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Relearn the Skies

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Hawks hadn't known he was pregnant. He'd had no symptoms, not a single sign of his condition up until now - his stomach hadn't even popped out, for goodness' sake. He'd been flat as a board this entire time, had no nausea or exhaustion, no warnings from his body it might be necessary to go pick up a test. Yet after the attack ended and he was rushed to a public hospital with many other heroes, he experienced sharp abdomen pains that the medical staff soon found out were labor pains. Four hours later he was in a completely different ward of the hospital, exhausted, confused, and all stitched up from childbirth.

His son was born at twenty-three weeks along. He was so small, the first and only time Hawks held him he fit in the palms of both his hands. His skin looked thin and sickly, and he was completely bald, lacking even eyebrows and eyelashes because he'd come too early. His wings were practically skeletons, featherless. He had trouble breathing on his own, yet didn't so much as make a sound in Hawks' hands, not a cry, whimper, or gasp. If Hawks didn't know any better, if he couldn't see the troubled rise in his chest and all the tubes already hooked up to him, he would have thought the baby was dead.

It was too soon to tell who the baby would take after one day. Hawks thought he had signs of his eye markings on his face, but his eye color, hair color, and physical features were completely unknown right now. Nevertheless, there was no doubt in Hawks' mind who the other father was. The lucky thing was, no one else knew and wouldn't be able to guess by looking at their kid. When the nurses considered Hawks rested and well enough to fill out the birth certificate, he left the other parent section blank.

The name part for the baby was a tough one. Hawks hadn't been anticipating parenthood being suddenly thrust upon him - he surprised himself by his instant desire to keep it, because he hadn't particularly wanted kids before - so he didn't have any names in mind. After an hour of thinking carefully, he went with Yuto, using the kanji for 'permanence' and 'to soar, fly.' Maybe the baby would live and get to use his wings someday. If not, well - well, Hawks wasn't going to think of that right now. He was still stuck on the fact he'd lost his wings, almost died, and then given birth; he didn't have the head space for anything more, let alone something so negative.

He had a thorough discussion with the doctor in charge of his case once he was done with the birth certificate.

In regards to his own condition, he would be fine. Everything would heal with proper medical care and he could go home in a couple days if he wanted. The burns on his face and left side weren't too serious; they'd leave light pink scars, but it was nothing skin grafts couldn't fix if he preferred it that way instead. His wings, unfortunately, had been burned and cauterized at the joints connecting to his back. Those burns were much more severe than his face and side. The doctor sincerely, regretfully, doubted they would grow back by the end of the week this time.

In regards to Hawks' son, he was born much too early and was far from thriving, but they had the equipment to keep him stable. Care was better than it used to be, so his chances of living were much higher than dying. But the risk was still there, higher than they would have liked for a premature baby due to what seemed like an innate frailty of his body, and he might suffer from long-term complications even if he did live. He would need to stay in the hospital for several months because of this. If he did live, though, he'd begin to thrive on his own. That was the good news.

So in other words, Hawks had come out of the attack with a(n ex-) boyfriend who told him he'd known he was a spy all along and never trusted him, burned away his wings forever, costing him his career as a hero, informed him he didn't care about his life, had tried to kill him, and sent him into premature labor with his innately frail kid who would either die or live a complications-filled life. That was great. But hey, at least Hawks had killed a dangerous (the kindest) League of Villains senior member and learned Dabi's real name. That counted for something, right? He wasn't sure that made up for it all at the end of the day, but it counted for something, right?


Hawks was moved to his own private room at the Hero Commission's request and had another thorough discussion with them about the future moving forward.

They stoically thanked him for his service as a hero underneath them and offered their brisk condolences about his quirk. He was offered a desk job at the Commission, and after he refused, reminded of his countless NDAs as they politely accepted his refusal and hoped for a speedy recovery from his injuries. They would keep in contact from time to time, and would continue to watch over him in case the League targeted him for his betrayal. He would also be compensated financially for his service and losses - as if that made up for anything or was required to keep his mouth shut, as if he wasn't already rich from his places in the top three.

His heart just about stopped when they mentioned his son. Hawks should have expected that, though. Of course they were informed, patient confidentiality be damned. On the bright side, they had no interest in him; even if he lived, his likely complications would prevent him from becoming a hero. Or so Hawks interpreted from behind their thinly veiled remarks about how he was unlikely to follow in Hawks' footsteps. On the not so bright side, they demanded to know why they weren't informed of Hawks' physical state beforehand or why he didn't take care of it before the attack. He sweetly informed them he hadn't been aware of the pregnancy, and would have absolutely taken appropriate measures, whatever they might have been, if he had known, and ended that aspect of the conversation with a bare-toothed smile.

They didn't ask who the other father was, thank goodness, but Hawks threw in that Yuto was the result of a one night fling several months ago, and laughed about how he should have been more careful. He let them assume for themselves it was while off-duty. He wasn't out to make himself look suspicious. The last thing he wanted was them performing a DNA test on his kid. Maybe he was being paranoid there, but hey, he didn't even have plans to let the Todorokis know they had a new member of the family, let alone the Commission. He didn't know what would happen if it was found out he had been sleeping with the enemy - and didn't report so, because clearly, it was solely for the infiltration, yeah? Yuto's parentage was none of their business as far as Hawks was concerned.

He did give over everything else, though, including his salvaged recorder. He answered every question, promised one last detailed report to send to their desks, and let them know the previously unknown senior member of the League of Villains, Dabi, was in fact Todoroki Touya, who had his own agenda outside the League that likely included the death of his father and the number one hero, Endeavor.

As long as his son was safe from both sides here on, and more lives were saved as the League and their allies were taken out, Hawks didn't really care what happened to Dabi next.

Hawks was given the choice to be discharged from the hospital two days after his arrival, but chose to wait it out another few days to let the doctors continue monitoring him. Mostly, he just didn't feel like getting out of bed yet. His career was over and he had a potentially dying baby he'd never known about up on the next floor of the hospital. In his mind, there wasn't much point in leaving yet. Nothing was waiting for him at home.

When he did leave his bed, Hawks went upstairs to visit Yuto in his incubator. He was hooked up to so many tubes and machines it was crazy. His eyes were always closed when he came up, as if he were sleeping (or dead), and wouldn't even blink them open when the nurses helped him out of there for Hawks to hold.

Skin contact was good for newborns, especially preemies, the nurses cheerily told him. It helped them thrive. If he wanted to take off his shirt and hold him against his chest for more contact, he could. They would help him. Hawks had initially thought they were odd fangirls looking to get a peak and touch of his chest, but no; they were serious. Huh. He settled for keeping his shirt on and simply rubbing his fingers over every inch of Yuto the tubes would allow. If it helped Yuto at all or made him feel better, he gave Hawks no signal of such.

"Are you sure his chances of living are better than dying?" he asked one time. "He doesn't look so good to me."

"Actually, he's doing well for what we expected," one of the nurses, an elderly one who was the head of this ward to his knowledge, replied. "He'll still need to be here for quite some time, but his body has reacted more or less positively to every treatment. I believe he'll come out of this safely and healthy."

More or less, huh. That didn't sound like he'd 'come out of this safely and healthy' to Hawks. But hey, she was the expert here, not him.

"He's extra frail, though, ain't he?" Hawks asked. He waved a hand. "Not just because he's premature; his body is, like, weaker than average, isn't it?"

She nodded. "Yes. Which is why it's wonderful he's taking to the treatments so well. We thought he'd have a tougher time adjusting and were prepared to administer heavier measures. Luckily, he's doing just fine."

That was good, Hawks supposed.

"He might be frail," the nurse added admiringly, "but he's a little fighter. He must get it from his heroic father."

Hawks hummed noncommittedly. Not so heroic anymore without his quirk. He might as well go back to being Takami Keigo for as much he could fight for the world now.

The name would go well with frail, little Takami Yuto's.

The truth was Hawks didn't know what to do with his son yet. He was kind of just...there. Upstairs on the next floor, laying in an incubator. Hawks didn't think it had sunk in for him yet that this was his child, that Yuto belonged to him. He asked himself if he loved him, and all he could say was...there was something inside of Hawks when he thought of the baby, yeah, but he couldn't say for sure it was love. Might have simply been responsibility. Even if it hadn't sunk in yet, Yuto was still his to take care of.

Maybe it was a blessing in disguise Yuto would be in the hospital for his first couple months of life. Hawks had just turned twenty-three not that relatively long ago. He knew nothing about kids, other than to smile big at them and that they liked to play. The most he knew about babies was what to do when rescuing one from a number of situations. Not how to raise one. He had never really conclusively thought about if he wanted kids of his own someday. He'd decided it wasn't worth thinking about unless a serious partner came along, which wasn't likely to happen with his intense focus on his job. (Dabi was not a serious partner. He was a villain-turned-boyfriend whose Hawks' exact feelings for were murky right now.) As long as Yuto was on track to survive, he could take this time to learn what the hell he was going to do.

It wasn't like Hawks had great examples of parenting in his life to reflect on. His father had been a neglectful thief who got himself arrested by Endeavor and his mother had been a neglectful addict who was more than happy to sign away her parental rights when Hawks asked her to let him become a hero. He hadn't seen either of them since he was seven. As for the Commission, well, they had kept him physically healthy and gave him access to therapy growing up, but he wouldn't call people whose first priority was child soldiers parents, much less a good example of parenting to look back on.

Now would probably be the best time to buy some parenting books. And diapers. And a crib. He was going to have to babyproof his whole apartment. Wait, what size clothes would Yuto be when he got out of the hospital? What if Hawks bought the wrong sized diapers for him? No point in stocking up what he couldn't use.

He sighed to himself, reaching behind to scratch where his wings used to be. At least parenting would give him something to do in his newfound free time. When Yuto got out of the hospital, Hawks bet he'd be too busy and too close to falling dead asleep every day to mourn the loss of his wings and career anymore. Until then...

He threw himself back on his pillow with a groan. Parenthood was not what he wanted. He wanted to save people. He wanted to keep them safe - everyone the villains would harm, everyone the Commission was willing to sacrifice. He still had nightmares about Best Jeanist. The world needed him. He was supposed to get his lazy days out of a lack of crime, not because Dabi had burned away his wing joints. Yuto wasn't a replacement for all that. He didn't make up for it.

Hawks turned on his side on the bed, curling muscles that wouldn't move the wings that were no longer there to get in his way.

Maybe it would better to give Yuto up for adoption instead. He had no idea how to be a parent, couldn't say for sure he loved his kid, and didn't want to turn on him as a scapegoat for all of Hawks' resentment for this situation. Yuto wasn't to blame for anything that went on. He didn't want to turn into his own parents.

He didn't know. He'd think about it. See if he lived first.

Hawks hoped he'd live. He was just a baby, totally innocent. He didn't know if he loved his son, but he definitely wanted him safe. He ought to have a normal life. He ought to be able to fly. He ought to have parents who weren't wrapped up on opposite sides of a war and out to kill each other in the end. It wasn't fair to him to be born into this and then die.

Hawks really didn't know what to do.

On the day Hawks finally allowed himself to be discharged, a week after he was first admitted, Endeavor suddenly barged into his room, flames alight on his face.

"YOU ARE A LIAR!" he howled.

Hawks, who had just finished changing into his jeans, T-shirt, and jacket, and was still holding his hospital garb, tilted his head. Well, Endeavor wasn't wrong. "About what?"

"Touya!" he spat. "You are a liar! My son is dead!"

Hawks cooled his expression into a neutral one. Ah. "That was the name Dabi gave me. The Commission has the recorder."

Endeavor swept his arm out. "I don't care about the Commission or your recorder! My son is not alive! He is not a villain!"

Dabi had begged to differ.

Hawks kept his face carefully neutral. "Then we'll find out soon enough. Or, rather, you will; I'm off-duty from now on. So you don't have to worry about me poking into your personal life again."

Endeavor growled. "He lied to you! He isn't my son! Touya died over ten years ago!"

It slowly dawned on Hawks what was happening. Ahh. Someone had just now informed Endeavor of what happened, of who Dabi was, and he'd raced to the hospital to tell the original messenger off in a fit of denial.

Aren't you such the carrier pigeon? he heard Dabi's voice sneer in his head. He could hear the smirk in it.

Not anymore, he answered back. "I'm sorry for your loss either way, Endeavor. Regardless of who Dabi is, losing a child is hard." I might know what it's like soon. "I can't imagine how devastating this news is, whether he was lying to me or not. It's salt in the wound."

Endeavor snarled. "Don't you tell me what's difficult! Touya is - He's - ! He was my - !" His arms shook with what was either fury or grief. Probably both. "YOU ARE A DAMN LIAR!"

I want to go visit my son before I leave. Your grandchild. Dabi's not coming back to either of us. He wants to kill us. Especially you.

Hawks opened his mouth in an attempt to defuse the situation before it got worse.

Endeavor beat him to the punch. "SAVE IT! I don't want to hear more of your lies! Touya - Touya couldn't even be a hero! His body was too weak! That's what got him killed, that's how I damn near killed him myself! He was a human match stick and I made him light the fuse! It's my fault! If he somehow survived, he - he can't be a villain, he couldn't even be a hero!"

Hawks listened to his confession with a slowly nodding head. Okay, that gave him a better idea of why Dabi hated his father and heroes so much. Endeavor pushed him too hard and he got hurt, all in the name of becoming a hero. Interesting. Endeavor would have to tell the Hero Commission that, because Hawks had no inclination to. He was sure the number one would, if he hadn't already.

"Look, I'm sorry," he told him. "Dabi never told me about his family or why he became a vil- "

"NO MORE LIES!" Endeavor shouted. "You were a double agent! You were working with him this whole time! You never knew Touya, but you knew Dabi! Tell me he's not him!"

Hawks lifted his chin. Now Endeavor was just being irrational.

Endeavor waited. When Hawks didn't answer, he appeared to deflate.

"He's not Touya," he insisted, though it sounded more like begging. "My son - if he wanted to hurt me, fine, but Touya loved his mother. He loved his siblings. Dabi attacked Shoto at the training camp! Touya wouldn't do that!"

"From what I gathered," Hawks started slowly, "he shot fire at a group of students. Shoto was simply part of that group, not the target, and got out unscathed. Dabi didn't hurt him otherwise."

"He's my son," Endeavor sounded dangerously close to crying, which unnerved Hawks. "He could never do the things Dabi's done. He was too fragile, body and heart."

Hawks shrugged. Dabi's heart had never seemed fragile to him. But he thought he might have seen slivers of what Endeavor meant when they were alone. When Yuto was being conceived and Dabi showed some ability to open up and be vulnerable. He didn't think it mattered, though. At the end of the day, Dabi was a brutal sociopath who only had sympathy for himself. Twice's death only bothered him, broke his heart, because it put a huge dent in his plans. He hadn't cared for the person himself.

"I don't know what you want me to tell you. It'll just be another lie," Hawks told him flatly. "I'm sorry, Endeavor. That's all I can say. This is painful for you and I don't want to make it worse."

Endeavor's flames wavered. His shoulders slumped. With one last half-hearted snarl, he turned on his heel for the doorway.

Except Hawks couldn't help himself. "You said Touya's body was fragile - was he born that way?"

Endeavor paused. He threw a curious scowl over his shoulder. "What?"

"It's something Dabi said once." Now Hawks was being manipulative. "It's nothing important. I think he said something about being weak at birth is all."

Endeavor's eyebrows furrowed, as if he were trying to silently analyze Hawks.

Eventually, he said, "Touya was healthy when he was born. He inherited his mother's weak constitution is it. My wife is...not a sickly woman, but not a strong one either." His face slipped some. "Touya's body was easy to tax out. ...What did he say exactly, Hawks?"

"Ah, I was trying to get some background information about him," Hawks lied with a small smile. "I told him my birthday, favorite childhood memories, how my parents were shit, and all he made was a scoffing remark about...something or other being weak when he was born. That's it."

It almost made Hawks feel bad, the look of guilt that crossed Endeavor's face upon hearing that. His lie had fit too well, it appeared.

Endeavor marched out without further word.

Hawks plopped down on the bed, tossing the hospital garb aside. Well, Yuto, now I know where you got your frailty. Suspected as much since it's not from my side, but wasn't really expecting it.

Dabi was weak to the affect of his quirk and therefore careful about it, careful about getting into fights in general, but Hawks wouldn't have called him frail. He had the scars on his face, left side, and back to prove it.

"I'm going home today, baby bird," Hawks let Yuto know, the phrase 'baby bird' awkward on his lips. "Don't worry, I'll come back to see you. My apartment's pretty boring, so I won't have much else to do."

Yuto gave no sign he heard Hawks. He was cradled to his clothed chest in both palms, the tubes and wires spilling down Hawks' hands. His eyes remained closed, scrunched shut actually, the little, black markings wrinkled in his uncomfortable expression. One of the tubes was taped inside his tiny nostril, yet he sucked in breaths through his mouth like it was hard to breathe. His skin hadn't improved at all over his first week of life, and he was still completely bald. His wing bones looked as though the tiniest poke would snap them. If he did hear him, Hawks doubted it mattered much more to him than the pain he was surely in.

His heart ached at the sight.

"The doctors and nurses will take good care of you, just as they have been all week," he assured him.

Yuto didn't cry, whine, or twitch in reponse.

Hawks rubbed his thumb and index finger down one of his legs. "I bet you won't even know I'm gone."

The only sign he had that Yuto hadn't died in his hands at some unknown point was the hard breaths the newborn sucked in.

A flood of hate rushed through Hawks' body. Yuto had needed more time in the womb. He didn't know if he was more angry with himself for not knowing he was pregnant and unwittingly carrying his son into battle or Dabi for kicking him around and burning him enough to send him into premature labor.

Dabi hadn't known either. He couldn't have, not if Hawks hadn't known. If he had, would things have ended differently?

Hawks wondered.


In the middle of a bleak alleyway, Dabi sauntered too close and pushed a loose lock of windswept hair back on Hawks' head. "You know, you're a pretty bird."

On top of a four story building's roof at half past midnight, Dabi lay nonchalantly on the concrete, smirking up at Hawks' hunched over form. "Gonna kiss me? Go on, I know you've been wanting to for a good while. I have been, too."

Dabi's black hair tickled Hawk's naked chest on the bed of a remote motel. "I haven't loved anyone in a long time. Don't fuck this up for me."


In the scorched mansion, Dabi's eyes were blown wide with smug glee. "I never believed anything from the start."

The grin Dabi wore was manic and murderous. He pressed his boot down harder on Hawks. "I don't care whether you live or die. Your life is another thing that doesn't matter to me. See ya, Hawks."


Hawks frowned deeply. No. No, he didn't think so. Although he had assured Endeavor Dabi likely wasn't interested in hurting Shoto, the truth was Hawks had no idea where he stood in regards to his family, aside from his father. Dabi had told Hawks in strict confidence that he loved him only to turn around and reveal he'd known Hawks was a spy all along and it was just a game. Dabi played with lives as if they were toys to be waved around and tossed away at will. When he burned the last of Hawks' wings in revenge for Twice's life, it hadn't been the man he was mourning, only the role Dabi had set for him in his plans. What would an unborn baby have meant to him?

He can never find out about you, Hawks thought, rubbing light circles against Yuto's stomach.

That was another reason he ought to give his son up. Frankly, it was likely the League would target Hawks for his betrayal. He had spied on them undercover and killed Twice. He could imagine Toga taking extra joy in slicing up his throat. Yuto would be in extra danger living with him. Hell, even if he gave him up, all the League had to do was find out that he existed and Hawks cared about him for them to kill him. He couldn't imagine appealing to Dabi that Yuto was his son as well would spare him. Hawks could only see Dabi grinning at his desperation and lighting up his hand.

It was another thing to think about on top of everything else.

Hawks looked down at Yuto. Just being alive was a struggle for him right now. He didn't want his son to get hurt. He didn't want him to die because of his father's actions. It wasn't fair to him. It wasn't right.

Maybe they could move. The Winged Hero Hawks was no more, so they could change their names and move far, far away. They could leave Japan. They could go to the other side of the world. They could hide in the most remote location they could find. Whatever got them as far from the League and Dabi as possible, until it was safe to return. As long as Yuto was safe and Hawks could keep him that way, he'd be happy to go.

- and Hawks could keep him that way, he'd be happy to go.

Huh. Perhaps he did love Yuto after all; it wasn't simply responsibility.

Whatever the case, Hawks still had a lot of thinking to do. His life was going to be so different from now on. He'd never been without his wings for more than a handful of days before. He'd never been jobless. He'd never been a father. He had a lot of decisions to make and learning to do. It wasn't going to be easy on him, he knew that. It was going to rough. But whatever happened, he was willing to give it a shot. It wasn't like he had anything else left to him now.

You poor thing, Dabi crooned his in head. Hey, at least remember the kid ain't guaranteed to make it. He might never leave this hospital. Who are you, to lose everything you had, and go looking towards a future with MY dying kid? You enjoy setting yourself up for heartbreak, don't you, birdie?

Hawk scowled at the internal mockery.

"You'll live," he told Yuto defiantly. "I know you will. The nurse was right, you are a little fighter. You get that from me. Don't give up yet, baby bird."

Isn't that adorable. If he's anything like ME, I'm sure he won't, Dabi laughed.

Hawks bit his lip.

He signaled to a nurse to come put Yuto back in his incubator, and once she was gone, kneeled down and pressed a finger on the glass. Yuto was as unresponsive as ever.

"We'll be okay," he murmured. "I promise."

When Hawks got home that afternoon, there was no one waiting for him.

No friends, no family, no welcome home from the hospital surprise party.

Only dust on the furniture, a bucket of week old, left over chicken that should have been thrown out six days ago in the fridge, and a balcony that stung to look at right off his living room.

He closed the door with a sigh and hand through his hair, and slumped to the floor.

He had never felt so empty.

Chapter Text

Hawks had to say, he was mildly flattered. If Tokoyami could catch sight of him in a crowd and actually catch up to him, wings or no wings, then his favorite birdie intern must have been really eager to meet with him. In that case, he could spare a little time out of his now boring days chatting him up at a nearby café, his retirement fund's treat. The rest of his shopping spree could wait.

"I'm sorry I didn't visit you in the hospital," Tokoyami apologized after Hawks ordered for them, head down, facing the table. "When I tried, they said visitors were restricted to family only. They wouldn't let me in."

Hawks nodded lightly. He had requested it that way, so no one would find out he had been recovering from childbirth. Then he never rescinded the request, having no desire to see or speak to anyone in his moping. Of course that didn't extend to the Hero Commission - nothing ever did - or, apparently, Endeavor's wrath. "Don't worry about it. I wasn't in the headspace to see anyone anyway. So how are you holding up? I've got plenty of thanks to give you for saving my ass back there the way you did."

Tokoyami lifted his head with what might have been a blush under his feathers. "I'm well. Classes have resumed and I've been putting my all into studying. I feel there's much improvement I still need to make with Dark Shadow."

"Well, as your former mentor who would have died if not for you, I'd say you're on the right track," Hawks reported merrily.

Tokoyami glanced over Hawks' shoulder. "...You were the one who admonished me for wasting my potential by staying on the ground. I owe a lot to you. Is there nothing that can be done for your wings?"

Hawks let the smile slip from his face. Well, wasn't that cutting it straight to the point.

Planting his arms on the table, he shrugged aimlessly. "Dabi's flames burned me down to the joints and cauterized them. By the doc's look at things, they weren't going to grow back. In the month I've been free from the hospital, he's been right. If he wasn't, they would have grown back before I was discharged. So no, there isn't."

"There's no surgery they could perform?" he pushed. "Some sort of - transplant? Or - ?"

"A transplant?" Hawks gave him a crooked smile. "How would they pull that off? Something tells me they don't have wings stored up like they have blood. I appreciate the concern, Tokoyami, but there's nothing to be done."

Tokoyami didn't looked satisfied with that response. "You haven't given up, though, have you? If I can fly without being born with wings, surely you can even now."

Hawks shoved his chin into his palm with a brief sigh. "I don't know. My head's been all over the place since the raid; I have too many things on my mind. All I know is that almost my entire quirk was in my wings. I can't get creative with my sight the way you can with Dark Shadow."

"Forgive me, but surely you're not content with such an early retirement," he pressed on, leaning forward. "I know you longed for days so peaceful you could cut your work schedule, but this was not the way in which you desired."

Hawks hummed. His stomach flopped in a way he didn't like. Nevertheless, he kept a cheery façade on. "Ah, I guess that's my punishment for not being proactive enough. I knew fire was my weakness and instead of coming up with a solution for my problem, I fell back on the assumption I could escape every time with my speed. That was my mistake. I should have been better prepared for a flame quirk. Let this be a warning to you that overconfidence can be a vice!"

Tokoyami grunted in affirmation.

The waitress arrived with their drinks. Hawks thanked her with a beam and set the plastic glasses on the table in front of himself and Tokoyami.

"Do you have any plans on moving forward?" Tokoyami asked. He took a sip of his drink. "There must be some way for you to return to hero work. You can't be content this way and we've lost another top hero. I'm afraid of how many lights the League of Villains has already extinguished among us. They won't stop here in their pursuit for absolute darkness."

Hawks pushed himself back in his chair, suppressing a frown. His 'light' had been 'extinguished,' huh? He had to hand it to the kid, he truly was a dramatic one.

Not that he's wrong. I can't be a light that saves anyone anymore.

"I'm not saying," he began carefully, slowly, "that I won't keep my eyes and ears open. ...Maybe after I've adjusted to being grounded...I don't know, kid. Let's say some surprises have leapt out at me since the raid, and I'm not sure I'd be ready to go back even if I had my Fierce Wings. Like I said, my head's all over the place; a hero who can't function properly and only gets in the way isn't heroic at all. I wouldn't want to cause more troubles."

It was half a lie, half truth. The lie was that he'd be unable to function and only get in the way. The truth was he honestly wasn't sure if he'd go back now that he had Yuto. Fuck his heart, he wanted to keep the baby. The target on Hawks' back would only get larger if he were to burst back onto the field. It would be better, if an imperfect solution, to lay low. If the League was going to come after him, he preferred that they'd have to work to find him; it might buy him some to think of an even better solution.

Tokoyami's eyes widened in shock, though. "Is - Are you really that bad off? You were the number two. The people need you."

Hawks shrugged and flexed his back muscles. Phantom wings stretched behind him; it was funny, if he went by sheer feelings, he'd think his real wings were still there. "It's not like it makes a difference. I can't do anything for them now."

Tokoyami pushed his drink away. His face hardened. "Is that all you have to say? We may not be close, but I believe I can say that attitude isn't yours. You're too optimistic and diligent."

Hawks took a long drink of his glass. He wasn't sure if he was more irked by the fact someone who didn't know the full story was calling him out or the fact he was being correctly called out. If the tables were turned, Hawks would be saying the same thing.

As it was, though, he shifted in his seat. "Look, it's not like I don't feel guilty. I've never been so miserable being useless. I've always had an inclination for saving people and a hero is all I've wanted to be since I was seven. It was hard, grueling work and I would have loved more freedom and relaxation, but the results were worth it. I know people need me. If circumstances were different, if my wings were only damaged, if those surprises I mentioned hadn't sprung up on me, if...if I hadn't been so stupid..." Hawks trailed off. He closed his eyes and forced himself to get a grip. "If circumstances were different, I'd be on the scene in a flash as soon as I could. Maybe when my head's on straight again, I'll find a new way to fly. Until then, I have other priorities. I don't have a choice other than to leave the villains to the rest of the pros."

Tokoyami wasn't appeased, but he did soften. He pulled his drink back and kept it in his hand. "I see. Well, I hope you do get your head on 'straight' and find a new way to fly. If anyone belongs in the sky, on the field, it's you. Even if you are 'grounded' for the rest of your life, you have plenty of valuable skills we could use. You're more than simply your wings."

At that, Hawks laughed. "Such a mature pep talk! Am I seriously talking to a teenager? You sound like one of my bosses."

They didn't send you, did they? They're good at manipulation.

He believed it when they said they would continue watching him, for more than the fact the League might target him. As their little lapdog, Hawks knew too much to be merely let go. He bet they'd have their eyes on him from afar for the rest of his life. If they ever wanted something from him, underhanded tactics to get him to do it certainly wouldn't be off the metaphorical table.

Tokoyami turned sheepish. "I...that's not what I...I hope I don't offend - "

Hawks slapped his knee. "Aww, come on, loosen up! I'm not mad! In fact, I'm touched you care so much. My sidekicks got in touch when I decided to close my agency, but no one's hunted and sat me down for a real talk about what's happened yet. It means a lot that you did."

His stance relaxed as the blush returned. "Oh, I - I'm glad to have been a help, then."

Hawks raised his drink to his lips. "Yeah! So let's finish these and be on our ways. By the way, how did you get off campus? I thought U.A. students needed special permission to leave since the dorms were instituted."

"I had some things to pick up so I obtained permission." Tokoyami followed suit with his glass. He glanced down at the colored bags by Hawks' feet. "May I inquire to how you're spending your day?"

"I'm dead bored at home, so I'm buying some stuff to keep my mind occupied. I'm actually considering redecorating; that goes to show how bored I am." Hawks sniffed sourly. "Never thought I'd miss patrolling as much as I do."

He left out that the space he was 'considering' redecorating was the empty guest room he never used, and that it would become a nursery. Also the fact in the bags at his feet, which were thankfully not see-through, were guides on infant care, preemie care, child-raising, and baby toys he thought Yuto might like when he got a little older. He had been about to go look for baby bottles at another store in the mall when he ran into Tokoyami.

Damn, the kid had some heavy things to say, though.

He was right; Hawks didn't belong on the ground. He didn't belong to a civilian life. He was the second hero in the top three to be taken out of the fight in less than a year, and they weren't the only two forced out of the action. Miruko had also been taken out thanks to her arm and leg (though he heard rumors she was working with hero support teams to get powerful prosthetics to put her back on the field - but it'd still be a while before she could return), and Best Jeanist, who was about to retire anyway thanks to All for One, was still legally missing (Hawks wondered when the Commission would finally announce his death). It looked bad to the public. It was terrifying. Their heroes were winning, but at the costs of their careers. How many were going to be around to protect them in the future, as the war with the League went on, or after the war ended? It didn't used to be that heroes, especially top ones, dropped like flies. Not to mention Hawks' own inner demons. How was he not already trying to get back in the sky?

After a short pause where they both sipped their drinks in silence, Tokoyami spoke up.

"You know," he said quietly, "there's this young girl at U.A. She has the power to reverse a person's body to a previous state. I'm not aware of all the details - "

"I know who you're talking about," Hawks cut in, unable to help smiling at his efforts. "Eri's her name, right? I heard about her and her backstory. She can't control her quirk. Sorry, but I don't want to take the risk of no longer existing like her dad. Besides, I doubt the higher ups will authorize it. But thanks for the offer."

Tokoyami bowed his head. "I'm sorry. It was a foolish idea. I just want to help."

"You're doing fine. I feel better just chattin' with you!"

He picked his head up, remorseful. "No, it's - I feel partially responsible for your state. If I had gotten to you faster, perhaps your Fierce Wings could have been saved."

Ooh, Hawks didn't like that. He set his glass down. "You weren't supposed to be there," he reminded him, serious. "You weren't supposed to be with me. I was dealing with those villains on my own. The only people responsible for my state are me, for being a dumbass, and Dabi, for burning them in the first place. You did nothing wrong."

"Still," he argued, "if I had been faster, you wouldn't be like this. You would be on the field. Your agency wouldn't have had to close."

Guilt was a bitch to beat once the seeds of doubt had sprouted within one. Hawks rubbed his forehead in exasperation. "And I wouldn't have needed you to save me if I had been faster. You saved my life, Tokoyami. It's thanks to you I'm 'like this' instead of in an urn. Don't blame yourself for my wings. You did a great job. I'm forever in your debt for taking on Dabi like that. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you." For emphasis, Hawks bowed his head.

It wasn't simply a lie to cheer him up, though. Hawks was grateful to Tokoyami for saving him. If it hadn't been for him, he would have lost more than just his wings - and Yuto would have never been born alive either. He practically owed him his life. Hawks had been meaning to get around to thanking him properly in person soon, but with his current state, he hadn't gotten around to it. Lethargy was a bigger bitch to beat than guilt.

Tokoyami practically squawked. "I - ! I-if you say so...then I graciously accept your thanks!"

Hawks sat up straight. He smiled wide. "Right. So no more talk of putting yourself at fault, okay?"

Tokoyami flinched uneasily. "All right."

Hawks' heart went out to him, it did. "U.A.'s provided counselors for you students after the attack, haven't they? Unfortunately, I'm not a counselor; I'm not too good with this kind of stuff. If this starts bugging you again, I recommend you go talk to them. Don't be afraid to seek help. Watching colleagues go down is one of the harder aspects of being a hero they don't tell you about."

"Of course," he nodded soundly. "And...I hope you are doing the same, Hawks. I might have been the only who's 'hunted' you down, but I hope you've been able to speak with someone yourself. Surely being the one who...goes down is more difficult than being the one who watches."

Hawks closed his eyes with a grin. "That's sweet. Don't worry about me, Tokoyami, I could pay for three lifetimes of therapy if I wanted. You done there? Let me take your cup, I'll throw it out."

Tokoyami finished his drink and allowed Hawks to take it as they stood. "I'm glad I ran into you today, Hawks. It's a relief to find you're doing all right. I pray for your continued recovery and hopeful return to the field - whenever that may be."

"It was good to see you, too," Hawks added. "I should have hunted you down earlier to give you my thanks. Whatever happens to me, you're going to make a great hero someday, I can see it. Take care, Tokoyami."

He bowed his head. "You as well."

Hawks leaned over the railing of his apartment balcony, watching the city below in his pajamas. The sun was setting in the distance. Gray clouds that suggested a midnight rainstorm were gradually gathering overhead. Traffic was as busy as ever. On a normal day, he'd be getting ready for his evening patrol right about now.

Today was not a normal day. Nor had yesterday been, nor would tomorrow be.

He couldn't stop thinking about what Tokoyami had said. It had been pestering him for two whole days. Why aren't I trying to fly? What's wrong with me?

At first he thought it might have been post-partum depression. Having a baby had to be a shock on the body, especially when pushed into labor prematurely, and hey, he had to get extra points for not knowing he was pregnant until he had gone into premature labor, right? Only he'd researched the symptoms online to see if he matched them, didn't feel like he matched enough of them to qualify. Some of them, yeah - he was regularly exhausted, had trouble sleeping at night, a decrease in energy, subdued appetite, and lack of interest in some of the things that used to make him happy, and this had definitely gone on longer than two weeks - others, no. He wasn't randomly crying, didn't feel overwhelmed, his mood wasn't all over the place, he wasn't irritable (much), and he wasn't afraid of himself as a threat to himself or his son. He had considered giving Yuto up for adoption out of fear of resenting or being unable to care for him, but those feelings had since subsided.

Regular depression was another option. It would make sense, consider the humongous shifts his life had taken in one day. One day was all it took for his heart to break, his wings to burn, his body to be pulverized, lose his career, and find himself as a new dad. Surely that was enough to throw anyone's amygdala totally out of whack.

Whatever it was, Hawks wasn't in the mood to address it yet. The thought of going to therapy made his skin crawl. Any therapist he turned to would have to be cleared by the Commission if he wanted to talk about classified information such as his undercover work, and he had no desire to tell a Commission-linked therapist he harbored guilt for killing a villain or that his son was actually the product of a romantic relationship with another villain. Short of that, well...he also had no close friends he could trust with that sort of information and his only family was a five week old fighting for his life in an incubator. Not exactly a good support system he had there. He'd rather just stay in bed.

Still...I should be trying to fly. I miss being in the air.

Birds who've had their wings clipped CAN'T fly, dumbass, Dabi's voice laughed at him in his head.

Hawks furrowed his brow at the buildings below.

He wasn't going crazy (not yet, anyhow). Dabi wasn't really in his head and the voice wasn't a real voice. It was merely his own thoughts manifesting in Dabi's timbre and diction. Pointing out his fears, flaws, and insecurities. Of course it was in Dabi's voice; who better to mock him, taunt him, bring his anxieties to life? Dabi had taken everything away from him.

You know, it's still hard for me to believe you're Touya, Hawks mused to himself. You're nothing like the kid I met that day. As much as I wanna say I can't believe I didn't recognize you, I can. You really take care of your roots, heh.

Is that supposed to be a joke about my hair or my origins? Hawks could feel Dabi's lips twist painfully in a sneering smile. Why should I be that kid? It's been fifteen, almost sixteen years, hasn't it?

It had been.

Hawks didn't enjoy remembering his father or the torment he went through being forced to help him. So he didn't call it to mind. What he did was the white haired boy with pretty, clear blue eyes, a few years older than him, sitting down on the sidewalk curb beside him while their fathers fought. Endeavour had been off duty and out with his son that evening, but a lack of a hero costume wasn't going to stop him once he caught wind of what Hawks' father had been up to. Touya had sat down next to Hawks, who had been shivering in anticipation.

"Are you okay?" he had asked.

Hawks had been seven at the time. Touya couldn't have been more than nine or ten years old. It was somehow easier to speak with a kid close to his age than an adult, even if Touya was an inch or three bigger than him (come to think of it, Hawks thought in the present, had Touya really been ten? He must have been small for his age).

He'd nodded. "Yeah. Endeavor's here. He saved me from my dad and now he's gonna take him to jail, right? After he wins? Then I'll never have to see him again. I swear I didn't want to do that stuff with him, promise!"

He had only been seven and he already couldn't be more looking forward to his shitty father's arrest. That had to say something about one's parenting.

Touya had cocked his head, mouth hard. His face was otherwise blank. "...I know," he eventually replied. "I'm sorry your dad hurt you."

Hawks had jolted at the statement. Despite the situation Touya and his father had found themselves embroiled in thanks to Hawks', that felt right out of left field. No one had ever spoken of his mistreatment like that. No one had ever apologized. And Touya hadn't ever met him before that day.

"It's okay," Hawks had blinked. Ignoring his own shaking, he smiled wide. "I'm glad Endeavor's here. You're so lucky, your dad is amazing! I wish I had a hero dad."

He remembered the way Touya had flinched and didn't smile back. It hadn't meant much to him when he was seven. But looking back now, particularly at how Touya had kept his eyes to the ground, twiddled his thumbs, and poked his tongue out on his bottom lip as he was thinking, he had seemed strangely anxious. Back then, however, Hawks only got the impression Endeavor's son was a shy, quiet kid.

That had been okay, though, because Hawks had been shy and quiet up to that point as well.

His brow furrowed. He recalled how too well his lie had sat with Endeavor in the hospital. Of course the man was nothing like the thief Takami, but how hard had he pushed Touya? What had he meant by nearly killing him, having been the one who forced Touya to light his own match? Clearly there was a lot of guilt for Touya's supposed death in Endeavor's heart, he obviously blamed himself, but what happened?

Guess you'll have to find out, Dabi jeered.

Hawks pushed him aside. No; regardless of what happened, it wasn't his business. He was out of the hero game and he wanted nothing more Dabi-related in his life. He had to protect Yuto. Endeavor's family drama with his villainous eldest son was his and his alone to deal with.

Yet Hawks remembered Touya.

He remembered how when he picked his head up, he inched closer to Hawks, to little Keigo, and whispered, as if they were conspiring together, "You had to do what he wanted, didn't you?"

Hawks had frowned. Shrunk into himself. Slid his gaze to his sneakers. "Yeah," he'd whispered. "I'm sorry. I know it's wrong and probably makes me a bad guy, too," he'd rubbed his arm apologetically, "but I'm scared of him. He hurts me if I say no or don't wanna go or mess the job up on accident but he thinks it's on purpose! I'm - I'm here because I'm too afraid not to be."

It had been a humiliating thing to admit. Hawks would have never blabbed that to an adult, and honestly, he'd surprised himself that day by admitting it to Touya.

Touya hadn't made fun of him, though. He only stared at him, and soon wrapped his arms around Hawks' small body. He was startlingly warm. It felt good in the chilly evening air. "No," he'd told Keigo quietly, "I think you're brave to. It's hard to be under somebody like that. You'd have to be brave not to cry every second of it."

Hawks' eyes had widened. He hadn't understood what he meant, but it'd felt like it was from someone who knew what he meant. Not that little Keigo had ever suspected Endeavor of being the cause of Touya's pain, oh no.

He'd leaned into Touya's warmth, safe, and curled his wings around them. They waited for the fight that was wrapping up to end, and exchanged names.

"I'm Takami Keigo!"

"My name's Todoroki Touya."

Then Endeavor defeated Hawks' father, the police took him into custody, and Endeavor came over to collect Touya. An officer took Hawks gently by the hand after they pulled apart, and they gave each other one last fleeting look before being dragged away. They never saw each other again.

Or so I thought.

Who would have guessed the boy that hugged him and called him brave would someday be the one to step on him and declare he was going to kill him. Would be the one to burn his wings. Would be the one to play with his heart strings as if they were a harp and crash that harp over his knee for fun.

Don't act like your intentions were so innocent, Dabi snapped. You sucked my dick while planning to send me to Tartarus. You were prepared to kill me if it came down to it. Sentimentality couldn't get in the way of your mission, remember? And I always made you sick deep down.

Hawks hummed. The sun had faded below the horizon and the sky was growing darker by the minute.

That was all true. He was never going to throw away his ideals for Dabi. He wasn't going to stand by and let the League or their Liberation allies wipe out city after city. Falling for one of their members wasn't going to hinder him in his pursuit to stop them, to save countless lives ahead of time. And yes, there were parts of Dabi that had absolutely disgusted him. Even then, he had known Dabi was evil. At the same time Dabi was kissing him, stroking his hair, telling him he loved him, he was also asking Hawks to commit murder to prove his loyalty to the League. Dabi disappeared for days at a time and left charred bodies in his wake. He agreed to arrangements where there would be few, preferably no causalities, and 'changed his mind' on a whim to fuck with Hawks and put as many people in danger as possible. Hawks had had no delusions about a happy ending to the raid for them.

So why did it hurt so much to know Dabi had played him as much as, if not more so than, Hawks had been playing him?

Because your feelings were real, he reminded himself. You weren't playing a long term game by kissing him. The goal was never to hurt him in that way. It would just be another fall out of your eventual betrayal.

Not to mention, Dabi was supposed to be the one on the ground in shock by the end, defeated, not Hawks.

The tables had been completely turned in regards to what Hawks had been expecting.

And it hurt way more than he had prepared himself for.

He shoved off the rail and went back inside. The pre-storm air was making his phantom wings twitch nervously.

At seven weeks old, Yuto had thick, black eyelashes that matched the black markings around his eyes, exactly like Hawks'. His wings were beginning to feather in soft, tiny, red puffs. Stark white eyebrows and thin strands of stark white hair grew on top of his head. He was steadily gaining weight. Although he remained sickly, worryingly pale, and unable to survive on his own without all the wires and tubes yet, he was getting there.

That nurse really was right; Yuto was a fighter.

"Hey, little guy," Hawks cooed, cradling him close to his T-shirt. "Daddy's here. When are you gonna open your eyes for me?"

He was a fighter, but he was a quiet one, too. It didn't matter what time of day Hawks visited, Yuto hadn't once opened his eyes or cried in front of him yet. The nurses who cared for him claimed he could and often did do both, but he didn't seem to want to when Hawks was around.

What a rude baby chick, Hawks thought jokingly. Please don't take after me in that regard. I'm too much of a handful for me to raise myself.

Ever think it's me he's taking after, birdie? Dabi smirked in his head. I wouldn't want to look at you either, or let you hear me cry. How dare you pretend to be a caring father when you don't actually want this kid. Admit it, you'd trade him for your old life back any day of the week. Besides, how can you be a good father when you killed a man you dared called friend in cold blood?

He was a villain who chose his path and one of the most dangerous of the entire League, Hawks frowned. I don't care how guilty I feel. I don't regret it.

That's nice, Dabi replied lazily. You didn't refute trading the kid for your wings and job.

Because it's not worth refuting.

Because it's true, birdie?

Because you're twisting the truth is what you're doing, Hawks bit at the voice.

He gazed down at Yuto, who fidgeted in his palms. He was big enough now that Hawks could hold his head and bottom with some space between his hands. It wasn't much, but he was growing. That was good. It was a relief.

It wasn't that he would trade his son for his quirk and career back.

It was that he missed them. He missed being in the air. He missed being a light for others to look to and be shined upon. In every dream he'd had of a world without crime filled with bored heroes, he had never dreamt of retiring and limiting himself to the ground.

It was all he could think about at home. His utterly boring home, where Hawks was alone with only his thoughts to entertain him. With only Dabi's voice to mock him. TV, his phone, the internet didn't help. He could barely go forty minutes without his mind straying. He went out and managed an hour before they re-festered in his head. It was mind-numbing.

As for Yuto, well, to remind himself shortly, he hadn't been planning to have a baby seven weeks ago. Yuto had been dropped into his lap - out of his lap, really - at the worst possible time. He was still getting used to the idea of having a baby on some level.

It was only his negativity conflating the two, twisting them together as if Yuto were to blame for his lifestyle changes. He wasn't.

Hawks wasn't going to resent him for something he didn't do.

That bitter spot in his mind rightfully belonged to Yuto's other father. The one the lying voice in his head belonged to.

And himself.

Hawks forced himself to perk up for the baby's sake. This wasn't the time for this.

"Hey, come on, I wanna see those gorgeous eyes of yours. Can't you open them for me? Pleeaase? Don't you want to see what your daddy looks like? I promise I'm not ugly. All my fans swear it!" he laughed.

Yuto sucked in a harsh breath.

Hawks sighed, dejected. "Fine, have it your way. Oh, I'm buying you a crib this weekend! I picked one out online already. If I were to put you in it today, you'd probably get lost in the mattress, but you should fit perfectly by the time you come home! You're gonna love it, it'll be so much more comfortable than that silly incubator."

Did he just call an incubator silly?

Hawks didn't know how to do baby talk. He didn't know how to raise a baby's spirit either.

He never thought he'd run into an age group he couldn't charm. Individuals, sure, some people just didn't like his type. This, though? Babies? His own flesh and blood and feathers? His baby bird? Hawks couldn't even get him to open his eyes.

He would have rubbed his face and groaned if he weren't holding Yuto in both hands.

Face it, he was going to be terrible at raising a kid. Why was he trying again?

You have nothing else in your life.

Hawks shuddered at his own voice deadpanning him, not Dabi's.

Right. He licked his lips. Right.

Unfortunately, that was true. He may not have particularly wanted kids before, but without his wings or his job, and with the sad reality he had no close relationships to fall back on, the prospect of taking care of Yuto was the only thing giving Hawks a sense of purpose. Reading those stupid baby books that detailed how his life was going to be a round-the-clock hell handling an infant soon was the only thing that gave him the feeling of doing something lately. Incredibly enough, he was looking forward to spending half his nights patting a screaming, inconsolable baby's back, eagerly so.

...Despite the fact kids weren't his thing.

Oh boy.

That didn't count as using Yuto, did it? He wasn't some crutch for Hawks to lean on because he refused to go to fucking therapy, was he? Was the sole reason Hawks wanted to keep him was so he wouldn't be so empty anymore? Was he setting himself up for a massive explosion that would blow up on his son as well?

You just love setting yourself up for heartbreak, Dabi snickered, echoing a previous taunt.

Hawks' face hardened. No. No, no, no. He wouldn't consider the thought. He loved Yuto. He did. When he thought of giving him up, or the League finding him, or anyone hurting his baby, the panic that devoured his every breath didn't come from another loss in purpose. He wasn't afraid of being totally alone, of having failed again. He was afraid for his son's safety, terrified of being separated from him. His parental instincts were kicking in. was just that Yuto had come at the worst time. Hawks' mental state was not the best at the moment.

He closed his eyes and reopened them, suddenly exhausted.

Maybe he should seek out help before Yuto came home.

Great! When are you going to tell the Commission the kid's mine? Dabi inquired, laced in false cheeriness.

Hawks' shoulders slumped. Okay. Ooor, instead, he could make an effort to reregulate his sleeping pattern, eat healthier, drink more water, go out and exercise, blah, blah, blah, and see how he felt then. Surely those would help. Those were always the things recommended when one was having mental problems, weren't they?

Hawks just had to process what had happened and accept it. That was it. It wasn't going to be easy, but it was all he needed to do. This didn't have to hurt Yuto. He wouldn't hurt Yuto, directly or indirectly. He could start by throwing out the new KFC left overs currently sitting in his fridge and restarting his training regimen. Well, the parts that kept him on the ground. Doing sit ups in his room was a piece of cake, feathers not required. As time went on, he'd figure out what to do with himself and time would heal his wounds. It wasn't rocket science. (Though learning rocket science might have been easier.) It didn't have to blend with Yuto in the slightest.

He hoped.

Hawks shook his head wildly. What was he thinking?

Quit wallowing in yourself and spend some time with your kid. Isn't that what you came here for?

"I've got an idea!" Hawks forcibly brightened. "Why don't we try out that skin-on-skin contact thing the nurses were talking about? You're probably getting sick of my hands."

With the aid of a nurse he called over, Hawks pulled his shirt off and adjusted Yuto on his right shoulder, holding him by the back and bottom. Skin pressed against skin; Yuto's cheek mushed against the edge of his clavicle. He laughed a bit at the sight.

Then a kitten's mew reached Hawks' ears and his heart suddenly stopped. He tilted his head down at Yuto.

Wearily, those too pale lids lifted themselves off his eyes.

Hawks' heart leapt to his throat. He felt pretty close to crying when he saw golden irises blink tiredly at him.

He chuckled and pressed a light kiss to Yuto's face. Another mew was given in response. He laughed again.

"I knew you could do it! You were waiting for me to do this, weren't you? Sorry, chick, I didn't realize skin contact was that important to you."

Yuto's eyelids fluttered. He stared at Hawks' blearily for a moment, then closed them.

Hawks nuzzled him with his chin as lightly as he could. "Aww, that's okay. I'm glad I got to see them. I think that color is prettier on you than me, actually, haha!"

Yuto's wings twitched.

Hawks couldn't help the fond smile crossing his lips. What was he worrying about? Everything was going to be fine.

He'd do his best for his son. Whatever it took to give him the best life possible. Yuto would never want for anything Hawks had wanted for. He'd never be used or made to feel unloved. He wouldn't be thrust into danger by an uncaring father, forgotten by a self-pitying mother, or trained as a child soldier for the government. He'd grow up happy and free, whiny and annoying, and soaring through the air. He'd go to school, have friends, and be the biggest pain in Hawks' neck as a teenager because he'd undoubtedly inherit some of his traits, and one of the things Hawks excelled at best was being a pain in the neck. He'd never know the dangers his dad had gone through before him, that lead to his birth. He'd be the son of a retired number two who tragically lost his wings on the job, and that was it. Yuto would grow up loved.

An idea sprang to Hawks. Clinking on his back teeth and using vocal chords he normally didn't in conversation, he chirped affectionately at Yuto.

Yuto's brow scrunched. His lips opened in an 'o,' and Hawks picked up on the slightest hiss of air, not quite a chirp yet.

He beamed. He chirped excitedly, cooing more affection. "You'll get it someday, Yuto, don't worry! You just have to grow some more. Until then, I know what you mean. I love you, too."

Yuto tried to return the chirps. They were airy hisses only Hawks' ears could hear, but they meant the world.

He's only mimicking you, birdbrain, shut up, Dabi huffed.

Hawks ignored him.

Yuto yawned. It turned into a sharp intake of breath, but he settled.

Hawks kissed his head and tucked it under his chin. "You're mine, baby bird. I'm never letting you go. No one's ever going to hurt you."

When a nurse eventually came to return Yuto to his incubator, she chuckled and informed him Yuto had fallen asleep on his shoulder. He didn't know how she could tell when he rarely seemed to open to his eyes, but Hawks' heart fluttered anyway.

For the first time in a long time, he was genuinely happy.

Chapter Text

"Why am I here?" Hawks cut straight to the chase.

Endeavor, never one for fanfare or unnecessary pleasantries, grunted in what might have been approval. Might have been.

Hawks scowled. He had been perched on a step ladder painting Yuto's room when the Commission called and told him Endeavor wanted to speak with him. Since Hawks' agency had closed and he was now a private civilian, and no one had his personal cell number, Endeavor had had to go through them to get in contact. He wanted him at his agency in his office whenever was 'convenient.' Sure. Hawks had quickly changed out of his paint smeared clothes with a groan and caught a ride over, grateful he didn't yet have to worry about getting a sitter. He only had guesses about what Endeavor could want.

"I want you," he started gruffly from behind his desk, "to tell me everything about your relationship with Dabi."

Hawks raised an eyebrow high. Well, it was a romantic and sexual one that resulted in your grandchild. He has white hair - should I assume that's from your wife, too, or do you have recessive genes? "Why?"

Endeavor stood up briskly. He wasn't pissed off, but the question had clearly irritated him. "What do you mean 'why'? The more we know about him, the easier it'll be to track him down."

"I told the Commission everything I know about him."

Are they keeping secrets from you and you're suspicious? Hawks mused to himself.

It wasn't impossible, though he wasn't certain which information he had given them would be restricted. If they'd told Endeavor Dabi's true identity, what else was worth hiding?

"I've already read through the official reports countless times," he folded his arms, expression stern. "I want more. You were his friend while undercover, were you not?"

"I wouldn't say that exactly," Hawks frowned.

I sucked his dick and told him I loved him, which I'm not telling you. But also...

"It was complicated. Dabi kept to himself, more so than the other villains. While they were bonding together in their free time, he either stuck to himself in a corner and kept his mouth comparatively quiet or he was out. He didn't open up a lot. Most of the time you couldn't get out of him where he'd been while he was gone. On the occasional chance you did, he claimed it was recruiting. When it came to me in particular, it was like he was purposely keeping himself at arm's length. Makes sense now that I know he knew I was a mole to begin with."

He was even like that when we were together. Dabi was always holding something back. I thought it was just his villain motivations or insecurity over our relationship, except...

Endeavor hummed, gaze falling to the floor in contemplative thought.

Dabi had his eyes, Hawks realized. Not his stare, his eyes. They were the same, right down to the shade of sky blue.

The sky.

His heart ached.

An image flashed in his mind of Dabi standing before him, eyes blown wide and fiery hand lifted to above his head. It reminded him of that Greek myth, the one about Icarus.

He had flown too high in the sky so the sun burned him and sent him hurtling to the ground. Or sea, rather, but for Hawks it had been the ground.

"Still," Endeavor spoke, raising his head and recapturing Hawks' attention, "you spent time with him. I want you to tell me as much as you can remember. The smallest thing even someone as smart as you could overlook might be the key to catching him."

Hawks tilted his head. "Has there been new activity related to the League lately, or his agenda do you think? Anything happen recently I can work with?"

"Sadly, no," he reported. "They're as elusive as ever, including Dabi. That's why I want more information about him, as much as I can get. You're the only person on our side who got close enough to the League and Liberation Front."

"So you want information specifically on Dabi, then? No one else?" Hawks had to question.

Endeavor growled. "He did tell you he has his own agenda and that we should have been watching him more than even Shigaraki. You don't think that warrants a closer investigation?"

"All right, all right," he held his hands up in placation. "I only wanted to know what ground I was standing on."

Endeavor glared. "You think I'm biased towards him because he's my son."

Hawks shrugged one shoulder and craned his neck to the side. "Weeeell, it's not unbelievable and would be understandable."

"It's not confirmed he's Touya," Endeavor argued. "Unless you have proof we can run a DNA test on. You don't happen to have loose hairs or fingerprints he left on your jacket, do you?"

Hawks laughed awkwardly. Oh, if only he did. If it got Dabi arrested faster, all the better. "Sorry, big man. I don't, otherwise I would have given it over along with everything else. But you don't think it's credible, after all this time? It's been almost three months."

Yuto is eleven weeks old, he thought distantly.

"I'll judge for myself when we capture him," Endeavor was stubborn.

Hawks sobered up. This was probably going to get him ejected from one of the office windows, but whatever. "What about Touya's body? I'm assuming he died in a fire accident. You didn't mention his body at the hospital and you're open to a DNA test by your own account. Was it totally cremated in the accident or do you suspect something happened off the record between his death and the funeral?"

Endeavor kept up his glare for a long moment before sitting down. He ran a hand over his scar wearily. "Total cremation. Touya had a fire quirk. His flames were stronger than mine, intensely stronger. That incident, it...we gathered the ashes from where he surely laid. Not even his bones survived. With enough fire, he was capable of that. There was enough fire."

Hawks nodded slowly. "I see. Were his flames blue? Could they get that hot?"

Endeavor lowered his hand with a hard look. "Yes."

"It's not impossible for people to have similar quirks," Hawks admitted, "but if you're willing to at least consider it might be him, something must have happened back then. Supposing Dabi is Touya, something that would have lead him down the road to where we are today. Is it possible he faked his death and ran away? Is it possible someone got to his body before you could?"

Endeavor sat up reluctantly, closing his eyes. When he opened them, they were calm. "He set the entire room on fire. It was hard to get in. It was hard to get out. If Touya survived, then he somehow escaped and ran away."

"May I ask why he set the fire? You said you made him at the hospital. What did that mean?"

Endeavor's eyes narrowed. "Discussing my son's death is not why I asked you here."

Hawks shrugged again. "And I agree it's none of my business. But I don't know what I could possibly give you as a lead. Do you want to know that he tied his belt around his waist twice before latching it? That he disliked fish? That he has the freakiest smile when he wants? I put every last detail I could recall into my final report, even the little things that I previously thought unimportant. Instead of rehashing that or trying to remember how many times a day he snarked at someone, I say we start putting the pieces of what we do know togeth- "

He stopped short, a memory suddenly hitting him. One he had left out of his initial report because it had occurred while they were sleeping together and seemed irrelevant considering Dabi's scars, and he'd forgotten while writing out his last report.

Endeavor perked up. "You do remember something."

Hawks nodded weakly. "He had a nightmare once. He - " We were in bed together. We just had sex. We fell asleep. He woke up screaming and flailing and I had restrain him. He laid on my chest until he could breathe again. " - fell asleep on a couch one night, while we were working together. He woke up in a panic attack. It was the only time I saw him like that, since fire never seemed to bother him. He dreamed of burning alive."

He watched Endeavor stiffen.

"That fits with Touya," Hawks remarked. "He supposedly burned alive."

"Why didn't you report this?"

"He clearly burned himself at some point with all that scarring and his weakness to his quirk. It was redundant information."

Endeavor heaved a great sigh. He sat up straight. "Does anything else come to mind? I don't care how redundant or miniscule, tell me."

Hawks tried, yanking at his memories for anything that stood out, regardless of importance. In the end, he didn't have much to say. None of it pleased Endeavor, who leaned back, a harsh expression on his face.

"Should we put everything together then?" Hawks inquired. He tightened his jaw. "Your son is the best lead we have. I'm not here to judge or condemn; it's obvious you blame yourself for Touya's death, and Dabi has a death wish against you. What did Touya go through that could reasonably explain Dabi's actions? Why does he want to kill you so badly? You said it yourself at the hospital, if he wanted to kill you, 'fine'..." he trailed off, waiting for Endeavor to pick up the rest.

The man was silent. For a brief second, guilt flashed across his face. It was quickly masked by stone.

"I was not a good father to Touya," Endeavor began. "Nor to any of my children. I wasn't a good husband to my wife. I - It's something I'm doing all I can to atone for now, but I'm...I'm twenty-six years too late. If Touya is Dabi, I don't expect him to forgive me, or believe I deserve his forgiveness. By every account, he can hate me forever. His brothers might."

Hawks inclined his head slightly.

Endeavor looked him square in the eye. "Touya was born in order to surpass All Might. I realized in my youth I could never do it myself, so I sought out a wife with an ice quirk to temper the weaknesses of my fire quirk. He would do what I couldn't and become number one. All of my children were born with this goal in mind. If one was a failure, then it was onto the next, until I finally created my masterpiece. Touya was nearly it. His weak constitution hindered him, though, and his sister and brother's quirks weren't suited for training. When Shoto showed his potential, I cast Touya aside in favor of him. My wife didn't approve of the training. It was difficult and rigorous. I treated them as tiny adults instead of children in my hurry to create worthy successors. If she got in my way, I struck her. It all came to a head with Shoto's scar."

He paused, taking a deep breath.

Hawks was holding his. He shoved memories of his parents to the side, unwilling to get distracted by them.

Endeavor went on, "My wife had a nervous breakdown. She couldn't bear to see me, or a single reminder of me. Shoto was five. He walked in on his mother in the kitchen and she...she must have thought he was me. She threw boiling water at his face. I put her in the mental ward of a hospital for that. She's only recently been released. We no longer live together and I doubt we will again; she's still too scared of me. But back then, it hardened my sons' hatred of me, all three of them. Touya snapped not long after, confronting me. He spun out of control. The room caught fire. I...I tried to get him out...I did...!"

He bowed his head in sorrow.

Hawks released the breath he was holding. "And it took you another ten years to learn, I take it? Oh man."

No wonder Dabi was desperate to kill him. No wonder Touya had been so anxious and empathetic the evening they met. Hawks didn't hold much, if any love for his mother today, but he hadn't liked how his father treated her all those years ago, or how they both had treated him. The house was always cluttered, always either filled with silence or furious screams. Sometimes a head hit the wall or floor tiles. The Commission's training had been brutal as well, but the regimen had been modified for his age; it wasn't the same at seven as it was at twelve as it was at sixteen. They hadn't wanted to break him before they could use him. What Endeavor was describing was horrifying.

"You can scorn me all you like," Endeavor stood to full height. "If Dabi is Touya and he wants revenge for his childhood, then so be it. But he attacked Shoto's camp. He's murdered innocents. He'll murder endless more on his way to achieve his goal. We need to put a stop to him."

"Couldn't agree more," Hawks replied on autopilot. "So Dabi couldn't take your abuse. His mother's breakdown and brother's scar was the last straw. He accidently burns himself alive, and rather than stay, uses the chaos as an opportunity to escape. Ten years later he hears Stain's cries and decides he has it right - after all, what kind of hero abuses his family and gets away with it? - and joins the League of Villains as a means to kill his abusive father and every other hero in existence for good measure. He uses the League members as tools. When one dies, he mourns the hole in his plans. He sees himself as greater than Shigaraki. If you were him, where would you go next? Where would you go by yourself when not with the League?"

Endeavor didn't respond to the pointed barbs. "That's the problem. I don't know. None of us know where Shigaraki or the rest of their organization has disappeared off to either."

Hawks shook his head. "We need more info. As long as the League is useful to Dabi, though, he's going to stick with them. Maybe it would be better to focus your efforts on Shigaraki instead. We don't know what Dabi has in mind for the endgame. Shigaraki is the more immediate issue."

"Dabi wanders off the most and leaves charred remains wherever he goes," Endeavor pointed out. "Capturing him would be killing two birds with one stone."

Hawks inwardly moaned. Please don't phrase it that way.

"I don't think I have anything that could help you," he said. "Sorry. I can keep my eyes peeled and contact you if I remember something else, but I'm really not of much use here."

Endeavor refolded his arms. "Just because you lost your quirk doesn't mean you're incapable. Why didn't you take a desk job once you recovered? We could use your insight and analysis on the investigation."

Hawks kept his face carefully neutral. Because I have Yuto to look after. "I wasn't made for office work, Endeavor! I was made to be out there. I can't be out there anymore."

"You don't need to be in the air to use your brain, Hawks."

He was nonchalant. "Well, maybe Dabi fried a good chunk of my brain when he burnt my face. I'm done with hero work, Endeavour. I met my match and lost. I'm not going to cling to the tail end of everybody else's hard work."

Disapproval radiated in his sky blue eyes. "What happened to making a world where heroes have time to kill?"

Hawks smiled sweetly. "I'll leave it you, number one! I hope you can make me proud!"

"Insolent brat," he accused.

"If you need anything more, don't hesitate to reach out!" Hawks laughed, turning for the door. "I'm sure you all will figure it out without me! I have faith in you! Good luck!"


Hawks halted, his back to Endeavor, and allowed himself to scowl. "Yeah?"

"Something's changed in you," the other man noted. "Whatever it is, don't let it consume you."

Even though he wasn't aware of his grandson, Hawks knew it wasn't fatherly duty he was referring to.

"I won't," he said.

Hawks had dreams about flying.

His wings attached to his back, feathers shedding as he beat them in the air, rising high off the ground. Sometimes he was in his hero costume, on patrol or zipping after a villain. Sometimes he was in casual clothes, gliding over the city without a care in the world. The wind whipped in his face in them all, and it was like being home again, up there. Even if he was chasing after a villain, Hawks was happy. The ground was too unnatural under his feet, so whenever he kicked off into the sky, all his anxieties disappeared.

Hawks had nightmares about flying.

Several conditions made it too difficult to fly. Heavy rainstorms that drenched his wings, weighing them down; fierce winds so strong not even his Fierce Wings could withstand them; losing too many feathers in a fight to keep him off the ground; fire burning them away until there was nothing left. It didn't matter what the scenario was, what his dream self was doing, one thing or another suddenly kicked up, and Hawks was falling. He fell from too high of heights to be anything less than fatal. The ground waited patiently below him, his executioner.

Both made him miserable. Some days he woke up in a frenzy and others moaning in his pillow; it didn't matter which kind of dream he'd had that night. All he wanted was to feel his wings behind him and get back in the air.

It was kind of funny; before this, Hawks had never had anything against the ground. He loved being free as a bird (as free as a caged one could be), but there was nothing wrong with the stability of the ground. Birds weren't meant to stay in the sky twenty-four seven; even they came down at some point. Yet if by some miracle his wings grew back tomorrow, he thought he'd never leave the air again. The Commission could give him his jobs through the windows. That was a funny thought.

His days didn't change terribly as he adjusted and readjusted his lifestyle. He had never been a slob or lazy, despite the laid back, I-wanna-be-bored appearances he kept up, so besides cutting back on his grease more than he used to and keeping his training limited to the floor, getting 'healthier' was rather like returning to class after a seasonal break than a true change. Perhaps that was why his head only felt slightly better.

Cooking and exercising did keep his mind off the negatives, though. Or maybe he was getting better than he thought. His hands or whole body was busy and his mind naturally focused on the task at hand. It was sort of like preparing for Yuto, reading up on infant care or putting a crib together; the only difference was that it was harder for his mind to stray when it was on his helpless, dependent son.

Yuto was supposed to come home soon, some time within the next month or two. Preemies tended to be released from the hospital around the time of their original due date or a few weeks before, or so Hawks had read. The doctor presiding over him had confirmed Yuto was progressing normally, for the most part, and although he would need extra care from Hawks, hospitalization wouldn't be required for much longer. Nevertheless, there were some issues.

Yuto was small, smaller than the doctor appreciated. He was growing, yes, and preemies tended not to catch up in size until they were about two or three years old, but he wasn't growing at the same rate other micro preemies did. He wasn't radically smaller, but enough the doctor wasn't sure if there was a problem with his body or if this was merely genetics, if he was always going to be on the small side. For that reason alone, the doctor wanted to keep him for observation and testing a little longer than anticipated. But that wasn't it.

The more pressing issue was Yuto's lungs. All of his other organs were on the right track, were as healthy as could be expected. They only needed monitoring for a couple more weeks before they would have let Yuto go. His lungs, however, were behind. It was normal for preemies to have lung problems, especially the earlier the baby was born, but it turned out Yuto was a particularly difficult case to treat, partially because his lungs weren't developing at the same rate as other preemies his gestational age either. If he responded well to further additional treatment, he might be home in a few weeks. If not, they wanted to keep him until his lungs had caught up, which might take an additional month - so long as nothing else went wrong along the way.

Yuto wasn't currently in danger of dying, though, the doctor had assured Hawks. By this point, they were almost positive he would live.

As long as that was true, Hawks could breathe easy. After all, he had been informed at Yuto's birth he might have life-long complications. This wasn't completely out of the blue. He just hoped Yuto's lungs caught up and his size wasn't an indication of something bad.

So Hawks had another month or two, possibly more in the worst case scenario, before Yuto came home.

Meanwhile, he was alone, stuck with his thoughts when he had nothing in front of him to truly distract him. Thoughts and dread, and pity and guilt, and rage and grief. And memories.

The memories were the worst.

They were all filled with Dabi.

"Are you going to burn the world down with me, birdie?" Dabi smirked, gazing up at Hawks' face from his lap, enjoying the way his hair was being threaded by ungloved fingers.

It was a test, another test Dabi was throwing at him. Even when they were like this, half clothed and tangled in the sheets, Hawks could never forget just how distant Dabi was. Back then, though, he didn't interpret the question the way he did in the present. By that point, Hawks assumed the test was borne only out of Dabi's personal insecurities, not his allegiance to the League and their new Liberation allies. Hawks was a hero, Hawks couldn't be trusted, was he really going to stay, did he truly want Dabi of all people?

Either way, the answer that came out of his mouth not the one in his heart; No.

"Yes," Hawks chuckled, and bent over to kiss his forehead. "We're going to tear off and burn every bar of the system's cage, aren't we?"

Dabi's hand reached for the side of his face before he could sit up, cradling it for a moment, and brought him back down to his lips. The kiss was slow and tender.

When Dabi let him go, he remarked. "A lot of people will die. Civilians."

Hawks shrugged. The lie on his tongue was easy. "They should stay out of our way if they want to live. That's their problem."

"How unheroic of you. What suddenly changed?"

"I told you, I'm only saving them to keep up appearances. It won't be forever."

"So you save each and every last one..."

"As expected of the number two."

Dabi's eyes gleamed. His fingers curled into Hawks' sleeve. "You'll burn it down with me, Hawks? Every inch of hero society?"

"I will." The words were ugly, but Dabi's eyes were beautiful.

Dabi sat up and whirled around, grabbing Hawks by the collar and smashing their teeth together, shoving him onto the mattress in a bruising kiss. Now he was the one on top and Hawks looking up at him. Those twin blues were wide as the sky.

"I love you," he choked out, those sky blues frantic. "Do you love me?"

It was the only truth told that evening. "I do. I love you, too."

Hawks yanked Dabi down back to his lips and neither said anymore.

At the time, Hawks had wondered how he got himself so wrapped up in this. How he had fallen in love with a maniacal killer he knew next to nothing about and was going to betray in order to protect countless lives. How he was going to get out of it, unscathed or not.

Now all he wondered, as he sat alone on his couch, was why he had allowed himself to fall so far from grace.

They were both liars, the two of them.

Chapter Text

Most of the wires and tubes had been removed from Yuto's body. Only a few remained, including the one up his nose. His eyes stayed open now, peering up at Hawks and wandering around the room with abandon. His chirps sounded closer to real chirps than hissing air. Yuto had grown a lot in his sixteen weeks of life, in size as well - from able to fit in the palms of Hawks' hands at birth to the size of a very small, but full term and healthy newborn. He was the heathiest he had been yet.

It wasn't surprising. From what Hawks had researched and the doctor explained, preemies essentially had two ages: their actual ages and their corrected ages. Their actual ages were their true ages, so for Yuto, sixteen weeks - since that was how long it had been since he was born. Their corrected ages were the ages they would be had they come at full term on their due dates, and was used to track their development process. It was calculated by subtracting the number weeks they had come early from their actual age. So Yuto, who had been born at twenty-three weeks along, was about sixteen weeks early; sixteen weeks old minus sixteen weeks early was zero. He was essentially a newborn right now.

Next week, he'd be seventeen weeks old in actuality, so his corrected age would be one week old. Next month, he'd be twenty weeks old, so four weeks. And the next month twenty-four weeks, which would make him eight weeks old. Hawks was going to have to keep track of this number for the next two to three years, until Yuto fully caught up with his full term peers. It would explain why he would still be figuring out how to crawl while other babies his age were taking their first steps.

"Happy birthday, I guess!" Hawks cheered, bouncing him in the crook of his arm. "This is when you should have been born! What do you think of the world?"

Yuto blinked and twitched his foot.

"You're an expressive baby, I see," Hawks teased. "Well, if my entire world so far was a hospital, I wouldn't think much of it either. You'll be happier when you get outside."

Golden irises paused on Hawks' face blankly for a long moment before sliding to the edge of his sockets, seemingly trying to get a look over his arm at the floor instead.

Hawks huffed. "All right, I get it; 'Dad, shut up.' S'not the first time I've been given the cold shoulder for running my mouth. See, once it gets going I don't know how to make it stop."

Yuto chirped, not looking at him.

"Rude. You're not supposed to agree with me!" Hawks joked; the chirp had meant nothing of the sort. "My god, you are a mini-me. What am I going to do with you?"

The spectacle of having a one-sided conversation was gradually wearing off. Hawks exhaled through his nose and sat back in his chair, adjusting Yuto carefully.

His wings were growing nicely. Each one was as big as his little arms, his feathers firm and puffy. His hair was growing in, too, tough, little tufts of white sticking out of his head.

Hawks wondered if this is what he looked like when he was born. He didn't have any baby pictures of himself for reference, so he couldn't tell. Dabi, too - or Touya, rather. He was sure the Todorokis had baby pictures somewhere, probably, but that wasn't a rabbit hole Hawks was going to dive down.

Yuto was a combination of them, though, that was certain. It wasn't obvious thanks to Dabi's staples, scars, and hair dye, but Hawks couldn't unsee it. He saw himself in Yuto. He saw little Todoroki Touya in Yuto.

It would probably get more obvious and unavoidable as he grew, his features defining with some reflecting one side and others the other side. Or maybe they wouldn't; maybe he would grow up to purely be a white haired Hawks, or a hawk-eyed, winged Dabi. The mental images made Hawks snort. The former was hilarious because he'd have a near identical twin one day. The latter was unbelievable; he tried to imagine sending a white haired, scar- and piercing-less Dabi with golden eyes, black markings, and bright red wings to his room, and cracked up at the thought. Or perhaps, more incredibly, Yuto would grow up to be a white haired, hawk-eyed, winged Endeavor. Now that image had Hawks cackling.

Yuto eyes shifted back to him, gawking at him as if he were crazy. Hawks grabbed his knee and forced himself to calm down. "Sorry, Yuto. Didn't mean to scare you!"

His son made an uncertain noise in response, so quiet even Hawks almost didn't pick up on it.

He pinched one of his son's big toes comfortingly. "It's okay, baby."

Yuto seemed to decide that was enough reassurance to go back to scanning the room.

Either way, regardless of which side Yuto ended up resembling, he had their genes. Hawks would love him no matter what. (He just hoped - would prefer if - Yuto were a miniature him rather than a Todoroki. As funny as those images were, it would be easier that way.)

He held out his finger for Yuto to hold, which the baby grasped at eagerly as he examined the ceiling thoroughly, and refocused his gaze on those puffy wings.

Hawks was envious of those wings, he had to admit. Some day, Yuto would fly them high in the sky. Hawks was glad for that part; he couldn't wait to see his son burst into the air, free as a bird. The part he resented was the fact he'd be left on the ground, stuck there forever.

Why aren't I trying to fly again?

He couldn't fly anymore. His wings were gone forever, ashes in the wind. There was no point in trying.

You're a pathetic waste, a voice said in his head.

It irked him that he couldn't tell if it was his own or Dabi's.

"I feel better than I did when you born," he told Yuto in a low, quiet voice. "I think I'm getting used to the every day changes to my life. I do like that I can sleep in now! I used to get up at five o'clock on work days, it was the worst! Now I get up at seven. It's the best. But I have to say, I still don't feel as great as I used to."

Nowhere close.

Yuto stared up at Hawks.

"That's okay, though," he sighed. "You're my first priority now. I'm going to feel like shit taking care of you around the clock anyway. As long as you're safe, healthy, and I don't make you feel like shit, we should be good. I just need some more time to accept that that chapter of my life is over. I bet by the time you can understand me, I'll be over it."

He wasn't sure he'd ever be over it. Maybe he would never accept it. Maybe he'd long for the sky and his hero license forever.

