Zenitsu feels a heat pool in his abdomen. He starts to sweat, his pulse skyrocketing - a loud and rapid rhythm in his ears. A buzz skitters across his skin. He's reminded of that day, when lightning struck him. Except it's less intense yet somehow more. Lightning burned sharp and fast and everywhere all at once. This heat crawled and sunk slow and steady down the back of his throat, across every knob of his spine, settling below his hips near the tip of his tailbone.
Distantly, he hears a lady moan.
Things Zenitsu did not consider before going undercover in the Red Light District:
- Close proximity to other omegas
- Omegas with artificially induced heat
- Pheromone-stuffed air and the heady, thick scent of sex
- Very graphic, extremely - stupidly graphic sounds of muscles clenching, moaning, slick skin slapping against firm, round -
OKAY! Okay! He needs to plug his ears somehow. Cotton - silk - it doesn't really matter. Something thick should work. Yeah something thick and hard... And hot - wait a minute.
Zenitsu has heard about heat and the signs of its onset. Even before being taken in by Grandpa, he's heard the other kids talk about it. Some brat heard from their brother who learned from their uncle whose spouse went through a heat. Sex was always a fascinating topic for the older kids. Puberty hit them all, some gradually over time, and others like, well, a lightning bolt.
For Zenitsu, he's always been fascinated by the softness of women's voices or the deepness of men's laughter. But when he hit 13, that fascination started to involve the width of their chests, the slant of their necks, the curve of their wrists. He started to pay more and more attention to all the gossip and rumors of who got caught behind the bath house or who was seen together off the trodden mountain path.
That's how he learned of omegas and their heats. Some alpha prick boasted about how well they satisfied their sweet omega. Or some omega twit bragged about their studly alpha. Most of what he learned was, of course, hearsay or exaggerated beyond recognizable fact. But there had to be some nuggets of truth.
Like the fact that, when in proximity of other omegas in the throes of their heat, a fellow omega can be incited to start their heats. He's sixteen. It's not his first. He noticed the warning signs as his heat truly began its onset. And naturally! Naturally! Of all the damn hearsay and rumours and nonsense that he had listened to, NATURALLY, it would be the ONE nugget of truth that could jeopardize their whole mission.
He feels slick drip down his thighs. His thoughts grow hazy, like when he used a telescope once. He peered through the lens, adjusting until the blurry image grew crisp and clear. Except this is in reverse. The room spins, fading in and out. All the colors blur and spill into a gigantic mess akin to a regurgitated lunch. Zenitsu slumps into his futon. His back arches up, lifting his ass high. It's so hot.
He needs to - water. If he could just cool down - Maybe use a Breathing technique to slow his blood like he slowed the poison... Then he can... Then he can... Then he...
He hears the worst possible voice enter his room.
"Zenitsu?" Tanjiro - alpha, strong alpha, alpha in his prime - no, Tanjiro calls out to him. "It's time for the meeting. Uzui-san is mad. You're -"
The abrupt sound of a sharply inhaled breath. Tanjiro, leave. He has to leave. He can tell, right? He knows, shouldn't he? Stupid, honest-faced bastard!! Zenitsu clearly is in no condition to do a damn thing. He's - He's - Oh fuck, it's hot. Oh fuck. Oooooh fuck. Please. Fuck.
A hand gently cups his face. Zenitsu's entire body narrows down to the rough, callused palm cradling his chin. A heartbeat - not his, another, an Alpha's - steps in time with his. Zenitsu blinks and in a single, fleeting instant, he manages to focus his gaze on a pair of warm, reddish-brown eyes. Hungry. Starving. Pinned on him and him alone.
And then, Zenitsu knew no more.
Sweat. So much sweat. Everything feels damp. And he aches. His arms, his legs, his hips - all of it is so sore. He hears the sticky sound of skin clapping slick, dripping skin. Someone is moaning, the breathless, weightless noise of someone on the edge and just barely clinging on.
Oh it's him. That's him moaning. And that's a cock - that is most definitely a cock - filling him up so good and thick. Alpha is spoiling him so well. Zenitsu can hear the Alpha's rabbit-pulse, leaping and skipping, pumping blood into his flexing thighs, his coiled biceps, and of course, that growing knot. Zenitsu can feel it pushing against the rim of his hole, seeking an entry. He bites his lip as more slick gushes out, preparing a hero's welcome. Alpha grunts, rough and ready, and Zenitsu breathes out, going limp and lax against the futon.
