If any of you is interested, I thought up and wrote this story while listening to Kathryn by David Carney. It's not a Christmas music, but it's what inspired me.
A very big thanks to Shlabadak for helping out here. I know you don't want my thanks as you'd prefer an update for my other story, hopefully I'll get one soon. For now, I hope you all will enjoy this oneshot.

Christmas Rings

**Non-Administered Planet 97, Earth. December 25th. Tsukimura residence.

"I can't believe those two are late," Arisa huffed showing her annoyance.

"Be nice Arisa-chan, or you might find some coal instead of a gift," Suzuka teased her, "besides Yuuno and Lindy-san are running late too."

"I know, but this is one of the few occasions Nanoha's family can see her since she moved to Mid-Childa. And this year we managed to organize this big party with everyone else too!"

Indeed, it was lucky that Suzuka had such a big house because, now that almost everyone had arrived, there was quite the crowd.

Chrono and Amy were talking with Kyouya and Shinobu, all the while keeping a vigilant eye on their twins who were being entertained by Miyuki and Shamal. The two were making funny faces, much to the toddlers' delight.

Hayate's other knights were standing together and, from what little she could make out of their conversation, Signum and Vita were making fun of the blue wolf, Zafira, who apparently was scared of the children since they had the habit of pulling his tail and fur. They were also convincing the little fairy named Rein that the children would eat her if she went too close.

Shiro and Momoko Takamachi were flirting aimlessly in a corner, reminding Arisa of how Nanoha always did the same with Fate. It was pretty obvious that being disgustingly lovey-dovey was genetic.

And finally Hayate...

"So, what have you got so far, my fair maidens?" said brunette asked while slinging her arms around Suzuka's and Arisa's necks.

"Right now I wish I had got an axe," the blonde mumbled just low enough not to be heard by Suzuka.

The purple haired girl smiled at her friend before skillfully evading the question by asking about their two late friends.

"Have you heard anything from Fate and Nanoha-chan? It's not like them to be late."

There was a pause as they saw the door opening and Lindy and Arf came in greeting everyone before the admiral made a beeline for her grandchildren.

"No, I haven't," Hayate answered Suzuka's question letting them go, "and to be honest I'm starting to worry. Nanoha-chan told me Fate-chan has become distant lately, she even asked me for help not long ago, and I dragged Fate-chan to go shopping with me in an attempt to get her to talk about it, but I got nothing."

The other two girls could see how the brunette was disappointed in her failure, but their major concern was for their oldest childhood friend, Nanoha. They all remembered -with some annoyance in Arisa's case- just how close she and her girlfriend had been ever since they were nine.

Those two were always looking for and at each other, always holding hands, always trying to get some time for them to be together, even if it meant that one of them had to make a three hours' journey just to spent two minutes with the other, both would do it. Indeed, they had done that more than once, much to their friends' exasperation.

To think that now Fate was pulling away from Nanoha was hard to believe... and it probably was even harder for Nanoha herself.

Arisa just hoped her blue eyed friend hadn't lost her temper and decided to confront her girlfriend in a violent matter. The short haired blonde could still faintly remember the stinging sensation on her cheek from when Nanoha had slapped her all those year ago...

The door opened once more, and this time it was Yuuno who came in. Just as he was closing the door behind him, though, he heard another voice calling out, so he kept it open and in a few seconds another blonde came in.

"Fate-chan! Finally you're... where's Nanoha?" Hayate couldn't help but ask noticing the red eyed girl was alone.

"Hayate, merry Christmas! Ah, Nanoha is on her way, she had forgotten something at home so she hurried back to get it," Fate answered smiling rubbing her gloved hands together.

Hayate recognized those fingerless black gloves as Nanoha's gift from last year. That...was a good sign, right? But then again, the two not coming together was a really, really bad sign...

The mistress of the tome of the night sky observed her friend as she went to greet their other friends and family. She looked like her normal self as she exchanged a few words with Signum, hugged Lindy, and let the devil twins she was the aunt of pull her hair. However that changed when she went to greet the Takamachis.

