As requested by sleepydekus on Tumblr:
"dadzawa + Eri + shinsou"
by law and by my word
All it took was a glance.
It would have been pretty hard to see Eri stumble into the kitchen, rubbing at red, bleary eyes and sniffling through a running nose, and not have assumed right away that she had come down with a cold. Aizawa observed long enough to see her trip over a blanket that she had been dragging behind her and nearly tumble, grabbing onto a kitchen chair in order to steady herself.
Eri had been a logical child from the very first moment that Aizawa had met her. Kids her age tended to barely have a grasp on little things, like sharing toys or learning to spell. But kids her age rarely spent so many years struggling and locked away, forced to make hard choices and even harder sacrifices. So, despite her age, Eri had always been rational, weighted down with far too much exhaustion for such a small girl.
At the end of it all, though, Eri had never stopped being little, and that shone through in moments like these, when nearly toppling over so early in the morning was just too much, and tears poured over with ease.
Picking up the little girl only confirmed his suspicions—there was no way she didn’t have a cold, with a forehead burning this hot. That was undoubtedly a contributor to the sobs wracking her body right now, as Eri wailed like the whole world had ended.
To someone so little, a cold and an early-morning scare probably seemed like a worthy equivalent to such an event.
Aizawa’s heart gave a little tug, the way it always did when Eri grew tired or overwhelmed and cried.
“How do you feel?” He asked, voice still gravelly and slow with sleepiness. “Hot? Cold?”
“Bad,” Eri cried, tiny fists knotting in Aizawa’s sweater. And, yeah, okay, that was understandable, too. In the same way that a toddler cried when he got a scraped knee because he wasn’t used to bleeding, Eri was overwhelmed with the discomfort and grumpiness that came with being sick.
“What feels bad?” He asked, moving them from the kitchen to the downstairs bathroom in hopes of not waking up the whole household just yet. “Your stomach? Your head?”
“Everything,” Eri hiccupped, punctuating her sentence with a long, dramatic sniffle. “Everything feels bad. Hurts. I’m hurt.”
“You have a cold,” he corrected her gently. “It happens sometimes, to everyone, when your body isn’t feeling well. It’ll go away soon, and there’s medicine to help it.”
“No-o-o-o-o!” Eri shrieked, feet kicking out like she was trying to hit an invisible enemy. “No medicine!”
On the one hand, Aizawa really had to give her kudos. When she’d first come home, she’d been quiet and gentle all the time, despite how overwhelmed and scared she must have been. But if there was one thing that Aizawa had learned through all of his years of working with children, it was that a well-behaved child was not necessarily a well-loved child. Even though Eri had undoubtedly been uncomfortable throughout the process, she had never once voiced that discomfort.
The fact that she felt comfortable enough to kick and scream and pitch a fit now just went to show how far she had come—enough progress had been made for her childish instincts to kick in, and overwrite at least some of the fear that had been coded into her.
On the other hand, Aizawa really wished she would stop screaming at six in the morning, because now Hitoshi and Hizashi were probably awake, too, and because they had neighbors who probably didn’t appreciate it.
“You don’t want it?” He asked, running his fingers through her hair in an attempt to somewhat soothe the meltdown currently happening. “It’ll make you feel better.”
“’S gonna hurt,” Eri cried, and Aizawa couldn’t help but focus on the unhealthy coloring in her cheeks and the greasiness of her hair. At her comment, he was reminded of just how unfair the world had really been to the little girl, to teach her that medicine was ever what that wicked man had done to her.
“An ice pack, then,” he conceded, unsure of where to begin.
“No medicine,” the girl demanded, teary-eyed and still hiccupping, as if she wanted to make sure he understood her demands.
“You don’t have to do anything that scares you.”
That seemed to be enough to quell the tantrum long enough for them to return to the kitchen. There, Eri was sat down on the countertops and an ice packed was pulled from the fridge and wrapped up in preparation. Eri coughed pitifully as she took it from his hands.
“Cold,” she observed meekly, prodding it with tiny fingers. “It’s gonna help?”
