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At the time, Yuuji doesn’t think anything about it. Gojou-sensei mentions in passing that Ieiri-sensei is on a course and will be gone for a while, with a temp replacing her. They’ve all been patched up following the Kyoto Sister School event, and doctoring is the last thing on his mind.

At least, until he receives the printed summons for his annual medical check-up. He’s never had one at Jujutsu Tech, but they were standard at his old high school in Sendai, the usual heart-lungs-blood pressure-BMI tests. So on the day and time listed he trots along to the infirmary with its familiar smell of carbolic soap and iodine, the beds white-sheeted and empty.

The doctor replacing Ieiri-sensei is an older man with thinning hair and glasses, wearing a suit beneath his white coat. Unimpressive, uncharismatic. He motions Yuuji over to one of the beds and closes the door, thumb snapping the lock closed which strikes Yuuji as a little odd but maybe he’s just protecting Yuuji’s privacy. There are no cloth screens here, after all, nothing to stop anyone who barges in seeing everything and everyone in the room.

“I’m Hiroyama-sensei. You’re Itadori Yuuji?” his voice is reedy, tenuous. His gaze is exacting, though, sharp and searching.

“You got it doc.”

“Good. Undress, please.”

Yuuji strips off his shoes, pants and jacket, leaving just his undershirt and boxers. Sits on the bed kicking his heels while Hiroyama-sensei produces a stethoscope and reflex hammer, then pulls on a pair of white latex gloves. He glances over at Yuuji and frowns. “No, everything.”

That seems weird, but hell, Jujutsu Tech is one big bundle of weirdness. He pulls off his undershirt and steps out of his boxers, then perches back on the bed, white sheet cool under his naked skin. He rests his hands over his lap, waits patiently.

The doctor comes over and puts the icy stethoscope against his chest and back, listens to his breathing and heartbeats. He takes Yuuji’s pulse, checks his reflexes, and scans his eyes with a penlight.

“How’s it look, sensei?” asks Yuuji, as he notes something down onto his clipboard.

“You’re perfectly healthy, Itadori. Which is not to say you won’t destroy us all,” he adds dryly, looking up.

“Um…?”

“Leaving a teenage boy in charge of Ryoumen Sukuna seems to me the height of folly. Something only Gojou Satoru would be capable of.”

“It was more my fault, really,” says Yuuji, scratching his head. “I mean, the circumstances were pretty extenuating! But Gojou-sensei wasn’t actually there when I ate the finger.”

“And now we are all tied to your lusts and weaknesses,” replies the doctor. “You don’t instill confidence in me. You look like the kind of boy who would indulge himself.” His eyes run down Yuuji’s body, from his spiky pink hair to his naked chest to the thickness of his thighs and his shadowed crotch.

“That’s kind of harsh, sensei,” laughs Yuuji awkwardly. “I’m trying my best, here. Promise.”

“I am not convinced.” He puts his clipboard down on the desk and reaches into a drawer. Pulls out a plastic bottle of clear liquid. “Boys like you are all the same – wretched, dirty, and weak. What’s to say you won’t let Sukuna out while you chase your own pleasure? Lie down, on your side.”

Discomfort pools in Yuuji’s gut, cold and twisting. “Uh, sensei, I’m not really –”

“Lie. Down,” snaps Hiroyama.

Yuuji does, pulling his knees up slightly, his back to the wall. Tries to keep his breathing even, but he finds his stomach is tense, nervous.

“Hands up,” says the doctor, and before Yuuji can think about that, he’s grabbed his wrist and yanked it up, exposing his groin. A moment later the doctor’s opened the bottle and squirted the liquid out onto his hand. Lube.

Yuuji sucks in a breath, suddenly scared, because this doesn’t feel right, feels wrong wrong wrong and – Hiroyama casually reaches out and starts stroking his dick. He jerks away, shame/embarrassment/horror flooding him in a wave so strong his vision strobes. “Stop – that’s –”

“How can I possibly give you a clean write-up if I don’t satisfy myself that you aren’t going to let Sukuna out the first time you fall into bed with someone?” asks Hiroyama haughtily. “And if I don’t sign off, rest assured you will not be continuing your studies at Jujutsu Tech.”

Yuuji’s heart is pounding in his chest, his body temperature all over the place – ice pouring into his veins through his heart, but heat flooding up from his groin. They meet in his stomach, churning nauseatingly. His dick is throbbing, shamefully filling at the doctor’s sickening touch, as though he wants this.

“Look how eager you are for it,” hisses the doctor, voice disgusted – and fascinated. “You’re a little slut, aren’t you Itadori? I’m sure I’m not your first. Maybe you even persuaded Gojou with your filthy little body. Hmm?”

