It all started with a phone call.
No-one in the musky, cluttered room thought anything of it when Shigaraki’s phone began to ring, the man grumbling to himself as he reached into his pocket for it. Compress and Spinner continued to speak to one another, both resting against the wall near the hideout’s door. Meanwhile, Toga was with Twice on one of the couches, happily facing away from him as he undid her usual buns and braided her hair messily but gently.
Dabi watched with a disinterested gaze, shoulders slumped against the couch he was on, legs stretched out with one crossed over the other. Lately, the league had slipped into something that mimicked domesticity, their little “ family ” gathering together to pull off minor heists and fend off smaller heroes. It amused Dabi to a certain point, but in all honesty, he felt displaced. He joined the league and agreed to be one of Shigaraki’s pawns with a purpose in mind, and now it was muddied. The closest thing he had done relating to it was half-attempting to recruit Hawks, who he still wouldn’t trust. Dabi had grown jittery. His skin felt too tight around his bones some nights, and his brain was scattered during the day.
He needed to take another step, another stride towards his goal rather than live in this limbo.
“Who are you?”
Shigaraki’s raspy voice sliced through their comfortable facade and suddenly every pair of eyes were trained onto him. A crackled, manipulated voice was barely audible from where Shigaraki had his phone pressed against his ear. He stared ahead of himself, eyes glaring into the wall opposite of him as he continued to speak.
“Where is he?”
Dabi sat up, arms resting on his knees as a sour taste began to settle on his tongue. Twice, Compress, Shigaraki, Spinner, Toga and him were in the room. Chizome and Kurogiri were in prison. That left one person Dabi knew Shigaraki would give a damn about.
“Send the address,” he said. He hung up after, shaking his head as he slipped the phone back into his pocket.
“Who was that?” Compress asked.
Shigaraki turned to look at them all, and Dabi almost choked on his tongue when he finally answered.
“Another group like Overhaul’s, The Liberation Army or some retro crap like that. They’ve apparently taken Giran.”
“Giran?” Twice exclaimed, “We have to go get him!”
Toga shushed him, and Dabi stayed silent as the others began to bicker and plan, all while Compress searched the news on his phone, the army telling Shigaraki that proof would be aired publicly.
“Following yesterday’s events, another finger has been found,” a female voice from Compress’ phone began to state, but Dabi zoned out for the rest of it. He stood up and made his way towards the door, ignoring the soft oh no mumbled from Toga as he pushed it open and let it slam shut behind him. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he stormed off, step after step until he was near the tree-line of the forest which nearly encased their current hide-out. An abandoned warehouse in an industrial district that had been long forgotten, nearly overrun by the forest nearby, served as their base of operations for the past few months. Yet, Dabi had found himself spending time there less and less, instead deciding to shack up in a small apartment, a grey-haired, rose-colored eyed man opening the door every time he knocked.
Once he stopped walking he pressed both hands against a tree trunk, let it singe the wood until he could feel smoke entrails dance around him. He rested his forehead against the untouched portion of bark after, sucked in a breath, and screamed.
There was a desperate way Dabi had come onto Giran that night. It wasn’t the first time he felt the need to be overcome by him, to be reminded of the fragility of his thin skin, but each time took him by surprise. His eyes nearly rolled back into his head when he felt his own spit and drool dribble onto his chin as Giran pushed his fingers further into his mouth, pressing down on his tongue. Dabi’s moans were barely muffled as Giran continuously rocked into him, taking his time whenever he pulled out, only to roll his hips back against Dabi’s bare, reddened ass harshly. He was outstretched on Giran’s bed, knees spread on the gaudy plum fabric as his bruised wrists were tied together at the edge of the bed with his own belt.
