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If there’s one thing in this world that he ought to appreciate more, Yuuji decides as hot water sluices over his war-weary body, it’s the simple pleasures of life. The shower—an honest shower, not some dilapidated school’s ice cold water faucet or, he shudders to remember, a questionably iridescent pothole puddle in the middle of the city after recent rain—is a luxury he’d seriously taken for granted before. He savors it now, the sensation of steam filling his lungs and the herbal scent of borrowed shampoo that permeates the air around him as he scrubs at his matted hair to remove any lingering dust or blood. If he’s honest, this alone might be enough for him to retract his earlier protests about returning to Jujutsu Tech like Okkotsu-senpai and Fushiguro had insisted.

There’s an uncomfortable lurch in his stomach at the thought of Fushiguro or, rather, his lack of presence. It grates his nerves raw whenever he’s out of Yuuji’s immediate line of sight after everything that’s happened but he refuses to inconvenience him further by asking him to stay while he showers, of all things. It’s fine. In fact, it’s probably better this way; if it turns out he is delusional, that he dreamed up their whole reunion and Fushiguro’s nowhere to be found save for his deranged mind, well, that might be the better scenario considering Sukuna’s still unknown plans.

Besides, despite how much he craves it, being in Fushiguro’s presence only makes him feel filthier.

He stands under the spray until the hot water runs out, scrubbing and scrubbing at his skin until it feels raw, like if he rubs hard enough he’ll be able to wash away the memory of Shibuya entirely. He’s rosy as a newborn when he finally steps out of the shower stall but somehow he can still feel the cling of sin all over him, coating him in its stifling film. Closing his eyes, he releases a shuddering breath and runs his towel roughly over his hair in an attempt to direct his focus anywhere else.

Pulling the towel forward until it blocks his peripheral vision, Yuuji makes his way across the dewy tile towards the bench where his clothes lay. He keeps his chin tucked down for good measure to avoid glimpsing the wall of mirrors on the way; he knows from stolen peeks in cracked window fronts and the fractured reflection of car mirrors that he no longer resembles the boy who left this place however many months ago it’s been now. His face alone betrays his weakness for all the world to see.

He’s just pulled on a fresh pair of sweatpants and is reaching for his shirt when a cool pair of fingers brush against his back. Stiffening, Yuuji whirls around to find Fushiguro watching him with those too-sharp sea-glass eyes of his. (How had he not heard him come in? How could he allow him so close, close enough to touch?) Clutching the shirt to his chest as if it can shield him, Yuuji inches back a step and tries to ignore the way the exit scar made by Okkotsu’s katana burns.

“Hey,” he greets, wincing at the tremor in his voice. Clearing his throat, he shuffles from foot to foot. “Um, were you waiting to shower?”

“Just checking on you,” Fushiguro says, critical eyes roaming over him as if to assess for wounds that Yuuji might have hidden from him. They catch on the newly formed scars on his chest and waist before he brings them back to Yuuji’s. There’s nothing carnal or heated behind it; just a quick once-over to gauge how he’s doing. Before, even a small look like that would have had Yuuji’s blood thrumming through his veins but now he wants nothing more than to avoid it.

(Fushiguro’s always had a talent for making Yuuji feel naked in the purest sense; it’s even worse now because he knows that there’s no pity in his gaze, no disappointment or disgust at the sight of him like there should be. Fushiguro doesn’t look at him and see what the mirror reflects—all the evidence of Yuuji’s weakness and depravity covering him from head to toe. He looks at him like he’s laid eyes on something rare, precious, like he’s something worth admiring.)

The silence has stretched a little too long between them so Yuuji hurries to fill it. “I’m fine. Tired. I think I’m going to call it a night soon.” As if he can sleep more than a few hours at best anymore. Fushiguro doesn’t need to know that though.

Despite his efforts to appear casual (normal) he gets a disbelieving kind of hum that tells him Fushiguro knows anyway. (Of course he does. Yuuji may as well be made of glass when Fushiguro looks at him. He certainly feels just as fragile right now, like another graze of those chilled fingers might fracture his entire being, splinter him into millions of irreparable pieces. His pulse beats a thunderous rhythm in his throat.

