A/N: After lurking in this fandom for far too long, I've decided to have some fun.
NanoFate, so hey, if that's not your thing, this is the wrong place to be.
Love it, hate it, let me know.
All usual disclaimers apply. I do not own the characters. I just wanted to poke at them for a bit.
Used to be
Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get what you need, and sometimes, Fate ruminated, leaning back in a beaten armchair as she loosened her tie, sometimes a lifetime just wasn't enough.
The invitation lay open on her lap, and no matter how many times she read it, the words remained the same.
You are cordially invited…
She squeezed russet eyes closed, but the gold-leaf writing persisted, burned into her mind. Twenty years of wishing hoping longing and here she was, cordially invited.
"Sir, incoming call."
Her gaze swept her spartan apartment, void of decorations or touches of style, save for a few small framed photographs. Fate had been on her own for two years now, and had used the space as a place to crash between missions, and nothing more. Sitting here, alone in the fading daylight, she wondered why she bothered to come home at all sometimes.
"Tell them I died." Fate muttered quietly.
"Sir?" Bardiche intoned mechanically.
"Ahh," the blonde sighed wearily, massaging her temples. "Never mind. Put it through."
A vid screen blipped to life in front of her, and she was greeted by the bright face of her sixteen year old goddaughter. "Fate-mama!"
Fate's lips quirked up into a grin despite her bad mood, and she gave a slight wave. "Hey sweetie."
Vivio arched a brow, leaning closer to the screen. "Wow, Mama, you look like shit."
"Whoa, language!" the enforcer sputtered, caught off guard. "Don't let Nanoha-mama hear you talking like that!"
The teenager shrugged, unperturbed. "She's running around like crazy anyway. I could probably take off for a week and she wouldn't even notice."
"Ah, come on, you know that's not true." Fate replied gently. "You know how she is when she's stressed."
Vivio hummed lightly in acknowledgement, absently twirling a blonde lock of hair around her finger. "How was your mission?"
Not long enough.
Fate could feel a headache settling just behind her eyes. "Everything went smoothly. With the new enforcers on the team, I barely had to lift a finger."
Vivio pursed her lips, and Fate had spent enough time in the field to know what was coming next. Interrogations were quickly becoming her specialty, and she had been a fast learner when it came to the art of reading people.
"Did you get your mail?"
The enforcer dropped her gaze to her lap.
Bright eyes blinked at her hopefully, and the smile flashed at her over the screen was dazzling. "Are you going to go?"
Fate bit back a groan. Cute weapons of mass destruction. Wonderful. "Depends on my deployment." she replied easily enough, and she supposed it was true.
"Mama…" Vivio sighed, brows furrowing. "I'm sure they'd give you off! And besides, Nanoha-mama would be sad if you didn't go…"
And Yunno would cheer her up.
"I know." the captain replied warily. "We'll see."
"Vivio!" a voice called just off-screen, and the enforcer felt her heart somersault. How long had it been since she had seen Nanoha last? Weeks? Months?
"In here!" the teenager called, waving her hand. Fate swallowed hard as Nanoha's image joined her daughter's, and she had to remind herself to breathe.
"Fate-chan!" Nanoha beamed. "I didn't know you were coming back so soon!"
"Just got home."
Immediately brows knitted together, and slate blue eyes reflected concern. "You don't look so good. You haven't been sleeping well, have you?"
"So I've been told." Fate responded dryly, causing Vivio to bite back a laugh.
"Make sure you stop by headquarters then and see Shamal." The instructor replied. "You know we worry."
Fate felt her hands clench into fists, and she willed herself to relax. She was being selfish and stupid, and the only thing she was accomplishing right now was managing to single handedly drop herself into depression. She felt herself nod in agreement, and wished she were still out in the field.
"Oh!" Nanoha exclaimed, "Did you get your mail?"
Well. Forget selfish and stupid. If she were alone, she would have cried.
"She did." Vivio answered for her. "She doesn't want to go."
Panic set in, and the enforcer waved her hands defensively. "That's…that's not what I…"
"She said she has to work." Vivio supplied not so helpfully, her tone betraying her innocence.
"I'll take care of that." Nanoha declared hotly, crossing her arms.
