It’s the dull headache that makes him open his eyes first, searing and throbbing in the very center of his skull. There’s arid air entering his lungs--burnt flesh that he’s used to and something sweet and strong and cheap, a scent that tries to be citrusy, but ultimately smells like ass.
The hum of an engine; music over a field of static, some cheesy pop song by a hero-idol, exactly the thing he hates. The person behind the wheel sings a slurred, roughly accented version of it. It doesn't do his headache any favors--he’s already glaring at the sound before he even opens his eyes.
“Hey. You’re finally awake,” the person greets. There’s an accent to his Japanese, grating and familiar that makes him scowl immediately.
“Easy.” The guy takes one hand off the wheel and places it carefully over the exposed skin of his chest, as if to keep him from getting up and jumping out of the passenger seat.
He recoils instantly from the touch of his hand, but relaxes at the chill of his bare palm—roughened skin, smooth and shockingly icy over the points where multiple rings adorn his fingers. The hand curls ever so slightly over the heated scar tissue and metal staples, pressing like he isn’t afraid to hurt him.
“You aren’t well yet. Best not to move a muscle.”
Sandy blonde hair, comically thick eyebrows, large red wings. The guy isn’t in his ostentatious hero costume, but that’s honestly way better than the shitty paisley jacket and flashy silver chains and piercings he’s got on now.
“Wouldn’t talk much if I were you. Not that I don’t miss your pretty voice, but I imagine that breathing and moving your jaw is gonna be a tad difficult. You inhaled a lotta smoke back there.”
Golden eyes, shielded by gaudy red sunglasses, shift to find his in the rearview mirror. “You’re probably wondering what you’re doing in a car, going 140 km/h on a highway going in an entirely different direction than what either of us had planned yesterday.”
He had his own suspicions. Wouldn’t put it past this guy to off him in a desert somewhere and take the credit for it.
“I’m not gonna kill you,” he says lightly, in response to the glare he’s receiving. “I know that I’m a shady-ass hero, but I’m not about to torture anyone to make a point, even if it were a notorious villain like you. Well, unless I’m ordered to do so--”
He scoffs, but finds that even this sends pain emanating all over his rib cage, his windpipe, his throat.
“Told ya.” The other man has the nerve to sigh in exasperation. “Anyways, don’t worry. I’m not acting on any orders now. Wouldn’t have bothered to help ya out and get you away from all that shit if I were.”
His body is wrapped in evidence of exactly how much Hawks, number two hero and self-proclaimed traitor to the country, bothered. They’re haphazardly placed and peeling off in places, but parts of his arms and legs and torso are covered in dampened bandages. Some of them are already stained a thin pink from the plasma leaking out of his wounds, and the expensive kind with goo underneath that helps fresh wounds heal.
“We didn’t stop by a hospital. Or ransack one on the way, if you’re worried about that,” the blonde answers just as he thinks of it. “I just have that sort of thing lying around, just in case.”
He looks at the blonde, unconvinced.
“Believe it or not, a guy like me prepares for all sorts of stuff, burns included. I’d say I’m an at increased risk for it compared to others in my line of work, ‘cause I spend so much time hanging out with you.”
Another wave of pain hits him when he attempts to make the guy shut up. ( Burns suck ass, really, years and years of this shit does not make it suck less ). Hawks reaches over and touches him again, as if that’ll make his pathetic patchwork skin sting less.
“Okay, geez, I’ll shut up now. Just… don’t move, don’t try to do anything else but breathe. I can give you your next dose of painkillers at the next stop. Rest easy until then.”
He regards him with suspicion.
“Don’t worry, I’m not turning you in, either. If you remember correctly, you had me go on an extended leave before going to Osaka, so as far as my agency is concerned, I am vacationing with my girlfriend across the country,” he says with a wink, which makes him want to gag. “That said, I’m not expected to do any kind of hero work unless it’s urgent.”
He forces himself to be on his guard, but heat rises from weathered skin and makes him heady.
He hears him release a breath quietly next to him. “I’ll wake ya when we’re there.”
The cheesy music fades. In the silence of his head falling in and out of consciousness, he smells ashes and dreams of muck underneath his feet covered in frost. Leader’s in a place far away. The little vampire bitch, too--she’s in the same place in the universe as him, shelved in an unsteady darkness before the fall to nothingness. Everyone else is running straight ahead and fighting with everything they’ve got.
But who the hell cares.
He blinks once, and he’s in a gas station in a middle-of-nowhere sort of town. Some kitschy citypop from the 90s blares out of an old Panasonic boombox sitting atop a dusty counter next to the car.
