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boy next door

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“What have you got for me?” Hawks cradled his phone between his ear and his shoulder as he slathered a liberal amount of mustard on a hotdog. “Shady warehouse? Abandoned wharf? You always know how to wine and dine me.”

He should be more careful when he has Dabi on the phone, but it’s hard to remember caution when you’re twenty stories up, perched between an air conditioning unit and something humming ominously with electricity. No one should be up here except for him and his lunch.

And Dabi, his voice made tinny by the phone’s shitty speakers. Burner phones were handy, but the quality was nothing to write home about.

“I need a place to stay,” Dabi says.

Hawks blinks, struggling to find someplace to throw out the mustard packet. Shit. No trash cans on the roof. “Uh,” he says. “The real estate market isn’t great right now, but I can make some calls—“

“I’m staying with you.”

Record scratch. Rewind. “Excuse me?” He grabs his phone, smearing mustard across the back. Dammit. “Come again?”

That’s, uh, not part of the mission parameters.

“I need a place to stay. Lie low for a bit. Things are still pretty hot after the high-end.” Yeah, he knows, thanks. His feathers are still recovering emotionally. Dabi continues. “You have a place to stay. You want to get in my good graces. Easy.”

Hawks laughs, but Dabi doesn’t reciprocate. Alright, so not a joke. “You can’t stay in my house,” he says, exasperated. “Do you have any idea what would happen if someone got a picture of you—“

“You have a house?” Dabi says abruptly. “Nice.” He sounds like he’s already picking out the colors for the walls.

“What?” He shakes his head. This conversation is turning him in circles and it’s only been ninety seconds. “No, it’s a figure of speech. I live in an apartment. I mean, a good sized one, if you ask me, but—“

Dabi grunts. “That’ll do,” he says. “What’s your address?”

No. No, no, no.

“Dabi—“ Hawks squeezes his hot dog in half. “Fuck.” His hand looks like a hotdog murder scene, smeared with mustard and ugly chunks of mysterious meat. He’d been looking forward to that. “I’ll find you a place to stay, okay? I’ll pay for a hotel myself.” And expense it to the Hero Commission. Heh. His paycheck is nice, but not that nice. “But stay away from my apartment.”

Dabi says nothing. Never a good sign.

“Got it?” Hawks says, maintaining the firm voice he reserves for when school groups yank on his feathers.

“Hm,” Dabi says. “I’ll find it myself. Pick me up something for dinner on your way.” He hangs up.

Hawks stares down at his phone, his hands still a crime scene of mustard, and wonders where exactly his life went wrong.

///

Hawks forces himself to see through the end of his patrol.

Technically speaking, it’s his responsibility to report anything he learns about the League of Villains and their movements directly to the Hero Commission. But even more technically, he can’t be sure that Dabi’s even followed through with it, and there’s no point in getting surveillance installed on his apartment for no good reason. It’d be a waste of resources, and more importantly, no one needs to witness how much trash TV he watches, or his morning workout, thank you very much.

So he keeps it cool, plays it normal. He’s a hero, after all. Not just a hero, but a spy. A double agent. He’d been chosen for his level head and ability to act under pressure.

Hawks throws his apartment door open so hard the entire frame rattles.

For a moment, it appears like nothing has changed. His mail is exactly where he left it this morning, his spare jacket thrown over the back of the couch. There’s a small pile of fluffy red feathers in the corner where the roomba has swept them, reminding him that he’s due to molt soon. Great.

But at least he’s alone. Hawks’ shoulders dip as he relaxes for the first time all day.

And then Dabi strolls out of the kitchen, gnawing on a chicken wing like an alley cat. “What did you bring?”

Hawks’ shoulders tense again immediately. He closes the door before his neighbors can choose this moment to indulge their nosier impulses, and presses his back against it. He closes his eyes. Inhale. Exhale. There’s a villain standing in his kitchen, eating his leftovers, wearing his--

Hawks’ eyes spring back open. “Are those my sweatpants?”

Dabi actually looks down, like he’d forgotten. They’re simultaneously too small and too big, hanging low around Dabi’s boney hips but leaving a good five inches of scarred ankle exposed. “They’re comfortable,” he offers.

Inhale. Exhale. “Yeah, this--” Hawks gestures to Dabi’s whole...being. “--isn’t going to work.”

“Don’t be dramatic.” Dabi tosses the chicken bones into the sink with a clatter, and Hawks’ jaw twitches. That’s not where they go. “Haven’t you ever had a roommate before?”