“Please,” chokes out Yuuji, throat tight, body stiff with horror. His voice is tiny. “I don’t want this.”

“Of course you do,” dismisses Hiroyama. He reaches around with his free hand and brutally shoves two fingers into Yuuji from behind; he keens, pained, violated. “You’re just like any teenage boy, all hormones and desires. I bet you touch yourself every night.”

“No – stop, Sensei –” The fingers are moving inside of him, touching him everywhere, ripping away his innocence, defiling him. He feels dirty, feels sick with shame. He’s just lying here and taking it, why doesn’t he blast this psycho, why doesn’t he throw him across the room and trample him?

Because that’s what Sukuna would do. And he’s not Sukuna. He would do anything to prove that, to keep his spot at Jujutsu Tech.

Disgusted, horrified as he feels at what’s happening, he feels sicker still to know that his body is at some level getting off on this. His cock is hard and leaking, throbbing as Hiroyama strokes it.

“Such a little slut you are,” says Hiroyama wonderingly, and brings him to completion. Tears roll down his face as he cums, sticky and slick and shattered inside.

Hiroyama steps back and strips off his gloves. He grabs a box of tissues at tosses it at Yuuji. “Clean yourself up. Then you can go.” He turns and walks out.

Yuuji slowly curls in around the box, body shaking. His mind is throwing questions out to an unanswering tundra: How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you stop him? Why did you just lie there and take it?

He has no answer.

Slowly, Yuuji pulls himself up and cleans himself off. Then he pulls on his clothes and slinks silently out, head down.


***

The first thing he does when he gets back to the dorms is take a shower. He feels dirty, feels like he’s been coated in a layer of grime, of ugly, sticking filth. He runs the shower too hot but he doesn’t care, stands under the pounding water while his skin turns red and scours his skin with soap and a pumice stone he usually uses to clean the dead skin from his feet.

At some point, the emotions welling up inside him become too much. The soap and stone drop from his fingers, skittering on the shower’s tile floor, and he sinks to his knees in the corner pressed up against the sturdy, solid walls.

He’s never felt anything this strongly before. Not when Gramps died, not when Sasaki-sempai almost got eaten by a curse, not even when fighting the Special Grade Curse in the Juvenile Prison. It’s like his mind is being crushed by feelings and sensations and memories, by shame that eats away at him like acid and horror that freezes like liquid nitrogen and the sensation of fingers moving inside his body, his body that belongs to him alone but no more, never again just his because something has been taken from him that he can never get back.

He’s crying again, can’t distinguish the tears from the shower water but knows it by the stinging in his eyes and the tightness in his throat. He’s always thought of himself as strong, always been able to handle whatever life’s thrown at him. He’s never known what it was like to be weak, helpless.

It’s crippling.

He doesn’t know how long he stays in the shower, but eventually someone else comes in and bangs into the stall next to his. He pulls himself up, shuts off the shower, and sneaks out into the dressing room. Towels off hurriedly, and slips back to his room.


***

He lies on his futon that night with his blankets wrapped tight around him, swaddled like the infant he’ll never be again, like the innocent he’ll never be again. He thinks about telling someone, about dropping a hint casually to Fushiguro, just two bros talking about the vulnerabilities that bring them closer together. Thinks about saying something to Gojou-sensei, nothing big and dramatic but just a suggestion that Jujutsu Tech should find a different stand-in for Ieiri-sensei.

But when he tries to rehearse the conversations in his mind, his heartrate shoots through the roof and his throat closes up. His pulse seems to pound bursts of light into his brain, his body cold but sweaty at the same time.

Time. He needs a little time. He grasps the idea like a lifeline, hauling himself out of stormy seas. He can tell someone later, when he’s ready.

He closes his eyes and waits for sleep. But his memory is full of waking nightmares, of hot hands and slick fingers and tight pain. When he finally drifts off, so are his dreams.


***

“Hey, you okay Itadori? You look like shit.” Megumi considers him over breakfast in the tiny caf, coffee and toast and scrambled eggs and salad.

“Yeah. Just had a rough night, ‘s’all.”

“Well drink an extra cup of coffee then; we’re sparring with Panda-senpai today.”


***

Fuck Itadori, where were you in the second formation? We’ve been practicing this for a week. I got my ass handed to me by Maki-san.” Kugisaki rubs said ass, having taking a rough fall onto her hip on the hard earth of the training ground.

“Sorry. I just kinda… spaced.”

“Well pull it together. We’re going again and if you mess it up I will make Fushiguro put frogs in your bed. The slimy kind.”


