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1. RABBIT ESCAPE

And so it begins, with Itadori running. He’s always running. Running to fight, running to save people, running faster than anyone can follow.

This time, he’s charging at Megumi. His name echoes up and down the long hallway, steadily growing louder. Megumi looks up just as Itadori decelerates around a corner, then speeds up again.

“Fushiguro! Fushiguro!”

“What is it,” he responds flatly.

Itadori isn’t out of breath at all, freakishly athletic as he is. He opens his arms wide, as if asking for a hug. “Can you make your bunnies?”

“Huh?”

“Your bunnies! You know, the white ones? You summon them when you’re fighting.”

Megumi feels the corners of his lips turn down. “Why do you want them?”

“Well, all of a sudden I just wanted one,” Itadori says, smiling guilelessly. He rubs at the marks under his eyes absentmindedly. “I keep thinking about how they’re so soft and fluffy and I just want to squeeze.”

“Squeeze a stuffed animal.” For some unknowable reason, Megumi does not want to see Itadori holding a rabbit.

“It’s not the same!” Itadori steps forward and places his hand on Megumi’s forearm before he can recoil. “Please. I don’t need a hundred of them, I only want one. For ten minutes! Or five, if you want.”

It’s a bad idea to indulge Itadori, Megumi’s gut tells him. But Itadori is smiling at him and looking at him like that, and Megumi’s stomach does something funny and it’s probably guilt so he gives in. “Fine,” he sighs.

He summons a rabbit, a slightly plump one, and drops it into Itadori’s eager hands. Itadori grins even wider than before, pressing his face into the rabbit’s fur.

“It’s so soft,” Itadori says, voice filled with wonder.

Megumi sticks his hands into his pocket, suddenly uncomfortable for no discernable reason. “What--did you take one during the fight against Awasaka?”

“Against the old guy with huge eyebrows? Yeah, that’s what I remember it from. But it disappeared so quickly, I barely got to touch!”

“You can touch them anytime,” Megumi mutters under his breath. If it made Itadori this happy, then so be it.

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Just thinking about...lunch.”

Itadori touches the tip of his nose to the rabbit’s, laughing. “Okay, then. Thank you, Fushiguro.”

“It’s no problem,” he mumbles, warm all over. When Megumi takes a hand out of his pocket to scratch his chin, he finds that there’s an inexplicable smile on his face. He immediately frowns, irritated.

Turning on his heel, Megumi tells a confused Itadori, “You can keep it for as long as it’ll stay here”, and stalks off, mouth pressed into a thin line.

 

 

 

 

2. RECOLLECTION 1

Hey. What’s your name?

...Fushiguro.

Not Zen’in, huh? Good for you.

 

 

 

 

3. DREAM 1

Megumi’s dreaming. He knows this without a doubt, as he glances down at his hands and finds them wispy and inconsistent. Floating across a frictionless ground, he looks around and sees nothing but an endless array of benches.

Several meters, or kilometers away, since he barely has a sense of distance in this dreamland, there’s a lone person sitting on a bench, back facing Megumi. He drifts closer, covering several worlds in a single step.

The man doesn’t turn around as Megumi nears.

Picking the bench across from the man, Megumi sits. The man still ignores him, resolutely staring at the ground. It’s not until Megumi begins to doubt if he can move when he looks up, startling Megumi.

“You--you’re him,” he whispers.

It’s unmistakable, the face that stares back into Megumi’s. A vertical scar on the right side of his lip. Flattened black hair, but still spiking like his. And those eyes, those disquieting eyes. Megumi remembers him. Beyond a doubt.

“Why did you kill yourself?” The question’s haunted Megumi for many days; he’s asked himself, again and again, but received no answer. “You could’ve killed me.”

The man shrugs. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I just don’t.”

“Then,” Megumi hesitates, then presses on. “Your name? Toki?”

“Toji.”

“Just Toji?”

“Just Toji.”

 

 

 

 

4. KNIFE TWIST

Nobara’s in a daze. It’s not like she isn’t always off thinking about shopping or whatever, but Megumi notices that her eyes are actually glazed over. Her mind’s definitely not present, although she’s still reclined in her seat like it’s normal.

Normally, Megumi would just leave her to whatever she’s doing, but they’ve got work today. Itadori’s conspicuously absent, having been beaten into the ground by Gojo the day before. He’s likely lying immobile in his room, unable to do anything but stare at the ceiling.

“Kugisaki. Let’s go.”

Nobara startles, then blinks twice. “Eh?”

“We need to go. On that mission.”

“Didn’t we go just two days ago?”

