I don't own Spirited Away.

Warning: this is pretty darn sappy, even for me.

A River Runs Through It

The night was cloudless, allowing the sparkling blanket of the night sky to show its true potential. In the city it was impossible to see this many stars. It was partially the reason Chihiro had decided to make her life in the country, away from the smog and filth that congested the Earth and Sky. Actually, she lived in the home she had grown up in. She and her parents had moved there when she was ten, but it wasn't really the place where she had grown up. She had grown up in the Spirit World, during the week she spent as a prisoner there. Like her own name, she had sworn never to forget the experiences she's had there, the lessons she had learned about love, the universe and herself. While working in the bath house she had gained a strength that couldn't have been found anywhere else because, really, it came from inside her and her trials there had unlocked it. Her parents had passed away since then, both from lung cancer due to cigarette smoke, but Chihiro wasn't sad or lonely. True, she loved and missed them, but there were far too many things that filled her heart with joy for her to continue mourning. She knew this pleased the spirits of her parents.

Stretching her arms over her head, Chihiro arched back and gazed at the Sky. A shooting star flew across the speckled black like a skipping stone. It was easy for people to forget just how small they are without the Sky to remind them. All the light and sound pollution that kept people from seeing the sky in the city kept them in a bubble; it allowed them to keep thinking they were far more important than they actually were and kept them firmly invested in the material world. To gaze at the night sky though, to stand naked beneath the pure majesty of the universe, the dust of existence, is humbling in the most glorious and satisfying way. As was so, Chihiro methodically began to remove all of her clothes. In the summer months it was warm enough to do this. Even now, as the autumn leaves were beginning to fall, she often did it even though it was too cold to do so.

A slight breeze brought bumps to her skin, sending a chill down her spine and hardening her nipples. It felt wonderful; like she could feel every cell in her body as it reproduced itself, vibrating from the heat of her blood as it rushed through her veins. Her hair danced around her ears, pushing its way into her eyes and tickling her nose. She became hyper-aware of all the sounds and movements around her; the rustling of the leaves, the hooting of an owl, the sway of the grass. She was alive and connected to every other living thing. It had taken a long time to learn how to sense these things, but she had gotten help. After her return from the Spirit World, she began to go to the local temples and made friends with the monks and nuns who attended the shrines. She wanted desperately to learn about the spirit world and they happily taught her. She brought offerings to sacred spots and had made a pilgrimage to distant ones once she was old enough. Her parents thought it cute, if not a bit strange, that their daughter should be so much more spiritually invested than they, but they accepted it, thinking it was a phase she would grow out of. When she didn't they thought it a wonder, held great respect for her and became more spiritual practitioners themselves. Chihiro was glad she was able to bring her parents to the light and teach them to listen.

One of the first things she did upon her return was find out what had happened to the Kohaku River where an apartment complex now stood. Yes, the river had been filled in, but water doesn't simply disappear. Even at the age of ten, she knew this. For weeks she searched through libraries and public records, telling people it was an environmental project for school. Finally, she learned that the river had actually been rerouted from its source in the mountains. It had been directed outside of the city, into the country side, and reconnected with its original path to the sea on the other side of the city. Before it had a very serpentine quality to its shape, though now it resembles a large 'C'. It was still full of life though; all the fish and animals that depended on it were still able to be nourished by it, in fact, many more could reach it now that it no longer ran through he city. How surprised and pleased Chihiro was when she realized that it was the very river that ran near her new house.

As soon as she discovered this, she slipped away alone to its banks, kicked off her shoes and leaped in, splashing with joy. She wanted to know this river, love it the way she loved him. It even felt like him. Swimming against its gentle current felt like his fingers brushing along her face. Then, all at once, a great burst of water shot her into the air. Instead of landing back in the water, though, she was caught on the back of a well muscled, green haired, white dragon.

"Kohaku! You're back!" she cried, hugging and pressing her face against the back of the dragon.

Suddenly, she felt herself sinking. In an instant she found herself back in the water with the great dragon gone. At first, she was sad that he had gone so quickly, but without warning, the small boy form of the dragon she loved burst through the water's surface. Excitedly, she jumped on him and embraced him once more, sending them both toppling under the surface again. Under the water, he pressed his forehead to hers, affectionately. With a mischievous smile, while still holding Chihiro tight to his body, he jettisoned through the water, spinning them around in circles, breaching the surface so she could breath, then plunging back down before bringing them back to where they started.

