…I remember." The two of them had been sparring, and then Signum had hit her…Fate gasped, and her flinch pulled at the muscles in her back and a sudden line of pain shot down her spine.
"Easy," Lindy soothed, stroking Fate's sweating face. Her hands were cool—she wasn't wearing her white admiral gloves, and the sensation of skin on skin made Fate jerk from the shock. Fate still hadn't gotten used to people touching her so much. The resurfaced ghosts in her head made Fate tremble as she looked away from Lindy, and she tried to keep the fear from showing on her face.
Immediately Lindy pulled her hand away, her tone of voice dropping into an even softer note. "Easy, Fate-chan. Shamal-san said that you can come home, but if it hurts—"
"I'm alright. I want to go home. Please, Lindy-san," Fate said in a small voice. Her throat was locking up, stealing her voice. Without words, Fate just hunched her shoulders, waiting for Lindy's decision.
The silence dragged a bit too long, meaning that Lindy and Shamal were probably exchanging private telepathic messages. Fate concentrated on breathing smoothly, hiding the raggedness of her nerves. Mother got angrier when Fate screamed or whimpered.
"Okay then, Fate-chan," Shamal finally said cheerfully. "Lindy-san will just take you home, and you can rest there, alright?"
Fate nodded, her eyes still staring at her hands.
"Come on, Fate-chan?" Lindy held out a hand.
Instead, Fate slipped her legs over the bed rail and dropped to the floor, her knees wobbling. She dared to look up long enough to check where Lindy was. The teal-haired woman smiled at her and held out a yellow triangle. "Here, Fate-chan." Lindy dropped it into Fate's hand, careful not to touch her.
Fate tried to say thank you, but the words wouldn't come.
Lindy didn't seem to expect an answer though, as she turned and thanked Shamal, guiding Fate with a gesture out the door. The whole elevator ride down to the parking lot was silent, and Fate sweated, wondering when Lindy was going to ask her a question. But Lindy didn't say a word, humming a mellow tune to fill the silence.
The ride back to Lindy's apartment was a blur to Fate. It was like she had stepped into the car and then suddenly Lindy was pulling into her apartment parking lot and announcing their arrival. Fate hadn't lost time like that since…for a while. The only sensations that weren't fuzzy were the sharp edges of Bardiche's standby form clenched tightly in Fate's fist.
"Fate-chan?" the soft tones of Lindy's voice cut through the numb again. Fate couldn't quite drag her eyes up to meet Lindy's, so she stared at Lindy's shoes, hoping that the Admiral wouldn't think that Fate was ignoring her. "Why don't you go to bed? I'll wake you for dinner."
Fate stood there.
There was a heavy pause.
"Yes, sir." Bardiche said, answering for his master.
"Good girl," Lindy said, her tone warm. Fate was good at hearing undertones in people's voices, picking up their true intentions.
But try as she might, Fate couldn't hear anything but warmth in Lindy's voice.
Fate couldn't sleep.
She was used to not sleeping. When she had been living at their Earth apartment with Arf, Fate would often spend hours lying on her bed, staring into space and losing time. Sometimes she had been scrying for Jewel Seeds. Other times she had been desperately trying to eat through the hours of a day with silence, so that she could go hunting for Jewel Seeds or be teleporting to the Garden.
Fate turned to her other side, throwing off her blanket in agitation. It was too hot. She wasn't used to the comfort it brought. It had been odd enough at Lindy's Earth apartment while they had been on the Book of Darkness case, but at least there Fate had gotten used to the room that Lindy had given her and told her was her very own. This room felt too much like the one Fate had in the apartment her Mother had gotten her. She had been there only as a rest point between seeking and reporting in to Mother, and it wasn't anything else to Fate but that.
It was weird, how much she had wanted to see Mother all the time. Even if Fate had known that her Mother would likely h—do that to her, Fate still wanted to see Mother.
Because each time she had hoped that maybe this time, Mother would smile at her.
Like the way she had smiled at her before.
But now Fate knew the lie. It had never been her. Alicia…always Alicia.
The smiles were for her older sister. Instead, Fate got…
She shivered, feeling the cut on her back twinge. Phantom pain outlined each of the raised scars across her skin, ghosts of the countless cuts she could still feel when her eyes were closed.
Whenever Mother was going to hit her, Fate knew. She could see the black glint in Mother's eyes even before her Device shifted to its whip form. Fate always tried so hard, she tried so hard!—not to scream, but at some point in the agonizing eternity the rawness of her wounded heart would come ripping out of Fate's throat and echo through the empty hall.
