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you are going to want to give up

Chapter Text

The warehouse does not look suspicious; it is not like one in films and tv shows with holes in the walls and broken windows calling attention to the fact that of course it would be the pick-up site of an illegal hybrid trafficking ring. Months of intel and undercover work led to this moment; Midoriya Izuku reminds himself of just how much they have to lose as he draws his sidearm, careful to remain in the shadows cast by the massive building. Trying to pull off a mission of this magnitude in the dead of the night is dangerous and it cuts their visibility more than he likes to think about, but it gives them the cover they need. There is no telling how easy it would otherwise be for the traffickers to pick them off one by one. Prior cases taught them to be wary of the people who indulged in such things because all of them were armed with the most expensive and dangerous weaponry they could get their hands on in an attempt to protect the cargo that makes them so much money in the first place. There can be no mistakes.

Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku can see Uraraka Ochaco advancing on the doorway from her own patch of shadow, gun in hand and pointed downward to minimize risk. They had been hard at work on this case together, pouring countless hours into it, long nights with no hope of sleep in sight as they struggled to connect the evidence fast enough to do something with the information. It led them here, hiding in the darkness and waiting for the chance to save at least one hybrid from this ring. Their intel pointed at the hybrid changing hands tonight being valuable and having a long history with the trafficking ring; he might have names for them, details they’re lacking, something to drive them forward and crack the case open.

They might finally be able to track down Todoroki Enji and bring him to justice like their division had sworn when he defected all those years ago.

“Midoriya.” The earpiece hidden beneath Izuku’s hair crackles to life, Ochaco’s voice clear enough, the volume low to avoid anyone else picking up on the sound. “I have a clear view inside. Our intel was right. They’re moving Shigaraki tonight.”

There should be some relief at knowing they had not come out all this way for nothing, but Izuku has never been able to feel truly good about this work given how much they give and how much suffering they lay eyes on as a result. “Right. Status on the others?”

“Kaminari and Kirishima are in the rear of the building, moving toward us,” Ochaco tells him, and Izuku listens carefully, committing each detail to memory. “Jiro and Mina are on the left and waiting for our signal. No one has been noticed yet.”

“Activity has been slow ever since they stepped inside. We can assume everyone must have gathered by now.” Their patience was being rewarded, miraculously.

“Shigaraki looks like he’s in bad shape.” Ochaco’s voice softens and Izuku’s stomach churns at her words. “You’re going to have to be the one who frees him, I think.”

Izuku should have been prepared for this information, but the wave of sadness that sweeps over him just the same is unavoidable. “It’s what I’ve been training for, isn’t it?”

Ochaco sighs softly over their connection. “Just… Be prepared for the worst. Remember that Yagi-san told us he’s been in and out of trafficking since he was eight years old.”

“I remember.” How could he forget? At eight years old, Izuku had settled on his future career; another child kilometers away had been kidnapped and sold like a doll. “I can do it.”

“We’re counting on you,” Ochaco says, and Izuku nods; he knows they are.

“Let’s move in,” he says. Better to get it over with as fast as possible.

With slow and sure steps, they advance toward the open doorway. The warehouse is massive, clean and new and supposedly under the ownership of an overseas company that specializes in export. No amount of background checks into the company revealed their knowledge that their warehouses were being used like this, but Izuku holds out on his doubts.

A quick peek through the doorway reveal a handful of men in tailored suits but no fiery red hair; the thought is depressing even though Izuku knew Enji would not be here. The man has been impossible to track, knowing all of the secrets of his former division and having more than a few of his own up his sleeve. But Izuku does see Shigaraki Tomura, the hybrid in question, and his stomach roils even though all he can catch sight of is a steel collar glinting around his throat.

They were trained not to kill unnecessarily, and he knows that. He also knows how hard it can be to remember that when it comes to scum like this.

The smugglers are not expecting them; Izuku and Ochaco swing through the doorway just as the two other teams with them burst into the circle of light in the room, guns drawn and aimed at the smugglers. The tension in the air is tight before they slowly raise their hands, their own weapons clattering to the floor at their feet. Izuku doesn’t have time to think about it right now but he remembers what their chief told him when it comes to situations like this.

If they give up, it’s because they would lose far more than if they fought.

No casualties this time, at least.

Handcuffs rattle through the air, clicking into place around the wrists of the smugglers before Izuku finally breaks away from the crowd and advances slowly toward Shigaraki, his gun replaced in its holster and his hands raised. Though Hybrid Behavior is still in a primitive state as far as study goes, Izuku has been learning from the best. It’s a necessity in order to retrieve traumatized hybrids such as the one staring at him with fearful crimson eyes.

Shigaraki Tomura has been in this dark and seedy world since he was a child; the information they had on him was extensive, having passed hands so many times that leaks were bound to occur. It helped they had been desperately tracking him for years, the chief demanding they never back down on finding him even though there was a time period before it was assumed you were looking for a body and nothing more. Hoping for a hybrid to remain alive even after seven years was unorthodox, and Shigaraki had been in this ring for seventeen years.

“It’s okay.” Izuku glances over his shoulder; Ochaco and Jiro are identifying the smugglers one by one while Kaminari and Kirishima keep their guns pulled, prepared for suspicious activity or surprise attacks. Mina catches his eye across the distance, the sadness in her gaze too heavy. He turns his attention back to Shigaraki. “It’s okay now. You’re safe.”

There are photographs in their files of Shigaraki from childhood onward, snaps stolen from perverse websites with prices stamped on them. Over the years, the shape of the hybrid himself decayed steadily, his weight dropping, his red eyes haunted, his hair a tangled and matted mess, fur visibly missing from his tail. None of that could have prepared Izuku for the reality, though, the scars across his face and the way he cowers back, the chain connected to the steel collar stretched taut in an effort to get as far away from Izuku as possible.

He has to be able to calm Shigaraki down so they can remove the collar and get him to safety. If Shigaraki attacks him, Jiro will have to sedate him. It’s regulation because hybrids are strong and they can cause nasty wounds with their claws and teeth, but Izuku wants to avoid that if at all possible. Trafficked hybrids deal with more than enough trauma.

Shigaraki hisses at him, ears pressed back into his hair. The chain is attached to a reinforcement beam, keeping him in place so he couldn’t escape while money was changing hands. The collar must be digging into his skin, as hard as he’s pulling on it, but he doesn’t let up. That’s just how scared he is.

Izuku lowers his voice, kneeling down on the ground as slowly as possible; Shigaraki’s eyes track his every movement, teeth bared. “It’s okay,” he says again, shifting to both knees, relaxing his body posture as much as he can. “We’re here to rescue you. We’re not here to hurt you. If you come over to me, I can probably take that collar off.”

Shigaraki’s tail lashes madly behind him, his breathing strained. His eyes dart wildly around before they fix on Izuku once more, another hiss filling the air.

“Midoriya,” Jiro says softly, “do I—”

“No. No, it’s fine. I’ve got him.” Midoriya shifts again, sitting flat on the ground now, legs crossed, his hands still up, palms facing outward. “Tomura, that’s your name right? Yagi-san told me about you. Do you remember him? He never gave up on finding you.”

No recognition fills Shigaraki’s eyes, but his nose twitches uncertainly, his eyes sweeping over the team once more. He might never have seen a team of agents before, but Izuku can tell he’s struggling to make sense of them just the same. It breaks his heart.

Jiro sighs softly. “All right. Just let me know if you need me. My path is clear.”

“You want to leave, right?” Izuku lowers his hands slowly, letting them rest on top of his thighs. “I can take the collar off and we take you out of here. You never have to come back.”

Shigaraki stares at him once more, body coiled tight and ready to spring, but his ears slowly lift off of his head. He’s listening, even though it’s so hard for him to do.

Izuku sighs in relief; it might be okay. It really might be okay. “Why don’t you come here? I promise I won’t hurt you. It’s okay. Let me just take the collar off. It hurts, right? And it’s hard and cold and heavy, I’ll bet. Come here to me and I’ll take it off.”

“It’s locked.” Mina slides him the keys across the floor, no doubt taken from one of the men here; she knows better than to get close right now. “The key’s on this ring, though.”

Shigaraki stills when Izuku picks up the keys, but he holds them out and jingles them, letting Shigaraki see exactly what they are. No secrets. “See? My team wants to get you out of here.”

He can see the moment when some of the tension in Shigaraki’s body eases— And then he moves forward slowly, on his hands and knees, his ears still back enough to cause concern and his tail flicking aggressively behind him. He’s afraid but fear can translate so easily into aggression, and it’s the last thing Izuku wants right now. He wants to get the damned collar off of him so they can take him back to headquarters, get him cleaned up, get him a bath. Medical attention, a bed, somewhere to stay and recover.

“Good kitty,” Izuku murmurs, stretching out a hand. Shigaraki flinches back but Izuku holds his hand firm, his fingers just limp enough to seem non-threatening. He just wants Shigaraki to smell him; cat hybrids always do. “You’re okay, kitty cat, no one is going to hurt you.”

Crimson eyes flash and Shigaraki slowly starts forward again, the chain rattling and dragging against the floor as he finally crawls past the beam. Izuku holds his breath when Shigaraki is finally close enough to sniff his fingers, timid little huffs, poised to hide again if he finds something he doesn’t like. There’s dirt caking his pastel blue hair, clumping the fur up on his ears and tail. The state he’s in makes Izuku sick.

He makes a little kissy noise and Shigaraki’s ears perk up just enough to relax him; he pushes his face against Izuku’s hand and Izuku sighs softly, patting him gently on the cheek. “That’s good. Good kitty. You want me to take that off? It must be hard to wear.”

Shigaraki slowly crawls closer to him and Izuku runs his fingers over the collar until he finds the lock, flipping through the keys until he identifies the one most likely to fit the lock. It does, thank God; Shigaraki shakes the collar off and scratches at his neck, a husky little mewl leaving his lips, a relieved sound. Then he crawls the rest of the way over to Izuku and carefully butts his forehead against his shoulder, a tiny show of thanks.

“Looks like I’m not needed after all,” Jiro murmurs.

Izuku wraps a hand around the back of Shigaraki’s head, rubbing his scalp gently while Shigaraki all but climbs into his lap. “We’re good. He’s going to be okay. Someone call Yagi-san.”

Reinforcements show up within minutes of the call; Izuku stays where he is on the floor, petting Shigaraki’s ears and soothing him when the new agents startle him with their sudden appearances, the cacophony of voices making him hiss softly. But he doesn’t so much as swipe at Izuku, which says more about his temperament as a hybrid than anything else that he could endure everything he’s been through and still not be so prone to violence. He still cowers away and growls when Sero Hanta comes near him.

“It’s okay. Come here.” Izuku stands slowly, offering his hand to Shigaraki. Those red eyes study his hand for a moment before Shigaraki takes it with both of his, and Izuku has to help him stand; his legs are trembling. He must be exhausted. “Sero-san is part of our medical unit.”

Sero shakes his head when Izuku walks Shigaraki closer to him, letting Shigaraki cling to his arm. “He’s in worse shape than I thought he’d be in when we found him.”

“I know. Yagi-san is going to be devastated when he finds out.” Izuku can only imagine the man’s face; their chief has been dedicated to finding Shigaraki no matter what it took, and they might have just found him before his inevitable death in such a place.

Izuku isn’t allowed to leave his side while Sero checks him over, doing what he can for the visible wounds he finds. There are scrapes and cuts and bruises, and Izuku wonders how anyone could be inhuman enough to do this to a hybrid.

“He’ll need more advanced care back at headquarters.” Sero runs his fingers through Shigaraki’s hair affectionately, and Shigaraki musters up another rusty mewl for him. “He’s been through a lot. Most of the wounds I’m seeing are just flesh wounds, at least.”

“Any infection?” Izuku doesn’t know if he wants the answer to that or not.

Sero shakes his head slowly. “Not that I can see. He’s going to show up malnourished and dehydrated, I can tell that just looking at him. His weight’s too low. He’s no doubt suffering from exhaustion on top of other things. I’ll have to run an x-ray to see if he’s got any visible sighs of prior breaks or fractures. His breathing seems fine, though, I don’t hear any questionable noises. His heart rate is normal. There’s been damage, but it might be fixable.”

“The physical damage, at least,” Izuku murmurs, squeezing Shigaraki’s fingers gently.

Sero’s smile is soft and sad. “The physical damage, yes. But I’m sure Yagi-san has a plan for where he can stay while he’s recovering. He’s been waiting for this day for years.”

“I know you’re right, logically. It’s just difficult to think about.” They’ve had too many hybrids suffer, too many committed to mental health facilities because rehabilitation was not enough even with some of the most skilled behaviorists their division has contact with.

“We just can’t give up on hoping for the best.” Sero’s smile fades and he sighs, shaking his head. “I really hate to ask you to do this, but we’re going to have to get him into the ambulance. I know it’s usually hard to load them in, but we can’t just transport him in a car.”

Izuku nods slowly; he knew this, but it doesn’t make things any easier. “Right, right. Tomura, c’mon, we have to get you in the ambulance. Sero can take care of you better there.”

When Izuku tries to tug Shigaraki’s hands to make him come with him, the hybrid resists, ears pressed flat to the top of his head. Another tug makes him growl in the back of his throat, a small rumbling noise that has everyone’s heads turning to see what’s happened. Izuku sighs, runs his thumb over Shigaraki’s knuckles. He knows such a thing is usually difficult though, so he eases up, turning to face Shigaraki, setting a hand on top of his ears.

“Calm down,” he says, voice low and soothing as he rubs behind Shigaraki’s ear with his fingers. “It’s just an ambulance. Just some paramedics. I’ll walk you over. It’ll be okay.”

Shigaraki finally takes a step forward with him and Izuku walks him over to the ambulance; the scent of it is supposed to be as soothing as possible. The importance of scents to hybrids is not lost on their division; their former Hybrid Behavior specialist cultivated so much information on the matter so that they could do everything necessary to make it easier on hybrids they need to transport from one place to another. Shigaraki’s nose twitches a few times before he ventures toward the open doors, ears picking up off of the top of his head.

Sero offers Shigaraki his hand and Shigaraki seems to debate for a moment before he accepts it, letting Izuku go and clambering up into the ambulance with Sero. Izuku breathes a sigh of relief when the doors close.

“Everything went so smoothly,” Ochaco tells him when she comes to stand beside him. “Yagi-san is on the phone. He says he needs to speak to you.”

Izuku accepts the phone, raising it to his ear. “Everything went fine, chief. He’s with the medics.”

“How did he look? Be honest with me.” The fatigue in Yagi Toshinori’s voice is clear, but the undercurrent of relief is, as well.

“He’s rough around the edges, but he’s going to be fine. He responded well to me and we didn’t have a lot of trouble getting him to go with Sero.” Izuku runs a hand through his hair, letting his muscles finally unclench. “He’s underfed and dehydrated but he didn’t try to attack me, which means good things. He’ll probably be fine with rehabilitation instead of being committed.”

“That’s good. Just the same, I’m contacting the best person for the job. We’re pulling out all the stops to make sure this goes well.” Yagi hesitates for a moment, and when he speaks again, his voice carries a more serious tone. “Did he speak at all?”

“No. He didn’t, and even the few noises he did make sounded unusual for him. Like he hasn’t been able to make them in a while.” Izuku knows where he’s going with this and cuts him off as quickly as possible. “We might be able to get something out of him, but he’s going to have to build up his speaking skills first. Pushing him might be detrimental to his recovery.”

Yagi hums softly. “Of course. I’d never want to do such a thing. He needs all of the time he needs, and we’ll do our jobs properly in the meantime. Would you be willing to transport him?”

“You want me to?” Izuku hesitates, eyes widening at the request. “I thought we had—”

“A squad to transport for us? We do, and I trust them, but Tomura is a special case, and I want to make sure he’s with someone who can comfort him if he gets upset at a moment’s notice.” Yagi sighs, and there’s something sad in his voice once more. “He’ll probably be placed on something to keep him calm during the trip, but it’s a long ride. It’s out in the country.”

Izuku frowns. “I thought all of our rehabilitation homes were in the city or just outside it?”

“They are, except for one. We don’t contact him unless the case is extreme. Even if Tomura could handle a closer home, I want him to have the best.” Yagi breaks off, and Izuku can hear conversation on the other end of the phone; Yagi must be at home, because it sounds like Aizawa. “He promised me a long time ago he’d do this for me because I helped him once. So, will you do it? You’ll get overtime for working the extra hours.”

“Of course. You know I’d do anything to make sure the hybrids we save are taken care of.” When all is said and done, Izuku had taken this job for a reason after all. “Hold on.” He takes the phone away from his ear, pressing the mouthpiece against his chest. “Uraraka, would you want to pick up some overtime? Yagi-san wants me to transport Shigaraki to his rehab home, but if I’m monitoring him, I won’t be able to focus on driving. You’re the only agent I can think of that most of the hybrids we save aren’t afraid of.”

Ochaco smiles kindly. “Of course. I’ll drive, you watch him, and we’ll get paid extra for the service. Besides, I’m interested now. Do we have a mystery rehab expert?”

“Apparently so.” Izuku brings the phone back to his ear. “Yagi-san, Uraraka will drive while I take care of Shigaraki. Let us know when the transportation will take place.”

“I will. I have to make a phone call once Tomura is clear for rehab anyway… Thank you all for your hard work. Without everyone in this division, we wouldn’t have pulled it off.” Yagi sounds almost fond now. “And thank you, Midoriya, for taking care of him. I knew I could trust you.”

They conclude the call and Izuku aids the others in reading the smugglers their rights before packing them into the back of police cars. With the warehouse such an active point of money and hybrids trading hands, they need to canvas each spare inch of it to ensure there is no other evidence they can use, and then there are interrogations to lead. It’s going to be a long night because there is plenty of work ahead of them, but at least they succeeded this time.

Izuku watches the ambulance as it departs and he hopes Shigaraki is calm behind the doors, that treatment will go as quickly and painlessly as possible. By this time, Sero probably gave him something to knock him out so the ride is easier on him; something less strong will be used when they take him to his new home.

That Yagi had a secret rehabilitation contact is surprising, but Izuku has only been an agent for a few years and he knows there is an entire history he missed out on as a result. Following the footsteps of the agents who came before him, trying to save lives… Maybe this show of faith is proof that he is finally proving himself to be the capable agent he swore he would be all those years ago. Fulfilling Yagi’s dream of recovering Shigaraki only reminds him that he has his own dream to fulfill, and his own person to save.

I made your parents a promise, Kacchan, he thinks, his hands curling into fists. The surge of emotions— anger, frustration, grief, determination— washes over him, just as furious as it’s always been. I promised them I was going to find you and bring you home. I meant it. Please still be out there, and I swear I’ll find you.

Chapter Text

“Why does he have to call when we’re asleep? ” The question comes out in a whine and from the darkness to the general left of him, a head flopping down on his shoulder a moment later, scar tissue brushing against his bare skin. “Tell him to stop doing that, please.”

Hawks pinches the bridge of his nose, still processing the phone call he’d been on a moment before while the dog hybrid next to him whines at him and demands soothing attention all at once. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call is not a stressless experience as far as Hawks’s life goes; it usually means a job from Yagi Toshinori, the current chief of the division devoted to rescuing hybrids. Hawks knows it well because the two of them had been agents together back when his life was spent chasing after shadowy figures and struggling to save innocent lives well aware he would fail more often than not.

“I can’t do that, baby. You know he’s gotta call me as soon as he knows he needs me so we can get ready on time.” Hawks sits up slowly, rolling his shoulders, stretching the muscles in his back before he squints at the clock on his bedside table. Three thirty-five. Damn it, Toshinori.

The dim lamp on his partner’s side of the bed clicks on a moment later, the light too dull too so much as strain Hawks’s eyes, and then a head drops down on his shoulder, arms wrapping tight around his own. “Where are you going? It’s too early to get up right now.”

