The word is spoken so softly, so gently, that at first, Dabi is entirely convinced it was nothing more than a figment of his imagination, some auditory hallucination induced by the drugs likely still in his system. He thought nothing of it, keen to get back to his well-needed rest before he felt a hand run through his hair, fingers threading through the messy strands with a strange tenderness that the villain was in no way expecting, especially from Hawks. Sure, they had shared the hero's bed on multiple occasions, but there was nothing soft or gentle about their interactions - it was purely lust, mixed with the subtle reminder that they were both using each other for more than one reason. That's the way things were supposed to be, simple and concise, no feelings involved to make their strange relations more strained.
With the hero whispering to himself, smoothing out Dabi's hair in a way that radiated fondness, the scarred man slowly blinked open his eyes in mild confusion, cyan gaze flicking over to watch the younger man. He hadn't seemed to notice that he'd woken the villain, continuing to look somewhere other than Dabi's face - his hair, probably, or something behind him. The way his fingers ran gently through the messy black tresses could only mean it was his hair the hero's golden eyes were currently observing, somewhat surprised if the slight widening of his eyes meant anything.
Surprised, maybe, but he also looked content. Too content for someone currently in bed with a wanted villain. Too content for a hero to ever be. Dabi didn't like it at all, the slight flush of his cheeks and the gentle, tired smile that graced his lips. He especially didn't like the way the hero was fondly playing with his hair, as if it wasn't going to wake him up. Didn't like the strange feeling in his chest as he watched the man. Didn't like that he enjoyed it so much.
"White?" Dabi asked after a minute of watching the little bird, voice breaking from sleep and coming out more softly than he'd meant.
He still seemed to startle the hero, however, who flinched slightly at the sound of the villain's voice. Perhaps he shouldn't have spoken, shouldn't have broken the gentle silence that hung between them, but what was done was done, which Hawks seemed to realize when he pulled his hand away.
"I didn't say stop, pretty bird," Dabi slurred, smirking gently when he saw Hawks hesitate. Letting out a content sigh, he settled further into the pillow, one softer than he'd had in a long time, and closed his eyes. "Feels nice."
Hawks seemed to weigh his options, looking from Dabi's face up to his hair before giving in, threading his fingers back in the dark tresses, pushing back some wild strands and tucking them behind his misshapen ears. "Didn't realize you liked to have your hair played with," the hero quipped, slipping back into his sassy persona for just a second. Even with his eyes closed, Dabi could practically see the man's stupid smirk, warm and assuring and full of lies. "Would have pulled it more if I'd known."
As if to emphasize the point, Hawks gathered a little bit of his hair, giving a swift tug - not painful, but enough to snap the villain fully from his slumber. Before the hero could even let go, a mutilated hand was looped firmly around his wrist, keeping the younger man from pulling away. It wasn't painful, not in the slightest, but the grip was a little too hot, a little too uncomfortable - a clear warning from the villain, whose skin was typically icy to the touch. It made Hawks' wings flare a bit on instinct, though he quickly relaxed, seeing as there were no actual signs of aggression. If nothing else, Dabi looked a little shaken despite his best effort to remain expressionless.
"Don't pull," Dabi warned, voice low and vaguely threatening. When Hawks didn't respond, simply holding the villain's gaze instead, Dabi let out a sigh, guiding the man's hand back to rest on his head as he lowered himself back to the pillow. "Bad memories."
Hawks seemed to understand despite the lack of clarification, humming softly in response. "Your father?" he asked simply, going back to his more gentle strokes, a slow rhythm that had Dabi leaning into the hero's movements.
The villain didn't verbally answer, though, simply nodding. It would be enough for the hero to pick up on anyways, given his awareness of subtle movements, especially if he was looking for some kind of a response.
The topic of Dabi's father was something they'd approached tentatively once or twice before, when the patchwork man was more of a wreck that usual, high or drunk in a way that made him almost inconsolable. He'd broken down one night in January, mumbling about how it was the day his father killed him, and that was the last they'd spoken of it until Hawks had gone to choke him one night. It made sense that the man who loved to be slapped, to be bitten, to be cut would like to be choked as well - but that was far from the truth. The moment the hero wrapped his fingers around the leathery skin of the villain's throat, the room had lit up in a burst of blue, sending Hawks tumbling against the opposite wall without a warning.
An explanation had come through panicked breaths and ill-hidden tears, serving to further cement Dabi's issues with his father. This was just another one of those moments, it seemed, one that would pass soon enough.
Shaking the memory from his mind, Dabi turned his attention back to the little bird, who was now threading apart his hair as if he were looking for something. "What're ya doin'? Ya said something about white."