“Welcome back.” Hawks says brightly, holding a jumbo cup of slush in a sickening color and a plastic bag full of kombini food in the other hand. “Feeling any better?”
Flexing his burnt foot sends a fresh wave of pain, making him flinch.
“I figured,” he says, putting his little bag of shitty snacks at the messy seats behind them. “This’ll be a bit uncomfortable, but bear with me.”
To be fair, Hawks seems to know what he’s doing. He straightens the back of his seat slowly and takes a canister of meds from the dashboard. He tells him that they’re strong enough for what he’s feeling and nope, it isn’t under his name or anything, and yes, he’s capable of doing shadier things than getting government-controlled prescription painkillers so easily, who does he think he is?
He chokes on the water a couple of times but manages to get the pills down. By the time Hawks turns around to start the car, the pain begins to ebb away, and by the time they’re on the road again, he can finally shift positions and stretch his damn legs out without feeling like dying.
“Nice, huh?” the bird-man asks smugly. “Bet we can start our usual friendly banter. And by that I mean a lot of shit-talking on your end.”
“Shut the hell up.” It feels like he hasn’t used his voice in a thousand years, and his voice box wants to make him feel sorry for waking it from the dead.
Sounds exactly like it too, from the way Hawks makes a show of flinching when he hears it. “Was gonna say how happy I am to hear you again, but yikes. ”
“I mean it, bird-brain,” he croaks. His hand looks less threatening, more pathetic when he holds it out against his neck, flesh steaming angrily from within.
“Fine, fine. Don’t hurt yourself.” He probably means to chide him, but it comes out gentle and smothering and makes his jaw clench in annoyance. “I’m serious. With the damage you have, I have no idea why you aren’t dead yet.”
“You and everyone else,” he rasps.
“Yes… me and everyone else,” the hero replies quietly.
He turns the radio off, surrounding them in blissful silence.
Who knows how long they drive like that and how torturous it is for a blabbermouth like Hawks to keep his mouth shut for so long, but he isn’t about to jinx it. Anyways, bird-brain looks like he’s prepared for this. He has the supplies, the escape route, the means to make it so no-one is the wiser. He vaguely remembers ordering him to always have this sort of failsafe measure because of his involvement in the league, but who knows why he’s on the move too, and where he’s taking them.
Hours later, the sun is setting in the horizon, piercing and orange. Hawks opens his damn mouth again. “Do you know what happened to the rest of the League?”
“What, you don’t know, or you don’t care?”
He says nothing, and instead keeps his eyes to the mind-numbing scenery at the side of the highway.
Hawks sighs. “I didn’t have time to survey the field, since I was concentrating on getting you outta there. But Leader--Shigaraki Tomura, I mean… he was there one moment, looking like he’s gotten the shit beat out of him, and next he’s gone.”
Fingers tap contemplatively against the steering wheel, waiting for his reaction. He gives him none.
“The giant guy wrecked everything and took a lot of other casualties with them. Hopefully the rest of your team ain’t part of that.”
Like he gives a shit. Those guys are cockroaches. They’ve survived rooting through trash, they can survive an apocalypse situation like this. Leader has been through worse shit, but he still lived, didn’t he?
“I get the feeling that they’re alive somewhere, but…”
Those idiots are alive somewhere, he knows it.
“Well… up to you. Do you want me to keep an eye out for them?”
He doesn’t need to worry. “Do what you want,” he tells him.
Hawks glances at him through the rearview mirror, as if to try to read him. He looks away.
He hears a long, pained sigh next to him, but not another word after that. The open road continues to roll past them, seemingly endless.
Hawks complains loudly after hours of silence that he can only drive for so long and brings them to a nondescript roadside motel. It’s the type that doesn’t ask a lot of questions, he insists, but he still has him dress in a big jacket that hides everything except his eyes, makes him chug down more painkillers almost to a high so he can walk like a ‘normal’ person without any life-threatening injuries to his entire being.
He shouldn’t have had to worry, because despite everything Hawks is the more suspicious one between them. It’s nearing midnight and he’s wearing those ridiculous sunglasses and stupid-ass flashy outfit and it’s really hard to overlook the wings. Behind the bored receptionist’s head, the TV is set to a boring talkshow about the hero popularity contest results. Hawks’ stupid mug is grinning at them through the screen.
No-one gives a damn though, and he sees that Hawks is visibly relieved. Soon they’re given a standard bedroom--one full sized bed, two dental kits, slippers, windows with blinds facing a wall.
Hawks locks the door behind him. “So, uh. You should strip now and save us the time.”
