It’s always easy with Fushiguro. Itadori learns this over and over, knows it like air knows his lungs or the sun knows his skin on a sweltering summer. Fushiguro loves him. It’s obvious, sickening and suffocating and warm, so so warm. He tells Itadori to “Finish your food okay? I’ll clean up for you” and Itadori buzzes with electricity. He ruffles Itadori’s hair, letting his fingers linger a little, and Itadori melts into the floor where they sit. He lets Itadori see him smile and laugh, guarded secrets he doesn’t show to many people, and Itadori gathers the sound of his euphoria, tucking them into himself for safekeeping. He loves Fushiguro too, he thinks. He wants to cook him dinner whenever he gets the chance, beams when Fushiguro hums around a spoonful of the warm meal he’s whipped up for him. He wants to card his fingers through Fushiguro’s hair too, believes it to be a sacred act of fondness, an utmost gesture of affection, because it makes Itadori swell and he wants to make Fushiguro feel what he feels. He wants to kiss him, longs to feel his best friend’s lips on his own, wants to drink his sighs and learn the warmth of his mouth. It’d be so easy to just love him completely, because Fushiguro loves him already.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Itadori jolts, spilling the cereal and milk in his spoon back into the bowl in front of him. The morning sun filters in through the window and lights up the common area in a gentle golden hue. Fushiguro looks lovely washed in it, even with his brows pulled together like that, watching Itadori intently.
“Uhh,” he says dumbly, “it’s nothing haha!” You’re so stupid. “Just zoning out.”
Fushiguro finishes his mouthful of toast.
“I know you’re nervous for today,” he starts, bringing Itadori’s gaze back to him. “Try not to think about it too much. You’ll do good. Plus we planned to marathon Avengers tonight, remember? Look forward to it.”
Itadori nods, feeling the ugly tangle of anxiety at the base of his throat unfurl and dissipate a little.
“You finished?” Fushiguro asks, voice muffled by his toast.
“Yeah,” Itadori sighs, neglecting the rest of his breakfast at the thought of the day ahead.
Fushiguro reaches over to take his bowl. “Go wash up. I’ll clean.”
He brings his other hand up to rustle Itadori’s mess of bed hair before returning to his seat, resuming his slow chewing, sipping milk between bites. Itadori sits there unmoving for a minute, watching Fushiguro eat across from him, learning the way his face relaxes with each gulp of cold milk, the way he bites down to the very crust of his toast before eating that too, last. Fushiguro’s about to look at him, about to tell him something very normal like “Go, idiot” or “Are you dead?” and Itadori will burst at his warm gaze and lovely voice. He makes a beeline for his room before Fushiguro gets that chance, locking the door behind him as if Fushiguro might be chasing after him, ready to smother Itadori with his love like a maniac. Itadori showers. He does great on his solo mission. Fushiguro has an extra towel in his hands when he walks into the common area later that evening. Itadori lets him dry his hair, exhausted.
“Fushigurooo,” he drawls over his plate of apples. “How did you know to bring a towel? You’re like… a psychic.”
Itadori feels a slap up the side of his head. Ouch.
“I heard your shower running, dummy,” Fushiguro replies. “You must be really tired.”
“Yeah,” Itadori breathes, feeling the gentle rubbing at his scalp lulling him into sleep.
“Rest,” he hears Fushiguro say. “I’ll wake you when I’m done setting up the movie.”
Itadori nods, eyes drooping, murmuring silly nonsense (“Okay, love you, I forgot to empty the- the bin”) in reply as he drifts off. Fushiguro laughs softly, heart lurching at Itadori’s mumbled confession. They don’t watch Avengers that night.
Fushiguro is like this, always. Always looking out for Itadori when Itadori isn’t looking out for himself.
“How the hell did you get cut over here ?” Fushiguro scolds incredulously, clicking his tongue every time Itadori moves too brashly while he’s cleaning his wounds. His hands are careful, his face scrunches up in concentration. Itadori falls silent, opting to watch Fushiguro work. He could easily go to Shoko for things like this, he should be going to Shoko for things like this. But Itadori finds himself gravitating back to their dorms the second he’s back from training or a mission. His chest inflates with hope knowing Fushiguro might be there in his room, reading a book peacefully, only to drop it on the bed and stomp towards Itadori, worrying over the state of his body in typical Fushiguro fashion. It’s clear that he loves Itadori deeply. He’s gotten good at fixing up his wounds. It feels natural for Itadori to come to him first.
