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oh, but love isn't cruel

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Approximately two months after they first meet, Itadori Yuuji dies, looking like the most alive person Fushiguro has ever met. That’s the thing about his death, that even Kugisaki doesn’t understand—Itadori Yuuji is the kind of person who can speak with soft, gentle sincerity, even with the heart missing from his body.  

Fushiguro cradles the body in his arms. His hands are shaking. He can’t feel anything—not the ground beneath him, or Itadori’s body in his arms, which is maybe all for the better because Itadori is most likely just as unfeeling, considering he’s— 

Well. He’s dead. For all that Fushiguro could never regret saving him, when he regains the feeling in his hands, he hates himself for it. If Itadori had died the first time around, perhaps he wouldn’t feel so attached. Then he wouldn’t feel like someone had torn out his skill and replaced it with another skull, one with sandpapery bone that itched against his mind like a curse. Maybe Itadori cursed him to live like this before he died. 

But Itadori would never curse anyone, not on purpose. He knows that. He knows that the same way that he knows he would feel just as horrible had Itadori died the day they’d first met. 

The phantom weight of Itadori in his arms—it sinks its claws into his skin, and even when Itadori returns, it doesn’t let go.

 


 

A knock on his door. Fushiguro takes stock of his face—eyes red-rimmed from the crying session that had started the moment he sat on the bed, tears now dried to a crusty mess on his skin. He rubs at the remaining wetness on his skin and goes to answer the door.

It’s not like anyone knows what his crying face looks like. Even he himself would barely be able to recognize it, seeing as he rarely cries. But it turns out that when the person you thought was dead isn’t dead at all, something opens the floodgates.

Person being Itadori, of course. The same person who’s standing in front of him now, a pillow and blanket clutched in his hands. He holds them up and explains, “Just thought we could catch up! Like a sleepover or something.”

“Okay,” he says, a little embarrassed at how easily he agrees. “What did you want to do?”

Itadori’s already relaxed on the floor by Fushiguro’s bed, and impatiently motions for Fushiguro to get next to him already. He stifles a laugh. It feels strangely mundane—Itadori splayed out before him in all his glory, eyes glinting like steel in the curtain of the night, inviting him by his side.

Fushiguro follows him. There’s a strange, charged moment when he makes eye contact with Itadori while climbing into bed, and he freezes, one leg pressed into the mattress of the bed. It takes a good five seconds before Itadori laughs and looks away. Fushiguro brings his other leg up and tucks himself in, and as soon as he exhales a sigh of relief, he can feel Itadori looking at him again. He knows Itadori well enough to realize there’s something Itadori wants, far more than a simple sleepover, but he doesn’t know him well enough to realize what it is.

 “So,” Fushiguro says. He frowns. There’s not actually anything he can think of. “…Congratulations on being not-dead.”

A laugh. “It’d be real stupid of me to go and die on you when you saved me.” 

“You’re right,” Fushiguro agrees. “Does that make me your executioner, too?” 

“...I wouldn’t mind that,” Itadori says after a minute. “But I also don’t want you there.” 

“It’ll be me,” he says. “I can’t let it be anyone else.” 

Itadori sighs. “I don’t want to die,” he mumbles, so soft Fushiguro almost misses it. 

“Then you won’t,” he replies. “I’m the only one allowed to kill you, anyways. So you definitely won’t.” 

He can hear the smile that stretches through Itadori’s voice. “Would you fight Gojou for me, too?” 

Fushiguro considers it. “If I had to.” 

“That’s—good,” Itadori says. “You’re a good person, Fushiguro.”

“No, I’m not.” There’s maybe a better way to phrase it, but it’s hard to articulate that without saying just how much he feels about Itadori, and if he starts on that, he doesn’t know where he would stop.

It’s meaningless, anyways. Itadori stays silent afterwards, and if anyone would say the right words, it would be him. Fushiguro knows a lot of words, too, but none of them are the good ones. They’re all too small for something like this.   

 


 

There’s rustling next to him, and then suddenly Itadori is standing up, leaning over him with an intense gaze. “Fushiguro?” he asks. “You awake?” 

Fushiguro rolls his eyes. “Obviously.” It’s three am. It’s not obvious, but he likes to be contrary, if just for the way Itadori’s face glows in delight at his response, comforted by the shared experience.

“Want to—” Itadori’s hand hovers around his shoulder before he grips it, a solid anchor. “Want to watch a movie together?” 

“Now?” 

Itadori bites his lip. “I mean—do you want to?”

“I do,” Fushiguro says. He’s surprised at the emotion in his voice—it’s uncharacteristic for the atmosphere they’ve built, but not so uncharacteristic for three am. It’s not like he doesn’t mean what he says, anyways.

But sometimes Itadori makes him mean too much, so much that it feels unmanageable, and that’s no good. He’s been out of his mind at three am before, but not like this. Not with someone staring right at him.

Itadori smiles. It’s a crazy, unbelievable thing, the way he does it. “I watched a lot of movies when—when I wasn’t with you guys,” he continues, moving on like some vast expanse of development hadn’t shifted between then and now. “I thought it’d be nice to watch some of them with you.”

Then again, this—them—really hasn’t changed all that much. Halfway through the movie, Itadori falls asleep, the solid weight of his head nestled against Fushiguro’s neck.

He thinks, I love him. Then he thinks, it really is four am.

His eyes burn as he takes in the light of the TV screen, unable to absorb anything that’s going on. It’s just Itadori, warm against his side, a prickling feeling like how he imagines the repeated stab of a tattoo needle.

Love. He rolls the world silently around his tongue. It sits heavy like a bullet.

Still nothing between the two of them has shifted. Maybe it has, but not anything meaningful. Sukuna’s spirit, born again into a teenage boy. Dead and risen again. When he looks at Itadori, when he thinks about saving him, that knowledge becomes irrelevant.

If the two movie leads kiss, confess their feelings, Fushiguro doesn’t see it. That, too, is irrelevant.

 


 

The thing is, none of this matters. In a day to day sense, Itadori is well and alive. In a day to day sense, Fushiguro figures out the mess of his family and his powers and his own self. Itadori is irrelevant and vital, because he’s Sukuna, because he’s Itadori, and that’s just how things are. They could go forever without talking about these kinds of feelings, and it would be enough, to talk about the important ones, and ignore the blistering need to settle his hand on Itadori’s shoulder.

Besides, when people talk of love, they’re not talking about the two of them.

Salvation and harm, what is righteous and what is not—Itadori is his own, and his heart is in his hands, ready to be torn apart. I saved you once, Fushiguro thinks, and I will save you again, and again, until you do not regret it. It is a personal feeling. An act to create a tortured, tightened existence. 

If it was right, if it was good, if it was fair, Fushiguro does not care. Itadori is here, a piece of him tucked into the marrow of Fushiguro’s bones, the same way Sukuna has carved up a piece of him.

Maybe it is different. He doesn’t know. He loves him, after all. Can’t bring him to replace he with I and him with you, even in his mind, because that gives the thought direction, like a blade sharpened to a fine point. Still, there is love. That should mean something is different. Itadori likes him, too. Loves him, even, in the way his eyes glow when he thinks Fushiguro’s not looking.

But love is not something selfless, powerful, and brave—love is a half-beating heart clutched between their hands, a curse marked across both their necks. Between Fushiguro’s teeth Itadori’s blood rests with a warm, sticky, stillness, and somewhere in the light of Itadori’s eyes Fushiguro is reflected back. 

 


 

“Disgusting.” Itadori’s face scrunches up in displeasure. “How do you drink this?” 

“That’s what I’ve been saying!” Kugisaki complains. “I bet he just drinks it to impress girls.” 

Rather than dignify her with a reply, Fushiguro pries his cup of black coffee from Itadori’s grip. Pries is an overstatement—Itadori’s hands are only loosely curled around the mug—but it takes effort, still, when their hands brush and a slow warmth floods through him, to pull back, even though the coffee should do a good enough job of keeping him content. 

In the end, it’s the slow sway of Itadori’s feet from under the table, occasionally kicking against the soles of Fushiguro’s shoes, that convinces him to take the cup back into his hands. Like instinct, their legs tangle underneath the table, playing a game of secrets that no one, including themselves, have yet become aware of. 

There’s something like a counterfeit normality within this situation that he relishes, sweet enough to make a drink that even Kugisaki would cringe at.

Fushiguro takes a sip of his coffee. He’s warm from tip to toe. 

 


 

Sometimes he feels like a nothing man. He has not given any of himself away, yet they claw at him, beg him for more and more until he cannot take it. Control is a hard thing to vie for in the 21st century.

Itadori—now that, somehow, is his, in the strangest way. Not a responsibility, but a tie. Maybe something worse, if the way his gut twists when he sees him is any indication. Itadori, who would let Fushiguro kill him, maybe. Kind of has, already.

That power is like a drug. He’s unsure how much he can take from it. Unsure how much he has taken, too. Unsure how much he wants to take, but sure, still, that he is glad to have it.

 


 

“You’re weird,” Kugisaki tells him. They’re both lying down on Fushiguro’s bed, because Kugisaki has been there even before Fushiguro came in and by now he’s learned not to question her about these kinds of things.

He wishes that Itadori would follow suit. Knows that if he asked it wouldn’t even really be a question.

Fushiguro frowns. “I’m normal enough.” 

“Okay, jujutsu sorcerer,” she scoffs. 

“You’re one too?” 

“Because I’m special,” she replies flippantly. “Everyone here is weird. But you and Itadori are weird weird, except it’s mostly just you.” She rolls onto her side to face him. “It’s not that obvious to other people, maybe, but you—you want to give him roses on Valentine’s Day or whatever, right?” 

Sunflowers, he thinks, but he doesn’t correct her. It’s not much of a decision, anyways—he hasn’t been thinking of Itadori and Valentine’s Day in conjunction as much as he has been thinking about Itadori and Sukuna and obligations and inevitable death. 

“...Something like that,” he tells Kugisaki. 

She sighs, and Fushiguro knows it’s only half for dramatic effect. “Something like that,” she parrots. “Don’t you already know how he feels for you?” 

Itadori. A gaze so bright it leaves his skin reddened and raw from sunburn. “Yes,” he says. Then he thinks about the way Itadori holds himself a little more carefully around him, like he’s approaching a mad, feral dog. A caution and fear that paralyzes the both of them, once Fushiguro recognizes it. He corrects himself. “No. I don’t know.” 

“You’re impossible,” Kugisaki mutters. 

Fushiguro nods. “I can’t tell him,” he says. “Even if he knows how I—” how I feel about him, he can’t bring himself to add. “I can’t,” he repeats. 

“Are you afraid of saying it?” she asks. 

“Maybe,” he says. If this was something simple, like roses and Valentine’s Day, it would be easy. But Fushiguro’s aware of how deeply Itadori ties himself to even his friends, and if he tells him the truth, then...

“I don’t think I’ll like what happens after,” he says. 

“You’re an idiot,” she tells him. 

He doesn’t disagree with her. 

 


 

He dreams of Itadori above him, cradling his face like nothing else in the world matters. 

“Don’t cry,” dream-Itadori says, but the tears keep slipping down Fushiguro’s cheeks like an unrelenting curse. “Don’t cry,” dream-Itadori repeats with a singular kind of intention. Fushiguro has never had a worse nightmare. 

 


 

“Fushiguro?”

The dream distorts. He stares at Itadori in front of him. His hands stray towards Fushiguro’s face like he’s not quite sure what to do with them. A little closer and they could rest on Fushiguro’s shoulders. 

“Are you… all there?” Itadori asks. 

Fushiguro blinks rapidly. This doesn’t feel like a dream anymore. “Itadori,” he tries. He can’t hear his own voice over the roaring in his ears, but he can’t imagine it sounded reassuring, judging by the way Itadori’s brows draw together. 

Slowly, he collects himself, and finds a tree at his back. A forest surrounding them. Blood smeared on his skin, but not enough to cause any trouble. “Itadori,” he repeats.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity of unfocused eye contact, Itadori stretches his hand out, palm facing up. “Take my hand.” 

The calluses of his hands are obvious, a testament to Itadori’s strength. His hands are well built, made for fighting. 

“Why?” Fushiguro asks. 

“To center yourself,” Itadori explains, stubbornly keeping their eyes locked. He has that careful look about him again. “I’ve seen people do it before.” 

People like who? Fushiguro wants to ask. People who say things like I love you? People like them? People like us? 

But with the way Itadori is looking at him, he thinks that maybe the worry in his eyes isn’t fear but a feeling that inspires it.

Instead of saying anything, his chin dips in an imperceptible nod. He takes Itadori’s hand. 

 


 

Itadori leans forward, ducking into his vision with a sheepish smile, like he’s glad to take up Fushiguro’s space. They meet eyes and suddenly they’re both looking, looking, looking, as if the shadow cast on the ground in front of Fushiguro has not curved and distorted into a thousand images of Itadori already. They pale in comparison to the real one, of course, but it’s those that remind him why these short moments, eye to eye, feel like eternity. 

A brand against his brain, far hotter than the sun against his back. Sweat trickles down his back, the clothes stick against his skin, and he sees him again, in a hundred different configurations with a hundred different expressions, committing it to memory like it’s as fresh and crisp as the first bite of a popsicle. 

 


 

Love is an act of ownership, the shackles weighing them down. A jujutsu sorcerer always dies alone, Gojou says, but if one of them dies the other will go with them. Maybe not to the extent of the afterlife, but it will take, in the form of his fingers, his eyes, his heart. The crucial pieces of a jujutsu sorcerer, and they’re not even his, anymore.

The thought should make him angry. It doesn’t.

But it makes him feel desperate, some days. Like if he looks at Itadori any longer, something will tip over, and everything in the air will solidify, strangle them to death. It can be painful to face him, sometimes, heart as raw and open as he can manage, trying to give back in some meager way. Hoping to meet him not in the middle but somewhere at all. Hoping something will last.   

Hands, intertwined like chains. He would accept it all. None of it matters.

What matters, maybe, is the everything else—the smile, the warmth, the curl of Itadori’s fingers against his, tangled into a word that’s unreadable to anyone else. 

 


 

He traces spirals against Itadori’s cheek, his fingernails pressing small, already-fading marks against his skin, but the blood stays, the dark red grime of it drying sticky against Itadori’s beating pulse. Blood, and so much of it—he does not know if it is his or theirs or someone else’s, but the liquid is splayed across his shaky fingers, ringed across Itadori’s neck like ribbons. It does not matter. None of it matters. Everything about this matters. 

“Fushiguro,” Itadori says. “Are you okay?” 

He feels the thrum of Itadori’s voice before he hears it, the vocal cords vibrating against the pads of his fingers, which press against the carotid artery. Fruitlessly, he imagines being able to sink in deeper and grab at the pulse which feels so loud under his hands, a warmth as mocking as it is relieving. 

I’m fine, he cannot say, because is anything ever fine between the two of them? Fushiguro can feel the difference within his blood. Itadori isn’t the only one carrying something inhuman within him. And fine is just left of the word good, and there is nothing good about him, nothing good about this.  

Good is reserved for people like Itadori, and now, with Fushiguro’s hands on him, with Sukuna growling in his gut, that doesn’t feel entirely true. Itadori is—maybe he was something good, but now he’s ruined like the rest of them. But that’s irrelevant. Itadori is Itadori, after all. Fushiguro will want him every way he is.

He thinks about saying I’m not okay, but the moment he opens his mouth the words reject themselves so harshly he feels sick. What else is the point of okay if not to describe Itadori before him, alive and okay? If he could find it, grasp the elusive ideal of satisfaction, of surety, he thinks it would be here, staring intently at the shadow from Itadori’s collarbones, the patchwork spots of pink from an itch, absorbing the vision of him until it consumes. 

“Am I?” he says. His hand drifts back up to Itadori’s face, his ring finger mere millimeters from Itadori’s eyelashes. At Itadori’s shaken expression, he pauses. “I don’t want to scare you,” he adds. “I don’t know.” 

“You will be,” Itadori says, and his eyes flutter shut like a conclusion, a bomb laid bare at Fushiguro’s doorstep. “Come on. Let’s get our injuries fixed.” 

Sukuna, the biting hand that feeds, opens his mouth against Itadori’s hand, absent from its usual place on his cheek. The blood there stays, instead. “You’re crazy,” he tells him. “You’ll die if you stay like this.” 

Fushiguro closes his eyes, too. He breathes in deep and matches the rise and fall of his chest to Itadori’s. This close, it’s like their heartbeats really are in sync. “Let’s go,” he says, hand curled tight against Itadori’s wrist. He hauls the both of them up to a standing position. Itadori’s weight slouches against him like plump, feathered wings—a suggestion still too heavy to fly. 

Fushiguro thinks about four am, about movies, about coffee, about hands, and above all, Itadori.

The copper taste in his mouth turns sweet, like the sting of blue raspberry. 

 


 

Binding, a million times over. I’ll save you, I’ll save you, I’ll save you. The voices overlapping, intermixing, from you to me to you until the distinction ceases its meaning. 

A steady, beating heart in the center of it all. You, you, you. 

A promise. The rest falls away. 

 


 

“You… me,” Fushiguro says. An ellipsis. A bridge that crosses a chasm, that makes one, a distance that becomes finite in the space of three periods, becomes indeterminable under the power of suggestion. Voice raw and open like hollow bones and wind.

“I know,” Itadori says. His eyes are peeled open wide, like a predator fixated on his prey. In an instant Fushiguro falls, lets himself be caught. “I’ll save you. You saved me, didn’t you?” 

“Did I?” 

Claws out, ready for the kill. Limbs wound up, ready to spring. Itadori smiles. “You don’t need to ask.”

Lightning snaps between the two of them. Regret vanishes like it never was. 

Fushiguro thinks the fairy tales may be right after all. He’d hesitate to call it magic, but something about a first kiss does overwhelm.