It’s family dinner night.
Family dinner night is something they started doing right after the Shibuya Incident, as a way to just… check in with each other. Be near each other. They lost so much, so it’s nice to decompress together. Share a meal. Forget about the shambles of Jujutsu society in favor of letting Itadori and Kugisaki argue over the last piece of chicken katsu. Yuuta thinks it’s cute that they call it family dinner and include him even though he doesn’t know the first years that well, and he did, for all intents and purposes, try to kill one of them.
At least Yuuta is reunited with his friends. His usual seat is across from Maki and next to Toge, near the head of the table where they keep a chair for the Prison Realm that contains Gojo.
Is it a dysfunctional family? Yes. Doesn’t mean they can’t have dinner together.
“Mustard leaf?” Toge asks, interrupting the first years’ argument of the day. Yuuta thinks it may have started as a debate on who, of the three of them, would make the worst celebrity, but Yuuta also caught the words “jellybean economy” and “genetically engineered mice” and now he’s not so sure.
“Water for me,” Fushiguro answers.
“Ooh, do we have soda?”
“Cool, can I have a soda, Inumaki-senpai?”
Toge nods. He signs, “Anyone else? Drinks?”
When no one else makes their request, Toge stands and heads into the kitchen. Yuuta sighs, watching him go.
“He’s so thoughtful,” Yuuta murmurs.
Itadori tilts his head. “Who is?”
“Toge,” Yuuta says.
Itadori blinks. “Who?”
“You know.” Yuuta gestures to the seat Toge just vacated. “Toge. Salmon?”
“Oh! You mean Inumaki-senpai!”
“Yes. His given name is Toge.”
“Wow,” Itadori says, “I had no idea you and Inumaki-senpai were so close!”
Maki snorts. “Yuuta would do anything for him.”
Yuuta flushes and opens his mouth to protest but, well— he really would.
Understatement of the year. Yuuta almost killed Itadori for him, but that’s behind them. Mostly.
Yuuta’s relationship with Itadori Yuuji is… complicated, to say the least. Yuuta is, technically, still Yuuji’s assigned executioner. And there were a few hours where, in the thick of things, before Yuuta was informed that Itadori was not responsible for the incident that took Toge’s arm— maybe there were a few hours where Yuuta did feel comfortable in his executioner role. Perhaps he was out for blood, for a little bit there. Possibly.
But Yuuta made a promise to Gojo. And Toge, down one arm and with tears in his eyes, bloody and dirty and crumpled in the middle of the battlefield, begged Yuuta not to kill his kouhai. How could anyone say no to him?
How could Yuuta, who has been head-over-heels for him for over a year, say no?
Yuuta would burn down the world for him.
So, Yuuta drew his katana, scrapped his “fake Itadori’s death” plan, and yoinked the Prison Realm out from under Getou’s nose.
(He’s making it sound easy. In reality, it was hours of battling curses, using Rika as a distraction, teaming up with Kugisaki— who was half-dead and missing an eye, but still spitfire as hell, probably not the best way to meet Maki’s new girlfriend, but oh well— before Yuuta managed to close his hands around the cursed object and run with it. He remembers passing it to Fushiguro’s new Divine Dog: Totality, who, like the good dog he is, brought it back to Jujutsu High for safe keeping. Then, it was just a manner of picking up the pieces, recovering the bodies of the dead, tending to the injured— anxiously sticking by Toge’s side as he fell in and out of consciousness, sure that each time would be the last that Yuuta saw of him, praying that Toge would make it so Yuuta could tell him—
Yeah. It was difficult. Yuuta will leave it at that.)
Once the dust settled, what was left was a destroyed major metropolitan area, a ruined Jujutsu society, and 7 high schoolers with no teacher.
The Higher Ups decided to charge Gojo with treason as if he’d asked Getou (not-Getou? Yuuta’s still confused about this part) to trap him in an inescapable Prison Realm. It was only through Yuuta’s persuasion (read: threatening) as one of the only special grade sorcerers left that they decided to suspend their charges until Gojo was free and able to defend himself against his charges. This includes charges against Principal Yaga, who was very nearly executed. With Nanami, Itchiji, and Nitta all bed-ridden in Shoko’s recovery ward and Yaga locked up awaiting trial, that left the students of Tokyo Jujutsu High with basically no adult supervision.
They were given the choice to either stay together at Jujutsu High, teacherless, or be scattered across the country with whatever leftover sorcerers would take them.
Obviously, they chose to stay together.
As the highest ranking sorcerer, Yuuta was put in charge. Gojo visited weeks ago to ask him to look after the others anyway, but that was a very “Dad left me in charge” situation. Now the Higher Ups expect reports on the others from him. Weird. The Higher Ups pass missions down to Yuuta, and Yuuta assigns them to his classmates. He feels like he’s stealing Itchiji’s job. It’s been less than a month and Yuuta is already exhausted and about three snarky comments away from snapping and taking out all the Higher Ups. Maybe he’s more like Gojo than he thought.
One thing’s clear: they need to figure out a way to free Gojo as soon as possible. Trying to manage the first years is like trying to herd cats.
Yuuta would like to say, from the deepest depths of his heart and as disrespectfully as possible: fuck the Higher Ups.
Today is going to be a good day.
Yuuta repeats that to himself as he gets ready, looking at himself in the mirror. His hair is longer than it was in his first year. He let it grow out and he finds that he likes it at this length. He pulls the top half of it back and ties it up in a half-ponytail, smiling at his reflection. Today is going to be a good day.
Yuuta has been secretly planning today for the past week. Throwing a belated birthday celebration for Toge was actually Maki’s idea, but Yuuta, being the resident expert in all things Inumaki Toge, quickly took over the whole operation. Toge’s birthday was only a few days before the Shibuya Incident, and he apparently didn’t do anything besides watch his favorite streamers and exorcise a couple grade 3 curses.
Well, Yuuta thinks he deserves a proper celebration, even if it’s now coming a few weeks late. Toge’s been struggling lately with getting used to his new, cursed energy imbued prosthetic arm on top of trying to stay strong for the first years. Yuuta just wants to do something nice for him.
The plan comes in two parts: morning and afternoon. This morning, Yuuta had gotten up early so he could make Toge’s favorite for breakfast. One by one, their friends trickled into the kitchen to eat and wish Toge a happy belated birthday. After everyone finished eating, Yuuta brought out the cake he had custom ordered from Toge’s favorite bakery.
(Who says they can’t have cake for breakfast? They literally have no adult supervision. If the Higher Ups didn’t want Yuuta buying cake for breakfast, then they shouldn’t have put him in charge, frankly.)
The rest of the morning was spent hanging out as a group. Yuuta worked overtime the past few days to ensure no one would have a mission today.
The afternoon part of Yuuta’s plan is a date.
Well— not a date. Certainly a date-like activity, going to Toge’s favorite aquarium, just the two of them, and then coming home to watch a movie together— but again! Not a date! Did Yuuta pull this idea from his mental list of ‘Potential Dates to Take Toge On?’ Yes, he did. But it’s not a date. Would he like for it to be a date? Of course. But it’s not one. It can’t be one. For several reasons.
Yuuta keeps telling himself it’s not a date so he can gather up enough courage to actually ask Toge to hang out.
He spots his chance as the group hangout starts to wind down. Toge stands from his place on the floor, overseeing the first years’ game of Clue, and makes to leave. Yuuta follows.
“Toge,” Yuuta says, catching him in the hall just outside the common room.
Toge blinks up at him, tilting his head inquisitively.
Yuuta’s mind blanks out.
Toge is… breathtaking. There’s no other word for it— the way Yuuta’s lungs stop inflating and his heart stutters to a halt just from having Toge’s full attention on him. It’s almost like being cursed— and perhaps there’s some dramatic metaphor in there for love and curses being one in the same, but Yuuta honestly can’t be bothered with any thoughts right now outside of Toge, Toge, Toge.
Toge’s brow furrows, looking up at Yuuta with concern.
Yuuta flushes, realizing he’s been staring. “Y-Yeah, uh! Just— I, um, was just wondering….”
It’s like the past year of confidence building just flew out the window. Okkotsu Yuuta, who calmly exorcises special grade curses with ease, reduced to a stuttering mess because of a cute boy. Incredible. Yuuta can feel Gojo making fun of him from the Prison Realm.
Now, Toge just looks amused. “Cod roe?”
He signs, “Is everything alright? No vengeful lobster spirits after you?
Yuuta huffs out a surprised laugh. It’s an inside joke, from a mission they went on just before Yuuta left. There was a low grade cursed spirit and some lobsters and a very confused seafood market owner— and lots of laughter. Yuuta thinks that mission day might have been the most he’s ever heard Toge laugh.
“No lobsters,” Yuuta replies, just a beat too late. It’s okay, though. For all his jokes and his teasing, Toge has always been the most understanding of Yuuta’s awkward, anxious nature.
“Then? Did you need something?” Toge signs.
“You,” Yuuta responds automatically.
Toge’s eyebrows jump.
“I— I mean, you need to, uh— talk to Maki! Yes. You need to talk to Maki.”
Toge gives him a look. “Tuna.”
He gestures to the common room, which he just left. The common room that Maki is in. Maki, who clearly does not need to speak to Toge. Right. Why is Yuuta such an awful liar?
“I meant later! You need to talk to her later… for… uh, something. Anyway, do you want to hang out? Um, right now?”
If that last part was said in a rush, well— no one needs to know. At least he managed to ask.
