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cremated dreams

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The reason Dabi watched the recording was so that he could see the flaming trash can named Endeavor piss himself live, in front of thousands of adoring fans. Alright, so Endeavor didn’t actually piss himself, but the man did seem like he was about to pop a gasket throughout his entire appearance. 

The heroes had decided to do some charity or fund-raising talent show-like thing that Dabi couldn’t really care less about in order to bring the public’s spirits up. Why they were making a bunch of heroes who couldn’t even do their day-job properly dance and entertain the crowd was beyond him, but the proceeds were probably going into the Hero Public Safety Commission’s pockets anyways, so did it really matter? 

Considering the number of heroes that would be there and Dabi’s interest in seeing Endeavor fuck himself over, the League hadn’t made any plans to disrupt the show. Why they hadn’t made any plans for elsewhere was beyond him. But less work was less work, and who knew what Shigaraki was planning in that shriveled head of his. 

Either way, as the newly crowned Number 1 Hero, Endeavor was required to make an appearance of some sort. The man didn’t have to perform or anything: all he had to do was show up and make a simple reassuring speech at the end of the show. 

For literally any other pro-hero, Dabi was sure that would have been an easy task. But for Endeavor? A man who couldn’t be reassuring even if pigs flew and was probably pissed that he’d become Number 1 without actually beating All Might? 

An impossible task. 

And Dabi couldn’t wait to see the man try to pull out the stick shoved up his ass. 

But if you asked Dabi what possessed him to not skip through the entire recording and go straight to the end, he wouldn’t be able to give you a good answer. Perhaps it was because he wanted to watch the chicken embarrass himself too, or because he’d been too lazy to fast-forward just a bit more. (He knew the answer deep down, but he wasn’t going to acknowledge it just yet.)

As the Number 2 Hero, Hawks was scheduled to perform right before the end, just before the finale where all the heroes would go onstage and do a little song. He was the last hero performing, as the show had saved the best for last. Hawks, carefree and jovial, was magnetic. The winged man was cocky, but his optimism made the arrogance somehow charismatic. 

Hawks was a fan favorite. 

The Commission knew it, the fans knew it, Dabi knew it, and Hawks himself knew it. 

Even through the layer of audio protection, the crowd’s shrieking was piercing. Dabi flinched, moving his phone further from his face, but not turning the volume down. 

Through the screaming of the fans, Dabi was struck by how subdued the hero looked. By how fake the smile on his face looked as he waved and spoke to the crowd. (It might have gone unnoticed by the fans, but he could tell.) 

When he zoned back in, Hawk was saying that he was dedicating this song to someone out there, hoping they were listening in. 

The fans, who seemed to be mostly girls, screamed at him. Dabi was in agreement as the crowd yelled, “Who?!”

“I won’t name any names, but they’ll know it’s for them.”

Dabi sneered as he could practically feel the way the crowd swooned and sighed as Hawks gave the camera a sly wink. 

The winged hero seemed to turn a little more serious as he said, “This is my rendition of the song ‘Amnesia’ by 5 Seconds of Summer, a band from the Pre-Quirk Era. It’s a little different from what I would usually perform, but I hope you enjoy it.”

In the small space between when the lights started fading and the music came in, the camera zoomed on Hawks’ face as he prepared to sing. 

Dabi had the strange feeling that the winged man was staring straight through the camera and into his soul. 

He wasn’t prepared for the song. 

(It wasn’t about the man’s smooth voice. He’s always known that Hawks could sing. The man was a bird after all, even if not a songbird. No, what surprised him were the lyrics and emotion.)

 

       I drove by all the places we used to hang out getting wasted 

 

As soon as the lyrics fell, Dabi knew that he was the intended audience. 

Hawks was right, the recipient of the song would just know. 

With that, Dabi had the sudden realization that Hawks knew who he was, or who he had once been. That was why the hero had seemed so subdued. That wasn’t Hawks on stage, it was Takami Keigo, the red-winged angel whose heart had died with Todoroki Touya. 