Instead of retreating or even looking away, Hawks nodded, scraping his fingernails along Dabi's scalp. The villain shuddered at the sensation, a heat rising to his face at the strangely intimate gesture. "Your roots are coming in," he said quietly, more so than he ever had been. He looked over to the cyan eyes that were watching him, hooded gold refusing to look away. "Your hair's white."
For a moment, Dabi stilled, eyes going wide and body rigid as the words hit him. It wasn't really a big deal, if he thought about it. The proliferation of quirks led to a number of unnatural traits becoming natural, and white hair was certainly one of the less strange occurrences. It wasn't exactly common, but it's not as if one's identity could be pinned down to heritage because of hair color. He could even make an excuse that he was getting old - if he hadn't just turned twenty-five, of course.
Perhaps that's why Dabi eventually relaxed, letting his muscles loosen as he sunk into the mattress with a sigh and closing his eyes. "What of it?" he responded after a minute, though the edge he'd been going for was sorely lacking.
"Nothing really," Hawks said, deciding to rest on his own pillow. He continued playing with the other man's hair, eyeing it carefully and with a suspicion that was easy to pick up on, marred by the distrust that encased their strange relationship. "I didn't know you dyed your hair, is all. Kinda wanna see it all grown out."
A stifled chuckle sounded through the room. "Not gonna happen, birdie," Dabi teased, blinking turquoise eyes open to look at the younger man. "Now that you pointed it out, I'm gonna have to ask someone to get me more dye. Can't have the public knowin' I have white hair."
"Such a shame, though," Hawks pouted, drawing his hand back for the first time since waking the villain up. "You'd look nice with white hair."
"Are you saying I don't look nice now?" Dabi shot back, his words playful despite knowing well of his ugly appearance. He wasn't dumb - dense, yes, but not dumb - and he knew all too well how he appeared to people, be it personality or appearance. To call himself ugly was an understatement, if he were being honest. He thought himself nothing short of horrendous, with marred purple flesh being held together by crude surgical staples that, even now, when he was relaxing, tugged painfully at his healthy skin, causing little red droplets to bubble up at the suture sites if he moved in the wrong way. More often than not, there was dried blood crusting up along the metal several times throughout the day, regardless of how often he cleaned it off.
The hero rolled his eyes, moving a bit closer to the villain before running strong, calloused hands under the covers, over the older man's back and sides, being careful not to catch on any of his staples. "You'd look nicer if you put on some weight," he quipped, lightly scratching along bare bony hips, which elicited no response from the other. Dabi had explained his fucked up metabolism to the hero already - and he had the impression his lack of eating hadn't gone unnoticed. "Don't get me wrong, hot stuff, I like your hair now. Just curious about the white."
Quipping a brow, Dabi rolled over onto his side, sitting up on his elbow in the process and letting the hero's hand linger on his hip. "Curious?" he questioned, waiting for the younger man to explain himself.
"There's a lot of things I'm curious about," Hawks admitted, eyes scanning over the portions of skin that had become visible. He could see the way golden eyes slipped from healthy to tarnished skin, stopping to pause here and there on the staples or the marks left from their actions earlier in the night. Highlighted by the dim amber glow of the city streaming in through the half-opened curtains, the hero lowered his face, leaning in to gently kiss a burn that didn't fit in with the others - red and angry and half-hidden by purple scars of his own creation - before pulling away and looking up to the villain.
He wanted to ask, that much was clear. He wanted to know how his scars came to be, why they marked his skin in a way that he'd once said looked so painful. Dabi had brushed it off with a simple, "Of course they hurt, dumbass," but that didn't answer the hero's questions, not a single one. He wanted to know who did this to him, why, and how he could begin to put the patchwork villain back together. He was too curious for his own good, Dabi realized, looking down slightly to meet that intense gaze. He was curious and genuine and it scared the hell out of him.
Hawks was going to figure out who he was, sooner or later.
And Dabi was fine with that.
Perhaps it was because Hawks was such a big fan of Endeavor, that's why he was fine with his identity eventually being uncovered by the hero. It would be amusing, if nothing else, to see the look of recognition on the man's face, to see him go from admiring that brute of a man to being absolutely heartbroken the next minute. It was sick to think about the enjoyment he'd get from it, but what could he say? He was a villain, even if it was for a single reason. He was allowed to be a bit more sadistic every now and then, even if he didn't indulge those urges often.
Of course, there were other reasons, ones even he hadn't fully acknowledged yet. And he wasn't about to start unpacking those feelings when they both knew it would lead to more trouble than they were already in.
