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Black Feathers

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Yuuji wakes up slowly in the way he only ever does after a hard workout. His limbs ache, his stomach feels tight, his head feels like someone took a sledgehammer to it - 

Okay, the head thing isn’t that normal. 

He blinks, the lights overhead too bright for the window in his bedroom and slowly the stark white of a hospital room comes into focus around him. What the hell? 

He wracks his brain trying to figure out what he could have done this time to get himself landed in a hospital bed but nothing springs to mind. He’s been so busy with Grandpa in the hospital there’s barely been any time to do much of anything besides school and Occult Club let alone find some trouble to rope himself into. God, if Grandpa caught wind of this - 

He cuts off that thought with a shaky breath, throat suddenly tight as he remembers what happened at the hospital yesterday. Right, Grandpa isn’t here to get mad at him. No one is. 

He fists his hands in the hospital blanket as unexpected tears prick warm and wet in his eyes as the realization of just how very alone he is hits him for the first time. His Grandpa’s been dead barely twelve hours and already Yuuji’s a train wreck, getting himself into whatever mess landed him here. He doesn’t even remember leaving the hospital yesterday, his brain going hazy after having signed all the paperwork the nurse handed him. God, what if he passed out and hit his head on the reception desk? 

He cringes, wiping his face with a shaky hand. Grandpa wanted better of him than breaking down in a shitty hospital room and he’s not going to give up on his last request so easily. 

“What -?” A soft voice interrupts. 

He turns, looking across the room to meet the gaze of a shocked looking nurse in the doorway. “Hi?” 

She doesn’t respond, immediately moving to check on all the machines hooked up to him - quite a few now that he’s paying attention. She grabs a clipboard by his bed and double checks something on the screen before relaxing. 

“Did I pass?” He asks but his voice cracks oddly, the words rough as they tumble out of his throat. 

“You woke up which is basically acing the test,” She laughs and it’s such a genuine sound Yuuji can’t help but smile in response. She grabs her stethoscope then and before he can even ask what happened cold hands are leaning him forward to listen to his lungs then checking for sensation in his toes and a light is being shined in his eyes and it’s all extremely thorough considering the last time he’d gotten knocked out the school nurse had just told him to set an alarm to wake up every few hours. 

“This is a really good hospital,” He comments as the nurse grabs her pen and chart again. 

“We definitely do our best,” She smiles softly, “I just have a few more questions and then we can -“ 

“You’re awake!” A man’s voice interrupts them, sharp and clear as it cuts through the room. 

“Doctor Hatori,” The nurse greets, “I was just finishing up with a basic exam.“ 

“I’ll take it from here, I’d like to do a bit more in-depth exam considering the situation,” The Doctor explains, walking into the room with a beaming grin as he takes in Yuuji sitting upright in the bed, too big hospital gown hanging off one shoulder. 

He’s young - younger than all the doctors Yuuji’s ever seen checking in on Grandpa in the hospital. His eyes and smile are kind, scrunching fondly as they look over him from the bottom of the hospital bed, everything about him the picture of medical professionalism and just asking for patients to put their trust in him. 

Which Yuuji would really like to except there’s also some sort of deformed animal corpse hanging off the man's shoulder, two taloned claws digging into his spotless white coat but neither the doctor nor the nurse seems to notice. 

“Disgusting,” Something sneers in the back of his head. 

“Uh,” He responds because the doctor is looking at him expectantly but the dead thing - a bird maybe? It has two sort of winged looking arms but also way too many eyes so maybe trying to call it a bird is a bit of a stretch but at least half of those eyes are looking at him too, pinning him with a sort of weighted gaze as if it knows that Yuuji can see it.

The nurse gives him a reassuring smile before passing her clipboard to the doctor on her way out, leaving Yuuji with Hatori and whatever pet cemetery shit is hanging onto him. 

“So, Itadori,” The doctor says cheerfully, pulling up a chair to the side of his bed. “We’re just going to go over some basic questions first but I have to admit that I have quite the list to ask you - as long as you’re feeling up to it of course.” 

“Sure,” He agrees because the doctor does seem pretty nice but also to buy time to figure out how exactly he should break it to him that he definitely hit his head harder than they all think. 

“Perfect, can you tell me the date?” 

“June 5th, 2018.” 

The doctor’s pen stills against the clipboard. 

“What?” 

“June 5th-” He starts to repeat before realizing Doctor Hatori’s mouth never moved. His eyes flicker to the bird nervously but its dozen eyed stare is fixed blankly somewhere on the ceiling. 

“Itadori? You alright?” 

“Yeah - yeah sorry - um. Do I have the date wrong?” He frowns. Grandpa died on the 4th of June, he’d never forget that. Maybe he was out for longer than he thought? 

“Time confusion is expected but … we’ll swing back around to that. I’d like you to tell me what you remember before waking up,” The Doctor says, setting down Yuuji’s medical chart in favor of grabbing a notebook from inside his lab coat. 

“Uh, my grandfather had just passed away and I was signing all the paperwork down in the medical records office. It was kinda late… did I get hit walking home or something?”

"You’re lying."

Yuuji shivers, the words feeling foreign and strange as they whisper through his head, louder than his scrambling thoughts. 

“You were involved in an accident,” The doctor explains. “Unfortunately we have no idea about any of the details, you were found unresponsive by a security guard inside a construction site in Koenji.” 

“Koenji - as in Tokyo?” Yuuji gapes, turning to try and see out the window but the frosted glass prevents anything but light from filtering through. 

“Your last memory isn’t in Tokyo? Are you not from here?” 

“No way - holy shit,” He shakes his head, trying to process everything being dumped on him at once. “Tokyo… wait so today isn’t the 5th then? Because I sure as hell didn’t have any plans to take the bullet train to Tokyo last night.” 

“Correct,” Hatori confirms, “You’ve been comatose for the past two weeks -“ 

“Two weeks!” 

“-but it also appears as if you’ve lost a good chunk of the past year considering today’s date is January 10th, 2019.” 

Yuuji’s mouth goes slack as he stares at the doctor, “Seven months? I don’t remember seven months?” 

“Generally speaking, amnesia is often a temporary symptom when recovering from a coma but in your case…” He reaches for the medical file at the end of the bed and pulls out two scans, holding them up for Yuuji to see. “This is an MRI of your brain after you’d been admitted,” He explains, tracing his pen over a large gaping area. 

Yuuji stares. He’s no doctor but - “Why is a big chunk missing?” 

“More like compressed,” Hatori corrects. “You suffered severe head trauma that crushed this area of your skull.” 

Yuuji’s hands reflexively fly up to the back of his head, fingers tracing along his skull for any sign of the damage shown in the scan. 

“You won’t find anything,” Hatori interrupts, pen tapping on the second scan. “This is from a week ago.” He traces the same area except instead of the gaping trauma there’s a properly shaped head,

“How’d you fix me?” Yuuji asks curiously, pressing his fingers deep into the back of his head, trying to feel a metal plate or maybe something even more high tech - like an implant that lets him see demon animals. 

“We didn’t.” 

Yuuji lets his hands fall from his head, staring across the bed at Hatori. “But my head -?” 

“Is healed, yes. Against the entirety of human medical history, you have somehow decided to defy biology and regrow an entire section of brain tissue,” The doctor hums, staring at the scan with a bright look in his eyes. “This is groundbreaking, Itadori.” 

Yuuji frowns, suddenly feeling very naked in just his loose hospital gown. “I uh, don’t think I can tell you much. It’s not like I was awake or know what I did.” 

“That’s not important, your body itself can tell us more than your conscious thoughts could ever put into words,” Hatori grins, reaching out to press a comforting hand to Yuuji’s ankle over the blanket. 

Yuuji smiles back weakly, feeling like he should be insulted but it’s not like he has much to be upset about considering whatever freak miracle healed his head is apparently the only reason he’s awake at all. 

“Your side effects are going to be much more helpful in identifying what exactly happened here - your amnesia for example. Depending on how your memories return - or if they do at all- we’ll know how your synapses reformed and how your body is adapting them back into use,” Hatori explains with an excited gleam in his eyes. 

“Is that going to take a while?” Yuuji frowns. 

“Well, we’ll want to do a weekly check in for the next six months at the very least - it’s important to get a big picture when handling a case as unique as yours.” 

“Right…” Yuuji winces, running a hand through his hair. “but I should really be heading back to Sendai.” He hates disappointing anyone, especially with how excited this guy seems to be but what exactly is he supposed to do broke and alone in Tokyo? 

“Sendai?” Hatori repeats, lowering his pen from his notebook. “You don’t have any family here you could stay with? You must have been visiting Tokyo for a reason.” 

“It’s just me and my grandpa - or well, just me now I guess,” He shrugs. “Sorry Doc, but I can email you updates or something?” 

“Unfortunately that won’t suffice for the kind of research I was hoping to do,” Hatori sighs, shoulders slumping and God, Yuuji’s barely been awake an hour and he’s already disappointing people who have gone out of their way to help him. He needs to get out of these people’s hair and back to Sendai where at least he knows how to keep to himself. 

“You have some questions I could answer now though?” Yuuji offers guiltily, not wanting to completely ruin his doctor’s research. 

“Right - yes,” Hatori clears his throat and straightens his shoulders, Yuuji’s rejection put aside as he clicks his pen. “Your basic vitals all look perfect which is very promising for a full recovery. Let’s walk back through your long term memory of what you last remember, where do you go to school?” 

“Sugisawa High School.” 

There’s a loud condescending snort right in his ear but when Yuuji turns on instinct there’s no one there.

“Itadori?” Hatori asks, bringing Yuuji’s attention back to the doctor. “You alright?” 

“Yeah, I just thought I heard something.” 

The Doctor clicks his pen once, then twice, face unreadable as he stares at Yuuji for a moment. “What did you hear?” 

“Felt like someone was right next to me making noise. Is that pretty common when people wake up from comas?” 

“It can be,” Hatori says slowly. “If you’re seeing or hearing things you’re pretty sure aren’t there it’s important to tell me. We can fix that.” 

“Really?” Yuuji says too quickly but Hatori’s already on to him, scooting his chair a little closer. 

“You suspect you’re experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations?” 

“Uh,” Yuuji eyes the reanimated carcass hanging off the doctor’s shoulder. “I’m a little bit more sure than that.” 

“What are you seeing exactly? I’ve noticed your eyes keep going to my shoulder.” 

“What are you doing, brat?” 

The voice again only this time clearer than before, beating loudly against the inside of his head like a warning. 

He hesitates but Hatori’s watching him expectantly with the promise of being able to fix whatever the hell is wrong with him and he doesn’t even know why he’d try to hide this in the first place.

“Don’t-“

“There’s a dead animal on your shoulder. It looks like a bird but it’s not really… maybe calling it a monster makes more sense,” He explains, squinting at the thing for a better description. 

“That sounds frightening. Does it scare you?” 

Yuuji considers the creature in front of him and while the thing itself is pretty disturbing he doesn’t feel particularly scared. “No? I guess more scared that I’m seeing something I know isn’t real.” 

“That’s a good sign,” Hatori hums, scribbling a few notes down. “And what about the voices you’re hearing?” 

“Just one voice,” He says immediately. “It doesn’t scare me either, it’s just kind of … commenting on what’s going on?” 

“Is it making you paranoid? Commenting intrusively?” 

“… I guess?” Yuuji frowns. “It’s definitely not positive.” He doesn’t really know how to explain the voice seems more like a bully than anything. 

“Generally speaking these things tend to strengthen over time as your brain adjusts to the hallucinations and your reality warps around them,” Hatori explains. “It’s excellent you mentioned something, I can’t imagine what might have happened if you walked out of here without telling me.” 

Yuuji swallows dryly. Just one of these monster things is disturbing enough, he can’t imagine seeing more of them. “You said you can fix it though?” 

Hatori hums, “We can, but you said you were living with your grandfather until he passed away? If you have no other family that means you’ll have been placed in a foster home I assume?” 

“I guess, I didn’t really get that far from what I last remember.” 

“Unfortunately, schizophrenic treatment is quite expensive and decidedly long term,” Hatori explains apologetically. “Even with government aid I don’t know that you’ll qualify for much…” 

“Oh,” The creature is looking at him again and while he’d been honest about it not scaring him the thought of having to look at things like that every day makes his stomach twist. Hatori said the hallucinations will just get stronger, what’s he going to do having to go to school and seeing things like this everywhere? How is he supposed to get a job when the voice in his head is shouting over everyone else? 

