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absolution

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The night settles heavily on Dabi’s shoulders. When he breathes, he tastes smoke and sweat on the tip of his tongue. There’s little for him to do besides wreak havoc, and he’s slowly getting sick of that particular activity. After all, there is a greater purpose at hand now, a meaning to the dark flames that rise from his skin. He feels a dose of euphoria hit him at that particular thought, although it is muted when he remembers the largely unpleasant company he must associate himself with.

Tonight, in a lapse of judgment, he makes for the bar. A bell rings above his head as he pushes the door open. As always, Kurogiri idles behind the counter, perpetually polishing a glass.

“Evening, Dabi. Anything in mind?” the other man asks politely.

“Ah,” Dabi sighs as he rolls his shoulders, smirking mildly. “Nothing, actually. Just came here to brood.”

Kurogiri laughs at that, the sound lightly rippling through his body. “Good luck with that,” he says, almost knowingly. Despite his friendly tone, it still sends prickles down Dabi’s neck.

Dabi hunches over the counter, head propped against his knuckle. His eyes trace the lines in the wood, the occasional scuff on the edges. On nights like this, the fire pulsing in his veins calms down to a mere hum, just enough to warm his bare skin. While he aches for the strain of battle, he finds that he can appreciate the quiet, ambient sounds of the near-empty bar. It’s easy, far from an adrenaline rush, but perhaps just as satisfying.

He tips his head, rolling the sore muscles in his neck. The rest of his body joins, pleasantly arching backward until he’s looking to the ceiling, noting the stains of water damage with a lazy yawn. He takes his chances and leans back further, more out of boredom than anything. The action is reminiscent of some hazy memory from his youth.

His head collides with something solid, and just like that, the content atmosphere is shattered.

“Do you want to fucking die?” a painfully familiar voice hisses.

Dabi forces his back straight, barely able to keep the annoyance from seeping into his features. He grits his teeth and turns. Shigaraki stands right by him, posture as crooked as his wringing hands.

He usually tries to avoid casual encounters with him if he can. Shigaraki often doesn’t even try with the pleasantries like Kurogiri and Toga. What he’s more intrigued by at this moment, though, is the bareness of his face. He’s unused to seeing him without that hand - Father, he calls it - clinging to him. Dabi is aware he isn’t one to talk when it comes to aesthetics, but even he is more than a little unnerved by the heavy bags beneath Shigaraki’s eyes, the peeling cracks of his lips, the dark mole on his chin.

He must have been staring too long because Shigaraki groans and slaps a hand to his neck, rubbing harshly with his palm. “Dabi,” he says warningly. His name sounds like sandpaper ripping through Shigaraki’s throat.

“Your bony ass hit my head,” Dabi replies. He rubs the back of his head tenderly, nursing an imaginary wound. “Is that how you fight, now?”

Shigaraki’s nails latch onto his raw neck, dragging trails of red across the skin, but it’s the twisting scar on his lip as he snarls that steals Dabi’s attention. In the background, he’s vaguely aware that Kurogiri has stopped with his busy work, eyeing their interaction warily. He tenses, ready to retaliate, because even though they are technically allies, the relationship is fragile and tenuous at best.

Instead, Shigaraki inhales shakily, dragging his fingers over his throat. He mumbles, “Rude little shit,” like a violent mantra and bows his head, grey hair like a curtain as he storms off to the back.

Dabi stays frozen for another count after he hears a door slam. That was relatively tame, although still unsettling. He blinks as he relaxes and releases a deep breath. When he spins in his chair, he catches Kurogiri’s bright, squinting eyes.

Bony ass? And, that was him on a good night.”

“You knew he was coming,” Dabi accuses, more with exasperation than anything.

“I did say good luck,” Kurogiri reminds gently as he picks up another glass, wiping at some invisible smudge. “Also, he lives here.”

Dabi sighs, acknowledging his point. “So, to be completely rude, or whatever, but when the fuck is he not here? So I can plan accordingly. Business and pleasure, and all that shit.”

He can’t really tell if Kurogiri is smiling or not, but there’s a strange glint to his eyes. “Try coming in later at night.”

“Huh.” Dabi drums his fingers on the counter. “I have nothing better to do, so. Mind if I loiter?”

“Loiter at will.”

He pushes himself off the chair, every frame of movement unwilling, ungraceful. Shigaraki had to go and freak him out. The calm from before is gone, shattered. He’s stuck in a limbo of smouldering flames and aching exhaustion, craving release through likely violent means. He hears the pop of his bones, simultaneously delightful and disgusting.

Relax, he thinks forcefully. He sprawls himself over a couch, intent on doing so. Relax.

