“He woke up, you know,” Toga said.
Dabi didn’t turn around from his slouch on the yoga mat he’d appropriated to use as a bed for however long they stayed in their current shithole. He could almost feel Toga’s uncharacteristically distant, hovering presence, too quiet from the doorway. “Good for him,” Dabi muttered.
There was a stupid beat of silence. “He’s asking if you died.”
This got him to turn around. Toga looked grave in a way he’d rarely ever seen from her, and he felt his eyebrows jump up in reflexive alarm. “What?”
Toga’s fingers curled into the doorpost. “He was too out of it. He still doesn’t know.”
Dabi blinked once, understanding creeping up on him in a slow, sickening swoop. “He doesn’t... know,” he parroted like an idiot.
Toga gave him an overly significant look. “Can I tell him?” she asked, tangibly trying for something of her old singsong tone and falling laughably, disturbingly short, frozen solemn expression not matching the attempt at levity in the slightest.
Dabi felt his mouth shut with a click. “I don’t fucking care.”
“He’s asking if you died,” she said again.
Dabi sighed, shoving himself to his feet with a groan of joints. He was more raw burned skin than person, now. Killing the monster had rendered him a scepter of the full expanse of horrors he’d lived for so long, but the monster was dead and disgraced, and Dabi had never felt more at home in his skin in his life.
He elbowed Toga on his way out, and he tried not to notice the way tension visibly seeped from her stance at the nudge. He walked down the dilapidated hall to the room where they’d sequestered their shining leader.
He didn’t knock on the door.
Inside, Tomura was looking in the direction of the boarded-up window, hastily covered, but not enough to render the outside world untouchable. A spray of stars cast a muted glow through the gaps, along Tomura’s strengthening, healing body, covered with bandages and casts and new scar tissue.
His hair was too short.
Dabi didn’t realize that his stare had been returned until Tomura said, hoarsely, “What’s with the new dye? Are you so fucking obsessed with my hair that you had to go and copy it?”
Dabi blinked, absently touching the back of his head, as if realizing the color all over again. He should tell him now, here. He opened his mouth. He closed it. He said, “Fuck you,” and nothing else.
Dabi watched Tomura rake his eyes down Dabi’s body, accounting for the angry spread of scar tissue. A smile, wretched and gleeful, began to curl at Tomura’s lips. “You’re alive.”
Infectious, Dabi reflected as he felt his lips begin to pull back, nearly without his numb notice. It came with the dawning knowledge that he did not have to explain how he was still here and why he’d emerged so much more damaged. He was alive, and Endeavor was not.
It was as simple as that. Tomura had somehow always understood this.
“How’d it feel?”
Dabi exhaled, breaking from his frozen stance by the door to wander towards Tomura’s bed. He dropped into a half-sprawl at the edge of the mattress. “Fucking amazing.”
He’d broken the world, finally, finally. His blood hummed with it, his heart thundered with it, his skeleton ached with it. Tomura could grab his hand now and turn all to dust, and Dabi would wither with it happily.
He almost missed the shift of the mood, the way that the distance eclipsed Tomura’s eyes, smile pulling inward. “I have to tell you something,” he rasped.
Dabi’s throat felt impossibly thick when he said, “What is it?”
There was a hypnotic, dangerous drumming of Tomura’s fingers against the mattress. Dabi watched this instead of Tomura’s face. “He’s in my head.”
Cold settled upon him, comparable to the force of Fuyumi’s quirk at her worst. “All for One?”
Tomura’s hand curled into a slow, crooked fist. “Yeah.”
“Can you get him out?”
“Does it look like I haven’t fucking tried?”
“Fuck you,” Dabi said, and the heat in his tone came more from fear than anger, he knew. “Are you still you?”
Dabi didn’t want to meet Tomura’s eyes, but it was with something beyond his control that forced him to look, to see, to understand. Distantly, he said, “Maybe.”
This version of Tomura was all quiet danger, all subtle lines of muscle, all poise and predator. He was known but uncanny to Dabi, and Dabi wondered how much of it was All for One, and how much was Tomura himself, becoming.
“I’ll kill him, too,” Dabi said.
“I don’t think that would do it,” Tomura murmured absently, hand drifting up to the side of his head like he was having two conversations at once. “He’s more quirk than body.”
