I've read some really good parent-child fanfics in this fandom and promised myself I wouldn't write any and then this happened. Sigh. They're just so cute, I'm a sucker for family fics.
Anyway, so this story is about 4 newly-turned-single fathers who are forced to attend bi-weekly support group meetings, since they don't have any other support system around them. They start off as strangers, and in the span of 6 weeks, become best bros. Because who can understand you better than someone who's going through the exact same thing as you?
I'll finally be making good use of my nursing classes on infants and children by including accurate information relating to the development and behaviours of children, so I'm sorry if you find some bits technical (I promise to keep the technical bits short, though. I hate them as much as you do haha). As for some of the circumstances, and mostly the functioning of the daycare, is going to be based on my personal experience during my internships in pediatrics, so it might not be similar to any systems you're familiar with. Oh, and they're... probably not in Japan hahaha. The school system I used is the more Western kind (because I didn't like the system in Japan, so yeah ;u; ), so you can pretend the story takes place in the USA or something. It isn't specified.
Anyway. This is a pretty light-hearted fic, mostly concentrating on single parent-child relationships, coping in difficult situations, and the hope of succeeding despite all of the odds stacked against them. I'm hoping to include varied situations and circumstances relating to the difficulties of being a single parent, so you'll see that all of the characters are very different, even if they end up in similar situations.
Please enjoy! 3
Week 0- Saturday
Oikawa had always been good at diffusing awkward situations. He just had that natural je-ne-sais-quoi that made all of the awkwardness in the air dissipate, and that urged all of the eyes in the room to turn to him as he said something brilliant (that he came up with thanks to his impressive wit), which in turn got rid of the tension in the air.
Oikawa had been in a lot of awkward situations, too. Like that one time he'd gone to the daycare principal's office and hadn't waited before entering and had caught the man -well in his fifties- painting his toenails. In retrospect, advising him to wait a bit more before applying the top coat polish probably hadn't been the best thing to do, but at least he hadn't had to bear any kind of tense silence back then.
It was probably an unexpected day off for his je-ne-sais-quoi. Nothing else could explain why he was still stuck in this tiny room, sitting on a folding chair in a circle with 4 other men his age, all of whom looked either incredibly embarrassed, or incredibly bored. And nobody spoke.
This was such bullshit. Maybe if he'd advised the principal on nail polish colours that complemented his personality, he wouldn't have been forced to attend this meeting.
"So," the silver-haired man sitting at the edge of his seat amongst the five of them started, elongating the 'o' a bit and only succeeding in making things more awkward. Everybody in the circle finally seemed to realize that they were in a meeting and made an effort to straighten -but just an effort- before looking at him. "We still haven't heard your names. But I supposed I should go first with the introductions to set the example."
There was a silent consensus that the silver-haired man should totally have a go at breaking the ice, and this seemed to put the man on the spot, though he didn't seem bothered by it. His smile still as sunny as ever, he bowed his head lightly at the others in the circle and began.
"My name is Sugawara Koushi," he introduced himself, eyes shining bright as he took in the four other men in the circle. "I am 21 years old, and I'm currently a university student majoring in sociology. I volunteered to take over this six-week support group project in the context of my 'Diverse Families in Society' class, and I will be the one leading our sessions from now on. It's nice to meet you all."
"Nice to meet you," Oikawa mumbled out with the three others, and crossed his arms.
"Well, I guess I'll go next," the black-haired man next to Sugawara sighed, and straightened up. As soon as he did, a cocky smirk split his face, his eyes glinting despite their half-lidded appearance. "My name is Kuroo Tetsurou, age 22, proud parent of a 3-year old since, well, three years ago, super-daddy extraordinaire since four months ago. Nice to meet you all."
"Nice to meet you."
"Super-daddy extraordinaire was totally what I was gonna say," the white-and-grey-haired man next to Kuroo grumbled, crossing his arms and pouting. "Fine. I'm Bokuto Koutarou, I'm 22, and owls are really cool. Nice to meet you."
"Nice to... meet you?" Oikawa raised an eyebrow, wondering why the guy looked so proud of himself all of a sudden.
"Um, Bokuto, maybe you would like to specify how long you've been a parent, and how long you're been a single father?" Sugawara laughed -bless his soul, Oikawa could already see how done the guy was- and waved to him again as if to continue.
"Oh, sure!" Bokuto nodded. "My kid's four, and he's exclusively been daddy's tiny man since 3 months ago."
"Nice to meet you," the group drawled again, and Oikawa wondered if he'd have time to grab some coffee before his kid's naptime if the meeting dragged on like this.
"Next please," Sugawara indicated, and Oikawa sat up straight in his highly-uncomfortable plastic chair and grinned, making his signature peace sign with his fingers.
"Yo! I'm Oikawa Tooru, 22 going on 23, and every since the birth of my wonderful two-year old, I've only been the most outstanding role model and the most doting parent to my wonderful son. Alas, two months ago, our family was met with a terrible fate, and I was left to raise my son all on my own, which I must say I executed incredibly well since-"
"Nice to meet you," Kuroo interrupted. "Next!"
"Oi, I wasn't done!" Oikawa protested, pouting. "I was gonna tell you how great of a dad I am!"
"Well if you're here with the rest of us, then you probably aren't THAT great," Bokuto mumbled, looking a bit embarrassed.
"I'll have you know that the daycare principal sent me here out of spite," Oikawa huffed, crossing his arms. "I should've told him that blue was more his colour..." he added under his breath.
"Umm... I'm not even sure I wanna know what you said there, buddy," Kuroo raised a brown at him, and then chuckled. "Let's just move on."
"Well then, I'm Sawamura Daichi," the last of them, who'd been surprisingly quiet so far, began, effectively stopping Oikawa's low whining. "Just turned 22, I have a three year-old, and I've been a single parent since four months ago."
"Wonderful. I'm very happy to meet everybody here," Sugawara exclaimed, and Oikawa wondered if the kid was running on Duracell. Duracell was Trusted Everywhere™ and looking at how bright his personality was, Oikawa wouldn't even be surprised if he had a few batteries lodged somewhere in his head. "So today was just an introduction, to help us get to know one another, since we'll be spending the next six weeks together, twice a week, here in this support group in order to facilitate your transition from parent to single parent, and to support one another as your children transition from a biparental environment to a monoparental environment."
