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the souls we've been given

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Yuuji’s last remaining family member died today. So that sucks.

He’s barely had time to think, let alone properly mourn. For a brief moment after he lost his grandfather, he was functionally alone in the world, but then Fushiguro ambushed him in the hospital and it was all sideways from there.

(“You’re the one who had to sign all his paperwork?” Fushiguro asked him, shortly after they’d left the wing. “How old are you?”

“Fifteen,” Yuuji answered. “Why, how old are you?”

Fushiguro paused for a few seconds, like he hadn’t expected Yuuji to return the question.

“Same as you.”

And that was it. They both kept walking. Yuuji suspected that the first how old are you actually meant was there seriously no one else to do it, but Fushiguro didn’t bring it up again.)

Yuuji has met a lot of people in the past few hours. That’s a good thing, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, but he needs time alone at the end of the day. Alone with his new parasite, at least, and Sukuna’s being pretty quiet right now, so Yuuji can almost pretend he’s by himself. He’s sprawled on his back in his new bed at Jujutsu Tech, staring at a smudge on the ceiling. There’s a demon in his head and the uneasy aftermath of a cursed finger in his stomach. It’s the perfect time to break down, and he has more reasons to cry than he’s ever had in his life, so everything should be hitting him all at once.

Except it isn’t.

Yuuji wants to cry—if for no other reason, it’d probably help him fall asleep—but it’s just not happening. He knows he needs the catharsis, and he’s thought of everything. His death sentence, his grandpa’s last words, the curse-god(?) trying to hijack his body for mass murder. The fact that he’s lost his chance to have the simple, quiet life he’s always wanted. He even closes his eyes and thinks of some generic ones that might push him over the edge, like homeless puppies and lonely old people and the saddest movies he’s ever seen. Maybe he should watch some of those tear-jerker YouTube videos of soldiers coming home to surprise their families or something.

Yuuji sighs, frustrated. He feels like the dumbest person alive. 

He hears what sounds like something being dropped on the floor in the next room over, and he wonders how Fushiguro is feeling now; it hasn’t seemed like he blames Yuuji for Sukuna’s incarnation, but that doesn’t make anything better if the alternative is Fushiguro blaming himself. Yuuji isn’t really sure if they’re friends yet, even though he almost died to save Fushiguro’s life. And then Fushiguro spared him from getting executed on the spot. That’s something a friend would do for a friend. It’s also something a decent and compassionate person would do for a stranger, though, and Fushiguro seems like a decent person. Compassionate is a hard maybe. Yuuji will have to collect some more data and come back to that one.

He flinches when Sukuna’s mouth speaks up suddenly from the side of his face: “You're pathetic, obsessing over the feelings of someone you barely know. Are you really that desperate for human connection?”

On second thought, maybe Yuuji and Fushiguro should both just blame Sukuna for everything, even though he didn’t exactly ask to have his fingers eaten. He’s having a little too much fun ruining Yuuji’s life.

“Obsessing? You mean caring?” Yuuji asks. He doesn’t love the fact that Fushiguro might be overhearing this, but it’s something they’ll both have to get used to one way or another.

“Obsessing, caring. Same difference.”

“What do you—no, actually, I’m not even gonna touch that one,” Yuuji says. “And I’m sick of you listening to my thoughts, by the way. It’s weird.”

“Think them more quietly, then. I’m sick of hearing them.”

Yuuji rolls his eyes at the ceiling. “Damn, that's rough. Camping out in my body doing nothing all day must really take a toll on you.”

“Don’t patronize me,” Sukuna warns him. “You’ll regret it later.”

“Bet,” Yuuji says. Probably a huge mistake, but he’s been on a roll with those recently. No reason to stop now.

Sukuna’s only response is silence, which is more unsettling than anything he could’ve said. When Yuuji reaches up and touches his cheek, the extra mouth is gone.

I hope you die of boredom in there, he thinks, just to put the last nail in the coffin. So to speak. He still isn’t sure how to separate the thoughts Sukuna can hear from the ones (if any) that he can’t, but it'd be a nice thing to figure out. It’ll come with practice, hopefully. He’d rather not dwell on the possibility of never having a truly private headspace again for the rest of his short life.

Sukuna seems content to leave him alone for the time being, so Yuuji sits up in bed and checks the time on his phone. Eleven-twenty. It’s late, but he heard definite signs of life from next door not too long ago. Yuuji knows Fushiguro slept for a few hours after getting his injuries treated earlier, so maybe he’s too rested to sleep. Yuuji’s been meaning to talk to him. He wonders if this is a bad time. But then again, he doesn’t think Fushiguro likes him very much, so it's possible that anytime would be a bad time.

Whatever. Yuuji should probably stop worrying so much.

The short walk feels suspenseful, even though nothing about the situation is high-stakes. Yuuji is keeping his expectations low, given Fushiguro’s apparent distaste for having him anywhere in or near his room, and he’s probably tired enough to go right to bed if Fushiguro doesn’t want to talk to him at all. Not that Yuuji is looking forward to finding out what Sukuna can do with his subconscious while he’s sleeping, but he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

He hesitates in front of the door until it occurs to him that Fushiguro probably knows he’s there already. Sukuna’s cursed energy gives Yuuji a very strong presence, or so he’s told.

He wipes his stupid sweaty palms on his pants and knocks a few times. No going back now.

It doesn’t take long for Fushiguro to answer, opening the door just wide enough for Yuuji to see him clearly. He’s dressed for bed, in loose pajama pants and a baggy black t-shirt. He also has a set of Airpods in, which Yuuji finds kind of amusing for some reason, but he takes one out.

“Itadori,” he says, not unpleasantly but not quite pleasantly either. “Hi.”

“Hey,” Yuuji says, with a very flimsy smile. “Can we talk for a sec?”

Fushiguro blinks. “About what?”

“I don’t know. I just… feel kind of overwhelmed? About everything? It’s totally okay if not,” Yuuji adds on quickly. “I know you must be tired after today, so...”

“You should be tired too, but somehow here you are,” Fushiguro says, nudging his door open a few centimeters more. “It’s fine. Come in if you want.”

Yuuji glances inside, then looks at Fushiguro again. “...Wait, seriously?”

Fushiguro sighs. “Yes.”

Yuuji didn’t think he’d get this far. He wonders what’s changed since Fushiguro literally slammed the door on his head earlier. Regardless, he doesn’t have much of a plan anymore, but that’s fine.

He steps carefully into Fushiguro’s room and tries to look around without being too conspicuous. It’s clean and well-organized, but filled with casual signs of life—things like a nearly-full laundry hamper, or a neglected tear-off desk calendar that still says it’s early May—that suggest Fushiguro has been here for a decent amount of time. Yuuji is deeply curious about him, but maybe that’s just the loneliness talking again.

