The blonde blinks back to reality, dazedly realizing he’s still in front of the gates checking uniforms and not in the comfort of his room, sleeping eight hours like he should be. “Ah.” He mutters, rubbing whatever semblance of sleepiness he can from his eyes.
“Right? What--” He’s already losing his train of thought, great. Zenitsu squints at the person in front of him, seeing dangling hanafuda earrings from his ears. “--your earrings, Tanjirou. We’ve talked about your earrings before and,”
Tanjirou stops his ramblings with a soft hand on his cheek, rubbing the swollen patch of skin under his eyes. “Zenitsu.” He calls, soft and sweet. Zenitsu would scream if he wasn’t so tired. “You’ve got eye bags.”
“Uh.” Zenitsu eloquently responds, “Earrings. Off.”
Tanjirou pouts, “I’ll take it off if you tell me why you’re so out of it.” He pats the blonde's cheek twice and withdraws his hand.
“I’m always out of it, Tanjirou.” Zenitsu grumbles as he taps impatiently on his clipboard. Tanjirou's kindness is overwhelming as always, but at this point in time, he just wants to be finsihed so he can pass out on his desk.
“Even more than usual.” Tanjirou muses, gaze still locked with his sternly. He jerks his chin forward with a frown. “You let Inosuke pass by.”
He let what now? Zenitsu immediately turns around, panicked. “Shit. Tomioka’s going to kill me, where’s that boar --”
He's stopped by a gentle hand on the wrist, pulling him back. Zenitsu looks up at Tanjirou, wincing at the hurt expression he wears. He can hear the genuine worry, and it only makes the guilt worse.
The blonde sighs and pins his clipboard under his arms. “Look, Tanjirou. Just let me do my job for the morning okay?” His body moves on his own and Zenitsu slips both hands on Tanjirou's cheeks, pulling him close to whisper. Tanjirou isn't even fazed at the sudden affection, in fact, he seems to like it. The redhead even closes his eyes with a sigh. “I promise, I’ll be a-okay to chat with you later.”
They probably shouldn't be doing-- whatever this is --in front of the school gates, but Zenitsu's too tired to think, and he just wants Tanjirou to stop looking at him like a kicked puppy. The best way to remedy both is just give his friend some reassurance that yes, he'll still be alive by the time the first class hits.
“That’s a promise.” Tanjirou murmurs to him as he opens his eyes. Unfortunately for Zenitsu, his body has the remaining strength to blush.
The blonde quickly withdraws and takes the clipboard he's pinned under his arms. “Sure.” Back to business, he reminds himself as he taps his earlobe. “So please remove your--”
Tanjirou, ever sly, is already running off before he can finish. “I’ll be off then!”
Zenitsu is left to scream for him. “Tanjirou!! Your earrings--!!”
Zenitsu’s living two lives.
Exciting without context, but when you’re the one killing demons at 1 AM in the morning with an exam due the next morning and a recitation for Rengoku’s class right after then an endurance test for P.E--
--it’s not very fun with context.
It all started after getting attacked in the middle of the night by a rogue demon, a demon slayer by the name of Sabito came to his rescue. He unfortunately ended up passing out through the whole ordeal, but when he woke up, he found himself staring up at a proud looking Sabito and another girl by the name of Makomo.
It turns out, he’d killed the demon himself. Sabito had told him he had snatched his sword out of his grasp and struck with the speed of lightning, effectively decapitating the demon in seconds.
Zenitsu’s never held a sword in his life, so naturally, being the scared highschooler that he is, he screamed for hours until Sabito decided to shut him up with a firm chop to the neck.
He eventually regained his memories bit by bit.
Zenitsu Agatsuma, trained by Jigoro Kuwajima in the way of Thunder Breathing. Only knew one technique, a crybaby but kind in heart, survived the final selection and made his way to the corps to befriend Tanjirou Kamado and Inosuke Hashibira. Apparently also had a crush on Tanjirou’s little sister.
What bullshit, he’d initially thought when he had regained what little bites of memory he had after that fateful encounter with Sabito. He didn’t believe it, he’d registered it as Sabito pulling a weird hypnosis trick on him.
But then he met Tanjirou for himself.
The earrings, his personality, his sound--they were all so familiar to him. It was a weird feeling, longing for someone you’ve only just met, but he couldn’t deny that he was nearly sent to tears at the sight of his reincarnated old friend.
Tanjirou’s existence was a catalyst for his memories, all of a sudden he’d remembered everything. His time at the corps, Shinobu’s disarming smiles, Inosuke’s boar mask--even his inevitable death in Tanjirou’s arms.
He’d nearly fainted from the emotional overload.
Since then, he’d sought out Sabito, to help him fight against the creatures of the night. At first, the thought of having to deal with demons again was terrifying to him, he didn’t want to experience the loss of so many lives all over again.
Sabito reassured him, however, that the demons in this timeline weren’t instigated by some invincible higher demon. They were merely byproducts of human negativity, lurking around mortals like shadows, to feast on flesh to gain physical bodies capable of actual wounds. There wasn’t an organized group coming for anyone’s heads, just a mindless hive of demons born out of negativity.
It didn’t quell the fear in his heart, but the fact that he didn’t have to go through seeing nearly all of his friends die just to kill one person, kept him at ease.
And so began his partnership with the two orphans under Urokodaki’s care. He’d been given an intricate mask like the other two and a bright haori much like his old one, but with school always looming in the dawn, he never got to wear them as often as he’d like. Whenever he’s out in patrol, he looks like Sabito’s younger brother forced to join in on some weird cosplaying event while in uniform, as Makomo would like to jest.
Their patrols always started from the moment the sun sets to the time the sun rises, sharing chunks of the neighborhood and jumping from roof to roof to survey the area thoroughly.
So here he is, chugging two cans of energy drinks just to get through his second class of the day.
Murata snorts as he watches Zenitsu wallow in his despair, face flat on the desk. “How are your kidneys even holding up?” He asks, waving the last can of energy drink in his hold.
“With sheer determination and self-hatred.” Zenitsu mumbles through the hardwood. He claws the air, blindly searching for Murata without lifting his head. “Give it to me.”
Murata steps back, dangling the can just out of his reach. “If I give you any more, Tanjirou will have my neck.”
“Knowing him, he’ll probably ask nicely.” Zenitsu grumbles, his flailing growing violent. “Give.”
The blonde feels his fingers scrape something metal, and he's just about to snatch the drink when a gentle hand tangles fingers with his. “I’ll be taking this.” A soft voice whispers near his ear. Tanjirou.
Zenitsu groans, finally lifting his face off the desk to glare weakly at the redhead. “Tanjirou.”
Arms slip under his and he's suddenly plucked off his seat. It's amazing just how much strength Tanjirou has retained even with reincarnation. “I’m taking you to the nurse’s office. You need your sleep.”
“What’s that?” His sarcasm is ignored as he's dragged away to the door. Zenitsu thrashes in hold and tries to slip away, but to no avail. “Wait, no, Tanjirou if I miss Tomioka’s class, I’ll die--”
Tanjirou clicks his tongue and instead flips Zenitsu up his shoulder, patting his back comfortingly. “You’ll live because I got permission to pull you out.” He gestures to Zenitsu's bag on the chair. “Murata, can you take notes for him?”
“Sure.” Murata waves them off from the corridor, smiling indulgently. “Sweet dreams, Zenitsu.”
Zenitsu only grunts as Tanjirou hauls him out the hallway.
Shinobu has her fingers on Zenitsu's pulse the minute he lays down on the bed. “How many hours of sleep do you get?” She asks courteously, but Zenitsu knows better than to trust her smiles. He's pretty sure Shinobu's planning his death for getting himself so overworked.
He heaves a sigh before answering. “Minutes.”
Tanjirou makes a strangled sound and Shinobu sighs.
“Your body needs at least five hours.” She tuts with a gentle slap on his wrist after she makes sure his heart's still alive. “Not five minutes.”
When Zenitsu doesn't respond to her prodding, she leans back in her chair and smiles menacingly. “Shall I list of the complications of no sleep?” She begins, “Cardiac arrest--”
Tanjirou jumps from his seat in alarm, “Zenitsu!” He screams, the grip on his hand turning painful. He forgot just how much strength his friend still has, despite being out of the demon slaying business. Did Tanjirou lift weights?
The blonde hisses, “I’m sorry!”
“I’ll accept your apology if you sleep a full eight hours this night.” Shinobu says as she stands up her seat with a flourish and a smile that could kill.
“Come over today.” Tanjirou tells him when Zenitsu gets hounded by the school gates.
Zenitsu, who's spent his day catching up on sleep in the clinic, replies as best as he could with his muddled brain. “Hngrm.”
“I’m serious.” Tanjirou takes his hand and envelopes it with both of his sulkily. Zenitsu tries not to let the heat on his cheeks get the best of him. “I don’t know what you do in the middle of the night, but I don’t want you losing sleep over it.”
Zenitsu flits his gaze elsewhere, suddenly feeling a pang in his heart. “It’s a duty of mine.” He struggles to find words to keep his situation as vague as possible. He didn't want to involve Tanjirou with this, he's lived a past life hard enough. “You know, uh, odd jobs to work for my tuition and stuff--”
Tanjirou doesn't let him finish, instead, he tugs Zenitsu closer and pins him with one of his puppy eyes, enough to make a grown man swoon. Unfortunately for Zenitsu, he's a teenager who's practically whipped for his friend's smiles.
“Please?” Tanijrou squeezes the blonde's hand tenderly. “I’m sure whatever you’re doing is important, but can you really do it when you’re dead?”
An image of Tanjirou’s battered face flashes in his mind, crying and begging for him to stay awake.
Zenitsu blinks it away before his eyes can water. “Okay.”
