There was a time I wrote regularly. Then stuff happened. And now I have some odd shorts. I also wrote a few things in what little time I had available. And my 'n' key is a little wonky.

Worry not, Swords and Shields chapter 8 is in the works and progressing at a decent pace. I was a little disappointed in the lack of response to the expansion on chapter 7, but oh well. The content wasn't for everyone, really.

As always, I own nothing and comments and criticisms are always appreciated.

-STORY START-

Three men stood upon the land which would be their battlefield.

A lush plain of green with only a single tree standing before them.

Supplies were of no issue. Nor were the tools to wage their war. They had only their mission and they would complete it without fail. No sacrifice was too great. No price too high.

"...So, why am I here again?" The blonde man's bland query was met with flat stares from his comrades in arms.

"Because despite your claim of ineptitude with construction, extra hands will make this go far faster." The silver haired man, tallest of the three, gave his honest reply.

"Besides, Hayate will be pissed if she finds out the ferret's been stuck in his cage for too long." The blue haired man's scathing follow up was good natured, but still biting as the majority of his remarks tended to be.

Yuuno glared at the his friend for the use of his eternal nickname. "Chrono, one of these days, I'm going to teleport your uniform into a lake. During a meeting." It was an empty threat and they both knew it. It was not a matter of skill, but rather being a line which crossed into excessive retribution.

Chrono simply smirked and adopted a haughty tone, one he knew would further irritate the librarian. "Not while I have those pictures you won't. Until I'm satisfied, I own you." He would have begun laughing maniacally as Yuuno fell to the ground in a defeated pile, but a cuff to the back of his head stopped him.

"If you're done playing around, we've got work to do." Zafira's raised eyebrow and smirk sent a chill down Chrono's spine. "Or do you want me to give your wife the pictures I got my hands on?" In truth, Amy had already seen them. She'd found them to be absolutely hilarious as well. But Chrono didn't need to know just yet. Not while it was an effective leash on the snarky man.

"Fine. Fine. Lets get to work." The admiral waved his hands in a placating gesture as he took a step back from the Guardian Beast. How Zafira got his hands on those images was beyond him. It also wasn't his fault. He'd had a little too much wine, nothing more.

"You mean the ones of him in one of Amy's dresses? Or the ones where he was posing in his office without pants on?" Yuuno received a furious look from Chrono at the mention of said events. An amused grin plastered itself on his face at the chance for a little payback. "I know of them, but I've never seen them. So they're no threat from me."

"Indeed. You need only fear my retribution, Admiral Harlown." Zafira's triumphant smirk only served to further infuriate the man.

"Anyway! Lets stop babbling and get to work! If we make enough progress, we might get lunch for our effort." His piece said, Chrono began marching towards the pile of lumber with an embarrassed flush on his face and one hand digging out the blueprints for their task.

It was a treehouse. Something for the myriad munchkins in their respective families to enjoy. Vivio had expressed an interest in one, as had Chrono's girls. And as such, the three men had been drafted to build one by the three Aces plus Amy. They were a force none wished to stand against.

It had only been Zafira and Chrono who had been ordered to deploy for the mission, but some... persuasion had led Yuuno to being roped into the task as well. Something about 'not escaping the suffering'.

It was not long before the yard of the Takamachi-Harlaown residence on Mid-Childa was filled with the sound of construction and the voices of three men working in harmony.

"No! That's a socket wrench. Get me a tube wrench, ferret!"

"What the hell is a tube wrench!?"

"Who bought imperial bolts? All our tools are metric!"

"Zafira! Its going to fall! Run!"

"Yuuno, the saw's not secure its going to-!"

"That doesn't fit in there!"

"I'll fit you in there!"

"My hand! Oh, Kaiser, my hand!"

"Watch where you're swinging that hammer, mutt!"

"Look out below!"

"Put it out! PUT IT OUT!"

"My shirt's on fire!"

Ah yes, the wonderful harmony of jolly cooperation.

Fortunately, there was no need to call the fire department as it was only a small and easily contained inferno. One which miraculously left only a large patch of scorched earth, some charred timber, and three slightly singed men in its wake.

