by Cyberchao X
A/N: Oh g-d what am I doing?! I don't do AUs! I have over a hundred fanfics and a grand total of one is an AU, and that was written in 2004!
…Oh, right, it's pretty much the best way to cover the same pairing more than once, and I'm falling down on my self-appointed job. Also because it allows me to use more of the canon characters—though my stable of OCs from Lonely No More won't be entirely absent.
It started out like any other day. Get up, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, go to work. Usually she opened up the shop for the day, but on this morning, her boss's car was already in the parking lot. Mildly unexpected, but not entirely unheard of. Arisa Bannings said good morning to her boss and opened the door to the garage. And that was the moment when her world was changed forever.
"Why is there a limousine in our garage?"
"Because it needs repairs."
Smartass. "Since when are we a body shop?"
"We aren't. Though I have been thinking of expanding. Take a look at what's under that hood."
Arisa sighed. "You know I left my last job because they were servicing criminals. I thought you and your sister were better than that."
"I assure you, this limousine belongs to a legitimate businesswoman."
"Is the corporate world so cutthroat that legitimate businesswomen need bulletproof limousines? And get shot at with bullets strong enough to damage them anyway?"
Signum Wolkenritter sighed. "I trust my cousin's judgment. I've heard the rumors about the Tsukimura Corporation being a front for the yakuza, but Hayate-san swears that Tsukimura-san swore off all contact with her father after starting the company, and the authorities have never been able to get anything to stick to him anyway."
"She wouldn't have cut her father off if she wasn't worried what association with him could do to her." Arisa shrugged. It wasn't really her problem. "Well, I guess that's good enough for me. Sins of the father shouldn't have to stick to the child." She started working.
"Oh, right, I forgot. You came from a rough background too, didn't you? I was just…"
"…Yeah, I know. You were remembering your own situation." Arisa's father had regularly abused her mother, and Arisa herself had gotten into a lot of fights as a child—rarely her fault, but people just assumed that she was violent just like her father, and it ended up being a self-fulfilling assumption. Just because she didn't pick fights didn't mean she couldn't—or wouldn't—kick someone's ass, male or female. As for the Wolkenritters, their father was a drunk; Signum was only 17 when he got himself and his wife killed in a drunk driving accident, leading to her taking her younger siblings, Zafira and Vita, and living on the run for a few months until she turned 18 and could apply to be their legal guardian. A few years later, Signum met Shamal when the latter was on vacation, and their whirlwind romance ended with them getting married and then moving to Shamal's native Japan.
CCX: It should be painfully obvious by now that I'm making this up as I go along; I realized as soon as I'd typed it that the age of majority is higher in Japan, so I had to make them foreign. So while the original plan was to follow the usual AU convention and have Signum/Zafira/Vita be Hayate's cousins, in this, it's actually Shamal who's related to Hayate; Signum just says "my cousin" for convenience. I mean, yes, I really should just set the damn thing in the country I'm actually familiar with, but with so many Japanese names involved, I figured it best to just leave it in Japan.
"Onee-san! Why'd you leave without me?!"
"You know why, Vita-chan. I had to be the first one in this morning, thanks to our…late-night arrival." Heh. Of course. Arisa had figured when she saw Signum's car that it meant Vita had actually woken up in a timely fashion for once, but in reality, Signum had left her younger sister to get to work on her own. Though an adult in her own right, Vita still lived with Signum and Shamal. It was easier that way, and more environmentally friendly since they could go to work together.
CCX: …Also I don't know the first thing about being a mechanic. This was such a mistake…
"I'm just…surprised to see you at work so early."
"Time is money. Also, one of my father's enemies shot up my limousine and it's in for repairs. I figured that no one would expect me to be riding in a modest vehicle driven by a humble baker…but of course, that meant a much earlier commute than usual."
"Did you never wonder why the ground floor of our building is a bakery? Takamachi Nanoha is one of my oldest and dearest friends; I was all too happy to give her and her family a generous rate on this magnificent location."
"I…didn't realize that. Far be it for me to question a convenient source of sweets."
"Many don't. Given my oft-imperiled status, I find it wisest to limit my contact with her, for her sake. …Though I may have to patronize the Midoriya myself later, as thanks."
…Wow. I've probably passed right under the feet of that limo's owner hundreds of times, Arisa thought, picking up her lunch. I knew that a major corporation had their offices above the Midoriya, but one with potential yakuza ties?