Fate could only sit there, dumbfounded, her gaze bouncing back and forth between the two women who had become her family.
Not yours anymore.
"Nanoha?" a male voice inquired. "We're going to be late!"
"We're in here!" the instructor called out, and the smile on her face twisted an uncomfortable knot up into Fate's throat.
Oh come on…
"Hey." Fate cut in quickly, certainly not liking where this was headed. "I have a debriefing, and I've got to get out of here. I'll call you guys later?"
Identical pouts graced the features of both Vivio and Nanoha, and had she not been having the most fantastic day of her life, Fate might have laughed.
"Forget calling." Nanoha scolded lightly. "You better come visit. I haven't seen you in forever."
Burgundy eyes softened. All this time apart, and she still caved to the brunette's wishes. Despite her better judgment, and the vehement whispers in the back of her mind, she nodded. "I will."
"Love you!" Vivio sang out brightly.
"Love you both." Fate replied automatically, a habit leftover from the calls home she would make when Vivio was still a little girl. She held her shaky smile until the call disconnected, and immediately slumped down into her chair, burying her face into her hands.
After the JS Incident ten years ago, Fate's missions had picked up in frequency and duration. There had seemed to be a never-ending influx of new enforcers, and TSAB had been anxious to get more soldiers out into the field, to prevent such incidents from occurring again. Fate had been dispatched around the universe and back again, weeks turning into months, and then years. Vivio had grown up in the blink of an eye, and she and Nanoha had seemingly grown apart. Her visits home dwindled down to a scant few a year, and she had begun to feel like a stranger in her own house. Things were moved, rearranged. New furniture, new cars, it was always different each time, and she was never sure what she was going to find.
Two years ago, after nearly getting herself killed, still sporting bandages from a vicious fight she almost hadn't walked away from, she had come home to find Yunno sleeping on her side of the bed at three in the morning.
She could remember each detail perfectly, standing there in the open doorway, hand clenched around the knob so tight her fingers ached. She had blinked slowly, as though if she looked long enough, it would prove to be a mirage and fade away.
And then Nanoha had emerged from the bathroom, wearing an old shirt and little else, and her heart had seized in her chest.
She knew then, at that exact moment, that she was completely, totally, irrevocably, and madly in love with Nanoha Takamachi. Blue eyes had widened at the enforcer's presence in the doorway, and suddenly Fate knew what it was like to gain and lose everything in a single heartbeat.
And there it was, finally, a name for the feelings she had harbored for so many years.
They had stared at each other wordlessly across the room, emotions bouncing between hurt, confusion, and, worst of all, anger. The enforcer could feel her gut burning hot and sharp, and as the man on the bed rolled over, the feeling was replicated in her eyes. She couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't breathe. When Nanoha took a tentative step forward, Fate snapped to, and her heart began to beat once more. It was there, in that doorway, that she realized that she had been replaced. Five months away from home. Five months of constant enemy bombardments, endless assaults, and piles of bodies. Five months of curling up in the dark, silently praying she could get home soon to see her family, five months of fighting to just keep them safe, and it ended like this.
Fate had nodded slowly, picked up the duffel bag she had dropped at her feet, and disappeared into the night.
A lovers' quarrel?
No. They'd have to be lovers first.
Less than three days later, she had her own apartment, despite Nanoha's pleading and Vivio's tears.
Now she was cordially invited, and nothing would be better than to watch someone else take her family away from her in a beautifully decorated venue, while everyone she ever cared about applauded…
"Sir?" Bardiche questioned, cutting through her dark musings. "You have a visitor."
Fate scowled. Of course she did. Her day could only keep improving. "Open the door." she replied tiredly. "Whoever it is will get over my bad manners, I'm sure."
"Fate-chaaaaan!" a feminine voice sang out cheerily as electric locks disengaged. "A little birdie told me you were home!"
"In the living room." Fate called back, propping her feet up on a worn footstool and flinging the horrid invitation across the room. How did that go, out of sight, out of mind?
She knew better, but it was nice to pretend.
As footsteps approached from down the hall, the captain gave a flippant wave of her hand. "Should have known it would be you. Make yourself at home."
