A/N: Hi once again Everybody! This is it. You wanted a final outcome to the entire "Friends" series, so here it is. Just so you know, this is indeed IT, there will be no more stories staring Anko and Kakashi unless there's some sort of contest somewhere that I decide to become creative and put our fave couple together again for. This one-shot will wrap the four "informational one-shots" and the entire series. But don't worry, Anko and Kakashi will continue to appear in the Asuma/Kurenai spin-off I'm writing, and it will all feel very familiar to you. In the meantime, how about we read how strong Anko becomes when faced with extreme pain and uncertainty? Shall we? YES! As always mentioned, I don't own Naruto, but enjoy it immensely. And on that note, here we go. Enjoy!
It was just like any other day in Konoha. Shop keepers sold their wares, criminals lurked outside the guarded village walls, Jiraiya peeped through a hole in the fence at the women's bath house, and families said blessings and ate their suppers. But the odd thing that happened about half way through the day was word was sent from Konoha's Fifth Hokage that training sessions and class work at the ninja academy were to be suspended until the following day. All students were dismissed early - much to their joy - as word spread quickly to all instructors and fellow ninjas present in the village that Anko and Kakashi's baby was to be born that very day.
It was a true rarity when two shinobi had children. It was quite a rarity when two shinobi even allowed themselves to even fall in love with each other. They all knew it was impractical considering the line of work they were in. Any day could mean another mission, which could mean another death, and another name added to the memorial stone. Yet on occasion, two shinobi took a chance and ignored the odds of one of them not coming home some day, and attempted and make a relationship work anyway. Many times those relationships fell apart before they got a chance to really become something. Since ninjas were often sent off on long missions, being way for sometimes weeks or months on end, relationships fizzled when the individuals were kept apart by duty.
Two completely opposite shinobi, who at one time had only considered themselves "friends," actually managed to make it work. Through separation, near death experiences, and the once looming presence of Orochimaru, they fought through all the tests life threw at them, and somehow came through it together.
They married on a disastrous day that almost killed them both, in the partial ruins of the Village they were bound to protect. They said vows to each other while lying on blood covered ground. They promised that they would live every day of their lives together, whether physically together or apart. They swore to spend every day married to each other, until death separated them permanently.
Not only is shinobi marriage rare, but as mentioned before, children were even more so. Who wanted to bring a child into the world when on any given day, one or both parents would come home in a box, or not at all? Who wanted to take that kind of chance? Anko and Kakashi knew exactly what that experience was like, and hesitated to even dream of a family larger than just the two of them. In fact, Anko almost rallied against the possibility of having children with her husband, until she realized what a wonderful father he would make. He'd lost so much when his own father killed himself for the sake of honor, and she could see that family meant a great deal to him. She on the other hand, with giant blank spots in her memory courtesy of her former sensei, couldn't remember what her own family had been like. She was quite happy to be part of a small little family, just her husband and her, until she was almost struck dumb with the news that they'd be adding a new member to their home. It seemed that the moment she realized she would like to have children with her husband someday, that that someday happened.
It was just like any other day in Konoha. Everything was going along like clockwork except for in one labor and delivery room at the Konoha hospital. There, some time within the next 24 hours, all hell was going to break loose.
Inside the labor and delivery room four ninjas waited quietly. The only constant noise was a wet swishing sound that monitored Anko's baby's heart beat. The belt she wore around her slightly smaller abdomen, that Kakashi had sworn housed a small elephant, kept track of not only the baby's heart beat, but also the intensity of any contractions that she may be experiencing. Since Anko's water had broken, she had to stay in the hospital until the baby was born – for her safety and the baby's. No one would take any chances with either of their lives. Far too much was at stake.
Asuma and Kurenai had been invited to somewhat "partake" in the whole process of Anko and Kakashi's child's birth. Anko and Kakashi had decided to invite them to be close during the process because they were the closest thing to real family that they both had. Asuma and Kurenai sat in the labor and delivery room, the former looking slightly terrified, while the latter simply beamed with anticipation.
Kakashi himself sat close to his wife's head. Next to him a monitor hummed quietly, showing a double digit number on it that currently read "00." The number was to signify how strong any contractions Anko was experiencing actually were. A long strip of graph paper fed slowly out of the machine, so the contractions could be monitored for frequency and intensity – to show the progression of Anko's labor.
Everything was quiet, beside the wet swishing sound. Anko was resting, waiting to get the show on the road. But suddenly, she screwed up her face in confusion and slight fear as something other than a "Braxton-Hicks" contraction hit her.
The ever observant Kakashi said, "What! What is it?" Asuma and Kurenai snapped to attention at the anxious sound of his voice, and sat up in their seats. "What is it? Are you ok?" Kakashi continued.
Anko opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated. She looked at her friends, then her husband, then at the monitor where she saw numbers in the 20's falling back down toward zero. "I think I just had a real contraction. It wasn't like the other ones. And the numbers on the monitor moved." All eyes went to the monitor.
Kakashi reached over and picked up the paper trailing out of the machine, "There's a rise in the line of ink, then it fell back down again. If I was to bet, I'd say that you did indeed have a real contraction."
Kurenai burst out, "WELL, HOW WAS IT?"
Anko thought for a second and then said, "It was…weird."
"That doesn't tell me ANYTHING!" her best friend bellowed back at her. "Was it painful?"
Anko said, "Not really. A little uncomfortable like a hard menstrual cramp, but that was about it."
Kakashi asked, "Are you feeling any others? Maybe I should go get a nurse or something."
Anko said, "No. I don't feel anything else. Not yet anyway. The literature we read said that this can take a LONG TIME. We aren't even supposed to be concerned until the REAL contractions are about three minutes apart. Don't go freaking out on me Hatake. Just relax for a bit because we're in for a long day."
All three shinobi were extremely amazed at how surprisingly calm Anko was. She was normally the one who lost her mind over things that she had no control over. But amazingly, while waiting for her body to take over and help her birth her child, she had a grip on everything.
The room turned quiet again as the wet swishing noise filled the room.
Hours passed. Asuma and Kurenai left to get some refreshments and stretch their legs from time to time. Kakashi dozed in the chair next to Anko. Anko, being bored out of her mind watched the numbers rise and fall on the monitor as a random contraction occasionally hit her. There was no pattern to the way the contractions occurred; they were hit or miss for hours. She listened and counted the baby's heartbeat in her head 146 beats a minute this time. She noticed that even though her contractions were random and far apart that with each one, her baby's heart rate slowed slightly then returned to between 120 to 150 beats each minute.
The contractions didn't seem to be getting her anywhere, so she lay there trying to rest. As she did, she looked over at her husband. He was quietly sleeping in the chair next to her. It always amazed her how absolutely quietly he slept. She could barely tell he was breathing at times he was so silent in his slumber. She started to get concerned, but then noticed that his chest was indeed rising and falling slightly as he slept.
Anko sighed loudly. She thought to herself, how long is this going to take? I want to get this over with! I want to meet my baby… then the door opened quietly as Kurenai and Asuma let themselves back into the room.
Anko said, "You didn't happen to bring me back some dango did you?"
Kurenai said as she sat, "You're not allowed to have anything to eat now and you know it. The best I can do is get you some ice chips if your mouth's dry."
"I'll get them," Kakashi said as he rose and left the room.
Anko looked at the door as he left thinking, wasn't he just sleeping? Then she pouted at Kurenai. "Some friend you are. You won't even sneak me in something sweet. I'm STARVING HERE!"
"You should have eaten the breakfast Kakashi left you then!"
Anko turned away and said, "I wasn't hungry then, but I am...OW!" she said as she wrapped her arm around her stomach.
Asuma said, "The numbers are going up again. 33, 34, 35,"
Anko cringed a little as the stronger contraction caused her to feel pressure in her back and pelvis. The contractions were getting stronger, and making her feel things in places they hadn't before.
"You ok?" Kurenai asked.
Anko took a deep breath through her nose and then let it slowly out her mouth. The numbers started to fall again. "Yeah. I'm ok. That was a pretty good one. Still not anything I can't handle, but I felt a lot of pressure here," she pointed to her lower back that was still facing Kurenai and Asuma.
"Do you need anything?"
"I thought I already asked for dango?"
"Anything OTHER than dango? A doctor? Massive amounts of drugs?"
