Babysitting is Hard Work.

Haruka lay reclined on a couch in the living room, her feet hanging over the armrest and her head propped on a pillow, lazily watching a race. She was dressed loungishly in jeans and a button-up collared shirt, untucked for comfort. She flipped to another channel for a basketball game, not really paying much attention to anything. She was bored. She wanted to get out and race, but today was cleaning day so she had to stay in and 'help.'

"Well don't you look comfortable?" Speaking of work, in came Michiru, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and her sleeves rolled up past her elbows.

"I'd be more comfortable if you were here," Haruka replied, lifting her arm in an invitation for Michiru to join her.

The teal-haired woman smiled, "Hmm, I'd love to, but some of us are working." Haruka shrugged and dropped her arm. "By the way, just what was your job?"

"Watching Hotaru-chan," Haruka replied.

"Oh?" Michiru's eyebrow rose expectantly and she crossed her arms. Peering over the back of the couch, she peered down on the blond and queried, her voice flat, "Pray tell, where is our dear Hotaru-chan?"

Haruka pointed to the baby pen with her foot, "over there."

One hand went to Michiru's hip, the other drummed her fingers on the top of the cushion. "Care to try again?"

A chill ran the length of Haruka like lightning, starting at her lower back and traveling to her extremities. She whipped her head up to see that, as Michiru had hinted, the soft, padded play pen was completely empty. What was Hotaru? She rolled up off the couch, jumping to her feet and ran over, just to make sure the toddler hadn't hidden behind one of the pillows. Not there. She picked up the pen to check behind it – nothing. She dashed to check behind the television, under the coffee table, behind the couch, under the dining room table, behind the plant in the corner – nothing.

"Haruka!" Michiru scolded heatedly, her mouth open to continue when Haruka interrupted.

"Can't talk now."

She dashed out of the living/dining room, pausing in the hallway. If she were a toddler, where would she go first? … to the room with the shiniest stuff. The kitchen! She'll kill herself! Haruka tore down the hallway, wondering if she had left the cutting knife out again. Was the stove on? WHAT IF SHE HAD GOTTEN UNDER THE SINK? She took a left to skid into the kitchen, and immediately fell flat on the floor.

"WHO POLISHED THE FLOOR?" she demanded, scrabbling to get to her feet. To check behind the counter. Was she there, the tiny, black-haired angel? Was she… had she… No! The black-and-white checkered floor was blissfully empty. No blood stains, no unconscious toddler. Just for good measure, Haruka tore open the sink cabinet. Nothing. Good.

So, not in the kitchen or the living room… the bathroom, maybe? She loved to drop stuff down the toilet – was she there? Haruka dashed back down the hallway to see the bathroom door open – was she there? Her hands pressed against the frame as the blond shoved her head in the room. Nothing and no one, but it smelled rather strongly of cleaning products. WHAT IF SHE SWALLOWED SOME CLEANING SOLUTION AND WAS PASSED OUT IN THE TUB? She ran in and threw the curtain open. Nothing. OR SHE COULD BE BEHIND THE DOOR! She shoved the door closed. Nothing behind the door.

Where else could she – surely not her own room. Haruka ran back down the hallway, Michiru saying something or other when she passed the living room, and looked into Hotaru's bright and cheerful room. She ran in and tore apart the neat stack of stuffed animals, where Hotaru occasionally liked to hide when playing. Not there. She looked under the bed, in the closet – nothing. Where was she?

… Could she have gotten outside? Haruka froze, considering the repercussions. Hotaru was just tall enough to reach the door, what if she just opened it? She could be out there, with rabid, wild dogs, speeding cars, thunderstorms – was it supposed to rain today? – and GUYS WITH CANDY VANS.

"HOTARU!" she screamed, running through the house towards the front door. She dashed outside to find sunshine, but rain wasn't the worst of the issues. "HOTARU? HOTARUUUU!" she yelled, looking left and right. The street looked empty, but kidnappers could have easily come and gone by now! Or a dog could've run through, picking her up and taking her away –

"Haruka-papa?" Setsuna said from the doorway.

Haruka turned, about to call her for help – they had to start searching. Hotaru could be anywhere! … or she could be right there with Setsuna. Haruka ran over, fell to her knees and scooped up the small girl. "Hotaru-chan!" she breathed a huge sigh of relief.

"Haruka-papa!" the toddler smiled, hugging her neck.

Haruka pulled her away, to look in her deep purple eyes, "Where did you go, little girl?"

Hotaru smiled.

"She helped me clean my office," Setsuna said with a smile, "Didn't you, sweetie?" she asked, ruffling Hotaru's hair.

Michiru appeared in the doorway, a sly smirk on her face.

"You knew the whole time." Haruka stated flatly. She picked up Hotaru, the little girl's hand wrapped tightly in her hair.

Michiru neither denied nor confirmed, but with the same smile on her face she went back into the house. She paused at Hotaru's room and glanced in. "Oh, Haruka-papa?"

"Yes, Michiru-mama?" she replied skeptically, following Setsuna inside.

"It seems both Hotaru-chan's room and the living room are a bit of a mess…"

She signed, "Yes, Michiru-mama, I'll clean it up."

Raising Hotaru, day 40.

The day in which Haruka-papa buys Hotaru-chan a bell to wear around her neck.