Megumi nods. “Yeah, but we’re going again.”

Heaving a long, suffering sigh, Nobara pushes herself up and falls into step beside Megumi. Clicking her tongue, she says, “Nothing but mission, training, mission, training. Can’t they give us a break?”

Megumi doesn’t deign to respond; it’s one of her usual complaints. But Nobara starts drifting off again, muttering unintelligible words to herself. She nearly smashes into two poles. then walks straight into a brick wall. Megumi continues walking without her.

“What’re you so distracted for?” he asks, after Nobara catches up.

Wrinkling her nose, Nobara’s silent for a few seconds. Megumi’s about to shrug and give up when she replies, “Maki-senpai.”

“Zen’in Maki?”

“Yes. What other Maki do you know.”

“Just checking. What did she do to you? Did she threaten you or something? If that’s the case I can’t help you, sorry.”

Nobara lets out a tch sound as they cross a street. “Maki-senpai wouldn’t do something like that. I respect her.”

“So do I. Why does that make you run into walls though?”

“I respect her, so I like her. Is it clicking for you yet, you idiotic boy?”

Megumi lets the insult slide; he’s smart, and they both know it. Nobara’s being deliberately obtuse. “Okay, but how does ‘liking’ someone make you--oh.”

“Yes. Do you get it now?” When Megumi looks over, Nobara’s face is starting to get red. So it’s like that.

“So it’s like that.”

“Yes! It! Is! Like! That! Are you happy now?” Nobara demands angrily.

Megumi should probably let it drop, but he keeps talking. “Why?”

“Why what?”

There’s steam coming out of Nobara’s ears. Megumi ignores it. “Why do you like Maki-senpai like that?”

“Why? Why? Because I do! What reason do you even need to like someone! You just do, okay? I respect Maki-senpai, and I think she’s cool, and she’s really hard-working as well! And,” Nobara softens her voice a bit, “she makes me feel good inside. I don’t really know how to describe it, but my heart races and everything seems a little brighter and--why am I telling you all this?”

There’s something inside Megumi that hurts at her words, a little. It’s not that he’s jealous, because he doesn’t like either Nobara or Maki like that, but he wishes--he wishes what?

Megumi doesn’t know what he wishes for, but he knows that he wants it, badly.

“Got a problem, punk? You’ve had this nasty face on the whole time,” Nobara questions.

He shakes his head. “No. I hope it works out for you, Kugisaki.”

Nobara glances at him, surprised. “You--thanks.”

There’s an embarrassing, awkward pause as they turn another corner, then trip at the same time over a long, outstretched leg.

Gojo grins at them, glasses flashing. “Having a heart-to-heart talk, my students? Let me in on it!”

“No,” they respond in unison. Megumi sneaks a quick look at Nobara; she gives him a small, mischievous smile back.

 

 

 

 

5. UNDER THE REGULATIONS OF JUJUTSU, ITADORI YUJI, AS A CURSE, I WILL EXORCISE YOU

Megumi thinks a lot. He can’t really help it; there’s only so much he can do empty-minded. Even when he fights, he’s constantly using his brain.

So he thinks, and wonders, and reflects. If Gojo hadn’t come that night he met Itadori. If he’d followed Jujutsu regulations and attempted to exorcise, to murder Itadori.

Would it have destroyed him, then? Megumi doesn’t think so; he’d definitely feel sadness, sure, but it was a situation then that looked like kill or be killed. He would tell himself that Itadori had been taken over by Sukuna, and was already dead.

Would it destroy him now?

It would. Megumi knows this, that if he was ordered to carry out Itadori’s execution, he wouldn’t be able to lift a finger. Even thinking about Itadori’s death sentence sets his stomach churning. Let alone he himself being the one to kill him.

He can’t lose Itadori. Megumi digs his fingernails into his palms, repressing pain with pain. He can’t, because Itadori is his friend, his best friend.

 

 

 

 

6. DREAM 2

He’s in that same dreamscape again, infinite benches spreading out below his knees. Trailing an idle hand over the glossy wood, Megumi looks around. He’s a little more solid today, he notices, flesh flickering less.

Sure enough, like a mirage, the man is sitting both near and far, back facing him. Megumi makes his way towards the man named Toji, taking his former spot across from him.

Megumi’s not sure how much time passes, but they sit in silence. Toji’s hair hangs low from his lowered head, clumps of dead weight. Touching his own hair, Megumi wonders why it’s so similar to his. Maybe he’s a Zen’in too?

“Unease,” Toji starts speaking, head still lowered. “I’m uneasy.”

“Why’s that?”

