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After Dark

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Hawks feels like his eyes are going to turn to dust if he stares at his textbook pdf any longer. He glances from his tablet over to the clock on the table beside him, doing a double take when the screen blinks 2:34 a.m back.
He sighs, turning his tablet off and scrubbing at his eyes. It’s so late, but he has so much homework left, there’s no way he’s going to be getting any sleep.
He makes his mind up, standing from the nest of notebooks and case files surrounding him on the dorm room couch. Hawks makes his way back to his room, not worrying about being quiet, as he was able to get a single room, thank god.
He considers his closet for a while, trying to choose something warm enough and comfortable, not really caring about what he looks like. After finally settling on a grey hoodie and a random pair jeans, he doesn’t bother to comb through his hair, tucking it into a hat as he stuffs his feet into a pair of sneakers.

Hawks doesn’t have a destination in mind as he walks. If he’s honest, he’s more walking just to walk. Get some fresh air - or, as fresh as he can get in the middle of the city. Doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night, he’s breathing exhaust. Those damn street racing crews love this time of night, Hawks can always hear their cars screeching around street corners as he tries to sleep.
His mind continues to wander as he turns down a street he’s passed many times, but never thought to explore before. Looking up as he passes a storefront that is still lit up from inside, Hawks discovers...a coffee shop?
A coffee shop, open at 3 in the morning.
It’s the only storefront casting any light, the only thing in this area of town open at this time of night, and it almost feels to Hawks as if it were calling to him. As if it were fate. And, well, who is he to deny fate?

A bell above the door jingles with his entry, and the man at the counter looks at him lazily. The first thing that comes to Hawks’ mind is tattoos.
So, so many tattoos. Hawks can’t see any blank skin left on the man’s arms, and he has a large piece covering his neck. There is a small one underneath the man’s eye, and if Hawks squints, he thinks he can see the beginning of another large design, poking out of the top of the man’s shirt.
Staring a moment longer, Hawks discoveres the man is pretty well-pierced, too. Multiple piercings adorn his ears and face.
“Can I help you?” The man asks, sounding like he would rather be anywhere else.
Hawks startles at the sound of the man’s voice, gravelly and deep. Pulling himself away from his thoughts, Hawks gestures to the menu above them. “” He says, eloquently.
The man at the counter - Touya, according to his nametag, smirks. “Right. Coffee. Black?”
Hawks nearly gags. “God, no thank you. Do you have condensed milk? I need it so sweet I can barely taste the coffee.”
Touya scoffs. “Yeah, alright.” He rings it though and Hawks hands a small bill to pay, throwing the change into the tip jar without a second thought and taking a seat at a small table, close enough to watch Touya work.
The man is captivating. Hawks can’t quite put his finger on what it is about the man, there’s just something about Touya that draws his attention.
Maybe it’s the way his tattoos move on his skin as he works? The designs almost seem to dance on his skin. Hawks isn’t sure, really, but he can’t bring himself to stop watching as Touya prepares his drink. The man pulls a face as he pours sweetened condensed milk in the mug.
Finally, he places the mug on the bar beside Hawks. “I don’t know how you can drink this,” He says, wiping his hands on his apron.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hawks replies. He takes a sip, burning his tongue in the process, but he continues on. “This is the only way to drink coffee. In fact, I think this is the best coffee I’ve ever had.”
It’s not a lie, honestly. Despite the burnt tongue, the coffee tastes amazing. Much better, at least, than the canned stuff he usually drinks.
Touya nods. “Yeah. It should be, since I made it.”
Hawks wants to scoff at that, he really does, but the coffee is so good. Besides, he’s not sure he’s close enough with Touya to do that. Given that they’re basically strangers, and all.