"I recognized your presence the moment you stepped into the river. I came as quickly as a could. I'm so proud of you for figuring it out!"

"How did you find your river? I thought you thought it was gone."

"I went to its source. I asked the Mountain Spirits for guidance and they showed me where it was. How did you find me?"

"I did the same thing you did."

"My smart Chihiro. You never lost faith in me"


From then on, they met whenever they could, usually at night, when no one would be around to see them. They would talk, play games, and gaze at the stars. Kohaku taught her the names of nearly all of them and showed her which ones were actually spirits. Their meetings were always by the river, as Kohaku couldn't go further than the banks. In the human world, he explained, spirits were designated to that which they protected to keep elemental spirits from wandering amongst humans. For him that meant his river. This ensured the safety of humans that which the spirits protected. This didn't bother Chihiro, though. Even once the weather got colder, she would go to the banks and dip her toes in the water, signaling her arrival to her dearest of friends.

Over time, their friendship and love for each other grew stronger. As the years passed, Chihiro realized that her heart had changed, as had her love for Kohaku. She had fallen in love with him. Long ago, she had fallen in love with his heart, but as she grew older and he changed his body to match hers in age, she began to marvel a the man-dragon she had come to love as a friend and began to want his body as well as his heart. So it was that she came to love his entire being. She told him this one day as she lay on his back while he rested on his belly in his dragon form.

Softly stroking his hair, she whispered, afraid for the first time since she was ten, "I'm in love with you, Kohaku."

In an explosion, his scales shot off of his body, changing to flower petals as they showered down around their bodies. There he lay beneath her in his human form, eyes glowing brighter than ever before.

"I've waited seven years for you to say that," he had said, punctuating his statement with a kiss.

The next night, as their bodies curled together on the river bank, he took something glimmering from his pocket.

"What is that?" she asked.

"It's for you."

He took her hand and slipped the ring on her finger. It was a simple gold band, heavier than it looked, with a large, white pearl encased inside of a small golden lily blossom where one might find a jewel.

"It's beautiful!" she exclaimed, holding him tighter. "Where did you get it?"

"Any good dragon has a treasure hoard," he cheekily replied. "This was made special, though, for the one who shares my soul."

That was ten years ago. It had been difficult during that time to ward off eager suitors and convince others that she was happy in her single status. Her years at university had been the most difficult, as she couldn't return home as often as she liked. Once her parents passed, it became easier to sneak off to the river as soon as the sun had set. Working out of her home as writer of children's books, Chihiro as sometimes able to visit Kohaku during the day when she especially longed for him. Most days, though, like today, she still had to wait until night to see him, to be sure no other human presence was around to witness the Kohaku River Spirit, a spirit she'd come to know as her best friend and lover.

Bracing herself for the cold, Chihiro took a few quick steps into the river before diving in and submerging herself completely. It felt icy, but refreshing and exciting. It made her body work extra hard to keep itself warm. Standing up, the water came a little past her waist. She closed her eyes and breathed deep, lifting her cupped hands to pour water over herself once more. Soon a familiar tingling filled the air. An equally familiar sensation of his large body swimming between her legs followed. Moments later, she was lifted into the air, her body wrapped in cord-like body of her lover, his white scales gleaming in the moon light's reflection on the water. Lovingly, he pressed his brow to hers as he always had. She rubbed his jaw and hugged his neck.

As when she had first found him in the human world, she felt herself being lowered back down. At the same time, his body began to transform with the usual explosion of scales and shower of petals. When he finally stood as a human, naked as she, he was holding her up and out of the water, cradling her bottom and back tightly to him, her legs wrapped around his waist and her arms gripping his shoulders.

"It's too cold for you to be doing this," he scolded.

She smiled at his disapproval. "Then warm me," she suggested, grabbing a fist-full of his hair and pulling him toward her lips.

