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Egress
by Rage

Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin is not mine. Beta by SephXIII (as usual)

*

It hadn't been the morning sickness, or the swelling stomach, or the midnight binges where he made his strangely wide-awake lover rush out and bring back small tubs of pickled turnips. (Though those had been enjoyable--the binges, not the morning sickness.)

It hadn't even been the horribly painful birth and the ensuing battle against his own survival instincts that allowed Saitou's sword to slice him from sternum to navel.

No. It hadn't been any of those that had finally convinced him that he was, of all things, pregnant.

What had finally convinced him was the sight of one Saitou Hajime holding his freshly removed wrinkled tomato baby high in the air, contemplating it with a strangely serene expression on his face. His cat eyes glinted orange in the last dying light of the setting sun as he turned his head and focused his gaze on Megumi who was hurriedly stitching his gut back together. Then, with a flick of the eyelid, he switched his gaze from Megumi to him.

"What are you going to name her?"

Hiko let his head fall back onto the mat with a thud.

*

Hiko Seijiro enjoyed his solitude. Or rather, his rustic and appropriately manly abode-in-the-mountains-away-from-feminine-frippery hut. His caustic lover, aside from the insistence for more cushioning on the hard packed dirt floor, had no complaints and generally ignored him as he went about his daily routine.

"I'm going out to the waterfall again. Training. Probably won't be back until evening, maybe," he said to Saitou's ramrod-straight back.

Saitou, for the most part, merely removed his cigarette from his thin mouth, expelled a great cloud of grey smoke and shrugged. As Hiko turned to sweep out through the door, he went back to shuffling through his paperwork.

That was one of the things Hiko liked best about him, his seemingly emotional detachment. From him, there would be no tears, no histrionics, and no impromptu fits of delusional drama. The occasional fights or arguments, impossible to avoid when cramming both their egos under one roof, could be solved quickly and cleanly with a short battle of fists which invariably degenerated (or elevated, depending on one's point of view) into another sort of equally pleasurable grappling. There were no guilt trips or great emotional scenes. And more importantly, no broken pottery that he didn't intend to have broken.

When he had told Kenshin that he never liked men, and had no intention of doing so... it had been true. He still didn't. The fact that he chose to be with Saitou had absolutely nothing to do with his gender. Saitou Hajime was not a man; he was a cracked mirror of himself. He was what he could have been if he'd gone and made some slightly different decisions in his past. Sleeping with Saitou was merely another form of masturbation, Hiko reasoned, only much better and infinitely more varied. It wasn't as if he suddenly found himself with a hankering for the random merchant or politician walking down the street, because he didn't. It was just one rat-faced bastard with a hell of an attitude problem; a bastard that brought him closer to a feeling of perfection than he would ever admit to in public. Privately he was more than willing, and quite often did scream the roof down.

Now, if only he could rid Saitou of his 'no alcohol' rule. "It makes me kill excessively," indeed.

He stood still at the edge of a short drop of cliff. Hiko liked waterfalls. They were large, powerful, and potentially dangerous. (Just like him!) What was there not to like?

He set about to do a few simple exercises, sliding his cape from his shoulders. Wearing the shoulder weights was to allow his opponents a fair chance (or as close to fair as possible) against his power during peacetime. All fine in theory, but it simply wouldn't do if he became unbalanced and fell flat on his gorgeous face once he took them off. With just a few well thought out drills every once in awhile, he was able to retain and adjust his center of balance, thus enabling him to function in peak form with or without the weights.

He really was the best swordsman in Japan; he liked to congratulate himself. Though, he wisely refrained from ever saying it to Saitou-- the man couldn't even defeat the bakadeshi-- but that sort of blow to the ego would only lead to fights without the immediate make up sex afterwards and Hiko really, really didn't like that thought.

Wading his way to a large stone almost directly underneath the waterfall, he began a series of easy jumps. (The ones where he leapt about thirty or forty feet or so.) Up. Down. Up. Down. It was sometime during his fifth or sixth jump upwards that it happened. One moment, he was thinking that something had collided with his chest, hearing a sound that sounded very much like a squawk, and the next moment, he was completely immersed within a cloud of white feathers. He dropped then, landing neatly on his feet. When he looked around for whatever it was that had run into him, almost certain that it was a bird, he found...a bird. Or rather, the unfortunate remains of one.