"Always do." Hayate chirped, poking her head into the room. "I hear you have a debriefing?"
"What, tapping my calls again?" the enforcer replied lightly.
"No, I just have a good informant." The commander grinned. "Now, I know for a fact that you have no such debriefing."
Fate sighed wearily. "I'm just having a long day."
The corner of Hayate's mouth twitched. "Did you get your mail?"
The blonde gave her a long, even stare.
"Thought so." The brunette sighed, whipping a large bottle of amber colored liquor out from behind her back. "That's why I brought reinforcements!"
Fate regarded one of her oldest friends for a moment, gaze softening as her features broke out into wide grin. "Hayate, I think I love you."
"Oh, don't tease me like that Fate-chan!" Hayate cooed playfully, batting her eyelashes. "I just might succumb to your charms!"
"Now, now," she replied, approaching the chair and tugging at Fate's arm. "get off your cranky ass, get some glasses, and put on some depressing music! We need to drown our sorrows!"
Fate quirked a brow. "Our?"
"Did I stutter?"
The captain snorted and rose to her feet, bringing her hand to her temple in a sharp salute. "No ma'am."
"Very good." Hayate sighed, waving her hand dismissively. "Hurry up. I want to get drunk."
Half a bottle later, the women were slumped across Fate's couch. Hayate had made herself comfortable at a far end, pressed up against the armrest, and had draped her legs across the blonde's lap. The enforcer, meanwhile, showed no signs of slowing down, and dark angry eyes were working on burning a hole in the wall on the opposite side of the room. One hand clenched her glass, and the other, much to Hayate's delight, was delivering a very thorough massage to the limbs sprawled in her lap. How Nanoha could willingly give this up, she would honestly never know. She could remember when this hot mess started…
Fate felt like she hadn't slept in years, and maybe she hadn't. Time had no meaning anymore, and to be frank, she wasn't even sure what day it was. For someone who always was as composed and in control as she was, it was just another sign of terrible things to come. Teana approached her desk cautiously, and gently pushed a cup of coffee towards the enforcer. She had yet to say a word, and had left the blinds pulled shut, both gestures that left Fate feeling extremely grateful. She gave a nod in thanks, prying a hand away from bloodshot eyes and wrapping numb figures around the mug.
The door to her office slammed open, banging against the wall and rattling the bookshelves to Fate's left. Her coffee sloshed across the front of her uniform, and she blinked slowly in response. Oh well. At least her jacket was black.
Hands slammed down on the edge of her workspace, and she looked up to see a very angry Hayate glowering at her from across the desk. Teana had wisely ducked out of the line of fire, and watched the exchange with fear in her eyes. Fate set her mug down, deciding that she didn't want to wear the remainder.
It was going to be a long day.
"Fate." the commander growled out.
The blonde nodded. "Hayate."
Blue eyes flashed dangerously. "You. My office. Now."
Ah. Word travels fast, apparently.
The enforcer stared up at her childhood friend, unblinking. "I haven't finished my coffee." She murmured calmly. "Perhaps this can wait?"
She was fast. She prided herself on that, forgoing power and defense for pure speed when she needed it most. She could move across the sky in mere moments, and held many records that young recruits aspired to beat.
But today? Hayate was the speed demon, and Fate never saw her coming.
A petite hand jerked her up by the back of her collar, yanking her to her feet and dragging her out of her office. She tried to protest, dragging her feet as though she were a petulant child. Today, maybe she was, but apparently Hayate could have cared less. She hauled the fearsome enforcer down the hall, a sight made even more entertaining thanks to the commander's slim build and stature, past soldiers and fresh faced cadets alike, leaving whispers and giggles in their wake.
She pushed her door open, and all but threw the captain into her office before slamming the door shut.
Fate rubbed the back of her neck. "Was that necessary?"
Hayate flashed her a warning look and pointed to an office chair. "Sit."
Fate remained rooted in place, her gaze flicking between her friend and the door.
Hayate sat in the plush armchair around the side of her desk and propped her elbows on the surface, her glare burning a hole through the mage. Fate honestly couldn't remember the last time she had seen her so angry. "I said, sit. If you even think about going Sonic the Hedgehog on me, I will have Signum beat you within an inch of your life, hogtie you, and parade you around the base like a goddamned trophy."
