milk & black spiders - elfsbe - 呪術廻戦 (2024)

Chapter 1: probably our last conversation

Summary:

“What a creep,” he commented. “Shrine maidens can’t even have boyfriends so what’s the point?” He slumped back on the bench, fiddling with his sunglasses until his eyes were peeking over the top. Creep Number Five…

“Pretty sure that’s an outdated stereotype,” Suguru said nonchalantly. “Anyway, that’s the fifth one.”

Satoru co*cked a brow, a knot forming in his chest. “Why are you keeping count?” He pushed the sunglasses back up his nose. “You like her or somethin’, Suguru?”

Another chuckle. “And what if I do?”

“She’s not your type,” Satoru stated firmly. “She’s too weak and emotional for your tastes. Besides, you’re into younger girls! Not old ladies like Utahime.”

“You make me sound like some predator, Satoru—I date my age. Besides, how would you know what I’m into?” Despite the wriggle of his nose, Suguru was thoroughly amused. “Seems like you’re trying to dissuade me from forming an interest. I wonder why.”

Chapter Text

"let's talk soon
i'll see you 'round"

we'll never talk again
me and you
you and me
will never talk again

- Grabbitz

* * * * * * *

“Hey, Utahime.” His mouth wrapped around her name softly, as if it would shatter when spoken any other way. “I need to…can I tell you something?”

She refused to look at him, her eyes narrowing on the horizon. “Don’t.”

“Listen, I—”

No, Gojo,” she said firmly, the slight tremor in her voice giving away her true feelings. “You can tell me when you come back—because you’re going to come back.” Her arms were tucked into the sleeves of her white kosode, the fabric ruffling as she rubbed her own forearms for comfort.

There was an orange glow illuminating her face, holding his devout gaze. A swell of uncertainty seized hold of his conviction, and it wasn’t the frosty air that dried his tremulous lips which he swiped at with his tongue. “If I come back…”

When you come back,” she corrected, her expression sharpening.

“…will you have something to tell me too?” The sun was setting on December 23rd, 2018—they were running out of time, each minute even more precious than the last. Even still, she allowed the moments to pass by, honeyed eyes aglow in the dying light. Look at me, he begged. Please, look at me.

As if she’d heard his thoughts, Utahime turned towards him, her body trembling as their eyes met. “Yes,” she murmured. “Satoru.” A single emotion, born from the very depths of their souls, connected them by a thread in that moment, entangling them—intertwined, they remained, regardless of any outcome they might face.

And Satoru smiled.

He could still recall the very first time he’d laid his eyes on her.

It wasn’t exactly a meeting between the two where names and words were exchanged. In fact, he was sure she had no recollection of that moment in time herself. It made the memory more personal to him—something so intimate that he could only indulge in its reminiscence privately, fiddling with the hem of his blindfold to temper his emotions.

In the Summer of 2004, Satoru Gojo was fourteen years old, wandering the campus of Tokyo Jujutsu High. Perhaps he should’ve been paying closer attention to the conversation occurring between his handlers—representatives of his clan who spoke on behalf of the regent head—and the principal, but he really couldn’t be bothered. He already had a good idea of what the topic concerned and, while he loved being the center of any conversation, he wasn’t currently in the mood.

He’d been told that they would stop for a meal before coming to tour the campus after their long journey from their estate in Kyoto to Tokyo but, due to delays, that never ended up happening. In response to his very vocal protests, his handlers waved him off in favor of pointless drivel. So here he was, aggravated fists in his pockets as he kicked rocks. Seriously, can we get the f*ck outta here already?

Satoru wandered further away from his handlers in pursuit of a large, jagged pebble he sent skittering across the stone courtyard. To keep himself entertained, he would intermittently activate his Infinity to push the pebble farther until the stone courtyard turned into a dirt pathway. He would’ve kept going had he not heard a sweet sound contrast the buzz of the cicadas.

Someone’s singing? A girl, to be more precise.

It was an unintelligible melody but, somehow, Satoru felt it sounded familiar. Had he heard this song somewhere before? He couldn’t quite grasp the memory despite the way it danced on the tip of his tongue. No, wait—the taste on his tongue was cursed energy. Sweet and warm; like drinking a glass of milk and honey. Satoru’s legs moved on their own at a tentative pace, curiosity seizing him.

The cursed energy was far from threatening; faint and weak when compared to his own. He knew he could crush whoever it belonged to without breaking a sweat so his sudden need to find the source had nothing to do with power. Typically, he’d be entirely disinterested with anything so inconsequential but Satoru couldn’t seem to help himself. His legs kept moving, Six Eyes in fervent pursuit of the source and, luckily, he didn’t have to walk too far before he found it.

Before he found her.

Golden energy flowed through her body, flooding her limbs and pooling into the base of her humming throat. She was crouched in front of a bed of flowers—bundles of hydrangeas in full bloom. Her ink-black hair was fashioned into two loose braids, secured with white ribbons as they hung forward over her delicate shoulders. She was dressed in a Jujutsu High uniform, identifying her as a student of the school.

She was thoughtful and kind. He could tell by those fragile fingers grasping the handle of the watering can; honey brown eyes focused on each careful pour while her soft lips moved in time with her song. The way the flowers seemed to reach for her, a summer breeze blowing through the bundles to carry a scent just as sweet—if Satoru didn’t know any better, he would’ve said they had been dancing for her.

He wasn’t moved by much in the way of girls despite being at the age he should begin to notice them. Really, his only concern had been strength—why should he give a sh*t about romance and sex? He was Satoru Gojo, inheritor of the Six Eyes and Limitless; the head of the Gojo Clan. His very existence shifted the universe in a way nothing else could, destined to be the strongest sorcerer in the world. He had heard plenty of sweet voices and seen even prettier faces, never sparing a second glance if he somehow awarded them a first.

But this girl certainly had his attention.

This girl in her Jujutsu High uniform, watering flowers while wielding the most gentle cursed energy he’d ever experienced, created a firm opposition to everything Satoru Gojo ever learned while growing up in jujutsu society. A girl like her shouldn’t have been alive and smiling the way she was in their world. It bothered him as much as she fascinated him—he wanted to stomp on all her pretty flowers to give her a taste of the real world but then, he also wanted to put her in a little cage to keep her safe from it.

Those feelings were far too big and complex for his teenaged brain to comprehend so he clicked his tongue with disapproval and walked away. She’ll be dead by the next school year.

It’s her.

Her silky braids were tied off with red ribbons this time around—a surprising choice despite not knowing her even a little bit. Her appearance indicated she’d taken extra time getting dressed that day, carefully crafting herself into the image of perfection with the hope of something that he couldn’t quite grasp. She had a certain reservation about her, highlighted by the modesty of her neatly pressed uniform.

Perhaps it was that very same modesty drawing Satoru’s eyes down to her pleated skirt, black pliable fabric contrasting with her pale thighs. It was only when their plushness stirred something within him did he tear his gaze further downward. She had on a pair of black socks hugging the circumference of her calves, brown loafers firmly planted on the ground to support her impeccable posture.

At first, he thought she was too flawless—then, he saw that moon-shaped scar on her left knee. It was too small to be significant but Satoru fixated on it. How did she get that? The question tattooed itself somewhere inside of him, blooming into an ineffable curiosity. To him, that tiny scar represented her weakness and fragility; an explanation for the demure nature she wore like armor.

And Satoru yearned to slip underneath it all.

“Hi, you’re Satoru Gojo-kun, right?” She held out her hand—uncertain, delicate fingers attached to a dainty wrist. “I’m third year student, Utahime Iori! I was sent to make sure you got around okay.” Utahime had a pretty smile. “Did you have any—?”

“Nope.” Satoru averted his eyes, expressionless. How else was he going to stop his heart from fluttering the way it was?

Utahime’s outstretched hand faltered, her smile weakening as she appeared a little embarrassed. “Oh, sorry, are you not Satoru Gojo?”

Damn. His name sounded so pleasant in her mouth—safe—and that really pissed him off. “Weak and dense?” Satoru mocked, a cruel chuckle bubbling in his chest. “Pick a struggle, will ya?”

Her honey brown eyes flickered with bemusem*nt. “…Huh?”

God, she had such pretty eyes. Damnit.

“Of course, I’m Satoru Gojo,” he told her with a co*cky tone. “I was saying ‘no’ to your other question.” Satoru rolled his eyes. “Geez—and you’re a third year?” From the way Utahime presented herself, Satoru thought that she would continue on politely or, at the very least, walk away without saying anything more. Most people in the jujutsu world behaved cautiously around him, acutely aware of how powerful he was—everyone knew his name.

In any case, it would be best for her to get as far away from him as possible.

“Yes, I am, actually,” Utahime snapped, face screwing with irritation. “I’m not sure what your problem is but it’s actually customary for underclassmen to show a little respect to their upperclassmen around here so maybe, watch your tone!”

Oh. That was different.

Her dark brows were knitted together, pouty lips pulled into a snarl. Utahime’s nervous fingers had tightened up into fists, enclosing the hem of her skirt as if the garment were the only thing holding her back from the object of her ire—him. There was depth to the flush warming her cheeks, ignited by more than just offense. Embarrassment, perhaps?

A chuckle bubbled up into Satoru’s throat, genuinely amused. “Watch my tone? That’s hilarious!” Her face was only getting redder—he really liked that. “Do you know who I am?”

“I don’t care who you are!” Utahime released her skirt to point an accusatory finger at him. “You’re disrespectful and rude. Someone ought to teach you a lesson, and it seems it has to be me!”

Satoru co*cked a brow, unable to hold back the wry smile formed from his laughter. “Oh?” The way Utahime snarled, squaring her shoulders as she narrowed those sweet eyes of hers—it was so deeply entertaining to him. He could feel the enjoyment take root inside of him, lodging itself between his ribs and sprouting within the hollow of his chest. “Okay, princess, whatever you say,” he ribbed with a dismissive wave. “I’m headin’ to my dorm room now.”

“Huh?!” She gaped at him as he walked past, agitation pulling at the nerves in her face. “We’re not done here!”

“Only the strong dictate conclusions, Utahime.” Satoru hadn’t intended to say her name. It just slipped out of him, tapping along his tongue with an unrivaled ease. U-ta-hi-me—he wanted to taste its sweet melody again, but resisted the urge.

Her voice wavered as she warned, “That’s Iori-senpai to you!” Was she afraid?

No, that’s not it.

“Or what?” Satoru chuckled. “What are you gonna do about it, Utahime?” A pretty name for a pretty girl—it was so irritating. Weakling. “You’re about as threatening as a butterfly!” Just under the sound of his jeering, soft grunts and shuffling could be heard from behind. Satoru didn’t process what was happening until he felt a disturbance in the air, pushing him to activate his Infinity.

“YOU’RE A JERK, SATORU GOJO!” When Satoru turned around, he found a single brown loafer floating behind him, lodged within his Infinity. Utahime was balancing on one foot, seething as she glared at him. Hopping to adjust her balance, she gave the appearance of an irritable rabbit which made her even less threatening and only enhanced his growing fascination with her.

What an interesting girl you are, Utahime Iori. Satoru plucked her shoe out of the air, examining it for a moment as he held back a grin. The shoe spun around his index finger, his gaze fixing itself intently on her form which was still heaving with unexpressed anger. “So, uh, is this your technique?” Satoru teased. “Cursed Shoe Manipulation?”

She began to deflate, allowing her socked foot to touch the dirt pathway as she seemed to give up on maintaining her balance. With the trembling exhale of her breath, Utahime shook her head and turned away from him. Much to Satoru’s disappointment, she didn’t respond to his quip, wobbling off with her remaining shoe as if she’d determined getting back her other one wouldn’t be possible as long as he held onto it.

And she was correct.

Satoru held her discarded shoe in his hand, gazing upon it like a prize won from a carnival. He bounced it in his palm with a wild grin. For once in his life, he wasn’t bored to tears. This moment had set a precedent for him, giving Satoru the idea that life at Tokyo Jujutsu High might be more eventful than he originally anticipated.

Satoru discovered very quickly into his first year that there was no second year class at Tokyo Jujutsu High. They had all died in their first year while Utahime had been a second year. Soon after that, the rest of Utahime’s classmates would die as well, leaving her the only student to move into third year. All of her friends, she had watched them die but, somehow, she was still alive herself—she was the only one alive.

“They must’ve been weak as hell.” Satoru leaned back in his chair, a forearm hanging over his fatigued eyes. “No way Utahime of all people was strong enough to be the last survivor.”

“That’s pretty insensitive, Satoru. How do you think Utahime-senpai would feel if she heard you say that?” Suguru Geto, while aloof and objective, had a significant amount of emotional sophistication that Satoru himself lacked.

Satoru scoffed. “Don’t know. Don’t care.”

There was an airy laugh on his other side. “You really are heartless, aren’t you, Gojo?” He had moved his arm to peek over at his other classmate, hoping to figure out her feelings on the matter. Shoko Ieiri was difficult to read as she didn’t seem to take anything too seriously while maintaining an air of indifference. There was always this passive smile on her face, even when expressing displeasure or dissent. Shoko held strong judgments, but didn’t seem to allow those judgments to affect any of her actions. It was incredibly interesting but, quite frankly, unsettling for Satoru.

“I’m not heartless,” Satoru countered with a dismissive grin. “I’m being realistic.” He hopped up onto his feet, stretching out his limbs. “Do we know how it happened?”

Shoko shrugged, rotating the toothpick in her mouth with her tongue. “Nah, the conversation didn’t get that far.”

“Aw, why not?” Satoru whined. “That’s, like, the most important part! You suck at gossip, Shoko!”

As unflappable as ever, Shoko spared no reaction. “If you’d seen her face,” she said, pulling out her cellphone and flipping it open, “I would hope you wouldn’t ask either.”

His fingers twitched in time with the stuttering of his heart as an image of Utahime’s face flashed through his mind. Does it make her sad…? Satoru shoved his hands into his pockets, fixing a smile onto his face. “Nah, I’d probably just make fun of her for crying again.” He moved towards the door of the classroom. “Now, are you guys comin’ or what? I’m starving!”

Satoru would gather the details of what happened to Utahime’s class soon after that, reading through reports and files he had no excusable reason to be looking at aside from gross curiosity. It was how he discovered that Utahime was in the year below what was appropriate for her age due to the nature of her cursed technique and her late enrollment into the school. Utahime should have been in the same year as Mei Mei and Atsuya Kusakabe, explaining why they referred to each other in such a familiar manner despite Utahime’s nigh obsessive concern with hierarchy.

According to the reports, as was his only way of getting any information at all, Utahime had opted to join Mei on a Grade 1 excursion just before a mission for her class arose. It was supposed to be simple—a Grade 2 curse for two Grade 3 sorcerers to exorcise. The mission was likely chosen with Utahime in mind seeing as it was in her scope but, without her around, her classmates were relegated to taking the mission on their own. With how limited sorcerers were, there was no option to decline or wait around for Utahime to return.

It should have been simple, but that Grade 2 cursed spirit soon developed into a Grade 1. As Satoru read the report, he couldn’t help but grit his teeth with frustration. Anyone with a brain could predict that a curse born in a hospice facility would rapidly evolve. They should’ve handed the mission off to someone else, even if Utahime had been available to join. Satoru knew—gripping the file with shaking hands, he knew—if she hadn’t gone off with Mei, Utahime would’ve died too.

She has no reason to be here, he had convinced himself. She should go back home to the sticks where she belongs. And there were times he thought she agreed with him. It was in those moments his body decided it couldn’t stay away from her, impulsively tugging on her braids and pulling at her clothes; ruffling her hair and flicking her cheeks as he reminded her how weak she was. “And how are you gonna stop me, Utahime?” Satoru would goad, laughing off her pointed glowering. “Sing me to death?

Uncertainty would flicker across her face, her knitted brows easing with realization for a split second. But Utahime was stubborn and driven; compassionate and fragile—so she hardened herself again, her determination flaring with an even greater resolve. She had this terrifying combination of personality traits along with a non-combative innate technique that made her unfit to be a jujutsu sorcerer and he knew it would lead her to an early grave. To survive, you had to be selfish and ruthless with combative skills to boot, but Satoru trying to make her come to terms with that seemed to only push her further into ambition.

There were times he thought she might listen if it were to come from someone else, but no one else was around—at least, no one willing to try.

Whenever Satoru saw Utahime around campus, she was typically by herself and, when she wasn’t by herself, she was with Mei, Kusakabe, or a member of faculty. She seemed to have a way with authority that gave him the impression she might become one of the higher-ups herself or, at the very least, make it a goal of hers someday. Utahime was smart, obedient, and easy on the eyes with a more traditional cursed technique which those conservative f*cks loved, giving her more value than others would have in similar circ*mstances. Strength didn’t matter as long as you made yourself useful so, in that regard, Utahime's continued attendance of Jujutsu High made sense.

And for some inexplicable reason, that incensed Satoru.

He justified his cruel comments and incessant teasing with constant reminders that Utahime didn’t belong at Jujutsu High—that she was just some Grade 2 bootlicker who should’ve stuck to her destiny as some virginal shrine maiden. Then, she would be safe and Satoru would no longer catch himself staring at her from a distance. His hands would no longer ache in her presence, his lungs constricting when her pretty mouth wrapped around threats of retaliation. There would no longer be this urge to place her in a gilded cage like a lovely little songbird when her absence made it difficult for him to eat and sleep; to breathe, even.

Satoru had known this first year would be his only chance for frequent contact—to really work whatever these tumultuous feelings were out of his system. So he picked on her as much as he wanted, whenever he wanted, and however he wanted. Undoing her braids by stealing her ribbons, tugging at her clothes while making fun of them, throwing her into a headlock to ruin her hair, taking her belongings and holding them hostage, throwing things at her—hell, there was even a time he snuck into her room and stole all her socks.

Her comebacks were always the same. “Respect your elders!” He had succeeded in making his presence nearly unbearable to her but, somehow, she always found it in herself to give him some grace now and then. There were many times he’d tricked her into believing he genuinely needed her help—albeit, only after much convincing—which led her into whatever elaborate prank he’d crafted specially for her.

Gullible is written on the ceiling, Utahime!” And, though he knew she didn't believe him, she would still look up.

He was still too young and naive to understand why he had this incessant need for her ire. It was entertaining to pick on the weak, sure, and Utahime seemed the weakest of the bunch. But the level of which he enjoyed Utahime’s reactions and how it pushed him to want more, there was no explanation that didn’t involve feelings he wanted no part of. He was Satoru Gojo, after all. The only thing he cared about was becoming the strongest.

So he just kept telling himself it was for entertainment since he couldn’t seem to get a rise out of either of his classmates—that he might as well get as much enjoyment out of her as he could if she insisted on attending Jujutsu High.

If it weren’t for Suguru and Shoko discouraging him, Satoru might’ve taken things even further. A part of him wanted to make her hate him so much that she’d remove herself from his life and do what he wanted her to do—go back home where it was safe. There was this compulsive thought whenever he busied his hands while she was close and fought to stare at the golden aura draped over her shoulders, wrapping his tongue around lollipops to drown the subtle taste of milk and honey. It screamed in his ears and thrummed within his chest, a flood of blood to the heart.

She’ll be dead by her next mission.

Her next mission would come and go, Satoru waiting for the news—but the news never came. She would walk around with cuts and bruises, still flashing her polite smiles. He could tell, however, that she was growing weary. Perhaps she felt like a failure in some way whenever she came back with injuries and having to report that, once again, all she could do was support her partners.

And Satoru—relieved in his heart of hearts, though he’d never admit it—would make fun of her for it. “Useless Utahime,” he would sing as the intrusive thought that had been pestering him in her absence faded away. She’ll be dead and only her corpse will come back, had become but a faint whisper before it would inevitably crescendo once again. While he hadn’t acknowledged it himself, Satoru’s concern for Utahime became obvious to everyone else around him.

“Utahime-senpai’s on a mission, isn’t she?” Shoko had pointed out once, sitting beside him in the courtyard. He’d skipped out on lunch with them, opting to go for a walk to clear his head which had been full of persistent and incoherent thoughts. Satoru often referred to them as black spiders, the thoughts seeming to crawl around the inside of his skull indiscriminately.

And there were many when Utahime wasn’t around.

It was the end of the school year and spring break was just around the corner, meaning Utahime would be entering her fourth year at Jujutsu High which guaranteed constant assignments on the field. It would be her last year before graduation into a full-time jujutsu sorcerer, acting as a trial run for the rest of her career, so Satoru couldn’t understand why they’d send her out on a mission instead of just letting her enjoy her final weeks of freedom.

Yes, he wanted to respond. And they sent her out on her own. However, he kept that to himself as he shrugged. “What makes you think I would know?”

“You’re not eating.”

“I’m not hungry,” he protested, patting his stomach. “Big breakfast—no correlation.”

Shoko co*cked a brow at him, lighting up a cigarette. She’d picked up the nasty habit halfway through the year to ‘take the edge off’ and satisfy her oral fixation. As she took a long drag, she said, “You’re never hungry when she’s on a mission.” The jet stream of smoke from Shoko’s mouth billowed out at the end, lingering in the air.

Satoru rolled his eyes. “Maybe you should stop smoking so much,” he deflected. “That nicotine addiction is frying your brain cells.”

In typical fashion, Shoko had shrugged and carried on, knowing there was no point in pressing the matter. To him, none of this was an indicator of care or affection. He knew he cared for Shoko and Suguru, but he never lost sleep nor his appetite over them. Then again, Shoko was always safe because she wasn’t assigned any missions—her Reverse Cursed Technique was far too valuable to Jujutsu HQ. And Suguru was a Special Grade sorcerer just like him so there was never any need to worry because of his strength.

Of course, these weren’t things he mulled over at his young age, always deflecting wherever he could to avoid the truth.

But the truth would catch up to him eventually.

Satoru’s second year had just begun, putting Utahime in her long-awaited transitory fourth year. To indicate this new chapter in her life, she decided an outfit change was in order as she was no longer required to wear her Jujutsu High uniform. So Utahime pranced around that first day in a miko outfit as she went about her business, ‘honoring her roots’ as she claimed.

Everyone who approached her had received the same explanation for her new attire, Utahime tripping over the long length of her hakama. She would look down with a pout, lifting the fabric to reveal a pair of sensible ballet flats which could pass for the customary asagutsu shrine maidens wore. It seemed she’d decided on these for comfort but, evidently, she hadn’t taken the appropriate measurements for her attire into account.

Hands buried in his pockets, clenching and releasing as she smiled brightly, Satoru watched. “How annoying,” he groaned, rolling his eyes. “Is she not tired of repeating herself?” He and Suguru had taken to sitting in the garden, eating lunch as they usually did. They’d been relegated to watching her as she kept stopping her habitual watering of the hydrangeas to show off her outfit to whoever walked by.

Suguru chuckled. “You’re just upset that she’s receiving so much attention. Say, have you been counting how many men have walked up to her?”

Satoru scoffed, scowling. “Why would I?” Just as he’d responded, another male faculty member had approached Utahime, distracting her from her task again so he could compliment her attire. “What a creep,” he commented. “Shrine maidens can’t even have boyfriends so what’s the point?” He slumped back on the bench, fiddling with his sunglasses until his eyes were peeking over the top. Creep Number Five…

“Pretty sure that’s an outdated stereotype,” Suguru said nonchalantly. “Anyway, that’s the fifth one.”

Satoru co*cked a brow, a knot forming in his chest. “Why are you keeping count?” He pushed the sunglasses back up his nose. “You like her or somethin’, Suguru?”

Another chuckle. “And what if I do?”

“She’s not your type,” Satoru stated firmly. “She’s too weak and emotional for your tastes. Besides, you’re into younger girls! Not old ladies like Utahime.”

“You make me sound like some predator, Satoru—I date my age. Besides, how would you know what I’m into?” Despite the wriggle of his nose, Suguru was thoroughly amused. “Seems like you’re trying to dissuade me from forming an interest. I wonder why.”

There were times Satoru hated the way Suguru could see right through him—he hated that he called things as he saw them—and he absolutely hated knowing that, somewhere deep down, his best friend having a thing for Utahime Iori would bother the f*ck out of him. “Nah, I really don’t care,” he lied. “Go for it, I guess.”

Once again, Utahime tripped over herself, pretty lips pouting. The man steadied her with a charming smile, holding onto her arm tenderly. Satoru saw red, impulsively hopping up onto his feet and charging ahead without a second thought. He fixed a sh*t-eating grin onto his face, hands still buried in his pockets. “Utahime,” he sang, watching as her face fell into a scowl.

“What do you want?” Utahime had long abandoned trying to correct his habit of calling her by her first name as if they were familiar—her name was a song on his tongue that he’d never stop singing.

Satoru’s presence was enough to have the man backing away from her, seemingly intimidated by his cursed energy. Go away, he wanted to order but he refrained. “I wanted to make a friendly suggestion.” Satoru towered over her, placing his hand on top of her head. “You may wanna grow a few inches or else you’ll trip face first into a curse.”

Utahime smacked his hand away. “How about you go trip into a curse and bring us some peace?”

“Oh, ouch,” he hissed sarcastically. “So much hostility—is that anyway to talk to your junior?” Before she could say anything, Satoru impulsively stomped on the hem of her hakama, making it impossible for her to back away without tripping. He couldn’t say what exactly had come over him as this was the very definition of taking things too far, something he’d avoided up until this point.

“Hey!” Utahime exclaimed frantically. “Get off, Gojo! You’ll ruin it!”

Satoru cackled. “Ask me nicely.” He was so certain she would relent, submitting to his request. Submission—why did he want that from her so badly? Why did the idea of her listening to his every request and doing everything he asked of her excite him so much?

Satoru wanted to hear her speak to him softly, especially when she was riled up and frustrated. Everyone tired of him eventually, dismissing him with cold indifference when they’d finally had enough of his attention-seeking antics. But Utahime—despite how long this targeted teasing of his had gone on for, she still got mad. She still felt something towards him and wore it on her sleeve so openly. Even if the emotions were negative, it was something and that mattered to Satoru.

But, sometimes, he wanted the soft side she showed everyone else. Her warm smiles; the care and affection spoken through the lingering touches and thoughtful gestures she afforded her friends. His touch-starved, love-starved body craved it in a way he hesitated to admit. Satoru knew Utahime was capable of giving him what he needed but she withheld it from him—and it was his own damn fault.

It was these complex feelings that brought them to this moment. Come on, Utahime. He held firm. Submit.

But she didn’t—she would never submit to him.

Instead, she pulled on the fabric in an attempt to force release. Utahime had tears of frustration in her eyes as she tugged, demanding he let go repeatedly under her breath. Satoru knew the hakama would rip if this continued and felt a pang of regret, causing him to loosen his hold on it. It was an involuntary action so the consequence hadn’t occurred to him at all until it happened.

Utahime fell back into the flowerbeds, wet soil splattering and spoiling her outfit. Muddy splotches decorated her white kosode and it should’ve been hilarious but, for once, Satoru wasn’t laughing. Her tears of frustration finally spilled over her red cheeks, her bottom lip quivering—still, Satoru couldn’t find it in himself to laugh as he usually would.

“Why do you hate me so much?” Her voice was small and broken. “What did I do to you? You spoil everything, Gojo!” She wiped her tears away with her dirty sleeve, getting a spot of mud on her cheek. “I really hate you…”

He zeroed in on the brown smudge on her red, tear-stained face. Nope, still no laughter—not even the bubble of a chuckle. For once, Satoru didn’t find her feelings funny; he couldn’t find the joke in her frustration. So, Satoru stood there quietly, his blood cold as his heart hammered away with anxiety. She hates me. He wanted to say something—anything to remedy the situation.

But he couldn’t even think straight.

Suguru passed him with a disapproving look, immediately offering assistance to Utahime who was now sobbing. She shrugged off his hand almost immediately afterward before running off. “Nice one, Satoru,” Suguru scolded before he walked away himself.

The man had long since disappeared, leaving Satoru there to stand in silence. A swell of emotions rose in his chest, unsure of where to focus his thoughts. Had he finally taken it too far? Would she no longer speak to him? Did it matter if she did or not?

Satoru took a moment to mull it over. “Damnit…” He realized in that moment that he didn’t want Utahime to hate him but wouldn’t allow his thoughts to travel far enough as to arrive to a reason why. What do I do?

~

A few days later, Satoru would be approached by Utahime, about two inches taller than normal. She had a stern look on her face, brows furrowed with her arms folded over her chest. “Gojo.”

“Utahime.” He adjusted the glasses on his nose, his fingers shaking which forced him to bury them into his pockets.

She released her defensive stance, digging around her own pockets before pulling out a check. “This is way too much for a dry cleaning bill,” she stated. “Take it back.”

Satoru looked at her over his glasses, trying his best to maintain eye contact despite how badly he wanted to look down at her frowning lips. She’s wearing lip gloss. His heart stuttered but, as usual, he ignored it before closing his eyes. “Nah, keep it.”

Utahime grumbled. “This, plus the shoes, is excessive. Take it back.”

“No.” Satoru began to walk past her, clenching his fists in his pockets. He had no intention of saying anything more, ready to ignore the protest he could hear forming in her throat but, then, he faltered. “Do you like the shoes?”

He wanted to turn around and look at her face but his heart was racing. He settled for listening to her thoughtful silence, a sharp intake of breath as if preparing to do something she didn’t want to do. “Yes.” She began stuttering, making Satoru curious as to whether she was blushing or not. “But t-they’re way too expensive—I don’t need luxury brands!”

The sensation of satisfaction warmed his limbs, an involuntary smile creeping onto his face. “All the reviews were from working women,” he divulged, “saying they’re the most comfortable shoes they’d ever worn—worth the price point when you don’t have to sacrifice fashion.”

“O-Oh,” Utahime stuttered, clearing her throat. “I didn’t know you put so much research into it.” There was a pause. “T-Thank you.”

Oh. His heart thrummed. Gratitude? Satoru released a shaky breath, hoping Utahime couldn’t hear it. “You shouldn’t show gratitude towards an apology.” He forced himself to move away from her despite how badly he wanted to face her. Satoru’s hands were shaking—he wanted to grasp at something…someone.

“Wait,” Utahime called out, “how did you know my size?”

Satoru recalled the brown loafer that had been sitting in his dorm room for over a year at that point. “I guessed,” he lied with a shrug. “I have pretty good eyes, y’know?” He continued down the hall. “See ya later, old lady!”

“GOJO!”

Chapter 2: bluebird

Summary:

Satoru could only stare at her, blinking through his bemusem*nt. She’d come at him like a bat out of hell—mussed black hair, lips swollen from all the gnawing she’d been doing, and dressed in the most unflattering hospital gown.

But, somehow, he still thought she was pretty. “I think you look cool,” he told her, “and being cool is way better than being pretty.”

“W-What?”

“Don’t get me wrong,” he added. “You’re not not pretty—at least, I still think you are.” Satoru had lost control of his mouth. What the f*ck am I saying?

Utahime’s eyes widened, a blush warming her nose. “You…?” Her chattering teeth bit down on her lip, uncertainty crossing her features. “Are you making fun of me, Gojo?”

“Do you want me to?”

Notes:

TRIGGER WARNING // sexual assault, extreme violence, body horror

Chapter Text

i know i've made this journey before
and still it's not what i hoped for

i wait in the stone, way after dark
'cause you left your keys in the lock of my heart

the closer we get, the further apart

then, what's left of me is left with you
you pull me around, sweet leash i'm on

with your milk in my veins, sand in my shoes
and i know now, i would be there for you

- Foals

* * * * * * *

“It’s been two days since we last heard from Mei-san and Utahime-san.”

Satoru tapped his foot impatiently against the floor, arms folded over his chest. He was exhausted. He had about two hours of sleep over the course of two days, and it hadn’t been restful. “Get to the point,” he complained, disguising his anxiety with annoyance. “You want us to go find them, right?”

“Precisely, but—”

“Let’s go then!” Satoru jumped up onto his feet. “I’m bored.”

“Satoru, wait,” Yaga warned. “You need to be debriefed.”

“Nah,” he drawled. “Give us the location and I’ll take care of it.” Satoru did well to hide his feelings behind his co*cky facade, but really, there was a tightness in his chest that refused to dissipate. I have to know…

Yaga looked like he would protest, but then, Suguru stood up as well. “We shouldn’t waste anymore time,” he reasoned. “Our comrades could be in trouble. The sooner we get to them, the better.” Suguru flashed a knowing look towards Satoru which made the latter scowl.

Don’t give me that look. Satoru focused his gaze on Shoko. “You should come with us this time,” he suggested.

Suguru nodded. “If they’re hurt, they’ll need you.”

“Don’t have to ask me twice.” Shoko got onto her feet with a reserved smile. “I need to pop into a konbini anyway.” Despite Yaga’s hard glare, indicating he knew exactly what she wanted to purchase, she maintained an innocent expression.

Yaga sighed. “Alright, go on then.”

It wasn’t long before the three were ushered into a car, driven by the same auxiliary manager that had escorted Utahime and Mei two days prior. Satoru fiddled with his phone, desperately needing a distraction from the anxiety rattling within his rib cage. Utahime. Her name played in his head on repeat and he couldn’t stop it.

“Worried?” Suguru asked suddenly.

Satoru scoffed. “Why would I be?”

“You haven’t slept,” he pointed out.

Shoko looked over her shoulder from the front seat. “And your appetite is gone.”

“It’s my time of the month,” Satoru deflected, maintaining an air of nonchalance. “Enough with the false correlations.” He fixed his gaze outside the window, hoping his classmates would drop it.

“You know, there’s no shame in liking a girl, Satoru,” Suguru said.

“Yeah, especially someone as cute as Utahime-senpai.” Shoko was facing forward again. “You wouldn’t be the only one.”

Irritation pricked at his fingertips. Satoru was acutely aware of how popular Utahime was with men, forced to watch her interact with them. She was totally oblivious, of course, never reciprocating—though, he was sure they all mistook her friendliness for flirtation.

“Why would you remind him of that?” Suguru leaned back in his seat. “Now he's sulking.”

“Oops.”

“I’m not sulking,” Satoru protested. “Seriously, give it a rest.”

With that, they continued the rest of their journey in silence. The car hadn’t even reached a full stop at their destination before Satoru ripped the door open and hopped out. He scanned the area, his Six Eyes picking up on the cursed spirit hiding within the bowels of the abandoned mansion. Two other fonts of cursed energy were moving achingly slow through what appeared to be a barrier. A golden aura filled his vision, milk and honey on the tip of his tongue. Found you.

Satoru didn’t wait, launching himself up into the air. He had to draw the cursed spirit out which would effectively disrupt the barrier holding Utahime and Mei hostage. Stretching his hand out toward the abandoned building, Satoru focused Limitless into his middle finger and waved it haplessly above the roof. “Blue,” he breathed, cursed energy erupting outward.

Suddenly, the building broke apart, the debris caught within a vortex as it spiraled upwards. Satoru watched Utahime’s golden aura move faster through the building before an amusing cry echoed through the air, escaping the collapsed building. She fell into the crater left behind, the remains of the mansion cushioning her fall. He saw her ink-black hair poke out from underneath some shattered dry wall, grumbling and groaning. Surely, she was bruised and sore, but…

She’s alive. Satoru couldn’t stop the smile from forming on his lips as he lowered himself onto the edge of the crater, watching as she crawled out of the rubble. “I’m here to save you,” he called out, trying to get her attention, “Utahime.”

Utahime lifted her head to look up at him, slightly dazed and trying to recover from the shock of the destruction that had just transpired. There was a misty look in her eye, likely from the pain of being buried under debris. Maybe I should’ve broken her fall. Satoru fixed a grin onto his face, leaning forward to get a closer look at her and hoping to distract her from the pain. “You cryin’?”

Her pained expression turned into one of rage, glaring daggers at Satoru. “No, I’m not crying! Be more polite!”

Before he could respond, Mei’s sultry voice appeared beside them. “If I was crying, would you console me?” The silver-haired sorceress approached him slowly from around the edge of the crater. “If you did, I’d definitely like that.” It was interesting to him how Mei only seemed to flirt with him when Utahime was around—any other instance and she’d mind the business that paid her.

Satoru brushed her off while still keeping the mirth in his tone. “But you wouldn’t cry, Mei-san,” he told her. “You’re strong.”

Utahime’s ire grew to a fever pitch, inspiring her to launch out of the rubble and throw an accusatory finger in his direction. “Listen here, Gojo! I don’t need your help—!” She was interrupted by a rumble beneath her feet, her alarm further amusing him. Satoru had seen it moments before it appeared but felt no need to do anything.

Suguru was already on it.

She’s alive. It was the only thought running through his mind. You’re still alive, Utahime. All that mattered to him was her safety; that he still had a chance to make her cheeks red with frustration and tease her until she shouted at him, her honey brown eyes glaring at him and never wavering. Focus on me—only on me, Utahime.

“More importantly, what about the veil?” Mei asked suddenly, shattering his euphoria.

“Huh?” Satoru froze alongside Suguru and Shoko, blinking through his bemusem*nt. Well, sh*t.

Summer of 2007—nothing was the same after losing Riko Amanai. Satoru poured all of his energy into perfecting his technique, prioritizing his strength over all else. The overwhelming feeling of loss was embittering. He needed a distraction.

Satoru began taking missions on his own, hoping to push himself to his limits and gain some kind of clarity. Despite having dreaded Utahime’s graduation, he found himself relieved now instead that he was seeing less of her. He’d come to terms with the fact that she made him weak and careless but couldn’t admit to himself the reason why—it would make it all too real.

He had to remain detached; selfish. He couldn’t waste his energy on caring about someone so fragile. It pained him but, at the very least, he still had Suguru—his best friend’s presence alleviated the loneliness and regret. So, thoughts of Utahime would be buried under the weight of his failures and shortcomings.

And all he could do was dig in solitude.

But then, Utahime had been recommended for a Grade 1 promotion. The concern came rushing back as he thought about her being sent to exercise a Grade 1 curse all on her own without a technique suited for the frontlines. She had popped up around campus once again, training for a week before her evaluation was due. Satoru avoided her despite the longing lodged in his throat that could only be removed by her presence.

He couldn’t avoid her for long, however, as he was asked to accompany her on the mission which would determine the results of her exam. Utahime wasn’t happy about it as evident by her scowl and sharp glare.

And Satoru—pathetic, conflicted Satoru—fell right back into his old antics.

“Utahime,” he sang, flashing her the sh*t-eating grin that pissed her off so much, “I’m so honored you requested me to tag along.”

“I didn’t ask for you, idiot!” She gritted her teeth, fingernails forming into claws as she gripped tightly onto her own arms.

Satoru tutted. “Is that anyway to speak to your junior?” Utahime turned her head away from him. “C’mon—you missed me, didn’t you?”

“Can we just get going already?”

Satoru and Utahime were escorted to an apartment building. It had been evacuated by law enforcement under the guise of a gas leak. During their debriefing, they’d been told that female residents had been experiencing constant blackouts, losing hours at a time and waking up feeling as if they’d been touched in the night. Raped, he recalled from the document they’d gone over.

As they stood on the steps, Utahime summoned a veil. “This could get messy.”

“I doubt you’ll attract too much attention,” he teased. “You’re not exactly impressive.”

Utahime glared at him. “At least I’m not reckless and arrogant like you!”

Satoru chuckled, peering at her over his glasses. His fingers trembled in his pockets, wanting to reach over and tug on her hair. Focus. It was hard to when she was around. Her voice, her scent, her eyes—it was all so enticing.

“I’m going in now.” Utahime began to stomp up the steps.

“Want me to join you?”

“NO!” She made her way further up the steps before stopping suddenly. “And don’t interfere.”

Satoru watched her disappear into the building, his smile dropping as concern gripped his throat. He scanned the building, hoping to find the curse before Utahime could and make sure it was safe for her to approach. Where is it? Satoru could feel it but hadn’t been able to locate it—odd.

While the cursed spirit was mysteriously gone, there was something else aside from Utahime in that building. As he narrowed his focus in on the figure, Satoru noticed it appeared to be a non-sorcerer. So, they neglected to clear the building, huh? He scoffed, disappointed but not surprised as far as law enforcement went.

Upon further examination, Satoru realized that something felt off. There was a certain quality to the cursed energy non-sorcerers expressed. Diverse and dynamic colors with unique textures, none of which this individual exuded. Instead, their cursed energy was petulant and oozing like an infected wound; it felt lecherous—disgusting.

And Utahime was headed straight toward it.

Despite the desire to investigate himself, Satoru held back. I have to give her a chance. Admittedly, he wanted Utahime to fail, relegated to Semi-Grade 1 permanently. Ideally, she’d move back down to Grade 2, but thanks to whoever recommended her, she would remain where she was until she passed the evaluation required for promotion. He knew she wasn’t strong enough—he knew that, if she were Grade 1, her chances of dying would greatly increase. His instinct was to rush to her rescue, forcing her to fail—but he fought those desires. Give her a chance.

As Utahime’s golden silhouette approached the non-sorcerer, Satoru noted a sudden elevation in the petulant energy. sh*t. The alleged Grade 1 cursed spirit had finally made its appearance, erupting from the non-sorcerer as it threatened to consume Utahime. Only—That’s not Grade 1!

Satoru’s body moved on its own, punching a hole through the concrete wall with his cursed energy. This would be the quickest path to Utahime who he could now hear screaming. Her name escaped his frantic lips, but it sounded distant and hollow, drowned out by the fear replacing the blood in his veins. He could see the way the cursed spirit had latched onto her, piercing screams reverberating.

He broke down the door keeping himself from Utahime, exposed to the horrific scene before him. The cursed spirit had merged with the non-sorcerer that had surely conjured it into existence. It held Utahime in its grasp, dozens of hands groping at her body and inappropriately wandering. There was a gaping wound on the right side of her face, blood pouring out onto the floor as she seemed to be losing consciousness. “If you won’t give it to me,” the cursed spirit growled, “I’ll take it from you!

A red hue blurred the edges of Satoru’s vision as he saw those disgusting hands sprout tongues as tendrils, beginning to slip around Utahime’s body as it tried to rip her clothes off. However, he wouldn’t give it a chance to get that far, launching himself at the cursed spirit and prying Utahime out of its grip by snapping several of those arms in half. The creature cried in agony as Satoru retreated momentarily to put Utahime in a safe place. “I WILL TAKE WHAT I WANT FROM HER! I DESERVE IT!

“You deserve death for touching what’s not yours,” he snarled, a blood-thirsty grin on his face as he approached. “I’m gonna make this slow and painful.”

And he did.

Satoru ripped the cursed spirit limb from limb, and there were quite a few limbs to get through. He relished in its screams, purple blood splattering against the barrier of his Infinity. There were manic cries of glee which took him out of the moment periodically, only for him to realize that he was listening to the sound of his own laughter. Using his bare hands, he exorcised the damned curse, leaving behind only the sniveling non-sorcerer that conjured it up.

The pathetic low-life was crying fat tears of fear, his bloody arms twisted and broken. Satoru couldn’t help but think it was a shame his legs and other appendages hadn’t suffered the same fate, tempted to make it a reality. “Well, hey there, big boy,” he ridiculed, his voice menacingly low.

“P-Please don’t hurt me…a-anymore…” The non-sorcerer hiccuped, choking on a mixture of snot and blood. “It…h-hurts…!”

Satoru hummed. “Yeah, I guess it does.” Without the slightest bit of remorse, a chill in his racing heart, he pressed his foot down on one of the cretin’s shattered arms. Of course, his whimpering had turned into anguished cries. “Ooh, that smarts, doesn’t it?” Satoru crouched down in front of him, watching the blood pool around the non-sorcerer’s body. I should kill him now.

“Hey,” Satoru said, poking the man’s shoulder. “Hey—I gotta ask you a question.” He only received another whimper in response, provoking even further irritation. “Any reason you got a weird hate boner for women?”

The man managed to lift his head despite the pain, Satoru glaring down upon him as he waited for his response. “None that s-someone like you would understand,” he pushed out through gritted teeth. “You’re handsome—I bet you get to f*ck girls all the time! Those whor*s always g-go for jerks like you! Stupid b-bitches!” His gaze flickered towards something behind Satoru, hatred and spite flashing in his bloodshot eyes.

Rage ripped through Satoru once more, enabling him to grab the non-sorcerer by his collar and lift him up in the air. He watched him writhe in pain, his body twisting as he tightened his grip on him. “Uh-uh,” he warned with a smile. “Watch your tongue. Otherwise, I’ll rip it from your f*cking mouth—and wouldn’t that be hilarious?!”

Kill him…kill him…kill him…!

But as the urge gripped him, an image flashed in his mind which gave pause to the bloodlust.

A white room, ablaze with the applause of a hundred people. A limp body hanging in his arms, dangling feet bumping against his hip. He couldn’t look at her face. All he could see was the devastation in Suguru’s eyes as they stood amongst the crowd. Satoru didn’t feel anything at that moment, but somehow, the look on his face—it hurt, leaving a gaping wound in its place.

Now, the scar ran so deep, he didn’t think he would ever recover.

Suguru,” he had said, his voice a distant echo, “should we kill these guys?

As Satoru stood there, the pathetic cretin begging in his lethal palms, Suguru’s voice echoed in his head. “No, there’s no point.” When Satoru had questioned whether there really needed to be a point at all, Suguru had reasoned with him yet again, pulling him back from heaven to earth. “It’s very important that there is.

There was a squeal of pain behind him, feminine whimpers that tickled Satoru’s ears. Utahime…! Without any further hesitation, Satoru dropped the man back onto the ground, his pained screams echoing around the room yet again. She’s the priority right now.

~

Satoru sat in the hallway outside of the infirmary, tapping his foot against the tiled floors. Thankfully, they’d made it back to the school, alerting the doctor on campus as well as Shoko just in time. She wasn’t out of the woods quite yet though, an operation to treat the wound on her face occurring behind those doors he had been staring at. He could smell her blood on his clothes, his hands shaking with every breath he took.

It made him sick.

“Satoru.” Approaching him was Suguru, concern highlighting his features. It wasn’t lost on Satoru how much weight he’d lost or how dark the bags under his eyes were, indicating that he hadn’t been sleeping well. But ridiculously, he had chocked it up to the amount of missions they were both being saddled with. “What happened?”

Blue eyes, devoid of any warmth at that moment, glanced over to him. “Special Grade,” he explained simply. “These co*cksuckers don’t do enough research.”

Suguru nodded, pushing his hands into his pockets as he leaned against the wall next to the door. “And Utahime-senpai…?”

“Alive.” Satoru took in a raggedy breath, clenching his shaking hands into fists. He could tell Suguru was waiting for more—maybe talking would help ease his anxiety. “They, uh, didn’t clear the building properly. Some f*ck-ass loser was hiding out in one of the apartments—probably a hikikomori, I dunno. Had some chip on his shoulder about being a virgin or whatever.”

There was a pregnant pause. “A non-sorcerer?”

“Yep.”

“He managed to spawn a Special Grade curse all on his own?” Suguru’s brows furrowed with some unreadable expression.

“Seems like it.”

Another very long, very pensive pause. Then, Suguru uttered something Satoru would replay in his mind for years to come—when it was much too late to do anything about it. “And you killed him, right?” If Satoru had just paid more attention; if he hadn’t been so anxious and emotionally exhausted in that moment, maybe he would’ve picked up on it.

There was malice in Suguru’s voice.

Satoru closed his eyes, trying to push out the memory of the cretin wriggling in his grasp. He could’ve done it—he could’ve obliterated him with minimal effort as he deserved. “No, of course not.”

“Of course…?” Suguru posed it as a question.

“There wouldn’t be a point, right?” Satoru said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Besides, he’s crippled for life, no doubt—I beat him within an inch of his life, after all.”

“And if he spawns another cursed spirit,” Suguru questioned, “what then?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” With a shrug and a sigh, Satoru pushed himself up on his feet, tucking his hands into his pockets. “Hey, you mind staying here for awhile? I wanna go clean myself up but…” He averted his eyes, swallowing back the emotion in his throat. “I also wanna know when they’re done with Utahime.”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Thanks, Suguru.” Satoru approached him, placing a hand on his frail shoulder. “I’ll bring you back a burger or somethin’—those cursed spirits you’re consuming aren’t exactly rich in fats and nutrients, y’know?”

Suguru gave him a weak smile. “I suppose not.”

With that, Satoru left his best friend behind, wholly unaware that this incident would be another crack in Suguru’s resolve.

Utahime was scarred for life.

The wound had marred her pretty face, leaving behind a stark reminder of her failure as she was relegated into Semi-Grade 1 just as Satoru had wanted. But he felt no sense of victory—only pure, unbridled resentment. It was maddening to Satoru, the way the higher-ups had cast Utahime aside so easily after the incident. Not only had she failed their evaluation—despite it being their fault—but now she no longer had the one thing required of all women in their society…

“Is it really that bad?” Satoru asked Shoko, arms folded over his chest as he kept his voice level.

Shoko nodded, rolling the unlit cigarette in her mouth as she looked through her pockets for a lighter. The bags under her eyes were pronounced, indicating her exhaustion after tending to Utahime all night. “It tore through the muscles on her face,” she explained, “down to the bone—the maxilla was entirely exposed once we mopped up all the blood. We spent most of our time working on regrowing her muscles. Everything else now is up to her own body which means it’s going to be one gnarly scar.” There was a small gasp as she secured her lighter. “Not only that, there were wounds across her torso too.”

“Like around her…?” Satoru trailed off, not wanting to finish the sentence. He recalled vividly where the cursed spirit had been touching her which explained those wounds in particular.

Shoko’s voice was muffled as she took a puff, “That’s right.”

Satoru nodded, swallowing back his anger. “How’s she doing?”

“She hasn’t seen the extent of the damage yet,” Shoko admitted, “but she knows something’s wrong. She’ll wake up and immediately go back to sleep—probably trying to avoid the inevitable.” There was a melancholic look in Shoko’s eye. “I don’t blame her though.”

“Well, jujutsu isn’t exactly conducive to vanity,” he commented half-heartedly before sighing and pushing himself off of the wall. “I’ll pop in and see how she’s doing.”

“Fine,” she said. “Do try to be sensitive to her feelings though, regardless of how you see her.”

Satoru co*cked a brow, easing a purposeful smile onto his face. “Not sure what that’s supposed to mean but no worries!” He gave her a non-committal wave. “Don’t you know I’m a bleeding heart?”

He dropped his smile the moment he was out of Shoko’s line of sight, strolling down the hall towards the room Utahime was in. As he reached for the door handle, he could hear the sounds of sniffling coming from inside. She must be awake. There was a pang of regret in Satoru’s chest that he quickly buried beneath his bravado, slapping a smile onto his face as he threw the door open. “Oh, Utahime!” Satoru sang. “Your savior has arrived—did ya miss me?”

She was laying down, her back facing the door. Her entire form was shaking underneath her blanket, her hand putting something face down on the side table in front of her. “Go away, Gojo,” she spat, her quivering voice slightly muffled by the pillow under her head. “I’m tired and I want to sleep.”

So, she finally saw it, huh? Satoru chewed on the bitterness he felt but refused to drop his smile. “Aw, come on, don’t be like that!” He took a seat on the chair beside her, kicking off his shoes before throwing his feet up on the bed and pushing his toes into her calves for good measure. “Heard you got a wicked battle scar now, huh? I’m so jealous,” he crowed. “I heard chicks love scars—can’t seem to get one myself though. Bummer!”

“Can you not do this right now?” Utahime snapped, resolute in keeping her back towards him. “I don’t want you here, Gojo—especially if you’re just going to be an asshole.” Then, her body began to shake again, an uncontrollable bubble of sniffles erupting from her.

Satoru didn’t really know what to do. He wanted to comfort her; he wanted to be soft and gentle but he had no idea how. “Whoa, are you actually crying?” Satoru blurted. “Come on, Utahime, it’s not that big of a deal—who cares if you’re not cute anymore or whatever?”

Suddenly, she spun around, shoving his feet off the bed and revealing her face to him. The skin over her right cheek and nose was haphazardly pulled together with black stitches, angry and puckered with irritation. Her face—screwed with unadulterated rage—was swollen and puffy from crying, misty eyes glaring at him. “That’s easy for you to say!” Utahime shouted. “Go on, Gojo, and gloat like you always do about how you’re so f*cking perfect! Go on! Tell me how weak I am—how you would’ve never f*cked up like I did! Go on, I know you want to! Call me a failure! Call me stupid and ugly! Get it out of your f*cking system! Maybe then, you’ll finally leave me alone!”

Satoru could only stare at her, blinking through his bemusem*nt. She’d come at him like a bat out of hell—mussed black hair, lips swollen from all the gnawing she’d been doing, and dressed in the most unflattering hospital gown.

But somehow, he still thought she was pretty. “I think you look cool,” he told her, “and being cool is way better than being pretty.”

“W-What?”

“Don’t get me wrong,” he added. “You’re not not pretty—at least, I still think you are.” Satoru had lost control of his mouth. What the f*ck am I saying?

Utahime’s eyes widened, a blush warming her nose. “You…?” Her chattering teeth bit down on her lip, uncertainty crossing her features. “Are you making fun of me, Gojo?”

“Do you want me to?” He really liked that look on her face, satisfaction rooting itself in his core and filling his body with an intense heat. Satoru’s hands ached, his heart pumping blood into his ears. He was tempted to compliment her again, licking his lips as he tried to exercise restraint.

She looked away from him, her lips parted with bewilderment. “No, um…” Utahime pulled the blanket up to her chest as she tried to find her words. “Well, y-you can think so,” she sputtered. “D-Doesn’t mean other boys will!”

Satoru grinned. “You afraid you won’t be able to find a boyfriend now, Utahime?”

Utahime snapped her head towards him, frustration flaring up in her features again. “No—I couldn’t care less!”

He leaned back in his chair, kicking his feet up again. “Don’t worry,” he teased, “if nobody else comes along, I’ll be your boyfriend.”

“As if!” Utahime spat, her lip curling with disgust. “I’m too old for you, anyway!”

“And what if I like older women?” Satoru chuckled.

“Oh, enough—respect your elders!” Despite her protests, Satoru could see the amusem*nt pulling at her expression, a smile ready to tilt the corners of her mouth. Her honeyed eyes were glittering with warmth, gazing upon him with just a glimmer of affection.

I could get used to this.

Chapter 3: another form of "goodbye"

Summary:

“I’m not sure,” she answered. “I don’t have a lot of options.” The gnawing of her lower lip did not go unnoticed by Satoru. She used her free hand to count off her options, starting with her pinky which, as benign as it should’ve been, struck him as charming—she’d always been a little quirky in his eyes. “It’s mostly just try again, become an auxiliary, or go back home to my family’s shrine.”

“You’re missing one.” Satoru began to pick at the bandage on his left palm, giving her a wry smile. “Ever heard the phrase ‘those who can’t do, teach’?”

Her gaze narrowed critically at the slight dig but her uncharacteristically agreeable demeanor at that moment remained intact. “You think I should become a teacher?”

Satoru co*cked a brow at the disbelief in her voice. “Why do you sound so surprised? You’d definitely be a good teacher. I mean, just think of all the times us juniors came to you—our most favored senpai—for help, right?”

Utahime deadpanned. “Gojo, you never came to me for help—and I’m your only senpai.”

“Well, whatever,” he dismissed.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

using my words like it's weaponry
now it's like two of you against one me
i fight my way out 'til the end comes
then i feel guilty and then some
keeping my heart on the outside beat
killing myself with a chest bump
none of our math coming out right
it's only one number we messed up

you took my love and you threw it away
i took your love and i treat it the same
this is another reason we're strange
i get choked up when i think of your name

you like the sun when it's red in the sky
i like the brightest a yellow could find
this is another form of "goodbye"

- Grabbitz

* * * * * * *

The world had stopped making sense to Satoru Gojo after September 23rd, 2007.

Ever the shrewd man he was, Masamichi Yaga stood before Satoru, unable to disguise the quiet devastation on his face. His brows were knitted, mouth moving but Satoru couldn’t seem to process the words slipping past his lips. They stood in the hall, sunlight gleaming through the windows and casting shadows on the wall. A newscaster had reported it would be a beautiful day that very same morning—the same morning his world fell apart.

“Huh?” Satoru uttered, his teeth grinding together in Yaga’s silence. Blood was rushing in his ears, a cold dread creeping through his veins. He had to remind himself to breathe as grief began to grasp at his lungs.

Yaga closed his eyes. “Don’t make me repeat myself,” he pleaded. “Suguru killed everyone in the village and—”

A hot streak of rage rushed through him, bubbling into his throat as he snapped, “I heard what you said the first time!” Satoru gripped onto the button Yaga had given him. “That’s why I said ‘huh’ to what you said.”

“Suguru’s old home was already an empty husk as well,” Yaga continued, his eyes staring down at the ground. “Though from the bloodstains and residuals, he most likely killed his parents…”

“LIKE HELL HE DID!” The cry from his lips didn’t feel like it belonged to him but it was his mouth wrapped around the protest; his rage spilling out of him like acid splash.

Yaga’s face screwed up with pain. “Satoru, calm down.” A large hand grasped at his own forehead as if trying to quell whatever thoughts were occupying his mind, provoking tumultuous emotions he refrained from expressing. Perhaps Yaga had a few black spiders of his own. “I don’t understand what’s going on either,” he murmured in a broken voice.

Satoru couldn’t take it. Suguru. He wanted to scream and demolish the world around him—spontaneously combust and take it all down with him. How could you…? There was a keen pain in his left hand, the rush of red liquid spilling over his white knuckles. The button of a school uniform left behind at the scene of the crime—his button—had a razor sharp edge that sliced through the flesh of his palm.

And the wound was deep enough to scar.

~

The newscaster had been wrong.

Satoru sat on the bench in the garden, gray clouds crowding the air above him. The flowers wouldn’t have to be watered today so it wasn’t likely he’d be disturbed any time soon. All he wanted was to be alone—revel in his solitude. It would be an arduous process for him, trying to understand Suguru’s actions; trying to cope with the fact that the one person he thought would never leave him had, in fact, abandoned him.

A slow roll of thunder rumbled overhead, echoing the tempest within him, but Satoru could hear only the sound of his own breathing. His heart—aching and wounded—thumped uncomfortably in his chest. It felt too big for his rib cage and he wanted it to be smaller. He needed his heart to shrink and disappear so the hurt would go along with it. So lost in his suffering, he didn’t even notice the first few droplets in his hair.

If only he could talk to him, maybe he could he gain the clarity he needed.

The rain spilled over him but Satoru didn’t care. He couldn’t care. Instead of using Infinity to keep himself dry, he allowed the rainwater to soak through his clothes and dampen his hair until it stuck against against his forehead. Droplets bounced off of the surface of his blacked-out sunglasses, spraying into his eyes. He blinked through the sting, motionless and weary. Somehow, he hoped the rain would baptize him, washing away all that made him human so he could ascend to heaven once again.

Pathetically, he only shivered, the rain chilling his bones.

That was until the droplets no longer hit his skin and, instead, drummed against what sounded like a sheet of plastic overhead. The sound was deafening but Satoru wouldn’t look up, opting to stare at the pair of white sneakers standing in the wet dirt below him. “You’re going to catch a cold.”

“And you’re getting your shoes dirty,” he retorted half-heartedly. “Utahime.”

Satoru looked up at her briefly, expression neutral as she held a yellow umbrella above him. A few droplets slid down her exposed arms as she was now only halfway under her handheld shelter. “That’s fine,” she said with a shrug. “I don’t like it when they look too new.”

Utahime had dressed down that day, her light blue jeans cuffed and white t-shirt neatly tucked while droplets her umbrella had not successfully deflected darkened spots into the fabric. Satoru couldn’t remember the last time she’d been dressed so casually. She was almost always in her professional attire, seemingly allergic to downtime and days off.

“You’re getting wet.”

Once again, she shrugged. “It’s the angle.” Her eyes flickered toward the empty space beside him before she unceremoniously sat on the bench slick with rainwater, a brief grimace crossing her features. “Here, now it’ll cover us both.” Utahime moved in close, holding the umbrella between them.

She smelled powdery and clean—a fresh floral scent filling his nose, exacerbated by the rain. He could feel her body heat as she pressed up beside him innocently, honeyed gaze fixed straight ahead. It seemed the obtrusive stitches had finally been removed from her face, leaving only the mending scar behind.

Satoru gripped his eager hands into fists, the wound in his left palm smarting. An urge to touch her cheek tenderly thrummed against his flesh, nauseating him. “You on vacation or somethin’?”

It wasn’t lost on Satoru how frequently he’d seen her around campus since her injury, tending to the flowers and reading in the library as usual. Without any word of assignments through the grapevine, there’d been a series of days here or there where she seemed to make herself scarce so, Satoru figured she had been trying to steer clear of him. Though, perhaps that was his ego talking due to his desperate desire of being such a presence in Utahime’s life that she’d make even the smallest decisions in consideration of him.

“Or something,” she told him. “The higher-ups insisted I take a few more weeks off after recovery—told me I need space to reevaluate things.” Utahime sounded a bit bitter, chewing on her words with a grimace.

“Your career path?”

The glance she spared in his direction was so brief, he almost thought he imagined it. “Yeah,” she said, a sliver of defeat betraying her resolve. “I won’t be able to attempt evaluation again for another six months and, if I fail, I’ll fall back to Grade Two.”

Satoru furrowed his brows, puzzled. “That’s not how it works.”

Utahime made a face, shaking her head. “Well, that’s how it works now,” she sighed. “Yaga-sensei told me himself when I was discharged from the infirmary. They made alterations to the process—I’d have to get ‘satisfactory’ results on my evaluation to maintain Semi-Grade One if I don’t pass for promotion altogether.”

Satoru scoffed. “It’s so they can dock your new pay, isn’t it?” Despite Semi-Grade 1 not being considered a full promotion, there was still a significant increase in salary that came along with it. “co*cksuckers.”

Language,” Utahime warned with a betrayal of warmth. “They’d been wanting to make these changes for awhile now, I’ve heard. I guess I thought I’d get grandfathered in but…” She trailed off, her pensive silence conveying exactly what she’d wanted to say.

“Yeah,” he grunted. “you’re not their perfect little princess anymore.”

Satoru expected Utahime to protest but, to his surprise, her free hand tightened into a fist as she said, “It sucks, you know? I’ve worked so hard for so long just to be reduced to my appearance. It’s so sh*tty.”

He slid his knuckles down the length of his thighs in an attempt to soothe his discomfort, finally noticing the unpleasant sensation of moisture seeped through the fabric of his trousers. We should get out of this rain soon, he noted but proceeded to neglect any efforts of doing so. It was clear Utahime desired commiseration but Satoru was wholly unaware of how to provide it to her. Their experiences were vastly different from each other’s, making it hard for him to truly empathize—something he already struggled with.

Suguru was the empathetic one. Suguru would know what to say; what to do to make Utahime feel better. Suguru was his heart—the anchor of which kept him from ravaging the earth in his young godhood. Suguru with all his moral arguments, uplifting the weak and chastising the mighty…

Had his fall from grace really been so inevitable?

“So, what now?” Satoru struggled to keep his voice level, choking on the grief threatening to spill over into his soggy lap. He would rather die than shed sorrowful tears, especially in front of Utahime. If he had better self-control, Satoru would have walked away by now or, at the very least, piss Utahime off enough to make her want to leave. “What comes next?”

Utahime hummed thoughtfully, the vibration passing through him via their sustained physical contact. Although chaste and genuine, the feeling of her body against his sent a wave of white hot reverence through his very being, roiling in his core. Being in her personal space this way and with an invitation, no less—it was making him light-headed. After the sundering of his heart by the hand of someone so near and dear, a smarter man would have wedged a galaxy between them.

But Satoru was still seventeen for another month.

Despite the absolute way in which he carried himself, he still hadn’t fully grown into his own body just yet, awkward limbs sprawled about with uncertainty as he moved through an even more uncertain world. It was his strength he had to latch onto for a sense of reason—the only constant in his life as proven by recent events. His status as the strongest, promised to him at birth, had become a reality while everything around him remained embroiled in chaos.

There was so much responsibility thrusted upon his young shoulders and, most days, he was okay with that. Again, it gave him purpose and direction; reason and certainty. But expectations turned molehills into mountains and, sometimes, he just wanted to be a boy in the prime of his youth capable of holding a pretty girl’s hand without fear of her slipping through his fingers like water. Sometimes, he wanted more for his future than godhood, the desire for love, companionship, and legacy bearing down upon him in the unreachable distance.

So, for just this moment, in wake of losing something precious to him, he would allow himself the forbidden fruit of intimacy—of connection with someone as tenuous as Utahime Iori.

“I’m not sure,” she answered. “I don’t have a lot of options.” The gnawing of her lower lip did not go unnoticed by Satoru. She used her free hand to count off her options, starting with her pinky which, as benign as it should’ve been, struck him as charming—she’d always been a little quirky in his eyes. “It’s mostly just try again, become an auxiliary, or go back home to my family’s shrine.”

“You’re missing one.” Satoru began to pick at the bandage on his left palm, giving her a wry smile. “Ever heard the phrase ‘those who can’t do, teach’?”

Her gaze narrowed critically at the slight dig but her uncharacteristically agreeable demeanor at that moment remained intact. “You think I should become a teacher?”

Satoru co*cked a brow at the disbelief in her voice. “Why do you sound so surprised? You’d definitely be a good teacher. I mean, just think of all the times us juniors came to you—our most favored senpai—for help, right?”

Utahime deadpanned. “Gojo, you never came to me for help—and I’m your only senpai.”

“Well, whatever,” he dismissed. “the point still stands for everyone else—Shoko, Ijichi, Nanami, Haibara…” Satoru trailed off, swallowing his regret as he watched a solemn look creep onto Utahime’s face.

“Some good my advice did,” she muttered. “I’ve lost so many juniors.” Utahime swallowed thickly. “Haibara-kun—I thought that was the worst of it but then…”

A sniff accompanied the rapid blinking of her eyes, likely trying to discourage the formation of tears. He knew what she wanted to say—of course she would know what had happened. Isn’t that why she was showing him so much grace at that very moment?

“I…Gojo, it’s my fault,” she murmured, her voice quivering. “I knew something was wrong and I—well, I tried to talk to him but I failed. How could I possibly be a teacher if all I do is let those in my care down?” Her hands tightened, fingernails biting into her left palm. Her knuckles were white wrapped around that umbrella. “I’m so sorry.”

Satoru was silent. She blames herself?

After a pregnant pause, he finally found the will to speak. “I think that’s exactly why you should do it,” he told her. “Utahime, we aren’t in your care—at least, not formally. You took that mantle upon yourself because you give a sh*t about other people, for whatever reason.”

“Why say it like that if you’re calling it a good thing?”

He ignored her retort. “You can’t teach if you don’t care. So what if you fail here or there with somebody? Are you just gonna stop trying to help people because they might fall off their path? Isn’t that when they need someone like you the most?”

Now it was her turn to be silent. “Why are you being so…nice?” Utahime’s lips wrapped around the question tentatively, still refusing to look at him directly.

“Huh, what do you mean? I’m a nice guy!” He held back a grin, relishing in the scowl on her face. “You’re the one always in a foul mood. Men aren’t into hysterical women, y’know? As your friend, I think you should work on that.” Admittedly, Satoru was pushing her buttons on purpose, wanting her to finally look at him.

Of course, he’d succeeded. Utahime snapped her head towards him, snarling, “Like I give a sh*t about that! And what do you mean ‘friends’?! You’re disrespectful and rude!”

Satoru felt a twinge of delight prickle his fingertips. Please, don’t ever take this away from me. He didn’t care if he never had another moment of tenderness with her again—as long as she stuck around, he would take it all. “Ah, c’mon! You know that’s just how we are, Utahime.”

“Insufferable!”

It had been about a week since Suguru Geto’s defection and Satoru, despite all his best efforts, had failed to locate him. After his conversation with Utahime, he’d decided he needed answers and he would stop at nothing to get them. A part of him had hoped Suguru would seek him out instead—surely he would show at least that much decency?

But he hadn’t.

Instead, Satoru received a call from Shoko announcing Suguru’s sudden appearance in Shinjuku, her voice so casual he thought she’d been calling for some light-hearted chitchat. With red blurring the edges of his vision, he demanded, “Restrain him—I’m on my way!”

No way, I don’t wanna get killed,” she’d responded in that overly blithe fashion of hers.

When he finally arrived, Shoko had been alone, lips wrapped around her dying cigarette. “Where is he?!”

“Geez, relax,” she said, dropping the butt onto the ground and stamping out its last embers. “He only just left a few minutes ago.”

“And?” Satoru’s words came out in a burst, his breathing ragged. “What did he say, Shoko?!”

She leaned against the metal railing fencing off the smoking area, arms crossed. While her demeanor was as nonchalant as ever, a haunted expression gave her true feelings away. “He tried to recruit me into his new cult,” she explained with a slight grimace. “Told me about this ‘revelation’ of his or whatever—said he wants to rid the world of curses by killing all non-sorcerers.”

What?”

Shoko nodded. “Crazy, I know—told him as much but you know Geto.”

Stubborn as a mule, especially with his ideals. Satoru gripped his hands into fists, trying to contain his frustration at the confusion warping his train of thought. Suguru would never kill the weak without good reason. He shook his head. “There’s no way it’s like that…it can’t be like that!”

Shoko didn’t say anything. There was nothing she could say that would make any of this better. This whole situation—the absurdity of it all—was maddening. With every minute that passed, Satoru felt vital chunks of himself falling away. Who was he without Suguru?

They were the strongest.

“Where’d he go?”

Shoko pointed in a general direction and, without hesitation, Satoru ran towards it. He would not let Suguru get away, especially without explaining himself. It didn’t occur to him that he probably looked like a bat out of hell amongst the crowd of non-sorcerers, not that it would’ve mattered. In this moment, they were all ants to him that he could crush underfoot without a thought, echoing Suguru’s alleged revelation. He didn’t bother to redirect his thoughts, however—his only concern was Suguru.

His heart was racing, blood flooding into his ears as he sought Suguru’s aura through the crowd. It wasn’t long before he’d located him—that achingly familiar blue essence, spotted with a sickly purple in representation of the cursed spirits residing within him, simmering in the dying light of the day. He was walking so casually, hands buried in the pockets of his joggers as if it were any other day.

“Suguru!” Satoru called out, watching his form slow to a halt. “Explain yourself!”

Suguru didn’t turn around, tilting his head to reply over his shoulder. “You already heard it from Shoko. That’s all there is to it, Satoru.” Hearing the chill in his voice as he said his name—the gap he’d wedged between them was only growing wider.

Satoru’s heart wrenched within his chest, the rage born from hurt flooding his nervous system. “So, you’re just going to kill every non-sorcerer?” His mind flashed back to the report of the incident which described the blood stains found in his childhood home. “And your parents?”