It was a strange-looking corpse with its crushed beak and a mostly de-feathered body from the impact against his massively impressive chest. He looked down at the large muscles in question, flexed a few times and then shook his head.

The poor bird never stood a chance.

Later that evening, he stuck the carcass on a stick and roasted it for dinner. It tasted like chicken.

*

Saitou Hajime despised Himura Kenshin. Anyone who was ever in his vicinity for any length of time was quite aware of that. It wasn't so much that they still hadn't been able to finish their fight, and after the whole Enishi debacle, he'd just plain given up on it. (Ten years may have rotted him to the core, but enough was enough. He was too old to be waiting around for the wishy-washy fool to finally make up his mind.) No, what really bothered Saitou was the thought of Kenshin's slowly rusting skills; his muscles growing just a little bit weaker, his already deteriorated reflexes growing just that much slower until the swordsman finally faded away into a mere slip of memory. It was enough to make Saitou's sword arm twitch and he was hard pressed to not barrel over to the raccoon girl's dojo and smash the idiot's head in.

The twitching was annoying, and as much as he would have liked it, he didn't have any real excuse to kill Kenshin who wouldn't likely be able to put up much of a fight now that he was a whipped puddle of raccoon girl goo (There was no joy in fighting an opponent who couldn't hit back). So in the end, he merely didn't think about it.

How he ended up from subtly stalking Himura Kenshin to boinking Himura Kenshin's master on a daily basis, Saitou really didn't know and didn't bother to worry about. Some things were best left unquestioned.

As it was, the fact remained that he did enjoy sharing his bedding (and expensive import teas) with the muscle-brained, surprisingly pretty-faced, egomaniacal oaf. He was the only man who seemed impervious to his insults, which allowed Saitou the mind-boggling chance to have a living, breathing, willing creature to sharpen his proverbial claws on. It simply wasn't something he could pass up.

Then there was the fact that the man was good with his sword. Very good.

Saitou had found him fairly undemanding and easy to fall into habit with; even the repeated attempts at drawing him into a dubious alcoholic bliss had its own place in the hierarchy of his daily routine.

Therefore, it was in this state of uncharacteristic ease that Saitou missed the ramifications of the first two times he was sent out in the middle of the night to rouse the sleeping merchants and forcibly bring back a little earthenware jar of pickled turnips. It was the third time that figuratively and literally woke him up.

He irritably curled away from the large hand shaking his shoulder. The hand was insistent, however. He rolled over, peeling his eyes open. "Again?"

"Yes--I..." And then Hiko was stumbling out of the hut and hovering over the outdoor sink, the sounds of his retching easily reaching Saitou's sharp hearing from his groggy position in their shared bed within. Feeling an odd sense of déja vu, he merely climbed to his feet, got dressed and stalked out the door past Hiko's huddled bulk.

"I'll be back."

Hiko grunted in reply and continued to pay tribute to his sink. Wizening up, Saitou brought back several large jars of the stuff, which his large lover polished off in two days.

On the eve of the second day, when the last of the pickled turnips had been finished, Hiko woke him and sent him out again. This continued, and as the days progressed, Saitou was beginning to sense a pattern. To keep from being woken in the middle of the night-- as he was never able to get back to sleep very easily afterwards-- he surreptitiously adjusted his schedule so that he remained awake until after Hiko's cravings were satisfied.

Throughout this time, Hiko rose with the birds, serenading them with great heaving of lungs and spewing of bile. And much cursing. On the fifth morning of this, Saitou found it within himself to obliquely ask if anything was the matter. As was expected, he was vigorously rebuffed.

Several weeks later, Saitou wrote a short letter to Megumi.

*

Megumi arrived in Kyoto by coach, exactly two weeks after the letter was received, as requested. Half an hour into her arrival, she found herself in a small restaurant with Saitou Hajime's disagreeable self seated across the table from her.