Fushiguro sits on the edge of his bed. The only other seat is the desk chair, so Yuuji swivels it around to face him. He realizes he hadn’t really thought of how to start the conversation—or what he even wants to talk about, specifically—and now they’re both just waiting. It’s not awkward yet, but Fushiguro does look kind of confused.

“So… are you feeling okay?” Yuuji asks, mostly to break the ice. “You got tossed around pretty bad earlier.”

“I’m fine,” Fushiguro says. “Are you? You’re the one who dry-swallowed a mummified curse finger.”

“Two mummified curse fingers,” Yuuji corrects him, grimacing. He really didn’t have to word it like that. “But…”

When he stops to think about it, this is what he knows for sure: he has a newly acquired death sentence (albeit a suspended one thanks to Gojo), he’s stuck sharing his mind and body with a sadistic power-hungry demon, his only living relative is no longer living, and his stomach still hasn’t forgiven him for the finger. He absolutely isn’t okay, but there’s nothing Fushiguro can do about any of that.

So Yuuji answers: “Yeah, I’m good. Still a little nauseous, though.”

“That’s it?” Fushiguro asks, crossing his arms. “Impressive.”

There’s a look on his face that says yeah, no, we both know that definitely isn’t it—that’s how Yuuji interprets it, anyway, but it’s hard to tell what goes on in Fushiguro’s head sometimes.

“Not really,” Yuuji admits. “But the rest is a lot to get into right now.”

Fushiguro gives him a puzzled half-smile. Or maybe it’s more of a quarter-smile. “So you walked over here just to tell me you’re feeling nauseous?”

“Okay, this is really stupid, but I honestly have no idea what I walked over here to tell you,” Yuuji says. He’s fidgeting now, swiveling the chair back and forth with his foot. “I didn’t even expect to get past the door.”

“I should probably stop assuming you think before you do things,” Fushiguro says.

Yuuji laughs weakly. “Yeah, probably.”

Fushiguro uncrosses his arms, evidently not too hung up on getting Yuuji to talk. “Alright. Well, I can at least show you where the tea is in the kitchen, if you think that’d help. The nausea, I mean.”

The gesture catches Yuuji off guard; it’s not that he thought Fushiguro was an unkind person, but he does seem like the type whose kindness needs to be earned, so Yuuji is surprised to have it extended to him this readily. And Sukuna must’ve been right about his desperation, too, because something as simple as Fushiguro offering tea to settle his stomach is enough to trigger his thanks, I would die for you response. Granted, Yuuji almost did die for him once already, so maybe the tea has nothing to do with it.

“Were you about to go to bed? I don’t wanna keep you up,” he says, still hesitant.

“It was my idea,” Fushiguro reminds him. “And Gojo-sensei doesn’t actually know where anything is in there, so whatever he told you was probably wrong.”

Yuuji smiles. “You talk a lot of shit about him.”

“I know,” Fushiguro says. “He deserves it.”

Yuuji has been struggling to figure out the extent to which Fushiguro genuinely likes and/or respects Gojo. They seem to know each other well, and Gojo acts vaguely familial with him (not quite like a parent, though, except for when he’s half-joking—maybe more like an uncle or godfather, or even a weird older brother), but doesn’t get mad or take it personally when Fushiguro insults him. Gojo says Megumi without much care for the fact that Fushiguro never calls him anything but Gojo-sensei. It’s like they’re family but Fushiguro doesn’t want to talk about it.

Maybe Yuuji will get it eventually, maybe he won’t. It isn’t really his business anyway.

“I trust your judgment,” he says. The least he can do, considering Fushiguro’s judgment is the only reason he’s alive. “And I’ll take you up on that offer, I guess. Tea might be good.”

Yuuji likes tea, but at this point he probably would’ve said yes even if he hated it. He will admit his focus has shifted a bit.

When he sneaks one last look around Fushiguro’s room before following him out into the hallway, he sees a few photos pinned up in front of the desk (mostly of Fushiguro’s shikigami, displayed proudly like pets, which might be one of the most endearing things Yuuji has ever seen in his life). There’s also a blurry Polaroid of Gojo sans blindfold with vivid purple hair and a dye-stained neck, half-glaring at the camera like he wants to be pissed off but can’t fully make it happen.

Obviously, Yuuji laughs. He can’t help it.

Fushiguro shuts the door behind them. “What are you laughing at?”

“The picture of Gojo-sensei with purple hair. Did he do that on purpose?”

“No,” Fushiguro says, with a hint of a smirk. “He uses this stupid purple toning conditioner to keep his natural color ‘icy’—” he makes air quotes, evidently quoting Gojo, but it’s still funny to hear him say it, “—and the bottle looks exactly the same if you refill it with purple hair dye. He didn’t notice until it was too late.”

There’s so much to unpack here that Yuuji almost forgets where they're going, but he hastily falls into step when Fushiguro starts walking. “That’s legendary. How long did it take him to get it out?”

“Way longer than it should’ve, but I think he intentionally kept it for a while to spite us.”

Us. Yuuji wonders, but it feels out of line to ask.

“He must’ve liked it at least a little bit then,” Yuuji says. He’s fascinated by every aspect of this. “Did he freak out at first, though?”

Fushiguro turns a corner, and Yuuji follows. “Less than expected, which was kind of disappointing, but whatever. Once he got the stains out of the tile in his shower it didn't really bother him anymore.”

Yuuji still doesn’t understand Gojo as a person or a concept and he probably never will, but he thinks he’s slowly getting closer.

Then, Sukuna’s voice cuts into his thoughts: ‘That insufferable jackass isn't hard to understand, you’re just dense.’

Yuuji closes his eyes for a second. Or maybe people aren’t as simple as you think they are.

‘No, you’re definitely simple.’ Sukuna’s mouth doesn’t open, but one of his eyes blinks in an idle threat. ‘Because I know just what I could say right now to—’

“Don’t,” Yuuji says. Out loud, like a dumbass.

He freezes with his hand halfway to his face when he remembers where he is, and what he’s doing, and who he’s with. When he stops walking, Fushiguro does too. He’s staring at Yuuji like he’s waiting for an explanation that he doesn’t really need.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuji offers. “Sukuna—”

“It’s fine.” Fushiguro holds up a hand to cut off Yuuji’s apology. They’re only a few steps from the kitchen door, but that objective seems to have been put on hold for a minute. “I did want to ask you a question about him, though. If that’s alright.”

Yuuji hesitates. He knows what’s the worst that could happen is probably a terrible mindset to be holding onto, but—

He shrugs. “I don’t mind. But he might butt in to answer it.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Fushiguro says. He looks at the spot on Yuuji’s face where Sukuna usually appears, then flicks his eyes up to meet Yuuji’s. “I’ve been wondering. Can he see and hear everything you can?”