"No drugs," Anko said, hoping that she'd be able to stick to her initial decision to deliver her baby naturally without medical intervention.
Asuma said, "You're brave. Crazy but brave."
Anko rolled on her back, "Kakashi said that too, but not the crazy part." She eyed Asuma who looked toward the door, probably wondering when Kakashi would get back. His possible question was answered quickly as Kakashi came through the door with a nurse. He walked right up to Anko and gave her a small cup full of ice chips and a spoon. She immediately ditched the spoon and upended the ice into her mouth. She crunched it loudly as she eyed the nurse.
"How are you feeling Anko?" Nurse Jinchi, Anko and Kakashi's prenatal childbirth class instructor asked.
"I've been better, but it's not too bad yet," Anko said around her ice.
Nurse Jinchi went to the monitor and picked up the long graph paper tape coming from it. Kakashi resumed his post next to his wife's head, gently pushing back her hair with his hand. The nurse said, "You've had a few contractions. That last one looks like it was the strongest yet."
"It was," Anko crunched.
"There still isn't much of a pattern yet. Would you mind if I checked your progress?"
"I don't mind. Check away."
Nurse Jinchi turned to Asuma and Kurenai and said, "Could you step outside for a moment please? I'll come get you when we're finished."
Anko said, "But I don't want them to leave."
"If you say so," the nurse said as she snapped surgical gloves onto her hands. "I'm going to examine you internally; to see how far you labor has progressed. I have to insert my fingers inside,"
"OUT," Kakashi yelled as he pointed to the door. Asuma and Kurenai didn't have to be told twice. They scampered through the door, not even thinking about looking back.
"Do you really have to do THAT kind of an examination Nurse Jinchi?" Anko asked timidly.
"Yes Anko. That's the only way I can tell how far you've progressed. I can tell how many centimeters you've dilated, if at all, by examining you internally."
"If it's the only way," Anko said, as she followed the nurse's motions to scoot down on the bed slightly.
Anko was suddenly nervous. She'd had her yearly gynecological examinations since she was 16 years old, and she knew what an "internal examination" was all about. But this time, she didn't feel as comfortable about someone probing her insides if a contraction could hit her at a random time and make things suddenly more painful. Still, she moved down, and watched as Nurse Jinchi lifted each of her feet and put them in stirrups on either side of the end of the bed.
Kakashi's first instinct was to offer to assist the nurse in examining his wife. He had intimate knowledge he could impart about his wife's "insides" but he thought better of his offer when Anko reached for his hand. He held hers and stayed seated right next to her head, still wanting to see what the nurse was going to do to Anko.
"Ok now, I want you to remember to breathe normally. Here we go," Nurse Jinchi said.
Immediately, Anko's eyes went wide, and she inhaled sharply through her nose.
Kakashi said, "Ow, ow, ow, OW, OW! Cripes Anko! I need that hand!"
Anko didn't give a shit about Kakashi's hand. Her crushing his hand was the only thing stopping her from choking the shit out of the nurse that had just inserted two fingers inside her to probe her cervix. It was a feeling that Anko would never forget.
"Breathe Anko," the nurse said as she withdrew her gloved fingers. And Anko breathed, releasing the pressure on Kakashi's hand in the process. "Three centimeters," she said as she took the gloves off and threw them away. Kakashi withdrew his hand from Anko's and shook it furiously, trying to get the blood to return to it. He wondered if Sakura would be available to heal any damage Anko may have done to it.
"Three centimeters. Is that all?" Anko asked.
"That's pretty good, considering your contractions aren't that strong yet and they're not consistent. When the pattern starts to form and your contractions are stronger, you'll dilate quicker. You can scoot back up on the bed now. I'll go get your friends." Kakashi helped Anko get situated back in the bed properly, and he tucked a blanked over her, wrapping her tightly.
Kakashi sat back down and said, "Three centimeters. Not bad."
Anko said, "You realize that I have to dilate to ten centimeters before they'll even allow me to start pushing! This could take FOREVER."
Kakashi put his hand on Anko's stomach, then leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the mouth. "I can wait," he said and smiled at her through his mask. Anko reached up and touched his face, smiling back at him, until another contraction squeezed her belly hard enough that Kakashi commented, "My God, that's amazing."
Anko breathed angrily and said, "What is?"
"Your stomach's as hard as a rock right now."
"I KNOW! What do you think is going on down there! Every muscle I have is squeezing together trying to push this baby out!" She panted for a second, then let out a long breath.
The door flew open. Kurenai skipped into the room and said, "What did we miss? Ooh, another contraction?" She and Asuma resumed their seats, both with much concern on their faces.
Anko nodded and breathed through the contraction. When it concluded she relaxed and said, "Still, it's not unbearable. Even though, I feel like I have an elephant standing on my back. Kakashi, can you get the baseball? I packed it."
Asuma laughed, "Is that part of the pain management? Tossing a baseball back and forth to distract you?" Both Anko and Kurenai glared daggers at him. Asuma immediately shrunk from their death looks.
Kakashi saved his friend any further death glares by telling him, "The baseball is indeed part of the pain management process, but it's used like this instead." Kakashi waited for Anko to roll on her left side, then he placed the baseball against the small of her back. He began to roll it in small circles, then in direct lines all over her back. "It helps loosen the muscles in the lower back that are being strained right now. We learned about this trick in our childbirth classes."
"Harder," Anko said, and Kakashi complied by pushing the baseball more firmly against her back as he rolled it.
"Makes sense," Asuma said, "but how long do you have to do that?"
"Until Anko tells me to stop," Kakashi said.
Anko smiled quietly to herself, knowing that her husband would do anything for her that she asked him to do. She was so lucky to have him.
After a little more than five minutes, Anko told Kakashi he could stop. She asked him to help her raise up the head of her bed slightly, so she was in more of a sitting position. She was getting uncomfortable lying on her side, or flat on her back with her stomach protruding straight up. After she got adjusted she raised her knees up a bit and tried to relax, remembering some of the "positions" that she'd learned in her childbirth classes to help make her more comfortable.
Kurenai, knowing that Anko couldn't leave the room, decided to bring up the subject she knew Anko didn't care much for, "So Anko," she said as she scooted a bit closer to her friend, "after the baby's born, when can we go shopping! I can't wait to go find some cute little frilly lacy dresses and those tiny little kimonos for the baby! And you'll need a HUGE supply of diapers from what I hear, and then we'll dress up the baby and take it for walks in the park, and then we'll,"
Anko held her hand up and said, "You're doing it again. One thing at a time please!" She frowned and curled both her arms around her stomach, and saw Kurenai's attention be diverted to the machine next to her. She glanced over and saw the numbers in the 30's again, holding steadily there for a few seconds, then they began to fall again. She breathed in relief.
"You sure make this look easy," Kurenai said as she sat back in her chair next to Asuma. "You make it look like anybody could do it," and then she absently leaned closer to Asuma, who just as absently slipped his arm behind her back.
Anko said, "It really isn't so bad. I could do this all day, but I seriously hope it doesn't take that long. From what I hear, if my body doesn't kick it into gear soon, they may have to put me on a Pitocin drip."
"What's that do?" Asuma asked.
"It's a synthetic hormone that speeds up labor. Makes the contractions harder, which makes the dilation happen faster. If my water hadn't broken, it wouldn't matter too much how long the labor takes, they'd just watch me and assist if they had to. But since it did, they don't want to take any chances. I think there's a time limit with how long they'll let me do this on my own, and since Nurse Jinchi hasn't come back to say otherwise, I think we've still got some time left."
Kurenai said, "I'm still going shopping for that baby once it's born."
"I'm not stopping you! But I think there are also rules in place that new mothers are not allowed to be on their feet for long periods of time just after they've given birth. There's the chance of blood clots forming in the calves that could be dislodged with lots of walking."
Anko paused and tried to wrap her mind around the fact that she'd just referred to herself as a 'new mother.' She smiled slightly, yet a ripple of uncertain fear ran through her.
In an effort to change the subject and not upset Anko, Kurenai asked, "Have you chosen a name yet for the baby?"
Anko looked at Kakashi, who looked back at her. Anko then smiled at her friend and said, "We haven't got a clue what to name the baby. We thought of all KINDS of names, but since we don't know what sex the baby is, we can't decide on anything."
