Character/Pairing: Papa!Kagami, Foster Kid!Kuroko; future M/M and M/F pairings
Summary: After rescuing 5 year old Kuroko from a fire that took the life of his only living relative, Kagami Taiga takes the responsibility of raising him upon himself and soon undergoes the troubled – and often hilarious – life of a single father.
Inspired by the featured header artwork of Maruniko
Warning(s): family fluff, future shonen-ai, comedy, hurt and comfort, awkward papa!Kagami
This story is set in Japan so imagine that when Takao calls Kagami “Mr. Fireman”, he’s saying it in English.
Chapter 03 – First Week (Part Two)
That night, Kagami hadn’t slept a wink.
How could he?
He was going through the most emotional whiplash he had ever experienced.
One minute, he was excited. He was finally going to see Tetsuya face to face. He was going to be able to talk with him. He wasn’t sure what they’d talk about but he was sure it would be good. He could let the kid know that he was going to be visiting every day. He could maybe even bring little gifts to help keep his spirits up. He was going to be able to watch the kid grow healthier and stronger and Kagami thought that was pretty great.
Then the next minute, he was overcome with paralyzing terror. What if the kid asked him why his Grandma wasn’t around anymore? What if he asked why Kagami didn’t save her? He could even just as easily blame Kagami for his leg or for being on oxygen. The kid could turn out to be completely resentful toward him for everything.
That thought quickly sank him into a deep depression. What if the kid didn’t want to see him at all? What if he just ignored him entirely? Would he even care that Kagami had been stressing over him these past few days? He was only five, after all. Maybe he wouldn’t even understand any of it.
He wasn’t sure he could take it if the kid started crying in front of him.
Then he would remind himself that everything would be fine, that he was worrying too much and he was back to square one.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
By the time his phone rang around 9 AM, Kagami was sure he’d worn out a new groove in his couch with all the flipping around he’d done.
Thinking was exhausting sometimes.
“Yeah?” Kagami asked into his cellphone without bothering to look at it before he answered.
There was a familiar sigh on the other end, “Is that how you greet everyone, Kagami?”
He sat up quickly; stiff. “Riko! What are you calling me for?”
“Well that’s rude.” She scoffed at him. “Can’t you at least pretend to be happy to hear from me?”
“Uhh, well, it’s just that you don’t–” Kagami started.
Riko cut him off. “Don’t bother. I know your head is somewhere else. Today is the big day, right?”
Kagami blinked. “Kiyoshi told you.”
“Of course Teppei told me. He tells us everything.” Riko replied and she sounded exhausted at the words.
Kagami didn’t doubt that for a minute.
“That’s why I’m calling you, actually.” Riko added and Kagami could hear the smile in her voice. “I wanted to wish you good luck.”
“What do I need good luck for?”
“Have you thought of what you’re going to say to him yet?”
There was an awkward silence then as Kagami stared across at the wall with a blank expression, and then a loud smack as he fell back onto the couch and gave a frustrated groan.
“I didn’t think so.” Riko hummed. “Alright, Kagami. Listen up! I’m about to give you some advice on dealing with kids that could change your life.”
“I know how to deal with kids!” Kagami retorted.
Riko didn’t seem to hear him though. “The number one rule is to remain calm. Especially with a kid that’s been through everything he has been. If you’re yourself, you’ll probably scare him.”
“Are you calling me scary?!”
“You have a scary face. You made Shigehiro cry the first time you met him, remember?”
“He wasn’t even two months old! You’re never going to let that go, are you?”
“I’ll make sure ‘terrified small children’ is written somewhere on your gravestone.” She quipped and Kagami had one terrifying moment where he knew she probably would. “Rule number two is to never talk down to them. Don’t treat them like they’re stupid. They just don’t know any better yet. You have to be gentle.”
“I can be gentle.” Kagami replied in annoyance because he was pretty sure this advice was an offhanded way of calling him stupid.
There was a lingering silence on the other end and Kagami bit back, “I can!”
“Rule number three,” She continued and Kagami gritted his teeth again at being blatantly disregarded. “and this is important, Kagami. Act normal.”
“What? I thought you said I shouldn’t be myself.” He grumbled.
“That’s not what she means, idiot.” A new voice spoke up and Kagami blinked.
