Quick Note: This story takes place in the Hayate x Vivio Files, about 6 months before the events of "You Never Lose By Loving." Vivio is 14 and Hayate is 27 (and Lutecia would be 18).
"The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live."
Vivio Takamachi gritted her teeth, feeling a bead of sweat slide down her temple. Just…a…little…higher…
"Th…Thirty!" Vivio touched her forehead to her knees, feeling the pressure of the padded workout bench behind her knees and in front of her ankles. She exhaled, lowering herself down from her sit-up.
"That's not what this insignia is," Lutecia joked, holding up her flash card again just above Vivio's knees so that the younger girl could see it even as she prepared herself for another set of sit-ups.
"Navy, Second-Lieutenant," answered Vivio from memory as she laced her fingers behind her head again. She paused. "Hey, thanks again for helping me study for my Military Policies test, Lutecia."
"How could I not?" teased her purple-haired friend from her seat on a balance ball. The base gym was empty due to the late hour, but late at night was the only time that Vivio and Lutecia could manage to find that worked in both their schedules. Between final exams for Vivio and mass orders of graduation Devices for Lutecia, neither of them had seen much of each other for the last few weeks. Lutecia shuffled Vivio's note cards. "I need to earn my worth as a best friend, right? Besides, this is fun. It's a nice refresher." She held up another card by Vivio's knees. "This one?"
With a clench of her stomach muscles, Vivio raised herself up, her shirt tightening across her taut back muscles. "Air…Force, Captain," Vivio identified, panting as she held her position, then lowered her upper body back down. That insignia Vivio knew well—she had spent enough time ironing Nanoha-mama's uniform jacket, after all.
Honestly, Vivio was glad that it had been an easier question for her to answer, because her nervousness had grown in the last ten minutes, scrambling her thoughts from the present into her approaching conundrum. The repetitiveness of the sit-ups helped with the anxiety, but honestly, if she wanted to ask Lutecia about her problem then she needed to speak up before they both had to go home. While Nanoha trusted Vivio enough to let her go out wherever she wanted even at odd hours, even the White Devil drew a line at letting her fourteen-year-old daughter be wandering about past eleven on a weeknight.
(Hence the reason why Lutecia was helping Vivio study during their hanging-out time: "studying" was a magic word that let Vivio sneakily get away with certain things like curfew during exam season.)
Just spit it out, Vivio! The blonde gulped. "I…need a bit of advice."
"Oh?" The summoner raised an eyebrow, brushing her long purple locks behind an ear. She shuffled through the cue cards. "Finally, we're getting somewhere." Smiling at Vivio's startled gaping, Lutecia patted Vivio's shin in amusement. "You're pretty obvious when you're stressed about something, you know. So, what's the problem?"
Vivio stuck her tongue out at her friend, then inhaled as she pulled herself into another series of sit-ups. "You know that…Officer Training Program I…mentioned before?"
"The one at St. Hilde?" Lutecia frowned a bit as she pondered, then nodded. "Oh yes, you're applying for an internship placement soon, aren't you?"
Panting as she lowered herself down again, Vivio grunted affirmation.
Lutecia held up another cue card picture.
Vivio crunched into her fifthiest sit-up. "Ground Forces, Colonel."
"You know all the Ground Forces ones well, huh?" Lutecia teased, her red eyes twinkling.
Don't react don't react…aw. Vivio blushed, nearly falling backwards as her stomach muscles shivered. "Yeah, yeah…anyway. Um…I know that I have the grades and the applied skills to go, well, nearly anywhere I want." It wasn't as embarrassing admitting such an immodest thing to a best friend; Vita had drilled excessive modesty out of Vivio long ago, claiming that a good warrior who didn't need to boast didn't need to put herself down either. "And well, I had gone though my choices a lot over the last month, but…"
After waiting for some time when Vivio fell silent, Lutecia reached over and put a hand on Vivio's knee. "But?"
"Well, I kind of know which placement I want," Vivio admitted in a small voice. "But I'm not…not sure it's the best place for me." Vivio did another series of sit-ups, the burn in her abdominal muscles vanishing as her nervousness grew.
"And which placement is this?"
Vivio bit her lip. She was so going to get teased. But if she wanted honest advice, then she was going to have to suck it up. "…The Ground Forces Defence Corps Strike team."
"Defence Corps?" Lutecia repeated, and Vivio could practically see the pieces click together behind her friend's delicate features. When the lightbulb turned on, Vivio sighed and let herself flop down onto the padded matt resignedly.
Thankfully, Lutecia Alphine was her best friend for a reason. The older girl set the study notes to the side and rolled her balance ball away to sit next to Vivio, sliding closer so that she could peer down at Vivio's face. "So, one of the places you want to apply to is the Strike Team division under Hayate's command?" She asked, not a hint of teasing in her tone.