“I’m not getting up yet. Yagi says he’s emailed me all the information we need for this new client and I’m not touching it until the sun’s up. Sorry to disturb you, Dabi.” Hawks lets his head fall against the tangled black fluff of Dabi’s hair, feeling one ear twitch against his cheek. “I just need a minute to process everything he told me over the phone.”

Dabi hums, pressing a kiss against the side of Hawks’s neck. “Okay. Just lay down soon.”

“I will. You can turn the light back off if you want.” Hawks sighs, drags a hand down the length of his face. He knows he’s only on-call for special cases, but this one…

“What is it?” Dabi swings a leg over both of Hawks’s, settling on top of his lap comfortably, the weight of his warmth an anchor Hawks didn’t realize he needed. “Something spooked you.”

Hawks rests his hands on Dabi’s hips, looking into his pup’s bright blue eyes. The two of them had met because of his job; Dabi had come out of hell and back, and he showed it with an extensive amount of burn scars that were forcibly applied to his skin for aesthetic reasons. The sick bastard escaped before Hawks could nail him, but he’d saved Dabi, and that matters to him just a little bit more right now. It’s just a harsh reminder that situations like Dabi’s— and like the one he’d been informed about over the phone— are normal in this world.

It’s also fucking shitty, and Hawks wishes there was a way to make it all stop.

“The new hybrid coming in has been through… A lot. Reports saying he’s been through things not unlike what you have.” Hawks thumbs under Dabi’s shirt, over warm skin. “Name’s on the paperwork, apparently. He’s the kid Yagi’s been looking for as long as I can remember.”

Dabi’s eyes widen, his lips parting just slightly. “Shit. You only mentioned him once or twice.”

“Felt like I’d jinx it if I did. Yagi never talked about the kid much more than the handful of times he mentioned him, so maybe he feels the same.” It’s laughable, really, that Hawks knows the entire situation, but Yagi had never let the kid’s name slip. “Maybe you’ll know him.”

“Maybe.” Dabi makes a noise at the thought, then leans in, nuzzling his face against the side of Hawks’s neck. “I’m sorry it’s going to be stressful. You look like hell.”

“Thanks, that makes me feel so good about myself.” Hawks loops an arm around Dabi’s back, pulling him in close, letting himself drink in Dabi’s warmth and closeness.

Dabi laughs, a hyena-like little noise that makes Hawks’s skin break out in goosebumps, but he likes it. He always has. “S’what I do best, blowing that ego of yours up even bigger.”

“That’s why I keep you around.” Hawks tilts his head, brushes a kiss over Dabi’s lips, always getting a little thrill out of this small happiness the universe has allowed him after so much pain and bullshit he doesn’t even want to think about it. “You gonna be okay with sharing the house?”

“Nah, I never am. But I’m not gonna make a big deal out of it, especially if this is the kid Yagi-san’s been looking for. He pushed for me to get to stay with you even when your old chief wasn’t sure about agreeing, so I owe him.” Dabi bites down on Hawks’s lower lip, enough to sting but not to properly hurt, playful as always. “You’re the best thing in my life, y’know.”

Hawks could tell him that he doesn’t really have a way to measure that out given the fact that Dabi had basically nothing before him, but Hawks knows how sincere he is, and truth be told, bad mood or not, he doesn’t want to ruin this moment or try to tear down Dabi’s words. If this is how Dabi feels, he has every right to; he’d had a terrible life and Hawks still only knows the details Dabi can remember, trauma having eaten away at his early childhood memories.

“I do my best.” Hawks pecks him on the lips again, satisfied when Dabi smiles up at him, his tail wagging slowly behind him, soft and sleepy movements. He’s exhausted but so is Hawks. “C’mon, baby, let’s get back to bed. We’ll have a long day ahead of us.”

Being woken up in the middle of the night makes waking up early that much harder on both of them, but Hawks rolls out of bed on time, showers in about ten minutes, and has breakfast on the table before he retreats to his office to print off the information Yagi has sent him. The medical file is extensive, and this alone makes him feel physically ill because if there is this much information, it would only be for a series of injuries and illnesses.

The photographs attached to the file hurt in their own special way. The hybrid in the pictures is resting in his hospital bed, his eyes barely half-open, suggesting they sedated him to keep him calm while he was confined to a relatively small space. Someone has obviously cleaned him up, his hair neatly brushed and his skin free of dirt and grime, but there are visible wounds, bruises, his lips chapped and dry enough that they have to ache.

Hawks’s stomach turns. People keeping their hybrids in this condition makes him sick.

Once everything is printed, he tucks it all into a file folder and carries it downstairs with him. As ill as it might make him to read this while he’s eating, he has limited time to get ready to take in a new hybrid, and he can’t keep Dabi waiting forever.

Sure enough, his pup is at the table when he comes back to the kitchen, hair still damp from his own shower and halfway through his plate of food. He eyes the folder curiously but doesn’t make a grab for it, content to finish his eggs instead while Hawks sits himself down and spreads everything out in front of him. Having been an agent himself, he knows the majority of what will be here, the basic information, the neatly formatted history they have.

It’s limited. The hybrid— Shigaraki Tomura— hasn’t spoken a word since they’ve saved him.

“He’s not a talkative one,” he tells Dabi, tucking some rice into his mouth.

Dabi looks up at him, then down at the papers in front of him. “Pictures? Name? Tell me who.”

“Him.” Hawks pulls out one of the pages of photographs to hand over without looking, thumbing through the medical information. At least there are no current serious injuries, though there have been quite a few breaks that make him wince. “Fuck, did they have him in a fighting ring as small as he is? There’s no way they would have—”

“No.” Dabi’s voice is soft, eerily quiet. “They didn’t use Tomura for fighting.”

Hawks looks up from the paperwork; he can’t see Dabi’s face at first, obscured by the paper, but when he lowers it, his expression is heartbreakingly sad. His fingers are trembling, making the paper rattle softly, and the way he chews on his lower lip as tears well up in his eyes tells Hawks far too much about their new patient. Dabi knew him. They’d been trafficked together.

“Are you okay?” Hawks stretches a hand across the table to curl it around Dabi’s wrist.

Dabi nods, patting Hawks’s arm limply.  “Yeah, I’m fine. I just… I really thought I was never going to see him again after— He wasn’t a fighter. They wanted to use him to breed.”

“Fuck.” Hawks really doesn’t know what else to say.

“The blue hair, the red eyes, you know, it’s an unusual color combination even in cats and they wanted more of it, but he never… It didn’t work, no matter what they did.” Dabi shudders and shoves the paper back in Hawks’s direction, his ears pressed to the top of his head. “So he got punished for it. It wasn’t even his fucking fault, how are you supposed to think about conceiving kids when someone’s just going to take them and sell them off anyway?”

Hawks had seen something about forced sterilization somewhere in the files, but he doesn’t make it to Dabi now. “Sounds like we’re going to have to work extra hard to make sure he’s got a better chance at life now, huh? If he’s your friend, and Yagi’s.”

“Yeah.” Dabi sniffles, drags his fingers over his eyes to wipe the tears away. “Sorry, I just… It’s not any easier to see this happen to other hybrids. It always hurts.”

“I understand.” Hawks does, more than he wants to admit. “But we’re going to take good care of him now, right? Let’s get the house extra cleaned up for his arrival. Yagi called me last night to let me know he’d get released today and he’s supposed to be by this afternoon. They’re using their new hybrid behaviorist to get him here safe and sound.”

Dabi nods, takes a deep breath, and looks down at his plate. “I really don’t think I can finish this but I probably should. I’m going to need the energy to help you clean up.”

“Don’t push yourself, babe. I’ll call Magne and see if she’s up. Maybe she can help us since it’s a special situation.” At this point, Hawks owes her more than he’s ever going to be able to repay her, but it’s fine. “Don’t stress, I’m serious. He’ll be able to smell it all over you if you do.”

The words have Dabi nodding in agreement and going back to his food; Hawks tucks the pictures back into his file and scans the medical information once more for anything they might need to know that’s important, food allergies and such. For the most part, it’s nothing he hasn’t handled before; bandages to replace and bruises to watch with a note not to touch his ears too brazenly because it frightens him. Anxiety makes him scratch at his neck, most likely because he was forced into wearing some sort of collar while he was being trafficked.

It’s not new to Hawks, which is sad in its own way. These atrocities should make him violently ill but he only stares them down with a grim determination to get through this one way or another.

Breakfast goes by fast, and Magne answers on the second ring. “How can I help, hon?”

“The fact I haven’t even asked for help yet makes this feel even more unfair than it already is.” Hawks isn’t surprised when Dabi crawls into his chair with him, curling himself up on Hawks’s lap and breathing soft and warm against the side of his throat. “We’ve got a new hybrid coming in soon and I was wondering if you’d come over and help us fix up a few things.”

“I’m not an idiot, you know. I know why you call, I just don’t mind.” Magne’s voice is teasing at least, not seriously upset. “You know I’m happy to help. What’s on the agenda?”

“General cleaning should be fine. I’m going to fix up the guest bedroom myself because there’s a few changes I have to make. Dabi can help with the rest of the house while I do that.” Hawks rubs behind Dabi’s ears until his pup calms down somewhat, fingers curling loose at the hair on the nape of his neck. He knows he’s a security object for Dabi as much as he is anything else. “He’s a hybrid that Dabi knew, so we’re going to be putting our all into this.”

Magne’s breath hitches on the line. “Tell him I’m sorry. I’ll be over in fifteen or so.”

“Thanks Magne. I owe you one. Again.” Hawks hangs up the phone, shoving it into the back pocket of his jeans. “Let’s make a list so we’ll be ready when he comes.”

Cleaning is a soothing act even if the situation is stressful; Hawks takes off to the guest bedroom, airing it out as quickly as he can. Aromatherapy is important for stress and he has a blend for cat hybrids— rose, lavender, and orange blossom— that should do the trick and let this space be a calming and relaxing one instead of a stressful one, or worse, a hiding spot. This should be somewhere Tomura can sleep at night, or take naps throughout the day, not somewhere he wants to barricade himself inside of to stay away from the rest of them.

The bedding is clean but Hawks replaces it anyway, something a little softer for the wounds on his skin so that none of them are aggravated. He dusts and wipes down everything, sweeps the floor and polishes the mirror attached to the dresser. It should be fine, but he’s still nervous. It’s not Dabi’s nerves wearing off on him but the thought that if Tomura is important to Dabi, then failing him will be off of the table. Hawks has to put everything he has into this.

When he’d been an agent, he doubled as a hybrid behaviorist. He’d been sent in to recover the most damaged, beaten, bloodied, and possibly dangerous hybrids because he’d spent years studying and committing their body language to memory so that without words, he’d know how they were feeling. Some of them were completely nonverbal by the time they were rescued, which meant Hawks had to make sure he could adapt as needed to help them.

Being an agent meant doing whatever it took. There were no exceptions, no excuses. Drop everything to do what needed to be done for the hybrids in their care, or do nothing at all and find a different job. There were only ever two avenues of thought, and if you chose to be an agent, there was no room for failure. You gave it your all, or you walked away.

This line of work is no different no matter what people say.

When the room is finally prepared, Hawks closes the door and heads downstairs to help finish with whatever Dabi and Magne have left to do. Magne is one of the only humans that Dabi trusts as much as he does Hawks himself; trust doesn’t come easily to those who have been hurt.

“You look like you swallowed something especially bitter.” Magne drops a hand on top of his head, ruffling his hair. “Guess it’s hard to have a job you don’t especially like.”

Hawks makes a face up at her. “It’s not that I don’t like the job. It’s important and I get a lot out of being able to help, but…” He trails off, watching Dabi climb up onto the couch to dust the top of a windowsill. “I’d rather my job not be necessary, if you watch my drift.”

Magne’s face softens. “I get it. You’d rather them not need you at all. So they don’t have to suffer. You’re a good guy for doing this, though. I don’t think you hear that enough.”

“I don’t need the praise, y’know? I just want to do what I can to help.” Hawks watches Dabi hop off of the couch, his tail giving a little wag when he sticks his landing. “And if I can give them the tools they need to live their lives, then I’m thrilled to help. I’ll help anyone I can.”

“You keep looking at him like that and you’re going to lose track of the time.” Magne taps him on the back of the head and Hawks shakes himself, realizing he’s been just staring at where Dabi is plumping the cushions on the couch, tail swishing with his movements.

Hawks nods, then glances toward the door, the familiar sound of tires on the asphalt drawing his attention. “Sounds like our new arrival is here right on time. Dabi, let’s go.”

“You think he’ll remember me?” Dabi asks, his ears twitching in quick succession.

The question has Hawks smiling despite himself and he nods, offering Dabi his arm to hold onto for security. “Yeah, I’m sure he will. No one could ever forget you.”

“I’m just going to let myself out through the backdoor so I don’t startle your new hybrid. Let me meet him as soon as he’s settled, though.” Magne rubs Dabi’s ears affectionately and his tail wags hard enough that it smacks Hawks on the leg. “Be good, sweetheart.”

Dabi takes a deep breath and tugs Hawks toward the door, Hawks allowing himself to be led out onto the front porch. The familiar black SUV that pulls up into the driveway brings back memories, not all of them pleasant, and not for the first time Hawks is grateful he made this change in his life because he needed this peace and quiet more than he needed anything else. Having this life here with Dabi has saved him every single day.

The agent who steps out from behind the wheel is unfamiliar to him, but then, she would be. Yagi told him long ago they had almost an entirely new staff.

“You must be Hawks! Yagi-san told us a little about you before we came.” The agent steps up to him and offers her hand, and Hawks shakes it with the hand Dabi isn’t clinging to. “My name is Uraraka Ochaco. It’s nice to meet you. We’ve heard so many good things.”

“Good to know Yagi’s still spreading around my good reputation.” Hawks looks past Uraraka to the vehicle behind her. “Shigaraki’s in there, right? How did he handle the ride?”

Uraraka’s face clouds over, and Hawks braces himself appropriately even as Dabi’s fingers spasm in his own. “He was mostly fine. He had to be sedated because the idea of travel badly upset him. Midoriya thinks he must equate it with, well…”

“Transport,” Dabi says softly, pressing his cheek against Hawks’s shoulder. “Yeah.”

“That’s not unusual. Anything else?” Hawks presses. He needs as many details as possible.

Again, Uraraka’s face clouds over. “He had a few moments in the car where he was very anxious even sedated, but Midoriya managed to calm him down. He’s trying to talk him down right now because he wasn’t happy when I finally parked the car.”

“God, that’s so fucking awful.” Dabi squeezes his eyes shut. “Hawks, can we… Please—”

Hawks bumps their heads together lightly to cut him off. “We’re going to get him out and inside, Dabi, no worries. Sorry, Uraraka-kun. My pup knew him before I rescued him.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Well… At least he’s with a familiar face! Maybe it’ll help?” Uraraka’s eyes meet Hawks’s hopefully, and he has to give her credit. He’s glad she’s so passionate about this.

“It should,” Hawks tells her. “Just open the door for me. He’s in the back, I assume.”

Uraraka walks back to the SUV just as one of the back doors flies open so quickly it startles her, but Hawks is prepared. He has to be. When an unfamiliar shape flies out of the vehicle and makes a beeline for him, he’s ready, letting go of Dabi’s arm and stepping smoothly away just before Shigaraki Tomura crashes into him at full speed. Just like him, Dabi is ready. His arms come up and catch Tomura under his thighs, letting the cat cling to him as tightly as he does; the way he yowls as he presses his face against Dabi’s neck threatens to break Hawks’s heart. His entire body— too slender, his clothes hanging off of him— trembles as he tightens his limbs around Dabi, who whispers soothingly in his ear.

Just like Hawks said, no one could ever forget about Dabi.

“Sorry!” Another agent spills out of the backseat of the vehicle, almost tripping over his own feet in the process. “He saw your hybrid and just bolted on me, I’m not sure what happ—”

Hawks holds up a hand to calm the agent down. Must be Midoriya. He wasn’t ready for Tomura to take off on him. Gotta work on that. “No worries. Dabi told me the two of them knew each other, so Tomura must have recognized him. He do okay on the ride over?”

“Nothing unusual for a trafficked hybrid. He had a few rough patches but it didn’t take much to calm him down. Parking was the worst.” Midoriya echoes Uraraka’s words and Hawks nods, satisfied. He can work with this. “That sound’s the loudest he’s been so far. He’s selectively mute as far as we can tell, no damage to his vocal cords, but he’s expressive with sound when he’s somewhat comfortable with who he’s speaking to. At least, he was with me.”

“Sounds about right. Cat hybrids are always especially vocal.” Hawks watches as Dabi carefully sets Tomura on his feet, their faces nuzzling together. That familiar, huh? “How did he handle medical treatment? I assume you guys have got a new med team on your hands.”

Midoriya nods, coming to stand beside Uraraka. “We do. He handled it okay. He was sedated, of course, but Sero said that when he was awake, he didn’t seem anxious. No elevated blood pressure or heart rate. He’s a little nervous when it’s time to change his bandages.”

Hawks is making mental notes at the speed of light, refusing to take his eyes off of Dabi— it’s the first time he’s ever seen Dabi happy to have another hybrid at the house. If Hawks is supposed to feel jealous about this, well, fuck that. He loves seeing his pup happy. “Nothing I can’t handle, then. Yagi must be pretty thrilled you managed to find him after all this time.”

“He is!” Uraraka presses her hands together, and there’s something soft in her eyes when she looks at Tomura. “He was so worried all this time, but it’s going to be okay now, right?”

“Absolutely.” Hawks gives her a thumb’s up. “I’m the best asset you got and I’m gonna kick my own ass to make sure this works out. Happy endings are real, after all.”

Midoriya sighs softly and nods, and Hawks raises an eyebrow at him. “Sorry, I was just thinking… Nothing. I’m just glad we managed to find him. Most people would have given up, but Yagi-san couldn’t do that. And in the end, everything is going to be okay.”

“Yeah. Well, I hate to be rude and kick you two out, but…” Hawks shrugs, gestures toward Tomura. “I gotta get him inside and settled. The sooner I do, the sooner he can adapt.”

Uraraka smiles at him, claps her hands together softly just once. “Not a problem. Thanks for all your hard work. Midoriya, let’s head off now. We’ve got along drive back.”

“Let us know if you need anything,” Midoriya says, and it looks like it takes effort to turn around.

Hawks grins at him. “Yeah, no problem. I will. Thanks for bringing him home safely.”

As the SUV backs out of the driveway, Hawks turns his full attention back to Tomura, watching Dabi curl his fingers in those soft powdery blue curls to pull them back out of Tomura’s face. Up close, the poor cat really is a mess, his skin sickly pale like he hasn’t been allowed in sunlight in years, his fur clean but the color awfully dull. He’s clean, though, so there’s that; half of the battle is just getting to a state where they have plenty to work with, and he’s already there.

“Hawks.” Dabi looks up at him and Tomura twitches, his ears pressing down into his hair momentarily. “I told him a bit about you and about us. He’d like to meet you before we go in.”

“That’s fine with me.” Hawks takes careful, slow, and measured steps toward the two, stopping a couple of feet away and holding a hand out, palm up. “It’s nice to meet you, Shigaraki Tomura. Dabi said you two knew each other. I’m glad to see you still remember him.”

Tomura peeks at him from behind his hair, crimson eyes glittering fearfully as his gaze darts between Hawks’s hand and his face. Slowly he leans down, nose twitching frantically as he sniffs Hawks’s hand, then jerks back into the protective circle of Dabi’s arms, his ears pressed flat to his head. Hawks remains in place and, after a minute or so, Tomura leans down to try again, and he even manages to just brush his nose against Hawks’s thumb before darting back into Dabi’s chest. It takes a solid five minutes before Tomura wraps slender fingers around Hawks’s own, his chest vibrating with a nervous purr.