God, he was getting sick of feeling so down all the time. Not even spending time with Yuto seemed to be lifting his spirits anymore.

Yuto's eyes drifted away and rolled back to him again. He opened his mouth and closed it, testing his jaw muscles, Hawks guessed.

"I've gotta wait another month before you come home, though, unfortunately," he sulked, which was another minus to the whole situation. "The good news is, they think your size is genetics. You're a naturally small baby. Your lungs, on the other hand, are weaker than they ought to be. I don't know what caused that. They don't know either, because it's not just the usual stuff inhibiting you. Thankfully, they think you'll be ready to come off the machines soon. Not so thankfully, you're probably going to have weak lungs your whole life. Win some, you lose some."

Yuto's lungs had difficulty expanding to max capacity and fighting off infections, Hawks had learned when he arrived. On top of his lungs appearing to be naturally weak, he also had bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which was common in preemies that came ten weeks or more early. Yuto would fly, though, the doctor had assured Hawks when he asked. He would someday run and fly and breathe okay, he would just have to be careful not to push himself too hard and take care of his health. There were physical therapies and medications he would take to help him. It meant more hospital visits to come in the near future, but that was more than a fair trade for his life in Hawks' view. He had never been so worried and relieved at the same time. His son would have a normal childhood after all.

Nevertheless, a surge of anger coursed through his veins. This was Dabi's fault. It had to be. There was no other explanation for Yuto's lungs. If he hadn't kicked the shit out Hawks and burned him, hadn't stressed his body out and sent him into labor so early -

I wasn't the only one you fought that day, and you were the one who came to a battlefield pregnant, Dabi reminded him in his head. Don't go blaming me, hero. I'm not the only one at fault. You should have known and stayed home. Hawks could hear his lips curl in a sneer. Why didn't you know?

I don't know, Hawks thought. Guilt pooled in his chest. I wish I had.

He'd spoil Yuto rotten for this. He'd have the most normal life ever, and he'd be spoiled to his heart's content in order to make up for Hawks' mistake.

But that didn't make Dabi blameless. Hawks didn't care if he hadn't known about the baby either. Dabi was either going to wind up dead or trapped in Tartarus for the rest of his life. When that day came, whichever happened, Hawks would be the happiest he'd ever been.

Birdie has a dark heart, Dabi whistled low in his head. Who would have thought it?

That was hardly dark, in Hawks' opinion.

(Though he didn't truly want him dead; it was the spite talking. But the spite wanted Dabi taken down, and there were only two ways that could end in.)

"One more month, baby bird," he told Yuto, who squeezed his finger. "One more month and we'll be together every day. No more tri-weekly visits, we'll be together all day and all night. If you don't make me miss eighteen hour emergency shifts at work, I'll be thoroughly disappointed!"

Yuto pursed his lips and looked up at him in such a wide eyed way that Hawks was scared for a moment what it meant. (And he swore, that was Dabi's blown eyed look in his eyes.)

Then a smell hit the air and he relaxed. Oh. Duh.

Hawks lifted Yuto by the armpits and swooped him in the air, mindful of his wires and tubes. "Right, right - 'Shut up, Dad.' I get the picture. Let's get you changed, stinky chick!"

The League's latest Nomu attack appeared on the news one night while Hawks was lounging on the couch, making him sit up. As expected, these Nomus were bigger and deadlier than previous ones, and the city they decimated was flooded with heroes trying to minimize the damage.

It was nowhere close to Fukuoka or the hospital Yuto was staying at, thank god. Hawks didn't know what he would do if they were attacked. He couldn't zip out of danger and surge to the hospital to be with his son or steal him away if the League targeted either area. Another interesting thing about fatherhood he had learned in recent weeks - even almost dying at the hands of one's villainous boyfriend wasn't on the same planet of scariness as the thought of one's own child being left alone, or worse, dying. Despite having lost some respect for the man, Hawks could finally understand why Endeavor had been so angry and guilty the day he broke into Hawks' hospital room; losing a child was serious business. The thought of Yuto being dead was much more horrifying now than it was then, when he was in the worst of his post-raid shock.

Not for the first time, Hawks' mind wandered back to his initial idea of taking Yuto and moving to the other side of the world. He was afraid to travel with him so young and frail, but it was better than taking the chance of Dabi and the League killing them. Any day now, they might show up on Hawks' doorstep. Any day now, it might be one or both of their lasts.

He always stopped himself with the reminder of how long it had been. It had been over four months since the raid; if revenge against him personally was high on the to-do list, Hawks would already be dead, captured, or at least been attacked. He highly doubted he had been forgotten, but the League would likely have to make some not just big, but massive strides forward before they swept one measly hero who wronged them into their murderous rampage. Although they were still going strong, and Shigaraki was stronger than ever, they weren't invincible. Hawks' ears also happened to be as good as ever, and he'd heard word that they'd been stopped in their tracks or set back by heroes under the radar a few times now. He might not be involved in the hero world anymore, but he still had his connections.

Hawks had faith they would be defeated at the end of the day. He had to; something in his heart told him he must and something in his gut said they would. Hawks trusted his instincts. They had gotten him through and out of as many situations as his brain had. If they believed he and Yuto were relatively safe, then he tentatively believed them. Anything was possible and he was tempted to start planning an emergency escape plan, but he had faith.

No matter what happened, however, he needed to see Dabi go down. He didn't care if it was on TV, he heard it through his connections, or the villain came for him himself. Hawks needed to know he was either dead or on his way to Tartarus. Not only out of spite this time, though; as Hawks watched the broadcast with a hunched over body and fingers pressed against his lips, he imagined the all those Nomus on TV attacking Fukuoka, lead by one particular man on a bird hunt. Hawks couldn't feel his family was completely safe until he knew he was gone for good.

No matter what his instincts claimed, Hawks needed to feel he and Yuto were safe.

Somehow, at least to him, Dabi was more frightening than the rest of the League combined.

"You know, Endeavor reminded me of that other hero, what's-his-name - Snatch!" Dabi mentioned casually, fingers spider walking through the air for Hawks' belt.

Hawks swatted his hand. He wasn't in the mood. He was disgusted with himself for choosing to hang out with Dabi at all after what he did, all the lives he put in danger. He had a half a mind to take his feather and put it to his neck again, see how flippant Dabi would be this time, half sprawled on a couch with a blade threatening to give him new scars. He only didn't because he knew his reaction would the same as last time; uncaring and mocking.

"I'm surprised you remember him," Hawks grunted. "Do you remember all your victims?"

"Not really," Dabi answered lazily, the leg and arm hanging off the couch swaying freely. "Forgot about Snatch until Endeavor brought him up. Actually, no, it was after the fight it came back to me. Honestly, he's a pretty forgettable dude."

Hawks suppressed a sneer. For the life of him, he couldn't comprehend why he slept with Dabi. It wasn't for the mission, after all. He hadn't needed to seduce Dabi to get into his semi-good graces.

"So what about him?" he asked. "If he's so forgettable, why are you bringing him up?"

"So offended, birdie," Dabi remarked lightly, belatedly rubbing his swatted hand. "Was Snatch a friend of yours?"


"Then you're upset a fellow hero died?"

Hawks wasn't going to rise to the bait. "I don't care about other heroes. I'm still angry you lied to me."

"I suppose giving you a good fuck won't make you forgive me?" he inquired, a Cheshire grin on his face.

Hawks did sneer. "If making my life harder is your idea of foreplay, then no. Piss off, Dabi."

Without getting up, Dabi twisted his arm around and latched onto Hawks' jacket. "You'll never get into the League if I 'piss off,' as you say."

"You know what I mean."

"I do and I don't like it," he stated matter-of-factly, as if Hawks were a child he was having a meaningless argument with. "Don't forget where you stand, chicken."

Hawks sighed internally. He couldn't afford to lose his place. "Fine. Then what about him? What do you suddenly care so much about Snatch for?"

"Well, for one, it's a stupid name. Worse than 'Hawks.'"

"The Commission picked it for me, don't act like I made it up."

"Snatch said something," Dabi continued, as if Hawks hadn't spoke, voice sobering up. "He asked me if I ever thought about the families of my victims."

Hawks raised his eyebrows. This was new; he hadn't seen a side of Dabi that showed compassion, respect, or an iota of care for others. Not that he necessarily was yet, but it would be an interesting development if that was the route he was going. Perhaps Hawks was earning his trust after all.

Except Dabi's next words were a question. "What do you think of the grieving families of our victims, hero?"

It was another test. Dabi's eyes watched him intently. Hawks had to play it carefully here.

He lifted his chain with a diplomatic shrug. "Their relatives shouldn't have gotten in your way if they wanted to live. I'm not going to chew you out because you made some families sad. ...But I guess everybody is somebody's son or daughter or kid, somebody's friend. I do feel for them on some level."

Dabi's eyes didn't change. "Do you?"

"Yeah. Just not enough to say you shouldn't kill them. Like I said, their loved ones shouldn't have gotten in the way."

Dabi rolled over on his stomach. His mouth stretched out in a grin as he scrutinized him. "Endeavor has children. The youngest is what, fifteen? Sixteen? As the new number one, he's gotta fall the hardest of all the heroes. What do you think his family will feel when he dies? Will you feel for them, Hawks?"

Hawks' gut told him this question was special. Perhaps because of Dabi's vague threat to the man in Fukuoka. Dabi had a specific vendetta against Endeavor, but Hawks didn't know what for. His answer was pivotal, though. He had to get it right.

But what to say?

Repeat himself, that it would be sad but Endeavor shouldn't have gotten in their way? No, that would be a red flag that Hawks wasn't sincere.

Go the sympathetic route? Poor Endeavor's children, the older two with private lives and Shoto? No, Dabi despised Endeavor; too much sympathy might push Hawks back.

Act like he didn't care? Tough luck, kids, he's a hero and it's what he deserves? No, being too cold would be suspicious.

Hawks decided getting personal would be the best avenue to lie on. "I mean, I'm sure they'll be upset, but I can't put myself in their shoes if that's what you're asking. My father was a piece of shit and I still don't miss him after all these years. It's easier to think of victims as people's children, friends, siblings, spouses- it's hard for me to imagine mourning one's father. All I know is that the hero system is too messed up, so it has to go, Endeavor and the rest of the heroes with it. I'll feel for his family, sure, but I don't see why I'd feel for them any more than anybody else's. I don't know them."

Dabi's face was unreadable. He stared at Hawks, smile gone and eyes unblinking.

Then he sat up in a fit of laughter.

Hawks couldn't tell if he had answered correctly or not. "What? What!?"

Dabi's laughing spree ended with a delighted sigh. "Looks like we have something in common, Hawks. I've got a shitty father, too, and couldn't care less if he died. Doubt anyone, no matter who their shitty father is, would miss the bastard once we'd killed 'em." He shuffled towards Hawks and lowered his voice. "But I do think of their families, especially the heroes'. They don't deserve the shit that gets thrown at them. You know how much suffering comes from being related to one? Every day, they risk their lives. Every day, they might not come home. Every day - they just might. You never know."

He reeled back, leaving Hawks confused.

Dabi sat on his knees. He was weirdly serious, not the slightest bit taunting. "I don't care about the victims I leave behind me, Hawks. I don't care about heroes, rival villains, or civilians caught in the crossfire. The families, however...I used to think about them non-stop. It was all I could ever think about. It tore me up inside, knowing what they were going through. I had to stop thinking about it or I'd lose what was left of my sanity."

Dabi leaned in until they were nose to nose.

"You're a liar, Hawks," he accused softly. "You do care about the families, I can see it. Don't think pretending to be tough will get you into the League. Having a shitty father doesn't take away your ability to care about anyone else. Being a villain doesn't mean you can't care about some people."

Hawks swallowed. For the first time, he thought he saw a morsel of humanity in those sky blue eyes. He was being sincere.

Dabi grinned. He pressed his lips to Hawks', and when he went to gently push him down on the couch, Hawks let him.

He was so, so stupid.

The heroes miraculously won the battle against the Nomus. It had taken two days - all day yesterday, which the news had reported on last night, throughout the night, and all day today. The city in which they fought had been utterly wrecked and the causalities were in the three digits, but they had won.

Hawks listened to the news while he cut vegetables for dinner in the kitchen.

In the aftermath of the battle, heroes and civilians alike were being interviewed. Some of the heroes expressed pride in their success and encouraged hope for the future. Others lamented the damages done and lives lost, humbly apologizing for their ineptitude. Some of the civilians sobbed grateful tears for being saved. Others raged at the destruction, cursing the villains and heroes in the same breath. Endeavor was the last to be interviewed, and his brief word to the public forced Hawks to pause in his chopping.

"We won't stop until every member of the League has been defeated. We won't stop until every villain is off the streets. We won't rest until the public is safe once more. We will never give up fighting for justice, even if it kills us. That is our promise to you as heroes."

Hawks stood there, knife frozen in the air.

You really are a useless bird, Dabi laughed at him. Looks like you're the only one who couldn't keep his promise. Or should I say 'wouldn't'? What happened to being a light for them, Keigo? What happened to saving people like you were saved? Imagine if Endeavor had given up before he saved you. You'd probably be dead by now. I wonder how many lives were lost tonight because you refused to learn how to fly again... Do you think Yuto will be proud of you someday?

The Dabi in his head cackled, loud and aggressive.

Hawks felt nauseous. He was going to throw up.

Endeavor hadn't meant it that way, he desperately reminded himself. There was no shame in retirement, in losing one's quirk and being forced out of the fight. He only meant that those left would fight to the end -

Hawks was going to throw up.

Dropping the knife, he zoomed for the bathroom. It clattered off the counter edge to the floor.

Hawks only made it twenty steps before he fell to his knees, dry-heaving at edge of the living room.

I have to learn to fly again, he thought miserably, knowing there was no way he could, knowing that even if he could, there was no way he could put Yuto in danger like that. Tears welled in his eyes. I have to learn how to fly. I have to learn how to fly...

He didn't eat dinner that night. Instead, Hawks went straight to bed after his stomach settled, and had a nightmare about sky blue eyes filled with false humanity and raging fire.

He couldn't go on like this.

Chapter Text

Dr. Sasaki's practice was connected to the Hero Commission, but not a part of it. The day after the latest Nomu attack, Hawks broke and contacted his former handlers for a list of recommended therapists. Dr. Sasaki had seemed to be the best on the list; while not a part of the Hero Commission, she and her colleagues had more than fifteen years experience speaking with heroes and hero-related government employees about everything from the every day difficulties of the job to trauma suffered while on the clock. They had permission to discuss classified information to a certain degree that most private practices did not. But since she didn't directly work for the Hero Commission, she had no obligation to report everything Hawks said back to them.

Oh, sure, if he brought up anything concerning the Commission might need to know about, such as possible conflicting loyalties because he had fallen for a member of the League, Hawks was sure she would be required to report that, and he was also certain the Commission would find a way to invade his privacy just to be sure of what was going on in his head, absolutely, but not everything he told Dr. Sasaki was automatically going to be fed back to them. That was all he cared about.

He had an appointment scheduled for the end of the week, and now here he was.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Takami," Dr. Sasaki greeted pleasantly as he stepped into her office. She closed the door behind him and offered her hand to shake. "Are you all right with 'Mr. Takami' or would you prefer 'Hawks'? According to your file, you gave up your birth name when you were seven, but you've been living as a civilian under it for the past four months. I'd like to call you whatever makes you comfortable."

Hawks blinked at her in bafflement as he shook her hand. Sure, he was legally Takami Keigo again, but while he'd never fully abandoned the name to himself, it had been years since he thought of himself as anything other than Hawks. Even after his forced retirement, the idea of becoming Takami Keigo once more was...repulsive, in a way. A way that cemented he was no longer a hero, no longer useful, no longer needed or wanted. That he was no longer Hawks anymore.

He might as well go back to being Takami Keigo for as much he could fight for the world now, he recalled thinking bitterly at the hospital, and with a sting, also recalled, The name would go well with frail, little Takami Yuto's.

Yeah, he really needed to be here.

"Um, Hawks is okay," he said. "It's what everybody calls me. I'm not...used to being called 'Takami' or 'Keigo' anymore."

"Of course," she nodded, as if that were perfectly acceptable. Which it was, wasn't it? "Why don't you take a seat on the sofa?"

Hawks did, while Dr. Sasaki went to retrieve what was presumably his file from her desk.

He watched her as she did. Dr. Sasaki was an older woman, somewhere in her forties or fifties. She had a slim, pear-shaped figure, black hair graying at the sides of her tightly wrapped bun, and crow's feet surrounding her warm, brown eyes. She also had a short beak for a mouth, talons instead of fingernails, and skinny bird ankles between the hem of her pant legs and high heels. Another reason he had picked her; Hawks felt comfortable around fellow birds.

Her office was small and cozy, but didn't feel suffocating due to the spacious arrangement of the furniture. There was plenty of leg room between the sofa and her chair, the sofa and her desk, and the tall, oak bookshelf standing next to the door. The walls were a dark green, and the carpet fuzzy brown. It wasn't too bad.

"All right," Dr. Sasaki came back around and settled in to her chair in front of the sofa, a clipboard and pen in her lap. "You wanted to discuss the loss of your quirk, Fierce Wings, correct?"

Hawks nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

She set the clipboard and pen down on her thighs and looked up at him calmly. There was no judgement, scrutiny, or analyzing in her gaze. "Let's get started then. You lost them four months ago during the Liberation raid, is that right?"

He swallowed. "Yeah. I did. They normally grow back after being burned, but this villain - Dabi - has super hot fire, and uh, burned them to the roots. Joints. Basically, the part they grow back from was totally destroyed. His flames were so hot, they even cauterized my wounds right then and there."

"I see," Dr. Sasaki replied, sympathetic. "That must have been a shock for you. Although you've lost feathers and have had your wings burned before, you've never experienced anything like this. Can you tell me how you felt when you first realized or learned they were gone for good?"

Hawks flinched at her phrasing at the end. It was one thing to think to himself they were gone forever, another to hear someone else say it. "Um, as you said, shock, I guess. Uh, a lot was going on, so I didn't really...disbelieve it, but I didn't have much of a reaction. I stayed in my hospital bed moping for a week. Guess it might sound weird for a hero to do that..."

"Not at all. That can only be expected," she told him. "Your quirk is a part of you; losing it is like losing an arm or a foot - it's not the same without it. Not only that, it was key to your career. You've been invested in the hero business since you were a small child. Fierce Wings was a major aspect of your identity, wasn't it?"

Hawks perked his head up. "Well, I suppose? I mean, I never consciously thought of them as me. I loved having them, I relied on them, and it's not as if I ever forgot they were there, but - but yeah, they were tied up in a lot of areas of my life." He tucked his head back down and laced his fingers together. "I never pictured my life without them. If something happened, they'd grow back in about four days. They were instrumental to taking bad guys down and saving lives. Hell, in my personal life, I did kind of use them as extra arms. If I needed something from the other room, my feathers could grab it for me! It's been - it's been weird without them."

This was incredibly awkward. Hawks wasn't used to baring his turmoil to others. The last time he sat in a therapist's office, he was seven to eight years old, hashing out his feelings on having a dad in prison and a mom who'd hardly cared but he still missed. And this session hadn't even gotten that deep yet.

"I'd feel weird, too, if my quirk disappeared," Dr. Sasaki offered. She held up a taloned hand. "It's not much, nor as nearly as useful as your wings were, but if someone forcibly clipped each of my talons off and I was told they wouldn't grow back, I'd feel as though these weren't my hands anymore. I can only imagine what you're going through."

Hawks shrugged. "I don't know, that sounds about right. I'm not - the same way I was. I haven't felt like the old me since then."

"How so?"

"I'm mopey," he explained. "Haven't been that happy. Things I used to find fun, I don't have any interest in doing. I can't keep my head out of the clouds, if you know what I'm saying."

"Tell me anyway, so I know for sure," she encouraged.

Hawks pointed a finger up at the ceiling. "You know, I keep thinking about flying. I miss it like crazy. I think I've done more walking and driving these past four months than I have my whole life." He forced a dry laugh. "I think instead of first steps, I had first wing flaps! Seriously, though, being on the ground never bothered me until I couldn't get off it anymore."

"I understand. Are there more ways you don't feel like yourself?"

He rubbed the back of his head. "Two people I've talked to have commented that I don't act like myself. One said my attitude wasn't my usual one and the other - we weren't even talking about me, yet he stopped me to tell me something has changed in me. I'm not terribly close with either, so if they could tell...I must be bad."

Dr. Sasaki tilted her head. "What about people close to you? What have they said?"

"Nothing, 'cause they don't exist," he stated flatly. "I had friends, sure, but I was too busy for close relationships. Family's out, too, because I haven't spoken to my parents in years. And no, I don't have any siblings, grandparents, or aunts, uncles, cousins, et cetera to turn to."

"You 'had' friends, though?" she honed in on. "Why the past tense?"

"I haven't exactly been talking to them lately. Didn't talk to them much before either."

"What about the two you brought up? You don't have to name names, but who were they?"

"A former intern of mine who saved my butt during the raid," Hawks answered, "and Endeavor. My old intern caught me at the mall and we started talking, and Endeavor reached out to me for help hunting down the League; he wanted to make sure he had all the information he could."

"You don't speak frequently with either of them, I take it?" Dr. Sasaki asked.

Hawks shook his head. "I only knew them through work."

"It sounds like you don't have a support system, then," she frowned. "Having loved ones you feel comfortable speaking to, or friends or colleagues you trust, can be beneficial to working through the events you've been through."

Hawks threw out his hands. "Guess I'm out of luck, then. That's part of why I'm here - I don't have anyone to talk to for free, so I'm paying you to listen to me whine! Sorry about that, by the way; pretty soon, you're going to find out how full of myself and annoying I can be. You'll be waiting to get me out of your hair," he half-joked.

"Oh, I doubt that," Dr. Sasaki mused. She flipped through the papers on her clipboard. "I will say, though, I'm a little worried about your lack of a support system. Not just because of your wings, but because you had a baby the same day of the raid. You're raising him alone, aren't you?"

Hawks sobered quickly.

He'd figured his giving birth was in his record and that she'd bring it up at some point; however, Yuto wasn't what he wanted to discuss. He'd signed up for therapy to talk about his wings and loss of career, nothing more. He wasn't going to say a peep about Dabi being his boyfriend, Dabi impregnating him, or the stupid wreck he'd been over the lethal end of their relationship. He wouldn't deny Yuto's existence, but he wasn't the primary issue here.

"I am," he told her. "He's still in the hospital. I don't know if it's in your file there, but he's a micro preemie. He won't be coming home until next month."

"Still, that's going to put extra stress on your shoulders," she said. "I'm worried you might start to feel isolated and alone, on top of not yourself or that happy. Even with a strong support system to lean back on, raising children can be incredibly stressful."

"I'm prepared for it," he argued. "Now that my schedule is so empty, I've been filling the time by reading up on childcare like crazy. I know it's going to be hell. But I think I'll be in a much better place to handle it than if Yuto had come home when he was two days old."

"Well, that's good to hear," Dr. Sasaki remarked.

Hawks held out his hand. "Look, the reason I came was to talk about my quirk. Forget Yuto for a minute; my whole life has been flipped upside-down. I'm not feeling too good. In fact, I've been downright miserable. I feel like a failure of a hero because everyone else is out there risking their lives while I'm sitting at home doing nothing. I've been saving people since I was a little kid, and now people might be dying because I'm not there to rescue them. I know there's nothing I can do to get my wings back, yet I keep asking myself why I'm not doing my best to get back up there anyway."

What had started as an explanation for why he didn't want to talk about his son had quickly turned into a ramble. Hawks fumbled a minute, choking up.

"Then add Yuto in. If I miraculously got back into the field, what about him? What if that were to put him in more danger? The League would absolutely target my child just to get to me. And if I don't go back on the field, which I won't because I can't anyway, h-how can I - ? What if I'm not a good father because of this? What if these things take over so bad I neglect him? Or hurt him? Not that I'll abuse him, but - but he grows up thinking I hate him? O-or..." He swallowed the lump forming in his throat. "What if he's ashamed of me when he grows up? His dad's a former hero who washed out, stayed home while everyone else gave their lives, and to top it all off, was too stuck in his own head to take care of him? I can't do that. I..."

A pit of humiliation formed in his stomach when Dr. Sasaki offered him a tissue from the box on her desk. His eyes had barely watered. He took it and laid it on his lap.

"Then it's all the better you chose to seek out help when you did," she assured him. "It appears we have a lot to work through. I'm confident, however, that you'll make an excellent father. The fact that you reached out partially because you're so concerned about your son tells me you'll do whatever you can to keep him safe and make him happy. You're already working to ensure you're able to take care of him properly. We just need to focus on your mental health. I'm confident you can get through this, Hawks."

Starling, hearing that was like a weight lifted off of Hawks' shoulders.

He stared at Dr. Sasaki in surprise. His issues hadn't been solved, yet he already felt lighter.

"I... Thank you," he said, unsure of what else to say.

She jotted something down on her clipboard. "During our time together, I want to go into depth on everything you just told me. Let's continue today with the raid. Is it all right with you if we discuss the fight with Dabi?"

Hawks took a deep breath. Okay. Here was the part where he'd have to omit information. No talking about how betrayed I felt when he said he never trusted me and was going to kill me. No talking about how tangled up my heart is because I fell for a murderous villain. "Okay. What do you want to start with?"

"Take me through the fight," Dr. Sasaki said. "What exactly happened?"

He shrugged one shoulder. "Well...I cornered one of the other senior members of the League, Twice. He had seemed like a good person who fell into the wrong crowd, so I tried to talk him into surrendering, turning his life around. I offered to help him." I would have. He made his choice. I didn't have any other. "He refused, so I attacked him. That was when Dabi showed up. He blasted fire at us, and taunted me that he knew heroes always put others' lives first, so he hadn't been worried about Twice's safety. He tried to take me on while Twice escaped, but I couldn't let that happen; Twice was an incredibly powerful member of the group. His clones could turn the entire wave of the battle against us. So I had to kill him; at that point, there was no scenario where I could arrest him alive. That moment passed when Dabi arrived and Twice tried his escape."

Hawks dug his nails in his jeans. He should have given up. He could have had the rest of his life ahead of him.

"What happened next?" she asked gently.

"Dabi went ballistic," he answered. "He burned what was left of my wings. He told me he didn't care if I lived or not, and would have killed me if not for Tokoyami - my intern. He threw me his cloak and took on Dabi. It was amazing."

Hawks throat was beginning to clog. He made himself hold it together; let her assume he was getting choked up over his wings, over losing, but don't give her reason to suspect more was going on with Dabi.

He never loved me.

The Dabi in his head scoffed. Could YOU truly love someone you were planning to send to Tartarus for murder, birdbrain?

Hawks pushed the voice away. He wasn't going to play with it today.

Dr. Sasaki nodded. "What did you think when your intern, Tokoyami, showed up and saved you?"

"That he was amazing," Hawks repeated. "It was unbelievable. He wasn't supposed to be with me, he disobeyed orders by coming to my rescue. Then...then I got scared. Dabi had wiped the floor with me, the number two hero, and here was Tokoyami, a first year high school student, slamming him with his quirk. I was terrified he was going to die. But he didn't. We survived and I was rushed to a hospital as soon as possible. It was there the doctor told me my wings weren't going to grow back this time."

"And you were in a sort of shock by then," she said. "I can't imagine going into labor helped."

Hawks frowned. "No, it didn't. I didn't know I was pregnant until they told me what my abdomen pains were and rushed me to another ward to give birth."

Dr. Sasaki made another note. "I want to talk about that during our next session. For now, let's go back to Dabi. He got away in the end. How do you feel about that?"

Hawks gave a humorless chuckle. "Terrified. What if he comes back for me and my son? ...Angry. Incredibly angry, too. When he burned my wings, he ruined my life."

And he broke my heart. It shouldn't matter because we were never going to last and I was prepared to kill him, too, if it came down to it, but he played me. None of it was real. He knew I was a spy so he messed with me to make it hurt more.

"You couldn't keep your hero license because you no longer had a quirk," she reiterated. "Being a hero was the most important thing to you."

"Yeah. It's all I ever wanted to be. No one retires at twenty-three; why did I have to?" Hawks scowled. Tokoyami's words from the café came back to him. His own words when he was a kid. "I was a light who shined on others. People survived numerous villain attacks because of me. How many have died or been injured because I wasn't there to save them? They need me. The world's not safer with less heroes in it! Except that's exactly what Dabi wants: a world without heroes. He despises us, so we have to go." He shook his head wildly. "Even if I don't have my license - the first people I saved were in a car accident when I was real little. They lived because of my wings. I was scouted by the Commission because of that incident. I trained my whole life so I could save others the way I had been saved as a kid. THIS is my LIFE. How I can ever be the same without them!?"

Hawks threw his head up with a glare as if Dr. Sasaki were challenging him. He deflated a little when he saw how composed she actually was.

"You can," she answered him calmly, "because you're more than your wings."

He bristled at that; why did people keep saying that?

"Nevertheless, you've been through a trauma that's stolen a part of you, and one that has been a massive influence in your life thus far at that." She made another note on her clipboard. "I believe I've gotten to know enough of the real you today, Hawks, not just what your file says, to plan our future sessions accordingly. We still have a few minutes left before today's ends. Is there anything you'd like to add before you go?"

Hawks blinked in surprise and looked down at his watch. Had it really been almost an hour already?

It had, somehow. They had four minutes left before his appointment ended.

"Anything else I'd like to add, huh?" he mumbled.

He thought back to that day, when Dabi thoroughly roasted him.

He thought of how not two days before, they had been in bed together, telling each other they loved them. Anxiety had been building up within Hawks because the raid was coming, and they had to be successful in order to prevent the total destruction of countless lives, yet it would undoubtedly destroy his relationship with Dabi. Dabi, who made him utterly sick to his stomach and heart melt in one swoop. Dabi, who was an unrepentant murderer yet the first person to make Hawks feel like he was loved in years. He had to squash his sentimentality down because that was the only way he'd be able to complete his mission, be able to take down the other League members, because innocents mattered more than his heart. Regardless of how much humanity he saw so openly in a man like Twice, or buried deep down in Dabi. They'd told each other they loved each other. Hawks had clung to him for the rest of the night.

He thought of Dabi's confession. How he'd known from the start Hawks was a spy, hadn't believed anything. How despite telling Hawks he loved him, that he didn't want him to fuck everything up because this was the first time Dabi had loved someone in years, that he was one person he truly cared about - he'd never been serious. He didn't care about Hawks' life. He didn't care if he lived or died. He was going to kill him himself. Dabi had had a panic attack against Hawks' chest after a nightmare about burning alive, revealed to him that he thought so much about the families of his victims he had to stop in order to stay sane, and told him he loved him -

Dabi hands cupped Hawks' face as he broke the kiss. His sky blue eyes had never been filled with so much affection before. "No matter what you say, you're a real hero, Hawks; somehow, you made me love again."

- and yet he had been playing an unfathomably sick game all along. People like that had never been in love to begin with, they were only making fun. Dabi had had his fun, then burned his wings and prepared to kill him in cold blood, no remorse, hesitation, or internal spite about it.

He thought of Yuto, who had been born far too early in the most traumatizing way. His father had brutalized his other father, sending him into premature labor at twenty-three weeks. He'd suffered in the real world when what he'd truly needed was more time in Hawks' womb. His lungs were weaker than they should have been for no reason the doctors could find (on top of developing BPD) but Hawks knew was because he'd been forced out of his body too soon. He was going to have them that way for the rest of his life because of Dabi's actions.

And then there was his wings. His ability to be a hero. His life's purpose. His way of repaying the kindness that been done to him. A part of him that was even more important to him than an arm or a leg. His quirk. Obliterated thanks to Dabi's fire.

Hawks gave a brief laugh. It sounded dark in his own ears, but his voice was nearly cheery. "I hate him," he told Dr. Sasaki. "I hate Dabi. I hate him. And I will never forgive him for what he did."

Over the course of the next month, Hawks had to admit the therapy was working better than he'd expected. It wasn't an instant fixer, no, but he felt lighter after each visit, and Dr. Sasaki gave him 'homework' at the end of each session that marginally helped improve his life outside her office. In the long run, he dared to believe he might truly get well again.

For instance, after his first session, she told him to reach out to his old, not-close friends and go have fun for an evening. He didn't have to spill his personal problems on them, just hang out. The point was to broaden his social circle and eventually build a support system baby step by baby step. A few days later he was having drinks with two of his old sidekicks and it was actually fun. He hadn't gone out drinking or talked to his sidekicks in months.

In their second session, Dr. Sasaki had him talk about the stress of suddenly having a baby and why he'd decided to raise him. Hawks had voiced his deep fears of depending on Yuto to feel needed again, and his deeper fears of turning out like his parents by neglecting and resenting him. It was only a start and they'd be bringing this back up in future sessions, but Hawks had been relieved to be essentially told those fears were nonsense (not that she'd used that word; rather, Dr. Sasaki acknowledged his fears, listed all the reasons she didn't believe he was or would, and gave him tips on what to do if his anxieties on the topics welled up). Eventually she'd spun his desire to parent around as evidence he wasn't his wings and could have a life without them.

In their third session, she went back to his childhood. Went over his history with his parents, being saved by Endeavor, and being noticed by the Commission after he rescued a group of people from a car crash. He'd snickered at her quiet disapproval of the Commission taking on a child so young and making him give up his real name to make the Winged Hero: Hawks his whole identity; in fact, he had to applaud her ability to chew that notion to pieces without saying a single negative word about the Commission's actions aloud. Dr. Sasaki did encourage him to try to get used to the name Takami Keigo again, though he didn't have to give up Hawks if he didn't want to.

And in their fourth session, they went back to his wings. Even if he hadn't consciously associated his whole identity with his wings, that's kind of what he had done. It wasn't his fault or necessarily a bad thing on his part - in a quirk society like theirs, people's individual quirks were heavily important to them - but it had made it all the harder on him to lose them. His life didn't have to be over just because he'd lost them, he didn't have to stop hero work entirely if he still wanted to be involved with saving lives (there were other jobs he could do, and of course, he still retained his keen eyes as part of his quirk), and most importantly, he didn't have to stay on the ground.

"Unfortunately, I don't mean literal flying," Dr. Sasaki had said, "however, there's no reason you can't aim for the sky. You just have to find a new one. Redefine what the 'sky' is for you."

"I'm not a big fan of mumbo jumbo, doc."

"Neither am I. I'm positive you'll figure it out anyway."

It wasn't an instant fixer. Hawks still mourned his wings and loss of his career. He missed being literally in the sky. His dreams and nightmares continued to haunt him. His moping hadn't entirely subsided. His struggles with uselessness and being the only hero unable to give his life for the cause hadn't suddenly disappeared. He felt better, though. Better than before, and much better than the start.

Which was perfect, because Yuto was coming home.

"Isn't it nice not to have that weird tube up your nose anymore?" Hawks asked as he fumbled to open his apartment door, Yuto slung between his arm and chest and head resting on his shoulder. "You're finally home, baby bird! No more sharing a nursery with all those other babies, you'll get your own room! Of course, you're sleeping with Daddy tonight. I wanna make sure you're still breathing throughout the night."

Hawks had strict instructions on what to do if Yuto's breathing got short or stopped altogether, and when to rush him to the closest hospital. While he didn't have to sleep with him, he wanted to be certain nothing would happen on his first night home.

The door flung open. Hawks tossed his free arm out. "Welcome to the Takami residence! Here, I'll give you the tour."

Hawks lifted Yuto off his shoulder to tuck him longways in the crook of his arm, kicked off his shoes, and remembered to shut the door at the last second.

Yuto's eyes peered up at the ceiling in wonder. A tiny chirp escaped his lips.

Hawks beamed.

His son was so much healthier than he had been the day he was born. He was no longer tiny and sickly, too pale, or gasping for breath. His little frame was filled out with baby fat, his white hair was sticking up all over the place on his head, and golden irises surrounded by black markings wandered up Hawks' face. His wings were mini replicas of what Hawks' had been, rather than fragile, bare bones. He was okay.

And too adorable in the blue onesie with the cartoon chicken printed on it that Hawks had put him in before leaving the hospital. Way too adorable.

"Here's the living room," Hawks said, walking around the living room, making as if he were really invested in showing Yuto around. "Here's the couch, the TV, and all these pretty and expensive decorations and furniture that aren't important because they aren't the couch and TV."

He stepped over to the balcony.

"This is the balcony, my favorite part of the apartment. You're not allowed out there until you learn how to walk." Hawks pressed his lips together firmly, looking at the thin bars of the railing and glancing at Yuto's still rather small body. "Or, when you're big enough you won't slide right through them. Hehe, remind me to get a new lock for the doors."

He zipped over to the kitchen. "This is the kitchen! I'll be mixing your formula in here. One day when you have teeth, you'll probably fall as in love with the fridge as I have. Moving on!"

He made a beeline for the hall that took them to the bedrooms.

Swinging open the first door on his right, he held Yuto up. "This is my room! See that big bed? Twenty or thirty of you could fit on it. That's where we'll be sleeping tonight."

Hawks went for the first door on the left. "And this is your room! I don't think you care about the bathroom or my fitness room, so we'll end the tour here. What do you think, baby bird?"

Yuto's nursery was painted a robin egg blue with puffy, white clouds painted on the top third of the walls. His crib stood directly across from the door, flanked on both side walls by a changing station and tall dresser covered in stuffed animals and baby toys. On the ground was a toy chest Hawks was certain he'd fill to the brim in his toddler years. Behind the closed closet door was a mountain of baby supplies, such as diapers and wipes.

"I think I did pretty good, if I say so myself," Hawks puffed out his chest in mock pride. "We'll fill it with even more stuff when you get older. Right now you don't need a whole lot, do you?"

Yuto had no obvious reaction. His head turned slightly this way and that, curious, and that was it.

Hawks picked him up by the armpits and raised him to eye level. Yuto's head fell backwards with a spit-bubbly gurgle.

Warmth spread throughout Hawks' chest.

His son was alive. He was healthy. He was doing okay.

Hawks couldn't have hoped for more.

He brought Yuto into the crux of his arm and kissed his chubby cheek. "You're home, Yuto. I almost can't believe it." He ran a hand over his soft head, over his wild tufts, and tucked it under his chin. "I'm so glad you're here. I love you."

To his delight, Yuto chirped again beneath him. Hawks let him lean his head back on his shoulder, and watched in excitement as Yuto pursed his lips and let out another chirp.

"Chirp," Yuto crooned up at him. "Chirp."

His wings flapped behind him slightly.

Hawks could feel his own phantom wings beating with enthusiasm. He chirped back, pouring all his affection and joy into it.

Yuto's jaw fell open in a tiny 'o.' He didn't have the ability to smile yet, so Hawks took that as one.

"My baby bird, my little chick," he cooed, pressing a finger under his chubby chin. "I love you so much; have I said that yet?"

Yuto gurgled. He carefully balled one fist over the collar of Hawks' shirt and buried his face in the junction between his shoulder and neck.

Inwardly, Hawks' reaffirmed his promise to himself to never let anything happen to his son. No matter what happened, he'd protect him. He'd keep him safe. He'd make sure Yuto grew up as happy as he could possibly be.

Suddenly everything had come before didn't matter anymore. For the time being, all of Hawks' issues fluttered away. His heart soared.

His baby was finally home; it felt like a turning point in his life. A good one.

He'd do everything in his power to keep it good. For both of their sakes.

Chapter Text

Hawks had been fully aware of the fact babies cried throughout the night. He had also been fully aware of the fact Yuto would probably cry throughout the night longer than other babies, because despite being five months old, he was really only a month old once his age was corrected. That was fine; Hawks was used to losing sleep thanks to his (old) job, where nightly patrols, nocturnal villains, and meet ups with Dabi had required him to cut into his beauty rest. But man, he must have gotten used to getting a full night's sleep over the last five months, because Yuto. Was. Loud.

"For a baby with weak lungs," he yawned during Yuto's third night home, around three in the morning, as he sat up in bed and rocked his wailing child, "you sure are noisy. Did you give the hospital staff this much trouble, or was this reserved just for me?"

To put it simply, Hawks pretty much only slept when Yuto slept, night or day. He had come to especially look forward to his morning and afternoon naps, since those meant he could rest, too.

It was so different from when he had been in the hospital; his whole first week home, Hawks had jolted at every abrupt, shrill wail that came from Yuto's mouth. He had been starting to believe the nurses were pulling his leg about Yuto being able to cry until he brought him home.

Yet even so, Hawks had to admit, he enjoyed cuddling Yuto in bed four times a day. They would curl up under the covers and he'd watch his baby's eyes flutter and droop until they finally fell shut for good, and he'd listen to him breathe in and out, in and out. Yuto looked so peaceful, as if nothing in the world could bother him. Hawks' chest warmed at the sight. His son was so adorable. He'd loosely wrap him arms around Yuto to bring him closer and fall asleep listening to him breathe. At this rate, Yuto's crib probably wasn't ever going to be used.

Nevertheless, he was fussy. Fussy, fussy, fussy. Yuto got cranky and chirped angry chirps between wake up time and breakfast, just before each of his naps, and right after dinner. It was practically routine at this point. If Hawks was lucky, burping him, walking him all around the apartment, or stuffing a pacifier in his mouth did the trick and got him to stop. If he was unlucky, he merely had to wait for Yuto to whine himself out, presumably get bored with killing Hawks' ears, and go back to being the quiet, little angel he usually was.

Oh, and he didn't like the formula Hawks had initially bought. It was the same he'd drank in the hospital, but apparently Yuto had gotten sick of it. He didn't like the next version Hawks had bought either. Or the third. The fourth kind he thankfully did take to, but go figure it was an unbelievably expensive kind. Not that Hawks' wallet couldn't cover it, but formula should not cost that much; it was a total rip off.

When Yuto was behaving, however, it was nice. He frequently laid on the couch, a blanket on the floor, or on Hawks' body as if he belonged there. He'd practice lifting his head, chirping, or just stay there quietly, content where he was. It was pretty cute in Hawks' opinion. Especially when he laid on him. Yuto loved laying on Hawks' shoulder, chest, or lap. He'd nuzzle his head against his daddy's body, grip his clothes, and go completely slack, as if he'd just gotten home from a tiring day of work and could finally relax. Silly baby. Hawks had to laugh. It was so cute.

On occasion, Yuto would fall asleep for his naps too early, and Hawks didn't have the heart (or will power) to wake him up so they could stick to the schedule they'd established. Besides, if he did try to wake him, or simply move around to get comfy, Yuto would get cranky and his angry chirps nearly sounded like growls then. Hawks would promptly stop what he was doing at that point, too busy melting in a puddle of goo to move further; Yuto really did love him! And those growls were adorable. Meanwhile, his chick went back to sleep on his favorite place.

The only time he was separated from Yuto was during his weekly therapy sessions; Hawks had found a daycare to drop him off at for the hour. Regardless of how exhausted Yuto had made him that particular day, or how short his sessions really were, Hawks always missed him terribly while he was gone. At the beginning, he couldn't wait to get out of therapy and race to pick him up. Dr. Sasaki had chuckled at Hawks' restlessness; apparently, this was normal for new parents. He'd calm down as time went on and he got used to the separation. Now, that seemed to be true. He still missed him, but he was no longer eager to flee her office.

It was also amazing to watch the little milestones Yuto made each month. In the hospital, he'd been unable to do much of anything except blink. Yet during his first month home Yuto slowly learned how to lift his head, and ball Hawks' shirts tightly in his little fists as if he never wanted to let go. He often watched Hawks track around the apartment from his blanket or the couch like he was the most interesting thing in the world, and responded with wide eyes or chirps when Hawks called out to him from across the room. His wings twitched and flapped slightly more and more. As he turned six/two months old, Yuto got more control over his arms, stuffing his fingers and fist in his mouth. He began to smile for real, mirroring the ones Hawks gave him with creased eyes and pink gums. He even seemed to recognize the daycare workers who took care of him when Hawks dropped him off for therapy. And he was growing all the time, Hawks' little cherub getting bigger and bigger with each day. Hawks was almost worried he'd blink and miss Yuto's next development.

And thank everything that was good in the world, his lungs had yet to act up. No shortness of breath, no turning blue, he hadn't stopped breathing once. Hawks was grateful for that. Yuto's regular visits to the hospital for check ups had been going well and he responded positively to the medication they prescribed him. He was without a doubt healthy.

Honestly, in spite of the downsides and what a drastic change it was from his old life, Hawks didn't mind taking care of his son twenty-four seven. It was better than doing nothing most of the day, and Yuto had pretty much stolen his heart for himself and refused to give it back. Even in his most tired, I-don't-want-to-do-this moments, Hawks couldn't summon enough energy to get grumpy. His baby needed him.

Raising a baby wasn't easy by any means, no, and his issues that he was still dealing with only made it harder, but Hawks felt like he was finally adjusting and finding a new normal. Things were getting back to normal and he was happy about that.

Maybe it was possible to have a life without his wings after all.

Dr. Sasaki smiled wide. "That's wonderful to hear, Hawks!"

Hawks nodded sheepishly. "Yeah. It's kind of weird, since I've never been responsible for anyone other than myself. I think having those five months to let everything digest and of course come here helped a lot. Now adays, Yuto keeps me on my toes, so I don't have as much time to feel sorry for myself. I mean, when I do feel sorry for myself, it hits hard and makes it more difficult to focus on taking care of him and I sort of feel like a failure, but like - once he falls asleep next to me on a normal day and I have a minute to think for myself...I feel good. It's not hero work, but I'm doing something good for someone I love. That makes it worth it. Aaand then I fall dead asleep because the little handful kept me up all night. Haha!"

She hummed pleasantly. "It sounds like you're doing well."

"I am. It's as if..." Hawks licked his lips, searching for the right words, "I can at least be a light for him. It's not the same as being a hero, no, but Yuto needs me. ...You sure I'm not being the needy one by relying on him needing me, doc? Like, you don't think I might be going down an unhealthy road this way, do you?"

"No, I don't," she answered. "It doesn't appear that you're replacing your hero career with fatherhood, putting it on the same high pedestal and rebuilding your entire identity around it. It's all right to want to feel needed and wanted. You just have to remember Yuto isn't a band aid, and a father isn't all you are or can be to feel good. Now, I understand you're attached to Yuto, but since your separation anxiety has lessened, why don't you arrange for him to stay at his daycare center for an extra few hours one day, and go out and do something for yourself? Meet up with your former sidekicks, make some new friends, take a long walk in a park by yourself if you want. Taking some time for yourself is important, and it might help lessen your fears of dependency."

Hawks scratched the back of his head. "If you say so. I guess I'll make some calls tonight in that case."

"Fantastic." Dr. Sasaki jotted down a quick note. "How about you tell me more about when your mental state makes it hard to care for your son next. What gets more difficult?"

He curled his lips. "Uh...I get extra tired. It take more energy to pick him up when he's crying. When he gets into a mood where he just has to tucker himself out, I start thinking about how it's my fault and I'm not doing enough. In really bad moments, I blame myself for participating in the raid pregnant because he'd probably be healthier if I had known and stayed home. Truthfully, I've stayed up during his naps a couple times to go cry in the bathroom so I don't wake him up. I feel that awful, and it - it builds up inside of me until I break. That's only happened twice, though."

They weren't only about Yuto, though. I do hate Dabi, but I did love him. I'm still heartbroken over what happened.

Is that ever going to end? Am I ever going to get over him?

"How long do these episodes last?"

"At best, ten minutes? At worst, the whole day."

"How do they end? Do you do something, or do they fade away? What do you do after they end?"

Hawks cocked his head. "Hmm, I guess they fade on their own. I don't really do anything. After they end, I keep caring for Yuto. I feed him, I change him, he lays on my chest while I watch TV, normal stuff."

Dr. Sasaki nodded. "Are some of them worse than others? Or are they all pretty much the same?"

"The same? Unless it's building up to me crying in the bathroom."

"How are those times?"

"Worse," Hawks stated matter-of-factly. "They knock me down like a super hard punch. I don't feel better until I'm done crying."

"On the bright side, you are getting it out," Dr. Sasaki pointed out. "How frequently do these episodes come on?"

"At least once a day. The ones that last the whole day, maybe once a week? Twice a week sometimes?"

She hummed again, less pleasantly, and wrote herself a note on her clipboard. "When you have the time to over the next week, I want you to write down every time one of these episodes come on. It can be as short as, 'Sunday, ten minutes. Wednesday, it built up inside until I cried' or something along those lines, or you can write down everything you're feeling. Bring them to our next session. Actually, I'd like you to do this and bring your entries in every session."

"Why?" he asked.

"Well, for one thing, it might help you to get your feelings out on paper. It's been known to help others. For another, I want to assess your episodes more closely. If they reach a certain point, I might recommend you to a psychiatrist to prescribe you anti-depressants. Not that I believe you need them right now."

"Seriously?" Hawks blinked. "You think I'll need meds in the future?"

"I don't know yet," Dr. Sasaki answered. "It's not bad to be on medication. They'll improve your mood and hopefully stop your episodes. As I said, though, I don't believe you need them right now, and even if you are prescribed them, you'll still need to see me. Medication can't heal your problems alone."

"All right," Hawks reluctantly agreed. "I've never been on meds for my head. This doesn't mean I'm crazy, right? Or going to go crazy?"

She was firm in her response. "Absolutely not. It's a myth that taking medicine to improve your mental health means you're crazy."

He relaxed a little. He just wanted some reassurance. "Okay then."

"Going back to writing down your episodes," Dr. Sasaki continued, "I suggest keeping a journal as well. You don't have to bring that in, but when you find the time, write about your day. Write about the ups, the downs, how much you miss flying, how much you love your son, how you're dying to eat a particular food you're craving, how Yuto wouldn't stop crying today, so on. I want you to do it for the same reason I want you write down your episodes; putting your thoughts and feelings to papers helps you organize them. A few sessions from now, I'll want you to tell me how it's going."

"Sounds fair," Hawks shrugged. "I'm not sure I'll have that much time to, though. Yuto pretty much steals my whole day."

"That's fine. Whenever you find the time to is all right. You don't have to journal every day if you can't keep to that kind of schedule."

He nodded. "I'll buy a notebook next time I go to the store."

Dr. Sasaki smiled in approval. "Good. Looks like we're running out of time, by the way. Before you leave, I do want to say, Hawks: You've been doing very well since our sessions began. You might still feel down and have a long way to go, but you should be proud of yourself."

He scratched the back of his head with a sheepish smile. "Really? Thanks. To be frank, talking about this stuff with someone has helped me a lot. I didn't think it would when I first started, you know."

"You're not the first person tell me that," she replied.

Hawks stood. "Well, I better get going. I'll see you next week."

"Have a good day, Hawks."

He left feeling like he would.

"Hey, you're being unusually nice to me today," Hawks noted, booping Yuto's nose with the tip of his finger. "You haven't cried since this morning. What gives?"

Yuto's eyes focused in on his finger as if it were something new and surprising he'd never seen before. Hawks booped him a second time, and huffed a laugh at how his jaw dropped open.

They were both lying face to face on their stomachs on the floor of the living room, the lights emitting a soft glow against the darkened, rain-filled sky outside. Some baby cartoon played in the background on the TV; it had been on the news before, but Hawks switched it. They had been complaining about the heroes' lack of (public) victories against the League lately, and he didn't want to hear that. Yuto drooled on his blanket.

Hawks hiked up his sleeve and wiped his chin. "Messy boy. You just feel extra happy today, is that it? Too happy to fuss and cry and whine? This is the closest to a day off I'm going to get, isn't it?"

Yuto chirped.

Hawks chuckled. "Lucky me. Thank you for being so considerate. What do I have to negotiate to make this a weekly occurrence? New keys?"

He picked up the plastic key chain sitting on the corner of the blanket and rattled it. Yuto's eyes shot to them, mouth opening wider.

"Wanna drool on them? Here you go!"

Hawks set the keys down in front of Yuto's face. He turned his head, mushing his cheek on top of the toy. Predictably, more drool crawled out of his mouth.

Hawks sat up, folding his legs to the side. He tilted his head.

Once again, he wondered how much Yuto resembled him and Dabi. Clearly he had both of their colorings, but did he really look like either of them? If he were to somehow obtain baby pictures of the two of them, would Yuto look like them? Was he as chubby as Hawks had been at that age? Or were his cheeks from Dabi? His size had to be from Dabi and there was no doubt Hawks' wings had probably been that small when he was so young, but what about the rest of him? Who would Yuto resemble more when he got older?

Hawks seriously pondered the idea Yuto could look exactly like Dabi. It had been a funny thought in the hospital, but truly? What if he sounded like him as well, inherited his voice? What if twenty years from now, Yuto visited home and it was like a window to the past? How would he react?

It wasn't as though Hawks would stop loving him, or see Yuto as Dabi himself. But would he be uncomfortable around his own son? Not only at twenty; what if he was near an exact replica of him at age five? Like, Hawks didn't know what Dabi had looked like at five years old, but what if Yuto was clearly his miniature double?

And to see the man who had burned his wings off in his son, who had inherited his wings...

Hawks bit his lip. Okay, there was something to bring up to Dr. Sasaki next week. For now, he wasn't going to dwell on the topic.

His appearance wasn't all, though. Who would Yuto turn out like someday?

Hawks loved to joke not himself. After spending his entire adolescence in a bird cage training and training and training and having his freedom restricted by the adults around him, he had grown up to be a sarcastic, sort of self-centered, I-will-absolutely-drag-my-feet-in-non-emergencies-and-do-what-I-want-self-control?-what's-that?-hey-I-want-this-thing-it's-mine-now kind of guy. He wasn't the most selfless or most polite person outside of his hero work. Friendly and cheery, sure, but not the guy one's parents would necessarily want them to bring home. If Yuto took after him, he'd give Hawks hell to pay someday.

On the other hand, there was Dabi. Or whoever Touya had been before he became Dabi. Had he been fucking with people his whole life, or did his fiery accident change him that much? Either way, if Yuto were to turn out to be a miniature Dabi in appearance and attitude, Hawks didn't know what he'd do.

...Okay, another thing to bring up to Dr. Sasaki next week.

What's wrong, birdie? Hawks frowned at Dabi's voice in his head. It had been a while. You won't fall in love with him the way you did me? Will he become worthless to you? Will you be scared of him?

I'm not falling for your taunts, he asserted mentally. Of course I won't.

Are you sure? Then why does this bother you? He could practically hear Dabi's grin stretch from ear to ear. If you were a good father, it wouldn't matter what he looks like or who he acts like.

Hawks batted the voice away. He wasn't going to give that thought the time of day. He loved Yuto with all of his heart. That wasn't going to change.

"C'mere, little chick," he cooed, reaching to pick Yuto up. He pulled him into his lap and kissed the top of his head. "You know I'll always love you, right? Even if you get all my annoying genes times ten and end up having your grandpa's that's a scary thought...but I'll love you. I love you, Yuto!" He ended it with a happy chirp.

Yuto's wings twitched. His eyes glanced up and he happily chirped back, smiling wide.

Hawks chuckled. "That's my boy," he cheered, waving Yuto's arms in the air.

Cute, Dabi snarked. I didn't hear my name in there.

I'll love him no matter what, Hawks declared darkly. Yes, even if he looks like you and has your attitude. Want to know why?

Enlighten me, birdbrain.

Because he won't be like you. He won't be a criminal, a murderer, or someone who plays with others' hearts. Unlike you, my son has a soul.

YOUR son? Dabi snickered. He's OUR son, Hawks. You'll see me in him eventually. I promise you. And you won't like it.

A shiver flew down Hawks' spine despite himself.

Yuto rolled his eyes to stare up at him questioningly. Or what looked like questioningly.

Hawks rose to his feet, hefting him up in his arms. "Come on, baby bird, let's go mix your dinner together. No bad thoughts allowed."

He wasn't going to entertain that notion. It was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

He wished Dabi would get out of his head.

"Why are we doing this?"


"This." Hawks waved his free hand, motioning to their clasped hands and the kiss-swollen lips on each of their faces. For good measure, he slipped his other hand out of Dabi's. "Why would you kiss me when you won't even take me to the League?"

Dabi narrowed his eyes in judgement. He kicked his feet over the edge of the building. "Could ask you the same. Why are you kissing me when I won't bring you to the League?"

Hawks shrugged. "You're hot and my intentions with you don't have anything to do with getting into the League."

Dabi's eyes gleamed. "Oh? You're not seducing me to get on my good side?"

"You have a good side?"

Hawks watched Dabi raise a hand like he was about to shove him off the roof. Hawks laughed as he thought better of it and lowered his hand.

"If I'd known that," he teased, "I definitely would have seduced you to get in. Nah, though, I'm being selfish here. I want in the League and I want you."

Dabi cocked his head, gaze catlike. "Why?"

Hawks' gut told him this was a loaded question. He decided to be honest for once. "Because you're hot. You intrigue me. Frankly, you're kind of like a puzzle I'm itching to figure out."

"What will you get out of that?"

Hawks didn't know. Inside, that scared him.

He shouldn't be doing this. He shouldn't be out on a pseudo date with a villain who hardly trusted him yet and he needed in order to spy on the League. He shouldn't be kissing him. He should be focusing on the mission. Why wasn't he?

Dabi watched him closely.

Hawks shrugged. "Guess we'll find out."

Dabi tilted his head, stoically curious. "Will we?"

Hawks snickered. "I'm determined to win your heart!"

That got Dabi to roll his eyes and relax.

"What about you?" Hawks went on. "I asked first. Why are you doing this? We haven't fucked yet, so I know you're not holding my hand just for the sex. If you only wanted my body, that would have been obvious by now."

Dabi stared at him long and hard. Hawks was about to retract the question when he spoke up.

"You're a true hero," he spoke slowly. "Guess I wanna see how 'true' you are."

Hawks blinked, startled. "Huh? I told you, I'm not - "

"Save it, feathers. You want me to believe that, you're going to have prove it to me first."

"But what does that have to do with whatever the hell you'd call us - ?"

"I care about you." Dabi turned his head to stare at the ground below them. "Don't know how far it goes, but something about you...we'll see where this goes."

Hawks couldn't wrap his head around that. Were those two statements connected, or had Dabi been stalling? He wanted him to prove himself not a hero and yet cared for him? How did those connect?

Dabi lifted his head with wide eyes.

"I care about you," he repeated slowly, as if coming to a sudden realization about himself. "You' make me feel funny. I don't get it. But I want to see how far this goes."

Hawks gawked at him.

Never mind the rest - That summed up him as well; Dabi made him feel funny, too. It was strange, confusing, and somewhere deep inside, he was eager to find out how far that funny feeling went for him. He shouldn't have, but he did. And what Hawks wanted, he went after without regard to the consequences. Even if they pressed heavily on his mind like they were doing now.

"Well..." Hawks replied equally as slow. He reached for Dabi's hand, tangling their fingers back together. "We'll have to see together, then."

Dabi nodded shortly. "Yeah. Yeah, we will."

Hawks forced himself to snap out of it.

Stupid memories; he'd probably stirred Yuto's formula for twice as long as necessary thanks to them.

They made his heart hurt.

As long as I have a new journal to write in, he thought somberly, placing the formula in the microwave and setting the time, I guess I can write about Dabi in it. Just have to remember to burn the pages when I'm done so no one ever finds them.

He adjusted Yuto in his arms and planted another kiss on his cheek. "Geez, Daddy is spacey today, isn't he!? Yuto, help Daddy back to Earth, okay?" Hawks grabbed one of Yuto's hands and lightly smacked it on his chin. He pretended to reel his head back, as if punched. "Wow, you're a strong chick! Okay, all of Daddy's attention is back on you!"

Yuto stared at him blankly.

Hawks sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I know; 'shut up, Dad.' Let's watch cartoons when your bottle's ready!"

Outside, the storm grew harsher.

Chapter Text

Hawks jerked awake at the sound of Yuto's wails, bolting upright and wings unfurling behind him.

Yuto wasn't in bed with him; Hawks had put him in his crib for the night. Why had he done that? He couldn't remember. But Yuto's wails cut through the darkness of his bedroom, and Hawks found himself scrambling out of bed and through the door.

Yuto had several cries, all meaning different things - he was hungry, tired, wanted changed, was being fussy, and so on - this was none of them. His baby was scared. Why was his baby scared?

Hawks threw open the nursery door. His body froze and heart leapt to his throat. He didn't need to flip on the light to see what was in front of him.

Dabi stood in front of the crib, his back to the door. Yuto was cradled in his arms.

Yuto shrieked again.

"Dabi," Hawks' voice was a breathless whisper. His instincts kicked into overdrive. He ordered loudly, "Give me back my baby!"

Dabi ignored him.

He lunged to fly over there, to wrestle his son out of that monster's grasp - when a boot suddenly landed square between his wings, shoving him to the ground and holding him there. Hs chin hit the floor with a thud. The nursery was illuminated in a blue glow as Hawks' wings caught fire and burned.

He couldn't scream, though. He couldn't, when all of his attention was glued to the figure before him.

"Dabi!" he cried out. "Give me my son!"

Dabi hummed casually.

Yuto's cries halted.

Dabi turned on his heel and walked towards Hawks, crouching down to his level and propping Yuto up in display in his arms. His smile was as murderous and manic as it was the day he burned Hawks' wings away forever.

"We made a pretty baby, didn't we, Hawks?" he asked. "Isn't he beautiful, Hawks? Keigo? Doesn't he look just. Like. Me?"

Hawks' mouth dropped open in a silent scream that stuck in his throat. His heart raced a thousand kilometers a second. He wanted to yell and cry and tear out Dabi's throat all at once. But he couldn't, not with the boot on his back and his wings burning to ash down to the joints.

Dabi's sky blue eyes were blown wide above him. "Doesn't he?"

Hawks wanted to cry. He wanted to tear Dabi limb from limb for what he'd done. But he couldn't; he was stuck.

Yuto's charred corpse lay black and lifeless in Dabi's arms.

Hawks screamed himself awake, catching himself in the blankets trying to jump out of his bed to run for the nursery.

In the darkness, Yuto's cries sprang up beside him.

Hawks froze. Then he scrambled in the other direction, pressing the button on his bedside lamp.

Yuto shrieked at the sudden light, eyes screwing shut.

His skin was unblemished, not a burn in sight.

Relief flooded Hawks. He snatched his son up and held him close to his body.

"Yuto," he gasped, and realized he was both covered in sweat and out of breath. "I'm - I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

Yuto sobbed against his shoulder, his fists balling his nightshirt in tight grasps.

Hawks fought to catch his breath. That nightmare - he hadn't been able to protect Yuto. Dabi had gotten to him. He'd killed him. He'd burned Hawks' wings again and killed their son. And there was nothing he could do. Nothing he could do to stop it.

"I'm sorry," he gasped, tears falling down into his lap as he hugged his baby tighter. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry, Yuto!"

"There we go, all nice and tuckered out, huh? I'm so sorry about last night," Hawks apologized again with a soft laugh the next morning, rubbing Yuto's back as he fell asleep stomach-down on the couch next to him. It was half an hour too early for his morning nap, but Yuto was tired. Hawks continued to rub his back until he was certain his baby had fallen asleep.

When he was, Hawks picked up his pen and focused on the notebook sitting open on his lap. He gulped down a deep breath and put the nub to the top of the page, quickly writing down his thoughts as they came to him.

Last night I dreamed that Dabi broke into the apartment and murdered Yuto. He knew it was his own son he was killing, yet he did it anyway. Just to hurt me.

He burned my wings when I got in there. It was like there was two of him, one on my back EXACTLY like during the raid and one standing over Yuto's crib. I was terrified. I couldn't move.

He asked me if the body looked like him. Touya burned alive. Dabi is riddled with scars. Yuto was burnt to a crisp. All this after I was wondering to myself what would happen if Yuto grew up to look or act like his other father. I hate it. My head WANTS to screw with me. First Dabi's voice, then that nightmare. What's going to happen next? Am I going to hallucinate that Dabi is here, finally come to get me? Will I accidently hurt Yuto, thinking I'm fighting Dabi for him?

Maybe Dr. Sasaki should send me to that psychiatrist ASAP. I might need those meds right now after all.

It was horrifying. My hands are shaking just thinking about it. It was so real. I woke up and thought it was real, I scared Yuto because I was trying to get to the nursery to check on him. He hasn't slept in the nursery yet, I only take him in there to change him. He's been with me every night. Why did I dream of him in his crib? I couldn't even tell you why I did that in my dream.

I'm so afraid it'll come true. The League's going to come for me and kill my kid. It doesn't matter where we go in the world, they'll find us and kill us. Dabi will find us and kill us.

Why him? Why did I have to fall for him? I knew what he was from the start. I should have kept my guard up. Why did I let myself fall for him?

Because it seemed like there was some humanity in him. Because he was interesting. Because he was a puzzle and I wanted to figure him out. Because I'm a repressed, little shit who likes bad boys. Because I thought maybe after some time in Tartarus he might turn himself around and we could be a real couple. Because there was a person who liked cats, little kids, and felt for the families of his victims in there, who wanted to be loved as much as I did. Or so I thought.

I'm so stupid. I shouldn't have let him knock me up. Of course a psycho killer was lying to me. Why would a villain ever be truthful with the number two hero? Dabi was no Twice, he wasn't

Hawks halted his frantic pace. His mind raced.

a good person deep down. I killed the wrong member.

He stared at his words, unable to process what he'd just written. He forced himself to go on, slower.

I killed Twice. I killed Best Jeanist. For what? The League is still about. They're stronger than ever thanks to Shigaraki. I failed as a hero. I lost my wings and can't ever save anyone again. Including my own son. If the League comes after us, there's nothing I can do. I can't stop them. I won't be able to protect Yuto. I'm defenseless and powerless. The world is going to shit and it's because I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't fast enough.

I'm not even trying to fly, to get back out there. To do something to protect my son. I'm a failed hero and a failing father.

He was coming to the end of the page.

I'm weak. I'm useless. I did this to myself.

Hawks ripped the sheet quietly out of the notebook and read it once over. Absorbed the words. Still felt terrible.

He got up and went to the kitchen. He lit the stove, dipped a corner in the flames and involuntarily flinched, and flicked the stove off as he tossed the paper in the sink.

He went back into the living room and picked up the other notebook he had, the one for Dr. Sasaki's sessions, and wrote the day and hour on the next line.

"Your fears concerning the League are understandable," Dr. Sasaki attempted to soothe him, "however, the Commission is keeping an eye on your situation and the heroes are investigating the League every day. You can't scare yourself into not living, Hawks. It won't do you any good."

Hawks ran a quick hand through his hair. "The most information we had from them came from me. They won't fall for an undercover spy a second time, especially not with Dabi there. There's no way the investigation team has as much intel as before. I betrayed the League. I killed their friend and ally. They're going to want my family's blood!"

Dr. Sasaki put a hand on his shoulder. "Hawks. It's been almost seven months. Why would they come for you now?"

He grits his teeth, irked. "It doesn't matter if they come now or in two years. I can't protect my son!"

"You had a nightmare," she told him firmly, a deep frown etched on her face. "It was a vivid one. It brought your worst fears and insecurities to the surface. This will pass, Hawks. Your colleagues won't let them hurt you or your son."

He wanted to beat her hand away. "What part of I don't feel safe because I'm USELESS don't you understand!?"

She leaned back in her chair, removing her hand. "The part where you're useless. It's okay to be afraid, but you have to calm down. Yuto is safe at his daycare right now, isn't he?"

"Not if a villain attacks."

"Villains attack every day. People still drop their kids off at daycare anyway," she reminded him. "You know firsthand why. Even in the world we live in now, where fear is ramping up in society, everyone is going about their lives the best way they can. You're stressing yourself out when you don't need to. It was a nightmare."

Hawks dug his nails into his palms. She didn't get it. How could she? She didn't know the full story. She didn't know Dabi was Yuto's other father. She didn't know Dabi had went out of his way just to fuck with Hawks' heart. She didn't know how far he would go to hurt him.

"You're not useless," Dr. Sasaki went on. "Yuto depends on you. Without you, who would he have? So you can't fight villains anymore - most people can't. Their quirks either aren't suited for combat, haven't been trained for combat, or they don't have one entirely. They're not useless. They're not worthless. They're not failures. Why should you be?"

Hawks reluctantly let go of his palms. He sighed, slumping forward. He was exhausted. "Do you think I need medication yet?"

"No. What you're going through is normal, considering your trauma. Nothing about this makes me believe you need to see a psychiatrist yet."

Hawks bowed his head. Great.

Dr. Sasaki scratched something in her notes. "Have you left Yuto in daycare to go out like I advised you?"

"Yes, the one day," he replied tonelessly.

"Do it again. This time, take the time to rest. You need more sleep, Hawks. The bags under your eyes have doubled in size since last week."

"Will do," he muttered, unenthused.

At least Yuto wouldn't be around when he scared himself awake again.

Dr. Sasaki reached out to squeeze his knee. "I know it's hard. But this will pass. You'll be okay, I promise you."

Hawks wished he could believe her.

"How did I end up pushing a stroller and carrying you?"

Yuto slipped his fingers out of his mouth to touch Hawks' face.

He wrinkled his nose at the drool on his cheek. "I take you to the park for some fresh air for one day. And I get your spit on my face for it. Are you still going to fuss if I put you back in your seat?"

Yuto chirped in response.

"Is that a yes or no?" he deadpanned.

Yuto's hand wandered to his nose.

Hawks sighed.

He'd only wanted out of his apartment, hoping the air would help him destress. It had been a long week. He brought Yuto along because it had been a spur-of-the-moment decision and it felt wrong to dump him on his daycare out of nowhere. Besides, Yuto hadn't properly seen the outside world yet. It wasn't that cold out, but he'd bundled him up in baby sweat pants, a light jacket, and cozy hat; with Yuto's lungs weak to infections, Hawks didn't want to risk the chance of a cold, especially one that could turn into pneumonia. He'd thought they'd have a nice, quiet day in the park, strolling under the shady trees and listening to the birds chirp. Maybe it would be a good bonding experience for them.

It turned out, however, that Yuto had not appreciated his stroller for longer than ten minutes. He had started fussing like crazy and wouldn't stop until Hawks held him. This was their day now: Hawks pushing an empty stroller in front of him with one hand and Yuto carefully exploring his face with spit-covered fingers in his other. Not as relaxing as he'd hoped.

"What am I going to do with you?" he moaned as Yuto pulled on his cheek.

At least the skies were clear and the sun was shining, he supposed.

As they walked down a path that took them under a line of trees, a bird began singing from one of the branches.

Yuto's head shot up - er, as much as it could, that is. He still hadn't gained full control over his motor skills yet. He looked back at Hawks in bewilderment.

That got Hawks to crack a smile and chuckle. "You hear that, Yuto? That's a bird, like you!"

A second bird chirped erratically.

Yuto's eyes widened and jaw fell open.

Hawks laughed. "Say hi to your distant cousins, little chick!"

As if on cue, Yuto released his own chirp, testing and curious.

Hawks had to clamp his mouth shut to keep from falling forward, grabbing his stomach in laughter.

One of the birds chirped back.

Yuto's mouth stretched in a smile. He swiveled his head to face Hawks and happily showed him his gums.

"When you're a bit older," Hawks suppressed another laugh, "I'll take you to a zoo and show you a real hawk in person. That's the type of bird your quirk is based on. I bet you'll get a kick out of it."

Yuto made a pleased sound with his mouth and kicked his legs.

Eventually, they left the trees behind and discovered a bench beside the sidewalk. Hawks decided to sit down, grabbing one of Yuto's blankets from the stroller and lying it on the wood before laying Yuto down on his back. "Let's give Daddy's arms a break, yeah?"

Yuto pursed his lips. His legs and arms kicked and jerked out. He gave another gummy smile when Hawks smiled down at him.

"Already seven months old," he mused quietly to himself, pinching the toe of Yuto's baby boot affectionately. "If we correct your age, that's three months. Ahh, I can't believe you're getting so old! Next thing I know, you'll be walking and talking and telling me to shut up for real. Do me a favor and stop growing so fast. It wasn't that long ago you were living in an incubator!"

As Hawks' hand darted out to lightly tickle Yuto's belly, earning him a bigger, gummier smile, he couldn't help thinking of that time. Somehow, it felt so recent and yet so far in the past. Just yesterday Yuto had laid in the palms of his hands, underdeveloped and so lifeless that Hawks' only indication he wasn't dead was ragged breathing. Now he was on the smaller side of a healthy three month old, smiling and slowly gaining full control of his limbs. He was advancing up the development ladder more and more every day. Had he really only been home for two months? Not a day, or five years?

Hawks frowned, mind drifting back to his nightmare. He pulled his hand from Yuto and leaned back on the bench.

It sickened him that he couldn't protect his own child. Without his feathers, he couldn't defend against or attack an opponent, nor could he fly. Yet even if he had them, Dabi retained his fire quirk. It would be stupidly easy to take them out, as the raid had proven.

He hated this. He was so sick of feeling useless and weak. Not just for himself, but for Yuto's sake.

This would pass, Dr. Sasaki had assured. It will pass.

Okay, so what? he wondered. Dabi was still free. The League was still out there. They could drop by his place any time. Hell, they could launch an attack on this very park any minute now. No matter how he felt, the risk was there. It was ever present, never once going away. His gut still told Hawks the League would be defeated, but when would that be? Would he and Yuto be hurt by then? His gut didn't know. Going by his intuition wasn't as reassuring as it had been before the nightmare.

And wasn't that the best part? It had merely been a nightmare. It wasn't as if Hawks had caught Dabi watching them from afar in the real world. It was only a dream, and yet his anxiety had gone through the roof.

He shook his head.

"There's nothing I can do," he murmured. "I have to just accept it. My wings are gone. I can't fight. Dr. Sasaki's right, it was a dream and this'll pass. I can't fix this by moping and feeling sorry for myself. I need to move on."

If only 'moving on' were as easy to do as it was to say.

Hey, look at all the progress I've made so far, he sullenly attempted to cheer himself up. I may not be there yet, but I'm not at the start anymore. I do feel better than I did seven months ago. I'm not in the same place as when I dry-heaved after that Nomu attack. I am improving.

Hawks squared his shoulders some. Okay, he had a point; that was all true.

I'm getting up the hill, he told himself more confidently. Eventually, I'll reach the top and go over it. This is just a set back. A relapse? Nightmares are a normal aspect of the healing process, Dr. Sasaki said once; it's my brain trying to cope with the problem or something along those lines. It's been seven months - Dabi hasn't come for us yet. Maybe he won't ever. The League will be stopped before he can. I have to believe that. I'll go nuts if I don't.

"I've gotta believe it," he breathed to himself, and felt part of the weight lift off his back. "I can't lose it when I have a baby to take care of; don't work yourself up so much, Hawks."

With a long exhale, Hawks brought a new smile to his face and turned to Yuto, ready to play with him more.

His smile promptly vanished.

Yuto's had already disappeared. His eyes bulged in their sockets. His fingers twitched helplessly.

His chest wasn't rising or falling.

Hawks panicked. "Yuto!"

He picked his son up fast, tossing him against his shoulder and rubbing his back firmly. The doctors at the hospital had told him what to do if Yuto ever stopped breathing, showed him how to perform CPR on an infant if he remained unresponsive, and advised him to bring him in right away even if he did respond. With his lungs, they'd want to assess what exactly had gone wrong.

Now that he was in this situation, though, Hawks wondered how the hell he was supposed to rush Yuto to the hospital; he'd pass out or suffocate completely by the time they got there, wouldn't he? Hawks couldn't zip over at a hundred kilometers an hour without his wings.

He couldn't fly him there.

They'd never make it.

If Yuto didn't start breathing again, he was going to die.

"Come on, please breathe!" Hawks crouched forward, rubbing Yuto's back vigorously. "Don't stop, please don't die! Yuto, take a big breath, please!"

He nearly yanked Yuto off his shoulder in his panic, and held him up in front of him.

Yuto stared at him wide-eyed, his chest moving evenly.

