Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Maternal Expectation ❯ August ( Chapter 7 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
August, 1880

Everything in the pregnancy had been going well until a few days ago, when Kaoru started feeling very odd. When she experienced vaginal bleeding, Kenshin panicked and took her to Oguni-sensei, who confined her to strict bed rest at the clinic. Kaoru of course hated this, but there was no other choice.

Worried about his patient, Oguni-sensei contacted Megumi in Aizu to tell her what was going on. Upon hearing about the precarious pregnancy, Megumi left the clinic in her brother's care and went down to Tokyo to help look after Kaoru.

Kaoru looked up as Megumi entered the private room she'd been given. She didn't know if she could abide Megumi's presence for long. Although she and Megumi got along better than they used to, she still felt insecure around her, especially now that she was fat, sweaty and stuck in bed. Megumi was as thin and beautiful as ever.

"It's good to see you again, Megumi-san," Kaoru said softly.

"Good to see you too, Kaoru-chan," said Megumi, sitting down by the bed. "Don't worry. I promise to do everything I can for you and the baby."

"Thanks," said Kaoru, feeling somewhat better now. This was Megumi-sensei speaking. She was here to care for Kaoru and her unborn, not to torment her or flirt with Kenshin.

Nights were the hardest on the couple. Kaoru hated sleeping apart from Kenshin. They didn't even have two full years as husband and wife, but to her it seemed they'd never been apart. She found she couldn't fall asleep right away. Back at the dojo, Kenshin was equally miserable, tossing and turning on the futon till exhaustion claimed him.

After the first three days, Kenshin was so pale and tragic-looking when he entered the clinic to visit Kaoru that Megumi practically yanked him into one of the back rooms, made him remove his gi and examined him sharply, looking in his eyes, listening to his heart and checking blood pressure. She noticed ribs just beginning to protrude under the skin of his bare torso. Just like Kaoru, he wasn't eating or sleeping.

'These two can't even be apart for a few days without going to pieces. I can't have them like this when the baby's due any time,' she thought to herself as she removed the sphygmometer cuff from around Kenshin's arm.

Megumi decided then and there to have Kenshin stay at the clinic with Kaoru so they could both get a decent night's sleep and stop being so miserable.

"Thank you, Megumi-dono," said Kenshin upon hearing the news.

"Only for you and Kaoru-chan," said Megumi.

Kaoru looked up from her bed when she heard the door swing open. In came Megumi and Oguni-sensei, pushing one of the other beds, followed by a sheepish-looking Kenshin, clad in a hospital robe. He smiled one of his silly "rurouni" smiles at her and laid down on the bed after Megumi and Oguni-sensei had positioned it next to her own.

"Kenshin?" asked Kaoru.

"Megumi-dono thought it best for both of us if I were admitted too," said Kenshin softly.

"Let me guess. You've been worrying yourself to death?" said Kaoru.

Kenshin looked sheepish again and nodded. Kaoru rolled her eyes for what seemed like the umpteen billionth time since they'd learned of her pregnancy.

'I wonder which one will need more care, the baby or Kenshin,' she thought in exasperation.

For the rest of the hospitalization, Kenshin and Kaoru slept in the same room in side-by-side beds. Kenshin didn't leave Kaoru's side, having left the dojo to Yahiko and Yutaro's tender mercies. Neither had any more trouble eating or falling asleep.

The big day

Kenshin and Yahiko were nervous wrecks. Both sat in the waiting area, wanting this nightmare to be over with. Kaoru had been in labor for the past six hours and things weren't going well. She wasn't dilating quickly enough. Kenshin's heart raced. All his nightmares coming back to haunt him. Though he wanted the baby, in his heart of hearts, he knew it'd hurt far worse to lose Kaoru than the baby. This was something he'd never share with a soul though.

The delivery room

"Push, Kaoru push!" said Megumi as she oversaw the delivery.

"What the hell do you think I'm doing?" roared Kaoru.

"I know it hurts. Keep trying," said Megumi.

"Just get this kid outta me!" Kaoru screeched.

"You're doing fine," said Oguni-sensei as he held Kaoru's hand.

Kaoru cried out as another wave of pain went through her. She was finally starting to dilate after what seemed like an eternity. She pushed with all her might. From her vantage point, Megumi could see the top of the baby's head starting to appear.

"Keep pushing. I see the head," she said.

Kaoru gritted her teeth and pushed some more. Inch by inch, the baby came forward. Finally after 30 minutes, the baby's head was all the way through. Something was wrong! The baby's skin wasn't the normal pink color, but was very pallid, bordering almost on blue. As the baby came farther out, Megumi saw why: The umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck, choking off the airway.

'Shit!' thought Megumi. Retrieving a pair of sheers, she cut the umbilical cord from around the baby's neck as it continued to slide out. Megumi could tell immediately that the baby was in trouble. Because the cord had been wrapped around its neck, it wasn't able to breathe. Now that the cord was severed, it would die if it didn't get air quickly.

As soon as the baby was out, Megumi went to work, not wasting time with the pleasantries of announcing the gender or even cleaning it. She rubbed the baby's chest, trying to stimulate its little heart to beat and breathed into its mouth.

