There’s blood on him.
It’s dried on his clothes and he can feel it congealed and sticky in his hair. His face feels heavy too and it aches in a way that he’s never felt before, but he can’t bring himself to look in a mirror in fear of what will greet him.
Not that there are any mirrors near him. Truthfully, he’s not sure.
His body doesn’t feel like his own. Lead weights seem to hold him down and prevent him from moving, although occasionally he twitches and a new wave of pain passes through his body and he doesn’t have the energy to suppress the groans of pain that arise. Not that it matters much.
Itadori can’t remember how they were all separated after the man, Getou, unleashed the curses but he can still hear the screaming. They chased them through the winding staircases and tunnels and in those moments he wished Mechamaru’s, no—Kokichi’s communicator hadn’t been broken. Though it likely wouldn’t matter in the end, as the other boy was long dead by the time he laid his hands on the device. There were limits to everything in life. If Choso hadn’t broken his communicator, it would have died on its own or one of the other curses would have broken it if Sukuna didn’t do it himself.
Blackness slowly surrounds his vision until he only has a pinprick of light that guides his fist into the curses skull, ending it instantly. The cursed energy that erupts as its body disintegrates into nothingness only lasts for a moment and then he’s alone in the tunnel, screams and garbled words echoing in the chambers in a macabre symphony that Itadori can’t shut out.
The tile is cold against his knees and then his side as he falls, though the pain barely registers in his mind. His concentration is slipping and he’s falling faster than his mind can keep up with but the last thing that he hears is Nanamin shouting in his name before he’s pulled under and it all goes black.
He has Nanamin’s blood on him.
One day, when he ran into Nanamin while out (a shocking event on its own), the man bought him tea and a sandwich at a bakery of his choice — a nice one, Itadori had noted. One that fit him perfectly. They sat together and made small talk about his progress (Nanamin hated small talk, Itadori thought) and he's impressed (impressed for him) when he tells him about using black flash in his fight against the special grade curse at the college even though he’s sure that Gojo-sensei already told him. His lips twitched slightly when he called him “Nanamin” but a slap didn't follow it. It never does, Itadori notices.
A not-so-insignificant part of him hopes that Nanamin will greet him when he wakes up, his side unburned and both eyes staring at him with concern and exasperation at his reckless behavior. Because despite everything Nanamin says, he does care. Or he did. It’s the past tense, now.
Nanamin wouldn’t want him to give up like this but Itadori is already down and he’s so tired, he’s never been this tired in his life. Maybe Sukuna has taken over his body again. But the ominous, suffocating aura that surrounds him whenever the curse has risen to the surface isn’t here. It’s just….blank. The void is peaceful.
“There you are.” a voice murmurs and it cuts through the tranquility of the darkness, bringing him to the surface. It’s familiar—it’s so familiar, but he can’t assign it to the faces flashing through his mind in rapid succession now. All he can do is curl into the arms lifting him off of the ground. His eyes won’t open and Itadori doesn’t quite mind this, he finds. He lets his face fall when his mysterious savior adjusts their grip on him and his skin meets soft yet slightly scratchy fabric.
Maybe it’s a scarf. His mind supplies before he’s pulled back under once more.
Wherever he is, it isn’t Shibuya. The air is cool but something is surrounding him, keeping him warm.
“You’re awake now. Good.”
Itadori’s eyes shoot open and the first thing he sees is Choso sitting across from him, a cup of tea in his hands.
“What—how, why am I here? What the fuck am I doing here?” He struggles with the blanket (that’s what it is, a blanket) and it’s pathetic how weak he is. It’s only a moment or two until he’s tired and he gives up, choosing instead to glare at the half-human curse acting like everything in the world is fine, as if his friends weren’t injured or dead and Nanamin wasn’t-
“What am I doing here?” his voice wavers and cracks, but it’s enough.
His heart is still beating too fast for his chest, but something inside him relaxes as he takes in Choso’s appearance. They’re in someone’s house— a very nice one, and the other boy (man? He doesn’t look a day over 22, ironic given that he’s over 150 years old) is lacking his odd ensemble from before. His hair is down and it still manages to fly in different directions despite its longer length and he’s dressed in a simple sweatshirt and sweatpants. He looks….homely. Familiar, even.
“I found you passed out in a tunnel. A curse was thinking of making you its next meal. This” he gestures lazily to the space around them. “Is one of Mahito’s and Noritoshi’s former hide-outs. They never go to the same space twice, don’t worry. How are you doing?”
“Why do you care? You were fine with killing me once.” he bites back, disregarding the fact that he is very much at Choso’s mercy and that he almost killed him once when he hadn’t just lost a fight against a blanket. However, he doesn’t react.
“You’re my brother. I protect my siblings,” Choso says as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Dull brown eyes stare at him with an unreadable expression until they soften with the changing atmosphere. The air is more tense than before, thick with an emotion that Itadori can’t identify. “I treated your cuts but I didn’t clean you off except for the parts where you were wounded. I didn’t want to invade your privacy like that, not when you would already be distraught.”
