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crawl home to me

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He almost dies. Not unusual. In his line of work mistakes equal pain at the best of times. At the worst...

Early in his career, before he had the moniker, or the uniform, or the nonchalant attitude he could slip into like a well-fitted jacket, he watched fifty people die at once. It wasn’t a villain; there was no enemy at all. It was a building collapse. Just an earthquake, a natural, catastrophic event.

His feathers were overworked, not strong enough to lift entire people that day. He was thirteen and they were soft, warm little things. Feeble. Easily overwhelmed. 

The commission brought him back covered in dust and old blood. Some of it was his own. He’d worn his fingers down to broken stumps trying to dig out survivors. He was told over a cold dinner that evening that there were none.

The next morning he was woken and given his daily itinerary.

“No more rescue missions,” they announced at the end. It was almost an afterthought. A shrug of an admonition.

He wished he’d kept digging. That he’d broken every bone in his body. He wished he’d had the guts to inside, risk himself and maybe save at least one

But he was scared. And -- fuck.

He’s scared now.

He can’t stop thinking about the mission. The villain. The fire.

His wings are gone. Seared off his back. It will take months to regrow them from scratch, let alone heal the rest of his body. 

He’s a patchwork quilt of injuries, things broken, burned, and crushed. He’d landed badly, on his side. His left eye was ruptured -- they put it back together, but it will be bandaged for at least two weeks. Most of his ribs are bruised or cracked. His left radius had fourteen fractures; essentially disintegrated. They had to replace the entire thing with steel. 

He was stubborn about it.

“It’ll be fine,” he said as the doctor held up the surrogate they intended to put inside him. “It’ll heal.”

“Maybe. But it won’t heal right. And you’ll lose all fine motor functions if we don’t act quickly.”

He panicked. The sight of the metal radius glinting under the fluorescents like a lightning rod made his skin crawl. “Isn’t it your job to make me better,” he demanded, almost hysterical, “not replace pieces of me?”

“Sir,” the doctor said, not unkindly, “there’s hardly any of you left.”

He got the implant. He got patched up, put back together as well as anyone could. Now they’re sending him away.

He knows it’s not because they don’t want to look at him all fucked up, but a part of him can’t help but wonder—

“Am I out of a job?” he asks.

His handler for the day glances at him before returning his attention to the road. “Why would you think that?”

Hawks shrugs as best he can with the cast and bandages. “They’re sending me to the farm.”

“Not a farm, Sir.”

It may as well be. Calling the place rural seems inappropriate. It’s basically an island of its own, surrounded for miles by coniferous forest on all sides, opening up into acres of tall grass fields. At the center is an old, decrepit thing. An old bed and breakfast. An inn. It’s not an especially impressive place, although it’s reasonably large. There isn’t even a sign to mark it, which feels a little off. He might have mistaken it for someone’s house if he hadn’t been briefed beforehand. He can’t help but feel like he’s intruding as the car pulls to a stop at the end of the drive. 

“It will allow you to recover in peace, Sir.”

Hawks doesn’t know what irritates him more, the word ‘recover’, or the word ‘peace’. He doesn’t want either of them. 

He doesn’t know what he wants.

The handler helps get his things inside. His room is on the first floor, towards the back. A lot of pillows on the bed. A lot of hokey pictures on the walls. A lot of pink. Furniture is sparse, but practical. A table by the windows. A pair of sturdy chairs.

It’s...cute.

The handler hovers by the entrance, now that everything is squared. “The innkeeper has been instructed to bring you food three times a day. If you need anything else let her know. I’m told that she makes trips to town bi-weekly, but she makes exceptions for ‘particularly good boys’.”

Hawks looks down at himself. A monster of plaster and terry cloth. His mood is always bleak, lately. Guess he’ll have to wait.

“Take care, Sir,” the handler says, already halfway out the door. 

Hawks scrambles for his name. But he can’t remember. “Right,” he settles on. “Thanks.”

Then he’s alone.

It was early afternoon when he arrived. He wastes the hours until nightfall. He places the few articles of clothing he has in the ancient dresser in the corner. He paces. He picks at his bandages and then reminds himself not to pick at his bandages. Mostly he sits. He sits and thinks. 

It’s nearing nine when there’s a knock on his door. He’d heard you coming from down the hall, but he’s still almost surprised. There hadn’t been any sign of you all day. He almost thought the place was deserted.

He cracks the door, peeking at you through the small opening. You’re way younger than he expected. Smaller too. Low threat, his hero brain supplies. When you pointedly heft the heavy tray you’re holding, Hawks lets the door swing open. 

Oh,” you say, eyes wide.

He almost slams the door in your face. Almost.

But you’re already speaking, bustling into the room, peering at him. “Sorry. You’re just a lot younger than I expected. They told me I was supposed to play companion. I was expecting, like, an old lady I guess. Like something out of Austen.”

He doesn’t respond. It doesn’t matter. You keep going.

“You’re a light packer, huh? I can respect that. I go anywhere and I have to take my whole room. But I can get behind spartan, too. If you need anything don’t hesitate to ask. Food, entertainment, blankets. I’ve got a million quilts. The old owner was quite the seamstress. Got a couple of pillows too. You know, for emergencies.”

You place the tray onto the table by the window. You continue to look around, hands on your hips. “Did you bring… anything?”

“No.” Not really. Some clothes. A book, maybe. He didn’t even pack himself. Couldn’t, at first, not with his body so ruined. 

You give a reassuring little wave. “That’s fine. Like I said, I’ve got extra of everything. I’m sure I even have a box of the old man’s clothes in the attic if you’re in need.”

Hawks isn’t sure what to say. He says nothing.

You look at the dishes you brought. “You gonna eat?”

He looks at them too. He’s not hungry. He hasn’t been since the incident. But it would be rude to refuse… right?

“Yeah. Sure.”

He settles in at the table, bristling slightly when you join him. He doesn’t want company. It’s one thing to use his nondominant hand for things like opening doors or lifting bags, but he hasn’t even tried to eat an actual meal with actual utensils yet.

His discomfort is lost on you, or maybe you elect not to acknowledge it. He’s having trouble getting a read on you. You look so calm and uninhibited as you start to dish up the food. Two plates, he notices.

“You’re staying?” He doesn’t even try to make the question nice. 

You don’t even try to humor his attitude. “I’m getting paid to stay,” you inform him. “And it’s a lot of money.”

You keep both plates in front of you when you’re done. Holding them hostage, Hawks thinks.

“I wouldn’t tell on you,” he tries.

You check the silverware, making sure it’s spotless before beginning to cut up the food on one of the plates.

He watches your movements. It’s unconcerned, a little sloppy. You slide it over to him when you’re done, saying, “The old lady would be turning over in her grave if I didn’t.”

