A/N: I'm glad you're here, Sam. Here at the end of all things. /LOTR

It's been several months since I started this fic, and several weeks after my estimated date of completion. I'm so glad that I started this fic, because in doing so it abolished my perspective of the people who read fics in general. I found that this fic, more than any of my others, received the most encouraging and emotional reviews I've ever read, and for that I thank you kindly, those of you who took the time to read and then tell me directly what you thought of it. Thanks to everyone who gave an AU a second chance!

Thank you, lostinthought, for deciding the ending country. I was just waiting around for someone to give me a suggestion, really. Thank you bunches!

THANK YOU BETAS. Thank you for those late-night betas when I needed it absolutely right then, and for betaing so speedy fast when I really didn't expect it to be done for hours. A special thank you to Fallacy for helping me with language and stuff when I needed it, and also when I thought I didn't need it.

And thank you, Mr. Jacks.


21.06.1946

Clear skies, clear air, 23 Degrees Celsius

Well, I still can't find a thermometer with normal temperature on it. All they have here are these things with Celsius on them. But if I had to guess, I'd say it was around the mid seventies. Or maybe eighties. I really don't know.

I couldn't find this journal for months, so I'm pretty bummed out that whatever happened in the time that passed will be hard for me to remember. Unless I write it down, it's gone. What happened in that Polish town, and after that, though, contains some very traumatic events, so at least I'll remember those. Unfortunately. I'm just glad that I don't have to keep this journal formally anymore, so I can really say what I want to say about stuff.

Well, when I woke up on the 26th, Deidara had some more toast, and some bad news. You wouldn't believe it, but that officer guy from the camp had set us up! Deidara said he'd sent us on a wild goose chase so the guy could take my camp over and use it to rally the rest of the German troops in the battle. I mean, they must've had a radio, and a transmitter and everything from what we left behind.

I'm not really surprised. I saw that look in the officer's eyes, and it was far from friendly. It was like every time he looked at me he wanted to kill me, but maybe he'd take his time with me first, if you know what I mean. I just shudder to think about it! Now that I do think about it, wouldn't it have been much simpler for Kakuzu (I remember it now! It's such a pointy name, just like the man.) to have just shot us on the spot? Really, what's with all the theatrics? I'm glad we got out alive, though, and I guess I wouldn't have got to know Deidara if I were dead in the snow.

But mostly I feel sorry for Deidara. From what he's told me, his life has been depressing and disappointing, full of relentless people, and this could have been his chance to cover up his past with some sort of heroic act. He didn't support the Nazi cause, I knew that much, but he didn't support us, either. He's sort of in the middle ground, where the people are who want to care, but just don't. Doesn't that make any sense?

His grandmother was a Jew, but he doesn't feel the need to save all the Jews like I do, with my soft heart for the defenseless, and he was forced into a cause he despised, but he doesn't really hate them either, except for taking his grandmother away. It's selfish, but I don't like to think it's mean. I just think he's very confused, and lost.

But if he heard me saying that, well golly, he'd pinch his nose up and start babbling at me in that stupid German again. I've told him a million times I can't understand him, but he talks all the same. If you've ever heard two Germans talking, it's almost like they're yelling at each other constantly. But he just handles all the yelling on his own, and I kind of sit and stare at him until he's done. Then he would go out and stand outside, so I come out after him and hold his hand. I'm so glad that Americans aren't so weird like that, you know?

Well, after I ate that toast, Deidara went and made the news go from bad to worse. I really wish that he'd have waited for me to swallow.

He showed me the letter, and it was blank. So maybe Kakuzu hoped that when we got to the death camp, if we ever found it, that we would be executed like everyone else. But maybe there really was a Mendelssohn there. I remember reading about a philosopher with that name, and he was a Jew. I think that's very interesting. Now that I think about it (again), I'm sure Deidara could've wormed his way out of it. By this time, the German army was in ruin, so some cigarettes could've made everything all right, right? These Europeans do love cigarettes.

Deidara doesn't smoke, though, because the one time he did, he gave me a kiss and it smelled so bad that I wouldn't go near him until all of that smell was gone. He went outdoors and fell in a stream when he was trying to wash his mouth out, the idiot (it was in March), and nearly got pneumonia again, just for a kiss. I don't understand this man. Maybe all Germans are like that, but I wouldn't know since he's the only one I know, generally.

