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Precious Occasions

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He stares wide-eyed at the imposing wall before him wondering why, just why was he even standing in this aisle?  Except for the cool AC during this August heatwave, being in a bookstore was not where he wanted to be.  Maybe he should have taken the store clerks offer of assistance, or ‘maybe I should just google it like everyone else does in this day and age!’  But Tohru wanted a real book of what to expect when you’re expecting.  Kyo couldn’t remember if that was the title or just the type of book she wanted.  He groans and clenches his fist, ‘there’s just too many to choose from!’  Oh, wait, his eyes land on a spine.  ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  Tch, figures.’ 

Last month they’d registered the pregnancy as soon as they found out.  The local city hall had provided them the first set of information they needed with the Maternal and Child Health Handbook.  It only covered the basics, check-ups, etc, but was necessary in order to get a birth certificate later.  The book he walked out of the store with had been recommended by Arisa.  She and Kureno already had one son, so aside from Hatori who also has a daughter, they gave the new mother any information that might come in handy.  Luckily for Tohru, the morning sickness that had plagued her best friend hasn’t reared its head.

 

It was too early to tell how things would progress, Tohru being in her third month and barely showing yet.  Japan was still coming down from the summer heat wave this September, but the small room air conditioner Kyo installed kept her comfortable.  She was so nervous and excited about being a mother, hence the book he’d found for her among other things, but he knows she will be an amazing one.  Him on the other hand, as the normally less excitable one was turning into a bit of a worrier.  Tohru is on the klutzy side, there’s no way around it, so he focused mainly on her safety and that included no more working as soon as she had started to show.  Maybe a bit of overkill, but the dojo was doing well financially and since they could afford it, she would stay home for now.  Winter was on its way in a couple of months and the last thing he needed was for her to slip and fall somewhere on ice.

 

It was amazing how much her belly grew in the short span of months.  By November, the bump had been barely noticeable, but now it was the first thing that caught Kyo’s attention- cute and round- like the little spark of life he knew was inside.  He couldn’t help but slather her with affection every time he looked at her.    

“How’s my beautiful wife feeling?” Kyo cradles Tohru in his arms and runs his hand over her growing belly. “Ready to head to the train?  The taxi is here.” 

“Yes,” she smiles, “just need my coat.”

“I’ll get it.”  He moves around and kneels before her, placing a soft kiss on her stomach, before moving away to grab their coats and gloves.    

The commuter train was partially empty during this time of the day, which was well and good.  Bumping along in a packed train would be uncomfortable with Tohru’s growing belly.  They were nervous and excited for the 5-month check-up, because today they would find out the baby’s sex.  Not that they cared either way, boy or girl, this child was going to be loved regardless.  All of the misfortunes of their own childhoods made up for in this bundle of joy. 

As the train comes to a stop, Tohru pulls her coat tighter around her and adjusts her gloves, Kyo doing the same, double checking his wife’s for good measure.  The snows had yet to come, but for November, the air was already growing chilly and sure enough when the doors open, a bluster of icy winds slam up against them.  Kyo wraps his arm around her shoulders, guiding her out and past the awaiting travelers, to lend his additional body heat.  Tohru lets her hands rest against her belly and allows her husband to lead the way.  It was maybe a two-block walk from the station to their obstetrician’s clinic. 

After a brief wait, the couple is led into an examination room, where Tohru is prepped for the simple ultrasound procedure.  Kyo waits patiently on a seat next to her, holding her hand.  He squeezes gently and kisses the back of it.  “Are you ready for this?” he smiles at his wife.

“Mmhmm,” she beams back.  “Are you?”

“No,” he chuckles, “but I’ll be fine.”

Ten-minutes later, the doctor begins the scan as the couple eagerly watches the monitor.  The doctor points and explains images as she goes along, taking measurements, and other needed information for the chart.  The fetus was an average size for the 22nd week, growing normally, with no signs of any distress.  They coo over the little digits of its fingers and button nose, or how the arms and legs look so strong already.  Finally, the moment arrives as the doctor zeroes in.  “It’s a boy,” the woman announces.  “Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Sohma, you have a healthy baby boy coming along just perfectly.”

Tohru looks over to her husband at the news, quickly flushed with pride at their creation.  Kyo was struggling to contain his elation, but she knew better.  She squeezes his hand to gain his attention.  “Kyo, it’s okay, you can let it out,” Tohru smiles, knowing he was on the verge of tears.  It reminded her of the day she’d learned of his true self, when he’d broken down in her arms.  All those emotions of happiness overwhelming him, when he’d realized it was the beginning of a new chapter in their lives, just as this was again.  They were bringing a new life into this world, and one that symbolized the very love they felt for one another. 

“Thank you,” was all Kyo could manage as the tears broke free and he hugged his wife.  She was doing it again.  This beautiful soul always managed to take his breath away.            

