Hearts of Sword
by Moon Momma

Epilogue -- Nephrite Obeys the Speed Limit

* * * * * * * *

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite was at the docks, supervising the unloading of a shipment of crystal from eastern Germany, when his cell phone rang. He raised a hand in apology to the foreman he was talking with, and picked up the phone. "Sanjouin here," he said, his usual business greeting.

"Nephrite?" Naru's voice, sounding small and scared.

"Naru-chan! What's wrong?"

"The doctor says it's time, Nephrite."

"But you were fine when I left three hours ago!"

"I know, things just started happening really fast, all of a sudden. Please hurry home."

"Be there soon." He hung up. "Hold that thought," he said to the foreman, and ran to the Ferrari.

At home, Naru was waiting in the living room, looking pale, scared, and distinctly unhappy. She had stuffed a few things in her new tote bag. (Nephrite had made her get rid of the Hello Kitty bag, saying "Do you know how embarrassing it was telling people I was looking for my wife and she was carrying a bag with Hello Kitty on it? They probably thought I was some kind of -- of -- pedophile, or something. I mean, you're young, but you're not that young.") She was also clutching a handful of papers from the childbirth classes they had attended.

Nephrite put his arm around her shoulders to lead her outside. "You ok, Naru-chan?"

"No, I'm not ok," she said, biting off each word. "I'm having a baby and it hurts."

Nephrite sighed. He'd been warned about this, in the classes -- the woman's sense of humor was often an early casualty of labor. Resolving to just keep his mouth shut, he picked her up and carried her out to their new car, a black Land Rover. He'd bought the Land Rover when Naru got too big to squeeze in and out of the Ferrari. (She had long since passed what he thought of as the ripe, sexy fertility goddess stage and was now just plain huge.) Besides, the Ferrari wouldn't exactly accommodate an infant safety seat. He grunted a little as he maneuvered her into the passenger seat, and she said, "Oh, shut up, I'm not that fat." Then she took in a sharp breath and her eyes got wide and scared as another contraction hit. Nephrite couldn't remember how she was supposed to be breathing right now, so he just held her head against his shoulder and let her squeeze his hand until it had passed. He kissed her forehead and whispered, "It'll be ok."

He had carefully followed the advice from childbirth class and practiced driving to the hospital a couple of dozen times, in varying weather and traffic conditions, following different routes at different times of the day. To his amazement, he didn't make a single wrong turn, now that he and Naru were driving there for real.

The Land Rover roared into the hospital parking lot and abruptly halted in a parking space (more or less) near the labor entrance. "We're here, Naru," Nephrite said. She looked even worse than before. "Don't worry, Naru-chan. It'll be over with soon."

* * * * * * * *

Twenty hours later, though, it still wasn't over with. Naru had been pushing for almost two hours, and still no baby. Dr. Hidari was very reluctant to do a c-section unless it became absolutely necessary, since Naru had a childhood history of bad reactions to anaesthesia. They had called in Naru's mother several hours before; Dr. Hidari had said that this was helpful in cases where the woman giving birth was young and having difficulty, as long as all the parties (husband, wife, and mother) were agreeable. Nephrite prided himself on his friendly relationship with his mother-in-law and her new architect husband, so he had gladly agreed to Meredith coming in to help. Besides, by this point he would have done anything to help Naru.

Naru just wanted to get up and go home. She was exhausted, scared, and angry -- angry at Nephrite, for getting her into this mess when all he had to do was sit there and watch while she tried to get herself out of it; angry at the baby, for not wanting to come out; angry at the doctor for not being able to work some instant magic to help her. It had been so quick and easy for Maira the handmaid....

No, it wasn't, a voice deep inside her reminded her. I was alone, in disgrace, in jail, abandoned by my lover, having a baby in the face of war. The only person I had with me was my best friend, and we had both been carefully shielded from the realities of childbirth. Neither of us had any idea what was happening to me.

Another futile wave of pushing ended. Naru lay back against her mother. "I can't do it, Mama," she cried. "I can't do this. I just want to go home.

Her mother stroked her tangled, sweaty hair. "Hush, baby, you can do it."

"No, I can't," Naru wept.

"Naru." Nephrite took her face gently between his hands and turned it towards him. Exhaustion and worry were written all over his own face. His eyes met hers. "You are strong, Naru." He whispered in the ancient language, the name of a Kharandha'i pattern, "Beauty has strength that iron cannot equal." Then he touched two fingers gently to the center of her forehead.

Naru felt refreshed; not completely restored, but as though she could keep trying a little longer. She noticed that Nephrite's shoulders were slumped a little more from weariness. Well. It was time to get this done. "Maybe if I sat up a little more, that would help," she said.

Her mother and the nurses adjusted the bed and propped Naru into a more upright position with pillows, just as the next urge to push came over her. Naru bore down, trying to do it just as she'd been taught in the birthing classes....

