The thoughts that contain it are brief, paused and haphazard as the raindrops that fall over you when it’s drizzling.
“Can we stop now?”
He heaves out heavily. He wants to murder them. It’s not fair that they treat him in such a way. His watery breath wallows in the air. His hands rest over his knees. His forehead and back are sweating profusely.
“Weak!” Inosuke taunts, and he’s probably right. In this food chain that they compose, he’s no doubt the weakest link, the one everyone feeds on.
Tanjiro smiles with understanding and rapidly makes up an excuse to stop.
The sun is sizzling above their heads.
Two dead pheasants fall to Tanjiro’s feet while he’s trying to get a fire going to boil some water that they obtained from the river. Tanjiro looks at them and nods. He’s already used to Inosuke’s dead bird offerings.
Zenitsu is lying down on the floor with closed eyes. Despite that, there’s a lot of information coming into his ears.
Tanjiro’s timid pulse is the most important of them all. It seems to accelerate briefly when Inosuke arrives, but then it goes back to its usual balanced and calm rhythm, the switch is so swift that Zenitsu even wonders if it wasn’t just his imagination.
Tanjiro’s breath is also a recital made of particular and exquisite nuances. The way the air sounds when it leaves his lungs and revolves around his mouth is particular and unique. There’s also the noise he makes when he swallows and when his stomach grumbles, reminding him that the time for eating has already passed.
Zenitsu enjoys listening to all of that. It is to him a wonder of monumental proportions how all the little sounds in Tanjiro assemble to create an exclusive cacophony that spells peace and kindness.
He never met anyone whose personal melody was so comforting. So different from Inosuke who rather produces the kind of concert that would be offered by a storm, filled with savageness, thunder and destruction.
Zenitsu sighs. Then he frowns because he hears Inosuke approaching. He hears the kick before it hits him.
“Get up. If you’re not going to do anything, at least eat. I didn’t hunt in vain.”
Sometimes, Zenitsu thinks, Inosuke acts as the leader of the pack. He also suspects that Inosuke is probably not thrilled about having such a weakling as Zenitsu in his pack, but, since he has no other option, he looks after him anyway. Though Inosuke always wants to keep the best portions of his game, he never lets Tanjiro and Zenitsu go hungry.
Sometimes it occurs to Zenitsu that Inosuke treats him as if he was an omega and not another alpha. Maybe he can’t get around the idea of an alpha being such a clumsy weeping crybaby as he is.
“No, it’s better if I just die here” Zenitsu answers. “It will be a peaceful and less painful death than being ripped apart by a demon.”
“No demon is going to rip you apart, Zenitsu” Tanjiro assures and Zenitsu doesn’t need to have a super developed hearing sense to hear the smile in his words. He sighs.
What does Tanjiro know.
“If you ate better, maybe you’d stop being so flimsy” Inosuke suggests. Zenitsu finally opens his eyes to throw a murderous glare at him.
The sun is scorching them.
Later, they resume their voyage. They will walk until the sun sets and then they’ll settle somewhere. It seems they won’t be out of the woods they’re in until the next day. Right now, they’re going through a section of old leafy trees that grumble and sway their leaves like huge ancient monsters who’re dozing off. Zenitsu yawns, listening to the story that Tanjiro is telling about his home in the mountains and some of the customs they had there.
“We had a sanctuary right at the top of the mountain. There used to be a thick fog there and it always smelled like incense. People from the village burned it in small shrines that were fitted in hollow trees around the mountain. Their empty trunks threw the scented air up, like chimneys, and that’s how it reached the sanctuary area. Inside, those trees were sealed with wax so they wouldn’t catch fire. Of course, those are trees that have died a long time ago”.
Inosuke seems to stare at him sideways from under the boar mask as he walks alongside him.
“And what was the use of that sanctuary?” He asks. Inosuke is always interested in Tanjiro’s stories, as if he could discover unknown pieces of the world in them.
“It was for fertility” Tanjiro explains, looking ahead. “In the mountains not a lot of omegas are born, so people often make offerings to ask for the birth of some omegas in the next generation.”
“And did it work?”
Tanjiro remains silent for a moment, as if thinking about his answer.
