For once in Chisaki's life it's hard to tell which, when usually it'd be so easy -- an instantaneous drop into one neat pile or the other. Things that are gorgeous are kept that way deliberately, like the surfaces he cooks on. Like his sterling-silver blade that looks like it's never drank blood. Like the numbing scent of bleach - diluted, but not nearly enough - as he rubs his hands with it until dirty becomes clean and clean becomes that gorgeous. Chisaki knows the process, he knows what it takes to achieve it.
Does this man?
Or does he laugh and push the piles together until there's no saving any of it, and the only option left is to flick a match and watch the world rid itself of another blemish? Chisaki wants to figure him out. He can't stand when things are open-ended, it feels the same as them being left messy.
The man looks at him and scratches his wrist, pink and puckered with old scars like his neck from halfway down. The nails-on-skin sound should drive Chisaki halfway insane all on its own. It does. It does, but not in the way he expects it to, where instead he just wants to roll in the backstory of what hurt this man so badly.
"I'm Dabi," the man says. It's like no name Chisaki has ever heard, but that suits him just fine, because he looks like no other. Coal black hair, crooked eyes, two rows of gold piercings that curve up his cheeks and stretch past his smile. He's alien. He looks like he's never set foot in the real world, because the real world would've told him that he doesn't belong in it.
But he knows that already, doesn't he?
"Kai." Chisaki uses his first name so that he gets to hear Dabi say it -- in his gravel voice, attached to his split tongue. Of course he wouldn't stop at piercings, but move into the world of modified parts. Ruin himself. Replace his body piece by piece until he's overhauled. It's so gorgeous, so grotesque, a clean cut down the middle for Kai to drip right in-between his tongue and be coated.
Chisaki doesn't offer his hand, but Dabi wasn't looking to shake it.
"Kai." It sounds as good as he hoped it would; better, though the letters didn't let him show off what he could do with his tongue. Dabi cracks his neck to the side with another itchy noise. "Tell me, what am I doing to you today, Kai?"
The way he phrases it takes a second to move past. Chisaki curls his fingernails against his palm, and the pain reminds him of the answer, why he's here. Why he's in this room with an audience of traditional art on the walls and the feeling that he's about to undergo something medical.
"I'd like a piercing."
Dabi waits for him to elaborate, and then when he doesn't, "Artist's choice?"
No, not a chance in his hell. Chisaki can't imagine what he'd suggest -- this man held together by nothing but the glue of bad choices. Did Dabi let someone choose for him? Those piercings can't be premeditated, there's no world where someone looked in a mirror and drew on their reflection and thought, just like that.
"What would you pick?" Chisaki asks regardless, because he can't leave it open-ended now. His mind won't allow it.
The answer takes some digging. Dabi hooks his eyes up and down Chisaki's body to decide on it, to make him feel absolutely touched. His head buzzes, the side of his throat breaks out into hives. If this is how it feels across the room, Chisaki doesn't know if he'll be able to stand the real thing, even with gloves. Even with two layers of latex.
"Somethin' small," Dabi finally says, too confidently, like he didn't even need that long look, just wanted it. "Somethin' you can show off."
But showing off has never been part of Chisaki's equation; it's a bad guess. Or it's Dabi confessing his type. Either way, Chisaki is glad that it's this easy to reject outright. It's okay, this is all okay.
"Is that what you picked for your first?"
Dabi's grin goes everywhere.
"You really wanna know what I got pierced?"
Chisaki freezes, and his throat closes up like it's protecting itself from something unclean, something that he never should've bitten and doesn't want to swallow now. Whatever piercing it was, the insinuation of something dirty is what finally tosses Dabi into his pile: Grotesque.
And then Chisaki is just relieved to be able to categorize him.
"Tongue, then," Chisaki says. It isn't a decision he makes on the spot, but one he's worked out and polished ad nauseam like everything else in his life. A tattoo was never an option in the first place. Chisaki's skin is unscarred, untouched, and getting one would've felt like polluting it. The peeling would've triggered his compulsions to pick and itch and scratch until all the ink bled red underneath his fingernails.
(A Yakuza without any tattoos -- Chisaki is the only one who could ever pull it off and not be stripped of all respect.)
But a piercing- a piercing is almost cathartic to think about. Clean, quick, narrowed down to a single, hollow needlepoint. He chooses his tongue because the mouth is the only place that can never be considered truly sterile, so he won't get itchy thinking about having two little beads there, sitting on either side of it. A metal rod hooked through the muscle.