This got his attention, too sharp and too quiet. “Are we on a first-name basis now?”
Dangerous. Dabi felt his throat close around the words.
His confession and condemnation had been for Endeavor. It had been for his mom and for Natsuo and for himself. He’d poured all his years and all his pain into its spectacle, and he’d come out decayed and victorious for it, and he did not think he could do it again.
Maybe, Tomura would find out himself, obliquely. Touya was something of the talk of the town, after all.
Tomura gave an annoyed little exhale, reaching forward to flick at Dabi’s bangs. “I hate it. The color.”
Dabi’s grin was all grief and glee. “Get used to it.”
“Hi,” Fuyumi said when she dropped her bag by the front door and saw Dabi eating instant soup on her couch. “Did you make me any?”
Dabi nudged the bowl on the coffee table with his foot, and Fuyumi wrinkled her nose as she joined him, looking exhausted and drawn.
She was still giving him something of the silent treatment about actually succeeding in killing Endeavor, but it was a tame thing. She’d always been shit at holding a grudge with him, even if he was the only person who got to see the depth of her anger, too. She was complex like that.
And though Dabi had always been able to lie to her, he’d never been able to keep secrets from her, not really.
“Hey, Yumi,” he said through a mouthful of shitty noodles.
“My idiot boss is, like,” he waved a burned hand, “he doesn’t get it.”
“He didn’t see your stupid monologue?”
“He was passed out.”
Fuyumi scowled. “And?”
“I can’t just say it.”
Rage, warm, welcoming, flashed in her eyes. “You’ve been experimenting with different horrifying ways of revealing yourself for months. Surely you have a few that you’d still like to test out.”
Dabi frowned. “Well.”
“It literally cannot get worse than how I found out.”
“Well,” he said again, unrepentant.
Fuyumi rolled her eyes and stuck her feet under Dabi’s thigh. They were freezing, like twin slabs of ice and death.
“Are you okay?” he asked, too quiet and too gentle.
Fuyumi didn’t bother with a response, wordlessly handing her bowl over so that Dabi would heat its cold contents again. They descended into their version of the fucking silent treatment again, and it was better than any grave he’d ever put himself in.
“How does he still not know?” Spinner was whispering loudly to Compress.
Dabi pretended not to shoot them a glare from where they were pretending that he didn’t exist.
Compress shrugged with a gravitas-infused levity that should not have been possible. “I have tried to insist upon showing him the news coverage of the battle, but he refuses.”
“Stubborn bastard,” Spinner sighed, too fond for Dabi’s liking.
“Hey,” Dabi protested, trying to ignore the sparkling glance that Compress sent him.
Before they could continue talking about it, there was a creak of the floorboards, and the world went deathly silent as Tomura shuffled sleepily into the room, looking exhausted yet strong, direct yet distracted, a study in the impossible.
Spinner and Compress looked at Dabi, then back at Tomura. Dabi exhaled through his nose, annoyed.
They watched in silence as Tomura drifted to the plastic bag in the center of the room and carefully took a bottle of water from its ravaged depths. He looked drawn as he said, “Did anyone rescue my fucking phone?”
Compress waved an extravagant hand and rolled a single marble between his fingers. “Viola!”
Tomura took his phone once it appeared carefully, letting it drop into the loose pocket of his joggers. A bolt of trepidation shot Dabi through the lungs, and he watched Spinner watch Tomura with a practiced lack of interest.
Finally, Tomura seemed to surface from whatever brooding thoughts he was entrenched in, and he frowned at them. “Did somebody else die or something?"
Dabi blinked hard, startled by the harsh reminder.
“Look at the news,” Spinner baited, mean and affectionate.
Tomura rolled his eyes. “I know what it says.”
“I literally promise that you don’t.”
Tomura lifted his chin and made brief eye contact with Dabi before returning his attention to Spinner and Compress. Dabi felt stupidly affected by the snatch of an instant, and he tried not to linger with it, tried to ignite his fingertip without shaking. He snapped his fingers. Skin peeled off. He clenched his teeth.
He heard Tomura ask, warily, “What’s your game?”
“Nothing!” was Compress’s innocent reply.
“Whatever,” Tomura muttered, and Dabi heard his footsteps drag as he moved back to his room.
The silence was suffocating.
“Dude, you gotta tell him. Please tell him, or I’m just going to fucking say it.”