“I can’t allow my parents to be an exception,” he stated coldly. “Besides, I don’t consider those people my family anymore.”

Satoru was in disbelief—this couldn’t be his Suguru. “That’s not what I was asking you,” he snapped. “I thought we weren’t allowed to kill when there’s no point to it!” There wasn’t a day that went by where Satoru didn’t return to that white room bathed in a round of applause, cacophonous and disorienting. If Suguru hadn’t been there, he would’ve fallen further into his godhood and he would’ve never come back down from the high.

He’d rejected the gates of heaven for him—for his one and only best friend.

“There is a point and a cause,” he insisted coolly. “and significance too.”

“No, there’s not! You’re really going to kill all non-jujutsu sorcerers now?! You know that’s impossible—there’s no point in chipping away at something you can’t possibly achieve!” Satoru needed him to see reason; to come back from this treacherous path he’d fallen onto. People had begun to flash the pair odd glances, the attention they attracted elevating further as distress clouded his tone.

Suguru still hadn’t turned to face him. Look at me, he wanted to scream. Just f*cking look at me!

“You’re so arrogant.”

Annoyance ripped through him. “HUH?!”

“You could do it yourself, Satoru, couldn’t you?” Venom dripped from his tongue, chewing on those bitter words—his name felt like a curse now. “That you would try to convince someone else that it’s impossible to do something which is possible for you…” He trailed off, holding back to scoff he clearly wanted to issue. Finally, he turned to face him. Satoru felt his heart stop as he gazed upon him. His expression was neutral—infallible, even—but his eyes…

How could someone grind out such cruel words with such a soft gaze?

The next words out of his mouth would play on repeat in Satoru’s head for years to come. “Do you think you’re the strongest because you’re Satoru Gojo—or are you Satoru Gojo because you’re the strongest?”

Suddenly, the world was quiet—Shinjuku, through all its bustling, stilled at the sound of Suguru Geto’s voice.

Or, perhaps, it was Satoru who stilled instead. “Just what are you trying to say?”

“If I were able to become you for a moment,” he explained. “this foolish idea would become a lot more grounded and real, don’t you think?” Silence fell between them as Satoru gritted his teeth. “I made my decision—now, it’s just a matter of doing the best I can to achieve it.”

It was only then that Satoru realized he couldn’t stop this. Suguru had made up his mind and there was no changing it. No amount of love and respect between them could convince Suguru to listen to reason; to listen to Satoru’s desperate pleas. It was all too much to bear, the epiphany that, to uphold the ideals Suguru had passed onto him, he would have to kill his best friend. To honor the memory of who Satoru believed him to be, he would have to eliminate this imposter before they left a permanent stain on his legacy. I…have to do it…!

Satoru lifted his shaking hands, the people around them crawling about. They were no longer ants—instead, they’d become black spiders. He had every intention to evoke Hollow Purple and eliminate the disillusioned husk that had become Suguru Geto. Satoru knew it would kill everyone but, to save the many, he’d have to sacrifice the few…right?

Maybe it was the realization that doing so would bite a chunk out of Shinjuku as well as its innocents, actualizing the new ideals Suguru had just preached to him, that had Satoru hesitating. But the honest truth was that he couldn’t find it in himself to kill him—he didn’t have the guts nor the heart to kill someone he loved so purely, wholly, and irrevocably.

“If you want to kill me, then kill me,” Suguru offered, disappearing into the crowd as if goading Satoru to go through with mass murder. “There would be a point to that.”

As Satoru clenched his threatening hand into a defeated fist, he realized, quite innocuously, that the sun was setting on the world. The sky was a blend of orange and red hues in the direction that Suguru had disappeared, giving rise to a sublime melancholy.

Suguru loved sunsets.

In this moment, it looked as if God had grasped the sun within His palm, squeezing it like a tangerine until the juices dyed the world in warm hues—just the way Suguru liked it. When the world fell apart, Satoru had finally received his punishment for ascending from earth to heaven; from man to god.

The image of a yellow umbrella occupied his thoughts, clinging onto the memory of Utahime sitting with him in a world tinted blue by the rain. While she wasn’t a goddess of the heavens which could summon the sun back into the early afternoon to shine upon him, she was an angel on earth who could create a sun where it was absent. Her warmth had infected him, turning that blue hue into the cool white he preferred. It comforted him—encouraged him to hold onto his ideals.

His heart longed for her, fostering an unfathomable ache within the empty space carved out specially for her. This unassailable loneliness, he knew, could only be dissolved by her now. Satoru wanted to tuck Utahime into himself, love her just as he loved Suguru—trust her just as he trusted Suguru.

But he couldn’t.

The space Suguru had occupied and then so callously evicted left too much devastation in its wake and, if something happened to her, there would be nothing left of himself. Perhaps he could find a way to fit into her heart instead—to nurse his wounds and regrow the now tattered pieces of his soul. Though, he believed there was a fat chance Utahime would ever allow him such real estate.

Regardless, how cruel would it be to seek shelter within someone simply because he had nowhere else to go?

And with how bad Satoru felt then, in the wake of Suguru’s departure, he couldn’t say for certain he wasn’t clinging onto Utahime out of convenience; for the very purpose of coping. Even worse, a part of him genuinely hoped this was the case—that way, these bottomless feelings couldn’t materialize into yet another weakness that would tear him apart from life and limb.

Notes:

looooooots of satosugu in this chapter!! i love them very very much!!

also, thank you for so much positive reception. i appreciate all the love and compliments, it makes me sooo happy!!!

i really hope you enjoy this chapter!!! next should be coming soon :>

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 4: fever

Summary:

Silence fell upon her, laughter from other pedestrians spilling over them as they walked past. “Yeah,” Utahime finally said. “you’re right. Who cares?” One of her palms pressed against his chest momentarily before grabbing a fistful of his shirt. “Gojo?”

“Hmm?” If Satoru used his words, he would fall apart.

“Do you still think I’m pretty?”

“Yeah,” Satoru told her slowly. What the hell is going on in Drunk Utahime’s brain exactly?

“Even though I’m gross?” Insecurity highlighted her muffled voice, words vibrating against the skin on the back of his flushed neck.

“Even when you’re gross,” he reassured without hesitation.

“Even though I’m ‘unladylike’?”

“Especially when you’re ‘unladylike’, Utahime.”

Utahime suddenly groaned as she complained, “God, Utahime is such an old lady name.“ A deep sigh filled the space of a pensive pause. “What about now that I’m getting old?”

Satoru chuckled gently. “You’re aging like fine wine, Hime.”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

tell me i'll be happier if i let myself down easy
stop trying so hard, you'll be better off, you'll see
man you can't play me at my own damn game
tell me darkness never comes if you stay awake 'til morning
problem's not a problem if you don't think it's important
man, you can't love me if you forget my name
if you forget my name

but the stars keep aligning
you couldn't plan the timing
i wonder how i'm gonna get you closer
i know you like the attention
but you don't know how to say no
i wanna wake up but i don't

i think i'm stressed
i think i'm overthinking
i think i'm drowning
i think i think i'm sinking

- i_o & Lights

* * * * * * *

Satoru received the news at a fancy cafe in Ginza. It was scorching that particular day, something Shoko would be remiss to remind him of as she convinced him to buy them some iced coffee. After all, it was ‘his fault’ they’d spent the entire morning standing outside on the ‘hottest day of the year’ or however she’d put it.

“All this for some stupid phone,” she complained, uncharacteristically irritable. “Seriously, Gojo?”

A black bag hung from his arm as they waited in line. “It’s a technical marvel, Shoko,” he insisted with a passive grin. “I had to get one!”

“Why didn’t you get last year’s model then?” Shoko fiddled with the lighter in her pocket, indicating the source of her ire.

“Because it was the first of its kind, duh.” He took a step forward as another patron cleared the line. “I’m not going to blow nearly thirty-five thousand yen on a cellphone unless I know it’s the next best thing since melon bread. Reviews, Shoko—ever heard of ‘em? Besides, it’s not unjustified. I did lose my old phone, remember?”

Shoko hummed. “My, how shrewd of you.” She wore a bored expression, pulling out her cellphone to respond to an incoming message as indicated by the shrill tone it had played. “Where’d my spoiled rich kid of a friend go, huh?”

Satoru feigned offense. “Me, a kid? Nah, I’m a full grown man now—make sure to tell Utahime that too, m’kay?” They took another step forward, becoming the next customers in line.

“And why would I ever do that?” Shoko scoffed, the corners of her mouth tugging upwards into a peculiar smile. “Do it yourself, dickhe*d.”

Satoru didn’t respond, maintaining a grin despite his emotions not matching the expression. Feelings of bitterness brewed within him as he watched Shoko type a message on the narrow keypad. It had been months since he last spoke with Utahime while Shoko had almost immediate access to her. There were a number of times Satoru had tried to call her only to be instantly declined and all attempted text messages always came back as failed, meaning only one possible thing—Utahime Iori had Satoru Gojo’s number blocked.

“Next in line, please!”

As always, Satoru ordered in excess, fully aware that he was annoying all the patrons behind him. Regardless, with a charming smile, he swiped his black card while eyeing the girl behind the register. She had silky black hair styled into two pigtails, blunt bangs framing her soft features. Her eye color was all wrong and there was no marled skin of a scar on her right cheek but, if he really focused, he could almost fool himself into believing she was someone else.

“By the way, that hairstyle really suits you,” he complimented. The girl’s face warmed with a blush that was about two shades off from what he desired and her nose didn’t scrunch up the way he wanted it to when she smiled at him. All interest he might’ve had melted away, forcing him to strengthen his grin to hide the chill forming in his chest. “Anyway, thanks!”

Shoko moved with him as they looked for a table to settle at. “What was the point in flirting with that girl if you weren’t gonna even try to get her number?”

Satoru fiddled with the receipt in his hand. “I wasn’t flirting,” he told her. “that hairstyle really does suit her—aha! Shoko, look, a table!” He guided them over to the vacant space, plopping into one of the seats before slapping his fancy new purchase onto the tabletop. “Oh man, I’m pumped! Help me set this thing up, will ya?”

With a sigh, Shoko sat across from him and propped her head up with her palm. There was almost total silence between them aside from Satoru’s small comments while unboxing his new smartphone and fiddling with the settings until it was exactly as he wanted it. “They weren’t kidding when they said this touchscreen is accurate—wow!” Satoru looked up, noticing the distant look in Shoko’s eye. “Hey, Shoko,” he sang, holding out the phone toward her. “Go on, give the ‘iPhone’ a whirl. Lost all my contacts anyway so you’ll need to help me get them back.”

A number matching the one on his receipt flashed on the screen above the counter, indicating that their order was ready. Finally. Satoru didn’t wait for a response, pushing the phone into her hand as he stood up. “I’ll go grab our stuff—”

“Did you really lose your phone, Gojo?” Satoru looked at Shoko who maintained an air of disinterest, tapping her fingers along the screen as if she hadn’t just asked him a question.

“Yes,” he answered. “I did.”

“On purpose?”

His lips pressed into a firm line, lifting his chin slightly so his eyes were disguised by the sunglasses on his nose. Then, Satoru broke into a wide smile, barking out a laugh. “What kinda question is that? You really think I’d need a reason to buy a fancy new phone and—?”

“No, but you’d need a good reason to change your phone number,” she interjected without a single glance in his direction. “at least, one that’s not totally embarrassing.”

“Oh, yeah?” Satoru continued grinning to disguise his growing annoyance. “And what would that be, Shoko?”

There was a pause as Shoko looked down at her own phone, clicking against the keypad. “Ah, forget about it,” she relented, returning her attention to his cellphone. “it’s not really my business anyway.” Shoko passed back and forth between her phone and his, indicating that she’d been copying her contact list down for him just as he had asked. Her expression, as always, gave nothing away which was frustrating for Satoru who wanted to know what that had been about.

Shoko’s ability to remain utterly indecipherable was the very thing Satoru loved and hated the most about her. Loved because he could trust her with critical information that Satoru’s big mouth couldn’t keep to himself; and hated for obvious reasons. There were days he realized that, while Shoko was his friend and he definitely cared about her, he wasn’t exactly sure that she felt the same about him. He wondered if being unreadable came at the cost of isolating herself from the world and, maybe, made her feel a little lonely too—if that’s why she had fit in so well with himself and Suguru.

He wondered, as well, if Shoko ever blamed him for what happened to Suguru—or, at least, being the reason she had to experience the pain of knowing him just to lose him in the first place. After all, Shoko and Suguru were hand selected to attend Tokyo Jujutsu High because of Satoru. There had been plenty of potential jujutsu sorcerers to choose from as far as admissions went but, because of his mere attendance, the rosters of both campuses had to be carefully crafted that year.

Each applicant had gone through a more rigorous vetting process than usual, taking an aptitude test and answering a slew of individual-based questions. Surprisingly, Suguru being a Special Grade didn’t secure him a place at Tokyo automatically. In fact, it made him less attractive as a candidate for Satoru’s classmate as two inexperienced Special Grade sorcerers, who were also hormonal teenage boys, clashing could spell disaster. If he hadn’t shown the correct temperament and Satoru had been less—well—himself, Suguru would have been sent to Kyoto Jujutsu High instead.

The faculty made the right decision in the end as Satoru and Suguru had gotten along exceptionally well but that was only after the latter had showed the former his prowess in an impromptu duel Satoru had insisted on upon first meeting. When he recalled the memory, Satoru could almost taste the blood in his mouth from being socked by a mean right hook. It had been the first time since he was a young child that Satoru experienced physical pain—the shock keeled him over more than the strike itself.

And it was Shoko who had ran over to check on him.

There was no concern in her tone—only an academic curiosity as she placed her hands on his face. “Hey, are you okay?” Satoru’s Infinity had been down and, he was so discombobulated, he hadn’t thought to reactivate it. Shoko’s cursed energy lapped at his own like an ocean wave upon a shore, pushing and pulling in a diametric yet rhythmic tempo. Warmth had spread over the skin of his struck cheek and, suddenly, the pain no longer lingered. Instinctively, however, her hands were shoved away by Limitless.

But Shoko hadn’t been offended in the slightest. “Whoa—you’re quite the specimen, huh?

Not once since meeting Shoko had Satoru seen her as weak. Sure, she wasn’t strong the way he and Suguru were but she had abilities that no one else, including himself, were capable of which made her valuable. And, on top of her irrefutable value, she possessed the right amount of self-assuredness to stand between two Special Grade jujutsu sorcerers and maintain her composure, never moving too far from her devil-may-care attitude no matter the situation.

Of course, that always could’ve been because she truly didn’t care about anyone at all—a concept Satoru found both enviable and undesirable simultaneously.

Moments like these, however, convinced Satoru that Shoko really did care underneath it all. Agreeing to keep him company on the ‘hottest day of the year’, knowing they’d be in line outside of the Apple Store in Ginza all morning with no chance of escaping to a smoking area to satisfy her cravings. Copying dozens of contacts manually into his phone for him, knowing he’d created this inconvenience on purpose. Prolonging a smoke break so he could eat his body weight in desserts first, knowing he needed it to counteract the constant damage he was doing to his own brain by keeping his cursed technique active at all times.

Why do any of that for someone you didn’t care about?

“One cold brew with no sugar and a croissant for the lady,” he announced, placing the items on the table in front of Shoko. “And one mocha iced latte with an extra pump of mocha, extra whipped cream, extra chocolate and caramel drizzle, extra—”

“Gojo.”

Satoru groaned. “Fine, fine—I’ll spare you the details.” He unceremoniously dropped the rest of his items on the table, picking through them to see what he wanted to eat first.

“Any real food in there?” Shoko took a moment from her contact transferring to peer at Satoru’s many cafe pastries. “Or do we need to have the talk again?”

Satoru hummed as he found what he wanted to eat first. “I can’t think of anything more boring to talk about than the food pyramid, Shoko,” he retorted. “Anyway, I did get a ham and swiss sandwich. Ta-da!” Satoru held up the sandwich in question with a smile.

Shoko co*cked a brow. “Is that sweet bread?”

It was.

“And what if it is?” Satoru bit into the sandwich, humming his approval to the blend of sweet and savory flavors on his tongue. Shoko had gone back to her task with a scrupulous expression, sipping on her iced coffee here and there. “Anyway, how’s it going over there?”

“Almost done.”

A comfortable silence fell between them again as Satoru finished his sandwich, moving onto another treat. As he opened the bakery bag which held a warm cookie, he noticed something scrawled in black marker on the outside. He clenched his teeth around the cookie, holding it in his mouth as he straightened out the bag to make sense of whatever was written. A phone number?

“Oh?” Shoko smirked, moving her eyes from the bag on the table to Satoru. “Look at you, lady killer—wanna add that number under Cute Cafe Girl?”

Satoru took a bite out of the cookie, looking over at the counter where the girl who had been behind the register was now giggling with her coworkers as they stole glances in his direction. Out of habit, he flashed them a smile before returning to Shoko and replied, “Sure, why not?” If that girl had heard how non-committal he sounded in that moment, she would’ve regretted giving him her number to begin with.

Shoko noticed this, sucking in a sharp breath. “Ouch,” she said sarcastically. “is that cookie too crumbly or something?”

“Actually, now that you mention it,” he retorted, grimacing at the cookie in his hand which was too crumbly. “it kinda is.” Funny how she knew Satoru well enough to remember some of the most inconsequential trivia about him, even if it was just for sarcasm's sake.

Shoko chuckled. “Anyway, I finished the job. Here—I gave you a little something extra too.”

Satoru took the phone from her hand, noticing that she’d opened up a tab in the web browser. He scrolled through it, noting that it resembled the online program they used as jujutsu sorcerers for information and communication. “Oh, no way,” he bubbled. “those old geezers finally hired someone to make their sh*tty website mobile-friendly—nice!”

“Not to burst your bubble,” Shoko said, twirling her straw. “but they didn’t actually hire anybody to do it. Someone volunteered.”

Satoru sighed. “Don’t tell me—it was that idiot Ijichi, huh?” The look on Shoko’s face told him that it was, making him slump against his chair in an overly dramatic fashion. “I’ve told him already to never volunteer whatever skills his weak ass might have to those co*cksuckers without anything in return! This is why people walk all over him, y’know? Poor kid…”

“Gojo, you walk all over him.”

“Yeah, but I’m the exception!” Satoru flourishes his hands before returning to scrolling through the redesigned website. “He does what I tell him out of fear—not some misguided belief that he’ll receive approval like with those stuffy bastards.”

Shoko sighed, “You’re terrible.”

“No, I’m honest.” Satoru grinned, clicking on the link which would take him to a directory of jujutsu sorcerers. Credit where credit is due, Ijichi. The webpage was pretty impressive, listing brief overviews of each sorcerer which stated their grade, role, and status—color-coded for accessibility as well. Of course, he clicked on himself first and noted the overview was accurate, down to his current status which was flagged as ‘Available’ in bright green. He had just come back from a mission, after all.

Then, he navigated to another name—the name that danced on the tip of his tongue early in the mornings and even later at night. Utahime Iori. As he looked at her overview, he noticed something very interesting. Underneath her status of Semi-Grade 1, in smaller text as if it were a footnote, ‘Permanent’ was written. Wait, that means that she…?

Satoru plastered a smile onto his face. “Oh, hey,” he drawled. “did Utahime retake her evaluation or somethin’?”

Shoko swallowed a mouthful of coffee, swiping a finger at the corner of her mouth. “Mhm, this past week,” she stated. “obviously, she didn’t pass—but she also didn’t fail so, at least, she gets to keep her new pay. She’s not happy about it though.”

“Who went with her?” Satoru asked with a hum.

“Kusakabe. She couldn’t exorcise the curse without his help but he told the higher-ups she did a good job anyway.” Shoko shrugged. “Utahime-senpai’s pretty hard on herself so, of course, she says she didn’t do good enough to deserve ‘satisfactory’ results or whatever—thinks Kusakabe’s just being nice ‘cause they’re friends.”

Admittedly, Satoru was always under the impression that Kusakabe was a little sweet on Utahime—or, at least, he had been before she got her scar. Afterward, he didn’t seem to spend as much time around her. Though he’d never admit it, Satoru had always been the jealous type so it was very easy for him to read into things like that, especially when it came to Utahime.

“Well, tough,” Satoru chirped. “She plannin’ on celebrating? We should throw her a party or something—that’ll cheer her up!”

“I think that would do the opposite of cheer her up, Gojo.”

Satoru waved her off. “Nonsense! She gets to keep her pay raise and that’s something to be upset about? Nah, it’s a total victory for someone as weak as her, seriously!” He leaned forward, grasping at Shoko’s wrist which was holding her own cellphone as she tapped against the keypad. “C’mon, Shoko—convince Utahime to come out for a night. It’ll be fun!”

Shoko had no reaction to his touch other than a gentle, relenting sigh. “No harm in asking, I guess…”

With a bright smile, Satoru released Shoko’s wrist. “Awesome! Tell me a place and time, and I’ll be there.” He returned to his phone, opening up his contact list. As he scrolled, he noted two significant things about it and that gave him pause as he snacked on yet another sweet treat.

The first was the absence of Suguru Geto.

With a new phone, Satoru no longer had old messages to read over; no photos to click through that would agitate the gaping wound in his soul. The urge to call him would likely always plague him; a desire to send him silly texts so innately woven into his daily routine, it was impossible to unlearn. Then, of course, there was the hope and fear that Suguru would call him instead—followed by the disappointment every moment of every day that he didn’t.

And, when he couldn’t take it anymore, he had warped his phone into the East China Sea.

Of course, that was only after he’d tried to call Utahime while struggling to sleep, noticing that nobody had been watering the hydrangeas since she moved out of the student dorms and wanting advice on how to care for them, only to be redirected to her voicemail after half a ring. It was infuriating, not having access to her in any capacity. All he wanted was a phone call—a single phone call—where he could hear her voice; allow it to flood his ears and soothe his troubled spirit. But, no, his number was blocked and it was devastating.

And that’s exactly what made the second thing he noticed about his contact list even more significant.

Satoru had received Utahime’s phone number the first time around from Shoko back in their first year when he bribed it out of her with a pack of cigarettes. Thinking rationally about it, he figured Shoko likely warned Utahime about the leaking of her phone number to him before giving her his number in return to block preemptively. Shoko was a con-woman at heart so this was the most logical conclusion he could draw.

That was back before Utahime and Shoko had even really become the friends they were now. So, it was quite curious to Satoru that Shoko had willingly given him Utahime’s contact information again—on a new phone with a completely new phone number that Shoko still hadn’t learned herself. It could’ve been an oversight, sure, but Satoru knew Shoko pretty damn well and that’s not something she’d ever overlook. These decisions she’d made were purposeful; performed with him in consideration.

As he looked up at Shoko who had her smiling teeth clenched around the plastic straw sticking out of her coffee, Satoru felt another bout of reassurance. Shoko—airy, detached, and woefully unconcerned Shoko—truly did give a singular sh*t about Satoru Gojo. Thanks, Shoko.

Being a Special Grade sorcerer could be highly inconvenient some days, especially when you had time-sensitive plans. That was the battle Satoru had been facing as he impatiently warped himself to Tokyo in the middle of his train ride back from Kyoto. He still wasn’t at a level yet where he could warp over 250 kilometers and, while Satoru was typically pretty patient with his progress, there were days such as those he wished he could get there exponentially sooner.

Satoru stood in front of his mirror in his dorm room, mussing his hair anxiously. He was well-aware he could make girls swoon even after he’d just rolled out of bed but, the longer he stared, the less satisfied he was. I don’t have time for this, he noted, making the executive decision to discard his unproductive worries and reignite his nigh unshakeable—but not invincible—bravado.

With a swift tug on his clean white t-shirt, Satoru warped onto the streets of Tokyo, pulling out his phone to call Shoko. She answered swiftly, barely allowing him time to adjust the sunglasses on his nose before he was warping again to the location she’d confirmed. “Be there in a sec,” he’d told her and, as promised, he materialized in front of the izakaya after just a moment. “Here.”

As he strolled into the establishment, Satoru heard Shoko mutter, “Show off,” before he hung up the line. The hostess guided him to the appropriate room, allowing him a moment to recollect himself as he shoved his hands into his pockets where they could clench in peace.

“Here they are,” the hostess offered with the flourish of her hand. Satoru smiled in return, offering her a slight bow of his head.

Then, he threw the door open. “The fun has arrived! Who missed me?!”

Inside, their party was sat around a long table where there was a clear divide in their seating arrangements. Underage attendees were on one side in the form of Shoko and his direct junior, Kento Nanami, where they’d left a space open for Satoru himself; on the other, the seniors who could order alcohol—Mei, Kusakabe, and…Utahime.

There was a swell of emotion in his chest as he looked at her which he had immediately stamped out to keep his composure. She wore a baseball jersey for the Saitama Seibu Lions which was about two sizes too big for her, tucked into what looked to be a pair of blue jeans. Her hair was hanging loose, blunt bangs now grown out a little longer than normal so the tips brushed lightly against her scar. There was a sharp look in her eyes, partially glazed over as she had her fist wrapped around a pint of beer. Compared to Mei who sat right beside her, Utahime appeared quaint and homely…

Yet she was still the prettiest girl he’d ever seen.

To distract himself, Satoru focused on a missing presence. “Where the hell is Ijichi?”

“Just missed him,” Shoko said, chewing on a toothpick. “Couldn’t stay out late tonight.”

“Aw, bummer!” Satoru whined as he took the empty seat beside Shoko. “Who am I supposed to joke around with now? Nanami?” In turn, Nanami flashed a quiet glare towards Satoru, indicating just how little patience he would have with him that evening. “Wet blanket.”

“Well, you only have yourself to blame, don’t you? You were supposed to be here an hour ago,” Utahime scolded. “How typical of you to have no consideration for other people’s time!” Her words were slightly slurred, indicating she had knocked back far more than just a single pint.

Satoru gave her a wry smile. “Aw, you really did miss me, Utahime,” he teased. “didn’t realize you were so eager for my presence tonight.”

To his surprise, Utahime’s cheeks developed a flush. “No,” she argued. “I’m just eager to go home—far away from you!”

Mei chuckled beside her. “Now don’t be like that,” she cooed in that smoky voice of hers. “we’re just getting started.”

“Yeah, Utahime. We’re just getting started!” Satoru allowed an amused chuckle to bubble into his throat, enjoying the way she scowled at him. “Anyway, I have some souvenirs for you guys from Kyoto that I—hey, wait.” He looked beside himself, realizing he’d completely forgotten the bag full of gifts back in his dorm room. “Oh, sh*t, I completely forgot,” he exclaimed before immediately shrugging. “ah, well, I’ll get them to you guys eventually! Except Utahime—nothing for you, sorry!”

Utahime gritted her teeth, face screwed up with irritation. “I didn’t want one anyway!” She took another heavy swig of her beer, a droplet sliding down the corner of her mouth that drew Satoru’s attention, swallowing back unwanted feelings of yearning. “I’m actually going to Kyoto for a few days next month.”

“Oh, yeah?” Shoko co*cked a brow with a passive smile. “Decided to tour the campus after all, huh?”

Utahime nodded, plopping her chin into her palm as she leaned against the table. “Yeah, I talked to Yaga-sensei about it further and he told me that Kyoto might be a better option for me as far as teaching goes. They have a higher acceptance rate than Tokyo which means a need for staff.”

Well, that's new. Satoru leaned forward with a grin. “So, you decided to get into teaching, huh?” He relished the way her cheeks puffed up with embarrassment, the blush on her nose growing more charming as it deepened. “That’s a good idea, actually. I think you should do it.”

Utahime looked surprised as he refused to take credit for his suggestion. Admittedly, he didn’t want anyone else to know about that conversation back in the garden—it was precious to him and anything precious needed to be protected. “Oh…thanks.” After clearing her throat, she took another tentative sip of her beer as if attempting to recollect herself.

“If you do end up going to Kyoto,” Mei said, breaking the silence. “it might finally break this dry spell of yours.”

If Utahime was flushed before, she was most definitely feeling the heat now. Her blush spread from her cheeks up to her ears and down to her collarbones as she sputtered, “M-Mei-san!”

Satoru’s interest was piqued. “Oh, what kinda dry spell? Do tell, Mei-san,” he teased with a grin.

Her eyes widened with horror. “N-No, don’t—!”

“Utahime’s love life,” Mei divulged, a smile plastered across her features. “Never been kissed, never been touched, never been fuc—”

“MEI-SAN!” Utahime cried out desperately.

Mei shrugged off her friend’s embarrassment, taking a sip of her fancy co*cktail. “Oh, don’t be so puritanical, Utahime.”

“Can we please not talk about this?” Utahime gulped down the rest of her beer, clearly distressed.

Satoru licked his lips, unable to disguise the sliver of glee he felt from this information. “No, no, let’s,” he insisted. “so you really are the poster child of the virginal shrine maiden, huh?”

“SHUT UP, GOJO!” Utahime shouted. “Just because you have more experience than me, doesn’t mean—!”

“What gave you that idea?” Satoru interrupted shamelessly. “I haven’t had my first kiss yet either.”

Utahime balked. “Huh?”

Shoko hummed beside him. “Oh, yeah,” she confirmed. “Gojo’s, like, weirdly picky.”

“I’m not picky,” he protested. “It just hasn’t happened for me yet.”

“Sure,” Shoko drawled, taking a sip of what looked to be an iced tea. “it’s not like you have girls throwing themselves at you or whatever.”

“My, my, how very interesting,” Mei purred, tapping her manicured nails on the table. “You know, Gojo, I’ll kiss you if you’d like to get it over with—free of charge to sweeten the deal.” Her eyes flashed over in Utahime's direction briefly before settling back onto his face, giving him the impression of a hunter spotting its prey.

Before Satoru could even answer, Utahime interjected with a serious tone, “You shouldn’t make offers like that Mei-san. He’s still in high school and you’re an adult woman—that’s incredibly inappropriate.” For a moment, her expression appeared almost tortured as if she were ashamed of herself. Odd, seeing as she was preaching the morally correct ideal.

Mei rolled her eyes. “He’s turning nineteen this year,” she said, irritation clouding her tone. “so, he’s already an adult. Honestly, Utahime, the high horse is a tired stance.” She narrowed her gaze at Utahime during a brief pause. “Is that really the reason you’re going with to discourage me from kissing Gojo?”

Utahime rubbed at her face, the alcohol she’d consumed clearly starting to affect her thought process. “Well,” she said in a slurry. “a first kiss should be shared with someone special, right? I mean, it’s your first kiss—it should be with someone you trust. It…it should be with someone who loves you.” A profound sadness flashed across her face for a brief moment before she distracted herself by lifting up her empty pint. “I need another drink—call the server, please!”

“No, don’t,” Nanami spoke up suddenly after being quiet all evening. “I think you’ve had enough.”

Utahime’s movements were sluggish and uncoordinated as she narrowed her gaze in his direction. “Don’t tell me what to do, Nanami-kun!” Suddenly, she reached over the table and grabbed his unused wooden chopsticks. When she returned to her position, she threw out a pouty lip and began to gather up her hair. “It’s so hot in here, ugh!”

Satoru watched her twist silky hair around one of the chopsticks, expertly putting it up before leaning against the table once again. She fanned herself with one of her hands, milky skin glistening with a sheen of sweat. It was mesmerizing, seeing how she grasped at her neck and smoothed her palms across her collarbones to wipe the perspiration away. Any other guy might’ve been grossed out but Satoru liked it, a pin dropping within his core and leaving behind the tremulous sensation of desire.

When Utahime swallowed back a burp before erupting into a series of giggles, Kusakabe grimaced beside her. “How unladylike,” he muttered, capturing her focus.

“So what?” Utahime snapped. “I don’t need to impress anyone. If someone doesn’t want me when I’m ‘unladylike’, then I don’t want them!” Briefly, there was a glance in Satoru’s direction before the drunk flush of her face deepened yet again—so brief, he convinced himself he’d imagined it. As he nursed the cola he’d ordered, Satoru eagerly watched Utahime for the rest of the evening. He was so used to her scrupulous persona, attempting to reflect an image of the perfect woman from her professional attire to her refined attitude.

But, in this moment, he saw who she really was at her core—an undignified, loud, and hysterical woman. Brash and unyielding; argumentative and passionate. She liked sports as much as reality television, spitting trash talk that could make a criminal blush. She downed pints of beer like they were water, turning her nose up at co*cktails which were much too sweet for her tastes. At her most uninhibited, she threw herself onto her friends, cuddling up against their arms and nuzzling into their necks at the most inappropriate times. All her manners and reservations, gone in the blink of an eye, making men grimace with distaste.

And that was the night that Satoru realized he could no longer deny it to himself.

He loved Utahime Iori with everything he had—all the cells in his body screamed her name; all the blood in his veins singing for a moment of her time. Her very existence tucked itself between the ridges of his fingertips, begging for touch. What good was this heart of stone if she could soften it with a single glance in his direction?

Satoru had tried so hard not to love her. He spent all their time apart since that last conversation in the garden trying to rid himself of the ache she left behind. He didn’t want to need her the way he did—the feeling of needing her was terrifying. Need is what broke him after Suguru left; needing someone made him weak.

Panic wound itself around his lungs, squeezing and constricting with rancor as she leaned her head on Kusakabe’s shoulder. Intense pangs of jealousy echoed through him as a reminder of how grievously he desired her. Satoru wanted to be the shoulder she rested her head on when her eyes were heavy with liquor; her skin warm with released inhibitions. It only made it worse that Kusakabe appeared peeved with Utahime’s drunken antics.

This was a bad idea. Satoru swallowed his emotions, averting his eyes from Utahime’s exposed throat. He could vividly imagine himself pressing kisses against her pulse, brushing his lips up to her jaw. Stop. One hand would grasp and cradle the back of her head while the other wrapped itself around her curved waist. Stop!

But he couldn’t stop, his imagination running wild as he knocked back the rest of his soda just to give himself a distraction. It burned going down his throat so quickly but, still, his mind lingered on unrealized fantasies. Satoru felt pathetic—like some stupid, horny kid with a crush on the girl who didn’t even realize he existed.

Incredible how someone so mighty could be reduced tothis.

“Hey, Gojo,” Mei called gently, chin pressed against the back of her hand. “you never did give me an answer to my offer.” Her eyebrows flashed upward, sly mouth curved into a wanton smile. It was clear she wanted to devour him.

Somehow, despite all the tumultuous emotions brewing within him, Satoru managed to keep his demeanor as cool and flippant as ever. Nothing could dismantle the passive smile he’d spent years perfecting. “You know, it’s tempting,” he bantered in a low tone. “but I know better than anyone that nothing is truly free with you, Mei-san. There will be a price to pay at some point so—I’m gonna have to pass.”

Mei laughed. “Smart boy.”

Satoru, in return, spared only a humorless chuckle.

~

After another hour or so at the izakaya, Utahime had began dozing off, indicating it was time for them to go. Satoru ended up picking up the tab, slapping his black card down during a brief moment when Utahime was unconscious so she couldn’t protest like he knew she would. While he acted like paying the bill was just to show off his wealth, secretly, he wanted to do something nice for Utahime—this was her celebration outing, after all.

Nanami assisted Kusakabe with supporting Utahime’s intoxicated body, gangly and pliable as she nearly keeled over anytime she tried to stand on her own. “Guys, I’m fine,” she slurred as their group spilled out onto the streets. “I can walk home by myself…I—hiccup—don’t need any help!”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her this drunk before,” Shoko remarked. “it’s kinda concerning, honestly.”

Satoru shrugged. “Well, everyone needs to blow off some steam now and then. Kinda nice to know she’s not always a stick-in-the-mud.”

Utahime clearly overheard his comment, snarling in his direction. “Oh, f*ck you, Gojo! I’ll have you know, I’m a ton of—” Her face paled, a hand flying to her mouth. “Oh, oh—I think I need to throw up…”

Kusakabe immediately released her, leaving Nanami to support her on his own. “Ew, nope. I’m drawing a line.”

Utahime seemed to recover, cracking a sheepish grin. “Never mind,” she slurred. “I’m fine again.” Her lips formed a pout as she looked down. “My legs feel heavy—I don’t wanna walk.” Her head lolled onto Nanami’s shoulder, her sheepish smile growing slightly wolfish. “Carry me, Nanami-kun.”

Nanami opened his sharp mouth to respond but, before he could, Satoru eagerly stepped forward. “I’ll carry her." Due to the suspicious look on Nanami’s face, Satoru realized his smile had slipped. He forced a cheeky grin, his hand movements as ostentatious as usual. “Aw, c’mon, what’s that look for, Nanami? I swear, my intentions are pure.” He indicated her by jabbing a finger into her cheek. “Look how helpless she is!”

Utahime grumbled something unintelligible as she smacked his hand away.

“Besides, if she does end up vomiting, it won’t get on me,” he added. “and I wouldn’t want my most favorite junior handling hazardous waste if he doesn’t have to, y’know?”

“Right,” Nanami drawled, bouncing slightly to adjust Utahime. It was clear he wasn’t having the easiest time managing the woman who was slung halfway around his neck. “Have it your way then.”

Without a hint of hesitation, Satoru positioned himself in front of Utahime, crouching low. “Alright, hop on, sugar glider.” At first, Satoru expected some resistance but, sooner than anticipated, he felt Utahime climb onto his back, allowing him to wrap his arms around the back of her knees to support her weight. She wasn’t as light as he thought she would be but she also wasn’t impossible to carry. What use was working out everyday if he couldn’t even carry a girl like Utahime?

“Why ‘sugar glider’?” Utahime asked.

“Because sugar gliders are arboreal?” Satoru felt her slender arms slink around his neck, her chest pressing against his back. Her warm breath was tickling his ear as she tucked her chin into his shoulder. Satoru had to disguise an involuntary quiver with a cheeky grin as he followed through with an even cheekier joke. “And you’re climbing me like a tree right now.”

“GOJO!” She smacked the back of his head, his cursed technique deactivated which allowed the strike to land. “DON’T BE CRUDE!”

Ouch, Utahime,” he complained. “watch the merchandise—if you bonk me enough times, I’ll be too brain damaged to carry you home! What will you do then, huh?!”

Of course, she didn’t listen to his warning, now using both hands to grind her knuckles into his temples. “DON’T YELL AT ME, SATORU GOJO! RESPECT YOUR ELDERS OR SUFFER DIVINE PUNISHMENT!”

OW—BULLY!” Satoru cried dramatically, using his Infinity to push back her sharp knuckles. “I’m being bullied!” He held in his laughter for the sake of maintaining the tension, enjoying the back and forth between them a little too much. While there might have been some seriousness in Utahime’s behavior towards him, Satoru had wholly convinced himself that they were just playing around.

YOU’RE THE BULLY HERE! I’M JUST PAYING IT BACK IN SPADES!” Utahime struck her fists against his Infinity continuously, undeterred by the fact that her hits were no longer landing. This continued on for a minute more, the group around them watching with a blend of apathy and horror as they silently chatted amongst themselves.

Eventually, Utahime was coaxed out of her rampage by Shoko’s silky voice. “Hey, we’re going to keep the vibes going somewhere else,” she announced with a knowing grin. “Gojo, get Utahime-senpai home safe, m’kay?”

Satoru made a show of rolling his eyes. “Yeah, yeah,” he sassed. “but I’m not tucking her in.”

Utahime’s annoyance flared again. “I wouldn’t want you to, weirdo!” Instead of returning to her assault, Utahime pressed against him further, her arms tightening around his neck as she laid her head down on his shoulder. “Can we go now? I’m dizzy…”

A flutter in his chest had him swallowing back his mischief. “Yeah, we can go.” After a round of goodbyes, they parted ways with the others. “You good to warp?” Satoru asked. “Don’t want you vomming on those nice carpets you got at the apartment complex—don’t wanna upset your neighbors-slash-coworkers, y’know? Major party foul.”

Utahime hummed, the vibration felt through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. “Let’s just walk for now…” Her voice was smaller—meek—when compared to her brash attitude from just a few minutes prior. “Sorry if I’m heavy.”

It wasn’t lost on him how warm she was. He could feel her lungs expand and contract, the subtle beating of her heart feeling more like a lullaby in the summer air. The weight of her comforted him, serving as a reminder that she was not an ideal but, rather, a tangible being that could ground him when he found himself lost. Despite the bustle of Shinjuku’s nightlife, Satoru found it easy to focus on the sound of her breathing and occasional grunts of complaint, her face dangerously close to his ear.

And, no matter how hard he tried, he could not still his racing heart.

“Heavy?” Satoru scoffed. “Nah, this is nothing for me.”

Utahime hummed again, her head shifting so her chin was propped against his shoulder. “…you smell nice.” The compliment felt like a whisper in his ear as she took a deep breath, pressing the tip of her nose against his skin.

Satoru swallowed—hard. “Thanks,” he replied as casually as possible, relieved that his voice didn’t waver even a little. “I don’t skimp when it comes to hygiene products.” A nervous tongue darted over his lips.

“Mmm, I probably smell like beer and sweat,” she grumbled, a pout evident in her tone. “I’m so gross.”

She did smell a little like beer and sweat at the moment but nothing could overpower the floral musk that stubbornly lingered on her skin. I wonder what kinda perfume she wears…? He cleared his throat, adjusting his grip on the back of her knees. “Who cares if you are?”

Silence fell upon her, laughter from other pedestrians spilling over them as they walked past. “Yeah,” Utahime finally said. “you’re right. Who cares?” One of her palms pressed against his chest momentarily before grabbing a fistful of his shirt. “Gojo?”

“Hmm?” If Satoru used his words, he would fall apart.

“Do you still think I’m pretty?”

“Yeah,” Satoru told her slowly. What the hell is going on in Drunk Utahime’s brain exactly?

“Even though I’m gross?” Insecurity highlighted her muffled voice, words vibrating against the skin on the back of his flushed neck.

“Even when you’re gross,” he reassured without hesitation.

“Even though I’m ‘unladylike’?”

“Especially when you’re ‘unladylike’, Utahime.”

Utahime suddenly groaned as she complained, “God, Utahime is such an old lady name.“ A deep sigh filled the space of a pensive pause. “What about now that I’m getting old?”

Satoru chuckled gently. “You’re aging like fine wine, Hime.”

She giggled sweetly, leaning forward to press her hot cheek against the side of his face. “You’re being so nice to me, Gojo.”

His heart was pounding so hard within his chest, he thought it might break one of his ribs. “Well, I figure if I tease you too much, you won’t even bother redirecting your projectile vomit,” he joked. “You might miss me but you definitely won’t be missing my shoes if you don’t aim—and these are pretty damn expensive, y’know?”

“Show off.” The marled texture of her right cheek rubbed against his face, reminding him that this truly was Utahime latching onto his back and humming into his ear affectionately. “Hey, Gojo?”

“Yes, Hime?”

As her grip around his neck tightened, his self-restraint threatened to falter. “I think it’s really sweet that you haven’t had your first kiss yet,” she admitted. “You’re still young. You have time to wait for the right person.”

“I’m only three years younger than you, Hime,” he said, a twinge of frustration in his tone.

“Yeah, but you’re still in high school.”

Satoru furrowed his brows. “I’m in my vocational year—I’m practically graduated already. You make it sound like I’m some little kid.” Was that really how she saw him?

“And what’s wrong with that?” Utahime uttered. “Youth is something precious. It should be protected and celebrated, especially in the jujutsu world.” She took a deep breath as if considering her next words. “I don’t think it’s fair that you and Geto-kun had to grow up so quickly just because you were born strong. And, for us as students to be put through such hardship so early in life—man, it really f*cking sucks.

I know I can come across as a fuddy-duddy most days,” she continued. “A part of myself had to grow up quickly too so I could—I don’t know—cope, I guess, with all my failures and the people I let down. I feel like all my years at Jujutsu High were wasted on being f*cking sad all the time because I was useless and weak and alone. To keep going, I had to just convince myself that I would get stronger the older I got because, well, wisdom is strength, right? So, I grew up—and fast—only to be as weak as I’ve always been. If I would’ve known that, I wouldn’t have treated being a child as a sin. I would’ve tried to have more fun with everyone. With Shoko and Nanami-kun and Haibara-kun and Geto-kun and…”

Utahime let out a shaky breath. “And with you.” Her voice was thick with emotion but, somehow, she’d managed to keep it together. “I only get so mad when you act all childish and immature because I wish I could do that too,” she admitted. “but, really, I don’t mind it all that much. I think you should enjoy your youth as much as possible.”

Satoru licked his uncertain, trembling lips. “Utahime,” he said gently. “stop talking like you’re no longer allowed to enjoy your youth too.” To quell the profound sadness rolling into his throat, Satoru forced a wry smile onto his face. “Though, if you keep using words like ‘fuddy-duddy’, I’m gonna start thinking you’re actually an eighty-seven year old grandma.”

“Hey, don’t be mean!” Utahime pouted. “You’re ruining the moment!”

“Drunk Utahime is being too philosophical,” he teased. “I need Sober Utahime to entertain me.”

“SO RUDE!”

Silence fell between them as Utahime sulked, still pressed against his cheek. His arms were beginning to tire but he kept walking anyway, not wanting this moment to end. So, Satoru would either wait until she brought up the idea of warping herself or warp her of his own accord if she fell asleep on him. For the time being, however, he allowed himself to enjoy her company—it wasn’t often he had the opportunity to indulge in her warmth, shielded from heaven’s gaze by the light of the moon and Shinjuku’s fluorescence.

“Hey, Gojo,” Utahime murmured sleepily. “did you really get a new phone number?”

Shoko must’ve told her. Satoru co*cked a curious brow. “Yeah, I did.”

“I had your old number blocked for years,” she confessed. “I was worried you’d bother me too much but…” It sounded as if she was beginning to doze off. “I think I wouldn’t mind it if, maybe, you called me sometimes.”

A slack-jawed grin pulled at the corners of his giddy mouth. “You sure that’s what you want?” Not even her hesitant, questionable pause was enough to discourage the blooming within his chest. Satoru’s longing was terrifying, sure, but he couldn’t help the joy he felt from the idea that she might not hate him after all.

“Just don’t bug me too much,” she warned. “or I’ll block you again.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Hime.”

Notes:

once again, me and brevity are NOT friends!!!

i really hope you enjoy this chapter—more is coming reaaaaaaally soon, hehe~

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 5: thread

Summary:

“Hmm, I see.” Satoru co*cked an obnoxious brow. “This is all after taxes, right?”

Suddenly, the liaison for the higher-ups—an elderly man—let loose a ferocious groan. “Stop wasting our time! Negotiations have already been agreed upon amongst all parties involved. We all know this meeting is just a formality so sign the damn thing and let us move on with our day!”

Satoru threw the contract down onto the table, folding his hands over his stomach. “Except I don’t agree,” he said with a smile. “There’s something missing from the contract that I’d like to add.”

A look of anger and confusion crossed the faces of all three men as the liaison sputtered, “What could you possibly need to add?!”

“I’d like to introduce just one teeny-tiny clause,” Satoru told them flippantly. “It should state that, for as long as I am employed as a jujutsu sorcerer, no sale of Megumi Fushiguro can take place.” Maintaining his grin, he watched as his request wove seeds of discord amongst the room.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

find a thread to pull
and we can watch it unravel
'cause we've been living with
a ghost of summer from two years ago

a hint of light in the dark
only enough to keep from giving up
if i could go back to the start
to break the pattern forming between us

a needle dragging thread
to form the chapters only we could know
but they would overlap
and cast a shadow on what little is left

- Now, Now

* * * * * * *

April 5th, 2009—it was officially Satoru Gojo’s last day as a student of Tokyo Jujutsu High. Although it was a Sunday and he wasn’t required to, Satoru decided to wear his uniform properly one final time. He only had one task left as a student which was to attend a meeting concerning his employment as a jujutsu sorcerer. From what he knew, in attendance would be a liaison for the higher-ups, a representative of the Gojo Clan, and Yaga—the newly-appointed principal of Tokyo Jujutsu High.

Satoru strolled through a disheveled neighborhood in the bowels of Tokyo, the sky tinted orange as it kissed the late afternoon sun. A few residents were outdoors, going about their daily lives from hanging laundry on clotheslines to chain-smoking cigarettes over a friendly game of shogi. He could see the puzzled looks on their faces as he passed, easy hands lodged in his pockets without an ounce of apprehension—they all echoed the same assertion.

He doesn’t belong here.

And they would be correct. This was a blue-collar neighborhood, rife with crime and poverty. From every corner of the ghetto, Satoru’s Six Eyes caught the foul leak of cursed energy, pooling together into a sludge. Nothing too significant had come out of the negativity; only an absurd number of fly heads, zipping above the tarnished rooftops. Satoru’s mere presence had repelled them into a frenzy, similar to roaches scattering at the flip of a light switch. They were about as harmful as roaches too—a really gross nuisance.

Satoru looked toward them with curiosity. I wonder if that’s how Fushiguro managed to collect so many of them. A phantom pain agitated his throat, forcing him to swallow sharply as means to ward off the intrusive sensation. Most days, he did his best not to encourage thoughts of the Sorcerer Killer as the lingering resentment felt like stomaching a toothpick. Something so small capable of tearing his guts open from the inside until he spilled out into his own hands; an exposed nerve.

But Satoru would have to shake it off today. He had an important mission to accomplish; something he’d been contemplating since the pattern formed two summers ago. His eyes scanned the apartment complex, designer shoes crunching in the patchy grass. Satoru knew the exact unit he’d been looking for but wasn’t sure if anyone had been home yet.

And his entire mission relied upon someone being home.

It has to be today. Satoru swiped a tongue along his bottom lip, trying to determine the best way to approach this. Maybe I should just be honest—come out and say it. He twisted his mouth at the idea. But what if he’s a sensitive kid? God, I’m terrible with children.

Maybe this had been a bad idea—but Satoru was a man of conviction. He knew he had to follow through the moment he’d decided on a course of action. If he allowed doubt to shake him now, how could he maintain the ineffable faith in himself required to be the strongest?

Satoru felt his phone buzz in his pocket, eliciting a curious brow. He’d been prepared for the call so that wasn’t necessarily a surprise—only how long it had taken for him to receive it. With a smile large enough to be heard over the phone fixed onto his face, Satoru answered the call with an obnoxious, “Yello!”

SATORU!” Yaga’s voice blared into his ear, forcing him to move it a bit further away as to protect his eardrums. “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!

“Well, if it isn’t Principal Yaga,” he joked. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Don’t screw with me, Satoru—you were supposed to be here two hours ago! Now, where the hell are you?!

Satoru feigned surprise. “Oh, wow, has it been that long already? Geez, sorry about that! Must’ve lost track of time—y’know how it is when you’re out with a pretty girl, right?” A shameless lie, of course, told with the intention of traveling through the grapevine until it reached the right person.

Yaga sighed heavily. “Need I remind you, Satoru, how this meeting dictates your future,” he chastised. “You have to start taking these things seriously.

“Ah, c’mon, Yaga-sensei—we both know the meeting is just a formality. What does it matter if I’m a few hours late?” At that very moment, his eyes caught the spark of a very unique energy signature—a midnight blue interwoven with black wisps, twinkling like the night sky. “Anyway, I gotta go. See ya in a few!”

Satoru, don’t you ha—!

Satoru unceremoniously ended the call, slipping the phone back into his pocket as he made his way towards the cursed aura. As a he turned a corner, he spotted a head of spiky black hair, carrying a worn randoseru on his tiny shoulders. That’s gotta be him, he noted, the aftertaste of black licorice on his tongue.

And, from what his Six Eyes told him, he had to be the inheritor of Ten Shadows.

Satoru elongated his strides, catching up to the young boy rather easily. “You’re Megumi Fushiguro, right?”

The boy took pause, turning to face Satoru—and, the moment he did, that phantom pain in his throat reemerged. There was no way this kid didn’t belong to Toji Fushiguro, resembling him down to his facial expression. “What’s it to you?”

Satoru must’ve been visibly balking as Megumi almost immediately spat, “What’s with that weird lookin’ face, you freak?”

Readjusting his sunglasses and evening out his expression, Satoru blurted, “You just look like him is all.” The resemblance was truly uncanny.

“Hmm?” Megumi’s disinterested demeanor piqued momentarily before he seemed to decide it wasn’t worth his time.

Satoru took that as a signal to move on. “It’s my own issue,” he dismissed. “So, listen, about your dad…” He knew this was going to be one long winded explanation, preparing for his monologue by pushing his hands into his pockets. “He’s from this big shot jujutsu sorcerer family, the Zen’in, but they’re such scumbags they even make me sick.”

Using his right hand to indicate himself, he continued with an irreverent attitude, “And that’s why your dad left his family and had you. Now, you’re one of the ones who can see things, so you’re privileged! You’ve noticed the power within yourself too, I bet? The Zen’in Clan just loves strong powers. Most become aware of their cursed technique around four to six years old, so it’s the perfect timing to sell off a kid.”

Satoru flourished his hands outward to illustrate the approaching end of his speech, hoping he’d provoke some emotion from the kid staring up at him blankly. “So Megumi, that’s why you were the ultimate ace in the hole that your dad kept on hand against the Zen’in Clan.” He crouched to his level, allowing his sunglasses to slip down his nose. “Pisses you off, doesn’t it?”

Apparently not as there was still no spark in his features, making Satoru curious as to whether or not Megumi had an idealistic view of his father. If so, this might set him off. But Satoru knew he had to rip off the bandaid at some point. “So, about that dad of yours, I kinda—”

“I don’t care,” said Megumi rather abruptly, an indecipherable emotion flickering across his face as he gripped onto the straps of his backpack. “I have no interest in where he is or what he’s doing. It’s been so long, I don’t even remember what he looks like.”

Admittedly, Satoru was taken aback. So, he’s not particularly a fan of dear old dad, huh?

“Though, I think I understand what you’re trying to tell me,” he said. “Tsumiki’s mother hasn’t come home now for awhile either.” The sound of a balcony door sliding open gave the pair pause, drawing their attention upward.

A sweet girl with chocolate brown eyes and matching hair lit up when she looked down below. “Ah, Megumi’s home!”

Megumi didn’t react to her at first, simply continuing, “I guess that means they’re finished with us...” It was then, as he voiced an acceptance of reality in a manner only someone with years of wisdom could muster, that he turned to look back at the girl. “…and they’re off enjoying themselves somewhere else.”

Perhaps Satoru would’ve felt a pang of pity for him if he hadn’t been so shocked. “Wow, are you really a first grader?” He decided it would be best to move on before things got too philosophical. “Well, whatever! If you ever wanna know about your father, you can ask me.” Satoru stood back up. “You might change your mind—I think it’ll be pretty interesting to hear…”

That’s an understatement.

“Now, to the main point,” Satoru presented with an uncharacteristically serious expression. “What do you want to do? Do you want to go to the Zen’in?”

There was a pregnant pause, Megumi turning back to Satoru with his eyebrows knitted together in deep contemplation. “If I do go there,” he said slowly, “do you think my sister will be able to find happiness?” His expression perked up ever so slightly with a glimmer of hope. “If she can, then—”

“No.” As much as it pained him to see the hope drain from the young boy’s face, Satoru knew he had to nip that consideration in the bud. “A hundred percent, no—I can say that with certainty.” Megumi took a sudden step back, apparently disturbed by the seriousness in Satoru’s tone. It must’ve dawned on him that what this strange man said had to be the truth as none of the bravado he’d touted this entire conversation was present.

Satoru chuckled, realizing that that look on Megumi’s face answered his question. Good choice, kid. He approached slowly as he exclaimed, “Okay!” When he got close enough, Satoru plopped his hand atop Megumi’s head, shamelessly ruffling his hair. “Leave the rest to me!”

Megumi looked incredibly displeased, rubbing at the top of his head with a pout. In return, Satoru gave him an affectionate smile—he couldn’t help it. What a cute kid! Satoru turned away from him, slipping his left hand into his pocket and flourishing his right. “I might need you to push yourself a little bit, though,” he warned. “So, do your best. Try to get strong—strong enough to keep up with me.”

And, from the way Megumi’s cursed energy flickered, Satoru knew that would be inevitable.

~

It wouldn’t take too long for Satoru to get back to campus but, before he did, there was a call he had to make. Whipping out his phone, he scrolled through his contact list before landing upon a particular name. Naomi Arasaka.

The line rang twice before being answered by a stern voice on the other end. “Gojo.

“It’s done,” he stated without pleasantries. “How quickly can you get to Tokyo campus?”

Twenty.” Naomi wasn’t a woman of many words. “Kid said yes?

“Sure did.” Satoru had put a lot of thought into the matter at hand, spending a lot of time working out the details with Naomi who knew jujutsu policy just as well as she knew the laws of non-sorcerers. He knew for his idea to work, he needed a shark of an attorney—and none were better than her. “You ready for this?”

I should be asking you that,” she pointed out. “I have no skin in the game, personally.

“Sure you do, Naomi,” he drawled. “It’s in the form of a fat deposit to your bank account.”

Naomi clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “Semantics.” Then, she ended the call unceremoniously, eliciting an amused chuckle from Satoru.

Sliding the phone back into his pocket, Satoru warped himself onto campus, not halting his forward momentum as he peered up at the faculty building. This might be a pain. But Satoru wouldn’t let the thought discourage him, keeping a passive smile on his face.

Finding the conference room was simple enough which disallowed Satoru a single moment’s pause. If he stopped now, he might reconsider this whole plan and, once again, being the strongest sorcerer meant having absolute faith in oneself—even if the belief was dead wrong. “Well, good afternoon everyone!” Satoru exclaimed jovially, reveling in the enraged expressions on everyone’s face. “Can’t believe you’d try to start this party without me.”

Satoru plopped himself into a chair, kicking his feet up on the table. He knew they all wanted to throttle him and, damn, it was satisfying. After all, aside from Yaga, he hated these dickhe*ds—Yaga was just collateral damage.

“You ungrateful brat,” the liaison for the higher-ups spat. “You ought to learn some manners!”

Satoru only shrugged, a wry smile on his face.

Yaga stepped forward, trying to diffuse the situation despite his own frustration with Satoru’s behavior. “Let’s just get on with this,” he reasoned, picking up a folder and sliding it towards Satoru along with a pen. “Everyone here has reviewed the contract and found it favorable. All that’s required is your signature.”

Just as he'd mentioned previously, this whole meeting should’ve been a formality. Satoru knew the contract provided satisfactory terms for his employment but he had to use this to his advantage—this contract was key to his grand plan. “Hmm,” he hummed, picking up the folder, “mind if I take a quick look?”

Satoru didn’t wait for permission. He needed to buy time for Naomi to arrive before proceeding with next steps. It wasn’t that he lacked the confidence to negotiate on his own but arguing would take too long without backup. So, Satoru took his time reading through every single line written in the contract, ensuring to move his lips soundlessly and stroke his chin in the process.

“So, my pay’s increasing from six million two hundred and fifty yen to a hundred and fifty million yen annually,” he reiterated slowly, voice slightly muffled as he smushed his cheeks and chin. “Oh, and bonuses for Special Grade missions are increasing from one million to five million per assignment completed?” He whistled, flashing his brows sarcastically. “Man, demand must be high, huh?”

The representative from his clan had his arms crossed firmly over his chest, silver beard partially hiding his deep set frown. “We made sure to negotiate accordingly.” He seemed to be about ten years older than Satoru himself so his threshold for patience was much higher than the other two men in attendance.

Satoru couldn’t remember his name which wasn’t too surprising considering he grew up isolated from the rest of his family. The only people he interacted with regularly was the regent head of the clan, his two handlers, and a mentor that issued lessons on his cursed technique and imparted secrets of the Six Eyes onto him. According to them, interaction with his mother, father, and siblings was highly unnecessary so he had few memories involving them.

It seemed unfair that the bonuses awarded from completed missions added directly to his clan’s gross amounts of wealth when he hardly knew half of them, making him feel like some glorified workhorse. Then again, once he turned twenty in the upcoming year, the regent clan head would be required to step down from his mantle and hand it off to Satoru. The Gojo Clan had a line of succession based on who the next inheritor of the Six Eyes would be. If he were to have a child of his own, they would become the next clan head upon his death until another Six Eyes user was born.

So, despite the bitterness it left behind, Satoru would allow the Gojo Clan to benefit from his work—for as long as he was alive, it all belonged to him regardless.

“Hmm, I see.” Satoru co*cked an obnoxious brow. “This is all after taxes, right?”

Suddenly, the liaison for the higher-ups—an elderly man—let loose a ferocious groan. “Stop wasting our time! Negotiations have already been agreed upon amongst all parties involved. We all know this meeting is just a formality so sign the damn thing and let us move on with our day!”

Satoru threw the contract down onto the table, folding his hands over his stomach. “Except I don’t agree,” he said with a smile. “There’s something missing from the contract that I’d like to add.”

A look of anger and confusion crossed the faces of all three men as the liaison sputtered, “What could you possibly need to add?!”

“I’d like to introduce just one teeny-tiny clause,” Satoru told them flippantly. “It should state that, for as long as I am employed as a jujutsu sorcerer, no sale of Megumi Fushiguro can take place.” Maintaining his grin, he watched as his request wove seeds of discord amongst the room.

“Satoru?” Yaga demanded, brows knitted together with bemusem*nt. “What is this all about?”

The clan’s representative shook his head. “What you’re asking for is trouble, Satoru-kun. We can’t allow you to make such a bold move against the Zen’in—it will further the divide between them and us.”

“Regardless, you cannot add such a clause to your contract,” the liaison insisted firmly, a snarl tugging at his mouth. “It’s against policy.”

Satoru was prepared to argue but never got the chance as the door to the conference room opened at that very moment, accompanied by the sharp sound of high heels clicking against the floor. “Jujutsu Headquarters’ bylaws states that a jujutsu sorcerer may add any clause to their employment contract as long as the request does not harm the greater populace,” Naomi recited confidently. “Feel free to check—article five, section ‘e’, sub-section three.” She stood beside Satoru, arms folded over her chest.

“You’re late,” Satoru scolded.

“Traffic.” Naomi used a single hand to brush a red curl out of her face, matching red lips pressed into a firm line.

Yaga sighed, a defeated expression crossing his features. “Naomi, what the hell are you doing here?”

Naomi lifted her chin, narrowing her brown eyes at him. “Representing my client in a contract negotiation, obviously.”

Satoru could feel the tension between the two. “So when are you guys going to kiss and make up?”

Both Yaga and Naomi snapped, “Mind your business!”

Geez, my bad,” Satoru relented, holding up his hands defensively. “It was just a question.”

Anyway,” Naomi enunciated, “my client requested a clause be added to his contract. We can discuss the stipulation of what ‘harm to the greater populace’ entails, but surely, it’s not preventing the sale of a young boy—which, might I add, is illegal.”

The liaison gritted his teeth. “This is not up for debate. Satoru Gojo cannot single-handedly make a decision which interferes with the Zen’in. It is up to their clan to decide what to do with their blood. The fact you would even suggest such a thing is preposterous!”

Satoru co*cked a brow. “And why can’t I? What are the Zen’in going to do about it?”

“Begin a clan war, for starters,” the representative interjected. “Satoru-kun, think of the clan. We cannot risk going to war with either the Zen’in nor the Kamo. This could have them allying together in an attempt to dismantle us and with justifiable reason.”

Satoru scoffed. “As if! The Kamo would wipe themselves out before allying with the Zen’in!”

“Stranger things have happened.”

“Yeah, not that strange,” Satoru countered.

The liaison growled, “The point is we will not grant you this!”

Satoru shrugged. “Okay, then I won’t be signing that contract.” To illustrate his point, he stood up and adjusted his uniform with a wolfish grin. "I always wanted to be a barista, y'know?"

“Satoru…” Yaga gave him a stern look. “You can’t just reject employment.”

“I can and I will,” Satoru asserted, “if you don’t agree to my stipulations. Remember, I don’t need you—you need me.” He smirked. “Unless Tsukumo decides to start taking missions again, but I checked the forecast today. No pigs in the sky just yet.”

The atmosphere was thick with defeat. Hook, line…? Satoru co*cked a brow as he saw the liaison lift a single finger, his fury dulled by a reluctant expression of sheepishness.

“Now, hold on a moment,” he ground out, “perhaps we can come to an…agreement.”

Sinker. Satoru’s smile widened, taking a seat again wordlessly.

Naomi sat beside him, grabbing the folder and scanning through it with a scrupulous expression. “I can have this contract rewritten and ready for signing by tonight.”

“Oh, one more thing,” Satoru presented. “I want to extend the term length by six years.”

The representative blanched while the liaison had a suspicious look on his face. “That won’t be possible,” the latter insisted. “Term lengths can only be instated for up to five years.”

Satoru figured this would be the case as he and Naomi had already discussed it at length. Still, an exaggerated frown pulled at his mouth—a part of him had hoped he could finesse his way into six years anyway. “Naomi?”

She shook her head. “It’s policy,” she stated. “You know there’s no way around it, Gojo.”

“Aw, man.” Unfortunately, this was the aspect of the situation which introduced a significant problem. He wouldn’t be able to legally foster Megumi and Tsumiki until he was at least twenty-five years old—six years from then. The contract would protect Megumi from being sold for the time being, sure, but until he secured legal protections in the form of guardianship, the Zen’in would likely bide their time as they found another way to secure the boy.

Ultimately, if Satoru bled enough money and threw his strength around as a threat, nothing could stand in his way but he knew that had to be a last resort. To a certain degree, the representative was correct—standing so boldly against the Zen’in would surely have ramifications for the people around him. And, while he wasn’t opposed to putting his goals above them, avoiding irreversible consequences would be optimal. So, it was decided that intimidation and bribery would be Plan B…

Leaving behind the less than idealistic version of Plan A.

“Fine, have it your way then,” he relented as if he’d had a choice. “We’ll keep the term length at max—five years.” Folding his arms over his chest, Satoru peered over at the liaison behind his sunglasses, noting a hint of smugness in the old man’s face as Naomi delivered an overview of the contract to the room. co*cksucker thinks he’s secured the Zen’in a path forward, huh? It took great effort to hold back his laughter. Joke’s on him—five years is more than enough time to convince her.

An incredibly indulgent fantasy of Utahime sitting with Megumi and Tsumiki on a big fluffy couch, a book in her lap as she reads to them occupied his mind at that moment. When he’d ran through a list of people he knew that would act as a proxy foster parent upon his request (and subsequent payment), Satoru realized that he didn’t trust any of them to not stab him in the back somehow. Utahime had been excluded from his list simply because she couldn’t be bought—no amount of begging and bribery could convince her to do something that didn’t align with her viewpoint, whatever it might’ve been.

But that was also the reason why she was the only one he could trust with something like this. If Satoru could convince Utahime to become Megumi and Tsumiki’s legal guardian, he would never have to worry about interference and potential betrayal. Utahime had a steadfast approach to life, making her incredibly stubborn; she didn’t change her mind easily nor was she quick to alter her opinions. Truly, she was exactly who Satoru needed in this situation to make it all work—but, aside from the monumental task of actually convincing her, there was still one other problem to contend with.

She’ll become a target.

Satoru wasn’t concerned with her physical safety necessarily; he’d do everything within his power to ensure no harm came to her. It was the potential damage to her reputation and career progression that he could do nothing about. As per their last phone call a few months prior, Satoru was aware that Utahime had enjoyed Kyoto Jujutsu High when she visited and had every intention of joining the staff once they had availability.

It’s really different from Tokyo,” she’d told him, a smile evident in her voice. “The campus is so full—I’ve never seen so many students at once! There’s always someone to talk to so it’s hard to feel lonely. Oh, and the countryside here is just beautiful! Reminds me of Mitsumine a little bit while still being in the city.” He had let Utahime tell him about her dreams and aspirations, listening with rapt attention. She’d whispered confessions of homesickness into his ear, a glimmer of hope apparent in the desires she shared with him.

What had started as him testing the waters with what was supposed to be a casual check-in over the phone soon became a two hour conversation that had Satoru utterly bewitched by Utahime. They both had so much to say, giving him the impression that they might’ve been trying to make up for all the conversations they missed out on over the years. It was the realization that Satoru had been completely consumed by Utahime’s voice alone that made him end the call abruptly, an obstinate apprehension gripping its tendrils around his heart and lungs where they remained.

Since then, Satoru had kept communication with Utahime to a minimum, making that call their first and only one. Not once had she tried to call him herself which was understandable, considering he’d ended their deeply personal conversation with a callous, “Well, I’ve killed enough time. Thanks for entertaining me with your nonsense as usual, Utahime. Bye!

The weeks of silence that followed afterwards felt like a thousand needles penetrating his skin, itching the tips of his fingers which yearned to reach out. Satoru resisted the urge, however, convincing himself that it would be best if Utahime hated him as much as the thought devastated him. Every moment spent thinking of her, Satoru spent an equal amount of energy trivializing his growing feelings for her. It’s just a horny teenage boy crush, he would tell himself. I only think I love her—I don’t actually love her. I could never love her. How stupid would that be after…?

Then, Satoru would have to distract himself—his mind as lawless as his actions.

~

As the late afternoon sun transposed into twilight, Satoru slipped outside of the sliding doors connecting his dorm room with the forest surrounding campus. A slight chill caused him to shiver as he plopped himself down on the mini veranda with a soft grunt, propping his elbows up onto his knees. He’d forsaken his blazer, leaving him exposed in a thin white button-up but the early spring temperature wasn’t severe enough to have him scrambling for something warmer. In any case, his body temperature always ran a little higher than most—he would survive.

Naomi had said she would have her courier deliver the contract to his dorm room after making its rounds to the other parties involved; sometime before midnight, according to her, but she’d always been terrible when it came to estimating timeframes. Luckily, Satoru didn’t sleep much in recent years anyway so staying up late wasn’t a problem for him in the slightest.

Before Satoru had learned how to use reverse cursed technique on himself, he used to require a lot more rest than the average person due to the nature of his Six Eyes. In addition to perceiving images the way anyone else could, Satoru could read between the lines of those images in vivid color. “It’s kinda like shining a light through a prism,” he’d tried to explain once to Shoko and Suguru, “except my eyes are the prism and my brain receives the refractions of light.” He thought it had been a sound explanation but they’d just co*cked their heads to the side in unison, furrowing their brows with bemusem*nt. “Forget it.

Admittedly, the explanation had been a gross oversimplification of the Six Eyes but he wasn’t sure there was any other way to put it that could be grasped by the human mind. How could you possibly convey the brilliance of seeing through the fabric of the universe? Then, with a single pinch at an invisible seam, weave that same fabric into whatever you desired, rewriting space and time so it could warp around your very existence—there were no words in any human language that could describe its significance.

However, as magnificent as it could be, it was equal parts exhausting.

Processing so much information at any given time while doing something as mundane as watching a movie created an almost unbearable pressure in his skull, only relieved by total darkness. While he could still perceive the essence of the universe even with his eyes closed, the elimination of his base visual processing alleviated the ache in his brain, indicating he had at least two separate streams of image perception. The idea to start wearing sunglasses had come from Suguru who was quick to notice Satoru’s frequent migraines, preventing him from attending class most days in their first year.

