Chapter 1. Doubts Assault

"Nanoha, what are we?"

I could barely mumble these words. It is unbelievable the amount of strength that I had to gather to dare ask that to the woman who has been my life for the last years. I would rather face hundreds of androids than voice my deepest thoughts, but there was no going back now. It had to be now or never.

It was just a regular lazy Friday night at the Takamachi Residence in Midchilda. As regular as they come when both the blonde and the red-haired mages were able to be home at the same time after an exhausting week... or sometimes two or three in the case of the Enforcer. Fate's schedule was so much more irregular than Nanoha's for so many reasons, but could be boiled into one. Her job.

Despite that, Nanoha had never been one to give her heat due to her job. She encouraged her and supported her. Fate was certain about that, even though she also knew that she tried to keep their life as normal as possible when the three of them were together. Family home-cooked dinner if Fate was home was a given. Vivio would tell Fate everything that happened to her at school, everything she had learned and about her new friends too, and Nanoha would listen to them again as if it was the first time hearing them. Birthdays and holidays were sometimes a little more complicated since Fate's schedule was as unpredictable as it was erratic. Four-day itineraries could easily become ten. Vacations with three of them seemed like a myth.

Fate may never have said anything but she knew Nanoha went the extra mile making sure she didn't feel left out despite the time she wasn't around. And yet Fate recognized she was missing out, not only on Vivio, but with Nanoha as well.

She knew it very well and the more she thought about it the more she kept losing herself in that line of thinking. Fate watched as the last rays of sunlight battled through the intermittent drizzle tapping almost imperceptibly on the window of their bedroom, bringing a twilight atmosphere to it when Fate, not being able to take it anymore, had finally broken the silence with her intempestive question.

The brunette just addressed was deep-nosed buried in a very retro tactical air-defense book that was long due back to the Infinite Library when Fate's soft voice brought her back to their room.

"What do you mean, Fate-chan?" Nanoha answered happily, as she tried and failed to meet Fate's shy averted gaze. "Besides Aces of Aces? What kind of question is that? You are an Enforcer, a quite successful one I may add, and I'm an Aerial Instructor. I thought you knew that," she answered in her usual cheerful tone.

Fate barely half-laughed, shifting uneasy in the cozy window corner seat she had installed for them a few months ago, trying in vain to find a more comfortable position. Her discomfort certainly came from not knowing how to follow up on the conversation she had just opened the door to and not her sitting choice, but she tried anyway.

The window corner was actually a comfortable spot for them and she loved spending time there, reading mostly. A habit she had picked up over the time. Each night both of them, after putting Vivio to sleep, would go back to their room and read a bit before sleeping. Nine times out ten Nanoha would join her and cuddle up with her in that spot and Fate would then serve as her personal life-size back pillow.

Today it was that one day out of ten where Nanoha was not magnetically attached to Fate. For some reason, Nanoha would almost always be close to her. As far as Fate was aware, the concept of personal space was simply nonexistent for Nanoha when it came to her, and she didn't mind at all. On the contrary, Fate deeply enjoyed having Nanoha close, though sometimes having her so close meant she found herself overthinking and overfeeling. And then, she would hack down those thoughts deliberately, but it was becoming harder to do so until something inside her finally had decided to cross that invisible line that was drowning her from within.

"You really are that innocent, Nanoha," Fate thought to herself, with a deep breath.

Oddly enough, there was a silver lining. Nanoha did not not consider Fate a workaholic. She knew she was the hopeless workaholic. Even with Fate's difficult schedule, they were fundamentally different in one thing. The moment Fate entered their home, her job stayed outside. Nanoha's work followed her everywhere. She would be always thinking about new plans and tactics to better prepare her students. She had a restless mind for action.

So, Nanoha's answer did not entirely surprise Fate. She actually half expected it. Only someone like Nanoha could answer such a question, associating it to both their jobs. With a sudden impulse of confidence, she turned to meet those blue ranging to violet eyes, depending on the light and, most importantly, her mood; those eyes she never got tired of watching, and clearing her voice added: "I meant about us."

Nanoha set aside the book, carefully placing it in her nightstand before turning her full attention to Fate. This conversation seemed like serious stuff. She could read that much in her eyes. It was so unnatural of Fate to be the one to start a conversation, especially one of this kind. It was usually she, Nanoha, the one who brought up the occasional serious matters.

"We are a family," she answered immediately, not only effortlessly but also boasting a wide smile.

Fate smiled back. There was something warm inside her every time she heard Nanoha, or anyone for that matter, refer to them as the Takamachi family. Nonetheless, lately something bothered her more and more. And that feeling not only made her uneasy, it had started to make her very distracted and confused. Lately, her thoughts were being endlessly consumed by questions and that questions followed her in her dreams and her daydreams as well. Desires and fears that could not be turned off.

"Yes… we are a family, but… what does that mean?" Fate insisted.

