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If Shigaraki didn’t have a habit of walking around with a severed hand on his face Dabi would have made fun of him for how long his hair was getting. But it’s a little hard to say “how can you see through all that shit covering your face” when the long shaggy hair actually offered a clearer picture of Shigaraki’s dry, cracked skin and scars compared to his normal state.

Though Shigaraki’s skin had been looking better lately. Not that Dabi had been paying attention, of course. It’s just that he had been wearing those hands less and less, at least around the League, which meant that Dabi got to see Shigaraki’s face quite a lot, actually. It was a weird, but not entirely unwelcome change. Anything was better than severed hands.

Anyway, the hair . It was annoying. It was starting to grow past Shigaraki’s shoulders now, scraggly and hanging in his face like a tattered curtain. Dabi kept getting the urge to push it out of his face. Not because he wanted to see that crusty motherfucker’s gross face, of course. But because really, how could he see through all that hair.

Waiting for the rest of the League to show up, there wasn’t much to do besides observe Shigaraki. It was that or stare at the ceiling, but the ceiling was covered in mold and made Dabi’s skin crawl more than Shigaraki did. It’s understandable then, that spending more than a minute contemplating the state of Shigaraki’s hair would lead to some odd thoughts crossing Dabi’s mind.

So really, he couldn’t help the words that came out of his mouth. 

“You should braid your hair.”

A second of silence. Then, “The fuck did you just say Dabi?”

Too late now. He could either dig the hole deeper or feign ignorance.

“I said you should braid your hair. It’s bothering me.”

He went with the hole, obviously.

“And why should I care about what bothers you?”

Some days Dabi missed the Shigaraki whose first instinct was murder. These days he was all about teamwork and talking. Which, yeah it was nice not having to worry that he was going to be a pile of dirt on an already dirty floor, but Dabi wasn’t exactly a big fan of cooperation. Or talking. Talking led to him saying stupid things like “you should braid your hair.” Really, Dabi should just leave. Go back to his shitty apartment. Avoid all human interaction for the next week. Or maybe two weeks, just to be safe. Why the fuck had he said that?

He couldn’t leave, though, because the League was meeting today to discuss their next plan, and Dabi had already missed too many meetings. It was why he had shown up early today, when normally he walked into their hideout a minimum of five minutes late. Also, walking out would just lead to more annoying questions that Dabi didn’t feel like answering. Better to just keep digging.

Shigaraki was still giving Dabi a weird look. Oh. Right. Shigaraki had asked him a question.

“You should care because long hair is a liability in a fight,” Dabi said, hoping it didn’t sound too much like he was talking out of his ass. “Peripheral vision exists for a reason.”

“You never cared about peripheral vision before,” Shigaraki said with a glance at the pile of hands on the couch next to him. A pile of hands which Dabi did not look at because it would make his stomach turn if he did.

“That’s because the hands are enough of a deterrent on their own, usually. But the longer your hair gets, the more tempting it will be for someone to grab it.”

“And so your solution is that I should braid it.”

That hole Dabi was digging? He’d like to be buried in it, thanks.

“Yeah.”

It was then that Dabi remembered the existence of scissors and haircuts. He wondered how Canada was this time of year. If he kept digging, he could probably reach it by dinner. 

“Fine.”

A second of silence while Dabi tried to figure out if he was having an auditory hallucination.

“What?”

“I said fine, I’ll braid my hair. You made a good point. Toga probably knows how, right?”

Panic. Sheer, blind, stupid panic is what prompted Dabi’s mouth to open and say, “I can do it.”

Shigaraki looked at him like he had just been handed a gift. “You?” he asked, manic joy spreading across his face. “How do you know how to braid hair?”

How hard would it be to fake his death again?

“I’m not answering that,” he said instead of burning either himself or Shigaraki alive.

The stupid grin was still on Shigaraki’s face. Dabi was starting to wonder if he preferred him to wear the hand on his face if it meant he didn’t have to see it.

“Your evasiveness only proves that you’re hiding something,” Shigaraki said. “You got a secret girlfriend or something?”