Dabi stood. He wished that his fingers hurt. “I literally don’t fucking care if you do,” he snapped, snatching his jacket and stalking for the door.
The place let out by the pier, and Dabi sat down on its edge, staring at the water so intently that it burned his eyes.
Endeavor was dead. The skeleton of hero society would crumble at the slightest breath. He rolled the information over and over in his head, letting his limbs begin to unstiffen, like a thing coming to life for the very first time. He didn’t owe the rotten world a single concession of anything anymore. He could watch it all turn to ash, could be that ash, and all he would feel would be numb euphoria, he knew.
“Dabi,” Compress said behind him, and Dabi let his head bow forward. A hand patted his head, gently, and Dabi still fucking flinched.
“I can’t tell him,” Dabi said.
“Why not?” Compress’s voice was deceptively gentle in this way where only he could turn a theatric sort of whisper into an embrace. Dabi hated it.
“I shouldn’t fucking have to. I’ve never had to say that shit to him.”
Compress hummed. “Shall we tell him?”
“I said I don’t care,” Dabi seethed, but his voice was thick and wavering, an utter betrayal of everything he was. “I don’t.”
Compress gave his head a slight little conciliatory tap of five fingers, drummed. “Alright.”
Where they bit into the surface of the pier, Dabi’s fingers began to bleed.
Tomura didn’t knock on his door either. He sat down next to Dabi’s yoga mat, eyes glued to his phone screen in the dark, and said, “Why are you trending,” in a blank tone.
“I killed Endeavor,” Dabi said, and the strength of the words still pumped fresh blood through his veins.
“I killed more of them,” Tomura complained, almost whined. “I’m not trending.”
“Did you look?” Dabi whispered, and his heartbeat seemed like a death knell in his ears.
Tomura shot him a venomous look, down at where Dabi was still lying flat on his back. “Everyone’s so obsessed with your hair. It’s stupid. I didn’t get far.”
“I think you like it,” Dabi said so that he wouldn’t say anything else. Tomura reached out and gave a strand a hard yank so that Dabi hissed in displeasure, smacking at Tomura’s hand as he retreated, smile spreading into something smug.
It was shit like this. Tomura didn’t have to say that he couldn’t sleep. Dabi didn’t have to say that he understood.
Four months, he’d been gone. Four months, they hadn’t stayed awake into the bowels of the morning like this. Was it four months of sleep or four minutes of grainy video that made Dabi’s chest ache?
Dabi reached out, letting his fingertips skim without feeling along the scar tissue of Tomura’s arm. “You really messed him up.”
“I did all the work,” Tomura groused, and he was watching Dabi too closely. A muscle on his forearm jumped, and Dabi poked it lightly. “You always have to be so fucking dramatic.”
“Yeah,” Dabi said, smiling despite himself. He could say it now. He knew that if he said it now, Tomura would only blink and shake his head before getting over it and moving on. He knew that.
“You always—” Tomura began, and then cut himself off, and Dabi watched his eyes glaze over, mouth going slack.
Then again, maybe he didn’t know anything. A sickly pit of fear began to unfurl in Dabi’s gut. Tomura’s absences were semi-frequent and semi-long. “Tomura,” he whispered, letting his fingers curl around Tomura’s forearm and tighten.
He was still very far away, but he had the agency to drop his head, the too-short strands hanging in front of his forehead in fluffy clumps.
“Is this what you wanted to become?” Dabi asked out loud only because he knew Tomura couldn’t really hear him. He tugged lightly on one of the clumps of hair, and he wished that he could feel the texture, even just a little bit.
Dabi knew that he’d always been destined to burn and crumble. He knew that he’d been created to be the shape of a monster, and there had never once been a question of want. He couldn’t quite fathom that it was the same for Tomura, but there were four months and four minutes between them, and Tomura sagged forward, the antithesis and the epitome of helplessness all at once.
Tomura did not uncurl himself when he returned, but Dabi recognized it with the hitch of his breath. Roughly, he said, “If I lose myself to him one of these days, fucking kill me.”
“You won’t,” Dabi said.
He was still holding Tomura’s arm. He wondered if it still counted as clinging if he couldn’t really feel it.
Tomura shifted so that he was holding Dabi’s arm in return, five fingers that promised safety and destruction both.