Hayate's keen eye noticed the little subtle messages Fate was giving with her body language. The blonde was definitely agitated and... maybe a bit fearful... about talking with her girlfriend's parents.

'No, this is ridiculous. Fate-chan would sooner throw herself out of the Asura while in open space than...'

The opening door interrupted Hayate's thoughts, or rather, the sight of the last guest wiped any further thought from her mind. Nanoha had finally arrived, but...

"Nanoha," Arisa was the first to act, hugging her long time friend and gently but decisively dragging her toward Suzuka and Hayate, "what happened?"

"What do you mean Arisa-chan?"

"Don't give me that," the blonde hissed, her short temper showing, "you came late, on your own, and you've been crying. Don't try to deny it, your eyes are all red and puffy."

"Ah... It's nothing Arisa, really..." Nanoha futilely tried to avoid her friend question, something that only served to anger her. One would think she'd know better than to try to hide whatever it was that upset her after all the years they'd been friends, but somehow that never made it through the youngest Takamachi's thick skull.

"Nanoha!" Miyuki came out of nowhere to hug her sister, "It's been so long, how are...you... Nanoha, sis, what happened? Did you cry?"

And in less than a second Kyouya and Momoko were suddenly standing beside her. Shiro, however, had turned to the one that must have been the responsible for his sweet little baby girl's sadness glaring down at her. And thus, enforcer Fate T. Harlaown, S class mage of the Time-Space Admistration Bureau, was using all her willpower to keep herself from digging a hole and hide in it or, God forbid it, running to Lindy and hide behind her.

"Uhm.. Shi- I mean, Takamachi-san... "

"Was it you who made my little girl cry? Or are you trying to deny it? What did you do?"

"I just... I didn't think she'd cry for..." Fate cringed as she silently prayed for something, anything, to save her.

"Dad! What are you doing?" All the presents could marvel at how Nanoha made the exact same expression as her father.

"B-b-but my little sweety pie..."

"DAD! I'm not six anymore! At the very least don't call me that in public!" It was curious to see the blue eyed girl blush so much that her ears seemed to be glowing.

"Lov- meep!" Fate's attempt at calming her down failed horribly as Shiro managed to make her cover behind Nanoha. His eyes were screaming bloody murder at the impudence of the blonde, using a pet name for his little baby girl when he himself had just been scolded for doing it.

"Dad, quit that! Fate didn't do anything wrong!"

-o-o-

**Earlier that day, Mid-Childa. Takamachi-Harlaown residence.

[Wake up, master. It's 7 a.m.]

Nanoha groggily mumbled some incoherent words and, without opening her eyes, turned towards Fate's part of their shared bed. She kept snuggling in her direction while reaching for her with her right arm, but she couldn't get a hold of the blonde.

Tired of blindly looking for her elusive lover, Nanoha finally opened her eyes, only to blink when she found the other side of the bed empty.

"Raising Heart? Where is Fate-chan?" she asked her trusted intelligent device, trying to shake off her sleepiness.

[Enforcer Fate T. Harlaown left almost two hours ago, master. She asked me to tell you that she had to go to her office because of an emergency. And that you should not wait for her here but that she will join you and everyone else at Midori-ya for lunch, my master.]

"An emergency. I see. Can you contact Bardiche?"

[I am sorry, my master, Bardiche is disconnected.]

"Oh." Nanoha let her face fall into her pillow which served to muffle her frustrated scream.

[Are you alright, my master?]

"Yeah," she replied with a tone that belied her answer, "I just can't believe she just went to work even today."

Nanoha sighed as she rolled over and remained laying on her back in the middle of their bed while staring at the ceiling. She wondered if maybe Fate was avoiding her. Why else would someone go to work first thing in the morning on Christmas?

But this was really just the last in a long series of occasions. The blue eyed girl felt a knot twist in her chest as she thought about it. In the last few months Nanoha had often caught Fate lost in thoughts and distant, coming home later or sometimes making up excuses to go out without her. Even Hayate, who had noticed something off with her and taken Fate out for shopping in hopes of helping her friends, couldn't get a straight answer from the blonde.

