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love has conducted us unto one death

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If someone were to tell him he was a traitorous bastard a year ago, Hawks would probably have taken offense, but mostly he'd be confused.

To break it down, Hawks was a hero of the people who, in general, hated responsibility. He hated culpability. He hated that the crime rates were sky rocketing, and he hated feeling guilty for that fact.

Now, where to begin…

It probably started with those goddamn meetings, right? Hawks periodically camped out in seedy alleys and abandoned buildings, the smell of urine and mildew assaulting his nose, waiting for a guy who maybe wouldn't even show.

It was, frankly, exhausting.

The first time they had met, Dabi had done what any sane man would do.

He'd scaled a building, lured Hawks into a secluded brick alleyway, and then pinned him to a wall with a slim blue dagger made of pure fire flickering at his throat.

Hawks remembered the panic, the terror, and the thrill of it all. He had fought villains before, loads of them, but he'd never allowed himself to be cornered like this. He'd never allowed himself a moment of vulnerability in front of an enemy, certainly not one as formidable and exhausting as Dabi.

The fire was hot. Nobody had told him about that.

"Number Three Hero, was it?" Dabi drawled, his long fingers biting into Hawk's jacket. His thumb was applying a painful amount of pressure to Hawks's trachea, and the heat of the fire was dangerously close, breathlessly close, like the feeling of accidentally reaching over a pot of steaming water and feeling the visceral desire to jerk away. "Funny. Never struck you as one with a death wish."

Truthfully, Hawks had not known what to expect from the guy. He'd known about the fire stuff, and the scarring, but right at that moment, pinned to a brick wall and staring up at a man with a face like a mask and eyes like semi-precious stones thrust beneath candlelight— it was weird. Hawks was scared, sure, but the fear was being overtaken and consumed by a painful, gnawing curiosity.

Think like a criminal, right? Isn't that what the big guys had said?

"Number Two now, actually," Hawks said, a feather detaching from his left wing and flying into his fingers. "And what can I say? I'm full of surprises."

The feather struck the fire, red filaments rustling in the wind as the wisps of blue light scattered and licked around the edges. The sound was odd— an other-worldly whoosh and howl as the blades that were not quite blades broke apart and struck again. Dabi lurched back as Hawks's feather-made-light, a red and blue flaming sword, slashed at him without hesitation. His boots skidded against the pavement, pebbles scraping underfoot, and his left hand became a brilliant torch.

Hawks stood for a moment, vaguely dazzled by the sight of it.

The fire was ungodly. Nobody had told him about that.

"Don't start with that," Hawks said, jerking his chin at Dabi's armful of flames. "I only want to talk."

Dabi's eyes narrowed. In the light of his flames, the shadows of his face made him look even more horrific. He was despicable, like a monster out of an old film. Hawks would later rent a good chunk of old cinema, raking the celluloid for a classic villain that could match up to the deformity of Dabi, but this man was utterly unique in how severely fucked he looked.

"Talk?" Dabi cocked his head. His eyes trailed lazily from the feather on fire to Hawks's face. His cracked, scarred lips twisted in a smirk. "So you do want to die, then. Good to know."

"I'm serious," Hawks snapped. He slashed his feather across the air for emphasis, and the flames huffed irritably as it whistled and cut through the tension with a flick of his wrist. "Do you think I track down villains and chill out in alleys with them for kicks? No. I want to talk to you."

"For real," Dabi said flatly.

"Yes. For real."

Dabi looked skeptical. He squinted at Hawks, as if that might determine what kind of headcase he actually was. As though Hawks was the clinically insane one out of the two of them.

"Hm…" Dabi extinguished his arm, and he slouched. Upon slouching, his height seemed to disappear. The hulking mass he had appeared to be initially shrunk into a skeletal, almost sickly looking frame. "Talk, then. You have until my flames eat your feather."

Hawks glanced down at the feather in question, and he bit back a curse. It was pretty much totally ablaze at this point, only the core remaining red. It cast off a heat that made his whole body shake.

"Fine," he said, grimacing. "I want to join you."

"Really?" A single eyebrow raised on Dabi's pallid forehead. "Well fuck me sideways."

Hawks stared at him incredulously. Dabi's face was completely calm, completely composed, and worst of all, his voice was as monotone and serious as an intercom speaker.

"Um…" Hawks blinked rapidly. "Yeah, I'm serious. I want to help you take the heroes down."

"I'll bite," Dabi said, leaning against the far wall and stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Why?"

Hawks exhaled sharply through his nose, eyeing the smoldering feather with disdain. Well, time to put it all out on the line. Right? Wasn't that what they wanted?

"Heroes…" Hawks squeezed his eyes shut. The vehemence was welling up inside him, and he knew he had to use it, even though it felt wrong. "Fucking heroes. They stole my whole life. Do you think I wanted this? I'm twenty-two years old, how the fuck did I become the Number Two Hero? I didn't want that. I never wanted that. They— they basically threw me onto this path that I never wanted in the first place, and now I'm stuck. I want out."

The flames engulfed the feather, red withering into black, and Hawks flung the feather to the ground in frustration. A wisp of the flame had caught his hand, and he had to swallow a yelp of pain as he stomped out the fire without even bothering to hide his disgust.

Because he was truly, deeply disgusted. In himself, in his words, and in the truth.

The truth that burned.

All the best lies are grounded in truth, he thought numbly.

Dabi watched him. His face was inscrutable, partially because most of it was scarred to hell and back, but also because he seemed to have a grand amount of control over his own emotions. He watched with a dull gaze, like this bored him.

"Wow," he remarked.

Hawks swallowed hard.

Fucking villains.

"Do you want my help or not?" Hawks demanded.

Dabi shrugged. He tilted his head, his eyes trailing from the top of Hawks's head to the toe of his sneakers.

"Eh," he said. "Why not? It's been boring lately."

Hawks could pass out right there from the relief he felt. Fortunately, his confusion was stronger, and he blinked rapidly as Dabi toed the remains of Hawks's feather.

"What? That's it?" Hawks held his arms open. "You're not going to interrogate me further? Test my loyalty?"

"Oh, I'm going to test your loyalty," Dabi said, his eyes flashing to Hawks with a sudden and predatory hunger. "Don't think you're out of the water yet, Mr. Number Two Hero."

So it kind of started like that.

Go figure.

He had a certain amount of information that he was allowed to let slip. They discussed things in secret, made plans, and those plans got totally dismantled because, as Hawks was quickly learning, they were both huge fucking assholes.

The Endeavor incident was just the beginning of it. Dabi's goal in life was to watch Hawks squirm as he tried to juggle the misinformation he was being fed, leaving him with the realization that the minute Dabi told him something correct and the heroes were ready for it, Dabi would win. He'd have pinned him with the guilt of a traitor and burn him to a crisp like his poor feather.

So Hawks's reports became more and more vague.

"No casualties again," Dabi said, a pocket knife glinting in the pale yellow light that streaming in from the busted window above them. "I'm getting tired of this charade."

"I wouldn't be Number Two Hero if I wasn't good at rescuing people," Hawks muttered. "Like, sorry? But imagine if I just let a whole busload of people die when my quirk is literally perfect for getting them out of danger. It'd be a liability if I slipped up now."

Dabi rolled his eyes. The knife flashed, and Hawks eyed it warily.

"You're lucky your info is good," Dabi said. He sliced a round wedge off his peach, stabbed it in its fat middle, and offered it out to him.

Hawks stared at him like he was offering a civilian's still beating heart, blood running down his fingers and wrist and dripping onto the floor.

Dabi stared at him blankly.

"I'm not going to fucking stab you," he said. He dipped his head to one side, and his lips stretched eerily. "Yet."

"You're ridiculous," Hawks sighed, reaching forward and tearing the peach off the knife. The point of it remained trained on Hawks as he bit into the peach tentatively. It was just ripe, and the meat of the fruit came off with a slight snap.

"It's poisoned," Dabi said.

Hawks choked, his fist colliding with his chest instinctively, and he dropped the peach on the floor as he coughed violently.

Dabi laughed. The sound was surprising, because it wasn't as malicious or maniacal as Hawks expected. It was a bright, bellowing sound, and it betrayed his youth like nothing else could.

When Hawks looked up at him, he appeared to be trying to smother it with his hand.

"Oh," Hawks rasped, "fuck you."

Dabi's laughter doubled. His hand closed into a fist, and he snorted into it.

The thing was, they had been doing this for a little while. Hawks had initially kept count of the number of meetings, but now he wasn't sure. He knew that he talked to Dabi probably more than any hero. It wasn't like he had that many friends, unless online friends counted.

He coughed once more, his throat raw and his irritation mounting.

Dabi relaxed after a minute or so. He carved another slice of the peach and cut it in half. Then, after popping one half in his mouth, he offered the other.

Without hesitation, Hawks snatched it. He glared at Dabi as he bit into it.

"Oh," Dabi scoffed, "get that stick out of your ass already."

"What happened to that whole, I don't trust you, you don't trust me schtick?"

"I don't trust you," Dabi said. "And if you were smart, you wouldn't trust me either."

"I don't."

"You just took food from me." Dabi waggled his knife. "Poor choice, hero. I forgive your naïveté, but only just this once."

"It didn't make any sense for you to want to poison me," Hawks said defensively. "Have I actually told you anything wrong? No."

"True," Dabi said. He frowned down at his peach. "You're not exactly villain material, though."

"That's kind of the point, dumbass."

Dabi's eyes flickered up toward him. They were the most curious shade of blue, or maybe green. Hawks couldn't tell. When asked, he often fumbled over the description. Blue-green? Bluish? Greenish? Aquamarine? None of these seemed right.

The peach came undone by Dabi's knife, and he bit it right off the blade. He eyed Hawks with an almost thoughtful gaze, and then he rolled his shoulders and sighed.

"I'm not here to police your good behavior," he said. "If you're really just a decent person all around, good on you. But do yourself a fucking favor and don't get involved with us if you can't stomach the violence."

"That's not it," Hawks objected. He realized he didn't sound as fierce as Dabi probably wanted, because he was met with an unforgiving gaze. Dabi gobbled up the rest of the peach slice in a judgmental silence. "It's not. Come on, you know my story. You know why I'm a hero. I can't help it sometimes."

"You can't help saving people?" Dabi licked his lips. The action was quick, and yet utterly unnerving. Hawks could see the ridges and wrinkles of both hard and soft scar tissue on Dabi's lips, and he often wondered if it hurt. "God, do you need any help nailing yourself on that cross?"

"Well, what do you want me to do?" Hawks demanded. "If I let people die, it'll backfire. You know this. Suspicion will come sooner or later, and then you'll have lost the best in you have with the heroes."

Dabi tapped his chin with his knife. "Have you tried… maybe… and hear me out." He pointed the knife at Hawks with the laziness of a poorly paid retail worker. "Have you tried just not saving people?"

"As I said," Hawks said, scowling, "instinct and suspicion, Dabi."

"Must be a bitch to have a conscience."

"It's a bitch to be standing here, listening to you, that's for sure."

"Whatever." Dabi dropped the pit of the peach on the ground, and it bounced between them before settling. "Call me when you've got the stomach to do what needs to be done."

Playing both sides was definitely tough. Like, putting your own soul on the line was one thing. But when some dumbass kids played god? When Hawks himself had to choose?

Come on. Saving people wasn't a choice, it was a necessity— it was as natural to him as breathing. He didn't know why, and he didn't particularly care. He had never once resented that he was able to act without thinking and help people.

It was the system itself that he was bitter at. They must have known that when they picked him, right?

Someone did die eventually. Hawks made note of them, visited the family himself to pay his respects, and then trudged down to the new meeting place to talk to Dabi. This time it was an abandoned boathouse on the edge of a small pond. It smelled like fish, which was, to be fair, a given, and the air was thick and humid. It had rained recently, and the water was crashing upon the stilts of the boathouse, leaving it to rock uneasily against the current.

Dabi was waiting for him. He must have been there awhile, because he'd taken an assortment of tackle and fishhooks and created a rather ugly, dangerous looking necklace out of them.

"Congrats on your loss," Dabi said dully. "Fish?"

He held up a fishing line. A pink loach hung limply, and Hawks stared at it for a moment before realizing Dabi was serious.

"Sure," he said, not really knowing what else to say.

The forest wasn't as secluded as Hawks would have liked, but they both kept their hoods up and watched the blue fire crisp up the loach's flesh. Hawks had only been fishing a few times for wilderness training, and though he'd been told how to cook a fish, seeing the brutality of it was… alarming.

Dabi had caught it fresh, so it had still been alive before they'd made the fire. Or, rather, Dabi made the fire. Hawks watched, his mouth twitching into a grimace, as Dabi broke the fish's neck cleanly against a rock, and then with his pocket knife very quickly and efficiently gutted it.

"It's okay to feel lousy about it," Dabi said.

Hawks glanced up at him. "I don't," he lied breezily.

The smell of the fire was messing with his senses. Dabi's flames had a distinctly phosphorescent scent to them, like a match being struck, but because they were burning wood, the fire smelled unlike anything Hawks had smelled before.

Dabi's smirk was haunting. "I'm sure that's why you went to visit the boy's family," he said.

"Just keeping up appearances."

It had been a Nomu attack, and it had been expected, but because of the uncertainty of the information he'd been fed, he had not told anyone about it. He'd gotten nearly everyone to safety except for a young man who had been pinned under fallen rubble. He had been a college student, a nurse in training, and when Hawks closed his eyes he could see the boy's face, a cheeky snapshot on a clear summer day, and he wondered if this was all worth it.

They had been the same age. Was it fair to even call him a boy? Was it fair to call Hawks a man?

Dabi turned the fish in the flames. It was dusk, and the autumn bite was drawing close to them. It was early enough in the season that lightning bugs still flounced around dazedly, and the distant sound of children shrieking with laughter mellowed out their somber mood.

"Whatever the case," Dabi said, "good job. I really thought you'd back out by now."

"I told you," Hawks said firmly. "I'm serious about this shit."

"Yeah, yeah." Dabi lounged back against a tree. "Forgive me if I don't believe you just yet. You're really the worst type of hero."

"What type is that?" Hawks asked snidely.

The fish turned and turned and turned over the flames, and the aroma of its blistered meat wafted toward him. His mouth watered as he stared at it.

"Sincere," Dabi said, lifting the fish from the flames and blowing against its scales.

Their eyes met over the fire, and Hawks frowned deeply. Dabi's eyes, that color that was so difficult to define, seemed to mirror the glow of his flames. They were one and the same, echoes of one another, a soul within a soul.

Dabi turned away and cut the fish in half. Its scales and skin crunched beneath the knife.

"What does that even mean?" Hawks asked sharply as Dabi impaled the fish on a stick and offered it out to him.

"It means," Dabi drawled, shoving the fish in his face, "you're a fucking moron, and I should kill you."

"I'm good for business," Hawks said coolly, snatching the fish from his fingers.

"You're trouble." Dabi shrugged, settling back under his tree and picking the meat off the fish's bone. "I still don't trust you."

"Then why do you keep feeding me?"

Dabi chewed silently, and as he did so, all he did was stare. Like Hawks was supposed to know the answer already.

Hawks sighed, and he leaned back. It was a nice night, if not a bit chilly, and the fire was much appreciated. The fish tasted bland, but it was cooked through, and if he hadn't eaten all day it probably would have been delicious.

"It's funny how the one time you stick to the plan, I lose someone," Hawks said absently. He didn't meet Dabi's eye, and he wondered if he had already said too much.

When Dabi scoffed, Hawks glanced up at him.

"Word to the wise," he said, stabbing his stick into the dirt, "if you wanna survive in this game, fuck the plans, fuck the rules, and fuck me. You think too damn much."

Hawks wanted to argue that he didn't think enough— that the reason why he was in this mess was because he hadn't thought things through— but it was a lie. They had chosen him because he had noticed, and he had thought too much about what he had noticed, and he had decided that noticing things wasn't good enough anymore.

"If I think too much," Hawks said, a lazy smirk— something easy and something true— rising to his lips, "maybe you think too little."

Dabi's ugly, scarred lips stretched into a grin. His teeth glinted white in the dark.

"Touché," he said.

It went on like that for a while.

It wasn't a friendship. He'd tell anyone that much, if he could, it wasn't that. But there was a sense of comradery forming there that Hawks wasn't exactly comfortable with, because he knew it was based on a lie, and the guilt was crushing him.

Maybe Dabi was an awful person and a terrifying murderer, but he wasn't all that awful to talk to, and that had to count for something, right?

Hawks was beginning to suspect that he was losing his mind a little bit.

He had begun to stroll into meetings with an apple or a peach in his pocket.

Once, after a particularly grueling day, Dabi had tossed him a pomegranate.

"Welcome to the Underworld," Dabi said.

There was a date and a time carved into the red fruit's skin.

It wasn't friendship, but it was something.

By the time it was winter, Hawks had sat in on a handful of meetings. The first had been the worst, but he'd mustered up his courage and his hatred and his belief in what he was doing, and he lied through his teeth.

Shigaraki Tomura didn't trust him, but even a blind man could tell that Hawks's information was invaluable.