The enforcer cocked her head. Sonic the what?
The glare remained. She wisely decided to comply.
A screen popped up before the blonde's face, and she winced as she skimmed over its contents.
"So." Hayate said, a little more calmly now. "What the hell is this?"
Fate didn't make eye contact. "Transfer papers."
"Excellent." The brunette replied. "I'm glad we're both seeing the same thing here, because when I saw this come across my desk, I couldn't believe that one of my dearest friends was requesting a permanent transfer to the other side of the galaxy for a suicide mission."
Oh. That. She slouched in the chair a bit and dismissed the screen with a wave of her hand. She was way too tired for this right now. "Does this mean it's denied?"
"You tell me."
"Can we not do this right now?" Fate sighed wearily. "I've had a hell of a week."
"You're not the only one." Hayate responded carefully. "I had to pull a certain instructor out of her class because she had turned into an emotional wreck."
Russet eyes turned dark. "Well then. Call her boyfriend and leave me out of it."
Hayate was quiet for a moment, pursing her lips as she studied the forlorn woman before her. Quick hands pulled up another screen and rapidly tapped out commands. After a few seconds Teana's image appeared, and the brunette leaned back in her chair. "Enforcer Haralown is out for the rest of the week. If anyone has any issues with that, send them to me."
"M..ma'am." Teana replied crisply with a sharp salute.
The screen went dark, and Hayate pulled open the bottom drawer of her desk. "Good kid, that one. But you two." she sighed, retrieving two glasses and a silver flask. "What am I going to do with you two?"
Fate had no reply.
Hayate poured out two portions of amber colored liquid and slid one of the glasses across the desk towards the blonde. "Better than coffee."
Fate lifted the glass in a silent toast, and downed it all in one go. Hayate wordlessly refilled it, and they sat together in companionable silence.
The enforcer had thought a transfer would be the best way to go about things. She wasn't quite ready to deal with recent events, and removing herself from the unpleasant situation had seemed like the most logical move. She had always wondered when Nanoha would find someone to share her life with, and she had always thought that she would be able to handle it when it came. But now, standing on the edge of this proverbial cliff, she realized that nothing could ever be that easy. She couldn't simply let go, sit back, and be happy for Nanoha, even though she knew she should. They had spent years together, practically a family, and it was almost impossible to watch someone else come in and claim all that she had fought for as their own.
"You love her." Hayate stated simply.
Fate grinned, but it was hollow. "With all my heart."
The commander nodded. "Where are you staying?"
"Motel." she muttered, taking another huge swallow. "Best I could do at three in the morning."
"You could have called me."
"I know." Fate replied quietly. "I was just hoping to be off of this planet as soon as possible."
A dark brow arched. "I won't approve your transfer, you know."
The blonde sighed warily. "Didn't think you would."
"How about this." Hayate offered. "Longer missions. More time away. It'll give you some space and time to think."
Fate mulled it over for a moment. Not quite what she wanted, but it would definitely get her out of the fallout zone, at least for a little while. "It's a start."
"Good. Because I would hate to have to be the one to tell Vivio that you were killed in the line of duty."
The enforcer held out her empty glass once more, gaze softening as it was refilled. "Ah, but we both know I'm too stubborn to die."
"By the way," Fate muttered, brows furrowing. "What's a Sonic the Hedgehog?"
"I hate him." Fate scowled, tipping her glass back and relishing the sweet burn down her throat.
"Honey," the brunette sighed. "you can't hate anyone. You don't have a mean bone in your body."
"I can hate him." she growled fiercely.
Hayate snickered. "Angry at him, sure. But hate? No. I think you're just pissed that he stole your Nanoha shaped body pillow."
Fate started at that. After terrible missions, and all the horrendous things she saw in the field, there had always been nothing sweeter than the return home. Nanoha would always be able to tell, without Fate saying a word, when things had been bad. Really bad. She would be pulled into a gentle hug, into arms far warmer than anything else, and Nanoha would murmur things Fate could never hear. At night, when the nightmares came, Nanoha would tug her close, and gentle hands would stroke her hair, her back, and the soft pads of thumbs would brush away her tears.
