He was the eldest in the family, Tanjirou thinks.
He had lots of responsibilities at home after all.
With his mother, he had to go down the mountain to sell charcoal, make sure Takeo eats enough vegetables, fix Hanako's sash, lull Rokuta to sleep and play with Shigeo in the afternoons. Then the house chores are split between Nezuko and him. He cuts the firewood; Takeo helps sometimes. Nezuko does most of the cleaning.
He cooks dinner after the day is over. Their mother knits them a scarf during winter, she makes sure all her children are warm.
Now— there's only Nezuko.
He slashes the boulder.
Again again again.
Nezuko was waiting for him. It's been one year and a half since a demon had slaughtered his family leaving only Nezuko alive (but turned demon) and she had fallen asleep.
He's become strong —not strong enough —and if the only way to turn his sister back into a human was to become a demon slayer, then so be it.
He's endured the harsh training from Urokodaki-san, this is only a small obstacle in his way from joining the final selection and becoming a full fledged demon slayer.
He's still the eldest child, of course, nothing would change that although there was no more Takeo who'd ask him how to cut firewood effectively or Hanako and Shigeo to play with, no more of Rokuta's cute gurbles or their mother's sweet smiles.
It was only him and Nezuko, and he'd be damned if he doesn't do his best for her.
(There was no time for lamenting. Instead he'd do what he couldn't for his late family to Nezuko.
Tanjirou promises himself.)
Coincidentally, Tanjirou meets a boy in th middle of the road. Grossly sobbing to a petite girl with braids.
"I'll die! I'll definitely die! So please, marry me!" The blond holds her hands and Tanjirou feels bad for her, so he steps in.
A lot of scolding and slapping later. The boy manages to calm down. Tanjirou gives him a rice ball.
The blond gives him half of it back.
Maybe that was the wheel of fate turning. It was that meeting, that interaction, that slowly and surely snowballed his feelings into what it is now.
And Tanjirou couldn't be any more thankful.
He later learns that the blond's name was Zenitsu. He was loud, annoying to a fault and a scaredy cat.
He smells of peach blossoms; the kindness and fear radiating off of him in alternating waves, the underlying strength, zaps, hidden behind curtains of sweetness, it creates a smell unique to Zenitsu.
He'd seen him protect Nezuko, knowing full well that the person inside was not considered a person but a demon. He'd chased after Nezuko too, of course, she's a beauty after all.
But if there was something that Tanjirou could pinpoint in Zenitsu was that he was understanding and kind and serious to some point.
Tanjirou takes a look at the sleeping face of Zenitsu, he's good looking too.
In the small ways that Zenitsu does he grows on Tanjirou, like a loud mushroom. Tanjirou doesn't notice that he'd started treating him as family.
(Inosuke too, but maybe more of a pet. Nezuko always wanted to take care of a dog, but a boar headed pretty boy was good too.)
They'd split up at Mount Natagumo at the start of the mission but Tanjirou wasn't surprised that Zenitsu had stayed alive throughout the incident.
He was strong after all. Even with stubby arms and feet.
Zenitsu, sometimes, had the smell of thunderclouds. The damp rain filters through his nosetrils and then gone the next second, followed by the strings of electricity.
And then hidden again by excessive amounts of fear and trepidation in his heart.
Tanjirou wishes he could reach out to Zenitsu, hold him by his hand and tell him, "You smell like storm clouds, like thunder mixed with lightning, much like victory!"
But it's only wishful thinking. Zenitsu seems to get by without it anyway.
Maybe one day he'll man up and tell him. (He doesn't know the reason why he's so nervous in the first place though.)
Being admitted into the butterfly estate was a pleasant experience. The beds were comfy and the girls
manhandled treated them quite gently.
Now was night time, Tanjirou doesn't know why Zenitsu is in his bed, shivering but he thinks this must be a normal occurance.
"Tanjirouuu!" Zenitsu's whines reach his ears as he's about to fall asleep.
