Fumikage doesn’t quite know what he was expecting when he began working for the number two hero, but it certainly wasn’t this.
It was not Hawks, avoiding any real involvement with him for the entirety of his first internship, allowing him to leave, unimproved. It was not being invited back for a work-study, despite proving nothing about himself during his internship. It was not being largely ignored again, for a week or so, until Hawks takes a pointed, serious interest in him.
It is not ending up on a rooftop overlooking the bustling city nightlife below them, Hawks having just taught him to fly , while Hawks actually talks to him for the first time about something that isn’t information about Yuuei.
It is not being told by his mentor, the number two hero, that there are things about himself that he needs to conceal in order to be successful as a hero.
Hawks is sitting with his legs dangling over the edge of the building, rambling on about all of the ideas he has to help Fumikage’s appearance, unaware of how he’s turning Fumikage’s worldview on its head.
It takes a while for Fumikage to join him, as he takes in the information being hurled at him.
“Do I really need to conceal parts of my appearance in order to succeed?” he asks, finally, when Hawks stops to take a breath. His voice breaks in an odd way he wasn’t expecting.
Hawks actually looks at him for the first time since he started this conversation.
His face goes soft, though his golden eyes glint strangely in the low light.
“Tokoyami, I’m not telling you this to be cruel. I’m only trying to help you. I do all of these things too!”
“You do?” And there’s another thing he wasn’t expecting.
“Of course! I mean, the wings are nice and everything, but if I went around giving in to predatory bird instincts, and showing off my talons, people wouldn’t trust me as much. I’d never be able to be a hero. People would be afraid of me.”
Hawks, for the first time since Fumikage met him, takes off his gloves. Fumikage is surprised to find that the gloves he had written off as simply part of a costume have actually been hiding sharp, lethal looking talons in place of Hawks’s fingernails.
Just like Fumikage’s.
He wants to protest. Some part of him is telling him that Hawks is wrong. He doesn’t need to hide himself away in order to be a hero. He doesn’t need to tailor himself to what people want to see.
But there’s a larger part of him that tells him Hawks is right. Fumikage is already...intimidating, to say the least. His appearance can be off-putting, he knows, and Dark Shadow can be outright terrifying.
Out of the two of them, Hawks is the pro. He has to know what he’s talking about. He wouldn’t lie to Fumikage about something like this, not when he’s taken him under his wing as he has.
“What would you recommend I do?” Fumikage asks, after a moment of silence, spent staring at Hawks’s talons.
Hawks gives him a sad sort of smile, and pulls his glove back on. He reaches out like he’s going to try to ruffle the feathers on Fumikage’s head, like so many people do, forgetting he has feathers, not hair. But he only smooths out a few out of place feathers just over Fumikage’s forehead, gentle and hesitant.
It’s weirdly familiar, and Fumikage almost protests, but following the suckerpunch he’s just been dealt, it’s kind of nice.
“Well to start with, we’ll get you some gloves like mine. I’ll make sure to get them in black to match your aesthetic,” Hawks says, trying for a joke to lighten the mood.
Fumikage smiles. It feels fake to him. He’s certain Hawks can tell.
But still, he listens diligently.
He’s going to be a hero. If hiding a few aspects of his quirk is the steepest price he has to pay, he’s willing to pay it.
The next time Hawks calls him in to the agency, he arrives, not to a rush of Hawks already halfway out the door, but instead, to Hawks sitting quietly in his office. The sight is almost unsettling. Hawks is never so...reserved.
He’s far less enthusiastic and expressive than normal the entire time Fumikage is there. Hawks passes over a pair of gloves first, similar to his own, aside from their color. Fumikage pulls them on, trying not to think too hard about it.
The next thing Hawks produces is a pair of boots, tactical looking and sturdy.
“What are these for?”
“These are better for hiding your feet. They’re a little uncomfortable, but they give better support and still hide your rear claws and everything. It might take you a little while to get used to them, but once they’re worn in, they’re no big deal.”
Fumikage doesn’t really know why that hits him so differently than the knowledge that he should conceal the talons on his fingers, but he’s a little more hesitant in accepting the boots. Still, he takes them with muttered thanks, and only pauses for a second before switching out his old shoes, which made his rear claws visible, for the new boots.
