This is is everyone. This is really it. I present to you, after a wait that was far too long, the final chapter of Swords and Shields. I am hoping the sheer size of it will garner at least a little forgiveness for how long it took to get this to everyone. Again, an incredible amount of thanks to everyone who helped out, especially KnightOfCerberus. Without his help as a beta, this story would have crashed and burned so very, very badly.
Now then, I'll stop blathering and let you start reading. There'll be more Author's Notes at the end.
Yuuno could think of a great many ways to wake up, some far more pleasant than others.
For instance, waking up slowly without any sort of alarm going off in the peace of mid-morning whilst being just aware enough to properly appreciate the comfort of a good night's rest and the warmth of the blankets. He absolutely cherished any chances to wake in such a manner. To make it even better, nay-perfect, he could have in his arms the form of a beautiful swordswoman with long rosette hair. Yes, such a morning would be perfect.
This morning was not one of those.
It was the opposite.
His alarm was not one of horrendous screeching or song-bytes from a clock or his phone, rather it was the repeated crashing of a rather solid object upon his front door. Were he in a more eloquent state of mind, he would compare it to a battering ram against the gates of an old castle. The air was far too cold, a product of his own doing by turning up the air conditioning while forgetting to set the timer to turn it off. Add in his tossing and turning for much of the night, and he would have to say this morning was far from a pleasant one.
At least it was still mid-morning, which was not entirely comforting considering the rest of his morning troubles.
As he pulled himself out of bed, he tried to conjure up any conceivable reason for someone to be pounding on his front door with such exuberance. So far as he knew, there was none. Nothing which could not be done via call through vidphone. Perhaps a neighbor? Maybe they needed help with something.
Yuuno's answer finally came in the form of a loud voice yelling from behind the portal into his home. "Yuuno! If you don't open up, I'm going to start telling embarrassing stories about you as loudly as I can~!"
He'd recognize that voice and not so playful threat anywhere. What's more, Nanoha would definitely make good on it, much to his horror. He must have words with a certain tanuki about corrupting influences on impressionable devils. Especially devils who have more ammunition than is reasonable to have on a person.
Trying to not trip over himself getting to the door whilst putting on some decent clothing, he was recalled why there was an intruder at his front door. Not to mention why he was even able to sleep as long as he had. He'd taken a day off for a reason.
Today was the day he'd told all other appointments to go find their own information or seek out Arf instead so he could have a long overdue, proper date and heart-to-heart with the woman he loves. Of course, he'd been polite about it and not revealed any more information than was necessary. He needs to speak with Signum. He needs to clear away the confusion and unknowns surrounding them. There's only so much stumbling in the dark you can do before you fall off a cliff or run into a wall. If they stay mired in darkness, they won't get anywhere at all.
"I'm coming!" He volleyed back as he struggled with a shirt. The garment was one he'd simply grabbed without thinking and upon attempting to don it, he discovered it might be ready to toss out or donate to Hayate's collection of scrap cloth. To say it was a little tight would be an understatement, but at the moment, it was clothes. That's all he cared about right now.
Apparently, he wasn't coming fast enough for a certain brunette as her voice began to ring out once again. This time far louder. "When I was in 11th grade, Yuuno-!"
With great urgency, Yuuno threw open the door and greeted Nanoha with an irate smile and more false cheer than a used car salesman. "Good morning, Nanoha! How are you?" She merely gave him a shameless, self-satisfied smile in response. No remorse. None at all. Was her father to blame for this side of her, or was it her mother?
The sound of a restrained laugh drew the blond's attention to a figure he hadn't noticed, or expected to see in all honesty. "Good morning Yuuno. You look... well?" Fate's questioning greeting drew Yuuno's attention to where her gaze was drifting. His own eyes followed hers, soon followed by Nanoha's, to his shirt.
Well, there are certainly worse things to be found wearing than an inside-out, skin-tight shirt with what appeared to be a ferret on it. Yet another of Chrono's insufferable, yet too practical to toss out, gifts.
There was an awkward silence before Fate couldn't hold it in anymore and the absurdity of the situation finally sent her into a fit of giggles she simply couldn't stop.
It took a laughing Nanoha pushing the two blonds inside to diffuse what could have turned into a delightfully hilarious situation. Even though she would have loved to watch such a scene play out, the clock was against them and they had an evening to prepare for. One she refused to let fail.
Corralled into the dining room by a devil neither of the two blonds were willing or able to stand against at the moment, it was the same devil who managed to get conversation going again. Well, what conversation had existed to being with. "Good morning to you too, sleepyhead. Did you just crawl out of bed?" He must have, considering his long hair was an absolute mess and there were no signs of coffee to be found.
Yuuno nodded, slowly attempting to regain his full sense of awareness. Of course, Nanoha's rather loud arrival certainly helped to kick start his higher functions. "I didn't sleep well..." He ran a hand through his hair, grimacing as it got stuck in the mess. This was one such time he was not exactly fond of how long he kept his hair. "I'm going to make some coffee. Would either of you like some?"
"Yes, please." Fate's ever polite voice accompanied Nanoha's eager nod.
As Yuuno set about crafting the life-giving brew granted by the gods of java, Nanoha and Fate took a seat at the table. Nanoha stretched and popped a few of the joints in her shoulders as she did so before speaking up. "I bet you're wondering why I dragged poor Fate along, aren't you." Fate merely gave the other woman an amused look.
Yuuno nodded while going about his task. "I am pretty curious. I was expecting just you to show up." He glanced over his shoulder and smiled at his blond friend. "Not that I don't mind. We don't usually get much of a chance to see each other outside of work."
Fate shook her head. "We don't, unfortunately. Attire aside, I'm glad to see you're doing well." She had to bite back a chuckle as Yuuno slumped in front of the coffee machine at her tease. "Nanoha has a bit of a... plan to add to your own. I was drafted to help out."
"I did not draft you! I just... enlisted your services for the greater good?" Nanoha seemed a little put out at Fate's explanation. It wasn't drafting! Really! Fate said she'd be glad to help when the request for assistance came.
"That's still considered drafting, Nanoha." Yuuno tried his best not to laugh. He really did.
"Some would even call it press-ganging." How Fate could say such damning things with such an angelic expression would forever remain beyond the understanding of all who knew her. If asked, she would simply smile in a manner far too reminiscent of a certain retired Admiral.
Nanoha slumped in her chair, faux hurt shown plainly on her face. "You two are evil, ganging up on me like that." She crossed her arms and pouted. "Am I going to have to start revealing certain secrets to ensure your mutual cooperation? Certain... habits~?"
Yuuno and Fate shared a look of worry before shaking their heads and acquiescing to the devil's words in a unified voice. "We'll be good!"
Nanoha merely chuckled and smiled impishly until the coffee was prepared and served. One shot of cream and one cube of sugar, just the way she liked it. Fate took hers with two shots of cream and four cubes of sugar. The blond woman's sweet tooth led Nanoha to wonder when Fate would start asking for some coffee with her sugar. Everyone who knew her could not help but notice just how quickly the buxom blond began to blossom into the curvaceous bombshell she had become after being introduced to sugar by her adoptive mother.
As usual, Yuuno took his coffee black. Not a single granule of sinful sugar nor drop of delicious cream would ever touch the caffeine-laden liquid he drank. Such a travesty was something she never understood, even after hearing how he'd gotten accustomed to drinking the brew in such a manner.
It was an affront to tastebuds everywhere.
Or so she firmly believed.
Yuuno on the other hand...
"...That's not coffee." He seemed to shudder as he spoke. Both women looked up at him in confusion as he gestured towards the so called beverage Fate was stirring. Yuuno swore it looked more like a slurry than a liquid. "That's just sugar with coffee in it."
Fate had the decency to look somewhat offended at the jab against her coffee-related preferences. "It is not. I just like my coffee with plenty of sugar is all." Her ruby eyes seemed to take on a defiant air. "What's wrong with that?" Very rarely did one see Fate T. Harlaown in such a state, but speaking against her preferences in anything involving sugar was a quick way to bear witness to it.
The blond man pointed at the light brown slush attempting to be a cup of coffee and spoke in an almost despairing tone. "You're ruining the natural flavor! Can you even taste the coffee anymore?"
Crossing her arms, Fate regarded Yuuno with an unamused expression. "I most certainly can." It just tastes like a lot of sugar and cream. Of course, she would never admit such a thing. She will have her coffee-flavored sugar and enjoy it! Much like how her mother enjoys adding milk to green tea.
Intervening, Nanoha had decided enough was enough. While the sight of Yuuno and Fate going back and forth on coffee preferences like a game of ping-pong was getting more and more hilarious by the moment, they did have work to do. "Alright you two, break it up. We have things to do you two arguing over coffee isn't going to make this night go off without a hitch. I think Signum would forgive me if I cooled your heads a bit~"
There was a certain gleam in her eyes that made both blonds freeze. They knew such a look was merely the first step towards experiencing the White Devil's... tender loving care.
Neither of them liked being blown up by pink magical death, thank you very much.
From there, Nanoha took charge and began handing out various duties for the two blonds to complete while she herself made the kitchen her domain. Neither Yuuno nor Fate were willing to challenge her rule. Granted they didn't feel the need to, but the brunette seemed to be in far too good a mood about everything regardless.
While the sounds of cleaning began to fill the house, Fate posed a question which had been on her mind for some time now. It hadn't exactly been burning a hole through her tongue, but given what she had been roped into, it had slowly begun to smolder. "Yuuno, may I ask you something?" He glanced over his shoulder and nodded, a curious look on his face. "What made you fall in love with Signum?"
Yuuno blinked at the rather blunt and personal query. He had no reason not to answer. Sure, he'd already been asked by Zwei what he found attractive about Signum, but no one had asked him why he'd fallen for the swordswoman. Until now, that is. "I don't mind telling you, but why do you want to know?"
Fate had the decency to blush at the returning question. She'd grown admittedly nosy over the years and her job merely enforced it via necessity. Being out of the loop didn't always sit well with her if she could help it, and matters of the heart always drew her attention more than most others. "I'm... curious." Her voice turned bashful. "I never expected you and Signum to see each other like that. I honestly expected you to fall for someone else."
A chuckle accompanied a slight thud as Yuuno set down a bundle of tomes. "You're not the only one to think that. Even I didn't expect it when this all started. And I'd bet anything that she didn't either." He continued talking as he set about sorting the bundle with Fate's assistance. "As for what... I'm not ever sure where to begin. She's powerful, beautiful, kind, stern, stubborn, driven, and... I could go on for hours."
