Hawks remembers hearing once that every previous version of yourself, from infancy all the way up to whatever age you are now, still exists somewhere inside you, like you’re one of those weird stacking Russian dolls and if you keep going deeper and deeper and deeper, eventually you’ll see all the little layers that make you who you are. Who you are when you’re a baby affects who you are when you’re a toddler, and that affects who you are as a kid, and a teenager, and yadda yadda yadda and so on and so forth.
Maybe that’s true.
Because the thing is, Hawks is gonna be twenty-three in a couple weeks. He’s climbed the ranks of the JP Hero Billboard Chart like it’s nothing, he’s been hanging around with the others in the top ten or fifteen for a couple of years now, and he’s seen enough of his old childhood hero in particular to know that the impression you get of the top heroes when you’re a wide-eyed six-year-old is a far cry from the reality.
Sure, Endeavor’s insanely powerful, and he’s a stubborn enough bastard to live up to the Number One Hero title and then some, and there still has yet to be a time when Hawks hasn’t felt some measure of safe when the big guy’s around. But he’s also just that. He’s… a guy. He’s arrogant as hell, and he’s gruff and he’s awkward and he’s kind of a dickhead, and he doesn’t understand how to work a crowd at all for a dude who’s literally the second most famous hero in all of Japan.
He is, to put it plainly, human.
And yet, when Hawks is faced with… this, and he doesn’t have the first clue what to do about it, and he might be panicking a little, somehow he defaults back to a thought that feels like it’s coming straight out of little six-year-old Keigo Takami rather than from twenty-two-year-old Hawks.
Endeavor can fix this.
“Don’t worry, kid,” Hawks mutters, and he’s not sure whether he’s talking to himself or to the little bundle in his arms. He hopes the T-shirt and the blanket is enough; it’s windy as hell up here and it’s only about to get windier. “Don’t you worry. You’re gonna be A-OK.”
And he tucks the kid closer to his chest, spreads his wings, and takes off.
Endeavor’s agency is filled to the brim with a bunch of hot-headed idiots with fire Quirks, any one of whom could roast Hawks like an overdone rotisserie chicken if they wanted to, assuming they were fast enough to catch him. The same is true of Endeavor, technically.
Hawks does not care.
He lands right at the front door of the building and barges his way in, ignoring the protests of the two or three interns and security guards that get in his way, not even bothering to flash his hero license—pointless anyway, isn’t it, since they all know exactly who he is—and within about fifteen seconds he’s made his way to Endeavor’s office door. After a brief moment of indecision, during which he debates letting go of the kid for long enough to knock on the door and then immediately tosses that idea, Hawks lifts up one boot and kicks the door open.
It’s not just Endeavor in his office, but luckily it’s not a crowd, either. He seems to have been in the middle of a conversation with his kid, the little two-toned one from U.A., but at the sound of the door slamming open they both jolt to attention. Endeavor’s hellfire flares up. The kid tenses into some kind of fighting stance.
Then they both realize who it is and calm the hell down.
“Hawks,” Endeavor says, the fire dying away to leave nothing but a wisp of smoke behind, and then even that’s gone a second later. “What are you doing here? What’s happened?”
“Oh, nothing,” Hawks laughs, and if he sounds a little manic, well, sue him. He kicks the door shut behind him. “Nothing at all. Just, uh— I’m in a little bit of a pickle here, big guy.”
“What do you mean, a little…?” Endeavor starts to ask, until Hawks pulls down the blanket enough that everyone can plainly see what’s underneath. Endeavor freezes, eyes wide, and he points and asks, “Is that—?”
Shouto speaks up, “Tokoyami?”
“A baby,” Endeavor finishes, looking from the baby in question up to Hawks and back down again.
“Sure is!” Hawks says, holding the once-teenage and now pint-sized version of his intern by the armpits to show both of them. Little baby Tsukuyomi seems displeased with being shown off, because he squirms and lets out an annoyed little whine, kicking his legs in the air. “He, uh, might have gotten hit with some bananas Quirk that de-ages people, and I gotta admit I have no idea—”
“Give him to me,” Endeavor cuts him off, closing the distance between them and taking the kid right out of his hands without waiting for an answer. “Have you never held an infant before, Hawks? Even Shouto knows better.”
“Uh, not really?” Hawks admits, watching as Endeavor easily slots the kid right into the crook of his arm, and instantly Tsukuyomi quits fussing, settling in nice and comfy without a care in the world. “I just— I didn’t think it’d be that hard! And, you know, maybe my… paternal… bird instincts might kick in or something. Look, I need help. I don’t know how to handle kids, okay? Let alone… babies.”
Shouto, who’s now hovering by his father with his eyes down on his newly infantilized classmate, asks, “So you brought him to Endeavor?”
Endeavor levels his son with a bored glare, but he doesn’t even bother defending himself. Instead he asks Hawks, “How long are the effects of this Quirk supposed to last?”
“According to the guy that did it? A few days. Maybe more.”
“And what about the boy’s parents? Have you contacted them?”
“Sure did,” Hawks says. “They’re on a business trip to the States.”
Endeavor raises an eyebrow. “And they’re not coming back now that…?”
“Now that their kid’s been put through a Shrinky-Dink machine? No,” Hawks answers, and he hooks a hand around the back of his neck. “They said they could get here late tomorrow if it was an emergency, but I… may have gone a little overboard reassuring them that the kid’s totally safe and I’ve got everything under control and they don’t need to come back any time soon.”
“And they believed you?”