Brows furrowed together, and Fate tried to blink away the sting in her eyes.
"Aw, crap." Hayate groaned, struggling to sit up. "Fate, honey, it was a joke."
"So's my life."
"Come on." The brunette couldn't help but laugh as she wound her arms around the captain's neck. "What are you, five?"
"Sorry." Fate mumbled tiredly. "Been awhile since I've thrown myself a pity party."
"If it's any consolation," the commander tried, tightening her hold, "it's the sexiest pity party I've ever attended."
"And you're smoking hot."
"Idiot." Fate huffed, puffing out her cheeks. Hayate giggled, reminded of a very different Fate she met many years ago, and burrowed in closer. The only good thing that had come out of all of this was the fact that Fate had finally allowed someone besides Nanoha to get so close to her. She really was a gentle soul, no matter how badly she didn't want to be right now, and her pain was clearly evident. The blonde slid her arm around Hayate's waist, and for once, allowed herself the rare comfort of another warm body.
"Hey," Hayate breathed softly. "did you ever tell her how you felt?"
Fate gave her a crooked smile. "Of course not. It's so much more fun to mope in the dark."
Burgundy eyes squeezed shut, and Fate set her glass on an end table and tried not to wonder what Nanoha was doing now. Vivio had seemed pretty calm about the whole situation earlier today, and Fate hoped Yunno was treating her well. "Tell me the truth." she murmured at last, tugging at a loose thread in the arm of the couch. "Is she happy?"
"She is, I think." came the quiet reply. "Are you going to go to the wedding?"
Fate felt her heart clench, seizing up in her chest and twisting into a knot. She hadn't been home a whole twenty four hours yet, and she was already growing weary of that question. She let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding, and let her gaze drift over a framed photograph of Nanoha and Vivio. Her family.
"Do I have to?"
"I wouldn't push you into something like that." Hayate answered honestly. "But, I'm thinking that if you want to at least repair your friendship, it wouldn't be a bad idea."
"Could I get wasted?"
"Fate-chan!" the commander laughed. "What kind of question is that?"
"So, that's a yes?" she grinned impishly.
"Oh my God." Hayate groaned dramatically, burying her face into Fate's shoulder. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but you have spent far too much time with me."
"Probably." Fate chuckled, and began to absently trail her fingers through short dark hair. It was soft, like Nanoha's, but the scent was different, spicier, almost, where Nanoha's had reminded her of warm summer days and starry nights. She fidgeted with the ends, winding chestnut locks around her fingertips, and chanced a glance down at her friend. "Would you be my date?"
"Signum will love that." Hayate drawled.
"What, she can't share you for the day?"
"Technically, she's sharing me right now, and she wasn't too fond of the idea, but I put her in her place." The woman replied lightly, a blush dusting her cheeks at the mention of her lover.
Fate cocked a brow. "Kind of hard to imagine Signum letting anyone tell her what to do. It's actually quite funny."
"Shut up." Hayate growled. "I will have no one talking badly about my super amazing fluffy love bear."
"Fluffy love bear." Hayate finished. "Yes."
Fate laughed openly now, until her sides ached and her breathing hitched. Stoic Signum, fierce Belkan Knight and cut throat warrior, reduced to…
"Yes, Fate." Hayate sighed. "We covered this."
The blonde gasped for air, feeling better than she had in months, and struggled to wipe the tears of mirth from her eyes.
The brunette grinned. Mission accomplished. She had gotten the enforcer to relax, and get at least some of the weight she had been bearing off her shoulders. And hey, bonus points, because Fate was absolutely adorable when she was laughing like that. She poked the blonde in the side. "All done then?"
Fate snorted. "I'm going to call her that in our next sparring match."
"Your funeral." She shrugged, loosening her hold on Fate and leaning towards the coffee table once more. "Now come on Barbie. We still have half a bottle to go!"
Fate's brow furrowed, and she burrowed down into the warm body wrapped around her own. "Come on, five more minutes?" she mumbled groggily, lips brushing over a smooth collarbone. She was tired. She was just so tired…
Fingers stroked through long blonde hair, pushing back messy bangs and trailing over defined cheekbones. "Fate-chan," the heavenly voice breathed again, tinted with affection. "you're going to be late. You need to wake up."