“Do you want to die or something?”

Shigaraki raised his hands in mock surrender. “Fine, fine. It’s probably better if you do it anyway. I’m not sure letting Toga get too close to my neck is a smart choice.”

Dabi wasn’t sure whether to agree or be offended that he wasn’t higher on the threat scale than Toga. He settled for debating the best angle to approach Shigaraki from, since it seemed like he was really doing this. Should he stand behind the couch or make Shigaraki sit on the floor?

What kind of question was that?

“You’ll need to sit on the floor,” Dabi said. Shigaraki looked between Dabi and the floor and glared. Dabi let an apologetic smile stretch across his face. “Sorry,” he said with a slightly exaggerated shrug of his shoulders. “It’s the only way I can do it.”

Still glaring, Shigaraki slid onto the floor in front of the couch and Dabi settled on the couch behind him, trying to ignore the pile of hands that was still sitting on the next cushion over. It would have been easier to ignore them if they were just regular severed hands. But no, Shigaraki had to go the extra mile into creepy-town and call them his family . What the fuck had happened to him as a child that he thought any of that shit was normal or acceptable?

For a few seconds he just stared at the back of Shigaraki’s head and wondered how he ended up here. If you had told fifteen year old Dabi that in less than ten years he’d be braiding the most wanted villain in Japan’s hair he would have said “I’m still alive in ten years?” and then he would have laughed. Fifteen year old Dabi was a fucking mess.

Current Dabi was a mess too, if he was being honest with himself, which was not something he was in the habit of doing but apparently today was a no-filter-Dabi day and his thoughts were just going to come out of his brain of their own accord. People with their lives together did not find themselves on a disgusting couch in a disgusting run-down building looking at the disgusting head of Shigaraki Tomura. When was the last time the man had washed his hair? There wasn’t a working shower in their current hideout so it had probably been a while. Back when they had the bar, Shigaraki’s hair had always looked soft. Now it was greasy and stringy. He supposed that for Shigaraki the risk of getting caught breaking into a place with a shower wasn’t worth having nice, clean hair. The League had bigger things to worry about. Dabi didn’t have that luxury, though. He made it a point to take care of his hair, even if it meant breaking into a stranger’s apartment or washing his hair in a public restroom, since the dye wouldn’t stick if it was too dirty.

Shigaraki fidgeted in front of him, breaking Dabi from his thoughts. The sight of Shigaraki sitting on the floor in front of him triggered a half-repressed memory and for a second Dabi was that fifteen-year-old mess again, sitting on the couch behind-

“Are you going to get started or what?”

Dabi blinked and found himself back in the present. Shigaraki had turned around to face him, and his unsettling red eyes stared straight into Dabi’s soul. His face was uncomfortably close. Dabi could see the faded scars on his eye and lip and wondered how he got them. He didn’t really care, but it was frustrating that he couldn’t ask without getting the question turned around on himself, and Shigaraki hadn’t unlocked Dabi’s tragic backstory yet. He wondered if it was too late to back out. It probably was; Shigaraki’s voice had a hint of challenge in it. This was no longer about hair, it was about who would back down first.

“Yeah, yeah, turn around.” 

Shigaraki did. Dabi took a deep breath and laid a hand on Shigaraki’s head before he could think too hard about it. Shigaraki tensed under his touch. For a second, Dabi just let his hand rest on Shigaraki’s hair, waiting for the other man to exhale. Dabi might hate him, but he understood his hesitation and tension. Dabi couldn’t remember the last time he had touched someone without the intent to kill. Shigaraki was likely the same way. Shigaraki was paranoid and cautious on his best days, so it was a miracle that he had agreed to Dabi’s suggestion. And without his precious Sensei, there was nobody around to give him affection, so this was an odd experience for the both of them.

Not that braiding Shigaraki’s hair so he wouldn’t die counted as affection. He hated him, just to be clear.

“You can breathe,” Dabi told him with a roll of his eyes. “I’m not going to light you on fire, as much as I’d love to.”

