The Courtship of Hazuki's Father

While it has only been two years, I think that I have been subject to enough strange and mysterious events to fill the average person's lifetime, thanks to a certain someone that we all know so very well. And since we do all know her, I think we can all safely say I've earned some peace and quiet. I'm not asking for much. I'm a reasonable guy, and I know that as long as that certain someone is around, I'm not ever going to get more than a day's peace at most, so all I'm really asking for is that one day. All I want is that one day when the world is not in danger, Haruhi is not up to her usual tricks, and the forces of the universe are nothing but a passing thought, coming ever so gently in those last few seconds of consciousness before I fall asleep.

Karma however didn't seem to agree. At least, it hasn't seen fit to bestow such a fine day on me yet. In fact, life just seems to get weirder and weirder, considering the small girl with brown pigtails suddenly apparated in the doorway of my bedroom.

No, seriously. Just poof and she was here, though for all our sakes she better not have really apparated; my life was complicated enough without adding witches and wizards to the mix.

"Hello?" I called hesitantly, not thinking of anything else better to say, and she turned around quickly. Her eyes were wide open, clearly filled with fear behind those fringed bangs, until suddenly they blinked. Once. Twice. They squinted, examining me with a scrutiny that seemed too intense for a girl her age (whatever her age happened to be).

She spoke, voice small and light and trembling:

"Papa?"

One day. Was that really too much to ask?

Hey eyes widened again, but this time without fear. Instead they were bright with excitement, and her face opened with an admittedly glorious smile as she ran forward.

"Papa!"

Before I could stop her, she latched her arms around my legs.

Papa?! What the hell was she talking about?!

She seemed to pick up on the general attitude, even if I said nothing aloud, as she quickly let go and looked me over again.

"You don't look right."

I should hope so!

"Look, kid," I said as calmly as possible, "I think you're confused. I'm not your dad." And how did you even get here anyway?!

She looked down guiltily, hands quickly moving to cover the pocket of her purple pants. She was definitely young, maybe five or so―anyone older would have realized that doing so only made her look more suspicious.

"Well?"

She sniffled and looked up again, her mouth firmly set in a pout. I knew this act. My little sister was a master, always trying to get out of being punished by making me pity her first. Unfortunately for this girl, she was not my relative (couldn't be!), and therefore had nothing going for her.

Standing my ground, I repeated, "Well?'

It came out in a rush. "I went into your office even though I wasn't supposed to and I saw that metal thing that your friend gave you last week even though I wasn't supposed to see that and I really really wanted to play with it and I knew that I shouldn't but when I was looking at it it fell into my hands accidentally and then I felt really icky and then I was here and you looked funny."

She was crying now, and it occurred to me that while it had started that way, it wasn't an act anymore.

Tentatively, trying not to confuse this girl any more than I apparently was, I crouched down to her height.

"Can you show me the metal thing?"

With a sniffle and a nod, she dropped her hand into her pocket and pulled out a golf-ball sized metal device, which she carefully handed me. It was mostly round, with bits of red and blue spikes and wires popping out every which way, making it look like a cross between a bomb and those little vibrating balls they used to have when I was younger, but really there was only one thing I could decisively say: it looked complicated, and definitely futuristic.

Part of me thought, Ah, I should have known. It has to be a TPDD.

The other part however thought more along the lines of:

IT'S A TPDD?!

I looked away to quietly panic. If she saw me freaking out, she'd probably get more upset and I didn't want that to happen. But . . .

If that was a TPDD . . . then . . .

I looked back at her again, really analyzing her this time. She had brown hair, plain but deep, tucked into two tails that trailed down to a few inches below the shoulders and a set of equally brown eyes to match. Her ears stuck out a tad, making them seem bigger than they were, and as she looked up again, I noticed her face was shaped ever so familiarly, with an overall roundness and pointy jutting out chin.

