One more chapter. This one I hadn't really planned, but it wouldn't leave my mind. It's the continuation of chapter six, with Fate-mama instead of Nanoha-mama this time.
Small daughter, baffled mother
To say that Fate was nervous would be an understatement. She had come home as soon as she could... after that strange call. But her presence at the inspection had still been necessary for two more days. Actually it should have been one more day, but Nanoha had sounded so... it didn't fit her image of the other girl at all, but Fate had to say that Nanoha had sounded slightly panicked. It was hard to imagine anything that would scare a brave, strong woman like Nanoha short of something with the destructive potential of the Book of Darkness or Jail Scaglietti. But that couldn't be it... sure, at first Nanoha had insisted that Fate should come home right away... yet when Fate had told her to calm down, that she had responsibilities here, and that Nanoha should tell her what had happened, Nanoha had indeed calmed down. She had apologized and said that Fate should come home as soon as she could manage, Nanoha would be able to cope with the situation until then. Then, after a short "I love you", Nanoha had ended the call, leaving behind a bewildered Fate.
Who was still bewildered now. She had pondered if she should call back her girlfriend, but that probably would have done no good. Nanoha had had this "I'll manage until you have time for me, I won't stand between you and your dream job, Fate-chan"-expression. Of course Fate knew that Nanoha would have loved nothing more than Fate working on Mid-Childa, she sharing a home with Nanoha and see her girlfriend every day and them raising Vivio together.
And they had argued about Fate's wish to become an Enforcer... paradoxically Fate had been the one arguing for abandoning this dream and staying at home with her family, while Nanoha had insisted that she wouldn't allow Fate to throw away the chance to do what the blonde felt was right. Fate had argued that Nanoha was doing the same thing, that she was giving up her life as a full-time Combat Instructor to raise their daughter, but then Nanoha had just smiled. She had said that it was different, that it was a good kind of work, but that it wasn't her deepest desire to train mages – but that it was Fate's deepest wish to enforce justice everywhere, so that no one would ever have to suffer like Fate had suffered at the hands of Precia. That had ended the discussion. Fate had never felt so torn before. True, she wanted to be with her girlfriend and the child she viewed more and more like her daughter all the time – but Nanoha was right, she had always felt this strong urge to protect the innocent and punish those who abused and endangered them. Nanoha, feeling how unhappy she was, had kissed and embraced her. She had told her that she and Vivio both knew that Fate would be with them every time she was able to, and that this was enough. That she was proud of Fate's wish to help people who had suffered like Fate herself, and that this was a big part of why she loved the blonde girl.
Fate had always felt guilty because she couldn't be there for her family all the time. Although she tried to keep her missions as short as possible, it always felt like she was missing huge parts of Vivio's childhood, even though Vivio had often told her how proud she was that her Fate-mama was "fighting for the forces of good". Fate smiled briefly. The little girl was watching way too much TV. But this was why Nanoha's call had shaken her to the core. Nanoha had always been strong-willed and had encouraged Fate to pursue her dream while also enjoying their time together to the fullest. To see the auburn-haired girl so desperate was... unsettling at least. She ringed, still deeply in thought. She hoped that whatever had happened had passed and that Nanoha had calmed down.
The door was ripped open. Her first instinct was to draw her weapon, but her jaw was faster and – dropped. Nanoha... or the creature who was impersonating Nanoha, looked AWFUL. Sagging shoulders, deep shadows beneath two bloodshot eyes, a general look of tension mixed with exhaustion... her beloved looked like she was unsure if she should attack Fate or fall asleep right where she stood.
"Na... Na... noha?" Fate finally managed to utter. What in all the worlds could have put the most strong-willed person Fate had ever met into this state?
"Finally," the Nanoha-creature groaned, grabbed Fate's wrist – surprisingly strongly! – and pulled the Enforcer into the house. Then Fate suddenly felt herself hugged... although she wasn't sure if Nanoha wasn't just clinging to her so she wouldn't fall down. "I'm so glad that you're here, Fate-chan," Fate heard Nanoha's tired, mumbled voice.
"Wh-what happened to you, Nanoha?" Fate exclaimed, putting her hands around her girlfriend's waist, just in case Nanoha's strength finally left her. Nothing in here looked like anything dangerous had happened, and yet here Nanoha was, just as exhausted as when she had fought Vivio on the Cradle. Was this some kind of strange dream?
