A/N: Okay! Broke out of the writer's block, to finish chapter 2! So enjoy!
Sarah didn't have anywhere to go after she'd left the hotel room, so she ran blinding down the hallway, tears running down her cheeks. It had always been this way with Seta. The job always came first, no matter what. And it wasn't fair.
All of a sudden, she ran into something as she reached the end of the hallway. She tried to back away from the thing, but strong hands came down on her shoulders and held her still. "Sarah…?" a familiar voice said, "What are you doing up so early?" Sarah looked up. It was Haruka she'd run into, and the older woman was looking down at her curiously.
"Nothing…" the nine-year-old said, quickly wiping the last of her tears away, "Why do you care?"
"Why shouldn't I care?" Haruka shot back, "Did something happen with your dad?"
"Maybe…" Sarah said, pulling out of Haruka's grasp and turning to face the railing, looking out over the pool area.
"Well…" Haruka said, leaning on the railing next to her, "Maybe you shouldn't be so quick to get angry at him. He really does care about you, you know."
"No he doesn't," Sarah said sulkily, "And who are you to talk about getting angry with Papa?? You nearly blew his head off yesterday."
"That's completely different!" Haruka said, not even believing she had to defend herself from the verbal assault of a child.
"Yeah, it is," Sarah nodded, "I got mad at him 'cuz he doesn't love me. You got mad at him 'cuz he does love you. Am I the only one who sees something wrong about that??"
Haruka was so stunned by the girl's audacity that it took her a few minutes to formulate a response. "I don't know what he said to you, but you have my word: he loves you more than anything else in the world. And whatever is between him and me is none of your business. You got that?"
"Yeah, right. Whatever," Sarah said and Haruka wasn't sure which comment she was responding to. Not another word was spoken between them that morning. Not long after the exchange, Su awoke and came looking for Sarah. The two girls ran off, leaving Haruka alone once more.
Time alone was what she'd wanted in the first place when she had woken up that morning. But after the bout with Sarah, she wasn't so sure that time to think was a good plan. Sarah had said that Seta loved her, but what did she know? She'd been a toddler when the whole thing had happened. That was why she could talk so freely about her mother's death – she didn't really remember her.
But Haruka remembered her all too well. Amanda MacDoogal was an intelligent, young American archeologist with a bright future despite the fact that she'd had little Sarah with her. There were plenty of critics who never thought she'd manage a career after having a child so young. But she never ceased to amaze them all.
Despite it all, Haruka remembered her with only a sad sort of affection. Amanda had never realized that a competition had existed between them over Seta. She was brilliant, but a bit naïve when it came to these things. But she must have known something…Seta had said that she'd told him to propose to her. It could've been another one of his old lines, but somehow that didn't feel right.
Haruka sighed as she watched Su and Sarah playing down by the pool. Sarah seemed so happy now, but it seemed to be a mask. She was hiding her problems from Su on purpose and Haruka couldn't think of a reason. The two had become so close; it didn't seem natural for anything to go unsaid between them. Then again, Su's maturity level was not at par with other girls her age. Maybe Sarah thought she couldn't handle it. Whatever it was, she'd probably never know for sure.
"Well, she seems recovered," said a voice and Haruka turned to see Seta standing beside her, "When she ran out of our room, I was worried."
"She was crying when I found her," Haruka said, "What did you do this time, you jerk?"
"Nothing!" Seta said, throwing his hands up exasperatedly, "I told her that she couldn't come back on the road with me and she just…overreacted…"
"I'm not sure I'd call it overreacting," Haruka shrugged, "You say she needs a mother, but what I think she wants…is her father…"
Seta swallowed hard, and put his hands down on the railing. "But I'm not…her real father…" he said quietly.
"You're the only father she's ever known," Haruka told him, "You're the one who's taken care of her since her mother passed away. Don't you think that counts for something?"
Seta hung his head, not knowing how to answer. Finally, he looked over at her and asked, "Do you?"
Haruka stared at him. Now the tables had turned and it was she who didn't know what to say. "Look, the storm that's coming looks like it's gonna be pretty bad. Why don't you come back to the Hinata House with us? Then you'll have some time to work things out with Sarah."
Seta smiled, "Alright." Then a glint of gold caught his eye and he changed the subject, "Hey…you're still wearing my ring," he said, grabbing her left hand, "Does this mean you've reconsidered my proposal?"
Haruka felt herself blush in surprise. "No!" she said quickly, pulling her hand out of his and tugging off the ring, "I just forgot to take it off before I fell asleep last night, that's all. Here – take it back." She pressed the gold band into his hand and then hurried off. "I've gotta tell the others to get ready to go."
Seta sighed as she left, fingering the ring aimlessly. Had she really forgotten to take it off? He'd really hoped she'd keep it, but that was probably just wishful thinking. Resignedly, he slipped it into his pocket and headed off towards his room. He needed to gather his things.
* * *
The sky was gray as the gang packed their things back into Seta's van. Keitaro and Naru were acting friendlier than usual with each other, and Kitsune was drilling them for any juicy info as to the reason. Luckily (in Haruka's mind), all of the girls were so consumed with the news of the two officially becoming an item, they gave no more thought to the matter of her and Seta.
On the drive home, the weather slowly turned from bad to worse. As they pulled up to the Hinata House, the sky had darkened by a few shades and the wind was blowing the leaves in the trees so that their undersides showed.