Reluctantly, the older man let out a sigh before falling back into the pillows, closer to Hawks than he had been a moment prior. It hurt, almost, to say the next words, but he said them anyways, some sort of sick attempt to placate the curious bird. "It would be easier to recognize me if I had white hair. It would... be easier for him to find me. I don't want that." He paused, cyan eyes closing as he took a breath. "Not yet. Not when I'm so close."
"Your father?" Hawks questioned, earning a small nod from the villain. He sucked in an uneasy breath before he continued. "Is... is it the same color as his?"
That was enough to get a laugh out of the villain. Unlike Hawks, who would laugh freely back at his apartment, head thrown back and eyes clamped tight, genuine laughs as loud and heart-felt as they were rare, Dabi's laughs were quiet. They were little chuckles cut off short by fits of coughing, snorts thrown in here or there when he was unable to catch his breath, just as rare as Hawks' laughs but nowhere near as jovial. But there he was, the back of his hand covering his face as bittersweet laughs forced themselves outwards, Hawks watching him with a slight flush along his cheeks.
"No, fuck, it's not," Dabi breathed after a minute, the edges of his mouth perked upwards and tearing at the seams of his staples. "If nothing else... I'm glad I didn't get his hair. I already have his eyes. I don't know if I could have handled looking anymore like him. I know my mother couldn't've."
Hawks gave him a strange look beneath the pink of his cheeks, a weird half-smile eventually falling onto his face. "Your mom, then?" he said, raking his fingers back through Dabi's hair.
The villain nodded, craning his neck up to lean into the touch. "Yeah, I got my mother's hair," he hummed, smiling gently.
"She better than your dad?"
"For the most part," Dabi muttered, looking down to play with the staples along his wrist. He opted to ignore how blunt he was despite the careful, almost affectionate tone to the bird's question, instead focusing on the gentle movements of the hero's fingers, sending little shivers down his spine when his nails scratched up against his scalp. A small, bittersweet smile rose to the surface despite the somber feeling the topic brought forth. "She did what she could, given the circumstances. Not entirely innocent... she could've done more. But I can't... I can't blame her for what she became."
There was resentment - that much was undeniable. As much as he loved his mother, understood the situation she was in, he couldn't help but find a bit of his anger directed towards her. Had she taken the initiative, actually done something instead of just cower in fear and let that man do as he wished, then maybe things could have turned out better for him and his siblings. Maybe it wouldn't have gotten to the point where she used her ice against him, patches of frostbite making his skin red and glossy before the use of his own quirk covered up the accidental abuse and the more purposeful kind his father was keen on.
Maybe Shouto wouldn't have such a scar adorning the left side of his face.
Hawks hummed softly, letting the villain take his time as he reminisced about his mother. Dabi was grateful, then, for the gentle movements of the hero's fingers, keeping him grounded during a moment of - what he would call - weakness. His mother, his siblings, his family (or were they merely Touya's family, barred to him by years of absence?) were his weak-spot, forcing him from his nonchalant persona and making him someone who'd died years before. Someone who should have died.
But that was something he wished desperately not to think about, knowing that the emotions surrounding the whole ordeal would consume him if he let himself dwell on the past for too long. So the villain simply ignored it, pushing down those unwanted feelings and focusing his attention back on the little bird beside him. Why he was still letting the hero play with his hair, he had no idea, but god, if it wasn't everything he'd ever wanted - to be touched gently and without things being expected of him in return. Of course there were things the hero wanted out of him - information about the League, information on his past, information in general - but in this moment, he seemed content with stroking the villain's hair, eyes half-lidded when they met Dabi's.
"I shouldn't ask," Hawks said after a minute, breaking the peaceful silence with a voice softer than it had been before yet significantly more strained. The shift in tone, the apprehension - it was more than enough for the villain to understand what the younger man was getting at, especially with the way his eyebrows knitted ever-so-slightly.
"Then don't," Dabi muttered, his flippant remark cutting the hero off before he could continue. He looked at the hero briefly, eyes narrowing slightly before he closed them, letting out a sigh as he settled back into the pillow. "I know what you're gonna ask, and I ain't too fond of the questioning."
Hawks let out a huff of air, the movements of his fingers slowing considerably in accordance with his faux annoyance. "Come on, Dabi, humor me," he urged, leaning down so that his face was on his own pillow, looking directly at the scarred villain. "It's not that big of a deal anyways. I'm just curious."
"Drop it, birdie," the older man sighed, an edge to his voice signaling his unease with the situation.
