In retrospect, he should have realized that there was something going on between the top two heroes that extended beyond professional camaraderie far sooner than he did.
Not that he hadn’t had his suspicions; as a hero it’s always prudent to keep a few suspicions in your well-tailored back pocket. It had certainly caught his attention the first time the two of them had teamed up.
Yes, the team-up had caught the attention of the nation for much more obvious reasons, but you don’t spend as much time in the top three as Tsunagu has without the idea of Endeavor doing a team-up raising an eyebrow.
Especially when that team up is with a hero as seemingly lackadaisical as Hawks.
So he had his initial suspicions, but when society was pulled taut as the stitching on a pair of post-binge jeans, was it really that surprising that change was happening from the top down? Everyone had been shaken by All Might’s retirement, was it so hard to believe that a firm enough shake could release the wrinkles of obstinate independence from Endeavor’s highly starched comportment?
The man is nothing if not committed, surely in the face of such a cataclysmic shift he recognized the need for unity at the top. If the country was going to march forward then it needed the support of a pair of strong legs to fill out the crisp denim of the future.
Endeavor must have understood that.
As for what followed, the sideways glances during meetings, the continued interweaving of their paths, well, what better to bring you closer to a colleague than an experience as traumatic as their tussle with High End?
But it’s become evident with the passage of time that what’s happening here is so much more than the coincidental crossing of paths.
Endeavor is in trouble.
How could four words carry so much? Such a small statement, yet like the cut-off denim so popular in those American films, there’s a remarkable weight concealed within. A thread of admiration weaved over a lifetime to form a sturdy textile of devotion.
The ride to the hospital had been quiet, which was just as well, with Hawks’ voice run rough and ragged as the hem on the legs of too-long, ill-tailored jeans.
It was clear the de-winged hero needed space to process, a need Tsunagu was more than willing to indulge in light of his own accumulating fatigue. Darning the holes of society after the war was proving a more than daunting task, each newly stitched seam being pulled apart by the slightest friction. An important duty of the heroes still around and equipped to do it, and one that Tsunagu naturally has been content and honored to fulfill. Still, such an environment would leave any man wanting for a moment of peace.
There was a guilt in the trip to the hospital, in the knowledge that they were denying peace and quiet to the Number One hero in making it. To the man who was assuredly in desperate need of rest, body and reputation left ruined and ragged like jeans dried too often at too high a heat. Fitting, in a way.
But not entirely deserved, not by the man confined to a hospital bed undoubtedly battling to recover while equipped with half the respiratory capacity he once had. The details, put most frankly, remain neither the business nor the concern of anyone not bearing the Todoroki name. The weight of exorcising the ghosts of the past lies with those being haunted, while the rest of them work to rebuild what the seam-ripper that is the League of Villains so effectively tore to shreds.
What society needs is a hero they can believe in again, not a threadbare knock-off of the man once bold enough to look the collective in the eye and demand that they watch him.
In an ideal world getting the Number One back would have meant allowing him the ample time needed to effectively recover, but the world they live in is far from ideal these days.
And so Hawks had convinced him to intrude upon that sterile space, a quiet insistence that what Endeavor needed wasn’t silence but an unwavering rally of support. Tsunagu had been inclined to trust him, echoes of a familiar fire flashing in Hawks’ eyes.
The visit to the hospital had been the next sign. They had heard more than they should have, that was for sure. Eavesdropping at the door like petty criminals, family secrets tucked away into their pockets like pilfered denim.
For the duration of their tenure outside the hospital room, Hawks had been gazing down to the floor, his expression unreadable with only his eyes visible. But just like with his earlier words there had been a depth there, a complexity to the weave of his thoughts that extended beyond the sort of concern Tsunagu felt for their broad-shouldered associate.
When they had first heard the uncharacteristic tremor in Endeavor’s voice, Hawks’ eyes had immediately softened, molten amber cooling into something subdued and pliable. He hadn’t questioned it, nor had he remarked on the way Endeavor’s eyes lingered on Hawks when they finally made their presence known to the distraught family.
When Hawks had requested a moment to speak alone with the Number One hero later that day, Tsunagu had made himself scarce. Removed himself from the room and posted up down the hallway, a watchful eye to guard the sanctity of whatever hushed conversation was surely occurring inside. He had had enough eavesdropping for one day, not wanting to hear time-worn words exchanged between more than familiar friends.