Take deep breaths, Hawks thinks to himself, remaining in place as Tomura takes another step closer to him. Slow and easy, Hawks. Don’t scare him. No sudden movements. You got this.

Dabi lets Tomura hold onto one of his hands as he walks around Hawks, sniffing at his shoulder, his cheek, the base of his throat. The noises are small and shallow, little puffs of warm air dancing over Hawks’s skin and chasing away the coming winter chill in the air. This behavior is normal for a hybrid, especially one who is utterly terrified of human beings.

Tomura looks up at Dabi, and there’s a beat of what looks to be silent communication before Dabi clears his throat. “You’re allowed to pet him on the head. Be careful of his ears."

“It makes you nervous, right?” Hawks aims the question to Tomura, who flinches away at the sound of his voice before leaning close to him once again. “I’ll be careful.”

When his hand settles on top of Tomura’s head, the cat winces and tenses all over, his hands gripping Dabi’s so tightly that Hawks can see the skin beneath Tomura’s fingers bleached white from the pressure. If it hurts, Dabi makes no sign to show it, only allows himself to be used as a comfort object and an anchor. Hawks tries to be as careful as possible, fingers just combing through Tomura’s hair to pet the top of his scalp, just a single finger stroking over the base of one ear. It makes Tomura shiver, but he looks otherwise pleased.

“You’re doing good,” Dabi tells him, and Hawks smiles softly at him. “He’s not scared of you but this entire situation is very overwhelming for him. He didn’t think anyone would find him.”

Hawks’s chest is tight. “I’m sorry, Tomura,” he murmurs. “You’re safe now.”

Dabi nods, resting his chin carefully on Tomura’s shoulder. “I told him that you’re good. He’s not sure yet, but he wants to give you a chance because I trust you. So don’t ruin that.”

“I won’t. I promise.” Hawks curls his fingers in Tomura’s hair, the texture soft against his fingers, but it could use some work. “I know you’ve had a hard life. Harder than most. But I’m going to help take care of you now, and together we’ll figure out what we need to do to make sure you have a happy rest of your life. Dabi’s going to help, too. That sounds good, right?”

Tomura stares up at him from beneath tousled bangs before nodding just once.

Dabi tilts his head, rubbing his cheek against Tomura’s. “You want to go inside? I can show you my home. Might not be much, but we have a nice place, and you’ll get your own bedroom. As many pillows and blankets as you want. All the food you can eat.”

“We can get you some breakfast too, if you’re hungry.” Hawks smiles when Tomura leans into his touch just a little, eyelashes fluttering. It takes so little to make him like this. “You can have a bath or a shower, up to you, or you can sleep off that long drive. Car rides can be hard.”

Tomura mewls softly up at him, and Dabi smiles faintly. It’s a step in the right direction.

Hawks steps away to open the front door and Dabi slips his arms around Tomura’s waist, letting Tomura cling to him as he helps him walk through the doorway. It’s slow, and it takes a few minutes for Tomura to build up the courage to cross the threshold, but he succeeds and Hawks feels a familiar little flutter in his chest. The pride that always comes with hybrids who take even the smallest steps to take their lives back.

They have a long way to go, but now they can finally get started.

Chapter Text

Dabi knows from firsthand experience how difficult Hawks’s job is but how important it is to have people willing to do the necessary work he does. When Dabi moved in with him after extensive psychiatric screening, he was intent on escaping the moment he had a chance and disappearing into the world so no one— his father— could ever find him again. Hawks struggled to keep him in the house and fought tooth and nail to make sure Dabi opened himself to the recovery he so desperately needed in his life. By the time a year passed, Dabi found himself creeping into Hawks’s room at every given opportunity so he could sleep curled up beside him.

Despite knowing how many hybrids need the kind of help a man like Hawks can provide, Dabi struggles to reconcile this with the fact he has to let other hybrids into his home. He usually slinks away to his room so he can have some privacy while Hawks shows the new hybrid around and for as rude as it is, he usually pouts about it for the first week. Sharing his territory and his human with another hybrid is always difficult.

This, however, is different. Tomura clings to his arm as Dabi shows him around the home he shares with Hawks, pointing out all of the smaller details he would avoid with any other hybrid, pausing to show him the pictures of Hawks with other hybrids with are far outnumbered by the photos of him with just Dabi. He watches Tomura’s ears twitch as he recounts each small memory to him, and this is too familiar; the two of them had been in the same facility for months and Tomura clung to him the entire time, and he’d let him because Tomura needed someone.

Hawks remains in the kitchen, fixing Tomura something to eat for breakfast at Dabi’s insistence. While he’s certain Tomura was given food before the car ride, he knows how much better the food Hawks made is and besides, Tomura needs to eat as much as he can to put weight back on his slender frame. The clothes he has— the sweatpants, the sweatshirt— disguise much of his body, but Dabi can see how skinny he is, and he’s worried.

"I can show you up to your bedroom after you eat.” Dabi presses his cheek against the top of Tomura’s head, delighting just in having him close again, Tomura’s familiar scent making him all kinds of nostalgic. None of the memories he has are without hues of sadness and pain, but they’re memories just the same. “Hawks makes the best food, and you can eat whenever you need to eat. Just don’t eat so much you make yourself sick, and we keep plenty of snacks around, too. I hope you like staying here with us.”

Tomura mewls softly up at him in answer and Dabi’s heart stutters in his chest at the sound, the way Tomura rubs his cheek very gently against Dabi’s shoulder. It’s subtle and would have gone unnoticed by most people, but cat hybrids scent mark with the glands in their cheeks.

Being marked as Tomura’s makes Dabi’s heart beat faster and his face hot.

“Food’s ready,” Hawks calls from the kitchen and Tomura twitches slightly at the sound of his voice, but he doesn’t jump or hide, so Dabi counts that as a win. “I made just what we had this morning, eggs and bacon and toast. Tomura, eat as much as you want. We already ate.”

“C’mon, let’s get you sat at the table, huh?” Dabi gives his arm a tug and Tomura obediently walks with him, his hair tickling Dabi’s neck.

Hawks has set the table already and remains in the corner of the counter, sipping a mug of coffee as he watches the two of them. Usually, Hawks is the one in charge of doing what Dabi is doing now, letting himself be the comfort object of the hybrids who come into his care. Dabi can remember how when he’d first came here and started to trust Hawks, he hung off of his arm chronically and had a habit of crawling into his lap as soon as the sky grew dark. But this time, the circumstances are different and Hawks is letting Dabi take the lead.

Tomura watches Hawks with curious eyes while Dabi pulls out a chair for him at the table, patting him gently on the back so he knows to sit. There’s a moment of hesitation before Tomura slowly lets go of his arms, and Dabi can see Tomura’s fingerprints pressed into his skin.

“You’re going to show him upstairs after he eats?” Hawks asks, his eyes trained on Dabi. “If you want, you can get him in the shower or a bath, too. I’m sure they let him wash up before they brought him over here but it’s different when it’s home.”

Dabi nods, lowering himself into the chair next to Tomura’s. “I remember the first time I ever took a bath here. I was in there for, what, two hours? You thought I’d drowned or something.”

“It was two hours, I was worried.” Hawks’s voice drips with fondness and Dabi’s chest tightens at the sound, his tail wagging in response. “But I didn’t come in and check on you because I thought that might be rude. You came out on your own.”

“I was just relaxing. First time I had the chance to do that in my memory at all.” Dabi watches Tomura slowly pick up his fork, examining the metal carefully before poking his eggs. “I promise Hawks didn’t put anything in the food, Tomura. He’s a good human, I promise.”

Nervous red eyes skirt in his direction before Tomura carefully takes a bite of eggs, a pleased little noise rumbling up his throat, his ears perking up and his tail swishing behind him happily. Dabi lets out a small noise of relief and out of Tomura’s immediate sight makes a gesture for Hawks to come and sit down with them. While Dabi agrees he is the best one to handle this current situation, he wants Hawks sat down with them. Tomura has to be able to get used to him so he can live happily here, and maybe— Maybe he can stay with them.

“You care if I sit down, Tomura?” Hawks asks, and Tomura looks up from his plate. “If you two want some peace and quiet, though, I can leave the room.”

Tomura shakes his head and pats the top of the table carefully before going back to his food and Hawks sits down across the table; Dabi can see the small smile playing at the corners of his lips and is relieved, himself, that everything is fine for the moment. It might not last, most likely won’t, but getting food into Tomura, getting him cleaned up, and getting him into bed are the only objectives necessary for day one. Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

You don’t want to overwhelm someone, you know? Hawks told him once when Dabi asked him why he had such a set routine for the first day when every hybrid was different. But most of you didn’t get to eat decent food or have a bath or get your own bed, so it’s an easy place to start. It’s also, like, you let them into the house, you give them things that are comforting and then let them go somewhere quiet and their own to rest. It’s a big help.

Dabi leans in close to Tomura, bumps his forehead against Tomura’s shoulder. “You want to take a bath? Hawks has some pretty awesome bubble bath. I can show you, if you want.”

Tomura peeks up at him from beneath his hair and gives a small little nod before stuffing a piece of bacon in his mouth.

“You should feel pretty special, kitten. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Dabi be nice to another hybrid on day one, much less actually like them.” Hawks is teasing him and Dabi scowls in his direction but out of the corner of his eye, he sees Tomura look up very slowly.

The reaction is an unusual one so Dabi stretches out a hand to set it on top of Tomura’s own. “Was it the nickname? Does it bother you for him to call you that?”

“It slipped,” Hawks murmurs. “I’m sorry if that upset you, Tomura.”

To Dabi’s surprise, Tomura only shakes his head, a tiny little chirping noise filling the tense silence in the room. “It’s okay, Hawks. He likes it actually.”

The interplay of emotions in Hawks’s eyes is so quick and tumultuous that Dabi almost isn’t able to keep up with all of them, but he isn’t a fool and he knows what that might have done to his human. For Tomura to have picked up a nickname so easily probably means even small positive attention means something to him, and Dabi doesn’t want to think about how much he’s been through in his life to have gotten to this point even though he experienced a fair amount of the same. Hell, half of his body is covered in burn scars and he spent most of his life assuming no one would ever want him because of the way he looked anyway.

He still remembers how he’d ended up in Hawks’s lap for most of this third night here because Hawks called him pup for the first time and how much it meant to him to have someone speak to him and of him in such a fond and warm voice.

“Okay, kitten.” Hawks props his chin up on his hands and Dabi sees Tomura’s ears perk just a bit higher. “You can stay in the bath for as long as you want and then if you’re ready for a nap, you can take one. My schedule’s empty today in honor of your arrival so there’s no stress and no worry that you’re going to take up too much time. We blocked it all out for you.”

Tomura mewls in answer and goes back to his foot, and Dabi is relieved to see how easily he manages to feed himself. A few times he lets his hand steal out to rub Tomura’s back, touch his knee, brush his hair back out of his face. Even small touches can be grounding for hybrids and Dabi just wants to do his best for Tomura, to give him the second chance at life Dabi himself was given when Hawks literally kicked down a door to save his life.

When Tomura finishes his breakfast— cleaning up the entire plate— Dabi picks it up for him and takes it to the sink, washing it off quickly to add it to the dishwasher. He only has his back turned for a minute or two so he’s surprised when he turns around to find Tomura has snuck around the table to where Hawks is still sitting, his tail curled loosely around Hawks’s wrist.

He’s going out of his way to be sociable. I wonder if he thinks he has to. Dabi says nothing, leans back against the counter and watches as Hawks lifts his hand toward Tomura’s head.

Of course, he might also be touch-starved from the way his eyelids flutter shut when Hawks rubs the space between his ears. Dabi had seen the photographs in the file and had read the entire thing when he got himself under control and Magne was picking up the kitchen. As far as Sero could tell from his examinations, Tomura had been put through hell and back but he responded well to positive attention.

Are you trying for me? Because you know he’s important to me? Dabi wonders, watching as Tomura’s entire body seems to relax under Hawks’s hand. Or maybe you can sense that he’s as good as I told you he is. Maybe you trust him because I do.

“Go ahead and take him on up now, Dabi,” Hawks says, his voice pitched low and soothing so that he doesn’t disturb Tomura. “I’m just going to do some work down here but you know where I am if you need me. I got his room cleaned up and ready.”

Dabi nods, rounding the table so he can offer Tomura his arm. “Ready for a bath?”

Tomura mewls softly and takes his arm, and Dabi laces their fingers together as he leads Tomura through the living room and to the staircase. Even from down here he can smell the mild scent of the cleaning supplies Hawks uses for the spare bedroom, switching between fragrances based on who will be using the room. Tomura’s nose twitches as he picks up on it and his tail swishes slowly, his head falling against Dabi’s shoulder.

The upper floor of the house is hardly interesting, just two bedrooms, an office, and the bathroom, but Dabi leads Tomura through each room just the same before he takes him back to the bathroom to start a bath for him. When he opens the medicine cabinet, he finds what he came for; there are unopened chapsticks here for those who might need them.

“Come here,” Dabi says, picking one of them up. “I think you could use this.”

Tomura eyes the tube uncertainly so Dabi opens it himself and takes a step closer to him, holding it up so he can see and smell it. Then he carefully smoothes it over Tomura’s chapped lips. It might take medicinal level salve to fix just how dry and sore his lips are, but this is a step in the right direction and when Tomura licks over his lips tentatively, he chirps in surprise.

“See, it’s nice. Just use it whenever you want to. It’s good for you.” Dabi walks past him to the bathtub, starting up the water before handing Tomura the various bottles of bubble bath Hawks keeps in the cabinet beneath the sink.

It’s cute, watching him lift each bottle to his nose to sniff before he eventually picks one and hands it to Dabi. A good portion of the soap goes into the water so it can bubble appropriately and then Dabi stands, not sure if he should be here any longer or if Tomura would want the privacy to undress and bathe on his own. His palms sweat and he remembers Hawks leaving him here but hell, at least Dabi could tell him that’s what he wanted.

“Want me to leave you alone now?” he asks, watching Tomura’s expression carefully. “So you can undress and get in the bath, I mean.”

Tomura is still for a moment before giving a small nod, fidgeting with the bottom of his sweatshirt, slender fingers picking at a loose thread on the fabric.

“Okay. If you just meow, I’ll be able to hear you if you need anything.” Dabi wraps an arm around his waist and gives him a quick squeeze before letting himself out of the room.

Hawks has the dishwasher going and has started on the laundry when Dabi comes downstairs to see him. As soon as he steps into the laundry room Hawks turns to him and opens his arms and Dabi shoots into them as soon as he gets the chance, throwing his arms around Hawks’s neck and just clinging to him. It’s reassuring to be held after all of this.

“You’re doing such a good job. I’m so, so proud of you, pup.” Hawks kisses him on the lips, a quick peck that makes Dabi whine at him. “He upstairs taking a bath?”

“Yeah. He said he wanted the privacy so I gave it to him.” Dabi pushes his face against Hawks’s own, nuzzling against his cheek. “I hope I’m really doing okay and you’re not just saying that to say it because I’m really working my ass and thinking about everything you’ve taught me.”

“My boy’s such a natural. My good, perfect boy.” Hawks kisses him again, letting this one linger against his lips until Dabi’s knees weaken beneath him. “I’ve never been as proud of you as I am right now and you know I’m proud of you every single day.”

Dabi ducks his head to hide the flush that warms his cheeks. “I just… Wanna do my best for him, y’know? I feel like it’s something I can do that maybe is easier for me than you.”

“Oh, for sure. This way, he’s getting the attention from someone he already trusts without having to worry he can’t trust you.” Hawks’s fingers rub behind his ears and Dabi’s tail slows as he revels in the touch, his eyes fluttering shut. “Good boy. Why don’t you sit down and relax for a bit yourself? I got the house chores for the day if you’re mostly got Tomura.”

“Sticking me with all the work,” Dabi teases, smacking Hawks’s thigh with his tail.

Hawks feigns being wounded, a dramatic hand resting over his heart. “You’d really think something that awful of me? I’m wounded. I thought I was the only good human.”

“You are.” Dabi sneaks a kiss on the cheek, grinning when Hawks’s face warms. It never gets old, somehow, the little things like these, the small moments they share together. “I’m gonna stretch out on the couch and listen for Tomura to call for me.”

Hawks gives him a proper kiss to send him off and Dabi crashes into the couch, stuffing his face into one of the cushions and letting himself drift. He appreciates Hawks taking over the chores, he really does, because he isn’t quite as conditioned for this line of works as Hawks is and his nerves have been going all morning. It isn’t that he doesn’t think he can take care of Tomura because Dabi knows he’s the best chance Tomura has at a normal life, but the last thing he wants to do is fuck this up somehow and leave Tomura hurting worse than when he came here.

He knows it won’t happen but he’s still afraid that it will.

When the washing machine is finally rumbling, Hawks comes and sits on the coffee table in front of the couch, rubbing Dabi’s ears until Dabi makes small, appreciative noises. It’s nice to stretch out and get attention like this and selfishly he always eats it up when Hawks offers it even though he knows he ought to pay the man more personal attention, maybe attempt a massage or something for everything Hawks has done and continues to do for him.

He twists his head around to give Hawks’s fingers an affectionate lick and nibble which Hawks puts up with because of course he does, a small little fond smile on his face. “You know, I’m really surprised you picked up as much as you did. It’s not an easy thing to figure out.”

“That Midoriya kid has some flaws to work out still,” Dabi admits; he’d noticed a few things in conjunction with what Hawks has told him in the past. “I think he’ll get the hang of it in not long, though. He’s got that look around him that I recognize.”

Hawks wings an eyebrow up. “What do you mean?”

“The look of a man who’s looking for someone. He’s got his own mission. I can feel it.” The same expression was embedded on Hawks’s face when the two of them first met, Hawks carrying Dabi to safety even as Dabi clawed frantically at his arms, afraid Hawks was one of the many men over his lifetime that had hurt him. It was rare for Hawks not to be careful, to put his own physical safety on the line, and Dabi knows he still has some of those scars.

Physical safety mattered less to him than then Dabi’s safety had, though.

“Yeah,” Hawks finally says with a small, curt nod. “If I poked around and asked Yagi, he’d tell me what was up. He said the kid was good, and he’s right, so I bet he knows more than he’s willing to let on over the phone. Maybe I’ll meet up with him soon.”

“How long has it been? Since you got me, right?” Dabi asks, rolling over onto his back.

Hawks takes the initiative to lean forward, thumbing the bottom of Dabi’s shirt up so he can run a soothing hand over Dabi’s stomach. “Pretty much. He’s busy and truth be told, I don’t mind it so much. It’s hard looking at him without having to stomach some pretty unpleasant memories.”

“Aizawa says he’s getting better, but comparatively what does that mean, y’know?” Dabi tucks his arms under his head, enjoying the way his muscles soften and relax beneath Hawks’s touch. “It’s one of those things where I’m sure he’s taking baby steps but Aizawa still comes to the office with him every day so you know, he still needs the extra assistance he can get.”

“Exactly.” Hawks runs a hand over his face and Dabi feels almost bad for bringing this back up, but part of him can’t quite help it. It’s a sore wound for both of them, after all. “I still feel bad for not figuring it out faster. I can’t believe Enji managed to get away with it.”

Dabi stills at the name of his father before he curls his fingers around Hawks’s wrist, rubbing the thin skin on the inside of it gently. “It isn’t your fault. A lot of people who knew him had no idea he was doing what he was doing. And you figured it out, so it’s good on you that you did.”

