July 11, 1990

Shion lay in the hospital bed, holding her and Satoshi's newborn daughter in her arms. She smiled at the sleeping infant, so tiny and beautiful. She had a head full of blonde hair and a bright red face. She resembled her father already.

"Isn't she beautiful, Satoshi-kun?" she whispered.

Satoshi had been a bit afraid of Shion only a few hours ago. An eighteen-hour labour did not leave her in a very pleasant mood, especially when the time came for the actual birth itself. An hour had passed since their daughter's birth, so he supposed it might be safe to reply: "She sure is."

He stood just above the bed and smiled at the baby's face. "I'm glad we managed to make everything work out."

Shion lightly kissed the baby on the forehead. Not long after her marriage to Satoshi, she had moved in to live with him, Rika, and Satoko. When she was about five months along, they finally found a place of their own to live—a small house that would still be big enough to support a family. Satoshi still worked at the toy store. Shion was beginning to seriously consider catering weddings after all. But she resolved to get started on this a couple months after the baby's birth.

For now, she would just settle down.

"Just a few more steps up," said Mion as she and Keiichi walked up the stairs to the second floor of the hospital, carrying an alert Tenchi around in his carrier.

"Do you think Shion will be up for our visit?" asked Keiichi. "I remember you were kind of beat after Tenchi was born."

"Yeah, but I still wanted Shion there to see him," said Mion. She noticed Tenchi was looking out one of the windows and cooed, "Yes, Tenchi, look out the window at the pretty sun."

Keiichi smiled. "I remember Shion and Satoshi looked pretty happy at their wedding together. I hope their marriage is still going strong."

"After all they've been through together," said Mion, continuing up the stairs, "I don't think anything's ever going to tear them apart."

"You're sure you want to give this bear to the baby?" asked Rena as she helped Satoko carry the bear into the hospital.

"Absolutely," said Satoko. "I want my niece to have it. It'll watch over her and protect her."

"Ah, it'll be her 'nii-nii'?" said Rena, ignoring the funny looks the two young women were getting from the people in the waiting room.

"Well, if you prefer to think of it that way, then yeah," said Satoko as they headed for the stairs. They adjusted the bear in a position so that Satoko could walk up the stairs holding one end while Rena walked up holding the opposite end just behind her.

"So how are the twins?" asked Satoko.

"They're doing just great," said Rena, smiling. "Hana's already walking and babbling. And Yuri said her first word a while ago, I forgot to tell you."

"Really?" said Satoko, beginning to head up the stairs. "What was it?"

"Oh wait, where's Rika?" asked Rena, suddenly stopping.

"Rika said she'd be here in a few minutes," said Satoko. "She's just finishing up on some homework. So what was Yuri's first word, anyway?"

Rena smiled proudly. "Her first word was 'lies'."

Rika stood just outside the door to Shion's room. The halls were relatively quiet, with little activity taking place. This gave her the perfect opportunity to speak to Hanyuu: "We did it, Hanyuu. We saved Shion from the same fate as Takano."

"Hau, do you really think so?" whispered Hanyuu.

Rika nodded. "She will always have her issues with her family, but she now has the strength to make peace with them. She has come to terms with, and accepted, her guilt over her actions in those other worlds. She has a bright future ahead of her—she is married to the love of her life, and has a child with him. Come, Hanyuu. Let us visit them and give them our blessing."

Shion looked up when she heard the door open. In came Keiichi, Mion, Rena, Rika, and Satoko. Mion was carrying Tenchi in his baby carrier.

"I'm glad to see you all came," said Satoshi. "This wasn't too much of an inconvenience for you?"

"Hey, we're coming to see our old friends and their baby," said Keiichi, taking a seat. "It's not an inconvenience at all!"

"Kiyoshi said he'd look after the twins," said Rena, walking over to the bed. "They're a year old now, can you believe it?" She gasped upon seeing the baby, "She's soooo cute!"

"Sorry Rena, you can't take her home," said Shion jokingly.