"I suppose you could." Fate smiled as she spoke, beginning to put together a bit of a picture of the unexpected couple's feelings.
Yuuno's gaze took on a somewhat faraway look as he continued. "But I suppose one of the things I love most about her..." He paused and looked to Fate with more focused eyes as he realized what he had been about to say. "And please... don't take this the wrong way, but... it's that she's not artificial." The moment he said those words, a expression of sadness and hurt began to make it's way onto the blond woman's face. "Ah, I'm sorry. I... Let me clarify..."
Fate was an artificial existence. Her entire being was unnatural. She had been built from the ground up as a replacement for her sister. What's more, the young man whom she once viewed as a younger brother and now a son was also of similar origin. Even Vivio, her daughter in all but blood, was a crafted life.
It was no surprise that such a statement would be deeply hurtful to the blond woman.
He really ought to have found another word to describe his feelings.
Yet, he could not think of one suitable out of all the synonyms available.
He swallowed as he kept his eyes on his second childhood friend. "I meant Signum is, and always has been, Signum. Despite everything she's encountered, she's remained true to herself. To the core of her being. There's nothing about Signum that isn't Signum." He made a gesture towards Fate. "Just like how there's nothing about you that isn't you. Or nothing about Nanoha that isn't her." There was a pause as he tried to find the correct words. "Signum's just... more so than anyone I've ever known. If that makes sense."
The expression of hurt had turned into one of understanding as Yuuno spoke. She really shouldn't have reacted as she did. Yuuno never meant those words to be said in any sort of a hurtful manner. He even told her not to take them as such. Still, it was something rather personal for her, and she couldn't quite help having such a reaction. Especially when those words were being said by a close friend.
"Still..." Running his hand through his hair, Yuuno gave an apologetic look. "I should have tried to put it another way. I'm sorry."
Fate shook her head and set back to work with a small smile. "It's alright. I know you didn't mean it like that. And if you'd put it another way, you wouldn't have really answered my question, now would you." But his words did give her more of an insight onto Yuuno and how he had come to fall for the rosette. He's an archaeologist. The more artificial elements, the less like the original it was. To discover the true unadorned form of something is a key element of what he does. For Signum to be a living embodiment of it... It makes sense now, why he would be drawn to her.
A few minutes of contemplative silence passed as they fell back into a working routine. A silence finally broken by Yuuno. "...So who did you expect me to finally choose as a lover?" He would admit to being rather curious who Fate thought would fill the gap after he and Nanoha had decided to end things.
She laughed awkwardly as she wiped down a table. "I imagined you would choose a Yagami. As for which one... I was expecting Hayate." She had at least guessed the family correctly. Shamal was a close second. Vita or Zwei... Well, it would have raised some uncomfortable questions even without the use of an Adult Mode. Zafira was written off owing to the issue of gender and species preference. Signum, being the devout knight, had only ranked slightly higher than Zafira in many minds. Including her own.
Yuuno's response to her admission was a choked laugh. He loved Hayate, he really did, but it was as a friend. A very perverted, demented, prank-prone friend. "She's always been a close friend to me, Fate. Nothing more. I don't think I'd survive if I saw her as anything more."
"I wonder who could then." Soon after, they were both laughing as they worked.
Progress was only brought to something of a halt when Nanoha had come to see what was so funny. Soon she was laughing as well. Though she did give Yuuno a playful smack on the arm for badmouthing the tanuki.
Things soon devolved from there and it was only the chime of Yuuno's clock that broke the amusing scene of cooking and cleaning filled with laughter and teasing.
Wiping tears of laughter from her eyes at a particularly hilarious and embarrassing tale she'd regaled Fate with, at Yuuno's expense of course, Nanoha gave a mirthful look at the man. "Zero hour approaches. I think you should suit up~" She pointed in the direction of the shower and gave a deliberate nod.
Yuuno managed to gather as much of his dignity as possible as he stalked towards his bedroom and from there his bathroom. "You're as bad as Hayate sometimes, you know that?"
Nanoha merely smiled and shoo'ed him off while Fate continued to try and stifle her laughter. When the shower was heard to be running, she turned back to the red faced blond who was still gasping for air. "Now, now, Fate. We can't have you passing out on us."
Fate choked back a breath of air as she tried to regain her composure. "S-Sorry. B-But-!" It took her a few moments more to finally get herself under control and no longer be set off by the remote sliver of a thought about the tales she'd been told. "Okay... Okay... I'm good now." Though the occasional snicker still passed her lips.
"I think I'll have to be more careful about which tales I tell you if you're going to go to pieces like that." Nanoha seemed all too amused at the total loss of composure in the normally-composed Fate. She could have some fun with this. Later. Right now, there were other things on their plates.
"Just warn me next time." Fate glanced in the direction where the sound of the shower was coming from, a smile on her lips. "I think... They'll be okay."
Nanoha nodded with a winning smile as she looked in the same direction. "They will. Without a doubt, they will."
There was a brief moment of calm and collected silence as the two women enjoyed their respective drinks. The only sound really breaking it was that of the shower running. And even so, it was a comfortable background noise.
Fate turned to Nanoha with a query on her lips. One she had not quite realized might be relevant until this moment. "By the way, I know what we're going to be wearing tonight. But what about Yuuno? He did pick something appropriate out, right?" It was a bit of a silly question, considering after all the time he and Nanoha had spent together. Surely he had picked up the idea on what to wear and what not to wear. However the knowledge of how it still takes Amy strong-arming Chrono into proper attire made her wonder.
The lack of an immediate answer, however, did not fill her with hope.
Neither did the frozen look on Nanoha's face.
"...Nanoha?" The tentative probe seemed to snap the brunette out of her trance as she suddenly stood up with a determined look on her face. "You don't know, do you?" She could only hope Yuuno had indeed put some thought into what he would wear. Otherwise the punishment handed down by Nanoha would... not be a pleasant one.
"I'll be right back." Nanoha's sweet smile nearly made Fate wince. It was the same one she wore whenever she had to cool a few heads on the training ground. Shamal usually had extra work on her hands afterwards when it was particularly bad. And the expression on Nanoha's face was one that would guarantee such extra work. As Nanoha stood, she turned to Fate and continued speaking in that same fearsome tone. "But would you do me a big favor and pick out a nice outfit for him? I doubt he chose anything worthwhile if he chose anything at all. Please~?"
Fate could offer no words or any sort of halting request as she watched her dearest friend march into Yuuno's room. All she could do was nod slowly in compliance.
At the very least, she prayed she wouldn't have to bear witness to whatever it was the white devil was about to do as she did what was asked of her.
Nanoha did not want to waste any time, they were working against the clock after all. And as such, she could not afford to play nice in ensuring Yuuno was looking his best for tonight. He would definitely not be wearing his ever famous green suit. Sure, it looked good on him. Quite good as a matter of fact. But for the purposes of what could be the make-or-break for him and Signum? Absolutely not.
Without preamble, Nanoha opened the bathroom door and stormed inside. "Yuuno, I need to have a word with you~" Such melodious words carried a very obvious current of what could be either irritation or ire. It was hard to tell sometimes. She didn't even give him a chance to respond as she cast aside the shower curtain so she could speak with him face to face.
"Na-Nanoha!" Yuuno's shocked words were to be expected. It is not everyday someone simply barges in on you while bathing. "What are you doing?" He didn't exactly sound outraged at having been seen in the middle of a shower. More irate because of how abrupt and unexpected the intrusion had been. Not to mention the fact it would get water everywhere.
Crossing her arms with the same sickly sweet smile she'd entered the room with, she began tapping her arm as she spoke. "Yuuno, what are you wearing tonight?" And if he said he was wearing his green suit, she'd do something very unkind to him. Most likely involving the color pink and a great deal of pain. She wouldn't let him have the dignity of being clothed when she did it either.
This was not the most awkward conversation Yuuno had ever had, sadly or amusingly enough. He sighed and shook his head. "I've got a nice, dark grey one picked out for tonight. I even got a matching tie." Hopefully it would pass inspection from Nanoha. If not, then he was not looking forward to a good time in the immediate future.
Nanoha's eyebrow twitched. She knew exactly which suit Yuuno was talking about. The last time she'd seen him wear it was when both she and Fate had been on assignment and someone needed to take care of Vivio's teacher conferences. It didn't look bad, per se, but it was definitely not appropriate for a romantic evening. "Yuuno, I think you and I need to have a serious talk about what passes for acceptable when it comes to dressing up for a nice romantic date. You seem to have slipped in the time we've been apart~"
Yuuno did not like the look in Nanoha's eyes. No, he definitely did not. He didn't even need his glasses to see such a look. And unfortunately, there was only so far he could back up while in the shower. "But it's a nice suit. It looks good, formal but not too formal. What's wrong with it?" His back hit the warm tile wall of his shower after only a step and a half and he felt dread was over him.
"Muu... You really have slipped, haven't you? That's it, I'm taking over! We don't have all day and I apparently need to reeducate you." Without any other sort of warning, she began stripping down to her undergarments. Simple blue cotton were one capable of making a more keen observation, which many wouldn't. And Yuuno could only see they were blue. But despite having a change of clothes ready, she didn't want to soak everything through when she stepped into the shower. And wearing your clothes in one is just silly. Plus, she didn't need a shower, so there was no need to strip down completely.
"Nanoha! Stop it, I can wash myself. Ow!" The blonde man didn't really have much of a say in the matter as Nanoha stepped into the shower with not a trace of hesitation and grabbed his hair. None too gently either. It seemed she wouldn't be listening to whatever sort of reason he could put forth. Granted, Nanoha wasn't exactly the most reasonable of people, especially when she was determined. You would have a better chance of convincing water to stop being wet than dissuading this woman.
Not taking the time to enjoy the feeling of the nice, hot water, Nanoha set to work on washing Yuuno's hair. Despite moving at a brisk pace, she still took a considerable amount of care in doing so. It spoke of a great familiarity with the action. True, she was quite familiar with washing long hair aside from her own, Vivio and Fate's being two more obvious examples, but she had done the action for Yuuno quite often when he'd grown his hair out.
Yuuno sighed and decided there would be no convincing the woman otherwise once she started her work. He managed to stop Nanoha long enough so he could sit down on the floor of the shower. It wasn't exactly comfortable to stand in an awkward position to allow a shorter person better access to your head. Taking a washcloth and soap in hand, he began trying to wash the rest of himself. "So why exactly isn't the grey suit a good idea?"