Assured in her knowledge that this couldn't possibly be a social call, she asked, "In your letter, you said it was urgent?"

Saitou inhaled, then blew out a billowing cloud of noxious, black smoke. Megumi leaned back, wrinkling her nose at the sharp smell.

"What would you say, if you had a patient who complains of sudden cravings of pickled foods in the middle of the night, vomits nearly every morning, and has a mysterious gain in weight around the belly as well as a sudden propensity towards wild mood shifting-- no matter that they had, previously, been quite even tempered?"

Megumi blinked, and then said, "I would have to see the person in question to be sure, but from your description I'd say that this patient was pregnant."

Swallowing back a small amount of surprise, she watched as Saitou sighed and stubbed his unfinished cigarette out in his completely untouched bowl of soba noodles. If she didn't know better, Megumi would have sworn the man was actually fidgeting, or his own version of it, anyway.

"I was afraid so. My own doctors said as much."

Megumi frowned. "If you already consulted with other doctors, why bother asking for me to come all the way here?"

"For verification. And your presence would most likely turn out to be preferable in the long run."

"I'm not sure I understand," she said, beginning to feel a little impatient, and somewhat lost, as if she was somehow missing something important. Seeming to sense this, Saitou straightened in his seat. (And as he already had perfect posture, this had the effect of making him seem even more forbidding.)

"In life, you will often find that once you have discarded what something is not, whatever it is you have left over is the answer."

Megumi blinked again, then frowned, the wheels churning almost visibly within her head. "Someone is pregnant, but shouldn't be?" she said slowly. Or perhaps, 'couldn't possibly be,' considering the way Saitou was alluding to it.

"Yes," Saitou said simply. He stood, throwing some money on the table, and then handing Megumi an envelope. When she opened it, she saw a respectable amount of banknotes. "Tell no one of our meeting. I will see you in... Six months, I believe?"

"Five months," she said quickly, tucking the envelope into her sleeve.

He raised an eyebrow in question.

"Five months...perhaps a check up sooner than that in case of complications, and I need to be there for the final month. Pregnancies don't exactly answer to--" Saitou held up a hand, stopping her.

"Very well. I will send for you, otherwise I will see you in five months."

When she nodded her agreement, Saitou rose smoothly to his feet with a stiff grace, and left.

*

Saitou was beginning to realize the truth behind the patriarchal insistence that women remain hidden and mostly unschooled in the arts of the sword. Three simple words: homicidal maternity rages. As it was, he was more than convinced that there were many a surprised father castrated in the middle of the night.

He dodged quickly to the left, skidding behind a large pot, fresh from the kiln. It splintered into dust. Ducking, he turned and sprinted for the hut only to be brought up short by the slight shift of air behind him. He twisted to the side, bringing his sword up in time to lock hilts with a loud clank of metal. The force of Hiko's blow sent him skidding backwards a few steps before he dug his heels in with a grunt.

"Dammit, first you take my sake--"

"You can't even stand to be in the same room without vomiting, why do you still--"

"What sort of man am I without my sake??!!!" Hiko roared. Saitou didn't dare answer. His western-style shoes were slipping inexorably back in the hard packed dirt, and the pressure Hiko was putting on him was, for the first time in decades, making his grip on the sword hilt slip. Previous experience said that the rages would never last very long, which was a good thing. Unfortunately, it also said that it took even less time to stick a sword through a man's head.

Hiko bellowed like a wounded animal and raised his sword up for a final strike. Saitou threw himself into a tight roll and came up just moments before a sharp blade sliced at the buttons across his jacket. They flew off him like little, shiny, brass pellets.

Somewhere, a woman screamed.

They both froze. Relieved that his near brush with death was nothing more than that, Saitou turned his head just enough to see out the corner of his eye. There Megumi stood, bag in hand, her pretty mouth open in wide-eyed shock. Overhead, Hiko's large and now ungainly bulk wavered before his sword came down listlessly to the side and he burst into tears.

*

Later that evening, Saitou bundled an addled and altogether shocked doctor to her hotel. She continued to mumble incomprehensibly to herself.

"It's not possible. It just isn't!"