I guess I could talk about us, if I'm going to bring that up. I mean me and him. Well, after that thing in the plane and our big fight in the hotel room, (I was really scared of him, but I tried not to show it) he was just as sweet as a lamb, wouldn't you believe it. It was all Sakura this and Sakura that, and I was a little sad that he didn't call me "libchin" again, because it was kind of nice having a nickname that wasn't Girl or Hey You.

But I didn't say anything at first, because we were starting over, and I didn't want to bring up something that might make stuff awkward. And I felt that the "libchin" thing was a very potentially awkward subject. So for the whole time we were there, we just walked around the city and looked at stuff, and everyday we went out to check the plane. I noticed that every time we got close to the plane, Deidara would go all quiet, and I wasn't exactly a babbling brook myself.

It was okay, though, because nothing happened for a while, at least. But the city was very enjoyable, so I want to say a bit about that. The houses are all so beautiful, and it was just like in the big cities like San Francisco where you open your front door and there's the sidewalk, instead of having a yard in front, or even a couple stepping stones. You go past the door, and BAM! There's the traffic.

The houses are much the same, and the only real difference is the color. In the wintertime, everything is dull there except for the paint, including the people. Oh, man, when you try to talk to someone, even if it's just all you know, like where is the bathroom and how much does it cost, well they just look at you like they're drunk or something and answer all slow. Deidara said it's because of the war, which I already knew, and also because wintertime makes people depressed sometimes, especially there. I wouldn't know that well, because where I came from it never snowed, not even on occasion.

Eventually, I got to know some people who I could call safe, like the lady who stole my quilt. I had to watch her around my stuff because she would try and take it if I didn't watch, but she's Polish and doesn't know any better, I guess. We would talk (she knew English!), and I shared that tea with her that I hid in my coat from the tent. All that time and it was still good! We drank the tea black, even though on Thursdays she would put a little honey in mine, for being a good girl, she said. She reminded me of someone's grandmother, with a little more spice.

Also, there was the man at the bar who made me drunk (I know, it was my fault). Every time I would go in, he would call me up and pretend to give me some vodka, and then tease me about doing the hard stuff, although I am a real lady when I want to be and graciously refused it. He knew English, too. I asked him about it, and he said that it was worth it to learn the language since it was so important worldwide. I told him I knew that, and he snorted at me. I asked Deidara about it and he yelled at me for not being careful about talking to people.

The bartender was the link to the outside world for Deidara and me. He was from Denmark, and he smuggled in this illegal newspaper about the resistance, and he translated parts of it that talked about us, and the other Allies. Well, now I know what happened to everyone for sure. I suspected it before, but now I absolutely know. My regiment number was there, and listed under the fatalities as a whole group, basically. Everyone, dead in such a small time. But, I felt so glad to be alive. I feel bad for thinking that, later, but I can't help it. I'm so glad to be alive.

Deidara says I'm stupid for thinking so much about it, but I know he thinks about people he's lost, too. I'm not entirely alone in that aspect. He's just not as good about talking about it. He likes to keep it bottled in, and then when he's really upset he'll go outside and set off his fireworks. He just loves making things explode, which I am okay with as long as he doesn't set the house on fire or kill my plants.

We were much better after I brought up the "libchin" thing. We were at the bar again, me with a water, and him with a beer (that stuff is so gross, plus it's homemade, so he has no idea what's in it). Then I ask him why he doesn't call me his little nickname anymore. He puts the beer down and kind of looks at me funny. He said he thought I didn't like it, and that he just stopped because of that, but I knew it was because of what he did, and he felt guilty about it. Well, I was tired of making him grovel, so I told him I didn't care, and, in fact, that I wanted him to call me that again.

He smiles at me with his little smile he always does, and leans in and asks me if I mean it. I was a little freaked out, I mean, here this creepy German just thinks he's entitled to my body and everything, and whatnot, and, well, I don't know exactly. It was a little creepy, but he's crazy anyway, so I let it go. Then he asks me if he can kiss me, of all things! I let him, and he leans in some more and kind of falls on me, and I grabbed his butt on accident. I didn't mean to, really! But he gives me this look, and so does the bartender, who laughs and yells at us to get a room or else invite him in.

So Deidara grabbed my hand and rushes me back to the hotel, and we get up to the room and we just stand there breathing hard from running all that way. I turned a little to ask him why in the hell we ran back, since we could've just walked like sane people, and he starts kissing me again, jabbering stuff in German at me again. Well, eventually we wound up in the same sort of situation that I got into on the 24th, only this time I remember all of it. I can't really say exactly what happened, because even talking about it this way makes me blush a little, but I will say that it was very nice, and it only made me a little sore, but that was probably just for agitating my old bruised spots down there.