He’s mortified. Not just that you’re being paid to watch over him like a lame dog. You cut up his food for him like a toddler. You’re not even looking at him to see his affronted glare.

He manages to keep it up for maybe a minute before the smell distracts him. When was the last time he had real food? Not hospital rations or energy gel packs between patrols. The food you put before him is the warm, wholesome kind of fare he’d expect of a place like this. Like home cooking, family-secret recipes. A cure for homesickness. 

He’s not hungry but-- he wants to be. It’s confusing. Uncomfy.

And you look so absorbed in your meal. So pleased with it. You make little sounds, sighs and hums. He’s begrudgingly charmed by it.

You glance up only once, when he shifts to begin eating. Otherwise your focus is on your own meal. 

You try making polite, unintrusive conversation, but Hawks answers in grunts or just stays silent. You have no trouble filling the air space. 

You talk about the inn. Mundane things. Things he’s never had to consider. He is, quite frankly, fascinated. He tries not to let it show, but he can’t help his eyes wandering over your expression, taking in the unworried contemplation, the easy thoughtfulness. 

You want to get new plates, but the ones you’re thinking about aren’t on sale yet. And you’re planning on fixing the north facing fence when the days start to cool off. You’re wondering whether a cat would be bad for business.

“I get lonely, sometimes,” you sigh. “Guests are nice, but impermanent. I thought about getting a dog for a while, but I like my independence too much, if that makes sense. I feel like a cat and me would understand each other.” 

Hawks is momentarily floored. How could you admit something like that so unceremoniously? Just dissect yourself for a perfect stranger. Just allow yourself to be known.

You wipe your mouth, stack you silverware on your plate. 

“Well,” you say, rising, stretching. “This was nice.”

You collect the dishes, not commenting on how he barely ate, then wipe down the table, waddle toward the door. 

You trip—on nothing. It’s a quick little stumble, but Hawks is on his feet as you right yourself. His good hand hovers impotently. He’s too far away to catch you, couldn’t even if he tried. 

He expects you to make a joke, following the pattern of the evening, call up that easy flippancy. But you don’t. You take a breath. You nod. 

“Goodnight,” you call without looking back.

“Night,” he murmurs. But you’re already gone. 

In your favorite clearing, you hold your breath. You like this place mainly because of distance. It’s far enough from the house that you can forget about everything for a while, be separate from it. Plus, it’s empty out here. Nothing to hurt you when you fall. 

You spent most of the morning making a valiant attempt at weeding the front walkway. You gathered up kindling for the fireplace. You wiped down the kitchen windows. Upkeep for a building as old as yours is a full time job, but you don’t mind the work. It feels good to be doing something, putting effort into a project and seeing the results. It took a few years, but you’ve accepted your lot in life. 

Except for this one thing. 

Lungs burning, you let your body go weightless, your feet lift up off the ground. The buoyancy is like kindling to your core, a warmth that spreads through you like a sigh. This is a type of homecoming, a delicate, important thing. Fuck, you missed this. Your heart races. You rise. 

It always helps to have something else to focus on, the pain of dwindling oxygen, the bite of nails in your palms. Still, you feel your body bend, arch. Your eyes dart but everything is a blur, all green and blue and brown as the earth comes up to meet you, your body crumpling into a heap against the dry dirt. 

You press your cheek down hard, taking in sharp breaths through your nose; it’s a slow come down. You open your eyes twice to see the forest just a flash of green, moving like it’s alive, before finally you can sit up. 

Less than a foot off the ground. For less than a minute. An even more abysmal attempt than yesterday. 

You glance up at the sky, an expanse of pure blue. It’s been dry lately, no clouds to interrupt the perfect color. The croons of cicadas fill the air. A single black bird meanders south. 

You get up, dust your knees off. You try again. 

You weren’t kidding about the independence thing. Hawks sees very little of you during the day. You drop off meals, grab the sheets to wash when he lets you, ask if he needs anything. Then you’re gone. 

He has no idea where you run off to. Without his feathers for recon he has no way of knowing where you are in the building, but a few days in, he goes looking for you. Not with any particular purpose in mind, just curiosity. What is keeping you so busy?

The inn is set up oddly. Almost everything is on the first floor. Guest rooms and the dining area. Kitchen, parlor. Even the spare blankets you told him about are there, stuffed into the back of an overfull closet. The second floor is bizarre. It looks like personal rooms, but he knows that yours is downstairs too, just a couple doors down from his. The space is clean, tidy. Unlived in. All the beds are made, all the carpets perfectly unrumpled. It smells like weeks old laundry, like clean sweaters brought out of storage after summer. If you wanted alone time, this would be the perfect place to get it. 

But you’ve vanished. You’re not here, not anywhere. 

He wonders -- did his surly attitude really work? Did he drive you away? You didn’t seem to hate him, during the few interactions you’ve had. But maybe that was a front you put up for the money. 

Maybe the sight of him frightens you.

You eat dinner with him every night, though. You chatter endlessly at him. The quiet problems you face. The fence, the plates, the cat. He listens, trying to hide how rapt he really is. Trying to not pry.

Finally, he can’t keep the question down. “Do I make you uncomfortable?”

You pause, fork halfway to your mouth. “No?” 

“You leave.” He tries not to sound petulant. He fails. “For hours at a time.”

“Oh!” You put down your utensil. You reach for him, not put off by his flinch as you cover his right hand with your own. “Are you missing company? I thought you came out here to be alone. Most people do.”

His hand is sweating so much his knife is slipping in his grip. He says, “What about you?”

You pull away. You pay him a sardonic expression. “What about me?”

“You’re--” he gets caught up in the memory. Your candor. You calm. “Lonely?” 

You blink. Then you laugh. It’s not a dainty sound. It’s full bodied, consuming. It almost makes him gasp. 

“Not always,” you tell him when you’re done. Your smile is so pleased, so natural. “Not right now.”

To his surprise, your admission embarrasses him. He hasn’t been charming towards you. Most days he isn’t even nice. That you enjoy his presence in any capacity is shocking.

If he were himself, he might shoot back something flirty, witty. Make an attempt to make you like him. But you would probably cringe if someone so wrecked made a come on. Besides, he doesn’t have it in him to posture. He’s too tired.

“We can make right now last for a while,” he offers. 

You beam. All teeth, scrunched cheeks. You’re looking at him like no one has ever pleased you more. His throat grows tight.

“Is that your quirk? Making time?” 

He’s taken aback. It’s a silly question, a throwaway, but no one has ever had to ask before. It was so obvious. Visible. Known.

You don’t even know who I am, do you, he wants to accuse. He doesn’t. There’s something warm in his chest. Fragile. Or maybe it’s just him. 

“This is a team effort, baby bird,” he says. 

Our quirk,” you agree.

You’re around more, after that. There are still days when you disappear for hours at a time, but you seek him out for reasons other than dinner. 