"I'm afraid that, especially after your own diagnosis, it is, in fact possible."

"But..." Saitou pushed her towards her door. She whirled, eyes large on her face. "You had no idea?"

"Would anyone have?"

She frowned, biting her lower lip. "I'm going to... without a doubt, there will be complications. How will the baby come out?"

Saitou didn't want to think about that. He said smoothly, "That is for you to figure out. I'm not the doctor."

"No, no... I will need to consult with Doctor--"

"Don't say too much," he said warningly.

"No. Of course not." Megumi said with a breath. "Who would believe me anyhow?"

*

Hiko couldn't help but feel as if he had somehow missed something rather significant. It felt as if he'd woken up one day and fell into a thick emotional haze where he could have sworn screaming and, of all things, crying had been involved. He hoped not. But there was also the baby.

The cherubic, blue-eyed, blond haired, little white baby that had supposedly come from his stomach. If he hadn't seen it (and the afterbirth--something he never wanted to see again) happen with his own eyes, he wouldn't have believed it himself.

"I didn't mess around."

Saitou looked up from the little bundle in his arms. "Is that what you've been brooding about all this time?"

"Well, I figured..."

"--that since you were pregnant, I would have assumed that you slept with someone else. Since when have you become a woman?" At Hiko's outraged expression, he continued thoughtfully, "I am willing to attribute it to a strange act of God, if you are."

Relaxing muscles he hadn't realized he'd tensed, Hiko let out a breath and slouched within his bedding. Mariko. That was what they had finally decided on. He'd seen and survived a great many terrible things both during the war and in his wanderings. Many strange, terrible things. A baby girl with tiny blond curls and a button nose was nothing he wouldn't be able to handle. He grinned slowly. Besides, she was absolutely adorable. It was obvious where her looks came from.

As he smiled stupidly at her, her round, little face scrunched up and soon piercing wails rang throughout the hut.

"What's wrong with her?!" Hiko winced, resisting the urge to cover his ears with his hands.

"I believe she is hungry," said Saitou placidly, seemingly unaffected by the loud screams coming from his arms.

"What?" Hiko demanded as he noticed Saitou's stare. "If she's hungry, get her something to eat then!"

Saitou's gaze dipped a little lower. Unsure, Hiko looked down, trying to see what his lover was looking at. "You don't actually believe your chest increased in size from exercise do you? I think that you are the one who is supposed to 'get her some food'."

Looking down at a chest he was more than familiar with, Hiko realized with stunned eyes that they had indeed swelled somewhat in size--in a decidedly rounder, softer way. He attempted to flex them. The muscle underneath was still there, no question about that. But it was the jiggling on top that drew his attention. He could have sworn that something was within---

"Damn!"

From the corner, with his arms full of purple, screaming baby, Saitou Hajime smiled.

*

The Occidental Stork Division of the Mystical Infant Delivery Service was in an uproar. A harried man in uniform burst through the doors of the main office, skidding to a stop in front of a large oak desk overflowing with tall stacks of papers. Buried somewhere behind the mess was an equally harried-looking man, Division Chief Brocklehouser. The man behind the desk glared through his spectacles at the man in uniform who dared to interrupt him.

"What is it?" he snapped sharply.

"It's the storks, sir. With the recent influx of Americans and British to Japan, our storks have been delivering there--"

"What? Why isn't the Asian division taking care of that?"

"Politics, sir. They don't think the Westerners belong there, so they refuse to deliver their babies."

Brocklehouser sighed. Politics. Of course. "I'm assuming that it gets worse, then?"

"Yes, sir."

"Out with it then!"

"It has come to our notice that... some of our storks have gone missing."

Brocklehauser leapt to his feet. "What?! Do you know what happened to them?"

"They were eaten, sir."

"Eaten," he said flatly.

"Yes, sir."

The Division Chief sat back down in his seat with a thump, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "What are the--" He broke off, then wove his hand in the air.

Taking this as a signal to report, the messenger said, "As of now, there are currently three Japanese men, two women and a dog who are pregnant with a Caucasian baby."

Brocklehauser sat back in his seat, a tired expression on his face. "Well, damn."  

 

 

-end