“Be more careful,” he’ll say every time. They always end up close. How can they not when Fushiguro insists on getting every last scratch, the ones on his back, the ones over his chest. He’s trailed his fingers over Itadori’s body more times than Itadori can count.
“I try!” Itadori always protests. That’s all he can say in retaliation. His head swims in the feel of Fushiguro’s fingertips over his burning skin and all words fail him.
“Are you going to sleep soon?” Fushiguro asks sometimes, when they both linger in awkward silence, Itadori not moving from his place on Fushiguro’s desk, Fushiguro not moving from between Itadori’s legs. Anticipation hangs in the air, in the fidget of Fushiguro’s fingers and his quickly flitting gaze, which Itadori always catches. He likes Fushiguro like this, a little shyer, more nervous in his love-giving.
“Nah,” Itadori breathes. He’s always tired after missions. “Wanna hang out?”
Fushiguro offers a small smile.
“Yeah,” he says, straightening his shoulders, backing away from the heat of Itadori’s body that colours his cheeks a faint red. “I’ll lend you a shirt, come on.”
The rest of the night is theirs.
Missions with Fushiguro are intense. He doesn’t let Itadori out of his sight, doesn’t let Itadori lose sight of himself.
“What are you doing?” Fushiguro yells, voice hoarse. They’re being swarmed. Fushiguro holds down the eastern end of the building, exorcising curses one after the other. “Don’t make me tell Gojo-sensei you couldn’t take a Grade 3 curse on your own!”
It’s not that he can’t finish it. Itadori is strong, he knows he’s strong. But he falters where there is an inkling of a child’s innocent face behind the distorted skin of the spirit. Fushiguro senses his hesitation, summons two more of his shikigami to take care of the last of the swarm before running to Itadori’s end, moonlight of the night around them casting Fushiguro’s own shadow against the wall like a wolf running to protect his pack.
Nue rips the curse into shreds. Fushiguro turns around, faces Itadori where he was pressed close to his back, guarded.
“What the hell, Itadori?” Fushiguro knows when to hiss his words, when it’s necessary to bring Itadori back to reality. “You could’ve gotten hurt.”
“I’m sorry-,” he breathes. His chest heaves with the effort to get air back into his lungs, to quell the burn of panic under his skin. “Sorry, Fushiguro. I’m sorry.”
Fushiguro sighs, frustrated. He brings a hand to the back of Itadori’s neck, holds him firm there.
“Stop that. They’re not human anymore, Itadori,” he presses. “Don’t forget it. You’re putting them out of their suffering by getting rid of them. You hear me?”
Itadori nods, frantic, focusing on the steady hold Fushiguro has on his nape. He feels Fushiguro’s thumb brush over the short hair there momentarily.
“You’re trying,” Fushiguro acknowledges, “I know. Just- don’t freeze up like that again.”
Fushiguro slides his hand from Itadori’s neck to rest over his heart, feeling the hurried thrum of life nestled behind his fingertips.
“You scared me.”
They return to their dorms in silence. Fushiguro is too tired to take care of the both of them, so they find themselves sitting beside each other on a sterile bench before Shoko.
“You boys look dead,” she says, working her hands over their shirtless bodies. She hurries them out of the room with a stern reminder to “Sleep! As soon as you get back into your rooms!”.
Fushiguro can see the way Itadori’s eyes glaze over as they walk, can tell that he can’t stop thinking about what happened back there.
“Hey,” he says, grabbing onto the other’s wrist gently before he can walk into his room. “You wanna stay with me tonight?”
Itadori doesn’t like this part of Fushiguro’s love, thinks it’s overwhelming, thinks he might never want to let him go if Fushiguro opens himself up like that for him. Itadori wants to say yes. He doesn’t want to be alone tonight, but he can’t find the words to speak.
Fushiguro understands anyway, like he always does. He lets Itadori shower in his bathroom first. The smell that is always his now lingers on Itadori’s hair and his skin. It makes the boy flare with warmth as he scrubs away the grime of their mission, relishing in the way showering just feels so much better in Fushiguro’s bathroom. By the time they’re both clean and Fushiguro has the spare futon laid out on the floor beside his bed, they are fighting sleep.
“Goodnight,” Fushiguro whispers. He leaves the curtain beside his bed a little drawn so that the room isn’t completely dark but dimly lit by the moon who peaks over a cloud. He knows Itadori likes it that way.
