Emilogue Part Trois, Chapitre Deux

mehkanik Jun 4th, 2012 6,680 Never
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  1. Emilogue Part Three, Chapter Two
  2. ...You Can Keep Running, Damn It!
  4. "Crap, crap, crap! Damn it, Hisao, you're lucky you're good looking..." I'm gripping the steering wheel. I'm stuck at a stop sign. Well, not really because I blow through it once I see that the intersection is clear.
  6. His girlfriend's in labor. Fuck! He didn't even mention she was pregnant. I'm not sure whether I should be mad that he never mentioned it or happy that he's going to be a dad.
  8. I accelerate and start weaving around the neighborhood. This place looks unfamiliar, it's been a long time. When I moved around here, Hisao invited me to his home a couple of times for get-togethers. I have a good memory, but I'll admit- a little bit of stress might be addling my memory right now.
  10. My phone's ringing repeatedly, I can hear the vibration against my dash. I reach over haphazardly and pick up.
  12. "Emi, I'm on my way, I won't get there any faster if you keep calling me."
  14. "Whichstreetareyouonhurryuuuuuup!"
  16. I sigh. "I'm on... I don't know! This damn town of yours doesn't use street signs like the cities do."
  18. "Ughhh, just hurry!" I hang up the phone and turn down a road. This one looks a little more familiar. Maybe this is where I should be going? I slow down to a coast as I start peering at little buildings on the side of the road.
  20. Ah, there it is!
  22. There's the little complex where Hisao and Emi live. I pull against the curb and run into the complex, rushing to the door that I recognize as Emi and Hisao's. I can tell, Emi has this overly cheerful welcome mat. She's too energetic for me, it sort of feels tacky.
  24. I push open the door without knocking or asking if I can come in. I think niceties are a little less important than a person I care about's girlfriend giving birth.
  26. Emi's sitting on the other side of the door and huffing like a maniac. "I think you're supposed to breathe calmly for the whole controlled breathing thing to work."
  28. Emi looks up and frowns. "Be- be quiet! This hurts!" She placed a hand on her stomach as she grunted to stand up, but couldn't seem to find the strength. I reach forward, extending a hand. At first she seems displeased, but takes it.
  30. "I know you don't like relying on people, nevermind me, but we can't help it right now."
  32. Emi takes a look away from me. "I know..." She huffs a sigh as she takes in a deep breath and tries to regulate her breathing. All the while, she's playing with a dull silver locket around her neck. I guess it's keeping her calm.
  34. I don't let go of her hand as she tries to pull it away. "Nope. I'm responsible for you today, so I'm not letting you out of my sight." Emi doesn't seem to care for this concept, but I don't give her any choice. Both Hisao and Emi are counting on me to make sure their baby gets delivered safely.
  36. As I lead her out of the door and she locks it behind us, I realize something. "Uh... do you know the way to the hospital?"
  38. Emi looks at me incredulously. "Don't... you?" I smile sheepishly. "I moved to this area for a job, I don't really know where things like hospitals are."
  40. Emi stomps her prosthetics. "You're such a dummy, why is Hisao friends with you?! I'm... I'm not going to have birth here in my apartment!" I start panicking, reaching into my pocket for my cellphone.
  42. "Don't worry, don't worry! I'll just call for an ambulance, they'll bring us to the hospital." Emi frowns. "But ambulances cost money!"
  44. I sigh. "I'll just have them send me the damn bill, okay? C'mon." I dial and press call, receiving an emergency operator.
  46. "Hello, what is your emergency?"
  48. "Hi, uh... I have a friend who's in labor. Address? Oh, crap- Emi, what's your address?"
  50. She grunts and leans forward, hands gripping her bulging stomach. It's... amazing she can even stand, she looks so off balance with that bump of hers. "Tsu... Tsurugaya, 8-chōme, 12-4." I repeat her words into the phone.