And it had been incredibly effective.

When second year came around, Satoru had his shades customized so they were completely blacked out as he had slowly learned to ‘see’ without seeing. There were times he’d considered completely covering his eyes but he didn’t think he was at a level yet where he could confidently navigate the world without at least some of his vision just as the sunglasses afforded. So, the shades would stay for now, especially since Satoru thought they added an extra cool factor to his look.

Satoru fished out his phone from his pocket, tapping through it with the intention of making headway on all the arrangements that had to be made within the week. He had to contact a real estate agent, movers, set up a new bank account, get a small team together that could manage the finer details of childcare, find a reliable babysitter…

Man, having children is a lot of work. He shook his head, scrolling through his messages until his finger hovered over her name.

Happy birthday.

It was the last message sent between them and the only communication they’d had since their first and only phone call. Utahime had the decency to still wish him well on his birthday after his rude behavior yet he had been too much of a coward to reach out to her for her own in February.

The only other messages between them were from the summer.

got a hangover ??

didn’t realize u were such
a lightweight, hime (¬‿¬ )

Not in the mood, Gojo.

Her threats never meant much to him but, for whatever reason, Satoru was too anxious to message her back after that. The idea that she actually hadn’t meant anything she said the night before plagued him, filling him with the dread of rejection. Satoru couldn’t risk making another person part of his routine just to have to unlearn it later down the line—it was too difficult the first time around

Satoru stared at the text box, giving it a hesitant tap. Very slowly, paired with the worrying of his lower lip, he typed out a message—a sharp click accompanied every deliberate tap of a character. His shaking thumb stared upon the ‘send’ button before brushing across the screen, a stylistic swoop echoing in confirmation.

hey, ur from saitama right ??

The green bubble glared back at him, dour and angry. He lifted a hand to his mouth, rubbing at his chin and squeezing at his cheeks thoughtfully. Satoru confidently knew what the answer would be—Utahime had said it enough times in the past but, for whatever reason, he had acted upon that urge to make sure the information he had was accurate. A part of him knew it was just a ridiculous excuse to reach out, of course, but he wasn’t ready to confront his fears yet.

Much to his surprise, another stylistic whoop emerged from the device, a gray bubble joining the party to keep his green bubble company. Satoru hadn’t texted Utahime enough to realize this until that very moment but her style of texting was very formal and correct which he found incredibly charming—it was so her, he couldn’t help but flash the phone a slack-jawed grin.

Not the city but Saitama Prefecture, yes.

“Right.” Satoru released the breath he had been holding, an involuntary chuckle accompanying his grin. Warmth flooded his limbs, making him feel both giddy and ridiculous simultaneously—how could a single reply from Utahime make him feel this good?

ok, thanks !! (๑>◡<๑)

Why?

no reason (/// ̄  ̄///)

While another message came in soon after, Satoru dismissed it momentarily in favor of searching his contact list. Once he’d found the correct person, he gave the call button a swift click, a wide smile stretching from ear to ear. “Hello…?

“Ijichi! How are you, bud?” Satoru sang. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to be looking for a part-time job, would ya? Because, boy, do I have the perfect job for you!”

Notes:

hello~

welcome to the mini megumi introduction chapter!!! this is a bit shorter than the last and doesn't have toooo much utahime but tbf this chapter sets up soooooooooo much for the chapters following and i'm having such a good time exploring the little aspects of gojo's life that are largely unexplained/not elaborated on in the canon. i hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as i enjoy writing it hehe~

chapter 6 is already in the works!!! this fic is turning out way longer than initially anticipated but i just have such a story to tell here!!! thank you for reading and see you next chapter weeee~

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 6: wave of you

Summary:

“Well, that’s not…what I asked for.”

“Double twin beds!” Utahime shrieked. “You said, double twin beds!”

Satoru pointed at her. “That’s what I asked for.”

She dramatically indicated the single bed. “Clearly not, Gojo!”

His mouth gaped open to argue with her but he quickly snapped it shut. Arguing wasn’t going to get them anywhere, especially when the evidence contradictory to his argument was right in front of them. Satoru turned toward the balcony, walking until his gut was pushed up against the railing. “Yo, Shoko!”

Shortly after, he spotted the top of his friend’s head below. She tilted her head back to look up at him with a curious expression, shoulder-length brown hair spilling backward over her shoulders with an unlit cigarette pinched between her teeth. “What’s up?”

“Just out of curiosity,” Satoru called down. “do you guys have double twin beds?”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

where am i supposed to be?
washed up, pushed out, or on my feet?
tell me is this a dream,
or am i stuck in a movie scene? daily, lately
i'm spinnin' away, so crazy
so baby, just take me i think i'm caught up in a wave, i feel 'bout you
i don't know how i can be so drawn into you
i think i'm fallin' in deep
i think i'm caught up in a wave of you - Surfaces

* * * * * * *

When Shoko had asked Satoru to join her for a week-long vacation in Okinawa, understandably, he had been a bit skeptical. The last time he’d visited was three summers prior and the idea of going back after everything that had happened weighed heavily on his mind. It was an instinct to say ‘no’ but he resisted it, especially once Shoko explained to him that it was for Utahime’s sake. “She’s never been on a vacation like this before,” she’d told him over the phone. “and, once she moves to Kyoto and starts teaching, who knows when she’ll have the time to do something fun like this?

In recent years, Utahime and Shoko had grown incredibly close. It was rare for him to hear that one was without the other, Utahime’s voice always lingering in the background of his phone calls with Shoko. “I think it would be fun for us too. When was the last time we got to do something like this together, hmm?” While it was spoken in her con-woman tone, Satoru felt the sincerity in her words. Shoko never got to join he and Suguru in Okinawa that first time around.

Maybe this is what he needed to get over it—take back what was ‘theirs’ and make it his own instead. So, Satoru had agreed, even insisting on fronting the entire trip for everyone. It would be himself, Shoko, Utahime, and—most unfortunately—Mei. Admittedly, he hated the idea of paying for all her expenses but, if he wanted Utahime onboard, he’d have to bite the bullet.

“Wasn’t this supposed to be a girls’ trip?” Utahime asked Shoko loudly, clearly unconcerned with Satoru’s presence right behind them.

Satoru adjusted the sunglasses on his nose, passive smile locked in place. “I’m standing right here, y’know?”

“I’m aware.” Utahime rolled her eyes, brows knitted together with annoyance.

Shoko popped the bubblegum in her mouth. “It is a girls’ trip,” she said. “A girls’ trip plus Gojo.”

Satoru grinned wolfishly, leaning his head between the two. “Yeah, who d’you think paid for this fancy first class flight you’re about to board and the five-star resort on the beach we’re checkin’ into later, huh?” Utahime jerked her head back, face twisted into a grimace at his sudden proximity. “The least you can do is let me tag along, Hime.”

“Now’s not the time to be righteous, Utahime.” Mei was sat on her leather carry-on, sharp eyes fixed on the screen of her cellphone as if monitoring something. A perfectly manicured claw fiddled with the diamond hanging around the base of her neck, mauve lips curving around her words. “A handsome man has offered to pay for your entire vacation. I say, let him do it—for your bank account’s sake.”

Utahime grumbled, folding her arms tightly over her chest as she fixed her glare elsewhere. Instead of addressing Mei’s reasoning, she decided to say mockingly, “The least you can do is kiss my ass, Gojo.”

“Oh, that can be arranged,” Satoru teased with a wink.

Despite his playful demeanor, a part of him hoped that Utahime could see how serious he was about the offer. His eyes rolled down over her body, landing upon the very reason his breath had remained lodged in his throat from the very moment he’d seen her step out of the cab when she first arrived at the airport. As usual for the ever-modest Utahime, she wore a long-sleeved t-shirt that was a size too large for her but, this time around, it was tucked into a pair of light blue jean shorts—something he’d never seen her wear before. Something about the light sprinkle of freckles across the milky surface of her thighs had him reeling, ready to get on his knees and beg for her if she asked him to.

A deep flush erupted across her cheeks, teeth gritting as her thighs pressed together with furious embarrassment. “G-Gojo, you can’t just—!” Her protests were interrupted by the sound of an intercom bell, preceding an announcement.

Calling all priority passengers for our ten a.m. flight to Okinawa—we are ready to board! Please, prepare your boarding passes and approach the gate.” The announcement was a welcome distraction as his self-restraint was fading fast in her presence. If this was his reaction to simply seeing her in shorts, what the hell was he going to do when he saw her in a bathing suit on the beach?

Die, probably.

“Well, that’s us!” Satoru exclaimed jovially, grabbing Utahime’s bag as well as his own. “Let’s get going, Utahime!”

“Hey, Gojo—that’s my bag!” Utahime protested, chasing after Satoru who was already marching up to the gate agent. “GOJO!”

~

The near-three hour flight to Okinawa had been a test of Satoru’s prudence—of that, he was totally convinced. All three girls had claimed to be window seat purists but, with two seats per row in first class, one had to draw the short straw. Shoko and Satoru were sat together so the former’s spot beside the window was guaranteed as the latter preferred the aisle; even in first class, standing at 190 centimeters put him at a slight disadvantage for comfort so, wherever he could take extra room, he would.

This left Utahime and Mei at odds but, as predicted, Mei would get her way in the end simply by declaring she’d be taking the window seat. It was almost painful watching how easily Utahime showed deference to the silver-haired sorceress, settling herself down into the aisle seat without protest. The pitiful look on her face had Shoko offering up her window seat to Utahime in a heartbeat.

But a single glance at Satoru had Utahime’s expression morphing into one of disgust. “No thanks,” she’d said a bit too abruptly. “Really, I’m fine where I am. Thanks, Shoko.

Although it had hurt his ego a bit, Satoru recognized that Utahime’s distance was in his best interest. Throughout the entire flight, separated only by an aisle, Satoru had to fight the urge to stare at her. It was as if her body was a magnet, attracting his gaze the moment he allowed his mind to wander—his usual entertainment strategy when enduring a domestic flight. To keep himself focused on anything other than Utahime, Satoru whipped out the in-flight menu, read through it at a snail’s pace, and then ordered a new dish before repeating the cycle.

While terrible for his stomach, it was satisfactory for his self-restraint.

As they waited near the baggage claim carousel, Satoru yawned and patted his stomach. “Man, I’m stuffed.”

“I would hope so,” Shoko sassed. “you ate at least half your body weight in airplane food.” She co*cked a brow, looking through search results on her phone. “Are you even gonna be able to grab lunch with us?”

“What kinda question is that?” Satoru peered at her incredulously. “You know, I can always eat—just gotta make sure I hit the john first.”

Mei wrinkled her nose with disgust. “Ugh, I hate toilet talk.”

Surprisingly, Utahime shrugged, unperturbed by the topic herself. “Well, as long as Gojo’s tagging along, you’d better get used to it.” She took a step forward with a look of recognition, the sharp creak of the carousel whirring past. “Aha! I see Shoko’s suitcase.”

Utahime had made it her personal mission to secure the bag, not hesitating to reach her hands out and yank on the suitcase until she’d cleared it from the carousel. With a satisfied smirk, she plopped the bag in front of Shoko. “There you go!” And, without waiting for gratitude, Utahime had turned back towards the carousel once again, plucky hands on her hips.

Satoru grinned to himself. She’s so cute.

“Oh, Gojo!” Utahime exclaimed, pointing her finger in a particular direction. “Yours was the one with the fish on it, right?”

“Yeah, it was,” he confirmed. “You spotted it?”

“Mhm!”

Once again, Utahime was moving around the carousel, thrusting her hands towards the bag and dragging it off of the machine. “Got it,” she uttered with a slight grunt. Immediately, Satoru approached, looking up at her with words of gratitude on his tongue but was disheartened to find she’d already moved on. So, he pulled his bag back to join Shoko, giving her a questioning look.

In turn, Shoko shrugged. “She’s trying to make herself useful, I guess.”

Before long, Utahime’s bag arrived which left only Mei’s suitcase—the heaviest of the bunch—remaining. After a few minutes, it landed onto the belt with a deafening clunk before inching its way over to them. Jesus, what the hell is even in that thing?

As it approached, Satoru stepped up beside Utahime. “Here, let me help you,” he offered, reaching his hand out.

“No, no, it’s f—!” Her protest came to an abrupt halt as their hands touched, both gripping the handle of the bag. Satoru’s ring finger and pinky had draped themselves over her knuckles, his heart jolting as he noticed how small her hands were in comparison to his. The pair pulled the suitcase off of the belt together, Satoru lifting his eyes to observe her expression—Utahime’s cheeks were flushed a bright red, her fingers trembling underneath the weight of his hand as her aura fluttered.

Immediately, he pulled his hand back, flesh tingling from the warmth that had seeped from her skin. A dollop of golden cursed energy had burrowed itself within his palm, weaving into the fabric of his own aura. Odd—he’d never seen something like that happen before. Typically, his cursed energy repelled anything that tried to touch it, multiplying Infinities until whatever force attempting to intrude haplessly bounced away as everything else did. In this case, however, his cursed energy welcomed the intrusion; it welcomed her.

Satoru cleared his throat, flexing that same hand with three tentative pumps as he said, “That’s all of ‘em, then.” Forcing his quivering lips into a smile, he pushed his shades back into place with a single finger. “Our chauffeur’s waiting outside to take us to the resort so let’s get goin’, cool?” He didn’t bother waiting for any vocal confirmation—instead, Satoru began to head towards the exit himself, dragging his belongings behind him. The sweet aftertaste of milk and honey coated the inside of his throat, making his mouth water.

Admittedly, the level of which Utahime’s cursed energy had developed caught Satoru off-guard. In the past, he’d seen her cursed energy increase in potency when utilizing her cursed technique as expected of its very nature but, in regards to her passive energy, it had never been this compelling on its own. It made Satoru realize just how little they saw of each other since she graduated Jujutsu High—had she really grown so much in his absence?

~

The ride from Naha Airport to their resort had taken a little over an hour, putting them in the lobby for check-in just on time. Satoru stood with Utahime at the resort’s reception, drumming his knuckles on the wooden desk’s glossy surface. The receptionist had a congenial smile on her face, tapping manicured fingernails against a boxy keyboard. “Ah, here, under one Utahime Iori,” she finally confirmed after a minute. “Four guests between two club villas—a deluxe and a superior, correct?”

“Correct.” Satoru peered up at the receptionist, allowing a smile to tug at the corner of his mouth. He knew the question was directed at Utahime but, despite all the reservations being in her name, she had not a single clue what any of them entailed. Since he was still considered underaged at nineteen, Satoru had been required to book everything under someone over the age of twenty which meant either Utahime or Mei—and there was no way in hell he’d give the power of their trip over to Mei.

The receptionist glanced between Satoru and Utahime, brow co*cked with a question she clearly decided to keep to herself. “I have the four guests listed as Utahime Iori-san, Satoru Gojo-san, Shoko Ieiri-san, and Mei Mei-san,” she reiterated. “is that still correct?”

Utahime was able to answer this time. “Uh, yes, that’s correct.” Briefly, she flashed an uncertain glance over at Satoru who, at that very moment, realized he’d been staring at the side of her face intently. A warm flush erupted across her cheeks, Utahime tearing her honeyed gaze away from him and back toward the receptionist, her lip pulling up into a subtle snarl.

She’s so…tense. Satoru pressed his mouth into his palm, leaning further into the reception desk. The slight movement made the ferocious pounding of his heart more evident, annoying him. For once, he wanted to be completely neutral in Utahime’s presence. How the hell was he going to survive an entire week when he could barely manage a few hours?

“May I please have the credit card used to make this reservation?” The receptionist held out a polite palm.

With swift ease, Satoru slid his black card into her grip, a smug grin pulling at his wicked mouth as he noticed the receptionist silently balk at the weight of his credit card. “All expenses should be charged to this card, thank you.” Unable to help himself, Satoru winked over at Utahime beside him, relishing the way she rolled her eyes.

She nodded, placing the card down on the desk beside her before typing on her computer once again. Whatever the task, the receptionist had it completed quickly as she took in a satisfied breath, her typing slowly to a halt. “Alright, I’ve put Ieiri-san and Mei-san down in the superior suite,” she presented, sliding the credit card back to Satoru. “and you two in the deluxe suite upstairs.”

Utahime co*cked a curious brow. “Upstairs?”

The receptionist nodded. “The reservation was made with specific request that the two suites be close in proximity,” she explained. “but, when requesting a club villa, the closest accommodation we could offer were the upper-level and lower-level suites—a deluxe and a superior—which are always part of the same unit.”

“Oh, okay,” Utahime conceded, her furrowed brows indicating that she hadn’t fully understood the explanation. “that’s fine then, I guess.” She likely would have to see it to understand.

Four sets of keys were pushed across the counter towards Utahime. “The blue shell is for the deluxe suite,” the receptionist indicated. “and the white is for the superior.”

Satoru grabbed them up in his hands, jingling them excitedly. “Thanks!” He turned to look back at Shoko and Mei who were sitting in the lobby on fancy lounge chairs. “Hey, we got the goods! Grab your sh*t!”

“Gojo,” Utahime hissed in warning. “be more considerate!” She flashed a sheepish smile back at the receptionist who wore a stern expression. “Sorry about him, um—which way are the rooms?”

The receptionist handed Utahime a map of the property, her smile not quite reaching her eyes. “Towards the western tip of the cape. There should be a shuttle manned by one of our staff outside that can transport you to the cottages.” As Utahime accepted the map, the receptionist bowed. “Please, enjoy your stay here at The Busena Terrace.”

Utahime returned the bow before turning and joining the others again. As she stepped up beside Satoru, she sneered up at his sh*t-eating grin. “You’re so embarrassing,” she complained. “Mind your manners at the very least if you’re going to put everything in my name!”

In response, Satoru stuck his tongue out at her, grabbing hold of his belongings. “Anyway, I heard we’re being transported to our rooms? That’s pretty neat, if you ask me!” He turned towards the main doors, intending to lead the group where they needed to go.

But, before they could start moving, Mei sighed deeply. “I’m exhausted, honestly,” she complained, arms folded tightly over her chest. “Utahime, be a dear—carry my bags for me, will you?”

Utahime blinked down at her. “…huh?”

Mei stood, booted heels clicking against the polished floorboards as she moved around the lounge chairs toward the main doors. “You have an extra hand,” she pointed out, indicating the fact that Utahime had brought a duffel bag as her carry-on. “I would really be so grateful if you could take my luggage out to the shuttle so I can rest my arms a bit.” Her expression softened into one of overt flattery. “After all, you do have stronger arms than me.” Without waiting for an answer, Mei continued walking toward the front doors, dragging only her small carry-on luggage behind her.

Satoru furrowed his brows as Utahime sighed, moving to grab Mei’s suitcase in deference. That’s it? Satoru wanted to say. You’re not even gonna fight back? When he looked to Shoko for answers, she only spared him a shrug, moving with her own belongings in pursuit of Mei. This was the third time that day Mei had manipulated Utahime into doing what shewanted and it didn’t seem right to him, especially when it was clear Utahime was inconvenienced by it.

A part of him wondered if he was making a mountain out of a molehill. If Shoko’s dismissive shrug and Utahime’s unwillingness to fight were any indication, perhaps this was merely a facet of girlhood he didn’t understand. Satoru vaguely recalled a conversation he had with Nanami and Haibara once, the latter claiming that women had their own hierarchy of ‘alphas’ and ‘betas’ of which they based their friend groups around—was that what this was?

Was Mei trying to assert some sort of weird ‘alpha female’ dominance over Utahime?

In any case, as she softly grunted under the weight of dragging Mei’s bag in addition to her own, Satoru refused to allow her to struggle senselessly. “I’ll be taking that,” he insisted, ripping Utahime’s bag out of her grip. “Your arms definitely aren’t stronger than mine, Hime!” Deftly maneuvering the suitcases so he could roll three at once, Satoru broke out into a jog, wolfish grin stretched across his face. “C’mon—keep up!”

GOJO!”

~

The four of them stood at the foot of their villa. There was a set of wooden doors tucked underneath a staircase, indicating the entrance to the lower-level suite, while another pair of doors sat at the top of the steps leading to the upper-level suite.

“Which has access to the private pool?” Mei questioned, looking at her nails with a dead expression. She clearly knew which one possessed the pool, asking only as a formality before she’d inevitably lay claim to it.

Satoru furrowed his brows. “Does that matter? You could just come down and use it, if—”

“I want the room with the private pool,” she insisted coolly. “Why waste precious minutes of my time descending some stairs when I could just step in?”

“It’s the lower-level suite,” Utahime informed, looking at map the receptionist gave her.

Obviously.” Mei unceremoniously plucked one of the white shells out of Satoru’s hand, the superior suite’s key dangling from it. “Anyway, Ieiri, I’m assuming you’ll be staying with me on the lower-level, right?”

Shoko hesitated, observing Utahime for a moment. “Doesn’t matter to me,” she said, dipping her fingers into her jacket pocket. “I figured I’d be staying where Gojo is, actu—”

“That wouldn’t be possible,” Mei interrupted, earning a curious look from both Shoko and Gojo. “at least, not if you’re expecting to smoke while on this trip.”

As if to illustrate her point, Shoko had pulled out a smushed pack of cigarettes, lifting a brow at Mei. “Hmm?”

Utahime, a hint of distress flickering across her face, kept her eyes on the pamphlet in hand as she explained, “The deluxe suite is a non-smoking room.” As her bottom lip quivered with anxiety, reams of golden energy fluttered around her uncontrollably, her gaze refusing to move in Satoru’s direction. “So, I have to be in Gojo’s room…” The despair in her voice wounded his ego a little bit—she made rooming with him sound like such a bad thing.

“I mean, not necessarily,” Satoru refuted, pushing aside the sting. “Mei-san could just take the deluxe suite with you, Utahime.”

Unfortunately, Mei wasn’t someone who could be reasoned with. “No,” she purred, moving toward the lower-level suite’s doors. “I’ve made my choice.” The second white shell key was taken by Shoko almost immediately afterward, following behind Mei with a disinterested expression.

Irritation prickled at his fingertips. “Well, at least take your bag with you!” With a disapproving click of his tongue, he warped up to the top of the steps and used the blue shell key to unlock the doors. “Don’t worry about our stuff, Hime,” he called down to her. “I’ll take care of it!” From the distance, he could see Utahime sigh deeply before dedicating herself to dragging Mei’s suitcase down to the lower-level suite for her.

Making good on his promise, Satoru warped their belongings up to the upper-level, leaving them just in front of the sliding doors that would lead into the suite itself. He was determined to wait for Utahime to make it safely up the stairs before opening the doors, a part of him not wanting to experience the initial thrill of fancy resort amenities without her. Satoru fixed his Six Eyes on Utahime’s traversing form through the floor beneath him, her aura pulsing rhythmically before stalling in the doorway. She’s hesitant.

Satoru would be lying if he said he couldn’t understand why—the same hesitation rested somewhere within himself as well, regardless of how he tried to dismiss it with an unperturbed acceptance. Only, in his situation, the concern lied within the ecstatic thumping of his heart when she drew near as his subdued fingers ached to indulge in gluttonous ardor. A sense of gravity sobered him as he shamefully recalled years of cleaning up late night fantasies from his desperate palms, spilled over by the mere thought of Utahime.

Now, here he was, expected to share a bedroom with her for nearly six days in earnest, the plush body that haunted his daydreams mere inches away from him in proximity…Good thing I requested the double twin beds. Satoru could already feel his chastity crumbling as Utahime’s aura moved away from the lower-level suite and completed her trek up to meet him above. When her physical form finally came into view, Satoru went to great lengths to conceal his bubbling excitement, maintaining a neutral expression and burying his shaking fists in his pockets.

“Look who finally made it,” he teased. “I thought you’d gotten lost.”

Utahime scowled, arms folded tightly over her chest. “You didn’t have to wait for me,” she told him harshly. “You could’ve just gone in.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Satoru handed her the second blue shell key. “I’m personally looking forward to fighting over who gets which bed. If I didn’t wait for you, it’d be no contest—boring!” He paused for dramatic effect, stepping aside so Utahime could unlock the door. “Well, I guess it’d be no contest anyway since I always win but—semantics.”

The doors slid open, framing Utahime’s harsh grumble. “Shut up, Gojo.” Without further discussion, the pair kicked off their shoes in the doorway, pulling their belongings in past the threshold and dropping them in the most unobtrusive place they could find which was apparently right in front of the cedar cabinet to the left of the door. “Wow…”

An expression of wonder melted the harsh lines of Utahime’s face, her warm brown eyes fixated on the open balcony. It appeared as if the housekeepers who had prepared the room purposely left the thick glass panels slid ajar, allowing the tropical air to billow through the suite unobstructed. The brown cedar furniture gave off a warm, inviting atmosphere and highlighted the scent of sea water. “Look at that view, Gojo,” gasped Utahime, grinning vibrantly.

And, try as he might, Satoru couldn’t hold back his smile.

As the Gojo Clan’s heir, he was used to such displays of opulence. An ocean view, such as the one before them, could only be bought with money and he had no shortage of that in his nineteen years of living. It hadn’t occurred to him that something like this could be considered exciting on its own without the concept of sharing the luxury resort villa with someone he had the hots for—so Utahime’s natural, unadulterated wonder had charmed him through flesh and bone.

“If you think that view is great,” Satoru bubbled as Utahime moved through the room at an even pace. “wait ‘til you see the other amenities this place comes with. Oh man, I have to read you the package they emailed me! Apparently, they have round-the-clock butler services—can you believe that?! I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on their way with the complimentary drinks and welcome fruit platters right this sec—!”

A sudden screech pierced the air, interrupting his monologue as Utahime had disappeared around the entertainment console which acted as a room divider. Satoru flashed his Six Eyes in her direction, moving swiftly to meet her despite not noticing anything out of the ordinary. “Utahime?” Satoru rounded the same corner, finding Utahime standing tensely in the middle of the bedoom. “What happened?”

As he followed her horrified gaze, Satoru finally realized what the problem was. Oh…sh*t. In the middle of the room, pushed up against the room divider, was a single king-sized bed. Confusion tied his stomach into uncertain knots, brows knitting together at the discomfort flooding his nervous system as he cleared his throat. “Well, that’s not…what I asked for.”

“Double twin beds!” Utahime shrieked. “You said, double twin beds!”

Satoru pointed at her. “That’s what I asked for.”

She dramatically indicated the single bed. “Clearly not, Gojo!”

His mouth gaped open to argue with her but he quickly snapped it shut. Arguing wasn’t going to get them anywhere, especially when the evidence contradictory to his argument was right in front of them. Satoru turned toward the balcony, walking until his gut was pushed up against the railing. “Yo, Shoko!”

Shortly after, he spotted the top of his friend’s head below. She tilted her head back to look up at him with a curious expression, shoulder-length brown hair spilling backward over her shoulders with an unlit cigarette pinched between her teeth. “What’s up?”

“Just out of curiosity,” Satoru called down. “do you guys have double twin beds?”

Shoko pulled out her lighter, holding the open flame to the end of her cigarette. It wasn’t until after the cigarette was fully lit and she’d taken a generous drag that she finally answered his question with an offhanded, “Yeah.”

Utahime whimpered behind him, having dropped into a crouch as she buried her mortified face into her hands. She was muttering something unintelligible, distress causing ripples of cursed energy to pool around her feet; it was as viscous as honey, dripping away from her aura. Darting a nervous tongue over his bottom lip and with a solid slap against the railing, Satoru pushed himself back into the room with her. “Look, why don’t I go talk to the receptionist and see if we can—?”

“What, move rooms?” Utahime interrupted harshly. “It’s too much of an inconvenience for the staff—they’ve already gone through so much trouble preparing this room for us.” She breathed in, the shakiness in her tone making Satoru realize she was more so trying to reason with herself than with him. “Mei-san and Shoko are probably already comfortable. It would be silly to uproot them and inconvenience staff because of a really, really stupid mistake.”

After a few moments of silence, Utahime stood up and adjusted her shorts, glaring at the bed. “I can sleep on the couch,” Satoru offered, hoping to ease the tension in her face just a little bit. He moved back around the room divider into the living room, pointing at the tiny couch nestled tightly between two side tables.

Utahime moved to look at the couch herself before she snorted, “Yeah, no, you can take the bed. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Satoru co*cked a brow. “You sure? The bed would be a lot more comfortable than—”

“Gojo, how tall are you?” Utahime flashed him a humorless smile.

“A hundred and ninety centimeters,” he answered. “why?”

Utahime didn’t respond immediately. Instead, she dragged her eyes over his form in a way that made his heart palpitate, a hungry creature roiling within his gut. “I say this as offensively as possible,” she quipped suddenly. “you are stupidly tall. There’s no way you’re fitting on that thing but, luckily, I can.” She folded her arms firmly over her chest. “And, trust me, I’m saying this selfishly. I really don’t want to listen to you complain for the next six days about back pain or neck problems, especially since I’m stuck in here with you.”

A wry smile formed on his face. “I mean, we could share. I certainly wouldn’t mind if we—”

“Yeah, no, I’m sleeping on the couch.”

The next morning, Satoru rolled off of the fluffy king-sized mattress to the obnoxious sound of snoring. He blinked the crust of sleep out of his eyes, looking around the bed for the t-shirt he most definitely shrugged off in the middle of the night as was typical of him. Once his long fingers secured themselves around the fabric, Satoru dared to look at the resort’s digital clock on the bedside table. 7 AM, according to the angry red lines—the time breakfast could be ordered via room service.

Satoru stood with a grumble, his joints cracking as he slipped his shirt on over his messy head. I should order soon so breakfast is here before Utahime wakes up. Grabbing his phone off the charger, he quickly checked his notifications for any pressing matters. Of course, he wasn’t expecting any as, the night prior, Satoru made sure to do his evening check-in with Ijichi on how things were going with his rugrats during summer vacation.

Oh, everything’s just fine today,” Ijichi had told him, a slight smile in his muffled tone. “Tsumiki found some mochi recipe online so we’re trying our hand at making some for dessert. Megumi—some more potato starch, please? Thanks...

It had been four months since Satoru had taken over as Megumi and Tsumiki’s guardian, moving them to a nice apartment in Saitama and hiring Ijichi as a babysitter. Since his junior was still just a third year attending Jujutsu High, he was only able to work some evenings and weekends but, thankfully, that was all Satoru needed for the time being. He had covered the rest himself, acting as a sort of older brother to his new wards.

Despite being a full-time jujutsu sorcerer now, Satoru noticed a significant decrease in the amount of missions he’d been taking on; likely because he now had the choice to ignore requests. Before, he was at the mercy of contractual obligations, completing assignments per his status as a student with the justification that he required the experience prior to graduation. From measly Grade 4 assignments to Special Grade, it didn’t matter. He had to accept them all—so, as a little treat for four years of hard work, Satoru allowed himself to be picky and that afforded him much more free time.

At first, when accepting the offer of vacation, Satoru worried that there would be no one to care for his wards while he was away. Thankfully, they had planned the trip for the end of July when both the children and Ijichi would be on break from their respective schools. Of course, it did mean Ijichi had to move into the apartment for a week, but Satoru figured it could be worth it.

And, as he rounded the room divider to enter the living room, Satoru realized that it was worth it.

Utahime was draped uncomfortably over the tiny couch, limbs sprawled about with only half the blanket still covering her sleeping form. All the pillows had been haplessly thrown onto the floor, one of which was still locked in a tight grip as her arm hung off the edge of the couch. Head simultaneously pressed against the couch’s cushion and tucked into her own neck, Utahime’s lips were forced open, a crusted trail of drool slipping down the corner of her mouth as she snored loudly.

That absolutely cannot be comfortable. And yet, she slept like a log—a very loud log. As Satoru drew near with a wicked grin, Utahime snorted and popped her dry lips tentatively, still fully unconscious. He knew he had to document this moment, pulling out his phone and making sure to take as many pictures as possible from different angles. When he finally took one he was satisfied with, Satoru decided to make it his new wallpaper, smiling down at the image.

Her ink-black hair had matted up against her skull, likely due to friction from the constant repositioning she’d been doing all night. The oversized t-shirt she wore that was much too large for her had ridden up, revealing a sweet little pair of pyjama shorts covered in kitties and just a sliver of her milky stomach. She’d lost a sock in her struggle with sleep as the one which remained hung on for dear life around her ankle. And, while Utahime would look absolutely insane to anyone else, Satoru thought she was the cutest little thing.

Of course, Satoru’s snickering wouldn’t go unnoticed for long as the sleeping Utahime grumbled, subconsciously moving her body into a significantly less hilarious position. This pushed Satoru to finally reach for the suite’s landline which sat on the side table at her feet, lifting the receiver to his ear as he dialed the number for room service. Without any volume control, Satoru ordered a full breakfast course for two, gazing upon the empty fruit platter as well as the two empty champagne flutes on the coffee table.

“Oh, could you also bring some mimosas?” Satoru added at the end. “Let’s start with four and go from there.”

~

It wasn’t long before Utahime finally woke up, groaning as the sound of her joints popping reached even Satoru out on the balcony where he sat. “Damn, you really are old, huh?”

“Shuddup,” she slurred, drawing his gaze. “What time’s it?”

Satoru peered at her over his sunglasses, noting the sleepy daze on her features. Utahime rubbed at her sleep-swollen eyes before moving her neck about in a circular motion, a hand flying up to grip at her shoulder with a hiss immediately afterward. The sleepy daze screwed up into pained dissatisfaction, white teeth gnawing into her bottom lip.

“Smarts, doesn’t it?” Satoru took a sip of the coffee he made using the machine near the front door, deciding another sugar packet was necessary to cut the bitterness. As he stirred more sugar into the mug, he lifted a single brow. “Wouldn’t’ve slept so terribly if you just shared the bed with me, y’know?”

Utahime pushed herself up onto her feet, the stretch of her lithe body drawing his gaze. “I slept fine, Gojo,” she insisted. “Now, where’d you get that coffee?”

Satoru indicated the machine at her side. “I made enough for two.”

With a hum, Utahime poured whatever was left in the pot into a cup before shuffling over towards the balcony. There wasn’t a single concern for the missing sock on her left foot as she breathed in the coffee’s rich aroma, serenity melting away any early morning frustrations she might’ve had. “And breakfast?”

“I ordered it about half an hour ago,” he told her, tearing his devout gaze from her face. “Should be here any minute.”

“What about Mei and Shoko?” Utahime brought the mug up to her bottom lip, brushing the ceramic against the soft pink flesh absentmindedly.

Satoru swallowed sharply, eyes magnetized to her goddamn mouth. “What about them?” He winced internally, hating how constipated he sounded. Did she seriously not realize what she was doing to him?

“Breakfast,” she reiterated. “are they joining us—are we joining them?” Utahime blew gently on the dark liquid before slurping loudly but not even that could make her less attractive in his eyes.

He shrugged. “I dunno. I only ordered for our room.”

With a roll of her eyes, Utahime shuffled over to the balcony, sticking her head out over the railing. “Morning! Did you guys order breakfast yet?”

The tropical breeze tugged at her loose t-shirt, drawing Satoru’s attention to her torso. She’s definitely not wearing a bra. He tore his gaze away, opting to fiddle with his cellphone. Honestly, he wasn’t sure how to handle this incredibly casual side of Utahime. Satoru had expected her to be much more shy and guarded considering how devastated she was at the idea of having to room with him for the week; a part of him wanted her to be.

Not because he didn’t like this side of Utahime—on the contrary, he loved it. He liked her matted, messy bedhead and sleep-crusted eyes; he liked her mismatched pyjamas and her stinky morning breath. He found her snoring and disregard for her missing sock charming; he appreciated the way she bantered with him the moment she’d woken up and felt so comfortable, she didn’t shy away from him in such a vulnerable state of dress. It flooded him with such gentle affection, he wanted to reach over to tuck that stray strand of hair behind her ear and pepper the curve of her scar with a trail of kisses.

Satoru needed Utahime to be closed off and distant; withdrawn and dismissive. If she treated him as undesirable, he could convince himself to not desire her. If she treated him as a pest, he could convince himself to keep an emotional distance. With her vulnerable and open to him, Satoru was likely to make mistakes, forsaking his self-restraint in favor of an indulgence he’s denied himself for so many years now.

Utahime sat on the chair opposite of Satoru, pressing her shoulder up against the railing as she smiled down upon her friends who were likely seated just as they were. She took another loud sip of coffee, smiling into the flavor. “Wow, I’m impressed, Gojo,” she said suddenly. “didn’t realize you made such good coffee.”

He snorted, avoiding her appreciative gaze. “What’s so hard about tossing some beans into a machine?”

“Would it kill you to just take the compliment?”

“From you?” Satoru flashed her a sarcastic smile. “Probably.”

Her cheeks puffed out with irritation, hiding her pout behind the steaming mug. “Duly noted,” she muttered. “I’m never complimenting you again.” A pregnant pause lingered between them, Satoru still using his phone to keep himself preoccupied. “So, what’s the plan for today?”

“I dunno.” He shrugged. “Whatever you guys want.”

Utahime hummed, leaning back in her chair. “Hey, guys,” she called down to the other women. “what should we do after breakfast?”

Without hesitation, they both called back, “Beach!”

Satoru flourished his hand out toward the railing. “Well, there’s your answer.” When he was met with silence, Satoru allowed his gaze to reach her. She was staring down at the table with furrowed brows, gnawing at her lower lip with uncertainty. “Utahime?”

In response to his voice, she looked up and quickly took another sip of her coffee. “Yeah, what’s up?”

“You good?”

Utahime nodded, clearing her throat. “Yeah, totally,” she said weakly. “I’m just hungry.”

“Right,” he drawled. Satoru allowed himself another moment of examination, his eyes landing on her shaking leg—she was nervous. “Do you not want to go to the beach?”

“What?” Utahime responded much too abruptly. “Of course, I do!”

No, she doesn’t. Satoru nodded slowly, figuring it would be best not to push the issue. “Okay, well, if you don’t, let me know. I know plenty of other things we can do instead.” While his offer was made in earnest, Satoru knew Utahime wouldn’t take him up on it. Even the slightest bit of pushback from Mei would have Utahime relenting in a heartbeat.

“Yeah, thanks.” Utahime returned to slowly sipping her coffee, redirecting her thoughtful staring from the table towards the horizon.

And Satoru, in turn, held his tongue.

Notes:

okay so this entire arc is REALLY f*ckING LONG LMAOOOOOOO

originally, it was just supposed to be two chapters.............well, now it's three!! this is the shorter chapter of the other two,,,, kinda like the introductory chapter of the arc hehe??

ANYWAY ONE BED ONE BED ONE BED!!!!!!!!!!!!

pls, enjoy!!! i'll be posting the next chapter soon enough huehuehue~

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 7: young god

Summary:

“I’m a theoretical physicist’s wet dream.”

Utahime rolled her eyes, opening her mouth to say something when Shoko decided to interject. “Hey, Utahime-senpai, trust me when I say—do not fall into this trap with him, okay?” Shoko flashed an exasperated look in his direction as if reliving all the times they’d gotten caught up in a theoretical discussion with no resolution after hours of debate, eliciting a smug waggle of brows from Satoru.

Of course, Utahime blinked innocently, her lips pursed. “I don’t know, it sounds really interesting to me,” she reasoned with a shrug. “I like science.”

“Well, suit yourself then,” Shoko sighed. “but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Suddenly, Satoru sat on Utahime’s lounge chair, facing his eager back toward her as he threw the sunscreen bottle over his shoulder. She squeaked, catching it clumsily, bringing a wolfish quality to his grin. “Lather me up, will you?”

“W-What?” From the sound of her voice, Satoru knew she was blushing.

“Well, I can’t exactly reach my own back,” he pointed out. “or should I neglect such a broad area of skin, hmm?”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

he says, "ooh, baby girl, don't get cut on my edges,
i'm the king of everything and, oh, my tongue is a weapon,
there's a light in the crack that's separating your thighs,
and if you wanna go to heaven, you should f*ck me tonight"


and i've been sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool

for awhile now, drowning my thoughts out with the sounds


but do you feel like a young god?

you know the two of us are just young gods
and we'll be flying through the streets

with the people underneath
and they're running, running, running

- Halsey

* * * * * * *

Satoru rapped his knuckles against the bathroom door, pushing his sunglasses up until they rested atop his head. “Utahime, c’mon! You’ve been in there for over an hour. Everyone’s ready already!”

He could see her aura pacing the length of the bathroom, an uncertain pulse rippling outward. Utahime had been quite apprehensive about the clothing she’d pulled from her bag, practically running into the bathroom to change. Of course, Satoru wasn’t dense—Utahime’s hesitation was rooted in insecurity, that much was clear.

The insecurity itself is what he couldn't seem to wrap his head around.

“I’ll be out in a minute!” Her voice wavered, not an ounce of courage detected in her tone.

Satoru considered walking away. Perhaps he should’ve convinced the other two to go on ahead without her and either wait until Utahime was ready or try to coax her into doing a different activity. But he knew she needed to face whatever this was—so, he smushed his cheek against the door and cooed, “I bet you look real pretty, Hime. I wouldn’t worry so much.”

Utahime paused, approaching the door slowly before mirroring his position. Her cursed energy had eased into a gentle flicker, licking outward in his direction. “That’s easy for you to say,” she mused. “You’ve always been perfect.”

Heart stuttering, his mouth blurted out, “And you aren’t?” Dead silence was all he received in response. Did I say the wrong thing?

Suddenly, the door slid open, forcing Satoru to stumble backward. With wide eyes, he observed Utahime who didn’t return his gaze, a warm flush powdering her nose. “Okay, I’m ready.” Utahime was wearing her jean shorts again, a red hoodie zipped up to cover her torso. She’d slipped on a straw hat which did well to shield her face.

Satoru co*cked a brow. “You got a bathing suit on under there?”

“Yeah,” she confirmed hesitantly.

Deciding not to push his luck, Satoru dropped his sunglasses back down onto his nose. “Well, then—the beach calls our name.”

As they made their way down the stairs, Satoru rolled up the sleeves of his jacket before tucking his hands into the pockets. Mei and Shoko were standing at the foot of the stairs, beach bags slung over their shoulders. “Well, look who decided to show up,” Shoko sassed, eyes shielded from the morning sun by a stylish pair of tortoise-shell sunglasses. “Got enough layers there?”

Utahime folded her arms over her chest, clearing her throat with discomfort. “It’s supposed to get chilly later tonight,” she excused, eyes scanning over her friends’ exposed bodies. There was a hint of jealousy in her demeanor as evident by the tightening of her arms, blocking herself off from the rest of them.

“Right,” she drawled. Somehow, despite the awkward length of her hair which had been tied into a loose ponytail and her chipped black nail polish, Shoko managed to maintain a chic air about her. She’d always been dubbed the cool girl, slick mouth wrapped around whatever paraphernalia her oral fixation demanded, expending little effort towards her appearance despite being considered a bombshell. At the moment, Shoko wore a lavender bikini under a thin black jacket for some semblance of modesty, sleeves rolled up to withstand the summer sun.

Mei, on the other hand, left herself completely exposed in a black bikini, a lightweight sash tied around her generous hips. Her silky silver hair was braided down her back, giving her an air of sophistication and decorum. Mei was a direct contrast to Shoko what with her high maintenance persona; she never left home without a fresh manicure, moisturized skin, and perfectly plucked brows. “Shall we go then?”

Objectively speaking, Utahime looked like a marble-skinned cherub by comparison, her modest demeanor diminishing whatever appeal she possessed even further when nestled between them. When he really thought about it, he found Utahime’s concerns a bit more understandable as, to an outside observer, she stuck out like a sore thumb amongst their group. And Satoru didn’t make it any better by adding his near god-like beauty to the mix while accompanying them.

However, he thought Utahime was beautiful—and astoundingly so.

She had always been considered one of the more desirable girls amongst their group—up until she received that scar. But that never made any sense to Satoru. A scar couldn’t erase the sweet warmth of her gaze nor the charm of her flesh when it burned a dusty pink; it had no effect on the lushness of her ink-black hair nor the plumpness of her rosy lips. Her nose still scrunched up when she smiled, the gold tones in her brown eyes prominent as they glistened with mirth. Everything that made Utahime beautiful was still there so why did everyone make it seem as if a scar of all things could devalue her?

Another part of him—a detestably selfish part of him—was glad she’d fallen so far from grace, losing favor with those who’d once admired her. Satoru was glad others couldn’t treasure her the way he could because that meant she could never belong to anyone else but him. Utahime was his pretty little songbird while the scar on her face acted as the gilded cage in which she was kept from the world, only Satoru privy to her beauty.

The four of them walked from the villa cottages through the marine park, Satoru making note of the underwater observatory nearby. Maybe I can take Utahime there…? The ocean surrounding the cape was the clearest blue Satoru had ever seen—he’d wager that the observatory would be quite the experience. When Satoru turned to Utahime, the comment he’d wanted to make died on his tongue, noticing her apprehension had grown exponentially as the beach came into view.

Soon, they spotted the ramp leading down, the concrete path dipping beneath the sandy shore. It was only halfway down this slope that Utahime suddenly froze, wide eyes fixed on the crowded shoreline. “Okay, I have a confession to make!”

All three turned to peer up at Utahime with matching expressions of bemusem*nt, questioning her wordlessly. She didn’t respond immediately, her mouth quivering with uncertainty as if she were running through dialogue options in her brain. “I’m, um….terrified of the ocean?” She posed the confession as a question, indicating to Satoru that she was being dishonest.

With an incredulous grin, Satoru blurted, “What?” While his response could’ve been interpreted as disbelief in the idea that anyone could possibly fear the ocean, in reality, he was shocked to witness Utahime—of all people—trying to lie. The steadfast and virtuous woman she was, she’d never been one to be deceitful; sure, maybe she wasn’t always honest but that was in the way of withholding, not actively lying.

A silence befell them as Utahime pressed her lips into a firm line, rubbing her palms together. Her eyes were dragged downward by shame, shoulders tensing for verbal impact as the shuffle of Mei’s sandals filled the silence. Surely, Mei of all people would call Utahime out on her dishonesty.

“Alright,” she said slowly. “and this fear of the ocean—will it disrupt your enjoyment of our vacation?”

Satoru co*cked a curious brow but held his tongue. What’s she getting at?

Utahime’s eyes darted back and forth as Mei stopped in front of her. “Uh, I would say so…yes?”

Mei had her arms neatly folded over her chest, a pair of large black sunglasses sitting atop her head as she examined Utahime for a moment. Finally, she shrugged. “Alright, no beach then.”

“Huh?!” Satoru couldn’t have been more surprised.

For a moment, he believed he might’ve crossed dimensions which, upon further consideration, was entirely possible given the unexplored implications of his cursed technique…Hmm, maybe I should file that away for later. Right now, he had to wrap his head around the fact that Mei—selfish, detestable, and fastidious Mei—who had been pushing her around all this time was actually, for once, showing deference to Utahime.

And despite her bold-faced lie too. Or because of it, a tiny voice suggested.

Mei moved past Utahime to stand beside her, facing Shoko and Satoru. “I have an appointment at the resort’s spa for an exfoliating facial later,” she explained. “Not that I’m any sort of esthetician but I highly doubt sand and sea water are good precursors for something so intense. So, I’ll accept Utahime’s suggestion—no beach.”

Utahime perked up, relief washing over her features. “I’m sure we can find something else to do,” she bubbled, her words pushed out in a rush. “There’s a craft house up the cape in Banyan Village where they have pottery and—”

“No.” Mei dropped her sunglasses onto her nose. The shades covered more than half her face which drew all the attention down to her typically unsmiling mouth, pulled back into an unnerving grin. “We’re dressed for the occasion,” she reasoned. “let’s go to the pool instead.”

“The…pool?” Utahime blanched. As if to illustrate her words, there was a loud splash nearby followed by a mix of laughter in the distance. The resort’s pool was located just within view of the beach’s entrance, a very short walk away from where they currently stood which made it an inconsequential detour.

Mei nodded emphatically. “Or can you also not swim—you know, in addition to being afraid of the ocean?” When Utahime opened her mouth to say something, Mei suddenly interjected, “Ah, that’s right, you can swim. I almost forgot about that one really funny story you told me years ago about you and your brothers swimming in the Arakawa River…”

Embarrassment flooded Utahime’s face, a deep flush reaching the very tips of her ears. “Mei-san…”

“Wait, what happened?” Satoru’s curiosity was successfully piqued. “I wanna know! Tell me, tell me!”

Mei giggled wickedly. “Well, when Utahime was eleven, she—”

Utahime dropped her frantic arms against her sides in a huff, teeth grinding together. “Fine,” she snapped. “Let’s just go to the pool, alright?” To emphasize her unwillingness to have her past revealed, Utahime lead the way for them despite her reluctance. With a tight fist, she pointed a sharp finger in warning towards Mei. “And don’t tell him about that!”

“Aw, ‘cmon, Hime!” Satoru whined, trailing after her.

“Shut up, Gojo!”

They followed Utahime up a steep incline, the sound of a mechanical waterfall greeting them as the facilities came into view along the path. “Think it’s still early enough to find a good spot by the poolside?” Shoko inquired, popping a piece of nicotine gum into her mouth—this was a non-smoking area, after all.

Mei wrung out a smirk. “Oh, I’ve already got that covered.”

The lounge chairs in the immediate area were all taken, leaving Satoru curious as to what Mei could be referring to. As they walked further in, he finally noticed that the pool area was actually two floors of which they were on the upper level. Suddenly, the outline of bodies in the ground captured by his Six Eyes made sense.

Once they reached the steps which led to the lower level, Satoru spotted a murder of crows perched about four lounge chairs closest the steps they were descending. They embodied a similar aura to their master’s own—plum-colored with a viscosity similar to a melted bar of chocolate; slightly chunky, sticky, and wholly unappetizing. “Creative,” he complimented dryly, noting the odd stares from other resort guests nearby. “if a little obvious.”

Mei approached first, waving a single hand to disperse the crows. “I secured us a good spot, did I not?”

Satoru co*cked a brow. “I mean, I guess. Why this one though? What’s so great about this?”

Mei pointed back up the steps. “The poolside bar is up there,” she stated before moving her hand down to indicate the other side of the pool. “and the waterslide is just there. I compromised—you’re welcome.”

A grin slid onto his face as he spotted the waterslide, a few children gathering around it. “Y’know, I’m starting to think you’re a little sweet on me, Mei-san.”

She pushed her glasses down to peer at him with a suggestive smirk. “I could always be sweeter…for a price.”

While he knew he initiated the banter, Satoru couldn’t help but shiver at the way words rolled off her tongue. Mei always managed to make him feel slimy and uncomfortable. “Hmm, yeah, no thanks.”

As they settled on the lounge chairs, laying out their beach towels and popping up the resort-provided umbrellas, Satoru observed their surroundings. Children milled about the waterslide, breathlessly running up the steps before slipping back down into the blue depths with gleeful screams. A few splashed chlorinated water into each other’s faces as they floated about, giggles high above the trickling waterfall. Parents monitored their activities closely while in attendance at the poolside bar, tropical music washing over them from the many speakers strategically placed around the facilities.

The significant lack of negative energy lifted his spirits, reminding him why he enjoyed vacation spots such as these so much. It was the primary reason jujutsu sorcerers never found themselves going to an island paradise to exorcise a curse—it was significantly more difficult for negative emotions to fester in places of relaxation. A shame for sorcerers when looking at it selfishly but, ultimately, he knew it was for the best.

When Satoru turned backed, he noticed how Mei and Shoko wasted no time in shedding whatever extra layers they had decided to wear, laying themselves out on their lounge chairs to expose their skin to the fervent sun. Utahime, on the other hand, lacked the same enthusiasm for sunbathing. She sat upright in her chair, arms and legs firmly crossed in an overt display of modesty. The reflection of the sun’s glow within the pool made her brown eyes look almost golden, narrowed sharply on the water’s surface. She’s sulking…

“So,” he presented with a cautious smile, shrugging off his jacket. “are we swimmin’ or what?”

Laying on her stomach, Shoko peered up at Satoru. “In a few minutes.”

Mei hummed in agreement. “Be patient, Gojo,” she purred, sending another vile chill down his spine. “We’ll indulge you yet.”

“And you?” He turned to Utahime. “Wanna take a dip?”

She avoided his gaze. “No thanks. I’ll pass.”

“Aw, why?!” Satoru complained. “What’s the point of coming to the pool if you’re not gonna swim?!”

“Relaxation?” Utahime offered irritably.

Boring!” When he wasn’t met with a response, Satoru flopped onto the empty lounge chair between Utahime and Mei with a groan. “We should’ve brought Nanami along.”

“He definitely wouldn’t have gone swimming,” Shoko pointed out.

Satoru rolled his eyes to avoid admitting that she was correct, leaning back onto his arms with a huff. He’d simply have to wait until Mei and Shoko were ready to jump into the pool with him, hoping the sight of them having a good time would convince Utahime to tag along. From his peripheral, he noticed Utahime’s eyes flickering about as if fighting a desire to fix her eyes on something specific.

After a few moments of observation, he noticed a tentative glance in his direction, her gaze resting upon his abdominal area. Out of curiosity, he glanced down at himself, not noticing anything out of the ordinary. Like always, he had a happy trail of white hair leading down beneath his waistband, framed by a v-line—girls always went crazy for that.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to Satoru, a wry grin pulling at his wicked mouth. Is she checking me out? Licking his lips, he turned his head toward Utahime and noticed how she snatched her gaze away, cheeks tinted pink. She brought a hand up to fan at her flushed face, clearing her throat subtly. Holy sh*t, she is checking me out!

Excitement flooded Satoru’s nervous system, his heart pounding wildly as he decided to capitalize on this opportunity. He twisted his body to lay on his side, propping his head up to gaze at her over his sunglasses. Then, with a flirtatious smirk, he asked, “You sure you don’t wanna go swimming with us, Hime?”

Incredible how he could see the thoughts practically swimming within the gold pools of her eyes, brows twitching with a desperate need to express themselves. Utahime had taken in a sharp breath which she would hold for a long time as she avoided looking directly at him. In the brief silence, a few unintelligible voices moved toward them, belonging to a group of three men who seemed to have intentions of merely passing by.

Naturally, Satoru dismissed them but, for whatever reason, Utahime was drawn to their kinetic forms. Her intense scrutiny had him redirecting his gaze to follow her own, curious as to what was so fascinating about the trio of non-sorcerers. Upon further inspection, the most there was to note were the lecherous stares landing upon Mei and Shoko’s sun-kissed bodies as they trudged past—and, by extension, the lack of any acknowledgement towards Utahime herself.

Good. A cord of possession ripped through him like a chainsaw. I’d have to kill them otherwise.

Her throat stirred, a melancholic expression crossing her features. “I’m fine,” she sighed in response.

The excitement churning within his core had quickly dissipated, forcing his jaw to tighten with irritation. He didn’t understand—why did it matter if those men had overlooked her or not; admired her or not? She’d been checking him out just a few seconds ago and, here he was, giving her his undivided attention because she was the prettiest thing on this goddamn cape and yet, not a single sliver of confidence stirred within her.

His features eased into a blank expression, trying to disguise his sulking. Whatever.

“Alright,” Shoko grunted, pushing herself up onto her knees. “you ready to take a dip, Gojo?”

Mood brightening, he hopped up onto his feet. “Born ready!” He scooped his thumbs along the waistband of his swimming trunks, giving the elastic a snap. Puling his sunglasses off his face, Satoru prepared himself with full intention of diving headfirst into the water like the maniac he was. “Think I can make a splash big enough to hit the upper level?”

“Mm, probably.” Her voice was accompanied by the sound of liquid squelching. When he turned to sate his curiosity, he found a blue bottle of lotion in her hand, a generous amount of thick white fluid in her palms. “Sunscreen?” Shoko offered, tossing it to him without waiting for an answer. “Unless Infinity also blocks U.V. rays now…?” As if to illustrate her inquiry, the bottle caught itself in his Infinity.

While her question had been genuine, the absurdity of it pulled a chuckle from Satoru. “Y’know, I probably could,” he remarked, plucking the bottle out of the air. “but that means I’d have to start by learning how to block out normal light waves first—and differentiating between the two sounds totally exhausting.”

Admittedly, the theory did intrigue him as he squeezed some sunscreen into his palm and began to apply it to his torso, his mind mulling over scientific method as he was wont to do when presented with such possibilities. Guess I’m filing that away for later too…

“Wouldn’t that be scientifically improbable?” Utahime suddenly said. “If your ability can maintain an infinite space between yourself and whatever theoretical object so it never touches you, how would that work with something like light?” There was no argument in her tone, only genuine speculation. “It’s already infinite.”

Thoroughly taken aback, Satoru did his best not to balk at Utahime, enforcing a neutral demeanor. It wasn’t often someone wanted to engage with him on his pet theories since, most of the time, they couldn’t keep up with his thought process anyway. “If we go based on scientific probability, then the Limitless would also be improbable,” he stated, still rubbing lotion deep into his skin. “Dividing numbers infinitesimally to alter space-time? Creating negative integers in physical space where none could realistically exist? And, trust me, that’s me putting it in Layman’s terms.” He licked out a cheeky grin. “I’m a theoretical physicist’s wet dream.”

Utahime rolled her eyes, opening her mouth to say something when Shoko decided to interject. “Hey, Utahime-senpai, trust me when I say—do not fall into this trap with him, okay?” Shoko flashed an exasperated look in his direction as if reliving all the times they’d gotten caught up in a theoretical discussion with no resolution after hours of debate, eliciting a smug waggle of brows from Satoru.

Of course, Utahime blinked innocently, her lips pursed. “I don’t know, it sounds really interesting to me,” she reasoned with a shrug. “I like science.”

“Well, suit yourself then,” Shoko sighed. “but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Suddenly, Satoru sat on Utahime’s lounge chair, facing his eager back toward her as he threw the sunscreen bottle over his shoulder. She squeaked, catching it clumsily, bringing a wolfish quality to his grin. “Lather me up, will you?”

“W-What?” From the sound of her voice, Satoru knew she was blushing.

“Well, I can’t exactly reach my own back,” he pointed out. “or should I neglect such a broad area of skin, hmm?” Despite the confidence in his tone, Satoru found his fingers twining together with a nervous tremor, not daring to look back at her for a reaction. He could feel her behind him—the weight of her breathing on the back of his neck, the pressure of her gaze trailing down his spine, and the warmth of her cursed energy lapping at the edges of his aura.

The sound of the bottle uncapping and a squirt of liquid evoked a deep sense of trepidation, stirring his throat enough to make him swallow involuntarily. I should drop my Infinity so she can… But Satoru was surprised to find there was no Infinity to drop as Utahime’s hands, slick with sunscreen, made contact with his shoulders effortlessly. Can she bypass my Infinity?

In his shock, he allowed a sharp intake of breath which had Utahime’s gentle motions stuttering. “What happened?” Her voice was brimming with concern.

“Your hands…” Satoru forced himself to breathe correctly, knocking some sense back into himself before he rushed out, “…are so-f*cking-cold. Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ, Hime! I always knew you were frigid but—OW!” A wet slap resounded after Utahime struck the back of his unprotected neck with her lotion-slick palms. Okay, I deserved that.

After all, he had done it on purpose.

“AND YOU’RE AN UNGRATEFUL LITTLE PRICK, SATORU GOJO!” Surprisingly, she didn’t pull away like he had anticipated. The slippery squelch of her hands rubbing together reached his ears, filling his mind with salacious images that had him lightly stamping his heels against the ground.

Then, Utahime’s hands returned to his back, a bit warmer than before. Obviously, he had been lying when he accused her of having a cold touch but it was charming that she’d taken it to heart. And, not only that, she had proceeded to correct the imagined issue despite the offense he may have caused by complaining so callously. You’re too good to me.

Try as he might, Satoru could not stop the lolling of his head, his muscles relaxing under her fingertips. Her hands were buttery soft as they smoothed themselves against his flesh, a slight reverence to her touch—though, he convinced himself he was imagining it. It seemed inconceivable to him that Utahime would ever enjoy touching him in a way that provoked pleasure rather than pain. And yet, here she was, motions reflecting a shrouded tenderness; every caress was a secret whispered between their flesh.

“Anyway, do you think I could use my technique to become invisible?” Satoru blurted, trying to distract himself from the sudden tightness of his swimming trunks.

“God, I hope not.” He could hear the grimace in her tone. “It should be illegal for a deviant like you to have any sort of powers of invisibility.”

Satoru licked his lips, grinning like the menace he was. “What, you think I’d use it for evil?”

“I think you’d use it to do less than respectable things,” she admitted, hands sliding down around the small of his back. “regardless, I don’t think you could use the Limitless to become invisible.”

“And why’s that?”

“Like I said before, light waves are infinite.” There was a random patter of her palms and fingers around different parts of his back as if wiping the excess product off. “To be invisible, they’d have to pass through you. If light is not passing through an object, it’s either being absorbed or reflected and scattered. I’m thinking that, even if you could figure out how to use the Limitless on light waves, it would end up reflecting since, at that point, it’s become a physical barrier, right?”

“That’s not really how it works,” he countered. “I’m not creating a barrier—I’m altering space-time to stop an object’s trajectory.”

Utahime hummed. “Okay then, if the light’s trajectory is being stopped, wouldn’t that result in an absorption of light?”

“So, like, what? We talkin’ Apocalymon’s ‘Dark’?”

“…What?” Utahime’s hands fell away from his back.

He looked back, her brows knitted together with bemusem*nt. Of course, she wouldn’t understand his Digimon reference. “Visually speaking,” he elaborated. “if the light waves are being absorbed by Infinity, what does that look like? In the absence of light, there’s darkness—so wouldn’t that mean I’d be, like, shrouded in shadows?”

Satoru’s eyes narrowed in on her mouth as it twisted thoughtfully. “Oh!” Utahime suddenly gasped, unfocused eyes alight with an idea. “Like ‘darkness’!”

Now it was Satoru’s turn to be puzzled. “Uh, sure, Utahime—I suppose darkness is a decent enough synonym for shadow but I think you’re kinda missing the point here…”

“No, Gojo,” she interjected. “I’m talking about the level two evocation spell from DND. It’s literally called ‘Darkness’!”

A strange jolt of pleasure shot through his brain, clenching his smiling teeth around his tongue. “Wait, you’re making a ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ reference?” Laughter bubbled up in his chest, the tightness in his swimming trunks even worse now somehow. “Utahime?”

“What?” Utahime questioned defensively, folding her arms tightly over her chest. “I have hobbies too!”

He chuckled. “I just—man, I wasn’t expecting that. Wow.” Satoru had lost total control over his mouth, enraptured by her to an almost unbearable degree. He had no idea what to do with his body, every muscle yearning to grasp at her cheeks and kiss her senseless. Between her gentle touches, the way she could scratch the intellectual part of his brain, and her niche tidbits of knowledge, Satoru was overwhelmed by his attraction to her. Everything burned—the blood boiled in his veins as his body begged for her.

Alright, I really need to cool off. Quickly, and without warning, he hopped up to his feet and tossed himself into the pool. The sharp chill of the water washed over him, sending the shock he needed to his system required to sort himself out. Sure, his mind was still occupied by compulsive thoughts of Utahime but, at the very least, he wasn’t a single eyelash flutter away from being ejected for public indecency anymore.

Even now, at the bottom of a swimming pool, the devious voice in his head encouraged him to steal her away; warp her back to their shared villa and push her down onto the bed where he’d worship her for the next five days—only visible in the eyes of heaven. As much as he wanted to ravage her, Satoru would take his time. With each layer removed, he’d dedicate equal time to kissing, nipping, sucking, loving every inch of her exposed skin. Her body would tremble under his weight, his name a gasp in her demure throat that he’d coax out of her with every flick of his tongue; every curl of his finger.

And that would just be the foreplay.

Satoru tried to drown his thoughts out, staring at the surface of the water from below. Focus, he implored privately. The longer he spent engulfed in the water’s chill, the easier it was to find his center—well, and it helped that his raging hard-on had shriveled back up into his body to get away from the cold but still…

Finally, Satoru pushed himself up, breaking the pool’s surface with a greedy gulp of fresh air and a shake of his head. “f*ck, it’s cold as sh*t in here!” When he’d managed to rub the chlorinated blur out of his eyes, Satoru found himself looking up at Utahime who was sat at the edge of the pool, watching him closely.

“You were down there for awhile,” she commented, splashing her feet gently under the surface of the water. “I thought you drowned for a second.” Based on her smile, she seemed to be enjoying herself a bit.

“Yeah, you wish.” Satoru grinned at her as he swam closer. “Now, take those clothes off and get in here with me, Hime.” His heart thumped violently in his chest at the idea of seeing her in the bikini he knew she was wearing. To quell the sound of his pulse in his ears, Satoru submerged his mouth and nose, blowing bubbles to break the water’s surface.

She frowned. “I don’t know…”

Placing his palms down on the edge of the pool, Satoru lifted himself partially out of the water solely with his upper body strength. “C’mon, Utahime,” he needled, albeit with a sensitive expression on his face. “what’re you so worried about, hmm?”

“I just…” She considered her words, lips moving soundlessly as if to test her options. “I don’t like it when people stare.”

He lowered himself back down, resting his head in his arms against the pool’s edge. “So? People stare at me all the time. Why does it matter?” Satoru was being purposely obtuse—he knew what she meant but he wanted her to say it.

“Yeah, but they stare at you because you’re…” Utahime trailed off, her cheeks tinted pink. “Anyway, I know my scars are unsightly. I just really hate being reminded of that.” She glared at the water, resentment hardening her expression.

“Again, so?” Satoru scoffed. “Why does it matter if they’re ‘unsightly’ or whatever-the-f*ck?”

Utahime sharpened her gaze against him as she snarled, “You don’t f*cking get it.”

“No, I get it,” he retorted, keeping his tone icy in the heat of her rage. “I’m choosing not to validate it because it’s bullsh*t, Utahime. What happened to not being reduced to your appearance?”

“What the f*ck would you know, huh?” Utahime spat. “Do you think all that’s required of a jujutsu sorcerer is strength?”

“Uh, yeah?”

“Of course, because you’re a man and that’s all they require from you,” she explained, voice rasped with volatile emotions. “but they don’t demand strength from female jujutsu sorcerers, Gojo. They demand perfection.” Utahime moves the hair on the right side of her face back, bringing her scar into focus with pain in her eyes. “Does this look like perfection to you?”

Yes, he wanted to say. Yes, because it’s your face, Utahime.

But Satoru knew that wasn’t the correct answer. Regardless of how he felt about her, when looking at things objectively, he could understand her declaration. Jujutsu was a male-dominated industry, no matter how talented female sorcerers could be. Unless you were a Special Grade like Yuki Tsukumo or possessed something utterly invaluable like Shoko, the path a woman paved in this world was marked by obstacle and scrutiny—and only the coldest, most ruthless of them could hope to break that glass ceiling.

f*ck perfection,” he enunciated. “What is pitying yourself gonna do, Hime—honestly? Like, do the opinions of some geriatric bastards matter so much to you that you don’t want people to know your tit* are all scarred up?” Satoru’s mouth moved far faster than his sense of consideration. “What, did you wanna f*ck the higher-ups or something?”

“Ew, no!” Utahime exclaimed, her anger melted down by the sheer ridiculousness of his statement.

“Okay, great! Then take off that f*cking jacket and come swim with me,” he ordered. “Life is way more fun when you live it in spite of other people’s expectations.”

“Is that why you’re so insufferable?” She had attempted to insult him but her words lacked any real bite, the fury she’d wielded earlier almost entirely snuffed out. It didn’t surprise him much that Utahime had calmed down so easily despite his harsh words. She was a spit fire, sure, and had a terrible temper—but she could be reasonable; sensible even, when it counted. And, while she would never say it herself, Satoru knew she appreciated his honesty.

Satoru moved closer to her, propping his chin up on her knee. “Let’s compromise,” he presented. “If you swim with me for at least ten minutes, we can blow this popsicle stand and go do whatever you want.”

Utahime perked up a bit, lifting a brow. “Whatever I want?”

“Mhm,” he hummed.

“Craft house?” Utahime tested.

“Sure.”

“Underwater Observatory?”

Satoru wrung out a smile. “What happened to being afraid of the ocean?”

f*ck the ocean.”

He chuckled. “Alright, in that case, we could also do a glass-bottomed boat tour?”

Utahime fashioned her pretty lips into a small ‘o’ as she vocalized, “Sounds cool.” After a moment, she nodded, offering him a cheeky grin as she pushed his face away from her knee. “Okay, I accept your terms.” Much to his delight, she sprang up onto her feet, undoing the buttons on her jean shorts first.

Once again, he submerged half of his face below the surface, watching her with hungry eyes. The sight of her shorts dropping around her ankles wrought white hot fervor into his gut, roiling about with an unbearable violence. Satoru knew he should look away—perhaps sink back down to the bottom of the pool until she was ready to jump in with him.

But he couldn’t.

With bated breath, Satoru watched as she unzipped her jacket, the fabric slipping off of her shoulders to finally reveal what she’d been hiding underneath. Starting in the middle of her chest, the tip of a thick, angry scar curved down below her left breast. There was another obvious one but this scar was significantly shorter in length and harder to examine as it slipped across the right side of her ribcage, curling around her side toward her back. Aside from those two, the rest of the scars were smaller, sporadic, and indiscriminate.

A dark, twisted kind of rage brewed within his gut. Satoru could match up each scar with his memory of her being groped and strangled by the disgusting curse that did this to her in the first place. And, every day, he was thankful he’d been there to rip its grotesque limbs apart. “Want help with sunscreen?” Satoru asked, trying to distract himself from these smoldering feelings.

“I put some on before we left,” she told him.

Nerd,” Satoru snorted. “Who puts on sunscreen before going outside?”

Briefly, she flashed him an irritated look. “People who don’t want to develop skin cancer?”

“Sounds neurotic,” he teased. “but whatever.”

Once again, Utahime sat herself on the edge of the pool, body flushed under his gaze. “It’s a little cold…” She shivered, slipping her legs back into the water. It wasn’t lost on him how she avoided his eyes, staring down at the pool shyly. Her shoulders pushed up with tension, drawing her breasts closer together in the process.

And, now, Satoru was fixated on the prominent swell of her chest, framed comfortably by the white bikini top she wore. His mouth watered, realizing that the only thing between him and them was a loose knot around the back of her neck. f*ck, f*ck, f*ck…! His body was moving before he could reason with himself.

“G-Gojo?!”

His mind was clouded by his desire for her, filthy fantasies flashing behind his eyes. Satoru wrapped his arms tight around her waist, drawing her in close to his burning body. A hand slid up the length of her spine to grip the back of her neck, the creature in his bloodstream wriggling for control. However, he fought the intention to latch his hot mouth to the pulse of her neck as he shouted, “SUPLEX!”