“Night,” Itadori mumbles. He hasn’t thought of his slip-up since he entered Fushiguro’s room, realises that going through his usual routine before bed with Fushiguro’s close presence is a calming distraction from his own thoughts. Itadori feels the intensity of his best friend’s love hit him like a storm. His eyes well with tears. He wants to tell Fushiguro that he’s thankful, wants to show him the breadth of his gratitude. He reaches out a hand from where he lies on the floor to brush against Fushiguro’s fingertips hanging limp over the bed. Itadori loves him, he really does. It’s hard to admit to himself, can’t grasp the sheer size of his admiration for the boy sleeping soundly above him. But in the moments when he does realise it, like now, the gravity of the situation settles on Itadori like a crushed star. Does Fushiguro feel that way too? Like he can’t breathe when he realises how much he cherishes Itadori? Probably, Itadori thinks. His chest feels like it’ll collapse from the thought, so he wills himself to sleep, still holding gently onto Fushiguro’s hand.
There are times when it isn’t always easy with Fushiguro. Itadori is a vessel. He’ll die soon either at Sukuna’s hands as his power eventually overrides Itadori’s soul or at the hands of some Jujutsu higher-up before that chance becomes reality. The inevitability of death waiting just around the corner changes you. Of course Itadori knows that everyone will die someday, that fearing death is normal, that the average Japanese person doesn’t live their life in caution just to avoid the nothingness that constitutes not living. But Itadori’s death is different, premeditated and calculated and crucial. He’ll still be a child, most likely. He’ll still panic before it all ends. He’ll still be in love with Fushiguro. If he plays his cards right, if he’s dead when they plan him to be, Fushiguro can live a long life. It’s a simple train of thought. Eat all of Sukuna’s fingers, let the higher-ups kill you, keep Fushiguro and Kugisaki and Gojo-sensei and Nanamin and everyone else safe. It plagues Itadori like a dull migraine, always there, never dissipating.
He lies in bed some nights imagining a life where he wakes up and just waltzes over to kiss Fushiguro square on the lips, a loud proclamation of his love. Or where he lets his touch linger on Fushiguro’s skin, his heart against Fushiguro’s heart, his breath Fushiguro’s breath. Sukuna listens in on his wishful thoughts, snickers like the king of evil he is, hollowing out Itadori’s chest for his throne, his territory. Right , Itadori remembers, turning to face the wall that divides his and Fushiguro’s room. I’m going to die. He wonders then how he can stop himself from loving his best friend. It should be easy right? Just don’t look at him like that, don’t think of him like that, don’t say yes when he asks you to stay, don’t let him listen to your thoughts. Itadori lets out a wet laugh. He doesn’t feel the tears until they’re trailing into his ears, down to his neck. You’re fucked , he thinks grimly. Itadori can’t do any of that. He is irrevocably a part of Fushiguro’s life as is Fushiguro a part of his. He thinks of what the boy next door might be doing at this hour of the night. Their beds are pushed up against the same wall. Maybe he’s sleeping, or reading like he usually does. Maybe he’s facing Itadori just like he is, face a breath away from the cold brick, thinking of Itadori just like Itadori’s thinking of him. A kiss to the wall, that’s what Itadori allows himself. He jerks his head away and rolls over, stares across the room at nothing but the darkness of the night. It’s hard to resist Fushiguro’s love when he wants to give back so badly but… can’t. It’s selfish to want Fushiguro the way he does, Itadori thinks. He’ll only bring him death in the end. Eventually, inevitably.
He falls asleep to the thought of Fushiguro and wakes with the thought of Fushiguro and washes up with Fushiguro tucked into the back of his head. Fushiguro, Fushiguro, Fushiguro. Itadori walks onto the field to find the other already warming up.
“Morning,” Fushiguro greets, voice still clouded with sleep, just a little gravelly and low. Itadori wills the blood rushing to his head to calm down, geez but in typical Itadori fashion, Fushiguro saying even the simplest of hellos renders Itadori a nervous wreck.
I don’t want to love you .
“Kugisaki wants to go to a new cafe she found after we’re done,” Fushiguro continues. He’s bending down to stretch his legs, track pants riding up past his ankles to reveal the pale skin of his shin. “Wanna come?”