Oh, God. Allah. Shiva, Jehovah―anyone. All you had to do was hand me an encyclopedia and I'd pray to every power in existence if it'd get me out of this mess.

"What's wrong?"

This whole situation! was what I thought, but I didn't dare say it. There really was no doubt about it though. She looked like me, incredibly so, and no one bar creation in a lab could be so entirely her own person and yet so clearly influenced by another unless …

"What's your name?" I finally choked out.

She squinted, confused. "Hazuki, Papa."

Hazuki.

My daughter, Hazuki.

This was not something I should know.

"Oh, brother," I sighed, slowly and deeply, and a grin splashed on her face as quickly as a kindergartener would throw paint on a wall (or as she would, more likely; she definitely looked the type).

"Papa, it is you!"

How did that convince you?! I shook the shock off, realizing I had more important things to talk about. Namely:

"Look . . . Hazuki. Do you know what this is?" I waved the TPDD.

She shook her head, smile fading to a more serious expression. "No."

"Do you know what time traveling is?"

She squinted, apparently thinking hard. Then her eyes opened again as exuberance washed over her. "Yes! That's why you look all funny!"

"Yeah. See, what happened―"

"I want to see!" And with that declaration she whipped herself around and ran to the window, opening it and leaning dangerously over the windowsill in mere seconds.

"Hey, be careful!" It might just be the second floor but we were still high up!

I crossed over quickly, but she had already replanted herself firmly on the carpet, a scowl taking the grin's place.

"That was dumb," she grumbled to the window, as if she expected an apology. "Everything looks the same."

And what exactly had she been expecting, I wonder. Dinosaurs? Geisha? Samurai warriors battling in the streets? It wasn't like she had come back hundreds of years!

Actually, that was a good question, come to think. "When exactly do you come from?"

It was apparently the right thing to say, as she quickly turned about-face and chirped, "April 10, 2025."

The grin was back, this time tinged with pride. She must have only just learned her dates.

"So, about fifteen years from now . . ." Now that was a scary thought. It wasn't easy to think of myself that way. I'd be over thirty! No wonder current me looked funny to her. But, really, as odd as it seemed to me, fifteen years wasn't really that long a time. Tanabata wishes wouldn't even be granted yet, if you went by Haruhi's logic. So then, why was she taking this in such good stride? Surely time traveling couldn't be so readily available by then!

"It's 2010 now," she announced.

"You did the math?"

Her eyes narrowed. "No, papa, you told me!"

What?Try as might, I couldn't remember ever doing so.

"Well, you didn't tell me. Papa One told me so I wouldn't be scared."

That made even less sense. "I thought you weren't supposed to be here?"

"I'm not."

"Then how could I have told you?"

Her eyes narrowed further, and she licked her lips, clearly giving it careful thought. "I dunno. But you told me, that when you looked funny I shouldn't be scared, because I was in 2010 and you'd look funny to me but you'd still be my papa and I'd be okay."

"I see." And I did. It was another one of those time snares, like the incident last winter―the event had already happened to some future me, so he had to make sure it would happen to current me, and fifteen years from now I would have to do the same thing. Time travel was such a pain. I probably wouldn't even get to figure out why she was here until then, if it wasn't anything more than an accident gone out of control to begin with.

"Okay then. Did he say how you were supposed to get back?"

"No."

I could've guessed that one. He hadn't even told her how to get here.

"So what am I supposed to do?"

"I dunno."

"He didn't tell you that either?"

"Nope."

I waved the TPDD again. "And you don't know how to use this, right?"

"No," she said, but quickly corrected with a "Wait, yeah? Does that mean I do or I don't?"

"You don't."

"Oh. No, I don't."

Should have guessed that one too.

But wait. Why was I getting all upset about this? I had Miss Asahina, a full-fledged time traveler to help me out! She would know how to use this thing. That must be why my future self didn't say anything to her. It wasn't like she'd be able to explain it to me anyway. I get the feeling that as bright and eloquent as Hazuki appeared to be for her age, there still was that qualifier 'for her age'. Any explanation from her would involve a lot of "Um, I forget" and "I think it's the blue thing on top of the red thing". All I had to do was find Miss Asahina!