A desperate cry escaped Hawks' throat. He sat Yuto in his lap and carefully folded over him, not wanting to obstruct his breathing again.

"Don't do that to me," he whined, squeezing his eyes shut. "Please don't do that to me. I thought you were a goner."

Yuto chirped, unsure of what was going on.

Hawks fought back a sob.

Hawks didn't know whether he was relieved or seething as he closed the apartment door behind him, Yuto and rolled up stroller tucked in each arm. Likely both.

"He's okay, his doctor says," he muttered darkly as he set the stroller against the wall. He'd put it away later. "Luckily, it's nothing dangerous or an issue with his lungs. Sometimes babies stop breathing is all. Would love to be able to tell the difference."

It was then Yuto decided was the perfect moment to burst into tears. His face scrunched up and let out a sharp wail.

Hawks' shoulders slumped. "I know, I know, you missed your afternoon nap to go see the doctor. We'll go to bed now, please don't cry."

His energy was completely sapped from the day - no, the week's events. From his nightmare to Dr. Sasaki's office to Yuto's little episode. He was so done with everything right now. He was far from in the mood to continue his self-motivations. All Hawks wanted to do was hit something and sleep for a month.

"Let's get you out of your clothes and into your pajamas," he sighed, carrying Yuto to his nursery and doing just that.

Yuto's cries didn't subside until Hawks laid both their bodies down on his bed and didn't stop entirely until the covers were over them. Hawks laid on his side, snuggling Yuto to his chest. He wiped the tears off his cheeks with his thumb.

"Okay now?" he asked tiredly. "You almost killed me today, baby bird. Please don't ever do that to me again. I love you."

Yuto mewed and sniffled. His eyes began to flutter shut.

Hawks put his head on the pillow and watched Yuto fall asleep. His own eyes started to flutter.

When he dreamed this time, it was of a memory.

"You're stressed," Dabi pointed out from between Hawks' legs, mouthing and licking up his cock. His staples were cold, but his tongue was warm. His eyes glinted at Hawks. "Something the matter, birdie?"

Hawks groaned, both from the oral and the fact Dabi had waited until he was sucking him off to ask the question.

He was stressed. The Liberation Front's numbers were massive. Letting the League go as long as they did had been a mistake. If they didn't act quickly, Japan was going be swept away in a tsunami of mass destruction and anarchy. Hawks hoped Endeavor and the other heroes had gotten his message. He hoped they were preparing as they spoke. Every civilian in the country's life was on the line here.

"Duh, I'm stressed," he snarked aloud instead. "What do you think I was doing before I came here? Between passing out all those books, I had case, case, case and a dozen new cases to solve all in one afternoon. The Commission works me to the bones."

"You poor thing." Dabi licked a line from base to head. "Hope you're not too tired. I'd hate to have to do all the work here."

Hawks nudged him in the ribs with his knee. "I'll be happy to help you out after you help me. What did you do today again?"

He nipped at the head, hardly any teeth. "Meetings."

"How exhausting," Hawks teased. "Getting along with Geten?"

"If you kill my boner, I'm not finishing you."

"So testy! He must have really wound up your nerves. When you're done, I'll have to take extra care of you - we both deserve to feel boneless after a long day like this one."

Dabi stared up at him with lazy, hooded eyes. Then he picked himself up by the arms and climbed up Hawks' body for a deep, languid kiss. One of his hands came to cup his face while the other found a place in his hair, stroking gently.

Hawks felt his body ease and relax underneath him, closing his eyes. This was why he had come to Dabi's room; ironically, to relax. On top of being his in to the League of Villains, Dabi was now one of the top ranking members of the Liberation Front and one of the new lieutenants of the its army. He was part of Hawks' problem (as usual). Yet for whatever reason, when they stopped snarking at and testing each other, Hawks found comfort in his presence.

It was fucked. Hawks was fucked. He had begun this relationship outside of his mission and there was no happy end for them in sight. When shit finally hit the fan, he was going to have a messy time dealing with the fallout of his betrayal. Dabi was never going to surrender like he hoped Twice would. He wouldn't forgive Hawks for betraying them, him. In Hawks' wildest dreams (and deep, deep down, at the edge of his hopes), he pictured Dabi being captured and turning himself around after serving his sentence in Tartarus, but that probably wasn't going to happen. He'd die for this cause.

It was fucked because Hawks had truly fallen in love. Moments like this were why.

Dabi broke the kiss but continued to hold his face, gazing down at him with a new glint in his eye: affection.

"You're too good for this world," he murmured. "I still wonder what the hell you're doing in this dump."

"This 'dump' is a mansion!" Hawks laughed. He looped his hands around Dabi's wrists, pulling the hand on his face away so he could kiss his palm. "You know what my reasons are."

Dabi tucked his knees back down the bed and lowered himself on Hawks. He kissed the underside of his jaw. "You're something else."

Hawks raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

Dabi peppered kisses down his neck and chest before he answered. "You're just something else. I never expected you of all people to switch to our side."

"It did take you a while to trust me," Hawks remarked.

Dabi hummed. "Yeah. Anyway - "

He pulled himself up to Hawks' face once more, gave him a chaste kiss, and buried his face in his neck. The spikes of his hair tickled Hawks' face. One hand slithered down to grip their cocks together. Hawks gasped.

"You need to learn how to take a break," he finished his sentence. "You'll be out of your gilded hero cage soon; slow down some."

Hawks groaned at the rhythm their cocks were being stroked. "I can't -  as long as I'm still in the cage, i-it's - Ah! - still in the job description. Be-Besides, telling me to s-slow down is like telling a fish to b-breath - air!"

"Are you still talking?" Dabi asked fondly. He playfully nipped at his neck and raised his head, wearing an amused smile. "Well, here's your break for the night, Hawks. Shut up and let me take care of you."

Hawks closed his eyes with a moan.

Dabi planted small kisses around his face and stole his lips a third time.

"I love you," he told Hawks when he pulled away. He was serious - no mockery was in his tone, no taunt in his words. "Weirdly enough, believe it or not, you're the best thing that's happened to me since joining the League. Longer than that, actually. I told you a while back I haven't loved anyone in years, right? That wasn't supposed to change; you weren't supposed to weasel your way into my heart. You made me feel something I thought I lost ages ago."

Hawks swallowed. The honesty, the quiet vulnerability in Dabi's eyes was breath-taking.

Dabi's hand sped up.

"You made me feel something else, too," he went on. "No one's loved me in ages either. Didn't realize how much I missed it. Didn't realize how touch-starved I was. It's been over a decade since someone's cared."

Hawks whimpered, at the friction below and his words.

He could relate. It had been years since he sincerely loved anyone. Puppy dog crushes and secret teenage relationships behind the Commission's backs didn't count; once upon a time, he'd loved his parents. Once upon a time, despite it all, he'd believed they surely loved him. His handlers growing up could be kind, but they hadn't loved him as their child. No one had sincerely loved Keigo in a long time either, maybe not ever. Until Dabi.

He didn't know what drew them together. He didn't know why it was the murderous villain that even now kept a careful distance from him that was the first person in forever he genuinely loved and felt loved by. A man he was inevitably going to have to put away or kill to keep innocents safe. But that's just how it was. Dabi was odd. He was mysterious. He was cunning. He was observant. He was a hard-worker dedicated to his ideals. He had a sharp tongue and cynical wit. He could be unflinchingly cruel. But he could also be kind, considerate, and show he had a heart. There was more to him than met the eye, more than Hawks knew, but he wanted to find out. Maybe, when one cut everything down to the bare bones and flipped them on their sides, it was because they were more similar than they appeared.

Hawks was so fucked.

"Thank you," Dabi murmured, rutting against him. "I'll never admit this again, but I needed that. Hawks."

When their lips met again, neither pulled away until they spilled.

Hawks awoke to a setting sun out the window and somehow still-sleeping baby lying beside him.

He carefully lifted himself up and stared at Yuto's closed eyes and clenched fists. His chest moved up and down, up and down, the picture of calm. Hawks guessed he wasn't the only one exhausted by recent events. Yuto was going to be a pain to put to bed after dinner.

Numbly, he shifted off the bed and kept his eyes on Yuto as he made his way for the door, leaving it open behind him. Yuto didn't so much as twitch. He continued to breathe, in, out, in, out.

Hawks rounded into the bathroom, not bothering to close the door either so he could hear if Yuto did wake up. He wasn't of the mind to grab a baby monitor right now.

Shedding his clothes, Hawks turned on the shower and stepped inside. The water was warm. He waited for the steam to build up some before taking his cock in hand.

Hawks hadn't had sex since before the raid. Thanks to childbirth, his mental state, and the stress of raising a baby, he hadn't been in the mood to masturbate once since. This was a first in a long time.

When he moaned, "Dabi!" to himself, hunched forward and holding onto the wall for purchase as he came, well - well, that was what he did.

He washed himself for real afterwards, taking his time to scrub his body and rinse his hair. Yuto didn't make a peep from the other room.

He shut the water off and stepped out. Dried off and re-dressed himself in the clothes he had been wearing before. Stared at the door, waiting to see if Yuto would cry out that he needed him. He thankfully didn't.

Hawks sank to the floor and shoved his hands in his wet hair, sighing heavily to himself.

It was almost funny, in a twisted way: he had started this disastrous week off with a nightmare about Dabi killing Yuto, sending him into a days' long anxiety attack frothing with self-loathing and fear. Now he ended it with a dream about Dabi thanking him for loving him as they had sex and jerking off in the shower to the memory. He was so fucked, even now.

Hawks was terrified of Dabi. He loved him. He hated Dabi. He missed him. He never wanted to see Dabi's face again. He wanted to take him back in an instant.

He was so royally fucked.

There was no other way around it.

Hawks dropped his hands from his hair. He stared at the doorway with hooded eyes. He made himself stand up.

He had to go wake Yuto up. He had to go make dinner. Life had to go on, it didn't matter how he felt. Things weren't going to magically change, and if he needed a reason to get up and keep moving forward, then Yuto needed him. Nothing came from wallowing in self-pity. It was the only lesson he'd learned from his mom.

He walked out of the bathroom. If he dragged his feet along the way, that's just how it was.

Chapter Text

"Aren't you adorable?" Hawks cooed, holding his phone longways as he lied in front of Yuto on the floor. "Rolling over is fun, huh?"

On his phone screen, which was recording everything, Yuto giggled, flailing his arms and legs in the air. His wings laid flat beneath him, resting comfortably on his blanket.

"Roll on your tummy, Yuto," he encouraged. "Go on, baby bird, roll on your tummy. You can do it, I've seen you."

Yuto stuffed two fingers in his mouth, the picture of giggly innocence, before pulling them out and rolling over on his stomach. His wings stretched out above him. He let out a self-congratulatory squeal.

"Good job!" Hawks cheered. He ended the recording and put his phone down, then scooted forward until he and Yuto were nose to nose. "I hope you know I'll be showing that video to every person you bring home when you're older."

Yuto smiled wide, not understanding the implications of that at all. He reached for Hawks' face with his spit covered fingers.

Hawks tightened his smile at the feel of spit and freshly clipped nails grazing his mouth and chin. He pretended to bite at the fingers.

Yuto squealed in delight.

Hawks chuckled. "Silly baby."

His son rolled over on his back and back on his stomach in response. His wings flapped happily.

They weren't strong enough to lift him off the ground yet. They were only just beginning to grow larger than his body. From back joints to ends, each wing was about twice the length of one of Yuto's arms now and as big as his little torso in height. Hawks couldn't believe how fast they were growing. He had no idea how old Yuto would be when he could raise himself in the air, but he bet it would be in his toddler years.

Such a lucky chick, he thought glumly. He tried to perk up. I'll have to keep every door and window shut to keep you from flying away, little guy! Oo, come to think of it, I should put curtains on the balcony doors.

The last he needed was Yuto crashing nose first into the glass doors when he learned how to fly. He'd go splat like a real bird, and Hawks could already see himself freaking out as he dashed to pick up his screaming child. He shuddered at the thought.

Yuto chirped curiously. Hawks looked down and saw a sneaky hand patting the edge of the blanket in an attempt to reach his phone, which was too far away - and vibrating. Yuto chirped again.

Hawks sat up and picked up his phone. "Ah, ah, ah, this isn't for you."

Yuto whined.

Hawks ignored it and tossed him his favorite plastic keys. Yuto chirped and bit into them with his gums.

Vaguely wondering if his son was going to start teething soon, Hawks answered his phone.


"Hawks," Dr. Sasaki's voice rang out, "I'm so glad to hear you. You missed our appointment today."

He blinked in surprise. Turning around, he caught sight of the calendar hanging in the kitchen and realized what day of the week it was. Exhaustion suddenly flooded him. "Oh. Shit. Sorry, doc. I thought today was yesterday."

"I understand, it can be easy to lose track of time - especially with such a young child on your hands. I just wanted to make sure you were all right," she said.

Hawks rubbed his face. "Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for calling."

"I'll see you in next week?" she asked.

"Sure will."

"You sound tired, Hawks."

"I am."

"You should get some rest," she advised.

A twinge of annoyance flared in his chest. "Will do. See ya next week, doc."

Before she could reply, he ended the call and shut off his phone.

Hawks covered his face with an aggravated sigh. Fuck. To think, he'd just begun to feel better about today. How in the hell did he forget about his therapy session?

They're only weekly, he thought bitterly from behind his hands. Same day of the week, same time every session. It's not like I've been going to them for four months now. You'd think I'd know this.

Yuto cooed.

Hawks reluctantly lowered his hands.

Yuto's attention hadn't left his keys, which he was holding in both tiny hands as he gnawed on them.

He took a long, deep breath and dropped his hands entirely. Scooping his son into his lap, Hawks rose to his feet and carried him to the balcony doors.

"Look at that sunshine, baby bird!" he forced a cheerful tone. "We should grab your blanket and sit out here for a while." He gave Yuto's thick onesie a once over before smiling and nodding once. "We shouldn't have to bundle you up. But just in case, we won't stay out there long. What do you say?"

Yuto cocked his head at Hawks, still holding his keys in his hands and between his gums. A curious chirp muffled through his lips.

"I can't tell if that was a 'shut up, Dad' or 'Yeah, let's go!' but I'll take it as the latter!" Hawks exclaimed.

Once Yuto's blanket was situated in the middle of balcony, far from the widely spaced bars (when Yuto began crawling, he was definitely not coming back out here until he was bigger), Hawks laid him on his belly, gave him his keys, and sat down against the side railing with his knees propped in front of him. He folded his arms over top of them and dug his chin on top of them.

He watched Yuto play with his keys, happily drooling, cooing, and chirping. The sun shone high in the afternoon sky, not a cloud in sight to block it out. A light breeze wafted through the air, catching Yuto's attention and causing him to look up. He tilted his head at the faraway buildings their apartment overtopped, and went, "Ahhh." Then he returned his focus to the keys, gumming them up.

Another breeze flicked through Hawks' hair. He slumped at the familiar feel.

This was getting worse.

He'd been all right ten minutes ago, but only because Yuto had been being cute. He'd learned how to roll over a couple days ago and had fallen in love with the action, giggling, cooing, or squealing whenever he did it. His joy was infectious, and after a night where Hawks had gotten almost no sleep - not thanks to Yuto this time, because he could finally sleep for six full hours through the night now - and a hellish morning where Yuto had had to whine himself out before he would take his nap, Hawks had been all too glad for the opportunity to cheer up. So he'd pull out his phone to record Yuto's gleeful rolling over.

And then Dr. Sasaki called and everything good suddenly drained out of him.

Hawks didn't know how he had gotten the days mixed up. He could have sworn he had therapy tomorrow, not today. The fact he'd stood up Dr. Sasaki and wasted his weekly chance to vent and feel heard sickened his stomach and zapped all his energy.

Ten months ago, this wouldn't have been a big deal. Ten months ago, Hawks would have shrugged and rescheduled. Missing one appointment was not the end of the world. He wasn't always the most punctual guy. On numerous occasions, be it his annual physical or some publicity stunt the Commission had arranged for him, Hawks had taken his sweet time because it was his time and winded up late, or missed entirely if a villain got in his way or he had League work to do. One quick phone call to apologize and reschedule, and he'd be over it.

This was not ten months ago. Eight months ago his whole world had been flipped upside-down, and ever since his awful week last month, it was like he'd been in a permanent funk. He could still take care of himself and Yuto, but those little 'episodes' he'd discussed with Dr. Sasaki a while back? The ones that lasted ten minutes at best and the whole day at worst?

Now they were all day every day, with only short bursts of happiness - such as recording Yuto rolling over - or sorrow - he'd broken down again and cried in the kitchen the day before yesterday, which startled Yuto and made him cry, which only made it worse for Hawks because he was upsetting his son again - or anger - he'd woken up from another nightmare about his wings last week and screamed all his fury in his pillow, which also startled Yuto awake and made him cry - occurring every once in a while.

Hawks had dodged around it in his last few sessions. Dr. Sasaki clearly suspected something was up with him, but so far he'd been avoiding admitting it. He didn't even know why he was; he guessed it was shameful to admit, but why that would bother him so much after everything else he had told her, Hawks couldn't begin to guess.

He sighed.

Next week. Next week he had to tell her. He had a feeling this would be the nail in the coffin that finally had her setting him up with a physiatrist to put him on anti-depressants. By this point, Hawks didn't care about stigmas or how taking them made him feel like he was admitting defeat, that yes, this was how far he'd fallen; he just wanted everything to stop. He wanted to feel good again, for longer than a few minutes.

"Daddy wants to be happy, baby," he murmured, speaking to both Yuto and himself. "He's really starting to hate this. Not only that, but for you; you deserve better than a daddy whose so mopey all the time."

If by the time Yuto was seven years old, the apartment became totally trashed and Hawks spent the day passed out drunk on the couch to numb the pain while his son wandered off to roam Fukuoka by himself, he'd never forgive himself.

I can't be Mom, he thought dismally. His brow hardened. No matter how bad I get, I refuse to let what happened to me happen to Yuto. I will give him a better childhood than I had.

A thought then occurred to Hawks, and it was both so funny he nearly burst out laughing and so terrible he had to fight the urge to cry in front of Yuto again.

My dad was a thief. He was a villain, Hawks thought with a wry smile on his face, watching Yuto slobber on his keys. Yuto, with his golden eyes and white hair. My mom was a self-pitying addict who had to fend for us alone after he was arrested. Yuto's dads are a villain who left us and a self-pitying wash up that has to raise him alone now. History really does repeat itself. I already failed.

Hawks dug his nails into his jeans and lowered his face into his arms.

I need to do better for him, he asserted to himself, holding back fresh tears - he wasn't going to cry in front his son again - listening to Yuto coo and flap his wings as the wind picked up again. I'll do whatever it takes. Just please, let me get better. If not for my sake, then for his. Yuto needs a real dad. Please. I can't keep doing this.

He was so sick of being down all the time. So sick of it.

It made him wish he could just pick up Yuto and fly away from it all.

But that wasn't going to happen any more than his wings would regrow.

Dr. Sasaki listened with a non-judgmental frown as Hawks explained everything he had been holding back lately. He didn't bring up Dabi or how Yuto's situation mirrored history in terms of both his parents, but Hawks told her everything from the funk he'd fallen into to how scared he was that he was turning into his mother.

They discussed the funk and how it affected his day to day life in detail.

They talked about his mother again, going into depth on his feelings of abandonment and uselessness, and no, he had no interest in ever seeing her again so don't suggest it, doc.

Their session ran an extra half hour due to Hawks breaking into tears in her office, which Dr. Sasaki soothed him through.

At the end of the session, she handed him a short form with a name, number, and address on it.

"This is the psychiatrist I'm going to recommend you to," Dr. Sasaki informed him. "I'll contact him as soon as you leave. Call this number and make an appointment. I expect you to be taking his prescription by our next session. Just remember, anti-depressants alone are not a cure. I hope this helps you, Hawks."

Hawks accepted it with a trembling hand. "Thank you."

Hawks found himself in the psychiatrist's office three days later.

The man had already spoken with Dr. Sasaki about his case, and listened to Hawks' own take on events before deciding what to prescribe him.

By the end of the day, Hawks came home to Yuto with a fat bottle of pills, which he was to swallow one of each day.

"Hope this works," he said to himself, cuddling Yuto close in his arm as he tucked the bottle in his medicine cabinet.

Yuto gave a happy chirp.

Hawks didn't know what he was expecting those pills to do - Dr. Sasaki had made it clear that they weren't a magic cure-all.

They did help in a few ways. His energy returned to him. He wasn't as tired during the day anymore and was able to fall asleep more easily at night. His mood also somewhat improved. He was no longer trudging through the day feeling like utter shit; most of the time, at worst, he remained a neutral calm. His anxiety had lessened as well. He wasn't thinking enough bad thoughts to build up into an attack or burst into tears anymore. Overall, Hawks could go about his day normally again.

But they weren't instant fix-its either, no more than Dr. Sasaki's therapy was. Hawks wouldn't call himself happy, except in the moments Yuto made him smile or laugh. He still had bad thoughts, even if they weren't as frequent or heavy as before. When he did get tired, it was easy to fall into another self-pitying state, albeit a less soul-sucking type than the kind he had gotten used to. Dabi remained ever in his thoughts and that brought him down.

It was progress, yes. He preferred taking the pills to being off them. Together with therapy, Hawks was sure he'd keep getting better as time went on.

But it was becoming more and more clear to him that he needed to confront his issues with Dabi. He wasn't going to completely heal without getting over him and what he did.

That was going to be difficult, though. Hawks couldn't talk to Dr. Sasaki about their relationship. She could only know him as the criminal who recruited him to the League and burned his wings. They could discuss the physical damage Dabi had done to his body and how that had affected his life, but they couldn't talk about how Hawks had fallen for him and given birth to his child. The consequences...Hawks didn't want to think of them. The Commission would be after him in an instant, questioning his loyalty to the heroes' side. Hawks was entirely on his own here.

He supposed he was stuck with his journal then, writing down everything he felt about Dabi. There wouldn't be any feedback, suggestions, or reassurances, but it was better than nothing. Not like he had any other choice if he wanted to vent and get it out.

So all in all, was Hawks better? Yes. Was this a serious change? No, not in his mind. It was like he was back to when Yuto came home, only a step or two higher. He was still sad. He was still useless. He still didn't know how to fly, literally or whatever Dr. Sasaki had meant about new skies that one day. Hawks remained trapped on the ground with no idea what to do or how to do it.

In one terrible moment, he wondered if this really counted as progress after all.

Yuto's screeches finally died down to ordinary wails as Hawks paced around the nursery, patting his back.

"There, there," he monotoned. "It's okay. I'm going to sit right here with you while you nap. Daddy's not going anywhere."

This is what he got for not using Yuto's crib up until now. His son had gotten so used to sleeping beside him in bed and napping on the floor or couch in the living room while Hawks went about his business that as soon as Hawks had placed him in his crib and left the nursery for five minutes, he started screaming and crying.

It wasn't fair, honestly. Yuto knew what this room was. Hawks changed his diapers and clothes in here. He'd been away from his daddy for longer than five whole minutes before, when he went to daycare while Hawks saw Dr. Sasaki. What was so wrong with lying in his crib for his afternoon nap? Hawks had cleaned the dust out of it and rewashed his blankets before sticking Yuto in it. He'd left the door open and a baby monitor on the changing table so he could hear him. Was Yuto really being that fussy today, or did he just hate his crib that much?

My baby loves me and wants to be near me at all times, Hawks thought sourly. Normally, that would be endearing.

All he'd wanted to do was set Yuto down for his nap in another room. That was it. Hawks had been planning to use this time to write in his journal, and if his emotions got the better of him, damn it, he didn't want to cry in front of Yuto again - especially if he ended up waking him up. He wasn't just going to leave him alone in his bedroom, because what if he rolled over and fell off the bed? But now that they were in this situation, Hawks began to think it would have been a better idea to put Yuto to sleep in the living room and move to his room with the baby monitor in hand.

Oh well. Yuto had to get used to his crib anyway. One day they were going to stop co-sleeping, and he did not want that to be during his terrible twos. Or elementary school. Or high school.

"That's right," Hawks cooed as Yuto's wails died down into whimpers. He smoothed his back under his wings. "I'm gonna sit right here on the floor while you sleep, okay?" He chirped reassuring chirps for extra measure.

Yuto clung to his shirt with tight fists and buried his face in his shoulder.

Hawks couldn't help aww'ing at that. "S'okay, baby bird. Daddy won't leave again."

Somehow, Yuto ended up falling asleep on his shoulder. It reminded Hawks of the day he first opened his eyes for him, and it was hard to stay sour once he remembered that moment. Still, he had to be careful prying Yuto off of him; for a chick who didn't have talons, his son's grip was sure as tight as a hawk's. He laid him on his belly in the crib and covered him in his blanket. He bent down to kiss Yuto's forehead and sweep a gentle hand through his hair before standing straight.

Frowning, Hawks grabbed his notebook and pen from where he'd left them on the dresser and sat down, opening it to his latest page.

Now where to start, he wondered. He tapped the capped end against his cheek. The beginning, I guess.

I met Dabi shortly after the Kamino attack. The Hero Commission assigned me to infiltrate the League of Villains in order to gather information on their whereabouts and plans. Dabi was the presumed recruiter of the organization based on the charred bodies found in discreet alleyways - likely rejected applicants who failed to meet the League's standards and couldn't be allowed to run free and blab their mouths to the cops. I approached him with the story that I'd grown to despise the hero society that raised me and wanted to turn coat. Naturally, he didn't believe me - who wouldn't be suspicious of the number three hero trying to covertly betray his own side? - so I had to work to earn his trust.

Hawks paused for a second, hesitant, then went back to writing.

Dabi was attractive. His scars are brutal and the staples are off-putting, but his face and body are good-looking. Plus his scars and staples gave him a rugged sort of handsomeness, I guess.

His stomach churned. Even now, he thought of Dabi and found him attractive. It made him uncomfortable.

Dabi was strange. It wasn't hard to see he was hiding a lot, but I got the feeling there was even more beneath the surface no one knew about. Between passing all his tests and hating my mission because I didn't want to compromise my dignity by joining the League (especially if it meant hurting civilians along the way), I couldn't help being drawn to him. It was purely physical and a need to figure a puzzle out. At first.

As time went on, that puzzle got more complex. Dabi still wouldn't take me on as a member, but he made advances on me. He flirted, touched, teased. One night I broke and, in response to his teasing, kissed him. It had nothing to do with the mission or getting into the League. I didn't believe for a second it would help my chances. I kissed him out of personal desire. And he, who still wouldn't take me on for months to come, kissed me back. Eventually, he told me he cared about me. I made him "feel funny." It surprised me because I felt the same. Only my feelings made me confused and guilty, whereas his only seemed to make him confused. I di

Yuto stirred his sleep, letting out a small whine.

Hawks' stopped to check on him through the bars, pushing his hand through to pet his head.

Yuto relaxed, quieting down.

One side of Hawks' lips quirked up. He returned to his journal.

dn't understand what the hell I was doing. This was wrong, so wrong. And I just kept falling deeper and deeper the further I went. I'd never done something like this before.

Dabi was alluring. He was interesting. He was mysterious. And I kind of like edgy guys can't be told shit to do and aren't afraid to run their mouths. As much as he disgusted and repulsed me with his lack of morals and murderous intent, he drew me in. Not to mention, he made me think he DID have some morals and humanity in him. That drew me in deeper.

Hawks sighed quietly to himself.

I don't know if he was lying to me. Does he really think of his victims' families that much, so much he went crazy? Did he truly care about me, confusing as that was? What was the point of it all?

My head tells me it was all a lie. The point was to fuck with me. He never trusted me and knew I was a spy from the start. No one kisses a spy and then spiels on about how they're going to kill you with such a

He shuddered at the memory.

gleeful, murderous smile. He practically went crazy thinking of burning me to death. And he would have absolutely done it.

Hawks was getting nauseous. He hoped Yuto wouldn't mind if he had to run to the bathroom by the end of this.

Dabi was messing with me. It was never true. He didn't love me. Our son was conceived through a sick joke I thought was real. He was having fun torturing me so it'd hurt more later when I found out.

Yuto hummed in his sleep.

Hawks flinched. At least I got something good out of his sick joke.

But my heart wants to believe it was real. I guess because that's too much of a shock to take. It's not like I ever truly believed we'd have a happy ending, not with the raid either ending with him dead or in Tartarus, but

He grit his teeth.

something in me hoped so. If he went to Tartarus and changed. But that was only a fantasy. I wasn't counting on it like I counted on Twice turning around. I knew inside Dabi would never give up the fight. But it was nice while it lasted. I felt loved, really loved. No one'd made me feel like that since I was real little kid.

Hawks gripped the pen tightly.

Dabi's real name is Todoroki Touya. I met him once when I was a kid. He held me and made me feel heard and safe while our dads fought each other. He reached out to me in a way I didn't understand but no one ever had before. Dabi remembered that and recognized me. I didn't recognize him because he looked so different and didn't act the same. I also knew Touya was dead. I'd heard about his death years ago. The family kept it private and the media didn't get too many details, but they tried to jump on the number two hero's eldest son dying. It hurt to hear. But it hurt worse to feel Touya's boot on my back and wings burning as he told me he was alive, never loved me, and was going to kill me.

Hawks had to stop for a minute. His hand was shaking.

How had a kid like that grown up to be a monster like that? What happened to Touya that he became Dabi? Was Endeavor's abuse that bad? Could Hawks have grown up to be that if not for his dad getting arrested and the Hero Commission taking him in? Shoto and his siblings weren't like that. Where had Dabi's heart gone?

Something in my heart wants to believe Dabi loved me. That it was real. It doesn't make sense with his actions, but it's what I want. I want him to have loved me. I want him to come back. I'm utterly terrified of him and so scared for my son that if I ever see him again, I'll throw up and run Yuto to the closest police station or hero agency. But I want him to hold me, meet his son, our baby, and be his dad, too. But it's more likely he'll kill us.

I love him. I hate him. I survived the raid but he stole my whole life by burning my quirk and crippling our son, and how could I ever forgive

Without thinking, Hawks quickly threw the notebook and pen down. He watched the notebook flop at an awkward angle, bending its pages as it landed, and the pen roll away. His hands were shaking too much. His heart was beating too fast. Bile rose in his throat.

He couldn't. No more today.

He was going to be sick. He didn't want to be sick.

Using the crib as leverage, Hawks raised himself on trembling legs and looked down on Yuto, trying to get a hold of himself.

"I'll never let him hurt you," he vowed, his voice shaking as much as his hands were. "I don't care what my heart wants. I won't put you in danger. He'll never know about you and he won't hurt you."

His chest ached. It was enough for one day. He'd try again some other time. For now, he had to calm down.

He couldn't wake Yuto.

He couldn't face it all at once.

Hawks knew something was up when Dr. Sasaki wrapped their session up fifteen minutes early.

"Are you sure you don't want to talk more about my unemployment, doc?" he inquired. "I still feel like shit not being a hero, you know."

"Do you want to keep talking about it?" she asked him.

Hawks regarded her carefully. "Isn't that what today was supposed to be about? Because I'm still grappling with being retired?"

"Well, yes," Dr. Sasaki answered, setting her clipboard down in her lap, "however...I can't help but notice this whole time you've looked like you've got something else on your mind. Do you want to talk about it?"

Hawks stiffened. "I have?"

He had. As Dr. Sasaki argued with his guilt that he shouldn't look at every casualty list reported on the news as his fault and it wasn't healthy to tell himself the numbers would have been lower had he been there, Dabi had been dwelling in the back of his mind.

He wanted to talk about him. He wanted to talk about him so badly. He wanted to be told it was all right that his heart was all over the place and it was normal to feel so scared yet heartbroken. Because he wasn't sure if it was.

Hawks was tempted to lie. To retract his previous statement that Yuto's other father was a one night fling, and say he was actually a terrifying man Hawks both loved and missed, and was terrified of and hated.

But doing that could build a web too complex for him to navigate successfully, and she might get suspicious. If it came out the man he was actually talking about was Dabi, Dr. Sasaki would have no choice than to tell the Commission.

They'd question his loyalty. They'd wonder if he was really on the villains' side after everything, or might change his mind and switch sides for real now that he was retired. They'd investigate his ties to the League of Villains. They might take Yuto away from him.

He couldn't let that happen.

"Sorry, Dr. Sasaki," he apologized, keeping his voice even. "I didn't mean to make you worry. It's...Yuto's been extra fussy at home lately. I guess I'm worried what that means. I'm not sure if it's normal, or he's teething, or it has something to do with his lungs bothering him. Maybe I should make an appointment with his doctor soon."

She nodded. "I see. That's understandable. You should make that appointment, just to be safe. Better to put your mind at ease over nothing than to let yourself get worked up, or it to turn out to be something serious."

"Right," Hawks agreed.

It wasn't a complete lie. Yuto was being fussier than usual. Maybe he was teething or something.

But it made his stomach flip to lie to her like that.

Looked like he was going to do some more journaling soon.

"I can't believe all you wanted was your pacifier," Hawks sighed, hanging his head in relief.

Yuto looked at him serenely, sucking on his blue bird themed binkie from his place in his arms.

Hawks raised his head and poked his forehead with a stubborn pout. "I better see a pearly white popping out of your gums one of these days, or I swear, you're going to drive me crazy."

Yuto continued to suck on his binkie, totally innocent.

Hawks poked him again. "You are so lucky you're cute. I could have sworn that was a 'I need to be changed!' cry, then I thought you were hungry. I almost made you another bottle when you just ate an hour ago!"

Yuto chirped around his binkie and pressed his palm on Hawks' cheek, curling his fingers curiously. Then his hand darted for Hawks' eyebrow, and he grabbed his little wrist.

"Uh-uh! You're not yanking the hair there again! I learned my lesson this morning."

Either Yuto getting too much control over his arms or he was getting too curious as he grew.

"Don't be like me; please have self-control when it comes to what you want," Hawks sighed, putting his arm down. "I get you're a baby, but it's a good trait to have."

Yuto whined.

Hawks put him down on his blanket with the rest of his toys.

Yuto immediately quieted, reaching for a colorful teething ring and flipping it over in his hands. He was too little to really 'play' yet, so looking at his toys and holding them was all he did. But it was cute, Hawks had to admit. Anything Yuto was able to grab, he became utterly fascinated with. He listened to his son gurgle happily before sitting down on the couch and reaching for his journal.

I do like going after what I want. he wrote. I have great self-control when the situation calls for it. When it doesn't, and I want something, I just can't help myself. I open my mouth, I take stuff out someone else's hands, I walk into that restaurant when I should be heading back to the agency to work on my latest report - it's not a wonder why people get fed up with me.

I suppose Dabi was another thing I wanted, so I went after him. I shouldn't have. I knew the risks in getting involved with a villain. I wasn't there to form attachments. And if it was found out I was sleeping with the enemy, for my own personal gain? That wouldn't end well. Yet that's what I did. I wanted to kiss him, so I did. I wanted to sleep with him, so I did. I wanted to see the best in him, so I did.

I'd never have described myself as a lonely person. Romantic relationships were never high on my priority list. I was too busy for close friendships but made do with what I had. My parents weren't there for me and I never thought of the Commission employees as my new parents. That was just my life. Even now, when I only have Yuto - this is the biggest family I've ever had and I've never loved anyone so fiercely. But Dabi made me feel not alone and he made me feel loved like I hadn't before. I guess I wanted that feeling, too. After Yuto, he's the second person I've loved most.

It's kinda dumb because I barely knew him. I didn't know anything about him. I couldn't even find a real name or background on him when I researched all the League members' histories. (Now I know why - hard to find info on the legally dead.) But that should explain it, right? I fell so hard because of what it did for me. Dabi once asked me what I'd get out of figuring him out, out of pursuing a relationship with him. I think I've found my answer. I didn't know and it scared me back then, but I know now. He made me feel like someone loved me. That's what I got out of it. That's why I dug myself in deeper and deeper.

But I loved him, too. It wasn't just me clinging to him because I liked being loved. When he wasn't being a villain, I grew attached to the man Dabi was.

Dabi was lonely, too. Or maybe not, maybe he was lying, but I thought it was the truth at the time. He was lonely. He didn't have a family either. He didn't have friends, despite the other League members' closeness. I made him feel loved as much as he did me, and he appreciated that. He needed it as much as I did. He was smart, cunning, not afraid to blab his mouth, and knew what he wanted and how to get it. Put a mirror between us and you'd find many of the same qualities being used for opposite purposes. We share a lot of the same traits but use them in different ways for different reasons. At out cores, unrelated to our goals, we have a few similar issues, too, like a need to be loved.

Am I making sense anymore? I feel like I'm not. Dabi makes me so confused. My point is, I suppose I saw a lot of myself in him, and he saw it as well. Birds of a feather flock together. In another life where we weren't heroes and villains, maybe we would have fallen in love for real, and Yuto would have been born on his due date with Da Touya at our side.

I don't know.

We were never going to last. He was a villain I was fully aware was dedicated to his cause. His betrayal shouldn't hurt me as much as it does. I hate that it affects me the way it does. The heart is so stupid. I should have expected this. Of course he'd turn on me.

But at the same time, how was I supposed to know? If a hero can fall for a villain, why can't a villain fall for a hero? Why does it have to be fake on his end? It's not as if he has higher morals than I do. I don't kill for fun or for the sake of personal revenge. I don't try to kill my parents, I just don't contact them. I'd understand if he put his ideals above our relationship like I did. We had ideals more important than our relationship, as repugnant as his were. But no, he just wanted to fuck with me.

He took away my wings. My job. My life. He made sure hundreds of innocents died because I couldn't be there to save them. He forced Yuto out into this world too early. He'll have to live with the weak lungs that caused him for the rest of his life. If Dabi knows anything about my life right now, I bet he's having the best laugh of his.

I hate him. I hate what he did to us.

So why does a part of me want him back? Why is it so hurt by his actions? Why do I need worry so much about my feelings for him?

It's so confusing. I almost wish I could forget about him. Forget he ever existed.

Hawks put his pen down and sighed.

Do I feel better? he wondered.

He looked down at Yuto. His baby had moved on to a ball small enough to fit in his hands but too big to fit in his mouth. He tried to fit it in there anyway, mouthing at the side as his wings flapped above him.

On some level, Hawks thought. On some superficial level, he felt better to have gotten it out. He didn't have any answers to his problems, though, and they remained present in his mind, so no, he didn't feel better on a deep level.

But that's good, isn't it? he thought as he watched Yuto, unable to suppress a smile. Progress was made in tiny steps, Dr. Sasaki said. He was getting there. He had to get there, for his own sake and Yuto's. (He wasn't going to be Mom.)

Remember, I'm not where I was the day of the raid, Hawks reminded himself. I'm not where I was. I'll figure this out.

Yuto removed the ball from his mouth and pushed it, causing it to roll under the coffee table. He whined at the loss.

Hawks chuckled. He got up, grabbed the ball, and crouched down next to the blanket.

Yuto shrieked and flapped his wings harder, giving Hawks a gummy smile.

He didn't feel much better, but he'd get there.

Hawks ruffled his son's hair. "'Sides, how can I stay down when I have you to cheer me up?" He chirped at him.

Yuto's wings flapped even harder, his eyes shining. He chirped back, practically singing.

Hawks laughed and lifted him high in the air. "Are you a songbird? A humming bird? I thought I gave birth to a hawk! You're so talented, aren't you? Aren't you?"

Yuto giggled, kicking his legs.

Hawks smiled. They'd figure it out.

Hawks had to ask, because despite what he told himself, he'd developed a new tendency to doubt himself in the aftermath of the raid, and at least this was something he could actually talk to his therapist about - in other words, he simply needed reassurance.

"Hey, doc?" he asked as their session wrapped up. "Do you believe I've improved since I started coming here? For real, I mean, don't say something just to encourage me so I'll get better later."

Dr. Sasaki looked up at him in surprise. "Of course you have. I've told you that before and it wasn't just encouragement."

"Are you sure? Because sometimes I have highs where I feel like that's true - like now, I feel like I'm doing good - but then something happens and it all goes back downhill. When I get like that, I wonder if I'm making any progress at all," he confessed.

Dr. Sasaki reached out to touch his shoulder. Her stare was firm. "That's normal. Recovery often isn't a straight line; you'll hit some bumps, you'll take one step forward and two steps backwards, you might take a wrong turn and feel like you've gotten yourself lost. In simpler terms, these ups and downs are normal." She retracted her hand. "When you first stepped into my office, you were exhausted, nervous, and stammered some when you spoke. You had a habit of turning your head away and not looking at me. You're more relaxed now, Hawks. You sit up straighter. You don't stammer, you turn away less, and to me, you look healthier than you did four months ago. You're not as pale and the eyebags under your eyes are almost gone."

Hawks blinked. "I was pale?"

She nodded. "We've been making progress during our time together, Hawks, believe me. You may not be all the way there yet, you may not feel like you've gotten very far, but we've been unpacking an entire life's worth of difficulties and mistreatment that ended in a quite serious trauma. You've only been seeing me for four months and taking medication for a couple weeks. Believe me, this is not work you can finish overnight, but it's not as though you haven't gotten anywhere yet."

Hawks let out the breath he was holding. That was a relief.

"Thank you," he said. "I, uh...I needed to hear that."

"Any time," she replied with a warm smile.

He scratched the back of his head. "Hey, that at-home journal you recommended I keep...I write things in there I haven't told you about. Do you think writing them down helps me that much if I'm not talking to you about them?"

"Yes," she said. "I'd like if some time in the future you feel comfortable enough to share those things with me, but writing helps. It's cathartic to get what you feel, worry about, are scared of, anything out on a page. If nothing else, it removes some of the pressure from your mind."

Hawks perked up. "And that's good, right? Because - sometimes I feel good after I write, and I remind myself that I'm not where I started out after the raid, but it's - it feels so in the moment. Like it won't last or - god, I'm stammering again - I'm wrong? I guess what I want to know is if I'm can really improve when all I, uh, feel like I can do in regards to these specific issues is write them."

"You can," she answered. "As I said, I hope you'll feel comfortable talking to me about them in the future, but if writing is all you can do for the time being, then write. You'll have downs, Hawks. They'll lie to you that you're not improving at all. But as long as you keep going, you will get there. Keep writing, keep coming to see me, keep taking your medication. Keep building a support system, keep taking whatever time you can for yourself to have fun and get your mind off things, keep moving forward. You'll see eventually that you're right whenever you tell yourself you're not where you were after the raid. Because, I can assure you, you're not."

A large weight lifted itself from his shoulders. Hawks smiled tiredly. "Thank you, Dr. Sasaki. You have no idea how much that means to me."

"Yuto, you are killing me," Hawks whined at his whining son.

Yuto only continued to squirm on the couch, flailing his limbs.

"I know, I know," Hawks rubbed his belly, an attempt at comforting him. "Your gums hurt. The doctor said you're definitely teething. Why don't you suck on your pacifier? Or one of your teething rings? Please?"

Yuto screamed at him.

Hawks threw his head the other way to save his ears, a deadpan expression on his face.

They had gotten back from their usual appointment at the doctor's this morning, along with the confirmation that Yuto's first teeth were preparing to come in. His gums were swollen and aching, and that aggravated him. Hence why he had been so much fussier than usual lately. The doctor had given Hawks some tips on what to expect and how to calm Yuto down, but otherwise, he was simply going to have ride this out until his teeth came in.

"I've rubbed your gums, I fed you cold baby food, I've carried you around the apartment patting your back, and I've offered you your teething rings. Are you sure you're not just being normal fussy now? Do your gums still hurt or do you need a nap? Help me out here, little chick, I can't read minds."

Yuto's lips wobbled. He let out another scream.

Looks like they were riding this one out.

Hawks reluctantly picked him up and held him to his shoulder, rubbing his back from neck to bottom. "I can't wait until you have a full mouth of teeth. Then this will all be over."

Eventually, Yuto wore himself out and accepted the duck-themed pacifier offered to him, falling asleep in his arms as Hawks carried him to his crib.

Hawks was able to tip-toe out of the nursery without waking him, and waited ten minutes to make sure he wasn't going to cry for him like he had last time. When Yuto didn't, he exhaled in relief and opened the notebook in his lap.

Time for more Dabi journal entries.

He picked up his pen and thought to himself for a minute. Frowning, he put the pen to the page.

Dabi did a number on me the day of the raid. With Dr. Sasaki's help, I'm learning how to live with it. While I do still miss my quirk, my Fierce Wings, and I feel immensely guilty not being on the field, I'm slowly getting over it. It's hard, though.

When I was seven years old, I was rescued by Endeavour from my villainous father. I was rescued by my favorite hero - I'd already looked up to him and aspired to be like him. Where others were comforted by All Might's smile and admired the strength of his punches, I saw Endeavor putting his all into his work and never backing down. It made me feel like if I worked hard, too, I could get somewhere. I just had to not give up. After he saved me, I was incredibly grateful and even more inspired by him. I wanted to do good for the world. I wanted to save others like I'd been saved, to keep them safe. I wanted to help people like he did. So when I saw the crash that was about to occur not long after, I didn't even think about it; I swooped in and saved everyone involved before they could be killed. Then I went home, because heroes didn't stick around to brag (and besides, my mom would up soon). And when the Commission came with the offer to train me to be a real hero, how could I possibly refuse?

It's been devastating to give that up. This has been my life since I was a little kid. It's ingrained in my core to help people. I used to complain a lot about my ranking and how I wanted an easier life, but I never wanted to stop saving others. They needed me. It goes against my morals to sit around and do nothing while others suffer. That's why I feel so useless, why I feel like people are dying because I'm not there. It's an essential part of me and it'll likely be years before I'm completely over it.

But I am getting there. Dr. Sasaki is gradually convincing me it's not my fault I'm not there anymore. I did my best and couldn't stop what happened from happening. I was proud to be Hawks and I still am, but because of the Commission's upbringing, I stopped being Keigo and that's had a detrimental effect on my psyche. Any hero would experience guilt and regret in my shoes, but my pain is triple because a hero was all I was to myself. But that's changing. Losing my job has forced me to find another path, and so far, that's with Yuto. My son needs me. He has no one else in the world. I didn't plan on being a father at the start of the year and I'm certainly not the best at it, but Yuto makes me happy and I'm so protective of him. In a way, he fills the void. But mostly, he's created a new place in my heart. That place doesn't require wings to do good. And I'll do whatever it takes to give him the best future.

My life is not easy right now. Between Yuto's needs, my feelings of uselessness, the nightmares, and god how much I miss flying in the skies, it's been so tough. My new medication helps keep my energy up, but it hasn't fixed my problems. Thankfully, it and Dr. Sasaki give me the tools I need to fight them. Someday I'll climb over these mountains and be well again.

Hawks hesitated.

Then he went on.

I'm trying to be positive. I do believe the above. But I'm also beating around the bush.

One of the hardest problems for me to get over is Dabi. I loved him. I still love him. My son is half of him. Yet he's a highly dangerous criminal who very likely doesn't care about us in the slightest. He put me in this position. Everything about him is tangled in my heart. Detangling my feelings is like pulling rotten teeth without anesthesia. It hurts, and I want it to stop, but if I stop, I'm going to stay sick and get worse, and too bad for me, I don't have anything that could numb this and make it easier.

I've written before about how I love him and feel betrayed by him. I haven't written about how much he scares me.

Dabi was right; I wasn't paying enough attention to him before. I wasn't keeping my eyes focused on him. I didn't see what was really going on. And I have no idea who he is. That frightens me now. It frightens me because I'm afraid he'll come back and finish the job. I'm afraid he'll make everything worse than he already has. I'm afraid he'll hurt our child. I don't know him well enough to say he won't. I don't know him well enough to say he will either. Maybe he's planning his attack as I write. Maybe he's already forgotten me.

The raid was a traumatizing day. Battles themselves are often traumatizing, but my life did a complete 180 with the loss of my wings and I gave birth to a baby I didn't know I was pregnant with. I think about it constantly. I dream about it at night. I fear the man I loved and father of my child.

Dabi scares me more than anything in this world because of what he did. In that one moment he held so much power over me and used it to his full advantage. If he gets a hold of Yuto, he'll have that advantage again. I don't want my baby to die. I don't want him orphaned. I don't want him to fear his father like I do.

This is why it's so hard for me to detangle my feelings. He gave me what I needed most in the world and can rip my whole world away from me. He did it once before. Who's to say he won't do it again?

It's hard to articulate in the right words. I've thought these things so many times. How can I say it in a new way that'll make me understand what's going on in my heart?

The only words I can think of that sum it up is that I love him, I hate him, and I fear him. That's all.

That really was all. Hawks shook his head and closed the notebook. He could think of nothing else to say, nothing new. He'd try again some other time. He'd burn the pages he just wrote later.

It felt good to write what he had out, though. The weight on his shoulders was a small bit lighter.

He breathed in deeply and breathed out, laying his head back on the couch.

It was nice.

"It's okay, little chick, it's okay," Hawks crooned, pacing around the living room with Yuto over his shoulder, heart breaking as he listened to his sobs. "This nasty fever will come down, don't you worry."

Yuto's teething had caused him to break into a fever. He'd seemed off in a way Hawks couldn't pin down earlier in the evening, then he didn't want his dinner. He'd mewed and whined as though he were in pain. Hawks had taken his temperature, and yeah - fever. He was two degrees above where he should be. He was breathing all right, however, and when Hawks called, the doctor said he shouldn't need to be rushed to the hospital unless it spiked another degree higher or he began to struggle breathing. He should dress him in lighter clothes, try to get him to drink fluids, and give him a lukewarm bath to help bring it down.

Well, Hawks had given him a bath, managed to get him to drink a quarter of a bottle of milk, and dressed him in a thinner, summer onesie. Yuto's temperature remained the same, though, and his cries were so desperate that Hawks was nearing his wits' end.

"It's okay, Yuto, my baby bird," he did his best to soothe, bouncing him as he paced. "You'll be all right, don't cry. Please don't cry. Daddy's here. Daddy's here, so don't worry."

Daddy doesn't know what to do, Dabi remarked coolly in his head. How can he depend on you when you can't do anything for him?

Shut up, Hawks snapped, twisting his face in aggravation. I don't need you telling me off. I have bigger things to worry about.

So he can't worry about your incompetence, but you can?

Hawks pushed the stupid voice as far away in his mind as he could.

"Shh, shhhh," he hushed. He chirped comfortingly. "Yuto, please."

Yuto only cried more, burying his face in Hawks' neck.

His eyes bulged at the heat radiating off his forehead. There was no way that was normal. That couldn't be.

"We're checking your temperature again," he announced.

He stepped around the couch to reach for the thermometer on the coffee table.

It wasn't there.

Hawks stared at the empty spot in disbelief and threw his head back with a groan. "Where did I put it!?"

Yuto shrieked.

Hawks rubbed his back, eyes searching the room for a trace of that stupid thermometer. Had he left it in the kitchen in something? When was he last in the kitchen? The bathroom? "I know I had it."

Yuto groaned between sobs, barely comforted.

"I know, I'm sorry," Hawks apologized, making quick paces for the kitchen. "I'll make it better, I'll - YUTO!"

Hawks' eyes burst out of his skull. He threw him out in his arms, holding his screaming, squirming child in the air by the stomach, in pure horror.

Yuto screamed in agony, grasping madly for Hawks' shirt.

His wings were on fire. They were on blue fire - being eaten away by blue flames.

Dabi's quirk, was Hawks' first disbelieving thought. His second was, My baby!

Bath. The bath. Hawks spun on his heels, darting for the bathroom. He'd drained the tub, but he could fill it again -

No, it would take too long to fill. The sink? No, it wasn't big enough to submerge Yuto's back in.

The shower was the only thing Hawks could think of, and he croaked at how he was going to pull that off.

He rounded into the bathroom and without thinking, tucked Yuto into the crook of his arm as he scrambled to turn on the cold water full blast. The shower head shot into action.

Yuto shrilled.

His onesie, Hawks' eyes widened. STUPID!

He panicked, uncertain if he should try to pull the onesie off before the fire spread to his entire body or dunk him under the shower spray.

His body made the decision for him when he saw the yellow fabric around his wings glow blue.

Yuto screamed as he tore it off, ripping it down the sides and frantically pulling it over his burning wings. The onesie was more ash than cloth when he dropped it in the tub.

Hawks quickly readjusted his grip, not caring for his hands as he shoved Yuto under the spray, his back to the water.

Yuto shrieked again, voice hoarse. The back of his head and legs were doused by the cold.

"I'm sorry," Hawks cried out. "I don't know - I don't know what else - !"

The flames fought against the water. As some went down, new ones sprang up to replace them. Yuto's feathers disintegrated within them.

"I'm sorry!" Hawks yelled, tears spilling over. "Oh my god, Yuto!"

He had to call for an ambulance. Something. Yuto needed to go to the hospital. His wings, his body, his lungs -

Hawks didn't know what to do. He had to hold his son under the water until the flames entirely disappeared. He couldn't get to his phone in his jeans pocket. There was no one else in the apartment to do it for him.

Should he scream for help? Would anyone in the apartments next door or above or below hear him? Would they do anything?

"Yuto," he sobbed, "I'm sorry!"

Yuto's screams came to a halt.

Hawks jolted and tensed up. The flames were still going, pushing back against the water, blue, so god awfully blue -

So was Yuto's face.

Hawks' heart leapt in terror as he realized Yuto was choking, that his lips and cheeks were turning blue. His eyes were wide and blank.

He couldn't breathe. His son couldn't breathe.

Hawks shouted the loudest he'd ever shouted in his life. "YUTO!"

The hospital was quiet compared to the ruckus that had gone on at home. The loudest thing was Hawks' own heart pounding in his ears as he sat next to Yuto's incubator-like bed, staring at his own hands.

He had bandages on his fingers, some from the first knuckle up, some from the second. His left forearm and wrist were wrapped as well. Beneath the hospital garb they'd given him to replace his shirt were more bandages on his chest, from where he'd tried to smother the last of the flames between himself and Yuto's back so he could flip him over and resuscitate him.

Yuto lay on his stomach in his little bed, wearing nothing but a fresh diaper. He was out like the dead, breathing steadily through the tube they'd reinserted up his nose. An IV was hooked up to him to rehydrate his body. The area where his wings used to be had been operated on to remove the blackened tissue and bandaged, but Hawks knew there were scars underneath them.

He covered his nose and mouth with his hands, forcing himself to breathe evenly.

Tonight had been the scariest night of his life. Nothing topped it. Nothing from his early childhood, not a single mission he'd been on, the raid didn't come close.

Yuto's wings were gone. His back was burned. He'd been so terrified and put through so much pain. He'd stopped breathing.

He could have died tonight. His son could have died thanks to his quirk.

Hawks forced out a shuddering breath.

Yuto's fever hadn't been related to his teeth at all. It had been his quirk. He hadn't just inherited Hawks', he had Dabi's, too.

Why? Why had he inherited Dabi's? Why had it manifested now, when he was so young? Why had it begun with his wings?

Hawks' body shook. His mind darted back and forth to the raid, how it felt to have his wings burn, and to earlier in the night, watching as Yuto screamed and his wings burned.

Did you think I went away? Dabi taunted in his head, smile wide. He's half of me, Keigo. I'm always here.

Hawks was ready to cry again.

But the doctor stepped back into the room. "Mr. Takami?"

Hawks' hands slid down his face as he lifted his head. "Yeah?"

The doctor held up a file. "I have Yuto's x-rays. I'd like you to see them."

Hawks stood up on trembling legs and followed him across the room, where he pinned the photos in the file to the wall.

The doctor pointed to two short strips standing parallel in the top center of Yuto's back. "Do you see these?"

Hawks swallowed. "I do."

"These are his joints. They're the muscles from which his wings grow."

Hawks dreaded what he was about to hear. "They're gone forever, aren't they?"

"No," the doctor startled him. He tapped the close up image of the joints. "There's no damage to them from what we can see. I took a look at them in person when we were operating on Yuto's back to remove the dead skin. They're as healthy as they can be."

Hawks stared at the images incredulously. His phantom wings itched.

The doctor took another photo out of the file and hung it up. "This is your back post-Liberation Front Raid. I dug this up for comparison. You can see the scar damage where your joints should be, but they're no longer there. Yuto's are unharmed."

Hawks didn't understand. The fire should have had the same strength, shouldn't it? "Why? Were his flames weak?"

"No. From what we gathered, they were inhumanely hot," the doctor explained. "If we didn't live in a world of quirks, I'd say he have died from the shock alone, if not his burn wounds. Nevertheless, his body isn't fully suited for his flames. He will burn and it'll be just as devastating as it would be for anyone else. However, it appears only his wings have the ability to set on fire and his joints are immune to the flames. They will grow back."

Hawks was stunned.

He didn't know what to say to that.

Yuto's wings were going to grow back?

"It's important they don't set themselves on fire again, though," the doctor urged, dead serious. "I mean it when I say the rest of his body can't handle the flames. His frailty makes it even worse. He's too young to control his quirk, so we're going to put inhibitors on him."

"In-inhibitors?" Hawks stuttered. "What does that mean?"

"They're a newly developed support item for young children who can't control their quirks," the doctor informed him. He made a circle with his fingers and thumb. "They're quite unique; little bracelets that will wrap around his wrists. They'll suppress his ability to activate his quirk. You can take them on and off to give his wrists time to breathe and wash the skin there, but keep them on as often as possible. Very young children can be unpredictable; we don't know if Yuto's flames will activate at random, when he's upset, when he's reached a certain point of being upset, or if he can control them enough to set them off whenever he wants. Until Yuto gets old enough to fully control his quirk and understand how he can hurt himself, he'll have to wear these."

Hawks nodded numbly. "Will that - uh - affect his ability to fly? He's been - been flapping his wings."

"They'll regrow," the doctor replied. "He'll be able to move them. Whether he'll fly with them on or not, I'm not sure. The inhibitors weren't built for mutations, they were built for emitters. Personally, I don't believe they'd affect his ability to fly, but anything's possible; the inhibitors are still new and I can't say how well-tested they are on wings. All I can say for sure is that they won't stop their regrowth."

Hawks swallowed again. His throat was dry. "Okay. That's fine, as long as he won't set himself on fire again. We can wait until he's older." He took a shuddery breath. "How are his lungs?"

The doctor pulled out another x-ray. "They'll be fine in the long run. He panicked, so his body went into fight-or-flight mode, but his lungs weren't able to expand completely. This caused him to panic more and put even more strain on his lungs to expand, which didn't help. We want to keep him under observation for a few days if that's all right with you. If there's any short-term damage, he may need additional medication for the time being."

"Do what you need to do," Hawks replied numbly. His throat clogged. "As long as he lives and is okay."

The doctor patted his shoulder. "I'll give you some time to yourself and your son. You can't stay overnight with him, but we won't force to leave any time soon."

"Thank you."

"One more thing: the burns on your hands and arms should heal back to normal. The ones are your chest are worse, but nowhere near the level of severity your back and right side were after the Liberation Front Raid. Yuto's wings were just about gone by the time you attempted to smother the flames, so they were going out anyway. You may or may not have permanent scars, but I'd say it's not likely."

Hawks nodded a second time. "Thank you."

The doctor left the room.

Hawks dragged himself back to his chair and crouched down on it, leaning towards Yuto's sleeping form.

He couldn't describe what he was feeling. There weren't words for it. He couldn't even come up with words that were close but not the slightest bit there. Was he angry? Was he sad? Had he totally lost it? Hawks didn't know. He couldn't tell.

All he knew was that any and all progress he had made since the raid was gone.

When Yuto came home four days later, happily chirpy as ever, his wings fully regrown, and soft, blue wristbands bound to each of his wrists, Hawks called Dr. Sasaki's practice and cancelled all of his appointments. He lied that he felt well enough to discontinue his therapy sessions when her secretary asked why.

Hawks would continue his medication. He needed the energy to care for Yuto. But he wasn't going to talk anymore.

He wanted the whole world to be just him and Yuto, just for some time.

He didn't think he could handle anyone else yet. Not for a while.

Chapter Text

Yuto recovered pretty well from his quirk awakening, all things considered. He was back to being his cheery, curious, fussy self in no time, growing more and more every day. To say Hawks was grateful would be an understatement. He was thankful above all else that Yuto was his normal self, seemingly unscarred emotionally-speaking, and developing on track.

"Where is it, Yuto? Where's your teddy?" Hawks cooed at his son, holding a teddy bear behind his back.

Yuto, who was sitting up on his own with the aid of a pillow behind his back, watched Hawks with owlish eyes, blinking in wonder.

Hawks whipped out the bear from behind his back.

Yuto's whole face brightened. (The smallest edge of a baby tooth poked out of his front, bottom gums within his smile. It had finally begun to come in.) He squealed and clapped his hands together, then leaned forward to eagerly grab the toy.

Hawks hid the bear behind his back again and swiveled his head, feigning confusion. "Where did it go, Yuto!? It disappeared! We gotta find it! Do you have any idea where it is?"

Yuto didn't look around in confusion with him like he used to. Instead, he continued to reach for Hawks, squealing eagerly.

Hawks gave up and handed him the teddy bear.

Yuto hugged the bear to him, squeezing him tight, and plopped the closest ear into his mouth. He babbled and chirped happily around it, his wings flapping behind him.

"Ah, Yuto - okay, your teddy's a teething ring now." Hawks relented and chuckled. He pinched Yuto's foot affectionately. "Glad somebody's happy. Just wait until you see what I bought you for Christmas. I know, it's a few weeks away, but you'll love them!"

He figured Yuto was old enough to enjoy light up toys that made noises and animal sounds now. He couldn't wait to show him how to tear open the wrapping paper and watch him go nuts. Yuto's motor skills had gotten pretty good as of late. It was only a matter of time before he began crawling.

Hawks smiled at his baby. God, his little chick was growing up so fast.

He was so, so glad he was okay. In the short time between his quirk awakening and the present, Yuto had yet to set his wings on fire again. The inhibitors on his wrists were working, as far as Hawks knew.

Yuto had, of course, been curious about them as soon as he noticed himself wearing them when he got home from the hospital. He'd shaken his arms, prodded at them with his itty bitty fingers, and did his best to stuff them in his mouth. When Hawks took them off to bathe him or let his wrists breathe for a bit, Yuto would try to grab them. He'd whine when he didn't get them, and try again as Hawks put them back on. His first two days home, he'd cried at not being allowed to play with them. Now it was as if he had forgotten they were there.

Hawks would love to forget that they're there. They didn't bother him too much, honestly, but their presence reminded him of Yuto's fire quirk, of the feverish night his wings burned, and that reminded Hawks of Dabi the day of the raid. Sometimes it made his chest tight to remember, and he had to separate himself from Yuto for a few minutes to calm down. It pained him that he had to distance himself from his child, who had done nothing wrong, just to get a grip on himself. But he had to do it, so he could return to Yuto all the faster. Hawks had no more patience for breakdowns.

That was why he didn't want to so much as think of Dabi or his own issues anymore. Hawks couldn't block them out completely, and he still used his journal when the urge to vent struck him, but for the most part, he pushed them away. He pushed away his guilt, his fears, and his broken heart. They did him no good; if he dwelled on them too long, Hawks was afraid he'd break for real and wouldn't be able to come back to Yuto this time. It was easier to simply not think about them. It hurt less that way, regardless of whatever Dr. Sasaki would say to that.

He only wanted to care for Yuto. To play with him. To watch him grow, and laugh with him, and clap at the milestones he was reaching. It was all Hawks wanted out of life anymore. Everything else could go to hell.

So, naturally, the universe did not allow him to have his way.

When did it ever.

"There you go, baby bird, nice and sleepy in your crib," Hawks crooned as he laid Yuto down on the soft mattress. "It's nap time. Daddy'll be in the living room if you need him."

Yuto's eyelids drooped over his golden irises as he blinked, fighting a losing battle to stay awake. His arms and legs fidgeted while Hawks drew the blanket up over him, as if trying to fight it away. He finally conceded to surrender when Hawks bent over to kiss his forehead and stroke his hair back, closing his eyes shut.

Hawks chuckled quietly to himself and adjusted the blanket before leaving the nursery. He made his way back to the living room and threw himself on the couch, beat.

"Another day in paradise," he muttered, pushing his neck to the side to stretch the muscles there. They cracked loud. "He's going to be so much fun when he's a toddler."

Ah, but at the same time, he couldn't wait for that.

Reaching for the remote, Hawks switched on the TV and began flipping through the channels for something to watch. He made a point to skip the news; he didn't want to hear a single mention of heroes or villains. Eventually he found an old movie, Akira, playing on a cartoon channel about a third of the way in, and decided why not. He'd loved the movie as a kid. He used to imagine himself racing through the air against the main characters on their bikes.

Hawks got a solid twenty-nine minutes of peace and quiet - and then there was a rap on the front door.

He frowned. That was strange. He wasn't expecting anybody, nor he was close enough to anyone that they might drop by unannounced. Figuring it must be his landlord or one of his neighbors looking for something, he forced himself up to go open the door.

He turned the door knob and pulled. Hawks jolted mid-way through opening it as soon as he saw who was on the other side of it.

Dressed in casual clothes stood Todoroki Shoto, flanked on both sides by Tokoyami and that Deku kid. All wore serious expressions.

Hawks stared at them, bug-eyed. "No," he stated flatly before any of them could speak. "No. Not now. Not today. As much as I love my favorite goth, Half 'N Half, and broccoli stick, I'm not in the mood."

He hurried to shut the door.

Shoto's foot snapped between it and the frame.

"Hawks." Through the limited space of the doorway, he saw Tokoyami's stern gaze, eyes flecked with concern. "Are you well?"

New exhaustion flooding him. Hawks slumped on the frame. "Oh, peachy." He knew these three well enough that they weren't going to leave until they got what they wanted. With a sigh, he opened the door all the way. "Come on in. I'm surprised you didn't bring the angry pomeranian with you; isn't he usually attached to your hip, Broccoli Stick?"

Deku blinked in confusion as the trio entered his apartment. He pointed to himself while Hawks closed the door and they took off their shoes. "Who, me? You mean Kaachan? He's busy with his work study."

"I hope you're not going through withdrawals without him," Hawks attempted to joke. It was falling flat in his own ears as he said it, but he continued on anyway. "I bet you haven't gone a day without listening to him scream since you started at UA; the quiet must be so weird!"

"Uhh…" Deku didn't seem to know how to answer that. He dropped his shoes next to the others'.

"Hawks," Shoto grabbed his attention, heading over to sit on the couch.

Tokoyami moved to go stand beside him there, watching Hawks carefully. "You look tired."

Hawks let his arms dangle uselessly in front of him. "Thank you for the daily reminder."

Deku cocked his head at him, baffled, as he went to his friends' sides. He sat on the couch next to Shoto.

"We're sorry to bother you," Shoto told him, placing his hands flat on his knees. "We caught you at a bad time, didn't we?"

Hawks picked up the remote to mute his TV. So much for Akira. "Well, you didn't catch me at the worst possible time." That would have been while Yuto was awake. He set the remote down. "Tokoyami, you remember those 'surprises' I mentioned jumping on me when we met up at the mall?"

Tokoyami started. "I do."

"Great. They've been kicking my ass lately is all. Don't worry about it. I finally had some time to relax when you three showed up, so sorry if I'm tired and acting prickly."

"What kind of surprises?" Deku inquired.

Hawks pointed at him. "Private ones that aren't your business, kid."

He flinched. "Oh. Sorry."

Tokoyami kept his watch on Hawks. He did his best to ignore the growing concern in his eyes. (If a kid who'd interned for him for a couple of months could catch him in a lie this fast, he must be getting bad. Nevertheless, Hawks ignored it.)

(Not that it was a lie, really; Yuto had been a surprise and parenthood was hard.)

(But yes, he ignored it. The sooner they got out of his apartment, the better.)

"So what do you need?" Hawks asked, sitting down in his normally unused recliner.

"It's about my brother," Shoto began, and Hawks' stomach instantly dropped. "Touya; Dabi. I need to talk to you about him."

Hawks closed his eyes. "Of course," he murmured. "Because it's always gotta be about him."

Tokoyami furrowed his brow. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing," he replied, opening his eyes. "I'm guessing you want to know about my relationship with him? Did Endeavor accidently spill the beans and refuse to elaborate, or did you find out some other way? Or did you only want confirmation that Dabi is Touya?"

Shoto raised his chin. "You haven't seen the video?"

No, he hadn't. "What video?"

Shoto pulled his phone out and unlocked it. "Hold on, let me find it."

Fair enough. Hawks' attention slid to Tokoyami and Deku. "All right. So that explains why he's here, but what about you two? Actually, come to think of it, how did you find my address? It's not public knowledge and I know Endeavor doesn't have it."

Tokoyami answered first. "Todoroki approached me because I had worked under you and he thought I might know how to contact you. Unfortunately, I did not; the mall was good luck on my part. Luckily, I did know how to contact your sidekicks, one of whom entrusted your address to me."

Hawks gave him a flat stare. "I want his name so I can fire him."

"Your agency is closed, Hawks."

"So I'll give him a courtesy call and fire him."

Deku laughed nervously. "I can't tell if you're joking."

Frankly, neither could he.

Hawks chose not to respond to the comment as he honed in on him. "And you? I crashed one or two of Endeavor's cases while you and Bakugo were his work studies, and I know I recruited the two of you from him for a case once...but while I like you - and I do! Along with the angry pomeranian! You're good kids and heroes! - I don't know you that well."

Deku scratched his cheek. "Um, emotional support - I guess? I couldn't let Todoroki and Tokoyami go alone. Todoroki was worried about his brother and Tokoyami was worried about you, so, uh..."

Hawks' head whirled back to Tokoyami, who averted his eyes.

Welp. Hawks wasn't sure if he felt tickled his former intern cared so much or startled by the fact he'd suspected anything was wrong. It wasn't like they'd kept up with each other and he'd been given reason to worry. Unless the sidekicks he'd asked Hawks' address from had been one of the ones Hawks had gone out drinking with recently and they said something...

No. No, Hawks wasn't going to come up with conspiracy theories. Not worth it; just move on.

"Here's the video," Shoto turned his phone around and held it out. "It's only thirty seconds because they keep getting removed, but it sums up what happened."

Hawks twitched at the sight of Dabi on the screen.

He was standing in the middle of a street of a dilapidated neighborhood that looked as though it had been shaken by an earthquake. Whoever had recorded the video had done so from a short distance, likely one of the upper floors of a nearby building. He was panting, smoking, and hunched over, surrounded in a circle by five different heroes, including Endeavor and Shoto.

He was shouting at Shoto, clearly enraged. "You think you can learn from him!? Haven't you been learning from him your whole life!? Didn't you watch your older brother 'learn' from him!? I thought you'd at least be smart enough to be a different sort of hero than he is! Or did he finally brainwash you after all these years!? DON'T YOU REMEMBER YOUR OWN MOTHER!?"

Endeavor stepped forward. "Dabi - !"

Dabi bolted up to full height. "I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT FROM YOU!"

He blasted a large shot of blue flames at Endeavor, who jumped away.

The heroes sprang into action.

Hawks watched Dabi fight the heroes for the next fifteen seconds, blasting fire at all of them. Except Shoto, whose ice attacks he dodged and melted only.

The video ended mid-fight.

"Someone was live-streaming the battle as it went down," Shoto explained. "It was a small account so it didn't get many views, and the Commission is censoring as much talk about it as possible. Apparently, it's imperative they keep Dabi's real identity secret for now. Some people saw it, though, including my brother Natsuo."

"And you were there," Hawks added. His stomach coiled. "It makes sense they'd censor that video; after all, people might question what you and your brother learned from your dad, even if they don't put together that Dabi is your brother. Your mom, too."

Shoto stared at him with calculating eyes.

"Not that I'm giving Dabi my approval for what he does," Hawks held up his hands in peace. "Only that it wouldn't look good if it came out Endeavor abused his wife and kids. Especially to the point one faked his death and became a villain. The last thing the country needs right now is the Symbol of Peace outed as a bad guy. Er, was a bad guy."

He didn't forget the genuine remorse and commitment to change Endeavor had shown him. He just didn't forget that Endeavor had abused his family for twenty-six years in his pursuit to top All Might either. Besides, that would be catastrophic for the public right now. They had to trust their symbol. In dire situations, a growing frantic people had a tendency to freak out at anything. Dabi's mere existence as Dabi, let alone poor, abused Touya, would kill a lot of faith people had in their number one to protect them.

"Yeah," Shoto finally agreed. "It would. Anyway, when we were fighting, stuff like this he said made he wonder how he knew it. I began to suspect who he was, and...and Natsuo did, too. He had a screaming match with our father. Dad eventually fessed up who Dabi was and how long he'd known, but he wouldn't give us the details. Since this was confidential, he wasn't allowed to tell us in the first place. But he also thought it would hurt us to find out, at least for now...Mom in particular. He was worried it would send her back to the hospital."

Hawks sat up, somber. "Did it?"

He shook his head. "She cried. Fuyumi spent all weekend comforting her. She didn't have to go back to the hospital, though. Everyone's upset and Natsuo hates our father even more. He believes he set Touya on this path."

Hawks hummed.

Shoto released a deep breath. "Dad promised he'd do everything in his power to bring Touya back and put him on the right path. He'd get him help instead of sending him to Tartarus. Whether that happens or not...I needed answers. That's why we came here. You were a spy for the League. You know Touya today better than anyone else."

It was Hawks' turn to shake his head, faster, as Shoto spoke the last part. He, himself, and Yuto - they didn't need this. Not now, not ever. "I'm sorry. I can't give you everything you want. Dabi and I were close, yeah - " he fumbled. No, that wasn't what he meant to say, backtrack, backtrack - "but only in proximity. He - He was distant. He lied to me. I was fooled by him until the last minute. Before Tokoyami saved me, he gloated about how he knew I'd be a traitor from the start. I don't actually know anything about him at all."

Those weren't lies. What did he truly know about Dabi?


Touya wrapped his arms around Keigo's small form, startling warm against the chilly, evening air. "No," he'd told him quietly, "I think you're brave to. It's hard to be under somebody like that. You'd have to be brave not to cry every second of it."

He'd held him close, comforting and almost protective, until their fathers' fight came to an end.


He used to be a good kid, and that was it.

Hawks didn't know Dabi today. He didn't know Touya. He wasn't the person to ask these questions.

No more, he thought desperately. No more, please. I already wrote my report and spoke with Endeavor, isn't that enough? How many times do I have to have this conversation? Go through the same things over and over? It's not fair.

"Please," Shoto begged, leaning forward on his knees. "I have to know. Touya - " he choked up, "Touya was my big brother. He died when I was young, but I remember him. He was good. Before Mom was sent away, while Dad was at work, she'd sneak the five of us together. He used to hold me in his lap and hug me. He was the only person in the house besides Mom who knew exactly what I was going through. He was quiet, and good, and nice, and - and - "

Deku placed a grounding hand on his shoulder. "Todoroki."

It didn't stop Shoto's trembling. His hands curled into fists. "He can't be a villain. Or if he is, how? Why? Why did he fake his death, why did he go this route, why didn't he tell us - ?"

Tokoyami looked directly at Hawks. He took a step forward, lifting his hand as if he wanted to comfort, too. "You're trembling as well."

Hawks blinked. Glancing down at himself, he saw Tokoyami was correct. "Oh. I am."

Shoto lifted his gaze. "You know some things. Even if the rest was a lie or secret, you do. Please. You have to tell me what you know, I'm begging!"

Hawks contemplated that, raising his shaking arms and inspecting them.

He glanced up as he felt Tokoyami put a hand on his shoulder. His former intern nodded his head once.

Hawks looked back at Shoto, whose normally blank expression was twisted in pain. His eyes weren't watering, but Hawks thought he might cry if pushed hard enough.

Tokoyami didn't retract his hand. It was stabilizing on his shoulder.

Hawks took a deep breath. "He idolizes Stain," he began, making all three of their heads perk up. "He believes he'll be the one to bring his ideology to life. He hates your father with a passion. He doesn't really care about the League of Villains, they're simply convenient for whatever plans he has in mind; I'd be surprised if he has any real loyalty to Shigaraki Tomura. He hates hero society and wants to watch it all burn."

