The moment he sees Dabi, Hawks knows something is wrong. The villain is swaying, dragging his feet, and there’s blood matting his hair into a wet, shiny mess and spilling over skin and scars. He’s pale, his blue eyes unfocused even as he looks towards Hawks.
“What happened to you?”
Dabi laughs, and then leans forward, looking for a moment as if he might vomit. He gives a dry retch, and then groans. “Nothing.”
“Doesn’t look like nothing,” Hawks frowns, taking a careful step forward. Hawks has become used to Dabi’s patchwork skin – fond of it, really – but right now Dabi looks like a reanimated corpse. “Who got you?”
“Some lowlife petty criminal,” Dabi conceded straightening up and visibly fighting not to stagger backwards. “Having an off day.”
“I didn’t know you had those.”
“You learn something new.” Dabi says, his words slurred as if he’s drunk.
“I do— Hey!”
Hawks moves forward without thinking, catching Dabi as he falls. The taller man is lighter than he thought he would be, flopping weakly against Hawks.
“Okay, what the fuck?” Hawks asks, mostly to himself.
Dabi gives a dry, humourless laugh before his unfocused eyes roll back, his body going limp.
Hawks really wishes this was a joke. He doesn’t know what to do with a broken, bleeding villain that’s just passed out in his arms. The sensible thing would be to cut and run – it’s not like he’s Dabi’s babysitter – but Hawks was never good at keeping out of or away from trouble. It has a way of finding him.
And Dabi is very definitely trouble.
Never mind those who injured him, there’s something dangerous about the villain, something so appealing to Hawks that he just knows it’s going to end in disaster. He always had poor taste in men, never able to find anyone steady because he was looking for something criminally out of his reach – someone literally criminal, it turns out. Hawks hadn’t known what it was he really wanted until he set eyes on Dabi, and until heard the sharpness of Dabi’s tongue, saw the hunger in his eyes, and was drawn in by the cool intensity burning fiercely beneath his patchwork skin. Something about the villain made his traitorous brain yell ‘I want that one’, every fibre of his being wholeheartedly agreeing. Hawks put up a rather valiant attempt to ignore what he felt, but it became harder and harder to deny with each passing day.
It’s impossible to deny now. Even bloodied from a fight and groaning weakly in his arms, coming round a little, Dabi somehow manages to remain appealing to Hawks. His hair is gross, blood getting onto Hawks’ clothes, and he’s clearly lost whatever was in his stomach, but Hawks can’t feel any degree of disgust towards him. Not even the way Dabi’s scars shift as he moves, pulling at staples and tugging at skin, puts him off. If anything, he thinks they need to be cleaned before any dirt gets beneath the skin and can cause an infection.
“I’m guessing you’re not one for hospitals,” he sighs, mostly to himself. “Come on,” he says, hefting Dabi’s weight up as smoothly as he can so they’re standing, Hawks supporting the taller man. “I know a place.”
It’s by no means easy to negotiate the walk from their meeting spot to one of the flats Hawks’ agency maintains. His own home would have a lower risk of anyone finding them, but it’s also on the other side of the city, and navigating dingy alleyways in an attempt to avoid being seen is time consuming. By the time Hawks uses a masterkey to unlock the door, Dabi has tripled in weight, despite having enough awareness to try to walk.
Hawks isn’t a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s pretty sure Dabi is concussed. His words are slurred, his movements slow and clumsy, and his gaze is unfocused when he tries to look at Hawks.
“What happened?” Dabi asks as Hawks manoeuvres him into the cramped bathroom and sits him on the closed toilet lid.
“Some jerk landed a hit on you – a big one, by the looks of it.”
Dabi grunts in answer, slumping. “Head fucking hurts.”
Hawks can’t help chuckling as he pulls a well-stocked first aid kit from the cupboard beneath the sink. “It would. Are you allergic to anything?”
“I’ll get you pain meds in a minute then. Now, hold still. You’re gross.”
Amazingly, Dabi does as he’s told. He sways, even while seated, and stiffens in discomfort despite Hawks’ best efforts to be gentle when he clears around the bloody head wound, but otherwise he’s a model patient.
“This your place?” Dabi asks.
“Nah, just a place my agency keeps on the books. Useful for out of town visitors, witness protection, escaping shitty neighbours when you need a good night's sleep – that sort of thing.”