For as hot as August had been, December’s chill was becoming unrelenting and it wasn’t even the coldest month of the year.  “Are you warm enough?” Kyo wraps his arms around Tohru as she stirs a pot on the stove, letting his hands rest over the ever-expanding curve of her stomach.  “The weather is getting really chilly.”    

“Mmhmm, yes,” she smiles, “the heater is holding up, though I heard the snow by the end of this month will be growing heavier.” 

“It might be best not to attend the Sohma’s Christmas Eve dinner if it’s too heavy.”

“Aww!  But I was looking forward to seeing everyone,” Tohru pouts. 

“I know,” he kisses her cheek, “we’ll decide when it’s closer to that date.”

“O-kay.”

He chuckles at her whine.  “Why don’t you go rest and warm up under the kotetsu?”  Taking the spoon from her hand, “I’ll bring the dinner out.”

“Are you sure?  Aren’t you tired from training all day?”

“Nah,” he flexes his biceps with a grin, then shoos her away.

As he plates the dishes and piles them onto a serving tray, Kyo hears the television turn on and the sounds of a variety show spilling out.  Tohru rarely watched tv, but those shows were her favorite because they made her laugh.  Christmas music, so it’s begun he chuckles.  The holiday was still three weeks away but everywhere you turned companies were in full swing taking advantage of the Western tradition. 

“Would you like hot tea with dinner?”  He asks as he places the first set of dishes onto the table. 

“That would be wonderful,” she beams back.  “Is the heater sufficient for you, I could turn it up.”

“It’s perfect.  I’ll be right back with the drinks.”

Before sliding the door to the kitchen closed, he looks back at his wife and sees her swaying gently to the music.  It brings a smile to his face to see her so relaxed and content, but as his eyes glance over to the shifting snows outside the window, he sends out a silent prayer that the weather closer to Christmas clears.  His family had a big surprise instore for her and he really didn’t want to dash her hopes of attending the Christmas Eve party.  Akito had offered for them to move into one of the houses in the compound, but they’d declined for the time being.  He rather enjoyed the freedom of being outside on their own, and besides, this was much closer to his dojo.  Maybe one day, but not now. 

“Lookie, lookie Kyo!”  Tohru waves her husband over to the window.  The morning of Christmas Eve was gearing up to be a gorgeous break in the weather.  She presses her palms and face against the cool glass taking in the beautiful scene on their front garden.  The sculpted trees that were covered in melting frost sparkled brightly against the sun’s rays, and the white snow-covered ground gave up pockets of dormant zoysia grass below.  The blue sky above only held pockets of fluffy white clouds to let them know it was weather to last for a while. 

It was like a child excited to get their first puppy, the way she was practically bouncing with energy.  “Looks like we’re going to the party,” he chuckles.  Guess his prayer worked.

That afternoon, they pile luggage and bags with gifts into a taxi and head over to the Sohma compound. Gates that were once kept shut were now open, bringing a dramatic change to the very energy the place gave off.  It used to be such a cold and uninviting world that made Kyo’s hair stand on end, but now he could tolerate it.  First through the outer compound, the car makes its way towards the inner sanctum where Akito and Shigure lived, and where the banquet hall, turned general party room was located.  Kyo checks his watch to see it was just past 5pm; perfect timing.

Dutiful servants meet them at the door and help them with their bags.  Because it was an evening party, rooms were already prepared for attending guests who lived outside of the compound to stay overnight.  In their case, they had plans to stay through the New Year festivities so Tohru wouldn’t have to travel if the weather turned sour.  Luggage is taken to their room, while another servant leads them to the banquet hall.

“Surprise!!!”

“Oh, my goodness!” Tohru jumps back in shock, but having anticipated her reaction, Kyo had been waiting to keep her from stumbling. 

The room was filled with the entire family and their closest friends standing in a group holding balloons and spinning party favors, noise makers and other celebratory devices.  It may have been a holiday party, with the room decorated with lights and a tree, but mixed in were baby shower themed décor.  A large, “It’s a Boy!” banner hung on a wall above a table that held a diaper cake and gifts. 

“W-What is this?”  Tohru stammers.  She had no idea what a baby shower even was. 

“It’s the latest trend,” Kyo whispers in her ear.

“Come now, sweet Tohru,” Ayame struts closer with his head held high, “progress is advancing, and this Western tradition is growing here in Japan, which means we must take part in it!”

“He means any opportunity for a party,” Yuki chimes in, causing others to chuckle.

“Oh hush,” Ayame’s wife Mine bounces over and sticks an over-embellished, sparkling blue tiara on top of Tohru’s head.  “Nothing wrong with having as many celebrations as possible.”

“Yes,” Ayame brushes up against his brother, “and when will I have the opportunity to lavish my own niece or nephew with gifts?”

Yuki flushes, but keeps his mouth shut and simply slinks away.  Yes, he and Machi had been talking about it, but they didn’t need to know that yet. 