“It’s going to make you feel less hot,” Aizawa explained, wincing at the sound of a door opening and closing upstairs. Hizashi was still asleep in their room downstairs, unsurprisingly, but Hitoshi had never been a very heavy sleeper. Picking Eri up off of the counter, he set the girl down in her chair at the table. “You should eat something. Eggs and bread would help you the most.”
One glance at the tears quickly welling up in Eri’s eyes was all he needed to see to know that the cold hadn’t quit finished taking its emotional toll on the little girl just yet, but she was more subdued now than before. “Not hungry,” she informed him. “I feel full.”
Footsteps padded into the kitchen, and upon turning around, Aizawa was ready to end the day right there and then and go back to bed.
“What’s wrong with Eri?” Hitoshi mumbled, just as red-nosed and tired as the other child.
“What’s with you?” Aizawa rebuttled, pointing a spatula tiredly in his direction. “Feeling okay?”
“M’fine,” Hitoshi said. His movements were slugging as he hung his backpack on his chair and combed a hand through his always-messy hair. “Didn’t sleep well.”
Aizawa hummed in response, prompting the boy to continue. In his peripheral vision, he could see Eri’s hands raising in an up motion. “She’s sick,” he warned. “Though, I’m thinking you might have the same thing.”
“M’not sick,” Hitoshi deflected, picking Eri up out of her seat. “I have a good immune system.” And then, to Eri, “you don’t feel well?”
“I have the cold,” she informed him, tone serious and face flat. “It hurts, but the ice will make it go away.” She lifted her ice pack up to show him, and Hitoshi nodded along with an equally expressionless face.
“I want you to go take your temperature,” Aizawa told him, waving in the vague direction of the bathroom. “I’m not having you infect others if you have the same cold.”
“I’m not sick,” Hitoshi said again, but headed off in the direction of the bathroom nonetheless, the perfect mix of teenaged stubbornness and Hitoshi’s dutifully obedient personality type.
“Hitoshi has the cold?” Eri asked gravely. “He needs an ice pack.”
“He might,” Aizawa agreed. “Colds spread from person to person, so I wouldn’t be surprised.”
He placed a plate of jelly toast in front of Eri, turning to the fridge to grab a glass of milk. She had never been picky, but he’d never been entirely sure if she tended to like most foods, or if she just hadn’t learned to let people know when she didn’t like something. They would get to that eventually, but they’d been trying to go slowly with her. Anything that wasn’t immediately detrimental to her physical or mental wellbeing could be taken slowly, to ease her into a comfortable lifestyle without scaring her too much or overwhelming her, and things like expressing preferences and favorites could wait just a bit.
“I’m not hungry,” she told him, blinking tears out of her eyes once more. “I feel bad.”
“Eat a little, please,” Aizawa tried, doing his best to ignore the twinging in his heart when his request resulted in a low sniffling. He turned back to face Hitoshi as he heard socked feet returning to the kitchen.
And again, all it took was a glance to know.
Aizawa liked to think he knew his kids pretty damn well by now, but it wasn’t too hard to see Hitoshi’s irritated grimace and know that he, too, had caught the same cold as Eri—though, by the looks of it, to a less extreme extent.
“Go change out of your uniform and into something more comfortable,” Aizawa could have laughed at Hitoshi’s expression in another instance. “You’re not going to school sick.”
“I like school.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“I’m going to get behind,” Hitoshi was practically pleading now, in the closest way to pleading that he could get. “And it’s going to be hard to catch back up.”
“You’ll get other kids sick,” Aizawa disagreed. “And you’re not going to learn anything while you’re feeling like this. Go change.”
Hitoshi’s face said plainly that he would have liked to argue, but he didn’t have an argumentative enough spirit to follow through. Slumping his shoulders, he trudged back up the stairs to change, and Aizawa had to fight back at the thought that most kids would have pouted at having to stay home—whereas Hitoshi genuinely liked his classes so much that staying home was like a death penalty to the kid, the way he reacted.
With Eri preoccupied pouting over her toast and Hitoshi busy pouting over having to stay home, Aizawa seized the opportunity to slip into his own room and let himself fall face-first into his pillow once more. Using a free hand, he felt around until he poked his husband.
“Hizashi,” he practically whined.
When that elicited no response, he tried again.