"Later," Nanoha said and pushed herself away from Fate, looking at the blonde woman with tired eyes. "Tell you later, Fate-chan." Yawn. "I'm so tired. Left you a note. Kitchen. Vivio is upstairs, finally asleep. I need to lie down... sleep a few hours." She smiled at her girlfriend, but her eyelids were already fluttering. She turned around, walking towards their room.
"Wha-? Who-?" Fate was at a loss for words. "Nanoha, why are you so exhausted?"
"So glad you're here, Fate-chan," Nanoha mumbled and nearly FELL against their bedroom door to open it. Fate seriously doubted that the tired girl had even heard her question. A moment later she heard Nanoha fall into their bed. And then nothing.
Fate blinked. What in the name of...? She couldn't remember a time when she had been as confused as now. Finally, because she had nothing better to do, she walked over to the bedroom and looked inside. Nanoha hadn't bothered with undressing or walking a few more steps to reach her side of the bed, she simply fell down – now blocking both sides of the big bed – and was now fast asleep. Normally Fate enjoyed the view of her sleeping girlfriend, but this wasn't just sleep... this was the much needed relaxation after finally handing over an important responsibility to someone else... to Fate in this case. But what responsibility had drained Nanoha like this?
And then she heard it. It was a muffled cry. And another. Someone was crying. Fate blinked and oriented herself. In Vivio's room. Vivio was crying? Fate threw Nanoha an apologizing glance, but firstly she couldn't do anything for her sleeping girlfriend right now and secondly Nanoha would starlight-break her if she Fate ignored their child because of her. And for Vivio, who was usually such an upbeat girl, to cry something terrible must have happened here. Fate closed the bedroom door and walked over to Vivio's room, more and more distraught. Why hadn't Nanoha told her that it... whatever it was... was that bad? She could have told the inspectors that there was a family emergency. She hoped that Vivio could tell her what had happened here. She knocked.
"Vivio, honey?" she asked softly. "It's me, Fate-mama. Can I come in?"
The crying continued, although it became a bit less noisy. Fate opened the door. And froze.
There was a baby... correction, a toddler in Vivio's bed, who was currently sniffing and staring at the intruder. The little being was wearing a very cute light-green romper suit, had short, sandy hair and... two different eye-colours. Fate couldn't bring herself to utter the conclusion her mind provided her with.
The little girl in front of her wasn't shocked, though. She stopped sniffing, looking at the woman in front of her for a moment. Then the toddler started smiling and, with some effort, managed to sit up in bed. She pointed at Fate, still smiling.
Fate was pretty sure she and Nanoha didn't have anything strong to drink in the house. A few bottles of wine maybe, but not something as strong as she felt she needed right now. She groaned. "Could somebody PLEASE tell me what is going on?"
And now she was sitting in the kitchen, reading Nanoha's letter. If she hadn't known the writer so well, she would have concluded it were the ramblings of a lunatic. A grown-up Vivio? Hayate and a changing cubicle? Vivio then changing into a toddler? Waking up all night? Baby food in the fridge? … Diapers?
She was looking down. Vivio had immediately started crying when Fate had tried to leave her room to read Nanoha's note, reminding Fate of how much a crybaby the little girl had been when she and Nanoha had first met her, so she had had no choice but take her to the kitchen with her. Fortunately Nanoha had got some toys somewhere, so Vivio was quite content playing with her stuffed "ball" and "logg", toy blocks, mostly by throwing them around, then standing up and toddling over to them, and then repeating the procedure. Even in Fate's quite distraught state, it was adorable, also because Vivio was quite excited by Fate being here and being able to show her "We-mama" how many things she could do.
After reading through the letter Fate did indeed understand why Nanoha had been so exhausted. Being a rather stubborn person, Fate was pretty sure Nanoha had barely accepted help in these last days, trying to proof that she could be a good mother even for a toddler. But when Nanoha had adopted Vivio and they had decided that the little girl was old enough for basically one and a half parent, with Fate being able to pursue her career and not being at home sometimes for months, they had thought that they would never be confronted with a much more dependent little daughter. Fate really hoped that this... thing was just temporary, otherwise their lives would have to change.