“Weren’t we just hanging out?” Toge signs, but out loud he says, “Salmon.”
Yuuta nods. “Yeah, but I mean… just us? Thought I’d ask. In case… you had plans for later.”
“In case I had plans with who? My boyfriend?”
Yuuta’s entire world falls apart. How much did he miss while he was gone?
“Y-You have a boyfriend? I had no— I didn’t know— c-congratulations, Toge. I’m h-happy for—”
Toge starts laughing, shaking his head.
“That was a joke,” Toge signs, “I don’t have a boyfriend. I’m all yours today.”
Yuuta’s heart skips a beat. I’m all yours. Now he feels embarrassed about jumping to conclusions.
Can you blame him for being sensitive? Yuuta is a pisces.
“G-Great! Yeah, I was thinking we could, um, go to the aquarium? You like the sharks, right? And then, afterwards, we can stop by this sushi place I found online!”
“That sounds great,” Toge signs. “Let me just go get changed and we can go.”
(It really is a good day. Toge is beautiful in the muted, blue light of the aquarium. He signs excitedly when they see the sharks, and he’s just so adorable that Yuuta has to clear out the shark themed section of the gift shop for him. Toge thanks him for the birthday celebration over dinner. Their hands brush as they walk home.
It really is a shame that it wasn’t a date.)
Yuuta hurries into the common room of the dorms, checking the time on his phone. He’s about five minutes late from the time that he and Toge agreed to meet, before heading off campus together. Luckily, it seems Toge is late too, because the only one in the room is Maki.
“Are you going into town?” Maki asks him. “Can you bring Gojo-sensei with you?”
They’ve taken to calling the Prison Realm “Gojo-sensei.” Firstly, because saying ‘the Prison Realm’ just reminds all of them that their teacher is, well, imprisoned, which is bad for morale. Secondly, because it’s funny to say things like “Megumi almost dropped Gojo-sensei in the lake today” and “Set Gojo-sensei down next to the lamp.” Itadori even put one of Gojo’s spare blindfolds over the cube so it feels a little more like him.
“Yes, Toge and I are going to check out the new mochi place. Why?”
Maki sighs. “Itadori thinks bringing Gojo-sensei near a sweets shop might motivate him to break out. Something about the power of a sugar addiction.”
It’s dumb. They both know it’s a dumb idea. But they go along with it because Itadori is just too adorable and puppy-like to say no to. Who knew the vessel of Sukuna could be so cute?
“Okay,” Yuuta says. “Yeah, I can take Gojo-sensei with us.”
“Thanks.” Maki pauses. Then, a large, shit-eating grin makes its way onto her face. “So. Mochi with Toge, huh?”
“Just mochi. With… Toge.” Yuuta crosses the room to take the Prison Realm from Maki’s hands, shrugging off his backpack so he can try to fit it in. He hopes the corners don’t wear holes in his bag.
“Mhm. Just mochi. Not a date?”
Yuuta flushes and avoids eye contact.
“Not a date.”
“Well,” Maki drops her voice down to a murmur, looking somewhere over Yuuta’s shoulder, “make sure Toge knows that.”
Yuuta turns around and blinks, stunned.
It’s not that Yuuta was unaware of the fact that Toge is gorgeous— in fact, he’s maybe a bit too aware. It’s just that, well, Toge is wearing his uniform most of the time, and while Yuuta personally thinks his high collar is adorable, it’s very different from how Toge dresses casually. He vaguely recalls learning that Toge and Kugisaki bonded over an interest in fashion. He’s wearing a loose black sweatshirt with a white collar peeking out from the top, tucked into high waisted, tight jeans. The jeans are cuffed, and Yuuta can just barely see Toge’s cute, shark patterned socks under them. Socks that Yuuta bought for him.
And, honestly? Yuuta couldn’t care less about what Toge is wearing. Toge would look good in a trash bag, purely because he’s Toge and Yuuta is just so helplessly gone for him. What really gets Yuuta is the fact that Toge obviously put effort into the way he looks today, dressed up in a nice outfit just to go get sweets with Yuuta, almost like he’s dressing for a—-
“Not a date, huh?” Maki whispers, snapping Yuuta out of his trance.
“Um,” Yuuta says.
Toge approaches the two of them, pulling a cloth mask out of his pocket and securing it over the lower half of his face to hide his cursed markings. Yuuta mourns the loss briefly, before he realizes Toge asked him a question.
“Uh, yeah! Yes, I’m ready, let’s go.”
Toge looks over Yuuta’s shoulder at the very obvious cube in Yuuta’s bag.
“Why are you bringing Gojo-sensei?” he signs.
“He gets lonely,” Yuuta says, at the same time Maki says, “Chaperone.”
Toge blinks. Then he giggles, shrugging.
Toge walks past Yuuta and Maki, making his way to the door. His jeans have little paw prints printed on the back pocket. Not that Yuuta is looking.
“You’re drooling,” Maki deadpans.
Yuuta glares at her. “Quit teasing.”
“Then quit being a coward and make a move,” she hisses back. Then, louder she says, “have fun you two!”
“Salmon,” Toge calls over his shoulder.
“Salmon,” Yuuta repeats, with feeling.
Google search: how to break an overpowered, annoying jujutsu sorcerer out of a magic cursed box
Someone is at Yuuta’s door.
This isn’t unusual. The trauma from the Shibuya Incident has left the students of Tokyo Jujutsu High more than a little co-dependant. Yuuta typically isn’t alone for more than an hour or two— something that he’s come to appreciate, given how isolated he was growing up. Plus, being the pseudo-authority figure around means the first years tend to come to him for advice. It isn’t unusual for someone to be knocking on Yuuta’s door.
Except it’s well past midnight.
Yuuta springs to his feet. He wasn’t asleep anyway, too anxious about the general state of the jujutsu world to really get any rest. His first thought is that something is wrong. And he’s right.
Toge is at his door, barefoot and tearstained, shoulders curled in on himself. He looks so small, standing in Yuuta’s doorway in his oversized pajama, sans his prosthetic arm.
“Yuuta,” he says quietly, voice shaky.
“Toge?! Toge, what’s wrong?”
Toge doesn’t say anything else. Instead he just steps right into Yuuta’s arms, shuddering. Yuuta automatically wraps him up in a tight hug, voice getting higher as he starts to panic. Toge is crying. Did someone make Toge cry? Yuuta will kill them. Yuuta will eviscerate whoever dared to make Toge upset, Yuuta will—
Toge takes a tiny step back, clumsily signing with one hand.
“Can I stay here?”
Yuuta is nodding before Toge’s even done signing. “Of course. Yeah, come here.”
Yuuta herds Toge further into his room, bundling him up in bed. He goes to sit at his desk chair to give Toge some room, but Toge makes a low, whining noise in the back of his throat, tugging on Yuuta’s arm, and Yuuta falls into bed with him, helpless to resist.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
Toge shakes his head. He goes to sign again, but realizes he only has one arm. The look on his face when he remembers breaks Yuuta’s heart clean in two.
“Are you… are you upset about what happened?”
Toge nods. He sniffles and Yuuta wants to raze the country to the ground.
But he has more important things to worry about right now. He also can’t kill the person responsible for Toge’s pain, Sukuna, without hurting Itadori. Revenge isn’t something he can afford to think about at the moment, not when Toge is on the verge of tears and looking to Yuuta for comfort.
“I’m sorry,” Yuuta whispers, pulling Toge to him. “I’m sorry I was so late. It must have been scary.”
It’s hard to picture Toge— bright, kind, mischievous at times, incredibly powerful Toge— scared of anything. But they’re only 17, and Toge lost a limb a month ago. They have no reliable adult to turn to. It’s clear to Yuuta that he’s been holding it together in the daytime for the first years’ sake.
But he doesn’t have to pretend in front of Yuuta.
“I’m here,” Yuuta murmurs. “It’s okay, I’m here now. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Toge clutches at him harder, trying his best to burrow into Yuuta’s chest. Yuuta does his best to wrap around him completely, knowing that it’s what Toge needs to feel safe. He brings a hand up to card through Toge’s hair, messy and ruffled but still so soft.
They’re pressed completely together, so Yuuta feels it when Toge shivers. Yuuta’s room has always been the draftiest of the dorms, and Yuuta himself exudes so much powerful cursed energy that the air around him tends to be colder, especially if he’s upset. He pulls the duvet up to wrap around himself and Toge tighter, quietly apologizing for the chill.
“I should get a space heater or something,” Yuuta whispers. He holds Toge tighter. “It’s cold, huh?”
Toge emerges from where he had his face pressed to Yuuta’s sternum. With the blankets up to his ears, all that's visible when Yuuta looks down at him is his wide, violet eyes.
Yuuta blinks. For once, he doesn’t know what Toge is saying.
Toge seems unwilling to let go of Yuuta’s waist long enough to sign— and he doesn’t have his other hand to sign anyway. Instead, Toge drags his finger along Yuuta’s spine, spelling something out. It takes Yuuta an embarrassing amount of time to focus on what Toge is spelling, instead of just being lost in the sensations.
Yuuta frowns. “Hurt… Your arm hurts when it gets cold?”
Toge nods, the motion causing his lips to brush Yuuta’s throat.
“T-That’s—” Yuuta clears his throat. “Um. I’m sorry about it. Is there anything I can do? Maybe if you took a hot bath….”
Left. Hurt, he spells.
Oh. Phantom pains. Yuuta’s heart aches for him.