Kakashi said, "I was rather partial to calling the baby 'Bonbon' or possibly 'Icha,'"
"Over my DEAD BODY," Anko spat at him.
Kakashi continued, "But there were a few others I rather liked. 'Uki' is a rather good name."
"It is a good name, unfortunately, it's what you call your damn plant," Anko said.
"Then I thought maybe 'Hon,' or maybe something simple like, 'Meshita,' as in 'Junior'." Kakashi smiled affectionately under his mask at Anko, as he told their friends of the names that Anko had taken to using or mentioning when referring to the baby.
"No and no," Anko said flatly. "Those are affectionate little names. This baby has to have a name with meaning! It's got to be just right, and fit the baby."
Asuma said, "Just don't call it 'Dango.' Anko rolled her eyes as everyone else looked at him like he just might be right with that choice. Then he said, "You'll pick the right name for the baby. Maybe it's a good thing that you're waiting until it gets here to make that decision."
Anko said, "But what if we can't choose? What if the little elephant comes STORMING out and nothing comes to mind after we see him or her?"
Kakashi said sideways, "You always yell at ME for referring to the baby as an elephant."
Anko crossed her arms across her stomach and said, "Since I'm the one HAVING the baby, I can refer to it using any term I choose."
Asuma interrupted and said, "Well, what are you HOPING to have, BESIDES an elephant? A boy or a girl?"
Kakashi didn't even hesitate, "I'd love a son."
Anko turned her head quickly and said, "You never told me that."
"I guess I never got around to saying something. Originally I thought I didn't really care what we had, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I'd love to have a son. My Father had me and things didn't go the way they were supposed to go – family wise. I'd like an opportunity to give a son everything my father gave me, and more."
Anko got really nervous. Only Tsunade knew the sex of the baby. She thought to herself would he love a girl just as much? She had to ask, "But would you love a little girl as much if you didn't get a son?" She looked as if she were about to burst into tears.
Kakashi's heart almost broke when he realized what he'd said. He'd forgotten that the chances were 50/50 that he'd have a son. He found that thinking he was having a son had clouded the possibility of him having a little girl who would run to him every time he came home and call him, "Otou-chan," as he picked her up and spun her around before hugging her tightly to him. He realized that a little girl would melt his heart probably more than her mother had. He leaned in close to Anko and said, "I'll be absolutely satisfied if not thrilled with whatever we end up having, girl or boy."
"I just pray that if you DO have a girl, that she doesn't have Anko's temper," Kurenai said.
Kakashi, Asuma and even Anko herself said, "Me too." Then they all laughed for a moment, until Anko almost sat up straight.
Everyone went silent. All except Anko turned to the monitor and watched the numbers slowly creep up. Then a dull audible snap was heard in the room and all eyes were back on Anko who leaned back into the pillows and said, "I think something just happened, oh my GOD!" she screamed as her husband and two friends got up and went to her bedside. None of them saw that the numbers on the monitor had flown past the 30's and were currently in the 70's.
"What happened? I heard something that sounded like someone cracked a knuckle!" Asuma shouted as he looked down at Anko who was panting out of control, her face contorted in pain.
"My back!" she gasped, trying to breathe through her panting.
"Your old injury?" Kakashi asked.
"No," she breathed heavily, "lower. Felt like my tail bone or something! GOD!" she yelled as she continued to breathe through the pain she couldn't believe was gripping her from just below her rib cage down to her upper thighs, as well as deep inside her. The pressure that was building during this sudden almost violent contraction terrified her. Everything had been fine, bearable, easy to manage, but in a split second, she found she had no control over her body, and she couldn't keep up with the pain.
Kakashi whipped his head around and looked at the monitor, 77! That's more than double the strength of her last contraction. And the baby's heart beat is slowing even more than the lighter contractions. Why did this happen? I didn't hear anything about this happening during the childbirth classes! What's happening to my wife? My child? His instinct told him to run, to get someone to help his wife. Nurse Jinchi had to be close by. He'd just dash out, find her and bring her back, because he had to do SOMETHING for Anko. But Anko made a decision for him before he could leave.
"YOU!" she bellowed while pointing at Kurenai. "GET THE NURSE, GET SAKURA, OR GET TSUNADE NOW!"
"I'll come with you," Asuma said as Kurenai turned silently to go fulfill her best friends' command. Then he noticed Kakashi looking at him, almost pleading to him with an anguished look. "On second thought, I'll stay here in case Kakashi needs me to go get someone or something else. Do you mind if I stay?" he said to Kurenai.
"No. Stay in case he needs you," she turned and saw the concern and slight fear on Kakashi's face. The man needed support while he tried to do something for his suffering wife. "I'll be back in a flash, I promise." She was gone instantly.
Kakashi held Anko's hand as she thrashed from side to side on the bed. He turned his head to see the monitor numbers, 80 and it's not coming down yet. It's been almost thirty seconds and there's nothing I can do. I can't bear to see her like this. I understand now why fathers usually don't attend births. How can they handle seeing the women they love in so much pain? Anko growled loudly, squeezing his hand tighter. But I won't leave her. I can't. I won't. "Anko, Anko, Hon…you have to breathe, don't hold your breath. The baby can't breathe if you don't." He said it quietly, but it got through to her. Through her pain, Anko took a huge breath and blew it out as she continued to rock back and forth in search of some relief from the pain.
Asuma looked down at Anko's suffering form and didn't know if he could stand it. He thought to himself that he would NEVER want Kurenai to suffer through childbirth if it was anything like what Anko was currently experiencing. He loved children, having watched his nephew Konohamaru grow up. He'd always wanted children of his own. But could he ask Kurenai to do this for him some day? He seriously doubted it. Not after seeing how much pain Anko was currently in.
Anko grunted loudly, then took another deep breath. She soon stopped thrashing so much, and Kakashi saw the numbers falling quickly back toward zero. Anko panted on the bed, still holding Kakashi's hand. Beads of sweat had popped out across her forehead and over the bridge of her nose. She panted again and then opened her eyes, her breathing slowing. She saw Kakashi and Asuma looking at her with intense concern. All she could say was, "What the fuck was that?!"
Kakashi said, "That my love was one hell of a contraction."
Anko exhaled and said, "You're telling me! I couldn't keep up with it! It was so sudden! I couldn't find any comfort during the whole thing. Wow that was intense." She took another few deep breaths and wiped her forehead with her unoccupied hand.
At that moment, Kurenai flew back in to the room with Nurse Jinchi in tow. The nurse took one look at Anko and then went to the monitor. She picked up the strip of paper and read it quickly. "Did anything happen to you Anko? This is quite a sudden jump in intensity."
"Actually yes. I heard something that sounded like a muffled snap, and it felt like it happened around my tail bone somewhere."
"Ah," the nurse said, "because of the contractions, and the baby descending, the baby's head may have pushed your coccyx, the end of your tailbone, out of the way. That triggered the intense contraction. I'll notify Tsunade right away. But first, Kakashi, and the rest of you – you MUST keep her breathing regularly. The paper is showing that the baby's heart decelerated quite low during that contraction, which means Anko was probably holding her breath during the contraction. She knows she's supposed to keep breathing, but you have to make sure she doesn't hold her breath during these contractions. They are intense, but you have to make sure she breathes! You can't take the chance of the baby being oxygen deprived during those big contractions!"
Kakashi said, "There will be more like that last one?"
"Indeed there will be. Now that Anko's body is responding to her labor, it's going to take over. People have a tendency to want to hold their breath when they are experiencing pain. Do NOT let her hold her breath! Keep reminding her to breathe." Both male shinobi nodded furiously at the nurse. Kurenai just stood there, a worried look on her face.
Nurse Jinchi got close to Anko's face and said, "It's not too late for some pain medicine if you want it." She looked at Anko gently, as if she were trying to tell her with a look that Anko didn't have to be a hero – that if she wanted some relief from the intense pain, that it was acceptable for her to have some.
Anko said, "I want to keep going without if you don't mind. Tsunade said that she knew a few techniques she could use on me to help relieve some of the pain. I'd rather go that route if I could."
The nurse said, "I myself don't know those techniques Anko, but if Tsunade says she knows them, then I'm sure she does. Our Hokage is a gifted and skilled woman. If your choice is to have her minimize your pain, and not go the route of pain killers, then I'm fine with that." She stood up and began to leave. Then she called over her shoulder, "But you still do have a little time to choose the medical route if you want."