You make him do puzzles with you. You teach him an awkward, three handed version of cats cradle. You watch over him as he makes tasteless, lopsided bread loaves. He helps you with chores, as he’s able. 

Sometimes you two eat breakfast together in comfortable silence, just taking in the others presence, just soaking up the new sun. You seek out patches of light like a cat, moving your chair to get the best angle. Once you even ask Hawks to switch seats with you. 

He’s never seen someone enjoy something as wholey as you. He’s shameless, himself, but that comes more from circumstance. He doesn’t have time to pass judgement on his own vices— who knows when he would get the chance to indulge again? He learned to be greedy whenever the opportunity presented itself. 

But you—you’re a voluptuary who doesn’t even know the word. You enjoy things like there’s no limit, like they’re yours to enjoy. You bask in the sun like it belongs to you. 

If you ever catch him staring when you turn your face up into the warmth, you don’t mention it. 

Most days you go on slow, meandering walks around the property. He does the doctor prescribed exercises, but it’s still nice to move around. It’s still nice to be in your company. 

He learns where the fence is in need of fixing, where the last owners kept a vegetable garden before you let it all shrivel up. There are roses, too. Far from the house, creeping up on the woods. Overgrown, they swallow the dry ground, the bushes piling on top of each other. 

“Roses are hardy to a fault,” you tell him. “The old man taught me that. Fuck, he taught me everything about roses. I couldn’t keep a stalk of grass alive before I got here.”

You’re staring at the wild tangle of flowers before you. Your face is neutral, pleasant. But Hawks can see the fine line of tension in your shoulders. 

“They’re pretty,” he offers. 

“A pain in my ass,” you return. “Never die. Never.”

“So, how do you keep them from swallowing everything up?” 

“You have to prune them. Cut them down. But…” you chew a fingernail. Hawks wants to pry your hand away, press his own lips to the worried skin there. 

He wants to ask questions. Dig and dig and dig until he understands what’s upsetting you, until he can fix it. It’s like he’s pulling on his own leash as he forces himself to refrain. He lets himself ask, “What will you do?”

“Dunno. Wait? Hope that time freezes?” It seems to dawn on you what you just said. The implications. The memories. 

He stops you before you can get swept away in it, grabbing the hand at your mouth with his good one. It’s an awkward movement, wouldn’t be natural if he had his dominant hand. But you let him hold on to you, let warmth gather between your palms like a tight hug. 

“Our quirk,” he whispers. 

You squeeze. You smile. “Our quirk.”

The big bandage on his face comes off. He can handle the removal on his own, as long as he has a mirror, but you’re so excited about the prospect that he doesn’t correct you when you imply that this is a group activity. 

He’s a little mortified. He hasn’t spent much (any) time preening since he got here, but he knows his face is a mess. There’s his eye of course, but he’s also still bruised all over. His nose is definitely not the same shape as it was before. They’ll probably make him get it restructured, when all is said and done. 

You’re in the kitchen when you do it. He sits on a stool and you stand before him. Your hands are damp from washing as they feel out the edge of the patch, but warm and soft. It’s nearly a caress. 

He likes that you’re tender with him, not because you think he needs it, but because tender is how you feel towards him. He likes your hands. He likes you.

You peel the patch off as slowly as possible, making sure it doesn’t stick or snag, watching his face for winces. But it doesn’t hurt. The light blinds him a little, and when he’s done blinking the spots from his vision, he sees you. All of you. You’re wearing a grin so bright it almost makes him fall out of his chair. 

You trace a pinky over the newly revealed skin. A lot of it is scarred, the texture both smooth and ridged in intervals. It’s an interesting contrast to the rest of his face. Beneath all the surface wounds, he’s gorgeous. But you kind of like this new part of him. It makes him seem...not less perfect, but more human. 

More like you. 

“Well,” you say cheekily. “Hello handsome.”

A set of golden eyes gazes back at you. The faintest blush tinges his cheeks. 

In your favorite clearing, you hold your breath. You clench your fists. You think about how badly you want this, what you had before. Who you were before. 

You feel weightlessness echo through your body. You lose your grip. You lose control. 

You don’t even make it off the ground before you’re crashing, the world spinning, your head rattling. 

What if you never get it back, what if this is just who you are now? Who the fuck is that, anyway?

You let out a long, desperate breath. You fold your hands over your eyes, waiting. 

You disappear again. It’s a shock, how pointless his day is without you around. He reads. He makes a cup of tea (two, just in case you pop up and want some). He stares out the window at the expanse of land you must have been looking out at for years. It looks different, now that he knows it. It’s no longer just the anonymous country space he saw when he arrived. 

He knows the names of trees now, where not to step, the types of birds and what they sound like. He knows there's a lot of sky out here, that it goes on forever and ever. That sometimes you look at it and you feel like you’re drowning. You told him once that if you look up for too long you get turned around, don’t know right from left. It makes you lose track of yourself. 

He doesn’t really get it. The sky is his domain. This would be heaven, if he could fly. So much freedom. Maybe too much. How alone you must have felt, living under a sky like that. Living by yourself out here. 

Where are you? 

You don’t even stop by to drop off meals, just leave out cold food on the counter for him. 

There’s no dinner together, that night. He can’t sleep, just paces, and paces. His wings itch. His left arm feels like lead. He keeps looking out the window, where the shadows have overtaken everything. There are actual, real stars out here. Not just the neon eyes of skyscrapers, the distant haloes of airplanes. The sight makes his chest squeeze. 

At dawn he finds you curled up in the recliner in the parlor, nursing something that smells spicey and warm. He doesn’t know when you came in last night, or if you ever even left. The light is a burgeoning blue that fills the room, makes it all seem like a dream. Makes you seem like something his tired mind conjured to punish him.

He sets himself on the arm of the chair, watching you.

You pay him a soft smile. It’s forced. You’re exhausted. Your complexion is sallow, your eyes like bruises. You take a long sip of your drink. You say, “Good morning.”

Why won’t you tell him what’s happening? Why are you hiding things from him? The two of you are—friends? Something gracious and gentle, anyway. Something good. 

“Okay?” He asks you. 

“Yeah,” you respond. Your voice is shot. It’s deeper, quieter than normal. You don’t meet his gaze. He can’t tell what you’re thinking.  “Just had trouble sleeping.”

“Me too,” he says. 

You reach up, your fingers find his, slip between them just barely. His heart lurches. “Can we walk?”

He puts a gentle pressure on your fingers. “Yeah. Of course.”

He leads. You don’t seem capable of making decisions at the moment, just trust him to get you somewhere, to keep you both from getting lost. He knows his way around now, not just outside, but inside too. Which chairs are the comfiest, and where you keep the sugar. Your favorite mug, and his too. Which lights you leave on at night because you’re scared of the house being completely dark. 