“Maybe Shoko is still awake? I can go ask if she has any pain medication—”
Toge shakes his head so hard the whole bed moves.
“Talk? To take your mind off it?”
Yuuta doesn’t need to be told twice. He curls protectively around Toge, who tucks his face back into the hollow of Yuuta’s throat.
“Did I tell you about the time in Morocco that I chased what I thought was a cursed spirit through a marketplace, only to figure out it was just a cat? Miguel and I were training in Fes and….”
Yuuta isn’t sure how long he speaks for. All he knows is that eventually, Toge drifts off to sleep in his arms, his grip on Yuuta’s shirt slackening until it’s just a gentle hold. Even still, Yuuta talks. Maybe it’s to soothe himself just as much as it is to soothe Toge.
The sky outside his window starts to lighten before Yuuta manages to fall asleep, too.
Toge and Maki have been training together a lot lately. It makes sense— Maki needs to recover from almost burning to a crisp, and Toge’s new prosthetic arm is imbued with cursed energy, much like the tools Maki trains with. Totally logical, the reasons why they are training together. It makes sense. Lots of sense.
So why is Yuuta jealous?
He is very much aware of the fact that he has absolutely nothing to be jealous of. For one, Maki has been aware of Yuuta’s huge, awful, debilitating crush on Toge since basically the second it manifested. She’s Yuuta’s best friend. She would never betray Yuuta’s trust by going behind his back.
There’s also the fact that she is a lesbian. And is dating Kugisaki.
Absolutely no reason for Yuuta to be jealous. And yet, here he is, sulking on the edges of the training field as Maki gently moves Toge’s limbs around to correct his form.
Yuuta scowls. “Does she have to be so touchy?”
If Panda was capable of it, Yuuta’s sure he would be rolling his eyes. “Yes. They’re training, Yuuta.”
“I could train with him,” Yuuta says petulantly.
“Maki has more experience with cursed tools,” Panda points out. He’s right, of course. Doesn’t stop Yuuta from getting irrationally defensive.
“I’ve used cursed tools, too! I have a katana! That I use to channel my special grade cursed energy!”
“Mm, and who taught you to use that katana again?”
Yuuta deflates. “... Maki.”
“Exactly.” Panda sighs, sliding Yuuta a sideways glance. “If this is what you’re like now, I can’t imagine what you’ll be like when you and Toge actually start dating.”
Just the thought replaces the jealousy sitting heavy in Yuuta’s belly with butterflies.
“Yeah,” Yuuta murmurs, looking fondly over at Toge trying— and failing— to do a handstand on his new prosthetic. “When we’re dating.”
“Speaking of that, when are you going to make your move?”
“I’m working on it,” Yuuta dismisses.
“What are you waiting for? I’m gonna lose my bet with Maki.”
Yuuta sighs. “It’s just… not the right time. Toge has a lot going on in his life— we all do. I just want him to focus on recovering first. I don’t want to burden him with my… feelings.”
Panda carefully, gently, knocks their shoulders together.
“Your feelings aren’t a burden, Yuuta. Not to Toge, not to any of us. We’re your friends.”
Yuuta’s breath catches. This— he missed this while he was away. The reassurance of his best friends in the world. He can’t believe he almost lost this.
“Thank you, Panda.”
He stays pressed against Yuuta instead of leaning away. Yuuta basks in the warmth. Panda, despite not being a human, is surprisingly the most emotionally intelligent out of all of them. Even Maki has her miscommunication moments, though thankfully Kugisaki seems so smitten that it doesn’t matter.
“Woo! Go Maki! Beat his ass!”
Speak of the devil.
Yuuta spots the first years making their way onto the field, settling near Panda and Yuuta to watch Toge and Maki train. Kugisaki is wearing a hoodie that is very obviously not her own.
“Hi, Panda-senpai!” Itadori chirps. He gives Yuuta a hesitant little wave. “Hi, Okkotsu-senpai.”
“Hello.” Yuuta tries to give him an encouraging smile, but at that moment Maki flips Toge over and pins him to the ground, sitting squarely on his hips. Yuuta’s smile melts into a scowl. Itadori looks panicked.
“Don’t mind Yuuta,” Panda soothes. He reaches over to ruffle first Itadori’s hair, then Fushiguro’s. “He’s just grumpy.”
“Oh.” Itadori blinks, then his usual carefree grin is back. He really is like a golden retriever, if a golden retriever was also a vessel to the most powerful curse in human history. “Sorry to hear that! Anything we can do to help?”
Yuuta grimaces. “No, not really. Don’t worry about it.”
On the field, Maki and Toge have started another match. They circle each other, watching warily. Toge isn’t using his cursed speech, since the point is to train with his arm, and it’s obvious that holding back on that front is affecting him. He keeps opening his mouth before catching himself, flashing his pink tongue and the dark, cursed marks on it everytime Maki gets a little too close to comfort.
Things continue like this, for a while. The first years watch Maki and Toge spar with rapt attention, occasionally oohing and ahhing as one of their senpai pulls off a cool move. Panda and Yuuta are content to soak in their commentary. It’s peaceful. Yuuta even manages to tamp down on his jealousy after seeing how Maki flushes and preens under her girlfriend’s enthusiastic praise.
Until Maki disarms Toge. Literally.
Yuuta is on his feet in an instant, already in between Maki and Toge, crouched protectively in front of Toge where he tumbled to the ground. He glares up at Maki, teeth bared and eyes blazing.
“What was that for?! You could seriously hurt him, didn’t you think to—?!”
“He’s fine,” Maki snaps. She’s still holding Toge’s arm, so Yuuta snatches it back from her, kneeling on the ground next to Toge to help him put it back on. “We loosened it on purpose, so it wouldn’t pull his shoulder if I tugged too hard or it got snagged.”
“Salmon,” Toge backs up. He goes to sign something, but realizes he’s one-armed again. He laughs a little to himself and all of Yuuta’s righteous fury melts. The blood rushing in his ears quiets. He pulls back on the cursed energy he automatically surrounded himself and Toge with, embarrassed that he had this much killing intent leaking out of him over what is, essentially, just a light shove between friends.
“Still,” Yuuta mumbles. “Just— be careful.”
Toge allows Yuuta to fuss over him, making sure his compression sock is properly in place, adjusting the necessary straps and checking Toge’s face for discomfort. Toge seems more amused than anything, gaze flitting from Yuuta to Maki. As soon as the prosthetic is back in place and Toge is able to channel his cursed energy through it, he flexes his hand and rolls his shoulder.
“Thank you, Yuuta,” he signs, “but it really is fine. Maki just wants to make sure I can still balance myself if I lose my arm mid-battle.”
When he’s done signing, his hand settles on Yuuta’s knee, patting reassuringly. Yuuta gulps.
“Okay. I was just— it looked bad from a distance. Be gentler next round, alright?”
The last part is directed to Maki, who has been watching with barely concealed amusement as Yuuta’s face slowly gets redder and redder the longer Toge’s hand remains on his knee. She smirks down at him. There is no doubt in Yuuta’s mind that he’s going to be teased for this later.
“I think we’re done for the day, actually.” Maki wipes the sweat off her brow and looks over at the sidelines, where Kugisaki is still cheering despite the lack of activity on the field. “I have a date.”
“We get it, you’re in love,” Toge signs. “No need to rub it in.”
He moves to get up and Yuuta quickly goes to help him. Toge sends him an annoyed look, but lets Yuuta get him on his feet. Their hands linger, Yuuta’s palm warm from where it was pressed to Toge’s breifly.
Toge steps away and stretches, his shirt riding up and exposing the soft skin of his waist. Yuuta’s hands twitch with the need to wrap around him, to pull Toge close to him and never let go.
Wow. He has it bad, huh?
“Come on, Nobara said she and the other first years were going to bring back snacks from their mission. I think she said they’d leave them in the common room.”
They make their way back to the dorms together. The first years recount the sparring matches blow by blow, both Kugisaki and Itadori bouncing around excitedly. Surprisingly, even Fushiguro rides their energy wave, passionately defending some of Toge’s defense choices. By the time they get to the common room and settle around the couches with the snacks, the conversation has moved from sparring, to curses, to the Kyoto students, to idols. Yuuta isn’t really following.
But even if he isn’t totally engaged in the discussion, he still enjoys the atmosphere. Toge is sitting right up against him, their thighs and shoulders pressed together. The heat from him warms Yuuta down to his bones, leaving him drowsy with contentment. A far cry from the murderous vibes he was radiating earlier.
Does Yuuta love intensely? Yes. But he can love softly, too.
Yuuta shakes the sleepiness from his mind and focuses on Toge, who brings his hands up to sign.
“I’m going to take a walk around campus. Want to come?”
The answer is yes, Yuuta would like to go on a walk with Toge. Unfortunately, he’s incredibly tired from a mission he had to do earlier today. He chews his lip, weighing the pros and cons of saying yes. Like magic, Toge seems to read his mind.
“If you’re tired, just rest,” he signs with a smile, “you can always come next time.”
Right. Next time, because Yuuta is here to stay. He smiles back.
“Okay, yeah. I think I’m going to take a nap before dinner. Wake me up when you get back?”
Toge nods. “Kelp,” he says, as Yuuta stands to leave.
He’s all the way down the corridor leading to the second year dorms, about to enter his room, when Maki catches up with him.
“What was all that about?”
Yuuta squints down at her. He opens the door to his room and steps in, leaving it open for her to follow. “What?”