She went down on her knees and smiled at her toddler daughter: "You a really a problem child, aren't you, Vivio?" she asked the little girl, who looked up. "First the Scaglietti-case, then you start eavesdropping on your poor mommies and now this. Don't you think it would be better to become a little girl again?"
Vivio stared at her. Then she raised her hand with the stuffed ball. "Ball," she declared.
Fate chuckled. "True, now you can play with a ball. But it would be much more fun if we could run around in the garden while playing, don't you think?"
"Bay!" Vivio announced and threw the ball at Fate who caught it without problems.
Fate sighed, but she couldn't really help but grin. Vivio was just too cute. "Okay, let's play then. We can always worry about things afterwards." She rolled the ball in Vivio's direction and the little girl managed to catch it, which caused her to babble excitedly. They played for a while, until Vivio suddenly frowned.
"Oo!" she declared and eyed Fate pleadingly.
"Food?" Fate guessed. "Are you hungry, Vivio?"
"Oo!" Vivio repeated, her lips starting to quiver.
"Oh no, don't cry!" Fate pleaded and picked Vivio up, gently rocking the little girl. "I'll make you something immediately!" She put Vivio next to the fridge on the ground, opened the fridge and looked for the baby food Nanoha mentioned. Ah, there it was! Some simple instant stuff, as it seemed. Normally Fate would be sceptical about such things, but considering the state Nanoha was in, it was understandable that she hadn't searched long hours for the healthiest kind of food. It would have to do for now, especially since Vivio was getting anxious.
"Mama," the little girl whined, stood up and hugged Fate's leg, reminding the young woman that there was a very serious problem to be solved.
Fate patted Vivio's head while trying to prepare the baby food at the same time. Somehow the thought of Vivio starting to cry unsettled her... making her feel like she had failed as a parent. Suddenly she understood Nanoha a whole lot better.
"Now look, Vivio, here's your food!" Fate announced a few minutes later. A rather unhappy little face looked up to her and immediately brightened.
"Oo!" Vivio demanded and tried to grab the plate. Fate chuckled and put Vivio on the table, since there wasn't a high chair around. She looked for the napkin Nanoha mentioned in her instructions, but was interrupted when Vivio started getting fidgety. "We-mama!" she shouted and longingly looked at her snack. Fate took a few more looks, but when she heard Vivio move, she gave up. She couldn't let the little girl try to move around the table, it was too dangerous. She just would have to be careful with the spoon.
"Okay, don't panic, Vivio. See, here is your meal. Doesn't it look delicious?" she asked the little girl and moved a spoonful of the paste towards her daughter's mouth. Vivio immediately opened it and welcomed the morsel. Fate smiled. She was still concerned about this transformation and the impact on all their lives, but all of this seemed so... natural. Fulfilling. She knew that she'd worry soon enough, but right now, feeding her daughter, she felt at peace. "You're quite hungry, aren't you, Vivio?" she asked the toddler. "Well, maybe it will help you grow up, don't you think?"
Vivio gurgled something and a little bit of the paste escaped her mouth and headed for her romper suit. But Fate wasn't a mage specialized in speed for nothing. She reacted immediately and managed to catch the paste just in time. "No, no, no, we can't let that happen, Vivio," she told the little girl who smiled at her. "Nanoha-mama will be angry at us if we make your suit dirty, you know?"
"Na-mama," Vivio repeated. It sounded more like "Nga-mama", but it was very adorable. For a moment Fate wished that Vivio could stay in this form, but then she shook her head and continued to feed the child.
"Fate-taicho?" she suddenly heard a voice behind her. She put the plate on the table and turned her head, seeing a holo-monitor with a familiar face.
"Aina-san," she said warmly and smiled at the older woman. "You don't have to call me taicho anymore, remember? I'm not your superior anymore."
"Gomen," the other woman apologized. "But I'm a bit surprised. I was supposed to call Nanoha-ta... -san."
"Nanoha is sleeping right now," Fate answered. "She seems pretty exhausted."
"I'm not surprised." Aina shook her head. "She asked me for advice about Vivio a few times, but she wouldn't let me help. Vivio, is that you back there?"
Vivio mumbled something like "Wabllll", but Fate didn't turn around, having had an idea.