The hand that he raises to his face finds his cuts carefully bandaged, though his hair feels heavy and it ghosts over what he knows is dried blood as he runs his fingers through it slowly. He’s shaking badly, he knows this, but he can’t help but keep carding his fingers through his hair until they get caught in the blood and Itadori starts all over again in a sick cycle. He wants it gone, out of his hair immediately, but he’s too scared to pick it out himself. The nausea is almost overwhelming and the trembling is getting worse until a shape moves in front of him—when did his vision move out of focus?—and catches his wrist in a firm grip, halting his movements immediately.
“You should go take a shower. I can get you some other clothes to wear, Yuuji.”
He’s too tired to argue. Itadori can feel his weariness down to his bones, though his body remains as taut as a bowstring. He nods and Choso helps him up with one arm looped around his waist in a firm grip while the other hand holds his arm across his shoulders. It’s a good thing too, because Itadori isn’t sure that he would have been able to stand otherwise. He’s never been this tired before and honestly he’s not sure how he’ll manage to shower but he needs to get the blood off now, he can’t stand the smell of it anymore as it invades his nose and settles there, bringing the memories of the recent past to the surface.
Kugisaki….Nanamin…..Kokichi.…So many people he didn’t even know were dead.
Sukuna is quiet but Itadori knows that he’s laughing at him.
“I’ll leave the clothes outside the door for when you’re done. Let me know if you need anything.” The door closes behind him and Yuuji is alone, sitting on the edge of the tub. Like the rest of the house, it was simple yet elegant, leaving the ache in his chest even bigger than before.
He remembers when his grandfather would wash his hair as he sat in the bath, grumbling as Itadori splashed him with soapy water, though the small smile on his face would never slip.
With shaking hands, he turns the faucet and listens to the water hit the tub as he slowly strips off his clothes. They peel off of him with difficulty and cuts slowly reveal themselves as his clothing comes off. Everything hurts and he can feel tears pricking at the corners of his eyelids but he wipes them away before they can fall down his face.
Itadori wants to scream so badly, but all he can do is stare at the gray mosaic tile decorating the floor while the shower runs in the background, no doubt wasting water. His emotions don’t feel like his own at this point. Not anymore. Numbness has set in, leaving him with pain and exhaustion as his only companions.
He stands up on unsteady legs and the ground spins for a moment, leaving him wondering if he’ll find himself on the floor in a moment, though that time never comes. The shower is scalding when he finally steps in and it burns his skin to the point where the line between discomfort and pain becomes blurred. The cuts sting as well.
The water runs pink when he turns his body in the direction of the spray. When he closes his eyes to duck his head into the water, Kugisaki smiles at him, one side of her face completely bloody, before she falls to the floor in front of him and dissolves into cursed energy. The images follow in rapid succession after her, each accompanied by Sukuna’s laugh until that distorts into something unrecognizable to Itadori’s ears.
It’s all his fault.
He’s wrapped in a towel when he comes to, though this time he’s on the other side of the tub with Choso leaning over him. The sweatshirt is gone and the pink “I Love Tokyo!” t-shirt brings a small smile to his lips. He looks tired, Itadori notices. Wearier than before.
“I found you collapsed in the shower. Some of your cuts re-opened and I need to clean them. Is that okay?” Choso’s voice is low and he’s speaking slowly, though Itadori still has trouble following his words. He doesn’t feel the cuts but he can see where the blood is staining the towel. His grandfather would have a fit.
“Yeah.” His voice comes out as a hoarse whisper and if Itadori wasn’t so tired, he would be embarrassed.
Choso pulls a medical kit out from the cabinet nearest to them and carefully tugs the towel down so that it pools in his lap. With methodical precision, he cleans the cuts and applies bandages to the ones that need them. Itadori focuses on a point on the wall farthest from them, though his eyes occasionally dart downwards to follow the motion of the messy bun that Choso has gathered his hair into.
A minute, maybe an hour passes with him moving into different positions so bandages can be applied to various parts of his body and then Choso pulls away, giving him an unreadable look.
“Are you okay?”
“The bandages are fine, thanks. You didn’t have to do this.”
“That’s not what I was asking, Yuuji.”
The mention of his name stings, more so than the previous times Choso had called him this. This time, the tears fall and carve hot trails down his cheeks before he can raise his hands to wipe them away and his chest constricts painfully, as if Sukuna is once again reaching inside and ripping his heart out. He twists his eyes shut to avoid the look of concern on Choso’s face, though he can still feel the other slide next to him and pull him into a side embrace, letting Itadori rest his head on his chest even as tears soak through his shirt.
He can taste blood in his mouth as he grits his teeth in a failed attempt to stop crying. His hands dig into Choso’s biceps and he's sure that there will be bruises later, though the other boy doesn't react at all to the tight grip, choosing instead to stroke his back in a rhythmic motion.
“They’re all dead,” Itadori chokes out.
Choso doesn’t respond.
“Is it my fault?” he asks quietly, ignoring the scratchiness in his throat that makes it feel as if his throat is on fire.
A moment passes and Itadori thinks that silence will be Choso’s response once more until he calmly answers, the words echoing in the bathroom.
“That’s for you to decide.”