“I’m going to be honest here, Itadori,” Hatori says softly, leaning forward in his seat. “The hospital is going to want me to sign off and send you on your way back to Sendai but with the situation you’re in that’s just about the worst choice I can think of. Above all else you need medication, observation, and support - and it’s obvious you’re not going to get that on your own. So… I propose a deal.” 

“A deal?” Yuuji repeats, heart sinking as the doctor lays out his situation. 

“You come and stay with me so I can properly observe your condition and in exchange, I’ll fund your recovery completely,” Hatori says simply. 

Yuuji’s first instinct is to say no because of course it’s too much. He wasn’t raised on charity and he’s not going to start taking hand outs at the first offer after Gramps’ death but… what else is he supposed to do? Hatori’s right, he can’t afford this on his own and it’s not like he has anything or anyone waiting for him back in Sendai. 

“You’re getting something out of this too, right? You’ve got like a research paper you’ll write about this that’ll make you a super famous doctor or something?” He asks pointedly. 

Hatori laughs and it’s a nice sound, clear and bright in the empty hospital room. The creature on his shoulder shuffles its wings. “Believe me Itadori, this is well worth my time. We’re going to save a lot of people together.” 

Yuuji perks up because that sounds pretty close to what Gramps wanted. If this shitty accident ends up helping people maybe having to bum off Doctor Hatori won’t be so bad. “It’s a deal.” 

Hatori grins and stands up, dropping his medical chart on the side table as he starts explaining the process for moving Yuuji’s guardianship and getting approval from the hospital and it all sounds pretty complicated but Hatori seems to know what he’s doing. 

It’s been a while since he’s had someone so reliable in his life and he can’t help but feel guilty over how nice it is. It’s not gramps’ fault he was so sick. 

He reaches for the glass of water the nurse left on the side table, throat dry after all that talking - and sleeping he guesses- when his eyes catch on his medical chart. 

“Doc, I think someone messed up -“ He starts but when he turns Hatori is already gone, walking out of the room with a purposeful spring to his step. 

Yuuji eyes his medical chart before shrugging, settling back down against his pillow. Tanaka Dai is the name listed at the top but Hatori has things under control, he’ll mention it the next time he sees him. 

Yuuji stares up at the sprawling high rise in the middle of Tokyo… and up and up and up. 

“You live here?” He gapes, craning his head backward and rolling on his heels but even then he still can’t see the top. “You want me to live here?” 

“It would be a bit hard to conduct research if you were living somewhere else,” Hatori laughs, smoothing down his suit as he steps out of the Taxi. Yuuji feels decidedly underdressed in his hospital sweatpants and scrub shirt but his clothes had apparently already been disposed of as medical waste. He has a feeling wearing his usual sweatshirt wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. 

Hatori leads him through the lobby, not sparing a second glass for the massive crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling or the fact everything in this place seems to be covered in gold. Yuuji does his best to keep up with the Doctor’s long strides while also staring up at the cherry blossom mural on the ceiling - which ends with him running straight into Hatori’s back when he stops in front of the elevator. 

“Sorry!” He jerks back, “This place is just insane.” 

Hatori hums and looks up at the ceiling, “It is. Funny though how used to something you get when you walk through it every day. I’m sure in a few weeks you’ll barely even glance at the door when you walk out.” 

“No way,” Yuuji shakes his head, following him into the elevator when the doors open. “I still can’t wrap my head around actually being in Tokyo let alone living here.” 

“And you have no theories on why you might have come here?” Hatori asks as he swipes his apartment card and presses the floor number. 

“I mean, I’ve always wanted to see Tokyo so maybe I came as a day trip or something but that doesn’t really answer what I was doing on a construction site.” 

“No it doesn’t,” Hatori agrees as the elevator chimes and they step out into a hallway. Despite how long it is, there are only four doors spaced out across the entire floor. “And your grandfather was your only living relative?”

Yuuji nods as he watches Hatori open the door and steps inside after him. “Yeah, both my parents were only children and he was my only -“
“Itadori?” 

Yuuji ignores him which he knows is rude considering the Doctor has quite kindly invited him to live in his rich person apartment but he’s a bit caught up in staring out at the Tokyo skyline from the massive floor to ceiling windows that run along the entire wall from Hatori’s living room to kitchen. His feet carry him forward and from this angle, it almost looks like he’s standing on the edge, nothing but buildings and lights as he looks out on the city. 

“It’s even better at night,” Hatori says from the living room. 

“I believe it,” Yuuji murmurs, resisting the urge to rest his hand on the glass, not wanting to leave smudges like a small child in his first ten minutes inside the apartment. 

“I managed to get you released early but as your Doctor, I’d prefer if you take it easy for the next few days. As miraculous as your recovery is you still were in a two week coma - that’ll give you plenty of time to get used to the apartment anyway,” Hatori continues and Yuuji pulls his gaze away from the windows to see him digging through a closet, pulling out fresh sheets. 

“And you’re sure this is okay? I mean, even with all your research you’re really cool with me living here? Because you can still kick me out, I’d totally understand,” He feels the need to ask once again because honestly, how the hell is any of this real? His grandpa dies and the next second Yuuji’s got his very own Daddy Warbucks adoption story - things like this just don’t happen and especially not to him. 

“Itadori, relax,” Hatori laughs, pressing a clean towel and a toiletry bag into his arms. “You’re doing more for me than you know - the very least I can do is offer you a place to stay. I’m going to put some new sheets on the guest bedroom, why don’t you freshen up?” 

Yuuji frowns, covertly leaning down to sniff his body and winces - yeah, two weeks of nothing but sponge baths would do that. 

“Down the hall, first door,” Hatori directs. 

Yuuji doesn’t hesitate, he might feel a bit weird about crashing in this guy's house but he’s not about to say no to a free shower when he just knows this place has to have amazing water pressure. He hurries down the hall and shuts the door behind him, already trying to get a peek at the showerhead and fancy body washes when something catches his eye in the mirror. 

It’s him. Or at least his body because for the first time in his life Yuuji barely recognizes the face looking back at him in the mirror. 

“What the hell,” He murmurs, dropping his toiletries on the counter and leaning in closer to the mirror. Hatori had sprung him from the hospital within a few hours of waking up and the tiny bathroom in his room hadn’t had a mirror, this the first time he’s seeing himself in well.. almost a year apparently. 

It’s his face but not, hard lines replacing the baby fat he’s always carried in his cheeks but more disturbing are the deep matching scars sitting right underneath his eyes on either side. He traces the pad of one finger gently over the top of one but feels nothing, no pain or even a hint of a memory for what could have cut him here. 

“What the hell are you doing?” A voice hisses. 

It’s the same one as inside his head except it sounds louder somehow, more tangible. He pulls his head away from his face only to freeze, staring at the gaping open hole on his cheek looking suspiciously like a mouth. 

“Don’t make me repeat myself,” The mouth moves, forming words into a sentence, sharp fangs and even a tongue poking out of its gaping mouth, pulling the skin on his cheek painfully taunt with each movement. 

Yuuji shouts, jerking backward away from the mirror as if he can somehow get away from something that’s physically attached to him but just ends up slamming into the bathroom wall instead. His hand flies up to his cheek, smacking at where he can feel whatever the hell is on his face - 

“Itadori!” 

The bathroom door swings open and then Hatori is there, kneeling in front of him with his large hands digging deep into his knees. “Breathe, Itadori.” 

He takes in a shaky breath, feeling his chest expand and then release painfully. 

“Good, again.” 

He repeats it at the doctor’s command, following along with Hatori until his heart stops hammering against his ribs. Embarrassment comes soon after. 

“I’m so sorry,” He whispers, staring at the glass pooled around him from the photo frames he’d knocked off the wall in his panic. 

“A panic attack is completely normal, this is nothing I wasn’t expecting. You’re here to heal, Itadori, not visiting a relative.” Hatori says seriously despite the corpse staring Yuuji down from his shoulder. “I take it you had another hallucination?” 

“My cheek,” He blurts out, fingers shakily pressing against his face but all he feels is smooth skin. “The voice in my head - it had a mouth on my cheek.”

“That sounds very frightening,” Hatori says gently as he turns around and fishes through a bathroom drawer before pulling out a small hand mirror. He flinches but doesn’t look away when the doctor turns it to face him. “What do you see?” 

“My face,” He whispers, eyes on his cheek. 

“Any extra mouths?” 

He shakes his head, staring at the smooth skin. 

“Good,” Hatori says but his eyes as more focused on the wall behind Yuuji’s head. 

“Doc?” 

“Do you think the pain is what ended the hallucination? I heard you from across the apartment, you had to have hit the wall decently hard.” 

“Uh… maybe? I was kinda freaking out so -“ 

“Right, right - just something we should keep in mind as we learn how exactly your brain is processing new stimulus.” 

“Course,” Yuuji says agreeably despite not really understanding what that means. He just kinda wants to shower now. 

Hatori stands and offers Yuuji a hand which he gladly takes, letting the doctor pull him to his feet. “I found some fresh clothes that should fit until we can get you some of your own, I’ll leave them outside the door for when you finish.” 

“Thank you,” Yuuji says again which feels too small for the gratitude he feels to this man who was basically a stranger this morning. Who the hell else would put up with all this from him, even if they were getting something out of it? 

His shower is thankfully uneventful and despite sleeping for two weeks as soon as Yuuji lays down on his bed he’s out like a light. He doesn’t know if he can really blame the coma or the fancy tempur-pedic mattress for that. 

He wakes up feeling rested instead of like the undead come back to life like yesterday and makes his way to the kitchen, hoping that Hatori might have set something aside for him instead of having to awkwardly ask what food in the fridge he can eat. 

“Oh,” He says when he catches sight of Hatori in his suit, doctor’s badge hanging out from the pocket, finishing up a cup of coffee in the kitchen. “Right, you have a job that’s not just me,” He grins and shakes his head. Why the hell did he think Hatori would hang around the apartment with him? 

“I do,” Hatori laughs. “I was hoping I’d be able to help you get familiar with the apartment this morning but I’ve been called in.” 

“Back to the coma ward? Did someone else wake up?” 

“I’m the head of neurology,” He explains, setting his cup in the sink before starting to make his way to the door. “I don’t normally deal directly with patients but yours was a special case. Help yourself to anything in the kitchen and there’s a game console and anything else you can find to do in the living room. My number’s on the fridge if there’s an emergency - remember to take it easy!” He gives Yuuji a friendly wave before letting the door shut behind him. 

“Seems like he’s done this before.” 

Yuuji shakes his head hard, refusing to acknowledge the voice in his head and instead heads to the fridge to figure out what to eat. 

Hatori sticks to a relatively consistent schedule Yuuji finds out over the next week. He typically leaves early in the morning and is home before six unless he’s called in for a consultation. That leaves Yuuji with almost ten hours of laying around the apartment and working his way through Hatori’s movie collection which gets old after the first two days - he swears he’s seen all of them. He doesn’t have much of a choice but to turn something on though since Hatori wants to wait to catalog his exact symptoms before starting him on any medication. Yuuji’s not about to sit in a silent apartment since the voice in his head gets awfully chatty once the doctor leaves. 

“You don’t belong here, brat.” The voice hisses, over and over reminding Yuuji just how out of place he feels but it’s the exact reason why he can’t leave. “The doors right there - make a run for it while he’s gone.” 

‘Intrusive thoughts’ Hatori had called them when Yuuji had tried to explain what sorts of things the voice said. Despite having a name for them it doesn’t make the strange comments the voice says any less distressing. Yuuji has enough paranoia with the literal monster corpses he’s been seeing, he doesn’t need the voice in his head making him think he’s not safe in his own bed. 

On Saturday Hatori comes back around lunchtime holding several shopping bags. “I didn’t know what you’d like but this at least gets you started on something other than sweat pants,” He explains, passing Yuuji two of the large bags. 

“You bought me clothes?” Yuuji peeks curiously inside but this on top of everything else Hatori has been doing for him leaves a bad taste in his mouth. “I can get my own clothes, you don’t have to buy things for me. Especially since I’ve just been laying around all week, that’s not exactly helping with research.” 

“I didn’t buy you a car, I think clothes are a pretty standard need,” Hatori rests a hand on his shoulder. “You’re helping with research but I’ve also taken in a minor, I’m not expecting you to go half on the rent. Your foster family would have given you basic necessities so I’m going to be doing the same.” 

“That’s true…” Yuuji bites his lip but Hatori’s right, he can’t exactly refuse clothes when he can’t currently pay for any of his own. 

“Speaking of research though,” Hatori plops a white pharmacy bag on the table. “We’re starting you on your meds tonight. Low doses of antipsychotics and we’ll start figuring out a cocktail that works for you.” 