“Yeah, I’m at my most convincing when I’m under duress, okay?”
Endeavor pinches the bridge of his nose for a moment. Then he shifts the baby so that he’s stomach-down in the space between his upper arm and his chest, with his little birdie head tucked down against Endeavor’s shoulder, and he makes his way around to his desk.
He gets out a pad of paper and starts writing.
“I’m writing down a list of— stop that,” Endeavor says, because the baby had reached up and tried to wrap a tiny fist around the tufts of his beard. At the order to stop, Tsukuyomi hesitantly pulls his hand back, and then goes right back to trying to grab fistfuls of his beard again. Endeavor sighs and apparently decides not to bother. “I’m writing down a list of things you’ll need. Diapers, wipes, baby powder, clothes, shoes, food, formula. Do you plan on taking care of him yourself until he’s… back to his real age? Or are you going to hire someone else to do it?”
“Fuyumi might be a good idea,” Shouto speaks up. “She’s good with kids.”
Endeavor glances up at his son, and then at Hawks. “I could ask her. It might be easier if you give him to someone with a little more experience.”
And Hawks has absolutely no idea why he does it, but for some reason he immediately scoffs and says, “No, no, his parents think I’m taking care of him, so I should be the one taking care of him. Plus, I mean, come on. I got this. I can handle a baby for a few days. You raised three of ‘em, right? How hard can it be?”
Oddly, something about that doesn’t seem to sit right with Endeavor. Shouto, too, judging by the troubled look that comes over the kid’s face.
Endeavor recovers quickly enough, tearing the page from his pad of paper and handing it to his son. “Shouto, bring this out to Kido, would you? Tell him to get everything on this list and to bring all of it back here as soon as he can. He can use the agency card. And you can head back to your school after that, we’re done for the day.”
Shouto steps forward, takes the paper from his father, and leaves the office without a word.
“I… kind of feel like I missed something here,” Hawks says.
“Do you have a place for him to sleep?” Endeavor asks, like Hawks hadn’t spoken at all, startling him back to the situation at hand.
“I have a bed.”
Endeavor stares at him.
“Look, it’ll be fine,” Hawks tells him. “He can sleep in my bed.”
“You’re not supposed to keep an infant in the bed with you,” Endeavor tells him. “There’s a risk of rolling over and crushing him.”
“I know this might come as a surprise,” Hawks says, opening up his arms in demonstration as his wings fluff out to their full size, easily taking up nearly the entire width of Endeavor’s massive office, “but I’m not exactly a guy who’s prone to rolling over in his sleep. It’s kind of physically impossible for me.”
Endeavor hesitates, then gives in. “Fair enough. You should probably put in a leave of absence with the Commission in the meantime. It won’t be easy to carry out hero work and take care of him at the same time, not when it’s just you.”
And Hawks almost, almost opens his big fat mouth and says, Nah, come on, I can do my job with a baby around, it’s no biggie, but then he remembers what his job has actually entailed for the last few months, and he blanches. The idea of bringing the kid around Twice isn’t too bad. But the idea of bringing him near someone like Dabi or Shigaraki or, God forbid, Toga is enough to send a new kind of fear trickling through his veins, a new kind of fear that he doesn’t tend to experience when it’s just his own life that’s on the line.
“Uh. Yeah, good call. I’ll— I’ll put the form in when I leave here.”
Endeavor, bless his bull-headed tendency to mind his own business, doesn’t ask why Hawks suddenly looks ready to crap his pants. Instead he walks around his desk and brings baby Tsukuyomi over to him, and he says, “Show me you can actually hold him without killing him.”
Hawks shoots an insulted and narrow-eyed look up at Endeavor before slowly, ever so gently, he takes the baby from him.
“You have to support his head.”
“Right, yeah, duh,” Hawks says, and he cradles one hand behind the back of the kid’s tiny little head, his fingers sinking through unbelievably soft down feathers. The little guy blinks up at him with wide eyes that look way too big for his head, looking at Hawks like he has no idea what to make of him. Hawks lets out a nervous laugh. “Hey, who’d’ve thought holding a newborn was so complicated, huh?”
“He’s not a newborn,” Endeavor tells him. “He’d be far smaller if he was a newborn.”
“You’re shitting me, they get smaller than this?”
Endeavor nods, eyes down on Tsukuyomi. “I’d put him at around seven or eight months.”
“Damn,” Hawks murmurs, looking down at the kid again, who’s still staring at him. “Hey there, little Tsukuyomi. Don’t sweat being this small, kiddo, you don’t get all that big even when you’re older.” With the hand not supporting the kid’s head, he gently pokes the tip of his beak and watches the kid try to grab his hand with the flailing uncoordinated movements of a creature that hasn’t quite figured out motor skills yet. “Just call me big brother Hawks, since, uh… Yeah. Definitely too young to be a dad just yet.”
“I was a father by the time I was your age,” Endeavor reminds him.
“That is a terrifying thought, big guy, thanks,” Hawks says without looking away from the kid. As carefully and slowly as he’s capable of, he lifts the kid up and settles him stomach-down against his chest like he’d seen Endeavor do. He seems to like it; he even wriggles up higher so he can nuzzle his head under Hawks’ chin.
Hawks tries, and fails, not to melt a little bit at that. Goddamn cute kid.
He glances up at Endeavor and sees that even he looks a little… softer, maybe, than he usually does. Less emotionally constipated. There might even be the tiniest inkling of a smile on his face.
