The difference being
A/N: First: this is a ONESHOT. No continuations. At all. And this is a much-delayed gift-fic for ssdragonlady, who wanted an angsty HK mpreg story. Ermhm. Not something I'd normally write (mostly because, like 99.999 of people, I have sub-zero talent for it), and the emotional issues aren't quite what she requested, but I think I kept to the spirit of things. Still, this is what the plot fox produced, and behold, here is my humble offering to the Queen of YYH Mpreg. I hope you like it!
It was four months to the day after he left that Kurama found him.
Hiei came awake when he felt the first of his carefully constructed traps spring, the flare of spirit energy that was his, another trace that most definitely wasn't, but which was horribly familiar, angry as he had rarely seen it angry.
He was definitely not ready for this.
He went to the doorway of his little cave, his gaze sweeping over the lifeless ice of the landscape, seeking a familiar form in the swirling blizzards of winter. 'Kurama…' he whispered, and as if summoned, the youko's form emerged from the snow.
He was in human form, one he had mostly abandoned since Shiori's death. Too painful, he had said curtly, and Hiei had known not to pry. But he couldn't help thinking that Kurama was less suited to the ice like this; too colourful, out of place. His youkai form would have been warmer, easier to handle.
But there was a reason, of course. Kurama did nothing unconsciously.
He stopped about ten feet from where Hiei was standing. He was clearly half-blinded by the blizzard, but his eyes were locked onto Hiei as if he could see everything. 'Explain,' he said coldly.
'I have a question.'
This was not going to be good at all, Hiei decided.
'You wake up one very ordinary morning. Your lover's left you a note saying that he's leaving. He asks you not to follow him. Ever. What do you do?'
What you did, Hiei acknowledged silently. 'Nothing.'
'Bullshit. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you for doing that.'
Hiei closed his eyes. 'I have no reason.'
'No reason.' Kurama sounded oddly hurt. 'You're leaving me for no reason?'
Hiei looked up at him. 'I wasn't leaving you.'
'No. Just for a little while.'
The tension left his partner's shoulders so slowly that he could almost see it, like a long exhale. 'Then why?'
There are…things I have to do…Kurama. Leave.' Hiei winced. 'Please.'
'That doesn't count, Hiei,' Kurama said grimly, advancing one slow step after another. 'I deserve an explana-'
Too close. Close enough for even his weakened human senses to pick up on what Hiei had tried to conceal. Had nearly succeeded in concealing. His eyes widened, lips parting, shocked. 'Hiei? What's wrong with you?'
Although he had to admit that if Kurama had not taken the time to sulk, he probably could have tracked him even faster – the youko was an excellent tracker – and then they'd have had this conversation…sooner.
And why was he thinking about that at a time like this?
And as was always the case where Kurama was concerned, what he first said was the last thing he had intended to say. 'I didn't want you to find out.'
'That's a great answer, Hiei. Find out what, exactly?' a voice to match the storm, there, but there was bewilderment under it. 'There's something wrong with your aura, but–'
'About…this, damn you! I'm pregnant!'
Kurama's eyes narrowed. 'I don't know how to break this to you, Hiei, but you're kind of male. I flatter myself that I would have noticed if you weren't.'
'It's the fucking Koorime genes,' Hiei snarled. 'Ice maidens aren't ever male, but I am. Not,' he added bitterly, 'that that seems to have made much of a difference where this little anatomical detail is concerned.'
'Pregnant.' Kurama looked in desperate need of a chair. Maybe even some smelling salts. At least the denial stage hadn't lasted long. 'You. You're pregnant. How?'
'The traditional way,' Hiei spat. 'You.'
Kurama's mouth was hanging open, and Hiei reflected bitterly that while he'd spent decades waiting to see him caught this off-guard, the circumstances were less than perfect.
'Well, shit,' he said finally.
'My thoughts exactly.'
Kurama shook his head and closed the gap between them, placing an oddly gentle hand on Hiei's stomach, completely at odds with his harsh tone when he asked, 'And what does that have to do with you leaving?'
Hiei looked away.
The hand trailed up, deceptively soft, until those long, strong fingers wrapped carefully and skilfully around his throat, not squeezing. Yet. 'I expect an answer. I deserve an answer. You will answer.'
Hiei shook it off. His strength was still greater than Kurama's, despite this handicap. 'No.'
'Like hell you won't.'
'You want to know?' he said, the anger that had kept him going for the last sixteen weeks fuelling him still. 'Fine. Here's what it is. I left because I didn't want you to know I was pregnant. I found this place because it's where you'll be weakest so that you wouldn't be able to stop me even if you found me. And I'm going to stay here until…after I kill it.'
Hiei wrenched away from him and stalked back into the cave.