So when the time came for Hawks to squeal on the U.A. kids' field trip destination, it was kind of a no brainer, right? He couldn't exactly say no here. Not what with him being on, like, the precipice of breaking through that barrier of trust and truly imbedding himself in this makeshift team. And boy, was it makeshift! It made Hawks feel a whole lot better, and somehow a whole lot worse about what they were up against.

He warned them, of course. It wasn't like he could do much else.

But then they didn't move the location.

When he asked, the higher ups told him they were taking care of it. That there would be more security, that the teachers were well equipped and prepared for this sort of thing. After all, they had dealt with it before.

"What does it matter?" Hawks demanded. "So what if they've dealt with it before, this can be avoided. Isn't that why I'm doing this? To avoid unnecessary tragedies?"

No, they said.

You're doing this to get close to their leader.

Hawks left the office, went home, packed his bags, and butted his way onto the bus-full of teenagers heading for their tundra training.

"I thought you could use another chaperone," Hawks told Eraserhead, resting his crossed arms on the back of the seat in front of him and dropping his chin against them. The older hero squinted at him in straight up suspicion while the children gawked at him. "I've fought Nomus before, and the League of Villains has a particularly nasty grudge against this class. I don't want to see them caught up in any of that again."

Eraserhead didn't vocalize his distrust, but his eyes said it all.

Even if Hawks was the Number Two Hero, to Aizawa Shouta he might as well be a drunkard on the street. That's how much this guy trusted his children with anyone he didn't know.

Hawks really admired this dude. He was the kind of hero Hawks wished he could be.

When Hawks witnessed Aizawa fall asleep within the first ten minutes of the bus ride, he felt a true pang of jealousy.

This man… this hero… he was living the life, wasn't he?

"Oh, he's out cold," Hawks said, leaning over the seat and poking Aizawa's cheek.

"Aizawa-sensei sleeps a lot," a female student informed him curtly. She had a polite tone, and when Hawks glanced at her, he could see that she was probably very well-mannered and intelligent. She had her hands folded in her lap, and beside her a girl with short black hair frowned at him.

"He has a sleeping bag in the classroom!" a blonde boy gasped, lurching forward to beam at Hawks. "Hey, there, Mr. Hawks. Are you really here to protect us?"

"Sure, I'll protect you," Hawks said dismissively, "but what'd you say about a sleeping bag? For real?"

"He does," said a boy with glasses very somberly.

Hawks slumped over the chair, and he stared down at Eraserhead in wonder.

"Oh my god," he said. "That settles it. Mr. Aizawa, wake up, do you want to be the Number Two Hero? I'll literally give you anything, switch lives with me."

The teenagers around him began to chorus with questions and confused shouts.

"Please," Hawks whined, sliding off the chair, "I just wanna sleep!"

The children laughed boisterously, and even though they were only a few years younger than him, he envied them. He wanted to be carefree. He definitely pretended he was, and it was part of the act, and all of that jazz, but really? Truly? The anxiety was killing him. He spent most nights staring at his ceiling and staring at a white screen and staring and staring until the world went hazy and he was staring at the backs of his eyelids.

In the end, it was all a bit of a mess. He lost track of where it went wrong, and when, but the night was still but for a whistling wind and the soft rustling of coniferous leaves that could not help but bow under the weight of the snow. When the attack began, Hawks was lucky. He had been tailing the kids he deemed the most high-risk— the angry one, the self-destructive one, and Endeavor's kid.

The truth of it was that he remembered their names fine, but he didn't particularly want them to know that.

"Get behind me," Hawks barked at them, his wings unfurling as the child dropped before him. She was a slight, round-faced teenager whose coat looked too thin and who had made the mistake of wearing tights with her boots rather than the water-resistant ski pants the rest of them had.

"Oh, not this bitch again," the Anger Boy snapped.

This bitch, indeed.

"Kacchan," Self-Destruction Boy gasped as the blonde flung himself forward, jumping over Hawks's head and raising his fist. "Kacchan, stop!"

A feather came hurtling beneath Anger Boy's arm, pinning the tough fabric of his coat and dragging him backwards. He howled in rage, his feet kicking at the air and small explosions crackling on his fingertips.

Hawks exhaled hard. A puff of mist fell from his lips. He had to be careful how many feathers he used, because once he got rid of Toga, he needed to scout the area and send all the children to safety.

"Stay behind me," he told Self-Destruction and Todoroki. "Or else you two go the same way. Got it?"

They both nodded, Self-Destruction Boy quickly and jerkily, his nerves apparent in his rosy face while Todoroki's was curt, his eyes focused ahead of them.

"Deku!" Toga gasped, a knife glinting in the darkness of the mountain. Instinctively, Hawks plucked a particularly sharp feather, and he wondered if he should have just sent the other two away while he'd tossed the angry one aside. "I knew I'd find you, I knew it, I knew it!"

"Aw, fuck," Hawks said softly. He glanced down at the Self-Destructive one, Deku, or Midoriya Izuku, or whatever. "Don't tell me this headcase has a crush on you."

Deku's expression twisted in dismay. "I don't get it either," he muttered.

"Oh, I get it," Hawks said with a one shouldered shrug. "It just makes things a whole lot messier."

He knew Toga was a shameless flirt. Dabi had warned him to stay away from her, and when Hawks did end up at meetings, Dabi always managed to get in between Hawks and Toga before any real conversation happened. At some point she just lost interest.

"Toga's a shapeshifter," Todoroki informed him sharply.

"That's right," Deku gasped, his voice muffled by his scarf as the wind picked up around them. The girl was watching them with a glint in her eyes. "She can change into a person if she ingests their blood. Hawks! Please be careful!"

"I'm good," Hawks said, eyeing Toga's knife warily. He knew exactly how her power worked, and in general it disgusted him. "I want you two to keep behind me, and only use your quirks if necessary."

"Yes, sir!" Deku gasped dutifully. He had been particularly star-struck near the beginning of their trip, but since they'd been lumped together (or rather, Hawks had asked Eraserhead to let him keep an eye on them), he'd calmed down.

"Deku," Toga cooed, the wind toying with her pigtails and whipping her scarf from side to side. Her voice echoed off the trees, and the snow skittered around her feet.

She darted forward, faster than Hawks expected, her tiny frame a blur in the dark. He shot toward her, his wings beating the snow into her face, forcing her backwards, her arm crossing over her eyes to shield her face from the blast of crystals showering her. Feathers rained down upon her, mixing with the snow he cast down from various branches. In the dark, they sailed black and piercing with their target in mind.

The girl's knife slashed through each feather with astonishing precision, carving an arc through the air and ducking the last projectile as it struck the tree behind her with a vicious thunk, like an oversized dart missing the board completely and imbedding itself in a wall.

Her knife was a silver flash in the dark, and Hawks narrowly escaped its slashing, stabbing, swishing motion as she attacked him in a frenzy. Her giggling was bouncing off the trees, and her words drowned out by the wail of the wind. She was saying things that didn't matter, but it was distracting. He caught her shoulder with a feather, and her boot sailed so close to his head that snow chipped off the soles and smacked his cheek and nose like bits of rock.

Finally unable to dodge any longer, he caught her knife with a long feather, and he looked down at her with a scowl.

"Shouldn't you be at home, kid?" he asked her sharply.

Her eyes glittered as she gazed up at him. Her pointed teeth gleamed as her smile stretched out, and she glanced at him from head to toe.

"You wanna take me home?" she crooned.

Hawks kicked her in the stomach, sending her back smacking into the tree behind her. Snow shuffled and rained down from a high branch. She shrieked, startled by the falling snow, and as she was distracted, Hawks moved to pin her to the tree.

Only before he could dislodge more feathers, her legs became enveloped in ice.

"Ah!" Toga twisted violently as the ice encased her arms and torso. "No, no, no, no—!"

A glowing blur of light darted past her, and Hawks stared at Deku slid beside him, snow exploding around them as he landed in a crouch. Toga's head hung limply as Deku wiped his chapped nose free of snot.

"What did I tell you two?" Hawks gasped, turning on the two remaining boys. They were both crouched in the snow, and while Deku had the grace to look guiltily up at Hawks, Todoroki knelt with his right hand in the snow, looking at Deku with an unreadable expression.

"I'm sorry, Hawks!" Deku gasped, dropping to his knees and bowing his head. "I'm so sorry! We wanted to tell you, but—"

"This environment is my specialty," Todoroki said, shaking the ice from his right hand as he stood up. "If we told you our plan, you would have sent me away."

"Todoroki's never gotten to really go all out in the snow like this before!" Deku shook his head furiously. "I know we shouldn't have tricked you, but it worked, didn't it? Toga's not going to wake up for a while, and she didn't even get a scratch of any of us, so really it worked out for the best, didn't it? We coordinated the attack so that—"

"Okay, okay," Hawks said, waving the boy off. "I'm not mad, just annoyed. I don't trust any of these guys."

"They're villains," Todoroki said dully. "Why would you?"

"I think he's being facetious," Deku whispered to Todoroki. Loudly.

"Let's just go," Hawks sighed, ushering them forward. "Quickly, okay? We don't know what they want just yet."

Hawks had not been told that much, but he had a feeling this was less of a kidnapping scenario and more of a test of power scenario. Either way, the kids were in danger.

Todoroki and Deku stuck closely behind him, which he was grateful for. After a few minutes of silence, the trek got a little boring, and Hawks sighed.

"I kinda miss that loud kid," he admitted.

"No you don't," Todoroki said.

Deku smiled tightly. "Kacchan's better off evacuated," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "He doesn't like to think before he attacks, and that would have been a mistake with Toga."

"Well," Hawks sniffed, his nose running a bit, "either way, the sooner we get off Mt. Fest, the better."

At the very least Toga was out of the way. Out of everyone in the League of Villains, she was the one who he believed would be actually dumb enough to accidentally reveal that he's working for them.

Deku, bless him, began to ask Hawks about his quirk. From what Hawks had gathered about the boy, mostly from observation, was that he was generally very nervous but also very warm and kind and curious. He also seemed to know a whole lot about Pro Heroes, so Hawks suspected everything he said, Deku already knew.

Todoroki stayed silent as they trudged through the snow.

"Here," Hawks said, handing Deku a feather.

As Deku grasped it, his whole face seemed to go alight, like a child opening a birthday present.

"Oh, wow," He gasped, his gloved fingers gingerly petting the fibers of the feather. "It's so… soft?"

"Surprising, right?" Hawks winked at him. "Yeah. It's soft right now, but—"

"Oh!" Deku flicked the feather through the air. It sliced against the wind as sharp as a dagger. "So cool! It's like it's metal! But the structure of the feather hasn't changed— no, it's still soft! That's amazing."

Hawks shrugged. "Keep it," he said as Deku moved to hand it back to him. "I can grow more."

"We shouldn't have left Toga," Todoroki said suddenly.

Deku and Hawks glanced back at him. Hawks watched the boy, and he tried to find a trace of his father's brashness. While both Todoroki and Endeavor were men of few words, Endeavor seemed aloof because he was naturally very coarse and unyielding. Todoroki's quietness seemed… dare Hawks say shy? Pensive? Uncertain? Todoroki's eyes darted away from Hawks's face when he looked at him. He frowned at the ground, his eyebrows taut.

"Toga will be fine," Hawks said. "I'll get her once I get you two to safety. It'd be easier if I could care you, but…"

"We wanted to walk," Todoroki said with a grimace. "But still— the ice—"

A distant battle cry cut Todoroki off. Even with the howl of the wind, the starkly silent forest picked up the slightest sounds.

"Shit," Hawks sighed.

The two students lurched forward.

"Behind me!" Hawks gasped, jumping into the air and sailing ahead of them. "Idiots. How have you stayed alive this long?"

"Luck," Todoroki said.

"Recovery Girl," Deku admitted.

Hawks shook his head in disbelief. He knew he should just send the kids ahead to the safe zone with Anger Boy, but he had to admit that Todoroki's ice power was pretty convenient right now. The wind and ice and snow was slowing Hawks down, and though he was confident in his own abilities, Todoroki and Deku had stronger powers than him. It was just a fact.

Bakugou Katsuki did too, if he had to be honest, but Anger Boy needed a time out. At the very least, these kids could listen a little bit.

"No more secret plans," he called down to them as he flew. "Give me a warning if you're using your quirks, but do not engage the villains unless you need to! Your priority needs to be your classmates right now."

"Got it," Deku said firmly.

Todoroki merely nodded. The sound of rushing water came nearer and nearer, and the scuffling shouts and snarls became clearer. Hawks broke through the trees, and he sent the nearest child flying.

There were three students and two villains.

Dabi's eyes swiveled to Hawks. His arms were ablaze, casting the clearing in a hazy glaze of icy blue. The snow glowed eerily, and the rushing river seemed luminescent in the stark light.

The Red One whirled to face him, his skin like stone in the flickering light. His eyes brightened considerably.

"Hawks!" he cried, punching the air triumphantly. "Ha! Now you're in trouble!"

Hawks sent him flying away with a flick of a feather. The boy yelped, his legs dangling in the air for a moment, and once he caught his breath he cheered.

"Get 'em, Hawks!" he cried as the feathers took him sailing through the trees.

Now there were two. The clever girl from the bus whose name he knew was Yaoyorazu was batting away Dabi with a spear. Twice was lurking near the trees, and Hawks cursed himself for not sending Todoroki and Deku away sooner.

This might not even be the real Dabi. He couldn't know for sure.

Yaoyorazu lunged with her spear, and Dabi slid aside easily enough, his fire raking across the snow and sizzling out quickly. She dodged, using the spear to swing herself away, and she slid backwards, the snow crunching beneath her as she nearly lost her balance. His feathers came up behind her, two of them steadying her and then swinging her upright.

"Ah!" she cried, swinging herself wildly. She glanced down at Hawks in dismay. "No! You can't, not now— I can help—!"

The feathers whisked her away.

In her haste to get in one more shot, she flung her spear like a javelin, and Dabi lurched away, his eyes widening in shock. The spear had imbedded itself in the snow and the earth right where his head had been a moment earlier.

Hawks couldn't help but smile. The girl had guts.

"Kay," Hawks said, cracking his knuckles. "Now we can get down to business."

"Of course," Dabi drawled, lifting his chin defiantly toward him.

"Y'all grab that last kid and run," he told Deku and Todoroki, "got it?"

"Yes, sir!" Deku gasped. He moved, but Todoroki remained in place. Deku swatted him, and he blinked rapidly, following him without comment.

His long feather came swinging into his fist. He gripped it tightly, pointing it at Dabi like a saber.

"I've been waiting for this rematch," he said.

Dabi licked his cracked, gnarled lips. His eyes flickered over Hawks curiously.

"Can't say the same," he said, fire licking up his arms and eating away at his jacket.

Hawks made the first move, dropping from his flight and colliding with the ground where Dabi had been. The snow was flung into the air, blinding him momentarily as Dabi's fire came roaring through the white haze, and steam rose around them. The fire flickered madly, and Hawks ducked and leapt into the air, kicking Dabi in the head and rolling aside before his fiery fist came smashing into his side. The momentum sent him hurtling into a snowbank, and it took a moment for him to jump back up again.

To his great annoyance, Dabi was gone.

An arm came sliding across his throat, and instinctively Hawks jerked forward, fling the weight of the man's body over his head. The snow burst beneath Dabi, and it melted in a plume of steam.

Hawks jabbed his sword-like feather down, stabbing the earth once and yanking it up as Dabi jerked from side to side, narrowly missing the brunt of the attack.

Fire exploded from his fingers, and Hawks leapt backwards, flinging himself into the air and kicking Dabi as he lurched to his feet, his fingertips clawing at the front of Hawk's coat and dragging him back to the earth.

They rolled in the snow, steam blinding him, and for a moment he was not quite aware of his surroundings. Dabi's nails caught his collar, and scratched beneath his jaw. Hawks grabbed a fistful of Dabi's shirt and shoved him into the snow.

It was a series of each one of them finding a new way to pin the other beneath them, and it was almost a game.

At one point, Hawks felt Dabi's mouth close to his ear, and he swore he heard him chuckling.

A heart-stopping splash caused them both to freeze. Dabi had pinned him this time, his gnarled hand pressed up against Hawks's throat, thumb against his chin, nail scraping his lower lip, and for a moment he looked bemused. A frown graced his chapped and scarred lips.

They both turned their heads just in time to see Todoroki jump into the water.

"No!" Hawks cried, kicking Dabi off him and scrambling to get to his feet. Deku was preoccupied with a clone that twice had made of Toga, but he had one eye trained on the river.

"Todoroki!" Deku gasped, nearly getting swiped by the clone's vibrant blade.

"She's a clone, Deku," Hawks said sharply, sending a small flechette of feathers spiraling through the girl. She exploded with a burst of black goo, and Deku scrambled backwards with a small scream.

When Hawks glanced back at the river, he realized he'd lost sight of Todoroki. He rushed toward the bank, and saw, relieved, that Todoroki had managed to ice over a small portion of the river, and was clinging to it. He was pushing another boy on top of it they yellow haired boy who had tried to speak to him on the bus. Electricity quirk— right, yeah. Kaminari.

