Improvise! Adapt! Overcome! - AnActualBirb - 鬼滅の刃 (2024)

Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Chapter Text

"-and you write it like this..." Zenitsu explained patiently, his tongue peeking out between his lips as he concentrated on demonstrating one of the more complicated Kanji they'd been going over in this lesson in slow, smooth strokes. Inosuke tried his best to pay attention and follow along, he really did, but the expression Zenitsu was sporting was just. Too Much. His face was still soft and plump with baby fat despite being the eldest among them, his eyes were big and sparkly and sometimes Inosuke just wanted to squash life out of him for it! Or, well, rather...

Listen Inosuke knew, alright? Contrary to what a lot of people thought, he wasn’t stupid. You're not supposed to bite someone. It was a weird thing to do, especially out of the blue, and it wasn’t appropriate unless you were being attacked and had no other weapon to defend yourself with. But it’s not the first time he’d gotten the urge, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time if past experience was anything to go by, and he was hardly one to deny himself. He’d held himself back on so many occasions, Zenitsu and Tanjirou would be proud if only they knew.

He shouldn't. He really wanted to. Heshouldn't.

And yet...

Ow! What the hell, Inosuke! Did you just bite me? Why would you do that??” Zenitsu yelped, face pinkening and hands protectively cupping the cheek Inosuke’s teeth had just decided to make friends with. He didn’t bite hard enough to really hurt, he just- he just gently (for Inosuke, anyway) nipped at the apple of his cheek.

Because! Your face is stupid and squishy,” Inosuke defended with his arms crossed, as if it should have been obvious why he’d do such a thing (it wasn’t). Honestly! He’d been so good this whole lesson, sitting still (which he, admittedly wasn’t the best at) and giving it all the focus he could muster (even though he could really only remember the first few they did) and he felt like he deserved a little treat for it.

“You can’t just bite people, you beast! It’s rude! Apologize!” Zenitsu shrieked at him.


“Say you’re sorry!!”


Zenitsu grabbed him by the shoulders, to do what exactly Inosuke would never know because he immediately threw him over the table and tacked him so that they were rolling over the floor in a shouting heap.





“It’s probably just cuteness aggression,” Tanjirou interjects from across the room - where he’s brushing and braiding Nezuko’s hair - before Zenitsu could dump the pot of ink they’d been using over Inosuke's head.

C-cu-cuteness aggression?” Zenitsu squaked, face growing even redder by the second. The nerve! The sheer audacity to even imply...!

“What’s that?” Inosuke asked plainly, as if he wasn’t hovering over Zenitsu with the boy’s foot digging into his gut, poised and ready flip him over for the umpteenth time in this little impromptu wrestling match.

“You know, when you think something’s so cute and you kinda just want to squeeze it! Or, well, bite it, I suppose,” Nezuko explained, violently hugging a pillow to illustrate her point, nearly ripping the half-finished braid from Tanjirou’s good hand as he scrambled to keep the strands in place while she moved.

“That has a name?”

“It does!”

“Not you too, Nezukooo!” Zenitsu wailed tearfully, shoving Inosuke off him so he could yell at the ceiling, “I resent the implication! Anyway, that excuses nothing! Nothing! Owch!" he yipped as Inosuke's teeth claimed another spot on his forearm. "Tanjirouuu, he did it again!”

“Okay, okay, that’s enough Inosuke, give Zenitsu a break,” Tanjirou snickered, and in retaliation Inosuke tackled him to the ground before grabbing his face and affectionately nipping at his forehead, then legging it out of the house with mad booming laugher following in his wake.

“What, I’m not cute enough to bite?” Nezuko huffed in mock offence, but she giggled at the shock on her blushing brother’s face. “Haha! Inosuke thinks you guys are cuuute!” she teased with a Cheshire grin.

Tanjirou blew a raspberry at her and sat back up so he could comb his fingers through the loosened plait. Looked like he’d have to start it over again after all.


Tanjirou could taste blood in his mouth - his sister’s blood, he knew, he’d bitten her after all.

He was surrounded by enemies - each reeking of fear, horror and desperation - and his new demonic instinct were so pleased, so enamored with his new power that in the back of his mind, where he was still human, he felt utterly sick with it. He was in his element, he wanted more, he wanted to cry.

Nezuko was still clinging to him, begging for him to fight it, to come back to them, and he ignored her as much as he wished that he would do exactly as she asked. The light of morning burned him, and yet he adapted. He could sense how thrilled Muzan was - deeper down still than what was left of him in this state - with how quickly he conquered the sun, with the carnage he could wreak on the few remaining Demon Slayer Corps right then and there. They were so weak, and he’d crush them for it. It was what he wanted. It was awful. It was intoxicating.

You did that’, Muzan says, ‘they hate you.’

He lashed out with an arm that shouldn’t have been there, and he saw out of an eye that should have been completely useless. It felt as natural that he’d be able to as much as it felt wrong. A broken sword in his side that feels like nothing. A jagged blade at his neck but it hesitates, and sensing the weakness he strikes. He enjoys it. He hates it. He feels on top of the world. He feels like the lowest scum of the earth.

He lunges for the nearest moving, breathing thing, and he -

- Wakes with a gasp, reaching for a sword that was no longer needed and therefore was not there.

“Tanjirou?” a voice softly calls from his right - his blind side - and he can see an arm outstretched as if it were about to wake him. His head whips towards it so fast he nearly feels his neck start to cramp. His left arm itches with numbness, and he’s glad for it.

With a ragged breaths Tanjirou busts into tears.

sh*t, hey, you’re alright, it’s okay, you were just having a nightmare,” Zenitsu gently assures him, kneeled next to his futon. Slowly, as if trying not spook him, he’s pulled into strong arms and sweet little whispers of reassurance are being poured into his ear. He can hear Inosuke’s happy, oblivious snores to his left - can smell Nezuko’s very human scent everywhere - and cries harder, muffling the sound into the shorter boy’s chest. There are fingers delicately scratching at his scalp and a hand rubbing soothing circles into his back. He desperately hugs clings to Zenitsu, willing himself to calm down so the other boy can go back to sleep, but it feels impossible.

“Sorry-” Tanjirou hiccups, “-I’m sorry I woke you.”

“No, Tanjirou, don’t apologize. We all get nightmares, you know? It’s fine, you’re fine. Besides, I wouldn’t want you to be alone like this anyway, alright?” Zenitsu consoles, resting his chin on the crown of Tanjirou’s head with a sigh. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Flashbacks. It’s just flashbacks. When Muzan turned me into a demon. I couldn’t- I couldn’t stop myself, all I could do was watch while I hurt people, I was gonna - I was - I -”

“That wasn’t your fault.”

“I know, I know, still it was just...”

“...I can imagine it must have been horrible.”


“You didn’t kill anyone.”

“I would have -” Tanjirou sobbed, if it wasn’t for Kanao he would have.

“But you didn’t, that’s the important part, so just, just focus on that. Okay? If not for yourself, then for the rest of us who care about you.”

Tanjirou could only nod in reply and cling to Zenitsu even tighter. He doesn’t know at what point Zenitsu started quietly humming or gently rocking him back and forth, but it eases him until he eventually feels like a person again.

There are birds chirping in the dark outside. Zenitsu yawns tiredly.

“You should go back to sleep, I’m alright,” Tanjirou whispers at him, gently pushing him back in the direction of the boy’s futon.

“Hmm, you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m okay, thank you,” he assures with a weak smile. Zenitsu just looks at him for a moment before nodding, like he’s made a decision.

He lets go of Tanjirou and nudges his shoulder. “Lie down, will you?”

As soon as Tanjirou's on his back Zenitsu’s lifting the blanket and crawling under it with him, snuggling against his side and resting an arm over his waist with a reassuring squeeze.

“Go back to sleep, Tanjirou,” Zenitsu sleepily mumbled into his shoulder before almost immediately passing out.

When Tanjirou wakes again a few hours later it’s to a loud snore in his ear. He cracks open his good eye to find Inosuke plastered to his other side - not even having bothered to crawl under the blanket and nearly on top of him, mind you - with a leg and an arm possessively thrown over him and Zenitsu. He can’t remember at which point during his breakdown he’d stopped hearing him snore, but when he’d fallen asleep the room had been distinctly quiet. Tanjirou’s heart felt too big for his chest.


It dawns on Zenitsu once again, like it often does, that he genuinely can’t believe he’s managed to somehow stay alive to see the aftermath of it all. He’d always been so sure that he’d just be another name in the list of casualties, always so certain of his own demise that now he sort of just. Doesn’t know what he wants to do with the life he has? He never planned that far ahead, it always seemed pointless.

He once used to feel like he had a clear plan in mind but then again, looking back, finding a wife and then tearfully dying on the battlefield seemed less and less like the solid idea he thought it was at the time. Once he’d found a woman willing to marry him, what would he even do? Perish with the comforting knowledge that he’d leave someone waiting, someone that deigned to mourn him for a while? Is that really all he wanted? It all just seemed - sad. At least compared to what he had now.

Obviously he was still sans a wife and all, but honestly? He was more or less content.

There was no real impending doom hovering over him aside from the occasional bouts of inexplicable panic that would crawl into his bones and make a home there when he wasn’t looking, but even then, it’s not like he was alone. As insecure as he felt sometimes while comparing himself to his friends, at least he had friends.

No, no, wait, that wasn’t quite right. He had a family, as unconventional it might be. And in the end, that’s what he really wanted, wasn’t it? People he could care for, people who would care for him, even with all of his faults. He was just glad to have realized it at all. Better late than never, as the saying goes.

“You’re quiet today,” Nezuko comments as she waits for the rice to cool down, “are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, just thinking. All good things don’t worry about it,” Zenitsu assures as he continues to chop vegetables. He’s more than alright, he feels... utterly serene.

“I know what you mean,” Nezuko smiles at him, “In spite of the past few years, things are so good right now, wouldn’t you say?”

He hums and happily reflects the smile back at her. “I’d go so far as to say it’s almost perfect.”

Almost, hm?” she teases, and he catches her glancing mischievously between him and the window where, outside, they had a clear view of their other two housemates in the distance as Inosuke insists on chopping the logs so Tanjirou could gather them and toss into the inferno of the burning charcoal kiln.

