Title: Ten Defining Moments
Author: Shawny Wong
Theme: #10 #10
Disclaimer: The characters of Naruto belong to Kishimoto Masashi. This story is written without permission, for fan purposes only. Do not reproduce without permission.
It took 10 tiny toes for Naruto to decide that...
The Konoha Hospital never slept. In the middle of the night, while the rest of the village slumbered peacefully, it continued to buzz with activity. Doctors and nurses went about their shifts, making rounds, checking on patients, and filling out paperwork. The hospital was filled with artificial light and sound. Low voices could be heard throughout the building as nurses consulted with doctors or patients complained of aches and pains that left them unable to sleep. Medical instruments beeped at regular intervals – while at the nurses' station, a nurse checked a patient's medical chart on the computer, making a tap-tap-tap sound on the the keyboard.
Naruto ignored it all. He was completely, singlemindedly focused on his destination. He made his way down the corridor and slowly pushed open the door of the hospital nursery. There. There, behind the large observation window, lay Konoha's newest and youngest citizens. There was his son.
Naruto placed one hand flat against the cold glass and stared.
A single row of ten tiny babies lay inside the nursery. Each baby was wrapped securely in soft flannel blankets and placed his (or her) crib – which consisted of a clear plastic bin lined with a soft cushion on the bottom and attached securely to a rolling cart. Each crib also had a name card attached to the front with the baby's surname and unique medical number printed on it. But Naruto didn't need a name card to identify his son. He could tell by the head of dark spiky hair, by the telltale lavender eyes, and most importantly by the bond he felt deep in his heart.
His breath caught in his throat and for a moment he couldn't breathe.
His son was beautiful.
Hinata's contractions had started two days ago, signaling the onset of labor. Not once during those two days did Naruto leave her side. It hadn't been so bad in the beginning... but towards the end, Hinata had been in so much pain – sweating, panting, and crying through each contraction – that it almost made him physically sick. All he could do was was hold her hand and whisper encouraging words to his wife.
Then came the unforgettable moment his son was born.
It was messy and bloody. It was terrifying. It was humbling.
It was miracle.
He caught a glimpse of a tiny bundle of wrinkled skin and flailing limbs and a head of dark hair in the doctor's hands as he passed the baby to his mother. Hinata held their son, while the doctor instructed Naruto to cut the umbilical cord. The next hour was a bit of a blur to Naruto – it went by much too quickly! The baby was measured, weighed, and footprinted. Hinata was instructed to deliver the afterbirth and then helped into a clean robe and moved to a clean bed. And Naruto... Naruto could not take his eyes off the baby in Hinata's arms – his baby! (He'd witnessed the birth, but still couldn't quite believe it!) And then, before he could protest, the baby was whisked away. It was a standard procedure, the doctor informed him kindly. The nurses would give the baby a sponge bath and run several tests to make sure that he was healthy. Then they would bring the baby back to his mother for his first feeding. In the meantime, they would take Hinata to a room in the maternity ward, so that she could rest and recover.
Hinata – exhausted from over 24 hours of active labor – fell asleep almost instantly.
"She's worn out, the poor dear," whispered a matronly nurse. "Let her rest a bit. We'll bring the baby to you in an hour."
An hour?! Naruto couldn't wait an hour!
Naruto unconsciously leaned forward until his nose was only millimeters from touching the glass. He sighed wistfully, fogging up the window with his warm breath.
"Excuse me, sir? May I help you?"
He yelped and leapt away from the observation window – almost tripping over his own feet in the process. He flushed in embarrassment at his lack of coordination. He was a jounin for goodness sake! From the corner of his eye, he could see the nurse (a plump older woman with spectacles and graying hair) trying to hide a smile – and he flushed even more.
"I just wanted to see my son," he said, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.