When Touya had been forced to join the Commission's secret training camp by Endeavor, Keigo had already been there. Despite being nearly 3 years younger, his new roommate had been at the Commission longer than any of the other trainees. 

Over the several months they’d shared a room, they’d traded countless secrets under the safety of blankets and darkness. While neither had shared their full tragic backstories, as they say, the two had revealed their true names to each other, names they were supposed to have left behind the moment they stepped through the gates of the Commission. 

Takami Keigo and Todoroki Touya. 

And they say that the best lies are born from the truth, which was why Dabi knew Hawks was a spy from the very start. 

 

       I thought about our last kiss, how it felt the way you tasted

 

Dabi remembered it too. Their first, last, and only kiss had been a simple peck on the day Touya left the camp, when Endeavor had pulled him out of the program. 

(A simple peck that tasted of naive promise.)

 

       And even though your friends tell me you're doing fine

 

That was a lie. Hawks knew first hand that Dabi was doing quite fine. He had met some of the League though, not that Dabi would consider the League friends, seeming to get along with Twice just fine. 

 

       Are you somewhere feeling lonely even though they’re right beside you?

 

(Yes.)

Dabi would never admit that to himself though. The motley crew of the League was just a means to and end, a group of people chasing similar ideals. 

Dabi had held them all at a distance. (Who that was protecting was beyond him.)

(And he’d also ignore how nice it felt to be by Keigo’s side, even if only barely.)

 

       When he says those words that hurt you, do you read the ones I wrote you?

 

He didn’t anymore, but Touya had read them, every small note and doodle Keigo had left in the handwritten letters stashed into his duffle bags. 

When training with Endeavor had left him with burns and scars, he’d silently stitch himself together with the words Keigo entrusted to him. 

As roommates, Keigo had never pried into the reason why Touya hated Endeavor, why he shuddered at being referred to as ‘Todoroki Touya’. After the first disastrous conversation, Keigo never brought up his admiration for the hero again, though the small plush doll had never disappeared. It sat nestled in Hawks’ bed, but faced away from Touya and placed such that Touya wouldn’t ever have to see it. 

Even though they’d never spoken about his family life, Hawks must have reached some conclusions based on Dabi’s changed appearance, his mottled scars and obsession with bringing down Endeavor. 

(He still had some of those notes, but most had been burnt to ashes.

He no longer needed them, staples and pure vitriol holding him together.)

 

       Sometimes I start to wonder, was it just a lie?

       If what we had was real, how could you be fine?

       'Cause I'm not fine at all.

 

Sometimes, his life as Touya felt like a dream or a nightmare, muddled memories from a lifetime ago. 

But then he would see Hawks or Endeavor on the big screens and it would all come rushing back. 

He would see himself in the mirror, all dyed hair and stapled skin, and it would all come back. 

(I’m not fine at all, either.)

 

       I  remember the day you told me you were leaving

       I remember the tears streaming down your face

 

That had been a parting filled with tears. 

The two had sniffled and hugged. When Keigo couldn’t stop crying for him, Touya had gotten the courage to press a light kiss onto his lips. 

(They hadn’t understood what love meant then, but he’d wanted to leave Keigo with something to remember him by. A promise of a happy forever.)

 

       And the dreams we had, you said you’d still chase them 

       Like every single wish we ever made.

 

Keigo had convinced Touya that he could be a hero, that it wasn’t about the quirk, but about the heart: as long as Touya wanted to be a hero, he could be. 

And at that time, Touya had believed him. He’d hoped to see Keigo soar into the skies and to be right beside him. 

 

       I wish that I could wake up with amnesia

 

Dabi felt a dull thump in his chest, a sudden lump in his throat. 

Did Keigo mean that?

Did Keigo, no Hawks, wish to forget Touya?

Would Touya and Keigo once again become Dabi and Hawks?

 

       And forget about the stupid little things

 

The lump in his throat, which Dabi identified as terror, melted into something bittersweet. 