He knows the hiding spots, too. He knows where you’re not. 

“I feel like I’m a thousand years old,” you say. You’re staring at a bird, perched on a low evergreen branch up ahead. “The last owners were old too. Ancient.”

The bird is a black kite. Predatory, nocturnal, eyes like yellow moons. You taught him that one. Lately it feels like you’ve taught him everything. 

“I’ve been wondering about that,” Hawks says. “You’re not the type I was expecting when I wound up here.” 

You take it in stride, like he was expecting. “Yeah, I get that a lot. I had like an actual, real life job, a few years ago. Wore heels and everything. But what is life if not one long transition from pant suits to overalls, right?” 

“The last owners—your grandparents?”

You tense, almost imperceptibly, but he’s close enough to see it. “No. Just some friends of my parents.” You don’t have to look at him to know the question in his gaze. “They didn’t have kids of their own. But they loved this place. Would have hated to see it die. I consider this a repayment of all they did for me.”

“Babysitting?” 

“Something like that.” 

The pair of you come in too close to the black kite. It shoots up into the air, darting away in a flash of black feathers. 

You say, “I needed taking care of. They took care of me.” 

He could get answers out of you, if he really wanted to. He was trained in subterfuge; you weren’t. If he applies the right pressure, says the right words, you would tell him anything, everything. But—

He doesn’t want it. Not like this. He wants to know, but he wants you to tell him. He wants you to want it too. 

“Is that why they call you Hawks?” you wonder. 

He stumbles. “What?” 

“You’re looking at me like I’m on the dissection table.” You pay him a sly smile. “It’s a long story. Believe me. You’d be bored to tears.”

He considers that, the things you’re not saying. “That’s not my name,” he tells you. “Not really.”

“Oh? What is it?” 

He — freezes. He stares at you like he doesn’t recognize you. 

But really he doesn’t recognize himself. 

It’s just a split second, a heartbeat. But he had forgotten his own name. He had to search for it. 

He’s not supposed to share. It’s a top shelf secret. That person doesn’t exist, was executed by the sterile orders of the commission. They — killed him, who he was before. The child, the person with a name

“Keigo,” he whispers. It’s almost a question. There’s a quiet desperation in his eyes, as if he’s waiting on confirmation. Like you could speak it into being. 

You step closer to him. You lace your fingers back through his, peeking up to chart his expression. Less bomb-blast. More exhausted, now. 

“Keigo,” you whisper back. An echo. A promise. “Keigo.” 

It’s been three weeks since he’s had an actual shower. He feels disgusting. Usually he’s fastidious, a holdover from his time in commission living quarters. That he can’t just douse himself in soap is driving him insane. 

Finally, he snaps. He comes to you one evening stripped to his sweatpants, dripping from a wasted attempt to clean himself. You look up from your book, mouth slightly agape. 

“Can you…” the words die on his tongue. 

It doesn’t matter. You’re already on your feet, gesturing for him to lead the way. 

He brings you to the bathroom. It’s barely big enough to fit the both of you. You intuit through the items he has collected on the counter—a washcloth, a bar of white soap, another wind of bandages—that he’s trying to clean off. 

You pick through them, trying not to stare as he seats himself on the edge of the tub. It’s the first time you’ve seen him shirtless. He’s lost a decent amount of weight, but what’s left is all muscle, a body built for speed and power. He’s graceful, perched like that. Even with all the dressings and bruises, it’s clear that he knows his body, knows how to use it. 

You swallow. 

“It’s my back,” he mumbles. “I cant—“ he lets out a quick breath that ruffles his bangs. “It’s just hard to reach.” 

You nod. “Should I just…” You gesture vaguely at his torso. 

“Unwrap the bindings, first,” he tells you. “Then, do whatever.”

You nod again, despite his less than helpful instructions. You kneel in front of him. 

Your fingers glance over the bandages, searching for the end. When you find it, you start to peel it away, clumsily at first. You don’t have the rhythm yet. The cloth slips out of your hands a few times. 

Your hair brushes against his cheek each time you reach your arms around him to keep unwinding. You smell good. Not strong, but it still fills his lungs like a sigh. 

You unwrap him slowly. Like a baby being unswaddled. You’ve never done this before, he can tell. But you’re so careful he doesn’t care that you pull a little too hard sometimes.

The wound is mostly healed. There’s nothing for the fabric to stick to, the gashes all closed up. The dressings are mostly to keep it clean before all the scar tissue comes in.

 The bandages fall to the floor in a sorry heap. Hawks flexes the stiffness from his shoulders as you grab a washcloth and soak it with warm water. 

He straddles the lip of the tub so you can take a seat behind him. You get as comfortable as you can. Then, you gasp. 

“These are beautiful,” you whisper. 

He remembers, fuck—his wings. He’d managed to forget how itchy they were during regrowth, distracted by the aches all over the rest of his body. They must be stubby little things. Pathetic. 

He wants to tear away. You don’t even know. They’re magnificent. Strong, proud, large.

 When he’s whole. 

You’ve never even seen him at his best, at his most capable, how could you praise him for what he is now, the mangle of his body. 

Your fingers trace over the cusp of one, the filigree curve at the top. “I’ve never seen a color like this. Can you feel them?”

He manages a shaky nod. 

You hum. “That's incredible. I wonder if you were a bird, in a past life.” 

You don’t give him the chance to ruminate over that, simply press the steaming cloth against his back and begin wiping him down. 

He’s stiff, at first. It’s strange having someone else’s hands on him, in such a private spot. He can’t remember a time he was touched without the intention to hurt, without the intention to get something from him. 

“These are burn scars,” you note. Not searching, or inviting conversation. Just letting him know you know. He’s grateful you’re not trying to pretend. He’s grateful for a lot of things. 

He relaxes soon enough. Shoulders dropping slightly, tension leaving his frame. The repetitive motion is easy to lose himself in. He thinks this must be how lap pets feel. 

“It was a fire quirk. A villain,” he says. He doesn’t know why. He wants you to know. He wants you to understand. “I got hit from behind. Took a dive from six stories up. It’s kind of a miracle I’m alive at all.”

Your touch creeps higher. To his neck, wetting the overlong ends of his hair. He sighs. “I’ve never been afraid of fire, even knowing what it can do to me.”

He lets out a shuddering breath. “I’ve always been attracted to the things that can fuck me up most. Isn’t that just crazy?” You can feel the words through the tremble of his back. Soft and resonant, like a cats purr. “I think I liked that it could… hurt me. I liked knowing that there was still something that can do that.” 

You hum, letting him carry on without interruption. He’s silent for a long while, until you’re patting him dry with a soft, old towel, rebinding his ribs. You kneel before him again, your hands passing the spool of new bandages around and around. He’s watching the process, distantly, like he’s separate from his own body. A casual voyeur of his own predicament. 