He can clearly hear Inosuke loudly chattering on about the rabbits he’d caught them for supper, going into great detail on how he could track and hunt even without using his spacial awareness because he was just that awesome, as Tanjirou happily listened to him ramble with such a gorgeously fond look on his face that Zenitsu could feel an all too familiar ache in his chest at the sight.

He could feel his face start to burn as what Nezuko was implying started to sink in.

“Uhm- uh- ac-actually how about we just - just scratch out that ‘almost’ and settle for a nice and even ‘perfect’ after all!” he giggles nervously, deftly turning his attention back to the... apparently finished vegetables. sh*t. Now what can he keep himself busy with?

Thankfully Nezuko, lovely godess that she is, chooses to grant him a rare instance of mercy. “Uh-huh, whatever you say,” she snickers at him, but thankfully drops the subject to turn her attention back to the now cooled rice to start shaping it.

Zenitsu... wasn’t quite sure he was ready to talk or even think about that right now. Like, they were all just starting to settle into normal life, into a life of after, it wasn’t the right time, alright? Not that Zenitsu knew when the right time even was, or if there ever would be, but why rush anyway? As Nezuko had said, things were so good right now, just as they were. Zenitsu would hate to be ungrateful, would hate to potentially ruin what was already there, even if sometimes he was hit with an absolutely unbearable longing for even more than he already had, despite that what he had was enough (and he would keep telling himself that until it felt true).

He’d simply put it out of his mind and move on to making the stew, like he was supposed to do.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

For the past few... months? Yeah, yeah, it’s been months since the last fight and the subsequent disbanding of the Demon Slayer Corps (he mainly knew this because of the change in season). Inosuke’s noticed something about himself in that time that never really seemed all that relevant before now: he was bad at falling asleep.

It’s something that’s been leaving him gradually more and more frustrated with himself each near sleepless night, as recently most of the time he’d only fall asleep at dawn and wake somewhere around noon, if not later without someone to wake him. And even when they did it was no easy task, after someone would shake him out of his slumber he’d grumble that okay, yes, he was awake already, and then he’d immediately fall back asleep.

It wasn’t as if he was thinking of anything profound to keep himself up with, he barely thought at all while he stared at the ceiling at night; he was just awake and hyper aware in the quiet that only came with the dead of night, listening to the other’s smooth, calm breathing as they slept soundly and he just. Didn’t.

He didn’t even feel like he understood why people had to sleep at night and be awake during the day, most animals were at least semi-nocturnal anyway. All he knew was that during a huge part of the day the others were up and about while he wasn’t, and it was boring when they slept while he was fidgeting and rolling around on his futon.

The worst part was that, despite being up already anyway, he couldn’t even be useful when the others were having nightmares. All he could do was watch and listen while their own dreams terrified them. There was nothing he could punch or kill to help them sleep better, so what was he supposed to do? He felt horribly out of his element and inadequate when the situation would arise and more often than not, he’d wake someone else up to deal with it because that was all he could think to do. He’d try to help them the way he’d seen the others do, with gentle touches and soothing words, but his efforts were obviously clumsy and brash at best. On one memorable occasion he’d gotten so frustrated with his own inability that he'd kicked poor Tanjirou in the ribs and seethed at him to help as Zenitsu clung to him and sobbed into his shoulder because he’d been dreaming of spiders.

He felt like he was failing, but he didn’t even know at what, so it just felt like he was failing at everything. Things were so much simpler when he lived alone in the wilderness - he couldn’t even understand why he didn’t just go back! (That was a bitter lie, deep down he absolutely understood why and he knew it.)

He just didn’t feel like he fit in with the way people were apparently supposed to live. He was too wild, his priorities were too disorganized, and he was too used to the way he’d been living before, where it didn’t matter that he couldn’t f*cking sleep at night because staying vigilant was necessary.

Sometimes, when he was at his most aggravated, he wished he’d never even met the others so he wouldn’t have to go through with this now, but then a big empty pit would open in his stomach and he’d feel awful and sick. It wasn’t really their fault, after all.

Inosuke furiously dragged his hands over his face and kicked off his duvet. This was stupid! He’d just go run around outside for a few hours until he got tired enough to pass out.


Somewhere around midday Inosuke feels a hand gently shaking him awake by his shoulder, which was a surprise to say the least, because last he remembered he was climbing a tree.

“-suke. Hey Inosuke, come on, time to wake up.”

He grumbles, swats the hand away and goes to roll over onto his side, except he was definitely still in the tree, and he nearly topples out of it before he catches himself aganst it's trunk. Inosuke cracks open his eyes to see Tanjirou balancing on the branch a small ways below him.

“Hah? ...Tanjirou? What the hell are you doing up here?”

“Looking for you. What are you doing up here?”

“Sleeping, duh.”

“But why in a tree though?”

Because..!” Inosuke starts, but whatever argument he was about to make dies on his tongue immediately, so he never finishes his sentence. They end up just staring at each other in silence while Inosuke tried really hard to figure out what exactly he was about to say before he just completely gives up with a heaving sigh.



“Listen...” Tanjirou starts as he jumped to haul himself onto the same branch. Inosuke scooched over so he had place to sit. “Are you alright? It’s just I - well all of us, really - noticed that you’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. Is something wrong?” Tanjirou’s voice is brimming with concern, and the look he shoots at him is one Inosuke sees a lot, the one he always wore when he wouldn’t let the subject drop until Inosuke actually talked about something.

“What are you talking about? I was sleeping just now!”

“Inosuke...” The other boy sighed, as if gearing himself up for Inosuke being difficult.

“I’m fine. Really! It’s just- I’m just. Sleeping is hard, alright? I’m trying.”

“I never said you weren’t.”

“But it feels like it! If I was actually trying, I’d be able to sleep at night, right? But I am and I can’t! It’s, it’s boring and it pisses me off!” To emphasize his point, Inosuke slammed his fist into the tree.

“It must be frustrating. Feeling that restless, I mean.”

“I don’t get why though.”

“You’re not the only one who feels that way, you know? The rest of us are restless, too. I think we’re just not used to leading quiet lives anymore, we used to hunt demons but now there are none. We always had to look over our shoulders or risk getting caught off guard and killed, but it’s different now. I don't think that's really caught up to any of us yet. It takes time.”

“But why am I worse?”

“Because you’re Inosuke,” Tanjirou snorts and nudges him with his shoulder, “You’ve never lead a quiet life. I’d say it’s normal to loose a little sleep, after all you have more to adjust to than we do. Just try to be a little more patient with yourself, alright?”

Inosuke had nothing to say to that, so he opted to stay quiet. He supposed it made sense like that. He had so much energy but very little to do with it. Sure, he obviously still trained, he loved fighting, but there was no real end goal to it anymore, nothing to push himself toward except for staying the strongest, so it was mostly going through the motions so he had something to do. There wasn’t really a way to burn off the excess adrenaline now without causing some serious trouble where there'd usually be none to find, and he’s been refraining from doing that. It was... very unlike him. But he couldn’t say he was mad about it.

Tanjirou rested an arm over Inosuke’s shoulders and pulled him in for a side-hug. “Hey, I’m proud of you for trying.”

Inosuke’s stomach flipped and he felt his heart squeeze in his chest, the traitorous bastard. Seriously? Tanjirou was proud of him for that? f*ck, what has he even been doing, running around and pitying himself, for what? Because he was having some trouble sleeping? Pathetic! He was Inosuke Hashibara, damn it! King of the mountain!

He aggressively shrugged off the hug and shook the other boy by the shoulders. “Listen here, Tanjirou! You can take your pride and you shove it somewhere else for later, ‘cause I’ll show you! You’ll see, I’ll be the best, most well-adjusted person you’ve ever seen in no time flat! Prepare yourself, I’m gonna make you so proud you’ll keel over and die just from that, you hear me?!”

“Inosuke wha- yeah, I hear you, I hear you! Calm down, we’re gonna- sh*t!” They tumbled off the branch and plummeted to the earth below, Inosuke - absolutely laughing his face off under that boar mask - maneuvered them in mid-air so he’d take the brunt of the fall and they landed with a loud thunk, Tanjirou landing on top of him and his weight knocking all the breath from Inosuke’s lungs. Neither made a single move to get up.

“You okay?” Tanjirou asked against his chest.

“Didn’t hurt,” Inosuke wheezed.

Tanjirou just burst out laughing. “Yeah, that’s more like you.” He pushed himself up onto his elbows and the grin he gave Inosuke was more blinding than the sun at the height of day, cheeks dusted pink, palm reaching up to tenderly cup the boy under him’s now bare face and eyes sparkling with mirth glancing down to Inosuke’s mouth for a brief moment before he pulled himself away and stood up.

“Ah, we actually went looking for you so you could come eat lunch,” Tanjirou admits, nervously scratching the back of his head.

“Why didn’t you just say so??” In a flash Inosuke was up, mask shoved back over his head and ran back to the house, towing Tanjirou behind him by the hand.


can you tell who's my favorite yet

Chapter 3: Chapter 3


Fair warning just in case, Zenitsu has a panic attack in this one

Chapter Text

“I can practically hear you thinking over there, you know,” Zenitsu commented, vigorously scrubbing at a particularly stubborn patch of dirt on one of Inosuke’s pants. He’d complained about Inosuke’s dreadful habit of rolling in the mud multiple times before - he'd done it again just now - specifically because it made laundry day absolute hell and someone else always ended up having to clean up after him. You could take the boy out of the wild, but you could never take the wild out of the boy, apparently.

“With your hearing I really wouldn’t be surprised if you actually could,” Tanjirou snorted, opting to take a more delicate approach with one of Nezuko's kimonos.

“Uh-huh. What’s on your mind? You’ve been spaced-out for days.”

Tanjirou paused. Zenitsu was right, yeah, but he didn’t think he’d been that obvious. Honestly, he wasn't getting anywhere on his own, even after days of mulling over the same thoughts over and over again. So... it should be okay to talk to him about it, right? He certainly had more experience in the subject, perhaps he’d be able to give some good insight? Besides, it wasn’t like Tanjirou had to go into specifics about the details. But, where to start?