Hawks took a deep breath. The air knifed through his lungs, and his face stung from the icy air and the snow that clung to him. Feathers came detached in a heartbeat and whisked the boy from the ice.

Todoroki glanced at him. Another feather came sailing toward him, and Todoroki relaxed his shoulders, his body bobbing against the heavy current.

He reached out for the feather, and that slight movement caused him to misstep.

The breath seemed to leave Hawks as he watched Todoroki's eyes widen, the fatal mistake registering in his eyes for the barest of moments as the feather slipped through his fingers and his body was swallowed up by the water.

Hawks force the feather to submerge after him, but he could not sense Todoroki without the feather being attached to him, and the panic settled deep in his bones as he realized the roaring of the water came not from its violent current, but because—

"Dabi—!" Hawks snarled lurching toward him as he clambered onto an icy rock. He'd run down the embankment, fire on his heels, and Hawks hovered above him. "What the fuck—?"

Todoroki's head bobbed in the water. He had momentarily resurfaced, ice sprouting from his fingertips and momentarily halting him. His fingers slipped against his own creation, and he was flung with the water.

For a moment, Dabi was just beside him. He crouched on the edge of the rock, a large boulder that jutted over the cliff's face. His body tipped forward, his fingers momentarily outstretched.

"Don't you dare, Dabi," Hawks hissed, flying lower, "I swear—!"

Todoroki's white and red hair, illuminated by the light of Dabi's hand, went tipping over the edge.

A weight dropped into Hawks's stomach.

Act.

Hawks swooped down, but he wasn't fast enough. Todoroki was gone from sight, and the only thing he could see now was Dabi jerking to his feet and leaping over the cliff after him.

The thing was, it hadn't truly hit Hawks what had happened. He was in hero mode, and he was used to working alongside other heroes, so Dabi's leap of faith had not seemed like much at first. The understanding hit him about halfway down the waterfall, and he found himself reeling with uncertainty. Had Dabi just…? Gone and done that, no hesitation? He had been faster to act than Hawks himself, the guy whose entire life was based on acting on a single heroic whim.

Unless Dabi had less than heroic intentions, which was probably where this was going, but Hawks was too busy being confused to try and sort that one out.

Flying was freedom in Hawks's eyes, but right now flying felt like a weight, and he was not fast enough no matter how hard he pushed himself.

The rush of the water was all he could hear. The frigid air was slicing against his cheeks and battered his chest. He scanned the ground helplessly before a glint of blue caught his eye.

He swept downwards, the wind whistling against his ears, and the moment his feet crashed to the ground he stumbled. His sword of a feather was clutched in one hand, and for a moment he thought he might really cut Dabi down if he made the wrong move.

Dabi was crouched on the bank, snow and sand spread out before him, and Todoroki Shouto laid before him. His fingers were tangled in the boy's split hued hair, and he clutched at his coat, frantically unzipping it and patting his chest. Then he leaned very close to his face.

"Fuck," Dabi gasped, dragging a shaky hand through his wet hair. It was flat and scraggly against his forehead and the line of his scars where the staples met flesh. "No way. No fucking way."

Hawks stumbled forward as Dabi began to hit Todoroki's chest. It was a frantic, hopeless motion.

"Come on!" Dabi snarled, attempting something like a pump, and then leaning close to Todoroki's face again. "Fuck— fucking—!"

"Stop," Hawks said sharply, dropping to his knees on the other side of Todoroki. "You're going to hurt him. Let me do it."

Dabi sat there, his shaky fingers limp for a moment as he stared down at Todoroki. His eyes slowly trailed up to Hawks's face, like perhaps he was an apparition and Dabi was about to scream.

Hawks swatted Dabi's fingers away and pumped Todoroki's chest thrice, counting softly aloud before dipping his head, parting the boy's lips, and blowing air into his mouth. He pulled back and pumped thrice more, noting the dark stain on the side of his head beneath the strands of hair that stuck to his face and forehead. He blew air into his lungs again, and repeated the motion a few more times. Dabi's eyes were not on him.

Todoroki, at last, lurched upright, water pooling in his mouth and falling from his lips with a wheezing sputter and a hacking cough.

"Easy!" Hawks gasped as Todoroki fell onto his hands and knees and vomited. He watched him with a pitying gaze. "Easy. It's okay."

Dabi sat frozen on the embankment, snow gathered around him. He looked like a ghost, his scars and hair fading into the night and his face waxen from the water, leaving him like a skull floating in the dark.

Todoroki retched, his body quaking, and Dabi rubbed his hands together, fire exploding and extinguishing in but a moment. When Todoroki coughed, his body heaving and nothing left to vomit, he collapsed onto his side. Hawks watched Dabi reach out, his fingers very gingerly holding Todoroki's head.

The icicles on his left side began to melt.

Hawks watched Dabi intently as he warmed Todoroki's head, and hands and chest. His eyes were lidded heavily, and he seemed to forget that Hawks was there as he sat on the bank, his thumb momentarily grazing the boy's forehead.

"TODOROKI!"

Dabi's hands retracted like Todoroki Shouto's skin was poison.

Hawks peered behind Dabi's head, surprised to see Deku's glowing form hopping between rocks on the river. He was a blur of light.

Dabi exhaled shakily.

"Don't ever say I never do anything for you," he spat, shoving Todoroki into Hawks's arms.

A fist came colliding with the side of Hawks's head and he half fell, stars exploding before his eyes and turning the night bright and white with dancing lights.

Hawks held his head, blinking rapidly as he twisted to see where Dabi had gone. There was no black, gelatinous liquid anywhere, and the footprints indicated he'd run off into the woods.

"Todoroki!" Deku skidded to his knees in the sand, grasping Todoroki by the face and looking pained. "Oh no. No, no, no, no— don't tell me—!"

"Deku…" Todoroki murmured. His hand floated toward Deku's face.

Deku let out a breath, and he leaned in close to listen to Todoroki.

"Yeah," he said eagerly. "I'm right here, Todoroki!"

Todoroki's hand smacked into Deku's face lazily.

"Shut up," he mumbled. "Loud. Too loud."

Deku's face was comedically astounded and sheepish. He slumped a little, exhaling in relief, and he glanced up at Hawks.

"Thank you," he whispered, tears glimmering in his eyes. "I didn't— I didn't even realize what had happened. I just saw you jump, and… assumed, I guess…?"

"Good deduction," Hawks said. He really was impressed. Deku had acted as quickly as Hawks had with much less information.

Deku's eyes widened at the praise, and he ducked a little as he hovered protectively over Todoroki.

"You should go after Dabi," he said, his gloved fingers clenching around Todoroki's water-logged jacket. "I can take Todoroki back."

"I'm taking both of you back," Hawks said firmly.

Deku blinked rapidly before shaking his head. "You have a chance to get him!" he gasped, looking up at Hawks desperately. "He's not a clone, and you're— you're powerful enough to stop him. You can take him down right now! Please, Hawks, don't let us slow us down."

"Being a hero isn't about taking bad guys down," Hawks told him gently. "It's never been about that for me. I am here for you. Not Dabi. Come on, help me get Todoroki upright. Find me something to put pressure on his headwound."

This encounter got Hawks thinking. Deku hadn't seen what Hawks had seen, which was for the best, really, but the fact that he didn't have another set of eyes to confirm that Dabi had saved Todoroki Shouto was annoying.

Because that is what happened, right? Dabi, the mad arsonist himself, had risked his life to save a child.

It wasn't even just that, Hawks knew. There had been… something about Todoroki that was important. Dabi had looked frantic, panicked, hopeless— he had looked so human and vulnerable in that moment that Hawks had felt the need to comfort him. It was like a child had emerged from the hard shell of an impersonable, clinically insane jackass.

It had been like Hawks was not even there.

Dabi had only seemed to notice him, truly, when he had forced him to move back so that Hawks could perform CPR.

The thing was, Hawks knew Dabi was going to avoid him. He didn't bother trying to get into contact with him immediately.

Instead he decided to snoop.

Midoriya Izuku had been glad to give him the name of the hospital Todoroki Shouto had been admitted to. He had been the only one hurt badly enough to warrant a stay for more than one night, which was troubling. All of the kids were accounted for in the end, and when Hawks had gone back for Toga, she was gone. She might have been a clone after all.

Before hanging up, Midoriya Izuku, or the Self-Destructive little snot, or maybe just Deku, said something that made him uncomfortable.

"A lot of heroes don't really think about heroics the way you do," he said softly. "I need to thank you for reminding me why we do this in the first place. You're a really amazing hero, Hawks. I can't wait for you to become Number One!"

Fuck, Hawks thought dully. I can't be Number One. The Number One Hero is a symbol— a pillar of hope and an inspiration for all those in despair. I'd be the worst symbol ever.

He didn't know what to bring. Flowers seemed dumb, since he didn't know the kid well, but coming to visit some random teenager empty-handed seemed rude. Hawks ended up with an edible arrangement, because if Hawks knew anything, it was that teenage boys loved food.

When Hawks arrived, Todoroki was sitting up in bed, staring out a window. He was alone in his large room, looking small and sullen in the rays of morning sunlight. A tight bandage was wound around his forehead, and his bi-colored hair flopped over it messily.

The moment Hawks stepped in the room, Todoroki's eyes slid toward him sharply.

It was only then that Hawks really recognized how unique his gaze was.

One eye a solid, sturdy gray— it looked almost hazel or brown, but in this light, with the winter sun dripping in through the window, it looked like steel. The other eye was a color that Hawks could not define, somewhere between blue and green.

Hawks didn't want to think too hard on it. He really didn't.

"Hey," Hawks said, waving casually. Todoroki frowned. He raised his hand, which Hawks noticed trembled at the motion, and waved a little awkwardly. "You look better."

Todoroki looked down at his lap. Hawks stepped inside the room and set the arrangement down on his bedside table. He eyed it, leaning closer to examine the fruit curiously.

"I feel better," he said.

"That's good," Hawks sighed, stretching his arms behind his head. "That fall was pretty scary. You're lucky you got away from that with just a concussion, and they don't have to do surgery."

Todoroki frowned. His eyes lingered on the fruit as he shook his head.

"I'm not lucky," he said.

Hawks studied him for a moment, lowering his arms so the relaxed pose disappeared. Todoroki was observant too. It was probably dangerous to have been so close to him and Deku, who were both reserved and intelligent in their own ways.

"I'm sorry it came to that," Hawks told him gently. "I should have done away with all of you at once and dealt with Dabi and Twice myself."

"That would have been suicidal." Todoroki didn't bother with formalities, or niceties, which Hawks admired. He wore a blank expression, which Hawks knew might be mistaken for stoic or empty, but… Hawks could see how wide his eyes were. He could tell that the blankness of his face could be attributed to how damn innocent the kid was. He seemed genuinely shell-shocked. "I'm glad. I'm glad I was there."

Hawks sighed. He dropped down in the nearest chair and shook his head. "No point in arguing that you shouldn't have had to put yourself in danger in the first place," he said. "But, you know, you really almost died."

Todoroki stared at him. His brow pinched uncertainly, and the corner of his lip twitched.

"I know," he said, averting his eyes.

"You know," Hawks said, "but you don't care. Right?"

Todoroki's eyes darted toward him, his jaw very visibly clenching and unclenching. He wrung his shaky fingers in his lap, and he shook his head.

"Kaminari wouldn't have survived that," he said firmly. "The only reason the cold didn't kill me is because half my body is naturally freezing. And by catching myself before falling over the cliff, I managed to stop my momentum, so I didn't hit the rock as hard as I might have if not for my ice. I knew the risk going in."

Huh. A calculated risk with a recognition of his own mortality.

Was this really Endeavor's son?

"Well, regardless," Hawks said, smiling at him, "you did good. Now you gotta rest, got it?"

Todoroki blinked, and he nodded uncertainly. His eyes trailed along the room dazedly. He looked like he might fall asleep on the spot.

"You were talking to someone," he said quietly.

Hawks sat, smile still plastered on his face, and he tilted his head.

"What?" he asked.

Todoroki glanced up at him. He inhaled sharply.

"I could hear you," he said. "There was someone else there, when I woke up."

Hawks blinked. He tried to think of a plausible lie, but he couldn't because, he knew that Todoroki knew that Dabi had been there. Deku had told the police everything according to how he had remembered it, and Hawks had just echoed his story.

Before he could respond, the door burst open.

"Holy shit!" a teenager cried, half hanging in the doorway. His white hair was style away from his face, and his gray eyes were wide. "You're okay! You're okay— Yumi, he's—!"

"Shouto!" A petite young woman ducked beneath the white haired boy's arm, her own white hair tossed up in a messy bun. She rushed to Todoroki's bedside, not quite registering Hawks's presence, and she halted suddenly, like a barrier had been flung up between Todoroki and herself. "Oh, god, okay. Okay, you don't look so bad. When they said you'd fallen over a cliff—"

"Yumi was crying all the way over," the white haired boy said, dropping onto Todoroki's bed casually. "I was like, come on, he's totally fine, don't be such a baby—"

"You were not," the girl, Yumi, huffed. "You were biting your nails like a fiend! You're not as cool as you think you are, Natsu."

"Whaaaaat?" Natsu gasped, his hand clutching his chest. "How dare you? How fucking dare you?"

Todoroki blinked rapidly, his eyes flickering curiously between the two throughout this exchange.

"Hi," he said weakly.

"He speaks!" Natsu gasped, grinning broadly. "Look at you, you're just fine. We really didn't know what to expect coming in here."

"No one tells us anything!" Yumi gasped, her shoulders taut. "We just knew that you fell off a cliff, and you had to stay in the hospital. Dad didn't even—"

"I'm okay," Todoroki cut in sharply. His expression twisted in irritation. "I'm fine. It's just a concussion."

"Just a concussion, he says," Natsu muttered. His gray eyes found Hawks, and for a moment he looked startled. "Huh? Aren't you that hero?"

Yumi jerked back, seeming to also notice Hawks for the first time. She stared down at him for a moment, her eyebrows furrowing.

"Hawks," she said, blinking rapidly. "Right? You saved Shouto. And our father."

"Eh." Hawks shrugged. He had to think on this new knowledge, because he had not known that Endeavor had had any kids besides Todoroki Shouto. But looking at the two of them now, he saw it clear as day.

"Humble," Natsu remarked, leaning back on Todoroki's bed. He cocked his head lazily at Hawks, an expression on his face that he found… unsettling. "Thanks for saving our boy. He's kind of an idiot, so we appreciate the help."

"And thank you for helping our father too," Yumi gasped, bowing her head respectfully. "We know he can be… um… a handful."

"To say the fucking least," Natsu scoffed. He glanced at Hawks, and he smiled bitterly. "Thanks from her, not from me. In my opinion, you should've just let the Nomu or the villain get him."

"Natsu!" Yumi reprimanded him sharply.

Hawks sat in silence, trying to digest his words but not quite grasping it. Did Endeavor's son just tell him that he should have let Endeavor die?

"Fuyumi's right, Natsuo," Todoroki said. His voice was flat. "If Hawks didn't save dad, then we'd never get to see his awful scar."

"Oooh, true!" Natsuo clapped his fist in his hand. "He really does hate that thing. Serves him right, the bastard."

"Stop," Fuyumi gasped, "the both of you! Can't we be together for five minutes without you making fun of him?"

"Why?" Natsuo asked. "It's not like he matters?"

"Is that soba?" Todoroki asked suddenly, leaning forward toward Fuyumi. She had a plastic bag hanging from her arm, and she blinked down at it.

"Oh, I nearly forgot!" She pulled a plastic container from the bag, and she offered it to him. "We made it special just for you."

"Cold?" he asked softly.

"Just for you," Natsuo said, lying back on Todoroki's bed. His head rested on Todoroki's feet.

"You're both Todoroki's older siblings?" Hawks asked curiously. "I had no idea Endeavor had more kids."

Natsuo's face darkened, and he glared up at the ceiling. Todoroki tapped the lid of the container anxiously. Fuyumi stared at him, her fingers intertwining and wringing before him.

"Oh," she said with a nervous laugh. "Yeah. The three of us weren't allowed out much."

"The three of you?" Hawks asked, glancing at the three siblings confusedly.

"No, not Shouto, obviously," she said quickly. "Me, Natsuo, and our other brother."

"Oh, there's one more?"

Other brother

"Um…" Fuyumi's smile was stretched thin. Natsuo laid on the hospital bed, his arms beneath his head, and he seemed to want to fade right into the thin cotton blanket. Todoroki merely stared at them, looking as lost as Hawks felt. "Yeah. It's a long story. Are you not hungry, Shouto?"

"Thirsty," Todoroki admitted.

"Oh, I can grab you something to drink! Water?"

"Yes… thanks." Todoroki seemed to slump.

"Let me go with you," Hawks said, rising to his feet. Natsuo cracked an eye open and watched him warily.

"Oh, thank you," Fuyumi said, smiling at him brightly. "Natsuo, do you want something?"

"Red Bull."

Fuyumi's smile remained in place.

"Okay," she said, sounding strained. "I'll get you an energy drink, you demon."

