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It Will Come Back

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Dusk. No longer day, and yet not quite the darkness of night. Wisps of shadows lingered on streets, only to be swallowed in the depths of shrouded alleyways. It was in one of these alleyways, one you’ve passed a million times on your way home, that you came across something unexpected that particular evening.

 

That ‘something’ came in the form first as a groan, then a sigh, then a shadow as you searched further, curiosity drawing you into an alley’s inky depths. No longer blind from the light of streetlamps, the shadow took form as a man, crumpled and dark on the ground. He was dark, and not just because of the poor lighting, his wild black locks seemed to absorb the light around him, and he was dressed in black from head to toe. His coat sleeves bizarrely cuffed in silver bands, leaving scarred arms and bloodied knuckles bare.

 

You crouched down before getting too close, not wanting to startle the man, before catching electric blue eyes. There was a coldness there, and something about the way he tilted his face up felt haughty, and you felt unease prick at the back of your neck. And yet, you could do nothing but smile at him, already drawn in by the white-hot embers of his eyes.

 

You know better babe, you know better babe
Than to look at it, look at it like that

 

“I have things” you murmured, and something apathetic pulled at the corner of his mouth, “ointments, and bandages, in my apartment?” You hadn’t meant it as a question, but under his cool unwavering stair, it was difficult to not stutter. The distant light of the street caught one of the staples in his cheek, as he tilted his head appraising.

 

You know better babe, you know better babe
Than to talk to it, talk to it like that

 

You hold out your hand, “here, I’ll help you up. I don’t live far, unless there’s someplace else I should take you?” Your hand rest there a moment, outstretched from its resting place on your knee as you prepared to stand. All the while, making sure to keep a calm reassuring smile on your face. You couldn’t help but treat him as something wild, untamed, as he watched you closely. Looking for weakness? Or something else..

 

He let out a low sigh, and your eyes snapped back to his face. When had they left? “Not sure that’s very smart of you doll,” he drawled, tone bored. You couldn’t help but blink at the unexpected nickname, “Just scurry home, this is nothing new to me.”

 

Don't give it a hand, offer it a soul
Honey, make this easy
Leave it to the land, this is what it knows
Honey, that's how it sleeps

 

But you shook your head, and offered your hand again, shuffling closer to him, engulfing yourself in the shadows that surrounded him. He sighed again, but rather than refusing you, took your hand, and you pulled him to standing. Unable to keep the pleased smile from your face as you did. The apathetic look remained on his, but you could see the tinge of pain around the edges, frayed like the edges of his shirt.

 

“Come on, this way,” you held onto his elbow gently and guided him towards the entrance of the alley, “it’s only a couple more blocks.” Keeping your voice low, and even, afraid to spook the man even more now that he appeared mobile. And he was, but he followed along with you, not pulling away, but not making an effort to get closer either.

 

Soon you were upon your apartment complex, and you helped the mysterious man up the stairs to your floor, as he seemed to struggle with these a bit more than the flat sidewalk. Once inside you turned the heat up, late autumn air having blown in with your entrance. You quickly offered him a seat, before running to get a kettle started and your first aid kit.

 

“Here,” you offered him a mug with hot tea, having just finished bandaging his knuckled. He took the proffered drink slowly, eyeing you all the while. As if waiting for something to change, for you to stop being warm, or welcoming.

 

From what you could tell, and what little he offered, the remainder of his injuries were bruises, or internal. Which you could only do so much with. So instead, you offered him food, and a warm place to rest.

 

“Now that definitely isn’t smart doll,” he sneered, lip curling to flash his white teeth, “you might regret that decision.”

 

But those aqua eyes were burning, and you wouldn’t, no couldn’t, take back your offer to let him sleep on the couch for the night.

 

You sighed, “it’s just for the night,” he raised an eyebrow, “and besides, what kind of host would I be to feed you and kick you out?” Nodding to yourself in your convictions, you stood to grab some blankets. As you walked down the hall you heard a drawling murmur, but you weren’t convinced that you hadn’t misheard,

 

“of course, just one night.”  