Kurenai asked, "You mean she won't be able to have the pain medication if she waits too long?"
Nurse Jinchi smiled gently at her and said, "That's correct. After a certain point it won't have enough time to work. I'll go see if I can find Tsunade for you Anko, to get you some relief. Try and relax between those contractions, and remember to breathe!" The nurse left the room in search of Tsunade.
All eyes went to the monitor that was not quite at zero. The numbers seemed to bounce between 3 and 7, just to fall back again.
Everyone returned to their seats. It had been a little under five minutes since Anko's monster contraction. Everyone was nervous, wanting to know when the next one would strike her. Kakashi worried, will the next one be just as bad, or will it be worse? Anko's much stronger than I am when it comes to this – I can't stand to see her suffer. I wish she would have asked for some pain medicine, because it would have made ME feel better if I knew she wasn't in so much pain.
Anko rubbed her stomach and said, "It feels like everything is tense – like a flexed muscle or something."
Kurenai noted, "The numbers on the monitor keep moving up and down just a little. Maybe you have a very weak contraction happing all the time?"
"Maybe," she said, "it's just kind of achy." She rubbed her stomach more, then stole a glance at Kakashi. She almost felt guilty when she saw the look on his face. His expression revealed that he was suffering as much if not more than she was. "Hey," she said as she reached for him, "don't look like that." She put her hand in his.
He said quietly, "I can't help it. You don't know how hard it is for me to see you suffering."
Anko knew EXACTLY how hard it was. She knew EXACTLY what he meant. She remembered back to the time before they were an "official" couple when he'd promised to come see her as soon as he was done with a mission. He did, collapsing near death on her doorstep. She knew what it felt like to suffer right along with someone you care about. Pain and suffering are never endured alone.
Anko ran her thumb over Kakashi's rough fingers and said, "Tsunade will be here soon, and it won't be so bad. Plus, we're doing this for a good reason. There's going to be a little you or a little me here soon." She rubbed her hard stomach again.
Kakashi just nodded, gave her half a smile behind his mask, then resumed his worried look.
Asuma said to Kurenai, "Maybe we should step outside for a minute. Give them a little time alone?"
Kurenai looked at Asuma like he had suddenly gone insane. She was about to stand up and scream at him that there was no way in HELL that she was going to leave her best friend's side unless it was her best friend who asked her to leave. But before she could begin her tirade, Kakashi said, "Yeah, just for a minute guys. If you don't mind."
Kurenai didn't argue. Instead, she said, "We'll be right outside if you need us."
Anko said, "Don't go far."
Kurenai looked back at her best friend and said, "Don't worry – you can't get rid of us that easily!" Then she and her big ninja left to give Anko and Kakashi a little privacy.
Kakashi scooted his chair as close to Anko as he could get without getting into bed with her. He actually considered doing that for a moment, but he didn't want to risk making her any more uncomfortable than she already was. Instead, he leaned over the bed. Anko picked her head up and allowed him to put his arm behind her neck. He leaned over her, his left arm protectively, yet lovingly draped over her stomach. His face was very close to hers when he whispered, "So, this is it isn't it?"
Anko patted the arm over her stomach and said, "Yeah, it is." She looked into his eyes and felt like crying – not from pain, but from how much her heart swelled with how much she loved him. She sighed audibly and cleared her throat, trying to hide her emotions, but she never could hide them from him.
"We're going to be parents. I'm amazed, and yet a little stunned at the whole concept so far," Kakashi said to her.
"Well, we don't have much choice in the matter now do we? I'm still a little freaked out by this whole thing, and I keep thinking that there is going to be a brand new person here in a little while that is going to be totally dependent on me AND you for its survival. It scares me to death to think that I could make a mistake that might harm them or make it so they won't be the very best, happy person they can be. I'm so scared." She pleaded to him and sniffed back a tear.
Kakashi immediately leaned forward and hugged her though she lay on the bed. He said quietly in her ear, "I'm scared too, but together, and with some help from those two outside, we'll all be ok."
Anko sniffed loudly again, and Kakashi pushed himself up off her. She said, "I think this whole Village is going to want to raise this child."
Kakashi smiled and said, "With that many people involved in this child's life, I'm sure they'll be lacking for nothing." They both quietly looked at each other as Kakashi again, gently stroked Anko's hair.
"I have a feeling that our little one is going to be VERY spoiled,"
"Very spoiled indeed," Kakashi agreed, "but we can't let Iruka go easy on them when they go to the ninja academy. They'll have to have the same training that anyone else would have. Ninjas don't get breaks in their training just because of who their parents are."
Anko asked, "Are you sure you want that life for our child? To train him or her for a life of dangerous service?"
Kakashi said, "It's all we know."
Anko contemplated that for a minute, then said, "True. But how about we wait a little while, watch them grow, enjoy every little thing they do, and maybe let them have some say in what they want to do? Who knows! Maybe our daughter or son will be the next Ichiraku and make the most delectable ramen in the Land of Fire!"
"I'm sure Naruto would love to be the judge of that," Kakashi said as he laughed slightly. "I think you've got a deal my love. But we've got some work to do first."
Anko said, "We sure do. We've got to get this baby here first." And as if on cue, Anko's eyes widened as she said, "Oooh man, I feel one coming!" They both looked at the numbers on the monitor as they pushed up quickly through the 30's, 40's and then they jumped straight to the 70's as Anko felt her abdomen harden as the muscles inside bore down.
Kakashi grabbed her hand and said, "Breathe Anko! Don't forget to breathe!"
"I AM BREATHING!!!" she screamed at him, and he believed her because how else could she scream at him?
Anko moaned low, a painful sound, and she tossed her head side to side, trying to outlast the pain. She breathed deeply in long gasping, shaking breaths, as the strength of her contraction peaked at 81 and held. Her moaning ended as she yelled, "FUCK!" at the top of her lungs, causing Asuma and Kurenai to rush back into the room.
"Another contraction," Kakashi said over Anko's pained noises.
"Where the hell is Tsunade?" Kurenai asked.
Kakashi said, "She better not have done another disappearing act, or so help me God,"
Everyone turned as the door opened and Nurse Jinchi stepped inside. "I've located Lady Tsunade. She's on her way here now. Oh my, Anko. That is a strong one!"
"NO SHIT!" Anko barked at her, still trying to find a happy place to go to to help her endure the pain. Even picturing herself slitting Orochimaru's throat did nothing to distract her from the feeling that her insides were being pushed apart.
Nurse Jinchi picked up the long strip of paper and said, "About twelve minutes since the last contraction. That's good news Anko. They should start falling into a pattern now. You should have a contraction in another twelve minutes, then ten minutes on down to five, then when they're three minutes apart, you should be ready to start pushing."
"GRRRRRR," was all Anko could utter as she resisted the urge she suddenly had to push.
Silently, the numbers on the monitor began to fall back toward zero. Anko quieted and laid still, her breath coming in bursts.
The door opened then, and Tsunade walked in. Everyone was instantly relieved except for Anko. She thought to herself, there's no way some technique Tsunade has is going to stop the pain. No fucking way. She still hoped it would do something, but she wouldn't believe it until it actually happened.
Tsunade said, "Nurse Jinchi. What's the report?"
"Anko is doing very well so far. She's had two strong contractions, twelve minutes apart."
"Has she been examined?"
"Yes Ma'am. When I checked her, she was three centimeters dilated."
"Good, good." Tsunade said as she picked up the long graph paper and read it. "The baby's heart decelerated on both of the strong contractions, but it returns to normal when they let up. Let's keep an eye on that."
"Why?" Anko said, "Is there something I should be worried about?" Three other shinobi looked to Tsunade for answers.
"No Anko. Nothing to worry about. We'll watch though – if the baby goes into distress, we may have to perform an emergency C-section on you, but that's only if one or both your lives are in jeopardy. We're only watching now. Nothing to be alarmed about, but we won't take any chances if we see something that concerns us." From the looks of the four shinobi in the room, they all were worried anyway.
"How's your pain level Anko?" Tsunade asked.
Anko breathed deeply and said, "Right now, I ache but it's bearable, but those big contractions. Wow." She breathed a few more times deeply, trying to catch her breath.
"Lay on your side," Tsunade said, "I'm going to try and help you out a bit."