Yuuji perks up, “Really?” He eyes the bird on Hatori’s shoulder who gapes its beak at him but no sound comes out. 

“Really. I’m afraid that’s going to mean a few more days stuck in the apartment though. Reactions to this stuff can be serious.” 

“That’s fine,” He says quickly. Sure, he’s been itching to actually go and take a look around the city he’s been staring at out Hatori’s massive windows all week but he’d rather get to do it without the hallucinations. 

Hatori lays out a pill calendar case for him, explaining each pill and what they do from anxiety medication to keeping his brain from producing the hormones that cause hallucinations. He swallows them all in one fistful that night, hopeful for results even if Hatori warned him it could take a while to see any effects. 

He blinks awake the next morning, unable to help how his chest swells hopefully that today might just be better - 

“You are truly pathetic.” 

Yuuji fists his hands under the blankets but refuses to encourage the voice with a response. It’s just a hallucination, it’ll be gone sooner than later with the meds Hatori has him on. 

“This is getting old, brat. Don’t you think it’s time to go home?” 

He scoffs, throwing off the blanket. Where the hell even was home? 

Hatori blinks in surprise when he pads his way into the kitchen but Yuuji barely notices, too busy trying not to linger in his disappointment as he digs last night's leftovers out of the fridge. 

“Itadori?” 

“Hmm?” He asks, tossing leftover rice in a pan. 

“You aren’t… tired? It’s still early and you are recovering, you’re fine to take it easy.” 

“Nah, I’m usually up anyway - too hungry just to lay in bed.” 

“You don’t feel any more tired than usual?” 

Yuuji shrugs, adding an egg to his pan. “Not really, why?” 

Hatori’s chair scraps on the tile as he stands abruptly and then he’s standing beside Yuuji at the stove, looking down at him with an unreadable expression. “Answer honestly. Do you feel fatigued?” 

“No?” Yuuji frowns, turning off the stove so he doesn’t accidentally burn his breakfast while the Doctor’s giving him the third degree. 

“Lightheaded? Achy? Your thoughts hazy?” 

“No, no, and no,” He frowns. “Is something wrong, doc?” 

Hatori looks down at him but Yuuji has the feeling he’s being stared through rather than at. “… this may be ridiculous considering it’s only been twelve hours but I’d like to take a blood sample if that’s alright with you?” 

“Sure but does that mean something is wrong then?”

“No, but generally speaking people’s reactions to the kind of medication you took last night are very consistent. Patients are increasingly lethargic until their bodies adjust to the medication and you’re making breakfast at six in the morning. It’s not completely unreasonable for you to be an outlier but considering what happened in the hospital… I’d just like to check.” 

“Check away then,” Yuuji smiles, perking up a bit which is ridiculous. He’s getting excited over a needle being poked into him but for the first time in the week he’s been here he’ll actually be useful to Hatori. 

Hatori is a good doctor, the needle draw fast and relatively painless only dampened by his bird starting to pant at the sight of Yuuji’s blood. He disappears into his office where he apparently has a mini lab set up and Yuuji leaves him to it, getting comfortable in his chair by the window to finally eat his breakfast. 

Two hours later and Yuuji’s moved on to messing around with the racing game Hatori owns when the doctor makes his reappearance. 

“You aren’t on any medication,” Hatori announces. 

“Uh, my little pill box would call you a liar.” 

“And if I hadn’t seen you swallow those pills myself yesterday I’d say you’re a liar too but the bloodwork doesn’t lie and neither does what I saw.” 

Yuuji’s fingers freeze on the controller, his car slowing to a crawl as the other drivers race past. “What does that mean?” 

“It means,” Hatori sits down on the couch, leaning forward to prop his hands on his knees. “That your bloodstream is somehow restoring itself just like your brain. We added a foreign substance that attempted to change how your body worked and it eliminated it. That’s the only outcome I can come up.” 

“They’re truly handing out medical degrees to anyone, aren’t they.” 

Yuuji might tell the voice to shut up if he wasn’t so busy trying to process what Hatori is telling him. “So… meds won’t work on me? You can’t fix me?” The words manage to leave his mouth but his throat his tight, mind already racing with what the hell he’s supposed to do if he can’t be fixed - where he’s even supposed to go now he’s not useful?

“Yes and no. Meds won’t work but I have a few ideas,” Hatori drums his fingers against his leg thoughtfully. “You remember what happened in the bathroom your first day here?” 

“When I freaked out?” 

“We’d need to test the idea further but I have a theory there’s a link between physical sensation and your hallucinations, as if your brain can’t house both simultaneously. If we manage to find a balance between both we could potentially solve both your halucinations as well as the key to your regenative abilities.” 

“…So I can still stay here then? You’re going to do more research?” Yuuji clarifies slowly, fingers dipping into his jeans as he tries not to let Hatori see just how desperate he is. 

“Of course, you can’t get rid of me that easy,” Hatori laughs and reaches over to ruffle Yuuji’s hair. 

Yuuji blinks, suddenly hit by a wave of nostalgia so strong his body completely relaxes, the tightness in his chest from Hatori’s verdict releasing as he can’t help but want to lean into the touch. 

He resists, coming back to his senses and shaking his head to try and clear it. His head prickles like there’s an itch inside he just can’t scratch and he can’t help but feel like there’s someone he’s missing - which is silly. Sure he misses his Grandpa like crazy but he never ruffled Yuuji’s hair that he can remember. The old man showed his affection with grumpy words and actions, never one for embraces of any sort. 

“Alright, Itadori?” 

“Yeah! Sorry - just got distracted. So when can we start testing your idea?” 

“Seriously? What happened this time?” Michi asks as she walks behind the cafe counter, hands behind her back as she knots her apron to start her shift. 

“Threw a bad punch, you know how it is,” Yuuji laughs, holding up his left hand where two of his fingers are splinted. He’s only been working at the tiny cafe a few blocks from Hatori’s apartment a few days and the staff are already very familiar with Yuuji’s boxing hobby. 

It’s a lie but considering how badly they all think he is at the sport he doubts he’ll ever have to prove it. 

He hums as he presses the buttons on the espresso machine, taking his time to make sure he does it correctly considering one wrong button could mean steaming milk being sprayed everywhere. He learned the hard way with that one. Still, the cafe is a nice change of pace from being cooped up in Hatori’s apartment all day with the bonus of giving him some spending money without having to mooch off the doctor. 

Hatori had been all for it, claiming it would be better to test how he functioned in a realistic environment while they figured out how to best handle his condition. Which is how he picked up a part time gig at the tiny cafe outside the train station - or well, the owner had been more impressed that he could carry five of the coffee bean bags at once and technically that was what got him hired. 

“Ugh, you broke your fingers and I ran into those Met Tech assholes on the way in, this isn’t a good sign for how our shift is going to go,” Michi sighs, tucking her long black her up into a bun on top of her head. “We need good energy to counteract all these bad omens - that starts with turning off Hatsu’s Spotify playlist.” 

“Excuse me,” Hatsu peeks his head out from the kitchen curtain. “don’t you dare, Michi.” 

Yuuji doesn’t bother with trying to keep up with their argument over the cafe’s music choices, too busy trying to pour the milk over the latte like Michi had shown him except instead of a heart it looks like a sad cloud. He sighs and passes the to go cup to the waiting customer who barely offers Yuuji a glance, already halfway out the door before he can so much as wish him a nice day. Most of their to go customers are commuters but it’s still strange getting used to the rush of Tokyo people compared to the slower pace of Sendai. 

“Wait,” he pauses mid way through cleaning the milk spout. “What’s Met Tech?” 

Michi and Hatsu both glance his way before abandoning their argument in favor of ganging up on him, “You don’t know about the creepy school?” 

“No?” 

“I guess that makes sense, you said you just moved here right?” Hatsu grins, “Great ready for a culture shock country boy.” 

“Are they college kids I should be on the look out for in here?”

Michi shakes her head, leaning back against the counter. “It’s a religious high school up in the mountains somewhere - or at least that’s what people say. No one actually knows where it is.”

Yuuji snickers, wringing out his rag. “How do you not know where a school is?” 

“Exactly.” Michi crosses her arms pointedly. “It’s called the Tokyo Metropolitan Technical College, which isn’t even a school name it’s just four empty words that mean nothing. You can’t google it because half the schools in the city have those words in their name and no one knows anyone that goes there.” 

“… so it’s not real?” Yuuji raises an eyebrow with a grin.

“You’d think so but no, you’ll see the Met Tech kids walking around sometimes, they have a really unique looking uniform. It’s a really dark navy blue and has these funky buttons on it but I guess they don’t enforce the dress code because I’ve seen some weird versions of it,” Hatsu hums. “Even weirder people though. Don’t talk to them if they ever try and come up to you.” 

Michi nods seriously, pointing at Hatsu, “Seriously Yuuji, they’re bad news. My cousin’s friend says they had a girl from her school who went there and she didn’t even make it to Christmas before being sent home in a body bag. Whenever weird stuff starts happening - and by weird I mean people dying - those Met Tech kids always show up.” 

“I thought you said you didn’t know anyone who goes there?” 

“I mean personally! No one can tell you that their sister goes there, it’s always creepily distant.”

“So you think they’re what? Killing students?” Yuuji asks curiously. 

“I think it’s a government run school and they’re training sleeper agents to take out terrorist threats,” Hatsu says casually as he adds a few more muffins to the display. 

Michi nods vigorously, “My cousin’s friend said that girl was crazy good at gymnastics - she would have made an amazing spy.” 

“You guys are crazy,” Yuuji laughs but can’t help but appreciate the thrill of a good urban legend - he’s always loved shit like that. “What did they talk to you about, Michi?” 

“Same old, that kid is still missing.” 

“What kid?”

“You.” 

His eye twitches and he subtly presses his broken fingers against his leg in his pocket. 

“God you’ve really been out of the loop in Sendai. A few weeks some guy in a suit came by a bunch of schools in the city, my friend Yuki is on the student council and apparently all he wanted to look at was newly enrolled students.” 

“Word on the street is one of their students escaped,” Hatsu grins. “They’re searching pretty hard, I bet he knows something he’s not supposed to and they’re trying to shut him up before the whistle blows,” 

“Anyway, they’ve been prowling the streets a lot more than usual lately I’m surprised you haven’t spotted them. They might stop and ask you if you’ve seen…” Michi pauses, looking Yuuji up and down as if seeing him clearly for the first time. “…you know, stick with my original advice. Avoid them at all cost.” 

Hatsu glances at Michi before back to Yuuji, “You look a bit like who they’re looking for is what she means. They won’t show a picture - even more reason they’re probably agents - but they’ve described him a lot. 173 centimeters, stocky build, and pink hair… which you’re kinda a ringer for.” 

Michi shakes her head, heading toward the register as the bell on the door chimes to signal a new customer. “I’m just saying, if you don’t show up to work one day I’m going to assume you’re at the bottom of the ocean somewhere.” 

Yuuji scrunches his nose, turning to look at the pink reflection of his hair in the gleaming metal of the refrigerator. “I hope he’s long gone by now,” He murmurs before turning to face his coworkers, “If any of this is even true, you’re just trying to freak out the country kid,” He laughs,  punching both of their shoulders with his good hand. 

“There’s tons of creepy stuff in Tokyo! God, I have to tell you about the haunted ramen bar my dad dragged me and my brother to last week-” Michi cuts herself off with a beaming smile as a salaryman approaches the counter, voice raising an octave as she takes his order.

Yuuji shakes his head as he grabs a cup to start filling their new order. Michi and Hatsu are hilarious and the ache of being alone is always eased a little when he gets to spend a few hours every day with them. He wishes he could go to school but Hatori doesn’t think so much interaction so soon is a good idea.

He clocks out just after the afternoon rush, weaving his way through the crowded streets as he tries to keep track of which landmark he’s supposed to turn at first to make his way back to the apartment. Was it the city bike stand or the vending machines? He knew Tokyo was massive but it’s a whole other thing to try and walk through it every day. 

He scans the street corners to try and figure out if he recognizes any of the buildings or if he’s gone too far again when he spots a clump of navy underneath an American style diner. There’s two people, a boy and a girl both around high school age if he had to guess and on their uniforms some sort of strange swirled brass buttons. 

“Met Tech,” He hums to himself, letting a few people bump his shoulder as they pass by, too busy trying to to see what supposed government sleeper agents look like. 

“Go talk to them.”

Yuuji grits his teeth, digging his sprained fingers against his side. The pain is sharp and even if it doesn’t shut the voice up it helps clear his head of the stupid thoughts the voice likes to encourage. 