“Hyuuga? Wait, am I on speakerphone again?”
“What else is new? Anyway, she means that you shouldn’t act any differently around the kid than you would if he was perfectly healthy. You have to let him know that he’s still a kid. Don’t blatantly stare at his injuries or give him special treatment. Kids aren’t stupid – he’s going to know you’re pitying him.” Hyuuga explained with a sigh. His tone was firm, though. The words stuck to Kagami. The last thing he wanted was for Tetsuya to think he was just pitying him.
Kagami rubbed a hand over his face as he sat up again. “You’re both telling me stuff I already knew. When are you going to stop treating me like a moron?”
“When you stop being one. Oh and kids like sweets; you should bring him some.” Hyuuga added and Kagami felt a pulse of annoyance.
“I’m not an idiot!” He shouted into his phone before he hung up without another word. He scowled down at the device before he finally pulled himself up off the couch.
Stretching his arms high above himself, feeling his spine crack from the uncomfortable positions he’d been rolling around in all night, he gave a heavy sigh.
Well, time to put on his game face.
Kagami likely spent more time than he had intended lingering around the hospital gift shop. He hadn’t known where else to go and somehow wound up there. A flower shop would have been useless and a toy store was out of the question since he didn’t exactly know what kind of things Tetsuya liked. In fact, the indecision was what was eating at him now. It was the entire reason he was standing before a display of balloons and was completely unable to decide which was more appropriate – get well soon with a widely smiling face or so I heard you’re feeling blue with a generic blue dog.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Kagami finally settled for the smiling face. As he was paying for it, he noted a white stuffed bear with a pink heart stitched onto its breast and slid that across the counter as well.
All kids liked stuffed animals, didn’t they?
As cash was exchanged and he left the gift shop with the balloon floating apathetically above him, his gut reminded him of the nerves he’d been trying to ignore all morning.
He looked down at himself and tugged softly on his collar. He’d tried to look as casual as possible when he’d dressed this morning. He had on simple jeans, a plain white t-shirt and a red plaid button up that hung open over his torso. His fingers grazed the chain that had long held the ring he cherished so dear and gave it a soft touch for a bit of extra courage. He suddenly wished Tatsuya had been available to come with him. He’d always been the cooler head of the two. He’d probably have no problem knowing what to say to Tetsuya.
Taking a deep breath, he let his fingers go back to grasping the string of the balloon firmly. Setting one sneaker ahead of the other, he held his head high and strolled forward with his usual stubbornness.
Everything would be fine.
“Good. You did come.” He heard from behind himself and he jumped in surprise, scooting a couple steps to the side from shock.
He stared wide eyed at Takao who was looking over at him with a soft but tired smile. He appeared fairly worn and one look at his uniform told Kagami that he’d been there all night. “I wasn’t sure,” Takao continued. “if you’d be coming so early.”
Kagami stood fuller and tugged at his collar again, trying to look dignified and not at all like he’d been spooked moments earlier. He cleared his throat. “Is Tetsuya awake?”
“He’s been up for hours.” Takao responded, walking past Kagami to the nurse’s station and the taller man had no choice but to follow. “I picked up Nigou first thing this morning so they haven’t left each other’s side.”
Kagami stiffened. Damn. He’d hoped that by coming early, he could have avoided the dog all together.
“I told him he was going to have a visitor today. He’s expecting you.” Takao said, his attention elsewhere as he slid a clipboard over to the attending nurse and took the two that she handed back to him. He flipped through the papers briefly before drawing his attention back to Kagami. “I can let you into the ward but I’m afraid you’re on your own after that.” He rounded the desk and started to lead Kagami down the route they’d walked last night. “I’m on the end of a double shift and I want to get out of here to get some sleep before Shin-chan comes in. I think he’s under the impression that I do less work than I actually do.”
He swiped his security card to let the doors open and Kagami fell into step with him.
Takao gave him a side glance and looked above him. “A balloon, huh?” He looked suddenly amused.
Kagami followed his gaze and watched the smiling face bounce along aimlessly. “Is it too much?”
“I think he’ll be happy.” Takao nodded absently. “It’s the first gift anyone has brought him.”
“Really?” Kagami blinked.
Takao only smiled when they reached Tetsuya’s door and he gestured. “Time to fulfill that promise, Mr. Fireman.”