"Aina-san, um... may I, or better, may we, I and Vivio, visit you? Maybe you or some familiar items might remind Vivio how old she was when she first met you."
"Oh, sure, it would be nice to see you two again. I'll send you the address. I'll expect you after you cleaned up Vivio." Then the monitor vanished.
Fate turned her head, expecting the worst. She was pretty close. When she carelessly had put the plate with the paste on the table, Vivio hadn't been done eating. So the little girl had helped herself, skipped the spoon and used her fingers – thanks to the lack of proper eye-hand-coordination – to distribute the paste pretty much everywhere between her nose and her belly. Fate groaned.
"Nanoha will kill me..."
"So, what do you intend to do now, Fate-san?"
Fate put down her cup of coffee. She and Vivio had arrived at Aina's place just a few minutes ago. The other woman had been delighted to see Vivio again, and Vivio hadn't been shy either, immediately calling her "Ana". Then Aina had given the toddler some items, some of them toys and some of them housewares like blankets, before she had made herself and Fate some coffee. Vivio was currently playing with a blanket, seemingly trying to fold it, but currently without success.
"I have no idea, honestly," Fate admitted, staring at the table. "I mean, when Nanoha adopted Vivio, it was clear that we both would be her mothers... but that I would still be able to do my job as an Enforcer. And now all has changed."
"Has it?" Aina asked and took another sip of coffee. "You know, if Nanoha-san would accept a little more help from others, while you are away on missions, it could still work out. And I am pretty sure that your superiors would be okay with you taking less missions while Vivio is still so young."
"Still..." Fate paused and looked at Vivio. The little girl was still playing with the blanket, but now she was frowning, as if the lifeless thing was somehow resisting her. She smiled, but became soon serious again, when she looked at Aina. "You know, Aina-san, I really hope that this is some temporal thing... but even if it is, what if it happens again? If it happens every few months? Every few weeks? I don't think I could leave Nanoha alone in this case. We were okay with me working while Vivio was a kid, but a baby would be a whole different thing."
"So... you would give up your work for your family, Fate-san?" Aina asked tentatively. "That would be a very honourable thing to do. But don't you think that you would maybe... regret it sometimes."
Fate bit on her lip, looking into her coffee. "I don't know," she admitted. "As soon as I knew what it was, I've always dreamt of working as an Enforcer. It just... seemed to be the ideal thing for me to do. But when Vivio came along and Nanoha offered me a place in her life... I immediately accepted. It was the same feeling then, the feeling that it was right. I made a commitment, that even if I became an Enforcer I would spend as much time as possible with my family. I can't break my promise now."
"As I said, it would be a very honourable thing to do, Fate-san," Aina repeated. "And Vivio would be a very happy child, having two parents like you and Nanoha-san. But you really need to think this through. You said, that the two feelings were equal, that both things are equally important to you. You can't just abandon your dream job and become a full-time parent, only to realize later that you lost something important to you forever and maybe grow to resent your family for it."
Fate nearly dropped her cup. "I would never..."
"I don't think you would," Aina calmed her down and put her hand on Fate's. "But see, you haven't even thought about this possibility. If Vivio doesn't change back soon, you'll have to talk to Nanoha-san about such things."
"Yes, you are righ..."
The two women looked at Vivio who was toddling towards them, carrying the blanket with her. She put it on the table in front of Aina and frowned at the older woman. "Mef!"
"Yes, it's a mess," Aina agreed, a smile brightening her face. She started folding the blanket with Vivio watching, fascinated. "See, that's how you did it, when you were a little girl, Vivio." When the blanket was folded, Vivio squealed and put her little hand on it. "Mama!" she ordered and looked at Fate.
"Yes, you two did great, Vivio," Fate answered, genuinely smiling. Vivio was getting cuter any minute, she swore. Another few days like this and she would BEG Nanoha to be allowed to stay at home with her girlfriend and daughter forever. "But why don't you try one of the...?"
The doorbell interrupted her question.
"Ah, that must be him," Aina said, stood up with a knowing smile and walked to the door. "I hoped that he would come." She opened the door. "Hello Zafira-san. Thank you very much for coming."
"Zafira?" Fate asked and stood up. "What are you doing here?" She paused for a moment and added: "Sorry, that was rude. But I'm surprised to see you here."