Kurama followed, and his energy was spiking, anger and confusion radiating off him. 'Hiei, what is that supposed to mean?'
'I'd have aborted it earlier if I could. But by the time I found out I was too far along to do it without killing myself as well.'
'Because I haven't been pregnant before, you ignorant ass.'
'Have you known the life of a forbidden child?' Hiei snarled. 'All my life I've had people trying to kill me when they saw me. Treated like dirt, unclean, outcast, freak. There's no way I'm doing that to someone else.'
'It won't be the same.'
'You think so? You think you'll be there every moment of every day protecting the…child,' he stumbled over the word – he had tried so hard not to think it that it was hard to say it. 'You think every bit of persecution and discrimination it'll face will go away just because you're there? You think those self-righteous racial purists are going to leave anyone of my kind alone? Even you had to face it because of your human blood. Imagine that a hundred times over. A thousand. My mother knew that too, you know.'
The abrupt change of topic visibly threw Kurama off. 'What?'
'Twice,' Hiei said. 'She tried to lose us twice while she was carrying us. It's not like she even wanted us.'
'You never told me that,' Kurama said.
Hiei turned away. 'What, did you think I was the product of some grand star-crossed love affair? I was an experiment. A last fling before she returned to her glacier. Strong drugs, a pretty boy in the forest and a misread birth cycle and she was pregnant.'
'You told me she cried for you. You told me she cared for you.'
'It's very easy crying for someone who's going to die,' Hiei said. 'And…cared for me? Kurama, if she'd cared for me she'd never have let me be born.'
'That's not true.'
'It is,' Hiei said flatly. 'You know as well as I what happens to half-breeds. Especially from hermaphroditic species.'
'Apparently not,' Kurama said pointedly, eyeing Hiei's stomach. 'Hiei, were you honestly thinking of aborting-'
'Euthanasia,' Hiei cut in. 'It is, and you know it. It's no more than many animals do for malformed children.'
Kurama looked away for a moment. It was true, after all; half-breeds were hunted from birth, enslaved or, at the very least, forcibly sterilised – the ones that weren't 'mules' – born sterile. Very often, the parents themselves did the deed, which was regarded more as an act of mercy than slaughter; malformed children and half-breeds did not have a very long life-expectancy, although many mules survived. Hiei himself was one – ironically, as with many half-breeds, his cross-species DNA did not permit him to father children.
But apparently, it allowed him to bear them.
Fate truly did hate them, it seemed.
'I won't let anyone go through that again,' Hiei hissed. 'Anyone, do you understand? No child of mine–' and how strange those words sounded, words he hadn't quite allowed himself to think for fear he would go mad, but he was always stronger when Kurama was there… 'No child of mine is ever going to go through what I did.'
'And it won't,' Kurama insisted. Their eyes locked, equally fierce, equally determined, equally justified, and they both knew it.
'She,' Hiei said dully.
'What?' Kurama said, taken aback by the apparent non sequitur.
'She,' Hiei repeated. 'It'll be a girl. Koorime only have daughters. The freak gene skips generations, apparently. Another titbit of useless information Yukina gave me.'
'You're not a freak,' Kurama said, 'and this–she–will be different from who you had to become.'
'Different,' Hiei echoed and chuckled. 'Are you always going to be there for her then, Kurama? At every moment? Always watching? Always more powerful than whoever tries to kill her?'
'You survived,' Kurama parried, almost desperate. 'And we're both there.'
'I survived because I was a nonentity,' Hiei spat. 'I hid and I ran and I concealed everything, and it worked, because nobody knew I existed. We're different now. I'm the heir to a third of the Makai. So are you. This child – politically, socially – is a menace.'
There was a long, horrible silence that trembled precariously between them, waiting for one of them to break it and growing increasingly dangerous when neither did. Hiei sat down on the blanket-covered slab he'd been using as a bed. Kurama perched uneasily on the other end, and they stared at each other.
'You're right,' Kurama said finally.
A curious feeling ran through Hiei – part nausea, part relief, part disappointment, part resignation.
'But you're wrong, too,' Kurama continued before he could speak. 'Things are different, you said. And they are.' He took a deep breath. 'Different. You are not your mother, I am not your father.'
'You're hopelessly idealistic,' Hiei accused.
'No. I'm practical. Yes, we're…well known. But this child, she'll have a family. A real one. Parents and uncles and aunts – human and youkai and everything in between. That's what you never had, Hiei. That makes all the difference, you know.'
'Don't do this.'
'She'll have the power of three kingdoms behind her, and some of the most powerful youkai living. Look around you for once, Hiei. The world is changing – just a bit, but it is. Do you even remember the last time a half-breed was the accepted ruler of a region? I don't, and I'm centuries older than you – but Yusuke is Raizen's heir, he rules his lands, and even his enemies aren't protesting his legitimacy. And you, you're Mukuro's heir – I don't see anybody contesting your claim either.'