“He can hear, but I don’t think he can see while these are closed,” Yuuji says, pointing at the marks under his eyes. “He does listen to my thoughts, though. Which is annoying.”

Fushiguro is about to respond, but he pauses when Sukuna’s eye and mouth open on the left side of Yuuji’s face. Surfacing as soon as he’s the topic of the conversation, naturally, like any proper narcissist would.

“Oh, wow,” Yuuji says. “Speak of the devil.”

“Watch the attitude. And don’t make me remind you that you’re the genius who put me in here,” Sukuna tells him, which is unfortunately a fair point. “Your head’s full of garbage anyway. All you ever think about is—”

“Trust me, if I knew how to keep my garbage to myself, I’d do it,” Yuuji cuts him off, slapping a hand over the miniature face on his cheek. “But…”

Yuuji glares at the wall. This is the worst.

“Point taken, my brain sucks. Sorry.”

Apologizing just to appease Sukuna’s ego is a huge blow to Yuuji’s self-respect. It’s definitely the quickest way to make him fuck off right now, though, which is a priority. Yuuji doesn’t even want to know what Fushiguro is thinking about all of this.

“See? I warned you,” Yuuji half-jokes. “Sorry if he made you uncomfortable, though. He’s like that sometimes.”

“That’s not your fault.”

Yuuji is about to say something that starts with ‘Well, I mean—’

Which isn’t a good idea, judging by the conversation-ending look Fushiguro is giving him. He may be hard to read sometimes, but not right now; he’s definitely filing away the observation that Yuuji is the type of person who apologizes way too often. Not untrue, but still a little embarrassing.

“I guess you’re right,” Yuuji concedes. “But I feel bad about it anyway.”

“Feel whatever you want. All I'm saying is it’s kind of messed up that you can feel guilt and he can’t.”

Fushiguro steps through the kitchen door, leaving no room for argument. Not that Yuuji was planning on arguing, since that last comment hit him like a well-deserved slap to the face. Steering things away from the topic of Sukuna is probably for the best, but the air does feel a bit heavier now. It was bound to happen eventually.

Yuuji follows Fushiguro into the kitchen and immediately starts wandering. He only needs to open a few drawers and cabinets before he realizes that this is nicer than any kitchen he’s ever had access to. Which he should’ve expected, given what he saw during Gojo’s cursory tour earlier (and the impressive size of the dorm rooms), but—

“No way,” he breathes, marveling at a neatly-organized drawer of cooking knives. “These look so expensive! Why do you have so many? Aren’t there only like, ten people here?”

“Gojo-sensei got them because he has a spending problem, but he barely even cooks in his own kitchen, let alone this one,” Fushiguro says. “Feel free to use them.”

“I will,” Yuuji says earnestly. “Uh, kind of a stupid question, but where do we get food? Like, to cook with?”

“Not a stupid question if no one’s answered it for you yet,” Fushiguro tells him. Another dig at Gojo, Yuuji is pretty sure. “Ijichi-san and Nitta-san usually handle that, so add whatever you want to the shopping list on the fridge and one of them will pick it up next time they go out.”

Yuuji glances at the fridge. There’s a magnetic notepad stuck to the front, but it’s too far away for him to read anything written on it. He still doesn’t know who Ijichi and Nitta are.

“Oh. That’s easy,” he says. “Thanks.”

Weighing the pros and cons of his situation is starting to get complicated. He’s probably not going to live past eighteen, but at least he has something like a home in the meantime. With a big room to himself, and food that he doesn’t have to scrape together money for, and people. Maybe he’d prefer a year or two of this to a lifetime of being alone.

“Sure,” Fushiguro says. He slips past Yuuji and opens one of the overhead cabinets, revealing an assortment of metal loose-leaf tea tins. Way too many to pick from. “Anyway, if you still want tea, it’s here. The kettle’s on the counter by the microwave.”

“Thanks,” Yuuji says again. “You’re actually really nice, Fushiguro! I mean, I guess I should’ve figured that out when you saved my life, but…”

Fushiguro leans back against the counter and cocks an eyebrow, amused. “I’d hardly say I’ve been nice to you. Sounds like you just have a low bar.”

He’s done what he came here to do, so it’d be perfectly understandable for Fushiguro to call it quits for the night and go back to his room, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. The moment feels like a bubble that’ll pop if Yuuji thinks about it for too long.

Yuuji laughs. “Oh man, are you one of those people who can’t take a compliment? That doesn’t surprise me at all.”

“Maybe.” Fushiguro shrugs. “Give me another one and we’ll find out.”

“Asking for compliments? That’s pretty shameless,” Yuuji says. Fushiguro is nicer than expected, but he’s funnier than expected, too. Yuuji’s learning a lot tonight. “But let’s see… oh, I know! You’re super smart. And good at fighting. But you’re also really humble about it.” He smiles, then corrects himself: “Usually.”

“I was kidding, but thanks,” Fushiguro says easily. “I appreciate it.”

Yuuji pouts. “Now you’re just trying to spite me.”

If he’s being honest, he could find plenty of things to compliment Fushiguro on, but there are some he definitely shouldn’t say out loud. His eyes are deep bottle-glass green under the dimmed kitchen light, and Yuuji realizes for the first time just how unfairly long and dark his eyelashes are. Now that Yuuji’s thinking about it, Fushiguro might be one of the most casually beautiful people he’s ever met.

‘You think so? Do something about it,’ Sukuna’s voice suggests in the back of his head. ‘You should—’

Shut up, shut up, shut up, Yuuji thinks, as emphatically as he can manage. I know you’re gonna say something fucked up. His hand twitches, like it instinctively wants to slap against the side of his head. He doesn’t even know why he's been doing that, honestly—it’s not like Sukuna can feel it—but it’s somehow becoming a habit.

“Hey,” Fushiguro says. His voice is firm but not mean, as if he’s trying to snap Yuuji out of something. “Is he messing with you again?”

Yuuji blinks at him, wide-eyed. “Huh? Why do you ask?”

“That’s a yes, then. You have a terrible poker face.”

“No I don’t,” Yuuji protests, even though he's never given much thought to his poker face (or lack thereof) before. “You just have a stupidly good one.”

Without warning, Sukuna surfaces on his cheek again. “Why don’t you tell him what else you think about his fa—”

Yuuji panics, and instead of smacking himself in the face, he forcefully jabs two of his fingers into Sukuna’s mouth. He barely manages to pull them out before he gets bitten, but it has its intended effect, because the mouth recedes and doesn’t come back. Thank fuck.

When Yuuji looks at Fushiguro, he’s half-assedly hiding a startled smile behind his hand. Yuuji gives him a watered-down glare. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, just—” Fushiguro pokes his own cheek with his middle and index finger, mimicking Yuuji’s anti-Sukuna maneuver. “It’s weird when he comes out of your face like that.”