“My name is Kagami Taiga.” He said a little more annoyed than intended but Takao didn’t seem to notice – or care.
“You’re welcome to stay as long as you want but I’ve been trying to have him nap about mid-day. It makes things easier on him. If he falls asleep, don’t try to wake him.” Takao instructed.
Kagami nodded firmly in response.
Takao took a step back and waved at him with his two clipboards. “Don’t look so stiff, Mr. Fireman. He’ll be happy to see you.”
“Ka-ga-mi.” He retorted in reply to Takao’s back. The paramedic gave no response as he continued on his way and Kagami turned to face the door at long last.
This was it.
He was finally going to see little Tetsuya conscious and healing.
As he reached forward for the handle, he found he still didn’t know what to say. Then again, how often did he?
Opening the door, the first thing he noticed was how bright the room was. The window was facing the sun and the curtains were drawn back to let the light in. It would have been blinding if Kagami wasn’t just tall enough to miss the glaring sun peeking under the window frame. The room was just as open as it had been before, a sole bed in the center with a mess of cords and tubes bundled about. Instead, this time, the patron wasn’t laying down… and he wasn’t alone.
The first thing that struck Kagami was that the kid was sitting up at all. When he had only ever seen him limp or lifeless, the simple act of sitting up was enough to fill Kagami’s chest with relief. He was staring forward, not even glancing at the door upon Kagami’s entry and looking down at his legs. Kagami’s stomach gave a little twist. It was strange, really, feeling relief and pity at the same time.
The next thing he noticed was the tiny ball of fur that he remembered rather vividly. Much to Kagami’s delight, it didn’t seem to take notice of his presence either and was instead content to wiggle itself under the boy’s arm. He had a cone around his neck, preventing him from scratching and when the pup turned, Kagami could see the gaping, swollen skin where a matching furry ear used to be. As Kagami drew closer, he noticed how the skin was partially covering the hole and he had seen enough melted skin in his lifetime to know exactly how that happened. He didn’t want to think about it.
He wasn’t necessarily scared of dogs – they just made him nervous. He could pet them and play with them if they didn’t make any unnecessary movements but honestly, he would most often like to just ignore them entirely. However, it was very clear from what he already knew to what he could see right now that interacting with Tetsuya would mean seeing Nigou all the time.
But as he finally got more into the room – and the puppy looked up at him finally – the thing he noticed most of all was how small Tetsuya looked in that hospital bed.
Kids didn’t deserve to spend their lives in hospital beds.
He should have been out playing and living a carefree life.
If only he’d checked that room first….
“Umm.” He started before he’d even thought of what to say. It wasn’t much of a first impression but he almost immediately got a short bark from the pup.
He flinched in surprise and gave a nervous chuckle. “Hi, uh, boy. I heard you’d be here too.”
He cleared his throat and looked back up to the child who was still staring down at his legs. If Kagami didn’t know better, he would have thought the boy still unconscious. He still blinked. He could see him swallow occasionally. He was clearly breathing – even with difficulty.
Yet he didn’t seem to notice Kagami was there. He didn’t seem to notice anything else was there.
“Uhh, it’s nice to finally see you awake, Kuroko Tetsuya.” He tried again, this time offering a small smile.
The boy still didn’t respond.
Biting his lip, he moved over to the side of the bed and pulled up a chair. He looked at the items in his hands and then up at the boy. “I, uh, bought you a balloon.” He stated, holding the string out to the boy but wasn’t entirely surprised when he didn’t take it. Instead, since his gaze was still low, he tugged down on the string until the balloon was in his hands. He then presented it to Tetsuya with a quiet smile. “I know, it’s not the coolest present but it was all I could think of since I don’t know what you like.” He looked around and then reached over, tying off the string on his bedside. “Here, I’ll just put it here so you can look at it later, okay?”
When he looked over again, he could see a little more of Tetsuya’s face and he could see firsthand the distant look in his gaze. Almost as if a fog had rolled over the natural childish glow. He supposed it was to be expected but it didn’t help from feeling his spirits plummet at the sight.
No, okay, this wasn’t the time to be depressed about things he could no longer prevent. He was here to cheer up Tetsuya, to show him that he wasn’t alone and to prove to him that somebody cared and that was damn well what he was going to do.