"Eh? You okay, Bannings-san?" Nanoha asked, noticing the mechanic's dazed look.
"Huh? Yeah, Nanoha-san. Just thinking about work. …You rent this space out from the Tsukimura Corporation, right?"
"How much do you know about them?"
Nanoha hesitated. "Not too much. I don't meet with Tsukimura-san directly, of course. She doesn't often appear in public."
"Because of the rumors about her father?"
"I…it's not my place to say."
"You're not worried about renting from a potential mob boss?"
"She—she's not a mob boss. We've all heard the rumors about her father, but… Why are you so interested all of a sudden?"
Arisa had never seen the young baker act so shiftily, and decided it best not to mention anything. "No reason. I should get back to work."
"…Who was that?" Suzuka asked.
"Waah!" Nanoha didn't realize that Suzuka had been there. "Ah, sorry," she said, noticing that her scream had drawn attention. "Didn't expect to see you here."
"Oh, you know how I love your parents' cakes. Just wanted to thank you for helping me out today. Speaking of which…did I read that correctly? That woman who just left works for the Wolkenritters?"
Nanoha looked confused. Yes, Arisa had been wearing her work clothes, which had the name of the garage on them, but what would that name mean to Suzuka? "Th-that's what it says, yes. Do you know them?"
"No. I was hoping you could tell me; you seemed to know her quite well."
"Bannings-san is a regular customer, but I don't know her on a personal level. And I've never met her bosses. Why?"
"Because I think they're the ones working on my car. Hayate-san said they were family, but she can be…a bit flighty. You, on the other hand, have impeccable judgment."
"Well, I can't help you, but Bannings-san seems like a fine person to me. Now, your food is ready, so you should probably be heading back up to your ivory tower."
Suzuka pouted. She didn't sequester herself from the world by choice; it was all her father's fault. As much as she enjoyed the perks of wealth, it would be nice to be free like that girl she saw…Bannings.
…Geez. You'd think that a car used to shuttle around someone so important would be better maintained. Doesn't she have multiple vehicles for when one is in the shop? The damage from the shootout may have been fixed, but this would still take some time, and Arisa told her bosses as much. Signum replied that they hadn't been called about it, so it was no problem.
In reality, Suzuka had suspected that it wouldn't be a quick fix; she'd asked about the limousine's maintenance before, and had always been told that her safety was more important. "And driving me around in a car that hasn't been properly maintained keeps me safe how?" she'd asked. Though she had been somewhat worried after all.
Now, she wasn't. She couldn't figure out what had changed, since she was still without her armored transport. Perhaps it was the limo itself she'd been worried about, and she now felt secure. But why? Nanoha had said that she didn't really know the girl that well, only that she "seemed like a fine person", yet Suzuka…had a good feeling that she couldn't quite explain. Like she trusted Bannings to be poking around under her hood, didn't mind it at all. I certainly wouldn't mind her poking around under my hood, she thought, then shook her head. Where had that come from? The girl she'd seen looked about as butch as they came, and Suzuka had never cared much for men…but being butch and actually being male were two different things. A woman who could stand up to men…that was something she admired. She'd been doing it herself in her own way, wielding power as an executive. But why couldn't she stop thinking about this…mechanic, that she had only seen for a brief moment? Sure, she was beautiful in her unkempt way, but…Suzuka knew nothing about her, not even her given name. Kind of wish I'd looked at the name on her chest instead of the one across her stomach. …Ah, well, there was a solution to that, wasn't there? She could insist on being there in person to pay for and reclaim her limousine. She smiled in anticipation.
That evening, Arisa found herself looking up the CEO of Tsukimura Corporation. She knew it was none of her business, but knowing that she regularly bought lunch in the same building as their offices and was now doing work for them, she couldn't help but be curious. Huh…she's younger than I expected. Quite a beauty, too. She closed the browser, satisfied. Without even thinking about it, she'd subconsciously concluded that there was nothing to worry about, and the next day, she redoubled her efforts.
CCX: I have no idea where this is going; I keep going like "okay, maybe I'll do this…no, that's no good." I fully suspect this will end up as another unfinished work, or else it will be way too short because I suck at pacing things. Though by some miracle I managed to stretch out my last AriSuzu to over 100,000 words and nearly 50 chapters. I can only pray that I do half that well here. Until next time (which will probably be an update of another fic rather than the next chapter of this one, because I've got a lot of things running at once), this is Cyberchao X, signing off.