It started like this: Sanemi had an awful idea. With Sanemi, a lot of ideas he thought were great were in fact terrible. For one, his big brother’s eyebrows still hadn’t grown back properly. For another, he’d given his first kiss to Tomioka from two streets over, and it had not been as big a “fuck you” as Sanemi thought it would. And just because this idea ended up working out for them, did not mean it was a good idea.
Sanemi had approached him one night while he’d been doing homework and threw a mask at his face.
“Put that on.” Sanemi cut to the chase.
When Genya looked at it properly, he saw it was a wrestling mask. It was purple and black, with stylized black flames around the eye holes, and exaggerated long fangs coming from underneath the lower lip part of the mouth hole. It was tacky and an eyesore. Baffled, he looked to his brother, who just stood at his doorway with his hands in his pockets. Sanemi clicked his tongue.
“Don’t ask dumb questions,” He said. Genya hadn’t done more than give him an expression. “Put it on.”
Reluctantly, Genya did. He struggled for a little bit, shifting the mask around until he wasn’t looking out of the mouth holes. It was comfy to his great unhappiness, and there was even a cut up at the top where his mohawk could pop through. He absolutely did not want to look in a mirror. He felt like he looked like a horse.
Sanemi framed his chin with his fingers, looking smug. “Suits you.” He pointed a finger at Genya. “Don’t you fucking lose it, or I’ll tell Kanroji you want her to dye your hair the same.”
Then Sanemi left, explaining nothing.
Like a fool, Genya sat staring at his closed door, still in the mask.
It wasn’t until two weeks later, and thankfully after midterms, that Sanemi had come barging into his room late one night. He’d roughly shaken him awake, flattening a calloused palm to his mouth when he’d finally pried his eyes open. He’d spent the past few nights back to back on no sleep just studying and pulling a shift. Barely nineteen and Genya felt sixty.
“Keep your mouth shut, dumbass,” Sanemi hissed. “You wanna wake everyone?”
Genya glared. Why the hell were they awake?
“Need you to come with me somewhere. I promise it’s good.”
Genya raised a brow. “Don’t ask stupid questions, Genya. Now, get up, get dressed, and don’t you dare forget that mask I gave you.” He flicked Genya on the forehead. “Hurry up!”
Sluggishly, Genya got out of bed and dressed. With a scowl, he grabbed the mask from the floor, and met his brother by the door. He pulled on his shoes and let his brother pull him out the door. Mercifully, Sanemi let him nap in the car. Who knows how long had passed, but almost too soon, Sanemi was shaking him awake again.
“Come on, Shrimp” Sanemi said. Even after he’d passed him in height, much to his big brother’s envy, he never gave up on the nickname. It wasn’t Genya’s fault he’d had a delayed puberty. “We got try-outs. Look alive!”
“Try-outs,” Genya repeated slowly. “What the hell for?”
“Wrestling, you idiot We’re trying out to be a part of the Pillars!”
The Pillars were a famous wrestling team. Some of the best of the best. Recently, two of their members had retired. One due to health reasons, and the other because he’d gotten married to a long time boyfriend. That had opened two new spots. The line of people trying-out was out the door and curving. Costumes of all kinds, bright and tacky, were all present.
“Bro. What are we even doing here? We don’t even have full costumes.”
“I told you not to ask dumb questions, Genya. I already got us costumes. Now, c’mon. We gotta get dressed and get in line. We can take on all these wimps. That spot is as good as ours!”
Sanemi walked on ahead, nearly disappearing into the crowd before Genya caught up. In a few big strides, he fell in step with him, fretting over the mask in his hands. “Bro, seriously. You can stop joking now. I get it, I’ll wash the dishes more often. I’ll pick up my laundry. I’ll -”
Sanemi rolled his eyes, forcing his way through crowds towards the bathrooms. They weren’t letting anyone sign their name unless they were in a uniform. Sanemi must not have wanted to risk anyone waking up and seeing them in their costumes at home, if Genya was thinking right.
“I am serious, dumbass. This is our ticket up. If we secure that pillar spot, we can help mom and the rugrats out. We’re making no way with our shitty jobs as we are now. This might be our only chance.” Sanemi stopped, fixing his little brother with a look. His eyes flared, whirlwinds beating at glass. “I know I can count on you. Let’s do this for them.”
