Title: Fumbling Toward Family
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: May 31, 2012 Edited: June 6, 2012
Disclaimer:"Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist" belongs to Kazue Katou, Shueisha, A-1 Pictures, Aniplex, and various other parties.
Fujimoto Shiro tried to ignore the demon child. He did what was necessary – feeding, changing diapers – all at unholy hours. (And, if that was as normal as the books indicated, all babies must be demons.) But, beyond that, Satan's son stayed in his crib. No matter how he might scream his lungs out for some nameless thing that went beyond basic care.
Admittedly, Shiro left the human twin to his own devices as well aside from some additional examinations. But, Yukio was a quiet child, fussing only softly even when his diaper was soaked through. Twice, Shiro had noticed his distress only because of the demon's incessant squalling.
The son of Satan apparently disapproved of stinky diapers. Or maybe Yukio's soft mewls annoyed him. Possibly, they excited him. But, Shiro tried not to think that way. Whatever the case, the demon was always sure to voice his displeasure loudly.
"No worries about that one's lungs," Shiro muttered as he carefully fitted a clean diaper onto the quiet Yukio. The action was becoming a bit more natural, at least with this baby who didn't grab and bite. Though the demon's biting had become mostly gumming since the sealing had taken away the half-grown fangs he was born sporting.
Shiro glanced into the demon's crib. "Why can't you be more like Yukio?" he asked.
The demon looked up at him with wide, blue eyes, and then let out a squeal. Mouth open, he reached up with chubby arms.
"Ha," said Shiro. "My goatee is staying right here where you can't yank it off."
The little monster had made a good try at that yesterday. Even with his power sealed inside the demon-slaying blade, he was still unnaturally strong. But, for now, he just babbled and waved his arms.
Shiro sighed. He must be crazy, agreeing to this. He didn't know a thing about children, less about babies, and he really wanted a smoke. Now, demons. Demons he knew. (You could smoke around demons.) Though his field of expertise wasn't exactly in nurturing them. And, Shura was no help either. Because trying to teach that little hellion to behave like a human being was more like fighting a demon than child-rearing.
Settling Yukio back in his crib, Shiro shrugged at him helplessly. "Between your father and me, I think you two are out of luck," he said.
Yukio looked at him curiously and then released a contented gurgle.
Well, at least they were both placated for the moment.
Which meant he should try to get some sleep while it was quiet. That in mind, Shiro retreated to his futon and prayed for a few hours' peace.
Blissful oblivion was broken by a screech. Bleary-eyed and disoriented, Shiro jerked up with one hand already around his gun. It took him several endless seconds to realize that it was only the demon squalling at full volume again.
Shiro glanced at the clock. He had only been asleep a half hour. A growl escaped him. He was exhausted, his nerves were worn thin, and he really, really needed a smoke.
"You can't possibly need anything yet," he snarled.
The ear-piercing wail continued.
Shiro forced himself up and stalked across the room to gather up the screaming demon child. But, his diaper was dry and clean. Frowning, Shiro turned to Yukio.
The younger twin was facedown in his bedding and very, very still.
Shiro snatched the baby up and checked him quickly. He found a thin, fading heartbeat but no signs of breathing. Acting on years of experience as an exorcist field doctor, he quickly bent to resuscitate the child, a desperate prayer echoing in his mind.
Please. Yukio was so tiny. Tiny and frail, and wasn't this proof he was no fit guardian? His life had barely begun, and Yukio was going to die without ever seeing beyond the bars of a secondhand crib.
There was a flutter of breath against his face. As Shiro drew back to watch, the tiny chest rose and fell. Rose and fell again. And, again.
And, Shiro finally remembered to breathe himself.
Gently, he held the baby in shaking hands, wanting to cuddle him close but afraid of breaking him. The weak heartbeat was strengthening, and blue eyes opened briefly before Yukio drifted into an exhausted sleep.
And, still, Shiro watched him breathe.
But, slowly, he became aware of something else.
The demon was still screaming. The squall had gained a ragged edge and the cries were further apart, but they hadn't stopped.
And, why was the demon squalling? Yukio had been as clean and silent as a dying baby could possibly—
Shiro could almost hear his thoughts grind to a stop. Eyes wide, he stepped to the second crib and looked inside.
The demon's face was red, his eyes squeezed shut, and his tiny hands clenched into fists. His voice was hoarse and weakening with every cry. But, cry he did. Again and again, pausing only to draw great sobbing gasps.
"Shhh," Shiro soothed, suddenly daring to hope. "You'll wake your brother. See?"
Cautiously, because he couldn't risk being wrong, he lowered Yukio's sleeping form into the demon's field of vision and gently brushed one small foot over the screaming twin's face.
The demon child broke off mid-cry as his eyes snapped open. Slowly, unfocused, they tracked the form of his twin dangling above him. A hiccup bubbled out of his round mouth. And, a little hand came up to pat at the foot gently.
Shiro held his breath, reflexively tightening his grip.
But, the hand only patted. The demon's face broke into something like a smile, and a quiet coo escaped him. Slowly, his face smoothed and his eyelids drooped. And, still he patted Yukio until his eyes finally closed fully and his hand stilled, resting against his twin's foot.
Shiro felt something in his chest clench.
"I'm sorry, Rin," he whispered. He propped Yukio in the crook of his left arm and reached to run a finger down one of the older twin's reddened cheeks. "Sorry your new Tousan's so bad at this."
But, he thought as he settled himself between the two cribs, he was going to learn how to be better. Rin wasn't even half a year old, and he was already learning how to be a big brother. And, if the son of Satan could learn that, then maybe a disreputable exorcist could learn to be a father.
Many thanks to Sage SK for beta-ing and helping me find a title.