...10 years later…
"I'll keep my cell on over the weekend in case you need anything."
"Stop worrying so much. I can handle a few meetings for you. Enjoy the time off and I'll see you Monday."
"Thanks, Sakura. I owe you one."
Saying their goodbyes, Kagome hung up on the phone and returned to sipping gingerly on her cream-colored coffee. She made a note on a pad of paper near the refrigerator to remind herself to follow up with Sakura that afternoon to see how that morning's sessions went. Taking personal experience into account, Kagome had an idea of how difficult and scary it must be to get pregnant while still in high school. After working with her for a few years, Kagome trusted her coworker to do her clients justice. That didn't mean she wouldn't feel personally responsible for the young women she looked after.
Once she'd finished pouring a second cup of black coffee, Kagome proceeded down the hallway to the bedroom. Pushing open the door, the first thing she set her sights on was the half-naked man lying underneath a mess of bed sheets.
"Inuyasha," she called out, stepping over the discarded clothing that littered the floor to his side of the bed.
A grumbled 'hn' reached her ears, signaling he was not yet fully awake.
Kagome smiled and crouched down beside him, holding out the second cup she'd poured. "I made some coffee," she announced in a sing-song voice, letting the aroma of fresh brew wash over him. "Come on. Today's the day!"
"What time is it?" Inuyasha grumbled out before pushing his head further into the pillow.
An amber eye peeked open with barely-concealed annoyance. "Why so early? It's not even scheduled until later."
"Because we need to be there for support and distraction," she explained with a lop-sided smile. "We need today to be as stress-free as possible."
Inuyasha groaned and rolled over onto his back before pushing himself to sit up on the bed. Once he was settled, Inuyasha accepted the steaming cup of coffee from her. He took a sip and rested his head back. "I can probably still go into work for a bit," he mused off-handedly.
"Absolutely not," she chastised, bending over to pick up his lounge pants and tossing them on the bed. "You call Ashton at the garage and tell him to forget it. You're not going in today. Or tomorrow."
Inuyasha scrunched up his nose. "Hey, I don't have the kind of flexibility with my job like you do," he pointed out. "I'm lucky they already gave me today off."
She rolled her eyes, but didn't argue. "Just hurry up and take a shower. You still have grease on your face from yesterday."
He rubbed his cheek with the back of his hand and looked at it for proof. "Yeah, yeah. I'm goin'," he muttered as he stood up and slid his pants on.
"And you'll be washing the sheets later," Kagome added with a grin. "Grease is a pain to get out."
Inuyasha scoffed. "Whatever you say."
As he padded his way to the bathroom, Kagome dressed herself in something comfortable - sweatpants and a tee - and pulled her hair up in a hair band to get it out of her face. A few minutes later, she had finished her cup of coffee and Inuyasha had returned from his shower, dripping wet and wrapped in a towel.
Kagome licked her lips as she shamelessly admired him. "Sometimes you make leaving this house very difficult," she murmured, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him once he was close enough.
Inuyasha grinned against her lips. "We have a few minutes."
She smiled, but stepped back, placing a hand on his chest. "Ah ah ah! Today is not about us," Kagome chastised.
He groaned. "C'mon, Kagome."
"Nope." She wandered into the bathroom to finish getting ready. "Oh, by the way, do you think you'll be able to get the truck running again?"
Inuyasha followed after her, his reflection shrugging in the mirror beside her. "I still need to fix the radiator and order some new wheel bearings. It should be good as new in a couple of weeks."
Kagome nodded approvingly. "Good. Then Souta can stop taking the bus to work."
Inuyasha pulled a t-shirt over his head and ran a hand through his short-cropped silver hair in an attempt to make it look somewhat presentable. "Why do we have to go anyways?"
Kagome's eyes brightened as she finished powdering her nose. "Because Miroku asked us to."
"Ugh," she huffed with a roll of her eyes, shutting off the bathroom light as she left and motioning for her husband to hurry. "You're so hopeless sometimes."
"You're the one who married me," he pointed out as he followed her from their shared bed and bathroom and toward the kitchen.