Genya thought about their mom. The way the cuts on her face and hands were finally fading, and the way she was smiling wider each day. The taste of fear in their home was finally going away. His younger siblings were starting to come out of their shell again, too. All those times their shitty father had yelled at them to shut up, locking them in their rooms for hours on end - it had done a number on them. But dawn was finally breaking, they could finally move forward. Bumpy and hard as it was, they were moving forward.
Teiko’s birthday was coming. Same day as mom’s, to their great amusement every year. He was getting sick of making ugly, kind of okay cakes.
“Yeah,” Genya said, squaring his shoulders. “Yeah. We got this.”
Sanemi had been right.
The two of them had more than mopped up most of the competition. They barreled through the masses. Half of them, Sanemi threw straight out of the ring, and the others, had gone running at the sight of Genya’s height and Sanemi’s snarl.
When it came down to the wire, the only one they’d been defeated by was a young woman with two long, green and pink braids, and a mask decorated to the nines with hearts. Despite how petite she looked, she’d all but chucked Genya out of the ring, and held Sanemi down without batting an eyelash. When the match had ended, she apologized profusely, promising to treat Genya to a parfait for his troubles.
Later, it was the Butterfly Pillar that had announced that the three of them had passed. The Love Pillar, Amora, and the Wind Pillar Brothers, Tempest and Gale, were now on board.
The prize money for winning and signing on had more than paid for the next two months rent, a new present for each of their siblings, and a brand new necklace for their mother. It was nothing more than a simple silver chain.
A long time ago their mother had a necklace. A cheap thing their father had gifted her during their dating years. It had grown dingy over the years. The claps had broken twice. During some odd job or other, it had broken and fell from their mother’s neck. Lost out there somewhere, but not at all missed.
Neither of the brothers really knew much about jewelry. They’d stood awkwardly in the shop, looking every bit out of place as they felt. Despite how the salesgirl had blanched upon first seeing them, she had been more than kind in suggesting a few simple things that made them feel at ease. The silver chain was thin, each individual link twisting in a small infinity loop.
Without meaning to, both brothers had pointed at the necklace and said, “That one.”
Nonetheless, Genya didn’t think he could ever forget the way his mother had lovingly held his face in her rough hands, her tears dripping down her cheeks.
“You didn’t have to,” She told him, rubbing at the outer edges of his eyes. An old habit she’d do when he had been a child. “There’s much better things to spend this on.”
Sanemi scuffed his shoe, red up to his ears. “You’re more than worth it, Ma. Don’t ever think otherwise.”
For all this complaining, Genya would do anything to keep the smile on his family’s face. He thought as much when he went to sleep, the mask under his pillow.
Months seemed to blur after that, as the Wind Brother Pillars name began to become popular, and the Hashira Group, blew up on social media. Partly because Sanemi insisted on a dumb pose complete with “Get Fckn Wrecked” as a catchphrase.
Genya still wanted it to be absolutely well known that if it weren’t for the fact that this dumb gig helped pay off their mother’s hospital bills, a downpayment on a much better place to live for all of them, and finally, finally new clothes for their younger siblings, he would have quit a long time ago. But mostly, he just didn’t want to give his older brother the satisfaction of being right .
Sanemi was insufferable when he was right.
The wrestling wasn’t that bad. It also wasn’t as fake as he’d always thought. The over the top theatrical moves had taken time to get used to, but the intricacy that went into them were astonishing.
The Butterfly Pillar had worked months to perfect her perfect dismounts, adjusting her faux wings to glide elegantly down to the stage. The Sound Pillar was flash and pomp, effortlessly timed explosions of color and sound, blending into music. The Fire and Love Pillars had formed a mini team. Genya still couldn’t get over how cool the Fire Pillar had looked, scorching the stage with his sword, stepping through an arc of flames. Snake and Stone were less flashy, but no less impressive. The Mist Pillar was far shorter than cameras suggested. He couldn’t have been taller than a fourteen year old.
Though, the Water Pillar had been the one for his big brother. Despite the ugly mismatching colors of his costume, the robe he wore was a beautiful wave. When he spun, the ocean followed.