“If I hadn’t…” Hawks shakes his head, but Dabi knows his train of thought all too well. If Hawks never figured out what Todoroki Enji was up to, Dabi would have died. It was only Hawks’s intervention in his life that made it so he was here today, happy and healthy. “Yagi took the shot for me and he still shouldn’t have done it. Enji was my partner and it took me too long to figure things out, so the least I could’ve done was take the wound instead.”

“No.” Dabi squeezes Hawks’s wrist. “You didn’t deserve that. No one deserved that. You know you can’t think like that or things are going to get worse.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re such a smart puppy.” Hawks’s eyes crinkle at the corners when he smiles and Dabi feels warm all over. “Neither of us deserve what happened. I know that. I just sometimes get upset with myself that it took so long for me to see the truth.”

Dabi can understand that frustration a little better, tightening his grip on Hawks’s wrist and using it to pull him onto the couch with him, wrapping his arms around Hawks’s neck so he can press his face against Hawks’s shoulder. The quiet wraps around them, a soothing warmth that Dabi enjoys more than he wants to let on in soft moments like this one. Hawks pulls Dabi tight against his chest, hands smoothing up and down his back, following the line of his spine.

“The only thing I don’t regret or second guess is you,” Hawks murmurs against his ear and Dabi’s ears twitch, his tail wagging quickly at the words. “There’s not a single thing I regret about us. Finding you, the scars, the hard work, the struggling, all to get here? I’d do it all again.”

Dabi leans back to butt their foreheads together. “Same. This thing is just… it’s the best thing I’ve ever had in my life and I appreciate every damn second of it.”

The sound of soft footsteps on the staircase alerts Dabi to their visitor in time to look up, Tomura padding down the stairs in the change of clothing Dabi had left on the sink for him. The pajamas are one of many sets because Dabi likes to lounge around in soft things when they have nothing to do, taking advantage of everything he was denied when his life was forcibly ended before it could truly begin. The pattern is cute, little paw prints.

“Hi, Tomura.” Hawks waves a hand at him and Tomura’s tail sways slowly in answer, his eyes darting between them. Dabi can’t read anything but curiosity there but he’s still worried, of course. “You enjoy the bath? Want Dabi to take you up to your bedroom?”

Tomura gives a quick nod and Hawks gives Dabi a quick kiss on the cheek before sending him on his way; it hardly surprises him when Tomura takes him by the arm once more, furiously scent marking his shoulder on their way back upstairs. He’s sure Hawks must have noticed by now and he knows they’ll have to sit down and talk about what that means and everything that might come after this because scent marking is serious, even in a friendly sense. And his owner, top of his hybrid behavior field, would have picked up on the most obvious sign of all.

The bedroom is clear and all sorts of soothing, the scents hanging in the air masking the cleaner well and making the space feel warm and inviting. Tomura yawns and finally lets Dabi’s arm go, pulling himself up onto the mattress and underneath the comforter, burrito-ing himself in the bedspread. Dabi lets him get comfortable before perching on the edge of the mattress, brushing his fingers through Tomura’s hair gently, smiling when Tomura purrs softly up at him.

“You get some rest, okay? We’re going to be right here when you wake up, so you don’t have to worry about us going anywhere just like Hawks said. The whole day is for you.” Dabi watches Tomura’s soft periwinkle eyelashes flutter as he lays his head on the pillow. “Would you like me to close the door on my way out so you have some privacy?”

Tomura thinks it over before giving a small nod and Dabi presses their cheeks together before he lets himself out, pulling the door together as gently as he can. He knows he’ll have to listen for the inevitable nightmares, remembers how many sleepless nights he suffered when he first came here even though his first day was relatively tame. Tomura will need time to adjust, to work through whatever trauma he’d suffered, and Dabi can only hope that Yagi and his people are able to track down the people responsible and bring them to justice.

For now, Dabi walks back downstairs to return to cuddling on the couch with Hawks and relishing the life he’s been able to build because someone found him and gave him a chance at another life. He can do this for Tomura; they both can. Having a shitty life doesn’t mean he can’t have a bright and beautiful future, and Dabi will make sure they do everything they can to give him that chance.

Anything less is just not acceptable.

Chapter Text

The nightmare is a familiar one. Tomura has the same dream almost every time he falls asleep, one that leaves his throat raw and his hands bloody as he struggles to claw his way out of it.

The man who offers Tomura his hands is tall, dressed in a suit and imposing in ways that Tomura, at eight years old, can never begin to express in words. But he has no one and nothing; everyone is gone, everyone has left him. He remembers his parents vaguely but their faces are a mystery to him now; he remembers his father’s disappointment but can never remember what he did to make the man feel that way toward him. What he does remember is that his father never hugged him, never touched him, and avoided his ears entirely.

But the man who picks Tomura off of the dusty floor strokes his ears gently, hushing him when Tomura starts to cry. “You’re safe now,” he says, letting Tomura lean heavily into his chest, chin resting on top of his head. “No one is going to hurt you anymore.”

Tomura is only ever hurt after that. He never learns the man’s name. All he learns is that he was worth a significant amount of money at eight years old, enough that he passes hands quickly to a long and never-ending line of men and women who do nothing but hurt him.

The pain is always sharp in the nightmares. Feet kicking him, boots digging into his ribs until they break, his arms wrenched behind his back and his legs kicked from under him every time he tries to run. Cruel fingers pinching his ears, pulling them until Tomura shook from the pain, shook and begged and pleaded. Cruel hands dragging him by the tail, the white hot agony shooting up his back and making him shake.

He remembers pain, he remembers hands reaching for him only to grip him by the hair, smashing his head into the wall. Voices reprimanding him, disappointment and anger and disgust lacing their words. He remembers curling up into the smallest ball he possibly can, trying to hide himself away from these people and their cruel words, and he remembers being dragged out of that safety again and again until nothing and no one ever felt safe again.

The last home is the worst home. Tomura was so weak he could do nothing to fight back and defend himself. He doesn’t want to use his claws because that means hurting someone so he never does, forcing himself to endure because he does not want to hurt anyone, never wanted to and never will. The pain threatens to drive him to the edge of sanity over and over again; he’s punished for every word he dares to speak until no sound comes out of his throat, until he can only respond in minute movements because anything more grand earns a kick, a punch.

The taste of blood on his tongue. Rough hands gripping his chin, holding him in place for another smack. Pain and anguish and Tomura screaming inside, so loud he could burst—

The room is unfamiliar to him. His head is clogged with cotton and nothing makes sense to him, the bed underneath him one he does not know or remember. Fear jolts through his entire body as he darts off of the mattress, struggling to find somewhere to hide, somewhere no one will find him. The bed is raised off of the floor just enough for him. He throws himself down on the hardwood, ignoring the pain that flares through his knees and hands, and drags himself beneath it, flattening his body to fit as much of himself under as he can.

Footsteps sound and he presses his hands to his mouth, his eyes already wet. Tears slowly escape his eyes, dripping down toward the floor, dampening his hair and pooling on the side of his nose. His neck itches and his face itches but he dares not move as the bedroom door swings open, curling his tail around his hips so it can’t move and betray his position.

“I heard him screaming.” The voice pings something in his head but Tomura only cowers away at the sound of it. All human voices are bad. All human voices bring pain. “I don’t… Dabi, did he leave the room? The door was shut and I didn’t hear it opening.”

“I would have.” Dabi! The name, the voice, the scent— Tomura knows this hybrid and his heart throbs with longing. Longing for Dabi’s warmth and security, his gentle smile and his careful hands and his knowing smile because Dabi had suffered everything Tomura had. “He didn’t leave the bedroom, which means he’s hiding. That’s… Not an abnormal response.”

The human’s voice is a sigh. “Under the bed, probably. Stand back. I’ve got this one.”

Tomura wants to scream but he can’t, his body trembling as the human comes to the bed, his feet visible before his entire legs are, his hands coming after. He lies himself down on the hardwood on his back, tilting his head to meet Tomura’s eyes and Tomura’s tail lashes madly through the air, smacking against the underside of the bed and the floor, the terrified thumps echoing in the quiet. His ears flatten back on his head.

“Kitten,” the human murmurs, and Tomura’s heart skids to a stop at the word, the fondness wrapped around it. “Did you have a bad dream? Is that why you’re hiding from me?”

Tomura wants to say something, even just a confirmation. Yes. A nightmare. But nothing comes out and he reaches for his throat, nails digging into the skin where so many collars have resided. Some of the fabrics were awful, the texture too rough on his skin, or making him break out in hives, or the heavy metal ones that made his collarbones ache.

“Don’t scratch, sweetheart. You’ll hurt yourself.” The human stretches out his arm and Tomura’s eyes widen in horror, scrambling away from the edge of the bed. “I’m not going to touch you. Look, I’m just going to lie my hand here. See? It’s okay.”

The human’s hand lies limply on the floor, palm up. Tomura debates the sight but doesn’t move any closer. The human seems familiar but that only frightens him more. Familiar humans are humans who have hurt him, who beat him and starved him and locked him away in rooms away from prying eyes so they could do whatever they wanted to do to him.

This human has Dabi and Tomura’s heart constricts at the thought. Don’t hurt him!

He could attack this human. He doesn’t like to hurt people but he could do it, could claw him open and take Dabi and run somewhere far from here where the two of them could be safe and happy with each other. Tomura doesn’t remember so many of the names he’s heard over the years but he remembers Dabi. Dabi, with his burn scars and his soft blue eyes and his reassurances that he would do everything he could to make sure the two of them could have a real future where no one ever hurt them again.

“You remember me?” The human asks, and Tomura’s heart thuds violently against his ribs. Humans I know are bad. Humans I know hurt me. Humans I know hurt Dabi! “I’m Hawks. You came here this morning. I made you breakfast and Dabi put you in the bath.”

Something tugs at Tomura’s mind, something through the haze of fear stretched across his mind; Hawks? The name is familiar to him but he doesn’t have painful memories surrounding it, and that makes his head hurt. Confused. All the humans Tomura knows are bad humans, humans who treated him like less of a person and more of an animal, or like a doll they could throw around, could break because it would be easy to put him back together again.

They didn’t care that none of the pieces they glued back together fit right.

“Hawks,” Dabi says, and his voice is uncertain and frightened and Tomura wants to scream . He wants to fight, he wants to protect Dabi the way Dabi tried to protect him, the way Tomura could never protect himself. “Is he okay? He hasn’t hurt himself getting under there, has he?”

“No, Dabi.” The way the human says Dabi’s name is soft, and warm, and Tomura frowns, his tail lashing again. It doesn’t make sense. Humans are bad. “He’s not hurt. He’s just had a very bad dream and he’s very scared right now. You know Dabi, Tomura?”

Tomura’s mouth opens around a silent sound, the way his own name rolls off of this human’s tongue making his head hurt worse. No human has ever said his name like this and he doesn’t know what to make of it or how to feel. The human— Hawks— smiles gently at him and some of the fear dissipates, something in Tomura desperately trying to remind him that this human is good, this human loves Dabi, this human gave me food and touched me gently.

“I’m right here, Tomura.” Dabi’s voice cuts through the cloud of panic and Tomura’s ears twitch at the sound of his voice, a tiny mewl slipping out of his mouth. “That’s right. It’s me. You just had a bad dream. You’re safe here, remember? We’re taking care of you.”

Hawks nods once. “That’s right. Come on out, kitten. I know you’re scared. I know you’ve probably had an awful nightmare that scared you so bad that you’re not even sure where you are right now. It’s okay to come out. I won’t hurt you.”

Tomura debates that; when have humans ever told him the truth? But he eases forward just enough to nose the human’s fingers, pick up Hawks’s scent on his skin. That finally gets through to him. It’s like a warm summer breeze, the air brushing over the greenest grass and the bloomed flowers and the cool rivers, picking up hints of everything into itself. Hawks, the human who took Dabi in and held him, the human who touched Tomura so carefully and made him the best food he’s eaten in years. Hawks, who wants to take care of him.

The shame that creeps up the back of his neck makes him curl into himself; he’d hidden himself away from the one human who was ever nice to him. He doesn’t deserve kindness.

“Come here, baby.” Hawks’s voice is so soothing and warm, and he opens his hand a little more in offering. “I promise I’m not mad at you. You just had a bad dream and got scared. Happens to the best of us. But it’s cramped under there, so why don’t you come out?”

Tomura takes Hawks’s hand in his own, rough palm and callused fingers but so warm, and lets Hawks draw him out from under the bed and into his own waiting arms, sitting up as soon as Tomura does so he can embrace him. No human has ever hugged him other than the first and the thought makes his stomach hurt but Hawks doesn’t feel like that human did. He doesn’t smell like betrayal and lies wrapped up in cloyingly sweet words.

“It’s okay.” Hawks rubs a hand up and down his back, chin resting on top of Tomura’s head when Tomura curls up small against his chest, clinging to him as tightly as he can. “I know you must have been through so much, but I’m here for you. I’m going to make sure no one ever hurts you again and that you can be happy here with Dabi.”

The sound of springs creaking has Tomura turning to see Dabi sitting on the edge of the bed— his bed, he realizes— and his tail sways through the air at the sight of his only friend.

Dabi smiles gently at him, his tail wagging in answer. “It’s okay, Tomura,’ he says, and if Dabi says it’s okay, then it must be. Tomura trusts him. “We’ve got you now.”

As much as Tomura wants to go to him, there’s something warm and safe about Hawks’s arms that he doesn’t want to lose right now; he mewls softly instead and Dabi comes down onto the floor with him, pressing himself against Tomura’s back; Hawk’s arms move to accommodate both of them without a word, without a concern or an eye-roll or anything. Tomura feels so secure between the two of them like nothing bad could ever touch him now, could ever pick him apart at the seams and leave him broken and bleeding.

“Good job, kitten.” Hawks’s fingers rub the spot between his ears and Tomura purrs faintly at the touch, pressing up into it. Humans have been so cruel to him that Hawks’s gentle touch leaves him reeling, but only in a good way. “You came out all on your own. I’m so proud of you.”

He sounds like he means it. Tomura doesn’t know how to respond to that.

“You wanna go back to bed?” Dabi runs his fingers through Tomura’s hair and that combined with Hawks’s gentle petting is almost too much for Tomura to take at once, his entire body vibrating with his purrs. “I can stay with you this time if you need me to.”

When they shared a home together, Dabi slept with him every night. It got both of them in trouble more times than Tomura can count but it let him sleep through the long nights without having so many nightmares it felt like he never slept at all, Dabi always warm security with Tomura wrapped up tight in his arms. The thought of Dabi holding him while he sleeps again has a much louder mewl slipping past his lips, his tail curling around Dabi’s wrist meaningfully.

“Okay.” Dabi smiles softly at him and Tomura manages a small smile in return. He’s so overwhelmed by Dabi, so happy to have him back, to see him again and to know he’s healthy. “Come on, let’s get back in bed. You’ve only been asleep for a couple of hours.”

He stands and holds his hands out, Tomura taking one of them, but the other remains twisted in Hawks’s shirt, unwilling to let him go. Maybe it’s selfishness. But Hawks looks at him with such gentle eyes, the color a warm and somehow reassuring brown that Tomura wants to wrap himself up in. He stays on the floor between them, chewing on his lower lip.

“I think he wants you to join us, Hawks,” Dabi murmurs, and his voice sounds… Relieved?

Hawks’s fingers slip beneath Tomura’s chin, tilting his head so slowly, so carefully, until Tomura is looking up into his eyes again. “Is that what you want, kitten? You want both of us to stay with you while you sleep? You can have that if it’s what you want. Just nod your head.”

Tomura wants to cry. His lips tremble at how soothing Hawks’s voice is, how careful his words are, how he makes it so easy to answer him without having to speak. Tomura nods his head just once, a nervous little jerk, and Hawks smiles at him, touches his cheek gently before he unwinds Tomura’s fingers from his shirt, holding his hand so gently as he stands. Together, he and Dabi help Tomura to his feet, the two of them moving so fluidly it’s shocking.

Dabi lays down on the bed first, fixing the comforter before pulling it up over himself, patting the space beside him. Eagerly, Tomura throws himself into the spot, the motion jerking Hawks down onto the bed with him when he doesn’t think to let Hawks go first. He mewls an apology, his ears flattening against his scalp. Why do you keep messing up? You don’t deserve good things!

“You’re fine, Tomura. You’re okay.” Hawks’s hand is back on his face and Tomura’s breath hitches at how tender his voice is, how his fingers touch with no malice, no anger. “I was just startled at how strong you are, not angry with you. It’s all right, kitten.”

That nickname, again. Tomura’s tail sways softly at the sound of it, his ears perking back up just a little. It takes a few more gentle touches and soothing words before he finally relaxes, Dabi drawing him down onto the bed with him; Tomura mewls softly, rolling onto his side so he can see Dabi, so he can touch him and so Dabi can touch him, too, if he wants to. He’s just a little startled when Hawks lies down right behind him, an arm slipping under Tomura’s body to wrap around his waist. He can feel Hawks’s chest against his back, his breathing so slow and easy; Tomura doesn’t even think about it, trying to match his breathing to that.

“Good job.” Dabi leans in, pressing their foreheads together, and Tomura’s eyelashes flutter at the sensation. He’s so warm like this, so toasty with the comforter on top of them, the pajamas Dabi gave him and their bodies bracketing him like this. “Close your eyes and relax. Let us keep you safe from the bad dreams. You’re going to be okay now.”

Hawks’s other arm crosses over Tomura’s body to rest on top of Dabi’s hip and Tomura tilts his head just slightly, dragging his cheek against Hawks’s skin as his eyelids begin to flutter. It’s almost instinctual; this is Dabi’s human and Tomura has to mark him. He thinks he sees Dabi’s eyes widen just slightly but then he smiles, so he can’t be that angry.

“Sleep, kitten.” Hawks’s chest moves against his back with the words; the minute movements are so careful, as if he’s trying not to jostle Tomura at all. “We’ve got you. You’re safe and sound, just like Dabi said.”

Tomura doesn’t know how long he sleeps, not for sure. But the nightmares do not come back.

Chapter Text

When Izuku walks into the office on Monday morning juggling a carrier of hot coffees and a stack of paperwork that threatens to topple over at any moment, some sense of routine has finally returned to the office. The weekend had been a tense affair; the rescue mission that resulted in the salvation of Shigaraki Tomura had been on Thursday evening and the office had been like a thundercloud ready to burst all weekend. Now that the dust has had time to settle and they can reorient themselves properly for the future, everything is fine.

Well, not fine. Everything is back to normal as far as their careers go, which is just as well.

The Specialized Hybrid Crimes Division was never a place where people were fine; you could only look at what they did every day and be okay, but you were never quite the same person. The job depended on that fact; the drive to end the atrocities they saw reflected in poorly-shot videos and online trafficking ads on seedy backdoor dark web chat rooms made the best agents. Once the job became just another job, something to be cynical about instead of hopeful about, the agent in question was usually too far gone to truly depend on them anymore.

Their job was about helping hybrids. Wanting to help them was the first order on the application.

As soon as she sees him, Jirou Kyouka pushes herself up from her desk to take the coffee carrier, flashing him a tired smile that tells him all he needs to know. He wasn’t the only one who regularly slept few hours to work as late into the evening as possible. “Morning, Midoriya.”

“Morning, Jirou. Thanks for the help.” Izuku sets the paperwork in hand on his desk, dropping down in his chair before retrieving her order from the carrier and handing it over. “I don’t need to ask to know last night must have been rough. It just looks like it was. Anything new?”

“No. No matter how much we pour over the tips we’ve gotten, there’s just not enough to go off of. Waiting for our dark web wonderboy just takes too much time.” Jirou takes a sip of her coffee and makes a content noise before heading back to her desk. “Thanks for the coffee. Yagi-san is on his way in now, he got caught in traffic on the way but he’ll be here pretty soon.”

At the desk across from his, Ochaco gives him a sympathetic expression as he passes her coffee to her. “You stayed up all night looking for him again, didn’t you? You have to sleep.”