  52. "Alright, we'll send an ambulance over right away. Please keep your friend calm. Steady breathing and help her find a position that's comfortable for her. Sitting, standing- so long as it helps relieve the labor pains. I'm going to remain on the phone with you in case you have any questions."
  54. I sigh relief into my cell phone. "Thank god, I have no idea what I should be doing... Emi, are you comfortable standing? Does your back hurt?"
  56. She practically snarls at me. "C'mon, steady breathing. Try standing up straight, okay?" She does so and she begins regulating her breaths. "This huuuurts." I can see her eyes watering and I give her a reassuring smile. "Of course it does. Which is why I'm never going to do it myself. But don't worry, I'm here."
  58. We spend a lot of time helping reposition her so that she was comfortable. In the end, she got to sit and relax for about fifteen minutes. I gave her a small back rub while she kept her breathing steady.
  60. "You know, I've tried a lot to make you stop hating me, Emi."
  62. "I... know." Between breaths.
  64. "Then why do you dislike me so much?"
  66. She pauses for a second. She might not know.
  68. "Maybe... it's because I felt threatened by you." I arch an eyebrow at her. Seriously?
  70. "C'mon, that's just crazy. You live with him, you helped him through one of his toughest times in life. I have nothing on you."
  72. "It's not just... that, though." I keep rubbing Emi's back. She said it made the pain lesser, so I don't see why I should stop.
  74. "You're like me, but you're..."
  76. She's struggling to speak the words. It's like she doesn't want to admit what she's always thought.
  78. "You're not broken."
  80. Emi moves her knees left and right, looking at where her legs end. I gently bop her in the back of the head.
  82. "Don't be stupid."
  84. "Well, it's true. Ever since I got pregnant, it's Hisao helping me with this, Hisao catering to me for that. All because not having real legs makes it harder for me to move. If it were you, he wouldn't have as much responsibility. And... well, he wouldn't have to deal with all of the problems... I have." Emi's body shakes a little.
  86. Stopping her backrub, I wrap my arms around her shoulders in a hug.
  88. "Please, it's not being broken. If anything, it makes you beautiful. It makes you YOU. We're all the same, we're all boring. You? You're interesting, you're different. As much as I hated you at first for having the guy I wanted to be with- you drew me to you."
  90. "You and Hisao are both different, interesting, amazing people. Living like the rest of us, but fighting and struggling through a whole different set of hardships. You see the world differently, you see it the way it should be."
  92. "You should never be envious of anyone who has legs, or can walk normal. I might have legs, but I don't see the world as clearly as you two and most of your friends do. When people lose things... they learn to appreciate everything else."
  94. Emi reaches up to my arms and grips them, returning my hug as she presses her chin to them. "M-maybe you're not as dumb as I thought you were originally." A siren wail in the distance is heard by the two of us.
  96. "Looks like your escort it here." I tell her. She nods as I help her up. "Hows your contractions?" Emi keeps her breathing calm as she winces a little. "Regular. Like... five or ten minutes apart?" I nod. "That's good. You've got plenty of time to get to the hospital then."
  98. When the ambulance pulls up against the curb, the driver hops out and the back opens up, a man starting to pull a gurney out of the back.
  100. The driver's wearing a black driver's hat and the other man's wearing a baseball cap. As they approach, pushing the stretcher towards where Emi and I am standing.
  102. "Hello! Unfortunately it's only the two of us, the other EMT was a lazy bum and took a sick day." The driver tips his hat at us, giving us a cordial smile. The other EMT nods his head. "Means I might have to ask you to help me a little, miss. If the need arises, at least." The driver and the EMT then move towards Emi.
  104. The driver smiles at her as well, extending a hand. "Shall we help you onto the stretcher?" He asks, motioning behind him towards the stretcher at the base of the stairs.
  106. "Su... sure." She seems confused at first, like she's in a daze. "You alright, miss?" The driver asks. His smile is almost oddly sincere. Like he's an old friend, seeing someone for the first time in a while.