“For a while I didn’t feel anything,” he says. “For years. My whole life was just a laundry list. Save the city. Sleep for the optimal number of hours. Smile for the camera. Fuck.” He scrubs a hand over his face. His fingers pause at a yellow bruise, pressing slightly. “It’s like I wasn’t even a person. I didn’t feel anything.” 

You’re finished binding. It’s looser than he had it before, but you tuck the end in, securing it. It takes you a couple tries. Your hands are trembling. 

“Lonely is a feeling,” you tell him. It’s such a stupid thing to say. But— “Rage is, too. Resentment. Exhaustion. I think…I think you’ve always felt it, this. I think you just pushed it down for a long time.”

You reach out, slowly, slowly. You wrap your hand around his bad one, the hold so careful and light it’s like you’re not even touching at all. Your thumb traces the frayed edge of a bandage. “Keigo. You’re a person. People get hurt, sometimes. Most of us get better.”

“What if…” he swallows. He stares down at your curled fingers. “What if I don’t? What if I’m broken and stay broken.”

You want to hug him. God, you want to wrap around him like a blanket, like a shield. You want to press your face against his chest so you whisper reassurances right to his heart. But you don’t. You squeeze his healing hand, gently. You say, “Then you were never broken to begin with.” 

He’s crying. You only know because his tears are falling onto your hands in fat drops. You don’t want to look at him, you try to give him privacy, in some small, backwards way. 

He doesn’t want any.

You’ve opened him up, like a pomegranate, like a bird cage. It’s all out. It’s all yours. 

He can never go back. 

You break the silence during lunch. “Can you help me with something?” 

“Anything,” he assures you. 

You look sheepish. You adjust the angle of your fork for a few moments. “I got the hedge trimmers out of the shed.”

Keigo nods, encouragingly. 

You bite your thumb nail. “I know it’s probably not a great idea to ask you to do physical labor right now but you wouldn’t really be doing anything. I would be doing most of the work-- not that I don’t trust you, but you definitely don’t know how to do this --”

“Baby bird,” he interrupts your rambling with a smile. “I’d be happy to help.”

The two of you head to the rose bushes. It’s a hot day, but neither of you comment. You go to your knees at the far edge of the web of branches and get to work. 

He kneels too, though you assure him he doesn’t have to. He lifts vines for you to get at tricky spots. He holds on to the choice blooms you hand him.

There’s no real reason for him to be here, other than the fact that you don’t want to do this alone. You don’t want to do this with anyone else but him.

You’ve barely made a dent by evening. The mess seems to go on endlessly. But you feel better, somehow. Liberated.

“I miss them,” you say. “They were so good to me. The best.”

 Keigo sits beside you, face glowing in the red-orange light. His good arm cradles a bundle of roses. His expression is merciful, kind.

“I think it’s good that it hurts,” he says slowly, like he’s making sense of the words himself. “It means there was something worth missing.”

You draw your knees up to your chest. You stare into the mass of curling flowers, their powder scent all around you, Keigo’s presence like a balm. “Yeah,” you say. “Yeah.”

Back at the house the two of you spend a few minutes arranging the blooms in vases, selecting a few to hang for drying. Your eyes keep wandering to him, watching as he finds the perfect place for each rose. He’s good at this. He’s good at everything. 

You wonder if he’d be willing to help you trim, when his cast comes off. There’s still a few more months until winter; you can get a lot done before then. You wonder if he’ll still like this place when it gets cold, when the snow piles up and forces you to stay indoors for days at a time—will he get stir crazy?

Then you think—oh. There won’t be a winter. Not like this. 

“What’s up?” he asks. 

You realize you’ve been staring. It’s gotten dark but neither of you have bothered to turn on a light. You stand together in the tepid dark, gazing at each other. 

“Nothing,” you tell him. “I’m just glad I got to do this.”

He nods. His smile is a small, miraculous thing. “Me too.” 

It comes up suddenly. You’re telling him about a woman who lives on a farm a few miles away. She can make plants grow by talking to them. 

“Isn’t that great?” You sigh wistfully. “The things I could do with a quirk like that. Think of all the gardening possibilities.”

He makes a joke about patience. You return fire. 

Then he asks, “What about you? What’s your quirk?”

Your gaze jumps to him, eyes wide. You search for something in his expression. He must fail your test. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

You—what?

Not once have you directly denied him information about yourself. Even when it was embarrassing or incredibly personal, you were always willing to share. Or at least give him something.

He’s actually surprised this hasn’t come up earlier. With the two of you living in such close proximity it’s a little strange he hasn’t witnessed you using your power. If you didn’t have a quirk, you would have just come out and said it. Which means—

You’ve been hiding it from him. 

You ignore his gape, moving onto the next topic with poignant bluntness. 

“I saw this really cute cat video last night…”

You get the call early in the morning. A handler. Keigo’s handler. They ask vague questions about his recovery, and you give vague answers. He’s already been in contact with them several times about how he’s doing—he doesn’t bother leaving the room when he does. 

The man on the other end thanks you briefly for your hospitality, but what he really wants to talk about is logistics. He’ll be here to pick up Keigo in nine days. You go over the details with him.

You knew it was coming. Keigo is so much stronger now. His cast came off yesterday-- he’s regaining strength in his arm. Even his wings have been unwrapped, and they grow each day, trailing behind him, a color like the final rays of sunlight before nightfall.

So you talk to the man about the future. You think about the sky, the rose bushes, the old owners. You think: maybe winter will kill you this year. 

You don’t eat breakfast with him. You don’t walk with him in the afternoon.

At dinner you arrive, sunny smile on your face, food in hand. You don’t babble like usual as the two of you eat. You can tell he’s upset.

He stares, daring you to call him out on it. You’re less made up today. Not less pretty (could you ever be anything but beautiful?), but not as put together. Your hair is pulled back with little thought, stray hairs peeking out everywhere. You’re in lounge clothes, baggy and faded. Normally he would be a little thrilled to see you in this more relaxed state, another side of you, just for him. 

But you were gone all day.

After the scene in the bathroom, he’s been extremely desirous of your time. Clingy, his self deprecating mind supplies. He just wants you around, wants the reassurance of your presence.

How could you take something so secret, so vulnerable from him, and then run away?

You start packing up the plates. He realizes the whole meal has gone by without confrontation. He’s out of time. What if you leave again?

“I thought you were being paid to spend time with me,” he snaps. “Why are you never here?”

He’s overreacting and he knows. You’re around most of the time. Always, when he seems to need you. But he needed you today. Maybe not for any disaster, but he wanted you here so badly, and isn’t that just the same?

You pause, plates cradled against your chest. “What?”