“I keep thinking there must have been something I missed, that surely they’d have dropped a bread crumb or something. But nothing.” Izuku takes his coffee and sets the last one at the desk beside his, confident Kirishima can find it on his own when he shows up. “Finding Shigaraki just reaffirmed how badly I wanted to find him, I suppose. It’s my whole mission in life at this point.”

“Just don’t let it eat you up too much. We need you around here, too.” Ochaco pats him on the hand and Izuku smiles kindly at her and nods. “Any recent news on Shigaraki, by the way?”

Izuku nods, setting the coffee carrier in the small trash can they share before drawing the email out of the file folder on top of his stack. “He said that Shigaraki is handling things just as any other hybrid would, which isn’t necessarily good but it’s expected, so he can handle it.”

“He must have gone through a lot to be where he is today, so I’m not surprised.” Ochaco scans the email before passing it back to him with a small nod. “I’m just glad he’s safe now.”

“Me, too. He looked so bad when we found him.” Izuku presses his lips together; he’s had a nightmare or two about that night even if it did go perfectly because what if it hadn’t .

In the past, other rescue attempts have not gone so perfectly. There has been no tragedy akin to Hawks’s last mission, that much Izuku knows, but there have still been issues and more than once, Jirou’s tranquilizer skills have stood between him and severe injury. When hybrids were afraid or protective, when their instincts to preserve their lives at all costs were triggered, they would do anything they had to do. It did not matter if the threat they perceived was true or not, and Izuku never held it against them. Only a fool would blame instinct on conscious thought.

The evidence is present everywhere, most of them mellowing out once they’ve had a chance to rest and wake up somewhere safe. When Izuku had seen the pictures of Hawks’s arms after his rescue of Dabi, it had almost almost been enough to scare him away from the training necessary to maintain his position, but when he finally met Hawks in person, he had seen how well Dabi responded to him, how well they worked together. That solidified his resolve further.

He has the luxury of not being the only hybrid behaviorist in their division. They also have Koda and when he comes back from being on loan up north, they’ll have Mirio, too. Hawks had been on his own, but his hard work and preservation meant they could hire more people, able to train more behaviorist with a basic framework to start with. Even not here, the man’s influence is still spreading wider and wider, and Izuku would like to think that’s what he would want now that he no longer has the ability to work alongside the rest of them. People rising to take up his mantle.

A flash of familiar blond hair at the doorway has Izuku looking up from his coffee to see their captain finally appearing, his hybrid not far from his side. “Good morning, everyone.”

“Morning, Captain” Everyone singsongs from where they are, most of them not looking up.

“Good morning, Aizawa-san.” Izuku lifts a hand in greeting and the cat hybrid in question gives the captain a once over before walking over for a proper hello befitting a hybrid.

“Good morning, Midoriya.” Aizawa leans down so Izuku can stroke his ears, velvety soft with little tufts of hair at the very tips. “You stayed up too late again. Toshi won’t like that.”

“Gotta do what I gotta do, right? How’s he been doing this morning?” Izuku fights the urge to look around Aizawa to see for himself. Human behavior is a little more difficult than hybrid.

Aizawa sighs softly and rubs the top of his head against Izuku’s offered palm, his tail swishing slow and easy through the air behind him. “Slept okay. Mostly he’s just worried about Tomura-kun, but Hawks says things are normal so far. Normal isn’t good, but it’s normal.”

“Normal at least means he’s on the right path,” Izuku says, and Aizawa hums in agreement.

The moment Aizawa’s ears perk up and his tail stills, Izuku leans away from him and the cat goes promptly back to their captain’s side, letting Yagi Toshinori use his shoulders as an armrest, his own slender arms bracing Yagi around the waist to help him to his office. Though Yagi could have retired on that injury with honor and been fine for the rest of his life, he kept coming back for more. The only change he made to his life was when Aizawa insisted on being certified as a service hybrid so he could freely assist Yagi as needed.

It was another newer field and one Hawks helped pioneer in his own way as well. Hybrid behavior becoming a legitimate field when his work had turned positive results meant he could expand, and proving that hybrids were well-qualified to assist humans was not really that large of a leap to make. Izuku himself had done a dissertation about it in university.

“Izuku,” Aizawa calls after a moment, “can you please come here?”

Picking up his cup of coffee, Izuku excuses himself and heads to the office.

When he first came to work here, it had been on the heels of Todoroki Enji’s betrayal of the division, his reveal as a hybrid trafficker who used his insider knowledge to avoid the law, Hawks’s retirement, and Yagi’s serious injury. A turbulent period to be sure, but Izuku wanted it bad and, as a result, had watched the photographs in the room slowly shift and change. There had been many of Enji when he was first hired; all of them had been trashed since then.

“Sorry to drag you in here so early, Midoriya.” Yagi waves a hand at Aizawa, who closes the door once Izuku steps inside. “I just received the decision on Bakugou Katsuki’s case and I wanted to share it with you in private as soon as possible.”

The words have Izuku’s stomach churning and he sips his coffee to steady himself as he sits slowly in front of one of the padded chairs in front of Yagi’s desk. His eyes dart toward the slim manila folder on the desk, and he tells himself to breathe slowly, that if they turned it down then he can keep going on his own. There is always help their anonymous hacker information will turn up with information, of course, but Izuku wants it to be official. The appeals process is hard.

“Shigaraki’s rescue having come over a decade after the fact helped. He’s the tenth hybrid we’ve saved after such an extended period of time just over the last two years.” Yagi slides the folder across to him and Izuku wants to cry. “You’re in luck. The case is staying open.”

A shuddering breath leaves Izuku’s chest as he sets his coffee down and picks up the folder, all of the information about Bakugou Katsuki carefully tucked inside. “Thank you, Sir.”

“That we found Shigaraki on our own without the help of any informations helped to soften the opinion on the case, I believe. They see us as truly competent and able to handle things as needed on our own.” Yagi leans back in his seat and exhales slowly, and Izuku thinks he sees peace written across the man’s features. “Between us, I’m so proud of you for being able to cajole him into your arms. The tranquilizers do not hurt, but…”

He trails off, but Izuku fills in the blanks for him. “But it’s great when we don’t have to use them. That’s one of the reasons you’ve got hybrid behaviorists in this division.”

“Exactly. And privately, I think it would have broken my heart.” Yagi spins in his chair, his eyes drifting along one of the walls, and Izuku looks toward the photograph he knows is there.

When the case had first come to them, Yagi had shown him the picture. It was taken when Izuku was still a child and before the bullet wound, Yagi standing tall and strong and proud smiling for the camera with a small boy in the crook of his arm. Wide crimson eyes peer toward the camera from beneath soft tendrils of pale blue bangs, ears perked up. The child looks happy, there’s no disguising that even though the image is still. Izuku now knows the child in the photo.

Shigaraki Tomura. He had grown up with Yagi in his life until suddenly, he was gone.

“It would have broken Nana’s heart, too.” Aizawa comes to sit on the edge of the desk, his eyes fixed on the photo as well. “To hear that we had to do that to him.”

“Nana is Shigaraki’s grandmother, correct?” Izuku asks, watching the two of them.

Yagi finally turns back to face him, nodding as a long sigh leaves his chest. “Yes. She wants to see him, but Hawks and I have both agreed that it’s in his best interest to remain with them until he recognizes familiar faces once more. The only face he seems to remember is Dabi’s.”

“That makes sense. Dabi was the most recent face he would have remembered.” Izuku has seen it happen before. “The trauma would have erased chunks of his memory while his brain tried to block out the worst of what he went through. Even things he wanted to remember.”

“It’s a sad fact, but it’s understandable. It’s going to be difficult for him when he remembers all of that, but at least he’ll be able to see Nana again when it does.” Yagi runs a hand down his face and though he looks happier than he has in a long time, the man is haggard. “Dabi took quite a while to remember his siblings’ faces as well. Fuyumi and Natsuo were overjoyed.”

The words feel like a sudden punch to the gut. “Wait, siblings? I didn’t realize Dabi had siblings. Isn’t his father… Did that mean he— Please tell me he didn’t.”

“He didn’t,” Aizawa says, and Izuku slowly relaxes as he leans back in his chair, his eyes falling shut as the truth washes over him. “He was trying to breed hybrids out of Rei so he could market them that way. Dabi came out a hybrid, but Fuyumi and Natsuo came out human. So he couldn’t use them the way he wanted to. And he had to wait until Dabi was old enough to properly traffic off. Newborns aren’t much desired because you have to take care of them.”

“They were old enough to remember his face,” Yagi murmurs, squeezing his eyes shut.

Izuku’s hands shake on the arms of his chair and he grips the wood to stabilize himself. “I hate him,” he says, and he means it with everything he has. “I want to find him. Bring him to justice.”

“We all do. The state Dabi was in when Hawks finally found him was more than enough to turn even the few people upstairs who were still rooting for him against him.” Aizawa’s tail flops limp against the top of the desk and he sighs, leaning back on it, hands braced on the glossy surface and almost turning over the cup of pens in the process. “Barely got there in time, you know. Todoroki was burning that place to the damned ground with the kid still locked inside.”

“I’ve only heard bits and pieces around the office,” Izuku confesses. “Never anything directly and I didn’t want to chase the story down. It felt… Inappropriate to do so.”

Aizawa hums thoughtfully, his tail flicking out to dust over Izuku’s knuckles. “Good boy. So the division spent months hunting down any kind of information after Todoroki left, and Hawks finally honed in on a location. Dabi was in and out of his care because Todoroki would get ahold of him over and over and just sell him for higher and higher prices. I think it probably broke a part of him when he realized that’s all he ever was to his father.”

The thought makes Izuku’s stomach twist in an uncomfortable knot and he stares down at his coffee, no longer in the mood to finish it. “That’s… That’s so awful.”

“It is,” Yagi agrees, “but Shouta isn’t lying to you. Most of the paperwork was incinerated, but we salvaged some of it before it was too late. When Enji realized we were there, he lit the building on fire and planned on just leaving Dabi there to die. I suppose he decided he’d maximized his profits. He only stayed around because he wanted to finish Hawks off himself before he left.”

“Hawks was the one that found him so it’s only natural.” Just the same, Aizawa makes a disgusted sound and stretches out a hand, running his fingers through Yagi’s hair. All hybrids like touch, at least all of the hybrids Izuku has met. The only ones who haven’t are rare, so badly abused that touch seems too risky to them. “Toshi told me he was on that day and night until he finally found the location. It was only natural that Todoroki wanted to kill him for it.”

“Ruined his profit margin.” Yagi laughs dryly and Izuku’s stomach tosses. “He was going to let Dabi stay there to die. I keep coming back to that. He hid from us and counted on us coming to get him when he started screaming. Because he knew that Hawks couldn’t let a hybrid in distress go, it goes against everything he was and still is. And when Hawks went to get him, Enji was there to shoot him. He really would have killed him.”

“Why— Why didn’t he? I’m sure the gun had more than one bullet in it. I don’t understand why he only shot you and then left.” Izuku feels awful for his phrasing, not sure how to soften it.

Aizawa sighs and tips his head back, dark eyes fixed on the ceiling, his tail swishing behind him in fast, sudden flicks that Izuku knows how to read all too easily. “He was afraid.”

“He didn’t expect me to be right behind Hawks. He thought his plan was perfect. I think it shocked him a little when he realized I was the one he’d shot. He dropped the gun and bolted.” Yagi presses a hand to his side and Izuku nods once; he remembers the stories, the surgeries and the treatments and Aizawa’s pleading to do the paperwork because Izuku was someone they could trust and they needed it done fast. Certifying a service hybrid is hard.

Yagi shakes his head. “But at least that part of the story is in the past. Dabi is better now and we don’t have any evidence that Todoroki Rei gave birth to any more children before we found her.”

“The poor woman is still in psychiatric care because of what Todoroki did to her.” Aizawa’s voice is dark and Izuku can sympathize with that. “So as you can see, it’s… Important we find him because he’s our mess to clean up, but personally I just want to see him rot in prison.”

“I’m amazed that Dabi is in the state he’s in today. I saw the burn scars but I knew about that part, but even then, it’s amazing that Hawks was able to bring him back from that.” Izuku had seen the photographs of Hawks’s scars, and he knew better than most just what kind of state a hybrid would have to be in to create wounds like that out of instinct and fear and not out of purposeful intent to do harm. Or kill. “I guess Hawks really is as good as everyone says he is. I hope I’m half as good at this job as he is one day.”

Aizawa swings his legs around so he can lean over, resting his hand on top of Izuku’s head. The warm weight of it stabilizes him, and he wonders if he’s been spending too much time with other hybrids lately. “You will be great at this job. I can tell, and I’m always right. Besides, you aren’t the only one here. Hawks was. So you don’t have the same pressure, which is good. Don’t try to improve at that breakneck pace because it’s not going to be good for you.”

“Admittedly, I would have pushed for Hawks to retire after the Dabi incident even if he hadn’t decided to do it on his own. He needed the break. After Enji’s betrayal and finding Dabi like that, I don’t think I would have thought Hawks able to continue here.” Yagi drags his hands down his face and Izuku feels bad for dragging all of this up even though knowing the details is always more helpful than not knowing them. “Your friend, Bakugou Katsuki. We’ll do everything we can to find him to make sure we don’t have another Dabi incident on our hands.”

The thought of finding Kacchan in this state makes Izuku physically ill but it strengthens his resolve all the more to find him and bring him home like he swore he would. “Absolutely. I promised his parents I’d do everything it took to bring him home to them.”

“Good boy. He’s got a good friend looking out for him. I wish half of humanity was as kind as you are, Midoriya. I’d sleep better at night.” Aizawa’s eyes have heavy bags under them and it makes Izuku wonder if Aizawa has been sleeping at all recently. “Toshi, are we going to open a betting pool around the office? How long is it going to take for Hawks to give Shigaraki a nickname? Bet it’ll be some insufferable shit like kitten . That’s my guess.”

“Uh?” Izuku glances between the two of them, startled when Yagi laughs and drops his head forward toward the desk. “What are you two talking about now?”

Aizawa folds his hands behind his head, rubbing at one of his own ears thoughtfully for a moment before heaving a sigh. “LIke, I’m sure I’ve said it to you before but it drives me crazy when people treat hybrids like animals. ‘Cause we’re not. But it also pisses me off when no one wants to talk about the animal side of things either, like we’re just weird humans. We aren’t.”

“Oh, yeah, I can understand that. Some of the hybrids I trained with for this position talked a bit about that. It’s not really one or the other, but it’s both, so ignoring one in favor of the other just makes them feel bad.” Izuku took copious notes and color-coded them to boot, determined to understand everything he could. “So, like, if we treated you like a person and didn’t acknowledge the cat part of you, it’d be like saying that part of you was lesser or not worth acknowledgement. Dehumanizing you is also just as bad, obviously.”

“You’re such a bright kid. That gives me so much hope for your future ‘cause I really like having you around here very selfishly. I like you and Koda and Mirio, honestly. You treat hybrids right, it makes me happy.” Aizawa pats him on top of the head again and Izuku doesn’t bother to disguise his bright grin at the praise. “But yeah, essentially. When Hawks brought Dabi in, he started calling him pup. I think it was the first time Dabi ever got to think about the hybrid part of him in a positive way.”

Yagi nods, splaying his hands out in front of him. “Dabi saw his siblings get to have relatively normal lives and he knew what the difference between them was. So that part of him, he hated it. I was there when he broke down to Hawks about it in the hospital. Hawks was the first person who ever opened his eyes to the fact it was… Just a part of him. Not bad or good.”

“We’re not trafficked because we’re partially human. We’re trafficked because of these.” Aizawa thumbs over one of his ears, and it flicks a few times after. “It’s a fetish, or a way to treat us as less. It’s just… You start to think of it like a bad thing after a while. I know I did. I know Dabi did. If you ever get to meet Amajiki-kun, it’s much the same. He’s Mirio’s kitty cat.”

Izuku nods slowly; Mirio loved to talk about his hybrid. “I hear he’s on the nervous side.”

“Oh, he is, he’ll never show up here because it’s got bad memories for him.” Aizawa waves a hand and then focuses his attention back on Izuku. “Anyway. So you start to hate that part of yourself. There’s certain surgeons, and they like… For the right price, they’ll alter hybrids so they look human. You can’t fix all of it. It’s mostly cosmetic. You can chop ears and tails off.”

The thought has Izuku’s stomach roiling even though he knows this is true and he thinks he should have eaten something before coming in to work because the coffee is not sitting well on his stomach, but he’d probably be vomiting right now if he had. “I knew, but it’s just… Awful.”

“For some hybrids, it starts to feel like the only chance they have at a real life after what they’ve gone through.” Yagi stretches out a hand, resting it in the curve of Aizawa’s waist, and Aizawa mewls down at him, the sound a little lower than most cats’ meows but there’s a sweet, melodic quality to it. He’s happy at the contact. He’s happy in general. “But Hawks was the first person who ever made Dabi feel safe, and here he was acknowledging the part of him that Dabi had always hated, but in a gentle and positive way. Not relegating him to just that, but just… Acknowledging it. I think it helped, in a way.”

Aizawa nods thoughtfully, his hand coming to rest on top of Yagi’s, petting his fingers almost absently. “He still calls him that. Like I said he’ll give Shigaraki a nickname if he wants one.”

“Well, here’s to hoping that everything goes well between them no matter what happens. I want Shigaraki to be happy. All hybrids should be, but…” Izuku stares down at the manila folder on his lap, the one with Kacchan’s name on it. “But I saw how he was up close, and I remember thinking he was probably sweet-tempered. It hurts to think of— Of kind hybrids being hurt.”

“You’re a such a softie bleeding heart. I really like you.” Aizawa leans forward, both of his hands coming to rest on Izuku’s shoulders, and the intensity in his gaze makes Izuku sink back into the chair just a little bit. “Don’t change. Your friend’s gonna need this when we find him.”

When. Not if. The distinction makes Izuku smile. “I won’t, Aizawa-san. Thank you for the vote of confidence. It means a lot coming from both of you.”

“Of course, Midoriya.” Yagi stands and leans across the desk— he makes a small noise of pain and Aizawa is already off of the desk and rounding it so Yagi can lean against him— and Izuku stands to take the hand he offers. “Thank you for this talk. Let me know if you find anything.”

“Of course.” Izuku shakes his hand; his grip is still firm. “Thank you, too. For everything.”

When Izuku returns to his desk with Bakugou’s folder in hand, his heart a little lighter and his shoulders a little heavier, Kirishima has made himself visible at his own desk, a spread of paperwork in front of him and his coffee balanced precariously on a box of paperclips. Typical Kirishima fashion, but Izuku smiles just the same as he sits back down in his chair and adds the folder to the stack already in front of him. He will make good on this promise.

“Can I see?” Kirishima has already snatched the folder before Izuku can speak, flipping it open. “Oh, cute kid. This the childhood friend you were telling us all about when you joined?”

“That’s Kacchan. We grew up together and he was taken when we were still children. I’m determined to get him back one way or another.” Izuku waits until Kirishima has finished with the folder before taking it back, adding it to his pile. “When Mirio gets back, we’re going to have to head up to check on Akaguro. I’m not sure if I’m excited for that or not.”

Kaminari, in front of Kirishima, whistles low in his throat. “He still giving them trouble, huh?”

“I didn’t want to commit him, but it was Mirio’s call to make as my superior and we had to do what was best for everyone involved.” Committing a hybrid feels too much like giving up, like they didn’t do enough to calm them down and center them, to give them an anchor to cling to while they made their way back to the world. “It’s just… Hard with hybrids who fight.”

Ochaco’s face is sympathetic as she leans over to pat him on the arm. “Don’t worry about it. I was there, you did your best. He listened to you. We just… Moved too close to him.”