“Roommates pay rent.” And typically, if all goes well, aren’t wanted criminals and/or serial murderers. At least in his experience.

Dabi saunters forward, his hands in his pockets, which doesn’t do the waistband any favors in staying up. Hawks keeps his eyes religiously on the ceiling, even as Dabi leans close, his lips pulled back in a cat-sans-canary sort of smile. He smells faintly of Hawks’ shampoo. Did he take a shower too? Hawks’ interest in the ceiling redoubles.

“Don’t worry,” Dabi says, in a voice that leads him to believe worrying is entirely justified, “you won’t even know I’m here.”

///

When Hawks chose his apartment, the real estate agent had to talk him into the model with the extra bedroom. You never know when you might need it, she promised him. It’s good to have. Since then Hawks has had every intention to make it into a thousand different things--a gym, an office, a junk room--but instead it’s remained a sort of set piece for the version of him that pretends to have guests. The truth is, he’s rarely home himself, much less entertaining.

This isn’t really how he imagined that changing.

Hawks lies on his stomach, his face half-buried in his pillow, but one eye boring into the wall. He’s pretending to sleep, which is stupid, considering no one can see him, but the act is almost comforting. On the other side of it, Dabi is--sleeping? It’s hard to imagine Dabi sleeping. It’s really hard to imagine Dabi doing anything but slouching menacingly and saying something aggravating.

He has a patrol early in the morning, but he can’t sleep. His mind keeps spinning right back to the very flammable wall between them and the fact that he has no idea what he’s doing anymore. He should tell the commission about this, he absolutely 100% should, but--

But what? He doesn’t want to give up that easily? He still has a job to do? He’s maybe, sort of, started getting a little attached?

Hawks buries his face in the pillow, shed feathers tickling his ears. This is fine. He’s dealt with worse, he can handle a roommate, whoever he may be.

And if he suffocates in the night because he didn’t pick his face up from the pillow? Even better.

///

It works, for a little while.

Actually, works is a strong word. But it’s survivable, if annoying. Dabi always manages to be exactly where he can be the biggest nuisance, like a cat who knows you’re running short on time.

When Hawks is getting ready in the morning, Dabi is there.

“You snore,” Dabi says the first morning, sitting on the counter, nursing a cup of coffee.

“I don’t snore,” Hawks says. Or he tries to, but his toothbrush is in the way, so he ends up spitting toothpaste foam instead.

Dabi still gets the idea. He shrugs. “Either that or there were fighting cats in your room last night. These walls aren’t very thick, are they?”

When Hawks gets home in the evening, Dabi is there.

“Why is it so cold in here?” Hawks grouses on the second day, immediately going to the thermostat. It doesn’t help that he’s just come off patrol and he’s sticky with sweat that goes cold the moment he’s blasted with the air conditioning.

“I was warm,” Dabi says from where he’s wrapped in a blanket in front of the TV, bathed in the flickering light of some movie Hawks sincerely hopes he didn’t pay for. He has Netflix for a reason, Dabi.

The muscle in his jaw jumps. It’s been doing that a lot lately. “Then take off the blanket.”

Dabi grunts and buries himself deeper in the blanket.

When Hawks goes to bed at night, Dabi isn’t there.

On the third day, Hawks goes to lock the door and hesitates. Dabi disappeared sometime after dinner but before dark, and has yet to reappear. Not that he cares. He can only assume that Dabi comes and goes as he pleases when Hawks is on patrol, doing whatever it is that villains do in their day to day. Almost certainly illegal. Probably dangerous.

Not that he cares, he reiterates. Really, he’s more concerned about what Dabi is doing when he’s in the apartment.

“Bastard,” Hawks mutters, and leaves the door unlocked.

///

And then things change.

It’s not a lightning strike, or a snap of the fingers; he doesn’t know things are changing at the time, or else he might have tried a little harder to stop it.

“What’s that?” Hawks says one morning, running his fingers through his hair in lieu of combing it. He’s learned to stop wandering around as he brushes his teeth. He suspects that Dabi talks to him when his mouth is full of toothpaste foam on purpose.

“An egg,” Dabi says without looking up from the newspaper. When did they get a newspaper subscription? What year is this?

It is, in fact, an egg. A single egg that looks like it was intended to be over easy, but ended up a little scrambled in the execution. It stares at him from the center of a little plate. Hawks stares back.

“What’s it for?” He asks.

“It’s for you,” Dabi says. He folds up the newspaper and leaves it on the kitchen bar. “Dumb shit.”