Once the initial shock was wearing down, others rush up for their opportunity to congratulate the couple properly.  The women surround Tohru and usher her over to the gift table, cooing over her belly, and chattering away at how lucky she was.  Dinner was yet an hour away, so the room stayed abuzz over the impending pregnancy.  Kyo watching from the side as he talks with the other males and leaving his wife in the hands of the women.  She was glowing not just from the pregnancy hormones, but pure happiness at being with her friends again.

Typical gifts include items for the baby, clothes, toys, even a beautiful carrying sling, but others were meant to help the parents cope with the stresses once the baby was born.  Tohru almost breaks down in tears at some of the gift certificates for housecleaning services and free grocery deliveries because it reminded her that with all the happy parts, there is struggle too.  Her friend Arisa hugs her.  “You’ll be fine, if I could do it, you can do it too.”

Tohru couldn’t help starting to feel a few pangs of despair.  Tonight, was supposed to be a festive night, not a sad one.  Even surrounded by people that loved her and accepted her as family, she still wished her mom and dad were still alive to see her child.  She grows quiet while keeping a faux smile on her face, half listening to the conversations around her, picking at the dinner that had been served, family buffet style. Why now of all the times for this emotion to surface, was it the hormones?  People told her that sometimes pregnant women’s emotions go crazy because of the hormones, happy one minute, sad the next.  Maybe the holiday season wasn’t helping either. 

“You okay?” Kyo leans over and whispers, “are you getting tired?”

“I’ll be okay,” Tohru smiles at her husband, “just… zoned out for...” 

Kyo watches as his wife stops mid-sentence and her hand quickly moves over her stomach.  Concerned, “what?  Is something wrong?!”

“He kicked!” Tohru gasps.  She grabs his hand and covers where she is feeling the movements.  “I felt a couple of kicks!”

“Wow!” Kyos eyes light up as he feels the light movements too. 

“Is this the first time?” Machi asks.

“Mmhmm,” Tohru smiles.    

Those closest to the couple lean over hoping to see something, a few of the women begging to touch her stomach too.  What amazing timing, Tohru reasoned in her head.  Had the infant known his mom was feeling sad and decided to act in the only way he could to pull her from that mood?  Such a sweet idea triggers a big blush and beaming crinkle to her eye, this child really was a gift from the gods.

The rest of the evening went well, her mood brightened once more.  After dinner, everyone exchanged gifts and opened them while conversations continued.  By 10pm, a few started to leave, by 11 the last guests were saying their final goodbye’s. 

In their guest room, Kyo snuggles Tohru to him.  “Did you enjoy seeing everyone?”

“Yes,” she murmurs, eyes closing with sleep.

“I’m glad.  We’ll be here for a week, so you should spend as much time with everyone as possible.”  He kisses her cheek, “goodnight Tohru.”

“I can’t… wait.  Goodnight Kyo…”

 

By February, the snows in their area were starting to melt away.  Spring was coming, and with it a reprieve from winter’s grip.  Up until January, things had been easy during the pregnancy, but that changed as Tohru’s belly grew.  It was all a part of the process their doctor had advised.  Her body was preparing for the birth and with that, came discomfort.  Her joints ached, the skin of her stomach was tight, muscle pain and fatigue, even shortness of breath.  Not to mention she was constantly hungry and needing to pee. 

The Braxton-Hicks contractions had started as well, a clear sign, the time would soon be arriving.  She had known all about the false contractions through reading about it, but its appearance brought a new wave of anxiety.  Kyo made sure to get her bag packed and ready at a moment’s notice, despite there being another month to go. 

There were other amusing developments as well which to Tohru’s annoyance, Kyo couldn’t help but take advantage of. 

Tohru was developing a waddle when she walked. 

“I’m sorry,” he chuckles as his wife pouts and stomps her foot.  “It’s just adorable the way you walk!” 

She didn’t care that this was just another part of the whole ordeal, or that her hips were shifting to accommodate the birth canal.  She felt like one of those fat little penguins they saw at the zoo. 

“But,” Kyo chuckles and hugs his wife and kisses her forehead, “a cute penguin nonetheless.” 

Tohru stays stiff in his arms, mumbling, “It’s still not funny.”

“Of course, it’s not funny,” he kisses her again, “adorable.  My little penguin wife.”

“Oof!” she hits his chest a few times.  “So, mean!”

That only sends Kyo further into hysterics.  “Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” He kisses her hand.  “Come on, it’s time for bed.”

“But, I’m hungry again.”

“Why am I not surprised.  What would you like to eat, I’ll bring it to the room while you get ready for bed?”

“Hmm, something warm, maybe miso soup.”

“I think we have the instant type.  I’ll go make you some.  Anything else?”

“Some koko?”

Kyo’s nose scrunches, “you want pickled vegetable now?”

Tohru shrugs, “I just feel like something salty.”

“Okay.  You go get ready for bed and I’ll bring them in a few minutes.”

“Thank you Kyo.” 

“Anything for you,” he kisses her and heads to the kitchen.