“C’mon, man. What’s going on behind that big forehead of yours?” the other boy encouraged with a smile and an open expression. Well, here goes.

“I, uhm. I think I might have a crush on someone?” Tanjirou reluctantly admitted.

Zenitsu went very still for a moment at the confession, face carefully blank. He slowly turned to stare at his hands in the laundry basin. Tanjirou scented the air in search of some sort of reaction, and curiously, he picked up the faint, sharp scent of fear. He went to ask about it, but before he could get the words out Zenitsu went back to violently scrubbing at a stain that was definitely not there anymore.

“You... think you have a crush on someone?” he eventually asked slowly.

“Uh... yeah. I don’t really know, I’ve never actually - this is sort of the first time?”

“Oh. Wow. First ever crush, huh?" Zentusu absently responded, squeezing the water out of the fabric with more force than necessary before scrubbing it again. "Congratulations on the milestone. You gonna do anything about it, or...?”

“I’m... not sure. I don’t think so, no.” Tanjirou was getting more and more uncertain about this whole thing by the second.

“Why not? First confession jitters?”

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea. At least, not right now.”

“Why not?”

“It’s just new, you know? I haven’t even fully processed my own feelings yet. It just seems like I’d ruin what's already there with my own uncertainty, is all.”

Zenitsu pulled a face like he’d just unexpectedly bitten into a lemon, and Tanjirou gets the distinct impression that he’d actually rather not be having this conversation. He smelled something bitter on the breeze and thought that would be the end of the conversation. He was very wrong.

“It’s Inosuke isn’t it.”

Tanjirou felt his heart stop dead. He was struck with the urge to lie and deny it for some reason, but he hated lying and he knew he was complete sh*t at it to boot. So he didn’t. “How did you...?”

“I saw you guys after you fell out of the tree a few days ago, and you’ve been quiet since. Plus, I can literally hear heartbeats. There’s absolutely no way I wouldn’t have noticed even if you didn’t just tell me,” Zenitsu muttered harshly. Tanjirou could feel something heavy land in the bottom of his stomach, in fact he almost felt nauseous.

“Zenitsu, do you... Is that a problem for you...?” Tanjirou cautiously ventured.

Zenitsu sighed through his nose. “I think we’re all way past the point where it would matter even if it was, but no, I don’t have a problem with you liking another boy. I sincerely doubt Inosuke would have a problem with it, either. I’m happy for you. Really.”

“You don’t smell particularly happy to me.”

Hah! Wow! The one’s practically an animal and the other has the olfactory senses to match! What a pair, it’s like you were made for each other,” Zenitsu grumbled.

Tanjirou was stunned at the sudden outburst. Okay... that... kind of hurt. Neither said anything for a moment until eventually Zenitsu heaved out a tired sigh.

Look. It has nothing to do with you being into guys, or with your sexual awakening apparently being with Inosuke of all people, alright? He’s unfairly pretty though so I get it. If for some reason I’m not absolutely thrilledthen that’s my problem. Don’t worry about it.”


“I said don’t worry about it!” Zenitsu snapped, slogging the pants into an empty basin with way more force than he would ever need to and grabbing the next thing to wash. “I’m happy for you, congratulations, you should just come out and tell him. I’m done talking now.”

Tanjirou reluctantly let the subject drop and they finished the remaining laundry in heavy without another word. Zenitsu stormed off into the surrounding forest as soon as they were done. He never once, in that entire conversation, even attempted to look Tanjirou’s way.


All Zenitsu could hear was his own ragged breaths. They sounded like he was trying to scream, but his lungs just couldn’t get enough air to go through with it. He couldn’t see through the fat, hot tears streaming down his face and into his open, panting mouth, but he kept walking, trying to get as far away from the house as possible. He couldn’t stop shaking.

Eventually his knees grew weak and gave out as he slumped against the trunk of a nearby tree. He buried his face in his arms, trying to calm his breathing and quell the rapidly rising panic that felt like it was choking him from inside his own throat.

Typical, wasn’t it? Of course. Of f*cking course.

He was never good enough, was he? His two best friends were going to run off into the soft, pastel pink sunset together hand in hand and live happily ever after. Without him. He was never going to be it for either of them, not poor little desperate and cowardly Zenitsu. He was pathetic, it was a wonder they’d even tolerated his burdensome presence thus far, how much longer did he really think that was going to last? How did he ever trick himself into hoping he could ever have more?

Serves him right for being greedy enough to want both of them.

God, he felt like a f*cking fool. An imbecile and a selfish bastard, here he was making their relationship all about him and his feelings. He couldn’t even be a good enough friend to just be happy for him, he had to be jealous, too. And wasn’t that just like him? No wonder everyone eventually left him behind.

f*ck. How was he ever supposed to face them like this and pretend that he was fine? After that complete disaster? Zenitsu just couldn’t bear it!

He’d have to run off to a different village somewhere far, far away - or to the city where there were so many people that even if they decided to look for him they’d never be able to find him. He’d have to change his name, change his appearance and hope he could find someone he could trick into thinking he was worth something.

Zenitsu growled and roughly scrubbed at the snot and tears on his face with the sleeves of his haori.

Oh, who was he kidding? There was no way he’d make it out on his own and he’d always been too needy for anyone with good intentions to ever go anywhere near him. They’d just take advantage, and he’d end up, up to his ears in debt again with no one to bail him out this time. Or worse.

He didn’t have anywhere else to go. He didn’t have anywhere else he wanted to go.

What he wanted was for Tanjirou to hold him tenderly and tell him everything was going to be okay, in the way only an oldest sibling could, the way that gave you no choice but to believe him. He wanted Inosuke to call him a whimp and a weakling while he tried his best to comfort him anyway, in his own inelegant way, and threaten to beat up whatever was making him cry.

Zenitsu could only laugh bitterly at himself. Right. As if that was ever going to happen.


Inosuke felt like he was missing something. Scratch that, he was definitely missing something.

When he’d left earlier that day to go do his usual bullsh*t out in the woods everything had seemed fine - because it was fine - but something was different here. No-one had bothered to make a fuss when he got back, absolutely caked in mud, or when he unthinkingly tracked it all over the house. Zenitsu had gotten back only after he did, which was weird already because he usually helped Nezuko with dinner, but he only arrived after it was already on the table. He refused to look at anyone and Tanjirou kept sending him concerned glances before quickly looking away, as if he was afraid he wasn’t allowed to look at him, either. Nezuko’s sympathetic eyes kept bouncing between the two, and Inosuke shot her a confused look hoping she might shed some light on the situation but she only shook her head sadly and shrugged.

The silence around the dinner table was possibly somehow the loudest thing he’d ever heard, and the tension in the air curled thick and heavy over his skin.

Whenever he’d say something he was met with short, non-committal replies that made him feel small and inadequate and it was starting to piss him off. Then, suddenly, something dawned on him.

“Is this because of the mud? ‘Cause I cleaned that! And no-one even had to tell me to this time!” He proclaimed far too loudly. Everyone turned to look at him. Yes. He’d figured it out! It was all the mud’s fault!

Tanjirou’s expression was pained and Zenitsu scowled at his plate so hard it was like he was trying to set it on fire with nothing but his own force of will.

“It’s... not about the mud, Inosuke, but thank you,” Tanjirou eventually answered him. Well, now Inosuke was at a complete loss.

“So what the f*ck is going on, then? You’re all acting like someone died, but if that’s what it was you’d all be blubbering like babies. Tell me what’s wrong!” he demanded.

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine,” Zenitsu muttered angrily, poking around his food with his chopsticks and not making a single move to eat it. Inosuke thought it was a waste.

Lair! You’re lying!” Inosuke shouted, pointing an accusing finger at him.

“Butt out, Inosuke!”

“Zenitsu, please,” Tanjirou pleaded desperately, for what Inosuke didn't know.

“It’s fine! Everything’s fine!” Zenitsu grit out insistently, like if he said it enough times it would magically be true.

“Stop lying!”

“Leave me the f*ck alone, I don’t want to talk about it!”

“Hah! See! Something is wrong, you just admitted it!”

Zenitsu rolled his eyes so hard Inosuke thought they might pop right out of his skull and clapped his hands in a way he suspected was meant to be sarcastic. “Oh bravo! I guess even hopeless halfwits get something right every other blue moon.”

Inosuke felt like he’d just been slapped through the face and spat on.

Hey!that’s not fair! He’s just trying to help!” Tanjirou reprimanded harshly.

Zenitsu suddenly slammed his palms on the table and shot up from where he was sitting before turning to storm out. “Fine! Gang up on me, see if I care! I hope you and your boyfriend have a grand life together!”

...Hah? Boyfriend? When did Tanjirou get one of those? ...And why did it feel like Inosuke’s throat was closing in on itself?

“Zenitsu, get back here! Where are you going?” Tanjirou called after him. He was ignored. “Zenitsu!”

Out! I’m going out!” Zenitsu furiously shouted, and then he was gone, off somewhere in the darkness.

Inosuke turned toward Tanjirou in hopes of some sort of an explanation, because apparently he had some idea what was going on, but as soon as their eyes met all he did was drop his head into his hand, as if he just didn’t have the energy to hold it up unassisted anymore.

Inosuke felt very cold.

“I’m sleeping outside,” he eventually mumbled and got up to leave as well. He looked back to see that Tanjirou hadn’t even acknowledged him at all, he just sat there as Nezuko went to rub a reassuring hand over his back. Inosuke slammed the sliding door behind him and made sure to go in the exact opposite direction Zenitsu had taken.

Chapter 4: Chapter 4


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Zenitsu didn’t come back the next day. Or the next. Or the one after that. Sure, Inosuke was only there for meals, himself, but it was painfully obvious.

He’d asked Tanjirou about what happened multiple times. He begged and pleaded, and Tanjirou would try to explain but every time he’d start, he’d fumble with his words, stop, then try again only for the same thing to happen over, and over, and over again until he eventually looked so embarrassed and frustrated it was like he was itching to crawl out of his own skin. Every time Inosuke would suggest he'd go to find Zenitsu and make him talk, Tanjirou was quick to shoot him down, claiming he just needed space.

Inosuke. Didn’t. Understand.