“I know, right? It kinda freaks me out,” Yuuji says. “But I’m sure I’ll get used to it.”

“Yeah,” Fushiguro says quietly. He seems troubled all of a sudden, like he’s just remembered something he’d been trying not to think about. Yuuji hopes it’s not because of anything he said.

“Um.” He glances down at his feet, then forces himself to look back up at Fushiguro. “Can I ask you a question?”

Fushiguro’s face doesn’t change. “Sure.”

“Do you really think I shouldn’t have eaten the finger? Like, do you think it was a dumb idea?”

(It occurs to him that this is the question he’s wanted to find words for since he knocked on Fushiguro’s door, but sometimes Yuuji ends up doing things in very roundabout ways. He got there eventually.)

‘Of course it was a dumb idea,’ Sukuna chips in. ‘Seems like that’s the only kind you ever have.’

Yuuji ignores him. Tries to, anyway. He’s starting to get the feeling that Sukuna’s presence isn’t going to be good for his already tenuous self-esteem in the long run.

“I’d say you were smart for thinking of it, but stupid for actually doing it,” Fushiguro says. Yuuji doesn’t know how he feels about that, but he appreciates the honesty. “Not sure why you’re asking me now, though. Neither of us can change what happened.”

It’s less about changing what happened and more about coming to terms with it. If Fushiguro told him outright that he was a hopeless fuckup who’d endangered everyone around him by eating Sukuna’s finger, then maybe Yuuji would start having some second thoughts. But he’s pretty sure that if Fushiguro felt that way then he would’ve said it already, so he’ll stand by his decision for now.

Yuuji shrugs. “That’s true. But I still care how you feel about it.”

“Why?” Fushiguro asks.

“What do you mean, ‘why’? Your feelings saved my life. Of course I care about them.”

Fushiguro stares at him for a moment. Then, he does something unexpected. He laughs. It’s short and quiet, barely more than an exhale, but that's all it takes for Yuuji to decide that he wants to hear it again.

“Makes sense when you put it like that, I guess,” Fushiguro says. “But yours matter to me too. Don’t ask me why, because I have no idea.”

Yuuji needs a few seconds to process. That came out of fucking nowhere. There’s a chance Fushiguro said it out of some misplaced obligation to return Yuuji’s sentiments, but that doesn’t seem like him. He's steadily cementing his position as the most confusing person Yuuji has ever met.

“Okay,” Yuuji says. “Um. Thank you.”

He’s thanked a lot of people for a lot of things in his life, and most of the time, he’s meant it. But somehow this thank you, the small, awkward one that he offers up for lack of anything else to say, feels like the sincerest one that’s ever come out of his mouth.

 


 

Later that night, Yuuji falls asleep in his new bed and wakes up sprawled in a shallow, expansive pool of blood.

Everything is still so recent that at first, he doesn’t even think of Sukuna and cursed spirits and all the bad decisions that could have landed him in a situation like this. He hasn’t had a nightmare in a long time, but everyone gets them now and then. That must be what’s happening.

Then, he looks up at the looming pile of bones in front of him, and when he locks eyes with the demonic body-double of himself staring back down from the top, it all hits him like a freight train.

“You’re not dreaming,” Sukuna says. He sounds bored. “Don’t ask.”

It’s disorienting to see him like this, as some third-person thing Yuuji can look in the eye rather than a vague sinister presence inside his body. Granted, Sukuna is still in Yuuji’s body, or at least a tattooed and four-eyed evil twin of it. He knows whatever form Sukuna took a thousand years ago was probably horrifying, but he still thinks he’d prefer to see that. He’s just glad Sukuna has a voice that doesn’t sound like his.

Yuuji stands up and tries to shake some of the blood off of his hands. “What is this, then? How did I get here?”

“My innate domain,” Sukuna tells him, ignoring the second half of the question. “That wasn't obvious?”

“No, it wasn’t. I don’t even know what that means,” Yuuji says. Whatever it is, it sounds ominous. There’s a giant ribcage bracketing the space, as if it’s inside the chest of some person or creature. Coupled with all the blood and the bones, this doesn’t seem like a place where anything good could possibly happen.

“Wow,” Sukuna laughs. “You’re so clueless it’s almost fascinating. Ask that annoying teacher, he’ll explain it.”

“Don’t call him that,” Yuuji says, because regardless of whether Gojo is or isn’t annoying, Sukuna doesn’t get to say it like that. “And why can’t you just tell me? It’s not like you have anything better to do.”

“Teaching ignorant children isn’t my responsibility,” Sukuna says, lifting a hand. “Actually, no, there’s an exception. Thanks for reminding me why you’re here.”

Before Yuuji can ask, Sukuna flicks his wrist. And this must be something a lot more serious than a dream, because the white-hot pain that rips straight down through Yuuji’s abdomen is worse than anything he’s ever felt in dreams. Or in real life, for that matter. A deep gash stretches from his throat to his belly button like an autopsy cut, and Yuuji crumples to his hands and knees. He coughs out a wet breath and tries not to focus on the sound of his own blood splashing into the pool beneath him. In his head there’s only don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. Don’t let me die here. Please give me a miracle.

He’s definitely going to bleed out.

“Welcome to your first lesson in respect, miserable brat,” Sukuna’s voice echoes, louder than usual. Yuuji’s ears ring. “Pay attention.”

And then the gaping wound is closed.

Yuuji sucks air into his lungs like a vacuum, marveling at his own racing heartbeat.

“Sukuna,” he gasps. He’s still on the ground, watching the surface of the blood-floor ripple. “What the fuck did you just do to me?”

He looks up at the throne again right as Sukuna swishes his finger back and forth, slicing a big X across Yuuji’s back. “That’s for addressing me so casually just now. Don't let it happen again.” He rests his face in his hand and blows out a sigh, like this game is barely enough to entertain him anymore. Fucking psychopath. “You’re kind of a slow learner, aren’t you?”

The cuts aren’t deep enough to incapacitate Yuuji right away this time, even if the searing pain makes him want to dig his nails into something and cry, so he grits his teeth and stands up. “It’d help if you told me what I’m supposed to be learning.”

“I did tell you, idiot. Keep up,” Sukuna says. “Respect. Proper deference. You think you can get away with talking down to me just because you’re the one who gave me this body?”

“Yeah, actually, that’s exactly what I think,” Yuuji says. “Looks like you’re smarter than I th—”

Sukuna barely lifts a finger, and Yuuji’s left arm is sliced clean off. He chokes on his words and falls to his knees, muffling his strangled scream with his remaining hand.

“I wish I could say you’re dumber than I thought, but I never had high hopes,” Sukuna tells him. “Still, even you must’ve realized by now that stubbornness won’t get you anywhere.”