Nanoha squeezed her eyes shut.

She feared she knew what was happening. She didn't want it to be real, but it seemed it was really happening. Fate-chan didn't love her anymore, not like she used to. The blonde probably wanted to break up with her, but didn't know how. Heh, Fate-chan was such a kind person, it was likely she was beating herself up over how to let her down gently in order to at least save their friendship.

The brunette opened her eyes and sat up looking around their bedroom with sad eyes. To think they were so happy when they moved in this house to live together. Just the two of them. Maybe that was the problem.

Nanoha looked down clenching her fists. She knew that after the childhood she had, Fate wanted to have a big family. She remembered how the blonde's face had lighted up when Amy had given birth, making Fate an aunt. Those red eyes she loved so much had been tearing up when she held her newborn nephew.

Fate loved children, Nanoha had always known that, but it was only that day that she started to wonder if maybe one day Fate would regret their relationship because they couldn't have any together. Or maybe one day Fate would move on and leave her. Was that what was happening?

[My master?]

"Huh? Nyahaha~ Sorry, I wasn't listening, what was that Raising Heart?"

[You should get up and go to the living room, my master. Fate-san also asked me to make sure you opened the present she left under the tree for you, my master.]

"Really? Nyahahah, I'd have preferred to wait 'till tonight, so that we could open each other's gifts together," Nanoha said with a somewhat wistful tone and a sad smile, "but I guess I'll go open it now, then."

Grabbing her robe and putting it on over her pajamas, Nanoha took Raising Heart and made her way to the living room.

She absently noticed the blanket left on the couch since last night. Fate had used it to keep warm since the moths had eaten her favorite sweater that now spotted two holes in it. Nanoha idly wondered if she had put on enough warm clothes since it was rather cold outside. Which inevitably reminded her that her girlfriend had gone to work instead of spending Christmas morning with her.

Trying not to dwell on it too much, she moved on and her gloom mood was momentarily replaced by shock when she saw the big gift-wrapped box near their Christmas tree. It couldn't really be put under it, since it came up to Nanoha's waist, and it was just as large.

"Wow." Nanoha couldn't remember having ever seen such a big box, not since that time her father had bought a new oven for their family's cafe.

Curious, she knelt down in front of it and took the card resting on top that had "To Nanoha" written on it. Unfolding the paper, she read it aloud.

Dear Nanoha,
I'm really sorry that I had to leave you this morning.
Nothing would have made me happier
than spending this time exchanging gifts with you.
I hope that you'll like what I got for you
and that it will make you happy enough
that you will forgive me for having left you alone.

Merry Christmas,
I love you,
Fate.

P.S. Seriously, open it now.

A sound that could have been either a giggle or a strangled sob escaped Nanoha's lips as she finished and noticed at the end of the note a doodle that looked like... The brunette turned the paper upside down and squinted.

'Nope, I got nothing,' she thought resignedly. Fate was skilled in a lot of different things, but she couldn't draw even a sticky man to save her life.

Putting the note aside Nanoha eyed her big gift, "So you're supposed to make up for Fate's absence, huh?"

She wondered if Fate really thought that some present, whatever it was, could make her happier than how her presence and spending this time together would have made her.

"Enough moping around, let's open this thing!" Nanoha shook her head and slapped her cheeks to clear her mind. It wasn't like her to get depressed like this.

Standing on her knees, she reached over and undid the red ribbon on top, all the while wondering what could be there inside. After the ribbon came the green wrapping paper. She had barely started to tear it when the top of the box exploded and opened by itself.

Nanoha cried out in surprise and jumped back, but tripped in her dressing robe and ended up falling on her ass as she stared at what came out of her gift-wrapped box with an hand holding her chest, where her heart was beating like crazy because of the scare.

"Me-merry... Chris-istmas... Nanoha..." Fate coughed out while panting, "Sorry... I forgot... to make holes... for air..."