He's a sociopath who doesn't care about anybody, and the sooner you learn that, the quicker you'll accept it. Hawks couldn't bring himself to say that aloud, though. He didn't have siblings, so he couldn't relate to Shoto's pain even on a hypothetical level, but he could see that would do more harm than good. Besides, Shoto may not have known who Touya was anymore, but he knew what Dabi was. He was far from stupid.

Shoto bowed his head, letting his bangs obscure his eyes. "...That makes sense, after what Dad did. Of course he would have thought Stain understood."

Hawks glanced at Tokoyami as his fingers dug into his shoulder.

Tokoyami must not have realized it, because his stare was focused on Shoto. "I won't ask what your father did to your family - it's not my place if you don't wish to share it with me - but nothing Stain espoused was correct. His way of improving hero society was through murder. That doesn't justify Dabi's actions."

"I know; I'm not agreeing with him, otherwise I'd probably be a villain, too," Shoto said. "It makes sense because Touya was angry. We were all angry, even Fuyumi, back then. Touya, however...our father made him hate all heroes. He'd scowl when I got excited at seeing All Might on TV. He was convinced all heroes must hurt their families, in some way or another, for whatever reason they had. He said he'd never be a hero if he had it his way, and he was glad Dad didn't care about him anymore."

Hawks jolted.


Dabi shuffled towards Hawks and lowered his voice. "But I do think of their families, especially the heroes'. They don't deserve the shit that gets thrown at them. You know how much suffering comes from being related to one? Every day, they risk their lives. Every day, they might not come home. Every day - they just might."


He shuddered. So that's what he'd meant.

"That's awful!" Deku exclaimed. "Heroes aren't - they aren't supposed to be like that! Not all heroes hurt their families for their goals. He couldn't really believe that."

"He did, Midoriya," Shoto argued. "He hated it when people praised them since he saw them as hypocrites. Saving people during the day and beating or ignoring their families at night. I remember, once, when I just started training with Dad and Touya finally had the freedom to go spend the night at a friend's house...he was surprised not all families were like ours. He thought everyone's dad was a bastard and every kid got ignored or beaten senseless every day. His friend's family wasn't like that, though, and it confused him. But he didn't change his mind about heroes. They were all still rotten. I heard him whisper to Natsuo once, while I was cheering All Might on on TV, that he hoped he didn't have kids. Mom made him apologize after I almost started crying because what if All Might was like our dad? What if the man who made me want to be a real hero was as bad as the man forcing me to be one?"

Tokoyami's fingers might as well have been talons in Hawks' shoulder. But that was okay, because Hawks was beginning to feel sick; it was easier to focus on the slight pain there than his stomach.

Deku immediately jumped to his hero's defense. "All Might would never - !"

"All right!" Hawks interrupted. "This is great, but I'm kind of on a time limit; places to be later, you know." Yuto's nap wasn't going to last forever. "I'll give you my best, kid, but I can't promise all the answers on Touya. He never gave me a backstory, real or fake. I didn't know about Stain until he burned my wings."

Tokoyami flinched.

Hawks reached up to pat his hand. "It's okay."

It wasn't, but he had to reassure the kid. Guilt was a bitch, after all.

Shoto swept back his bangs as he looked at him again. He nodded solemnly.

"What was Touya like?" he began. "How did he act? Was he always like at the training camp? Cold and mocking, I mean."

Hawks sat back in the recliner. "Well, cold and mocking are good ways to describe him. He was aloof. Kind of cynical. Distant with everyone, and a little smug." He tilted his head, internally debating himself for a split second. "...He could be kind, too. Not often, rarely, actually, but every once in a while...Dabi could be warm."

He got lost in his thoughts remembering Dabi's warmth. His warm body in bed, his tender hand on his cheek, the affection in his eyes...Hawks didn't realize he was spacing out until Tokoyami shook him slightly.

"Oh! Sorry," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. He flushed. "He was more likely to tell you to fuck off and jump off a bridge, though. He'd tell you to die or insult you a thousand times before being nice to you."

Shoto swallowed and nodded silently. "He never talked about us, did he? Directly or indirectly?"

Indirectly, huh...? Hawks scratched his temple, searching his brain. "He didn't mention you directly, no. If you asked him about his family or his history, he told you to fuck off. Otherwise...he only talked about how much he wanted to kill Endeavor and end hero society, and even then, it wasn't often. You gotta understand, your brother kept a lot to himself."

"I see." Shoto pushed himself back on the cushion. "What was he like when he was kind, Hawks? Did he open up or get along with others?"

Hawks' mind flew through over a dozen memories of small smiles and sweet touches. "Sort of. I don't know how open he was with others behind closed doors. With me...we joked around. He put his arm around me like we were old friends. He was still snarky and rude, but in a friendly-ish way. When he was really in the moment, he..." made me believe he was truly in love. "For a time, I believed he genuinely thought of me as a friend and companion."

"But it was all a lie," Deku reminded quietly. "You said he'd been tricking you all along."

Hawks nodded, a lump forming in his throat. He winced at the crack in his voice as he responded, "Yeah, he was."

Tokoyami loosened his grip and squeezed his shoulder in sympathy.

Shoto's expression was a mask of neutrality. "I remember, when his training ended and mine started, and I was separated from the rest of the family, he sneaked across the estate and into my room in the middle of the night a few times. Most of the time, Touya's eyes were unreadable - you could never tell what he was thinking and sometimes it was like he wasn't even there - but on those nights, he laid down with me, checked my ice side for burns, my whole body for bruises, and he - I never saw him so angry and sad at once. He stayed with me until I fell back asleep - he held me the whole time - and slipped back out so dear old Dad wouldn't catch him in the morning and beat him for 'tainting' me with his influence."

Hawks tasted bile in his throat.

Tokoyami's grip retightened.

Shoto clenched his fists. "My point is, he cared. Whenever Dad wasn't there and we could get away with it, I'd spend as much time as I could with them. Touya always cared. He talked me. He understood my anger, frustration, how scary it was, and how much I hated Dad and didn't want to be like him. If Mom couldn't be there, Touya was. Fuyumi and Natsuo did what they could to cheer me up, but Mom and Touya were the ones who took care of me. Mom tried to stand up to Dad, and they both listened to me cry. They patched me up when he was done, when he wasn't home and Touya could sneak over. When my face was burned and Mom went to the was over us Touya snapped."

Deku chewed his lip. "Todoroki..."

You don't have to speak, Hawks read on his lips, unspoken. You don't have to say anymore if it's hard for you.

"I'd never seen Touya confront Dad before," Shoto's whole frame trembled. "He feared him more than anyone in the house. He hated him the most, but around him, Touya got meek and quiet. He'd try to blend into the walls or leave the room as fast as he could. He'd find Natsuo, because they were so close, and he'd hide with him. Natsuo understood him better than I did. They were best friends. He used to give him his fish at dinner. I wasn't the one he was clo- " his voice broke, breaking off the sentence. He restarted. "Touya comforted me, but Natsuo comforted him. But not that long after Mom went away, Touya couldn't be comforted. And he wasn't afraid to storm up to Dad on our side of the estate."

"Todoroki," Deku tried again, stronger.

Shoto shot him an irritated look. Don't stop me, it said. I need this.

"Natsuo and Fuyumi ran after him. They tried to convince him to come back to their side of the house, or he'd get beaten again. Touya didn't care. Fuyumi grabbed me while he started screaming at Dad for hurting Mom, for hurting me. He called him the worst father in the world, said he wasn't a hero, and he should have never had children. He should have never bought Mom off her family because he'd destroyed her. He told him how every day he hoped he'd die at work, so our family would finally be safe. Or at least get hurt bad enough he'd be in the hospital for months, and then maybe Mom could figure out how to leave him. Except it didn't happen that way. He was going to kill us all, he accused Dad. Touya was hysterical. I'd never seen him like that before. Dad was trying to kill us, he shouted, and he almost got his way with - "

His eyes glazed over, lost in the memory.

"Dad hit him before he could finish. Touya fell. And then the flames started, blue fire as high as the ceiling that rushed out in every direction, and Dad was forced out of the room. Touya started screaming. Dad couldn't get back in, and Fuyumi made Natsuo and I run. I remember, trying to get back into that room - it was the only time Dad ever looked scared. He kept yelling Touya's name. Touya kept screaming."

Deku grabbed him by the shoulders, but no words came out of his mouth despite his effort.

It was Tokoyami who murmured, "Todoroki," in awe this time.

Hawks stomach twisted itself in knots. "I'm sorry that happened to you. To your family."

Shoto shook his head. "The three of us left the house. We ran across the street and huddled there in the grass. We were all crying. The next thing I remember, it was night time and police officers and firemen were all over the place. Touya had burned himself alive, Dad told us. He actually looked choked up. But a few months after the funeral, he was back to his old self and pestering me about my flames again."

He sat up straight. "I'm sorry to dump all this on you, Hawks. I started and couldn't stop." He steadied himself. "What I meant to ask was...Touya was somebody who cared, even if he didn't seem like it. Was Dabi like that? Even if he tricked you, underneath it all, did he seem like somebody who could - was capable of caring for others?" He sounded weak, almost embarrassed as he asked such a simple question after such a horrifying tale.

Hawks wanted to say, I don't know, I thought he was, but he's a liar, Shoto; a sadistic liar who hates the whole world and smiles vengefully as it burns. Instead, he answered, "Yes. He did seem that way. Whether it was real or not, your brother seemed like he had a real heart underneath. He showed it to me plenty of times."

Shoto's brow furrowed. "Really?"

"I thought you said his kindness was rare," Tokoyami questioned. "He was 'distant' from you?"

Deku stared at Hawks, the gears working between his ears as he waited for an answer.

Hawks suddenly realized he'd fucked up. His heart raced.

It didn't matter, though, because at that moment, Yuto let out a harsh cry from the nursery; evidently, nap time was over.

Every last drop of energy seeped out of Hawks' body. He fell back in the recliner, totally empty.

The three students turned their heads to the hall, startled.

Shoto and Tokoyami turned around and gawked at Hawks. Deku began muttering to himself.

Hawks closed his eyes. He was done. So done with everything. He couldn't work this out even if he'd wanted to, but so much of his energy drained away that he didn't want to. Time to give up the ghost.

Opening his eyes, he locked them on Shoto's perplexed face. "Want to meet your nephew?"

It turned out Yuto simply wanted attention, because when the four of them crowded around his crib, he was no longer crying. He grabbed one foot with one hand and pressed the other into his mouth, staring up at his daddy and the three new faces above him in wide-eyed curiosity.

Shoto, Deku, and Tokoyami gawked at him as though he were some sort of alien creature.

Hawks leaned on the head of the crib and rested his chin in his palm. "This is Yuto. Yuto, say hello to your Uncle Shoto and his friends."

"He has Touya's hair," Shoto mumbled in wonder.

Tokoyami was the first to break out of his daze. He whirled around on Hawks with a fierce glare. "He hurt you."

It wasn't a question.

Hawks must have been super tired, because it took a moment for him to figure out what exactly his birdie intern meant.

"Oh. Oh! No, no, no!" He shook his head wildly at the accusation. "Yuto was conceived consensually, my friend! Dabi's a lot of things, including a sadistic murderer, but I don't think we need to add rape to his list of crimes! Or at least, if we do, I have yet to hear of his exploits."

Tokoyami's intensity didn't lessen. "Then he still attempted to murder his own pregnant lover."

Shoto stiffened.

Hawks really hated today. "Actually, Dabi didn't know I was pregnant! Neither did I until he was born."

Endeavor so owed him a round of drinks for this. He was only defending Dabi's honor - as true as his words were - for Shoto's sake. Otherwise, he probably would have shrugged and grunted wordlessly at Tokoyami's second accusation, since it wasn't technically wrong.

"Wait," Deku asked. "How old is this baby? He doesn't look like a newborn."

"Aww, you're assuming I only screwed Dabi at the end," Hawks put on a sickeningly sweet tone, his sarcasm directed at himself rather than the teen. If only I'd been that smart. "He's nine months old."

All three sets of eyes rounded on him like he was crazy.

"What," Tokoyami stated, not asked.

"I don't get it," Deku said.

Shoto remained silent.

"How is that possible?" Tokoyami demanded. "You weren't - weren't visibly nine months pregnant when we left the mansion!"

Hawks laid both arms on the crib. "I wish I'd gotten to nine months pregnant. Nah, Yuto was a surprise preemie. While they were fixing me up at the hospital, I went into labor and gave birth to him at twenty-three weeks along. That's almost six months. Trust me, I was as thrown off as you are. You'd think I would have started showing by then, but nope! My body decided it enjoys being flat and toned!"

No one enjoyed his joke.

Shoto returned his gaze to Yuto.

Hawks stood up straight. "Do you want to hold him?"

Shoto jumped. "Huh?"

Hawks reached his arms into the crib. "Here, let me check if he needs to be changed - " He lifted Yuto above his head to sniff his diaper. " - all clean! Hold out your arms."

Tokoyami stumbled back to make room as Hawks settled Yuto into Shoto's arms, adjusting them to hold him correctly. When he was done, Shoto had him pressed to his chest, exchanging baffled expressions with his baby.

Hawks had to chuckle a little. "You're a natural. Don't drop him."

"Whoah, you're holding a live baby!" Deku exclaimed, fists high at his sides.

Hawks clucked his tongue in disapproval at the word 'live.'

Yuto curled his hands open and shut, and raised one to touch Shoto's face. He was clearly aiming for his scar, but Hawks thought Shoto was too mesmerized by the hand on his jaw to notice. Deku watched in amazement with him.

"Hawks," Tokoyami grabbed his attention back.

Hawks craned his neck around. "Yeah?"

He almost didn't see the way Tokoyami's fingers were twitching at his sides. When he looked back up at his face and the teen still hadn't said anything, Hawks softened.

"You know," he explained quietly, "if it weren't for you, I would have never known he was in there. Yuto and I would have both died in the mansion. I thanked you before for saving me, but I never told how grateful I was for you saving him. So thank you again."

"I - " Tokoyami's eyes swept over the three of them, who were staring at him. "I - This was what you meant when you said 'surprises' jumped out on you, wasn't it? You had a child."

Hawks nodded.

"A child born early," Shoto murmured, giving his finger for Yuto to grip.

Yuto pulled it to his mouth to chomp on.

Shoto let him. "He looks like you and Touya put together. He really didn't know?"

Hawks shook his head. "I don't see how he could have known when I didn't."

"Hold on," Deku interrupted. "If you were twenty-three weeks pregnant, you did a lot of fighting while he was in you! The raid, your normal jobs, the Nomu right after the billboards - Wow, this little guy went through a lot before he was born."

Sweat suddenly prickled on the back of Hawks' neck.

He'd never thought of it that way - all the battles he'd must have gone through during his pregnancy. He'd only ever thought of the raid. The late nights, the lack of sleep, the scattered cases where he hadn't flown fast enough and wound up injured - they'd never once occurred to him.

Truly, it was a wonder Hawks hadn't miscarried early on thanks to all his stress. Yuto had somehow survived so much while he was on the job. For a naturally frail baby, that was shockingly resilient. He should have miscarried, shouldn't he have?

On the other hand, could Hawks' stress have been the reason he'd stayed so flat? Had there been signs of his pregnancy that his job had prevented him from seeing? Had he hurt his son before the raid, before Dabi ever sent him into labor, god, he must have been conceived less than two months after meeting Dabi, during one of their first times in bed, and he'd gone through so much since, what if it had irreparably damaged him - ?

Some of Hawks' worries vanished upon catching his son gurgling happily, reaching for Shoto's bangs. He must have liked the red and the white. Likely the gray and blue in his eyes, too.

Some of Hawks' worries about his health disappeared.

Some of them.

Maybe Yuto would have stayed inside me longer if I hadn't been fighting all that time, if I hadn't loosened him for Dabi -

"Hawks, you're spacing out again," Tokoyami hesitantly stepped forward to touch his arm.

Hawks snapped out of it. "Oh. Sorry."

Tokoyami frowned. "I can't believe you're a father. Why didn't you tell us?"

Shoto's head snapped up. "Why didn't you tell our family? Was it because of Dad?"

Fearing for his son's safety with Endeavor had never crossed Hawks' mind; first because he hadn't known about the abuse, then because he was never going to tell the Todorokis about their grandchild/nephew in the first place.

"No," he replied. "I was scared of the League of Villains finding out. Truthfully, Shoto, I don't know what your brother would do if he found out about Yuto. He might have cared about you in the past - and I'm sorry to say this to you - but I don't trust him well enough to say he'd never hurt our son. Besides, if not him, I'm sure Toga wouldn't have second thoughts about cutting my baby up to get revenge for me killing Twice."

Shoto shuddered, his grip tightening on Yuto, who cooed. "I understand," he forced out.

"I'm sorry," Hawks repeated. "Very few people know about Yuto's existence and none of them know who his other father is. My official story is that he's the result of a one night fling. Honestly, I was never going to let your family know about him. It was too risky with Dabi's vendetta against your father. I would have been putting him in danger."

"I get it," Shoto nodded briskly. "So you two were in a - a relationship? Was it real?"

Or only a part of the mission from Hawks' end, he meant. Hawks almost laughed.

He pressed himself against the crib, turning his face the other way. "It was to me," he admitted quietly, ashamed. "I was never assigned to make him fall for me or sneak into his bed. We were attracted to each other, me and him - or I was, anyway. Don't ask me why I'd do something so stupid. But yeah, from my end, it was real. I loved your brother, Shoto. I still love Dabi."

Even without looking at them, Hawks could feel their somber expressions.

After a few moments, Shoto spoke up. "I'm going to bring Touya back."

Hawks' head jerked around.

The other two looked at Shoto in shock with him.

Shoto merely stared down at Yuto, who chirped obliviously.

"What?" Hawks demanded. "No. You stay away from him. Let your dad handle Dabi, Shoto."

Shoto raised his head, eyes hardened with determination. "Touya won't respond to our father. He might respond to me."

"He didn't at your training camp!" Hawks argued, back straight. He clutched at Yuto's crib. "He's dangerous. Let the pros deal with the League."

"The Hero Safety Commission has been treating us more and more like pros every day," Shoto argued, and god, the kid could never know what kind fire that sentence ignited in Hawks' heart. These were children, they weren't ready yet. "Touya cared about you. I know he did, it was real on his end, too. And cares about us, I know he does. He just needs to wake up - like I did."

Hawks didn't know what that meant, what Shoto had 'woken up' from. All he knew was that the kid was clearly talking out of grief for a lost brother, and his arms itched to rip his baby out of said kid's arms and hide him from the world before Dabi found them.

"Todoroki," Deku spoke up, "I know how you feel, but don't you think your brother's too far gone? I mean, he's part of the League and he kills people. He didn't - I mean, he didn't seem to care that much that you were there at the training camp. He threw fire at you, me, and Shoji."

Todoroki rounded on him. "And you think my father wasn't too far gone? He never wanted a family for the sake of having a family. He bought our mother to play eugenics and made each our lives hell for years. Yet he's changing. He's come to see how wrong he was. I might still have my issues with him, but I can't - I can't say the man I saw the other day was the same one I grew up with," he seemed to struggle to get the words out. "Touya can change, too. If the old man can, so can he."

"He's killed people, though," Deku continued, softer. He was losing the battle.

Shoto bowed his head. "So he'll go to Tartarus for a while. Maybe for life. But I can't let him keep going the way he is. Our family needs him and he needs us."

Despite it all, Hawks' heart ached for the kid. Although he didn't want Dabi anywhere near his son, a part of him was desperate for him to come back, too, to change his ways, and be a real father to Yuto. To be with Hawks again. He wanted a real family as well. He had an idea what he was feeling.

Nevertheless, what Shoto was describing could get him killed in the end. If Dabi didn't kill him, then someone else in the League would.

"If you try anything under the table," Hawks warned, voice low, "I'll report it. You're not risking your life for him without a pro's permission and supervision, Shoto. I won't let you."

Shoto gave him a hard look. It wasn't dark, however, nor angry.

Hawks shook his head. "I love Dabi. I do. I know you knew him longer and were closer to him, but believe me - take it from someone who also loves him - he's too dangerous."

"Then I won't go at it alone," he replied definitively. "Or under the table."

Shoto gave Yuto one last look before offering him to Hawks.

Heart leaping, Hawks accepted him and hefted Yuto upright so he could hold him against his shoulder.

Yuto chirped.

Hawks pressed his lips together in a thin line. He wasn't Shoto's guardian. He couldn't keep track of him or make certain through his own eyes that Shoto didn't go after Dabi behind the pros' backs. He could threaten to report him, as he had, but in reality, all that would do was ensure Shoto kept his plans especially away from Hawks. He sighed. "Whatever you do, Shoto, please at least promise me you'll keep your dad involved, or UA, or somebody who has clearance to go after Dabi. Don't do this by yourself off the radar. You don't want your family to lose another son and brother."

Shoto nodded stiffly. He glanced at Yuto. "Fine. ...And Hawks? Can I ask you something?"

He patted Yuto's back. "What is it?"

"Could you...?" Shoto hesitated. "Could you...introduce Yuto to rest of our family? I know it's asking a lot, but we already lost Touya and I don't know for sure if we will get him back, no matter how much I will fight for it. I think - I think it would do everyone some good to have a piece of him, at least. To meet his son. I definitely want to get to know my nephew on my days off from school."

Alarm bells went off in Hawks' head.

"No," he snapped a little too quickly. "I'm sorry. The answer is no. If Dabi - he hates your dad - if he - "

"We don't live with our father anymore," Shoto assured, cutting him off. "Mom and Fuyumi live in a new house far away from Dad's estate. They moved in back in the spring. It's close to Natsuo's college so he's there half the time, and I visit every Sunday for the whole day. Mom still can't stand to be in the same room as Dad, so he doesn't come over often and rarely comes in the house. I doubt Dabi knows about it. I believe even less he'd attack it."

Hawks hugged Yuto, cradling his head under his chin protectively. "I...I don't know. No one knows about Yuto. I've done everything I can to keep his life as secret as possible. If it got out that I slept with Dabi and didn't report it as part of gaining his trust, and I fell in love with him and had his kid, I - I don't know what the Commission would do. They'd doubt my loyalties and question my ties to him. The - The more people who know, the more likely it'll come out - "

All three of their eyes widened in realization.

Shoto puffed his chest out. "We won't tell anyone. My family can keep a secret. We haven't told anyone Touya's alive, not even my grandparents, and we absolutely won't tell anyone Yuto's Touya's son."

Hawks backed himself up until his back hit the corner. "I - I don't know. You are asking a lot, Shoto. More than you know."

I want it to just be us. I don't want anyone else in our world. I have to keep my son safe.

I'm so stupid. I made a mistake. I should have said I was babysitting my cousin's kid, that we both have wings and Yuto got hers. I shouldn't have let them know.

"You three better swear this to secrecy," he ordered. "Don't you dare tell anyone. If Yuto's parentage got back to the League, o-or the Commission - !"

Deku stepped forward, extending a gentle hand. "We won't tell a soul, I promise. We don't want to see either of you hurt, by either side."

What had Shoto called him earlier? Midoriya? Yeah, that was his name, Hawks' remembered. This was partially why he liked the kid; he gave off calming, reassuring vibes, despite being kind of a worrywart himself. Hawks almost felt like he could trust his word. And yet -

"Swear it," he ordered the three of them again. "None of you will say a word about what you saw and heard here today. Not even to your family, Shoto, not even to Endeavor, without my say so. Got it?"

They nodded.

"We swear," Tokoyami promised.

"We won't say a word," Deku repeated.

"I won't tell them without your permission," Shoto agreed. "Please think about it, though."

Hawks nodded, if only to get rid of them faster. His heart was pounding in his chest. "Just don't expect a yes anytime soon."

With that, he relaxed slightly.

Yuto chose that moment to get fussy, fighting against Hawks' grip by pushing at his neck and crying out. Angry chirps resembling growls fell out of his lips.

Tokoyami raised an eyebrow. "He's a feisty one."

Something sad shone in Shoto's eyes. Touya, he had to be thinking. He could see his brother in Yuto.

That was enough for Hawks. Enough for one day.

"All right," he breathed. "I have to take care of him. I'd appreciate it if you three left now."

They obeyed uneasily. Hawks shifted Yuto's weight in his arms and accompanied them to the front door, where they all put their shoes on.

"I hope we didn't disturb you too much while we were," Deku apologized. "We didn't mean to cause you so much trouble."

"I know," Hawks exhaled. "I'm not mad at you. I've been stressed is all. I'm sorry for getting so uptight and gripey. Yuto's my whole world right now, and I can't..." he closed his eyes. "I can't let anything happen to him."

Shoto stood up, shoes on. "I didn't mean to bring back bad memories or make you feel like you're putting him in danger," he said. He lowered his chin. "I'm sorry as well. I just had to come here. I had to know there was some humanity left in Touya - that it was Touya."

"I don't know how you got that conclusion from me, kid," Hawks stated honestly.

Shoto looked at him, serious. "You're smart, Hawks. You wouldn't fall into a villain's arms that easily. I talked mostly about Touya's anger today, but he really was caring. If he made you fall for him this hard, then the brother I knew is still in there."

Hawks swallowed the lump forming in his throat.


"I haven't loved anyone in a long time. Don't fuck this up for me."


"No matter what you say, you're a real hero, Hawks; somehow, you made me love again."


"I told you a while back I haven't loved anyone in years, right? That wasn't supposed to change; you weren't supposed to weasel your way into my heart. You made me feel something I thought I lost ages ago."


"Heh, right," he mumbled.

Deku took the door knob in hand. "Well, we'll get going now. Thanks for everything. - Tokoyami?"

Hawks, Deku, and Shoto turned their heads.

Tokoyami had stepped back towards the couch. "You two go on ahead. I have to speak with Hawks before I leave."

Hawks' shoulders slumped in exasperation. "Let's make it fast."

Deku and Shoto exchanged glances.

"We'll be down in the lobby," Deku said, jerking his thumb as they went out the door.

Shoto grunted in agreement and closed the door behind them.

Hawks bounced Yuto, raising an eyebrow at his former intern, silently motioning for him to speak.

Tokoyami didn't say anything at first, analyzing Hawks and Yuto. Then he asked, "Who else knows about Yuto's existence?"

Hawks sighed. "His doctor. My doctor. A couple doctors and nurses whose names I don't remember or know, and probably don't remember him. My old therapist and this one daycare center I left him at while I went to therapy. That's it."

"You don't see this therapist anymore, do you?"

Hawks was too tired to be sarcastic anymore. "No."

Tokoyami's stare was intense. "Why not?"

Hawks cocked his head, phantom feathers ruffling at the invasive question. "I didn't want to see her anymore."

"That's all you're going to tell me?"


"Yuto doesn't go to daycare anymore either, then."


Tokoyami's stare was judgmental. "So you spend every day locked in this apartment, alone with no one but yourself and your son. No one helps you and you don't seek help."

Hawks readjusted Yuto's weight. "We went to the park once." Where Yuto stopped breathing. "I take him grocery shopping with me. I guess you could say the cashiers at the local grocers know him, too; they've seen him with me."

It was a pitiful excuse for an answer, and he knew it as he said it.

Tokoyami hummed unpleasantly. A beat passed between them, then two, then three. Hawks could see the gears working behind his head as he had Deku's, and knew he was in for it.

Tokoyami opened his beak. "Our work studies have ended just in time for winter break; Bakugo, who as you noted is almost always attached to Deku's side, was making up for lost time after an injury he sustained outside of school. We won't sign up for another until mid-January. I have classes until the twenty-fifth, but I can drop by for a few hours after school a couple times a week. My weekends are freer, so I can stay longer on those days. I know you'll be home, so don't pretend that won't work for you."

Hawks was flabbergasted - so much so, he didn't knock Yuto's hand away when he went to tug on his eyebrow. "What? No! Tokoyami, you have your studies to focus on! And you can't waste your entire break and free time here! Don't you have homework? Or friends? What are you going to do when your work study starts back up? Seriously, I can take care of Yuto myself. - Ow, Yuto, stop it!"

He yanked Yuto's hand away from his face and hushed him as he whined.

Tokoyami was unfazed. "You look terrible and you're not acting like yourself. If you're entire world is this apartment and everyone who lives in it, then yes, I will 'waste' my time here helping you."

Yuto started crying, upset he could play with his daddy's hairy eyebrow.

Hawks' groaned, bouncing him. "Do you even know anything about infant care?"

"You've kept him alive this long; I'm sure you can show me the ropes," he quipped.

Hawks glared. "How are you going to get permission to leave campus for this? You still need permission, don't you?"

"They've relaxed the rules now that we've become second years, have our provisional licenses, and much more experience with pros," Tokoyami answered nonchalantly. "All I have to do is say I'm visiting family."

"I'm not your family," Hawks countered flatly.

"No," he gave him that, "but under these circumstances, I'm all you've got."

"That's not what I - !" Hawks broke off with a loud groan. "Please go. I have to calm Yuto down, and I can't do that while you're stressing me out!"

Tokoyami watched him for another moment, before walking for the door.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he said as he passed by, twisting the knob.

"No, you won't," Hawks bit.

Tokoyami didn't respond, finally leaving. The door shut with a resolute click.

Moaning, Hawks sunk to the floor and rested Yuto in his lap. "Why does everything hate me? - Yuto, please!"

Tokoyami kept true to his word. The next day, Hawks - in a better mood than he had at least been in the day before - was tossing Yuto in the air in front of the balcony doors, enjoying the winter sunshine, when someone suddenly banged at his door at five o'clock.

"Aww," Hawks cooed at Yuto, brushing their noses together, making his son giggle. "You're so cute. Who's the cutest baby bird? Who is? You are! Yes, you are! Yuto's the cutest baby bird there ever was!"

The door banged again. "Hawks! It's me, Tokoyami!"

Hawks danced Yuto in the air, singing quietly, "Nobody's home~"

The door knob shook; it was locked. "Hawks!"

Yuto stuffed his fingers in his mouth, eyeing the front door curiously.

Hawks pulled him to his chest. "Don't worry, my chick, he'll leave eventually. I'm not opening that door."

Too late, Hawks looked over and felt his stomach dropped to his feet.

Dark Shadow swept in from under the door and stuck a key-shaped finger in the lock. He fumbled for a second, unsure of either the correct size or lock type, and smile wide when it clicked open.

Hawks greeted Tokoyami with a scowl as he pushed his way in. "Why?"

Tokoyami scowled back, dropping his bookbag to the floor and taking his shoes off. "I told you not to pretend this wouldn't work for you."

Dark Shadow, meanwhile, zipped across the room to smile big and wide at Yuto. "Hi, baby!"

Hawks and Yuto both jerked back. Yuto stared at Dark Shadow in wonder, extending a little hand out.

Dark Shadow beamed and wrapped both hands over Yuto's. He shook his arm enthusiastically.

Yuto giggled.

"Dark Shadow, to me," Tokoyami ordered casually.

Smile dropping to a pout, Dark Shadow obeyed, disappearing into Tokoyami's chest.

Yuto chirped sadly.

"How did you get here so fast?" Hawks inquired harshly. "I thought UA ended classes at three. It's a four, almost five hour trip from Shizuoka to Fukuoka, and that's only if you take a train or plane."

Tokoyami rubbed his ankle. "I flew."

A burst of energy - excitement? - surged through Hawks. His phantom wings twitched with longing. (Nine months, and he was still feeling phantom wings.) For a moment, and a moment only, his anger melted away. "Damn. You've really gotten fast. Been working on your speed?"

"Among other things," his former protégé answered. He closed the door and walked toward Hawks. "All right, what should I do?"

"Besides go home?" Hawks snarked. Unfortunately, not even he would tell a kid who just flew for two hours straight to go buzz off for another two so fast. "What's in your bookbag? Homework?"

Tokoyami glanced the other way sheepishly. "By the time I return to the dorms tonight, I'll have to go straight to bed. I figured I could do it while Yuto eats dinner or naps. What is his daily schedule?"

Hawks frowned. "How long are you planning to stay here?"

"Until nine."

So he'd get home at eleven.

"That's cutting it close," Hawks remarked. "What time is curfew for second years?"

"Eleven o'clock."

"You're not staying until nine."

"I left my dorm room at 3:15 and got to your building by 5," Tokoyami countered. He held his arms out expectantly. "I'll have time. May I hold him?"

Hawks wasn't sure if he was more impressed or exhausted. He was definitely too tired to fight it, though. He handed Yuto over, man-handling Tokoyami's arms until they were in the right position - he wasn't quite the natural Shoto was - and plopped a kiss on his son's hair.

"Be careful with him," he advised. "He's in the grabby phase."

As if on cue, Yuto chirped and wrapped one little hand around the curve of Tokoyami's beak, holding his mouth shut.

He grimaced and glanced at Hawk for instructions.

Hawks waved. "Just pat his hand away and tell him no. I'm sure he'll learn by the time he turns a year old. Or seven."

Tokoyami opted for gently prying his hand off. "No," he said.

Yuto blinked, startled. He chirped in confusion.

Tokoyami tilted his head. "How bird-like are you two? I've never heard you chirp."

In response to that, Hawks let out a few merry chirps in quick succession.

Yuto's head darted around, amazed, while Tokoyami raised his eyebrows.

"Well," he commented.

Yuto giggled, chirping back at Hawks.

Hawks ruffled his white hair. It was steadily getting spikier; a good brushing would mop it down, though, he had learned.

"Not very," he answered Tokoyami's question. "We've got wings and the eyes, but not much else. The chirps come from vocal chords we wouldn't normally use in conversation. I guess there's also my love for bird meat, since hawks are predators and can eat other birds." He turned on the teen with a tooth-gleaming smile. "What kind of bird are you again?"

Tokoyami was unamused. "Ha ha. So what is his schedule?"

Hawks ran a hand through his own hair. "He sleeps, he eats, he plays, sleeps again, plays and eats, sleeps some more, eats and plays, gets a bath, and goes to sleep again. He'll wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, but we're mostly on a sleep-through-the-night basis now. I just got him up from his nap when you arrived. Don't be surprised if we're still in bed next time, however; I go to sleep with him most of the time, which helps me catch up on my sleep, so we don't always get up on time. If you don't wake him up in the afternoon, he'll be out as a log."

"I see," Tokoyami mused, looking down at Yuto.

Yuto decided that was the best moment to smack Tokoyami's beak. He laughed enthusiastically.

"Yuto, no," Hawks warned, narrowing his eyes. "Don't hit."

Yuto gaped at him, laughter gone.

Hawks gave Tokoyami a sheepish smile. "Sorry; can't really discipline a five month old."

His brow furrowed. "I thought you said he was nine months old."

"He is, but he's at the stage of a five month old." Hawks wrested his son back into his arms. Tokoyami let him go. "Preemies are typically behind the amount of weeks they came early. He'll catch up by two or three years old. Until then, expect him to act four months younger than he is."

He nodded, his arms falling to his sides. "All right. So, what should I do?"

Hawks gave him a pointed look. "I was planning on locking you out until you left; you think I have anything planned for you?"

Tokoyami grunted, annoyed. "Then show me how to change him and feed him. I don't care what you do, Hawks, you're not going to lock me out for good. Teach me how to take care of your son."

Hawks hesitated. He really didn't want to do this. He wanted Tokoyami to leave. He could take care of Yuto just fine on his own. Yuto was his. Not Dabi's, not the Todorokis', not anyone else's. What was wrong with living in a world that was only him and his son? Why couldn't the universe let him have this? It wasn't going to be forever, just until...

An image of Yuto's wings burning flashed behind his eyes, his screams from that night rushing through his ears. Dabi's fire had burned him. It hurt him. It had nearly killed him.

Hawks' shivered, bile rising in his throat.

Forever, he thought. I want to keep him with me forever.

He flinched as Tokoyami touched his shoulder.

"I want to help," he said gently, face calm. "You're not well, Hawks; I can't leave you like this. Let me help you in what little ways I can."

Hawks didn't want to. He really didn't want to. But something about Tokoyami's sincerity lifted a weight off him and left him feeling utterly exhausted. "Okay. Follow me to the nursery, I'll show you how to change his diaper without letting him pee on you."

Tokoyami did a doubletake. "Excuse me?"

At that reaction, Hawks had quirk his lips in a little smile. "Next time you see your mom, ask her how changing you as a baby was. Here, I'll show you."

Tokoyami paid diligent attention and was patient as Hawks showed him how change Yuto's diaper, holding the front up to catch the pee the sudden cool air released, how to wipe him down, change his clothes - he might as well, Hawks figured - and wash his own hands.

"You better wash your hands frequently if you're going to become my personal assistant," he half-joked. "I don't want Yuto getting sick. His lungs are prone to infection and I've gone to great lengths to make sure neither of us catch a cold."

"How come?" Tokoyami inquired, carefully picking Yuto up off the changing table.

Hawks tapped his son's chest lightly. "He has really weak lungs. I'll show you his meds next, but you shouldn't need to give them to him; I do that. He had the bad luck of being born too frail, too early, and getting the wrong end of the equipment they used to keep him alive. If he gets sick, panics, or over-exerts himself, he won't be able to breathe."

Tokoyami's eyes widened. "I - I see. I'll wash my hands more frequently then."

Hawks smiled humorlessly. "Good. I know you spend two hours flying out here, but dress a bit warmer, too, okay? It's going to get cold out soon."

He nodded.

Hawks took him to the kitchen, where he showed him Yuto's meds, baby food, and formula. "Dinner's not for another hour, so I'll show you how to mix it and check the temperature then. The baby food's pretty simple; open the jar, pour out a few ounces, get a baby spoon. Put any extra in the fridge."

Tokoyami ignored the hand lightly petting his beak. "When does he need milk versus food? - Gah!"

Yuto's fingers darted for his bottom teeth. "Ahhh!" he cried happily.

"Yuto!" Hawks scolded. "Keep your hands out of his mouth! You don't know what's been in there!"

His son puffed his lower lip out, eyes watering.

"Give me him," Hawks sighed. "God, he's so much easier when we're alone..."

If Tokoyami took offense to the comment, he didn't say so as he offered him up. He wiped his beak.

Hawks hefted Yuto over to the sink. He forced his hand under the warm water and ignored his fussy cries. "I know, I know, I'm such a meanie, you tantrum-thrower. Anyway, he can survive on milk alone for now, but I like to give him some real food every now and then."

Tokoyami approached the sink and put his hands over the edge of the counter. "What else is there?"

Hawks poured a couple of drops of dishsoap on his hand. He figured it should be safe; just in case, he'd distract Yuto afterwards so those fingers didn't go in his mouth for a while. "Uhh...we can give him a bath after dinner. He likes to play, so I set a blanket by the couch he can roll around on. His toys are too big for him to swallow... Don't put him on high surfaces alone since he does know how to roll now; he'll fall. I'm serious, not even on the couch by himself while you go get his binkie, he could hurt himself. Uhh… he goes to bed at eight, eight-thirty if he's having a tantrum or I'm behind. Um...what else is there you should know...?"

"We could play it by ear for now, until you think of something else," Tokoyami offered.

"Yeah," Hawks shrugged one shoulder and nodded in agreement.

He shut off the faucet and hoisted Yuto up. "Come on, no need to cry; Tokoyami's a person, not one of your toys. Hey, follow us to the living room," he told the teen. "I'll show you how he plays. Then you can pull your homework out."

Tokoyami crouched on the ground, a silent observer, as Hawks set Yuto on his stomach and rattled his favorite keys in his face. It took approximately two minutes, a switch to his bear, more than a few sweet words, and a couple kisses to the face from Hawks, but Yuto's tears soon melted away and he picked up one of his teething rings instead, shoving it in his mouth. Tokoyami continued to observe him, even as Hawks switched on the TV and flipped it to some movie channel.

"You know I said you can get your homework out, right?" he asked, eyebrow arched.

Tokoyami blinked, lifting his eyes from Yuto. "I want to learn as much as I can first."

"Well, there's nothing more to learn until it's time to eat," Hawks reminded. "I take my relaxation where I can get it. Unless you want to play with Yuto, go grab your bag. Or, unless you want to be the creepy crow that stares at him all day, in which case, be my guest, O Dark One. I'm watching TV."

Hawks got up and plopped himself on the couch. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Tokoyami internally debate himself, glancing between Yuto and his bookbag by the door. Eventually, he rubbed the top of Yuto's head.

Yuto looked up at him, still munching on his teething ring. He popped it out and offered it to Tokoyami, a large smile on his face.

Avoiding the spit, Tokoyami accepted it with two fingers. He blinked at the toy before setting it on the edge of the blanket.

Yuto chirped and watched him expectantly.

Tokoyami looked to Hawks for help.

The corner of his mouth twitched upwards. "He wants you to chirp back."

He blinked. "I can't chirp."

Hawks shrugged.

Tokoyami turned back to Yuto. "Chirp," he stated awkwardly.

Hawks cheeks puffed out as he snorted back a laugh.

Yuto cocked his head. "Ehh?" Nevertheless, he threw his arms out and waved them, cooing for Tokoyami.

Tokoyami reached to grab him, but Yuto shrieked and growled an angry chirp.

Tokoyami threw Hawks a desperate look.

Hawks couldn't suppress his grin. "He doesn't want to be held, he wants you to play with him."

"Oh." Tokoyami folded his arms at his sides. "What should I do?"

"Pick a toy and play with him!"

Tokoyami drew back sheepishly at the obviousness of the situation. He went for Yuto's ball this time, rolling it over to him.

Yuto shrieked gleefully, flapping his wings. He sat up and stared down at the ball, pursing his lips in thought. He patted the top.

"Roll it back to him, Yuto!" Hawks encouraged.

Yuto jerked his head around.

Hawks nodded. "Yeah, roll it back to him."

Yuto stared a moment more, expression blank, and shifted back to the ball. He grabbed it and chucked it at Tokoyami, giggling.

It hit Tokoyami lightly in the chest before landing in his hand. "Good throw," he admitted.

Hawks clapped. "That's my boy!"

Yuto giggled loudly at the praise. He fell over on his back and giggled more, bringing his hands to his face and flapping his wings best he could with them pinned on the ground.

Tokoyami immediately started, going to help him back up. Yuto chirped excitedly this time, reaching up to pet his black feathers.

Hawks watched with slightly narrowed eyes.

He didn't want anyone else here. He and Yuto were fine on their own. He seriously appreciated Tokoyami's devotion, but it wasn't asked for.

On the other hand...maybe it would do Yuto some good to have a playmate. And he himself might get a tad more rest with someone else here to help feed him and put him down for his naps.

Hawks didn't know. Having Tokoyami over all the time wasn't something he would have picked if it came down to it; he wasn't in the mood for people.

Then again, as he watched Yuto bury his face in Tokoyami's vest, enjoying the feel of the fabric he guessed, and Tokoyami support him on his lap with strong hands, it might not be so bad.

They'd have to see where this went.

Chapter Text

Hawks was still unsure of things as Tokoyami let himself in the next day, the door having been left unlocked for him. So they'd had one not-bad day together; that didn't mean Hawks was completely on board with this yet. The pros he'd thought of hadn't yet proven themselves to outweigh the cons. He'd be lying, though, if he said he wasn't interested in where this was going to go. He did want to see how much Tokoyami was willing to handle, here on the unheroic, domestic scene. And wasn't today a lucky day for the both of them.

"Yo," Hawks greeted casually, bouncing Yuto on his hip. His eyes followed Tokoyami like the hawk he was as the teen slid off his bookbag and removed his shoes. "You're in for a treat tonight! Yuto's gums have been bugging him all day, so he's been upset. Luckily, I got him to suck on his pacifier before you got here. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to spit it out after about forty-five minutes and will probably start crying again! Better get your homework done now, kid, while you still have the chance."

Tokoyami clamped his beak shut at those words. He considered Hawks for a second, then took in Yuto's tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes. He nodded tersely.

He didn't go to get his homework, however; rather, he approached Hawks and put his hands around Yuto's waist, gently taking him from Hawks, who reluctantly let him.

"Should he see a doctor or a dentist if his mouth is that bad?" Tokoyami asked, stoking a thumb over Yuto's cheek, wiping away the stain and massaging the gums behind it.

Hawks pursed his lips; interesting. "No, I talked to his doctor. He'll be okay. Trust me, I had the same thoughts you did a while ago."

Tokoyami nodded. When Yuto reached for his beak he didn't stop him, perhaps in sympathy for the poor thing. He rounded his eyes on Hawks fiercely.

"Whatever 'tests' you have for me," he began, surprising the man, "I'll face them head on. I'm not leaving the two of you alone."

Hawks lifted his brow. He had to hand it to Tokoyami; he had spunk. "I don't know, childcare's not that easy. When it gets rough, it gets rough. I'd rather not have you here if it means I have to babysit you and take care of him. I already have one baby, I don't need two."

Tokoyami's eyes lit aflame at the insult, but he didn't rise to Hawks' bait. Instead, he carried Yuto to his blanket on the floor and sat down with him, stifling back a grimace while Yuto pulled experimentally on his feathers.

Hawks didn't mean to demean Tokoyami; he genuinely liked the kid and admired his drive. Hell, he owed him his and Yuto's lives, as he couldn't stop remembering. He didn't want to push him away. But he also wasn't just going to easily accept this either. They'd see where this went, especially as his poor baby's gums irritated him. God, Hawks hoped the rest of that first tooth and the second came in soon - he hated seeing Yuto in pain. But it would be a good opportunity to test Tokoyami, as the teen had surmised. Yesterday had been relatively easy. Hopefully they wouldn't despise each other by the end of this.

So the afternoon continued on.

Hawks soon excused himself to go handle the laundry as Tokoyami and Yuto played. He listened carefully from the laundry room, mindful of any cries; just because he lacked wings now didn't mean he wouldn't speed to his son's side and pluck him out of Tokoyami's arms if something went wrong. He separated the baby clothes from the big ones and sorted them by color, switching between loading them into the washer and removing the clothes from the dryer to fold and put away in their respective rooms.

Forty-five minutes passed easily. Hawks returned to the living room just in time to see Yuto, huddled in Tokoyami's lap with his bear, spat out his pacifier and burst into tears.

His instincts told him to rush to his baby and calm him down. He almost did, almost ripped Yuto out of the other's arms. It was hard to hold himself back; Yuto would be fine, he reminded himself, wait and see what Tokoyami does.

Tokoyami caught his stare as Hawks rounded the couch and looked down on them.

"Told ya," he teased.

He had to clench the arm of the couch at the sight of Yuto's distress. (If he could make it so his baby bird never had a reason in the world to cry ever that he was refusing to hold him, Hawks' heart broke for his chick.)

Tokoyami noticed his grip. He glanced at it, then stood, rocking Yuto awkwardly in his arms. "What should I do for him?"

Hawks cocked his head. "What you're doing's good; pace around the place rocking or bouncing him, rub his back, say nice things to him, the works. Sometimes it calms him down. Sometimes it doesn't. Or you could massage his gums, kinda like you did earlier with his cheek. There's also left over baby food in the fridge; it is getting close to dinner time."

"Hm." Tokoyami turned his body towards the kitchen.

Hawks watched him pat Yuto's back between opening the door and placing a half-empty jar of mushed peas and carrots on the counter. He bounced him, whispering something softly, and opened it.

"Where are your utensils and bowls?" he called out to Hawks.

"Second cupboard to your right and first drawer to your left," he answered. Hawks forced himself to sit on the couch.

(He wanted his chick, he wanted his chick, he wanted his chick.)

Tokoyami found the baby bowls and spoons quickly. He dumped the rest of the jar into the bowl - it was a small amount, but perfect for a baby Yuto's age - and searched the room questioningly.

"Where's your high chair?" he asked.

Hawks leaned back. "Don't have one; Yuto can't sit up by himself for longer than a minute or two. He'd flop over like a fish in the seat and start crying! I always feed him in my lap when I go for the baby food."

"Oh. I see." Tokoyami appeared lost for a moment, but grabbed the bowl in his other hand and carried it and Yuto to the couch, where he sat beside Hawks. He left the empty jar open on the counter, but Hawks wasn't going to begrudge him for that.

Hawks paid close attention as Tokoyami balanced the bowl and Yuto on separate thighs. With an uncertain hand, he scooped up a spoonful of mush and offered it to Yuto.

Yuto wailed.

Tokoyami's hand wavered.

"He won't choke, will he?" he asked, worry dripping in his tone.

Good question; ten points for him.

"Well, don't shove it in his mouth," Hawks advised. "Get him to stop crying and open his mouth for you first."

Tokoyami scowled. "How do I do that? You said his gums are making him cry."

Hawks gave a feline smile. "Yeeaahh...that's the tricky part."

Tokoyami frowned.

Undeterred, he set the spoon back in the bowl and brought Yuto close. He nudged his face lightly with his beak.

"It's okay," he tried to soothe. "It's all right. The cold food here will help ease the pain. Don't you want to try it?"

Yuto hiccupped. He buried the side of his face in Tokoyami's hoodie, not comforted.

Tokoyami wrapped his arms around him to rub his back and side. "It's okay. It's time for dinner."

Hawks rested his chin in his palm. "Frustrating, isn't it?"

Tokoyami ignored him - and to think, he hadn't even been making a jab! - He wiped more of Yuto's tears with his thumb, then moved it in small circles over his cheek bones. He hummed to Yuto, probably some lullaby.

Hawks let it go on for a minute, kind of taken in by how sweet the sight was. Sadly, he had to point out, "It's his front bottom gums bothering him, not his left side."

Tokoyami froze like he'd been caught in a crime. Scowling a second time, he moved his thumb to below Yuto's bottom lip.

Yuto didn't understand. He looked down at the thumb, perplexed, and leaned his head forward.

"You better have washed your hands before coming here," Hawks smiled crookedly as Yuto sucked on Tokoyami's thumb.

Funny, he'd never done that to him before.

Tokoyami looked torn between disgust and confusion. "...He's ceased crying, I suppose."

"Yeah, but look how miserable he looks," Hawks said, heart aching a little.

If one didn't know better, they'd think Yuto was being forced to suck on Tokoyami's thumb when he really didn't want to.

"And it is dinner time," Hawks added, gesturing to the bowl on his other thigh.

"Right," Tokoyami replied, unsure of what to do next.

Hawks stood his elbow on his knee and leaned into his hand.

Carefully, Tokoyami retracted his thumb from Yuto's mouth. Yuto's face scrunched, and he prepared to cry out again when Tokoyami offered him the spoon. He blinked, and clumsily accepted it into him mouth, reluctantly closing his lips. Tokoyami slowly slid the spoon back out.

Miraculously, Yuto kept eating. He didn't fight the spoon away or bury his face in Tokoyami's clothes to hide. He kept eating until the bowl was empty and Tokoyami was scraping the sides for one last bite. When it was finished, Yuto looked between Hawks and Tokoyami miserably, as if to ask if they were done torturing him yet.

That was enough for Hawks. "Gimme my baby, it's time for bed."

Tokoyami furrowed his brow. "I thought he got up an hour before dinner and went to bed at eight?"

Hawks instantly cuddled Yuto to his chest. "Look at this face! He's done, he's exhausted himself out. He might wake up later, he might not, but he's gotta go to bed. Let's do a quick bath and put him in his crib."

Tokoyami followed him to the bathroom, where a sleepy Yuto fought them both at every turn in the tub, not wanting to get cleaned for the night when he could simply go to bed. Tokoyami looked twice as at a loss as he had in the kitchen and living room, and glared at the ceiling when Yuto splashed his entire front with water. Hawks handed Yuto to him to dry off, and watched with wry amusement as Yuto fought the towel vigorously with angry chirps.

He only intervened when he thought Tokoyami might accidently drop him, and carried him to the nursery to redress him himself. Again, Tokoyami followed, playing close attention.

Yuto was out like a light as soon as he'd been placed in his crib. He plopped his own thumb in his mouth and closed his eyes, out. Hawks tugged the blanket over top of him and kissed his hair.

They left the nursery and headed back to the living room.

"Whelp, that was fun!" Hawks enthused. "I know it's two and a half hours early, but you can get going now!"

Tokoyami stood stubbornly. "No. I'll do my homework as you suggested ealier."

Hawks tried not to glare. "Why? Yuto's in bed, I don't need you here to babysit."

Tokoyami marched for his bookbag. "I'm not here simply for Yuto's sake, I'm here for yours as well. Mostly yours. I think you'll need the company."

Although Hawks narrowed his eyes at that, he said no more.

He moved to go start on their dinner. He supposed he could have just kicked Tokoyami out by force, but he guessed he had done all right tonight. The teen was starting to prove himself. Might as well let him stay for dinner, Hawks told himself. He wasn't going to give that argument about company any thought.

For the rest of the evening, Tokoyami silently worked his homework and politely ate the noodles Hawks cooked. He sat by him on the couch, beak in a notebook doing equations, while Hawks watched TV. Neither said much at all.

Somehow, was kind of nice.

Hawks thought Tokoyami must have changed his mind after all, because strangely, his favorite birdie intern didn't show up the next day.

He did on the next, though, so Hawks didn't get to celebrate (or feel weirdly disappointed) for long.

"Give me your phone number," Tokoyami demanded, the first words out his mouth.

Hawks blinked wearily at him from his seat on the floor; he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before thanks to a nightmare, so he must have heard that wrong. "What?"

Tokoyami dropped his bookbag as he always did. "I can't be here every day and I don't always know when my classes will require me to stay on campus; yesterday, we were given a mock trial on the training grounds as homework for our upcoming practical exam. I didn't get my turn until well after six, and didn't finish up until eight. If I had tried to leave, I would have had to turn around as soon as I got here, and I'd still have broken curfew."

Hawks glanced down at Yuto curled in his lap. "Uh huh..."

Tokoyami arched his brow. "So give me your phone number so I can text you on the days I can't make it."

"So you didn't decide to quit and bail on me when you didn't show yesterday..." Hawks drawled, understanding hitting him.

"I'm ashamed you'd think so lowly of me." Tokoyami approached them and held out his phone sharply.

Hawks pressed his lips together in a thin line. "It's not that I think lowly of you, Tokoyami - the opposite, actually - I just thought I was free..."

"Well, you're not," he replied shortly.

Hawks grunted. He took the phone and put his number in, labeling the contact 'Keigo.'

Tokoyami raised an eyebrow when he handed it back to him. "Keigo? Is that your surname?"

"Given," Hawks corrected. "I might go under my real name as a civilian, but it was never officially announced that this is my name; I was one of the few heroes whose private life included my real name. This way, none of your friends steal your phone and realize it's me you're texting. Unless you've already told your whole dormitory your helping me babysit my secret kid."

"No," Tokoyami sat down beside him.

Yuto perked up. He shrieked in glee and flailed his arms, wanting Tokoyami.

Tokoyami dragged him into his lap and held him there, pointedly ignoring the fingers poking his face. "I haven't told anyone. Nor have Midoriya and Todoroki."

"Great!" Hawks feigned excitement, giving him two thumbs up. "Glad to know you three are men of your words."

"Why not use your surname?" Tokoyami asked. "It's not as if they would know the difference. ...This isn't some indirect way of telling me I can use your given name, is it?"

"In conversation? No, I'd rather you didn't; we aren't that close, my darling Fumikage," Hawks chuckled tiredly. "Hawks is fine, Takami if you really want to get personal. Change it if you like, I just figured if you have your friends' numbers, you'd be close enough to use their given names."

Tokoyami regarded him peculiarly, but didn't say anything. He grabbed Yuto's hand and gently removed it from his face. "Oh, I've been meaning to ask; what are these bracelets Yuto is wearing? I can't imagine he's old enough for jewelry and you don't seem to be the type to dress him up for fun."

Hawks' gaze wandered to Yuto's wrists. His son struggled against Tokoyami's arms, but soon made a game out of it, giggling as he wiggled free of his hands and was captured again. "They're quirk inhibitors; a new support item for young kids who can't control their emitter type quirks yet. On top of my wings, Yuto has Dabi's fire."

Tokoyami's eyes widened. "I - ? I'm sorry," he said. "That must be...difficult for you."

Hawks pinched one of Yuto's cheeks, not enough to hurt, making him squeal in laughter. In cheerful retaliation, Yuto attempted to bite his fingers. Hawks reeled them back. "Yeah, it is. What makes it worse is that it's his wings that catch fire, and like Dabi, his body isn't suited to the flames. If you look real closely under his wings tonight when we bathe him, you'll be able to see the scars there."

Tokoyami's face was pure sympathy. "I'm sorry. That had to have been terrifying."

"It was." Hawks paused for a moment. He hadn't talked to anyone about that night. He didn't know how he felt finally doing so. Strange, he supposed. "It hurts him, his quirk. His wings grow back, thank god - his joints are immune, unlike how mine were - but the flames hurt him. His feathers are sensitive. And fire on skin never feels good."

Tokoyami readjusted Yuto in his lap so his back was to his stomach. He stroked his wings lightly, right by the joints. Yuto practically purred, closing his eyes in delight. "He's all right, though?"

"Yeah, he is." Hawks paused again. Voice low, he continued, "He stopped breathing that night. He panicked that bad. His lungs already have trouble expanding, but he could have died that night. When I saw him choking and turning blue, I tried to use my own body to put out the flames. Luckily for me, his wings were almost gone by then and I didn't get burned as nearly as bad as I did when you saved us."

Tokoyami swallowed. "That is terrifying. I'm sorry you had to go through that alone. You won't again."

Hawks considered that quietly. He poked at the wristbands, gesturing to them. "They can come off. The skin underneath needs to breathe and I gotta wash them; that's why I take them off for bath time. Yuto hasn't randomly combusted yet, so I think we're safe. But you leave that to me, all right? Don't take them off yourself."

"Understood." Tokoyami stroked Yuto's feathers, expression pensive.

Hawks supposed, after what they experienced during the raid, Tokoyami would be the one to understand what he'd gone through the best. This must have given him a lot on his mind to think about.

"...You're good with him," Hawks noted after a few minutes of silence, forcing a bit of life into his tone. Yuto was practically falling asleep in Tokoyami's arms. He teased, "What happened to the awkwardness from two days ago? You look more comfortable with him now."

Tokoyami shrugged. "I am awkward. But I have a friend in my class, Asui, who has experience taking care of her younger siblings. She gave me some advice."

Hawks curled a fist under the side of his head and leaned on it. "What'd you tell her when you asked? Can't imagine most teenage boys are curious how to take care of a baby out of the blue."

Tokoyami ran a hand through Yuto's hair. "I told her my elder sister just had a baby, and that's why I fly off everyday."

Hawks narrowed his eyes. "Do you even have an older sister?"

"Do you really care?"

"Touché." Hawks sat back. "You sure she won't figure out you're lying? There's a difference between a newborn and five month old, Tokoyami; nine months ago, Yuto wouldn't have been grabbing at your feathers and beak."

"I kept my questions vague and posed some of them as if they were for the future."

Hawks shrugged. Let it go, he told himself. He hadn't gotten enough sleep last night to properly worry about this. Besides, it wasn't as though there was anything he could do about it at this point. "Okay, if you say so."

The rest of the night went by quietly, as it had the other day. Tokoyami aided Hawks in feeding, bathing, and keeping Yuto entertained, and once he went to bed, he and Hawks sat side by side on the couch, watching TV and doing homework. Like the other day, it was nice.

On Sunday, Hawks brought Yuto into his room with him for their morning nap, intent on cuddling his baby. Nightmares had kept him awake half the night, so he had been glad to lay down. He brought his baby along with him for the extra comfort. Therefore, Hawks wasn't surprised when he awoke half past noon, long after Yuto's nap should have ended.

What did surprise him was that Yuto was not right beside him.

Hawks jumped up, just about having a heart attack. He frantically checked the floor around the bed for his baby. Had Yuto rolled over and fallen? Was he passed out under the bed? Where he had gone!?

"GAAAH!" a deep voice suddenly cried out from across the hall, and Hawks' head jerked up. "You cursed fiend!"

His heart immediately settled in his chest.

Okay. That was good news. He knew that voice and word usage. And there was only one reason it had come from the direction it had come from.

Calmly, Hawks got up and strolled across the hall to Yuto's nursery. He leaned on the door, holding back a chuckle at the image in front him.

Yuto was lying on the changing table, safe and secure. He held his feet in both hands and chirped a pretty song to himself.

Tokoyami stood a solid three feet away from the changing table, arms spread wide. A dark, wet trail ran down his black shirt from shoulder to hem. It was pretty obvious what that dark, wet trail was and why he had cried out.

Tokoyami's eyes caught him standing there. "I held his diaper up...but he was too fast for me."

Hawks slapped his chest over his heart. "My boy!"

Tokoyami jolted, realizing what he said, and rolled his eyes. "You're insufferable, both of you."

Hawks laughed and walked behind him, patting his back and pushing him for the door. "Go to the bathroom, throw that shirt in the laundry basket, and take a shower. You can pick one of my shirts out to wear for the rest of the day. I'll do laundry when you're done and can watch Yuto for me."

Tokoyami did as he was told, grumbling on his way out.

Hawks snickered and stepped up to Yuto. He booped his nose. "You're a bad boy. Tokoyami's a friend, not target practice."

Yuto cooed.

Hawks finished changing him and brought him out to the living room. He laid him on his blanket and went to go start lunch.

What a way to wake up. It wasn't at all what he'd been expecting, but Hawks couldn't say he wasn't thoroughly amused by it.

When Tokoyami returned twenty minutes later, Hawks was happily reminded of the six inch size difference between them; the damp bird was practically swallowed by the grey T-shirt he had picked out of Hawks' closet.

"I need a picture of this," he laughed from behind the counter, searching his pants for his phone.

"Don't you dare," Tokoyami warned.

"But it's hilarious!"

"Hold your tongue! It is not!"

Hawks grinned, brandishing his phone and snapping the picture. "I'm making it your contact picture!"

He shouldn't have been shocked when Dark Shadow suddenly emerged, shooting across the thirty feet distance to steal his phone and bring it back to Tokoyami.

On the bright side, Dark Shadow was equally amused by the photo and Tokoyami's appearance. He was dismissed the moment he laughed.

Yuto chirped, not wanting to be forgotten in the chaos. Tokoyami picked him up.

"So when did you get here?" Hawks asked, turning back to the stove. "I didn't hear you come in. Why didn't you wake me?"

They settled on Yuto's blanket.

"You were completely out; I didn't want to disturb you," Tokoyami replied. "Yuto's eyes were open by the time I found the two of you, so I decided to take him and let you sleep."

"That's sweet of you."

It was. It put a strange feeling in Hawks' chest as well.

Yuto pawed at Tokoyami's shirt. He either recognized it as Hawks' or was amazed by how big it was on Tokoyami. Going, "Ooo!" he lifted the hem and ducked his head underneath.

Tokoyami squawked. "No, don't do that! Do you know no boundaries!?"

Yuto laughed loudly from under the shirt.

Hawks shook his head, laughing quietly to himself. With a start like this, he certainly couldn't say today was going to be boring. That was good, he guessed.

"How's school going?" he asked a half hour later.

"Stressful now that finals are closing in," Tokoyami answered. He held Yuto in his arms, feeding him his lunch bottle. "We didn't have finals like this before winter break last year. They're pushing us twice as hard so we're prepared for the darkness currently eclipsing Japan."

"Hmm," Hawks swallowed a bite of chicken. He held out a hand across the counter. "Give me Yuto; I'll feed him while you eat."

"No, I've got him," Tokoyami refused, tilting up the bottle in Yuto's mouth. "I can wait a few minutes. You eat."

Hawks quirked his lips up in a humorless smile. "I'm not starving, you know. Being a dad's not that grueling."

"I know."

Yuto, for his part, held onto his bottle from both sides as Tokoyami kept hold on the base. He appeared perfectly content where he was, not longing for his daddy's arms.

Traitor, Hawks joked in his head.

Course he is, he's mine, Dabi's voice slipped into his mind, causing Hawks' face to drop. Ya know, I find it hilarious I almost killed you two nine months ago and now here you are, fighting over who gets to hold and feed MY kid. Wonder if the little goth had a crush on me from first sight, too. Which do you think he likes more, the black hair or piercings? The edgy scars?

"Hawks?" Tokoyami asked. "You're spacing again."

Hawks shook his head. "I'm fine. Sorry."

He'd been doing a good job of keeping Dabi's voice out of his thoughts lately. What was wrong with him? Whatever the case, just the sound of him brought Hawks' mood down.

"Speaking of dark eclipses," he ripped off another piece of chicken, "how are things going with that? The rising crime rates haven't been pushing your work studies too hard on you, have they?"

Tokoyami thought about it for a few seconds. "Too hard? No, I wouldn't say that. But the League continues to inspire new villains every day, even if they haven't joined up with them. At my last work study, I had the opportunity to fight at least three new villains a week."

Hawks was about to say three wasn't a whole lot. Then he remembered his speed and efficiency had made him an outlier among the other heroes, who might deal with one case a day, or have a few days where nothing too serious popped up. Although a minimum of three new cases per week didn't sound like much, if each agency was seeing an increase like that or higher, then things overall were getting bad.

His stomach churned. He wanted Yuto to grow up in a safe world. A safe world was probably never going to exist, but All Might era crime rates (which had also been held down by himself) would have been ideal.

"Uh huh," he gulped. "So have you liked your new work studies? You interned with me three times last year, it must have felt weird to walk into another hero's agency for once."

"They've treated me well and have given me valuable experience," Tokoyami answered. Yuto's bottle was nearly empty. "It was a change at first, though, yes."

"That's good to hear. No one's ignoring you like I did, eh?" he tried to joke.

"No," he told him, "but looking back, the fact that you did pushed me to work harder to gain your attention. I wouldn't say that drive has done nothing for me since."

Hawks threw his hands out. "And to think, I wasn't even trying to inspire you! Heheh. Here, I'll take his bottle."

Tokoyami slid the nub out of Yuto's mouth and handed the empty bottle to Hawks. He picked Yuto up and put him over his shoulder to burp him.

Hawks got up to put it in the sink and sat back down. "I'll hold him while you eat."

Tokoyami settled Yuto in his lap, one arm wrapped protectively around him. His other hand picked up his fork. "You act as though you don't hold him for every second of the day that I'm not here."

"Ouch. Are you calling me co-dependent?"

"I'm telling you to take a break and enjoy your meal."

Hawks burst out a laugh. He swung a finger between the two of them. "Haaah, see, this is why you're the adult and I'm the teenager."

"Eat your food, Hawks."

Hawks picked at his chicken. "Okay, Dad."

He laughed again at the glare Tokoyami sent him.

It was good to laugh. It brought his spirits back up.

(Maybe having Tokoyami around wasn't so bad.)

"Okay, okay," he chuckled, and plopped a bite in his mouth. Once he swallowed it, he sobered. "Hey, how's Shoto doing? He's not still plotting to bring his brother back on his own, is he?"

"Not that I'm aware," Tokoyami stated.

Hawks' eyes narrowed. That sounded suspiciously as though he was avoiding the question. I'm not aware, so I can't tell you that yes, he is.

"Don't give me that stare," Tokoyami put his fork at the side of his beak, the side Yuto couldn't reach, even as his little arms clamored to. He was apparently fascinated by the way his holder ate. "I've talked to him. If he is planning something, he hasn't told me so. He does still want to bring his brother back, but he's not in a position to do so yet. All I know is that he's been speaking with his father, as you advised."

Hawks exhaled. "Okay. If Endeavor's involved, I feel better."

Tokoyami flinched.

Hawks sat up. "What?"

"Nothing. It's what Shoto said before, when the three of us visited," he explained quietly. "Midoriya filled me in on the rest he didn't say. I had no idea my classmate's home life had been so...volatile. It's no wonder he was the way he was at the beginning of our first year."

Hawks remembered how Shoto claimed Dabi only needed to 'wake up' like he had. "How was he?"

"Not too different in demeanor, but stand-off-ish. He wasn't interested in friends. He had an intense look in his eye and could almost be called arrogant."


Tokoyami shrugged. He batted Yuto's hand away and took another bite. "He had the power to back up his confidence; however, he wasn't afraid to tell others how they either were going to lose, or had lost because his skills were far superior to theirs." He poked at his food. "When he said before that he 'woke up,' he meant from his hatred of his father. It blinded him to everything, including his own fire."

Hawks frowned. He supposed that explained why he hadn't used much of his fire at the sports festival.

I have no issues with my fire, Dabi grinned in his head.

"Blinded by hatred, huh," Hawks murmured.

"In any case," Tokoyami went on, lightening his tone, "he believes his brother can change. He's not going to give up on him. He is aware of the danger, though; his vision hasn't been so clouded by fond memories that he's willing to ignore his brother's crimes. He's ashamed of what Touya's become and will give his all in taking him down. But then he wants to do whatever he can to clear his vision, even if it's from a jail cell."

Hawks nodded slowly. "I see."

Tokoyami's arm suddenly tightened around Yuto. He looked up at Hawks with a silent message in his eyes.

Hawks heard it loud and clear. Tokoyami wasn't going to be his new therapist, but he was here; Shoto wanted to be there for his brother, but Tokoyami was already here for him. He wasn't going to leave, and he would listen when Hawks was ready.

He doubted he'd ever be ready, but the gesture was appreciated.


"You're welcome."

Hawks glanced behind Tokoyami and Yuto at the distant living room windows. The sun was shining despite the strong, cold winds reported to be blowing today. Maybe they could wrap Yuto in some warmer clothes later and take a trip to the park again. A playground, perhaps? He wondered if Yuto was still too young to enjoy a toddler swing. Or they could just go for a short walk. Either way, it might do some good to get out of the house again. He'd have to think about it. Maybe just some fresh air on the balcony would suffice.

He shifted his attention back to Tokoyami, who was making Yuto giggle (and distracting his hands from his beak) by bouncing his leg underneath him.

"Aww, look at my little chick!" Hawks exclaimed. "He's having so much fun, aren't you, Yuto? Aren't you?"

Yuto beamed and chirped.

Tokoyami shook his head, mouth full. "I'll never get over the fact you two can chirp."

"Hand!" Hawks warned cheerily.

Yuto whined as Tokoyami effortlessly caught his fingers before they could dash inside his beak.

The rest of dinner went along smoothly, and the cool air felt good on Hawks' face when they went out on the balcony afterwards.

So Tokoyami came over about four times a week. The weekdays varied depending on what he was doing in his classes and how much studying or training he needed to perform after school, but every Sunday he showed up at noon and wouldn't leave until Yuto was put to bed for the night.

He was a fast learner. Despite his initial fumbling, he quickly figured out what to do with Yuto and how to keep him happy and well. Yuto certainly enjoyed his presence, especially when Tokoyami allowed him to pet his beak and feathers. Hawks could tell Tokoyami didn't particularly enjoy that, but as long as Yuto wasn't pulling his feathers out, trying to hold his beak shut, and didn't stick his fingers where he wasn't supposed to, he let the baby do as he pleased. Otherwise, Tokoyami seemed to enjoy spending time with him as well.

Hawks still wasn't all that keen on having Tokoyami over so much. It wasn't as bad as he'd expected (what had he been expecting? He wasn't totally sure, but the thought had been unpleasant at best and terrifying at worst), but still. After so long of being alone with his son, and his decision to be alone with him only for a while, it was hard to let another person in. Nevertheless, he tentatively let Tokoyami have his way, unlocking the door for him before five or noon each day. In return, Tokoyami didn't break in again like he had that first evening, and helped him wrangle Yuto throughout his stay. 

It was a strange arrangement, honestly. Hawks had taught Tokoyami for a couple of months, off and on between his League work, and he owed him his and Yuto's lives for the raid, but he'd never expected him to be his part-time nanny. The thought was kind of ridiculous. But it was what it was, and thankfully, Tokoyami didn't try to pry into his brain with personal questions. He was sincerely going to wait for Hawks, it appeared. He didn't ask how he was feeling or why he was this way or that, and whatever his opinions were about Hawks' well-being and status, Tokoyami kept them to himself. Hawks at least appreciated that. Perhaps more than he cared to admit.

But December wasn't over yet; in fact, it had only just begun.

If there was one advantage to having Tokoyami around to help out, it was that Hawks suddenly had extra time to clean the apartment. While Tokoyami played with Yuto, Hawks had been able to wipe down the kitchen and was now scrubbing the bathroom. Even as Yuto started fussing and crying (and Hawks' heart lurched), he was able to ignore it and keep scrubbing the tub, confident Tokoyami had it under control.

That is, until Yuto's cries went on longer than they ought.

With a heavy sigh, Hawks got up, washed his hands off, and made his way to the living room.

"Com'ere, baby bird," he cooed, sidestepping Tokoyami completely to pick up his son. He rocked Yuto against his chest and patted his back.

Tokoyami set down the rattle he'd been holding. "I changed him a half hour ago and he doesn't smell; is he hungry again or does he want to go to bed early?"

Hawks shook his head. "He's fussy is all. I bet he just needs his daddy!"

Yuto, in fact, did not just need his daddy. Five minutes of walking and pacing later, and he was still crying.

"Surely that one has been possessed by a demon of tears," he overheard Tokoyami mutter to himself irritably.

"That's cute, coming from the one who has a literal demon inside of him," Hawks quipped. "Don't worry, you'll get used to this."

Tokoyami appeared to sit on that for a moment.

He glanced at the lights around the room, and the next thing Hawks knew, Dark Shadow bolted in front of them, all smiles.

"Hi, baby!" he cooed and waved.

Yuto hiccupped and stared, uncertain.

"Oh, are you crying?" Dark Shadow frowned. He pulled on his face and grinned big. "Don't I look funny!?"

Yuto stared. Glanced at Hawks. Looked back at Dark Shadow. And laughed.

"Thank you," Tokoyami breathed to himself, closing his eyes.

"No, thank you," Hawks corrected. He kissed Yuto's temple and let Dark Shadow carry him back to Tokoyami, still making him laugh. "If that ends up working every time, I may have to convince you to quit school and become my live-in nanny," he joked.

Tokoyami grunted non-committedly, seating Yuto in his lap with a fond expression.

Hawks looked on in pride as Yuto banged his teddy bear repeatedly on the floor, chubby legs spread in front of him. His little boy, his chick.

"Tokoyami!" he called to the other as he returned from his trip to the bathroom. "Come see this!"

Tokoyami rounded the couch. "...What?"

Hawks gestured wildly to his son, who stopped his banging to watch his flailing arms curiously.

Tokoyami's brow furrowed. "Yes...? He has his teddy?"

"No!" Hawks rubbed Yuto's head affectionately. "He's sitting up! Without help!"

"And? He always does that." Tokoyami sat on his knees beside them.

"Not for longer than a minute or two!" Hawks exclaimed. "He's been sitting on his own for ten minutes!"

"You're being awfully noisy about it," Tokoyami pointed out, picking up the bear. He rubbed Yuto's head affectionately, though.

Hawks shrugged, undeterred. "Sorry. It's just so great to see him hit his milestones; I have to show them off. I mean, just yesterday he was helpless in an incubator, and now look!"

Tokoyami handed Yuto his bear and blinked. "He was an incubator yesterday?"

Yuto, meanwhile, began banging his bear on the floor again.

Hawks scratched his head sheepishly. "Ah, no. I mean when he was born. Preemie and all."

"Oh. I thought you meant his appointments." Tokoyami's shoulders eased.

"Nope, but those are going well," he said. "Yuto's a special case all on his own, but the doctor's thinking he might be able to stop treatment and live on an inhaler when he turns three."

"That's good news," Tokoyami supposed, thumbing bit of drool off Yuto's face. "He's otherwise healthy, then?"

Hawks nodded. "Yes. That's part of why I love watching him grow. Yuto might be behind his peers, but he's getting there."

Tokoyami hummed, smiling as he stroked Yuto's hair. "That is good; it means he's on the right path. This also means you'll finally buy him a high chair now, right?"

Hawks bit his lip in a failed attempt to keep from smiling too big. "Sure. Go in the hall closet and get the big box that has a picture of a high chair on the front. Bring it out here and we'll put it together together."