Yuuji stays curled up on the ground with his face hovering centimeters above the rippling surface of the blood below him. Even though the agony makes it hard to think, he has to try. He knows this is more than a dream, but he also knows the last thing he did before showing up here was fall asleep. Sukuna has his own copy of Yuuji’s body in billowing white robes that he’s never seen before, he doesn’t bleed or take damage when Yuuji does, and they don’t seem to be hearing each other’s thoughts. Physically, what’s happening shouldn’t be possible.

“Do whatever you want to me,” Yuuji says. It’s a shot in the dark. He’s half-delirious with pain, but he refuses to believe Sukuna has the bodily autonomy to pull any of this off. “It’s not like it matters. None of this is real.”

“So it's finally clicking. Good job,” Sukuna taunts. “Your real body is sleeping soundly in your bed right now.”

The admission comes way too easily for comfort, and when Yuuji looks up, Sukuna is wearing a dark, joyless grin that can only mean he has a terrible ace up his sleeve. He heals Yuuji’s arm and back for no apparent reason, which is a third red flag. Yuuji stands again, even though Sukuna probably won’t let him stay on his feet for very long.

“But watch carefully,” Sukuna says. “This next part is crucial.”

He sweeps a hand over his head, parallel to two of the ribs that arch over the domain. A long, deep cut opens up between them, spraying blood like a ceiling sprinkler—

“You’ll be feeling that one in the morning,” Sukuna says. If he was bored before, he sounds like he’s having the time of his life now. “It’ll make a hell of a mess, too. Don’t forget, cold water for bloodstains.”

The implication takes a moment to register, but when it does, Yuuji’s heart seizes. He wants to cry, or lie down in the blood and accept his fate, or maybe start screaming his head off until he wakes up. This is so fucked.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” he demands, taking a few steps forward and splaying his hands over his chest. “Are we inside my actual body right now?! Is that what you're trying to tell me?”

“Stop yelling. You’re giving me a headache,” Sukuna says, slicing a gash across Yuuji’s face with a lazy swish of his finger. “And the answer is yes and no. I won’t bother explaining any further. I doubt you’d understand if I tried.”

“You’re full of shit. There’s no way.” Yuuji blinks blood out of his eye and tries to steady his breathing. If this is his body, there should be a heart here, and lungs, and everything else a person needs to stay alive. Not whatever the hell this is.

“Do you think you’re safe because you can suppress me while you’re awake? As soon as you lose consciousness, there’s only my soul, yours, and the domains we carve out for them.” Sukuna sweeps his arms out to his sides, gesturing at the endless expanse of blood and bones. “This is mine. Where’s yours?”

Yuuji is barely keeping up, if at all, but none of what he’s hearing sounds good. In fact, he’s confident that every word of it is irredeemably bad. Of course he doesn’t know where his domain is. He doesn’t even know what a domain is.

All he can think to ask is, “Are you planning on doing this every time I fall asleep?”

“Why would I? Indiscriminate discipline won’t teach you anything.” Sukuna kicks a skull. Yuuji watches it roll down the front of the bone pile. “If you can quit the spitfire act and keep your smart little mouth shut, I’ll let you sleep in peace.”

Yuuji knows he’s choosing a dismal hill to die on, but he won’t be able to live with himself in the meantime if he doesn’t. “Guess I won’t be sleeping much, then.”

“You really think a war of attrition with me is a good idea?” Sukuna shrugs one shoulder. “You’ll change your mind eventually, but have it your way.”

He sweeps his hand through the air like an orchestra conductor, and every nerve in Yuuji’s body lights up with pain. It’s enough to bring him to his knees again. He can’t even identify all the places he’s bleeding from, but his vision is blurred with red and his skin feels like it’s being peeled from his bones. Sukuna’s voice echoes in his ears, and it’s then that Yuuji finally understands: there’s no humanity in a curse. Not an ounce of it. As human as he looks in his knock-off of Yuuji’s body, Sukuna will never know restraint, let alone empathy or mercy. What a sad, lonely existence.

It’s almost enough to make Yuuji pity him.

 


 

Yuuji wakes up to his own panicked hyperventilating, a bright shock of pain in his side, and the uncomfortable sensation of blood-soaked fabric clinging to his skin. He’s in one piece, but there’s a brutal gash carving a deep line between two of his ribs. So the domain really had been inside his body, or at least somewhere that gave Sukuna access to it. 

That’s highly unsettling for a number of reasons. Yuuji can worry about them later.

He needs to get his thoughts together. Even if most of the bullshit Sukuna put him through wasn’t real, the memory is so visceral that it feels reductive to say it all happened in his head. Or in his ribcage, or in Sukuna’s domain, or wherever. He can’t shake the phantom pain of having his body sliced through like butter over and over and over again, and the mere thought of falling back asleep and waking up to that pile of bones is enough to make his chest hurt.

Again: he’ll come back to that later, when he has time. Right now, he needs to focus on what’s in front of him, which is a lot of blood.

(Also, the fact that Sukuna is being suspiciously quiet. There's that saying about looking a gift horse in the mouth, though.)

Yuuji sits up. The inside of his shirt is glued to the congealing wound, and he winces when peeling away the fabric rips off most of the half-formed clots and leaves it bleeding in full force. The shirt is a lost cause at this point, so he clumsily maneuvers himself out of it and rolls it up to hold against his side until he can come up with a better idea.

Fushiguro has had helpful answers for most of Yuuji’s logistical questions thus far, and Gojo forced them to exchange numbers once he confirmed that no one would be executed anytime soon, so Yuuji grabs his phone. He feels bad bothering Fushiguro this late—especially for the second time tonight, and for such an unpleasant reason—but if he’s in bed already then he probably won’t see it until the morning. Which will be kind of awkward to deal with, but that’s fine. No harm, no foul.

  To: fushiguro
    [01:53] hey r u awake
    [01:53] plz dont get the wrpng idea i swear sukuna did this not me
    [01:54] but i hsve a huge cut &cant bother ieiri sensei at 2am do u kno where i cannfind firstaid stuff
    [01:54] it wontkill me its just bleedimg like crazy im gonna try to clean it in the bathrm

He considers fixing the typos, but he’s texting with one very shaky hand and stemming his bleeding with the other. Fushiguro will get the point.

Once Yuuji makes it to the bathroom down the hall, he discards his ruined shirt in the sink and gets to work cleaning himself up with a wad of paper towels and some lukewarm tap water. Not ideal, but it’s a start. He’s managed to soak up most of the blood—not that that’s saying much, because more of it keeps coming—when his phone buzzes loudly against the counter. Even though there’s only one person it could reasonably be, Yuuji still feels a flood of relief at the name on the screen.