Sanemi had been enamored the moment he’d stepped into the ring. His eyes couldn’t leave him, and he was almost useless when they spoke. It was funny to see him so humbled. With barely the bat of an eyelash, the Water Pillar had reduced Sanemi into a key smash mess. In anyone else (like Tomioka two streets over), Sanemi might have been pissed. With the Water Pillar, he’d all but shriveled with thirst.
They generally knew the names and faces of their coworkers, but for whatever reason only Shinobu-san, the Butterfly Pillar, knew who the Water Pillar was and his real name. He rarely liked to talk, and he was always in a hurry by the end of the practices. It didn’t seem to matter much to the others so long as he did what he needed to.
The job worked him hard. All of his muscles were screaming at the end of each match. His costumes drenches and disgusting. Once or twice they’d won by the skin of their teeth. A six-eyed freak from the Upper Moon Gang had nearly torn both brothers to pieces. But the exhilaration never left.
Genya felt alive in the spotlight for once. He became someone new. He was a demon in the ring, back to back with his brother. The roar and energy of the crowd a whirlwind in his veins.
He hated to love it.
Some days, staying awake in class was hard. He’d catch himself nearly face-planting in the middle of a lecture, hoping none of his classmates noticed. It mostly had to be kept a secret, as part of their contract. It didn’t bother Genya much simply because he was too embarrassed to admit to his friends about his night job. His friends were worried, but none of them were strangers to how hard he was working between school and home. They understood, to say the least, though no more so than Tanjirou. Tanjirou who was also amongst the oldest of his siblings in a family with one parent. Tanjirou who knew what it meant to grin and bear his hardships if it meant someone he loved got a little extra for the effort. The difference being - Genya had happily lost a shitty dad, and Tanjirou had lost a great one.
A long time ago, Genya might have envied him. Now, he was just a bit jealous that Zenitsu and Inosuke had gotten to meet Kamado Tanjuro in their tiny childhood years. He wanted to know more than just a photo of the man who had impacted Tanjirou so much. Maybe see what an actual good dad might have been like.
Once, silently, he had thanked the photo for helping to bring Tanjirou into the world. A boy who had not given up on him just because of his rough exterior in middle school, and who had stuck with him for too many years to count. A boy he had fallen for. One that swept along his feelings like an everlasting brush fire, dancing always at the periphery of his ribcage.
His kindness and his sincerity, and the taste of sunshine all rolled into one. Genya never stood a chance.
For once, Tanjirou and Genya were alone for lunch. It happened every now and then. Between classwork, clubs, and part-time jobs, their friends couldn’t convene. Usually it was more than just two of them at a time, but Genya wasn’t complaining. Zenitsu and Inosuke often got the most of Tanjirou’s attention. It was his turn now, and he was going to soak in as much of it as he could.
He could hide how much he wanted to stare at Tanjirou’s hands, or the happy curve of his smile when he ate, with a quiet desire to get a taste of the other boy’s lunch. If he was lucky, Tanjirou might even try to feed him again. If he was even more lucky, he might even resist the knee-jerk reaction to not let him.
He valiantly ignored how red his cheeks felt just thinking that.
They sat flush together, shoulder to shoulder, sharing the food in their bento boxes. Sanemi often made the lunches at home for all of them, and Tanjirou did as well. Tanjirou had tried to extract Sanemi’s pork recipe, only to get cussed out. The last time he’d asked, he got a fist to the top of his head. The joke was on Sanemi though, because Tanjirou’s head was as hard as steel. Genya huffed a laugh around his chopsticks.
Tanjirou always said his name like that; like good news, and a greeting. Genya wasn’t soft, but Tanjirou always pronounced his name like he might have been something precious.
“Tanjirou.” He echoed back, brow raised.
“Have you heard of Infinity World Wrestling? Nezuko and I were watching it last night!”
Genya’s mouth went sour. “Uh, I might have? Why?”
“Well, Nezuko likes the Love Pillar, and I really like the Wind Pillar Brothers. Aaaand guess what They’re doing a signing this weekend! I’m going to meet them!.”
Genya’s brain short circuited. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. This was bad. There was no way he was going to be able to fool Tanjirou with just a mask when the other boy had a nose better than a bloodhound. Genya’s palms were sweaty and his heart was pounding his ears. He almost missed what Tanjirou said next. On the tip of his tongue, Genya could taste something a little like embarrassment.