Maybe he kind of wants to shatter.)

“Does it hurt?” Fushiguro asks instead of acknowledging his lie. He gestures vaguely at Yuuji’s chest where the fresh scar over his heart can be seen from behind the shirt he’s still clutching like a shield. It’s fairly small, linear and clean, the new skin the type of shiny pink that belies its age. It’s tender, but so is the rest of him. He shakes his head rather than speak, afraid any words he utters right now might be too honest.

Almost as if he doesn’t believe him, Fushiguro steps closer with an outstretched hand, his gaze focused on the glimpse of scar tissue he can see, and it’s so unexpected that Yuuji almost doesn’t move in time. His flight instinct kicks in a second before Fushiguro can touch him; he jerks away, side-stepping until he’s managed to put a few feet between them. They stare at each other with equal wide-eyed shock, both stunned at his behavior. He never shied away from physical affection before. Yuuji’s always the one closing the gap, actively seeking out if not initiating, especially with Fushiguro.

Breaking the mounting tension with nervous laughter that echoes too loudly against the bathroom tile, Yuuji rubs the back of his damp hair as he averts his gaze to his feet.

“Sorry.” He doesn’t want to witness the hurt he knows is building in those perceptive eyes. “I swear it’s okay now so don’t worry about it. We should get some rest.”

There’s a pregnant pause, filled only with the occasional drip of water from the shower head and their soft breathing, during which Yuuji knows Fushiguro is analyzing him, can practically feel the sweep of his eyes as he catalogues all the little things that give Yuuji away in a way that spoken language can’t, and he doesn’t know how to hide them because before, before he hadn’t needed to, hadn’t had any reason to want to. Before, it had been a sweet comfort to know someone saw him so plainly, that someone cared enough about him to learn his habits and tells and know when and how to confront him when he needed it. He’s realized too late now that it’s a double-edged sword. He has no one to blame but himself.

He tenses when Fushiguro steps forward again, hands out in front of him like he’s placating a wild thing, and Yuuji almost laughs because it feels true.

(He forgets that Fushiguro is experienced in taming.)

“I’m not going to hurt you, Itadori.”

Of course not. That’s the problem, isn’t it? Yuuji can’t bring himself to look up when he murmurs, voice cracking, “I know that.”

“Okay. Can I touch you?” From beneath his lashes he sees Fushiguro hold out a hand, palm up and patient, for Yuuji to consider.

He should refuse. Come up with some other flimsy excuse to leave, to run, to keep Fushiguro as far away from him as feasibly possible because Fushiguro’s safety is what matters to him most right now and Yuuji is nothing if not a carefully laid trap waiting for him to misstep right into Sukuna’s waiting palms.

But he can’t. As much as his conscience screams at him to flee, begs him not to be weak just this once, he aches for Fushiguro’s forgiving touch. Throat tightening as the corners of his eyes start to burn, Yuuji nods his consent.

Fushiguro’s fingers slide around his wrist without hesitation, grip light and easily breakable, but it sends a shock-wave of sensation up the length of his arm all the same. He’s torn between wrenching away and reveling in the contact but Fushiguro doesn’t give him time to decide on either.

“Come on,” he coaxes as he takes a step towards the door. He doesn’t pull Yuuji along with him, just takes the first step and watches him expectantly as Yuuji stares at the place where those long fingers encircle his wrist. He wonders if he can feel the sticky residue coating his skin the way Yuuji does.

Pull away, his head urges even as his feet move forward to follow. You’re tainting him.

It’s a futile plea. The walk from the dormitory bathroom to Fushiguro’s room is a short one; even with his own bedroom door within reach, Yuuji can’t bring himself to pull away from Fushiguro a third time. With one final glance down the hall, he steps into Fushiguro’s room and allows himself to be guided onto the bed.

It’s almost strange to sit on a bed again after so long resting against unforgiving concrete. He settles his back against the headboard as the mattress dips low with Fushiguro’s added weight when he sits next to him, taking in the room with a muted sort of curiosity. He’d been in here a few times in the past but only in quick passing; they had been careful to avoid hanging out alone in such private spaces before.