He didn’t understand what caused that fight. He didn’t understand why Zenitsu hasn’t come back in days. He didn’t understand why Tanjirou is so quiet about it. Worst of all he didn’t understand his own emotions.

But he was trying.So hard.

There were so many, and they were all tangled together - like a string he didn’t know how to even start de-knotting. He felt like he’d been left out of the loop on purpose and it hurt. Why wouldn’t anyone tell him what was going on? It wasn’t fair, they knew he wasn’t good at this. He didn’t like thinking and yet here he was, doing it for them, so he didn't somehow make things even worse, and he couldn’t rely on them to help because they wouldn’t. He had to figure it out on his own.

He was no stranger to that, but teaching himself beast-breathing wasn’t anywhere near this challenging. He couldn’t even figure out what the first step here was, never mind how to execute it.

Was it... were they fighting because of him? Was that why no-one was telling him anything? Was this whole thing somehow his fault? But he didn’t even do anything! He’s been good, what was there to fight over...?

...Nah. It couldn’t be that.

Was it Tanjorou’s boyfriend that he allegedly had? Because Inosuke was pretty miffed that he hadn’t told him about that, either. They were friends, right? And friends told each other about those kinds of things, right? When he’d asked Tanjirou about it he’d vehemently denied having one, but then why did Zenitsu yell at him about it?

Inosuke scoffed. f*cking hypocrites, the both of him. They always told him to use his words and talk about it if something was upsetting him, yet here they were, silently avoiding each other.

Someone had to do something before they ended up just never speaking again, and it looked like that responsibility rested on his shoulders now. Which was absolutely ridiculous because out of the three of them, Inosuke was the least qualified to stop a fight, and they knew that! Ugh! This was giving him such a headache!

f*ck giving Zenitsu space, he was fixing this sh*t now.


Zenitsu genuinely couldn’t believe himself sometimes, but this really took the cake. He was no stranger to major screw-ups, but he really f*cked it this time. Why, why, why did he do that? They hated him now; he just knew it! He’d taken a perfectly salvageable situation and ruined it until it was beyond repair because he was an emotional f*cking idiot. He completely doomed himself! And he’d thought he was a fool before!

He was just lucky he’d had some money on him when he stormed out, otherwise he’d have been left to fend for himself in the wild like some sort of animal.

He hadn’t left his room at the inn for days, content to lay in bed and wallow in his own misery like he deserved. It was storming in the night outside, from time to time he could hear the distant boom of thunder and the wind loudly rattling the window. He thought that was fitting.

Zenitsu couldn't help playing that day on loop in his head, agonizing over every little detail and felt nothing but embarrassment and disgust. Tanjirou was having an open, vulnerable moment with him, trusted him with something personal, and Zenitsu had practically attacked him for it. He probably did think Zenitsu was hom*ophobic now, which was painfully ironic considering he liked just about any attractive person who gave him some sort of positive attention.

Inosuke’d tried his best to fix the situation as well, and all Zenitsu did was insult him for his efforts.

Man, he could be a real jerk when he wanted to be. It was absolutely disgraceful. They were better off without him. They deserved better. He should do them all a favor and just disappear.

The window rattled again, and it almost sounded like the wind was blowing it open, so he rolled over to check and made direct eye-contact with a boar mask peeking over the windowsill. He screamed.


Found you.”


Tanjirou absently stared into his rapidly cooling cup of tea like it held all the answers he needed. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t figure out what Zenitsu had needed from him in that conversation that he didn’t give. Was it really that bad that he liked Inosuke? He didn’t smell any disgust, but you didn’t need to be disgusted to disapprove of something. Also, why had he been scared? Why had he smelled so bitter? It was almost like...

Something in Tanjirou’s head clicked. Was he jealous? Was it maybe that... did Zenitsu like Inosuke, too?

No. Noooo, Zenitsu liked Nezuko. Didn’t he?

Now that Tanjirou thought about it his antics had died down considerably in the past few months. He still trailed after her a lot, of course, but at some point his outright attempts to woo her just... ceased. Tanjirou hadn’t even noticed. But... Zenitsu didn’t act that way toward Inosuke either...? What, was he shy all of a sudden? Or, maybe, like Tanjirou he didn’t want to complicate things?

Tanjirou’s head was spinning. He was sure he was over-thinking things now because it made sense but also didn’t. He shouldn’t assume he knew what someone else was thinking or feeling.

He was suddenly pulled from his thoughts by a shrill noise in the distance. Curious, he got up and moved toward the engawa and searched the tree line. The noise was getting closer. He saw a shape moving into view. It looked almost like...

Inosuke was sprinting toward him at full speed, a Zenitsu kicking and screaming slung over his shoulder like a sack of rice, bouncing with every leap.

“- go of me! Inosuke, put me down! Hey! Are you listening to me?! Inosuke!” Zenitsu shrieked.

“What on Earth...?”

Inosuke zoomed right past Tanjirou, through the open door, and unceremoniously dumped Zenitsu onto the floor before he turned to Tanjirou and yanked him right back into the house by the back of his haori so he landed on his flat ass right next to Zenitsu with a loud 'oof!'

“Stop being stupid! Make up or beat the sh*t out of each other, I don’t care! Fix! it!” Inosuke raged and stomped out, slamming the door behind him, leaving them both gawking at the space he'd just left in stunned silence.

“I told him not to do this,” Tanjirou sighed after a moment, pushing himself up and returning to his tea. He saw Zenitsu tense, shoulders pulling all the way up to his ears. He could smell the anxiety radiating off of Zenitsu and, as if it was contagious, Tanjirou could feel his own nerves twist and tangle as well. “He listened for a few days, though. Can’t say I expected him to forever, you know how he is when he gets frustrated.”

Zenitsu still said nothing, didn’t even move from his spot on the floor where he was staring at the door, facing in the exact opposite direction of where Tanjirou sat at the table on the other end of the room. Tanjirou started to pick at his nails. Neither of them talked for well over a minute, the air stifling and heavy.

Eventually Zenitsu’s shoulders sagged like he'd given up, and he whispered something so softly that Tanjirou had trouble catching it.

“Excuse me?”

Zenitsu finally turned to face him, face wet and nose already running, quiet tears evolving into a full-blown sob as he bowed his head to the floor. “I said I’m sorry! I didn’t- I didn’t mean to treat you the way I did, I was just - I got scared you two would get so close there wouldn’t be any room for me anymore! And then, then I got angry at myself for being so selfish and - I took it out on both of you! I didn’t want to end up alone, so I pushed you away instead and I’m so, so sorry! Please forgive me!” He cried despairingly.

Tanjirou was dumbfounded. For some reason he'd expected it to be a lot harder to get him to talk. But, then again, this wasZenitsu. The boy could hardly keep his feelings to himself, not for long anyway.

“Zenitsu, lift your head," Tanjirou coaxed kindly.

Zenitsu shook his head and curled up into himself further. From the sound of his wheezing breaths, he was starting to panic. “I can’t,” he wept, voice cracking.

Tanjirou carefully moved across the room to kneel in front of him, and delicately ran his hand through blonde hair, softly petting him, as if he was afraid he’d accidentally break the poor boy further if he moved normally. “Look at me? please?” he pleaded just as gently.

Zenitsu was visibly trying to calm himself, and Tanjirou waited patiently. It took him a moment before he cautiously, ever so slowly lifted his head. It took him another minute before he could actually meet Tanjirou’s eyes, and the hand in his hair moved to lightly grip his chin so he couldn’t look away again.

Listen to me. None of us - not a single one - would just abandon you like that. Not me, not Inosuke, and not Nezuko. Do you understand? You don’t do that to family, okay? You just don’t.”

Zenitsu hiccupped, fresh tears still lazily rolling down his cheeks. “But I’m not -”

“Yes, you are. Just because it was a choice, doesn’t make it any less true, alright? And I’m sorry too, I’m so sorry that I made you feel like you weren’t just as important. You are.”

Zenitsu launched himself at Tanjirou’s chest with an anguished wail, practically climbing into his lap to throw his shaking arms around him in a vice grip. Tanjirou held him back just as tightly.

“You mean it?” he whimpered.

“Of course I mean it, why would I lie about that?"

“I was so scared you guys hated me.”

“No-one hates you, Zenitsu," Tanjirou assured, squeezing him even tighter. His own eyes were staring to sting, and he didn't fight it. "No-one’s even angry at you. We were just worried. We all missed you while you were gone.”

“You - You did?”

“Yeah, we did. The house was way too quiet without you.”

“I doubt it, not with Inosuke around.”

“Are you kidding? Who do you think he yells at most of the time? He can’t get a reaction out of anyone else, not like he does with you.”

Zenitsu choked out a laugh, pulling back to wipe at the mess on his face. Tanjirou kept him close, comfortingly squeezing his shoulder.

“I should probably talk to him, too.” Zenitsu sighed.

“Yeah, we both should, he doesn’t like to show it but we both really hurt his feelings.”

“Yeah, I was a real jerk to him.”

“Are you feeling better now?”

“Yeah. Thanks," Zenitsu happily smiled at him for what felt like the first time in forever, the sweet scent of relief filling the air. Suddenly it was easier to breathe.


I'm not happy with this chapter, but I can't figure out where or how to improve it and I'm done beating my head into the wall about it. Bone apple teeth?

Chapter 5: Chapter 5


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Inosuke stared holes into the closed door from where he sat, with his arms crossed, taking shelter under a nearby tree. The rain had dulled down to a light pitter-patter already, and the foot of his bouncing leg made a soft, wet slapping sound as it rapidly tapped at the soaked earth. He knew, realistically, that is had probably only been about twenty minutes, but it felt like hours had passed already. How much longer was this supposed to take?

The urge to run off and do something else was strong, he was bored out of his mind, but this was important, and he didn’t want to get too distracted and possibly miss when they called him, because they would call him eventually, and then they’d hopefully finally tell him what exactly was going on, but the waiting was killing him.

He wondered, briefly, what it would be like to have Zenitsu’s acute hearing ability, so he could listen in and know what they were talking about and how it was going, but even he knew that would be an invasion of privacy, especially since it was probably about something they didn’t want him to know about, for whatever reason that might be. He didn’t get it, he really didn’t, and the curiosity felt like it was burning him alive, but he guessed people were allowed to have some secrets, even if it made him feel a little left out. At this point he just wanted things to go back to normal, which was exactly the reason why he’d forced the issue, but he'd been sure to give them the space to sort it out among themselves. It sucked but the issue clearly didn’t involve him, so he tried his best to be okay with it.