"Because it looks way too stuffy given the mood tonight. And I think the last time you wore it was for one of those archaeological ball things. Now close your eyes." Nanoha waited a moment for Yuuno to do so before reaching up to pull the shower-head free and rinse away the lather in the blond's hair. He didn't have nearly as much as herself, much less Fate, so it was of little surprise how quickly she had finished.
Looking back, she had long since figured just how much they'd relied on momentum and the raging hormones of youth to keep themselves going. Oh, she would never regret a moment of those years they'd had together, but it would have been nice for it to not have come to an end. Well, they do say you live and learn, and right now she was quite happy where she was. There was no doubt she'd get the same answer from Yuuno if she asked him.
They simply knew each other that well.
Both of them had been around thirteen when they'd confessed to one another. It had been one of the happiest and most embarrassing moments in her life. Not only because of the obvious elements of being young and in love and confessing to the person you'd fallen for. With such a young and inexperienced mind to boot. But there had also been the extra bit of Kyouya hiding in the bushes with Miyuki and Fate trying to get the whole confession on tape. She had not been amused.
Well, neither had Yuuno, but he hadn't tried to chase down the three and inflict magical doom upon them. He had been the one to talk her down from using Starlight Breaker though. He was rather good at it too. It was probably the reason she hadn't devolved into blowing up absolutely everything that made her blush red as a tomato and lose her cool in a rather spectacular manner. It would have made things in the bedroom rather different to say the least.
What had followed was a storm of awkward teenage years, hormones, enjoying life to the fullest, and the unfortunate truth of not really knowing what they were doing. The last bit had been their downfall owing to a little detail Yuuno was absolutely determined to not fall prey to again. And one she wouldn't either when the time came for her. Of course, she'd at least have a better fashion sense about it.
Yuuno let his head hang as he scrubbed his arms while Nanoha set to his back. "It was the Unified Archaeological Society's Charity Ball. Fate got you to help run security there, and you both said I looked good." Aside from such a small defense, though, there was little he could offer in the way of protecting his choice of attire for the evening. Not without going into silly arguments which would go absolutely nowhere. Hence, he made the smart choice of picking his battles. "What did you have in mind?"
"Mhm~ You're picking up rather quickly. And you'll see." There was an unsettling and playful gleam in her eyes that Yuuno didn't see. Had he, he might have simply fled. However the tone of her voice certainly set him on edge. "But we have to hurry or you'll be late. Now then~"
In the bedroom itself, Fate could only shake her head as she overheard the conversation happening in the bathroom. It instilled in her a rather melancholy feeling. If anyone were to listen to those two, she doubted they would think they had ever broken up. In fact, she was rather certain some would think they had a few years of marriage under their belts. But sadly it was not so. If only they had not gone about things with the gusto and folly of youth, they'd likely be wed by now. Not to mention, Vivio would have a father and quite likely a sibling or two.
But right now, those were only what-if's. As she dug around in Yuuno's closet for something appropriate, she recalled the saying 'hindsight is twenty-twenty'. If those two knew then what they knew now then things would have turned out very differently. But then again, maybe they wouldn't have. Fate could only go so far with theories before they became nonsensical ramblings, and she had enough of those from guilty suspects desperately trying to convince their captors of their innocence in the face of hard evidence.
Fate pulled out a sharp looking forest green shirt and eyed it critically, comparing it to other options she'd seen. It would look good. The question was what with. She simply had to keep looking.
As for looking, she prayed Yuuno and Signum wouldn't have to look anywhere but at each other after tonight. That they would be happy together and not suffer heartbreak. No matter what anyone says about her, Fate is a romantic at heart. It's one of the reasons she's helping out with everything. No matter her melancholy, she felt more than joyous to help the new couple along.
Now if only she could find a good pair of pants to go with the shirt...
Approximately three days ago, Yagami Hayate had returned home from her very unplanned vacation. This does, of course, assume one considers a vacation filled with grueling physical exertion, near mental breakdown, horrible food, and a drill sergeant who seemed to be attempting some sort of world record for loudness a vacation. She would not consider it as such.
She would consider Carim's boot camp to be a horrifying sin against humanity. She would also consider her darling Signum to be in a world of trouble were she not absolutely fine with the results of the unforgiving training.
Hayate had never felt so fit and, in her most agreeable words, sexy in her life.
She had told her Knight of the Sword as such over her welcome home dinner.
Of course, being able to stand up to at least ten Caro's worth of power was also a very nice bonus as well, assuming Vita's measurement of physical prowess was of any validity. She considered this the bonus given just how good she felt at the realization of what the training had done for her.
That she was on her way to getting abs nearly put stars in her eyes. Abs!
The fact she had lost bust size, however... it added conflicting feelings. She was unsure whether she would hug Carim for all the benefits of training or blow her up for having been a major instrument in the loss of such precious bosom.
At the moment, though, rather than admire her new physique and lament at just how many of her costumes wouldn't fit anymore, she had a mission. A mission involving certain little details about what had transpired in her absence. Details involving a librarian and her little girl.
Hayate is the sort of woman to ignore the fact her little girl is centuries old, a warrior nearly without peer, and neither technically human or her daughter.
She is also the sort of woman who would tell someone concerned about those details to go do something sexually explicit with themselves.
And if it so happens the one concerned about it ends up being the woman in question, well... She can find ways to drill some sense into her brain. Unless someone takes care of it first.
Signum is family, and that's all Yagami Hayate cares about.
Right now, Hayate's task is to help Signum get ready for her big night with Yuuno, all the while ensuring she gets as many juicy details as possible. Along with whatever little chats and warnings they might need to have. Plus the teasing. The day she cannot bring a full-body blush to at least one of her beloved knights is the day she swears off cosplay and her most favored hobby of groping.
Clad in her ever-comfortable lounging shorts and ribbed sweater combination with a rather special box under one arm, Hayate knocked on Signum's door whilst making her entrance. "Signum, your Mistress has arrived~" Oh how she missed doing the Mistress routine. She'd had no chance to use it at boot camp, a fact which brought much relief to Carim.
What the brunette saw nearly took her breath away, and in a very good way.
Well, one might also consider it dangerous, given how her fingers had begun to undulate disturbingly.
Signum had opted for a shower rather than luxuriate in the family bath and run the risk of being late. Which would explain why there had been no opportunity for Hayate to get in some proper one-on-one skinship with the knight. And she'd been too happy to be home to really corner Signum and get all the dirty bits she'd missed when the ladies of the Yagami household had taken a bath last night.
It took a great amount of effort to not jump Signum where she sat. For with skin flushed from the hot water, hair unbound and still wet, and wearing only a towel, she painted an image that would have made even a saint hot under the collar. Hayate, it so happened, was far more devilish than even the most depraved saint. What nearly broke the brunette's resolve was when her knight turned those crystal blue eyes towards her, eyes filled with a tiny hesitation. A slight vulnerability she could so easily take advantage of to make up for so much lost groping.
Signum smiled and chuckled uneasily. She knew the look in Hayate's eyes. It was a dangerous look. One she could not really entertain at the moment. "While I am glad to see yet more evidence you are still yourself, I will request that you restrain your... urges." She really didn't want to have to take another shower after getting riled up by her Mistress. A part of her was rather curious about the box, nondescript and lavender in color, Hayate had brought with her, but it seemed she would not have the chance to ask as Hayate spoke up before she could do so.
Hayate pouted and crossed her arms after setting the box down on Signum's bed. "Not even a little bit? Please?" A shake of the head shot her down for now. Well, there's always next time. Or a properly timed opening. "Well... drat." She walked over to the small vanity where Signum was sitting and picked up a brush. "We have other things to do besides me getting an update on just how my lovely knight of the sword's body is doing~"
There was a nod as Signum straightened her back, and fanned out her rosette locks to make it easier for Hayate to brush. The slightest tinge of pink not borne of heat from the shower graced her cheeks. "I do thank you for this." She would admit having her Mistress brush her hair was an immensely guilty pleasure. So would Vita, but you didn't need admittance to see just how much the redhead enjoyed it. Or herself, if she were being perfectly honest.
"No thanks needed. I like doing this." Her amicable tone was both mischievous and motherly. Oh, how she wished to simply dive straight into the delectable meat. "Do you have something picked out to wear? That dress Shamal gave you a few years ago, maybe? Though it's been so long... I'm not sure if the bust will be big enough anymore..." Of course, she already knew it wouldn't be. Hence the phone call she had made in secret after finding out about the little date.
"It should fit. It is not the sort of dress you need an exact shape to fit in, fortunately." Shamal had gifted her the garment as a birthday gift not long after the dissolution of Riot Force 6 in the hopes of nudging her along in finding someone to wear it for. It did not have the desired effect. "I doubt she realized it would take this long for me to wear it." She remained silent after those words for while, allowing herself to enjoy the pleasant feeling of having her hair brushed. A part of her wondered if Yuuno would enjoy the feeling as well, or if his skill with a brush was comparable to Hayate's.
Unseen by Signum, Hayate's grin turned into one not dissimilar from a shark's. There was blood in the water, and she was hungry. No, starving. "Speaking of which~" She very nearly giggled dementedly when Signum appeared to flinch. "This date I'm helping you prepare for. Who would have thought those hot and steamy sparring sessions would turn into this~"
Signum swallowed audibly. "I... That is... Neither of us planned for it to happen. But neither are we... complaining about what has come of it. Tonight we plan to see where we really stand and where we want to go." If they didn't... Well, she would rather not imagine what sort of disaster could befall them by stumbling about.
"My little girl is growing up, it seems~" Hayate's voice was filled with approval as she continued her work on lock after lock of pink hued hair.
"Hayate... I..." There was a pause as Signum tried to find the right words. Normally it would be simple to come out and speak with her Mistress about anything. But this topic was... not the normal sort. Nor was the theme one that would not likely provoke a rather perverse reaction. "I was wondering why you did not say anything last night when Vita informed you about what had transpired between Yuuno and I."
Hayate blinked before chuckling. Fortunately for Signum's nerves, it was not one completely devoid of moral fiber. "Why I didn't say anything about Yuuno sheathing his sword? About you two breaking beds? About getting a hot beef injection? About shatteri-"
"Hayate!" Signum's horribly embarrassed and outraged cry cut the brunette short of what was bound to be yet another horribly crude metaphor of what she and Yuuno had done.