Except, she was at school. Where I should be in … five minutes. Damn it. What was I going to do with Hazuki? I couldn't leave her alone; my parents were on a trip, not even here for a semblance of company, even though I couldn't let her meet them anyway. The most I could do was bring her with me, put her in the clubroom for safekeeping, and hope for the best. Nagato seemed to go there every second she got, so she'd at least have some company until school let out, and it was only a half-day. I'd grab Asahina as soon as the bell chimed and everything would be fine, assuming that Father Time didn't step in and fix this on his own by then.

I sighed again, dropping the TPDD into my blazer pocket. It wasn't the best plan, but it would have to do. "All right. Look, I have to go to school―"

"―Can I come with you?" she interrupted immediately, eyes wide and nervous again. I guess she didn't like the idea of being alone either.

"That was the plan, yeah."

Her face lit up with excitement, but just as quickly she was hesitant. I wish I had a stopwatch; I get the feeling Hazuki could easily break the record for the fastest emotional changes.

"Can I bring a book?" she asked finally, in an odd teacher-like sort of voice, like she was testing my response.

She could read? Then again, I think I was reading by her age. My little sister was never much for it so she started later, but maybe it was normal for other kids?

"Yeah, sure."

It must have been the answer she was looking for, as she beamed and went directly to my closet, where my old books were in fact kept away in a box. So much for my parents's dreams of moving to the country after my sister and I graduated. Hazuki seemed to know this place like the back of her hand.

Because it was her grandparents' house. Who were my parents. Making me her parent.

This was way too much. I had a strong urge to take Hazuki to her time myself so I could give future me a piece of my mind. Damn the space-time continuum―I didn't want to know this! Her name, her face, her personality, all ten years before she was even born! And if it was ten years before that, then that meant …

Within ten years, I'd be married.

And with that thought things went from bad to worse. But I had to stop thinking about this. Any more and I was going to make myself sick. I still had a math test to worry about.

With that decision to bottle up all thoughts of angst and misery made, I headed downstairs to make another lunch for Hazuki. It was something much easier than done though, as when she joined me in the kitchen with a small stack of picture books and fairy tale collections tightly pressed to her chest, she took one look inside the bag and literally curled up like a salted slug in disgust.

"What's that?"

Which that?

I took a guess, thinking back to when my sister was her age. "Squid. It's good for you."

"I don't like squid."

"Can't say that if you didn't know what it was."

"Yes, I can!" She stomped, face already firing up for a temper tantrum. Oh, brother. I definitely didn't have time for this. What would I say to my sister?

"Well, your choice then. If you're not going to eat what's in there, you'll just have to stay here alone. I'm not carrying the cupboards around so you can have whatever you feel like having."

Her eyes grew wide and she shut the bag instantly, rearranging the books so she could hug it to her chest as she shook her head. I get the feeling it wouldn't be that easy if she still wasn't a little freaked out about all this, but at least it worked this time.

"Okay, then," I said, grabbing my own lunch. "Come on."

I walked out of the kitchen, Hazuki carefully trailing behind. It wasn't until I got outside the door and began to prepare the bike that the second obstacle presented itself.

"Papa two?"

I flinched, hopefully lightly enough that she wouldn't notice.

"Yeah, Hazuki?" I asked, standing the bike upright.

Instantly, she jumped back from it like it was a stinging jellyfish. "Do I have to ride that?"

"It's the quickest way there."

She frowned, clutching the bag and books tighter to her chest. At this rate she was going to burst the bento inside. I lowered myself and touched her arm. Instantly, my body tried to jolt back, but I glued myself to the ground. What was I expecting, for my hand to just go through her? She was a time-traveler from the future, not a ghost from the past. It just still didn't seem real to me though. Again, fate had been less than kind to me, but my future was one line I would have liked it to leave uncrossed.