  108. "Uh... yeah." She takes his hand and is lead down the stairs to the stretcher. They don't strap her in, but inform her to keep a steady grip on the sides so that she doesn't fall off. Well, I'm also helping make sure she stays steady as they push the stretcher back to the ambulance.
  110. "I'm coming with, just so you know." I inform them. The EMT that isn't the driver nods. "That's what we expected." His eyes seem kind of glassy, like he's not paying attention, or his mind's somewhere else.
  112. "Hey, driver- is your guy okay enough to be helping?" He peers into the back of the ambulance, taking a look at him. "Buddy, you alright?" He asks, snapping a little. The man grins, the appearance of consciousness sneaking into his expression.
  114. "Yeah, of course. Sorry, was just spacing out." He forces a yawn. "This kind of job doesn't give you much time to rest, you know? I didn't get my coffee this morning, either. But no worries, I'm fine."
  116. The driver's persistent smile widens a little. "See, there you have it. Everything will be totally fine."
  118. It's at that last phrase that Emi sits up and points a finger at the man. "It is you!" She exclaims, surprising everyone. The driver's smile folds a little, as if in confusion. "Excuse me?"
  120. "I was wondering why you look familiar!" And then a contraction sends shakes of pain through Emi's tiny frame. She groans and leans forward, gripping her stomach. "This is your fault! You gave me this stupid idea!"
  122. The man laughs at Emi. "I'm sorry miss, I've never met you before." He then turns towards me. "You should stay with your friend. Birth contractions are very painful, she might be getting delirious."
  124. Emi begins slamming her fists into the stretcher like a kid. "I am not delirious!" He nods, tipping his driver's hat towards her. "Of course not, ma'am. Alright, Yuto, take good care of her, alright."
  126. He hops into the front of the ambulance and pulls us away from the curb. Looking to Emi, I lean in and whisper, "What do you mean, he gave you this idea? You don't seem delirious to me." I ask.
  128. "He... ugh, the contractions are getting faster... he was at the park one day! I was jogging and when I sat down after playing with some of the local kids, he was sitting there with an newspaper."
  130. What? That's kind of farfetched for me.
  132. "He was wearing a limousine driver's suit and the same hat as the one he's wearing now, but it was a navy blue, to match his suit. I didn't recognize him until now because I didn't see much of his face past the newspaper."
  134. "What'd he say?"
  136. "He was... talking to me about how much I liked kids, and I wound up talking about how much I wanted one. But I didn't want to ask Hisao, because I knew he'd say no, because of us having a hard time with money."
  138. "And?"
  140. "He told me... that some women who are on birth control have tricked their spouses into having a kid with them by 'forgetting' to take their contraceptive. He gave me the idea! When he got up to leave, he just told me 'Don't worry, everything will be fine', and then left!"
  142. "And now he's your ambulance driver."
  144. "Yeah! I don't get it either, but don'tcha believe me?" I sigh, not sure whether I should. But what good does making up this story do Emi?
  146. I place a hand on her shoulder as her breathing becomes more labored and her pain becomes more frequent. The other EMT is checking her blood pressure, checking her eyes for dilation as well as other routine checks as the driver brings us to the hospital.
  148. This 'limo guy' story isn't too important. For all I know, this is delirium from pain kicking in. But more importantly than anything; where's Hisao?
  150. =====
  152. The world slowly sneaks back into focus as I tear myself from the depths of unconsciousness. All I can hear is a distantly faint voice; a whisper.
  154. 'Come back...'
  156. It's dark. I'm clawing against it all, trying to pull it all down around me. I need to see the light and Emi again.
  158. 'Come... back.'
  160. Why does that voice sound so familiar...? Like a song that I'd forgotten but just remembered.
  162. It's giving me something to focus on, to head towards. All I can do is groan while the world seems to stir around me in nothing but blurs.
  164. "Emi..." I manage to groan out. Once my focus returns to me, I realize that the world's upside down. Literally. I'm hanging from my seatbelt upside down, my car turned over. The glass has shattered on my side and the door is buckled inwards. The windshield's in pieces.