“He was upset no matter what I said to him. I think he would’ve jumped me, too, if I got too close to him.” Still, it feels like he failed. “Maybe he’ll be in better shape and we can finally look into finding a home that would take him in. I’m really hoping for that.”

Kirishima punches him in the arm, although lightly. His punches at full force have broken faces; Izuku had seen the evidence when they had a smuggler attack. “Gonna send you good vibes, dude. Mirio will be back in a few days, anyway. Hope he enjoyed the break.”

“If he got to help someone, he enjoyed the break,” Kaminari says plaintively. “Hey, like, not to bring the personal life into work or anything but… What do you think my chances getting Sero to go out on a date with me are? For real. I want it straight.”

“You want it straight,” Kirishima parrots back to him. “Since when do you —”

Ochaco cuts him off, smiling sweetly at Kaminari as she sets a file on top of the pile he already has in front of him. “Your chances will be much better if you finish your work first.”

It’s another usual day for them, playful bickering and conversation a way to stay sane going through the obscene amount of paperwork they have. Every so often, Izuku takes a break to go over Bakugou’s files once more, confident he must have missed something that will open his eyes. He has hope, not just because he has to but because he promised, and he would never break a promise to Kacchan. And now, at least, he has the entire division behind him.

Chapter Text

A shriek has Hawks tumbling out of bed and narrowly cracking his skull on the nightstand.

“Shit.” He pushes himself up off of the floor and darts for the bedroom door, yanking it open just as Dabi’s feet touch down on the hardwood behind him. “Stay at least five feet back so we don’t crowd him. He’s not lashed out yet but I don’t want to give him a reason.”

He can feel Dabi’s nod, doesn’t have to turn around to see it, not really. When Dabi speaks, his voice comes out scratchy and rough with sleep. “Got it, babe. You take the lead.”

Hawks is done the hallway in seconds, wrenching open Tomura’s bedroom door and smacking the light switch on the wall more than flicking it, fumbling for a minute over the plaster before the room is flooded with light. Unsurprisingly, Tomura is not on the bed, but the closet door is cracked open just enough to tell Hawks where he’d taken off too this time after a nightmare. It’s been like this almost every night after the first nightmare during his afternoon nap, and it’s been a week since then. Distantly, Hawks wonders if there are bad memories surfacing when he tries to sleep that he isn’t able to share with them because he still won’t talk.

He lingers in the doorway for a moment, giving Tomura enough time to detect him by scent before he takes a single step into the room. “Tomura, I’m coming in. You’re in the closet, right? I’m going to walk over to you and sit in front of the door. You can come out when you want.”

After pausing a few beats to make sure Tomura has had time to process what he said, Hawks does as he said he would, sitting down on the floor just out of range of the door, leaving the space between him and the bedroom door open. Knowing better than to block the only point of exit, Dabi lingers in the hallway, giving them the space they need right now. Through the sliver of light spilling into the closet, Hawks can just make out pale blue hair and one frightened red eye before, ever so slowly, Tomura inches the door open wide enough to reveal his face.

“Hi, kitten.” Hawks wiggles his fingers in greeting, offers Tomura a gentle smile as he rests his back against the corner of the bed. “You had another bad dream, huh? I’m sorry about that.”

Tomura nods once, fright still lingering his gaze, but Hawks can see it slowly draining away the longer they sit here staring at one another. Though it would be egotistical to suggest such a thing outright, Hawks is starting to wonder if Tomura is comforted by his presence in the room after a nightmare, and it makes him think back to Dabi waiting for him in the hospital, how Dabi only had nights free of bad dreams when Hawks fell asleep slumped in a chair next to his bed. It worked out, because Hawks had to hang around for treatment anyway.

His fingers brush over one of the scars on his forearm. They haven’t bothered him or hurt in years, but the memory has not quite left him. He doesn’t think it ever will.

Tomura watches the motion, his own hand rising to touch the marks on his own throat. While Hawks had been uncertain about those scars, and the report had been vague about their origins with no clear source, Hawks has gotten around to understanding those scars have been put there by Tomura’s own fingers, his claws digging into his skin in fits of panic and fear. So far, he hasn’t done it much here, only a few odd scratches before he stops himself.

His lips are starting to look better, too. The chapstick Dabi has been carefully painting on his lips at least three times a day is medicated, and it’s starting to show how much it’s helping him.

Day by day, physically speaking, he’s getting a little bit better. Hawks makes sure to make plenty of food and encourages him to take seconds if he wants them, and left to his own devices Dabi makes enough for a small army as if he still hasn’t figured out how food quantities are meant to work. Not that Hawks minds, and leftovers are always good for breakfast and lunch.

“Your neck bothering you?” Hawks asks him, forcing himself to stop touching his own scars. “Want me to put something on it? We have ointment for scars if they’re itching.”

Tomura hesitates, playing with the collar of his pajama shirt before nodding once.

“Dabi, can you go get the ointment from the bathroom for me?” Hawks glances toward the doorway, a shock of black hair and blue eyes appearing to nod quickly before Dabi continues on past the room. Then he turns back to Tomura, holding his arms out. “You wanna come out so I can put it on you? I promise to be careful and that I’m not going to hurt you.”

Slowly, Tomura pushes the closet door the rest of the way open and crawls across the floor and into Hawks’s waiting arms, hesitating for just a moment before climbing on top of him. Hawks breathes a sigh of relief, rubbing his hands up and down Tomura’s slender back while Tomura’s chin comes to rest on his shoulder. There’s tension in his muscles but he starts to soften in Hawks’s arms just the same, and it makes Hawks wonder what he would have been like with even just one owner who truly cared about him and took proper care of him.

He’d kill to find out, which means he has to make sure Tomura gets through this rehabilitation okay so that they can look for a real home for him. Nothing makes him happier than when he gets to hand a hybrid over to someone who’s going to take care of them, whose face lights up as it settles in that they finally get to take their new companion home.

“Got it.” Dabi hesitates in the doorway and Hawks gives him a nod to let him know he can come in. He sits down on the floor behind Tomura, carefully pulling Tomura back into his chest while Hawks picks up the ointment. “Hi, Tomura-chan. Have a bad night, huh?”

Tomura makes a noise at him that catches Hawks’s attention; he almost dribbles ointment all over the floor, caught up in listening. It’s… It’s annoyed , and Tomura looks at Dabi with slightly narrowed eyes before Dabi laughs and pushes their faces together. Was it the nickname?

Either way, Hawks cannot possibly wipe the stupid happy smile off of his face.

“Hold his hair up if you don’t mind, Dabi,” he says, rubbing the ointment between his fingers just a little to warm it up some. “I wouldn’t want to get this all over him or anything.”

Carefully, Dabi gathers Tomura’s hair off of his neck. “Got it. Don’t like that nickname, huh?”

Tomura makes that noise again and Hawks can feel his lips pulling back over his teeth as he carefully dabs over the scars, careful not to touch any of them too roughly. Some of them are fully scarred over while a few still look a little raw in places.

“Guess I’m not as good at nicknames as Hawks is, then.” Dabi noses Tomura’s cheek and there’s no mistaking the way Tomura purrs at him. “You like being called kitten more.”

“That means I win and you lose,” Hawks tells him, careful around Tomura’s collarbone where the skin is thinnest. Luckily, there are fewer scars around this part.

Dabi waits until Hawks meets his eyes again before sticking his tongue out at him. “Asshole.”

Once Hawks finishes with the ointment, he sets the bottle aside and rests his elbows on his knees, watching Tomura cuddle into Dabi’s arms. “All right, all done. While it’s fine to sit and cuddle as much as you want, it’s after four in the morning and we have visitors in a few hours, so we all need to get back to bed.” Inspiration strikes him and he wonders if it’s even worth mentioning or testing, but Tomura’s had more than one nightmare in a night before and Hawks is getting tired of putting him through it. “Kitten, do you want to come to our room?”

The question has both Tomura and Dabi stilling, Dabi’s eyes widening as he blinks rapidly while Tomura just peers at Hawks through the soft tangle of his own overly long bangs. He tracks their reactions out of habit more than anything else, Dabi’s ear twitching a few times before both of them perk up, his tail thumping against the floor behind him while Tomura’s ears slowly, slowly pick up as well. And then one pale hand seizes Hawks’s wrist, such a sudden and jarring movement that he almost doesn’t see it coming. Almost, that is.

“It’s okay,” he says, stroking a finger over Tomura’s knuckles as reassuringly as he can. “I don’t mind if you want to share, and I know Dabi doesn’t either. Do you want to?”

Tomura mewls very softly and crawls back into Hawks’s arms, clinging to his shoulders and furiously scrubbing his cheek against Hawks’s hair. Well, that’s an answer.

“Shut off the lights as we leave the room.” Hawks tests his balance before getting his feet up underneath him, hands sliding under Tomura’s thighs as he lifts him up a little before standing. Carrying Dabi is easy and he’s heavier, healthier than Tomura’s too-skinny frame.

Tomura squeaks and clings to him, nails digging into his shoulders almost enough to hurt.

“You startled him,” Dabi chastises, wagging a finger in Hawks’s face before he lopes ahead of him, hand hovering over the light switch as he glances back at them. “Hurry up, old man, I want to get back in bed and you’re taking your sweet time navigating the room.”

Hawks snorts at him, making sure his grip on Tomura is sure before he walks out into the hallway. “You probably couldn’t carry him this far without your arms snapping, pup.”

“I’m not that weak,” Dabi argues, switching the light off before hurrying past him to the bedroom.

Before Hawks can ask him why he thinks this is a race, soft golden light spills into the hallway and he ahhs in understanding because Dabi thought to turn on the lamps on their nightstands. It’s a lot more ambient than most lighting for sure, a lot more soothing than bright white light so Hawks makes a note to praise him for that as he carries Tomura into the room, setting him down on his feet next to the bed. When he steps away, Tomura sways slightly toward him like he misses the contact before he blinks, glancing at the bed uncertainly.

“It’s so comfy, look!” Dabi throws himself on top of the mattress, bouncing on top of it for a second before he settles, his arms and legs stretched out wide. It’s a king-size because someone hogs the entire fucking mattress and Hawks gave up trying to make him share a long time ago, opting for just a bigger mattress instead. “And it smells like us. That’s good, right?”

Tomura makes a considerate noise before crawling onto the mattress slowly, letting Dabi pull him down into the nest of comforter and sheet with him. Hawks just stands back and watches, his hand pressed to his mouth, and thinks back to the first time he’d ever seen Dabi in bed.

A hospital bed, to be precise. On arguably the worst day of Hawks’s life.

“Where is he? Let me go, old man.” Hawks shoves his superior officer off of him without a second thought, his forearms protesting the movement. Even with bandages and medication, the wounds still sting and the painkillers haven’t kicked in. As if Hawks would give them time to when he still hasn’t heard a damned word about the hybrid. “Take me to him right now.”

The tone of his voice has Sorahiko taking a step back, hands raised palms out, his face looking particularly older than it did this morning, the lines more deeply pronounced. “Toshinori is in surgery and you need to get back in your bed. The staff can handle—”

“Fuck the staff!” The adrenaline has faded and Hawks is hurting, and bad. The sound of the gunshot is still ringing in his ears, though he’s sure that’s just a mental trick at this point, but he hardly gives a shit. What he cares about is checking on the hybrid who’d been clinging to him and screaming, so terrified and broken Hawks doesn’t think he’s ever going to sleep without that sound chasing him through his dreams. How could he? How could anyone?

A nurse hurries up to them, her face worried, but the moment she opens her mouth, a piercing cry echoes down the hallway. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” she says, bouncing with nervous energy, her eyes brimming with anxiety, “but Hawks, sir, can I borrow you? I know you should be resting, but Todoroki is starting to get upset and we don’t want to just sedate—”

“Don’t call him that.” Hawks spits the words out, the name grating on every nerve he has, and the nurse slams her mouth shut, screwing her face up at him. “Take me to him. I’ll help.”

He doesn’t even get a step away before Sorahiko grips him by the arm, fingers biting into his upper arm hard enough to remind him the man still has quite the grip on him. “Don’t strain yourself, Hawks. You need to rest. This was a hard mission on you, too.”

Hawks shrugs him off and follows the nurse down the hallway, throwing himself through the doorway that she indicates without a second thought. His stomach churns at the sight of the hybrid he’d just saved from a burning building not two hours ago straining against the leather straps they had to bind his arms with after they saw the condition of Hawks’s wounds. It’s mandatory and it’s normal but it still makes Hawks’s stomach sour and his throat hurt, especially when the hybrid looks at him with such wide, frightened and tear-filled eyes.

Beautiful blue eyes like the summer sky that had so quickly filled with smoke.

“It’s okay.” Hawks’s voice drops low and soothing and the hybrid keens at him, yanking at the bonds on his arms. “Shh, it’s okay. Calm down. You’re safe now. No one is going to hurt you.”

“Safe.” The hybrid spits the word at him. “Why the fuck am I tied to the fucking bed!”

Right then and there, Hawks hates every fucking regulation that has ever been imposed on the care of hybrids, but all he can do is extend his bandaged arms. “This is why. I’m sorry.”

“Of course. God, please, take them off. I’m sorry but please, I’m begging you. Take them off.” The hybrid twists again and Hawks’s stomach hurts so bad. “I’ll do whatever else but please, please take them off or I’m going to fucking dislocate my shoulder to get out.”

“Bad memories, huh?” Hawks decides to hell with the rules, walking toward the bed.

The hybrid freezes the moment he does, his eyes widening, his ears pressed flat to his head. “You’re not… Not gonna repay me for that, are you? I swear it was an accident, I didn’t mean—”

“Not gonna hurt you, pup. I don’t care if you tore my arms off as long as I got you out of there in time.” Before Hawks can take another step, the hybrid barks laughter at him, falling back against the mattress, his slender frame shaking with the force of it. “What? What did I say?”

“You just see me as a fucking animal just like he did.” The hybrid doesn’t have to say who he’s talking about for Hawks’s blood to run cold, his throat hurting at the thought. He’s made a mistake, and it’s the last mistake he ever wanted to make. “I’m not an animal. I’m not a precious fucking human like you are, but I’m not just a dog!”

Hawks takes a deep breath to keep himself centered, his arms dropping to his sides. “You’re right, and I’m sorry. I misspoke. I didn’t mean that you’re just an animal, it’s just a term of affection I’ve used with other hybrids I’ve worked with in the past and it slipped out. I apologize, it was entirely my fault. But I know you’re not an animal. You’re a hybrid. What’s your name?”

“Does it make a difference? You’ve got the paperwork. You know my name.” The hybrid twists his head pointedly away, and Hawks’s mouth dries at the defiant set of his jaw even as a tear slips down his cheek and drips onto his collarbone.

He’ll kill Enji for this. Slowly, painfully, drawing it out so he can experience even half as much suffering as he has put his own son through. “I don’t care what the paperwork says.”

The hybrid’s shoulders slacken slightly and he looks at Hawks, lips twisted into a scowl as the tears slowly spill over his lash line. “I don’t, either. My name is Dabi. Not the name he chose for me. If anyone calls me that I’ll leave and you won’t ever see me again.”

“That’s fair. I’ll make sure everyone knows to call you the right name.” Hawks eyes the straps once more, then sighs softly. “If you want me to take off the straps, I can do that for you. But you have to accept I have to get closer to you to do that. And I’m not gonna hurt you, Dabi. I don’t care if you messed up my arms. They were flesh wounds. It’s nothing to me.”

“You’re… Hawks?” Dabi’s voice is low and hesitant, as if he’s not quite sure and Hawks wonders where Dabi might have heard his name before now. “ He mentioned you once or twice.”

“I’m sure he had nothing good to say about me.” Hawks walks closer to the bed, raising his hands slowly so that Dabi can watch and prepare for every movement. Carefully, he unfastens the buckle closest to him, unwinding the leather from Dabi’s skin. “I’m so sorry about this. I know it’s just regulation but you didn’t deserve to have this happen. It must have been frightening.”

Dabi huffs at him, gives his shoulder a healthy punch. “I’m not a fucking child.”

“I know that. You’re an adult.” Hawks walks around the bed to undo the other strap and wonders how fast that demotion is going to hit him for daring to do this. Fuck, he doesn’t care if he gets fired at this point. “I’m… Sorry. I should have figured out what Enji was doing before now. It was my fault. He’s been doing this under my nose and I didn’t even realize—”

Another punch shocks him. “Shut up. It’s not your fault. He said… You were a behaviorist, or something. That it wasn’t any use coming for me because even you couldn’t fix me.”

The words have Hawks’s heart crawling up into his throat and he shakes his head furiously, his hands balling up into fists at the thought. Damn that son of a bitch. “He’s wrong. Anything that happened, you can recover from it if you have even half a chance. You were strong enough to get this far, you can keep going if you want to. But it’s up to you.”

Dabi looks defeated as he falls back against the bed, rubbing where the straps had dug into his skin as he stares down at his lap. “I dunno if I even wanna try. I’m so fucking broken and scarred and ugly I can’t imagine anyone wanting a thing to do with me now.”

Hawks’s eyes trace over the burn scars and not for the first time, he thinks about how someone had put those there on purpose, how they mirror each other across Dabi’s body, how they had been purposeful and he wants to hold Enji at gunpoint and demand to know who did it, and why, and where they are. Who would do this much damage to his skin and leave him in this state, make him think these awful things about himself. He’s not entirely factored out that Enji might have done it but every time he thinks about that, bile burns up the back of his throat.

He swallows it back down, pulls up a chair beside Dabi’s bed. “What if I told you that wasn’t true? There are hundreds, thousands of people who take in hybrids just like you. Who want to be the foundation for you to build your better life on top of.”

“What if there’s not someone for me?” Dabi holds his hands out in front of him, the scars trailing down to the backs of them and around his wrists where the skin is so tender. He must have cried awfully when it happened. Hawks can taste murder on his tongue. “What if everyone looks at me and all they see is a freak? I’m not… I can’t fucking take that happening again.”

Hawks curls a hand beneath his chin, and his voice comes out weak even though his resolve is stronger than it’s ever been before. “What if I told you I could be your foundation?”

“Hawks? Hawks!” A pillow smacks him in the face and Hawks stumbles back a few steps not from the force but the shock, blinking out of one of the most painful memories of his life. “Are you just gonna stand there and look at us, or are you coming back to bed?”

“Must have zoned out. I’m tired.” It’s not a lie, and the last thing he wants to do right now is bring back painful memories for his sweet puppy. “I’m coming back to bed.”

Tomura has curled himself against the front of Dabi’s chest and looks to be most of the way asleep already, head tucked under Dabi’s chin. They take up most of the bed on their own, the most open space behind at Dabi’s back and Hawks is in luck, because that’s where he wants to be. So he climbs onto the mattress, sliding under the comforter before he wraps himself around Dabi’s back, nosing into the soft tangle of his hair. He doesn’t have a hybrid’s scent ability but Dabi feels warm and secure in his arms, Dabi feels like home and Hawks doesn’t want to think about what kind of life he would have had if Dabi had never come into it.

He wouldn’t have a life worth anything. He’d be alive, surviving but not living .

“Mm, you’re so warm.” Dabi presses back against him and Hawks smiles, slides an arm between him and Tomura, settling it around Dabi’s hips while his other arm pulls Tomura in closer. “ Ugh, your muscles. I’m not about to work out that hard but I can appreciate.”

“I appreciate you, too, babe.” Hawks kisses the back of his head, then the back of one ear, grinning when Dabi makes a small happy noise at him, tail tickling his stomach when it gives a little excited wiggle. “Now get to sleep. Your siblings are here in the morning.”

Dabi sighs, and his hand moves over the one Hawks has pressed against Tomura’s back. “Yeah, yeah. I’m so excited, you think Fuyumi brought her girlfriend for real? I hope so.”