That wasn't really Hazuki's fault though. And as odd as this was for me, the least I could do was prove I wasn't a jerk. So with a smile I didn't completely mean, I said, "It'll be fun, all right? We'll just put your lunch in my backpack, and the books and you in my basket. You'll get the wind in your face and everything."

She thought this over, that same intensely scrutinizing expression once again kneading her eyebrows into two mirrored hills, but eventually her lips curved upward. She had only one more concern: "You won't let me fall?"

"Your dad said I'd take care of you, right?"

She nodded―a swift, confident "yes", and this time I meant the grin. While I would have preferred not to know anything at all, if I did have to learn all this, it was nice to see that she trusted her version of me so completely.

"Then that's what I'm going to do, okay?"

The upturn was now a full-blast smile and she rushed to the bike. I deposited her things in their respective places (all but a worn little book she refused to let go of), and carefully placed her inside the basket. In moments, we were off, if much more slowly than I usually went, her hands tightly gripping the handlebars behind her after she safely locked the book between her knees. Her fear seemed pretty much forgotten though, judging by her squeals every time I went down a hill.


By the time I actually got to class, the half-day had become a three-eighths day, and neither Okabe nor Haruhi were particularly happy about my choice to make it so. Especially not Haruhi, who glared at me from the second I stepped into the door until I finally settled into the seat, as if daring me to run away again. It wasn't as if there was anything I could do though. First I had to escort Hazuki into the clubroom, which seemed like a reasonably simple task until she got distracted by any little thing that moved. Then I had to convince her to actually stay in the room, which of course seemed boring and stupid (not to mention lonely) next to the miraculous wonders North High was surely keeping from her. After convincing her that reading the books would be much more exciting than Geometry class, I then had to get bombarded with question after question about anything she could spot (a stalling tactic, I'm sure), and answer them as patiently as I could. Honestly, if Nagato hadn't shown up and taken my word that I'd explain later (and if Hazuki wasn't so fascinated by her stoicism, as she tried in vain to distract her from her book), I wouldn't have ever gotten out of there. I just hoped Hazuki would remember the cover story, of her being my little cousin dropped off at my place after a sudden family emergency. She hadn't really looked all that comfortable with lying, or maybe she just didn't really get the concept—

"Kyon!"

I felt a nick at the back of my neck. Speaking of people who didn't understand basic concepts …

"You better not have been playing hooky."

"If I were playing hooky, why would I be here?"

She didn't answer and though I didn't turn back, I knew she was scowling. It really was a stupid question; she probably knew it too. She was just trying to get me to explain where I was, though why she couldn't just ask me outright, I couldn't tell you if I tried.

It did work though, so I guess I had only myself to blame for her bad habit. "I had to take care of my cousin."

"I thought your cousins lived far away?"

Damn. She remembered. "They do, mostly. One of my aunts though lives closer and she and her husband had to deal with some family issues. She didn't want my cousin involved so she dropped her off at my place."

"But your parents are on a business trip."

A word of advice: never tell someone you might have to lie to at any second every detail of your life! "They are; that's why I have to take care of her. She's only five or so. She's in the clubroom right now with Nagato."

"They trusted you with a small child?!"

Coming from someone with no siblings to a big brother who's often had to take care of his little sister, you better believe I took offense.

"Well, I guess you were pretty good to your sister when we went to that island on spring break."

… Correct me if I'm wrong, but did she just apologize? Almost?

Apparently that was enough on the matter, as Haruhi quickly remembered those days on the island and talked excitedly about some of the plans for the next trip until class began again. At least, that was it until the end of the day, when Haruhi leaped out of her seat.

"You're so slow, Kyon!" she called behind her, already halfway to the door. "What if Yuki's not with her? You can't leave a five year old by herself for too long!"

Again? Coming from an only child―

"Kyon!"