"Fun," Kuroo mumbled, and the flat tone of his voice was very representative of how all of them felt being there.
"Now, I've made memo cards, one for each of you, which include your phone numbers, and some important other phone numbers, such as for the daycare, for your appointed social worker, the local drop-in clinic, and the poison control centre." He passed out said cards, and Oikawa was disappointed at how bland they were. If he was in charge of graphic design around here, maybe people would be more enthusiastic about receiving these things.
"Thank you, Sugawara," Sawamura was the first to acknowledge, and the silver-haired man actually beamed at the other.
"It's my pleasure! Now I think that cohesion is going to be the best asset we'll have in this group, so I encourage you all to get to know one another better until our next meeting. Which will be... this Thursday, so in five days! Then, we'll properly begin talking about how you all felt about this rather rough change in your lives, and work from there."
"I'll bring the Kleenex," Kuroo grumbled.
"I'll bring the ice cream," Bokuto added.
Oikawa raised a brow at them, and the two of them raised their brows at him.
"What?" he asked, confused.
"This is the part where you say you'll bring the chick flicks," Bokuto prompted.
"Hilarious. And by the looks of this room, then Sawamura will have to be in charge of bringing a TV set with a DVD player."
"Sounds like a plan!" Kuroo grinned.
"I was mainly just kidding," Oikawa sighed, rubbing his forehead.
"Oi, guys, it won't be that bad," Sawamura tried to step in, but Kuroo and Bokuto were snickering and Oikawa was 110% done with being there.
"Look, can we just leave? I really wanna pick my kid up and grab a coffee and go home," the brown-haired man groaned, pleadingly looking at Sugawara for an escape.
"Don't miss your manicure appointment," Kuroo snickered louder, Bokkuto muffling laughter into his hand.
"Alright, I'm out." There was only so much Oikawa could tolerate, and he could already feel the headache coming. "See you all on Thursday."
"You two are so immature!" Sawamura admonished, Kuroo and Bokuto looking at each other for a second before they grinned at him.
"We're just lightening the mood." And then, turning to Oikawa's retreating back. "See you Thursday, pretty boy!"
"Bye!" Oikawa threw over his shoulder, wondering if he'd have to put up with the two men's bullshit next time if only he remembered to drag his je-ne-sais-quoi along.
Leaving the room, he sighed and headed down the hall, towards the daycare area of the community centre. It was Saturday, so the classrooms he passed by were empty, but he headed for the gym where he knew his kid was being watched by the weekend sitter.
As he entered the gym, he spotted the sitter -Kenma? Probably? He should ask the kid if he needed help bleaching his hair, though, considering that his roots were showing a whole lot-, who was in the corner, sitting down and watching the kids play. A quick once-over of the room let Oikawa spot his son immediately, and almost as immediately, he was running to him.
"Shouyo!" he groaned, running a hand through his hair when his bright-haired son looked up at him. His twinkling eyes lit up when he spotted his dad, and suddenly, he was laughing.
Except when he laughed, the foot of the other child next to him, on which he was very happily chewing, fell from his mouth and hit the floor loudly.
"Ow!" the black-haired boy next to him exclaimed, pulling the leg closer to him to nurse it in all its wet, slobbery glory. "Shouyo! That hurt!" he whined, breath hitching.
"Okay, kiddo, no crying!" Oikawa laughed nervously, kneeling down next to the other child, who was definitely older than his, and who looked on the verge of tears. "You're a big boy, dry those tears, yeah?"
"It huuuurts," the kid whined, sniffling, and Oikawa briefly panicked.
"There, there, just calm down-"
"Yuu!" Another voice suddenly called from behind Oikawa, and he turned to see Sawamura poking his head through the door to the gym, looking for what he assumed was his child.
And suddenly, the tears and the whining were gone, and so was the kid himself. Oikawa barely had time to turn when the other boy -Yuu, apparently- got up and dashed to his father, who was waiting for him with open arms.
"Hey there, kiddo!" Sawamura laughed, hugging him, but probably noticed that his shirt had a wet stain on it when Yuu pressed himself against him. "Yuu, what is this?"
"This?" the kid looked down curiously, as if he hadn't even realized. "Oh, Shouyo tried to eat my leg but I didn't like it, so I gave him my foot instead."
"What?" Sawamura looked weirded out, more than anything else. "Umm... O-Okay?"
"Sorry about that," Oikawa apologized as he came near, Shouyo in one arm and Yuu's shoe and sock in the other. "He's still teething, so he likes chewing on anything and everything. Here."
"Thanks," Sawamura smiled briefly at him, accepting his son's things. "I'll apologize, too. Yuu doesn't have any self-restraint. We're still working on it."
"Shouyo asked, so I gave him what he wanted," the loud child defended him, but then fell quiet. "Well, he didn't ask, but... But he didn't complain!"
"Noya," Shouyo giggled from in Oikawa's arms. "Noya is funny."
"Well I'm glad you think so, baby," Oikawa groaned, briefly kissing his son's orange hair and eliciting a giggle from him. "But honestly, stop putting people's limbs in your mouth. You have toys for that."
"Well, I guess we'll be leaving. And Noya is going to have to take a shower today, since he got his foot dirty like that," Sawamura looked down at his son, amused by the horrified look on his face.
"No! Not the shark cave! I was just there one sleep ago!"
"You just had to play nice," the black-haired man sighed, and tugged him by his hand. "Come on. Say bye to Shouyo."
"Bye Shouyo," Yuu mumbled a bit more quietly, waving at the sunny child, who had his hand in his mouth.
"Say bye, Hinata," Oikawa murmured amusedly, and when his son didn't move, only stared at his friend, he pulled the hand out of his mouth and waved at Noya himself.
"Byebye, Noya," Shouyo exclaimed, as if just remembering the existence of the other boy, and then dragged his hand back into his mouth, effectively catching a few of Oikawa's fingers as well.
The brown-haired man sighed and casually wiped his wet fingers on his pants before heading towards Kenma to sign out his child. The teen, a student nurse studying to be in pediatrics, if he remembered correctly, just nodded at him as he signed off the paper, and wished them both a nice weekend before returning to his texting.