“So, uh,” Hawks clears his throat. “You gonna teach me Baby Care 101, Endeavor?”
Endeavor seems to snap out of it, and then the angry annoyance settles right back into his face where it belongs. He heaves a sigh, scrubbing a hand over his face, and he gestures at the chair across from his desk.
“Sit down. This is going to take a while.”
All in all, it’s not that complicated.
Make sure the kid’s got a clean diaper, make sure he eats the amount of baby food listed on the back of the jar, give him some formula, throw some baby clothes on him, and voilá. Nice happy healthy kid. Hawks flies a newly clothed and changed Tsukuyomi—and the several huge bags of extra baby supplies courtesy of the Endeavor Agency’s credit card—back to his penthouse apartment, where he settles the kid down on the couch and wraps him in enough blankets that he’s effectively barricaded in place before he starts unpacking the bags.
“You know, kid, you’re really throwing a wrench in my plans for the week,” Hawks tells him, pulling a giant package of diapers out of the bag and stacking it on top of the literal pallet of baby food next to the couch.
Tsukuyomi doesn’t answer, of course, because he’s a baby.
“It’s alright, though,” Hawks assures him. “You’re a damn good intern and I’m kind of a shit mentor, so I guess I owe you one.”
Tsukuyomi grabs the edge of the blanket and starts nibbling at it with his beak. Hawks lets him, because really, it’s not like he can’t afford to buy a new blanket later.
“Lucky for both of us,” Hawks goes on, “nobody in the League ever comes to find me here. Too public, can’t risk being spotted. So it’s just gonna be you and me for a few days.”
Once the supplies are all neatly organized on the floor within easy reach, Hawks sits down on the coffee table across from the kid and leans his elbows on his knees. He pulls the burner phone from his inside pocket and sends a text to Dabi’s own burner, letting him know that something’s come up with his hero work and he won’t be able to check in for a while without blowing his cover.
When he looks up, Tsukuyomi’s big eyes are as wide as ever, and they’re transfixed on his wings.
“What, you like them?” Hawks asks, stretching them out a bit and watching as the kid’s already wide eyes get even wider. He lifts the right wing, shakes it out, waves it around, and baby Tsukuyomi follows every single movement with his eyes.
Jesus, this kid is cute.
Hawks tucks the burner phone away and pulls out his real one, snapping a picture while the kid’s staring open-mouthed and wide-eyed at his wings, and he sends it off to the kid’s mom. She’ll get a kick out of it. And then, because a part of him wants to make sure Endeavor’s aware that he is perfectly capable of following instruction and doing something as simple as caring for a baby, thank you very much, he sends the same picture to Endeavor, too.
Mrs. Tokoyami responds almost immediately with a slew of heart eyes emojis, telling him that he’s making it very difficult for her to resist the temptation to book the next flight back to Tokyo.
Endeavor leaves him on read. More or less what he’d expected.
“Alright, bud, what do you say we— shit!”
Without warning Tsukuyomi goes tumbling off the side of the couch and comes within a few inches of hitting his head on the hardwood floor, if not for the cluster of feathers that shoot off of Hawks’ wings and beat him to the punch, lifting him up into the air and gently setting him back on the couch.
Hawks sits back, one hand on his chest, trying to slow his pulse back down.
“Holy shit, kid. Are you trying to get yourself killed, or what?”
Tsukuyomi stares at him, wide eyes shining, and dread sinks into Hawks’ stomach.
“Oh. Oh, no. Hey, no, you don’t have to—”
Too late. The kid sniffles, and then opens his beak wide and wails, tears spilling over like a goddamn waterfall. Snot starts dripping from the little nostrils on his beak, which, ew, and it doesn’t look like any of that’s gonna be stopping any time soon. Shit, is he gonna dehydrate?
Hawks freezes with his hands hovering over the kid, not quite willing to touch him for fear of somehow making it worse, but not sure how the hell he’s supposed to fix this otherwise. He tries flailing his wings around, but the kid’s eyes are screwed shut as he cries and cries and cries, so he doesn’t even see it.
“Shit. Shit!” he shouts, and then he pulls out his phone.
Endeavor picks up on the third ring.
“What is it?”
“He’s crying!” Hawks shouts into the phone, shouting because he can’t even hear himself think over the kid’s wailing. He tries waving his wings around again to distract him. No such luck.
Endeavor’s silent on the other end, and for a moment Hawks fears he’s hung up on him.
“Oh, you were finished,” Endeavor says. “I was waiting for more.”
“What do you mean, you were waiting for more? What more? He’s crying. Like, really, really, really loudly, and—”
“Hawks. He’s a baby.”
“And babies cry.”
“But… But he seems really upset.”
“Yes. That is generally why crying happens.”
Hawks groans. “What do I do?”
He hears Endeavor sigh, and he cuts him off before he can say anything.
“Actually, you know what, hold on. I’m gonna put you on speaker,” Hawks says, doing just that and placing the phone behind him. “And then I’m gonna pick him up, and then I’m flying him over to your place. You were right, I’m not— I’m not cut out for this. Okay, little buddy, I’m gonna—”
A fresh scream from Tsukuyomi drowns out the rest of his sentence.
“He’s got a powerful set of lungs on him.”
“You think?!” Hawks shouts back at the phone, then turns back to Tsukuyomi, plastering a smile on his face and carefully reaching for him. “Hey, little guy, I’m gonna pick you up, okay? And then we’re gonna take a little trip over to Endeavor-san’s, and everything’s… gonna be… okay…”
He scoops Tsukuyomi up with one hand under his butt and the other hand supporting the back of his head, like he’s supposed to do, and he settles the kid down, wailing and flailing limbs and all, into the center of his chest with his little head tucked under his chin.