A small grunt rewarded him this time, and Aizawa ran a hand through the other man’s hair.
“The world is ending.”
“Mmgfh?” Hizashi mumbled into his own pillow.
“The kids have colds,” Aizawa informed him flatly. “Apparently this is the end of the world.”
“How’d they get colds?” Hizashi finally sat up, rubbing at his eyes and fumbling to pull his hair into a messy morning bun. “Hitoshi’s not gonna be happy about having to stay home.”
“He’s not,” Aizawa agreed, forcing himself to get back out of bed in spite of his protesting joints. Jeez, he was starting to feel old. “Eri won’t take medicine, so hers may be a little harder to deal with.”
Of course, they could always mix it into a smoothie without her noticing, but he would have felt guilty betraying her trust while he was trying to teach her that she was allowed to say no to things that scared her or made her uncomfortable.
Hizashi, ever the morning person, had managed to get dressed and fully wake up in the time that it took Aizawa to clamber out of bed a second time.
When he returned to the kitchen, the toast was completely untouched with the exception of a small nibble on the corner and Hitoshi was slumped across the table, still looking displeased in a T-shirt and jeans. That hadn’t quite been what he’d meant by ‘comfortable clothes,’ but Aizawa wasn’t going to correct him on his choice now.
He glanced up, eyes darting right to Aizawa’s, and he fidgeted in the way that he always did when he wanted to ask a question. Typically it was pretty easy to guess what, but other times, like now, Aizawa couldn’t tell at all.
Hitoshi slouched in his seat, eyes moving back away. “Do you—um, do you have medicine?”
“I’d hope so,” Aizawa replied, knowing fully well that was Hitoshi’s way of asking for some, which meant he was feeling a lot worse than Aizawa had suspected earlier. He picked up Eri’s plate as Hizashi picked her up, probably to go and change her out of her day clothes and into pajamas. “Where do you feel sick?”
“Head,” Hitoshi was still keeping his gaze dutifully trained on the window above the oven. “Stomach. Chest. I feel hot.”
“Are you hungry?” Based off the way that the corner of Hitoshi’s mouth twisted into a grimace, the answer was no. “Grab some blankets from the hall closet and relax on the couch,” he suggested. “You’ll feel better if you relax and focus on something else. I’ll bring you something to help.”
“Is it going to go away on its own?” Hitoshi asked before Aizawa slipped away. “I don’t—I don’t mind, but if Eri has to go to the doctor it’s going to scare her.”
And oh, wow, his heart was tugging again. “It looks like it’s just a virus. You’ll both be fine in a couple of days as long as it doesn’t get worse. But if you could convince her to take some medicine with you, that would make me more certain.”
Hitoshi only nodded once, using both his hands to push his chair back from the table and slouching out of the kitchen.
It took a while to fish out cold supplies from the bathroom. Eri’s—just in case Hitoshi or Hizashi had a more successful attempt at getting her to take something—medicine was easy enough to find, right at the front because they’d only bought it recently for her in case she did get sick eventually, seeing how she was too little to take any adult medicine yet. Something for Hitoshi took a while longer, because Hizashi rarely got sick and Aizawa rarely did anything about it when he felt ill.
Upon scrounging up lozenges and ibuprofen, Aizawa returned to the living room to find Eri in a bright pink onesie, wrapped in a blanket in Hizashi’s lap and being taught how to flick through channels with a remote by Hitoshi, who had practically cocooned himself in quilts.
Eri’s expression went from curious to suspicious in the time that it took for Aizawa to set the medicine down on the table.
“No,” she said firmly, pressing her finger on the next button without even pausing to see what was on TV.
“You don’t have to, but Hitoshi is going to take some.”
Eri dropped the remote to reach out and pat her brother’s knee. “You don’t have to if it scares you.”
Hitoshi took the remote back. “It’s good medicine,” he changed the channel to something that Aizawa had heard his class speaking together about before, but had never understood himself. “I feel sick, so I’m going to take it and it’s going to make me feel less sick.”
“It hurts,” Eri protested, pressing herself further into Hizashi’s chest, as if the medicine on the table was going to leap out and bite her.