Shigaraki relaxed a fraction, but Dabi could tell he was still trying very hard not to move. But it didn’t seem like he was going to try and leave, so Dabi ran his fingertips through Shigaraki’s hair, trying to detangle it. Shigaraki shivered under his touch and a chill went up Dabi’s spine.

“Are you just going to play with it or are you going to actually do what you said you would do?”

“Impatient, aren’t you?” Dabi said with a laugh. “I can just cut it all off if you don’t believe that I can do it.”

“No.”

Shigaraki’s voice was unexpectedly sharp and defensive. Ah. So the long hair was at least partially intentional. Dabi continued running his fingers through Shigaraki’s hair, wondering if he used its length as a shield. Something to hide behind, a barrier to distance himself from the world in the same way the hands did. Dabi knew something about hiding. He hadn’t seen his natural hair color in years, and his scars, as painful as they were, served both as a reminder and as a mask. He no longer looked like his old self. He no longer was his old self. He was Dabi. He wondered if Shigaraki had always been the way he was now, and then shook that thought from his mind because there was no use speculating.

And anyway, he really didn’t care.

As Dabi carefully combed through the hair, Shigaraki made small noises of pleasure under his touch. Dabi felt satisfaction swell within him. Knowing that he could draw a reaction out of Shigaraki, negative or positive, was almost intoxicating. Having Shigaraki under his thumb made him feel powerful. Made him feel in control in a way that he very rarely got to feel unless he was incinerating someone.  

Shigaraki was a moody bastard, though, and he could turn around and disintegrate Dabi on a whim. As much as it felt nice to know he had Shigaraki at his mercy for the time being, he was still the leader of the League of Villains. He was still deadly, even if Dabi could feel him twitching with every pass of his fingers through his hair.

After a minute of detangling, he could no longer put off starting the braiding process. It had been a while. Years, in fact. He wondered if he would still be able to do it. But there turned out to be no need to worry, it came to him like it was only yesterday. He gathered Shigaraki’s hair in his hands and got to work, separating out sections and weaving strands together.

About halfway down, Dabi got stuck.

Literally stuck. He had slipped into autopilot, into half-repressed memories, and had forgotten himself. Now there was greasy blue hair tangled in the staples holding the skin of his left hand together.

“Why’d you stop?”

Shit.

“Dabi?” 

Fuck.

He tried to carefully extract his hands without letting go of the in-progress braid, but the hair tugged at his skin. He gritted his teeth. Shigaraki would kill him if he ripped his hair out. And he would kill him twice over if he got blood in his hair.

“I’m starting over,” he said, and dropped the braid in frustration.

“Why?”

Dabi didn’t answer. With his free hand he started unknotting the hair from his hand.

“Are you tying my hair in knots?” Shigaraki asked, suspicion leaking into his voice.

Dabi growled. “No, I’m not.”

Dabi watched Shigaraki’s hands clench and unclench. “Then what are you doing?” Shigaraki asked with restrained anger.

There was no way out of this with his dignity intact, was there. For once in his life, Dabi would have to tell the truth.

“I got stuck.”

There was a pause, while Shigaraki absorbed the information, then, “What the fuck do you mean you got stuck. You’d better unstick yourself before I turn your hand to dust, Dabi.”

“Calm down,” Dabi said. “And stop moving around so much, you’re making it worse.”

Shigaraki grumbled under his breath but sat still while Dabi finished separating his hand from Shigaraki’s hair. It took a few minutes, and by the end there were a few spots of blood on Dabi’s hand and a few stray strands of hair caught in the staples. But he had successfully avoided Shigaraki’s wrath, and that was all that mattered. Dabi dabbed at the blood with the edge of his shirt and gathered Shigaraki’s hair in hand.

This time Dabi forced himself to stay in the moment, to be hyperaware of what he was doing. It was slower going, but he didn’t get hair in his staples again, so he considered it a success. Now that he was focusing on the task ahead of him instead of slipping into the past, he was forced to confront the fact that he was braiding Shigaraki Tomura’s hair. And he had volunteered to do it. What the fuck. And he wasn’t hating the experience, either. In fact, it was sort of pleasant.