Oikawa briefly considered calling him out on the fact that he'd been too busy texting to realize that his kid had somebody else's foot in his mouth, but right now, he really just wanted that coffee and to be on his way home.
"Daddy," Hinata cooed as they exited the gym, Oikawa ducking his head to avoid looking at Kuroo and Bokuto who were chit-chatting as they headed the opposite way, probably to pick their kids up as well. "I love you." Shouyo added as an afterthought, words muffled by the hand he had in his mouth.
"Me, too, kiddo," Oikawa sighed, walking into the elevator when it arrived and pressing the button for the ground floor.
"But what about mommy?" Shouyo added, however, as he continued to innocently chew on his hand, unaware that his dad's shoulders had become tense. "Where's mommy?"
"You know it's just daddy now, sunshine."
And Oikawa really really considered making that coffee alcoholic. Considering his circumstances, it wouldn't hurt to throw in a shot of vodka (or three).
Week 1- Thursday
"Look at what the cat dragged in," Bokuto greeted Oikawa with a smirk as soon as he stepped into the meeting room on Thursday evening, and Oikawa immediately considered leaving. He was so not down for this today.
"Cat!? Where!?" Obviously, the only person in the room to be so energetic this early in the morning was Daichi's kid, and that would have been obvious even if he hadn't been running around the room, chasing some imaginary monster.
"It's an expression, Noya. Do you want to come and sit down?" Sawamura sighed, looking pretty tired himself. But hey, Oikawa was wearing sunglasses, so he couldn't really tell.
"No," Noya exclaimed proudly, and kept running.
"Whoa, Tsukki," Kuroo laughed, briefly bouncing the blond on his knees. The kid did not even seem bothered (Oikawa gave him props for so masterfully ignoring his pain-in-the-ass dad), instead playing with his dinosaurs on his lap. "Be nice. Do you even know what that word means?"
"It means pathetic," the small child replied without even looking up, and Kuroo laughed again, ruffling his hair. That got him to look up, and Oikawa noted the cute square glasses he wore that were way too big on him. Did he really have to be the fashion coach for everyone around here?
"Alright, well, since everyone is here, we can begin," Sugawara attempted to get the situation under control, and Oikawa dragged his feet to the only available chair in the circle, dropping down on it. His eyes went to Bokuto, who was snoozing off on his chair, his own kid sleeping with his cheek smooshed against his dad's chest.
"Hey," Oikawa grumbled, kicking Bokuto's chair lightly. However, the small impact woke the white-haired man rather violently, and the kid on his lap screeched as Bokuto suddenly shot up. Thankfully, his reflexes were fast enough to catch his son before the kid tumbled to the ground, and by the looks of the dirty glare the tiny human was giving the big goof of a human holding him, this wasn't the first time this had happened.
"Yo, pretty boy," Bokuto greeted with a yawn, smoothing down his son's unruly hair while the kid grumbled sleepily. "What's with the shades?"
"You don't wanna know," Oikawa grumbled, feeling his eyes sting at the mention of his glasses.
"Well I kinda do, since I asked."
Oikawa raised a brow at him incredulously, and then pulled down his glasses just long enough for everyone to get a glimpse at his horrifyingly bloodshot eyes and the bruised bags hanging underneath. Quickly, however, he slipped the glasses back on and tried to ignore the put off looks he was getting from everyone.
"Dude, what happened?" Kuroo asked first.
"This thing," Oikawa replied irritably, pointing down at the bundle of sunshine currently sleeping peacefully in the baby sling he had on his front. "Got scared of monsters, peed his bed, and cried through the night."
"Every night since Monday night."
"Oh. Rest in peace, bro," Bokuto winced. "I've so been there. Keiji was a crybaby. He still is."
"I'm not," the kid, Keiji, huffed indignantly.
"You so are."
"You are, you big crybaby."
"Dad, I'm not a crybaby."
"Alright, alright, settle down," Sawamura sighed hopelessly. "Noya, please come sit down."
"I'm hungry," Kuroo's child mumbled, looking up from his dinosaurs.
"You just had a snack, Kei," his dad protested.
"I'm a big boy. I'm hungry."
"Dad, I'm not a crybaby."
"Oh yeah? You were about to cry when I told you it was bedtime yesterday."
"Dad look! I'm chasing the aliens out! I'm a superhero!"
"Noya, get over here please!"
"Oh my god," Oikawa groaned loudly, rubbing at his eyes tiredly. "Seriously? This literally could not get worse."
And then, Hinata woke up, and promptly began to cry.
Oikawa wondered if it would be okay for him to cry a little bit, too. Or a lot. A lot of crying sounded plenty appealing right now.
"Shouyo, baby, please don't cry," he groaned, his tired hands shaking as he undid his son from the carrier. As he did so, he realized that the noise in the room had finally died down, and that all eyes were on him as he struggled with the straps. Suddenly, he felt like crying so much more. "Come on, sunshine, tell me what's wrong. You're a grown-up boy now, so please don't cry..."
Oikawa did not know how Sawamura had gotten to him so quickly, but he gave up when the other man's hands went to the straps and began undoing them in his stead. Leaning back, he tried to take a deep breath and keep the frustrated tears at bay as his acquaintance (support-group-mate? Fellow single father? Friend?) loosened the carrier and gently pulled his crying son away from him.
"Come now, Shouyo," he bounced the child softly, his cries shaking with every bounce rather comically. "Why don't you tell daddy why you're crying?"
"It huuuuuurts," the orange-haired toddler whined out, stuffing his hands in his mouth and crying around them.
"What hurts?" Oikawa was on his feet in a second, divesting himself of the carrier and not even bothering to hide the worry in his tone. Sawamura looked at him as if he had the answers, but Oikawa really had no idea what his son was talking about.
However, Hinata did not reply to him, only kept crying around his hands, and Oikawa was at a loss of what to do.
"Dad," Noya called out, tugging on Daichi's pant leg several times. "Does Shouyo want to eat my foot again?"
"Do I want to know?" Bokuto frowned, throwing Kuroo a glance, to which Kuroo replied by shrugging. "Hey, Yuu. Come over, let me see that cool shirt you're wearing."