Even if he had to – for once – do all the talking.
He clears his throat loudly. “My name is Kagami Taiga. I was one of the firemen who helped put out the fire at your home.” He finally introduced himself. “I think maybe Takao told you I was coming? I’ve been trying to get in to see you for a while now. I wanted to make sure you were okay with my own eyes.”
He grinned widely but of course, it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Taking a deep breath, he didn’t let that dampen his spirits. “Oh, here, I bought you this too. I don’t know if you’re into this sort of thing or if maybe you feel you’re too old for them but…” He trailed off, lifting the little plush bear out of his lap and very purposefully placing it within Tetsuya’s line of sight. He rested it gently on his legs and retracted his hand.
However, the movement he got wasn’t what he expected. It wasn’t Tetsuya that moved but Nigou. The little pup crawled from Tetsuya’s side and went up to sniff at the toy, pawing at it curiously.
Kagami waved a hand. “Ahh, wait, that’s for Tetsuya!”
When Kagami tried to grab at the toy again, Nigou happily yanked it away from him. He sat there, face and paws pressed down with his hind legs in the air and tail wagging happily. When Kagami tried for it again, the pup snatched it and happily pounced away with it, hiding it at Tetsuya’s side.
Kagami sighed. “You’re not giving that back, are you?”
Nigou happily chewed on the toy and growled softly as he began to play.
Kagami sighed once more but this time, his lips carried a smile. “Fine, keep it. Now you both have a present.”
The red head looked back over to Tetsuya and resisted the urge to sigh. He knew, realistically, that the chances of Tetsuya having been active and spirited were nonexistent but it was hard to deal with the fact that sat before him. He just… wanted to fix him; to make it all better. He wanted to bundle Tetsuya up in his arms, take him outside and go get the kid ice cream. He wanted to bring him to a park so he could go play with kids his age. He wanted to see what he looked like when he smiled.
He didn’t understand sometimes how people could do this job for years. He found himself wondering how many times Kiyoshi had gone to see the families of people that had been lost in fires. He wondered how many funerals he had attended just to deal with the inevitable guilt that came with this job.
He wondered how many ghosts still haunted his senior partner – and how many were eventually going to haunt Kagami as well.
“Hey,” he started, his expression serious. “I know you don’t know me yet and that right now, I’m just some weird stranger to you…. But that’s going to change. I’m going to be here for you, okay? I promise to come every day, if I can. I’ll visit you when I get off work or when I have a day off. I’ll….. I’ll bring things. You could maybe tell me stuff that you like later and I could bring them for you. I imagine you’re going to be here for a while and I know hospitals can get pretty boring.” He rambled, letting his worries pour out. “But you’re not going to be alone anymore, Kuroko Tetsuya. I’m going to be here.”
He draws an X over his heart, expression firm. “Cross my heart.”
Kagami held his breath then, awaiting a reaction of some sort… but naturally, nothing came.
That didn’t matter though. From that first meeting, Kagami kept his promise.
For the following two days, he showed up with a bag of miscellaneous treasures in a shopping bag and sat beside Tetsuya’s bedside until the sun disappeared from the sky outside. Tetsuya still didn’t speak or even look at him but by the third day of Kagami’s promised appearance, he at the very least began to move. His gaze was still blank, a lost look in them that killed Kagami, that he was unable to fix.
Tetsuya would pet his puppy and bundle him up in his arms and hold him to his chest. Nigou was always simply happy for the affection, licking at Tetsuya’s face and wagging his tail. It would have been pretty cute – if it were any other situation. From where Kagami was sitting, it looked more like Tetsuya was desperate to keep him close; like he was scared that if he let the puppy go, he would disappear.
So Kagami made sure to bring treats for Nigou as well. A bit of beef jerky here, a new toy there and even once gracing him with a pet – although he’d retracted his hand the moment Nigou tried to lick him because he thought the pup had gone in for a bite.
Hey, he might have been putting up with Nigou for Tetsuya’s sake but that still didn’t mean he was suddenly cured of his weariness toward dogs! Even if the pup was pretty much the size of his foot.