Until halfway through, when the door opened and Toga bounced into the room and caught sight of Dabi with his hands in Shigaraki’s hair. Confusion flickered across her face.

“What’cha doing?”

Dabi froze, and felt Shigaraki do the same, but neither of them could move because Dabi was only halfway done the braid and he wasn’t about to drop it and start over again.

Recognition dawned on Toga and her eyes widened in excitement.

“Oh oh oh are you doing Shiggy’s hair, Dabi? Can you do mine next?"

Toga was practically vibrating with excitement. The urge to hurl fire was growing stronger by the second.

“Fuck off,” he said instead of incinerating Toga.

Toga did not fuck off. Instead, she pranced across the floor and sat uncomfortably close to Dabi on the couch, jostling Shigaraki’s pile of hands and making him whip his head around to glare at her. Dabi barely managed to hang on to the braid and shot Toga his own glare. She smiled at him.

“Whoops! Sorry!” she said, not sounding sorry at all.

Dabi ground his teeth and did his best to ignore Toga. He was almost done, now. Shigaraki turned back around, but not before saying, “Don’t distract him.” Toga mimed zipping her lips and Dabi turned his attention back to the braid.

And then Twice walked in, followed by Spinner and Mr. Compress, forcing Dabi to question just what he had done to make the universe hate him so much.

“Dabi’s doing Shiggy’s hair, look!”

Dabi could feel Shigaraki starting to breathe heavily under him at Toga’s declaration. At least they didn’t show up while Dabi’s hand was tangled in Shigaraki’s hair. Neither of them would ever have lived that down. It would be their secret, taken to their probably early graves. Dabi would have liked to finish before the rest of the League showed up and inevitably commented on the ridiculousness of the situation, but he was resigned to life fucking him over on a daily basis, so really he should have known better. He quickly tied off the end of the braid and patted Shigaraki on the back to signal that he was done.

Shigaraki lurched to his feet and turned around to point a finger at Toga.

“You.”

Toga pointed to herself in confusion. “Me?”

“If you want your hair braided, do it yourself.”

Toga pouted.

“Why don’t you do your own hair, boss?” asked Twice. “Is Dabi only allowed to touch your hair?”

Shigaraki’s mouth opened. Closed. Opened again. His face flushed red. The longer he didn’t say anything the more awkward it would get for Dabi. One of them had to say something before the others could draw the wrong conclusions and Dabi was left with no choice but homicide.

“Because he can’t,” Dabi said when it became clear that Shigaraki was planning on gaping like a fish and not coming up with a reasonable explanation.  

“Like, he doesn’t know how?” Spinner asked.

“Oh! I can teach you!” Toga said, “That way you don’t have to make him do it.” She said him like it was a secret who she was talking about. Like Dabi wasn’t three inches from her and three seconds from murder.

“Ah,” said Mr. Compress. “I think I understand.”

Everyone looked at him expectantly, Dabi included. What did Compress think he understood? Dabi wasn’t even sure what had just happened between him and Shigaraki.  

“It’s because if Shigaraki were to attempt to braid his own hair, he would have difficulty due to his quirk.”

Everyone looked at Shigaraki for confirmation.

“Yes,” Shigaraki said, with the confidence of a man who was praying that his desperation was coming off as confidence. “That’s why I needed Dabi to do it. My quirk.”

Dabi had to say, it was nice to see Shigaraki joining him in his hole. He hadn’t even considered Shigaraki’s quirk and was willing to bet that Shigaraki hadn’t either. And really, if Shigaraki was capable of using his quirk on himself he’d have accidentally killed himself a long time ago. No, something else had made him agree to Dabi’s suggestion. Something had come over the both of them while they were alone and Dabi had no intention of trying to figure out what it meant. Best if he and Shigaraki pretended that none of this had ever happened.

The rest of the League was nodding like what Shigaraki had said made sense. What a bunch of idiots.