The girl seems to be digging around in her bag, a navy duffle that matches her uniform despite being oddly shaped - almost like a short pole. Her glasses slip down her nose slightly and the boy she’s with helpfully pushes them up, his own face covered with some sort of half hood that sits over his mouth and nose. Regardless of if they’re killers or not, Yuuji can definitely agree with Michi and Hatsu that there’s something off about the two of them but that might just be their weird accessories. 

The girl’s head suddenly turns, making eye contact with him across the crowded street. Her eyes widen. 

Michi and Hatsu’s warning echos in his head and without a second thought he takes off into the crowd, pushing himself through a group of tourists and turning down the first side street he sees. 

“What are you doing? Go back, you idiot!” 

The voice just spurs him on more as he dodges through a gift shop, coming out the other side and narrowly avoiding running into a street cart as he sprints down the road. He shouldn’t talk to them, Michi and Hatsu had said so but even more concerning is the way his heart had stuttered in his chest when she’d looked at him, the same way it did whenever Hatori’s bird’s eyes caught his. 

Were they even real? It’s been so easy to trust that the disgusting creatures he sees crawling off customers or scampering on buildings to be imaginary but is his mind really so broken he can’t even trust the people on the street to be real? 

He runs faster. 

Hatori’s in the apartment when he bursts through the door - thank god - standing up in concern when Yuuji practically throws himself to the ground by the doctor’s feet, panting as he refuses to make eye contact with the creature gnawing on itself on his shoulder. 

“What happened?” Hatori asks firmly, kneeling down next to him. 

“On the street - there was - when I was walking home -“ He pants, his thoughts racing too fast for him to vocalize. Is this really his life now? Slowly sinking into insanity until he can’t tell reality from fantasy? What happens if he mistakes a real person for a monster and hurts them? What if he attacks someone? What if he kills someone? Why the hell did his head have to miraculously heal, why couldn’t he have just died - 

“Itadori!” Hatori’s hand grabs at his broken fingers, squeezing painfully. The pain cuts through his head, killing his train of thought as he lets out a yelp. “Breathe. You’re safe here. Whatever you saw wasn’t real.” 

Right. Safe. He’s here, the doctor isn’t going to let him doing anything crazy. Or at least crazier than usual. 

“In and out, I need you to breathe and then you can tell me what scared you,” Hatori instructs, resting a hand against Yuuji’s chest to help slow his breathing. 

“I saw two people on the street… I don’t think they were real,” He murmurs between pants. His broken fingers throb. 

“… not monsters? You think you hallucinated people?” 

Yuuji nods miserably. 

“Shit,” Hatori sighs. “I don’t understand what we’re doing wrong. I know pain is the key here but my hypothesis is only half right if your body won’t heal itself like it did to your brain. Your injuries shouldn’t be lingering like this,” He sighs, picking up Yuuji’s hand and running a finger over each of his sprained ones. “We’re missing something.” 

“What should I do though? I can’t go to work if I can’t tell which people are real and which aren’t?” 

Hatori shrugs, letting go of Yuuji’s hand and crossing his arms in thought. “It’s up to you. You can quit your job and stay in the apartment until we can figure out an alternative treatment - possibly something holistic where your body doesn’t perceive it as a threat to irradiate.” 

“…How long will that take?” 

“Months? Years? You’re under my guardianship Yuuji, you don’t need to worry about contributing constantly. I’ve enjoyed your company quite a lot on top of the research,” Hatori’s smile is reassuring but it does little to quell the panic rising inside of him. 

Hatori had showed him the guardianship paperwork and that had done wonders for his anxiety about living with the doctor rent free but that doesn’t mean he wants to spend the rest of his life home bound. He’s always been incredibly independent and the idea of not being able to leave the house on his own and being completely reliant on Hatori’s generosity isn’t a hopeful one. 

“Is there another option?” He asks, doing his best not to sound like he’s begging. 

Hatori nods slowly, “I think there’s a minimum requirement in order to trigger your body’s healing response. Instead of the small injuries that don’t heal and only serve to focus your thoughts, a higher pain input could potentially get rid of the hallucinations all together as well as heal the injury. Theoretically your brain can’t focus on both the pain and creating monsters so if the pain stimulus is high enough it should trump the hallucinations every time.” 

“Let’s do it,” He says immediately. 

“I doubt we’ll be able to find the threshold immediately it will be a lot of trial an error-“ 

“I’m not afraid of pain, Doc,” Yuuji says firmly. “and even if it doesn’t work immediately, the pain will still help keep my head straight while I’m working.” 

Hatori eyes Yuuji skeptically for a long moment before nodding, “As long as you’re sure,” He says finally, standing up and disappearing down the hallway to his office only to reappear moments later with a scalpel and his voice recorder. “Let’s begin.” 

… 


Michi isn’t impressed when he shows up the next morning, eyeing him and his bandaged arm up and down before banishing him to the kitchen. Since he can barely make drinks with two hands she’s apparently not going to risk it with one. 

“Seriously dude, is your dad forcing you to stay in the boxing club or something?” Hatsu asks him from the counter where he’s mixing up a new batch of muffins. 

“I’m pretty new to it and you have to be bad at something before you can get good at it,” Yuuji reasons as he sorts coffee beans into containers one handed. 

“I don’t think that means you break your body over it. Maybe boxing just isn’t for you? You’re a strong guy, I bet you’d have fun on a sports team,” Hatsu smiles over at him, so obviously being kind and trying to help his coworker and it makes Yuuji hate himself a little more. 

“I want to stick with it for awhile,” He says softly but before Hatsu can respond Michi flings open the curtain to the kitchen. 

“You,” She points at Yuuji, “Rush is starting and we just had a group sit down so I need you to wait on them and keep the pastries from burning while Hatsu and I handle the counter.” 

“Got it,” Yuuji agrees despite the sinking in his gut. One of the best parts of the cafe gig is how fast everyone moves in and out, taking their coffees and leaving. On occasion they’ll have sit down guests, mostly people waiting for their train or just needing to kill thirty minutes but Hatsu generally handles them while Yuuji and Michi work the counter. It’s better this way, both for the flow of the cafe as well as Yuuji’s mental well being as when someone comes in with some deformed creature hanging off their body they’ll be gone in a few minutes or he can avoid eye contact behind the counter if they sit down. 

If he’s their waiter that gets rid of both those options. 

He takes comfort in the ache in his arm and prays his brain doesn’t decide to give anyone at the table an extra shadow. 

“You’ve got this dude,” Hatsu bumps his shoulder on his way out of the kitchen and Michi throws him an order pad and a thumbs up as the curtain flutters closed behind them. 

He takes a deep breath and counts down from five before following them out through the curtain. The counter is buzzing with guests filling up the line but only two people are seated at a table near the back, talking in low voices. Neither of them have any sort of creature climbing on them and he breathes a sigh of relief. 

Weight on his shoulders lifted he walks over with a grin, ready to blow the apron off Michi with his awesome table waiting skills and make up for his dud arm - only for the two to completely ignore him. 

It’s a girl and boy around his age if he has to guess, the girl wearing a cool outfit of a crop top and ripped jeans that seem to be more holes than fabric, her short brown hair braided into some sort of bun. The boy is her polar opposite, dressed in black jeans and a black shirt to match his black hair. 

They’re both incredibly good looking and if Yuuji was in any space to actually have friends let alone a crush he’d start with the two of them. Although, they might be a couple as far as he can tell, they’re definitely arguing passionately enough to qualify by the way they’re completely ignoring him. 

“Maki knows what she saw and I believe her!” The girl hisses, a black holographic nail pointing accusingly at the boy sitting across from her. 

“We’ve been looking for weeks, we all want to see him - hell, I see him in crowds half the time we go out. I’m not saying we don’t re-search the area, I’m just saying to not get your hopes up,” The boy says flatly, not matching the woman’s tone in the slightest but there’s still an edge of emotion there Yuuji recognizes as frustration. 

“What are you waiting for? Talk to them!” 

Yuuji winces at the volume but he can’t exactly ignore the voice’s request when it’s literally just telling him to do his job so he begrudgingly clears his throat, “You guys ready to order?” 

Two heads flick his way, eyes widening in such raw, absolute shock that Yuuji whips around to see what the hell the two of them are looking at. Nothing seems out of place in the cafe though so he turns back to the two of them who are still staring at him, gazes unmoving in their intensity.

“Uh, I can come back if you need a minute?” He offers with a nervous laugh. Hatsu makes this seem way easier, is it normal to just dead eye your waiter in Tokyo? He flicks his pen nervously against his paper pad as he waits for them to tell him he can go and break the awkwardness that’s trapped him here. 

“Something’s wrong right? This can’t be fucking real,” The girl says flatly. 

“For his sake something better be,” The boy says through gritted teeth. 

Yuuji runs the past conversation through his head and is pretty sure he’s only said two sentences to these guys and yet he’s still somehow managed to fuck this up. God, Michi is going to kill him for not understanding Tokyo waitstaff etiquette - he should have asked Hatsu for some pointers. 

“I’m so sorry,” he apologizes, bowing his head. “I don’t usually wait tables, if I insulted you in some way I really didn’t mean it - I’m usually behind the counter! So if you come back I’ll be there and you won’t even have to talk to me,” He laughs awkwardly, rubbing his neck with his bad hand. 

“What happened to your arm?” The boy asks, eyes narrowed as he stares at the bandaged arm. If he didn’t know better he’d say it almost sounds like an accusation. 

“I’m in a boxing club but I’m not very good at it,” He says easily, the lie rolling off his tongue easily after repeating it so often this past week. Instead of the usual comments about him quitting the two narrow their eyes and Yuuji has the strangest feeling they can somehow tell he’s lying. 

“Boxing? Is it a school club? What school do you go to?” The girl asks casually and Yuuji nearly gets conversation whiplash from how they’ve gone from threatening him to asking about his personal life. 

“I’m home schooled,” He offers.  

“You don’t seem like you’re from here, you moved to Tokyo to be home schooled?” 

“I only moved here a few weeks ago,” He explains. “I’m still adjusting to everything.” 

“A few weeks?” The girl chokes. “What?” 

“Uh, I’m from Sendai?” 

“You’re saying a few weeks ago you were in Sendai?” The boy clarifies, the anger in his gaze disappearing only to be replaced with an even more intense scrutinization. 

“Yeah…” He frowns. “Were you guys going to order?” 

“Three lattes,” The girl waves her hand casually. 

“…three?”

“Yeah, I assume you have a lunch break?” She crosses her arms, leaning back in her seat. The boy nods, staring at him expectantly. 

Yuuji pauses, gaze flickering between the two of them. “Are you… are you guys asking me out?” He asks, bewildered. 

The two glance at each other, some sort of silent conversation passing between the two of them before looking back at him. They both nod. 

Which is how he ends up pulling a third chair to their table, sipping on a latte as he takes his ten minute break. 

“I gotta be up front here, I’m not really in a position to be dating someone - let alone two people,” He explains, fidgeting with the backrest of the chair he’s straddling backwards. 

The girl waves a hand dismissively, “We think you’re cute and want to get to know you, that’s it.” 

“I’m Fushiguro and this is Kugisaki,” The boy - Fushiguro - explains. 

“Itadori,” Yuuji tells them with a smile. Even if this can’t go anywhere, it’s kind of nice being able to just sit and drink coffee with some people his age. Even if these people do seem to have extreme conversational mood swings. 

Fushiguro’s phone buzzes and he frowns, glancing at Kugisaki who chews her lip before shaking her head. 

“Something wrong?” He frowns. 

“We’re just trying to figure out if we should tell someone something,” Fushiguro explains, fingers hovering over his phone before typing out a short response and hitting send. 

“Like a secret?” 

“Not really. Megumi’s… we’ll call him his dad-“ 

“We will not.”

“Megumi’s guardian is away on a really important foreign visit that took a lot of strings to pull.” 

“Is he like am ambassador or something?” Yuuji asks curiously. 

“Or something,” Fushiguro says vaguely. “it’s all political, he thought something very important was going to be at this big foreign meeting which is why he pulled so many strings to show up but it turns out it was in Tokyo all along. So if we tell him that it’s actually here he’s going to upset a whole lot of people who were expecting him to show because he’ll be on the first plane back here after I hit send.” 

“Sounds like a lot of pressure for you guys… also like your dad is a spy.” 

“He’s not my dad,” Fushiguro huffs. 

“Sorry,” Yuuji grins, “I live with a guardian too, I get it.” 

