Sasuke held the small body against him, wrapping his coat around short legs and arms. “Hm?”
The body started kicking, as all children do during tantrums. He was not hurt or hungry—just tired.
“We’re almost there, Ryuji.” Sasuke’s voice was deep and tired.
The child, Ryuji, softened against his mother’s chest, burying his face in warmth and the familiar sound of a beating heart. Too tired to keep fighting.
Sasuke didn’t like working late at night. He didn’t have many people to look after his house or son, especially on weekends. But this was exam season, and the library he worked at was raising their pay to those who stayed late at night. Libraries in Konoha stayed open 24-7 in exam season. Usually when he had no choice, he would bring Ryuji and let him watch T.V while he worked, but this time it had been more complicated: He had had to move around more and stay longer. The poor two year old had fallen asleep in front of the T.V.
It was hard to ignore the questioning or judgemental looks from his co-workers. But it was something the Uchiha had gotten used to.
“We’re getting off now, Ryuji.”
The bus stopped and the two year old’s tantrum was re-triggered. Sasuke took both bags and a writhing two year old in his arms, hobbling out of the bus while his son’s face slowly twisted and turned until a familiar cry came out.
“It’s okay.” He hushed. There wasn’t a soft coo in his voice that a lot of mother’s had on TV, but in his own Uchiha way there was the comfort of stability. Everything was okay.
Their apartment was only two streets from the bus stop. But still it unsettled the omega to be walking around in the cold night. The deep snow was not particularly making things easier—up to his knees. He already felt himself losing breathe, even with the little heating they had in their small apartment, Sasuke couldn’t wait to get home.
Ryuji’s head lay against his Sasuke’s shoulder, eyelids heavy. “Mum…” It sounded more like a whine than a word.
Ryuji kicked lazily against Sasuke’s hip. “Dat.”
There was a mass underneath the street light, next to the bench that sat in front of the park. It was dark and wrapped, snow covering it plenty but still little enough to see from a distance. A darkly wrapped object: An extreme juxtaposition the white, snow covered street.
Sasuke paused. The fright and adrenaline was wearing down and sudden hesitance replacing it. He should call someone. Who? The police?
His first instinct had been to walk away. But it was not in his nature—maybe it was part of his maternal hormones to want to take care of things. Fuck. He turned around, staring at the person again. If it was someone suspicious looking, he would leave—or call the police. But what if it was someone young? A child? Abandoned?
He didn’t live in a rich part of Konoha, and at this time of year there were many young children who were lost or left.
“Shh.” Sasuke slowly and shakily put the child on the bench, holding his hand tightly. “Stay behind me. Don’t do anything.”
The boy watched his mother inspect the bundle of coat and hair, leaning over and eying it from all angles, and then with a shaking hand slowly grabbing it and turning.
Ryuji couldn’t see, but to Sasuke the man on the ground looked young. Had he been drinking? He had the face of someone loud and flashy. Said face was sick looking, weak and frost covered. How long had been here? Apart from his weak state and worrisome situation, Sasuke could only think about the person’s aroma. The omega could smell clearly that the person on the ground was an alpha.
“Shh!” Sasuke hushed.
He hesitantly opened the man’s coat, looking for a phone or a wallet. There were four pockets: Three were empty except one which held only a wallet. When opened, there were no contacts in it, money or information. The only thing inside it was a photo of a child.
The child was tan, brown eyes and brown hair, with a big grin. He looked eight years old, and it was only after feeling the small hand in his started to shake that the omega realised how long he’d been staring at it.
He was about to close the wallet when he noticed there was a corner peaking behind the photo of the boy. Clumsily Sasuke tugged at it, revealing another photo. This photo looked ripped at the edges; edited to fit in the wallet. It was a photo of the same boy, except this time he was with someone else. The boy stood grinning—laughing, and next to him stood a tall boy with blond hair and blue eyes, arm tightly around the younger one. They were smiling.
“Mum…?” Ryuji’s voice cracked, readying a cry.
Sasuke took the bottle of milk and shook it, evening out the temperature.
“Ryuji, stay in your room.” He called.
His son’s room was directly across from his. The apartment complex was fundamentally small, apart from the bathroom there were only two closed rooms. Sasuke’s bedroom and Ryuji’s, both were small. The lounge room was a small space with a small TV and kotatsu. The small kitchen lay directly across from it.
Ryuji’s bedroom involved a small futon, multiple blankets and pillows, a few posters and a tub of books and another of toys.
However, on cold nights he slept in the same room as his mother.
“Here,” Sasuke gave the bottle to the child. “Did you poo your diaper?”
Ryuji drank the milk quietly, tiredly letting Sasuke strip and change him.
Sasuke pulled off the boys pants, taking a quick sniff of the diaper. He swiftly changed the diaper, putting thick pyjama pants on, and pulling shirt off. Ryuji was not always so calm during this process, but the long and cold night had gotten to the boy. He lifted each arm patiently while Sasuke slipped on the pyjama shirt and buttoned it up.