Hawks was right, they’re wildly uncomfortable, compared to the shoes he’d been wearing before. But Hawks is right also in the fact that these make his feet look… normal. After they’re broken in, sure they’ll likely still be uncomfortable, but he’s sure they won’t be that bad.
“That should be alright, for you,” Hawks says, after Fumikage has strapped his feet into the boots. “The only other mutation aspect that you have is your head, and that’s recognizable and prominent, but it’s not bad. You don’t have to do anything about it.”
Fumikage breathes a sigh of relief. He doesn’t know what he’d have done, if he had to fix that as well.
“Maybe you could think about dyeing your feathers, to be less… dark? But that’s not really necessary. You don’t have to really hide anything else. You got lucky. You don’t have too many bad parts of your quirk. The only thing besides wearing the gloves and boots that you really have to worry about is making sure you don’t do things that’ll scare people.”
“What do you mean?”
Hawks scratches at the back of his head sheepishly, before spreading his hands out on his desk.
“I mean, sometimes, if you’re as similar to me as I think you are, you know how you have those instincts. Like uh, I mean, my quirk traits are like a raptor, right? And I have instincts like one sometimes, you know? Like I sometimes I’ll make noises like a bird, or have a craving for raw meat, or something will move fast in my field of view, and I have the urge to grab it, and just not let go? Stuff like that? It’s important that you don’t do those things.”
That gives Fumikage pause, because he usually gives in to those urges.
He doesn’t have the reaction to movement that Hawks does, and he hasn’t ever actually given in to the craving for raw meat, because he was a little worried it might make him sick, even though his doctor had told him it would be fine.
But he perches on the edge of desks, and the backs of sofas. He asks Shouji to help him preen the feathers on the back of his head, because they’re harder to reach, and it feels really nice to have someone do that for him. He collects shiny things that catch his attention, coins from the streets, and buttons, and shards of broken glass. Meaningless and useless, for the most part, but it settles something deep in his chest every time he places a new item in the drawer he reserves for his collection.
And Hawks is telling him that’s all wrong? That he shouldn’t be doing any of that?
Now that he’s thinking about it, though, Iida does chastise him for perching on things, and Shouji does look at him a little sideways when he gathers things for his collection. His classmates look at him funny when he chirps or chatters in response to anything.
Maybe Hawks is right. But--
“Why can’t I do those things? What’s wrong with them?”
Hawks sighs, and pushes his hair back out of his face. “It’s not that they’re wrong , they’re just different , and that’s wrong. The more you’re different, the more reason people have to distrust you, yeah? And if people distrust you, how can you be a hero? I want you to be safe, and not have to deal with all that scrutiny.”
“How do I fix them, then?”
“It just takes a little bit of work, but I’ll help you, alright, kid?”
Fumikage agrees, because Hawks is just like him, Hawks is his mentor.
He wouldn’t do something to hurt him.
Tokoyami has started wearing gloves, Mezo has noticed, and that is strange.
Sure, he knows that the parts of Tokoyami not covered in feathers lose heat a lot faster than the feathered parts of him, leaving him susceptible to cold. And sure it is starting to get colder outside, but that’s outside.
Tokoyami’s wearing these new gloves inside all the time.
And that’s not even mentioning the new boots he’s sporting, or his sudden change in behavior.
Tokoyami behaves rather like a bird, Mezo has noticed, when he is relaxed. He chirps in response when he’s happy, and he perches on things people really shouldn’t be sitting on, much to Iida’s chagrin, and he collects things, like crow, little shiny trinkets that have little value to anyone but him. When he’s upset, his feathers ruffle. When he’s stressed, he asks Mezo to help him preen the feathers he can’t see at the back of his head.
For the past week and a half, Tokoyami has been very carefully sitting only in proper seats. He has been ignoring things he’d usually add to his collection. Any chirps or chitters are clamped down on and bitten back, and worse, apologized for . He hasn’t asked Mezo to help him preen in almost two weeks, longer than he’s ever gone without asking since the first time Mezo had offered.
Worst of all though, is the boots.
Tokoyami has worn them every day since he got them, from where, Mezo has no idea. They are far more confining than his typical footwear. Mezo can tell they are hurting his friend, but he still insists on wearing them. To class, to training, running an errand over the weekend.
His face contorts with pain with every step he takes, though he insists that he is fine. But Mezo can tell they are causing him pain.
None of his concerns seem to be getting through to Tokoyami though.
Every time he brings anything up, he’s brushed off, dismissed.