"Oh, thank you," Anko breathed as Kakashi helped pull her onto her side. "How does this work exactly?"
Tsunade ran two fingers down the length of Anko's spine, feeling for the right spot. She stopped just above the small of her back and laid her hand against Anko's spine. "Stay very still," she said as she closed her eyes and concentrated chakra into the hand against Anko's back. She concentrated, focusing the chakra into a precise pulse that she released into Anko's skin, focusing it between two vertebrae in her spine. She withdrew her hand and said, "There. That should help you a bit. You should notice a difference right away."
"But what did you do to her?" Kakashi asked.
"I focused some chakra into a very precise point and essentially injected it into her spinal chord to interrupt the pain process. The message of pain will not be able to travel up her spine to her brain. It's similar to a spinal block. She will still feel the pressure of the muscles contracting and that will still be uncomfortable, but the intense pain she's experienced will be lessened a bit. Unfortunately, the times I've used this before, it's only lasted for a while, and extremely strong contractions can break through somewhat. My advice to you Anko - hope you have this baby soon." Then Tsunade put her hands on either side of Anko's lower back and focused a broad amount of chakra there. "I just hit a few pressure points in your hips and pelvis too. This should assist in relieving some pain for a while. Nurse Jinchi, I think you'd better examine Anko again to check her progress."
"Yes, Ma'am," the nurse said as Tsunade and Kakashi gently rolled Anko onto her back again.
Anko felt some relief almost immediately as soon as she rolled on her back. She sighed loudly and smiled a bit as her legs felt delightfully warm, probably due to Tsunade blocking the regular flow of her spinal process. She could still move, but the achiness she had felt muted. Then she remembered that the nurse had said that she'd have about twelve minutes until her next contraction, so she tried to do the mental math to estimate when the next one would happen. She hoped silently that it would not be as horrible as the others had been.
As the nurse helped Anko scoot down on the bed for another internal examination, Kakashi only had to shoot a quick look at his friends to send them from the room.
When Anko was in position, she looked back at her husband. Their eyes met for a moment before Anko squeezed hers shut tightly. "Breathe," Kakashi said to her and she complied, pulling a long breath through her nose. She let it whoosh out again as the nurse withdrew her fingers.
"What's the verdict?" Kakashi asked as he helped Anko re-arrange herself.
"Six," Nurse Jinchi said, "You're progressing quickly Anko. Those big contractions are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing. It won't be long now before you're ready to start pushing.
"Good because I can't wait to get this over with," Anko said.
The nurse said, "Keep breathing Anko. The numbers are moving again."
Anko reached for Kakashi's hand, and he reluctantly gave it to her. It was still very sore from the other two times she'd practically crushed it. She nervously panted watching the numbers approach the 30's, waiting for the painful jump to the 70's and the brutal climb into the 80's. She panted, she waited, and the jump happened. She closed her eyes tightly as Kakashi braced himself next to her. But she didn't crush his hand as she'd done before. She opened her eyes and saw the numbers steadily climbing through the 70's, slowing and then cresting in the middle 80's. She breathed deeply, able to stand the pain that was almost like a residual pain now, instead of the violent debilitating pain that she'd experienced before Tsunade had administered her pain relieving techniques.
"What are you feeling now Anko?" Nurse Jinchi asked.
Anko thought a moment then said through deep breaths, "I feel…all this pressure here," she circled her entire abdomen with her free hand, "and my upper thighs are a bit numb,"
"Is that all you feel?"
"No," she breathed, "It feels almost like I REALLY have to go to the bathroom."
Nurse Jinchi smiled, "That's completely normal. The baby is descending as your cervix is opening. How is your pain level?"
Kakashi stared in wonder and relief as his wife said, "It's manageable. Uncomfortable but manageable."
"Our Hokage is an incredible medical ninja."
Anko breathed and said, "She's a fucking miracle worker."
Nurse Jinchi said, "I'll go tell your friends it's safe to come back in. Call me if you need anything Anko."
"Nurse Jinchi?" Anko called.
"Do you have any idea how much longer this is going to take? Can you give me an estimate? Something I can focus on, other than lying here waiting for the next contraction to hit me?"
The nurse picked up the graph paper and said, "Well, the gap between your last contractions was only ten minutes which was shorter than the prior ones. It seems you're progressing just like you're supposed to. If I were to guess, I'd say in a couple more hours, you'll be ready to push, but that's just from my years of experience. Everyone's different Anko and everyone's body responds differently to labor. Just keep an eye on the monitor, keep track of the time between your contractions, and I'll be back to check you again in an hour or so. Send someone to get me if anything happens in the mean time."
"Thank you Nurse Jinchi," Kakashi said as the nurse left he room.
Anko wasn't too pleased. She'd already been in the hospital for most of the day, and she'd been in labor for a large portion of that time. She knew it was only going to get worse, and then the nurse had to tell her that it could be HOURS yet before she's even able to start pushing. It would be HOURS until she got to meet the small person still living inside her. Anko was definitely not known for her patience and this was no exception. And to make matters even worse, she hadn't eaten in about ten hours. Anko was turning into a ticking time bomb fueled by hunger and impatience.
Kurenai was back in the room first, "What did the nurse say? How far along are you? How much longer?"
Anko didn't bother to tell her to ask one question at a time, instead she said, "Six centimeters, and she said a few more hours yet."
"How are you feeling?" Kurenai asked her.
"Better now since Tsunade worked some magic."
Asuma, who'd followed Kurenai back into the room asked Kakashi, "How you hanging in there buddy?"
"I'm good," he said as he scooted closer to Anko.
Asuma didn't believe a word of it. He knew exactly how he'd feel if he were in Kakashi's shoes. But he left Kakashi alone, rather than try and coax more out of him. He knew that Kakashi had a lot ahead of him to deal with yet in the next few hours, so he decided to hold his tongue and support him quietly from the background.
Everyone settled back into place as Anko said, "I guess we wait a little longer."
And they did.
The four shinobi waited an hour, then two, all the while, watching Anko experience strong contractions that prepared her body for the childbirth she was to experience eventually. Kakashi continued to fetch ice chips as his wife needed them, hoping to stave off the hunger that she continually complained about. Kurenai continued to try and keep her from feeling any pain at all, by going on about how shopping for the new baby would be so thrilling. Asuma stayed quietly in the background, mentally taking notes on Anko, Kurenai and his friend Kakashi, and how they were all reacting to the process known as childbirth – vowing to keep those notes to himself in case he himself ever needed them.
Then, at the beginning of the third hour since Anko's last examination, things began to happen at a breakneck pace.
Kakashi held Anko's hand firmly as they all watched the numbers decelerate from 86, falling gently down to 10. Anko breathed deeply, still immensely grateful that Tsunade's seemingly magical jutsus had held through the strong contractions.
Kakashi turned to Anko and said, "It's been a long time. How are you feeling?"
"Like I have to push, but Nurse Jinchi said I'm not supposed to until she tells me to!"
Kakashi, in a desperate attempt to give his wife some comfort asked his friend, "Hey. Asshola. Mind going to find the nurse?"
Without even acknowledging Kakashi's favorite nickname for him, Asuma stood up and said, "Sure pal." And he exited the room without another word.
Kurenai came close to Anko's head and said, "I wish there was something I could do for you to make things better."
It was obvious that Anko was exhausted. She said, "It's ok. This is all me. You can't make it go faster, or speed my body up to move faster. All I want to do is sleep, but these damn contractions, OW!" she said as she grasped her shrunken abdomen.
"Is it bad again?" Kurenai asked.
Anko tried to breathe, then said, "It's bad enough. Tsunade's jutsu is holding, but the pain still breaks through a little bit."
"The monitor is reading 87," Kakashi said. The contractions were increasing slightly. "I hope Nurse Jinchi gets here soon."
"WHOA," Anko said loudly as she scooted backward on the bed.
"What is it?" Kakashi and Kurenai said in stereo.
"Something's different!" Anko said as she started to growl and pull her legs back.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Kurenai yelled at her as she saw what Anko might be doing.
"Anko, honey, what is it?" Kakashi said as he tried to figure out what Anko was doing.
Anko was bunched up holding her breath, pulling her knees toward her stomach. Kakashi shook her and reminded her to breathe, but she ignored him and kept holding her breath, pulling her knees back. Kakashi looked at the monitor and saw the numbers falling again, then as he looked back at his wife and he saw her breathing and releasing her legs, she seemed to be relaxing.