Not the weirdest craving he’s heard of women having.  Miso soup and pickled vegetables was no different than a traditional breakfast.  If he remembered correctly, Kureno mentioned Arisa asking for things like pickled ume plums and sardines or ice cream and dill pickles.  What was with the polar opposite type requests?  Kyo chuckles to himself as he prepares the soup.  Sweet and salty mixtures.  He’s also heard some gain cravings for ice or even dirt which is a symptom of lacking a mineral like iron in their body.  Thank goodness Tohru wasn’t craving dirt, he chuckles inwardly, that would be too strange.

He finishes the dishes and takes it to their room where he finds Tohru fast asleep.  Kyo shakes his head, ‘figures she’d fall asleep.’  But he wasn’t upset and instead packs the items away in the fridge for the morning. 

As he lays down beside her, Kyo takes a moment to appreciate all that she was going through.  Men had the easy part of this deal, women are the ones that are putting in all the blood, sweat, and tears to bring a baby into this world, and for that, Kyo had no problem doing everything he could to make things as comfortable for Tohru as possible.  If she wanted something to eat in the middle of the night, he would get it for her.  If she was sore and needed a good massage, he would happily turn into a masseuse.  He was lucky in that his wife was healthy and so easy to care for. 

He brushes away her bangs and notices a slight dampness on her brow.  It seems that her temperature was a little elevated.  After doing a simple check by placing the back of his hand over her forehead, Kyo realizes it’s not a fever.  More likely, she’s just warmer than normal.  ‘Well things aren’t normal at the moment,’ so it was completely understandable.  Other than the elevated body temperature she seems fine. 

‘We’re almost there.’  Kyo gently slips in under the covers, so as to not wake his wife, closes his eyes, and dreams of the new possibilities.

It was the first time in months that they were finally able to walk outside in comfort.  Scatterings of snow still litter the ground, but the concrete sidewalks held no ice that Tohru might slip on.  That eased Kyo’s mind when she’d asked to go walking just around the neighborhood.  Being cooped up in the house for so long was boring, and it was hard to resist a pretty sunny day.

Kyo held her hand as they walked along the pathway, passing houses, and occasionally waving to neighbors.  Tohru was radiant in her ninth month of pregnancy.  She almost glowed against the sunlight if that was even possible.  It was moments like this one that made him pause and thank the stars that she came into his life. 

They were almost home when Tohru pulls Kyo to a sudden stop. 

“What’s the matter?”

He follows her gaze as she looks down to see liquid trailing along her legs. 

“I think my water just broke, but, there’s no pain,” she looks back up at her husband, “isn’t there supposed to be pain?”

“How should I know!  C-Can you still walk?”

“I think so.”

“Okay, let’s get to the house, grab your bag, and get to the hospital.” He’s already on the phone dialing a taxi service as they walk.  “They’ll be here in a few minutes.”  Kyo sits Tohru down on a bench in front of the house, while he runs in to grab her travel bag.

On the way to the hospital, he text’s Arisa and Saki to let them know Tohru had gone into labor because he knew they were the two people she’d want to be around for her.  He also texts Kazuma and asks him to let the rest of the family know. “How are you doing,” Kyo holds her hand through the car ride.

“I’m…. I’m okay, just scared.”

“I’ll be with you through the whole thing, I promise.  And your friends are on their way to the hospital too.”

“Thank you Kyo…”  Tohru suddenly hunches over holding to her stomach, “K-Kyo I think…” and her face contorting, “the contractions j-just started.”

He can clearly see his wife grimacing through the pain.  Panic sets in and all the lessons they’d learned from Lamaze class fly right out the window.  What was the pattern of breathing again?!  Deep breaths?  “J-Just…. I-I think, okay focus on me Tohru,” he pulls her chin up a little, “inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth, and focus on something other than the pain.  Me, focus on me for now and squeeze my hand if the pain is too much.” 

She does her best to let Kyo guide her, just like the Lamaze instructor taught them to do.  It wasn’t always easy to focus against the pain.  It was like getting hit by a freight train.  One moment nothing, and the next second, strong pains that came in waves.  They could visibly see her stomach tightening and relaxing after a few tense minutes.  As soon as they arrive at the hospital, the orderlies bring a wheelchair and admit her to the obstetrics ward.  The nurses hook her up to baby and contraction monitors, fluids, and ask if she’d like anything for the pain. 

“Yes,” she squeals through another bout of waves.  Since the onset of the contractions, the pain had only grown stronger and deeper.  Her whole body hurt, her lower back was killing her, and the pressure in her pelvis was completely uncomfortable.

Their doctor arrives just as the nurses prepare and administer an epidural.  The doctor checks Tohru’s situation and informs them she is only dilated to 5 centimeters, or that she’s half-way there.  The monitors show the baby’s heartbeat as strong. 

“It may be a few more hours, Mrs. Sohma.  We’ll be checking you periodically to see if you’ve dilated further.  In the meantime, the epidural should make things a little more comfortable for you pain-wise.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Tohru ekes out a grimaced smile.  She could feel the pain medication starting to take effect. 