The red haired girl could only watch as the blonde continued to take deep gulps of air. She was wearing only a pair of red panties and bra fur-trimmed with white fur, a Santa's hat and a red collar with a golden metal on it. Looking closer Nanoha could faintly make the shape of an heart drawn on both sides of it.

So taken by her girlfriend's appearance, Nanoha didn't even notice Fate was holding another packet until the red eyed wonder caught her breathe and stood up straight once more smiling at her.

"You didn't really think I'd go to work on Christmas, did you?"

"You... You..." Nanoha was at a loss for words, she didn't even know what she wanted to say anymore. Part of her wanted to whack Fate-chan for the stunt she just pulled, another wanted to glomp her and cry, and both trails of thought were disturbed by how delicious she looked in that skimpy Christmas underwear.

"Me," Fate said with a smile as she jumped out of the box and helped Nanoha get up and sit on the couch before taking the place beside her, "and before you yell at me I want to give you this. Open it."

The gift-wrapped box Nanoha found in her hands was much smaller than the one that had contained it along with her girlfriend just minutes before, being roughly the same size of a shoe box.

"Fate-chan," she began, but a finger pressed on her lips stopping her words.

"Please, open it?" Hopeful red eyes pleaded blue ones, "I promise nothing will jump out of this one" she joked.

Nanoha let out something that was half a sigh and half a chuckle and looked down to her gift. Deft fingers peeled away the wrapping paper before removing the lid.

Inside the box was a dark blue pillow, on top of which sat a white gold ring with a diamond and two little rubies on both sides of it.

The lid slipped and fell to the floor from now numb fingers while Nanoha's brain shut down. She looked up to see that Fate had moved and was now kneeling in front her.

"Nanoha, I... You are my light. What I am today I owe it to you. You reached out to me and showed me a world that is warm and full of love. And you keep doing so every day.

"Every time you smile, every time you look at me, every time you stand beside me. I love you. Your smile, your voice, your kindness, even your stubbornness, I love everything about you. I love you.

"I want you to be happy, and if possible I want to be the cause of your happiness. I want to be by your side, I want to hold you when you're sad, I want to laugh with you when you're happy, I want to take care of you when you're sick.

"I love you, Nanoha, I love you with everything I am and I know I'll do so as long as I live, and probably even when I'll die I'll still keep loving you. I know I'm not perfect, but you make me feel like I can do anything if it's for you.

"I... Nanoha... Nanoha, I love you so much I want to shout it to the world, so... will you let me stay by your side forever? Will you marry me?"

Nanoha opened her mouth but she felt like she had her heart in her mouth and couldn't say anything. She tried a second time but all that came out was a choked sob and she felt tears running down her face. She was crying, and the realization somehow made her cry even harder.

"Wha... Nanoha... I..." Fate was panicking, she didn't know what to do. Of all the possible reactions Nanoha could have, bursting into tears wasn't even listed.

Her fears, however, were allayed when she felt arms around her shoulders and she was thrown on her back by Nanoha's colliding body as the brunette threw herself at her.

"You...*hic* stupid Fate-chan...*sniff* yes, yes, yes. I love you. Yes." she choked out while pressing her face in the crook of her neck.

Fate hugged her girlfriend-turned-fiancee while rubbing her back.

"Why am I stupid, now? It took a lot of preparation to do all this, you know?" the blonde jokingly complained, "and you wouldn't believe how hard it was to find that ring. I know I ended up rambling a bit, but-"

Two soft lips came down on her own and silenced any further words. Fate closed her eyes enjoying the moment until they separated for air.

"It's the second time I almost suffocated this morning," the blonde couldn't help but saying out loud, as she took Nanoha's hand and slipped the ring on her finger, making her laugh merrily.

"Hey, what about you? Don't you have a ring I can slip on your finger too?" Nanoha asked wiping her eyes with her jewelry-free hand.