***

“Mmm, Yuuji, you’ve been a bit off this week. Something on your mind? A new confectionary store? A cute girl? Maybe one with a short skirt and long hair?”

“…that sounds like the kind of stuff that would be on your mind, Sensei,” says Yuuji, sitting limp and exhausted in his chair at the end of a long week. “I’m fine.”

“You sure? You’ve been moving pretty stiffly – injuries not healing up okay? I could send you to the doctor –”

No,” snaps Yuuji, so forcefully that Gojou-sensei pauses, tilts his head to the side. Yuuji swallows, sits back. “No. I’m fine. I just had a bad week.” His heart is racing in his chest, so fast he can barely make out the individual beats. His hands are trembling; he presses them flat to the desktop to hide it.

“Okay. Try to get out of your head; you look like you’ve been living there. Have some fun! Tease Megumi, buy Nobara something dumb and get creamed for it. That’s what youth’s about.”

Yuuji forces a smile. “Right, Sensei.”


***

He doesn’t forget, but the memories stop bothering him quite so frequently. As long as he gets in enough exercise he can sleep mostly nightmare-free, stops waking up in a cold sweat quite so often. And he starts paying more attention in class to keep his mind from wondering, which improves his test results so much that Kugisaki asks if he’s trying to out-do Fushiguro as class swot.

But even still, it’s the little things that set him off. A touch when he’s not expecting it, the smell of carbolic soap in the hallway, watching a TV show where someone is kissed without permission. His body freezes up, his airway cutting off so that he can hardly suck in enough oxygen to keep conscious, his skin suddenly pumping out sweat until he’s frigid and damp and stiff as a board. He’s lucky enough that it mostly happens when no one else is around, or when they’re not paying attention to him.


***

He’s asleep, body heavy and limp. His dreams are wet, uncomfortable things. Damp tendrils against his skin, hands forcing his legs apart, blunt pain inside him – he screams, once, twice, twisting and fighting but he can’t get away, can’t escape, and –

“Itadori!”

He gasps into wakefulness to see a dark shape over him, hands pinning his shoulders down. He reacts without thought, with the strength and speed of panic: strikes out with an immense blow of cursed energy. Something nearby crunches, hard, the dark shadow gone.

Yuuji fights to draw in breath, body spring-tense. The room is silent. He gets up and switches on the light.

Fushiguro is lying in the crushed remains of his wooden desk, head dropped on his shoulder, wet blood trickling down the side of his face.

Yuuji stares, horror welling up in him like a rising tide, thick and cold and salty. “Fushiguro?” he whispers. Then, rushing forward, “Fushiguro!”

The other boy doesn’t answer, not even when Yuuji puts his hands on his naked shoulders – Fushiguro is wearing just his sleeping pants, loose flannel with a drawstring cinching them around his hips.

Yuuji immediately knows that he needs medical attention. And just as immediately knows that there is no way he can take Fushiguro to Hiroyama.

It’s so hard to think, his mind still half-shadowed by his dreams, the other half rife with panic. He’s jumpy with adrenaline, can’t sit still, can’t slow down. He needs someone to help him, needs someone he can trust.

Gojou-sensei.

He grabs his phone and calls his teacher, foot tapping frantically while he listens to the rings. One. Two. Three, Fo – “Hello?” Gojou-sensei’s voice is tired, thick.

“Sensei – it’s me – I screwed up I need help please, you’ve gotta come, he’s still bleeding and he won’t wake up but –”

“Yuuji. Breathe,” orders Sensei, his voice suddenly crisp and awake. “What happened?”

He closes his eyes; concentrates. “Fushiguro woke me up and I accidentally slammed him through my desk. I think he has a concussion. He won’t wake up.”

“Alright. I’ll be there in a minute. Wait for me.” The line drops, and Yuuji crouches back down next to Fushiguro. He’s bleeding from a cut near his hair line, it looks long and deep. Yuuji presses his hands to it, tries to stem the flow.

There’s a soft sound from behind him, like the gentle beat of a moth’s wings against glass. Then Gojou-sensei is striding forward, coming to squat beside him. He’s in just a long-sleeved black v-neck and jeans, his shoes slip-ons and his ankles bare. He rests his arm on Yuuji’s shoulder, and it’s all Yuuji can do not to pull free, stomach churning so hard he winces.

“Yup, he looks pretty beaten up,” agrees Sensei after a quick look. “Must’ve been a pretty good dream he interrupted,” he says, glancing at Yuuji. “Why didn’t you take him to the infirmary?”

Yuuji takes a deep breath, fighting his stiff rib-cage. “Is Ieiri-sensei back?” he asks. Gojou-sensei’s head dips to the side.