It’s starting to hurt him too, if he’s being honest. He thought he was closer with Tokoyami than this. More than that, it hurts to have to watch his friend, the boy he’s maybe in love with a little bit, suffering, and thinking it’s okay.
He doesn’t know what else to do, so he does the only thing he can think of.
After two weeks of Tokoyami refusing to accept any kind of help, or even admit something was wrong, Mezo sticks around after classes let out for the day.
“Aizawa-sensei, can I speak with you for a moment?”
Aizawa looks up from the papers on his desk, and seems surprised to see him standing there. Mezo supposes it is something out of the norm. He’s not Midoriya, shattering his bones every other day, or Bakugou starting fights at the drop of a hat. He’s one of the least problematic students in the class.
And yet, here he is.
“Shouji,” Aizawa says, tone questioning. “Is everything alright?”
He underestimated how much this has been weighing on him, apparently. The second Aizawa asks that, Mezo slumps against the front of the desk he’s standing in front of, his backpack slipping from his shoulder to the ground.
Aizawa instantly goes on alert. “Are you injured? What’s wrong?”
Mezo shakes his head.
“No, I’m sorry, I’m alright, just--” he cuts himself off and scrubs a hand over his face, a finger catching on the edge of his mask. He adjusts it, as the mouth he’s manifested on one of his arms begins to speak again. “Sir, I believe something is wrong with Tokoyami, and I believe it has something to do with his work-study with Hawks. I know that this is serious, and I don’t mean to sound like I’m accusing such a high ranked hero of anything. But something is wrong.”
Aizawa sits up a little straighter.
“What makes you think that?”
The fact that he isn’t dismissed out of hand makes him breathe a sigh of relief.
“About two weeks ago, Tokoyami returned from his work-study with these new gloves and a new pair of boots? And he never takes them off anymore. He’s wearing the gloves inside all the time, and he wears the boots everywhere, even though I’m almost positive they’re hurting him. They don’t look like they’re tailored to actually fit the way his feet are shaped. He’s been behaving very differently too. It seems like he’s trying to stop any of his behaviors that anyone might consider different. I know this probably sounds like a lot of baseless speculation, but it doesn’t sit right with me.”
Aizawa holds up a hand. Mezo goes silent.
“Are you really this concerned about your friend? No other motivation?”
“Yes. I don’t care what caused it, I just… I’m just worried about him.”
“Okay. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I trust your judgement, Shouji. I will check in with Tokoyami.”
Mezo sighs with three mouths, which isn’t something he’d meant to do, but it happens nevertheless. He’s just incredibly relieved to not be the only one with this knowledge anymore.
“Thank you, sensei.”
“Just doing my job, kid. Now in the meantime, how are you doing? This seems to be bothering you a lot.”
Mezo shrugs, an action that looks out of place with six shoulders.
“It just reminds me of the training camp, when Tokoyami lost control of Dark Shadow. I had to stand by and watch him in pain, and I couldn’t do anything to help. I understand that I’m not going to be able to do something in every situation. Some things are out of my hands. And this is different, and seems a lot more trivial or mundane? But I still don’t like having to stand by and watch my friend suffer in any way.”
Aizawa gives him a sad sort of smile. “Shouji, you are one of the most level-headed students I am unfortunate enough to be responsible for this year. You have an excellent understanding of your own capabilities, and your limits. But, just because you know you may not be the best equipped to handle a given situation, does not mean you are not allowed to be upset about it. You kids have been through more in a year than you should have to go through in a lifetime. Let yourself be upset, even if you think it’s ridiculous. You’re a child. Allow yourself to be one.”
“Thank you, Aizawa-sensei.”
“Don’t mention it. Now get out of here, Problem Child. I’ve got work to do, and I know you at least have an English essay to write.”
Mezo goes, feeling lighter than he has in weeks.
Shota really fucking wishes his students would just take care of themselves.
He just really, really would love it if they had even a modicum of common sense.
But they are reckless, overpowered teenagers with lofty goals they are too eager to reach, and enough trauma to fill several psychology case studies.
So Shota finds himself observing Tokoyami a little more carefully for the next two days, after his conversation with Shouji.
Shouji, unfortunately, seems to have been correct.