Moments like that, Dabi felt existent. It was a temporary, fleeting sensation, but it would be enough for another couple of weeks. Having the haziness that usually sedated his mind be taken away, fucked away, left him unable to ignore what he was in reality: just another breathing, living body. A whine slipped past Giran’s spit-slicked fingers when Dabi felt him press his chest against his back. Giran still moved against him, and with each thrust, Dabi could feel his staples graze his skin, some torn open and encrusted with fresh blood from earlier that night. He wished Giran could crush him, could smother him until his skin would break and he’d become the void he knew he had hidden underneath. But part of him knew Giran didn’t get off treating him like shit, at least not how he wanted him to. Whenever Dabi would beg him to hurt him physically, to make him feel whatever pseudo-monstrous act was being done to him, Giran would get a strange look in his eyes. Most nights, the man just looked tired, but some nights, when Giran would stay quiet during the whole ordeal, Dabi thought he looked sad.
“Fuck,” Giran said, and Dabi almost chuckled at how breathless the man sounded, almost cracked a joke about his age catching up to him, but Giran shifted then. He thrusted into Dabi hard and snaked a hand around his throat. Dabi could feel his fingers press into his skin, could nearly feel them push into his veins and dig. The strained sound that came out of Dabi’s mouth was filthy, and he complimented it by rolling his hips back as much as he could to meet with Giran’s movements, grinding against him whenever he felt their skin touch.
“You’re so fucked up,” Giran said in the same out of breath tone, and Dabi closed his eyes and pretended Giran was wrong.
Five days passed from the time of the phone call, and two more fingers had shown up since. One, in what Dabi thought was a sick type of humor suited only to him, was found where he had almost fought Endeavor. He remembered that night as he stared down at his hand resting against a motel bed’s faded, plum bedsheet. His senses were too numbed out from the booze he had chugged earlier, along with whatever weed he had left. He knew somewhere in his brain, the lewd memory had stirred some troublesome emotions, the taste of anger and regret almost cutting through the tequila and cheap beer. The league was broke, Giran was missing, and Dabi was fucked. He squeezed the bedsheets, watched the way they crumpled and wrinkled in between the spaces of his fingers, and felt the numbness start to fade. He was angry at himself for not thinking it was strange that Giran hadn’t tried to contact him at all before Shigaraki received that phone call. But then again, Dabi had made it a point to be a ghost, a haunting rather than a guest at Giran’s apartment. He let go of the fabric, moved clumsily into the narrow bathroom, and turned on the sink. He glanced at himself in the mirror and wondered how profound the bags under his eyes would be if his scars weren’t there.
Two more days passed, and an ear had joined the findings.
He didn’t know why he decided to drink before he headed to their base, or why he didn’t stop drinking on the actual way there. He can’t stand straight inside, and decided to sit, unaware that Twice was beside him. He let his head loll back to rest against the couch, and enjoyed a few moments of silence before Twice spoke up.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
There was no split, no secondary comment contradicting the first. It was such an open, honest invitation for Dabi to face what had happened, to be vulnerable, that his stomach flipped. Immediately he sat up and stared at Twice, despite the nauseous feeling that had now crept up his throat. Twice stared at him through his mask, and Dabi hated that he could tell he was frowning. They were the only two in the room, Shigaraki in another with Compress and Spinner discussing something.
“I won’t tell the others if that’s what you’re worried about. Toga and I were thinking of calling you to meet up, maybe look together.”
“No,” Dabi managed to voice out, only to immediately cover his mouth afterward. He felt bile on his tongue and turned to run. He was surprised he made it outside without tripping with how drunk he was, but less surprised when the throw up came. He leaned against a wall when he was done and groaned. No-one followed him, and Dabi was glad. Maybe Twice would lie for him, tell the others he was sick. He felt another wave of nausea when he tried to walk, but kept going regardless.
The thought of calling his own Icarus passed through his mind then. He could have used the excuse that it was a legitimate meeting to bother Hawks, or maybe even fuck. Hawks would always say that he wouldn’t come next time, that their encounters weren’t some game, but the two always ended up the same. When Hawks would betray him, as Dabi knew he would, Dabi would smile, because he knew his bird would always return to his cage.
Instead of calling Hawks, Dabi remembered the night Giran found out he had slept with him. He remembered the way Giran squeezed the bridge of his nose as Dabi’s head rolled off the side of Giran’s bed, hanging lazily as the rest of his body was stretched out across it. The drugs that had been pumping through his system made everything feel a few inches off, a little unreal.
“You’re really fucking the hero?”
Dabi squinted at him, “Where’d you hear that?”