Tokoyami did a doubletake. "You said you didn't have one yet!"

"Yeah, I did, didn't I?" Hawks grinned. "It's not like I would have let you use it yet anyway; Yuto wasn't able to sit up by himself yet. But now he can, which is great!"

Tokoyami grumbled something under his breath Hawks chose to ignore, still grinning.

It felt good to share Yuto's achievements with someone. He listened to Tokoyami pretend to praise Yuto's strength and wondered what else his son would achieve while the teen was here.

Hawks stacked plastic block on top of plastic block, eyes drooping as he helped Yuto build a small tower. He got enjoyment out of seeing his son poke his tongue out trying to figure out how to smash two blocks together, but mostly, he was tired.

Last night he had dreamt he was flying through a rescue mission and woke up this morning as tired as if he had never gone to sleep at all. He'd been so out of it all day as a result. At one point, he'd gone to put Yuto down for his nap only to realize he was walking towards the kitchen. Speaking of which, his naptimes with Yuto hadn't been enough to revitalize him; it seemed they had to wake up right as he was getting to the good part of sleep. Hawks couldn't wait to go to bed tonight.


A hand touched his shoulder and Hawks jumped.

He spun around, and relaxed. "Oh, Tokoyami - when did you get here?"

"Just now," Tokoyami cocked his head to the side, regarding him carefully. "Even Yuto saw me come in; he spread his wings and chirped."

Hawks blinked. Really? "Did he? I didn't notice..."

Tokoyami placed a hand on his forehead as if Hawks were a sick child.

"No fever," he said. "Have you slept, Hawks?"

He blinked again, meagerly. "Depends on what you mean by 'sleep.'"

"Go to bed, Hawks," Tokoyami immediately responded.

Hawks exchanged a glance with Yuto. Well, if Tokoyami was here now...and he was decent at caring for Yuto's needs and getting him to stop crying...but still...

He stood up, unsure. "I don't know. Are you sure you'll be all right on your own? He's been good all day, but you know he could change his mind."

"I'm sure." Tokoyami sternly redirected him for the hallway leading to his bedroom. "You need to rest. I can handle this for you."

"What about putting him to bed?" Hawks asked, meandering towards the hall. "What if I sleep through the night and don't see you out?"

Tokoyami bent down to pick Yuto up. "I'll put him to bed for you. You have a baby monitor in your room if he awakens after I leave."

Hawks caught the hall corner, lingering in the living room. He considered those answers, and soon smirked teasingly. "You know, I'm so glad I have a wife like you to take care of not just Yuto, but me as well. I love you, wifey!"

Tokoyami rolled his eyes hard. "Go to bed, Hawks."

He held up his hands in surrender. "No, but seriously, thank- Okay, you don't need to have Dark Shadow carry me to bed! Geesh."

He fell dead asleep the moment he hit his mattress.

Hawks stretched as he made his way out of the hall and into the living room, raising both arms over his head and curling them back. Yuto was finally asleep in his crib after ten good minutes of, I Don't Wanna Sleep! fussiness, and he was glad for it.

He found Tokoyami bent forward on the couch, hunched over a notebook in his lap and textbook referencing hero laws on the coffee table.

Hawks leaned over the back of the couch. "What'cha studying?"

Tokoyami craned his head over his shoulder. "Advanced applications of hero laws." He sat up and held up his notebook. "I have to answer these questions and explain the proper procedures to follow in dubious situations. Some are easy; others...I'm not quite sure."

Hawks stepped around the couch to peer at the questions written in the textbook. "So this is how UA teaches, huh? 'A gang of ten villains have appeared on the streets of Tokyo. Two of them are quirkless but armed with illegal, military-grade weapons, one has a long range acid quirk, one has a lethal gas...the gang is holding six civilians they pulled from cars, including three young children, and two of your hero allies're alone...what are the proper procedures you, keeping your own quirk in mind, take to -' Oh, these hypotheticals are hard. How long do your answers have to be?"

"However long they need to be, but no less than ten sentences," Tokoyami answered. "That was the first question and I've already finished it. The sixth is giving me trouble, however."

Hawks scaled a finger down to question six. "'You and your entire team are gravely injured by a previously unknown explosive that went off. You are the only one in stable enough condition to move forward...the villain, who can turn anything he touches into a bomb that he can mentally set off at any time within the next ten minutes...' Okay, so the goal in all of these questions is to catch the villain without breaking any of the lesser known hero laws listed on this last page, right?"

"Correct," Tokoyami nodded once.

Hawks bent over lay his arms on the armrest. His mind was already racing through the hypotheticals, what he personally would do. Tokoyami didn't have his feathers or wings, however, so he forced himself to shift gears to what he knew about Dark Shadow. "Wanna let me help you out here?"

Tokoyami hesitated. "I don't want you giving me the answers for me; if I run into these situations on my own, it's not as if I can call you to tell me what to do."

"Right, right," Hawks waved him off, eyes glued to the question and gears turning in his head. "We'll make it a friendly discussion. I don't know how much Dark Shadow has improved over the last year anyway. Talk to me, what do you think so far?"

Tokoyami cleared his throat. "Well, if the villain has a time limit of ten minutes to set each bomb off..."

They spent the next hour discussing possible solutions to questions six and seven, until Tokoyami realized it was already 9:10 in the evening.

"I have to go," he rushed to pack his things up into his bookbag. "I'll just barely make curfew."

Hawks helped him. "That was fun! I haven't gotten to use my brain in a way that wasn't, 'How do I get Yuto to stop fussing?' in a long time! If you ever need help with any of your homework assignments - heroics, math, science, history, hell, English - let me know!"

Tokoyami actually smiled. "It was fun. It's not often you get to discuss hypotheticals or the applications of strict laws with a pro. I'll keep your offer in mind."

It struck Hawks as he went to get the door for him that Tokoyami had referred to him as a pro, as in, in present day. He flushed.

"Good night, Hawks," Tokoyami said his goodbyes, oblivious to the red on the man's face, as he raced out the door.

It was only after Hawks shut the door that he realized Tokoyami could have just flown out the balcony.

Hawks stood there, trying to process what just happened. Not just the pro comment - their whole discussion about hero laws and hypothetical scenarios. And Tokoyami's help with Yuto these past two weeks. His determination in sticking around to support Hawks. How good it was to talk to someone who could actually talk back.

His arms hung loosely at his sides.

It was good. And fun. And made life somewhat easier on him. In just two weeks, Tokoyami had reminded him how nice it felt to have someone by his side. Hell, had anyone ever been this constantly close to him before, helped him out this much, chit-chatted with him, just - just socialized with him? Acted like a friend? He'd had friends in the past, but between cases and more cases and League work...

This was bad. Tokoyami was some high school kid who had only been here for two weeks, and Hawks could already feel his eyes watering out of gratitude. He blinked the water away. God, he was pathetic. His life and head were utter messes if this was all it took to make him cry these days.

But he didn't feel bad, and that was something he pondered as he went to go lie down for the night.

Hawks was really beginning to love how every time - every TIME - his world was looking a little brighter, something always had to come along to squash his hopes and good mood. It was like the universe was trying to tell him he didn't deserve happiness anymore. And for whatever reason, that punishment extended to his son.

Yuto was sick. That much was clear. His skin was pale, no longer a healthy glow. He was tired and lethargic, laying limp in Hawks and Tokoyami's arms both. He had lost his appetite, only drinking some of his bottle before fussing it away or eating a couple spoonfuls of baby food before bursting into tears.

"Keep an eye on him," Hawks had ordered Tokoyami when he arrived an hour and a half ago, to which he nodded gravely.

Hawks had only left the room to find Yuto a warmer set of clothes to change into, when Tokoyami shouted his name.


He ran back into the living room at lightning speed.

Tokoyami had Yuto laid out flat on the couch on his back. His breathing was labored. His skin had gone from pale to a strange gray. His lips and the tips of his fingernails were blue.

"I - I don't know what happened!" Tokoyami panicked. "He was fine! Then he started breathing oddly, and I looked at him, and he - he looked like this - !"

Hawks snatched Yuto up, rubbing his back firmly. "Go call for help," he ordered fiercely, but inside, was worried to death. "We need to get him to the hospital, pronto!"

Yuto, they discovered when they got there, had pneumonia. The signs weren't all the same in babies as they were older people, but when the doctors did an x-ray, they found fluid rapidly building up in his lungs. It was actually a good thing they got there when they did - Yuto's weak lungs began to struggle under the fluid, and he was zipped off to another room before Hawks could say a word.

He leaned on Tokoyami's comforting arm as the doctor explained, in his unique condition, they were going to keep Yuto at the hospital until the pneumonia was gone. The good news was, Yuto didn't seem to have a severe case - it was his delicate lungs that posed much of the worry. Medical advancements over the past decade had also shortened the amount of time one had to deal with the illness, so Yuto should be home by the end of the week, if not earlier. At worst, he'd have an ongoing cough and be put on new medication alongside his usual meds.

Hawks was hardly calmed by that explanation, but nodded wearily. He was able to see Yuto long enough to say goodbye before heading home with Tokoyami.

"It's my fault he's like this," Hawks cried into his hands on the couch. "If I hadn't gone on the raid, if I hadn't fought the Nomu with Endeavor, if I hadn't stressed myself out with all those cases and loosened him for Dabi to kick and burn him out of me - !"

"That's not true," Tokoyami interrupted, rubbing his shoulder blades. "Yuto is naturally frail, from what I understand, and would have been had you been on leave and given birth at full-term. This might have always been down the road."

"It might not have been this bad if not for me!" Hawks argued. "You heard the doctor, it's his lungs, not the pneumonia itself that's keeping him in the hospital! Why does my child have to keep paying for my mistakes!?"

"You didn't make any mistakes," Tokoyami was stern. "Yuto is fine. He'll make it out of this fine, and be home in no time. They're taking good care of him in the meanwhile."

Hawks lifted his head to stare at him blankly. No mistakes, huh? "I slept with Dabi; there's a mistake!"

If Tokoyami had lips, Hawks could tell he would be pursing them right now. He took one of Hawks' hands in his. "And you got a son you love dearly and would do anything for out of it. I might question your...tastes in men, but Yuto's not a mistake in the slightest."

Hawks nearly ripped his hand out of his. Instead, he laughed.

"No," he agreed, sniffling. "He's not. But he has his other daddy's weak, frail body, his fire that hurts him, and his other daddy forced me to give birth to him too early. That's what I got for sleeping with Dabi. I got the opportunity to watch my son suffer over and over again."

"He'll be all right," Tokoyami emphasized, squeezing his hand. "And I'll be here as long as you need me."

Hawks wondered how pathetic it was that he ended up crying on the teen's shoulder by the time he had reluctantly return to his dorms.

But Tokoyami stayed in touch via text, even when Hawks told him to knock it off and get some sleep for school tomorrow. Tokoyami's texts didn't quit pouring in until a half hour after Hawks fell asleep, when he finally stopped responding.

Tokoyami's texts kept up off and on the whole day while he was at school, texting between classes and at lunch. His last text before arriving was that he was about to leave campus, giving Hawks less than two hours of free time to himself. When Tokoyami let himself into the apartment, he found Hawks slumped on the couch with the TV off. Hawks probably should have been ashamed that it was Tokoyami who made them dinner while he sulked on the couch, unmoving, but he was too out of it to care.

Turning into Mommy~ Dabi sang in his head.

Hawks didn't have the heart or energy to fight him.

Tokoyami forced him to eat dinner, making him sit up and watching him closely as he slowly chewed half his plate. Then they got to talking.

"I'm not fit to be a parent," Hawks stated lifelessly. "I've never known what to do with babies, except rescue and tend to their injuries on the field. I bought all these baby books to research while I was waiting for him to come home, and yet he's scared the hell out of me three times now. How can I be a good father when I literally doomed him the moment he was conceived?"

"You didn't doom him," Tokoyami pushed. "You're a wonderful father. I didn't know a single thing about infant care before I came here; I learned nearly everything from you. You answered all of my questions, and the ones you didn't have answers for were the ones you were purposely holding back to test me. I may not have much experience with children outside of this apartment, but I know babies are generally happy, and I've never seen one as upbeat and cheerful as Yuto is."

Hawks scoffed. "Yes, my cheerful child who spends half the day crying and fussing."

"All babies spend half the day crying and fussing," Tokoyami pointed out. "It's what they do. They're built to be little demons of terror like that. But the rest of the time, Yuto's happy, and he clearly adores you."

Hawks shrugged. That may be, but having his child's love didn't automatically make him a good parent. "I should have taken him to the hospital the moment I saw the signs. Instead, we just made it before his lungs freaked out."

Tokoyami sat up straight. "You've been like this since he was born, haven't you?"

Hawks rolled his neck. He slumped further. "Yeah, I have been. It's been rough."

"You were going to therapy," Tokoyami ventured. "Why did you quit?"

Hawks averted his eyes the other way. If he weren't so beat, shame would probably be filling him right about now. "Yuto's wings burned off. That was it for me. I didn't want anyone else around me. I didn't want to go to her anymore. I'd been planning to be perfectly alone with my son until you three showed up and you in particular wouldn't go away. I'm tired, Tokoyami; I'm tired of everything going wrong and me not getting better." His eyes watered and his vision blurred. "It doesn't matter what I do, what I try, I can't be happy - and if I am, it's not for long. I can't go back to normal. I can't be a good father and he can't stop getting hurt. I'm not just useless as a failed hero, I'm worthless as everything!"

Tokoyami's head shot up, alarmed. "Failed hero? Worthless? You didn't get to be number two by failing and being worthless! You were incredible, Hawks, and you still are."

"Flattery isn't going to get you anywhere," he spat.

"As if I would flatter you," Tokoyami huffed. "Do you believe I'm the type of person to give meaningless praise? I'll exaggerate and compare simple things to the darkness, but I'm not one to flatter. What could I possibly gain from that?"

"I dunno," Hawks threw out, not caring, "maybe you have some weird crush on me and think I'll like you back. In which case, please have higher standards."

Tokoyami squawked, a blush rising under his black feathers. "I do not have a crush on you! I'm straight!"

"A lot of people think they're straight until they crush on that one person..."

"Stop trying to derail the conversation," he cut in, brow furrowed. "My point is, I don't flatter. When I say you're incredible, I mean it. You put your everything and all into being a hero, and thanks to you, many lives have been saved. They wouldn't be here if not for you."

Hawks sat up, frustrated. "And then I went and got my wings burned - " so I can't save anyone anymore. How many people have died because of me? That's why I'm a failed hero!

"Because a villain who used you took them away," Tokoyami wouldn't let him finish. "Your career was cut short, far too short, and I'm so sorry, Hawks. You have my condolences to the fullest extent. But that was not your fault, no matter how you try to blame yourself, and it does not make you worthless! And now that you're a father, you've taken your everything and all, and put it into Yuto. Are you the healthiest? No; I've seen that. You're not your old self, you're right; but you are the furthest thing from a failure or worthless and I refuse to let you believe that."

Hawks squared his shoulders. "Wow. Your crush on me must be huge."

"I do not - !" Tokoyami glared. "I know what you're doing. You're trying to push me away again, make me leave. You either can't or won't shove me out that door, so you're using your mouth instead. It won't work, Hawks. You were my mentor, and in some ways, you still are. You're important to me. I refuse to let you degrade or isolate yourself. You deserve better than that."

Hawks pressed his lips together in a tight line. Damn, the kid was good. "...Okay."

Tokoyami relaxed. "Talk to me. Explain it to me again: why did you abandon therapy?"

Hawks ran a hand through his hair. "Because everything was going wrong. I started therapy to get better because I knew I was going down a bad road, and I wanted to be better. I couldn't stay the way I was. And I wouldn't be a good father if I - have I ever told you about my parents?"

Tokoyami shook his head. "No."

"When I was a kid," he explained, giving a shuddery breath, "we lived in poverty. I was born in the slums of this city. I love this city to death, don't get me wrong, but my family was not well-off. I grew up in trash. My house was filled to the brim with garbage and empty bottles my mom and dad didn't bother to clean. My mom hated her life and didn't know how to get on a better track, so she self-medicated with alcohol. My dad was a thief. Publicly, he was a petty thief, but behind closed doors, he stole some pretty top notch shit and sold it on the black market. I don't know where the money went, but clearly not back to us. He used to take me with him on his exploits when I was young. My wings and small size were useful."

Tokoyami drew his head back, eyes wide. "That's awful."

Hawks rolled one shoulder. "Dad used to beat me and Mom when he was pissed. Mom had a mouth on her that she wasn't afraid to use against him, and Dad - Dad was just a real piece of work. I just tried to hide and stay quiet. When Dad was gone and Mom passed out, I'd do go out and wonder the streets of this city. One day, Endeavor arrested my dad. Not long after, I rescued a bunch of people from a devastating accident. The Commission came for me, I begged my mom to let me be a superhero, and - and I didn't find out what the papers meant later, but she signed her rights to me away."

He hated how his voice cracked at the end.

Tokoyami was stunned. "When - when you were fifteen?"


He was even more stunned. He shifted uncomfortably. "I - I didn't know the Commission took in children that young. Were you placed in another home?"

"No. I was told if I wanted to be a hero, I had to give up the name Takami Keigo and live as Hawks forever." He gave him a flat look. "Has anyone ever asked you to give up Tokoyami Fumikage and just be Tsukuyomi?"

Tokoyami swallowed. "I don't understand."

Hawks sighed. He wasn't in the mood to go into the full story. "My point is, my childhood sucked. I've never wanted that for Yuto. I didn't want to be my dad, I didn't want to be my mom, and I didn't want the Commission anywhere near my child. The only plus to his frailty is that it makes them really disinterested."

"They don't - they don't own you, do they?" Tokoyami was struggling to comprehend.

Hawks half-mockingly patted his shoulder. "Legally? Nah; in every other way? Kinda. But that's a story for another day, so let's leave it for now." He closed his eyes. "I had to change. I knew - I knew if I kept beating myself up for being a failed hero, I wasn't going to be able to parent him. So I went to therapy. I got myself a good therapist, who was unpacking everything from my childhood to my insecurities. Except I couldn't tell her about Dabi; if she found out my son was a villain's, was the League member I used to get in's? She'd have had to report that. So I kept my mouth shut in that regard. But Dabi's always in my head, always taunting me, and he kills me and Yuto in my dreams. I had to confront that, but I couldn't with her. And then Yuto's quirk manifested, and I almost lost him for real."

Tokoyami grabbed his wrist and clutched it tight. Who's sake it was for more, Hawks couldn't tell.

"Anyway," he said, "after that, I was done. I couldn't anymore. I just wanted the world to be the two of us for a while. No therapy, no Dabi, no no one. It was great for the three days before you three showed up. ...I realize now that my plan couldn't have worked, but I was desperate. Walling ourselves in was all I could think to do to keep myself together."

Tokoyami's nails dug into his skin. His face wavered. "I - I don't what to say," he admitted clumsily. "I don't know how I can - the Commission, Yuto, Dabi - I don't know how I can make you feel better."

Hawks went to gently pry him off his wrist. "It's okay. You're not responsible for m- "

Tokoyami held him tighter. His face hardened. "But I won't leave you on your own," he added. "I may not know what to do, but it's clear to me you need someone beside you more than I thought. I want to help you. I want to ensure you return to your previous self, and assure you that you're good enough. You can trust me, Hawks. You don't - you don't have to be alone. Even if all I can do is help with Yuto, listen to you when you need someone to, and reassure you, I want to do that for you."

Hawks hated how that made him want to cry again. He hated how his face scrunched up. He tried to hide it by hunching forward. "I'm sorry. You're still a kid, I shouldn't - I shouldn't be depending on you like this. I just - I only want - I don't know how to be better either."

Tokoyami carefully pulled his stiff form into a hug. "You'll get there," he reassured, "and I'll be here with you."

Hawks clenched his teeth in an attempt to hold the tears. "I'm pathetic. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm not half of who I used to be - !"

"You are, you're just not well," Tokoyami told him, rubbing his back. "Let me help you."

Hawks nodded, unable to get the words out, and cried.

He hadn't realized it until now, but he was so tired of being alone.

Yuto came home two days later, with a scary cough that was more bark than bite, and meds Hawks was to give him alongside his usual ones for the next week. He seemed in relatively good spirits, all things considered. Somewhat lethargic, still pale, and of course had that cough, but he was happy. Yuto cuddled both Hawks and Tokoyami whenever each held him, smiling wide and flapping his wings.

"Daddy missed you while you were gone, baby bird," Hawks crooned, holding him high in the air. "He was so sad! Did you miss me?"

He swooped him down and brushed their noses together.

Yuto giggled. It turned into a harsh cough that sent shivers down Hawks spine, but at the end of it his son smiled wide. He relaxed.

"You missed Tokoyami, too, right?" he asked, eyes flitting to the teen in the kitchen rifling through his cupboards.

Tokoyami closed the door of the one he was currently in and moved onto the next. In one hand he had an empty, lidless bottle. "I'm sure he did," he called out to Hawks, not looking at them. "That's why he hung onto me like a koala when I got here."

"My son's the cutest koala bird chick there ever was," Hawks snickered. He smoothed Yuto's hair down. "What are you doing over there?"

"Looking for your bottle caps," Tokoyami replied, closing that cupboard as well and opening the next one, which was Hawks' medicine cabinet. "I can't find them. They weren't in the drying rack with the bottles or your...normal shelf..."

Hawks was already on his way over, Yuto's arms around his neck, as Tokoyami brought his anti-depressants close to his face to read the label.

"Takami Keigo," he heard him mutter as he approached. "One a day..."

"That's the medicine cabinet," Hawks informed him.

Tokoyami jumped and almost dropped both bottles.

"I apologize," he wheezed, getting control of himself. He looked up at Hawks. "I didn't know you were on medication yourself."

Hawks calmly took the anti-depressants from him and turned it over in his hand, thoughtful.

Yuto glanced at it, but decided playing with the hair on Hawks' chin was more entertaining. Hawks' let him go.

"Yeah, I never did bring this up, did I?" he mused. He placed it back on its shelf. "I was prescribed them shortly before I left therapy. I told you, I wanted to get better."

He shut the cupboard and hesitated to look at Tokoyami for his reaction. He guessed this would be the ultimate sign of how bad he was, how fucked his head was that he needed meds in order to function. He could already see in his mind Tokoyami's disappointment, pity, or even fear for Hawks' well-being.

But when he did look over, Tokoyami was sighing in relief.

He blushed and jerked his head away. Patting Yuto's hand off his chin, Hawks swept by Tokoyami to open the dishwasher. "The lids are in here. I usually handwash everything, but I figured since Yuto was just in the hospital and these go in his mouth, they should get a - a thorough wash. Guess I forgot to take them out."

Tokoyami strolled over with a half smile on his beak. No stiff awkwardness in his movements, he plucked out a lid. "That's fortunate. I'm glad to see it."

Hawks didn't know whether he was talking about the lids or his meds, but chose not to ask, blush deepening to his neck. He didn't pat Yuto away from his chin a second time.

Hawks knew it was a dream as soon as it started. He was a spectator to the events unfolding before him, like some invisible, overhead being, watching himself play out a memory.

It wasn't a usual nightmare, though. This one was not centered around flying, or falling, or Yuto, or Dabi. It wasn't even about Dabi.

Twice's death lingered on the farthest edges of his mind where he all but safely ignore it, but Hawks could never ignore it forever. It came back to him in small moments, in the times where he was deep in guilt, or gut-wrenching fear of Dabi, or when he was mourning his losses and fretting over what he had left to lose.

Hawks watched himself try to reason with Twice, his feathers surrounding the man. Tell him to give up. To turn his life around. That he would help him.

I would have, he thought, horror growing at what he knew was about to unfold.

I would have helped. I wanted to. He was the only one I was sure had nothing but a good heart underneath.

He watched Twice refuse. He watched him cry out.

Why didn't he listen to me? Hawks wondered, his non-existent form trembling. He shouldn't have died. I had no other choice.

His self in the memory leaped into action. He wasn't trying to kill him yet - at this point, he was only going to incapacitate him so he take him in alive. Aiming and striking at the right muscles and ligaments to wear him down...

Why couldn't you have gone down? he cried in the dream. I didn't want to kill you. I hate killing. I didn't want you to die. I don't want to be a murderer.

His self in the memory didn't cry. He didn't call out, tremble, or shed a single tear. He couldn't let sentimentality get to him, or else he wouldn't be able to finish the job. Not now when he was simply injuring Twice, not later when he would kill him. But Hawks in the now hadn't been Hawks in nine months, had begun unpacking stuff like this in therapy, didn't need to shove away his sentimentality in order to do the job because there was no more job. His dream self was the only one who cried.

You shouldn't have died, Hawks cried, and sobbed when Dabi appeared with his flames. You could have had a full life. I meant it when I said I would have helped you.

Dabi taunted him as he pulled Twice out of the flames' range.

The rest was a blur, a too fast blur. Dabi talked, but the words were incomprehensible (Hawks knew what they were anyway - Nothing gave him away as a spy to Dabi, he'd known all along, he'd never trusted him, he didn't care if he lived or died - ). Hawks moved, and Dabi moved, and Twice moved, but they were too fast to see.

The blur didn't slow down until Hawks' memory self was straddling Twice, his feather sword striking through his skull.

Hawks wailed.

"Hawks! Hawks! For goodness' sake - Takami!"

Hawks' head shot up off the pillow. I'm not a thief, was his first instinctual thought.

Tokoyami looked down his beak at him in concern, Yuto wrapped in his arms.

Hawks swallowed. His throat was dry. "My baby," he croaked out. He forced himself up on his arms. "My b-baby..."

Yuto mewled, scared, and clung to Tokoyami's neck.

Something sliced through Hawks' body as his son cowered away from him. He crumbled, ducking his head and squeezing his eyes shut to keep the tears at bay.

Tokoyami's hand found his shoulder. "Hawks," he said gently.

"Please go," Hawks croaked. "T-Take Yu-Yuto and let - let me get - this ou-out."

Tokoyami squeezed his shoulder hard. "I'll be here if you want to talk."

"Th-Thank y-you," he choked out. "Please...g-go."

Tokoyami's hand lingered for half a second. Then it was gone, and Hawks heard Yuto mewl again as padded footsteps carried him away.

He forehead fell to the bed, fists clenched, and he sobbed.

Hawks didn't talk to Tokoyami about his nightmare until his next visit. When he got up the same day as it, he'd hurriedly put it behind him, grabbing Yuto and keeping him within arms reach the rest of the night. Tokoyami tried to ask, but the question died on his lips as he took in Hawks' puffy, pink eyes and raspy voice. Yuto, at least, didn't push Hawks away as he held him or smattered kisses on his face. The next day Tokoyami arrived, Hawks put Yuto on the floor and sat down with Tokoyami.

"It was just a nightmare," he attempted to wave off at first. "I have them all the time. Sorry to worry you; it was just that this one...wasn't one I usually have."

"What was it about?" Tokoyami inquired softly.

Hawks kept his eyes on his lap. "I...You know I killed the villain Twice, don't you?"

Tokoyami paused. "I do."

Hawks scratched the back of his head, uncomfortable. "Yeah. Yeah, I uh... It snuck up on me."

Tokoyami tilted his head. "It left you inconsolable."

Hawks didn't know how to answer that, so he shrugged aimlessly. "He was a villain. He loved his friends, but his friends were going to murder all of Japan. And he was going to help them, come hell or high water. There was no stopping him otherwise. I tried." He blinked away the aggravating tears forming yet again. "I tried. I really did. I wanted to get him out of there. More than Dabi, because he was a good soul who fell into the wrong crowd, I thought. But he wouldn't listen. He almost got away. Even in his injured form, if he had - had been able to recuperate - the man could create an army of clones - he could turn into anyone, clones of anyone with their quirks - !"

Tokoyami placed a hand on his arm. "It was a terrible decision you shouldn't have had to make."

He clenched his hands into fists. Out of the corner his eye, he could see Yuto pausing his bite into a block to watch him, eyes wide. Hawks let out a shuddery breath.

"It doesn't matter," he stated icily. "It shouldn't matter. I saved people by killing him, didn't I?"

Even though the League is still out there, he thought distantly. They're stronger than ever. They're still killing people, countless lives.

"The League would be infinitely stronger with him in it," Tokoyami seemed to read his mind. "It would have been preferable had you been able to take him in alive, whether he surrendered or not, but the situation left you no other alternatives."

"Heroes aren't supposed to kill," Hawks said, hunching over and bowing his head. "But it has to happen sometimes. I was trained to use lethal means as a last resort, if the villain in question would not come peacefully and could not be apprehended alive. If neither side will budge, then there's only one way out."

He could feel Tokoyami's hesitation. The hand on his arm moved to his back, between his shoulder blades.

"Perhaps," he replied unevenly, "but it's a horrible situation. No one would envy your position. Taking a life - I can't say from experience, obviously, but that can never be easy. I'm sure it's worse to live with after all is said and done."

Hawks fought back a sob and coughed. "Yeah. It is."

Tokoyami didn't ask how many people he'd ever killed. His hand pressed firmer on his back. "You two were friends, weren't you?"

"To a degree," he answered. "We got along. He asked me for help understanding the Liberation ideology and advice on what to do. Despite his goals, he did seem like a good person. I didn't want to kill him. I didn't want to see him rot in Tartarus forever either - I wanted to help him turn his life around," he choked up. "I told him I would."

"You did your best," Tokoyami told him, voice low. "It was his decision to refuse you. It was his decision to stay with the League. Beyond that, circumstances made it impossible for you to arrest him alive. I know you would never do such a thing out of cold blood or for pleasure; that's not who you are."

Hawks squeezed his eyes shut. "He was a good man. Even now, when I know he would have hurt so many innocent people and not felt a single thing for them, I can't - I can't - Not even villains should die. That's our moral code, isn't it? You don't kill the target, you apprehend them; yet I - I - "

"It was an impossible situation," Tokoyami repeated, desperation seeping into his voice. "If anyone's to blame...I don't know who it is, but it's not you. If anything, the Commission should have taught you another way in situations like that."

Hawks shook his head vigorously. It was times like this he was reminded how much of a kid Tokoyami was. "It doesn't matter! The fact is, he's dead now! No one should die, but he is dead! I did that - I killed him. I'm responsible! And I hate it! I hate that he's dead, I hate that I killed him, I hate killing people, I never want to do it, I want to SAVE them, not kill them - !"

Hawks collapsed into Tokoyami's arms and cried.

Tokoyami started, but hugged him tight.

Despite their size difference, Hawks felt so small in his embrace.

"You'll never have to do it again," Tokoyami reassured him lowly.

"I hate being retired," Hawks gasped out. "I don't want to be - I want to save - I don't want to kill - "

"If you ever return to the field," Tokoyami promised, "I'll be right there beside you. Dark Shadow and I will ensure no one has to die again. If you don't, then we'll continue to be here."

"You can't - You can't promise that - " Hawks stammered.

God, he hoped Tokoyami never found himself in that kind of place. He hoped the teen would never find himself in a position where he had a split second to decide if someone should live or die. He hoped he never had to bear this burden, whether he let it weigh openly on him or pushed it to the corners of his mind. No one should ever have to do that.

In Hawks' case, though, Twice was already dead. He wasn't coming back. His blood was on Hawks' hands.

"I told you before that I'm here for you," Tokoyami replied to his stammering. "I mean that in every sense of the phrase."

In that instance, all of the energy evaporated from his body. Hawks didn't know what to say. Other than, 'No!'' or 'I don't deserve you.' So he asked, "Why? Why do you do all of this for - for me? I barely know you. We - We only worked together for a few months."

"Because that's what heroes do," Tokoyami answered, and a bell rang inside of Hawks. "I know you would do the same for me if our roles were reversed."

Hawks truly didn't know what to say to that.

He buried his face in Tokoyami's shoulder and fought hard to stop trembling. He grit his teeth.

Tokoyami rubbed his back. "It's okay to mourn him. It's okay to feel guilty. He was your friend. He was a human being. You are as well. You can cry, Hawks."

The dam broke. Hawks wailed, crying his heart out.

It wasn't long before Yuto joined him in his cries. Hawks keened in guilt - he was making his baby upset, which made it all the worse.

Tokoyami disentangled himself long enough to shush Yuto and carry him to the nursery with his teddy, calming him on the way, and returned to hold Hawks once more.

"You can mourn," he reminded him gently. "You're allowed to mourn."

When Hawks finally calmed down and Yuto could be brought back out, he practically smothered his son in kisses before joining Tokoyami in the kitchen to make dinner.

"Hey," Hawks spoke up, sliding most of the materials down the counter in front of him. "Let me do this. You help."

Tokoyami looked at him silently, but didn't argue. "All right."

They worked together without words for a few minutes.

Then Hawks said, "You must think I'm stupid, for falling for a couple of villains so hard. The rest of the world meant nothing to men like Twice and Dabi, yet I wanted to save and help Twice, and I love Dabi. It's pretty fucked up."

Tokoyami's brow hardened. "No, I don't." He paused as he worked. "I don't know much about Twice. I do know from our ethics studies that villains can turn to villainy for a number of reasons; they aren't all like Dabi, who, as far as I can tell, revels in chaos and others' suffering. I don't approve of Twice's actions or his end goals - and I do remember his part in Bakugo's kidnapping, which I don't forgive him for - but even the brightest of lights can fall to darkness. If you saw good in him, then perhaps it was there. Not everything is black and white."

Hawks swallowed. "And Dabi?"

Tokoyami frowned. "He deceived you. I know you still love him, and that Todoroki is certain the caring brother he remembers is in there, but I've only had two encounters with the man - one where he and his colleagues attempted to kidnap me and did kidnap my classmate, and one where he tried to murder you, his own lover. His childhood abuse by Endeavor's hands doesn't excuse or justify the harm he wreaks on others. Forgive me if my opinion on him is lower than my opinion of Twice, but the man is sick. I'm not going to blame you for being deceived by his charms."

"I should have known better, though."

"Known better how?" Tokoyami looked up at him with that stern face of it. "I said before I may question your taste in men...but you're a victim here, Hawks. He hurt you. He hurt you in more ways than one. You're not infallible to every manipulator out there, regardless of how intelligent you are. No one is."

Hawks stared at him. "What about the fact I still love him to this day? Aren't I stupid for that? Because I think so."

"Don't call yourself stupid," he replied shortly. "Of course not."

"Why?" Hawks all but demanded.

Tokoyami put down the utensils he was holding. He put a hand on Hawks'.

"You're my mentor," he said seriously. "I've watched you. I've seen what a good person you are. You care more about others, about people, than you let on. You'll do whatever it takes to save as many people as possible. You're a real hero, retired or not. And I care about you. That will never change. So please don't ask me absurd questions such as, 'Do you think I'm stupid?' The answer will always be no. I'm sure you'll get over Dabi someday, but even if you don't, I'll still be here for you."

Hawks straightened his shoulders. He turned back to the food.

This was kind of fucked - their roles weren't right. Tokoyami was the teenage kid, yet he was the one comforting Hawks, the adult. He might go pro in a little over a year and was currently being trained to handle hurt, panicking, and/or grieving civilians, but the fact remained, he was only seventeen. Hawks shouldn't have been relying on him the way he was. It couldn't be right.

"Stop it," Tokoyami snapped. His eyes slid to Hawks' suspiciously. "Whatever you're thinking and berating yourself for, knock it off now. You worry me enough as is."

Hawks had the audacity to crack a smile at that. "I'm sorry," he apologized sincerely.

"It's all right. Just stop."

Hawks exhaled. Although it was kind of fucked...he was starting not to mind relying on him. "Tokoyami."

Tokoyami perked his head up. "Yes?"

"Thank you."

He started, then smiled. "You're welcome."

"Good job, Yuto!" Hawks cheered, holding his ball up in front of him. "You rolled it this time! My smart, little chick, you're learning new things all the time, aren't you? Aren't you?"

"Indeed he is," Tokoyami agreed, smiling at the scene.

The two of them were sitting on their knees on different corners of the blanket, Yuto in-between them on the other side. Yuto chirped in excitement, rubbing his hands on his cheeks and giggling. He pounded his palms on the ground between his legs, asking for the ball back.

Hawks rolled it to him. "Roll it to Tokoyami, Yuto! Go on! He wants to play, too!"

Yuto caught the ball between his legs and lifted it to his mouth.

Hawks bent down on his elbows. "Come on! You can do it! Daddy believes in you!"

Tokoyami scoffed good-naturedly.


"Nothing. You sound silly."

Hawks sat up. "Well, excuse me for believing in my child."

Tokoyami rolled his eyes and chuckled.

Hawks turned to Yuto with a grin. "Come on, baby bird, roll it to him! Tokoyami wants to play with the ball, too, doesn't he?"

He glanced at Tokoyami.

Yuto's eyes followed suit, his mouth latched to the ball.

"Preferably without the drool, but yes, I want to play," Tokoyami said. He curled his fingers in a 'to me' motion. "Roll me the ball, little one."

Yuto took the ball out of his mouth and planted it in front of him. He wobbled some, hand on top, and looked straight at Tokoyami. With a pleased screech, he shoved it forward.

The ball rolled off the blanket a good foot to the side of Tokoyami. He reach over to pick it up, wincing as he touched his spit. "Good try, Yuto. Here you go."

He rolled it back. The ball knocked into Yuto's foot.

Yuto flapped his wings, clapped his hands, and laughed.

Hawks' heart melted. "How did I end up with such a giggly, sweet baby? Come here, Silly Jr.!"

Yuto squealed as Hawks swept him up and tossed him in the air.

Instinctively, his wings spread out wide. Each wing was about half the length of his body now; in that form, unfurled, it was incredibly easy to see. He fell back into Hawks' hands with ease. His wings furled behind him.

"That's amazing," Tokoyami said. "I swear, he looks more like you all the time."

Hawks brought Yuto close to his chest. "You think so?"

He nodded. "When do you think he'll start to fly?"

"Dunno." Hawks shrugged. "Depends on if the wristbands will inhibit flight. Either way, probably not for another couple years."

Yuto extended an arm out for the floor. "Ehhh!"

Hawks kissed his temple and set him down on his belly.

Yuto pushed on his hands to sit up. He waved at Tokoyami, opening and closing his hands, his way of asking for someone.

Tokoyami drew him into his lap. Yuto reached up to nicely pet his peak. "Ooo." He chirped.

Hawks gasped dramatically, splaying a hand on his chest. "Yuto! But - But I'm your dad! Don't tell me you want Tokoyami over me!"

Yuto looked over at him with a strange expression. He turned his head and moved his hand to Tokoyami's feathers, petting beneath his eye with practiced carefulness.

Hawks shook his head in feigned disappointment. "Tokoyami, how dare you steal my child."

"Sometimes I think he believes I'm the family pet," Tokoyami replied dryly.

Hawks slapped both hands over his mouth to hide the giggle-snort trying to burst out of his mouth.

Tokoyami brushed down Yuto's hair. "He's lucky he's adorable - and learned a few manners. I'm ignoring that laugh, by the way."

Hawks pretended to cough in his fist. "Don't know what you're talking about," he wheezed.

Tokoyami shot him a brief dirty look. He shifted his attention back to Yuto and ran his fingers over his wings.

Yuto might as well have purred. He closed his eyes and sighed, slumping against Tokoyami's chest. His hand fell from his face.

"My child is a cat now," Hawks observed. "He turns into a cat every time you do that. How many animals does that make him now?"

"You're his father, you tell me."

Hawks chuckled. "Hell if I know."

Tokoyami hummed, continuing to stroke Yuto's wings.

Hawks' face slipped as he took in the two of them together.

He was happy, he realized. Hawks was happy. He didn't know if he had felt this good before Yuto was born, before the raid, but he felt...well, good. More than good. Not just happy in the moment, where it was a temporary thing because Yuto was being cute, but like - good. Consistently. He couldn't think of a better word or phrase for it.

Hawks had always felt as if there was a weight being lifted off his shoulders in previous 'good' times. Something positive had happened and took some of the pressure off. Now, though? The weight wasn't there in the first place; there was nothing to lift because nothing was holding him down.

He didn't think that meant his problems were over, his mental state was cured. But he did think...he wanted more of this. No, he was grateful for this. No, he didn't want it to end. All three? Probably. Yes. He was grateful for this, he didn't want it to end, and he wanted to feel it more. He was actually happy.

He was happy here with his son and Tokoyami. He was with his family and his int- a dear friend. His son, whom he adored, and his friend, who had been supporting him for almost a month now, both with taking care of the baby and being by his side during his lowest points. It was incredible.

If this was all it took to raise his spirits, and in such a short time, then surely he ba- No; Hawks stopped himself. No more thinking like that, he didn't want to. He was happy and he wanted to keep being it.

Except you don't have the right to be happy, Dabi snarked in his head, and Hawks could tell he was snarling.

He shoved the voice away. It was easier than it should have been.

No, Hawks wasn't over his issues. Not in the slightest. They were going to come back to haunt him later, he knew. But this was good. It felt good. He was really happy.

And it was because after eight months of almost solitude, one person wouldn't leave him to self-destruct in peace.

"Tokoyami," he caught the other's attention.

Tokoyami blinked at him.

Yuto opened his eyes part-way.

Hawks gave him a genuine. "Thank you. You know you're the best, don't you?"

He could tell by the way Tokoyami's eyes widened and his body flinched that he was blushing under his feathers. "I - You're welcome?" He settled, and repeated calmer, "Well. You're welcome. Any time, Hawks."

He had to make this up to him someday.

Christmas came at the end of the long month at last. Hawks wasn't a big decorator and hadn't much reason to celebrate the holiday in the last couple years, but all of Yuto's presents were wrapped in holiday themed wrapping paper and he'd picked up a couple candy canes to munch on and share with Tokoyami on his last trip to the store.

Tokoyami spent the morning and part of the afternoon with his family; UA was still personally dropping off and picking up all students to and from their homes. He managed, however, to sneak out to spend a couple of hours at Hawks' apartment with him and Yuto. He would miss dinner at home, but his family, who had limited knowledge of the situation (Hawks suspected by Tokoyami's vague answers they assumed he had a girlfriend and had gone into teasing mode), understood and let him go. He'd return in time to say his goodbyes and head back to UA.

"We saved present time for when you got here," Hawks explained when he arrived, offering a candy cane. He stuck his own in his mouth. "Hope you're looking forward to having new toys to play with Yuto with!"

Tokoyami smiled and accepted the candy cane. "I am. In fact, I brought a gift of my own."

He pulled a small present out of his hoodie pocket. Hawks took it gingerly; felt like clothing. His guess was socks.

"Thanks!" he exclaimed, meaning it. It was important Yuto stayed warm. "We'll open this first!"

They sat on each side of Yuto with the small pile of presents - there were six total, including Tokoyami's - and took turns instructing Yuto on how to open them.

Yuto was surprisingly careful in opening them, to Hawks' slight disappointment; he'd thought he'd tear into them like a madman, giggles galore (probably next year). But the meticulous expression on his face as he carefully pulled strips of wrapping paper off - and tried to put them in his mouth, which had Tokoyami snatching them away before he could - more than made up for it. His son was too cute.

"Oh, it's a hat!" Hawks remarked as the gift came open.

Yuto picked up the hat and examined it. It was a solid black, knitted hat whose edges were lines in dark red. He turned it over in his hands.

Hawks plucked it away from him, hushing his whines, and fitted it on his head. It was a tad big on the forehead, but Yuto was a small baby and would surely grow into it. Yuto looked between the two of them with an open mouth.

"He looks nice," Tokoyami nodded in approval.

"This isn't step one in turning my son into a goth, is it?" Hawks joked.

Tokoyami scowled. "No. Black and red aren't going to hurt him."

Hawks playfully knocked him in the shoulder. "I'm kidding. Thank you, Tokoyami, this'll help keep him warm."

He dropped the scowl and smoothed a hand over Yuto's hat. "That's what I was thinking. We don't want him getting sick again."

"No, we don't!" Hawks agreed.

Yuto chirped.

Hawks chirped back merrily and handed him the next present.

All in all, Yuto had a new hat, three several light up and noisy toys that showed him all the colors on the color wheel, basic shapes, and classic animal noises, a new stuffed bear that sang a lullaby, and a stuffed animal hawk (Hawks hadn't been able to resist).

He had to take a picture as Yuto, still wearing his hat, plopped the hawk's feet in his mouth and smashed at the colorful, glowing buttons on one toy that Tokoyami, who laid on his stomach in front of him, pointed to. Now this was becoming his new contact picture for the teen.

Overall, it was a fun day. They played for the rest of the afternoon, ate an early dinner so Tokoyami wouldn't starve, Yuto tried to hang his new hat around Tokoyami's beak like a muzzle - "It's the only place he can fit it on!" Hawks laughed at Tokoyami's grumpy face - and pulled the teen into a quick, tight hug before he left.

Hawks hoped next year would be this nice.

"Your birthday is in a couple days, isn't it?" Tokoyami asked the next day, feeding Yuto his bottle.

Well, more accurately, Yuto fed himself, holding his own bottle up alone; he was merely lying in Tokoyami's arms.

"Yeah, why?" Hawks asked, using his fork to stir up his lunch. "You're not going to throw me a party, are you?"

Feeling good lately or not, he wasn't sure he was ready for something that big yet.

"No," Tokoyami replied, opening the side of his beak to take a bite. "I wanted to make sure. Wikipedia said the twenty-eighth, but I wanted to be certain. I don't want to wish you a happy birthday when it isn't your birthday. That would be embarrassing."

"Fair enough," Hawks said. "Hey, isn't your birthday Halloween?"

"The day before," he answered.

"You're luckier than me," Hawks quipped. "A few days earlier and I could have been a Christmas baby, a few days later, and I could have been a New Year's baby! Instead, I got stuck in the middle."

Tokoyami shrugged. "Having a birthday on a holiday isn't what it's cracked up to be."

"You don't say," Hawks commented. He planted his chin his hand and frowned. "By the way, I've been meaning to's Shoto doing? I remember him saying he wanted to get to know his nephew. Must be difficult for him knowing you spend more time with Yuto than he does."

Tokoyami swallowed another bite. "He understands. He told me once that he feels his presence might remind you of Dabi; they are brothers, after all, and he is trying bring him back. The rest of his family as well - while his offer to you still stands, he doesn't want to pressure you to meet them if it brings back dark memories. He somewhat regrets how forward he was when we came here, considering your warnings against tracking Dabi down. But if that means not seeing his nephew for a while longer, he's at peace with it."

"Tell him I said it's not an issue when you get back to the dorms," Hawks said. He poked at his food. "But his offer stands?"

Tokoyami looked at him. "It does."

Hawks hummed.

Tokoyami brought a tiny cake - emphasis on tiny; cutting it in half would make two slices - on Hawks' birthday.

"Whoah, you didn't have to do that for me!" Hawks exclaimed, hefting Yuto higher in his arms. "Seriously, this was unnecessary."

"It's not a bother," Tokoyami set the dish on the counter and opened the lid. "I figured it would be nice to have a small treat on your birthday."

Hawks sat Yuto in his high chair, ignoring his whines as he reached for the frosting, and bolted for his bedroom where his wallet was. He returned with enough yen to surely cover the cake's cost and forced it in Tokoyami's hand.

"Hawks, you don't have to pay me back!" Tokoyami protested.

"Nope, I never asked you for a gift or a cake," Hawks refuted. "It's not going to break my bank to give you your money back. Okay, let's cut the cake! Don't worry, Yuto, I'll share a little with you!"

Tokoyami grumbled and smacked the bills on the counter. "I don't need your money as gratitude," he might have said.

Hawks ignored him. He grabbed a knife, two forks, and two plates out of their respective places.

"Happy birthday, Hawks," Tokoyami finally stopped his grumbling, though the frown on his beak didn't leave. "I do hope it's a good day for you."

"Should be, since I got cake!" he laughed. "Thanks again."

They sat down and ate, Hawks spoon-feeding a couple bites to Yuto, who eagerly ate them, and chit-chatted about Tokoyami's break.

In the back of his head, Hawks thought about today. He was twenty-four years old now.

One year ago, he had been blissfully unaware he was pregnant and just beginning to - not forgive, but put aside Dabi's High-End deception. It hadn't been that long ago Dabi confessed to feeling something for his victims' and heroes' families. They'd had great birthday sex. (Hawks missed sex.) He had still been a hero on the job at the time, still trying to get into the League per the Commission's orders. He was ranked two on the hero charts. He had been saving people, unable to let a single one get hurt for his mission, no matter what the Commission President or Dabi said. Hawks had just turned twenty-three years old.

Now he was twenty-four. He was a father. He'd been retired for over nine months. He lost his wings, his boyfriend had turned on him, and he gave birth to their beautiful baby boy all in one day. He'd had several mental breakdowns since. He'd gone to therapy and quit. His old intern was his greatest support. For the first time in a long time, he felt happy. Genuinely happy. Yet his many issues remained. Hawks was twenty-four now.

It was his birthday today. New Year's was around the corner. If he didn't know better, he'd think this was a sign for a fresh start. If he wanted one, that was.

Did he want one?

"Hawks?" Tokoyami questioned. "Are you all right?"

Hawks realized he'd turned his head to the wall at some point. He looked at Tokoyami.

"Hey. Give me Shoto's number," he said. "I wanna call him. After New Year's, I think I'll take him up on his offer."

Tokoyami blinked in surprise. "Are you sure?"

Hawks nodded. He smeared a smidge of extra frosting off Yuto's face and let him suck it off his thumb. "It might be time I get out of the house more."

Tokoyami looked uncertain for a moment. Then he settled and gave a small smile. "All right."

Chapter Text

Yuto did not like cars. Or trains, for that matter. Hawks wasn't sure if it was because Yuto was barely ever in one, and therefore his stomach hadn't had the chance to get used to it, or due to a bad mix of the fast motion of the vehicle and a side effect of his medication. Either way, lately, he always ended up whining, fussing, or crying while in one, which made Hawks very temped to just carry him to the store and lug their groceries home in his free arm - which of course didn't happen that way because he wasn't that strong. So the shorter the trip, the better on them both.

The trip from Fukuoka to Shizuoka by train was four and a half hours.

Yuto was pissed.

Then sick.

"My poor baby," Hawks sighed, so glad he'd had the foresight to place a blanket on his lap at the start of their journey. He folded the spit-up vomited-on blanket up and tucked it in the empty seat beside them. He took Yuto's new hat from Tokoyami off his head, kissing his crying child's messed up hair and ignoring the other passengers' subtle dirty looks. Hawks had never been one to placate others when he annoyed them, so he certainly wasn't going to apologize for his defenseless, ill child. Besides, didn't they think he was sick of the last four hours of on-and-off wails, too?

He shushed Yuto, and finally got him to sleep on his chest ten minutes later. Poor thing was tuckered out. Hawks wasn't looking forward to the return trip; he'd have to speak with Yuto's doctor about what to do if this was going to become a regular thing.

Shoto had been the one to tell his family about Yuto once Hawks gave the go-ahead. They had been shocked beyond belief, especially Endeavor. His mother Rei had cried again and sister Fuyumi went into a state of shock. Learning one's brother and son was alive and a villain was one thing - learning about Yuto and how he'd been born (i.e. kicked and burned into a premature birth by Touya) was another. Natsuo got angry with Shoto for keeping this from them, only calming down when Shoto explained he'd discovered Yuto by accident and Hawks specifically requested he keep it secret. Nonetheless, the family had been thrown for loop. They had, however, agreed to meet Hawks and Yuto, and the arrangement was made for the first Sunday after New Year's, since the kids wouldn't have class to teach or attend.

While the arrangement was being made, Hawks received a phone call from Fuyumi. She'd quietly asked over a dozen questions about Yuto, Dabi, and Hawks, and finally asked if he was truly okay with this. As much as she was dying to meet her nephew, she completely understood Hawks' reasoning for keeping him secret this whole time, and didn't want to make him uncomfortable. It was surprisingly sweet. Hawks had assured her he did.

Not twenty minutes after she hung up, though, Endeavor called next and promptly spent the first five minutes of the conversation chewing Hawks out for being so irresponsible by getting pregnant with Dabi's baby, and oh, for a hero so smart, what had he been thinking, YOU STUPID BRAT!?

"Ohh, Endeavor!" Hawks had gasped to lighten the mood; despite the heavy situation, he was also sort of amused by the man's reaction. "You do care about me! Ah, Yuto's your grandson on Dabi's side, yet I've never felt more like a sixteen year old girl being scolded by her father for getting pregnant by the high school bad boy. It's like a dream come true; I've always hoped somewhere deep inside, you loved me like your own child!"

Hawks had grinned devilishly at the pained silence that received. He could feel Endeavor stiffly rip the phone from his ear, hold it out in front of him, and watch his thumb tremble at the strain of whether to end the call right then and there.

And then his loud voice penetrated Hawks' eardrums once more, yelling about how dare he get so personally involved in his mission, not report his relationship, and keep Yuto such a secret when he could have been in danger. Still amusingly fatherly, but not nearly as fun for Hawks to hear. He was the one who almost ended the call that time.

Regardless, the date was set and Hawks was going to meet Dabi- Shoto's family. Endeavor was going to be there, too, to his startlement. Although Rei wasn't comfortable being in the same room with her husband, she didn't want to deny him the chance to meet his grandson as soon as possible. They weren't going to meet him at the same time, though, from what Hawks understood. He wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but okay, their family, her house, not Hawks' rules. He'd simply go with the flow when they got there.

He and Yuto had boarded the train early this morning and would arrive around noon, if not a little before. It was almost eleven o'clock now.

Figuring Tokoyami must be awake by now, Hawks got out his phone to text him.

Heya, he sent.

Good morning, Tokoyami sent back not two minutes later, how's the train ride going?

Great. Yuto threw up.

:( Is he okay?

Yeah, I got him to sleep. Man, I hope I don't have to put him on more meds if we're going to be visiting on a regular basis. He's on enough as it is.

That would be unfortunate, Tokoyami agreed. He added in a second text, Why don't you let them come to you instead?

Because I want an excuse to get out of the house, Hawks told him.

Tokoyami took a minute to respond. You can take Yuto on walks, to the park, or literally anywhere on Kyuyshu, you know.

Yeah, but I need mental stimulation, too! When was the last time I had a real conversation with an adult I wasn't paying?

I can come with you.

Tokoyami, bird bro, I love you and appreciate it, and maybe we'll start doing just that, but I said an adult.

I'll be eighteen in ten months.

*Closer to eleven. And you'll still be in school.

Tokoyami waited eight minutes to reply.

Sorry, I was getting brunch with friends. Fine. But is it worth it if Yuto does need more medication?

They continued on back and forth, debating the necessity of the trip from Hawks' end, before throwing in the towel and moving on to Tokoyami's winter break and his first Sunday with his classmates in over a month.

Hope you're having a good time!!! Hawks sent, placing a hand on Yuto's back as he stirred. Enjoy your day off!

It's not a job, so it's not a day off, Tokoyami replied. I will. Are you sure you don't want me to accompany you? Todoroki already left to help his mother prepare, but I can text him that I'm coming over...

Nope! Sweet of you, tho! Hawks smiled. Tokoyami had no idea how thankful he was he had his back. It might feel awkward for you. Don't want you to be the odd bird out.

I'm certain Yuto will be such a show-stopper that I won't.

Play with your friends! Enjoy your vacation before you go back to class! I'm grateful, Tokoyami, but I don't want to hog all of your free time and I can do this on my own, so relax. :) I'll be fine.

If you say so, was his reply.

Hawks could feel the teen's uncertainty, but batted it away with more questions about how he was going to spend his day. Apparently, more training with Mezo, Midoriya, and two others named Tsu and Uraraka, and then they'd spend the rest of the afternoon at some superhero con Midoriya was dying to go to because limited edition All Might merch was going to be there (and Tokoyami wanted some of the Dark Crystal merch they were selling).

Haha, have fun! Tell me how it goes! :D

I've never been to a con before, Tokoyami admitted.

All the more reason to have fun! Seriously, go have a good time and I'll text you tonight.

All right. I hope your visit goes well.


Hawks leaned back in his seat, looking up at the ceiling, and rubbed Yuto's back.

He hoped so, too.

Yuto slept through the rest of the train ride and most of the cab ride to the second Todoroki residence. When he woke up, he chirped angrily, practically growing, and whined in Hawks' ears the last third of the trip there. It was unsurprisingly that by the time the cab dropped them off, Hawks was already ready to go back to bed.

Thankfully, as soon as they were on solid, unmoving ground again, Yuto calmed down and perked up. He tugged on his new hat, pulling it further over his forehead and cooed. Talk about a 180, but Hawks was grateful.

He spied up the yard at the house. It was a pretty house, not too fancy yet cozy looking. He saw Shoto and who he presumed to be Natsuo sitting on the front steps together, heads turned to one another as they spoke. They hadn't appeared to notice Hawks and Yuto arrive.

"All right, chick," Hawks hoisted Yuto up in his arms, "time to meet your uncles. Remember the bicolored one?"

Yuto chirped and splayed a hand over Hawks' nose.

"I'll take that as answer. I don't know what it means, but I'll take it," he said, pushing the little hand away.

He strolled up the pathway.

"Yo!" he called out halfway there. "We're here!"

Shoto and Natsuo's heads shot up. They both stood to their feet.

Hawks scanned Natsuo as he approached. He wasn't as tall as Endeavor, but he towered over his little brother, had really broad shoulders, and thick hair that stood up save for two short locks hanging over his forehead. His hair was as white as Yuto's and eyes gray as Shoto's left one. Hawks thought he had read somewhere he was attending college. Not much was publicly known about Endeavor's older two kids (and there was next to nothing on Touya). Natsuo looked down the pathway with a raised chin, a neutral frown on his face.

"Hawks," Shoto greeted when he reached the steps. "Hello."

"Hey there," Hawks smiled at him. He turned to Natsuo and held out his free hand. "Nice to meet you. I'm - well, you can call me Hawks, but Takami works fine if you want."

It was still so awkward to introduce himself by his surname. He wondered when, if ever, that would end.

Natsuo looked down the bridge of his nose at his hand. He slowly took it and shook it with a firm grip.

"So this is Yuto," he said quietly, sliding his eyes to Hawks' son.

Hawks adjusted Yuto's weight. "Yup, my baby bird! Say hi, Yuto."

Yuto cocked his head at Natsuo. "Eh?"

The corner of Natsuo's lips quirked up. He cupped Yuto's cheek. "Hey, little guy. I'm your Uncle Natsu."

Yuto chirped at the size of the hand touching him, eyes wide. He wrapped both of his small hands around Natsuo's wrist and guided it in front of his face. Natsuo's hand was bigger than his head. Yuto stared at it in fascination, pressing his tiny thumbs into his palm.

Natsuo laughed. "Yeah, I know, I'm big; and you're tiny! How old is he again?"

"He'll be ten months soon," Hawks answered. "Since he's a preemie, though, more like almost six."

"Still, I didn't expect him to be this small," Natsuo noted.

Hawks shrugged. "He's naturally small, too; the doctors actually kept him in the hospital longer than they usually would because they weren't sure if his size was genetics or his health was making fall behind the other preemies his age. Turned out to be genetics."

The smile slipped off Natsuo's face. "So he's got Touya's size, huh?"

Hawks frowned.

Shoto stepped up. "Natsuo..."

Natsuo's eyes drooped sadly. "Touya was pretty small growing up, I mean. He's older than me by six years, yet I was always half a head taller than him. I mean, I was also kind of a giant, I guess!" He forced himself to laugh, rubbing the back of his neck. "But yeah, Touya...Touya was small."

Hawks nodded slightly. "Makes sense. He's also got his hair, you know."

He lifted Yuto's hat up just enough to show off the white of his hair.

Natsuo's throat bobbed. "Yeah. Well, he's cute! Aren't you, Yuto?"

Yuto seemed to lose all interest in Natsuo's hand, and hence, Natsuo. He redirected his attention to Shoto and outstretched his arms, opening and closing his hands.

Hawks tried to laugh off the unintentional rejection. "Yuto must really like your color scheme, Shoto! You probably look like a colorful toy to him."

"Huh?" Shoto reached up to give Yuto his fingers. "A toy? Do you think so?"

Hawks raised an eyebrow. Okay, he took that a bit too seriously. "Eh, he's a baby. He doesn't understand much. So is your dad here yet?"

Natsuo tensed. "No. He'll be here later. Said he didn't want to disturb Mom while she was meeting Yuto."

"I see," Hawks said. He regarded Natsuo carefully. "Hey, I'm, uh, sorry if this is weird for you and your family. Shoto told me before that you and Dab- Touya were best friends as kids. I'm sure this isn't how you expected to meet his kid."

Natsuo averted his eyes. "No worries. The dead usually can't have kids, so, um, this is going to be weird no matter what. But hey," he looked back at Hawks. "I wanted to tell you something."

Hawks perked up.

"About Touya…"

Hawks breathed in, expecting it to be a question about Dabi or their relationship.

Natsuo swallowed. "I'm sorry Touya hurt you the way he did. He - Whenever I think about it, I can't - Regardless, he didn't have a right to do what he did. He's gone too far. I'm sorry for what he did to you and Yuto. All of it."

Hawks started. Okay, he hadn't been expecting that.

Natsuo averted his eyes again. "I'm not going to excuse what he did. I might want him back more than anything...but I'm not going to defend his actions. He hurt you bad and I'm sorry."

"Natsu," Shoto blinked in surprise.

"It's okay," Hawks readjusted his grip on Yuto and put a smile on his face. "It's not your fault, you don't have to apologize. Thank you, though."

Natsuo shrugged and looked back at Yuto. He gave his cheek a pinch, making Yuto squeal, and took a step backwards up the porch steps. "Let's go in. Mom and Fuyumi are probably about to burst from waiting."

While he went to open the door, Shoto grabbed Hawks by the arm. "Thanks for coming, Hawks. I hope what I said before didn't pressure you, though; when we went to your apartment, my mind was completely on Touya and I was shocked he had a son, I wasn't really considering your feelings as much as I should have. I'm sorry."

Hawks waved him off good-naturedly. "Don't worry about it. I make my own decisions. If I had felt pressured, you would have met Yuto a long time ago. Besides, I get it, Dabi's your brother."

Shoto wavered. "You were pretty upset, though."

"I'm a protective dad," he replied. "Plus, your brother - he scares me, okay? Don't take it personally, I'm not mad at you. If I was, I wouldn't be here."

Shoto let out the breath he'd been holding and nodded. "Just...let me know if I go too far again. I'm not always good with telling how others feel or how I might make them feel. I'll stop if you tell me I'm crossing your boundaries."

"Noted," Hawks smiled.

Natsuo watched them from the door, holding it open.

They followed him inside.

Hawks took Yuto's hat off along with their coats and shoes, and carried him to the living room behind Shoto and Natsuo.

Two women sat in there, one on the couch and the other on the floor by the coffee table. The one on the couch was older and slim, with pure white hair and gray eyes, while the other on the floor was curvier, had red streaks in her white hair, and wore glasses over her gray eyes. They looked up as the group entered.

The woman on the floor, presumably Fuyumi, gasped. Her hands flew to her mouth. "Oh my gosh, he's so little!"

The other woman, Rei, opened her mouth but didn't say anything. She didn't smile, but didn't look horrified, angry, or ready to cry either. If anything, she looked tired.

Hawks could relate.

Fuyumi got up and dashed over to Hawks' side, clasping her hands together and bowing shortly. "It's so good to meet you, Hawks! I'm Fuyumi. Thank you so much for coming. I'm glad we finally get to meet you and your son!"

"Well, Yuto is your nephew and grandson," Hawks replied, glancing at Rei. "Thanks for having us."

Rei picked her head up higher and gave a little smile, closing her eyes. "It's nice to meet you, too, Hawks. Enji's told me about you over the phone."

"He has?" All Hawks knew about Endeavor's relationship with his wife was that he sent her to a mental hospital and she was too afraid to be in the same room as him. He hadn't thought they spoke. "I hope he said nice things!"

She nodded. "He said you're a very capable man."

"And a nuisance," Natsuo muttered, rolling his eyes and stealing Fuyumi's seat on the floor. "He can never give a compliment without insulting someone, can he?"

Rei turned to him, frowning. "That's not true, Natsu."

"No problem," Hawks beamed. Endeavor had complimented him, what a guy. Though he was capable, and that was just a fact, so of course the big man had to acknowledge it. One might be able to say it was hardly a compliment then. Either way, Hawks smiled wide. "I used to annoy him when we worked together. I'm not bothered by it."

Fuyumi brushed a finger over Yuto's cheek, amazed. "He's so precious."

"My little angel from above!" Hawks teased. "Wanna hold him?"

Fuyumi started. "Is that okay with you?"

"'Course! Here, hold out your arms." Hawks swiftly planted a kiss on Yuto's face, and, ignoring the quick pang in his heart (his baby hawk), helped situate him in Fuyumi's arms. "Be nice to your auntie, Yuto; no pulling off her glasses!"

Fuyumi was even more of a natural than Shoto. She cooed and brushed Yuto's cheek with her thumb.

Yuto's eyes locked on the closest red streak in her hair.

Hawks was faster than his son.

Yuto whined as he caught his wrist mid-way to grab the red lock.

"Careful, he's a grabby one!" he warned with a laugh.

"It's all right, I've got him," Fuyumi said.

She went to sit on the couch next to Shoto, who had sat down next to their mother. She bounced Yuto in her lap, cooing sweet words.

Shoto leaned over in curiosity, catching the baby's attention.

Yuto's head whirled between Fuyumi and Shoto, mouth agape. He giggled loud and smacked at his legs.

Hawks chuckled and dropped his baby bag, moving to sit on the floor at the side of the coffee table.

"Heart-stealer," Natsuo accused playfully as Yuto leaned his head on Fuyumi's chest and reached for Shoto's nose. His sister went "Aww!" while his little brother gave Yuto wide eyes. "Isn't he, Mom?"

Rei nodded, a warm smile on her face. "He is. This brings back so many memories from when you were babies."

"Like what?" Fuyumi asked.

"We didn't grab people's faces, did we?" Shoto inquired, gently blocking Yuto from poking him in the eye.

"That's how babies explore the world, Sho," Fuyumi explained. "They touched things - watch your other eye!"

She jerked Yuto back from Shoto.

Yuto jolted. With an angry chirp, he smacked Fuyumi right in the boob.

"Yuto!" Hawks scolded. "No hitting!"

Natsuo threw his head back in a huge laugh. "Oh my god! I can't believe he did that!"

Fuyumi rolled her eyes. "He's not even one, he doesn't know what he did."

"He shouldn't hit, though," Hawks narrowed his eyes. Lowering his voice, he bit, "Yuto!"

Yuto's head swiveled around. He pouted at Hawks, furrowed his brow, and started fussing.

Fuyumi pet his hair softly. Gradually, Yuto calmed down. He rested his head against her chest again, his lower lip puffed out in a huff. Fuyumi moved on to stroke his wings next, though, and like that, Hawks' baby hawks transformed into a purring kitten.

"That's neat," Shoto remarked, sitting up. He reached out to stroke Yuto's wings with her.

Yuto opened his mouth in what sounded like a mix of a yawn and a whine, but he was smiling.

"Were your wings this sensitive, Hawks?" Shoto asked.

"Dunno," Hawks answered. "Might'a been when I was a baby. They were sensitive enough I learned to sense vibrations through them, but I don't remember ever turning into a little cat whenever someone touched them. They wouldn't have made very good weapons if I had."

"Oh yeah, you used them as swords, right?" Natsuo said. "Have to say, that was pretty cool, man."

"Thanks," Hawks beamed.

"Mom, do you want hold him?" Fuyumi inquired.

Shoto sat back and looked at her. "Do you, Mom?"

Rei smiled serenely. "Sure. I'd love to."

Fuyumi hefted Yuto up and lifted him over Shoto, handing him off to Rei.

The fact that it had been fifteen years since she last held a baby didn't faze the woman. She set Yuto in her lap and supported his back with ease, peering down at him kindly. She took his hand nicely before he could grab her hair, bringing it up to her lips for a kiss.

Yuto blinked up at her, his jaw dropping. "Ehh?" He let out a confused chirp.

"I know, so many new people," Hawks cooed. "That's your grandma, buddy!"

"Aren't you sweet?" Rei murmured, wrapping her arms around him. Louder, she complimented, "His eyes are beautiful. I love the markings around them; they make the gold pop out."

Hawks grinned. "Thanks, I made them myself."

Rei poked Yuto's nose, making him giggle. "So sweet. You look just like both of your fathers; Hawks' eyes and Touya's nose, ohh."

Hawks raised his eyebrows. That was news to him. "Really? He has his nose?"

Rei didn't take her eyes off Yuto. "He does; I could never forget that face. Touya was my firstborn, and the day he came into this world, I memorized all of his - " she stopped herself, face falling into a defensive neutral. "I'm sorry. You probably don't want to hear that."

Hawks wasn't sure what to say to that. "No," he replied slowly. "You're a mom. I get it."

Had he memorized all of Yuto's features when he was born? It felt so long ago.

Hawks remembered the nurses letting him hold Yuto briefly while he was on the birthing bed and emotionlessly visiting him in his incubator that first week. He remembered a too tiny body able to fit in his palms, too pale skin, black eye markings, skeletal wings, and labored breathing assisted by tubes. It hit him like a brick remembering how dead Yuto had looked. It was almost hard to believe he was the same healthy, moving, chubby baby in Rei's lap trying and failing to eat her hair.

To think, that was what Hawks remembered of his son's birth. Not joy, not how cute he was, not - not actively trying to memorize everything about him. He'd had been in shock and often wondered if Yuto was going to die in his palms.

Hawks shivered.

I love taking things away from you, Dabi smirked in his head.

He visibly shuddered.

Fuyumi leaned forward, concerned. "Are you all right, Hawks?"

"I'm good," he lied.

"Sorry," Shoto apologized. "We agreed before you came here that we'd keep talk about Touya to a minimum."

Fuyumi pushed her glasses, eyes downcast. "We don't want to bring back any hard memories for you."

Natsuo looked the other way silently.

Rei looked at Hawks, then turned her attention to Yuto, frowning. "I shouldn't have brought that up. I'm sorry, Hawks."

Hawks ran a hand through his hair. He didn't want this; better to nip it in the bud now. "Look, I appreciate the gesture - that's incredibly kind of you - but it's okay. I won't shatter like glass hearing Dab- Touya's name. You're his family; of course you'll want to talk about him. I don't want you pretending the generation between Mrs. Todoroki here and Yuto doesn't exist, so please don't walk on eggshells around me. I can handle it. All I ask is that you don't - don't ask me personal questions like why I slept with him."

Fuyumi bit her lip and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "We just figured with the way things ended between you two, he might be a sore spot."

Shoto dug his nails into his lap.

"He is a sore spot," Hawks confirmed, "but what happened happened. It was almost ten months ago. I can handle hearing his name. Like I said, just don't ask me why I slept with him and we're gold. You can talk about your brother and son."

Tension still hung above them.

"But thank you," he added, rubbing his ear with a finger and looking away for a moment. "That is considerate of you all."

The room breathed somewhat easier.

Rei sat Yuto up higher in her lap.

"You are a cute one," she told him fondly, tracing a finger on his cheek and changing the subject. "He's a beautiful boy. His wings are gorgeous, and they look so strong."

Hawks puffed out his chest his pride, trying to put the rest of the awkward atmosphere behind him. "He is a baby hawk!"

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Natsuo look down at the floor. He could almost read his mind.

You had wings. They were cool. My brother burned them.

Hawks elected not to dwell on it.

Fuyumi clapped her hands and leaned forward. "So tell us all about you guys! You're basically part of the family now, Hawks; I want to know all about you!"

He laughed and scratched the back of his head. Part of the family, huh? He wished he'd kept his coat on so he could hide the faint blush on his cheeks behind his high collar. "Gee, I dunno where to start. What do you want to know first?"

Over the course of the next hour and a half, Hawks exchanged a lot of information with the Todorokis while Yuto was passed around to each family member, from Rei and her fond expressions, to Shoto's baffled curiosity, to Natsuo's playfulness, and Fuyumi's coos.

Hawks told them some of his childhood. He'd grown up in Fukuoka, admired Endeavor as a child, and was personally trained by the Hero Commission. He'd wanted to be a hero since he was seven years old, and the last four years of his career had been the best, if not strenuous of his life. He loved Yakitori, fried chicken, baked chicken, and pretty much any kind of bird food, and making bird puns - hence, Yuto was his baby bird and chick. His old intern and Shoto's classmate Tokoyami had been coming over to help him out lately, so no, he wasn't raising his son entirely alone anymore.

He told them about Yuto. How he was a happy, silly, and utterly fussy baby. He loved to grab things, his second tooth was beginning to come in right next to the first, and although he couldn't fly, he flapped his wings in happiness like a dog wagged its tail. He'd had a troubled start thanks to being born so early on the day of the raid, but he'd been thriving and making Hawks' heart soar ever since. He was an utter Daddy's Boy, and no, Hawks wasn't just saying that because he was biased; he had over a hundred photos in his phone as physical evidence of how much his baby loved being in his arms. Yuto had also despised the train ride over here, even getting sick on the train.

"Wait, so he has motion sickness?" Fuyumi asked.

Hawks blinked. "I mean, maybe? Could be his meds and the, uh, fast moving vehicle not meshing well."

Natsuo stared firmly. "Touya had motion sickness. He used to get carsick all the time when we were little. Wasn't until we were older that it eased up, but it was still there."

Oh. Hawks hadn't known that.

It reminded him of how much he really didn't know about Dabi.

"In that case, he might have motion sickness," Hawks shrugged stiffly.

"I might remember some remedies that could help you on the way home," Rei offered. There was new, immersed light in her eyes since she had held Yuto. "It should make it easier for his poor stomach."

"I'd appreciate it," Hawks said.

On the flip side, he learned about them. Fuyumi was a preschool teacher. It was only her second year on her own, but she absolutely adored all of her kids. She had a sweet tooth for ice cream, and her favorite thing to watch was soap operas. Natsuo was steadying health and welfare in college. He loved the sea and his favorite foods were fish. He didn't have a good relationship with his father, so don't be surprised if things were tense between them when Endeavor showed up (Fuyumi knocked him in the arm and gave him a warning look when he said that). Shoto, of course, was attending UA and aimed to be a great hero. Going on the food trend, his favorite was cold soba. He like traditional Japanese styles and respected hard work. And Rei, well, she didn't talk about herself much, but she loved flowers, enjoyed the cold, and was so happy to be with her family every day again. She couldn't wait to get to know Hawks and Yuto better, and make Hawks try her cooking.

"Food? Looking forward to it!" Hawks grinned.

"Speaking of which, it's getting kind of late for lunch," Shoto brought up.

Fuyumi handed Yuto back to Hawks (his heart fluttered, happy to hold his baby), and rose to her feet. "I'll make something real quick. Natsu, come help me."

"Huh? Why do I have to?" Natsuo asked, already getting up after her.

Hawks tilted his head down at Yuto, lifting his arms. "You getting hungry, too, Yuto? I can fix you a bottle, the stuff's in my bag."

Shoto stood. "I can get it for you. I wanna learn how to help out with Yuto as fast as possible."

Hawks raised an eyebrow. Shoto was the baby of his family; what did he know about mixing formula? Yet so eager... "You sure? Because I can do it."

"I am. Fuyumi can show me how," he answered.

"She knows how to mix formula? I didn't know preschoolers still drank formula," Hawks couldn't resist not biting his tongue.

"Fuyumi used to help me when Shoto was born," Rei intervened. "We were talking about it the other day. She remembers what to do."

Hawks wasn't positive he trusted a seven year old's memory almost seventeen years later, but okay, if the mother of four said so... He reluctantly dished out the formula and Yuto's bottle to give to Shoto. "Make sure to test the temperature, we don't wanna burn his mouth."

Shoto nodded. "Right."

Once all the siblings had left the room, it was only Hawks, Yuto, and Rei.