“Mm, dunno. If she’s not the new guy’ll be there. Hiro-something.”

Yuuji grabs his sleeve, grip wet with Fushiguro’s blood, slippery. “No,” he says, the word tumbling out before he can stop it, almost more of an animal whine than human speech. “Not him,” he forces out. He feels dizzy, pulse thready in his veins, weak and sickly.

“Yuuji?”

“Please, Sensei. You’ve gotta – gotta find someone else. Okay?” He’s shaking all over, breaths shallow and desperate. Gojou-sensei’s staring at him, he can feel his gaze sharp and hard even beneath the blindfold.

“Okay,” he says slowly.

“Promise?”

“I promise. But when I come back, you’re going to have to tell me why. Right?”

Yuuji swallows thickly. “’kay,” he whispers, barely audible. Gojou-sensei reaches out and touches Fushiguro’s shoulder. An instant later, they’re both gone.

Yuuji stumbles to his feet, trembling, and makes his way out to the bathroom. Washes his bloody hands with soap and water until they’re clean, then comes back.

His wrecked desk is still there, just as he left it. He stares down at it. Then he sinks to sit on his futon. And waits.


***

Gojou-sensei comes back some time later, looking nonchalant as always. “Oh good, you’re still up,” he says when he sees Yuuji sitting on his futon. As if he could have slept.

He crosses to the still-intact desk chair and swivels it around to sit astride it with his arms leaning on the top of the crossbar. “Megumi’s fine – just some bruising and a slight concussion. Shouko’s back and looking after him. He’ll be good as new tomorrow.” He leans forward, resting his chin on his arms. “So,” he says, calmly. “What’s going on?”

Yuuji can’t look at him. Can hardly stand the feel of his gaze on him; he stares at his duvet, hands fisted on the edge. “It’s… I… you know I had a medical exam. A while ago,” he begins softly, listlessly. He feels sick, cold, like he’s at the bottom of a well and his voice is echoing out into the darkness.

“Sure; A-rated fitness, perfect health.”

Yuuji ignores this. “In the exam… he said he needed to know I wouldn’t let Sukuna out. Not ever. Not even if I was distracted.”

“Distracted?”

“By lust,” says Yuuji, quoting the doctor because it seems less horrible that way, less terrible than saying during sex, or even in bed. “He thought someone like me… someone like me would be weak, then. He said he couldn’t sign off unless he was sure I wouldn’t be.”

“Yuuji, did he touch you?” Gojou-sensei’s voice is soft, calm in a way he’s never heard before. Like smooth water just before it starts boiling.

He nods, once, sharply. Then shame courses through him, strong and burning, and he speaks louder: “And it shouldn’t matter, that some perverted old man gave me a hand job, that he put his fingers – his fingers – inside me – because I’m strong, I am, but if I am why didn’t I stop him –” his voice breaks, snaps like dry wood, and just like that his throat closes and he’s gasping for breath, hot and helpless. He’s shaking, teeth chattering, and he needs to breathe, needs to take control and stop this, but he can’t – can’t – can’t.

Sensei gets up slowly and comes to sit down on the futon beside him, not quite touching him. “Yuuji, you need to breathe,” he says gently.

He’s trying, he’s trying so hard but his body is fighting him, his muscles locked up, his vision blurring. His mind is full of the sensation of slick fingers on him, touching him, inside him, and a low broken sound escapes his lips, a sound he didn’t know he could make. Gojou-sensei’s saying something, but his blood is pounding in his ears, crashing like waves against a breakwater, and he can’t hear it. He’s going to die here, choking in his own bed, and no one will have to worry about Sukuna again.

Light as snowfall, something touches his forehead. He feels energy flicker across his body, feels suddenly safe, surrounded. The quiet sounds of his dorm room at night – the rumble of the A/C, the hum of the night insects outside, the whine of the hall light – all disappear. He’s alone in darkness. Alone, except for Gojou-sensei sitting beside him. His panic fades, muscles loosening, throat slackening. He takes in a breath, then another, and another. Then he looks up at Sensei, still touching his forehead with two fingers.

“What…?”

“I’m drawing you into my version of infinity,” says Gojou-sensei, like that should mean something. “Here nothing can touch you that I don’t permit. Okay?”

Yuuji nods shakily.

“Good. Is it okay if I rub your back?”

He nods again, and Gojou-sensei reaches out with his other hand to slowly rub circles into the broad stretch of Yuuji’s back, going no lower than the bottom of his ribcage. Only when he’s touching Yuuji does he take away his fingers from his forehead.