But she had a point. Besides, I had to find Miss Asahina, and since I wouldn't be able to sneak away from Haruhi now, there was only one place to go.


We entered the clubroom only to find the other members already there. Nagato and Koizumi sat in their usual spots, though too distracted by the spectacle of Hazuki to be enjoying their usual hobbies. The girl had somehow trapped herself inside the frog head, and was now running around wildly with Miss Asahina chasing after her.

"Kyon!" she squeaked, sounding and looking out of breath (though magnificently so, I might add) as she panted and stopped in front of me. "I'm―I'm so sorry! She―she wanted to see it and I thought―"

"―I've got her," Koizumi interrupted from his seat. He had one arm wrapped around Hazuki's waist, though from her sharp giggling I doubted she minded the chase being cut short.

Miss Asahina merely gaped before stuttering out, "How―how did you do it?"

"With children, you just have to wait for them to come to you."

He smiled, a bit too slyly for my liking, looking at me. And just what is that supposed to mean, Koizumi? You better not be calling me a kid.

Suddenly eager to get her out of his grasp, I walked forward. "Hazuki, come here."

She obeyed immediately, reaching out with her arms as best she could from underneath the costume piece and then wrapping them around my neck as I got down and removed it.

From behind, Haruhi started speaking in that exaggerated, queenly tone that I knew meant trouble. "Hazuki, huh? Well, present her to your Chief!"

She's not a baby, and you're no high priestess was what I thought, but I knew better than to argue. I picked Hazuki up and turned her over, nearly bumping into Haruhi since apparently 'being presented' was the same as 'being analyzed centimeter by centimeter like a bacterial cell under a microscope. She hmmed and huhed for quite a while, during which time Hazuki remained surprisingly quiet and polite, though staring back with an equal amount of focus.

When Haruhi was satisfied, she stood upright again and with a smug look decreed, "You two are definitely family! I can always tell these things, but I can really see the resemblance with you!"

I withheld the groan; you didn't know the half of it, Haruhi.

Hazuki smiled sweetly. "Can I play with Mr. Frog again?"

"Of course!"

Well, that explained the politeness!

She quickly wriggled her way out of my grasp and grabbed at the head I had so foolishly left on the ground, dropping it back on her head with a giggle.

Oh, well. "Just don't run again, all right?"

The head bobbed down then up, so I think she nodded. Unable to run, she hopped to the other side of the room where her books were, so it was safe to turn away (for now).

"Sorry if she was any trouble," I said to Miss Asahina, who instantly waved the comment away with a dazzling grin Aphrodite herself couldn't replicate.

"It was fun! She wasn't any trouble at all, really!"

There was no way anyone couldn't love that girl. I tried to apologize again, since despite her assurance, the beads of sweat still framing her lovely face made it clear that Hazuki had been some trouble, but Haruhi soon shouted:

"Kyon, sit down! We have important Brigade duties to discuss!"

So that was that. I did as I was told and listened to Haruhi drone on for a few hours about the new school year and our preparations to receive some new members, only stopping to check on Hazuki every so often. Thankfully, even Haruhi seemed excited to start the break because she dismissed us early and was the first to leave, only stopping to make Hazuki promise to put the frog away when she was done (as if I wouldn't have made her).

With Haruhi gone, I was finally able to ask the question I had been meaning to ask all day.

"Miss Asahina. What do you know about this?"

I took out the TPDD and showed it to her.

"Th―that …"

She squeaked, running over to me and snatching it from my palm.

"Where―where did you get this?!"

Wasn't it obvious?

"Ask Miss Frog over there."

Only Hazuki, who apparently was too young to understand dramatic tension, spoke, breaking the silence that should have followed.

"It's Mr. Frog! I'm just wearing his head!"

Mr. Frog—got it.

Koizumi soon followed her lead, as he leaned forward in his chair towards Miss Asahina. "Is she part of your organization?"

"No! Definitely not!"