“Well, my mom always told me that she and my father had made a big offering before having their first son, who was me, and at the end I was their only omega child. My other little brothers and sisters were betas, except for Nezuko, who was an alpha before…”
He falls silent. Zenitsu can hear the soft whispering in his chest that signals sadness and it hurts him too. Doesn’t Inosuke realize that he’s making him think of undesirable things?
“Nezuko was an alpha?” The blond asks, hoping to change the direction in which the conversation was going. “Does that mean that she’ll go back to being one once she’s human again?”
Tanjiro turns to him and shrugs, but his expression relaxes and the music of his body goes back to normal. Talking about the day in which they get Nezuko back as if it was bound to happen, Zenitsu has found, always seems to improve Tanjiro’s mood.
“She was an alpha? That explains why she’s super strong” Inosuke says. Despite the fact that he has Tanjiro in front of him every day as tangible proof that omegas can also be strong, Inosuke always makes that kind of comments, as if he thought that only alphas could have power.
Maybe, in his head, Tanjiro is nothing but a strange exception to the rule.
“Then the sanctuary did work” he adds afterwards and Zenitsu wants to strangle him. They just left that dangerous terrain and the moron is dragging them back. “What was in there, exactly? Was it a god?”
Tanjiro smiles and shakes his head.
“I don’t really know. Omegas were the only ones who were allowed to get to the top of the mountain to make a petition, but that was only when you wanted to start a family. So, it was never the right time for me to do it” he explains and there’s an odd smile in his lips, kind of regretful. Inosuke puffs a little bit.
“And when will it be?” he questions. Tanjiro turns to look at him. Zenitsu does too.
What kind of question was that?
“That’s the last thing Tanjiro is thinking about, Inosuke, don’t be an idiot” the electric slayer says with annoyance. Of course he knows Inosuke is often a social inept, but asking something so private is downright rude.
However, he doesn’t realize his own mistake. Saying that with so much certainty, as if he knew exactly what was going through Tanjiro’s head, was also not okay. The omega watches him for a moment, but he doesn’t say anything. An unpleasant silence makes its way between them for a few minutes, until Tanjiro points out that maybe they could camp in a clearing that’s a bit ahead of them.
Later, as they’re having dinner, they start a very inconsequential conversation about cities, inns and amenities, chatting away about the things they’ve seen and haven’t seen in the travels that each of them had before they were brought together. However, a bit later, something new and bizarre occurs.
Zenitsu squints his eyes when he sees Inosuke offering Tanjiro one of the best bits of his prey.
He doesn’t know why, but he finds the action insulting and he almost wants to tear the food away from his fingers and throw it far, but of course he doesn’t do it because he’s not an uncivilized madman, unlike Inosuke.
He only observes, waiting to see the outcome.
“Eat that” Inosuke pretty much orders, leaving it on his plate. Tanjiro looks at the plate and then he looks up at Inosuke.
“Inosuke, that’s your favourite part.”
“It’s the one that’s most nutritious” the alpha explains, as if it was obvious and that clarified the situation.
“That’s why you always eat it, right?”
“Of course, I need good nutrients to remain strong. This body doesn’t maintain itself” he says, pointing at himself. They know him well enough to know that he’s not showing off his well-shaped pectorals, but rather what he’s capable of doing with them.
“Exactly, that’s why you always eat this part” Tanjiro retorts and tries to take the good piece of meat from his plate to give it back, but Inosuke growls at him.
He growls at him.
“Inosuke?” Tanjiro stops and, hesitating for a second, he puts the offering back onto his plate. “Okay, I will eat it if that’s what you want, but you don’t have to sacrifice your nutrition for me. Besides, I don’t understand why you do it all of a sudden.”
“Because you have to remain strong” the alpha swiftly replies, as if it was all very clear to him, “for the day when you have my pups.”
Zenitsu almost chokes on a sip of water.
The next thing that the poor Tanjiro has to watch is Zenitsu hurling himself towards Inosuke. They tussle ferally, although luckily none of them does much more than tugging and pushing a little, as if they weren’t really sure of what they were doing or the objective of it. But Zenitsu feels a surge of anger and jealousy so strong in him that he’s not capable of controlling it. He wants to do something to Inosuke, he doesn’t know exactly what, but he can’t just remain with his arms folded after he said something so outrageous.
Inosuke smacks him a bit, but he doesn’t get really serious, which is strange, as he’s always the first to want and start a fight for no reason.