Hawks followed Fuyumi out the door, and for a few moments he began to feel guilty. Then he decided that of all his transgressions, sweet-talking a young woman into telling him about her brother was hardly the worst of it.

"I'm sorry for all of that," she confessed, her fingers knotting together. "They're monsters, the two of them. I can't control them."

"You're the oldest?" he asked.

She nodded vacantly. "Not by much," she sighed. "Touya is only a year younger than me, and he always liked to act like the oldest."

"Huh." Hawks nodded vacantly. The missing sibling, the awkward gaps in conversations, the way they spoke about their father. It was all… a little too much, right? "So why isn't he here?"

Fuyumi's lips caught between her teeth as she walked quickly, as if she was trying to outrun the question. Hawks struggled to keep up with her and keep a leisurely pace.

"Oh," Fuyumi sighed, rubbing her forehead. "It's all very complicated. Touya's been gone for a while now, and… well, I don't know. It's not a nice story."

Hawks chewed on the inside of his cheek. Now this was interesting.

"Most stories aren't," Hawks agreed, "but aren't they the ones that need to be told the most?"

Fuyumi glanced up at him. She frowned up at him, and then tipped her head as lazily as Natsuo.

"I'm not sure," she said, "but you should trust me when I say it's not good."

The intrigue only seemed to grow, and Hawks couldn't help but jump to messy conclusions. He felt like he understood what was happening, but he couldn't act on it without even a slight confirmation.

"You think because I work with your dad, I won't understand, right?" Hawks shook his head, watching Fuyumi stiffen. "Listen, whatever happened, whatever you guys are keeping to yourselves, I get it. I won't pry. But if something really bad did happen to your brother, why wasn't that in the press?"

"My father…" Fuyumi sighed, whisking her fingers through her fluffy white hair. "He's always been good at covering things up."

A coverup? Oh fuck .

"I'm sorry," Fuyumi murmured as they got in line at the hospital cafeteria. "I shouldn't burden you with my family drama. Touya is gone, and we… we don't really know the extent of why, but the how is… it's just sad. Please don't judge us too harshly, we… didn't really understand what was happening until it was too late."

Hawks stared down at her. The ominous nature of her statement made him feel worse as he tried to back away from his theorizing and recognize that this family was so much more fucked up than he had originally anticipated.

"No," Hawks said, bowing his head. "I'm sorry. I'm making you dig up old feelings that you're not comfortable with."

Fuyumi stared ahead of her for a few moments, her eyes glassy. Then they hardened.

"I care about my father," she said, her voice cold. "I do. But what happened— what happened to my siblings, it still bothers me. I should have been able to stop it, but I couldn't, and now Shouto's bitter and confused, and Touya's comatose up in Jakku somewhere, and I don't really know what to do."

"Whatever happened, it isn't your fault," Hawks told her gently.

"No," she said quietly, "but my ignorance of Touya's condition right now? That is."

"Why don't you ask Ende— your dad?" Hawks suggested. He realized quickly he shouldn't use Endeavor's name in public. Not with this kind of information.

Fuyumi gave a bitter laugh, and she struck a stray tear from her cheek.

"Mr. Hawks," she said politely, "I don't think you quite get how ridiculous that question is."

Fair enough.

Fuyumi dug a handful of yen out of her pocket as they reached the counter, and Hawks quickly slid his card across the counter's surface.

"A water, a Red Bull, a small coffee, and…?" He glanced down at Fuyumi, who frowned at his card.

"Please," Fuyumi sighed, "they're my brothers, let me—"

"Unless you're using your dad's money, I can't in good conscience let you pay for anything," Hawks said flatly. "So what will it be? Tea?"

"Coffee is fine," she said, blinking rapidly in astonishment.

They had to make the coffee themselves. Fuyumi held the water bottle and Red Bull in her arms as Hawks poured the steaming black liquid into a Styrofoam cup, capping it without thought and setting it aside.

"Room for cream and sugar in yours?" he asked.

"I'll take it black, thank you," Fuyumi said, her eyes growing distant.

"Long night?" he asked, pouring the coffee into her cup and keeping one eye on her face.

She sighed, tucking her hair behind one ear. "I want to stay with Shouto," she said firmly. "I know they'll let me, because I'm family. He was alone last night, but now that he's awake and lucid, I'd really like to just… be here for him."

Hawks paused. The coffee pot dangled in his fist, and he carefully set it down. He wondered if she knew that saying she was staying overnight for Todoroki would have sounded more casual than this explanation, which offered him some idea of the strain in their relationship.

Something was going on here, and as much as Hawks admired Endeavor, he had a feeling the hero was entirely responsible.

That fucking sucked.

"Good thinking," Hawks said, popping a lid on her coffee and handing it to her. "He's been through a lot, and having someone here will probably help him recover."

She nodded eagerly. "That's what I'm thinking," she gasped. "I mean, Natsu can't because he has a test tomorrow, and my dad is… uh…"

"Your dad," Hawks said, beginning to catch onto this general discomfort surrounding Endeavor and his children. "Got it."

She smiled, her eyes fluttering down toward her coffee. "They're mad at me," she confessed.

"Who? Your brothers?"

She nodded, her teeth gnawing at her lower lip. "They don't like that I'm trying to give our father a chance," she sighed. "You know him, right? You get it. He's… flawed, but maybe… I mean, if he's trying to change, shouldn't we encourage that?"

"I think it depends on what he did to you to make all of you hate him so much," Hawks said candidly.

Fuyumi watched him for a moment, and then she turned away without a word. Damn, this family had a way with words, huh?

Hawks followed her curiously. He'd never meant to get mixed up in Endeavor's family drama, but now that he had an insight to it, he couldn't help but cling on to scraps of information. It was, quite simply, weird. Endeavor was generally pretty private, so Hawks had never thought much of the fact that the public knew little about his family, but now it all seemed suspicious.

The annoying thing about all of this was that Hawks truly liked Endeavor.

Fucking hell.

"Forgiveness is hard," Hawks told Fuyumi suddenly. She eyed the floor, not really all that interested in him anymore. "I can't give you the answers, Todoroki."

"Fuyumi is fine," she sighed. "You can't go around calling all of us Todoroki, that'd just be confusing."

"Can I call you Fuyumi-chan?" Hawks asked her cheekily.

"Please don't push your luck."

"Valid."

If Hawks were a different man, he'd actually probably find Fuyumi cute. Her anxious nature was endearing, and every time Hawks turned up the charm she evaded it with ease, which surprised him. For such a nervous girl, he expected her to be easily flustered, but she was more aloof and distant than he had given her credit for.

A Todoroki through and through.

Unfortunately, Hawks wasn't all that interested in her. He wished he was, because that would make life easier, but he wasn't.

"I'm sorry," Hawks said as they walked down the corridor. "I can't help much with advice."

"It's okay," Fuyumi said, shaking her head. "The fact that you're listening at all is— you know, you're very kind, Hawks. I don't know what I expected of the Number Two Hero, but you're not it."

"I'm just lazy," Hawks snorted, rolling his shoulders. "Don't expect too much from me, please."

Fuyumi laughed, and Hawks stared at her. It was a sound that he found startlingly familiar, just pitched higher and a little less boisterous.

"It's funny," she said. "You don't seem interested in becoming Number One at all."

"Why would I?" Hawks asked with a huff. "All that work? The expectations? I'm annoyed I'm in the top ten to begin with."

Fuyumi ducked her head, her white hair shielding her face from view.

"Maybe," she said, "that's why you deserve it."

Hawks frowned at that. He really didn't like the idea that people thought he deserved something he explicitly did not want because he said he didn't want it. It seemed counterproductive.

By the time they got to Todoroki's hallway, they could hear muffled shouting. The expression that crossed Fuyumi's face was barely contained horror as she shuffled hurriedly toward Todoroki's door.

"What's going on in here?" she gasped, throwing the door open and stumbling inside. Hawks lingered outside the door until he heard her gasp in horror, and shakily cry, "Dad, put him down!"

Hawks rushed into the room, finding himself staring at the unfolding scene confusedly. Todoroki was out of his bed, leaning against it for support as he struggled to reach for his father, who had plucked Natsuo up like a doll.

"Come on, sis," Natsuo laughed, allowing himself to be dangled, "what'd you expect?"

Endeavor dropped him, and Natsuo sunk to the floor, grasping at his throat with a grimace. For a moment, Endeavor deigned to look a bit horrified, and then he shook his head.

"I can visit my own son," he said sharply.

"Tell that to Touya," Natsuo hissed, glaring at the floor. Fuyumi had dropped the water and energy drink and swept toward him. He raised a hand, causing her to stop in her tracks. "Yumi, don't. Get Shouto back in bed."

Fuyumi looked torn. Her eyes flickered from Natsuo to Shouto, both of them on the floor, though Shouto seemed a bit worse for wear. His skin was waxen, his eyes glazed over, and Hawks could hear him breathing unevenly as he clutched at his cot, struggling to pull himself to his feet.

Deciding fast, Hawks set the coffees down on the nearest flat surface and rushed to Natsuo's side.

"Here," he said, offering him his hand. He could feel Endeavor's alarmed and furious stare. Natsuo blinked up at him, his eyes widening. Then a small smirk stretched on his lips, and he caught Hawks's hand. Hawks lifted him to his feet, and then glanced up at Endeavor. "Hey. Long time no see."

"What are you doing here?" Endeavor demanded.

Hawks didn't bother pretending to be affronted. "I'm visiting this kid," he said, gesturing vaguely to Todoroki. "He was in rough shape last time I saw him, so I wanted to make sure he was okay."

"Hawks saved me," Todoroki said with a furious bite to his voice, something that Hawks had not heard once in the short span that they'd known each other. Not even the villains had received this anger. "Leave Natsu and him alone."

Endeavor looked down his nose at Hawks. "You saved my son?" he hissed.

"Don't act like it's that surprising," Hawks said, rubbing the back of his neck. "You and I have fought together before."

"I didn't think my son would need saving," Endeavor said stiffly. He looked uncomfortable. "If this is truly the case I—" He grimaced, his scarred cheek twitching. "I apologize for my behavior."

"Wo-o-ow," Natsuo drawled, his voice dropping to a point that was eerily familiar. "That's what it takes to get an apology out of you? The Number Two Hero strolling in fifteen minutes late with hospital brew?"

"I'm not finished speaking with you," Endeavor told Natsuo briskly. "Wait outside."

"I'm not a child anymore, you can't just send me away and ignore me while you're antagonizing my siblings!" Natsuo's face grew red with the mounting rage that shook his shoulders and fists. "Shouto said he doesn't want you here! You go!"

"Is that true, Shouto?" Fuyumi whispered urgently. "Did you tell him to leave?"

Todoroki seemed to shrink in her arms. He couldn't fully support himself, and Natsuo assumed it was because he was dizzy and nauseated from the concussion. When he didn't immediately answer, Fuyumi pulled him tighter to her, despite being smaller than him, and he rested his cheek against her head.

"Yeah," he croaked. "I— I want him gone."

Fuyumi inhaled sharply. Todoroki stared at Endeavor, and there was nothing in his gaze. Not anger, not sadness, not even a flicker of uncertainty. He just looked coldly upon his father, and then turned his face into Fuyumi's shoulder. She cupped the back of his head in her hand, and shot Endeavor a sharp look.

"Please go," she said softly. "I don't want to yell at you. Not now."

Endeavor looked at her, his eyes simmering with a series of emotions that flashed along his bluish greenish gaze like a slide-show— shock, and then regret, and then a burning despair, and then finally rage.

"We will speak of this when we get home," he warned her. His eyes flashed down at Natuso, his nostrils flaring. He stalked out of the room brushing past Hawks and allowing his heavy footfalls to echo down the hallway.

All three siblings let out a shaky breath as one cohesive, anxious whole.

"That was…" Hawks frowned.

"Yeah," Natsuo grumbled, rubbing his throat. "Don't think too hard on it."

"I'm sorry, Shouto," Fuyumi murmured into Todoroki's ear. "He really has been better lately, I'm not sure what's gotten into him."

"He's mad I got hurt," Todoroki grumbled.

"It's true," Natsuo said. "He came in here and made a fuss about how Shouto's supposed to be better than this, and how he let that kid, Midoriya, scoop him up out of the water like a princess."

"Technically Deku got there after me," Hawks said. "But, uh… Midoriya did carry him back to safety."

"He's my friend," Todoroki said fiercely. "My father doesn't get to make me feel like shit because I have a real friend now. I don't care if we're supposed to be rivals."

"And that's what Shouto said to really push him over the edge," Natsuo said, folding his arms across his chest. "I tried to mediate, but…"

"He was already angry because of me," Todoroki said quietly. "You shouldn't have put yourself between us, Natsu."

"I'm your big brother," Natsuo said softly, his eyes growing dim and sad as he smiled. "That's kinda my job."

Hawks realized he was no longer the mediating force, and now intruding on the siblings' moment.

"I'm going to go," he said, smiling tightly as he jerked two thumbs toward the door. "But… here." He dug out his phone and tossed it to Fuyumi. She caught it, blinking rapidly down at it. "Take my number. All of you. Call me if you need help."

Fuyumi took a moment to watch him warily before silently adding her number into his phone. She took a few moments, presumably to text herself, and then handed the phone back to him.

"Thanks," she said quietly.

Hawks smiled at her. He waved, and then left them to one another.

Well, confirming this little theory was going to be fun.

All in all, it took about a week to track down the name of the hospital. Knowing that the hospital was in Jakku helped quite a bit, and he wrote a note to himself to remind him to buy Todoroki Fuyumi lunch sometime to thank her for telling him even as much as she did.

"Hello," Hawks said, tipping his head to the woman at the desk, "I was told Todoroki Touya was staying here?"

The woman stared at him. Her brow furrowed.

"Touya," she repeated. Her face looked a bit stricken. "Oh dear, no one has asked for him since— oh, I'm really quite sorry. He isn't here any longer."

Hawks's smile dimmed. Damn, this was looking grim.

"I'm Hawks," he said, pushing down the hood of his sweatshirt and causing the woman to jump. "I've been doing research into a villain, and I think Touya might be connected to him."

"Oh, not Touya," the woman gasped, clutching her chest. "You don't think he was kidnapped, do you? We always thought he ran away, but… oh." The woman blanched, looking vaguely sickened at the thought.

"Touya was awake, then?" Hawks asked. "Before he… what…? Disappeared?"

She nodded firmly. "Oh, he woke up about two years ago. It was dreadful business, what had happened to him, but he was very eager to get better. He truly was the kindest boy, trying to help around the hospital when he could move again. He even wore masks so not to scare the children."

Oh fuck me, I guess.

"Mask?" Hawks asked gently.

The woman nodded, her expression crumpling. "That poor boy," she whispered. "His quirk— you know, this hospital has a ward specifically for children who cannot control their quirks? That was where he was for most of his time here. He was so handsome before the accident, but I suppose he took it well, all things considering. He didn't cry much when we showed him a mirror. Ah!" She shook her head furiously. "I'm getting ahead of myself. You think he was kidnapped, yes?"

"Right."

"Well…" The woman glanced around quickly. She dropped a sign onto her desk and stood up. "Come, then. I'll show you his file."

Hawks followed her obediently. Truth be told, he was nervous. There was a difference between suspecting something and knowing it, and he had not thought far enough to justify this escapade.

He tried not to think too hard as they walked through the Quirk Accidents ward. A few children eyed him curiously, but many of them looked to be in too bad a shape to even noticed there was a hero among them.

"Here we are," the woman said, plucking a file from a cabinet and handing it to him. "Touya came to us maybe eight years ago. His condition was… frankly, it was appalling."

Hawks watched her for a moment, unable to fully digest her words, and he took a deep breath.

"He had a fire quirk, right?" he asked softly.

The woman glanced up at him, and she nodded solemnly. "Why don't I make copied of that," she said gesturing to the file. "If you find him… well, I would like to know at the very least. Even if the worst has happened to him."

Hawks left the hospital clutching the file to his chest, and feeling sick all the way home. He had not looked at it, but it weighed heavy in his hands, like the papers were weights and he was being bogged down.

He returned to his apartment, set down the file, and thought for a few moments that maybe he was wrong.

Avoiding the file was like playing catch with the devil. He tried to occupy his mind with making himself dinner, with watching the news, with turning on music, but his eyes kept swerving back to it.

"Okay," he murmured to himself, clearing off his table and staring down at it. "Okay. Here we go."

He flipped the folder open and was greeted with the frowning face of Todoroki Touya.

The boy was about thirteen. His hair was as bold and red as Endeavor's, unruly and thick. His ears stuck out of his hair, and silver hoops stuck out of his cartilage. Another silver hoop was stuck in his right nostril.

His eyes were that unearthly shade of bluish green that watched Hawks knowingly.

"Well," Hawks said, picking up the copy of the photo and holding it to the light, "fuck."

The file told him all he needed to know, and so he found himself at a loss. He felt like he had breached Dabi's privacy in this hunt for answers, and it got to the point where Hawks forgot that he was supposed to hate him.

Contacting him was an entirely confusing affair. No calling, so Hawks sent a simple text and waited.

We should meet.