"Where the hell is Asuma with the nurse?" Kurenai said, as she looked to the door.
"Anko, talk to me," Kakashi said.
Anko panted and looked at the ceiling. Then she looked from Kurenai to Kakashi and said, "I know what I'm supposed to do now. It feels right. It's time to push."
"NO!" they both said.
"It's time! Check the paper. Check the contractions!" Kakashi grabbed the graph paper and looked through it. Anko's contractions had steadily increased until they were now three minutes apart. Physically this should be the natural progression of things, but he was unsure, and he feared that premature pushing might injure their child.
"But Anko. Can you wait? Can you wait until Nurse Jinchi examines you and makes sure you're dilated enough?"
"He's right Anko. You don't want to take a chance that might hurt the baby," Kurenai said.
This caused Anko to pause, but just for a moment. Then she said, "It feels different now. It feels like no matter if I tried to stop everything from happening, this baby is going to come on its own anyway. If Nurse Jinchi doesn't get here soon, there just may be a baby here waiting for her when she does get here!"
Just as Kurenai and Kakashi prepared to try and talk Anko out of doing anything further, Nurse Jinchi walked in with Asuma. Kakashi quickly grabbed her and said, "She wants to push! Please, check her. Make sure everything's ok." Kurenai echoed Kakashi's desperation with the look she gave the nurse.
Nurse Jinchi grabbed the paper and read it quickly. "Anko, please move down as quickly as you can. I'll examine you right now."
"Ahhhhh, Nurse Jinchi, I don't think that's a very good idea, ahhhhhhh," Anko said as she scooted down slightly. All eyes went to the monitor where the numbers were again climbing right past the 70's and well into the 80's.
"Right," Nurse Jinchi said, "You, go to the nurse's station and have them call Lady Tsunade. She needs to get here right away. Anko, breathe through this contraction. Pant, in and out quickly and whatever you do, DO NOT PUSH." Asuma left again to go to the nurse's station, leaving Kurenai in the room with her best friend.
Anko obeyed the nurse, even though her body told her to do something else. After sixty seconds of a hard contraction, and lots of quick panting, Anko started to relax a little more. Nurse Jinchi said, "Kakashi, help me move her down. I'll check her quickly, but I don't think it's really necessary."
"Why do you say that?" Kakashi asked.
"I think we're past waiting. Let me get a look." Nurse Jinchi looked around the sheet that was draped over Anko's knees and only paused for a moment before she smiled and said, "She's ready."
"What? She's ready to what? Tell me!" Kakashi sounded almost frantic as he asked the nurse what she meant.
Nurse Jinchi looked at him and said, "She's ready to push. Come and see." She motioned for him to come around to the foot of the bed so he could see for himself what she was saying. But at first, Kakashi was unsure to leave Anko. He looked at her questioningly, but she nodded for him to go ahead. It was the first time their hands had not been inter-woven in hours as he went to the foot of the bed to see for himself what the nurse meant. But when he got there, and finally got to see what was going on, he couldn't speak. He stared in rapt wonder at the miracle that was happening. He glanced quickly to Kurenai, who he could see desperately wanted to know what he saw, yet she respected Anko's privacy. Kakashi only looked back and said, "Is that…?"
Nurse Jinchi put her hand on his shoulder and said, "Yes it is. Your child has silver hair, just like yours."
Anko bit back a sob. Silver hair she though, our baby has silver hair. Then she said, "I feel another one coming." This time, she reached for Kurenai's hand, as Kakashi was still at the foot of the bed. Kurenai happily held her hand and pulled her chair closer to her best friend's head.
The numbers on the monitor began to rise again, and once again, Anko had the incredible urge to push. Kakashi said, "What do we do? Aren't you supposed to catch the baby or something?"
Nurse Jinchi said, "It's going to take a few good pushes to get this child out Kakashi. I'm hoping that Tsunade gets here soon. She wanted to witness this birth."
Anko grunted, then said, "She'd better get here soon, because I'm ready to do this!"
Kurenai said, "Hold on as long as you can Anko. We're all here for you if you need us."
Kakashi just looked back down at his wife and uttered, "Amazing…." Then he looked away as the doors opened and Asuma and Tsunade walked in.
Tsunade took one quick glance over Nurse Jinchi's shoulder and said, "Wow! Anko! You're ready to do this aren't you?"
Anko breathed and said, "I'm ready when you are Tsunade-sama."
Asuma took his place next to Kurenai, lucky to have been blocked by the nurse's body, from seeing any part of Anko he wouldn't want to admit he saw later. He knew that Kakashi would probably kill him, even if it was just an accidental peek.
Tsunade went to the monitor and picked up the paper. "Hmmm…Nurse Jinchi, have you been watching this?" The nurse approached her, and Anko watched as Tsunade drew a line across the paper with her finger. She saw the nurse nod, but no one said anything.
"What is it? What's going on?" Anko said.
Tsunade began washing her hands in a sink close to Anko's bed. "The baby's heart is decelerating quite a bit with these big contractions. Normally that's not a problem, but because they're coming every few minutes now, the baby is not recovering as quickly."
"What does that mean?" Anko asked frantically.
Tsunade stood at the foot of the bed unfolding blue towels, and pulling up a tray with surgical instruments on it. "It means that you have to have this baby soon."
Anko looked around the room. Each of her friends, the nurse, her Hokage, and her husband all had the same look on their faces – they were all afraid. So Anko did the only thing she knew how to do in such a situation, she focused her attention, gathered her courage and said, "Then let's get this done. Kakashi, grab my left leg." He snapped to attention and did what she said. "Kurenai, do the same thing to my right."
"Hai," Kurenai said, as if she'd been issued a command by the Hokage herself.
"Asuma, get over here and hold my hand," Anko commanded as she held her hand out to the big ninja. Asuma looked fearfully at Kakashi, who nodded to his friend, to go assist Anko. Asuma knew better than to refuse, so he went to Anko's side and took her small hand in his. He couldn't believe how small her hand was, his almost went twice around hers.
Anko continued, "Now, we're going to do this quickly, because I'm not risking this baby's life for anything, do you all hear me? So work with me! On the next contraction, Kakashi and Kurenai, brace yourselves because I'm going to push against you! Asuma, you'd better get a good grip, because I have a feeling I'm going to squeeze the shit out of your hand. Can you handle that?" Asuma nodded, but said nothing. "Good. Now, let's do this!" The numbers on the monitor started creeping upward again.
Kurenai looked at the nurse and said, "Is there anything else we can do?"
Both Tsunade and the nurse smiled. Tsunade said, "No. Listen to Anko. She knows what she's doing."
This gave Anko the confidence she needed. She screwed up her courage, pushed aside her fears, watched the numbers on the monitor hit 75, then she said, "Here we go!" then she held her breath, bore down and began to push.
Kakashi and Kurenai had to redouble their strength as Anko's legs pushed against them. Asuma cringed as Anko's tiny hand squeezed his in a death grip that would surely leave stress fractures in his fingers. Nurse Jinchi and Tsunade stood close by and watched the progress that Anko was making as she pushed. Ten seconds later, Anko let her breath out and stopped pushing.
"You're doing amazingly well," Tsunade said. "A few more of those, and this baby will be here."
Kakashi smiled at Anko under his mask. She breathed in great deep breaths and smiled back.
A minute later, the monitor began to rise again, jumping quickly to the 80's, and slowly ascending higher. "That's a big one," Tsunade noted, as Anko again took a big breath and pushed against her husband and her best friend. But seven seconds into the pushing, Anko gasped loudly, then let out a cry and a partial sob. Kakashi immediately let go of her leg and rushed to her side. Nurse Jinchi looked at Tsunade, who just shook her head side to side, then whispered, "The jutsu's been broken. It lasted a long time." The nurse looked at Anko with complete sympathy, knowing that she would have to endure the remainder of her childbirth experience without the spinal pain blocking jutsu.
Anko was suddenly terrified. Kakashi got close to her face. Anko whispered, "I can feel everything again. Oh my God, I can feel everything. It's worse than before. Everything hurts. My skin hurts. I feel like I'm being stretched apart, I'm being torn in two! There's so much pressure. How am I going to finish this? How? How!"