Then the knot slides in, a hard, solid shape against his rubbed raw hole. It stuffs him heavy and heated. He squirms, torn between pulling it further in or pushing it all the way out. The Alpha gets more excited somehow, and decides for him by thrusting his hips just that bit more. The tip of his cock jams against a soft, sensitive spot inside and Zenitsu feels sparks spreading from the base of his spine to the roots of his hair.
"Gonna getch you pregnant," the Alpha slurs into his ear.
Zenitsu shivers. The caress of that hot breath, it's too much. He turns his head, hands gripping the Alpha's shoulders and pushing him away.
"You're gonna giff me pups, pretty pups, like you..."
Pups... Wait, pups? Wait, wait, wait pregnant? This - There's something wrong here. He can almost - But his thoughts scatter like petals in the wind. It's bad. He can tell that much. He just doesn't know why or how.
"You'll be shafe... Gonna keep you shafe..."
Ah, that's right, isn't it. If he gets pregnant, he won't have to fight. No more scary demons, no more painful training, no more deadly poisons or crazy deaths by dreaming. He'll be safe...
Why was that so bad again?
"Thas true..." he murmurs, burying his nose into the crook of Alpha's neck.
He feels the knot inside him swell, dragging against his insides as the Alpha pumps his hips in short, stunned bursts. Zenitsu gasps, breathing in the smokey scent of charcoal - burning warm and open in a waiting hearth, a perfect homecoming on a cold winter's night. Such a beautiful scent, he's only daydreamed of ever encountering such a perfect scent. But here it is. All for him.
"Getch... Get me pregnant... I want - I want your pups please..." He manages to murmur with some coherency.
The Alpha growls, a low, ringing sound that rattles Zenitsu's bones. Then the thrusting speeds up. The knot keeps the Alpha's cock stuck inside, tugging against his swollen rim. It's a flash of pain that gets him whining. As each drag of the cockhead, massaging his insides, snatches the breath from his throat.
He hears a jaw clenching, a bitten back groan. And it's not his. No, the Alpha's thrust stutters before something floods his ass, the knot plugging up his hole, keeping him bloated and heavy.
Zenitsu loses it then. He comes, splattering across his chest, as his eyes flutter shut, falling hard into a dreamless sleep. Or, as most people call it, fainting.
Zenitsu thinks it was a dream. Only good things happen to him in dreams. When he's asleep, he can pretend to be powerful and confident. He can pretend to have caught the eye of his very desirable Alpha friend. He can pretend to no longer be a virgin, especially after such a rigorous amount of sex. But then, it would all be pretend. Like that dream demon and his trap, none of it was real.
Except he wakes up to Uzui looming over him. Wait. Actually what?
"Finally decided to join us, sleepyhead?" The Sound Pillar grinds out. "I know you're basically rank and file goonies. But you do have a mission here. And that's not to debauch yourselves while looking for my wives. Do I make myself clear?"
Debauch? Eh. Debauch??? Eh?!
"What are you talking about?! I know that I fell asleep too early last night!!! But so what! You hardass!! What could I have learned in a night anyways!!! You literally just dropped me off! Give me a damn break!! I can start searching now!!"
Uzui raises a very skeptic brow. "Can you even stand?"
"Of course, I can stand!! Why wouldn't I be able to stand?! Do you really think I'm that useless? Just because you gave me away for free! And for your information, that's your fault! You did such a shit job with my makeup! A real artist can make anything beautiful! Even -" Then Zenitsu does actually try to get up…
Only for a terrible ache to flare up in his legs, his back, his… Oh no.
Trying to stand was his first mistake. As he reaches the peak of his horror, making eye contact with Uzui ends up as his second mistake. The bastard has the guts to look smug!! Why is he smug??? Isn't this a setback to their mission??
"You are very lucky that no one noticed your little sexcapade. The God of Flamboyance isn't on your side, I can tell you that for certain. But the God of Luck was. Count your blessings."
Zenitsu grinds his teeth. "Are you still on about that? Being a god??"
"Obviously! It didn't get through your thick skull!! But maybe I gave you guys too much credit. Fooling around on the job!"
"Honestly, I thought you'd find that flamboyant, Mr. Three Wives Bastard." Zenitsu meant to mutter under his breath.
Uzui heard it, anyways. He scowls and leans in close, until Zenitsu has to scramble backwards - further irritating his back.
"You better flamboyantly find my wives. That's the only kind of flamboyance I care for right now. Got it?"
Zenitsu nods quietly.
"Good." He pauses, but he doesn't pull away. His eyes narrow, looking Zenitsu up and down. "Now, a certain little birdie tells me that you went into heat? Is that true? You had your heat last night?"
"Wha- What? No! Can't have! If I had my heat, I'd still be in heat now! Heats last for a week, you know! Or at least, three days! The only way for heats to stop is-"
Wait. No. It can't be. That's not possible. Nope nope nope nope. That is most certainly not happening. Zenitsu tries to say so but the worlds get all jumbled up in his mouth. His teeth catches his gums causing him to yelp loud and high.
"... Are you pregnant?" Uzui asks bluntly.
"NO!!" Zenitsu shrieks, finally managing to spit out.
This wakes his bed partner. Zenitsu didn't even know he had a bed partner!!! Has this asshole been sleeping the entire time? While he's getting chewed out over something they both did??? Is this jerk for real??
Zenitsu whips around, ignoring the soreness of his muscles, ready to rip into the other guy. But Tanjiro blinks at him with his warm, brown eyes - traces of sleep leaving his expression softer than usual, more childlike than his "I'm the Big Brother and I'm in charge" look. All of Zenitsu's rage gutters out and dies like a candle left out in the rain. Unfair! How can he possibly be angry when Tanjiro looks in need of a lullaby more than a lecture?
Zenitsu turns back to Uzui. "We were just fooling around. That's all. You know. Got all excited from the… the noise. That's it."
Uzui hums but finally pulls back, giving Zenitsu much needed personal space. His eyes remain narrow and suspicious, studying him carefully. But after a half minute, he finally nods. "Don't let it happen again."
"Don't let what happen? Zenitsu? Why am I - Wait - Wasn't there - Oh."
At last!! The foolhardy idiot catches up! Thank the heavens!
Tanjiro springs up, sounding wide awake now. "Zenitsu, did we-"
Zenitsu refuses to look at him.
"Right. Save the drama for after we finish the mission," Uzui tells them. He points at Tanjiro. "You need to go back before the Tokito House notices you were gone the whole night.
Zenitsu can hear the way Tanjiro's whole face flushes at the confirmation of his assumptions.
"Wait, but Zenitsu and I-"
"I said after the mission!" Uzui stands up. "C'mon, let's go before I drag you over."
Tanjiro shifts, getting to his feet with relative ease. That jerk. Zenitsu's over here, wincing with every third move, and this guy gets up like it was nothing. Tch. Alphas get all fun. Omegas just gotta take it.
Oh but he took it so well . And where did that thought come from?! Shut up you overactive libido! Weren't you satisfied from last night? Actually, don't answer that. Why is he even talking to himself? Is he going crazy?
Out of habit, Zenitsu looks up and finds his gaze caught in Tanjiro's kind eyes.
"Let's talk after, okay?"
Something whispers and dances in his chest, like a newborn bird learning to take flight. He nods quietly, watching as Tanjiro climb through the window, following Uzui out.
Talk? Yeah, sure. But there's really nothing to talk about. They had sex. People have sex all the time. Some of them were even friends before they had sex. It really shouldn't be that big of a deal. It's not like - It's not like feelings of any sort were involved. They just got a little excited. It was their first night in a brothel. They're young, strapping lads. This wasn't a complicated scenario.
Nothing really happened. Honestly. Just some sexy fun times between friends. Zenitsu definitely didn't lose his mind, confused by his heat. Because a heat definitely did not happen. Because if a heat did happen, and he is saying that it didn't, then Zenitsu should still be stuck in a heat. Unless he got pregnant. But seriously? Honestly? C'mon! Who gets pregnant after one night of sex? What are the odds? It's a joke! He must not have gone into heat. That's the only explanation. He didn't go into heat and he - definitely, certainly, absolutely - is not pregnant.
After the mission, Zenitsu is back at the Butterfly Estate, with both his legs broken. They kept him on the good painkillers because he's barely been coherent for the last couple days. But today, they took him off his usual dosage. This should have been red flag number one. With his thoughts in more or less order, Shinobu-san pays him a visit. This should have been red flag number two. Shinobu-san would never visit him. She had killed any hopes of his during his last stay here.
And yet, here she is, seated at his bedside, telling him...
