Itadori is at his front door again.
“Dude!” He beams; Megumi’s gaze slides away to the bag in Itadori’s hands. “I heard you got a new pal!”
Megumi doesn’t have to answer: from the living room, Kon barks. Itadori stands on his toes, trying to peek over Megumi’s shoulder.
“...Go ahead,” says Megumi, and Itadori grins.
“I also heard,” he says, bouncing around as he takes off his shoes, “that you got this guy from the shelter the other day - I walk him sometimes, so I was mega curious about where he went--”
“I thought the shelter didn’t give out adopter information?”
“Ah--” Itadori nudges his shoes together, his hand in his hair. His voice is high as he says, “I took a guess! And they, uh, didn’t deny it!”
Megumi says, “Is that right,” and Itadori makes a face like he wants to stick his tongue out - but Kon barks again, and Itadori bounds off, bringing out a heavy-duty chew toy from his bag as he goes.
Itadori Yuuji goes to the same school as Megumi, but that isn’t how they met: Megumi first saw Itadori when he came home one afternoon to find Tsumiki laughing in the living room and the twins lounging at Itadori’s feet. It had been, thinks Megumi, toeing the door closed, the most bizarre moment of his life to see his careful sister and her twin Pyrenees-seized dogs entirely comfortable with a guy they had just met outside.
“They adore him,” Tsumiki had said after. She was still smiling and she didn’t seem to be aware of it. “He said he volunteers at the shelter - with dog walking and things - and to let him know if we ever need a sitter. He goes to your school, Megumi! What a sweet kid!”
“Hey,” says Megumi, and Itadori, his face turned away from Kon’s slobbery mouth, wriggles his toes at Megumi. Megumi rolls his eyes. “If you keep making out with your new guy, the other two will get depressed.”
“You really say shitty things,” says Itadori, laughing as Kon lunges for him again. He curls his fingers into the knot of thick fur at Kon’s chest and then looks around: by the window, their chins set on their paws and their tails tucked sadly to their sides, the twins are watching him. “Oh man,” says Itadori. “Alright, alright! I haven’t forgotten you guys!”
“Tsumiki would never forgive you if you did,” says Megumi, sitting beside Kon as Itadori heaves himself toward the twins. They do an admirable job of ignoring him, and Itadori, gnawing on his cheek to keep off another laugh, falls between their two beds. That’s all it takes: the twins jolt and then pile on him, whining like they’d thought he would never come.
Kon yawns, reaching over to butt Megumi’s chin with his snout.
“So jealous,” says Megumi, almost smiling. Kon sighs, eyeing him. It’s a rather suspicious expression for a dog, thinks Megumi, and he scratches under Kon’s ear to make it go away.
“Fushiguro,” calls Itadori. “Uh - can we take them on a walk? I can’t… think of another way out…”
Megumi pats his pocket for his phone. “Sure,” he says, taking it out. Itadori, his face pink and his clothes covered in white and black fur and a pair of dogs sprawled impossibly on him, winces.
“You do shitty things,” he complains, but he lets Megumi take the picture anyway.
“If you ask me,” says Nobara, and Megumi squints at the vending machine, thinking that no one had asked her anything, “this whole dog visit situation of yours is Very Interesting.”
He glances at her. “That… sounded like capital letters,” he says, halfway hating himself for even saying it.
“They were.” She turns, her shoulder cutting in front of him. “Please tell me you didn’t get one of those gel packs.”
Megumi, looking at the back of her recently re-dyed head, wonders how much she’d yell if he were to sneeze right now. Too much, he decides, stepping to the side. “They’re good for you,” he says, reaching past her to retrieve it.
“But I don’t like them.”
“And… it’s not for you, so it’s fine…?”
Nobara scowls. “I,” she says, “am here to impart my very wise advice to you. I want food as repayment.”
“Then get it from someone who wants your advice,” suggests Megumi. She glowers at him the whole way back to the classroom and when they reach the door, she grabs him by the elbow to drag him to her desk at the back corner.
“Fine,” she says, sitting. She crosses her legs, waiting, and Megumi sighs.
“I’m not sitting down for this,” he tells her. His back prickles: the inevitable, curious glances of their classmates probe them, and it won’t be long before this scene makes it back to Panda. To Tsumiki, who will deduce correctly and bite her lips to keep from smiling but will look at him a certain way all the same.
“It’s just,” says Nobara, “well. It’s sort of impressive, how Itadori keeps showing up at your place.”
Megumi stares. “What?”