He sips his coffee, quietly watching Touya and trying not to be obvious about it. Touya...doesn’t do much. He starts with cleaning the couple machines and cups he used to make Hawks’ beverage, but that only takes a few minutes, before he’s heading back to his stool behind the cash register and picking up his phone. Nobody enters the coffee shop, and it really hits Hawks in that moment how weird this whole thing is. What kind of coffee shop is open 24 hours? Why did Hawks decide to stop for coffee of all things, when all he wanted was fresh air.
“Enjoying the view?” Touya drawls, pulling Hawks from his wandering thoughts.
Touya is looking at him, now, smirk on his face. Shit. Hawks had definitely been caught staring. He feels heat rise on his face, and turns to face his coffee instead.
“Sorry,” He mutters, embarrassed. “I zoned out, there.”
Touya lets out a short laugh. “I’m sure.”
Hawks looks up. “I did! I was thinking about how weird it is that a coffee shop is open all night long. Who wants coffee at 3 a.m?”
Touya shoots him a look, raising his eyebrows. “You, apparently.”
Hawks huffs. “That’s different...I was up studying.”
“I don’t think staring at me counts as study time.”
Hawks buries his face in his hands to hide the blush once again rising on his face. “I promise that’s not what it was…”
Touya chuckles. “Right. I’m sure it wasn’t. You finished that drink?”
Looking down to his mug, Hawks discovers that he is, indeed, finished his drink. He nods, handing the mug to Touya, and standing up from his chair. “I guess I should get going, then. There’s studying to be done, after all.”
Touya doesn’t turn around as he replies, “Enjoy yourself.”
Hawks leaves, committing the location of the coffee shop to memory. There’s something about that boy, Touya.

He gives up studying almost immediately after getting home. He just can’t get the barista out of his head. The coffee he drank does nothing to stop him from falling asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow, dreaming of tattoos.

Touya seems surprised, almost, when he sees Hawks walk through the door once again the next night, but the surprise is hidden quickly with a smirk.
“Fancy meeting you here.” Hawks says, pulling out another small bill. “Any chance you remember what I got last night?”
Touya sighs, already punching the order in. “How could I forget that monstrosity?” He grabs the bill from Hawks’ hand, and when he sees Hawks walk over to sit, dumps the change in the tip jar.
“You know you’re curious,” Hawks teases. “You want to know what it’s like. I swear, if you try it once, you’ll never go back.”
Touya looks up from where he had been preparing the coffee grounds. “You wanna bet?”
Hawks grins, pulling his wallet out to examine its contents. “I’ll bet you ten bucks!”
Touya nods, grabbing a second mug and some extra grounds to make his own drink.

A moment later, Hawks and Touya stare each other down from across the coffee bar. Two steaming mugs sit in front of them.
Hawks picks his up, making a cheers motion before taking his first sip. It’s amazing, of course, just as it was last night. “Perfect.”
Touya sighs, picking up his own mug and taking a tentative sip. His face scrunches in disgust.
“God,” He says, placing the mug back on the bartop and grabbing a black water bottle from behind him. “I don’t know how you can drink that.”
“It’s good!” Hawks replies, even as he pushes the promised money towards Touya.
The other man smirks as he shoves the money in his pocket, grabbing a to-go cup and holding it up along with his own newly-abandoned drink. “You want this? If not I’m going to pour it out.”
Hawks gasps. “Of course I’ll take it. Don’t waste perfectly good coffee!”
Touya lets out a chuckle as he pours the still steaming drink into the paper cup, placing it on the table beside Hawks’ own drink. “It’s all yours, Pretty Boy.”
Hawks...doesn’t know where that name came from. Touya says it in a teasing tone, but it still makes Hawks feel...something. Something he can’t pin down, just yet.

He leaves after about an hour of nursing his own coffee, and then Touya’s, until they’ve both grown cold. He gives an excuse about studying as he leaves, to which Touya replies that he doesn’t care, but as Hawks walks out the front door, Touya shouts behind him. “See you tomorrow?”
Hawks grins as he turns around. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

The first time Hawks visits the coffee shop on one of Touya’s days off, he finds he’s oddly disappointed. He still buys his coffee, but opts to get it to go instead. It’s not the same, without Touya there to tease him about his overly sweetened drink of choice.

With caffeine coursing through his veins, making Hawks unable to sleep, he scrolls through apps his phone mindlessly.
He’s scrolling through Twitter when the news finds him, having been announced less than 15 minutes earlier.
“The criminal known to police solely by the name Dabi has struck once again.”
The headline burns into his eyes. Dabi. The man the police have been chasing for over a year now, who appeared out of nowhere one day, commiting crimes and creating chaos like a professional. The police still have no clues regarding his true identity. In fact, they don’t even know what the man looks like. Eyewitnesses have only been able to confirm that he is, indeed, a man. Tall, and lanky, wearing a mask covering his entire face, and gloves to hide his fingerprints.
Dabi is known most notoriously for being a cop-killer. The police and the public alike despise him. Hawks thinks he agrees.