"It's a tiger," Noya proclaimed proudly, leaving Daichi alone immediately in favour of showing off his clothes to Bokuto.
"Maybe his gums are hurting him. He's still teething for his back teeth, right? Try a chew toy," Kuroo suggested casually, and Oikawa nodded, opening the zip of his diaper bag and digging a bit before finding one of Hinata's much-loved chew toy.
"Here, baby. Is this what you want?" he asked, holding out the toy to his son, who was still crying over Sawamura's shoulder. Hinata looked at it two seconds before putting a slobbery hand out and grabbing it, stuffing the toy into his mouth promptly.
Oikawa held his breath for about three seconds and a half, and Hinata's crying finally began to die down.
"Oh my god," he sighed out, running a hand through his hair. "It worked."
"Here," Sawamura laughed, handing him back the child, who now seemed preoccupied with chewing on his toy. "Glad he's okay."
"Ten on ten parenting, everyone," Bokuto grinned at them all, giving them a thumbs up.
"Thank you," Oikawa let slip to Kuroo, who only waved him off.
"It's cool! That's the kind of thing we're here to do, right?"
"Right." This time, it was Sugawara that answered, and when they all looked at him, he was beaming. "That was an incredible example of cooperation, everyone. I'm really glad we got to see that tag-team action, and I'm really hoping that we'll get to see it again throughout our six weeks."
"You speak too highly of me," Kuroo joked, looking down at his son when the blond tugged at his shirt.
"I'm hungry. If I cry, will you give me food?"
"We don't cry for things like that, Kei," Kuroo chided. "If you sit quietly for a bit, I'll give you a snack, alright?"
"So I asked you all to bring your kids in for the first part today," Sugawara continued pleasantly. "I just wanted to give you all a feel for your parenting styles and your children's personalities, since a parent is nothing without their child."
"My daddy is nothing without me," Noya echoed in an awed whisper, followed by Sawamura's exasperated "Yuu...", and Oikawa couldn't help but be a teensy tiny bit relieved that he was here with these guys.
"I wanted to let you get acquainted with the children as well, since it will be imperative to know how their development is progressing on a more general scale when you share stories or try and give each other tips. I'd also like for you all to watch how the children develop after this major disruption in their lives. The loss of a parental figure, especially that you've all told us that the loss is fairly new, can often be traumatic, or at least disturbing to the child, and picking up on behavioural or psychomotor problems early on is the key to providing them with the proper help they need to get back on track."
"Did you get any of that, kid?" Bokuto asked to his son, who was playing with a toy car on his leg.
"Me neither," he laughed, but then noted the stares thrown at him. "I'm kidding, of course I got it. Just had to make sure the kids got lost in translation."
"Right, well, how about we take 20 minutes so that you can take the kids to the after-hour sitter service, maybe grab a coffee from the cafeteria, and then we can be back to talk about things that we probably want to be lost in translation?" Sugawara suggested, and there was no voiced complaint from any of them.
"I have to go," Keiji complained quietly to Bokuto, who stood up immediately and took his hand.
"Okay, everyone, I'm taking the little man to the little boy's room, and then to the sitter. Be back later!" Waving, he made his dramatic exit whilst his son quietly begged him to stop.
Kuroo laughed a bit, and then suddenly stood up, picking Kei up as he went. The blond made a small noise of surprise but immediately latched onto his father, a bit grumpily if anything.
"Well, my little man-"
"I'm not little."
"Okay. My big man is hungry, so I'm gonna take him directly to the gym and give him a snack. I'll be back, too," Kuroo excused himself, grabbing his bag off the floor and leaving out the door, Kei still quietly playing with his dinosaur figures behind his back.
This only left Sugawara in the room with Oikawa and Sawamura, and the student began looking through his notes, so Oikawa figured he wouldn't bother him.
"Thanks for earlier, by the way," the brunet called out to Sawamura, who was trying to get Noya still enough to hand him a drink of water.
"No problem," Sawamura smiled at him. "You looked like you needed the help, and Noya says I'm pretty good at carrying him, so I figured I might give it a shot."
"When my dad carries me, it's like I'm flying like an airplane," Noya butted in, always as energetic, and Oikawa chuckled.
"Well, you're already running fast around the room, almost like a race car. Are you gonna be a boat next?" he humoured the child, knowing that Hinata would be at that stage in about a year, and that preparation was the key.
"No." Noya crossed his arms, glaring. "If I'm a boat, it means I have to go in places like the shark cave. I don't like the shark cave."
"Shower," Sawamura clarified with a laugh. "He doesn't like taking showers, but he's a dirty little man, so he always needs them."
"I'm not dirty!" Noya protested, circling Sawamura when he stood up. "I'm not dirty!"
"You roll around on the floor and you get all dusty, Yuu. That sounds pretty dirty to me," his dad smirked, revelling in his son's half-assed denial. Oikawa, too, couldn't help but chuckle, and pulled back Hinata just long enough to look into his big brown eyes and kiss his forehead.
Hinata giggled around his toy and laid back down against Oikawa's shoulder.
"Are you headed to the gym now?" Sawamura asked him, pulling him out of his reverie.
"Yeah, might as well," Oikawa shrugged, sighing as he removed his sunglasses, figuring that it couldn't be that bad without them. Besides, he couldn't see a thing with them on inside, and he wasn't too keen on walking into a wall. People might get the wrong impression if they put the bloodshot eyes and the terrible coordination together.
Grabbing his bag, he accompanied Sawamura to the daycare and signed Hinata in, leaving him with his snack and a kiss to the forehead.
When they returned with a coffee in hand each, Bokuto and Kuroo were looking at pictures on Kuroo's phone and were snickering.
"That's the time he was caught singing to his dinosaurs," Kuroo pointed on his screen, and then looked up at the newcomers. "Yo, come see this. My kid's a nerd and I got it all on film."
Oikawa and Sawamura huddled behind the two curiously and looked down just as Kuroo played the video on his phone.
It started off as Kuroo's soft breathing as he approached where Kei was playing in the living room, his son obviously not noticing him. Soon, there was the sound of childish singing, and Kuroo snickered both in the video and in real life. Oikawa had to admit that it was kind of cute to hear the grumpy blond singing like that, even if the song was something off of Sesame Street, or Dora, or something.