He might have wheezed an answer, he didn’t know.
“Truth be told,” Tanjirou said, cheeks suddenly red. “Tempest is my favorite between him and Gale. I don’t know why, but I think he would have a good scent. A truly kind one. Nezuko and I were thinking of bringing them some specially made bread from our family’s bakery in support. Do you think they’ll like it?”
Genya hoped his own face wasn’t red. He stuttered, trying to force a reply out. “Y-Yeah,” His voice cracked. “There’s no one who hasn’t eaten your family’s stuff that hasn’t liked it. He’d.” Genya gulped. “Have to be nuts not to.”
“I hope he thinks so, too. Nezuko and I are going to make breads shaped like wrestlers. We’re thinking of drizzling it in chocolate. My younger siblings called it ‘machoco’.”
Genya hated how much he wanted to try that.
“I’m not sure Gale will like that, though. Maybe it will be too sweet for him?” Tanjirou wondered aloud.
Genya tried to his smirk behind his chopsticks.
“Oh, you know. I heard that Gale likes ohagi. Maybe you could include that with what you guys are bringing?”
Tanjirou beamed. “That’s perfect!”
Tanjirou’s alarm beeped not long after, forcing the other boy to jump up. He quickly shoved his lunchbox into his bag, smoothing out his clothes. With a parting grin, Tanjirou struck a pose. The same one he and Sanemi did when they won a match. “Get Wrecked, Genya!”
“I’m begging you not to go around saying that, Tanjirou.”
“Say, Bro. If, uh, if people we knew came to the fan signing to get our autographs but didn’t know it was us, but might be able to figure it out due to abnormal senses, would we be screwed?”
Sanemi blinked. Sumi sat in his lap, watching nursery rhyme videos on his phone. Sanemi covered her ears with his hands. “What the fuck kind of question is that?”
“Uh,” Genya replied intelligently.
Sanemi’s nostrils flared. “Is it that Kamado kid?”
“It is . That little bastard! Are you still crushing on him? I told you you could do better!”
“No he can’t,” Shuya cut in. He didn’t take his eyes off his coloring book. Despite how oblivious everyone else seemed to be about their alternate identities, their siblings had been more than sharp. They hadn’t told though, not even their mom. It was a special secret for all of them. “No one ever sees how cool Genya-nii is. And all his other friends are weird.”
“Kamado is weird,” Sanemi grumbled.
“But he’s the least weird,” Teiko added in. “Genya-nii could do way worse!”
“Yeah, he could be dating that crybaby. The one that got snot all over your jacket that one year.”
Genya winced. Why did Hiroshi have to bring that up. Sanemi had mostly forgotten that by the way his eye were flaring.
“Or that boar-headed kid!” Koto yelled.
Sanemi scowled, hating how much he was being outnumbered. “I would prefer he dated the boar-headed kid.”
“That’s one of the worst things you’ve ever said,” Genya muttered. “He tried to rip my hair out in sixth grade.”
“You had a fucking bad hairstyle back then anyway. He was doing you a favor.”
Sumi swiveled to him, a scowl on her little face. With an expression far too similar to their eldest brother, she poked him in the forehead. “I’m telling mom you said the fuck word!”
Laughter erupted in the room as Sanemi blanched, trying to placate the little girl. Eventually, Sanemi began poking her just under her chin, tickling her until her harsh look had dissolved. He was swarmed after that in little hands and feet; a bright smile on his scarred face. People had often looked warily at the eldest Shinazugawa brothers. Scarred and hard-faced, they were judged before they were understood. But Genya wished they could see the Sanemi that laid underneath, too. The one that was gathering their siblings up and smothering them with a viciously gleeful laugh.
“To answer your question, Shrimp. As long as they either, A. Never find out, or B. Keep it a secret to the grave, it should be fine.” Sanemi opened his arms and let their siblings tumble out in a noisy heap. “Oyakata-sama was clear. It’s gotta be hush-hush. Big family secret.”
“Right,” Genya murmured.
The days leading up to the fan signing meant Genya wasn’t sleeping.
“Genya, are you sleeping well at night?”
Genya blearily raked his eyes over to his friend. Worry burned bright in his friend’s eyes. They were alone again, sharing lunch in the shade. It might have been the first time he’d properly looked Tanjirou in the eye the past couple days. He made due, mostly, staring too intently at his ear or his forehead in hopes of keeping it together.