“And for hiding villains,” Dabi mumbles.
“For helping,” Hawks corrects, although he doesn't add that Dabi is the only villain he'd do this for. “I'll update the paperwork so no one will bother us.”
“You’re going to be in so much shit,” Dabi smirks – or tries to. The expression is weak, pulling at his staples and looking painful.
“I won’t get caught,” Hawks insists, and then figures he might try to sell his own villain narrative. “And even if I am it’s not like it really matters anyway. They’re going to find out I’m involved with the League one day soon.”
Dabi closes his eyes, saying nothing more, and Hawks finishes cleaning the wound as best he can. The cut itself is small and luckily doesn't need stitches.
“Come on, you’ll be more comfortable on the sofa,” Hawks encourages. “And I’ll get some acetaminophen for you too.”
“What for?” Dabi slurs, struggling to coordinate his feet for a moment. Hawks’ wings bash against the wall as they flare out to help balance them both.
“You said your head hurts.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess.”
Hawks only shakes his head at that, not sure what to say. Does Dabi often forego painkillers? It seems like the kind of idiotic thing he might do. Heroes and villains are perhaps alike in that regard, choosing to grit their teeth and endure their own pain rather than pause and ask what they can do to ease it.
Once he’s safely deposited Dabi on the sofa, Hawks casts his gaze over the injured villain, deciding he’s relatively okay as he is. There’s blood on his clothes, but it’s mostly dried, and Hawks doesn’t think the effort of helping undress the man will be worthwhile. It’s a task for later, and leaving Dabi in his own things will no doubt be comforting when he’s hurt and in a strange environment.
The painkillers fetched and taken, Hawks then heads into the smaller bedroom – a box room if ever there was one – and pulls out an armful of bedding. Dabi watches him closely when he comes back, his gaze swimming in and out of focus.
“What are you doing?”
Hawks gives a light shrug, piling the blankets up next to Dabi. “Looking after you.”
A thin hand reaches out to take the uppermost blanket. “You don’t have to.”
“One,” Hawks says, using his finger to illustrate his list, “I do. Head injuries suck, and it’s not like you’re spoilt for choice on where you can lay low. No offence to the League, but most of you have a screw loose, and you’re definitely all wanted criminals. I’m betting none of them have great first aid skills.”
He pauses, before continuing: “Two, I want to.”
He doesn’t explain why. He doesn’t justify himself. He leaves it at that and Dabi, thankfully, doesn’t pry. The villain simply tilts his head back slowly, tugging the blanket over his lap. “Okay,” he agrees, and that’s that.
Looking after Dabi isn't easy. It requires creative thinking on Hawks’ part for the first two days to come up with a legitimate reason for not turning up at his agency. The lie he gives of food poisoning is believed, but he can't quite believe himself: is he really giving excuses so he can nurse a concussed villain?
Apparently he is.
He would like to say it's not the strangest thing that's ever happened to him, but it's getting pretty close. Even with a constant supply of painkillers, Dabi has a headache. He gets confused, his thoughts are muddled, and he’s clearly frustrated by both his state of mind and the fact he's pretty much stuck where he is. It's a good thing he doesn't get too frustrated with Hawks, who happily chatters away when electronic screens prove too much for Dabi but he wants a distraction – which is often. Hawks isn't sure what he told the League, but just after Hawks saw to the cut on his head and gave him a clean set of clothes on the first day, Dabi had said not to worry about the League harassing them.
So Hawks tries not to. One less worry is good for him. He has enough already, chief among them his very definitely growing crush on the villain. Being in close proximity to Dabi has only made Hawks want him more, and after seeing Dabi topless, sleeping fitfully, chilling out on the sofa with him, bitching about everything that's wrong with the world (which is endearing as Dabi still gets confused and has to work hard to order his thoughts at times, but he still forges ahead as if he doesn't care that Hawks is seeing him this compromised), Hawks knows he's in too deep. No matter how hard he tries to shut his feelings away, he worries they are evident in the way he looks at the other man, and the way he carefully reaches out to help and offer comfort.