As the video zoomed in on Kei, they all cracked a smile when they noticed that he was cradling his dinosaur figures and rocking them as if he was putting them to sleep. His chubby cheeks were dusted pink and he tried to catch his breath as he sang, and soon, the Kuroo in the video just couldn't resist.
"Hey, little man. What are you doing?" Kuroo's voice asked off screen, and the four of them burst into laughter when Kei suddenly jumped, dropping his dinosaurs.
"Dad, go away!" he screeched, eyes wide and face flushed red now.
"No, no, I thought that was pretty cool," Kuroo insisted, coming closer. "You sing so nicely. How come you never sing to me?"
"You're an adult. You don't need lullabies," Kei huffed as if it was common logic, and seemed to settle down as his dad sat down next to him, camera still trained on his face.
"So your dinosaurs aren't adults?"
"No. They're babies."
"I'm not a baby. I'm three years old."
"How old are your dinosaurs?"
"Ummm..." Kei put a finger to his lips and looked up at the camera as if it was a trick question. So Kuroo asked again.
"How old are your dinosaurs, Kei? Almost as old as you?"
"No. They're babies. Baby dinosaurs. Like two years old," the blond decided, squawking when his dad ruffled his hair, knocking his huge glasses askew. It was rather endearing, especially when he grumbled while putting them back in their place over his nose, and the video ended on one of Kuroo's fond chuckles.
"My tiny child," Kuroo sighed when the video ended, putting his phone away.
"Honestly, though," Bokuto sighed. "Akaashi is as quiet as Kei, but he won't secretly be into this kind of fun stuff. He's always mumbling under his breath and talking to himself when he plays."
"That's probably just his personality," Sawamura suggested. "On the contrary, Noya can't sit still. It's a miracle if I put him to bed at night and don't hear him playing pretend very loudly until he falls asleep."
"Hinata just drools," Oikawa contributed, feeling incredibly constructive today. "Nah, but, he'll get energetic when he wants to. Mostly, he's just super affectionate, though. I feel like he's too busy still discovering himself to pay attention to things around him, though."
"Probably his age," Bokuto noted. "He's two, right?"
"Yeah," Oikawa nodded, crossing his arms. "But I don't know. I googled it, and I feel like he should be past all that already."
"Well, every kid progresses at their own pace," Kuroo shrugged. "If nothing worrying is going on, let him discover himself a little more."
"Yeah. For example, Yuu was toilet trained pretty late, but he's still doing fine today. Don't worry too much about it," Sawamura patted him on the back, and they all split to return to their seats.
"Are we good to go?" Sugawara asked when they all sat down and took a sip of their much-needed coffee, followed by a round of nods. "Alright then. In order to provide proper support between single parents, it's going to be important to know what's missing in the picture. So, in any amount of detail you'd like to include, I would like everyone to take a turn at sharing the reason why they are suddenly a single parent." Sugawara's eyes went over the four of them sharply. "Please don't feel pressured. Talking about it will definitely help, but if you're not ready for something this heavy, just say you'd like to skip, and we'll skip."
There was a small silence, and eyes began darting to the side, trying to see if anyone would actually volunteer to start with such a heavy subject. The whole thing reminded Oikawa of the awkwardness of the first day.
Thankfully, his je-ne-sais-quoi had woken up on the right side of the bed today, and had been rather active throughout his day.
"I'll go first," he volunteered cheerfully, trying to ignore how exhausted he actually was. "Mine's actually pretty simple. I'm gay."
Silence again. Oikawa tried to figure out why, but the weird looks he was getting made him realize something that scared him a lot more than he thought it would.
"Oh wait. Please don't tell me we have to go through the 'Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve' speech. Because I am way past that, thank you very much."
"No, no," Kuroo quickly corrected the misunderstanding, but the weird look didn't fade. "Ain't nothing wrong with being gay, my friend."
"Just..." Bokuto picked up, as if he knew where Kuroo was going. "You have a son."
"... And?" Oikawa asked, not understanding how that was relevant.
"Well, having a kid usually means that you put your-"
"I get it, I get it," Oikawa cut him off before he could go any further. "I got married anyway because I figured it was a passing thing."
"Oh man, that's bad," Bokuto winced. "When did you find out? About being gay?"
"Oh, during the honeymoon."
Silence again. Maybe Oikawa's je-ne-sais-quoi was out of shape?
"Man," Kuroo finally began to chuckle in earnest. "That's one hell of a story. Take it the wife didn't take that too well?"
"Well I didn't tell her right off the bat. Stress is no good for a pregnancy, after all," Oikawa pouted, huffing. "Told her about a year after Shouyo -Hinata was her last name- was born. Soon after, the divorce was being filed, and we settled it about two months ago. I've got full custody."
"Well, there's that," Sawamura smiled at him, his tone indicating that he was fully supportive. Oikawa sensed that they all knew that there was a detail he wasn't mentioning, but honestly, he was way too tired to even pretend that this unmentioned detail wasn't what had hurt the most. So he left it at that.
"Yup. Well, that's me," he urged them to move on.
"I guess I'll go next," Sawamura volunteered. "Noya -Nishinoya in full, but he prefers Noya to Yuu- was the unexpected result of a drunken fling back in college. He's not a mistake but my partner was." He grumbled the last bit out as if spiteful, and Oikawa totally understood where he was coming from. Thankfully his college one-night stands never ended up in an unwanted pregnancy. But then again, it was probably because he only ever fucked dudes. "Anyway, she didn't realize she was pregnant for a long time, almost into the third trimester, and by that time, it was too late for an abortion. Her parents are rich so she got a specialist to induce birth around the 32rd week, and they put Yuu in a hospital since he was pretty underdeveloped. He's got asthma now because he was out so early."
"Bitch," Kuroo muttered under his breath, but Oikawa fully understood the sentiment. Hinata had been an underweight infant when he'd been born, and he'd been born at 37 weeks. He couldn't even imagine how distressing it must've been for Sawamura to see his terribly underdeveloped infant out so quickly because his girlfriend didn't want to be pregnant.