Maybe not, but as for them having nothing to do with this, I wasn't too sure. Miss Asahina (big) after all wasn't exactly the most trustworthy of people, and certainly had no qualms about messing around with people to achieve what needed to be done.

"I don't even understand where she could have gotten this!" she continued, looking down frantically at the ball and turning it around in her hand delicately, as if the slightest wrong touch could break it. "This is one of the original prototypes of the time travel model, something that was meant only for experimental purposes! It must be centuries old!"

Wait. Centuries? But if it was that old … "Miss Asahina, please tell me you know how to work it."

She shook her head. "I wouldn't even know how to start."

My face must have been quite a sight, because she quickly stammered, "But don't worry! The prototype models were from a very early stage of development, maybe as early as [Classified Information]. That means there should be a time-limit on how long it will keep her tethered to this time plane, as long as she has it on her."

As if realizing it only as she said it, she quickly handed it back to me, still treating it as if it were made of very delicate china. But then, she would know; maybe it really was that breakable. I had a sudden image of Hazuki thowing herself down in a tantrum, a small little crunch barely heard amongst the wails, but I shook it away. It couldn't be helped. If she needed to have it, she needed to have it.

"Hey, Hazuki!"

The frog head turned, tilted, but then quickly came running towards me. I waited for her to get close then lifted the costume head off, putting it behind me. I was not going to have this conversation with a frog.

She gave it one last longing before blinking up at me expectantly.

"Did you hear what Miss Asahina said?"

"Who's Miss Asahina?"

The girl in question smiled, tugging at my sleeve like the picture of innocence. "I introduced myself as Mikuru."

So, so adorable. But anyway:

"What Mikuru said, then."

"… Yes." Hardly convincing, what with the pause.

"I won't be mad if you say you didn't."

Hazuki let out a deep sigh of relief, dipping her whole head forward. "No."

I lowered myself down so I could stare her right in the eyes, then held out the TPDD between us.

"In order to get home, you need to hold on to this, okay? It's very important. You cannot lose it, under any circumstances."

I placed it in her pocket, and she nodded, a fierce look of determination falling on her. "Okay, P2."

Now, I've been called a lot of names in my life, but I've never heard that one before.

"P2?"

"Well, because I can't call you Papa Two, right?"

Somewhere behind me, I heard a very startled squeak and the swift thud of a closing book. While Koizumi was out of my line of sight, I didn't doubt he had reacted too, even if it was just a split-second lowering of the mask to make sure he was watching this scene correctly.

I guess I couldn't avoid it forever. I just would have preferred it to be later rather than sooner. Much, much later.

"Hazuki, remember the cousin story?"

"But you're not my cousin, P2."

"Just for pretend, though. Remember?"

She nodded, though clearly not happy about it what with the pout and downcast eyes. Her hands reached out for the head, trying to get around my back to grab at it, and with a sigh I took it and dropped it on her head. There was no use punishing her. No doubt she had spent all five years of her life being told not to lie, and she seemed like a naturally honest girl just in general; of course she was going to go with her first instinct.

I watched her hop back to her books before turning to the rest of the Brigade, all of whom were still staring at me in varying states of shock. Even Nagato's usual blinking speed was delayed, a sure-fire sign of surprise.

Unsurprisingly though, Koizumi was the first to recover.

"I would assume the you in her time is Papa One?"

You'll forgive me if I don't acknowledge a dumb question, especially when Miss Asahina was stepping forward to ask, "Is she … I mean, do you …"

She tripped over her words a few more times, but I got the general gist. "She knows my house well enough, and she seems pretty convinced."

Koizumi rubbed his chin fervently. "Do you know how far away in the future she is?"

"15 years."

He stilled, apparently taken back. "Hardly a long time, is it?"

You're just the king of stupidity today, aren't you, Koizumi?

Not that I didn't know what he meant, having agonized about it earlier myself. You would think he'd have known me long enough by now though to realize I didn't want to discuss the romantic implications of this with him.