When he enters the classroom, he usually finds Tokoyami perched on the edge of his desk, mid conversation with his friends. Now, he notices Tokoyami is very carefully sitting in his chair, back straight, glancing around a little nervously. Shouji was right about the gloves that Tokoyami is suddenly sporting, as well as the boots. His different behavior would raise a few red flags for Shota, but he could write that off as the fact that Tokoyami is a teenaged boy, who is likely to experience changes in personality. It’s not so far out of the realm of possibility. If it were alone, Shota would not be particularly alarmed.
But now he’s noticing the boots Shouji brought to his attention as well, and the way that Tokoyami has taken to wearing them even during physical training.
They are absolutely the reason that his performance has suffered over the past couple weeks. Shota doesn’t know how he missed that.
With a bit of a better grasp on the situation, Shota asks Tokoyami to stay behind after classes let out for the day.
“What did you want to talk to me about, sensei?” Tokoyami asks, faltering for just a split second before taking a seat at a desk at the front of the classroom.
“I am not going to try to sugarcoat this, kid, alright? You’ve been worrying me and a couple of your classmates for the past few weeks. I know you’ve all been dealing with a lot of incredibly difficult things recently. I need you to know that you can talk to me, or any of the other staff, if something is bothering you. Even if it’s something that happened during your work-study.” Tokoyami inhales sharply. Ah. So it’s something to do with that. “Tokoyami, if something happened during your work-study, you can tell us. I know it might seem intimidating because Hawks is so highly ranked, but you can trust us to help you. Did Hawks do something--”
“No!” Tokoyami cuts him off, his answer insistent. Tokoyami is not the kind of student to interrupt a teacher. “No, Hawks didn’t do anything to me, of course not!”
Oh. This is going to turn into a whole thing, Shota is certain.
“If you’re not comfortable talking to me, I can retrieve another teacher. I won’t be offended if you’d rather talk about this with someone else. But this has started to affect your performance in physical training. You’re putting yourself at risk of being hurt if we continue to let this go unaddressed. I can’t allow that.”
“He didn’t do anything to me, Hawks has been a great mentor.” The way he’s insisting Hawks didn’t do anything to him is setting off every alarm bell in Shota’s head. “I’m just… These boots are taking longer to break in than I thought, that’s all. My performance will return to normal soon, I promise. I’m sorry I’ve been doing poorly in training recently.”
“Why are those boots so important? The shoes you had for training before were far better tailored to the mutation aspects of your quirk. Why replace them?”
So they’ve gotten to the root of the problem.
When Tokoyami doesn’t respond, Shota takes a deep breath, and prays to every god listening that he is wrong.
“Did Hawks tell you that you’ve got to hide your mutation aspects in order to be a hero?”
Tokoyami lets out a chattering noise that’s not entirely human sounding, and fixes his gaze on his gloved hands.
It’s all the answer Shota needs.
“Listen to me, and listen very carefully, Tokoyami. There is never, never a good reason for someone to make you ashamed of your quirk. There is not a single thing about you that you should have to hide in order to be a hero, and anyone who tells you otherwise is behaving in a villainous manner, trying to police your appearance like that. That’s not the behavior a hero should be exhibiting.”
“He’s just trying to help me,” Tokoyami finally responds, quietly. “He’s not forcing me to do anything, he just offered--and it’s to help! He knows what he’s talking about. I don’t want to scare the people I’m trying to help.”
Shota pauses. There is more going on here than he understands, and he doesn’t think he’s going to get anymore out of Tokoyami, not without severely distressing his student. He doesn’t want that.
“Alright. Alright. Kid, I believe you and I’m not going to push if you don’t want to talk about this anymore. But I am going to confiscate those boots. If you keep wearing them, you’re going to cause permanent physical damage to your body. You are built the way you are for a reason. You can’t make your mutation aspects go away by forcing them into a new shape. You’re only hurting yourself.”
Tokoyami looks a little displeased, but he nods in agreement.
“There is nothing wrong with your quirk. You are not wrong for having bird-like traits. You don’t need to hide them for the sake of others. No one is entitled to you like that.”
That seems to perk him up a little bit at least, and as he leaves, Shota can at least take the fact that his odd gait is going to go back to normal soon.
As soon as Shota is sure Tokoyami is gone, he pulls out his phone, and texts a group chat with Tensei and Hizashi he’s certain has never seen a rational thought.
TIRED: i am going after the number two hero tonight, you cannot stop me but please remain awake late in case i need to be bailed out of prison.
