"Loose Ends"

By Sam

A/N: After reading book nine I've decided that I really want to see Haruka & Seta get back together. So I'm going to type now what I wish would happen immediately following the last page of the graphic novel.

Chapter 1

The room Seta was sharing with Sarah was easily reached from the balcony where he and Haruka had stood, watching Naru and Keitaro splash-fight in the pool. He shifted the sleeping Sarah on his hip and her head lolled to one side. "Poor little thing," he said, tilting her so her head rested on his shoulder again, "She really shouldn't be allowed to stay up this late. Even the other girls have turned in by now."

"Oh, they may have gone to their rooms," Haruka said, "But that doesn't mean that they're sleeping. I'll bet anything they'll be up for a good long time."

"Well, I'm putting Sarah to bed," he said, heading down the hallway, "But I suppose it's a sorry attempt to make up for not being around enough."

Haruka cocked an eyebrow as she followed after him. His moods could change so quickly, and she'd never seen him act like a caring father before. Not even when Sarah was a baby.

Seta stopped as they reached the door. "I've been meaning to thank you, Haruka," he said.

"For what?" she asked.

"For letting her stay at the Hinata House," he said, "I'm glad she's had a chance to make some sort of a family for herself – even if it is as dysfunctional as this one." He smiled softly and Haruka found herself returning it in spite of herself. "I have to tell you there's not a night that goes by when I don't worry about not being there for her anymore. She seems like such a different person now. Sometimes I feel like one day I'll come back to visit and she'll be all grown up and I'll have missed it."

Haruka was shocked to see small tears forming in the corners of his eyes. This man she was seeing now was certainly not the one she'd been furious with only a few short hours ago. This was a side of him she'd never imagined could exist. A thought struck her and she said, "Seta…this whole proposal thing…was this an attempt to give Sarah a mother?"

Seta's eyes widened. "I hadn't even thought of it that way…" he admitted, "She's gotten along without one for so long…but I suppose she does need one, doesn't she?" He sighed as he gazed down at the little girl in his arms. "I'm sorry for putting you on the spot like that, Ruka. It was a selfish thing to do, and I never even considered you feelings. Well, good night."

He put his hand on the doorknob and swung the door open. Behind him, Haruka stood, astounded. Ruka…he hasn't used that nickname for me since we were dating in college! Just what is he playing at?! she thought, or maybe…he isn't playing at all…he certainly sounded sincere…

Before she had a chance to respond, he'd shut the door behind him, leaving her alone on the hallway. She folded her arms across her chest sullenly. He did that on purpose…I'm sure he did, she thought to herself, heading down to the other end of the hallway where her room was. Damn him…always has to have the last word.

She stopped at her door, and slid her card key, unlocking the door and stepping inside. She glanced around the room. It was lit only with moonlight, and the island motif (which had been pretty cheesy in good light) had become suddenly appealing. The curtains on either side of her small balcony were blowing softly with the cool summer night breeze.

She stepped out onto the balcony, leaning against the railing and staring out at the night. All this romantic atmosphere almost gave her the creeps, and for a brief moment she thought it was some kind of set up. Maybe the hotel owners had cameras in all the rooms and had nothing better to do than try to tempt people into doing…things…for entertainment.

She shook her head, feeling herself blush. This place really was rigged. She hadn't had thoughts like these since who knows when. She'd be happy when morning came and it was time to leave. She felt much more like herself at the Hinata House.

A flicker of movement caught her eyes and she turned. Further down, Seta had emerged out on the balcony of his room. He'd left his jacket inside and was now clad only in his bathing suit. He no longer had the tan from Pararakelse, and the moonlight made his once-again pale skin shine. His glasses had also been removed, and his brown eyes were sparkling.

Haruka frowned, disgusted with herself. She was acting like a silly teenager again, practically drooling over him. She was glad he'd taken his glasses off. At least he couldn't see her. Or could he?? She noticed him glance her way for a second and then turn back towards the sky. All at once she was worried. Was he far-sighted or near-sighted??? She couldn't remember; it had been way too long.