“Thank you, doctor,” Kyo add in, “is there anything else I can do to make my wife comfortable?”

“If she’s still feeling a lot of muscle ache and pressure after about 20 minutes, and is able to roll onto her side, sometimes massaging her lower back can help with the pressure she’s feeling in the area.  Just be careful to work around the epidural tube.  She may get thirsty, so you can give her ice chips to help with that.”    

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur.  It took another 4 hours for Tohru to dilate to the full 10 centimeters, before they could start the second delivery stage.  To pass the time, Arisa, Saki, and Kyo did their best to comfort and keep Tohru’s mind off the pain.  While the epidural was taking most of the contraction edge off, Arisa knew that once the delivery stage began, they would remove the epidural to allow the body greater feeling to help in moving the baby through the birth canal.    

It was agonizing for Kyo to watch his wife suffer.  She looked so tired, so exhausted with the whole thing and ready to get the baby out of her.  He held her hand as the doctors and nurses guided them through the delivery, telling her when to breathe, when to push.  And she did.  Regardless of how much it hurt, Tohru fought and pushed through it all.  Kyo was positively proud of her.

And when they heard the first mewling cries from their son, Tohru and Kyo broke down in tears.  Sweat beads still clung over her skin, yet through her exhaustion, she never looked more beautiful to him.  Kyo takes a cool, wet towel a nurse hands him and wipes his wife down.  “You did wonderful,” he kisses her softly. 

“Do we get to see him?” she asks curiously, and dreamily.

Kyo looks over to where the nurses were cleaning up their son, then back to his wife, “soon.”

“Yay…” her eyes crinkle.  She was extremely tired but fought to stay awake.   

They move her to a fresh bed and after a few minutes, a nurse comes over with their son bundled up in a blanket.  With Kyo’s help, Tohru shifts over and turns on her side.  Then the nurse places Hajime in Tohru’s arms. 

“Hello Hajime,” she beams at the little baby who slept peacefully, placing a little kiss on his forehead.  The baby mewls, shifts, but settles again into sleep. 

Little Hajime was beautiful.  Kyo couldn’t help but marvel at their creation.  A tiny tuft of orange hair peeked out from beneath a beanie.  His little digits were curled in a fist and every so often the babe would move his lips.  Kyo smiles as Tohru also doses off with the child nestled tightly in the crook of her arm.  He crawls onto the bed, turning on his side to face his wife and child, then pulls the blankets up around them.  It had been a long journey, but this part was now over.  Let her sleep tonight, for the morning their new life will begin.

 

It’s been a month since Tohru and Kyo’s son was born and all the preparation they had done to get ready paid off.  Their family and friends were also a true blessing, along with those gift certificates from the baby shower.  While Kyo was at work, Tohru became the primary caregiver.  Others like Arisa stopped by often to lend a hand as well as experience for the first-time mother since she knew just how difficult it could be.  They were lucky that Hajime wasn’t a colicky child and his eating and sleeping patterns fell into a routine fairly quickly.  But that still meant feedings every 2-3 hours round the clock, and after a while, the lack of sleep was taxing on Tohru.  Again, family stepped in, dropping by during the daytime to give her a chance to catch up on sleep.

The air was crisp and warm on the July afternoon, sun shining but not yet reaching the stifling hot temperature late August will bring.  A light breeze kept the midday heat to a minimum, creating just a perfect day for a little picnic at the park.  It was within walking distance, so Tohru bundles little Hajime in a sling wrapped to her body along with a small diaper bag.  Kyo holds his wife’s hand while carrying a blanket and the food in the other arm as they make the short walk. 

Once they arrive, the park held a scattering of other families just like them.  Children playing while parents watch from the sides.  The Sohma family finds a shady spot under one of the big maples that dot the landscape and spread out their blanket.  This was the first time the young family had taken Hajime outside of the house, except for doctor’s visits.  Tohru passes their son to Kyo who holds him steady in his lap, as she sets out their bento containers and drinks. 

Hajime was doing well holding himself up with help, and so Kyo uses his thigh’s as additional bumper supports while giving the child a bit of freedom to test his developing muscles.  “Did you bring a toy for him?” Kyo asks his wife.  She nods and pulls one out of her bag, handing it to the child who grasps onto the ringed toy. 

She giggles, “he really likes that one.”

“I don’t know why,” Kyo grumps.  It was just an orange tabby-shaped plush doll attached to a ring that can be hooked to a stroller.  Shigure had said it reminded him of Kyo’s ‘old days’ and couldn’t resist buying it for their son.  But aside from the teething ear part, the toy didn’t do anything else.  He helps the infant bring it closer to his mouth, and Hajime promptly starts gumming on the toy’s rubber ear.  Kyo can’t help but laugh but assumes this was just the onset of the child’s teething phase.       

Tohru smiles and shrugs, “it keeps him busy.” 