And he waited. And he waited. A day passed, and he anxiously checked his phone. He returned to the file and flipped through it uncertainly. The words were beginning to blur together, and the picture of the youthful, pouty Todoroki Touya burned into his brain.

The most troubling thing was the timing of it all.

According to his siblings, Todoroki never exhibited violent behavior before.

It was almost like the incident had happened out of nowhere.

Though no harm had come to his siblings, Todoroki's outburst caused immense damage to his own body.

At thirteen, you'd think a kid would know the damage his quirk could do. Had something happened to instigate him?

Todoroki Touya's face was barely salvageable. Skin grafts were administered once he was declared stable.

The details of the incident report made him feel intensely nauseated. He kept flipping through it like a masochist, absorbing the horrible nature of Dabi's burns and subsequent surgeries.

So many surgeries.

No wonder the guy was so fucking crazy.

After two days, Hawks began to go stir crazy. What if he was wrong? What if he addressed the matter, and Dabi straight up tried to kill him? Was he willing to risk this entire operation just for one hunch?

If he had to be honest, he wasn't entirely sure why he hadn't just turned this information in to begin with.

He pushed his food around his plate and threw away more than he ate. His bed felt hard and lumpy, too hot and too cold all at once. He found himself lagging in interviews, missing words and only truly hearing half a question before asking for the host to repeat.

One night, a week and a half into this half-life he had settled into, he rolled from one side of the bed to the other, his blankets tangling around his legs and his wings folding and unfolding impatiently.

Exhaustion had settled into his bones. He tried to think of other things, to tame his wayward mind with thoughts of tomorrow and the next day, but his mind was stuck on the past. He was enveloped in it, and he could feel it swallowing him up bit by bit.

He exhibits signs of amnesia, not recognizing his own name.

Hawks dragged his hand over his eyes, and he groaned. Why couldn't he get this goddamn guy out of his head?

Beside him, his phone began to convulse like a child possessed, and Hawks scooped it up furiously.

Mortis Pier, one hour. Wear black.

Hawks kicked back his covers and leapt off the bed. He moved so quickly, he felt his feathers flutter anxiously. He tugged on a pair of black jeans, a black Queen tee shirt, and a leather jacket. He shoved on a black baseball cap for good measure, tucked his phone into his pocket, and fled his apartment.

The anxiety was getting to him. Hawks had never considered himself an anxious person before, but right now, he felt like he had downed five espresso shots and was too jittery to even think about sitting in place. His entire flight to the pier was filled with him checking his phone, noting the odd hour, toying with the picture of Todoroki Touya in his pocket, and maybe even considering texting Todoroki Fuyumi to warn her. His mind was sludge.

Mortis was a sprawling lake, and Hawks almost didn't find Dabi in time. He skidded onto the wooden planks, his wings unfurled and quivering.

Dabi turned slowly to look at him, eyes widening a bit.

"Oho," he drawled, raising his glass beer bottle, "look who decided to show up."

"You didn't exactly give me much notice," he said.

Dabi shrugged. He took a swig of his beer, and his eyes trailed over Hawks's face mistily. "Didn't really expect you to show," he said simply.

Before Hawks could object, Dabi strolled toward him and grasped him by the chin.

"Hold still," he muttered, his breath hitting Hawks in the face. His clear intoxication did not quite muddle the sudden and inexplicable nerves that hit Hawks as Dabi's fingers, featherlight and then scratchy, grazed his skin. Something cold slipped between his mouth and his nose, and he held his breath. He felt a pinch, and for a moment he merely stared at Dabi's face as it hovered close, his scarred mouth tight with concentration.

"There," Dabi said, leaning back. "Now you look a lil' less… mmm…" Dabi rolled his shoulders, and he knocked the cool, perspiring bottom of the beer bottle against Hawks's cheek. "Heroic."

Hawks raised his hand to his nose, and found a fake metal ring was now attached to his septum.

"Really?" Hawks asked, eyeing Dabi in annoyance. "Septums are ugly."

"You're ugly," Dabi retorted sharply, grabbing Hawks by the arm and dragging him down the dock toward the sand. "You think you can just show up? Looking like you do? No. Fuckin' heroes."

"How much have you had to drink?" Hawks asked him tentatively.

"Not enough," Dabi said, taking another swig from his bottle. He passed it to him immediately after, nearly pushing the lip of the bottle into Hawks's teeth. "Have some, Mr. Hero. I hate how straight-laced you are. Live a little."

Hawks licked his lips uncertainly. The photo of Todoroki Touya burned a hole in his pocket.

What the hell, right?

"What the hell, right?" Hawks tipped the bottle back, and wondered if the people who had handpicked him for this mission would think he was such a perfect spy if they could see him now.

The sound of music, which had been prevalent since Hawks had flown into the vicinity of the lake, had become deafening. A crowd of people had gathered beneath a stone bridge where water had receded, and driftwood clogged the sand. Dabi's nails dug into Hawks's arm as he pushed through the crowd with ease, dragging Hawks along with him.

It was a concert. The band was playing on a makeshift stage made out of shipment crates and tarps. The stage-lights were a series of string-lights in various sizes, shapes, and colors. The band's equipment looked old and beaten up, but the sound quality resonated clear, and Hawks could feel the music in his soul as the vibrations shot through him with every drum of the bass.

"Wow," he said. Dabi didn't respond. They had somehow made it to the front.

The singer was a tall, slender woman, with a quirk that made her hair look like it was made of snakes. In the dim fairy lights, the scales of them gleamed, and they appeared both white and black and red and blue all at once, glimmering incandescently in the haze of smoke that poured out from the crowd and the mist coming off the nearby lake.

Dabi moved, and Hawks looked up at him.

He was saying something.

His mouth was moving.

"What?"

Dabi paused. He blinked at him. He said something again.

The bass was drumming, and Hawks's soul was reverberating inside him, leaping and squirming and begging to be set free.

The music was fairly simple, and the lead singer's voice was alarmingly soft and sweet despite the harshness of the guitar and the resounding pounding of the drums. She sang with the lightness of feathers but the bite of steel.

He knew what that felt like, and he was entranced.

"This is wonderful," he said.

Dabi didn't hear him. His fingers curled around Hawks's bicep as he began to move along to the music, his expression softening and brightening as the songs bled into one another. He shoved his beer into Hawks's hands and pulled a cigarette from behind his ear.

With a single finger, and the paper dangling between his teeth, he lit the end of it. Blue fire crisped the edges of the cigarette, and Hawks realized quickly what it actually was.

"Cheap tricks, get lit," he remarked. Dabi glanced down at him, and he popped the bottle between his lips so he didn't say anything else. The beer was going lukewarm, and the taste of it washed between his teeth, making him feel bloated and tired. The rhythmic music had woken him up from a stupor he had not quite realized he'd been in, but the alcohol was dragging him back down.

The lead singer, whose name she said was Hitomi, had a poetic stint that came across in softer songs. But even these seemed to be pumped with adrenaline, and Dabi's shoulders kept smacking into him, his fingers wound tightly around his arm, his body leaning in and leaning out, tipping like a pendulum.

"You hold fast and hold true,

Little boy who dreams of blue,

Whose wings bore a fact

Which remains that

Children must go where father can't follow,

When young Icarus loved Apollo."

Featherlight fingers brushed his chin. Hawks allowed his head to be turned, and he blinked at the joint waved in his face.

Dabi's lips moved, but Hawks had no idea what he was saying.

"What?" he asked, leaning forward.

Dabi stared at him. He rolled his eyes, took a drag, and with his thumb wedged open Hawks's bottom lip.

He liked to tell himself that if he had known what was going to happen next, he would have stopped it, but the truth was… well, he just wouldn't have.

When he opened his mouth, dazed by the feeling of Dabi's thumb pressing against his lip, he didn't quite recognize the dipping motion of Dabi's head as he swooped down and covered Hawks's mouth with his own.

His mind went blank as he tried to process the goings on.

He forgot to breath.

And then smoke filled his mouth, and the realization hit him.

Right. Right, right, right. It wasn't a kiss.

He breathed in, pulling the smoke from Dabi's tongue, and finding it hard to focus as he recognized the feeling of his tongue as it whisked against his teeth.

It wasn't a kiss.

Fuck, Hawks thought dazedly as Dabi pulled back, his cheek sliding against his own and the staples scraping against his skin. He shivered as he blew smoke through his nose.

"Cheap tricks, get lit," Dabi murmured in his ear, "right?"

"Oh," Hawks choked, shoving him back. "Fuck you, man."

Dabi's grin was bright and incandescent, as otherworldly as Hitomi's hair.

When the concert was over and the crowd dispersed, Hawks shouldered Dabi and dragged him along the sand. The night was dark, and their ears were ringing, and their voices were hoarse as they took jabs at one another in the dim moonlight.

"Not your first high," Dabi remarked accusingly. He pointed at Hawks's face, wrinkling his nose. "Shit. I hate that. I thought I was gonna get you, but you ain't so straight-laced, hero."

"I don't get why you are so convinced I am," Hawks said with a snort. With a single hit, it wasn't exactly the mind altering experience one expected. He couldn't fake being high, not when Dabi was… well, for lack of a better term, totally fucked. "I'm hanging out with you, aren't I?"

"I've got it in my head that you're still a hero," Dabi muttered, dragging his hand through his hair. "Even if the boss trusts you… fuck… I dunno…"

He dug a crumpled packet of cigarettes— these ones presumably real— from his jeans. He shook out one, and then offered Hawks the carton. Without a word, Hawks took it and slipped one out.

"Am I that untrustworthy?" Hawks asked, watching Dabi clamber onto a rock. He snapped his fingers, and both his and Hawks's cigarettes lit with a bright burst of blue.

"Dunno," Dabi said, prying off his boots. "Haven't decided."

"Hmm…" Hawks sat down next to him. He watched Dabi peel off his socks. "Going for a swim?"

Dabi grunted. He rolled up his jeans, and then dipped his toes in the water. Dabi noted that his toes up to his calves were all pallid skin. No scarring. Just as the file said.

"Only if the great pro hero Hawks likes skinny dipping."

Hawks laughed at that. He shrugged off his jacket so his wings could breathe.

"You're real talkative when you're drunk. High? Crossfaded."

Dabi's foot skimmed the surface of the lake. He shrugged, his head tipping from side to side.

"Don't get used to it," he grumbled.

"Why?"

"I don't trust you."

"So you say." Hawks sighed, and he leaned forward so his face was in Dabi's line of sight. "Come on, Dabi. You don't just invite people to a concert at two in the morning, get heavily intoxicated, and then claim you don't trust them."

"I don't," Dabi said defensively.

"Then why am I here?"

Dabi bristled. "Go home then," he snapped. "What do I care?"

"Dabi," Hawks said gently. "You wanted to talk to me."

Dabi's brow furrowed, and he shrunk a bit at that. There was panic in his eyes, and he reminded Hawks of a wounded animal caught in a trap.

This close, Hawks could see all the imperfections of his face. The ugly ridges of his purple scars, the chapped, peeling skin of his upper lip, the staples sunken into his cheeks, the steel in his nose, the length of his lashes, the line of his cheekbones, and the turquoise glint of his eyes.

"Turquoise," Hawks muttered, finding himself utterly baffled by the revelation.

Dabi tilted his head. "Huh?"

"Nothing." Hawks shook his head. "What was I saying?"

"Some bullshit. I dunno."

Hawks took a drag on the cigarette and studied Dabi intently. He wondered how it had come to this— how he had gone from approaching this man with a sword to bumming cigarettes off him in the cold winter morning. Part of him hated it, but another part was enthralled by this entire experience.

They really had made a mistake sending him into this.

He wondered who would regret it more, the heroes or Hawks.

They sat in silence, listening to the splash of the lake water as it lapped against the rock. Bits of ice bumped up against the shore. The horizon looked milky as daylight threatened to split heaven and earth apart.

"That was nice," Hawks said. He was careful not to meet Dabi's eye as he glanced at him. "The concert? It was nice. Too nice to be held at two in the morning."

"The Gorgons are part of a larger organized, mmm," Dabi hummed, plucking his cigarette from his mouth and waving wildly, "whazzit called? Union? I dunno. They're part of this group of artists who will play for anyone. Secret concerts for villains, prison concerts for felons, charity concerts for heroes. I wanted to be one of them."

"Oh?" That caught Hawks's attention. "You're a musician?"

"Used to be."

His hands, half callused skin and half mottled burns, curled around his cigarette. Smoke drifted toward the sky in delicate tendrils, and his breath unfurled in a mixture of smoke and mist. His eyelashes drifted toward his mangled cheeks.

"Talk to me," Hawks begged. He heard himself begging, and it felt odd. He watched Dabi examine his cigarette, eyes glazed over. "You know that you can't keep yourself a secret forever."

"Best kept secrets are made to die for," Dabi mumbled.

"Kill me if I tell, then," Hawks said, the declaration like a clap of thunder in the dark morning. "I'm willing if you are."

Dabi glanced at him, laughed sharply, and flicked his cigarette into the glassy black water.

"Such a hero," he drawled, his palm scraping Hawks's cheek as he patted it hard. "Stupid hero. Funny hero. Don't trade your life for a monster."

It was like the more he smoke, the deeper Hawks found himself under an enchantment. It was like varnishing a painting and seeing it become new.

"You're not a monster," Hawks told him softly.

Dabi sat, swaying against the icy wind, and he dragged his knuckles over his cheeks and grasped at his hair.

"No?" he muttered. "No? Fuck you, you dunno. You dunno— nothing, you know nothing, you're just a dumb hero—"

"I know you didn't ask for this, Touya," Hawks said, leaning as close as he dared and watching Dabi shrink into himself.

"I don't—" Dabi's mouth clamped shut. His knuckles were white against his black hair, and for a moment he sat, shaking, before his turquoise eyes slid sharply to Hawks's face. His lower lip trembled. "What did you just call me?"

Hawks did not flinch.

He sat and let Dabi glare at him. He let Dabi blink rapidly, his eyes darting around him furiously, like he was looking for a way to escape. His shoulders quaked, and his hands drew up over his head, rustling his unruly hair.

Hawks saw the fist coming, but he didn't have the will to stop it.

It was less of a punch than a closed palmed slap, and the impact sent him sprawling against the rock, his hands scraping against the icy earth.

"Fuck you," Dabi spat. "How the hell—"

He had stood up too fast, and Hawks watched with a gaping mouth, his ear ringing, as Dabi crashed backwards into the lake.

Hawks scrambled to the edge, watching Dabi bob in the water for a moment, his eyes so big that they were mostly the whites of them.

Then, without warning, he let himself get sucked back down.

"Dabi?" Hawks uttered, fear trickling through him.

Two feathers detached from his wings and struck the water with a splash. Relief flooded him as they plucked Dabi from the water, black hair plastered to his face and his dark clothing weighing him down.

He hung limply in the air, his eyes glazed over.

"What the fuck was that?" Hawks demanded, standing up on the rock. "Did you just try to drown yourself?"

"Bitch," Dabi mumbled, his knees wobbling as the feathers deposited him onto the rock. Water fell from him in thick rivulets. "Mmm… maybe."

"What the hell?" Hawks murmured, guilt lashing at him like the cold wind.

Dabi swayed for a moment before crashing to his knees and hurling his guts out over the side of the rock and into the lake.

To be fair, Hawks had been anticipating this happening much more than Dabi straight up trying to kill himself, but whatever. He just had to keep on his toes with this one, right?

He stamped out his cigarette and knelt down beside Dabi was he vomited violently. The retching did not stop until dawn seemed to creep with a certainty across the sky, and he heaved and coughed. Dabi reached into the water shakily, cupping his hands and taking small, greedy gulps from the icy lake.

For a few moments they knelt there. Dabi's dazed eyes flickered to Hawks, and he swayed in place.

Hawks bit his tongue as he watched thin rivulets of blood seep from beneath his waxy skin, bubbling up over the staples and trailing down his cheeks.

Dabi fell forward, his eyes rolling back, and Hawks lurched toward him, catching him as he collapsed. His head hung limply back, strings of his hair dangling, and his breath rattled.

Dawn crystallized the lake and the sand, and the brightness of it all stung Hawks's eyes. Even Dabi, pallid and mangled, scarred and thin, seemed luminescent as the sun peeked its brilliant head over the peaks of the mountains and the shiny spires of the city.

Absently, Hawks cradled Dabi's head. He was lighter than Hawks had expected, even with the water weighing him down.

Very gently, Hawks wiped the blood from Dabi's cheeks. His skin was hot, and he retracted his fingers instinctively.

Knowing it was a bad idea, and knowing he was making a huge mistake, Hawks pulled Dabi onto his back and took off. His wings beat at the cold morning air.

Not comfortable with removing Dabi's wet clothes, and knowing well enough that his body temperature was naturally hotter than hell, the most Hawks did to soothe him was take off his boots and socks and toss a few heated blankets over him.

In the time it took Dabi to wake up, Hawks had showered, fallen asleep, woken up, cleaned his apartment, and began preparing a meal.

Dabi stumbled out of Hawks's bedroom, his hair in complete disarray and his clothing crumpled. He swayed for a moment, blinking around at the open space and white walls and plush carpet.