"Hahaha! Okay, I'll stop." Though despite her words, a giggle occasionally swept past her lips. "But Vita sure has a mouth on her, doesn't she? As for why I didn't say anything about Yuuno stealing my precious knight's purity," she stopped brushing for a moment and placed her hands on Signum's shoulders, "I trust you, I trust Yuuno, and the only reason I'm not marching over to his place right now to deliver the obligatory speech of 'Make her cry and I'll nuke you from orbit' is because there'd be no point. From what I've been told, Zwei and Nanoha already did that for me~"
Signum released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "Thank you... I was worried about what you would say about this." Out of everyone in the family, Hayate's word would always be the most important to her. There was never any doubt of that. She'll have to be sure to let Yuuno know of Hayate's words as well tonight.
"Just so long as you're happy, I am completely fine with whomever you choose to love. Yuuno's a good man, and cute too. He's not a bad choice. And I'd say he's the luckiest guy ever to have the lovely General of Fire fall for him~" She ended her words with a teasing lilt to her voice. A teasing lilt which gave Signum only the barest of warnings. "In more ways than one~"
Hayate's self control had finally reached the breaking point and the hands which once rested upon Signum's shoulders snaked their way down, past the meager defenses of the cotton towel, and firmly grasped Signum's ample chest. The knight could only squeak as she turned completely red at the sudden assault.
"Oh ho~ This size. This firmness! Yuuno is a lucky man indeed to have seen and felt these wonders so intimately! I'm jealous. So very jealous!" And so the teasing commenced in full force.
It would be no fewer than ten minutes before Signum managed to free herself from the depraved and deprived beast her beloved Lady Hayate had become.
"Haa... Haa... I thought I requested you restrain yourself...?" Signum's glare was filled with the sort of resignation found in the eyes of a person who realized she should not have held onto such a foolish hope. Hayate's skinship was not to be denied. Though she wished it could have been put off to a later time.
Hayate merely laughed jovially, a satisfied expression on her face. "Sorry. Sorry." There is much debate on whether or not she actually was sorry for the numerous assaults attributed to her name and wandering hands. "I couldn't help myself any longer." Well, she could have, but then she wouldn't be Hayate.
Signum sighed as she stood, not bothering to retrieve the towel. Then again, she wasn't even sure where the article had been hurled, so it was a moot point. "Truly, my Mistress is a fearsome woman." There was no bite in her words, only an honest and affectionate truth. A truth, despite it's embarrassing results, she had come to love and appreciate as a part of Hayate.
"So, what's on the itinerary for tonight's date if you don't mind my prying~?" She was genuinely curious as to what sort of evening would lay in store for Signum. Assuming Yuuno wasn't planning to surprise her. Surprises were good and all, but she didn't really think the mood surrounding the knight was suitable for one.
"I do not mind." Signum walked over to her dresser with the intention of choosing undergarments as she spoke. "We will be having dinner. Yuuno did not say where, only that the dress code would be semi-formal. We will also be having a... talk." One they should have had a while ago. But given their stubbornness and ignorance about certain things, she was not sure just how such a talk could have happened sooner.
The pause before mentioning a 'talk' sent off warning bells in Hayate's mind. The analytical and motherly portions of her mind kicked into a higher gear as she considered what sort of meanings could lay behind such a pause. "A talk?" It must have showed in her voice, as Signum quickly turned and waved her hands disarmingly with a reassuring expression on her face. The image was made slightly humorous, considering she was holding a pair of panties in one hand.
Slipping on the chosen underwear and turning back to reach for a bra, she clarified. "It is something we should have done a while ago. Both of us jumped into this... very suddenly and without really thinking about the consequences of our actions." She set her crystal gaze upon Hayate's as reassurance became seriousness. "We need to see where we are and where we want to go. If we do not, then there is... no hope at all for us to have anything beyond that one night. And I do not wish for us to have just that." No. She wants more. So much more. It is simply a matter of discerning just what that 'more' consists of and how she can obtain it with Yuuno.
Signum paused as she realized she was trying to hold a serious discussion whilst putting on her undergarments. It was not exactly an image she found amusing, no matter what Hayate might think of it, and the grin on her Mistress' face certainly said she found it to be quite so.
"Hmm~" The expression on Hayate's face became one comparable to a mother gazing upon her daughter as her girl went back to dressing herself. She did allow a mental chuckle as she thought of how that poor bra would see no action tonight. Neither would the panties, for that matter. But still, she could not be more proud of her precious Signum. Her daughter who had just realized some great truth of the universe and was stepping into a larger, far more rewarding world. "It seems my precious Signum grew up a lot when I wasn't looking. I wonder how long it'll be before I have to give you away." The smile upon her face was broad and sunny. There was no melancholy there, for she could not ever be sad about such a development.
"Hayate, you know that whatever the future may hold, I will always be by your side." Despite the fact she was clad only in a simple set of cream-colored, cotton undergarments, the words were potent enough it wouldn't have mattered whether they had been spoken in full armor or completely nude. A blush adored her face as she scratched her cheek. "Just... I hope there will be a certain scholar by my side as well when the time comes."
Hayate chuckled. Her knight certainly knows what she wants, doesn't she. "When it comes to that, you'll have my full blessing. I just hope Yuuno doesn't mind his beloved Signum still having some skinship with her Mistress~"
Signum groaned as she reached up and placed her palm upon her face. "I believe he has already accepted such an inevitability." There was no escaping Yagami Hayate. None whatsoever.
"Then he's a wise, wise man~" Hayate's shark-like grin did not set Signum's heart at ease. Then again, it wasn't really supposed to. She approached Signum with a gaze that had turned into an incredibly calculating one. "Now then... Time for Lady Hayate to intervene on behalf of her beloved knight. I have a question for you: Are you going on a nice, romantic date with your hunk of a boyfriend, or are you meeting at a diner with a guy you might like?"
It took a few moments for Signum to process the fact Hayate had, likely intentionally, referred to Yuuno as a 'hunk'. The mental image provided did not quite mesh with her image of the librarian, but was not unpleasant either. "The former. Why? Is there something wrong?" She glanced down at her undergarments and saw no problems. Hayate had not voiced any complaints about her choice of wearing the gifted dress either, so she could hardly imagine it had to do with her clothes.
Hayate shook her head, fighting the ever-growing urge to smile wickedly as the butterfly began to drift into the spider's web. "No, no. Don't worry too much about it. I'm just wondering why you decided to go with the clothes you did." She had an idea. Well, it was more like she knew Signum better than most anyone alive. Her knight knew she had a dress than looked quite nice and would likely be an excellent choice for what would hopefully be a nice, romantic evening. Therefore, she would use it and try to look her best. And choosing a bra and panties combination that worked with the dress and was also comfortable without looking too casual would also factor into her thought process. In some ways, her knights were far too predictable.
Signum nodded in understanding. "It is a nice dress and one I think would suit the evening well. It is not too flashy, but not casual enough to be unsuited for this." A pointed look from Hayate towards her undergarments brought a slight blush to her cheeks. "In the event the date reaches a more... intimate end, I believe something like this would be appropriate." As she walked over to a hook on the wall where she had hung the dress in question, she continued. "And these are the best undergarments I have for such an event."
A raised eyebrow was the only response from Hayate. She was glad she'd taken the action she had. It was pretty much a given Signum didn't own anything of an intentionally provocative nature, but this was just a little ridiculous. The brunette could have sworn there was at least something she'd bought for the rosette which would fit the bill some time ago. She wouldn't be Hayate if she hadn't. Regardless, Signum seemed to think this was the best choice. It was a pity. There would be much education in the knight's immediate future.
Education which would begin shortly if the look on Signum's face was any indication.
She had donned the dress in all it's splendor. It was actually quite a pretty article and suited her very well. A dark lavender colored cloth which seemed to be made of a dense cotton if Hayate's eyes did not fail her. Likely there was a matching petticoat to go with it, but there was a slight problem Signum seemed to be having. One the Mistress of the Tome of the Night Sky had known about for some time, but only had reason to really take into serious consideration recently.
It would seem the lovely dress would never have a chance to fulfill it's duty. Not without alterations which would take far more time than Signum had available to her at the moment.
Said knight turned to Hayate with what appeared to be a growing panic in her eyes. "Ah... L-Lady Hayate..." She must be truly worried to use the 'Lady' title at the moment.
Shamal's gift had gone far too long without being worn, for since then, Signum had most obviously grown out of it. The hips were too tight. There was no way she would ever get the zipper in the back all the way up. The bottom seemed a little higher up than she thought it would be. Most notably, while not exactly bursting from their confines, it was quite obvious her bust could no longer be bound by such meager holdings. Not without relieving Signum of her ability to breathe in any comfortable manner. All told, it made for a very stiff and uncomfortable dress.
"It seems that you have a small problem." Yes, she would state the obvious before finally ensnaring the lovely knight in her web and biting into her dinner. A part of her mind was cackling quite evilly at the sight before her. Yes! Panic and wail at the fact your nice clothing doesn't fit anymore! I shall have my petty revenge before I swoop in and save your delectable backside from the fire. She carefully hid that part from her hapless knight.
Signum was beginning to succumb to genuine panic as she gave up trying to force the zipper to move. It would only break the poor device at this rate, or end up suffocating her. Such an oversight. How could she have been so foolish as to think her body would not have grown and changed over the years with all her training and work? Seeing Hayate's new, far more fit form should have been a blatantly obvious reminder, but no, she'd never thought to consider it. Now she was paying the price. She began to pace, the ill fitting dress hanging off her in an awkward manner. "...What should I do? I cannot wear this. Not as it is."
"Well, I don't think I need to say your Knight's Armor and casual clothes are out." It was yet more of the obvious to drive Signum into the corner she wanted the woman in. For a date of this magnitude, it was not only inappropriate, but Signum's pride would never allow it. Hayate just had to push a few more buttons as the knight continued pacing with her hand on the back of her neck and a mild expression of panic on her face. "What about something of Shamal's? That might fit." Somewhat. Shamal's measurements were just different enough to make swapping clothes uncomfortable to wear and awkward to see. The fact Shamal, as Signum's primary physician, definitely knew the dress wouldn't fit, but said nothing about it, led Hayate to believe the blonde had her own little plot in mind as well. Too bad she'd acted first~
"I cannot. I already owe her a great deal as it is." Not making a spectacle of things or teasing the living daylights out of her after discovering what had happened on the excavation had racked up a considerable debt for the swordswoman. She could not afford to add any more to it. If she did, she may very well end up being owned by the healer for the rest of her days. It was... not something she was willing to consider.
"Ah, then what will you do? You're running out of time, and it seems those're the only options you've got. Shamal, or a dress that obviously doesn't fit. And you know that Shamal's clothes won't fit you very well either." Just a bit further. Just a bit further and this Lady Hayate will get to have her ever so fun revenge.