 

Don't let it in with no intention to keep it
Jesus Christ, don't be kind to it
Honey don't feed it, it will come back

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

He’d left in the morning, before you’d awaken. Her home was warm, and small, and he’d left the blankets a mess. But she’d lingered in his mind. Her smile had been so reassuring, so calm, from the moment she’d first found him. Bruised and bloodied in that dirty alley, how had she even found him?

 

You know better babe, you know better babe
Than to smile at me, smile at me like that

 

She’d taken his hand so gently, he could still feel the softness of her fingers on his palms, his fingers. He couldn’t help but flex them at the memory.

 

You know better babe, you know better babe
Than to hold me just, hold me just like that

 

He let soft flames lick at his finger tips, the bandages long burned away, knuckles healed and bruised. The heat of his embers nothing compared to the way her touch seared his skin. He’d buried himself in his work, focused, determined. He knew how to do this, to be Dabi, even with the world in chaos, as he burned those against them to ashes.

 

But he found himself returning to her door, again, and again.

 

I know who I am when I'm alone
Something else when I see you

 

And each time, she would open the door, or find him half singed in another alley, and nurse his wounds. No matter how minute, nor grotesque. She never asked, never questioned, only smiled. Offering him warmth he couldn’t ever recall feeling, despite the inferno in his veins.

 

You don’t understand, you should never know
How easy you are to need

 

He knew it was getting out of hand. And he never again stayed over, not once slept, no matter the wounds. Or how desperate he was beginning to feel even when he was away from her. It wasn’t safe. For whom? It wasn’t good. For him? He needed to stop.

 

Don't let me in with no intention to keep me
Jesus Christ, don't be kind to me
Honey don't feed me I will come back

 

The wind howled, and a forest of blue flames raged, snow lost to the inferno. A storm had taken the city, businesses shut down, schools closed, and villains reigned. Taking advantage of the weather, the League had set about it’s business in a loud way, intent on pulling down those above to their level. But it had all gone sideways, the weather shifting, the snow drifting, and he was left alone, injured, and weak.

 

Eyesight blurring, he found himself wandering, drifting through the snow, and only occasionally melting his way through as he waded the drifts. Lost, to the city and the storm. Until he found himself coming across a familiar light, he knew this place.

 

Can't be unlearned
I've known the warmth of your doorways

Through the cold, I'll find my way back to you

 

He dragged himself up the stairs, one step at a time. Blood staining the snow that had reached its bright tendrils under the cover. Darkness crept and shivered as night encroached. And he knew, he knew…


Oh please, give me mercy no more
That's a kindness you can't avoid!
I want you baby tonight, as sure as you're born

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

The wind whipped around your apartment. Snow flakes flashing across your window before flitting into the darkness, settling in alley depths away from streetlamps and minimal foot traffic. You couldn’t help but worry, when you heard pounding on your door.

 

You'll hear me howling outside your door
Don't you hear me howling babe?

 

You slowly got up, nervous, but a familiar prickle curled at the nape of your neck.


Don't you hear me howling babe?

 

Approaching the door carefully, you reach to unlock it. Before turning the knob, and the fist pounded again.


Don't you hear me howling babe?

 

In your doorway slumped a figure, tall and shadowed. Poorly backlit by weak street lights. His presence absorbed the light, and emanated darkness.


Don't you hear me howling
Don't you hear me howling

 

He looked gaunt, leaning there, arm propped on the door fame, the fist raised as if considering knocking again. If it could even be called that. His clothes were in taters, his face battered, and blood was dripping from somewhere. But those eyes, electric in their fire, were alive. And you couldn’t help but lean against the other side of the doorframe, letting the cold air leak into your home as you crossed your arms, and smiled.

 

Don't you hear me howling babe?

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Epilogue:

 

“Can I stay?”

“Only if you promise to pick up the blankets this time.”