He’s startled out of his reverie when Fushiguro releases his wrist, his fingers leaving a scorching trail in their wake as he slides them over the peaks of Yuuji’s scarred knuckles before flipping his hand palm up. He stares at it a moment, something contemplative in his eyes that Yuuji can’t quite place but has him watching with bated breath, until he squares his shoulders and sets his mouth in that way that says he’s reached a decision that he’s determined to see through. Lifting Yuuji’s hand, he presses a feather-light kiss to the exposed skin of his palm; the warm wash of his breath sears the base of his wrist, leaving Yuuji frozen in shock. Fushiguro’s lashes flutter against his cheeks before he raises his gaze to meet Yuuji’s almost defiantly.

Heart racing hard enough he’s sure Fushiguro can see its frantic beat in the base of his throat, he yanks his hand away. His windpipe feels too tight for words but he manages to sputter, “Fushiguro wh—what are you—?”

“I’m tired of this, Itadori.” The golden hue of the fading sun reflects in his eyes, pinning Yuuji in place with their fiery intensity. “All of the feigning, the playing dumb.”

Everything in him seems to freeze at those words. His fingertips grow numb from how hard he’s squeezing them together. As if on autopilot, he asks, “What are you talking about?”

Huffing through his nose, Fushiguro seems to change tactics and challenges instead, “Do you trust me?”

“Of course, but what’s that got to do with—”

“Everything,” he interrupts, voice dropping as the fierceness fades from his gaze with the encroaching dusk, replaced with something Yuuji’s unwilling to name. “It has everything to do with this. So.” Shifting around to sit in front of Yuuji rather than beside him, he offers an upturned palm. “Trust me?”

And how can Yuuji deny him after all they’ve been through? How can he throw something so precious, something they’ve built together, back in his face just because he’s afraid? He knows that if he takes Fushiguro’s hand now, everything will change. Feeling every bit as weak as he is, he unfurls his white-knuckled fist in answer.

Fushiguro’s palm is warm against the back of his hand when he takes it, pulling it into his lap with surprising patience. He soothes the tense muscles by rhythmically rubbing his thumb across the expanse of Yuuji’s palm. Once he’s sure he won’t draw back, Fushiguro guides his hand to his mouth to press a lingering kiss to his inner wrist where a silvery scar crosses over from his forearm. A tortured kind of noise claws its way out of Yuuji’s throat.

Fushiguro trails a line of kisses down the length of his forearm, every press of his lips like a brand, searing and almost painful in their tenderness. He pauses to exhale into the crook of his elbow before following up with another kiss that draws a full-bodied shiver from Yuuji before he continues making his way back up to his wrist, every stop purposefully slow and gentle. Some are so soft, so fleeting, Yuuji wonders if he’s imagining them, but even before he’d never allowed himself to dream so vividly.

He can’t allow this to continue. He’s already been selfish enough. When Fushiguro reaches the base of his wrist again, planting one final kiss before making to shower Yuuji’s other hand with the same attention, Yuuji manages to find his voice, though only barely.

“Don’t,” he whispers, tone thick with unshed tears. He’s having a hard time ignoring the emotion he keeps seeing in those sea-glass eyes anymore. Don’t do this. You deserve better than what little I have left to offer.

Almost as if he can hear the thoughts running rampant in his head, Fushiguro pins him with a stern look as he places a deliberate kiss to the meat of his palm. His lips send electric sparks up his fingertips when he speaks, voice low when he utters, “Yuuji.”

There’s no ignoring it now. Reverence.

The use of his given name makes Yuuji clench his teeth so hard his jaw aches. Damn it, why, why now is Fushiguro crossing that carefully drawn line they’ve purposefully side-stepped all this time? There was an unspoken agreement that no matter how many times they caught one another staring longingly, no matter how often their hands brushed as they walked too close together, or when they fell asleep against one another’s shoulder, or any of the hundreds of times they passed off a lingering touch as concern for a teammate, they would not cross it. So why now, when Yuuji’s barely even human anymore, would he choose to ignore it? Erase it, even?

