Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin and all characters therein belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki.
A/N: This piece of weirdness came about much the same as my other drabbles. A little back and forth, a few jokes, and splat: Drabble. So there you have it. In case anyone needs a little mindless entertainment for today.
Of all the things Kaoru imagined herself doing in the moments leading up to the birth of her first child, attempting to chase off the man who got her in to this mess had never crossed her mind.
"You're doing great, honey."
Kaoru shot a baleful glare at the smiling redhead, pointedly ignoring the warm, calloused hand she'd accepted during her last round of contractions. Unmoved by her obvious hostility, Kenshin reached out and brushed her sweat-dampened hair off her face before dropping a soft kiss to her temple. His free hand rested gently on her stomach and stroked the spasming skin in steady, comforting circles.
Kenshin waited until her breathing began to smooth out, indicating a lull in the pain, before he leaned back to catch her gaze with his. "Don't worry, Kaoru, everything's going to be fine."
Kaoru's eyes flicked over to the nurses fluttering about with her charts and their equipment, judging their distance and lowering her voice accordingly to hiss at him, "Go away."
Kenshin's smile only broadened and he shook his head to refuse her demand. "I have every right to be here with my family."
"We aren't family, you idiot!" Kaoru's hand clenched bruisingly tight on his. "We weren't even really dating!"
Kenshin tsked in disapproval, "Now, Kaoru-"
"And I already told you it isn't yours!"
Sighing, he pressed a finger to her lips to stop her from saying anything else in her efforts to get him out of the delivery room. When she reluctantly fell silent, he stroked his thumb up her cheekbone and reminded her quietly, "If you think back, Kaoru, you'll understand why no one believed that rumor. Especially not me."
"I was on birth control-" Kaoru tried again.
Kenshin's hand dropped back to her distended stomach, stroking the rounded curve as he observed wryly, "Obviously not the right kind."
"How many fingers do you want me to break on this hand?" Kaoru growled at him, squeezing those fingers tighter in warning.
Kenshin chuckled, closing his fingers around hers lightly despite the threat of violence and lifting her hand to his mouth. He met her eyes over her knuckles before slanting a pointed look down at her stomach. "If you keep lying like that, that baby is going to come out looking just like me just to spite you."
Kaoru gave him one more hard glare, then turned her head to stare out the window, hoping he'd get the hint all while knowing he wouldn't. There were too many nurses and doctors coming in and out of the room now to get into the kind of argument it would take to even begin to get through Kenshin's tenacity. Not to mention, she was in absolutely no condition to do more than throw something at his head that was already within arms' reach. And he'd already anticipated that, moving the vase of flowers Megumi had sent for the occasion to the farthest edge of the little side table.
Barging in here, telling everyone he was her fiancé back from business unexpectedly to be there for the birth... Who did he think he was?
They'd been strictly casual; mutual stress-relief without commitment. They'd talked about that distinction repeatedly long before the first time they'd ever wound up in bed together. If they wanted to date, they could date, but in the in-between times, they would plan to gravitate back to each other. Provided said other was unattached as well.
Kaoru's eyes narrowed in aggravation.
It hadn't been until she'd found out something in her birth control had gone wrong that she was forced stop and purposefully think back over her relationship history, only to realize that it was Kenshin who had been her exclusive partner. Sex wise or even quasi-dating for the last two years, and that realization had gone both ways.
All it took were a few discreet questions around campus to reveal Kenshin had been making it clear she was taken, and he was committed. Turning down any women who asked him and going out of his way at times to shoot down anyone who thought to try their luck with her long before they so much as took a step in her direction.
That bastard tricked her into a relationship and now he had the gall to give her that damned cheeky smile like everything had gone according to plan. If it hadn't been a clear-cut case of her pills failing, Kaoru might have suspected him of getting her pregnant on purpose.
Kaoru's eyes slid back to his, and she grumbled irritably, "As soon as you fall asleep, I'm going to kill you." Wincing when the muscles across her abdomen twisted in another harsh spasm, she snapped in the exact same tone, "And why the Hell aren't you being useful and getting me drugs?!"
The nurse behind Kenshin patted his shoulder, trying to hide her laughter while she reassured him that hearing threats of violence from women in labor was nothing to be concerned about. Kenshin gave Kaoru a rueful look and half turned to shield her from any more helpful advice before the nurse unintentionally set off her poorly-strained temper. Although Kaoru immediately perked up when she heard Kenshin discussing the proper release forms to get her medication.