....A vision began to take shape before her. She saw a beautiful, futuristic city, built of elegant, angular towers of glass and crystal....

The contraction passed, and she sat back, trying to catch her breath. There seemed to be a new energy in the room.

Again....In front of the tallest of the crystal towers, there stood a man and a woman, dressed in unmistakably royal fashion. Blonde and black hair -- Mamoru and Usagi? In front of them stood a young girl, nearly a teenager. By some miracle of genetics she had pink hair, but was otherwise clearly Mamoru and Usagi's daughter....

"You're doing great," the doctor said. "Keep trying!"

Again.... The royal couple and their daughter were flanked by four women in the uniforms of the Sailor Senshi, but, Naru was glad to see, with longer skirts....

The contraction ended. "Good work, Mrs. Sanjouin," the doctor said. "I finally saw the top of the head!"

Again....Behind the royal couple and the Senshi, three men came to stand, wearing black uniforms trimmed with silver and crimson. She knew them; though they weren't the young men she knew now, they were still handsome and strong, in the prime of middle age. The first was slighter than the other two, with short, thick blond hair. The second was tall and strong, with long, straight, silvery hair. The third was just as tall and well-built, with long, wavy, dark red hair. He seemed to see her, where she stood watching the scene with their children (how many were there? six, seven? and wasn't she heavy with yet another one?) and smiled at her.

The contraction passed. "Here's the head!" the doctor announced. "Hey, it's a redhead. Who'd have thought?" Naru tried to get a look at her baby's head, but then she had to push again....

....A fourth man, young, appearing to still be in his teens, took his place in the line of Royal Guardians, next to the red-haired man. He was nearly a twin to the older man, except that his shoulder-length hair was a slightly brighter shade of red and was pulled back in a high, tight ponytail, and his blue eyes had a greenish tint. The father tried to give his son a reproving look for being late, but completely failed to hide the pride he felt. The young man looked at Naru, and winked at her....

* * * * * * * *

"Mr. Sanjouin," Dr. Hidari said, "have you ever caught a baby?"

"No. What? Hey, wait --"

And, under the doctor's guidance, Nephrite found himself holding his slippery, wriggling, newborn son in his hands, while Naru laughed and cried with relief.

* * * * * * * *

The baby didn't need to be cleaned up just yet. A nurse wrapped him loosely in a blanket and laid him in Naru's arms. Naru looked into her baby's eyes, and knew him. "Welcome back, little one," she whispered, stroking his soft cheek. "I've missed you."

Nephrite appeared at her shoulder. He kissed her on the mouth, then touched his lips gently to the baby's cheek. Tears sparkled along his lower eyelashes. "Good work, Naru-chan. Look what you did."

"Look what we did," she corrected him. "He'll be an honorable man and a Guardian. Just like his father."

* * * * * * * *

Two days later, Nephrite loaded Naru and little Mikha'erin Akira into the Land Rover, along with enough flower arrangements to stock an entire greenhouse. There were flowers from Yuuichirou, Rei, and Grandpa, Usagi and Mamoru, Makoto, Ami, Minako, Kunzite (Nephrite and Naru were not on speaking terms with Kunzite and Zoisite, but Jadeite kept them updated -- Zoisite was currently residing in a nice quiet private hospital in the countryside while getting his head straightened out), Jadeite (who had started pre-med studies along with Ami and was reportedly carrying on a hot and heavy affair with his gorgeous lady Anatomy professor -- Naru and Nephrite thought this was strangely appropriate, talk about private tutoring), and Umino, who had dumped his latest girlfriend for the cute teaching assistant who taught Umino's worm-dissecting lab at college.

Nephrite made sure baby Miki was correctly buckled into his safety seat and checked that none of the flower arrangements would fall on his little fuzzy red head, then helped Naru get properly buckled up. Then he drove his family home, carefully observing the speed limit the whole way.

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite sat up in bed late that night, in the quiet hours after midnight, looking through the skylight at the stars. He had been holding Naru while she nursed little Miki. Naru had eventually fallen asleep, cuddled against Nephrite's bare chest. Miki had continued his drowsy suckling at Naru's breast for a few more minutes, then had also fallen asleep. Nephrite didn't move; he wouldn't have disturbed them for the world. He was content to hold them while they slept.

He looked at the stars, picking out all the familiar constellations and their brightest stars. His old friends. For a thousand years, while he lived in the heart of evil, they had been his only friends. There was great wisdom to be found among them, if one knew how to look for it, and also great power. It was too easy to fix one's sights on that power, power without end, worlds without end, and overlook the things that were so much closer to hand. He shifted his gaze to his sleeping Naru, his sleeping baby, and knew that all the worlds, all the wisdom, all the greatness he could ever want were in his arms right now.

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