The night he had turned into a demon isn’t one that Muichiro remembers well. Nothing solid, anyway. Just flames licking away at his body, existing in a constant state of burning. Liquid agony shooting through his skin. Confusion. Fear. Yuichiro begging, praying for someone to save him.
Later, with red-rimmed eyes, Yuichiro had explained that someone called Tamayo had smelled all the blood, and had saved them. His prayers had been answered – but the result spoke for itself. Muichiro would now exist eternally as a demon, who needed to feed on human blood to survive, who would perish in the sunlight.
Quietly, so quietly, Yuichiro had asked if Muichiro hated him. His eyes were dead, as though he could already anticipate what would happen. Muichiro had shaken his head, pressed closer to his twin and intertwined their fingers, feeling the hot drip of tears against his shoulder.
As he opens his eyes, a searing light blinds him, and Muichiro cringes away with a hiss. He stands on quivering legs, clutching the covers, vertigo rocking him. He must have fallen asleep beside Yuichiro’s bedside. All around him, noises assault his eardrums, familiar yet amplified a hundredfold. He can hear the shuffling of feet against the floor. A trickle of water sounds like a waterfall. The air feels cold and damp against his skin, but in a strange way – he can feel the chill, but it isn’t cold at all.
“Muichiro?” Tanjirou asks again, moving out of the shadows of the doorway. “You don’t look so good.” Worry pinches his cheeks and drives the color from his complexion.
Food. He smells like –
Muichiro quickly shakes his head, dispelling the very notion in a flurry of inky black hair. He forces himself to smile, against the feeling of feeling waxy and stiff, empty as a limp sack.
He runs, flings himself into Tanjirou’s arms, wrapping himself there as naturally as his own skin clings to the muscles beneath. Tanjirou’s heartbeat sounds in his ears, as steady as a water drip, the sound somehow calming and soothing. Muichiro tucks his head neatly under Tanjirou’s chin and holds onto him like a teddy bear. The close proximity only serves to make the ache in his gut grow more painful; Muichiro’s body cries out for food.
No! This is Tanjirou!
Abruptly, he pulls away, wriggling his way out of Tanjirou’s arms, a bolt of pain turning his stomach inside out. He shakes free of the bloodlust, the consuming hunger, and stares, horrified. He isn’t shaking. His heart feels still and cold.
“Muichiro.” From the infirmary bed, Yuichiro speaks up, his voice rasping horribly. Glad to have a distraction, Muichiro dances over to his twin’s bedside, and fumbles about under the sheets, taking hold of his hand and grasping onto it delicately, scared that his claws will somehow hurt him even more. His eyes speak volume of his worry as he stares down at his twin, currently confined to a hospital bed until he heals. “You haven’t eaten this whole time, have you? You should have said something! And you got injured pretty badly, too. Here, I’ll –”
Yuichiro fumbles about for a knife at the drawer by his bed, spitting out colorful curses when he finds the drawers devoid of items except for clean pajamas.
Muichiro stubbornly shakes his head, clamps his lips together, and backs away. He refuses to drink from his twin, not with him looking small and little like a child, in a bed that looks four times too large for him.
Irritation clouds Yuichiro’s face. “Don’t be stubborn! You need to eat too! How long have you gone without eating, huh? You look like shit!”
Yuichiro proceeds to go off on a tangent, pointing out how the bruising turns Muichiro’s eyes into hollow sockets, how his skin looks chalky pale. Muichiro’s pouting lower lip screams out a refute, his eyes staring at Yuichiro accusingly.
“Oh, is that the problem?” Tanjirou speaks up, once Yuichiro’s run out of breath. “He just needs blood?”
Yuichiro almost softens at the question, seeming to sink further back tiredly into the pillows. He isn’t as hostile to Tanjirou now, not since they’d fought together at the sword smith village. In fact, it seems as though they’ve almost become friends, of a sort. “Yeah. He just needs a bit to get by. More now, I think, since he’s still recovering from his wounds. Then he’ll feel better.”
“Well, Yuichiro, you can’t do that in your condition, can you?” Tanjirou points out gently. “There’s still a bit of poison in your blood, and you’re too weak right now.”
Yuichiro frowns, but doesn’t disagree. “There aren’t any other options.”
“I could give him some.” Tanjirou offers suddenly.