Of course, the hero picked up on this, stopping his movements entirely to look at the man before him. Even with his eyes closed, Dabi could feel those intense, focused eyes watching his every movement, every twitch of his lip, every subtle movement he couldn't even begin to control. It was unsettling to say the least, but the villain stayed silent, not willing to give in and speak any further on the matter: he'd said what he'd intended to, and whether or not Hawks complied with his request was up to the winged hero himself and no one else. Briefly, foolishly, Dabi thought (or maybe hoped would be more appropriate) that his words had been the end of it, but he should have known better, should have known that something so cryptic wouldn't be enough to satisfy the younger man's insatiable curiosity.
There was a sudden loss of warmth along the back of Dabi's head, making the fire-user shiver slightly at the loss of sensation. It took genuine effort to not sit up once the hero pulled his hand away, to reach out and grab the hand, to let out some kind of pitiful whine he knew his throat would make. Perhaps it was for the best he didn't, as a second later, the warmth reappeared on the top of his own hand, right over the seam where tarnished skin met unhealthily pale, ironically giving some heat back to his frigid form. The hero's thumb ran gently over his knuckles, the same affection in his movements echoing those from a few moments before.
It made that same strange feeling well up in Dabi's chest yet again, and for a moment, the villain was afraid he'd unintentionally set the sheets on fire.
"Dabi," Hawks said gently, though there was a commanding tone behind his words that couldn't go unnoticed. "Dabi, look at me for a second."
Without even meaning to, the villain looked up at the man before him, noticing that he was once again sitting up on his elbows. Cyan eyes traced the path between their hands up to the hero's golden gaze, which was watching him carefully. Trying to retain some sort of dignity despite giving in so easily, the scarred man narrowed his eyes, letting a scowl cross his face.
Hawks responded simply by narrowing his own eyes ever so slightly, the edges of his lips forming into a frown before he began to speak. "I'm sorry if I crossed a boundary," he said, something akin to genuine concern in those words. "We don't have to talk about your father or any of your family if it makes you uncomfortable. I don't talk about my family for that reason. It makes me uncomfortable too."
And that was true. It was incredibly rare for Hawks to ever speak about his family, almost as much so as it was for Dabi himself. From what the villain was able to glean, it seemed they had somewhat similar upbringings, though on very different ends of the social spectrum - not that Dabi would ever bring that up, as he wasn't the one that benefited from the immense wealth. But it seemed that both of their fathers were abusive in their own rights, with the winged man's mother being dismissive of her son's wishes. She had apparently sold him off to the commission after her husband was arrested - some thief who went only by their family name, Takami - by none other than Endeavor himself.
How was Dabi supposed to tell Hawks that the man who saved him from his abusive father was a million times worse to his own kids, breeding them like some kind of sick biology experiment to use in his name, beating and burning them until they were what he wanted. And those who simply couldn't measure up were tossed to the side, or in Touya's case, burned beyond recognition and presumed dead.
After a minute, Dabi let out a sigh, keeping his gaze even with the younger man as he spoke. "If I tell you, then you'll know more about me than the rest of the League put together," he said simply, voice low.
"Don't I already?" Hawks chuckled, a half-smirk tugging at his lips, the unspoken suggestion of their more explicit relationship not needing to be mentioned for the joke to be understood. When Dabi hummed softly in agreement, the hero laughed a bit more openly, returning his hand to the villain's hair and sweeping his fringe out of his eyes.
"I meant about my past, but I guess you're not wrong, pretty bird," the villain muttered, closing his eyes before he spoke his next words. "I'll tell you, but I have to ask you something first."
Hawks stayed silent, urging on the scarred man with a gentle squeezing of his hand, one that could be interpreted as reassurance.
"Are you asking as Hawks or as Takami Keigo?"
It was a dangerous game to be playing, asking the hero to reveal more than just the persona he was forced to put on by the Commission. It was difficult enough forcing him to come out of his shell, to be more than the Hawks the public knew him as, but the difference between the hero and the man was incredible in so many ways, including sad. He could never be anything more than Hawks , stuck to the role as if it were the only thing he had to live for.
But wasn't it? Wasn't Hawks the only person he was ever supposed to be? There was no Takami Keigo - there was no abused child taken from his mother, trained from childhood to become the Commission's perfect pet, the perfect hero.
Hawks was everything anyone could ever dream of, and the Commission made sure the public knew. He had the perfect quirk in every way, flashy and powerful and full of tricks unbeknownst to even the most dedicated fans. He was incredibly attractive, with a soft face and delicate features that seemed to almost contradict his toned figure, which the Commission was sure to show off in every one of his modeling gigs. He was airheaded and friendly, fast on his feet and always a step ahead, somehow always in the right place at the right time.
But that wasn't Keigo.