“Whatever,” Dabi finally said.
Tomura relaxed slightly, nails briefly biting into Dabi’s skin before he withdrew.
Dabi thought about saying I have to tell you something and did not.
Tomura grabbed his phone and shifted to show Dabi a speed-run of some game he didn’t understand, delivering scathing commentary that Dabi found unfortunately hilarious, and he didn’t close his eyes.
He should have felt purposeless in the wake of Endeavor’s fall.
Toga was grieving and hurting, and sometimes Dabi woke up with her curled on the floor next to his yoga mat. When he opened his eyes, she said, “If you don’t tell him before he finds out, he’s going to be so mad.”
Dabi reached out and ruffled her hair, staples snagging. “Mind your business, brat.”
“Are you going to kill Hawks?” she asked, and her gaze was too clear, too serious.
“I don’t know,” Dabi said, and he figured that he was the biggest one-hit wonder of the century, and if anyone was planning on delivering some form of justice, it would probably be Tomura. Or Toga herself.
Toga shrugged and sat up. “Do you miss your brothers and sisters?”
“Why the fuck would I?” Dabi demanded, and he watched the way that Toga exhaled around Dabi’s words. He stood, reaching out a hand so that Toga could follow. “Let’s get breakfast.”
“Okay,” she said, and she didn’t even protest when Dabi put his elbow on her head like an asshole.
“Hey, Tomura,” Dabi said.
They were sitting just outside the collapsed entrance to the shithole, and Tomura had gotten twitchy and bored, so Dabi had opened his mouth with the intent to annoy him, but he found whatever he was going to say dying before it could form. He kicked at Tomura’s ankle, and Tomura glared down. “Did you ever want to be a hero?” was the vile thing that came out of his mouth, like poison and bile.
Tomura’s eyes widened fractionally, but the expression was more unimpressed than shocked. He shrugged. “Yeah.”
Shigaraki Tomura dreaming of being a hero. It shouldn’t have lodged into place in his chest with an almost-tangible click of rightness. He nodded. “I thought I did, too, until I started thinking about burning it all down.”
“As it goes.”
Dabi nodded again, slowly. He was watching Tomura becoming. He felt like he was nothing but a thing to become and unmake. “Monsters. All of us.”
“My sister wasn’t,” Tomura murmured absently, gaze drifting somewhere inward and far-away. “She was only the worst insofar as sisters are.”
“You had a sister.”
Dabi thought of Fuyumi, burning with rage silently in the apartment that would soon welcome their mom, too. He wondered if she still liked flowers, after all this. “My name isn’t this,” he said.
“I’m not this,” Dabi said, a little desperately, willing him to just fucking understand.
Whoever had carved out the story that revenge left its subjects empty had perhaps done greater violence to the world than anyone else. Revenge had left Dabi unmade and liberated and something approaching whole. The only thing empty about it had been the monster, even as he fell. It wasn’t the vengeance that could make Dabi empty but this gulf of fear that should not have been between them at all.
Tomura rolled his eyes. “Drama queen.”
“He made me.”
These were the only words he could have yanked from his throat.
Tomura’s expression did not shift, eyes intelligent but dull. “Okay.” He tilted his head in a slow, horrible sort of consideration. “Did you want me to call you something else, then?”
Dabi’s lips curled in derision. “Would you want that?”
There was a long breath of a pause as Tomura apparently turned this over in his head. “No,” he finally said.
“We’ll get him out of your head,” Dabi muttered, and he knew that he should have felt like the purpose had been leeched from his bones with the death of his father, but he didn’t. He grabbed Tomura’s hand. “He has no claim to you.”
Tomura’s hand twisted to grab him back. Dabi couldn’t feel it, but he saw it. “Is this why you were fucking trending? Is patricide the only thing interesting enough to keep the news cycle’s—”
“Shut the fuck up.”
Tomura bared his teeth in a smile, knuckles whitening as he tightened his grip, and Dabi thought for a second that maybe he would pull him into his orbit to burn up and dissolve in something like a kiss, but he didn’t.
Instead, he said, “That’s not bleached, then.”
“I’m not fucking dyeing it back for you.”
“Selfish,” Tomura tsked.
Dabi tugged at his hand, at once terrified and delighted of the prospect that Tomura would understand entirely when he said, “Yes.”