When Hawks returns to the coffee shop, two nights later, Touya is back. Hawks salutes as he enters, handing over the bill he already had prepared and taking his usual seat. Touya doesn’t speak, at first, ringing in Hawks’ drink in silence.
“Did you hear that criminal, Dabi, hit again the other night?” Hawks speaks, mostly to break the silence.
Touya looks up at that, raising his eyebrows at the man across from him. “...I heard, yeah.”
Hawks nods, looking down to his hands clasped together on the table in front of him. “I’m glad the cops are working hard to catch him. Can’t have a cop killer roaming the streets like that.”
Touya snorts. “The pigs deserve it. Bastards.”
Hawks looks up to see Touya shaking his head as he pours the sweetener into Hawks’ drink. “What do you mean?”
Touya looks at him, making eye contact as he replies. “Police are not good people. You can’t tell me you’ve never heard stories of cops planting shit on people, imagine how many do it without getting caught.” Hawks winces. It’’s true.
Touya’s voice fills with more emotion than Hawks has ever heard from him as he continues. “Not to mention how many of the bastards get away with hurting their wife and kids.”
The man looks down, breaking eye contact as he grabs Hawks’ drink and places it in front of him. He turns away, so Hawks can no longer see his face, and begins mindlessly wiping down the countertop. Hawks doesn’t speak, sipping at his coffee and processing what Touya had said.
It sounded…personal. He’s not going to ask, isn’t in the mood to pry, but he has a feeling Touya accidentally revealed more than he planned to.

When he gets back to his dorm, a couple hours later, Hawks does some research.
And Touya...was right.
It’s common. So, so common.
Hawks knew it happened, of course, he’s heard the horror stories. He never would have guessed those numbers, though. It’s - a lot.

As soon as Hawks enters the coffee shop the next night, Touya is apologizing.
“I’m sorry,” He sighs. “I shouldn’t have gotten upset.”
Hawks shakes his head. “No, you don’t need to apologize. I did some research. You were right. I’m sorry.”
Touya nods. “It’s fine. I just...find it hard to hate Dabi. I don’t know.”
Hawks sends the man a smile, which Touya mirrors, albeit not quite genuinely.
After placing his money on the counter, Hawks takes his usual seat. He watches as Touya rings through his order and begins on the drink, face contemplative.
Hawks opens his mouth, about to break the silence, but Touya beats him to the punch, speaking without looking up.
“I feel like...I owe you an explanation.”
Hawks’ eyes widen. “No! No, not at all, Touya. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to!”
Touya chuckles at that, but his eyes are...fond?
“I know, Hawks. I want to tell you.”
Hawks nods, the nervous tension from earlier escaping his body.
Touya places Hawks’ finished drink in front of him, before turning around and pouring a cup of steaming coffee for himself, adding absolutely nothing to it, the heathen. He then walks around the bar, and Hawks watches as Touya walks towards him, before finally setting his own drink on the table in front Hawks’ mug and sitting on the chair across from him.
Touya rests his elbows on the table top, staring down at his drink for a moment. When he turns to face Hawks, he looks nervous.
Hawks offers what he hopes is a reassuring smile, nodding for Touya to speak.
“My father...he’s abusive. I have three siblings, and he’s never treated any of us right. And my mother… Well, I don’t see her anymore, and it’s my father’s fault.”
He takes a deep sigh before continuing. “My father also happens to be a cop. Detective, to be specific. All his cop buddies know what he’s like, from the earlier times when my mother still had the guts to call them about him, and from later with my younger brother, but they don’t give a fuck. They never did. He’s one of them, so he’s immune, and he knows it. He’s used it against us. He’s pure evil. The police are corrupt.”
Hawks reaches out a hand, resting it on top of one of Touya’s clenched fists. Touya shoots him a weak smile. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, to be honest.” He shakes his head. “I don’t usually tell people. Most of my friends have no idea.”
“Thank you for trusting me, then.”
Touya nods. “Yeah. I guess I must trust you. A lot.”
Hawks isn’t sure why that makes him blush, but with everything he’s come to know about Touya over the time they’ve spent together, he’s pretty sure trust isn’t something the man gives out often.

