"Open wide," Michiru coaxed.
Her dark eyes intent on the spoon, Hotaru's mouth opened into a small "o" and she stilled in anticipation. Michiru guided the loaded spoon into the baby girl's mouth. Hotaru gummed the food happily, a good deal of it dribbling back out of her mouth and down the front of her shirt. Michiru wiped it up calmly, filled up the spoon, and offered it to her again.
"What's the use?" Haruka asked idly from the other end of the table. Her feet were propped up and the newspaper was splayed open on her lap. "She's losing three-fourths of whatever you give her. Waste of time."
"Even one-fourth is something," Michiru said serenely. Hotaru smiled sweetly, as if in agreement.
"Waste of time," Haruka repeated.
"Not so," Setsuna murmured, putting down her cup of coffee. "In fact, the most worthwhile things in life tend to take time."
Haruka merely snorted and flipped the newspaper closed with a snap.
"Don't bother trying to convince Haruka," Michiru said to Setsuna, calmly blotting Hotaru's mess. "She's a racer. She's not the sort of person to linger over things. Life's a race for her. She doesn't believe in savoring the moment."
"Indeed," Setsuna murmured, and she and Michiru exchanged indulgent glances over the top of Hotaru's head.
Haruka felt suddenly left out. "I'm going out," she declared, dropping the newspaper on the table. She waved off their startled goodbyes, and disappeared out the door. Shortly, Michiru and Setsuna heard the gunning of the car engine and a squeal of tires, and then the roar of the car faded into the distance.
"I hope she's not upset," Setsuna said, a slight frown-line appearing between her eyes. "I haven't been around you two long enough to know if she's really angry at me..."
"Don't worry, Setsuna. She's thinking things over, her own way... at a hundred and fifty kilometers per hour."
The two women laughed, and Michiru offered the spoon to Hotaru again.
Haruka revved the engine as she guided the car around a curve, bright faraway scenery passing unnoticed below her as she sped over the steep mountain path. "So now I'm just a racer? Don't I linger enough for you, Michiru?"
She snorted and let her foot press more firmly on the accelerator pedal. The car responded with a louder purr, almost flying up the mountain. Haruka settled back in the seat and let the wind whip into her face and through her hair. Her eyes were narrowed in thought.
At length, she threw her head back and laughed.
Michiru came home from work the next evening to find Setsuna in the kitchen. "Where's Hotaru?" she asked.
"I just got back myself, and I haven't seen either Hotaru or Haruka," Setsuna replied. "Haruka's car is here, so she can't be far."
Michiru frowned. "It's almost time for dinner," she said. "Haruka!"
"Yes?" a voice answered faintly, from the direction of the back of the house.
Michiru and Setsuna arrived to find Haruka sitting on the back porch swing, Hotaru held in her arms. Haruka looked up with a smile. "Michiru. Setsuna. Okaeri nasai."
"Tadaima," Setsuna answered, her relieved smile evident in her voice.
"Tadaima..." But Michiru's usual greeting was faint. She was struck oddly by the strangeness of it, her always-moving lover relaxed motionless before her, the baby cradled gently in her long arms. Haruka's stormcloud eyes were distant, looking out beyond the cliffs to the sea.
"Why don't you sit down," Haruka invited casually. Michiru raised an eyebrow, but sat down next to Haruka. Setsuna sat on the blond racer's other side, one hand toying with Hotaru's fuzz of hair. Haruka gave her a smile and wound a long arm about Michiru's shoulders, and although Michiru waited, Haruka said nothing more.
"What's going on?" Michiru smiled finally. "What's on your agenda?"
"No agenda. I thought I'd show Hotaru a sunset, that's all." Haruka stroked the baby's dark hair. "I don't think she's been outside long enough to appreciate it before. Look, Hotaru." She held the baby up with an arm. "See the colors of the sky? Aren't they beautiful?"
"Beautiful," Setsuna echoed. "Beautiful and very fleeting."
Hotaru braced herself against Haruka's shoulder and stared up towards the distant clouds, which were banded with rainbow light.
"You thought you'd show her a sunset," Michiru echoed. Between them, Hotaru laughed and reached for the colors flowing across the sky.
"That's right." Haruka gave her a teasing grin. "Still think I don't know how to savor the moment?"
Michiru laughed incredulously. "Has that been bothering you?"
"Michiru," Haruka said intensely, "I live in the moment. That's how I race. Can't you see it?"
"It's not what she meant," Setsuna said quietly. "She meant what you're doing now - taking a quiet moment. Not just seeing life as a connection of hurried, intense moments - but finding some quiet time to reflect."