“I--” he sighs. It’s clipped, frustrated. With himself or with you, he’s not sure. “Isn't this your job?” he finishes lamely. Don’t leave me alone.

“My...job?” You look at him like he’s a puzzle. Realization dawns on your face. You--laugh? “Keigo-- I was kidding. No one is paying me to do anything but feed and house you. In fact, it was kind of implied that I should leave you alone.”

He’s floored. You weren’t being paid to hang out with him? You did it because—

“Why?” 

“Why what?”

He gestures, at you, himself, the space between you. “Why would you do this? Any of this. Because you’re lonely? Because you were bored?” 

“Because…” you start without knowing where you’re going with it. You were lonely, that’s true. And you were curious. That was reason enough, in the beginning. But it spiraled out of your control. Without your consent. “I like you. Isn’t that enough?” 

His defensive mask drops. He curls in on himself. “Sorry. I don’t know why I—“ 

“It’s okay.” And it is. You’re kind of secretly, horribly pleased that he came out and admitted that he misses you. He wants your company. It feels...strange. New. This thing between you, your relationship, is shaped differently than anything you’ve ever experienced. It’s baffling. It’s addicting. You’re frightened of it. You’re frightened of the seasons changing. 

You place the plates back on the table. You wince at them. “Can you take these to the kitchen? I know it’s tough with your arm, but I’m not feeling so hot right now.” 

He’s at your back in an instant. His hands hover above your shoulders. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” you hurry to assure him. “Just tired.”

He grabs the plates. It’s a weird balancing act, but he manages. You feel bad, but he doesn’t look put off by the chore. He’s staring at you. “You should sleep.”

“No, I want to spend more time with you.” You frown at him. “I missed you, today.”

“I missed you too,” he admits. Barely a whisper. “I want you to lay down.”

“But…” You look more vulnerable than he’s ever seen you. So small, fragile. You sway ever so slightly on your feet. “Are you mad at me?” You ask. 

“No,” he answers honestly. “I’m worried.”

You reach the kitchen. He leaves the dishes in the sink; he’ll take care of them later. He turns to you, hands on his hips. “Tell me.”

You don’t even try to put up a pretense. “No.” 

“Why?” He's close to begging. He closes the distance between you, hand hovering just a breath away from your cheek. “Why won’t you let me help you, the way you help me?”

“It’s not something I can share with you. Can’t you respect that? Please?” You’re swaying again. Your words are hollowed out, slightly slurred. 

“Dove?” His hand lands against your cheek. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Your legs give out. He catches you, scoops you up. He races for the door. 

He’s stopped by a hand in his hair, tugging. “No hospital.”

“What?” he snaps. “You just fainted. You need a doctor.”

You tug harder, painfully, implacable. “No. I just need to lay down. Take me to my room?”

He pauses. Hesitates. You shake him a bit with your fist against his scalp. He relents. 

He puts you to bed, gathers a ridiculous amount of pillows around you. He flounders over how many blankets to pile on, if you’d be hot or cold tonight. Your eyes are shut as he flits around the room, but you manage to snag his wrist. 

“I’m alright,” you tell him. 

“I don’t think I believe you,” he returns. He feels like a spring trap, all tension, all fight or flight. But there’s nothing to do, no course of action to take. 

You pull him closer, until he has to brace a hand against the bed or risk toppling onto you. 

“Do something for me?” You ask. 

“Anything.” 

“When we wake up, tomorrow, this was all a dream.”

You’re asleep before he can argue.

He wakes and you’re gone. He’s up in an instant. His feathers are more sensitive now; he locates you almost instantly. You didn’t go very far.

It’s cool outside, slightly damp. Dew crawls up his bare feet as he runs toward your form, slumped in the grass a few acres out. 

He comes to his knees at your side, hands ready to grasp, to right. But you curve away from him.

“Don’t touch me,” you snap. It’s full of vitriol. Full of hurt. 

He flinches. You’ve never spoken to him like that before. You rarely even raise your voice. 

You’re already on the ground, but still you slump over further. 

“Sorry. Shit.” You press your face into the soft soil like it might swallow you up. You miss him already. You don’t want to look at him. “God, please, just leave me alone.”

He doesn’t budge. “What are you doing?”

“I just wanted to go for a walk,” you words are soft, mumbled. Your vision spins. “Clear my head.”

It’s a half truth. You got so used to going out each day with him, you wanted to prove it would be the same by yourself. It isn’t.

It isn’t and it frightens you. You’re becoming someone new, someone who needs someone else. Someone who will be alone again, soon.

“You’re hurting yourself,” he says. His brow is furrowed, confused, in pain himself.

“It’s just a walk,” you say, even though you’re aware that you’re on the ground, unable to stand up on your own. 

He ignores the wobbly frown you shoot him. “I’m gonna help you,” he says. His tone leaves no room for arguments. “You’re gonna let me.” 

He gathers you against his chest. He carries you back through the woods, towards home. 

He’s warmer than you expected. More solid, too. His chest has almost no give, but it feels so good to be close to him that it doesn’t matter. You focus on his face, rather than the churning feeling in your gut. Having something to stabilize you helps keep you from losing control.

You almost gasp when Keigo meets your gaze. It’s dark, intent. “Are you dying?” 

“Keigo.”

“Please. Just this. I need to know.” His grip tightens on you. “I won’t love you any less if you won’t be here as long but—“

“I’m not dying,” you tell him. 

His shoulders sag. “Thank god.”

You barely make it inside before you have to stop him. You fist a hand in his sweater. “Bathroom,” you plead.

He holds your hair back as you vomit, petting your nape, cooing gentle nonsense phrases at you. He keeps going, even when you’re done. 

Finally, you look at him. Your voice is weak. You feel half here. “I know who you are.”

He gapes. “You—do?”

“I didn’t at first,” you admit. “You don’t look the same as your pictures. I couldn’t see the wings. But, I have internet access, Keigo. I don’t live under a rock.”

He keeps petting you, but the tempo changes. Faster, now. “You never said anything.”

You wince. “You seemed so tired. I wanted you to have a break from it all. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. Don’t ever apologize to me, Dove. Not for anything.”

Silence. You realize there’s nothing left to do but tell the truth. There’s nowhere left to hide from the inevitable. 

“You love me,” you say. But it’s not happy. In fact, you sound rather heartbroken. 

“I do,” he returns. Firmly. Resolutely. It feels like he’s getting ready for a fight. Maybe he is. 

“One week.” You push the hair from your eyes. You lean back into his hold. You sigh. “You’re here for one more week.” 

He does some mental math. Shock sweeps through him. 

He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this was all temporary. That he’d have to go back to being a hero soon. His wings aren’t whole yet, but they will be soon. He has to practice using his new arm. 

But being here, with you—it’s all encompassing. It doesn’t leave room for anything else. He doesn’t want anything else. 