I didn't bleed at all, which was nice, but I wanted to talk about what I was going to do with myself later, because I wasn't sure if I should go back to the Americans again, but that jerk fell asleep. I was quite offended at him, but didn't hold a grudge since he looked all pathetic and needed to wash his hair, besides. Mine is always clean, thank you. I found out later, through multiple experiences, however, that he fell asleep after every time we did it. I just don't understand that man.

Pretty soon all the snow melted, and the trees had little buds on them, the weeds sprang up on the sidewalk, and the birds began to chase one another around in a frenzy of love. Watching them sing to each other from branches in a tree made me giddy. I love birds in the spring. Soon after that, though Deidara made plans to leave right away, to go to some place else. He didn't tell me where.

I didn't really want to leave, since I had just started understanding what was going on, but Deidara said we had to. He said that he felt the war coming to a close, and that very soon it wouldn't be safe for us to be there anymore. With the end of the war, the Allies would draw closer in. Already, there were Soviet soldiers all over the city, especially after all the Germans had hit the road.

So I said goodbye to the tea lady and Mr. Bartender, and we flew off over the clouds looking for someplace to stay. First we went to Berlin, but all that was there was crumbled buildings and stunned people. I helped lots of them for the few days that we stayed, but Deidara wanted to leave again. It made me so sad to leave those poor people, but I told them a few ways to help hygiene, translated through Deidara, so hopefully they all took my advice.

Then we went up to Denmark, the bartender's home, and stayed to refuel and stuff down whatever food we could get. Those people like fish way more than they should, in my opinion. Jeez, I mean, they eat it for every meal, practically, even for breakfast sometimes. But I guess living by the ocean gets you some meal perks, and you might as well take them.

Finally, we landed in Sweden, a safe country, at least in comparison to Poland. It makes me feel a lot safer, despite all Deidara's grumbling. We didn't go into the big capitol but stuck to the smaller towns, and Deidara attempted to gather information that would be useful to us in his broken Swedish. He must be very smart, knowing so many languages.

Not too many people speak English here, and the ones that do speak it so terribly that it wouldn't matter if they spoke in Russian to me. I still wouldn't get it. So for now, the only person I can talk to in English is Deidara, who doesn't have much intelligent conversation with me. Mostly he just rambles on about stuff that I can't relate to.

On a happier note, I'm understanding Swedish more and more everyday. I'm so glad that I'm able to pick it up fairly well, even though it's extremely difficult. But it's great to be able to go to market and go shopping without you-know-who trailing along, complaining when I buy something he doesn't like, and me hoping that someone will understand his German and not refuse to serve us.

We decided to move here because we ran out of gas, not because Sweden was one of the few neutrals during the takeover, or the excellent quality of the food, or some other grand solution. So the plane is sitting around all sad-like behind the house while it waits for fuel.

There. I moved to the back porch so I can see it. Jeez, the grass is already growing around the wheels. I wonder if the plants can tell when something's not supposed to be there. I remember, in Berlin, seeing little plants pushing up through the concrete, and there were cracks around the spot where they pushed up. I can't believe that something so tiny can be so strong. And then that, in a ruined city like Berlin, almost seems like some sort of cruel joke.

There's Greger Beurling, chasing after his cow again. He never seems to be able to keep that one inside the fence. Maybe she has a boyfriend, ha.

He was one of the first to welcome us to Sweden when he spotted us slinking into town. Guess they don't get much visitors here or something, by the way he was so happy to see us, but then again, it could just be because of the war, because it's a pretty big city. Population is in the tens of thousands, like twenty thousand or something. Actually, it's probably just him.

It just seemed so deserted when we got here. We came in through the main gates and there was practically no one there except this middle-aged farmer and a cow in a deserted marketplace. As it turned out, though, everyone was away for the harvest festival. He led us there (he let me ride on the cow, which was awesome) and asked us questions along the way. Very quickly, he found out just how foreign we were, and after the he yelled at Deidara in Swedish, waving his hands around in Deidara's face, who yelled back in German, waving his hands around in Greger's face.