But, he had a nagging voice in the back of his head, one that asked: what if it did involve him somehow? He’d like to know if it did, right? Even if it was bad? How could he fix it if he didn't even know what he was doing that was so bad it made his friends fight about it?

Inosuke mentally beat that voice to a bloody pulp with his bare-knuckled fists.

They'd tell him if he'd done something wrong, they always did. And they wouldn't fight about it, either. Tanjirou would gently explain to him what he was doing wrong and why it was, almost like he was talking to a toddler, and Zenitsu would yell at him initially, sure, but he'd do his best to patiently correct the behavior. So, according to Inosuke's awesome skills of deduction, he was perfectly golden. No need to fret.

He grumbled, shifting around where he sat, and attempted to drill his fists through the temples of his mask to make himself stop. There he went, thinking again, like some kind of masoch*stic idiot. He'd done enough of that, things were sorting themselves out, he could stop now.

His stupid, dumb thinking was suddenly interrupted by the door being slid open slightly. Finally, after an entire eternity, Tanjirou poked his head out the door, spotted Inosuke, and waved for him to come over.

“Took your damn time,” Inosuke groused as soon as he was in hearing distance.

Tanjirou scratched at the back of his head with an apologetic smile. “Yeah, sorry about that. You’re completely soaked, you must be freezing! Come in and sit down, I’ll get you a towel.”

“No kidding? It was f*cking raining outside,” Inosuke snorted, but he took the towel gratefully when Tanjirou offered it and roughly scrubbed at his mask before taking it off and quickly drying the rest of him. He looked around the room and saw Zenitsu sat at the table, his own towel slung tightly over his shoulders like a blanket (Inosuke had completely forgotten that he would have gotten wet in the downpour as well and felt a little guilty. What if he ended up getting sick?), clutching a hot cup of tea and staring into the middle distance absently. His eyes were red and swollen, like he'd been crying, and as if to confirm Inosuke's suspicions he sniffled quietly.

Tanjirou sat down across from him, invitingly nodding his head to an open seat as he poured a third cup of tea. “You didn’t have to wait outside, you know, you could have stayed in here."

Inosuke decided to ignore the comment as he haphazardly threw his towel over the tatami mat and took his seat at the end of the table. Tanjirou placed a steaming cup of tea in front of him, and he wrapped his cold hands around it to leech off the heat. He could have stayed, he supposed, but would they really have been able to talk freely if he was there? He didn't feel like they would have.

Inosuke silently waited for them to start talking, trying his utter best to be as patient with them as they often were with him.

“I’m sorry I called you a hopeless halfwit,” Zenitsu eventually quietly said, turning towards Inosuke with his full body and looking him directly in the eyes, as if he needed him to understand he meant it, “I don’t actually think you’re hopeless or stupid, I was just being an asshole.”

“I know that. I don’t care. You guys weren’t talking to me. Neither of you.”

“Tanjirou didn’t know why I was upset either, so he couldn't possibly explain what was going on. Please don’t be mad at him, too," Zenitsu pleaded, "The whole thing was my fault, all of it, I overreacted.”

"I still could have tried harder," Tanjirou muttered into his tea, "I'm sorry I didn't."

“Yeah, okay, sure, whatever. That still doesn’t explain anything,” Inosuke emphasized.

“You guys didn’t really do anything," Zenitsu sighed, "Tanjirou and I were just talking, he said something completely innocent, and I took it the wrong way, then completely blew it out of proportion and... I... got insecure. I felt left out, I thought you guys were going to get tired of me, eventually, so I got angry at myself, and I lashed out. I’m really sorry.”

“...Was it about his boyfriend?” Inosuke cautiously ventured.

Tanjirou choked on air and sputtered, frantically waving his hands in front of his face, tips of his ears turning red. “I- I told you a million times already, I don’t have one!”


“I was implying you were the boyfriend,” Zenitsu interrupted. That made Inosuke pause. Him? Someone’s boyfriend? That sounded absolutely insane!

... He didn’t hate the idea though. But as far as he knew, you had to actually like someone in a specific way for that, and he wasn't really sure he liked anyone like that. Probably? How the hell was he supposed to know! He didn't know what it was like!

“Hah? But we aren’t -!”

“I know, Inosuke, I was just being mean," Zenitsu explained tightly.

Oh. Oh, yeah that checked out. Maybe. Inosuke absently scratched at his head, like that would make it make more sense. “Alright, whatever, it’s fine, I guess," he sighed and started fidgeting with the edges of his furs, "Is everything good now? Things can go back to normal?"

"Absolutely," Zenitsu nodded.

"I'd say it's all sorted out, yeah," Tanjirou confirmed.

"Okay. Good. Can we go to sleep now? It's getting late, I'm tired," Inosuke complained, yawning hard enough to pop his jaw as if to prove it.

"Yeah, that's a good idea," Tanjirou agreed, getting up to pull their futons out of the cupboard, ever the caretaker.

Zenitsu held his arms out to Inosuke. “Hug?” he asked in a small voice. Inosuke sighed as if it were the world’s most burdensome chore, but he embraced Zenitsu anyway and melted into the touch, all the tension from the past few days noticeably leaving his shoulders. He even yanked Tanjirou into it as well when he tried to pass them, presumably to clean up their teacups.

Their futons were rolled out, the lights were turned out and they all crawled into their own, separate beds, but before he could fully lay down Inosuke had what he decided would be his final thought for the evening, maybe even the rest of the week.

He wasn't usually the one to initiate this, and they normally only do it when someone has a nightmare, but... this sort of counted, right? They all probably needed comfort after tonight, so it should be okay.

He looked over to Tanjirou in the moon's low light and tried to quietly catch his attention. When he did the other boy sent him a silent question with his eyes, and Inosuke meaningfully glanced in Zenitsu's direction before looking back and raising an eyebrow expectantly. It took him a second, but Tanjirou catched on quickly, mouth opening in a silent ‘o’ before he smiled warmly and nodded in understanding - because Tanjirou somehow always understood - before moving over to Zenitsu's futon to crawl under his blanket and carefully lay down next to him, gently snuggling into his side and grabbing him around his waist.


Inosuke practically threw the duvet off of both of them as he plopped down on Zenitsu’s other side, throwing an arm over them both and tangling their legs together, effectively trapping the smaller boy between them, before violently tugging the fabric back into place. Zenitsu squeaked at suddenly being sandwiched, his pulse rabbit-fast against Inosuke's skin.

He was being cute again, and Inosuke, true to his earlier decision to not have a single other thought, quickly but lightly bit the nearest patch of skin he could reach - which happened to be the edge of Zenitsu's jaw.

“Ow! Really Inosuke, again?” He complained, but he didn't make a single move to get away, all he did was relax into his pillow and shift to get more comfortable.

“Shut up and go to sleep, idiot,” Inosuke grumbled, closing his eyes and doing exactly that.


Zenitsu sat on the engawa, peacefully enjoying the warm afternoon sunlight as he tuned his new shamisen. Tanjirou had gotten it for him as a peace offering a few days after they'd made up; Zenitsu felt like it was a little overkill, after all he'd been the one to start things, but he hadn't exactly refused the gift, either. It was second hand, but clearly well-loved and looked after, so much so that Zenitsu found himself wondering why its previous owner had ever given it up. But it was his now, and he vowed to take care of it just as well as they had.

Inosuke had dragged Nezuko out of the house that morning to go foraging, completely ignoring her laughing, half-hearted protests of needing to clean around the house, and Tanjirou had assured her he would take care of it. Zenitsu had offered to help, of course, but he'd denied him, saying that there really wasn't that much that needed to be done.

There really must not have been, seeing as he'd finished in less than a half hour before he'd gone out to chop wood, which Zenitsu also offered to help with and was once again denied. This time his excuse had been that he was just killing time and that it would take longer if he did it by himself, but Zenitsu suspected he just wanted to prove he could still go about his day-to-day life with only one fully functional arm (whether to himself or to the rest of the household Zenitsu wasn't sure. Maybe both).

The distant dull thump of a hatchet ceased to be replaced by the clang of wood hitting metal as he presumably started throwing the logs into the kiln to burn. When that stopped, too, and the sound of footsteps gradually grew louder and closer Zenitsu looked up to see Tanjirou approach and sit down next to him, wiping sweat from his brow. He sat for a while before he opened his mouth to say something but paused. He tried again, only for the same thing to happen.

Zenitsu turned back to his shamisen, absently plucking at the strings to make sure they sounded right as he waited for the other boy to gather his thoughts.

“I want to ask you something personal, and if you’re okay with that, I need you to be completely honest with me,” Tanjirou finally said, a little nervously.

“Uhm...okay? Sure, ask away.” Had he been keeping busy to think? Was that why he didn't accept any help?

Tanjirou took a deep, shaky breath, about to throw the earth completely off its axis, possibly even stop time itself, and asked: “Do you like Inosuke, too?”

Zenitsu’s eyes flew wide open, face immediately turning beet red. “How - I mean - I - What gave you that idea??”

“You smelled really scared and jealous while we talked the other day, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and, well, considering the subject, that’s the only thing I could come up with that at least sort of made sense?”

Zenitsu sputtered and stuttered his words, scrambling to come up with a way to answer without flat out lying - that wouldn’t give away his entire soul - but that seemed to be all the confirmation Tanjirou needed.

“Why didn’t you just say something?” he giggled, and Zenitsu felt his brain completely evaporate to make space for his rapidly growing heart, “I’m not going to fight with you about it, it’s all good! It’s not like I have a claim on Inosuke, and even if I did, I wouldn’t condemn you for what you’re feeling, it's not like you can help it.”

Tanjirou was trying to kill him! He was trying to kill Zenitsu with his kindness and understanding and he was wholeheartedly succeeding! Today was the day he died! Zenitsu was pretty sure a heart wasn’t supposed to beat as fast as his was at that moment and still be considered healthy; he felt like he couldn’t breathe with it stuck in his throat like it was, but he somehow seemed to manage considering he was arguably still conscious. Probably? He bit down hard on the inside of his cheek to check, just in case he was actually dreaming. It really hurt.