“No! Not until you go back on your words!”
“Huh?! Do you have any problem with Tanjiro being my omega?!”
“He’s not yours! When did you ever ask him?!”
Completely troubled, Tanjiro raises his hands and looks at them both without being really sure of what to do. He ends up grabbing Zenitsu by the haori, trying to be gentle, and he pulls at him with a moderated strength while asking him to let go of the other.
“Please, Zenitsu” he begs. But Zenitsu is filled with acid rage.
“No! He disrespected you! He insulted your dignity as an omega!”
“I assure you he didn’t do such a thing, calm down, I’m sure it was just a joke.”
Judging from his tone, Zenitsu knows that not even Tanjiro believes that. And, judging from the way Inosuke said it, Zenitsu knows he was being completely serious.
That idiot was awarding Tanjiro to himself! TO HIMSELF! With what right?!
“I’m going to finish you!”
“A weakling like you can’t do anything to me!”
Zenitsu growls, feeling more and more feral by the second. He wants to bite him.
“Zenitsu, come on!” Tanjiro’s voice reverberates in his eardrums, concerned, nervous. He feels his fingers pulling at his clothes, and Zenitsu is almost desperate. He knows that what Inosuke said is right, he doesn’t stand a chance against him. What can he do to protect Tanjiro from him?
The next thing that happens is an obvious result of Zenitsu’s brain short-circuiting and stopping sending coherent signals to the rest of his body.
Because he turns around, releasing Inosuke, and then he plunges towards Tanjiro, pushing him down to the floor and sinking his lips in the tender flesh of his neck.
The thoughts that contain it are brief, paused and haphazard as the raindrops that fall over you when it’s drizzling.
The thoughts that Zenitsu ever entertained about making Tanjiro his omega are brief. Paused and haphazard, like drizzle raindrops.
He feels the skin breaking. He tastes the blood, charged with a volatile hormonal gush. He hears Tanjiro complaining and hears him getting scared. His blood starts racing so fast that it produces a distressed lisp, his heart pumps strongly and gutturally like a drum, his breathing becomes jagged. Behind him he also hears Inosuke reacting with utter confusion that slowly turns into anger.
For a minuscule millisecond, the idea that he’s doing something terrible strikes him, especially when Tanjiro whispers that no no no which breaks his heart.
By the time he pulls away, he has tears in his eyes. He looks up at Tanjiro, but he can only keep his stare for a second before looking away, completely ashamed.
Tanjiro is sitting in front of him, trembling, sweating, with his hands on the floor and his legs spread. Zenitsu had been between them, and now he’s kneeling close to his feet.
For a few instants, none of them moves.
But then, Zenitsu, with his eyes still on the floor, sees Tanjiro’s feet move away from him, dragging over the floor. For a moment, he thinks that’s Tanjiro who tries to get away from him, but when he dares look up…
Inosuke has grabbed Tanjiro by his sides, he’s dragged him backwards, has settled him between his thighs and now he has his head buried on one side of his neck, the side opposite to the one Zenitsu had attacked…
Zenitsu opens up his eyes in horror.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
Tanjiro has a pained expression and lets out weak little whimpers, but he doesn’t move. After a few moments, Inosuke pulls away, lapping at his lips.
Zenitsu is at a loss. He sees Tanjiro’s neck bleeding only where he bit him, but not where Inosuke did.
The other alpha throws Zenitsu a disapproving look.
“Clean him properly” he orders.
Zenitsu swallows. But his instincts seem to suddenly activate, as if an old animal memory within him woke up and reminded him that he needs to lick the wound after the bite in order to help it coagulate faster. It’s a natural effect produced by the saliva of an alpha when it enters into contact with the wound of an omega.
He rushes to obey. He carefully takes Tanjiro in his arms and he softly moves his head in his direction. Tanjiro doesn’t resist and, actually, he even tilts his head slightly to the side to give him better access. That plays with Zenitsu’s instinct and desire in a macabre way, and he has to fight himself in order to avoid losing control as he softly cleans the wound, almost trembling.
When he finishes, he releases him again. He removes his hands as if they were toxic and could burn him.
He whispers something. But he’s almost certain that Tanjiro hasn’t been able to hear him, so he repeats it.
“Forgive me, Tanjiro. Please, forgive me.”