She was ready. The stove was on high, a pan was heating on it, the bacon was out on the counter and she was armed with a pair of tongs. She pulled out a knife and sliced open the package of bacon. "How much should I make?" she called, her voice echoing off of the cabinets.
"Umm, the whole package, probably. Setsuna should be back soon," Michiru answered from the other room.
Right. Okay. She cut the stack of bacon in two to create sandwich-sized pieces, then peeled a quarter of the stack up. It was cool and sticky – not entirely pleasant. She peeled a slice of bacon off of the stack and carefully laid it in the pan. She laid another five, until the pan was pretty well covered, and stood back as the grease flew. … Something was off. They shriveled up awfully quickly – when Setsuna made bacon the pieces were much longer than that...
"Ne, Michiru?" she called again, "what setting is bacon supposed to be cooked on?"
"Medium," she responded.
Well that'd do it. Grimacing, Haruka reset the dial and flipped the bacon over. As they cooked she pulled out a plate, layered it with paper towels and placed it beside the stove to await the finished pieces. She picked up the tongs again, considering the small slices of meat. They looked done.
After plucking them off, she grabbed the second stack and tossed them into the pan. Grease really started to fly then. Wow, her eyebrow quirked, was making bacon always this messy? … Wait, wasn't she supposed to drain the pan before adding another more bacon to it? … no helping that now. This second batch shriveled almost as quickly as the first, ending up pretty much as small. Haruka shuffled the finished bacon around – great, they were incredibly crunchy. Makes this next batch promising… or would, if any of them liked crunchy bacon.
She had pulled the second batch off, drained the pan and thrown the next load on when Michiru entered the kitchen, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and the tiny Hotaru wrapped in a towel in her arms. The infant had been freshly changed and bathed, her short black hair still sticking wetly to her inquisitive face.
"How was your bath, Hotaru-chan?" Haruka asked sweetly. The pale child reached out and the Haruka offered her pinky finger for her to hold, the rest of her hand still coated in a fine layer of grease.
"She loved it – especially her new teddy-bear towel," Michiru replied, her smile full of warmth and pride as she looked down on the child fondly. Her eyes turned back to Haruka, "how is lunch for the adults coming, Haruka-papa?"
"Er," she glanced behind to see the bacon popping and hissing merrily, the spread of slightly-over-cooked mini baconlets sitting sadly beside them, "pretty good…"
"My, Haruka-papa! Did you forget the grease shield?" Michiru chided sweetly, deftly opening a lower cabinet with her foot. She bent and swiftly retrieved a metallic, meshed disk and placed it over the pan. Smiling down at the purple-eyed infant, Michiru chided, "Silly Haruka-papa!" Hotaru giggled merrily.
"Now, let's go get dressed, Hotaru-chan!" she continued in a sing-song voice and disappeared into the hallway.
The first time's the best time for mistakes, right? Haruka watched the bacon through the mesh, happy to see that this bunch was keeping its shape. She pulled the shield off, flipped them, and replaced the metal ring. Dropping the tongs onto the counter, Haruka fished in the cabinet for bread, the drawer for a cutting knife, and the fridge for lettuce, tomatoes, and redwine vinegar. She arranged these on the island for an assembly line and went back to the stove. She grabbed the ring with her finger and jumped back.
"OW!" Hot. How dumb was she? Of course it's going to be hot!
"Are you okay?" Michiru called from somewhere in the house.
"Just fine!" she grabbed the tongs and pushed the wiring away, pulled the (much more attractive) bacon out of the pan, arranged it on the towel, drained the pan and almost jumped back again. The metal had only touched the grease-catch for a second or two, but it had completely melted the lip of the plastic container. "Oops!"
"Don't worry, everything's fine!" she called out again, returning the pan to the stove and layering out the last few slabs. She used the tongs to replace the shield, glaring at the deceptive device.
Finally, something she had practiced before. She grabbed a knife and cutting board and set to work breaking the bread, slicing tomatoes and portioning lettuce. In no time at all she had three plates prepared, everything ready but the meat. Feeling confident, she returned to the pan and knocked the shield out of the way with her tongs, flipped them all quickly and was replacing the shield when she noticed that one slice of bacon looked thicker than the other.
"No way." She slowly put the shield back on the range and used the tong to prod the thick piece; it twitched open – there were two pieces stuck together. No big deal, she would just pry them apart with the tongs… the piece flipped over completely. She readjusted and continued fighting with the pieces, trying to separate them, but finally ended with a giant slice of bacon that looked like a flayed butterfly. She laughed, "Siamese bacon twins," she announced to herself.
The bacon finished cooking quickly and she carried the plate over to the island, her Siamese bacon to one side. Just as she finished packing the sandwiches and was closing each with a squirt of vinegar, Setsuna entered from the living room.
"It smells great in here," she complimented, placing groceries on the kitchen table.
"Setsuna, look!" Haruka called over, her Siamese bacon still sitting on the plate. The tall woman approached, her heels clicking on the tile floor, just as Michiru returned with Hotaru, now wearing a frilly purple dress with a matching lacey headband.
"Hello, sweety!" Setsuna greeted, tapping Hotaru's nose. Hotaru laughed. "Thank you for lunch, Haruka-papa," the green-haired scout thanked, claiming a plate.
"Look," the blond said mischievously, pointing at her mishap, "Siamese bacon twins!"
The two of them, Setsuna and Michiru, looked blankly back at her. Didn't they see it? She flipped it over, then back again. "Isn't it neat? I didn't completely separate the bacon and it just stuck together like that!"
"H-" Setsuna started to say, but then bent over laughing, holding the counter with one hand for support. "Haruka," she cried, trying to catch her breath, "you sound like Usagi-chan!" She kept laughing.
Michiru joined in, "She does!"
Hotaru, seeing her two 'mama's so happy, was soon giggling away with them.
Her eye twitched, not sure if she liked the insinuation of this comparison. They just kept laughing. Drumming her fingers on the countertop with one hand, she picked up her special piece with the other and took a big bite out of it, chewing slowly and enjoying the flavor as they slowly got a hold of themselves.
"Sorry, Haruka," Michiru apologized, reaching out one long-fingered hand towards her, "Can I have some of your Siamese bacon?"
She handed over the rest of it, picked up a plate and went into the dining/living room. Michiru followed her, commenting on how tasty the bacon was – playing it up, just a bit – and placed the baby Hotaru into her baby pen before disappearing into the kitchen to retrieve her plate.
Setsuna sat down beside her and waited for Michiru to return before she took a bite of her sandwich. … a very crunchy bite. "Hawuhga~," Setsuna groaned, her mouth full. Each chew was accompanied by another crunch that had little to do with the fresh lettuce.
Michiru looked sharply from Setsuna to Haruka, her hand hovering above her dish.
"Oh," Haruka announced, taking a bite from the center of her sub, "some of the bacon came out overcooked, so the left side of everyone's sandwich will be crunchier than the right." She closed her eyes to avoid their incredulous gazes and enjoyed the mingling taste of savory, sweet and tangy.
Raising Hotaru, day three:
The day in which Michiru-mama and Setsuna-mama decided Haruka-papa would be in charge of making 'adult food' only as a last resort.