"But I just heard these stories in passing," Sawamura continued, as if reading their minds. "I wasn't actually there. In fact, she didn't even come into contact with me until after Yuu was about... 12 months old. She kind of just dropped the facts on me over the phone and asked that I help her out. That wasn't too bad at first. Her parents were taking care of Yuu rather well, so I only dropped by to see how he was doing. But then, she went back to school and kind of just gave me our kid to keep, and she was the one dropping by every so often. About six months ago, she got accepted into a really prestigious university, so her parents hired a lawyer to do a quick and quiet legal procedure to give me full custody of Yuu, and then she was gone for good."
"Gotta protect the family reputation, huh?" Oikawa clicked his tongue, displeased. "Pretty cowardly move, if you ask me."
"Yeah. I wasn't too happy with it, either, especially since Yuu was much more comfortable with her. Getting him used to me was hell, but at least he made it before she left for good. Broke his heart, though."
"Considering what the kid's been through, I'm surprised to see him in such good shape," Bokuto smiled softly, a knowing look in his eyes. "He's the most energetic of the whole bunch."
"And for that, I'm grateful," Sawamura laughed sheepishly. "It's a handful sometimes, but I'm really happy to see that he's not letting his health and his mother's disappearance get to him. I'm kind of concerned for how he'll do in school, though, since it already feels like he's got some behaviour problems, but I've been ready for that since I read up on pre-term infants. We'll burn that bridge when we get there."
"That's an incredible story. Kudos to you for being so strong through it, Sawamura," Sugawara conceded, impressed.
"Please call me Daichi. My parents call me Sawamura. And last time they did, they were yelling it over the phone," he laughed a bit uncomfortably.
"Well, Daichi, that is a very inspiring story. I'm glad you decided to share it with us," Sugawara smiled at him, to which Daichi shyly smiled back, his eyes conveying how much he appreciated the well-placed praise.
Oikawa wondered how long it'd take for them to get together. He gave them three weeks.
"So who's going next? Bokuto?" Sugawara prompted, waving at the white-haired man.
"Nah, I'll pass," he replied, surprisingly, leaning back into his chair with his arms crossed.
"Well, there is no pressure, but it really will help not only us, but also you if you choose to talk about it," Sugawara encouraged him kindly, and Oikawa wondered if there was an inch of malice in the kid (who was only two years younger than him, at best, mind you). Everything he said came out sounding like some holy message from God's own angels.
"It's been a long day, so I kinda don't feel like saying much," Bokuto brushed him off. "Maybe some other time. Or not."
"Alright..." Though Sugawara did not seem to want to let go, and actually looked indecisive over what to do next, he finally conceded with a sigh. "Kuroo, then? Would you like to share?"
"Mine's one of the more dramatic ones," the black-haired man chuckled, though his chuckle was a bit awkward. "But, yeah... Long story short: my girl got hepatitis while on vacation, and wasn't able to beat it. She passed away a few months ago."
"Sorry for your loss," Sugawara offered sympathetically, and Kuroo nodded gratefully to him.
"Thanks. Though I guess it could have been worse. She fought it for half a year before it got the best of her, and we all kind of knew that the prognosis wasn't looking up, so we had time to prepare Kei for the separation. I don't think he quite understands that she's never gonna come back, but... it might sound a bit selfish, but I'm happy to keep him in the dark for now."
"And how are you taking it?" Sugawara asked, still considering his feelings. Oikawa gave him silent props again for being empathetic to a fault whilst avoiding sounding pitying.
"Better than I thought I would... I know I mostly came to accept her death while she was still alive, but I actually feel a bit guilty for moving on so quickly," Kuroo winced, rubbing the back of his head nervously. "Kei was an accident that we decided to go through with. We weren't thinking about marriage, but we moved in together and figured we'd see where things took us. I think the hardest part was losing someone who'd been guiding me on how to take care of my kid. It's really hard to be two parents at once."
"It's admirable that you've moved on quickly, though. As long as you've had your time to grieve and find closure, there is nothing to feel guilty about," Sugawara assured him. "As for the difficulty of being two parents at once, it is a difficulty shared by all four of you, and this is what this support group is about. You won't replace your lost partners, but you certainly will provide the necessary support for one another in times of need."
"Amen," Oikawa nodded.
"Now. All four of you are here because you are new and relatively young single fathers. The principal of the daycare here at the community centre is aware of your situations, and it is general practice to send all new single parents without outside support into a support group. So please don't feel like being here means that you are bad parents, or that you are incompetent. In fact, the fact that you are here means that you are willing to seek help and do the best for your children, and it's the best thing a parent can do," Sugawara recited as if he had written the speech and practiced it in front of his mirror.
This seemed to bolster everyone's confidence a little bit, and the silver-haired man smiled at the sight of their relaxed shoulders.
"So. Let's begin by bringing out some problems you might have at the current moment. There's no problem that can be resolved in just one sitting between us five, but talking about it may give you some insight on how to deal with it and where to seek your resources. Plus, if any of you have been through a similar problem before, sharing the experience can be a very valuable tool for the others. So, who'd like to go first. Daichi? You mentioned Noya's problems a bit before. Would you like to elaborate?"
"There's not much to say," Daichi shrugged. "Yuu is small and underweight, something like the 30th percentile in both categories, but his doctor says that it's not a matter of nutrition, but more of the hormone disruption that occurred when he was born prematurely. If it doesn't resolve by the time he goes to school, they're going to put him on hormone replacement therapy to try and get him to grow a little. Asides from that... he's got asthma, but he knows to take his puffers. He'll need help with them, but he's been sick a lot as a kid, so he can recognize when he needs his medication."
"Nice. You've got a pretty tough kid," Kuroo commented. "Sounds like he's doing pretty well despite everything."
"Yeah. I'm glad that physically, I don't have to worry. But I'm more concerned about his behaviour," Daichi winced as if remembering something. "He's loud and impulsive and doesn't pay attention at all, and only goes off doing what he wants. I did some research on ADHD, but it's hard to tell at this age since children are naturally energetic. I don't want to ignore the signs, but I also don't want to make a big deal out of it. And I thought of taking him to the doctor, but the drop-in clinics are generally packed to the brim, and I work all the time, so I don't want to go get it checked unless it's bad."
"Maybe try and be sterner with him?" Oikawa suggested. "It's not easy to do, but if you crack down some more on the kid, maybe you can get him to understand that he needs to sit when he's asked to sit, and he can play when you let him play."