Was it better for them to start over, to become true strangers to each other? Enemies, true and true? 

Because they had never been strangers, even a decade after. While Hawks might not have recognized Dabi immediately, Dabi had known Hawks all along. It was impossible for him to treat Hawks, in his swirling red feathers and glittering eyes, as anything but another facade of Takami Keigo. 

It was because he knew Hawks was a double agent, tasked with infiltrating the League for the Commission, that Dabi had been settled in using Hawks for information right back. At first, he had believed the man had become a puppet of the Commission, losing the heart of a true hero over the years. But after the first few meetings and seeing how the man interacted, it was clear that Hawks internal values remained much the same — the man had lost his childhood naiveté, but genuinely believed in the good in people. This was widely apparent once Dabi had given Shigaraki the green-light to trust Hawks, as the man's blossoming friendship with Twice was, for all that it was built upon lies, a true one. 

Perhaps, if they had never met face to face, Dabi could still see Hawks as just someone he used to know. 

 

       Like the way it felt to fall asleep next to you

 

They used to share a bed when one of them had nightmares, using physical proximity to drive away the monsters in their hearts. 

Touya had always run slightly warmer, causing Keigo and his bird-blood to snuggle closer for comfort. 

And comfort, apparently, was more like a trained reflex. What comforted someone could vary between time and space, but it was a weird day when Dabi learned just how easily he showed his back to Hawks. 

 

       And the memories I never can escape

 

And once Dabi remembered one thing, like the way it felt to wake up with Keigo next to him, feathers tickling his face, everything else came rushing back to him with startling — heart wrenching — clarity. 

 

       'Cause I'm not fine at all

 

As Hawks’ voice slightly wavered, Dabi wondered when Hawks had figured it all out. How recent had it been? As he sorted through their recent meetings, he couldn’t remember one where Hawks’ behavior had seemed off. 

If it had been an ongoing realization, Hawks had done an excellent job at acting fine. 

 

       The pictures that we took they're still taped upon my walls

 

They’d taken several polaroid photographs together, on the days when free time had been allowed. Something about a photo booth or a camera; the memories were jumbled now. They’d been all wide smiles, arms draped around each other — picture perfect happiness. 

Touya had his own copies, but they’d been charred in his flames, a nice representation of him as a person and all his memories. 

 

       I'll admit I like to see them, I'll admit I feel alone

 

It was weird to hear the hero admit that aloud. Dabi didn’t know how to feel about it. 

 

       And all my friends keep asking why I'm not around

       It hurts to know you're happy, yeah, it hurts that you've moved on

       It's hard to hear your name when I haven't seen you in so long

 

Where had Hawks heard the name ‘Todoroki Touya’ after so many years? It was an interesting thought, since Todoroki Touya had been dead on paper for over a decade. Who had brought up that name and in what context?

Dabi knew that Hawks and Endeavor were relatively close, since not many people could resist Hawks' attempts at befriending them and the Top 3 heroes were often required to be civil. In either case, it was impossible for Hawks to have heard the name from Endeavor.

The Hero Commission was equally unlikely, since they were working together with Endeavor to erase the name 'Todoroki Touya' from consciousness.

Unless the Commission somehow already knew that Todoroki Touya had become Dabi...?

Given Endeavor's palpable confusion from their meeting during the high-end Nomu test, Endeavor had no idea; given that the man had access to all of the secret files as a Top 3 hero, it was unlikely that the Commission would have figured Dabi's past out and then conveniently forgotten to inform Endeavor. 

 

       It's like we never happened, was it just a lie?

       If what we had was real, how could you be fine?

       'Cause I'm not fine at all

 

Dabi suddenly realized that if Hawks recognized him as Touya, the hero would also have realized that the villain recognized him on sight — unless he thought that the villain had lost part of his memories for some reason, which was unlikely given the amount of times Dabi had made his hate for pro-heroes, Endeavor in particular, very clear. 

If that was true, it would have become blatantly apparent that Dabi had known Hawks was a spy from the very start. If so, why did Hawks even bother keeping up the charade? 

How did Hawks feel about the fact that Dabi had never hinted at their shared past? 

Well, to some extent, it seemed that this song was the answer. 

 

       I remember the day they told me you’d truly left me 

       I remember the tears streaming down my face

       And the shattered dreams you left behind, you didn’t need them

       Like every single wish we ever made

 

Keigo had lived over a decade believing that Todoroki Touya died in an accident. The winged child had been left to chase after their dreams alone, a dream that consisted of the two of them becoming heroes together, standing side by side.

And it was true, Todoroki Touya had died. 

Dabi made sure of it. 

As he resolved to cut his past away, a short while before joining the League of Villains, Dabi had visited his own grave once. With his hood hiding his new appearance, he stood there and stared at the stone proclaiming Todoroki Touya as dead, as a beloved son, brother, and friend who now lay there in peace. He’d wanted to cackle, like a demonic spirit that had risen from the grave to achieve his own vengeance, but the sight of withering flowers and a scraggly feather had clogged his throat. 

Two carnations, bloody red like the feather (like the tears that stung his skin). 

Love, pride, and admiration. 

A small note which read “Watch over me as I soar” had been gently placed at the grave, weathered and crumbling. 

He left the feather untouched, but burnt the dying flowers. In his flames, the flower petals turned blue (peace, tranquility, and truth), then purple (capriciousness), and finally charred black (artificial rebirth).

As the wind picked up the scattered ashes, he vaguely thought about how ironic it was that he’d named his own quirk ‘Cremation’. 

The note lay innocently in his apartment somewhere, buried where the other remnants of his past lay.  

 

       I wish that I could wake up with amnesia

       And forget about the stupid little things

       Like the way it felt to fall asleep next to you

       And the memories I never can escape.

 

Dabi let the words wash over him, letting himself feel a wave of grief for the young Keigo and all he had lost. 

(For the past, present, and future they had lost.)

 

       If today I woke up with you right beside me

 

The coherent part of Dabi’s brain went ‘Oh’, choking on itself as that flicker of hope and yearning came back to life. 

It was silenced by the snarky part of his brain which went ‘Is the birdie inviting me into his nest?'

 

       Like all of this was just some twisted dream

 

Dabi had to let out a broken laugh at that, because that statement was so terribly truthful it physically hurt to think about. 

Their childhood dreams truly had been twisted into a sweet nightmare. 

Instead of becoming heroes together, Keigo and Touya had both died once in a wall of blue flames. From the ashes, they’d been reborn as the hero Hawks and the villain Dabi, as enemies who danced on the knife’s edge of trust. No, not trust, but the mutual understanding that they were both using each other for information. And if someone needed any more evidence that the world had gone to shit, mutual understanding had gotten them much farther than naive trust ever could. 

The son of a villain who had become a hero, the son of a hero who had become a villain. Almost lovers who danced around each other, both chasing after the same societal change in their clashing ways. 

Dabi was so selfish that he’d burn the world and himself, preferring to destroy and start from scratch. If he was going to Hell, he might as well drag the rest of the shitty world down with him. 

Hawks was so selfless that he’d sacrifice himself to save the world, an Icarus staring straight at the sun as he flew towards freedom for all. 

Dabi had once heard someone say that heroes and villains were two sides of the same coin; it was probably someone who was discussing Stain’s ideas for remaking the world. 

In one of those cliche novels from the Pre-Quirk Era, heroes were depicted as those who walked the narrow and windy path — those that did the right thing, even if it meant going against everything they'd ever known. In those fantasies, a hero was someone who did what everyone else was too afraid to do, spearheading the revolution. 

Perhaps that was just a romantic view of Dabi's current actions, but if he was the only one ballsy enough to shove the notion of consequences down Endeavor's throat, he didn't mind whether society thought his righteous anger was villainous. 

Obviously it was a different world now, since 'hero' became a fucking occupation and not a symbol. 