Kakashi ran his hand down his wife's sweaty exhausted face. He didn't know what he could do for her, then he realized, he couldn't do anything for her. There was nothing left. This was all up to her. So he got closer to her and said, "Our baby has silver hair," then he smiled, making sure his eyes locked with hers. "Our baby has silver hair," he whispered again, and waited.
Anko nodded. "Silver hair. Our baby has silver hair," she said and nodded again. She felt the next contraction building inside her and said, "Our baby has silver hair. GO!" Kakashi went to the foot of the bed and once again braced himself against Anko's left leg as the numbers on the monitor raced to the 80's, and held at 89.
"Take a breath Anko and PUSH!" Tsunade yelled, and Anko complied.
Anko's face knotted in pain. It turned red as she bore down hard, pushing against the pain that seemed to engulf the entire lower half of her body. And in an instant she was back on the floor of the shack in the Land of the Sea, writhing in pain from the curse mark that she'd just received from the sensei she revered. The pain was horrible, yet that old pain she hadn't understood. It was meant to make her stronger. It had been given to her by someone that she looked up to, someone that she loved in a way. Then, just as suddenly, she was yanked back to the present to the pain that currently engulfed her. But this pain, she embraced. This pain was the result of true love, it was pain that had a definite positive purpose. It was pain that had to be endured to bring a life, to bring her child, their child, into the world. And she would do it, she would endure it, she would push past it. Anything that was required of her, she would do, because this pain was endured because of love, not because of honor, or duty, or requirement. It was only because of love. She grunted, then she screamed as she pushed with everything she had in her, until Tsunade yelled, "ANKO, STOP!"
She breathed in rattled gasps, not seeing anyone, only noticing that the ceiling above her didn't have a crack in it like the one in her bedroom did. She gasped, in little short breaths, hearing voices around her that didn't mean a thing. She only knew that the pain she'd felt was a little less in some aspects, but redoubled in others. She felt unusually full, stretched beyond compare, and again she wanted to push, but Tsunade had said to stop, so she waited.
She wasn't aware that Nurse Jinchi and Tsunade were quickly at work at the foot of the bed. "The baby's got a necklace," Tsunade said as she and the nurse quickly worked to correct the problem.
"What do they mean?" Asuma asked, afraid to approach the end of the bed and see for himself what was going on.
Nurse Jinchi said, "The umbilical chord was wrapped around the baby's neck. We're taking care of that now."
Kakashi was beside himself, frozen in fear, as he tried to see what the nurse and his Hokage were doing. Then he heard Tsunade say, "Ok, Anko, one more easy one. Don't get carried away."
Somewhere in the depths of her semi-consciousness, Anko heard her, and pushed her legs against her husband and her best friend. As she pushed, her ears ringing, her face pounding with blood, she felt the pressure that had built up in her lower extremities release bit by bit. She panted, turning her head to the side as she heard Tsunade say, "There, that's it. That's good. Relax Anko. It's all over." She smiled to herself, relieved that it was done. It was over. Her baby was born, finally! She wanted to cry, she wanted to yell, she wanted to scream! Then she realized, she hadn't heard the baby yet. Wasn't it supposed to cry?
Anko tried to sit up, "What's wrong. Shouldn't I hear crying?" She saw at the end of the bed that Tsunade and Nurse Jinchi were hovered over something. Kakashi was trying to see over them, as was Kurenai. Asuma stayed where he was, patting Anko's hand. "Tsunade? Kakashi! What's wrong? Where's my baby?!"
Tsunade shot her a quick look, then looked down again. Kakashi locked eyes with her, then looked back at the nurse and Hokage. Anko's head fell back then she looked at the crackless ceiling whispering, "My baby has silver hair, my baby has silver hair, my baby has silver hair, my baby has silver," then she stopped suddenly as a clear wail sounded. She felt Asuma's hand squeeze hers, then she burst into tears.
The wail got louder and stronger.
Asuma was the first to speak when he said, "Oh my God, that child has his mother's lungs." Anko couldn't contain herself, and laughed because she knew it was true.
Kurenai giggled said, "You did it Anko! You really did it!"
Anko laughed again, thinking I really did do it didn't I?
"Kakashi?" Anko asked quietly.
"Hmmm?" he said.
"Could you please tell me what we have?"
Kakashi said, "I'd love to tell you, but a nurse and a certain Hokage won't let me see anything."
"We're just cleaning the baby up Kakashi. Keep your pants on," Tsunade said.
"Excuse me for wanting to see my child," Kakashi said.
"It'll just be another moment or two," Nurse Jinchi said.
Three shinobi hovered, catching a glimpse of a chubby arm, or a kicking leg from under the cloths that the nurse and Tsunade were using to clean up the child. Finally, the nurse said, "There, that's good for now. Tsunade. The baby's ready." Nurse Jinchi reached up and removed the monitor from Anko's stomach, then the room got amazingly quiet, except for little noises coming from the end of the bed.
Kakashi quickly resumed his position next to Anko's head as they waited to be presented with their child. Kurenai equally joined Asuma, as the final preparations were made. Then, Tsunade lifted the child, wrapped in a light hospital blanked and laid it on Anko's stomach. She said, "Congratulations you two, you have a son." Anko put her hand around the baby, and smiled inside and out, knowing that her husband couldn't be more pleased – SHE couldn't be more pleased. Kakashi's heart almost shattered into a million pieces as he silently vowed that things between him and his son would be different, would be better than things between him and his father ever were. Asuma and Kurenai leaned into each other and looked at the tiny silver haired human wishing that he was theirs instead of their best friends'.
Kakashi looked down at his son as the newborn threw his arms and legs out randomly. Then he looked "down" as the blanket slipped sideways and said, "MY GOD. He's hung like an elephant!" Instantly, everyone tried to get a look.
Tsunade and nurse Jinchi chuckled. "That's the umbilical chord Kakashi. It still needs to be cut." She moved forward and put two plastic clamps on the cord - one not far from the baby, one about an inch from the first one. Then she handed him a pair of surgical scissors. "Would you like to do the honors?" Kakashi took the scissors from Tsunade. She said, "Right there, between the clamps." He then cut through the chord, finding it harder to cut than he thought it'd be. He handed her back the scissors, and stared at his son for a long time.
"He's beautiful," Kurenai said. "He's so beautiful. And big too! Tsunade-sama, this baby doesn't seem to be much of a baby. Is it me or does he look really big?"
Tsunade said, "Nurse Jinchi?"
The Nurse said, "He is a really big boy! Anko, what were you eating to have such a big baby?"
Anko was about to answer, when Kakashi said, "I tried to make sure she had everything she needed."
Nurse Jinchi patted his arm and said, "You did a great job. Here's the evidence! Now, if you don't mind. I'd like to weigh him. May I?" She attempted to take the baby, but Anko gave her a possessive look that said she wasn't ready to part with her baby just yet. "I'm just taking him right over there to the portable scale. I'll bring him right back, I promise."
"Ok then," Anko said.
"Good," Tsunade said, "That'll give me a minute to finish up with you." Anko knew that once the baby was born, there were a few other things that had to be attended to, like the whole after birth issue and such, which Tsunade immediately began working on as soon as Nurse Jinchi lifted the large baby boy off Anko's stomach.
Kakashi watched the nurse take his son to a portable scale, where she put him down gently on some paper that lined the scale. The child flinched from the cold and let out another loud wail that made Anko want to cry again. "Wow, he really is a big one!" Nurse Jinchi called, "Ten pounds three ounces!" Then she picked up the child, who immediately stopped crying, and brought him back to his mother. She laid him on Anko's chest, and immediately Anko put her arms around him.
Tears leaked from her eyes uncontrollably. She wasn't crying, she was just happy. Kurenai and Asuma looked at the little silver haired boy as he seemed to snuggle into his mother's chest. As Kakashi watched his son quiet in Anko's embrace, something fierce bloomed in him. Something he'd never felt before. Something he had trouble understanding until he realized that his little boy, his son, had triggered it all. He was now someone's father, and that was a great responsibility to undertake. Being a father meant being a protector, which was even more important than protecting an entire village full of people. It meant that that little human being was his responsibility – and he knew that anyone who would ever try and harm a hair on his son's head would have to answer to him – and that would not be pretty. At that moment, Kakashi envisioned an iron clad cage around himself, his wife, and his son, and God help anyone who tried to enter it with malicious intent. They would not live to leave it. He kissed Anko lovingly on the forehead as they both gazed down on their son, knowing that he would kill anyone who ever meant them harm.