“NO!” Utahime shrieked, pounding her fists against his shoulders. With all his strength, both mental and physical, Satoru threw his body backward with Utahime unwillingly latched onto him. This, of course, meant that she was unceremoniously submerged in the freezing water face first. Her body twisted under the surface in his arms, desperately trying to free herself from his grasp.

To avoid freaking her out further, he let go of his grip on her body, joining her above the surface. He barked out laughter as she sputtered out a mouthful of water, angrily pushing wet hair out of her face. “GOJO, WHAT THE f*ck?! YOU ALMOST DROWNED ME!”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Hime.” Satoru, magnetized to her, swam in close. “You know, I would’ve given you mouth-to-mouth if that happened.”

Utahime’s face flared red, snarling as she splashed water into his eyes. “As if! I’d rather f*cking drown!”

A wolfish grin pulling at his mouth, he turned his back toward her. “Hop on,” he offered. “I’ll carry you around the pool.”

“Why?” Utahime asked, voice grated by annoyance. “I can swim, you know?”

“Yeah, but piggyback rides are fun,” Satoru reasoned. “especially in the pool.” It was a pathetic excuse to prevent himself from looking directly at her when he wanted her as badly as he did. If she was on his back, he couldn’t stare at her pretty face or feast his eyes on her scantily-clad torso. Good god, I’m so horny.

Water splashed behind him, a pressure weighing on his shoulders as he felt Utahime mount his back. “Alright, mush then, little sled dog.”

“I’m going, I’m going,” he chuckled gently. Satoru wrapped his hands around the back of her thighs, making sure to keep her calves far away from the bulge in his trunks through careful maneuvering of where her weight rested. She pulled herself in tightly, soft, wetbreasts pressed up against his back—Please, have f*cking mercy on me, he agonized—with arms slung around his neck. She seemed to have trouble figuring out where to rest her hands, an uncertain fidget in her fingers every time she touched his chest.

She eventually settled on gripping one of her own wrists, holding it away from his skin much to his displeasure. “So, what should we do first?” Utahime asked, breaking the silence. “Craft house, Underwater Observatory, or glass-bottomed boat tour?”

“I dunno.” Satoru shrugged. “Up to you.”

Utahime hummed against the back of his neck, making his heart palpitate uncomfortably. “Well, we’d need to go change first,” she reasoned. “so we should work our way down. The villa is right next to the observatory. We can do that first—then, the glass-bottomed boat tour since that’s also in the marine park.”

“And the craft house is in Banyan Village, right?”

“Mhm, that’ll come last!” Utahime bounced her legs excitedly, butterflies bubbling in his stomach. “Should we tell Mei-san and Shoko?”

Satoru observed the area, his Six Eyes locating the two women rather easily. They had made their way up to the upper level pool, chatting with the trio of non-sorcerer men from earlier. “Nah, we can shoot them a text, if anything.” He continued moving about the pool lazily, mindful to avoid where the children were most rambunctious.

Utahime looked around. “Where’d they go anyway?”

With a shrug, Satoru proudly declared, “No clue!”

Notes:

OKAY I LIED I HAD TO SPLIT THIS ARC INTO FOUR CHAPTERS BC THIS CHAPTER WAS 12k WORDS AND STILL NOT DONE SOOOOOO!!!! YEAH!!!!

i was not expecting it to be this long but you know what, it's a treat!!! the next chapter will likely be coming out tomorrow if not tonight since i'm nearly done w it but seriously it was getting so f*cking long lmaooooo

anyway, i did so much research for this chapter. luckily, i love theoretical physics so eeeee!!!!

i hope you enjoy <3

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 8: if u think i'm pretty

Summary:

“How’d you get that?”

Utahime co*cked a curious brow, looking down at her knee. “Oh, that? It’s kind of a long story…” She picked up her beer, offering it to him but not wasting a single second to down the remaining liquid when he swiftly rejected taking a sip.

And, unlike earlier, she actually allowed herself a loud belch afterward.

Satoru grinned. “Ew,” he said affectionately, mirroring her tone from earlier. “Anyway, I’d like to hear it.”

“I got it when I was, like, ten?” Utahime recalled. “I fell out of a tree.” Then, she just didn’t continue, staring at him for some kind of response.

“Okay, that’s it?” Satoru snorted when she merely blinked at him, confused by his bemusem*nt. “Utahime, that was literally the shortest story ever. Of all time.”

“Oh, sorry, did you want the details?”

Notes:

CW (for those of you reading in public) // NSFW, sexual language

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

killed me once before
i just come back more obsessed with you
nothing that i need to say
that hasn't been said
i don't need an apology
just show me, instead

if you think i'm pretty, lay your hands on me
know you can't stop thinking 'bout it
i know that you're sh*tty and you're bad for me
but i can't stop thinking 'bout it
(won't stop thinking 'bout it)

- Artemas

* * * * * * *

“Thanks, again!” Satoru closed the suite’s door behind the butler who bowed in return. They’d ordered their—well, mostly Utahime’s—platter of beverages just before room service was due to close for the evening. “Everything there?”

On the balcony, Utahime stood above the patio table where the drinks were placed, taking stock with unfocused eyes. “I think so,” she slurred. From the moment they’d left the pool, throughout their various activities, Utahime made sure to indulge in a few drinks here and there.

Satoru had no reason to deny her, considering it wasn’t so excessive she wasn’t able to comfortably proceed with festivities—at least, not until they’d sat for dinner in Banyan Village. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the restaurant they’d been in or the fact that Satoru had encouraged her to get whatever she wanted, he wasn’t too sure. Regardless, the moment Utahime had gotten her grubby hands on the drink menu, there wasn’t an ounce of hesitation in any drink she knocked back.

“Three beers—Orion, Asahi, and Heineken,” she listed, a laugh bubbling up in her throat on the last brand. “Heineken sounds funny, hehe.”

Satoru snorted gently. “My co*ke’s there too, right?” He knew it was since he could clearly see it but he asked anyway to challenge her inebriated brain.

Her hands flourished toward the red can, a goofy grin on her face. “Yesh!”

“Good, I’m gonna need it if you’re really gonna make me do this.” Satoru clicked his tongue, shaking his head with feigned disapproval. “Really, you’re such a bad influence, Utahime.”

Utahime gasped, the scandalized look on her face making him laugh. “No, I’m not! You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to!”

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” After a long conversation at dinner about Satoru’s distaste for alcohol, Utahime had convinced him to do a taste test of whatever beer brands they had on the room service menu. He knew it was because she wanted a reason to keep drinking but he would let her believe she’d gotten away with highway robbery, if only to see her happy. “You wanna sit down?”

A chilly breeze blew through the balcony, causing Utahime to shiver. “Maybe inside?”

Satoru nodded. “Yeah, it’s pretty cold. We should shut the doors for the night.” As she secured the drinks, placing them on the bedside table in the bedroom, Satoru worked on pulling the glass doors closed. By the time he had finished, Utahime had perched herself on the edge of the bed, a cozy look on her blushed face. “Comfy?”

Utahime nodded lazily, stroking her fingers against the comforter. “This bed is so soft!”

For what felt like the umpteenth time that day, Satoru fought off snippets of dirty little fantasies between himself and Utahime, now featuring the goddamn king-sized bed she refused to share with him. It’s for the best, he convinced himself, chasing the bitterness away with a deep breath. Clearly, I can’t f*cking control myself.

“Can we do the taste test here, Gojo?” Utahime pouted as if she expected him to say no—which was insane, considering he couldn’t seem to deny her anything.

“Yeah, why not?” Satoru kept his demeanor cool and collected, not wanting her to discover the hammering of his restless heart in her presence. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, tossing it onto the bed before flopping onto his back, resting his arms behind his head.

Utahime giggled at the sudden motion, crawling toward the middle of the bed and sitting cross-legged. “Hey, Gojo,” she said, looking down at his horizontal figure. “have you done pottery before today?”

“Nope,” he popped out. “it was my first time.” Satoru adjusted the sunglasses on his nose, the words he spoke causing something to stir within his gut.

Ugh, I thought so,” she groaned. “that’s so unfair! How can you be so good at something you’ve never done before?” The pottery class they’d taken at the craft house had them create a vase from scratch with full expectation that more than half the attendees would fail, leaving with little more than a dry lump of vaguely-shaped clay.

Of course, because Satoru had a knack for picking things up quickly—admittedly, due to the information his Six Eyes afforded him—he’d ended up with a pretty decent product in the end. There hadn’t been enough time allotted for painting so, an ugly sh*t-brown color, it remained but, regardless, Utahime insisted on its value. Currently, it sat on the coffee table in the living room, ready to be packed with her things whenever their trip finally came to an end.

“Still can’t believe you ended up making a crack pipe,” Satoru teased with a slack-jawed grin. “that sh*t’s hilarious!”

“I did not make a crack pipe!” Utahime smacked his shoulder, her strike lacking any power as she fought back a giggle.

“Oh, it was totally a crack pipe! Utahime, did you not see that thing?!”

Utahime suddenly burst into a fit of laughter, holding a lax hand to her stomach as her face scrunched up with joy. “Stop making me laugh!” Her glee was infectious, causing him to bubble with laughter himself. “Okay, okay! Maybe….pfft! Maybe it…looked-like-a-crack-pipe! PFFT, HAHAHA!”

Satoru roared at the way she rushed out her sentence with a wheeze, rolling over onto his side as genuine tears leaked from his eyes. His stomach was pulled tight with the pain of uncontrollable laughter, practically gasping for breath between each roar. It had been such a long time since Satoru laughed this hard—it would’ve made him sad if he wasn’t so busy basking in the glow of Utahime’s merriment.

Eventually, they both came down from their highs, bubbling here and there as they recovered. Satoru lifted himself up into a sitting position, facing her as he nudged his head in the direction of the drinks. “Okay, I think I’m ready now.”

Utahime clapped her hands together before crawling to grab one of the cans, her body stretching to reach it. “Let’s start with…” Satoru had to avert his eyes to avoid staring at the beautiful curve of her ass in those little running shorts she’d decided to change into for the evening. “…this one!” She pulled back to her original position, holding a green can between the two of them.

“Is that the imported beer?” Satoru asked, indicating the Heineken label.

With a nod, Utahime pulled the tab, the sizzle of the beverage deafening when compared to the silence of their suite. “This one’s from the Netherlands, I think?” She lifted it to her lips, taking a tentative sip before shrugging. “It’s a good option when there’s nothing better, really. I don’t mind it much.” The can was passed to Satoru with a warm smile. “Remember, just a sip!”

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” he quipped, taking the chilled can from her hand. His fingers brushed against hers gently, provoking another heart palpitation that had him clearing his throat. “Proost!” Satoru lifted the can to his mouth for a sip, pushing the fact that Utahime had touched her lips to it just before she’d given it to him out of his mind. He swallowed the bitter liquid, grimacing as the flavor disgraced his tongue. “Oh, yuck!”

Utahime giggled. “Didn’t like it?”

“Nope, that sh*t’s nasty!” He nudged his head toward the tray of drinks. “Mind handing me my soda?” Satoru looked away before Utahime obliged, not wanting to tempt himself with another generous gaze at her ass. When he felt her settle back into place, he traded the beer for the can in her hand. “Thanks.”

As he cracked his soda open, Utahime brought the beer up to her lips before proceeding to knock back the entire thing in one long draft. Throughout his observation of her throat gulping against the beverage, Satoru took small sips of his soda to wash the taste away. “Impressive,” he said as she lowered the now empty can and crushed it within her grip. Perhaps he should’ve been grossed out but, as usual, he just found himself liking her more.

Utahime swallowed hard, scrunching her face up in the process. “Thanks,” she groaned through great struggle. “Sorry, I’m trying not to…oof…burp.” She pounded a fist lightly against her chest.

“If you need to burp, then burp,” he told her. “f*ck it, we ball.” To illustrate his attitude, Satoru took a big gulp of his soda which burned as it went down before releasing a dramatic belch.

Scrunching her nose up with a cute little smile, Utahime rasped out, “Ew.

With a cheeky smirk, Satoru bowed ostentatiously. “Why, thank you!” When Utahime giggled, Satoru had to hide his face behind his can of soda, not wanting her to see how happy her laughter made him. The entire day he’d been challenged to hide his true feelings from her, not wanting to risk destroying the tentative friendship they’d managed to build through light banter and extensive conversation encouraged by close proximity. Satoru had learned more about Utahime Iori in that single day than he had over the course of nearly five years as schoolmates—and he only had himself to blame.

It had always been easy for them to bicker. Satoru capitalized on her tendency to shift moods quickly, stirring that temper she worked so hard to keep under control for the sole purpose of discouraging her kindness. Utahime, at her core, was very kind—to everyone. It didn’t matter who they were or what they might have done to her; she could always find it in herself to forgive even if she couldn’t forget, accepting that life was easier without hatred to drag you down.

And, most days, Satoru didn’t feel he deserved the forgiveness she so easily gave him.

Suddenly, the bed began to vibrate, indicating an incoming phone call on Satoru’s phone. He reached over, picking up the device in his hands and noticing Ijichi’s name on the screen. “One sec,” he murmured to Utahime before answering the call. “What’s up, Ijichi?”

Thankfully, the call had been nothing serious—just the children wanting to say ‘goodnight’ and Ijichi delivering his nightly report in which he informed Satoru that Megumi was still having trouble sleeping at night, complaining about nightmares. Of course, it was a concern for Satoru but there wasn’t really anything that could be done about it at the moment which was what he had relayed to Ijichi before the call ended. Could be the kid finally developing Ten Shadows,he mused, staring at the blank screen of his phone mindlessly. If nightmares of ‘falling through darkness’ are any indication.

“So, Megumi-kun is having nightmares?” Utahime said suddenly, drawing Satoru’s attention to her. She had opened one of the silver cans of domestic beer, sipping at it as she eyed him curiously.

Satoru nodded, slipping a reassuring smile onto his face. “Yeah, but I’m sure it’ll work itself out.”

“You know, my little brother used to have nightmares a lot at that age too,” she divulged. “except Zenitsu was always really dramatic—had the whole house waking up to his screams. No matter how many times it happened, my mother never got used to it like the rest of us did. She’d be an anxious mess every time and, honestly, I felt really bad for her.” Utahime took another sip of beer, a faraway look in her eye. “It felt like my responsibility to help as the only daughter.”

With a hum, Satoru leaned his head against his hand. “Yeah? What’d you end up doing?”

“It sounds weird but Zenitsu and I started calling it ‘hypnotizing’ him,” she said with a gentle smile. “Really, I would just do whatever I could to relax him. Mostly singing and back scratches but he liked those back-tracing games a lot too. After that, his nightmares stopped.” Utahime shrugged. “I’m not sure why.”

Satoru peered at her, a fluttering in his heart as he imagined Utahime doing those things but with Megumi and Tsumiki as she was now. “Can you show me an example?”

Utahime blinked, a bashful blush warming her cheeks. “L-Like what?”

He shrugged. “I dunno. Just, whatever you did with your little brother,” he suggested. “Maybe it’ll help me with Megumi.”

“Okay,” she said slowly, securing her beer by placing it in her lap. “hold out your arm, I guess.” Satoru did as he was told, lowering a pale arm into her lap, minding the beer can. Utahime cleared her throat suddenly, eyes glazing over his muscular forearm before using a tentative hand to steady it. After a moment of hesitation, she finally brought her free hand down upon the exposed skin.

Going on a treasure hunt, X marks the spot,” she recited, using the nail of her index finger to lightly trace along a prominent vein. “Three straight lines and a dot, dot, dot…” Satoru’s skin erupted in goosebumps, his spine tingling as a deep sense of relaxation came over him. “A pinch, a squeeze, a tropical breeze…” She blew lightly on his skin with pretty pursed lips, voice so soft it melted through him. “Now, you’ve got the shiveries.

Satoru snorted, a lopsided grin on his face. “’Shiveries’?”

“Well, I didn’t make it up!” Utahime clarified defensively with a pout, removing her hands from his skin. “If I knew you were just going to make fun of me, I wou—”

Satoru grabbed her hand, drawing it back to his sensitive forearm. “Okay, okay,” he relented. “I’m sorry. I won’t make fun of you, I promise. Keep going.” Hiding behind his sunglasses, Satoru hoped Utahime didn’t notice the desperation in his voice. He didn’t want her to stop touching him, especially as gently as she had been. Perhaps Satoru Gojo was just a little bit touch-starved.

With a skeptical look, Utahime returned her hands to Satoru’s arm. For the next fifteen minutes, Satoru would allow her to ‘hypnotize’ him uninterrupted with more tracing games, rhymes, soft singing, and general caresses. He was totally and completely relaxed, his eyes lulling to a close every few seconds before forcing himself to be alert again. If his brain hadn’t been complete mush, it might’ve freaked him out to realize that he’d never let his guard down like this around anyone before.

Over the course of their little session, Satoru observed something particularly interesting. Spurred by her gentle humming and repetition of rhymes, Utahime’s cursed technique activated of its own volition, filling him with this sense of warmth that soothed his frantic heart. He’d never been on the receiving end of her technique because, well, he had never needed it.

In fact, a part of him was certain she’d been secretly forbidden from empowering him with her technique. From the higher-ups’ perspective, it made sense from a personal safety standpoint. If Satoru was already as powerful as he was, what would happen if that power were boosted to nearly triple its base; what kind of damage could he do?

But, from the sensation that washed over him, Satoru realized exactly why Utahime had managed to dispel her little brother's nightmares all those years ago. Before she’d even discovered jujutsu, she subconsciously and significantly honed her abilities to a degree of which it could even affect non-sorcerers. Utahime wasn’t just capable of boosting the output of cursed energy—she was able to calm the aura. It wasn’t healing in the way of something like RCT but, rather, something far deeper.

Utahime could heal the soul.

“Do you want me to do it to your back?” Utahime offered gently, breaking his trance. Her cheeks were a bright pink, eyes unable to remain focused on his face for long before they darted away with…embarrassment, maybe?

As much as he wanted to accept, Satoru pulled his arm away and shook his head. “No, thanks.” His voice rasped from sleepiness, pushing him to clear his throat. “That was…pretty cool. I can see why your brother stopped having nightmares.”

Utahime smiled sheepishly. “Thank you.”

A silence fell between them as Satoru gazed upon her, his heart trembling in her presence. Oh, f*ck, I really do love her. It was truly unbearable, loving her as purely and wholly as he did. His stomach was in shambles with butterflies, fingers aching as they clenched into fists so tight, his knuckles were as white as the bedsheets. Of course, it was a necessary precaution against the undying urge to pick up her hands and brush his lips against her knuckles, praising her for the tenderness she’d blessed him with tonight. I love you, I love you, I love you…

To distract himself from the prayers he wished to lay at her altar, Satoru narrowed his focus onto the half-moon scar on her left knee that he’d noticed all those years ago. “How’d you get that?”

Utahime co*cked a curious brow, looking down at her knee. “Oh, that? It’s kind of a long story…” She picked up her beer, offering it to him but not wasting a single second to down the remaining liquid when he swiftly rejected taking a sip.

And, unlike earlier, she actually allowed herself a loud belch afterward.

Satoru grinned. “Ew,” he said affectionately, mirroring her tone from earlier. “Anyway, I’d like to hear it.”

“I got it when I was, like, ten?” Utahime recalled. “I fell out of a tree.” Then, she just didn’t continue, staring at him for some kind of response.

“Okay, that’s it?” Satoru snorted when she merely blinked at him, confused by his bemusem*nt. “Utahime, that was literally the shortest story ever. Of all time.”

“Oh, sorry, did you want the details?” She looked genuinely surprised. The beer was definitely catching up to her, inebriating her further.

“Uh, yeah? That’s kinda the implication when you mention a ‘long story’, Utahime.” He took another tentative sip of his drink when she co*cked her head to the side, eyes unfocused as she tried to grasp the memory.

“Honestly, it’s probably all the alcohol,” she admitted. “but I’m kinda fuzzy on the details. Can’t think straight.”

“No, it’s definitely the alcohol,” he asserted with a grin. “Let’s see if I can jog your memory then, hmm…” Satoru tapped a finger on his chin, mentally organizing his list of clarifying questions. “Okay, what were you doing in the tree?”

“I was trying to catch a drone beetle,” she said with a renewed sense of lucidity.

“A drone beetle?” He found that fascinating. It felt like the entire day was spent learning about Utahime’s childhood and niche interests from how open she’d been with sharing her past.

Utahime nodded. “Yeah, it’s the emerald one with the—”

“No, I know what a drone beetle is,” he interjected. “What I’m asking is why were you trying to catch a drone beetle?”

“Oh, I just liked bugs,” she confessed. “Well, that and I was trying to impress someone…” Utahime winced at that, piquing Satoru’s interest.

Wringing out a cheeky grin, Satoru teased, “Oh? Even the Ice Queen has felt a bit of puppy love, huh?”

“Shut up!” Utahime pouted, her face ablaze with embarrassment. “I’m not some cold-hearted bitch, you know?” She patted her cheeks. “B-But it wasn’t, like, serious or anything!”

Satoru could tell that was a lie. “That bad, huh?” Unfortunately, he could relate. Utahime groaned, digging the heels of her palms into her eye sockets which told him all that he needed to know—and, admittedly, it stung a bit. “So, what made you think he’d be impressed by a beetle?”

“I don’t know,” she grumbled. “I just thought he would. I was a stupidly awkward kid.” The idea of a tiny version of Utahime, lanky and awkward with missing baby teeth as she crawled up a tree like a monkey was charming. A sad thought occurred to him—if he had known her as a child, would he have turned out differently?

Satoru pushed the thought away. “How’d you end up falling?”

“Easily,” she joked. “I miscalculated the distance between branches.”

“Rookie mistake.” Not that Satoru would know himself. He didn’t exactly have a childhood that afforded him the experience of climbing trees to catch beetles—although, he did try his best to give himself some sort of rambunctious entertainment.

Utahime wrinkled her nose up at him but the smile on her face gave away a lack of offense taken. “Anyway, it kinda worked out a little in my favor,” she continued, a softness settling within her eyes that tugged on his heartstrings. “Satoshi was the one who found me—absolutely wailing because the pain was so bad—and carried me to my parents. Still, wearing a cast for four months sucked.”

“Satoshi’s his name, huh?” A strong sensation of possession and jealousy echoed through him, causing his jaw to tense. “So, do you still talk to this Satoshi guy or what?”

If she had caught the strain in his words, Utahime didn’t let it show. “Not since I left home,” she said. “I know he’s still around the shrine since he works there now but I tend to avoid going home.”

“Why’s that?” Satoru inquired genuinely. From how she talked about her childhood and her family, it didn’t make sense to him that she’d avoid a place she was so homesick for.

Utahime shrugged. “A lot of reasons. Fear, shame, guilt…” Hesitantly, she gazed upon his face as if trying to gauge his reaction before sighing as she realized she would need to elaborate. “I’m not who I thought I would become when I left home. I’d always told myself that, when I came back, I’d be strong—that I’d make a name for myself and bring honor to my parents…

But I’m still so weak. Living my life in this f*cking limbo, waiting for Kyoto to call me with a job offer they may never make.” Utahime gnawed on her lower lip before continuing, “And then, I feel like if I go home now, I might never want to come back.”

“If you’re that afraid you’ll exit stage left on jujutsu sorcery,” he questioned gently. “why stick around?”

“Because I have a duty to fulfill.” Utahime spoke with conviction, a roll of thunder behind her gaze. “I was put on this earth to help others and I would dishonor myself withering away as a shrine maiden in the mountains.”

“Then, you’ll come back.” Satoru observed her expression morph from determination to surprise at his statement. “If you have a home, you should be allowed to return to it once in awhile. You shouldn’t deny yourself that comfort when we both know you’re too stubborn to quit something you’ve set your mind to.”

Utahime eyed him curiously. “Why do you say that like you don’t have a home to return to?”

A tumultuous blend of emotions shot through him, causing him to nervously adjust the shades covering his eyes. “Because the Gojo Estate is stuffy and smells like a bunch of traditionalist geezers,” he complained with a sarcastic smile, attempting to dismiss whatever she’d just stirred within him. “I’d rather pluck out my eyes than go back there for even five minutes.”

“Are you not close with your parents?”

Satoru really did not want to talk about that. He knew her question was born out of a genuine curiosity for him but he couldn’t encourage it. He had already been taking a major risk allowing himself into her life to this degree—reciprocating would only make things more devastating if they fell apart. “Wow, didn’t realize you were such a nosy drunk,” he said harshly.

Utahime recoiled at his tone, her face scrunching up with anger. “Okay, you don’t have to be such an asshole about it,” she spat. “Don’t take your bullsh*t out on me.”

“Well, why not?” Satoru barked out a cruel laugh. “You’re just gonna lay there and take it like you always do. Honestly, Utahime, you should grow a spine.”

“And you should throw yourself into a volcano!” Utahime erupted ironically, pushing herself up onto her knees. “Maybe it’ll thaw out your frigid f*cking heart!”

“Oh, I’m frigid?!” His body moved on its own, crowding her personal space as he towered over her from his knees. “Says the stuck-up bitch who feels obligated to insert herself into everybody’s business!”

“God, you always do this, Gojo!” Her voice wavered with hurt, eyes misty with restrained tears. “Every time someone tries to get close to you, you f*cking attack them like some wild, wounded animal! It’s not fair to hurt people who want to care about you just because you want to punish yourself!”

“THEN, STOP TRYING TO CARE ABOUT ME!” Satoru shouted, unable to restrain the rage bottled up within the deepest recesses of his being. “I DON’T f*ckING WANT YOUR KINDNESS, UTAHIME! THIS IS WHAT I WANT! YELL AT ME, HIT ME, FIGHT ME—f*ckING ANYTHING OTHER THAN FORGIVING ME EVERY TIME I PURPOSELY HURT YOUR FEELINGS!”

“I CAN’T!”

“WHY THE f*ck NOT?!”

BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO LOSE ANYONE ELSE!” Utahime’s voice finally broke, tears spilling from her eyes. Despite that, she wiped them away stubbornly, forming herself into a bastion of strength even as her lips quivered. “I’m so tired of losing people, Gojo—and I really don’t want to watch you lose yourself in Geto’s shadow because you’re too stubborn to admit that you’re suffocated by this self-afflicted loneliness!” Utahime fell back into a sitting position, lifting a shaky hand to brush her hair back.

Satoru, on the other hand, remained on his knees in a weak attempt to maintain his dominance over her. Neither spoke for a few moments, Utahime catching her breath as she swayed a little with wooziness. “Look, can we just…?” She closed her eyes, wiping away the layer of fatigue-induced perspiration that had formed over her forehead. “I don’t want to fight anymore. I’m really drunk and I want to lay down for a minute.”

Finally, Satoru sat back down. “Sure.”

Utahime allowed herself to fall sideways onto the bed, sighing as her body buried itself into the plush mattress. “I promise, I’ll get out of your hair in a few minutes,” she murmured, her eyes fluttering to a close. “I just…I need to sober up a little.”

“That’s fine.” Satoru slid himself off the bed.

An image of Suguru flashed behind his eyelids but, with an ungodly amount of resentment, he forced it out. No—he didn't want to think about him; he didn't want tothink, period. In an attempt to quiet the cacophonous chatter in his mind, he went through the motions of getting ready for bed. First, he washed up in the restroom, his eyes periodically glancing over at Utahime’s fragile little body in the bed. She was breathing rhythmically, gentle mumbles of comfort contrasting the rage that had wracked her body earlier. Satoru wanted to be mad at her; he wanted to want distance. He wanted to cast her aside and destroy whatever unprecedented emotional connection they had formed.

An impossible feat—he was obsessed with her.

She’s gonna have the worst hangover tomorrow. With a sigh, Satoru moved into the living room where he retrieved a bottle of chilled spring water from the suite’s mini fridge. He had always heard that the best prevention for a hangover was to sober up as much as possible before sleeping. We’re supposed to go to Naha in the morning, he reasoned. A hangover will ruin the fun.

Slowly, he approached Utahime, sitting on the bed beside her sleeping form. With a surprising amount of tenderness, Satoru tucked her hair behind her ear, allowing his fingers to trace the lines of her face. “Hime,” he murmured. “wake up.”

Utahime stirred, a little smile forming on her face as she seemed to lean into his touch. So, Satoru trailed his fingers from her jaw and down her neck until he’d made his way to her exposed shoulder. Her skin was supple and warm, making him dizzy with desire. “Come on, Hime,” he encouraged, indicating the water in his hand. “You have to drink some water and clean yourself up.”

She groaned softly, her bleary eyes opening to look up at him. “Do I really have to?” Utahime slurred. “Does it matter if I wake up stinky and gross?”

“Not to me,” he admitted. “but I don’t think Sober Utahime will appreciate it very much.”

With great effort, Utahime lifted herself up with her arms before peering down at the water bottle in his hands. “Will you help me?”

Satoru nodded. “Yeah, I can help you.” As he guided her through a shortened version of her night time routine, Utahime nursed the bottle of water he had given her, gaining lucidity bit by bit. It definitely wasn’t enough to sober her up but, at the very least, she wasn’t light-headed and nauseous anymore.

When they were done, Utahime moved to walk towards the couch. Impulsively, however, Satoru grabbed her bicep to stop her. Before she could ask what was wrong, he insisted, “Sleep in the bed with me. I won’t touch you, I promise. We can build a pillow wall between us if that helps.”

She fell silent, eyes swimming with an indecipherable emotion. “Okay,” she finally said. “as long as it’s no bother to you.”

Swallowing thickly, he simply shook his head, unable to find a response he’d be satisfied with. And, as they laid down together, Satoru’s mind swirled with activity. How had they gone from screaming in each other’s faces to slipping into bed together, sharing in each other’s body heat as they warmed the comforter?

He grabbed one of the four pillows on the bed, plopping it in the space between their torsos. “There,” he mumbled. “Great Wall of China.” After receiving a nod from Utahime, Satoru turned his back to her, hoping he could somehow pretend she wasn’t close enough to embrace. A pipe dream as the subtle sound of her breathing behind him drove Satoru mad with longing.

An indeterminate amount of time akin to an eternity had passed and, finally, Satoru felt the tendrils of sleep tug at his eyelids. He was drifting, brief moments of consciousness lost between visions of the bathroom door. And he fell, and fell, and fell…

Until the bed shifted.

“Gojo,” whispered Utahime, sending a shiver of awareness up his spine. “are you still awake?”

“Hmm?” He tried to make himself sound sleepy.

“I want to ask you for a favor.” Utahime’s voice was small and uncertain; sheepish and muffled, surely, by the plush pillow under her head.

Satoru was curious but remained resolute in facing away from her. “What is it?” Her breath shuddered and, suddenly, he was awaiting her request with his own bated breath. Satoru could barely withstand the pregnant pause, his throat stirring with a thick, anxious swallow.

Finally, she spoke—and her words had him frozen in place. “I want you to touch me.”

What?” Satoru didn’t dare move, wondering if he’d misheard her.

“My scars,” she elaborated. “I want you to touch them.”

Satoru slowly turned to face her, wanting to gauge her expression. There was no way she was being serious, right?

But when he observed her face, he noticed the faint blush of her cheeks. Her lips were parted in anticipation, eyes wide with expectation—she meant it. Oh my god…?

“Why?” Satoru choked out, his throat tight with disguised ardor.

Utahime gnawed on her lower lip, a tremulous knot forming in his gut. “I want to know what it feels like,” she confessed quietly. “and I don’t know anyone else I could ask.”

He should’ve said no—he should’ve vehemently refused.

“Are you sure?” Satoru’s mouth didn’t match his brain, his tongue foreign between his teeth.

“Yes,” she breathed out, a sultry quality to her tone. “I want you to touch me.”

And, as if someone else had taken control of him, Satoru moved in close. The pillow between them was promptly discarded, allowing him to sidle up against her. Propping himself up on his elbow, Satoru draped half of his body over hers, face level with her own. He could feel the heat of her flush radiate from her skin. His Six Eyes, so keen, captured the way a gasp caught in her throat—her own eyes wide with apprehension. Is she nervous?

He wasn’t quite sure.

Regardless, Satoru decided to take things slow, starting with the scar on her face as it was essentially a continuation of how he’d woken her up earlier. With just the tip of his index finger, he traced the marled flesh, the ragged textures actually quite smooth to the touch. Her lips were parted, tiny breaths ghosting over his palms. Satoru had been tempted to trace the delicious curve of her mouth but forced himself to stick to her request.

After caressing her face for a few minutes, he moved his hand down to her torso. Her chest was heaving, his gaze locked onto the braless peaks. She’d made a whole show of removing it earlier when getting ready for bed, complaining about how the undergarment bit into her skin sharply after a few hours of wear. Satoru had been forced to swallow back his reverence as her breasts hung artfully against the fabric of her tank top, trying not to imagine how much they’d weigh in the palm of his hand.

Satoru policed himself once his fingers found purchase on her collarbone, trailing them downward until he reached the peak of the first scar. It poked out over the collar of her tank top, the fabric rising and falling to match Utahime’s shuddered breathing. He flicked the lining of her collar before gliding his finger along the fabric, following the assumed trajectory of her scar until it reappeared past the hem.

“I need to pull up your shirt a little,” he murmured. Utahime could only press her lips together, nodding her approval with fervor. So, Satoru lifted the hem of the tank top, white fabric bunching up like an accordion. With careful consideration, he stopped pushing right before he could dismantle her modesty and not a moment sooner, revealing more of the scar he’d been following.

sh*t. This scar was his favorite one, second only to the one on her face. The angry line of skin curved right under her left breast in such close proximity, it was almost painful to put his hands upon it. He stroked the tail end of the scar for quite some time, the bunched up fabric acting as a barrier to protect her perfect tit* from his wandering knuckles.

Alright, cool it—he felt light-headed.

The longer this languid worship of her body with restrained hands went on for, the further Satoru was dragged into carnality. Sinking his canines into his bottom lip, he did his best to disguise the fact that he was panting like a bitch in heat. His whole body trembled in her presence, kept somewhat steady through sheer will alone. It made him grateful that her eyes couldn’t seem to stay open, fluttering to a close with every tender stroke of his finger.

Despite the bulge straining against the fabric of his sweatpants, swollen and leaking with spend he’d most definitely be wiping off his hands later in the private confines of the bathroom, Satoru believed himself the pinnacle of self-restraint. True to her request, he focused on her scars—only her scars—as much as he wanted to explore further. Yes, it was hot—so f*cking hot—but he did well to maintain a reasonable distance between hot and erotic.

That was, at least, until Utahime’s nipples pebbled against the fabric of her tank top after he’d slid his palm down the length of her sternum, fingers expertly alternating pressure during the stroke. A gentle gasp pushed past her lips before cresting into a moan so faint, it had him questioning whether it had happened at all. f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck… Satoru pulled his hand away abruptly, panic rooting around in his aching core.

He was coming undone.

“No, don’t,” Utahime whimpered. “please, it…feels good.”

f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck…f*ck! Satoru’s vision was growing hazy, heavy breathing meeting the thundering of his heart in a whirlwind—was it the world that was spinning or was he the only one spiraling into utter insanity?

No wonder he’d been so light-headed; all the blood in his body had hardened his co*ck beyond any foreseeable comfort. And he knew she could feel it too, his pelvis practically married to her hip at the moment. “Utahime…” In a devout whisper, Satoru pathetically choked out her name, his throat strained with desperation.

Touch me,” she demanded softly.

And how could he possibly deny her?

Resisting the urge to grind his pelvis into her hip for relief, Satoru returned his hands to her flesh, opting for the safe option. With all five of his fingers, he dedicated himself to memorizing the shape of her features. The path of her facial scar, the slope of her nose, the angle of her jaw, the delicacy of her brow bone, the tickle of her eyelashes…

“I like when you’re nice to me.” Utahime’s words spilled out of her with hushed fervor; roseate and breathless. “You’re such an asshole most of the time—so sh*tty.”

Satoru hummed. “Yeah, you’re right. I am sh*tty.” His gaze washed over her, bathing her in an unrestrained affection as his mouth detached itself from his brain. “I shouldn’t get to touch you like this…”

Utahime gave a languid, half-hearted nod. “Right, because you’re sh*tty and awful, and I hate you.”

“Yeah, you should hate me…” His face was an inch from hers, fingers moving to trace the curve of her mouth.

“I do hate you,” she whispered with a half-lidded gaze against his fingertips. “I really…hate you…” Utahime quivered as he parted her lips gently with his index and middle fingers, pressing down on the pink flesh until they were flush against her pretty teeth. In turn, she nipped at him, gently grazing her teeth across his fingertip in a show of amorous disdain.

A jolt of pleasure shot through Satoru, forcing a sharp intake of breath through clenched teeth. “Yeah…” He didn’t know what he was saying anymore. Their hushed conversation had become nonsensical; a weak attempt at cooling the fever that simmered between them.

She made him so weak, he didn’t know how to breathe anymore. Utahime had Satoru wound so tightly around her pretty little pinky, the only thing he wanted was to kneel between her thighs in a demonstration of devotion and whisper prayers into her aching blush. Starved, he would lap at her altar with his tongue until she dripped with milk and honey, gasping his name through a crimson headache. What could possibly be more magnificent than being venerated by a god?

But, as much as it pained him, Satoru knew nothing could happen between them, especially not that evening in particular.

Through sheer willpower, amidst Utahime’s sluggish attempts at closing the distance, Satoru used the two fingers pressed against her lips to push her head back down into the pillow. He brought his own mouth upon his knuckles just above where her lips were, using them as a shield. Satoru was practically swimming in the honeyed depths of her eyes which were wide with a mixture of shock and confusion from how close their faces were in proximity. He breathed shakily against the back of his own fingers, the weight of his head holding her down so she had no room to make any further attempts at kissing him.

“Go to sleep, Hime,” Satoru murmured against his own knuckles. “You’re drunk.”

With that said, Satoru removed himself from her personal space, turning away from her without sparing a second glance. To cope with the tumultuous emotions rolling through his chest the way a storm cloud would, Satoru forced his eyes closed, praying for sleep to finally take him so he might find a moment’s reprieve.

Unfortunately for him, it would be hours before his erection finally dissipated.

Notes:

DOUBLE CHAPTER POST IN ONE DAY, WOOOOOO!!!!

yeah, like i said before, these last two chapters were supposed to be one but each part ended up being 6.8k words so like,,,, let's bffr lmao

anyway,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, lmk your thoughts on the chapter hehehehehhehehe *kickin my f*ckin FEETS* <3<3

i hope you enjoy!!! next chapter coming real soon~

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 9: when you & me dance

Summary:

“Y’know, you get real hangry sometimes, Hime. Seriously, I feel terrible for your future husband and he probably doesn’t even exist!”

“You know, Gojo, you’d probably have an easier time finding a girlfriend if you just shut your mouth and never talked again,” she retorted, her entire body tense with aggravation. “because, as it stands right now, you’re actually going to die a virgin.”

Once again, Satoru wailed with laughter. “Not the shrine maiden telling me I’m gonna die a virgin—that’s hilarious!” He was being obnoxious on purpose, enjoying the way Utahime clenched her little fists against her thighs. “I think you’d find a decent boyfriend if you just smiled a little more, Hime.”

“And I think you should choke and die,” Utahime spat. “We’re all entitled to our opinions, I guess.”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

i've got a million things i can say to you
but that doesn't mean that i'm going to
because you give me something to feel,
like i'm real, like my life's not some big joke
you're something to deal with the pain,
i just thought i'd let you know

that i'm runnin' off a feeling that
i get when you and me dance
and i want it, and i need it,
so catch up if you can, if you can

i got a million things i'd let you do to me
and i'm not afraid if it hurts
'cause you do it so beautifully
you give me something to feel,
like i'm real, like i never was before

- Grabbitz

* * * * * * *

From the throes of restless sleep, a warm light upon his eyelids stirred Satoru into consciousness. There was a pressure on his arm and against his chest, generating a significant amount of heat. Curiously, he opened a single sleep-crusted eye, peering down to locate the source of the weight.

His breath caught in his throat as he realized his body had entangled itself with Utahime’s in the middle of the night. His leg was slipped between hers, an arm draped over her waist with the other supporting her neck. She was facing him, head partially tucked under his chin with a hand grabbing a fistful of his shirt, vaguely resembling a napping child.

Her cheek was smushed against the pillow under her head, a line of drool slipping down the corner of her mouth. Paired with her peaceful expression and sleepy snorts—considerably gentler in volume than the previous morning, thankfully—he found himself completely enamored.

When he took a deep breath, the scent of her clean, powdery musk filled his lungs; a subtle floral scent clung to her hair, mussed by deep slumber. Satoru was terrified to move, worried that even the smallest of motions would wake her. Although the arm under her neck had grown numb, he wanted to bask in this moment—he wanted to commit it to memory so he’d have something to help lull himself to sleep at night.

However, in his entrancement, Satoru subconsciously tightened his grip on her waist. Holding his breath, he waited to see if she’d react to the sensation but, instead, she released another gentle snort. Out like a light, he noted with an affectionate smile.

And, because he was greedy, he chose to tempt fate.

Lazily, he stroked the dip in her waist. There was a small scar there which received most of his attention but her skin, soft with renewal, begged for his attention as well.

A part of him wondered if it would be inappropriate to kiss her awake, tempted to press his lips against her brow before moving to the bridge of her nose; then, he’d pepper kisses along her jawline until he reached the corner of her mouth. Once he captured her lips, he would indulge in the sensation of her body stirring beneath him, eager mouth returning his hot kisses with fervor. Next, he would move his hand to cup her breast and—Stop, stop, stop!

It would be terribly inappropriate and, now, he was hard which made the situation worse. What kind of freak was he to be turned on by an unconscious woman who very well could still have alcohol from the previous evening slipping through her bloodstream?

Despite all of Utahime’s spiteful accusations of Satoru being an asshole, he wasn’t exactly keen on being deemed a creep. So, as per the right thing to do, Satoru didn’t act upon his urges, merely proceeding to issue his affectionate touches with wholesome intention. However, he couldn’t stop his eyes from following the dip in her cupid’s bow, recalling the way he’d kissed them with the pads of his fingers—the closest he might ever get to kissing her if he were to be realistic.

Realistically, even if her sober tongue were to ask him for such a thing, he would have to deny her. There was no way he could proceed further with Utahime. I have to be realistic about this. It was a word he kept repeating to himself whenever he thought his resolve to keep her at distance might crumble. It wasn’t realistic to imagine a life with Utahime; it wasn’t realistic to love and be loved by her.

Not when he was Satoru Gojo—the strongest jujutsu sorcerer of the modern era.

Even still, he couldn’t remove his hands from her soft skin. He couldn’t find the strength to untangle his limbs from hers. He couldn’t stop gazing upon her silly sleeping face with worship. He couldn’t convince his mind to cease playing out his fantasies on repeat. He couldn’t, he couldn’t, he couldn’t

Because, realistically, only a woman like Utahime Iori—one who could chew up a god and spit him back out—could weaken Satoru Gojo.

A stirring in Utahime’s sleeping form had Satoru halting all movement of his hands, jaw clenched with trepidation. Goddamn-sh*t-piss-f*ck…! His brain was too muddled to focus on a single curse. What the f*ck do I do? He thought perhaps he should flash his usual sh*t-eating grin and make fun of her bedhead; or, maybe, he should make a flirtatious comment about their activities from the night before—anything to be cool in the wake of this boyish panic.

But instead, in pathetic fashion, Satoru opted to shut his eyes, attempting to pretend he was still asleep. It was absurd—moronic, even—but he had to act quickly and couldn’t afford ruining this moment with some half-co*cked attempt at maintaining his devil-may-care, cool guy persona. Either way, it was too late to do something differently as he heard signs of consciousness in the form of a grumble and the rustling of the bedsheets beside him.

Satoru remained completely still, making sure to relax his face. He could hear a sharp breath as if startled, followed by a gasp and sharp movement. She doesn’t remember last night, does she? Admittedly, his heart sank at the idea but he wouldn’t allow the upset to give away his ruse. He expected she would tear away from his grasp and fling herself off the bed at any moment, either way—he could always lick his wounds in the shower later while putting her lost memories to good use as a…stress reliever.

But, much to his surprise, Utahime did not pull away from him.

It started as a gentle poke to his cheek, the sensation akin to someone checking for signs of life from an unconscious creature. When he did not stir—because there was no way he’d give up the bit that easily—the poke of one finger had turned into the featherlight padding of multiple. As if mirroring his actions from the previous night, Utahime used her fingertips to trace his cheekbones and the sharp line of his jaw. The soft undulation of her breathing was enough to rile up the creature in his bloodstream, a tight knot aroused in his core.

Once her fingers had started tracing his lips, a tingle causing the delicate flesh to quiver, Satoru knew he couldn’t carry on this way any longer. Slowly, he opened his eyes to take in Utahime’s visual form as opposed to the auric blob she’d been behind his eyelids. Much to his dismay, she snatched her hands away, her warm brown eyes wide with shock.

“G-Gojo…!” A crimson flush marred her once peaceful expression, her lips puckered inward as if trying to contain the mortification coursing through her veins. “I, um—what am I, uh…why am I…?”

She really doesn’t remember. In stark opposition to the disappointment squeezing his heart into a fine pulp, Satoru grinned wolfishly at her. “Well, good morning to you too, Utahime.” From the way her shoulders tensed, Satoru could tell his voice, low and rasped with traces of sleepiness, had an effect on her. Not that it necessarily meant anything—all women loved that kind of thing, right?

He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment’s reprieve. “Barely been conscious for a minute and you’re already pestering me with an interrogation?” To really highlight his jest, Satoru made sure to tsk while shaking his head. “How impolite of you, senpai…”

Before she could even fully process what he had said, Utahime blurted out, “Oh, g-good morning!” Then, in the wake of her squeaky, panicked formality, an indecipherable expression fell upon her features. “Wait, what did you just call me?”

Satoru smirked. “Sen~pai,” he enunciated. Not once in all the years they had known each other had he referred to Utahime as his senior in such a direct way—not even jokingly. It wasn’t only because he knew it annoyed her to no end and put him right where he wanted to be which was in the crossfire of her terrible moods; it was because he had never learned how to properly respect her.

Unsurprisingly, Satoru had always struggled with the concept of humility. No matter how hard his handlers and mentor had tried to beat traditions of respect into him, none of it stuck, doomed to fail in the face of the Six Eyes. Satoru had been born seeing things far beyond human comprehension, intrinsically aware of the difference between him and them. He didn’t need to be told he was powerful; he didn’t need a roadmap to his destiny as the strongest jujutsu sorcerer of the modern era.

It had been clear to him from the very moment he had been christened Satoru Gojo.

He had been detrimentally raised to believe that those of the Gojo Clan were superior to everyone else. Those deemed as having a high enough pedigree to marry into the family would do so, only to be treated as servants to be bred in the end. Growing up as isolated as he was and unable to interact with those in which his blood was strongest due to risks of ‘unnecessary influence’ had only served to reinforce the idea that Satoru was far above the rest—that no one, not even his own family, deserved a chance to breach the gates of heaven by his side.

So, Utahime with her inferior blood and obscure cursed technique; her boundless compassion and fragile feelings—how could she possibly command respect from him?

From the very moment he had laid eyes on her, she’d become this anomaly in his life. An unshakeable contradiction to all that he had been taught and all the information his Six Eyes afforded him. She was weak in so many different ways—a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the hurricane Satoru was himself. Love required respect and he could never respect someone who lived upon the earth when he had already transcended the heavens. Traditions of seniority and demands of politeness may apply to humans but never to a god.

And yet, he loved her—feverishly, incessantly, and irrevocably.

But, like a god, he could not have her. So, when Utahime suddenly rolled off the bed with a squeak, Satoru suppressed the ache of disappointment rather adeptly. Her face was red with embarrassment, brows knitted together fiercely. “This is super inappropriate!” Utahime frantically stammered. “We shouldn’t have—!”

“Shouldn’t have what, Utahime?” Satoru didn’t bother disguising the irritation in his tone, rubbing the crust out of his eyes. “Nothing happened—I mean, not unless you count cuddling before marriage a sin.”

There was a frustrated squeal buried in her throat, restrained by the firm press of her lips. “Still,” she pushed out. “I should know better than to do something like this with you!” Utahime buried the heels of her palms into her eyes. “You’re my junior, I shouldn’t be behaving like this—least of all with you.”

Okay, ouch. Perhaps the way she kept straining him in the mix stung a bit. “Oh my god, get over yourself, Utahime,” he complained. “You can’t possibly be this conservative, can you? You’re only, like, two years older than me…”

“Three years.”

“Two years, nine months, and nineteen days, actually—but who’s counting?” Satoru grunted as he kicked himself off of the bed. As he stretched his limbs, he made sure to moan as obnoxiously as possible, attempting to remind her that he was, in fact, a fully grown, hot-blooded man who had enough agency to push her back down onto the bed and bury himself into her wet, tightStop, stop, stop, stop, stop!

Utahime hugged herself, staring at him with a wary expression. “Are you sure…nothing happened last night?”

“Well, what do you remember?” Satoru slipped his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants, grinding them into fists to maintain his neutral expression. He didn’t want to risk her discovering his true feelings as he tried to gauge the situation. While there was a hint of recollection in her eyes, a conflicting uncertainty weighed down her shoulders, puzzling him. Genuinely, he had no idea if she remembered or not.

Utahime refused to meet his gaze, her own fixating itself onto the floor. “We talked, I drank, you called me a bitch at some point…” A subtle pang of guilt pumped his heart, especially since she glossed over the insult as if completely accustomed to it. “I got ready for bed and—”

“Well, actually, I got you ready for bed,” he interjected. “but, yeah, sure.”

Utahime carried on as if she hadn’t been interrupted, a flash of annoyance in the brief glance she awarded him. “—then, we went to bed...together.” The apples of her cheeks were tinted with the prettiest shade of pink—a color only Utahime’s skin could create as her eyelashes fluttered. “And nothing happened…?”

Slowly, Satoru moved around the bed between them, crossing the room to approach her in earnest. He didn’t remove his clenched fists from his pockets as he halted an arms’ distance before her. For once, he was thankful he didn’t have his sunglasses to hide behind, enjoying the way she squirmed under his unfiltered gaze. “Did you want something to happen?”

Despite the assertive way he carried himself, Satoru held his breath as he observed her. The downside of his eyes being uncovered in this moment meant he could read every minute detail. He could see every muscle in her face flex as she looked up at him, the pulse at the corner of her mouth pattering away like a hummingbird’s wings. With how expressive her eyes were, it was surprising the Six Eyes couldn’t catch her thoughts floating behind them—and, admittedly, that’s what he wanted to see the most.

Her shaky breaths were deafening upon his ears; the thump of her quickened pulse had found purchase in his throat as if his heart hadn’t already occupied that space. A second of her silence had folded itself into another eternity and, suddenly, his Infinity was no longer the only phenomena in that room. And when the pregnant pause finally gave way to a conclusion, Utahime’s quivering lips wrapped around a single, earth-shattering word, “No.”

And Satoru stared.

For a long moment, he stared at her face as if its lines and curves could divine her most private thoughts—as if some deeper truth could be gleaned from between each strangulated, shallow breath. Perhaps he should’ve gotten down on his trembling knees, grabbed up her hands, and pressed his lips to her knuckles to whisper exaltation into them; beg her to bury his sighing heart into her own, warm and clothed by her song, so he no longer feared his inevitably lonely death. Because anything else would have been better than what he’d decided upon.

Satoru packed a wide, toothy grin onto his face. “Good,” he said whimsically. “because nothing did happen.” He clapped his hands together. “Anyway, I’m gonna go shower now since I didn’t get to last night. We should head out in the next two hours if we wanna get to Naha at a decent time. You should go check on those two weirdos downstairs—can you believe they ditched us for some new friends? Rude!”

Quickly, he turned away from her and headed towards the bathroom, his face falling with exhaustion the very moment Utahime could no longer view his expression. Once again, Satoru was reminded of the distance between him and them; the imbalance his heavenly body brought upon the earth.

All because a god could never be human too.

~

“I am never traveling with women again,” Satoru complained. “like ever—I mean it!” He pressed his head deeper into the lounge chair he’d opted to wait on, one leg propped up while the other tapped impatiently against the ground. If he hadn’t been so incensed, Satoru might’ve appreciated the scent of the ocean in view and the sound of trickling pool water.

It was supposed to be an easy day. They had taken the hour long drive down to Naha where they shopped around, ate some great food, and did a good amount of sightseeing. Satoru had been under the impression that, once evening hit, they’d drive back up to the resort and chill for the rest of the night; maybe take a dip in the private pool or play some of the board games he brought along in his luggage.

But, instead, he had been told—not asked, of course, because why would they ever ask their walking credit card before doing anything—that they would need to get dressed quickly before going back out again. When incredulously and irritably questioned where, they had told him a nightclub as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. I don’t even like drinking!

“Now, don’t say that, Gojo,” Mei purred from inside. “what’ll happen if you have a daughter?”

Shoko barked out a laugh, the sound almost unnatural coming from her. “Yeah, right! No woman in their right mind would wanna date him, let alone procreate with him.” Satoru said nothing, not even bothering to turn around to face her as he lifted his middle finger high into the air. “Pfft, right back at ya, babe!”

“I can think of one…” Mei’s silky voice trailed off, the sound of shuffling undercutting the mirth in her tone. “Utahime?”

“Wait, what?”

Admittedly, Satoru’s interest had been piqued from the moment Mei opened her mouth, resulting in the dramatic reaction that followed. He pushed himself off of the lounge chair, turning to look back at Mei. She and Shoko were in the bedroom, each holding some beauty contraption in their hand for their individual tasks; both dressed to the nines in party clothes. But they had paused their actions, eyes drawn to the bathroom door where Utahime stood.

Satoru felt like he had been punched in the gut just by looking at her. She was wearing a slinky black dress that fell just below her mid-thigh, a single spaghetti strap over the left shoulder holding up the scooped neckline which showed off a good bit of cleavage as well as the tip of her scar. The fabric hung like silk, lightweight but expensive, hugging her figure in such a way that not much was left up to the imagination. It was clear she forwent her bra as her hands were pressed up against her chest protectively, only drawing more attention to her breasts.

“Okay, you guys are freaking me out!” Utahime squeaked, her face flushing. “Can someone say something, please?” She moved into the middle of the bedroom, revealing a cheeky slit in the dress along her right thigh.

Shoko was the first to break the silence, tongue-tied as she said, “Utahime, you look…”

f*cking hot.” Satoru tensed up as all three women looked over at him. sh*t, did I say that out loud? Clearing his throat, he pushed his hands into his pockets to regain some sense of indifference and stepped closer to Utahime. “I just said what we were all thinking. I mean, Utahime is usually so homely…”

Though the blush did not dissipate from Utahime’s features, her sheepish expression had been instantly replaced with irritation. “Yeah, well, at least all I have to do is change my clothes. You, on the other hand…” Taking a step closer, she made a show of looking him over, hissing out feigned pity. “Yikes.”

Satoru barked out a laugh. “That’s hilarious! You can’t even think of an actual insult,” he goaded. “C’mon, Utahime—we both know I’m so pretty, you wanna kiss me!” To punctuate his teasing, he made a series of obnoxious kissing noises, leaning down into her space so she’d recoil with disgust as he knew she would.

It was in that moment, while Utahime had her palm held up to his face in an attempt to stop his antics, Satoru first noticed it. Her hair had grown out a lot longer since the last time he’d seen her, hanging heavy over her shoulders while her outgrown bangs framed her face. Satoru liked long hair—quite a bit, actually. There had been many nights he imagined lying on his back, that long, dark hair hanging thick around him as he got lost in her lungs which is exactly why the absence of it around her face stuck out to him.

Upon further inspection, a good portion of Utahime’s thick hair had been pulled back into a half-ponytail, tied off with a familiar-looking white bow. I’ve definitely seen this before… Without thinking, Satoru brought his hands up to the bow and stroked it, curious as to whether it was still the same material. “Cute,” he murmured with a chuckle.

Utahime’s face flared crimson, surely prepared to chew Satoru out for touching her ribbon as she had done all throughout high school. However, she didn’t get the chance to as Mei stepped up to them, facing Utahime. “Yes, it is,” she said, deeply dissatisfied. “which is exactly why you can’t wear it.”

Satoru straightened his back, shoving his hands back into his pockets. “What’s your problem, Mei-san?” While his tone was light-hearted, his expression had fallen into something much more serious, a single brow co*cked in challenge.

“My problem is that Utahime wants to wear a schoolgirl ribbon with the dress I lent her,” she explained, arms folded firmly over her chest. “That dress is supposed to be sexy. If you wear that ribbon, it destroys the entire look.”

Utahime flinched at her critical tone but, quickly, recollected herself with a congenial smile. “Sorry, it’s just…I wanted to wear my hair up like this and I didn’t have anything else to—”

“Then, you should’ve asked me,” Mei interjected. “I have plenty of things I can lend you.” The entitlement in the wave of a single, dismissive hand was enough to boil Satoru’s blood. “Now, please, lose the ribbon.”

“No, why should she?” Satoru blurted, brows knitted together in the face of her tyranny. “She should be able to wear whatever the f*ck she wants.”

Mei wrung out an unnerving grin. “Oh, what’s this—the boy wonder’s come to save his princess?”

So what if I have? Locked in a battle of wills, it was his righteous anger against her haughty conviction. “Nah, you just sound really f*ckin’ stupid.”

Mei rolled her eyes but the ghost of a smile still lingered. “Please, muzzle your dog, Utahime.”

And, much to his dismay, Utahime cautioned him with a gentle, “Gojo…”

No, Utahime,” he snapped, unable to stop his rampage. “If you want to keep the ribbon on, you should! It looks f*cking se—uh, good on you. You shouldn’t listen to this bit—!”

GOJO!” A hot-honey glare was fixed onto his face, Utahime’s disapproval palpable enough to get him to shut his mouth—maybe he really was her dog. “Mei-san is right. It probably does look childish because it’s the same ribbon I used to wear in high school.” She pulled at the ribbon, releasing her hair so it all hung down her back once again. Then, she turned to Mei with a tight smile. “Could you get me something else to tie my hair with, please?”

After flashing a smug glance in Satoru’s direction, Mei returned Utahime’s smile. “Of course, I can.” She moved away from them, sashaying her way into the bathroom.

Then, Utahime turned to him. “Listen, I understand what you were trying to do but…” She trailed off, trying to find the right words to say.

But Satoru cut her off, lifting a dismissive hand. “Forget about it. Do whatever you want." He turned away from her, trudging off to sulk by the pool again. “I hate women.” A hand fell upon his shoulder, drawing his attention toward the source.

Beside him, Shoko stood with an unlit cigarette clenched between her teeth. “Well, misogyny’s not gonna get you very far,” she quipped. “Let’s start with that.” As she lit her cigarette with that peculiar smile of hers, Satoru swatted at her playfully, eliciting a giggle.

He slung a lax arm over Shoko’s shoulder, planting a wet kiss on her temple that she complained about with the frantic swiping of her free hand. And, despite the cough it pulled from his lungs, there was a sense of peace right there within her cloud of smoke. Well, the night can only go up from here, right?

~

The nightclub pulsed with life, dance music spilling through the main doors as patrons lined up for a chance to enter. Mei had picked the venue, citing its acceptance of anyone over the age of eighteen as reason enough to choose it over anything else—well, that and the fact she had been invited to it by some people she’d met at some point. Satoru wasn’t sure who or when but, considering how little time they’d spent together so far, he totally believed that Mei could’ve used hers to network.

“Should we get in line?” Utahime asked, hugging herself as she rubbed warmth into her arms. “We might be out here for awhile…”

Satoru snorted. “Nah.” There was no way they would be able to withstand the chilly evening for long which made waiting in line an impossibility. However, even without that reasoning, Satoru Gojo was not someone who generally waited for anything, especially not a line. “Follow my lead.”

“And how are you going to get us in, playboy?” Mei sassed.

She was the only one of the three women not shivering, of course, which didn’t surprise him in the least—frigid bitch. He considered leaving her outside but knew that meant leaving Utahime out in the cold as well and, as upset as he was with her in that moment, he didn’t think he had the heart to do that to her.

“Shut up and find out,” he retorted, pulling his wallet out from his pocket. There had been plenty of times he’d had to buy his way into a place he wanted to be and this was no exception.

With unbridled confidence, Satoru approached the stone-faced bouncer, adjusting his sunglasses with a wolfish grin. “Well, good evenin’, sir,” he greeted before handing the man his identification along with five ten thousand yen notes, ignoring the angry whispers of the patrons waiting in line. “One for each of us, including you! A gift for our new friendship, hmm?”

The bouncer counted the notes, looking at Satoru as well as the women behind him. “They got I.D.?”

“Sure do,” Satoru sang before waving them over. “Ladies, our friend here is waiting to see your pretty mugs!” When Mei walked up, he stalled humorously and pointed at her. “Well, in your case, a mugshot.” He took great pleasure in the way Mei dismissed him, hoping he might bother her enough to send her back packing to Tokyo—fat chance.

After Mei and Utahime received their orange wristbands to indicate they were of legal drinking age, the group went inside, immediately consumed by the flashing lights and sweaty bodies which littered the venue. Satoru had to push up his shades a little further, the amount of stimulus available preying upon his keen senses. Despite his personality, nightclubs weren’t really his scene—he had no interest in drinking alcohol or picking up women and the overstimulation wasn’t particularly enjoyable.

Still, he liked music and he loved to dance which was the only reason why he ever agreed to any sort of nightlife. Since they’d both turned eighteen, he and Shoko had visited the occasional nightclub here or there, sticking mostly with venues that weren’t restricted to ages twenty and up—though, there had been a handful of times Satoru snuck them into one, deciding the vibes were right and they wanted to play.

But, if it hadn’t been for Shoko, he likely would’ve never considered nightlife at all. As it stood, Satoru’s only motivation for going to a nightclub was Shoko. Despite her casual attitude, or perhaps because of it, Shoko was a joy to be around. Nothing was serious, everything was fun, and, by the end of the night, you would be wishing the night didn’t have to end at all, even if you were exhausted and overstimulated to all hell.

Satoru couldn’t help but wonder, as they settled upon plush couches in an intimate little corner, if Mei represented something similar to Utahime; if that’s why she was so hesitant to stand up to her. When it came to Mei Mei, there was always a price to pay. It just so happened that she accepted multiple forms of payment—cash, blood, or, in this case, loyalty.

Utahime settled onto the couch beside Satoru, her legs elegantly crossed and hands folded against her lap. She was a vision of modesty despite her attire and their current surroundings, inspiring Satoru to drape a protective arm along the back of the couch behind her. The gesture must’ve been subtle enough, considering she had no reaction to it. “So, where are your friends?” Utahime asked, raising her voice to be heard above the music.

As if on cue, Mei fished her phone out of her clutch purse in response to a few messages notifications. “They’re outside,” she said with incredible disinterest. “In line, probably.” She slipped her phone back into her clutch before leaning into her palm, tapping her manicured fingernails against her cheek. “They don’t exactly measure up to Gojo’s level of charm.”

Satoru pulled his face into one of sarcastic flattery. “Aw, how sweet of you, Mei—I’m touched.”

She used her hand to deliver a petty flourish. “I live to please,” she snarked. “Anyway, I’m going to get a drink.” Mei co*cked a brow in Utahime’s direction. “Would you like one too?”

“Yeah, sure.” There was a nervous energy to her voice. “Just pick anything as long as it’s not too sweet.”

“Great.” Mei stood up, heels so sharp their clacking could be heard above the music. “Got your credit card on you?”

“…huh?”

Mei looked at Utahime as if she couldn’t understand the latter’s confusion, plucked brows pulled together. “To pay for the drinks?”

Jesus Christ, this again? But Satoru kept his mouth shut this time around, not keen on getting shut down again for trying to stand up for her. Helplessly, he watched as Utahime floundered, clearly unsure of how to approach the situation. He adjusted the sunglasses on his nose, averting his eyes from the scene—only to remember that he had practically 360 degrees of vision and quite literally could not look away. This is just sad…

“Um, sure,” Utahime said meekly, reaching for her purse. “Let me just…” She dug through her bag with clumsy movements.

Watching her, Satoru felt spurred by great amounts of irritation. It didn’t take much for him to reach into his pocket and pull out his wallet, presenting his black card between two fingers. “Here. Open a tab.” He briefly glanced at Utahime’s dazed expression, returning his arm to its protective position. “Put your money away, Hime. I got it.”

Eagerly, Mei plucked the card out of his hand with a smile. “You should praise your dog, Utahime. He’s being such a good boy.”

Much to his surprise, Utahime shot back, “Stop calling him that.” She had her arms folded firmly over her chest, face screwed with aggravation. “Nobody is anybody’s dog.” It hadn’t occurred to Satoru that the thing which would motivate Utahime to push Mei back even just a little bit would be him.

Mei chuckled. “Suit yourself,” she said. “but, personally, I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” With that said, Mei sashayed off deeper into the club, headed toward the bar with Satoru’s black card slipped between her slick fingers.

The three remaining sat in relative silence, simply enjoying the music until Mei came back with alcoholic spoils. Satoru had attracted quite a few amorous stares, giggling club girls batting their lashes and winking their interest over in his direction. Of course, he paid them no mind, moving the arm slung behind Utahime just a little closer to her. Pinched between his thumb and forefinger, Satoru twirled her silky black hair around his fingers absentmindedly. And, if her lack of a reaction was any indication, she didn’t seem to notice.

Eventually, Mei did come back to them—but it wasn’t alone.

“Look who I ran into at the bar,” Mei announced, empty hands on her hips. “and in such good time—I would’ve never been able to carry all these drinks by myself.” Behind her stood the same three men from the previous day; the non-sorcerers from the pool that had completely overlooked Utahime. In their hands, they each carried a drink and a few shot glasses, eyes fixated on Mei’s silhouette.

But she calls me a dog... Satoru flashed them a haughty smirk, not bothering to greet them. It seemed a waste of breath to exchange pleasantries with men who were about as valuable as bugs underfoot, especially when their presence had Utahime swatting the hand he had tangled in her hair away. What’s her deal?

“Hey, Kyosuke,” drawled Shoko, voice skipping with amusem*nt. “surprised you were down for another night after yesterday’s festivities.” The way she flashed a brow at the man in question, along with that wrung out smile, wasn’t lost upon Satoru, a shiver running down his spine from the suggestive implications. It wasn’t Shoko hooking up with people that was a problem; it was more the idea of her hooking up with them that disgusted him.

He felt like a younger brother watching his eldest sister cozy up with some bum as the meaty non-sorcerer moved past Mei and took the empty space on the club lounger beside Shoko, draping his arm over her shoulder. Ryosuke—or whatever his name was, Satoru didn’t care—pressed his lips against Shoko’s ear, whispering something that had her giggling. Satoru did his best to police his expression, holding back a grimace. Ew, okay, this is suddenly really disturbing...

“Takashi, why don’t you sit next to Utahime?” Mei suggested, drawing Satoru’s attention away from the gross cuddle fest happening across from him. She flashed her sharp eyes onto him, tight smile unyielding despite the bite in her voice as she ordered, “Make some room, Gojo.”

Satoru—manspread across the lounger, barely affording even Utahime enough room to sit with a modest distance between them—barked out an incredulous laugh. “Nah, not gonna happen,” he asserted, playful demeanor undercut by his arrogance. “M’afraid this couch’s got a max occupancy of two.”

To his chagrin, Utahime fashioned her eyes into daggers, a poorly disguised snarl pulling at her lip. “Gojo, don’t be rude.” She shuffled her body toward Satoru, inadvertently closing the comfortable distance between them until she was pressed up against his side. “Please, you can take a seat here,” she said sweetly, indicating the space she had just created. “You can ignore him.”

Satoru rolled his eyes but said nothing as Takaki or Takeshi—whatever, he really didn’t care—cautiously settled into the space beside Utahime. The man’s eyes were downcast and uncertain, not looking up directly at Utahime’s face. Instead, they seemed to focus on the creamy expanse of her chest, reminding Satoru that the tops of her breasts were exposed to all and not just him. Though, admittedly, the non-sorcerer didn’t seem particularly aroused by the sight, grimacing a bit as he moved his gaze away from Utahime entirely. If Satoru weren’t trying to be on his best behavior, he would’ve snatched the man’s head clean off his body—ungrateful piece of sh*t.

Instinctively, Satoru moved the protective arm draped over the back of the couch tighter around her, ghosting his knuckles over her bicep but making no actual attempt to touch her skin. He didn’t feel like being unfairly swatted at again, especially when he was showing her all the care and consideration she deserved looking like that in a place like this. Once again, Satoru was reminded of the simple, undeniable fact that nobody—absolutely f*cking nobody—could appreciate Utahime the way he did.

Especially not some puny little f*ck who couldn’t stomach the sight of a battle scar or two.

Mei and the third man—Satoru didn’t even try to recall a name for him—sat down beside Shoko and her catch of the evening. She flourished her hands over the glass table between them, indicating the assortment of drinks she and the men had bought. “Let’s start with some shots,” she suggested, picking up one of the small glass flutes filled with clear liquid.

Everyone aside from Satoru leaned forward to grab one, toasting clumsily before downing the liquor in one fell swoop. “Not gonna drink yours?” Ryusuke questioned, co*cking a curious brow in Satoru’s direction.

“Nah—don’t drink.” His free hand was twisting a strand of his own white hair absentmindedly, blue eyes guarded by the shades on his nose. It was better they couldn’t see them, otherwise, they might have run for the hills in sheer fear of his imposing gaze. There was something about this entire situation that reeked to him, a suspicion crawling its way up his spine as he felt compelled to occasionally glance over at Mei. She’s up to something.

Satoru reached forward, grabbing his shot glass before anyone else could and pushing it into Utahime’s hands. “Here, you can have mine.”

“Oh, okay,” she muttered with uncertainty. “thanks.” She knocked the shot back, a grimace passing over her face briefly before she recovered, reaching forward to grab the drink Mei had ordered for her. He had no idea what it could’ve been as she sipped on the fizzy co*cktail but she seemed to enjoy it just fine.

“So, are you two dating?” Tadashi suddenly asked, directing his question toward the pair sitting beside him. There was this odd look on his face—as if his fate rode upon the answer. It would be one thing if the expression had indicated a desire for Utahime but that wasn’t the impression Satoru received and it bothered him to no end.

Utahime choked on her drink, resulting in a coughing fit which she desperately tried to hide behind her hand. And, as if drawn by instinct to answer his question the way he wished he could, Satoru rubbed her back in a comforting gesture. “There, there, Utahime,” he teased. “Try not to drown in that co*cktail of yours, m’kay?”

Ignoring his derision, Utahime very passionately insisted, “No, we are not dating.”