“Who knows?” Throwing his head back, Toji pops his spine. “Who fucking knows. I don’t care.”

Megumi doesn’t have anything to say to that.

Toji’s smiling now, the same one he wore before he plunged his own weapon into his head. The one picture, among the thousand horrors that Megumi had seen, burned into his memory. “Fight me.”

Even in a dream, Megumi can feel a bead of sweat rolling down the nape of his neck. He smooths his palms over the fabric of his pants, searching for an answer.

Toji doesn’t wait for one. “Fight me, Fushiguro.”

“Do I really have to? Isn’t this my dream?”

“Who’s to say that this isn’t my dream, and you’re only visiting?”

“You’re dead. This is my dream.”

The edges of that grin split wider. “Even so, you’re afraid? You won’t fight a ghost in your dream? You fought me in real life, so why won’t you do it here?”

There’s that same spark of annoyance, from when Gojo’s clearly taunting Megumi and Megumi can’t help but take the bait. He snarls back, “I’ll fight you then.”

“Good.”

Without warning, Toji surges forward, fist nearly connecting with Megumi’s face. Toji’s even faster and stronger than he remembered; Megumi scrambles backward onto a bench, preparing himself.

They fight until dawn.

 

 

 

 

7. RECOLLECTION 2

Okay, question for ya...what do I do with him?

Even if he is potentially a vessel, he must be executed under the regulations of jujutsu.

And?

But I don’t want to let him die!

Is that a personal opinion?

Yes, a personal opinion. Please do something about it.

(Please save him.)

 

 

 

 

8. TRAIN ME

“Megumi! You’ve improved!”

Gojo grins at him, but he’s always grinning, so Megumi can’t really tell if he’s being sincere or not. He disregards this conundrum and replies with a simple nod, collapsing on the training floor.

“For real!” Throwing the weapon carelessly behind him, Gojo strides over confidently. “You’ve gotten faster, and you’re reading more of my movements. Have you been studying in your free time? Fighting with someone, perhaps?”

Megumi’s not sure how to tell Gojo that he’s been fighting with a former enemy that’s probably related to him in some roundabout way in his dreams, and if Gojo will even believe him, so he just shrugs. “Not really.”

“Oho?” Gojo leans down, eyes hidden behind his blindfold. “Maybe...with Yuji? I don’t see why you need to hide that.”

“I’m not, though.”

“It’s okay, my dear student! I won’t pry any further. Your secret is safe with me.” Then, as Megumi’s still recovering from his confusing words, Gojo calls out, “Hey, Yuji! Good job on training with Megumi. He’s really improved!”

Itadori walks in, chewing on a lollipop. “I didn’t train with Fushiguro.”

“Oh…?” Gojo raises his eyebrows (Megumi sees the blindfold shift), smiling suggestively. Suggesting what, Megumi didn’t know. “Both of you, then? Okay...then I will leave you two to it!”

“To what?” Itadori wonders aloud as Gojo disappears with a jaunty wave.

Megumi shrugs. Generally, conversations with Gojo either go in circles or split off in tangents, leaving Megumi lost. He’s learned to stop trying to predict what Gojo’s thoughts were. “Who knows? It’s Gojo-sensei.”

Nodding in agreement, Itadori cracks the last of the lollipop with his teeth, like the absolute barbarian he is. His tongue wraps around the small pink pieces, closing them inside.

Megumi has been praised for his attention to detail, from the time he was young.

“So,” Itadori says, tossing the stick away, “how about we practice for a bit?”

Megumi nods and gets up, sore muscles protesting. He shifts his balance, like he’d seen Toji do.

“Ready?”

As Itadori lunges at him, Megumi’s a tiny bit grateful to Gojo. He’s not quite sure why.

 

 

 

 

9. SOMETIMES YOU JUST WANT TO SAY A NAME FOR THE SAKE OF SAYING IT BECAUSE IT FEELS NICE ON YOUR TONGUE AND SEEING THEM LOOK AT YOU, SMILE AT YOU

If he’s really being honest, Megumi has no idea what Toudou and Itadori are doing. Itadori’s shouting something and running at Toudou, then sprinting in the other direction as soon as Toudou moves. It seems like he doesn’t know a lot of things, these days. Flexing his fingers, Megumi checks if he’s in a dream.

He’s not. Megumi leans forwards and rests his elbows on the windowsill, letting hot air blow into his face. There’s an unfamiliar feeling in his chest, rising from the fresher air and the shouting outside. He finds the unconscious smile that’s been appearing more and more lately has found its way onto his lips again; he lets it stay there.