It feels nice. Calming. He’s never thought of Gojou-sensei as sympathetic – as caring. He’s never once demonstrated any particular kindness, other than the bare minimum necessary to educate his student and keep him alive. He has the personality of a buzz saw, the kind of person who cuts through anything he’s not interested in and has no time for the softer things. Yuuji’s always been grateful to him for saving his life, but he hasn’t mistaken that for compassion on Gojou-sensei’s part.

He realises now that he’s unsure if he’s been reading Gojou-sensei right all this time.

“Sensei?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you think you could take off your blindfold? Just for a little bit? It’s kind of hard to know what you’re thinking when you wear it.”

He’s expecting protest, or a deflecting joke. Instead Gojou-sensei reaches up with a crooked finger and pulls the blindfold down to reveal his bright blue eyes. Yuuji stares up into them and sees calm – a kind of easy patience that puts him at ease. The dregs of his panic attack seep out of him leaving him worn-out and exhausted, frayed as old rope; he slumps to the side and is caught in a careful embrace by Gojou-sensei. His teacher is still gentling him, his touch conveying the security of his infinity – whatever that is. Yuuji wonders if he can learn it. To feel safe like this all the time… that would be amazing.

“Yuuji? How do you feel?” He seems so different without his blindfold, his frivolity and his teasing gone. Or maybe he’s just not the sociopath Yuuji always kind of suspected he was, and understands that now’s not the time.

“Better.” He takes a breath. “Better, thanks.”

“I want you to know that I’m going to take care of this. Hiroyama won’t ever stand in a position of trust again – anywhere. And you’ll never see him again.”

Yuuji nods against Gojou-sensei’s shoulder. His teacher’s hand stills on his back, resting pressed against his spine, his palm warm through the light cotton of Yuuji’s shirt. “This wasn’t your fault. A lot of people screwed up here, but you weren’t one of them.”

His stomach twists. “I should’ve stopped him,” he says, voice low, guttural.

“Yuuji, the reason adults take advantage of kids is because they’re kids, because they’re young and vulnerable. You had no power in that situation, no matter how strong you are, because you’re smart and kind and caring. You didn’t let him do anything to you – he used force and coercion and his position of power.”

Yuuji’s pressed close against Gojou-sensei; now he half-hides his face in his sleeve. Peels back the horror to the shame that lies underneath, marrow-deep. “He made me feel… a part of me liked it.”

“That was your body, doing what bodies do. Not your mind. Not the part of you that makes you you. It doesn’t mean you wanted it, and it doesn’t mean you deserved it.”

He’s crying again, but softly now. A keen, cleansing ache, like infection bleeding from a wound.

Gojou-sensei just holds him, even though he must be uncomfortable sitting on the floor, even though Yuuji’s smearing tears and snot into his shirt. Holds him for what feels like forever – like infinity.

“You should try to get some sleep,” Sensei says at last. “It’s gonna be dawn in a couple of hours.”

Yuuji nods. “Sorry – I kept you up for so long, I –”

“Yuuji. Don’t sweat it. Okay?”

“’Kay,” whispers Yuuji.

“You’re excused from lessons tomorrow – today, I guess. I’ll come back in the morning and we can check in.”

Yuuji nods.

“I’m going to let go now. Okay?” He waits for a beat, then pulls back. The world seems to stretch, and then Yuuji’s back in the real world – birdsong already starting outside, and the A/C still rumbling above. He feels vulnerable, exposed. He looks up at Gojou-sensei, who’s pulling his blindfold back up. “See you soon,” he says, standing smoothly despite spending over an hour on the floor.

“Bye Sensei,” says Yuuji, and like that Gojou-sensei’s gone.

He slips beneath the covers and lies down. Tries to remember the warmth of Sensei’s hand on his back, the solidity of his protection.

Sleep.

Chapter Text

It’s late. Or early. Satoru doesn’t really give a shit; he’s only up at this hour when things have gone badly wrong, and this time gives a new definition to the phrase.

He looks down at his shirt. Wet, smeared with shiny snot. He could go home and change, but he doesn’t. He wants the wetness against his chest, the memory of hot tears soaking through his shirt. The rage is exhilarating.

He has to get the information he needs out of Yaga’s office, but that’s not hard. The old man keeps his passwords written down on a piece of paper taped behind a sepia photo of Jujutsu Tech’s main pagoda, taken circa 1890. Satoru grabs it and unlocks the computer, then skims through the drives until he finds what he wants. He locks the computer again and replaces the picture, then leaves.

He arrives in nearly the same instant in a Tokyo apartment. The lights are off but he doesn’t need light to see; like a cat he navigates easily through the cramped living room and into the bedroom. Switches on the light and stares down at the man who jerks awake on the bed.

No. The piece of trash that jerks awake on the bed.