  From: fushiguro
    [02:05] shit sorry just saw this
    [02:06] bottom drawer under the sink
    [02:06] i’ll be there in a min

Yuuji would’ve been perfectly content if Fushiguro had just told him where to find medical supplies and left him to his own devices—granted, Yuuji doesn’t know much about first aid, but it can’t be that hard—so he feels bad that Fushiguro is getting out of bed for this. But Yuuji is in no position to refuse help right now, especially from someone who might be able to explain the mechanics of Sukuna’s fucked-up mind prison in terms he can understand.

He keeps the paper towels pressed to his ribs with his left hand and picks up his phone with his right. His thumb smears blood into the web of cracks in his screen. It’ll probably be impossible to clean out, which is kind of gross, but he has bigger things to worry about.

  To: fushiguro
    [02:07] tysm

Yuuji sets his phone back down on the counter, then checks the drawer below the sink. Just as Fushiguro said, there’s a hefty first-aid kit there, but once he takes it out, he’s at a loss for what to do. Maybe he should just hold off for now. Everything about this situation has been a complete and utter nightmare, but now that Yuuji’s applying pressure to a twenty-centimeter laceration at two in the morning as he leans against the bathroom sink and waits for Fushiguro to show up and do whatever it is he plans on doing, it almost seems funny. In an absurd, morbid sort of way.

He doesn’t have to wait long. Apparently Fushiguro meant it when he said he’d only take a minute. The door opens, and he comes in with a face full of panic that only half-abates when he sees Yuuji alive and upright, and suddenly the situation doesn’t feel all that funny anymore.

“Hi, Fushiguro,” Yuuji says, attempting a smile. “I promise it’s not as bad as it l—”

“Don’t even finish that sentence,” Fushiguro cuts him off. “You literally left a trail of blood in the hallway.”

“Oh,” Yuuji says. Shit. “I can clean that up later.”

“Not the point.” Fushiguro’s eyes drift from Yuuji’s face to his makeshift first-aid attempt. “You said Sukuna did this? Did he get control of your body or something?”

Yuuji pauses. This should be the part where Sukuna crawls out of his dark corner and either threatens him into silence or boasts about making him bleed, but nothing happens. Yuuji has a feeling he’s being tested.

“No, don’t worry,” he answers. “He just trapped me in this big creepy bone room while I was asleep—I think he called it his innate domain? Do you know what that means?”

“Yes, but I’ll tell you when you’re not bleeding everywhere,” Fushiguro says. He takes a step back to size up the space they have to work with. “I think this’ll be easiest if we both sit on the counter.”

“Look, you really don’t need to stay and help,” Yuuji says. It’s late. He’s already done enough. “I can—”

“Stop,” Fushiguro interrupts him. Again. “Nothing personal, but there’s no way you’re going to do a decent job of this by yourself.”

He turns on the sink to wash his hands, which Yuuji would’ve forgotten to do if he’d been left on his own. Maybe Fushiguro has a point. His urgency is sobering; he really must’ve been worried, and Yuuji would crack a joke about it if the air were lighter, but instead he just feels kind of guilty. The double sink has a counter wide enough for them both to fit semi-comfortably with the first-aid kit nestled in between them, so he ends up perched on the edge with his feet dangling while Fushiguro sits cross-legged beside him and leans in to assess the damage.

“Damn,” he says, watching Yuuji peel the blood-soaked paper towels away. “Yeah, that’s bad.”

It is. Yuuji’s a little surprised at how easy it’s been to compartmentalize the physical pain, but then again, he’s pretty sure Sukuna has singlehandedly changed his entire concept of pain within the last few hours. The gash runs bone-deep and stretches long enough that he has to crane his neck to see where it starts and ends. Under normal circumstances, it would need proper medical attention. These aren’t normal circumstances, though, so two teenagers with a household first-aid kit will have to suffice until morning.

Yuuji tries to raise his right arm to make space, but Fushiguro reaches out and pushes it back down to about shoulder level. His fingers are cold.

“Don’t lift your arm any higher than this, or you’ll pull the cut open.”

“Gotcha,” Yuuji says. He leaves his arm hovering. He’s not sure where he’s supposed to put it. “So are you actually not gonna explain this domain thing until I stop bleeding?”

“I guess I shouldn’t have worded it like that,” Fushiguro says, opening the kit and taking out a few alcohol wipes. “Are you sure it was a domain? I didn’t notice any weird cursed energy flare-ups from your room or anything.”

Yuuji watches Fushiguro’s hands as he starts clearing away the blood caked at the edges of the wound. “I don’t know, that’s what he called it. An innate domain. But it was like… inside my body,” he says, tapping his chest. “Is that normal?”

“Nothing about your situation is normal,” Fushiguro tells him, which isn’t really an answer. Maybe he’s getting there. “How do you know it was in your body?”

“He basically told me. He said all this stuff about both of our souls being in there,” Yuuji paraphrases. This is all new enough to him that he doesn’t have much of a handle on which parts make sense and which parts sound batshit insane. “It looked like it was inside this huge ribcage, and after he sliced through it I woke up bleeding, so I figured he was telling the truth.”

“He… maybe. I don’t know. You should talk to Gojo-sensei when you get a chance,” Fushiguro says. His voice is even, but Yuuji doesn’t miss the brief falter in his hands as he finishes swabbing off the last of the dried blood. “By the way, a normal hospital would definitely make you get stitches for this.”

Yuuji takes a deep breath. “You can try to stitch it up if you want.”

“I don’t know how to do that shit. I’d probably make it worse,” Fushiguro says, which actually manages to make Yuuji laugh. “Let’s just clean it and stop the bleeding for now, then you can go harass Ieiri-sensei in the morning.”

“Looking forward to it,” Yuuji says. He hasn’t met Ieiri yet, but he’s heard things.

Sukuna has been uncharacteristically absent since the end of his big theatrical torture fest. He didn’t mock Yuuji’s panic when he woke up, or guilt-trip him over texting Fushiguro for help, or chime in on the conversation about his domain, and Yuuji has been wondering what would finally get him to break his silence. He must've been waiting all along to resurface at the most arbitrary time possible, though, because the sound of his disembodied voice during a lull of quiet catches Yuuji completely off guard.

‘See how other people have to deal with the consequences of your insolence? None of this would’ve happened if you knew your place.’

Yuuji forces himself to sit very still. He’s pretty sure he didn’t jump or tense up, despite his surprise—Fushiguro probably would’ve said something if he did—but he can feel his heart racing. For one shameful second, out of sheer self-preservation, he considers giving in and accepting fault like Sukuna clearly wants him to. Not that self-preservation is one of Yuuji’s specialties.

Don’t pin this on me, he thinks. I’m in this situation because of you and your fragile ego. That’s it.

He fully expects to be berated for that, except Sukuna doesn’t say another word. He just laughs. Which definitely means Yuuji is next-level fucked.

That’s the last thing he wants to dwell on right now, so he glances down and watches Fushiguro work in silence. One steady hand holds Yuuji’s cut closed while the other sticks on a neat row of butterfly strips to keep it from opening again, and Yuuji assumes that’ll be the end of it, but then Fushiguro rips open a little one-use packet of Neosporin and starts dabbing it onto the skin with his fingertip.

“Sorry to make you do all this,” Yuuji says. It’s too much, almost. More than anyone needs to be doing for him. “But I really appreciate it.”

“You’re not making me do anything. You tried to tell me to leave, actually.” Fushiguro folds a rectangle of gauze in a long strip and presses it to the wound. “Hold this here for a sec?”

Yuuji nods and covers the gauze with his hand, even though what he really wants to do is confess out loud that maybe Sukuna has a point, and maybe this is partly his fault for being so stubborn (Sukuna did warn him, after all). He’d conveniently left that detail out when he told Fushiguro what happened. Maybe he wouldn’t be so sympathetic if he knew Yuuji could’ve avoided this but actively chose not to.

‘Looks like we’re finally getting somewhere,’ Sukuna muses. ‘Is a little bit of guilt really all it takes to wear you down?’

No. Sometimes. I don’t know, maybe.

Fushiguro pulls a roll of medical tape out of the first-aid kit and tears off a piece to smooth over the first edge of the bandage. Yuuji is still holding the gauze down, but he tries to keep his fingers out of the way. This whole time, Fushiguro has kept his touch light and precise, like he’s taking every precaution not to make the pain worse. It shouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that Yuuji can’t remember the last time someone was this careful with him. 

“Where’d you learn this?” he asks.

“Ieiri-sensei,” Fushiguro says. Another piece, the second edge. “I assume she’ll teach you at some point, too. Before you start going out on actual missions.”

Yuuji looks down at his lap. “Yeah, that’s probably for the best.”

He means it, but it’s underscored by a selfish thought that he doesn’t want to acknowledge: if he learns how to treat his own wounds then he won’t need help anymore, and as much as he hates the part where he has to ask for it, it’s nice to be taken care of once in a while. He still hasn’t cried since the hospital, but he realizes with slight horror that his eyes are starting to water as he gets patched up in a bathroom by his classmate who barely even seems to like him.

He blinks, then doesn't open his eyes until the burning subsides and the fourth piece of tape is torn from the roll. Crying in front of Fushiguro right now will either freak him out or make him worry, and neither option sounds great. Yuuji is sure he can keep it together until he’s back in his room.

Fushiguro leans back once he’s satisfied with his work. “Okay. It’s definitely not perfect, but—”

“It’s fine,” Yuuji cuts him off, looking in the mirror. Fushiguro was absolutely right when he said Yuuji wouldn't stand a chance of doing this half as well on his own. “More than fine, actually. Thank you.”

Fushiguro hops down from the counter and gathers the empty gauze packets and bandage wrappers to throw them away. “Anytime,” he says. “I mean—hopefully not often. But if you need it.”

Yuuji manages a laugh. “I’d say right back at ya, but…”

But you don’t have a thousand-year-old curse demon trying to flay you from the inside out, is the direction he was going with that. From a place of relief, not bitterness, but it still seems like the kind of thing he should ease into.

“Yeah,” Fushiguro says quietly, somehow picking up on the sentiment anyway. He’s fitting everything back into its spot in the first-aid kit, but he pauses to glance at Yuuji out of the corner of his eye. “Can I ask something kind of invasive?”

Yuuji looks up from Fushiguro’s hands. “Sure.”

“Did anything else happen while you were in his domain?”

Instant dread freezes Yuuji solid. He isn’t sure what to say. Telling Fushiguro the truth would probably be the smart choice, even if he glosses over the gorier details of all the mutilation and healing and re-mutilation and re-healing.

Sukuna, predictably, has advice that Yuuji would rather not follow: ‘Since when do you go with the smart choice? Don’t tell him.’

But I want to be honest with him.

“Yeah,” Yuuji says, before Sukuna can give any more input. “He doesn’t want me to tell you about it, though.”

‘Snitch. You’re on thin ice for that one.’

Yuuji rolls his eyes and slaps the side of his head, which he really needs to stop doing. “And he’s being a giant pain in the ass right now.”

“I know,” Fushiguro says, sliding the first-aid kit back into its drawer. Admittedly, he might’ve been right about the poker-face thing. He's right about a lot. “If talking about him pisses him off, you can tell me and I’ll stop.”

“It’s okay,” Yuuji assures him. Fushiguro narrows his eyes in suspicion, so Yuuji insists, “No, seriously. I mean it. I can’t live my life walking on eggshells to keep him quiet, so I just want everyone to be as normal as possible about this.”

Sukuna’s dumb little bastard face surfaces on Yuuji’s cheek. He lets it.

“Admirable,” Sukuna says. “If you want to tell him, fine. Do it. Let him know why he’s up in the middle of the night playing nurse for you, then see if he still thinks you’re the victim.”

Before Yuuji can default to doing something stupid like fully punching himself in the face, he watches Fushiguro fix a hard stare on his cheek and say, “Sukuna, no one needs your permission to talk.”

Yuuji is struck dead silent for a few seconds. More remarkably, so is Sukuna. Fushiguro has done plenty of impressive things since Yuuji met him, but rendering Sukuna speechless—however briefly—might top the list.

But then, Sukuna grasps for the upper hand like he always does: “If he didn’t need it, he wouldn’t have waited for it.”

“I’ll tell you,” Yuuji cuts in. When Fushiguro gives him that look again, he adds, “Because I want to. No other reason.”

Yuuji takes a deep breath and summons all his strength to maintain eye contact. He’d love to wrap this up soon. He doubts he’ll be able to fall back asleep, but he’s pretty sure Fushiguro hasn’t even gone to bed yet.

“So, here’s the thing,” Yuuji starts off. Fushiguro’s face is carefully neutral. “Sukuna thinks I owe him respect for some reason—”

“You do,” Sukuna says.

Without missing a beat, Fushiguro tells him, “Don’t interrupt.”

(Yuuji could get used to that.)

“—and he's convinced that he can get it by threatening me with shit like this,” Yuuji continues. He grazes his fingers over his fresh bandage. “Except I’m kind of stupid, so I repeatedly sabotage myself by being a dick to him, and I don’t really plan on stopping. So I’m sorry in advance, but when you said ‘anytime,’ you definitely didn’t know what you were getting yourself into. Feel free to take it back.”

Sukuna’s mouth doesn’t open, but Yuuji hears his condescending laugh. ‘That wasn’t half bad.’

“First of all, I totally knew what I was getting myself into,” Fushiguro says. “And second, remember when you said you care how I feel?”

“Of course,” Yuuji says. It was only three or four hours ago, which is surreal to think about.

“Great. Here’s how I feel, then,” Fushiguro says. “Everyone has things they’re willing to suffer for, and I’m not gonna hold it against you if this is one of yours. If he thought I would, he’s clearly the stupid one out of the two of you. Cut yourself some slack.”

Yuuji doesn’t know what to say. Or what to do, or think. His heart feels like it’s in a straitjacket.

When he hears Sukuna’s voice, it takes him a second to realize it’s in his head: ‘I see why you like him so much. He coddles you.’

“I—okay. Thank you. I’ll try,” Yuuji tells Fushiguro, forcing a weak smile. He ignores Sukuna’s opinion. It doesn’t matter. “You know, I really can’t believe you tried to convince me you’re not nice. I mean, who does that?”

“Me, apparently,” Fushiguro says.

Whatever he’s about to say next—if anything—is cut off by a yawn. Yuuji watches the way Fushiguro’s face scrunches up, the way his long fingers curl against his palm as he lifts a hand to cover his mouth, the way he blinks a few times when he opens his eyes. It’s hard to look away from him sometimes, so Yuuji doesn’t.

It’s unfair. Yuuji fucked himself over in a lot of ways when he decided to eat Sukuna’s finger, but this is one that’s taken until now to sink in: he’s doomed himself to a new kind of loneliness, one that he won’t be able to shake off this time. There are people in his life who weren’t there before, and there’s a weapon inside him that’s bound to cause them pain if he doesn’t keep his distance. It’s like pulling back the curtains of an impenetrable glass window and seeing everything he’s ever wanted on the other side.

He’s usually not the type to spiral, but this feels like it might be the beginning of one.

“Are you tired?” he forces out. “You should go to bed. We have to get up early.”

We, as if Yuuji has any plans to sleep again tonight. He can hear how hollow his own voice sounds. If Fushiguro can too, he doesn’t comment on it, nor on the stubborn tears welling up in Yuuji’s eyes. There’s no hiding them this time.

“Yeah,” Fushiguro mutters. He takes a step toward the door, then pauses and glances back at Yuuji. “If you decide you don’t feel like going to the city, let me know. Gojo-sensei won’t force you.”

“Oh. I’ll keep that in mind,” Yuuji says. He’s pretty dead set on seeing Tokyo (and meeting the final first-year) tomorrow no matter how drained he is, but right now he’s on the verge of complete emotional collapse, so he kind of needs Fushiguro to leave before things get embarrassing. “And, uh, thanks again. For all this. I’ll take care of that blood in the hallway, too.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Fushiguro says, with a hand on the doorknob. He doesn’t question why Yuuji isn’t coming with him, which means he probably has a decent guess already. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Yuuji says back, pitifully quiet. His voice might break if he tries any louder. “Sleep well.”

Fushiguro nods. For a second he looks like he wants to say you too, but it must occur to him that Yuuji likely won’t be sleeping at all, let alone sleeping well. And then there’s nothing else to say, so Fushiguro leaves. Not without one last glance behind him, though, and Yuuji manages to flash a paper-thin parting smile before the tears spill over.

The bathroom door closes. It’s for the best, but Yuuji really wishes it weren’t.

“What a mess,” Sukuna heckles. “Forget the rest of your life. You won’t even last a week.”

“Shut up,” Yuuji grits out. His back slides down the wall until he’s sitting on the cold tile floor with his knees pulled to his chest. He buries his hands in his hair and grips until it hurts. “You never tell me anything I don’t know already, so just—please. Shut the fuck up.”

“Since you asked so nicely,” Sukuna says. Yuuji can’t even tell if he’s serious. “But try to keep a lid on the hysterics. You’re so emotional it makes me sick.”

Yuuji doesn’t talk back. He just bows his head and squeezes his burning eyes shut until the mouth recedes from his cheek and he’s reasonably confident Sukuna actually plans on leaving him alone. And it's only then—in the bathroom at three in the morning, with Fushiguro’s bandage on his side and his own blood caked under his fingernails—that Yuuji finally fucking cries.

There's nothing soft or melancholy about it. His whole body heaves with each sob. He can’t breathe without choking. Every centimeter of his wet face burns. He doesn't know how long it's been since he last cried like this, if he ever has, but it’s grief and fear and anger and exhaustion all rolled into a climactic breakdown that feels like it’ll never stop. It’s his grandfather dying without a funeral, it’s the look that passed over Fushiguro’s face after Yuuji said I’ll get used to it, it’s the way Sukuna wants him to hurt and hurt and hurt but never cry about it—it’s everything, and it’s just the beginning.

Time passes, but Yuuji doesn’t know how much. His head hurts.

Eventually he’s just sitting there sniffling, head in his hands, staring at the repeating pattern in the floor tiles to calm himself down. Sukuna still seems to want no part in any of this, which makes Yuuji wonder if he should have violent messy-crying outbursts more often. He can’t stay on the bathroom floor forever, though, so he stands up and turns on the cold water tap to rinse the tears and snot from his face once he’s sure there won’t be another wave of it. 

When he glances up at the mirror, his eyes and nose are rimmed with red and everything is still kind of swollen. Water drips from his chin and eyelashes, and Yuuji can’t help thinking he looks a bit like a bedraggled puppy someone would pull out of a cardboard box in the pouring rain. He really wants to laugh.

Right before he heads back to his room, Yuuji remembers something. He’s not sure what people usually use to clean blood off of floors, so he runs some water over the last of the paper towels from the bathroom and hopes that’ll do the job. He steps into the hallway and prepares for the worst, but when he scans the floor between the bathroom and his room, there’s absolutely nothing. Not a drop. Which is bizarre, considering Fushiguro made the blood trail sound pretty significant. Yuuji doesn’t think he was joking—Fushiguro has a weird sense of humor sometimes, but not like that. He’s almost tired enough to dismiss it altogether and go straight to his room.

Then, he sees it: the faintest smudge of rust-red on the hardwood, like someone had just barely missed a spot while wiping it up. And Yuuji knows who someone is, of course, but it takes him a second to believe it. That after everything Fushiguro had already done for him, he still took the time to clean Yuuji’s dried blood off of the floor. It’s kind of mortifying, because he would’ve had to double back to get the spots near the bathroom and Yuuji was definitely crying loud enough in there to hear through the door, but still.

Fushiguro didn’t have to do this, but if Yuuji tried to tell him that, he’d probably just shrug and say I know I didn’t in that quietly stubborn way of his. It was an act of pure goodwill with no purpose beyond making Yuuji’s terrible night a bit easier. He stands there staring at that little red smear, and even though he feels like every last one of his emotions has been depleted to the core, the tiniest smile makes its way onto his face.

If he had any tears left in him, there’s a chance he’d even cry again.