Chapter 1: beginning of the end
the quiet disturbs him unlike no other.
from the moment of his birth, everything speaks to him as if he were the only person in existence who could hear them. he has never known peace, never known quietness and stillness the same way other people have. nothing truly is ever quiet; he closes his eyes, breathes deeply, the faint sound of a leaf falling from miles away still can be heard by him.
the katana by his side screams at him louder than anything he has ever heard in his entire life. the sheer noise of it makes his knees buckle and he wants nothing more than to throw it to his side before cutting off his ears--
he does not.
(the silence scares him unlike no other. there's no telling what could be lying out there, hidden beneath the foliage of the trees, the only light that can help him see his surroundings would be the dim light of the moon above. there is no such thing as absolute silence until monsters come. the cicadas sing, his sparrow darts around anxiously, the leaves fall down.
his katana by his side provides a steady comfort of sound as he awaits silence.)
there is no comforting touch that can be found in the wild if you are a lawless boy.
the sturdy trees provides his shelter, the warm animals provide the food he eats, and the steady stream of the river gives him drink when he is thirsty. there is no one in the wild that gives him a hand or a hug or a kiss to make the monsters go away.
and he's okay with that. the wild is a lawless place and he is a lawless boy living in isolation from the rest of the world. the warmth from his crackling fire and the animals he capture are enough for him. there is no need to go the extra mile, the boar mask he carries hiding him from the world.
he has no need for other people and surely they have no need for him.
often, he closes his eyes. feels the thick embrace of the air around him and sometimes he can feel the beginnings of an embrace or a kiss. it's almost as if the wilderness he's spent his entire life living is giving off the warmth of another person. he catches himself wondering, is this what family feels like? he holds himself, his eyes still closed as he bathes in the shining moonlight.
and that's enough for him.)
he's grown used to the changed scent of his sister.
what used to remind him of a blooming pink rose that's full of life and color now smells like a white chrysanthemum with the underlying acrid smell of something not quite human.
the scent reminds him why he continues on doing what he does, no matter how many bones he break, how many gasps of air he breathes in, how many times he falls down. the overwhelming scent of chrysanthemums reminds him that his sister is still there with him, that he still has someone left.
soon he gets used to the scent of blood as well. the scent of bloodlust dominates whenever he engages in battle but still he can count on the steady scent of chrysanthemums coming from the box he carries on his back to ground him.
he strives on. enduring the terrible smell of blood that stays stuck on his nose like black oil, enduring the bloodlust the battlefield is surrounded by, grounded by white chrysanthemums, fighting for a future he refuses to acknowledge to be gone.
(the most particular thing is that often he forgets.
he never forgets a scent. he can still remember the smell of sweat from his younger brother's hair after he's spent the day playing outside under the sun. the smell of his mother's clothes after she's spent the entire day cooking for new years' eve. the scent of his father on his death bed about to meet his maker.
and yet sometimes he forgets the his sister no longer smells of life, that his sister no longer smells alive.
the moon shines a blinding red and he wishes to go back.)
Chapter 2: the star
the one where he reflects about what he wants
this was...... this took me a week to write and i think thats partly because i love zenitsu too much. then i realized my anime only privilege of fucking up canon won't last for long so i hurried and finished this... because of that the themes of this is so messy and theres like so many motifs that doesnt make sense that i really hate it now
might be ooc might be not but this is definitely not beta read so read at ur risk!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
zenitsu enjoys the rain for what it's worth.
the steady drops of rain falling on to the ground one after another gives him something to focus on, something that lets him tune out the rest of the world. it's mindless white noise that masks the whispers of others. he pretends he cannot hear them, closes his eyes and counts the droplets as it falls.
in the distance, if he strains his ears enough, he hears the beginning of lightning getting ready to strike.
"do you cut your own hair?" tanjirou asks him quietly in the dead of the night. his heart beats in tandem with the cicadas and zenitsu thinks he can hear the cogs of tanjiro's brain moving.
inosuke has long since fallen asleep, his heartbeat as steady as a river's. nezuko looks at them curiously, her heartbeat slightly quickening up as she waits for the scenario to unfold. the only thing that lights up the room is a small candle and in this light, tanjirou actually looks like his age--not someone marred by tragedy--for once, not holding the world on his shoulders but an actual fifteen year old with curiosity in his eyes. the cicadas cry out in the distance and he can hear the master of the house snore in her sleep; there are no monsters in a town filled with wisterias.