"Hey," Hawks greeted, sliding a pill and a glass of water toward him. "Good morning, you little bitch."

Dabi sneered at him, snatched the painkiller and the water and gulped them both down in an instant.

"This is your home?" he rasped, his voice very shaky. "Fucking hero. What do you make in a year?"

"Not telling you," Hawks said, returning to his pot full of miso soup. "And not to be rude, but you stink. The bathroom is back toward my room, on the left."

He could feel Dabi's eyes on his back. He was glaring, but it seemed half-hearted.

"Why did you bring me here?" Dabi asked sharply.

Hawks sighed. He had been anticipating the altercation they were going to get into when Dabi woke up all day. He glanced back at him, shrugged, and smirked a little.

"What kind of hero would I be if I let some drunk asshole pass out on a rock after falling into a half-frozen lake?" he asked, winking. "Go shower, you idiot. We can fight later."

Dabi shot him one final, half-hearted glare before disappearing back down the hall. Hawks waited until he heard the shower running to relax a bit.

Worrying about this guy was more trouble than it was worth.

I can't ignore that he tried to drown himself, he thought, filling up the coffeemaker and frowning. Villain or not, he needs help. He needs my help.

Hawks groaned, lowering his forehead against the cabinet and scowling.

He really did mess up letting this guy into his life.

They really did make a mistake, sending him. He thought that maybe he could act his way through this bullshit, but he forgot how annoying his goddamn feelings could be.

The guilt of knowing he would inevitably betray Dabi was crushing him.

The sudden realization that Dabi didn't have a change of clothes hit him hard. He stood in the kitchen, glancing worriedly at the hallway, and he wondered for a moment if he could just leave it.

Then he thought about how blasé Dabi was about most things, and how he probably would stalk out of the bathroom naked.

Hawks sighed. Nope, that wouldn't do.

He gathered up a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt, and for a moment he stood outside the bathroom watching the steam roll out from beneath the crack and listening to the water run.

I'm such an idiot, he thought. He hugged the clothes to his chest, and fought himself for the courage to step inside.

Hawks took a deep breath, and he very slowly pushed the door open. He poked his head in, dropping the clothes on the edge of the sink, and he felt momentarily triumphant before looking up.

His shower was broad, with glass sliding doors that only vaguely obscured the form behind it. It was like a shoddy censor. Hawks couldn't help but stare at the dip of the purple scar that slid down Dabi's back, his eyes tracing the dark pattern up toward his broad, yet unbearably bony shoulders, and back down again until they lingered—

Hawks stepped back and closed the door hurriedly.

"Shit," he whispered, backing into the opposite wall, his palms clasping against his burning cheeks. He stumbled into his own room, blinking at himself in the mirror and staring at his own bewildered face.

This? This was bad.

He forced himself to calm down, his breathing regulating and his blush dissipating. He walked back to the kitchen like nothing had happened.

By the time Dabi exited the bathroom, his posture sloped and his wet hair curling against his forehead, Hawks had laid out a bowl of soup and a bowl of rice and a cup of coffee for him. He stood for a moment, shrinking awkwardly into the hallway.

"Don't tell me that's for me," he said.

"Considering you vomited the contents of your stomach a few hours ago?" Hawks tapped his own mug thoughtfully. "Even an asshole has gotta eat, right?"

Dabi eyed him uncertainly. When he straightened up, Hawks noticed just how small his clothes were on him, and it was amusing. The large tee shirt with a distorted looking outline of a roman statue came to Dabi's midriff. His belly was unblemished, though when he turned the bottom of his scar dipped low on his back, and it became clearly visible. Hawks tore his eyes away and looked down at his coffee.

Unfortunately for him, Dabi seemed to notice.

"Like what you see?" he snapped, a defensive note to his usual bite.

Hawks blinked at him. Heat rose once more to his face, and he shook his head furiously.

"I'm not—" he gasped, wincing at the sound of his own voice. Explaining that he was very much not repulsed by the scars, as Dabi suspected, would not end well. God, Hawks was a glutton for punishment. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to stare."

"Then keep your eyes to yourself."

"I'm sorry," Hawks repeated, very much shamed by his own curiosity. "I… I want to understand. What happened to you, I mean."

Dabi scoffed. He dropped down onto a stool, staring miserably down at the bowls before him.

"No, you don't," he muttered.

Hawks leaned back against the counter. He watched Dabi until his eyes, brilliant and bright, flashed to his face.

"How much do you remember from last night?" he asked.

Dabi's brow furrowed. "Enough," he said vaguely, his fingers finding the coffee mug. He took it in his hands and frowned.

"So you remember when I called you Touya?"

Dabi blinked. He nodded vacantly, as though the very mention of his old name had left him devoid of emotion.

"Do you remember hitting me?"

"Did I?" Dabi's distant eyes trailed toward Hawks's face. The corner of his lip twitched. "Good."

"Do you remember falling into the water?"

"Uh…"

"Do you remember trying to drown yourself?"

It was an unwelcome silence as Dabi's eyes grew wide and then darted away from Hawks's, frantic and unsure. Injured animal once more, shrinking away from the imminent danger that Hawks seemed to possess just by chance of getting to know him.

"Dabi," Hawks said softly. "Has that ever happened before?"

The striking glimmer of vulnerability in Dabi's face as he stared at the wall in silence was answer enough.

Hawks sighed. He set the coffee down on the table and dropped into the stool across from Dabi.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Dabi's lips curled back, something like a sneer or a snarl perched on his tongue, and Hawks grimaced.

"That's a no, then," he muttered. "Okay, fine. We won't talk about that, but I think it's a conversation we have to have eventually."

"Who the fuck do you think you are," Dabi snapped, "that you think I'd talk to you about anything like that?"

"Your friend," Hawks said evenly, and it broke his heart to say it.

Dabi stared at him, his face relaxing into a confused and wary gape.

"Why?" he whispered.

"What do you mean?"

"Why are you doing this?" He lowered himself tiredly into a slouch. Eventually his chin hit the table. "Why do you care?"

"That's a dumb question." Hawks leaned his cheek against his hand and eyed his coffee. He could see his face reflected in its surface. "But let me humor you. You're not all that bad, Dabi."

Dabi raised his eyes, his chin still pressed against the countertop.

"Oh?" His teeth glinted in a near smile. "Well, you're not so good you know, Hawks."

In response, Hawks blinked, he grinned, and then he laughed.

"See?" he said. "We're friends. And friends tell each other things. So please, for fuck's sake, tell me what happened to Todoroki Touya."

Dabi dragged his head off the counter, only to dump it into his hands.

"Ugh," he groaned. "Don't call me that."

"Fine," Hawks said, "but you have to tell me."

"How did you figure it out?" Dabi asked, his hand dropping into his lap. He glared at his food, and poked it irritably. "Let's start there."

"Um," Hawks said, tilting his head. "Did you forget that you saved Todoroki Shouto's life?"

"Technically you did," Dabi said, stabbing at his rice. "If you hadn't been there to do CPR, he would've died."

"You still fished him out of the water. And I could tell by looking how much he means to you."

"He means nothing to me," Dabi snarled, the chopsticks in his hand snapping in half.

Hawks found himself staring, unimpressed at Dabi, and he fished out an unbroken pair from the drawer.

"Your sister brought up your name," he said.

Dabi froze. He looked, to his credit, both stricken and terrified at the mention of Fuyumi, before his face became eerily blank.

"I don't have a sister," he lied easily.

"Tell that to Fuyumi," Hawks said.

"So what?" Dabi snapped. "You stalked me? You figured out my whole life story? If you know this much, what the hell do you want me to say?"

"I want to know what happened," Hawks sighed, shaking his head. "I didn't really mean to get this deep, but… once the idea came into my head, I couldn't let it go. It seemed too outlandish, that you might be Endeavor's long lost son come to destroy him."

Dabi's cheek twitched.

"I know," he said quietly. "I think that's why he hasn't recognized me yet."

"The Nomu," Hawks said, nodding. "I get it now."

"You don't seem as angry." Dabi rolled his eyes. "I saw that it scarred. I hope he knows how much that scar means to me."

Hawks found himself mildly disturbed, but mostly intrigued. Because as crazy as Hawks had thought Dabi was initially, it was all beginning to make sense.

"Endeavor's not exactly a kind and loving father I take it," Hawks said, feeling guilty for saying it.

He had to face up to the facts that Endeavor, someone he had admired, was not as good a person as he thought.

People loved to disappoint. Hawks was one of them.

Dabi snorted, and he shook his head furiously. "Todoroki Enji," he spat. "God, I hate his guts. You know what he used to do to Shouto?"

Hawks stared at him blankly. He had a gut feeling that he was going to hate this.

"My father," Dabi hissed, his shoulders sloping, "would beat Shouto black and blue every single goddamn night. Whenever my mom tried to stop it, he beat her too. The whole house was just a mess of Shouto sobbing and our mother screaming, and it never seemed to stop. We were scared of our own shadows."

Hawks was reminded very suddenly and very intensely of walking in on Endeavor holding his son by the throat.

"Shit," he sighed, dragging his hand through his hair.

Dabi eyed him. "You don't look all that surprised," he muttered.

"Your dad visited Shouto in the hospital," Hawks said, closing his eyes. "Let's just say I got the gist of your family's drama, and it boiled down to your dad… generally being an ass."

"Yep," Dabi drawled. "That's about it."

"So what happened to you?"

Dabi stared at him. He grimaced. "You read up on me," he said sharply. "Come on. It's not that hard."

"I know your quirk got out of control," Hawks said cautiously, watching Dabi's expression, "and you were comatose for six years."

"But you don't know why," Dabi surmised, his lips curling back. "Some sleuth you are. Why not ask my siblings, if you all are so close now?"

"Come on," Hawks muttered. "Don't be like that."

"You've seen my scars," Dabi said dully. He looked, for all it was worth, very tired. "What do you think happened?"

"Um…" Hawks shifted in his seat. "Well… I guess I think it must have been your quirk. You lost control of it, and then—"

"What do you think would make a kid explode like that?" Dabi demanded. "Do you think I used my fire lightly? Come on."

Hawks frowned. "You were… protecting yourself…? Your siblings?"

Dabi's smile was venomous.

"Now you're thinking," he said dryly. "If you want to know all the gory details, who am I to stop you?"

Hawks licked his lips and watched Dabi snap his fingers. A blue flame danced through the air, and the crept across Dabi's fingertips.

"Let's start with my father's fucked up brain, shall we?" Dabi closed his eyes. His eyelashes were long and full, which was unexpected but fascinating. "Todoroki Enji married my mother for her ice quirk. His children were bred to be the perfect combination of their quirks, whether she liked it or not."

Hawks sat, chilled to the bone at that statement. He watched the fire dance and twist and gasp as it flickered on Dabi's skin.

"Fuyumi, who couldn't know how to be mean even if she tried, got my mother's quirk. Ice. Daddy dearest threw her aside. Natsuo, ice. Threw him aside." Dabi's eyes snapped open, and he opened his hand. It burst into a great ball of blue light, and Hawks stifled a gasp. "Me? Nothing."

"What?"

Dabi smirked at him. There was a glaze to his eyes, like he was still drunk, and he looked down at his hand.

"Quirkless," he said quietly. "Imagine, the son of the great Endeavor, a spitting image of him— a fucking carbon copy." Dabi's turquoise eyes seemed to catch the light of the fire. Everything was blue, and it was alive. "But I couldn't do anything. I all throughout my childhood, I never developed a quirk. So I was quirkless, and for a while I was bitter and envious of my siblings… I was jealous even of Shouto, who got beaten every night, but even covered in bruises at least my father would look at him, right? I thought… I thought that was worth it."

They sat in silence. The fire grew brighter. It burned hotter.

"When I was eleven, after my mother got sent away, I started wondering if it really was worth it. If being in that home was worth anything. So I ran away." He tipped his head to one side, and the fire moved with him. "Almost got lifted right off the street. I burned the guy's face off."

"Oh," Hawks said softly. His eyes were glued to the fire.

The fire was beautiful. Nobody had told him that.

"Suddenly I was the miracle child," Dabi murmured. "Just for a minute, I was the special one. I was quirkless, and then I had a quirk. The doctor said that it only made sense— my miracle quirk was conditional to— god, how did he phrase it? "An insurmountable amount of stress, like a pressure bomb." The conditions for me to actually use it had just never arisen, because my body outright rejects it. I burn someone…" Dabi rescinded his fire so it remained on only a single finger. Hawks saw that there were blisters bubbling up on his skin. "… and, inevitably, I burn myself."

Hawks nodded. He nodded like this wasn't all very horrific, but he had suspected this much. Dabi's quirk was not made for his body. He had never adjusted to it quite right, not even now.

"So… the accident…" Hawks began.

Dabi blew a sharp breath through his nose.

"Accident," he repeated. "It wasn't an accident."

Hawks's heart sunk into his stomach. He felt the urge to cross to the other side of the counter and wrap his arms around this wretched murderer.

"My father wanted my body to adjust to my quirk," Dabi said. He glanced up at the ceiling and he smiled ruefully. "Stress and fear, the doctor said, triggered it. Dire fear. The sort of mortal peril that makes grown men sob."

"Oh, god," Hawks choked, grimacing tightly. "Dabi…"

"You wanted to hear this," Dabi whispered.

"I didn't… I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking."

Dabi lifted himself from the table, and he said without bothering to look back at him, "You weren't."

He didn't stick around much longer. He hadn't eaten, and he looked sickly as he walked toward the door.

"For what it's worth," Dabi said quietly, his clothes bundled under his arm, "I don't trust you, but I don't hate you either."

And maybe that was enough.

The reality of their relationship— the odd hours, the odder conversations, the oddest of easiness that came with time as winter pulled away and spring edged near.

Dabi had brought Hawks to his apartment once or twice, a gift for saving him from hypothermia.

Trust wasn't so much a word as it was an act, and Hawks was wracked with guilt. It was all he could do to hold onto Dabi's secret— keep it close to his chest and choose death before letting it fall.

"You should get out of the League while you still can," Dabi said ominously one day. He was lying on Hawks's couch, one eye on the television as the news played on mute.

Hawks looked up from the stove, turning to face him. "What?" he asked sharply.

Dabi didn't respond. He was seemingly engrossed in the news.

If they only knew how regularly a villain crashed at his apartment.

If they only knew.

"Dabi," Hawks said, rolling his eyes, "if this is about my commitment to the League, I'll have you know—"

"You're not as good a liar as you think you are," Dabi said, sitting up.

Hawks stood and stared at him.

Were they really going to do this right now?

Dinner wasn't even ready yet, and they were about to burn his building down.

Hawks swallowed hard. He turned the stove off, bracing himself for whatever was coming next.

"What do you mean?" Hawks said stiffly.

Dabi glared at him.

"Don't play dumb," he said quietly. "You're smarter than that."

Hawks rounded the counter and walked into the living room. His bare feet sunk into the plush carpet, and he and Dabi stared at one another vacantly.

"How long have you known?" Hawks asked sharply.

"That you're a traitor?" Dabi snorted into his hand, and he sunk into the sofa. "Come on, hero. I've believed it since the start."

"Then what the hell is this?" Hawks stared down at him incredulously. "Why would you associate with me?"

"Obviously I knew I'd get good intel if I stuck close to you," Dabi said.

"Obviously," Hawks repeated snidely.

"But," Dabi said, his eyes flickering toward Hawks curiously, "you surprised me."

"So you're not gonna kill me straight up for this?" Hawks frowned at Dabi. "What gives? Don't tell me all of my lecturing about friendship has gotten through that thick skull of yours."

Dabi smirked. "Not quite," he said. "I just thought I'd warn you, since I might be gone soon."

Hawks tilted his head. "Eh?" he asked vacantly.

"Don't think too much on it," Dabi said, rising to his feet and stepping toward him. "This was always going to happen. Destiny calls, and all that. But this was fun."

"What do you mean?" Hawks asked sharply.

Dabi stared at him blankly, as though the answer were entirely obvious.

"Come on," he said. "I have to make my father pay at some point."

The way he said it made it seem like it was like any other conversation, and maybe it was. After all, up until that point they had both been pretending that Dabi was a villain in hero's clothing.

Facing the fact that he had never once fooled Dabi was both disheartening and an incredible relief.

It meant that Hawks wasn't betraying him.

It meant that Dabi had stuck by his side all these months because he liked being around him.

"Are you saying you're taking off to go… what?" Hawks watched him warily. "Take revenge? What about the League of Villains?"

"If I succeed, they will be grateful that I disposed of the Number One Hero."

"But you don't know if you'll succeed," Hawks said, watched Dabi's expression as he spoke. He didn't betray an ounce of his guilt, and merely stared right back. "You suicidal bastard."

"You've known that for a while," Dabi said flippantly. "Why does it matter? I kill him, he kills me, either way, I win."

"How?" Hawks demanded. "How the hell does dying qualify as a win?"

Dabi smirked. He did not respond, but instead stood there and smiled knowingly, as though Hawks might understand from the glint in his eyes.

"Listen," Hawks said, feeling a little desperate as he stepped forward. "No bullshit, alright? This is me speaking as me."