Signum ran a hand through her hair as she began looking between her closet, her ill-fitting dress, and her mistress. No matter what possible solution came to her, none were suitable to her. Each involved either a horribly inappropriate attire for the date, a terrible blow to her pride, ever more debt to Shamal, or some combination of all three. "I do not know. I truly am at a loss. None of my options are appealing in any way. But most of all, I do not wish to show up in something so... inappropriate. Not tonight. Most assuredly not tonight."
Oh, her dangerously lovely Signum was truly a treat. A treat she so loved to torment and tease in so many ways. But now, now was the time to strike. "Ahh... I can't take it anymore. It's just no good. Off with it! Your Mistress demands that you strip!" Rather than wait for Signum to do so and go from there, she marched over to the bed and placed her hand upon the box she had brought with her in a dramatic fashion. Perhaps she was enjoying this a little too much?
Signum herself was too gobsmacked to offer up any sort of argument, or even comply with the order, and simply stared at the sudden shift in her Mistress' demeanor. "Hayate, what is-?" She was cut off as Hayate hurled the box's lid off to the side and held up two articles. Two very, very dangerous articles. One was a pair of red lace panties. The other was a dress. A dress of red silk which seemed to be embroidered with some manner of golden-hued pattern. "Th-Those are..."
"Fufufu~ Your Lady Hayate was hoping she wouldn't need to give you this little present so soon. But it seems like I don't have a choice. I don't want my beloved knight to have her evening ruined by something like clothes. So I took the liberty of placing a little order~" She had every intention of stuffing Signum into the articles in her hands since walking through the door, but making the knight wear it of her own accord, even if it involved dubious means, was just so much more fun.
The panic melted from Signum's face as she beheld the now revealed articles from the box of unknown origin. Taking it's place was a an expression somewhere between shock and embarrassment. "You... When did you get those? And you... want me to wear them?" The tone she used was perfectly flat, as if unable to entertain the notion of wearing such undergarments. Her crimson cheeks and wide, doe-like eyes, however, were quite indicative of the thoughts which lay just below the surface.
Where had she even gotten those? Wait, is the where even important at this point? Hayate obviously acquired them through some means. No nevermind the where, how about the what? Could such a piece of cloth even be considered clothing? For underwear it was outrageous. Some parts even looked as though she could see through them. Forget being borderline indecent, it practically flew over the line into outright shameless!
Sure, she'd worn some rather scandalous attire before, all at the hands of her perverse Mistress. She could quite vividly recall some outfits that would have gotten her arrested in very short order if she had even taken a single step outside. Yet the idea of wearing undergarments such as these for such an important event... It was embarrassing. So very embarrassing!
And that's just the panties.
...Panties she now notices have no matching bra.
"It's your battle gear! Going to such an important date with such casual underwear is simply begging for defeat. A woman must always wear the proper gear for a date. And for an evening like this, you have to go with the sexy. The sexier, the better!" Let it not be said that Hayate does not learn a great deal through her misadventures in molestation and spying on her subordinates. "How can you possibly have a romantic evening full of a true love-love atmosphere if you don't have the right support?"
The look on Signum's face told Hayate she was at least comprehending those words.
It was a start.
"And the dress!" Signum would not be given a choice it seems. Granted, she never had one to begin with. Such was the illusion of choice granted by her Mistress. Hayate wasted no time in unfolding the dress for Signum to see. It was... astounding. Yes, her overwhelmed mind could definitely accept astounding as an explanation for the garment she would be forced to wear tonight. "And the best part is that it has plenty of support, so you don't need to bother with a bra. No matter how sexy a matching bra to these panties might be~"
"N-No bra?" Signum's mouth seemed to have regained the ability to function, however higher mental functions still appeared to be impaired. Her face flushed a bright red at the notion. It almost matched the color of the dress. "B-B-But-!"
Hayate would not be dissuaded and shook her head violently. "No! Absolutely not. For this dress you can't wear a bra. It'll completely ruin the look! And for that matter!" She thrust her finger out to the stunned and embarrassed knight. "After all you two have done together, how can you be embarrassed by something like this? If you can't go without a bra for a sexy, important date like this, then I have not raised you properly! I will not have my beloved Signum lose the man of her dreams because she can't work up the courage to wear something daring and dangerous!"
Signum felt herself backing up as her Mistress began advancing on her with a very dangerous gleam in her eyes, panties and dress in hand. "H-Hayate?" She could not really deny Hayate's words. The sensible ones, at least. Not in any sensible manner which did not spit upon her feelings regarding what she and Yuuno were. But it did not make Hayate any less a frightening existence at the moment. "Please calm down and be reasonable. Hayate?"
There was a dangerous gleam in Hayate's eyes as she cornered the rosette, her mind given in to the madness which was part of the core of her existence. "Yes, this is definitely the only path. Fiery and sexy, just the thing for the General of Fire. And it goes so well with your hair. Ahh... You're going to be an absolute killer tonight~"
Unfortunately for Signum, the remainder of the intervention and impromptu education would employ very few of her own opinions.
Or free will.
"Hayate, please! Wait, I can-! Ah!"
Yuuno had been on pins and needles for at least the past hour now, much to the mild amusement of the other two occupants of the house. But who could really blame him? When Arf's message had come through saying she was on her way with "An incredibly amazing delivery" he knew the moment of truth was truly approaching. Nanoha had threatened to bind him when he'd started to pace and he was smart enough to obey. So here he sat, trying to keep his head cool while waiting for Signum to arrive. Signum. The General of Fire whom he'd so utterly fallen for. Tonight would be the end of what little they had or the beginning of a great deal more.
He very nearly jumped out of his seat when he heard the engine of a car come to a stop outside his home. The opening and shutting of doors. Should he really be hearing things so acutely? Finally came three staccato knocks on the door. With a slight stiffness in his movements, he stood and shook his head. No. He's got to keep himself focused. He must. "Coming!" Straightening his garments, he went to the front door and took a deep breath before opening it. And he nearly had his breath stolen away from him as he beheld Signum.
She was clad in a dress. But not just any dress. It was red. A crimson hue that seemed beyond comprehension. Along the edges was a pattern of gold which traced itself into the shape of what could have been either flowers or flame. There was a slit running up one side which showed off a great amount of her shapely leg with even the barest hint of movement. He'd seen her legs before in various states of dress, but this was simply breathtaking. The top half hugged her torso dangerously, giving no illusion to the form beneath it and proudly displaying Signum's ample cleavage. Lacking sleeves or straps of any sort, her shoulders were left bare to show the defined muscle prominently. There were no gloves to the ensemble, allowing him to see all of her powerful arms. He noted her fingernails had been painted the same color as the lipstick she was wearing, a bright red matching the dress. And her long rosette locks no longer fell about her face or were bound up in her signature ponytail. No, now they were piled atop the back of her head in a beautiful arrangement while what was not bound was left to sway gently with every action she took. His throat went dry as he looked into Signum's crystal blue eyes "I… You… You look amazing Signum. Just… wow." He blinked to try and regain his senses and welcomed her to enter his home. "C-Come inside, please."
Signum found herself blushing heavily at Yuuno's reaction, unsure how exactly to respond. Well, that wasn't quite right. She knew how to respond. It was just the sheer weight of all that was occurring, piled up onto the abuse she'd suffered at the hands of her Lady as she sought her revenge had left her wits somewhat frayed, so it took a moment for her to muster up the proper response. "Ah... thank you." She turned to nod goodbye to Arf, she'd thanked her for the ride itself on the journey over, and stepped inside. As she did so, she took that moment to better take in Yuuno's attire while he closed the door. The suit was well-tailored and complimented his form well. Subtle and understated, it did not consciously draw attention to itself, as evidenced by her not taking immediate notice of it upon first seeing Yuuno.
It contrasted well with her own attire, hand-picked as it was by Hayate to entice and tantalize, drawing attention to every curve of her body. Once again, she lamented Hayate's perversity, especially given the additional groping which had been inflicted upon her as the dress was put on her frame. She was convinced half the reason Hayate had chosen this particular design was because it provided an excuse to leave her ample chest unbound and unprotected from greedy eyes and hands. Regardless of the intention, the effect was obvious, if Yuuno's slack-jawed reaction was any indication. Not only that, but she could swear she felt eyes not belonging to him on her as she entered the house, but that could easily have been her own nervous mind playing tricks on her. Or it could have just been Arf, and her nerves were getting the better of her.
Shifting slightly on her feet, she attempted to think of something to say so the awkward silence could be broken. "You look quite good yourself." Standing there nervously without anything to say, she took in her surroundings, noting the place seemed to be much cleaner than it had been during the brief visit she'd paid this location some time ago. Kaiser, had it really been that long since she had begun this journey with Yuuno which had led them to where they were now? The thought was a humbling one, as it brought to mind everything that had led up to this moment and what the two of them were hoping to accomplish this eve. Well, what she was hoping to accomplish, at least. A low rumble of thunder which made itself known in the distance was oddly helpful in calming her nerves, and it brought her out of her musings. Clearing her throat, she attempted to move things along when it appeared Yuuno was unable to find a means to do so himself. "What did you have planned for us?"
Yuuno found himself himself unable to drive off the reddening of his own cheeks. Not only at the complement paid to him, but also at the fact he'd been quite obviously so taken by Signum's appearance he'd nearly forgotten why they were even having this date. But he was quite glad Signum approved of his garments. He'd really have to thank Fate for choosing what she had. "…Thank you." Clearing his throat, he offered to escort Signum with a wave of his hand and the crooking of his arm. "I was thinking of having dinner first and them… we could talk." There was a notable pause in his words as Signum allowed herself to be escorted. So much needed to be discussed, no matter how many or how few words it took. And with their futures riding on it, he wasn't exactly sure what to think. All he could do was have hope. He escorted the rosette to the dining room. A room which had undergone a great change during the day. Where there was once errant tomes, the occasional coffee cup, and other myriad objects atop a decently sized table was now a much smaller table. A table fit for two to sit at comfortably and adorned with a well pressed red tablecloth. In the center stood a pair of candlesticks with white candles burning brightly. Doing as he believed a gentleman ought to, he led Signum to her chair and pulled it out for her to sit down. "I hope you don't mind, but I already ordered for us." He smiled as he noted a slight movement from the direction of the kitchen. "But our waiter can bring you whatever you'd like to drink."