“W-w-what – Gojou Satoru?”

Gojou strides in and sits down on the edge of the bed, crosses his long legs casually and smiles. “Morning, Doctor.”

What are you doing here?”

Satoru leans back, palms braced on the mattress, leg kicking out. “You know, I never wanted to be a teacher. I don’t really like kids, and they don’t really like me. Classroom lectures on cursed energy and occult history? Bo-ring! But the one thing I really, really didn’t want was responsibility. I’ve got enough of that as a sorcerer – oftentimes I decide who lives and who dies. You think I need the responsibility for raising children? No way!” He leans back and laughs.

“I don’t –”

“But you know what?” He turns and looks at Hiroyama. “I would slit my throat before I ever touched one of them. Because once someone’s under my protection, their life is more important than mine.”

The doctor, now sitting up wrapped in his blanket, goes white. Satoru reaches up and tugs his blindfold down for the second time that night. Crosses his fingers, and lets his domain unfold. “Unlimited Void.”

He stands up and the bed disappears; the doctor hovers as stars shoot past, their colours like light split through a prism. Satoru walks over to him, stares down. Hiroyama is breathing hard, sweat running down his face. His eyes are snapping back and forth frantically, overwhelmed by input.

“And now, scum,” says Satoru, “you fall.”

The ground drops out beneath Hiroyama and he tumbles down, screaming, into the infinite void. Satoru watches calmly, hands in his pockets, as the man falls through space, writhing in absolute terror.

For Satoru, the time that passes is about two minutes. For Hiroyama, it’s years. When Satoru recalls his domain the doctor is lying slumped in his bed, shuddering and drooling. He reeks of sweat and urine. Satoru leans in, voice low.

“Don’t worry; I’ll see to it that your license is revoked. No one will ever come to you for help again. From now on, you’ll be the one at the mercy of others. Assuming I remember to call an ambulance for you. Otherwise you might just starve to death here, and wouldn’t that be tragic.”

Hiroyama’s eyes roll back, body trembling.

Satoru gives him a wink. “Bye, scumbag.” A moment later, he’s gone.


***

Satoru goes home and strips off his clothes, drops them into the hamper, and in just his briefs gets back in bed. The first light is warming the horizon, black brightened to blue in the east. He groans and throws an arm over his face.

His mind is operating at full-tilt, whirring so loud he can’t relax. He’ll have to tell Shouko – no way Yuuji will be able to have regular medical exams after this – and maybe Yaga. Yuuji will have to give him permission; he hadn’t been in any state to deal with questions like that last night. And then there’s his other two students; what if Hiroyama assaulted them? Yuuji was the only one with a recent med exam, since he missed it earlier in the summer, but they could have gone to the doctor for any number of scrapes and bruises and been molested. Should he try to get Yuuji counselling? Hell, should he get counselling? He just dropped a rapist in a bottomless hole and watched him lose his marbles.

Satoru sighs and closes his eyes. It’s going to be a long time until dawn.


***

The first thing he does when he wakes up is call emergency services and give an anonymous report of a crazed man needing a psychiatric check. Then he gets up, showers, shaves and does his hair. Pulls on clothes, makes breakfast, eats. Simple, everyday things.

He texts Nobara and tells her lessons are cancelled for the day; after all Megumi’s in the infirmary and Yuuji’s in no shape to be concentrating on abstract lessons. Betting that Yuuji probably won’t want to go down to the caf for breakfast he makes a quick trip to the nearest conbini and picks up a melon bread, a couple of hard-boiled eggs, some salmon onigiri, and a carton of orange juice. Just the kind of breakfast a healthy growing boy’s mother would never let him have.

Satoru is not here to be anyone’s mother. Although he does look good in a skirt and apron.

Instead of teleporting to the dorm he walks, the late summer weather sweltering. The cicadas are in full swing, the dragonflies thrumming by overhead like little jets. It’s peaceful in the country, quiet. Satoru hates it.

He climbs the stairs to the first-year boys’ floor, a stable of five rooms occupied by only two boys. He passes Megumi’s empty room and stops outside Yuuji’s door. Raises his hand and knocks.

“Yeah?”

“It’s me~” sings Satoru, pushing the door open. “I brought breakfast!”

Yuuji has already put away his futon and dressed in casual clothes – t-shirt and canvas shorts. He’s got a broom and a garbage bin and is sweeping up the smaller fragments of his desk. “Oh, hi Sensei,” he says, leaning the broom up against the wall. “How’s Fushiguro?”

“Dunno; haven’t been to see him yet. We can drop by later. Yeah?”

Yuuji runs a hand through his hair. “Yeah. I need to apologize.”