Sonic Lite: what the hell happened?
ScReAmInG: shota what is going on? at least tell us you’ve thought this through?
TIRED: i can’t tell you, but know i’ve got a good reason.
Sonic Lite: i mean… i’ll have the lawyers on standby i guess.
ScReAmInG: please be careful.
TIRED: anything that happens to him, the motherfucker deserves it.
Shota keeps his word.
That night, he leaves his class in Hizashi’s mostly capable hands, and he goes out patrol, and actually patrols for two hours, and then he hunts down the number two hero like a fucking bloodhound.
He finds him on a rooftop near the center of town, keeping a watch over the bustling city beneath them.
Shota does not waste any time.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Shota snaps at Hawks’s back, startling the other man into turning around.
“I’m sorry, what--” Hawks’s confused expression only deepens when he sees who’s talking to him. “Eraserhead? What’s going on?”
“I’m not Eraserhead right now. I’m Shota Aizawa and I am fucking pissed ,” he hisses, stalking closer to Hawks. Hawks lets a few feathers loose, pushing them through the air to try to ward Shota off. Shota activates his quirk, and the feathers drop. Hawks’s eyes go wide with fear. Good.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Hawks squeaks.
“Of course you don’t. Let me spell it out for you. I want to know what you think gives you the right to tell my student that aspects of his quirk are shameful things he needs to hide. I want to know what you think gives you the goddamn right to tell him something like that!”
“Oh!” Hawks responds, taking a few steps back from Shota, who has gotten right up into his face. Shota lets him back up, but he doesn’t deactivate Erasure. Hawks is not getting away from this. “I’m not… It’s not what you think!”
“What is it then?” Shota shouts.
“I was just trying to help him! It’s not shameful to have those traits, at all! I’m just trying to-- Look, it’s not bad that he has those traits. He just has to cover them up to be a hero. It’s just what’s best for him!”
Shota, in a flash of rage, snaps his capture weapon out, snagging Hawks in such a way that he’s got both of his wings pinned to his back. He tosses the boots he confiscated from Tokoyami at Hawks’s feet as he blinks and lets his quirk go.
“How do you explain these then? What you said to him drove him to such lengths that he’s been harming himself in an effort to do what you told him to. You think that’s what’s best for him?”
“They’re not that bad!” Hawks protests.
Even without his quirk, Shota’s glare is terrifying, he knows, so when he fixes Hawks with it, he’s surprised that Hawks doesn’t really shrink back from it. Even the harshest of villains he’s faced down usually flinch back from Shota’s glare.
Hawks just braces, and stares right back, his own gaze glazed over with fear, but holding strong. That almost gives Shota pause, but he’s so angry right now, he pushes through that, and tightens his capture weapon around Hawks.
“He’s trying to change everything about himself to fit your ideal of a hero’s appearance. He’s hurting himself and withdrawing from his friends. You told him he was something to be scared of. Really, you’re going to start with trying to tell me the boots aren’t that bad?”
“They’re not, I promise,” Hawks says, a little breathless. “They’re the same ones I used to wear before my feet were fixed. The gloves I gave him are the same ones I wear. I’d never give him something I thought would hurt him. They’re a little uncomfortable, sure, but it’s not… they’re not that bad. I was just trying to look out for him!”
Shota is so shocked by the implications of Hawks’s words, that he releases his hold with his capture weapon.
When he doesn’t respond, Hawks holds up his hands in front of him in a placating gesture.
“I’m not even saying he has to get surgery to fix his feet or feathers like I did! He doesn’t have as many bad parts of his quirk like I do. He’ll be fine with just some good clothes and the shoes. They’re not dangerous, I promise, he just needs to get used to them, and everything’ll be fine!”
“You had surgery to correct-- When was this?”
“The Commission had it done for me when I was a little younger than Tokoyami! I was fourteen, I think? When they fixed my feet at least. I was fifteen when they helped me get rid of all the feathers that grew in bad places.”
Shota takes a few deep breaths, and pinches the bridge of his nose.
“What the fuck,” he finally says, turning his gaze skyward for a moment.
“Aizawa-san?” Hawks asks, the nerves evident in his voice.
“What the fuck!” Shota repeats, louder this time. “Okay. Alright. This is fine. You are coming with me, let’s go.”
Hawks takes another step back, and that’s definitely fear shining in his eyes. His hands flex at his sides.