Dabi considers him. "The swelling will give you hell for a few days. So will eating, and talking," his mouth twitches, "And anything else you do with your tongue."
It's feedback that Chisaki never asked for, so he ignores every awful, unwanted part of it. He just requests, "I'd like it done, now."
So they start the process. Chisaki sits on the chair in the center of the room, perched as far onto the edge as he can without falling. His hands rest in his lap and never touch any part of it. He watches Dabi collect a handful of items from drawers in the room. A long, hollow needle; a clamp; silver jewelry that Chisaki is almost sad to see isn't gold.
"I'll tell what I'm doing as I go, so there aren't any surprises," Dabi says, laying them all out on a tray and rolling over a stool to sit on. "I have a feeling you wouldn't like it."
He rolls too close. Their knees brush and even through their pants and it's like kneeling in mud, having it dry onto his bare skin, dirty, filthy-
Chisaki controls his breathing and eyes the tray instead, how everything is all neat and wrapped in see-through sterile packs. It makes him forget about the unwanted contact. It's enough to give him chills. Dabi is still getting right to business, lazily pulling his gloves out of a box, and slipping them on for only one, thin layer between Chisaki's skin and Dabi's scars.
"Open your mouth for me," Dabi says, just like that. He's probably said a thousand times to a thousand other clients the very same way: low-pitched, letting his lips stay parted, biting down on the two points of his tongue. Chisaki obeying him is just par for the course.
And Dabi not explaining himself like he'd promised is, too.
Chisaki's hands lace together in his lap and squeeze tight as he opens his mouth, sticks out his tongue for Dabi with hateful but explicit permission to touch it. It isn't something he gives easily, his body fights it every step of the way, churning, curling. Dabi coaxes his tongue out further and checks the top and bottom underneath the fluorescent ceiling light.
There's a little snort as Dabi takes his fingers away. "I knew you'd be difficult."
Chisaki swallows the taste of latex.
"Your vein cuts right through the center. I need to pierce it further down so you don't bleed like a motherfucker." Dabi curses the same way he'd said Chisaki's name -- like it feels good all the way up. He rips the clamp from its packet now, and holds it in his hand with a few preemptive clicks of it. Another grin, another too-close view of Dabi's piercings being stretched and pulled with it. "You're lucky I know what I'm doing."
Chisaki doesn't know what he feels, but luck plays no part in it.
"Hm. I'm here on a recommendation," Chisaki tells him. It's a reference that he was wary of at first, but seeing the protocols being followed so diligently almost make it bearable. It's okay. It's okay. Everything is sterile, uncontaminated, sparkling metal under the artificial light. No matter what pile Dabi lies in, he's tucked away under that glove.
So when Chisaki opens his mouth again, it's as easy as pretty please.
Chisaki focuses on Dabi's piercings while the clamp finds the right spot to pinch. The more time he spends looking at them, the better they seem to suit him, until Chisaki is sure no one else could wear them like he does. It takes someone grotesque, someone with a rotten sense of humor and a stake in some little, dark corner of the world: this tattoo parlor. This very room.
Chisaki imagines how the bits of gold metal would look anywhere else -- in Dabi's eyebrow or the middle of his lip, maybe through his own tongue. Or somewhere even lower. Dabi's first piercing.
The clamp tightens.
Chisaki's breath hitches at the sensation while Dabi allows it to hang there from his tongue, letting gravity do the work. He rips open the rest of what he needs while Chisaki is hooked on his line and wiggling. It's uncomfortable but it's supposed to be; it aches but it should. The way Dabi now holds the needle is reminiscent of an artist with a pencil, or a butcher with a knife. Not a doctor. Not a medical professional.
"Last chance," Dabi says.
Chisaki gives him a dangerous look, one that he sees mirrored back. He wonders whose was first.
"Perfect." Dabi mutters as he grabs the clamps again. The way he tugs at Chisaki's tongue is meant to command his attention as if Chisaki has anywhere else to put it. It feels a little like he's grabbing his chin, making him look straight ahead. "I mean it, you're lucky it's me. I know all the secrets. The people who keep coming back must like how I poke them."
Chisaki furrows his eyebrows, unable to speak. He can feel the spit collecting under his tongue now, filling the corners of his mouth while he tastes cold metal and isn't able to swallow the wetness it down. It makes him more uncomfortable than Dabi's words ever could.
And then Dabi runs the length of the needle across his tongue.