“You don’t –”

“I don’t want him to know,” snaps Yuuji, looking up at him. “If you’re really gonna get rid of – of him, then Fushiguro doesn’t need to know anything.”

“That’s your choice to make,” says Satoru mildly. “As for Hiroyama, I’ve already dealt with the situation.”

Yuuji blinks. “Really?”

“Yes. Do you want to know how?”

The boy looks down at the ruined desk, at the garbage bin, at the dusty broom. Satoru can practically see the gears of his mind turning. Finally, he looks up. “You promise he won’t ever work as a doctor again?”

“I promise.”

“Then I don’t need to know. I don’t want to know – I just want this to be over.”

Satoru nods, padding into the small dorm room. Unlike Megumi’s anally clean room Yuuji’s is comfortably messy, with a hoodie lying here and some manga there, posters of famous actresses and singers on the wall. Young; innocent.

Satoru feels a sudden unexpected flare of rage; he crushes it ruthlessly. “Last night was a start. But I don’t think you should just expect everything to be suddenly okay. Trauma is tricky, Yuuji; it’s like a curse with lots of heads that pop up in places and times when you least expect them. Locking it away isn’t always the best answer.”

“How do you deal with it?” asks the boy suddenly, earnestly. Satoru stiffens slightly, shocked.

“Me?”

“Well, yeah. Yaga-sensei said that sorcerers have to deal with situations where people die, where their colleagues die. You’re the strongest sorcerer – you must’ve dealt with some tough shit.”

Satoru sits slowly on the floor, tossing the plastic bag of conbini food to Yuuji, who catches it. “I think it’s good to talk,” he says finally, after some consideration.

“Who do you talk to?”

What is this, 20 questions? Satoru frowns. “Well… Shouko, for instance.” It’s not entirely untrue, he did once get drunk and cry on her shoulder after his favourite drama got cancelled.

“Sensei… no offense, but I kinda think you’re lying.” Yuuji leans back against the wall and opens the container of hard-boiled eggs. He pops one into his mouth and eats it whole.

“Look, I’m not a good role model. I started too young and saw too much and never learned to deal with it properly, and now I’m the kind of twisted guy everyone needs but no one really wants around. So do what I say, not what I do, okay?”

Yuuji considers. “Can you teach me that infinity thing?” he asks, finally.

“That? No. It’s an inherited technique in my family. It’s not something you can learn. Why?”

Yuuji pops the other egg into his mouth; chews, swallows. “When you did it… it made me feel safe. Like nothing could ever touch me.”

Satoru pauses. Then, movements easy, he reaches out and pats the floor beside himself. Yuuji comes over and sits down next to him, bag of food in his lap. Satoru raises his hand, palm outstretched. “Here,” he says. And, when Yuuji doesn’t move. “C’mon, put yours out.”

Yuuji raises his hand and pushes it forward. Satoru lets the barrier of Infinity spring up between them, so that the harder Yuuji presses the stronger he’s repulsed. “You’re right. Like this, no one and nothing can touch you. And I can understand why that would appeal, right now. But ultimately… being cut off from the world isn’t a boon.” He drops Infinity and Yuuji’s palm meets his, skin warm. Satoru curls his fingers between Yuuji’s, clasps their hands together. “Better, right? Human touch is important, Yuuji. Caring about other people is important.”

“Sensei… is this another do as you say, not as you do thing?”

Satoru sighs. “Eat your melon bread,” he says.


***

After Yuuji’s finished breakfast they visit the infirmary. Megumi’s sitting up in bed reading a book – no screen time for another 24 hours, Shouko announces.

“Hey man,” says Yuuji while Satoru stands back and makes chit-chat with Shouko, both of them paying more attention to the two boys than each other. “I’m really sorry about last night.”

“No; it’s my bad. I shouldn’t have come in and woken you up like that. It’s just… you were screaming, you know?”

Yuuji gives a fake smile. “Yeah, I know. Bad dream. And it was still lingering when I woke up, and… bam. You really okay?”

“Yeah. Ieiri-sensei patched me up last night. She’s going to let me go this afternoon.”

Yuuji gives a relieved sigh. “Great. I’ll make it up to you. We’ll do a movie night or something. Okay?”

Megumi nods.

Satoru, sensing that their conversation is finished, heads for the door. “C’mon Yuuji. Leave the poor helpless invalid be.”

“I am not –” begins Megumi, but Satoru’s already out the door.


***

They stroll down into the school grounds, lush green treed land intersected by dirt and stone paths. Satoru leads them to the vending machine stand and buys them each an iced coffee, then takes them over to a nearby bench.