What do villains even do in their free time? Scheme? Is Kurogiri always at the bar, polishing glass after glass? Does Toga stalk her newest obsessions even outside of missions? Probably, actually. Shigaraki - what would some shit like him even consider fun, anyway?

Kurogiri laughs. The sound dissipates into the air. Belatedly, he realizes that either he voiced his thoughts aloud, or Kurogiri’s quirk also includes telepathy. His pride is leaning toward the latter.

“What I’m doing right now. What you’re doing right now.” Kurogiri pauses. “Did you forget that villains are people, too?”

“No. Maybe.” Dabi sinks deeper into the cushioning. “That’s the point. Villains and heroes become...symbols.” His mood sours. “I know some shitty heroes. Most people don’t even know how utter shit that title is when all that’s beneath is...is...” He huffs.

Kurogiri doesn’t press, simply says, “That’s why we’re here.”

“Yeah.” He inhales deeply. Pleasant company, he reminds himself. He’s away from those people, those heroes. He flexes his fingers, traces the seams between the smooth skin and leathery scars.

“He’s probably playing video games right now.”

Dabi jolts. “Huh?”

“Shigaraki Tomura. He plays video games for fun.”

A brief laugh tears from his throat, amusement and surprise in one harsh breath. “Really? Even with the…” he trails off, raising his hands. At Kurogiri’s nod, he exhales. “Wow.”

“Interested in seeing for yourself?”

“Yeah, no.” A frown slips between his brows. “After that encounter? I’ve had enough of him for tonight.”

Kurogiri tuts. “You should be more social with your allies, Dabi,” he reproaches. “Shigaraki is about your age, I believe.”

“Doesn’t act like it,” he mutters. Kurogiri sends him a sharp look, and he shrugs helplessly. “I can’t help retaliating if he starts it.”

“Don’t give me that.” He’s starting to sound eerily like his mother. “Are you really going to spend the rest of the night on that couch?”

“Fuck. Fine.” He heaves himself off the cushions. “There. I’ll go bother Fuck Fingers, now. I can’t wait for him to disintegrate me.”

“He won’t. He’s in a good mood.”

“Even after his bony ass cracked my skull?”

Kurogiri smiles at him. Dabi wants to cross his arms, rub his hands over them, set the bar on fire for that awful, suspiciously knowing look he’s giving him. He scowls and turns away, heading for the back. He pointedly ignores the soft, “Have fun,” following in his wake, shutting it behind with the door.

The room is dimly lit, shadows chasing the corners of his vision. As far as he can see, there are no tells of an evil lair, no decaying bodies or pools of blood lying around. It smells...clean. Like laundry. He tries reconciling those images with Shigaraki, with his broken lips and brittle nails, and comes up with a blank. Nevertheless, he steps around carefully, making his way to another door, where a slit of dying light stretches.

Just as he reaches for the handle, he has a moment of blessed foresight. “Fuck Fingers!” He hears a thud from inside and snickers. “I’m coming in. Don’t kill me, blah blah, whatever.”

He swings the door open, bathing the rest of the room in light. Shigaraki stands in front of a screen, jaw agape. The harsh white of the screen travels around him, casting a strange glow to his black clothes, his dull hair.

Dabi grins his most shit-eating grin. “Hi-”

“Fuck are you doing here?!” Shigaraki demands, stomping toward him. He clenches his hands, as if physically restraining his violent tendencies.

“Can’t a guy just be there for his leader?” He gestures in his direction. “Lend him a helping-”

Don’t,” he hisses. He takes another step and jabs a single finger at Dabi’s chest. Knowing the specifics of Shigaraki’s quirk, Dabi considers this a positive sign.

“So, shitstain, Kurogiri says you play video games,” he starts, swatting the hand away from his chest. “Is that what you do all day? Kill people in real life, then kill people in games?”

Shigaraki visibly bristles at that. He manages to contain himself enough to carefully pick up a video game case from below the screen. He holds it up between his thumb and middle finger.

“Mario Kart,” he deadpans. “I play Mario Kart, asshole.”

Dabi feels his brain splitting at the dissonance of the image. Shigaraki, creepy, fucking Shigaraki Tomura, holding the saturated box art of Mario between his crooked fingers. He looks past him, eyes adjusting to the bright screen as it clears into the cheery pause screen. It is indeed Mario Kart.

“Mario Kart,” he repeats in disbelief. “You’re lying.”

Shigaraki places the case back down. “I’m obviously not. You must have burnt too many brain cells.” His face twists, settling back into a withering glare. “Can you fucking leave now?”

“No.”

“You’re such a fucking piece of…” Shigaraki’s curses devolve into angry grunts. He gathers himself enough to scream, “Get out of my room!”

Dabi scowls back, hands half-raised by his ears in case he screams again. “Do you think I want to be here, either? Kurogiri was nagging at me. Nagging!”