“M’fine,” He yawned. “Just, uhh, stayed up studying.”
“You should try and sleep more. I know you mean well, but you’re going to be of no use to your family like this.”
Genya playfully punched Tanjirou on the arm. “You’re one to talk, Mr. “I’m-the-Big-Brother-This-Is-My-Job. I remember you falling asleep in your pudding a month back.” He grinned. “Still got the picture, too.”
Tanjirou puffed up his cheeks. “Well, I still got your tooth.”
“I told you to throw that away! What the hell is going to take for you to get rid of that thing anyway?”
Who the hell kept a tooth of a guy he’d gotten into a fight with in middle school? He’d only lost it because it was his face versus Tanjirou’s hard head, and he’d lost.
“Yeah, but,” Tanjirou started. “It’s kind of my trophy. The day we stopped being enemies and became friends.”
“Oh my god. Just print out a photo like a normal person.” Maybe Sanemi was right, Genya thought begrudgingly. He was hating that Sanemi was making points.
Tanjirou hummed. “I don’t think we have any photos of just the two of us, actually. It’s usually just group pictures.”
“Works out fine. Makes me look better that way.”
Tanjirou shot him a scandalized look. “No way! Genya is very good looking!”
“Even with Inosuke and Nezuko in the running?” He asked wryly.
“Absolutely. Your face is one of my favorites. I love being able to see it.”
Genya shoved him. “Shut up! Don’t just go around saying stuff like that!”
“It’s true, though!” Tanjirou reached for his phone, unlocking it to tap furiously on the camera app. He flipped it around to the selfie mode. He threw himself up against Genya until they were squished cheek to cheek. “I’ll prove it. Say cheese, Genya!”
Genya scowled. Made a face in every photo. He took all of Tanjirou’s prodding like it was nothing. He could knock the other boy clean off the sidewalk with his shoulder alone before he’d even started on his night job. It was only when Tanjirou pouted, puffed up like a fish, that Genya really smiled. He was mid-laugh when the camera shutter sounded. Tanjirou grinned at him smugly, flipping to the image. “See? I was right.”
It was kind of blurry. Genya’s head ducked down against Tanjirou’s cheek, and his eyes screwed shut. His snaggle-tooth peeked out from between his lips, and his facial scar was scrunched by how large he was smiling.
“No! I love this one. I really like how you look when you laugh!”
Genya rolled his eyes. “Next you’re going to say you like all of me.”
“And I do! You’re really, really tall, and you have a great face, and I love your scent most of all!”
Genya choked. He swiveled about to shake Tanjirou like Zenitsu would. The more years that passed by, the more Genya was understanding why Zenitsu was often trying to smother their friend when he opened his mouth. Tanjirou was looking down at the phone, though. Big gears turning in his big forehead.
“I’m no good at taking photos, though. Zenitsu and Nezuko usually do them.” He hummed. “Wait! You should come with me and Nezuko to see the Wind Pillar Brothers! Then Nezuko can get a bunch of good photos of us!”
A screech echoed in Genya’s head, and he only belatedly realized it was his own.
“You guys look about the same height. You’re usually so much taller than everyone. And the same hairstyle! Maybe you’ll have even more in common.”
“You’ll come right?”
Foolishly, Genya glanced at his friend. He caved faster than Zenitsu did before a test. Tanjirou’s eyes were too pure for their own good. He really should have said no, but his mouth said yes. Tanjirou threw an arm over his shoulders, squishing them together again. The camera accidentally went off again in Tanjirou’s hand.
If only Genya had known that the photo had captured him looking at Tanjirou; eyes lidded with a gentle smile stretching on his face as he curled against his friend. This time, it wasn’t blurry.
Genya left home to meet up with Nezuko and Tanjirou, avoiding the stink eye Sanemi sent him as he shuffled out of the door. Telling his brother had gone better than he expected, despite the way he bared his teeth the whole time. The only consolation was that Genya agreed he would still be doing his duty, crush or no crush. He had his uniform under his jacket and his mask in his shoulder bag. He’d gotten good at speed dressing, this would be no different. He just needed to remember to splash on enough body spray or something to try and hide from Tanjirou.