A single egg is--well, it’s not a very good breakfast, especially when you’re going to be flying all day, but it doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can (poorly) fry an egg.

But it is the start of a pattern.

Every morning he wakes up to find a single egg waiting for him. Sometimes Dabi isn’t even there, or is mummified on the couch under the blanket he’s decided is his. The quality actually starts to get better, and Hawks begins to suspect Dabi is watching youtube videos in his free time. By the end of the week it actually looks properly made over easy, and not pushed around with a spatula a little too much.

It’s Saturday when he wakes up to find a mug next to his bed. Still warm.

Which meant Dabi was in his bedroom, which raises a whole host of valid concerns considering he’s a villain with a body count, but all Hawks can think about is the pile of dirty laundry that’s starting to become a mountain in the corner. He would have at least shoved it behind the door if he thought someone was going to see it.

Dabi is watching the news when Hawks wanders out. Actually, he’s watching the news while wearing the stupid monogramed bath robe Hawks’ manager got him for his birthday last year, but Hawks is trying to focus on one thing at a time.

“What’s this?” Hawks lifts up the mug. One of his feathers idly scratches between his shoulder blades, and he smothers a yawn.

“What does it look like?” Dabi grunts.

It looks like coffee. More importantly it smells like coffee and Hawks wants it very badly, but something about this whole scene is troubling, to say the least. “I don’t drink coffee when I’m working,” he says. It makes him too jittery, and frankly he’s over-energetic enough just as a baseline. When he drinks coffee on the job he tends to make the news, and not always in ways his manager approves of.

Dabi’s eyes slide toward him, scathingly condescending for a man wearing a fluffy red bathrobe with custom slits in the back to accommodate wings he doesn’t have. You’d think the draft would bother him. “You’re not working today.”

Well, no, but--Hawk blinks, tripping over a rebuttal. “I only like it--”

“With two sugars and a splash of that almond milk in the back of the fridge,” Dabi fills in, sounding bored. “Which is starting to smell weird, by the way.”

“I--” Shit, he really doesn’t have a comeback for that. Does it even need a comeback? Something tells Hawks that it does. How dare Dabi know his schedule. How dare he know his coffee order. That’s not--that’s not normal. “You smell weird.”

“Mhm,” Dabi hums, changing the channel.

///

That night Hawks rolls on his side, his pillow folded and mashed into submission under one arm, staring at the wall between his room and Dabi’s.

The guest room. Between his room and the guest room.

He resolves to stop drinking coffee. It makes it too hard to get to sleep.

///

And then Hawks fucks up.

The actual fuck up in question comes a week and a half after the inciting egg incident, during which they proceeded with the strange, evolving domestic precedent Dabi decided to set. Eggs in the morning, coffee on his days off. Some nights he even comes home and Dabi has managed to scrape something together for dinner. He says it’s because he’s ‘fucking starving’ and ‘will barf if he sees another chicken wing,’ but Hawks sees the recipe videos in his youtube history. It’s more adorable than Hawks allows himself to think about.

Which, in hindsight, probably leads to the Fuck Up. If he’d just looked at those feelings, taken them out and really looked at them, then he could have squashed them like a bug. Instead—

It’s a morning like any other morning. Hawks drags himself out of bed, runs a hand through his hair even though the wind will mess it up anyways, and puts on his hero costume. He eats his egg and thinks about where he’s going to stop for real breakfast. Maybe he should be good and just snag an apple from the agency office. He’s been eating like shit lately.

“Can you pick up chives in your way home?” Dabi says in his usual bored tone, hunched over the bar as he plays with Hawks’ iPad. He’s always already awake by the time Hawks drags himself out of bed somehow. “I want to try this thing.”

‘This thing’ could be either very good or very bad, so Hawks chooses to remain optimistic. “Sure,” he says absently, still weighing the apple thing. Ugh. If he keeps stewing about this he’s going to be late and he won’t get a real breakfast at all. “See ya.” He ducks as he walks by, grabbing his messenger bag with the same movement as he gives Dabi a peck on the cheek.

“See ya, babe,” Dabi murmurs, equally distracted by the app he was downloading—not a free one. Fucker.

The door closes before Hawks realizes what he’s done. He stops in his tracks and slaps a hand over his mouth. He can still feel the strange texture of Dabi’s scarred cheeks like a ghost—no, he’s not thinking about this. That didn’t just happen. This is a hallucination.

“I fucked up,” he whispers to himself.