  166. And so am I.
  168. Blood trickles down the side of my face, obscuring one of my eyes. The whiplash must've slammed my head into the car and knocked me out. I curse under my breath as I fish around for the seatbelt's release button.
  170. Good thing the ceiling isn't too far from my head, thanks to the weight of the rest of the car pressing down on it. I fall gingerly onto my back, grunting while I reach over to the other door, pulling the lock and struggling to shove it open.
  172. My whole body's on fire, my neck hurts. My head's throbbing. My legs are jelly as I crawl out of the open side of the car.
  174. Still, I stand.
  176. I have to stand.
  178. My child's being born and I don't plan to miss it.
  180. I clutch my head for only a moment before stumbling my way towards the offending car, the one that t-boned me.
  182. The driver's okay. Their airbag knocked them out and the front of their car is a little worse from wear, but they're not bleeding or apparently injured.
  184. Good.
  186. I turn towards the street. How am I going to get to Emi? I can only run so fast, especially with whatever damage I've taken from the crash.
  188. Off to the side of the road, I see a kid who witnessed the accident, shell shocked and barely holding onto his bike.
  190. "Hey, kid!" I call out, reaching my hand out towards him. He flinches at the sound of my voice, like he's drawn out of his daze from another world and back to this one.
  192. He takes a step back. I can understand why; I'm probably covered in blood and still wearing my labcoat. I must look like something out of a movie right now.
  194. "It's alright, I just- I need your bike."
  196. And he drops it.
  198. "I can give you money for it. I just need-"
  200. Whoa, the world spun pretty hard for a second there. I nearly fall over but I quickly correct myself.
  202. "I just need to get to the hospital." I say, stepping quickly towards him and fetching my wallet. Thankfully, it's still in the same pocket I left it.
  204. My hands are shaking as I take steps towards the kid, trying to separate the bills. I don't do a very good job and end up shoving a handful of bills into the kids hands.
  206. He looks at them, the expression of shell-shock reappearing on his face. "This is... around fifty thousand yen, mister."
  208. "Oh, is that not enough? Here, here's the rest." I say, quickly grabbing the rest of the money and shoving it into his hands.
  210. "Can I have the bike now? I really need to go." I say, checking my wristwatch. Damn, it's broken. Uh... phone? That works! Thank God. Only been out for like ten minutes.
  212. "Yeah, go ahead." He's too busy counting his newly found money with a wide-eyed expression.
  214. "Oh, and uh. Any ambulances or cops show up, just tell them you didn't see me, if they ask. I need to get to my girlfriend."
  216. He pockets the money. "Whatever you say, good luck. Try to be careful, okay?" The kid asks me. I nod as I try and keep my balance, shoving off and pedaling as hard as I can.
  218. I can already hear the sirens of ambulances off in the distance. Someone walking by or a person looking from a window most likely called for an ambulance.
  220. As I'm pedaling, I'm taking wild guesses at to where I am. The neighborhood is familiar, this is my area. I just can't remember which street leads where. Or to where the local hospital is. I know where it is- it's just there's a foggy mess where the memory is.
  222. I grunt and snarl at myself as I push my body beyond its willing limit. I need to remember. I need to get there. I need to do it fast.
  224. The thumping of my heart mimics my will- steady, resolute. It doesn't plan to stop. Right now, I'm counting my blessings. All that running, all of that exercise, all of the careful dieting- It's all paying off right here, right now.
  226. I'm able to get up.
  228. I'm able to shake it off.
  230. I can push myself, I can get where I need to be. If this were me in any other life, I probably would've given up in that car, waited to be dragged out by EMTs.
  232. Not here, not now, not me.
  234. I pedal harder, faster, more vehemently. I need to make it to the hospital. I need to tear apart the mist obscuring my thoughts. I need to get to Emi. I need to be there for her.
  236. I'm going to be a father.
  238. That child is going to be held by me, the moment they're born. I'm going to be there for Emi to hold onto while she gives birth. I'm going to reassure her everything's going to be alright. That because I'm there, nothing can go wrong.