“You do?” Kugisaki asks curiously. “How do you know them?” 

“Uh, well it’s a lot of boring details,” He laughs, not wanting to have to explain to them how batshit crazy their date is. “But he’s a doctor so I get having a guardian who’s away a lot.” 

“What hospital does he work at?” 

“Where do you guys live?” 

The two of them both ask at the same time and Yuuji starts to feel like maybe this isn’t so much of a date as it is an interrogation. Why were they so interested in him anyway? He’s just a barista in training and they’re two hot teenagers who could be out doing way cooler things with Fushiguro’s Dad’s spy money. Probably. 

“It’s one of the big hospitals in the city and we live in the area,” He says with a shrug, not about to give his address to two strangers even if they’re humoring him with coffee. “What about you guys?” 

“We go to school in the suburbs but it’s a quick train into the city,” Kugisaki explains. “How long have you been living with you guardian?” 

“Not that long-“ 

“What’s his name?” Fushiguro asks. 

“I don’t think-“ 

“Maybe we could all hang out sometime?” Kugisaki grins but her eyes are too eager, both her and Fushiguro leaning too close for some idle chatter with their waiter. 

“Um, I should probably get back to work,” He says instead of answering. “Thanks for inviting me to talk, I’ll cover the coffee.” 

“I’m the one who asked you out,” Kugisaki corrects, pulling a handful of coins out of her purse and setting them on the table. 

“You should get that arm looked at,” Fushiguro says seriously. 

“I-“ 

“We’ll see you around, Yu- Itadori,” Kugisaki grins, giving him a wave as she tugs Fushiguro out the door by his wrist. 

By the point the morning rush has mostly cleared out which means Hatsu has no reason to hold back from whistling loudly as soon as they leave the store, “I didn’t know you were so popular, Itadori,” He teases from the counter. 

“That arm is just a pickup tactic isn’t?” Michi snickers. 

“Shut up,” Yuuji laughs, his cheeks heating up despite the three of them not leaving on the best of terms. He doesn’t know exactly what they wanted but if he sees them again he doesn’t think it would be too bad. 

“Can you take the trash out? I was watching the kitchen and making drinks so you could go on your little date, it’s the least you can do,” Hatsu grins, gesturing to the back where the kitchen garbages were already stuffed full. 

“Yeah, yeah, you’re the best,” Yuuji agrees, quickly tying up the bags and heading toward the backdoor that opened up to the alley. 

He pushes the door open with his back and manages to heave both bags with one hand up into the dumpster, a small success for the strange day he’s had so far. A noise from the mouth of the street interrupts him and he peeks over the top of the dumpster to see Fushiguro and Kugisaki duck into the alley. 

Before he can go back inside or even alert them to his presence Kugisaki ducks her face against Fushiguro’s chest who immediately wraps his arms around her, fingers clenching into fists at her back. 

“What the fuck. What the actually fuck,” Kugisaki hisses, her voice wavering wetly. 

“I know.” 

“We’re seriously just supposed to leave him in there? We find him after a whole fucking month of searching and everyone telling us he’s dead and we’re just supposed to leave him?” 

“I know.” 

“And we can’t just… grab him?” 

“I doubt that would do us any favors, we have no idea what’s causing this and making him see us as the enemy isn’t a good first step. We were already to heavy-handed, we made him uncomfortable.” 

“The way he looked at us… he really has no clue who we are,” She whispers and Fushiguro’s jaw clenches. 

“Is not telling Gojo the right move? What was up with his arm? God- what are we supposed to do!” 

“We have a few options but Gojo should be our last one. You know how big of a deal it is for him to show up in Sweden and how pissed the Zenin clan is. If he bails it won’t just be the Zenin clan we’ll have to deal with it’ll be international outrage. Gojo will figure out soon enough that Yuuji’s not there on his own time anyway and be home early but at least he’ll have made an appearance.” 

“So we just have to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere in the meantime,” Kugisaki sighs, pulling back from Fushiguro’s chest and taking a deep breath. “Let’s go find out what’s up with this doctor.” 

“We’ve got a different call to make too,” Fushiguro says, glancing back at the cafe before taking a deep breath and heading back out onto the street with Kugisaki at his side. 

Yuuji’s knees give out as soon as they disappear from view, his heart hammering against his chest as he slides down against the dumpster into a slump on the concrete. 

“Are you finally starting to get it, brat?” 

Yuuji presses his face into his hands and tries not to scream. 

… 


Yuuji doesn’t know what to tell Hatori so he settles on asking vague questions since that seemed to work for Kugisaki and Fushiguro. 

“Hey doc?” He asks at dinner, the two of them eating a takeaway pizza Hatori brought home. “Did you ever find out how long I was in Tokyo?”

“Before you lost your memory? I talked to your foster family when I was getting your guardianship paper filled out and they said you’d come up for a concert a few days before. So maybe three days I think were the dates she gave?” 

Yuuji nods into his pizza, his stomach sinking. He excuses himself after a few more bites that taste like ash in his mouth and heads for the bathroom, claiming to need a shower after dealing with old coffee grounds all day. 

He goes through the usual motions, his thoughts feeling sluggish as he tries to process the only two options he’s been presented with and climbs into the shower. The hot water feels nice on his back despite everything and he lets his head thunk against the cool tile. 

Either Kugisaki and Fushiguro have mistaken him for someone else, potentially the Met Tech runaway, or Hatori is lying to him. Neither option is particularly comforting and maybe it’s selfish but after everything the Doctor’s done for him he really doesn’t want it to be him. Why would he even lie in the first place? Yuuji’s been super supportive of helping Hatori do research since day one so why…

He sighs and drops his gaze to the tile, watching the water pool around his feet when something glints in his eyes. 

He blinks, reaching up and wiping at his face with a frown. What the hell? He lowers his gaze back down and for the first time since he’s woken up he really looks at his feet beyond a cursory glance when he pulls on some socks in the mornings. 

His toes glint in the soft shower light, chipped black holographic nail polish in the exact same shade as Kugisaki’s fingers reflect back at him. 

Yuuji’s never been one to run away from a problem but he doesn’t exactly now how to confront Hatori about this. Of course there’s also the issue of if he does confront the doctor will he stop helping Yuuji with his hallucinations? As convincing as Kugisaki and Fushiguro are he doesn’t really want to give up his only chance at being a functioning member of society… or his bed. 

So he decides to think on it which is just code for running away but at least it makes him feel better about it. 

The door to the store chimes and he stands from where he’s stacking cups underneath the counter and getting lost in his own head. Michi and Hatsu are doing stock in the back so he heads over to the register.

Stockbroker is Yuuji’s first thought when the man approaches the counter but that is quickly thrown out the window when he sees just how built the man is. Maybe he shadows as a karate master at night or something. 

“Mornin’” Yuuji smiles. “What can I get you?” 

The man doesn’t answer, simply staring at him for a long moment in what is now becoming a somewhat familiar move. His dark sunglasses give nothing away. 

“Did you need a second to look at the menu?” He offers. 

The man seems to come back to himself and clears his throat. “Americano, please.” 

The man passes him a large bill and Yuuji is pleasantly surprised when he dumps the change he hands him back inside their tip jar. “Thanks!” 

“You’re welcome, Itadori.” 

Yuuji wears a name tag but the ease in which this man says his name feels a little too familiar. Or maybe he’s just overly paranoid after yesterday. 

He’s convinced Michi that he can still move his arm fine even if he doesn’t have full use of his fingers with the bandages so he’s allowed back on the espresso machine. He presses the button with extra flourish since this man is a great tipper and deserves the very best he can muster… which isn’t a whole lot if he’s not putting anything on top of the coffee. 

“It’s too bad you didn’t order something with milk, I’ve been practicing my shapes,” He says conversationally. 

The store is quiet and he doesn’t expect an answer back since the man probably has a very busy business phone to monitor even when he’s stopping for coffee so he’s pleasantly surprised when he gets a response. “Perhaps I’ll take a recommendation next time.” 

“Are you a regular? I only started this week so I’m still trying to get to know faces.” 

“Not currently but for convenience sake you’ll probably see me around more frequently.” 

“Did you change jobs?” He asks, passing the man his coffee over the counter. 

“No, I have a very accident prone mentee who is in need of looking after. I’ll be in the area to assist.” 

“Cool, I’ll be seeing you around then,” He grins before smacking himself lightly on the head, “Oh! Michi will kill me if I don’t get your name, I’m supposed to start memorizing them for the regulars.” 

“It’s Nanami.” 

“Alright, Nanamin,” Yuuji grins before his smile falls from his face, mortification coloring his cheeks a bright pink. Where the hell did that come from? It slipped right off his lips without a thought, god the guys’ going to think he’s either a flirt or just plain rude and he doesn’t know which is worse. 

“It’s quite alright, Itadori,” Nanami says, voice oddly soft compared to his previous flatness. Before Yuuji can even recover he’s out the door, coffee cup in hand. 

He half expects to see Fushiguro and Kugisaki again and he doesn’t know how he feels about that. On one hand they most likely have answers to what the hell he’s been getting up to the past year but on the other, their first reaction to seeing him and his memory loss was to lie so… maybe it’s not anything he wants to know just yet. 

Fushiguro and Kugisaki don’t make an appearance for the rest of the week but Nanami surprises him by becoming a twice a day regular, stopping by early in the mornings and right before Yuuji gets off his afternoon shift. 

“Itadori, your sugar daddy is here.” 

“He’s not - Hatsu!” Yuuji splutters as he sets down the pan he was washing. 

Right, and Nanami only ever requests Yuuji as his barista. 

“Please, he only comes here when it’s dead so he can have you all to himself,” Hatsu teases. “You’re such a flirt, Itadori, this isn’t a maid cafe.” 

“Shut up,” He scoffs but straightens up his hair and apron before heading out into the cafe. He might not have a crush on Nanami but something about the older man always seemed to push him a little farther to do his best. Even if the best in question was serving coffee in a train station cafe. 

“Hey Nanami!” He chips, waving at the man who barely glances his way over his morning newspaper. He’s in his usual spot, sitting up at one of the barstools at the counter. “what can I get you?” 

“Surprise me,” Nanami says tonelessly, flicking a page of his newspaper. 

“Cappuccino it is,” He announces, grabbing a cup from the stack. “Michi says I can’t get the milk right so I’ve been practicing.” 

“I look forward to see the difference between today’s and yesterdays.”

“Okay, maybe don’t get your hopes up too high,” He laughs and reaches up to grab the milk, flinching slightly as his side pulls. 

“Did you injure yourself again?” Nanami asks, folding his newspaper and setting it aside. 

“Yeah, took a hard punch.” 

“I’d think a good boxing club wouldn’t make someone so inexperienced fight as frequently as you do.” 

“Who said they were good?” Yuuji jokes, pouring the milk over top the coffee. It’s not great but if you squint it looks close enough to a leaf. He proudly hands the cup over to Nanami who looks it over with a discerning eye before taking a sip. 

“Adequate.” 

“Aw, come on!” Yuuji groans, letting his head fall against the counter. “I swear we do good coffee, Michi makes an amazing cup if you’ll let her make one for you.” 

“You need to practice and I don’t mind how my caffeine is served,” Nanami taps his long fingers against the counter. “Are you in pain?” 

“Nah, just a little tender,” He grabs a rag and starts wiping down the machine. “How are things at your job?” 

“Fine. A little more peaceful as one of my colleagues is currently out of the country.” 

“Sounds like you miss him a lot,” Yuuji teases. 

“Mm, not particularly. There is a good chance when he comes back he will trample all over the project I’m working on with two students. He has little tact, especially when emotions are involved… but I can’t say I would be upset at him speeding up the process.” 

“You don’t strike me as someone who gets impatient.” 

“Generally I don’t but in this particularly instance I find myself wanting to be selfish.” 

“Do it Nanami, be selfish!” Yuuji cheers swinging his towel onto his shoulder. 

Nanami snorts and shakes his head, “I don’t think you’d be saying that if you knew what it concerned but I appreciate the thought… however,” He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a small cream colored card, sliding it over on the table toward Yuuji. 

“Your business card?” He asks curiously. 

“My contact information,” Nanami corrects. “I know you’re new here and might not have a lot of options if something should happen. Feel free to call me if anything should arise.” 

“Oh. Uh-“ 

“It’s simply an offer. It’s important to me that you don’t feel completely alone even if you don’t call it.” 

Yuuji doesn’t sense any ulterior motives and it’s not like he demanded Yuuji’s contact information back so he nods, accepting the card. 