It's been five days, with Hawks now back working having ‘recovered’ from his food poisoning, and Hawks notices a change in Dabi. He doesn't seem interested in going anywhere, despite complaining of being bored (he says he doesn't think he can process the train routes or times, or remember which street he was on or should make his way back to), but more that that, he doesn't seem interested in moving away from Hawks. He lingers, even leaning in when Hawks comes back late in the evenings. If Dabi thinks it's odd Hawks is staying in the flat with him, he doesn't mention it. He lets it happen, and Hawks lets it happen when Dabi fully leans against him for the first time.
He surprises himself by being the one to protest when they first kiss.
He hadn't expected it, even though he maybe should have, given how close they were in that moment. His hand presses against a warm, thrumming chest as he pushes Dabi away, taken aback.
Dabi snorts at him. “I thought you'd recognise a kiss.”
“What!? I do!” Hawks quickly insists, before he catches up with his own thought process. “But you're… not yourself right now.”
“I'm concussed, not stupid. I know what I'm doing.”
“You do?” Hawks hesitates, trying to recall what it's like to have concussion. The one point of reference he has leaves him frowning. “Hardly fair if you're going to forget it.”
“Who says I'll forget.”
“Well, you've already forgotten—”
“You're supposed to say something nauseatingly stupid like ‘I'll remind you’.”
Hawks can't help the heat he feels crawling up his neck. “Well, if you want me to…”
He also realises this might just be something Dabi is doing because he's bored and Hawks is there. Good times were had with poorer excuses, though, and Hawks could really do with something he truly wants, even if it's fleeting.
He's surprised when they never do more than just kiss. He thought Dabi might fuck him, and would have been okay with that, but over the next few days it doesn't happen. They make out, they fall asleep tangled together on the sofa, they kiss, but they never fuck. Hawks half wonders if Dabi even wants that. Maybe he really is a distraction. He tries not to let it sting. He's smarter than that.
Ten days after Dabi's injury, Hawks is a mess. The lines are so blurred he's not sure where he stands: helper or companion, friend or lover, user or accomplice, hero or criminal. He's still goes to see Dabi rather than heading home after his shifts. He doesn't really miss his flat, beyond missing his piles of blankets and pillows. He misses Dabi, though, when he's out on patrol or working at him agency. He texts him, checks up on him roughly every time he has a snack break, and offers to stop off at shops on the way home to get him whatever he wants.
When did Dabi become ‘home’?
And why is Dabi okay with them being so close and familiar? He's getting better, his speech is no longer slurred or stilted, his attention is steady rather than wavering. He doesn't need Hawks. He doesn't need help. He could probably go back to whatever life he had before the concussion forced him to make do with the best option available at the time.
Hawks stares down at the fingers laced with his, skin and scars tangled together, and tries to ignore the the inevitable loss he’ll suffer. “How's your head?” he asks, knowing Dabi can have another dose of painkillers in fifteen minutes.
Dabi grins. “Doesn't hurt.”
Hawks didn't realise he was holding tension in his body until it lifts, a tumultuous counterpoint to the sadness he feels at knowing Dabi will be gone soon. Ignoring his fear and focusing on his happiness that Dabi is getting better, he breathes a sigh of relief, reaching up to run his fingers lightly through Dabi's hair – on the opposite side to the injury that's healing nicely. “I'm glad to hear–”
And the he trails off, frowning. His gaze is fixed on Dabi's hairline. How has he not noticed before…?
“You dye your hair?”
Dabi's unmarred skin pales, his hand stiffening and turning cold and he pulls it away. He reaches up to touch his hair as if trying to hide his roots.
“It's white…” Hawks marvels. He isn't sure why that hits him so hard. Millions of people dye their hair. It doesn't mean anything.
Only, Dabi is trying to hide it, looking panicked. He's getting up, stumbling away. It feels like Hawks has discovered a secret he was never supposed to stumble across, although he can’t understand why it’s so important
“I won't tell anyone,” he promises, following Dabi to the larger bedroom he’d been using. “Black really suits you.”
Pulling his own clean, blood-free clothes that had been stored in the closet and pulling them on in favour of throwing the borrowed garments on the bed, Dabi casts around for his phone and ratty wallet. “I'm going out,” he announces as he pockets them.
“Wait!” Hawks pleads, before realising he can't stop Dabi. He has no authority. He won't even try. “I, um…”
He darts into the hallway, where his jacket hangs by the door. His card is tucked in the inside pocket, and he fishes it out, turning to find Dabi behind him.