In an attempt to contradict her response, Satoru slid his hand up toward the top of her spine, pushing her hair aside to expose her nape. He could feel her flesh quiver under his touch as he gently grabbed the back of her neck and gave it a very delicate—albeit, possessive—squeeze. There was a sweet little mole to the left of her spine where her shoulder met the nape that he smoothed his fingers over, loose strands along her hairline tickling the back of his hand.

Of course, Utahime rejected his touch with another swatting as she scowled, forcing Satoru to clarify, “Right—just really good friends.” He allowed a wry smile to stretch across his face. “Good friends that share a bed sometimes.”

Gojo!” A warm flush tinted her face, reaching up to her ears and down to her neckline. Squeezing her cheeks between her palms, she implored, “Please, ignore him! He has very vivid delusions that he enjoys punishing the world with for whatever reason.” Her words tapered out with vitriol, a firm glare of warning thrown in his direction.

Satoru held up his hands defensively, unable to discard his smug grin. “I dunno, things felt pretty real to me last night.” Although he knew he shouldn’t have brought it up, he really couldn’t help himself. A tumultuous blend of emotions spurred him onward, seeking a sense of satisfaction without knowing exactly what he was looking for.

“Gojo, don’t,” she warned.

But it was too late, Shoko already stirring from across the table. “What happened last night?” Her brows were knitted together, conveying a deep curiosity. The question was clinical in nature, making her sound like some scientist gathering data for an experiment.

“Yes, do tell,” Mei encouraged, cupping her chin with a smile. “and spare no detail.”

Utahime tensed under the pressure, practically shrieking when she exclaimed, “Nothing happened last night!”

Feeling the slightest bit of pity for her, Satoru sighed. “Fine, fine. Utahime’s technically right. All we did was cuddle a little bit while sharing the bed. The virginal shrine maiden’s modesty is still firmly intact.” He rolled his eyes at his own statement, pretending to be annoyed with her. “Imagine being obsessed with baseball but not even letting me hit first bas—OW!”

Utahime had pinched the underside of his bicep, causing his sprawled limbs to retract back in toward his body. He cradled the arm which had been slung around her, pressing his palm against the smarting skin. “Jesus, Utahime! Don’t you know I bruise easily?”

“No, you don’t,” she retorted spitefully. His Infinity didn’t often afford him opportunities to bruise and, even when it did, his reverse cursed technique made quick work of the wound.

He grinned, chortling a bit. “You’re right, I don’t!”

“Can we go dance or something?” Utahime said gruffly, lifting herself up onto her feet and awarding Satoru with the most spectacular view—he could see the outline of her ass in that slinky little dress and, honestly, he was barely holding it together.

Mei perked up. “Yes, let’s.”

Everyone stood up aside from Satoru who was deeply transfixed by Utahime’s body standing before him. And he wouldn’t tune back in until the moment she turned towards Takatoshi and asked, “Would you like to dance with me?” Immediately, Satoru got up onto his feet, crowding Utahime’s back—though, she clearly made a point to ignore his proximity.

From over her shoulder, Satoru glared at Tatsushi over his sunglasses, noticing how the man’s breath caught in his throat at the very sight of his Six Eyes. Stay away from my girl, he wanted to spit. Of course, he had to refrain as, unfortunately, Utahime wasn’t his girl and would likely never be his girl—still, he couldn’t help being of the jealous kind.

A hand laid itself upon Tomoyoshi’s quaking shoulder, drawing his faithful gaze. “Oh, Utahime’s an excellent dancer,” cooed Mei, giving his shoulder a suggestive stroke. “You couldn’t find a better partner.”

Utahime sheepishly tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. Though he couldn’t see the expression on her face, Satoru knew she was gnawing on her lower lip in that way he liked; her cursed energy always bubbled around that area when she did so, just as it was right then. With a single finger, Satoru pulled his shades a little further down his nose, tempted to rip them off entirely so the non-sorcerer would finally run off like he wanted to.

Anyone else might’ve felt sorry for Tetsushi, caught in the crossfire of Mei and Satoru’s battle of wills. From the way his bottom lip trembled, gaping like a fish out of water, it was clear the man had no idea whose warning to heed. And that’s exactly what made this situation even more suspicious than it already was—because choosing between Mei and Satoru as far as who to fear most should’ve been a no-brainer, even to a measly non-sorcerer.

Mei Mei was merely a petty villain while Satoru Gojo was a f*cking god amongst men.

What does she have on him? Satoru narrowed his perceptive gaze onto Mei, hoping to unveil her secrets somehow.

“Erm, sure! We can dance,” the puny man stammered. “b-but I’m going to get another drink first!” His terrified eyes flashed in Satoru’s direction, fist tightened around the plastic cup in his hand—still very much full of liquor, making his victory abundantly clear.

“Take your time!” Satoru exclaimed with a smirk. “I’ll make sure to get Utahime warmed up on the dance floor.” He slipped off his bomber jacket, dropping it into a heap on the lounger.

Snapping her head toward him, Utahime sputtered, “Wait, what? But I don’t wan—!”

With a cheerful smile, Satoru wrapped a hand around Utahime’s tiny wrist, tugging her along after him. “Let’s go dance, Hime!” Unceremoniously, he had dragged her out onto the dance floor, amidst a dozen sweaty bodies moving to the music. It would’ve felt a lot more awkward had Shoko and Kosuke not joined them soon after, the former providing a bit of mediation between Satoru and Utahime.

It was clear from the way Shoko drew Utahime into her space that they’d gone dancing together before, coaxing her into rhythm rather easily as she exclaimed, “Utahime, it’s our song!” And, just like that, Utahime seemed to toss her inhibitions aside and began to dance—albeit, hesitantly, at first.

But, as the song went on, her movements became bolder. A dazzling smile grew on her face, cursed energy building and pulsing in time with the music. His senses were consumed by the taste of milk and honey, filling his lungs and warming his limbs as he shed his own worries. Just as it had the night before, Utahime’s cursed technique activated on its own in response to the movement of her body and her voice singing along to the music. It washed over him, bathing him with inexplicable feelings of passion as his cursed energy eagerly absorbed her own, bypassing all his defenses.

Utahime had kept a comfortable distance between them before, opting to dance almost exclusively within Shoko’s grasp—until, suddenly, she wasn’t anymore. Suddenly, their bodies were closer than before, her back grinding into his chest. There was this instinctive pull between them, magnetizing them together until, suddenly, all pretense had vanished. Suddenly, Satoru couldn’t keep his hands to himself, hands clinging to her hips, his lips loosely pressed against her sweaty neck.

But none of it was sudden at all.

This moment, to him, felt like the culmination of something that had been brewing between them for years. His lungs were tight, his muscles were aching, his fingers were cramping from how tightly he was holding onto her—and yet, he had no intention of stopping. He didn’t want a break; he didn’t need a breather. If it meant living in this moment forever, Satoru would gladly suffocate in her, enveloped in the ecstasy of her cursed technique.

Their bodies ground together harder, his lips ghosting across her shoulder and up the side of her neck which caused her skin to quiver. Heavy breaths spilled over the shell of her ear, his cheek pressing against her hair. One of his hands had abandoned her hip to wrap itself around her throat, gently sliding up further to grip her chin. He could see the pulse in her neck quicken as he exposed her throat with the encouraged tilt of her head. “Utahime…”

Satoru was breathing her name into her throat, nipping at her wild pulse. He could feel one of her hands intertwine itself with the fingers clawing at her hip, holding it firmly in place while the other hand found purchase on the wrist gripping her chin. It may have been hard to hear over the music but, thanks to their close proximity, Satoru could feel Utahime gasping desperately. He planted a hot, open-mouthed kiss on her neck, his tongue tasting the salt on her skin.

Everything was hazy. He was light-headed—dizzy—in her presence. It almost felt like he was drunk, unable to focus his thoughts on anything other than what his body wanted; and his body wanted her. Tasting her skin and touching her the way he was, intimately dancing within her cursed technique as if no one else in the world had existed, felt like another high entirely.

Then, a flustered rush flowed through him, similar to the afterglow of an org*sm. He thought he might start levitating, his cursed energy buzzing so loudly, it laid upon the venue with significant pressure. An involuntary chuckle bubbled up into his throat. Satoru knew that, with the right handseal, he could blow the place and everyone in it to oblivion without a care—and wouldn’t that be magnificent?

Perhaps it was that exact thought which broke the spell.

“Are you two crazy?!”

Suddenly, Utahime was no longer in his arms, being pulled off of the dance floor. And, of course, Satoru followed after her like the dog he was. His body was slick with sweat, the hot flush of his skin making him thankful he’d had the good sense to shed his bomber jacket before hitting the dance floor. As he fixed his gaze onto the back of Utahime’s head, he realized his eyes were incredibly sensitive, making the lights flashing around the edges of his sunglasses almost unbearable. Had Utahime inadvertently boosted the power of his Six Eyes as well?

When he broke through the crowd, he saw Shoko standing in front of Utahime with an uncharacteristically stern expression, hand gripping her wrist tightly. He joined them near the glass table, a baffled look on his face as he felt the high slip away from him. “What’s happening?” Satoru questioned weakly.

“Look, I really don’t give a sh*t what you guys do,” she said. “but I do give a sh*t when it threatens an entire building of innocent people, including me!” Shoko zeroed in on Satoru, eyes narrowed. “You’re already a walking, talking, ticking time-bomb, Gojo—the last thing we need is for you to go f*cking nuclear. So, for the love of all that is holy, can you guys just—I dunno—f*ck each other or something so the tension doesn’t actually kill us? Thanks.” With that, Shoko walked off, rejoining her partner on the dance floor and leaving Satoru alone with Utahime.

At first, Satoru couldn’t look at Utahime, afraid the abundance of cursed energy that had built up between them would explode despite the fact it was dissipating with each passing minute. When he did finally get the courage to examine her, Satoru noted an expression of deep contemplation, brows knitted together as her eyes bore into the ground with unrivaled intensity. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say she was upset but this was something else entirely…

She was troubled with indecision.

“Utahime?” Satoru called out.

But she didn’t respond—not immediately, at least.

After what felt like an eternity, Utahime finally released the breath she had been holding. Her honey brown eyes fixed themselves onto his trembling form as she pressed her lips together into a firm line, a spark of conviction in her gaze. And what she would say next reverberated across timelines, reaching him no matter where his existence could start and end, flowing through all possible windows of space-time without threat of dissolution. “Do you wanna get out of here?”

~

Okay, so this wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind when Utahime asked him to escape the nightclub with her—but it also wasn’t an unwelcome turn of events.

Satoru waited outside the convenience store, watching Utahime’s golden aura wander about to collect her sudden shopping list of needs. The smell of fried chicken made his mouth water, the bucket tucked under his arm and warm to the touch. Honestly, they were lucky they’d managed to get to the local KFC just ten minutes before it was due to close. The workers hadn’t been particularly stoked about it but, thankfully, they had secured their spoils—their mouth-watering, buttery, juicy spoils. God, I’m so hungry…

After what felt like an eternity, Utahime shuffled out of the convenience store, swimming in Satoru’s bomber jacket. Instead of the heels she’d been wearing earlier—now hanging from one of her hands—she had on a new pair of flip-flops which were an awful turquoise color and possessed a tropical floral pattern. “You picked those?”

Utahime adjusted the plastic bag in her other hand as she approached him, looking down at the flip-flops with a puzzled pout. “They were the only ones in my size,” she whined. “and they’re really not that bad.” It was almost unfair how cute she was.

With a chuckle, Satoru grabbed the plastic bag from her hand. “No, they really are,” he teased. “Seriously, remind me to chuck those into a volcano for you after this vacation is over.” He looked through the plastic bag, taking stock of the items Utahime had bought. There was a large can of beer, a bottle of cherry-flavored soda, and two bags of candy—one of which was a pack of black licorice. “Oh my god, ew, Utahime. You actually like black licorice?”

She snatched the bag away with a deep-set scowl. “Stop judging me!” Utahime stomped away, the sound of her flip-flops hilariously slapping against the sidewalk. “The beach is this way,” she directed, voice laced with irritation. “Hurry up!”

He barked out a laugh as he strode after her, a walk sufficient enough to keep up. “Y’know, you get real hangry sometimes, Hime. Seriously, I feel terrible for your future husband and he probably doesn’t even exist!”

“You know, Gojo, you’d probably have an easier time finding a girlfriend if you just shut your mouth and never talked again,” she retorted, her entire body tense with aggravation. “because, as it stands right now, you’re actually going to die a virgin.”

Once again, Satoru wailed with laughter. “Not the shrine maiden telling me I’m gonna die a virgin—that’s hilarious!” He was being obnoxious on purpose, enjoying the way Utahime clenched her little fists against her thighs. “I think you’d find a decent boyfriend if you just smiled a little more, Hime.”

“And I think you should choke and die,” Utahime spat. “We’re all entitled to our opinions, I guess.” It wasn’t long before they found an entrance, making their way onto the beach. The sand was much too soft under Satoru’s boots, inspiring him to layer Infinity underneath his soles. This allowed him an even surface to walk upon while Utahime was forced to stumble around in her goofy flip-flops. “Let’s get closer to the water.”

Of course, he obliged, following after her. While it didn’t matter much to Satoru whose vision was perfectly fine regardless, he did note that the beach was quite dark, bathed only in the lowlight sourced from the light pollution of the city behind them. As this realization occurred to him, he wondered if Utahime’s stumbling was partially due to lack of sight. “It’s dark,” he commented tentatively, hands buried in the pockets of his trousers.

“Yeah, a bit, but it’s fine. I can still see the ocean.” There was an edge of wonder to her voice as she finally slowed, coming to an eventual halt several feet from the shoreline. “Here!” Utahime dropped down onto the ground, just a foot of clearance from the surface of sand dampened by the sea’s tide.

“Not worried we’ll get wet?” Satoru questioned, taking a seat beside her as he positioned the bucket of fried chicken between them. “I’m not exactly a fan of soggy chicken, Hime.”

She waved her hand dismissively, an involuntary smile slipping onto her face. “The tide won’t reach us here,” she insisted. “Besides, it’s nice to be close enough to smell it, you know?”

He breathed in the ocean breeze. “Yeah.”

A comfortable silence fell between them as Utahime dished out their beverages and candy from the plastic bag. For good measure, she shoved the empty bag underneath the bucket of chicken so it wouldn’t fly away in the breeze. Then, with the sizzle of their respective beverages being opened, they both dug into the bucket of warm chicken and began to feast upon their impromptu beach dinner. Only the sound of the ocean pushing and pulling at the shore could be heard above the occasional sip of their drinks, a refreshing sigh hanging in the air.

Quite some time had passed before the silence was finally broken, Utahime turning to Satoru with her half-eaten chicken wing held out to him. “To surviving a nightclub?” She presented it like a toast, a quirky smile upon her lips which were shiny with chicken grease.

Satoru returned her smile, knocking his chicken wing against hers lightly. “In Okinawa,” he added. “with Mei.”

She snorted slightly, repeating, “To surviving a nightclub in Okinawa with Mei-san.” They pulled their chicken wings back, an introspective look in Utahime’s eyes as she stared out into the dark expanse of the ocean. “Did you know that about seventy one percent of the earth is made up of saltwater?”

He swallowed his mouthful of chicken, voice thick with the sound as he quipped, “For someone afraid of the ocean, you sure know a lot about it, huh?” When she flashed him an irritated look, Satoru smiled around his chicken wing.

“I’m serious…”

“Serious about what?” Satoru inquired genuinely.

Utahime shrugged. “The ocean is so big and, like, here we are—on an island in the middle of it.” She licked the grease off of her lips, taking another sip of her beer. “You don’t ever think about that, Gojo? We’re so small compared to everything else.”

“Maybe you are,” he teased. “but, last I checked, I’m ‘stupidly tall’ so I don’t think I have much to think about in that regard.” Satoru took a sip of his soda to hide his lopsided grin, remembering when she’d told him that two days ago.

Utahime rolled her eyes. “That’s what I get for trying to have a meaningful conversation with you…”

“You want a meaningful conversation?” Satoru pulled the remaining meat off the bones of his chicken wing with his teeth and tongue, tossing them back into the bucket as they had mutually been doing. “Okay, let’s talk about what the f*ck is going on between you and Mei then, hmm?”

Immediately, Utahime’s shoulders tensed up, eyes downcast with shame. “What do you mean…?”

“C’mon, Utahime, let’s not play dumb,” he said, pulling his shades down his nose. “There is not a single person on this earth that hates being told what to do more than you do—well, aside from me, maybe. Like, sure, you’ll do it because you’re all mushy and sensitive and weak but…”

“Gojo, seriously?”

“…even this has been a little excessive,” he concluded. “So, what’s up? What’s goin’ on?” From the look on her face, Satoru knew his hunch had been correct—the jig was up. There was more going on here than just Utahime relegating herself into the support role as a force of habit. The excitement of having his questions finally answered had him rotating his body to face her fully, folding his hands under his expectant chin.

Utahime took a deep breath, rubbing at her forehead. “You can’t laugh.”

“I won’t laugh.” She slowly blinked at him, conveying just how little she believed him when he said that. “I’m serious,” he insisted defensively. “I’m not gonna laugh!” Okay, so he might laugh but he definitely wasn’t going to tell her that!

With a sigh, Utahime avoided Satoru’s gaze, dragging an absentminded finger through the sand around her exposed knees which were bouncing with trepidation. “I kind of asked Mei-san to help me with something,” she said tentatively as if chewing on the words. “and the payment was to do everything she told me to do.”

Okay, that’s not funny, he determined, maintaining a neutral expressoon. “And what did you ask her to help you with?”

A pink blush warmed her nose, teeth pulling at her lower lip. “I, um,” she stammered, attempting to flush out her embarrassment with the clearing of her throat. “I asked her to help me…find someone to hook up with…” Laughter bubbled up in Satoru’s throat, forcing him to slap his hands over his mouth as Utahime glared at him. “You said you wouldn’t laugh!”

The laughter spilled out of him, his hands held out apologetically—though, not particularly genuine nor convincing. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

Utahime folded her arms firmly over her chest, brows knitted together with deep upset. “No, you’re not! You’re making fun of me!” Her pretty lips were fashioned into a pout, blush spreading down to her torso.

“No, seriously, I’m…” Satoru trailed off with more laughter, unable to stop it as if it were some great flood of biblical legend. “I’m sorry, Utahime, it’s just—well, seriously? Why would you ask for something so ridiculous?”

Her brown eyes blazed with a mixture of hurt and frustration, face screwed with rage. “Ridiculous to you,” she spat. “but it matters to me! I get lonely sometimes and, yeah, sometimes I wish I could go on dates and have someone to talk to just like other girls do.” She hugged herself, partially hiding her face in his jacket she wore. “It’s sad being the only person I know that hasn’t gotten to experience stuff like that yet, you know?”

His laughter had died down, eyes searching her face. “I haven’t either,” he reminded her.

“Yeah, but that’s because you choose not to,” she pointed out, resentment settling into her jaw. “I know you have plenty of girls throwing themselves at you so it isn’t from a lack of options like it is for me.” Utahime grumbled, squeezing her eyes shut in an attempt to cope with her emotions.

But none of those girls are you, Utahime. Satoru remained completely still, afraid that any little movement would cause his innermost thoughts and feelings to spill out into the sand before her. “Do you really think you have no options?”

Utahime looked up at him incredulously as if he’d sprouted a second head. “I don’t have options,” she asserted. “I lost any options I might’ve had when I got this stupid scar on my face.” Another sigh escaped her. “Most of the time, I’m fine being alone and I don’t worry about this kind of stuff but—I don’t know—I want more sometimes, I guess.”

“Like what?” Satoru inquired genuinely. “I mean, what are you hoping to get outta somethin’ like that?”

She lifted her head up, exposing the expanse of her face once again as she peered out thoughtfully into the endless sea. “Like, flowers,” she began. “or a text in the morning when I wake up, asking if I slept okay. Maybe a late night phone call where we can just talk about everything and anything and nothing all at the same time for hours until I literally can’t keep my eyes open. Someone I can have philosophical conversations with somedays and rant about baseball to on other days—I don’t know.” Utahime closed her eyes as if trying to imagine it. “There are just some days I wish I knew what it was like to be loved by someone else.”

Satoru’s fingers twitched, an ache forming in his palms. “And you think hooking up with some random guy in Okinawa is going to give that to you?”

Utahime rolled her eyes. “Obviously not! But at least I can prove to myself that I’m desirable and capable of attracting somebody...” A pained, embarrassed expression crossed her features. “Which, I mean, I haven’t managed to do just yet.”

In an attempt to stop his body from shaking, Satoru gulped down his soda, the carbonation irritating his throat. He pounded a fist against his chest, wishing it would somehow stop his heart from palpitating the way it was. The thunderous pounding of his pulse caused his head to throb, an ache forming behind his eyes. This whole conversation was driving him absolutely insane—was Utahime really this dense?

Back at the nightclub, the tension between the two of them had been intense enough to cause even Shoko—unflappable, perpetually unbothered Shoko—to scold them for such carelessness. There was no sense of restraint, Utahime allowing Satoru’s cursed energy to consume her own so freely without a thought in regards to consequences. And, in a similar vein to his cursed energy, Satoru had begun to devour Utahime—hot lips on her neck, brushing over her skin while his hands grabbed at her body in a way only a lover should.

Had it not meant anything to her?

“Did Mei suggest me, by any chance?” Satoru asked suddenly.

Utahime co*cked a brow. “What, like a candidate or something?” Satoru nodded, his lips pressed together firmly as he couldn’t bring himself to say anything else. “Well, I mean, yeah,” she confessed. “but I vetoed it.”

A sharp pain ripped through his chest, but he managed to keep his tone level as he asked, “Why?”

Shaking her head, Utahime snorted out an incredulous laugh. “Does it even matter, Gojo?”

“Maybe.”

“Why, you got a crush on me or something?” Utahime had said it playfully, the mirth in her eyes making it abundantly clear she didn’t actually believe in the possibility for even a moment. The goofy, wide-toothed smile that slipped onto her face hurt him in a way he couldn’t reconcile—it shouldn’t have hurt but it did and it made him so incredibly angry.

“Yeah, actually, I do.” It was a knee-jerk reaction—he didn’t even think about it, he just f*cking said it. Satoru searched her face for a reaction, his heart thrumming with severe anxiety as his Six Eyes latched onto every tiny detail. He could see the muscles in her cheeks shift as her face fell, puzzled gaze moving from him to the sand filling the distance between them. Satoru had to force himself to breathe, each labored breath rattling up his spine to spur on a single thought. Abort, abort, abort, abort—because, from the look on her face, he believed this didn’t bode well.

Every second of silence from Utahime Iori dragged him further into the pits of despair. While Satoru could handle quite a lot, he didn’t think he would be able to handle this should it come to pass. And, as her uncertain tongue curled around tentative words, he prophesied that only rejection lied at the end of this conversation. “Oh, well, Gojo…um…I’m not sure if—”

Suddenly, Satoru barked out obnoxious laughter, startling her into silence. “Oh my god, Utahime, the look on your face is hysterical!” To enhance the bit, he wrapped his arms around his stomach as if his ribs had grown tough from the laughter. “I can’t believe you fell for that! Man, you really are desperate, huh?!” It was cruel—he could tell by the way her face had gone completely blank.

He was hurting her.

Regardless, Satoru kept going. “Can you even imagine something that insane? Honestly, Utahime, I could never see you that way. Man, I’m surprised you took me so seriously—you know we’d never work out, right?”

Utahime wore a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Right,” she agreed, an edge to her voice that Satoru couldn’t decipher. “We’re barely even friends as it stands now.”

Satoru maintained a pleasant smile, disguising the chattering teeth of disappointment. “Right.” And, as his body ached with a despicable lie born from cowardice, he somehow still found the audacity to convince himself that this was all for the best.

Notes:

so this is 11.6k words,,,,,, i wanted to get this out TONIGHT and I DID but i'm worried that in my sleepiness, i didn't properly proofread so if you notice some errors, no worries—they'll likely be cleared up tomorrow when i do my fresh-eyed review of what i wrote.

anyway~ this chapter was A LOT and i really hope you guys like it!!!

lmk what you think!!! thank you for reading!!! <3

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 10: father, stretch my hands

Summary:

“Um, I was kinda in the middle of something? What the f*ck is goin’ on with you, dude?”

Satoru could hardly contain the anxiety rattling around his body, giving him this burst of frantic, near-manic energy. “I need you to kiss me,” he blurted.

Shoko grimaced. “Ew, no! I’d rather eat my own sh*t than do that.”

Her comment sobered him some. “Wow, that’s a visceral reaction,” he said, slightly offended. “You didn’t seem to have any issue kissing Suguru that one time back in first year.”

“Yeah, because he’s my type,” she confessed, eyes roving over him with her nose upturned in displeasure. “You, on the other hand…”

“Well, that’s just rude.”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

i just wanna feel liberated, i, i,
i just wanna feel liberated, i, i,
if i ever instigated, i'm sorry
tell me, who in here can relate? now if i f*ck this model
and she just bleached her asshole
and i get bleach on my t-shirt
i'ma feel like an asshole
i was high when i met her
we was down in tribeca
she'll get under your skin if you let her
she'll get under your skin if you-uh
i don't even wanna talk about it
i don't even wanna talk about it
i don't even wanna say nothing
everybody gon' say something
i'd be worried if they said nothing
remind me where i know you from?
she looking like she owe you some'
you know just what we want
i want to wake up with you in my— beautiful morning,
you're the sun in my morning, babe
nothing unwanted - Kanye West

* * * * * * *

35 days had been ample enough time. 35 days of planning. 35 days of training. 35 days of contemplation. 35 days of subdued worries. 35 days of implementing contingencies. 35 days of conversations. 35 days of laughter. 35 days of love—so much love—and, somehow, even more after that. 35 days of her…and that’s what he was going to hold onto.

After all, he had something important to tell her when this was finally over.

Satoru Gojo stretched out his limbs, the billowy sleeves of his white haori slipping down his arms in the process. “Well, then, it’s about time we get started,” he pushed out with a grunt, making sure his muscles felt warm and loose after releasing the stretch. He moved forward across the rooftop, a moderate breeze passing over the high rise building as the sweet sound of music and a familiar set of lungs reached his ears. “Utahime, Gramps.”

Gakuganji had swapped out his electric guitar for the traditional pluck of a biwa, guiding the elegant motion of Utahime’s body. A wordless song spilled from her lips, pleasant notes carried across the great expanse of the Shibuya Sky building. She had bells strapped to her wrists, the smallest of movements inspiring a choir of jingles in tandem with Gakuganji’s music. The wind picked up her ink-black tresses, fluttering at that white bow he loved so much.

She was beautiful—and she should’ve worn something much warmer.

However, as much as he wanted to tell her that, Satoru held his tongue. Utahime had to focus on her ritual, ushering in the absolute peak of Solo Forbidden Area as was demanded of her in this moment. She skipped no steps simply because she couldn’t and the concentration on her delicate features—dedicated to such a monumental task all for his sake—evoked a lifetime of yearning within him.

The incantations she sung, the hand signs formed, the barefoot dance while bathed in the biwa’s song, all as her kosode billowed in the winter breeze which kissed and nipped at exposed patches of milky flesh—it was born of a devotion to him. Damn, I’m so f*cking lucky. Nobody could possibly be more fortunate than he was, existing in this world at the same time as her. Satoru could watch her all day; commit every motion of her lithe body to memory.

But they didn’t have the luxury of time.

Ijichi trailed behind him, slipping the blazer he wore off his shoulders. He, too, shivered in the chill but that blaze of determination did not leave his face. “Why did you choose to bring me?” Ijichi had asked as they scouted this very building just a week prior. “If it’s just to place a barrier, there are many more proficient candidates.

You seriously don’t know?” It might have been unfathomable to Ijichi but, to Satoru, he had been the most obvious choice in the world. When Satoru had taken on Megumi Fushiguro as his ward, Ijichi had been his first choice for someone to watch over him and Tsumiki; not because of availability but, rather, the knowledge that he would protect them, regardless of ability or strength. And, now, Megumi was out there—counting on them to bring him back. “You’re the man I trust the most,” Satoru had divulged, his neutral expression conveying how genuine his statement was. “That’s the only reason I need.

Satoru positioned himself above where Utahime and Gakuganji engaged in the ritual, a surge of trepidation urging him to breathe deep. He closed his eyes, allowing his senses to take over. The sound of Utahime’s lovely voice, the strum of the biwa, the frost of December biting his skin, the winter wind tousling his matching hair, and the unmistakeable taste of milk and honey on his tongue, coating his throat in pleasure. More.

Utahime’s cursed energy laid upon the rooftop like a thick mist, Satoru absorbing as much of it as he could, his skin simmering with warmth as he basked in the sensation. 35 days of adapting to the side effects of her cursed technique made it easier for Satoru to maintain his mental faculties, peering through the drunken haze of a power boost, his Six Eyes growing sharper. He was looking for a very specific energy signature and, while he knew he wouldn’t be far, the enhancement of his Six Eyes felt necessary.

Oh, King of Curses—where’d you go with my favorite, moody teenager?

Satoru’s fingertips tingled with power, the Limitless begging to be unleashed as it crackled through his bloodstream. And, just on time, Ijichi slammed his palms against the ground behind him to erect the barrier. If they’d neglected it for even a second more, Satoru would’ve lost his advantage and, in all honesty, he would need every possible advantage he could get against him.

Against the foe that wore his beloved student’s face, holding his body hostage.

Rage pooled in Satoru’s gut, his fists clenching as sheer power rippled through his muscles. They were nearly there, he could feel it. In its rawest form, bathed in Utahime’s golden aura, the Limitless had risen to a height that Satoru could only hope to reach within his lifetime. His power might have been infinite, yes—but he was still just a man.

And, as if to remind him of this, a flash of honey brown caught his eye. Utahime twirled to face him for a brief moment and in her eyes lied the truth of his humanity; the truths he whispered into her hair when particularly aroused, his heart thundering with the fires of devotion. Right now, as he stood above her, Satoru allowed himself respite—for just a single moment more, Satoru Gojo allowed himself the simple pleasure of being a man looking at the woman he loved.

Then, Utahime removed her gaze.

With a deep breath, Satoru positioned himself accordingly, crouched low in preparation for the destruction he was fated to unleash. His hands formed seals they had not touched in years, the motions coming to him as muscle memory. In the past ten years, Satoru had exceeded expectations of what a jujutsu sorcerer could be—his place at the peak of the lonely mountain unquestionable and, by extension, unchallenged. He had long since forgone the need for step-by-step action to perform effectively.

But if Utahime skipped not a single step, neither would he.

Nine Points,” he began, synapses vibrating into a subtle hum. His cursed energy buzzed with the threat of fission, space-time raring itself into a forceful gust of tempestuous atoms which orbited his braced ankles. “Polarized LightCrow and Shomyo Chant.” A shockwave hollowed out his knotted gut, rattling up his spine until his teeth chattered with sheer vigor.

The incantation continued to pour from his sanctified lips until it consecrated the very ground they stood upon, “The Gap Between Within and Without.” Unfettered energy was pulsing through the soles of his feet and the palms of his hands, leaking through the pores of skin pulled tight against his bones and between the gaps of gritted teeth—the rush of his improbable existence had cuffed his keen ears, enraptured eyes blown wide open so he could see everything everywhere and all at once. Magnificent…!

Satoru sought him in the distance, tendrils of power like a beacon of devastation. It called to him, magnetizing his focus; a malevolent lighthouse which called to ships in the night, monstrous creatures lying in wait to ravage the unassuming sailors. He straightened his body, lifting his right arm into position as he rested his left into the crook of his elbow, braced for the inevitable recoil of nuclear proportions. Sukuna Ryomen, you’ve made a big mistake…

Flexing his fingers accordingly, Satoru trembled with unbridled excitement. “Hollow Technique…” His breath shuddered, heart thrashing within his rib cage as the Limitless enveloped every cell in his body—and it hurt so good. The pain reminded him familiarly of fingernails raking against his back, teeth dragging against his neck, his muscles taut with feverish plunging; his loins aching with a sheer lust for this ecstatic strength flooding his nervous system.

He had become celestial—unfathomable—much like the sun, always on fire. From birth, the world had been commanded to bend to his every will and whimsy. The universe was merely a fabric to be weaved by his divine fingers, pinched and plucked into whatever shape he so desired.

On the other hand, Sukuna thought himself the moon, always changing so the shores would bend and break for him. He thought he could unleash himself upon this world, regarding Satoru Gojo as just some building to scale in his attempt to reach ascension once again. But, like the fool he was, Sukuna failed to realize one crucial fact…

Throughout Heaven and Earth, alone—I AM A f*ckING GOD.

Purple.”

“Are you out of your mind, Satoru?!”

“Aw, c’mon, old man! Shouldn’t you be referring to me as Satoru-sama now?” A satisfied smirk tugged at the corners of Satoru’s mouth, shrugging off the white haori he’d been relegated into wearing for the past fifteen minutes of what he had been told was supposed to be an hour long ceremony. Yeah, f*ck that—he wanted to get as far away from the Gojo Estate as possible.

It had been five years since he last walked these halls, an eerie silence fallen upon paper doors and vacant tatami rooms. Aside from a handful of servants, everyone who had business being in the main house were all still milling about the ceremonial chamber where Satoru had emerged from only moments before, Tota Gojo trailing closely behind him.

The old man huffed, hands tucked into the sleeves of his kimono as he shuffled at top speed to keep up. “You insolent brat!” Tota exclaimed, dismissing the jab. “You show up two hours late to your coming-of-age ceremony—!”

“Oh, c’mon, I already apologized for that.” Satoru groaned, draping the haori over his forearm before pushing his hands into his pockets. “It’s not like I planned for the gloomy little runt to summon a pair of dogs in the apartment.” A chuckle bubbled up in his chest, unable to dismiss his mirthful grin long enough to make his interjection the least bit convincing. “What, should I have just let two divine mutts run amok in my newly-renovated kitchen?”

Tota grumbled, “You really ought to leave that Zen’in boy alone, Satoru. It’s already caused the clan enough trouble as it is and now with confirmation that he’s the inheritor of the Ten Shadows…?” He scoffed, unable to finish his sentence from the absurdity of it all.

Fushiguro,” he corrected, his grin dissipating to convey a sense of severity. “and all the more reason to keep him away from the Zen’in. Since when do you roll over for them anyway, hmm?” Sparing a glance back at Tota, Satoru noted the extra lines on his face, weary with age. His mouth was set in that same frown it always had been throughout Satoru’s life, but there was a withered quality about it that hadn’t been there when they last saw each other. If he believed he wouldn’t be scolded for it, Satoru might’ve cared enough to ask how the past five years had treated him.

For as long as he could remember, Tota had been in Satoru’s life—albeit, not in a way others could comprehend. In the loosest sense of the term, Tota had been a mentor to him, tasked as the keeper of knowledge for the Limitless and Six Eyes. From the very first day Satoru had developed his cursed technique, Tota had dedicated himself to training him, encouraging the rapid growth of his abilities so that he could use it to uplift the Gojo Clan and fulfill his destiny.

And, because of this dedication, he ended up being a total prick; a strategically insufferable geezer that Satoru could only hold animosity towards. If Tota Gojo were to die tomorrow, Satoru wouldn’t care…but, perhaps, it could move him enough to visit his grave every now and then.

Tota sighed deeply. “Much has happened, Satoru. I’m sure you know that.”

Well, he didn’t—not really, at least. Satoru had heard whispers here and there, but largely stayed out of clan politics for the sake of his sanity. A part of him insisted it was because he simply didn’t care; that such matters were a waste of his time which could be spent on experimenting with his cursed technique or studying those physics textbooks he’d accumulated over the years to entertain his pet theories. However, another part of him hated the way those politics made him feel, filling him with an irrepressible resentment that made him question the purpose behind it all.

And purpose was the one thing Satoru desperately needed.

“If you would just stay for an hour more,” Tota implored. “the elders will be able to fill you in on the details and Tatsuki-sama will formally pass the mantle onto you.” Satoru’s maintained silence seemed to encourage the older man, his voice more excitable as he proceeded, “There are a few responsibilities expected of the leader to our clan, Satoru. Things to take into consideration such as finances, expense reports, assets, clan relations...secrets.” He had stressed the last word knowing it would pique Satoru’s interest.

“Then, of course, there’s the matter of, uh, marriage which we agreed to put off until you were of age…” While Satoru opted to keep his mouth shut, he did issue the older man a look so sharp, he had him choking on apprehension. For years, Satoru had taken great care in ignoring the clan elders’ summons to ‘scroll the catalog’ as they liked to put it. “But, I suppose, that’ll come in time,” Tota revised, pressing his lips into a firm line. “So, what do you say?”

Of course, Satoru only smiled in return as he chuckled, “Nah, I think I’m gonna head out.” He waved a dismissive hand. “It’s my birthday, after all, and I only turn twenty once! Last thing I wanna do is stick around with you crusty old bastards in this sh*t-hole…”

As expected, Tota snarled, his face turning red with anger. “SATORU, YOU—!”

“Oh, one last thing,” he interrupted, as if the old man hadn’t been preparing a string of expletives to accentuate his name with. “let the elders know that they’ll no longer be needed.”

“Excuse me?” There was no malice in his tone, only genuine confusion.

Pinching the temple of his sunglasses, Satoru faced him with a calculated grin. “All clan matters should be directed to Kiriko,” he stated. “She’ll take care of everything, including the selection of a new council to assist with management of the clan.”

Tota’s eyes widened with shock. “Kiriko?!”

“Yep!” His response, highlighted by a toothy smile and the cheerful clap of his hands, had come across as frivolous but his decision was far from it. Satoru had thought about this day for quite some time now, knowing proper arrangements had to be made. While the idea of being the leader of his clan was fantastic from an influential standpoint, he truly wanted nothing to do with the responsibility portion.

If his clan had wanted him to engage with the role thrust upon him, they shouldn’t have sent him away to Tokyo Jujutsu High. Unlucky for them, however, their desire to prevent opportunities for Satoru to grow closer to certain family members far outweighed their desire to keep him within reach. And being out of their reach is exactly what had given him the taste of freedom he had no intention of relinquishing.

“You’ll let her know for me, right?” The smile on his face slipped by a hair, an odd tremor in his chest. Talking to her would make me uncomfortable, he wanted to confess, but refrained.

Brows knitted together, Tota incredulously inquired, “You’ve not told her yet?”

Frustration picked at his nerves, but somehow, he managed to maintain a casual tone. “And how would I do that when, up until today, we’d been banned from speaking to each other?” A cruel chuckle had woven itself into his words, curved mouth warring against the fury prickling at him from within.

In a rare show of empathy, a softness eased Tota’s stern features. “So, why not do it yourself?”

An urge to flee struck him but Satoru remained rooted in place, staring at Tota with a blank expression. For a moment, images of smuggled konpeito candies and his very first Digital Monster crossed his mind, constricting the lungs in his chest with an involuntary sense of nostalgia. So vividly, he could recall deep feelings of rejection as a head of dark hair retreated, midnight blue eyes drawn away with an infuriating amount of obedience. That alone should’ve discouraged any sort of gratitude he might have felt but—at least, she tried, the voice in his head reasoned.

Then, with a bark of laughter, Satoru whisked it all away.

“That’s hilarious! Anyway, talk about all these lame responsibilities with my sister, okay?” His mirth faded ever so slightly as he warned, “I’ll know if she isn’t fulfilling her duties.” The warning wasn’t necessarily for Kiriko who Satoru was well aware would take her job as pseudo-clan leader seriously—no one was more dedicated and loyal to the Gojo Clan than she was despite all odds.

No, it was for the traditionalists who would try to block her from taking the leader’s mantle.

“Well, I’ll be off n—!”

“Satoru, before you leave,” Tota interrupted. “I have a quick question.”

He didn’t bother to look at him. “Hmm?”

“Do you know anything about Utahime Iori-san?” At the very sound of her name, Satoru had frozen in place—was he hallucinating?

For a moment, he considered that his lengthy training session with Megumi earlier coupled with the divine dog fiasco had really taken it out of him. This has gotta be in my head... Really, there was no logical reason for Utahime of all people to be of interest to the Gojo Clan. Even still, for good measure, Satoru chose to levy a drawn out, “Huh?”

“Utahime Iori-san,” the old man repeated, puzzling Satoru further. “I heard she was your upperclassman in Tokyo.”

Despite the stuttering of his heart, Satoru measured his response, erring on the side of caution. He couldn’t be too sure that Tota’s inquiry had been innocent in nature—when it came to the Gojo Clan, things hardly ever were. “Hmm,” he hummed, stroking his chin as if testing his memory. “that name does sound familiar…” Behind his shades, Satoru redirected his critical gaze onto Tota. “What’s so special about her?”

If he picked up on Satoru’s apprehension, he didn’t let it show. “I heard Principal Gakuganji offered her a contract,” he explained. “She’ll be starting as a teaching assistant this upcoming year in Kyoto which means she may be educating some of our young ones in the future.” Tota observed Satoru for a moment, unveiling one of his tucked hands to stroke his beard. “I was hoping to get your opinion.”

Well, that’s…interesting. Nobody had told him about that. In fact, he hadn’t spoken to Utahime since they had parted ways in July after their trip in Okinawa ended. They had continued sharing the bed even after their conversation on the beach yielded unsavory results, making it a true test of Satoru’s resolve and restraint. Though, admittedly, it had been some of the most restful sleep he’d ever had in his life. Something about Utahime’s smell and the warmth of her body—Okay, that’s enough.

He couldn’t think about it without a sharp pain in his chest.

Satoru shrugged. “Too bad then,” he said. “I don’t have one to give. Good luck with this Orihime person, I guess.” With that said, he strolled away, waving a lax hand. “I’m off, gramps! See you in another five years—or at your funeral. Y’know, whichever comes first!” As he approached the vestibule of the main house, Satoru pulled out his cellphone.

The light padding of his fingertips sounded against the screen, tapping through the phone with the intention of calling Shoko. Before he could, however, his idle fingers had taken a detour as they opted to reveal Satoru’s dishearteningly scarce message thread with Utahime. The last message had been sent a few hours after she’d hopped into a cab, thanking him for her first ever tropical vacation. It wasn’t overly heartfelt—just a simple expression of genuine gratitude but, somehow, it had made his stomach somersault with longing.

So, naturally, he didn’t respond.

In an attempt to dismiss these bottomless feelings of his, Satoru took a deep breath and forced himself to smile. It was his birthday—his twentieth birthday—which meant he should be out partying, celebrating his transition into adulthood. So, fixing a smile onto his face, he finally called Shoko who answered the phone on the third ring.

“Shoko!” Satoru exclaimed, not even allowing her a moment to greet him. “Let’s go out tonight.”

~

It wouldn’t have been his first choice for what he wanted to do on his birthday—hell, it probably wasn’t even in the top five but Satoru needed a distraction. And what could possibly be more distracting than a nightclub in Shibuya?

Adjusting the sunglasses on his nose, Satoru strolled through the main doors of the nightclub with Shoko in tow, wolfish grin fixed onto his face in an effort to hype himself up. “I’m surprised you were the one to choose a club,” Shoko said, raising her voice to be heard above the music. “You some party boy now, Gojo?”

He wasn’t—far from it, in fact, despite his behavior—but, just for tonight, Satoru wished he was. Earlier, after escaping the stuffy confines of the Gojo Estate, Satoru made sure to take a detour to Harajuku after arriving back in Tokyo. In an attempt to ease his troubled thoughts, he had decided a new outfit was in order, spending a few hours trying on clothing before deciding he hated almost everything and left with a single dress shirt that matched all the others in his closet, only this one had been far more expensive.

Underneath the black lights of the club, that new white shirt glowed, tucked neatly into his black trousers. He liked the material, justifying the high price point with the fact it was incredibly comfortable and from a reputable brand. All the reviews said the fabric they used held up nicely, even after multiple washes so, nobody could possibly judge him for splurging on quality, right? Even someone as frugal as Utahime would have—Stop.

Satoru slung an arm over Shoko’s shoulder, drawing her in close as he obnoxiously shouted, “Huh?!” Satoru was in no mood to explain himself to her, smiling against her ear so she could pick up on the hint. Though it wouldn’t have been obvious to anyone else, he had detected the inkling of a serious question in her comment—one that he would only ever be able to respond to with, “No, I’m not alright.

Shoko rolled her eyes, shoving his arm away as she neglected to repeat her statement. “Anyway, come take a shot with me.”

Blegh!” Satoru gagged. “Nah, I’ll pass.”

“Eh?” Shoko peered at him curiously, her mouth slanted with dissatisfaction. The look on her face indicated that she had expected some sort of response—a rib, a complaint, maybe even an inappropriate joke—but Satoru merely stood in place, surveying the venue with disinterest. So, with an affirming shrug, she sighed, “Suit yourself then.”

And for the entirety of the night, it continued on this way. Satoru’s dejection was all encompassing and, no matter how hard he tried to rein it in with the occasional sarcastic quip followed by a bark of obnoxious laughter, nothing took away the sting. His feelings were jumbled and frantic, leaping off his skin with uncertainty at every measly turn. Many of his thoughts were directionless but only because they kept arriving to the same undesirable destination.

Despite all of Shoko’s best efforts to coax him into casual conversation with other patrons and fulfill his unspoken desire for distraction, nothing seemed to work. There would be a brief arousal of lucidity before, suddenly, Satoru would return to brooding. From Shoko’s insistence of getting him onto the dance floor with a pair of pretty girls they had just met, he figured that she’d finally had enough of this cycle and, if dancing couldn’t break it, it would be best to head home.

While dancing with one of the girls—Ayano or, perhaps, Ayako, he couldn’t remember—he had noticed something interesting. As she pulled up her long, dark hair, revealing the nape of her neck to him in rhythmic motion, he noticed a mole near the top of her spine. It was a little too centered and a tad lighter than what it had reminded him of but, even still, he found himself mesmerized. Almost immediately, Satoru drew her flush against his body, his lips brushing against the back of her neck as he closed his eyes.

She didn’t seem to mind, grabbing onto the hands wrapped around her waist and grinding herself back against him, her heavy breaths lulling him into a trance which encouraged his fantasies to take shape in his mind. Of course, she didn’t smell quite right and the taste of her skin wasn’t as sweet as he remembered but he continued his exploration of her, hands sliding over the expanse of her body while planting hot kisses against her skin. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Satoru muttered into her skin, breathless with stupor. “Why didn’t you tell me you’re leaving Tokyo, Utahime…?”

“What?” An unfamiliar voice asked in his arms, sounding nothing like what he’d anticipated. “I can’t hear you! The music’s too loud!” The body in his arms turned around, revealing an impeccable complexion with features that were too sharp. As she issued him a wanton smile, there was no delectable dimple indented into her left cheek nor a subtle scrunch of her nose. Instead of notable bangs, her hair was parted down the middle with two wavy pieces framing her face—and, of course, she was pretty.

But she wasn't Utahime.

The woman had her arms slipped around his neck, pressing her chest so firmly against his, he could feel the peaks of soft mounds. “Y’know, you’re, like, the hottest guy I’ve ever met,” she giggled, the smell of top shelf liquor on her breath. “and I know it’s big. I can feel it.” She used a greedy finger to tug at the waistband of his pants. “I could f*ck you senseless, y’know?”

Satoru sucked in a sharp breath, panic fluttering in his gut. Any normal man would be turned on by a pretty girl talking so dirty to them. “Is that so?” He was surprised to find his feelings had not betrayed his tone, sounding as sultry as he had intended.

She nodded languidly, eyes heavy with alcohol and lust. “Just say the word, baby, and I’m yours for the night.”

Get me outta here. Satoru smirked before putting distance between them. “Keep dancing,” he told her. “I’m gonna go use the bathroom.” Casually, he strolled off of the dance floor, hands buried in his pockets—not a single thing amiss externally.

Internally, however, was a different story entirely.

Skipping over the bathroom, Satoru made his way outside, dipping into the alleyway beside the nightclub. Once he was out of sight, he released the breath he’d been holding. As he pulled them from his pockets, he realized his hands were shaking uncontrollably, urging him to tighten them into fists. Breathe, he thought but, no matter how hard he tried to get himself under control, panic continued to build within his aching chest.

He hadn’t realized it until then but, from the moment Satoru stepped onto the Gojo Estate, he had started upon this downward spiral. Surrounded by looks of fear and disdain, accepting a role he’d never asked for and had no real desire to keep—it filled him with this unfathomable rage that had him wishing he had blown that damned ceremonial chamber to pieces with everyone inside, screaming as they burned to death. It wouldn’t be the first time in his life he killed a family member.

Then, as if to torment him further, a very specific thought crossed his mind.

Suguru, should we kill these guys?” The memory, typically fleeting in the face of his denial, was enough to cripple him in this moment. A white room. A limp body in his arms. A round of rapturous applause. A look of devastation. A horrific suggestion made in earnest. Rinse and repeat, the sequence of events haunting his dreams—and he hated it.

It was so exhausting.

Really, he was so sick of it, he had considered lobotomizing himself at some point. No brain meant no ability to think and he really didn’t want to think about any of it anymore. He didn’t want to think about him anymore and how he should’ve been there; how they should’ve been celebrating this day together. “No, there’s no point,” Suguru had cautioned, but it was a dirty f*cking lie.

Now she’s going to leave me too—and he only had himself to blame. It was all so frustrating, Satoru thought he might scream. Perhaps he wanted to scream, believing it might ease all the senseless suffering rooting around within him like some burrowing parasite. But, if he screamed, he would do so until his throat bled and his lungs gave out; until he spontaneously combusted and took the entirety of Shibuya down with him.

With trembling hands, Satoru pulled out his phone from his pocket, biting the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood. The taste of iron danced on his tongue as his thumbs padded against the screen, opening up the message thread between himself and Utahime once again that day. She hasn’t texted me yet, he noted, realizing he had been holding onto this delusional hope that she’d wish him a happy birthday again this year. Good, she should stay far away from me...

But wasn’t that exactly why he was panicking?

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he chanted, knocking a fist against his forehead repetitively. Those damned black spiders of his were crawling about once again. Foolishly, he thought that, perhaps with enough blows to the head, he could dispel them. No such luck.

Satoru didn’t how to feel or what to think, his brain so detrimentally a rotten pile of mush and repressed feelings. He just wanted to go home; he should go home. I’m gonna tell Shoko I’m heading out... This was pathetic. What would happen if someone were to catch him—the strongest jujutsu sorcerer of the modern era—having a mental breakdown over a girl in an alleyway?

Satoru straightened himself out, taking a few deep breaths to recollect himself. “Okay, you’re good,” he murmured privately. “Everything’s good. You’re—”

Suddenly, his phone began to ring in his hand.

And, as he glanced at the name that popped up, Satoru’s breath caught in his throat. Despite his better judgement, he slid his thumb across the screen with haste, lifting the device up to his ear and answering with a near desperate, “Hello?”

Hey! Gojo, I—wait, are you okay?” Her voice was sweet—so melodious and breathy—but puzzled, filling his heart with both warmth and apprehension.

Tucking the phone against his chest briefly, Satoru cleared his throat, composing himself by slapping a toothy grin onto his face before lifting the device back up to his ear. “Well, well, if it isn’t Utahime,” he intoned, shoving his free hand into his pocket. “And to what do I owe the pleasure?”

From the click of her tongue, he could tell Utahime was already irritated by the sound of his voice alone. “I know it’s already almost over,” she said a bit begrudgingly. “but I wanted to make sure I wished you a happy birthday so…happy birthday, I guess.

A genuine smile tugged at his lips. “Thanks.” It was the only response he could muster, every other possibility far too intimate for him present to her. “So, uh…how are you?”

I’m doing alright,” she replied, clearing her own throat in a way that implied she was feeling a bit uncomfortable herself. “I’m, um, home…in Saitama.

Satoru co*cked a brow. “Oh, yeah? Have you finally decided to quit jujutsu forever?” He issued a sarcastic whistle. “Y’know, I’m honestly shocked a weakling like you even made it this far—and for so long too! But, seriously, Hime? I think it’s time for you to throw in the towel.”

Ha ha, you’re so funny.” Utahime did not sound the least bit amused, sighing deeply as she complained, “I honestly have no idea why I waste my time on you...

“Because I’m handsome and funny, and—don’t forget—super charismatic and strong,” he boasted. “C’mon, Hime, you know you wanna kiss me through the phone~” Satoru made sure to sing the last line, echoing a song he’d heard in the nightclub.

There was a dramatic gagging noise on her end. “I can think of absolutely nothing more unappealing than kissing your stupid, arrogant face. Honestly, I’d rather die.

With all the obnoxious flare he could muster, Satoru sucked in a sharp breath. “Ooh, ouch, Utahime…you wound me so!” With a chuckle, he impulsively stated, “Nah, we both know I’d ruin other men for you if we kissed. You’d be so weak in the knees, you’d be begging for—”

I’m hanging up now,” she threatened. “Goodbye, Gojo.

“Wait, wait, wait!” His protests were followed by nervous laughter. “Tell me, how’s home been treatin’ you?”

Utahime sighed. “It’s been pretty good,” she said, hints of a smile in her voice. “I’ve really missed my family a lot, especially my brothers. I didn’t realize they’d change so much while I was gone. Like, Zenitsu is so tall, it’s crazy! And Takeru shaved his entire head, can you believe that? Oh! And he has a girlfriend now too. She’s actually really nice—I like her so far.” There was a brief pause as if trying to gather her thoughts. “Oh, then, Shinzo finished his studies so now he’s probably going to take over for Dad in the next few years…

Satoru allowed her to chatter away, the excitement in her voice filling him with an indescribable buzz. Even though he had always teased her about being talkative, he actually found it charming when she prattled on in this manner. There was this preconceived notion that he enjoyed listening to the sound of his own voice and, while completely true to some degree, there was only one voice he liked to listen to more. And, here he was, greedily listening to it tell him stories, each word vibrating against his ear.

Oh, um, I’m not sure if Shoko told you but,” Utahime finally said, a sliver of apprehension in her tone. “I’m moving to Kyoto in March. I got offered a teaching assistant job by Principal Gakuganji which, I mean, isn’t what I wanted but I understand that that’s how we get the ball rolling on this whole teacher thing, you know?” She fell silent with expectation, clearly wanting some kind of response from Satoru.

He swallowed thickly, hoping to remove any semblance of emotion from his throat. “Oh, is that so? Hmm, hadn’t heard about it but, wow, that’s real cool, Utahime. Congratulations.” While a part of him meant it, another part of him wanted to spit upon the news with vitriol. Kyoto was so far from him and Utahime had always been within accessible reach. Not that he had ever done so in recent years—wasted opportunities, he cursed—but how could he possibly make any reasonable excuse to see her when she lived so far away?

And though Satoru knew Kyoto had been her greatest desire as far as her ambitions went, he realized a part of himself had wished this moment would never come. A part of him wanted so selfishly for her to remain in this stasis she’d found herself in where, most days, she was relegated to wasting away in her apartment—where she was safe—in this cycle of group missions she was only ever needed as backup support for. Even though he knew she hated it and that Utahime was anxious for her ‘life to begin’, as she so eloquently put it, Satoru had still poured his energy into wishing for the outcome he wanted which, ultimately, spelled unfavorable results for her.

Satoru saw himself as the most wretched creature in existence, claiming to love and adore Utahime with his entire soul all while he prayed for her blessings never to reach her. A terribly horrid and entitled being he was, praying for her to end up lonely and unloved by another so she would always belong to him; to never receive the job offer she wanted just so she would remain within his reach. Even when he knew she was miserable and unfulfilled, his selfishness was boundless—and he hated himself for it. I really don’t deserve her at all...

But he wanted to deserve her; he desperately wanted to be worthy of her which meant he would have to change his ways, starting with learning how to be more upfront and forthcoming with his true feelings. “Hey, Utahime?” Satoru licked his lips, dry from the nervousness coating the inside of his mouth. “There’s somethin’ I wanna talk to you about. It’s, um, kinda important…”

Hmm?” Such a casual response—she was wholly oblivious to what was coming next.

Just say it. Satoru swallowed hard, clenching a fist in an attempt to quell his anxiety and muster as much courage as he possibly could within his trembling frame. From an outside perspective, it was laughable, really—a grown man of Satoru Gojo’s calibre being reduced to a shaky, blubbering mess by a woman. “Look, I haven’t been totally honest—”

Suddenly, he was cut off by the sound of a man’s voice, startlingly clear over the receiver as he said, “Utahime, you comin’ back inside?” Had one of her brothers come to check on her? It definitely wasn’t her father as the voice sounded too youthful.

Yeah, I’ll be right in, Satoshi,” she responded, a gentle affection highlighting her tone. And Satoru froze, the blood in his veins shuddering with the chill. “Sorry about that, Gojo. What were you saying?

He didn’t stop to think, all resolve slipping through his fingers like water. “Hmm? Oh, right! I was just about to rub in your face that me n’ Shoko are out on the town without you. Though, honestly, I probably wouldn’t have invited you to begin with. You’re kind of a buzzkill, y’know? And you definitely don’t need anymore encouragement for that drinking problem of yours! Speaking of which, have you talked to someone about that yet? If not, I could recommend—”

Utahime groaned loudly, voice rife with irritation as she snapped, “Goodbye, Gojo.” This time, he didn’t try to discourage her, the call coming to an abrupt end.

A tumultuous blend of emotions ruptured within his chest, his teeth gritting so hard, he thought they would shatter. He couldn’t focus on a single thought as they swirled about within his head like a natural disaster, threatening to destroy everything in its wake. And, just when he thought he had gotten it under control, Satoru was on the move with the ballistic desire to do anything—absolutely f*cking anything—to remove Utahime Iori from his heart. I’m so sick of this pining sh*t!

Satoru felt pathetic, suffering endlessly over a woman who would most definitely be happier with someone else. Why lose his mind over this? Why hold out for something that was never going to happen? He wasn’t built for this commitment sh*t anyway so, why continue to repress himself when he could partake in satisfying his urges whenever he wanted? There were plenty of people to choose from—he had his pick of the litter so, f*ck it, why not?

As he reentered the nightclub, his initial intention had been to seek out the girl he’d been dancing with but, impulsively, he decided upon a detour. Locating Shoko, cozied up on a lounge chair with her lips attached to another girl’s neck, Satoru stormed up to her. “Hey, sorry to interrupt,” he shouted abruptly over the blaring music, his apology lacking any sort of sincerity. “but I gotta borrow her real quick so, if ya don’t mind…!”

“Gojo, what the fu—?!” But Satoru was already pulling Shoko up onto her feet, dragging her behind him by her wrist. They didn’t stop until they were near the entrance, dipped in a hallway leading to some private rooms. Of course, there wasn’t exactly a ton of privacy but it was a bit of a quieter environment than where they’d been before. With an irritated glare, Shoko complained, “Um, I was kinda in the middle of something? What the f*ck is goin’ on with you, dude?”

Satoru could hardly contain the anxiety rattling around his body, giving him this burst of frantic, near-manic energy. “I need you to kiss me,” he blurted.

Shoko grimaced. “Ew, no! I’d rather eat my own sh*t than do that.”

Her comment sobered him some. “Wow, that’s a visceral reaction,” he said, slightly offended. “You didn’t seem to have any issue kissing Suguru that one time back in first year.”

“Yeah, because he’s my type,” she confessed, eyes roving over him with her nose upturned in displeasure. “You, on the other hand…”

“Well, that’s just rude.”

Shoko shrugged. “I’m just being honest. Anyway, why do you need me to kiss you?”

“I want to hook up with that Ayaka girl,” he told her honestly. “but I don’t want my first kiss to be with some total stranger. Like, I know I shouldn’t care about any of that sh*t but I can’t stop thinking about how I wanted my first kiss to be with someone I care about, y’know?”

“Okay, first of all, her name is Ayane,” Shoko replied. “and, secondly, you’ll f*ck a girl you don’t give a sh*t about but you draw the line at kissing?” She blinked at him incredulously. “That’s kinda backwards, isn’t it?”

Satoru nervously bounced in place, his lips pressed into a firm line. He didn’t want to admit to her that Utahime’s comment a little over a year ago about first kisses had stuck with him; that a part of him had hoped his first kiss would be with Utahime herself. But, if he kept holding out for her, he would likely never get over her and the best way to get over her would be to find someone else to satisfy his needs—and he couldn’t exactly find someone else without kissing a person or two. “Please, Shoko?”

Shoko peered at him curiously. Though her lip was curled in disgust at the idea, she seemed particularly moved by his sincerity. “If I do this, will you chill the f*ck out?” He had no words to spare, simply nodding with fervor. In return, she sighed deeply, relenting to his request. “Alright, let’s get this over with…” With assertive motion, Shoko grabbed the back of Satoru’s neck and pulled him down to her mouth, meeting him halfway to accommodate for their height difference.

“This sucks.” It was a bitter mutter to reinforce her distaste before her lips were upon his. Their mouths slanted together in an open-mouthed—albeit, chaste—kiss. Though she’d kept her tongue firmly within her own mouth, Satoru could taste the cigarettes and liquor on her breath as their lips moved against each other for a few seconds. And, while the kiss wasn’t necessarily bad, it also didn’t spark any feelings of pleasure or excitement. Even with his incredible lack of experience, he could tell Shoko was a good kisser and, still, he felt nothing but gratitude for her doing him the favor—that’s where it started and ended.

Lips glistening in the wake of their kiss, Shoko pulled away, patting Satoru’s cheek. “You know what? Objectively speaking, not bad for a beginner,” she praised in a scientific manner before her face pulled into a grimace, a visible shiver running through her body. “but, please, never ask me to kiss you again. That was disgusting and weird for me on a personal level.”

“Do you kiss everybody with so little passion, Shoko?” Satoru teased, shoving his hands into his pockets as he looked down in preparation for his next joke. “Honestly, I thought it’d move at least a little bit…”

Shoko shivered again, gagging. “Yuck! I’m glad it didn’t, I would actually have to kill myself then.” Satoru barked out a laugh, eliciting a punch to his bicep from Shoko which bounced right off of his Infinity. “Alright, you’ve had your first kiss—now, go get ‘em, tiger.”

Hopping in place to hype himself up, Satoru made his way back to the dance floor, locating his target rather quickly. As he made his way through all the bodies packed together, he felt a peculiar sense of peace spill over him. Sure, he was still nervous as hell at the idea of losing his virginity to some random girl from a club—there had to be some sort of cautionary tale in there somewhere but he decided to ignore it—however, a significant weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He no longer had to wait for Utahime Iori and, now, he might have a shot at dispelling his feelings for her entirely.

An overwhelming sense of liberation washed over him.

And, once he reached his destination, Satoru slipped a sly arm around the waist of his prey. Pulling his sunglasses down, he gazed into her grinning face with a wolfish smirk of his own. “So, you still wanna get outta here?”

Notes:

listen, i apologize for the jumpscare that is kanye west but this song,,,,,,,, is so incredibly gojo/gjhm-coded it's insane and it just worked GREAT for this chapter.

we got another flash forward HEHE bc i felt we were overdue for one since the last was in CHAPTER ONE and this one is a lot longer than that!!! also, we get a very loose look at gojo's childhood/home life. i didn't get too into it bc, tbh, gojo isn't someone who thinks about that stuff too often and, if you've read my comments replies, you'll know that this fic is me experimenting with a third person close pov sooooo........we have to bear w a bit of his delusion lmaoooo

i'm so so so excited for next chapter bc y'all are NOT f*ckIN READY!!! i've been waiting for chapter 11/12 to come up bc kehfwkhgkwhegfh!!!!!!! anyway, i hope you enjoy this chapter!!!

also, thank you to everyone for leaving such wonderful and insightful comments!!! i love reading them and i don't often have time to respond to comments but, when i do, i love being able to have discussions w you guys on this fic!!!

see you soon w chapter 11 <3

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 11: single

Summary:

“You look nice.” He glanced at her briefly as she fell into step beside him. Nice is an understatement.

“Thanks.”

Okay, she was being a bit standoffish but Satoru could work with that. “What have you been up to recently?”

Utahime shrugged. “I don’t know—working, mostly,” she muttered, glancing at him curiously. “What about you?”

“Working, mostly,” he echoed with a grin.

“Yeah, I bet with all those back-to-back missions...”

“And how’d you hear about that?” Satoru’s interest had been piqued, rousing a curious brow.

Another shrug. “Around.”

“Shoko?”

Utahime cleared her throat. “Website.”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

i don't know if we should be alone together
i still got a crush, that's obvious
if nobody's around, what's stopping us?
everywhere i go, you show whatever
i don't ever mind sharing oxygen
i just wanna get lost in your lungs

just a baby, but she's growing up so fast
and i'm allergic to the waiting
she's just a baby girl
and i love to watch her dance
but it's making me go crazy

can you let your baby be my girl?
can you let your baby be mine?

i don't think that we should be around each other
when you're in the room, you get my eyes
you open your mouth, i'm hypnotized
i can make you laugh until you cry
you know you got all my attention
you know you got all mine

'baby', i can't help but call her that
even though i shouldn't say it
she was my baby girl
might never get her back
but i don't mind being patient, yeah

- The Neighbourhood

* * * * * * *

“So, it just ran off?” Satoru trailed after the spiky-haired kid in front of him, arms casually folded behind his head as they made their way down the frosted asphalt which led to their apartment building. Despite the topic of conversation, he couldn’t find it in himself to be too worried about Megumi losing—or would it be misplacing, he wondered—one of his divine dogs. It’s a shikigami, how far could it possibly have gone?

Megumi tightened the grip he had on his backpack’s strap slung across his chest, swimming in the new winter coat they’d bought him recently as he had already outgrown his previous one. “That’s what I said, didn’t I?”

Geez, this kid gets grumpier by the day. Satoru sighed, shrugging his shoulders as if to dismiss any potential concern. He could tell, despite Megumi’s nonchalance, that the kid was actually freaking out. “Well, it was Shiro, right?”

His bottom lip jutted out, brows knitted together. “Yeah.”

“Then, it shouldn’t be an issue,” he reassured with a flippant grin. “Shiro’s a good boy! It’s Kuro that’s the troublemaker.” Indeed, they had to implement a rule that the black dog of the divine pair wasn’t allowed to be summoned inside the apartment and, if they were, it could only be under supervision. Satoru wasn’t typically this much of a hard-ass but there’d just been one incident too many with that dog in particular.

Megumi scowled. “She’s not a troublemaker!”

Not a troublemaker?!” Satoru guffawed. “Megumi, we’re talking about the same little beastie that ate Tsumiki’s bird, right?”

The kid pouted, his even gait morphing into a stomp. “I already apologized for that,” he muttered. “and it wasn’t even Kuro’s fault, anyway. Tsumiki shouldn’t have let Aika out of her cage!”

Satoru let the matter drop, not wanting to rile up Megumi further. Back when the incident first occurred, Megumi had been nearly inconsolable, wracked with guilt over the death of Tsumiki’s first and only pet. It had been a particularly emotional affair for both children, demanding quite a bit of mediation from Ijichi since Satoru only ever seemed to make things worse when those two fought. At first, like Satoru would have probably done himself, Megumi made excuses to minimize the incident, pinning the blame on everything other than himself—but then, very much unlike Satoru, he’d finally taken responsibility, issuing a heartfelt apology to his sister.

Despite his obvious remorse, Tsumiki refused to talk to Megumi for quite a few weeks after the situation happened. Her upset had been understandable as the divine dogs’ presences would make it difficult to keep a cat around which was the type of pet Tsumiki had truly wanted—the bird had been a compromise, allowing her companionship in the form of a pet to keep things fair between herself and Megumi.

So, when the bird had been subsequently eaten by one of his ‘pets’, the only outcome was going to be weeks of the cold shoulder at best. From how devastated she was, Satoru was surprised she hadn’t abandoned their home altogether. But eventually, of course, Tsumiki had calmed down enough to accept Megumi’s apology.

And, now, here they were—an eaten bird and a missing dog later.

“Why’d you summon Shiro anyway?” Satoru asked. “You already knew I was comin’ to get you today.” Typically, Megumi and Tsumiki did well to get themselves to and from school during the week, the former being permitted to summon his shikigami as a companion to protect them on the way home as they’d mutually agreed it was a bad idea to summon them on school grounds. However, Megumi had managed to land himself in detention on a Saturday for fighting during the week which meant a guardian was required to escort him to and from school for disciplinary reasons.

Megumi’s cheeks puffed out, glaring at the road. “I already told you,” he ground out. “I was bored. I just wanted to play for a little while, that’s all.”

Satoru grinned. “Oh, right,” he drawled. “I’m sure it had nothing to do with that itty-bitty curse near the bike racks.” Of course, Megumi said nothing, his shoulders tensing up at Satoru’s unspoken implication. This kid… It took everything in him not to elongate his stride to affectionately ruffle Megumi’s hair.

When Satoru had finally arrived to collect him, he’d seen Megumi standing a few meters away from the ugly little curse, his own aura thrumming with hesitation and, subsequently, impatience. The curse had hardly been intimidating, sitting at a solid Grade 4, if not lower. If Megumi had decided to exorcise it himself, all he would’ve had to do was load a bit of cursed energy into his little fist and punch it once. Despite only having about a year of training under his belt, Satoru had ensured Megumi could do at least that much.

Of course, if Shiro had been around, the shikigami would have easily consumed the cursed spirit which would make Megumi’s intervention unnecessary. But that wasn’t what happened; for whatever reason, the white dog had run off, leaving Megumi to fend for himself. This presented Satoru with two problems to address in their upcoming training sessions. The first was Megumi’s lack of control over his shikigami—arguably, the most important thing a Ten Shadows user needed—and the second being the boy’s reliance on those very same shikigami.

The downfall of sorcerers who utilize shikigami is their tendency to neglect close-quarter combat skills, Satoru assessed, using a hand to stroke his chin. We need to build his confidence with hand-to-hand combat. Make him strong enough to exorcise spirits with that and cursed energy manipulation alone. Then, subjugation of his shikigami should follow naturally…

As they neared the bus stop on the corner, Satoru noticed a familiar energy signature approaching them in the distance, mirroring Megumi’s own aura. Shiro trotted toward them rhythmically, Megumi releasing a sigh of relief while maintaining his silence. While they closed the distance, Satoru noticed the presence of a little girl within the bus stop while a random man seemed to chat frantically on the nearby payphone—it was the little girl, however, that caught Satoru’s attention. Well, that’s interesting.

There was a dark energy which clung to her like a second skin, slowly falling away with each moment she stood in place, staring at Shiro’s retreating form before moving her eyes onto the approaching form of Megumi. From her aura alone, Satoru could tell that she had been in the presence of a particularly nasty cursed spirit; from her physical appearance, he gleaned that it must’ve been for quite some time too. And, while it would likely take only a few days for the taint to fall away, it would also take her years to fully recover from the trauma, if she could at all.