"Finally," Dabi drawled, "the hero shows his true face."

"Shut up," Hawks said heatedly, "you know that this is stupid. Whatever you're planning, it's suicide, but you want to do it anyway because you've given up."

"Contrary," Dabi said flatly, "I have strong enough convictions to keep lots of people alive, and maybe even keep one super dead. What does it matter if I die in the process? And why, hero, do you fucking care?"

"Why do I care about you?" Hawks snapped. "Are you really going to ask that?"

"I'm a villain, and a murderer, and it's your duty and your deepest desire to throw me in chains," Dabi said, his teeth glinting as he smiled, "right?"

Hawks thought of something that made him look away from Dabi sharply, a blush creeping up his neck.

"What do you know about what I want, Dabi?" Hawks muttered. "I've been lying to you from the start."

"Yeah. So have I." Dabi stuffed his hands into his pockets. "How could we ever be friends? You're too stupid to live, and I'm too awful to die."

"You're not awful," Hawks said without thinking.

Dabi glanced at him, and then, inexplicably, he laughed.

"Stupid," he gasped, pointing at him. "What did I say? You're a fucking idiot. Don't you get it? It's over. I can't play pretend anymore, and entertain your little game of villains. You'd be smart to back off before Shigaraki figures out what you really are."

"You mean you never told him?" Hawks asked in disbelief. "All this time, knowing I was faking, and you… you just let me slide right in?"

"Sure," Dabi said vacantly, "because you let me slide right into your life like a stray dog you wanted to tame. It was only fair. Don't want the fight to get boring."

Hawks eyed him, finding himself believing him less and less.

"Dabi," Hawks said gently, "you can say that we're friends. It won't kill you. Just say it."

"We can't be friends," Dabi said simply. "Sorry. Don't take it personally."

"You and I betrayed both our causes to protect one another," Hawks blurted, finding himself stepping forward once more. They were close enough to each other now that Hawks could smell the phosphorescent musk that clung to him. "You're accusing me of playing pretend, when the only person you're fooling is yourself!"

"We can't be friends," Dabi repeated sharply. "You're a fucking hero. Not only that, but you're good at it. You're a good person, no matter how much you try to hide it, and you try to defer that goodness onto other people, but the fact of it is that you're too good to be wasting your breath on someone like me. So let me go."

"Let you go?" Hawks repeated vacantly. "To what? Die? Rot in jail? Sell your fucking soul?"

"My soul's pretty much gone," Dabi said dully, "so you don't have to worry about that."

"It's not. You think you're a lost cause?" Hawks shook his head furiously. "You being here is proof to me that you're not."

"I'm a villain," Dabi said coldly, shoving Hawks back. "You're a hero. This won't work."

"What?" Hawks grimaced at how strained his voice had become. "Our friendship?"

"Sure," Dabi said softly, "let's call it that."

Hawks stared at him for a moment, uncertain and confused, before his eyes widened.

"Dabi, do you—?"

"I almost killed you, you know."

This tactic, something Hawks had grown to know well, is something he liked to call Mood-Killer Dabi.

"Yes," Hawks said tiredly, "I am aware."

"No, you're not." Dabi stared at him, his turquoise eyes intensely bright. "I told you I've known from the beginning, and that's true. I was going to let you get eaten alive, but when you saw me— when I saved Shouto, and you saw me with him, I realized you had to die. I think I decided it the minute you texted me. I had to kill you."

"But you didn't," Hawks said with a shrug. "So I don't really care."

"I brought you to Mortis Pier to murder you," Dabi hissed, "you dumbass. You absolute idiot. I was going to poison you, but I couldn't think of a good way to get you, and then I was going to stab you, but there were too many people, and then I was going to drown you, but—"

"So let me get this right," Hawks said, folding his arms across his chest, "you wanted to poison me, but you gave me your beer instead. You wanted to stab me, but you kissed me instead. You wanted to drown me, but you tried to drown yourself instead. Dabi, you are the worst murderer I've ever met."

Dabi blinked rapidly. He frowned, and his eyes narrowed.

"I didn't realize shotgunning counted as kissing," he said dryly. "My mistake."

"Oh come on," Hawks gasped. "You knew exactly what you were doing!"

"Trying to get you as fucked up as possible so I could kill you?"

"But you didn't kill me!" Hawks jabbed him in the chest. "You didn't even try! All you did was hit me, and honestly, I kind of deserved that. So stop lying to me and yourself, and start asking yourself why!"

"I—" Dabi began, his voice cutting off with a twist of his lips. He closed his eyes, and he exhaled shakily. "I don't know. It doesn't matter why, anyway. It's doomed. We're doomed."

Hawks found himself struck be the finality of these words. He had been trying so hard to stifle these feelings, to force down any outward recognition that maybe his fascination with Dabi was more than just charitable friendship.

Thoughtlessly, Hawks reached out and grasped Dabi's face in his hands.

His scars were cool and his skin was warm, and the stables scraped against Hawks's callused palms.

Dabi's eyes snapped open.

"I'd rather be doomed than be nothing at all," Hawks said firmly.

Dabi looked down at him, and for a moment his eyes seemed to betray the loss and uncertainty that Hawks knew he felt.

He swatted Hawks's hand away viciously.

"Warn the heroes while you still can," he said, backing away from Hawks slowly. "I won't give you this chance again."

Hawks stood, holding his breath as he watched Dabi flee.

What was the most upsetting thing? Was it realizing that all of Hawks's nervous wonderings, all of his daydreaming and all of his helpless curiosity, that it was all something that could be achieved? Was it the tragedy of realizing that Dabi was right? That they could hardly even be friends in this world, let alone something more?

Was it that it had all ended so abruptly?

Was it that Hawks knew he had a responsibility to stop Dabi, but a small, shameful part of him considered letting him go?

He did warn his superiors about the threat against Endeavor, and they said that they'd pass it along.

Hawks was more nervous about Dabi's estranged siblings than anything else.

He texted Fuyumi to ask her to meet him.

To her credit, she looked entirely apprehensive as she met him at a café. Her hair was loose around her head, and her lips were pressed into a thin line as she sat down across from him.

"This isn't a friendly chat," she surmised, slumping a bit.

Hawks could not help but search her face and her body language for echoes of Dabi. It was a horrible feeling, but he could not tear his eyes away.

"A villain has it out for your dad," Hawks said, drumming his fingers against his porcelain cup.

"That isn't new."

"No, but I think he might use you and your siblings against him." Hawks raised his eyes to Fuyumi, and he watched her frown. "Don't take any unnecessary risks, okay? You and Natsuo are in the most danger right now."

"Us?" Fuyumi gave a small, bitter laugh. "No villain is going to bother with us. If whoever it is really is targeting the person my father cares about most, it'll be Shouto."

"Shouto is safe in U.A."

"Shouto is impossible," Fuyumi told him sharply, "and U.A. can't keep those kids safe forever. Someone will slip up. You had to save him once, remember?"

"That wasn't…" Hawks began, but he found himself floundering. In his head he could visualize the pain on Dabi's face as he realized that Todoroki Shouto was not breathing. How could he attack his own siblings? Hawks had not thought him capable of it, but then again, how much did he really know Dabi?

"Please," Fuyumi gasped, leaning forward. "If you're worried about anyone, worry about Shouto. He's strong, but strength will only take you so far. Natsuo and I can manage— we'll stick together, if that makes you feel better— but Shouto is the one who will get hurt if this villain wants to get to our father through us."

Hawks desperately wanted to tell her about Dabi. He didn't understand why she had never been told in the first place.

"Fuyumi— I can call you that, right?"

"Sure."

"Fuyumi, do you know where your third brother is?"

Her eyes darkened considerably, guilt and distress shading the grayish hue.

"No," she admitted. "Our father never told us. But if even we don't know, then he should be safe, shouldn't he?"

There were no words for how much Hawks pitied this family.

He smiled at her.

"Sure," he said. "I was just wondering."

Managing to weasel his way into U.A., Hawks stood awkwardly in the corner as Aizawa explained to his students that he would be here for the remainder of the term to provide some extra help on the hero classes.

Hawks really had no idea what teaching entailed, so he hoped this wasn't going to be too hard.

He spotted Tokoyami, who met his eyes curiously. He shot his old intern a wink.

Birds of a feather. You know how it is.

It was quiet for about a week.

Then, inexplicably, he was cornered in a deserted hallway. Todoroki Shouto had shockingly light footsteps, and before Hawks realized what was happening he was being ushered into an empty room.

"Hey, what's going on?" Hawks gasped, searching the kid's face. "You could have asked me nicely to come talk to you, you know."

Todoroki shot him a plainly disbelieving glance as he leaned back against the door.

"Something has been bothering me," he said quietly. "I didn't think I should ask you, but Midoriya told me that if I'm not outright about my feelings then people assume I don't care. So I need to ask."

Hawks was growing increasingly apprehensive of this interaction. The way Todoroki looked at him, the resistance in his sloped shoulders and the grimace on his lips— it seemed clear what he was going to say.

"This is about the night you almost drowned," Hawks sighed, dragging his hand through his hair.

Todoroki's grimace turned into a straight up frown, and he pushed off the door and stepped forward sharply.

"I heard you talking to someone," he said, his fingers closing into fists. "I tried to ignore it. I thought maybe I was crazy, but—"

"You were right," Hawks said, not in the mood to play games. "I was talking to Dabi."

That nonchalant admittance of what would generally be considered treasonous behavior made Todoroki blink twice. His expression twisted into one of annoyance and disbelief.

"Why?" he asked, sounding less shocked and more offended than anything.

"Todoroki," Hawks said, careful not to use his first name, "I'm going to tell you some stuff, and I expect you to be able to keep a secret. Okay?"

"That won't be a problem," Todoroki said vacantly. "You've met my family. We've built a house on secrets."

Oh, you have no idea.

Hawks groaned as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Okay, well… to be honest, for the past few months I've been playing double agent."

This admittance was left with an awkward silence. Todoroki stared at him, his mismatched eyes narrowing.

"You?" Todoroki's expression was blank, so Hawks had difficulty reading him, but his tone seemed almost teasing. "That seems ill-advised. Who came up with that idea?"

Hawks couldn't help but smile. "Not me, I'll tell you that much." He sat down on the nearest desk and sighed, letting his arms fall between his knees. "To be honest, I did a lousy job. As much good information I got, I was always fed double the false information. And Dabi didn't believe me for a second."

"Dabi knows you're a traitor?" Todoroki gasped, leaning forward with widening eyes. "That's—! Then your cover's blown!"

"Yeah, kid, why do you think I'm telling you this? For kicks?" Hawks smirked up at him. "Obviously I can't go back to the League of Villains. I'm pretty much toast."

Though Dabi had said he wasn't planning on telling Shigaraki Tomura and the rest of that crazy lot about Hawks's true allegiance, it seemed foolish to tempt fate. Hawks couldn't exactly give heroes the lazy future they deserved if he was dead.

Todoroki exhaled sharply. He rested his back against the door once more, blinking rapidly at the ceiling.

"Oh," he murmured. His brow furrowed, and for a moment he seemed at a loss. "If Dabi's known all this time, why did he decide to… what? Confront you?"

"Uhh…" Hawks winced. "That's a little complicated, but if I'm being honest, I think it has to do with you."

"With me," Todoroki said flatly.

"Yeah. I guess you don't remember much of that night, but…" Hawks knew he was betraying Dabi by saying this, but Dabi had thrown the first punch by leaving, so fuck it. "Todoroki, I didn't drag you out of the water. Dabi did."

The confusion that Todoroki felt was clear enough. He stood with wide eyes, uncertainty glimmering there as he watched Hawks with a heightening daze.

"Dabi… what?" Todoroki shook his head. "I don't get it. What does he want with me?"

"I think if you think about it," Hawks said softly, "I mean really think about it— then maybe you'll understand."

Todoroki's brow furrowed. His eyes darted away from Hawk's face anxiously, and he stood in silence for about a minute.

"He doesn't want to kill me?" he murmured.

"No," Hawks said. "In fact, I have never seen him more emotional than when he thought you were dead."

Todoroki froze. His eyes flashed wide, and they lingered on the white board with a sort of lifeless daze to them that suggested that a revelation had swept his soul from his body.

"Oh," he breathed.

"Now you're getting it."

Todoroki Shouto was much more reserved than Dabi. He carried himself a little higher, but seemed less comfortable in his own skin at the very same time. His voice was level and calm normally, but he kept things clipped and hardly minded his manners. There was a bite to him that was hidden beneath an aloof exterior, and beneath that bite there was a softness that seemed to characterize these siblings.

Aloof, then venomous, then soft.

Except for Fuyumi, who Hawks considered quite the opposite.

Soft, then venomous, then aloof.

"Do you know what happened to him?" Hawks asked curiously.

His shoulders moved, and Hawks frowned as he watched them tremble. Todoroki offered no more response than a simple shake of his head.

"He said he was quirkless," Hawks said. "Do you remember that?"

"A little bit." Todoroki's voice was so thin is broke apart in the air and faded away.

"His quirk appeared when he was in real, mortal danger for the first time. Apparently it would only show up if he was under a considerable amount of stress."

Todoroki frowned, but he nodded.

"So your father… he put him under stress."

That made Todoroki's eyes flash to Hawks sharply.

"What did he do?" he hissed.

"Dabi never told me the details," Hawks told him gently. "You'd have to ask him yourself."

Todoroki observed him like the words that fell from his lips were spider's silk and he'd found himself tangled in them. His eyes were shadowy and the uncertainty that lingered in his gaze as he shrunk slowly, slipping down the door and falling into a crouch as he allowed the vulnerability to hit.

"My brother…" he murmured, his fingers clasping over his head and tangling in his hair. His eyes fell to the floor dazedly. "He's…"

"Not as bad as you think," Hawks said, hoping he sounded encouraging.

Todoroki's eyes fluttered closed. His breath had quickened, and it fell from his lips in small, soft bursts.

"I need to speak with him," he murmured. "I need to— I need to understand. I can't believe I never noticed. All those times, he was— he was always right in front of me…?"

"Hey," Hawks said, slipping off the desk and sliding to his knees before Todoroki. "It's not your fault, okay? The way I see it, he's changed a whole lot since you knew him. I don't think he even considers himself to be the same person you knew."

Todoroki's fingertips trembled as he released his hair and turned his chin up slowly. His eyes were gleaming with loss and rage.

"He's my brother," he said, his voice shaking. "No matter what's happened, he's my brother. I should have known that."

Without warning, Todoroki jerked to his feet. He flung the door open and dashed down the hallway, leaving Hawks to kneel in a shocked silence.

Fear that Todoroki might seek Dabi out caused Hawks to lurk around the boy more often. He refused to tell the teachers what was really going on— it was his last gift to Dabi to give him his privacy, and though he knew it was stupid, he couldn't help it.

Hawks realized very quickly he was preparing for an attack that would never come. Dabi wasn't patient, and he certainly wasn't dumb.

He should have listened to his gut rather than Fuyumi.

That was his first thought upon receiving an alert to his phone declaring a hostage situation— a group of civilians held by the villain Dabi.

Hawks took a moment to stare at his phone before the guilt and panic swarmed him.

This bastard will be the death of me, he thought, flying through the halls of U.A. and kicking down the door to the common room with an unprecedented force.

Class 1-A was half congregated around the television while Iida Tenya clutched the remote. They were all staring at Hawks in bewilderment.

"Whoa," Kirishima remarked, whistling low, "that was pretty impressive speed."

Todoroki's eyes were glued to his face as Iida reminded them to keep quiet and not jump to conclusions. It would seem that they had all gotten the text message as well, and had piled in front of the TV to watch the drama unfold.

"Sorry," Hawks said sheepishly. "Might've gone a bit dramatic there."

If they found this odd, they didn't remark upon it. Iida had successfully changed the channel to the news and they all watched in silence as the newscaster spoke in a somber tone, a shadowy screencap of Dabi pinned to the side of the screen.

"— whereabouts unknown. The villain has made his demands clear. He will allow the hostages go free in exchange for their father, the hero Endeavor."

All eyes seemed to swivel to Todoroki, who sat for a moment with a vacant expression.

Then, like a mechanical doll, his head slowly turned toward Hawks.

"Did you know this was going to happen?"

It wasn't an angry question. It wasn't even as panicked and horrified as he expected. Todoroki simply asked, as though he were asking something as trivial as the weather.

"No," Hawks said, his voice strained.

Todoroki stood. A number of his classmates objected, and a few of them— Midoriya, Yaoyorozu, Iida, and Kirishima specifically— moved closer to him.

"I have to watch the video," Todoroki murmured. He glanced at the television, his face contorting momentarily in despair before it settled into a blank expression. "Turn this off."

Iida watched him for a moment, looking a little torn, before he obliged.

"I've got it," Kirishima said softly, offering out his phone. Hawks hung back and listened to Dabi's voice, low and carefully empty, as though he had practiced eradicating his emotions from these words in front of a mirror for weeks.