"This storm came up quicker than I would've predicted," Motoko said as she grabbed her duffle bag out of the trunk.
"Is there gonna be lightning??" Su asked excitedly, "Can we play in it??"
"I really don't think that's a good idea," Shinobu said warily.
"Come on," Haruka said, slamming the trunk shut, "Let's get inside before things really get bad."
The trek up the steps of the Hinata House was a difficult one, as the wind kept getting stronger as the went, and they were all relieved to be safely within it's walls (well, maybe with the exception of Su). Haruka switched on the lights and set down the suitcase she'd been carrying. "Girls, go make sure all the windows are closed," she said.
"Sure," Kitsune shrugged. The she grabbed both Keitaro and Naru by the arms. "Come on, love birds. We can talk while we run Haruka's errands."
The two began protesting, but she dragged them up the stairs and out of sight. Soon all the girls had departed and scattered throughout the house, leaving Seta and Haruka alone in the entryway. There was an awkward silence, only broken by Haruka when she picked up the suitcase again.
"For one night," she muttered, "even six girls shouldn't need this much shit."
"Let me help with that," Seta offered, reaching out to her.
"No thanks," she said curtly, lugging the suitcase away, "I can handle it."
Seta let his hands drop to his sides and she disappeared into the maze that was the house. He turned back towards the door, and the thought of leaving crossed his mind. He rejected that idea quickly and resorted to wandering the halls. With the lights only on in the foyer, the rest of the house was lit only be the grayness outside. The wind shook the windows as he walked past them.
He stopped in front of one of the larger windows and just stood there, watching the sky. The clouds were moving rapidly, ominously circling (it seemed) around the Hinata House. Something about it excited him, and he wished he could be out in it. Risking a thunder storm seemed safer than pursuing the issues with Haruka and Sarah.
At that moment, he heard padding footsteps on the wood floor and turned. Sarah and Su were racing towards him, not even noticing that he was there. As they reached him, a bolt of lightning lit the corridor and they saw him. Sarah skidded to a halt and Su had to stop herself from running into her.
There was another moment of silence as Sarah glared at Seta. He gulped nervously. Did he dare bring up their fight in front of Su? No, Sarah would be furious (or more than she already was) if he were to do that.
Su was the first to speak. "Why'd we stop?" she asked, "Is the game over?"
"No," Sarah said, still staring at Seta, "It just got too crowded in here. Come on – let's go play somewhere else." Then she strode past Seta with her nose in the air. He hung his head.
"Okay!" Su said cheerily. She started to walk after Sarah, but stopped after a few steps and looked at Seta. He didn't realize she was watching him until she tugged on his jacket sleeve. "Seta…" she said, "Why are you sad?"
"Huh? Wha-?" he said, snapping out it.
"You're sad," Su told him, "Why?"
"Oh…no reason…" he said weakly.
"Sarah said you had a fight," Su said plainly, "Do you really love your job more than her?"
Seta was taken aback. "She…told you…?"
"Yeah," Su nodded, "So do you?"
"No of course not," he said and then to his surprise, he found himself spilling the whole story to the foreign girl, even the part about Haruka. It must have taken a good ten minutes and he was sure that Su would be long gone by the time he finished.
But when he looked over to where she'd been standing, she was still there and was watching him intently. She seemed much more serious than he'd ever seen her before, but then again, he'd only seen her a few times in the past three years, and this was the first time he'd ever really spoken to her directly.
She put her hands behind her and rocked back and forth on her heels, taking in everything. He said, "I'm sorry – that was unnecessary. I didn't mean to bother you with all of this…"
"I think you should stay here a while," she said, as if she hadn't heard his last sentence, "Then you can figure stuff out. I don't think Sarah wants to go away from us, but she misses you…a lot. I know…I hear her cry at night sometimes…"
"She…cries?" Seta echoed disbelievingly.
"Yep," Su nodded, "When I can't sleep I hear her. And then I miss my mama and papa too." Her green eyes were watery for a second and he thought she might burst into tears. Instead, her face brightened and she turned to face him straight on. "That's why you should stay here! You could be everybody's papa!"
"I…what???" Seta said.
"Yeah, yeah," Su said, and Seta could almost hear the gears in her head turning, "Sarah's and mine and Shinobu's and Motoko's and Kitsune's and Naru's and Keitaro's! They could use a papa too sometimes. And…" she added with a sly grin, "maybe you could get Miss Haruka to be the mama!"
"What???" Seta cried, turning red.
"Oooh, this is gonna be fun!" Sarah said, grabbing his arm, "Let's get started!"
"Wait – Su…" he stuttered, "I don't think this is such a good idea…"
"Hey, I know you're scared," she said, her serious tone returning again, "But we'll go slow, okay?"
At that moment, the rain started. It came down in heavy sheets, slapping against the windows violently. Su's eyes widened and she released his arm. "Wow!! Look at it!!" she squealed, "I gotta go find Sarah! I bet she's never seen a storm from up on the roof!!"
"Hold up a sec!" Seta said, but the hyperactive thirteen-year-old was already gone, dashing out of sight. He moaned, rubbing his temple with forefinger and thumb. This was a curve he was not ready for. Su's involvement could only lead to more complications. Stuffing his hands into his pockets he turned and strode off in the opposite direction, trying to figure out how he'd ever gotten himself into this mess.
A/N: So...Su's getting involved now. ^_^ By the end of the story, pretty much all the main characters will be included. Stay tuned for Chapter 3!