Sasuke’s room had a futon, drawers for clothes and drawers for files, a small book shelf and a window. “Are you done?”
The boy rubbed his eyes, holding out a half empty bottle of milk.
Sasuke took the bottle, watching the boy crawl under blankets. “Do you want your pacifier?” After no reply, he left.
Sasuke went to the lounge room, and to the stranger in his house. He took the persons shoes off. They were dirty, smelly and over used. He made a mental note to wash them. He also took the dirty and wet coat off, revealing a fairly toned body. Unsurprising, he thought. He covered the boy in three, thick blankets and turned on the portable heater next to him.
Sasuke rarely used the portable heater, except for Ryuji either to sleep next to on cold nights or on particularly cold days. However Ryuji was sleeping in Sasuke’s bed tonight.
Sasuke tried not to notice the marks of violence on the person. The scrapes and bruises on his arm, neck and most evidently his face. It was worst on his arms and neck, but the markings on the face unsettled him the most.
After making sure the comatose person was clean, covered and breathing. Sasuke turned the lights off and went back to his room.
Ryuji started crying at precisely 6am, as per usual.
Sasuke dragged his heavy body up, rubbing his face and eyes, particularly hard. “I’m up.”
Mornings were hardest in winter. Usually these times Sasuke would let the toddler watch TV and then sleep in the lounge room. But things were a bit different with a stranger in their house, so Sasuke decided to get up and eat.
There weren’t a lot of things on TV at this time, but usually Ryuji would be happy with whatever as long as there were bright colours or cartoons. Sasuke chewed on his toast, watching the broadcaster describe the morning news. It was the normal bad stock market, foreign policies, political scandal and an occasional weather update.
Ryuji leaned against the couch, warm under the blanket and drinking his hot milk. He was satisfied enough with the prettiness of the broadcaster to accept the dry program.
The boy from last night still hadn’t woken. There hadn’t been any signs of movement either— apart from slightly twitching in the fingers. His body temperature though had become normal and after some ointment treatment the scraping and bruises on his body were looking better.
The snow outside was still falling heavily and Sasuke tried not to think about leaving for work on the coming Monday.
“Mum’s going to take a shower, okay?”
Ryuji continued to drink his milk.
Sasuke tugged gently at the toddler’s ear for attention. “Mummy’s going to take a shower. If anything happens come straight to mum.”
Ryuji looked long enough to Sasuke to show that he understand, then went back to the TV.
Sasuke showered with the door open, quickly. It was hard to keep showers short when the boiling water felt all but heavenly on him. But after having a baby he’d grown prone to having to do things speedily and effectively.
The shower only took ten minutes. Every two minutes he would peek out the door to get a look at his son and the situation in the lounge room. It was all good.
After cleaning the bathroom and getting dressed, he worked his way back to the lounge room.
The boy shook when he heard his mother’s voice. With big eyes he turned to see his mother staring down at him, unhappy.
The toddler had been all but standing over their guest’s face, inspecting, pinching and poking like he would a new toy or animal.
“What are you doing?”
Ryuji stared up at him monotone.
Sasuke took his hand and lead him around. “Don’t do that.” He turned back to the person on the floor, holding his son’s hand he stared at the face Ryuji had been poking.
Strong jaw, olive skin and three lines on each cheek he hadn’t noticed before.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
“Do you have any coffee?” Sasuke asked.
“I meant alcohol.” Suigetsu leaned on his couch.
Sasuke raised a brow. “You drink while you take care of your kids?”
“No.” Suigetsu said, lifting the cup to his mouth. “…Only a little. Like when mother’s drink wine or something.”
Sasuke had picked Ryuji up from day-care and stopped to visit Suigetsu on the way back. Suigetsu’s son was also two years old. They had met through day-care. Their personalities were not something Sasuke had imagined forming a friendship, but they had both been one of the few omegas’ there, and the only two without partners.
“I’ll just have coffee.”
Suigetsu shrugged, moving to the kitchen of his small apartment.
Akio was only one month older than Ryuji, yet smaller. He had light coloured hair and dark eyes. Similar enough to look like his mother to know he was Suigetsu’s, and yet there were dissimilarities. Their personalities were so different. It was a stretch to assume you could tell a child’s personality from such a young age, but even at that age Sasuke knew he would grow to be very different from his mother. Akio was slow and hesitant, curios and quiet. So unlike his mother. It always made Sasuke think about what sort of person his father had been.
The two children played with their toy cars together, gliding them across the ground and making noises. Sometimes throwing a car at each other, but never crying or fighting. Suigetsu didn’t have many toys, so more often than not Sasuke would find himself sharing his son’s toys with Akio. They were easy to get along. Both were alphas.
“Did you go to the meetings at the day-care?” Suigetsu asked.
“The one’s where they talk about how your kids doing.”
“Yes.” Sasuke said. “Did you?”
Suigetsu came back with coffee, placing it in front of Sasuke. “Yeah, what did they say for Ryuji?”