There had been a new light in Hawks’ eyes when he’d emerged from the room, a shine to them either from tears or relief--there was no telling. But there was an edge of resolve in that shine, a newly fortified backstitch strengthening the seams of his convictions.
They had returned to the hospital several times in the days that followed, preparing as a team for the impending press conference. Or, as much as a team as you can when one participant in your trio is so clearly on the fringes.
The top two were a mess. Bruised, bandaged, worn down by the insistent demands for more from a public that regarded them with the disdain one casts upon outdated fashions. The passing of the days showed in their faces, sparse facial hair starting to pepper Endeavor’s face like a poorly-done DIY acid-wash on a pair of too-dark jeans.
As they planned, there were moments when the top hero would go quiet, eyes downcast and swimming with unspoken emotions. It was in those moments that the glances would start again, and how had Tsunagu missed before how utterly lovesick Hawks looked when he laid eyes on the other hero?
On his hero, apparently.
What had been more surprising still was the effect of those glances, the way the tension in Endeavor’s shoulders would release like wrinkles being steamed out of scrunched and rumpled fabric. The way the glance would be reciprocated - no words exchanged, just a moment of connection wherein both would seem to relax.
In one instance Hawks had offered a good natured pat on the back, his hand lingering on Endeavor’s shoulder just a moment longer than professionalism would permit. Endeavor had appeared to raise his arm to grab that hand, thinking better of it when his eyes had landed on Tsunagu.
So Tsunagu had the sense to excuse himself from the room on a few of these occasions, to leave the duo to their gazing and whatever feelings were being left unsaid. Dabi, wretched and ill-tailored as he is, had been partially right: the two men did seem to be somewhat woven together by fate.
But more than that, it would seem that now the men were woven together by choice.
If in the moments he returned to the room he got a glimpse of retreating hands or caught sight of a fading flush, he held his tongue. Allowed the men a taste of the dignity and privacy they were soon going to be forced to let go of when the time came to face the public.
The press conference was what had truly solidified it. The trio had arrived early, punctuality one of the foundational fibers spun into the threads of being a proper hero. As they had changed into their suits, Hawks had leaned up to adjust Endeavor’s tie for him, in a move so casually intimate Tsunagu was left feeling like he was intruding.
His hands had lingered on the knot, Endeavor’s much larger hand coming up to adjust Hawks’ shirt collar. Simple gestures that had come so naturally they must have been executed countless times before, punctuated with whispered reassurances soft as well-worn denim.
Hawks had caught him looking in that moment, a sad sort of smile on his clean-shaven face. Later, while Endeavor was out of the room, he had pulled Tsunagu aside.
“You uh, won’t say anything about this, right?”
Tsunagu had simply shaken his head, placing a hand on Hawks’ shoulder. “Sometimes even the tiniest threads of happiness can be what holds us together in the face of adversity. You two deserve as much.”
The two had performed admirably during the conference, the number one hero commanding the attention of the room and presenting the sturdy and unshakeable front needed for the foundation upon which a new hope might be built. Even in the face of discontent he had remained unshaken, immoveable like over-starched jeans.
After the formal conference time had come to a close, Tsunagu had waved the duo off, opting to continue to spin a thread of hope for the public on his own. As the only unsullied member of the top three, it was he who was most trusted, most likely to push them forward from mourning and towards solutions.
When he had been loosened from the binds of questioning, he had returned to their dressing area to find the Number One hero slumped in his chair, face pressed against Hawks’ chest while the latter wrapped his arms around his shoulders. Neither of the men seemed to notice his approach, lost in the intertwining of lives and limbs.
It made sense, in its own way. Two pieces of time-worn fabric, stitched together by dedication and histories that overlap like crisp pleats. There was a quiet beauty to it, this patchwork fabric formed by two men who, on the surface, are so seemingly ill-tailored for each other. Yet their disparate shapes and textures come together to form something stronger, patching each other’s holes and reinforcing each other’s seams.
Tomorrow the three of them will have to move forward as a team, Tsunagu having to find a way to fit in alongside a bond proving tighter than the trendiest skinny jeans. But if he were to act as an accessory to any duo, he’s grateful that it’s to a pair as sturdy and lovingly crafted as this one.
If they are to be the well-made jeans that encase the legs of the future, then he’ll happily take his place as the jacket that pulls the look together.