Signum watched as Yuuno pulled out her chair for her and helped her sit down, she couldn't help but smile wryly and look up at him as she sat down, a bit more confidence returning to her. "I am perfectly capable of sitting down." The amusement in her voice was obvious, but when a movement off to the side caught her attention, she quickly directed her gaze towards the source. What she saw caused her eyes to widen and lips to form an "o" shape from the sheer shock of it. "T-Testarossa?" An incredibly well-dressed Fate was approaching them with a teasing smile upon her usually demure expression. Recalling Yuuno's comment about their waiter, she quickly got ahold of the situation and recovered her wits. Though she was still at an obvious loss for words. "I... was not expecting such... hospitality, Yuuno."
Yuuno scratched his cheek in a somewhat bashful manner as Fate came to stand by the table, the candlelight illuminating her state of dress more clearly. She would not have looked out of place in nearly any restaurant no less than five stars. It was quite amazing at just how well the Enforcer could pull off the waiter look. "I wanted this date to really be something and I didn't want to screw things up, so… I got some help." As he moved over to take his own seat, a small chuckle escaped his lips. Help was a bit of an understatement. This evening would have been doomed from the start without such assistance. "I just hope it meets your approval."
Fate smiled lightly as she bowed to Signum and then to Yuuno, intent on filling her role to the fullest. But not without having a little fun at the knight's expense. Seeing Signum so flustered was a sight she doubted she'd get to see often. In fact, this is the first time she's seen her lose her composure so. "I'll be your server tonight. As the gentleman said, dinner has been ordered ahead of time and will consist of a meat lasagna and stuffed cheese ravioli. Fresh garlic bread is available if you would like to partake of it." She swept her ruby eyes over the two lovers with a smile and continued, making sure to pay particular attention to Signum. "And what may I get for you to drink, my lady? I would recommend a red wine with the meal." She just might be having too much fun with this.
Red wine did go well with pasta, Signum did have to admit. And it seemed more than appropriate given the atmosphere of the evening. One did learn quite a few things about dining when your Mistress was some manner of omnipotent entity in the kitchen, crafting all manner of dishes she and the rest of the family were often hard-pressed to guess where she had learned how to make. "The red wine will be fine, thank you." She had to resist the urge to raise an eyebrow at the twinkle that appeared in Fate's eyes.
Yes, definitely too much fun. She only hoped Signum's reaction to the meal was just as amusing. Fate gave a bow of acknowledgement and turned to Yuuno. "As you wish. And for the gentleman?"
"I'll have the same, please." If nothing else, Yuuno was certain the wine he'd bought for the evening would be more than suitable. Chrono was... something of a connoisseur. Well, to put it nicely. His old friend might be two steps from being willing to swim in a wine barrel at times, but he made sure to imbibe of quality brew as well. The icy admiral would never allow mediocre drink past his lips, much less rotgut.
Lessons of drink were some of the few Yuuno took to heart from the blue haired man.
As Fate gave a final bow and left to procure the requested wine, Signum appeared to take a moment to find her words. While the Enforcer turned waiter had certainly helped to break the ice, simply jumping straight into conversation was still a slight difficult. "So far, I must say you seem to have outdone yourself and my expectations. I was anticipating... perhaps dinner at a restaurant with how you described things."
Yuuno chuckled lightly, a warm feeling in his chest at Signum's words. "I was kind of hoping to give that impression. And I'll admit, I did consider going out to eat. But... This seemed more appropriate in the end." No matter how long it took them to really get to talking, a more intimate dinner sounded far better than any public setting.
"Indeed it is. And you even enlisted Testarossa's help for the job. I will admit she fits the role well enough she would do well for an undercover assignment." Signum could almost hear the groan of misfortune at her words. No doubt the blonde woman had actually done so in the past. Or if not, may very well find herself doing so sooner than later. Such turns of... fortune tended to befall the woman more often than not. "I am... curious as to who else you enlisted for this undertaking."
"Well... I-" He was interrupted as Fate returned to the dining room, a polished bucket bucket of ice with a bottle in one hand and a pair of wine glasses in the other. She worked with a grace and precision one would be content to simply observe for hours even if not being tended to by her. There was not one wasted movement in the uncorking of the bottle, nor was a single drop of wine spilled. Yuuno nodded to her gratefully, if a slight stunned. "Ah, thank you."
Signum's own reaction matched her lover's. It was quite the sight to behold to say the least. "Indeed. Thank you."
Fate simply smiled and nodded before speaking. "Dinner is nearly ready, the chef is making a few last preparations."
Before any sort of inquiry as to the identity of their supposed mystery chef could be brought up or even an attempt at conversation, a voice rang out from the kitchen. A voice which was normally quite familiar to all present. "Dinner is served lovely madame and handsome sir. I hope you enjoy your wonderful evening together and that the food is most acceptable to your palates." A voice which was currently spouting perhaps the worst faux accent any of them had ever heard.
"...Nanoha, what was that?" It seems not even Fate was anticipating such an entrance. Nevertheless, she moved to help the apron clad brunette with the hot plates of delicious food. Food which made her mouth water as though she hadn't tasted even a morsel of food in years.
Nanoha merely chuckled helplessly as she handed off one of the plates to Fate. "French? Maybe?" Turning her attention to the two flabbergasted individuals at the table, she smiled with amusement. Yuuno seemed to have been shocked at how bad her attempt at acting had been while Signum seemed to have been struck momentarily dumb at her presence. Setting down the plate before the Knight, her smile warmed. "I hope you two enjoy yourselves."
Signum shook herself from her momentary stupor when Nanoha's words finally registered to her. They held only acceptance, kindness, and reassurance. It was as if Nanoha had given her blessing in those words. If ever she had entertained the notion of Yuuno being stolen away by his former lover, this would have dashed such thoughts without question. She nodded and gave a small smile of her own. "We will. I cannot thank you enough, Takamachi. For everything." Her crystal gaze turned to Fate. "And you as well, Testarossa."
The blond woman shook her head and smiled as she set Yuuno's plate in front of him. "What are friends for?"
"Thank you both, really. I don't think I had any chance of pulling this off without your help." Yuuno gave a short bow to his two friends from his seat. Really, he doubted he could even begin to imagine where to begin to repay this kindness.
"Just don't mess up or I'll have to punish you~" Three flat stares were directed towards the White Devil and she merely laughed.
Fate began pushing the all too amused Nanoha back into the kitchen with an embarrassed expression. "Please, just have a good time." She needed to have a few words with the brunette. And get some food of their own. She was really hungry.
Signum and Yuuno sat in silence as they watched the pair leave the dining room. It took a few moments before both felt their composure finally crack and let their amusement spill forth. Yuuno's laughter melded with Signum's own, for a rare time not merely being satisfied with an amused chuckle, as Nanoha's antics shattered the nervous mood which had been steadily growing. Really, who could keep a straight face for long after seeing such a scene? Perhaps a handful at best. Were it under different circumstances, Signum may have counted herself among them. But not now.
Calming themselves, they both raised raised their wineglasses and made a toast. They did not toast anything so dramatic as themselves, nor to the unknown future. Rather, they raised a toast to friends and family. Friends and family who had allowed and helped them reach where they were. Even so minor an involvement, it was something.
As they began to enjoy the wonderfully cooked meal, it was Signum who spoke first. "I should warn my Mistress about this." She eyed a forkful of steaming lasagna critically. "If Takamachi is already at this level and continues to improve, Lady Hayate will soon be overtaken."
"I think she'd enjoy some competition in the kitchen for once. She's held that crown since we were children. Who knows? Maybe a little push from the right direction could be just what she needs to reach a new level of skill." Yuuno's challenging grin turned into one of reflection. "I suppose I'd better work on my own skills too."
Signum swallowed her bite and wiped her lips gently with a napkin before giving him a raised eyebrow. "I would highly recommend it. While your soup was quite good, one cannot live on soup alone." There was a teasing lilt in her voice. One her Mistress had been hoping to bring out even more over the years with varying degrees of success.
Yuuno's expression turned somewhere between disgruntled and playful. "I can make more than soup you know. And you really liked that potato salad too." He was rather proud of that particular dish. It had the highest success rate out of all his cooking that didn't involve something pre-packaged in any way.
"Indeed I did. And you were rather fond of the pasta I made. I would only suggest you do not become a master of sandwiches. I think we would both lose our minds if constantly subjected to the... 'Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich' jokes." She swirled the wine in her glass slowly as she spoke, making for a rather... unusual contrast when combined with the serious expression on her face..
Said vision nearly made Yuuno lose himself to laughter. Such words with such an appearance was nearly too much. His wide grin was plain evidence enough. "You got that from Vita didn't you?"
Signum nodded with a slight grimace. "Not even Lady Hayate understands the words coming out of her mouth at times. And it was her who introduced Vita to these sorts of things." At least the redhead had enough decency to not go out of her way to irritate the rest of the family. There was only so much she could take hearing the inane ramblings of the internet given voice. "Fortunately she is not so far gone as to neglect her duties or training."
"Fortunately. I don't think there's anything in this universe that could drive her to go that far." If there was, he did not want to be around to see it. And he was pretty sure there was no one who disagreed with his statement.
Signum set down her fork and rested her chin upon steepled fingers, giving Yuuno a curious look. "We have had barely any chance to even chat, much less have a proper talk. So tell me, how have you been Yuuno? And I am curious as to how you managed to rope both Testarossa and Takamachi into aiding you this evening."
"Ah, you see..."
It was perhaps an hour later when the candles began to burn low as they neared the end of their livelihood that the small talk was beginning to abate and a far more relaxed mood had settled upon the pair.
As requested, Yuuno had indeed spilled the beans about his little talk with Nanoha in the library and his request for her aid. Not to mention Fate's unexpected, but most welcome help. He made note to mention were it not for the blond Enforcer, he might have very well wound up wearing an old suit that would have spelled great disaster. Signum had found it all quite amusing. Particularly when told the details of the suit in question. Even she would have wondered if something was wrong with Yuuno's head had he chosen it.
In turn, Signum divulged her own antics involving getting ready for the evening. A rather lovely blush adorned her cheeks as she told of her folly expecting such an old, not even worn dress to fit her after so long. She did admit to having realized it had all ended up being a plot at the hands of her Mistress to shove her into the dress she was currently wearing. One must not expect any less of Yagami Hayate. Especially one so deprived of mischief.
The conversation flowed rather easily as they conversed about work, friends, family, and their daily goings on. It was disturbingly easy to notice just how much more... peaceful their lives had been while Hayate was away at boot camp. Signum had noted just how odd it had felt to not run the risk of being dolled up in some strange outfit at random chance.
Eventually, Fate made her reappearance to take away the empty plates and deliver to them their dessert. It was a simple, yet delicious affair. A steaming cup of hot cocoa for each. Some might wonder why such a choice after all the elegance and faux restaurant aura which had been placed into the evening.