Kagome wrinkled her nose. "You've gotta take the good with the bad I suppose." Inuyasha made a noise of protest as she laughed. "Come on, let's go. I don't want to be late. We have to make a good first impression."
"Good first impression for who?"
Miroku watched as Sango's eyes drifted from the television to the clock and back again. She had been drifting between the two for several minutes now, simultaneously wringing the bedsheet in her lap and bouncing her foot anxiously. Finally, he reached over and settled his hand over hers, causing her body to still and dark eyes to turn toward him.
"Sango," he said with an amused smile. "Relax. You're fidgeting."
"I can't help it," she huffed, folding her free hand over her chest. I'm terrified.
"It'll be fine. I'm right here." I'm not going to leave you.
Sango's eyes shined with appreciation at his show of reassurance. Unfortunately, not even Miroku could take away the fear building in her chest. Recollections of past grieving continued to flicker through her mind's eye like a bad rendition of a flash film. She felt nauseous and her stomach twisted in knots as she counted down the minutes until…
Miroku sighed deeply, knowing his words did little to soothe her. He offered an endearing smile nonetheless. "What kind of husband would I be if I left you to fend for yourself?"
Sango snorted. "Just wait a few days. When I'm sleep deprived and irritable, you'll be wishing you'd escaped when you had the chance."
A deep ache formed in her chest, a hollow feeling that never quite filled, a heaviness that she couldn't quite shake. Years had passed and yet some scars would forever remain a cruel reminder of tragic outcomes.
But… Sango thought to herself, fingers grazing over her stomach to where she could feel a nearly imperceptible scar. Sometimes scars are proof of battles won. Of victories and strength.
A knock came to her door, the sudden sound effectively snapping her out of her thoughts while also cutting off whatever ill-witted comment Miroku was about to say. Before either Miroku or Sango could say "Come in!" the door opened. Kagome peeked her head in with a bright smile adorning her features followed by a wave in greeting before entering the room. Trailing close behind was a groggy-looking Inuyasha. His face alone conveyed the utter exhaustion he was feeling, however, some other physical attributes helped expressed his wakefulness (or rather, lack thereof). His white hair, though clean looking, appeared unkempt in certain spots. It was as if he'd brushed through his hair once and stopped there. His shirt, while nice, wasn't tucked in all the way. Miroku had to keep from snickering outwardly. His friend had never been known to be an early riser. "Good morning!" Kagome greeted cheerfully.
Sango nearly burst into tears at the sight of them. "What are you doing here?" she asked, questioning eyes flitting between her husband and their best friends.
Kagome moved to stand next to her bedside. Leaning down carefully, Sango watched as Kagome wrapped a gentle hand around her own before giving it an affectionate squeeze for good measure. "Did you really think we were going to let you go through this without us?" Kagome asked, her smile from just moments earlier never faltering.
Memories flashed through Sango's mind: memories of nights in a hospital room, weeks of sleepovers in a room that wasn't hers, months of encouragement and mending, and years of unadulterated friendship. Of long phone calls and early morning coffee dates. Of graduations and weddings. So much had happened since that summer; so much joy that it made her heart ache. How blessed was she to have made it this far? To have these adoring people in her life?
Her eyes shimmered with tears as Kagome leaned in for a hug. "How are you doing?"
Sango shrugged once her friend pulled away and pushed back the remaining tears as best she could. "Still waiting on the doctor. The nurse said it'll probably still be a while. I'm just anxious to get this over with."
A late night phone call. Hurried words of panic. Paralyzing fear.
Kagome gazed over at her best friend, knowing that saying she was anxious was an understatement. "I know," Kagome expressed with a smile. "But just think, in a few short hours your entire world is going to change." She clasped her hands together and sighed dreamily.
Sango chuckled, making a mental note that this time next year, she was sure their roles would be reversed.
"Where is everyone?" Inuyasha asked as he surveyed the otherwise empty room.
Amber eyes. An outstretched hand. Words of condolence that held no pity.
"Downstairs getting some coffee," Sango answered. "To be honest, I'm grateful for the break. Mom's nerves are worse than mine."