“I have to be going, I’ll see you later,” Nanami picks up his newspaper and gives Yuuji a wave before slipping outside into the bustling crowd. 

He glances down at the card, ‘Nanami Kento’ listed in bold font with a phone number underneath, no business or other information given which is a bit strange. 

He pockets the card. 

The walk home after his shift ends is a quiet one, too lost in his own head to pay much attention to the rest of Tokyo bustling on around him. 

Does Nanami know him too? 

He can’t help but be suspicious now which he knows isn’t a good idea on top of his paranoia but he can’t exactly help it. Nanami is kind and patient and comes in every day to see just Yuuji and gave him his phone number despite only knowing him for less than a week. As far as he knows, Nanami doesn’t seem particularly interested in him romantically despite Hatsu’s claims and why the hell would he be? Which leaves he’s either a generally nice person or he also knew Yuuji from the year he's lost. 

“Don’t go down that way.” 

The voice interrupts his thoughts and he glances down the empty street, glancing around for anything concerning but there’s nothing. He grits his teeth and presses his bandaged arm against his side, the slice of pain running through him banishing any hesitation as he continues down the street the same way he always goes. 

“I told you, don’t go down here,” The voice threatens, voice a hissing warning but Yuuji ignores it, keeping steady pressure on his arm to keep from getting overwhelmed. He’s fine, he walks this way home everyday, there’s nothing down here. 

A gurgling sound interrupts him. 

He turns his head and there rolling between a closed down ramen bar and a laundromat is one of his horror creature only this time it’s nearly the size of a bear and seems to be bunching on something vaguely human shaped, it’s gaping mouth slobbering over what appears to be two arms. 

“Don’t look at it!” The voice hisses, “Get the hell out of here, brat.”

Yuuji’s feet are stuck to the pavement as he stares at what’s left of a human person. Should he do something to help? This is all in his head but that doesn’t make the scene playing out in front of him any less horrifying. 

The monster swallows, a pair of skinny legs following down into its mouth and Yuuji has to fight the urge to dry heave. The monster smacks its large lips before turning and facing Yuuji.

“Run damn it!” 

Yuuji snarls, fingers fisting against his sides. The monster shrieks in response, gearing up on it’s hind legs and leaping toward them - 

Only to be struck back down as a large black dog tears into its flesh. 

“I’ve got it!” A voice calls and then a woman runs past - Kugisaki? She holds a hammer above her head and throws two nails in the air, bringing the tool down like an executioner’s axe as the ground trembles with the force of her swing. The curse screams, shriveling into a pile of ash and Yuuji can do nothing but stare as Fushiguro crouches down in front of him. 

“You okay?” 

Yuuji is not okay. 

He gasps out some sort of sound before stumbling to his feet and taking off, legs pumping hard as he books it away from the street. He’s been doing a lot of running away lately but Yuuji would rather be called a coward than have a breakdown in front of those two and a dead monster. 

Which they could see. Fushiguro and Kugisaki could see the monster - they killed it. Fushiguro and Kugisaki who he knows are real because Michi and Hatsu had commented on them when they’d walked into the cafe. They're real people and they just destroyed one of the creatures that’s been haunting him for the past few weeks in less than a minute when him and Hatori haven’t even been able to get the voice in his head to shut up. 

… were the monsters real too? 

He needs to get home. Maybe he and Hatori had been going about this the wrong way this entire time. He pushes himself faster, the ache in his legs a pleasant comfort against how everything else in his world seems to be falling apart. 

“Again?” Hatori asks in concern when he runs through the door, recognizing the signs of his now usual panic attack. “What happened?” 

“No- I - it’s different,” He tries to explain as he catches his breath. “Other people could see them too.”

Hatroi is silent for a moment, putting down the kitchen knife he’s chopping vegetables with and walking around the counter. “Other people saw your hallucinations?” 

Yuuji nods, “Do you think - maybe I’m not hallucinating. Maybe I’m just seeing stuff other people can’t-“

“Itadori,” Hatori sighs, fondly running his fingers through his hair. “That’s not how this works.” 

“But they saw it too, these two people from the cafe. I know they could see it!” He says desperately, playing over the way Kugisaki had ran straight toward the monster. 

“Monsters aren’t real,” Hatori reminds him gently and the creature on his shoulder stretches out it’s wings. Has it always been that big? 

“I know but-“ 

“Is that really what you want? You don’t want it to be in your head, it’s better for these horrifying things you’re seeing to be real? 

“I … no,” He frowns, “But I know what I saw.” 

“Itadori, you haven’t known what you’re seeing since you woke up. That’s the entire reason you moved in with me. Is it the treatment? I know it’s been slow going but I’m sure we’re on the cusp on a breakthrough,” He soothes, running his hands down Yuuji’s sides before pausing at his jacket pocket. “What that?” 

“What?” Yuuji frowns and digs into his jacket, pulling out Nanami’s card. “A regular at the cafe gave it to me.” 

Hatori takes the card and looks it over, eyes lingering on the name before he tucks it into his own pants pocket. “You shouldn’t take strangers numbers.” 

Yuuji doesn’t often get angry but Hatori so casually taking something that Nanami had given him away makes his teeth clench, “That’s mine.” 

Hatori ignores that. “I’m not giving you results fast enough, you’re forcing your hallucinations onto others because you feel like you’re not making progress?

“No- I’m telling you-“ 

“Monsters aren’t real, do you agree?” 

Yuuji hesitates but what else is he supposed to say because regardless of what he saw he can’t exactly trust his eyes right now. “Yes.” 

“Good,” Hatori sighs. “I’m concerned at how things are escalating if you’ve gone so far as to believe real people are interacting with your hallucination… perhaps I’ve been too lenient in your treatment.”  

“Doc?” 

“You trust me too much is the only difference I can come up with. When you healed yourself in the hospital your body had to have been under a great deal of distress in comparison to the controlled environment we have here. So in order for your brain to let go of the hallucinations perhaps I have to recreate something similar.” 

“To when my brain got bashed in?” Yuuji frowns and for the first time since moving in with the doctor he feels hesitation creep into his mind. 

“Not exactly that scenario but the same feelings of helplessness, confusion, fear- that’s what we’ve been missing,” Hatori reasons matter of factly, his hands moving from where they rest on Yuuji’s arms to drop down and grab his thighs. 

“What -?” 

“I don’t want to do this either but for your own mental wellbeing it’s a step we have to take. You want to help with my research don’t you? You want to save people?” Hatori asks softly, fingers tracing over the button on Yuuji's jeans. 

“I- yeah I do but I don’t want -“ He doesn’t know what to do. He promised Hatori to help and he wants to assist in his research but this- whatever this is - he doesn’t want it. He was fine with the scalpel and the stitches and the broken bones but Hatori’s hand is pressing firmly against the front of his jeans and he feels something sick rolling in his stomach. He knows Hatori would do anything to help him - that’s why he lied about how long Yuuji was in Tokyo right? - he just didn’t think it would have to go this far. 

Hatori’s bird’s beak breaks into a wide smirk, cracking around the edges as it hangs over both of them from Hatori’s shoulder. 

“Please don’t,” He says softly. He could kick Hatori off, he’s defiantly stronger than the doctor but what will that leave him with? Being kicked out of the apartment in a strange city with a part time barista paycheck and a whole host of hallucinations that may or may not be real. Besides, Hatori’s his guardian now. All he’d have to do is call the police and Yuuji would be brought right back here even if he did run. 

“This is going to help you,” Hatori says gently and Yuuji wants so badly to believe him but just like Hatori said, he doesn’t quite know what’s real and what’s fake anymore. 

Hatori’s hand dips into his pants, fingers skimming the waistband of his boxers but before Yuuji can beg him again to stop his vision goes dark. 

Yuuji opens his eyes to damp clothes and a strange red glow covering his vision. He rubs his eyes once to try and clear it but it doesn’t go away. Instead a tattooed face strangely similar to his own peeks over into his view. 

“We need to talk, brat,” 

Yuuji yelps, scrambling up and out of the water only to come face to face with some sort of towering mountain of skeletons. 

“I’ve gone crazy,” He mutters, staring at the pile of bones. “Extra crazy. Crazier then I already was times a million.” 

“No you haven’t, at least not yet,” The voice in his head says except now it’s connected to a person, a person who looks an awful lot like him if he decided to get a few face tattoos and start using a lot more hair gel. 

“You’re -“ Yuuji points accusingly at him. 

“Sukuna,” The voice - the man - supplies, crossing his arms as he stares at Yuuji unimpressed. “You would do well to not forget that name again.” 

“But you’re - in my head. I heard you. You look like me!” 

“You’re my vessel,” Sukuna waves a hand casually. “I’m speaking-“ 

“What the hell does that mean-!” He barely finishes the sentence before his knees are giving way underneath him, forcing him chest down onto the ground. 

“I’m speaking,” Sukuna repeats, a sharp glare in his eye. “You very stupidly went head to head with a curse user with a particularly annoying technique. You are well aware now that what you are seeing isn’t just in your head.” 

Yuuji swallows staring down at the blood red water. “I don’t know that, I can’t trust my own head.” 

“So you’re going to trust that idiotic excuse for a doctor over your own eyes?” 

“I’m having a conversation with myself right now, I don’t think I’m to be trusted with logic!” He digs his fingers into his own hair, trying to center himself despite how off balance everything seems. 

“You know it’s true. What you’ve been seeing aren’t hallucinations, they’re curses and the people you keep avoiding are sorcerers who exorcise them. It is all very real and you need to accept this in order to escape this domestic hellscape you’ve trapped us both in,” Sukuna growls, stepping forward. “You hear me brat? I’d rather go back to that school than spend another day in whatever joke of a life this is you’ve decided to good enough for you.” 

Yuuji bares his teeth, feeling anger bubble up inside him at the man’s blatant disregard for just how hopeless he’s felt these past few weeks. “It’s not that easy!” 

“It is,” Sukuna scoffs. “Do you want to get out of here? Out of this apartment and back to your friends and your pathetic little family you’ve knit together? Back to actually saving people instead of relying on whatever bullshit that doctor tells you?” 

Yuuji blinks, his eyes wet with angry tears and he realizes he doesn’t think he’s ever heard anything better. “Yes!” 

“Then listen to me. When you wake up you’re going to retrieve that business card and call that annoying sorcerer. You’re going to tell him what you know, that curses are real, and to help you leave this place. Then you’re going to walk out of this apartment and if you so much as hesitate in the doorway I will take over your body and level this entire city block.” 

“You can take over my body?” Yuuji frowns, eyes darting to the strange space the man seems to occupy. Just from the decor he can assume this guy probably shouldn’t be roaming freely in public. 

“Tsk,” Sukuna scoffs, “Even without memories your control is iron clad. I grow tired of humoring you, brat. You can ask for more information from your idiot friends.”

“Kugisaki and Fushiguro… they’re my friends right?” 

Sukuna makes a noncommittal sound. 

“And Nanami is a... sorcerer? … God, it was all going on right next to me and I was too caught up in my messed up brain I didn’t even notice,” He murmurs. “So how do I wake up?” 

Sukuna pauses, eyes fiery as he looks somewhere past Yuuji at something only this curse of a man can see. “I’ll wake you once he has finished.” 

The meaning of that takes a moment to sink in. 

“He’s… oh.” Yuuji stares down at a strange looking skull for a long moment. “Thank you… for pulling me in here.” 

“I prefer my things to remain untouched by tainted hands,” Sukuna says simply, a low threatening sound that makes Yuuji shiver. “Since you cannot consciously allow me to switch, this is the best I can do.” 

Yuuji sits down on the side of the water and tries not to think of what other lengths Hatori might be willing to go for his research. 

… 

Yuuji wakes up in a dark apartment. Hatori most likely left for an evening call at the hospital and he takes comfort in small miracles as he pushes himself up into a sitting position. Hatori had apparently moved him from the dinning room floor to the living room couch but he doesn’t stop to take in the state of his body, knowing he’s short on time if he wants to get out of here before Hatori gets back. 

He moves off the couch and hurries down the hallway, heading for the office since he most likely dropped the business card there judging by how intensely he had looked at it earlier. 

Did Hatori know about sorcerers? 

No, he can’t think like that right now. He needs to get out of here and then he can try and figure out what exactly the doctor’s connection to all of this is. 

He cracks open the door to Hatori’s office and scans the desk and shelves for anywhere he might of tossed the card on his way out the door. Worst case scenario he took the card with him and Yuuji’s going to have to figure out a way to break into the coffee shop to wait for Nanami in the morning. 

“Check the drawers,” Sukuna instructs and Yuuji moves around to the back of the desk to dig through the drawers. 