"not really." zenitsu replies honestly. "i'd wait for gramps to get fed up with my hair and then he'll just come with his katana and--" he slices the air with his hand, a small smile forming on his face as he remembers the memory fondly. "whoosh! a clean cut."
"eh...?" tanjirou replies, almost sounding disappointed. "that's not a clean cut at all! right nezuko?"
nezuko nods and if it werent for the bamboo on her mouth, he would think she would be pouting at this moment. she shakes her head and makes an x motion with her arms. her brother watches in rapt attention, nodding his head as well.
it's quite odd, zenitsu thinks, their heartbeats are completely different from each other, and yet they sound alike in a way that he knows doesn't make any sense. beating together, not quite in sync--zenitsu knows how rare it is for people to have heartbeats that sync together--but in a staccato rhythm, harmonizing and contrasting each other in a way that zenitsu has found to be comforting over the weeks they've grown to travel together.
"right!? that sounds messy!" tanjirou agrees with her loudly. inosuke moves in his sleep making all of them freeze, but after a moment passed and the other doesn't seem to have awoken, he continues. "how about now?"
zenitsu shrugs. "i do the same thing to be quite honest."
a beat passes as the two siblings turn to look at him. zenitsu is comically aware of how silent it is in their room and how comically loud the siblings' heartbeats are. tanjiro looks at him with his mouth open while nezuko's eyes are wide beyond belief. he'd laugh at how surprised they were if it weren't for the fact he has a bad feeling about this.
"that's-what? i-huh? eh? what!?" tanjiro sputters out. "zenitsu! tell me you're joking!"
he simply tilts his head to one side. "i don't see the problem?"
"it's a problem!" tanjiro exclaims, becoming wildly animated as his arms move around to make his point. nezuko nods in the background to the beat of tanjiro's complaints. "a huge problem!"
zenitsu looks at the both of them and wonders how he thought nezuko was somehow free from the shenanigans of her brother. their heartbeats quicken in envy and shock, zenitsu is confused.
"i don't understand?" zenitsu tells them. "it's just hair?"
"just hair!?" tanjirou exclaims before taking hold of the other's shoulders. with a kind of seriousness zenitsu's only seen from the other when they're fighting demons, he continues on. "zenitsu, i know tons of people back home who'd kill to have hair that even is a fraction of the color yours have now."
zenitsu hesitantly smiles. "again, it's just hair though?"
tanjiro frowns. "it's so pretty though..."
his blond hair, something that reminds him of the time he's spent with his gramps. to him, it's every tiny thing he's done wrong. the mark of cowardice coming back to bite him where it really hurts. a tragedy he shouldn't have survived. it's a bit confusing to zenitsu that here--here are two siblings, with the rare sound of goodness emitting from the both of them, that thinks his hair is anything pretty. this is a scar he can never recover from, a mark that will haunt him for his entire life. he's not sure how he's able to clearly hear tanjiro ramble on about blond hair when the beating of zenitsu's heart rivals the striking of lightning that it almost masks everything.
"like the blinding glint of sunlight." tanjiro continues on, whispering to himself, almost in awe. "the hot flash of lightning."
zenitsu flushes red and hopes that the red in his cheeks passes for the light the candle gives out. "that's too much."
tanjiro shakes his head. "it's not enough! it's really... bright. one would say--electrifying!"
"now you're making fun of me." zenitsu barks out a laugh and throws a pillow towards the other's direction. "i may be a coward but i'm not guillible, you know?" he doesn't hear--rather he ignores the quickening beat of tanjiro's heart. this is not the time, much too occupied with trying to silence his thunderous heartbeat that he is sure the entire world can hear. "we should go to sleep already."
both siblings look like they're about to protest but zenitsu is already in the middle of laying in his bed. he hides himself under the covers, his entire face as pink as the peach momotaro came out of. he hears tanjiro sighs in disappointment while nezuko shakes her head. soon, they also get ready for bed and the dim flame of the candle is no more.