Fate nodded and reached for a little velvet box with one hand. She gave her a shy look before offering it to Nanoha, who opened it and took a ring that matched hers but had sapphires instead of rubies.

"You made me worry so much lately, always avoiding me," the blue eyed girl confessed as she took Fate's hand and slid the ring on her finger.

"Sorry, but I told you, I was making plans for this, it had to be a surprise. And I made you worry? Do you know how much you scared me breaking down and crying just now?" Fate argued back laughing a bit herself without really knowing why.

"Sorry, I'm just so happy," Nanoha answered snuggling up to her, "I thought you were going to break up with me, that you were going to leave me because you wanted children," she confessed with a whisper.

"Silly Nanoha, why should I leave you for that?" she asked hugging her tighter, "I admit I would love to have children, but we have time, we should enjoy having the house all for ourselves right now. We can think about having kids in the future."

Nanoha gave her a weird look.

"Fate-chan, you do know how children are made, don't you?"

"What- Of course I do!" she sputtered, her face turning into a blushing mess, "I meant we can adopt one later on! Geez, sometimes I really don't know, what were you thinking?"

The brunette didn't answer, choosing to simply cuddle with her while trying to hold back new tears of joy. They remained like that for a couple of minutes, just enjoying each other's embrace.

"Nanoha?" Fate murmured breaking the silence.

She hummed to show she was paying attention.

"We have to get up and change. We have to go and have lunch with everyone, remember?"

Nanoha lifted herself and supported her weight on her arms, looking down on Fate laying under her. She was still in that red and white Christmas lingerie.

"Are you cold with only that on?" she asked, then without waiting for her reply she looked over at Raising Heart, "what time is it?"

[It's 8 a.m. Master.]

"Plenty of time, then," she declared turning her attention back to her fiancee. She giggled just thinking of the word. Fiancee.

"Nanoha, what are you planning?" Fate asked seeing her blue eyes glinting with mischief.

"Well Fate-chan, if I remember correctly, you were in a box addressed to me, which means you are my present, right? And that underwear is really stimulating... did Hayate help you with that?"

"She showed me this when she dragged me to go shopping, but she doesn't know I bought it. I wanted to prepare my proposal all by myself, you know, so I told no one I was planning this. That's part of the reason I took so long, I guess," she explained with an embarrassed blush looking to the side.

[I helped, sir] came a mechanical voice from the big box Fate was in earlier.

"You suggested packing myself, Bardiche, and I almost died," she responded, "how come you forgot holes for air too?"

[I do not need to breathe to live, sir.]

"...are you making fun of me?" Fate's indignant expression was downright adorable in Nanoha's opinion.

"Well, Bardiche is right, neither him nor Raising Heart need air, so..." Nanoha trailed off as she extended her arm to take the yellow device and rested it beside her own red one on the pillow where her engagement ring was minutes ago, then closed the box.

"..so now, let me show you what I think of Fate-chan's hard work."

As Nanoha reached for the plaid blanket resting on the couch and covered them both with it, the kiss they shared was an hungry and needy. Having the house all to themselves wasn't such a bad thing for now after all.

-o-o-

"Marriage?" Shiro repeated for the third time, seemingly in shock.

Everyone else was fussing over the two girls and their rings, even if it took some convincing before Fate took off her glove. The blonde could already feel her hand turning ice cold.

"Marriage? But... Mid-chi-whatever allows same-sex marriages?" Shiro inquired before shacking his head, "Absolutely not!"

"What? What's the problem dad, you never objected to me being with Fate-chan, you even agreed to us living together, so why...?" Nanoha noticed too late her siblings waving their arms wildly to tell her to shut up.

"Because I didn't know you could marry! If I knew I'd have never allowed it! And you," here he paused to turn an angry look at Fate, "why did you take so long?"

"Huh?"

"I'm asking you why you waited so long before doing the honorable thing! How dare you fornicate with my daughter when you could have married her?"

"F-f-f-fo-" The blonde's face was turning redder than Santa Claus's red clothes.

"That's stupid, Kyouya did the same for even longer!"