"Hello Fate-san. Aina-san called me earlier. She said it was something important," the Guardian Beast in his human form answered. The muscle-packed male definitely seemed a bit out of place in Aina's comely home.
"It is," Aina confirmed. "But first, do you something to eat or drink, Zafira-san? I made coffee."
"Thanks, but I'd rather not," the dark-skinned male declined, grimacing. "Master Hayate would tease me forever that this was some kind of date then." He looked down at Vivio. "So... this is Vivio? My Master spoke about her sudden changes." He went down on one knee. "How are you doing, Vivio?"
Vivio stared at the tall man. It seemed like she was trying to think if she had ever met him before. Fate instinctively went over next to her and put her hands on Vivio's shoulders, just in case the toddler didn't remember Zafira and became scared of the dangerous-looking man.
"That was actually why I called you, Zafira-san," Aina added. "Would you please change into your Beast Form?"
"Why?" Fate and Zafira asked at the same time, startling Vivio.
"Because maybe if Vivio sees enough things from the time she first met Nanoha-san and Fate-san, it will transform her back into a young child," Aina explained. "That's why I gave her toys similar to those she played with back then." She smiled affectionately at the little girl.
Fate blinked. "That might even work," she mused. "Please, Zafira, do it!" She was getting excited. It would be the best kind of surprise for Nanoha to wake up and their daughter being normal again. Fate felt like she owed her girlfriend something for the last two days.
"I don't know," Zafira said hesitantly, looking at Vivio. "What if she becomes scared when I suddenly look like a wolf?"
Aina and Fate shared a look, remembering their previous conversation. "I think it is worth the risk," Fate answered. "If she starts crying, then you immediately change back and Aina and I will try to calm her down. But me... and Nanoha would be very grateful to you, if Vivio changed back thanks to this."
Zafira still paused for a moment, looking from Vivio to Fate and back. But then he nodded, balled his fists and started the change. Fate quickly covered Vivio's eyes with her hands, causing the toddler to protest by trying to pull them away. But it was over soon, and when Fate pulled her hands away, Vivio was surprised to see a big blue wolf-like beast in the room. She gaped at the strange creature while all the adults in the room held their breath how she would take this picture.
"Af," Vivio suddenly said quietly. She didn't start to cry, but she held onto Fate's leg, as if she wasn't sure if this thing was really the nice doggy she knew from Riot Force 6.
"Yes, that's true, Vivio, that's Zafira." Fate kneed down and put her hand on Zafira's snout, making her shapeshifted friend eye her suspiciously. "You know him, don't you? He nice, he won't hurt you."
"Af!" Vivio said more confidently, walked over to the Guardian Beast and patted Zafira's fur. The little girl started giggling when she felt how soft the fur was and rubbed her cheek on it. Fate grinned. It was hard to read in Zafira's face right now, but she was pretty sure the Guardian Beast was looking pretty uncomfortable by now. It somehow lessened her disappointment that Vivio hadn't changed back.
"I'm sorry it didn't work, Fate-san," Aina announced, looking at Fate, unsure how the other woman would react.
Fate sighed. "It was worth a try, Aina-san," she said. "Let's just hope that Vivio automatically changes back into her older self when her magical energy runs out." She deliberately pushed the thought aside, that maybe this had already occurred and her daughter was stuck in this form.
"Still, I think you should maybe take a few things home with you," Aina mused. "Back then Vivio like it when someone read stories for her. And you should definitely take the blanket with you too. And... I think you'll need a bag. We should start packing right away."
"Sure," Fate agreed and followed Aina upstairs. "You've got everything under control, Zafira?" She didn't look back because she was pretty sure that the Guardian Beast was looking at her with a "Are you joking?"-look. This was confirmed when she heard Vivio say "Af! Ball!" and after that a defeated whimper. She grinned. She'd apologize to Zafira later, sure... but Vivio was having fun, so it was all for the greater good, wasn't it?
When Fate closed the door to her home behind her, she listened, but she could hear no noise. She sighed.
"I think Nanoha-mama is still asleep," she told Vivio, whispering. "We have to be very quiet, okay?" She put her finger on her lips and made "Shhh!"