Twenty minutes later, he came up on the wrestling building. Crowds of people were already pooling in. The doors had opened an hour ago, and the lines were starting to stretch as he approached. Not far off, by a bench were Nezuko and Tanjirou. Tanjirou raised his hand and called his name.
He waved back with a faint smile. “Hey. You guys wait long?”
Nezuko shook her head. She held a rectangular box in her hands, probably full of those machocos Tanjirou had mentioned. “We got here just a little while before you did. You ready?”
He wasn’t. “Yeah, sure.”
Both siblings took each one of Genya’s arms and dragged him into line. Nezuko hooked her arm lazily through his. Tanjirou let it hang in the crook of his. While Nezuko was busy tapping away on her phone, Genya leaned over to murmur at Tanjirou.
“I meant to ask you before. But what kind of scent do I have?”
Tanjirou closed his eyes, tapping his nose in thought. He tilted his head, face screwed up trying to find the right words.
“Hm. It’s a little hard to explain, but you smell like pine cones. You remind me a lot of when Nezuko and I used to go camping with our dad. We’d collect pine cones together, and dad would tie them up in these little netted bags. The smell can be strong, but comforting. That’s what I smelled the first time we met, actually. I could tell how good you were.”
Huh. It wasn’t what he was expecting. He used generic soap that was a cheap, knock-off brand, and it didn’t have any smell other than “clean”. He supposed that he shouldn’t be surprised. Most of their friend group had one super sense or other. Inosuke with touch, Zenitsu with sound, and Kanao with sight. Zenitsu had mentioned once how Tanjirou had sounded kind when they first met.
Genya himself had a good sense of taste. He never forgot one, and he could go as far as inferring emotions and colors with it. For hard to read types like his brother, it was one of the ways he’d learned to get a handle on what was going on.
“What about me?” Tanjirou asked after. “Do I taste like anything?”
(Nezuko glanced at them, smiling behind the curtain of her hair. She had to bite her tongue to not ruin their little bubble.)
“It’s a little hard to explain,” Genya teased back. The line moved a little bit more. The double doors were starting to loom. “It’s a little like how you sniff things out. I kind of -- taste the surrounding air, if that makes sense. It’s a little weird but the air around you tastes like ohagi.”
Sanemi’s favorite food, and a special treat back in their childhood. To him, that’s what kindness and sincerity had a faint taste of. His mother’s rough, tired hands, Sanemi’s sunny grin, and the memories of the three of them sitting out by the beach side eating it together. Even when they were struggling to get food on the table, his mother always put down time to make some for their birthdays. Only the Kamado bakery had come close to imitating the same taste to him.
“Uh, or something like that,” Genya finished lamely.
Nezuko nudged Genya with her elbow. “Maybe you two shouldn’t casually say such things out loud. About tasting and what not.”
Genya’s face flared. He was missing when Nezuko was too shy to talk to him. She was almost as bad as the Mist Pillar.
“Nezuko,” Tanjirou scolded. “Genya only meant it in a friendly way.”
Nezuko’s grinned impishly, far too similar to Inosuke when he was trying to rile someone up. Usually by eating their food. Apparently she hadn’t grown out of calling him Boss from back in childhood. She made a show of glancing at her brother then looking back at Genya.
“I’m sure he did.”
It was hard business, but Genya finally, finally managed to lose the Kamado siblings. No matter how many times he had tried to sneak off, they always seemed to find a way to catch him. And worse yet, none of his excuses seemed to work! Tanjirou absolutely did not have to come with him to the bathroom, and neither did he need to come with him to get snacks. The thought was enough, but he couldn’t exactly slip on his mask with Tanjirou in his shadow. It’s only when Zenitsu called to beg them to try and get an autograph from the Sound Pillar’s wives that Genya was able to run off into the crowds.
He slipped through the back doors to the private changing rooms, pulling on his mask, and trying to shimmy out of his pants at the same time. He hadn’t made it fully into their shared back stage room before Sanemi had descended on him elbow first.
“You jackass! You’re late!” Sanemi yelled. “What the hell kept you??”
“Sorry, sorry. I really tried to get away as best as I could.”
Sanemi kicked him in the ass. “Hurry the fuck up, we’ve got five minutes to get out there!”
Each of the Pillars went out in sets. Genya and Sanemi were in the third set. It was mostly to try and give as many people a chance to see their favorites, while letting the Pillars rest in between.
Genya and Sanemi were up now, along with the Love and Fire Pillar. He could see Nezuko’s eyes widening, and a pink tint flash over her cheeks with Kanroji laughed.
Genya’s hands were sweaty under his costume. Tanjirou couldn’t smell that, right? His hands were soaked and he kept rubbing them on his thighs trying to pay attention properly to what he was saying. Under the table Sanemi kicked him with a sneer.
“I think you’re really cool!” Tanjirou said. “I can really feel your enthusiasm through the tv. And when you go bom-bom , I get all energized!”
“Ah, oh,” Genya lamely replied. Sanemi rolled his eyes.
“My sister and I made you guys some treats. Look!” Nezuko flashed the box open. Inside, little flexing bread figures covered in chocolate shined back. “Machocos!”
“And,” Tanjirou continued just as Sanemi got ready to put his foot in his mouth. He pulled out another smaller box “I brought Ohagi for Gale-san.”
Genya barely suppressed his laugh at the way his brother’s jaw at dropped. Even with the mask on, his eyes were shining brightly. He might actually have been moved. He tried to smother away the expression with a scowl, holding his hand out for the treat box, and muttering a gruff thanks.
Sanemi shot him a side-long glare. “Funny how you knew that,” Sanemi drawled.
“My friend, Genya suggested it. He was here with us earlier, but I think we lost him.” Tanjirou dropped, all sad puppy ears and aura. “I was hoping you could meet him. I really admire him, so I thought it would be cool to get a picture of all the people I admire at one time.”
The air around Sanemi shifted slightly. “Must be a coward.”
That set Tanjirou off. He ranted for a good solid two minutes on why he thought otherwise. If he could pull out a bulleted outline and shove it in Sanemi’s face, he might have. By the end, Sanemi had looked stricken.
Genya pointed to the camera in Tanjirou’s hand. “You wanted a photo right? Come here.”
He leaned over the table, popping up over Tanjirou’s shoulder. He smiled as best he could, eyes too focused on Tanjirou to take much note of the photo. When Tanjirou was done, he turned to him, face too close; enough to taste the embarrassment and happiness radiating off of him. Genya didn’t want to pull away.
“I’m really happy that I got to meet you,” Tanjirou said. Genya was staring too hard, he knew it. He was watching the brown flecks in Tanjirou’s eyes, and the pretty way his eyes crinkled when he smiled, and -
“Me, too. You’re so,” Genya felt something kick him. “So - support really means a lot. I hope you’ll continue being a fan.”
He accepted the chocolates, and hurriedly wrote out “To Tanjirou, from Tempest” on a photo of he and Sanemi in their get wrecked pose. Tanjirou held it preciously, face lit up and red. He bowed low, nearly hitting his head on the table, before running off to crash into Nezuko at the other table.
He raised a brow at Sanemi before they greeted the next fan. Well? He wanted to say.
“Don’t ask stupid question, dumbass,” Sanemi muttered.
Genya put his clothes back on over his suit. He was too tired to fully change. He still needed to meet back up with Tanjirou and Nezuko, after all. Sanemi was glaring down at the box of ohagi when he looked over at him.
“Kamado might not be,” Sanemi grinded his teeth. “That bad. But don’t you ever tell him that, or I’ll kick your ass.”
Tanjirou always managed to find a way to melt even the hardest of hearts, it seemed. He let his brother punch him in the arm in farewell, then scurried out to try and find his friends. He’d need a long soak after this.
“I’ll see you at home later. I got the Water Pillar to go out and get drinks with me later.”
Genya smirked from the doorway, using the door as a shield. “Sounds like I might not see you until tomorrow, then.”
He ran out before his brother could reach the door.
“Genya!” Tanjirou yelled. “I finally found you! What happened?”
Genya smiled sheepishly. “My younger siblings were having an argument and called me. I was trying to settle them down so I went to talk to them and I kind of lost you guys. My bad.”
“No harm. Nezuko took off with her two classmates that were also here, surprisingly. Rengoku-kun and Tokito-kun, i think they were. They’re heading to eat dinner with Rengoku-kun’s family. His big brother is visiting.”
“Oh, guess its good I caught up then.”