“During my training session with Toge. Or are we going to pretend like you weren’t ready to rip my throat out?”
Yuuta winces. “Right. Sorry about that, I know you wouldn’t hurt him.”
“No, before that.”
Yuuta sits down at the edge of his bed. Maki watches him from the doorway.
“I know you know that I’m very happy with Nobara,” she says, leaning in the door frame, “so why were you so jealous earlier?”
“Yuuta.” Maki raises an eyebrow, unimpressed. “You really think I can’t tell when you’re being a jealous dumbass by now?”
Yuuta flushes. “Am I that obvious?”
“You radiate bad vibes. Literally. You need to get a handle on how much cursed energy you leak when you’re upset.”
“Sorry, I just— yeah, you’re right. I was jealous.”
Maki gives him a disgusted look. “You’re an idiot.”
A year ago, he would have flinched. But Yuuta is different now— more confident, more secure in his friendships, enough to know that Maki doesn’t really mean it.
“I mean it,” she says, flipping her newly cropped hair out of her eyes. “You’re the biggest idiot I know.”
Yuuta sighs. “I just— I know, okay? I can’t help it, I just get all… restless when he’s not focused on me. It’s— I know how possessive it sounds, just let me be, I’m working on it.”
Maki blinks. “Well, at least you’re self aware.”
Yuuta shrugs. What can he say? He loves with his whole heart— and Yuuta has a big heart.
“Are you going to tell him?”
Yuuta shakes his head. “No. I mean, yes, just— not yet.”
“I can’t believe you,” Maki huffs. “You spend half of our FaceTime calls while you were away asking Panda and I for advice, and now that you’re here you’re not doing anything.”
“Maki,” Yuuta whines. Maki, evidently, is done with the conversation because she turns to go.
“Seriously,” Maki throws over her shoulder, just before she leaves, “what are you waiting for?”
Then she’s gone, and Yuuta sits and stares at his hands.
What are you waiting for?
“I’m going to the store,” Yuuta announces to the common room one night, after a full day of training. “Does anyone want anything?”
“Shrimp chips, please!”
“Yeah, can I get uh….”
“You know those chocolates that are like, cylinder shaped? Not the Meiji ones, they come in a green package and—“
“Oh, we’re out of popcorn and movie night is tomorrow!”
The cacophony of orders washes over Yuuta like a tidal wave. He stands, looking up at the ceiling, wondering why he thought this would be a good idea.
Toge, thankfully, takes pity on him.
“Tuna!” He calls everyone to attention. He pulls out his phone and hands it to the nearest person, Fushiguro, who takes it gingerly. He cradles it like Toge’s just handed him a newborn baby.
Good to know that while Fushiguro may respect Yuuta the most, his favorite senpai is still Toge. Yuuta’s glad that not everything changed while he was gone.
“Write down what you need on my Notes app,” Toge signs. He’s still adjusting to signing with his prosthetic, so he goes slow. That’s probably good for the first years, who are still learning JSL. “Yuuta and I will try to get everything.”
Yuuta blinks. Toge just invited himself on a grocery trip with him.
A grocery trip. That’s, like, peak domestic activities. Yuuta feels a giddy smile working its way onto his face, he needs to calm down. It’s not even a real grocery shopping trip. They’re just running to the nearest conbini.
But, hey, that can be romantic, right? Maybe they’ll hold hands in front of the instant ramen aisle.
“Bonito flakes,” Toge says, and Yuuta’s attention is snapped away from his daydream to see Toge standing in front of Itadori with a frown, arms crossed sternly.
As sternly as Toge can manage. Itadori is sitting and Toge is still not much taller than him.
“Bonito flakes.” Slowly, Toge signs, “Yuuta and I cannot carry 3 boxes of protein powder, plus everyone else’s stuff.”
“But I’m down to my last serving, and I need to build muscle to—“
Itadori blinks. “Huh?”
Toge smirks. He slides a sly glance in Fushiguro’s direction, then signs, “Why don’t you and Fushiguro go together tomorrow? He can help you carry it.”
Itadori flushes. He quickly glances over at Fushiguro, to see if he caught what Toge signed. “Wait—“
“Great! Yuuta and I will be going now.”
Toge quickly makes his escape from the room, snagging Yuuta by the arm on his way out. They hear Kugisaki say, “Oh? Only you and Fushiguro are going into town tomorrow? Well—“ before they’re out of earshot. Toge snickers.
Yuuta chuckles. “Are you scheming again?”
“Bonito flakes.” Toge smirks at him, tilting his head innocently. “Who, me? Meddling? I would never!”
He would. Toge very much would meddle.
They chat idly as they walk to the convenience store. The sun set a while ago and it’s a little hard to see Toge signing in the dark. Luckily, Yuuta has always been good at figuring out Toge’s onigiri ingredient speech.
“Really? He really said that?”
“Salmon. Tuna mayo.”
“He ate her leftovers, too? Kugisaki doesn’t seem like the type to let that slide.”
“Bonito flakes, tuna tuna.”
“Wow. The first years this year are really something, huh?”
They’re in front of the conbini now, paused just before going in. The light from inside illuminates them enough for Toge to be able to sign.
“They remind me of you, when we first met. Powerful, a little awkward, not really sure how to talk to us.”
Yuuta blushes. “I mean— I guess.”
“Itadori is a lot like you.”
“Yeah, I can see that. They tried to execute him, too, huh?”
“Poor kid. He’s so nice, and he learns quickly. Maybe I should train with him more— what?”
Toge is smiling up at him, amused.
“Nothing. He likes you.”
“Oh.” He flushes. “Well, that’s— I mean. Did he tell you that? Me? I tried to kill him! Plus, I, uh, I don’t— I have feelings for someone else and—”
Toge bursts into laughter. “Bonito flakes! Bonito flakes.”
“I meant he likes you as a mentor,” Toge signs. “He looks up to you. It’s obvious, he’s like a puppy. Besides, you saw him with Fushiguro.”
“Oh! Of course, oh thank god,” Yuuta sighs with relief.
“So… feelings for someone else?”
Toge is teasing, but something on his face makes Yuuta nervous. Like, really nervous. He thinks about opening his mouth and spilling his guts open right here on the sidewalk in front of the conbini, heart on open display for Toge to pick through as he likes.
But Yuuta gets cold feet. Instead, he deflects.
“Oh! Look, they’re having a sale on dish sponges.”
Yuuta pushes the door to the store open, hoping Toge won’t call him out on how flustered he is.
Yuuta thinks that might mean ‘we don’t need dish sponges’ but he pretends to misinterpret.
“If we buy two we can get the third for free.”
They manage to grab everything on the list on Toge’s phone, excluding the more ridiculous requests. Does Kugisaki really think they’ll be able to find her fancy moisturizer at their local conbini? The Higher Ups basically handed Yuuta a credit card when they put him in charge and told him to make sure he and the others don’t starve, and Toge is a big fan of taking advantage of that. They walk away with enough snacks to feed a small army.
The walk home is a little quieter. Yuuta insisted on carrying the majority of the bags, but even still it’s difficult for Toge to sign like this. He seems content to let Yuuta ramble, however. That’s one of the things Yuuta loves about being with Toge. No one lets Yuuta talk so much, let alone actually listens to what he has to say. Growing up with no friends besides the cursed spirit of your dead childhood fiance meant that a lot of Yuuta’s time was spent alone. But he’s not alone anymore, and Toge reminds him of that whenever he can.
They pause in front of a pawn shop while Yuuta double checks the directions on his phone, making sure he’s not accidentally leading them deeper into the city.
“Okay, just ten more minutes and—” Yuuta looks up and the words die on his tongue.
The neon sign from the pawn shop bounces soft fuschia light on Toge’s hair and face, bathing him in a pink glow. He blinks his big eyes up at Yuuta and, god, how are they so purple? He’s impossibly beautiful— every part of him. From his cute button nose to the slope of his shoulders to the way he tilts his head to the side, trying to sweep the bangs out of his eyes without using his hands. He’s tugged his collar down to breathe in the crisp night air, soft corners of his mouth on display.
Toge notices Yuuta’s pause.
Something in Toge’s expression shifts, and suddenly the bags are on the ground and Toge is swaying closer and Yuuta— Yuuta can’t stop looking at his mouth. He can’t stop thinking about how soft it looks, how pink, how Toge’s tongue flicks out to lick his lips, leaving them shiny and, god, Yuuta wants to eat him up.
“Yuuta,” Toge says quietly, into the air between them.
They’re so close— kilometers and oceans and timezones closed down to centimeters between their faces— and Yuuta can feel Toge’s breath on his face, the heat of his body, held still so close to his, their hands brushing as Toge tips forward and Yuuta gravitates closer, until—
Until Yuuta pulls away.
Toge blinks up at him. Yuuta flushes. He looks away.
“I-It’s late,” he excuses, putting some distance between him and Toge. His hands clench, flexing around the urge to reach for Toge’s. “We should head back, before the others get worried.”
Toge is quiet. When Yuuta looks back up at him, his face is blank.
They don’t talk the whole way back.
What are you waiting for?
See, Yuuta had a plan.
He’s had a year— more than, if you count the time he spent pining before he had to leave Japan— to plan out his confession to Toge. He’s spent a lot of time asking Maki and Panda for advice, and even more time just laying awake at night worrying about it. But by the time he was set to go home, he had a solid plan.
