The last week was very hard for newly-promoted lieutenant Subaru Nakajima. Subaru always knew that being in command was a hard task, but she never suspected that it would be so hard for her. In the beginning Subaru was happy that her superior officer recognized her efforts to maintain peace and saving peoples in distress, but then all the hardships of being in command crashed down on her. In the very first day she was forced to solve a problem with supplies for her squad. After this almost immediately the new lieutenant got in quarrel with another squad, whose equipment got transferred to Subaru's own. And this wasn't the hardest task that Subaru Nakajima was forced to meet after her promotion.
Her relationship with her underlings was much better thought. Her involvements in JS incident make her quite famous in the low ranks, and thus no one blamed their commander for squad troubles. That was quite convenient, because Subaru really was exhausted from bickering with superiors to have additional problems with her own men.
But Subaru didn't surrender to circumstances and her efforts paid off. She started to get used to the commanding officer role and moreover her family started to help her.
Her father managed to organize a stable line of supply for her unit, her older sister Ginga offered her help with reports and her little sister Wendi lent a hand with training sessions. Slowly Subaru started to gain experience and, more importantly, gain confidence in herself and her abilities.
She has this confidence just until the day when she received information that lieutenant-general Hayate Yagami died in terrorist bombing.
Subaru was crushed. Totally. She lost count of time when she just sat in her chair and stared blankly at the floor. Only one thought pulsed inside of her tired mind: she failed.
She failed to protect her commander… no, her friend. Just like six years ago she failed to protect Captain Nanoha Takamachi. The Zarotoria Incident when a local insurgent group came to poses powerful physical weapons that had the ability to penetrate any form of magical protection. Many enforcers and soldiers of the ground forces died trying to stop the terrorists. The situation grew more dangerous when insurgents unleashed drones armed with even more powerful weapons and, which was even worse, extremely powerful AMF-generators. Those drones weren't equipped with anti-gravity generators and instead moved on six independent wheels - they were slower and not so agile as JS drones but better armed and well protected.
In order to solve this problem main HQ sent their best soldiers with Nanoha Takamachi as their commander.
Using newly developed TSAB psychical weapons and Nanoha's commanding skill they managed to shift the power balance in TSAB's favor. But still every victory came with a great price. In order to avoid further loses Captain Nanoha utilized all available Intel resources to find the enemy's main base. But despite their best efforts enemy's lair was found with the help of Nanoha's new friend – Catherine de Volga, who managed to track terrorist supply lines directly to their base.
In the desperate battle TSAB forces managed to achieve crushing victory over the insurgents. But the price of this was horrific.
Only half of the assault troops survived, and only half of this number was able to avoid incurable injuries. Large blocks of a city sustained enormous damage and thousands of people lost their homes and jobs.
And Captain Nanoha Takamachi died during this battle. The person she admired and looked up to, one of her best friends died and she was totally unable to help her.
Subaru herself witnessed the horrible scene – in the middle of a store-room, in the pool of her own blood lay the mutilated corpse of Ace of Ace. The Cyborg-girl was so terrified and shocked that she didn't see the unconscious form of Catherine who lay near Nanoha's body. Subaru didn't remember at all what occurred after that. But, as she was told by a sobbing Catherine, soldiers found her staying on her knees, hugging Nanoha's body tightly and crying desperately. Six bulky soldiers were absolutely unable to take Captain Takamachi's body from her until they made her come to her senses.
And now the story repeated itself. Her friend was killed again and Subaru Nakajima wasn't there to help. It was too much for her.
It was only the start, as a few days after incident unpleasant rumours started to pop up in the newspapers and on the news: news about the corrupted relationship between Hayate and her main rival – Director Auris Gaiz of Department of Interdimensional Intelligence and Support.
After this everything started to fall apart. Her every movement was supervised by higher-ups. Every day the door of her office was occupied by crowds of reporters until she gave strict orders not to let any civilian in, but they instead started to ambush her on her home's door. Her relationship with neighbouring squads became sour when she heard how they gleefully insulted Hayate. She couldn't believe how easily people could forget someone's good deeds and replace their admiration with spite.