"Why don't we head down ourselves, Miroku?" Inuyasha offered. "Today just started and you already look like hell."
Mirokue chuckled. "That obvious?"
Kagome studied them. "Did either of you sleep last night?"
Sango shrugged sheepishly. "Not really. Too nervous."
"And excited," Miroku added.
"You guys go," Kagome ordered, making a shooing motion toward the males with her hands. "No need to wear Miroku down before the baby even gets here."
Miroku laughed in response as a hand found purchase behind his neck. "A break would be nice."
Kagome soon pushed the two men out of the room before closing the door and returning to Sango's side. Inuyasha and Miroku readily took the cue to leave and started down the hall toward the elevators. As they went, Inuyasha slid his hands into the pockets of his lounge pants. "How are you feeling?"
"Honestly?" Miroku said with a strained smile. "I'm terrified."
"Don't tell Sango that," Inuyasha warned with a chuckle.
Miroku shrugged. "I'm sure she already knows. I can see it in her eyes."
"Well, she's stronger than she gives herself credit for. You guys will be fine."
"I'm not so sure. I mean… Me? Caring for a little person? It's kind of a big deal. What if I mess up?"
"You won't," Inuyasha promised, amber eyes steadfast with resolution. "I mean, it's guaranteed that you'll make mistakes, but so what? That won't make you or Sango any less amazing as parents. You'll just learn as you go." It'll be different than us, the unspoken sentiment passed between friends.
"I haven't even finished adding all the safety measures in the house," Miroku groaned while running a hand down his face.
"Don't you worry," Inuyasha said with a gleam in his eyes. "I'll swing by your place tonight. I won't rest until I baby proof your entire house. Just you watch."
Miroku smiled, his shoulders sagging with relief. "Thanks, we appreciate it."
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open to an empty car. They stepped inside and pressed the button for the lower level. As the car began its descent with a low hum, Inuyasha softly said, "It's a big day."
He sighed. "Yeah."
"You think she's ready?"
Miroku paused in responding, reflecting back on the last time they had been at this point. Last time, this moment had been overflowing with devastation and heartbreak. That was something Miroku wasn't sure Sango would ever heal from. At least, not completely. But yet here she was with him, not only ready but willing to try again. She had never seemed shattered. To him, she was a breathtaking mosaic of all the battles she had won. "Yeah… I think she's ready."
Inuyasha grinned as the elevator doors opened upon reaching their destination. "Good," he agreed. "Because there isn't any time left not to be."
Sango couldn't think straight. She continued to rub a hand over her swollen belly in a rhythmic pattern, eyes staring at the clock that hung just right of the door. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Each small movement of the second hand made her heart beat a little faster and her throat run dry.
She sadly smiled at the irony, of the clear cliche that encompassed her life. It was hopeless. Sango lifted her eyes to the sky, squinting as the rain fell gently against her skin.
She peered out the window, brown eyes looking to the blue skies of early spring. The sight alone was nearly blinding as the sun settled high in the cloud-less sky. Wind tousled the trees and their boughs, causing the first buds of flowers to shake awake. Sango always loved this time of the year. It meant that winter's icy grasp was finally fading and making room for growth and new beginnings.
Her words were cut off as a resounding slap echoed through the room. Her mother had never raised a hand to her. Never.
Sango blinked away the memories, noticing that tears had clouded her vision. Turning, she found her mother's worried gaze.
"You all right?"
Naomi's hair was cropped short, brushing against her jaw line, her eyes bright with a questioning look. Her cheeks were rosy from the warmth of the room, and gone were the hardened lines of grief that had been carved so imperviously into her a decade ago. Worry lines were now replaced with wrinkles of laughter.
"I was just thinking," Sango murmured, pushing herself up into a more comfortable position.
She shrugged. "You know, over the years, I had asked Miroku many times why he had stayed. He always told me the same thing: 'Because I love you, I wanted to, and I knew you were in there.' No matter how damaged or distant I had been, he had loved me enough to still see me somewhere inside."
Naomi smiled, her kind eyes looking at her daughter fondly. "He's definitely one of the good ones."