  240. I'm going to make sure that happens.
  242. No matter what. Weaving around cars, snaking through alleys, I start to get a feel for my town, start to remember. It's all coming back now. I know where I am, where I'm going.
  244. I might be a mess, but it's all coming together now. I hit the breaks and I spin in place, realizing I missed the right turn. I nearly fling myself from the bike, but keep my balance.
  246. I'm going to get there in one piece, before my child is born.
  248. Nothing's going to stop me. Nothing.
  250. Eventually, I find myself in front of the hospital and I ditch the bike. Thanks, I appreciate the help, but this is as far as you'll need to take me.
  252. As I'm walking, a voice comes from an ambulance parked in the rotary. "Good to see you're back. Congratulations! But hurry up, she's waiting for you." What? That voice...
  254. I glance over towards the sound, but I can barely make out who's addressing me through the haze of blood in my eye. That and the fact that I'm having trouble focusing from what's probably a concussion.
  256. Whoever it is, all I can make out is a navy blue hat peeking over a newspaper. "What? Nevermind, I don't have time for this."
  258. I stumble into the lobby. I feel a bit weak, probably from blood loss. I haven't lost enough yet to worry me, though. This isn't anything, but it definitely scares some of the people in the lobby.
  260. I walk directly towards the lobby desk.
  262. "Emi Ibarazaki. Which room is she in?"
  264. The attendant looks at me incredulously. "Sir, you need to see a doctor, you're severely injured."
  266. "No, I'm not. My girlfriend's in labor-"
  268. "Sir, you have a pretty deep laceration from your eyebrow to your forehead."
  270. "My girlfriend's in labor!" I roar, slamming my hands onto the desk, droplets of blood falling onto it.
  272. "This, this isn't important!" I point to my forehead as I shout, my hands trembling from anger. No one's going to stop me. I know if they take me to a doctor, they're going to try and fix me up. That's not going to happen until I make sure Emi's fine and that I haven't missed anything.
  274. "What's important is that I see my girlfriend. I'm not going to miss the birth of my child! My child is not going to be brought into this world without me there to see him!"
  276. The woman at the desk is at a loss for words, although some security is already rapidly approaching the desk. I'm ready to fight if I have to. I don't know how much I can deal with- but no one has any right to stop me from seeing the birth of my baby.
  278. "Nakai?"
  280. A familiar voice from behind me.
  282. I whirl around to see an old oncologist who used to have me run errands for him when I was an intern.
  284. "Are... you alright?" He asks, looking worriedly at me.
  286. "I'm fine, Mr. Takiyama. But the attendant won't tell me the room of my girlfriend. She's in labor. She needs me." I tell him. He laughs at me. "Don't worry about him, if he can remember my name after not seeing my face for nearly a year, he's in good enough shape. Please give him the room number. And security, everything's okay."
  288. He waves them away and they nod, although they keep an eye on me from a distance.
  290. They do a quick lookup and get me her room number. She just arrived about ten minutes ago. It's been thirty minutes since my accident, according to my phone's clock.
  292. Takiyama has what looks like his lunch in his hands, a coffee in the other. "Also, send a nurse up to the room so they can patch Mr. Nakai here up outside of his spouse's room." He informs the attendant. She nods and Takiyama leads me to the room.
  294. "Heard you got a job at A&H. And to think I had talent running errands for our hospital." He laughs and I find I don't have any laughter in me right now. I do give a small smile, though.
  296. "Yeah. Thank you for helping me out there." He waves it off, giving me a non-plussed expression. "Please. You sounded like you were going to turn the hospital upside down if they got in the way. I think the staff should be thanking me." He laughs.
  298. "I guess so."
  300. He leads me quickly to Emi's room and opens the door. She's in there, breathing heavily and groaning from the pain. So is Aya, Emi's mother and her boyfriend and Rin as well.
  302. "Emi! Are you alright?"
