Sukuna’s thrown back in time. His human, his lover, with his honey brown eyes and messy dual toned hair tied back. His aged and war weary face smiling fondly at him, Sukuna’s name spoken with love and worship spilling past his lips.
Here and now. Young, baby faced, hair cropped short, and eyes full of innocent and determined youth. There isn’t any recognition though, none at all. But it’s him! Sukuna knows it, can feel it in his soul. It’s him. It’s him!
“Yuuji,” Sukuna breathes out in a whisper. Yuuji blinks at him.
Sukuna moves closer and reaches a hand out, gently caressing Yuuji’s cheek. Yuuji’s eyes flutter close and he instinctively leans into his touch. The moment is brief, cut short by Yuuji suddenly jerking away as if he was hit. It’s a knife in Sukuna’s heart.
“What was—what did you do?” he asks, voice tight, body tense. Sukuna frowns.
“You don’t remember?”
Each step Sukuna takes toward him, Yuuji takes another one back. He looks frantic, ready to fight, ready to run. There’s heavy amount of distrust and confusion in his eyes, those wide brown eyes that used to look at him with such devotion and love.
“Me. Us. What we had. You don’t remember any of that?”
Those days of fighting curse after curse, sorcerer after sorcerer. Coated in blood and ash, smelling like death and sweat. They would bathe each other, wash away the all the dirt and grime, discover new bruises and bandage still bleeding cuts. Feed each other a fresh meal that Yuuji prepared before finally turning in for the night. Rinse and repeat.
Yuuji’s hands were deadly weapons, but they always traced over Sukuna with such gentle care, and Sukuna would always leave soft kisses on each knuckle. Sukuna himself became more and more monster-like, but Yuuji’s love never wavered and he helped work Sukuna through the worst of his transformation.
All these precious moments, Sukuna brings forth and lets them flicker through Yuuji’s head. He waits for it all to sink in, waits for it to be enough to jog Yuuji’s memories so he can remember.
Yuuji looks at him, expression pained. “I’m sorry. I don’t—I don’t know what any of this is.”
Sukuna’s heart sinks and he looks away. He hears Yuuji take hesitant steps forward, water splashing, and he inhales sharply when Yuuji cautiously takes hold of Sukuna’s hand. Red eyes meet sun-kissed brown.
“I want to remember, I do. But it’s probably going to take a while.” His reassuring smile is so blindingly, wonderfully bright. “So, for now, let’s just focus on making new memories!”
Yuuji discovers that certain touches and smells are the most familiar to him. Like the way he instinctively leaned into Sukuna’s hand when he caressed his face when they first met. Like the way Sukuna somehow always smells like ground cinnamon and smoke.
Sukuna will run his clawed fingers through his hair and, while it makes the tension in Yuuji’s body melt away, he can’t help but feel like maybe his hair should be longer. He’ll kiss each knuckle, just like in the memories he shared, and Yuuji’s heart will clench in familiar but unknown emotions.
Sometimes it’s all just too much and he has to pull himself away.
Sometimes, he acts without thinking. His hands will find Sukuna’s face, and his fingers will gently trace over the dark marks. Sukuna always closes his eyes, lips curling up in a content smile. Yuuji will start to lean forward as if to kiss him, but he always pulls away, hands dropping to his sides. Sukuna always looks disappointed.
“You can kiss me, you know,” Sukuna says one day, reaching for his hands.
Yuuji looks away. “I know.”
“Then why don’t you?”
Yuuji shrugs, focusing more on how warm Sukuna’s hands are as they hold his, thumbs rubbing soothing circles over his knuckles. It’s such a familiar gesture and it makes something deep inside Yuuji ache. It makes him want to pull away, step back, and curl up into a ball and cry.
“It’s too much!” he blurts, tears falling. “It’s all too much! I’m supposed to know you, but I don’t. Every touch is familiar but foreign. I can feel a part of me that’s reaching out for you, but it’s buried so deep, and it hurts!”
He’s breathing so hard, gasping, and he can’t stop crying. Sukuna tugs at his hands, bringing him in, and wraps strong arms around him. Yuuji returns the gesture without much thought and sobs onto Sukuna’s shoulder. He hates the familiarity of it all, like this has happened so many times before. He cries harder.
“It’s okay,” Sukuna murmurs, holding him close. “It’s okay. You’ll remember soon enough. I know you will.”