"it really is pretty, you know?" tanjiro whispers in the quiet dark. zenitsu hears a heartbeat speed up and he is not sure if it is his or tanjiro's.
soon, sleep takes over him, lulled by the steady heartbeats of tanjiro, nezuko and inosuke, like an inevitable lullaby that tells him these are the people you care for, here they are and nothing bad has happened to them. he dreams of peaches and someone touching his hair.
when he wakes up, he is still flushed red that the master of the house asks if she should call a doctor.
inosuke is a weird fellow to say the least. zenitsu never thinks he'd be able to get along well with him in any kind of scenario. the boar head is too much of an odd ball while he is too much of a "i don't absolutely want any kind of trouble" kind if person. you know?
still, zenitsu listens; closes his eyes and counts the beating of inosuke's heart as he rests. one. two. three. the beating of his heart is loud enough to drown out the misery his katana shouts at him. he listens to the loud and unflinchingly straight-forward beating of his heart and sometimes zenitsu wonders what it's like to be like him. not a care in the world, only looking forward, nothing to bear on his shoulders.
and then inosuke looks at him too and his fingers twitch as he does so. zenitsu listens to a sad sound, listens to inosuke feeling confused about everything and then he realizes how wrong he is. this is a boy who was lost from civilization, he has everything to bear, so many things to catch up on. he feels inclined to hold his hands as well.
there are times where inosuke takes off his mask and zenitsu looks at him in awe, his heartbeat speeding up to a ridiculously fast pace.
it's unfair that his face is like that, zenitsu thinks--not even trying to hide the fact that he is full on staring right now.
"what are you looking at?" inosuke's eyebrows furrow in confusion, his entire body perpetually set on his fight instinct.
"eh? ah!" zenitsu snaps out of his trail of thought and waves his hands around in surprise. "nothing!?"
this makes inosuke not back down at all. he gets closer in the other's personal space, so close that zenitsu thinks he doesn't have to rely on his specialized hearing to be able to hear his heartbeat.
"is there something wrong with my face?!" inosuke says, this time glaring at him. he looks red as a ripe strawberry and he vaguely sounds embarrassed .
"ah! no no no!!!" zenitsu shakes his head, he also feels himself turn red because it's not everyday he can get an eyeful of inosuke. he averts his eyes and tries to stop the instinct of bringing his hands to his face. "there's nothing wrong!"
inosuke takes another minute in zenitsu's personal space, looking at him intensely, and zenitsu just wants to burrow his self under ground. he hears inosuke huff a breath (embarassed as well...?), finally takes pity on zenitsu and moves away.
"good." inosuke says and zenitsu takes this to finally look at him properly again.
he looks--frankly speaking--handsome. as if built by the gods above--sharp eyes that's clear as the sky, black hair that looks so soft to touch and what wouldn't zenitsu give to have a chance to run his fingers through his hair, a body so well-built that even perhaps ametarasu dreams of him as well.
"amazing..." zenitsu cannot help but utter as he looks on before realizing what he said and being surprised at himself. inosuke doesn't seem to have noticed so he breathes a sigh of relief, closing his eyes.
but that relief is short-lived as he feels a hand pat his head. zenitsu looks up to see inosuke looking as surprised as he is. he hears a thunderous heartbeat, as fast as nezuko during times where tanjiro is about to be maimed or about to meet his maker. it's a heartbeat that has no rhythm to it and zenitsu thinks that his heartbeat might match it with how flustered and surprised he's feeling right now.
"is anything wrong...?" zenitsu croaks out, his ability to speak apparently leaving him because this wasn't a scenario he was prepared for. this was a scenario that tanjiro was the most likely to undergo through, not him!
"soft..." inosuke mumbles and maybe if it were any other person no one would hear it--but zenitsu, with his hearing, has heard it and has grown as red as cherry now. their heartbeats are loud and fast, and zenitsu feels like the earth is going to shake and swallow him up.
"but that doesn't mean anything!!!" inosuke suddenly exclaims, jolting zenitsu back into reality. he pushes his head towards zenitsu's direction. "if your hair is soft, mine is softer! look! touch it!"
zenitsu's fingers twitch as he looks on. against better judgement, he reaches out and runs his fingers through his hair. it is... soft. extremely so that he's not quite sure it's possible. he gets entranced by this and continues on while inosuke grins at him smugly.
inosuke pats his head a few times again, nods to himself, and then leaves zenitsu alone with his fingers still outstretched. presumably to find tanjiro to bother.
he's still not quite sure what happened but, he looks at his hand, tries to remember how soft and nice it felt and then turns red. his heartbeat is thunderous and everything really is unfair.