Vivio looked at her mother thoughtfully, put her hand on her mouth and made "Fffff!"
Fate chuckled. "Close enough," she told her daughter and slipped out of her shoes. Then she walked over to the bedroom and looked inside. Yes, it was slowly darkening now and Nanoha was still sleeping. Fate shuddered when she thought what might have happened if she hadn't been able to come home today. Nanoha might just have collapsed.
"Now look at this," she whispered and tiptoed inside. "There she is, sleeping like a baby. And we had such a busy day today. What if somebody tried to break in, who would have been there to save her?"
Vivio had been looking at Nanoha, but now she turned her head and stared at Fate. She seemed to think about the question, then she suddenly smiled. "We-mama!" she declared.
Fate snorted and tickled Vivio's stomach, causing the toddler to giggle. "Don't be such a smartass, young lady," she ordered.
"Hmm, Vivio? Are you there?" they suddenly heard the tired voice of Nanoha. The young woman rolled around and started rubbing her eyes. Fate put Vivio on the bed.
"She is here, Nanoha," Fate told her girlfriend in her softest voice. She pushed a skein out of Nanoha's face gently. "We are both here."
"Na-mama," Vivio confirmed, mimicking the gesture with her own hair.
Nanoha opened her eyes and smiled at Fate tiredly. "Fate-chan," she uttered affectionately. Then she turned her head and smiled at Vivio. "Vivio. Did you have fun with Fate-mama all day?"
"Mama," Vivio explained.
"Yes, Nanoha-mama is awake now. And Fate-mama is staying too, aren't you, Fate-mama?"
"Of course I do," Fate agreed and lay down next to her girlfriend, a happy gurgling Vivio between them. "Although she's not happy that Nanoha-mama didn't tell her about Vivio's problem, so that the two of you could have two days of family time without me."
Nanoha at least had the decency to look flustered. "Fate-chan, I..."
"I know, you just wanted to proof that you are a good mother." Fate looked at Nanoha sternly. "Which is ridiculous – I've known that since I first saw you two together. Your only problem was that you wouldn't accept help. What would have become of Vivio if you had collapsed before I arrived?"
Nanoha bit on her lip and looked at Vivio. Although the little girl was finally with both her mamas, a reason for her to be happy, she looked worried – perhaps she had sensed that her mamas were having a serious discussion. She tried to caress Nanoha's cheek a little clumsily, which made Nanoha smile briefly and return the favor. "But I NEED to be able to do this on my own," she said decisively. "What if Vivio stays this way, Fate-chan? If I can't handle raising her... then everything would change."
As Nanoha pulled her hand back, Fate grabbed it. When Nanoha looked at her girlfriend surprised, Fate looked determined. "And that would be so bad?"
Nanoha sighed. "Fate-chan, we talked about this," she remembered the blonde girl. "You shouldn't be forced to give up your dreams to stay with me and Vivio."
"First, who said I was talking about me? We have friends who could help you – some of them were actually quite worried about you." Fate tried to glare at her girlfriend, but she understood the intent of Nanoha's actions too well – it was part of why she loved the auburn-haired girl. Her gaze became softer. "And second, we agreed to that because Vivio was not as dependent on her parents as a toddler, and old enough to understand why I couldn't be with you all the time." Fate let go of Nanoha's hand and put her own on Vivio's chest, looking at her daughter. "Nanoha, if Vivio really stays this way... do you not WANT me to be her parent? Do you WANT me and her to grow apart because of my job?"
"Mama..." Vivio said, looking at Fate with eyes full of compassion. She obviously sensed that her mother was somehow upset and put her little hand on Fate's to comfort the other woman.
"Of course not!" Nanoha exclaimed, but she immediately calmed down and sighed again. "But..."
"No but!" Fate cut her off and looked at her again. "Look, Nanoha, when I told you that I wanted to be a part of this family, I meant it. So if this family changes, I will change too, no discussion. And if that means that my Enforcer training has to wait a few more years..." She shrugged. "Well, I won't be thrilled, but so be it. I will NOT leave you alone in this situation!"
If Fate hadn't been a little angry at Nanoha, she would have got a warm feeling in her stomach now. She just loved this expression on her girlfriend's face... the blush, the slightly insecure eyes... all things hardly anyone had ever seen on Nanoha's face. But before one of them could say something, a whiny "Mama..." brought them back to reality. Vivio really didn't like how serious this discussion was. Fate put up a smile and leaned over the toddler.