It's something so unexpected that Chisaki can't help the noise he makes, unhinged and breaking apart in his throat. It doesn't pierce him but it wasn't supposed to. Chisaki keeps on repeating in his head, it's okay, it's okay, because gorgeous things have always come at a price and this is it. Dabi is his devil, tonight. This deal doesn't happen without a messy kind of closeness.
"Do you want a countdown? Fuck, I bet you would. No surprises, right, Kai?"
The sound of his own name isn't something Chisaki wants to hear anymore, it starts itching like a scab. The point of the needle itches even more. Chisaki doesn't move a single centimeter, he can't let himself slip, even as drool runs down the corner of his mouth and Dabi watches it happen. He doesn't say a word, but he knows. He enjoys it.
"It'll hurt more if you know it's coming," Dabi promises. Every second stretches further out of reach.
Chisaki clenches his hands and a deep exhale comes from his nose, one that Dabi interprets as a yes -- but then again, he'd probably make an answer out of anything. A flinch, a blink, a drop of spit hitting the floor as Chisaki's mouth is held hostage by some filthy, diseased stranger.
It's okay, it's okay. You can kill him later if you want to. He's begging you to do it.
Dabi tilts his chin up, counting down like it'll be something spectacular. "Three..."
Chisaki has killed men for less than this.
Again, he's biting down on his split tongue while he smiles. Dabi drags the numbers out and takes Chisaki along with him, like a dog tied to the back of his car with a rope around its neck, and Dabi drives, and drives, and drives-
"One." And he drives the needle through next, into Chisaki's tongue and out the other side for a kind of pain he's not used to. Sharp and stinging through the muscle, dripping blood from the puncture where it wells underneath and mixes with his spit. It's grotesque, it's awful -- but no, no, It's okay, the good part is coming. It's here. Chisaki's made himself into something gorgeous and he falls back into his pile, still bleeding.
His breathing remains steady and the rest goes without a hitch. Dabi threads the piercing through and screws on both heads quickly. He's a different person now, one who's meticulous and practiced and doesn't really want to be killed. Not yet. The clamp comes off last and Dabi drops it in the tray.
"You're done," he announces, while Chisaki swallows and tries not to gag on the taste of his own warm blood.
The sound of gloves being pulled off is like the snap of a guillotine.
"Mmn-" Chisaki stops himself almost as soon as he starts. His tongue is swelling up already just like Dabi promised it would, resting in his mouth like some slimy, foreign body he can't control. When he swallows the second time, it's difficult and tastes even worse.
"I warned you." Dabi doesn't move from the stool, just tilts his head. Chisaki can't answer and has to make do gutting him with his eyes.
Dabi just scoots closer and bumps their knees together again, like he knows what it does to him. "Open up one more time, lemme see it before you go. Make sure I didn't fuck it up after all."
It doesn't sound like Dabi believes the excuse himself. But Chisaki doesn't argue, and not just because he can't -- he also can't take the chance of it being imperfect. If he came home tonight and looked in his spotless, bathroom mirror to find the piercing asymmetrical, he'd rip it right out between his teeth.
So one last time, he opens his mouth and gives Dabi his tongue.
It doesn't even register that Dabi's hands are bare and exposed - ungloved - until he's suddenly holding Chisaki's chin in a death grip and moving him at whim. Inspecting him. Something awakens in Chisaki's guts with a feral cry. It's fear, it's fear of Dabi and his scars and what his hands have touched, how deep into that pile of grotesque things he is -- or if he's the one spreading the infection to begin with.
It's okay, it's okay. But it's not okay and it'll never be, not until he pays the price too. Not until the world is clean and rid of him.
And then slowly, intimately, Dabi rubs his thumb on the edge of Chisaki's lower lip and presses his nail in to dent it.
But before Chisaki can react, he's gone. Dabi is pulling away and standing up like he'd never even done it in the first place. Denying it. Loving the way that he gets away with it. The only evidence left is the imprint in Chisaki's lip and how dearly, how brutally he wants to destroy this man and show him how it feels to lose your body to someone else.
Later, not now. Not while all his limbs are still shivering. The last thing Chisaki wants is to touch more filth, so instead: he thanks him. He tips well. He bites his tongue that aches enough already, realizing something far too late -- that as perfect as this piercing is, symmetry will always rule higher, like two halves of another tongue that say his name like something dirty.
When he leaves, Chisaki doesn't offer his hand in goodbye.
Dabi has already touched him.