'You're making this out to be a bed of roses. It won't be.'
'I'm not saying it's going to be easy. Or safe. Or maybe even workable. But there's a chance. A slim one.' Kurama smiled, fiercely. 'But since when have we let sanity or society determine what we do?'
Hiei closed his eyes. 'You're a fool.'
'When it comes to life or death, choose life. There's very little dead people can do. Or so I've found out, having briefly been one myself.'
'You're pathetic at trying to cheer people up.'
'I was merely trying to convince you.' Kurama paused, slid fluidly off the bed and knelt in front of Hiei, placing them eye to eye. 'So is it working?'
'It's too dangerous.'
'It's already too dangerous.'
'It'll only hurt later.'
'It's already hurting now,' Kurama said quietly. 'Hiei. Please. We've beaten the odds before. We can do it again. Please.'
'The great Youko Kurama, reduced to begging.'
'No. Requesting. Hiei. I won't force you, and I won't make this my decision. But ask anyone – anyone – who matters to either of us, and this is what they'll tell you. Yes, what you thought is true. But that was our world, and this is not that world anymore. We aren't the same as those before us. And I don't fail those who are mine.'
He kissed Hiei once, gently, and then stood. 'Come find me when you're ready. I'll be waiting no matter what you decide. No matter what,' he said again, and his gaze bored into Hiei's until the shorter youkai's head dipped fractionally in acknowledgment.
Hiei watched him leave, felt him stop outside the cave, huddle against the wind.
'You really are just going to sit there, aren't you,' he said aloud.
Silence, although he was sure Kurama heard him.
'Just sit there until I call you back or come out to get you.'
'You're making this difficult.'
'You're making this difficult.'
'So am I.'
'I love you too.'
'Why do you always have to complicate things?'
'No, I think you're the one doing that. I've made myself clear, but your decision, whatever it may be…' Kurama paused, and continued more slowly, '…it will change nothing.'
'Don't commit yourself so easily.'
'I never do.'
'It's not that I hadn't,' Hiei whispered. 'But what if…'
'So little trust in me, Hiei?' Kurama laughed. 'But then, you've never trusted anyone that much. Not even the ones who deserve it.'
'But what if…'
'Ignore the possibilities and focus on the facts, would you?' Kurama snapped.
There was nothing to say to that.
'This is exactly why I didn't stay,' he said ruefully. 'You're too damn convincing even when I know I'm right.'
'Or maybe,' Kurama ventured tentatively, 'you weren't sure, and you made what seemed the easiest decision at the time.'
The back of Hiei's head met the wall with an audible sound. 'Maybe,' he agreed.
'Did you hurt your head?'
It was easy, Hiei thought, to forget that Kurama had such sharp senses, and maybe he shouldn't have sighed, and he knew Kurama was making some sort of point with that statement but he was too tired to go fish for it now. 'No.'
'What are you going to do, Hiei?'
'You're not making this easy, are you.'
'I wasn't aware that was in the job description, no.'
'It might not work.'
'We'll never know if we don't try. And what would be worse, Hiei? To have something and lose it, or always wonder if you could have had it forever?'
'Why?' Kurama sounded surprised. 'Why what?'
'Why fight for this?'
There was a long pause. 'I don't know,' Kurama said finally. 'I never thought of…children…not really. And after I met you, not at all. But this…I don't know, Hiei. But it feels…right.'
Which was more uncertainty than Kurama had allowed himself to reveal in all the years they'd known each other. 'Why fight for something you don't know?'
'Why fight against something you're not sure you don't want?'
And that, Hiei knew, was the end of the conversation, and precisely why he'd run in the first place – because all his life he had craved simplicity, the sanity and security of black and white, and Kurama was anything but – was all bright colour and invisible convolutions and intricate weavings of illusions and truths – and this would have been inevitable.
But I could have run further, he thought. Could have run faster. He couldn't have found me if I'd used all my skills, all my strength, couldn't have found me unless I–
Unless I –
There, with that last sentence incomplete in his mind, he found his answer.
'Hiei.' Rising relief in that familiar voice – of course there was, he could read Hiei as well as Hiei himself; better, sometimes.
'You win,' he whispered, and shut his eyes as warm arms wrapped around him, cutting off the ice all around, warming the ice within.
'It'll be all right,' Kurama said, pressing on the words as if he would press them through Hiei's skin, brand them into him.
'I'm holding you to that,' Hiei replied, and he felt the warm chuckle inside Kurama's chest, a vibrating sound of pure relief.
'That's fine,' Kurama said quietly. 'Yes, I think that might work out…just fine.'