Anyway, we finally ended up in this big field, where there were thousands of people doing all sorts of things. Weighing dried out herbs for sale, smacking their kids for throwing fits, dragging home family members drunk, getting drunk themselves, and showing off animals. There was even a little circus, with a zebra, a camel, and a drunken acrobat.

Feeling in good hands, Deidara yelled a thank you to the man, who yelled back something in reply. Why do people think yelling will solve a language barrier? But it was pretty funny, and I had ice cream besides, so I didn't complain.

Eventually Greger found out we didn't have anywhere to stay and gave us a cottage on his land. The little courtyard around it is one big flowerbed, neatly trimmed by the last user, and now me. Every other day Greger stops by to see how we're doing and tells us the news and gives us fish or cheese or something. I don't want to be rude, but I'm seriously sick of both of those things. You can only have so much fish and cheese before you go absolutely insane.

So, the war's been over for about a year now, and not much is happening. I think Deidara's missing all the action, because sometimes he just paces around and sighs. I'm a little worried. Of course I know we're not going to stay here forever, but it makes me anxious to think that we've been here for more than a year and that any day he might want to pack up and go to…I don't know, Africa or something. Maybe find another war zone and fight a little.

Maybe if I tell him I'm pregnant, we can stay. I can just imagine the look on his face! But if he ever found out that I wasn't, really, I can imagine better how depressed he would get. Lately he's been acting like he wants me to have a baby, for some Godforsaken reason.

And he thinks he's all sly about it, too. Yesterday morning he came up to me on the porch and sat down, and told me that Greger's wife recently had a baby, as if he were even remotely interested, and then looked at me sideways.

Excuse me.

I am not your baby machine, you nasty German. Honestly. You spend a year living with a man and he thinks he owns your vagina. Will I have a baby? Absolutely not! I never want to have kids, never ever ever! Not with him, at least. He may be cute, but I still think he's weird. And I'm definitely not in love with him, no siree.

Another incident occurred this morning. It kind of went like this:

"This is nice bacon." (My fist warning sign is always a compliment.)

"Mmph."

"You got it from that Greger person."

"Nngh."

"I was thinking about something when I woke up."

"Mmm."

"That dress looks very cool on you, by the way. I'm just saying." (My American English is rubbing off on him more often lately. It scares me.)

"Hhn."

"Mrs. Beurling's babies look very nice, too."

"Muh."

"Do you think this house is too small, Liebchen?"

See what he's doing? He's trying to lure me into a corner. If I agree or disagree either way, he'll use it as an excuse to screw me night and day, continuously, until I get fertilized.

It's not like I hate kids or anything, and I don't hate him. I'm just really really really not wanting a kid right now. Our lifestyle isn't exactly decent, for one thing (we're not even married, it's embarrassing), and the fact that we could end up anywhere isn't good for an infant. They need lots of constant attention, and I don't think I could offer that if I'm puking my guts out on a boat or a plane going to some undisclosed location.

Oh, here he comes now. Gotta put this away. I caught him trying to read it earlier when I took a break in writing to make myself some tea. His nose was doing the scrunchy thing, and he was following my lines with a finger, just like a little kid, sounding the words out and everything. It would've been cute if he wasn't, you know, reading my damn journal.

I have no idea what I'm going to make us for dinner. Wait, there's that chicken that's been roaming around outside. I think I'll catch her and fry some strips or something. I wonder if we have milk and flour for gravy…


16.07.1946

damn i'm pregnant damn DAMN damn damn i'm going to KILL SOMEONE RIGHT NOW jesus christ i'm leaving and never coming BACK EVER. i'll show HIM.

Later, in the evening, after I got tired of running around:

Okay, I got over it a little after I ran around screaming in the field, where no one could see me apart from some geese.

Okay, really, I'm still furious, but I'm furious in a grammatically correct manner.

I was JUST SAYING a couple weeks ago how I wasn't ready for a baby, and then THIS. WHY WHY WHY.

Oh, I just know that when I tell him he'll be all smug and stuff. Great. Now I'm crying. I'm so upset I just want to stab something. And GREAT AGAIN, here comes Mr. Magic Sperm, waltzing in here brandishing Mr. Amazing Penis under his clothes like he's a somebody. I should put laxatives in his tea at dinner, and then accidentally lock the bathroom.

But he'd probably just go outside without a second thought. Why did I have to end up with the worst husband ever?