Itadori should say no. He should lie, tell Fushiguro that he has to do something with Gojo-sensei today, or that he might want to head back to their dorms to catch a few more hours of sleep. He doesn’t want to stand shoulder to shoulder with him before a counter, listening to Kugisaki order for the three of them, feeling Fushiguro nudge Itadori towards a free table with a look of “Go, I’ll grab your stuff” on his face. Of course he’ll make sure to get extra straws because Itadori always bites the tips of his and Fushiguro always wordlessly replaces them when he’s noticed. He’ll watch to make sure Itadori eats, that his food is good, that his drink is good, that he isn’t too tired from their morning’s training to be sitting in a cafe instead of getting the tightness in his muscles rolled out, by Fushiguro. He doesn’t want any of that because it makes him love Fushiguro like he’s never loved anything before, drowning in the other’s existence like he’s never felt water at his lips, basking in his warmth like he’s never felt the Sun on his skin. Itadori knows he can’t love his best friend, not like this, heart in his throat, palms beginning to sweat as the hum of Sukuna’s malevolent, ever growing presence permeates throughout his body like a sinister reminder, you belong to me now , as if taunting Itadori, urging him to give in to Fushiguro just to switch out with him and rip the boy apart in the end. Itadori shivers, hurries to shake the creeping bloodlust from under his skin. It must crawl over him like a dark, overbearing aura, because Fushiguro has stopped stretching, watches Itadori carefully now, stepping back slightly.
God , Itadori thinks. He’s terrified of me.
“I’m just gonna-,” Itadori stammers, feeling bile climb up his throat, thick and burning. He doesn’t finish what he has to say, doesn’t even make it completely into his room, panting, head spinning, before he’s emptying his stomach over the entryway just in front of his door. His head is pounding, his throat too narrow, eyes straining out of their sockets. He retches with spit trailing down his lips, feels his fingers stick together with vomit. There’s an awful sourness to the air flowing in and out of him, not just from the puke but as if from something else, something deep within him rotting. Itadori claws at the fabric of his shirt over his chest, terrified of the realisation that a part of him is decaying, desperate to get it out. He doesn’t know what good it even does, having his slick fingers dig into his skin, as if to reach in and wrench the festering piece of himself free.
The hand at his chest freezes. He didn’t hear Fushiguro approach, not over the roaring in his ears and the sound of his own gagging. There are hands around his waist suddenly, strong. Fushiguro anchors him before his knees can give in.
“What’s wrong? Itadori, talk to me,” Fushiguro rushes, the sound of alarm shrill in his voice. A new wave of nausea hits him. He throws up again and again, heaving the bile out, and when there’s none of that left his body starts to reject water, hands trembling, legs shaking. Fushiguro holds him through it, a hand circling around his front to keep him steady, the other pushing back his hair. He presses the length of his front to Itadori’s back, mouth beside his ear whispering things Itadori can’t hear.
He hates him. Itadori hates him and he loves him and he wants to disappear. He’s terrified it’ll happen now. They’re so close, Itadori isn’t himself. He’s terrified he’ll hurt Fushiguro, blood mixing in with the sick on the floor.
“Fushiguro,” he whispers. His voice isn’t his own. He feels the way the other becomes attentive to his words, breathing “Yes? Yes Itadori?” frantically like he’s dying to know how he can help. Itadori squeezes his eyes shut.
“Leave,” he rasps, bringing a hand up to pull at Fushiguro’s arm that’s still curled around his stomach. He’s soiling Fushiguro’s uniform, but he needs him to leave. He’s afraid and he needs him to leave.
A moment of hesitation racks Fushiguro before he speaks again. His grip is still firm.
“It’s okay,” he assures. He tries to cover it, but Itadori can hear the slight tremor in his speech, the sound of poorly veiled fear. “I’m not disgusted. Inumaki-senpai did this in my lap once.”
He cards his fingers through Itadori’s hair, feeling the sweat there, persistent in his ministrations like he doesn’t give a damn that he’s feeling someone else’s sticky perspiration, their bodily rejections.
Itadori feels something at the pit of his stomach churn. Fushiguro knows. He knows that Itadori isn’t just emptying his stomach of some spoiled milk from breakfast or a stomach bug or anything of that matter. He saw Itadori back there on the field, sensed his friend’s distress and the way Itadori fought with something inside himself, with Sukuna. Itadori needs him to leave.
“Get out,” he grits through his teeth, wrenching himself free from Fushiguro’s hold. He turns to face him, sees the concern written over Fushiguro’s face and his outstretched arms like Itadori’s something sentimental on the shelf about to fall and break.
He pushes with his hands against Fushiguro’s chest, a heavy shove that forces the boy to stumble back.
“Go,” Itadori yells. He shoves Fushiguro again, doesn’t look at his eyes that will obviously betray his hurt at the way Itadori wears a dark sneer, his shock at Itadori’s violent outburst.
“Please Fushiguro,” he tries when the other holds his ground just before the door. “Don’t make me hurt you.”
He’s begging him. Yes, he’ll get on his hands and knees and beg Fushiguro to leave. He’ll kneel in his own vomit and repeat himself until Fushiguro turns away in disgust, in defeat.
But Fushiguro doesn’t let him get to that point. He reaches a hand into the bathroom beside him to switch on the light.
“Okay,” he breathes, dragging his hand back across the wall. “I’ll go. I’ll go, just- don’t hurt yourself, Itadori.”
He backs out the door quickly, but Itadori’s rushing forward faster than Fushiguro to close it himself for good measure, fingers shaking where he struggles with the lock. He lets out a low grunt, sinking over as he wonders if a single lock would keep him in if Sukuna switches out.
Itadori thinks it isn’t easy with Fushiguro sometimes, but it is. It always is. He stumbles to the bathroom where his trembling, wet hands don’t have to fiddle with the switch that Fushiguro knew to flip before leaving. He senses him still standing outside the door, head pressed up against it to listen in. He won’t leave until Gojo-sensei and Shoko-sensei arrive, until he hears them say Itadori will be alright. He’ll stay to clean up Itadori’s mess, put new sheets on Itadori’s bed just because, spray something nice-smelling in his bathroom, get a fresh set of clothes ready for when Shoko-sensei decides it’s okay for Itadori to leave the school’s wards. He’s seen Itadori like this before, but never this bad, always reserved to some level, so Fushiguro will treat Itadori with extra care this time. He’ll ask Kugisaki to spend the night because he knows it calms Itadori to have them all together like that. He’ll even bring them all food, going back and forth between the stove and his laptop where the recipe Itadori gave him is stored. Kugisaki will say it’s “Damn good” and Itadori will eat wordlessly because it is good, it’s better than he makes it and it renders him silent. He knows Fushiguro doesn’t usually cook and isn’t always good at it. They don’t talk about what happened, which Itadori is grateful for. He wouldn’t know what to say. He steals glances at Fushiguro throughout the night, when Kugisaki is busy changing the song playing softly on the speaker or getting the next episode of their binge ready. Thank you , he tells him, or hopes he does. Fushiguro smiles softly, and it reaches Itadori like first light on a cold winter morning.
He’s more cautious around Fushiguro afterwards. It takes a few nights of lying awake for hours to get into the heart wrenching habit of ignoring Fushiguro more often. Well, not necessarily ignoring, because Itadori sees Fushiguro everyday, but indifference towards his affection, whatever way it may come. He tells himself it’s the right thing to do because he doesn’t want to die with Fushiguro’s name on his lips and doesn’t want Fushiguro to die with Itadori’s on his. It’d be the cruelest way to go, the worst way to leave Fushiguro behind, still loving each other, desperate for more time.
It’s a quiet, spring night when they almost fall apart like Itadori intends.
Fushiguro has his hands gliding over Itadori’s legs, digging his palms and knuckles into the muscle.
Itadori groans. The cramp in his calf starts to unfurl.
“Yep, right there,” he sighs. They’re sitting on Itadori's bed where Fushiguro barged in to find him twisted in the sheets in pain. He’d read the mess of texts Itadori had sent with confusion pulling at his brows, but upon deciphering the mispelt words (“fishiroo” “can u cone over here” “bad cramlp”) he’d hurried over in seconds. Itadori doesn’t know how to ration out his more private moments with Fushiguro now that he’s starved of them. All rationality wants to escape him when the opportunity to be close to each other presents itself, so once he sends the texts, he regrets it immediately. He reasons that he’ll just keep quiet, just get the cramp kneaded out and tell him he can go. Stupid Itadori. Silly Itadori. His love for Fushiguro transcends his cold habit of distancing himself. He melts under Fushiguro’s hands.
He can feel the mattress dip as Fushiguro climbs in beside him, kneeling over Itadori’s body to work at his legs better. Always so deliberate and dedicated. Fushiguro hooks his fingers under his pant hem and pulls it up past his knees, gaining better access to his skin. Itadori sighs.
