Ushijima wakes up to a small child’s trembling voice, and even smaller hands tugging the sleeve of his shirt. Outside, the rain brings chaos to the earth and rattles his window. Beside him, the dim glow of the lamp reveals a tear stained face and red rimmed eyes from too much crying and snot running down from his nose. There’s a battered teddy bear secured in his arms, made of hand stitches and carefully sewn buttons.
(It’s also made of home.)
The boy speaks again, his tone an octave higher. “Papa, can I sleep with you? The t-thunder—”
Immediately, a lightning strike flashes outside.
“... Alright,” he responds eventually with a sigh after his son gripped his entire arm in fear, lifting the comforter to invite the child to his side. His son climbs up the bed with difficulty, and Wakatoshi has to wrap his arms around the child’s body to scoop him up the bed. Ushijima grabs a wad of tissues from the bedside table and wipes the snot from his nose.
The child plays with a loose thread on the teddy bear, eyes downcast. “I heard the other parents talking about me in school…”
“And?” Ushijima prompts him, flinging the crumpled tissues in the trash in some far corner of the room. It’s a clean shot, and he imagines Tendou would have congratulated him for it.
High school seems so long ago now.
“They said that mama isn’t... here anymore because of me.”
“It’s true.” Ushijima faces his son, unblinking. “[Name]—” he pauses, and it feels like a millennium since he has spoken your name, like an ancient kingdom born again between his lips. “Your mother suffered from postpartum hemorrhage when she gave birth to you,” he explains slowly, repeating what the doctors had said to him that day, after he was ushered to an empty corridor outside the delivery room amidst the frantic hollering of nurses and the clattering of surgical tools and beeping machines. He still remembers the small details in the hallway: the flickering light of the neon exit sign by the staircase, the tiny analog clock above a neat row of plastic chairs, and how the universe in your eyes died that very night.
The medical jargon was lost on the child, and whatever hope he had left had spiraled down the abyss. Dark thoughts start to claw at his mind—so you were a mother-killer after all. “Then does that mean that mama h-hates me?” his son murmured, face contorted in anguish, biting his lower lip to keep himself from crying.
“No. That’s not possible,” he tells him, eyebrows slanted downwards in confusion that practically screams, ‘Why would you even think that? What a strange child you are.’
Wakatoshi doesn’t even let him finish. “Because she said she loved you before she died.”
The small child starts sobbing uncontrollably.
“What? Why are you crying?” he demands, slightly distressed at the sight of his son’s breakdown, and for an instant he is rendered paralyzed, mind drawn to a blank as he watches his child latch on to his shirt and suddenly his chest feels damp, before he allows himself to rest his hand on his son’s head, gently stroking his hair to comfort him.
“... You should sleep. It’s unhealthy to be awake at this hour,” Ushijima whispers, but the boy was already asleep, dreaming about the mother he will never meet.
lion lilies : flowers that represent a bond between parent and child.