Smiling at her wit and their current position, with a growl he closed the distance between their mouths and devoured her with a kiss. Easilly wading through the water, he sat her on a rock whose edges had been smoothed by his current. Chihiro loved the feel of his skin, of his hair, of his lips. All of him was cool and soft, except the inside of his mouth. His breath was warmed by the dragon fire that stirred in the pit of his belly. She could feel his strength and power radiating off of him; it had nearly overwhelmed her the first time they were together like this. Coupling with a dragon, though, had made her physically stronger and she was now able to match him in their carnal play. Pulling away from the kiss, she bit down on his lip hard, causing him to growl and purr like a lion. He continued a trail of kisses down her cheek and neck, allowing her to bite his ears and tug roughly at his hair. The puring vibrated loudly through his chest as he pressed against her, making her shiver with satisfaction and excitement. Gently, as not to hurt her human flesh, he grazed his teeth across her shoulder, softly biting her arm. She gasped from the pleasure of his touches and kisses. A low moan came out of her as Kohaku took one of her hardened nipples into the warmth of his mouth. Her moan earned a sharp growl from him.

Growing impatient, Chihiro moved her hands down his body and took hold of his hardened member. She began stroking him in slow, smooth, even strokes. His breath hitched and he pulled his lips away from her body, locking eyes with her. With each of her strokes she could hear him let out a quiet pant. Soon, his hips were rocking forward in sync with her strokes, his panting getting heavier. Leaning in, he caught her lips in a kiss. After a few more strokes she grabbed his hips and pulled him to her opening. Without hesitation, he thrust himself forward, burying himself inside of her. As a dragon, Kohaku was larger than most men, but Chihiro had grown used to his size and welcomed the way he stretched her taught, filling her so deeply.

As he thrust into her, his kiss grew in intensity, challenging her to push back, and she did, fighting for control of the kiss and meeting him thrust for thrust. Their moans and cries were muffled against their mouths, but that didn't stop Chihiro from feeling the rumbling of his purring straight down inside her core as he thrust. As the sensations grew greater and greater, she fell away from their kiss, her body arching as high pitched cry was pulled from her. Kohaku used this as an opportunity to link his arms under her legs, changing the angle and spreading her legs farther apart. Though she was able to prop herself up on her hands as to no scrape her back against the rock, she lacked the strength to hold her head up. Her head hung limp, falling back, and as she gazed at the stars it felt, for a moment, as if they were gazing back, witness to her and Kohaku's incredible love-making. Some of them probably were, but for a second it felt as though the whole universe was watching. She could feel herself nearing the end and within moments they came together.

In a daze, she registered that he had flown them from the river to the shore. They laid together on the blanket where she had folded her clothes. Besides loving the feeling of being nestled against his body, Chihiro loved to bask in the glow that emanated from Kohaku. She was surprised to learn after their first time together that for dragons, the term "after glow" was quite literal. His glow carried a warmth that felt almost liquid. Especially in the crisp autumn air, the warmth felt wonderful. Today, though, her thoughts were racing with what had occupied her mind all day.

"You're thinking something," he said. It wasn't a question.

"What makes you say that?" she asked, avoiding his eyes.

"I'm a spirit, love," he quipped, nuzzling her ear with his nose. "I can sense these things."

"I was just wondering..." she began, unsure of how to continue.

"Chihiro," he whispered, turning her face meet his gaze, leaning his body over hers, "What troubles you?"

"I was wondering..."

"Yes?" he asked, his eyes clouded with concern.

"Can dragons have children?"

A smile began to form on his face as his eyes softened. "Yes, they can."

Chihiro paused before continuing with her next question. "Can they have children with humans?"

He grinned, settling himself more completely on top of her body. "I think there's something specific you're trying to ask me."

"Why is it, in all these years, I've not become pregnant?"

"Would you like to be?"

"I think so. Yes. Kohaku, I love you and want to carry our child."

Tenderly, he placed a brief kiss on her lips, cupping her face in his hand. "Dragons are born from eggs," he began to explain, "but human women can carry them in their wombs."

He moved her into a seated position. Running his fingers down her arm, he took her hand in his own. After placing a kiss on the back of her hand, he blew gently on the ring he had given her ten years ago. To her surprise, the golden petals that held the pearl in place opened. With magic, Kohaku floated the pearl to his palm.

"This is my egg," he told her.