He stays until Touya’s shift finishes, that next morning. There’s a rush at 5:30, and Touya speaks to them all in a bored tone, a complete 180 from how he interacts with Hawks. It makes something - glee, maybe - rise up inside him.
They leave at 6:30, the sun rising above them. Touya turns to face Hawks. “See you tomorrow, Pretty Boy?”
Hawks blushes at the use of the nickname - he thought Touya had abandoned it. He looks away, attempting to hide the rosiness of his cheeks, unsure if he’s succeeded in his attempts or not. “Yeah,” He mumbles. “See you tomorrow.”

He researches Dabi after his classes finish.
At first, what he finds he mostly already knew.
Dabi is a criminal. He kills people - or, well, he kills cops. That’s all he can find, for a while.
Until he stumbles upon a news site, one that he’s never seen before, that claims to give “100% of the Facts, 0% of the Bullshit.”
Hawks clicks on the first article to mention Dabi. It’s about his most recent kill, another policeman. He doesn’t expect to find any new information, and begins to skim read the article. He quickly notices, however, that this article is not like the others.
Instead, the article details the abuse this policeman put his family through. It claims that Dabi probably knew this about the cop, given that his past murders have all been against other police with similar crimes.
Hawks...didn’t know that. He’s sure it’s being covered up by the police, to make Dabi look worse than he is.
Maybe Dabi isn’t as bad as he was led to believe. He seems more like a vigilante, than a criminal.
Hawks has a lot to think about.

Hawks has been visiting the coffee shop...almost daily. It’s almost shameful, and his wallet is definitely hurting, but he can’t bring himself to stop.
After another week of seeing each other every night that Touya worked, the two men exchanged numbers. They text often, sharing memes and complaining about stupid shit, but they never plan to actually hang out. Hawks is, quite honestly, too nervous to ask Touya to do anything. He doesn’t want to come off as clingy or annoying.
So, now, he just spends as much time as he can at the coffee shop, with Touya. He brings his laptop, sometimes actually working on homework, but usually just as an excuse. He’s pretty sure Touya knows he’s not doing school work, if the knowing looks the man occasionally sends him mean anything, but Hawks elects to ignore that.
He starts to stay all night, every day. He begins to recognize the common morning customers, some of them going as far as to greet him whilst they await their drinks. Touya teases him about it, saying Hawks knows the customers better than Touya himself, but, well, what can Hawks say? He’s a people person.
When staying with Touya all night doesn’t cut it anymore, Hawks begins leaving his dorm earlier and earlier each night. He never leaves quite early enough to be there right at the beginning of Touya’s shift, because eight hours is too much, even for him. But, he goes from three hours at the shop, to four, to five.

He’s known for a while that he has a crush on Touya.
Sure, at first, he was drawn to the man mainly because of his looks. Touya is covered in tattoos and piercings, which Hawks loves, but even underneath all of that, he is attractive. Hawks doesn’t think he can describe it, really, the man is handsome in a soft way.
However, slowly, he finds himself drawn to the person behind the good looks. Sure, to some people, Touya may come off as aloof and uncaring. But, Hawks knows that’s not true.
Touya cares - really, truly cares about people. That is something Hawks is proud to say he’s learned about the man. He cares, and he’s soft at heart. He would do anything for his siblings, and despite running away from home as a teenager, he’s still kept up with their wellbeing. He misses his mother. He hasn’t seen her since he was young, but he can’t bring himself to visit her.
With every visit Hawks makes to the coffee shop, every conversation he has with Touya, no matter if is deep and emotional, or silly and nonsensical - every time Hawks is with Touya, his feelings grow stronger.
He’s not sure what to do. Touya doesn’t - he can’t like Hawks back. Touya is so far out of Hawks’ league, it’s not even funny.
He thinks, sometimes, that Touya may like him back. The man looks at him sometimes, when he doesn’t realize Hawks can see him. Not to mention the occasional fond looks in his eyes, and the “Pretty Boy”’s.
He shakes himself out of that train of thought pretty quickly, however. Wishful thinking, is all that is.