“Somewhere, but I’m going to guess that’s a yes?”
Dabi laughed, “It's not your fucking business is what it is.”
Giran huffed, “Seriously?”
Dabi pulled himself upright and moved off the bed before walking up to Giran. Giran stared at him, and Dabi could smell the familiar scent of another bridge burning, could feel the familiarity of another pair of eyes turning away from him. Leave me, he thought, leave me, leave me.
“I’m not afraid of you,” Giran said, and his voice was different from before. It irritated Dabi, made him angrier, and he curled his hands into fists as a result. He pressed his nails against the staples splicing his palm into two separate terrains.
“I’m afraid for you,” Giran continued.
It was a moment of vulnerability from Giran, and Dabi knew it, but he didn’t want it. He walked away from him and shut himself in the bathroom, back pressed against the door. It took a whole minute for Giran to knock on the other side.
“There’s no blow in there if that’s what you’re looking for. You finished off my last bit yesterday.”
Dabi was silent. He shut his eyes and sank to the floor, arms wrapped about his knees. He was high, he should have been enjoying himself, instead there he was, hiding.
I’m afraid for you. I’m afraid for you.
“Giran?” he said. He hated how faint his voice was.
“That’s my name,” he heard, and almost rolled his eyes at the reply if he hadn’t found it to be so Giran.
“What am I doing?” Dabi asked.
He could hear Giran rap his knuckles against the door in a beat, “Well, right now you’re in my bathroom for some reason.”
Dabi rested his head forward against his arms, despite the ache in his neck at the motion.
“Are you angry with me?” he asked.
He didn’t know where the question came from, didn’t understand why he was asking, but he couldn’t stop himself. Giran was quiet for a few moments, but then Dabi heard the knob try to turn. He scooted away from the door and toward the wall, giving enough room for Giran to open it and walk in. He looked down at him, and Dabi hated the benevolent way his eyes were watching him, the way his face showed anything but anger. It was weak, and Dabi had never thought of Giran as a weak man.
“Why would I be angry?”
“For sleeping with Hawks.”
“You slept with Chizome, at least Hawks is good looking.”
Dabi scratched at his neck, “We weren’t anything back then though.”
“Are we anything now?” Giran asked. He closed the door all the way and leaned against the sink, hands curled around its linoleum edges. He crossed his legs as if he had just asked the most casual question in the world. Dabi looked up at him and felt his heart twist, but refused to acknowledge it, refused to give it any sort of credence. He knew better than this. He didn’t get to have this, and he knew it, but part of him longed for something that wouldn’t turn into kindle the moment he touched it, for something that wouldn’t burn in his embrace.
Giran sighed and outstretched a hand for Dabi to use, and when he took it and stood, he didn’t let go after. Giran was still looking at him, and Dabi noticed the creases by his eyes, the faint winkle that had begun to settle on his forehead.
“Are you going to answer me anytime soon, buttercup?” Giran said.
Dabi clenched his jaw. If he spoke then, nothing would have come out. He hoped that for once his face wasn’t blank, that his urgency to speak but his incapability of doing so was clear, but he knew better than to hope for certain things by then.
And yet, he did.
Giran shook his head, stepped forward, and tilted his head to the side.
“You like to act like you’re an adult, but sometimes you’re so childish it fucks with me.”
“What does that mean?” Dabi said.
“It means,” Giran leaned in and kissed the corner of Dabi’s lips, “that you know what we are but you’re afraid.”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” Dabi spat, but he recognized the taste of a lie.
Giran raised his eyebrows before waving a hand in the air. He turned towards the door to leave but spoke before opening it, “We’re all scared of something, Dabi. We turn into cowards when we don’t face it.”
Dabi had managed to drunkenly carry himself to a place he had come to know and found himself knocking before he could stop the motion, his hand frozen in mid-air. He couldn’t tell if he was still too drunk or if he had begun to dissociate, but his vision seemed warped, hazy at the edges. Would Giran have left his place unlocked? He pressed his hand against the door but made no move to push it. He knew he wouldn’t have left it unlocked. The only reason the apartment would ever be unlocked with the amount of shit Dabi knew he had inside was because someone made him. Dabi considered pushing the door, but pulled his hand away at the last second and breathed.