How can he even still want to? How can he stand to look at Yuuji now, much less touch him? Unsure he can handle the answer to those questions, he swallows them down instead.

Fushiguro calls to him again with eyes softer than he’s ever seen them, those captivating sea-glass eyes that pierce right through the core of him, and Yuuji can’t stand that he’s the focus of such an expression. Not now. Not after everything. He wants the rage, the heartache, the exasperation, the rightful disgust—he wants Fushiguro to realize he’s making a mistake.

He’s going to ruin his life.

“Do you want me to stop?”

Why are you asking me that when you know, you already know; you see right through me!

He can’t. If he opens his mouth he’s not sure what will escape but he knows it won’t be the one word that Fushiguro needs to hear to end this farce. Because as angry as Yuuji is, it’s not really with Fushiguro, is it? He’s selfish, so damn selfish to indulge in this when, more than ever, he doesn’t deserve it. He’s cruel to lead Fushiguro on to hope for something that can never be real. And he’s so pitifully weak because he can’t—no, won’t—pull away despite knowing that.

There’s a soft sigh before Fushiguro turns his hand over to kiss each of his knuckles one at a time with agonizing slowness. When he’s done he holds out his free hand towards Yuuji, brows raised expectantly.

Don’t. There’s no turning back if this goes any further, you know that. You can’t do this to him. You’re just going to ruin him.

The shirt he’d forgotten about slides over his hip as he places his trembling hand in Fushiguro’s steady one. The next brush of lips makes his chest hitch. He clutches Fushiguro’s fingers hard enough to bruise and the reassuring squeeze he’s given back draws a sob from his throat.

“Hey, none of that,” Fushiguro admonishes softly seconds later, releasing his hands so he can cup Yuuji’s wet face between his palms. Sweeping his thumbs beneath his eyes, he wipes away the tears that Yuuji barely registers with how tight his chest has become. The question he’s been suffocating on finally bursts out of him.

“Why now?” he chokes out, grabbing a fistful of Fushiguro’s shirt just to have something to hold on to. The words feel wrong on his tongue but he spits them out anyway. “If this is your way of showing pity, I don’t want it.”

Take this excuse and run. Please.

But of course he doesn’t. Not honest Fushiguro.

“You know that’s not it.” He gasps when warm lips brush the inner edge of his eyebrow before trailing down the entire length of the scar severing his face until Fushiguro pauses in the middle of his salty cheek. He pulls back only enough to rest their foreheads together, voice raw and unsteady for the first time tonight as he demands, “If not now, then when? When will we have another chance, Yuuji?” He grasps the back of his neck to pull him impossibly closer as he whispers, “I don’t want to lose sight of you again without ever knowing how it feels to hold you this way.”

Sucking in a desperate breath, Yuuji twists the fabric of the shirt between his fingers in a pathetic attempt not to pull him even closer, grasp him by the hips and drag him right into his lap so he can bury his face in the crook of his neck and breathe in the scent of something other than ash and copper. He doesn’t deserve what he’s being offered, doesn’t want to stain Fushiguro with the blood on his hands or, worse, hurt him the way he’s hurt so many others.

Something in Fushiguro shifts; Yuuji feels the way his body tenses before he pulls back, demanding, “Look at me.” Compelled by the sudden fire in his tone, he opens his eyes only to be met with a familiar expression of ire. For a moment, he thinks Fushiguro’s come to his senses, that he recognizes the breathing disaster in his hands, until he speaks again.

“Listen to me. One word from you and I’ll stop. We’ll pretend this never happened, keep playing as if we’re just teammates, whatever you want.” His eyes narrow, all too knowing when he adds, “But you have to mean it, Yuuji. If you don’t want this with me, that’s fine. I can accept that. But don’t you dare push me away out of some misplaced sense of protection or whatever other self-righteous bullshit you’ve made up to convince yourself this is wrong.”