it's raining again.
it is the aftermath of a mission. nezuko is asleep, regaining the energy she has spent from the battle. tanjiro is sustaining a number of broken ribs because he doesn't know the concept of moderation, inosuke has a concussion because he also doesn't know the concept of stopping, and zenitsu has a broken arm because--well, he can't leave the two alone, can't he?
zenitsu looks out the window and finds that he cannot enjoy this rain at all. after all, it's the first time in a very long time where their rooms are seperated to keep them from "bothering their injuries and making them worse"--whatever that means. he counts the droplets of rain that falls and truly finds that he cannot sleep ir relax in this empty room devoid of all sound.
it's stupid. this is a home of the wisterias and if he tries hard enough, he can pick out the heartbeats of his boys. if he tries hard enough he can listen to the steady thumps of nezuko sleeping in the room beside him. if he strains his ears, he can hear the master of the house wash the dishes of today's dinner. it's not that he's alone, surrounded by monsters out to eat him. it's just that--
one year ago, he would've thought nothing of it. it was a cycle of life, some days he would have friends, the next day they'd leave. the only exception would be gramps, who would always chase after him. gramps who never left.
but this isn't the same thing, isnt it zenitsu? they're not... they didn't really leave, didn't they? they're just in the next room over, their heartbeats ringing as loud as a tiger's roar. no matter how much he focuses on the droplets of rain falling right now, he wouldn't ever be able to tune their sounds out the same way he does for his katana.
zenitsu sighs. "pathetic."
when did he ever reach this state of comfort? that he knows it'd be next to impossible for him to try and shake them out of his life? they're a constant as much as he is in their lives and he knows that if he ever runs away, tanjiro and inosuke would track him down as quick as an owl catching mice. but, perhaps it's okay.
maybe, it's okay.
all of a sudden the shoji slides open, surprising the life out of zenitsu. he hears two yawns and two distinctive heartbeats. he turns around to see tanjiro and inosuke by his door. they're both holding their own pillows, with tanjiro holding another blanket on his side.
"what's okay, z'nitsu?" tanjiro yawns once more. inosuke is behind him rubbing his eyes.
"n-nothing!" zenitsu stutters out, "why are you guys here?"
inosuke yawns and enters the room, bumping into tanjiro. he also enters the room afterward, making their way to zenitsu's futon before promptly falling all over him.
"inosuke, tanjiro! your injuries!" zenitsu exclaims as he gets dragged down on the bed. he feels a slight stab of pain bloom in his arm and then sees inosuke leaning on top of it. "my injuries!"
"my bad," inosuke slurs out before positioning himself so that he's not touching zenitsu's injuries. his chin is on top of zenitsu's head and he can feel inosuke's breathing even out as he succumbs to sleep.
"the doctor said we couldn't sleep together," zenitsu mumbles out, "what's with you guys."
"sorry," tanjiro chuckles as he burrows deeper into zenitsu's not broken side after wrapping his blanket over the three of them. "the scent of... longing was really just too great and i think inosuke just missed us."
"ha!? longing? me?!" zenitsu feels himself turn red. not only in embarassment but in stubborness as well. it's funny, he thinks. he's been running all his life, trying to find this kind of acceptance and the moment it gets presented to him freely with nothing attached to it, he's--he's scared. wanting nothing more than to run.
tanjiro and inosuke doesn't let him though. their grip on him on this bed is so tight that he thinks he won't be able to move until the next morning when everyone is finally awake and the rain has passed.
tanjiro nods, his eyes closing "it's okay z'nitsu. it's okay to long. after all, we've been longing for this too."
it's not anything at all, zenitsu understands that. it's just acknowledgment of something. there's nothing to it, no confirmation, no anything. but--
he still wants it.
tanjiro falls asleep after a moment. inosuke is beside him sleeping without a care in the world. zenitsu look up at the ceiling and thinks if this is the thing he's spent his entire life trying to find.
he closes his eyes. his katana is beside his futon but finds that he can't quite hear the shouts of misery it gives off when it's drowned out by the heart beats of tanjiro and inosuke. he counts in time. one, two, three. their heartbeats slowly synchs up together, harmonizing into something that zenitsu will forever hear in his dreams. four, five, six.
soon, sleep takes him. further in the distance, he hears lightning crackle and strike.
im really noisy at twitter so please talk to me @owoaina