“Why did you want your hair braided, anyway?” Spinner asked. “Some new fashion statement? Do we all have to get matching braids?” Dabi wondered if Spinner was hoping that was the case. As a full-time Stain cosplayer, he obviously valued having a Look.

“It looks great!” Twice said, giving Shigaraki a thumbs up. “You look weird!”

“Don’t say that, Twice,” Toga said, no longer pouting, “I think he looks cute!”

Dabi saw Shigaraki frown, his hands twitching as if he wanted to scratch at his neck but was restraining himself. His eyes flicked to the hands on the couch. Dabi thought back to his realization about Shigaraki’s habit of hiding his face. It didn’t matter that the League had grown more comfortable around each other. Shigaraki probably felt exposed. Self-conscious. Dabi would too, with everyone staring and Toga practically drooling.

Shigaraki looked more his age with his hair out of his face, his scars and the mole on his chin were endearing rather than creepy. Dabi could almost see what Toga meant by “cute.”

Almost. It was Shigaraki, after all.

Dabi was distracted from thoughts of Shigaraki’s face by Mr. Compress helpfully steering the conversation back to more illegal things. Like murder. Dabi much preferred murder over thinking about Shigaraki’s dumb face.

Compress was telling them about a promising target. Low-level wannabe-villains who had recently robbed a bank but had miraculously not yet been caught. If the League got there before the heroes did, they’d be set for at least two weeks.

They weren’t supposed to kill them. They were supposed to leave them as examples of what happens if you get in the League’s way. They were supposed to rob them of everything but the clothes on their backs but leave them alive. There needed to be someone to spread the message, after all.

They had been fighting for a few minutes when one of the gang - their leader, based on the way the rest of them were kissing up to him and throwing themselves between the League and him - made a fatal mistake.

“I never expected Shigaraki Tomura to have such a dumb hairstyle,” he said with a sneer. “You look like a pre-teen girl with that braid. Did you do it yourself? It looks lame. Fitting, since you’re so lame yourself.”

And then there was screaming as the entire gang caught on fire. Spinner leapt back - he was closest to the flames. He glared at Dabi. Dabi blinked in confusion and saw blue fire in every direction.

Oops. He hadn’t meant to do that.   

“Overreaction, much?” Twice asked when the roar of the flames died down.

Dabi felt his face heat up and attributed it to the heat lingering in the air. “They were worthless scum.”

“You weren’t supposed to kill them,” Shigaraki said. But he didn’t look angry, just slightly confused. His braid was in slight disarray from the fighting, with wisps of hair framing his face. Dabi looked away from him and looked at the corpses, which were smoldering, and had a hard time feeling sorry.

“Aw, come on, Shigaraki!” Twice said. “Dabi was just preserving your dignity!”

Dabi frowned. “That’s not-”

“No, no, Twice, he was clearly just defending his work. He put time and effort into that braid, after all,” Compress said.

“I wasn’t-”

Toga laughed. “Obviously he was defending his boyfriend.”

There was an awkward silence. Toga filled it with giggling.  

“We should leave before the police get here,” Shigaraki said, in a poor attempt at ignoring what was happening. “Someone will have reported those flames.”

“Are we just going to ignore that neither of them denied it?” Spinner asked.

“I hate him,” Dabi and Shigaraki said at the same time.

There was a collective raised eyebrow from everyone who wasn’t Dabi or Shigaraki, and which Dabi ignored in favor of leaving the building. He liked to put as much distance between him and his mistakes as he could, and that braid was a mistake.

Of course, things weren’t that simple.

After that awkward incident with the accidentally burning people alive, Dabi avoided Shigaraki for as long as he could. Unfortunately, after a few days he had no choice but to head back to the hideout.

The League was out running errands and Shigaraki was holding down the fort. Dabi had shown up late enough that it was better for him to wait until everyone got back than go out on his own errand and show up half an hour after he was supposed to.  

So it was Dabi and Shigaraki. Alone, together. Again.

The braid was only still a braid by the loosest definition of the word. The stray wisps which had framed Shigaraki’s face had become stray locks and those in turn had become Shigaraki looking more disheveled than ever.