He was going to come home to Toge, newly improved. Taller, broader, stronger— softer, too. More in touch with his emotions, more aware of what the fluttering in his heart when he’s around Toge means. Yuuta was going to step off the plane, stop by Toge’s favorite shop, Onigiri Miya, on his way to Jujutsu High and he was going to sweep onto campus with Toge’s favorite rice balls and a confident smile.
It would have been early November. Perfect, because fall is Toge’s favorite season. He likes the way the leaves change color. After greeting everyone, Yuuta would ask Toge to take a walk through their favorite trail in the forest surrounding campus, under the guise of refamiliarizing himself with the school again. Maybe Toge would have gotten cold in the crisp, autumn chill. Maybe Yuuta would offer him his jacket.
The path would take them to Toge’s favorite spot on campus, a little clearing in the trees that gives them a stunning view of Tokyo. Yuuta would suggest they sit down here, take a break, eat the rice balls he brought. He can picture the way Toge would melt into relaxation— unzipping his high collar, leaning back on one palm, taking a big bite of onigiri. His cheeks would puff up in the adorable way they do when he’s eating good food and tries to bite too much at once.
Maybe a stray rice grain would get stuck to the corner of Toge’s mouth. Maybe Yuuta would brush it away gently with his thumb, his touch lingering on the cursed seals on Toge’s cheek.
Then, with the afternoon light streaming through the trees and Toge’s gorgeous gaze on him, Yuuta would confess his feelings and ask Toge to be with him forever— without accidentally creating a vengeful cursed spirit this time.
Of course, because the universe hates him, this isn’t how things happened.
Two weeks before Yuuta was supposed to fly home, Jujutsu society collapsed. And Yuuta was left to clean it up.
So what is he waiting for?
Honestly, a break.
Yuuta has officially lost it. He’s started speaking to the Prison Realm.
“On one hand,” Yuuta says, laying on his back in bed. The cube is on his nightstand. “On one hand, I’m pretty sure Toge wouldn’t respond negatively. Even if he doesn’t feel the same way, he’s so kind I can’t imagine he would end our friendship over this. That’s a reasonable assumption, right Gojo-sensei?”
The Prison Realm does not respond.
“But on the other hand,” Yuuta continues, “the timing just… doesn’t feel right. It’s a weird time to start something. He’s still recovering. I’m still recovering. Plus I have to worry about the Higher Ups potentially trying to kill Itadori on a mission, and Maki keeps asking for low level curses, but Shoko hasn’t cleared her for combat and— I don’t know. It feels selfish to bring up my feelings right now, when things are still kind of life or death.”
Yuuta sighs. He turns his head to look at the Prison Realm. He lets himself whine a little.
“Sensei, can you come back already? We need an adult.”
Wow. Yuuta never thought he’d be saying that about Gojo, of all people.
“Then there’s the whole ‘almost-kiss’ thing and ugh. I don’t know what I was thinking. Should I have just gone for it? But what if— what if it was just the moment, and Toge didn’t actually… what if he’s not ready? It was a little awkward immediately after, but now he’s acting like nothing happened so maybe it’s not a big deal? Maybe he doesn’t think about it as much as I do?”
Oh, ouch. That hurt. The thought that Toge doesn’t think about Yuuta as much as Yuuta thinks about him. Yuuta managed to make himself sad.
“I just… I really like him, sensei,” Yuuta admits quietly. “I want to do things right.”
The Prison Realm continues to sit motionless on Yuuta’s nightstand. Not even a wobble.
“I don’t know,” Yuuta sighs again, staring up at the ceiling of his room. “What do you think, Rika?”
Rika, as usual, just wants Yuuta to be happy.
Toge has finally been cleared to start taking missions again and Yuuta is anxious.
It’s now mid-December. They haven’t made any progress on the “free Gojo from his inescapable prison so he can fix Jujutsu society” front, but at least the Higher Ups aren’t keeping such a close eye on them anymore. Nanami is conscious for longer periods of time, and Ichiji and Nitta will be up and ready to help out the kids by the new year.
But in the meantime, both Toge and Maki have been cleared by Shoko for low level exorcisms. It means Yuuta can stop exhausting himself, Panda and the first years by spreading out missions amongst all 7 of them. It also means Yuuta is worrying constantly.
Toge, before Shibuya, was a semi-grade 1 sorcerer. More than capable of handling the grade 3 curse they’re taking care of today. Still, Yuuta is accompanying him— more to ease his own state of mind than on Shoko’s request. If anything goes wrong, Yuuta will be there this time.
If he has any say in things, he’ll be there all the time.
The curse they’ve been assigned is taking up residence at an abandoned elementary school. The school is set to be demolished in a couple weeks, and the curse has apparently been harassing the construction workers that have been trying to prep the site. They don’t have Ichiji to cast a curtain, so they’ll have to be careful to not let the fighting get out of hand enough to be visible from the outside.
Once they get inside, it’s pretty clear that the Higher Ups once again lied about the curse’s grade. They’re enveloped in a barrier, indicating that they are not dealing with a low level curse anymore. The school setting itself doesn’t seem to change much, but there is a heaviness in the air that only accompanies powerful cursed pressences. Yuuta makes sure to stick close to Toge’s side.
They walk in silence for a while. It’s weirdly peaceful for a domain. The hallways seem to go on forever— and they probably do.
Toge realizes it quickly. He stops Yuuta with a quiet, “Tuna.”
“We’re going in circles,” he signs. He points to an abandoned yellow raincoat, lying sadly on the floor by a pile of other trash. “We’ve passed that three times now.”
Yuuta nods. “You’re right. And we haven’t passed any hallway intersections or stairs, so the domain is probably meant to keep us in a relatively small section of the school by looping the area.”
Yuuta hums. “I fought a curse with a similar domain back in Cairo, with Miguel. We were caught in the loop for a while before we even realized. The best way to move forward was….”
Yuuta strides over to one of the classroom doors to his right and slides it open. Instead of an abandoned classroom, they’re greeted with a dark, cavernous expanse. Bingo.
“... to not go forward at all,” he finishes. “The curse is probably through here. Ready?”
Yuuta turns back to Toge. He startles slightly when he sees how intensely Toge is looking at him.
Toge smiles. “You’re different. Since you came back.”
Yuuta’s eyes track the movement of Toge’s hands as he signs. He tries to play it cool.
“Oh? Yeah, ha ha, I guess I am.”
It’s not like Yuuta has spent hours thinking about how different he is now. About ways to get Toge to notice that Yuuta is capable now. That Yuuta is a good sorcerer. That he would make a good boyfriend, if Toge gave him the chance.
It’s silent in the hallway. Neither of them make a move to enter the open classroom door.
“Is it… different, like bad different?” Yuuta asks anxiously.
Toge looks Yuuta up and down slowly, his gaze raking over Yuuta like a physical touch. Yuuta shivers.
“Bonito flakes,” is all Toge says. When he brushes against Yuuta’s chest as Yuuta holds open the classroom door for him, Yuuta tips forward, unconsciously trying to follow Toge’s warmth.
Yuuta flushes. This is so humiliating. All Toge said was literally “not bad” and Yuuta is like this— flustered and preening and riding the emotional high of Toge’s half-compliment like he’s just won the lottery.
They only need to walk through the cave-like domain for a few minutes before the cursed spirit decides to attack. Toge senses it first, whirling around and pushing Yuuta out of the way of a large blast of cursed energy.
“Get crushed,” Toge says, accompanied by a crumpling motion with his prosthetic hand. The curse crumbles immediately, imploding in on itself with a loud screech.
Yuuta blinks, looking from Toge’s clenched fist to the disappearing cursed spirit.
“That was fast.”
“You’re right. Why isn’t the barrier dissolving?”
The answer is, of course, that there’s a bigger, badder cursed spirit looming behind them.
This time it’s Yuuta’s instincts that saves them. He springs into action, tackling Toge and rolling the two of them out of the path of destruction as two new, much higher grade spirits destroy the ground where they just were.
“Can’t the Higher Ups ever just tell the truth,” Yuuta bemoans. Because there’s no way they didn’t know about the grade ones standing in front of them.
Yuuta is choosing to translate that as “fuck the Higher Ups,” which he whole-heartedly agrees with.
The one closest to them is huge, towering over them like a tree and just as thick. The second one is more insect-like, with spindly legs and large pincers.
Yuuta runs at the larger curse, drawing his sword and getting ready to hack into it with a downward swing.
“Stop!” Toge yells, and both curses freeze in place just in time for Yuuta to cut a clean diagonal down the first one’s rotting torso.
But it’s strong. Yuuta’s cut goes deep, but isn’t enough to cut it completely in half. Yuuta bounces back, springing forward and slashing at it a couple more times. It quickly regenerates, new flesh bubbling up to fill the chunks Yuuta’s taken out of it.
“I’ll go for the head next time, maybe it won’t regenerate if—”
Toge puts a hand on Yuuta’s shoulder, using him to steady himself as he holds out his other, cursed hand to the spirit.
“Disintegrate,” he says calmly, waving his hand.
It’s like watching a flower bloom in the most grotesque way possible. The spirit decays from the inside out, layers of flesh peeling back and flaking away. The spirit collapses into a pile of dust, completely eviscerated. Toge coughs a little, leaning heavily on Yuuta. Yuuta gently guides him so he’s sitting on the ground.
“Don’t overdo it, Toge. I’ll get the last one.”
The curse screeches and charges them, pincers snapping menacingly. Yuuta doesn’t let it get anywhere near Toge. He steps forward, directing his cursed energy with his katana, and buries it deep into the thing’s chest. Then, he pushes outward, letting his energy explode from within the spirit.