It takes a few more months, but Yuuji does remember. Standing in the ruins of Shibuya, Yuuji remembers it all. He looks at his hands, dirty with dried blood.
“Are you okay?” Sukuna asks, opening an eye and mouth on his cheek. His hesitant apologies go unsaid, and Yuuji silently offers his forgiveness. It was Sukuna’s first taste of freedom in quite a while, and went on a wild rampage, eager to fight, ready to destroy.
Yuuji’s already thrown up over the blood spilled by his hands, already cried over the lives lost because of him, already screamed his wish to die. Everything came flooding back then, that previous life he lived with his adoring curse at his side, fighting together with him. Loving him.
That same love stirs within him too, and it’s overwhelming. It mixes with his grief and guilt, making some godawful concoction that makes him want to throw up again. It’s all just too much.
“Yuuji,” Sukuna’s voice cuts in, bringing him out of a montage of memories and back to the ground he’s standing on. Yuuji sighs, bottling it all up for now.
“We need to keep going,” he mutters. “We need to fight.”
Sukuna is quiet, but his power thrums through Yuuji’s body as he runs forward. It’s more potent than before, stronger from having been forced to ingest more fingers. That’s fifteen now, right? Only five more to go.
“What happens then?” he asks aloud.
I’ll be reborn, fully reincarnated with my own body.
Yuuji huffs in mild amusement. “Not even going to give them a chance to execute me?”
Like I’d ever let someone kill you again, Sukuna hisses.
A violent memory suddenly shoves its way to the surface, swallowing Yuuji whole. His death in his past life playing before his eyes.
A heavy slash to his chest far too deep, bones breaking, blood spraying. He hears the cries of Sukuna calling his name somewhere nearby as his body falls to the ground.
The only thing he can taste is iron and he chokes on it. He feels strong arms lifting him into someone’s lap. Sukuna. His vision is getting blurry, but he can still make out the fear on his lover’s face. He lifts a trembling hand and Sukuna grips it like a lifeline.
“It’ll be ok,” Yuuji whispers.
Sukuna shakes his head. “Don’t say that.”
“I’ll see you in the next life.”
Yuuji falls to his knees and vomits. His chest aches—throbs in time with his racing heart. Every gasp sharp and painful. His ribs sliced, lungs bleeding, iron and acid mixing together in his mouth. He can't breathe. He can't breathe—
"—uuji! Yuuji!" Sukuna's voice is frantic, screaming loud in his head and yelling through the mouth on Yuuji's palm. "That's in the past. Focus on the here and now. Listen to my voice."
He sucks in a shuddering breath, clutching at his chest, grounding himself in the reality that he hasn’t been sliced open. He zeroes in on the way Sukuna’s voice levels out, deep and soothing. Comforting.
The smell of his own vomit makes him gag, but he’s able to get up after a few minutes. His legs are shaky, but after a few stumbling steps he’s back to running forward. He can’t stop, can’t look back, he has to keep going. This is war.
So when Nanami dies in front of him in a horrific gory display, accompanied by Mahito’s cruel laughter, Yuuji doesn’t stop. He presses forward and slams his fist into Mahito’s face and sends him flying back with a Black Flash. And Yuuji doesn’t stop. Not until Mahito is finally dead, his bloodied corpse bursting into flames.
Kugisaki finds him then, and he’s so happy to see she’s okay. Her expression sours with concern when she looks at him. “You okay?”
Smiling is hard. “I’m fine, just remembered some stuff.” It’s still too much to process right now along with everything else going on. “Let’s keep going. We need to get Gojo-sensei.”
But that’s easier said than done, and the events of Shibuya end in disaster with a mass of curses running loose through Tokyo and Gojo Satoru out of reach. Yuuji is back on the execution block due to the temporary release of Sukuna and his resulting rampage.
Currently, his body is being held in a heavily sealed room while his mind resides in Sukuna’s domain. He’s sitting limply on his lap, head resting on his chest. Tired. Yuuji’s so tired. Shibuya. Everything from his past life. All this right now. He’s exhausted.
“At least I’ll have you with me when I die,” Yuuji murmurs.
“Did you forget what I said back in Shibuya?” Sukuna asks, his smile both reassuring and cruel. “I’m not letting anyone kill you again.”