Dabi was lying on the couch, trying not to think about how filthy it was, his legs dangling over the edge. Shigaraki was seated at the table, reading the news. His hands were sitting in a neat pile across the table. Every minute or so, Shigaraki would turn a page, pinky out, then reach back and push a lock of hair behind his ear. It was very distracting.

“Stop that.”

Shigaraki looked up from the newspaper. A strand of hair hung over his left eye, unsymmetrical and annoying. “Stop what,” he said flatly.

“Your hair,” Dabi said.

“What about it.”

“It’s a mess.”

“And?” Shigaraki was smirking now, the bastard. He was going to make Dabi say it.

“You should fix it,” Dabi said.

“Why, is it annoying you?”

It was, but Dabi wasn’t sure voicing that thought was wise. “You can cut it, you know,” he said instead. “Not too short,” he added before Shigaraki could open his mouth, “just back to the length it was.”

Shigaraki looked like he was considering. His hand drifted up to his hair, fiddling with a loose strand. “I think I’d rather keep the braid,” he said after a minute of silence.  

Dabi blinked. He hadn’t expected that.

“So why haven’t you redone it, then?” Dabi asked, half-knowing the answer already. “We both know your quirk has nothing to do with it.”

Shigaraki smiled, and it unsettled Dabi. It was like his face wasn’t made for smiles, or like he wasn’t sure what a smile really was.

“Do I look like I know how to braid hair?” Shigaraki asked.

He didn't. He looked like he barely even knew how to brush it at this point. Maybe when Dabi finally brought Hawks with him to a meeting the dumb bird would mistake Shigaraki’s hair for a nest. He smiled at the thought, and, seeing the weird look Shigaraki was giving him, covered it up by replying, “I don’t know, do I?”

Shigaraki looked at him as if he was actually considering the answer to that question. “You never did tell me where you learned to braid hair.”

“And I’m not going to,” Dabi said. He really needed something to distract Shigaraki from that question or someone was going to regret it. And since it was usually Dabi regretting things...Dabi was going to have to say something he really would rather not. “Are you going to ask?”

“Ask what?” Shigaraki replied, too quickly to pass off as genuine ignorance.  

Dabi gave him a look. Shigaraki gave him one back. But Dabi wasn’t going to back down first.

Shigaraki sighed, looking pointedly away from Dabi. “Fine.”

And because Dabi was having fun watching Shigaraki squirm, he asked, “Fine what?”

Shigaraki glared, but said through gritted teeth, “Will you redo the braid.”

“And what’s the magic word?” Dabi teased.

“Fuck you.”

Dabi laughed. “Close enough. Come here."

Shigaraki reluctantly folded his newspaper, placed it next to the pile of hands, and made his way across the room, taking his place at Dabi’s feet.

Dabi undid the knot at the bottom then started to pull apart what remained of the braid.

“You’d better not get stuck again,” Shigaraki threatened.

Dabi rolled his eyes, then asked the question that had been bothering him since Shigaraki had vehemently denied Dabi’s offer of a haircut a few days ago.

“If you never did your own hair, who did?”

Shigaraki tensed for a second, but relaxed as Dabi’s hands combed through his hair.

“Kurogiri.”

Dabi held back a snort of laughter as he imagined Kurogiri standing behind Shigaraki with a pair of scissors. It did make sense that he’d be the one person Shigaraki trusted not to stab him in the back, but trying to wrap his brain around how those misty black hands could even hold scissors made Dabi’s brain short-circuit.  

“He always said I had to look presentable if I wanted people to take me seriously,” Shigaraki said.

“And you listened to him?” Dabi asked skeptically. Shigaraki had never looked what anyone would call  “presentable” in the time Dabi had known him. And he never seemed the type to take advice, either.

Shigaraki snorted. “Obviously not. Kurogiri was there to listen to me, not the other way around.”

“But you let him cut your hair,” Dabi said and he ran his fingers through said hair once more, feeling the tangles come apart between his fingers.