"I think it'll also be more apparent if it's ADHD or just his personality when he starts school. Daycare doesn't do much for finding those things out, since most of the time, the kids are playing anyway, but if you wanna tighten the rope and see how it goes when he starts school, it might give you a clue," Bokuto suggested, and Oikawa had to give it to him. Perhaps he wasn't as much of an airhead as he'd thought at first.
"Probably. Anyway, that's my current concern in a nutshell," Daichi nodded. "Anybody wanna go next?"
"I'll go," Bokuto volunteered, sitting up straighter. "Mine's more of the fact that Keiji is too quiet for a four-year old. And when I mean quiet, I mean really really quiet. Like... I see him through the windows when he's in daycare sometimes, and he'll just sit in his corner and play without making a peep on his own. Other kids will try and get him to play, but he'll refuse and sit alone. I've asked the educator, and she told me that he'll follow orders and pay attention to directives, and he's conscious of other kids around him, but he's kind of... solitary? I guess? I dunno if I should be worried or not."
"Has he said anything about that?" Daichi asked. "Like, have you asked him why he prefers being alone?"
"He didn't specify. Every single time, he just says he wants to play alone and leaves it at that," Bokuto shook his head.
"Have you tried to get him to try new things?" Kuroo mused out loud. "At that age, it's all about initiative-taking so that they can discover the world around them on their own. Maybe he's afraid of trying new things and so he prefers staying in his comfort zone?"
"Maybe," Bokuto made a thinking noise, looking at the ceiling as if the answer was written on it. "Do you think I should read up more on what's expected of them at that age?"
"Sorry to interrupt," Sugawara apologized, raising his hand slightly. "But if you want to know more about children and initiative-taking, you should refer to Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. At the preschool age, 4 to 6, they love to take initiative, but if they fail, they'll feel guilty about it. It might be that Keiji is trying to take initiatives and is failing, which is making him close up on himself."
"How can I get him out of his bubble, then? I can't stay with him all day at the daycare to get him to play with others, and stuff..." Bokuto groaned.
"Well, Kei used to be really quiet, and he still is. He's still a bit young to be in the initiative-taking stage, but he's discovering how to interact with his environment, and I used to be really worried to see him never really exploring," Kuroo recounted. "He'd play with his dinosaurs all day in his corner, and was averse to leaving his spot to go anywhere, so I wasn't sure what to do. But then I took him out one day and he made a comment about how the dinosaurs told him to hold my hand while crossing the street, and I realized that all this time, he was taking in the environment around him and was integrating that knowledge, but was never interested in actively pursuing more discovery."
"That's cute. Did you push him to explore a bit more after that?" Oikawa asked, curious.
"Just a little. Took him to the park and talked to him, often through his dinosaurs, and took him to the mall to get him used to crowds and crowd safety... He's pretty quiet about it, but I can definitely see that he's learning as he goes," Kuroo chuckled, turning to Bokuto. "So maybe Keiji is doing the same thing- learning without showing it. It would definitely help if you maybe sat down with him and tried to understand why he doesn't like playing with other kids, since social relationships are important already at that age, and daycare is a great place to develop those skills."
"I'll do that. He's pretty closed with me, so I don't know if I'll get to figure out what's inside his head anytime soon. Or at all. I can just keep prying and hope he talks to me," the white-haired man sighed, crossing his arms. "That's all for me."
"Kuroo, how do you know so much about developmental theory, anyway?" Daichi asked curiously, raising an eyebrow at the other man, who only smirked cockily.
"I told you, I'm a super-daddy. Nine months is a pretty long time to prepare, contrarily to popular misconception. I prepared thoroughly from the start," Kuroo answered confidently. Oikawa had to give it to him. Kei being three years old, that meant that Kuroo had been 19 years old when he'd begun preparing for fatherhood. Oikawa himself hadn't been that much older when he'd gotten news of Shouyo's conception, 20, if he remembered right, but he sure as hell wasn't a super-daddy like Kuroo.
He disliked being beaten at his own game, though. If he remembered right, he had a few books on child psychology lying around in his apartment. It couldn't be that hard to read up a bit, right?
Wrong, his bloodshot eyes reminded him. He would need all his sleep if he wanted to stop looking 10 years older than he actually was. Sleep or that new foundation he'd been meaning to try out but had never found in his skin tone. Perhaps it was time to visit the beauty store again. They probably had missed their poster child customer. Or, if that didn't work out, then hopefully Hinata would let him sleep tonight.
"Kuroo, you seem pretty well-set with Kei. Do you have any concerns?" Sugawara prompted.
"Umm... well, I dunno if it counts, but I'm mostly concerned about money stuff more than anything else," Kuroo admitted, looking a bit embarrassed.
"Of course," Sugawara assured him. "Financial trouble is often a problem in single-revenue households. Would you like to elaborate?"
"Well, I mean, it's pretty straightfoward. I work three jobs because I'm footing my girl's hospital bill even now, on top of the apartment and Tsukki's needs. And it's all fine because I make ends meet every month, but working three jobs, all at minimum wage, is taking a lot out of me, and I'm kind of scared that I'm not taking care of Kei like I should because I'm too tired all the time," he explained, not daring meet anybody's eyes.
"But dude, that's like... zero chill time for you. You can't do that," Bokuto protested, frowning. "Every man needs some down time. And super-daddy or not, you're just a man like every other one of us peasants here."
"Who are you calling a peasant?" Oikawa gasped, actually a bit offended.
"Don't be pissy about it, pretty boy. We're all in the same basket here," Bokuto shrugged as if it was obvious. "FUDBARs, all of us."
"FUD...BARs...?" Daichi asked, not seeming sure.
"Yep. Fucked Up Dads Beyond All Recognition," Bokuto explained proudly, drawing a laugh from Kuroo.
"Pretty sure that's not how the actual expression goes, but you're right," he chuckled lowly. "Anyway. I acknowledge that it's all fucked up, but I really really want to go back to school, so I'm blitzing the jobs right now so that the day that Kei gets into kindergarten, I can drop a couple and go back to college myself. I'm still doing almost 60 hours every week, though, 9 hours every day except Saturdays, and I'm kinda worried I'm alienating Tsukki. He just lost one parent, I really don't want him to feel like he's losing the other one, too."