However, as she gazed upon Megumi, Satoru noticed the viscous energy melting away from her just a little faster than before which allowed the true essence of her aura to shine through. It was a soft white light, thrumming with hope and inspiration as well as the spark of deep admiration. Satoru co*cked a brow, watching as Megumi seemed to miss the little scraggly girl staring at him with wide eyes in favor of wrapping his arms around Shiro—though, to be fair, she was partially hidden within the bus shelter.

Suddenly, Shiro’s disappearing act made a little more sense. The divine dogs, just as all of Megumi’s future shikigami would be, were extensions of himself. Sure, they had their own personalities and habits but, ultimately, they orbited the master which brought them into existence from the shadows. Megumi, at his core, was a kind soul who wanted to help other people, living by a strong moral code and even stronger ideals. So strong, in fact, it surprised Satoru at times how vividly the kid contrasted his late-father.

While he couldn’t be too sure, Satoru theorized Shiro had sensed a girl in need and did whatever he could to bring her to safety, just as Megumi would’ve done himself. Chivalrous little bastard, he thought with a chuckle. “You’re popular with the girls, huh?”

As expected, Megumi completely ignored his comment as he turned left onto their street, Shiro walking along his righthand side with a hearty pant. And, as always, Satoru was thoroughly amused. He elongated his stride, falling into step with Megumi, reaching a hand out to grab the top of his head before playfully shaking it side to side. Don’t you ignore me, he wanted to tell him but opted for the wordless teasing he was wont to do. Gloomy little runt!

Satoru could feel the little girl come out of hiding, staring after them, her gaze heavy on their backs. I should probably do something about that, huh…? Before he could continue with the thought, his phone began to ring within his pocket, inspiring Megumi to smack his hand away and speed up to put a little distance between himself and Satoru. With a chuckle, Satoru retrieved his phone and slid his thumb along the screen, lifting the receiver to his ear as he gave a hearty, “Yello!”

Yo, Gojo!” Shoko greeted, a chuckle highlighting her tone. “Come out to Shinjuku tonight, will ya?

Satoru kept his eyes locked firmly on Megumi’s back, ensuring to speed up whenever he felt the young boy was getting too far away. “Mm, and why would I do that?” Admittedly, the idea of going out wasn’t really appealing to him. He’d just gotten back from a week-long mission that very same morning and had been excited to hang out with his wards for the weekend.

Uh, because it’s my birthday?” She snorted, amused rather than offended by the perceived lapse in memory. “Man, being a father’s really taken it outta you, huh? Bet the only thing you’re thinking about lately are parent-teacher conferences and dance recitals…

A nerve twitched in his eyelid—it annoyed him that, somehow, she’d hit the nail on the head. He did have a meeting scheduled for next week with Megumi’s teacher and Tsumiki was, indeed, participating in a dance recital for Christmas that he had cleared his schedule for. Satoru managed to keep his tone neutral, not allowing his irritation to slip through as he asked, “Isn’t your birthday tomorrow, Shoko?” To corroborate his claim, Satoru briefly looked at the date on his phone. November 6th, he confirmed. “Yeah, dude, your birthday isn’t even until tomorrow.”

So?” There was the sound of distinct rustling on her end as well as the scrape of metal against metal—was she shopping, maybe? She sighed, “Listen, I’ve been non-stop studying for the board exam for, like, a year straight. I think I deserve to take an entire weekend to celebrate my existence, wouldn’t you agree?

He couldn’t particularly disagree with her train of thought. Once she had made the decision to become Jujutsu High’s primary healer, Shoko had completely immersed herself within her studies, asserting that she would be better equipped to treat other jujutsu sorcerers if she had a medical license. If he called her, she was studying; if she called him, she was still studying. Their weekly ‘friendship time’ dinners had turned into weekly brunches at her local coffee shop, fingers tapping away at the fancy MacBook he’d gifted her for Christmas the previous year, prattling on about human anatomy and biochemistry while Satoru tried to update her on current events.

“I suppose.”

Then, do you also suppose that I would want my best guy friend there to celebrate with?” A mischievous grin highlighted her tone, reminding him that he was dealing with a con-woman at the moment. Oh, how despicable Shoko Ieiri was to be pulling the besties card on him.

“Mhm…” Satoru squinted as if she were able to see his expression over the phone, mouth set with suspicion. “Shoko, you’re using your evil plotting voice.”

Evil? Plotting?” Shoko laughed, feigning innocence. “Nooooo, I’m not plotting anything,” she drawled unconvincingly. “Anyway, I’ll send you the location and time. Wear something nice but not, like, club nice—we’re not going anywhere too crazy, but do dress to impress. Okay, see ya later, bye!

Before Satoru could protest, the call ended, drawing an exasperated sigh from him. Oh, man, what the hell am I about to walk into…? The thought occurred to him just as Satoru and Megumi finally arrived back at the apartment, walking into the lower floor unit where Ijichi sat with Tsumiki in the living room.

“Welcome home,” they said in unison with varying degrees of excitement.

Sparing formalities, however, Satoru immediately inquired, “Hey, Ijichi—you wouldn’t happen to have plans tonight, would ya?”

~

Following a lengthy yawn, Satoru teleported himself out onto the streets of Shinjuku, rubbing at his sleep-swollen eyes before popping his shades back into place on his nose and continuing towards his destination. Fortunately for Satoru, a request of ‘dress to impress’ wasn’t particularly difficult for him to accomplish, meaning he was able to put off getting ready long enough to sneak in a quick nap. Since he wasn’t exactly sure what Shoko had planned for the evening, he figured he’d rather be safe than sorry by getting that beauty sleep in while he could.

A shiver ran down Satoru’s spine in the chilly evening, his eyes still a little sensitive underneath the fluorescent lights as they adjusted to his conscious state. Immediately, he thought about how comfortable he had been wrapped up in his silk sheets, head buried in the memory foam pillow he’d spent a fortune on. It was always difficult for him to get up once he had fallen asleep in that king-sized bed of his—which, actually, made quite a bit of sense since he’d dedicated so much money and research to perfecting the quality of his sleep. And, indeed, everything about sleeping in his bed was perfect…

Except for one specific thing; a very specific thing that—Nope!

Satoru had taken to policing his thoughts rather strictly as of late, doing his best to remain present as opposed to falling into those fantasy cycles of his. While he would die before admitting it to anyone else, Satoru had always been a bit of a daydreamer and it was only recently that he realized those daydreams ushered in a slew of unproductive feelings. Over the past year, he’d done very well to focus on what mattered, only concerning himself with things he could control. It had done wonders for his mental state and, perhaps, mellowed him out just a little as a result—at least, that’s what Shoko had said and she’d know better than him, wouldn’t she?

As he approached the izakaya Shoko had given him the address to, Satoru noticed something significant amongst all the different auras within the establishment, giving him significant pause. Maybe I should go home, was his initial thought, of course, when faced with the unmistakable golden hue of a particular individual—a particular individual that he hadn’t actually spoken to in nearly a year. However, as he lingered near the entrance, Satoru forced himself to think about things rationally.

It wasn’t as if he had explicitly told Shoko that he’d been limiting his interactions with Utahime on purpose. As far as she knew, they simply had no opportunities to speak due to her move to Kyoto and his tight schedule. It wouldn’t be fair to Shoko for Satoru to bail out on her birthday celebration all because he was too much of a coward to finally face the woman he had spent the past year actively trying to get over. Wait, just trying…? He scoffed at himself, arrogance bubbling up into his throat. Nope, I am most definitely over her...

Yeah, that’s right—he wasn’t going to punish Shoko over something so ridiculous, especially when he had already long since moved on from it. And even if he hadn’t—which he most definitely, most certainly had—it wasn’t going to do him any good to avoid the inevitable. Utahime was just about as close to Shoko as Satoru was himself, if not closer. They were bound to come across each other again at some point and what better way to prove to himself that he had finally ditched those unproductive feelings of his past self than to face her right then and there?

Fixing a smirk onto his face, Satoru finally entered the izakaya with a renewed sense of confidence. While the host led him to the appropriate room, however, the taste of milk and honey on his tongue grew rich, forcing him to swallow back the nerves that threatened to overtake him—I’m not nervous; everything is fine. Surely, he was just tired and wanted to go back to sleep. I’ll stay for an hour and then go home, he determined. I just need more sleep.

Then, as if ripping off a bandaid, Satoru pulled the door open with an obnoxiously drawn out, “Heeeeeeey, everybody!” Despite his best efforts, Satoru’s eyes immediately landed upon the person he had hoped they wouldn’t automatically seek out—so, rather than processing her, he forced his gaze to move around the room to process that instead.

“Well, it’s about time,” Shoko sassed. She sported a cream-colored turtleneck sweater while her brown hair—now grown past her shoulders—was tied back into a sensible ponytail. There was already an absurd collection of alcoholic beverages on the table amongst a few plates of snacking food. “We had to start without you.”

On the right side of the room, sat Mei, Shoko, and Kusakabe like ducks in a row. On the left side, Utahime sat on her own, fisting a pint of beer with a scrupulous expression. She hadn’t bothered to look up at Satoru once nor make any sort of comment. In fact, she didn’t seem to have any reaction toward him at all.

There was an open seat next her; the only seat available to—Wow, haven’t seen Kusakabe in awhile!

Satoru noticed how withered he seemed as opposed to his typical state of exasperation. He had heard some whispers around about some sort of family drama but, honestly, Satoru had no real interest in anything involving the man. Kusakabe, while a powerful Grade 1 sorcerer, wasn’t exactly on the totem pole of Satoru’s concerns—at least, not anymore. “Damn, Kusakabe, you look like sh*t,” he said cheerfully as if it wasn’t intended to be an insult.

Kusakabe, in turn, took it in stride as he did all things when it came to Satoru. “Yeah, well, you try teachin’ a rowdy bunch of horny first years and see what it does to your mood, eh?” He waved a dismissive hand before lifting a frosted mug up to his lips, taking a long draught of beer.

“Gojo,” Mei suddenly purred, tapping her manicured fingernails against the table. “do sit down. You’re going to block the servers.” She indicated the spot beside Utahime, lifting a sharp brow as if detecting his hesitation.

Satoru, unwilling to let her read him that easily, issued a hearty smile. “Oh, my bad! I was just taken aback by how lovely you look at your brittle age. Completely slipped my mind to take a seat.” He relished in the way her eyes darkened with vague disdain, though, she maintained her smile. Satoru had discovered long ago that, it wasn’t difficult to get a rise out of Mei, it was only difficult getting her to show it.

“It pays to dabble in skincare,” she quipped, lengthening her unnerving grin. “that’s why I taught Utahime the importance of a ten step beauty routine.” She nudged a single finger in her subject’s direction. “Isn’t that right, Utahime?” Of course, Mei would redirect his attention toward Utahime as if to say, “Don’t pick on me when there’s an easier target in the room.

Satoru settled into the space beside Utahime, being mindful to keep a comfortable distance between them. Even still, his heart thrashed about wildly in her presence, the warm blanket of her aura only strengthened by the heat licking off of her alcohol-blushed skin. Despite his best efforts, Satoru couldn’t stop himself from admiring her—she was just too damn pretty to ignore.

“I suppose so,” she said with a dismissive tone, her eyes off to the wayside as if she were far away. She lifted an arm to prop her head up with her hand, creating a physical barrier between herself and Satoru.

Is she mad at me? His gaze glazed uncontrollably over her form, breath caught in his throat. The low neckline of her white blouse exposed her collarbones, displaying the very tip of her torso scar pulled between a generous helping of cleavage. And, as if to please his greedy eyes further, the curve of her hips in her current position had been accentuated by the lavender trousers she wore. Good-f*cking-God, I’m gonna cream my pants.

Suddenly, he was reminded of the time he had traced his fingers along her delicate skin, memorizing the shape of her body as he held it against his own. The sudden tightness of his trousers embarrassed him, warming his skin with a flush that forced him to severely manage his body language. From how hard his heart was pounding, he thought it might burst through his chest and fall into her lap. Okay, maybe I’m not over it, he admitted, swallowing thickly as he tore his eyes away. But it’s just a little crush, that’s all—surely, he wasn’t in love with her anymore; in lust, perhaps?

Satoru slapped a slack-jawed grin onto his face, leaning back on his hands with bravado. “Well, how about that! You in the market for a boyfriend then, Utahime?” He snorted. “I can see the angle you’re going for—lure them in with your pretty face until they’ve fallen madly in love then hit ‘em with the hysterics. Good strategy!” And, as if to add insult to injury, he lightly smacked her shoulder…

But, really, his fingers simply ached to touch her again.

Utahime swatted at him, a slight scowl on her face but not to the critical degree he’d grown accustomed to. “You’re an asshole,” she muttered coldly. So coldly, in fact, it sliced clean through his heart. There wasn’t any passion to the way she spoke, expression set with melancholy. She seemed numb—troubled.

Satoru’s smile lessened, concern flooding his nervous system. “So I’ve been told.” A part of him wondered if she was officially off the market; if, somehow, this lack of energy came from the stress of fighting with a lover. No matter the situation, Utahime had always been warm and did her best to see the bright side of things, shining a light in the darkest of places—however, Satoru had never known a time where she’d been in a romantic relationship so it seemed plausible that this profound sadness originated from something similar.

Then again, he was probably projecting.

As the others chatted, Satoru remained silent by Utahime’s side, attempting to shut his stupid mouth for once. From his peripheral vision, he watched her languid motions, lost in thought as she slowly sipped on her beer. And, because he was an arrogant son of a bitch with this irrepressible anxiety, he couldn’t stop himself from suddenly asking, “Hey, are you mad at me?”

Utahime lowered her arm, glancing back at him from her peripheral vision. “No, I’m not,” she said slowly as if she were chewing on her words. “Why would I be?”

Satoru turned his head to peer at her directly. She’s lying. Licking his lips, he flashed her a lopsided grin. “Right,” he beamed. “I haven’t done anything wrong, after all.” Somehow, Satoru had managed to convince himself that Utahime knew she was better off without him; that he was simply giving her what she always wanted.

“Aside from you being you?” Utahime sneered, gritting her teeth so hard he could practically see a vein pop in her forehead. “I suppose not.”

He twisted his mouth into an obnoxious pout. “What’s wrong with me being me?”

“Everything!” She took another sip of her beer—only, this time, it was a large gulp as opposed to the casual nursing she’d been doing before. “Like I said, you’re an asshole.” As she levied the insult against him once again, an epiphany had formed, his ardent gaze lowering to her mouth.

Say it again… He wanted to study the way her peerless lips wrapped around the loutish curse; the way her jaw moved as she enunciated her disdain for him. If he ever got the chance to kiss her, would she trail its vulgarity against his tongue? Would it taste as bittersweet as it felt when spat in his face with such vitriol? How would it feel when whispered into his skin—a venomous bite or a frenzied whimper?

It was maddening, the way she could dismantle his resolve with a single word.

Before Satoru had the chance to say anything, Utahime passionately turned to Shoko and exclaimed, “Anyway, Shoko, I want to give you your gift!” She turned to her left, pulling out a pale yellow gift bag and holding it out across the table. “Happy birthday.”

Shoko’s face lit up, that peculiar smile of hers tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Wow, thanks,” she said genuinely. “You didn’t have to get me anything!”

Utahime smiled with pride. “Well, I wanted to,” she insisted. “I’m able to afford a bit more now with my new teaching salary.” Settling the gift bag in her lap, Shoko looked up at Utahime as she rooted around the tissue paper, eliciting a flare of anticipation from the latter who seemed excited for the former to see her gift.

Satoru feigned offense by slipping a frown onto his face. “Heeeeeey, no fair, Utahime,” he complained. “you never get me a gift for my birthday!”

Utahime, with a furious expression, spun to face him as she spat, “Why should I?! You’ve never even wished me a happy birthday—not once!”

And there she is, my grumpy girl. He held up his hands with a subtle smile on his face, his voice dipping into a lower octave as he asked, “Well, would you get me a gift if I got you one for your next birthday?” Her mouth snapped shut, expression easing from anger to confusion as she blinked at him. The same question on his mind likely had also occurred to her—how had he managed to disarm her so easily?

Then, after a few moments of contemplation, Utahime grimaced. “Theoretically, I could…”

A surge of warmth calmed his tumultuous heart, widening his smile. “Alright then, we have a deal.” Of course, he couldn’t destroy his image with any sort of sincerity or vulnerability so, as he gripped his chin, he joked, “Wait, when’s your birthday again?”

February 18th, he confirmed to himself, enjoying the way her face turned red with aggravation.

“Are you serious?!”

A sudden clap drew their attention back to Shoko who was covered in baby blue tissue paper. “Guys, it’s my birthday—can we rein it in please?”

Just as Shoko shook her head with half-hearted disapproval, Satoru noticed another familiar aura approaching them with a reserved gait, yellow hue coloring the cursed energy’s even temperament. “Yeah, Utahime, you’re being so loud,” he teased. “You’re gonna scare off Nanami again!”

Nanami-san?” Utahime’s face twisted with an angry sort of bemusem*nt, clearly peeved that he would place the blame on her for the scene they were causing. “What the hell does he have to do with—?” The door slid open, interrupting her question and bringing a smug grin to Satoru’s face.

“Sorry I’m late,” Nanami apologized, loosening the burgundy tie around his neck. “I agreed to work overtime today.” Much to Satoru’s displeasure, his direct junior had decided to abandon jujutsu sorcery after graduation, opting to become a salaryman instead. Nanami looked a lot different than what he remembered—older, even despite his young age. His chiseled features were gaunt with exhaustion, a persistent sigh at the ready behind his firm mouth.

What a waste, was the only thought Satoru had when thinking about Kento Nanami as of late. It wasn’t every day a sorcerer as competent as him came along so it was incredibly unfortunate to lose him, subtracting yet another person Satoru hoped to rely on someday. “Nanami,” he chirped, grinning up at him. “it’s been so long since we last talked! You haven’t been ignoring my calls on purpose, have you?”

As expected, Nanami grunted with displeasure. “Not all of them,” he admitted with no intention of elaborating nor apologizing. Pulling off his pinstripe blazer, the salaryman made a show of getting comfortable, rolling up the sleeves of his white dress shirt to reveal strong forearms. Then, he sat in the open space beside Satoru with a grunt, propping his elbows up on the table.

From beside Satoru, Utahime released a subtle gasp, her cursed energy pulsating for a brief moment which drew his gaze. Her cheeks were tinted pink, honey brown eyes fixated on Nanami’s forearms. And, despite the other two women in the room being under a similar spell, the sight of Utahime showing any sort of attraction for Nanami really bothered him.

Immediately, Satoru leaned forward to block her view, a petty smile used to disguise the scowl that wanted to form on his face. “Anyway, now that the wet blanket is here, let’s get this party started!”

And the whole table sighed.

~

The group stood outside of the izakaya for quite some time after they—well, really, he—had paid the bill. A faint memory from two years ago occurred to Satoru, his hands buried in his pockets as he naturally compared then and now. Back then, Utahime had been a belligerent mess, needing assistance to get home. She had pressed her drunken cheek against Satoru’s ear, continuously asking him to sate her need for validation which he had freely given to her.

Now, Utahime stood with her arms folded over her chest, body shivering in the November chill. The slight flush of her skin was the only indication that she’d been drinking at all as she stood tall with sobriety. And, while she did a pretty good job of hiding it, Satoru could detect the subtle chatter of her teeth. Understandable, considering the thin material of her blouse, even despite the long sleeves.

Without much fanfare, Satoru sidled himself over until he was standing right next to Utahime. Her eyes were focused on Kusakabe who had been telling some story about—well, Satoru wasn’t too sure. He hadn’t paid any mind to the conversation, his attention fully captured by Utahime and her trembling form. “Cold?” Satoru inquired, leaning into her personal space.

Utahime recoiled, her hands grabbing at her biceps with fervor. “What? No.” Her response felt automatic as if formed from sheer muscle memory. No matter how innocuous the scenario was, she only ever wanted to push back against him, designating herself his own personal contrarian—the devil’s advocate—while perfectly agreeable to the rest of the world.

He co*cked a brow. “Really?”

“Mhm.”

Stubborn woman. With a wry smile, Satoru brought his lips to her ear, his warm breath ghosting over her skin as he fought the urge to press a kiss into her hair. “Is that why you’re turning blue?” He hadn’t intended to speak to her in such a low timbre but his body seemed keen on conveying his insatiable desire for her.

Despite the way her skin quivered in response, Utahime scowled. “I’ll survive, Gojo.”

“Here.” Satoru pulled back, a chuckle highlighting his words as he slipped off his coat. “You need it more than I do.” Giving her no chance to argue, he draped the coat over her shoulders, smirking at the way she seemed to drown in the fabric. His winter coat was much too large for her and the sight of her wearing it filled his stomach with butterflies.

Her bottom lip jutted out, brows furrowed with reluctance. “Thanks,” she said begrudgingly, pulling her arms through the sleeves.

With his fists in his pockets, Satoru swayed contentedly, enjoying the mere act of standing beside Utahime as their group interacted with each other. He’d throw in a comment here or there, mostly cracking ridiculous jokes at the expense of at least one person in the group which would elicit laughter from the others, while waiting for them to finally agree to split amicably for the evening. And, while he considered cutting things off himself, Satoru realized he didn’t want the evening to end just yet—his original plan to stay for a single hour long forgotten as it had miraculously turned into three.

“Alright, well, this has been fun,” Nanami said suddenly, adjusting his blazer. “but I’ll have to end things here. I have work in the morning.”

Satoru pouted. “On a Sunday?”

“Overtime.” He issued them a tight smile before sparing a final glance at Shoko. “Happy birthday, senpai.”

“Thanks for coming out,” Shoko replied with sincerity. Then, as Nanami walked away, she sighed. “Ugh, I guess I should be going home too.”

“More studying?” Utahime inquired, subconsciously nuzzling her face into the fabric of Satoru’s coat. “You can’t take a day off?”

Shoko twisted her mouth, tempted by the idea. “That was the original plan but—I dunno—I don’t wanna lose momentum on my studies.” Despite the regretful words, however, she smiled warmly. “But I had a really good time tonight so it’s not that big of a deal.” Kusakabe and Mei traded a few more words—all inconsequential to Satoru who bounced in place with repressed energy—before they left as well.

Then, it was just the three of them remaining.

“Well, I’m gonna head out.” Shoko glanced between them. “I’ll let you guys know when I get home.”

“I could warp you,” Satoru offered, a single brow raised in quiet suspicion. “You don’t have to walk.”

A wistful look twinkled in her eye, taking in a deep breath as she peered around. “Nah, I live nearby and, honestly, I could use the walk. You should take Utahime back to the campus apartments, though—it’s pretty far for her to walk on her own.”

Utahime pouted. “I don’t need a chaperone, Shoko. I can walk just fine on my own!”

However, Satoru immediately slung his arm over Utahime’s shoulders, grinning at Shoko with a single hand raised in farewell. “Call me if you need anything!”

“Wait, Gojo, I—!”

The familiar tug of his teleportation pulled at his gut, Utahime going rigid in his grasp. While he’d certainly grown more adept with the ability, especially when transporting others, Satoru knew it was still pretty jarring for people who weren’t used to the sensation—as well as people with weak stomachs.

In the blink of an eye, they were standing within Tengen’s barrier, a few meters away from the pathway that led up to the campus apartment buildings mostly used by staff and visitors. Utahime gripped at her stomach, her face pale as she gritted her teeth. For a moment, Satoru thought she might keel over, pushing him to tighten his grip around her shoulders. Smoothing his thumb against her arm in a soothing gesture, he asked, “You good?”

Asshole,” she complained with labored breaths, shooting a glare up at him. “you could’ve warned me!”

Satoru chuckled. “Y’know, you’re real cute when you’re mad.” Face screwed up in aggravation, Utahime shoved his arm away and put distance between them, hands on her knees as she recollected herself. Satoru gave her a minute, hands slipping into his pockets.

Eventually, Utahime straightened herself out, color returning to her face as she exhaled. “Okay, I’m fine now,” she told him. “I can make it to my room from here. Thanks.”

“Which building?” Satoru asked, brazenly ignoring her statement.

“Huh?”

He repeated himself, slowly saying, “Which building are you staying in?”

Utahime blinked at him. “Uh, building three?”

“Great!” Satoru sprung into step, leading the way towards the apartments. “Let’s go then.”

He could hear her boots click against the sidewalk, her breathing a bit frantic from trying to keep up with his stride. “You don’t have to walk me all the way back, Gojo. I’m fine.”

But he wasn’t listening. Against his better judgement, Satoru had decided to indulge his impulsivity for the evening and, as of this moment, his impulses screamed Utahime’s name. Even if it ended with her slamming a door in his face, at the very least, he would push his luck as far as it could possibly go.

“You look nice.” He glanced at her briefly as she fell into step beside him. Nice is an understatement.

“Thanks.”

Okay, she was being a bit standoffish but Satoru could work with that. “What have you been up to recently?”

Utahime shrugged. “I don’t know—working, mostly,” she muttered, glancing at him curiously. “What about you?”

“Working, mostly,” he echoed with a grin.

“Yeah, I bet with all those back-to-back missions..."

“And how’d you hear about that?” Satoru’s interest had been piqued, rousing a curious brow.

Another shrug. “Around.”

“Shoko?”

Utahime cleared her throat. “Website.” There was a hint of embarrassment in her tone—had she been looking him up on the online directory?

He smiled at the thought. “Well, y’know, I do have two additional mouths to feed,” he joked. “and the babysitter’s gotta get paid somehow.”

“Oh, yeah, how is Megumi-kun doing?” Utahime turned to look at him directly, eyes alight with genuine curiosity. “Still having nightmares?”

“No, actually,” Satoru divulged. “they went away once he learned how to summon the divine dogs. Sneaky little bastard summons at least one of them before bed every night and, well, I guess they keep him company while he sleeps.” He shrugged. “I dunno but, as long as they’re not causing trouble, what do I care?”

“Pets are good company,” she commented. “I adopted a cat when I moved to Kyoto.”

Satoru snorted, laughter bubbling up into his throat. “Utahime, c’mon…”

What? What’s so funny?”

“You’re never beating the allegations this way!”

“What allegations?” Utahime huffed, the tips of her ears turning red.

“That you’re a spinster!” He guffawed. “Look, you’re single, you live alone, you have a cat, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you had one of those indoor herb gardens…” Satoru noted the intense flare of her cheeks, indicating that he’d hit the nail on the head. “What, do you also have comfort panties you lounge around in while watching soap operas on TV?”

Immediately, her fist struck out against his shoulder, forcing Satoru to manually activate his Infinity. “Shut up, Gojo!”

“Hysterics are a turn off for men, y’know?” Satoru teased. “If you want a man to put up with the comfort panties, you gotta learn to be a bit more agreeable, Hime.” He chewed on his lower lip, eyes glimmering with mirth, knowing damn well he was first in line for a chance to strip those comfort panties off of her. Given the opportunity, he’d make her cum with his tongue alone while she enjoyed her little television shows, relaxed and blissed up to heaven. I like hysterical women, he wanted to confess.

Utahime stomped ahead of him, grinding her teeth together. “You’re the worst, Satoru Gojo!”

“Nuh-uh!” He stuck his tongue out at her.

“God, you’re such a child!” Utahime shouted, pointing a sharp finger at him. “Go to hell!”

Mimicking her pointed finger, he retorted, “No, you go to hell!”

“You first!”

“Well, now who’s the child?” Satoru cracked a smile, unable to hold back a chuckle.

“Still you,” Utahime insisted, spinning away from him on her heel. “Now, lower your voice! People actually live here, you know?” Though he couldn’t see her face, Satoru detected a hint of amusem*nt in her voice, giving him the impression that she was enjoying their banter as much as he was.

Satoru gaped at her dramatically. “Me—lower my voice? Utahime, what f*ckin’ world do you live in? You’ve got the nastiest set of pipes on you imaginable!”

“Shh!” She would say no more as they approached the front doors, entering the lobby of the apartment building. Satoru followed her through the halls, making their way up to the second floor where she guided him to her room. Once they had arrived at their destination, the pair stalled in front of the locked door. Utahime looked up at him with a neutral expression before issuing a small smile. “Thanks for taking me back.”

“Yeah, it’s cool,” he replied nonchalantly, not wanting her to realize the effect she truly had on him. His chest was so tight, it felt as if his heart was being squeezed like an orange, ready to fill a glass to the brim with blood and pulp.

Utahime simply stared at him for a moment before realization seemed to hit her. “Oh, your coat!” Quickly, she slipped the item in question off her shoulders, holding it out to Satoru with a pleasant expression. “Thanks for this, too.”

Satoru swallowed thickly, nodding as he gnawed on his lower lip. He watched Utahime turn towards the door. Her hands were shaking as she fiddled with the keys, making it hard for her to manage them. As he waited for her to unlock the door, Satoru leaned against the wall, his body dangerously close to hers. And, unable to control himself, he reached out to grab a lock of her hair. The silky strand slid between his fingers with tantalizing ease, inspiring him to bring it up to his nose and lips. “Did you curl your hair?”

The way Utahime shuddered had not gone unnoticed by Satoru. “Yes.”

“Mm,” he hummed, breathing in the floral scent of her shampoo. “It looks nice.”

“Thank you.” She didn’t swat at his hands; didn’t demand he leave her alone—instead, she swallowed thickly, her bottom lip quivering with anticipation. Her shaky breaths were driving him mad with longing.

Satoru lowered his hand, brushing his tender knuckles down the length of her arm at a languorous pace. Once again, Utahime trembled underneath his fingers but, still, she did not reject his touch. “Can I come inside?”

A pregnant pause fell upon them, Utahime’s eyes flickering back and forth while avoiding his gaze. Satoru’s fingers lingered within her tresses, picking at a stray strand here and there while patiently awaiting her answer. Finally, she took a deep breath, mouth set in a firm line as she uttered, “No, it’s…it’s getting late.” However, Utahime’s voice lacked its usual conviction—what she wanted to do warred against what she felt was the right thing to do. “You really shouldn’t.”

Satoru pouted, drawing his hands back into his pockets. “Aw, c’mon, Hime,” he whined. “I won’t stay for very long—an hour, tops.” His tongue darting out across his bottom lip was the only indication of his trepidation. “It would be nice to, like, sit and talk for a little while, don’t you think?” For a moment, he thought she would reaffirm her decision, flashing him a stern look before ultimately slamming the door in his face.

But, much to his surprise, Utahime sighed in surrender. “Okay,” she relented. “but only an hour.”

Holy sh*t.

Notes:

OK OK OK I GOT THIS CHAPTER OUT SO FAST BC WELL FIRST OF ALL I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR IT!!!! and secondly, i am going on vacation this week i might not have enough time to dedicate to posting another chapter.

anyway,,,, y'all are SO NOT READY for chapter 12 nqksfnwkengknweg

the song i used for this chapter, pls listen to it and what you're not gonna do is tell me it's NOT gjhm!!!

also, once again, i apologize if there are any grammatical errors in this. i did my typical read & edit process but it's so late and i am so sleepy that i likely missed a few things.

i hope you enjoy!!! i enjoy reading your comments and seeing your reactions so thank you so much for that eeeeee~~~

see you soon w chapter 12 *blushes like a slu*t*

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 12: coming down

Summary:

“…which is why I’m asking. What was that about?”

“Why do you care?” She scrunched her nose up. “It’s just some stupid drama.”

“I don’t,” he lied as he pushed his shades back up. “I’m just nosy and like to live vicariously through you.”

“Gojo, that makes me want to tell you even less.”

Satoru groaned, relenting as he said, “Okay, maybe because you sounded upset and you might need someone to talk to about it.”

Utahime scoffed, “And why would I tell you above anybody else?”

“Because I’m here and I’m actually a pretty good listener.” She said nothing, clearly unconvinced if her co*cked brow was any indication. “Also,” he continued. “I’m honest so I won’t just tell you what you wanna hear. And, if there’s anything on this earth that you hate—”

“Aside from you?”

Satoru continued without skipping a beat, snapping his fingers as he concurred, “My point exactly. You hate a yes-man and I am not a yes-man.”

Her cheeks puffed out, scrutinizing him with narrowed eyes. “You’re going to laugh at me.”

“I’m not gonna—”

“Gojo, we both know you’re going to laugh.”

Notes:

CW // NSFW, smut, sexual language

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

i found god
i found him in a lover
when his hair falls in his face
and his hands so cold they shake

i found the devil
i found him in a lover
and his lips like tangerines
in his color-coded speak

now we're lost somewhere in outer space
in a hotel room where demons play
they run around beneath our feet
we roll around beneath these sheets

i've got a lover, a love like religion
i'm such a fool for sacrifice
he's coming down, down, coming down
i've got a lover and i'm unforgiven
i'm such a fool to pay this price
it's coming down, down, coming down

i found a martyr
he told me that i'd never
with his educated eyes
and his head between my thighs
i found a savior
i don't think he remembers

'cause he's off to pay his crimes
and he's got no time for mine
- Halsey

* * * * * * *

It was amazing how Utahime could somehow subvert Satoru’s expectations at every turn—though, he hadn’t been certain what he’d even expected to begin with. Sure, he was familiar with the campus apartments, his need to duck under the doorframe to avoid bumping his head as he followed Utahime across the threshold serving a strong reminder as to the exact reason he decided against living on campus. He knew the dimensions and floor plan—a 1K apartment offering a measly 25 square meters—but everything after that was an unknown to him entirely.

Satoru kicked off his boots in the shoebox of an entryway, relegated to standing there as he waited for Utahime to move forward. As she bent down to remove her fancy ankle boots, his greedy eyes were drawn to her backside. He had to gnaw on his lower lip to keep himself from voicing his salacious thoughts, his hands shaking with an urge to forgo permission and ask for forgiveness later. It wasn’t often she wore something so…shapely.

Utahime made a few struggle noises before finally stepping up into the kitchen-hallway, Satoru right behind her with his gaze still fixed on the glorious globes of her—thunk! “Ack!” Satoru yelped, recoiling from his Infinity bouncing off the head jamb of the entryway.

When he recovered from the shock, he noticed Utahime had turned around to gaze at him with concern. “Did you bump your head?”

“No, but I would’ve if it weren’t for Infinity.” Satoru rubbed at his forehead, brain slightly rattled from the sensation. “These apartments suck!” While he was definitely annoyed by the lack of consideration for people of his stature, what irked him most was the fact that the lack of clearance had robbed him of the most perfect view.

Utahime didn’t say anything at first, merely biting back a smile as her honey brown eyes twinkled up at him with mirth. Satoru, however, knew exactly what joke she had prepped and primed, but actively chose to hold back. “Alright, go on and say it.”

“Say what?” The giggle bubbling up in her throat betrayed her feigned innocence. “I wasn’t going to say anything!”

Though he narrowed his eyes at her, his gaze lacked heat. “Utahime, I can see your wisdom teeth. I know you wanna say it.”

Instinctively, she hid a grin behind her hand, another giggle escaping her. “It’s just…I wouldn’t exactly blame the apartment,” she chortled. “for you being born a giraffe!” Utahime barked out a laugh, lifting her free hand up to mimic his height. “Stupidly tall, pfft!”

He couldn’t stop himself from smiling at her laughter, no matter how hard he tried to act offended. “Alright, that’s enough outta you,” he ordered playfully, nudging her forward with a push to her shoulder. “I’m getting claustrophobic in here.”

Utahime walked forward, her laughter calming down as she told him, “You know, the ones they provide for teachers are bigger than this—or, at least, they are in Kyoto.”

“Is that so?” Satoru said clinically, his mind occupied by vague ideas of what Utahime’s apartment might look like. He assumed, due to her meticulous personality, everything was kept tidy and orderly. For a moment, he could imagine her throwing a slipper at his head for forgetting to rinse the dishes before packing them into the dishwasher or washing the towels in cold water instead of hot water; maybe he’d forget to put his keys in the bowl next to the door, opting for the kitchen counter instead and incurring her wondrous wrath that way.

And maybe—just maybe—a man as aware as he was would do all those things on purpose for the chance at kissing her until she was calm again.

With the shake of his head, Satoru attempted to eject those intrusive fantasies of domesticity. It was silly of him to dream of a life like that. A sorcerer as powerful as he was playing house with someone who was one tough mission away from an early grave? It was impossible—and the exact reason why I have to get over her.

After another duck of his head through the final doorway, the pair had entered the fully furnished tatami room. As he looked around, Utahime shuffling about quicker than before, his eyes widened with shock. Well, this is unexpected. The room was in complete disarray as if Utahime had been staying there for a week as opposed to a single night and a day.

There were shopping bags with brand names strewn about the couch, tissue paper and ripped tags upon the cushions. He saw at least three pairs of socks dropped haphazardly across the floor as if pulled off mid-walk which Utahime had been frantically collecting. The suitcase she’d taken with them to Okinawa was unceremoniously shoved into the corner of the room with half of its contents on the floor beside it. And the desk—well, the desk was probably the biggest disaster.

Littered with empty bottles of Lipovitan, the table possessed a cheap-looking Sony laptop, cracked open and accompanied by several piles of paper. A multitude of colored pens were gathered at the center in a pile like pick-up sticks. The neatest item on the table was a leather-bound notebook which had a black fountain pen resting atop the cover nestled between the laptop and—what’s that?

His Six Eyes discerned the outline of a bra, crumpled into a lump as if it had been ripped off and slapped down onto the desk. Immediately, as if detecting his keen gaze, Utahime rushed over to the desk and snatched up the article of clothing with a deep flush warming her cheeks. “I wasn’t expecting company,” she said meekly, holding the gathered clothes tight against her chest.

“Damn, Utahime, you live like this?” Satoru scrutinized, eyes wide with surprise. Who is this woman?

“Shut up!” Utahime snarled. “I’m only here for two nights. It doesn’t make sense to clean up until tomorrow.” Her lips puckered up with an aggravated huff, trying to contain her embarrassment in the face of his criticism.

A thought troubled him—the thought that he didn’t know Utahime as well as he believed.

But then, it occurred to him that he’d been making all the wrong assumptions since, based on past interactions, this behavior of hers wasn’t necessarily out of left field. I guess she has always been a little messy—he had just ignored it in favor of what he believed she should be. He recalled their vacation in Okinawa when he had brought up the fact she hadn’t unpacked at all, opting to pick clothes directly out of her suitcase sloppily shoved into one of the closets.

Why should I unpack on a trip that’s less than a week?” Utahime had asked, wrinkling her nose as if the mere idea of it inconvenienced her. “Seems like a waste of time to me when everything’s just going to go back in there anyway.

Then, there had been the time she’d left her wet bathing suit in a pile near the bathtub which she insisted she’d get to after he was done with the shower. Thinking she’d been trying to show courtesy for his time, Satoru had done her the favor of rinsing out the garments and hanging them up to dry alongside his own swimming trunks. After he’d left the bathroom, Utahime never went back to complete the task herself, but it hadn’t occurred to him that she’d forgotten about it until she suddenly remembered while they were walking the marine park.

Ah, I’ll get to it later,” she had said without a lick of concern, prompting him to inform her that he’d already taken care of it. “Oh. Thanks.” And they continued on, Satoru none the wiser to this secret personality trait of hers which had apparently been glaring him in the face.

Despite popular belief, Satoru was actually a very organized person—albeit, often in quirky ways. His dishes were stored above the sink so the ones he washed could be easily transferred into the cupboard once dried, ensuring to wash every dish immediately after use. Before exiting the shower, his legs had to be dried first as to avoid soaking the bathmat and tracking water across the bathroom tile. Then, regardless of if it had been used or not, the room containing the toilet as well as the toilet itself had to be scrubbed clean and disinfected for the very same reason the toilet could not be flushed before putting the seat down—germs.

And, of course, he had to make sure his apartment was spotless before leaving for any trip.

The last thing Satoru wanted after a long, arduous mission was to come back to a messy home. All he wanted to do was flop down onto his bed and sleep to make up for the many hours he stayed up to maintain vigilance, running reverse cursed energy through his brain so he wouldn’t pass out from exhaustion while out in the field. Of course, he was by no means rigid—he didn’t bother making his bed unless he was changing the sheets, didn’t really care if the laundry piled up for an extra week, and, yes, he sometimes dropped his socks on the floor when moving through the living room in his haste to settle down onto the couch.

So, to him, this astonishing side of Utahime didn’t bother him as much as it made his fondness for her grow. In fact, it grew at such an alarming rate to such an incredible degree, it actively upset him. Satoru was absolutely besotted with Utahime and she didn’t even have to do anything to encourage him; very simply, Utahime existed and Satoru was drawn to that existence like a moth to flame. Certainly, she could’ve wiped her ass in front of him and, somehow, he would still believe she was the most spectacular little thing on the planet—in the entire universe, even.

Satoru moved to the desk, perching his sunglasses atop his head before allowing his curious hands to explore her makeshift work station. Somehow, he believed he could divine the secrets of Utahime’s mind by shuffling through the piles of papers and tapping his fingernails against the smattering of empty energy drink bottles. For a brief moment, during the idle tapping, an unprovoked memory played back to him like a tape being rewound.

Before discovering the secret to reversed cursed technique, Satoru’s only imperfection had been his fingernails. There had been many times he’d absentmindedly chewed down to his nail beds, unleashing a pulsing ache by pulling the agitated flesh back. It had made eating with his hands almost unbearable as spices and seasonings found their way into the tiny—and, sometimes, bloody—wounds he’d created with the savage tearing and gnashing of his teeth. Even still, he would power through it, pretending the pain didn’t bother him as he wrapped his lips around the ravaged fingertips to suck the twinge away.

It wasn’t something anyone had ever really noticed and, if they did, it never concerned them. Suguru had made a chastising comment here or there when he’d see Satoru lift his fingers to his mouth, idly chewing while having innocuous conversation. “That’s a nasty habit, you know?” But the reprimand was always half-hearted, tucked in abeyance as there were other more important words being left unsaid; other matters to tend to.

So, it was a shock to him when, one day, Utahime had peered at the hand he’d had wrapped around her wrist—he had insisted she follow him to some location on campus, knowing he had implemented an elaborate prank just for her—and grasped at it with her free hand. “Gojo, your nails,” she’d gasped, the sudden softness in her tone bringing him to a halt. “Have you been biting them?

So, what if I have been?” Of course, he’d been belligerent, bristling at what felt like a blow to his ego. “You always ask such pointless questions, Utahime. Why does it matter?

And, instead of throwing a fit in response to his sharp tone like she would in any other instance, Utahime had grown softer—using that near-superhuman ability of hers to read between his lines, casting aside her temper in favor of understanding. She brushed her knuckles against his chewed-up fingernails, the sensation causing him to shiver. He had convinced himself they were just sensitive so, of course, it would elicit a physical response. But his heart was beating much too fast and his mouth had grown far too dry in her presence, his mind reeling and addled as she said, “Anything that hurts matters.

It was something he would always regret. He had ripped his hand out of her grip, ensuring to call her weird before trudging off, his prank completely forgotten. Instead, he should’ve leaned into her touch and accepted the olive branch she’d extended. He should’ve whispered his secrets into her knuckles and confessed to her his greatest sin—that everything hurt and, for as long as he could remember, the hurt had lived deep inside of him, infecting everything beyond recovery.

Clearing his throat, Satoru shuffled through the papers and noticed red markings, identifying what they were almost immediately. “Oh, no way,” he chuckled. “you’ve been grading papers on vacation?!”

“It’s not a vacation,” she countered. “It’s a weekend trip which means I still need to have all my work completed come Monday.”

“Okay, but in a pigsty like this?!” He indicated the room with the flourish of a hand. “Utahime, if you’re gonna be diligent, at least be consistent about it.” Satoru picked up an empty bottle to illustrate his next point as he chastised, “Y’know, all these energy drinks are bad for your heart, right? With how quickly you’re approaching an early grave, I think you should try taking your health a little more seriously.”

Despite her lack of a response, Satoru continued with his tirade, grasping the laptop with a grimace. “God, you actually took the school-issued laptop? This is a total piece of junk!”

At this point, her scowl had been permanently etched onto her face, wholly unamused. “It isn’t financially feasible for me to pass up a free computer,” she stated. “Who cares if it’s crap?”

“I bet you this takes, like, five whole minutes on average to load a single webpage,” he said, putting the laptop back down onto the desk with a clatter. “You know what you need?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

“A MacBook,” he presented. “like the one I bought for Shoko.”

Utahime rolled her eyes, shuffling over to her suitcase as she absentmindedly organized her clothing. “Yeah, with what money?”

“Mine.” To Satoru, it was the most obvious thing in the world. He figured that, if you present someone with a problem, you should also have a solution to go with it. “I’ll buy one for you.”

Much to his surprise, Utahime laughed sarcastically, folding a shirt against her chest before plopping it back into her luggage. “No, absolutely not.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t need charity,” she clarified, flashing him a firm look. “and I certainly don’t feel like entertaining this need you have to flaunt your wealth. So thanks, but no, thanks.”

A frown wrought itself upon his face as she turned away, carrying about the menial task she had given herself. It was disappointing that she saw his completely genuine offer in that manner. But, instead of dwelling on it and processing the actual motivation behind his offer, he moved on to the next interesting item on the desk. “What’s this?” Satoru asked, picking up the leather-bound journal.

He cracked it open to reveal the inner cover, sliding his fingers over where Utahime had printed her name. The indentations in the page indicated that she had a relatively heavy hand while writing. “Is this a diary—?”

“Don’t touch that!” Utahime was suddenly upon him, trying to grab the notebook out of his hands.

Of course, Satoru used his height to his advantage, holding the diary high above his head as he grinned down at her attempts to recover it. “Aw, you don’t want me to see your dirty little thoughts, huh?”

“Gojo, give it back!”

Satoru knew he should’ve done as she asked to quell whatever distress Utahime might’ve been experiencing, but there was something about that look on her face that drove him crazy. Her cheeks were red with a mixture of anger and embarrassment, features twisted with determination and frustration simultaneously. With each little hop, a different body part of hers would graze against him, leaving a tingly heat in its wake.

A primal desire washed over him as he teased, “Make me.” His lips were pulled back into a wolfish grin, free hand buried in his pocket as he continued to hold her diary hostage. But despite his easygoing appearance, a fierce yearning had curled into itself within his core, his heart thundering with unexpressed emotions.

These feelings were boundless and animalistic, causing the edges of his vision to blur with hunger—he thought he might die with how badly he wanted to turn her inside out, coil himself within her, become her f*cking lungs and do what they do for her…I can’t breathe, f*ck!

“God, you’re being such an asshole!”

Almost immediately, Satoru’s eyes dropped to her lips, scrutinizing them as if he were trying to rewind the motion and play it back. “What?” He had missed it—goddamnit—and, desperately, wanted her to say it again. If only he could watch her mouth as she said it, admire the way her jaw moved while her lips rounded about the syllables, he might—might—be satisfied.

“Give it back!” Utahime insisted. “You’re being an asshole!”

As he watched the fluid motion of her mouth wrap around the crude insult, waves of pleasure pulsed through his body, pumping his heart and flushing blood into unspeakable places. Satoru could feel the heat of arousal as it powdered his skin, a light sheen of sweat beginning to form. With a gulp disguised by the clearing of his throat, he did all he could to keep himself playful, leaning down into her space as he jokingly said, “Sorry, can’t hear you all the way down there.”

If only Utahime wasn’t so blinded by her aggravation, she might’ve caught the way his eyes darkened in her personal space, glued to her mouth as he waited on her with shuddering breaths. “What did you say?”

“I said, you’re an asshole!” Utahime enunciated, only leaning in closer to spit the insult into his face. “Ass. Hole—!”

He silenced her by suddenly gripping her chin with his free hand, causing her to squeak with surprise. As her hand flew up to circle around his wrist, he gently squeezed her cheeks until her pretty pink lips puckered. Utahime’s pupils had blown wide, consuming the warm brown of her widened eyes as her grip tightened. And, for a brief moment, all that could be heard in the silence were their ragged breaths.

When Utahime’s eyes flicked down to his mouth, the dam of self-restraint had finally broken within Satoru, every ounce washed away by white-hot desire flooding his nervous system. The diary fell away from his hand as he crashed his lips against hers, eliciting a whimper. Utahime stood alarmingly still, causing a flutter of fear to chill his blood. It was only half a second of suspension yet, it felt like a lifetime to Satoru—his mind mulling over different ways he might be able to salvage this with his pride intact at the speed of light.

Then, there was the sensation of tension. Her mouth moved against his, a soft whimper vibrating against his lips. Satoru removed his hand from her chin to grasp the sides of her head, their embrace intensifying as their mouths slanted together with hot, sloppy kisses. Satoru’s entire body was tingling, his tongue aching to taste the slope of her own as he slid it along her bottom lip. Everything had blurred together. Nothing existed beyond him and Utahime as a fire erupted within his ribcage. His heart threatened to explode from excitement.

Her breathing was as erratic as he felt, her lips closing around his with what felt like hunger. As if she were trying to devour him. She allowed his tongue to share her mouthful, moaning and grasping at him with her hands. One hand found purchase on the back of his neck while the other fisted itself in the fabric of his shirt, both serving to tug him closer.

And it drove him insane.

Close wasn’t close enough if he wasn’t inside of her. He pushed her up against the desk, his hands traveling from the sides of her head to touch her in other places. There was no way to restrain the way they wandered, fingers sliding through her hair, down the arch in her back, wrapping around the dip in her waist, before grabbing her hips and groaning from how good she felt under his touch and against his lips.

A thought, fleeting and flickering, occurred to him—Utahime had been so right about first kisses. If this had been his first kiss, he might’ve gone out of his way to do it more than he actually had. The sparks were enough to set his synapses on fire, lightning shooting down his spine. As the static settled within his core, he could feel the tightness of his erection urging him to seek relief. With no self-control left, Satoru ground his pelvis against her thigh, another gasp escaping her and bringing a grin to his face. She could feel his arousal and, based on the way her grip tightened, she liked it.

Suddenly, Satoru realized that, even if he had kissed her first, he probably still wouldn’t have sought anyone else out. There was no one else on this earth that could turn him on this way; turn the Strongest into a panting, pathetic mess of a man. He would do absolutely anything she asked of him if it meant he could kiss her forever and ever and ever. The thought of anyone else other than Utahime had become unfathomable. In that moment, he decided that it didn’t matter if he’d kissed Shoko or that other girl from the club whose name he couldn’t even remember before her—this was his first kiss and, if she denied him, he would never kiss anyone ever again.

Because what was a kiss if it meant nothing?

Satoru’s fingers tugged at the blouse tucked into her pants, pulling it free around the small of her back before laying his palms flat against her soft, quivering flesh. One of his hands slid around her waist to push up the front of her shirt while the other kept her flush against his chest. His cold, shaky hand sought her warmth, caressing its way up her abdomen, making detours to trace every scar he possibly could with his greedy fingers. In the best way possible, their embrace felt like an eternity and, while the energy of it had reduced to a languid pace, the intensity had not.

As Satoru kissed her with a reverence unimpaired, a fever simmered within his blood. All the work he had done to lock these feelings away had been instantly undone with a single taste of her delectable mouth, getting lost in the ministrations of her lungs as they shared oxygen. Every sound he pulled from her was a new melody falling upon his ears, evoking the most romantic of fantasies. If his mind hadn't been caught in the fog of her irresistible presence, he might’ve been able to bury them; remind himself that he wasn’t a romantic man and possessed no interest in being tied down to any one person, even if they were all lies.

Utahime, Utahime, Utahime—she was all he could f*cking think about.

Just as he grazed the fabric of her bra, the sound of a familiar song filled the silent room, disrupting the spell they’d both been under. Utahime broke the kiss, breathless and bewildered as she turned to look at her vibrating phone on the bedside table. Her ringtone was the chorus of a song Satoru recognized, distinctly remembering when she had sung it in the shower once back in Okinawa. When he had asked what the song was, too much of a coward to compliment her beautiful singing voice, she’d told him it was called… Damnit, what was it again?

His brain was too muddled to recover the memory, his eyes glued to her swollen lips which glistened with his saliva. Impulsively, with a pathetic amount of desperation, Satoru gripped her chin once again and pulled her face back to him. “Just let it go to voicemail,” he mumbled breathlessly. “Please.” His heart was pounding ferociously as he captured her lips again with a peppering of affectionate kisses, hoping she could feel how much he wanted her; how he craved her like a starving dog.

Utahime moaned into his mouth but, much to his displeasure, she gently pushed him away as she withdrew. “I have to take it,” she told him, scraping her teeth along her lower lip. “I’m pretty sure it’s my mom.”

“How do you know that?”

“She calls me every Saturday night.”

The phone continued to ring as Satoru searched her face, wanting to etch this memory into the very ridges of his brain so he’d never forget it for as long as he lived. Then, he co*cked his head forward in a swift motion, expertly swinging his sunglasses back onto his nose to disguise the disappointment in his eyes. “Alright.” It was all he could say as he released his grip on her body.

Utahime cleared her throat, moving away from him as she pulled her shirt back down. In a single motion, she confirmed the caller’s identity before answering the phone. “Hey, mom,” she said, trying to sound cheery and not frazzled. “Yeah, I’m, um, doing alright…” She glanced over at Satoru shyly, biting her lip before averting her gaze.

Satoru shoved his hands into his pockets, leaning back against the wall behind the desk as he watched her closely. Her free arm was held protectively across her chest, shoulders tense and folded inward with uncertainty. Utahime was deeply uncomfortable—likely due to being interrupted by her mother in the middle of a hot make-out session, but his anxiety had forced him to entertain the possibility that she could’ve been regretting making out with him specifically.

“I went out for drinks with my friends.” She paused, listening to the response from her mother which Satoru could not hear himself. “Yeah, the ones I told you about…No, I’m already back at the apartment. My, um, friend walked me back…” Utahime glanced at him again, cowering under his disguised gaze before she returned to avoiding him.

Friend, huh? Admittedly, Satoru didn’t like that classification for their relationship—it felt wrong.

“No, mom—it’s-it’s not like that. No, no, I—” Utahime, clearly distressed with the line of conversation, walked over to her suitcase, quickly retrieving a few articles of clothing as her face twisted with frustration. “Mom, I really don’t want to talk about this right now…” The way her jaw clenched was his indication that she was about to explode. With a huff, she cradled the clothing against her chest as she escaped the room, heading toward the bathroom as she suddenly shouted, “Because I don’t care what he has to say!”

Then, the door to the bathroom slammed shut, Satoru excluded from the conversation entirely. All he could hear was the unintelligible muffle of her elevated tone before being drowned out by the sound of running water. And, despite his disappointment in not having his curiosity around Utahime’s private conversation sated, it was far outweighed by a sudden rush of bewilderment over what just f*cking happened—I just made out with Utahime…?

Suddenly, he pushed himself off the wall in a tizzy, stifling a groan as he flexed his shaking fingers into fists. “What the f*ck!” Satoru hissed between clenched teeth, his heart hammering as a strong sense of accomplishment washed over him. Unsure of what to do with himself as he lost control of his body, Satoru slapped a palm against his face before dragging it down with a significant amount of tension in an attempt to ground himself.

Satoru had practically pulled the skin of his cheeks down to his chin, his grip lingering to steady his gaping mouth. “I just f*cking made out with Utahime,” he laughed under his breath, disbelief holding his expression hostage. Really, he was utterly slack-jawed—flabbergasted. “Me…I did…”

The fingers holding his jaw shut slid over his own lips, pinching at them absentmindedly. “I actually kissed Utahime Iori.” Then, he laughed again, a smile breaking his disbelief. Yes, yes, f*ck yes! Another burst of excitement shot through him as he clapped his hands together and grunted out his satisfaction, unsure of any other way to celebrate without alerting Utahime to his mini victory freakout. Really, he wanted to climb up onto the highest rooftop and scream about it; find a way to go back in time to his fifteen year old self and tell him, “Hey, we did it, bud—it only took, like, six years but we finally kissed her.

With a sudden burst of energy, Satoru realized he needed to find something to occupy his time with while waiting on Utahime to get out of the bath. She’s taking her sweet time. He could see her through the wall, golden aura humming rhythmically. Occasionally, it would pulse with an indecipherable emotion, the sound of splashing accompanying it through the door. At one point, he thought he heard a muffled squeal, but he couldn’t be too sure—there were too many doors between himself and Utahime.

So, during the wait, he opted to clean up the apartment. Satoru started with collecting garbage, specifically the empty energy drink bottles scattered across the desk and the tissue paper from the shopping bags on the couch. After tossing out the garbage, he tidied up her work station by alphabetizing the student papers, organizing the colored pens by spectrum, and placing her diary back in its rightful place on the desk beside her laptop which he plugged in to charge. While tempted to take a peek at the contents of the leather-bound notebook, he decided against it, trying out a new thing called ‘respect’ which he severely lacked.

After clearing the couch of the shopping bags which he placed near her suitcase, Satoru moved about the room to search for any articles of clothing Utahime might’ve missed in her sweep from earlier. He checked beneath the couch—nah, nothing—and under the bed—nope, nothing here either—before deciding that everything which could reasonably be done had been completed successfully.

Swiping his hands together, Satoru smirked with satisfaction. I did good, he decided with a content sigh. So, he plopped himself down onto the couch, kicking his legs up onto the coffee table and folding his arms behind his head. At this point, he’d accepted that the only course of action would be to get comfortable. After all, he would be waiting on Utahime for quite some time.

“Oh!” Satoru suddenly exclaimed, snapping his fingers loudly after about fifteen minutes of staring at the ceiling mindlessly. “’Milk' by Aiko—that was it!”

Miraculously, as if his sudden outburst had called out to her, the bathroom door swung open. The padding of Utahime’s feet down the kitchen-hallway greeted him before her actual body did, allowing him time to look over his shoulder and watch the door with anticipation. He wasn’t sure what to expect once she appeared; would she finally kick him out and send him home with his tail tucked between his legs or would she ask him to continue where they left off? Or, perhaps, there was a secret third option he wasn’t—Okay, disembodied voice, shut the f*ck up!

Finally, Utahime walked through the doorway, dropping Satoru’s jaw to the floor. Again, he hadn’t exactly been sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this…

Utahime fluffed at her dampened hair with a towel, bangs pushed back with a fluffy pink headband, revealing the full expanse of her gorgeous face. Her skin glistened against the warm light emitted from the bedside lamp Satoru had turned on during his cleaning spree. But what had him slack-jawed with admiration was the large white t-shirt she wore, only reaching about halfway down her plush thighs, legs completely bare for his viewing pleasure.

“Oh, you’re still here?” An odd expression crossed Utahime’s features as her gaze fell upon him. It was a cross between wariness and astonishment—had she really expected him to not be here when she returned?

Satoru looked away from her, clearing his throat in an attempt to regain his composure. “You said we’d have an hour to hang out,” he chastised. “and, since you cut into that time with your little chat with mommy and bath time…” He made sure to really emphasize his words before continuing with a smug grin, “The hour starts now.”

Utahime sighed, slowly padding up behind him. “Shouldn’t you go home?”

“Nah, Ijichi’s watching the runts.” Satoru folded his arms behind his head once again, tossing it back to grin up at her. “I can be here all night, if you want.”

Her arms were crossed, glowering at him as she stopped just short of the couch. “No, thanks,” she scoffed. “I actually like sleeping—unlike you, chatterbox.”

He chuckled, recalling how often he’d kept her up at night to chat back in Okinawa. Utahime would be trying to sleep and, to quell his boredom while struggling to sleep himself, he’d shake her awake for company. After coaxing her into conversation, he would almost immediately fall asleep to the sound of her voice and, every single morning, he’d get an earful about being more respectful of her time—blah, blah, blah…and the cycle continued.

“Oh, I know you do.” He beamed up at her as she sidled up to the couch, relishing in the scowl she wore. Something occurred to him as Utahime came closer, his eyes scrutinizing the shirt she wore as it looked incredibly familiar to him. Pointing his finger at her, Satoru inquired, “Is that my shirt?”

Utahime looked down, her face flushing a subtle pink. “Oh, um, maybe?” She cleared her throat. “Uh, I don’t know—I just found it in my things and started wearing it to sleep.” Oh, she was such a bad liar. “Do you want it back?”

She wears my shirt to sleep? A tremulous sensation formed in the pit of his stomach, forcing him to school his expression to maintain his false nonchalance. “Nah, keep it,” he insisted, secretly flustered. “It’s got all your cooties now anyway.”

“You’re a child.”

“And you’re a thief,” he shot back impishly. “But you’re pretty so I’ll let it slide.” Satoru enjoyed the way her flush deepened at his compliment, a stirring in her throat as her eyelashes fluttered. She was much too far away for his liking—he wanted her closer. “Anyway, are you gonna stand there all night or do you wanna come sit down so we can catch up?” For good measure, he patted the empty spot beside him.

Utahime cleared her throat, reluctantly uncrossing her arms as she approached the couch. She took a tentative seat beside him, ensuring there was a comfortable distance between them, much to Satoru’s displeasure. However, the trade off was being able to see her black panties as she pulled her knees up to her chest—okay, maybe he could live with a little distance. For now.

There was a moment of silence before Utahime glanced at him through her peripheral vision. “Should…um, shouldn’t we maybe address the elephant in the room?”

Of course, Satoru knew what she was referring to and, as much as he also wanted to talk about the kiss, he really didn’t like the hesitation in her tone. “Hmm?” A jolt of anxiety shot through his spine, possessing him to guide the conversation into a completely different direction. “Oh, right,” he said casually. “what was that argument with your mom about?”

What?” Utahime peered at him with a bemused expression. “That’s not what I—wait,” she stammered, a look of horror crossing her features. “how much did you hear?!”

Satoru lifted a curious brow. That’s a weird reaction—typically, she wasn’t so easily redirected. Often times, he would have to resort to underhanded tactics to get her to forget a line of conversation he wanted to avoid. And, using those context clues, the only conclusion could be that the argument was a bigger deal than he initially thought.

“I-It’s not your business to go on eavesdropping on my conversations and—!”

Relax, Hime,” he interrupted, feeling a sliver of pity for her sudden bout of distress. “I didn’t hear anything once you went to the bathroom…” He pulled down his shades to make eye contact with her, using the motion as an opportunity to shift closer. “…which is why I’m asking. What was that about?”

“Why do you care?” She scrunched her nose up. “It’s just some stupid drama.”

“I don’t,” he lied as he pushed his shades back up. “I’m nosy and like to live vicariously through you.”

“Gojo, that makes me want to tell you even less.”

Satoru groaned, relenting as he said, “Okay, maybe because you sounded upset and you might need someone to talk to about it.”

Utahime scoffed, “And why would I tell you above anybody else?”

“Because I’m here and I’m actually a pretty good listener.” She said nothing, clearly unconvinced if her co*cked brow was any indication. “Also,” he continued. “I’m honest so I won’t just tell you what you wanna hear. And, if there’s anything on this earth that you hate—”

“Aside from you?”

Satoru continued without skipping a beat, snapping his fingers as he concurred, “My point exactly. You hate a yes-man and I am not a yes-man.”

Her cheeks puffed out, scrutinizing him with narrowed eyes. “You’re going to laugh at me.”

“I’m not gonna—”

“Gojo, we both know you’re going to laugh.”

He groaned. “Okay, so I might laugh a little bit.” Flourishing his hands, he attempted to defend himself by saying, “I’m easily amused! Besides, laughter’s what’s gonna keep me lookin’ young and beautiful. You, on the other hand…” Satoru poked the space between her knitted brows. “Wrinkled and withered by thirty.”

Utahime swatted his hand away, glowering at him. “You’re really not good at being convincing.”

Utahime.” An edge highlighted his tone as he ripped off his sunglasses and tossed them onto the coffee table, conveying just how serious he was. “Tell me—what’s up?”

He hadn’t missed the way she held her breath, eyes flitting away from his intense gaze. With a sigh, Utahime leaned back into the couch and fixed her gaze onto the ceiling. “So,” she began slowly. “this thing happened when I went home to visit my family…”

“Last year, December, right?”

“Yeah,” she said, a hint of surprise in her tone. “I think I was there for a little over a month. Spent the holidays there—Christmas, New Years, all that.” Utahime worried her lower lip. “And, um, do you…remember that, uh, crush I told you about?”

His jaw clenched in time with his heart, forcing him to swallow down the venom accumulating in his throat. “Nope,” he lied, popping the word out with attitude. “Refresh my memory.” Of course, Satoru remembered—how could he possibly forget the very thing he’d been obsessively agonizing over the past year?

If she’d noticed his agitation, she hadn’t shown it. “There was this guy I grew up with,” she explained tentatively. “Satoshi Hara.” Utahime grimaced as if the name tasted foul on her tongue. “It’s embarrassing, but I’ve been kind of stupidly in love with him for years and, like, ugh…”

A hot spark of jealousy flared within his gut. He hated the way she’d confessed that in the present tense as if she was still in love with him. The idea of being her second choice royally pissed him off—well, if he was even an option to her at all.

“I hadn’t seen him since I left for Jujutsu High when he came to say goodbye.” Utahime’s face flushed, her mouth pressed into a firm line. “And I kind of, like, punched him?”

“You punched him?!” Satoru exclaimed with a bark of laughter. “Why’d you punch him?”

Utahime hid her mortified face behind her hands. “I thought he was going to kiss me,” she admitted. “so I got all ready for it and—ugh—he was just trying to pull a leaf out of my hair. God, it was so humiliating…and then I just punched him in the face, I don’t know!”

Satoru roared with laughter. “Oh my god, Utahime, I knew you were violent but—!”

“Shut up!” Her voice was muffled by her palms. “I didn’t mean to do it—it was a knee-jerk reaction!”

As his laughter eased into sporadic chuckles, Utahime smoothed her hands up her face before moving them to grip her own shoulders. She’s so pretty, he thought indiscriminately, leaning his head against the hand propped up against the back of the couch. He couldn’t help but stare at her with adoration. If Satoru had been in that guy’s shoes, he would’ve fallen to his knees and professed his love for her on the spot.

“Anyway,” she continued, clearing her throat. “when I was visiting, we kind of hung out a lot and he told me things I never thought I’d hear.”

Satoru swallowed down his jealousy once again. “Like what?”

“He said that I’d been on his mind ever since that last day we saw each other.” She placed a hand on her chest over her heart. “Then, we…” Utahime trailed off, considering her words.

“Anyway,” she continued. “we started seeing each other. We didn’t tell anyone, but things were pretty good—or, at least, I thought they were. Since I didn’t need to move to Kyoto until April, I thought I’d stay a little longer to spend more time with him. We made plans for me to visit every month and talked about the future.”

As she scoffed with disappointment, Satoru bristled. While he was incredibly jealous and anticipating an outcome where he had the chance to come out on top, a part of him didn’t like where this story was going at all—for her sake. Calm down.

“It even got to a point where I was ready to tell my family. But then,” she sighed. “he broke things off—around New Years, too. Said he and his girlfriend had been on a break. That he loved her and wanted to be with her.” Utahime groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “So humiliating…”

Silence fell upon them, Satoru simmering in a complex blend of emotions. His brows knitted together against his better judgement, staring at her face which was scrunched up with regret. There were plenty of things he wanted to say but he couldn’t find it in himself to say them—so, he remained absolutely silent.

Utahime looked at him curiously, searching his face. “You’re not laughing.”

“Because it’s not funny,” he stated honestly. “I’m not gonna laugh at something that's not funny.” He reintroduced some of his typical humor back into his voice, hoping to ease the sudden tension. “Like, I know I’m an asshole, but that’s a whole ‘nother level of assholery.”

“That’s not a real word.”

“What’s not a real word?” His eyes dropped down to her mouth expectantly.

“Assholery.”

“Hmm.” Once again, his belly coiled up with an intense tremor. But this was a serious conversation so he had to restrain himself. “Douchebaggery, then?”

“No.”

“Dickish-ness?”

“Gojo.”

With a chuckle, Satoru dropped his hand behind her head to smooth his fingers through her hair, almost completely dry now. “Okay, okay, go on.”

Surprisingly, Utahime didn’t swat his hand away. In fact, she seemed to lean back into his touch. “Well, that’s kind of it,” she told him. “I moved to Kyoto and focused on my work. There was really nothing to do but move on. Then, apparently, Satoshi and his girlfriend broke up. Went to my mom of all people to tell her about how much he loves me and blah, blah, blah…”

Utahime snarled. “Now, my mom keeps telling me all this stuff about how I’m ‘silly for disregarding a good man’,” she groused, raising her voice up a mocking octave. “That I need to start worrying about marriage and children at my current age since I’m already at a disadvantage…” She trailed off, swallowing back her emotions as she shook her head dismissively. “Anyway, it’s all bullsh*t. What about my career—my ambitions? Like, yeah, the idea of having my own family is nice but it’s just not a priority for me right now. I’m only twenty-three...”

Her nose scrunched up with displeasure as she suddenly burst out, “And why should I disrespect myself by settling for some guy that treats me like a second choice? I’m not desperate and it sucks that she thinks I should be.”

A warmth spread through his body, his heart palpitating at her open display of self-worth. “Aw, Hime, you’re growing up,” he teased, pinching her cheek with the hand that had been stroking her hair. “That’s so wise of you.”

Utahime swatted at his hand with a scowl that didn’t quite reach her eyes. Then, in a shocking turn of events, she scooted closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder with a content sigh. At first, Satoru had no idea what to do with his arm, worried that she could hear his heart hammering away as a result of their close proximity—what the hell was he supposed to do in this situation?

But, then, his arm settled around her shoulders and everything felt…natural.

Satoru’s thumb absentmindedly stroked her arm as he pressed his cheek into her hair, slightly turning his face to breathe in her floral scent. He could feel her breathing against him. It was rhythmic and calming, soothing him as he watched their cursed energy blend together. The intimacy of it should have freaked him out but, for whatever reason, it didn’t. “You’ve officially graduated from outdoor doormat to indoor doormat,” he joked.

“Oh, f*ck off.” Still, she didn’t remove herself from his shoulder.

“Whoa, you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Satoru chuckled, biting back the actual joke he wanted to make. “Not exactly proving yourself to be marriage material here, Utahime.”

She groaned. “I’m not interested in marriage or dating right now,” she told him, shrugging. “I’ve learnt recently that I actually enjoy my own company.”

There was a twinge of disappointment whirling around his heart. It’s fine, he convinced himself. I’m not looking for a relationship either so it doesn’t matter—at least, now he wouldn’t have to worry about other men stealing her away from him. Satoru forced an impish grin onto his face. “Well, it’s not necessarily just your own if you have a cat,” he teased, practically whispering his words into her hair. “Spinster.”

Utahime smacked his chest. “You’re being mean.” But, still, she nestled into his shoulder further. “Lucky for you, I don’t care enough about your opinion to kill myself over it.”