Itadori tears across the grass, this time being chased by Toudou. Of course, Toudou is shirtless underneath the sun. Not that the sun has anything to do it, since Toudou will take any opportunity to rip a shirt open.

Megumi watches Itadori run and the feeling inside him swells like a cresting wave and loosens his tongue. “Itadori!”

Itadori looks over and Megumi scrambles for something to say, something to justify calling the name that slipped out from between his lips.

“What is it?” Itadori asks, as he jogs over to the window. Megumi straightens up, trying to say anything other than “I did that on accident. Yes, I called out your name on accident”, and is promptly saved by Itadori himself. “Oh, it’s your book, right? I haven’t finished reading it. Can I keep it for a few more days?”

Letting out a discreet sigh of relief, Megumi is thankful that Itadori’s resolved his internal struggle for him. “Yeah, you can.”

“Do you need anything else?” Itadori cocks his head.

“No...what’s that in your hands?”

“You’ll see,” Itadori responds, grinning wickedly. He turns around and returns to where Toudou’s standing, wearing a distressed expression from the brief disappearance of his brother. Megumi watches as Itadori holds out his cupped hands and drops several worms onto an unsuspecting Toudou.

“Fushiguro told me to do it!” Itadori yells as he runs away from Toudou, zigzagging across the field.

Megumi’s laughing too hard to protest at the lie, clutching his sides. Between gasps, he chokes out, “Itadori”, and laughs again.

 

 

 

 

10. DREAM 3

Toji smirks down at him at him from his high perch, where he’s stacked three benches atop each other. Megumi stands at the base of his shaky infrastructure and kicks the bottom. It doesn’t budge.

“Brat.”

“Are we fighting today?”

“Do you want to?”

Megumi considers the question. He learned from fighting Toji for hours on end, neither person ever receiving significant damage, but he’d also woken up so mentally tired that he’d called Gojo a “dandelion-sensei”. Deeply embarrassing. Nobara hadn’t let him live it down for days. He shakes his head no.

“Alright, then. I’m not feeling it either. Why don’t we talk?”

“Talk?”

“Are you dumb?” Toji snorts. “What else could we do?”

Taking a seat at a random bench, Megumi crosses his ankles. “Okay. Can I ask you a question?”

“Aren’t we talking now?”

“Are you a Zen’in?”

Toji lets out a mocking laugh, grating against Megumi’s ears. “If you don’t know that, how do you expect me to answer? Aren’t I just a flimsy reconstruction of someone you fought in the past? You can’t possibly learn in a dream what you haven’t learned before.”

Narrowing his eyes, Megumi spits back, “You’re not acting particularly dream-like. I don’t think I’d annoy myself on purpose in a dream.”

“Your brain is your enemy, then. You know, how about I ask you some questions?”

This pointless conversation is starting to make Megumi’s head throb, which doesn’t make sense, since he’s not supposed to be able to feel in a dream. “Whatever,” he sighs, rubbing his temple.

“Is your hair naturally like that?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have people you love?”

“Yes.”

“Are you a good person?”

Megumi hesitates; he’s not sure how to answer. Clenching and unclenching his fists, he struggles to string words together. If he were to count up all the good things he’d done and weigh it against all the bad, maybe he’d have something that tilted slightly towards the side named “good”.

“Actually, scratch that. Do you think you’re a good person?”

“How is that different?”

Rearranging his position, Toji leans on his elbow. “It makes all the difference in the world.”

Squinting up at him, Megumi mutters, “Am I secretly profound?” Louder, he says, “I don’t think so. I'm not a hero.”

“Do you need to be a hero to be a good person? Is Gojo Satoru a hero?”

“No, definitely not.”

“Is he a good person?”

“No.”

Toji cackles. “Honest. I like it. I thought I had ya with that, though. What’s a bad thing you’ve done?”

“I used to beat up people, because I felt like it.”

A pause, and then: “You sure turned out pretty good. Not at all what I expected.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Clamping his hand around the corner of the top bench, Toji crushes it. Pure finger strength of a monster. Splintered wood drifts down, made slower by the impossible dream-air. “Nothing much, really. How do you define a ‘hero’”?

“I...think,” Megumi starts, then sneezes from the dust tickling his nose. “I think that a hero is someone who cares about everyone and tries to help them. I don’t really care about everyone I come into contact with.”

“Some people simply don’t have the capacity to care about everything. It’s stupid to try.”

Megumi tilts his head up to look at Toji, who’s staring back down at him. He can barely read the expression on his face. “Is that what you really think?”

“Does it matter? I’m only a memory.”

He continues to tilt his head, higher, higher, until the skin at the back of his neck bunches together. The sky here is disorientingly white; completely different from the blue he’s used to. “I think it does, though.”

 

 

 

 

11. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Three steps, turn the corner. Go down a flight of stairs; don’t touch the railing, ‘cause Nobara’s smashed a bug somewhere along it but no one knows where it is. A right, then a left, walk all the way down to the last door of the training room.

Megumi watches his feet travel the familiar path, then raises his eyes. Inside the room is a familiar sight: Itadori sparring with Gojo, since Gojo’s really the only one he can go all-out against in hand-to-hand combat. His summer uniform’s lying in a heap to the side, forgotten. The sunlight filters through the window slats, throwing muscles into sharp contrast.

Itadori’s foot slams heavy against wood. Megumi can’t seem to stop his eyes from tracing over fluid forms; the low sweep of a bare foot, a strong hit against a forearm, the nearly imperceptible shift of pink hair. Sweat rolling over the curve of the trapezius, scapula, infraspinatus, into the deep valley of spine. Down to the two small indents peeking above the edge of loose sweatpants.

And it’s when Megumi realizes that he can hardly bear to tear his gaze away, to meet Gojo’s knowing one, that he understands. Feet rooted to a spot just outside the doorway, vines wrapping around his ankles, he understands just why Itadori Yuji’s smile scares him worse than any special-grade curse ever could. He’s sure that right now, if he were to see it, he wouldn’t be able to bear it.

So he plasters himself to the wall, in the shadows, becomes a shadow. Clutches his shirt where it lays right over his heart, pulse loud in his ears.

Megumi needs to think. If he takes it logically, thinks his way through, he’ll come to a satisfactory conclusion. So he turns away, fingers grasping at air.

 

 

 

 

12. TAKE ME

Itadori doesn’t give him time. Megumi hasn’t even sat down for an hour before there’s a loud, insistent knocking at his door. He pulls it open to see exactly who he was expecting, grinning like he hadn’t just been pounded into the ground by Gojo.

“Haven’t you just been pounded into the ground by Gojo-sensei?”

“Yeah, but at least I didn’t pass out this time!” Itadori holds up a flexed arm, then drops it with a wince. “I’m getting better, for sure.”

“What do you need?” Megumi hopes it’s something quick. Something he can give to Itadori without problem, without stumbling over his words.

Looking sheepish, Itadori asks, “Can you take me around Tokyo?”

Prolonged, unnecessary socialization with Itadori. Heaven and hell wrapped up neatly in one package. “What? Haven’t you been here for a while, though?”

“Yes, but--” Itadori checks the area around him, then lowers his voice. “Gojo-sensei keeps tricking me whenever I ask and dropping me off at his mission sites. Then he leaves me there with a couple hundred yen and tells me to come back by myself.”

That, unfortunately, makes perfect sense. There’s no good reason for Megumi to say no--he could always say he didn’t want to, but then Itadori would look like that, and Megumi would say yes, because he always says yes when Itadori looks like that, and then who knows what else he’d let slip. Megumi doesn’t particularly want to say yes, either, because who knows what he’d let slip.

Anything to avoid that expression: the one that Megumi now recognizes as his weak point.

“Okay,” he agrees slowly. “I’ll take you. Later.”

“Thanks! Enjoy your nap!” Itadori skips away, fluffy. There’s probably flowers springing up in his wake.

Nap. Yes. Megumi will nap, and prepare himself for a personal mission.

 

 

 

 

13. DREAM 4

“I’m not gonna give you advice, ya know.”

“I know,” Megumi glares. “I’m basically talking to myself. I’m not going to give myself advice. And a crazy guy that beat me up in my dreams that is also apparently a part of me is also not going to give me advice. I’m just thinking.”

“Then think by yourself. I don’t care.” Toji’s somehow gotten a cigarette in this land of benches, blowing smoke between his lips. Megumi kicks at him, annoyed. Toji snaps, “Oi! You little shit!”

Laying down on a bench, Megumi asks, “How am I talking back to myself?”

“Who knows?”

“I think...that. I like Itadori.” There. It’s out in the open; a fact. It’s not so scary, Megumi thinks, under this white light. It’s a part of him, like how he’s good with animals and detests Gojo outwardly but knows just how important he is. How Itadori and Nobara are really his two best friends, the people he would trust with his life.

“I know. You told me that already.”

“I wasn’t telling you. I’m talking to myself.”

“Am I not a subsection of you?” Undoubtedly, there’s a mocking smile on Toji’s face right now.

Megumi doesn’t look. Like all conversations with Toji, this one is circular and wears on his nerves. He wonders out loud, “What do I do?”