It was Anko who suddenly said, "I've got it."
Her friends, her husband, even her Hokage looked at her not knowing what she meant.
"I've got it. Just listen." Everyone turned to her. She looked at Kakashi, "We took a hell of a chance just trying to be together, and now, look at what we've done!" She paused to look at her seemingly sleeping child. "But I think I've got it. I think I know what we should call him."
Kakashi said, "What do you think will fit him?"
Anko smiled an exhausted smile then said, "What do you think of Hatake Zou?"
Both Kurenai and Asuma ran the name 'Zou' through their heads while looking at the baby, and could see nothing wrong with it. In fact, both seemed to think it was the perfect fit for such a big boy. Tsunade chucked and quietly said it out loud, liking the way it sounded. Nurse Jinchi didn't give an opinion, but smiled quietly to herself. Kakashi on the other hand said, "I should be mad at you for even suggesting it, but I'm not. Honestly, it sounds right, and it's perfect. Let me try it out. Welcome to the world, Zou," then he touched his son's silver hair gently, and the baby twitched slightly, then seemed to snuggled into his mother more.
Anko smiled, pulling her son closer to her saying, "His name is Zou."
Tsunade washed her hands again, then said, "You did a great job Anko. You all did really well. What a blessing to this village that little boy will be. Kakashi, I'd like to let everyone know that Anko and the baby are doing well."
Kakashi said, "Everyone?"
Tsunade smiled and said, "There were a lot of shinobi here when Anko initially came to the hospital, but you wouldn't believe how many more people are here now. They've stayed for hours waiting for news. Want to come make the announcement?"
"Everyone's here?" Kakashi said, then he looked back at Anko and Zou. "You do it. I'm staying right here with my family."
Tsunade nodded and said, "That's fine. I'll let everyone know the news. Anko, I'd like you to get some rest and maybe some sleep. We'll take the baby to the nursery to get him cleaned up the rest of the way and get a kimono on him in a little while. For now, we'll just leave you four alone to get acquainted with Zou."
"Tsunade-sama?" Anko said quietly.
"Thank you for everything."
Tsunade said, "You're welcome Anko. You get twelve weeks of maternity leave, then you get your ass back to work. Rest for now."
"Oh, one more thing!" Anko called.
"What do you need?" Tsunade said.
"Dango. LOTS of dango and as fast as you can get someone to get it here. I'M STARVING!"
Nurse Jinchi gathered the instruments and used cloths and put them on a tray. She said, "We have just the thing available to our new mothers Tsunade-sama. I'll take care of things for her."
"Good, because I've got quite a happy announcement to make. Asuma, Kurenai, don't stay too long. Anko needs to rest."
Both ninjas never even looked at her when they said, "Yes Tsunade-sama." They never took their eyes from Zou's sleeping pudgy face. Tsunade and Nurse Jinchi left the room, leaving the four shinobi and one rather large baby to their own devices.
After long minutes of gazing at the baby, Kurenai asked, "What color are his eyes?"
Anko said, "All babies have blue eyes when they're born. They change at about six weeks or so to their permanent color."
"I just can't believe that we're looking at a baby, YOUR baby right now! You took a hell of a chance having the baby, but I guess you two have done that right from the beginning, from when you first got together."
"You're right, we have. And it's been so worth it."
Anko looked at Kakashi and remembered back to the beginning, back to that fateful night that accidentally put the two of them on a path through heartbreak and pain, near death experiences and grave injuries, extreme joy and unfettered love. And now, this, THIS, a baby of all things. Never in a million years would Anko have ever dreamed that she was going to be someone's mother some day. And now she was. The risk, every chance she ever took with Kakashi had proven to be worth it, and the proof was lying right there, sleeping in her arms. She had an actual family now, a husband, a little boy, a friend who was more of a sister to her than anyone ever had been, and Kakashi's best friend who was like a brother to him. They were all family now, not just friends.
"What's that?" Anko said as she listened. "It sounds like,"
"Celebrating," Kakashi said. Everyone listened to the muffled sound of cheers, whistles and claps that sounded like they were far away. "I guess Tsunade made the announcement."
Kurenai said, "They'll probably be coming for Zou soon. Asuma, maybe we should go join the others. Let them be alone for a little while?"
"I think that's a pretty good idea for now. We can come back later," Asuma said, not really wanting to leave his friends, or the new little boy that he felt oddly protective of. Both Asuma and Kurenai stood up and started for the doors.
"I love you guys," Anko said as they turned to leave. "Thanks for being here."
Kurenai's crimson eyes suddenly looked quite watery when she said, "I wouldn't have missed this for the world."
"Me neither," Asuma agreed.
"Love you," Kurenai mouthed and she blew Anko a kiss. Asuma smiled, put his hand on his lady's back and steered her to the door. Kakashi waved slightly as they left.
Anko readjusted the blanket over Zou then said, "We have really great friends."
"Yes we do," Kakashi said as he gently touched his son's tiny hand with his finger. To his surprise, the tiny hand flexed. Kakashi then touched the baby's palm, and Zou's tiny fingers closed around his. "Will you look at that," he said in wonder. "We have so many things to learn about this little guy."
Anko nodded slightly and said, "And it all starts today." She looked at her husband, then leaned toward him slightly. Kakashi responded by pulling down his mask and kissing her gently on the mouth. Then, with their quiet loving moment shared, they both looked back at their son, lost in their quiet family moment.
Outside the delivery room doors, Kurenai burst into tears. Her big ninja pulled her against him, and she completely let him, letting him squeeze her tightly in his massive arms. "Shhhh," he said into her hair as her sobs rocked her body. "It's ok. Come on, you're fine."
Kurenai sniffed loudly against his chest and said, "It's just so much. What she went through, what they both went through – all of it! What they did to be together, and look how they've been rewarded! It's beautiful." She cried softly against his chest again.
Asuma stroked her hair with one hand, his other arm holding her tightly. That's when he realized that he'd give anything in the world to have what his friends had at that very moment. He also realized that he was holding the most valuable thing in his life in his arms right now. And he thought to himself we can have that too. All of it. I wonder if she'd say yes if I asked her…right now…
Kurenai said, "I can't wait to go see the baby again, but maybe we should go see the others in the waiting room. I'm sure they'll have tons of questions that I bet we can answer."
Asuma put his question on hold, deciding that right now was not the right time to ask it, even though he wholeheartedly wanted to. Instead he said, "Yeah. Let's go before everyone overloads Tsunade with questions and she takes it out on us."
"Good point. But first," Kurenai turned to her big ninja and took his face in her hands, "I do love you, you know," then she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. Asuma wrapped both arms around Kurenai and returned her kiss lovingly. One more tight squeeze, and then they separated, Kurenai still wiping at her eyes. Asuma handed her a handkerchief from his pocket.
The big ninja then offered his arm to Kurenai, but instead, she threaded her fingers through his. He thought to himself we will have what Kakashi and Anko have some day. The sooner the better. But for now, we'll let them have the spot light a little while longer.
The two shinobi then made their way to the waiting room to tell everyone about the miracle they had experienced with their friends.
A/N: Done! The "Friends" series and informational one-shots are now complete. What a sense of accomplishment I feel, along with a HUGE amount of gratitude for all you readers out there who've inspired me with your kind words and encouragement. Before I go, and dive into the Asuma/Kurenai spin-off (which I actually have a NAME for already - keep an eye on my profile for news!) I wanted to ask something. Remember the last story, when I said I'd put the baby's name all through it? Remember? That little hint spawned many guesses from many readers, some of which I mentioned in this story. I had actually chosen "Zou" which means "elephant" in Japanese when I started to write the last story. Then I shaped Kakashi's comments around it and it all seemed to work out just right. See?
Once again, thanks to every one of you who have read the "Friends" series and made it such a wonderful success. I am particularly grateful to those of you who drop me a note saying something like, "I've read your "Friends" series twice and have never reviewed, but I wanted to write to you now..." those messages and notes mean so much.
Before I get any LONGER winded than I already am, I'll just wish you all the best that life has to offer! Keep an eye on my profile for the upcoming story titles and publication dates. Until next time, take good care, and I'll see you soon!