“Shh, shh, shh, shh, I gotcha, I gotcha,” Hawks says, bouncing him a little bit, and then…
The crying stops.
Sort of. The kid’s still whimpering, and there’s a hiccupped sob in there once or twice, but the actual wailing just… goes away.
“Oh,” Hawks says, as Tsukuyomi clutches a fistful of his shirt collar and sniffles, all but actually trying to burrow under his chin. He splays a hand wide behind the kid to steady him—his one hand spans the entirety of his back, he’s so small—and doesn’t dare move a muscle aside from a sort of carefully controlled swaying, back and forth, back and forth.
“Uh. Yeah, it’s… uh,” Hawks says, then clears his throat. “It’s fine. I figured it out.”
Hawks gulps. “Yeah, I… I got this.” He pauses for a beat, and then adds, “Thanks,” before sending a feather down to hang up for him, since his hands are full.
The apartment seems way too quiet in the aftermath of the kid’s screaming, and his own shouting, and Endeavor talking to him through the phone from wherever he’s at now. The silence settles over them, just Tsukuyomi’s whimpering and sniffling and the distant sound of wind warbling past the penthouse windows.
Hawks tries to tilt his head to look down at the kid, but he’s too securely snuggled under his chin for that to work. He sways a little more, a two-step dance, and it occurs to him that singing might be a good idea here. Of course, he can’t sing worth a damn, but what he can do is hum, so he lets the sound rumble in his chest as he moves, humming the first thing that comes to mind— some theme song from a shitty anime he used to watch in, like, middle school or something. It’s good enough. It’ll do.
“How ‘bout that?” Hawks murmurs when the kid’s sniffling has finally quieted down, too. “Turns out I’m not as bad at this stuff as I thought.”
He slides himself down to sitting on the floor, since he’s now too paranoid to risk having the kid as high up as the couch, and he hunches forward so his wings fan out and curl around the two of them like a nice roomy cocoon. Tsukuyomi barely fusses at all as Hawks repositions him, laying him down against his thighs.
“Tuckered yourself out, huh?” Hawks asks, unable to hold back a smile as Tsukuyomi blinks half-lidded eyes up at him. His gaze shifts over toward the wings, and he sleepily reaches up with one hand toward the right one, opening and closing his fist like he’s trying to grab it.
Hawks bends the wing and ducks it down so he can reach. His little baby fingers grab onto the spot just beneath the major joint, a teeny tiny thumb poking through the softer down feathers there.
“Sorry if I’m already kind of screwing this up,” Hawks tells him as the kid idly pets his wing with clumsy baby strokes. “I know you’re not a real baby, like… Yeah, you’re a real baby, technically, but I’m not, like— fucking up your development or something, you know? You’re gonna go back to being the same weird, broody, badass teenager you were yesterday, and you probably won’t even remember any of this. All I gotta do is make sure you stay in one piece between now and then. Keep you from tumbling off the couch and sticking your fingers in the electrical sockets. Shouldn’t be too hard, should it?”
He hesitates, staring into space.
“Truth is… I don’t know what I’m doing,” he quietly admits. “With you, or… or in general. I tend to be a little too fast for my own good, you know? Agreeing to things I probably shouldn’t agree to, getting myself in some pretty fucked up situations. Case in point.”
Tsukuyomi opens his beak wide and yawns, dropping his hand away from the wing, and Hawks shakes his head.
“What am I talking about, anyway? You’re the one that jumped in front of me during that fight, aren’t you? Stupid brave kid. We’d be flipped right now if you hadn’t gone and done that, which begs the question: What would you have done with a little baby Hawks, huh? Probably would’ve handed me off to that cranky homeroom teacher of yours or something. Hmph. Now, there’s a thought.”
Hawks grabs his little hand with his thumb and forefinger.
“Nah,” he decides. “Us birds gotta stick together, right?”
Tsukuyomi says nothing, again, because he is a baby. But Hawks likes to think he picks up at least a little bit of his meaning.
“Come on,” Hawks says, scooping him back up and tucking him under his chin. “Let’s get you some proper shut-eye, huh?”
He starts to get into a groove. Holding the kid is a lot easier when he’s done it a few times and can trust himself not to monumentally fuck it up, and sleeping next to him is way less stressful than he’d expected. Hawks just sleeps on his stomach, like he always does, and the kid curls up against his side under the shelter of his left wing and knocks out for a full three hours.
And luckily, Tsukuyomi is a remarkably cooperative kid when it comes to all the other things, like feeding him and taking a bath and changing him. Of course, Hawks makes a mental note to hang onto this as blackmail for the rest of this kid’s life—they’ll be in their damn fifties and he’ll still be able to say, hey Tsukuyomi, remember that time I bottle fed you and then literally wiped your ass for you?—but that’s later. For now he’s just grateful he hasn’t been saddled with a more misbehaved kid. Aside from a few bouts of crying, Tsukuyomi’s practically a little angel.
So really, it’s not until the end of the second day that shit really starts hitting the fan.
And when it does, naturally, it all hits at once.
“So the important part is to let it simmer with the onions and garlic and bones and all that for, like, at least three or four hours, and then you take the pork out, and then simmer it another seven or eight hours after that. But then, I mean, go nuts, kid,” Hawks says, idly sifting through his bathroom cabinet for a razor and his toothbrush. “Throw whatever you want in there.”