He gives him a long, purposeful glare. “I know I’m the best you’ve had, bird, but I didn’t think even you would fuck a dying man.”
The blonde rolls his eyes, goes fuck it, and reaches over to rid him of his clothes in the most annoyed and clinical way possible--the jacket, the cotton shirt, the sweats that are way too short for him and makes him realize too late that none of them are his.
“Who says you can touch me?!”
One shove sends the blonde half a foot away. When he moves forward again, with that irritating, self-righteous stubbornness in his step, the next shove comes out with a row of blue flame behind it.
He’s reckless as fuck, but even he realizes what a bad idea that is. The sudden heat flares with unbearable pain in an intensity that the painkillers can’t manage. In his state he can’t keep his core temperature from rising to hell.
The fire very clearly covers Hawks’ ungloved hand, which sends him recoiling with a pathetic yelp. “Fuckin’ hell man, what do you wanna do?!” Hawks cries as he kills off the flame with a flap of his wings.
It’s hard to keep up the snarky facade despite the unbearable sting of fire consuming his body, and to his credit he thinks he manages for a few solid moments before he stumbles onto the floor in a stupid, weak, worthless, smoking heap.
He hears Hawks take a deep breath from pain a few ways away from him--a small comfort from his own suffering, really--but then he feels the guy step into his space again, not having learned his lesson.
“Don’t fucking touch me,” he mutters darkly.
“I just want to help.”
“I don’t need your help.”
His vision dims; his brain’s probably frying in his skull. His breath comes out in labored huffs that comes out as thick, black smoke.
He sees him smile wanly. The hand that he burned hovers over the angry scars, with its stupid shiny rings and raw skin.
“I’ll burn you to a crisp if you touch me.”
He means it, he does. Still, the hand reaches him to peel off the burnt gauze. Something gross oozes from within the stapled slabs of flesh underneath.
Hawks doesn’t seem to mind, though. His damaged hands work their way to taking all the dressings off carefully, cleaning the wounds, covering them with the expensive-looking healing strips. The stupid bird’s fearless when he lifts him up without a word to remove the ones over his torso and back and bottom, where the contrast of his pale, cold skin against the ugly burnt ones are more apparent.
It’s a long, arduous process, disgusting and uncomfortable and intimate in a sickening way. Not that he hasn’t been naked with the pro before--he fucked him lots of times, after all, made him cry out his name in shady alleys and warehouses under the guise of ‘negotiation.’ But he wasn’t dying when he fucked him before. He wasn’t vulnerable.
The chore takes too long. He might have nodded off once or twice while Hawks was being a stupid tedious fuck over his wounds. The entire ordeal takes too much out of him, and his eyes close when the back of his head hits the pillow, sending him teetering in and out of consciousness.
He sees Hawks briefly in the fever haze: stretching his limbs, stripping off that stupid paisley jacket, now burnt at the sleeves; wings twitching in pain as he applies the burn medications on his own fingers, neglected for the past hour; taking a swig of something that makes the corner of his mouth jerk and makes his eyes wander over his sleeping form with a pathetic look in them.
He wonders idly why this bastard bothers at all. If he’s doing this in a desperate attempt to stay in the league, even though he saw them getting fucked and torn apart before his very eyes. If this is all out of obligation, or if he’s deluded himself into latching onto him just because they had sex a few times.
If he found out about him.
But it doesn’t matter. Whatever this guys knows, it’s all for nothing. He can feel the inevitable, coming closer and closer.
He’s about to die.
The pain still fucks him up in the morning, but he’s able to stand up and kick Hawks awake on the couch. In no time they’re returning the key to the reception (with a wad of extra cash, for silence and for the burnt furniture) and get back in the car.
Instead of the highway, Hawks takes them through small towns, the type that takes hours of driving on twisting roads, through forests and mountains and valleys. He stops a few times in more middle-of-nowhere types of gas stations and diners with simple folk behind the register who don’t spare them a second glance.
Hawks would drive until the sun sets, filling the silence by humming stupid songs from the radio. His burnt hands would tap against the steering wheel. He hated it, but at least it kept the pro from yakking his head off, so he just lets him be.
They’d stop at lay-bys near trees and cliffs that shows scattered rooftops and coastlines and lakes below. Hawks would stretch his legs and ask him to do the same.
“C’mon, get some fresh air in those nasty lungs of yours.”
He refuses each time.
There’s tension everywhere, especially in the smile he forces on that blabbermouth when he pretends that he isn’t concerned. “You know, the sea air won’t sting so bad if you just took those painkillers.”