“Well like you said yourself, it was that or not be able to see. Besides, Father kept getting caught and it was frustrating.”

Now that was a funny image. Dabi laughed. His hand paused, resting on the back of Shigaraki’s head much like one of his severed “family” members. A chill went down Dabi’s spine at the connection. Maybe the feeling of fingers in his hair wasn’t that unusual to Shigaraki. Maybe that’s why he had been less bothered by the physical contact then Dabi had anticipated. Maybe that’s why he had agreed to Dabi’s suggestion in the first place.

Dabi wasn’t sure he wanted to unpack those implications right now. Or ever. He searched around for something to take his mind off Shigaraki’s mysterious and quite possibly morbid and traumatic past as he ran his fingers through Shigaraki’s hair one more time.

“I got the impression that Kurogiri was there to keep an eye on you,” Dabi said as he untangled another knot. He was intrigued by the relationship between the two of them, and it seemed a safer discussion than anything involving hands. “Make sure you didn’t throw any tantrums.”

Even though Shigaraki was facing the other way, Dabi swore he could feel Shigaraki’s glare.

“I do not throw tantrums,” Shigaraki said petulantly.

“So you don’t deny that he was there to keep an eye on you?”

“Of course he was,” Shigaraki said bitterly. “Sensei left him with me so that he’d be able to monitor my progress. Kurogiri was a longstanding ally of his, and he trusted his judgement. But that didn’t mean I had to listen to him. Sensei trusted me to make my own calls, when necessary. He trusted that I’d be an effective leader. That I’d be able to gather allies on my own, not need them handed to me.”

Ah. So they had reached the root of Shigaraki’s bitterness. Kurogiri. Ujiko. Gigantomachia. They were All For One’s tools, not Shigaraki’s.

Dabi wasn’t sure what to say. The air between them had changed, and he didn’t know how to feel about it. Shigaraki trusted him, for some reason. Trusted him even though Dabi had repeatedly said he was only in this thing for his own benefit. Trusted him even though he knew nothing about who Dabi really was.

He trusted all of them. It was stupid, but he did. He trusted Toga, who killed people and drank their blood. He trusted Compress, who was as vague about his intentions as Dabi was. He trusted Twice, who couldn’t even trust himself. He trusted Spinner, who was wavering, and who had expressed doubts about the League’s direction.

Dabi wasn’t sure he had ever trusted anyone as much as Shigaraki trusted the League.

“Why,” Dabi said.

“Why what?”

“Why do you trust us?” Dabi asked. Why do you trust me, Dabi thought.

Shigaraki was silent for a moment. Dabi gathered the hair at the crown of his head and started to braid.

“I don’t know,” Shigaraki finally said. “And what about you?”

Dabi paused. “Me?”

“You’ve repeatedly said you’re only in this for your own benefit, and I know that your talk about being a follower of Stain is, if not a complete lie, at least a stretching of the truth. What are you doing here?”

This was encroaching into dangerous waters. What was Dabi doing here? To tell the truth, some days Dabi wasn’t even sure.

“I’m braiding your hair,” he said cautiously.

“I know,” Shigaraki said. “And where did you learn to do that?”

Dabi frowned. The more he tried to evade that question the more Shigaraki would think he was hiding something. The more he would know he was hiding something. Should he lie, and risk getting caught in it, or tell the truth and risk Shigaraki pulling the whole truth out of him?

“I did it for my sister,” he said slowly, “when my mother was no longer able to.”

A vague truth. He twisted one strand of hair over then under and thought about his sister and his mother and that led to thinking about his brothers and then, finally, his father. He fought to keep his breathing steady. His hands shook and he fumbled and dropped part of the braid.  

He should have killed that piece of shit when he had the chance.

“You have a sister?” Shigaraki asked, and maybe Dabi was imagining it, but his voice sounded uncharacteristically shaky.

“Technically,” Dabi said, picking up the braid where he left off. “They’re all dead to me, though. It’s easier that way.”

He hadn’t meant to say that last part out loud, but it was the truth. It was easier if they were all dead.