"You really are a role-model," Bokuto gaped, looking incredibly impressed. "Seriously. Will you father my child?"
"Bokuto, you can do that yourself," Kuroo laughed. "But I'll babysit if you want. Kei might like a quiet playtime partner."
"Yo, it's a date," Bokuto replied with a grin, and the two first-bumped one another, looking very satisfied.
Oikawa watched their antics a bit uncomprehendingly, and then sighed, shaking his head.
"Honestly, you two... It feels like you're the ones who are 3 years old," he chuckled. "Anyway, Kuroo. I've been on the multi-job train, and I gotta tell you, you're really good for holding three jobs at once. I only did two and it was exhausting. But at the same time, knowing what that feels like, you might wanna reconsider it, because a burn-out is definitely not worth it. And it won't help you or Kei if you're out of commission for a few days."
"I know. I just don't know what else to do. I can't afford to borrow any money because interest rates are gonna have my head if I go into that domain, and my family's not very happy with my life choices, so I can't expect any help from them," Kuroo winced. "I guess I just gotta take a deep breath and power through it. If all goes well, Kei can go to kindergarten in two years, and I can drop one job then. Probably the one that's paying cash right now." He stopped for a second and bit his lip. "I probably shouldn't have admitted that."
"Everything that is said in this room remains confidential," Sugawara reminded them quickly. "And while I'm at it, Kuroo, would you like me to research some options for financial help for single parents? Working two registered jobs probably makes you unqualified for governmental help, but there are plenty of other organizations that offer help for people like you."
"Eh, I mean... I could do it myself..." Kuroo interrupted himself with a sigh. "But hey, if it's no bother. I'd really appreciate that. It's just that... I really really don't want any pity. Obviously, I'm gonna do everything I can to provide for my kid, but I don't want help because I'm a sorry case. Cause I'm not."
"Empowerment is crucial for single parents. You're not a pity case, and you're holding yourself up very well so far. Letting us share your burden, no matter how small part of it we bear, is definitely gonna help you get yourself together long enough to find a permanent solution," Sugawara smiled at him, and Kuroo hazarded a smile back.
"Thanks. I just promised that I wouldn't let Kei's mom's death affect our way of life on the long run, but it's proving to be a bit harder than I thought at first," he laughed sheepishly, ruffling his bedhead hair. "Anyway. I'll make sure not to get scheduled on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings so you guys never have to miss my pretty face around these parts."
"Don't flatter yourself," Daichi chuckled softly.
"Yeah, man. We've already got a pretty boy around here," Bokuto grinned, looking over at Oikawa. "Speaking of whom. You wanna lay your cards down on the table, or...?"
"I'm no big deal. Typical parent with a two year-old," Oikawa shrugged. "I'm just kinda concerned about his potty training. Shouyo's 26 months old now, and I've read that he should already at least have shown signs of wanting to be potty trained. But he literally does not even care and doesn't even mention it when he dirties his diaper. I'm not sure if I should start prompting him or wait a bit longer so I don't pressure him and make him nervous..."
"Sometimes, traumatic events can delay the instinct to potty train. How did Shouyo react to losing his mother?" Bokuto asked, seeming to know what he was talking about. Oikawa decided to trust the elegant curve of his raised eyebrow.
"He still hasn't understood. He keeps asking where she is, but no matter what I tell him, he seems to brush it off. Sometimes he'll cry at night for her, or wake up and ask for her, but asides from that, he doesn't seem particularly distressed about it."
"Kinda like Kei," Kuroo sighed. "It might be a compensatory mechanism, is my theory. Maybe they're in denial, or refuse to make the links between the information we give them and they get on their own."
"I thought of that, but honestly, how do I talk to my two year-old about something like denial?" Oikawa rolled his eyes. "Like, 'hey Shouyo! Do you even understand that mom's never coming back? Cry lots and learn to live without her, but don't ask for her because she's gone for good'. Bet that'll work out just fine." And he may have said that with just a little too much bitterness. And the others may or may not have caught on to the bitterness, judging by the way they looked at him.
"Maybe try and push him a little bit forward," Daichi hummed in thought. "Like... make him aware that it's something he should be thinking about. Like, ask him often if his diaper feels dirty, or if he needs to pee or poo. If he understands that it's something worth his attention, he might be more inclined to start potty training."
"That sounds like a good idea," Oikawa nodded. "Thanks. I'll try it out."
"Kids learn a lot from watching adults, though," Bokuto began, and by the smirk on his face, his next words already felt like they were not going to be as constructive as his advice from before. "Maybe you should wear a diaper around the house, too. Just to set the example."
The four others in the room laughed loudly as Oikawa squawked, the simple image of himself in a diaper making him feel undignified. However, as he huffed and felt his pale cheeks burn up in embarrassment, he realized that the blush on his face was probably the most colour he'd had in a long time.
Maybe being here isn't so bad, he began to think. Maybe fighting against the odds, side-by-side with these guys, really isn't all that bad, he began to believe.
Just the intro for now. Setting up the setting and introducing our characters. Honestly, I love the captains so much, urgh, their broship fucking slays me.
The ships in this are mainly DaiSuga and IwaOi. But what about Bokuto and Kuroo, you ask? And to that, I answer: being a single parent doesn't mean finding love again. This is what I mean when I say that there is going to be representation for all kinds of single parent situations. Some of them will be happy, others will struggle, some will find solutions, others will break, some will find love, others will find companionship and be happy anyway. The only thing that is a known constant in this story is that these 4 idiots are going to become best bros. Which is honestly the most exciting bit, urghhh I can't wait to post the next chapter.
Which is already done and waiting to be posted, so quick note about my posting schedule! To keep with the theme of the story, updates will be on either Thursdays or Saturdays. I'll try to update once a week, since these chapters are much shorter than the chapters for CML, for example, but life gets incredibly busy, so I can't promise weekly updates. I can estimate not to take longer than 2 weeks at a time, though!
Hope you like the beginning of this silly little project. I'm having tons of fun writing it, so I hope you're having tons of fun reading it! Please leave comments if you have any at all, and see you next time (: