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dreaming wide awake

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“Hurry, hurry!”

“It’s almost ready right?”

“Mimiko, help me, I don’t think I can finish the icing on time!”

“Hey Megumi watch where the dogs are--!!”

-

Gojo steps through the open doors, into what he can only call, home. How unfamiliar that word sounds, like liquid mercury sliding through the cracks of his teeth.

H-o-m-e.

Four letters, yet even this, he was deprived of for so long.

But surrounded by laughter and easy affections, he feels himself coming undone at the seams, old stitches of doubt dissolving into the mirthful atmosphere of his surprise birthday party. Not the first, and definitely not the last. He laughs, genuine delight crinkling at the corner of his eyes, as he swoops down and gathers everyone into a group hug. It is too tight, but no one complains.

-

“Gojo.”

He spins, whips around to face the voice of an impossibility. One whose owner is so achingly familiar he'll know it anywhere. Always.

There is a tangle of incoherence in his head, spools of half formed ideas tugged skyward by each breath, action, word taken by this not-stranger as he approaches him.

Closer,

Closer,

Until finally, they are a mere two feet apart, mirroring each other down to the same golden band on their ring fingers. He cannot tear his eyes away as it glints meaningfully, whispering a secret to the crowd of two. Slowly, Gojo redirects his gaze, and it connects like a rubber band stretched tight.

“I’m back,” the Not-stranger,

Geto

Suguru

Suguru

Suguru

Suguru smiles.

And just like that, all thoughts--all rationale, evaporates into a room filled with empty frames. He near-throws himself forward, an ugly itch behind his eyes and revelation weaving its way into his voice, when he finally hears himself saying the words he never had the chance to last time. “Suguru, you’re back!”

-

There is no blood, no iridescent splash of curse-dyed fabrics. Just Geto coming home from work. He does not think twice as he reaches out, but his arm falters before he can actually make contact, fingertips just barely grazing the soft fabric of Geto’s coat. His muscles twitch, like a skipping stone rippling over the water’s surface. Geto, who sends him an amused look, tucks in his frozen limbs and maneuvers him into an earnestly tender hug. Kisses him gently as if saying, ‘Have you missed me so much you’re at a loss for words?’, and waits until the rock sinks, sliding soundlessly into the depth.

Gojo feels his whole body go lax as he leans into it, hands seeking out crevices of warmth that Geto seems to radiate on a daily basis. He cannot quite fathom why he would be feeling an unsettling bone-deep relief on such a normal day, but he does not care. Geto is back. He is home.

-

They settle into a routine. Weekday evenings belong to the twins’ dance recitals and Tsumiki’s art classes. They are always busy but it never feels like an obligation, never like an unwanted job. No, it was...fun. Idyllic. Strangely comforting in the most resonating way.

A cinnamon-flavored syrupy feeling clogs his chest seeing MimiNana dance on the stage with their team. It digs deeper when they sneak backstage, encouragement on their tongues as they promise the girls a treat after, no matter if they win or lose.

Tsumiki paints a family portrait as her final project, and he clutches it so hard he nearly pokes through the canvas. When he tags along with Megumi to walk the dogs that evening, his steps are ten times lighter, the ceiling of happiness above him unimaginably high.

There are days where Gojo would sit on the living room sofa and marvel at the wedding band on his finger. It was Unreal. How was he so lucky?

-

They go to the amusement park on the weekends; and when they’re sick of that, trips to the beach. Family vacations are nice, Gojo learns. Warmth and memories bundled into something golden.

Photos line the walls of their entryway, a physical evidence of the joy they’ve shared. A younger Mimiko and Nanako’s screaming faces on various rollercoasters and Megumi with a mermaid lower-body sculpted in sand, Tsumiki posing beside him, stick in hand, are the ones deemed “the most embarrassing”. Geto confides in him that he’s saving them all to turn into a video scrapbook for the future.

There are pictures of just them too; snapshots in time during their dates at dessert shops and selfies against graffitied walls. Mainly it’s all Gojo taking the spotlight, but Geto sometimes can be seen clutching his stomach laughing in the background. Gojo squirrels those pictures away in a drawer lest they be stolen and disposed of behind his back.

Various memorabilia from the places they’ve gone also contribute to the growing collection of random knick-knacks in their house: Stuffies are scattered between their bedrooms and the dogs, whereas Gojo’s spontaneous collection of seashells inspires Tsumiki to make a string of art pieces using them for sprucing up their living room but somehow that project expands to the whole first floor.

Geto, in a moment of jest, asks if Gojo is turning into a hoarder. Reflexively, Gojo states that it was more like a dragon protecting his treasure, and the sentiment verberates softly in his mind for the rest of the day.

-

Later in the summer they discover their new favorite place to visit; a nameless aquarium just off the bay. They go first in a group of six, but more and more people start tagging along. It starts with them badgering Megumi into bringing his boyfriend, but then Nobara comes too, later bringing her girlfriend and Megumi’s cousin, Maki. Yuji somehow manages to sweet talk his shy friend Junpei (who was very enthusiastic about jellyfishes) into joining, and when Amanai heard through the grapevine that she wasn’t invited yet, she weasels her way in on the threat of extreme violence.

Sometimes it feels like they are teachers leading a gaggle of school children. Gojo sighs, perplexed. How did a family trip turn into such an event?