  304. She takes one look at me and is shocked. As does everyone else.
  306. "Am I alright?! What- what happened to you? You idiot, did you- oh god, you got into-" She begins sobbing almost immediately. She understands what happened.
  308. A car accident, the same thing that took her father and her legs. I can understand that she's going through an emotional surge of fear, pain and excitement that I'm alive and not irreparably hurt. I walk quickly towards her and grip her hand.
  310. "Don't worry, I'm fine. Are you okay? Is the baby alright?" From outside of my periphery, I can hear a nurse's voice. "Everything's fine, Mr. Nakai. She isn't expected to give birth for at least twenty minutes, by how spaced apart her contractions are. They called to let us know you were coming up. A nurse will be here to help you soon. They'll be bringing a cart and suturing your wound in the hall, so please wait out there."
  312. I'm reluctant to let go of Emi's hand, but I can tell how I look is worrying her. "I'm okay, I'm okay! Stop crying Em, alright?" I give her a big grin. "Nothing's gonna do me in."
  314. "Thanks everyone for being here. While I'm getting patched up, keep her company for me, alright?" Everyone nods and I leave the room, closing the door quietly behind me. I can hear her mother's voice through the door before I move away.
  316. "And here I was, thinking he was a bit on the weak side. You whipped him into shape, huh?" She teases Emi, who quickly tells her to cut it out.
  318. I smile. Everything's alright, it sounds.
  320. I take a seat at the bench just shortly down the hall. I reach to my forehead, probing the wound. It stings like hell when I touch it, but I need to know exactly how deep it is. Judging by how far the wound is opening and the fact that my old superior grabs my wrist when I touch it, it's pretty deep.
  322. A nurse shows up with a doctor, a cart and supplies.
  324. "Here to sew me up?" The doctor nods, grinning at me. "You're doing pretty good for someone with a gash in their head, Hisao." Ah, someone else who remembers me, huh?
  326. "Sorry, I don't recognize you. I'm pretty... tired, so mind just fixing me up and getting me something for my head? It hurts." The doctor nods, walking towards me with a pen light, checking my pupils.
  328. "Can't let you sleep though. Looks like a concussion to me." Fair enough. I don't want to sleep, anyways. That'd mean I'd miss the birth of my baby.
  330. They start mopping me up, unpackaging a readied needle they plan to sew me up with. Beforehand, they inject a syringe of something into the skin around my wound. "Helps relieve the pain." The doctor informs me as they begin pulling me together.
  332. Stitches, huh? I did a good job, I tell myself with a grin. They wash out the wound first, prying it open a little. "Just making sure there's nothing foreign in the wound." After finding nothing, the begin closing me up.
  334. It stings at first, but the pain passes quickly. I'm too tired to even notice any of it. After everything's said and done with, they dab at the wound to make sure it's clean.
  336. "There you go, Nakai. After your girlfriend gives birth, you should be examined further, to make sure nothing else is the matter, alright?" I nod at the doctor, shrugging off my labcoat with a sigh. It feels better without it right now. Plus, it's got a lot of my blood on it, and I don't want Emi seeing that right now.
  338. I stretch a little. My body is still on fire, but most of the flames have settled to an ember. Now I just ache. I walk back towards Emi's room, waving goodbye to the doctors who work here.
  340. Entering, I close the door quietly behind me.
  342. "Hey there, champ. What do you feel like doing now, Mr. Invincible?" Takeda teases. I sigh. "Nothing but stay here with Emi." I pull up a seat and sit besides her, reaching over for her hand. She's still breathing rhythmically, but grips my hand.
  344. "I'm pretty scared, Hisao." She admits. I smile at her. "There's nothing to be afraid of. I'm here, so everything's fine." She laughs. "Just don't get into any more car accidents, okay?" I nod.
  346. "Of course I won't."
  348. Everyone in the room spends time together with one another, chatting. I wind up getting a phone call from my supervisor. Informs me the police wants to know why one of their company cars were found overturned in the middle of a road, without anyone in it.