He grabs a washcloth. You let him gently wipe off your face, pull your hair back into a loose ponytail. You gingerly accept a toothbrush, toothpaste already lining the bristles.

“Do you want me to carry you?” he asks when you’re done. Arm around your shoulders, he draws you against his side. 

“No.” You use him to support yourself as you shuffle towards the door. “It’s easier if I walk.” 

He holds you all the way to your bedroom. He peels off your sweaty clothes, but the act is quick and heatless. He helps you into bed. 

“I used to be worse,” you say as he wraps a blanket around you like a cocoon, shielding your nakedness, getting you comfortable. “Much worse.”

His hands stay fisted in the fabric around you. “Dove. You don’t have to tell me. It’s okay.” 

You continue. “I got hit by a car. Stupid, right? I wasn’t even doing anything important, just going on a coffee run. It was my fault. I was jay walking and—whatever. Bad things happen all the time. I was lucky, in a lot of ways. Comparatively, anyway.”

You duck your head, lean in so you can bury your face against the soft material of his sweater. “It fucked up my inner ear. A lot of other things too, but my balance is completely shot. I can do most things, on good days. But being in the city is hard. I can’t take public transportation. Being places with too many people makes me dizzy. Stair and elevators are always a gamble.”

His arms are wrapped around you. Keeping you close, keeping you together. His breathing is ragged.

“The old owners took care of me when I was recovering. We thought that I might get better all the way-- the doctors said I would. But it never happened. I’m still fucking ruined.”

His face is so close to yours. Your cheeks are almost touching. You can feel the ticking of his jaw. He’s trying not to cry. “You’re not ruined.”

“I can’t use my quirk. I’m starting to forget how. It makes me weightless. Makes me float. Or at least it used to before...”

Not ruined,” he says again, fiercely. He squeezes you tighter.

“That’s easy for you to say. You still have yours. You get to go back. But--” you huff. “Everything about me is different now.”

“Dove. Baby -- I’m different now, too. This place changed me. You changed me.”

“This place is a fucking prison.”

He is crying now. Silent, hot tears. You can feel them on your own skin, barely. “We can go someplace else, anywhere--”

“No,” you say quickly. “I shouldn’t have said that. This is my home.”

He looks like he wants to say more, convince you of something. But he says, “Okay. If that’s what you want.”

“I can’t have what I want. Keigo, I’m tired.” You sink onto your side. He goes with you, still awkwardly wrapped around you. He tries to remove himself, but you grab one of his hands. You press your lips against his knuckles, a fleeting, precious touch. “Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. Who am I supposed to be?”

“Anything. You can be anything.”

I want to be yours

You grip him tighter. “Please don't go.” 

He doesn’t. 

You wake and he’s gone. It takes barely a minute of you squirming around in the covers for him to appear in your doorway, though.

“How are you?” he asks.

You almost laugh at the overwhelming concern in his eyes. “I’m fine.”

He slips over to you. He passes you a mug. 

The scent is warm and familiar. It’s the kind of tea you drink after stressful days, and you’re a little surprised that he remembered. But he’s always been so perceptive. He looms at your bedside, taking in everything. You can see the hero in him, like this. So vigilant.

“Come here?” you ask him, peering up at him over the rim. 

He comes without hesitation. He crawls up behind you, wraps you up with all his limbs as you sip your tea, watch the morning roll in. He runs his nose over the nape of your neck, his breath teasing the baby hairs there. His lips press faint, dry kisses against your skin.

“Dove, you scared the shit out of me,” he murmurs.

“Payback for all the worrying I’ve done over you.”

His chuckle fades quickly. He asks, “Is it better, today?”

You hum in the affirmative, not really wanting to discuss it. Not really wanting to discuss any of what happened last night. It’s easy to think everything is fine when he’s so warm and solid behind you. You want to soak it all up like a sponge, roll around in it like a dog in fresh cut grass.

He takes your mug from you when you’re done, placing it on the nightstand. 

“Five years,” he says, returning his hold. His lips are right next to your ear. You can feel his voice in your bones. “I made some calls. I asked some very awkward questions. I’m on the hook for at least five more years.”

“I don’t--”

“It will be hard. I know that. And I will miss you so damn much. But I will come back every chance I get and maybe --” He shakes his head. He looks at you, determined, yearning. “Please?”

Your hand finds his. Your grip must be crushing his fingers, but he doesn’t even wince. “What are you asking me for?”

“Patience,” he says. His voice is small. “And love, maybe.” 

You squirm until he lets you go. You turn around, not caring as the blanket slips from your shoulders. You grab his face, drop your forehead against his. “Keigo, you already have it.”

His lip trembles. “Yeah?”

You nod. “Yeah.”

His hands grip your waist, thumbs stroking the creases of your hips. He nudges your nose with his. It’s a slow descent as his lips find yours. He eases you into it, lets you nibble at his lips, get used to him like this. 

But you’re tired of restraint. You crawl fully into his lap, until your centers are aligned. You lick at his lips until he groans, slipping his tongue against yours, dragging a hand up to fist in your hair. You can’t help grinding down against him. You can’t help the little thrill that goes through you when you’re met with something hard, grinding back against you.

He pulls back, pressing kisses to your cheeks, your eyelids, your nose. “Let me make you feel good?”

You nod emphatically. 

He slips away, off the bed. You whine at the loss of heat, but he goes to his knees on the floor. He pulls you to the edge of the mattress by your ankles. 

You try to put on a confident front, but it’s been a while and you’ve never had a man do that. Your face feels hot. Your whole body feels hot.

You’re naked and he’s not. He must have changed sometime before you woke, because he’s not wearing the same clothes he was yesterday, just sweatpants. Sitting up like you are, you can see the contrast between you so clearly.

His hands rest against your hips. He stares up at you with glittering eyes.

“Yeah?” he says.

You consider the position you’re in. How vulnerable you are. How sweet and earnest he looks. You swallow. “Yeah.”

He leans in, but he doesn’t do what you’re expecting. Your legs are still too close together for him to get anywhere near your sex. He presses chaste kisses against the top of your thighs, just above your knees. His hands find one of your feet, lifting slightly. He presses his thumbs into your soles. 

You groan. “Oh my god.”

He smothers a laugh against your skin, continuing to work the tension out of your feet. His touch goes higher, massaging your calves, your inner thighs, your hips. You’ve opened up to him without realizing. His mouth against your core is just a natural progression of things and you arch up into him without reservation. 

It’s teasing at first. Light flicks of his tongue, gentle sucking. A fingertip circles and circles your entrance, but doesn’t intrude. Just drives you insane. 

He takes his time, not letting you catch a rhythm, continually changing the shape of his tongue, of his strokes. “Please, Keigo,” you whisper.