Nanoha blinked twice, while a series of images fast-forwarded in her mind. She knew what it was like to belong to a family. She had her parents, Momoko and Shirō, and her siblings, Kyoya and Miyuki. Memories of the five of them at Midori-ya, the family's restaurant back in Uminari, where they shared birthday parties and all sorts of celebrations with friends, came to her mind.

Even if she had always felt a little out, she loved her family dearly and knew that was her family. They had always supported her, and she knew she could count on them even if they were, literally, living in different worlds.

Musing about what a family meant, now, she looked at the woman in front of her, whom, even before Vivio came along, had become her family as well. One formed by her. It was a fact that she had never had to give much thought about since everything had happened so smoothly. It was a good number of years now that they had been living together, in one way or another. The way Fate seamlessly stepped-in to share parenthood for Vivio had only strengthened that idea of family.

"Why was Fate having doubts now?" Nanoha mused to herself, as she tried to find a specific answer for Fate's question.

"Well, it means... that we take care of each other, that we build a home for Vivio..."

Nanoha's words were suddenly interrupted by a projection of the TSAB's communication screen that appeared in front of them, sounding the alert warning.

Fate was immediately required back at her base, since a new lead had been discovered in the latest case she was following. There was no time to lose if she wanted to pick up the trail of the perpetrators. Fate started getting ready as soon as she heard the alert.

Visibly annoyed, completely unlike her usual self, Fate grunted under her breath as soon as the communication screen disappeared and struggled while putting on her jacket, and tying the laces of her boots at the same time. That notification could not have come any less mistimed.

Nanoha watched her in diligent silence. A quiet façade that did not reveal at all the thoughts that raced in her mind. Fate had doubts, it was obvious. Something worried her and, probably for the first time since their lives led the same path, she felt unable to read what those once-sad eyes were trying to tell her.

"Be safe, Fate-chan, we will continue this conversation when you get back. I promise."

Nanoha softly placed her hand on the taller woman's shoulder and slowly slid her arm down Fate's arm, stopping mid-arm to give her a subtle tug before drawing her in close for a long hug.

There was a special involuntary inflexion in Nanoha's voice that could soothe Fate like nothing else could. The warmth of her touch always made her feel special.

There was always also something about Nanoha that without exception she would extend the physical contact with her, more so than any other person they knew. Nanoha was always a warm person, who didn't mind being physically affectionate with everyone, but Fate could tell she was the recipient of extra affectionate gestures. Fate had always assumed it was because of their closeness being friends since they were so young, but lately those displays of affection kept triggering different feelings and uncomfortable reactions that kept building up inside her.

"Fate-chan, take care of yourself and don't over do it," Nanoha went on, without letting Fate go.

It was a reminder the Instructor kept religiously, like a mantra, not only to Fate, but to all her students or truth be told, to anyone she cared about. Although, deep down she knew that every time she said it to anyone, it was an opportunity to remind herself out loud. She had gotten too close to the limit more than once. In her heart she knew she had, at least, two powerful reasons not to risk herself like that ever again.

"Thank you, Nanoha," Fate sighed, hating to be the one, this time, to break the physical contact between them.

Fate hurried out and as she opened their room's door, took a moment to turn around swiftly. The Enforcer looked at Nanoha, standing beautiful in her delicate nightgown, but visibly worried, and sheepishly smiled at her. She felt the unavoidable warmth rising up her cheeks.

Her eyes met and with a steady voice, product of a sudden surge of confidence, Fate stated: "I love you, Nanoha," and exited as quickly as she could without waiting for an answer, carefully closing the door behind her, leaving Nanoha completely flabbergasted.

A few minutes after she heard the front door closing as Fate departed, Nanoha found herself standing still, her feet fixed to the floor exactly in the same position she had when Fate had left the room. Alone in their bedroom she felt the air heavier and a little tremble in her hands. It didn't seem to matter that the only light now came from the occasional lightning that flashed from the sky, announcing that a storm was closing in.

It was certainly not the first time Fate told her those words. It had become rather natural for them, due to their closeness. Over the years, hugging that had turned to some silly fooling around or holding hands that had turned into holding themselves together at night in their sleep, were transitions in their affection that had just happened so naturally, neither of them had questioned why they did it.

At least, not to each other.

This time, however, she felt that she couldn't even move her feet from the ground. The intensity of those burgundy eyes telling her she loved her…

She had to sit down on the bed.

What had been different this time?

Author's Note:

Nanofate fever got into me and I made me want to re-edit and extend this fic. I hope you enjoy, dear reader.

For old readers that may bump into this new version, I hope you enjoy it again. I'm going to sound very old school, but you may want to pretend that the original version published in 2011 was the Reader's Digest version of the story, and this is the unabridged version. Some chapters have been extended a little, but there are also at least three new chapters. I may not have been ready years ago to tell the full story as I wanted to. But this is it now.

For new readers, as uncannon as this will be, please keep in mind back when this fic was written I was only familiar with the series up to StrikerS, and I don't want to mess with its essence, which is pure Nanofate sugary goodness.

Also, the story will start with a T rating until the M rating chapters appear, where yes M means sex.