Keigo was someone entirely different, someone Dabi had only really begun to meet after months of knowing Hawks. Keigo was tired, worked to the bone and offered nothing more than fame for it - a fame he'd never wanted, but was sold into like some kind of circus freak. He was deeply sentimental, holding onto friendships like they're a lifeline, and more caring than most people Dabi had ever met. He was incredibly sharp, perceptive to the point that it almost scared him, and a quiet, humble man who bore more burdens than someone should have to.
Unlike Touya, who rebelled against his purpose with everything he had, Keigo simply went with it, sneaking his more selfish tendencies in where he could.
He wasn't a rebel - at least, not yet.
Dabi had a suspicion it would get there someday, if Best Jeanist's corpse really was his.
When the villain opened his eyes again, Hawks was looking down at their hands, a contemplative expression on his face. No doubt he understood the second meaning behind the words, or at least, was worried that there was actually a second meaning - Hawks the double agent, or Takami Keigo, someone he could trust. Dabi wasn't about to reveal that he knew the hero's secret, that Hawks was supposed to infiltrate the League, and subsequently, the Paranormal Liberation Front, only to betray them later on.
That would be leverage for when the bird put two and two together, which he would in just a few minutes.
"Keigo," the younger man breathed eventually, words shaking slightly along with the sigh that escaped his lips. There was no trace of deception in his words, just a sad exhaustion that was always present once he finally shed the hero persona. He looked up, gold meeting that fiery blue, and smiled gently. "I'm asking as Keigo. You know I don't really like my family name."
And fuck , Dabi understood that with every fiber of his being. His given name was something he'd always been fine with, but his family name was one that still made him violently angry every time he heard it (which, considering the prevalence of the Todoroki name, was quite often). Hawks was very much like him, in that sense - he preferred being called by his alias so that the connection to his past was minimal, but if it had to be done, then he'd prefer he be called his given name than his family name.
Satisfied with the answer, Dabi rolled over onto his back, wincing a bit as the staples tugged against healthy flesh. He pointedly ignored the concerned look Hawks sent him, opting to smirk gently as a way to cover up any insecurities, be they mental or physical. Looking up, he was met with the hero leaning halfway over him, amber eyes watching his every move and wings laying gently across the covers like some sort of blanket. It was nice, seeing him like this, the late night glow of the city seeping through the windows and illuminating the winged man, making their closeness somehow much more intimate.
Reaching forward, he ran his fingers along the edges of Hawks' wings much in the way his hair had been played with, careful to make sure none of his staples caught on the smaller feathers. Hawks relaxed into the touch, shoulders drooping as he let out a sigh, letting his head fall forward into the crook of Dabi's neck. His hair tickled at the villain, but he said nothing, focusing instead on the ceiling as he found the courage to speak.
"You know, growing up, I always hated red," he began, voice breathy and low, as if speaking hurt. "Red, orange, yellow - even blue, for a time, I hated. Anything that had to do with fire, I despised it. But I hated red the most."
"But you don't now?" Hawks asked, lifting his head to look at the villain.
Dabi shook his head, looking back down at the hero's wings. "Not near as much as I used to," he said, letting out a steadying breath. "But that's the answer."
"Red," Dabi clarified, looking over to meet the hero's gaze. "My father's hair is red."
Hawks' eyebrows raised at the information, an amused smirk falling onto his lips. "Didn't think you'd actually answer me," the younger man mused, reaching forward to thread his fingers back in Dabi's hair. Running his fingers through the messy strands, the hero hummed thoughtfully, eyes flicking down to meet the intense cyan that were watching him so intently. "Red hair and blue-green eyes, huh? That sounds a bit like…"
The hero trailed off suddenly, eyes going wide in something akin to horror. Dabi didn't need him to finish to know what it was the winged man was going to say.
That sounds a bit like Endeavor.
In that moment, Hawks moved closer, mouth slightly agape as wide, golden eyes scanned from where his hand was still tangled in the black-dyed hair to the cyan eyes that hadn't once left the younger man's face to the deep purple scarring lined with surgical staples, where healthy skin was tinted red where cold metal met cold flesh, focusing in on each minute detail as if it would spell out the answer to all of his questions. With each passing second, his breaths got more desperate, his hands got more shaky; looking closer, Dabi could clearly make out the way his muscles had gone rigid - tensed, ready to fight or fly at a moment's notice, feathers ruffling a bit and the edges of his mouth twitching in discomfort.
It was only when the hero's eyes grew glossy and his wings began to droop that Dabi guided the younger man's face closer to himself with his free hands, lips ghosting over the shell of his ear as he spoke.
"Understand, little bird?"