Oh, yes, by the way, he came home with papers five days ago and said they were some legal thing, and I signed without looking on the line. I thought he looked suspiciously happy, but when someone wakes you up at THREE IN THE MORNING to sign a paper, you don't care about much other than going back to sleep. So I got married five days ago, and I didn't even know until THREE days ago.

I'm pregnant, and I'm married. Two of the worst things in the whole world BAM hit me at the same time.

I'll have to tell him eventually, I guess. If I don't, when I start getting big he'll ask questions, and he'll assume, and then he might be upset when I inform him months after the fact. But of course it'd be nothing less than what he deserves. Damn, I'm crying again. Don't tell me I'm getting rabid hormones this early in the game.

He's trying to read over my shoulder. I'm leaning over so he can't.

And now he's talking to me, and patting my head like a good, loving husband, and wanting to know why I'm crying. And NOW I'm crying harder. Jesus, he's sitting down. This means CONVERSATION. I DO NOT WANT THE CONVERSATION.

Later still:

Well, he didn't get it out of me, but he sure tried. The News, I mean. I decided not to tell him The News for a couple weeks while I try to calm my nerves. Meanwhile, I managed to convince him I was just suffering from an overdose of the summer heat, which is a lie. It practically never gets over seventy-five degrees in this place. So he looked at me funny, and left.

I'm going to go for a swim in the water hole tomorrow. I'll bet myself five dollars that he'll follow me there.


18.07.1946

Cloudy with a breeze, 24 Degrees Celsius

I don't have any more American money. I drew myself a five dollar bill in the dirt, which looked pretty good except I messed Abe Lincoln's face up a lot. Deidara drew a stick figure couple holding hands and I yelled at him and cried and blubbered nonsense. He looked really hurt and I cried some more. He got a weird expression on his face, stopped looking hurt, and I lay down on the ground and bawled. It was so humiliating, but I just couldn't stop.

He picked me up and carried me home, still crying, and in sopping wet clothes. I cried some more because I was afraid of ruining them, even though it's just a calico suit.

Apparently he wasn't going to let this go, though, because he plopped me down on the bed and glowered at me until I stopped the very last heaving sniffle. Then our conversation went a bit like this:

"I see something is wrong with you, yes? You are not cool."

"Oh, Jesus."

"What? What? Are you sick? Is that it?"

"Stop saying that."

"Sick?"

"Cool!"

"I can say whatever I want to, woman. You say this 'cool' all the time, so I can say it, too. I also like making the words shorter, like 'can't' instead of 'can not.' It's so wonderful making the sentences shorter. I also know what 'pandemonium' means. It is the longest English word I know."

"You are so clueless."

"You are getting off track, Liebchen. Don't bring up things that do not matter. I must speak with you now."

"Oh, I'm off track?"

"What is wrong with you? You are so mean lately. I do not understand this."

And then, because he looked so sad, and because I felt so guilty, I told him everything. About being pregnant, about why I didn't tell him, that I was afraid of leaving this place, that I was afraid of going home, and even all the stuff I thought about him, although I left out the biting remarks. I talked so much that, even while I write this, it's probably the 18th.

But it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. He really listened to me, and said stuff back, and I learned stuff about him that I never thought I would ever care to know, if I ever had the opportunity to know it.

Like how he missed Germany more than anything but was afraid to go back because of possible retributions that could be made against him, like how he worried all the time that I didn't like him, that I was only staying because I was afraid of him, and how he was frustrated that his business (just like the one he had in Germany) was doing so well. I didn't really get that last one, but I guess lack of hardship makes him nervous, which is weird. He ships his stuff to the big city, and the government apparently discovered him, did a background check, and offered amnesty if he worked for them. So, according to him, we'll be here for a while yet.

He spent a considerable amount of time discussing the baby with me. When I told him, he got real quiet, not the satanic dance of glee that I expected. Then, and this shocked me, he wanted to hear from ME what I thought about it. I mean, jeez, I thought he'd burst with fatherly pride and go have a congrats cigar with Greger while I sat and puked my guts out all by my lonesome.

But no, he wanted MY opinion about it. It's so burned into my mind right now. I was lying on the bed, staring mournfully in his general direction after I told him, waiting for that dancing rigmarole, and he sat there with this wide-eyed look, just like a little kid. I thought about him reading my journal, and that same innocent look he wore, trying to make sense of all those words smashed together on my dearth of paper.