Shigaraki juts his head out and squints. “Huh? You could have left the bar if you really wanted, idiot.”

He blinks, silently realizing his point. “Yeah, well, whatever.” Unbidden heat rises to his cheeks. He checks his hands to make sure he hasn’t inadvertently triggered his quirk. “Maybe I wanted to see your trashy video games.”

Shigaraki stares at him, red eyes peering from behind grey bangs. He opens and closes his mouth, separating and connecting the scar over his lips. Dabi traces it over and over again, going back to the dark mole on the opposite side, the shadows beneath his eyes. The second time around, they’re not so much unnerving as they are…

Dabi tears his gaze from his face. He forces his mind on something, anything that won’t allow him to finish that particular train of thought.

“Mario Kart,” he blurts out.

Shigaraki’s upper lip curls with distaste. “Not this again-”

“I’ll fucking beat your bony ass in Mario Kart,” Dabi taunts.

He can’t tell if Shigaraki is more incensed by the repeated “bony ass” comments or the insult to his Mario Kart prowess. Shigaraki picks up a controller with three fingers and tosses it more at than to Dabi. He grabs another one, holding it in his strange, probably uncomfortable grip, and wordlessly starts another match as he plops down on the floor. Dabi grins and follows suit.

“Prepare to lose, dickbag,” he declares, all faux pomp and confidence.

“Fuck off,” Shigaraki says, lacking in his usual venom.

When Shigaraki promptly steamrolls his ass, he’s too focused on the way that scar stretches with his smug grin to feel annoyed. His lips part, and instead of smoke and sweat from some past battle lingering on his tongue, he tastes static, electricity in the air. It’s unfamiliar, the same way that anything other than aggression and wildness seem like strangers on Shigaraki’s pallid face.

“You’re not that ugly,” he hears himself say.

“Stop looking at me.” Shigaraki rubs at his neck with the pads of his fingers, nails just grazing the skin. “All night, you’ve been doing that, creep.”

Dabi flushes, and once more, he subtly checks his hands for any growing flames. “You’re the fucking creep,” he retaliates weakly.

“Fuck you.”

“Go die.”

They maintain eye contact, blue against red. His stomach squirms, heat curling through it as it searches for a vent to escape through. It doesn’t hurt, but it tightens and squeezes, suffocating his insides. He almost prefers the shrieking to this new dynamic that seems to be killing him slowly. The longer he stares, the stronger it gets, the heat, the pulsing, the thrumming in his veins-

“Oh,” he says softly, more a breath than a word. “Oh, fuck.”

Shigaraki’s brows furrow together. “What-”

Dabi leans forward. His lips part, catching Shigaraki’s between them. They’re chapped, rough on his sensitive skin, but he pushes, dips his head, tastes the coppery aftertaste of blood when he drags his teeth over old, bitten wounds.

Shigaraki inhales sharply. He pulls back, his inhibitions rushing back to him.

“Fuck, was that bad?” Dabi asks, panic lacing his voice.

What was that?!” Shigaraki hisses. He rubs furiously at his mouth, unconcerned with the redness sprouting over his lips. The rest of his face is quickly flooding with color.

“A kiss?”

“No, fuck you, I know what a kiss is!” He wrings his hands between them. “I mean, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?!”

Dabi’s stomach drops. “Shit. Did I misread that?”

“Just because I’m…” He scratches his neck, scowling at the floor. “Doesn’t mean you can just…” He groans and turns away. “Fucking go home, Dabi.”

Dabi stands up shakily. He backs away, moving toward the door. “Okay, fuck, okay, I’m going,” he says, palms out in a meaninglessly placating gesture.

Shigaraki whips around and grabs a controller, hardly even aiming before throwing it. It decays in the air before it reaches him, but he gets the message anyway. When he shuts the door behind him, he hears more thuds against the wood. With each one, he winces, even as the sounds are muffled by the time he reaches the bar.

Kurogiri looks up from his busy work, this time wiping down the already spotless counter.

Dabi hopes his eyes suitably convey his mental exhaustion. “He wasn't in a good mood.”

“Really?” Kurogiri’s eyes shift in his equivalent of an eyebrow raise. “How did you change that so quickly?”

He hesitates. “I guess he just hates me,” he finally decides on saying, although it sounds as unpleasant out in the air as it felt writhing through his throat.

Kurogiri tilts his head. “I highly doubt that.”

“Yeah, well, fuck it,” he spits, tired of the doublespeak that he can’t grasp, of the ugly feelings he can’t stamp out in his chest.

Dabi checks his phone as he leaves the bar, just as restless as he entered it. He sighs at the depressingly low numbers. The night is young, at least for a villain, but all he feels like doing is erupting into flames and burning to ash.