“I--What are you--Have I done something wrong?”
And fuck, he sounds so confused, he sounds every inch the fucking kid that he is, and Shota hates it.
“Yes. No. Dammit. Look. You need to apologize to Tokoyami.”
“For… trying to help him?”
“No. Because that’s not what you were doing, Hawks.”
Shota forces his tone to soften before he opens his mouth again. “You weren’t helping him. You were forcing the same self-esteem issues onto him that the Commission forced on to you. You had good intentions, I understand, but you hurt the kid, no matter how much you thought you were helping.”
Hawks’s brow furrows. “No, no that’s not what it was, I wasn’t--I wouldn’t do that to him. Tokoyami is a good kid, he’s going to be a good hero. I like him, why would I hurt him?”
Hawks takes another step back, and stumbles, nearly toppling over the edge of the roof. His wings make no move to stop him, so Shota lashes his capture weapon out to catch him.
Now that his vision isn’t clouded with rage, he can actually get a good look at Hawks. The guy looks exhausted. There are bags under his eyes, poorly concealed by the goggles he wears. His feathers are messy and disorganized in his wings. His hands are trembling as he raises one to push through his messy hair.
Hawks looks fucking awful.
Shota is going to get nowhere pushing this subject.
“When was the last time you slept, kid?” he asks instead, tugging Hawks more firmly onto the roof and releasing him again.
“Not too long ago. Like twenty four hours, I think?” Hawks replies, like that’s a normal thing.
“That’s too long. Come on. Let’s get you something to eat, and get you some sleep. This all can wait until you’ve taken some care of yourself.”
Hawks hesitates, but follows Shota as he heads for the stairs to walk down from the roof.
They’re halfway down the too-many flights of stairs when Hawks speaks again.
“You were so angry when you found me. Why are you being so kind to me now?”
Shota lets two more flights of stairs pass before he answers.
“Kid, you’ve had enough people be senselessly cruel to you in your life. I’m not gonna add my name to that list.”
The trip back to Yuuei’s staff dorms passes quickly, and relatively quietly.
Neither of them mention that Shota left Tokoyami’s boots on the rooftop.
Fumikage was planning on having a quiet Saturday to process everything that Aizawa had told him after classes the day before. He has a quick breakfast with Shouji in the morning, thanking him for his concern instead of dismissing him for the first time in half a month, and retreats to his room to try to reconcile what Hawks told him with what Aizawa had said.
And he does get a few hours of peace, to contemplate quietly with Dark Shadow.
He’s just opened his collection drawer and is sifting carefully through the assortment of trinkets in there, when a knock sounds at his door, though. He’s prepared to tell whichever one of his classmates it is to leave him be for now, please, when he opens the door to find Present Mic looking down at him.
“Hey there little listener,” he says, but he’s lacking all of his normal enthusiasm. He looks very tired, Fumikage thinks.
“Mic-sensei. Is everything alright?”
Mic smiles, a little sad. “Everything’s fine, Tokoyami. But would you mind heading over to the staff dorms with me? You’re not in trouble or anything, Aizawa and I just want to have a quick chat with you, if that’s okay with you.”
Fumikage agrees immediately, out of curiosity, if nothing else. His introspection can wait.
He almost, out of new habit, grabs his gloves when he grabs his shoes, but he remembers Aizawa’s words, and places them back down.
No one is entitled to me like that, he thinks, and he leaves the dorms with Present Mic.
Dark Shadow is restless as they walk to the staff building, enough so that he braves the weak sunlight to stick his head out of Fumikage’s jacket.
Too quiet, Dark Shadow mutters in Fumikage’s mind, and he has too agree. Mic being so reserved is a little unsettling.
“Well hello there,” Mic says to Dark Shadow, unphased by his appearance. Something settles in Fumikage’s chest at the reassurance that his teacher isn’t off put by his quirk.
Dark Shadow, seemingly appeased for now, ducks back under Fumikage’s jacket.
Now, Fumikage was imagining a lot of possible outcomes of this meeting with his teachers.
He was imagining this likely had to do with his talk with Aizawa the day before. He was imagining they might tell him they had to tell his parents about this, or recommend him to a counselor, because Aizawa had been insistent that he was hurting himself.