Zenitsu carefully put the instrument to one side, scrubbing his hands over his face before ruffling them through his hair. “Okay. Okay, yeah, you caught me, I like Inosuke, too, alright?” Just as much as he liked Tanjirou. This would actually be a good opportunity to tell him that, but... “Happy now?”

One confession was enough for Zenitsu for one day; he couldn’t handle another one at the moment! It felt like enough that Tanjirou knew at least half of the story, and Zenitsu didn’t want to make things awkward, not when the other boy had worked so hard to make sure he was comfortable. He didn’t want to ruin this bonding experience, too.

Tanjirou was still smiling at him as he pulled Zenitsu into a warm one-armed hug, it reached his eyes and made them crinkle at the corners. Zenitsu would commit every sin and then invent some new ones for that smile.

“Hey, we don’t know how Inosuke feels. Could go either way, could go no way. You should make a move.”

How dare Tanjirou even suggest that?? The audacity?? The pure foolhardy nerve??

“What- no way! You make a move, at least you were brave enough to admit it! With words!”

“Not to him!”

“And you think I could?!”

“You’re brave enough!”

“Since when?? I’m a complete coward, you know that!”

“You used to be irritatingly open about your feelings for my sister!”

“That's different! Inosuke's different! I’m scared! He scares me!”

“Then do it scared! You’re good at that, that’s why I think you’re brave!”

“I’m not! I’m not, I’m not, I’m not! What if he rejects me and just thinks I’m weird, my poor heart couldn’t take it! And anyway, you're actually patient enough to deal with all of his antics, we'd just end up fighting all the time! You have a better chance, you’re his favorite!"

Tanjirou burst out laughing. Zenitsu was having an aneurism, and Tanjirou was laughing. “I’m pretty sure that’s not true, or did you forget all of the times he bit you because he thought you were being cute?”

“He bites you, too!”

“He bites you more often.”

Tanjirouuuu, stop iiiiit!” Zenitsu groaned, hiding his face in the other boy’s chest, much to Tanjirou’s amusem*nt. “We’ll just call it even, okay?”

“Sure,” Tanjirou chuckled, “But I’m right.”

Zenitsu roughly pushed him away and blew a raspberry at him. “That is such an unconventional way to show affection, though.”

“I think it’s adorable,” Tanjirou sighed wistfully. “He’s completely and unapologetically himself. No façades to save face, no pretending. You can always tell what he’s thinking and it’s comforting. Kind of like you, so, you know, you’re a good match that way.”

“I completely understand, but do not start with me again,” Zenitsu warned, picking up the shamisen again and trying to put an end to this horribly embarrassing conversation. Tanjirou snorted and ignored him, then started musing out loud about all the different things they might both like about the wild boy.


i NEED you guys to know that i have completely lost control of this story, at this point i'm just along for the ride

also, i am once again medicated! man it's nice to be able to think

Chapter 6: Chapter 6


They go hunting in this one, so, y'know, warning for animal death

Chapter Text

“You should go hunt with Inosuke,” Tanjirou suggested out of the blue.

They’d all just finished eating lunch and he and Zenitsu had opted to laze around indoors in an attempt to escape the heat of the blazing summer sun, while Nezuko helped Inosuke read under the protection of a shady tree outside. He was getting better at it very quickly, he could nearly get through a fairly simple book all on his own, though with all the determined hard work he’d put into memorizing which characters meant what and in which combinations, Tanjirou couldn’t say he was particularity surprised. Often when he’d wake up in the middle of the night he’d find Inosuke still awake, silently reading by the faint, unobtrusive light of a candle. The next morning he’d be fast asleep, book still in hand. His poor ability to write still left him frustrated, though.

Judging by the furrow of his brows and the curl of his lip, Zenitsu wasn’t too keen on the idea. Personally, he saw it as a good opportunity; if Zenitsu wouldn’t decide to move in on Inosuke on his own, then Tanjirou would just ever so gently nudge him in the right direction.

“And why, exactly, would I do that? I’m terrible at hunting,” Zenitsu pointed out.

“Because Inosuke likes it, and he also likes attention. And you like Inosuke, so, show some interest in the things he likes, he thrives off of it.”

Showing Zenitsu how to do something he was very good at would be a huge ego boost for Inosuke, considering the roles were usually reversed. He also didn’t get a lot of opportunities to properly show off these days, without question he’d absolutely grab the chance with both hands- it didn’t matter if it was a little out of character for Zenitsu to show any interest in something potentially dangerous. All Zenitsu would have to do was show he was paying attention, maybe throw in a compliment here and there, and he’d be completely set! If you asked Tanjirou, he’d say it was an over all win. Well, technically not for him directly considering his... predicament, but Tanjirou was happy when his friends and family were happy. It came with being the eldest sibling.

And he would make them happy, even if he had to give up something he wanted along the way. He’d get over it.

Zenitsu groaned. “I thought I told you, I’m not making a move on him! This very much sounds like you’re giving me advice on how to make a move on him.”

“Not necessarily, although I really wouldn’t have a problem with it if you did, I just mean- don’t you want to spend some quality time with him? You guys are still friends after all. If you only do things with him that you know how to do and he doesn’t, you’re just going to make him feel neglected and inadequate, you know?”

“I know how relationships work, Tanjirou, you don’t have to explain it to me,” Zenitsu sighed, however, he seemed to be thinking it over. “But you’ve got a point, I guess? I don’t really hang out with him one-on-one, and I probably could make more of an effort to meet him at his level. But really? Hunting? I’m just gonna get in his way, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“So ask him to teach you! I’m sure he’d be thrilled! Just... keep an open mind about it, alright? Try not to fuss too much about his methods, he knows what he’s doing out there; he always manages to bring something back!” Tanjirou enthused.

“I’m still not sure about this,” Zenitsu admitted, absently scratching at his cheek and staring at the ceiling, “Why don’t you come, too? If it’s just hanging out as friends that shouldn’t be a problem for you. In fact, he’d probably love it even more if we both went. More people to show off to.”

“Can’t, I’m going to the village with Nezuko to sell the charcoal and say hi to a few people tomorrow,” Tanjirou quickly dismissed. He could probably put it off for a day, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would definitely clash with the plans he was trying to set in motion here. At least he didn’t have to try and come up with a lie.

Tanjirou could see Zenitsu start to protest, but ignored him in favor of calling Inosuke over.

“Zenitsu says he wants to go hunting with you tomorrow.”

“No I didn’t!”

“Ignore that, he’s just being shy. He’d love it if you’d teach him some stuff, after all, you’re the best at it.”

Inosuke preened at the obvious praise and it definitely went straight to his head, but he still turned to Zenitsu and looked him over curiously, like he couldn’t really bring himself to believe that he’d actually volunteer for that. Tanjirou almost feared that Inosuke would see right through him and that he’d refuse, but eventually he nods in affirmation.

“We leave before dawn tomorrow,” he informs Zenitsu before walking off to rejoin Nezuko under the tree again.


The next morning, before the sun even deigns to show it’s face, Inosuke roughly shakes Zenitsu out of his slumber and tells him to get dressed so they could go. When Zenitsu meets him outside, Inosuke inspects him with a careful eye, before he boldly starts stripping Zenitsu of his haori.

“Inosuke what the hell are you doing??” He questions a little hysterically, too stunned at the action to do anything but stand there and let it happen. By the time he got his limbs to listen to him again it was already off and Inosuke was walking back to the house as he haphazardly folded it - which was completely pointless seeing as he opened the door and unceremoniously threw it back indoors.

“You can’t wear that out hunting. It’s your favourite one, you wear it all the time. It’s gonna get dirty or ripped,” he stated simply.

“Oh.” So he was being thoughtful? That was oddly kind of him.

Inosuke motioned for Zenitsu to follow with a quick jerk of his head before he made his way in-between the trees, leading the way like he knew exactly where to go. He probably did, he spent a lot of time out exploring when he was supposed to be doing chores at home. It absolutely infuriated Zenitsu when he’d do that, and he’d yell at Inosuke when he got back for his irresponsibility and inconsideration, and Inosuke’s only claim in his defense would be that he forgot he was supposed to do it. Zenitsu initially didn’t believe him, figuring he was just lazy and using it as a convenient excuse, but he’d eventually come to realize he wasn’t being malicious, he was just genuinely forgetful and easily distracted.

Zenitsu had seen it in action: Inosuke would be doing something like helping with the cleaning, or practicing his writing, or even skinning an animal when he’d suddenly remember something else he was also supposed to do and he’d completely abandon the what he was doing to go do that, then he'd have to be reminded to go back and finish his previous task because it had just completely slipped his mind that he’d been busy with something before. He showed very obvious frustration at the habit, as if he felt completely helpless when it came to his lack of focus. Zenitsu didn’t know how to help him with it, so he’d started clenching his jaw against the instinct to scold him for and tried a more patient approach when it came to reminding him to do the most basic of things.

But out here, in his element, he was completely different. It was almost like he was focusing too hard, silent and determined; like he was born specifically for it.

Inosuke moved through the forest like a man on a mission, head swinging around in all directions as he inspected the ground carefully for what Zenitsu assumed were tracks or other signs of a trail, before he eventually spotted what he was looking for with a noise of triumph and quickly ran over to a puddle of mud and practically dove into it to roll around and rub dead, rotting leaves all over himself.

Zenitsu groaned and face-palmed. So much for focus. “Inosuke, once again, what the hell are you doing? I thought we were hunting.”

“We are!” Inosuke hurriedly reassures, “Get in here and roll around!”

“What- no! I didn’t sign up to play in the mud, I thought you were tracking something!”

“We have to do this first,” Inosuke insisted.


“Helps mask your scent, duh,” He explained, like it should have been obvious. Zenitsu could hear him roll his eyes under that mask, and he let out a long-suffering sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Keep an open mind, Tanjirou had said, try not to fuss about his methods, he’d insisted. Zenitsu felt like marching straight back to the house and strangling him as he still peacefully slept for volunteering him for this mess.