“I’m sure she will if she told you she would.” Hawks kisses his ear again, laughing when Dabi’s tail tickles him more. “Now get some rest! We all really need it.”

Tomura chirps like he agrees, and that settles the matter.

Hawks knows that, together, he and Dabi can ensure that Tomura recovers. He was there when Dabi was at his worst, and he knows how far Dabi came with just Hawks for his comfort and his solace, so he’s confident in them. He has to believe in them when he has such ample evidence that everything is going to be okay. It has to be.

He promised Dabi he’d be his foundation, and he intends on keeping that promise.

Chapter Text

When Todoroki Fuyumi first called Hawks’s personal cell phone to ask him if she could bring Natsuo and her girlfriend and come visit, Dabi was sure Hawks would say no. That having Tomura in the house meant they had to keep as few visitors in and out as possible so he can feel settled and calm in the space, which Dabi would have understood even if missing out on a visit with the family who actually loves him would have been difficult. Instead, Hawks put her on old, took Tomura into a different room well out of range of Dabi’s excellent hearing, and came back to let her know that coming to visit was just fine.

So when they finally climb out of bed bright and early, Dabi is awake despite the mid-night wake-up. It’s become the norm since Tomura came to stay with them and he thinks about asking Hawks if Tomura can just stay in their room outright so he can get a few nights of rest, but he knows better than to suggest such a thing. It’s fine for Tomura to lean on them to heal, but he can’t use them as a crutch or he’s never going to heal successfully.

Hawks hits the shower first and is out in minutes, ruffling his hair with a towel as he walks downstairs toward the kitchen. “Gonna make breakfast. You two, get cleaned up.”

Dabi is in and out of the shower just as fast but takes a little more time to dry his tail, which will hold water if he doesn’t take the hair dryer to it. Tomura feels comfortable enough with him in the bathroom that he showers while Dabi does that and lets Dabi help him dry off his tail as well. That Tomura is a cat hybrid with a long and fluffy tail only coaxes Dabi to run his fingers through it over and over, happy to see it’s starting to soften and gleam with enough careful care and attention. While he does that, Tomura pulls him down to groom his ears.

It’s a sign of affection, Dabi knows that. Tomura has been grooming his ears the last few days once he steps out of the shower, and Dabi lets him because he knows it means something important to Tomura. That, and he likes the additional attention just fine.

They did most of the prep work for the visit, just basically chores and getting the house nice and cleaned up, the day before. Hawks made the list and led the charge, and Dabi was happy to help and pleasantly surprised when Tomura wanted to help, doing a few things here and there like loading the dishwasher and wiping down the kitchen counters. Hawks reassured him at least ten times over he didn’t have to help and then rewarded him after, letting Tomura sprawl across his lap to get the best ear scritches until he’d purred himself into a light nap.

Dabi keeps reminding himself not to get too attached, that Tomura might have to leave to a different home when he’s feeling better, that he’s just on an extended visit. But it’s hard.

When they join Hawks downstairs, breakfast is already laid out on the table and Hawks is loading the cookware into the dishwasher, wiping down the counters. All sure and steady gestures, complete confidence and sureness of the environment he’s in; Dabi wraps himself around Hawks’s back to greet him, licking a broad stripe up the side of his face and laughing when Hawks gives him an exasperated expression in answer.

“Good morning, pup.” Hawks drags the sleeve of his sweatshirt along his cheek and Dabi makes a face at him more for the sweatshirt than anything else. Hawks has a nice body, and Dabi likes to look at it. “I made your favorite, so eat up. There’s more if you want it.”

Dabi beams at him, tail wagging madly behind him before he wraps his arms around Hawks’s neck to give him a proper good morning kiss. Or, well, more than a proper one, and more than a good morning kiss. Hawks’s back hits the counter more from shock than anything else, Dabi not physically strong enough to move him even if he wanted to, and maybe he whimpers a little in excitement when Hawks’s hands come to press against his back, drawing him in close.

Kissing Hawks is something he could never get tired of, not in a thousand years. When the two of them first met, Dabi wanted to hate him. He wanted to hate the human who extended his miserable life especially after Dabi saw the bandages on his arms and realized just what he’d done to him. But Hawks was steady and sure with him and Hawks loves him and is never afraid to show it, deepening the kiss until Dabi whimpers against his lips.

“Good morning to you, too,” Dabi tells him when the kiss breaks, swiping his tongue across his lips. He can taste toothpaste, faint but still there, and coffee. “Caffeinated already this morning?”

“Necessary.” Hawks pecks him on the lips, then kisses him again, slow and soft and sweet until Dabi feels like his knees are going to give out underneath him from how much stupid affection he feels for this man. “Now eat, you. I won’t have you getting too skinny on me, now.”

Dabi pouts at him but steals one more kiss before sitting himself down at the table where Tomura is already sitting and eating, though his crimson eyes are fixed on Dabi. He’s probably curious because Dabi hasn’t actually explained to him the relationship between him and Hawks, or rather, the more romantic aspects of it. To Dabi, Hawks is everything. His caretaker, his human, his companion, his lover. It might not be so easy to explain, all things considered.

“Don’t stare,” Dabi teases him, knocking their ankles together beneath the table.

Tomura chews thoughtfully and swallows, then sticks his tongue out at Dabi before going back to his fish. But his ears are up, and his tail is swishing softly behind him, so the sight of Dabi and Hawks together hasn’t been upsetting to him which is good. Dabi was worried it might be.

There had been one hybrid about a year ago who was incredibly triggered by the sight of them together because it reminded her of the abuse she endured at the hands of her former captor, so they had to keep their hands to themselves while Hawks tended her. The moment she left, Dabi had climbed on top of him and furiously made sure that Hawks was once more permeated with his scent because the lack of had addled him. He likes that they wear each other’s scents as comfortably as they wear their own even if Hawks isn’t aware of it.

He knows the science of it at least, so Dabi is pleased as punch.

As soon as Hawks loads their breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, Dabi’s ears pick up the sound of a coming car and he bounds out of his chair and into the living room, pulling open the living room curtains to double check before he opens the front door and steps onto the front porch. His entire body vibrates with excitement, and he’s almost bouncing on the balls of his feet as he watches Natsuo park the car just behind Hawks’s truck.

“Aniki!” Natsuo is out of the car first, slamming the door shut behind him without a care in the world, arms open wide for Dabi to leap into. “We’ve missed you!”

It’s Dabi’s open invitation to pounce and he does; Natsuo is all muscle and catches him easily, and Dabi’s tail is wagging probably too fast to see as he presses his face against his brother’s neck. “You stay gone too long,” he complains.

“I know we do. We’re working on it.” Natsuo keeps him up with an arm under his thighs, the other rubbing soothing circles into his back, and Dabi feels home.

They had grown up in the same house for the most part, but Dabi had barely been able to spend any time with his siblings because their bastard of a sperm donor had kept them away from each other. When Hawks had reunited them, Natsuo made it absolutely clear he wanted Dabi in his life and had moved apartments to be closer to Hawks’s country home so he could come visit more often. It had done wonders on healing Dabi’s heart.

“Niisan, I’m glad to see you’re well.” His little sister’s gentle voice has Dabi lifting his head to see Fuyumi stepping out of the car, an unfamiliar blond trailing just behind her. “How are you?”

“I’m great now.” Dabi stretches out a hand to her and grins ridiculously when she takes it in both of hers before stretching a hand up to stroke his ears. “I missed you, Yumi.”

When Natsuo sets him back down on his feet, it’s only a formality before he ropes Fuyumi in close, squeezing both of them in a tight hug. Dabi loves it, loves the familiarity and how warm they both are, how they smell, everything about them because they’re his family, his brother and sister, the siblings he used to sneak out of his room to see because fuck what Todoroki Enji said. Dabi loves them and his heart feels full to bursting every time they come to see him.

“You weren’t kidding when you said he was affectionate.” The blond woman lingers just a few steps away, watching them curiously but not cruelly.

Fuyumi steps out of their family embrace; Natsuo lingers with his arm around Dabi’s shoulders. “Dabi, this is Takeyama Yu, my girlfriend. I brought her like I promised I would.”

Yu offers her hand and Dabi sniffs it curiously before shaking it. “It’s nice to meet you, Dabi. Your sister talks about you all the time and she’s showed me pictures, but it’s been a hassle to get out of work to come meet you. You’re such a cutie pie.”

“I like her,” Dabi says, and Fuyumi beams at him. “Oh, Natsu, Yumi, did Hawks tell either of you that we have a hybrid staying with us right now? Because we do.”

“He told me it’s the kitty cat you were friends with back when… Yeah.” Natsuo squeezes his shoulders and Dabi looks at him, at the warring emotions on his face before he nods and smiles. “Yeah, so, we’re happy to meet him if he’s wanting to meet us.”

Dabi hopes he does, he really fucking hopes so. “Let’s go in, then. It’s getting chilly.”

Hawks is waiting just inside of the living room for them and Tomura is tucked up against his side, peering at them all in turn from beneath his overly long bangs. “Greetings, Todoroki family. Oh, and a stranger. Well, we love meeting new people, don’t we, Tomura?”

“My girlfriend, Yu, I talked to you about having her come over,” Fuyumi explains while Dabi closes the door and locks it up. All paranoia, of course; he’s never shaken the habit of wanting to lock the front and back door when they aren’t in use. “And this must be Tomura.”

The attention suddenly shifting to him as Tomura’s ears flicking back just a little before he straightens up, nodding once and giving a little mewl. Yu’s eyes look like they might be about to bug out of her head and Dabi shares the sentiment because Tomura is cute as hell even though he’s still not saying much, communicating mostly through cat-like sounds and gestures than anything else. Facial expressions that Dabi can read and Hawks is picking up in record time. He’ll start speaking again in his own time, of that Dabi is sure, but for now he can rest his voice and have them learn how to speak to him in different ways. He’ll get his voice back eventually.

“It’s nice to meet you, man.” Natsuo holds a hand out and Tomura sniffs it a little before tucking himself back against Hawks’s side. “Dabi used to talk to us about you when Hawks first brought him back. Think you were the only thing close to a friend he had.”

“Yeah,” Dabi agrees, watching Tomura’s face carefully at this. “You really were, kept me sane in there. Thought I woulda lost it if you weren’t there. Anyway, this is pretty fucking depressing to talk about so why don’t we all sit down and talk about something a little happier?”

Hawks uses his free arm to pull Dabi in close, kissing the side of his head. “I like that idea.”

Fuyumi and Yu take the couch, Natsuo takes one of the chairs, and Hawks takes the other; Dabi perches on his lap, content with the closeness and the warmth when Hawks’s arms settle around his waist, holding him so he doesn’t lose his balance and risk tumbling off onto the floor. Tomura hovers by their chair before dragging the foot stool over to the side, perching on top of it and just to Hawks’s left. Distantly, Dabi wonders if Hawks has noticed that Tomura is using him for security these days or if he’s just writing it off as his normal behavior.

As if Hawks of all people wouldn’t notice that, though.

“I know I said it outside, but you’re so cute,” Yu says, and Dabi beams at her, ignoring Hawks’s huff when Dabi’s tail smacks against his chest with the force of his wagging. “The dark hair, though… Fuyumi and Natsuo both have white hair like Rei. And wasn’t that rat bastard a redhead? Or was he dyeing it or something?”

Hawks snorts laughter at the title and Dabi’s grin widens; oh yeah, he really digs her. “He was, yeah. Mom’s a cat hybrid, though, cat hybrid genetics can go a little weird. Like normal domestic cats, like, you get weird coloration patterns. Like two tabby cats can have white kittens, or whatever. Kind of how I came out a dog and not a cat like she did.”

“That’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of that.” Yu hums thoughtfully, and the casual way she lays her arm across Fuyumi’s shoulders is good, in Dabi’s eyes. Warm and easy. “All the hybrids I’ve ever known match their parents in some way or another.”

“The only saving grace our family has is that none of us look like that asshole,” Natsuo says.

Hawks rubs soothing circles against Dabi’s tummy, always so careful of him, always so attentive. “Not even a fucking little, which is super gratifying from my point of view ‘cause boy I spent too many hours looking at his ugly mug to want to see it anymore.”

Everyone gets a laugh out of that one; Tomura carefully tilts his head to the side, a slight smile tugging at his lips, but nothing more. It’s a start, Dabi thinks.

“I still can’t believe you can comfortably live out here in the middle of nowhere,” Natsuo observes, gesturing around their living room. “It’s so quiet and far removed from everything. How do you avoid, like, getting cut off from civilization if the weather’s bad?”

“I have snow chains for my tires and I’ve not hydroplaned yet, so we’ve got no real big concerns. I still stock up on a shitload of food when I get paid, though.” Hawks’s work, though sparing, still pays quite a lot considering he’s filling a desperately needed position, and even not being on the squad anymore doesn’t mean he’s not offering insight and advice, writing up reports on things only he seems to know. “Also, the quiet is so good. It’s peaceful, right, pup?”

“Yeah. I fucking love how quiet it is out here, especially when it’s raining. All you can hear is the rain on the roof and it’s the best free ASMR.” And it’s supposed to be raining soon.

Fuyumi hums like she hadn’t thought about that, her eyes drifting to the ceiling before snapping back to Dabi. “That’s gotta be good for you, right? Even our neighborhood wasn’t really that far away from the city, so you could still hear the cars and the horns pretty late into the night.”

The mention of their childhood home makes Dabi’s gut churn just a little, and Hawks is there, hugging him just a little tighter, a reminder that he’s right here. Dabi’s foundation, his anchor. “Yeah, that’s true. You can’t hear any of that out here. It’s so nice, like, just the wind in the trees and stuff. And it smells amazing during spring and summer, all the wildflowers and stuff.”

“Ooh, we’re going to have to come out here when everything’s in bloom then,” Yu says firmly. “I’m a big fan of flowers but like, you can only get pre-grown stuff in the city.”

Hawks clears his throat. “Yu, what is it that you do? Fuyumi said you were trying to get some time off from work but that your office was swamped recently. What kinda office is it?”

“Oh, uh.” Yu clears her throat and her gaze shifts away just enough for Dabi to brace himself, sure he isn’t going to end up liking the answer she gives him. “I work in conjunction with your old squad now, actually. Got promoted a couple of months ago. We mostly deal with placing children in foster homes because it’s a little bit more delicate than dealing with adult hybrids.”

When Hawks exhales, it’s a little ragged around the edges. “Jesus, I don’t envy you that at all. It’s hard work. I did some missions with you guys a few times, I’m still writing reports and shit to this day and sending them off. That’s brave work, though, congrats.”

Yu waves a hand at him. “Hush, it’s no big deal. It’s good work. I met Fuyumi like, right before I got the option to transfer with the promotion and that’s what really got me thinking hard about it. I’d come to pick her up from work sometimes and some of the kids she teaches are hybrids, and I was like, I gotta do it, y’know? Well, of course you know.”

“Nah, I get it.” Hawks rests his chin on Dabi’s shoulder, presses a kiss to the side of his neck. “I wake up next to this one every morning and it just reminds me that I’m grateful for the time I spent on the job and I’m glad to help in any way I can now.”

Tomura makes a small noise and Dabi twists around to look at him, stretching out a hand to give his hair a ruffle, rubbing over his ears until his red eyes are heavily lidded and he’s purring faintly. “Yeah, we’re happy to have you here, too.”

“Is he gonna be staying here with you officially?” Natsuo asks, and Dabi wishes he hadn’t.

Hawks’s arms tighten around his waist in warning and Dabi knows he has to be careful with how he answers that question. He isn’t allowed to be biased, after all, can’t ask Tomura to stay if he doesn’t want to. Isn’t even supposed to suggest it, really, because abused hybrids… It’s hard, because some of them are determined to do anything to please and it makes it harder for them to make their own decisions. How many times had Dabi backed off on asking Hawks for something he wanted, or even something he needed, because he was worried he was too much of an inconvenience to the man who wanted to do everything for him?

“It’s up to him,” he finally says, scratching behind one of Tomura’s ears just to hear that pretty purr deepen. It was a sound he didn’t get to hear much in the past. “When he’s ready to find a permanent home, he’ll get all of his options laid out and he gets to choose.”

To his credit, Natsuo seems to realize he asked a question he shouldn’t have and just nods. “That’s cool, I hope everything goes okay with all that. I know it’s a long process.”

“Speaking of.” Fuyumi shifts forward in her seat, and her gaze is… Slightly pleading, and that’s how Dabi knows it isn’t meant for him. It’s meant for Hawks. “Our mother is… I wouldn’t say she’s finally ready to respond, but her nurse says she’s been acting different lately. She might… Might be coming around, finally. Do you think, Hawks, that you could—”

“Come see her and see for myself?” Hawks finishes. “Yeah, I can probably do that. But like… I’ll probably have Magne watch over these two for me. Don’t want to overwhelm her.”

Dabi really tries not to get his hopes up but he hasn’t seen his mother since he was a very small child; Enji had kept her away from all of the rest of them, not wanting them anywhere near his prized breeder and Dabi could kill him for it, he really could. Maybe he will one day, track Enji down with his own two hands and mutilate him for everything he did to their family.

“Thanks, man.” Natsuo leans forward, offers a fist that Hawks bumps his own against. “There’s no real guarantee, like, we get that. We just want what’s best for her, if we can get it.”

“Nah, I understand. Sometimes…” Hawks trails off and Dabi turns to look at him, watches Hawks run a hand over his jaw, over the shape of his beard there. “Sometimes, as much as it sucks, you gotta do what’s right for someone you care about. And what’s right and what they want or what you want isn’t always that. So I’ll come check on her for you.”

“You’re such a good man.” Dabi licks his cheek for good measure, and Hawks grins at him. And this time, he doesn’t wipe it away even though he totally should.

Yu looks between the two of them and then smiles when Dabi catches her looking. “Sorry, I’m just, you two are cute together is all. Fuyumi said you were super affectionate with each other and I’ve seen happy humans and hybrids but this is just up a level and I’m loving it.”

“We’re basically a married couple at this point,” Hawks says matter-of-factly, and maybe Dabi’s heart skips a beat at how casually he can say it, how easily he can mean it. “We’ve been together for years and I still remember the color of his eyes so it’s fate.”

That gets another laugh and Dabi sighs in satisfaction, settling back against Hawks’s chest, curling a hand around the back of his neck. “What color are they, actually?”

“Blue. Beautiful blue just like the summer sky.” Hawks kisses the side of his neck and trapped between them, Dabi’s tail wags faster and faster, beating between his back and Hawks’s chest. “I was so struck by them the first time I saw you I almost forgot I was about to catch on fire.”

“Smoking hot, aniki,” Natsuo snorts, and Dabi barks laughter at that one.

The conversation is so light and easy and Dabi keeps checking on Tomura, or catches Hawks doing it for him. Though there are new people in the house, Tomura seems fine, shifting to lean against Hawks every now and then, his eyes following each speaker with the occasional little squeak of a sound or mewl to imply he’s listening to all of them. Every now and then his cheek brushes against Dabi’s arm, a subtle scent marking that makes Dabi’s heart hurt.

He can’t ask Tomura to stay. Hawks had taken him aside while Tomura napped one day after a call from Yagi, told him that Tomura had living family who would want to see him when he was better, so don’t get attached in case he wants to go stay with her. And Dabi keeps telling himself not to get attached, to guard his heart against the idea of the three of them having their happily ever after together because it’s not a guarantee.

He’s a selfish asshole, probably, for even wanting it so badly. He has Hawks, and Hawks has been perfect for him even when he was so fucked up from his father’s rampant abuse that it was hard for him to realize anything at all was good. Hawks, who let Dabi move into his bedroom because it was thunderstorm season and Dabi could hardly sleep through the night between the thunder and the nightmares and the static running through his fur. Hawks, who carried him to bed more times than he can count, who bandaged his wounds when he hurt himself and rubbed his ears to tell him it was okay, he wasn’t mad, he would never be mad at him.