To put it simply, sometimes simple is best.
Afterwards Fate excused herself to rejoin Nanoha so they might partake of their own dessert. There was plenty of cocoa to go around~
Still, after sitting down for so long, even the most comfortable of individuals would want to stretch their legs a bit. Signum picked up her mug and gestured towards the living room. "Shall we continue in there?" She would readily admit to the desire to kick off her shoes and sink into Yuuno's very appealing looking couch.
Yuuno nodded and picked up his own mug. "Sure. I'm feeling a bit stiff after sitting here myself." A point accentuated when he felt his back stretch to the point of popping when he stood up. it was amazing the things you failed to notice when enjoying someone's company.
Back in the kitchen, both chef and waiter gave them unseen nods of approval before smiling and turning back to their own secret little talks. Oh, would they have some fun things to tell Hayate come morning.
Now seated upon the large couch in Yuuno's living room and with steaming mugs of cocoa in hand, the mood in the air turned from a lighthearted one of relaxed comfort to one which was thicker, viscous. Not uncomfortable, but one which held considerable weight. There was a shared thought that it had been a good idea to not bring up the more serious portions of their planned talk over dinner. Had they attempted to do so, they may very well have surrendered to an unbearably awkward silence.
Taking a small sip of her delicious chocolate beverage, it was Signum who ultimately took the first step. She would be brave. She would march forth towards her goal without regrets. "I will not dance about, Yuuno. I believe know what it is that I desire. The question which remains... Is whether or not my desires and your own are compatible." Straight to the heart, like a blade aiming for the most vulnerable point of a piece of armor. Her crystalline eyes did not glimmer with any sort of discernible emotion beyond the determination she was so praised for.
Yuuno cradled the mug in his hands, allowing the heat radiating through the porcelain to warm his palms. He had put no small amount of thought into what he desired between them. It mattered not whether he was the one receiving or granting the question. He raised his green hued gaze to meet Signum's and favored her with an expression mirroring her own. "What I want... What I want is to be yours and only yours. And to make you mine and only mine."
The meaning behind such words was not lost on the Knight and it took her no small amount of effort to maintain her composed visage. The pink creeping onto her cheeks did not make it easy. "You know I have sworn myself to Lady Hayate as her Knight first and foremost. That you will have to share my attentions with her as my duty dictates." They were harsh words, but part of a truth Yuuno would have to realize, understand, and accept.
"I know. And my own duties are not so small either. The Infinite Library can't compare to Hayate, but you've already seen how demanding it is." They had to bring out all the difficulties and restrictions they could imagine. He knew Signum wouldn't hold back and neither would he. They stopped doing so on a certain Autumn night quite some time ago.
She nodded. "Yet still you would endeavor to make this prideful and headstrong Knight your own whilst swearing yourself to her?" There was little else she could ask after hearing Yuuno's words.
"I love you too much to consider doing any less." Yes, his heart belonged to the beautiful and mighty Knight seated next to him and he would do no less than his absolute best. "Are you willing to see what the future holds? With this librarian who spends so much of his time buried in old tomes and ancient artifacts?"
"I would not be here if I desired otherwise." A small smile crept onto her stern features. "I will simply have to make sure I drag you away from your books if you cannot do so for yourself." Those words garnered a chuckle from both of them as the tension abated slightly. No longer was it so thick or bearing the risk of suffocation.
Yuuno gave an awkward smile. "Please be gentle if you do. I'm only so durable." It was a mostly humorous plea, but he was also fairly certain Signum would quite readily tie him up and drag him out in a violent manner if need be.
She laughed in response to his request. Him? Not durable? "Surely you jest. I would think you to be more than capable of surviving at least being drug from your office. Or are you suggesting our matches and all the battles we've survived to be less dangerous than being hauled away from an ancient tome?"
"I don't know... There was that one time Chrono threatened to drop the Claudia on the library if I was late to his daughters' birthday." The man had seemed plenty willing to do so as well and Yuuno wasn't exactly keen on testing just how strong he could make his shields. A late thesis paper had been worth it in the end.
"I doubt I will ever have need to drop a warship on you. So rest assured any collateral damage will be kept to a minimum." Signum took a long sip of her steaming drink with a smile on her lips as Yuuno sputtered in response to her casual threat. "And I hope that you would be of clear enough mind to drag me away from my own distractions as well."
He nodded after regaining his wits. It had been all too easy to imagine Signum showing up at his office one day and hauling him away with Laevatein's Schlagenform. "Of course I will. Though considering you're a lot better at keeping your head on straight, I don't think I'll have much of a chance." Her knowing grin brought a resigned expression to his face.
"At least you are aware of it." As Yuuno finished off the last of his cocoa and set down the mug, she thought back to how all this had started. Never in her wildest dreams could she have predicted this. Least of all with Yuuno Scrya. "I still cannot quite believe how much has happened since that night. Who would have thought one little spar would have brought us all the way here?" They, who had been somewhere between friends and acquaintances, were now taking the steps to brave forward into a relationship together.
Yuuno's gaze took on a somewhat faraway look. "I know what you mean. We've come so far since then, learned so much about one another. I mean, I never really knew just how much you enjoyed battle. And I never would have thought you love to read as much as you do." Some part of his mind had a feeling more than a few of his texts would find their way into the rosette's hands sooner than later. He hoped she enjoyed them, though many were rather dry reading according to some of his coworkers.
"And the discovery of just how sharp your teeth really are was hardly an insignificant one. Not to mention just how deep your love for history goes. I will admit it was not so much a surprise to see it, but the depths were far beyond what I could have imagined." While she doubted she would jump at the next chance to join him on another excavation, Signum was not opposed to accompanying him. It had been quite the experience to say the very least. And not just because they had made what had turned out to be the discovery of the century. "The excavation was... quite the eye opener."
"It really was." A tinge of red colored both their cheeks as Yuuno spoke, neither forgetting the events which had taken place near the end of their trip. It had been like a dam had burst and from it everything had spilled forth. Their feelings for each other. The emotions which had driven them. Even the building aggression from their spars which had found no release until then had come issuing forth like a great flood.
Signum gave a somewhat defeated look. "Vita was rather vocal about it when she found out. I believe she looked up every possible synonym for sex just to see how I would react. And then today, Lady Hayate decided to join in." Some might ask whether or not those two had anything better to do than torment the Knight about her love life. But the rosette knew that even if they did, they would not hesitate to tease when given the chance.
The blond man could only shake his head. The teasing he'd been subjected to no doubt was nothing compared to what those two could come up with. "Maybe they'll give up eventually?" The shake of Signum's head did not fill him with any sort of relief. He really ought to know better. Especially when it came to Hayate. If it involved relationships, she would not hesitate to pounce.
It was then that Yuuno was struck with a realization. All this talk of relationships and the various bits of teasing about sexuality had reminded him of something. It was a rather important something as well. The sort of thing they really should have talked about the morning after their first night together. His eyes widened in no small amount of concern and panic. "Yuuno? Is something wrong?" Signum did not fail to notice his change in demeanor.
His voice was not so much hesitant as it was unsure. "Signum. We... didn't use any protection that night." The notion he may have gotten Signum pregnant and hadn't even realized it until now did not sit well with him. In fact, it sent a disturbing chill down his spine and made him feel like so much scum. They hadn't exactly been concerned about safe sex when so embroiled in one another's bodies. Signum hadn't said anything either, but that didn't excuse his thoughtlessness.
They hadn't really even been sure of what they were at the time! To so carelessly bring a life into this world would be the height of stupidity. He felt his hands begin to shake as his mind ran away with itself. If Signum had conceived as a result of that night... What would they do? What would he do? He had no idea what to do in such a situation. The thought of children hadn't ever crossed his mind until now!
A slender hand, elegant yet till holding great strength fell upon one of his shaking own and stilled it. Yuuno looked up to meet Signum's eyes and saw a kind of grim resignation he had never before seen in her. Before he could he could say another word, she shook her head.
There was the closing of a door as Fate and Nanoha took their leave, having decided it was for the better to not be present and risk overhearing anything further. While they may have wanted to offer whatever assistance they could to the couple, there were things that should remain between only them until they are ready to be open about it.
After a few further moments of silence, Signum's grip on Yuuno's hand tightened and she began to speak. "Yuuno, I... am not with child." There was no breath of relief from him. He knew there had to be more. Her expression left no room for it to be so simple. "Nor will I ever be. Should we reach the point we desire children, it must be through a surrogate or adoption." She swallowed thickly. "I... am barren."
"Wh-what?" The sudden revelation had left Yuuno speechless and nearly brought his ability to think crashing into nothingness. Signum could not have children? He would have asked why she had not said anything prior or even the reason why, but she cut him off as if reading his all too clear thoughts.
"This is the first time in my memory where such a thing has ever been relevant. I will admit I did not realize it's importance until now. For that, I can only apologize." There was a sign of great disturbance upon her features. It was as if all the potential worries she could have held about admitting to her state of being were bubbling up one after the other. A measure of shock entered her visage as Yuuno slowly wrapped his free hand around the one Signum was using to hold him stead. It was a gesture which she drew further resolve from. "I could not even begin to tell you why I am like this, but I imagine the Defense Program thought such a thing was... unnecessary."
Yuuno still seemed quite shaken. He would have been extremely worried if he hadn't been. To so easily overcome a confession of this magnitude would not have spoken well for his principles. "I... I see..."
A potent and dark silence began to grow between them as their thoughts began to overcome them.
Each becoming more and more concerned with how to deal with the information now placed before them. One who felt fear or delivering it and the other who felt uncertainty in receiving it.
"Signum." It was Yuuno's voice who ultimately broke the silence. They locked eyes and saw in each other the wariness and unease. He took a deep breath and gave his answer. "Would... Would you have told me eventually? If it hadn't come out tonight?"
She nodded as firmly as she could at the moment. "I would. I could not say exactly when. But be assured that I would not have left you in the dark." Her body began to release the sharply built tension ever so slightly as she spoke.
Yuuno finally nodded. "A-Alright. Thank you for telling me." His voice was awkward, not entirely unsure but more as if trying to come to grips with something so completely unexpected. He might compare to to asking what color the sky was and being told it was not only red, but also made of sand. "Does anyone else know?"
"Shamal knows. There is very little, if anything, one can hide from her when she is your doctor. I imagine Vita and Zafira know as well, but they have never said anything. I doubt Hayate knows, and I should tell her as soon as I can." It wouldn't be fair to hide such a thug from her Mistress any further. Not after revealing it to Yuuno. "Will you... be alright with this?"