Pens, paper, schedules - He sighs as he sorts through general stationary in the first two before dropping down the mess of files in the last drawer. They’re all recent patients and Yuuji’s about to give up hope for the business card when he spots his own name. 

He frowns and flips open his hospital folder, staring at his own name and medical history with his home address listed as Tokyo. 

“So, Hatori knew I was living here,” Yuuji frowns, flipping through the pages. 

“Stop,” Sukuna orders and Yuuji’s hands still on his medical contact sheet. There are two names listed but both are scribbled out under Hatori’s illegible scrawl, notes about whoever they are sprawling into the corners of the page. 

“One of these is probably Nanami,” He reasons and grabs the phone sitting on Hatori’s desk. Hatori had never given him his own and Yuuji had never seen a reason to buy one as the only person he ever talked to was at the apartment he lived in. God, he really has just been in his only little world these past few weeks. 

The phone rings five times and Yuuji starts to get nervous he won’t pick up when suddenly the loud rumble of a crowd comes through the phone, multiple voices and what sounds like glassware clinking together can just be heard. 

“Kinda busy here,” A bored voice says loudly over the thrum of the crowd. It’s light and casual and definitely not Nanami. 

“Uh, sorry!” He apologizes. “I must have the wrong number,” 

There’s the sound of glass breaking on the other end. 

“Y-?” 

He hangs up with a sigh and glances at the next number, fingers starting to punch in the first few digits when the phone starts to ring, making him jump in the silent apartment. 

His thumb moves to end the call when he realizes the number is the same as the one he just dialed. Maybe someone else had Nanami’s phone and they’d handed it back? 

He accepts the call. 

“Hi?” 

“Yuuji,” The voice on the other end growls, loud and demanding. “Don’t hang up!” 

Yuuji frowns, glancing at the clock on Hatori’s wall. “I don’t really have a lot of time.” 

“What the fuck does that mean? Where are you?” The voice demands, the sounds of the party fading and the man’s voice getting clearer as he leaves whatever room he was in. 

Yuuji bites his lip, “I’m looking for Nanami? Do you know him? Maybe you can give me his number?”

“Do I know Nanami-?“ The man cuts off with a rough breath, quiet for a second before continuing. “Do you know who I am?” 

“No,” Yuuji leans forward, pressing the phone against his ear. “You’re on my medical contact sheet and I’m trying to call Nanami.” 

“Yeah, I got that - why don’t you start by telling me where you are and we can have this conversation in person.” 

Yuuji bits his cheek in frustration, “Please just tell me his number, I’m trying to get a ride.” 

“Kid, I will come pick you up in a limo if that’s what you want but I need you to tell me where you are first.” 

The man is on his medical contact sheet and even if he’d rather have Nanami, Yuuji isn’t really in a position to give up a ride out of here. He’ll have to trust his past self wasn’t an idiot when he put whoever this person is down on the sheet. 

He lists off the apartment address and hears the man typing it into his phone in response. 

“Fucking down the street,” The man swears.

“How long do you think it’ll-“ He cuts off as there’s a soft thumping sound from the hallway. “Shit.” 

“Yuuji?” The man asks only this time it echoes through the phone, the second signal coming from the other side of the door. 

It opens and instead of Hatori home early it’s a a man in a very expensive looking tuxedo and black sunglasses. 

“You’re - “ Yuuji points at the phone and the man nods, ending the call as the line on Yuuji’s own phone goes dead. “What’s your name?” 

“Gojo,” The man supplies, “Any reason you don’t have the lights on it’s pitch black in here-“ He cuts off as he flicks on the light switch and Yuuji comes into view. 

Yuuji doesn’t know what he currently looks like but from the way Gojo’s eyes are locked on his neck he can offer a guess. 

“You’re a sorcerer too?” Yuuji asks, though he can’t think of any other way the man could have gotten here that fast… or broke through the front door without setting off the alarm. If they can all see and fight curses like Kugisaki had maybe they can fly too for all he knows.

The man doesn’t answer, walking across the room in two long strides until he’s face to face with Yuuji. His large hand comes down and grabs his jaw, tiling his head to the side as he scans over his face and neck. “Tell me what happened.” 

“Uh - well, it’s kind of a long story,” He laughs nervously, rubbing at the back of his neck. “But I’d like to get out of here.” 

“Is whoever did this still here?” 

Yuuji shakes his head and Gojo finally releases his face, expression unreadable as he looks down at him. 

“You said you’d give me a ride?” Yuuji reminds him, glancing at the clock again. 

That seems to pull the man out of his thoughts and he nods, clapping his hands together. “Right, grab whatever you need because we’re not coming back here, this place is tacky as hell.” 

Yuuji glances around at the big windows and expensive carved bookshelves that line the walls, “Is your place nicer than this?” 

“Just because you have amnesia doesn’t mean you can wound me like that Yuuji, of course my place is nicer than this dump. This is the kind of apartment assholes with too much money live in because they can’t tell style from expense,” He explains with a scoff, one hand gently guiding Yuuji away from the desk and toward the door. 

“I don’t have anything to grab,” He explains when they get out into the hallway. His only possessions are the clothes Hatroi bought him and he’s not particularly nostalgic for any of those. 

“Traveling light, even better,” Gojo answers but Yuuji gets the feeling he’s on autopilot, mind somewhere else as he keeps a tight hand on his shoulder. 

“And you’ll take me to Nanami?” 

“Nananmi, Nanami, Nananmi - Sensei is right here Yuuji, since when did I become second favorite?” 

“Sensei?” He asks curiously. The man can’t be much older than twenty five and judging from that suit there’s no way he’s on a high school teachers salary. 

“Mm, but we’ll get to that later. Do you remember Nanami?” 

Yuuji shakes his head as he unlocks the door to the apartment, Gojo nudging him through the doorway and just like he promised Sukuna, he doesn’t look back. “He’s a regular at the cafe I work at. He gave me his card and told me to call if I needed help.” 

“Is he now?” Gojo asks, his voice so smooth it sounds oddly threatening. “how long has he been going to your cafe?” 

“This week… I think Fushiguro and Kagisaki might have called him,” He admits, thinking back on it. 

“Of course they did,” Gojo mutters under his breath. “To answer your question, yes, we’ll be going to see Nanami.” 

Yuuji relaxes but instead of heading for the elevator Gojo’s hand tightens on his shoulder, his vision filled with the sparkling hallway of the apartment building before being replaced with a wet sidewalk in a part of Tokyo he doesn’t recognize. 

“What-?” 

“Warping, don’t worry about that right now either,” Gojo says casually and tugs Yuuji gently by his arm as they head up to a much smaller and modern looking apartment building than the one they just left. 

Gojo has obviously been here quite a few times judging by the familiar way he guides them to an apartment on the third floor. He knocks three times and steps back, Nanami opening the door only a few moments later. 

“Itadori?” He’s only ever seen Nanami make one expression - disinterest. So it’s strange to see the man’s eyes widen before narrowing as he crouches down to his level. “What happened?” 

“A lot,” He laughs nervously. “But I’ve kind of run away - and found out you're a sorrcerer?” 

“Can’t run away if you were kidnapped in the first place,” Gojo says cheerfully and pushes past Nanami to walk into the apartment. 

Nanami stands back up and nudges Yuuji inside after him. Hatori’s apartment might be filled with luxury features but Nanami’s seems like someone actually lives in it. They walk through a living room filled with bookshelves and a tv muted to the evening news into a warm kitchen where some sort of soup is boiling on the stove. In the middle is the man himself in a pair of sweatpants and a graphic t-shirt - both things Yuuji would have never pictured Nanami in before. 

“Would you like to shower, Yuuji?” Nanami asks and Yuuji nods, the adrenaline starting to run down and the feeling of being touched without his knowledge leaving a gross sensation all over his body. 

“I believe I have some of your clothes, give me a minute,” Nanami says before disappearing into his bedroom. 

Yuuji is suddenly left alone with Gojo- who did take him to Nananmi and apparently might be his teacher but that’s about all he knows about the man who has dumped his tuxedo jacket on the couch and is now picking through Nanami’s cupboards. 

“So, Yuuji,” The man says, “how long have you been living in that apartment?” 

“Three-ish weeks? Hatori invited me after I woke up in the hospital. He was my doctor.” 

“And why would a random doctor invite you into his home?” 

“I thought I was crazy. I was seeing these monsters and hearing this voice in my head and Hatori said he could fix me - I would have done just about anything to get everything to stop and Hatori said I was helping people since he was also researching how my body had healed itself in the hospital.” 

Gojo pauses mid grab into the cupboard, seeming to think over everything Yuuji just said before turning to face him. “He was researching how you healed?” He repeats. 

Yuuji nods. 

Gojo walks toward him, eyeing the way Yuuji is standing before grabbing the sleeve of his shirt and pulling it up, revealing the thick bandage wrapped around his arm. “Did you know about this too?” He asks through gritted teeth. 

Yuuji flinches, not knowing how to answer the question or where the sudden change in mood came from. 

“I knew he was injured but not the extent,” Nanami answers from behind him, setting a folded hoodie and a pair of pajama pants on the table. “we were planning on grabbing him at the end of the week but that was obviously a mistake.” 

“You first mistake was not telling me you found him,” Gojo growls, reaching for the bottom of Yuuji’s shirt. He’s most likely just checking for injuries and he knows this man isn’t Hatori but that doesn’t stop Yuuji from seeing the doctor leaning over him, hands demanding as they did the same thing. 

“Don’t!” He stumbles, trying to put some space between himself and Gojo’s hand. 

Gojo freezes, hand falling to his side as he realizes what he just did. “I wasn't-“ 

“Why don’t you go take that shower,” Nanami interrupts, stepping between them. “Then we can check you over for injuries when you’re done? If you’re comfortable with that?” 

Yuuji nods slowly and picks up the clothes Nanami had set on the table. He knows Gojo didn’t mean to scare him but he also doesn’t have any clue who these people are beyond some sort of connection to him this past year. He thought Hatori was a good person too. 

He slips past them and down the hallway Nanami directs him toward, pausing in front of the bathroom door as he tries to calm his racing heart. 

“Why didn’t you call me?” He hears Gojo ask in a low voice. 

“You know why. Shoko observed him in the cafe as soon as Kugisaki and Fushiguro found him and said removing him forcibly might aggravate whatever curse he’s under. I wasn’t going to risk bringing him back to the school without any memories when the higher ups have put out on execution order on him for trying to escape his sentencing. The only option we had was to try and establish a relationship with him and have him come to the school willingly.” 

“You still should have -“ 

“And have you what? Burn bridges with all our foreign allies by leaving the conference? Grab Yuuji and potentially cause permanent memory loss?” 

“Get off your high horse Nanami, look what waiting around got you.” 

There’s a tense silence. 

“I don’t have many regrets but what happened to Yuuji tonight will forever be one of them,” Nanami says softly. 

Gojo sighs, loud and exhausted. “It’s not your fault,” 

“He’s sixteen years old and is covered in bite marks from an adult man.” 

Yuuji swallows, having heard enough and quietly slips into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. A quick glance at the bathroom mirror confirms Nanami’s words, his neck covered in deep purple bruises in the shape of Hatori’s mouth. 

He swallow tightly and looks away. 

The hot water does wonders to help relax him and a quick inspection of the rest of his body proves that Hatori didn’t do more than bite and touch as far as he can tell. Either because the man was just trying to scare him like he said or he was called to the hospital before he could go any further. 

He bites back the urge to throw up and scrubs his skin a bit harder. 

Only once the hot water runs out does he finally turn off the shower, feeling a little better as he kicks his dirty clothes to the side in favor of the folded pajamas Nanami had given him. The hoodie is soft and familiar and the pajama pants are exactly his size, undeniably his clothes even if he doesn’t remember them. 

The apartment is quiet when he leaves the bathroom, Gojo and Nanami talking quietly in the kitchen as opposed to their earlier conversation so he takes that as a good sign. 

“Yo,” Gojo waves from where he’s taking apart Nanami’s impressive first aid kid on the kitchen table. “lets look at that arm.” 

“If you’re comfortable with it,” Nanami adds, tutting as he walks over and runs a hand through Yuuji’s still damp hair. 

These people are still technically strangers and not perfect but Yuuji feels more comfortable in this kitchen than he has the entire time he was living in Hatori’s apartment. He takes that as enough proof to put a little faith in them.

“Alright,” He agrees, walking over and sitting himself down at the table. He carefully slides off his hoodie and drops it on the table, letting them see his arm and chest that he left unwrapped after his shower. 