He was afraid, and he didn’t want to face it now.
“What do you dream about?” Dabi asked one night when Giran jolted awake in a sweat. Dabi had learned that he slept just as shitty as him, either of them awake in the middle of the night, watching the other beside them or the ceiling.
Giran shook his head, reached for his nightstand, and pulled out a cigarette. When he offered one to Dabi, Dabi surprised them both by saying no.
“What do you dream about?” Giran parroted. His hair was soft and unkempt as he looked at Dabi, and Dabi for once didn’t feel the urge to grab his face and squeeze, to yell at Giran for looking at him in such a domestic way. He didn’t know where the courage came from, couldn’t pinpoint where his sudden honesty stemmed from, but when he answered he wished it was a lie.
“I don’t sleep much, but when I do, I dream of you.”
Giran was quiet, and the cigarette had burnt down slowly as he didn’t even inhale. He looked away from Dabi and leaned his head back against the wall. The crinkles at the edges of his eyes were visible and Dabi felt the impulse to kiss them, but he stayed still, watching. Maybe it would be too much. Maybe it would always be too much. Giran smiled when he spoke, but kept staring at the ceiling.
“I dream of us sometimes,” he admitted, and Dabi held his breath, “I kiss you in some of them, but my teeth always fall out.”
He couldn’t tell if Giran meant it as a joke, if it was supposed to be funny, but Dabi laughed anyway. It bubbled out of him slowly as a chuckle, but it grew until he was holding onto himself, hunched over. Giran put out what was left of the cigarette on the nightstand and looked over to him.
“What’s so funny?”
Dabi was laughing so hard it hurt, and he thought the stitches by his mouth might have been tearing, but it was so hard to stop. He reached out and held onto Giran’s wrist. He squeezed gently right where his watch would be if he were dressed and breathed.
“I don’t know, I really don’t,” he wheezed out, finally able to control himself somewhat.
Giran stared at him, eyebrows up, before shaking his head. He moved to hold Dabi’s hand, kissed the knuckles before turning around, and laid down again.
“You’re ridiculous sometimes,” is the last thing he said before he reached out and turned off his crappy, yellow lamp. Dabi calmed himself and laid down beside him, forehead pressed into the curve of his shoulders.
“I’ll let you know in the morning if I dream of your teeth,” Dabi said.
The next pieces of him they found were a finger and four teeth.
Toga was the one to bring them in, her usual eccentric demeanor muted as she opened the door to their base. Dabi had made an effort to be around more, just in case. Spinner asked Toga what was wrong, and that’s what made Dabi look at her, what made him see the brown bag with a dark bottom clutched in her trembling hands.
“Is that—,“ Compress started, but Shigaraki stopped him and walked over to her. He grabbed the bag carefully and tipped it over, spilling the contents out onto the nearest surface. Dabi stayed long enough to hear Toga finally speak, a meek when is he coming back serving as his send off. He thought he could hear Compress call to him as he rushed out, but he didn’t listen, and his feet didn’t stop moving until he was full on running.
He could hear Giran’s voice in his head, “ Where are you always running off to, baby doll ?”
“Fuck,” Dabi yelled, finally coming to a stop. His lungs were aching and his mind was scattered as he held himself up against the wall of the building he had run behind. He knew this area, knew it was nearly empty and the chances of someone coming up to him were low.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
His phone vibrated in his pocket and he knew it wouldn’t be Giran, but his hand shook regardless as he reached for it, nearly dropping it in the process. He saw the name he put in for Shigaraki ages ago, complete with an emoji throwing up beside it, and tapped on the message.
Don’t be stupid out there
It isn’t casual, and Dabi knew it must have taken a lot for his boss of all people to send, but he still doesn’t reply. He shoved the phone back in his pocket and crumpled to the ground, knees tucked by his chest. He wanted to run home but bitterly realized, he didn’t know where to go.
He wondered if Twice could make a clone of him. He knew that he had duplicated the league before in case of an emergency, Dabi having cracked a joke the moment he saw his clone come to life.