Behind him and out of sight in the bedroom, Tsukuyomi is on the carpeted floor, safely surrounded by a mountain of blankets and pillows so Hawks can finally take care of himself for about five minutes. Still, he keeps up a steady stream of talking; it seems to keep the kid calmer.
Plus, he has no idea if the kid is gonna retain any of this, but just in case, he might as well pick up a good tip or two before they part ways again.
“That’s the good part about making it yourself,” he goes on, depositing a little dollop of toothpaste on the brush. “I’m partial to a whole lot of extra meat, and like, at least six slices of narutomaki. But it’s up to you.”
Of course, it’s right when he sticks the toothbrush in his mouth and is no longer fit for talking that his phone starts vibrating.
And not his regular one. The burner.
Hawks rolls his eyes and does a quick five-second brushing job before spitting into the sink, and he snags the burner out of his inside pocket. He doesn’t even bother checking the caller ID, since it would only come up blank, and there’s exactly one person that has access to this number anyway.
He flips the dinky little phone open and says, loudly enough that he hopes it makes Dabi jump, “HOT BOY!”
“Hilarious,” Dabi comes back. “Where’ve you been?”
“What do you mean, where have I been? I told you, something came up. I gotta lay low for a few days.”
“You haven’t left your apartment in over twenty-four hours.”
Hawks hesitates, taking a moment to squash down the niggling fear that comes with the knowledge that Dabi—and by extension the entire League—knows exactly where he is and exactly how active he’s been. They’ve got people watching him, that’s not news. He plasters on a smile and says, “Aw, baby, are you worried about me?”
“Maybe I am. Maybe I should come by.”
Okay, no, that’s… not good.
“That’s so sweet of you,” Hawks says, mind already racing. “Didn’t know you cared.”
“What I care about is whether you’re about to show your true colors and finally turn your back on us, Big Bird.”
“You wound me. What, I haven’t proven myself enough already? Pretty sure there’s a very dead Number Three that says otherwise,” Hawks reminds him, careful not to let it show in his voice how the thought of Jeanist sends his stomach swooping. “Nah, you can’t fool me, I know you care. But look, I’m alright. A-OK. It’s just a bunch of hero B.S., man. Plus, I don’t wanna risk you getting spotted, you know? If my doorman sees you, then he calls the cops, and it’s just… a whole thing.”
“I can incinerate the doorman.”
“And they say chivalry is dead,” Hawks drones. “Again, I appreciate it, but no thank you. I happen to like my doorman, and a police investigation after one of the most infamous villains in all of Japan reduces him to a pile of ash is so not how I want to spend my Friday night.”
There’s a brief pause on the other end, and then Dabi says, “You’re hiding something.”
“Maybe I am,” Hawks replies right away, because denying it is the wrong move here, and he knows it. “But I need a little privacy, yeah? Between working with you guys and pretending to keep working with the Commission, I’d suffocate otherwise. I need to spread my wings and be free every now and then, baby.”
He gives his wings a little shake for emphasis, even though Dabi can’t see it.
This time, the pause is much, much longer.
“I’m sending someone over.”
“Woah, hey, no,” Hawks says. “I told you, I don’t wanna risk you getting—”
Halfway through his sentence, there’s a crash from his bedroom that immediately sends his heart up into his throat, and a loud baby cry that follows right after it.
Shit, shit, shit.
“Relax,” Dabi says, completely ignorant to the fact that Hawks is suddenly freaking out for an entirely different reason. “I’ll send Toga. She’ll stay discreet.”
And Hawks doesn’t even have time to tell him that sending Toga is even worse than Dabi showing up in the flesh—and that, hey, maybe he should consider sending someone else, like maybe Twice, he can throw on a hood and no one will recognize him without his usual mask and also Twice doesn’t actively want to drain the blood out of half the people he goddamn meets—because Dabi hangs up on him, and at that very moment, another sound comes from the bedroom:
A second baby crying.
What the hell?
Hawks is through the doorway in half a second anyway, just in time to see that this whole situation has just gone from slightly concerning to an absolute shitshow. Because he can handle baby Tsukuyomi. There was a learning curve at the beginning there for a bit, but by now, he can handle it.
What he very much cannot handle, and what is currently screaming and crying and ransacking his bedroom in an apparent temper tantrum, is a baby Dark Shadow.
“Oh, fuck me.”
Ten minutes later, Hawks lands in front of Endeavor’s door with a very heavily swaddled and still screaming Tsukuyomi in his arms, struggling to keep a hold of him when baby Dark Shadow is also wailing and continually trying to bust its (his?) way out of the blanket fortress Hawks has trapped them both in. He’s unwilling to risk letting go of the kid with even one hand, so he kicks the bottom of the door over and over again in lieu of knocking.
“Come on, work with me, little guy,” Hawks begs him, bouncing him and giving the door another kick when Endeavor doesn’t show right away. “I’m trying, okay? What do you want? I can’t—”
The door opens, and Hawks doesn’t even give Endeavor enough time to ask what the hell he’s doing here.
He just barges right past him into the house.
“I need— We need all the lights on, all of them,” Hawks tells him. “It’s easier to control when it’s not dark, apparently, if he even can control it when he’s a goddamn baby—”
“Hawks,” Endeavor cuts him off. “What’s happened now?”
He looks like he just rolled out of bed; he’s barefoot and wearing pajama pants and a tank top, and yeah, thanks, Hawks needed that blow to the self esteem from his six-foot-four brick shithouse coworker today.
