A/N: Hehehehehe… Just don't throw anything too hard or really foul and rotten at me, okay? I know, it's been, what, half of forever? Alas, life gets in the way, and suddenly you look up to realize what you've not been doing.
But, if you like, I believe I can honestly say that if it weren't for Shamork and his "distractions", I'd have had this out a lot sooner. Lol. I'd say this was a belated birthday gift, but, that's not entirely true. (Though I'm sure you'll say it is anyway, haha.) Regardless, this one's for you.
Okay, I have a couple of things to say. First, my sincerest apologies to all of the users and anyone who frequented OnCloudTen. I had to close it down because I simply couldn't keep the site going by myself. And, since I've not been working while I'm back in school (long story), I can't afford the payments on it, and, yeah… it was best to just let things go for now. Maybe someday I'll be able to reopen and hopefully have an extra tech-savvy hand to help me with the finer details.
Second, Kazuki may or may not actually be five years old. Soul Society aging is all haywire as it is, anyway, so I have no clue how old to actually make him. By 'human' standards (not SS standards) he is the same as a five-year-old.
And lastly, this is the last of this fic. It's been a wonderful ride, and I think I finally have an epilogue worthy of such a story. I hope you all have enjoyed it, and thank each and every one of you for your support, your feedback, and just being all-around amazing readers. I hope we have a future of reader/writer relationships for years to come.
Please, enjoy, and thank you.
Kazuki's eyes lit up, growing big and round as he listened to the earpiece of the stethoscope Unohana held placed against Rangiku's abdomen. "Wow, Mommy! Is that baby Ai inside your belly?" he asked excitedly. Rangiku laughed lightly, amused at his wonder.
"It is," she replied, "and that's her heartbeat you're hearing. Do you remember the pictures Hanatarou-san showed you on the screen last week?" Kazuki nodded his head vigorously. "That's what baby Ai looks like right now." Before she could continue, another contraction seized her and forced her features to draw tight. She relaxed as much as possible, smiling softly at Kazuki to quell his apparent worry for her state of health.
"Mommy, why does having a new baby make you hurt so much?" Kazuki asked.
Rangiku, not feeling up to the task at the moment, with the contractions so close together already, replied, "Can Mommy answer that question later, when she feels better? Or, better yet, you could go and ask Hanatarou-san. I bet he'd be happy to answer." Only moments later Kazuki was out the door, quietly running down the halls of the infirmary looking for Hanatarou. Toshiro walked back into the room, knocking lightly to announce himself as he opened the door, grinning about Kazuki's retreating form.
"He was excited about whatever he was doing," he smiled, approaching Rangiku with a glass of water. Unohana finished taking her readings and excused herself from the room. "Is it too terrible to bear yet?" he asked, indicating Rangiku's stomach as she fought against another contraction.
"Everything still looks good, so, it can hurt all it wants," Rangiku smiled weakly, a few tears escaping her eyes. Toshiro fought back his own tears at the memory of the last time they sat in a delivery room, focusing on the positive, that Kazuki was a bright eyed five-year-old with more questions than anyone could answer. This time was going to be different. No matter how things might turn around for the better again, everything would work the way it was supposed to if it killed him.
Toshiro and Rangiku sat together on the bed, Toshiro losing the feeling in his fingers every time Rangiku squeezed them. Before long, Hanatarou walked back into the room, saying that Kazuki was in the capable hands of Kyouraku and Nanao, and immediately set to work breaking down the bed.
"Ready or not, Rangiku, we're about to have a baby," he grinned.
Rangiku practiced her breathing through the contractions, the pain medication Unohana had supplied her dulling the pain only marginally. Toshiro readied himself for whatever might be happening next as Unohana and a small team of healers came to assist Hanatarou.
Rangiku was tired. And that was an understatement. She was simply exhausted to the point where one becomes too tired to sleep. It was a good feeling though, to be holding her new child in her arms, her love sleeping on a cot beside them. Kazuki was still with his favourite aunt and uncle, hopefully sleeping hard. Baby Ai stirred in Rangiku's arms, beginning to cry out. Rangiku carefully checked her diaper, only to decide it must be feeding time again.
Toshiro roused, blinking his eyes against the amplified, harsh light from the lamp Rangiku switched on. "Time to get up again already?" he asked, a tinge of a whine to his sleepy voice.
"I can't help that Ai needs to eat so often. Such a tiny body has to grow so much, she has to eat often. Speaking of eating, I could use something small myself. I think it was yesterday last I ate anything…" Rangiku replied. She positioned the baby, watching as the infant latched on to a nipple, wincing a bit at the initial sensation. Toshiro rummaged about for a snack, finding some dried fruit, and the three settled in for the remainder of the night.
Toshiro looked fondly on his wife and his younger child, still amazed at the miracles he'd witnessed.
Time goes on, and the days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to a year. A small group sat gathered in the living room of Toshiro and Rangiku's home, talking happily as Kazuki protectively tended to Ai, always keeping watch over her. Yachiru happily played with the children, dragging Byakuya along to help tend to the Hitsugaya children, as well as the children of the other guests. Kazuki was almost more proud and excited for Ai's first birthday than either Rangiku or Toshiro.
After the party diffused, Rangiku and Toshiro picked up the debris and took down the decorations. Toshiro set Kazuki to a bath while Rangiku dressed and fed Ai. She was just tucking Ai into the crib in their room when she heard Kazuki proudly telling Toshiro about the cake he and Yachiru baked for the party. Toshiro tucked Kazuki into bed, and Rangiku looked back on the past few years.
The joy and pain she and Toshiro had suffered no one should ever have to endure. She wouldn't wish such a fate on her worst enemy. But, through it all, they stood beside one another, and the day she took the pregnancy test to find she was, as she suspected, pregnant with baby Ai, Toshiro cried tears of fear and anxiety right along with her. A few weeks later they choked back their fears as Kazuki danced about the living room, singing about what would become his new baby sister.
As the day of delivery drew ever closer, Rangiku and Toshiro fought harder than ever to continue believing that nothing would go wrong this time. And with the light always in Kazuki's eyes, they realized that they would make it.
If you've already endured it, surely you know what to expect should it happen again.
Rangiku smiled into the soft kiss Toshiro placed on her lips, both whispering, "I love you," before they closed their eyes.