He’s had enough of that after half a lifetime of taking them. But the bird-brain doesn’t need to know that part of his history. Weirdly enough, he doesn’t ask.
They waste time like this while the sun is up. At night they’ll be in another small town, another forgettable motel. Hawks goes for whatever room is available, which is usually the same standard room with a double bed and two toothbrushes. Hawks would subject himself to changing all the dressings, being nice and shit while getting kicked and burnt and abused.
To his credit, Hawks only whines about this once, and it isn’t even about his own burn wounds. “You’re gonna hurt yourself more if you keep using your fire like this.”
His derisive laugh comes out as a pathetic wheeze, the type that old men who smoked all their lives tend to sound like. It makes Hawks flinch.
“There’s no point in prolonging the agony,” he says evenly. “Let me die in a nameless gutter somewhere, won’t ya?”
It’ll be easy once he’s sure there’s no-one to mourn for him. He can even cremate himself.
“No can do, sport.” The last bandage applied, Hawks stands up to tend to his own wounds, but not before rubbing a hand gently over his. “Can’t let’ you die on my watch.”
He looks up at him, unblinking. “Why bother, hero?”
He gives him a lopsided smirk. “Everything I do, I do for the League, Dabi.”
And then he turns away, quietly rubbing medicine on his burnt hands.
It’s probably the fourth or fifth day on the road when it happens. Hawks obviously had no real destination in mind, the only goal being to keep a low profile and to not stay in one place for too long. If there was any hope of finding Leader and the rest of them, they’ll deal with it when it comes. But for now, it’s only them and the endless, winding roads of a nameless country.
In the next nameless motel he allows Hawks to clean his wounds and change his dressings and touch him and lift him without much of a fuss. He doesn’t push him away or punch him or breathe fire at him like he has for the past nights--all he does is murmur an expletive under his breath when the gauze is ripped off his skin, but nothing more hostile than that.
Hawks notices. Wisely keeps silent, continues the job and doesn’t dare open his mouth until he’s done. Somehow both of them make it through without any new burns to show for it.
“Looks like I got time for a soak, for once,” Hawks mutters, a little stunned. “Uh. Go ahead and sleep. The bed’s yours, as usual.”
He grunts in reply and slowly, slowly reclines, lets his eyes flutter closed, lets his breathing slow down, lets all the sensations ebb away. There’s no reason to this… this kindness if you can call it that. He has just simply decided that it’s time to stop putting up a fight. The past days have been so quiet that he can pretend that everything in his life--at least, until the point he died before--never really happened. That it isn’t him who went through all that shit. That he’s simply this guy with no name, going on a pointless roadtrip with the most annoying pro on the surface of this planet.
He can pretend that he didn’t exist before now.
He doesn’t see anything, but he knows that the other guy doesn’t move immediately--knows that he’s trying to read his mind, to gauge whether it’s safe to trust this change of the status quo that, until now, caused him nothing but pain.
And then, he decides--a sound as soft as feathers rustling with the wind, “Goodnight.”
He hasn’t heard it for a long time since he was home. It takes all of everything he has in him not to say it back.
The days pass. Hawks keeps on driving far, far away, through cities and towns that don’t even feel like Japan anymore. In the evenings they crash in nameless motels, where his bandages are cleaned and replaced before he’s lulled by the neverending heat.
The changes are slow, but they’re there, so that Hawks doesn’t get burned anymore when he comes close, and when he does, Hawks comes closer--closer so that he doesn’t sleep on the floor anymore when there’s only one bed, but right next to him.
It’s awkward at first with those big stupid wings on a measly double bed, but they manage. Hawks has the courtesy of facing away from him the first few nights, curling into his side so shyly that he falls off the bed a few times.
Stupid shit hurt his ass over it. He laughs; the guy honestly deserves that and much more for whatever scheme he’s planning, taking him on this never-ending roadtrip to nowhere. But.
But. He’s dying, isn’t he. He can shut everyone out until his dying day as per his original plan, but at the same time, he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t have to act like everyone expects him to. He’s free to do whatever the hell he wants. He can do as much for this poor sod who’s literally burning himself trying to save him.
Maybe. He gives himself a few nights to think about it.
One night, he makes up his mind. Hawks curls in on himself at the opposite side of the bed, looking pathetic as per usual. The lights are turned off; there’s a ruffle of feathers as he settles down with his back turned to the wall.
Just as the other man utters a muffled goodnight, he drags him by the collar, maneuvering him so they’d face each other.
Golden eyes fly right open, glinting stupidly in the dim light. “Uh… Dabi? What are you doing?”
