Crimson feathers, crimson lips, scarlet hands stained skin because heroics, at its heart, would never be anything more than a bloodsport, and Keigo had always bled so well.
Splatters on pavement, sprays on walls, stains on floors. Same old rinse, bleach, repeat.
The ground was parched, once, and now it was quenched, now it is drowning, drowning in red.
Shigaraki had once called him a sacrificial lamb, wondered cruelly aloud if perhaps he was just a discarded plaything. Hawks had laughed then, for the first time in a while, had smirked back at him wearing something that read as mockery and tasted like disappointment, because a man so smart, so strategic… had missed the point.
The Number Two Hero wasn’t a sacrificial lamb, Hawks had never been meant for cloven hooves and pink bows, no.
No, not a lamb,
just a gladiator.
A trained pet, to amuse the masses and get rid of the unwanted. A soldier, a slave, a volunteer, to put down the animals and dispose of the unlucky, the indebted who refused to fall on their own blade and thus were thrust upon his.
Takami Keigo had been unfit for combat, so they had burned him out, melted him down and reforged him into Hawks. Cut some things out- hide what you can't- force down the rest and what a good little soldier The Winged Hero was, when they were done with him. Smelting a new weapon is never easy, but they took their time to polish every one of their blades, the Commission.
They were thorough like that.
Their words taught him showmanship, their whips taught him survival. Fight for us, they had said. Give yourself to us, they demanded.
Kill for us,
Bleed for us
Break and be Broken for us
Hollow bones Hollow voice Hollow soul and sure, ma’am, whatever the commission needs.
Brittle feathers Brittle words Brittle skin and ah, I’m sorry sir, it won’t happen again, I promise.
He was their best performer, and he would smile out at them with perfect teeth and a rotting tongue. Down into the arena on broken feet and shiny boots, bow to the people with splintered limbs and angelic grace, pledge your loyalty to your leader with shriveled lungs and honeyed words. You can't taste them anyways, not anymore.
Now he tasted hemlock when he swallowed, as he waved at the crowds, but he preferred it to the belladonna days of before because death should not taste sweet.
Not for him.
Pluck your Sword from your wings, ignore the pain not your opponent.
Your opponent, who was born right, who was born bloody, who was raised well, who was raised monstrous and who was raised by monsters. Your opponent, who is beaten, who is whole, who is burning and who is utterly frozen.
Who is in the same chains you are, who is free, who is nameless and who is titled in every record, who is faceless and so recognizable.
Your opponent, who is everyone and no one- your opponent,
who is you.
Sabers swing, Feathers splay, someone screams.
A glance up at the emperor for the decision of signal but Hawks doesn’t actually look; already knows the answer. The hand is outstretched, the thumb will always be downturned, because it’s not a match without an ending, because it’s not an ending until there is a death. Because Hawks never loses, because Takami Keigo always will.
Because heroics is a bloodsport, and because Keigo is a bleeder.
Because in the end, Hawks doesn’t think he’ll have any feathers left to rust.