Gods damn it. Indignation flares to life inside of him at having his concerns so readily dismissed. If Fushiguro’s so damn perceptive where Yuuji’s concerned, why can’t he understand? Just because they’ve crossed the line doesn’t mean their wants suddenly outweigh the risks. He acts as if it’s easy for Yuuji to choose between twin desires to be with the one he loves or protect him. As if he’s not in a position in which the two are mutually exclusive. He shouldn’t have to spell it out to pragmatic Fushiguro, of all people.

(But if there’s one thing he’s learned from spending so much of his time with this boy it’s that, beneath his mature appearance and years of experience, and despite how he vehemently denies it, Fushiguro is incredibly kind. Exasperatingly enough, his kindness often means he is willing to be the self-sacrificial idiot—something Yuuji is not willing to compromise on here.)

“Is it really so bad?” Yuuji snaps, blood rushing in his ears at the prospect of a fight. “Is it so terrible that I just want to protect you?”

He receives a frustrated scoff for his honesty. “Of course not, idiot. My problem is that you think you get to decide what’s best for me.”

“Because you obviously can’t!” Lifting his chin, it’s Yuuji’s turn to pin Fushiguro with a defiant stare. He steels himself so his voice won’t shake with his next words. “You can’t love a murderer, Fushiguro.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m in love with you,” he declares without a beat of hesitation and oh, the entire world freezes around them in an instant. Every ounce of fight immediately drains from him as those words echo in his ears. All Yuuji can see is the way those sea-glass eyes bore into his, daring him to refute it; all he can feel is the warmth of two battle-roughened palms framing his face between them like he’s the most precious thing Fushiguro’s ever held, and the steady pounding of his heart against his ribs as it tries desperately to surrender itself to him.

(The truth is, he knows it’ll be treated kindly in Fushiguro’s hands; that it won’t matter to him how unsightly it is. It’s because he knows that he tries one more time to keep it locked away.

He resolutely ignores how the walls around it have long since crumbled.)

“You,” he huffs, tugging the abused shirt in reprimand. His entire being feels feeble with approaching surrender. “Fuck…You’re not playing fair.”

“Sorcerers don’t play fair.” There’s not an ounce of remorse in his voice. The tension in his shoulders eases as he senses the fight has left Yuuji too but he doesn’t pull away. His fringe brushes the bridge of Yuuji’s nose when he shifts infinitesimally closer instead, a silent question.

“You’re going to regret this Megumi,” he whispers so quietly he wonders if the words are audible at all.

“The only thing I’ll regret,” Megumi answers just as softly, “Is parting ways again and still not knowing how it feels to kiss you.”

It’s the closest to begging Yuuji’s ever heard from him and with a sudden clarity he realizes that Shibuya left scars on more than just him. Of course it did, he reminds himself with a sense of shame, they've all suffered through this tragedy in some way. Is it any wonder Megumi craves a sense of control, a sliver of joy, in the midst of such overwhelming uncertainty? That he's grabbing on with both hands to the one thing he can reach?

“Yuuji,” Megumi’s husky call brings him back. “Please.”

If there’s anything Yuuji has learned about himself since meeting this stubborn, snarky, loyal, impossibly kind boy it’s that he’s incredibly weak to the things Megumi asks of him. So when he adjusts his hold to angle Yuuji’s face up so he can watch the way his gaze flickers down to his lips then back up to his eyes, how can he can do anything else but answer that silent request?

They come together the way the sea meets the shore amidst a hurricane; frantic, desperate, as if each bruising brush of their mouths might be their last. There’s no time to savor, no time for lazy exploration, only breathless gasps stolen between them as they dive in again and again, hands roaming fervently with intent to feel as much as possible within whatever fleeting moment they’ve managed to carve out for themselves.

Yuuji loses himself in a barrage of sensation—the slick slide of lips and tongue, the barest sting against his scalp as Megumi tightens his fingers in his hair, the guttural groan he’s rewarded when he finally trades the crumbled fabric of Megumi’s shirt for the bare skin of his back in his scarred hands—and he thinks he’d gladly spend the rest of his borrowed time drowning in all Megumi will give him.