“How are you feeling?” Fushiguro asks after a few minutes of silence.
“It‘s good,” he mumbles.
“No, I mean- how have you been feeling lately?”
Itadori frowns into the pillow. He turns to face Fushiguro.
“Uhh,” he plays it off nonchalantly, desperate to avoid the gravity of the question, “I’ve been fine. What about you?”
He cringes at his attempt to pass the situation off as two friends catching up with each other. They’re not just two friends. Itadori knows that. But he’s trying hard to undo what got them to this point in the first place, the deep understanding, the unwavering trust.
Fushiguro sees right through him.
“Itadori,” he breathes, the way that drives Itadori crazy with want, with the need to just give up and fall into Fushiguro like a sighing tide against the shore. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Of course he'd want to talk about it. Any normal person would. Itadori didn’t think this far ahead, didn’t factor in Fushiguro’s way of being so perceptive and stubborn.
“You’ve been acting strange,” he hears him say.
“How?” It comes off as defensive, curious, as if innocent to Fushiguro’s claim. Itadori’s mind reels, scrambles to find purchase to something that will get him out of this riptide, fast.
Fushiguro runs a hand through his hair, leaving his forehead exposed when it doesn’t fall back down over his eyes. A little damp , Itadori notes, and then shakes the thought away, like paying this close attention to Fushiguro is bad.
“Do you want me to spell it out?” Frustration coats his voice thick. He doesn’t give Itadori a chance to answer before he sinks into the mattress, legs tucked underneath him, and really spells it out.
“You avoid me at breakfast, you run your laps with Panda-senpai now, you go to Kugisaki of all people for help with stretching. She never stretches!”
Itadori opens his mouth, closes it. He must look stupid propped up against his pillows, one pant leg pulled up, eyes wide. A deer caught in headlights.
“It’s obviously not just that that’s bothering me, Itadori,” Fushiguro’s voice is softer now, eyes trained somewhere on Itadori’s hoodie like he’s thinking hard and drifting. “You know you can still come to me after your missions right? I’ll still clean you up.” He looks away, turning his face to hide the gentle blush rising to his cheeks.
“I miss eating your food too.”
Oh. That one hits Itadori like an arrow to the chest. Fushiguro is open, he voices his thoughts when he needs to and talks to Itadori about things when he wants. But this is different. It’s a reserved, almost shy admittance of the way he’s missed Itadori’s constant presence beside him. He doesn’t talk about the part where Itadori moves away from Fushiguro’s hand when he reaches to sink it in his hair now, or swiftly dodges an arm over his shoulders.
Itadori lets out a ragged breath, half laugh (because he’s going mad) and very awkward. The line between this being a simple confrontation or a full-blown meltdown from Itadori’s end runs very thin. He can feel the weight of the atmosphere, heavy but not suffocating. Nothing he can’t handle with something witty, or sly, or by laughing it off with a nonsensical joke.
He doesn’t expect Fushiguro to tell him he loves him while they sit in Itadori’s bed in the middle of some almost-fight.
“What?” Itadori asks dumbly.
“I love you,” Fushiguro says, matter of fact, like 1+1=2, like the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, like the moon climbs the sky every night without fail. Itadori stares at him like he’s grown two heads.
Fushiguro continues his gentle massage up and down Itadori’s calf, like he didn’t just drop the L-bomb on Itadori out of absolutely nowhere. His touch feels infinitely more heated this time, like every stroke of his fingers over Itadori’s skin draws the blood to the surface and sets it ablaze.
“Why are you so shocked?” Fushiguro continues casually, inspecting Itadori’s foot with concentration. “You always knew.”
The wild beating of Itadori’s heart threatens to rip his chest open. Fushiguro’s right. Itadori did know, he’s always known. He’s known it every time they gravitate to each other after a day apart, every time Fushiguro lets him sleep even though Itadori insists on just a nap, every time Fushiguro wakes him up when his alarm doesn’t, when he eats Itadori’s food like it's the best food he’s ever had, when he returns the borrowed shirts freshly washed. He feels it in Fushiguro’s gaze, soft in the mornings as he watches a sleepy Itadori stumble around the common area, tender in the evenings as he pulls Itadori’s shirt off, shushing him so he can patch him up. Fushiguro is so insistent in the way he loves Itadori. It’s made itself known in everything he does, even when they’re apart, when Itadori can’t see. He wakes with Itadori as his first thought and sleeps with him as his last. He makes sure to tuck an extra bottle of water under his arm before heading to the tracks because Itadori’s the faster runner, the one who makes more laps. He wonders if Itadori’s watched that episode yet while he showers so he can ask him to watch it together. Anything experienced with Itadori is just better than without. Itadori doesn’t know this part of Fushiguro’s love, the personal thoughts, the pondering, the constant factoring of Itadori into Fushiguro’s life because he likes it that way.