“Not this,” Hitoshi disagreed, accepting a glass of water from Aizawa, who was content to sit back and let him work the persuasive effects of a cool older brother. “Sometimes it tastes bad, but it makes being sick hurt less. Does your throat hurt, Eri-chan?”
“Yes,” Eri agreed, looking incredibly unhappy about it. “Needles.”
“These are like candy. If you suck on them for a while, they make your throat hurt less.” He showed her the pack of lozenges. She regarded them warily, watching Aizawa through squinted eyes even though he wasn’t even the one speaking to her.
“Candy,” Eri repeated, doubtful. “Like candied apples?”
“Well, no. This doesn’t taste as good. But you’ll be glad you took one,” Hitoshi swallowed his pills without drinking any of the water, a tactic that made Aizawa wince. “Here,” Hitoshi leaned over, popping a lozenge out of the packaging. “I’ll take one first, and then if you want to you can eat one with me.”
Hizashi waited until she was engrossed in watching Hitoshi pop the lozenge into his mouth before passing her off to Aizawa.
Aizawa’s class only had a test today, while Hizashi’s was going to have a more interactive activity that was going to be harder to find a substitute for. That left the unspoken agreement that Hizashi would go into work today, and Aizawa would stay and watch the kids—something he definitely wasn’t complaining about, because he knew himself well enough to know that he would have been focused on them all day either way. Hizashi would be texting for updates all day, he knew.
Eri’s fingers knotted into his sweater again while she studied Hitoshi for any signs of excruciating agony, and then—with the ease of a child who hadn’t just been screaming her lungs out at the thought of a cough drop—held out her hand for one of her own.
Aizawa would have rolled his eyes if he weren’t so relieved.
While Eri was more awake than he would have expected for someone as sick as she was, Hitoshi was already burrowing into his blanket nest with heavy eyelids.
“Is Hitoshi okay?” Eri leaned from Aizawa’s lap, prodding the older boy in the thigh.
“He’s trying to sleep,” Aizawa responded dryly, batting her hands away.
“I’m not,” Hitoshi protested blearily.
“Oh,” Eri said. She dropped her voice down to a whisper that wasn’t much softer at all. “Why is Hitoshi tired?”
“Because that’s what happens when you’re sick.”
“’M not sick.”
Eri studied Aizawa’s face for a long moment, then patted Hitoshi on the foot. “The medicine will make you feel better.”
Hitoshi’s only response was an exhausted groan. Upon further inspection, his eyes were bloodshot and the tip of his nose was an irritated red. His breathing was heavy, and despite his constant blinking, his eyelids seemed to droop like they were weighed down. If he wanted to sleep, he would really sleep a lot better on his own where he could stretch his long legs out and not be woken up by an emotional five year old experiencing her first cold.
But as Aizawa stood up to go and move to Eri’s room, a hand bigger than either of Eri’s poked out of the bundle of blankets and hooked onto the sleeve of his sweater.
“Stay,” Hitoshi said, and that was enough to make Aizawa settle down in the nearest chair instead of leaving the room.
He was out like a light after that, and Aizawa could only cross his fingers and hope the medicine and sleep would work together to make him feel better once he woke up.
“Do you want your hair out of your face?” Aizawa turned his attention back to Eri, who was once again close to tears as she brushed her bangs out of her eyes.
She nodded once, wiping her hand across her runny nose and staring back at him with big eyes.
Aizawa handed her a tissue, but otherwise didn’t comment on the excess amount of snot currently on her hand. After wiping her fingers down, he let her turn and situate herself on his lap so that she faced the television and he faced her back. She busied herself with the remote once more, flicking through channel after channel with no intent of watching any of them. Aizawa busied himself with her hair.
It had taken months of YouTube tutorials and watching Hizashi, but Aizawa felt pretty confident in his French plaiting abilities now.
He set to work, separating her hair and making sure he was as gentle as possible when he stumbled upon knots in her long hair. Eri kicked her feet and mashed buttons, pleased as a peach at the opportunity to have a whole day at home with one of her dads and her older brother.
In the time that it took for Aizawa to dig through his pocket for a rubber band and tie the end of Eri’s plait, she’d already begun to slump down.