"That's the thing," Vivio said miserably, blowing a puff of air through her blonde bangs. "I…well, I don't want to want that internship just because of Hayate-san, you see?" She kicked her legs out straight, lying sprawled on her back. "I mean, I…you know how I can't exactly think straight around Hayate-san." With a small laugh, Vivio rolled her eyes. "Pun sort-of intended."
"So you're worried that you're being biased, and you want to make sure that you're thinking it out before you jump to a decision?"
"Yes, exactly," Vivio said eagerly. She rolled onto her stomach and propped herself up on her elbows. "That's what I need advice for! Do you have any thoughts?"
"Slow down a little," Lutecia held up a hand, laughing nervously at Vivio's intensity. "Okay, you have to help me understand how you think first. What other programs would you want to get into, if you weren't going to try for the GFDC Strike Team?"
Good thing she was prepared for such a question. Vivio shuffled in a pseudo-military crawl on her stomach over to her workout bag, where she pulled out Sacred Heart and tapped him on the head to wake him up. "Kris, display folder "OTP internships" please."
Three holoscreens immediately appeared in the air. Vivio touched the first one and moved her finger closer to Lutecia, the screen following her movement. "This one is pretty cool. It's a placement with the Special Investigations Unit, working off-world. I thought about this one because my investigative skills aren't the greatest compared to my combat skills, so it could be a good chance for me to work on my weaknesses."
"Sounds nice. Why isn't it on the top of your list then?"
"Um…lots of things." Vivio counted off on her fingers. "Firstly, it's off-world. I don't really want to get deployed right now…I want to stay at home with Nanoha-mama. It's hard enough that Fate-mama is away so much—I don't want to do that to Nanoha-mama as well. And the whole purpose of the internship component of the OTP is ideally for us to make connections in the field that we want to advance in. So it seems kind of wasteful, even if I would learn a lot, to spend a year interning in a division that I probably won't make a career out of."
Lutecia scrolled down the page, skimming through the details of the SIU program. "Hm, yes, I see what you mean. You still haven't decided yet what you want to do, Vivio?"
"No," Vivio moped, playing with the ends of her ponytail. That was the stock question that she kept getting asked in the last year, and it was both annoying and panic-inducing at the same time. "How did you decide to become a Device Meister?"
"There wasn't much to do on uninhabited worlds," Lutecia deadpanned, and laughed when Vivio socked her in the shoulder. "Ow! I actually really don't know, Vivio. I think I was just good at it, and it was really interesting. And I love seeing new partnerships begin, so I think I just went with it when I found that I could do it well." She playfully shoved Vivio back. "And how about you? Other than becoming a pugilist, what would you want to do?"
"I'm not going to become a professional boxer," complained Vivio, pulling the other holoscreens over. "Geez, when you win one tournament…Anyway, other than doing something with the military, which is a given, I'm open to nearly anything at this point."
"Why so adamant about the military?" Lutecia asked, somewhat seriously. "You're really good with sociology and history too—it's not like you couldn't find yourself a good job outside of the TSAB."
Vivio laughed softly, sighing. "It's in the family blood. Besides, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I had to stand on the side and watch everyone we know fight to protect what we love, and I couldn't help. If I'm going to do it anyway, I might as well make a living from it, huh?"
"I think that's what Nanoha-san said when she found out that she can legally blow things up often as an instructor."
They burst out laughing, giggling at the thought.
"Okay, what's another one?" Lutecia gestured at the digital applications.
"This one is pretty cool—it's a Forward position with Battalion 108. I could work with Subaru's dad! The internship would be mostly drilling and learning combat tactics though, from what I know of the Battalion's mandate, but they have a lot of cool specialist programs that they're offering. So even though I won't actually do a lot of real combat I'll still be sparring and learning about leading squads and stuff like that." Vivio minimized her half-completed application form so that Lutecia could look at the program's official information package. She started stretching to touch her toes as she waited for Lutecia to finish forming an opinion of her own as her friend speed-read through the documents. "I'll have to move to the barracks, but it's still close to Cranagan. It's pretty tempting—I really like their explosives training!"
Lutecia started laughing even harder, until she was nearly choking. "Oh my—like…mother…like daughter!"
"Hey!" Vivio blushed and indignantly kicked the balance ball over to have it bop Lutecia in the side. "It's technical training!"
Lutecia wiped her mirthful tears away and slid the screen back over to Vivio. "Right. So, what's wrong with this one?"