Hawks ignores him and sends a flurry of feathers searching for every lightswitch in the immediate vicinity. The hallway light was already on, but within a few minutes the overhead lights in Endeavor’s living room turn on, too, along with two table lamps and the light in the kitchen and dining room, since his place apparently has one of those dumb open floor concept designs. Then Hawks sets the bundle of blankets down on Endeavor’s nice pretty million-yen futon and steps back, letting the kid flail his arms around and loosen up the cocoon Hawks made for him.
“Oh,” is all Endeavor says at first. Then: “Did his Quirk manifest this early?”
“I don’t know! Do I look like I know that?!”
Endeavor steps up beside Hawks, looking down at little baby Tsukuyomi and the new baby shadow accompanying him. The new baby shadow who is currently screaming and trying to dig its claws into the upholstery with everything he’s got in him, apparently just to get its frustration out and damage something. Even this is a step below how angry he’d seemed back at Hawks’ place, probably because of all these new light sources.
Then Endeavor lights a brilliant orange flame in his palm, and instantly, both Tsukuyomi and Dark Shadow stop what they’re doing to stare up at him.
“What? How—?” Hawks starts to ask. “How did you…?”
“You said he needs light to control it,” Endeavor says, not looking away from the baby and his shadow. “And children are usually fascinated by this regardless.”
Tsukuyomi tries to reach for the flame, but Endeavor’s far too tall for him to reach it. Dark Shadow shrinks in closer to the kid, watching the fire with what looks like an equal mix of interest and trepidation.
Hawks’ shoulders slump. The adrenaline of the last twenty-ish minutes is draining out of him, fast, and the fact that Endeavor just… immediately fixed the problem with Dark Shadow is yet another hit to his ego that he didn’t need right now. That, and then there’s the knowledge that Toga’s gonna be busting through the front door of his apartment any minute now disguised as some poor sap who’s missing a pint or so of blood, and she’s gonna find the whole place empty and his bedroom torn to shreds, and he’s gonna have a shitload of explaining to do when he visits the League again, and…
“Go get yourself a drink,” Endeavor tells him. “A strong one. Glass cabinet in the dining room.”
Hawks does not need to be told twice. He pats Endeavor on the back and leaves, shaking his wings out as he heads for the dining room.
Once he locates the glass cabinet it’s easy to find a bottle of some probably-crazy-expensive clear liquor that happily advertises itself as being 45% alcohol by volume, so Hawks pries out the cork and takes a swig. Then another, and a third for good measure. Endeavor probably meant he should make himself a drink, not gulp top shelf liquor straight out of the bottle, but whatever. It is unbelievably smooth. He barely even winces.
Okay, he thinks, recorking the bottle and setting it back in the cabinet.
Now, with the benefit of a few minutes of peace and quiet, and a little bit of liquid courage in his system, and a significant distance between himself and where the League expects him to be, he’s starting to realize this isn’t quite as much of a shitshow as it seemed to be about ten minutes ago. He’s fine, Tsukuyomi’s fine, and when all this blows over, he can… He can find a way to explain away his absence. Maybe. Probably. Definitely.
Hell, he could even tell Dabi the whole story. Once Tsukuyomi’s out of danger and fully grown again, there’ll be no harm in it. He might even get a laugh out of it if he plays it right.
Either way, that’s a problem for later. Not now.
He pads over to the kitchen and opens up the fridge, where he is delighted to find that there’s a six pack of beer on the bottom shelf. He pries two cans out of it and heads back to the living room.
“Now there’s a sight you don’t see every day,” he says as he enters the living room, aiming for levity and probably missing the mark.
But still, he’s not lying. Seeing the Number One Hero, big bad intimidating Endeavor, sitting on the floor of his own living room while a baby clumsily tries to crawl in circles around him, is… unusual, to say the least. And a little bit funny. He’s still got that sort of bored, grumpy look on his face, but he keeps a carefully watchful eye on the kid as he generates little puffs of flame from his hands—no bigger than the flame on a candle—and lets Tsukuyomi entertain himself trying to catch each one before it winks out of existence.
Dark Shadow is nowhere to be seen.
Hawks cracks open his beer can and lays stomach-down on the futon, propped up on his elbows, and he sets the second can down on the floor for whenever Endeavor decides he wants it. They’re both quiet for a minute, watching the kid roll around and giggle and reach up for the flames. Kid barely knows how to crawl yet, but hell if he isn’t trying.
Hawks takes a sip of his beer and says, “Bet this takes ya back, huh?”
“Mm,” Endeavor agrees. “My children were… considerably more human-looking, but yes.”
“Hey now, don’t let me hear you discriminating against animal Quirks,” Hawks says, winking at him over the rim of his beer can.
Endeavor rolls his eyes before bringing his attention back to the kid. He sweeps one hand through the air, put put putting little puffs of smoke from his palm as he goes, and Tsukuyomi goes nuts for the smoke even more than he did for the fire, squirming and trying to lift his whole body up to reach it. Typical, Hawks thinks, what with the eternal darkness mumbo jumbo the teenage version of him’s always going on about.
“I, uh… video chatted Mrs. Tokoyami this morning,” Hawks says, “and she would not shut up about how cute her kid is and how pissed she is that she’s missing all this on the other side of the globe.”
Endeavor makes a barely-there sort of huff that might be a laugh, and he says, “I can imagine.”
“Are parents usually that obsessed with their kids?”
“More or less.”