“Inosuke,” Zenitsu starts slowly, “you have to explain these things to me. Remember, I’ve never properly gone hunting before, I don’t know what I’m doing. You can’t just expect me to immediately understand why you do something that looks completely insane.”

Inosuke stops wiggling around in the dirt and just stares at him for a minute. Zenitsu shifts his weight from one foot to the other under the scrutiny, Inosuke must think he’s a complete idiot. He knew this would be a bad idea, he couldn’t believe he’d let Tanjirou strong-arm him into this! Where was his spine? His pride?? He should have just-

A glob of mud hits him square in the face, stopping his thoughts right in their tracks at the shocking cold, wet sensation.

“We’re hunting deer,” Inosuke says deliberately, “they have a very sharp sense of smell, and they can detect a predator before it can even get close enough to see them. That’s why you have to mask your scent. Mud really helps, especially if dead leaves have been rotting in it for a while. It’s not foolproof, they can still smell you, but it takes them longer to identify you as a threat when you smell like the environment. That enough for you?”

Zenitsu wipes the mud from his eyes and blinks a few times. That... was a surprisingly eloquent explanation coming from Inosuke. Zenitsu had pretty much expected him to just claim he had to do it because he’d said so instead of actually giving a reason. He always tended to forget just how clever Inosuke actually was.

Hey! Blondie! Are you just gonna stand there and look at me all day? Get in the damn mud, dumbass!”

“Okay, okay, I’m coming!”

Zenitsu walked over to the edge of the puddle, kneeled, and stared at it.

That, at least, explained why Inosuke often came home so dirty, he was actually being tactical. That still didn’t mean Zenitsu had to look forward to the idea of walking around covered in this crap all day. Cautiously, he dipped his hands into the mud and started to uncertainly rub it over his arms. Inosuke heaved a sigh like he was praying for patience before he carelessly yanked Zenitsu into the cold, wet earth by the arm and started vigorously scrubbing it into the other boy’s clothes and hair with his hands. Zenitsu felt like he was going to spontaneously combust and explode.

“You’re taking too long! By the time you’re done all the deer will be gone! Act like you mean it and roll around!”

“Oh dear God,” Zenitsu groaned. This was apparently his life now. Inosuke ignored him and slapped more mud onto his face. Zenitsu ended up having to spit half of it out of his mouth, and Inosuke thought that was very funny.


They picked up a fresh trail fairly quickly, just after dawn, and after making sure to explain what exactly to look for Inosuke told him to be very quiet and watch were he stepped so he wouldn’t accidentally break a twig and give them away. Fearing Inosuke’s wrath should he fail, Zenitsu made absolutely sure to follow his instructions to the letter.

Eventually the trail leads them to a lone stag, leisurely grazing without a single care in the world. Inosuke tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention, then proceeded to make a series of complicated hand gestures that Zenitsu assumed are more instructions, but he could interpret absolutely none of them. He let his confusion show clear as day on his face and Inosuke threw his hands in the air and looked to the sky as if to say ‘are you f*cking kidding me right now’ before he took off his mask to lean in and whisper directly into Zenitsu’s ear. He tried not to shiver or, more embarrassingly, faint on the spot, grateful the mud hid the heat rising in his face as he tried really, really hard to actually catch what Inosuke was telling him.

“I’m going around to the other side, wait for my signal, then chase it my way,” Inosuke explained and waited for Zenitsu to nod his understanding before carefully sneaking through the shrubbery, more silent than Zenitsu had ever heard him be. He’d slipped his mask back over his face, but Zenitsu could tell he never took his eyes off the stag, alert to any possible signs of detection.

Zenitsu figured that he should probably stop watching Inosuke and do the same. The buck ripped at a particularly tough clump of grass before lifting it’s head and lazily turning it to and fro, at ease but still vigilant. Inosuke stopped moving immediately. It’s ears flicked about, it’s nostrils flared as is scented the air, and it stomped it’s leg to get rid of a particularly irritating fly. Those antlers looked sharp and dangerous, and Zenitsu tried not to wheeze. Once it swallowed the mouthful, it dipped it’s head down again, and Zenitsu heard Inosuke start to move again.

After what felt like a short eternity, Inosuke finally got into position and discreetly signaled to Zenitsu that he was ready.

Zenitsu quickly jumped out from behind the bush he was hiding in and shouted “Hey! Deer!” at the top of his lungs in an attempt to scare it into running towards Inosuke’s direction, but the stag had other plans. It must have been a particularly aggressive one, seeing as it wasn't even mating season anymore but it decided to charge directly at Zenitsu anyway.

“Holy f*ck!” Zenitsu exclaimed and started running away as fast as his legs could carry him, but the deer was faster and rapidly gained ground on him. In the distance Zenitsu heard Inosuke curse loudly.

“Climb a tree!” he shouted helpfully, as the stag reached Zenitsu and immediately launched him, screaming bloody murder, right into the air. Somehow he managed to land on the deer’s back and he clung to it with a vice grip, in fear of his life.

“Atta boy!” Inosuke called, sprinting after them, “Now snap it’s neck!”

“Are you nuts?!”



“Then grab it’s antlers and steer it this way!” Inosuke relented, exasperated.

Zenitsu made sure to pray as hard as he could to whatever spirit or deity would possibly listen, before trying his best to grab at the stag’s head while it wildly tried to buck him off. If he survived this, he was definitely killing Tanjirou in his sleep. Zenitsu somehow, some way, by the grace of a miracle, managed to wrap his hands around the stag’s antlers without being thrown off and yanked it’s head in Inosuke’s direction, trusting that he had a plan, and the rest of it’s body dutifully followed course.

“Jump off!”

Trying his absolute best not to cry Zenitsu did as he was told, leaping off the stag’s back, harshly landing on the ever unforgiving ground and rolling as far out of the way as he could, then scrambling backwards until his back hit a tree. His heart was beating hard enough to crack ribs, breaths entering and leaving his lungs in harsh pants.

He saw Inosuke plant his feet and stand his ground against the charging buck, bracing himself for impact as it as it rushed right at him with no hesitation whatsoever. The moment it got close enough Inosuke vaulted at it, arms locked around its throat as he gracefully swung his body to land on it’s back (laughing like a complete f*cking lunatic), effectively switching positions with Zenitsu, and grabbed it’s head, breaking its neck in a quick, cracking jerk. The stag’s legs crumbled under it’s dead weight and it fell to the ground, motionless.

Inosuke let out a loud ‘whoop!’ in triumph, still laughing, and made his way over to Zenitsu to tug him to his feet. His legs were shaking, his knees buckled, and he heavily leaned on Inosuke but he managed to not collapse.

Whew! It’s been a while since a hunt got that eventful,” Inosuke remarked excitedly. Zenitsu couldn’t believe he was attracted to this person. Really? That maniac? Was he not right in the head?? Inosuke gave him a hearty slap on the ass and Zenitsu let out an incredibly embarrassing ‘yip!’ of surprise at the action. “Good job, Zenitsu.”

He swiveled around, ready to give the other boy a piece of his mind because how dare-!

Zenitsu froze as he belatedly realized what was said to him. Did Inosuke just... did he just compliment him? Without even adding an insult?? Who was this person?? That Zenitsu suddenly really wanted to kiss on the mouth?? He stared, open mouthed, after Inosuke as he strut back over towards the stag and started dragging it away by himself. Someone, somewhere,pleasegrant him mercy.

Chapter 7: Chapter 7


I know this took a while longer than the other chapters, you can blame good ol' ADHD, but guess what I brought you guys! Go ahead, guess!

Yes that's right! ANOTHER panic attack!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The bright sun blinded them on occasion when it filtered between the leaves on it’s slow decent down the horizon, as late afternoon made way for early evening. They’d sold quite well that day, despite Tanjirou being rather absent for the majority of it, and the coins in his heavy pocket would sometimes softly clink together as he walked up the path home.

He’d woken up to the edges of his mind softened with fog that just never dissipated no matter how he tried to shake it off, but like he always did when this happened, he’d pushed through it and watched himself as an outside observer as he smiled at people and automatically responded when they spoke to him while the day passed by in a blur. When Nezuko would later deliver her commentary, he could hardly place the events and conversations that she was talking about despite it having happened that very day, mere hours ago at most, and he tried not to let it show by forming his replies based on the context she provided with her idle chatter alone. He couldn’t wait to go to sleep and hopefully wake up a little more normal tomorrow.

“How do you think Inosuke and Zenitsu are doing on their own? Do you think the house is still standing?” Nezuko joked.

“I sure hope it is.”

“I mean I know Zenitsu can handle cooking dinner by himself without burning down the house, but God save us if Inosuke decided to help.”

“We really need to teach him how to cook something that’s not unseasoned meat over a bonfire.”

“Hmm, what do you think he’d like to learn?” she wondered with a finger teasingly held to her chin in thought.

It was a very easy answer.

Tempura,” they both answered simultaneously. As wild as he was, Inosuke was incredibly predictable in some aspects of life, food being one of them.

“You should be the one to teach him,” Nezuko suggested with a light push from her shoulder to his, “You’re good at cooking.”

“Zenitsu is better at teaching.”

“Then you should both do it.”

“I think we’d just end up confusing him,” Tanjirou chuckled, and froze mid-step.

He could smell the sickly sweet, metallic scent of blood on the breeze. A lot of it.

His trembling hand absently moved towards his hip, where his sword used to be, and gripped at nothing but air. Suddenly he was overwhelmed with a sense of déjà vu, and he felt thirteen again, peacefully making his way home, only to be hit with that same odor and following it to find most of his family had been slaughtered in the night. His stomach turned.

“Tanjirou?” Nezuko called from a few steps ahead of him, “Tanjirou, what is it?”

He didn’t understand why he was half-surprised that she could speak now. After all, she’d been human again for months.

Blood,” was his only explanation before he took off and frantically rushed to follow the trail, the icy hands of fear and dread gripping at his chest as it led him closer and closer to the house. He tried to pick up any other scents, only to be pulled back to the blood like he was being compelled. He ran faster and faster the closer he got.