“Take this. The code is three-five-two-one”
Dabi eyes the card, making no move to take it. Hawks tries desperately not to look up at the millimetre of white at Dabi’s roots.
“Go on, if you’re going to the pharmacy you can get me some more hair conditioner too.”
“It’s got your name on it.”
It has. His real name. It’s not as if it’s a secret, but Hawks is just… Hawks. There’s not much Dabi can learn from it. “They never check. Go to an ATM first if you like, there’s one around the corner from the pharmacy, next to the newsagent.”
“You’re okay risking it?”
And then Hawks realises Dabi’s concern. He almost laughs. Dabi is worried about someone prematurely realising his link to the League?
Instead of answering, he takes the beanie that had been hanging on the peg below his jacket and reaches up, tugging it over Dabi’s hair. He allows himself to fuss just a little, making sure it’s on straight and hiding the roots that clearly freaked Dabi out. He can’t help thinking the other man looks cute wearing the hat, somehow more innocent. He’s not sure why a hat of all things changes his perception this way, but it’s… nice. It feels for a moment as if they’re just two normal people going about their lives. It’s something Hawks knows they can never have, but for a heartbeat it’s his reality, and it’s more than he ever thought life would give him.
“I trust you,” he finds himself saying, pulling Dabi in by the lapels of his jacket and kissing him gently.
Dabi seems too stunned to respond, blinking at Hawks when they pull apart as if seeing him for the first time. “You shouldn’t. You don’t know me.”
“I know enough.”
Dabi looks like he wants to argue. Hawks pushes the card into his hand before Dabi can protest again.
“Conditioner, remember? And anything else you want, it’s not as if I can’t afford a little shopping spree.”
Dabi’s fingers close around the card, the plastic visibly biting into his skin. His jaw is clenched, his eyes glassy as he looks down at Hawks. “You don’t know me,” he breathes.
“Well,” Hawks answers, wrapping his hand around Dabi’s and trying to let the warmth of his touch loosen Dabi’s grip on the card. “I’d like to. And what little of you I already know… I like that too, okay?”
Dabi doesn’t look okay. His head bows, his hand trembling as he pulls it away. Hawks fears he’s pushed too far. “This could never work.”
“I know,” Hawks forces himself to acknowledge, “but—”
“I need to go.”
It sounds… final. It sounds too much like Dabi means it, and is about to run.
“Dabi!” Hawks pleads, needing to stop the other man before he disappears through the door. “Do something for me, please? Just one thing?”
Dabi pauses, waiting.
Hawks heart aches, his chest exploding with pain as he wonders if this is the last time he’ll see Dabi like this – as his.
“If you’re not coming back, text me. Don’t leave me waiting.”
Without answering him, Dabi reaches for the door again.
This time Hawks makes no move to stop him. He’ll find out soon enough if the strange, happy little dream he’s been living in is over. All he can do now is look at the closed door concealing Dabi’s retreating form, and wait.
It takes three hours before Hawks has his answer. His phone, the external focal point of his anxiety, lies silent beside him when he hears the front door open.
He’s in Dabi’s arms before he can think twice, smelling fresh, cool air clinging to Dabi’s jacket and the underlying warmth he’s come to cherish. “You came back,” he breathes, not even bothering to hide his relief.
The bags Dabi is carrying drop to the floor, his arms coming up to embrace Hawks. “Didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Asshole,” Hawks mutters, knowing that it’s a lie. Dabi doesn’t have to be here.
“Figured I’d come back one last time.”
“Wh—? No!” Hawks breathes, pulling back.
A kind hand caresses his cheek, nothing but tender and open affection in Dabi’s gaze as he looks at him. All Dabi’s defences are gone.
“You won’t want me after this. Not when you know who I really am – what I really am.”
“Try me,” Hawks dares, determined to prove Dabi wrong.
And he does.
The story Dabi tells isn’t one Hawks ever wanted to hear. He hates it. He hates those who played a part in tearing Dabi apart, and wants to see them pay. He knows Dabi chose to join the League and walk down this path, but everything before that, up until the moment he was cast aside and left for dead…
Hawks holds on tight. He knows who Dabi is, he knows what Dabi is, and he loves him anyway.