Yuuta lets out a sigh of relief as the barrier begins to melt around them, revealing the dilapidated elementary school they first walked into.
“That wasn’t too bad. Toge, how’s your throat?”
“Tuna tuna!” comes Toge’s slightly panicked voice.
Yuuta turns around to see the state of the room they’re in. Despite not going up any stairs, they somehow ended up on the second floor, in a classroom with a floor that is, literally, falling apart as they speak. There’s a large hole in the floor between Yuuta and Toge, with only a single beam of wood to cross the distance. The door to leave is behind Yuuta. Toge is trapped on the other side of the room.
“What do I do?” Toge signs frantically, looking at the drop to the first floor.
Crap. Toge is afraid of heights.
It’s about four meters from the floor they’re on to the ground floor. A fall won’t kill him, but Yuuta absolutely refuses to let Toge get hurt on his watch. Yuuta eyes the beam bridging the gap. It looks like it could support both of them.
“Okay,” Yuuta says to Toge, keeping his voice low and calm. “Okay, it’s going to be okay. I’m going to come over to you—”
“What if you fall?”
“I won’t,” Yuuta reassures. “I’m going to come to you, and then we’re going to walk back together. Alright?”
Toge looks weary. His hands are a little shaky when he signs.
“Isn’t it easier if I just come to you?”
Yuuta can see Toge’s legs trembling from here. He’s going to look down half way through and psych himself out, Yuuta knows it.
“Don’t worry about it.” Yuuta starts crossing the beam.
It’s… honestly not hard. Toge watches Yuuta’s feet anxiously, jumping at every groan of wood, but Yuuta just looks at Toge. He crosses the gap in no time, clearing the 3 meters between them quickly. Once he gets to the otherside, Toge immediately latches onto him, pulling him away from the edge.
“See?” Yuuta says. “Not so bad. I was fine.”
Toge makes a face.
“Ready to go back with me?”
“It’ll be okay, just—” Yuuta takes Toge’s hands in both of his, stepping backwards to lead Toge over the beam. “— keep your eyes on me, yeah? Don’t look down.”
Toge visibly gulps, but he steps forward. He has Yuuta’s hands in a deathgrip. Yuuta tries not to enjoy it too much.
“That’s it,” he says soothingly, taking another step backwards onto the beam. “Just look at me.”
Toge keeps his eyes locked with Yuuta’s as they cross the beam, fingers interlocked, Toge stepping forward with blind trust as Yuuta leads him backwards. They’re almost across now.
“Alright?” Yuuta asks quietly.
Toge chews his bottom lip, before saying, softly, “Yuuta.”
The sudden shift in weight causes the beam to crack under them, sending the two of them tumbling down to the first floor. Yuuta manages to surround them in cursed energy in an attempt to cushion their fall, but it doesn’t matter. They land right onto a pile of old gym mats, softly tumbling around each other until they roll to a stop. Their fall sent up a puff of dust, which floats around them gently like snow.
“Toge?” Yuuta coughs. They clung to each other as they fell, and the resulting rolling deposited Toge on Yuuta’s chest. “A-Are you okay?”
“S-Salmon,” Toge answers, his face pressed to Yuuta’s sternum, eyes squeezed shut. “Mustard leaf?”
“I’m okay. Good thing these mats were here, huh?”
It’s quiet for a moment. Then Toge starts to laugh.
He pushes himself up on his palms, looking down at Yuuta with his hair hanging over his eyes, mouth turned up into a small smile. His laughter is contagious. Before he knows it, Yuuta is laughing, too. His hands settle on Toge’s knees, which are planted on either side of Yuuta’s hips. They laugh into the space in between them, dust still kicking up in clouds around them.
“All that fussing and we still fell, huh?”
“Right. We can exorcise a couple cursed spirits, but a wood plank takes us out. I’m just glad Gojo-sensei isn’t here to make fun of us.”
Their giggles subside and Yuuta is left just staring up adoringly at Toge, who is smiling at him. His hair catches the light, sitting like a halo behind his head as he gazes down at Yuuta. He drops himself down to his elbows, pressing their foreheads together. Yuuta can feel his heartbeat in his bones.
“Tuna mayo,” Toge says quietly.
Yuuta doesn’t know what Toge is thanking him for. All he knows is that he’s happier lying on this dusty, abandoned school floor with Toge than he was in the year he was gone. All he knows is that he’d do anything for Toge, and he’s pretty sure that goes both ways. The thought thrills him.
“Toge,” Yuuta says, just to say his name.
“Yuuta,” Toge says.
Toge sits up then, and Yuuta already misses him. He gets up, offering a hand to help Yuuta up. Always helping Yuuta up.
That first mission together helps ease some of Yuuta’s anxieties about Toge being out in the field. They go on a couple more missions together, each one easier than the last, before Yuuta finally relents and lets Toge go off on his own.
He says ‘lets’ as if he had a say in it. Toge was very firm when he told Yuuta he wanted to handle a solo mission and Yuuta, soft and in love, was helpless to say no.
(Does it mean he didn’t at least walk Toge to the curse destination? Of course not. Yuuta just waited patiently outside while Toge performed the exorcism. Not biting his nails anxiously or talking himself out of going in to check on him. Not at all, nope. Yuuta was very calm and very chill the entire time, don’t believe a word Maki says.)
The work seems to be lifting Toge’s spirits. He still knocks on Yuuta’s door every few nights, but the visits are becoming less comforting Toge as he cries and more just… hanging out. As best friends, like they used to. Toge likes to bring his laptop into Yuuta’s room and watch old animated movies with him, their own private movie night outside the ones they do with the other students. Sometimes Toge falls asleep on his shoulder. Yuuta cherishes these moments.
The Prison Realm is no closer to being open, but Yuuta does think he might have a lead. If they can figure out how to get to Master Tengen, perhaps they can ask him for help.
They still don’t have a teacher— or really any kind of authority figure. Maki has been teaching them all math and it is infinitely harder than anything Gojo ever put them through. Toge also found them some educational courses on YouTube, so that’s how they’re dealing with the regular school part of Jujutsu High. The training part is really just sparring with whoever is free and willing in between missions.
For Yuuta, that’s usually Itadori.
“— and then, when you jumped over that car and used your katana to slice that curse—”
He’s very enthusiastic.
“So, which part of that did you want me to show you?” he interrupts gently, because as endearing as Itadori is, if Yuuta doesn’t say anything he knows Itadroi will ramble for up to an hour. Yuuta is starting to get hungry. He wants to wrap up training soon.
As if sensing it, Toge appears at the edge of the training field, holding a plate of food.
Yuuta watches, transfixed, as Toge approaches.
“Tuna mayo,” he says when he gets close enough, holding out the food to him and Itadori. It’s onigiri. Presumably, tuna mayo filled.
“You brought us snacks? Wow, thanks Inumaki-senpai!”
Itadori promptly inhales three in the span of two seconds. Toge chuckles lightly and nudges Yuuta.
“Tuna mayo,” he repeats.
“It’s… for me?” Yuuta squeaks. He’s overcome with emotion. The thought that Toge saw them training out here, and took the time to prepare and bring them food… Yuuta is getting choked up. He knows he’s overreacting, but can you blame him? Toge brought him food.
(And Itadori, but Yuuta is choosing not to focus on that right now.)
“Salmon.” Toge nods. Yuuta picks up a rice ball, feeling incredibly grateful to the universe for creating Inumaki Toge, and allowing Yuuta the privilege of being in his life.
“I— This is so— thank you, Toge. Really. I was so hungry, and you just knew—”
“Tuna,” Toge interrupts, exasperated. The message is clear: just eat, Yuuta.
So Yuuta does. He and Itadori demolish the small plate of rice balls Toge brought them. Then, Toge unslings the backpack hanging on his shoulder and opens it to reveal two cold water bottles and a handful of green tea KitKats. Yuuta, honest to god, tears up.
“Thank you,” Yuuta says again. “You’re so thoughtful, Toge.”
Toge waves a hand dismissively, blushing slightly. He’s so cute, Yuuta wants to scream.
“You are,” Yuuta insists. “I want to do something for you. Say the word, Toge. Anything you want.”
“B-Bonito flakes.” He signs, “It’s alright, I don’t need anything right now.”
“Anything, Toge. I mean it.”
Both Toge and Yuuta look back at Itadori, who Yuuta honestly forgot was standing there. He startles when the two upperclassmen turn all their attention to him.
“Everything okay, Itadori?” Toge signs.
“Fine! Just, uh, this KitKat is so good! And water, mm, water.”
Toge raises an eyebrow, but lets it go, turning back to Yuuta, who just can’t help the way his gaze softens when he looks at Toge. Something seems to click in Itadori’s mind. He looks back and forth between Yuuta and Toge, a metaphorical lightbulb blinking above his head. Over Toge’s shoulder, he points at Yuuta, then Toge and makes a heart with his hands, a questioning look on his face.
Yuuta begs Itadori with his eyes not to say anything.
“Oh, I think we might train for a little while longer. But, I’ll come find you later. We can watch the new episode of that anime together, if you want?”
Toge nods, satisfied. He waves goodbye to Itadori and then makes his way off the training field.
Itadori, at least, has the tact to wait until Toge is out of earshot. He whirls on Yuuta.
“You have a crush on Inumaki-senpai?!” he whisper-yells.
“Ah. Yeah.” Yuuta rubs the back of his neck.