"What is it Zenitsu?" He asks, he reaches for the blanket and covers both of them in it.
"Get me away from those girls! They're merciless! They'll probably get me in my sleep and force me to drink that awful medicine!"
Pomf pomf, Zenitsu's stubby limbs that drown in his clothing doesn't do much damage that Tanjirou almost falls back into sleep.
"They won't, they won't," He tries to reassure him, hoping that by some miracle, Zenitsu leaves him alone to sleep.
Zenitsu being Zenitsu, does not.
"But what if they even enter my dreams! What'll I do?! As much as I'd want girls chasing me in my dreams, I don't want it like this!!"
It's completely impossible for someone to go through someone else's dreams just for them to drink medicine, he thinks.
"No one's going in your dreams I—" besides hadn't he fulfilled his quota already?
"In the first place it's your fault for leaving me alone in that mountain! I almost turned into a spider and now I have to drink this gross medicine!"
"Zenit—" Tanjirou tries to call out to his friend.
"And how come you don't have any trouble with drinking your medicine! It's unfair! Yours is different right, let's switch!!"
He tries to reason, "We have different injuries—"
"Isn't it unfair that there are different types of medicines, don't tell me they favor you more than they do me and that's why—"
With Tanjirou's groggy processing and sleepiness, he grabs Zenitsu by the neck and closes their faces in. He imagines it's like with his siblings, sleeping together on the tatami mat, foreheads close and hugging each other.
Zenitsu yelps as Tanjirou's arms wrap around him. Their lips are almost touching and their breathing in the same air. Zenitsu's panicking and waiting for something else to happen but he sees that Tanjirou's fallen asleep.
Zenitsu notes that Tanjirou smells like burnt charcoal and some of the salmon he ate earlier. He hears the slow gentle heartbeat, like a mother playing her child a lullaby. The box next to them having the same beat. He notices the gentleness of Tanjirou in that moment as he closes his eyes, foreheads touching.
He wraps his arms around too, it seems Tanjirou's presence alone is enough to calm him down.
In the morning, Tanjirou wakes up to something warm pressing on his forehead. He finds Zenitsu, already up and ready for the day. He absentmindedly touches his head.
Did he just wake up to a kiss on his... forehead...?
"A thanks to your big forehead," Zenitsu smiles, then giggles follow after.
Tanjirou will never admit that he fell in love that day.
He'll tell you though that he thought Zenitsu looked like an angel when the morning sun hit him just right, forming a halo of light around his messy golden locks and the sound of snickers and giggles filled the air.
And you can get the answer from that.
Being dumb and getting sick.
It rained heavily some time ago and this happened
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tanjirou wakes up before sunrise to the smell of humidity. It's cold in the mornings, the damp scent of dew just before sunrise enveloping him even under the blankets.
Then there's the slight smell of petrichor coming from afar. It's nice, he thinks.
It starts raining soon after.
Zenitsu has been off that day.
He's been pacing back and forth and he obediently drinks his medicine. He's been staying in a bundle of blankets too. Tanjirou doesn't think it's because of the cold.
The girls in the estate are worried for him.
Then comes the thunder, shortly followed by the lightning. Tanjirou smells Zenitsu's fear suddenly spike up. It clicks in his brain.
He's scared of the thunder.
Even though he smelled like lightning, even though he smelled like the storm.
He doesn't understand but Tanjirou is always willing to when it comes to Zenitsu.
The rain lightens up in the afternoon.
"Why are you so afraid of the storm?" He asks.
Zenitsu stiffens, "Of course not! You know! If don't get enough sunlight I'll turn back into a spider! And it's raining right now!"
He smells the truth, but it's masked. Half truths means he's hiding something. In the first place, Zenitsu wasn't so stupid to think that he'd turn back into a spider when the poison in his body has been dealt with.
He doesn't probe.
"Then!" Tanjirou shouts, Inosuke groans in his sleep. Sorry Inosuke, he didn't realize how loud he was being.