"Megumi-san, what's happening? Is the baby alright?" Kaoru asked weakly while Oguni-sensei tried to reassure her.

"Don't worry, Kaoru-chan. Megumi-kun is doing everything she can," he said.

'C'mon dammit. Live!' thought Megumi as she worked to resuscitate the still child.

Just as she was about to give up hope, the baby suddenly sucked in a breath and let out a howl that would wake the dead. Megumi was overjoyed and now began cleaning the baby up. The baby didn't stop its earsplitting howls till it was laid in its mother's arms.

"Here is your son, Kaoru," said Megumi as she laid the baby in Kaoru's arms.

Kaoru, relieved that her son survived, burst into tears of joy. Megumi and Oguni-sensei exited the room to tell Kenshin that he was a father. The exhausted Kaoru looked down at the baby and could swear she already saw tiny tufts of coppery red hair on his head.

'He's perfect. He's alive and that's what counts. That he looks like Kenshin is just the icing on the cake,' she thought as held the warm, squirming bundle close to her.

"It's alright now, little one. You're okay," she murmured to the babe.

At the same time as the baby was being delivered...

Out in the waiting room, Kenshin could stand no more. He jumped up and started for the door to demand to know what was going on with his wife and potential child. Yahiko jumped up and put himself between Kenshin and the door.

"Easy Kenshin. Everything'll be okay," said the young man reassuringly.

"Then what's taking so long?" said Kenshin, voice cracking.

"I don't know, but barging in there isn't gonna help anything. Megumi and Oguni-sensei know what they're doing," said Yahiko, meeting Kenshin's flashing eyes squarely.

Just as Kenshin was trying to make up his mind whether to force his way past Yahiko or sit down and wait, the sound of an infant's wail filled the air. Yahiko spun around and looked at the door along with Kenshin. A minute later, the door swung open and a tired-looking Oguni-sensei stuck his head out.

"Congratulations Himura-kun. You have a son. You can see him as soon as Megumi-kun cleans and dresses him," said Oguni-sensei.

'A son... I have a son!' Kenshin thought to himself.

"What of my wife?" was all he could articulate.

"She's fine, tired of course..." said Oguni-sensei.

"Of course. Thank you, Oguni-sensei," said Kenshin as he felt his legs give out under him.

Yahiko caught Kenshin and helped him to a chair. The young man fanned Kenshin off while Oguni-sensei brought the redhead water. Kenshin drank the water slowly and tried to get his mind back into focus. Kaoru was alive and he had a son.

'I thought I'd dread having a son, but now I don't care. As long as they're both healthy and alive, I don't care what the baby's gender is. There may be problems down the road, but as Kaoru said, I'll leave the future to itself and live in the present,' he thought.

"Are you alright, Himura-kun?" asked Oguni-sensei.

"Yes. I'm fine now. Thank you," said Kenshin, relieved that the room wasn't spinning anymore.

After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened again and a totally exhausted-looking Megumi stuck her head out. Kenshin looked up, violet eyes lit with anticipation.

"Ken-san, come meet your son," said Megumi.

Kenshin stood up slowly, still a bit shaky but able to move. Megumi stepped out into the waiting area with Yahiko and Oguni-sensei to give the family their privacy. Kenshin nodded his thanks as he passed the lady doctor and closed the door behind him.

Kaoru looked up fron the tiny, redhaired boy as she saw the form of her husband enter her field of vision.

"Looks who's here. It's Daddy," she said softly to the infant nestled in her arms.

Kenshin sat down on the stool by the bed and got his first look at his son. The baby's color was now a healthy shade of pink. Little tufts of red hair stuck up from the crown of his head and the sides, making him look like he had male-pattern baldness. His eyes were closed because he was sleeping.

"Are you alright?" asked Kenshin, looking into Kaoru's eyes.

"I'm fine, just as I said I'd be," said Kaoru, trying to reassure him. "It's time for you two to be introduced."

Kenshin reached out a trembling hand and felt how downy soft the little boy's hair was. The infant squirmed and snuggled deeper into Kaoru's embrace, not wanting to be disturbed from his sleep. Tears of joy spilled from Kenshin's eyes. Never had he imagined that he would see a little being with hair exactly like his.

"He's perfect," Kenshin whispered.

"Like his Daddy," said Kaoru. Kenshin ducked his head to hide the smile.

"Want to hold him?" asked Kaoru.

"I don't know how. I don't want to break him," said Kenshin.

"He's a baby, not a vase," said Kaoru with mock annoyance in her voice as she carefully handed the infant over to Kenshin.

Kenshin's arms shook as he took his son for the first time. The baby's eyes opened, revealing two pools of sky blue, his inheritance from his mother. A second later, the eyes squeezed shut and the infant started crying.

"Kaoru!" yelped the frightened Kenshin.

"It's fine, Kenshin. He's just upset about being woken up," said Kaoru. "Just rock him and talk softly."

"What do I say?" asked Kenshin.

"He's a newborn. You can talk about the stock market and he won't care," said Kaoru.