Not wanting to risk anything else, she hurried back inside. Seta watched her as she did, and sighed. Was there still something there?? He had thought that she still cared for him, or he never would've asked her to take the ring. But did I really think it through? He though, Maybe I've just been fooling myself, thinking she could ever feel the same way again…

But he felt the way he had all those years ago, and that troubled him. He'd never known what it was like to have feelings that were unrequited before. It kind of hurt. He shook his head and turned back into the room. This was what he got for putting it off this long. He'd told Keitaro that he'd confessed his feeling to Haruka, but that wasn't quite true. He'd never actually said anything of the sort to Haruka, so who could blame her for doubting his intentions.

He sat down on the edge of the bed where Sarah was sleeping. He smiled down at her, pulling the elastic bands out of her hair and setting them on the nightstand. She wasn't his – not biologically anyway. She'd been born before he'd ever met her mother. But after her mother had passed away, he'd taken her as his own and tried his best to be a good father to her.

He brushed her cheek with his finger and she smiled. He wondered what she was dreaming about. She really did need a mother figure…he'd never thought about it before, but Haruka would be an excellent choice. She was level-headed, a good disciplinarian, and even caring when she wanted to be.

But if he told her this, she'd never believe that he wanted her for any other reason. He lay down next to his foster-daughter, hands behind his head. He'd certainly gotten himself into an awful predicament this time.

* * *

The next morning, Sarah was the first one awake. She sat up, yawning and stretching and trying to figure out where she was. The last thing she could remember was falling asleep on a lawn chair beside the pool. Her gaze fell on the figure of her sleeping father beside her and it all came together. Good ol' Papa, she thought, Always lookin' out for me.

Smiling, she leaned down and kissed his forehead. Then she climbed out of bed, and ambled out to the balcony. The sun was just barely coming up as she rested her chin on the railing. The sky was beautiful reddish-pink and deep purple clouds loomed in the distance.

"It'll rain today," said a voice behind her. She turned and found Seta standing in the doorway, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and putting his glasses on.

"How can you tell?" she asked.

"Those clouds in the distance," he said, pointing, "They'll be hitting us later on today."

"You're so smart, Papa," Sarah said admiringly, hugging him around the waist.

"I try," he said, bending down and lifting her up into his arms. She put her arms around his neck contently. "Sarah," he said after a moment, "I have a question to ask you."

"Okay, shoot," she said.

"What do you think of Haruka?" he asked.

Sarah considered this for a moment. "Think of her…as what, Papa? Your ex, your friend…"

"Just in general," he said, blushing slightly.

"Well…" Sarah said, "I think…she was happier back when I was little – when you guys were still dating. Now she never has any feelings at all…kind of like a statue. Why?"

"Oh…um…no reason, really," Seta lied unconvincingly, "Just curious. After all you have been in her charge for a while now and –"

"I wanna go traveling with you again," Sarah said suddenly, cutting him off.

"You…what??" he said, "I thought you liked living at the Hinata House with your friends."

"Well I do, most of the time," she said, "But I miss you, Papa. I want things to be like they were before."

"I think it's a little too late to go back completely, honey," he said, "Don't you think Su and the other girls would be sad if you left?" As much as he loved her for saying she wanted to be with him, Seta forced himself to think about what was truly best for her in the long run. Excavation life just wasn't made for children; he'd learned that well.

Sarah sighed and nodded, "Maybe…" she said, "But I still miss you." She hugged him closer, burying her face in his chest.

"Oh, Sarah…" he said, kissing the top of her head, "I miss you too."

"Then why do you go away?!" she asked suddenly, pulling away from him. Her blue eyes were blazing.

"It's nothing personal…" he said, "It's just the job –"

"It's always the job that comes first," she said, angry tears forming in her eyes, "You love your job more than me! That's why you dump me off at places like Hinata House! I just get in your way!"

"Sarah! That's not true at all," he protested.

"Yes it is!" she cried, squirming out of his arms, running through the room and out the door, leaving Seta alone on the balcony.

He stood there, dumbfounded. Her change in moods had been so quick; he'd almost not seen the transition. He ran a hand through his own hair and sighed. He'd really set himself up for that one, hadn't he? Exactly the things he'd been worried about had been proven true in her little outburst.

And for once, being right wasn't so great.

A/N: That whole nickname for Haruka was just from my mind. I made it up just to add a little more heart to the situation. So, don't go thinking it's a fact or anything, okay? ^_^ Also, this story will be a little slow with updates, seeing as I've hit a block in the middle of chapter 2. Don't worry – I'm gonna keep at it!