“Oh my god,” Itadori whispers. “Oh my god. Since when?”
“Our first mission together, in our first year.”
“Woah, that long?! You’re a super dedicated guy, Okkotsu-senpai.”
Yuuta thinks about how even at 11, he loved Rika so much he accidentally brought her back from the dead as an ultra powerful cursed spirit. Yeah, dedicated is one way to put it.
“Who else knows?” Itadori is still whisper-yelling. They are the only ones out on the field.
Yuuta blows a strand of hair out of his eyes, tipping his head back to look at the sky. “Pretty much everyone knows, I think.”
Itadori is quiet for a moment.
“Does… Inumaki-senpai know?”
“Ah. That, I don’t know. Maybe? I feel like it’s obvious.”
“It took me a while to figure out, so maybe he doesn’t know.”
Yuuta pushes down a snort. He doesn’t have the heart to make Itadori aware of how oblivious he is. Maybe one day, but not today.
“Well, are you going to confess?”
Yuuta sighs, starting to get irritated. Itadori certainly asks a lot of questions. “I don’t know. I was, but then Shibuya and… it’s complicated, Itadori.”
“It doesn’t sound complicated to me. You like Inumaki-senpai, and he likes you, so. Yeah!”
“I don’t know if Toge likes me like that for sure.”
“Well, you won’t know until you confess, right?”
“Drop it, Itadori.” Yuuta can be scary when he wants to.
Unfortunately, Itadori has no sense of self-preservation. “But it would make you happy, right? To be with Inumaki-senpai?”
“Of course it would make me happy. But Toge is still recovering and he doesn’t need that kind of distraction right now, alright? I’m serious, Itadori. Don’t bring it up again. He’s not ready. That’s all there is to it.”
Itadori looks at him, and Yuuta feels like he’s staring directly into his soul.
“I don’t know, Okkotsu-senpai,” Itadori says. “It kinda sounds like you’re making decisions for Inumaki-senpai before asking him what he thinks.”
Then he drops it. He goes back to excitedly bouncing around the training field, begging Yuuta to teach him how to do the flip he saw him pull off the other day.
(Sometimes… sometimes, Itadori is right.) —
The next day, Yuuta catches Toge looking at him when he thinks Yuuta isn’t paying attention.
(Jokes on him, Yuuta is always paying attention to him.)
Maybe, Yuuta thinks as Toge quickly looks away when Yuuta meets his gaze. Maybe Itadori was on to something.
The weather gets colder. Toge and Maki go out on more missions. Yuuta continues to pine.
It’s getting close to the end of the year. The Higher Ups tell Yuuta that if Nanami or Ichiji aren’t recovered enough to look after them by then, they’ll just split up the Tokyo Jujutsu High students. Half of them will go to Kyoto, to be looked after by Utahime, and the other half will go to Miguel. As much as Yuuta would love to train with Miguel more, the possibility of being separated from his friends makes Yuuta’s blood boil. He leaves that meeting with his hands twitching for his sword, cursed energy radiating off of him in toxic waves.
The only respite from all of Yuuta’s anxiety and worries is spending time with his friends. The second years were tight before, but the addition of the chaotic energy from the first years has tipped their little school firmly into found family territory. It helps that most of them don’t have an actual family to go back to. Yuuta wonders how Hakari would fit into their dynamic.
He wonders how Gojo would— will— fit into their dynamic.
Because they will find out. Gojo didn’t give up on any of them, and Yuuta’s not about to give up on him.
Yuuta is coming home after a solo mission when he passes Toge and the first years on the training field, running around in what looks like a very competitive, very athletic, very cursed game of… Yuuta’s not sure.
He pauses. “What are you guys doing?”
“Playing catch!” Itadori answers.
Yuuta blinks. “Using… the Prison Realm as a ball?”
“Inumaki-senpai thinks the shaking might rattle Gojo-sensei enough to get him to break out.”
One look at Toge’s face confirms what Yuuta already knew— Toge does not really think that, but he does think that playing catch with the Prison Realm is funny.
Which, alright, it kind of is.
“Just… don’t drop it,” Yuuta says, moving back towards the dorms. “Or, do? Maybe it’ll break open.”
Toge gives Yuuta a thumbs up from across the field. Even from this distance, and even with his usual high collar zipped up, Yuuta can tell he’s grinning.
Things are good— until they aren’t.
The attack happens on Christmas Eve, because of course, Getou (Not Getou? Again, Yuuta doesn’t get it) apparently doesn’t want to let them celebrate a single holiday. Yuuta is especially pissed this time because he and Toge actually had plans, like fried chicken Christmas Eve plans. Something that couples typically do. And who knows, maybe Yuuta would have mustered together enough courage to actually confess tonight, but now he’ll never know because he’s spending Christmas Eve battling wave after wave of cursed spirits.
“How did he even get through Tengen’s barriers?” Yuuta wonders outloud, hacking through a particularly stubborn curse. Rika tears through the horde like butter, circling around Toge like a guard dog.
Yuuta and Toge were the first to catch Getou’s attack, literally just about to step off campus for their not-date-that’s-totally-a-date. Great timing, Getou. They’re still at the entrance to campus, battling back cursed spirits as the ground shakes and tremors underneath them. Yuuta knows that Maki and Panda are somewhere to the east, taking care of the curses trying to attack from that direction. Itadori and the other first years ran past Yuuta and Toge a while ago, saying something about Getou trying to steal back the Prison Realm.
Kugisaki had handed Yuuta the Prison Realm, knowing that he’d be the most capable of taking care of it. Then, the three of them rushed off to fight Mahito, who was trying to break into Shoko’s recovery ward to finish off Nanami.
So here Yuuta is, swinging his katana with one arm and clutching the cube trapping his dumbass teacher in the other, knowing full well that he needs to get Gojo down to Tengen and yet not wanting to leave Toge.
There’s a small break in the flow of curses attacking. Toge and Yuuta regroup.
“Go to Master Tengen,” Toge signs. “We can’t let Getou take Gojo-sensei again. You need to go to Master—”
“No, it’s fine. We’ll just exorcise these spirits and then we can go together—”
“Bonito flakes!” Toge shakes his head and starts signing more aggressively. “That’s a waste of time. You’re vulnerable out in the open here. And the first years might need help. Just take sensei and go.”
“I-I can’t.” Yuuta begs with his eyes, stepping closer to Toge. “I’m strong, I can protect us and the Prison Realm. Just let me stay—”
“Tuna tuna,” Toge says firmly. You need to go.
Yuuta shakes his head.
“Yuuta,” Toge gives him a soft push in the direction of the Tombs of the Star Corridor.
“I don’t want to leave you!” Yuuta says desperately, clinging to Toge’s sleeve. “Last time I— The last time I left you—”
“Bonito flakes!” Toge snaps.
Another spirit rounds the corner, a large, hulking thing with too many eyes and blood dripping from its claws. Yuuta moves to stand in front of Toge, but Toge is faster.
“Get sliced!” he says, making a swift slicing motion with his cursed hand. The curse gets cut cleanly in half, the line following the path of Toge’s hand. Toge turns back to him, not even coughing slightly.
“I can take care of myself. Go,” he signs. “The others need you.”
More curses bubble up at the entrance. Toge makes quick work of them, some of them not even requiring anything more than a hand motion. Still, Yuuta hesitates. The Prison Realm is hot in his hands, and he knows he needs to get to Master Tengen, he knows he needs to make sure Gojo doesn’t fall into Getou’s hands, but—
“Before I go, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Toge looks at him over his shoulder.
“Toge,” Yuuta says, “I’m in love with you.”
Which is, of course, the moment that Gojo breaks out of the Prison Realm.
A break. Yuuta thinks the universe owes him one break.
With Gojo free, the fight ends very quickly. In a manner of minutes, all 7 Tokyo Jujutsu High students are sitting safely in the common room between the dorms. Getou, Mahito, and the other curses have all fled— no doubt to regroup for a counter attack sometime in the future. Gojo is chewing out the Higher Ups, but he promised he’d be back in a couple minutes and that they’d all go out for hotpot to celebrate his newfound freedom.
Yuuta does not look at Toge. He can’t bring himself to.
He’s just so embarrassed. He dramatically confessed his love, thinking it may be the last time he saw Toge alive, only for his awful, garbage, horrible teacher to bust out of his inescapable (evidently not) prison and end the battle in seconds. A fool. Yuuta looks like a fool, right now.
There’s also the fact that Toge isn’t looking at him either. Yuuta tries not to let it bother him.
“Well,” Itadori says, breaking the silence. “This is awkward.”
Yuuta is pulled away from his own teen angst bullshit long enough to notice that the first years are also avoiding looking at each other.
“Maybe someone,” Kugisaki says pointedly, not looking at Itadori, “should stop trying to sacrifice themselves all the time.”
“Gojo has the worst timing,” Fushiguro says, “I was ready to kill Itadori myself.”
“Guys,” Itadori whines.
“Shut up,” Kugisaki and Fushiguro say at the same time.
“You technically can’t be mad at me for sacrificing myself when I didn’t technically sacrifice myself, since Gojo-sensei saved us all. Technically. So, really, I did nothing wrong here.”
Kugisaki and Fushiguro glare at him. Maki removes her glasses so she can pinch the bridge of her nose.
“We are going to teach you some self-preservation skills if it kills you.”
“Maybe don’t phrase it like that, Maki. Itadori might take it as an invitation.”