When he’s not at the coffee shop or in class, Hawks is continuing to research Dabi. Specifically, the offenses of the people Dabi kills.
Just like the article he found before claimed, all of Dabi’s victims are police with abuse allegations. People high enough to have charges dropped because of their status, people who have the ability to get the claims made against them mostly hidden away, never released to the media. Crimes against children, against family. Abusive cops.
It makes Hawks sick, honestly. To see that these people are being treated like saints in death.
Finally, he comes to the conclusion.
Maybe, Dabi is right.

It’s a normal night, for all intents and purposes. Hawks enters the coffee shop at 1:30 on the dot, sees a steaming mug of coffee waiting for him, and sits down in his chair, throwing a bill over to Touya.
He pulls his laptop out of his bag, sighing as he opens Microsoft Word. “I have to finish this stupid essay. It’s only, like…” He squints at the screen. “One thousand more words.”
Touya nods, motioning for Hawks to do his work. Touya usually takes the time that Hawks spends actually doing school work to do his own work, mopping the floors and cleaning the machines. Hawks had been teased relentlessly when Touya mopped underneath him the first time. He had opened his mouth to ask Hawks to lift his feet, only to see Hawks’ feet dangling from his chair, too short to touch the floor.
Hawks shakes his head at the memory, turning his focus to his laptop so he can pump this essay out, get it over and done with.

An hour later, Hawks lets out a groan as he pushes his laptop away. He rubs at his eyes before stretching in his seat.
“Done?” Touya asks, amusement tinting his voice.
Hawks smiles. “Done!” He confirms.
They talk for hours, Touya cleaning as he speaks, but still paying attention as Hawks rambles.
“Hey,” Hawks starts. “Do you think Dabi’s going to do anything some time soon?”
Touya faces him, raising an eyebrow. “Why?”
Hawks shrugs. “I’ve been doing some research, I guess. Reading more about those cops. Dabi is...kind of good?” He pauses, considering his words. “I mean, he’s a criminal. Crime is bad. But, those policemen are bad too. All of them. Dabi is just...getting rid of the bad people.”
Touya nods. “Interesting.” Hawks meets his eyes, and Touya smirks. “You like Dabi now? Should I be worried about competition, Pretty Boy?”
Hawks chokes. “No! I mean - what?”
Touya shrugs him off, though, nodding towards the customer entering the shop, signifying the morning rush.
So Hawks is left to wait for an explanation as to whatever the Hell that meant.
One hour has never felt so long.

Finally, finally, 6:30 arrives, and Touya’s coworker, an eccentric man named Jin, arrives. Hawks watches as Touya removes his apron, walking through the swinging double doors into the back room. Hawks quickly packs up as Touya changes out of his uniform, and two minutes later, they’re exiting the coffee shop.
Hawks has picked up the habit of walking Touya to the train. It’s a pathetic attempt to stay with the man longer, but Touya never complains.
“Hey,” Touya says, stopping on the sidewalk beside a small boutique. “Are you busy Friday night?”
Hawks scrunches his eyebrows. “...No. Why?”
Touya smiles, a genuine smile, and Hawks is blown away by how beautiful it is. It’s not the first time he’s seen Touya’s real smile, but it still gets him every time. “Go on a date with me.”
Hawks’ eyes widen. “What?”
“You heard me. Do you like chicken?” Touya speaks nonchalantly, as if he hasn’t just turned Hawks’ world upside-down.
“You...want to go for dinner with me?”
Touya laughs. “Yes, dumbass, keep up! Do you like chicken or not?”
Hawks blinks. “Uh, yeah. I like chicken.”
“Great! It’s settled then. I’ll pick you up at six.”
“Right. Okay. Six! Sounds great.” Hawks nods dumbly, focusing is gaze on the sidewalk.
Letting out a small laugh, Touya nods as well. “Great. See you then, Pretty Boy.” He turns, walking towards the train and leaving a dumbfounded Hawks behind him. Then he stops, turning around with a shit-eating grin.
“Oh, by the way?” Hawks looks back up as Touya continues. “My friends call me Dabi.”