“If it’s mean, you shouldn't let me talk to you that way,” he pointed out. “You could always kick me out.” Admittedly, Satoru had always been curious as to the reason she put up with him in the first place. He certainly hadn’t done anything to earn her grace.

“You wouldn’t leave even if I tried,” she scoffed. “Wherever Satoru Gojo wants to be, he will be. I learned that a long time ago.”

“You make me sound like a tyrant.”

“You are a tyrant.”

“Hmm,” he mumbled. “then why do you put up with me?” Before he’d even realized it, he was awaiting her response with bated breath. Why…?

Silence fell upon them. It felt like an eternity as Utahime pursed her lips, perhaps thoughtfully. And, when she finally spoke, her words were said with not a single ounce of conviction. “Would you believe me if I said I’m scared of you?”

“Not at all,” he said confidently. “Utahime Iori isn’t scared of anyone. You’re absurdly courageous for someone so weak.” Satoru smiled, the tension in her body indicating that he’d successfully annoyed her.

However, she soon released a shaky breath. “Then, I’m scared for you.”

Satoru froze. “I’m not your responsibility,” he reminded her. “I’ve told you that before.” The idea that Utahime would worry enough about him to put up with his bullsh*t was a bit concerning and, to a very unexpected degree, insulting. Did she really think he was some sort of ticking time bomb? Did she really believe that he would defect into a curse-user if she wasn’t around? Was she just trying to cope with the guilt she felt over—him…?

“I know,” she murmured, the softness in her tone cutting through his growing anger. As quickly as it came, it dissipated—he really couldn’t stay mad at her, could he?

And, while she didn’t continue her sentence, it sounded as if Utahime wanted to say more. Okay, so Satoru could be delusional sometimes, sure, but there was no mistaking that hint of affection in her voice. But, certainly, it wasn’t what he secretly wanted it to be; there had to be some sort of misinterpretation here. Does she…maybe…?

“Anyway, I know you say things to hurt me on purpose.” Utahime sighed. “You’ve told me that before.”

A deep guilt settled in his gut and, instinctively, he nuzzled his cheek into her further as if it would make up for all the times he had hurt her. “But you shouldn’t let me do that,” he muttered, ghosting his lips over her hair.

“Like I said, I don’t care enough about your opinion to kill myself over it,” she dismissed. “So go ahead—take whatever the hell it is out on me. It’s only going to make me stronger.”

“Now, that’s not very wise of you,” he pointed out. “It’s dumb, actually. Why should you put up with disrespect?”

Utahime sighed again. “Sounds insane but, putting up with you all these years has made it easier for me to help my students. They all have their own troubles and, if I let myself get moody over every hurtful thing, I won’t be able to keep them on the right path. Forgiveness is important, especially when dealing with people who aren’t sorry.”

“Do you think I’m not sorry?” An indecipherable emotion stirred within his throat.

She hummed thoughtfully. “I’ve thought about it,” she admitted. “but the Satoru Gojo I know isn’t very good at apologies even when he is sorry so it’s hard to tell. But I’ll forgive you anyway, just in case there’s an apology hiding in there somewhere.”

He chuckled—albeit, bitterly. “That’s insane.”

Utahime shrugged. “So I’m crazy,” she said. “What’s new?”

“You really shouldn't reward people for bad behavior,” he scolded in a gentle tone.

“And what exactly am I rewarding you with?”

Satoru opened his mouth to speak but, somehow, forgot how to use his tongue. There were so many things he wanted to say—what hadn’t she rewarded him with? Did she not realize that the attention and care she showed him was a privilege? Did she not realize that even her time alone was something precious?

Despite his careless treatment of her, Utahime had consistently blessed him with her forgiveness and understanding. Despite his calculated insensitivity, she continued to gift him these warm moments of vulnerability, encouraging him to be soft while others would demand strength from him. Despite all his boasting and bravado, he could be weak with her and trust that she would lock the moment away for safekeeping, all without judgement.

And Satoru knew he didn’t deserve it; he didn’t deserve her.

So, instead of answering her question, Satoru laughed, “Anyway, can we get back to this douchebag?” Expertly, he redirected the conversation with his aforementioned underhanded tactics. “Did you f*ck him?”

Utahime ripped her head away from his shoulder, turning to look at him incredulously. “Gojo!”

A wolfish grin wrought itself onto his face. “Well, did you?” He enjoyed the pink blush that formed on her cheeks amidst her bewilderment. “If you did, damn, a loser like that?” Satoru chuckled sarcastically. “I bet you weren’t even wet.”

He bit back another laugh as she sputtered, “Don’t be crude!”

Hunger simmered in his belly with the same tremulous sensation he felt whenever she called him an ‘asshole’ or even remotely mentioned the word around him. The memory of them kissing earlier played back in his mind, reminding him that his underwear was still damp with pre-cum. “I mean, you’re probably always dry anyway,” he goaded, deriving much pleasure from flustering her. “but, at the very least, he could’ve done a better job of turning you on.” He liked talking to her in such a dirty way, a part of him hoping she’d reciprocate.

Utahime stuttered, “I wasn’t—I am not always dry!” She ripped her headband off in a tizzy, allowing her bangs to fall back into her face as if they’d protect her from his mischievous gaze. “You’re being ridiculous!”

“Aw, c’mon, Utahime,” he drawled. “Just admit it—you’re a prude.”

Her head snapped to face him, brown eyes fashioned into daggers. “What did you just call me?”

As if to challenge her, Satoru pushed his upper body forward ever so slightly, licking his lips as he enunciated, “Prude.”

He thought she would get up onto her feet to get away from him. He thought she would finally kick him out, yelling profanities at him. He thought she would take pleasure in slamming the door in his face, shutting him out for another couple of months while he neglected to actually reach out to her. He thought of every other possible scenario—except for the one that actually happened.

In one swift motion, glowering down at him, Utahime threw her leg over his lap until she was straddling him. Using his shock to her advantage, she grabbed the arm that had been slung around her before slipping his hand between her legs, encouraging it to firmly cup her heat. “Does this feel dry to you?”

Satoru’s heart thrashed about, his fingers instinctively stroking along her slit through the fabric. A slimy coat of slick had soaked through her panties and, upon that realization, all the blood in his body rushed down into his pelvis. Through ragged breaths, Satoru licked his lips, attempting to regain some sense of control. But he couldn’t stop his fingers from applying pressure to each stroke, eliciting soft gasps from Utahime. Holy f*ck.

“Try calling me a prude again,” she challenged, her gasps of pleasure undercutting the warning. When he dared to look up at her, Satoru realized her eyes had fluttered to a close, moving her body in time with his aimless stroking.

His dick was so hard, he didn’t know what to do. “I take it back.” No blood flowed through his brain anymore, it was all in his stupid f*cking pants, tightening them the longer he stared at Utahime’s pleasure-parted lips. In a shaky whisper, he pathetically asked, “f*ck, Hime, am I doing this to you…?”

Perhaps stubbornly, Utahime didn’t answer him nor would she open her eyes to look at him, brows knitted together with anticipation. Satoru dared to slip his hand into her panties, sliding his fingers between her lips which were, indeed, dripping with arousal. He pulled a moan from Utahime with the action, her body’s rhythmic motions intensifying as she dropped herself a little lower.

The movement had pressed the back of his hand down onto the bulge in his pants—albeit, rather loosely. But, with Utahime’s subtle grinding, there were intervals of pressure that sent shockwaves through his body. Biting down on his lower lip, he did his best to keep his composure, not wanting her to realize that his co*ck was already so swollen it could burst. “Didn’t know you liked being degraded so much, Utahime,” he chuckled, teasing her opening as he firmly pressed the heel of his palm against her cl*t.

She whimpered, her nails digging into his shoulders. “Shut up.” Her face was contorted with pleasure, absolutely no intention of stopping, as her eyes squeezed shut, grinding herself into his hand. To prevent the motion from reaching his throbbing erection, he pushed his hand back up against her, adding to the pressure she must’ve felt from grinding. Utahime’s entire body quivered, mewling out her pleasure.

God, she’s so f*cking hot. Satoru used his other hand to steady her, tightly gripping her waist. “You’re so filthy, Hime,” he muttered. “Look at you, rubbing your wet little puss* into my hand...” Just saying it made the arousal in his stomach flare with the intensity of a thousand suns—I’m gonna f*cking lose it.

“You look so silly right now,” he goaded, wrapping his arm around her waist to pull her closer. “You’re always such a good girl, Utahime…” Satoru’s chin rested upon her sternum as he gazed up at her pretty face. “But look at you now—all hot and bothered over me, moaning like a dirty slu*t.”

Utahime finally opened her eyes to glare down at him, grinding harder. “Shut your f*cking mouth,” she warned, breathing raggedly.

“Make me.” And, accepting the challenge, Utahime grabbed the sides of his face, crashing her lips into his. Her kisses were sloppy and hungry, moaning and gasping out her pleasure; she breathed him in until there was no oxygen left in his lungs. He thought he might die, his co*ck straining against the restrictive fabric of his pants.

As Utahime pushed her tongue into his mouth, Satoru decided to take the plunge, shoving his middle finger into her puss* before beginning to pump her slowly. The sweet, wet sound of his fingering accompanied her cute little whimpers. Utahime’s fingers tangled themselves into his hair, her kisses feverish as she groaned, “f*ck,” into his mouth.

For the sake of his sanity, Satoru broke the kiss, tugging at the hem of her shirt to give himself something else to focus on. “Take this off,” he demanded.

She obliged, exposing herself to him with a half-lidded gaze that made his co*ck twitch. Of course, with no blood flow in his brain, he hadn’t been thinking. In his haste to maintain his sanity, Satoru had made things even worse for himself as the pair of tit* he’d been dreaming about since he was fifteen were just there—right in front of him, a breath away from his face. “Oh, f*ck,” he blurted, his brows knitting together in blissful agony.

Utahime’s entire body was flushed, a sheen of sweat making her skin glisten in the low light. “What…?” There was a hint of uncertainty in her voice, his sudden exclamation provoking some sort of deep-rooted insecurity.

Satoru stared up at her, licking his lips as he pushed his ring finger into her, her chest heaving with a moan as two fingers rooted around inside her. “You’re perfect,” he groaned with reverence, hoping to quell that sudden flare of insecurity, “and you’re so, so f*cking tight.”

She threw her head back, long hair brushing against her back and giving him more access to her chest. Satoru’s eyes glazed over her torso scar which he could now confirm crossed over a portion of her left breast. Her nipples, pert and pink, were pebbled and begging for his attention, but he wanted to take his time—he needed to take his time.

Satoru started with open-mouth kisses to her sternum, trailing his tongue over the path of her scar. She quivered underneath him, encouraging him to use the pad of his thumb to stimulate her cl*t while he pumped his fingers in and out of her at an even pace. “Gojo.” He grunted at the sound of his name spilling from her lips.

He continued along his path until he arrived at her left breast, moving his free hand to grasp at it. Greedily, he kneaded at the plump mound, finally confirming how they felt in the palm of his hand. Perfect. Admittedly, he was grasping her hard enough to leave a handprint on her flesh but, if her continuous mewling was any indication, it didn’t seem to bother Utahime much.

“Stop teasing me,” she choked out, flashing those bedroom eyes at him once again. “Touch me.”

Staring at her face intensely, Satoru finally wrapped his lips around her nipple, flicking his tongue over it languidly as he felt her body shudder. He pulled his mouth away for a moment, pressing kisses against the sensitive nub as he teased, “Like this?”

“Yes,” she whimpered, her resolve broken amidst that lustful flush. “f*ck.”

And, for the next few minutes, they continued on that way. His lips, teeth, and tongue showering her sensitive nipples with attention as he stroked the inside of her puss* with his fingers. With each whimper, moan, and mewl that he drew out of her, Satoru was being brought closer to the brink; the point of no return. I can’t go on like this—but he couldn’t stop either. It was like an addiction and he had absolutely no desire nor motivation to sober up.

Satoru ravaged Utahime’s body, marking her up until there were bruises littering the delicate skin of her chest. He had just finished bruising her right nipple with his teeth when the time between each gasp shortened drastically, Utahime grinding so hard against his hand, he thought she might break it. “Gojo, I…I’m…” Her voice was broken, lips forced open with a series of unrestrained whimpers.

Oh, f*ck yes! Satoru increased the speed of his fingers, biting down on his lip to concentrate. He wanted to see it and, after years of dreaming about what it looked like, he was finally going to experience it for himself. He wanted to live with the satisfaction of knowing he had given Utahime Iori an org*sm; he wanted to burn the image of her lust-blushed face into his retinas. “You wanna cum for me, Hime?”

With great effort, Utahime managed to nod, unable to speak as she moaned.

“Do it then.” He planted kisses to her sternum, eyes locked onto her face as he whispered, “Cum for me.”

As if on command, Utahime’s walls contracted around his fingers, a rush of hot, viscous liquid coating his fingers and palm. A broken moan spilled from her lips as her face contorted with unadulterated pleasure, brows rising as she gulped in a breath. In the daze of her comedown, Utahime’s half-lidded gaze fixed itself upon his face, gentle hands suddenly grasping his cheeks with what felt like adoration.

Then, she slanted her soft lips against his in a languorous kiss as if to worship him.

And for whatever reason, that’s what did Satoru in—the heat coiled within his core coming undone in a blaze. Unable to hold himself back, he wrapped his arm around Utahime’s neck and intensified their embrace to disguise the way his body shuddered with his own org*sm. Satoru kissed Utahime through the aftershocks, the wetness from his spend dampening his underwear. I really just creamed my f*cking pants—and from a simple kiss, no less.

Embarrassed and wanting to regain some sense of composure, Satoru broke the kiss as he withdrew his fingers from her puss*, watching as she shuddered in response. Then, whilst maintaining eye contact, Satoru slipped those same fingers into his own mouth. She tasted a bit tangy, but with a sweet aftertaste, encouraging him to suck her cum off his fingers with vigor. Utahime watched him closely, brown eyes fixed onto his mouth as he licked them clean.

She’s so nasty—and he f*cking loved it.

Satoru smirked at her as he finished. He had been getting ready to make a flirtatious comment but, then, she settled upon his sensitive co*ck without realizing he had already org*smed. Of course, he was still hard and that’s exactly why Utahime began to grind herself against him because, without knowledge that he needed a minute to recover, why wouldn’t she? f*ck, that hurts!

But he would rather suffer than have her discover that she’d made him cum with a single kiss.

He had put his hands on her waist to steady her, but also, to give himself something to grip onto for dear life to cope with the pain. Utahime’s grinding was quickly becoming unbearable, his brain muddled with overstimulation as he desperately tried to come up with a solution. All Satoru needed was just a few minutes to recover and he would be fine to continue. Thankfully, in his desperation for a solution to his agony, an idea finally occurred to him.

Rapidly, his hands flew up from her waist to grasp at her shoulders, successfully stopping her movements. “Hime, I’m not gonna settle for a taste,” he said, his voice low and rasped with lust. Then, in a swift motion, he plucked her out of his lap and pushed her to lay flat on the couch.

She squeaked at the sudden shift in position, staring up at him with wide eyes as she instinctively held her arms up to her bare chest. “What are you…?” The question died in her throat as Satoru peeled her panties off, exposing her puss* as it glistened with arousal. And, like everything else about her, it was absolutely perfect.

Utahime gasped as he settled between her legs, face burning with a mixture of sexual intrigue and embarrassment. “I’m keeping these,” he asserted with a wink, slipping the sensible black panties soaked with her juices into his pocket. Before she had the mind to protest, Satoru hooked her legs over his shoulders as he breathed in the scent of her. “f*ck, you’re so wet.”

To warm her up, he started planting sweet kisses to the insides of her thighs, nipping at the trembling flesh indiscriminately with his teeth. Occasionally, he would lock eyes with her, smiling when she took a ragged, expectant breath the closer he got to her core. Her thighs would tense up with apprehension as he teased her and, then, release when he ultimately disappointed her by moving away.

“Gojo,” she eventually whined under her breath.

Satoru chuckled, his lips ghosting over her quivering heat. “Yes, Utahime?”

Utahime glared at him, her pretty lips pouting as if to say, “You know what,” but deciding against saying it. After all, if she did, she would have to relinquish the semblance of control she still had.

“You’re so impatient,” he teased with a smug grin, “but I might be tempted to pick up the pace if you beg.”

“I am not begging,” she retorted almost immediately.

Satoru shrugged, swiping his tongue along the inside of her thigh. “Then, you’ll have to wait until I’m good and ready.” For another minute, he teased the inside of her thighs with his teeth and tongue, pressing delicate kisses into any mark he’d inflicted upon her supple flesh. C’mon, you bratty woman.

Finally, Utahime broke, her thighs tensing. “Gojo, please…”

“Please, what, Utahime?” While his voice was dark and commanding, he maintained a mischievous grin.

She gnawed on her lower lip as she begged, “Please, touch me.”

Without any further pretense, Satoru wrapped his lips around her cl*t, her thighs tightening around his head in shock. He moaned against her, listening to the sounds of her ragged breathing and whimpers as her fingers sought refuge in his hair. Every time he looked up from between her legs, devoted to the ministrations of his lapping, ravenous tongue, he collected a new image of her to commit to memory. Utahime’s head was thrown back in rapturous pleasure, back arching as he consumed her, savoring the flavor of her arousal.

There were times, as he gently grazed the bundle of nerves between her legs with his teeth, that arching of her back would bring the soft mounds of her chest into view, blocking her ecstatic expression as if to tease him. Eventually, he reached his hands up with fervor, grabbing fistfuls of her tit* into his greedy palms as he shoved his tongue further into her vulva, pinching and rolling her nipples with his fingers. And, the louder she moaned, the more vocal he became himself—though, his grunts of pleasure were muffled by her thighs.

Just as he had always fantasized, Satoru had turned Utahime inside out, lapping up the addictive juice of her puss* like the inside of a pudding cup. The scent of her was driving him insane, her slick mixed with his spit coating the bottom half of his face as her well-groomed pubic hair tickled the skin of his cheeks. Her thighs were hot and sweaty as they boxed in his head, quaking in response to every motion of his mouth, filling him with a deep sense of satisfaction that made his co*ck ache with longing. It was all so nasty, but every moment felt like heaven on earth to him.

Satoru didn’t need ascension when nirvana was right here, in between the sumptuous thighs of Utahime Iori.

As Satoru ground his erection against the couch cushion for a sense of relief from the tremor in his belly, he felt Utahime’s fingers tug on his hair fervently. She was swallowing her own gasps, the sound of her moans growing louder as he felt her body temperature skyrocket. She’s going to cum again, he thought victoriously, focusing all of his energy on the ministrations of his lips and tongue. “Utahime…” Satoru breathed into her core with veneration, passion boiling the blood in his veins until his whole body simmered in its heat. “Cum for me.”

With a broken whimper, one of her hands had abandoned Satoru’s messy white locks to cover her own mouth, Utahime’s delicious moan turning into a euphoric cry as her back arched sharply. She bit down on her hand to stifle the sound, eyes rolling back into her skull as her body trembled. Satoru felt her warm honey coat his tongue, inspiring him to swallow as much of it as he could while he pleasured her through the aftershocks. Although he had tasted her cum with his fingers earlier, something about the flavor was different when consuming it directly from the source.

It was much sweeter—rich like a dessert after dinner.

The tension in Utahime’s body dissipated, collapsing into a trembling mess as she seemed to melt into the couch. Satoru pulled away, gently slipping her legs off his shoulders so he could sit up. He smiled, wiping the gruel off his face with the back of his hand as his eyes feasted on her naked form. Utahime was sprawled out on the couch, eyes closed with a blissful expression on her face. A sense of pride welled up in his chest, heat pooling in his gut.

Tentatively, Satoru brushed his knuckles along the outside of her thigh as he sat patiently between her legs. Okay, I’m ready to go now, he wanted to tell her, his swollen co*ck throbbing with longing. But, aside from the quiver of her flesh under his touch, Utahime didn’t stir even a little bit. Satoru co*cked a brow, a lopsided grin inching its way onto his face. Did I really knock her ass out?

Sure enough, her face was settled peacefully, her even breaths indicating that she’d fallen asleep. Though it should have disappointed him, Satoru could only smile, a warm affection causing his heart to palpitate as he admired her. Briefly, he looked down at the bulge in his pants with a shrug. “Maybe next time.”

Cautiously, Satoru rose to his feet, his legs shaking from the pent-up arousal roiling about his belly. Every muscle in his body felt sore, his jaw aching from eating her out for as long as he did. And, as he grasped his chin, Satoru chuckled to himself in utter disbelief at the turn of events. This better not be a f*cking dream—he didn’t think he could survive waking up from something so marvelous, only to realize none of it had been real.

A cute snore escaped Utahime’s sleeping form, drawing Satoru’s attention back to her. He decided it would be best to leave for the night and let her sleep—he’d kept her up well past her bedtime. Quietly, Satoru slipped into the bathroom, struggling to comfortably move through the kitchen-hallway. He found a wash cloth and dampened it with water from the sink before returning to Utahime on the couch.

With the gentlest touch he could muster, Satoru cleaned up the gruel between Utahime’s legs, making sure to lightly pat around the bruises he marked into her flesh as he was sure they already stung. He would apologize for it, but he really wasn’t sorry at all. Satoru had always been the possessive type; whatever belonged to him, belonged to him alone. No one else can have you, Utahime—it was an instinctive thought as he worshipped her body with his amorous touch, dedicating himself to taking care of her sleeping form.

When he was done cleaning her, Satoru scooped her up into his arms with ease, eyes locking onto her face when her eyebrows twitched. Ultimately, however, Utahime did not awaken in his arms as he placed her onto the bed. And, as her body sunk into the plush mattress, she very sweetly cuddled into it with gentle mutters escaping her pretty lips. Satoru gazed upon her and smiled before drawing the comforter over her naked form, eliciting a sleepy moan from her once she’d been wrapped in its warmth.

Time to go. Satoru brushed his knuckles down the length of her arm through the blanket, allowing himself just a single moment to convey the yearning he held for her deep in his heart. If he were someone else, he could crawl into the bed beside her and wake her up in the morning with soft kisses to her spine. If he were someone else, he could whisper his confession into her skin without fear of devastation. If he were someone else, he wouldn’t be Satoru Gojo and that would mean he could finally love Utahime Iori openly and loudly, just as she deserved.

But that wasn’t the world they lived in.

“Goodnight, Utahime,” he whispered, resisting the urge to plant a tender kiss to her soft cheek. I really do love you—even though he knew he shouldn’t, for her sake. Licking the taste of her off his lips once more, Satoru took one final look at Utahime’s sleeping form before heading back toward the ridiculously tiny entryway to slip on his boots, aching hands buried in his pockets.

With a tap of the toe, he teleported himself directly into his apartment, devoid of the warm light that had illuminated Utahime’s temporary lodgings. Now, within the privacy of his own home, Satoru was able to unbutton his pants and look beneath the hem to assess the damage.

As expected, his underwear had been completely soiled with his own cum, leaking through to the lining of his pants. “Damnit,” he muttered with dissatisfaction, “I just washed these.” Then, as he rubbed at his face, Satoru realized something—he’d totally left his sunglasses on the coffee table.

A mischievous grin occupied his face as he sighed, shrugging his shoulders with feigned exasperation. Well, I guess I’ll have to get them back from Utahime tomorrow…

Notes:

guys,,,, 13k words..........this chapter is 13k WORDS!!!!!!

so, obviously, i managed to write quite a bit while on vacation (which i am now back from hehe~ thank you to everyone who wished me a good one!!!)

we've finally got some motion in the ocean here. there were a few things i ended up not including to save for a future chapter sooooo i am looking forward to finally revealing that to you, hehe. i really considered splitting this chapter into two halves—the first being the kiss and the second being the smut but someone on twitter send "long chapter??? send it!" so i'm sending it into the stratosphere for your enjoyment.

tbh i haven't written smut in a really long time so it was nice to flex my skills a little bit. i tend to be very prose-y and poetic when i write so my smut is always a little....ecstatic? idk the right word for it but yeah! hopefully you enjoy it! ironically, a lot of character development in this chapter. i guess we'll see how this all plays out in chapter 13 .-. hehe........................

okok, anyway, as usual—i apologize for any grammatical errors. this is a long chapter and it's really late so editing was quite difficult. i will do my best to edit things as i do my official AO3 reading. but now i must sleep. see you w chapter 13 soon!!! <3

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 13: flicker

Summary:

“You should probably talk to a doctor about that, y’know? Super damaging to your heart health…”

“You’re the last person on this earth who should be giving out health advice,” she spat, narrowing her eyes at him. “The amount of food you eat would be enough to feed an entire ocean of blue whales!”

Satoru snorted. “That’s just silly, Utahime—don’tcha know blue whales only eat krill?”

“That’s not the point!”

“Well, I’m a growing boy.”

Please,” Utahime drawled, rolling her eyes. “if you grow anymore, there’ll be not a ceiling in Japan with enough clearance to shelter you.”

Satoru chuckled at that. “Here,” he offered, holding out the bag which contained the biscuits. “Trust me, these are way better than Tokyo Banana.”

Utahime lifted a reluctant brow, tentatively taking the bag from him before peeking inside. “Gojo, this is too much to take with me,” she protested.

“I took your Tokyo Banana into consideration,” he reasoned. “and settled for two boxes of eight biscuits. Though, honestly, I don’t think sixteen is nearly enough...”

“Yeah, for you, maybe!”

Notes:

CW // NSFW, masturbation, sexual language

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

color me virginal
color me all the perversions of
someone who could cut you off,
surgical
god, please, be merciful

'cause i flicker between fear and a vision of forever
i flicker between fear and a vision of forever
that's too much time for you to change your mind
i flicker between fear and a vision of, vision of forever


i am mine, and you are mine
and i am not yours - Poppy

* * * * * * *

Satoru thought he had finally worked it out of his system.

Once when he bathed the previous night and again when he settled in for bed. It had been so late the second time around—or third, if he counted the mess he’d made from that kiss—that he’d simply taken off his t-shirt, used it to mop up the spend on his abdomen, and then rolled over to sleep, his lust-hazed mind exhausted by the crimson headache which overwhelmed him. And, after sleeping a measly four hours, he had decided another shower was in order to scrub himself clean of the previous night’s sin.

Only for him to do it again this morning.

Tense, clenching fingers braced themselves against the white tiled wall of his shower, hot water spilling over him, soaking his white tresses and sliding down his flushed body. His skin was quivering, shockwaves shooting through his nervous system over and over and over again as he worked himself over accordingly. “Oh, f*ck…” Satoru choked out, water dripping down his face and pouring over his unholy lips. “Utahime.

The memory of her from the previous night was so clear in his mind as if he’d really succeeded in burning the image into his retinas. Her pretty pink lips parted with amorous mewling, honey brown eyes glazed over with hedonism, soft skin glistening with a light sheen of sweat as he worked her over with his gluttonous mouth and greedy hands—it had been better than any fantasy he could possibly dream up. “…Hime…”

And the way she gripped her thighs around his face as she org*smed right into his contemptible mouth; her taste coating his undeserving tongue after he lapped up every bit of her forbidden honey—why did I brush my f*cking teeth last night? As disgusting as the sentiment was, a craving had gripped him by the throat, tightening with every moment he couldn’t satisfy it. The urge to pleasure her again was as primal as his need to eat, sleep, breathe

Satoru methodically drew his hand up the shaft of his co*ck—engorged beyond reasonable comfort—squeezing out the excess pre-cum pooled within his foreskin, coating his palm in it before pumping himself tentatively. He had already worked himself up enough for the final stretch, his body trembling with arousal. Closing his eyes, Satoru returned to jacking himself off at a faster pace, replaying his night with Utahime on an agonizing loop.

Of course, he regretted not a single goddamn thing, except for the fact he didn’t get to actually f*ck her. From the arousal that had slathered his fingers alone, Satoru knew sticking his dick inside of her would have been the craziest experience of his life—and I’ve killed people, for f*ck’s sake. Utahime had been so tight around his fingers, and not even the two of them could compare to his co*ck at full mast, so how the f*ck was it going to feel when he was inside of her? “F-f*ck…” How would it feel when her walls contracted around him like they had his fingers; when he gave her the greatest org*sm of her life?

When, of course, was the operative word—albeit, a little ambitious. In this venereal daze of his, Satoru couldn’t imagine a future where he and Utahime didn’t commit to at least one night of ferocious f*cking. Surely, if she hadn’t been down for it, the previous night wouldn’t have happened at all and he would’ve been sent home with nothing but unattainable fantasies to keep himself warm in the evenings.

God knows she would’ve flattened him for any gratuitous behavior, such as the time he had snapped the strap of her bralette during a friendly game of baseball in his first year and she responded by swinging a bat at his face with full force.

Utahime had caught Satoru’s eye as she attempted to hurry past the track field they’d been using as a makeshift sandlot, tattered base plates they’d found tucked in an old storage shed laid out haphazardly along the grass. He couldn’t recall the exact reason why they’d done that instead of using the actual baseball field on campus, but it could’ve easily been explained away by a number of things. After all, they’d only decided to play once they’d found the old, dusty baseball equipment when messing about the shed against Yaga’s directive during an independent training session.

I spy with my little eye,” Satoru had called out, swinging the rusted bat over his shoulders and propping his wrists over it. “a weak little mouse scurrying about. Oh, Utahimeeeeeee!

Vividly, he recalled the heat in her eyes as she looked at him, glossy lips pulled up into a snarl as she gripped onto the—what were they again? He couldn’t quite remember what she had been holding as they’d hardly been within his focus at the time. All he could remember was the way her lips glistened in the sun, uniform blazer stripped away to reveal the white, short-sleeved dress shirt neatly tucked into her pleated skirt.

Satoru had never seen her in short-sleeves before, religiously wearing her blazer to preserve her modesty. Of course, it was extremely hot that day and beads of sweat had begun to form on her displeased brow, so the omission had been sensible. Though, the hormonal teenager he was, Satoru had convinced himself she was trying to catch his attention by exposing those cute little freckles of hers sprinkled across the skin of her bare arms indiscriminately.

You’re a baseball freak, aren’t ya?” Satoru had asked, wriggling his nose to adjust the sunglasses Suguru had leant him for the day. “Why don’tcha show us what you got, hmm?

Of course, she’d sputtered out a refusal, insisting she had better things to do with her time than entertain his nonsense. When he had derisively questioned her knowledge of baseball, she defended herself and insisted she’d totally school him—if only she were dressed for the occasion like they were. And, indeed, neither he, Suguru, nor Shoko were dressed in their school uniforms as they had already been training.

Well, I have extra clothes in my bag over here,” Suguru had offered with that smile of his, simultaneously disarming and devious. “I’ll lend them to you, Utahime-senpai, if you’d like.

Oh, Satoru had been tickled pink, waggling his roguish brows at her. He remembered the buzz in his chest as they waited for her to change in the bathroom nearby, nervous fingers sporadically combing through his hair damp with sweat. There was no way his younger self had been aware of how self-conscious he’d actually been about his appearance at that time. Satoru had always been handsome, sure, but he’d also been gangly with uncoordinated limbs at some point as well.

After his unprecedented yet, inevitable growth spurt, he stood at what would be his adult height of 190 centimeters with the muscular body expected of a fifteen year old boy, making him lanky and a bit awkward—though, he made up for it in spades with charisma and sheer bravado. Luckily, when reminiscing, he had the luxury of knowing that his younger self would fill out that baggy white tank top and those red basketball shorts in the upcoming year which made the memory a little more bearable, especially since there was another memory of Utahime in which he’d worn the same outfit.

Utahime had emerged as modest as ever, outfitted in an ill-fitted pair of Suguru’s basketball shorts and his black racerback tank top that was two sizes too large for her small stature. Of course, Satoru made a point to hysterically laugh at her for ‘looking silly’ when, really, he couldn’t stop staring at the pastel pink bralette which had been visible at certain angles. Satoru had started waking up with boners around the age of thirteen, but it had only ever been a biological response to him; some pubescent consequence of sleep that would go away once he took a piss.

The concept of sexual desire was understood in a clinical sense but not particularly known in a personal one as he had been raised to focus on other priorities by a group of conservative geezers. And, when he thought about it, Satoru was sure it was likely because he hadn’t grown up around boys his own age up until he’d met Suguru when they were fifteen. It had been a culture shock to him, hanging out with Suguru. He was very different to what Satoru had always known and a lot of their friendship had been Satoru trying to adapt to something so different.

Suguru had always been vocal about sex in the way teenage boys could be, joshing around with Satoru like he would any other guy their age—and, sometimes, it was embarrassing that Satoru had no idea how to properly participate. Satoru would fumble through those conversations, running through dialogue options as if navigating a visual novel, hoping he’d get the event CG he wanted. Actually, now that Satoru thought about it, he definitely played way too many dating simulators in high school thanks to Suguru who had already introduced them to him by this specific memory.

But, before this particular moment, the dating simulators didn’t do anything for him. The only thing they did was give him some context for whatever the hell Suguru was talking about whenever he brought up sex and romance in conversation. From a clinical perspective, Satoru understood that the female body was supposed to be alluring—yeah, he could get behind that.

He would be lying if he said he hadn’t stared at Shoko’s legs whenever she wore running shorts or found his eyes drawn to Mei’s generous chest whenever she stopped by the campus, but it didn’t necessarily do anything for him. It was as inconsequential as being drawn in by stimuli, senses magnetized to whatever it was meant to attract. Watching a forest fire didn’t necessarily mean you enjoyed it—it’s just incredibly difficult not to look at it.

Things were always different when it came to Utahime, though.

Satoru liked it when she would come sit in their classroom for a lesson, her thighs flattening against the desk chair, spreading out like dough on a wooden cutting board. He liked it when she wore her strawberry lip gloss on Fridays, his eyes drawn to her bottom lip when she scolded him, the scent wafting into his nose and making his mouth water for a spoonful of parfait. He liked it when she gathered her hair up into a ponytail, exposing the length of her throat as her jaw clenched in concentration, loose strands methodically tucked behind her dainty ears.

And Satoru really liked knowing she was wearing a pink, lacy bra under all that modest clothing.

Amidst all his maniacal laughter and obnoxious jeers, making Utahime’s time playing that game of ghost runner a living hell, Satoru was doing everything possible to catch as many glimpses of that girly bra of hers. It did things to him that no pair of p*rnstar tit* on a computer screen had ever done and, with great embarrassment hidden behind a co*cky attitude and calculated movements, Utahime had given Satoru his first sexually-motivated boner. This had been his sexual awakening.

And, like the horny, impulsive idiot he was, he’d managed to cross a major boundary almost immediately.

It was Utahime’s turn to swing, Satoru standing at the home plate with the rusted bat in his hands. With daggers in her eyes, Utahime had gone to grab it from him and, with an impish grin, he’d dropped it onto the ground. “Oops, must’ve slipped!” Satoru’s eyes had fixed themselves onto her shoulders, waiting for the inevitable droop of the tank top’s fabric so he could get yet another glimpse of her bra. He remembered swallowing thickly, his heart pounding in his ears as he waited for it.

He wasn’t sure if anyone had caught onto what he was doing—Utahime certainly hadn’t and he supposed that’s all that mattered. “You’re such a brat,” she had muttered on the way down, tone oozing with venomous contempt.

Satoru’s eyes widened as the lacy fabric came into view once again, an electric shock coiling up inside of his abdomen that wired him in a way he didn’t quite understand yet. He licked at his lips, dry with this feverish anticipation which held him in a vice grip. When Utahime straightened herself up, the tank top sat askew on her shoulders, leaving her left bra strap in permanent view. His basketball shorts, so loose at that age, had tightened incrementally around his pelvis and it was becoming unbearable.

Without thinking, as Utahime wrung her hands around the bat out of aggravation, Satoru reached out and scooped his index finger underneath the pink strap before snapping it against her shoulder. He wasn’t sure why he’d done it or what he had been hoping to accomplish—he did, however, like the sound it made when impacting with her supple skin which, for a split second, he believed was reward enough. But then, she swung the bat at his face, expression marred with pure, unadulterated rage as she screamed, “DON’T f*ckING TOUCH ME!

The bat never made contact with his head, of course, as Satoru had activated his Infinity almost immediately upon the threat. But the shock was enough to make him flinch, utterly bewildered by the sudden onset of wrath. Utahime was quick to anger, sure, but this rage was something far beyond her usual temper. In those warm brown eyes of hers, he saw a deep sense of hurt, discomfort, and…disappointment.

She had been disappointed in him, and it stung.

As if realizing the bat wouldn’t magically reach him, Utahime dropped it onto the ground. Gritting her teeth, she pushed past him, skirting the edge of his Infinity. Satoru believed, for a moment, that she would simply walk away in a seething huff without a word, but then she turned around to face him. With a stern expression, she lifted a scalding finger and said, “Listen to me, Satoru Gojo. You are never—never—going to touch me or any other girl in that manner without their explicit permission, do you hear me?

Satoru, frozen in his bewilderment, simply stood there and stared at her, stone-faced to disguise the shame she had provoked in him. His hands had gathered into fists at his sides, his eyes skirting off to avoid her sharp gaze. Utahime, in that moment, made him feel small and stupid—him, Satoru Gojo. The Strongest made into an absolute buffoon by Utahime Iori, a real life support character from an MMO with that cursed technique of hers.

And, though he agreed to her stipulations with his silence, Satoru didn’t actually understand what he did wrong until Suguru had explained it to him. “Dude, you can’t snap a girl’s bra strap just because you want to. I understand you were always taught ‘ask for forgiveness, never permission’ but that’s just not how the world works...

He and Suguru had been hanging out in the former’s room after dinner that same day, Satoru sulking on his bed while Suguru straddled the desk chair. There had been a pause in his lecture, a grin forming behind his folded hands. “She turned you on, didn’t she?

Shut up, she did not!” Satoru shot back instinctively. “I told you already, I just felt like doing it! And, like, it’s just a f*cking bra—why does it matter?!

Satoru, a bra is a woman’s most intimate piece of clothing aside from her panties,” he had explained. “It quite literally holds her tit*. It’s a pretty big deal.

Satoru had scoffed. “Like I give a sh*t about Utahime Iori’s tit*! S’not like she has any to begin with…” He swallowed down the tremor of desire which had formed in his throat at the thought, adjusting the pillow he’d been embracing to fully cover his lap. “Y’know who has tit* to look at—Mei Mei, that’s who.” It was a terrible attempt at redirection, Suguru had known that immediately.

I don’t know, Satoru, I was there too.” A knowing grin wrung out across his features. “I saw them as clearly as you did. They were pretty nice.

Satoru bristled. “Why were you looking, huh?

What, are you jealous?

I’m not jealous!” Satoru sputtered. “I’m just asking why you were looking at Utahime’s boobs too, that’s all!

Suguru smiled. “So you were looking then?

What?

You just said it right now,” Suguru had pointed out. “You were looking at Utahime-senpai’s boobs, too.

Satoru really hated when he got caught in a lie. “Okay, so what if I was? She’s, like, pretty or whatever—and she has a nice body, and-and they were just there! What, was I just not going to look?

Suguru sighed. “Satoru, you truly are pathetic.

Oh, f*ck off!” Silence settled between them, Satoru tightening his grip on the pillow in his lap as he took comfort in Suguru’s serene expression. “So, do you think her nipples are pink or brown?

Immediately, Suguru had roared with laughter. “Pink. Definitely, pink.

And he had been right—oh, man, had he been right.

Pink, pert, and perfect. Satoru replayed the memory of suckling them the previous night, tension building in his core as he ferociously pumped his fist along the shaft of his co*ck. “Utahime.” While Satoru knew he was the one moaning her name, his voice was so broken and pathetic, he could almost convince himself there was someone else in that bathroom with him. “Ohhh, f*ck, Utahime…” He was panting, the pleasure rapidly building and pushing his hand to move faster.

The squelch of his slick member was loud enough to be heard over the running shower, but not louder than his strangled mewling. Over and over again, he remembered how her face contorted with pleasure, her lustful whimpering spilling over his ears as he pulled them out of her with the lapping of his tongue. “f*ck, Utahime…!” He could vividly recall the peaks of her breasts thrusting upward as her back arched, her fingers tangling themselves in his hair as her thighs tensed around his ears. “f*ck…oh, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, fu-!” Finally, hot seed spurted out from the tip of his co*ck, pulling a desperate, filthy grunt from his lips as his org*sm coated the back of his hand as well as the wall he was braced against.

Satoru’s whole body trembled as he squeezed out the cum gathered in his foreskin, shuddering from how sensitive the tip was suddenly. His skin was flushed, mind hazy while his pulse pounded in his ears. That intense blaze in his belly had eased into a cozy simmer, his hammering heart calming itself incrementally as he breathed to steady his aching lungs. Flipping his head back into the path of running water, Satoru allowed it to spill over the contours of his face in some sort of baptism, eyes screwed shut as he used his shaky hands to smooth back his wet hair.

If only Utahime could see me now… He shuddered with embarrassment.

For the sake of his ego, Satoru hollowed out his thoughts, continuing with his shower passively. He went through the motions of cleansing his skin with the pine-scented body wash he always got compliments on before fluffing through his hair with a little bit of conditioner, not bothering to wash it again after he’d already done so the previous evening. When he was done, Satoru shut the water off and stood there for a moment, palm braced against the wall.

Although it wasn’t easy for heat to escape his bathroom, his skin shivered in the absence of hot water and it sobered him a bit. God, what am I, f*cking fifteen again? Satoru groaned, rubbing at his shower-stung eyes. Swinging the glass door open, he grabbed his towel and dried off his legs before wrapping the fabric around his hips. He gave his head a light shake to loosen his drenched tresses before exiting the shower, then shuffled over to the mirror lining the wall above the bathroom counter.

Admittedly, his bathroom was absurdly large for a single person, but that was probably because it wasn’t meant for just one person. Satoru looked down at the second sink embedded in the counter, recalling how he said he’d call the contractor to renovate the bathroom—and that was, what, six months ago? Give or take… With a sigh, Satoru wiped the condensation off the mirror with his palm, revealing himself in its reflection

For whatever reason, it felt like he hadn’t really seen himself in a long time. Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t tend to spend a lot of time admiring himself in the mirror and the idea of such a thing genuinely puzzled him. Whenever he passed his reflection, he knew exactly what he was going to see—iridescent blue eyes, tousled white hair, and an attractive, sinuous mouth. It wasn’t like anything was going to magically change from one surface to the next, so why waste time making observations?

But, while making eye contact with himself in that mirror, Satoru didn’t recognize the person staring back.

All his prominent features were still there as he smoothed his fingers through his wet hair, slicking it off his forehead, but he just couldn’t reconcile who he was seeing with who he had always been. While he still felt like that brash, arrogant kid, all lanky limbs and anxious energy, that’s not who was staring back at him in the mirror. His shoulders were broader, his muscles more defined, and his face had sharpened with age.

Sure, it made sense his physical body had altered from the gangly kid he was into what it was now, considering all the work he’d put into training his body, but it was more than that. Without him even realizing it, at some point over the years, Satoru had grown up. Of course, there were parts of him that would never change because that’s the kind of stubborn bastard he was—even still, he had changed enough that it warranted getting to know himself again.

Something Suguru once told him echoed back in Satoru’s head. “Satoru, when you lose your virginity, everything is going to change,” he had insisted after showing him an x-rated clip he found online. “You look in the mirror and, suddenly, you’re a man.

When he compared his current circ*mstances to that statement, however, it felt a bit disjointed. It wasn’t necessarily untrue, but it also wasn’t true either. If losing his virginity would turn him into a man, then he shouldn’t have felt the way he did in that moment since, well, Satoru was still technically a virgin. Because, despite aiming to f*ck that girl from the club a year ago, that wasn’t what actually ended up happening.

They had rented out a hotel room, made out for a little bit, got around to some heavy petting, and then, Satoru choked. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get erect. Despite all his posturing, he had not an ounce of confidence in his decision to lose his virginity that way. Shoko had been right when she pointed out that it was odd for him to be okay with losing his virginity to a stranger when he didn’t even want his first kiss to be wasted on someone he didn’t care about—he didn’t want to lose his virginity to a stranger. If he had sex, he wanted it to mean something.

And, last night, Satoru had gone farther than he ever had in his life with the only girl he had ever wanted.

Satoru chuckled, flashing himself a lopsided grin in the mirror. “You’re a man now, I guess.” He retrieved his hair dryer from the bathroom cabinet, unfurling the cord. Let’s go get those sunglasses back now, shall we?

~

After all these years, Satoru had only ever had to replace one pair of sunglasses—the one time being when he got skewered like a shish kabob by Megumi’s father—and, still, he had never bothered with keeping a second pair on hand. The idea of having more than one to choose from and keep track of sounded like a pain, so he kept things simple. He told himself, keep this pair safe or suffer the consequences, and it had been quite an easy task.

But as he leaned against a wall in the lobby of Utahime’s temporary apartment, Satoru began to seriously reconsider that methodology. From the outside, he looked cool as a cucumber, hands buried in the pockets of his black trousers as he watched the aura of faculty members float about in the distance.

Internally, however, he thought he would die from the suspense.

Since he woke up in the morning, through the early afternoon, and up until this very moment, Satoru had been obsessively checking his phone for any sort of communication from Utahime. He thought, surely, she’d feel compelled to call him after what they did. Send him a text or an email, perhaps—hell, he would’ve accepted a f*cking carrier pigeon if it meant hearing from her.

Nope, nothing, he confirmed as he subtly peered at the phone in his pocket. If he hadn’t remembered Shoko asking what time she would be leaving for Kyoto today, Satoru would’ve thought that Utahime had already high-tailed it out of Tokyo. Luckily, thanks to his Six Eyes, he could see her pacing about the apartment as she had been for the past hour, for whatever strange reason.

And being able to see her was really the only thing keeping him calm as he couldn’t be ambushed by her sudden presence, giving him time to prepare his approach. While he’d opted to simply wait in the lobby for her inevitable exit, a part of him thought he should knock on her door. He would request his sunglasses, then let himself in. This option was attractive to him since he liked the idea of being able to throw her down onto the bed, right then and there, before f*cking her senseless—Okay, seriously, relax.

Realistically, it wouldn’t be as simple as that, considering she hadn’t even reached out to him yet.

Okay, but why hasn’t she called me? Sure, he could’ve called or texted—he had her email address too, and could probably find a carrier pigeon if he really tried—but Satoru figured this was part of the game. The game in which he made Utahime fall madly in love with him, so he wouldn’t feel as pathetic as he did with all his potentially unrequited feelings.

All the how-to articles told him the same thing; keep things mysterious, leave her wanting more by waiting for her to call. They couldn’t possibly be wrong about that stuff when the message was consistent across the board when it came to women, right? Then again, Utahime’s not exactly like any other woman I’ve ever met—which is exactly what he liked about her.

Eventually, after another few minutes of waiting, Utahime exited the apartment. Satoru swallowed back his anxiety, gripping his buried hands into fists to stop his leg from shaking. Currently, it felt like his nerves were trying to pop out of him, making his body language almost manic in nature. People often commented on his inability to stay still, always needing to do something with his body when idle, but his restlessness was never worse than when Utahime was involved. No matter the challenge, Satoru was unflappable—invincible, even—and nothing could evoke apprehension nor hesitation within him…

Only Utahime held the power to give Satoru pause.

Satoru heard her voice before he physically saw her. “No, Shoko, I told you already,” she said, exiting the elevator at the end of the hall. “He left them here last night…Well, b-because I didn’t have the time!” There was a tremor in her voice that betrayed her lie—she had plenty of time to reach out to him. “No, I’m not going to call him, are you crazy?! Uh, I mean…” A brief silence accompanied her slow pace toward the lobby. “Well, because-because…because I don’t have the time for his antics right now, okay?! Look, can you please just pick them up from—!”

Utahime turned the corner, eyes wide with shock as they landed upon Satoru. In turn, he peered back at her, schooling his expression to maintain total nonchalance. He could feel the sting in his chest, threatening to blow his emotional ruse, but he held steady. Well, I guess it’s understandable, being nervous to face the guy who gave you head. They stood in stunned silence for a few moments before Satoru slowly lifted a brow, trying to wordlessly remind her that she was still on the phone.

She got the hint, pulling the phone away from her ear slowly. “Never mind, Shoko,” she muttered into the mic. “Bye.” Utahime snapped it shut, slipping the device into the pocket of her jeans as she squeaked out, “Uh, hi.”

“Hi.” The word felt strange as it spilled from his mouth, tasting a bit like vinegar. Just ‘hi’?

“What, um,” she stammered, her hand nervously grasping the handle of her suitcase. “What are you doing here?”

“Came for my sunglasses.” Satoru searched her face, burning this particular image of Utahime into his memory. Her lips were quivering with apprehension, eyes wide with vaguely disguised alarm. Her throat continuously stirred, her claw grip on his sunglasses tightening with each swallow of incomprehensible emotions. And, as cute as that flush of hers was, he couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed—Is she ashamed…of what we did together?

He offered her an open palm, flicking his eyes between her face and the sunglasses in her hand. At first, Utahime subtly recoiled, a phantom pain shooting through his chest at the motion. Then, she seemed to come to her senses as she gasped, “Oh, right! Sorry…” Utahime placed the shades in his hand, their fingertips grazing each other briefly which made his heart palpitate.

Utahime, on the other hand, squeaked and retracted her hand quickly. “W-Why didn’t you come up?”

Now, it was his turn to fumble through his words. “I, uh, just got here,” he lied. “Saw you comin’ down, so I didn’t bother.”

Utahime took a deep breath as she simply replied, “Oh.” Her eyes scanned over his face, uncertain lips parted with expectation, as if trying to find her words. “Um, well, I-I should be going.” Utahime looked down at her suitcase, aimlessly flourishing her hand toward it. “My train leaves in an hour, so…”

“I can take you,” he blurted, looking down at her waist. The yellow blouse she wore was neatly tucked into her jeans, accentuating her waist and hips. Goddamn—he wanted to slink his arm around her so badly.

“No, thanks,” she insisted, his heart sinking. “I have a car waiting outside, so…” Utahime trailed off, her mouth gaping with unspoken words before placing her palm against her abdomen weakly. “And I, um, don’t think my stomach can handle teleportation right now.”

Satoru, swallowing down a jolt of frantic energy, insisted, “Then I’ll tag along.” It took everything in him not to wince at his own desperation—though, he was sure she hadn’t picked up on it at all.

“You really don’t have to—!” Satoru stepped forward suddenly, bringing her to a sudden halt as he grabbed her suitcase out of her hand. Once again, their fingers brushed against each other, causing Utahime to snatch her hand away.

And, in a way, her reaction was warranted as every touch they shared felt electric to Satoru.

With great restraint, Satoru turned away from her. Then, dragging the suitcase behind him, he ordered, “Let’s go.”

“O-Okay." They walked toward the car in silence, Utahime trailing behind him. The only sound that could be heard, aside from the nature surrounding them, were the wheels of Utahime’s suitcase rolling against the concrete. Behind him, he could feel her cursed energy pulsing erratically as if reacting to certain stimuli.

Against his better judgement, he looked over his shoulder at her. She didn’t make eye contact with him immediately, her gaze fixed to his back as she gnawed on her lower lip. Her mouth—he vividly recalled the soft, reverent kiss she rewarded him with after he made her cum the first time.

Satoru swallowed thickly, their eyes finally meeting as she seemed to notice his attention. Utahime shuddered, tearing her eyes away to stare in a different direction as the pink tint of her cheeks deepened. Her lips were pressed into a firm line, her hands ringing themselves into knots. All he wanted to do was grasp those anxious hands, bring them to his lips, and whisper his secret affections into her knuckles.

But he refrained, tightening his grip on the handle of her suitcase for a sense of sobriety.

As they approached the car, they were greeted by the auxiliary manager which had been chartered to drive Utahime to Tokyo Station. “Iori-san, Gojo-san,” the man—whose name he couldn’t recall—greeted, a deep bow to both of them, but even deeper toward Satoru as his appearance was clearly unexpected. “I’ve left the trunk open for your luggage.”

Utahime moved forward, aiming to grab her suitcase as she said, “Thank you. I’ll just—”

But Satoru wouldn’t allow it, stubbornly holding onto the suitcase as he beelined for the trunk. “Get in the car, Utahime.”

Although her cheeks puffed out with displeasure, evoking an intense burst of affection within his chest, she did as she was told. Satoru fought a smile as she stomped toward the car, heading for the door held open by the manager. “Thank you,” she muttered before sliding in, door shut behind her.

She’s so cute when she’s angry. Satoru slammed the trunk to a close, wrapping around the car to the other door where he let himself in.

Utahime jolted when he slipped in beside her. “Wait, what are you doing?”

Satoru knitted his brows, puzzled as he searched her face. “I told you, I’m tagging along.”

“Yeah, but to the train station?”

“Mmm, I’m pretty sure that’s what ‘tagging along’ entails, Utahime.” Looking away from her, he adjusted his legs to rest in a comfortable position, thankful that the cars provided by Jujutsu HQ were more accommodating towards people of his stature.

Usually, he’d sit in the front seat and recline it as far back as possible—he rather enjoyed sprawling his limbs about, taking up as much room as possible in any space—but then he’d lose his chance to be close to Utahime. It had become second nature to seek her warmth and bathe in the essence of her cursed energy, always soothing to any aching muscles and sore joints.

If only she could figure out the secret to reverse cursed technique, she would be as remarkable of a healer as Shoko, if not better.

Utahime said nothing else, leaning back into the seat with an exasperated sigh.

She really doesn’t want me here, does she? To disguise the subtle sting he felt, Satoru propped his elbow up on the window and leaned his head against his hand, fixing his gaze on the world outside. The drive to Tokyo Station was full of deafening silence as nerves seized hold of his tongue. Understandably, it was hard to communicate with a sheet of ice. Maybe I should go—he was making her uncomfortable and it was tearing his heart to shreds. She regrets it, doesn’t she?

It was the only explanation, wasn’t it?

Near the end of their drive, Satoru noticed Utahime’s hand had migrated to the center of the back seat, as if subconsciously seeking him out. He figured it was wishful thinking, but he dropped his free hand to the center, wondering if this was her way of communicating in that wary silence they shared. Perhaps she was just uncomfortable with talking things out in front of a stranger? It was certainly an idea.

When he dropped his hand, he noticed Utahime watching him through her peripheral, but her hand remained where it was, fingers spreading absentmindedly. Satoru slid his own hand over, close enough that she could reach for him, if that’s what she wanted to do. Of course, he’d convinced himself he was imagining things—another one of his vivid delusions of Utahime. So he looked back out the window, not wanting to experience further disappointment when she inevitably snatched her hand away.

But then, he felt the brush of contact against the side of his pinky.

Satoru schooled his expression to avoid conveying his shock, very slowly turning to gauge the situation. When he peered at Utahime, she was blushing, her jaw clenched as she looked at their hands from the corner of her eye. She’d pressed the side of her own pinky flush against his, an expectant energy about her body language. Did she want him to hold her hand?

His heart thrummed with anticipation. The yearning in his body ached like nothing else, and his fingers strained against the desire to snatch hers up into his own. He couldn’t recall a time where they’d held hands, only instances where he had circled her wrist in an effort to drag her along somewhere. Somehow, the concept of holding hands with Utahime felt more intimate than anything else they’d ever done—and that was certainly saying something, considering their activities from the previous night.

Almost scared to observe it as it happened, Satoru turned his gaze to the window once again, stretching tentative fingertips over the surface of her hand. He could feel her skin quiver under his touch, but she did not flinch nor move away. Utahime’s hand remained rooted in place, shaking with her own feelings of anticipation.

And Satoru felt ravenous.

With tantalizing movements, he brushed the tips of his fingers over her skin, memorizing the feel of her knuckles and running the length of each finger. When he finally laid his palm over the back of her hand, slipping his fingers between hers, he could’ve sworn he heard Utahime release a shaky breath. Is she…enjoying this?

Satoru was too scared to look; too scared to ruin the moment—imagine, the Strongest being scared of some tiny woman with her pouty lips and batty brows, like lightning in a bottle. He would’ve laughed, if only he could breathe. So doubtlessly in love with her, Satoru was, he would give her all the oxygen in his lungs willingly should she ask for it.

Utahime’s hand was so small compared to his own, consumed within his palm—he could feel it. And his heart thundered, rolling against his rib cage with a violent, rapturous longing. Utahime, he wanted to whine. Please, please, please… It was a vague plea for some unknown something that he needed, but was too afraid to ask for.

Because needing anything, or anyone, was a liability.

Even still, Satoru couldn’t rip his hand away from hers. Utahime was a craving he couldn’t satisfy; an addiction he couldn’t recover from. How could anyone possibly cope with feelings this heavy? And why in the absolute hell would he allow someone such purchase of his heart yet again?

If she denied him—It would kill me.

“We’ve arrived.” The sudden reminder of the auxiliary manager’s presence resulted in Utahime snatching her hand away, leaving his cold in her absence.

With an uncertain smile, Utahime breathed out, “Uh, thank you.” She opened the door, stepping out tentatively.

Satoru, however, was already on the move. In the moment she’d found her footing, he had already opened the trunk and removed her suitcase. From his peripheral, he could see her approach as he slammed the trunk shut, so he turned to face her. He hoped that their moment in the car would’ve loosened her up, but she still refused to meet his gaze.

“Thanks,” she said meekly, grabbing her suitcase from his hands. Her fingers trembled as they brushed against his in the exchange, filling his belly with butterflies.

“Anytime.” Satoru had said it casually, desperately holding onto what little control he had left over his emotions. But with the way his eyes were fixed on her, sinuous mouth set decisively, he truly meant it. And he could only hope she’d be able to decipher it and etch it into her own heart.

“Well,” she said slowly. “I should be off, th—”

“Platform nineteen, right?” An overwhelming feeling washed over him, pushing to interrupt her. Satoru didn’t want to part from her just yet. We haven’t even talked about what happened—though, a part of him was relieved it hadn’t come up yet. The concept of confession was too worrisome to broach, and any conversation about what they did together would eventually end up in that realm.

“Uh, right, but—”

“Let’s go,” he interrupted again. “I’ll buy you a coffee.”

Satoru expected her to fight back. Maybe stomp her feet, puff out her cheeks, and argue with him; scold him for continuously interrupting her. Utahime hated being manhandled and told what to do, especially by Satoru Gojo—though, she usually gave in to his requests with enough convincing.

But, much to his surprise, Utahime simply hung her head in a submissive manner and relented with a sheepish, “Okay.”

Admittedly, her sudden shifts in mood and behavior were giving him whiplash. It made him uneasy in a way that felt abnormal. Sure, nerves and butterflies were to be expected around Utahime, but never this. She had become unpredictable; terribly indecisive when, typically, she was the most resolute person he knew. It was as if she hadn’t settled on how to feel yet herself.

When he thought about it, while he may have been the one to kiss her first, she was the one to initiate their sexual encounter. There wasn’t any hesitation in her actions either; they were deliberate and volitional as Utahime tended to be. I don’t understand this woman at all—and, as the thought occurred to him, he realized that he’d never understood her in all the years they had known each other which is what caught his attention to begin with.

Utahime had her own way of doing things, notoriously particular. Satoru was considered pretty eccentric himself, yes, but Utahime was an oddball in a league of her own while simultaneously possessing the most uncanny ability to blend in with the rest of the world. It wasn’t just that audacious temper of hers juxtaposing the agreeable, well-mannered woman she displayed to everyone else. It was the constant subversion of his expectations that kept him on his toes, reeling whenever an unexplored aspect of her became known to him.

A desire had been provoked in Satoru to root around Utahime’s dainty skull to taste her pretty and deliciously complex thoughts. He knew she had a rich inner-world outside of being disciplined and shrewd, having been afforded the luxury of consuming bite-sized pieces she’d offered for sampling, but those breadcrumbs weren’t nearly enough for him to feel satiated. What is going on in that big brain of hers?

After walking about the station in silence, the Starbucks finally came into view. There was a decent line, but nothing too concerning. Satoru glanced at Utahime, indicating the storefront as he told her, “Wait here. I’ll go in and order.”

Utahime nodded. “Yeah, okay.” When Satoru moved to enter the establishment, she suddenly called out, “Oh, my order is—!”

“Dark roast, black, two sugars,” he completed, waving at her dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, yeah—I know.” It didn’t take long to purchase a coffee for Utahime as a few girls in the line had graciously allowed Satoru passage ahead of them, swooning when he flashed them a pleasant smile. If only Utahime were this easy to impress…

When he rejoined with Utahime, he found her worrying her lower lip, arms folded over her chest in an attempt to dispel whatever discomfort she was experiencing. “Hey, got your coffee,” he announced, co*cking a brow as he burrowed his free hand into his pocket. “You okay?”

Utahime gave him a tight smile, accepting the coffee from his hand gingerly. “Yeah,” she breathed. “Um, thanks.”

“Anytime.”

Without meeting his gaze, she lifted the cup slightly in toast before taking a tentative sip. “So…how’d you know my order?”

Satoru shrugged as he sarcastically responded, “Ah, it was a lucky guess, really! S’not like I watched you drink the same thing every morning for almost a week or anything.”

Utahime rolled her eyes, a sliver of amusem*nt highlighting her features. “Yeah, okay,” she snorted. “Just…didn’t expect you to commit it to memory is all.”

He froze, unsure of how to respond to her statement. He could’ve told her, “Well, of course, I’d commit it to memory, Utahime! I’m madly in love with you, after all!” But that seemed like an exceptionally bad idea, especially when he considered that she probably didn’t reciprocate an interest in committing his peculiarities to memory—Probably because she doesn’t feel the same way about me.

As Utahime sipped her coffee, Satoru noticed she was fiddling with her suitcase, as if trying to figure out the best way to manage it. “Let me carry that for you,” he offered, reaching for the luggage.

Immediately, however, she tightened her grip on the handle. “No, it’s fine,” she insisted. “I’ve got it.”

Stubborn woman. Satoru protested, “No, you don’t. Give it here.”

This time, she physically moved the bag backward out of the path of his hand’s trajectory. He gave her a testy grin, the only indication of his frustration with her petty persistence. In turn, Utahime narrowed her eyes at him, plump lips edging themselves into a snarl. f*ck, I wanna kiss her so bad. He wondered, for a moment, if it would be possible to f*ck the attitude out of her.

“Gojo, seriously, it’s fine.

“Utahime, seriously, it’s not.”

With a smirk, Satoru used his cursed technique to warp her suitcase out of her grip and into his own. He watched with glee as her face morphed from paltry annoyance to incredulous rage as he deftly maneuvered the luggage. Using her newly freed hand, Utahime swung a scathing finger up toward Satoru’s face, amusing him as she hardly looked intimidating when he towered over her the way he did. “Now, listen here, you bas—OW!”

Her finger had been within chomping distance of his mouth, so what else could he do aside from bite down?

“Did you just bite me?!” Utahime held the afflicted finger to her chest, mouth gaping open with disbelief.

Satoru bit back a chuckle, but could not stop himself from grinning. “Well, what am I supposed to do when you’re stickin’ your finger in my face like that?”

“Not bite me!”

“You should’ve specified that then,” he joked. The offended expression on her face was making it hard to contain his amusem*nt, chuckles bubbling up into his throat.

“Why would I need to…?!” Utahime’s aggravated expression eased as Satoru burst into laughter, whatever scalding remark she had prepared dying in her throat. “Oh, shut up!” Despite her words, a smile grew on Utahime’s features, seemingly recovered from the affront.

“What?” Satoru chuckled.

Finally breaking the sheet of tension that had been between them all day, Utahime burst out into laughter. “You know what,” she giggled. “You’re so dumb…” Weak with laughter, she smacked Satoru’s chest where her hand would subconsciously linger.

The warmth of her palm sobered him, his expression softening under her touch. If the rush in his ears was any indication, his heart was hammering away under her fingertips. Being this close to her was dangerous, and he was certain she could feel it for herself. He fought the urge to grab her hand and press it flush against his sternum. “Look at what you do to me,” threatened to spill from his enamored lips, hoping to pour fragile words into her mouth. If only she’d allow it, his tenderness would drip onto her tongue until the aftertaste of his clandestine feelings lingered long past withdrawal.

As if to stoke the fires of his yearning, Utahime met his gaze, glistening lips parted with obscure emotions. He couldn’t stop his eyes from dropping to her mouth, wanting to suck the remnants of bitter coffee off her lips amidst an amorous kiss. No amount of policing could stop his runaway heart nor dry the perspiration of arousal from his aching hands—she had to have figured it out by now, right?

His feelings were obvious, weren’t they?

Then, as if to answer his question, her hand dropped away. A look of discomfort and hesitation crossed her pretty features, unable to hold his gaze any longer. Her sudden detachment set alarm bells off in his head—this was the beach all over again. His quiet, subtle confession was just going to lead to rejection, and Satoru still wasn’t in a position to cope with such an outcome. With boundless feelings, such as these, he ran the risk of personal ruin as well as the dissolution of what little connection they maintained. And, though he’d never openly admit it, Satoru lacked the gumption to face an oblivion like that.

“Hey, look,” Utahime presented, chewing her words with consideration. “I don’t know if we should—?”

“Did you buy any souvenirs yet?” His body was already moving, skirting past her with the suitcase dragging behind him. Satoru maintained a neutral expression, adding a charismatic curve to his mouth to keep things light.

Her brows pinched together, puzzled. “What?”

There he went again, utilizing those underhanded tactics of redirection. Really, it was quite unfair of him—he knew that. Utahime, while sharp and perceptive, struggled to focus her mind when in any vulnerable state, such as in the throes of distress or during significant conversation.

“Souvenirs? To take to Kyoto?” He made sure to present it in a way that made her seem ridiculous, pinching his chin with a wistful expression. “Have you forgotten your manners, Utahime?”

With a wicked glare, Utahime snapped, “Of course I got souvenirs!” Her voice raised an octave, pointing another accusatory finger in his direction. “And you’re certainly one to talk about manners, Gojo!”

“Aw, Utahime,” he cooed, pouting his lips in a way meant to spike her blood pressure. “I didn’t know it bothered you so much not getting any souvenirs from me.”

Idiot, like I’d ever want anything from you!”

With a smirk, Satoru decided he had riled her up just enough. “So what did you get?”

She gritted her teeth, fashioning those honey brown eyes into contradictory daggers. “Does it matter? There are other more important things to—!”

Whether it was because of the dark quality his voice had taken or the realization that he wouldn’t be deterred from this line of questioning, Utahime clicked her tongue and relented. “Tokyo Banana,” she muttered.

Tokyo Banana?!” Satoru repeated with an obnoxious amount of derision. “Utahime, that’s so boring!”

“What do you mean?!” Utahime countered defensively. “It’s a classic!”

“It’s predictable,” he argued. “but, of course, you’d go for the safe option.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Utahime was seconds away from crushing her coffee cup with the grip she had on it, expression twisted with aggravation.

“We’re in Tokyo Station!” Satoru exclaimed, flourishing his arm to indicate the subject of his sermon. “There’s way better souvenirs to get from here. Look, I’ll show you some. Follow me!”

Without waiting for her approval, Satoru was on the move. He had passed through this station enough in the past few years to know exactly where to take Utahime on this wild-goose chase he implemented amidst his desperation for avoidance.

They arrived at their destination rather quickly, Satoru ostentatiously presenting the storefront of Terra Saison with a drawn out, “Ta-da!”

Utahime, of course, was thoroughly unamused. “I don’t know what this place is.”

Satoru rolled his eyes. “Do you know what anything is, Utahime?”

She bristled, sputtering out, “I know…things!”

“Yeah, okay,” he snorted, relinquishing her suitcase back into her antsy hands. “Anyway, wait here.” Before she could protest, Satoru entered the shop. The line hadn’t been anything remotely similar to Starbucks, allowing him to collect three boxes of their Milk Sand—two for Utahime and one for him—with relative ease.

When he rejoined Utahime, she was stood beside a trashcan, her hand free of her coffee cup. “Damn, you really do have a caffeine addiction,” he teased. “I got you the largest size and you’re already done?” He whistled. “You should probably talk to a doctor about that, y’know? Super damaging to your heart health…”

“You’re the last person on this earth who should be giving out health advice,” she spat, narrowing her eyes at him. “The amount of food you eat would be enough to feed an entire ocean of blue whales!”

Satoru snorted. “That’s just silly, Utahime—don’tcha know blue whales only eat krill?”

“That’s not the point!”

“Well, I’m a growing boy.”

Please,” Utahime drawled, rolling her eyes. “if you grow anymore, there’ll be not a ceiling in Japan with enough clearance to shelter you.”

Satoru chuckled at that. “Here,” he offered, holding out the bag which contained the biscuits. “Trust me, these are way better than Tokyo Banana.”

Utahime lifted a reluctant brow, tentatively taking the bag from him before peeking inside. “Gojo, this is too much to take with me,” she protested.

“I took your Tokyo Banana into consideration,” he reasoned. “and settled for two boxes of eight biscuits. Though, honestly, I don’t think sixteen is nearly enough...”

“Yeah, for you, maybe!”

“C’mon, Utahime, better to have excess than lack.” Satoru unwound his passive smile into a conspiratorial grin. “And aren’t you a teacher? You sure you would’ve had enough for all those students and the faculty?”

Teaching Assistant,” she corrected. “and, for your information, I only have three students, Gojo.”

“Yeah, in first year!” Satoru exclaimed. “What about everyone else, huh? You weren’t grading papers for just three students now, were ya?” At least, he certainly recalled seeing more than three names when sorting through those completed assignments on her desk the previous evening.

“Well, no,” she sputtered, gripping the paper bag to her chest absentmindedly. “I’ve been helping with—wait, how do you know that?” Utahime peered up at him, features marred by some sort of perturbed epiphany.

He shrugged. “I saw the papers on your desk.” There was this odd, drawn out silence between them that picked at Satoru’s nerves. What’s the problem?

“So you were the one who organized them for me,” Utahime finally said, searching his face.

The sudden scrutiny he was under made him uncomfortable, enabling him to lean further into his bravado. “I mean, if it wasn’t yourself, who else?” Satoru sneered. “Unless you had another tall, devilishly handsome sorcerer come over last night.”

He was hoping the allusion to their activities would avert her gaze, but she only drilled into him further. “You cleaned the entire room.” It wasn’t a question—it was a declaration, as if she were gathering facts and laying them out for examination. Was she seeking confirmation for something?

If so, then for what?

In any case, whatever investigation she had started into his psyche, he wanted no part of as he casually replied, “Perhaps.”

“Why?” Her voice was remarkably gentle, accompanied by an anticipatory shudder. With flickering brown eyes, Utahime’s expression had been consumed by this sense of novelty, as if she were gazing upon some phenomena. And, as the subject of her scrutiny, Satoru felt anomalous in a way that caused him a vague sense of disquiet.

“Uh, because it was a mess, and I was bored?” Satoru deflected, an unintentional bite to his tone which he attempted to alleviate with a chuckle. “Why else?”