The motion drew the nurse's attention to the hospital bracelet around his wrist. Both he and Hinata had been assigned identification bracelets when they checked into the hospital – and a third matching bracelet had been prepared for their baby. She smiled and nodded in understanding. With over a dozen years of experience in the maternity ward of the hospital, she could spot a new father a mile away.
"Would you like to hold him?"
"Yes!" he blurted. "Can I?"
"Of course! You'll have to stay in the nursery, but as long as you're wearing the matching ID bracelet, then you can hold him as much as you like." She gestured to his bracelet. "May I?"
Naruto obediently held his wrist out. The nurse jotted down the name and medical number on her clipboard and smiled at him.
"Wait here, Uzumaki-san. I'll be right back."
He didn't have long to wait. The nurse returned with a small wrapped bundle in her arms.
Naruto eagerly reached out to take the baby and froze.
It was ironic. Truly, it was.
For the past few months, he'd wanted nothing more than to meet his son – to hold him. He'd dreamed of this moment. He'd craved this moment so badly that he would have killed for it. Literally. But when the nurse held the baby out to him, Naruto was suddenly struck by how tiny his son really was. He looked so small, so fragile, and so damned delicate that Naruto was afraid to touch him. What if he hurt the baby? He'd never held a baby before! What was he thinking anyways?
Right. Hinata can take care of the baby until he's older and tougher... I can wait a few months... or years even. Maybe I'll give him a hug when he's five or six... or ten.
His arms dropped to his sides and he took a step back.
"Ah... maybe this wasn't such a good idea," he mumbled. "I... I don't know what to do."
The nurse seemed to understand his unspoken fear.
"Don't worry, Uzumaki-san," she said reassuringly. "You won't hurt the baby. Just remember to support his head and you'll be just fine. Here. Why don't you have a seat first?"
The nurse led him to one of several squashy armchairs in the nursery and waited for him to sit.
"Now hold out your arms, like so... and here you go!" She expertly transferred the baby into his waiting arms.
It happened so fast that Naruto wasn't given the chance to panic. One second, the baby was in the professional and capable hands of the maternity ward nurse. The next second, the baby was deposited in his clumsy embrace – and he still didn't know what to do! (Naruto was very glad he was sitting down because sitting down minimized the chances of him accidentally dropping the baby.) The nurse untucked a corner of the swaddling blanket just enough to expose one miniature foot and the ID bracelet secured around the baby's ankle. She double checked the baby's ID ("Uzumaki Boy, 10/27 0010, MR# 1077913010"), nodded in satisfaction, and covered up the baby's foot once more.
"Congratulations, Uzumaki-san," she smiled. "You have a healthy baby boy."
Naruto looked down at the baby in his arms and was instantly captivated. The baby opened his eyes and blinked sleepily at him. Then the little guy yawned. A huge goofy grin crossed Naruto's face. He was holding his son! Out of curiosity, Naruto mimicked the nurse's earlier action and untucked the blanket just enough to expose the baby's feet... and his tiny toes.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
His son had ten toes.
Imagine that: ten perfect little toes!
Fascinated, Naruto counted them again.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!
He had the most amazing baby boy. He really did!
Naruto kissed his son gently on the cheek... and then proceeded to count his little toes one more time, before tucking the blanket back into place. He leaned back in the squashy armchair and shifted to make himself more comfortable. As he settled down to watch his son sleep, Naruto came to one unexpected conclusion.
… 10 was his favorite number in the whole wide world.
(1) 10 down, 20 kisses to go! (For the first 9 kisses, please see One Small Step and One Small Detour.)
(2) You know… I'm feeling kind of gypped. This only counts for one kiss theme?! I feel that after writing so many different kisses for this one story – and taking over a year to finish – it should really count for more!
(3) This chapter featured Naruto-and-baby, instead of NaruHina. I wanted to add Hinata – and I tried – but adding Hinata completely changed the mood I wanted to achieve. (shrug)
(4) To all the people who reviewed and/or added this story to alerts and favorites: Thank you very much!