“Wow, I’m uglier than I thought.”
Now, he wondered if Twice could make another Giran. Would he be the same, Dabi wondered? Would Dabi eventually forget he wasn’t real, that he wasn’t his Giran? He could imagine it, his actual Giran busting into the hideout, hands bandaged as he waved them in the air.
“Surprise, I’m alive,” he’d say, and Dabi would laugh. He’d laugh so hard he’d cry, and he wouldn’t need his clone anymore.
Twice found the next pieces of him. He called Dabi, of all people, and Dabi could barely make out what he was saying, his personality flickering back and forth, but he caught onto one word.
Found, found, found
He told Twice to head to base, to bring what he found with him. He heard him whimper and then a solemn click hung up their call. Only Shigaraki and him were in the base when Twice arrived, a garbage bag held close to his torso.
Dabi didn’t recognize what was beside another fucking finger when they all opened the bag. He still didn’t recognize what it was as Shigaraki carefully lifted it up, turning it around to try to understand it. He slowly recognized what was bone, and he felt his blood run cold as he realized a part of it was sawed off, jagged pieces leading into the bulb of mushy mass Shigaraki had barely been touching.
“That’s a knee,” he said.
Shigaraki stilled at the word and dropped it back into the bag. Dabi stared at it, at the way the weight of it tugged the black material down and realized that the two others in the room were staring at him.
Twice looked over toward Shigaraki, and Shigaraki sighed.
“We think we know where they have him, we’re heading out tomorrow,” Shigaraki said.
Dabi blinked, “Why didn’t I know anything about this?”
“You’re not going.”
Dabi stepped forward then, but Shigaraki was motionless. He stayed still, red eyes glaring at blue. Dabi thought about how similar Giran and his eyes were, and yet Shigaraki’s looked so inhumane, so dead.
“I hate repeating myself, Dabi. You’re not going. If we get there and he’s dead, you don’t need to see it.”
Hearing it voiced out added a layer of reality to Dabi’s grief that he hadn’t allowed himself to feel before. His typically burning body felt frigid, and his voice was lower than what he had wanted it to be when he spoke.
“I can handle it.”
“You don’t have to,” Shigaraki said.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Twice, his mask off.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Dabi said.
“Like what?” Shigaraki asks.
“Like that, fuck, just stop.”
He shoved twice away and walked away from them both. He slipped a hand into his hair and tugged. He was frustrated, scared, and felt way more vulnerable than he would have ever liked to be in front of either of them.
“I’ll call you when it’s done,” Shigaraki said.
Dabi tried to glare at him, but he couldn’t contort his face how he wanted to. He felt his expression falter, and the staples piercing his skin felt more restraining than they ever had before.
He waited, and waited, and when he became drowsy, he found a baggie, cut up a quick line over the armrest of the chair he was on, and snorted it. Shigaraki hadn’t lied, when Dabi answered his call his voice sounded ragged as if he had just finished a fight. He could vaguely make out the sounds of others talking, of Twice yelling about something in the background.
“What happened,” Dabi asked.
“Four of their followers were there, but not the guy who called us.”
There was silence on the other end of the call, and Dabi balled up a hand into a fist. He felt warmth pulsate throughout his arms, could almost smell his phone begin to sizzle.
“We’ll bring back what we found and bury him,” Shigaraki said, and the sounds around him in the background hushed.
It was enough for Dabi to throw his phone across the room and watch it break.
It was different once everything settled, once there were no more unmarked gravestones discarded throughout the city. The parts of him they brought back that day, the last parts, were his head and arms. They buried him with the rest of him by the trees, all of them gathered in silence as Toga placed a flower on top of the fresh mound of dirt. Months had passed since then, but Dabi still woke up in the middle of the night, nightmares fueled by the fear that they’d find more, that Giran’s headless body would crawl over him on the bed, holding him down as bloody drool dribbled out onto Dabi’s face. He’d wake up and turn on every possible light in whatever room he was in, and check if the lock on the doors had been tampered with. In truth, Dabi didn’t know how long he’d be waiting. Realistically, he knew that it was over, but part of him still expected another phone call, another body part, and he was afraid that the feeling would never go away.