“They told me he was average for everything, although sometimes he got into fights with other kids and had trouble sharing.”
Suigetsu took a sip from his cup. “They told me Akio was almost below average in everything.”
“Yeah. Like communication and all of that shit.” Suigetsu said. “Also he can’t make friends.”
“What did you say?”
“I said he didn’t have trouble with communication or anything else when he was at home. I think he’s just shy, that’s why he can’t make friends either.”
Sasuke glanced at the light haired child. He was rolling one of the cars into the kitchen counter repeatedly. “Are you worried?”
“No,” Suigetsu cooed with a shrug. “He’s just like his dad.”
“His dad was shy?”
“Extremely.” Suigetsu said. “Quiet is an understatement.”
Sasuke didn’t know anything about Akio’s father, and he didn’t ask. “Are you going to be going into heat soon?”
The question took Suigetsu aback. He raised a brow and said “no, are you?”
“I think in a few weeks.” Sasuke said, drinking his coffee.
“Are you worried?”
“Do you need extra medicine?” Suigetsu asked. “I have some.”
“No, it’s okay.” Sasuke didn’t have much left, but felt guilty taking another’s. It wasn’t cheap.
“Did something happen?” Suigetsu asked after a moment. Sasuke seemed more quiet than usual—which was saying something.
“There’s an alpha in my house.” His voice was so quiet Suigetsu almost didn’t hear.
Both toddlers paused and turned to their respective mother’s.
“What?!” Suigetsu repeated.
Sasuke felt the heat rise in his neck. “It’s not what you think… I found him.”
“You found him?” Suigetsu asked. “Where? At a shelter?”
Both children turned back to each other and continued playing.
“No.” Sasuke said. “He was… passed out… Near my apartment while I was walking home.”
Suigetsu remained quiet, waiting.
Sasuke continued. “It was late at night, and you know how heavy the snow was. He looked about my age… And he didn’t seem… Dangerous.”
“So you took him to your apartment?” Suigetsu asked.
One of the best things about Suigetsu was that he wasn’t as judgement as others were. “What was a twenty year old doing passed out in the middle of winter?” He muttered. “Was he drunk?”
“I don’t think he was drunk.” Sasuke said. “I think something happened to him.”
Akio was now laughing, running the car up Ryuji’s leg while Ryuji rubbed his own toy car on Akio’s face.
“I rescued him a few days ago. He still hasn’t awoken.” Sasuke said.
Suigetsu drank from his cup slowly. “Was that why you were asking about the heat?”
Sasuke didn’t reply.
“You should probably be careful…” Suigetsu said. “On the bright side if he’s injured it doesn’t matter if he’s dangerous or not, he won’t be able to do anything to you. Kick him out as soon as he wakes up.”
“Yes, yes I know.” Sasuke watched the eggs boil in the pan.
The voice on the other line was all but white noise to him. It just kept repeating the same thing over and over. “We’re sorry about this delay. We’ve been looking into it, what’s your last name again?”
The government gave extra pay to omegas with children but without partners. His pay hadn’t come through for the last two weeks and Sasuke had tried calling at least ten times before they had finally answered.
He could hear Ryuji’s faint car noises in the background. The two year old was waddling around the apartment with his toy car, running it on every and any surface he could while making brumming noises.
“How many weeks has your pay not arrived?”
“Two.” He’d already told them five times.
“Right…” He heard the tapping of a keyboard. “There have been some communication problems with the head office so it might take a while to get to him. How long have you been without an alpha?”
“I’ve never been with.” Sasuke pulled the phone from his mouth. “Ryuji! Don’t run the car across the TV screen.” He turned the stove off, making sure the eggs were cooked fully.
The brumming noises stopped for a second then restarted with Ruji running the car on the table.
“How many jobs do you work?” The voice asked.
Ryuji continued running the car across the table and onto the floor. It was his favourite one and the one he never let Akio borrow: A yellow Lamborghini. Ryuji didn’t think of his toy cars as vehicles or transportation, more so aliens or animals: Animals with metal bodies and brumming noises. He imagined them in packs or herds of all colours and sizes, going through the valleys and onto roads.
Across the floor, past the TV, back around the Kotatsu, past the stranger, onto the stranger, on his feet, across his legs, chest, neck, face. Ryuji made circles on the sleeping person’s face with the car. On the cheek, forehead, other cheek, chin, up the nose once, and continue the cycle brumming.
“Uchiha.” Sasuke repeated. “You’ve already asked multiple times.”
“Right, I’m sorry. Have you emailed our director?”
“I don’t have a computer.”
“Right. Well, we have options for people in situations like yours. I’m not sure why your money has been delayed by two weeks—
Sasuke pulled the phone away from his ear. “Ryuji?” The brumming noises had stopped.
Ryuji stood above the face of the guest on the floor. Sasuke was about to scold him again when the toddler turned around with curios eyes, revealing behind him bright blue eyes.