Subaru came to home only after 1 AM, exhausted bitter and utterly devastated. She slowly unbuttoned her coat and put it on hanger. Subaru turned around and her blue eyes meet worry-filed yellow eyes of her younger sister – Nove Nakajima. Nove wore just her panties and a long red sweater.
"Su?" Her voice was quite low, as if she was afraid to scare Subaru away. "Are you alright?"
Subaru nearly yelled "How can I be alright?" but held herself down – Nove was worried about her and totally didn't deserve to be yelled at.
"No. I'm not." Subaru tripped and almost fell but managed to stand. Moments after a pair of strong hands caught her own. Then Nove pulled Subaru up to herself.
"How is it?" The redhead whispered rubbing Subaru hands with her thumbs soothingly.
"Bad!" It was strong emphasis in this simple word.
"Today I had a meeting with Major Rawl Carcery – agent of Interdimensional Security Departament – he investigated Hayate-san case." She let out a long sigh.
"But it seems they are more concerned about those rumors. It's bad Nove…" Subaru voice started to tremble. "… everyone who was connected with Hayate-san is now under tight supervision. Well, I suppose you already know that." Subaru smiled sadly. Nove nodded grimly and said.
"Last two days were very unpleasant. I called off my sparring session with Vivio because of those freaks that scuttled around after us. And damn I can't even see Einhart for the same reason."
Subaru felt a twinge of guilt – everybody knew how deeply Nove cared for Ein and how strong her bound with Vivio was (to the point where Wendi made a joke that Nove need to graw a spine to ask for Vivio's hand) and to be forced to not see them – she was so wrapped in her own pain that she didn't stop to notice her own sisters' pain.
She reached her right hand out and patted Nove's head gently.
"Don't worry Nove, somehow we will get through it. I promise you."
Nove give her a little sad smile.
"Where is dad?"
"He said he would stay at work for the night. It's become a habit of his already." Subaru sighed for her father's situation was much worse than her's. As Hayate's mentor he got the largest dose of berating and unpleasant attention from both superior officers and the media. And now his position and reputation was in great danger and thus now he barely visited the home. Moreover, doing this he tugged most of reporters' attention away from home and his daughters.
Nove nodded again and then yawned unintentionally.
"Sleepy girl." Giggled Subaru.
"Hey!" Nove crossed her arms on her chest and frowned. "I'm barely younger than you…" She didn't end her sentence because Subaru leaned forward and hugged her.
"You need a rest, Nove. Please, you're tired and tomorrow you will need as much strength as you have."
Nove's expression softened as she nodded, then she hugged her sister back.
"Thanks sis. You know it's a first time I'm glad that Ginga went on her mission into deep space."
Subaru can't help but agree – despite missing her dear older sister she was glad that those annoying scoop-chasers couldn't reach her outside Mid-Childa.
Subaru leaned back and taking a glance down hallway asked. "I suppose Wendi and Dieci are already sleep?"
"Yes they are, just like Cinque-nee."
"Cinque-nee already returned from her mission?" Subaru's eyes grew a little wider.
"Yup, she returned four hours ago and was so tired both because of the mission and the jerks that she almost immediately went to bed."
"I see, then we shall do the same. Good night Nove."
"Good night Subaru."
Nove let her older sister go, give her a little nod and went to her room.
"How could you Subaru?" A gentle voice filled with sadness and despair flowed around her, filling everything like air. "Why did you abandon me?"
Before the terror paralyzed girl appeared a painfully familiar face – the face of Nanoha Takamachi. Normally it beamed with happiness and hidden strength, but now it was an almost lifeless blue-ish skin mask soaked with crimson-red tears. Her pure white barrier jacket was tattered and covered in blood.
"W-why Subaru?" She pleaded, reaching both of her arms forward, forcing the barely alive out of horror and guilt girl to make two quick steps backward. "Weren't we friends? How could you, w-what did I do to you?" Now Nanoha whimpered mixing her pleas with heart breakening sobs.
"N-no, Nanoha-san." Subaru answer's was barely louder than a whisper. "I didn't want this to happening. I tried to reach you… I… I…"
"Subaru!" Nanoha quiet voice suddenly started to grow louder. "Subaru, help me! Subaru!"
Subaru charged forward toward Nanoha. "Nanoha-san, hang on, I'll save you!"
Suddenly Nanoha let out an ear-tearing scream and a heartbeat after her body exploded, splashing Subaru with the stream of blood. The last thing she witnessed was a countless cacked teeth, bursting out of body of her friend.
Subaru almost suffocated on her own scream. She sat straight in her bed coughing, choking out gobs of saliva. Apparently the only reason that she wasn't vomiting was the lack of food in her stomach. Subaru lifted her right hand and wiped her mouth. Her heart throbbed like a sledgehammer and threatened to crack her ribs, her entire body trembled and she realised that her cheeks were wet with tears.
This nightmare. This dreadful dream tormented her for an entire year when Nanoha died.
Hayate's death apparently reawakened it.
The Cyborg-girl pulled her blanket tightly to her chest, as if she tried to shield herself with it. She didn't know for how long this dream would again become her nightly guest.
Still, she totally deserved to lose her peaceful dreams – she failed and because of that she became an accomplice of the killers.
She giggled darkly – what did she expect from herself anyways? Wasn't she the product of an illegal experiment? A freak.
"Subaru." The soft voice reverberated through the entire room with a force of thunder to Subaru's ears. When she quickly turned her head around her gaze stopped at tiny silver-haired figure.
"Cinque-nee?" Second oldest Nakajima sister didn't wait for permission and walked toward Subaru's bed. She stopped when the gap between them was only a half of a metre.
Subaru forced herself to give her sister a small reassuring smile.
"Unpleasant dream. Nothing really wrong." Her sisters already had more than enough problems and Subaru definitely didn't want Cinque to think about her own troubles.
"You lie." Cinque narrowed her single eye. "I suppose this dream is only the tip of your problems, isn't it? You know I had a talk with Dieci, Wendi and Nove today and when I was on the mission I contacted dad and Ginga."
Subaru cursed inwardly – Cinque, as always, was incredibly sharp and she easily looked through Subaru's facade.
Cinque sat on the corner of Subaru's bad and reached out, cupping Subaru's face with both of her hands.
"Tell me, Subaru, what's wrong. Everybody's worried about you. Dieci said the last few days you barely talked to them; Wendi said that your work situation is even worse because you often space out, blabbering something. And during the nights you're moaning, whimpering and leaking tears."
"Doesn't that mean they're sneaking into my room? This is sexu…" Subaru tried to joke, but her words died when Cinque gently rubbed her face.
"Don't Subaru. Don't try to hide it. The death of Commander Hayate affected you very much. You lost your spirit, your courage and now you're slowly falling apart. Please don't cast us away Subaru, we are your family, we won't abandon you."
The word "abandon" made something inside Subaru to snap. Tears bursted out of her eyes as she lumped down in Cinque embrace. For few minutes silence in the room was disturbed only by Subaru's chokes and Cinque humming. When Subaru managed to lift her face to meet Cinque gaze, the elder Nakajima gently started to wash off her tears with her thumbs.
"It's okay. It's okay Subaru – I'm here for you. Let your tears wash away all the demons that resident in your soul."
"B..But I'm impure." Sobbed Subaru. "I failed. I failed twice to protect my friends. I let them die… I wasn't fast enough to save Nanoha-san. And I wasn't ever here when Hayate-san got blasted apart. I'm killer! A Monster!"
The last sentence seemed to eat away her mustered strength and Subaru again broke in tears. Now Cinque held her for a much longer period of time. Then she started to speak softly.
"You're not a monster Subaru. Nor are you a killer." She slowly raised Subaru's head, forcing her wavering blue eyes meet her yellow eye. "You're a wonderful and kind-hearted girl who loves her friend and her family members more than anything and your anguished tears are proof of this. I can't say anything about Zaratoria Incident but I think in general Hayate's case you can't blame yourself. You can't watch over her every second of every day."
Subaru frowned, but Cinque didn't allow her to interrupt her.
"I know what you want to say – what purpose is in my work if I won't try to save anybody I can reach – but Subaru, you can't reach everyone and you can't bear responsibility for everyone. That's plain arrogance. And most importantly, Subaru – you're not a monster." Cinque voice suddenly became hoarse and low. "Because I'm a monster."
