Forget Me Not
After feeling like she had been living in a hazy dream for so long, it was like finally beginning to wake up.
There was no flood of memories, no gasp of surprise as everything righted itself in an instant.
It happened a little at a time, at its own pace and leisure.
It was like falling in love; it couldn't be rushed.
And sometimes it faded.
Sometimes all that was left with in the end were scattered memories.
But the feelings that were left behind – those were imprinted upon the heart forever.
The pain, the joy, the hope, the sorrow – like scars, they were etched into the deepest parts of the soul so as never to be forgotten.
As time passed and more of Mako's memories continued to filter back, she'd pause and wonder sometimes if they were ones that had been forgotten or simply the kind that no one recalls until something triggers their remembrance during a daily routine. She eventually learned not to fret about it, allowing them to come back or not in their own time.
Instead, as the months passed, Mako focused on new memories.
The moment they announced to their friends and loved ones that they were expecting followed by the tears, laughter and embraces as everyone was caught up in the unbridled joy and warmth from the announcement.
Then there was the day that Genta had declared that he had found the woman of his dreams – a regular customer from the restaurant he worked at.
And the subsequent announcement of their engagement a few scant months later.
There was also the slow, steady courtship of Ryunosuke and the woman he had literally run into at the supermarket when he had hastily turned a corner, his mind too distracted by the phone call he had received to notice where he was going.
The days when Kotoha, Kaoru and Mako ventured out on seemingly endless shopping excursions as Mako's stomach grew with each passing week, a reminder that time was running short in preparation.
Memories that had time catapulting by faster than they could have possibly imagined until, before they knew it, they were back in the hospital one cool, early fall morning a little panicked but mostly anxious and excited as Mako's contractions fell upon her in shorter and intensifying minutes.
Kaoru, who had begun to stay over more frequently as Mako's time approached, eagerly agreed to make the round of calls to stir their friends from their slumber for the big event as Takeru followed Mako into the room, ready to help her through the birth, the two as inseparable as ever.
"That's it, dear," the nurse encouraged as everything slipped by, time no longer having any meaning to Mako in the midst of her labor. "Keep pushing."
Mako's vice-like grip on Takeru's hand tightened as she strained, pushing with all of her strength while fighting against her exhaustion at the same time. "I'm sorry," she gasped when he winced.
"Don't worry about me," he shook his head. "I can handle it. Just focus on you."
She gave him a brief, weary smile before her body's muscles clenched involuntarily and she was pushing again, harder than before.
"Nearly there," their doctor smiled from behind her sterile mask. "One last push should do it."
With a cry of pain, every muscle and thought in her body focused on the task at hand. Mako pushed with all of her remaining strength, collapsing back against the pillow on her hospital bed, hair and face drenched in sweat as a loud wailing filled the tiny room.
Mako sagged against the bed, utterly spent and exhausted as the doctor and nurses quickly went through their motions.
Takeru continued to hold her hand firmly in his own as he kissed her temple. "You did it."
"We did it," she corrected him with an exhausted smile.
"Mr. and Mrs. Shiba?"
The couple turned as one as a nurse approached them with a smile and a squirming, pale yellow blanket in her arms. "Meet your baby girl."
She gently placed the flailing bundle into Mako's shaky arms, Takeru immediately sitting beside her on the bed to help support her unsteady limbs. Together they peered down at the angry, pouting red face staring back up at them.
Mako lifted her daughter until she could place a tender kiss on her soft, dark head of hair. "Hello, beautiful," she whispered.
The crying newborn eased her fussing and gazed up at the sound of her mother's voice with wide, curious eyes, tears still gathered in the corners, vastly unsure and confused about this new world she had found herself in.
Mako's eyes filled with tears of her own as an all-consuming rush of fierce love for the tiny, warm body in her arms raced through every vein and artery in her body. She held her daughter close for a moment, her limbs trembling at the effort until another arm offered its quiet support.
"Want to meet your daddy?" She asked as she relaxed her hold and rested her weary head on her husband's shoulder.
Mako thought her heart would burst as she watched Takeru gently reach out to trace the back of his finger against his daughter's cheek.
She smiled up at him. "How does it feel to be a daddy, Takeru?"
He gave her a chaste kiss on the lips in answer, too overcome with his own emotions to give a verbal one.
A polite cough sounded from the door and the new parents looked over to see the smiling nurse. "I believe you have a few visitors." She nodded toward the now opened window in the closed door where several faces were jostling to take a peek inside. "I'm afraid only one is allowed in at a time, though."
Mako shifted the tiny bundle in her arms into Takeru's as he adjusted his own to cradle the infant protectively. "Go introduce her to everyone," she told him with a bright smile.
"Are you sure?"
She nodded. "They were just as anxious to meet her as we were; meeting her one at a time is just silly."
He placed a kiss on her temple. "Rest," he insisted. "I'll be right back."
"Take your time," she smiled. "I'm not going anywhere."
He grinned back at her before carefully making his way toward the door the nurse opened for him, the rush of excited and concerned voices immediately filtering in through the frame.
From her vantage point, Mako watched her friends and family gather around Takeru. Their excited, happy faces lit up in delight as the newest addition to their ever-growing family stared back at them with wide, dark eyes overwhelmed by all the attention.
For her part, Mako fixated the moment – the memory – in her heart where she knew it could never be forgotten.
Author's Note: And that's all she wrote folks! It's been a long time coming, but this story has finally reached its conclusion. Thank you to all of you for your patience with my rather sizable gap in between some of those updates. Hopefully it was worth the wait. May we meet again one day!