He thought it would be exhausting. It’s not. In fact, it takes away nothing from the experience as they shuffle along in groups around the exhibits. His own hand, interlaced with Geto’s, swing between them as they meander side-by-side through the underwater tunnel for the nth time. The tanks seem to stretch into infinity, edges disappearing into a murky blue where only the fishes know where it ends.

As they pass Megumi, Yuji, and Nobara arguing by the shrimp tank, Gojo is overcome with a rush of nostaliga. “Feels like I’m a teacher again, doesn’t it Suguru?”

Geto sends him a weird look, asks him when he started a career in teaching. A slight blip goes across his eyes, a sudden sun spot--but is gone just as fast. He blinks, wondering where the shadow came from, and looks up to see only bubbles floating along the man-made currents in the tank before them, not a manta-ray or shark in sight. Beside him, Geto’s gaze reflects in the polished glass, unexpectedly mellow.

“Huh,” he says, “You’re right, I’ve never been a teacher before. That really came from nowhere.”

His confusion flutters away faster than he can process when Geto tugs him towards where Amanai stands, the young girl waving them down to help take her picture with the lazy hammerhead beyond the glass walls. Their connected hands provide a solid relief to the slight moment of unease, and if he clasps a little harder, Geto doesn’t comment on it either.

-

The days expand into weeks, maybe into months.

Until one day out of the blue, he wakes up and remembers, ‘Oh, I am a teacher.’

 

It is another normal day in the Gojo-Geto household; the family moves efficiently, setting the table to the tune of insignificant small talk, smiling at Gojo like he is something precious. They also welcome him back with eagerness, no different from the 245 days that has passed, and he turns to Gojo, like any normal day, giving him a small peck on the cheeks and says, “I’m back.”

‘A normal day,’ he squeezes the mantra tightly, enduring the hugs and soft kisses and whispered promises using a hollow cassette tape of his voice.

His knuckles, ever so slightly, turns white with how hard he grips the granite counters.

-

The pin drop of resilience weighs as heavy as the sword of Damocles. Gojo endures--until he cannot.

“Oh, Satoru, when did you realize?”

‘I’ve always realized,’ he thinks. ‘I just didn’t want to believe it.’

-

“Suguru” he whines, face sinking deeper into the soft contour of Geto’s neck. All the cards are out on the table, and he is limited to aimlessly extending the game.

His eyes snap shut as he feels Geto running his hand through his hair. If he can't see reality, he can deny it. He can force it out of existance. He can--

“Satoru.” Geto says with an air of finality, his next words taking his heart and twisting. “You should go now.”

“But I don't want to…”

Geto brushes Gojo’s bangs out of the way and sighs, “You know you shouldn’t stay here for too long.”

He does. Alarm bells are ringing in his head because he knows what this is. His six-eyes know exactly what is happening to him.

The consequences of staying. The consequences of going. His eyes can see it all.

And despite that, Geto’s voice still provides that same steadiness, tethering them together like they were 17 instead of 28, a sea of responsibilities dried up to the size of a watering hole.

It only makes him cling harder; accepting, cherishing, the pain when the wedding band digs into his skin. He cannot lie to himself any longer that if he had any other choice, this is the life he would've wanted to live once upon a time.

“Your students, Satoru.” He reminds him.

Gojo’s eyes remain firmly shut. His students. Yes there are them. He still...is needed. Elsewhere. He is always needed. Always always always needed elsewhere. It seems that everyone needs him; everyone but Suguru.

 

His heart is still grappling at the false positives and true negatives, at the consequence of what it entails to let go. Resignation is a small thing; but expands in his ribcage like a second set of lungs. Enveloped by Suguru’s presence like how the sky embraces the sun, all that remains is a sobering reminder that he nearly forgot what it feels like to be loved so gently. Something inside him cracks cleanly in half with the realization that Satoru Gojo has gone on for more years without, than with, Suguru Geto.

 

“What-what have I done to deserve this?” He did not mean for that sentence to come out, but it did. It cannot be stuffed back into the empty cavern of his chest, because it has been spoken into existence, distorting space between their bodies, hanging. He can feel his forehead, hot against Geto’s neck. Can hear Geto’s pause, and wonders how heavy the words behind it weigh.

“Nothing, Satoru. None of this was your fault.”

A dry sob nearly claws its way up his throat. He stamps it out sharply, with as much ferocity as he can, reserved for only the most tenacious of curses. His voice does not tremble. But it is hesitant, a glass sharpnel of his soul melting into one single question.

“Will I see you again?”

 

It feels like he is five and young once more, seeing the world in an all-too focused clarity; too much information, yet not nearly enough. Eyes good enough to see the truth behind everything but a heart that has yet to understand why.

How did this happen to us?

When did you go to a place that I cannot reach?

Suguru, why did it have to be you?

 

Geto says nothing, because Gojo already knew the answer in that first moment they met.

Instead, he carefully brushes Gojo’s hair back again, like he did years ago when Gojo was half-drunk and wholly unstable on his feet.

When he presses his bloodless lips against Gojo’s forehead, it feels like a curse.

“Go,” he murmurs, voice as calm as a creek’s smooth pebbles, “Your students need you.”

 

He didn’t even have time to scream. The words are plucked from his throat, dyed colors of outrage and denial; maybe something in between. Powers beyond his control wrenches him away, and he is suddenly falling, these happy moments slipping through his desperate fingers like how Geto's hands too slipped through of his.

Gojo wakes up, and his forehead burns.