"Have you asked about the mother?"

Apparently not. Though neither did Hazuki, clearly, as she suddenly tuned in to chime, "Mama is—"

"—Hazuki, I forbid you to finish that sentence!"

She stopped, a small little meep coming out as she clenched her mouth shut over the words, and Koizumi chuckled, dropping his hand to cross both arms across his chest.

"I see you're getting into the role quickly enough," he said with a smile, apparently aiming to make sure no one took his crown from him.

"I'm glad you're enjoying this but it's actually really bothersome."

"Are you so sure?"

I turned away from Koizumi's idiocy to the only person who had a right to say anything in this discussion.

"Does fifteen years match the model?" I asked Miss Asahina.

She bit her lip, her cheeks flooding with red. "Classified information."

I guess I really should have seen that one coming. "So what do I do with her?"

Miss Asahina shrugged, looking back at the little frog with concern before turning back to me, cheeks getting even redder. "I wish I could tell you how long the time limit was, but I really just don't remember, Kyon. I'm sorry, but it's just one of those things. I never thought I'd need to know it!"

Now look what you've done, moron! I shook my head and put together some sort of apology, adamant that it wasn't her fault; and it wasn't. I shouldn't have expected her to know, or anyone else for that matter. As much as I wish that I could ask Nagato and she could take care of my problems for me like she always did, this wasn't that sort of situation. As strange as it was, I just had to wait it out. It wasn't like the universe was doing me any favors anytime soon.

Useless to help, the others left, while after some begging I stayed with Hazuki so she could have time to bid farewell to Mr. Frog.


Getting home was simple enough. Hazuki quickly fell asleep halfway through the journey, but she was light enough that it was easy to throw her over my shoulder and just push the bike home. It actually turned out better, because it gave me some time to myself for the first time all day

Of course, fate couldn't have that.

I opened my door to find Haruhi standing there, duffel bag in hand.

"About time, Ky—oh."

She stopped mid-name, realizing the source of my tardiness was still deep in dreamland.

"I guess I'll let you slide without a penalty this time," she whisper-yelled (strange verb, I know, but if anyone could do it, Haruhi could).

Oh, great. Somehow though, my concern was more along the lines of:

"Mind telling me how you got into my house?"

"Your little sister told me where the spare key was. You really should hide it someplace more secretive, Kyon! Everyone uses the behind the bush trick!"

Considering you had to call to find it, it can't have been that obvious. But on to concern number two:

"And why are you here, then?"

"To keep Hazuki company, of course!"

And what am I, a houseplant?

Haruhi went on, swinging the bag around her arm as she explained, "I could tell just from looking at her that she's an energetic, fun-loving kind of girl. She'd be bored stiff being stuck alone in a house with you all weekend. Now, if your little sister were home, I wouldn't have bothered but since she's taking the opportunity to stay at a friend's house, what kind of person would I be to leave her trapped like that?"

Like every other person in the world, actually. But then, when was Haruhi ever content to be like anyone else?

"The rest of the Brigade is coming too," she added quickly, stepping aside, "so come on already."

I did as I was told, moving Hazuki into my arms to go through the door, but I felt the slight pick-up in my mood burning out. Maybe this was all because I had asked for a good day. After all, if Haruhi was supposed to be able to influence fate, it could only be that they matched each other in perversity. Birds of a feather, right? So of course, when I asked for one day of peace, I got a mission to wallow through the circles of hell, without even Virgil to guide me. I mean, I saw Haruhi enough during the break! Couldn't I have this one night of all nights to relax before she put me to work again?! I could bet you that any minute now, she was going to complain about dinner or a lack of activities or—

Wait, where did she go?

I turned around, narrowly avoiding swinging Hazuki into the banister, but despite having followed me to the stairs, Haruhi was gone. Huh. Maybe things were going to get better. I doubted she was gone gone but at the very least she wasn't making a nuisance of herself.