He told me that HE was really worried about it, after I didn't answer when he asked what I thought. He told me that he'd always wanted to have a kid, maybe two, or three, or twenty, and give them the best childhood ever, just like his days on the farm. And he told me that Sweden would be a wonderful place to raise them—well, maybe just the one, Liebchen—until we could go back to Germany.

I was so exhausted from my emotional tirade that I only listened to him talk about everything he wanted to do, and I didn't say anything for a long time when he asked me again what I thought.

Eventually I told him about my family, about how I had always wanted to get away from my home, but never expected to be in this situation, not in a million years. But because of the childhood I had, being raised as an extra set of hands, I wanted to treat each of my children like a treasure. I said it much less eloquently, sniffing and gasping for air and all, but I think he got the message.

I wanted to say more, but I was so tired from all that talking (we talked for several hours), and so was he. We ended up taking an afternoon nap together, and I slept through to the next day and acquired a fever, so most of this next week I'll spend in bed, I predict.

That'll give me more time to think, though. I need to find a time when I can tell him I'm sorry for being so unreasonable all this time. He's been nothing but kind to me, if a bit sexually forward, and I haven't been kind in return in the least. He could beat me, or go out and get drunk every night, or force me into having sex with him when I don't want to (which is pretty often), but he doesn't do any of those things. Really, I'm quite lucky. I think I might love him, maybe just a little. I wonder if I should tell him that…

I'll also have time to think of a name for the baby. It's something that needs to happen. We'll talk about it later, of course, but I want to be ahead.

Isaac

Peter

Theodore

Johnny

Matthew

Alfred

Deidara the Second (just kidding, one is enough for me)

Joel

Ian

Here comes Deidara with my lunch (Greger's wife made it), so I'm going to put this away now, while he can't see where I'm hiding it. I'm not even going to write down where I'm hiding it.

I hope it's chicken noodle soup.


Friedrich hummed in the hollow of the bed next to a dozing Sakura, yawned, whimpered, and fell back asleep. Deidara ran a finger over the top of his son's head, still slightly damp from birth and the consequent bathing, all around his tiny body before coming to a stop on his chest, warm and soft like old leather.

Feather light against his skin, Deidara felt the rhythm of the baby's heartbeat, and the up and down of continuous breathing. Everything was still now, and he felt grateful for the hush after the laboring hours, when he could just lie there in bed with his wife and new child, watch them and not be testily questioned as to what in hell he was staring at. She didn't mean it, really, it was just all that stress pregnant women experienced, so he didn't think to hold a grudge.

An icy February breeze shuddered around the house, and both woman and baby shivered. Deidara leaned down and pulled a quilt, the soft, warm one, up over the three of them, careful to avoid putting pressure on the infant's delicate form. He checked to make sure the sheets pulled taught around Friedrich's mouth and nose to avoid suffocation, then leaned back and relaxed for the first time in weeks. Arms folded behind his head, he closed his eyes and drifted away, replaying the day over in his mind almost obsessively.

When had it been—? This morning, that was it. Everything had started this morning. Very early, she had woken up beside him and he stirred, alert at her slightest motion thanks to military alertness training.

"What is it?" He had asked her urgently.

"Nothing, just some pains. They're not so bad."

And then, because he trusted her intuition, he went back to sleep. It wasn't the first incident, so he didn't worry.

Later, she woke him again.

"They're big, and they're fast," she'd whispered brokenly. "Will you—?"

"I'll find someone. I'll go to Greger's wife. She told us she would come."

He had put on his clothes in record time, never glancing away from his shaking wife for even a second. He hated to leave her here for the thirty minutes it would take to get to Greger's and back, and the strained grimaces on her pale face created an ethereal countenance about her that frightened him. And if she had the child while he was away? If she bled to death calling for him in fear while the child lay still in her arms?

But the longer he stayed, the greater the chance of that happening was. So he had run from the house in a burst of worried speed, jumping the fence and hoping he wouldn't fall and twist his ankle in some unseen snake hole, hidden in the darkness from peering eyes. An owl screamed overhead and he jumped, relieved at the silhouette of the lavish farmhouse approaching in the distance.

Luck was on his side that night. The couple had been expecting Deidara to come in bursting through their door any day, they said, Mrs. Beurling's babies were away with family and her midwife's parcel was ready by the door in case of emergency. Flashlights were passed around, and the three rushed back to the cottage in a near panic.

By the time they'd returned, Sakura was in the middle stages of her contractions, but seemed to be handling herself well enough. Mrs. Beurling—Sakura called her Katina—immediately set to work, busying herself with pushing up Sakura's nightgown and slipping different sheets under her hips, and shooing Deidara out with a toss of her head.