That must be what he was waiting for, because he buries his face in your pussy then, tongue dipping into your opening, nose brushing against your clit. He slips a finger in, and then two, holding you down with an arm against your hips as you rise against him uncontrollably. 

The pump of his fingers isn’t quick, but it’s steady and firm. You can feel it all the way to your throat, in the limbs he’d loosened so diligently earlier. His lips find your clit, nibbling gently, and the divine contrast is enough to send you over, gasping, clutching at his hair, trembling in his hold. 

His fingers keep moving as he works you through it, until you’re so drawn out that you have to stop him with a feeble swat of your hand.

He gazes at you, face upturned. He looks like a supplicant, like a repentant. He looks like something more than human, his face glowing with a fine sheen of sweat and your own slick, so beautiful it’s hard to comprehend, hard to think that he’s real, this is all real.

“More?” he asks.

You stroke a hand against his cheek. He leans into the touch, lids growing heavy. “All of it.”

He doesn’t move for a long moment, just basks in your touch. Returning to lucidity, he strips off his sweats and climbs back on the bed beside you. He makes a move to ease you to your back, but you stop him with a hand on his chest.

“Wait. Not laying down,” you whisper. “The motion...”

“Got it,” he says, picking you up and replacing you on his lap. You kiss him again in silent thanks. 

He gives you a moment to get comfortable, hands tracing over your body, finding every dip and rise, every deliciously sensitive place. There’s a big, puckered scar on your lower belly, stretching over your hip. He noticed it yesterday, but seeing it up close, feeling it under his fingers…It must have hurt. He wants to make you forget it. Forget that pain exists at all. 

Keigo is...strangely nervous. Ecstatic. Overwhelmed. Full of love and love and love. 

He’s fucked people before. People he was told to fuck. People he needed things from, secrets, money, favors. Always a transaction, his body the bargaining chip. He did it and he did it well; he even enjoyed some of it. But it never mattered before. Not like this. Not like you before him, a heap of softness, so much skin to touch, to kiss, so much pleasure to give. 

He noses against your temple. “Condom?”

“It’s okay. I can’t...” you don’t finish the statement. He gets it, anyway.

One big hand finds the scar tissue again, massaging lightly. “Alright, Dove. You ready?”

“Yes. Please.”

You can feel his grin against your cheek. “So polite.”

He simply lifts you when it’s time, one arm hooked around your torso. You’re left rather in awe of his strength, right up until his cock finds your entrance.

He guides you down until you’re fully seated, hip to hip. He lets out a shivering sigh, petting your thighs, your stomach. You lean against him, letting him take your weight.

After a minute he says, “Are we gonna go slow?”

You answer with a savoring roll of your hips, a short nod. 

The rhythm is simple, sweet. You feel it like the beating of your own heart, a trembling song that builds and builds and builds. Keigo is all breathless moans and soft hands around you. His forehead falls against your shoulder, his breath steams on your collar bone.

“You feel so good,” he groans. “Nothing has ever felt as good as your pussy, baby.”

You try not to laugh, but you can’t hold it in. It’s so ridiculous, so perfect. It starts as a snort -- then the dam breaks. Your tremors mess up the cadence of things, but then Keigo is laughing too, still thrusting intermittently throughout until you let out a long, low moan. He grabs your hips. He scrapes his teeth over your pulse point, chuckling again when you hiss.

“Yeah, Dove. That’s it.”

His hand slips between your thighs, fingers flicking lightly over your clit. He answers your high keen with a moan. “You’re so warm,” he says. “Fuck. So warm.”

You press your lips against his. You can’t kiss him while you’re smiling, not really, but it’s enough to feel the damp heat of his mouth, to taste his errant moans.

“So good,” he murmurs. “You’re so good for me. Such a good girl.”

You don’t expect the words to make you squeeze, and you don’t expect him to notice. But suddenly the pace increases, he’s bouncing you in his lap, gnawing gently at your pulse point. “You take me so well,” he says. “Like you’re made for me. Like-- fuck. You make me feel so nice. Good girl. Precious baby bird.”

Your culmination is a gentle peak. You feel it coming and coming and coming, spurred on by his words, his movement inside you, his finger stroking your center. It hits and you feel hollowed out and refilled with something electric and bursting, every muscle tightening and releasing, shivering, sparkling.

He follows you down, a chant of “love you, love you, love you,” buried against your throat.

He stays inside you for a while after that, slumped over you, breath evening out against your sternum. You run a hand through his hair, stroking and stroking. He’s almost purring.

He makes you breakfast. It’s something ridiculously healthy, and he makes you eat all of it. He guides you to the bathroom with an arm looped around your shoulders. He sits on the toilet seat as you wash away the grime of last night, chattering at you mindlessly. You think he does it just to let you know he’s still there. The thought makes your chest tight. 

He makes you get back in bed when you’re done. You try to argue with him-- you were going to clean out the gutters today, wash the floors, but he won’t hear it. He’ll take care of it later, he assures you, but you should be resting. You’re secretly grateful.

Curled up against him, the daylight ripens, draping over your both. You map out his face with your hands, your touch gentle as a moth wing as it smooths over and over his crooked nose.

“Keigo.” He shudders at his name on your lips. “Won’t you get bored? Won’t you get tired of me?”

He pulls back to look at you. You’ve never seen this particular expression before. So open. So unafraid.

“My love doesn’t have an expiration date,” he whispers. “I will want you five years from now. And I will want you tomorrow. And I will want you everyday until I die.”

“And right now?” you ask, trying to bite back a grin. Trying to fight down tears.

“And right now,” he confirms.

You get the call early. It’s barely morning, the dregs of stars still dotting the sky. 

“Hey,” you answer. You head out to the porch, take a seat on the steps to watch the sunrise. It’s the cusp of fall and the air has just started to get crisp. Keigo has promised to bring you a big, fluffy throw blanket when he comes back.

“Hi, Dove.” His voice is firm, whole. He must have been awake for a while now. His patrols have been different, now that he’s back. Less intense. They’re trying to ease him into things, or so they say.

“What’s up?”

“Nothing, just wanted to hear your voice.” He sighs. “It’s been a long night.”

He’s mostly silent, for the next long while. He just listens as you tell him about the plates you just bought and how the new cat is acclimating. You talk to him about physical therapy. It’s going as well as can be expected, but it’s something. You want to be able to visit him sometime, too.

“I got to work on the fence yesterday, but it’s slow going. It’s too big for me to lift by myself.”

“You don’t have to,” he says. “I’ll be back soon.”

“When?”

“Soon.” There’s the sound of rushing air. He must be somewhere high. “It’ll feel like a hundred years though.” 

“That’s our thing, isn’t it?” You lean back on your hand, turning your face up towards the light. “Make one second into two.”

He hums. “Some seconds deserve to last forever,” he says. His voice is full of yearning. Full of hope. “We deserve to last forever.”