"Don't worry, Vivio," she told her daughter in her softest voice. "Fate-mama will not leave you or Nanoha-mama again. Can you believe that?"
The little girl looked at her curiously.
"It's true," Fate continued and caressed Vivio's hair. "Because Vivio was such a cute girl today, Fate-mama figured out that she doesn't want to miss your childhood, even if she has to postpone her Enforcer training. Isn't that great?"
Vivio continued looking at her, and then she started shivering and coughing.
"Vivio?" Fate asked, worried, but the shivering just worsened and the little girl started to cry. And then Vivio started growing.
"The suit!" Nanoha cried in panic. "Rip it open!"
Fortunately Fate was used to follow Nanoha's commands and had inhumanly fast reflexes. Just before the tiny suit could strangle her transforming daughter, Fate ripped the fabric apart, allowing Vivio to grow bigger in mere seconds. Until the growth stopped when she reached her true age.
"Vivio!" Nanoha touched Vivio's cheeks, deadly worried. "Are you..."
"I'm sorry, mama!"
A wave of relief floated through Fate. For a moment she had worried that Vivio would have the mind of a toddler now, but as it seemed their daughter was alright. She couldn't help herself, she hugged the little girl tightly, Nanoha just a moment later.
"I didn't want to," Vivio continued sobbing. "I just thought..."
"Sshhhh," Nanoha made, judging from her voice she was fighting tears too. "We're not mad at you, Vivio."
"No, we're happy that you have changed back," Fate continued.
Vivio's sobbing lessened. "I... I just thought that if I was a baby then Nanoha-mama and Fate-mama could raise me from the very start and we could be even more a family. And when I woke up... I was little... I could still think, but there was a fog of baby thoughts..."
"Vivio, we don't care," Nanoha interrupted her. She had tears in her eyes now. "We will find a way to stabilize you, I promise. It is NOT your fault."
"And you really don't need to change, Vivio," Fate added, giving the girl a little peck on the cheek. "Nanoha and I fell in love with you as you are now... you don't need to be a baby for us to do so."
"Fate-mama," Vivio mumbled. "Vivio... Vivio doesn't want you to give up your dreams."
"Vivio..." Fate ended the hug and encased Vivio's hands with her's. "I don't want to give up my career either. But if I choose so, it will NOT be your fault, you hear me? When Nanoha asked me to become your godmother, I knew that this meant much responsibility. I made my choice back then, and that means whenever you and Nanoha need me, I will do everything I can to be here." She squeezed Vivio's hands. "No dream is worth the two of you being sad."
"Give it up, Vivio," Nanoha said with a smile. "Once Fate-chan has made a decision, you will have a very hard time to convince her otherwise."
Fate raised her eyebrow. "Me? You are WAY more stubborn than I am, Nanoha." And the past two days are proof of that.
Nanoha had the decency to blush. She pouted. "And that's how you thank me?" she asked melodramatically. "I do everything to help you furthering your career, and you..."
"Mama... I need to go to my room."
"Why, Vivio?" Nanoha asked. "Don't you want to sleep with your mamas tonight?"
"Yes, I really missed you, Vivio. Please stay," Fate approved.
"Yes, I would love that," Vivio answered. But then her smile vanished. "But..."
"Oh come on, Vivio, you'll grow up soon enough." Maybe it was Fate's imagination, but Nanoha's expression was strange when she said that. "Come on, stay with us."
"For me, Vivio?" Fate begged. "I'll have to return to work tomorrow, and I won't be able to come home for a few more days."
The little girl looked flustered. "Mama... I'd love to... but I'm NAKED!"
That caused her mothers to blush. Nanoha immediately ended the embrace and Vivio used the opportunity to slip out of the bed and exit the room. The two young women looked at each other. After a moment of awkward silence Nanoha began to snicker. Fate followed and soon enough the two of them were giggling like schoolgirls, the stress of the last days forgotten. And when Vivio came back and they lay down together, they felt like back then in Riot Force 6, when they had done this every day... when their family had started. And nothing, was Fate's last thought before she fell asleep, was more important than their family.