"Nanoha!" the eldest of the three Takamachi siblings shouted at her betrayal.

"Kyouya!" Momoko called out her son for his past actions.

"The lunch's ready."

Suzuka's words went largely ignored for a long time as everyone not directly involved in the heated argument was enjoying the show until finally tempers cooled and hunger made them bury the hatchet.

Lunch itself was peaceful, and when they finished everyone was too stuffed to get back to arguing. It was then that Hayate, who couldn't believe the shy innocent Fate had made her proposal without telling her first -to which the blonde answered by hugging her fiancee and sticking out her tongue- asked Nanoha what was that she had forgotten earlier that made arrive so late.

The blue eyed girl blushed as she handed her gift to Fate, which she had completely forgotten to give her after the shock of getting an engagement ring and that now made her want to disappear in shame. After all, Fate had made her such a big an important surprise, while she had gotten her...

"Waah, it's a sweater! It's so soft," Fate exclaimed hugging it happily before putting it on, "so warm. Hey, Nanoha, this is hand-made, isn't it? Ah, I'm so happy, this is the best gift ever."

"Uh~ Fate-chan I hate you, you meanie."

"Eh? Why?"

"Saying that after what you gave me..."

Arisa felt her eyebrow twitch as she watched her two friends going on like that, and her irritation only grew when the two noticed the mistletoe and "accidentally" kept ending up under it..

"I swear I'm going to hit them. Idiot couple." she mumbled.

At the end of the day, thanks to Momoko's prodding, Fate obtained Shiro's blessing just before she and Nanoha left to get back home.

-o-o-

As the blonde observed her love laying in bed and staring at her ring with a silly smile, she couldn't help but smile herself.

"Are you happy?" she asked even if she knew the answer.

"Yes, the happiest I've ever been since we started going out." Blue eyes turned to look at her lovingly.

Chuckling, Fate laid down beside their owner and hugged her.

"If I had known it'd make you this happy I'd have done it sooner," the blonde said brushing a lock of chestnut hair behind Nanoha's ear and kissing her temple, "but now that I know, I think I will propose to you every day until the day we marry."

"You silly dummy," Nanoha murmured caressing her cheek "this is the best Christmas ever, thank you Fate-chan,"

And then she pulled her in for a kiss.

-o-o-

-o-o-

Author's corner: I hope it's not too rushed, I had to hurry a bit in order to get it out in time for Christmas. I probably didn't fool anyone when I tried to make it look like our sweet couple was going to break up, but I think a tiny bit of suspense is necessary.
Suspense makes the fluff fluffier than a white cloud in a sunny summer sky. ^_^

Anyway, Merry Christmas, I hope you enjoyed this little gift of mine.

-o-o-

P.S. - I just realized that someone pulled off the impossible in this fic. So, here is a little extra.

-*-Omake Time-*-

Despite all the excitement of the day, or maybe exactly because of it, Nanoha couldn't fall asleep that night. It was already late, and she was laying in bed wide awake while a slumbering Fate was spooning her.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to the blue eyed girl, who promptly turned around in her fiance's embrace and started to shake her.

"Fate-chan. Hey, Fate-chan wake up."

The blonde grumbled and hid her face between Nanoha's breasts.

"Fate-chaaan," the latter insisted.

"Wha?" the blonde slurred sleepily.

"You said you did everything on your own, right?"

Fate hummed her confirmation as she snuggled between her favorite pillows.

"Then, how exactly did you manage to pack and gift-wrap yourself?"

With the red eyed girl's pressed against her chest, Nanoha could feel her smiling widely.

"Se~cret~"

"But Fate-chaaaa-ah!" Nanoha's whining turned into a surprised but pleased cry as she looked curiously at her girlfriend, "Again?".

"Well, since we're both awake now, I thought..." Fate trailed off with a blush on her face.

Nanoha's response was to hug her and press her face back against her breasts.

"You know, Fate-chan, you have a lot of great ideas lately."

-*-Omake End-*-