"Let's play in the rain!" He suggests.
He said this because of two reasons. One, rehabilitation training was cancelled due to the rain, the girls just didn't want to do anything in a cold and humid day; and two, if he couldn't get it from Zenitsu now, he'd get the answer later.
In the rain.
Zenitsu reluctantly agrees to it.
This is stupid, Tanjirou realizes when the rain suddenly pours so much again.
Still, he grabs Zenitsu's short arms and they splash in the rain. It's cold, it's refreshing. He feels the drops wash away the numb in his limbs.
Zenitsu on the other hand is shivering.
"Tanjirou, let's go—" he doesn't let him finish. He takes his hand again, and they dance.
It's impulsive and he barely has any sort of skill in dance but he tries to lead it by moving Zenitsu in the rain in a way that reminds him of how his father danced with his mother; or when they'd play in the snow with his siblings. He tries to remember Nezuko's natural grace in dancing.
But thinking and applying are two completely different things.
So of course, they step on each other's feet a bunch of times and Tanjirou gets more and more anxious. Oh god this was a bad idea.
But Zenitsu laughs, "You're so clumsy!"
Yes, yes he is, but so was Zenitsu. A tick mark forms on his head.
"Well, so are you!"
And just like that, they get into a heated battle of trying not to step on each other's toes while dancing in the rain.
It looks ridiculous, two injured boys causing a ruckus in the rain, in the quiet of the afternoon at the estate.
Zenitsu hates the sound of thunder and lightning. He was scared of it the first time he got struck with lightning and he still is now.
It reminds him of how weak he is. He climbed a tree to get away from training and look where it got him.
He still remembers the lightning coursing through his body, the searing pain it left and then; then nothing. He was scared, of the fact that he didn't feel anything and how he passed out when he was on the verge of dying.
He woke up with his hair color changed. It freaked him out so much that he cried.
But what if he didn't get to wake up that day?
Zenitsu wasn't sure if it was because of the change or if there was a constant reminder of how cowardly and weak he was.
He thinks it's both.
Tanjirou thinks it's neither.
Zenitsu can see the sun peek a bit even though there's still some rain clouds.
He thinks Tanjirou's just like that. A light in a dark and gloomy day. When all else was lost, there was always a sliver of hope that reminds him he shouldn't be scared.
Kanao's on her usual walk in the butterfly estate, when she hears the two boys making a scene. She stops to watch from afar how Zenitsu and Tanjirou try to create a semblance to dancing.
It looks clumsy and frankly, atrocious, Kanao thinks.
But it's fun. She can see that clearly, even without the sharpened senses of her eyes. She sees the twinkle in Zenitsu's eyes and the aura of happiness both of them give off.
Friends are fun.
She notices the way Tanirou looks at Zenitsu when his hair sways with his spin and the rain drops scatter around. She sees him look at the other boy with a fond look, like the boy was his whole world.
She flips her coin, it lands on heads.
"Maybe they could even be more," she says to herself quietly and then continues her walk.
Zenitsu wobbles to his feet when they finish their dance battle of sorts. Tanjirou picks the nearest tree and sits there. He follows.
The rain continues to pour. It makes him sleepy. Tanjirou closes the gap between them and offers his shoulders. He sets his head on it and they stay like that as the rain makes the steady sound of pitter patter pitter patter.
He shakes off his worries when he starts to listen to the calm and steady beat of Tanjirou's heart. It feels warm.
He feels warm.
He sleeps in his wet clothes exhausted, slumped on Tanjirou's shoulders. The gentle sound of his companion's breathing combined with the rain lulling him into a deeper sleep.
Later, Shinobu finds them under a tree, both boys asleep, completely wet and definitely sick.
She sighs, she'd give them a thorough scolding if only they weren't so cute together.
The next day, both of them are bedridden and sick but Zenitsu thinks that he wouldn't mind doing it again sometime.
My typos are too many to count