Pain shot up her spine, and Kaoru yanked Kenshin toward her forcefully, almost knocking him off his feet before he caught himself on the edge of her bed. Gritting her teeth against the force of that sensation, she ground out, "I want an epidural. Right now."
Kenshin patted her hand reassuringly, carefully untangling their fingers before she accidentally did him real damage and kissing her forehead. He stroked her hair and soothed patiently, "I'm going to step out right now and come back with someone who can help, all right? I promise I'll be right back."
She didn't want to be comforted. Most especially, she didn't want to be comforted by him, and not under these circumstances. But all the same, the panic fluttering in her chest had almost completely vanished, and all she could do was nod at him as he stepped away to do just that.
In the logical corner of her mind, Kaoru knew Kenshin hadn't been gone more than a few minutes and that tracking down the right people could take a little while even on the best days. However, when the next wave of contractions started in his absence, every last bit of that logic went sailing out the window and left her sending anxious looks to the empty doorway.
And if those two nurses at the end of her bed gave each other that knowing, amused look while she was having her insides turned out one more time, she was not going to be held responsible for her actions.
Fortunately for their continued well-being, Kenshin picked that moment to return with Dr. Gensai and a foreign man who looked half dressed for surgery. When the nurses and doctor started talking, their voices made it utterly impossible for her to catch whatever it was Kenshin was saying to the man. But when the man nodded and held out a clipboard that Kenshin promptly signed, Kaoru felt like slumping back into her pillows in relief.
So maybe dragging an anesthesiologist out of surgery probably wasn't the neatest way to handle her demand for the neglected medication, but Kenshin had always been guilty of slight overkill when he got excited. At least it was a direct solution rather than having to dance around more forms and nonsense just to get one stupid shot.
Kaoru slammed her head back against her pillow with a guttural curse, forgetting all about her wandering observations at the sudden, clawing pain through her stomach. Hissing through her teeth, she set her jaw stubbornly and forcibly reminded herself to breathe through it.
She was so focused on maintaining that steady, precise rhythm that the slide of something hard and plastic moving under her hand made her jolt in surprise. Barely opening one eye to find the cause, she saw Kenshin gently push the clipboard under her hand, curling her clenched fingers around the pen and guiding her to the correct line. Exhaling heavily when Kenshin asked her to sign her name, Kaoru quickly drew the familiar lines by the grace of repetitive memory and slapped the pen down hard.
Kenshin didn't say a word, just kissed her forehead again and stepped back while the nurses helped her slide into the best position to let Dr. Gensai check her progress. Kaoru couldn't help but follow Kenshin with her eyes as he returned the clipboard to the man, watching him bow once before he was back at her side with her hand clasped tightly in his.
Everything was a blur after that.
Noises, voices, the pain that seemed to ring audibly in her ears with the increasing contractions while exhaustion danced right at the edges of her senses. And finally, Dr. Gensai pressing a hand to her stomach as he urged her to push.
Kenshin half-sat on the bed behind her the whole time. Effortlessly supporting her back while he murmured nonsensical things and praises in her ear in that low, soothing cadence. He brushed a cool cloth across her forehead and the back of her neck, and let her crush his hand through every contraction. And when she finally slumped back against him, exhausted with the exertions of pushing the baby out of her body, he was still sitting there as solid and comforting as ever.
Kaoru closed her eyes, content to let her head rest on Kenshin's shoulder while she caught her breath when she heard the first unhappy yell from her baby. Kenshin's breath suddenly caught, his fingers squeezing hers tighter as his body went incredibly still behind hers. Half alarmed at the change, Kaoru wearily turned her head to look up at his face for what had caused it.
Even if he felt her questioning gaze, Kenshin's eyes remained riveted to the end of the bed. Kaoru curiously redirected her attention, blinking in a half-daze when she saw Dr. Gensai wrapping blankets around a tiny little thing with a shock of brilliantly red hair already adorning his head.
It took several heartbeats before it clicked, but once it had, Kaoru's eyes widened and she snuck a look up at Kenshin only to find him looking down at her with a dazzlingly victorious smile.