Except for his father. His father wasn’t dead to him because Dabi hadn’t killed him yet. His mother, his siblings, their deaths were peaceful. They were memories of a slightly happier time, and he locked them in a box in the back of his mind where they stayed, preserved, the way that he had left them. The last time he had seen his youngest brother it was like looking through fogged glass. He was there, alive, but he wasn’t. He was fifteen years old, but he wasn’t. He was five years old and he was dead and locked in a box in the back of Dabi’s mind.

But his father? His father was still very much alive, and Dabi was going to kill him.  

“You’re shaking,” Shigaraki said. He sounded curious.

Dabi took a deep breath, and willed his hands to steady. “I’m fine,” he said, but feeling very much the opposite.

“Do you regret not killing them?” Shigaraki asked. “If it’s easier if they’re dead, do you regret not doing it?”

Dabi was thrown. The conversation had taken a sudden sharp turn, leaving a heavy feeling in Dabi’s stomach.

“There’s only one person I want dead,” Dabi said. 

“Just one?” Shigaraki sounded surprised. Like it was impossible for someone to only want one person dead. Shigaraki wanted everything dead, so of course he wouldn’t understand the all consuming flames that burned within Dabi, screaming to be let out, screaming to be aimed at the one person who ruined everything, screaming to burn him to ashes before they could turn on Dabi himself and finish the job they had started.

“Just one,” Dabi said. “Not that I’m entirely against additional casualties. But there’s only one that matters."

“Ah,” Shigaraki said, like he understood. “Like Him. All Might. You take him down and the rest follows.”

Dabi shrugged and twisted another strand of hair. “Sure.”

There was a moment's pause and then Shigaraki spoke again. “So?”

Dabi froze. “So what?”

“So, who is your All Might?”

The fire rose within Dabi. His fingers clenched tight around Shigaraki’s hair so hard it strained his scars.

What would it hurt, really, for Shigaraki to know? Shigaraki trusted him. For some stupid, idiotic reason, he trusted Dabi. He wouldn’t turn on him if he knew the truth, right? If he knew, might he even help? Surely if Dabi told him what he wanted, he wouldn’t be against it? Dabi swallowed. Every instinct in his body was telling him to keep his mouth shut. He had kept it a secret for a reason. The scars were proof that Dabi was alone in this world. That fact had been seared into him at a young age. The only person he could trust in this world was himself.

But Shigaraki trusted him.

Dabi took a deep breath, released, and let the truth out.

Shigaraki was silent. Dabi sat frozen as if encased in ice. He felt Shigaraki let out a soft gasp of realization as he put the pieces together.

“Tell me everything.”

Dabi didn’t tell him everything. But he told him enough.

He told him how he couldn’t live up to impossible expectations and was cast aside. How his father treated his whole family like an experiment that had gone wrong. How the fire within Dabi was hotter than his body could handle and that they all thought he was dead, because how could anyone survive what he had gone through?

But he had survived. And the fire within him was now a raging inferno that wouldn’t die until it consumed Endeavor.

And then, with Dabi’s fingers still interlaced in Shigaraki’s hair, they made a plan.  

And then, plan made, Dabi and Shigaraki settled into silence, and Dabi gathered up threads of Shigaraki’s hair and weaved them together.

And then the door slammed open and the rest of the League spilled in the room, chatting and laughing and breaking the spell that had come over Dabi and Shigaraki. When their eyes rested on Dabi and Shigaraki, they sensed the energy in the air and ceased their casual banter. The room went silent again. They sat at the table, a respectful distance from Shigaraki’s hands, and waited while Dabi finished the last few twists of braid. He rested a hand on the base of Shigaraki’s neck for a second before pulling back and standing up.

“I hope you’re well fed and ready for some fun,” Dabi said, smile stretching across his face. “We leave in one hour.”

The League looked from Dabi to Shigaraki, questioning and uncertain. Dabi hadn’t said anything with authority since the attack on the U.A. training camp during the summer. They clearly wondered what had happened while they were gone.

Shigaraki stood up and smiled, wide and toothy.

“What he said.”