Sango tilted her head and hummed with agreement. Miroku had swept into her life unexpectedly and somehow changed her for the better. He broke down her walls without her even noticing. And as he helped rebuild new walls over the years, he'd made sure to add windows to let the sunshine in.
But Miroku wasn't the only reason she sat there in that hospital bed - this time to experience a moment of joy rather than tragedy. Sango studied the woman next to her, who now resembled the mother she had grown up with - a woman of love and laughter and friendship - so different from years ago. She couldn't count how many times they'd had long endearing conversations on the phone or lengthy visits filled with delight and talks of their day. Despite everything they had been through, they were still here. Naomi was still here. And Sango knew now that nothing would ever change that.
Emotion closed Sango's throat, but Naomi seemed to understand the sentiment her daughter was trying so desperately to express. Reaching out, Naomi wrapped a hand around her daughter's and gave it a squeeze. "I'm glad I'm here, too," Naomi murmured with a smile, her eyes glistening. She reached up and brushed a stray piece of hair behind Sango's ear. Sango leaned into the touch, relishing her mother's presence.
"I love you, mom."
"I love you, too."
Just then, the door to the room opened. The rest of Sango's friends and family stepped in, returning from another coffee run. There was Inuyasha and Kagome, who were bickering about something silly in good-natured tones, Kohaku and Souta, who were debating about the latest video game that had just hit the shelves (man-children, they were), and her husband fussing over Kagome's mother who rushed in with a newborn baby blanket she had knit personally.
As they all chatted cheerfully, hovering over Sango and attempting to soothe her anxiety, someone at the door cleared their throat. "It's good to see you all again." Kaede's hair was practically gray now and worn lines creased her face. However, her smile remained genuine and still beamed at them just the same. The old woman's gaze fixated on Sango. "Hello, dear," Kaede greeted as the two nurses accompanying her began preparing for her transfer. "How are you feeling?"
Sango exhaled deeply, but managed a small smile. "Nervous."
The doctor chuckled, folding her hands behind her back. "Well, that's to be expected." Kaede stepped over to Sango's bedside and took her hand. "I know you've been through a lot, but you're in good hands."
"I know." Eyes shined as she looked up at the woman who saved her life so many years ago.
Kaede nodded and glanced up at the monitor before looking at Sango once more. "Are you ready?"
Memories of a night so long ago, of anger and heartache and downright hatred came to mind. But Sango pushed those feelings and memories aside. She believed everything happened for a reason, that some higher power meant for her to arrive at this point in time: A point with her family and friends surrounding her as she took this next step in her life.
Sango took a deep breath, held Miroku's hand, and nodded. "I'm ready."
Claustrophobia was never something Sango thought she would experience, but as she laid down with a curtain stretched between her head and the rest of the room, she felt the beginnings of panic start to well in her chest. She tried to even her breathing, going over in her head the steps in which Kaede had described. The anesthesiologist gave her the epidural, and once she was numb, Sango knew Kaede would make an incision over her old scar.
A hand tightened around hers, and suddenly Sango was looking up into Miroku's gaze. He looked a little silly with a surgical cap on his head and a mask wrapped around his face, but even so, she could tell he was smiling.
"It's going to be okay," he whispered in her ear as the surgical team chatted amongst themselves. "You're so beautiful and you're already an amazing mom."
Sango nodded, swallowing thickly. "I love you."
"I love you, too. More than words can say."
"All right," Kaede announced as music softly began to play over the speakers. "Here we go."
Just as the doctor has described Sango felt some pressure, causing her to close her eyes and breathe deep. Minutes passed as Kaede spoke softly to her scrub nurse while anxiety continued to build in Sango's chest. That moment seemed to last forever. But then, finally, a newborn cry filled the room. Sango's eyes snapped open, but when she looked for her husband, Miroku had already disappeared to the other side of the curtain. She heard an exclamation of delight, which was then followed by the sound of her husband sniffling.
Miroku's glossy violet eyes found hers again. In a voice almost broken, he announced, "We have a beautiful, healthy baby girl."