He doesn’t answer. The guy presses on with more stupid questions and fuck, he just wants the both of them to get some good sleep, right? He needs him to shut up. That’s what he tells himself when he shuts him up by pushing his open mouth against his and shoving his tongue right in there, stilling the next onslaught of words.
It works--Hawks looks even dumber than before when they pull apart. In the dark he sees his swollen, heated lips, slightly parted, unconsciously leaning forward to chase the heat of his own mouth for more.
“Um. Next time you want a goodnight kiss, you can just ask nicely, y’know.”
But it’s Hawks whose cheeks are darkening like a blushing bride, who doesn’t know what to do with his eyes and his hands. He knows he’s thinking about the last time they fucked, which was on Redestro’s desk; he knows he’s thinking about whether or not they’ve kissed without fucking, and what’s he supposed to do now. He’s panicking. It’s almost cute.
He isn’t going to make it any more confusing for him though. He can kiss someone without expecting to stick his dick in something. He can do it just because he wants to.
“Shut it. Let’s sleep,” he mumbles, calmer than he thought possible.
Hawks stares at him in awe. “Okay.”
Those strange eyes of his flutter closed, and he follows. Before he succumbs to the dark, the image of the other’s bright smile sears at the back of his eyelids like the rays of the sun.
On a sunny day, as they drive through a seaside town, he follows Hawks… Takami, out of the car, and into the sea.
The other man’s surprised, on the verge of doing a stupid happy dance in the sand until he grits for him to shut it or he’ll burn those stupid chicken wings off. It stops the dance, but not his stupid mouth from yapping on and on.
“It’s like we’re actually friends now,” he says.
He clicks his tongue. “We’re not friends,” he says, without the usual vitriol.
“You know we are,” Takami insists with a stupid grin. One giant wing stretches out, giving him shade from the burning sun.
“At least… I like to think so. I wouldn’t risk my career for someone who’s a not-friend, y’know.”
Friends, huh. What a concept. He made him betray his country, used his body up, made him do unsavory things. He put his arm around him that one time in front of other people, but that’s it. Why would this guy want to be his friend?
If it were him… if he looked at the guy who hurt him so much, in the face--
His eyes snap up to meet gold and red. Takami’s staring at him, lowering his other wing gingerly to brush against cold skin and the steam rising between the cracks. He doesn’t even know that he’s activated his quirk until it’s too late.
The blabbermouth sees his face and actually looks sorry for what he said. “I didn’t mean--”
He shakes his head. Touya was his name, but Touya’s dead. He knows there’s an altar with his middle school photo on it, hidden deep within his Father’s house. They probably offer prayers and incense and other useless things that won’t bring him back.
“Of course you knew, birdbrain.” His chuckle scrapes against his throat harshly. “You were pretty close to Endeavor. You probably knew the moment you saw me, didn’t you?”
Takami looks at him carefully. “No,” he answers quietly. “I just found out along the way.”
“Huh. So you did.”
It’s weird--he’s the one who went through everything, but right now it feels like it happened to a different person, born in a different era. Still, it’s Takami who looks pained and betrayed, whose eyes flicker as he mimics the scratchy chuckle he did a while ago.
“I did something about it, though.” An anxious rub at the back of his neck. The edges of the rings on his fingers glint sharply under the sunlight. “Well--nothing you need to know about. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to worry about being chased by anyone.”
One bandaged hand rubs against the other arm, with the subtle twitch of wings. He remembers distantly that those hands have killed a man, just because he was asked.
“Huh,” he repeats, oddly calm. “So you did.”
Takami nods decisively. “You’ve left your names behind, right?
He shrugs, vaguely. Touya and Dabi are identities given to him by families he’s lost before. He doesn’t think there’s a point to hold onto any of them anymore-- not for Fuyumi, Natsuo, Shouto… Leader, Twice, Toga, Spinner, Compress. Kurogiri…
There’s an awful lot of nothing in him when he thinks of them, so he doesn’t know why the other guy stretches his unused wing behind him to wrap around him, in a gesture of comfort.
He doesn’t know why his heart stills and why it suddenly feels heavy. He doesn’t know why he suddenly feels like grieving--do the dead even grieve? There’s saltwater on his face when he rubs his thumb against the corner of his eye.
A whole lot of nothing, huh.
Takami smiles kindly beside him. “It’s okay. You can think of a better name on the road.”
He gestures to the two of them, to the car, the road, the open sea--his arms in the stupid paisley jacket, burnt at the ends, flailing about in the open space where nothing and no-one knows who they are.
They drive on.