From the way Utahime retracted her attention, face settling into an eerie neutrality, Satoru knew he had answered her question incorrectly. “You could’ve just left it for me to do in the morning,” she pointed out, a frosty undertone chilling his blood.

“And what kinda guest would I be if I’d done that?” Satoru chucked a smile her way, hoping to melt the rising tension.

No dice—she co*cked a sharp brow, instead. “A normal one?”

“Well, you know what they say,” he mused. “When in Tokyo, do as the Romans do.”

When in Rome,” she corrected.

He peered at her densely, feigning nescience. “Huh?”

“It’s—when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

“Utahime.” Satoru halted, intensifying his gaze. “Are you okay?”

Succeeding in giving her pause, Utahime blinked up at him. “Uh, I would like to think so,” she said slowly, puzzled by his sudden interrogation. “Why?”

“I dunno, you started talkin’ crazy there for a second,” he quipped. “Something about us being in Rome when we’re clearly in Tokyo.” Satoru licked out a cheeky grin as he watched her face drop with exasperation.

“Okay, I’m done with this conversation.”

As Utahime guided them to the appropriate platform in silence, Satoru fixed his eyes on the back of her head, noticing the silky white ribbon she’d used to tie up her dark hair. Once again, he was transported back to their high school days when he would snatch her precious ribbons and hide them around campus, mocking her when she couldn’t successfully retrieve them without his mercy every now and then. He had always thought she looked terribly cute when she wore them, driving his obsession to ruin them for her.

Something about Utahime being soft and delicate had angered the younger version of himself. He had believed, for her to survive in jujutsu society, she should toughen up; look sharper, be selfish, and nurture a sense of self-preservation rather than everyone else. And, while her scars certainly brought an edge to her appearance, somehow, she was still too cute.

Still too soft. Still too delicate.

She stopped wearing her ribbons regularly after the incident and, instead of bringing him relief, it only brought him regret. While he could never fully understand her feelings nor confidently say his assessment was correct without her input, Satoru figured that Utahime didn’t think she could be considered cute anymore, so why bother trying? Little did she know, she could still evoke feelings of a schoolyard crush within his heart with a single glance, just as she did when he was fifteen.

“This is me,” she announced, stopping underneath a placard which indicated her platform. “Thanks for hanging out with me, I guess.” Utahime pressed her lips into a firm line, glancing up at him with uncertainty.

“Anytime.” Satoru fought back the urge to wince—there was that damn word again. “I figured you’d need the company,” he bantered. “since you’re always unnecessarily early to, well, everything.”

Utahime rolled her eyes, lip pulled up into a grimace. “Whatever.” And, just in time, the intercom announced the arrival of Utahime’s train to Kyoto.

Wait… Satoru felt his heart push up into his throat as the shinkansen pulled up, a door opening in front of the lithe form his hands hungered for. I need more time.

“Okay, well…” Tugging her luggage along, Utahime glanced back at Satoru with a tight smile as she uttered, “Goodbye, Gojo.” The wheels of her suitcase rattled against the metal floor, Utahime’s body being swallowed by the shinkansen as Satoru stared after her.

“Hey, Utahime, wait!” Satoru suddenly called out, succeeding in regaining her focus.

Utahime turned toward the door, peering back at him with a co*cked brow. “What is it, Gojo?” When he didn’t immediately respond, she urged, “Make it quick—the door’s going to close in a minute.”

Satoru wanted to cross the threshold of the doorway, wrap his arms around her, and yank her back into Tokyo with him. There was this desperate creature inside of him, tunneling through his veins as it sought the space she had carved into his heart. But as badly as he desired her, Satoru refrained, remaining fixed in place just outside the train’s doors with a set of gnawing palms chewing holes through his pockets.

“That bow looks really nice on you,” he told her genuinely. “Makes you look, I dunno—soft…” Satoru felt his mouth curve into an affectionate smile against his better judgement, eyes flashing down to her lips which had begun to slowly part in the wake of his compliment. “And, before you go, I wanted to tell you that I…”

…don’t want you to go? …have feelings for you? …want to be with you? …love you?

They all would have been true, but it wasn’t the right time for such cloying sentiments.

“…feel really bad for your colleagues! Geez, you were really gonna settle for giving them Tokyo Banana?” Satoru barked out an insolent laugh. “God, Utahime, where’s your sense of originality?!”

Immediately, Utahime’s face screwed up with furious disdain, that vein in her forehead bulging as she turned a deep scarlet. “GOJO, YOU FUC—!” The door closed on her in an opportunistic fashion that thoroughly amused him, cutting off her string of expletives.

Grumpy girl. And as he watched the shinkansen speed away, Utahime’s golden aura swallowed within its metallic gullet, Satoru wrung out a smile as he gripped his chin wistfully. Y’know, now that I think about it, I could probably go for some Tokyo Banana myself. He looked at the bag of biscuits in his hand, nodding with approval. Megumi and Tsumiki would probably want some banana milk with these, too...

“Well, that settles it then,” Satoru determined, clapping his hands together with a gleeful grin. “I’ll stop by the convenience store on my way back with some Tokyo Banana!”

Notes:

this chapter should be alternatively titled, "tokyo banana: the musical" tbh,,, i do a lot of research for like irl accuracy where i reference real places and things that are accurate for the location and time period. so if you're ever like "wait that's oddly specific", it's likely bc it's a real thing lmao

anyway, hello!!! i'm back and i present you w this pathetic, panting mess of a man tripping down memory lane lmaooooooo

i wasn't intending to write this much w this chapter in that first scene but it kinda just happened??? there was actually supposed to be a THIRD SCENE in this chapter and i had to move it to chapter 14 bc this chapter is a whopping *looks at my notes* 10.6k words...........

chapter 14 is well underway and i wanna say it won't take tooooo long for it to come out since i've already started it but i work a lot this week. i'll likely not get much writing done until like thursday maybe?

i really hope you guys enjoyed!!! again, i appreciate all the wonderful comments and support on this fic, it means a lot to me. i really hope you guys are prepared bc these next few chapters are,,,, well, they're insane. i'm really excited for you to read!!!

see you later!

- xoxo, elfsbe

Chapter 14: but i do

Summary:

Satoru, it’s Utahime’s class inside that veil, and she went with them.

But Satoru already knew that.

If it had been anyone else, it wouldn’t be Yaga on the phone with him.

Satoru zipped up his parka, his sunglasses perched upon the bridge of his nose. “Tell them I’ll be there in ten,” he said, snatching the phone up into his hand.

Ten minutes?

“No, ten seconds.” Satoru turned to face west, the familiar pull of his cursed technique churning within his gut. In an instant, he materialized on the edge of Tengen’s barrier in Kyoto. “Where are they?”

Minami Ward.

“Hmm.” Once again, Satoru shortened the distance between himself and his destination, space-time skirting the edge of his existence. The first time he had successfully warped himself, he had vomited for hours on end, but not due to the physical sensations of teleportation everybody experienced—no, it had been the sudden existential crisis that did him in.

Notes:

TW & CW // NSFW, sexual language, body horror, slight gore, death

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

we can keep in touch, if that's what you want
you can call me, too, if that's what friends do
it's not more than one, if that's what you thought
you'd say i don't have much room for you
but i do


i could stay inside, if that's what you want
i won't say a word for a day or two
when i'm in my room, i know what to do about you


i can sleep soon


when i get home, i am kept from everyone in the house
i'll walk down the hall where you have gone
to feel the way it felt again i am what you need when you can't find it somewhere else
i am what you want when you don't want anything else
i am what you need when you can't find it somewhere else
i am what you want when you don't have anything else - Now, Now

* * * * * * *

February had become Satoru’s least favorite month. He convinced himself it was merely the remnants of winter that bothered him, never having been too fond of the cold. Growing up in Kyoto, traipsing about the Gojo Estate which was located high up in the mountains, he had developed a particular distaste for winter. His body naturally ran hot, making it rather easy to freeze even in the mildest chill. Of course, he had become an expert in the concept of ‘mind over matter’ which enabled him to fool others into believing he wasn’t ever significantly affected by any kind of temperature.

But really, Satoru would take the sweltering heat of July over the brisk chill of February any day.

Goddamn, I’m freezing my balls off out here. Grumbling, Satoru nuzzled his face further into the high collar of the parka he’d bought at the beginning of the month, stroking his fingers absentmindedly against the phone in his right pocket. To distract himself from the device which had been occupying his thoughts for the entire day thus far, he fixed his gaze onto the two children laid out in the frozen grass atop yoga mats. “Remind me again why you crazy people wanted to do this outside?”

Unlike Satoru, who was forced to train throughout the seasons as a child regardless of how bad the weather got, Megumi had been given a choice on the matter—and, like the crazy little bastard he was, he’d opted for the frigid outdoors of their local park rather than the heated gym back at the apartment. Thankfully, Saitama shared a similar climate to Tokyo, making snowfall a rarity and easing the winters, so it wouldn’t necessarily kill them to be outside. Though, it definitely succeeded in irking Satoru who had already been highly strung enough as it was that particular day.

Megumi and Tsumiki were in the middle of their second set of sit-ups, bundled up in windbreakers and sweatpants to protect themselves from the crisp air. Megumi pushed out hot, shaky breaths between each repetition, the condensate visible as he moved back and forth. “Because,” he gulped.

When he didn’t elaborate further, Satoru co*cked a brow. “Because?”

“Because.” Megumi flashed him a sharp look, asserting that he was in no mood to entertain Satoru’s—perfectly reasonable—inquiries.

Little, grumpy bastard... Satoru smiled despite his annoyance, a thrum of affection running the width of his torso. He really did like this kid—a lot. To a certain degree, his ward reminded him of another person he held rather intense feelings for...

And, once again, he was gripped by the urge to check his phone.

“Y’know, Tsumiki,” he said suddenly, his disguised gaze moving accordingly, “you don’t need to participate in Megumi’s training sessions. It’s a Friday, you can do whatever you want.” Satoru, of course, would never tell the sweet little girl she couldn’t participate, but it did concern him when she pushed herself as hard as Megumi. There was no reason to, after all; Tsumiki Fushiguro was a non-sorcerer, only capable of seeing cursed energy and nothing more.

Tsumiki was heaving, sweat dripping down the sides of her face, cheeks red with effort. “And be left out?” Her words were pushed past her lips in breathy increments, gulping in cold air as she inhaled. “No way! I…wanna be…strong too!”

Satoru smirked. Attagirl. Although Tsumiki’s strong suit as a person was her kindness and empathy, there was no denying her tenacity. She wasn’t necessarily temperamental as much as she was determined, speaking to her ambitions and values with passion. It wasn’t easy to deter her from a course of action, wholly unafraid of displaying her strength of character, as if she had her own Infinity against criticism.

Megumi halted his momentum into an upright position, looking down at Tsumiki beside him with a puzzled expression. “Why would you need to be strong too?”

“So I can protect you,” she replied, a tiny smile forming on her tired lips.

“Why would you need to protect me?”

Tsumiki paused her sit-ups as well, only she lied on her back in an attempt to catch her breath. Her eyes were closed, swallowing large gulps of air before using one of her hands to tug on Megumi’s windbreaker. “Because you’re my little brother,” she told him, “and I love you.”

And, as he always did when shown any kind of affection, Megumi scowled. “You’re a girl, I don’t need you to protect me!”

“Girls can protect boys too, y’know?” Satoru chimed in, a tad too absentmindedly for such an important lesson to impart upon a boy Megumi’s age. But he was far too occupied by giving into his compulsion to glance upon his phone once again, for what must’ve been the umpteenth time that day.

With antsy fingers, Satoru navigated to the webpage he’d had bookmarked since that morning, typing in the order confirmation number from his email yet again to verify what he had already verified several hours ago—in neon green letters, the words, “Delivered at 2:03PM,” glared up at him sardonically.

It’s already 5PM, he agonized, lips pressed into a firm line as he locked his iPhone with an audible click. He looked back up at his wards, Tsumiki sticking her tongue out at Megumi whose perpetual scowl only deepened in the face of her teasing. “Alright, you two,” he barked, accompanied by the clap of his hands. “Less derision, more repetition! You still got one more set to go!”

“What’s ‘derision’?” Tsumiki scrunched her nose the way she always did when asking a question, getting into position for her last set of sit-ups.

Megumi, on the other hand, had already started. “Derision—contemptuous mockery,” he answered between measured breaths.

Nodding, her little mouth formed an ‘o’ as she accepted the definition before proceeding to ask, “What’s ‘contemptuous’?” Admittedly, it was cute how shameless she was about her curiosity. Most adults would cringe at openly admitting to gaps in their knowledge, proving yet again that Tsumiki was wise beyond her years in an odd, youthful sort of way.

“Y’know, I’m thinkin’ we should do vocabulary lessons for you instead, Tsumiki,” Satoru teased, biting back a wry grin.

“Seriously, Tsumiki, read a book,” Megumi continued, a rare glimmer of mirth in his eyes. “Your stupid is showing.”

Tsumiki’s cheeks puffed out in the face of their ribbing. “Hey, I read!”

“Teen magazines don’t count,” Satoru retorted. It had become commonplace to find Tsumiki lying on her stomach in her bedroom, surrounded by new issues of Popteen and Seventeen, kicking her socked feet as she giggled at—well, whatever the hell it was they printed. Satoru had never cared to find out since Ijichi was the one supplying her with the magazines, so that clearly made them safe for a nearly-ten year old girl’s consumption, right?

“I read real books!” Tsumiki argued.

Megumi poked at her again, saying, “Twilight also doesn’t count.”

“Wait, what’s wrong with Twilight?” Satoru co*cked a challenging brow at the boy. “Don’t sh*t on the classics, kid.”

“Yeah, you would call it a classic,” Megumi quipped without missing a beat. “How’s Romancing Mister Bridgerton been so far?”

“Megumi!” Tsumiki squeaked, cheeks tinted pink with embarrassment as she held an urgent finger up to her lips.

Satoru narrowed his eyes at the pair of them. “Have you guys been sneaking into my apartment again?” Of course, he had already been well-aware of the fact that they occasionally misused the spare key he’d given them. It was the exact reason he left nothing of importance lying about his apartment—if he didn’t want them to see it, it would not be seen. He simply maintained this farce of indignation for the sake of his own entertainment. “I can’t believe you two!”

The pair stilled, peering up at Satoru with their own individual expressions—Tsumiki with guilt and Megumi with deliberate insolence. Shaking his head in feigned disappointment, he humorously scolded, “Did I not strictly forbid you from entering my private quarters? How could you?! Why, must I change the locks to bar you foul little fiends from rummaging about my belongings?!” He draped a dramatic hand across his forehead. “After all I’ve done for you! The betrayal! The mutiny!”

Immediately, their faces twisted with matching grimaces as Megumi groused, “You’ve been reading too much Bridgerton.”

“Nuh-uh!” Satoru objected childishly.

Megumi glowered, biting back at him with, “Uh-huh!”

“I wanna read Bridgerton too!” Tsumiki interjected.

As quickly as he had slipped into immaturity, Satoru reverted back to being the adult version of himself. “No, absolutely not,” he asserted, snorting at the ridiculous notion of it. “Those books are not appropriate for you. Maybe when you’re older—like, fifteen, at least.”

At least, that was when he started reading novels featuring romance and erotica, so it wasn’t like he could limit her any further than that. Even still, Tsumiki puffed out her cheeks with disappointment, enabling Satoru to attempt redirecting them. “Anyway, let’s get back to…”

But he never could finish his sentence, his phone suddenly buzzing in his pocket.

Despite keeping his expression level, Satoru moved with an astonishing amount of speed, retrieving the phone from his pocket in a single, fluid motion. And, as the caller’s name graced his screen, he couldn’t help but smile. “Alright, munchkins, break time!” Satoru exclaimed, indicating the ringing device in his hand. “Gotta take this.”

As he put a little more distance between himself and the kids, he heard Tsumiki question, “Do you think Gojo-san has a girlfriend?”

“For the lady’s sake,” Megumi grumbled bitterly, “I hope not.”

Satoru pointed a cautioning finger at him. “I heard that, runt!” He caught the sliver of a testy pink tongue before turning away, slipping his free hand into his pocket to recollect himself. Sliding his thumb along the screen, Satoru brought the phone up to his ear, politely rasping, “Satoru Gojo speaking.”

Did you send me flowers?

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Where are your manners, Utahime?” Satoru jested. “No, ‘Hello, Gojo, how are you?’ Or, ‘Oh, Gojo, I’ve missed you so much these past few—’”

Hi, Gojo,” she interrupted. “Now answer my question.

He couldn’t hold back the grin forming on his face at the sound of Utahime’s petulant tone. “Why, did you like ‘em?” Satoru’s lips wrapped around his words in a flirtatious manner. While he wanted the satisfaction of flustering her, he would’ve settled for her contempt alone—She’s hot when she’s irritated. “If not, it totally wasn’t me,” he continued impishly. “It must’ve been some other bozo named Gojo. There’s quite a few of us runnin’ around, actually. A whole estate, really. A whole clan, even!”

Utahime grunted, pointing out, “You signed them as Satoru.”

“Hmm.” The sound of his given name rolling off her tongue with such ease itched a primal part of his brain. “What was that?”

You signed them as Satoru,” she sighed in repetition.

Satoru bit his lip, stomach pulled taut with scintillating tremors. “Sorry, reception out here is just terrible! What did I sign them as?”

Satoru!” Utahime growled.

Satisfaction coiled up within his gut, a wanton hunger traversing the winding pathways of veins until his feverish blood settled into his core. Even just her voice turns me on, holy sh*t. If only his Six Eyes could peer through radio waves, he thought he might see her cheeks flushed with anger, plump lips pulled into that sexy snarl of hers.

Unfortunately, Satoru could only settle for his imagination. “Wow, so familiar,” he teased smugly. “Yes, Utahime?”

Ugh, I’m hanging up!” Her voice sounded slightly farther, giving him the impression that she had already begun the process of ending their conversation.

“Well, don’t do that.” He pushed the phone closer to his mouth, purring, “I haven’t even had the chance to tell you yet,” as if offering to impart the world’s greatest secret upon her.

Tell me what?

Satoru smiled, the action warming his voice in a way he would typically avoid as he proclaimed, “Happy birthday, Utahime.” A significant pause followed, the buzz of silent radio waves filling his ears. He swallowed thickly, his heart palpitating with apprehension.

This was exactly the reason he never bothered with her birthday in the past. It was far too intimate for him to manage casually. He couldn’t contain his feelings when communicating well-wishes, his voice giving away all his hidden desires. Meanwhile, Utahime didn’t seem to have the same problem as him, her birthday wishes coming across as particularly unceremonious. It must have freaked her out, he believed—seriously, I just had to buy her flowers too—and Satoru was certain he had finally scared her off.

Suddenly, however, Utahime broke the silence with a wary inquiry. “Did Shoko put you up to this?

“What?” The response was instant, his face twisted with genuine bemusem*nt. Of course, he quickly regulated his tone, slipping back into that devil-may-care attitude he was infamous for. “Utahime, you wound me,” he drawled. “I assure you, I did this all on my own.”

So you really sent me flowers on my birthday?” Utahime inquired, wariness still evident in her tone.

“I did.”

Hydrangeas?

An image of Utahime watering the flowers during early summer plopped into Satoru’s head, transporting him back to when he was fourteen. The air was thick with milk and honey, her enchanting voice inspiring the very blossoms she watered to dance. When picking out flowers to send her, there hadn’t been a single doubt in his mind on which he should’ve selected. “Yes,” he answered confidently.

Pink and blue,” she stressed, “hydrangeas?

“According to the confirmation in my inbox, yes, that is what I picked out.” The colors had been a deliberate choice, having looked up what concept each represented before ordering. It hadn’t even occurred to him that Utahime might know the meanings as well—of course she would know—but he, at the very least, could count on her tendency to deny his thoughtfulness.

Another bout of silence followed, but shorter than the last. “Thank you.

Warmth flooded his limbs, thrumming through his veins. “Huh?” Satoru wanted to hear her say it again, of course. “Sorry, didn’t quite catch—”

Don’t push your luck, Gojo!” Utahime warned abruptly, eliciting a chuckle from him.

“Okay, okay,” he relented, “just don’t swing a bat at me.”

What?

“Oh, nothin’…” Satoru smiled, absentmindedly kicking his feet against a pebble he found.

There was a pensive pause on her end, an audible breath being taken that he could hear through the receiver. “Hey, Gojo,” she said slowly, “I’ve been meaning to ask you…” Though she tried to sound confident, the shakiness of her voice betrayed her. “…about what we did on Shoko’s birthday. I just wanted to—

“Ah, buh-buh-buh!” Satoru interrupted with urgency. “Now’s not the time to talk about that…” He trailed off, turning around to look over at Megumi and Tsumiki. They were still sitting on their yoga mats, only Shiro now laid between them as they chatted, clearly enjoying the way the children pet him.

“Megumi, Tsumiki—say hi!” As he held out the phone in their direction, both of his wards responded in their respective ways.

“Hi,” muttered Megumi.

“Hellooo!” Tsumiki exclaimed with glee.

Satoru pulled the phone back up to his ear. “There are little ears around.”

Oh,” Utahime breathed. “Right...”

In their next lapse of pensive silence, Satoru found himself wishing he could physically see her. Was she worrying her lower lip? Were her brows furrowed with uncertainty? Was she doing that odd thing she always did with her hands whenever lost in thought; compulsively smoothing the pad of her thumb over the surface of each fingernail on her free hand? Was there some part of her that was relieved they had yet another opportunity to avoid discussing what they’d done together four months ago?

Satoru broke the silence, unable to bear his tumultuous wondering. “Well, I better get—”

Gojo,” she breathed out abruptly, “did you…?” Utahime trailed off. Her voice sounded small and ambivalent, as if the devil was tap-dancing down the length of her spine. Clearing her throat, she continued, “Did you, um, like the…dessert you—we had…that night?

Satoru paused, mouth agape. What the f*ck do I do?

He could barely breathe, paralyzed by the flittering of hope in her tone. It felt like Utahime had cut open his sternum, slipping her hands between each rib to bend them into shape, making just enough room to nestle herself flush against his beating heart. It was bound to come up sooner or later, he knew that, but not like this—their dirty, intimate deed spelled out in analogous code over a phone call.

“Utahime,” he said, breath catching in his throat as he strategically professed, “it was the best dessert I’ve ever had.” Suddenly, his skin burned, flaring with an uncharacteristic embarrassment. The softness in his own voice intimidated him, a sense of foreboding chilling his bloodstream. Stupid, stupid, stupid—he couldn’t ever be cool around her, could he?

Quickly, he cleared his throat to dismiss the heat simmering along the tips of his ears. “Uh, anyway, I gotta go.” Satoru had to bring this conversation to an end before Utahime could get a word in edgewise, or else he might die of humiliation. “Happy birthday.”

Then, he hung up, staring down at the phone which rested within his jittery palm. “’Best dessert I’ve ever had’…?” Satoru used his free hand to slap a palm against the center of his face, still hot with mortification as he hissed, “Why the f*ck would I tell her that?!” The thought of throwing himself into a volcano occurred to him, a frantic energy rattling about his nervous system.

After a few minutes of freaking out over his brief moment of vulnerability, Satoru recollected himself, slipping the phone back into his pocket. Then, he turned around to face his wards who were staring at him with knitted brows, as if mutually asking him, “What the hell is wrong with you?

“Hey, enough slackin’ off!” Satoru barked with a vigorous clapping of his hands, attempting to redirect their suspicions. “I wanna see two laps! Move it, move it, move it!”

“We’re not slacking!” Tsumiki sputtered. “You told us we could take a break!”

“Well, break time’s over, kiddos.” Satoru pointed an authoritative finger at her as he ordered, “And make it four laps while you’re at, for talking back!” Then, he moved his finger toward Megumi who had already lifted himself up onto his feet. “Eight for you, for that face on your face!”

Megumi glared at him. “Why don’t you do ten laps then?”

“And why would I need to do ten laps, hmm?”

“Because you’re ugly,” he quipped, moving out of the grass and onto the park’s trail.

Satoru balked. “UGLY?!” As Megumi jogged away without even an ounce of concern for consequences, Satoru shrugged his parka off, revealing the black, long-sleeved t-shirt he wore underneath. Then, he began a series of stretches, warming up his muscles.

Tsumiki approached him before sheepishly asking, “I can just stick to two, right?”

Satoru grunted out, “Four,” at the end of a stretch. He then straightened himself up to his full height, shaking out his limbs. “Remember, stay close to Shiro,” he told her, patting the top of her head with gentle affection.

The moment he released her head, however, Satoru hopped onto the path and launched himself into a run at top speed. It was just under half a minute before he’d caught up to Megumi, a feral grin etched upon his face as the kid looked over his shoulder to identify who had been fast approaching. “MAKE IT TWELVE LAPS, YOU LITTLE BASTARD!” Satoru shouted as he passed him, laughing maniacally at Megumi’s attempt to catch up.

Megumi did thirteen laps that day, Satoru did fifteen laps to spite him, and Tsumiki went home after two.

October 27th, 2011—the call had come late in the evening.

Satoru had been consumed in the plush comfort of his bedding, silk sleep mask covering his bleary eyes. Initially, he had turned away from his phone as it vibrated loudly against the wood of his beside table, his ringtone playing at what felt like top volume. It can wait until tomorrow—that’s what he had thought in his half-conscious daze as the phone did, eventually, stop ringing. Finally. And soon, he started to drift…

Come here, rude boy, boy, can you get it up? Come here, rude boy, boy, is you big enough?” His ringtone cut through the silence once again, forcing him into alertness. “Take it, take it, baby, baby~

Ugh, fine, fine, fine!” Satoru complained loudly, ripping off his sleeping mask as he sat upright. “You’ve made your point, Rihanna…” Grabbing up the device from the beside table, he answered the call, bringing the chorus to an abrupt end. “Satoru Gojo speaking, who do I have the unfortunate displeasure of—”

Satoru.” The sound of Yaga’s voice gave him significant pause.

“Yaga-sensei?” He pulled the phone away from his ear, peering at the blinding screen with squinted eyes to confirm the time. “It’s nearly one in the morning! Shouldn’t you be in bed at your big age?”

Satoru,” Yaga repeated again, a sense of gravity in his tone that had Satoru quaking with apprehension, “I need you to listen to me very carefully.

“What happened?” Satoru threw his blanket aside, kicking his legs off the side of the bed. “Tell me. Quickly.” He put his phone on speaker, plopping it onto the bed as he swiftly traversed the room.

There’s a situation in Kyoto,” Yaga explained. “Principal Gakuganji reached out to me, only after exhausting all other options. This afternoon, one of Kyoto’s classes were sent out on an assignment to clear out a cluster of cursed spirits inhabiting an elementary school in the city. Simple mission, really, but the class hasn’t returned and the auxiliary manager who’d gone with them isn’t responding to any attempts at communication.

H.Q. dispatched Hirano-sensei and his class for recovery, but they’re unable to breach the veil. And they’ve yet to gain any insight on whatever is happening inside...” He cleared his throat, likely to deliver the truly pertinent information. “Satoru, it’s Utahime’s class inside that veil, and she went with them.

But Satoru already knew that.

If it had been anyone else, it wouldn’t be Yaga on the phone with him.

Satoru zipped up his parka, his sunglasses perched upon the bridge of his nose. “Tell them I’ll be there in ten,” he said, snatching the phone up into his hand.

Ten minutes?

“No, ten seconds.” Satoru turned to face west, the familiar pull of his cursed technique churning within his gut. In an instant, he materialized on the edge of Tengen’s barrier in Kyoto. “Where are they?”

Minami Ward.

“Hmm.” Once again, Satoru shortened the distance between himself and his destination, space-time skirting the edge of his existence. The first time he had successfully warped himself, he had vomited for hours on end, but not due to the physical sensations of teleportation everybody experienced—no, it had been the sudden existential crisis that did him in.

While it was certainly nauseating to be transported from one place to another in mere milliseconds, it was even more disconcerting being able to see how it was possible with the Six Eyes. Every time Satoru teleported, he would witness the violent collapse of space-time around him while pulling reality into a negative, nonexistent space, only for it to be completely fine within the blink of an eye. The concept was far too complex for an ordinary human mind to grasp, but luckily for Satoru Gojo, he wasn’t an ordinary human—if he could be considered human at all.

Satoru looked around, his Six Eyes locking onto the large, f*ck-off veil about a block over from where he’d materialized. “I see it.”

Satoru, before you do anything—

“If you’re gonna tell me not to go overboard,” he interjected, “don’t bother.” With that, Satoru ended the call, materializing right on the edge of the veil and amidst the sorcerers who were investigating it. He smirked as he observed his audience, noting the surprise on their faces. While his heart was hammering with trepidation, Satoru refused to let that show, boisterously announcing, “The calvary’s here!”

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me…”

Satoru grinned wickedly. “Ah, if it isn’t Hirano-sensei! Long time, no see! Soooo, how are the wife and kids?” Junya Hirano had the same exasperated expression on his face he normally did, only he looked significantly less brittle than he did when he’d been the first year teacher at Tokyo Jujutsu High. Maybe Shoko was right about him transferring to Kyoto because of us…

“Satoru Gojo,” he sighed, “of course.”

For the sole purpose of irking the older man, Satoru pouted. “Well, don’t say my name like that, it’ll hurt my feelings!”

For a moment, Satoru could’ve sworn he heard the man mutter, “The devil doesn’t have feelings,” under his breath, but decided he really didn’t care if he did or not. He was too preoccupied with dissecting the veil before them, trying to pinpoint what about its construction eluded the Grade One sorcerer and his students.

Speaking of the students… Satoru glanced over the three surrounding Hirano, all buzzing with excitement in his presence. From the information his Six Eyes divulged, none of them were particularly special, but they were all rather adept for green sorcerers. They must be the third years of Kyoto then. “Oh, and are these your students, Hirano-sensei?”

The girl of their trio looked about ready to burst, her lips parting to say something, but unable to as Hirano’s voice cut through the air around them. “Now’s really not the time for introductions, Gojo-san,” he lectured, pointing a sharp finger at the veil. “There are children in there who could be in serious danger, and we’re wasting time! While you might not care about what happens to them, we certainly—!”

Suddenly, Satoru punched a single fist through the veil, shattering its outer layer to reveal a hidden inner layer. “Too easy,” he boasted. “Well, for me, at least. You see, there was no way you guys were gettin’ through that thing.” Using his thumb to indicate where the veil had been, Satoru explained, “Whoever put that veil up has some serious skill! Barely any weak points—would’ve taken an entire squadron of Grade One sorcerers with battering rams to create any sorta leverage. Good thing I’m here, huh?”

“Gojo-san, sir!” A hand flew up in the air, one of the two male students regarding Satoru with rigid posture and an intense expression. “Sir, why is there another veil underneath, sir?”

Instead of addressing his strange manner of speaking, Satoru indulged him. “Well, I can’t be too sure this is the case, but,” he answered, “it seems a curse user cast their own veil over the one that was already established.” Indeed, the remaining veil appeared significantly more penetrable than the one he had just shattered, indicating an ordinary caster. However, though vulnerable, its substantial nature told him that it had been cast by someone with more experience than an average student.

This has to belong to Utahime, or the manager with her—meaning, the former had to be alive in there. Deduction told him as much, at least. It was incredibly hard to believe that something capable of taking out Utahime would leave a manager alive. While he would never say this to her directly, Satoru was well-aware that Utahime was simply weak for a sorcerer, not utterly helpless like most managers tended to be.

The female student raised her hand as well, speaking before being called upon. “And why would a curse user do that, Gojo-san?”

Satoru shrugged, moving toward the veil. “Beats the hell outta me.” He lingered for a moment on the edge, turning slightly to look at Hirano and his students. “Now, wait here. Let me handle this, m’kay?” Despite how eager the students appeared, they didn’t make a fuss, and predictably, neither did Hirano.

When Satoru first passed through the veil, his senses were immediately assaulted by a variety of energy signatures. Largely unfamiliar to him, aside from at least two he could recognize. Though, trying to identify their respective sources was similar to trying to distinguish specific flavors from a savory dish. It wasn’t often he struggled to differentiate cursed energy, but walking into an energetic battleground wasn’t exactly a common occurrence, even for him.

Battleground—yes, that's exactly what this was. The southwest wall of the building was crumbling, residuals of exorcised cursed spirits littering about the property in clumps that could only been seen with the Six Eyes. Lifting his sunglasses to get a better scope of his surroundings, he scanned the area. Both to his relief and horror, he picked up on a single aura within the building, vaguely resembling Utahime’s golden honey. Something’s off…

When someone died, there was a certain quality about reality’s fabric the Six Eyes was able to discern. Most times, death was a mere crease that would pull taut in due time as the threads of fate slowly wove themselves into a grand design. Other times, however, one could find a violent tear in the seams, as if the individual had been plucked out of existence with callous disregard to their destiny. It was a particular caveat to the Six Eyes that Satoru preferred not to discuss, having spent the majority of his life compartmentalizing the concept into dozens of tiny little boxes until it had become an afterthought.

And right now, the atmosphere was thick with violent, unprecedented death.

Satoru moved quickly, entering the school building via the nearest entrance. While whoever else had been here did a pretty good job of clearing up the infestation, there were still a few cursed spirits mucking about. They scattered in Satoru’s presence, but couldn’t get very far before he exorcised them with the passive oscillation of his cursed energy—incredible how much damage he could cause without even activating his technique.

The scent of blood filled his nose before his shoes, shielded by Infinity, could even reach the pools of gore splattered about the floorboards. He’d learned long ago not to anticipate a sight before actually seeing it for himself, but he never expected to walk upon the scene he did that evening.

Detached limbs, still clothed in sickly familiar uniforms, were scattered about the halls, viscera weeping from jagged incisions. Those must be the students. Satoru steeled himself, stepping through the crimson puddles to enter the classroom where Utahime’s aura was strongest. A rhythmic thumping spilled through a crack in the door, other guttural sounds accompanying it—teeth gnashing, flesh squelching, and the chitter of creatures communicating. And that must be their manager.

In the center of the classroom, desks and chairs strewn about haphazardly, laid a fresh corpse donning a pressed suit. Mangled beyond immediate identification, its milky eyes were pried open with horror, jaw twisted off its hinges, as if caught amidst a ceaseless scream. Rodent-like curses scurried over the bloodied body, munching on exposed innards through a violent gash down center. If Satoru looked long enough, he might’ve been able to identify which organs had been consumed first, but such questions were better left unanswered.

Instead, Satoru turned toward the true novelty in that classroom. While half the cursed rats were occupied with feasting upon the deceased manager, the other half were throwing their puny bodies wildly at the hydrous barrier which held Utahime in suspension. The substance, translucent and lustrous, appeared fluid-like, but responded to touch as if it were a rigid, impenetrable object. From information gleaned using his Six Eyes, the barrier belonged to a cursed spirit as opposed to a sorcerer’s cursed technique. But whatever the spirit, it’s long gone now—which made the barrier’s persistence even more interesting.

With the snap of his fingers, the room of cursed rodents had been exorcised, the symphony of squeaks disappearing just as quickly. Satoru approached the barrier, jaw set firmly as he observed Utahime. She was covered in blood from head to toe, though not much of it was her own, hair and fabric floating about her as if submerged in pool water. And though her eyes were closed, she wasn’t asleep—her expression was far too troubled, if he were to go on all the times he’d watched her as she slept.

There was a chance that, once he broke her free from stasis, Utahime would gain consciousness immediately, forced to gaze upon the dismembered corpses of her students and the auxiliary manager. It would likely be too much for her to bear—Stop, I need to concentrate…! Could he warp her? No, warping’s out of the question—there was no telling how this substance might have weakened her constitution, and teleportation would only make that worse. Oh, Utahime—who knew how much she had already seen?

Blow after blow, his thoughts were dealing damage to his frantic heart, alight with an unbearable mixture of emotion. He was struggling to compartmentalize, and what Utahime needed in that moment was his penchant for objectivity—notindecision. A frustrated growl ripped through his throat as he shouted, “Ah, to hell with this!”

Impulsively, Satoru flicked his finger against the center of the barrier, shattering it to—well, he would’ve said pieces, but it more so dissolved into a gaseous powder. He caught Utahime’s half-conscious body with his right arm, smoothing his left palm over her distressed face when she began to grumble incoherently. “It’s okay, Hime,” he murmured, “I got you. Let’s get you outta here.”

Hooking his left arm under her knees, Satoru lifted Utahime up to his chest, using his right hand to cradle the back of her head. Honey brown eyes, dazed and murky, peered up at him wordlessly—she was far too addled to speak. “Listen to me, Utahime…” The timbre of his voice had deepened instinctively, bringing a sense of gravity to his words as he told her, “I need you to look only at me, okay? You will not look anywhere else, except at me, do you understand?”

As if trying to force herself into focus, Utahime squeezed her eyes shut before reopening them, only to grimace at the result. Her bottom lip quivered open in an attempt to speak, but only a sharp hiss followed. Utahime was far too disoriented to protest, her defiant spirit cooling in the face of reluctant acceptance. Then finally, she nodded at him, throat stirring with uncertainty.

Whatever that substance had been, it was flushing out of her system rather quickly, but not quickly enough for autonomy. Her limbs were still uncoordinated, flopping into her lap with gelatinous motion. And it was likely her head would have lulled about without the support of Satoru’s hand. She had no choice other than to listen to him; to trust him.

“Good girl,” he whispered, boring his eyes into hers. “Keep looking at me, okay?” To test that Utahime would commit to holding his gaze, Satoru took a few tentative steps, waiting to see if her eyes would naturally roll about to examine her surroundings. But they didn’t.

So he continued, moving through the doors of the classroom and out into the hallway. From the way her nose twitched, Satoru knew she had smelled the blood, her eyes widening with an acute terror. She exhaled roughly through her nose, a strangled whine pushing past her lips, trying desperately to communicate her fears. “Shh, it’s okay, Hime,” he cooed. “Breathe. Just breathe.”

Despite her rising panic, she stubbornly held his gaze, taking in a shaky breath. As her eyes glistened with fresh, hot tears, Satoru tightened his grasp on the back of her head to mirror the sensation in his chest. “I know, it’s okay...” The soothing whispers—so uncharacteristically tender—were spilling out of him just as her tears had begun to spill down her trembling cheeks. “It’s gonna be okay, Hime. I promise, it’s okay. Just look at me.”

When they were out of the building and had reached the edge of the veil, Satoru tore his gaze away from her, steeling his expression. While it may have been fine to do alone, it was much too dangerous for him to show such tender consideration for Utahime in front of anyone else, regardless of her feelings. So, he flicked his head forward, dropping his sunglasses back onto his nose to disguise his eyes. Then, with the proliferation of his aura, he dismantled Utahime’s veil to reunite themselves with Hirano and his students.

Typically, Satoru would boast a charismatic grin before cracking a joke to ease the tension at these times, but he didn’t. Instead, he glanced over at the three young sorcerers. Perhaps they would have to face the horrors in that building someday, but he wouldn’t be the one to lead them there. “Hirano-sensei,” he intoned, “don’t let those kids go into that building.”

Hirano blinked, swallowing down his emotions. “Are the first years…?”

Don’t,” Satoru repeated, “let those kids go inside. Call for administration, let them take care of it.” He moved past the older man, approaching the anxious auxiliary manager standing beside a company car. “Utahime needs medical attention. Take us to campus, will ya?”

~

It had been two hours since Satoru brought Utahime to the infirmary on Kyoto campus, an hour and a half since Shoko bitched him out over the phone for not calling her before taking Utahime to some ‘quack’ as she had so eloquently put it, and about thirty minutes since Utahime insisted on making her formal report to Gakuganji. While he had very gently—very reasonably—suggested she go home and rest before such a strenuous task, she rebuffed him with cold indignation, a momentary mark upon her despondent expression.

I’m not a teaching assistant anymore, Gojo,” she had spat, though her venom seemed to lack direction. “It’s my duty as a teacher to take accountability at times like these. I need to report everything while it’s still fresh in my mind, or else I’ll forget the important stuff...” Despite her conviction, Utahime’s entire being had quaked violently, emotional upheaval rumbling beneath the surface. “If you’re tired, go home. I can manage just fine on my own.

And while she had slammed the door so callously in his face, Satoru had no intention of leaving her side. She would have to find a way to kill him before he would dare leave her alone in this state. Because, while Utahime could certainly hollow herself out to cope in a crisis, she couldn’t possibly maintain it. Unlike him, she couldn’t bury her bottled emotions—they all cracked within due time.

So, he leaned against the wall across from the principal’s office, his gaze fixed upon Utahime’s flickering aura as she sat before Gakuganji. Although he couldn’t hear their conversation, Satoru could piece together certain things based on the way their cursed energy interacted. Really, it was just one emotional response after another. Though, both mirrored each other in the way they reined themselves in. Wow, didn’t realize they got along so well—it was a bit disturbing.

After several more minutes, Utahime finally rose to her feet before exiting out into the hall, a small sigh escaping her lips as she pressed the door closed behind her. The moment her eyes landed upon Satoru, she solidified her blank expression, averting her gaze. “Oh, you’re still here?”

Satoru didn’t move, allowing Utahime to join him on the wall. “I said I would be.” He looked at her, noticing how the blood had dried upon her skin and clothing. Her kosode had been ripped near her left shoulder, revealing the gauze haphazardly wrapped around the wound she’d acquired at the mission site.

“Actually, you didn’t say anything,” she pointed out humorlessly, eyes heavy with exhaustion.

“To be fair,” he retorted, “you didn’t exactly give me a chance to.”

“I suppose not.”

Satoru turned to face her, hands buried in his pockets. “Want me to take you home?”

“You don’t have to.” Utahime pushed herself off the wall, shaky hands clasped together in an attempt to keep herself grounded. There was no distinct emotion on her face, her empty gaze landing everywhere except for his face—a distinct contrast to his directive when he had carried her to safety earlier. “I can get home just fine on my own.” Her shoulders shook with the measured breath she’d taken.

“Mmm, yeah, no,” he said, shaking his head, “I’d rather you not.” Satoru didn’t wait for permission, slipping his arm around her waist and pulling her close.

“Gojo, wait, you don’t—”

He smirked. “No, I assure you that I do.” Without further delay, Satoru and Utahime materialized in front of a particular door, ‘Iori’ written in a placard beneath the peephole. He had never actually been there before, only having secured the coordinates from administration and nothing more, and though he certainly didn’t need the confirmation, Satoru still asked, “This it?” If only for the sake of propriety.

“Yes.” Utahime gulped in a breath, pushing herself out of Satoru’s arms. Sliding her finger on the digital keypad, she keyed in a code, then gave the door a push when alerted by the chime. Utahime let herself into the apartment before turning to face Satoru while, somehow, still not daring to actually look up at his face at all. “Um, thanks,” she murmured, “for taking me home. I’ll call you tomorrow, or—”

“Why call me tomorrow?” Satoru’s fingers wrapped around the edge of the door, pushing it wider. “I’m staying over.”

Utahime furrowed her brows, but couldn’t seem to muster up enough energy nor spirit to glare at him. “You really don’t have to.” Of course, she was still encumbered with repressed emotions, the anguish roiling within her chest. Her voice had given it all away—the tremors within her words, the lack of heat when she said his name, and the frailty of her cadence. Fighting him was not something she felt like doing, and Satoru was well-aware of this.

“No, I probably don’t,” he responded, “but I want to.” Satoru bore down upon her, hoping she might finally return his gaze. “You don’t have to do this alone, Utahime.”

Stubbornly, however, Utahime turned away from him as she muttered, “Fine.” She plopped down onto the stool in her entryway, yanking the hem of her hakama up to pick at the laces on her boots. Only, despite how desperately she tried to push confidence into her fingertips, her hands were far too jittery to make any real progress. As he shut the door and kicked off his own shoes, he could’ve sworn he heard her swear, “Damnit,” under her breath.

Regardless if he had actually heard it or not, and without asking, Satoru crouched in front of her, pushing her hands away. “Let me do it.” Utahime snatched her hands up into her lap, but didn’t try to fight back as he eagerly took on her task. He looked up at her face briefly to gauge her mood, noting just how closely she watched his long fingers while they worked the laces apart.

And as if to acknowledge his gaze without returning it, Utahime said, “I’ve been wearing them all day.”

Satoru moved his eyes back onto his task, humming his acquiescence. “I assumed so.”

“They—well, my socks—they might not smell very fresh, you know?” She sounded absent, presenting uncertainties and concerns with little motivation to do anything about it. For a brief moment, it occurred to him that Utahime might be rattling off all the neurotic little thoughts she had, too emotionally fried and physically exhausted to employ a filter or engage her inhibitions.

“And if they don’t?” Satoru presented, pulling off one of her boots and dropping it onto the ground. “They’re feet, Utahime. I really don’t care what they smell like.” Then, as if to illustrate his point, he slid her sock off and plopped it onto the ground next to her boot. Her skin and muscles were tender, encouraging him to work his fingers around her exposed foot.

When she sighed in relief, he smiled. “Feels good?”

“Yeah, kind of.” Utahime cleared her throat, the hands in her lap gripping each other so tightly, her knuckles were white. “I…I really want to bathe.”

Satoru worked a bit quicker, nodding his head as he quickly removed her other boot. “Okay, sounds good.” She needs to get all that blood off her, it’s gonna start driving her crazy eventually. “I’ll run the bath for you,” he suggested, performing the same soothing massage on her other foot.

Breaking her next sigh of relief, Utahime protested weakly, “You really don’t have to…” Another glimpse into her psyche had been gifted to him, a bite-sized sample of what made Utahime tick, and Satoru couldn’t seem to fully comprehend it.

“I know.” Satoru wouldn’t waste anymore time explaining to her that everything he was doing, and would continue to do that night, was what he wanted to do. But it must’ve been hard for someone like Utahime, a woman who lived by her obligations, to accept that someone else could want to take care of her without them—even if, he believed, she deserved all the tenderness the world had to offer.

It wasn’t difficult for him to navigate the apartment in the dark, but Satoru made sure to flick on whatever light he could for Utahime’s sake. In the bathroom, he shrugged off his parka, draping it over his lap once he’d perched himself on the edge of the bathtub. The sound of rushing water filled the tight confines of Utahime’s bathroom, his fingers slicing through the rising surface to gauge the temperature and adjust accordingly. With consideration to how long it might take Utahime to undress and shower, Satoru let the water run a little hotter, knowing it would cool down to the right temperature by the time she was ready to get in.

That’s good enough. He shut the water off, lifting himself up onto his feet as he shook bathwater off his hands. Over the cyclical pitter of water in the tub, Satoru could hear a series of breathy struggle noises behind him. He knew Utahime had come in not long before so he wasn’t particularly surprised—just curious.

Satoru moved into the doorway separating the shower and bathtub from the main bathroom, his eyes landing upon Utahime as she stood in front of the mirror above the sink. Her eyes were dancing between staring at herself in the mirror and glaring at her trembling fingers as she tried to undo the knot holding up her hakama. With each glance to her disheveled, bloody appearance in the mirror, she seemed to grow more distressed, making it even less possible for her hands to still long enough to undo her clothing. “Damnit,” she hissed through clenched teeth.

Once again, Satoru didn’t wait for permission.

Dropping his parka atop the laundry basket nearby, he moved himself between Utahime and the mirror, placing his hands over hers with gentle consideration. “Let me do it,” he implored, her fingers nearly vibrating within his grasp. As he swiped a thumb over her knuckles, he noticed the grime under her fingernails that would have to be scrubbed away. Her students’ blood…

Though she still wouldn’t meet his gaze, Utahime nodded. “Okay.”

As he worked the knots of her hakama loose, the question of her poor, yet persistent posturing as detached and undaunted occurred to him. Sure, he had found it understandable when she’d hardened herself for the delivery of her report since resiliency was expected of those in jujutsu society, regardless of her status as an educator; but it was just the two of them right now. She didn’t need to put on a brave face for him.

Then, as her torn hakama dropped into a heap around her ankles, it occurred to Satoru that Utahime didn’t actually cry very often—or, at least, not in front of him. Each memory he had of her tears, he could count on one hand, and within each memory, he distinctly recalled how Utahime had immediately wiped them away. Odd, considering Utahime felt things very deeply and had a tendency to wear her heart on her sleeve. Does she not feel comfortable crying in front of me?

But shouldn’t he have been the one person she felt most comfortable being vulnerable around?

No, probably not—at least, not with her grief. He had killed that opportunity long ago when he was fifteen, stumbling across Utahime as she sobbed over a dead kitten’s corpse she’d had cradled in her palms.

Tokyo Jujutsu High had a significant problem with the overpopulation of cats. No matter where you were on campus, you were bound to see at least one lounging about. There had been quite a few efforts to cull the population over the years, and Utahime had been particularly passionate about finding humane ways to do so. She had started regularly capturing the feral animals during her time at Jujutsu High with the intention of having them neutered and spayed before releasing them back into the wild.

He’d heard she completed these operations out of her own pocket for her entire first year before raising it up with faculty in second year, successfully securing a small fund from HQ to continue her efforts after providing them with evidence that her humane method was effective. Satoru had mocked her, noticing how much trouble she went through to take care of the campus cats as if they were her own. Utahime, of course, had never been deterred, continuing about her activities and roping in others on campus to join her which was the exact reason faculty had carried on her efforts, despite her absence, to this day.

One day, Utahime had found a litter of kittens in the garden shed, dedicating herself to caring for them and their feral mother upon discovery. While introducing them to the cats, she had told himself, Shoko, and Suguru that socializing the kittens with people would make it easier to capture them for fixing once they were old enough, just in case she couldn’t find them homes. He still remembered each of their names as he’d been the one to come up with them and, for whatever reason, Utahime let them stick—Strawberry, Mango, Matcha, and Red Bean.

The Mochi’s!” Satoru had exclaimed, hands still sticky with red bean paste. “Hmm, wonder if they’ll start a cover band when they’re older. Quick, Utahime, teach ‘em how to sing! We could be rich!

Gojo, you’re already rich,” Utahime had grumbled. Of course, he beamed brightly in return, as the whole purpose had been to boast his wealth to begin with. They had all taken a particular liking to Mango, an orange ball of chaotic energy which climbed over their shoulders and tangled himself in their hair.

While Utahime clearly loved them all, however, she had a soft spot for Red Bean. She was a weepy little thing, soft white with a funny tuft of orange between her ears. It was clear she was the runt of the litter, walking on what seemed to be a bum leg, and spending a majority of her time sleeping in the crook of Utahime’s arm while she mewled at any sudden motions. Just from the warmth in her eyes alone, he could tell Utahime had fallen in love with the tiny creature.

You should keep her, Utahime-senpai,” Shoko had suggested.

And Utahime hummed. “Maybe…

So it shouldn’t have surprised Satoru when he’d come across Utahime on her knees in the garden shed, cradling the lifeless little body of Red Bean in her trembling palms as she wailed. “She’s dead,” she had sniffled, “I don’t know what happened…I came to feed them, and t-then…she-she wouldn’t wake up, so I…

Satoru had been completely out of his element, frozen in the doorway as he stared down at her. He had never really experienced grief in the ways other people seemed to. Death couldn’t rattle him when he could see it woven through the universe’s seams, pain couldn’t be felt when nothing could reach him, and anguish couldn’t touch his heart if he had none to begin with. So, he’d found her red cheeks amusing, her eyes swollen with unyielding sadness bringing an odd chuckle into his throat. Utahime was so pathetically human, it made him uncomfortable…

And that was because, secretly, there’d been a part of him that wish he could feel that way too.

Y’know, you’re real ugly when you cry, Utahime,” he had said, gripping the doorframe to cope with the deep discomfort she’d evoked within his chest. “Seriously though, it’s just a cat. It was only alive for, like what, a week? Better it die now with a belly full of milk than later when it’s inevitably eaten by a fly head. Nothing to get so hysterical over.” Satoru had left her alone immediately after that, embarrassed with himself because, as harsh and brutish as he had been about it, that had been his way of comforting her.

Satoru undid her now-tattered kosode, pushing it down her shoulders until it, too, crumpled into a heap at her feet. Utahime shivered under his gaze, dressed only in her underwear now. She was wearing a lacy white bra and a pair of white cotton panties, her porcelain complexion contrasting the splotches of dark blood dried onto her skin. He grabbed up her hands into his own, rubbing his thumbs over the ridges of her knuckles. “It’s okay to be sad, Utahime.”

It’s what he should’ve told her back in that garden shed all those years ago.

When she didn’t respond, Satoru released her with the intention of leaving her to bathe alone. But, much to his surprise, Utahime stopped him by catching his arm. Naturally, he looked at her with a curious expression, but found that her gaze was stubbornly fixed elsewhere in her crusade to avoid eye contact with him. “Could you…help me…?” Utahime requested, her whole body trembling. “I’m s-shaking too much…”

“Yeah,” he rasped, “of course, I can.” With Utahime’s permission, Satoru tended to her carefully, moving into position behind her. He started by unclasping her bra, sliding the garment down her arms until it dropped to the floor. With consideration, he crouched down, smoothing his reverent palms over the quivering skin of her back until his fingers scooped under the hem of her panties and pulled those down too.

Then, he straightened himself back up onto his feet, eyes fixed on the white ribbon which had likely loosened considerably since she’d first tied it earlier. Wrapping his finger around it, Satoru pulled the ribbon until her bow had come completely undone, her hair falling onto her shoulders. He had still only seen her back, doing his best to preserve her modesty as he assisted her. It didn’t matter if he’d already seen her naked once before, he wanted to be as respectful as possible in this situation.

Satoru smoothed his hands over her shoulders and down her biceps, minding the gauze wrapped around her left arm. “Come.” Her urged her gently toward the shower, and she moved without any resistance. Leading her to the stool under the shower head, Satoru encouraged Utahime to take a seat. “I’m gonna turn on the water…”

In return, he received the wordless nod of Utahime’s head.

Determined to stay behind her, Satoru reached over her seated form to grasp the retractable shower head into his hand, then turned on the water while pointing it away from Utahime. The shower roared to life, Satoru running a tentative hand under the stream of water to gauge the temperature. Once he determined it was acceptable, he moved the shower head above Utahime, allowing the water to spill over her crown and throughly soak the caked tresses.

He could feel stray droplets of water dampening his trousers, but Satoru didn’t care. Raking his fingers through her hair, he watched as water tinged with red slid down the length of her pale back until it eventually reached the white tiled floors, inevitably circling the drain before disappearing. Despite how the water gradually seeped through his clothes, clinging to his skin, Satoru took his sweet time bathing her.

He massaged her scalp as he shampooed her hair, rubbing her temples until her tense shoulders eased with relaxation. He smoothed his fingers through each cleansed tress with conditioner, working out knots with a wide-tooth comb she had hanging on the shower caddy nearby. Aside from the occasional sigh and sharp, shaky inhale, Utahime stayed completely silent, letting him bathe her with this silent, uninhibited adoration coursing through him.

But as he prepared to scrub her skin with a wash cloth lathered in floral-scented body wash, the sudden sound of her voice brought him significant pause. “You can look at me,” she told him softly, “I…I wouldn’t mind you looking at me...”

It was all Satoru needed to switch vantage points, repositioning himself immediately to face her. His eagerness to crouch in front of her naked form wasn’t fueled by some salacious thoughts, but rather, a deep desire to take better care of her. He’d been wondering how he would scrub the grime from underneath her fingernails in a manner that would be physically comfortable for her; how he would wash away the bloodstains from her cheeks when he couldn’t see her face.

Upon his adjustment, Satoru searched her face for any sliver of doubt, identifying her downcast gaze as her lips formed a firm line. Her expression was simultaneously benumbed and anguished, and though her eyes appeared glassy, she held back whatever tears he knew her heart begged to shed. But aside from that, she seemed resolute in the permission she’d granted him.

Very gently, he began to scrub at her skin, loosening stains which hadn’t been washed away in the initial baptism. Each limb was accounted for; every minute attachment of her virtuous silhouette taken into consideration. He scrubbed under each fingernail, between each toe, and behind each ear. Her creamy skin was drenched with the fruits of his labor, froth spilling down the expanse of her tummy and over the tops of her thighs as it washed away all evidence of the horrific evening.

Satoru ensured to take greater heed of her intimate parts, soapy hands grazing over the pebbled peaks of her breasts, the curve of her backside, and the delicate space between her thighs without any ulterior motives. Though, he was certain she could see the way his hardened bulge strained against the wet fabric of his trousers, it didn’t seem to concern her much. It was only natural for an erection to form in this scenario, and it wasn’t as if it were of a lecherous nature.

No, what had really thickened his veins with arousal was the intimacy between them, simmering his blood until it flooded his chest with warmth. The way Utahime exposed herself to him with such ease, implicitly trusting him not to do anything unbecoming, even despite their history together. She laid herself bare, in her most primal state, making herself available to his touch; vulnerable to the ministrations of his fervid fingers and the penetrative weight of his gaze.

In return, Satoru worshipped her the way a wretch would a deity, praying for salvation.

Eventually, the time came to wash her face. Satoru lifted his tender hands to her cheeks and gingerly rubbed his thumbs over her skin, noticing the way her honeyed eyes fluttered to a close as he wiped her face clean. It didn’t take long to do so, but he chose to linger anyway. He used the opportunity to trace her features the way he once did years ago, wondering if his greedy fingertips still remembered the slope of her nose and the curve of her cupid’s bow. Her muscles were completely relaxed, shallow breaths ghosting the skin of his hands as he showered her in an ardent caress. God, you’re so beautiful…

While her eyes remained closed, her brows furrowed deeply, and Satoru was horrified. “Sorry,” he told her genuinely, releasing her face as he realized that he’d blurted out his compliment in a most fervent whisper. “Anyway, I’m done. The bath is ready, so you can hop in, if you want.”

Satoru stood, shutting off the shower. He gave his damp t-shirt a shake, droplets of water flying with the motion. I’ll have to throw my clothes in the dryer when she’s in bed. Stepping toward the bathtub, he plunged his fingers into the water and determined the temperature was just right. “It’s still warm, if you…”

He trailed off as he turned to face her, noticing that she had stood up from the stool. Utahime shivered violently, her bottom lip trembling as her wet hair clung to her clean, naked skin. Her brows were knitted together fiercely, misty eyes glistening as hot, unspilled tears gathered at the corners of her eyes. “Gojo,” she choked, finally meeting his gaze for the first time since he carried her out of that building, “I watched them die…”

A dam had been broken as he held her eyes, as if finally crushed beneath the weight of the sky she had been holding up with her shoulders alone. This mountain of a woman, keeled over by a sorrow so profound, it couldn’t be fathomed—oh, how she wept. The initial sob was silent and strangled, her hands seeking purchase on her own biceps as she hugged herself for comfort, digging her fingers into the shallow wound on her left arm which had been treated adequately enough to not reopen.

Then, Satoru scooped her weakened body up into his arms. “I’m sorry,” he whispered feverishly, lips latching themselves to the top of her head in a contrite kiss, “I’m so sorry, Utahime. I’m sorry.”

Utahime clung onto him, wailing into his chest. Her body shuddered with each fractured sob, weakening her ability to stand. She screamed what she’d witnessed that night, her anguished retelling nearly incomprehensible, “…blood! So much blood…everywhere, all over me! Their limbs…bodies…shredded…!”

Satoru grasped the sides of her lolling head. Her fingers circled weakly around his wrists as he stared into her swollen, tear-streaked face as it twisted with suffering, her grimacing, wet mouth keening like a banshee. His hands were trembling as he held onto her, burning this image into his mind so he would never forget it.

Working his thumbs against the strained muscles of her cheeks, Satoru tried to calm her, his heart hammering with unexpressed despair. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” is all he could repeat, because he didn’t know how to make it better—how could he possibly remedy something like this?

But he knew he couldn’t, because for all his strength and godlike power, he didn’t possess any ability that could soothe the woman he loved.

Eventually, her incoherent screaming died, but not her heart-wrenching wails. At a loss, Satoru pulled Utahime into his body, maneuvering them into the bathtub. Fully clothed, Satoru settled them both into the warm water. With her back to his chest, he tucked Utahime into him, holding onto her tightly where she would weep until she physically couldn’t anymore. He held his cheek firmly against her skull, her body rupturing in his arms with strangled sobs. Every cry ripped from her throat felt earth-shattering, as if she might crush it into a fine powder.

And as the water cooled, his clothing soaked down to his underwear, so did Utahime’s lamentation. They both shivered in the tub, only the heat of their bodies remained to take comfort in. “Are you cold?” Satoru dared to ask, lips pressed against the shell of her ear.

He felt her throat stir against his forearm as she nodded. Without any further words exchanged, Satoru lifted himself up to his feet, bringing her with him. They regarded each other for a second through looks alone, Utahime furrowing her brows as her eyes scanned over his body.

Excess water from the fabric of his clothing dribbled into the tub below them loudly, his t-shirt clinging to the hard lines of his torso while the pockets of his trousers were weighed down with moisture. He opened his mouth to say something, but he noticed a glimmer of something suggestive in her expression, causing a licentious ache to coil up in his gut.

To distract himself from the sensation, Satoru stepped out of the tub, grabbing a towel and handing it to her. “I need to wring out my clothes,” he told her, averting his gaze from her naked form. “I’ll throw them in the dryer for a few minutes before putting them back on.”

The towel he had extended to her had been taken from his hand, the sound of fabric rustling meeting his keen ears before Utahime’s feet slapped against the wet floor. “I don’t have a dryer,” she said, earning a puzzled look from him. “This unit only has a washer. I hang my clothes to dry on a clothesline.” She then indicated the wire stretched across from one end of the bathroom to another.

Well, sh*t. Satoru flashed her a tight smile. “Eh, then I guess I’ll have to—”

“You can take them off,” she interjected, her gaze fixated on his chest. “You can take your clothes off, I don’t…I don’t mind.” Utahime’s eyelashes fluttered as she peered up at him slowly. Her face was still swollen from crying, fluffy white towel draped over her body to shield her from his eyes, and somehow, she was still able to turn Satoru on with just a simple look.

As much as he wanted to crack a joke and say something to ease the tension, Satoru was utterly tongue-tied. “Okay.” His voice was hoarser than he’d anticipated, inspiring him to clear his throat. “I’ll, uh…walk around with a towel on. Got an extra?”

Utahime nodded, indicating the bathroom door. “I’ll go grab one.” Before exiting, she dried her feet on the bathmat in front of the door, and then disappeared, leaving Satoru on his own.

He cleared his throat again, trying to get his hormones under control. She just finished scream-crying in your arms, and you’re horny?! Satoru clicked his tongue with disapproval, shrugging his t-shirt off and letting it fall onto the tile with a loud slap. He determined it would be best to take his clothes off first before wringing them out and hanging them up, the sensation on his skin beginning to irritate him.

As he—with great difficulty—pulled off his wet trousers, Satoru noticed that Utahime had returned to the bathroom, but hadn’t announced her presence. Instead, she lingered in the doorway, her gaze heavy on his shoulders. Satoru straightened himself out, looking directly at her. “Towel?”

For a moment, he could’ve sworn Utahime’s eyes flicked down below his navel, but he convinced himself it was just his delusions again. “Here,” she presented, tossing him the towel which he caught with ease.

“Thanks.” Satoru turned away from her, hooking his thumbs below the hem of his underwear with the expectation that she would walk away, but she didn’t. Instead, she lingered in the doorway yet again, her cursed energy pulsing in an unrestrained manner. “A little privacy here, Hime?”

“Oh,” she breathed sharply, “right, I’ll go wait in the bedroom then.”

The bedroom…? Satoru watched as she retreated, his heart pounding so hard against his ribs, he was sure it could be heard from three doors down. Does she want me to meet her…in her bedroom? His blood was simmering, desire burrowing itself deep within his gut. No, that’s probably not what she meant—now wasn’t the time to start projecting his sexual fantasies.

After stripping himself, wringing his clothes out, and hanging them up to dry, Satoru wrapped the towel Utahime had given him around his waist. She didn’t offer me any spare clothing. It had occurred to him that, if Utahime had any sexual partners, she would likely have their clothing stashed away somewhere—though, the concept left a bitter taste in his mouth—but that wasn’t the case. Against his better judgement, Satoru allowed the thought to put a pep in his step as he exited the bathroom, unreasonably gleeful over the love of his life being perpetually single.

Speaking of single, where’s that cat? Satoru had initially aimed to glance about the apartment to find it, but became distracted by Utahime’s melancholic aura. His feet carried him to the open door of her bedroom, peering in to see her sitting on the edge of her bed. She hadn’t put on any clothes like he thought she would have, still covered in that bath towel which was likely damp by now. She seemed to be staring out the window, her honey brown eyes glinting in the moonlight spilling over the darkened room.

Propriety would have told him to announce his presence to her—after all, he was very naked under the towel settled upon his hips, and so was she under the towel she’d wrapped around her torso—but his body had magnetized to hers. Utahime’s presence called to him like a siren song, his feet moving before his mind could even process the action. And by the time his brain had caught up, he was already sitting on the bed beside her. “Utahime?”

Her ink-black hair was still sopping wet, droplets of water spilling down the milky expanse of her décolletage. The moisture on her skin had caught the moonlight, glittering in a way that pulled his eyes to places they shouldn’t be. He wanted to touch her scars again, lap his tongue down their lines to drink the lingering bathwater from her tender flesh. Her teeth caught her bottom lip, bringing focus back to her delicious mouth. It had been almost a year since he last kissed her; since he last got to taste her. She was a craving no sweet could satisfy, and the dew of her skin called to him, milk and honey begging to be consumed.

Utahime turned her head toward him, her lips parting with unspoken words. Her heavy eyes flickered between his devout gaze and wicked mouth. The tension between them had grown as taut as his abdomen, thick and tremulous with an unquenchable thirst. A sinful hunger threatened to consume them if Utahime did not discourage his yearning hand from cupping her cheek. His breath caught in his throat as she leaned into his touch, her sweet eyelashes fluttering to a close.

Greedy, Satoru trailed the pad of his thumb over her parted lips, her staggered breaths catching the ridges of his thumb. It shouldn’t have been possible to want someone as much as he wanted her. He should’ve been struck down by the heavens for finding religion in the ministrations of her lungs—in the form of a lover. In this moment, he would fall to his knees and reject godhood, if it meant becoming witness to Utahime’s fragile edges.

Utahime…” His plea came out as a growl, adding pressure to her peerless lips. Then, she looked directly at him, pupils blown wide as she slid her tongue gently against the tip of his thumb.

And he couldn’t hold himself back anymore.

While the ache of longing coursed through his body, Satoru made sure to handle Utahime with tenderness, grasping each side of her face as he pressed his fevered mouth against hers. The softness of her lips melted him, drawing out an embarrassing whimper as he relished the taste of her. It had been so long—so f*cking long—since he got to devour her vulnerability in this manner, and the idea that he might never get the chance to again made him more frantic.

So when Utahime pulled back from the kiss abruptly, a sinking feeling dragged him down to the metaphorical floor. He was almost ashamed to look away from her gasping, spit-slick mouth, and into her eyes. But he did, and was thoroughly surprised when Utahime gave back a hungrier stare. “Just for tonight, please,” she breathed, her plea cresting into a whine, “I don’t want to think anymore, Gojo. I just want…I want to feel good, please, I—”

Satoru didn’t need to hear anymore, wrapping a hand around her neck and crashing his lips back into hers again. They became a fury of sprawling limbs and loosened towels, Satoru pushing her onto her back and nudging her to the center of the bed as he hovered over her flushed body. He feverishly devoured her lips, fingers tightening around her pretty neck as he used his other hand to strip away her damp towel.

“Show me everything, Utahime,” he growled into her mouth. “Give me everything…

It was his only plea of the evening as he gazed upon her wondrous figure. The hand around her neck had loosened to rest over the base of her throat where her heart pounded ferociously against the inside of his wrist, matching the rhythm of his pulse. His blood, white-hot with ardor, sang for her, just as he used his fingers, lips, teeth, and tongue to play her like an instrument, striking a sweet melody with each moan that spilled from her gasping mouth.

Satoru had flown too close to the sun, fallen head first into Utahime’s ocean. Drowning within her like Icarus—swallowed up in the sea of her scent; submerged in the heat of her kiss. Heaven was the home between her thighs where he would bury his head, using his sharp tongue as a weapon to carve out his legacy into her walls, forcing her to accept his devotion one rich note after another.

And she would sigh into his mouth, tender lips communicating an affection neither would ever be able to speak into words. Utahime held him within the finger lace-locked prison she’d tangled into his mussed white hair. Though, her dark, revelrous eyes were holding his gaze even tighter. Her body continuously shivered under his, either with tumultuous, repressed emotion or the chill of the evening—regardless of which, he would keep her warm.

An urge to cherish her flushed beauty gripped him as he pulled back from their mind-melding kiss. His fingers trembled with eight long years of yearning, flicking hair off her face for unimpeded maundering. Satoru trailed a tender path along the scar which graced her delicate features, acting as the confession he should’ve whispered into her ear that night.

Their breath, hot and sticky with forbidden honey, mingled together in that moment, lips a hair’s breadth apart as they watched each other intently. Something dangerously vulnerable brewed within their mirrored observance, neither brave enough to share, and both far too stubborn to surrender as they slanted their swollen lips together once again.

Though, in a way, Utahime had surrendered to him as she whimpered, “f*ck me,” around his tongue. Any hidden insecurities or doubts that might’ve been in his hazy, lust-addled brain had been melted away by her ardent touch and covetous kiss as he couldn’t deny her any longer, taking the gentleman’s plunge for the very first time in his life. The moment he had buried himself into her silken heat, Satoru had seen stars, and a single thought occurred as he pumped her full of him over, and over, and over again that night…

This might have been the cruelest way for a man to lose his virginity—to a chorus of whimpers, mewls, and moans from the woman he loved as she whispered, “f*ck me,” into his ear. Then again, and again, and again, begging, “Please, Gojo, f*ck me,” as he pounded her into the mattress, sunken into the refrain of her pleasure, their joined bodies making music of each other as Utahime ruined him.

How could Satoru ever be satisfied with anyone other than her?

Notes:

this was actually kinda really emotional, i think i cried like twice while writing this and then it went through a lot of revisions which is why i'm putting it out like a day later than intended....

but yeah, this happened. 13k words and i have none left to even talk about all the things i want to talk about w this chapter. tbh, i think this is some of my best narrative work yet but idk maybe it's just bc i put literally all my emotions into it idk idk idk

we'll discuss in the comments, as usual!!! sorry i'm so out of it rn i am TIRED and ready for bedge and i gotta work at 8am akshfksnf

i hope you enjoyed the chapter and i'll see u in a few days with chapter 15 ;-; which may or may not be this,,,, heavy???

- xoxo, elfsbe

milk & black spiders - elfsbe - 呪術廻戦 (2024)

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