The enforcer's eyes refused to open. "The world will continue to spin, even if I take an extra five minutes."
There was a tiny hum of acknowledgment, and a quiet laugh. "This is true, but you promised Vivio you'd take her to school."
"Ah." Fate tightened her hold on soft curves, the heart beating under her cheek was strong, the steady rhythm almost lulling her back to sleep. "Will you be here when I get back?"
"Of course I will. But right now, you need to…"
"Testarossa!" a husky voice boomed. "Unless you'd like your face rearranged, I would recommend that you release your hold on Hayate!"
Bleary eyes pried themselves open, and immediately screwed shut once more. The room was way too bright, and the headache she had started to develop last night was now a stampeding herd of wild buffalo, wreaking havoc on her frazzled nerves. The room was warm, very warm in fact, and Fate snapped awake when her new personal space heater squirmed in her arms.
Burgundy eyes locked onto bright blue. She could remember a soft voice, and a gentle touch, but something was off. The shade wasn't quite right, and she really couldn't remember Nanoha being this short…
A throat cleared somewhere near the foot of the bed.
She darted up, wincing when her head throbbed wildly in protest and rapidly moved to detangle herself from the compromising situation she had found herself in. She jerked her arms back as if she had been burned, and blushed madly when she realized she was wearing the white dress shirt from her uniform and little else.
Beside her, burrowed down into the pillows, Hayate giggled. "Who knew that Fate-chan was such a cuddler?"
Her blush grew darker, and when the commander shifted on the soft mattress beside her, bare legs brushed over her own.
"Mmm," the brunette purred. "I think I could do this every day. I'm keeping your shirt, by the way." She added playfully, plucking at the front of the garment she had stolen from Fate's closet.
"I..it's not like that…" Fate stammered.
"It's not like what?" an icy tone inquired.
The enforcer then caught the sight of Hayate's guardian Signum, standing at the foot of the bed, arms crossed, with a menacing scowl gracing her features. Standing beside her, Vita had buried her face into the palm of her hand, and tiny shoulders shook with quiet laughter.
Her heart dropped to the pit of her stomach, and panic set in. "W..wait…Signum…" Fate nearly whimpered, holding her hands up defensively. "I..I didn't…"
"Signum." Hayate scolded lightly. "Don't tease her. She's going to be rocking one hell of a hangover today."
"E..eh?" the blonde looked confused, eyes darting between the pair.
The knight chuckled quietly and dropped her arms to her side. "Relax, Testarossa. I just wanted to have a little fun."
Fate's arms felt like jelly, and her wild energy deflated like a balloon. For about ten seconds there, she honestly thought that she was going to die. Feeling confused, exhausted, and very very slow, she cast a hazy gaze over the two guardians. "How did you even get in my house?"
"For an enforcer, you're rather stupid." Vita stated bluntly.
The blonde nodded. The door. Never locked it. Genius.
"Here." Signum muttered gruffly, handing her a bottle of water and a blister packet of tablets. "Those are from Shamal. She said you'd need them if you were hanging out with Hayate."
"Ouch." The brunette muttered.
"Your reputation precedes you." Fate drawled, popping the capsules immediately. She chugged half the bottle, thankful that she hadn't gotten sick at least, and grinned at the mages surrounding her. "Thanks, you guys."
"Anytime." Signum replied warmly.
"I was only here for the drunken cuddles." Hayate said with a wink.
Vita pinched the bridge of her nose. "This is cute and special and all that, but could you both please put some clothes on?"
Fate laughed sheepishly, and swore she heard the remnants of her reputation dying a slow, agonizing death. "Sorry."
"Oh. Before I forget." Vita muttered, producing a battered card out of seemingly thin air before tossing it onto the bed. "This was in the hall."
Even through her pounding headache, Fate could make out gold-leaf lettering across ivory cardstock.
You are cordially invited…
"OH COME ON!"
She ignored the three pairs of eyes and the odd looks she was sure she was receiving at the outburst and pulled the comforter over her head. Screw it. Five more minutes never killed anyone.
To be continued...