“Yeah but you missed getting to meet Tempest with me.” He was as indignant as a slighted puppy. Genya couldn’t help poking at his cheeks. “We got a selfie together and everything.”
“Except, when I checked it again, I had my thumb in the way. I meant to ask Nezuko but she had caught the Love and Fire Pillars’ attention with our bread.”
“Oh, that’s sucks. It won’t be the last fan meet, though. Pretty sure it’s so popular they want a repeat.”
(Oyakata-sama had said as much when he’d dismissed them backstage. He’d known they had grown popular but it seemed they hadn’t realized the true magnitude till the fans had come.)
“It’ll be a while till then, though. Oh well.”
Genya watched Tanjirou staring at the photo. He knew Tanjirou, and he knew he would accept it as is. Still, Genya couldn’t help the unhappy nagging in the pit of his stomach. Sanemi had taken his share of the machocos as payment for being late, and now he’d made Tanjirou upset on two fronts. The least he could do was fix one of them.
“Hey, uh, I think I’m getting another call from my siblings. Can you wait for me a moment? I just gotta make sure they aren’t fighting again.”
Tanjirou blinked. “Oh sure. Do you want me to talk to them, too? I might be able to help.:
Genya waved him off, trying to inch away. “Nah, I got it. Just wait here, I’ll be back. It shouldn’t take too long.”
He was gone before his friend could finish his sentence. He hurried out of site, looking furiously for a hidden, shadowed spot. Just something enough that he could strip and put his mask on without arousing suspicion. He managed to slip into a doorway, ducking under the cover of a stairwell to wrestle out of his clothes. He bumped the hard concrete as he struggled out of his pants again, shoving on his mask and he kicked off his shoes. He hurried out again, dumping his bag into some bushes.
With a deep breath, Genya rounded the corner to where Tanjirou was fiddling with his thumbs on a bench.
Genya cleared his throat, happy the mask hid so much of his face. “Hey, you!”
Tanjirou turned, bright eyes wide as his jaw dropped. “Tempest!”
Genya gave an awkward hand wave. He kept his hands planted on his hips like Sound had suggested, planting his feet to keep firm. “C’mere a sec?”
Tanjirou came closer, damn near vibrating the closer he got. He stopped a little ways away, but shuffled forward when Genya kept motioning for him to keep going. When their shoes hit together, Genya stopped him. Like this, even in the coming night, Genya could see the pretty flush on the other boy’s face. Red suited him in the best ways, sprinkled across his cheeks, his forehead, and the tops of his ears.
Genya bent down and sealed Tanjirou’s coming question between them. A kiss like the way Tanjirou said his name, like how he made his heart beat, and all the precious memories i between. Tanjirou gripped his forearm, struggling up on his tip-toes when Genya dared to pull away. They parted only for a moment before Tanjirou dragged him back down again, hooking his finger under the edge of his mask and keeping him there.
The next time they separated, they both fell back on their heels. Genya swallowed dryly, entire body aflame. He touched the tip of his thumb to Tanjirou’s chin.
“Thanks for all your support. It means a lot to me,” Genya murmured. “It really keeps me going.”
Tanjirou’s eyes were bright in the lowlights. That brushfire again, roaring alone in the darkness. When he smiled, the sun rose in the distance. There was no getting over Kamado Tanjirou.
“Will you come and watch my matches one day? I think I could be invincible with you there.”
Tanjirou beamed. “Of course! I would love nothing more. But uhm, do you think we can try taking that selfie one more time? My thumb got in the way last time.”
They shuffled together; Genya crouching lower, and Tanjirou trying to meet him halfway on his toes. They squished into together. Tanjirou grinned and Genya did his best to mirror it, mask and all. Tanjirou held down on the shutter button, a good thirty in round. Just before he took off his finger, he turned and planted a gentle kiss to Genya’s cheek.
“ I hope you’ll let me cheer you on in regular life, too, without the mask.” Tanjirou grinned secretly. “Genya.”
Genya choked. “Hey, wait -”
Tanjirou tapped his nose, smiling.
Ah, well. Maybe this could be a secret between him and Tanjirou now, too. He just hoped Tanjirou had become a better liar than he was in high school.
Didn’t matter, Genya thought. He’d just kiss him quiet if he had to.