Once the house came into view he stopped in his tracks and surveyed the area with attentive eyes, looking for anything out of the ordinary. The door was open, but that wasn’t unusual if anyone was home. He scented the air and continued to carefully follow the trail as it led him past the house, to one of the trees behind it.In it he found the corpse of a deer strung up with a rope and hanging from a thick branch, throat slashed wide open and still sluggishly running streams of red down its head and antlers, dripping into a large crimson puddle on the ground underneath it.

Of course. Inosuke and Zenitsu had gone hunting that morning, at some point he must have forgotten. Now that he could see it he could tell, the scent wasn’t human. He should have felt relieved.

Instead, his eyes involuntarily focused on the coagulating puddle of blood, so utterly transfixed that he couldn’t even blink. It was as if he was looking through it, and all he saw past its surface were images of death and slaughter, friends and allies being murdered on all sides right in front of his eyes as he could only watch, killing enemies that almost always turned out to be nothing but a tragic tale that happened to have horrifying consequences with his own sword, that he held in his own two hands that somehow felt like they didn’t even belong to him anymore.

He was going to throw up.

There was no danger here, he knew that, but his muscles tensed anyway, readying for a fight. Readying to die.

Somewhere in the back of his head he screamed at himself to control his breathing, be ready, push past it, and only then did he realize how uneven it had become while he wasn’t paying attention. He gulped, taking deep, deliberate breaths, just like he’d been taught, and he tried to calm his nerves.

It was over. There were no (dangerous) demons anymore. Everything was fine. He was fine.

“Tanjirou, what’s wrong?” Nezuko asked in between pants, voice laced with concern and confusion, as she leaned against the wall and tried to catch her breath after finally catching up with her brother.

“Nothing. Nothing, I just- it’s nothing,” Tanjirou reassured, forcefully ripping his eyes away from the blood to turn and look at her.

Nezuko huffed. “It’s not nothing, look at yourself! You’re pale as a sheet! Something’s not right, why won’t you tell me what it is?” she pleaded.

He didn’t know why. He trusted Nezuko, and he wanted to tell her what was happening, but he couldn’t even begin to push the words off of the tip of his tongue - he didn’t even know which ones to use! All he could do was stare at her, opening and closing his mouth like a gaping fish.

Having probably heard the commotion, Zenitsu curiously rounded the corner of the house and asked: “What’s happening?”. He was shortly followed by Inosuke.

“It’s fine, everything’s okay. It’s nothing, everything’s okay. Everyone’s okay.” Tanjirou repeated.

“Tanjirou, you sound like you’re panicking,” Zenitsu pointed out.

“I’m not! I just, I just- I smelled- and then I thought- but it’s nothing. I just smelled the blood. That’s all that happened.”

“...And then?” Inosuke ventured cautiously.

“And then nothing!” Tanjirou snapped, “It’s fine, everything’s fine, I told you-!”

“He just ran off!” Nezuko interrupted, “I called after him, but it was like he didn’t hear me, he just kept running! When I finally caught up, he was just starring at the puddle of blood like he was seeing a ghost.”

Tanjirou felt everyone’s eyes on him, staring at him with expectation and it gave him heart palpitations. He felt over exposed and vulnerable, and for some reason he really did not like it. Not one bit. He didn't know what to do with himself and that made him shake even more than he already had been, it was like he was going to vibrate out of his own skin.

"Tanjirou?" Nezuko took a step towards him, hand outstretched and ready to comfort him, but he immediately stepped back on instinct, foot landing in the puddle, causing him to slip and fall backwards, right into it with a loud, wet splat.

He sat up after a stunned moment and looked down at his hands, and immediately realized that was a mistake.

All he could smell and see was blood.

Friends and allies. Death. Enemies and tragedies. Slaughter.

He was going to pass out.

His control was starting to slip, and he found his breaths were coming and going more erratically by the second. There was blood everywhere. There was blood on his hands and it was too much, everything was suddenly just too much, and he felt like he was losing himself with no idea what to do to stop it from getting even worse.

"No, no, don't, give him space, he's going to feel crowded," Zenitsu warned, and Tanjirou looked up to see him holding his arms out to keep Nezuko and Inosuke back. “Go, get the bath ready, I’ve got him.”

Nezuko looked uncertain and started to protest, but Inosuke quickly dragged her away, grumbling about being told what to do.

Zenitsu kneeled in the exact same spot where he'd been standing, keeping his distance exactly like he'd told the others to do before he quietly spoke again: "Tanjirou? I need you to listen to me. Can you do that?"

It took him a solid minute to respond, and when he did all he could do was nod shakily.

"That's good, that's very good, just focus on my voice and only my voice, okay? I know it's a strong smell but I really need you to do that. I'm gonna talk you through this, it'll be okay,” Zenitsu reassured calmly. “Try to take a deep breath, just one is fine for now, you don't have to get it under control all at once. Try not to breathe through your nose, though."

Tanjirou did his best to concentrate, to do as Zenitsu instructed, tried to ignore the smell of blood that kept curling up his nostrils and into his lungs with every shallow inhale until eventually he squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and brought his trembling hand to his face to pinch his nose closed. He ended up smearing blood all over his face and did his best to ignore it as he forcefully got one deep, rattling breath in, in between the others.

"Good, you're doing great, now try for another one. I'll do it with you this time, okay? In..." a smooth deep breath, "...and out,” exhale, “In... and out."

Tanjirou tried to follow along carefully, forced his mind to go blank until eventually his breaths came steadier and easier. It was especially better now that he couldn't smell anymore. He poured all the energy he could muster up into listening to Zenitsu's voice as he methodically guided him through the panic until he was noticeably calmer.

"There we go. See? You're okay, you've got this, even if it doesn't feel like it. I'm gonna come closer now, okay? It's just me. I need you to nod if that's okay."

Tanjirou jerked his head to show his consent and Zenitsu slowly crawled over to him on all fours instead of standing and walking like normal, like he was dealing with a sacred animal. Tanjirou certainly felt like one.

"Can I touch you?" Zenitsu asked once he reached him, hands already hovering in the air in front of him.

"...Okay," Tanjirou responded after a moment.

"Okay. I'm gonna help you stand up, then we're gonna get you to the house, get you cleaned up and into the bath, is that alright?"


Zenitsu steadily helped Tanjirou stand on wobbly legs, but when he offered to help support him all the way back to the house Tanjirou refused and pushed him away. He did the same when they reached the bathroom and Zenitsu offered to help him out of his bloody clothes, and nearly snapped at him to leave him alone when he asked if he was sure he’d be okay. He knew he was normally very tactile, but at that moment, for reasons he couldn’t begin to fathom, he just couldn't handle being touched more than what was strictly necessary. He felt like he'd been torn open for the whole world to see, and it made him want to hide.


Someone knocked. Tanjirou vacantly stared at the surface of the water as the sounds slowly brought him back into awareness. It had been hot when he first got in the bath, but he must have been in there for a long time because next thing he knew it was cold.

“Tanjirou? Are you still okay in there?” Nezuko asked, voice muffled through the closed door.


“I made tea, will you be out soon?”

He didn’t want to get out. His limbs felt heavy, he was tired, God he was so tired, and it sounded like too much effort.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” he promised anyway, and listened to her footsteps as she left. He forced himself to be a little more present in the moment while he dragged himself out of the bath, dried off, and got dressed, but he still felt like he was on autopilot.

Nezuko served him a steaming cup of tea as soon as he sat down. “Zenitsu and Inosuke are outside. They said they were going to try and get rid of the smell so it wouldn’t bother you anymore,” she idly informed him as she took her own seat. Tanjirou just stared at his tea. She apprehensively reached for one of his hands laid on the table and he folded them into his lap. Distantly he realized he was just making her worry about him more, but he was too numb to really care. She took it in stride and pushed a plate of food towards him insistently. He remained unresponsive.

Please, eat something,” Nezuko pleaded quietly after a full minute of Tanjirou just looking at the food. He wasn’t hungry. He didn’t want to eat. He picked up his chopsticks and took a few bites anyway.

“How are you feeling now?” she cautiously asked.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Tanjirou finally spoke.

“Will you please stop saying that? I know you’re not fine, I can see it.”

Tanjirou sighed and wiped at his forehead tiredly. “I don’t want to talk about it, Nezuko. I will be fine though, so please don’t worry, okay?”

“Of course I’m going to worry! You’re my big brother and you’re not acting like yourself! I just want to help! Why won’t you let me help you?”

“Not right now. Please. I’m tired.”

He was pushing her away, he knew that, but he just didn’t want to do this. Not tonight, at least. He just wanted to sleep.

Nezuko obviously didn’t want to let it go just yet, but she resigned herself to the silence with a frustrated sigh. Then she smiled at him warmly. “I’m here when you’re ready to talk about it, okay?” she reassured and stood up, walking over to the cupboard where they kept the bedding. Tanjirou watched her as she got the futons ready and wished that he’d get up to help her. He downed his now luke-warm tea instead.

Almost as soon as she was done Zenitsu and Inosuke got back. They smelled like freshly dug up soil, but Tanjirou could still detect faint traces of blood as well. He got into bed before they could join him by the table and listened as they quietly finished their meals before bidding each other goodnight and turning the lights out.

Zenitsu seemed to understand that Tanjirou wanted to be left alone and went to sleep in his own bed, but he had to stop Inosuke from crawling in with him.

“Not tonight, Inosuke.”


Please. Not tonight.”

Inosuke clearly wasn’t pleased, seemed almost hurt at the rejection, but he left Tanjirou be.


this chapter fought me with sword and shield while i was armed with nought but a mechanical pencil

i mean i finished it but i still somehow still feel like i lost lol

Edit: 15/01/2024 guys I might take a short break, I've bullshat my way through 16 000+ words and I'm. Really f*cking stuck rn but I really do want to finish this so I WILL be back as soon as I think of what happens next

Improvise! Adapt! Overcome! - AnActualBirb - 鬼滅の刃 (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kelle Weber

Last Updated:

Views: 6116

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kelle Weber

Birthday: 2000-08-05

Address: 6796 Juan Square, Markfort, MN 58988

Phone: +8215934114615

Job: Hospitality Director

Hobby: tabletop games, Foreign language learning, Leather crafting, Horseback riding, Swimming, Knapping, Handball

Introduction: My name is Kelle Weber, I am a magnificent, enchanting, fair, joyous, light, determined, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.