It was fun, sort of. These quiet moments of sitting in that hospital room. It was only a couple days but Kagami was already attached. With each passing hour, he felt more and more inclined to make sure nothing bad ever happened to Tetsuya ever again. He wanted to erase that blank look on his face and fill it with life. He wanted to see Tetsuya out in a different setting instead of stuck in that hospital bed which was far too large for him. He wanted those wires gone, that breathing tube out, those bandages off, those inevitable scars erased and that leg he had yet to see to be fully mended and functioning. He wanted none of this to have happened to him. He wanted his house to not be a pile of collapsed rumble. He wanted his Grandmother to still be around to hold his hand and tell him everything was going to be okay.
He wanted Tetsuya to never have had to experience that kind of loneliness.
“What’s going on?”
Kagami blinked upon entering the critical care ward thanks to the help of a nurse. He had his usual bag of treasures in hand but as he got closer to the room, there was a familiar face talking to someone with a briefcase and a suit.
The police officer turned with a startled look, standing upright and looking over at Kagami. Immediately, the man in the suit entered Kuroko’s room and something began to fester in the pit of Kagami’s stomach. A long-buried anxiety suddenly resurfaced.
“Taiga, you’re here earlier than I thought you’d be.” Himuro spoke, being sure to step in front of Kagami when the man tried to walk past him.
“What’s going on?! Who was that guy?” He pressed, pointing toward the door.
Himuro waved his hands down, his expression quite serious. “Taiga, lower your voice. Remember where you are. We need to—Taiga.” He snaps when the redhead’s attention was pulled back toward the door. Upon hearing his name again, he looked down. “Taiga, we need to talk.”
“Let’s go sit down.”
“Why? Just tell me what’s going on!”
“You need to sit down, Taiga. It’s important.” Himuro tried to insist but it was clear by Kagami’s ever obvious body language that the man was getting more and more agitated and he wasn’t going anywhere. He sighed, reaching up to adjust his police hat and looked back up at his stubborn, younger sibling.
“That man was the local representative of an all-boys orphanage.” He finally admitted, and he watched the colour drain from Kagami’s face. “He’s here to talk to Kuroko Tetsuya.”
“Orphanage?!” Kagami shouted.
Himuro sighed, pressing two fingers to his temple. “This is why I wanted to go sit somewhere…. Taiga, lower your voice. This is the critical care ward.”
“I’ve got to get in the—!“ Kagami started, meaning to move past him but Himuro was quick to plant his palm into Kagami’s chest and push him back.
“Taiga, listen to me. What did you think was going to happen? Kuroko Tetsuya is without a legal guardian and well below the age to be out on his own. He has to go into the system; there is no other way.” Himuro tried to explain. “This is how this part of the process works; you know that.”
“But he can’t go into an orphanage, Tatsuya!” Kagami gestured to the door, visibly furious at the idea. “There has to be something else!”
However, Himuro stood his ground, hand still firmly pressed to Kagami’s chest. “Kuroko Tetsuya has no other living relatives or close family friends capable of taking him in. I know this, Taiga; I checked it out personally during my investigations of the house fire.” He sighed softly. “I’m sorry, Taiga, but this is how it has to be. Once Kuroko-kun is healed enough to leave the hospital, he will be going to the Tokyo Orphanage for Boys where he will be well taken care of.”
“Well taken care of? Are you kidding me?! That’s not good enough!” Kagami protested, trying to move forward once more but Himuro planted his foot down, steadied his gaze and smacked his hand against Kagami’s chest to make sure he had his attention.
“This is reality! Face it, Taiga. What were you expecting?” He snapped, his voice firm but even in volume. It was at the very least enough to make Kagami focus. “This isn’t some movie plot where a long lost relative comes out of nowhere to save the day! Kids without guardians need someone to take care of them and when there is no other option, that’s when the government has to get involved. It’s how it worked with us and it’s how it’s going to work with Kuroko Tetsuya!”
“He can’t go into the system, Tatsuya. Do you remember how those orphanages were? Do you remember the foster families?!” He gestured again. “Nobody is going to want to take in a boy like him! People only ever want those perfect children that they can mold into their own. That hasn’t changed. There aren’t good people like that.”