He was not imagining that Hawks would be sitting on a couch in the teachers’ common room, a blanket tucked around his shoulders and a cup of tea in his hands. Aizawa and Nedzu are there too, but Fumikage can only focus on Hawks.
His mentor looks wrecked. After everything Aizawa had said to him, after all of it, Fumikage thought he’d be angry with Hawks the next he saw him. But one look at the young man on the sofa in front of him and he can’t be anything but sympathetic.
He couldn’t find it in himself to be angry if he wanted to.
With all his prestige, it’s easy to forget that Hawks is only seven years older than he is. Hawks looks every bit his age right now.
He looks afraid.
Fumikage really doesn’t like it.
“Is everything okay?” Fumikage asks, to break the awkward silence that’s settled around them, Aizawa, Nedzu and Mic all watching him closely. When he speaks, Hawks startles, like he hadn’t noticed Fumikage entering.
“Tokoyami,” he says, a little disbelieving.
“What’s going on?” Fumikage tries again. He’s starting to get a little worried.
Dark Shadow stirs, and flares out behind him, snarling at the adults, trying to be intimidating despite his small size under the fluorescent lights in the room.
“Some information has come to light, and--” Aizawa starts, and Hawks cuts him off, still staring dead-eyed at some point near Fumikage’s head.
“I needed to apologize,” Hawks says, his tone urgent, but everything else about him appearing horribly, terribly defeated. “I need to apologize. I can’t believe that I didn’t realize that I-- Tokoyami, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know I was hurting you. I didn’t realize how wrong I was, I didn’t know it was wrong.”
His hands are trembling.
Fumikage’s brow furrows in concern.
This is not right. There is something more he is missing here, and he doesn’t think he’s going to get an answer to what it is now, or maybe ever. He has the distinct feeling that it has something to do with whoever told Hawks the same things that Hawks had told him.
Fumikage takes a deep breath, and pulls Dark Shadow back.
“I never meant to hurt you. I was only trying to protect you, and I see now that I messed that up and I am so deeply sorry that I--”
“Hawks,” Tokoyami cuts in. All eyes shift to him. “It’s okay. I forgive you.”
If Shouji could forgive him for nearly killing him and Midoriya during the training camp, Fumikage can forgive this. He can forgive misguided protection, especially when Hawks seems so distraught over it.
Fumikage is certain, now at least, that Hawks was only parroting back ideals that had been forced onto him at some point.
He wasn’t trying to make Fumikage feel ashamed of his quirk traits. He wasn’t.
Dark Shadow calms in his mind, a little, at least.
“I—how?” Hawks gapes, actually looking at Fumikage “How can you—?”
“You weren’t trying to hurt me, or make me ashamed of my quirk, right?”
“No!” Hawks says, more forcefully than anything he’s said so far. “Never. Tokoyami, that was never my intention.”
“Then I don’t see a reason I can’t forgive you. I might need some time to myself to...reconcile all of this. But I forgive you, and if you’ll still have me, I’d like to continue my work-study with you, if you don’t mind me taking a little time off, first.”
“Anything you need. Of course,” Hawks agrees readily, like he’s afraid Fumikage will change his mind if he doesn’t rush an answer out right away.
Fumikage smiles at him, and then turns to Aizawa and Mic.
“Did you have anything else you wanted to speak to me about, or am I just here because Hawks wanted to apologize?”
“You’re all set, kid. Let me walk you out,” Aizawa says, and with one more look at Hawks that he hopes is reassuring, Fumikage follows Aizawa out of the common room.
He stops once they’re out the door, out of sight of the others.
“How are you doing, kid?”
Fumikage, as much as it is his first instinct to, does not lie.
“I’ve had better days. But I’ll be alright.”
“You know none of this is your fault, right?” Fumikage nods, because he does. It’s still hard to accept that fact, but he knows it. “God, you kids have witnessed so much of the bad that this world has to offer this year. It’s unfair to you, by any standards. But look, there are times when people do bad things with the best of intentions, because they just don’t know what they’ve been taught is wrong. It doesn’t excuse it or make it any better, but Hawks really did think he was helping you. He cares about you, it seems. There’s just a lot more going on behind the scenes that it’s not my place to tell you about.”
“I understand, sensei.” And he does. Some creatures thrive in the dark, using it to cover their heinous deeds. Fumikage has the sinking feeling that someone who helped raise Hawks was one such creature. It’s not Hawks’s fault he was subject to that.