I adjusted Hazuki again and made the trek up the staircase into my sister's room. Thankfully, the door was slightly ajar, so I was able to push it open with my foot—for as far as it would go, anyway. It barely moved three inches before being blocked by something large and heavy enough to make a solid thunk.

A quick look inside confirmed my suspicions, as I looked upon a battlefield of fallen toys and scavenged clothing. On the bed lay the beginnings of the clean-up crew's labor, leaving very little room even for a girl as small as Hazuki. No wonder my sister suddenly decided to have a sleepover. No doubt she'd knew she'd be forced to fix this if she were here. My mom was pretty lenient but no way would I have let her get away with this.

Oh, well. It'd just have to be my bedroom then. I rerouted, holding Hazuki close to me as I fumbled for the doorknob.

It was only then, as her head fell on my shoulder and her hot breath caught my neck, that the full reality of this situation hit me. I had gotten the shock and the anger—those were pretty hard to miss—but now the sheer wonder of this whole thing hit me like a roundhouse kick to the head.

I was holding my daughter.

You shouldn't get me wrong. I've never been a sentimental guy. I have been known to maybe cherish Miss Asahina's beauty for a bit too long (though really, there wasn't a man alive who wouldn't be driven to poetry by her) but it wasn't like I was overcome with love and compassion for this tiny little being that I was resting on my bed. I hardly knew her after all, though in my day's worth of knowing her, I'd found plenty to like.

But, watching her curl up around Shamisen as he hopped up to sleep with the new human heater, I had to say, of all the strange situations I've been thrown into over the years? As frustrating as this one was, it was still probably the best. She was cute, smart, caring, energetic (maybe too energetic but still). And I had helped to make that, or would help to make that.

Even I had to admit there was something a little cool about that.

When I got downstairs though, Haruhi had reappeared to distract me from my newfound paternal instinct. She was leaning on the kitchen doorframe, but her face looked far from relaxed or bored. She was scowling, snapping her cell phone open and shut in steady three-quarter time.

"What's up?" I asked.

"The others can't come. They have other things to do."

"Well, when did you call them about this?"

"A half hour ago."

… Was she really surprised? I thought she had gotten over this need to own people.

"This is appalling. What would happen if this were a real emergency?! What if you were hiding an alien? Or a time traveler that could get away at any second?"

No comment.

"We'd lose it! I'm going to have to institute drills during the break to practice. Last one there will get an especially steep penalty."

My wallet curled up in the darkest corner of my pocket to cry. I'd go and comfort it, but it was only just now that it occurred to me, what Haruhi probably was really angsting over. If no one else was coming, then …

Then I was stuck alone with Haruhi Suzumiya.


Oh, boy.

Okay, so, let me explain. This idea struck me when I saw a comic a LONG time ago on the image boards. I think my writing partner-in-crime Audley (who else?) and I talked about it casually (mostly how ADORABLE it would be for Kyon to be called Papa even though that wouldn't actually happen in Japanese), but that was it. Then I was watching Moonphase (what? It's pretty, okay!) and I really liked the sound of the name Hazuki, and of course as always happens with my ideas it mutated and grew, so now, here we are. Everyone's entitled to a cracky mood every so often, right?

So, yeah, this is totally just fluff (despite it being the longest single piece of anything I've written to date—how weird is that?) which I don't really do all that often but hey. It's good stress relief after work, play rehearsals and subsequent performances, and Crossing the Stars (which is still going, so no worries—chapter four's nearly all written). But anyway, I'm having a fabulously fun time writing it (even if I'm more than a bit terrified about posting it) and I hope you felt the same about reading it (and if you did, thank Audley, because she was the one that got all giddy and pushed me to get it up).

Until we meet again.


DISCLAIMER: The Haruhi Suzumiya series is the property of Kadokawa, Nagaru Tanigawa, and most especially not myself. This fic is done for pleasure, not profit.