Fate tried her hardest not to scream. She didn't want Arf to hear. Tonight, Arf was with Hayate and the Wolkenritter, so Fate was alone if she did want to scream. But she couldn't.
Mother had stolen her voice away. Silence was best around Mother.
Every time, Fate shoved the hurt deep into the corner of her mind, so that things would make sense to her. Mother hit her, because she loved Fate. Mother only wanted the best, she only wanted to make Fate a better mage…
In the Book of Darkness' illusion, Precia had loved Fate. That was how Fate knew that it had to be a dream.
She had felt betrayed. Not at Precia—Fate couldn't. The betrayal had been directed only at herself. How could Fate have thought such a thing about her mother? And yet she had…she had.
Mother only punished Fate when Fate did something wrong!
Fate felt a cry escape her gritted teeth as Mother cracked her whip across Fate's back. Her wrists burned in their restraints as Fate jerked helplessly about. She gasped for air, struggling to swallow her screams as she felt the sizzling energy tear a stripe across the back of her thighs, and again when the tip lashed her upper arm.
"I'm sorry!" Fate finally broke, whimpering as loudly as she could. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Mother, I'll do better, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so—"
"I'm sorry!" the words burst from Fate's mouth as her eyes snapped open. Stunned, Fate found herself curled on her side, her nightshirt chafing at her neck and wrists from sweat. Asleep? Her heart beat was slowing, easing her panic. Belatedly, Fate realized that Lindy was stroking her head softly, as tenderly as one would a wounded kitten. Her guardian hummed softly under her breath, the tune like a sweet lullaby.
"I…" Fate swallowed, shaking. The dimness of her room hid her face somewhat, but she knew that Lindy could still see her well enough. She wanted to curl up tighter and pull away from that touch, a touch that hurt just as much as it soothed. But yet she couldn't quite do it. It was too magical, and Fate could do nothing but stare back at Lindy, her eyes wide and empty.
Lindy's gaze was steady, like an anchor for Fate's stormy feelings. "Shh, Fate-chan. It's alright. You're safe here."
Fate shook her head miserably.
"What's scaring you then?" The gentle petting never ceased.
"You're here," Fate blurted out, and then she flinched, expecting Lindy to pull away (in shock? In anger?). But Lindy didn't stop at all, her gaze candid and unhurt, only caring.
Fate's lower lip trembled. She bit it, to try and stop her display of weakness. The raw skin cracked again.
"Why?" prompted Lindy again, every line of her body showing nothing but patient affection.
Fate sucked in an uneven breath, her chest heaving. "Because," she whispered, her throat raw with something lumpy, "my Mother hurts me." The moment the words fell from her lips Fate felt something burning behind her eyes, causing her breath to catch. She tried to level out her breathing but her chest heaved again, and Fate let out a strangled sound.
"I'm s-s-sorry," she stammered, gasping. "I…I don't…I don't k-k-know w-why I'm…"
"It's okay, Fate-chan." Lindy laid a hand on Fate's cheek, her eyes warm in the darkness. "It's okay to cry, Fate-chan."
"C-Cry?" Fate asked. What?…She felt something hot trickle down her cheek.
"You can cry, Fate-chan," Lindy said softly, gently wiping the tear away with her thumb. She moved closer to the side of the bed, sitting on the edge. Fate followed her every movement with wretched distress, unable to look away, unable to give in. Lindy smiled, her free hand slowly, so slowly, reaching down to touch Fate's back with a feather-light pressure. Her finger-tips traced the scars on Fate's back.
And all Fate could feel from that touch was comfort instead of pain.
Tears rushed down Fate's face, and she threw her arms around Lindy's waist, sobbing quietly into Lindy's lap as her new mother held her close, murmuring gentle nonsense as she rocked Fate gently, with an eye for Fate's wound—because even in her comforting, Lindy was careful not to hurt her.
Author's Note: This takes place shortly after Nanoha A's. Although Lindy calls Fate "Fate-san" in A's, I changed it to "Fate-chan" in this fic because the former sounded a bit too formal and distant for what I'm trying to get at here.
I was sad by the time I finished writing it =(. Advice to people—don't write sad fics when your mommy's asleep and you can't go get a hug from her to cheer you up! ^_^;;
I apologize to any real-life abuse victims if I made any gross errors or misconceptions, and I extend my sympathies.