A sob fell from Sango's throat, her eyes simultaneously burning with tears. Miroku then disappeared to cut the cord. A moment later, she looked at the crying baby that was being brought to lie on her chest. As soon as her daughter nestled against her bare skin, the baby's crying softened until it ceased all together. Sango could feel the softest of heartbeats, one that had become so familiar over the last nine months.
In that moment, Sango began to cry the sweetest tears she had ever known, all the anxiety and fear from moments before melting away. Miroku whispered tender words, placing a hand on their daughter's head as they both gazed down upon her. She was only minutes old and their tiny girl began to root, mouth wide, her instincts strong.
Days later, exhaustion wasn't even a definable term. Sango's feet ached and her eyes felt heavy from multiple sleepless nights. Kaede had told her to take it easy for a few days after being discharged from the hospital, but with a newborn baby who was far from sleeping through the night, "taking it easy" proved to be rather difficult. Even with the constant visit from her friends and family, who offered to watch the baby so that she could take a nap upstairs or have just a few moments away to enjoy a dinner date with her husband, Sango had immense separation anxiety. When she did manage to take said naps, the time she was gifted to sleep didn't last long.
Brown eyes peered down at her little human asleep in her crib. It was amazing to think after everything she had been through that such a small, fragile being could be brought into this world. Even now, with the lasting fatigue that served as a heavy reminder of the last few days, it was still hard to believe she was a mom to a beautiful baby girl.
My beautiful Ena…
"Hey," Miroku whispered as he stepped into their bedroom. He wrapped his arms around Sango from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder, effectively joining his wife in looking over their little one's crib.
Sango smiled and leaned her head against his as they quietly gazed at their miracle baby. Tufts of dark hair and long lashes spoke of her mother, but secretly, Sango hoped that her little girl would inherit her father's eyes. She sighed and turned around, gazing up at her husband. Sango had finally figured out why Miroku's eyes had taken her breath away so long ago in that alleyway, when she was damaged and broken to nearly beyond repair. Whenever she looked into his violet eyes, she saw home waiting for her.
Miroku kissed her gently, a silent pledge of his love for her, before making his way to their bed with Sango in tow. The couple slipped between the sheets, causing soft sighs of relief to pass their lips as their heads lowered and touched their pillows. Sango curled up on her side of the bed and waited as always for Miroku's hands to quietly search for hers. As she felt his arm wrap around her and his fingers gently place themselves in her palm, Sango's heart sighed. That sensation would never get old, that need for his embrace. Sango also realized the feeling was mutual.
Just as the sweet serenity of dreamland was about to capture them, there was a soft gurgle and then little Ena began to cry. Miroku shifted in the bed beside her, leaned down to kiss her temple, and muttered to her, "I've got her." And Sango knew his words meant more than just the baby. It meant that he had them. And he was never going to let them go.
She turned and watched as Miroku picked up their daughter, rocked her gently in his arms, and softly started singing, "Once there was a way to get back homeward, once there was a way to get back home…"
A/N: After over a decade, this story has finally reached its completion. It amazes me that not only was I able to finish it, but it has traveled across such a huge portion of my life. I started this fic as a novice writer, a sheltered high school kid, and a girl looking for an outlet from reality. It has survived my high school years, a divorce, a break up, dropping out of college and starting again, a four-year hiatus, friendships that have ended and friendships that began, a new job, a new house, and traveling the world. It feels amazing to know I was able to bring this story to its destined ending after such a long time.
Special thanks to iliveondaydreams on tumblr for beta-ing; helping me to achieve my dream of reviving this fic, rewriting its entirety, and helping it reach its conclusion. My gratitude is far greater than words can express. And a lovely shout-out to hinezumi on tumblr for being so kind as to give it the little extra push it needed to reach its end. You are such a rockstar.
And of course, as always, an endearing thank you to all my readers & followers who have stuck with this story for more than a decade, picked it up along the way, or just fell in love with it a short time ago. All the reviews, favorites, and alerts have helped inspired me to keep this story alive and to finish it in its entirety. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
As this adventure ends, I do hope to see you all in my other stories & future works. Till next time!