“Good. Do you need or want anything from me, right now?”
Fumikage shakes his head. “I’d like to take some time to myself, and Dark Shadow, if that’s alright. I understand everything you’ve said to me, and I believe it. I’d just like some time to… process. This is a lot to take in.”
“Understandable. I’m here if you need me, at any point, for anything. Or any of the other staff as well. I won’t be upset if you’d rather talk to one of them instead. Your comfort and safety is my first priority, got that?”
“Yes, sensei,” Fumikage says, something warm blooming in his chest.
“Good. Now scram, kid, I’ve got a new problem child to deal with,” Aizawa says, jerking his thumb over his shoulder towards the common room. “And don’t forget that your friends are here for you too.” And then he’s disappeared back inside, and Fumikage is left alone with Dark Shadow and their thoughts.
He takes a long walk around campus instead of returning to the dorms right away, and finds a particularly nice rock off the side of a path, glassed over likely as the result of someone’s quirk. He almost drops it back to the ground, but instead, he pockets in, and chirps in delight.
It will make a lovely addition to his collection.
He meanders back to the dorm as the sky begins to shift in color, and the first thing he does is seek out Shouji.
“Tokoyami, is everything alright?”
“Can I come in?”
Shouji steps aside. “You’re not wearing your gloves.”
Fumikage wrings his hands, and then has an idea. He pulls the rock from his pocket, and turns, reaching for one of Shouji’s hands, pressing the rock into his palm.
“This is a rock,” Shouji observes.
Fumikage nods. “I— yes. It is. I found it and I liked it, but I want you to have it. It’s uh— I don’t quite know how to say thank you, for your concern, for me.”
“Ah. Sorry. I hope I wasn’t being too overbearing. I was just worried about you, honestly. How are you doing?”
Fumikage does not know how exactly he is doing, so he tries for a long-winded explanation instead, hoping he will come to a conclusion on the way.
“You were right, about almost everything, really. Your concerns about the shoes and the gloves and my behaviors. I was… I was told that there were aspects of my quirk that I should… correct, in order to be more appealing, as a hero, by someone in a misguided attempt to help me. So I tried to hide as much as I could to seem less intimidating, with the talons and all, and I tried to stop my more crow-like tendencies. The collecting, and everything else.”
“There’s more?” Shouji asks, nothing but sheer curiosity ringing in his tone.
Fumikage, shyly, nods. “I like to perch on things, and you know the way I am with asking you to help preen my feathers. I makes noises, like a bird sometimes too. And I—uh—sometimes I have an urge to eat raw meat, but I try to ignore that one.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Shouji says, unprompted, and Fumikage wonders how he knows what he was thinking.
“I know but it’s still… anyway. I was trying to fix parts of myself that didn’t need fixing and that I didn’t want to be rid of, and it set me on edge, and I am sorry that I took that out on you.”
“Tokoyami, I was never upset with you, I was just worried. And listen—” Shouji pauses, and hesitantly reaches up to remove the mask from his face, something even Fumikage has never seen him do. “— I understand feeling embarrassed or unsure about parts of yourself. If you ever need someone to talk to…” Shouji trails off and pulls the mask fully away from his face, to reveal a smile full of fangs that don’t quite fit right in his mouth, his jaw elongated ever so slightly. The way his lips pull back over his teeth makes him look like he’s snarling. He looks intimidating upon first glance, even though Fumikage knows he’s one of the kindest people in their class.
“Thank you for trusting me enough to show me this,” Fumikage says, and he cannot stop himself from reaching out to trail a gentle touch over Shouji’s jawline, something just this side of too intimate.
Shouji smiles, a near horrifying thing with the mouth on his face, and says, “Thanks for the rock.”
Four months later, when Hawks is called to testify at the criminal trial of the former president of the Hero Public Safety Commission, Fumikage and Mezo are sitting with Aizawa in the courtroom.
Hawks isn’t wearing his gloves, and has a freshly grown in crest of feathers on full display. His voice trembles as he details every wicked thing the Commission ever did to him, but it doesn’t break.
Weirdly enough, Fumikage is proud of his mentor.
When they leave the courthouse later that afternoon, Fumikage grabs Hawks’s hand, and presses a golden button he found the week before into Hawks’s palm.
Hawks lets out a happy chirp in response, and the feathers in his crest fluff up in delight, and Fumikage knows things are going to be alright.