"So," Hawks said after a momentary silence. "You're a grandma now. Must be neat to have a baby back in the house."

"Yes," Rei agreed, watching Yuto stuff his fingers in his mouth. She smiled warmly. "Yuto is adorable. Like I said earlier, he brings back so many memories. I can't wait to make new ones with him."

Hawks brushed his fingers through Yuto's hair. "He's definitely a memorable baby!"

Rei sat up straight. "Hawks."

He frowned at her tone. Despite her smile, she was oddly serious. "What?"

She paused. Her head tilted downwards slightly. "I don't know what your feelings for Touya are. Shoto said you're in love with him yet terrified of him. My marriage was arranged, so I don't know what it's like to be in love with him, but I do know what it's like to be terrified of the father of your children."

Hawks froze perfectly still. Yuto began blowing spit bubbles in his lap.

Rei grasped at the center of her shirt over her chest, balling her hand into a fist. "I'm heartbroken over what Touya's become. As his mother, I'll always love him - When I think of Touya, I don't see the scarred, pierced person I've seen on the news; I see the helpless baby I'd just given birth to. The day he was born was the first time I fell in love for real. I think of how it utterly broke me when he died while I was in the hospital. But in some ways, Touya's become his father, and in others, he's become worse. It's not the same, and I never believed Enji would murder our children or allow them to be murdered, but I have a good idea of what you've been through."

Hawks' mouth dried. He instinctively tightened his grip on Yuto.

Rei looked him directly in the eyes. "I have a frighteningly good idea of what you've been through; the fear you've felt and your worries for your child's safety."

Hawks pressed his lips together and swallowed.

Rei folded her hands on top of each other. "When Touya comes home - and he will; My husband is a stubborn man and my youngest determined - I'll support whatever you decide is best for you and Yuto. If you never want to see Touya again, if you never want Yuto to know him, if you do but you can't face him, if you need time before you can trust him, anything. I'll support you. And if you ever want to talk about it, I'm here. Just because I'm his mother doesn't mean I'll take his side. I know what it's like to be scared - and to hate."

Hawks hadn't the slightest idea what to say.

Those last words, fear and to hate. All that was missing was to love, but as Rei had said, she was never in love with her husband - then again, she did love Touya. That had to count for something.

He nodded slowly. "I'll keep that in mind. Thank you."

While the three siblings whipped up lunch and Yuto was entertained by Rei, Hawks decided this was the best time to step out for a breather. He stood on the porch steps, closing his eyes and sucking in the cold air.

A few minutes into it, the door opened and Natsuo stepped out.

"Hey," he greeted Hawks, closing it behind him. "You feeling all right?"

"I'm fine," Hawks answered. "Just a little overwhelmed."

"Yuto's a heart-stealer all right," Natsuo said. "I guess you don't show him off all that much."


Natsuo hopped down on the step he was standing on next to him. He shoved his hands in his pockets and stared out at the street. "Fuyumi got a call from Dad. He's on his way."

Hawks perked up. "Endeavor? Cool. He's the last one Yuto's gotta meet."

"Yeah." Natsuo's face soured. "I'll apologize in advance if I ruin the mood when he gets here. He's been making strides, I'll give him that, but I'm nowhere close to forgiving him like my brother and sister and mom. ...Do you know what he did to his family back then?"

"Shoto gave me some ideas," Hawks offered. He looked at Natsuo. "He said you believe your dad set Dabi on the path he's on."

Natsuo scoffed. "That's true. I thought he killed him, now I know he turned him into a villain instead. Doesn't make my big bro right, though."

Hawks got the impression they were treading on tender ground here. He internally kicked around the thought of changing the subject. In the end, he said, "You guys didn't deserve what you went through. I've admired Endeavor my whole life and I've worked with him; he's a phenomenal hero, and from what I've seen, he's remorseful over his actions. But I've got issues with my parents as well; I get why you're mad at him."

That got Natsuo to turn his head, astonished. "How do you deal with your parents?"

Hawks leaned on the frame next to him and crossed his arms. "I don't. I haven't seen them since I was a kid. I could contact them if I wanted to, but that's never going to happen. They'll never know me and they're never going to find out about Yuto." He rolled one shoulder. "Unless they read a tabloid or something. I dunno. I'm sure someone's snapped a picture of me and my chick by now. Still, they'll never meet him."

Natsuo looked down at his feet, eyes hooded in concentration. Aside from the gray, they reminded Hawks of Dabi.

"He's a piece of work, my dad," Natsuo told him. "I hate him more than I like him. When I was younger, I would have loved to have gotten away from him and never see his face again. It wasn't as if that'd be much of a change from the usual, for as much attention he gave me, Failure Number Three, growing up. Now, though...I'm not so sure. But I still hate him. Especially now that I know what he turned Touya into. I mean, isn't it funny? He broke Mom's mind and turned Touya into a villain. Maybe Fuyumi and I were lucky he never paid attention to us. Wonder what kind of deep rooted damage he's done to Shoto, my fucking baby brother."

Hawks regarded him silently.

Natsuo clenched and unclenched his fists. He let out a deep breath. "I'm sorry. You didn't come here to listen to me gripe. For the record, I love Yuto and am taking him back to college with me." He craned his head with a forced smile.

Hawks pushed off the frame. "Just don't use him to pick up girls; they might kidnap him because he's so cute."

"A baby angel with those wings," Natsuo joked. "Don't worry, it'll only be my girlfriend you'll have to worry about kidnapping him."

They laughed together.

When it came to an end, Hawks sobered. "Hey. I'm fiercely protective of Yuto. If I didn't trust your father, I wouldn't let him near him."

Natsuo shrugged, smile fading. He returned his gaze to the road. "I know. I'm not worried about him hurting Yuto. He already got his masterpiece in Shoto and now he's changing his ways."

A different name hung in the air between them.

Hawks sighed. "Spit it out; what do you want to say about Dab- Touya?"

Natsuo didn't move. His eyes fell. In a near whisper, he asked, "Do you think, if we bring him back, he'll change?"

It was a heavy question. Hawks could see countless memories he wasn't privy to washing over Natsuo's face.

Touya had been his best friend. He'd comforted him over the years. Dabi was a murderous criminal and villain. He wasn't the brother Natsuo had known.

"I don't know," he confessed. "I'm not sure I want to find out."

Natsuo stared ahead. "Shoto says he knows the caring brother we knew is in there. He doesn't know how much Touya could hate. Apparently, I didn't either, but I remember. I'm not surprised he wants Dad dead; I'm just shocked he meant it, and that's he going after it - and in this way. If the caring part of him is in there...he has a funny way of showing it."


"I told you a while back I haven't loved anyone in years, right? That wasn't supposed to change; you weren't supposed to weasel your way into my heart. You made me feel something I thought I lost ages ago."


Hawks thought about that. "Maybe that part is in him. Who knows. Apparently, I couldn't tell a lie from the truth, so I can't say."

Natsuo grunted. "I don't wanna believe he played a sick game with you. I'm not saying he definitely loved you, don't get me wrong - Shoto believes that, but I don't - but I don't wanna believe he was lying either. When Touya did love, he loved with all his heart, same as when he hated. Mom and us meant the world to him. He hated Dad for as long as he could remember, he told me. I can't imagine him faking your whole relationship for kicks." He kicked the ground bitterly. "But hey, what do I know? I get he had to get out of that house after what Dad did to him, Mom, and Shoto, but he didn't even the decency to tell us he was alive. Now he's a murderous villain."

Hawks curled his lips. "For what's worth...I believe he did love you guys. I can't say what happened to him, and it hurts too much to consider he ever loved me, but...he told me used to have people he loved and who loved him. No names or descriptors, but yeah. I'll bet he was referring to his family."

Natsuo let out a shuddery breath as he hunched his shoulders and bowed his head. "Thanks," he mumbled.

"No prob."

As if on cue, a car pulled up on the street. Endeavor stepped out of the driver's seat.

Natsuo's face hardened. "Great."

Endeavor slammed the door shut and walked up the pathway. His face was as sour as usual, but what caught Hawks off guard was the bouquet of blue flowers in his one hand. He approached the porch.

"Natsuo," he greeted his son first, "it's good to see you. You're looking well."

Natsuo gave his father a cool look. "Yeah, you, too." He glanced at the flowers.

Endeavor held them out. "These are for your mother."

Natsuo sneered. "What do you want me to do with them, give them to her for you? Yeah, right."

Endeavor wavered. Judging by the look that flashed across his face, that wasn't what he had meant. He pulled the flowers back to his body.

"I'm going back in to tell Mom you're here," Natsuo coldly informed, and turned on his heel up the steps. The door slammed behind him.

Hawks never thought he'd see Endeavor flinch.

Endeavor switched his gaze to him. He scowled. "I still can't believe you had Dabi's child this whole time and kept it a secret. You don't think that was information we should have known?"

Hawks folded his arms tighter. "Hello to you, too. The Commission knew; sorry, Grandpa, but with Dabi's hate boner for you, I wasn't about to let anyone who didn't have to know."

"Don't say that when he's my son!" Endeavor fired up. His flames extinguished and he got himself together. "Nevertheless, you should have told me. Due to your betrayal, you and the child could have become targets for the League of Villains."

He shrugged. "Like I said, the Commission knows. It was their prerogative how they planned to protect me and Yuto; if it was crucial for you to know, they would been the ones to tell you. Besides, do you really think when you burst into my hospital room screaming that I was a liar, begging me to tell you Dabi's identity wasn't true, and came close to tears that I was going to add, 'Hey, Endeavor, by the way, we're related now! I gave birth to Dabi's son last week, so you're a grandpa! Does this make me your son-in-law?'"

Endeavor raised his lip in disgust. He lowered it the next moment, however, and gave Hawks a softer, if still highly intimidating, look. "Why would you compromise your mission the way you did? From what I understand from our phone call, not even the Commission knows who Yuto's other parent is. Why would you sleep with him?"

Hawks took a deep breath, allowing his arms to fall. Since it was Endeavor, he'd answer this one time. "Because I was dumb. He was hot, he made me think he had a heart, and I thought he fell for me, too. Hence, Yuto, our son, was born. Trust me, I regret it now."

Not Yuto, though. I'll never regret him.

"Hmph." Endeavor's expression was thoughtful. He paused for a long moment, mulling that over. Soon, he decided, "What's done is done. What's more important is how we move forward. From this moment on, we not only have to protect you from the League of Villains, but your son as well. I promise nothing will happen to the two of you."

Hawks couldn't help grinning at that. "Ah, Endeavor! You DO care! Does this mean I can call you 'Dad'?"

The sneer instantly returned and it was so worth it.

"Kidding!" Hawks held up his hands in peace. "Lighten up! You're here to meet your grandchild, aren't you? Come on, let's go inside."

"No," Endeavor was stern. "My wife is in there. She can't see me."

Before Hawks could respond to that, the door opened. Fuyumi blinked at them.

"Dad?" she said. "Natsuo said you were here. Aren't you going to come in?"

"I'd rather not," he told his daughter. "I don't want to upset your mother. You can bring the baby out here."

"No!" Fuyumi refused. "Mom said it's okay. She'll go to her room while you visit the baby."

Endeavor grimaced. "She shouldn't have to do that. I didn't plan to stay long anyhow."

Fuyumi stubbornly stood her ground. "It's cold out here. Yuto'll get sick."

"She's got you there," Hawks piped in. "Yuto had to go back to the hospital the last time he got sick - a few weeks ago. I'd rather he not catch pneumonia again."

Fuyumi gasped at Hawks while Endeavor stared at them, peeved.

"All right," he eventually agreed. "But I'm staying in the kitchen; your mother can stay in the living room with you and your brothers. She doesn't have to leave for my sake."

It was a decent compromise.

Yuto looked up at Endeavor as if he were the strangest thing he'd ever seen.

Endeavor looked down at Yuto uncertainly, uncomfortable as if he had never held a baby before.

"This is so adorable!" Fuyumi put her hands on her cheeks. "So cute!"

"Not really," Shoto commented from beside her.

Hawks didn't have much of an opinion as he leaned on the counter. He just wanted to make sure the obviously nervous Endeavor didn't drop his son by mistake.

Natsuo had stayed in the living room with Rei, so he made no remark.

Yuto smacked a tiny hand on the center of Endeavor's chest and cocked his head. His hand had been tiny compared to Natsuo's, but there, it was practically a bug on a large hill. He chirped, curious, and reached for Endeavor's chin.

Endeavor stiffened, and let him feel his way around the bottom half of his face. He only jerked his head back when Yuto tried to shove a finger up his nose.

Hawks chuckled. "He's silly. So, what do you think of your grandson?"

"He's..." Endeavor struggled to find the right words. " adventurous one."

Shoto scoffed.

Fuyumi shot him a warning look.

Endeavor rubbed slow circles beneath Yuto's wings. He thought for a minute. "I suppose he reminds me of you, Hawks. He's...bubbly."

"That's a good thing, right?" Hawks gave a toothy smile.

Endeavor shot him a flat look. "Yes. He's a baby."

"Ouch. Are you saying I'm childish?" Hawks took no offense, though. "I'm glad he's a bubbly baby. He deserves to be happy after what he's been through."

Endeavor grunted. "Yes, he does."

Yuto rested his head on Endeavor's chest and yawned. His eyes were beginning to droop.

"Somebody's nap schedule has been thrown off from today's trip," Hawks remarked. He held out his arms. "Do you want me to take him?"

Endeavor shook his head, continuing his slow circles beneath Yuto's wings. "I've got him."

Surprised, Hawks retreated. Huh.

Fuyumi threw a hand over her heart. "Ohhh! I have to get my phone, I need a picture of this! It'll be my new background!"

She dashed out of the room.

Shoto walked over and picked up the bouquet left on the counter. He examined the flowers. "I'll go give these to Mom."

"Thank you," Endeavor said.

Shoto nodded and followed his sister to the living room.

Hawks watched him go, then looked at Endeavor holding his child. When he stopped to think about it, it was a startling sight. First of all, Endeavor being gentle? Absurd. Second, well, Endeavor was holding his child; Hawks had been planning to keep Yuto a secret from him for the rest of his life. Was he certain this wasn't a dream?

A small frown found its way on Hawks' face. He did trust Endeavor; he would have told Shoto to keep his dad out of the loop if he didn't. Hawks had seen the remorse on his face for how he treated his family all these years, had heard the unmovable man's voice break. He recalled how his face had fallen at Natsuo's rejection outside. He believed he was changing, and for the better. Nevertheless, Hawks remembered his confession in his office all those months ago, remembered Shoto's descriptions of his childhood as he trembled on Hawks' couch. It brought back unpleasant memories of his own father, who Yuto would never meet if it killed Hawks.

So perhaps Hawks was merely being overprotective, but he couldn't not speak up. "Endeavor?"

Endeavor glanced his way, as stiff as ever.

Hawks stood up to full height. "'re a good hero, and I respect that a lot about you. Remember when I said I was never an All Might fanboy? I actually grew up admiring the hell out of you. You're part of what inspired me to be a hero. In fact, you probably don't remember this, but almost seventeen years ago, you saved me from a bad situation."

"Did I?" Endeavor raised an eyebrow. He looked behind him, where Hawks wings ought to be, trying to place a little boy with red wings in his mind.

Hawks nodded. "A thief called Takami caught your attention while he was on the prowl. I was with him. Touya was out with you, remember? I sat with him while you two fought."

Recognition sparked in Endeavor's eyes. An unsettled expression crossed his face.

Hawks wasn't interested in discussing that day at length. "So yeah, you saved me from my own dad; almost seventeen years late, but thank you. Anyway, I was already a fan, but that helped inspire me. I won't forget that." He rolled his shoulders. "And of course, we've worked together. You're a mean old man, but I kinda like that about you! It fits your style! I don't think I could ever completely hate you, and my faith in you as our number one only continues to grow! Seriously, on the rare occasion I watch the news, you're awesome!"

Endeavor glared. "Get to the point, Hawks. You're not praising me for no reason; otherwise, you would have brought up our past long ago."

"See, that's what I mean! Man, Yuto's so lucky to have you as a grandfather." Hawks pressed forward. His features darkened and eyes widened like a predator, as they had when he had been on the hunt as a hero and found his target. "But I know what went down with your family. You and Shoto told me. Even Dabi told me once he had a bastard father, though I didn't know who he was talking about at the time. I whole-heartedly believe you're going down the right path now, so, with all that in mind and as a fellow father, please bear with me as I say this: If you ever lay a hand on my son that isn't affectionate, I won't need feathers to cut you down. I'm still faster than you without them."

Endeavor's eyes widened the slightest bit. He considered Hawks with a surprised, calculating stare, but the surprise soon melted away. He gave a slight nod, shifting his gaze to Yuto. He brushed a thumb over the top of his head.

Hawks calmed down. "So, your kids made lunch! Yuto's bottle is probably getting cold. I'll eat in here with ya!"

It was then Fuyumi returned, phone in hand and ready to snap a picture. "Sorry, it got lost in the cushions! Smile, Dad!"

Endeavor volunteered to wash all the dishes. Natsuo and Shoto brought them out, telling him Rei appreciated the flowers. Natsuo was actually the one who said it, though he avoided his father's eyes. Shoto took Yuto from Hawks to take back to the living room - "He's sleepy!" Hawks cheerfully warned - and although he didn't smile exactly, he did brighten to hold his nephew. Hawks stayed in the kitchen to help dry the dishes.

"Do you remember," Endeavor began after a long silence, "when you left my agency last year? I told you something had changed in you; I warned you not to let it consume you."

"Yep," Hawks wiped down the plate he was handed. "What do you think of me now?"

Endeavor didn't answer for a moment. "You've still changed. But now I know why, and as far as I can see, you didn't let it consume you. You're closer to the annoying brat I remember than the man that stepped into my office."

"Was I really that bad?"

"You don't get serious unless you have something important on your mind. The only other time I'd seen you anything like that was when you gave me that Liberation book."

When he had used his face to pass a secret message to Endeavor, subtly trying to tell him to read every second word of each highlighted passage. Hawks had hated communicating like that; it wasn't his style. His preferred form of communication was through speech. Speech hadn't been an option, however, with all those trackers and listening devices the Liberation Front had placed on his wings. Besides, he was a smiler, not a perpetual frowner.

He whistled. "I was bad, then. Sorry."

"For what?" Endeavor gruffed. "You did nothing wrong."

"Aww, see, this is why I'm happy you're Yuto's grandpa! Your caring side is so touching, Endeavor!"

He growled under his breath. "Will you ever stop mocking me?"

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry," Hawks chuckled. "I'm glad to hear it, though; from you that means a lot. You wouldn't tell me I'm doing better if I wasn't. It really does make me feel better." He set the dish in the drying rack and sobered. Softly, he added, "I really want to be a good father to Yuto. I'm afraid if I go down too far under - from the stress, guilt, nightmares, what-ifs, everything that haunts me, how angry and distraught I am deep inside - I'll lose myself to it all and he'll..."

He trailed off, unable to finish.

Endeavor moved on from the plates to the cookware Fuyumi and Natsuo had used to make lunch. "I let my obsession with becoming number one control me. I hurt my wife and children beyond repair. There's no justifying what I did and no taking it back; all I can do is my best to atone. But in those days...I denied everything. Everything I did was done to prepare at least one of my children to do what I couldn't, and that was to beat All Might. Today, I myself don't understand why I let it get as far as I did. I loved my children, but their well-beings came second, if that, to my goals. I should have snapped out of it at some point, but I didn't. I had several opportunities - Rei's hospitalization, where I was only enraged with her; Shoto's scarring, but as soon as I realized he was going to be fine, I was angry at how this would set back his training; and Touya...that boy has haunted me for years, but after a few months of grief, I couldn't go on like that anymore. I pushed it away and denied my involvement. It was only way I could go on."

Hawks took the pot handed to him.

Endeavor went on, "I won't pretend I know your full story or what you've been through. I won't compare you to me either - you're not, not in the slightest. But when you let something consume you, it can devour you whole. I realize now being given a title I didn't earn and an unexpected weight to carry as the Symbol of Peace shouldn't have been what changed me. I should have realized what I'd done and let it go long ago. My family would have been better for it. You're not the same; you went through something difficult and the effects scare you, but you're thinking of Yuto. You're also better than you were last I saw you. I doubt you'll become the man you're afraid to be."

Hawks kept rubbing the pot even though it was already dry. He was only as far as he was thanks to Dr. Sasaki, who he didn't see anymore, and Tokoyami, who was still new to his every day life. "And what if I do? What if in the long run, I can't make it?"

"Then you do what I didn't," he gruffed, "and get some help."

Hawks nodded slowly. "Thanks."

They continued their work in silence.

As Endeavor made his way to the last piece of cookware, Hawks piped up again, keeping his voice low. "How are Dabi and the League doing?"

Endeavor's frown deepened. "You know that's confidential."

"And you know I'm an annoying brat who will go sticking his nose where it doesn't belong if you don't tell me."

Endeavor scowled. "Fine."

Hawks waited.

Out of the corner of his mouth, Endeavor began, "We have reason to believe Dabi will be severing ties to the League soon."

Hawks started. "Why?" he whispered. "How?"

"We've tracked him down a handful of times and investigated the areas he's been though once he's left. From what we've pieced together, he's taken a particular interest in a new breed of Nomu Shigaraki may or may not have authorized the creation of. He's also made less and less appearances with the League when they attack lately."

"But they're tools to him," Hawks argued. "He specifically told me Twice was going to make all his dreams come true."

"Then he's either changed course or they'll fit into his plan in a different way than we expected," Endeavor said. He hesitated. "What makes us most expect he'll sever ties soon is his mental state. Dabi has always been cool and calm under pressure. Yet lately, he's been becoming more and more unhinged. He alternates between calm and enraged. He gets sloppy, then he pulls himself back together. He screams about how the League's going to tear down hero society, then criticizes their abilities and strategy. He and Shigaraki appeared ready to throttle each other during one attack. Dabi's also taken to yelling about Shoto and I whenever a hero confronts him. He always badmouths me, but he alternates between badmouthing Shoto and bemoaning what I 'turned' him into. He says Shoto's a 'little me' now."

"How long has this been going on?" Hawks demanded.

That didn't sound like the Dabi he knew; Dabi, while seemingly reckless, was always calculating the people he was with and what his next move was going to be. The only time Hawks could have called him unhinged was when he barged in on him and Twice, and doubly so after he killed him. But even then, Dabi had been in control.

"It's been a gradual process over the last six months," Endeavor answered. "We didn't realize it was happening until three months ago. It's been downhill from there."

"How much does Shoto know about this?" he questioned harshly. "You know he wants do anything to bring him back."

"I'm aware," Endeavor growled. "That boy did inherit my stubbornness, I'll give him that. I will bring Touya back and get him the help he needs, but I'm doing what I can to keep Shoto away from him. He knows what Dabi says about him. He struggles with it, I can see it. But I'm not letting him on the investigative team. If Dabi's in the process of turning on him, I don't want Shoto getting killed."

A shiver ran down Hawks' back. "Do you really believe he'll kill him?"

"He wants to kill me; if Shoto is a 'little me,' what would he do to him?" Endeavor must have scrubbed the cookware in his hands spotless three times over. "If something happens, I'll not only lose another son, I don't believe we'll ever be able to bring Touya back. I can't let either of them go again."

"And what's Shoto think of that?"

Endeavor snorted. "That he's already a pro with twenty years of experience." He all but shoved the cookware to Hawks. "He wants to talk to him. He thinks a heart-to-heart will convince Dabi. I don't know if Dabi would kill him - perhaps not - but I'd rather not take the chance. It's bad enough I have a strong bias in this case as his father, I don't want my youngest son involved!"

He squeezed the sponge in his hand so tight that if it were solid, Hawks thought it would have broke.

Endeavor forced his hand to open and dropped it. "I've talked to his teachers and Rei. They're going to keep a closer eye on him at school and when he's here. For my family's safety, I'm going to distance myself further from them; I don't want them to become collateral if Dabi attacks me directly. I'll talk to my children tonight. Fuyumi's not going to be happy that I won't allow her at the estate until further notice and Shoto will be angry - I don't even know how Natsuo will react - but it's the only way I can keep them safe." He slid his gaze to Hawks. "Naturally, I won't see Yuto either. I don't plan to meet him again until Dabi's been contained."

Hawks took a deep breath. That was a tough decision to make. He almost wanted to ask if Endeavor was sure about that - but honestly, when Hawks thought it, if push came to shove...he'd probably do the same for Yuto. It would cut deep to distance himself from his baby, but if Dabi were to come over and burn his apartment down, and Hawks knew or thought he was coming ahead of time, he'd rather not have Yuto in it with him.

"You won't cut yourself off completely, will you?" he asked instead.

"We have phones. I'm certain Fuyumi will send me dozens of pictures of your son," he explained. "Natsuo at least reads my texts. Shoto responds to me every now and then these days. Rei and I call when we need to."

Hawks hummed. "Is that going to be enough?"

"It'll have to be; Dabi's too unstable for me to allow anything more."

Hawks noted how Endeavor didn't look at him as he said it; he thought he saw the slightest crease in his features.

He would have put a hand on his shoulder if he wasn't positive Endeavor would find that condescending; this wasn't the time for that. "Hopefully, you won't have to do this for long."

Endeavor grunted. He grabbed a spare towel to wipe his hands off. "What about you? Touya likely won't step foot in his house for months, or even years, once we capture him, but if you plan to let Yuto grow up around our side of his family, he will learn about his other father someday. Touya may find out at some point as well. What will you do?"

Hawks rested his arms on the counter. Honestly, he answered, "Well...I don't know yet."

I don't know want him to know about my son. Ever.

What will I tell Yuto someday? Lie to him Endeavor and Rei are my parents? Not going to happen.

Who will Touya be to him? His dad? The dad he never sees? An unknown uncle in jail we don't talk about?

I got myself in a mess by coming here. But I knew I was before I came here.

"Worse comes to worst..." Hawks drew out slowly, "as much as I don't want to hurt your the worst case scenario...I think we'll buzz out of your lives before Yuto can remember you. I'll decide that when I have to."

He stared at the rack. He could feel Endeavor looking at him. He was almost afraid to see his reaction. He could see the flames now, hear the judgmental growl - Then why did you involve my family in the first place if you weren't certain? Meeting Yuto and having him ripped away WILL hurt them!

When Hawks did look, though, there were no flames and Endeavor's expression was unreadable.

Finally, the man replied, "Do what you have to do to keep your family safe."

Endeavor lingered in the kitchen while Hawks hefted a sleeping Yuto and his baby bag in his arms, coat on and ready to go. Their train home would be leaving at five. With any luck, Yuto would sleep through it entirely and maybe, hopefully, the whole night (yeah, Hawks wasn't counting on that, but it was a nice thought).

"...and that's what I did for Touya as a baby," Rei finished telling him, handing him a note with all of her advice written down in case he forgot anything.

Hawks plucked it out of her hands with a gracious smile and tucked it in his coat pocket. "I'll keep these in mind! Thanks."

"It's no problem," Rei assured, eyes closed in her own smile and hands folded in front of her. "It was wonderful to meet the two of you. I can't wait to see you again next week!"

"Are you really going to visit every week?" Natsuo asked, a bit baffled. "I mean, you can, but that's not going to be an inconvenience, is it? Fukuoka's so far."

"I'll be fine," Hawks waved off. "Yuto, too, with these instructions. Besides, I'll have four extra pairs of eyes to help me watch over my baby as he learns to crawl! With how curious he is, I'll bet he'll try to get into everything!"

"Will Tokoyami come with you?" Shoto asked. "He visits you every Sunday. I know he didn't come today, but..."

"Uhh," Hawks hesitated, "probably not? I mean, I wasn't planning on it and I don't know if that's all right with you guys...?"

Fuyumi nudged her little brother with her shoulder, face sly. "It'd be nice to meet more of your friends, Shoto. I'm starting to think I hallucinated the two you brought home for dinner once."

Shoto frowned thoughtfully.

"Maybe not every Sunday," Hawks intervened. "I steal enough of his weekends as is. I dunno, I'll let you guys and Tokoyami decide. Anyway, today was great! I wish Endeavor had brought me over to meet the family when we worked together, we could have had dinner!"

"You're welcome to stay for dinner next week," Rei offered.

"Nah, I'm pretty sure Yuto would rather sleep in his crib at night more than a train," he declined. "Thanks, though."

Natsuo ruffled Yuto's hair. "Don't forget your hat, buddy! I'll be going back to school soon, so I probably won't be here next week, but I'll try to be next Sunday! We'll have fun." He looked at Hawks. "You guys have a safe trip home."

"We will," he replied. "Take care of yourself, man."

Natsuo nodded, as thoughtful as Shoto. Hawks guessed their talk about Touya earlier was still on his mind.

"We'll see you out," Fuyumi said, wrapping an arm around Shoto's shoulders. "Then we're going to spend some time with Dad; he wants to talk to us."

Natsuo grimaced. "I'll stay here with Mom. Fill me in later, sis."

Rei glanced at the floor. "You should talk to your father, Natsu; it's...important. You'll want to see him." She raised her gaze. "But that's after you leave, Hawks. You and Yuto have a good week."

"You, too, Mrs. Todoroki! See ya."

Fuyumi and Shoto followed Hawks to the front door, where he paused to wrangle Yuto's hat on without waking him. "So, was there something you two wanted to say before I left, or was this just seeing me out?"

The siblings exchanged looks.

"We wanted to make sure you were okay after today," Fuyumi started.

"Tokoyami told me you don't see people very often," Shoto glanced away. "I told my family everything from the night I visited you - you knew that from our call, you're the one who said I could, but it must have been weird to have...people already know everything without you having to explain. And be away from home for so long." A troubled expression settled on his face. His fists clenched. "There's so much I want to say and apologize for on my brother's behalf. There's a lot I want to tell you, but I don't have the words. I guess, for now, I just - just want to make sure you're comfortable."

Hawks reeled his head back. He hadn't realized so much would be on Shoto's mind. "Has...has Tokoyami been telling you everything from his visits?"

He shook his head. "No. He doesn't tell me much because he'd rather have your permission first. Mostly he talks about Yuto and shows me pictures of him. But I know enough to know you've been through a lot thanks to Touya."

Touya, who Shoto obviously loved dearly and who he was perfectly aware was turning against him on the field. Hawks thought back to the reports he'd heard of the training camp, where Dabi had been eerily smug (if that was even the right phrase) towards his baby brother, and the video, where he'd screamed at Shoto about their family. Hawks had no idea what was on that man's mind. Maybe Endeavor was wrong and Dabi had already turned against Shoto long ago. Or perhaps he already turned on his whole family - after all, as Dabi had told Hawks, he hadn't loved anyone in years. That might extend to his own siblings and mother, not just his father.

Hawks hoped Shoto was talking to his family, or the UA counselors. He had a much too large burden on his shoulders.

"I'm good," Hawks said. He rubbed Yuto's sleeping back. "Today was fun. A little overwhelming, but I'm looking forward to doing it again next week! You don't have to worry about me."

Shoto nodded.

Fuyumi squeezed his shoulders. "It's only," she added, "you kept him a secret for so long. We completely understand why; we're not judging. Besides, this had to be a hard decision knowing how we feel about Touya. We do want him to come home someday." Her voice grew soft at the end.

Hawks wrapped both arms around Yuto. "I get it. Seriously, don't worry. I want Yuto to know his extended family. I mean, I won't lie - at the moment, I'm not comfortable with him knowing Dabi - Touya - "

"You can call him Dabi," Shoto interjected.

"Right," Hawks shifted uneasily. "I'm hoping worse just doesn't come to worst, you know? Because his safety does come before being able to visit Grandma, Auntie, and his uncles."

"We understand," Fuyumi said.

"What about Dad?" Shoto inquired.

Hawks opened his mouth. "Uhh, well, yeah, him, too."

Shoto frowned. The kid wasn't dumb, he immediately suspected something.

Hawks would let Endeavor deal with that.

Fuyumi released her brother's shoulders. "One more thing: Just so we're clear, while it's great to get to know your guys' son, and he looks so much like both of you, like Mom said, we don't see Yuto as an extension of Touya. We don't see him as a - a second chance with him. We want to know Yuto for Yuto."

Hawks smiled. "That's good to hear. I didn't think you did, but I'm glad you told me. So is that all?"

They nodded.

"Great, I'm gonna head out before we miss the train. You guys have a good night," he told them.

"Good night, Hawks," Shoto repeated.

"Safe travels!" Fuyumi waved.

Once Hawks was out the door and seated in the cab waiting for him, he shifted Yuto in his lap and pulled out his phone. He texted Tokoyami.

How ya doing?

The reply was almost instant.

I'm doing well. We're at the con. How was Todoroki's home?

Hawks huffed a small laugh to himself.

Fantastic! I'll tell you all about it later. (I also want to know about your secret horde of Yuto pictures - I ONLY saw your phone the ONE time, when are you taking all these pictures to show Shoto!? I wanna see my cute baby!!! D:) First, tell me how the con is! Did you get Dark Crystal merch?

Chapter Text

"It sounds like you got along well with all of them," Tokoyami remarked the next day, as he and Hawks discussed the visit in more depth. Yuto lay at their feet in front of the couch, munching on his new hawk toy's head. "I'm glad; I was worried it might be uncomfortable for you."

"It was a little overwhelming," Hawks admitted, rubbing the back of his head, "but it was fun! Everyone was nice and weirdly considerate. I didn't expect all the apologies I got or Mrs. Todoroki's offer to talk. Or that they were going to try to not bring up Dabi as much as possible. It was...really nice of them."

"That's good to hear. Though I do admit," Tokoyami folded his arms, "Dabi's mental state concerns me. I hadn't realized he's been growing unstable recently. I haven't had a run in with the League myself since the raid, and no one's ever recorded Dabi's dialogue on the news when they do attack. Todoroki hasn't told me about this either."

"Yeah," Hawks sighed. He leaned back on the couch and poked Yuto's side with his big toe; hearing his son giggle and watching him grab his toe brought a much needed smile to Hawks' face. "It worries me, too. I have no idea what goes on in that guy's head on a good day; who knows what's going to happen next if he's becoming unhinged. Who knows, maybe he'll prove to be an even greater threat than Shigaraki after all."

Tokoyami shuddered. He shook his head. "I don't know. I just hope he doesn't decide to come after his family. I understand his grudge against Endeavor, but the rest of them..."

Hawks perked up, curious. "You think he'll come after the whole family, Tokoyami?"

"I don't know. It's Todoro- " he cut himself off, "Shoto specifically, I mean, that I'm most worried about. The fact Dabi's comparing him to their father is mortifying; I agree with what Endeavor told you, if Dabi wants to kill him, then what will he want to do with someone he considers a 'little Endeavor'?"

Hawks pulled his foot away from Yuto, who laughed and made a grab for it. He lifted his foot to the couch cushion, ignoring Yuto's disappointed chirp. "Wish I could say."

Tokoyami closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened them, laying his hands flat on his thighs. "The darkness that surrounds their family...we can only hope for the best, I suppose. Whatever that best may be."

Hawks considered that.

He reached down and lifted Yuto up in his lap, hawk toy and all. Yuto chirped excitedly and cuddled into his daddy's stomach, rubbing his face against his shirt. Hawks ran a hand through his hair, eliciting a few pleased chirps from him. It made him feel the slightest bit better.

He had gotten himself into a new mess by meeting the Todorokis. It didn't matter if they avoided the subject around him or not, the fact remained, Dabi was their son and brother. They wanted him back in their lives, something the more Hawks thought about, the more he was against; he couldn't let Dabi into his and Yuto's lives, he just couldn't. Perhaps they would disappear from the Todorokis' when they brought Dabi home after all; but Hawks didn't really want to do that. He liked their family, and it was so nice to talk to other adults and tease Endeavor again. And he did want Yuto to know more of his family than just him. But then there was Dabi.

His conversation with Natsuo came back to Hawks.

It was possible Dabi could turn over a new leaf, wasn't it? If he was going to come home, Dabi was going to have to reform (as difficult as that was going to be to pull off.) But if he did, then maybe Hawks wouldn't have to cut the Todorokis back out of their lives. He could have the best of both worlds - their family, and no Dabi in sight, sort of like how Endeavor and Rei avoided each other (Hawks definitely didn't want any flowers or phone calls). Yet something in his mind, heart, and gut all agreed that wasn't going to happen.

"Natsuo asked me if I believed Dabi could change. I told him I wasn't sure," Hawks brought up quietly, deciding to ask for a second opinion. "Their whole family wants him to come home, and I - I have no idea what to think of it. You're an outsider, though, Tokoyami; you don't have a bias towards him. What do you think?"

Tokoyami frowned. "It's not as if I don't have a bias - I certainly have one against him, you know. He hurt my friends and he hurt you."

"Still," Hawks shrugged. "You must have some opinion. Could you personally see Dabi changing for the better?"

Tokoyami sat back a moment, thinking, and raised his gaze to Hawks. "No. I don't see him changing."

Hawks paused brushing through Yuto's hair a second, then started back up. "How come?"

Tokoyami lifted his beak some. "If you want the honest truth...I talked to Todoroki before Christmas. We didn't just talk about you and Yuto, or our visit here with Midoriya. He told me more about his childhood. He explained how he was separated from his siblings at a young age. Most of his memories of Touya involve sneaking around, but many of them are positive. Touya and his mother understood the pain he went through at his father's hands the most. Todoroki was five when he supposedly died. I can see why he's attached to him and determined to do what's right by him. However, the boy I've heard about doesn't sound anything like the man I've seen. They don't sound remotely the same. I've told Todoroki so."

Hawks raised his eyebrows. "You did?"

"Yes. He's aware of how I feel. He agreed with me; but there's still something about Dabi that reminds him of Touya. Now that he's seen it, whatever it is, he can't unsee it. Todoroki feels obligated to bring his brother home - or, at the very least, reunite their family on opposite sides of a jail cell," Tokoyami explained.

"You don't believe that'll work out well, though," Hawks surmised.

Tokoyami lowered his beak. His frown deepened and his brow knitted together, almost angrily. "The League attacked our training camp a year and a half ago. They kidnapped Bakugo and nearly took me with him. While we were in those compressed orbs, we couldn't see or hear anything around us. I was later told what happened. When they arrived on the scene, Dabi blasted fire at Midoriya, Mezo, and Todoroki. Mezo was eventually able to grab me back from Mr. Compress, but Dabi got to Bakugo before Todoroki could. He was smug about it. He practically mocked him, and let Todoroki fall. When Mr. Compress released us, I saw what happened next; Dabi didn't acknowledge Todoroki in the slightest, even though that was his baby brother right there, watching him try to kidnap his friends. It was as if Todoroki wasn't there - as if he didn't matter to him."

Hawks watched him briefly clench his jaw.

"This is the same man who, ten years prior, nearly lost his life standing up to their father on said baby brother's behalf?" Tokoyami recounted, stunned. "This is the man who sometimes snuck over to the side of his home from which he banned to check on and comfort his brother? Who thought it was cruel that Endeavor burned his own children? Dabi didn't waver once when he saw Todoroki, he attacked him with fire, and he was smug of all things when he beat him to Bakugo. I could believe the boy he was loved his family, but it doesn't appear to me at all that the man he is today does. How could he? They come off as two completely different people - one who cares and one who doesn't. I don't see how Dabi could do anything more than pretend to care, if that. And he didn't even do so with Todoroki at the training camp. At the very least, if appearances had to kept, why blast him with fire?"

Hawks didn't have a response for that.

Tokoyami forced his body to relax. He straightened his fingers out on his thighs. "I'm sorry. I just don't see it, Hawks. Maybe I'm too far removed from the situation to see him clearly, but I believe if Dabi were presented with the opportunity to change, he wouldn't take it. It's much more difficult to rehabilitate a person who refuses to change than one who's open to it. I don't know if they'll ever succeed with him; his actions don't signal any sort of love for his family to me. Whatever happened between the fire that killed him and his joining the League...I don't know, but I don't believe Dabi is the Touya they remember. I fear they're setting themselves up for heartbreak."

Hawks' eyes fell to the cushion space between them. What Tokoyami said made sense; Dabi was too unpredictable, violent, and downright confusing for him to believe he'd ever cooperate with authorities to return to his family. There was nothing about his behavior that said he even wanted to return. If he was captured, the Todorokis were going to have a hell of a time trying to get through to him. It might just as well blow up in their faces. Dabi might never change.

So he was back to square one, wondering what to do.

He moved his hand from Yuto's hair to his shoulder, rubbing up and down. "Have you told Shoto that?"

Tokoyami nodded. "He knows; but he's determined to try. He wants to hear from Dabi's own lips what happened and wants to see him rehabilitated. I'll respect his decision, since it is his brother and some villains do prove you wrong in the end by changing; however, I will intervene if I believe I have to in order to protect my friend and his family." He narrowed in sharply on Hawks and Yuto. "That includes you as well. Whatever Dabi's feelings towards the Todorokis, I've not the slightest clue how he would react to you or Yuto."

Hawks bounced Yuto in his lap, giving Tokoyami a half-smile. "What would I do without my birdie protector?"

"You could not tease me, for one; I'm serious, Hawks," Tokoyami affirmed. "I will not let him hurt you a second time."

Hawks tossed an arm around his shoulders and brought him close in a one-armed hug. "I know. Thank you, Tokoyami."

Hopefully, you'll never have to save me from him again, he thought grimly. Or Yuto.

Yuto pushed himself up and fell over in Tokoyami's lap. He smiled a gummy smile up at the teen, showing off his twin teeth in his front bottom gums.

Tokoyami picked him up and readjusted him in his lap. "You're going to start crawling soon, aren't you, little one?"

"I sure hope so!" Hawks pinched Yuto's cheek. "How can I start chasing you around the apartment if you don't learn to crawl?"

Yuto appeared to completely ignore his words - Shut up, Dad, Hawks thought with a snort - and grabbed his closest finger, shoving it in his mouth.

Hawks mock-grimaced at the teeth jabbing into his finger joint. "Oh, now I have a shark for a son instead of a hawk. Please don't eat me, Yuto!"

He pulled his finger from his mouth with a laugh.

Yuto whined, but was immediately placated when Tokoyami handed him his hawk, which went straight back in his mouth.

Tokoyami watched him for a moment before looking up at Hawks. "Hawks? Can I ask you something?"

Hawks patted his arm. "Yeah?"

"Don't feel as though you have to answer," Tokoyami drew out slowly, eyes avoiding him, "but what made you fall so hard for Dabi? What did he do exactly?"

Hawks' face fell. "Oh."

"You don't have to answer."

"No, it's - fine," he said, and sighed a second time. He leaned on Tokoyami. "There were a couple things that went into our attraction. First, he was hot - sorry, but he is. Second, well, he had a sarcastic mouth and was rebellious against authority, and I have a sarcastic mouth and a tendency to do what I want in spite of authority. Plus, I like edgy bad boys. Third...I wanted to figure him out like a puzzle, because his mysterious vibes intrigued me. Then it just got worse. We filled voids in each other; we were both lonely, had no family to speak of, and when he wasn't being a sadistic monster, he showed me he had some humanity and heart. Of course it all turned out to be one-sided in the end. He'd been playing me since the start."

Tokoyami looked down at Yuto. He stroked his wings, earning a purr. "I - I'm aware I probably can't fill the voids Dabi filled for you, or his place in your heart - "

"Please age up a good five years first," Hawks quipped, smiling.

Tokoyami blushed under his feathers and glared. "As I was trying say, I know I can't fill that void, but, erm, I hope you at least don't feel lonely anymore. And I hope you know you have more family than just Yuto, or the Todorokis."

Hawks lifted his arm to ruffle his feathers. "I know, Tokoyami. I have no idea what I did during your internship to deserve this, but I'm really glad you're here for me. So, are you going to visit the Todorokis with us on Sunday?"

At any rate, as long as Dabi was still on the loose, Hawks could still visit the family and let them and Yuto get to know each other as much as possible. He'd figure out what to do as time progressed; it wasn't as if he had another choice, he thought bitterly.

"Do you want me there?" Tokoyami asked, relaxing in the crook of his arm.

"Sure; Shoto sounded like he wanted you there and Fuyumi seemed eager to meet more of his friends. Said she hallucinated the last two she supposedly met."

Tokoyami nodded. "I can be there. This way, I can keep an eye on both of you."

Hawks made certain to mess up the spikey style of his feathers as he ruffled them again, getting an indignant "Hey!" as he did so. "Just remember to have some fun, kid."

Tokoyami smoothed his feathers back and scowled. "I will, you fiend. - Oof, not you, too, Yuto!"

"Ooo, two birds against one," Hawks laughed, digging his hand back into his back feathers as Yuto reached up to grab a batch by his beak. "Welcome to the Takami family, this is your initiation!"

Tokoyami squawked, trying desperately to fight their hands away at once. "Foul fiends! Stop! Gah - Dark Shadow!"

Hawks laughed as Dark Shadow appeared to lightly push him away, allowing Tokoyami to pick up Yuto and hold him away from his face. Neither the quirk nor his host were angry, though, and soon enough Dark Shadow disappeared and the three of them settled back in together.

Still, even with the warm tone of the evening, something else niggled in the back of Hawks' mind. He'd keep an eye on Shoto as well; he didn't want the kid doing anything stupid in pursuit of Dabi, after all. Thinking about everything, from the brothers' interactions to what he'd learned on his first visit with the family, Hawks worried about the kid. He really did.

On Sunday, Hawks arrived at the Todorokis to see Tokoyami was already there. He sat side by side with Shoto on the couch, watching TV and chatting about their schoolwork. Tea and lunch for five sat on the coffee table, two of the cups and meals already dug into. Neither of the boys appeared to notice Hawks or Yuto at the door until Rei came up behind them, asking if Hawks wanted one of them to make Yuto a bottle real quick.

"Ah, sure! Thanks, Mrs. Todoroki. I'll get his bottle and formula out," Hawks replied, shrugging off his baby bag. "You wanna take Yuto?"

Tokoyami moved to stand. "I can - "

Rei was already taking Yuto and kissing his cheek, though, making the baby coo happily, so he sat back down.

Hawks bit his lip as he crouched to dig through the bag, fighting back a smirk; he thought - only thought - he saw a quick flash of jealousy cross Tokoyami's face as he sat back down. Aww; the teen was so used to being the first and only other person to hold his baby.

Shoto regained his attention, though, asking a question about an assignment, and Rei handed Yuto back to Hawks so she could go fix his bottle for lunch. He sat down on the couch next to the two, and it wasn't long before Fuyumi swept in, gliding over to take her nephew in arms next (Hawks bit his cheek at Tokoyami's brief scowl), and soon enough Rei joined in. Shoto volunteered to feed Yuto (Hawks broke out laughing at the disappointed flash in Tokoyami's eyes, earning him strange looks and a pointed glare from Tokoyami), and patiently accepted Tokoyami's help in positioning him in his arms and explanation of how to hold the bottle.

Rei chuckled. "You two are going to make such good fathers someday."

Tokoyami froze and Shoto's cheeks immediately burned red.

"Only with my mentoring, right, Tokoyami?" Hawks teased.

"You're unbearable sometimes," Tokoyami hissed.

Fuyumi laughed. "Aww, don't worry, you guys! When you're older, some people are going to find it attractive that you're already good with kids."

"Why would that be attractive?" Shoto asked.

She shrugged. "It just is. There's something alluring about a man who knows what to do and is gentle with a baby."

Hawks couldn't help it - he had to; coughing into his fist, he quipped, "Uh, Fuyumi, is there something you want to tell me?"

Her face instantly dropped and went as red as Shoto's. "No!" she exclaimed in horror.

Hawks and Rei both laughed.

"Insufferable," Tokoyami muttered.

Shoto simply furrowed his brow.

"I'm kidding," Hawks told with her a toothy smile.

Fuyumi put a hand over his face in embarrassment. "Yeah, I walked right into that one, didn't I?"

Lunch continued without a hitch. The five of them chatted about their weeks - UA classes, Fuyumi's pre-school, Rei's work around the house and visiting old friends, taking care of Yuto - as they ate lunch and drank the tea Rei had made before the Takamis' arrival. True to their words, Endeavor and Natsuo didn't show up; Endeavor was indeed keeping his distance, and Natsuo was busy getting back into the grind at college now that the new semester was starting. Next weekend, Fuyumi told them, he would be home. It was only during busy or particularly stressful weeks he stayed at his dorm.

After lunch, Hawks and Tokoyami got on the floor and spread Yuto's blanket out. Shoto burped him with his mother's guidance, and laid him down on his tummy. Yuto chirped, relaxed, and only perked up when Tokoyami dug out his teddy bear. He picked his head up and chirped excitedly.

"Yes, it's your bear," Tokoyami said lightly, setting it down in front of him. "Why don't you sit up and I'll give it to you?"

Yuto lifted himself on his arms. Rather than push himself up in a sitting position, however, he eyed his bear in wonder. His tongue popped out between his lips, the cogs behind his eyes spinning.

Hawks blinked, peering down at him. "Yuto, what are doing?"

Rei inclined her head with fond smile. "Oh, I think I remember that face."

"What?" Fuyumi asked.

Shoto looked at their mother, puzzled, then Tokoyami, who was equally confused.

Yuto unfurled his wings, spreading them out at full length.

Hawks gasped, his heart just about stopping in its place.

Yuto's wings twitched. He furled them back up and unfurled them again.

"Yuto…?" Hawks pressed his hands on his knees and leaned forward, licking his lips in anticipation. "What are you...?"

Yuto, seemingly satisfied, furled them up again once more. He moved one of his legs, which had been lying flat on the blanket thus far, and brought it up to his knee. He raised a hand to bring it forward, but mid-way through lost his balance. His body toppled and his chin hit the blanket with a padded thud. Yuto whined.

Hawks heart resumed its beating, albeit somewhat disappointed. He pulled Yuto up in his lap. "Aww, you were trying to crawl! - Oh my god, Yuto, you were trying to crawl!"

Forget disappointment; Hawks felt his phantom wings flutter at the thought of Yuto legitimately crawling.

Yuto, meanwhile, pouted in his lap.

"There, there, little one," Tokoyami soothed, handing him his bear. "You did good for a first try."

Fuyumi's hands flew to her mouth. "Oh my goodness, that was so cute! He almost had it!"

Rei closed her eyes and smiled sweetly. "I told you I remember that face."

Shoto blinked. "Why did he fall?"

"I'll bet it was his wings," Hawks sighed, tweaking at them. Yuto sharply looked up him. He laughed. "They're heavy, aren't they, baby bird? You were checking their weight when you were unfurling them, weren't you? Weren't you?"

Yuto stuffed the bear's ear in his mouth in response.

"Oh, I hope they don't stunt his ability to crawl!" Fuyumi moaned.

"I wouldn't worry about it," Hawks offered, kissing his son's hair and brushing it back. "I learned to crawl and walk just fine, so there's no reason to believe he won't. He'll get it eventually."

Shoto turned to Rei. "How did you recognize that face?"

"I remember when each of you learned how to crawl," Rei explained, holding out her hands. "You and Fuyumi made the same one when you were learning. Fuyumi fell the first time before she got going, and you - I set you down for tummy time one day, and you got up and zipped across the room! I was shocked. Both of you were faster learners than your brothers."

"We were?" Fuyumi questioned.

Rei nodded. "Natsuo and Touya took a few days to get the hang of it."

Shoto frowned and looked at his lap.

Hawks caught that and frowned himself.

Tokoyami pet Yuto's hairline. "Do you want to try again, Yuto?"

Yuto plopped the ear out of his mouth. "Ehh?"

"Crawling," Tokoyami gestured to the blanket. "Do you want to try again?"

Yuto dropped his bear and reached out his arms, opening and closing his palms.

Tokoyami took him from Hawks.

Yuto smiled big, but that smile quickly disappeared when Tokoyami set him down on his stomach a foot away on the blanket. He pouted again and gave an angry chirp.

Hawks grabbed the bear and patted his knees. "Come on, Yuto! You can do it! Crawl over to us!"

Yuto did try. He picked himself up, wobbled on his arms, and fell. He lifted himself again, more carefully, and spread out his wings. He got one leg up before he fell forward with his bottom in the air. He gave it two more shots before collapsing on the blanket in frustrated tears.

Hawks immediately went to grab him a second time, shushing and kissing his tears away.

Shoto bent over to pat his head. "It's okay, you'll get it. You just need to practice."

"Says the crawling prodigy," Hawks teased. He brushed Yuto's cheek. "Uncle Shoto's right, though! Don't cry, baby bird! It's okay!"

Yuto buried his face in Hawks' shirt.

"Poor thing," Fuyumi said.

"You did good for your first try, sweetheart!" Rei encouraged.

Yuto mewled into Hawks' shirt.

He rubbed his hand over his hair soothingly. "S'okay, Yuto. Daddy's here."

Tokoyami frowned.

Dark Shadow suddenly emerged from his chest.

Fuyumi jumped back, while Rei's eyes widened, and Shoto looked at Tokoyami questioningly.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

Tokoyami didn't answer.

Hawks snickered, continuing to rub the back of Yuto's head gently.

Dark Shadow flew around Hawks in a full circle before pausing behind Yuto, laying a hand on his shoulder and peering over at his face. "Baby?"

Yuto sniffled again and reluctantly craned his neck to look at Dark Shadow.

Dark Shadow smiled wide. "Babies shouldn't cry! Here, I'm funny again!"

Dark Shadow made a variety of silly faces.

Yuto sniffling gradually subsided, but it took a few minutes for him to fully stop crying. He hesitantly smiled and giggled. Probably still feeling sheepish, however, he reburied his face in Hawks' chest.

"No, no!" Dark Shadow protested. He poked a talon shaped finger repeatedly into Yuto's shoulder. "Come back, come back!"

Yuto laughed against Hawks and peeked out, mischievous.

"There you are!" Dark Shadow exclaimed.

Hawks turned his head to Tokoyami with a smirk. "So when did you train Dark Shadow to be so good with children again?"

"I didn't. There's enough light in here that he's friendly and enjoys cute things," Tokoyami explained plainly. "In this environment, he doesn't like seeing infants cry."

"That's adorable," Rei chuckled. She cupped her tea in both hands and smiled at Tokoyami. "You have an amazing quirk, Tokoyami."

Tokoyami started. Blushing under his feathers, he looked away quickly with a scowl. "This isn't even his actual function," he muttered.

Dark Shadow edged to take Yuto. Hawks let him have him.

Dark Shadow flew in the air, holding Yuto above his head.

On instinct, Yuto's wings spread out. He squealed happily.

"Flying baby!" Dark Shadow cheered, flying across the room just under the ceiling.

Tokoyami raised his gaze. "Be careful, Dark Shadow."

"I'm careful!"

Fuyumi clapped her hands together. "Aww! It's like he's flying! They're so cute!"

"I know, right?" Hawks agreed, his eyes glued on his son in Dark Shadow's arms.

Yuto looked like a natural up there, with his long, red wings outstretched at full wingspan. He smiled and laughed, flapping them every so often as if catching a breeze or to stay so high up and keep going. For the first time in a while, Hawks wondered when he himself would learn to fly again. His heart ached painfully.

I need to learn how to fly again, he thought mournfully. If only he could.

"It'll be exciting when he does learn how to crawl," Rei mentioned.

Shoto stared up at his nephew in interest. "Is it really that cool when babies crawl?"

Hawks grinned. "Yeah, it is! Means the little guy is growing up."

Fuyumi nudged her brother. "I remember when you started crawling, Shoto. You were so fast! Natsuo used to try to get you to race him in the hall. Of course he'd outrun you, but you'd get so wide-eyed while trying to catch up to him! He'd run back to you, pick you up on the floor, and tickle your tummy."

Hawks suppressed a laugh.

Shoto blinked and looked thoughtful as ever. "Huh. I wonder if he remembers that."

"He might! He was four!" Fuyumi got her phone out. "I'll text him!"

Tokoyami turned toward Hawks, slightly amused. "Let's hope Yuto gets his uncle's skills."

"Don't diss my baby," Hawks playfully jabbed. "He has my genes, of course when he gets it he'll be faster than Shoto was!"

"Oh, I hope not," Rei interjected, causing the three to look up at her in surprise. "I've seen videos of you fly, Hawks; if Yuto has your speed, none of us will ever be able to catch him! If he's fast on the ground, I can only imagine what'll happen when he starts flying."

Hawks sighed dreamily. "I'm going to be in Heaven and Hell."

"...Natsuo remembers!" Fuyumi exclaimed. "Barely. He remembers racing Shoto one time, and it's literally just running back to him. He says he misses his cute baby brother."

"He still thinks I'm cute?" Shoto did a doubletake.

"He means when you were a baby, Sho."


Fuyumi giggled and patted his back. "Don't worry, I think you're still cute."

Shoto crinkled his brow. "Thanks? You...mean that as a good thing, right?"

"I do!"

"Hey, Tokoyami," Hawks spoke up, "do you have any idea what you were like as a baby? I bet you had the cutest downy feathers!"

Tokoyami snorted. "You sound like my mother."

"So I'm right! Yes!"

"I'm glad you're in such good spirits," Tokoyami replied, and Hawks genuinely couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not. He looked up at the ceiling, where Dark Shadow and Yuto were still flying in circles, contemplative. When he lowered his head, his expression was serious. He pointed to his face. "My mother once said I was born with this face."

Hawks have him an appraising once over and nodded. "I believe it."

Dark Shadow chose that moment to return to the floor, giving Yuto back to Hawks. He took his baby into his lap gladly. Dark Shadow booped Yuto in the nose, making him laugh, before returning to Tokoyami's side.

"You can rest now, Dark Shadow," he said.

Dark Shadow promptly disappeared.

Fuyumi finished texting and slipped her phone away. "Did Shoto and I look a certain way when we were born, Mom?"

Rei hummed, thinking, and took a drink of her tea. She smiled. "Hm, Fuyumi, you came out of me crying, so your face was pure red and puffy. But you were already my beautiful, little girl. Shoto, you were born sleeping, so you were quiet, but you looked so peaceful. I thought it was almost a shame when you woke up a few minutes later. Then I saw your eyes and was captivated by the colors. But you were both equally adorable."

"Aww," Hawks said, and couldn't help kissing Yuto on the head. He ignored the pang of regret in his heart (Yuto had appeared dead to him, and struggled to breathe) and lifted Yuto in his arms to smother him in kisses. "Look, Yuto, being cute runs in the family!"

Yuto laughed and covered his face, laughing more when Hawks pushed through his hands.

"What about Natsuo, Mom?" Fuyumi continued. "What was he like?"

"Hmm, he looked all over the room when he was born," Rei recalled. "He was a curious baby. Very adorable, too."

Hawks shot Yuto a tight smile.

Yuto cocked his head. "Ehh?"

He smacked Hawks' nose, as if to smack his tight smile off.

Hawks swallowed a laugh and pushed his hand down. "Silly! I keep telling you, no hitting!"

Yuto pursed his lips together. He took Hawks jaw in hand and pressed them against his chin.

Hawks instantly melted on the spot.

"Aww!" Fuyumi whipped her phone back out to take pictures of Yuto. "To send to Dad!" she explained, and started snapping them.

It wasn't long, however, before she lowered her phone and glanced up at Hawks warily.

He raised his eyebrows, silently asking what.

She looked over at her mother. "And Touya, Mom? What was he like?"

Rei jolted. "Oh! Well..." she thought for a moment. "Touya was quiet. He looked at me, looked at your father, and fell asleep after nursing for a few minutes. I remember thinking to myself that if he's always this quiet, he'll probably be an easy baby. So cute, too."

"Was he an easy baby?" he asked. He thought of Yuto's small size, frail body, and even the motion sickness, and wondered what else might have come from Dabi.

Rei cocked her head and chuckled. "Not really. I was a new mom and he was still a baby who needed a lot of care and attention. He probably was the quietest of my children, but I got so little sleep before Enji hired our nanny to help out that I hardly noticed." She placed a hand on her cheek. "Ohh, but you were all so sweet back then. I almost wish I could turn the four of you back into babies and watch you all grow up again one more time, haha!"

Shoto ducked his head, a strange look on his face.

Hawks saw him.

Shoto raised it back up before he could ask, though, his expression normal.

Hawks did not like that.

Rei stood and began to gather the empty trays and cups. "We should get rid of these. Who wants to help me wash them real quick?"

Tokoyami climbed to his feet, helping her gather them. "I will. It's the least I can do in return for allowing me to stay during a family visit."

"That's no trouble at all!" Rei assured as he followed her to the kitchen.

Yuto watched Tokoyami go, confused. He looked up at Hawks sadly.

Hawks rocked him. "He's coming back, baby bird, don't worry. Want Aunt Fuyumi to hold you until then?"

Fuyumi sat up. "Aww, come're, Yuto, they'll be back soon!"

Hawks handed him off and glanced at Shoto. The guy seemed lost in his thoughts now that his mother was gone, troubled thoughts if the slight way his fingers dug into his pants were any indication.

Hawks raised himself up off the floor. "Hey, Shoto, can you show me where the bathroom is again? I gotta go."

Shoto jumped. "Huh?"

"It's down the hall, second door on your left," Fuyumi said helpfully, waving Yuto's arms.

Hawks smiled at her. "Thanks! But seriously, Shoto," he put an edge in his voice, to signal the bathroom itself wasn't what he was after, "come show me so I don't accidentally walk into somebody's room by mistake."

Fuyumi's eyes widened in understanding. She looked at Shoto, who exchanged a baffled look with her.

"Uh, okay," Shoto got up and followed him out into the hall, letting Hawks lead the way to the bathroom.

Safely away from prying ears in the kitchen and living room, Hawks leaned his back on the bathroom door and looked straight at Shoto. "Something's on your mind. What's up?"

Shoto pressed his lips together. "What do you mean?"

"You were acting weird when Touya was brought up," Hawks stated. "I told you guys last week I don't mind talking about him. Is this about your dad not letting you on the investigative team?"

That had been lingering in the back of Hawks' mind ever since Endeavor explained it to him. As much as he did hope Shoto was talking to his family or school about his brother, Hawks had to make sure he was all right.

Shoto narrowed his eyes. "Did Dad tell you about that?"

"Not without a little teeth pulling from me," Hawks smiled humorlessly. He let the smile drop. "He said Dabi calls you a 'little Endeavor' or something during fights. He's afraid Dabi will hurt you if you go out there."

Shoto went lax at that, and started rubbing his wrist. "Yeah... Touya thinks I've turned into him, that I'm finally the puppet Dad wanted to beat All Might with. I don't know how he could think that, but he does. He says I'm not even a different sort of hero - that those kinds of heroes don't actually exist."

"That's been bugging you lately, hasn't it?" Hawks determined, sympathetic.

Shoto lowered his gaze to the floor.

Hawks went to push himself off the door.

"I'm not him," Shoto suddenly spat, mouth twisting. "He's not even really him anymore, Dad. Touya knows I work for Dad's agency, though, and chose to be there, I wasn't forced - so he thinks I'm brainwashed. Why, I don't know - I'm only there because I want to train my flames, I spent so much of my childhood running from him and focusing on my ice, I just wanted the best opportunity to learn how to use my flames - !"

"Hey, hey!" Hawks pushed himself upright. "It's okay, I get it. Touya's not - Dabi doesn't have the right idea."

Shoto bit his lip. "It's - it's not only that. I - There's a lot about Touya that, uh, bothers me." He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Hawks, I didn't mean to make you worry. I'm fine, really."

Hawks put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. I wanted to see how you were doing anyway; considering what your dad told me, you must be going through a tough time. How are you doing?"

Shoto looked up at him warily.

Hawks gave a light smile. "Don't give me that look; I told you before, I don't want you doing anything stupid under the table to get your brother back. Talk to me, Shoto; what's going on?"

Shoto glanced away, letting his arms drop. "I...I'm not doing anything under the table. So far, I've been fighting with Dad to stop treating me like a kid - since when is he an overprotective father? He's suddenly acting like I'm not training to be a pro. Why is this case different just because one of the villains is my brother? It's not as if Touya's not his son."

Hawks nodded along as the teen's words gradually went from sheepish to bitter. "He's afraid Dabi something he'll regret, kid."

Something that Endeavor would regret, but Hawks chose to leave it ambiguous. (He truly didn't know how Dabi felt about his family. Truly.)

Shoto clenched his fists. "He won't," he asserted. "I remember him from the training camp. That Dabi - I don't know what was running through his head, but the past couple months, he hasn't been attacking me at all. He'll go on the defensive and melt my ice, but he hasn't sent flames my way or a Nomu after me once. I don't believe he'll hurt me like Dad says. Something's changed in him since the camp. He had no problem attacking me there, and he wasn't calling me 'little Endeavor Jr.' at that point."

"That doesn't mean he won't," Hawks warned lowly. He didn't want to crush the kid, but he didn't want to give him false hope either and lead him down a reckless path. "Dabi has killed ruthlessly. He'd go recruiting and murder potential candidates because they didn't meet his standards. Sometimes that included just not being interested in the League. Besides, your dad said he's becoming unhinged. He might be restraining himself now, but that doesn't mean he will forever."

Shoto's arms shook. "Don't you think I know that!?" He hung his head. "Why do you have to tell me what I already know? I know what he's done, Hawks; I don't forgive him for those things. I don't forgive him for killing people or kidnapping Bakugo; I haven't forgotten those things, so stop it!"

Hawks suddenly lifted his gaze over Shoto's head. Down the hall, he spotted Tokoyami and Rei standing outside the living room, eyes fixed on them. Tokoyami appeared to be waiting for orders, a sign he should come over there to help. Rei looked at them neutrally, her expression unreadable.

Hawks shook his head and jerked his head toward the door.

Both stood there for a second longer, before Tokoyami nodded and headed in living the room. Rei remained, her mouth resolute, before she dragged her heels to join him.

Hawks returned his attention to Shoto.

He kept his head down, his whole body shaking now. "I'm aware of what he's done," he repeated, voice cracking. "He's a monster. Touya's a monster. And - I-I know he might not respond to me like I hope. He hates heroes, he always has, and now he's trying to destroy us all. He thinks I'm like dad." His voice cracked again, as if he was holding himself back from crying. His body shook harder. "I don't expect him to - to hold me like he used to. But the fact he could - he could hate me, and compare me to him... And Dad suddenly stopped treating me like a hero in training, suddenly wants to be a protective father over me, he won't even see us anymore - I've never felt this horrible before. It's like when Mom went to the hospital, only - only different. So different."

Hawks hadn't been there when Rei was hospitalized. The only parent he'd had taken away was his dad, and he remembered being happy about it; he'd had no attachment to the man. But he did remember when he was taken away from his mom, and how much it hurt in the long run to be away from her. She might not have been a good mother, and he had no interest in her today, but he'd been a little kid who'd needed and missed her, and it hurt so bad that that the Commission put him in therapy for a while. Hawks could only imagine what it was like to have one's own mother attack them, then watch her be sent away and leave you alone with a monster - but he imagined it would be incredibly confusing, incredibly saddening, and incredibly enraging. Not to mention so, so frightening. Horrifying, really.

And this, here, with Dabi? Shoto wasn't calling it worse than that, just different - a new kind of horrifying. He got to experience new yet just as complex feelings of anger, fear, and confusion.

He also imagined Shoto had felt pretty useless as a kid, unable to prevent what had happened and unable to fix it. Now here he was again, unable to have prevented Touya from becoming Dabi and being put in a position where he might not be able to save him.

Hawks could see it; he could see the vile nest of contradicting emotions within the kid. He could see Shoto struggling to navigate through it, to untangle and figure out his feelings. It had to be hard. There had to be some guilt in there, for loving and wanting the best for someone who was just so, so wrong. Hawks could at least relate to some of what Shoto must be feeling.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "This isn't something you should have to go through."

Shoto released a shaky sigh. "All I want to do is put Touya on the right path and make him see the light. He didn't have to become this way. He could be something different. He can still pay for his crimes and he should - he should - !"

Hawks gently pulled the teen to his chest and put a hand on the back of his head. Shoto didn't fight him, only shuddered.

"I know," he said quietly, "I get it."

"You love him," Shoto gasped into his shirt. He sounded as though he were pleading. "Do you even want him back? Do you even want him to be in Yuto's life?"

Hawks' grip tightened.

"I don't know," he answered honestly. "The way he is now, no; I don't want him in our lives. If he changes, I - I really can't say, Shoto. I really can't. Your brother scares me. He terrifies me."

"But you love him?" he asked.

"Yeah," Hawks admitted. "But loving someone doesn't mean you have no issues with them. I have to put myself and my son's safety first - physically and mentally. It doesn't matter if Dabi uses fire or words, I can't - I can't let him hurt us. Kind of like how your dad doesn't want you getting hurt. He's afraid Touya might...might kill you, Shoto. Even if you don't think so, he doesn't want to lose two sons. He doesn't want to take that risk."

"He won't respond to Dad," Shoto argued, pressing his forehead against his chest. "He might or might not to me. But he won't to him. I don't want Dad to die either. I remember when that Hi-High End showed up..."

Hawks remembered as well. He'd stood right next to Endeavor, helping him up, as Dabi and his blue flames stalked out onto the scene, invigorated.

"I don't want him to die," Shoto pressed his nose into his shirt. The tears were definitely running. "I don't want Touya to kill him. I don't want - want last week to have been the last time I see him i-in person!"

Hawks wrapped an arm around his back securely. "It'll take a lot to wipe your dad out."

"He's not infallible," Shoto forced out.

"No, he's not, but he's not about to go down either."

"I don't know what to do," Shoto moaned. "None of us really know what to do. We want him back...but we don't even know if he can come back! If he'll want to, if he'll be willing to change, if he'll be behind bars for the rest of his life, or be able to live with us again, or if he'll die for his cause out there first!"

Hawks rubbed the back of his head slowly, like he often did with Yuto. His face softened. "I know. My heart's all messed up about him, too. I may not want him back, but it's hard living with what he is. I bet there's a part of you that wishes he would hold you like he used to, but that's not who he is, so you feel guilty for wanting that. Believe me, Shoto, I know exactly how you feel."

Shoto dug his fingers into his shirt. "I have to try. I've got to know. It's - I can't fix this unless we bring Touya back. He hates Dad and wants him dead, but he won't so much as attack me. He loved me, and I love him, so why can't I - ?" He swallowed back tears. "I'm the most likely one he'll - he'll respond to. And even - even if he doesn't, I can bring him back and - and we can put him in a hospital, or a jail, I don't know! But we can't - this doesn't end until - we can't figure it out - I'm sorry, I don't - "

Hawks let him ramble and repeat himself.

"I understand," he murmured. "You can't set your feelings straight or get rid of them until you confront him."

I hate how familiar that sounds.

Although he didn't want to confront Dabi himself, he did have to confront his own feelings towards him. He wasn't done doing that yet; he'd put it, along with everything else, aside when Yuto's quirk manifested.

"He's Touya," Shoto finally sobbed. "You don't understand! You weren't there when - when we were younger! He was - he was - he was an entirely different person! I don't - I don't get how he - he turned into Dabi!"

I don't either, kid.

Hawks opened his mouth to respond, but another voice cut him off.


They both looked up. Rei approached and gently cut in, taking Shoto in her arms. He melted into them, still crying. Hawks stepped out of her way.

Rei ran a hand through his hair and turned to Hawks. "I'll take him from here. Thank you, Hawks. Come on, Shoto."

Shoto swallowed, and let his mom lead him to one of the other doors.

Hawks waited until they disappeared to return to the living room.

Fuyumi and Tokoyami were side by side on the couch, Yuto sitting up in Tokoyami's lap with his bear. Fuyumi stared sadly at her lap, as lost in her thoughts as her brother had been. Tokoyami's expression was his usual stern, eyes laser focused on Hawks. Yuto looked between the two of them worriedly, but once he caught sight of his daddy, brightened. He chirped happily.

Hawks stepped over and ran a hand through's Yuto's hair, chirping back soothingly.

Yuto smiled wide, and, reassured, began playing with his bear.

Tokoyami looked up at him.

Hawks shrugged. "His mom's got it."

Fuyumi suddenly got up, straightening her shirt out. "Hey, I actually need to run to the store real quick. When Mom and Shoto get back, can you let them know where I went? I'll be back soon, promise."

Hawks and Tokoyami were both thrown off.

"Um, sure," Hawks replied.

"Great!" Fuyumi clapped her hands together and gave a tense smile. "I was going to do this later, but might as well now! I'll see you guys soon!"

She sprinted through the living room door. A minute later, the front door slammed.

Hawks sat down next to Fumikage. "So, how much did you hear?"

"Enough," Tokoyami said. "Are you okay?"

"Think you should be asking that of Shoto."

"He has his mother, I know he'll be okay." Tokoyami looked up at him. "But are you?"

Hawks lifted his eyes to the ceiling. "I think so."

"Do you want to talk?"

"Not really." He reached to ruffle Tokoyami's feathers, turning his head to smile softly at him. "I'm not really good at comforting people in situations like these."

"You have a personal stake in the matter," Tokoyami reminded. "Your feelings matter as well."

Hawks wrapped an arm around his shoulders. He was glad to have him, so he didn't have to be alone. "Yeah, thanks. Let's talk about it later."

When Rei and Shoto eventually came back, Yuto was back on his blanket trying to crawl. Rei cooed, and Shoto smiled despite his red eyes.

He looked up at Hawks and gave him a brief nod, signaling that he was okay.

Hawks nodded back.

Yuto sat up and gestured to Shoto, wanting to be held. "Ahhh!"

Uncertain, Shoto grabbed him and put him in his lap. "What's the matter, Yuto?"

Yuto snuggled into his shirt, chirping comfortingly.

"Aww," Hawks' heart warmed, "he loves you."

Shoto swallowed, eyes wide. He wrapped his arms around Yuto in a loose hug.

When Fuyumi got home less than an hour later, she peeked her head in the living room. "Hey, Hawks, do you want to help me in here?"

Shoto moved to stand. "I can do it. Why did you go get groceries? We have food."

Fuyumi stopped him with a pointed finger. "Uh uh! You guys spend time with Yuto. Tokoyami, you're a guest, so you stay put!"

Hawks scoffed disbelievingly, already getting up. "If he's a guest, what am I?"

"My helper; come on!"

Hawks was only a couple weeks younger than Fuyumi, yet he felt like one of her preschoolers as he followed her. "Okay?"

Four bags of groceries sat on the kitchen counter, ready to be unpacked.

"Soba noodles," Hawks noted as he helped her unload them. "Vegetables, soy sauce, ice cream...? I'm guessing this wasn't last minute shopping for stuff you forgot?"

Fuyumi dove through her own bag. "Well, like I said, I was planning to do this later. Shoto's birthday is this week; he's turning seventeen. He'll be at school, though, so I figured we could have a family dinner with all his favorites tonight. I was going to wait until after you guys left, but..."

"Yeah," Hawks finished, tossing the first bag away. He frowned, and let curiosity get the better of him. "Hey, stupid question, but, uh, when's Dabi's birthday? And, old is he?"

Fuyumi blinked and jerked her head up. "You don't know how old he is?"

Hawks bit his lip, embarrassed. "No."

Fuyumi did a doubletake. "Oh. It's okay! Uh, next week, actually; Touya's birthday is the eighteenth. He'll be twenty-seven."

Twenty-seven. He was nearly three years older than Hawks. He would have guessed twenty-five this year, no older than that; Dabi had appeared to be someone in his early twenties by the Commission's estimate, not mid-to-late. Twenty-seven next week. Wow.

Fuyumi focused on her bag. "He and Shoto used to share birthday parties when we were really little. Dad wasn't a fan of parties, and it was easier on Mom to set up one instead of two."

"What did Touya think of that?" Hawks asked, lightening his voice to lighten the mood.

Fuyumi allowed herself a small smile. "That he didn't want to share with the baby. When they turned eleven and one, Natsuo put a gift bow on Shoto's belly and said he was one of his presents. Touya laughed so hard. He didn't complain after that."

"Siblings sound like so much fun," Hawks chuckled. "Almost wish I'd had some."