"Hi there. I'm your father. This is my first time at this, so I'm a bit nervous. I promise to do my best for you and always be there for you and your mother, my son," Kenshin said softly as he cradled the baby.

As Kenshin continued to rock the baby, he felt more comfortable with the tiny creature in his arms, thus relaxing. As he relaxed, so did the baby. When the infant's cries ceased and he slipped back into sleep, Kenshin looked up at Kaoru as a relieved smile washed over his features.

"See?" she said softly.

Kenshin nodded and looked back down at the tiny boy nestled in his arms.

"What should we call him?" asked Kenshin softly.

"I'd like to name him after you since he looks so much like you," said Kaoru.

Kenshin shook his head vigorously.

"No. I don't want any child to bear my name," he said in a tone that would allow for no argument.

Kaoru sighed. Kenshin could be so unyieldingly stubborn about what she thought were the minutest things.

"OK, how about a compromise? The first kanji of your name with something else on the end," she offered.

"I can live with that," Kenshin agreed after a moment's thought.

"Since he'll be learning kendo rather than kenjutsu, why not call him Ken-ji, 'Path of the Sword?'" said Kaoru.

"Kenji... that sounds good," said Kenshin, looking down at the little boy. "Hello, Kenji."

As if in response, the baby sneezed without even waking up. Kenshin and Kaoru both laughed quietly.

After Kaoru and Kenji had fallen asleep, Kenshin left the room and was approached by Megumi, who wordlessly held out the baby's dried up umbilical cord which she'd wrapped in a cloth to save.

With a smile of thanks, Kenshin took the hesono o and laid it reverently in a small wooden box to keep forever as his wish for Kaoru and Kenji to have a strong relationship as the boy grew.

'Ken-san, you will never know how close that cord came to ending your son's life rather than strengthening it,' Megumi thought somberly as she watched Kenshin walk off, holding the wooden box close to his chest. She and Kaoru had agreed it was best that Kenshin never know just how close he came to losing his son.

Kaoru and Kenji were kept at the clinic to make certain that there were no unseen complications from the difficult birth, Kenshin wanted to stay too, but Kaoru gave him a death glare and declared that she wasn't leaving her dojo in Yahiko and Yutaro's care any longer. The reluctant redhead journeyed back to the dojo and happily found it still in one piece.

During the week, Kaoru and Kenji had visitors every day including Tae, Tsubame, Maekawa-sensei and Yutaro. Tsubame loved holding Kenji in her arms. Kenji took to the young waitress right away and never fussed when she held him.

In keeping with Japanese custom, Kaoru and Kenshin didn't share the baby's name with anyone for the first week of his life. Much to their dismay, Yahiko and Tsubame fell into the habit of calling him Oro-chan since he looked so much like Kenshin.

Kaoru and Kenji were discharged with orders that Kaoru continue her bedrest for another week, plus another two weeks homebound before mother and child were permitted to set foot off the dojo grounds. Kaoru chaffed at that order, but Kenshin assured both doctors that they would comply, even if it meant locking her in the room (which he didn't say aloud in front of her).

After Kenshin put Kenji in the wooden cradle that Kaoru had slept in as an infant, he returned to the futon and joined Kaoru. After spending nearly three weeks in the hospital, it was wonderful to the couple to be in their own bed again. Kaoru was already asleep when he slid under the covers, so Kenshin just took her in his arms, kissed her forehead and closed his eyes.

The fog of sleep was pierced by the far-off sound of an infant's cry. Kenshin snapped awake and realized that he wasn't dreaming at all. Kenji was crying. Kaoru came awake too.

"Kenji?" she said sleepily.

"I'll get him. You go back to sleep," said Kensin, rising up and putting on a yukata.

Lantern in hand, Kenshin approached the wooden cradle where the infant lay, crying for something. Kenshin was rather frightened. Having never dealt with a baby before, he didn't know what to expect. He hoped nothing was wrong with Kenji.

Kneeling down, Kenshin set the lantern on the floor and lifted the wailing baby into his arms.

"Hey little guy, what's wrong? I wish you could talk to me," he murmured softly.

Kenshin felt Kenji's forehead; no fever. Kaoru had already nursed him before Kenshin laid him in his cradle, so he couldn't be hungry again. That left only...

'Oh goodness, please not that...' he thought hopefully, feeling the baby's diaper. It was...

'Ugh!' Kenshin grimaced as he laid the baby on the floor and retrieved what he'd need.

When Kenshin had everything, he undressed Kenji and undid his diaper. Instantly, a yellow stream shot out and nearly hit Kenshin in the face. Kenshin smiled at the baby boy as he began cleaning him.

"You'll have to be faster than that if you want to hit me, Kenji," he said as he put a new diaper on the infant. "Alright, little man."

Kenshin lifted the baby and carefully laid him in the cradle. Kenji looked up at his daddy, the light from the latern reflecting in his sharp blue eyes. Kenshin smiled at the baby and stroked his cheek with the back of his finger. Kenji flinched and wrinkled his little face. Smiling, Kenshin began rocking the cradle, using a slow and gentle motion until the baby's sky-blue eyes fell shut. Picking everything up, Kenshin silently exited to the outside to wash his hands before returning to bed.