Surprise, like the dawn, breaks across Yuichiro’s face. “Are you sure? You don’t have to – Muichiro’s my brother, I should –”
“I want to.” Tanjirou says firmly. “It’s no trouble at all. Yuichiro, just focus on getting better.”
They leave the infirmary, and end up in Tanjirou’s room. The screen door is pulled shut. At some point, Muichiro grabs onto Tanjirou’s hand and doesn’t let go. He feels more complete touching him, and clings, as hard as he can.
In return, Tanjirou hugs him, pulls him close. For a second, Muichiro’s body stiffens, locks itself in place. But then, the knot loosens and he relaxes, coaxing his arms out and around Tanjirou’s back, with the tiniest exhale.
Muichiro leans his head against Tanjirou’s shoulder and they stand like that in the silence. They hold each other without saying anything.
Slowly, Muichiro nuzzles his head in closer toward Tanjirou’s neck; the muscles in his body, once relaxed, now grow tense again.
“It’s okay,” Tanjirou says, his lips pressed against Muichiro’s ear. His voice is soft, so soft, that it could have been a kiss or a breath. “Muichiro.”
Trembling with need and hunger, he pauses, a breath away from Tanjirou’s throat, so close that he can feel the heat radiating from his skin. A tiny part of Muichiro wants to draw back, but he can’t make himself move. Not with Tanjirou’s pulse fluttering an inch from his lips, and the sweet, heady scent of blood filling every part of his senses.
“Sorry, sorry.” Muichiro says miserably, as if his apologies will make everything better.
Lips brush skin, a soft, feather-like touch. There’s a gasp.
And then Muichiro bites down.
Sharp, knife-like teeth sink deep into Tanjirou’s neck.
Warm liquid trickles past his lips. This is life, and Muichiro snatches at it greedily, feeling strength returning to his body, as skin and muscles stitch themselves back together. The hunger surges up with an angered roar, as if realizing how close to death they had come, and Muichiro bites down savagely again.
Tanjirou’s blood courses hot and sweet into his mouth, spreading through him, a slow-moving fire. It tastes of earth and smoke, of heat and passion and strength, of all things Tanjirou. Muichiro hears his name being called out just once, a whisper of benediction. His heartbeat roars in Muichiro’s ears, pounding out a savage rhythm, and he loses himself in the moment, cocooned in ecstasy.
But through the hunger and bloodlust clouding his mind, the tiny part of him that still clings onto his humanity pleads with him to stop. Tanjirou, Tanjirou, Tanjirou. Don’t kill Tanjirou. Stop, stop, stop.
The hunger roared; it isn’t satisfied, not nearly sated enough. He wants more.
Don’t kill Tanjirou. Won’t kill Tanjirou.
Floating images, moving in and out: bright red eyes and a field of sun-warmed grass, a mouth saying, Muichiro, Muichiro, Muichiro, making it sound like a song. Tanjirou’s name ebbing away from him, a single word, a single feeling: love.
With a monumental effort, Muichiro pulls back. He feels Tanjirou shudder as his teeth slide from his throat, feels his whole body slump against his.
For a moment, neither of them moves, and Muichiro looks at Tanjirou, his features glazed over in horror as the reality of what he’d done sinks in. Under his assault, Tanjirou had been pressed into the wall, and leans there, breathing heavily. Blood still oozes from the teeth-marks ringing his neck. Tanjirou’s expression is still dazed, but when he finally raises his head and looked at Muichiro, his eyes are clear.
Muichiro freezes. He’s seen. Tanjirou, his first, his only friend, has seen him at his worst, a demon in a snarling, foaming blood frenzy. A monster who’s almost killed him on instinct.
“Sorry. Sorry, sorry.” Muichiro chants, backing away and scrambling into the furthest corner, as far away as he can get from Tanjirou.
His eyes are glassy with tears. He knows that apologies won’t make anything better, but they’re all that he can think to say at this very moment.
Tanjirou, dragging every exhausted cell, makes his way over to Muichiro, cowering in the corner. His smile, his eyes, are kind as he reaches out to ruffle inky dark tresses.
“You must have been really hungry, Muichiro. I’m sorry. You must have really been hurting, huh?”
It’s on a choked sob that Muichiro launches himself at Tanjirou once again, tears freely flowing. Tanjirou catches him, holds him steady, mutters comfort into the crown of his head.
The rest of the evening passes by in a blur of warm hands and whispered reassurances.