Hawks is already more than most hybrids get in a lifetime, so asking for more is really awful of him and he should just focus on Tomura getting better and having the life he deserves once all of this is over. Or not over because it never really is, but to a point where he can handle it. To a point where he can speak again, and when he’s not so afraid.

That doesn’t mean Dabi doesn’t want him to stay, no matter how shitty and selfish it is.

Chapter Text

Recovering Akaguro Chizome was one of the worst missions Izuku has ever been on.

It should have been standard procedure, all things considered. They had perfect intel, they knew where he was, and they had stationed an inside man to ensure they would get through the front door of the building. Getting in was the hard part; they can do their best work from the inside. Jiro’s tranquilizers were loaded up in preparation just in case, Sero’s medical van was well-stocked, and Mirio was with them. Everything was prepared for a quick and easy retrieval, and Izuku was sure they could easily pull it off.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

“How are you doing?” In the driver’s seat of their car, Togata Mirio is sunshine spun into the shape of a human being. “You know, there’s probably good news this time. Last time we had to visit, he was doing at least a little bit better, so we might be in the clear this time.”

To say he hopes so is wildly understating what Izuku wants. “Talk to me about your mission up north so I don’t have to think about this. I just need to breathe a little, you know?”

Mirio’s face softens with understanding. “Yeah, I get it. So, you know we went up there to bust a child trafficking ring. It went flawlessly. The information we had was impossibly good. I know every division is worried about Chronostasis’s intel, but he’s got a lot.”

“Chronostasis? The hacker?” Izuku’s head whips around so fast it hurts a little.

“The very same. He’s been very active lately in terms of sending us information, though no one is quite sure how he’s managing to pull it off.” Mirio shrugs; to him, how they get the information is less important than the accuracy and what they can do with it. Though Izuku is more concerned about the legal processes involved, he understands why Mirio feels this way. “You know, he was the one who helped me find Tamaki in the first place.”

There it is. “You said something about that but you never elaborated on it.”

“It was one of the first few times he contacted us. Names, addresses, hybrids in question who would be there. We showed up and it was all true. And there he was.” Mirio smiles, effortlessly merging into lanes without disturbing any of the other cars on the road.

“Tamaki-kun?” When Mirio nods, Izuku hums softly. Though he only has Mirio’s word to go off of, he knows how much Tamaki means to Mirio. How quickly they connected once Tamaki was staying in his home to recuperate. “I’m glad you found him, I really am.”

At a red light, Mirio glances at him, bright blue eyes studying his expression though Izuku is not sure what he’s looking for. “That’s why I think we should be a little more lenient as far as Chronostasis goes, at the very least. He’s always been a reliable source, and every time we bust one person, the next gets a little smarter about covering their tracks. I don’t know who this guy is or how he finds his intel, but he’s very reliable.”

“I know. I’m just… You know, naturally wary around that. It seems too easy every time he shows up.” Though, Izuku is pretty sure Chronostasis might have been involved in Akaguro’s retrieval as well. It might only be a working theory, but there are parallels between his signed intel and the intel they receive from anonymous sources that point to them being the same person only identifying themself a third of the time or so.

“Completely understandable.” Mirio accelerates smoothly, picking their traveling speed back up once more. “There was some friction up north when his name showed up on one of the reports, and I know our division isn’t necessarily gung-ho about his assistance.”

That much is completely true, and Yagi has had exponential trouble every time they need to use his information when they have none of their own. “I wonder if him coming forward about his methods would even help or not if he isn’t employed with us.”

“See, I don’t think he can or otherwise he probably would have. I mean, Chronostasis can’t even be his real name, right?” Mirio’s eyes slide toward one of the exit signs, and he gives himself a little nod. “He might have a signed name, but he’s entirely anonymous. That might be the only way he can give us any information in the first place.”

“Fair, very fair,” Izuku admits. “So, the kids. Are they going to be okay after that?”

Mirio is quiet for a moment before he sighs, and when he tries to smile it does not quite reach his eyes. Izuku can relate to that; seeing kids treated poorly is impossible to stomach. “They will be, I think. There was, uh, one little girl, Eri, who came back with me actually. She got attached and every time I tried to leave the room, she’d cry.”

Izuku’s heart constricts harshly at the thought. “What did Tamaki say about that?”

“He was fine with it. He’s with her right now. Here, look.” At another red light, Mirio taps the screen of his phone so it lights up, revealing the lockscreen.

Though Izuku has only seen Tamaki in pictures that Mirio has shown him, he’s seen him often enough to recognize him on sight. The soft shaggy indigo hair and matching fluffy ears topping a pale face with a slightly startled but warm expression, his eyes focused on the child sitting in his lap and looking up at him. She is unfamiliar to Izuku, her long white hair drawn back into a messy half-bun, and her large ovalish ears make him think of a deer.

“Is she a fawn?” he asks, and Mirio nods. This time, his smile is true. “She’s adorable. Are you two going to be taking care of her for a while, or..?”

“I don’t know,” Mirio admits. “I guess it just depends on if she has any family for us to find. So far, we haven’t. If we can’t find her a family and she wants to stay with us, I’m sure she can. She needs stable people in her life, you know?”

Hybrid children are often deprived of any sort of stability in their lives, which is why recuperating with a behaviorist or caretaker is often the only way for them to assimilate themselves into the rest of society. They need stability in order to learn how to build bonds with people, something Izuku remembers studying in-depth when he was back in university. If they could retrieve hybrid children before they became adults, the process could be simpler to handle. It was why they lended Mirio out in the first place.

“She’s got a good home now, so if she decides to stay, I won’t be surprised,” Izuku says.

Mirio flashes him a wide smile. “Thanks! We’re doing our best with her. Tamaki bonded with her really fast, I think because he sees some of himself in her. She adores him.”

“That’s great for her and him both, probably.” I hope Kacchan can have that kind of chance when we track him down. He’s going to need it.

They pull off the highway and onto a wide side-road that takes them to the mental health hospital whose specialty is dealing with hybrids retrieved from fighting rings. Though it seemed a niche occupation to people with little information, hybrids forced to fight just for survival number into the thousands, and their retrieval division relies on these people to be prepared to take in their difficult cases. When Sero was hired for their division, it was from this very hospital, ensuring he would be able to do everything for them.

When they park, Mirio pauses to look at him. “Are you ready to go in and see him now?”

The answer is always no, to be perfectly honest, but Izuku knows this job would be difficult when he agreed to take it, and now he has to see it through. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

“I just want you to know something, all right? I don’t think I’ve told you this yet.” Mirio turns the car off and Izuku raises an eyebrow up at him but says nothing, waiting for him to finish. “I know that night was terrifying, and I’m sure you probably blame yourself for not… Doing what you could have done. Or not doing enough.”

It’s like he’s reading my mind. But of course it the truth is far simpler than that, and Izuku knows it. Everyone has a mission go poorly, and Mirio probably sees some of his own past self-doubt in Izuku now. After all, he was there when Akaguro was retrieved.

“That’s… Yeah, I mean, I feel like I didn’t do enough to calm him down. I know he was erratic and I know there wasn’t much we could do.” Izuku runs a hand through his hair, nice and slow so as not to ruffle it too badly. “I know they others got too close. And yet—”

“And yet you still blame yourself because it was specifically your job to calm him down and get him out of there as safely as possible, right?” Mirio pats him on the shoulder and Izuku tries not to let it show just how much he wishes that. How much it still upsets him.

Before he can say anything, Mirio unbuttons the cuff of his shirt and starts rolling the fabric up a few centimeters at a time. Izuku opens his mouth to ask until he sees the end of a scar peeking out, further revealed and joined by three more that trail up his forearm to his bicep. The pale white tissue means they must be fairly old by now.

“Tamaki did this,” Mirio says, and Izuku’s eyes snap up to his face, widening as realization washes over him. “We did everything perfectly, followed procedure, and then he panicked at the last second and lunged out at me. Got his claws in deep enough that the med team was worried, but I was fine. We can try to account for everything, but hybrids are just like people, and you can’t read someone’s mind, so you cannot plan for everything .”

“I didn’t know that.” But he understands the point, just the same.

Gently, Mirio squeezes his shoulder. “I know. But take it to heart, okay? We did what we could, but Akaguro was hurting real bad. His reactions make sense even if they mean he had to come here to start to get better. Now let’s go check up on him.”

The lobby is as Izuku remembers it from at least a dozen prior visits, and they sign their names into the guestbook before an attendant comes to escort them to Akaguro’s room. It is only when they are halfway there that Izuku finds himself clearing his throat.

“Wasn’t his room on a lower floor last time we were here?” He tries to keep his voice light and casual, to keep any concern or worry from bleeding out of it.

The attendant nods, back against the elevator as it rises past the floor Izuku remembers. “Yes, it was, but we’ve since moved him. He’s been doing better, Midoriya-san.”

Doing better. The relief nearly sags Izuku’s muscles, but he forces himself to hold it together and nods, schooling his features. Remain professional about this. And remember that even if he is getting better, he certainly wasn’t happy the last time I visited.

Now that Izuku stops to think about it, the upper levels of the building are typically reserved for hybrids further along in their recovery— Hybrids who are less likely to take a tumble out of one of the windows, for instance. Higher up means that Akaguro is doing better, and Izuku has been waiting and desperately hoping for this kind of news. News that their mistakes in handling Akaguro did not mean he would never have a true home.

It looks like those dreams might finally be validated at last.

“Down this hallway and it’s the last room.” The attendant leads them along the hall, and most of the doors along this wing are open, though Akaguro’s is closed. “He likes his privacy, not that I can blame him. His scans say he’s been through so much pain.”

The corners of Izuku’s mouth twist down. “I’ve read them. I thought the visible scars were bad enough, but the fractures and breaks and the scar tissue… I couldn’t imagine.”

“That kind of pain needs a lot of healing.” The attendant smiles kindly at them, then raps their knuckles against the door gently. “Akaguro-san? You have visitors today.”

There are shuffling footsteps before someone that Izuku does not recognize answers the door, a young man in a pair of scrubs. A nurse, Izuku thinks just before his brain kicks all the way in and he realizes this is a hybrid standing across from him. It doesn’t immediately register between the lurid, bright magenta hair and the equally bright blue scrubs, but the man’s brown skin glimmers across his cheekbones and along the bridge of his nose when he tilts his head under the light. Over his shoulder, Deku can just see the point of a tail. A lizard hybrid? They’re supposed to be incredibly rare these days.

“Sorry, sorry.” The man waves a hand at them, the attendant raising an eyebrow. “I was on break and thought I’d pay a visit. I’m about to go back on the floor.”

“Don’t worry about it, Iguchi. He responds well to you.” The attendant steps back to let the man through, and Izuku sees his tail in full, the bright green glitter of his scales. To Izuku, the attendant says, “Iguchi’s really the one to thank for Akaguro making so much progress. The two of them have built up quite the rapport. Anyway, go on inside.”

“Thank you so much for the help,” Mirio says, all sunshine, and Izuku bows his head in agreement before walking into the room, suffused with grey afternoon light.

Missing Akaguro Chizome is impossible. The man is huge and broad-shouldered, and even if there is no space for him, he cuts a space out with the shape of his body. After searching the office of the person who possessed him prior to his rescue, Izuku found strict training regimes specifically, almost neurotically outlined, alongside a dietician’s report of what Akaguro should be eating. The highly specialized nature of this means his body is hard and sharp, and that he can cause severe damage as long as he flexes the effort to try.

He’d broken the cuffs clamped around his wrists and taken out one of the men who swung a gun at Izuku’s face when they stormed the building he was being held in. Wolf hybrids are known to be fearsomely powerful, but he never expected that level of strength.

Now, though, Akaguro is stretched out on a bed that looks slightly too large for the room it is in— Izuku thinks it must just be because a twin-sized bed would not accommodate his long limbs nearly enough. A plain t-shirt and sweatpants hide the majority of his scars, sustained from countless fights for the amusement of the rich and the elite, and the dark circles beneath his eyes have diminished. Eyes that used to be wild, pupils dilated, darting around to each and every corner of a room. Looking for a way to escape.

He looks better now, Izuku thinks. Tired, but like the pieces are starting to fall into place.

“I thought it’d be you two.” Akaguro shuts the book he’s holding and sets it on the table next to his bed, stretching out his arms before pillowing them behind his head. “If it ain’t one of the doctors or Iguchi, it’s you. Surprised to see me up here?”

That is putting it mildly, though Izuku finds an easy smile for him and nods. “Of course. I told you on day one that I wanted to make sure you could get help and get better.”

“Yeah, I remember. Sit down.” Akaguro nods to a pair of chairs on the other side of the room, positioned with their backs to the wall beneath the window.

“How have you been doing recently?” Izuku takes a seat and Mirio sits next to him, seemingly happy to defer Izuku to the majority of the check-up. That makes him feel a little better, a little more certain about this. “Obviously you’re doing better if you were allowed to move rooms, but how are you actually feeling these days?”

Akaguro hums, dark eyes darting up toward the ceiling as he thinks, and Izuku notes even his hair looks better. Less fried, less tangled. Still flyaway, but softer. Like it’s been cleaned thoroughly and still wants to do its own thing. I’m so glad he’s looking better.

“Guess it was inevitable. It’s still nice.” Akaguro scrunches up his face— not his nose, because he’d lost it in a fight. “Regular therapy sessions are, uh. They’re something. I guess they help. I’m not as pissed about everything as I used to be at least.”

“Letting go of anger can be a very important step to moving forward,” Izuku agrees, and Akaguro arches an eyebrow at him as if to ask what he knows about it. “I mean, obviously you’re still entitled to being angry. Just the kind of angry that doesn’t ruin your life.”

Slowly, Akaguro’s face smoothes out. “Yeah, that sounds about right. I’m still mad. You don’t spend most of your life in chains and not be. But it’s just… It happened. I gotta make peace with that and move on or some shit. If I want to have an actual life for myself.”

“That’s a really positive outlook to have on the future,” Izuku agrees softly.

“Y’know, I remember you being real torn up in the ambulance on the way back. We never talked about that, huh?” Akaguro shifts slightly on the bed so that he’s facing them, and Izuku feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up a little at the mention of that night. “I thought it was weird, but I was also drugged out of my damn mind.”

Mirio laughs softly. “From what I understand, there was some miscommunication about how hard of a dose to hit you with because of your size and bulkiness. We overdid it a little.”

“Nah, you did it just enough. If I coulda moved, I probably would have hurt someone trying to help.” Akaguro’s eyes meet Izuku’s directly, and the message is clear. He was terrified, high on adrenaline, and Izuku was closer to him than anyone else. “So, the ambulance.”

Izuku smiles, but it feels bittersweet on his lips. “I felt like I failed, actually. The whole purpose of rescuing a hybrid is to make you realize you’re safe and free now, and instead someone almost got hurt. The point of me being there was to calm you down.”

“Because you’re a behaviorist. I’ve been reading about that a little. That night… Isn’t easy to remember, there’s gaps there.” Akaguro shrugs like it means nothing to him, but Izuku understands. There are some hybrids who forget most of the rescue entirely because so many of them are choked by fear and desperation to escape when help finally arrives.

“Yes,” Izuku says. “My entire career is based around comforting hybrids during times of great distress during the rescue process so that we can get you safely away from the site and usually to a hospital to be checked out. But that obviously didn’t happen.”

Akaguro snorts at him. “Nah, you did fine. I wasn’t doing so hot. But you always looked dead inside every time you came by so I thought I’d probably say something next time.”

“Oh, I apologize, then. I was trying to be positive for you.” And again, Izuku feels bad. If I couldn’t do it perfectly the first time, I wanted to be better after that.

“Stop beating yourself up, kid. You did your best and I can appreciate that, because it was sure of a hell of a lot more than most people did.” Akaguro reaches up and scratches behind one of his ears, and it flicks a few times; Izuku smiles. “You know, they’re actually talking about discharging me eventually. How fucking wild would that be?”

Izuku tries not to let the excitement show too much just in case this does not come through for the new few years. “That’s fantastic. They have programs that help you find a place to stay and financial help and even job hunting programs, and—”

Slowly, the corner of Akaguro’s mouth curls up. “Believe me when I say a place to stay isn’t gonna be an issue, but I’m already looking over shit for the rest of that.”

He already has somewhere to stay? “Well, I’m definitely glad to hear that. You deserve this. How have you been healing on the physical front?”

“Fine. Infections all gone, everything’s healed up and scarring over. I finally might be on the other side of this whole thing.” Akaguro huffs a stray lock of hair away from his eye when it tumbles down his face. “And I owe that to your division, because I wouldn’t have gotten away on my own. So even if you feel bad about that night, you shouldn’t. ‘Cause it was the only good thing anyone did for me up ‘til that point, and I appreciate that.”

Izuku takes a slow, deep breath to keep himself calm, though the smile that splits his face is impossible to swallow back down. “It wasn’t a problem. It’s what I always wanted to do for hybrids, and I’m glad it means you’re getting a real second chance, Akaguro-san.”

“Chizome, Midoriya.” Akaguro actually smiles at him. “Might as well, right?”

“Then it’s Izuku to you, too.” And finally, the weight from Izuku’s lifts in full.

Before he leaves, he combs his fingers through Akaguro’s— Chizome’s — hair and strokes his ears. They excuse themselves from the room, Izuku closing the door behind him, and they wait patiently for an available elevator before heading back down. This is fantastic. Finally, some positive news to add to Chizome’s file, some sign of progression after the long and hard road it took to get here. Before the elevator comes, Mirio rests a hand on his shoulder and squeezes, drawing Izuku’s eyes up to his face.

His smile is softer and kinder than it’s been all morning. “See? There was nothing to worry about. He’s doing better and he’s going to be fine. Maybe even moving out soon.”

“I didn’t want to say anything because backfiring, but… I’m so relieved. ” Izuku ignores the slight sting of tears at the back of his eyes, years of worry finally laid to rest. “And I’m so glad. Did you hear he might not even have to worry about a place to live?”

Mirio chuckles softly and nods, giving his shoulder a pat before dropping his hand. “I did. I assume it must be with the nurse we saw leave his room. I’m not entirely surprised. Apparently this is a job where it’s very easy to get attached, but I can totally understand.”

“You know, Chizome went through… An unimaginable amount of suffering before we found him, and he’s coming out on the other side. It took a long time, but…” Izuku trails off, shaking his head, swallowing back the tears. “It turns out bringing him here was the right call. I didn’t want to do it, but I can admit now that you were definitely right.”

“It’s not easy. I know that, too, how hard it is to make that your professional opinion. It feels like giving up sometimes, like you’re saying you can’t help. But it’s just saying that someone with a different kind of training can. We’re all allies,” Mirio reminds him.

“I know.” Izuku dashes a tear away. “I was also thinking… There’s hope for Kacchan, then. That even if he’s going through a lot, that once we find him, it’s going to be okay. That even if it takes a while, we’re going to be able to see him through this to a happy ending.”

“Bakugou Katsuki, right? You’ve told me about him before.” The elevator doors slide open, but Mirio takes Izuku by both shoulders and turns him so that he’s looking up into Mirio’s stern, serious expression. “We’re going to find him, Izuku. I swear that.”

Izuku nods, straightening his spine, squaring his shoulders. Summoning all of the strength and determination he now has seeing that Chizome is well on his way to having a life. “I know we are. Because we have to. Because I promise him every single time I think about him, and I have no intentions of ever breaking that promise.”

“Good man.” Mirio’s smile is brilliant, then he yelps and shoves his arm in the doors to keep them from closing. “We almost missed that. Let’s head back to headquarters.”

They file into the elevator, and Izuku renews his promise once again.