"Yeah," Fuyumi's eyes fell. "I really don't understand who Touya is today. That's not my big brother."

Hawks finished unloading the second bag and let his arms fall. "I'm sorry."

Fuyumi opened one of the cupboards and grabbed a few pans out. "Some of this stuff takes longer to cook than others. Can you turn on the sink?"

Hawks did.

Fuyumi put one of the pan underneath. As they prepared to cook, she started reminiscing.

"I'm not sure what the boys or Mom have told you," she began, "but Touya wasn't at all back then what...ever that man on TV is. He was quiet and shy for the most part. Dad's training did a number on him; it wasn' rough back then - like, he didn't separate Touya from us in the same way he did Shoto - but it was bad. Touya would throw up, he'd burn himself, and Dad would get angry when he had to wait weeks for the burns to heal. He said it was wasting time and he berated him for being so clumsy with his flames. He couldn't teach him, I heard scream once, if Touya wasn't going to listen and end up burning himself. One time he accused Touya of doing it on purpose so he could get out of training, and threatened to not let him go anymore if he kept this up."

"Sounds like it was only bad in a different way," Hawks commented, "not necessarily not worse."

Fuyumi shrugged helplessly. "Touya was scared of our father, more than the rest of us. He hated him, and he wasn't afraid to say it when he wasn't around. If Dad was around, I thought one of these days Touya was going to figure out how to blend into the walls. Even after his training ended in favor of Shoto's, he avoided him as much as possible and ran out of the room as soon as he could."

Hawks hummed. "Natsuo said something like that."

"Those two were the best of friends," she replied. "I was older, but Natsuo was another boy; they gravitated to each other more than they did to me, and Shoto was the baby. It didn't matter that they were six years apart, or that Natsuo got Dad's huge genes, you couldn't tear them apart when Touya wasn't training. Natsuo was the outgoing to his shy, the big to his small, and they were always laughing and trying to beat each other at games. They made each other smile and they told each other everything."

Hawks dipped his chin.

Fuyumi turned on the stove. "He got along with the rest of us, too. Touya would help me with my homework when I needed it, and I'd be out there playing with the boys everyday. He loved sports, playing ball, reading, and just...being a kid. He felt guilty when Dad started training Shoto instead; he was relieved to get away from him, but he flinched the hardest out of everyone when we heard him screaming and Mom crying. He couldn't listen to it. He'd cover his ears, or he'd run to his room. I know he talked to Shoto alone when Dad wasn't home, and Mom sneaked the five of us together. He used to hold him in his lap a lot."

Hawks didn't reply, chopping the vegetables instead.

"Touya wasn't heartless," she said firmly. "He could mean, yes; all kids can be. But he was kind, too. He'd help Mom out when he could, he'd help patch Shoto up, and when he got older, he'd listen to Natsu and I. He sobbed for two days when Mom was put in the hospital. He didn't have many friends at school because of how shy he was, but his teachers loved how quiet and attentive he was. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't a saint, and I think Shoto and Natsuo idealize him because of how young and close they were when he 'died,' but...he wasn't bad. Not by any means. He didn't hurt people. He was nice and he cared. He cared so much. I don't recognize the villain on TV. That's not my brother."

"So," Hawks drew out the word slowly, "what do you think? Do you believe he can go back to being that person?"

Fuyumi sighed. She wiped a hand under her glasses. "I hope so. I'm horrified by what he is now. I can't wrap my head around why or even how he ran away. It's different than with Dad - Dad hurt all of us, bad, especially him, Shoto, and Mom, but - he didn't kill anyone. He's changing. I don't know. Maybe I should hate them both. Maybe I should hate one more. But I don't. I just want my family. None of us got to have one growing up, and it messed all of us up. If Touya can change back into who he was, why shouldn't we finally have that? Why shouldn't we finally have a family?"

Hawks didn't have an answer for that.

Frankly, he didn't care if his own villain of a dad changed, he wanted nothing to do with him. Then again, he'd never shown him warmth like Touya had his mom and siblings. Endeavor had been worse than his dad the last two and a half decades, but Hawks was too attached to the man and understood he was turning over a new leaf. Dabi...Dabi was weird, because he had grown attached to him while simultaneously being repulsed him. Not to mention, what had gone down the day of the raid - Dabi had stolen his wings, his life, and harmed their son, regardless of how unwitting that last one was. Honestly, he didn't how to feel.

As usual, Dabi only confused him.

"It's your life," he finally answered. "It's your choice to make."

Fuyumi paused. She leaned over and pressed a hand to his arm.

Hawks looked at it, unused to being touched like this (except for maybe by Tokoyami when he was upset).

Fuyumi smiled sadly. "That goes for you, too. I'm not trying to convince you that he's a good person or that he will change. I only wanted you to understand why we want him back, despite everything. Why we're desperate to have him be a part of the family again, even though he's a horrible villain. I - I just want my big brother back. All of us do."

Hawks gently shrugged her off. "I got it. For the record, I hope you do get him back."

I'm just not sure if I'll be here when you do.

"So what do you think?" Hawks asked the next day, on the floor next to Tokoyami, who held Yuto's middle up as he tried again to crawl. "Still believe they're setting themselves up for heartbreak? Because I think you're right, the boy Touya was and Dabi don't sound the same at all to me."

They never did, he thought, remembering his sole encounter with Touya as children. How Touya had connected with him, hugged him and made him feel safe.

Tokoyami shook his head. "It isn't fair to them. I almost want to hate him on their behalf, everything else aside."

Hawks leaned back against the couch. "We met once when we were kids, you know."

Tokoyami did a doubletake. He pulled Yuto into his lap, ignoring his cries of protest. "Who? Me or Dabi?"

Hawks gently pried Yuto out of his arms and sat him on his thighs, giving his baby a serene smile. Yuto calmed.

"Dabi," he answered seriously. "He was there when my dad got arrested by Endeavor."

Tokoyami stared in astonishment. "You haven't told me this story."

Hawks shrugged, making Yuto giggle by swinging his arms. "Yeah. I'll never forget it. I told him things I never told an adult before. He told me he was sorry my dad hurt me. He called me brave for living under my dad's thumb and not crying every second. He hugged me. He was so warm. I wrapped my wings around us. I didn't completely understand him back then, but I do now." He wiped a thumb under Yuto's golden eye. "I remember thinking his eyes were pretty. A clear blue, like the sky."

Tokoyami was silent a moment. "When Todoroki, Midoriya, and I visited you, you said Dabi showed you he had a heart 'plenty of times.' Do you believe he was being genuine after all, at least some of the time?"

Hawks' stomach churned. He didn't want to think of Dabi's kindness towards him. It hurt too much. "I don't know."

Yuto squirmed. He grasped the front of Hawks' shirt and climbed up on shaky legs, falling against his torso with an "Oof!" He pursed his lips, kissed Hawks' chin, and drew back with a wide smile.

Hawks took him by the sides and smiled back at him. "Cutie. You're learning every day! I love you so much."

Yuto giggled.

He looked back at Tokoyami, who was also smiling. "I guess I need time to think is all."

"Even if he was kind," Tokoyami's smile slid off, "that doesn't mean you have to accept him back into your life. The Todorokis have made their decision, and I hope for the best for them, but...I don't want you to get hurt again if he refuses to change. That's not to say the Todorokis haven't had their pain, but I worry about you, Hawks. I don't want to see him break you a second time."

Hawks scooted over and pulled him into another one-armed hug. "He won't. Trust me. I don't want to be broken again either."

Those first eight months had been hell. He was still struggling to pull himself out of that hell. Hawks had a dreadful feeling there was much he had confront before he finally did. He wasn't going to just lie down and let Dabi undo what progress he had made so far, and he did have some support to fall back on if Dabi tried. Besides, he had Yuto to think of, and in a way, Tokoyami as well. He didn't want to let either of them watch him break. They needed him to be strong. He wanted to be strong for them.

Later, once Tokoyami had left for the night and Yuto was asleep in his crib, Hawks sat on the couch and closed his eyes.

It was too hard to remember the times Dabi had been kind to him. He'd remembered them too often in the aftermath of the raid and bringing Yuto home. It was easier to put them off, push them aside and pretend they weren't there.

But he had at least one memory where Dabi had been kind to others.

He took a deep breath and allowed the memory to flood his mind.

"Come on," Hawks whined playfully, his arms looped around Dabi's neck. "Haven't I proven myself yet? I've given you so much info on the heroes and you clearly trust me enough to date me; what more do I have to do to get into the League?"

Dabi looked down his nose at him, eyes lidded. "A lot, chicken breath. A little information isn't nearly enough to prove your commitment, and I don't introduce people to the League just because they suck my dick."

Hawks pouted, then brightened. He pushed himself up to kiss the side of Dabi's neck. "What if I sucked you off really good right now?"

Dabi scoffed. "You do NOT think that's actually going to work. Didn't you tell me once that seduction's not your game?"

Hawks had joked about that, back when they both admitted to caring for each other. He kissed up his neck. "Yeah, I did. Honestly, I'm just horny."

Dabi curled his lips. "Well," he remarked dryly, "that explains why you've been practically humping my leg since I got here."

"Rude!" Hawks laughed.

Not that it wasn't true; Dabi had arranged for them in meet right in the middle of Hawks' patrol (fun stuff, getting out of that without setting off his sidekicks' suspicions) in the dark, back alley of some random city three hours from Fukuoka. Hawks had waited, bored and mildly frustrated, for twenty-seven minutes before Dabi showed, strolling in like a sly cat with nothing better to do and leaning back on a shadowy wall. He'd all but pounced on him, demanding a deep kiss before anything else.

Truthfully, there were two reasons for Hawks' behavior.

One, he needed to act the fool to lower Dabi's guard. The more Dabi thought he was some useless idiot, the more likely he was to spill useful information he'd doubt Hawks would pick up on. Currently, Hawks was interested in the League's involvement with a yakuza gang some six weeks back. They had initially been suspected of allying with the gang, only to help the heroes take them down, and then crashed Overhaul's police escort to destroy his arms and rob him. The Commission, and in turn Hawks, wanted to know more about what had gone down there; what the League was potentially up to with other criminal organizations, and what purpose they intended to use quirk erasing bullets for.

And two, well, Hawks sincerely was horny. It was awful and weird; he hadn't been this horned up since he was a flighty teenage sneaking out behind his handlers' backs to meet up with secret boyfriends and girlfriends to hook up. He blamed it on the stress of his mission - his sex drive had surely spiked up as a way to counter the stress and relax. (In retrospect, Hawks in the present day thought it must have been the pregnancy hormones; he had been about ten weeks along with Yuto at that point.) Hopefully after they exchanged the information they planned to today, they could leave this back alley for a real bed and Hawks could get off.

"You're a dog," Dabi huffed a laugh as Hawks pressed their chests together, sucking on the purple graft on his neck. "We fucked two days ago; get a hold of yourself."

Hawks reeled back and saw mirth in Dabi's eyes.

He smirked and slid a hand down his chest. "Or, we can get out of here and I can tell you about those heroes in Tokyo after we fuck again."

Dabi curled his arms around his lower back. He tilted his head down, nudging Hawks' nose with his. "Maybe if you're a good little hero for me."

Hawks pushed his head up and pressed their lips together.

Dabi's eyes closed, his tongue swiping at Hawks' mouth.

Hawks let him in, wrapping his arms tighter around his neck.

Yeah, after - After they fucked, they could exchange information, actually. He'd tell Dabi what he needed to know about some Tokyo based heroes he was interested in and try to get League/Overhaul info out of him after they slept together. It was a fair trade. His lower half ached with need.

(Again, in retrospect, pregnancy hormones. Actually, now that Hawks thought about the fall in general, being pregnant really had brought him back to his flighty, horny teenage years. Geesh, he'd been unprofessional, putting off his mission for a good lay. Well, more unprofessional than usual when it came to Dabi, that is.)

"WHISKERS!" a high pitched voice suddenly screeched from some distance away. "WHISKERS, COME BACK!"

Aaaaand there was the end of Hawks' arousal.

He and Dabi mutually broke away, Hawks stepping back while Dabi wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

"Nothing kills your libido quite like hearing kids scream, eh, Hawks?" Dabi muttered sarcastically.

"Few things compare," Hawks grumbled.

He liked kids, but seriously. He'd almost gotten off!

Hawks' keen eyes then caught something moving, leaping off a box a few yards away towards Dabi - he did nothing about it, though, except cracking a thin smile, because it was simply a young cat.

Dabi didn't see it, though, nor that it was a cat. He gasped and yelled as the black furball suddenly flung into his face, barreling him down on his ass on the hard concrete.

Hawks threw his head back with a loud laugh.

Dabi glared up at him, the cat nestling neatly in his arms, as if that was all it had wanted all along. Glowing green eyes peered up at Hawks in interest; it licked its lips.

"Sorry, kitty," Hawks flexed his wings, "you're not eating this bird."

"But I might," Dabi threatened.

"Please do!" Hawks invited with another laugh.

The cat only sat there, pleased as Dabi stroked its head while he glared at Hawks.

"I didn't know you were an animal person," Hawks teased. "Then again, I guess that explains why you like me!"

Dabi's eyes narrowed, but he continued to stroke the cat's head. For its part, the cat settled in his arms and closed its eyes, the picture of comfortable.

"WHISKERS!" the high pitched voice screamed again, and was joined by a slightly higher voice, "WHISKERS!"

A couple of kids turned around the alley corner, running straight for them.

The cat opened its eyes, displeasure written all over its face.

"I know, I hate kids, too," Dabi grouched. "So fucking loud."

"WHISK- !" the kids came to a halt.

Hawks had, by that point, receded into the shadows, folding his wings behind him as much as possible. He was still visible, but his features were hidden; the last thing he needed was some children blowing his cover to the media.

So all the kids saw was a shadowy figure in the dark and Dabi, with his scars and staples, sitting on the pavement, their pet in his arms.

"Um," said the older kid, a girl no older than ten, who had shoulder length green hair and a horn for a nose, the same as the presumably six year old boy beside her, "that's our cat, m-mister."

Dabi stroked the cat's head and neck. "Oh? Why are you chasing it?"

Despite his hiding, Hawks kept on sharp alert. Cover or no cover, he wasn't going to stand by if Dabi got in it his head to hurt some little kids. The only rule of the Commission's he would outwardly break was letting any civilians die on his watch for the sake of his mission.

"I - I pulled his tail," the boy admitted, clinging to his sister's shirt. "I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to!"

Dabi regarded them quietly. Eventually, he asked, "How do you not mean to pull his tail?"

The boy whimpered, clutching harder to his sister.

The girl puffed out her lower lip, holding her brother closer. "It was an accident! Whiskers is our new cat, and he wanted to pet his tail! He grabbed it and pulled instead. He's six, he didn't know! Whiskers jumped out the window and we've been chasing him since!"

Dabi and the cat exchanged glances.

" give him back!" the girl demanded, gripping her brother tighter.

Dabi scrutinized the kids long and hard, expressionless. Finally, he stood up, cradling the cat to his chest, and walked towards the kids.

The kids gasped and froze, terror written all over their faces.

Hawks tensed, ready to zip in and cut down Dabi down at a fraction of a second's notice if need be.

Dabi kneeled down to their level and, shockingly, gently, explained, "If you're going to have a pet, you have treat him nicely. Even if you didn't mean to pull his tail, you were being too rough, and he didn't like that; of course he ran away. If you want him back - and I don't mean that I'll keep him, I mean he'll keep running away - you've got to be more careful. Treat him with more respect, all right? He's just as alive as you are."

The girl regarded him warily, unsure of what to do. The boy nodded his head rapidly.

Hawks could only see the back of Dabi's head, but he knew his eyes were narrowing. "If you don't understand that, he's going to run off again. One of these days, you might not be able to catch up with him, or someone not so nice might decide to keep him instead. Can you be more careful? If your cat here tells you he doesn't like something, can you be sure not to do it again? Or approach him differently, in a way he might like better?"

They both nodded.

"I love Whiskers," the boy said sadly. "I'll be nicer next time!"

Dabi was silent. Soon, he sighed. "Fine. Good enough. Here, open your arms - Yeah, I know buddy," he told the cat as it squirmed from being returned to the girl, "but I wouldn't give you to them if I didn't think you were safe. Go on."

The cat settled in the girl's arms. It shot Dabi a dirty look, but didn't otherwise protest or struggle in her arms.

Dabi stood. "You kids get home. This part of town is pretty nasty; it's not safe. Wouldn't want someone scarier than me to come out of the woodwork and hurt you. Think of how worried and afraid your parents would be if you didn't come home."

The girl pulled on her brother's shirt. "O-Okay, mister. Come on, let's go!"

The kids scrambled out of the alley.

Dabi watched them disappear around the street corner. He spun on his heel and leisurely strolled back to Hawks' side.

Hawks watched him approach with a gaping jaw. He had never seen Dabi so...nice before. Not even to him. He actually sounded as if he cared about the cat's and those kids' well-beings. Had he been the politest? No, probably not; but there had been no threats, his tone had been gentle, and he'd explained things simply. He wasn't even like that with adults!

Really, Hawks should have taken this to his advantage. That yakuza group had been experimenting on a little girl for a couple of years; if kids were a weak spot for Dabi, he ought to have played up that Eri girl's role - she even had a horn, like those kids! - and used that to lure a few scraps out Dabi. It wouldn't be the first time he'd openly asked Dabi what went down with between the League and that gang (though every time Dabi rebuffed him and told him to keep his mouth shut). He bet he could get something of value out of this.

He couldn't, though, at least not for the moment; as Dabi came up to him, standing over him a little too close for comfort, Hawks' cock inexplicably twitched. (Again, it had to be the pregnancy hormones; he had just watched Dabi, the man his body was at least aware had impregnated him, be gentle with a couple of kids - Hawks' latent parental instincts were absolutely interested. Huh, his present day self mused, maybe Fuyumi had been onto something when she said men good with kids were attractive.)

He swallowed. "Didn't know you liked kids, Dabi."

Dabi sneered. "I hate kids; it's cats I like, and I didn't want those little fuckers mistreating it was all."

"Sure, that's why you told them to run on home because this part of town isn't safe."

"I wanted them to fucking leave us alone is what I wanted."

Hawks smiled wryly. "So defensive! You can't lie to me, Dabi, you're not even that sweet to me, and I'm your boyfriend!"

Dabi sighed dramatically. "God, you're annoying. Fine, they remind me of when I was growing up, is that what you wanna hear?"

"You had a cat who ran away?" Hawks guessed.

"Weren't we in the middle of something?" Dabi dodged the question, stepping forward and pushing Hawks back into the wall. He shoved a leg between Hawks' and brought their faces close together. "Because I'd really love to stop talking about kids now."

Hawks' cock jumped again, absolutely delighted by their positions. "Kids? We were talking about kids? Since when?"

"Exactly," Dabi huffed, and sealed their mouths together.

Hawks wrapped his arms around his neck and moaned.

Not his best moment, Hawks would concede. Far from it.

They had reminded Dabi of when he was growing up, eh? What did that mean, they reminded him of his little brothers and sister? How he looked out for them or something? Brought back old, lingering remnants of his big brother instinct? Hawks' couldn't be certain. It only worked under the assumption that Dabi hadn't been lying.

Still, Dabi up to that point had never been that nice. Later...later, he would to Hawks, in isolated patches of time, but that was November. They'd only known each other for a handful of months and been dating for even less. Yuto was likely still the size of a bean, if not a thumb. The billboards weren't far into the future, nor Dabi's release of that High End. Some time after that, Dabi would reveal he cared about the families of his victims and tell Hawks being a villain didn't mean one stopped caring.

Hawks sighed, tired.

He got up from the couch and retreated to his bedroom, opening the drawer of his bedside table to retrieve the journal Dr. Sasaki had suggested he keep.

Hawks sat down on his bed, clicked a pen open, and started writing.

I have no idea who Dabi is. I have no idea what he wants. I have no idea if he has a heart or not, if there's some humanity in him or he's really good at faking it.

Every time I remember or am told about Touya, he's such a good kid; so 'nice,' 'kind,' and 'caring.' Is that true? Was he? Or he was already a sociopath playing with people's minds?

Hawks curled his lips in distaste. He hated to say that about an abused kid - the kid who had reached out to him because he knew exactly what it was to live under an abusive father's thumb - but hey, Endeavor's other three kids weren't ruthless, murderous villains. They didn't play mind games to his knowledge. Maybe Touya had been fooling people his entire life.

Yet something told him that wasn't true. Dabi had become Dabi somehow, and it wasn't because Touya was born that way.

He breathed his nose and continued to writing.

His family misses him. They're so messed up about him. Losing him ten years ago hurt them bad, and now that they know he's alive and a member of the League, they're torn up. They just want their family reunited and to be normal again. But even they admit they don't know if that will or can happen. Seeing Shoto yesterday about killed me. I wish there was more I could do for him. He shouldn't have to suffer through this.

His brow furrowed angrily.

How could Dabi do this to them? Is revenge really that important? His baby brother cried into my shirt today because he doesn't know if the brother he loves so much will come back to him or attack him. He's put them in such a rough spot. Does he care about them at all? Even a little bit? Does he think after he kills Endeavor he can return to the family and live a happy life with them, or does he plan to go back to being dead to them? He had to be doing something in the ten years between his 'death' and Stain's rallying cry. Wonder if he'll just go back to that.

As usual, the bastard only confuses me. God, I'm so torn up about him! I loved him! I still love him! In another life, we could be married and raising Yuto together! I don't know! When he was good to me, he was so good, and I honestly believed he loved me. It tore me to pieces knowing he'd never abandon his cause, that there was no point in talking him down. God, if he'd known I was pregnant, would that have made a difference? Would that have made him voluntarily turn himself in?

Hawks' chest heaved as he realized tears were falling down his cheeks.

I doubt it.

I really don't know anything about him. I don't know if he was kind but changed. I don't know if he was fooling around, or if I meant anything to some part of him. I don't know if he really gives a shit about his family or not. I can't even say if he'll hurt Shoto or not in the future. Would he? Would he hurt the rest of his family, his other siblings and mom? Would he hurt Yuto? I'll kill him if he ever tries to hurt Yuto.

He wiped his face.

There's so much I don't know about him. There's so many tangled feelings within me I don't want to confront.

But I have to. If I want to get through this someday, I have to come to terms with Dabi. That doesn't mean I'm going to save him like Shoto or Endeavor - I don't even know if I'll be able to look at him when he's captured, IF he's captured - but I need to figure out how to come to grips with

He struggled to find the right words. Finally, he wrote,

this part of my life. I have to figure out how to move on. Somehow, I've got to sort these feelings out and make my peace with them. It's going to be hard, but I have to. I need this. I need to be able to take my life back. I need to say I'm good again, in so many areas, but especially in this one. And Yuto needs me to; I'm his dad, I'm all he's got. I refuse to let myself fall apart over his other dad sperm donor. Tokoyami needs me as well - I'll never understand that kid's devotion, never, but he's been a backbone for me lately, and I worry him too much.

I don't know what to do, though. How do I even start on something like this?

Hawks pulled his pen back.

The answer suddenly hit him. He'd almost forgotten about that.

No, I know where to start.

His mother.

Next Sunday, I need to talk to Todoroki Rei. She's the closest person I have to relate to. Maybe she'll have some answers - or maybe she won't. But talking to her has got to be a decent way to start. Maybe it'll lead me somewhere, I don't know.

Next Sunday. If I can get up the courage and we can be alone, I'll talk to her then. I've got to.

Hawks closed the notebook and put it away, pen and all, and threw his legs off the bed to the floor. He decided to go get Yuto and sleep with him tonight; he wanted his baby close. He needed to hold him.

This was going to be a turning point. A rough one, a terrifying one, and goodness, Hawks was dreading it. But it was a necessary one if he was going to heal.

Stomach dropping, he couldn't wait to hold his son in his arms.

Chapter Text

Hawks wasn't sleeping well. His nights hadn't been this restless in ages; nightmares, memories, and just general fitful sleep plagued him. As much as he knew he had to talk to Rei on Sunday, he was dreading it. Talking to her would mean confronting everything he had done his best to avoid since Yuto's quirk manifested. Now that he was actually going to do it - confront them - the thought of Sunday often sent a electric shock straight through him. He spent too much of his and Yuto's naps lying awake just thinking about it.

Perhaps predictably, Tokoyami noticed.

"Are you all right, Hawks?" he would ask on the days he visited.

Hawks had no idea how to answer, so he'd just sigh and reply, "I don't know."

Tokoyami would then take Yuto and advise Hawks to go back to bed. Only two of the three times he was told did Hawks obey, and only the once did his body actually fall asleep.

Tokoyami was aware he was going to talk to Rei next Sunday. If he took any offense to not being let in on Hawks' personal demons, he showed none of it. In fact, he encouraged him to talk to her sooner.

"Call her on the phone," he suggested, Yuto in his arms and carefully examining his facial feathers. "I can take care of Yuto while you two talk. I'll stay with him in the nursery."

Hawks shook his head. "I need to do this in person."

He couldn't explain why; the closest he could get to understanding it himself was that being alone...felt too lonely, he guessed. Even if there was someone on the other end of the phone, he didn't want to be alone while he talked about Dabi. Hawks didn't want to burden Tokoyami with too much of this either, so he also didn't want him beside him during the hypothetical call. He had to do this in person.

"You should do it sooner," Tokoyami recommended next, concern written all over his face. "Call her and ask if you can come tomorrow, or the next day. You look truly awful, Hawks."

"Thanks," he retorted with a joking smile. But his shoulders were hunched, the bags under his eyes large, and his stomach ached. Yeah, Hawks supposed he was awful. "I don't know. Maybe."

He didn't want to do that. Hawks had no desire to share the memories that haunted him. He didn't want to go through the rollercoaster of emotions he knew he would by confronting his feelings. It made him hesitant ask on Sunday, let alone sooner. He'd rather have waited, if only to avoid them a little bit more.

But each time Tokoyami visited, he got all the more worried. The whimpers Yuto gave in either of their arms as the little chick looked up in confusion were painful. Even he appeared to be catching onto the tension growing in the apartment.

"Hawks," Tokoyami finally spoke up on the third day. They were sitting on the catch watching TV. Yuto lay between them with his head on Hawks' lap. "Why don't you go back to therapy?"

Hawks didn't answer for a moment. He ran his hand over Yuto's head, taking note of his hair; it was easier to focus on that than the question. Yuto's hair was beginning to grow unruly; it was getting spikier everyday, some of the thinner locks bending and forking like his own hair. The rest resembled somebody else's. Luckily, they were easy enough to brush down flat.

"I don't wanna go," Hawks eventually answered quietly. "It scares me."

Tokoyami was baffled. "What? Why?"

Hawks shrugged. He pulled Yuto upright into his lap, held him close to his chest, and relaxed a tad when Yuto melted against him. "I'm pretty sure she's going to ask more invasive questions than Rei will."


"My therapist," Hawks explained. "Dr. Sasaki. She was good, but I couldn't tell her about Dabi. I really liked her..." He shook his head. "I can't go back, Tokoyami. Not when Dabi's so present in my head."

I'll never leave, no matter who you talk to, Dabi annoyingly mocked in his head. Hawks' brow furrowed. The looney doctor, my mommy, your dumb pet here - I'm always going to haunt you, Hawks. You can't get away from me.

Hawks winced.

Tokoyami started, reaching for him, while Yuto picked his head up with an anxious chirp.

"Are you okay?" the teen asked.

"I'm fine." Hawks made himself sit back, and pet Yuto's hair. "I'm sorry. Bad thought is all."

That certainly didn't alleviate Tokoyami's concerns.

"You need to go back to therapy," he asserted, leaning over the gap between them. "I understand you need to keep your former relationship a secret, but you also need help in more areas than I believe Mrs. Todoroki is equipped to offer you. Please, Hawks - "

"Like what?" he snapped suddenly, surprised by his own biting tone. Once he started, however, he couldn't stop. "Everything always comes back to Dabi and my mistakes with him, so what I could possibly have to tell Dr. Sasaki that won't get my son taken away and my ass thrown in jail? Huh? What, Tokoyami!?"

Tokoyami retreated, caught off guard. Then he came back in full force. "Your childhood. Your past with the Hero Commission. Your killing of Twice. The raid. The difficulties of fatherhood and Yuto's health. Let's start there, shall we? All of these affect you and wear you down, and don't you dare try to deny it! You're the one who told me they do, and what you didn't tell me, I've seen with my own two eyes. Mrs. Todoroki and I have both offered to listen to you, but you need professional help as well. I feel as if this is the calm before the storm, and I don't want to see you spiral down whatever hell I sense looming ahead!"

Despite his urge to argue back, the last part made Hawks back down. He curled his arms around Yuto protectively and lowered his eyes. "Some hell, huh?"

Guilt flashed across Tokoyami's face for a split second. He calmed and scooted closer. "My new work-study starts next week," he reminded him. "I'll tell you a secret, Hawks. I battled with myself on whether I should take one this semester. I've seen what you're like when you break down. It's terrible; it's frightening. I only decided to take on my work-study because you had reached out to the Todorokis and were getting along with them, and I knew you wouldn't want me shirking my education for you. However, with how you've been behaving lately, the last thing I wish to do is leave you alone with your demons. I won't be able to make it here every week anymore. Are you going to be all right by yourself? If the storm I fear hits, who's going to take care of you and Yuto? What if it gets so bad that you decide to cut everyone out again? The Todorokis don't know you well enough to know when you're faking a smile and lying about being fine, and I won't be around enough to verify if you are either. What then, Hawks?"

Hawks raised his head wearily. Shame filled him. "You really think of yourself as my caretaker, don't you?" he whispered.

"I think you do better when you don't have to face everything alone," Tokoyami answered honestly.

That was true, Hawks gave. For nearly two months, Tokoyami had been his backbone. He had played a huge role in getting Hawks from where he was in November to where he was today. Hawks slumped in his seat. He'd wanted to do better than this for Tokoyami. He was already failing that.

"I'm sorry, Tokoyami," he apologized. "You know I'm grateful to you for everything. You're right, I don't want you shirking your schooling for me. I hate that you considered dropping your work-study at all."

"I know," Tokoyami replied gently, "which is why instead of thanking me with words this time, could you do show it by helping yourself? You're off to a good start, I believe, by talking to Mrs. Todoroki - and you've trusted me in the past, and you're taking care of yourself with medication! - but could you please return to therapy? Not just for me or for Yuto, but for yourself?"

Hawks' stomach churned. "I..."

Tokoyami moved to close the gap between them. "You told me you quit therapy because you were ready to isolate yourself after Yuto's quirk manifested. You couldn't face your demons anymore. Well, now you no longer seek to isolate yourself, correct? You're preparing to face them once more. What's holding you back from seeing someone again?"

Hawks took in a shaky breath. "...Because I'm not ready to face all of it yet, Tokoyami," he confessed. "Everything that's bothering me. Please. Let me take this one step at a time, okay?"

He could see the conflict playing out behind Tokoyami's eyes. On one hand, he might have considered Hawks' request valid, considering the weight of his trauma; on the other, even Hawks couldn't argue against the benefits seeing Dr. Sasaki again would have.

He was afraid, though; he hadn't completely left November behind yet.

Finally, Tokoyami conceded. "Only," he began, "if you promise to reach out if you need it. I'll try to text you each night to see how you're doing. Please be honest with me."

Hawks nodded. For whatever the numbered time it was, he couldn't help feeling the roles were reversed here. "I will."

"You'll keep in contact with the Todorokis, too, won't you? In fact, Fuyumi is your age, isn't she? Natsuo's not far behind. Perhaps you could reach out to them more - You said you wished to converse with more adults! And of course, there's Mrs. Todoroki."

"I got it, Tokoyami," he couldn't resist smiling a little at the teen's babbling.

For the same whatever numbered time, he thought how lucky he was to have someone looking out purely for him.

Hawks had to step up. He couldn't keep failing and worrying him. It wasn't fair.

But Tokoyami wasn't done. "Or your sidekicks. They haven't seen or heard from you in forever. You should call them, if only to chat. They told me when I contacted them that you went out drinking with them to catch up once and made a few phone calls here and there. You should do tha- "

Hawks uncurled an arm from Yuto to grab Tokoyami's shoulder. "I hear you loud and clear, Tokoyami, it's okay. How about this? I'll call Mrs. Todoroki tonight - you can watch me - and see if I can visit tomorrow. That way, you can have some peace of mind."

I won't leave, Dabi drawled in his head. You can't escape what I did, Hawks. I hurt you, I hurt Yuto, and I'd do it all again.

Hawks kept his spine still as shivers ran down it.

Tokoyami visibly relaxed. "All right. As long as you promise to keep in touch with everyone. Don't make me break in here with Dark Shadow again."

Hawks patted his shoulder and shot him a full smile. "I promise."

Don't make promises you won't keep, birdie, the voice taunted.

I'm keeping this one, he asserted to it.

Tokoyami sighed in relief.

Hawks looked down at Yuto.

His son looked up at him with big eyes, a small, o-shaped mouth, and chirped curiously. It was better than a confused whimper.

Hawks chirped reassuringly in reply, and swept back his hair to kiss his forehead.

"I love you," he told Yuto, a fond smile on his face.

I need to get better for you. Both of you. And myself. No matter how afraid I am, I've got to.

With that, he cuddled Yuto in his lap and got out his phone, aware of Tokoyami's eyes following him.

Rei was more than willing to talk. She listened to Hawks hesitantly explain his position on the phone and ask if he could visit sooner than later. Rei warmly agreed. She said a weekday would be perfect, because Shoto and Natsuo would be at school and Fuyumi at work, so they'd have plenty of time alone. Somehow, that comforted Hawks. They made the date, which was the next day, and he and Yuto would be there by noon. Tokoyami was satisfied to hear it.

And so they were.

The Todoroki house was quiet when Rei let them in the door. Hawks felt as though her kids ought to be in the kitchen, living room, or hiding in their bedrooms, but he knew they weren't.

"I'm glad to see you got here safely, Hawks," Rei smiled behind the door. "Yuto's not carsick, is he?"

Hawks kicked out of his shoes and finagled his way through his coat until Rei took Yuto from him, freeing his arm. "Nope! Your advice works. If anything, he's probably hungry."

Yuto popped a lock of her hair in his mouth and cooed.

Hawks gave his son a flat stare. "Yup."

"You two can get settled in the living room while I fix him a bottle," she offered. "I have some tea warming up for us anyway."

"That's kind of you," Hawks replied and reached to take him back.

His heart pounded in his chest all the while.

He planted himself on the couch in the living room while Rei busied herself in the kitchen, unsure of what to say when she came in. He grabbed a toy out of his bag for Yuto, and wondered how he was supposed to tell Rei the awful things her son had done in his time in the League and PLF. Or which details to leave out. Hawks was painfully aware of the fact Rei had spent an entire decade in a mental ward and was only released last year. He didn't want to cause her an unnecessary breakdown, or just more pain. Not to mention, his own reluctance to face the past.

She was the only person he could relate to, though. Todoroki Rei was the only one who had any idea of what he'd been through, despite their radically different situations. He'd promised Tokoyami he'd do this. She was the only one he felt comfortable enough to talk to.

As if isn't that fucked, Hawks thought dourly to himself, while Yuto played with his much bigger hand rather than the toy in his lap. My idol, the man who saved me from hell, put his wife through enough hell that she can relate to me, who was royally fucked over by their villainous son. My idol and my boyfriend - her husband and son. This is just messed up. My whole life is messed up.

Before he could mope further over his circumstances and compare them, Rei entered the room with Yuto's bottle and tea.

"Thanks," Hawks said, accepting the bottle. "After this, he should go down for his nap and we can talk."

Rei put the tea on the table and sat down, picking a cup for herself. "Of course. Any time."

Hawks put Yuto's toy aside and nudged him. "Time for lunch, baby bird - Oh! Ha!"

Yuto didn't wait to be fed. He took the bottle out of Hawks' hand like he owned it and plopped the nub in his mouth to drink, utterly nonchalant.

"I see how it is," Hawks scoffed playfully. He ruffled his son's hair and turned to Rei. "Do you see this?"

She chuckled and lifted her knuckles to her mouth. "I do! He's going to be an independent one someday. You better hold onto him while you can."

An image of Yuto flying off into the air without him flashed in Hawks' mind. He smiled sadly. "Will do."

Yuto finished off his bottle with ease, and was hardly fussy as they laid him down to sleep in Rei's room. Hawks was anxious about him rolling over and falling off the bed while they were gone, so Rei grabbed extra blankets and pillows from the hall closet and let Hawks arrange them in a wide 'nest' of sorts. When he was confident in the structure, he leaned over it to swipe a hand through Yuto's hair and kiss his forehead, reluctant to leave him, and the two adults returned to the living room.

Hawks hadn't touched his tea yet, so he picked it up as he sat back down on the couch.

"It's probably cold," Rei noted. Her own cup sat on the tray, ready to be taken to the kitchen. "Do you want a fresh cup instead?"

Hawks shook his head. He was mostly holding the cup for comfort anyway, to keep his hands from fidgeting. "I'm okay. I'd rather we start if that's all right with you."

Rei lowered herself beside him and nodded gingerly. She planted her hands in her lap, serious. "So then, where do you want to start?"

Hawks took a deep breath through his nose. "My relationship, I guess. I asked your family not ask me about it, but I think I need to talk about that with someone. I mean," one of his hands shot to the side of his head to fiddle with his hair. He closed his eyes and sighed. "I don't understand Dabi. I don't understand how he went from being Touya, some nice kid, to a cruel maniac. I don't get why he messed with me the way he did. There's so much I - I don't know, and it's been killing me. Every memory, all the consequences of what he's done, I just..." he lifted his chin and looked her in the eyes, "I need someone who understands firsthand what I'm talking about. You do. At least a little."

Rei pressed her lips together, her expression unmoving. She picked her empty cup up as well and looked down inside it. "I see," she said. "I told you before that what Touya is now is like what his father used to be and worse. I do understand. That said, I don't know how Touya's been able to do the things he's done either. I don't know how he can murder people the way he has, be a part of a group that," her hands tightened around the cup, "wants to kill everyone from what I understand, or what he thinks he'll gain out of this. I don't know why he did the things he did to you, Hawks. I believe the only one who can answer those questions is Touya himself. However..."

Hawks waited stiffly.

Rei's face dropped. "I do have an idea as to why he...became this way. My other children and husband can't see it - or, some of them do, to a point, but - " her face twisted, like she was going to cry, "I do; I remember. I was Touya's mother and he was my first born. He died when he was fifteen, not long after I was put in the hospital. I know - knew him the best of my children." She paused. "You have to understand, I missed Fuyumi and Natsuo's teenage years and so much of Shoto's life. But Touya, he was mine. Up until he died, before we learned he was alive and I missed ten years of his life, too - I had the most time with him. I had all fifteen years in his life and we were so close. I saw things the others didn't, things they missed because they were too young or not paying attention, I - "

Hawks watched her cut herself off to calm down. Rei took several deep breaths and relaxed her shoulders. It took a bit longer for her face to settle. She covered her mouth with her hand.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't want to bring up bad memories from the past for you."

Rei lowered her hand to her thigh. "No." She breathed again, and soon managed to get control of herself. She turned to Hawks, a slight tiredness to her now. "It's not that you brought up the past for me. I've been thinking about these things for a long time. You're not the only one haunted by memories of him. I thought I made my peace with Touya years ago, but learning he survived and became a villain has torn all of that apart. It's brought back so many things I hadn't thought of in ages, and they connected far too easily with what I know now. It may be hard to think of them, but that's not because of you."

"Okay," Hawks allowed, shifting his weight, "but are you going to be all right, Mrs. Todoroki?"

She shook her head. "Don't worry about me. I know my limits. If I get close to somewhere I don't want to be, I can reign myself in. And if I can't, I'll let you know so we can stop. I don't think that'll be necessary, though."

Hawks rolled his cup between his palms. "If you're positive."

Rei nodded. "I am. So who should go first? Do you want to or should I?"

Hawks had to admit, he more than curious to know what she thought turned had Touya to villainy. It might help him better understand Dabi's actions and intentions, and more importantly, how he'd gone from the boy in his memories to the man who'd burned his life away. Yet as much as he yearned for those answers, he didn't think it was right to start there. If he was going to confront his feelings and face what he'd been holding back all this time, then Hawks needed to get them out first.

"I should," he volunteered. He put his hand back on his head and thought of Tokoyami's fears and Yuto. "I've been avoiding this for too long. I've gotta get this out of my system."

Rei gave him a small nod and waited for him to begin.

Hawks dropped his hand to his lap and did so. "All right. Let's start at the beginning. After a classmate of Shoto's was kidnapped by the League of Villains and rescued, the Hero Public Safety Commission approached me. I wasn't able to go on that rescue mission because I was already on another assignment, but that actually worked in their favor. They knew what a good investigator I was and how cool I could keep under pressure. They were probably aware that I was already gathering information about the League as well. And they definitely knew how committed I am to keeping the public safe. I didn't become a hero for the fame, riches, or glory; I wanted to save people and keep them safe."

"That's admirable of you," Rei murmured.

Hawks flinched. That wasn't why your husband went in to the business, he suddenly remembered. Not out of altruism. That's how you ended up where you are today. A stab of guilt went through him, but he pressed on.

"So they reached out to me to offer a new mission. They wanted me to infiltrate the League of Villains from the inside. It was presented as a choice and I wasn't forced into it, but they knew I could never refuse. If infiltrating the League could save more innocent lives because we'd be able to beat them quicker than if we didn't, then I couldn't say no. Even if it meant doing things that I...wouldn't want to."

But I wouldn't go that far, he reminded himself bitterly. I wouldn't let civilians die if it meant gaining the League's trust. That was too much and would never happen. Giving me that order - it's like the Commission doesn't know me at all. But everything else... I'd corrupt myself for the public's sake. The people needed me to.

"So I agreed," Hawks told her. "I did almost everything that was asked of me. I joined the League. I did things I'm not proud of. Really awful things to get and maintain their trust."

He hung his head. Best Jeanist didn't have to die.

"By then, they were with the Meta Liberation Army, or now the Paranormal Liberation Front. They took full advantage of me. I let them cover my wings in trackers and listening devices so they could spy on our side. I had speak to the higher ups at the Commission and other heroes in code. I gathered as much information as I could on the villains and handed it over. We got them at the last minute through the Liberation Front raid thanks to me. I don't believe I was fast enough getting that information or that I did enough during the raid, and we lost too many lives because of that, but I did it. I completed my mission. ...And I lost everything for it."

Hawks forced himself to lift his head. No, now's not the time for that. I came here to talk about Dabi, not my career and new life. That can be saved for another day.

Rei widened her eyes and pursed her lips. "You had to do that sort of mission alone?"

"I did."

"Oh, Hawks," her face melted into sympathy. "That's awful. They shouldn't have done that to you. That's - That's slimy of them."

Hawks laughed sparsely. "Well, they are villains. Of course they'd make me do slimey stuff."

Rei frowned. "I meant the Hero Commission. I'm sorry - you're Fuyumi's age, and they manipulated you to get you to do this, and you did it alone, and - " she shook her head helplessly and shuddered. "I hope they never make Shoto do something like that. At least not by himself. I can only imagine how stressed and scared you must have been. I can't believe they'd make you go at it alone. I'm sorry, it makes my skin crawl thinking about it."

Hawks was taken aback. He wasn't really surprised by her feelings - hell, he'd called the Commission President malicious to her face when he received their offer - but it did surprise him that Rei...she agreed with him and said it out loud.

Not only that, but her remarks about him being Fuyumi's age and how she hoped Shoto never received a mission like that. That was coming from a purely motherly perspective; twenty-three wasn't a child, nor was Hawks hers.

Rei wasn't his mom. Hawks had no idea how to feel about fretting over him almost like he was.

Uncomfortable, he averted his eyes from her. "Yeah. Anyway, that's the background information. The real meat of the story is my relationship with Dabi. He was the League's recruiter, so I had to find him if I wanted in. Well, I found him all right. Had to track him down, and when I did, I relayed the narrative that I was sick of hero life and wanted to turn. I told him that it wasn't what I'd thought it be, and if I'm being wasn't. Being a hero isn't everything it's cracked up to be."

Not everyone is altruistic or cares about protecting the public.

Not everyone wants to be a light for others to look upon.

There's corruption in the system many don't know about.

Even if at the end of the day everyone gets saved, it's not the life seven year old me expected.

Hawks had been swallowing those hard pills for years. He'd let go of his childhood dream of being a light like Endeavor what felt like a century ago now. He didn't regret his career, not in the slightest, but it hadn't been at all what he'd dreamed.

"I mixed truth with lies when I wasn't outright lying," he explained to Rei. "I'd hoped it make me more believable. Dabi...didn't think so."

And like that, Hawks was thrown into a memory.


"You expect me to believe that, hero?" Dabi scoffed from where he leaned against an abandoned factory's wall, not at all impressed. "The number three hero wants to turn coat because the job wasn't what you expected it to be? Give me a break."

Hawks narrowed his eyes the slightest bit and threw his hands up in front of him. "Hey, I thought this life would be more fulfilling than it is. Can you blame me? I was seven when the Hero Commission took me in. Just a little, naïve kid bought off his parents! Yet all I've seen since are selfish heroes who care more about their image than the public; stupid people who think heroes fighting villains is a spectator sport and will risk their lives in the masses for a photo op; and grueling work hours where I bust my ass non-stop for...what exactly? What am I getting out of this? Because I can tell you, the money's not worth it. The heroes are awful, the people are irritating at best, and I get run ragged like a dog. I can't stand it anymore. Either this society needs to get torn down and rebuilt from scratch or it deserves to collapse on itself. And that's exactly what your group is after, isn't it?"

Dabi's eyes narrowed in scrutiny. He didn't move from his place on the wall. "Yet you're the number three hero - two, actually, now that All Might's gone, right? It'll only be a few months before you're officially promoted. For someone who doesn't care anymore and hates his job, you sure do work hard at it, hero."

Hawks snorted. "And I've gotten nothing of worth in return for it. I don't even get to relax long enough to eat at a table half the time! I'm sick of this. I don't want to just quit and retire, I want to do something meaningful. I want to build a world where, if heroes can't be better than this, then they don't exist. With you guys, I can start that goal by getting back at the system that lied to and used me."

Dabi only stared at him with that unimpressed look.

Hawks frowned.

This wasn't working as well as he'd hoped, but then again, he hadn't had much to go off on. Despite the police's investigations, they hadn't been able to find anything, not even a real name, on Dabi. All Hawks had to go off of was the reports from the training camp incident and hideout raid. From what he'd heard, Dabi had been pretty chatty about the League's intentions to the teachers and a group of students (or, rather, a clone of him was). Yet here, now, Dabi had nothing for Hawks.

Honestly, the only perk of meeting him in person thus far was that Dabi was way more attractive in person and conscious than he'd been passed out on the news.

Unfortunately, that was hardly a good pay off for Hawks' tracking efforts.

He couldn't afford to lose this.

"Look," Hawks restarted, "doesn't it say something that a hero in the top three managed to track you down, and rather than arrest you on the spot, he offers to join you? If anyone were find out about this, I'd lose everything and be put in jail. The facts are, you're not in cuffs and I'm serious. I want to join the League."

Dabi's staples pulled in a faint hint of a smirk. He pushed off the wall and lit a hand on fire.

Hawks instantly went on alert.

"So you'd let me leave?" Dabi challenged. "I could leave right now, and you wouldn't follow me? I wouldn't run into a crowd of police or hidden heroes on my way out of this trash heap? I wouldn't have to fight you to go home and sleep on your offer for a couple hours? Or days?"

Hawks resisted the urge to scowl. Getting visibly frustrated wasn't going to work in his favor. He needed to play this in a different way. He had no idea what was going on in Dabi's head and if he wasn't feeling chatty, then Hawks had to lower his guard to gain his trust.

He forced his muscles to relax and smiled. "No. You won't find anyone else here and I'm willing to wait. In fact, if you don't believe me, let me prove myself. My ranking gives me more access to the Hero Commission than the average hero has. I can get you intel if you want."

Dabi had no clear reaction to that. "S'that so?"

"Yup! I can be a double agent for you guys."

Dabi stepped forward.

Hawks kept his body still but was ready to move if the situation called for it. His wings were flammable; he wasn't going to risk anything around this guy if a fight broke out.

Dabi merely walked past him.

"I'll meet you in a few days," Dabi said from behind him. "I'm sure you'll be able to hunt me down again, hero. See you then."


Hawks shook his head to bat the memory away. "Despite his mistrust, though, he and I met up several times. A lot of the time he made it inconvenient as hell for me. He'd interrupt my scheduled patrols, demand a meeting late at night, or show up god knows how late just to force me to wait for him. He got on my nerves. He wouldn't let me join until I proved myself either; he made me do...some terrible things in order to do that. Not that I was unwilling, but they were awful, and I didn't always know what I was getting into because he'd lie or change things up last second."

Hawks' chest stung.

He remembered the High End fight back in December of last year. He remembered all those people who could have been hurt, who could have died and surely thought they were going to. He thought of Endeavor, who'd nearly been killed, ended up with a nasty scar all down the side of his face, and spent days in the hospital afterwards. It was only because of Recovery Girl he got out as soon as he did. He would have been out of commission for months without her. Hawks had cried so much out of sheer guilt during those days. Then he was so pissed off at Dabi he threatened him with one of his few remaining feathers.

And I fell back into his arms anyway like an idiot.

He thought of Best Jeanist next. How Dabi hadn't even cared to confirm the body, because the fact was that Hawks killed someone. Best Jeanist, who was one of the few people Hawks could say he was close to (even if it wasn't quite the definition of 'close' that most people had), had died for this. Hawks had murdered him with the Commission's go ahead because Dabi's final request was the body of someone high up. He'd been so sick after it was done. The memory alone brought the taste of vomit back to his throat.

Yet he fell into Dabi's arms again. And again.

And again.

Hawks closed his eyes to fight against the tears and shook his head. He bowed his neck and scowled. "I'm sorry. I don't want to tell you the things he made me do. Not the worst of them anyhow. I - I got information for him sometimes, and I did my damnedest to make sure nothing I gave or did for him got anyone killed - " except for Jeanist; but that was the Commission's call at the end of the day - "but I can't tell you the rest. I'm not ready."

While I can admit to those things, I don't think my mouth would let me right now, Hawks thought to himself. His skin prickled. Somehow, they're both the easiest and some of the worst things I can admit to. Because while terrible, I did those things for the mission. It was to save lives. Getting with Dabi was not.

Rei placed her hands over her knees. "That's okay. I don't need to hear them."

Hawks doubted she meant it that way, but it struck him all the same. This was a mentally fragile woman and the mother of the man he was describing; why should he tell her the worst of the things her son had done?

Rei moved one of her hands over Hawks'. "It's all right. You can go on."

Hawks nodded wearily. He made himself raise his head. "I'm ashamed of those things. I won't lie either; Dabi disgusted me. He disturbed me and there were plenty of times I wondered what the hell was wrong with me for being interested in him. He had the exact opposite values and moral compass than I did; he didn't care about hurting people - he wanted to burn the whole world down and everyone inside of it; he killed people that I couldn't save because I wasn't there. He made me do those things, and he lied, tricked, and mocked me for them. It wasn't a healthy relationship, I can tell you that. He repulsed me. I repulsed me. And yet...he drew me to him."

Rei waited patiently for him to go on; she didn't make a single judgement.

Hawks took a deep breath. "Believe it or not, I've never really had much of a social life. My dad went to jail when I was a kid and my mom gave me up shortly after. I don't speak to either of them today. Being a hero was a full-time career for me and I took on many missions for the Commission in my off-time. I may have been an outgoing, cheery, people person on the outside, but I didn't have time to make close friends. My job was the number one thing in my life. So even if I didn't quite realize how bad I was, that made me really lonely and attention-starved. So in comes Dabi." Just to break the tension a little, Hawks put on a crooked smile. "Ma'am, I hate to break this to you, but your son is hot."

Rei's smile was tiny and amused. "I see."

Hawks huffed out a laugh. "Heh! Yeah. So I thought he was hot. That wasn't enough to get me to fall for him, though. What really did me in was the loneliness and how much Dabi ended up intriguing me. He was strange, off from the rest of the League, and had a mysterious background that no investigation could dig anything up on. He was smart and cunning, but at the same time I couldn't read him at all. The worst part was, he had interest in me, too. So when the flirting started, wasn't unflattering."


"...and that's all I have," Hawks finished his semi-detailed report on the info Dabi had wanted. It should have been enough to sway him that Hawks was the real deal when it came to being an informant, if not gain him the trust to get into the League.

Dabi listened with casual indifference, and nodded now that Hawks was done. He broke away from the bleak alley wall he'd been leaning against. "Well, if that ain't interesting. Thanks, hero; we'll see if your info turns out to be correct shortly."

"Awesome!" Hawks enthused, playing up his dumb persona. "You won't be disappointed! You'll find that all of it is right and that when I say my connections are good, they're good. It should help you guys out immensely."

Dabi scoffed. "We'll see."

Then, through dim light, Hawks watched Dabi saunter up to him and stop just a breath's difference away. He froze on the spot, prepared to move if needed but unsure of what was going on. Dabi's sky-blue eyes were smug crystals far too close to his own golden ones. A hand reached up and, to Hawks' startlement, pushed a loose lock of his hair back on his head.

"You know, you're a pretty bird," Dabi remarked.

Hawks took a step back on instinct and nearly collided with the wall behind him. He felt his face warm and instantly wished he could hide behind his wings. He took his collar for granted instead, ducking his face beneath it. "Uh, thanks? I try."

Dabi stepped back and gave a short laugh. "You'd think with all of your adoring fans, you'd be used to a little compliment, birdie."

Hawks blinked, astonished. His fans were a sea of nameless faces that crushed on a young, hot celebrity who saved their lives on a regular basis. He didn't know any of them personally. He appreciated them like no tomorrow, but there was a difference between their admiration and someone genuinely flirting with him.

Which this was, right?


Hawks was tongue-tied at the thought.

He was also tongue-tied at the fact that he'd responded to the remark the blushy way he had, and how his stomach filled with butterflies at the possibility that Dabi was genuinely flirting with him.

Dabi hardly gave him a chance to respond, stepping further back. "Heh. You're too easy. I'll check in with ya next week, when I've decided if your info's good or not."

Hawks struggled to regain a hold of himself. He nodded stupidly, and discovered his eyes were way too focused on the way Dabi's lips moved. "Got it! You let me know, okay? I'm telling you, it's good!"

Dabi hummed, and without a second glance, made his way out of the alleyway.

Hawks just stood there, wondering what the hell just went on.

(Whatever it was, something inside him wanted more of it.

He never was good with refusing his desires.)


"It stayed like that," Hawks remembered. "He'd flirt, and I gradually lost my inhibitions. I mean, I was still confused and kind of disgusted with myself, but I liked it, you know? It made me feel good. Since I was a workaholic and my relationships were all either distant or professional, was nice to feel like someone was truly interested in me like that. I wanted more. So when Dabi went far enough one night, I cracked."


Hawks found Dabi at their scheduled meeting place on time for once, on top of a four story building in a shady part of a small, sleeping city. He was laying down on his back on the concrete, arms and legs spread out, as if he were there to look up at the stars. He was fond of doing this, Hawks thought; of acting like nothing was going on and what they were doing didn't matter. He swore, Dabi only did it to throw him off. Well, it only worked as far as Hawks not being able to tell what he was thinking. It didn't throw him off his guard.

"You know, it's funny," he chatted up as he landed on the roof and walked over to Dabi's prone form. "I was expecting you to be so late that I was gonna go buy a drink from a convenience store across town first. Color me surprised to see you actually here as I was flying by. Guess we're doing this now, huh?"

Dabi didn't so much as look up at him. "I like to see how patient you are, birdie. Don't take it personal."

"Ah, but you showed up tonight! That means you're starting to trust me, isn't it?"

"Don't get your hopes up, birdbrain."

"Ahh, figures."

Hawks waited for him to get up so they could speak.

Dabi did no such thing. He didn't even open his mouth.

Hawks' brow flattened in annoyance. "Are you falling asleep there, pal? It is midnight!" he called out.

"Nope," was his nonchalant response.

Hawks curled his lips. "Do you need help standing up?"

"No," was his next nonchalant response.

Hawks narrowed his eyes. This was beginning to get ridiculous. "We were supposed to talk tonight, right?"

"Yeah." Dabi still did not get up.

Hawks rolled his eyes up to the sky and moved towards Dabi. He crouched down right above his head, and looked down at him with a flat expression.

Dabi's lips formed a smirk. "Gonna kiss me? Go on, I know you've been wanting to for a good while. I have been, too."

Hawks' eyes blew wide. That was completely out of nowhere. He stumbled backwards on his heels and had to unfurl his wings to catch himself.

Dabi laughed as he sat up to turn around. It less a mocking laugh and As if he were genuinely enjoying himself. Hawks hadn't heard him laugh like that before. It was always scoffs and sarcasm up until now.

Hawks' stomach twisted, not in a painful way.

Dabi's smug smile reached his eyes, yet still, Hawks didn't feel like he was being mocked. "You're something else, Hawks. But I mean it, you know. I've been watching you. You stare at me like you want to, when you think I can't see. The more you stare, the more you look like you're going to break any second. Can you guess how long I've been looking forward to it? Means I won't get killed if I try to kiss you first."

Butterflies, he realized. It was butterflies fluttering in his stomach again.

Hawks didn't know what was wrong with him. Why Dabi made him feel inexplicably good. The flirting was odd. It shouldn't have been affecting him the way it was. Nor should his good looks.

At the end of the day, Dabi was a villain, a criminal. He'd aided in kidnapping a student after attacking countless others. One of the UA kids interviewed after the training camp had confessed he thought he and another girl were going to die during the League's attack. The reminder put a pit in his stomach beneath the butterflies.

The mixed feeling was not pleasant.

Something was drawing him to Dabi all the same. He wasn't an adoring fan. Dabi looked at him when he flirted, really looked at him. He was mysterious. Hawks had no idea what ran through his mind. Something itched in him to figure it out - not necessarily for the mission (although that was of greater importance to him), but because he enjoyed figuring out puzzles. People normally came easier to him than Dabi did, yet Dabi remained an enigma. Why? Hawks was eager to find out. Plus, Dabi was attractive. With or without the scars and staples, Hawks saw a handsome man. It had been forever since his last relationship. That something lured him in like a fly to light.

He wanted it. He didn't want to hold himself on a leash anymore. He wanted to pursue this feeling, this light. He wanted to go after it and keep feeling good.

He kissed Dabi.

Dabi kissed his back, staples cold and lips warm and sweet.

And Hawks enjoyed it, despite the ever present pit in his stomach.


Hawks cocked his head to the side to scratch behind his ear awkwardly. The more he talked, the more embarrassing this was. He was admitting some pretty shameful things here. "I didn't get it at the time. I was lonely. I was so, so lonely. Maybe it wasn't that deep at the beginning, but as time went on and we got closer, we really started to care about each other. I felt good because the attention Dabi gave me made me feel loved and appreciated on a - on a personal level. It was different than hanging out with my sidekicks on our breaks or going out to dinner with a group or talking to my fans. This was - was intimate, and due to the nature of my mission, I saw him frequently. It wasn't once in a while thing. I couldn't be distant even if I'd wanted to be."

Rei touched his wrist. "He gave you something you hadn't had in a long time, if I have it right. No family, no close friends, I assume you didn't have many romantic relationships either. It makes sense that you'd want to feel something like that again. Everyone wants to feel loved and wanted - as a person, that is. Not an image or tool."

Hawks' head shot up. He blinked owlishly. "...Yes. Yes, that's exactly it! You get it."

Rei's lips quirked up a little at his excited reaction. "I've always had my family," she told him, "from my parents to my children. But I do know what's like to feel alone, Hawks."

Hawks stared at her. Even though her family had been there, she had felt alone all those years ago. His stomach ached; he couldn't believe the man he'd idolized had put Rei through so much that she'd felt like that while surrounded by her own family. It was revolting.

But that was a difficult topic for later.

Rei removed her hand. "There's more, isn't there?"

Hawks exhaled through his nose and nodded.

"The thing you have to understand about Dabi," he explained slowly, "is, no matter what he was like as a kid, he keeps to himself as an adult. Even at our closest, he was distant with me. I couldn't be with him on the inside, but he was with me on the outside. I thought it had to do with insecurities over our relationship - I was a hero, he was a villain who didn't fully believe I'd turn, this wasn't going to end well - or it had to do with his motivations for destroying hero society, whatever they were. There was a wedge between us. And he was certainly not one to wear his heart on his sleeve. But he showed me that he was capable of empathy and kindness. Those...those traits really made me fall hard."

"How so?" Rei inquired.

Hawks rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, he told me once that he felt for the families of his victims and - and the heroes. That they...didn't deserve to be put through the kind of things they were. He confessed that he'd had to force himself to stop thinking about them, or else he'd lose his mind. I - I don't know what that meant exactly. If he wouldn't be able to do what he does if he kept thinking about his victims' families - " that sounded ludicrous on his own ears as Hawks said it aloud - "but he felt for them. Or so he said. I don't know. I've figured since that he was probably lying, but..."

Everyone kept saying Touya was so kind and caring. Including his own memory of the boy.

"Touya was nice, right? Your whole family says so," he mumbled.

Rei didn't say anything. Her face tightened.

Hawks chose not to press her on whatever was going through her mind. He rubbed his palms together. "Plus, he could be kind to me. He was normally his usual, cold, distant self, but there were little, scattered moments everywhere where he know...make me feel like he loved me." Hawks' voice cracked. He forcibly cleared his throat to get rid of the crack. "Especially towards the end. He got more affectionate then. I think he knew what was coming and wanted to be extra cruel, but I - I don't know..."

Touya was supposed so nice and kind and empathetic. What did that even mean?

What could it mean in relation to Dabi?

Hawks raked in a heavy breath and shook his head quickly. "I don't know. I don't know."

And just that more memories, shorter and rapid, assaulted him.


"You look tired, birdie," Dabi noted one late night.

Hawks couldn't help yawning. Nor the slight irritability in his voice. "Yeah, well, you get up at five AM every morning, spend the day fighting villain after villain, then meet up with your contact at one in the morning that night - which really means two in the morning, thanks, pal! - and tell me how chipper you are when you only get two hours of sleep the next day. You're lucky tomorrow's my day off; I'm not getting out of bed for nothing until dinner! That includes you!"

At that, Hawks expected a wise-crack out of Dabi along the lines of, 'Oh? And what if I want to introduce you to Shigaraki tomorrow? What if I have one more job to prove your loyalty, feathers?'

Instead, Dabi glanced up at the full moon overhead the alley they were standing in. He looked back at Hawks.

"Go home, birdbrain," he advised. There's a strange, gentle note under his nonchalance. "I won't bother ya for a few days. I got my own junk to tend to for a while."

Hawks jumped. "Excuse me? But we haven't started! You haven't told me what you wanted for this meeting yet!"

Dabi shook his head. "I was grabbing your goat with tonight's meeting. You know how much I like to waste your time."

Hawks didn't know whether to seethe at the devilish grin that stretched upon Dabi's face or continue to stare dumbly at him.

Dabi's hand reached out for his bicep. Hawks froze at the touch. (They weren't a couple yet, and had barely begun flirting.)

"Go home," Dabi urged, the gentleness more apparent. "I don't need ya that badly. Get some sleep Hawks." His arm fell. So did the gentleness. "Besides, the job I'll have for you next week will be a doozy. Better make sure you're rested up so you don't die during it. Now get out of my sight, I've got other places to be before the sun comes up."

Dabi turned his back, and Hawks finally settled on a glare.

It wouldn't be until he got home that he lightly touched his bicep and wondered about Dabi's concern. If it even was concern.


Dabi slung an arm over Hawks' shoulder, not for the first time since bringing him to the PLF headquarters. He walked alongside him like they were buddies until they turned a corner to an empty hall, out of view of the Front's countless other members. They weren't into PDA in front of them.

"Don't worry about those tracking devices," Dabi assured Hawks once they were alone. "You won't be wearing them twenty-four seven."

"I won't?" Hawks was skeptical. "Skeptic made it pretty clear he was going to be watching me from now on."

Dabi flicked a feather on his back. "Yeah, well, Skeptic isn't going to watch us fuck!" he exclaimed into the device in the feather. "Like right now. In my room. So when you're with me, he can fuck off with listening in on us. Ya hear that, creepazoid!?"

Hawks had to laugh. "Why can I picture him pretending to vomit right now?"

"Because if he knows what's good for him, he's slamming his laptop shut this second," Dabi growled at the feather. Then pressed his lips to Hawks' ear. "You ever want those off you for a few hours, come see me. Obviously, keep them the fuck on when you're out, but we don't have to fuck for you to catch a break."

Hawks' heart warmed. He'd be lying if he said having all these devices on him didn't raise his anxiety up to eleven, no matter how casual he kept his expression and tone on the outside. He was grateful. "Aren't you sweet."

Dabi pulled away from his ear and moved his arm to Hawks' waist. "I just don't like being spied on while I have sex."

Hawks pressed a light kiss on his scarred ear. "Thank you," he whispered under his breath.


"I love you," Hawks blurted out, one fall night in a motel, whilst in the throes of orgasm. "I love you!"

Dabi was still and trembling above him, finishing inside his cunt. He grunted, groaned, and pulled out. He collapsed on Hawks' chest without a word.

Neither spoke. The words 'I love you' had never come out of either of them. The closest they'd gotten was the night they confessed to caring for each other. Now they hung heavily in the air above them.

Hawks inwardly panicked, wondering if he'd suddenly messed everything up. Even if what he'd said had been true. Nothing said this relationship meant as nearly as much to Dabi as it did to Hawks. He might have just screwed himself here.

Dabi didn't move himself from Hawks' chest. His wild, black hair tickled.

Eventually, he said, "You love me?"

It took Hawks a few seconds to snap out of his panic. He closed his eyes in defeat. There was no going back from that."...Yes. I do."

Dabi hummed. (That wasn't the reaction of someone horrified, disgusted, or realizing their partner was way more into this than them.) He splayed his hand out on Hawks' pec, then drew his fingers in. "I think I love you, too," he confessed.

If Hawks wasn't frozen before, he froze now.

"I love you," Dabi repeated, quietly, almost meekly. "I do."

Hawks' heart thrummed loud.

Dabi didn't raise his head. He curled his body instead, twining their legs together and cuddling up against Hawks' chest. "I love you, Hawks. You're a good person."

Hawks' throat croaked. He couldn't believe it." ...I love you, too, Dabi."

They lay in silence for a short while, before Dabi offered a warning. "I haven't loved anyone in a long time. Don't fuck this up for me." 

Hawks suddenly laughed, too happy to care what that meant for the time being. "I won't."

He felt Dabi's cool staples pull in a way that suggested he was smiling.


"Just let me help you."

"This isn't like you. I like it."

"Say that again, birdie, and we'll see what happens."

Hawks scoffed good-naturedly as Dabi lightly dabbed the blood off the side of his temple. They were back at the mansion, snow falling freely to the ground outside. It wouldn't last long before it melted, but Hawks enjoyed the warmth of Dabi's room and from his boyfriend himself as he helped patch him up.

"What kind of shit villain were you fighting to get cut on the forehead?" Dabi questioned, curiosity evident in his tone. "Haven't seen anything hit you since that High End."

Hawks glowered at the reminder of the High End fight. It was just a little over a month ago. "One whose claws detach and fly as swiftly as my feathers."

"I'm surprised he didn't get more of you," Dabi replied. He put the bloody pad in his hand down and peeled the paper off a semi-large bandage. He placed it neatly over Hawks' wound. "There. Now you won't look like a chicken with its head cut off."

"Rude! My head wasn't anywhere close to being cut off! Geez, you act like a cut is fatal or something."

Dabi stepped back to judge his handiwork, and shrugged. "You know, I heard of a chicken that lived without its head for years once. I bet you'd be able to do that; birds of a feather and all."

Hawks smacked him in the chest. "Jerk."

Dabi grinned. It wasn't anything else than a boyish one. Hawks liked that on him. It was so different and more lively than his creepy ones.

On impulse, he grabbed Dabi by the shoulders and yanked his boyfriend to him, capturing his lips in the process.

Dabi yelped something muffled through their lips, but had no complaints as he fell on top of Hawks in bed.


"Weirdly enough, believe it or not, you're the best thing that's happened to me since joining the League. Longer than that, actually. I told you a while back I haven't loved anyone in years, right? That wasn't supposed to change; you weren't supposed to weasel your way into my heart. You made me feel something I thought I lost ages ago.

"You made me feel something else, too. No one's loved me in ages either. Didn't realize how much I missed it. Didn't realize how touch-starved I was. It's been over a decade since someone's cared.

"Thank you," Dabi murmured, "I'll never admit this again, but I needed that. Hawks."


Oh, right; now it came to him.

"It made him human," Hawks choked out. "He couldn't just be an indescribable killer if he had feelings. If he could care about others, be compassionate, act nice. It humanized him to me. I couldn't love a killer, but I love a human who loved me."

He was so close to sobbing right there.

I loved him. I loved him! I swear I did!

So why wasn't it enough for him?

"Then the raid happened," Hawks both felt and saw the tears running down his face to his nose. "I was so anxious leading up to it. I was worried about whether we'd lose. I was worried I was too late. And I was worried about what would happen between Dabi and me. I couldn't - I couldn't reform him," like I thought Twice would, "he was too dedicated to destroying hero society. I knew it would never work if I tried. So I had to bring him in. I had to either capture him or let someone else capture him. I couldn't protect him. I wouldn't defend his crimes. But it hurt so much knowing what I'd be losing. I didn't know whether he'd ever forgive me. There couldn't be a future for us, not unless he changed in Tartarus, but I never fully believed that would happen."

Rei got up and came back with a tissue box. She gave him one.

Hawks smushed it against his eyes to wipe away the tears.

"But that's not what happened either," he finally came to the end. "I was - I was apprehending another villain. Dabi found us. He - He held nothing back."



Hawks took no pleasure from being on top of him, feather sword to his forehead. Inside, he was torn up over what he was doing. Still, he had a job to do. As he had reminded him before, sentimentality couldn't get in the way. People's lives were on the line. Twice was too dangerous, and refused to give up. "I'll be sure to tell the League that," he at least offered him, and dove his feather into the clone forming between them.

Then the room exploded with blue fire.

"There's no need!" Dabi's voice boomed, thrilled to the core. "I heard him loud and clear...!"

Hawks somehow managed to grab Twice and roll them out of the flames, moving entirely on the instinct to save and survive.

Not that it mattered; Dabi's boot smashed down on his head out of nowhere, shattering his headphones and visor. "Didn't notice me there, didja!?"

Hawks clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut at the burst of pain his temple.

Above him, Dabi was merciless. Gigantic flames burst from his foot and flew out far and wide. "Looks like sentiment tripped you up after all, hero!"


"It was like we were never a couple at all," Hawks cried. His whole body shook. That sadistic smile of Dabi's flashed in his mind and refused to budge. "I knew what I was doing was a betrayal to him, but - the goal wasn't to hurt him! It was to save the public. The League are genocidal murderers who were out to level entire cities! Nothing I did was for my own sick kicks. But Dabi," Hawks sniffled and bit his teeth together, "he knew all along what I was up to. He told me he'd known from the start that I was a traitor. I never gave anything away, he just knew and never trusted me. He knew, and he played me anyway! He pretended we were a couple, he made me feel loved on purpose! Then he tried to kill me - he-he said that he didn't care if I lived or not! My life didn't matter to him! He told me that!" He shook his head wildly. "I hate him! I hate him!"

Hawks ducked his head under his shoulders, chin pressed to his chest, and sobbed.

It was all coming out in the open now.

Rei let him be for a minute, then scooted over and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She tucked his head under her chin, and let him sob and cry out.

(Somewhere inside, the gesture took Hawks back many, many years, to when his own mother would hug him. She hadn't been a good mother, but sometimes she could be soothing. Something about that made him feel better.)

"My life's been ruined since then," Hawks whined. "My wings are gone for good. He burned them off! I can't fly anymore. I've been flying since I was a little kid! They were a part of me. I never imagined myself without them. I couldn't! And they were what made me able to save people. My Fierce Wings were everything; my speed, my strength, my weapons! I couldn't do anything without them, so I lost my license. I got stuck at home, where nobody was waiting for me. Nothing was waiting for me! I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, except - except watch others do what I couldn't anymore. My life turned upside-down. Then - Then there was Yuto. My baby....!"

Rei smoothed a hand down the back of his head. "He was born that same day of the raid," she murmured.

Hawks nodded against her clavicle. "He - He was. He was premature. My poor baby was so small and underdeveloped he looked dead. I never knew he was there, n-not until he was born. I hadn't known I was pregnant. I never would have went on the raid if I'd known. I wouldn't have put him in danger like that. I - " Hawks swallowed. A lump had formed in his throat, making it difficult to speak. "He looked dead when he was born. I only knew he was alive because they gave him to me and he was breathing - breathing so hard. He couldn't breathe, Mrs. Todoroki. The first time I held him, he was already hooked up on wires and he still couldn't breathe! And I - I just looked at him. I was in shock that he existed. A-and that - that everything had happened. I don't remember loving him from the start. He was just there. He was just there! I couldn't feel anything about anything!"

Rei hugged him tighter. "It's okay. You went through so much that day, don't feel bad for not feeling. You were overwhelmed. That's not bad. You loved him later, didn't you? And he's safe and healthy now."

"No, he's not," Hawks argued through his sobs. "His lungs don't work right. He's not even a year old and he's on meds to keep them going right. Yet even then they don't work right! He got pneumonia in December. He had to stay in the hospital. His case was worse than it should have been because of his weak lungs!"

Rei didn't respond to that; she only held him.

Hawks heaved in a sharp breath. "He shouldn't have been born yet. He should have stayed inside me. Dabi burned him out of me! I never would have went into labor without him!"

Hawks couldn't say he surprised himself when he heard the amount of venom in his own voice. However, he didn't think he'd ever heard himself sound so hateful out loud.

It didn't bother him.

"Yuto's health is the way it is because he did this," Hawks choked out. "He stepped on me. He burned me. He had me hurtling around the room. Of course Yuto was born that day!"

"It's okay," Rei's voice was more firm than soothing. "It's okay, Hawks."

He did his best to swallow his venom. It was hard. He sucked in a hollow breath and tried to catch his breath.

"I was so scared when I decided to keep him," he went on, quieter. "What if Dabi tracked me down? What if the whole League did? Would they hurt my son? Would Dabi care that he was his? I didn't think so. I thought about fleeing the country. I've had nightmares about him finding me. He's killed Yuto in my dreams. I'm terrified of him. He never loved me. He - He couldn't have. He wanted me dead from the start, he had to have! My son will never be safe with him, I can't - "

His throat died out under the sobs.

He hadn't even gotten to the part where Yuto was another reason he didn't, and couldn't, go back to work, even if he had his wings. Or whatever he would have spouted next in his anger and grief. Everything was spilling out of him into the physical world.

It didn't matter, however, because his mind and body had had enough for the day. Hawks was completely and utterly overwhelmed by his feelings; nasty waves of pain, bitterness, fear, and plain, old ache rode their way through him, and didn't stop even when his tear ducts and voice finally gave out. They continued washing over him as Rei pulled away, muttering soft platitudes and assurances that he didn't quite hear, and took the tea cups back to the kitchen. He sat there in an awful place, emotionally, and it didn't start to ebb away until Rei returned with fresh tea, which he reluctantly agreed to drink.

It did ebb away, though, bit by bit, piece by piece. Hawks eventually felt ready to speak again. His voice was hoarse, but a weight had been lifted from his shoulders; a new one that he somehow didn't believe was going to return. Hawks had finally gotten all of that out into the open, said what he'd been thinking for nearly a year with no reprieve. Now it was out. Not solved, but out, and boy, did that feel good. He sighed in relief and drank his tea. Slowly but surely he came back to himself and to his senses.