Aizawa reached a hand out to feel her still-burning forehead, and in response Eri let herself fall all the way against his chest, face pressing into his shoulder and tiny fingers holding onto his arm.
“Don’t feel good,” she reminded him, as if he could have forgotten. “My head hurts and I’m cold.”
He didn’t have time to reply before her eyes grew wet once more, once again aware of her discomfort now that her hair was no longer being played with and the TV was no longer fun. Before her crying could grow into a full wail and wake Hitoshi, Aizawa shifted to stand up, supporting her weight with an arm underneath her while she clutched his other like a lifeline.
Hearing Eri cry was never easy, as uncommon as it was. She rarely cried, far too used to fear for someone her age, but doctor’s visits and bad nightmares were sometimes too much, and the chair at the dentist had been enough to bring about a full-on meltdown.
At the end of the day, though, those were easy problems to solve. They would go home, or read a book or two to calm her down enough to fall back asleep, and that would be that. No real danger.
So knowing that Eri was feverish and hurting now, and there wasn’t anything to do but wait it out, was tugging at his heart heavily.
They walked laps around the downstairs until Eri had cried herself hoarse, and finally—when Aizawa had begun to grow nervous for the state of her throat—he sought out one of the housecats.
The friendliest of the cats always lounged in the kitchen window and wasn’t terribly hard to find, head already poking up as Aizawa walked closer to set Eri down on a kitchen chair. He turned to pick up the cat, and Eri’s crying picked up once more at the realization that she had been heartlessly abandoned an cruel five feet away from Aizawa.
The cat meowed at him as she was plucked up and dropped into Eri’s lap, quickly realizing she had a duty to fulfil. She lapped gently at Eri’s cheeks, purring out a noisy chortle as Eri let out a long, loud sniff and reached up to rub her ears.
Aizawa sat down in the nearest chair, close enough to pat the cat on the back. “Chess says she’s sad that you’re not feeling well.”
Another noisy sniff.
“Eri-chan,” Aizawa brought his voice up high, pretending the cat was speaking to her in a silly voice. “You’re looking pretty sleepy.”
Eri giggled at that, already forgetting once more about her cold dilemma. “She didn’t say that.”
“Yes she did. I don’t sound like that.” He brought his voice up once more, still playing. “Wouldn’t you like to take a nap, Eri-chan?”
Eri yawned heavily in reply. She rubbed away some of the tear tracks on her face.
“I want to brush her,” she murmured, eyes drooping. Aizawa retrieved the cat brush and a box of tissues and watched her begin her sleepy task of brushing through the long-haired cat, wiping her nose with her hands, getting cat hair in her nose, sneezing directly onto the cat, and then proceeding to brush her snot into the cats fur before Aizawa could tell her otherwise.
Chess, ever the little trooper, purred through it all.
Aizawa, having given up at least five minutes ago, quickly poked his head into the living room to verify that Hitoshi was still sleeping. He was, which allowed Aizawa enough time to give Chess a treat for being such a good sport and bring Eri up to bed.
The cat would need a bath, but he would deal with that later. For now, he left her to her own devices and picked up a red-nosed Eri from where she was close to napping right where she sat.
On his way through the living room, he verified once more that the other child was still asleep and picked up the bottle of children’s Tylenol from the table.
While Hitoshi always seemed to prefer sleeping on the couch to even his own bedroom, Eri had never been able to fall asleep anywhere else. Still, Aizawa didn’t feel great about having her sleep so far away, and ended up bringing her to his own bedroom, which was right next to the living room on the first floor, and he crossed his fingers that she would be too tired to notice.
She had already fallen asleep by the time that he went to put her down, head lulled against his shoulder. He took the opportunity to fetch a glass of water and fish a pill from the bottle, waking her up just long enough for her to take some medicine and fall back asleep before she could even remember to be afraid.
He nestled her in the blankets, careful to keep her on her side and not too wrapped up, and then left the door wide open as he returned to the living room.
The house was quiet for the next few hours, which Aizawa used to text Hizashi and grade papers. He left the TV on as white noise, and forgot about it entirely until he heard Hitoshi’s worn-out “what is this?”
Glancing up at the television for the first time since he’d begun to grade, Aizawa watched for a moment and then shrugged. “Don’t know. Not watching.” Hitoshi’s face was less tired, but just as red and uncomfortable as before. “How are you feeling?”