Chihiro was shocked. "It's been with me all this time?"

"Yes. I just needed to know you were ready to mother our child."

For a moment she seemed puzzled. "How is this your egg if your male."

"Dragons do not lay their eggs in the traditional sense," he explained. "We will them into existence from a piece of our hearts."

"This egg was made from your heart?"

"Touch it," he insisted. "You'll feel a small heart beat. It's mine. It will turn into the child's heart."

Carefully, she touched it with the tip of her finger. Sure enough, she could feel a small thump. Indeed, when she placed her other hand to Kohaku's chest, she could tell the beats matched perfectly, as opposed to hers which was racing.

"It's so small," she whispered. "I imagined dragons' eggs as bigger."

"They do get bigger, if they remain as eggs and are nurtured in a nest or a shrine as I was. But in a human woman, the shell isn't needed. It will dissolve away and grow as a normal child in your womb."

"Would it be a dragon?"

"No. Dragons can only be born from eggs that keep their shells. But it would be stronger than most people and have other... talents."

"Could it fly?" she asked eagerly.

"No!" he laughed. "To be honest, I'm really not sure. Something like this hasn't been done in a long time."

"How long?"


She blanched, making him laugh harder.

"The ancients made it possible, hoping their mortal descendants could breed with dragons, but it never happened, until now, that is, if you want it to..."

"I do," she said, cradling his hand as it held the egg.

"Right now?"

"If it's possible, yes."

Kohaku kissed her again, harder than before, signs of pure joy on his face when they parted. "Lay down and relax."

Chihiro did as she was told and watched as he stretched out his glowing body beside her. He held the pearl between his thumb and forefinger. His wrist rested on her hip so that the pearl sat millimeters above her pelvis, then paused

"I want you to be completely certain of this, Chihiro," he said, smoothing her hair out of her face. "You can have no doubts about this."

This time it was she who kissed him reassuringly. "I am certain. Aren't you? Don't you want me to have our child?"

"More than anything in the world," he responded, though there was a sadness in his voice. "But I won't be able to be a traditional father; I'll be here at the river, as always, but the rearing of our child will be left mostly to you. It is an unfair burden, even if our child were to completely human. I imagine that raising our child will be exceptionally difficult. In the past, dragons have been raised by monasteries and palace courts, but never by a single person and never among the general population of humans. I don't want you to regret this decision."

She smiled at his concern, and ran her fingers soothingly over his face, stopping at his lips at which he kissed her finger tips. "I want this. You know I'm strong enough to face anything."

He smirked. "You wouldn't have said that when we first met."

"We wouldn't be lying naked together when we first met, either. But things change."

"Yes. This will change things considerably."

"We're ready."

"Yes, we are."

With that, he cradled the back of her head and focused all of his attention to the few inches below her belly button.

"I don't know what this will feel like, so stay calm as I do it."

"I trust you."

"You always have."

Kohaku placed the pearl to her skin and both the pearl and the spot on her skin began to glow. Chihiro could feel a heat growing inside her, not a burning but a definite churning warmth. The glowing burst into a shining, white light that spun around the pearl. Kohaku let go of the pearl but it stayed stuck to the spot where he'd placed it. Holding his palm above the pearl, she watched as his magic pushed the tiny egg into her. She gasped as she watched it slowly pass through her skin. Here eyes grew wide in amazement but she was not afraid. She felt as if a small string were pulling it down to her core. Once it was beneath her skin, his hand lowered to cover the spot where it had disappeared. After a moment, the heat inside her began to grow. She now began to feel hot, as if there actually was a fire inside of her. Just when she thought the fire would burst from her insides, he pushed down, sending a wave of force through her and extinguishing the white light, making her cry out both in pain and shock. It was done. She closed her eyes and rested for a moment.

"Chihiro! Are you alright?" her lover frantically questioned.

"Hmm? Kohaku? What are you saying?" she replied, deleriously.

"Love, how do you feel?" he asked as he wiped the sweat from her brow.

"Mmm... Amazing." She opened her eyes and stared up at him. His eyes were glwoing brightly, as brightly as when she'd confessed her love to him. Behind his head she could see the stars shining brighter as well, with the stars of the Milky Way, cutting across the universe like a river, shining brightest of all.