What does he do? It’s a simple question, really. It only has two answers. Either he confesses, receiving one of two possible responses, or he flounders around until the feelings recede. Assuming that Itadori has a fifty percent chance of saying yes, since Megumi has no idea what goes on inside his mind, and that Megumi has a fifty percent change of choosing either option, there is a twenty-five percent chance that his feelings are returned, or of “success”. Those aren’t great odds, but Megumi can skew it in his favor--because one of the decisions is his, and in his control.

“Just do whatever you want. It’s a simple question, really,” says Toji, interrupting his thoughts. He leans over Megumi, still smoking. “You don’t need me to tell you.”

“That’s right. I don’t need you.”

“Then why did you come here?”

Megumi’s eyes fix on the scar at his lip, then flit to those disconcerting eyes. “I wanted to. That’s all.”

“Fair enough.” Toji lifts his head, so only the underside of his chin is visible. They watch in silence, together, as the cigarette smoke fades away.

 

 

 

 

14. BEAT ME TO THE PUNCH

Tokyo is big. This should come as no surprise to Megumi, but he’s almost lost Itadori twice in the busy streets. The second time, Itadori had apologized, saying “the cake was just too enticing”. Because Megumi was impressed by the fact that he knew what “enticing” meant, and definitely not because Megumi likes this idiot, he forgave him.

As Itadori’s penance, since Megumi does not dare to hope that he too is enjoying this, they are holding hands. Megumi desperately hopes that he is not blushing. His heart is beating so loudly that he’s sure every person he’s passed by has heard thunder.

To be fair, Megumi is not taking advantage of Itadori. It had been Itadori who suggested it: “So I don’t get lost again!”, extending a hand that Megumi had taken without hesitation. Therefore, it is all Itadori’s fault that he’s so antsy he wants to summon Nue and fly away.

Before them is an absolute crush of people, all surrounding a newly constructed building. Itadori, being Itadori, gravitates towards the mess. Megumi shakes his head and tries to pull him away. They fall into another swarm of fangirls, all holding merchandise of some kind.

“F--Fushiguro!”

Megumi feels his hand being squeezed, tight, and he pulls Itadori towards him and to his side, pushing through the crowd together. Bodies close in on them in all directions. The entire way through, Itadori’s sweating palm is a constant, unyielding force. Thankfully, Megumi’s slightly too preoccupied with his and Itadori’s survival to think too much about it, gasping in relief as they emerge on the other side.

“That was crazy,” Itadori breathes, hunched over with his hands on his knees. He looks more winded than when he fought Gojo.

“Why--did you--have to come here,” groans Megumi. They sit down heavily on a nearby bench together, this one more chipped and stained than the ones in Megumi’s dreams.

Itadori still hasn’t let go of his hand, even though the danger is past. “Kugisaki’s always saying it’s fun here! I don’t really see why it’s fun though.”

“That’s because it’s not. You should’ve listened to me. I told you I’d take you somewhere a little quieter. I’m not Gojo, I wouldn’t bring you there and ditch you.”

“That’s true,” laughs Itadori. Megumi’s heart can’t take much more; the way it jumps, somersaults, at everything this boy does is maddening. Itadori blinks at him innocently, completely unaware of what he’d just done. “So, won’t you take me there?”

Megumi answers by standing up and tugging Itadori along. They weave through more crowds, through shopping districts and food vendors calling out. It’s been a few months since Megumi’s walked around, and he relearns the metropolis as they walk, pointing out notable restaurants and buildings. Gradually, the throngs thin out.

At the same time, the sky deepens in hue. The streetlights have switched on by the time they’re far away from the busiest parts of Tokyo, lighting streets in circles of orange light.

“Are you taking me somewhere specific? We’ve been walking for a long time.” Itadori tips his head at Megumi questioningly. He adds, “Not that I mind though.”

“I don’t have a special location in mind,” Megumi replies. “I just took you through Tokyo, from the loudest parts to the quieter spots. Wasn’t that what you asked me for, in the beginning?”

Itadori lets out a surprised sound. “Oh! You’re right!”

He turns to face Megumi--Megumi’s heart really, really can’t take this--all open, all honest, and takes Megumi’s other hand in his. “You always remember the important things, Fushiguro.”

I don’t, Megumi wants to reply. I get angry at things that are really rather inconsequential, and I’m mean to Gojo even though he’s the one who saved me. I pick and choose who I save. I fell in love with you, and I am in love with you, and I’m nervous about this like I’ve never been about anything else. People are dying, and you are sentenced to death, and all I can think about is your hand in mine.