Hawks nods and returns to his beer, drumming his fingers on the side of the can.
Mostly he’s just trying not to think so much in the ensuing silence, which is difficult since Endeavor seems unwilling to talk without prompting, and Tsukuyomi is of course physically incapable of speaking right now.
Just, you know, don’t think about the kid and what a shit mentor he’s been up to now. Don’t think about how close he’s come to literally getting this kid killed since this whole thing started. Don’t think about Dabi’s suspicion or what the League’s planning or what Toga’s gonna do when she sneaks past his doorman and breaks into his apartment, if she hasn’t already. And especially don’t think about the gruesome scar running down the left side of Endeavor’s face, don’t stare too long, don’t think about the fact that it’s your fault, Keigo, you could have found some way to warn him, he almost fucking died and now look how much he’s helping you, you owe him even more than you did then—
The kid yawns, drawing him out of his head. His big eyes are half-lidded again, but he’s still determinedly attempting to reach for the puffs of smoke that Endeavor’s still providing for him.
Eventually, when it’s clear the kid can barely keep his eyes open anymore, Endeavor drops his Quirk. He picks the kid up off the floor and settles him comfortably against his chest, and surprisingly, he doesn’t bother getting up off the floor himself. Instead he just leans back against the futon and stays there. He’s not quite directly in front of where Hawks is lying, though, so he still has the big guy’s profile.
After a moment of debate, Hawks gets up off the futon anyway, sliding down to sit beside Endeavor with a solid foot or two of space between them. The floor’s not so bad, and draping his wings over the actual futon is comfortable as hell.
“Thanks, by the way.”
Endeavor only hums in response. He’s got a hand on the kid’s back, and he keeps his eyes down on him, watching him sleep.
“I might have… panicked,” Hawks admits. “A little.”
“Oh, you don’t say.”
“I mean— yeah, okay, a few times, but I was talking about when he first got… baby-ified,” Hawks clarifies, waving at Tsukuyomi’s general baby-ness. “And you were kind of the only dad I could think of at the time, so.” He shrugs. “You know. Thanks, Endeavor.”
Endeavor nods, but he doesn’t say anything to that.
They fall into silence again. Hawks takes another sip of his beer. The kid keeps up something that’s halfway between loud breathing and quiet snoring.
Then Endeavor takes a slow breath, lets it all out at once, and he says, “I raised… four children.”
“Four,” Endeavor says. “Yesterday, you said I’d raised three of them. But I— I had four.”
Had, he says, not have, and Hawks may not consider himself a genius, but it sure doesn’t take one to know what Endeavor’s getting at. He had four kids, and the thousand-yard stare on the guy’s face is all the indication he needs to figure out what must have happened to the fourth.
This is not the sort of territory he’s used to treading on, but he tries anyway.
“So there’s… Shouto,” he says, quietly, “Fuyumi, Natsuo, and…?”
“Touya,” Endeavor tells him, still not looking at him.
Endeavor nods. “Ten years ago next week. He would have… He would have been turning twenty-four in January.”
“Shit,” Hawks says without even thinking about it. This kid had to have been the oldest, then, since until now Hawks had been under the impression that Fuyumi was the oldest, and she’s the same age he is. This was Endeavor’s first born son. “I— Do you… wanna talk about it, or…?”
Hawks nods, nervously thumbing the tab on his beer can. “So…”
He’s not an idiot. He’s under no impression that Endeavor wants to confide in him, or that they’ve gotten close enough for Endeavor to consider him a friend, or that God forbid he actually trusts Hawks any farther than he can throw him. That’d be real bad for both of them.
“So why tell me at all?”
“Felt wrong,” Endeavor says, and he clears his throat. “It’s not public record, I made sure of that, but it still… felt wrong to hear. Felt wrong to leave it alone.”
He pauses for long enough that Hawks thinks he isn’t going to add anything else, long enough that once again there’s just the sound of Tsukuyomi’s breathe-snoring.
Then, quietly, Endeavor adds, “I’ve been… trying, lately, to be better for them, for… for Shouto, and Fuyumi, and Natsuo. A better father. But I’m starting to think that… maybe that’s not ever going to be possible. Not to an extent that matters, not this late. And certainly not if I don’t address my failings with Touya first.”
And the thing is, Hawks doesn’t know what kind of father Endeavor might have been—though he can take a wild guess, based on a few bits and pieces, based on the way Shouto acts around him, based on the guy’s entire personality—but something about what he’s saying hits Hawks square in the center of the chest.
For the first time in a very, very, very long time, he finds himself thinking of his own father, and for the briefest of moments he considers spilling that little tidbit to Endeavor, right here, right now. A shitty truth for a shitty truth. Name’s Keigo, my old man was a piece of shit, you’re actually the guy that finally put him away and I goddamn idolized you for it. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The words catch on something in his throat.
He lifts his beer and chugs the last of it.
“If, uh… If it’s any consolation,” he says when he can trust his voice again, “you’re already leagues ahead of my old man.”
That’s enough. That’s a truth, anyway, even if it’s not the whole truth.
Endeavor glances over at him, the first time he’s made eye contact with him since they sat here, and there’s a question now in the way he’s looking at him.
Hawks shrugs. “‘Cause you give a shit. ‘Cause you want to be better. There’s a whole lot of kids out there with garbage fathers who wish their dads were thinking like you are right now,” he says, pointing at him. “The wanting to be better and the self-flagellation and all of it. Most of those fathers keep on not giving a shit—or worse, they keep on insisting they were in the right all along—right up until they’re in their grave, so… you know. You’re doing alright in my book.”