He hadn't gone far. Greger made some early bird coffee and motioned for Deidara to come sit at the table with him, but he'd refused. Instead, he opted to sit flush against his bedroom door, peeking through the door crack as often as he dared. Eventually the monotonous chirping of the crickets and Sakura's steady moans lulled him into a fitful sleep.

Waking up was an interesting experience. A split second after he jolted back into consciousness, wondering what had woken him and why he wasn't in bed, he cried out for the very first time, drowning out Greger's snores with piercing wails. A glance out the window told him it was just past dawn, but those were trivial matters in comparison with his minute-old lapse of true fatherhood.

But where was the baby? He wanted to touch it, see if it was all truly real, if he could be happy and satisfied at last. Finally, Sakura called out for him weakly, and then Mrs. Beurling opened the door and invited him in. He drew himself slowly to his feet, and walked into the room with heavy steps, distressed at the heady smells surrounding him as he drew nearer to the bed. Sakura lay spent, still breathing heavy from the labor she'd suffered through, and she clutched his proffered hand limply, fighting to stay awake, watching Katina dress the child with glazed eyes.

She looked up at him briefly, then back at the baby.

"I think he'll look like you," she mumbled.

"A son."

"Mmm." She yawned. "What did you say you wanted to name the baby if it was a boy? Do you remember?"

He remembered well.

"We'll call him Fritz," he whispered to her. "That is usually what people say."

"Okay."

Katina handed the swaddled child to his mother, spoke briefly with Sakura, and then the woman and her husband were gone into the morning sun. Deidara rose to draw the curtains, retreating quickly back to the bed, where his wife began to nurse Friedrich, then stopped with a sad look on her face.

"I don't have any milk."

"I can get Mrs. Beurling. They have not gone far."

"It's okay. It happens to new mothers sometimes. Just give me a minute."

She was right, as usual, and Fritz enjoyed his first meal, noisily smacking and kneading his mother's chest with wild hands. Personally, what Deidara had heard of birth hadn't been flattering, and he was rather relieved to have been able to sit out on it despite the anxiety at not knowing what was going on. But this he had been glad to see.

His wife and son looked so content with one another that just looking at the two of them together made him feel warm and safe. Nevertheless, it made him feel like a stranger to this intimacy that mother and child possessed.

That was then, and this was now.

He still watched them, watched the quivering shadows pass them by in favor of a darker destination while the glow of a February snowstorm reflected the morning sun like so many bands of gold. Soon the light and the warmth would come back, and with it the flowers, the river, and hours outside being pulled around by an eccentric pink-haired girl, determined to make him smell every single flower in the field with her by noon.

But this time, a third party entered into his daydream. A little bundle of blankets with a tuft of blond fuzz and a smile for everyone he met, not yet old enough to smell hundreds upon hundreds of wildflowers, but old enough to tag along and take full advantage of the summer heat just as well as anyone. Soon he would walk, and talk, and eat by himself, and then what? Would things be the same for him and Sakura?

But there was no sense in thinking about that now. For now, Deidara was content to gently turn his son over to sleep on his stomach, and he ran his roughed hands along the skin again, the dampness gone but the tinge of red still blushing the wrinkly infant.

He smiled, sighed, and looked over at Sakura, who watched him with tired eyes, and reached over to grasp his hand firmly and relax into sleep again. They would sleep, but he fought his own exhaustion past noon, determined to keep watch constantly, especially when Sakura woke to feed the source of hungrily complaining cries again.

But not even the strength of his will would hold out, and he fell asleep clutching his child in one hand, his wife in the other. Even in sleep, he didn't forget that not everything ended well, but he knew to hold on to what he was granted as he was granted it.

The sun had an opportunity to shine through cracks in the clouds, but the storm continued willfully, thwarting the weak beginnings of spring sunshine with ice and coldness, turning a blind side to the warmth biding deep under the earth. It was a light snowfall, nothing like the wrathful gales in Poland and the storms of deeper winter, but almost like a thin layer of protection against the drifts of the old snow. It was like life, so concentrated on the present and never truly thinking about the before and after.

New life outshone the old, but it remembered that these lives had a past, perched so tenderly on the edges of their success and wonder, and contemplated the legacies of the lives yet to come. Only then would it recall the future, and a genesis of yet another reflection.