They sit in silence for a few minutes, Yuuji draining his can of coffee and then hunching over with his arms between his knees. He draws a line in the dirt with his toe, kicks a stone. “You don’t have to worry about me, Sensei. I’m doing way better now.”

“Well, they pay me to worry about you, so they might as well get their money’s worth,” says Satoru lightly, sipping more slowly at his own coffee. “You know that I won’t do or say anything without your permission. But I think there are a couple of things that should be done.”

Yuuji’s breathing is audible, just a little stiff. “Yeah?”

“First, I should tell Shouko. She’s in charge of your medical treatments, and also securing temps when she can’t be here. She needs to know.”

The boy takes a deep breath. Then: “Okay. What’s the other thing?”

“I think you should talk to someone with more experience.”

“What, like a shrink?”

“Mm, a counsellor maybe. We have a couple on contract here, to deal with traumatic incidents.”

“I dunno, Sensei…”

A brainwave strikes Satoru, and he straightens slightly. “Well, there’s always Nanamin. He might be able to provide some advice. I know he’s been to a counsellor a few times.”

“Really? Nanamin?”

“There’s nothing shameful about it,” says Satoru gently.

Yuuji colours. “No, I know,” he mumbles, running his thumb around the coffee can’s opening.

“You could choose what you wanted to share, of course, but he is entirely professional. He wouldn’t tell anyone.”

There’s a few moments of silence, the wind rustling the tree branches and the distant sounding of the class bell. Then: “Okay. I’ll talk to him.”

“Good. I’ll give him a call. And if you need me…”

Yuuji looks up, gives him a small smile. “I know how to find you,” he says.


***

“Nanamin? Guess who~”

There’s a sigh from the other end of the line. “I’m on the clock, Gojou-san. Now is not a good time.”

“I’ll make it quick – just the way you like it, right?” he says, tone dripping with suggestion. Nanami is silent, and he drops the teasing. “I want you to talk to Yuuji.”

“Yuuji? Why?”

“Something happened. I’m not at liberty to say what, but he should probably seek counselling. Maybe you can convince him. I’m not exactly…”

“A great role model?” suggests Nanami, gravely.

“Well, something like that.”

“I’ll call him.”

“Sooner the better,” says Satoru. “And in person.”

“This afternoon, then.”

“Great. Keep up the good work, Nanamin!”

The line goes dead.


***

Late that afternoon he’s in his office preparing lesson plans – contrary to general opinion, he does actually make some effort for his students – when the door swings open without warning. He looks up as Nanami comes in, his suit jacket undone, his tie hanging loose. As always, he has exacting control of his cursed energy – but that doesn’t stop him radiating anger.

He shuts the door and sits down in the creaky wooden chair provided for visitors; Satoru sits back and balances his pen on the side of his hand. “I talked to Yuuji,” the younger sorcerer says, unnecessarily.

“Good.”

“He told me what happened. And he agreed he should probably talk to someone with training – he wasn’t explicit about it, but he conveyed that he didn’t want to end up damaged like you.”

Satoru freezes for just an instant, then unfreezes with a breezy smile. “Well, that’s smart of him. Don’t you think, Nanamin?”

“He also said,” continues Nanami, ignoring this, “that you took care of the bastard who did it.”

“True.”

“What did you do?”

“I didn’t kill him, if that’s what you’re suggesting,” says Satoru, mock-indignant. “I’m not a murderer. I just dropped him through infinity for a couple of minutes. He’s a vegetable,” he adds, shrugging.

Nanami just nods, which shocks Satoru a little.

“I’ve given Yuuji the information for a counsellor I trust, and offered to connect him unofficially.”

“Good. Anything else? Or did you just come to see my pretty face?” asks Satoru, smiling cheerfully.

Nanami looks at him for a minute, serious as always. “I’ll just say this once. Gojou-san, if you wanted to talk to someone, it’s not too late –”

“Oh, let’s not make this about me. My life isn’t any more tragic than any other sorcerer’s, and I’m perfectly happy to treat my pain with sugar and alcohol.”

“We watch people die,” says Nanami, unexpectedly. “The people we fail to save die horrible, gruesome deaths. That failure has costs.”

“And I’m glad you’re dealing with it so healthily. But as for me, I’d rather just let it all roll off my back. You know me, Nanamin. Nothing can touch me.”

Nanami stands, face heavy. “I know,” he says, and walks out.


***

Satoru’s lying on his bed a week later doing some doom-scrolling when he receives a text from Yuuji. He thumbs it open and reads it.

Just met w/teh counsellor. Set up to do sme talking, like u said. Thx Sensei.

Satoru opens a reply, hovers his thumb over the keyboard, then closes it.

He goes back to his doom-scrolling.

END