You always knew .
Itadori draws his legs away from Fushiguro, rising from the bed.
“Fushiguro,” he starts, voice coloured grey. It dies down to a whisper, trembling at the edges when he speaks again, “You can’t do this.”
Itadori knows what it feels like to lose someone you love. He knows the cold of a hospital room and the emptiness of a house like a strong, pungent aftertaste in his mouth, always there, always lingering. He looks at Fushiguro and wants to hold him now more than ever but he’ll taste the death on Itadori’s tongue, black tar between their lips. There is death on other parts of Itadori too, his hands, his eyes, his breath. He knows it and lives it and will go to it eventually, someday, on his knees, hands shackled behind his back. Why can’t Fushiguro see that? Why can’t Fushiguro understand that loving him will kill him too? If not literally then it’ll settle in the back of his throat and stay there for the rest of his days, a cruel reminder of the cruel fate of losing someone who was irrevocably placed in your life, a constant now gone, something uniform now shattered. Itadori can’t ask that of him. He can’t ask anything of Fushiguro, kind, caring Fushiguro who watches over him silently, who listens to him attentively, who reaches into his chest with his hands and cradles Itadori’s heart like a babe just born to this world.
Itadori can’t let Fushiguro near him. He loves him. He loves him too deeply to see him hurt. He thinks of something stupid, something awful that will drive Fushiguro away, will keep Fushiguro safe.
“I don’t-,” Itadori pushes. His breath catches at the back of his throat, lodged against the thick ball of grief growing there already, forcing his airway shut like a hand clasped over his neck squeezing hard. The sound in his ears goes faint. Good , he thinks. Itadori is selfish this way, doesn’t want to hear what he has to say next.
“But I don’t, Fushiguro. I don’t… love you back or anything,” Itadori forces out, wincing at the pained, uneasy laughter bubbling out of his throat.
It has to work. It’s reckless and awful and so stupid but Itadori feels the seams holding his heart together tear slowly, each little stitch of his death ridden core becoming undone, so it has to work. The words knock the air out of his lungs, but he stands there poised, guarding the frantic, erratic beating beneath his chest. Fushiguro stares at him a little wide-eyed, mouth hanging open slightly.
“Yuuji,” he calls. The roll of his name over Fushiguro’s tongue is the sweetest cruelty he’s ever known. He’s beckoning him, he’s calling for him, he’s being stubborn and relentless and so, so persistent.
“I don’t love you,” Itadori tries anyway. The sound of his desperation is ugly. It warps his voice into something he’s never shown to Fushiguro or even himself. It curls into the air between them like a curse of its own kind, thick and viscous, heavy with pain and dishonesty. The aftertaste in his mouth grows strong. “I don’t. I don’t, Fushiguro.”
He watches with his heart in his throat as Fushiguro climbs off the bed, closing the distance between them with slow, tentative steps as if approaching a wounded animal. The look on his face makes Itadori nauseous, those brows pulled together in concern, those eyes glazed over in worry. Fushiguro looks at him as if he’s falling apart.
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Itadori cries. His chest is heaving, hands trembling where he brings them up to his eyes, covering the fat tears rolling down his cheeks. He knows he’s panicking, can feel the blood in his head pounding as he hurries to remedy the situation, as he hurries to calm himself, to make himself the bearer of heartache and Fushiguro the victim of it. Why isn’t he leaving me?
The hands on his wrists are cool.
“Look at me,” Fushiguro whispers. He pulls at Itadori’s hands, pries them away from his face with some difficulty. Itadori doesn’t want to be seen like this, caught in his own trap, victim of his own poison. His eyes are swollen a little, red around the edges. Fushiguro brushes his thumb over his friend’s cheek, catching the cascade of new tears with his own skin. Your pain is my pain.