  350. Thankfully, they've given the police an excuse that they have to look through the databases to see which employee the car belongs to, and that the records of him having used it will be conveniently gone by the time they 'locate' that information.
  352. I guess these are the perks of working for a private company, I tell myself. The research lead tells me not to go flipping over any more cars and to not kill myself in any more motor-related accidents. I won't and I tell him that, so I get off of the phone.
  354. Time continues passing by and I talk Emi through it all while her contractions begin coming faster. She's getting worried, and I can see it on her face. She's scared.
  356. I grip her hands and kiss her on the cheek. "It's going to be fine, alright?" She nods fervently, but whispers to me. "I don't think this was one of my better ideas, Hisao." She buries her head in my shoulder and I play with her hair. I can smell the scent of her  strawberry shampoo and the lilac from the gardening she was doing.
  358. "No, this was a great idea. You'll be happy you did it once everything's over with."
  360. After a long hour with Emi's contractions become closer and closer, a look of panic appears on her face. "Hisao, Hisao, the baby's coming, I can feel it- ohgodwhatdoIdoHisaothebaby'scoming."
  362. A surge of panic transfers from her into me. What do we do? "Uh, someone call a nurse? Where's that button- the one that calls the nurse?"
  364. Rin grins distantly as she pokes the button on a dangling remote connected to the bed. "Got it." She says, trying to emulate a thumbs-up with her big toe. I shake my head at her and grab hold of Emi's hands while she starts breathing quicker than ever.
  366. A nurse rushes in. "She's going to give birth!" I exclaim. "Alright, family and spouse only please." Takeda, Aya and Rin are all lead out while the nurse leaves to get a doctor.
  368. "Don't worry hun, it'll be alright. We're here, okay?" Meiko takes the other side that I'm not on, taking her hand. "Oh god, I'm so scared. Mom, I'm going to be pushing a living thing out of my- Why did I decide to do thiiiiiiis?" She groans as I can hear the force of her body pushing the baby out.
  370. Meiko laughs at the apparent horror on her daughter's face. "It'll be fine, it's only scary now. It'll be all over soon, and you'll have a beautiful baby to call your own."
  372. "And one day, Hisao will propose to you, and you'll have your baby be a ring bearer, or a flower girl..." Meiko tells her, which puts a smile on her face. That's what she needs, is happy thoughts.
  374. "Lots of home videos, too. Our kids first words, our first real home, hell, maybe we'll get a dog and you can go for jogs with him." Emi laughs. "That sounds wonderful. So... so..." She starts breathing fast and grunts, her body pushing again.
  376. "I just gotta get through this?" She asks, looking hopeful. I nod. "All you have to do is get through this." I kiss her on the cheek, grabbing a tissue to wipe her forehead with. Beads of sweat are starting to form as her body puts all of its strength into giving birth.
  378. A doctor comes in with a few nurses and they begin to prepare for Emi's birth.
  380. "Alright, Miss Ibarazaki. You're doing great. Just keep pushing, okay?" The nurses are monitoring her vitals, to make sure nothing goes wrong.
  382. "Everything looks good, you're doing wonderfully. Even though premature births carry risks, you're incredibly healthy. I don't think this will be anything but a normal birth." The doctor tells us as he separates the bed with a divider so that Emi has privacy while they await the birth of our child.
  384. I'll admit, I'm getting scared now. Emi's groans and cries are growing louder and more violent. It's only been ten minutes and I'm starting to lose my grip. "Hisao," Meiko calls to me from over the bed. I look up and I can see that she knows how I'm feeling.
  386. "Ryota looked exactly like you do right now, when he was with me as I gave birth." Huh?
  388. "Can we NOT talk about dad while I'm giving bi-" And then a low rumble in her throat erupts into a shout as Emi's pushing and releases my hand so she can grip the flesh of my chest.
  390. Dad? That was probably one thing she's never mentioned- her father's name. She always spoke of him in short amounts, never too much, but just enough so that I'd know more.
  392. "The concept dawned on him while I was screaming at the top of my lungs that he was going to be a dad."