"Are you all right?" Rei asked once he'd finished his drink.

Hawks nodded. He hadn't realized how heavy he'd felt before; his body felt so light now. "I am. You seriously have no idea how thankful I am for letting me talk about this. I know I didn't get into as much detail as I could have, but it's...nice to have finally told someone the story from start to finish. Thank you."

Rei gave him a tired yet warm smile. "You're welcome. If you ever want to tell me more, when you're ready of course, I'll be happy to listen."

Hawks returned her smile, tiredness and warmth and all. "Thanks. I think I'm good for a while I think. So," He put his cup down on the coffee table, and looked up at her soberly, "what do you think, after hearing all of that?"

Rei's smile fell. Her body deflated and she sighed.

Then she sat back up, poised.

"That was difficult to listen to," Rei admitted slowly. "You've been waiting a long time to tell this story, Hawks, so it's all right if it's a little more than bare bones for now. I didn't recognize much of my son in it. Because the details were scant, it sounded more like you were describing a stranger than Touya; however, some things did stick out to me. You might find them easier to understand if you..." she closed her eyes for a moment, "if you better understand how Touya grew up."

Chapter Text

Hawks tightened his jaw in preparation. This was it; Rei's side of the story. He might actually begin to understand Dabi and what lead him down the path to become who he was today. If not completely, that at least somewhat. Hawks was certain the family abuse was going to play into this, so he was sure this was going to be more painful for Rei to tell than it would be for him to hear. Nevertheless, he tightened his jaw and nodded for her to start.

Rei stared down in her empty cup and leaned over to set it on the table. "I suppose I should start at the beginning as well. My parents and Enji arranged our marriage; we didn't marry for love. Do you know what a quirk marriage is, Hawks?"

Hawks already knew where this was going. He remembered what Endeavor had told him last year in his office, while they were talking about the League and whether Dabi really could be Touya. He shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, I do. They died out decades ago, but I guess some people would still be interested in them."

Rei lifted her chin slightly. "How well do you know my husband's ambitions? Or, his former ones."

She was neither judgmental nor suspicious as she asked, yet Hawks felt guilty as a scolded child all the same. He sighed. "Last year, he called me to his agency to talk about the League. We, uh, talked about Dabi and Touya for a bit." Hawks had to close his eyes. "Endeavor told me he'd wanted to surpass All Might in his youth. When he couldn't, he decided to find a wife whose ice quirk could temper his Hellfire and - and have a kid who could surpass All Might in his stead."

It burned to say it aloud.

Although this was far from the worst thing Hawks had learned about Endeavor in the past year, this part hit him personally. He'd never denied it since learning of it, but he'd been all too content to push the information to some far off part of his mind where he didn't have to dwell on it either.

Endeavor had been Hawks' idol growing up. He'd saved him as a kid. His hard work and dedication had inspired Hawks to keep going and keep working where he might not have. Of course Hawks had known he'd wanted to beat All Might; everybody did. Endeavor wasn't exactly subtle, and it wasn't like anyone else had ever tried to catch up to the towering Symbol of Peace. Therefore, Hawks' admiration had been twofold; on one hand, Endeavor had been a shining light that had saved him from his own father, and on the other, he never gave up or let adversity get in his way, no matter how far out of reach his goal might have been.

That shining light and enduring attitude had made one of, if not the, biggest impacts on Hawks' life and how he chose to live it. When he'd been upset, down in the dumps, or ready to quit, all he'd had to do was look up at Endeavor, who had saved him, who worked hard and never gave up on even what seemed to be the most impossible goal of them all - if he could do it, if he could stay in the wringer and keep going, then why couldn't little Keigo? Why couldn't Hawks?

Yet it had all been a lie. Endeavor had given up on his goal years before Hawks was born. He'd still worked hard despite it, but for twenty-five years, it hadn't been himself - not really - that he'd seen overthrowing All Might. It had been one of his children, who'd he'd gone to grotesque lengths to raise as a mirror image of himself, only more perfect and actually capable of taking All Might on. That was who he expected to become the new number one someday; not himself. He'd given up on that idea two years into his career.

Hawks still admired him. It would have been different if Endeavor hadn't already committed to changing by the time Hawks had learned all of this, but he respected the new man his hero had become. Nevertheless, the revelation that the man he'd grown up admiring, had been inspired by, who'd indirectly had such a huge hand in making Hawks who he was today - the truth didn't sit well with him. Thinking too hard about it made Hawks nauseas.

Rei watched him carefully. "That's right," she eventually replied. "I was the best option he found. He'd wanted our child to succeed where he'd failed. He would be getting a successor out of our marriage. So when he found me, he contacted my parents and made his proposal. In return for my hand, he offered them a lot of money."

Hawks' stomach dropped. "Money?"

She nodded. "Back then, I'd only ever heard of the new, rising hero Endeavor, who'd managed to make it to second place on the billboard charts in two years; I'd never met him. I was surprised when he showed up on our doorstep one day. I was even more surprised when my parents already knew who he was and why he was here. Our family wasn't poor, Hawks, but we weren't wealthy either, and sometimes life got rough for us. Enji was willing to pay an enormous amount to get my parents to agree. They saw stability and luxury we'd never have otherwise in his offer. They said he would give them an easy retirement and me a wonderful life and guaranteed future for my children."

"So they just sprung it on you?" he asked in disbelief. "I know it was arranged, but - did you have any say in this?"

Rei frowned and glanced at the floor. "Well, they did spring it on me, yes. I'd had no idea they were in talks to arrange my marriage. At that point, I was a twenty year old college student with a two year degree who was still living at home. I didn't even suspect my parents would want me to get married yet. It turned out they hadn't, until Enji approached them. As for whether I had a say...I did protest at first. I certainly didn't want to get married yet wasn't as though I'd been swooning over the hero Endeavor before. My parents pressured me to give him a chance and let him court me for a while. If I still didn't like him, then we could talk."

She clasped her hands together in her lap. "Don't get me wrong, Hawks, my parents aren't bad people. They had no idea what would come and I loved and trusted them. We've discussed everything since and are past this today. But in those days they thought this was best for our family, and I couldn't exactly say no to them. Well, I guess I could have - I could have packed my things and left that day - but I'm not that kind of person. I'd never been terribly rebellious and I knew they didn't have bad intentions. So I gave in to the pressure and let Enji court me.

"We went on a few dates. We talked about ourselves, our interests, and what we wanted out of life. He was honest about the quirk aspect of our marriage and what he expected out of our child. Nothing awful happened during these dates, but I was uncomfortable the whole time. Enji wasn't the warmest man and I could tell there was no attraction between us. This was purely transactional. And the more time went on, the more I realized I wasn't getting out of this." Rei paused. "Enji would have never let me go. If I said no, he would have gone to my parents. If they said no, he would have made them a greater offer. I think it would have taken much to get him to move on to the next woman he found with an ice quirk. But that didn't matter, since my parents were thoroughly on board with the marriage. By the time our courtship ended, it really didn't matter what I said. Our marriage was arranged, the wedding was planned, and within the first year, I was pregnant."

Hawks' gut twisted. "You were sold to him so they could be taken care for the rest of their lives," he said with difficulty.

Rei shrugged despondently. "You could say that. It's not really wrong. It's not that they were bad people, though. They just...saw the allure of his money."

Without thinking, he blurted out, "My family was poor. They got taken care of for the rest of their lives in exchange for me, too."

Rei's eyes widened. Her neck snapped up.

Hawks' face dropped. He shouldn't have said that out loud.

"I'm sorry," Rei offered immediately, sincerely. "That - I didn't know - "

"It's fine," Hawks cut her off with a wave. "I - I didn't mean to say that. My childhood doesn't have anything to do with this."

Rei reached over to clasp a hand over his. "I'm sorry," she said firmly, without hesitation. She ignored his protests. "You don't have to tell me exactly what happened, but I'm sorry. That shouldn't have happened to you either, Hawks. Besides, at least I was an adult."

Hawks looked down at her hand uneasily. Something about this felt motherly, which made that, what the third time today?

He didn't know how he felt about that. The facts were, Rei wasn't his mother and he wasn't interested in getting a new one. He just - he'd just wanted to talk about Dabi. Her actual son.

Something yearned inside him, though. But he didn't have the capacity to deal with that today.

"I'm fine," he reiterated, softly pushing her hand away. He tried to smile. "I guess that's something else we have in common. Can we talk about that some other time?"

Rei nodded. She scooted closer to him and pulled her hand back to her body.

"You can keep going," Hawks encouraged.

She did. "It wasn't too bad in the beginning. Enji spent most of his time at work and we were civil at home. Although it wasn't happy, it wasn't bitter or draining yet." A small smile found its way on Rei's face. "I grew attached to my baby the minute he started moving inside me. I felt every squirm, kick, hiccup. I knew when he was asleep and when he was uncomfortable. He had fun making me uncomfortable when he was. But I already knew he was going to be a sweetheart. It's difficult to describe, but you really do form a bond with your baby when you're pregnant."

"Hm," Hawks lowered his eyes. He wished he knew what that was like. "Sounds nice."

Rei's eyes shot open. She flinched. "Oh my. Hawks, I'm sorry, for a moment I forgot -"

He held up his hands to stop her and grinned. "It's okay! Honestly, I only made it to twenty-three weeks; it wasn't like I could have felt him anyway. I'd rather we not apologize to each other every two minutes, so let's just keep going, okay?"

She pursed her lips. "Still," she argued, "I didn't mean to make you feel left out."

He waved her off flippantly. "You didn't. I've got a bond with Yuto now, so it's okay. He's my baby bird and I love him, and I know he loves me. It's fine, ma'am."

Rei didn't look convinced.

Hawks sighed. "I just got done telling you how badly my relationship with your villainous son ended. If you can handle that, I can handle the fact I didn't know I was pregnant until my baby was born. Okay?"


"You said the other week you fell in love when Touya was born," Hawks offered her a new starting place. (He also wished he'd had that.) "You memorized his face."

Rei still didn't look convinced, but, thankfully, moved on all the same.

"Yes, I did," she said reluctantly. "I fell in love with him as soon as he was in my arms. Enji was glad to have a healthy child, but I had finally had my baby boy." Her lips twitched. "He was so small and exactly as sweet as I imagined."

"Yuto has the same nose, right?" Hawks asked to further lighten the mood. He ignored the ache in his chest.

"He does." Rei's smile returned, so mission accomplished. "His hair's mostly the same as well. White, fluffy, and you can either smooth it down or brush it up in spikes. Though I'm starting to see a bit of your hair in Yuto; a few of his spikes are slimmer and fork like yours."

Hawks cocked his head. "You noticed that, too? Man, I need to brush his hair better before I come over here!"

Rei chuckled. "Don't bother, it's fine. It also reminds me of Touya when he was little. He liked having his hair brushed down. It wasn't until late middle school that he got sick of it and started letting it spike up on its own. Teens are so lazy when it comes to brushing their hair. I used to have to grab him on his way out the door because I saw a rat's nest on the back of his head and he'd get mad that I made him brush it out."

Hawks laughed, a tad uneasily. "Really?"

To tell the truth, he brushed Yuto's hair down so he wouldn't look like Dabi. The forks were one thing, but the spikes were, well, getting too reminiscent as Yuto got bigger.

"Oh, yes." Rei smiled at the memory. "Anyway, Touya was mine for the first few years. Enji was busy with work and didn't know what to do with a baby, so until our nanny was hired, I was a full-time mom. I did everything for him; changing his diapers, feeding him, co-sleeping during his naps - "

"You did that, too?" Hawks interrupted, perking up.

"Well, he didn't let me get much sleep at night," Rei chuckled. "I bought all of his clothes and dressed him up, taught him how to talk, and held his hands above his head as he learned how to walk. When I got pregnant with Fuyumi and she started kicking, Touya would lay his head on my stomach. He'd wait for her to kick, and jump up and shriek when she did. Then he started laughing and put his head on me again. He was so excited to be a big brother. He wanted the baby to sleep his room - that changed as soon as she was born - and would waddle around the house after me saying, 'Mama, I wanna meet the baby. I wanna play with the baby. Can the baby come out? Mama, can I help feed the baby?' Touya was nearly three when she was born.

"Of course, when she was born and he saw how much attention she took from him, he started throwing tantrums. But he loved her; I have so many pictures somewhere of them sitting with Fuyumi laying between her brother's legs and up against his chest. Touya would happily babble at her and Fuyumi - well, she looked confused and like she didn't know where she was more often than not, but when she got older, she started hugging and babbling back at him," Rei's eyes shined at the memories.

"He sounds like a happy kid," Hawks remarked.

"He was," Rei agreed. "He was so energetic. He loved to run and play, and used to make a mess of his toys everywhere. He'd try to help me, though I think he just wanted to know what I was doing and copy me. He'd help me with the laundry, fold the clothes wrong, and get so excited; 'Mama, I did it!' I had to refold them later, but he was so happy about it. It was the same with cooking, though I had to put my foot down there. He wanted to learn where everything was in the grocery store and would give me a heart attack by running ahead to whichever aisle he thought something was in. He loved throwing things in the cart. If it wasn't breakable, I'd take them off the shelf, hand it to him, and he'd toss it in.

"As a toddler, he loved being told to hold something and not let it drop. He'd tell me, 'I'm a big boy, Mama, I can carry that.' Of course, I'd only ever give him non-breakables. He used to run over to Fuyumi with whatever I gave him. He'd tell her that she was too little to do what he could, but he's show her exactly what it was and let her touch it. The poor girl, I could see on her little face that she had no idea what he was talking about!"

Rei's shoulders bounced as she started laughing. Hawks laughed with her. He could see Yuto doing so much of this in the coming years.

"He was over the moon when Natsuo was born because he had a little brother, and excited again when Shoto was another boy," she explained. "I used to watch them play outside together. Shoto was too little for the rough play, but those three would run all across the courtyard. They'd chase each other, play ball, have competitions, and oh, the amount of times they'd scream for me because Natsuo cheated or Fuyumi was lying or Touya tackled Natsuo for laughing at him for tripping over himself. Sometimes I swore I had a pack of wild puppies instead of children. When Shoto got a little older, before his quirk came, he used to watch them with such wide eyes and scream the loudest when they came running after him. Touya and Natsuo would take turns trying to carry him on their backs, and that would give me a heart attack because Touya was so small and Natsuo so young, I was convinced they'd drop him by accident."

"Definitely a rowdy bunch," Hawks chortled.

Rei put a hand on her cheek. "They were. My little babies. They used to give me such headaches. You don't realize until they're grown how much you miss those headaches." Her face suddenly darkened. "That was all when they were young, though, and only when their father wasn't home. The training...when it began, I could see how it changed Touya."

Hawks' face slipped. "Yeah?"

Shadows appeared behind Rei's eyes. "You mentioned earlier that everyone called Touya kind when he was younger, didn't you? Well, he was, Hawks. Don't get me wrong, he was a normal, little boy; he could be rude, rebellious, and throw tantrums like any other child. I scolded him when he was mean to his siblings or talked back to me, our nanny, or housekeeper. But for the most part, Hawks, he was good. Little boys don't usually help their mothers without being told, especially as they get older and understand what chores are, and they aren't as responsible with their siblings as he was. I think...I think the training made Touya want to go the extra mile, because he knew how Enji treated us. He got the brunt of the physical abuse until Shoto's quirk manifested, but he saw what we went through. So I believe he wanted to be extra gentle with his mama and little siblings because of that."

Extra gentle, huh. That didn't sound like Dabi to Hawks. He didn't care how others were treated, period. At his best, he was a bystander, and at his worst, he went out of his way to make it so much worse.

Hawks' stiffened. Suddenly it was over a year ago, and he was sitting on the couch with Dabi after the High End fight, discussing victims and heroes' families.

"But I do think of their families, especially the heroes'. They don't deserve the shit that gets thrown at them. You know how much suffering comes from being related to one? Every day, they risk their lives. Every day, they might not come home. Every day - they just might. You never know."

Hawks shuddered.

He remembered recalling those lines back when Shoto, Tokoyami, and Midoriya appeared at the apartment and connecting the dots on the suffering part. The suffering the families of heroes went through wasn't from worrying about the hero's safety, it was from the abuse. Dabi didn't care if the heroes didn't come home; but if they did, then their family would suffer another day. That was the real loss, the real danger. Hawks remembered how Shoto had told him that Touya had thought all fathers were abusive bastards until a sleep over changed his mind. Then it became all heroes instead of all fathers.

Now he realized there was another dot to connect. 'Everyday - they just might,' Dabi had said. Hawks had initially taken that as how heroes' families couldn't know if their loved ones would return from a day's battle, and then that them coming home would only mean more suffering. But it was more than that. Dabi had wanted his father dead. He'd been wanting him dead from childhood. Endeavor had hurt their family, had hurt Touya, his mother, and his little brothers and sister. He used to hope would die on the job, if not be severely injured and put in the hospital, so their family would be safe from him. Endeavor living each day wasn't just about more suffering for Touya, it was about more suffering for them all.

"I don't care about the victims I leave behind me, Hawks. I don't care about heroes, rival villains, or civilians caught in the crossfire. The families, however...I used to think about them non-stop. It was all I could ever think about. It tore me up inside, knowing what they were going through. I had to stop thinking about it or I'd lose what was left of my sanity."

Had Dabi needed to stop thinking about them because he projected onto them? Because at the end of the day, regardless of how or by who, they were being hurt? Was Dabi that uncomfortable with suffering families? Because his own had suffered so much?

"Having a shitty father doesn't take away your ability to care about anyone else. Being a villain doesn't mean you can't care about some people."

Some people. Like innocent families.

Hawks had thought he'd seen genuine humanity in Dabi's eyes that day. Could it have real?

Either way, his stomach churned at the memories.

Rei touched his shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Hawks did a doubletake. "Ha!" he laughed awkwardly and rubbed the back of his head. "I am! Got lost in thought there is all. You were saying?"

Rei reluctantly retracted her arm. "The training was awful," she said, her voice ghostly quiet. "There was some differences between Touya's and Shoto on account of them being the oldest and youngest. Enji was more patient in his early twenties than he was in his mid-thirties, since he wasn't as close to old age yet. And their quirks - Shoto's was far less damaging to his own body than Touya's, so certain precautions supposedly weren't 'necessary' anymore. Plus it was because of Touya's so-called failure due of our 'influence' that Shoto would be isolated from the family - " Rei's face was pained, and for a moment, her voice bitter, " - but it was all awful. Touya crumbled under it. I watched him."

Hawks tucked his arms over his stomach and leaned over them. "How so?" he murmured.

"He withdrew into himself. Touya went from an energetic and happy toddler to a shy and reserved child to an obviously unhappy teenager," she explained sadly. "It was like watching a switch slowly flip. He still played with his siblings and helped me out, but it wasn't the same anymore. I'd turn around sometimes and see him staring blankly at nothing. The older he got, the more often he stared off into space with this unreadable expression. I couldn't tell at all what was going on in there; it was like he was a shell." Rei paused. "I noticed on TV he still looks like that. His eyes are lidded, his face is blank, and he just stands there. I'm sure he's thinking something, but it's a far cry from when he was little. He used to be an open book."

"That deadpan face of his?" Hawks was surprised. "You think that's from the abuse?"

"The older he got, the less Touya emoted," Rei told him. "Even in his school picture on the family shrine, he has that look."

Hawks blinked. Was I like that, he wondered, when I was a kid?

Yes. Yes, now that he thought about it. His parents and circumstances hadn't given him much reason to smile. Hawks suddenly remembered holing up in his room, staring at the bed beneath his feet while his parents' fought. He remembered not having much of a reaction when the Commission first came to recruit him, giving them a blank look because he wasn't particularly happy at that age, and didn't care much about what was going on until they said he could be a hero. It was safer to retreat inside, to keep one's face still until one knew how an adult was going to react. And it was hard to care when something bad or frustrating might come next.

Hawks didn't believe that was adult Dabi's point of view; however, if his reserved, quiet, deadpan nature had been a leftover from childhood...that would begin to explain his personality.

Now that he thought about it, Shoto wasn't the most emotive kid either. Tokoyami had told Hawks how reserved and unfriendly he'd been at the start of their first year. He doubted the kid was particularly unhappy right now, Touya issues aside, but, well, some things just stuck from childhood. Hawks guessed this could have been one of them for him.

It was an interesting feature the two brothers had in common, considering they were the only ones put through Endeavor's training. Fuyumi and Natsuo hadn't been, and they weren't like that at all. Abuse really had the potential to emotionally harden some people, he supposed.

Rei couldn't hear his mind putting all the dots together, so she went on. Hawks snapped himself out of it to listen.

"Touya became afraid of his father," she said. "He was wary of him as a toddler; Enji was this large, intimidating stranger that came through the house and hardly interacted with him. He knew who his father was, but I don't think he was sure of what that meant. When the training started, accidents happened. Touya wasn't good with his quirk, and Enji wanted results. His body had weak fire resistance, so he burned. Enji would lose his patience with Touya's accidents and recovery periods. There was a lot of screaming and blaming.

"Eventually we realized Touya had inherited my constitution. My immune system and body aren't the strongest. Although he was pretty much healthy, it had its drawbacks. Touya had motion sickness, he'd tire out easier than his siblings, and he was so small despite his age. He learned how to perform first aid on himself early on, and to a degree, how to tough out his condition. It wasn't enough for his training, though. He'd get the wind knocked out him, his skin burned quickly, and there were days he passed out on the floor."

Rei's eyes narrowed, in a way that caught Hawks off guard; Dabi hadn't inherited her eye shape or color, but Hawks recognized his narrow stare in hers.

"We had Fuyumi as a just in case," she continued, her voice like Hawks had heard Natsuo's, "in case Touya didn't have the quirk Enji wanted. We had Natsuo because Fuyumi didn't have it, and Touya's had its flaws. Shoto was born for the same reason. It wouldn't be until his quirk manifested and was 'perfect' that Enji finally gave up on Touya and let him go. He was fourteen or fifteen.

"By then, Touya had feared his father for years. When they weren't training, he avoided him as much as possible. As a little boy, he'd fidget and play with his hands, and I swore, wouldn't breathe until his father left the room. He got antsy just being looked at by him. While Enji was at work, he'd cry in my lap about how much he hated the training and wanted me to make it stop. As he got older, he'd attach himself to the wall and flee the room if Enji came in. He'd hide in his room until dinner, and hide back in there afterwards and not come out. He was careful in the mornings to miss his father on their ways to work and school. Touya simply didn't want to be around him. If he had to be, he'd hang his head, avoid Enji's eyes, and keep very quiet.

"But there was more to him than fear," Rei added. "I saw it. When he hung his head at dinner and picked at his food, I could see anger beneath the anxiety. He'd turn the corner in the hall away from his father and break out in a scowl. I caught him glaring holes into his father's back through the window on weekends while Enji was leaving. He would get up the courage to talk badly about his father during the day, but clamp his mouth shut and quietly seethe and pick at his shirt when his father got home. He was as angry as he was scared. He was angry that he was scared. He despised his father, if not as much as I did then almost as much."

Hawks curled his fingers into his palms. "You told me you knew what it was like to hate and fear the father of your children."

"I did," she agreed carefully. "Our relationship was awkward, unloving, and civil in the beginning. I could live with that. What I could not live with was him hurting my children and hurting me when I tried to get him to stop. I couldn't live with being powerless against him. I couldn't live with him turning all of our children into him."

"All of them?" Hawks questioned. "What do you mean? He only trained Touya and Shoto, didn't he? Fuyumi and Natsuo didn't have the right quirks."

Rei was silent for a moment. Her hair hung in her face as she crossed her arms protectively over her chest. "I'm their mother," she began, her words slow and bitter, "yet the more time went on, the more I couldn't stand my own children."

Hawks' froze.

My mom resented me, I know it.

I'm so scared of resenting Yuto.


Why would Rei resent her kids?


He watched her release a heavy sigh.

"Please don't misunderstand me," she begged. "I loved them. I never stopped loving them. But for fifteen years, I lived with a man who had bought me off my parents, didn't care what I thought of his training, wasn't afraid to hit me if I got too in the way, and abused or neglected our children together. I felt like I was trapped. I couldn't leave him, I couldn't take my children and leave, and I felt like I had no one to rely on to help us out of there. I was trapped, and I was alone. It wore away at my mental health. I was deteriorating inside. poor baby...he knows that best."

Hawks stared at her closely. Yeah, that was surely true. He remembered Endeavor telling him how Shoto had gotten his scar. Rei had had a mental breakdown, and since Shoto's left side had looked like Endeavor, the rest was history.

Rei raised a hand to her chest and curled it into a fist. "Those were bad years. I couldn't stop Touya or Shoto's abuse, or Fuyumi and Natsuo's neglect, or fight back against Enji. I was so powerless against all of it. He didn't listen to me. He berated me. He hurt my children with every action. He broke me in the end and that caused me to hurt our own child, because I couldn't even look at my children, let alone that one, because of him." She clenched her fist. "Every word, every hit, every burn, every...every moment he wasn't there as the husband and father he should have been. I felt so alone. Fuyumi and Natsuo had no father, while Touya and Shoto had an abusive one. Yes, I hated Enji. I hated him so much, and I was so afraid of what he'd do next every day. How he would hurt us. And the fear would feed into the hate. It was a cycle.

"That fear and hate...I didn't hate or fear my children, Hawks," Rei swore to him. Her bangs fell over her eyes. "I knew they weren't to blame for what was going on and I never once thought they would hurt me. Yet all the same, as much as I tried to hide it because I never wanted them to see that side of me, those feelings bled on to my children. They weren't just mine, they were his, too. Physically and...emotionally, too.

"Touya was a mix of us both, Fuyumi leaned towards me but had some of her father's coloring, Natsuo - he still had baby fat covering his face, but he had my colors and his father's build, and Shoto, he was split down the middle. His left side was the splitting image of Enji. Now that he's older, I can see that he has my features instead of his father's, but back then, his left side...the red hair and blue eye both..." Her voice took a darker tone. "Of all my children, he looked the most like him. Of all of them, he was the hardest to look at." Her voice lightened back up. "But since Touya's training ended and his began, he was the one that needed me the most."

Hawks cleared his throat and leaned back on the couch, uncomfortable. "Your... Endeavor said when you had your breakdown, you thought Shoto was him."

Rei picked her head up slightly. "That's not quite true. It is to a point, but...even after I threw the water, I started screaming at Enji through his left side. I can't really explain where my head was in that moment, Hawks, but on some level I knew it was Shoto there. I just...also thought it was Enji. And I snapped, couldn't hold my resentment for my husband in any longer. I wasn't in a sound state of mind and I had never wanted to hurt Shoto himself, but..." She shook her head. Her voice cracked. "I'm sorry, I still can't explain what was going through my head in that moment. All I know is that as soon as I came back to myself, I couldn't believe what I'd done and I tried to use my quirk to stop the burning from the water, I picked him up and I tried..."

Rei trailed off. She clasped her hands around her biceps and curled inwards.

Hawks wished he knew how to comfort her, but he was feeling disturbed himself. Gently, he asked, "Do you want to stop for now?"

Rei sighed, long and hard. She shook her head again. It took a little while, but she finally uncurled herself and sat up, brushing her bangs out of her eyes. "No, I don't. Let's stop talking about that incident, though. I've already discussed it with my doctor and Shoto; let's not go too far down that road."

Hawks nodded. "Okay. Whatever's good with you."

Rei sighed a second time. "Anyway, it wasn't just their physical appearances. It didn't matter who was trained and who wasn't. They were all becoming like him. We were all angry due the abuse and neglect and - I'd watch them. Shoto was still little, but his brothers and sister were bigger. When they'd get into fights, they'd yell and it sounded like Enji. When they'd throw insults, it sounded like his beratement. When Touya seethed, it was just like his father. They were taking after him. Whether they realized it or not, regardless of how much time they spent with him, they were learning from him. I could see it in their faces. I could hear it in their voices. Enji, Enji, Enji. And then there was Shoto, who had his hair and eye on the one side of his body, who had his orange flames, who had his scowl. I got so bad that even if I got away from my husband, I - I couldn't live with four more of him.

"Please don't misunderstand me," she begged. "I loved them. I never wanted to hurt them. I never wanted to leave them alone with their father, and I hated myself when I was put in the hospital and realized I'd done just that. I was deteriorating, and the farther I went, the more I realized something was coming. I was going to snap. I didn't know when, or what would happen when I did, but I knew I was on the verge of...something. And I was so, so scared that I would hurt Shoto in the end.

"I couldn't take that life anymore. I wanted...I wanted to run away. Even if that meant without them. It wasn't because I didn't love them anymore or that I hated them, it was about survival. I couldn't survive there anymore. I couldn't! And if worse came to worst, I wouldn't hurt Shoto. If that meant...not being their mother anymore, then so be it." Rei paused, and she looked absolutely miserable. "The day I hurt Shoto, right before it happened, I was on the phone with my mom. I tried to tell her everything. I told her how I couldn't be around the kids, how I hated my life, and I was starting to tell her I couldn't raise Shoto anymore, when he heard me. He heard me, Hawks, he heard me tell her I couldn't stand his left side and wanted to leave him!"

Hawks surprised himself by how quickly his hand found her back. Looked like they were going down this road anyway. "It's...It's okay. You did your best, and he - he loves you. I don't think Shoto's mad at you for it anymore."

Rei wiped at her face. She wasn't crying, but she was close to it. "He's never been mad at me. Even then, after hearing all that, being burned by me, and listening me tell him how much I hated his left side, he didn't blame me for what happened. He knew it was a breakdown caused by his father. How a five year old could understand that - and forgive his mother - I'll never understand. I'm so glad he's forgiven me and I haven't lost him, but - but how does - !?"

She cut herself off and took a deep, shaky breath and covered her hands with her hands.

Hawks didn't know to make her feel better like she had him. He felt woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, he told her, "Although I can't speak for Shoto, I'd say it's because you were a good mom. Like you said, you...didn't hate them or blame them. You were cracking inside and you still hid it and showed them love. It would have been normal if he'd had any other reaction, sure, but...I think he knew it wasn't 'you' in your right mind when you hurt him."

Rei carefully removed her hands from her face. "Let's stop talking about this."

Hawks pulled back. His throat was painfully dry. "Okay."

"Thank you." She sat back on the couch and closed her eyes. "I'm sorry, Hawks. This is isn't easy to hear or tell."

He nodded uneasily. To be honest, he was starting to feel sick to his stomach. "I got you. I get it." Which he did; she was just right, this was difficult to hear.

I can't believe Endeavor did that to them.

How can you drive someone to the point that they'd hurt their own children, be afraid to, or...or want to leave without them? Even if you love them with all your heart?


...Did my mom think I'd have a better life with the Commission? That I'd be safer and happier with them than at home? Was she getting me out of there before something worse happened?

He shoved away thoughts of his own mom. This wasn't about Hawks or his parents. He had to stop thinking about them, stop letting them linger in the back of his mind.

Rei looked at him, her eyes unreadable. "Do you need to take a break, Hawks? Because I'm all right with taking one if that's what you need."

"No, I'm...I'm okay," he turned her down. What he needed was to hear this, to find whatever answers he could. "You can go on."

Rei nodded calmly and got back on track.

"I don't want to say Touya took after me," she continued, "because I don't believe he did. He was the oldest, he was the first that went through Enji's training, and he went through things I never did. But all of that made him hate and fear his father, too, if not as much as I did then close to it. I've heard about how he snapped after I was gone. He wished his father dead. I didn't know that until recently, but...maybe he did get something from me after all. To some degree."

Hawks gulped. "Did you really want your husband dead?"

"Not really," Rei rolled one shoulder, the rest of her purposely controlled. "I wanted out of there. I wanted my children to be safe. I never wanted to be hit, ignored, or watch my children be hit and ignored again. I wanted Enji to hurt. If it weren't for what Touya is doing right now, I'd believe that was what he wanted, too. Unfortunately, that's not the case. He means it. I don't think that will end well."

No matter how it ends, Hawks added in his head. Whether Dabi got what he wanted or Endeavor prevailed and brought him in, or...if Dabi died during the battle... No, it wasn't going to end well, no matter what.

"I knew Touya was angry back then, even if I didn't know just how far it went," Rei went on. "I listened to him rant, I held him while he cried, and I did my best to make him feel better. I know some of his anger was directed at me as well. When he was younger, he used to ask me why I didn't take him and his siblings and leave. He'd beg me to take us and go. As he got older, his begging turned into barbed questions. Why was I staying? Why couldn't I take them and leave? Why didn't I fight my arranged marriage, or leave with him and Fuyumi when I saw what exactly the training was like? Those were difficult questions. I supposed I could have fought my parents harder, or I should have put my foot down. It would saved our family a lot of grief if I hadn't married Enji and our children weren't born. But what was done was done.

"So how could I explain why we couldn't leave? Touya was so young and didn't understand how powerless I was against his father. I struggled to explain it. How I didn't have the courage to, how their father would never let us just go, how they could be taken away from me - it was hard to convey those things without really saying them, because I didn't want him feel hopeless and trapped either. I mean, how do you explain such things to your child? How do you tell him you can't leave, no matter how badly he and his siblings get hurt? And I felt so guilty because I should have been able to; I should have said no to the marriage, I should have held my ground, I should have tried harder to get my children out of there - but I couldn't. And I think he eventually got that. I don't know if he was still angry with me, but I couldn't blame him if he was. If he still is. I wished I'd had better answers for him. There's so much I regret now."

Hawks stiffened. "It wasn't your fault."

"It felt like it for a long time," Rei replied mournfully. "Now it feels like what's happened to Touya is my fault. If I'd done anything different back then, perhaps I could have prevented him from becoming a villain."

Hawks' face hardened. He couldn't let her believe that. "No, that's not your fault! He made his own choices. There's no way you're responsible for anything he's done."

Rei lifted her chin slightly. Her eyes were empty. "If I had packed my things and moved out of my parents' house instead of giving in to their pressure, Touya wouldn't be here today. There would be no Dabi in the League of Villains because he was never born. Enji couldn't have hurt him, I couldn't have failed him, and the present would be very different. Or if I gotten the courage to take Touya and Fuyumi and leave in secret when I saw how brutal the training was, he would have grown up better. His 'death' would have never happened. He'd still be here and he'd be a normal man."

Hawks' grasped for the right words. "No. Look at your others kids - they're not villains! Touya - he decided to do all of this on his own. He didn't have to hurt others. He didn't have to join the League. If he'd wanted to get back at Endeavor, there's better ways he could have done it, ways that don't involve hurting or killing people. I don't think anything you did or didn't do helped lead him on this path. You can't think like that, Mrs. Todoroki."

She gave him a sad look. "I know. But it's hard not to." She paused and looked away. "Anyway, Touya didn't lash out at me for long. He was young, bitter, and looking for someone to blame. He broke down later and apologized to me. There might still be some resentment within him today, but he never asked me why again. He did, however, start looking at heroes in an ugly light. His father was one and was so obsessed with the rankings that he built our family the way he did. Touya decided all heroes must be bad people, and nothing could sway him away from that. Even if you got him to admit he didn't know any other heroes and maybe they weren't all the same, they were still bad - or most of them were. He made Shoto cry once by insinuating All Might was like their father. I made him apologize, but I could tell he didn't mean it."

Rei took a deep breath and exhaled through her nose.

"By the end, right before I went to the hospital, Touya was a quiet, moody teenager who didn't smile much. He loved his siblings, played with them, and related to Shoto and tried to support him - I know he sneaked across the house to see him at night sometimes; I'd listen through the door, and I'd cover for Touya if Enji heard something - but I worried about him. I didn't see a murderer in the making in him, but I knew he wasn't happy. He was angry, afraid, and a shell compared to his younger self. When I heard about what happened after I was put in the hospital, my heart broke in half. My mental state got worse, and all I could do was blame myself. I'd never see my baby again; he was gone, and he died in such a horrific way. It took me years to make peace with him and start to forgive myself. I couldn't look at Shoto when my parents tried to bring the kids by; he had to stay out of the room, and I told them to stop bringing him at all. I couldn't face him after what I'd done to him and what I let happen to Touya. Who knows what I'd cause next? I couldn't lose another one of my babies," Rei finished, sounding close to tears.

Hawks waited for her to reign herself in some before hesitantly reaching to clasp her hand. He didn't know what to say, so he just squeezed it. When Rei seemed to get a hold of herself, he let her go.

She gave him a small, half-forced smile in thanks.

"So," she breathed. "that brings us to who Touya is today. As I said, I never saw a murderer in the making within him and I don't know how he can do the things he's done. But so much makes sense.

"He idolizes Stain. Touya hated Enji. He was so scared of him. His childhood warped his entire view of heroes; they were all liars and fakes in Touya's eyes, and he loathed them. From what I know of Stain, he wanted rid of fake heroes, yes? So it makes sense that Touya would hear his message and decide to 'bring' his will to life. Because in his mind, his father was the fakest hero of them all. Heroes don't hurt, but he did. Heroes don't try to take down other heroes, but he did, through training his children to surpass All Might. The League of Villains...I suppose they would have given him a place to start his goals. To take down and...kill his father," Rei explained.

Hawks nodded. "Yeah, I figured that."

"You said he was distant and kept to himself," she continued to sum up. "Touya was like that as a child. He withdrew into himself as he got older. He talked less and less about his feelings, kept more to himself, and wasn't the happy, energetic, little boy I knew anymore - and he didn't develop that personality naturally; I know it was because of the abuse."

Hawks thought about that. That didn't tell him much right now; he'd already known Dabi had been abused as a kid. It didn't in of itself explain why he was a villain either. "Do you think," he tried, "that might be part of the reason he was so distant with me? Was he distant with everyone outside the family as he got older?"

Rei hesitated. "Maybe. It might be part of why. As he got older Touya didn't make a lot of friends at school, and I honestly couldn't tell you how close those friends really were. He never brought them home, he didn't go out with them often, and he didn't talk too much about them either. When we'd go out as a family, he didn't talk too much to the other kids and mostly let Natsuo and Fuyumi do the talking. If I had to guess, I'm not sure Touya knew how to let strangers in. Or maybe he just didn't want to as a defense mechanism. Or maybe I'm wrong and he really did become naturally shy as he got older. But I am sure there was more to do with it than that when it came to you."

"Like what?" he asked.

"Well, he likely distrusted you because of your hero status for one thing," Rei remarked.

"Fair," Hawks nodded, a little sheepish.

Rei tilted her head to the side, silent a moment, and lifted it back up with a quiet sigh. "As for your relationship...I don't know, Hawks. I've talked to Fuyumi, Natsuo, and Shoto. Natsuo thinks he lied to you so he could use you or get back at you for being a hero, but he doesn't want to believe that. Shoto can't see him faking love at all. Fuyumi doesn't even think Touya would have pretended to be nice if he really hated you. But we don't know. We really don't. Touya's thrown us all a curveball with," she waved her hand in front of her, "this."

Hawks curled his lips. He had no idea where to start with that. He sort of didn't want to. Not yet. He was still willing to talk, but the emotional exhaustion from their conversation was beginning to set in. "Hm."

"Finally," Rei came to a close, "you also said he cared about the families of victims and heroes, and that he could be kind to you. The more I think about that," she raised her hand to her collarbones, "the more I wonder. Maybe the Touya we know is still in there. He has to be thinking of us when he says he cares about families. Perhaps he doesn't, but...that sounds like my son. Touya did care. He loved us. He could certainly feel guilty for putting other families through what we went through with him. Grieving his death, I mean. And if he wasn't faking being kind to you, I - " Rei struggled for the right words, then gave up. She restarted, "Touya loved. He really did, Hawks. I refuse to believe fifteen years of helping me and taking care of his siblings was somehow a lie. I'm hoping that somehow, through that love, we might be able to reach him when Enji captures him. Touya has to be just consumed by revenge, he has to be."

Hawks frowned deeply. "You guys really want him back after all he's done?" he had to ask, and did so quietly.

Rei lowered her hands. "As he is right now? No. We don't want the villain Dabi, who wants to destroy Japan with the League of Villains. But we've never had a real family, Hawks, and no matter if it's right or not, we feel responsible for what he's become. We want him to pay for his crimes, turn over a new leaf, and...and be a better person. We want everyone in our family to heal from what happened over twenty-five years and live a better life. We're never going to excuse Touya's crimes, but we want to make things right for him, too. We can't leave him like this."

"Plus you just want your son and brother back," Hawks added for clarity's sake, not to judge.

"Yes," Rei replied firmly. "If I can have him, I want my son back."

Like Fuyumi wanted her brother, Natsuo wanted his brother, and Shoto wanted his brother back, despite everything. And like Endeavor likely wanted his so back, too.

Hawks looked down at his knees, trying to process everything he'd heard. He felt like there was more to talk about, more dots he could potentially put together, but nothing - words or dots - were coming to him. He furrowed his brow and curled his fingers into his palms. He needed to go home and decompress. Spend some time with his baby bird, eat some food (maybe they could get chicken for take out tonight), and get some sleep. As glad as he was that he had come today, Hawks was tired. The gears in his mind might work better once they had rested up.

There was still one more thing bugging him, though.

He ran a hand through his hair and looked up at Rei. "Okay. I understand. So, I guess I only have one more question. I know we've been getting into each other's personal lives all afternoon here, but feel free to tell me this is going too far."

Rei's eyebrows raised. "All right."

Hawks rubbed his neck awkwardly, but his eyes honed in on her. "Why do you stay with your husband?"

Now Rei's eyes widened and a new light sparked within them. "Hn?"

Hawks glanced away. "After everything he put you and your kids through, the abuse, neglect, mental breakdown - I mean, you just spent ten years in a psych ward because of him! And even now, you two can't be in the same room together! How - How can you possibly forgive him for what he's done?"

How can you forgive him? Hawks asked, because it hurt so badly to know what a monster his hero used to be, worse in some ways than his own father. The more he found out how the man who'd changed his life for the better had destroyed his family, so much that they were still feeling the effects of it today, the more disturbed he was. Hawks didn't hate Endeavor - he'd already changed - but he wondered how on Earth his victims could want him in their healing family. (And, though he didn't want to admit it to himself, he wondered if he could ever find it within himself to do the same with Dabi; because so far, he couldn't imagine it.)

Rei stared at him for a brief time, thinking. Then she shifted her weight and looked up at the mantle.

Hawks' followed her gaze. The flowers Endeavor brought were sitting up there in a vase.

He frowned. "He brings you those a lot, doesn't he?"

"Yes, he does," Rei confirmed. "He started bringing them when I was in the hospital last year. My children were surprised to hear it when I told them. Do you remember how I said before we got married, we would go on dates and talk about ourselves?"

"Yeah," Hawks answered, wondering where this was going. "What about them? You said you weren't attracted to each other."

"We weren't," she agreed. "But I told him what my favorite flowers were on one of those dates. I never brought it up again and he never once brought me them until last year. In fact, until Shoto started at UA, he never visited me at the hospital at all. I was startled when my doctor informed me one day that he'd been coming to visit recently. Enji wasn't allowed to see me because my doctors didn't want me to breakdown again, so he agreed to just stand outside the door. This time, he had brought me my favorite flowers, so I was asked if I wanted to keep them. If not, they would throw them out. I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

Hawks perked up. "Did you keep them?"

"I did. You see, these flowers aren't meant to be romantic," Rei explained. She turned to look at him. "Enji and I aren't in love and I doubt we will ever will be. We'll probably never live together again. We both know that and are fine with it. He doesn't bring me those flowers to be romantic. They mean he's thinking of me."

Hawks furrowed his brow. "What?"

Rei smoothed out the hem of her shirt. "For fifteen years, he didn't care what I had to say or what I thought. He didn't care about anything other than beating All Might through one of our children. He didn't like being told 'no' either. Do you know how surprised I was that he was checking in on me after all this time? He'd never cared to before; the day he put in the hospital was the last day he'd care to for ten years. And do you know how surprised I was that he remembered my favorite flowers, let alone brought them? It had been twenty-five years since I'd said a word about them, and not only did he remember, he brought some to the hospital for me?"

"You sure your kids didn't remind him?" Hawks asked.

"No, they wouldn't have known it," she said. "They didn't even notice the flowers in my room until I pointed them out. The fact is, Hawks, Enji was changing. That was my first hint of it. The man I married hadn't really cared about me, what I thought, or how I felt. The man I married would have fumed and burst into a tantrum at being told no, he couldn't see me. He'd likely have barged his way in anyway. When I lived with him, it was always about him and what he wanted, nothing more. So why was he visiting all of a sudden? Why was he waiting outside patiently, knowing he wasn't allowed in and that I wasn't even being informed he was there? Why had he brought me my favorite flowers now?

"There was really only one answer. Shoto didn't like talking about his father with me, Natsuo rarely did, and Fuyumi avoided the topic entirely out of respect for me. So this was my first clue that he was changing. After all, what could Enji possibly gain from this? Even if he'd wanted something out of me - though I couldn't imagine what - he'd never been a patient man or one to flatter to get his way. This wasn't like him. He had to be turning over a new leaf. Why, I didn't know. But one way in which he was was by thinking of me. He suddenly cared enough to visit me. He cared enough to bring me a gift he'd knew I'd like. This was a sign that despite everything, he hadn't forgotten me.

"Later I'd learn how he wanted to make amends with our family," Rei told him. "He was trying to atone for the past. He wasn't seeking forgiveness; he didn't expect it from us and he certainly wasn't going to force us to 'forgive.' Enji stopped what he'd been doing before, made a real effort to connect with our children, and respected their boundaries. He also reached out to me in a way with his visits and the flowers, and respected my boundaries. He had this house built so our family could have somewhere to go away from him, and so I could come home to a house without him in it. You have to understand, Hawks, that's nothing like the man I used to know. He would have never done any of that."

Hawks curled his lips. "So, that's why you forgave him? Because he changed?"

"No," Rei shot down, "it isn't. I hadn't forgiven him yet. All I did was accept that he had changed. I was glad for it, yes, and I explained this to Fuyumi and Natsuo when Natsuo accused his father of not caring about us. But it's not as simple as him having changed and me having forgiven him, Hawks."

"So what was it?" he asked.

"There were several things that went into it," Rei informed him. "Him changing was a big one, I'll admit that. If Enji were the same man who hurt my children and caused my breakdown, we would not be where we are today. I have my children, my parents, my doctors, and new friends outside this house to rely on for support, so I'm not as alone and trapped as I was, even without his change of heart. I never want to live with that kind of person again. I won't."

There was a quiet fierceness to her tone that took Hawks by surprise.

"All right," he said uncertainly. "That's good."

Rei didn't reply to that. "I'm willing to work with Enji because he's willing to as well. But there's the fact that I don't have to forgive him. I'm relieved that he doesn't expect forgiveness, but even if he did, I don't owe to him. I want to put the past behind us, yes, but there's something freeing in the fact that I don't have to. If I wanted to, I could cut ties with him completely and won't suffer for it. I don't need him in my life; the only reason he's in it because I choose to let him be in it. I don't have to do that."

Hawks nodded slowly.

"And finally," she took a deep breath, "I want to move on. Let go of the past and stop letting it haunt me. I'm already in my forties, Hawks; I've lost twenty-five years of my adult life to an abusive marriage and a mental breakdown. If for nothing else, I want to let the past go for my sake. I want to be happy, be a part of my children's lives, and not live in bitterness and fear of my husband anymore. I just want to live a good, happy life surrounded by my loved ones. That's all. Now, I don't need Enji in order to do that; I can have that life without him. I can move on without him. But that's not how I want to do it. If he's really changing, then...I want to get to a place where we can have an amicable relationship. If there's a chance we can be friends, maybe we can be that. It might be difficult to understand why I want that after everything we went through, but for me, it's part of leaving the past and all that hatred and fear behind.

"So we're trying. He keeps bringing me those flowers as a way to say, 'I'm thinking of you and I care about your happiness.' We've finally gotten to the point I can hear his voice on the phone without having an anxiety attack. I'm hoping it won't be long until I can stand to see him in person. We might not ever have a loving marriage or live together again, but we both agreed to work towards a better place for us. He's apologized for the way he treated me, and I can see in his actions and his words that he means it. So I want to try, so I can move on and be happy. That's why I stay, Hawks," Rei finished resolutely.

Hawks considered all of that. He turned his gaze to the floor and thought hard.

Rei leaned towards him. "That was my decision, Hawks. Not Enji's, not anyone else's. Mine. I didn't have to do it this way, and I can change my mind any time I need to. You have a choice, too. You don't have to forgive my son or work with him to get to a better place - especially if he doesn't change his ways. In fact, I'd caution you not to try if he doesn't. I don't want you or Yuto to get hurt again. But even if he's willing, you don't owe him anything. You do what's best for you and your child."

Hawks nodded, still staring at the floor. "Thank you, Mrs. Todoroki. This has been a big help for me." He clapped his hands on his knees and rose to his feet. His legs were tired from sitting so long. "Seriously, thank you. I guess I should go see if Yuto's ready to get out of bed."

Rei stood as well and clasped her hands in front of her. "Of course. If you ever need anything else, please reach out. I hope you keep getting better, Hawks."

He smiled smally at her. "I think I will. So - "

Just like that, they were interrupted by a sharp cry from the other room.

Despite himself, Hawks laughed. "He always has perfect timing, my little chick! So like I was saying, it's getting pretty late in the afternoon. Think I'm going to get him ready and go home."

"Do you want to eat something before you go?" Rei asked. "You could stay for dinner and leave in the morning."

"No, but thank you," he told her warmly. He scratched the back of his head. "I've got some thinking to do alone. I'll see you guys on Sunday."

Rei nodded and smiled sweetly. "We'll be looking forward to it."

They both moved to go collect Yuto.

By the time Sunday rolled around, Hawks had been doing a lot of thinking. He'd also been sleeping, playing and snuggling with Yuto, and texting Tokoyami. If there was anything he could say had changed since talking to Rei, it was that he felt a lot calmer and had a more peaceful headspace. In fact, when Hawks and Yuto arrived at her house on Sunday, once Yuto had already been swept away by Fuyumi to go see Natsuo, he thanked Rei again for their talk.

He felt good greeting all of the Todorokis and Tokoyami, who Shoto had invited over again, and sitting down in the living room to chat. Hawks watched Yuto blink in Natsuo's arms, as if he didn't recognize his uncle (which was fair, considering Natsuo had been gone last week and Yuto barely knew him to begin with), and lightly grab his nose as if in inspection. Everyone laughed at it, causing Yuto to look around like they were crazy.

"Eh?" he babbled, searching the crowd of faces until he found Hawks. "Ehh?"

"Who is that, Yuto?" Hawks teased. "Is he a friend?"

Yuto smiled a gummy smile and smacked Natsuo's nose.

"Oof!" Natsuo reeled his head back. He wasn't hurt by any means, but the hit had taken him for surprise.

Hawks slumped one of his shoulders, but didn't have the heart to scold. "Oh, what are we going to do with you, baby bird?"

Yuto giggled.

Hawks had a good time watching his son get passed around from family member to family member, Natsuo to Shoto to Tokoyami to Rei to Fuyumi, and chatting with all of them about work, school, and what they were doing in their off time. He told a funny story about how Yuto hadn't been very hungry at feeding time the other day, so he decided to test how secure the nub on his bottle was by dropping the whole thing on the floor. Luckily, the cap only slightly loosened, so very little milk escaped. But Yuto had leaned over his high chair so intently, Hawks had to take a picture. He showed everyone and they chuckled. Even Tokoyami had cracked a rare smile at just how intense Yuto's stare at been. Fuyumi and Shoto left go get lunch, and Hawks' eyes lit up when he saw chicken amongst the food.

Overall, it was shaping up to be a nice, relaxing day.

By late in the afternoon, Fuyumi, Natsuo, and Shoto were all on the floor, trying to get Yuto to crawl, while Rei watched from the side and Hawks and Tokoyami watched from the couch. Natsuo had goaded Shoto into moving the coffee table to the farthest wall to give him more room.

"Come on, Yuto, baby," Fuyumi encouraged from next to the mantle. She curled her fingers towards her. "Come to Aunt Fuyumi! I want to give you kisses!"

Yuto was inexplicably puzzled. He bent his neck backwards to look up at Natsuo, whose knees he was sitting in-between. "Uhh?"

Tokoyami folded his arms and leaned down. "Go on, you know how to do it. One hand forward, then the other knee. You can do it, Yuto."

"Are you sure he'll learn to crawl?" Shoto asked. "I read online some babies skip crawling and go straight to walking. Maybe he's one of them."

Hawks shrugged. "Could be. But it doesn't hurt to try. Go on, Yuto! Go get her! Or come to Daddy! Daddy wants to give you kisses, too!"

Yuto looked up at him and grinned. Then he flopped back between Natsuo's legs.

Natsuo made a sarcastic noise in his throat. "You're not even trying, Yuto. Come on, we know you wanna!"

He picked Yuto up by the armpits and flipped him over on his belly. Yuto fluttered his wings at the motions, but didn't otherwise move on the floor.

Rei put her fingers to her mouth and giggled. "Poor thing!"

Hawks shook his head and sat back against the couch. "Like father, like son," he muttered fondly, thinking of how cheeky and obstinate he himself could be when he didn't want to do something. Well, he could hardly blame Yuto; crawling had been giving him a hard time after all.

Tokoyami sat back with Hawks. "You're looking better, Hawks," he informed him quietly, tone approving.

Hawks glanced at him and quirked one side of his mouth up in a smile. "That so? I do feel better."

Tokoyami sighed in relief and closed his eyes for a moment. "I'm glad. I presume you found the answers you were looking for with Mrs. Todoroki."

"Some of them," Hawks admitted freely.

While he still didn't understand Dabi as a person or what had been going on during their relationship, he could now see, for the most part, how Touya and Dabi could be one.

The abuse put more context into why Touya had been so empathetic to Hawks when they were little. He could also see more clearly why Dabi wanted revenge on Endeavor. Whatever had exactly happened in those training sessions - and outside of them - must have been pure hell. Being hurt one minute, walking eggshells the next, and lashing out as soon as his father was out of earshot as his way of rebelling. Some of the scars (no pun intended) Touya had suffered emotionally were shockingly still on the surface.

The more Hawks thought about it, the more he thought Touya hadn't just snapped the day he'd confront his father. With his mother gone and brother scarred by her, he must have cracked; the pressure got to be too much, so the shell he had receded into to hide, to stay safe, suddenly broke apart. Everything had to have come out - if Hawks remembered right, Touya had screamed that his father was going to kill them all, wasn't he? It must have surely felt that way to him. Then when everything went up in flames. Either in that moment he was smacked down for his insolence or some time after he'd run away, he must have had his own breakdown. Regardless of whether the real Touya was still in there or not, the man who would one day take on the alias Dabi had come to be.

In that way, Hawks did feel sorry for him. No one should have to grow up like that.

But his sympathy came to a halt when it came to Dabi's crimes. Going through that hell didn't justify the murder of innocents, or fuck, whatever had possessed him to shoot fire at and mock Shoto at the training camp. It didn't give him the right to turn on his brother now, to attack him as a miniature version of their father. And no, Hawks didn't believe he even had the right to plot Endeavor's murder. It was one thing for abuse victims to snap and attack their abusers while trapped under them, but Dabi had been out from under Endeavor's thumb for more than a decade and Endeavor was a changed man. What he was doing was not an act of self-defense anymore. It was blind revenge that had spiraled so out of control that Dabi was perfectly willing to harm his fellow victims, his own family that he'd cherished.

Hawks didn't know how to explain that either. If he'd loved Shoto so much, for instance, what had gone through his head at the camp? Shoto wasn't a mini-Endeavor then, was he? That didn't make sense with what he'd shouted in Shoto's video back when the trio had visited Hawks.

So much remained that Hawks still couldn't understand. But he did have a clearer idea of who Dabi was now, which was good.

He also wasn't going to lie; getting a more detailed story on how Endeavor's abuse had affected his family, specifically Rei and Touya, really disturbed Hawks. He almost didn't want to know what the other three had felt deep inside. His stomach churned at what they must have gone through. Hawks could understand Natsuo's bitterness towards his father from their first meeting a lot better now. It was hard, and the anger was incredibly justified.

But Hawks had seen for himself how Endeavor had changed as a hero and man. He remembered how the guy who had hated all fan interactions got humiliated by a fan who had liked that about him, running away screaming because Endeavor had chosen to be polite to him. Hawks understood that he was different now. That Endeavor didn't want to be an abuser anymore and he wanted to atone. That was why Hawks was okay with Yuto being around him, despite knowing about the abuse since last year. Despite what Shoto, Natsuo, Fuyumi, and Rei had told him since meeting them. At the end of the day, Hawks still respected Endeavor as a hero and for who he was now.

But that didn't make the past right. And when Hawks thought of Dabi, and what he'd done, how he'd hurt him and their child - when he thought back to his own father, who'd never let in Yuto's life - god, it was so easy to understand Natsuo's cold bitterness their first meeting now. He even got why Dabi wanted revenge against him, even if Hawks didn't agree that murder and tearing down all of society was the answer.

It was hard.

I'm mad at Endeavor, my own father, and Dabi for what they've done, Hawks had thought to himself while at home these last few days. What does that mean for Yuto? They're his other father and grandfathers. Even his grandmas both resented their own kids and wanted to leave them. Can you really rebuild a family with a past like that? Can it really be loving and healthy, after all of that? Can people really change that much, and does it matter if they do? Is it better to shut them all out? Is it fair to let some in and shut others out? Does it matter who was worse? If I'm afraid of and angry at my dad and Dabi, am I allowed to be okay with Endeavor and let him be part of Yuto's life?

Hawks didn't have the answers to all of those questions.

He had, however, come to the conclusion that yes, one could rebuild a loving, healthy family from a past like that. It hinged on everyone doing their part and respecting boundaries, but if the Todorokis were any indication, it could be done. Even if in the end, say, Natsuo didn't want anything to do with his father, or Rei changed her mind about him, or they realized Dabi would never change - they could figure out how to move with their lives and be happy. It was what they'd been working on for over a year, and from the sounds of it, they were making significant progress.

Hawks found that heartening. Regardless of what happened what Dabi, maybe he and Yuto would be all right.

"Come on, Yuto!" Fuyumi cheered, a wide smile on her face as she patted her thighs. "You can do it!"

Rei clapped her hands together. "There you go! You're on all fours! I know you can do it!"

Yuto, who was indeed on all fours, looked around at all of them like they were crazy. He unfurled his wings and stretched them out.

"You could fly to her, too," Natsuo joked.

Hawks heart jumped to his throat at the thought.

Yuto didn't fly, though.

Rei went over to sit at Fuyumi's side and tapped on Shoto's shoulder for him to do the same. The three of them urged Yuto to come to them while Natsuo did from behind. Hawks and Tokoyami eagerly watched from the couch.

Yuto's mouth fell open and he turned his head from person to person. Then he pressed one hand forward, a knee, his other hand, and Hawks' breath hitched. Yuto's other knee followed. Yuto watched the ground carefully as he hobbled another step with each hand and knee, before lifting his head with a loud giggle. He hobbled forward faster, puffing out his wings above him, and made his way to the three across the room.

Hawks beamed. His chest filled with pride. "Yuto! Woo!"

Rei, Fuyumi, and Natsuo burst into cheers. Fuyumi picked Yuto up and Shoto gave him a congratulatory hair ruffle.

"Good job, Yuto!" Fuyumi kissed his cheek.

"You did so well!" Rei enthused.

Natsuo laughed. "Did you see how happy he got in the middle? He's a cute kid."

Tokoyami nodded in approval. "That's very good, Yuto."

"My fast, little chick!" Hawks grinned. "That was amazing! You're gonna be as fast as I was someday!"

Hawks regretted the praise as soon as it came out of his mouth. No one noticed, and Hawks kept his grin up, but his brain suddenly caught on the word 'was.'

Fuyumi put Yuto back on the ground on all fours to keep crawling, and Tokoyami joined them on the floor to watch up close. Hawks stayed where he was, watching Yuto explore the living room. He watched the way his wings tilted as he hobbled to keep him balanced and twitched when they bumped into something, causing him to stop to look at the thing curiously. He eventually furled them back up, wobbled on his arms, and kept going as if it were nothing anymore. Yuto had finally learned how to crawl.

Hawks was happy. He truly was. His baby boy had reached another milestone. But he couldn't deny the flash of jealousy that crossed his mind as Yuto furled them back up now that they were unneeded.

This is exactly what I was afraid of.

Hawks pushed the thought to farthest corner of his mind as he could and tried to enjoy the moment. Which he did. Yuto crawled all around the room, from family member to family member, and even into Tokoyami's lap, which earned a loving pet from Tokoyami and loud cooing from the others. When he was done there, Yuto crawled up to Hawks, his smile so wide and adorable that Hawks swooped him up immediately and squeezed him in a hug. Yuto shrieked and laughed. Hawks only reluctantly placed him back on the floor, and Natsuo, Shoto, and Tokoyami were the first to jump up when they realized Yuto was heading for the living room door to go into the hallway.

Nevertheless, Hawks' stomach sunk.

He felt awful for being jealous of his baby. Yuto hadn't done anything wrong; there was no reason to get resentful. His wings were his, not Hawks', and Hawks wanted him to use them someday. Hell, that was the whole reason he'd given him his name; Yu- 'permanence', and -to, 'to soar, fly.' Hawks wanted his baby bird to fly in the air and be able to stay there for as long as he desired. Sure, it had been given while Hawks was in shock and at least partially out of grief for his own wings, but the fact remained. He wanted Yuto to fly (as opposed to burning them; Hawks resisted the urge to shudder at the memory of his son's quirk awakening). Doing so - or not doing so - wouldn't be a slight against his dad. Besides, this was supposed to be a happy occasion.

It also reminded Hawks of his own lack of wings and how useless that made him feel. He'd been working on those feelings in therapy, but it had been a couple months since he last addressed them and subsequently quit. Whatever negativity he had fought off felt like it was slithering back, bit by bit up Hawks' chest. His whole life had ruined by the loss of his wings. His career was gone, and with that, so many lives he could have saved had he been out on the field.

Hawks didn't like this. Tokoyami had been right; the last thing he wanted to do was sink into himself, give in to his demons, and self-isolate again. He could see now it wouldn't do any good, and it would hurt his son and Tokoyami.

The root of his jealousy went right to his uselessness, he knew it. Without his wings, Hawks' whole world was gone, his life, everything he knew, had ever known. His ability to protect the public had gone up in bright, blue flames, and it wasn't coming back. If he was going to nip this jealousy thing in the bud before it became a real problem, he had to start by addressing that.

Hawks considered speaking with Rei again, perhaps pulling her to the side to chat and taking up her previous offer to spend the night. He ultimately decided against it. Inviting himself to spend the night so they could have a second heart-to-heart in one week sounded like overstepping. Mostly, though, he decided he needed the perspective of someone who understood what it meant to be a pro.

So when it was time to get going, as he and Yuto were putting on their coats, it was Fuyumi Hawks pulled to the side.

"Hey," he inquired with a smile, "do you know if your dad's home? Also, what's his address?"

Fuyumi was puzzled. "Why?"

"Need to talk to him about something in person real quick, before we go home," he explained briefly.

Fuyumi raised her eyebrows, but confirmed that Endeavor had the night off and gave Hawks the address.

"You're the best!" Hawks thanked her.

Endeavor glowered down at Hawks. "What," he demanded, "are you doing here? I told you I was distancing myself to keep my family safe!"

Hawks hoisted Yuto higher in his arms. He smiled cheekily. "Isn't that lonely? Wouldn't you want company to eat dinner with? Hey, your grandson learned how to crawl!"

Endeavor went to slam the door.

Hawks' sneaker jammed between it and the frame (his foot would yell at him later). His expression hardened. "I need to talk to you about something."

Endeavor regarded him uncertainly. "About what?"

"Can I come in?"

He glared, but after a moment the door opened wide. "This had better be important."

Hawks stepped inside and smiled. "So what's for dinner, big guy?"

Endeavor's eyes narrowed. "You aren't staying long."

Removing his shoes and his and Yuto's outerwear, Hawks replied, "Come on, the League hasn't attacked your house yet. What are the chances they will when I'm here?"


Yuto gasped. His face wrinkled and he began to wail.

Endeavor froze. His flames instantly went out.

Hawks' face went deadpan. "Thanks, man. Now I've got to calm him down."

Endeavor said nothing. While Hawks shushed and comforted Yuto, tucking his head beneath his chin and rubbing his back, they made their way to the dining area. Endeavor disappeared into the kitchen and Hawks sat down. Yuto soon stopped crying, and Hawks dug a jar of baby food and a little spoon from his baby bag. He had originally brought them for the trip home, but as long as they were here, might as well use them now.

Endeavor eventually reappeared with a plate full of dinner for himself and something that looked like it had been whipped up quick for Hawks. He paused at seeing Yuto eat his baby foot. "Oh, good. I wasn't sure if he could drink the milk in the fridge or not."

"Yup, I got it!" Hawks exclaimed, and leaned over to examine his plate. "...Well, I guess I did show up last minute. This isn't undercooked, right?"

Endeavor's eyes flashed. "Be grateful I made you anything when you showed up without notice, especially after I told you to keep away!"

Hawks was tempted to say that Endeavor had never told him to do anything, but decided against it. He didn't want to be too ungracious a guest. "Oh, I am! Seriously, thanks for the food!"

Once again, Endeavor's eyes narrowed. He grunted and sat down on the other side of the table. "What did you come here for, Hawks? Out with it."

A bit of mush drippled down Yuto's chin as Hawks gave him his last bite. He wiped it off with his thumb and picked up a napkin. "The good news is, it's not about the League or Dabi finding me and Yuto, or some Nomu attacking us. Or anything to do with danger at all!" He let the cheerful tone drop from his voice. "I actually came here for personal reasons. I know you're not big on feelings and I don't expect you to be soft on me, but...I needed to talk to another pro."

He saw Endeavor's brow furrow. He might have raised his voice again, but a glance at Yuto surely stopped him. "You risked bringing your son here for that? You should have called instead."

If Hawks had called, it would have either had to have been on the train, where a car full of strangers could hear him, or at home, which was over four hours away. "I didn't want to wait that long. I just came from your wife's place, y'know."

That got Endeavor to perk up. "Did you?"

Hawks frowned to himself. This is the man who hurt them that bad, he thought fleetingly. He really did all those awful things to his family and didn't care before. Now he's being mindful not to scare my son, who he doesn't want here in the first place purely for his safety. And mine. ...Some tigers can change their stripes, huh.

Clearing those thoughts away, Hawks nodded. "Yeah. By the time I got home, you'd probably have been in bed, and I didn't want others eavesdropping on the train! So what do ya say, care to hear me out?"

Endeavor pursed his lips and made a low, contemplative noise in his throat. "Fine. What is it?"

Hawks' shoulders tensed. He shifted Yuto in his lap and held him around the middle. "I...haven't been coping very well with the loss of my Fierce Wings. I was going to therapy for it, but, uh, things happened and I quit. The thing is, I really hate not being on the field on anymore."

He watched Endeavor's head tilt slightly to the side, silent.

Hawks laughed a little at the awkwardness. "I know what you're thinking. 'What does that have to do with me?' Well, you're a pro; you understand what it's like being on the field. How much pressure is on you and that drive to protect the people at all costs. I know you used to only care about beating All Might, but you care about the public now, right? So - so you have to have some idea of what I feel when I watch from home while the rest of you fight. You can imagine how terrible it is knowing I'm," he swallowed with difficulty, "useless without my wings. Whenever I hear the casualty numbers, I always think about how much lower they'd be if I had been there. I feel so guilty, sometimes I worry it's going to swallow me whole."

Endeavor made a low, contemplative noise in his throat. He poked at his plate. "I do," he replied slowly, "understand the pressure and drive you're talking about. Since becoming the new Symbol of Peace, my priorities have shifted, yes."

Hawks nodded eagerly. "Right. Right. So you know what it's like to have other people's lives on your shoulders. What's like to see danger and spring into action, to keep pushing and trying even when it seems like the other side is winning. That - That determination to never give up. To not let their lives be the cost for your mistakes."

Endeavor's brow hardened. "Yes."

Hawks struggled for more words.

Guilt burned low in his gut. He wished he could have talked to Jeanist as well. He was my mentor for a while when I was a teenager. I bet he would have known how to set me straight.

As it was, he scrambled for the right words in his head to make Endeavor understand. "I...I spent my whole childhood training to be the Winged Hero: Hawks. When I went pro, my whole world revolved around it; I spent almost all of my time working, both on the clock and undercover. Even though I hated the lack of free time, I don't - I don't know how to live without it. If it weren't for Yuto, I'd probably have lost my mind by now!" He came a halt and sighed. "Keeping people safe has been the most important thing in the world to me my entire life. But now that I'm out of commission, I can't do that anymore. People have gotten hurt because of that. People died because I wasn't there. If I'd been on some of the jobs you've been on, maybe I could have helped turned the tide and this business with the League could have been over. The guilt's been eating at me for months."

Endeavor put down his utensils. "Is that it? Or is there more to the story?"

Hawks' eyes itched. He rapidly blinked them and hung his head, brushing a thumb over Yuto's tiny knuckles. "My wings made my career. They made me whole I was. They were what saved people. Without them, I've been useless. Yuto, however, inherited my wings. I've been so scared for months that one day I'd get jealous of the fact he has them. It makes me so upset that I won't be able to fly with him when he's older, but I'm even more worried about resenting him for having what I don't." He heaved a heavy breath. "I didn't have a good relationship with my mom. I'm afraid of replicating that with Yuto. And it'll all start with the wings, I know it. I love my son, but...earlier tonight, he learned how to crawl. He's been having trouble with it because his wings are heavy on his back, but tonight he got it. He learned how to balance them out, and I felt myself get jealous that he has them at all. I have a pretty good bad feeling that this is the first step down a road I don't want to follow. Problem is, I don't know how to stop myself. I can't get over the raid, I haven't gotten over Dabi, and I can't get over how useless I am now and how the world's paying for it."

Endeavor stared at him hard for a minute. "You told me something like this a few weeks ago, didn't you? You didn't trust yourself. Do you remember what I told you to do?"

"To get help," Hawks answered tiredly. "That's kind of why I'm here, man."

"Professional help," Endeavor amended harshly. His voice lowered some. "Seeing as you wanted to talk to another pro-hero, however...I'll say this: I do know what you mean by saving people. Even when their safety wasn't my personal priority, I never half-assed a job and did everything in my power to accomplish it with as few causalities as possible. When I became the number one hero after All Might's retirement, times had become perilous. The League was about, crimes were sky-rocketing, and people didn't find the security they were hoping for when they looked at me. I had never cared about my public image before; in fact, I preferred to be intimidating. But this couldn't continue, not in the new world we were living in. Whether I wanted to be that person or not, the public needed someone who made them feel safe and I couldn't stand to half-ass this either. That was my first step on the path I'm now on. I finally understand why heroes like become heroes. The public's lives, security, and happiness are precious."

Hawks blinked in astonishment. He'd never thought he'd hear something like from Endeavor. At least not out loud.

Endeavor huffed under his breath. "Frankly, I'd be devastated and enraged if I were in your shoes. Especially considering my own son is out there trying to destroy this country, I'd despise being so...helpless," he choked on the word. His raised his head, though, and his eyes were sharp. "Nevertheless, that doesn't make you useless. I would never just sit back and do nothing, wallow in myself. I understand that you don't want to be in the spotlight, what with Yuto; even if you still had your wings, you'd stay out of the fight to ensure his safety, wouldn't you? You're afraid if you're too visible, the League will find the two of you and make him an orphan at best and take you both out at worst. Am I right?"

Hawks' eyes widened. "How did you know that?" he inquired quietly.

"It wasn't hard to figure out, once I connected Yuto's existence with your refusal to take a desk job at all last year," Endeavor gruffed.

For a second, Hawks had no idea what he was talking about. Then he remembered being in his office, shooting down the idea with the lie that he wasn't going to ride the tail end of others' hard work.

"Of course you lied," Endeavor seemed to read his mind. "I could believe your trauma had gotten the better of you, but when I learned of Yuto, it made too much sense that you'd also want to hide from the public eye for his sake. So, do so; keep yourselves safe. But don't wallow in your guilt forever, Hawks. What's done is done, your wings won't grow back. It's difficult, but you need to accept it. That doesn't mean you don't have a future, though, or that you can't continue saving people. The League won't be a threat forever; when they're dealt with and Yuto's perhaps old enough, take a desk job or become a detective. Put your keen eyes and mind to good use again. It might not be the same, but there are other ways to keep the public safe. You haven't lost your value, Hawks, just because you're not a pro anymore. In the meantime, go back to therapy so you can focus on your son without worry. I don't care what happened before, find another one if you have to." With that, Endeavor began to dig into his food. "And eat. I didn't make that for nothing, and I know from my wife that you're as much of a glutton as ever. Don't you dare make me throw your plate away."

A chord struck within Hawks and he sat up straight.

Yuto chirped curiously and stared up at him. His tiny hand grabbed at the collar of Hawks' shirt and his cheeks puffed out, concerned.

Hawks was okay, though. He took Yuto's hand from his collar and kissed it. "I'm okay, baby," he murmured.

Yuto mewed, perplexed.

But he really was. Hawks had never thought of the future before. He hadn't wanted to return to the field, with or without his wings, for the reasons Endeavor had described and they had also made him feel guilty. However, he'd never truly considered returning to work in some sort detective job once (if) the League was gone. Sure, his eyes and brain were nothing to laugh at, and the Commission had used him for detective work before, but he hadn't been able to picture doing it without flying in on the scene. What really got Hawks was the value part. That notion directly opposed his feelings of uselessness. He could still help people, in some way. It didn't take away his guilt for all the losses they were suffering in the present, but it had to be better than nothing, right? Instead of being stuck at home for the rest of his life, watching them all die, he could still help.

He looked down at Yuto, whose golden eyes were wide and warm, and over at his wings, twitching in anticipation.

Hawks' phantom wings shuddered.

I don't want to resent him for having what I don't. I don't want to be jealous that he has what I lost.

I was doing good in therapy. It feels like I've lost a lot of progress. Could I really go back? What if I relapse again? What if this gets worse?

I love my son. He's my whole world now. And...And I want to love myself again, too.

"Do you believe I could do that?" Hawks asked quietly. "What if it doesn't work? What if I'm still like this?"

Endeavor hummed under his breath. "Then get a third therapist or find another job. My point is, Hawks, don't quit and give up. You want your son to have a happy life and good relationship with you? Work on it. He's not going to freeze in place and stop growing until you finally get your shit together. You're his father; you need to figure out how to deal with your insecurities and be the father he needs at the same time." He paused, and something unreadable flashed across his face. His shoulders slacked. "Take this a warning, offer of comfort, or whatever you like, but in some ways, I'm still learning how to do that."

Hawks nodded gingerly at that.

"Ah!" Yuto cried out to get his attention. "Ahhh!"

Hawks lifted him up in his arms and rubbed his face against Yuto's cheeks. "Hey, I hear you! It's okay, baby bird, Daddy's got you. I'm fine."

I love you, Hawks thought. I'm going to work on myself. I don't want to get lost in myself or hurt you in any way. I'll figure this out for all of us.

"Thanks," he told Endeavor, putting Yuto back down in his lap. "I think I needed to hear that from another mouth before I believed it. I guess some things just have to be pounded into my skull!" he laughed.

If Endeavor had any comment to make on that, he kept it to himself. "Your food's getting soggy. You better eat it."

"Sogginess' never turned me away before," Hawks joked, picking up his chopsticks. Yuto tried to grab one, so he pulled his arm to the side. "Hey, you don't have an old high chair lying around here somewhere, do you?"

"Doubtful," he grunted.

Hawks shook his head as Yuto suddenly gained an interest in the table. He might have crawled on it, if Hawks didn't grab him at the last second.

He felt good, though. Better than he had all week. He was grateful to have everyone helping him that he did. He didn't know where he'd be without them.

Hawks actually felt like there was hope for him moving on and his family being happy on as well.