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Tangerines and Cloves

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Despite her other medical issues, Hitomi is rarely affected by the flu season. Worst case scenario, she needs to take a few days off of work and marinate herself with cups upon cups of hot tea and a couple of ibuprofens. And, while Iris had terrible immunity when affected with the tumor, afterwards she wouldn't let a cold stop her from being her usual perky self.

The newer members of their family, on the other hand…

"I'm fine," Kaname insists. "Really, you don't need to worry, I'm—" He pauses to have a horrid coughing fit.

"We've known each other for almost ten years and I didn't ever see you be fine," Mizuki chimes in from the kitchen table where she's doing her homework. Iris snorts, grinning, and Hitomi shakes her head.

"Aiba?" she asks. "Could I have your input on this?"

"According to my thermal vision," Aiba says from where she's perched on Iris's shoulder as they watch videos on her phone, "your ambient body temperature is thirty eight point four degrees centigrade, Date. I did some contact tracing, and there's an eighty-five percent probability we've met someone infected."

"Thank you," Hitomi says before turning her disapproving gaze on her wonderful, loving, very stupid fiance. To his credit, Kaname does seem appropriately embarrassed as he rubs the back of his neck. 

"Well," he says with a weak shrug. "Still. Hate to see you so concerned, Hitomi. You don't have to, y'know."

Sighing, she sits down by his side, where he's swaddled in many blankets on the couch, and briefly rests her hand over his, wrapped around the cup of coffee. Even without Aiba's commentary, she can easily tell he's not doing so hot, pale as chalk and with a glassy look in his eye. Pun not intended.

After the last year of living together, Hitomi has — seen things. Once, with Iris back from a tour, she talked Kaname into helping her blow up eggs in the microwave because of their shared curiosity. Another time, he tried making deep fried ice cream, what on earth, after Mizuki proclaimed there's no way he could do that. It's quite apparent the girls can boss him around without a problem, and Hitomi sometimes does feel like the only source of common sense in their household. 

"I am always concerned about you," Hitomi says frankly. 

"And you should be," Mizuki adds, without glancing up from her notes. "You guys know what he did last time he got sick? Before I could stop him, Date took five benadryl and then started astral projecting."

"I thought it would work faster," Kaname protests weakly as Iris cackles in the background. "Instead of one every four hours, why not knock the whole thing out in one go?"

"'Mizukiii, your clione are talkin' too loud, tell them to shut up.'" 

"H-hey, I was just joking around!" 

"If I had been in his eye socket at that time, I would have shocked him unconscious."

"And you wonder why I worry." Pursing her lips, Hitomi presses her hand against his forehead; he leans into her touch with a shuddering exhale. "You're very hot."

Without opening his eye, Kaname grins at her. 

"Yes, dear, in both meanings of the word." Good grief. She brushes the sweat off his clammy skin and sighs. "It would be best if you took a day off work, in my opinion."

"But the case…"

"Don't worry about it, Uncle," Iris quips, holding up her phone. "I texted Aunt Shizue to let her know you're sick, so she reassigned your workload to—" she squints at the screen "—to Agent Sakura."

"None of 'em will ever live it down," Kaname mutters, pouting. "At least tell me…"

"Nope, she says you still gotta do some of the paperwork." Iris sticks out her tongue. "Rest in pieces."


"No. I promised to help Mizuki with her homework."

"Damnit," he says sadly, setting down his cup. "I'm going to be bored out of my mind."

"Shovelforge?" Iris asks, eyes sparkling. 



Shaking her head, Hitomi tugs on Kaname's arm until he gets the hint and flops onto her lap like a dead fish. She cards her fingers through his hair as he stares up at her, seeming vaguely confused. She raises her brows in a silent question, and Kaname gives her a small smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling. While he's not usually that big on physical affection, he leans into her touch, wheezing out a little laugh. 

"Maybe I could take this chance and enjoy not having to do shit," he says quietly. "I finally have an excuse for that." 

"I don't think you have ever needed one before," Hitomi replies, serenely smiling back. 

Kaname frowns. "True, but hey." She grins and leans down to press a kiss to his temple.

"Maybe you could use a nap," she suggests. "Haven't you woken up quite early today?" As she rose a little after six, the bed was cold already. It’s not that unusual, truth be told, for when Kaname has a case, he throws himself into it with a single-minded determination which, while somewhat impressive, leads to him forgetting about anything else.

“You don’t wake up early if you don’t sleep at all.” 

There we go. Hitomi narrows her eyes at him. 

“At first I was thinking about the case, but then I needed to look up some details on the internet… And then I just kept reading.” He looks away guiltily, like a dog caught chewing on its owners’ shoes. Quieter, he adds, quirking his mouth like it’s a joke, “It’s better than the nightmares.”

Clearing her throat, Hitomi nods. Both of them have woken up to the other one in the throes of a night terror, but it never becomes any easier, watching the other tremble, still lost in the dream, or screaming themself awake. After that terrible November, Hitomi had enough savings to take both Iris and herself to therapy, and even if they couldn’t mention a few uncomfortable things, it’s been quite a fruitful endeavor. With the knowledge gained from that and a few psychology books, she would use that when conversing with Kaname about their shared traumas. Unfortunately, it does appear very clear that he’s too stubborn to get any professional help unless he’s actively dying. What a mess.

“I don’t feel like napping, though, I’d rather read the files or some shit like that,” he says, sniffling. 

“Uncle, please?” Iris bats her eyelashes at him.

“Yeah, go free up the space on the couch, old man,” Mizuki adds. “I wanna play Fortknight with Iris.”


“Please, Dad?” Iris gives him puppy dog eyes, sticking out her bottom lip. 

“A-alright, if you insist,” Kaname mutters, voice quivering; he doesn’t notice Iris winking at Hitomi, who bites back a smile. While Mizuki isn't as mischievous, Iris does not hesitate to play a whole sonata on Kaname's heartstrings and bully him into listening to her demands. He hasn't realized that yet, and Hitomi doesn't particularly want to break the news to him. Plus, it can be quite funny. 

After he’s gone to rest in their bedroom, Hitomi finishes working on the lesson plans before brewing an entire pot of green tea. She adds some ginger slices, a spoonful of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice, and soon the space smells absolutely lovely. Mizuki and Iris help her cook dinner, bickering the entire time about what spices they want to use, with Aiba valiantly trying to get them to stick to the recipe. It ends with her getting covered in chili powder after Mizuki knocks down a bottle, causing Iris to laugh so hard she sits down on the floor. Hitomi wrings her hands, wondering if Aiba is waterproof; when Kaname emerges from the bedroom, looking drowsy but less like death, his gaze meets Hitomi's, and they share a helpless smile.

"And you worry about me," he says.