There’s too much space between them. The air is cool against his bare chest despite the way he feels as if he’s caught fire and there’s nothing he wants more in this instant than to be closer, to feel Megumi’s weight against him. Grasping Megumi by the hips the way he’d craved earlier, he drags him in to settle in his lap until they’re finally pressed against one another fully, and the weight of another living body against his own is almost blissful. Megumi must think so too if the pleased hum he gives is any indication.

He trails his hands up and down the smooth expanse of Megumi’s back and then his waist where he pauses, grinning a little which makes Megumi huff impatiently, “What?”

“You’re just so tiny,” Yuuji explains, flexing his fingers against the small of his back and dragging his thumbs over the jut of hip bone. “I can almost touch my fingers together.”

“I’m taller than you,” Megumi grumbles almost petulantly, like that somehow explains the width of his waist. He moves his attention to Yuuji’s neck when it’s clear he’s distracted with this new revelation. “Your hands are just huge.” The way his voice drops into something huskier makes Yuuji wonder if he’s thought about it a lot, the way he’s thought so often of Megumi’s pretty piano fingers. It stokes the fire in his belly that much hotter.

“You’re not that much taller,” he retorts for lack of something better to say since his mind is currently going blank over the way Megumi’s mouth works against his throat, opposing sensations of soft lips and wet heat and sharp teeth distracting him. Megumi drags one palm down the line of his throat, over his shoulder and collarbone until he stops to rest against Yuuji’s breast. Right over the fresh scar on his sternum where his heart beats eagerly beneath his hand as if to say, Here, I’m right here; yours for the taking, if you’ll still have me.

The fervor between them shifts, the atmosphere turning nearly devout in the way their heartbeats seem to synchronize, separated from one another only by Megumi’s hand. There’s a warm gust of air as Megumi exhales long and slow into the crook of his neck while he pauses there, pressing a little firmer against Yuuji’s chest.

“I’m so glad I met you, Yuuji.”

The air seems to thicken like honey, syrupy sweet and cloying when Yuuji inhales sharply, trapping any protests in his throat as those words settle over him. The corners of his eyes prickle threateningly so he wraps his arms as tight as he can around Megumi’s waist to gather him close, trapping his hand between their chests where he can undoubtedly feel the steady thump of his heart, and buries his face into the crook of Megumi’s neck.

“Me too,” he breathes once he’s sure he can speak without breaking. It’s impossible to express in words how wholeheartedly he agrees so he lets action speak for him, drawing back so he can take Megumi’s face into his own hands this time and kiss him deeply, pouring all his emotions, all his love, into it. They’re breathless when they part again; Yuuji pulls himself together enough to commit the image of Megumi, flushed with kiss-swollen lips and dazed sea-glass eyes, to memory. He knows this moment will be one he'll cherish in the darker times to come but he won't tarnish it by dwelling on it anymore tonight.

“I love you too, by the way,” he says instead with a grin, giddy at being able to say it out loud for the first time. “In case that wasn’t clear yet.”

Megumi chuckles, shaking his head before pressing a chaste kiss to Yuuji’s mouth. “I might have suspected.”

“Oh? And here I thought this was all an elaborate ruse to get your hands on my bare chest,” Yuuji teases, delighting in the way Megumi’s flush deepens. He accepts the swat to said chest with a laugh, catching Megumi’s hand to kiss the back of it tenderly before he can pull away to pout. The action draws a fond smile to his face instead.

“Keep that up and you’re sleeping on the floor,” he says haughtily. Yuuji’s grin widens at the subtle invitation.

“Megumi,” he draws out his name in a faux-whine. “You can’t banish your boyfriend to the floor the first night together!”

“I can when he’s being insufferable,” is his somewhat strangled reply when he ducks his head to try to hide his rapidly coloring face. Having none of it, Yuuji lunges forward to wrap his arms around him and pulls the both of them down onto the bed for a proper cuddle.

“What if I promise to behave?” he asks, brushing his bangs away from his eyes with a crooked smile. “And to give good-night and good morning kisses?”

Huffing through his nose, Megumi returns his smile as he reaches up to cup Yuuji’s hand against his cheek. He has that look in his eyes again; this time, Yuuji basks in it.

“Sounds like a deal.”