There is nothing in Fushiguro’s gaze that speaks of his faltering. Fushiguro is so strong this way, locking Itadori’s eyes with his own, forcing the other to look, look , at how he doesn’t waver. Itadori holds onto the sleeves of Fushiguro’s shirt, grasping the fabric tight. He is blind to his own dichotomy - begging Fushiguro to leave him but holding onto him as if to never let go.
“Don’t do this,” Fushiguro pleads, a firm echo of Itadori’s own words from moments earlier. He holds the boy’s face in his hands, fingers gentle against Itadori’s jaw and cheeks and just brushing against his nape. The steady thrum of blood under Fushiguro’s fingertips feels intensified where they make contact with Itadori’s burning skin.
“I didn’t save you back then just to let you die alone someday.” Itadori’s lips tremble, vision going blurry. “Do you understand?” Fushiguro pushes Itadori’s head back slightly with calculated force, a jerk back to reality. His voice is cold, but not distant. It envelopes Itadori like cool moonlight on a summer night, mellow and radiant, gentle and absolute in the dark. He doesn’t speak to Itadori with hurt lacing his speech or malice curling over his tongue. He holds Itadori in his hands and speaks to him with a firmness that eases his wild breathing, his frenzied eyes.
“I know you’re afraid. You’re scared you’re going to kill me,” Fushiguro continues, voicing Itadori’s hellish demons without hesitation as if exorcising something right out of his soul. A sound lurches out of Itadori’s throat like a distressed whine, like hearing Fushiguro speak what he’s been running from this entire time is equivalent to the actual deed, the actual terror of Fushiguro lying dead in his arms.
“We’re Jujutsu sorcerers, Itadori. If I die, it’s no one’s fault but mine. We save people. That’s all we do.” Fushiguro presses his fingers into Itadori’s skin. “You’re not saving me by letting me go like this.”
Itadori feels the breath inside him swell. Fushiguro’s words are a cruel hope. They make the looming threat of Sukuna’s dormant powers simmering inside him seem trivial against the unspoken promise of Fushiguro’s eternal devotion.
I didn’t save you just to let you die alone .
“You want to keep me safe?” Fushiguro is like moonlight on a dark winter night, a blanket of white over the deep shadows and unlit corners. “Save me, Itadori. Keep me by your side where I feel safest. Don’t let me go with a lie like that.”
He learns it then, that his impending death and Fushiguro’s vast love are two inseparable totals in his life. The inevitability of death is just as inescapable as the way he’s pulled towards Fushiguro like planet to star. Fushiguro knows Itadori will go someday, understands the delicate and merciless balance between reality and fate. So he decides to love him entirely. There’s no time to lose, no time to waste. Itadori feels warmth seep into his every bone.
“You’re obsessed with me,” he mutters wetly. It’s meant to be a silly jab, a breath of light exasperation to alleviate the thick tension in the room. But it comes out thin, flickering. Itadori can’t hide the way he sobs around the words.
Fushiguro doesn’t miss it.
“I’m not leaving you, Itadori. You thought it would hurt me to hear you say that you don’t feel for me? I’m not stupid.”
A brush of fingers ghosts over Itadori’s lips. He lets his eyes flicker closed, can’t bear to look at Fushiguro’s earnest face opening up his entire being and devouring him whole. “I know you.”
The night around them is quiet. They are so close, body to body, skin to skin. Itadori’s breaths become Fushiguro’s air. It’s so easy with him and Itadori marvels at it, the way he can sigh into Fushiguro’s mouth and feel nothing but free for the first time since he swallowed that finger all those nights ago. He’s being guided back to the bed with lips on his own and hands on his waist and thinks am I kissing him properly? with heat settling over his neck and ears. He tastes all the mornings of gentle yearning in Fushiguro, all the sweet toast, the watchful gazes, the want and need and longing.
They share their first kiss, first shaky breaths etched into the other’s skin, first marks over each other’s shoulders and neck until they are dizzy, eyes drooping and breathing slow. They fall asleep squished into Itadori’s bed. Itadori is out for hours, dreaming of nothing, waking with the realisation that Fushiguro is his. He looks down at Fushiguro still sleeping beside him, eyelashes fanned over his cheeks, hair haloed around his head, and decides he’ll have to be careful with how long he stares at him because something hot pools in Itadori’s stomach and he can’t bear it. He’ll make Fushiguro breakfast, he decides, slipping out of the covers quietly. Start there , Itadori thinks. Love him back like you’ve always wanted to.