"Congratulations, Kaoru." Dr. Gensai interrupted their silent byplay and set the blanket-wrapped baby in the curve of her arm. He smiled patiently when her attention visibly lowered to the little bundle, lightly tugging her arm into place to show her just how to make them both the most comfortable and secure. Nodding to Kenshin, he stepped back to start ushering his staff out of the room. "You and your husband have a fine little boy."
Kaoru was so transfixed by the little face that she very nearly missed the full implication of those words. Startled, her head snapped up and she stared wide-eyed at Kenshin's much too innocent responses as the attendants cleaned away the more messy evidence of birth and closed the door behind them to give the two of them a moment alone.
With the noise of the hospital fading into the background, Kenshin reached over to stroke a fingertip across his son's head. For the first time since she'd known him, Kenshin seemed almost hesitant, painstakingly careful as he rested his hand against the baby's red cheek.
Kenshin finally looked up at her again, his eyes practically glowing when he whispered, "He's beautiful."
Kaoru swallowed hard to steel herself, setting her jaw to ignore the look in his eyes and just what effect it was having on her exhausted, aching body. Trying her damnedest to hold an appropriately haughty expression, she questioned Dr. Gensai's earlier comment. "Husband?"
Kenshin's smile abruptly shifted to that overly charming one she had learned to associate with his more devious moments. He didn't look the least bit repentant when he explained, "I didn't think you'd appreciate having the baby out of wedlock."
Kaoru could practically feel her face go blank with disbelief. "What?"
Wrapping his arms around both Kaoru and the baby, Kenshin rested his chin on Kaoru's head and continued brazenly, "We can have a ceremony later. After he's a little bigger and you're feeling up to it."
"I didn't marry you!" Kaoru denied fiercely. "Kenshin!"
He made a faint hushing sound when she tried to raise herself out of his hold and rocked them back and forth gently until the tension in Kaoru's body started to ease enough that she slumped back into him again. Nudging her temple with his cheek, he kept his voice soft in deference to their sleeping newborn, "I know it's not the most romantic way, but the hospital was able to file the license in enough time to beat the birth."
"I didn't-" Kaoru stopped abruptly and her eyes widened in sinking realization. "You didn't."
"They were very understanding of our situation." Kenshin smoothed his hand up and down her leg, urging the tight muscles to loosen even as an awed sort of fury darkened Kaoru's tired eyes.
"You tricked me," Kaoru accused with undisguised incredulity. "Again!"
"Now, I wouldn't go that far." Kenshin smiled, leaning back against the raised bed and tugging her to lie more comfortably against his chest. "I didn't hide what you were signing, love. You decided to say yes."
"You knew I thought you were getting me an epidural!" Kaoru protested, struggling to hold on to her aggravation when her eyes kept getting drawn down to the baby absently snuggling down against her chest. With his little nose, the faintest hint of a frown on his lips, and those tiny little hands absently grasping at the long scarlet hair that had fallen over her shoulder.
His father's hair.
Kenshin didn't feel the slightest need to distract her from her entranced perusal, especially not when he was more than content to do the same. He pressed another kiss to the top of her head, lingering with blatant affection as he slid his hand up and down her arm. Gradually, he changed to long, rhythmic strokes until she subconsciously relaxed against him.
Kaoru's head nodded toward her chest only to lift back up a little too quickly in that way of someone being decidedly stubborn about staying awake. Struggling to keep the amusement out of his voice, Kenshin urged quietly, "Go to sleep, Kaoru. You've had a long enough day."
"I'm not done yelling at you," Kaoru grumbled her denial, but it didn't have its usual edge.
"I'm not going anywhere." Kenshin chuckled and pulled her closer while he reminded her, "You can yell at me again when you wake up."
"And get an annulment."
Kenshin snorted, "Based on what?"
"I can argue fraud," Kaoru muttered, but let her eyes slip closed as Kenshin's arms tucked her more securely against him. One curving under hers to silently show her he would make sure the baby was supported enough for her to safely fall asleep.
"You can tell me all your reasons and ideas for that later," Kenshin promised. "After I feed you."
"I will not be bribed with food."
She could feel Kenshin smile against her hair before he added, "What about a hot bath? And lots of soft pillows?"
Kaoru made a vague, noncommittal grunt.
"I have an entire closet of shirts that you can steal," Kenshin added that incentive in a slightly sing-song tone.
Kaoru didn't bother opening her eyes. "As soon as you fall asleep, Kenshin, I swear."
Kenshin's renewed laughter followed her into sleep.