“Better. Tired. Where’s Eri?” He sat up, wrapping the blankets around his shoulders and head like a cloak.
“She’s asleep in my room. You’re still tired?”
“I have bad dreams when I’m sick.” Hitoshi’s voice was weary, but he moved away from his discomfort quickly in the same way that he always tended to. “What are you doing?”
“Grading tests. I’m nearly finished with them.” He set the stack down on the coffee table and pocketed his pen. Hitoshi was getting restless, sick or not. “I’m going to make soup for dinner. You can come if you want.”
“Dinner?” Hitoshi’s eyes wandered for a clock.
“You slept for a while. Eri’s going to sleep a while more. I’m home now and it’d be nice to have dinner ready for Hizashi when he gets home. So. Soup.”
The ghost of a smile twitched onto Hitoshi’s face. “I’m sick.”
“Don’t breathe into the pot, then. You can still come sit in the kitchen while I get it ready.” Aizawa stretched and stood, and Hitoshi dragged himself up, too.
Aizawa poked his head into his room again as he passed the doorway, and he had no doubt that Hitoshi was glancing in as well as he verified that Eri was still asleep. She was, limbs splayed out and drooling on the pillow.
In the kitchen, Hitoshi slunk to one of the chairs, still wrapped up in his protective cloak of blankets.
“If my fever goes away tonight, can I go to school tomorrow?”
Aizawa rummaged through the cupboards for the supplies that he was looking for. “Your fever isn’t going to go away tonight.”
“Then by tomorrow morning.”
“I highly doubt that you’ll be at school tomorrow.” He left the water to boil, turning in time to see Hitoshi making a face as he ran his fingers through Chess’s fur. If he wondered why her fur was sticky, he didn’t comment, and Aizawa didn’t offer an explanation.
“I’m going to miss classwork and get behind,” Hitoshi’s fingers were wrapped into his palms, and he rested his forehead on the edge of the table. “It’s going to be hard to catch up.”
“You haven’t struggled with a single assignment as long as I’ve known you, and you managed to rank in the top numbers of your class within a few months of transferring courses,” Aizawa corrected dryly. “And, in case you’ve forgotten, Hizashi and I are both teachers. Your teachers. I think you’ll be okay.”
Hitoshi looked wholly unconvinced.
Aizawa sighed, deciding to deal with that battle when it came. “Chicken noodle or egg drop?”
“Egg drop.” Hitoshi situated himself so that he could rest his head on the table and watch Aizawa at the same time. “Do you ever get sick?”
“Everybody gets sick. It’s not uncommon for me to.”
“Is Eri okay? She was crying.”
Hitoshi was a boy with a lot of love to give, and he never hesitated to make it known who he loved. It was a trait that Aizawa found admirable.
“She’s never had a cold before, and she’s still little. Her body is tired from trying to fight it off, and there’s no doubt that it’s confusing and uncomfortable for her to deal with pain that we can’t get rid of quickly. She’s fine, just tired and fussy.”
Hitoshi nodded slowly, reaching an arm out to pat Chess as she jumped onto the table to greet him.
“I had a dream that I never moved here, and I was still there.” The unnamed ‘there’ hung heavy, but Aizawa knew without saying that he meant the foster home he’d been removed from prior to his adoption. “Nothing happened. I was just there. It was lonely, and nobody answered me when I talked.”
The water boiled, and the sound of noodles being poured into the pot was the only noise in the room for a long second.
“There are three people in this house who care about you.” Aizawa kept his eyes trained on the water as he stirred it, knowing Hitoshi would listen as long as he could avoid eye contact. “And there’s an even larger number of people who care about you in your classes at school. By law and by my word, here is a place where you’re never going to be alone.”
The quiet that answered him wasn’t a bad silence, but it filled the room in a comfortable manner as the water popped and the noodles churned against themselves. The only sound that permeated the quiet was Chess’s loud, chortling purr, and things remained that way until the sound of keys jiggling in a lock let Aizawa know that Hizashi was home.
By the time he heard socked feet entering the kitchen, Hitoshi was asleep where he sat.