Subaru eyes widened on this sentence. Cinque give her a wry smile.
"I killed many people, when I served under my first father – Dr. Scaglietti. And yes, despite that I really love Nakajima-san and now view him as my father, I will not forget about the doctor. Subaru I want to say something to you – I was in the unit that ambushed Zest Grangaitz and his subordinates." Subaru gasped in realization. "Yes Subaru, I was there when your mother died. I didn't deliver a finishing blow to Quint Nakajima, but I was the one who created the situation. So you can trust me – I know how to recognize a killer. He must be just like me." She chuckled grimly and slowly brought her left hand to Subaru's eyes.
"Do you see it, Subaru - it's a murderer's disgusting hand. You know, no matter how many times I wash it, when I sniff it, it still reeks of blood. And yours." Cinque took Subaru hand by her own and raised it. "Your strong arms saved many peoples, and you never use them to take someone's life away. So please..." Cinque felt how her own eyes start to leak. " Please don't say such things, I can't bear hearing you call yourself a monster. If you're so afraid to became a monster just don't became like me." Cinque stood, letting Subaru go.
"We're always here for you Subaru – me, Wendi, Dieci and Nove. You don't need to face your suffering alone. And we will face any troubles together. Even such a fiend like me can't let her beloved little sister suffer. I'll stay here and wait until you fall asleep, so don't worry – I'll chase all of bad dreams away.
She prepared to go for the chair that stood in the corner of the room but then she felt pair of strong arms circling around her waist and a powerful jerk sent her into Subaru bear hug.
"Cinque-nee, Cinque-nee." Subaru's warm breath touched Cinque's cold cheek melting the cold away. "I can't let you go. Not after hearing how you call yourself a monster. Now it's my turn to help you. Aren't you suffering too Cinque-nee?"
"Yes, you're right." Whispered the elder girl.
"You're not a fiend Cinque-nee. Monsters never come to my room and sooth me. And a fiend would never bother herself to protect me in my sleep, or work so hard to deserve forgiveness. You're too a wonderful and caring a person, Cinque-nee."
Subaru put her chin on Cinque's right shoulder and pulled the smaller girl's arms to her face.
"What a beautiful hands. So soft and small." Cinque felt how her blood streamed toward her cheeks and Subaru giggled witnessing elder girl confusion. "These gentle arms held me and caressed me and I often see then holding a book that you're reading to Dieci or Wendi. And I don't sense any trace of blood in the air." To prove her words Subaru take a deep inhale. "Whoa, isn't that Gin-nee's favourite raspberry soap?" Cinque blushed even harder and now Subaru let a soft laugh.
Subaru's warmth threatened to burn her away, it felt so good that the silver-haired girl barely suppressed a moan of delight.
"Thank you Subaru. You can't imagine how I needed those words."
"You're welcome Cinque-nee. Aren't we sisters?"
Cinque wanted to stand but then Subaru gently pulled her back, when Cinque turned her head in surprise she saw that Subaru's cheek stained with red.
"Uh… Cinque-nee, can I ask you a favour?"
"Um, of course." Nodded Cinque.
"Can you sleep with me tonight? I… I know how stupid it sounda, and you have every right to reject and…"
Cinque give her sister a broad smile.
"No, I'm more than glad to spend a night hugging something as cute as you." In her voice appeared playful traits, now it was a Subaru's turn to blush even harder.
Subaru crawled back, allowing her sister to lay sideway from her. Then both sisters wrapped arms around each other's and pull themselves close. Feelings of warmth and love burned all remaining tears in Subaru's eyes and she rapidly started to descent in the deep sleep.
"Good night Subaru." Whispered Cinque.
"Good night, Cinque-nee." Smiled Subaru.
Two girls soon fell asleep and for the entire time neither of them was tormented by nightmares.
AN: We always see sisterly bonds between Subary and Ginga, but how about her relationship with another. My favorite is Cinque so I decide to write about them.
But Nakajima sisters shouldn`t get their guard down, because Catherine lurking in the shadows.