Which was a good thing.  As they eat their lunch, the child focuses on his toy all content to turn the fluffy fabric into a soggy mess from his drool.  Hajime wasn’t showing any pain or discomfort yet, but according to what she’s read, the beginning stages could just be a strange and new feeling that bothers the child.  For the breast-feeding mother, it was exciting and scary to know his teeth would be rearing its head soon enough.           

“That was a great lunch as usual Tohru,” Kyo pats his belly and smiles.  He moves Hajime from his lap and places the infant on his back onto the blanket, then lies on his side next to him.  Tohru stretches her legs, leaning back by supporting herself with her arms counter to Kyo like a yin and yang, to create a channel between them for Hajime. Their son may not be able to crawl yet, but he could hold his head up and was starting to turn over on his own.  It was safer this way just in case he decides to pick now to move. 

Kyo props his head up with his hand, while his eyes half close.  Tohru promptly chides him about falling asleep.  “I can’t help it,” he chuckles, “I’m so full I want to take a nap.”

Seeing his father laugh, Hajime tries to lift or turn his head to look at his father.  But not satisfied with the angle, the child makes almost a grunting sound of annoyance.  This makes Kyo and Tohru chuckle more.  They watch as Hajime fusses, then rolls onto his side to face his father.  A look of satisfaction washes over the infant as he stares at Kyo. 

“See,” Tohru giggles, “Hajime is telling you not to sleep either.”

“Okay, okay,” Kyo sits back up.  He picks Hajime up, holding him under the arms and letting him put weight on his legs without bearing the full burden.  “You, little man are wide awake, so if daddy wants to nap, that means making you want a nap, huh?”  Hajime laughs and blows a small bubble of drool at him which sets Tohru giggling again.  “Oh, yeah,” Kyo teases and bounces the child up and down a couple of times gently, making Hajime giggle even more. 

The back and forth between father and son continues for several more minutes while Tohru just chuckles and watches, even snapping a picture or two with her cell phone camera.  It was one of the best parts of motherhood to watch the two loves of her life enjoying themselves like today, playing and having fun.  It made all the stress and worries, the pain and discomfort worth going through again.  Someday, when they’re ready for another…                    

 

By the ninth month mark, Tohru and Kyo had managed to find a routine that worked for them.  They were also a lot more comfortable caring for their son now, with those first month jitters a thing of the past.  He was a strong little baby, but not much of a babbler.  Hajime was rolling over and half crawling by the 8th month ahead of the typical milestone charts.  Tohru loved teasing Kyo about it, saying their son was going to be strong like him.  Of course, Kyo would say he wasn’t that strong, but Tohru would politely disagree.  Their doctor also assured them that just because he wasn’t making a lot of ‘talking’ sounds, in intellectual milestone tests he scored as average, explaining that some children are just quieter than others.  That helped to allay Tohru’s worries. 

“Besides,” her friend Arisa teased during a visit, “just wait until he’s walking, you’ll have your hands too full to worry about whether he’s a chatter box!” 

Time had slipped past and the weather was growing warmer by the day as winter’s grasp eases into Spring. Tohru dabs the sweat from her brow.  With all the activity going on, the dojo had heated up.  Most of the room was already set up for the party, thanks to a handful of Kyo’s students helping the mother out.  She was delighted that Kazuma had graciously allowed them to use the spare rec area to host Hajime’s first birthday party.  Tables and zabuton cushions were placed for guests to sit and eat on.  Tables for the food and gifts, along with a small receiving area set up, and all that needed finishing was the decorations.  Kyo and Kazuma had left to pick up the catered food and drinks while she worked on the final touches.  It would be mostly adult family or close friends in attendance, maybe a handful of children, so Tohru decided games wouldn’t be necessary.   

Once, the décor is complete, she opens a sliding door that leads out to a small Zen garden area to allow the room to cool down.  It was time to take a break.  Tohru sits down, letting her legs hang off the raised walkway that surrounds the room, and closes her eyes for a moment, taking in the sweet smell of nearby cherry blossoms wafting by.  She loved seasons, every one of the four having their own melody and rhythm to them.  Spring was all about renewal and rebirth after Winter’s fading light.  Summer a time of remembering to enjoy life and Fall a reflection of change.  But those blossoms.  The sweet, sweet scent of the cherry blossoms relaxes her like no other flower. 

“We’re back!”

Tohru hears Kyo calling out to her.  And just like those blossoms’ short life span, so was her break time.  She chuckles and stands up, stretching her back.  “Coming!” she calls in through the open doorway. 

Kyo and Kazuma bring the boxes filled with catering trays and places them on the serving table, setting out each pan into the warmers.  Once that’s done, Kyo kisses Tohru on the cheek.  He smiles, “when is Arisa bringing Hajime?”

“Should be soon.  They’ll be here before the other guests start arriving.”

“Good,” Kazuma chimes in with a chuckle, “been waiting all day to play with my grandbaby.”

“Hey, no hoarding him all day,” Kyo teases the man.  “I think you’re getting too soft in your old age.”

