I open the door to the apartment cautiously. I'm not used to people showing up unannounced. I'm greeted by Usagi's face, at my eye level, and her hands grasping mine as soon as the door is part way open.
"Please, Ami-chan, please!" she says, pushing her face up to my own, "I wouldn't ask except it's an emergency. Normally we have this wonderful girl called Kimiko. I'm sure you've heard me talking about her. I've mentioned her, right? But it's the last minute and we absolutely have to go, and she has the flu, and she can't, so can you?"
I take a few steps back and extract myself from Usagi's grip. I'm tired. It's been a long day at the hospital, and I must have missed something somewhere.
"What's wrong? Who has the flu? Is Chibi-usa alright?"
"She's fine! Kimiko has the flu."
"Who is Kimiko?"
"Oh," then my brain wakes up and connects all the missing dots from Usagi's ramble, "You want me to babysit?"
"Can you? Please? She'll be no trouble. I thought we might be able to take her with us, but Mamo-chan called and checked, and Mako-chan and Motoki are on vacation, and well, you know where Minako-chan is and I can't get a hold of Rei-chan, and I know you're probably tired. I'm sure she'll just go right to sleep. I gave her warm milk on the way. It's just this whole thing is very important to Mamo-chan and I was going to just stay home but Kieran-sama insisted that I absolutely have to be there…"
How can I say no to her? She's my best friend. No matter how many misgivings that I have about this prospect and my ability to handle it. Logically my brain points out, you work in pediatrics, you should be able to deal with children.
"It's okay, Usagi-chan."
"You'll do it?" Her face lights up like a pinball machine that just hit the high score.
I nod, slowly and carefully, hoping my smile doesn't fall off my face while I'm doing so. I turn on the coffee maker which I keep ready for the morning and pour the water through and put the pot back as she runs back out to the car, calling, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Mamo-chan she said 'yes'!"
I sit, chewing on my lip, on the stool by the kitchen counter. It's been a while since I've shared an apartment with Mama. I can't help but wish that I still did so that I might have help with this. I've been around the youngest Tsukino before, but usually only for a couple of hours at a time, and always with one of her parents close by, when I deal with children at work it's usually only for a few minutes at a time, I'm not sure of the sort of tricks needed to keep them entertained for longer than say ten minutes? I'm sure the sort of thing that Usagi and Mamoru are about to go to is going to take a little bit longer than that; otherwise they wouldn't need a babysitter.
After a few moments I hear Mamoru's tread on the step outside, and the knock of someone small who he is carrying in his arms at the door. I get up and pull the door open and sure enough Chibi-usa is being carried in his arms. Usagi is dragging a large back pack up the steps behind him, and muttering about it's weight and how Chibi-usa apparently insisted her father carry her up the stairs when she's so much lighter than the backpack.
Mamoru smiles apologetically at me, "She's pretty tired, so she should settle down quickly…I'm sorry it's such short notice."
"It's okay," I say again, perhaps a little too quickly given the way he looks at me, "You can have my bed, Chibi-usa-chan," I say, smiling at her.
She doesn't say anything; she's too busy looking all around at the apartment. I realize she hasn't ever been here before, and wonder if I should have moved things around. She's old enough to not randomly pull a bookcase down and hurt herself…but would she do something like that just because she thinks it would be fun? She understands, "No!" I know that much, and we can talk about things…but what?
"Will she want a story?" I ask Mamoru and Usagi, trying to remember what I was into when I was five, and what she might be into…when was the last time I dealt with a five year old at work? A couple of weeks ago…but they were too upset to really be talkative, the most I know about him is that he liked coffee flavored candy.
"She might," Mamoru says, and then realizes what I'm pressing for, "She's gotten over having one specific story that she needs every night though so it should be okay."
I don't really have a lot of child-appropriate stories though. I can see I'll be spending some time on Dragon or Google before the night is over.
"You have my cell number if you need anything..." Usagi says, as though we haven't been friends for more than a decade. She fishes in her purse for a piece of paper that I've seen on her fridge many times, "Here are the numbers for the hospital and I…oh…" she stops, and gives me a patented goofy smile, "…I just remembered you're a pediatrician. I'm sorry…I…"
I give her a hug, as Mamoru pats her on the head, "It's okay, get going or you'll be really late."
Mamoru sets their daughter down, and ruffles her hair, "We'll be back soon. Be good for Auntie Ami, okay?"
She nods, and reaches for a toy from the backpack that Usagi has dumped by my kitchen bar. Usagi bends down and kisses her on the cheek, and then they leave, Usagi turning back and waving several times, and so it's just me and Tsukino Usagi the younger.
We stand there for a moment, me looking down on her, her looking up at me, as though expecting something, but I have no idea what she might be expecting.
"So…" I say, hoping something will come to me once I start the sentence but nothing really does, "…are you hungry?"
She shakes her head, "We ate before we left," then she gets a slightly mischevious look, "but I didn't get dessert."
"Really? So, if I called your Momma back and asked her she would say the same thing?"
"You wouldn't call Momma for that, in case you disturb her," she points out.
This is going to be a long night.