But before a word leaves his lips, Itadori interrupts his million-a-mile thoughts with a line that makes Megumi’s brain stop, finally: “I guess that’s why I like you.”

He’s speechless. Frozen. Megumi’s twenty-five percent turned fifty by his own decision, all upturned by an uncounted variable. Success, all the same, accompanied by sweet, crushing relief. He looks at Itadori, and Itadori’s looking back at him, and he has to say something, anything.

“You do?”

Megumi bemoans his prophetic self, where he suspected he’d lose control of his words. He’s searching to rectify the wrongness that came out of his mouth, because he never expected this, he’d only ever prepared for himself to say those words. Overlooked the very possibility of Itadori Yuji, just like he’s always done, just like that first night Itadori smashed into the window of the fourth floor. Megumi feels his mouth form words when--

“I do.” And Itadori’s still smiling at him, all open, all honest, and something in Megumi cracks.

He’s laughing, laughing until his stomach hurts, because of course, of course Itadori beat him to the punch. Of course he’d said it, easy like breathing, spoke it into existence before Megumi ever had a chance to. Megumi tells himself that he should’ve predicted it--then lets it go, because who could ever predict Itadori, a boy that has only ever defied expectations?

“Itadori,” Megumi gasps, “Yuji. I like you. I like you. I like you a lot. You--you’re just insufferable, you know that?”

“Hey!” protests Itadori, but he’s taking their entwined hands, and bringing them close to his chest, and kissing Megumi’s fingers. So Megumi moves in, close, like he’s done before but this time feels absolutely different, absolutely electric. He kisses Itadori’s fingers, then the back of his hands, then his wrists. And his forehead, and his nose, and his cheeks.

They’re standing just outside of an orange circle beside a metal pole in a quieter part of Tokyo when Itadori Yuji kisses Fushiguro Megumi on the lips for the first time. And the second time, and the third, and again and again until Megumi can’t help but laugh and say, “We need to go back, now.”

Megumi is light and wind as they make their way back, slowly, without hurry.

 

 

 

 

15. INTIMACY, TWOFOLD

Megumi may be light and wind but Yuji’s hands still chain him to the earth, solid fingers roaming his body. Mapping every centimeter of him, three hundred and sixty degrees, all the way around. Each touch is fire to the light, flaming, flickering on bare skin.

His room is hot and stuffy even in the night, never an exception to the summer heat. The window is shut tight, but moonlight still illuminates the wrinkled bedsheets. Megumi breathes a curse, sings a name, shudders like it’s winter underneath a boy his age. Into his shoulder, Yuji whispers words that fall delicately onto Megumi’s chest and spread, ink from his ribs to the edges of his hipbones.

In this moment, in this momentous, glorious span of stolen time, they give and take, take and give. Not equally, because Megumi doesn’t think he’s ever seen an equal exchange between two people, but more than Megumi’s ever had the capacity to desire.

Megumi takes, a little more, gliding his own trembling fingers over firm muscle. Over veiny arms, into the curve of a waist, the inside of a thigh. He takes, wants, takes until Yuji stops him with a soft kiss and a murmur.

Goosebumps, in the heat of summer. Yuji’s hands, solid earth-binding hands, are winter winds ghosting over his jaw, leaving trails wherever they travel. Lips to his collarbones, kisses up his neck, over his eyelids shut tight.

Megumi wants until he needs, until he feels the lines traced and wrapped all around his body light up a neon green, so he says what he needs into humid air.

So Yuji takes, and gives Megumi what he needs, and Megumi gives and takes and gives until he is made whole and into pieces and meaningless, anchored only by the connection of their sweat-slicked bodies. He buries his face into his shoulder, overwhelmed, but Yuji only nudges him back to seek his lips. Their fingers are now intertwined, tight, fingernails white from pressure.

Above him, the tips of pink hair are turning white-blonde in the moonlight. Megumi sees Yuji smile down at him, gentle as he moves, gentler as Megumi cries out. Through the haze of sweat and tears, Megumi can but wonder what sight Yuji sees: a boy, splayed out on a twin-sized bed, flushed skin against white sheets, desperately in love.

A tumultuous thing that rattles and squirms and beats at the walls of his heart; Megumi feels it, his form of love, everywhere.

When Yuji leans down, says a low “Are you okay” into Megumi’s ear as he unwinds Megumi, slow and deliberate, Megumi can only nod as his bones go weak, toes curling. Because he is okay, better than okay, running his knuckles freely across smooth skin that is open to him and him only. And now it’s Megumi’s turn to watch Yuji’s undoing, sweet with the knowledge that he is the cause. Yuji shakes, fingers trembling in his, and Megumi has never tried so hard to memorize an image before.