“Old age?!” Kazuma cackles and throws a jab at Kyo, “this old man can still kick your butt!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kyo grumps with a smile still plastered on his face, while Tohru laughs.  He really didn’t mind, just wanted to tease.  Hajime loved the man.  The child’s eyes lit up whenever grandpa Kazuma was around and that always brought a smile to Kyo’s face.  He remembered being the same way once he’d warmed up to the older mentor.  As far as Kyo was concerned, Kazuma was his father, and the grandfather to his son. 

Arisa arrives 20 minutes later with Hajime and her own son in tow, and sure enough, Kazuma sweeps the boy up before Kyo or Tohru can get to him.  In fact, the only reason they knew their son had arrived, came from the sounds of loud giggles.  They see Kazuma throwing the boy gently in the air and catching him to elicit all the laughter.  Alright fine, Kyo teases the man from across the room, he was on babysitting duty for the rest of the party.  Of course, Kazuma’s response was to grin and walk away with Hajime.

Guests began to arrive shortly after, and soon Kyo and Tohru were busy greeting everyone.  Tohru sees Yuki and Machi walk in and immediately squeals.  It was the one person she was excited to see today.

“Machi!” Tohru rushes over to say hi.  “How are you?!”  The woman was 7 months pregnant with her and Yuki’s child, and since the last time they saw her was two months ago at the baby shower, she was excited to see how far along Machi was progressing.  She could only imagine after going through this herself how uncomfortable things can become in the third trimester.

Machi Sohma smiles at seeing her friend.  “Hi Tohru,” she rests her hands on her stomach, “oh, doing as well as any,” she laughs. 

Tohru laughs too and helps the woman to a table while Yuki follows and Kyo stays behind at the door greeting other guests that have arrived.  Tohru sits next to Machi.  “Have you guys picked out any names yet?” She asks Machi and Yuki.

“Mutsuki,” Machi answers, “for ‘harmonious’.”

“Ehh!”  Tohru squeals, “that’s a cute name!”

“Where’s Hajime?” Yuki looks around the room.  “Is he here?”

“Yes,” Tohru laughs, “Kazuma is somewhere around here with Hajime.”

For the rest of the day, the former zodiacs spend the time catching up and musing over the latest edition to their growing numbers.  They eat and sing and laugh the time away.  Some of the guys even start a betting pool on which of the zodiacs would be next to have kids.  Hatori had been the first, then Kureno, Kyo, now Yuki.  Based on age they decide it had to be between Shigure and Haru.  The women focus more on Machi, asking the woman how things are going and if there was anything they could help with.  It was a wonderful sight to see everyone coming together to help each other out as a family.         

By the end of the party, Tohru and Kyo were exhausted.  With the help of some students, they clean up the dojo then head home for the night, while Kazuma babysits a little longer to give the couple a break. 

“That was fun,” Tohru snuggles to her husband with a yawn slipping through.  “But I’m so tired.”

He chuckles and kisses her forehead, “then go to sleep silly.”

“Hajime is already one…” her eyes slipping closed, “time passes by so quickly….”

In just the one year they’d experienced so many firsts, from an infant that couldn’t move to a child now walking and talking.  Kyo remembered the first time his son sat up on his own or crawled.  His first steps, or the first times he said mum or da.  You could have knocked him over with a feather with how excitedly surprised he had been.  Hajime already looked like a miniature version of Kyo, but it was too early to tell what kind of personality he would develop. 

“Yes, it does,” he sighs, shifting closer and closing his eyes too.  ‘It really does…’  There were so many more first to come as well, from school to eventually other relationships.  All he could wish for was that his son would always be happy and healthy no matter the path he chooses.

Tohru questions the kindergarten administrator.  “But Hajime is only 2 and half, are you sure it’ll be okay for him to go to the kindergarten class?  He’ll be younger than the other students.”  This administrator woman herself was a distant Sohma relative and had come to their home by request of Akito now that Hajime had reached a certain age.  The school is a private kindergarten that has been used by the Sohma family for many years. 

The older woman adjusts her sitting position using the kotetsu table to balance as she shifts her legs.  It was uncomfortable at her older age of 60 to sit for long on her knees and shins in the traditional style.  “He won’t be an official student until he turns three, but for the Sohma’s we always make an exception.  By coming for a few hours, a day, he’ll be able to integrate into the class more smoothly once he does become a student.  I wouldn’t say Sohma’s are given special treatment, but because of their generosity over the years, we make exceptions to get them prepared sooner than the average child for school life.”

Tohru turns to Kyo to ask what his opinion is.  He’d been quiet through the whole meeting so far, and that was unusual.  She sees a look of apprehension, with his brown slightly furrowed and his arms crossed.  “Kyo?”

But the man was lost in his own thoughts.  He remembered this school alright, even the woman sitting in front of them, though a 20 years younger version, and while he couldn’t say the teachers were bad, the memories of that time were not the greatest.  As the cat zodiac, any of the Sohma students there would shun him, which in turn meant other students hoping to gain their favor would follow suit.  His years were lonely ones.  Of course, that didn’t mean it would be the same for Hajime, in fact he knew logically it wouldn’t be, but that didn’t stop the memories from creeping up. 