"I don't know yet. I've never really thought about it before." He took a deep breath and did his best to calm himself. "But I'm not going to jump ship just because of it." He doubted he'd ever be able to forgive himself it he did. "Let's see where we end up before we start worrying about children. I mean, technically this is our first proper date."
Signum breathed an audible sigh of relief at his words. Her deepest secret was now revealed. A secret so tucked away she had almost forgotten about it in it's entirety. And one which Yuuno would not hold against her. It filled her heart with warmth and ease. A slightly amused smile graced her features. "It is, isn't it. And a very eventful one at that."
Yuuno gave a slightly more relaxed chuckle. "You're telling me."
"But I am glad. Glad you are willing to accept me for who and what I am." She leaned forward and pressed against Yuuno's chest with one hand, warmth and mirth dancing in her eyes.
He allowed himself to be pushed backwards onto the couch as he replied. "I couldn't say I love you if I didn't." Signum now loomed over his prone form and smiled. It was a smile which made his heart dance.
"And it is that acceptance. That is part of the reason I love you as well." Signum leaned down and placed a kiss upon his lips. There was a contentment within her breast as she embraced the man she loved. It was different from the contentment she felt with her family, with her friends, or even in battle. But all the same, she luxuriated in and welcomed it with open arms. And as she felt Yuuno's arms wrap around her whilst returning her kiss, she would say in this moment she had never been happier.
"And that's the story of how one girl found true happiness. The end." There was a soft thumping sound as the speaker closed the book in her hand with a flourish.
A pair of grey eyes looked up at the reader from her place on the bed, questioning and disbelief apparent in their depths. "Aunt Hayate, I don't think that's how Cinderella ended..." The girl's soft voice made Hayate pause. "Cinderella doesn't turn into a demon lord and I thought there were supposed to be pink lasers."
"Erk" It seems she's been found out. But pink lasers, really? "I think your Aunt Nanoha has been a bad influence on you. Do your parents know about this?" They could not allow a second coming of the White Devil. Vivio was close enough, and she spent more time embroiled in tomes than in combat. Surely this child would not doom them all?
She shook her head. "Mother told me that story. And there was a lot more battles in it." The plush ferret in her arms seemed to wordlessly confirm that statement.
Hayate sighed. Leave it to Signum to tell her own child a ludicrous version of a fairy tail. But it wasn't like she would have been any better with her own children. At least hers had a demon lord. And demon lords were awesome. But she wouldn't really get anywhere debating this with a five year old. "Signum would tell you that sort of story wouldn't she." A more stern expression crossed her face. "You did brush your teeth, right? Just because you get to spend the night here while your parents are on their honeymoon doesn't mean I'll give you too much slack."
"I did." As if to prove her point, she grinned widely to show off as many teeth as she could. All nice and clean as she'd said. "Mother and father said to always listen to Aunt Hayate. Unless she talks about... cos-play?" The curious tilt of her head was not only adorable, but sent an arrow of despair through the brunette's heart.
Why? Why would her precious knight and dear friend deny her this opportunity? Surely they knew just how precious their child was and how adorable she would look in all sorts of costumes? And she's not so depraved as to break out the risque ones for a kid. Hasn't she earned some sort of trust? Maybe? Sort of?
This is Hayate, ergo... No.
"One day. One day your parents will let me show what a wonderful world cosplay is." The significance of her lamentations were lost upon the child, who merely yawned and pulled the blankets up closer around her self and her stuffed companion. "Well, it's time for you to get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning light~"
As heavy lidded eyes fells closed, their owner whispered a good night of her own, "Good night... Aunt... Hayate..."
Hayate leaned over and kissed the sleeping girl on the forehead. "Good night, Lenneth." She made sure her niece was all nice and tucked in once more before taking her leave of the guest room with a smile. Really, she was honestly quite envious of Lenneth's parents. The girl was such a sweetheart.
As she made her way down the stairs, Hayate reflected on the past ten years. Things had turned into a circus when Signum and Yuuno finally came out and said they were together. Those who were already in the know, which was far more people than either of them actually realized, had given them no end of congratulation. Those who didn't... Well, everyone requested a copy of the photo depicting Chrono's reaction.
Were it not for Amy's quick thinking, the admiral may very well have choked on his drink.
Caro had stars in her eyes for the rest of the evening and it had made things very uncomfortable for Erio, who no longer is beaten black and blue every time he trains with Arf. Not completely at the very least. The dragon tamer and her knight are married now and have two children with names Hayate doesn't even want to try pronouncing. She bites her tongue almost every time she tries.
Nanoha and Fate finally made themselves official, to which everyone responded with a "Took them long enough." Signum and Yuuno had even repaid the two for their help in bringing them together with a similar dinner. Yuuno's fare wasn't quite up to par compared to Nanoha's, but everyone had agreed that Signum should never be allowed to wear that kind of suit again. It was simply too dangerous on her figure. Were she and Fate to both dress the role of waiter, there would be no survivors.
Almost two years to the day after their first meeting on the training grounds, the Librarian and the Knight officially tied the knot. Hayate had been Signum's Maid of Honor while Chrono had stood in as Yuuno's Best Man, a position everyone could tell he was honored to have. No matter how much he denied it. Such a tsundere that one~
The odd couple had their own place now, right next door in fact. There was only so far Signum was willing to go when it came to being separated from her Mistress. Yuuno wasn't opposed to the idea of living next door and both he and Zafira have often tossed around the idea of actually joining the two buildings. Whether or not they are serious or not depends on the amount of liquor they've had that evening. Yuuno usually passes out after two drinks or so and Zafira laments the man's weakness while stating Chrono can hold his drink far better.
Considering how their relationship got off the ground and how it had blazed on ahead, it was of little surprise the wedded couple continued on with their rather potent battles. Hayate still claims it is the most violent display of foreplay she's ever seen and the fact denials are few and far between only adds fuel to the fire. But regardless of whatever kink the two find in their matches, no one could deny just how positive and effect they had on both Yuuno and Signum. Yuuno was in the best shape of his life and now had more than a decent offensive repertoire to his name. Signum on the other hand was now something of a nightmare. The holes in her defenses had closed to nearly nothing and a certain controlled ferocity had begun to enter her style. Vita nearly wept with fury when Signum managed to blow through Yuuno's best shield with a single, very specialized arrow.
The fact Signum nearly blew up her husband in the process seemed lost on the redhead.
It was some four years ago that Signum and Yuuno had decided they would adopt a child. They still won't say why exactly they made the decision, but Hayate is fairly certain it had to do with the surprising arrival of Chrono and Amy's son. Of course, deciding to adopt and actually adopting are two very different beasts. Being cleared to do so and finally being granted guardianship of the infant Lenneth took nearly two full years.
They say the wait was more than worth it though. Not to mention, the look on Signum's face when she first held the girl who would call her mother was absolutely priceless. Hayate would have paid a king's ransom to have it immortalized in some form or another, but she was willing to settle for photographs and her memories of the eve.
Parenthood was... an awkward affair for the two. While they had good resources to pull on for advice and assistance, no two parents are the same and what works for one may not work for another. Yuuno nearly had a heart attack when Lenneth entered the "terrible two's" and got into a collection of tomes that were not only valuable, but not the sort of thing to be handled lightly. What still baffles him to this day is how she even got into them; an out of reach, twelve layer seal should not be the sort of thing a toddler can get into. Fortunately his daughter was unharmed and he made sure to just stuff anything remotely dangerous into a pocket dimension for storage from then on.
Signum positively adored Lenneth, no matter how much her demeanor might suggest otherwise. It was something everyone found quite endearing of the Knight. Fate in particular found it to be a wonderful sight. However much to the rosette's dismay, Lenneth did not seem to be favoring the path of the Knight like her. Then again, everyone had to remind her that the child wasn't even close to her preteen years and such an expectation couldn't really be considered realistic.
Signum and Yuuno's relationship was not without its bumps in the road and Hayate could quite easily recall a few instances when the former had stormed into the house looking more furious than an angry red dragon. Arf had informed her that Yuuno typically hid out in his office when he was in a similar mood. But in the end, they patched things up, learned from the altercation, and moved on.
Their life was still as much a bundle of chaos as it always was and Hayate certain it wouldn't stop anytime soon. And she was more than happy to watch it unfold.
And poke it when it amused her~
Hayate reached the living room and flopped down on the couch, luxuriating in it's exquisite level of comfort. She glanced to the side and saw a beat up, positively ancient looking book. It was Signum's favorite and the one she'd taken with her the night she and Yuuno had changed the status quo. For whatever reason, she'd never read it. But then again, her's and Signum's taste in reading material was rather different.
She regarded the cover, so faded she couldn't even make out any sort of image or title, and began to wonder just was was within the contents. Contents Signum had found no small measure of amusement in revealing to her husband when he finally managed to convince her to tell him. Carefully cracking open the well-read little book, she began to read with a smile on her face.
It was exactly the sort of novel she expected it to be.
The sort Signum loved so very much.
A romance novel.
There you go, the end to Signum and Yuuno's bizarre little romance. I wasn't originally planning on having the story turn out the way it did. It was supposed to just be a way to make Yuuno inso some kind of amazing combatant, but that was scrapped pretty quickly in lieu of his and Signum's interactions taking a far more non-platonic route. It was still a lot of fun to work with the cast like this. I like to think I handed the main couple well considering the non-standard angle I was looking at them from.
One thing I ran into trouble with, especially here, was that it had become so very hard to write Signum in a full romantic sense. Truth be told, Nanoha was become a lot more fun and really easy to write near the end. It was something I found rather hilarious considering how I had gone through some logic in my head saying Nanoha was actually one of the worst potential partners for Yuuno; for anyone really. Here I ended up having to be careful not to have Nanoha steal Yuuno back or turn into a Signum/Yuuno/Nanoha story. It just wouldn't have ended well at all.
Hayate was tons of fun to write, even taking the flanderized route for her character. No mater how I've portrayed her, Hayate has always been one of my favorite characters to write.
If you'd like an explanation on why it's taken so long to get this written, it's because I started a new job that has me working four ten hour shifts. It pretty much knocks me out of writing for four days of the week, and that's not including everything else that needs doing on my days off. So I've been pretty busy. Still, I hope that my next work won't take this long to complete. XD
Again thanks to KnightOfCerberus for his tremendous help and patience with me. And thanks to everyone who has read this story and those who have left reviews. They've all been a great boost to my spirit. I hope you enjoyed it and I'm overjoyed you kept with it through to the end with me.
Until next time~