  394. "Yeah, that feels about what I feel like right now."
  396. "Well, don't worry about it. You've got a good job and a good heart, no puns intended. You'll take good care of my daughter and my grandchild." Meiko adds a giggle to her statement. Hey, my heart IS good now. Mostly.
  398. The shouts and screams become louder, Emi starting to grab whatever of me she can get a hand on, punching, pulling, scratching. "This is your fault, your fault! Why- I wouldn't be like this if it wasn't for you! Hisao, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck!"
  400. I grab hold of her hand, laughing. Her eyes are watering while she's pushing. It's been at least fifteen minutes and she's getting closer to having given birth. But she's getting progressively angrier.
  402. "Hey! You were the bright one who forgot her birth control. Not my fault. You don't hear me complaining about you getting me into a car accident, do you?"
  404. "That- That doesn't... THAT DOESN'T COUNT!" She shouts at me, tilting her head back at the ceiling. "It's fine, don't worry about it Em. Just think about all the good things that are going to happen. Focus on those. You're doing fantastic. Just keep pushing."
  406. She groans, doing exactly that.
  408. "I can see the head! You're almost done, Miss Ibarazaki. Keep pushing!" The doctor tells her and a kind of fire lights in her eyes. This is the final stretch of her most important race. She just has to push herself.
  410. She starts screaming bloody murder and it scares me at first. She's putting her all into this final push. This is all she has to do. She knows it, we know it, everyone in the hospital probably knows it from how loud she's being.
  412. "C'mon! Almost, you're almost there! Once the head is through, you're all done!" The doctor's voice is excited, encouraging. Emi grabs hold of my collar, gripping it tight while she pushes with all her might.
  414. Moments later, I hear a few words that I doubt I'll ever forget.
  416. "You've done it!" The doctor cuts the umbilical and he cradles the baby against his chest. Emi looks in a daze, but the minute she sees that small, pink shape, her expression lights up and her hand drops from my collar to my fingers.
  418. She laces her around mine, her eyes following the doctor as he cleans off the baby gingerly, wrapping them up and handing the child to Emi.
  420. "Congratulations, it's a boy." He says, his words filled with a warmth that is shared by all three of us in the room. At that moment, I'm a father.
  422. Everyone always says babies are ugly.
  424. And you know what? They are. Covered in blood, hairless, with scrunched up angry faces crying to the world that they've been brought into.
  426. But you know what? That's my child- and he's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in the entire world. That's all I can see.
  428. Beauty and potential and life.
  430. He's so small, so fragile. His skin's so red and looks so sensitive. The minute Emi started cooing at him, telling him who we were, it was like he knew. His crying slowly quieted and he started drifting to sleep. She handed him to me and I don't think I'll ever be able to explain how it felt to hold my firstborn, my son, my child.
  432. It was like the world exploded into my arms and heart, all at once. Nothing outside of this little room and this little bundle mattered; just the people I would always love.
  434. The doctor holds out his hands. "Because he's premature, we need to put him in an incubator, take care of him for a while until he's ready to be taken home."
  436. I felt reluctant to pass my little boy off to this man who I had barely known until now.
  438. "Can we name him, first?"
  440. The doctor nods. "Absolutely. But no longer than a minute. And keep him close to you, stable temperature is important for a newborn."
  442. I looked to Emi, who looked tired. You've done good, Emi. Came in first, like always.
  444. "You were right, Hisao."
  446. "Huh?"
  448. "It was a boy! Remember, you guessed."
  450. Oh yeah, she's right. I guess I just knew. I passed a smile at her.
  452. "What do you want to name him?" I could tell Emi had no idea. She had so many names written up, she probably couldn't choose between them. You know...
  454. "Why not name him Ryota? Ryota Nakai sounds wonderful to me. You are who you are because he raised you. I think this is a good way to thank him."
  456. Emi's eyes widened a little, a couple tears tugging themselves out of the corners of her eyes.
  458. "I think that's a great idea."
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