“There was Alex.” Himuro intervened… and Kagami visibly quieted. He relaxed slightly, looking almost guilty and Himuro was so glad for the sudden silence so he decided to keep talking. “Alex took us both in, even with our track records. I went through four different homes before Alex came along. Four, Taiga. That’s four families who told me they didn’t want me. Nobody wanted a bratty preteen who got into constant fights. I was angry at everyone and everything. Nobody wanted to deal with that; but Alex did.”
Kagami looked increasingly uncomfortable at that. He knew exactly what Himuro was getting at. They’d both been put into the system at young ages; Himuro after he was just dropped off in front of an orphanage when he was a baby and Kagami after his folks had been ruled unfit for raising a child. He’d been too young to remember anything about them but he’d been told later that they’d been pretty heavy into alcohol and narcotics. They’d both gone through multiple foster families, all of which returned them when they found out just how awful the both were. Kagami himself was an unruly child; he did everything in his power to cause chaos. He was loud and obnoxious, he broke everything he touched, he got into fights with any kid he was tall enough to punch in the teeth and had just been overall a true terror.
Yet the shining light to both of them had been a former WNBA player named Alexandra Garcia who took them both under her wing, knowing full well their track records. Kagami remembered his pretty well; the man had flat out told Alex not to adopt him because he was a danger to society. She’d only laughed. Turns out, she was more of a parent than anyone. She didn’t put up with either of their rebellions and no matter how many times they’d gotten into trouble, no matter how much they strained her trust, no matter how many times they’d both wound up in the principal’s office or the police station, she always brought them back home. She made dinner for them. She’d scolded them properly, told them she loved them and grounded them into eternity.
The system might have been awful but they’d been lucky enough to find Alex; or rather, for Alex to find them.
“…. There aren’t people like Alex on the regular, Tatsuya. We got lucky. We were just brats; Tetsuya is genuinely sick. Adopting him comes with hospital bills and lifelong disadvantages; nobody is going to adopt him. You just said to face reality and that’s the truth. You know it’s the truth. Please, don’t do that to him. I’m begging you.” Kagami pleaded, his voice lowering.
Himuro frowned, an obvious displeasure written across his face. “You know I have nothing to do with it, Taiga. I’m just here to make sure the paperwork goes through.”
“There has to be something else.” Kagami pleaded again.
Himuro sighs and drops his hand from Kagami’s chest. “I don’t know what else to tell you, Taiga. Unless someone randomly bursts in through those doors, willing to adopt him, it’s how things have to be.”
That anxiety burned a hole right through Kagami’s stomach. The thought of little Tetsuya having to sit inside that building while all the other kids played outside didn’t sit with him. The thought of little Tetsuya having to watch kid after kid get adopted before him, watching people look over him like he didn’t even exist……
He couldn’t do it.
He wouldn’t do it.
“I won’t accept that.” He says firmly, his gaze steady and shoved past Himuro.
The smaller man panicked and grabbed for Kagami’s arm but he missed and the redhead had already burst into the room. “Taiga, wait-!”
“Hey!!” Kagami shouted, standing tall and with his hands at his hips. He saw then the man from before, as well as Doctor Midorima standing at Tetsuya’s beside. Both looked up when Kagami entered and although Midorima’s presence caught Kagami a little off guard, it didn’t stop him from stating clear and loud what came next.
“Get lost. I’m adopting him.”
There was an instant silence that filled the room. Everyone seemed to hold their breath.
The first person to move was Himuro, who stood in the doorway with his hand pressed to his forehead, a very clear look of distress as he sighed. Next seemed to be the representative, startled by the sudden outburst; he began to adjust his tie as he fumbled for a response toward Kagami’s obvious hostility.
What was surprising was that the next person to come to life… was Kuroko Tetsuya.
The little boy turned his head and, for the first time since Kagami had met him, he looked up at him. There was an odd look to his eyes, still blank but… there was a flick. A flicker of something Kagami didn’t quite catch but he knows he saw. The boy looked up at him with such a blank expression but there was just something about it that brought a smile to Kagami’s face.
There was a pause.
Bringing a hand up to his chest, he drew an X over his heart and grinned.
‘Cross my heart.’ He thought to himself, hoping Kuroko would get the message.
Judging by the way his tiny little fingers curled into the hospital blanket, even as his expression remained blank, Kagami was sure the message had been received.
TO BE CONTINUED ★ ☆ ★ Constructive critique always welcome!