They curl into each afterwards, blankets tossed on the floor. The weight of another person beside him, a dip in the bed, makes Megumi feel strangely safe. Yuji’s already asleep; the steady rise and fall of his chest is calming to see.

Megumi presses his lips to Yuji’s forehead, whispers a confession, and closes his eyes.

 

 

 

 

16. DREAM 5

The bench that Toji destroyed is still there, with the man himself sitting on it. Even though Megumi moves soundlessly, he turns at his approach.

“So it went well?”

“Hardly according to plan. But yes, it went well.”

Toji snickers a little, then moves to the side: an invitation. “I can tell, by the look on your face.”

Megumi takes it and sits down on hard wood. “Not because you’re me?”

“Nope, you know the answer to that. You’re relaxed. That’s how I can tell.”

Megumi doesn’t know how to feel about Toji reading him like a book, or that Toji isn’t a part of him, or that he’s known it all along.

“Congratulations, Megumi. Live well.” Toji’s smiling at him, small and without mockery.

A senseless fear grips Megumi. “Why are you talking like these are your last words?”

“I’ve already had two chances. I cannot believe that I’ve been given a third. Don’t worry. These aren’t my last words. I’ve said those long ago.”

Each word rings true and hollow in Megumi’s ears. He tries, “Can you not come back?”

“You and I both know that I can’t.” Toji turns his head away, so Megumi can’t read his expression. “You shouldn’t want me to come back.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You do.”

He does, and he doesn’t, but he’s already out of time. Toji’s standing up, and Megumi can’t stop him. “Megumi.” He looks up, into eyes that no longer hold malice. Toji ruffles his hair once, then stops.

“Live.”

And he’s turning away, leaving Megumi with incomprehensible tears and a heart split between love and hurt.

He’s never told Toji his first name.

 

 

 

 

17.

He wakes up with salt on his cheeks and an empty bed.

Megumi sits up, panicked, “Where--Yuji--Itadori--”

“Megumi?” Yuji’s standing next to him, brows drawn together in concern. He’s halfway through pulling on a pair of stolen pants. “Did you have a nightmare?”

“No, I--it wasn’t a nightmare. Not that. I just--” He rubs at his eyes, frustrated by the turmoil inside him.

Yuji tosses him a pair of briefs, which he puts on quickly. He opens his arms wide, for Megumi. “Come here.”

Burying his face in Yuji’s stomach, as best as he can since it’s a little like pushing his nose against rock, Megumi’s mood lightens. It’s bright, sunlight streaming in through his small window, and Yuji’s here.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

He shakes his head. Yuji drags a reassuring hand through his hair, cupping his neck. “Okay.”

Megumi breathes deep and full, steadying himself. He’s here, now, with his cheek pressed against Yuji’s abs and alive. Slipping his pinky finger below the waistband of Yuji’s (technically Megumi’s) pants, he begins, “Yuji, last night…”

“Last night what, my dear students?” Their peace is interrupted by Gojo, who’s standing theatrically in the doorway.

“Gojo-sensei, did no one teach you to knock before entering?” Megumi responds, deadpan.

Gojo adjusts his blindfold and grins. “I was, in fact, never taught that! Also, when I sought Yuji-kun in his room just now, he wasn’t there. So what was I supposed to do? What if you’d captured him, Megumi? In fact, you have him captive in your arms right now. So actually, I was right!”

Megumi does in fact have his arms wrapped around Yuji’s waist, but there is one half-naked boy and one nearly-naked boy in an intimate embrace, so it’s Gojo that’s deliberately interpreted the situation incorrectly. He tells him so, only to receive a loud laugh in return.

“There can be many versions to a story, and none are wrong!” Gojo nods, self-satisfied. “That was a good one. Anyway, I’m here to tell you that Nobara ditched her mission to go on a date with Maki, so you guys are taking it! Talk to Ijichi for details!”

“Are you sure she’s not ditching it because it’s your mission...?”

But Gojo’s already disappeared, and they’re left alone again in Megumi’s room. Yuji places his hands on Megumi’s face and squishes his cheeks together, laughing as Megumi glares at him.

“Do you think we should go?” Yuji asks, brushing Megumi’s bangs back.

“Do we really have a choice,” Megumi grumbles back, secretly reveling in the sensation.

Yuji laughs, honey-yellow sunlight, and steps back. “Let’s go, then.”

“Yes, let’s go.”

Megumi takes the outstretched hand and follows him out.