"Well…that's the thing. There's not a whole lot wrong with this one, per se…" Vivio ducked her head, then motioned the last holoscreen over. "I'm just, well…it's a toss-up between the Strike Team and Battalion 108, really. That's why I'm so worried; Lutecia-chan, I'm worried that I'm leaning toward the Strike Team just because I'd get to work with her!" To her horror, Vivio felt her eyes start to sting with confused emotion.
Oh no, she couldn't cry over something like this! It was utterly silly and humiliating.
"Hey, hey!" Lutecia rubbed the blonde's back in comforting circles. "Hey, Vivio, it's okay. Don't feel bad. It's a good thing that you're thinking so carefully about this."
"I really want to," Vivio confessed, wiping at her eyes. "There's only one opening a year for interns, and they get dozens of applications. And, well…" She hesitated. Lutecia had never teased her about her crush on Hayate as much as Caro and the others, but still, Vivio could tell that Lutecia was only indulging her whenever Vivio went on and on about how she felt for Hayate.
How could she explain the level of her burning desire to have the chance to spend weeks and months working closely with Hayate? She had read up on all the reports and public files about the Strike Team and what they did, and watched all the PR releases Hayate—Lt. General Yagami—had given about the relatively new unit in her official capacity as the Capital Defence Corps Commander, always dreaming about somehow getting a chance to work there despite her young age. Vivio couldn't think of anything she had ever wanted more in her life.
And that was exactly the problem.
Vivio would be so ashamed of herself if she made such an important decision for her life and career simply because of a silly childhood fancy. So really, all she needed was for Lutecia to tell her that Vivio was indeed being foolish, and that would give Vivio the small push she needed to move past dreaming into more realistic things.
"But yeah, the Strike Team internship doesn't cover as many topics as the Battalion Forward position. It's a lot more like a real job, since eventually you'd be on call for missions and such. There's a lot more real fighting, but I don't even know if I want to go that kind of team-specialist route." Vivio shrugged, her tone offhand. She ground a heel against the mat, downcast. "I mean…I admit that the only reason it stayed on my list for so long was because it was a CDC position working out of Hayate-san's building."
"I see," Lutecia remarked, crossing her arms.
"Yeah," mumbled Vivio, reaching to shut down the Strike Team application screen. "It's a lot clearer how silly it is once I said it out loud, thanks for—"
"Hey, hold on a minute," Lutecia scowled, grabbing onto Vivio's wrist. "I didn't actually say anything yet, so don't jump to conclusions."
"So, the only reason you looked at the Strike Team internship was because of Hayate?"
"Well, not the only reason, but—"
"Huh?" blinked Vivio.
"What other reasons?" Lutecia persisted, looking awfully intimidating even while sitting cross-legged on a blue practice mat and wearing grungy workout clothes.
"Uh…" Vivio stammered, confused. "It sounded…cool?"
"That's it? Cool?"
"No! They do a lot of fighting, but it's really urban, compared to military campaigns. You know how much I like using Strike Arts rather than bombardment attacks, so this seemed like an interesting placement to develop my Strike Arts skills. And it's a relatively new program in the CDC itself, so I'll be likely to get promoted faster or get a command position during my internship year rather than have to wait until I graduate." She felt herself stumbling over words as she nervously tried to blurt out all the other reasons before Lutecia's aggressive interrogation and expectant stare. "And yeah, it's close to home so I can stay at the house with Nanoha-mama…and, um…"
"So why are you so hard on yourself?"
Lutecia leaned forward and patted Vivio's shoulder. "Those were a lot of really good reasons why you should consider applying for the Strike Team internship. It sounds like either the Strike Team or Battalion 108 would be great placements for you, Vivio."
"I…I guess…" Vivio paused, then smiled, feeling her mood shift from dejected to amazed. "…Yeah. Thanks, Lutecia-chan."
"Anything for my best friend." Lutecia bounced up to sit on her balance ball again, scooping up Vivio's study notes with one hand. "You'll do just fine. Hey, it's a long internship—you might as well be happy at what you're doing, and happy with the people you're working with, right?"
A corner of Vivio's lips twitched as she turned onto her knees, lowering herself down and ready to count push-ups. "Yeah. Thanks, I'm glad I off-loaded on you, Lutecia-chan. It's really helped me make it all make sense."
Yes, it all made sense now.
"Good luck—even though I know you'll get anything you want. You're a stubborn Takamachi, after all!" Lutecia grinned, shuffled and drew a card from the face-down note deck of military insignias. "Back to studying…"
She held it up.
Vivio smiled. "Ground Forces, Lieutenant-General."
Author's Note: While I struggle though school and finishing up the insanely emotional "Prerogative of the Brave" Chapters 6 and 7, I thought that I'd write a bit more about Vivio's life and thoughts separate from the whole romance thing =) (it's only fair, since Hayate's gotten a few stories of her own for that!).