Tohru taps her husband’s shoulder this time, “Kyo?  What do you think?  I think it would be good for Hajime to be around other children.”  The mother-side of her wasn’t thrilled with seeing her son growing up and starting school, but at the same time she was excited.  For the next 6 months, Hajime would only be going from 8 in the morning until 11, and the school welcomed parents to volunteer.   

“It’s fine…  it is a good school…. I’m sure Hajime will do well there.”

The pause in Kyo’s words causes Tohru to stare deeper at her husband.  She knows if she asks if anything is wrong, he won’t speak up with the lady there, so she’ll ask later.  Then it dawns on her, Kyo may have attend the school.  She knew that his experiences as a child were still a sore spot in his heart, could that be what was troubling him?  Tohru places a hand on her husband’s arm and smiles when he turns to her, “Hajime will be fine.” 

Kyo places his hand over hers, sighing but smiling back, “I know.”  He couldn’t let his fears project onto his son.  He’s come a long way since the curse had been broken thanks to Tohru and he never wanted his children to ever have to feel what he had gone through.  When the boy is older, they’ll tell him about the Sohma history, but not anytime soon.  Right now, he just wanted Hajime to worry about being a kid. 

“And to think in another year Mutsuki will be able to join him at the school.”

That makes Kyo chuckle, to think the sons of once two sworn enemies could be friends.  The children are still very young, but Hajime and Mutsuki got along since Mutsuki had been born and he hoped it stayed that way.  Rin Sohma was still in the first trimester, but they recently learned that she and Haru were expecting twins.  Everyone was doing well and really starting to settle down into family lives.  He truly hoped their past would stay a distant memory as they all move forward. 

The female Principal smiles at the couple, “When you bring Hajime, we’ll get him fitted for the uniforms and introduce him to his class.”

On Monday morning, as Tohru readies Hajime to go to the school, the anxieties creep up from nowhere that, it really was happening, her son was going to school.  The days of spending her life revolved around this first-born son will soon become just a memory.  Hajime had meant so much to Kyo and her.  He was the product of their love, a second chance for the both of them to provide a child with a better life than either of them had ever had.  To lavish him with all the love they could give.  

Tears gather in her eyes, and she wipes them away before grabbing his outfit from the dresser.  Don’t be sad, she chants to herself, it’s all a part of growing up.  Was her mother sad when she’d gone to her first day of school?  Tohru couldn’t remember something so long ago, but she was sure that her mom had been.  Kyoko Honda worked many long hours, especially after her father Katsuya passed away and there were many days when she’d only see her late at night coming home from work.  They never had much, but that woman always gave her as much love and affection as she could. 

Memories of all the hugs and laughter bring a smile back to Tohru’s face.  ‘I hope I’m making you proud mom.’  She was sure her mom was smiling down on her.  How could she not be a good mom to her son, she’d had a great teacher. 

With Hajime ready and bundled in his jacket, Kyo takes the child’s hand and Tohru the boy’s other hand as they set out from the home.  Kyo took the day off because he didn’t want to miss this big moment.  It was his son’s first day of school, and he wanted to make sure his son would be okay.  Hajime knew where they were going.  Frankly, the child seemed excited to be going once they’d mentioned other children.  He was a smart, curious child, so the idea of learning new things intrigued him. 

 

The weather was mild for the early Fall season, growing chilly, but the snows were still another month away.  It was a beautiful time of the year and one that Tohru delighted in seeing with the color changing leaves.  Because it was early enough, most of the leaves had not fallen and were still on the trees.  Fiery reds and oranges, dark browns, and bright yellows in a kaleidoscope of color. 

It was a short walk from their home to the school, just a handful of blocks away.  Cutting through a park would shorten the time, so they chose the scenic route.  It was early, so the park didn’t have many people around, except for other commuters like them.  As they walk along a path through on their way to the school, they swing the giggling child between them.  They’d prepared him as best they could explaining what school was, and that this was the first-time mommy or daddy, or a family member wouldn’t be around for a few hours.  At first Hajime was confused, but once they got him to focus on playing with the other kids, it perked him right up.

“Are you excited Hajime?” Kyo asks his son.

“Yeah!” he giggles.  “Meet kids today!” 

Tohru chuckles, “Yes, meet lots of kids today.  Remember, mommy will pick you up after school, so listen to the teachers, and play nicely with the other kids.”

“Mutsu there?” the child questions.

“No, honey, Mutsuki is still too young, but next year he will be at the same school with you.”

“Yay!”  Hajime pulls down on their hands again, signaling his for them to swing him more. 

Kyo laughs, and he and Tohru oblige.  Based on how happy the child seemed, he was starting to think that this new arrangement would be tougher on them than it was for Hajime.  He glances over to his wife, who returns it with a knowing look.  They’ll get through this just fine, and of course, they could always have another…