"Eh. What? Eh?! Wait!! WHAT?!! EEEEEEEEH???!!!! PREGNANT?!?!?! ME?! NO NO NO NO! No way! That's wrong! You're wrong! You messed up somewhere! That can't be right! There's no way!! How can I be pregnant?!! I've been hospitalized for days!!! I've been BEDRIDDEN!! Where the hell am I getting dick from?!!"
Shinobu-san thumps him soundly on the head. "Language."
"AH! AH! AAAAAH! SEE! YOU SEE!! I can't be pregnant if you can just hit me like that!!! There's no way!!! No way!! No way!! NO!!! WAY!!!!"
"Believe me. You can still succesfully give birth while concussed. In fact, the fetus might be better off with you knocked out through the pregnancy."
"How can you say such a frightening thing!! Scary!!! Too scary!!! I'm scared!!"
"Good." She smiles.
Zenitsu's jaw clicks shut.
"Now that I have your attention." She folds her hands together, peering at him with narrowed eyes. "You have a choice to make."
Zenitsu's hand automatically drifts down to his abdomen, still flat. It's hard to believe that he's pregnant. How? He's only had sex once and that was with...
"Tanjiro," he murmurs.
"That is not one of your options."
"No! I meant, I want to talk with Tanjiro."
"And I'm telling you that's not one of your options."
"Look! I don't even know how this happened!! But it's his!! It happened before we got into a fight with a freaking Upper Moon!!! An UPPER MOON!! Okay?! This - This pregnancy shouldn't even be POSSIBLE because a stupid BUILDING FELL ON ME!! How the hell did the - the -" Zenitsu can't even say it. "IT'S NOT POSSIBLE!!!"
"I can assure you that I made no mistakes with my tests. I triple checked. Then I made Aoi do it. Then I checked her work. We had the same results. It's absurd, I agree. That pregnancy of yours is a little miracle."
Her words strike something tender and tucked away in him. Tears bubble up, a sob catching in his throat. But this doesn't feel like his usual panic crying. It's a lot more intense. A little jolt of lightning caused a spark that started a bonfire burning merrily in the pits of his stomach. Oh. Is this what people call joy? Except he shouldn't be happy. He's pregnant. He's going to have a baby. He can barely take care of himself and now he's supposed to raise a whole other person??? No way. Absolutely not. Impossible.
This pregnancy is impossible. Yet here it still is. Zenitsu's little miracle. No, his and Tanjiro's. He's carrying Tanjiro's child. Oh sweet heavens. He finally admits it. He's going to have a child.
"You don't have to keep it," Shinobu-san tells him.
Zenitsu keeps his gaze low, avoiding the intensity of her stare. But he can hear the chilling gravity in her voice. Each word seems to give the air weight, solid and heavy and hard to breathe in.
"I want to speak with Tanjiro."
"And I said -"
Zenitsu pouts and finally looks at Shinobu. "Nooooo! You don't understaaaaaand!! We made a promise!! After the fight, we were going to, you know, talk about what happened!!! It's Tanjiro, that ridiculously honest and earnest guy!! You really think, what? He was going to go 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am'? Then go running off olly olly oxen free??? Tanjiro?!"
Shinobu doesn't quite laugh but Zenitsu picks up a repressed, muffled noise in her chest. The flutter of insect wings trapped in a cage. She wanted to laugh. He calls that a success.
"Yes, but that's still not an option."
"Whyyyyy nooooot?" Zenitsu whines, starting to get annoyed. "I just told you, didn't I? It's his!! I want to talk it over with him!! Shinobu-saaaaaan! I'm not asking for something absurd here, am I?"
"Yes, you are. You see... Tanjiro-kun is in a coma."
Zenitsu can feel his heart stop. Which is probably bad for the baby. But that's what happened.
"A coma? Eh?! A COMA?!! WHAT DO YOU MEAN A COMA?!! Is he going to wake up?? Is he going to be alright??!!! Why didn't you say so in the first place!!!! Tanjiro!! Tanjirooooooo!!!"
He grabs fistfuls of his hair, breathing in sharp, short bursts. Tears streams down his cheeks as his nose clogs up.
"I was hoping you could make a decision without him. And without me causing you more undue stress during the decision process. But I see that I hoped for too much."
"You did! You diiiiiiiid!!! I can't do this without him!!! I can't! I can't! I CAN'T!!!"
"Well you must," Shinobu-san smacks the mattress hard. Her words cut through his crying the way hunters part demon heads from their bodies. "You don't get a choice in that matter. Tanjiro may not wake up for a long time. If you sit around waiting for him, then the decision will be made for you. Do you really want to half-ass a decision like this? Procrastinating and hesitating all the way through?"
"WELL THEN WHAT SHOULD I DO?! HUH?!! TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!! I don't know anything!!! I can't take care of a baby!!! I've never been responsible for anything in my whole life!!"
"THAT'S COLD! But exactly my point!! You look at me - do you think, hmm - mother of the year??? NO!! That's Tanjiro!! He takes care of everyone!! He's the dependable guy!!! He saves the day every time!!! I just cry and faint and wake up to broken legs and a PREGNANCY apparently! I'm worse than useless!!! I've been a burden since day one!!!"
"So get rid of it."
Zenitsu shuts his mouth so fast and ends up biting his tongue. He screeches, clapping a hand over his mouth.
"You can't take care of a baby. So don't have a baby. Or what? You have the baby and foist it off on Tanjiro? Tanjiro who is currently in a coma?? Tanjiro who, as you said, saves the day every time? And gets so beaten up by the end of every battle, he ends up hospitalized every time? Do you really believe that he can take care of a baby right now?"
Zenitsu forces his gaze back down. His hands clutch the sheets like a lantern on a dark and stormy night. Shinobu-san is right. Of course, she is. When has she ever been wrong? Zenitsu can't just hand this off. He can't just run away from this like he's ran away from every other damn thing in his miserable life.
There's Grandpa's voice in his head again. Or maybe it's not Grandpa's voice at all. Maybe it's his this time. Maybe he's thinking, for the very first time, "don't give up." He can cry and he can run and he can whine and he can throw tantrums that would put toddlers to shame. But he cannot give up. He cannot give up this baby. His little miracle.
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!!! Okay so maybe he's already made up his mind! That doesn't mean he's fine!! He's not fine with this decision!! At all!! It's a stupid, foolish, crazy decision!!! He can't accept it!! Even if he can't not accept it!! Oh hell, someone help him.
"Help me! Oh please help me!!" He starts sobbing, bending over until his brow touches the mattress. "This is scary!! I don't like this!! I need help!!"
"I cannot. This is your decision and your decision alone." Shinobu-san pauses. Then Zenitsu feels a hand gently pat his head. "But, it is difficult. No one can deny that. I am sorry for your hardship."
Zenitsu grits his teeth. He tucks his elbows in, keeping himself from reaching over and clinging to Shinobu-san like a leech begging for blood. Oh but damn it all. If he's gonna do this... If he's made up his mind... He can at least start trying now.
"It was my fault anyways," he spits out. "I didn't think ahead. I should have prepared myself better. I could have asked for heat blockers at the Wisteria House where we made our supply run."
Shinobu-san chuckles, and finally! A break in the dour, solemn mood!
"You're taking responsibility for your actions. And I appreciate that. But this baby didn't spring from you alone. Tanjiro should have also been aware of where the mission was taking place. He could have easily gotten caught up with some other omega. It wasn't just you."
Zenitsu stares at his hands. He listens to Shinobu-san excuse herself and head out the infirmary. He doesn't sit straight, keeps himself curled up like a pillbug in winter. The silence of the mostly empty ward fills his ears. Distantly, he hears birds chirping, the caws of a few crows. Swords are swinging somewhere on the estate. And somewhere else on the estate, Tanjiro is fast asleep, breathing slow and steady. Maybe if Zenitsu really focuses, he can even pick up that heartbeat - a sound like toy bells rung by children in the streets, sweet and gentle and open. So open.
It could have been anyone. Zenitsu isn't special. Tanjiro just happened to walk into his room, at the onset of his heat. If Tanjiro hadn't found him, or if he stumbled into an oiran's room ready to serve her client, he could have easily gone into rut with that woman. There wasn't anything specific or special about Zenitsu. It was all just... an accident.
A stubborn accident that refused to budge even after a building fell on it. And he grudgingly respects that. This baby is going to be as hard-headed as their father. He can already tell that much. And really...
Zenitsu traces an absent circle where he expects his stomach to start ballooning out in the coming months. How could he ever hate or get rid of someone even just a little bit like Tanjiro? No. Even just a little bit is enough to make Zenitsu hopelessly endeared.
"Okay, baby. Okay," he murmurs under his breath. "Your dad didn't plan to have me as your mom. But I'm gonna try. I'm gonna try anyways. Because..."
Zenitsu thinks back to that first meeting and the words that Tanjiro just gave away so casually despite meaning every syllable.
"... Because you're more important than my life."