Look at him, he is beautiful.
Small and pink, the baby is tiny and, to the untrained eye, just like any other infant. To those who know, though, he has his mother's small flat nose and will be dark-skinned when he grows up; the mop of hair on his head, no thicker than fairy floss, is jet black and already starting to curl up in wisps.
Kiku is drained, in every sense of the word. He lies all day in the uncomfortable hospital bed, trying not to move at all. Now, he is staring at the muted news on the tiny TV to pass the time before Heracles arrives, back with some things from home. He is entertained by how the news anchor's mouth moves, like a fish, only with badly dyed hair.
Finally his lover does arrive, and with a slight grin on his face; his hair is mussed from not sleeping for 12 hours straight, but who could blame him for wanting to stay awake? He didn't miss the first time their child's eyes opened - pale blue, a hint of sea green near the pupils, perhaps, and he is proud of that fact.
Kiku nods at him in greeting, the softest, most content little smile on his face. He doesn't even see whatever Heracles carries in his arms and sets down near the door; all he sees is the man who stuck to him through everything. Now, he only sees the man who is lifting their blanketed bundle out of his own little hospital bed, he is the one who is bringing him over.
Haruto Karpouzi, a child of two or so days, is sleeping soundly and will assuredly not wake up upon being moved; he doesn't, as expected, doesn't even twitch or fuss when his mother runs a finger over his hair in order to straighten it up a bit. They are expecting visitors, after all, and everyone must look presentable, especially the little man of honor.
Japan: I am scared, almost, of the enormity of what has just happened, over these past months. Like a battle, everything will reveal its own truth and importance a number of years from now, but it makes me happy to imagine what may be by then, so I will smile and accept all that may come our way. All I know now is that I am swallowed by love, and I am perfectly content to live in it forever.
Greece: You don't dwell on the thought of miracles every day. The way I see it, you only think about them - really think - when you need one or when one has just been blessed upon you. So here I am, holding my warm, perfect little boy, pondering the miraculous ways of cells dividing to become infants who become, then, the next generation, because for once, I am the receiver and not the wisher.
Guests arrive steadily; Kiku smiles and accepts congratulations and lets most see and touch, but not hold, Haruto. Heracles just stands by, frowning at those he doesn't quite trust, making conversation and tired merriment with those he does.
England arrives and dismisses the baby as 'seemingly harmless', though he promises to keep tabs on all of them, just in case. Many of those who oppose (or opposed) do not show up but send polite little cards or, most often, nothing at all. Their comments are, assuredly, not missed.
Sweden and Finland, however, send over a box of food; after seeing who it's from Kiku pushes it over to Heracles, who promises to dispose of it quickly.
Their friends, however, flit in and out with warm smiles and well-wishes and the presents that are best for both mother and child, all according to their own national traditions. Vietnam mutters and tucks the baby in, fusses over Kiku and slips him a small handmade carving of a dog. Spain and Romano offer advice and bicker with one another until they are kicked out; they lurk around the cafeteria until they manage to get back in the room with their tails between their legs, promising that they will be quiet.
Belgium brings chocolate and America brings something that looks like a lot of strange foods tossed in together - he calls it a 'casserole', but Kiku doesn't trust him, so he adds it to the pile of disposables.
It is an exhausting few days and nights, but still those who stuck close to them join Heracles and Kiku for their final night in the hospital. A potluck dinner is thrown together and ten nations cram into the tiny room to enjoy it as much as they can.
They laugh and fall asleep and laugh some more, reminisce and guess at Haruto's wide-open future. They all watch as he sleeps soundly, they coo and giggle at him, comment on how much he looks like his father, those sleepy eyes, that calm stare. They drink wine and tell stories of how they fell in love or almost had children themselves - Vietnam's eyes mist when she starts to talk about her own experiences, but she insists that it's because she's just too happy for her brother.
The night melts away in laughter and tears and secrets that flutter up out into the night sky, free of hundred-year-old hearts, and all set free because of one little accident, one little decision and nine months of stubborn love and tender care.
America: I kinda have a secret. See, I love sitcoms. You know, the kind on ABC Family where there's the laugh track and nobody repeats an outfit ever and everyone looks good all the time, where fights are always resolved within half an hour and nobody really hurts for very long at all. I see the families on the shows - in commercials and magazines too - and they eat dinner together, are witty and open and never, ever awkward. That's all I've ever wanted, a family, with the kid sister and college-age brother and mother serving up a big delicious turkey on Thanksgiving.
I look around this room and everyone looks like shit because it's five AM and we haven't slept much at all, we couldn't even recognize wit if it slapped us all in the face, and there's no turkey to speak of (unless Hungary is hiding it). The only charming one in this whole place is Haruto, and he's sleeping, so what does that have to say about us?
But, I realize, this is my family. This is where I feel the most at home - other than in my awesome country, of course. The only thing that's missing is the laugh track and the tacky sweaters.