For a minute, Endeavor’s quiet again, staring down at little baby Tsukuyomi, who hasn’t so much as made a peep since Endeavor picked him up.
“Thank you, Hawks.”
“No, no, no, thank you,” Hawks corrects him, deliberately bringing his voice back up to its normal tone, and he slides the extra unopened beer across the floor until it bumps into Endeavor’s hip. “This is the quietest that kid’s been since he woke up this morning, and I’m not gonna lie, I was about halfway through a legitimate psychotic breakdown when I resorted to flying here, so you’re the real hero of the night, Endeavor-san.”
Endeavor keeps one hand on Tsukuyomi’s back, using the other to pop the tab on his beer can one-handed, but before he can take a sip, Hawks lifts his own now empty can in a toast.
“To…” Hawks trails off, thinking, trying to land on a joke but nothing quite right coming to mind. So instead he settles with, “To the kids.”
Endeavor shoots a look at him, then rolls his eyes and humors him, holding up his beer can so that Hawks can clink them together.
“I’m just saying, it should be illegal to have kids before you’re thirty.”
“Is that so,” Endeavor says, barely looking up as he pours himself an absolutely massive cup of coffee. Hawks didn’t even know they made mugs that big.
“Yeah, that is so,” Hawks shouts, sitting on the kitchen island and swinging his legs back and forth, his own mug sitting between his knees, Tsukuyomi safe and sound on the futon where Hawks can see him over the divider between the kitchen and the living room. Hawks managed to get a whole six hours of sleep on that futon last night, and Endeavor apparently only stocks premium coffee in his kitchen, so he’s feeling quite a bit better now. No grogginess clinging to his brain, no more anxiety about the League than his normal base level of anxiety about the League, no treacherous thoughts about dumping all his worst secrets on his coworker, nada. “I know you said you were a father by the time you were my age, but again, that is terrifying. No one my age should ever have kids. And I am never having kids, like, at any age, but that’s a whole other thing.”
“Mm,” Endeavor says, sitting heavily down into the chair at the kitchen table.
Hawks chooses to take that vague hum as a sound of disagreement, or maybe disbelief, and he doubles down. “Seriously, never. I’m never having kids. Look at me.” He spreads his arms out in demonstration. “I am not fit to be a father, I’m just not built for—” he shudders— “caretaking. But hey, you know what? I’ll be a fun uncle! That’s what I’ll be, I’ll be a fun uncle.”
“Mm-hmm,” Endeavor says through a sip of coffee.
“I mean it.”
“I am sure you do,” Endeavor says, completely and utterly toneless.
Hawks narrows his eyes at him. “Not much of a morning person, are you, Endeavor?”
Endeavor stares dead ahead, eyes half-lidded as he takes another sip of from his Stein-sized coffee mug, and he says, “Why am I not surprised that you are.”
“Birds are singing, I’m up,” Hawks says with a shrug. “How long until your usual sunny disposition is back with us, huh? It’s already seven, I thought you would’ve been up and at ‘em hours ago, you know, roasting… punching bags, or whatever it is you do to train in the—”
He’s cut off by a bang from the living room that makes both of them jump.
Hawks looks up, ready to send a flurry of feathers after the kid in case he’s somehow crawled himself into something dangerous, only to find that it isn’t necessary.
And won’t be, probably.
“Tsukuyomi!” Hawks shouts, grinning ear-to-ear. “Hey, welcome back! You’re— oh—”
He lifts a wing to cover his entire face, wincing.
“Hawks,” Tsukuyomi’s normal teenage voice comes from the living room, sounding exactly as confused as he has every right to be, and also maybe a little bit hungover. Or maybe he’s just dizzy from the whiplash of growing four feet or so in the span of a few seconds, busting out of his tiny baby clothes, and then toppling off a futon onto a hardwood floor. Whichever. “Where are we?”
“We’re at the Todoroki’s, little man!” Hawks yells back, using the wing he’s not currently hiding behind to point at where Endeavor’s sitting, since the kid probably can’t see him over the divider. “Say hi to Endeavor!”
“He’s naked, isn’t he,” Endeavor says, head in his hand.
“As the day he was born,” Hawks confirms, trying and failing to hold in a snort. The kid was holding a pillow in front of himself, but it still feels more polite to stay behind his wing for now. “I’m afraid so. Should have gotten stretchier baby clothes, I guess.”
Endeavor sighs and, without lifting his head out of his hand, calls out, “Tokoyami?”
“Uh,” Tsukuyomi says. “Yes, sir?”
“You spent a few days as an infant due to a villain’s Quirk, but it seems the effects have worn off. Down the hall, third door on the left, that’s Shouto’s room. You can take some of his clothes, they should fit well enough until Hawks takes you back to your dorm building on campus.”
“… Thank you, sir.”
As Tsukuyomi’s footsteps retreat with breakneck speed for the hallway, Hawks shouts out: “Don’t worry, kiddo, I’ll get you to school in time for class! Big brother Hawks is on the job!”
He drops the wing once he’s sure the coast is clear, giggling into his coffee mug.
“Holy shit, I did it,” he says, half to himself and half to Endeavor. “I can’t believe I actually did it, I kept him in one piece until he was back to normal! I took care of a baby for almost two whole days! Man, I am great at this.” He pauses, taking a pensive sip of his coffee, and he asks, “Should I have kids?”
Endeavor drops his entire head onto the table.
“I will… take that as a soft yes.”