"Aww," sighed Rena as the others laughed.

Satoko gently stroked the cheeks of her sleeping niece. "She is beautiful isn't she? What are you naming her?"

Before Shion or Satoshi could reply, Akane and Saburou came rushing in. "Sorry I couldn't come earlier," apologized Saburou. "I had to help Kasai take care of some, ah...business...regarding his girlfriend. They should now be in..."

He stopped at the sight of the baby. Akane said, "So...this is the baby."

"Yes," nodded Shion. "I...I kind of want some time with her before letting others hold her, if that's okay."

"Absolutely," said Akane, blinking back tears. "I was the same way with you and Mion."

"She's quite beautiful," said Saburou softly, in contrast to the sharp, harsh tone he had used with Shion in her first trimester. It had taken a bit of time for him and Akane to warm up to Satoshi, given recent events, but they were softening up on him, bit by bit.

"Does she have a name just yet?" asked Akane.

"Yes," said Shion. She smiled at the slowly stirring infant. "Her name is Suki. Houjou Suki."

"She's your beloved, eh?" said Saburou.

"Yes," said Satoshi, gently stroking a few wisps of blonde hair. "It became our top choice instantly."

It was only then that Shion noticed Satoko placing the bear down on one of the spare chairs. Part of her still couldn't look at the bear without feeling a twinge of guilt...but the other part was beginning to look at the bear as a symbol of the strengthened bond between her and Satoko.

"I'd like to give this bear as a present to Suki," said Satoko, smoothing the flower out in the bear's arm. The flower was still a bit wrinkled, but attractive nonetheless.

"Are you sure, Satoko?" said Satoshi. "You can still keep it if you want."

"No, it's okay," insisted Satoko. "When Suki is old enough, maybe we could tell her the story behind the bear. It'll contain a lot more significance that way."

"I should imagine it would be quite the story," remarked Saburou.

"Ah, I can see it now," sighed Keiichi. "Boy meets girl, boy is out for a couple years, girl waits for boy, boy and girl are reunited and live happily ever after."

"I think it's a bit more complex than that, Keiichi-kun," laughed Mion.

Shion's eyes met Rika's. "Yes, Mion," she said. "It's a lot more complicated than that."

Rika smiled knowingly. "How long would Suki have to wait before hearing the entire story?"

"Oh, a couple years," sighed Shion. She looked over at Satoshi and said, "But with enough patience...with enough love and wanting...waiting is worth it."

She had waited seven years for love to come back to her.

She had waited another eleven months before finally marrying the love of her life.

She had waited for countless years before at last conquering her inner demons.

And in the end...the waiting had paid off.


Credit song: Dear You (vocal)

Quote: We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves—Dalai Lama

A/N: Ah, another sweet ending of a long journey...I always feel sad whenever I finish up a story I get attached to. Time always flies by in a flash. I remember working on the story idea almost immediately after finishing up the series, then building up on it as the weeks went by before publishing it...then discovering Umineko and getting side-tracked by a plot bunny that ensued, lol...

Oh, and in case anyone's wondering...yes, I did learn about the "permanent twin switch", and I considered bringing it into play a couple times, but I decided it really had no place in this story. It would just seem out-of-the-blue.

Special thanks goes to each of my reviewers, especially Shashuko the Paisley Maiden, and an especially touching review from Immortal x Snow and Lester Wilson. Everyone else, thank you for the support and you've been great.

One final note...earlier I said at the end of "Turn of the Endless Sorcerer" (shameless plug, lol) that I'd be taking a temporary hiatus from the site for a while after this fic was finished. Well...that was sort of kind of a big "USO DA". Plot bunnies have been on my mind recently, so I might or might not come back with another epic fanfic, so keep checking back or otherwise put me on "Author Alert"...especially if you're a fan of Umineko...(for now, expect various oneshots; anything serious might not come for another few weeks)

I'd still like to work on an original story idea of my own for Fiction Press, though, so that will be in store eventually.