"Hello, heroes. I hope you haven't gotten too comfortable with your new symbol of hope." Dabi spat this phrase like he had bitten into a rotten fruit and had to expel the rancid taste from his lips. "As you can see, I've gathered some friends. Say hello, friends."

Hawks listened to the sound of muffled yelling, likely from Natsuo considering the lowness of the voice, and he closed his eyes.

This was his fault.

He had let himself believe that Dabi wouldn't do this.

No, he thought bitterly, I knew he would do it, but I didn't want to accept the truth.

"You know, I'd hate to hurt my friends," Dabi said. "So I'm going to make you heroes an offer. I'll let these people go in exchange for the Pro Hero Endeavor, also known as Todoroki Enji. You have one hours."

The silence was abrupt, and it stretched out between the children and reached Hawks where he stood uneasily. They all watched Todoroki, who blinked down at the phone and handed it back to Kirishima mutely.

"Todoroki—" Midoriya began, reaching toward him.

He shrugged Midoriya off and turned sharply. His eyes fell on Hawks, and the intensity of them made them seem almost…

Well, luminous.

"Take me to him," Todoroki demanded.

His whole class seemed to object uproariously in that moment. Todoroki ignored them, his eyes narrowed at Hawks's face. There was a knowing glint to them.

"I can't take you," Hawks sighed, shaking his head. "Nobody even knows where he is, remember?"

"I do." Todoroki shrugged off his friends and stepped forward, his shoulders squared, and his jaw clenched. "I know exactly where they are. We have to go now before my dad gets to them."

As if Hawks needed a real reason to get in between Dabi and Endeavor.

What a mess.

"You're a child," Hawks said firmly. "I can't. I can't knowingly put you in danger."

"You think he'd hurt me?" Todoroki demanded. His classmates were all watching his back, varying looks of uncertainty, confusion, and shock formulating on their faces.

"I think he's in a bad place," Hawks said, wincing at the sharp look Todoroki shot him. "I think he has your siblings hogtied somewhere, knowing full well that you're a much more valuable bargaining chip. Don't play into his madness, Shouto."

"I need to talk to him." Todoroki seemed close to begging now. "Please. He won't hurt me. He wouldn't."

"I want to believe that—"

"No, you know it!" Todoroki was angrier than Hawks had ever seen him. Perhaps than his peers had even seen him too, because many of them flinched.

"Todoroki, what's happening?" a brave soul, Uraraka gasped.

Todoroki eyed Hawks, as though he could perhaps explain to this room full of teenagers that Todoroki's older brother was a lunatic who was only really a villain because their father was… what? An abusive piece of shit? Hawks had never gotten to ask Endeavor about the whole thing, but at this point he knew Dabi a little better than he knew his father.

"It's complicated," Hawks said. "Todoroki can tell you all if he wants. It's not my place."

"You're the one who knows him so well!" Todoroki snapped. "You don't get to act like you have no part in this— this is why you're here."

"I thought he'd go after you," Hawks corrected, "not your siblings."

"You obviously miscalculated," Todoroki said heatedly. "And honestly? I don't really care. I know he won't hurt them."

"He's a murderer, Shouto, please don't underestimate him."

"He saved my life," Todoroki said firmly. "You said so. You said that he panicked when he thought I was dead, and if he cares about me even now, even after everything that has happened, then he must care about Natsu and Yumi too. Please."

Hawks could hear the desperation in Todoroki's voice. He really was begging now. There were tears glimmering in his eyes.

When Hawks did not reply immediately, Todoroki's hands closed into fists. His breath came out in a short burst.

"They are going to kill each other," he said dully.

Hawks closed his eyes.

"Is that what you want? Touya dead, or my father dead, or both dead? Hawks, the minute my siblings go free, it will be a bloodbath."

"I know that," Hawks sighed.

"Then take me to them so I can stop this!"

Todoroki knew exactly what he was asking.

He knew the risks, and he was willing to take them. Because this kid was a hero.

And in that moment, Hawks realized that Todoroki Shouto was going to be a better hero than Hawks could ever be.

"Okay," Hawks said finally.

The rest of the kids were split between trying to stop them and insisting they come along.

"No," Hawks said sternly. "Dabi might hurt you."

"What about you?" Iida gasped, driving a fist into his hand sharply. "No, absolutely not! This is a horrible idea!"

"Iida," Todoroki said calmly, "please. If it were your brother, you'd do the same."

Iida's eyes widened behind his glasses, and for a moment they gleamed with recognition.

Then he flipped sides.

"Let me come, then," he gasped. "If that is how it is, then let me repay you."

"I can't."

"Shouto," Hawks sighed, rubbing the back of his head. "Just tell them. You said you want to get there before your dad, right?"

Todoroki winced. He bowed his head, and he took a very deep breath.

"Listen," he said, shrinking under the intensity of their stares. "All of you. Okay? The reason this is such a mess is because Dabi—" He broke off, his eyes becoming glassy and dazed. "He's… my brother."

"What kind of soap opera bullshit is that, Half-and-Half?" the angry boy, Bakugou, snapped.

"My life, apparently." Todoroki looked glum. He turned away from their shocked, confused faces and walked up to Hawks. "Let's go."

It turned out that Dabi was such an incredible asshole that he just broke into the Todoroki family home and tied up his siblings in… what'd Todoroki call it? The training room?

You'd think the guy would stop surprising him, but Hawks couldn't help but admire his lack of tact.

Upon Todoroki's instruction, Hawks flew them feet first through the living room window.

"He's going to hear us," Todoroki said, plucking Hawks's feathers off his shirt and glancing at the hall dully. Behind them, the police were yelling at them. Hawks had flown over the barricade and let himself in.

"I'm counting on it."

Like clockwork, Dabi's dark head emerged from the hall. Hawks saw him lurking, eyeing them distrustfully before his eyes widened.

"You fucking idiot," he snarled.

"Long time no see," Hawks said, clapping Todoroki on the shoulder and shoving him behind him. "Sorry for the mess. Kisses and make up, or—?"

"Touya."

Hawks grimaced at the way that Dabi's turquoise eyes seemed to grow both huge and dim at the sound of Todoroki's voice.

Then rage ignited them once more.

"What is he doing here?" Dabi snapped at Hawks, jerking his finger shakily at Todoroki. "Did you tell him?"

"You didn't exactly give me much of a choice," Hawks snapped right back. "How was I supposed to know what you were going to do?"

"That wasn't your choice to make," Dabi hissed, his lips curling back and his teeth baring venomously.

"Touya." Todoroki tore his shoulder free from Hawks's grasp and stumbled forward. "What are you doing?"

Dabi eyed Todoroki, glancing down the bridge of his nose at him like he was something foul that had gotten stuck to the bottom of his boot.

"You shouldn't have come," he whispered. His voice shook.

"You threatened Natsuo and Fuyumi," Todoroki said, stepping forward. His arms were raised in a defenseless pose. "I had to come."

At that, Dabi rolled his eyes.

"Fucking…" He shook his head, his nose wrinkling in disgust. "You wanna be a hero, kid? Come and try."

Hawks whisked Todoroki out of the way with a small flurry of feathers as blue fire came barreling toward him.

"Hey!" Todoroki cried, kicking at the air viciously. "I can handle this!"

"No." Hawks rolled up his sleeves, meeting Dabi's eye and feeling the volatile rage that was rolling off him. "Go and get your siblings out of here. I can handle him."

"Hawks—!"

"That is not up for negotiation!" Hawks tore his eyes from Dabi and glared at the boy. "Get Natsuo and Fuyumi and get out. I'll meet you outside."

For a moment Todoroki dangled, looking like he wanted to say something more. Hawks sent him flying into the hall before he could say anything else.

"Touya, don't hurt him—!" Todoroki yelled, his voice fading as Hawks's feathers swooped him away.

They stood for a moment, fire crackling between them. A breeze came shuddering through the broken window, and the police scanners crackled as distant reporters chattered noisily.

"Hey," Hawks said, tilting his head. "I guess it was always going to come down to this, huh?"

"Me killing you?" Dabi licked his lips. "Don't take it personally."

"Never."

The corners of Dabi's lips quirked, and Hawks watched them with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

What a mistake he'd made.

The fire came in rapid bursts, leaving Hawks to jump and fly and swoop around them. He sped forward, his leg sailing toward Dabi's head. He managed to duck beneath it, reemerging on the other side of it and grasping at it with a hand drenched in flames. Instinctively, Hawks dropped to the floor and skidded back.

"What did you think?" Dabi hissed, standing taller than Hawks had ever seen him. When he stepped, fire emerged from his feet, melting the leather soles of his boots. "A friendship means nothing if you can't trust one another."

Hawks crouched for a moment, staring up at him.

"Maybe," he said, "but then why stick around?"

Dabi kicked at him, flames whooshing through the air and flickering madly as Hawks flipped backwards, his wings curling around him to shield him from the excess smoke.

Without warning, Dabi had tackled him. The heel of his hand had caught Hawks's ribs, knocking the wind out of his lungs and forcing him to stumble back. His shoulder smashed into the corner of the wall as his feet tangled up with Dabi's as they both went crashing to the floor. Dark smoke whirled around them, and Hawks sent a feather through Dabi's shoulder, closing his eyes as Dabi screamed, lurching back and aggravating the wound by driving his fist into the side of Hawks's head.

Warm droplets trickled down Hawks's cheek. He blinked through the haze of white stars and black smoke, gazing up at Dabi's face as he hovered over him, pinning him to the wooden floor with his knees as he straddled him.

For a moment Hawks thought it was his own blood— he thought he must have gotten a nose bleed.

He watched another droplet fall from Dabi's shoulder as he shakily closed his fingers around Hawks's throat.

Oh, Hawks thought as the pressure began. He laid there in a daze, fire crackling and smoke burning his nose and his eyes and his esophagus. He stayed still as Dabi's rough palms— callused fleshy fingers and bumpy, broken scars— dug into his throat. He could see through the haze, blinking back the tears that bubbled up from the excess of smoke, and he could see Dabi's teeth bared. His lips were curled back in a grimace, and Hawks realized his lips were trembling. Oh. He is really trying to kill me this time.

Even though he had known it had almost happened more than once, he had never truly expected Dabi to find it in himself to truly try.

Another droplet hit.

The pain was becoming acute, a crushing feeling that settled within him as he struggled to breath, and it took him a moment to realize that it hadn't been blood.

Another droplet, and then another, and Hawks saw through the smokescreen that Dabi's scarred face was contorted in pain. Tears streaked his skin, burrowing in the creases of his staples.

A sob fell from his lips and arose like a swirl of smoke.

Shakily, with all the strength he could muster, he lifted his hands to Dabi's face. He clasped his fingers behind his jaw, his palms pressed against his marred skin, and he fought back a desperate gag, a wheeze for breath, as he dashed Dabi's tears away with trembling fingers.

The pressure on his throat lessened and finally was released, Dabi's hands clapping against the floor beside Hawks's head.

Hawks coughed, smoke filling his lungs instead of air, and he struggled to sit up.

I might die here, he realized, still pinned beneath Dabi's body.

Then, gazing up at Dabi as his shoulders shook and his head lowered slowly, he realized something crucial.

There was no reason to die with regrets.

Hawks still had a hold on Dabi's head, so he hooked his fingers behind the crook of his neck and dragged his face down until he'd caught Dabi's cracked and mangled lips against his own. Like before, like that fateful night, smoke seemed to pass between their mouths, but this time Hawks clung to him. Intention was everything, and intention held them both still as Hawks's tongue flicked across Dabi's teeth. Dabi's lips were wet from the tears, and there was a faint metallic taste to the kiss beneath all the acrid smoke. He was surprised when the kiss deepened, Dabi's mouth searching Hawks's hungrily.

Maybe they had both wanted this for longer than they could both bother recalling.

They broke apart and for a moment, they stared at one another dazedly.

Dabi was bleeding. His tears had cut trails through the blood, diluting it pink, but he was bleeding along his eyes and along his mouth.

"I'm sorry," he uttered, his voice small and thin. He lowered his head, and his shoulders trembled as his forehead hit Hawks's chest. A headache was clustering toward the side of his head and one behind his eyes, and he couldn't think or breathe correctly.

He rested his chin against Dabi's head, and he blinked into nothingness.

"Go," he murmured, a dark shadow appearing in the blazing white that had overcome his vision. A silhouette, thick as smoke.

A silhouette he knew.

After that, the blackness overtook the white, and he found himself floating away.

When he came to, the whiteness had returned, and he thought that nothingness was a lot of that, a lot of blank spaces filled with one color or the other, and he felt empty upon realizing that fact.

He blinked rapidly, his fingers rising shakily to meet the nasal canula around his face, and he squinted at his heart monitor in mild disdain.

A hospital? Really?

As his eyes adjusted to his surroundings, he was surprised to see a tuft of fluffy hair, bisected into two wildly different colors at the end of his bed.

When Hawks tried to move his leg, which was tingling, from beneath Todoroki's cheek, the boy jerked awake.

They stared at each other in tired bewilderment.

"Oh," Todoroki mumbled, rubbing his eye with the heel of his hand. "Oh, I'm sorry."

"What's the deal, kid?" Hawks tilted his head curiously. "What're you doing in my hospital room?"

"Your parents couldn't make it." Todoroki shrunk under Hawks's words, like they were an accusation rather than a question. "You… you were out for a while. We've been here in shifts."

Hawks didn't think he had to ask who the "we" was in this conversation. It both warmed his heart and utterly baffled him.

"Why are you and your siblings staying with me?" he asked confusedly.

"You did save us all at one point or another," Todoroki said, leaning back in his chair. "But, also… um…"

"What?"

Todoroki blinked. He took his two hands and touched his nails together thrice. "You know…"

Hawks stared at his hands, and then he sunk into his bed, heat rising to his face at an ungodly speed.

"Oh," he said, his voice cracking. "Shit."

"My dad's really angry about it," he said flippantly, "but we're all pretty relieved. It just… it proves that Touya's not all gone, you know?"

"Who else knows?" Hawks asked dully.

"Just us, my dad… um, I guess some higher ups. Whoever made you be double agent."

"Ah," Hawks sighed, staring out toward the dark window of his hospital room. "So I'm fucked."

"What do you mean?" Todoroki looked confused. "It's not illegal to be— well—"

"Gay?" Hawks licked his lips, and he glanced at Todoroki. He looked genuinely lost, and maybe even a little scared. "No. It's not. But it's not really favored upon, either. Ever wonder why Tiger had to go to Thailand to transition?"

Todoroki's brow furrowed. "I never thought about it that hard, but I had assumed it was just cheaper." His eyes grew unfocused. "That's… good to know, I guess."

"What? That the hero community can be homophobic?"

"Yeah."

Hawks eyed the kid curiously, taking in the way he twiddled his fingers, and he decided not to pry.

"It's worse that it happened with a villain," Hawks mused. "I'm really going to be in trouble for that. If it goes public, I'll definitely lose my place in the top ten. Oh, actually, that might be great." Hawks relaxed a little as he realized he actually… didn't care that much? "I'm self-employed, so it's not like I can get fired."

"I'm sorry," Todoroki said, bowing his head. "I didn't realize how bad this could get for you."

"Oh, don't apologize," Hawks grumbled. "I'll be fine. How are Fuyumi and Natsuo?" He intentionally left out Dabi's name because he realized how much he did not want to know his fate.

"They're okay." Todoroki looked up, and a small smile appeared on his lips. "They've been here too. Fuyumi is a little crazy, so if she starts calling you her brother-in-law, just… amuse her, will you?"

"That's adorable," Hawks said.

"I think Natsuo is just relieved that you ended up going for Touya and not Fuyumi." Todoroki scratched his cheek sheepishly. "He has a thing about heroes. He said none of us are allowed to date them."

"Touya clearly doesn't give a fuck."

"He said he'd kick Touya's ass for it when we catch him," Todoroki said, his smile widening.

"Catch him." Hawks exhaled, finding himself both relieved and angry. "Damn. How'd he get away from your dad?"

"I might have accidentally thrown an ice wall between them," Todoroki said, too monotone to sound innocent.

"You're a devil child," Hawks said, admiration seeping into his tone.

"I love my siblings more than I tolerate him," Todoroki said firmly.

"Well," Hawks said, settling into his bed, "I'm grateful. I can't wait to get that bastard back for this." He gestured vaguely to his throat, which he knew sported an ugly bruise.

"Maybe take him to dinner first."

Hawks blinked at Todoroki, who said this with an absolutely straight face, and he barked a disbelieving laugh.

"Oh, you're funny," he said. "Your brother is sarcastic, but he's always an asshole about it. You, you're just funny."

"The world's best kept secret," Todoroki said, rolling his eyes. "Don't tell anyone."

Hawks made a show of locking his mouth and throwing away the key.

They settled into a comfortable silence, and as Hawks began to doze off again, Todoroki spoke.

"Can I ask…? How did this happen?"

Hawks blinked, sitting upright and peering at him. He was looking at his hands again, like they might tell him all the answers he needed.

"What? Me and Dabi?"

"Yeah."

"Uh…" Hawks frowned. "Well, I guess… you know, if you were to tell me I was a traitorous bastard a year ago, I would probably have been offended, but mostly, I guess, I'd be confused…"