His arm is covered in deep cuts, Hatori having started shallow before going as deep as possible to try and trigger a healing response. There are over forty littering his arm, each over three inches long and stitched expertly to make sure he didn’t start bleeding at work. His side is a different story with long incisions made to hurt if he bumped them as a way to keep his hallucinations in check - but maybe Hatori knew that was a lie all along too. 

Gojo stares darkly at his side before grabbing some ointment and gauze, “He did this to you how often?” 

“Every day- but I asked. It’s not like he was holding me hostage or anything. I thought this was the only way to fix me.”

“You’re not broken, Yuuji,” Gojo says firmly. “Hold this for me, would you?” 

Yuuji reaches down and holds the piece of gauze in place as Gojo starts to wrap his side. “So it’s true then? The things I can see are real? They’re curses?” 

“Yep, creepy fuckers too so it’s no wonder you thought you’d gone crazy.” 

“And you guys are from the the Tokyo Metropolitan School?” He asks tentatively. 

“It’s actually Tokyo Prefectural Jujutsu High but don’t tell civilians that,” Gojo grins, tying off the bandage with a practiced hand. 

“He’s your teacher but I don’t work for the school,” Nanami explains, sitting down next to Yuuji and looking over his arm. “we know each other from working on cursed cases.” 

“Seriously? Like detectives?” He grins. 

“A lot more paperwork and less looking for clues but sure, if you’d like to think of it that way,” Nanami allows. 

“The voice in my head, Sukuna… is that normal too?” 

“No,” Gojo snorts. “You’re your own brand of special even among sorcerers but that still doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.” 

Yuuji nods, not sure exactly what that means but willing to trust they’re telling the truth. “Do you know how I lost my memories?” 

“You were being reckless,” Nanami says bluntly as Gojo moves on to wrapping his arm. 

“Ah, uh, that sounds like me,” He grins apologetically. 

“We actually have a few questions about that night too so we’ll both have to wait until you get your memories back to know exactly what happened,” Gojo explains. “All we know for sure is you went head to head with a curse user in Koenji last month and besides a whole lot of blood we couldn’t find either of you.” 

“…Sorry?” He offers. 

Gojo laughs, “I prepared a whole lecture for when we finally found you but looks like I’ll have to save it for later. It’s really good, some of my best work as a Sensei I think.” 

“You’re one to be lecturing on irresponsibility,” Nanami snorts. 

“Do as I say not as I do,” Gojo offers with a wink over his glasses and lets go of his arm. “Good as new - or at least until Shoko can get a look at you.” 

“Thanks,” Yuuji says and flexes his arm. “So about Hatori… he’s my legal guardian now, I’ve seen the paperwork. Is that going to be an issue with me going back to the school?” 

Nanami and Gojo share a look over his head. 

“Not necessarily,” Nanami says as he starts to pack away the first aid kid. “but we can worry about that once you’ve settled back into the school.” 

“The only thing you need to be worried about is getting your memories back… and maybe hiding you from the higher ups,” Gojo adds. 

“Higher ups?” 

Gojo waves a hand at Nanami’s glare, “Just kidding, just worry about your memories.” 

Yuuji wants to argue - he's tired of things being kept from him - but the weight of the day is resting heavy on his shoulders and the urge to pass out overides any desire to press them for answers.

“We can talk more in the morning when we take you to see Shoko,” Nanami says and hands Yuuji back his hoodie. “Come on, I set your futon up in the office.” 

“My futon?” Yuuji asks curiously as he squirms into his hoodie and follows Nanami back down the hall. 

“You’re enjoy dropping in at odd hours despite knowing very well I don’t have a guest bedroom,” Nanami snorts and opens up the door to his office where a gray futon is unrolled in the corner. “I’ll go and grab a pillow, one moment.” 

Yuuji curiously steps into the room as Nanami disappears, looking over the wide range of even more books stored in here as well as several strange weapons mounted on the wall. It’s clean and organized just like Nanami without being cold and he immediately sees why he’d be comfortable crashing here on occasion. 

While the man’s desk is bare the display shelf behind it is full of photos and knickknacks Yuuji’s sure have to have stories connected to them as he scans over them. A young unimpressed Nanami looks back at him in several with the beaming smile of another teenage boy next to him. At the end of the row of photographs is a birthday card and Yuuji can’t help but be a little nosy as he cranes his head to try and see the inside - does Nanami have a girlfriend? 

Instead of a love letter it’s his own hand writing he sees. 

He grabs the card curiously and opens it up - yep that’s his loud scrawl inside alright. He knows logically that Nanami knowing him before he lost his memories is the only thing that makes sense with how the man’s been acting but he can’t help but be a bit relived at the physical proof in front of him. 

Nanamin! Nanamin! Nanamin! Happy Birthday!

He grins a little, thinking back on their first meeting in the cafe and having accidentally used the nickname without knowing it. Maybe his memories aren’t that out of reach if little things like this have been slipping through. 

“Reminiscing?” Nanami asks abruptly. 

He jumps and immediately closes the card, fumbling to set it back on the shelf. “Sorry! I saw my handwriting and got curious.” 

“It’s fine, you wrote it,” Nanami says and drops a pillow on his futon. “I’ll be in the bedroom next door and Gojo will be on the couch if you need anything.” 

“Gojo’s staying the night?” 

“He’s supposed to be at a very important conference right now and I imagine he’s delaying the inevitable thrashing he’ll get later for leaving,” Nanami explains as Yuuji lays down on the futon and gets settled for bed. 

He walks to the door and moves his hand to flick off the light before adding, “you also happened to disappear the last time he let you out of his sight so you may have to get used to having a shadow for awhile.” 

The room goes dark and the door shuts behind him.

… 

Shoko is the school’s doctor - or maybe their mortician considering her office seems more the place to keep corpses than people. 

“Hmmm,” She sighs as she shines a light in Yuuji’s eyes. “Generally I’d say we’d have to get the curse user to release the technique but it looks like Itadori’s acceptance of what’s he’s lost has weakened the curse.” 

“Whoa - you can tell all that just from looking in my eyes?” He asks curiously. 

“No,” She says simply as she continues to shine her light in his eyes. 

“So does that mean you can help him remember?” Gojo asks from where he’s leaning on the exam table. He's wearing a navy uniform himself and has swaped out his sunglasses for a strange looking blindfold. Yuuji's secretly glad he didn't show up at the apartment looking like that because he's pretty he woudn't have gone with him nearly as easily.

“When I saw him in the cafe it was like his memories had been sealed… now they look more like they’re duct taped away,” She explains as she pulls on a pair of gloves. “I’ll just need a sharp knife.” 

Yuuji doesn’t know how to answer that but he apparently doesn’t have to because Shoko is pressing her hands against his skull and then all he knows is darkness.

… 

Yuuji wakes up with a yawn in his bedroom. He stretches lazily, not yet fully awake as he lets his arm flop out to grab for his phone, grabbing it blindly on the third try. Megumi and Nobara look back at him from his phone screen, the two of them making faces at the camera from the desks in front of Yuuji. It’s almost eight, he has class in an hour and should really get up and shower… 

He groans and lets his face fall back against the pillow. 

The peace lasts for five seconds before he sits bolt right up in bed, the past month coming back to him and he scrambles to try and get out from under his sheets only to fall right off the bed with a thump. 

He fights with his blankets until he’s free and then he’s throwing himself out the door and across the hall. 

“Megumi!” He shouts, not bothering to knock as he throws open the boys bedroom door. 

Megumi sits up in bed, still half asleep and his hair standing up even crazier than usual as he rubs his eyes, “Yuuji-?” 

He doesn’t get to finish because Yuuji throws himself on the bed, tackling Megumi into a pin as he wraps himself around him like an octopus. 

“Yuuji what - when did you-“ Megumi seems to give up on questions because instead of fighting him for answers, arms come up around him and squeeze him just as tightly. 

“Nobara,” He murmurs. “Where’s Nobara.” 

“Sleeping, I can call her-“ 

“What the hell are you doing up here?” Nobara kicks at Megumi’s open door as she storms in, no doubt woken up by Yuuji’s thumping around in his bedroom above the girl’s dorms. 

Yuuji wants to cry as she stands in the doorway fuming in a pair of Fruits Basket pajama bottoms and a lime green sports bra. 

He lets go of Megumi who doesn’t seem to get the memo, still clinging tightly to him as he sits up, reaching his arms out to Nobara who goes from rage to wide eyed shock in a second. 

“You’re back?” She gasps but doesn’t wait for an answer as she throws herself onto both of them. 

Yuuji laughs even though half of him sort of wants to cry too, overwhelmed with how much he missed his best friends. He grabs each of them with one arm and pulls them in close, determined not to move from this bed for the rest of his life if he can help it. It takes awhile for words to even come, too overwhelmed in just being with them again to want to do anything but touch.

“You remember then?” Megumi asks sometimes later, laying on his back with Yuuji half on his chest and both their heads pillowed on Nobara’s lap. 

“Mm, it’s crazier to think I forgot everything,” He says softly.

“Crazier for us you mean, you know how weird it was for you to look us right in the eye and have no idea who we were?” Nobara huffs, tugging her hand punishingly through his hair. 

“It felt wrong, I knew I was missing something I just had no idea what it was. It’s terrifying to think a curse can make you forget your family like that,” He frowns, pressing closer to the two. 

Megumi’s arm tightens around his waist in response, “Well that’s what you get for being a dumbass and taking that thing on you own.” 

Yuuji huffs and presses his face against Nobara’s thigh. “I missed you guys,” He says softly. 

“Idiot,” Nobara scolds, trailing her hand through his hair and down his cheek. “you can’t keep doing this to us, Megumi’s getting gray hair.” 

“Am not,” Megumi grunts. 

“Are too,” Nobara and Yuuji chime in at the same time. 

Megumi rolls his eyes and Yuuji grins, wondering how the hell he survived a whole month without these two. Their moment is interupted by a short knock on the door.

“Okay, I might not be the most exemplary Sensei but I do still require you to show up to class,” Gojo scolds as he leans on the open doorway. 

Yuuji blinks and sits up despite the hands still hanging off him. “Sensei!” 

Gojo grins, “Yuuji!” He mimics. 

Yuuji jumps out of bed and sprints for his teacher, hitting his chest at full force but Gojo doesn’t waver, standing strong like always as he wraps his arms around him in a desperate hug. 

“Nice to see you too,” Gojo laughs but his arms are strong and just as tight as they wrap around him and pull him in close, ignoring Megumi and Nobara’s glares from over his shoulder. 

“Thanks for saving my ass,” He laughs as he pulls back, grinning up at his teacher. 

Gojo hums and flicks Yuuji gently on the forehead, “I’d prefer you get into less situations that need my expertise. I’m a busy man, you know.” 

“Yeah - sorry about that meeting. I know it was really important,” He frowns, guilty dropping his gaze. 

Gojo scoffs, immediately tilting Yuuji’s head back up, “You won’t even let Sensei play it cool, Yuuji? You’re going to make me say all the sappy things about how everything was boring while you were gone and sucked? That I’d leave a million dumb meetings to save your ass?” 

“No, I won’t make you say that, Sensei,” Yuuji snickers. 

“Good, because I won’t.” 

“Are you two done making out yet?” Nobara gags from the bed, resting her chin on Megumi’s shoulder who has his arms crossed to match his scowl. 

“You two can’t hog him all day,” Gojo grins. “You have class which means you have to share Yuuji with me.” 

The two groan but Yuuji just grins, letting Gojo tuck him under his arm. “Come on, it’s been weeks for me! I want to go and punch stuff!” 

“You always want to punch stuff, that’s your only move,” Nobara rolls her eyes but untangles herself from Megumi and climbs off the bed. 

“Maki will definitely be up for a fight, she’s pissed you ran away from her,” Megumi offers, stretching slowly as he follows her off the bed. 

“Alright then, twenty minutes and then we’ll watch Yuuji fight Maki in the courtyard,” Gojo decides, clapping a hand on Yuuji’s back. 

“I just got back and you guys are going to watch me die?” Yuuji groans. “I can’t fight Maki on my own! Can’t it be two on one?” 

“Hmm, I thought you liked fighting alone to your death? Isn’t that why you chased after that cursed user on your own?” Gojo asks innocently. 

“Take your punishment like a man Yuuji and let Maki pummel your brains out,” Nobara advises, slipping past them to go get dressed. 

“What she said,” Megumi agrees, digging through his closet for a clean uniform. 

“You guys suck,” Yuuji groans but for the first time in too long it feels like he's home.