But that coin metaphor held in society, just broader than villainy and heroism — the wretched system that liked to paint in black and white, forgetting that things weren’t ever that simple. 

A villain with a heroic heart, a hero that acted with villainous ideals. 

Who was society supposed to support? Who represented the good and who represented the evil?

Dabi had no need for a system that allowed an abuser to rise to the top with no consequences whatsoever. It had failed Todoroki Touya and continued to fail Todoroki Shoto. (And you know what, it had failed Todoroki Enji too, by forcing him to become the monster he was as he endeavored to reach a symbol of capitalism and control. Endeavor was a sack of shit that abused his children and sent his wife to the hospital, but society had supported and goaded him along.)

The League of Villains was made up of a group of people who had been rejected or failed by hero society in one way or another — that was a truth that could not be denied. And while Dabi didn’t have many qualms about attacking and kidnapping children, how many child soldiers were needed before society slapped itself in the face?

(He also had no need for a system that prioritized the good of the majority over the good of an individual. The Commission that required Hawks to kill Takami Keigo could go fuck themselves.) 

 

       I'd hold you closer than I ever did before

 

Dabi squashed the flicker of hope and something more in his chest at those words. 

He refused to entertain the possibility that Hawks meant those words because how could they be true in this twisted version of their dream they lived in?

 

       And you'd never slip away

 

In their partnership, the only way one of them could leave was if they betrayed each other, which was honestly quite likely given their positions, or if one of them died. 

While Dabi knew that a confrontation was inevitable, he hoped that he never had to face Hawks on the battlefield, because he didn't want to fight Keigo. He didn't want to have to choose between past or present — Dabi or Touya, Hawks or Keigo — since he knew the answer that both of them would choose in a heartbeat. 

And a reality without Hawks somewhere — alive and saving people — Dabi realized, wasn’t one he wanted to be in.

 

       And you'd never hear me say…

       I remember the day I realized you’d left me once again

 

If Dabi needed any more confirmation that Keigo knew that Todoroki Touya had become Dabi, this was it. 

Did Keigo hold it against him that he’d never said something? (Considering how the hero was essentially airing their dirty laundry to the world, it was quite likely.)

 

       I remember the make-up running down my face

 

There was a pang in his chest when Dabi thought about Keigo crying. He’d never been good at dealing with tears, or emotions in general, fear and anger being his two main emotions after surviving in the Todoroki household. True emotions were a sign of weakness, ones that the world would exploit. If he was to protect himself, to protect others, a mask of nonchalance or cold apathy was the go-to. 

Still, he couldn’t help the protective urge to stop the bird’s tears. 

 

       And the dreams you left behind you didn't need them

      Burnt to the ground, like every single wish we ever made

 

There was a stir of guilt in his chest, which he squashed immediately. 

It was always too late for regrets, so there was no need to even entertain them. 

 

       I wish that I could wake up with amnesia

       And forget about the stupid little things

       Like the way it felt to fall asleep next to you

       And the memories I never can escape

       'Cause I'm not fine at all

       No, I'm really not fine at all

       Tell me this is just a dream

 

“It’s not,” Dabi spoke to his empty apartment, voice just as warbled as Hawks’. 

 

       'Cause I'm really not fine at all.

 

As the song faded out, Dabi closed his phone and sent it clattering across the floor. He tilted his head to look at his reflection in the shattered mirror. It had fallen from the wall when he’d thrown something at it the other day, glass cracked but otherwise intact. 

He stared at himself: the white roots which were growing back in, icy blue eyes that looked exactly like Endeavor’s, the burns that made up half his face and the glittering staples keeping his face together. 

In another life perhaps, if he were a different person, Dabi might have cried. Now though, he had no tears left to cry. His grief had turned to venom, tear ducts burnt away a decade ago — the only tears he’d cry would be rivers of blood. 

What was he supposed to do now?

What was Todoroki Touya supposed to say to Takami Keigo, who’d sung about him like an ex-lover mourning a broken relationship? 

What was Dabi supposed to say now that the house of cards had tipped?