“Next time you try that self-sacrificial bullshit, I’m gonna skin you alive,” Kugisaki promises, and Yuuta believes her. “Maki, how was the fight with you and Panda.”
“Manageable,” Maki answers. “Yuuta, Toge, you?”
“Uh, fine! Fine it was— um, great, actually! So much fun— wait, not fun! I mean—”
“Salmon,” Toge answers. Alright. No injuries.
Now the entire room is looking at the two of them, sitting with an entire couch between them instead of right next to each other like they usually do. Yuuta squirms under all the attention.
“O… kay. Are you sure nothing—”
The entire room jumps as Gojo materializes into existence in front of them, teleporting in with a soft pop. He smiles widely at the students, even as they all complain about him scaring them.
“I have good news, bad news, and worse news, which do you all want first?”
“Uh,” Itadori ventures, “the worse news?”
“The worst news is that we can’t get hotpot for lunch. I can order us dinner, though!”
“If that’s the worst news, then what’s the bad news?” Maki asks.
“We’re going to have to look for new people to fill the current Higher Up positions. I’m thinking Utahime, maybe Nanami once he recovers fully, ooh and—”
“Wait, what? What happened to the current Higher Ups?” Yuuta interrupts.
“Oh, they all resigned!” Gojo says cheerfully.
They all stare.
“All of them,” Maki deadpans. “They all resigned. Today. Just like that?”
“Well, it was pointed out that they were doing a bad job leading jujutsu society. I mean, who leaves 7 children to fend for themselves, am I right? Plus, there’s the fact that they imprisoned Yaga and— nevermind all that! The important part is that once this was brought up they all made the decision to resign on the spot.”
Gojo keeps smiling. Yuuta is terrified.
“... Good enough for me,” Maki says. She stands and stretches. “I’m going to take a nap. Call me when dinner’s here.”
It’s enough of a dismissal to dissolve their little group. The first years all go off together, gathering in Itadori’s room and shutting the door firmly behind them. Yuuta hopes they work out whatever all that drama earlier was about. Panda follows Maki to the second year dorms, also probably off to take a nap. Toge seems to hesitate for a second, but Yuuta avoids his gaze. He eventually leaves out the front door, and a second later Yuuta looks out the window to see him following one of the walking paths out to the forest surrounding campus.
Then it’s just Yuuta and Gojo.
“You did a good job while I was away,” Gojo says softly. Yuuta looks up at him, surprised at the sincerity.
“I… I tried to do my best.”
Gojo nods a little sharply. “Sorry you had to deal with the Higher Ups. I promise they won’t ever bother you again.”
“Sensei, what did you do?”
Gojo sighs. “I didn’t threaten them into resigning, if that’s what you’re asking. More like gently encouraged.”
Yuuta snorts. Whatever. It’s what they deserve.
“Run along now, little Yuuta,” Gojo says, and the sincere moment is broken as Yuuta is reminded of just how obnoxious Gojo is. “I have things to take care of, a Jujutsu society to rebuild.”
Yuuta groans. “Well. Good luck with that.”
It’s quiet for a moment.
“You know,” Gojo says casually, “I could hear what was going on out here, while I was in the Prison Realm.”
Oh, god. Yuuta has flashbacks to every time he’s gushed to the Prison Realm about how cute Toge is.
“All I’ll say is that you’re not the only one who talked to me about relationship problems. Understandable, considering even as an inanimate cube I’m still an incredible mentor! Anyway, you should talk to him.”
Yuuta looks out the window, at the forest Toge disappeared into a couple minutes ago. “I think… you’re right, sensei.”
“Of course I am! I’m Gojo Satoru!”
Yuuta tactfully ignores that last bit. He grabs his jacket and heads for the door, bundling up in the winter chill. Yuuta doesn’t try to hurry to catch up to Toge. He knows where he’ll be.
The clearing opens up in front of Yuuta exactly like he remembers— a parting of the trees and suddenly he’s at the edge of an overlook, the Tokyo skyline glittering in the distance. Toge is already here, seated on a bench with his back to Yuuta, leaned back on his palms and taking in the view.
Yuuta allows himself a second to be nervous. Then he approaches.
Toge tilts his head at the sound of crunching leaves, though Yuuta knows he probably sensed him coming a while ago. Yuuta settles onto the bench next to him, also looking out at the view.
It's quiet for a moment.
They both stop and look at each other. Then they let out twin awkward laughs.
“Sorry, you go first.”
“Bonito flakes, tuna.”
“I, well.” Yuuta stops and looks at Toge with open affection. “I meant what I said, before Gojo-sensei, um, exploded out of the Prison Realm. I really do… I love you, Toge.”
Yuuta’s heart just about beats right out of his chest. He gulps, eyes scanning Toge’s face for some kind of reaction.
“I know,” Toge signs back.
Yuuta’s eyebrows jump. “Y-You know?”
“I… suspected, at least. I figured it out while you were overseas and I thought maybe you were waiting to come back before you said anything, but then you just. Didn’t.”
Yuuta snaps his eyes from Toge’s hands to his face. Toge’s mouth is twisted in a sad, wry smile.
“Is it because… do you not like me anymore?”
Yuuta blinks. “I just told you I’m in love with you. I’ve loved you since we met.”
“Then why didn’t you say anything?”
“I was scared,” Yuuta admits. “And I wanted to prove myself to you. I wanted you to see that I grew while I was away. I wanted you to see me as someone other than your dorky best friend, that I was different from before. I just— I don’t know, I wanted you to like me.”
Toge looks at him like he’s an idiot.
“You dumbass,” Toge signs, “I already liked you. I liked you when you were the shy new guy who was terrified of talking to me. I like you now. I’ll like whoever you become in the future.”
Yuuta tries not to let all his eternal devotion show on his face. Judging by the way Toge flushes and looks away, he’s failed spectacularly. They shift closer to each other, Toge leaning into Yuuta’s space.
“Oh,” Yuuta says, dumb and in love, “I didn’t… I didn’t know that.”
Toge huffs. “What, you thought I’d fall for you just because you came back taller, with more muscles and cute hair? Jokes on you, I’ve liked you this whole time.”
Yuuta is ascending. “You think my hair is cute?”
“B-Bonito flakes!” Toge turns to hide his face in Yuuta’s shoulder and Yuuta just can’t help himself. He pulls Toge fully onto his lap, wrapping his arms around him. Toge squeaks, but snuggles into the embrace. Yuuta’s life is perfect in every way.
“So does this mean— I mean, Toge, do you want to— will you be my—”
Yuuta chuckles. “I didn’t even finish asking yet!”
Toge pulls back slightly so he can sign. “You took long enough to confess. I’m tired of waiting.”
Yuuta thinks about the year they spent apart. He thinks about the FaceTime calls that stretched late into the night, about calculating the time difference in his head when he texted Toge. He thinks about scrolling through Toge’s social media on days he missed him particularly badly, and how even a year after he left, Yuuta still caught himself turning to tell Toge something only to realise he wasn’t next to him. He wonders if Toge did the same thing.
“Sorry,” Yuuta murmurs, pressing their foreheads together. “You were waiting a while for me, huh?”
“Tuna mayo,” Toge says quietly.
It’s okay, Yuuta translates. You’re here now.
This time, when Toge leans in for a kiss, Yuuta doesn't pull away.
Kissing Toge feels like coming home. Yuuta falls in love again at the first brush of their lips, falls deeper when Toge brings up his hands to cup Yuuta’s face, falls again and again and again with every soft sigh and gentle touch. The metal plating on Toge’s prosthetic hand is cold, but his flesh hand is so, so warm and the temperature difference sends a hot thrill down Yuuta’s spine. Yuuta feels it when Toge smiles into the kiss, sweet and slow like honey.
Toge pulls back, breaking the kiss with a soft pop. Yuuta automatically tries to follow, chasing his lips with a low whine. Toge chuckles, giving him a quick peck before pulling back farther.
“What?” Yuuta pouts.
“Mustard leaf?” Shouldn’t we head back? The others will start to worry.
“It’s fine,” Yuuta dismisses, going in for another kiss. Toge dodges him.
“I have to share you with them all the time,” Yuuta complains. “Can’t we just stay here a little longer? Besides, Gojo-sensei knows we’re out here. He’ll come get us if something important happens.”
Toge flushes with embarrassment at the thought of Gojo catching them like this. Yuuta, however, already knew he was going to be a PDA menace before he confessed to Toge. Everybody knows by now, so what’s the point in hiding. He runs a hand up and down Toge’s spine, smiling up at him adoringly.
That seems to break Toge’s resolve, because he settles himself more securely in Yuuta’s lap, leaning back in for a kiss. Then another. And another.
(Gojo, eventually, does come to find them. He teleports into existence right next to them, startling Toge badly enough that he tumbles right off of Yuuta’s lap. He lets them know dinner is ready, congratulates them on their new relationship status, and then thanks them because “the power of your love broke me out of the Prison Realm.” Yuuta almost wishes he had stayed in the Prison Realm.)
“So,” Itadori drawls over dinner, looking at Yuuta and Toge, who are obviously holding hands under the table, “does Okkotsu-senpai get a special nickname now that you two are official?”
Toge thinks for a moment. Then, he smirks at Yuuta.
“Honey,” he says, smiling at his boyfriend.
Yuuta melts into the floor.
“T-That’s not a rice ball ingredient,” Yuuta mumbles, folding himself around Toge. He slumps to the side and hides his face in the side of Toge’s neck. He can feel the vibrations as Toge laughs.
He’s so happy.