“His crush on you. You should do something about that,” says Nobara, looking at him like he’s the idiot. Then she scrunches her nose. “God, why he picked you, that I don’t understand… or how the hell someone crushed on you before me.”
The desk in front of her is, now that the ground under Megumi seems to be wobbling, much more inviting. Megumi sits, his elbow landing on Nobara’s desk, his arm blocking him from the rest of the room’s view.
“He does not,” says Megumi, “have a crush on me. He’s there for the dogs.”
Nobara, who can’t raise one eyebrow and laments that daily, raises both instead. “I can’t decide which part of this is the worst,” she says finally. “I feel bad for myself.”
“Congrats?” says Megumi faintly, wondering how she’d managed to flip this when his new phone background is a picture of Itadori surrounded by Megumi’s dogs. He leans back, bewilderment making him say, “I need better friends. Wiser friends.”
Nobara kicks him.
He doesn’t actually think about Itadori until the next morning: he’d come home to a fretful Tsumiki, a nauseous White Jade, and a vet whose offices closed at five.
“I don’t want you missing school for something that’s probably nothing,” Tsumiki had said, her voice soft.
“And I,” said Megumi, getting to his feet, “don’t want you taking your exam tomorrow thinking about this. Is there still leftover takeout?”
The thin line of her mouth had swayed, and that had been that.
She’s fine, he texts Tsumiki. He closes out of his messages once she’s replied; his thumb hovers over Itadori’s laughing face, and so naturally he isn’t prepared for the actual Itadori waiting outside his apartment building.
“What the fuck,” says Megumi. Then he looks at his phone, which is still unlocked. “Why aren’t you at school,” he says, clearing his throat and slipping his phone into his pocket.
“Ah--” White Jade, free from her hated vet visit, tugs at the leash until Megumi trudges forward. Itadori meets her more than halfway, kneeling on the sidewalk as she huffs against his collar. “I, um, heard you were sick, and you’re never sick, so I--” His cheeks are very pink. “Why’re you outside? I could’ve walked the dogs for you.”
“...I’m fine,” says Megumi. “White Jade needed to go to the vet. She’s fine too.”
From this view Megumi can see the quick shifts in Itadori’s expression. It takes him a second to peel away from White Jade, his pink cheeks now a steady red.
“White Jade was sick,” he says, and Megumi nods. “And she’s fine,” he says, and Megumi nods again. Itadori nods too, mostly, it seems, to himself.
And Megumi, pushed, he thinks, by the repeated sight of Itadori with his dogs, says, “Did you skip school because you were worried about me?”
Itadori looks at the street. Megumi waits; of all things his ears are hot.
“Yeah,” he says at last.
Megumi says, “Huh,” and Itadori snaps back, pointing at him.
“You could say more than ‘huh’, in this kind of a situation!”
“...I’m not sure what kind of a situation this is,” says Megumi as White Jade gnaws on Itadori’s finger.
“It’s--” Megumi’s never seen someone so red. “It’s,” says Itadori again, ducking his face back against White Jade, “it’s a confession, you idiot! Give me a break here!”
Like the twins, that’s all it really takes for Megumi to short-circuit.
“Oh, hello,” says Tsumiki, smiling at Itadori. “Did Megumi tell you about White Jade?”
“Yes,” says Megumi, kicking Itadori’s ankle. “How was your exam?”
“Ah… okay, I hope,” says Tsumiki. She drops her keys on the living room’s little table; it’s wood, so she can’t see their hands underneath, but she’s biting her lips. “Yuuji, you’ll stay for dinner?”
“Sure,” squeaks Itadori. Tsumiki says she’ll make tea and leaves, and Megumi sighs.
“You’re so obvious,” he mutters, and Itadori untangles their hands to prod his side.
“It’s not like I have any practice at this,” says Itadori, prodding him again. Then he takes Megumi’s hand back, his eyes downcast as he traces the lines on Megumi’s palm. “I like you, and how you are with your sister, and your dogs, and how you’re nice to me even when you’re being a shithead. I think,” he says, “I’m going to be really obvious.”
At their feet, Kon barks. He’s looking at Megumi in particular.
“Then again,” says Itadori, lifting his head and grinning, “I thought I was super obvious!”
Megumi’s entire body is hot: it’s buzzing, from his toes to the stretches of his fingertips. He spares a thought for Nobara, and how he’ll have to admit she was right.
“Hey,” says Itadori. “Hey. I’m really happy right now, and I - are you?”
And this is a simple question, with a simple answer. “Yeah,” he says, and Itadori lights up. The same way, thinks Megumi, he did each time Megumi would open the door to him. “I am.”