Breathing heavily, a shirtless Yuuno stared up at the sky from his place on the ground. "I think we should take a break." Sure, they were almost done. But a near death experience was enough to make anyone want to take five. Especially when it involved fire. A fire none of them knew how it began.

"For once, I'm inclined to agree with the ferret." Chrono was only slightly less singed than the librarian, but no less sweaty, shirtless, or sprawled out on the ground. "I'm also starving. Want to get something to eat?"

Zafira, being in a similar state as his comrades, nodded his agreement. "Its getting close to lunch to begin with. We can finish this up afterwards."

"Hopefully without killing ourselves in the process." Chrono's amused barb brought about some half hearted chuckles. It had been... an excitable few hours, to say the least.

"Yes, dying would be bad. I'd like to live long enough to see this monstrosity completed. I also believe my wife would be greatly displeased if I were to meet my maker here." And would she ever. Zafira was fairly confident Arf would find a way to revive him just so she could kill him again.

Chrono snickered at the comment. "Amy wouldn't be too happy either. She'd claim I was just trying to find a way to get out of doing the dishes."

"To be fair, you did claim it would be a national security risk if you took out the garbage that one time. I think her claims are well founded." Chrono's sputtering brought a grin to Yuuno's face. "And before you ask, I heard it from Fate. Your sister and your wife do talk about you behind your back, you know."

Intervening to avoid another verbal flame war, for Yuuno being on the offensive was usually the prelude to one, Zafira stood and stretched his arms. "Want to grab some takeout or see if Nanoha left anything in the fridge for us to eat?" While not even close to the level of culinary skill his Master possessed, he and everyone else would agree Nanoha was no slouch in the kitchen. It was usually a matter of time available to cook in the Ace's case.

"Better to check if she did regardless." Yuuno began heading towards the empty house with his compatriots in tow.

Nanoha and Fate had opted to take Vivio out for the day to make the treehouse a surprise for the girl. And with Caro and Erio being offworld, the normally busy home was eerily quiet. At least until the three shirtless men entered and began rummaging for sustenance.

Opening the refrigerator, the blonde discovered there was a large assortment of deli meats, cheese, and other sandwich related accoutrements. "Well, she didn't cook anything. But there's plenty of stuff to make lunch with." A note on one of the packages of ham drew his attention. "Nanoha says we can eat our fill as payment for our hard work."

Chrono raised an eyebrow and snorted amusedly. "What are we servants?"

"Is there any bacon in there?" The Guardian Beast loved bacon. He had gone so far as to call it by the name 'pig candy' on occasion. Considering Arf shared his appreciation for the delectable meat, it showed up quite often at mealtime. And vanished from the table in short order.

"Yes, there's bacon. Lots of it." Yuuno didn't need to turn around to see Zafira pumping his fist in victory. "Ham, pastrami, bacon, chicken, turkey, you name it. Wow, they really went all out."

Zafira grinned wolfishly as the image of a sandwich the likes of which would make even gods bow before began assembling itself in his mind. "Then lets not waste their efforts."

Yuuno returned the grin. "It would be insulting to do any less."

Chrono merely sighed, ignoring his own desire to tear into lunch like a madman for the moment. "Ruled by your stomaches, both of you. Have you no shame?"

The reply was one ready and loaded to go by both man and beast. "No."

"Good, because I'm starving. Toss me the ham."

It would be another half hour before they managed to get back to work. Zafira's godly bacon-wich had nearly caused a grease fire in its construction and Yuuno had dropped a can of soda which needed to be cleaned up after it exploded. Hunger sated and full of vigor once more, they set to their task with about as much cooperation as they'd had before lunch.

It took them two hours to finish the treehouse.

It would have been only an hour, but Yuuno had an unfortunate accident involving a screwdriver. It only needed a few stitches, but the trip to the emergency room had slowed things down.

When Vivio finally saw her newly completed sanctuary and smiled most joyously, it made all the near-death experiences worth it.

-END-