The smile Tanjirou gives him is too similar to the ones he’d seen when he would come back to the estates after a long mission, Zenitsu looks away to keep himself together.
“Tanjirou.” Zenitsu squirms under the hands on his waist holding him in place. Tanjirou’s made it a point to trap him in an embrace, lest he tries to sneak off in the middle of the night. They both know Tanjirou can be quite a light sleeper. “Is this really necessary?”
The redhead just nods, his gaze ever serious. “Yes.” He gives zenitsu’s back a few reassuring pats. “If you’re going to be stubborn, then I’ll have to be too. Sixfold.”
Hah, Zenitsu thinks. Sixfold, like that one mission they had and he had to behead a fucking spider--
His phone rings over the nightstand, playing an obnoxious jingle he’d set for a certain salmon-haired slayer. Both him and Tanjirou startle at the sound.
“Ah. That’s, uh.” Zenitsu clears his throat, trying not to blow his cover. “Duty.”
Tanjirou eyes him for a moment, suspicious, but eventually gets up to pick up the ringing phone off the table with a frown. “You can answer it, but you can’t move.” He says, giving it to the blonde.
Zenitsu idly nods, bringing the phone to his ear after swiping the screen. “Hi,” Damnit, think of another name for Sabito ,“Boss.” He greets through grit teeth, watching Tanjirou sidle back up to his side.
He can hear the bewilderment from Sabito’s voice at the sudden formality. “Boss? Are you finally recognizing my superiority or are you being sarcastic--”
“Neither.” Zenitsu cuts off before his Sabito can continue on being smug, “But, I’ll be declining any job offers for tonight.”
Tanjirou beams at him with his answer, and Zenitsu starts to think that maybe sleeping over at the redhead’s house could be a weekly occurence.
On the other line, Sabito is surprised. “What? What for?” There’s rustling from the speaker and Zenitsu can recognize it as the sound Sabito would make jumping around the neighborhood. “It’s ripe season for demo--”
“I-I said!” Tanjirou didn’t need to know about that , he vigorously shakes hi head despite Sabito not being able to see it. “I’ll be declining offers, I'm at a sleepover so--”
“It’s because of Tanjirou, is it?”
Zenitsu’s mouth snaps shut and his gaze locks with the redhead, who tilts his head curiously at him. He purses his lips in confusion. “How--”
“He’s the only guy I know that you’re friends with. Well, him and Inosuke. But we all know Inosuke doesn’t do sleepovers.”
Way to hurt his ego, but he’ll let it slide. Zenitsu’s frown falters when Tanjirou gives one of his cheeks a gentle pinch, trying to cheer him up.
The blonde ignores the bubbly feeling in his gut and reminds himself that he’s still on the phone with Sabito and he’ll probably never let him live this down. “Sorry, I can make up for it tomorrow--”
Sabito snorts, “It’s okay, Agatsuma.” The slayer tells him, voice oddly soft for someone as abrasive as he is. “You get your sleep.”
“There’s a reason why we were deprived of our memories in the first place.”
Zenitsu bites his tongue again. He can’t say Sabito’s wrong. Recalling things is heavy, especially when it’s messing with the perceptions you have of people in the present. Sometimes he’d wish he had stayed innocent of the past.
But he has the memories now, and he’ll cherish them as best as he can.
“I want to help.” The blonde still insists stubbornly.
Sabito’s rolling his eyes, judging by the tone of his voice, “Everyone’s alive and well, Zenitsu, there’s no need to rush.”
Zenitsu agrees, but something in the back of his head is constantly screaming that if he were to just stand by for one more measly second, everyone would be taken away from him again. Then again, maybe it was just his anxiety, it’s always the first to assume the worst.
Sabito continues through his silence. “You need to enjoy your youth. Chase some skirts like you’ve always wanted.” A pause. “Or pants.”
Zenitsu’s cheeks glow red. “Sabi--Boss!!”
“Live Zenitsu.” Surprisingly, Sabito advice sounds mature even with just two words, but then he decides to open his mouth again. “Or sleep. Just don’t go pulling out your sword on Tanjirou all of a sudden, remember, consent is sexy--”
Zenitsu ends the call right then and there, throwing his phone over Tanjirou’s head with an embarrassed huff. Tanjirou blinks and tilts his head slightly to frown at the direction the blonde’s mindlessly glaring at.
“Don’t ruin your phone.” He mutters, slipping off the bed to retrieve the poor gadget of the floor and back onto the nightstand. “I won’t be able to message you then.”
“I’ll buy a new one.” Zenitsu grumbles, tugging the blanket over his shoulders and patting the empty space Tanjirou’s left. “Sleep time.” He petulantly hugs the blanket close to his body.
Tanjirou just chuckles at the sight, happily sliding back on the bed next to him. “Now you’re eager?”
Zenitsu doesn’t answer him back, but Tanjirou doesn’t pry for more. He slips his arms back around the blonde as they settle into a loose embrace, with Zenitsu trying and failing to do his best on cultivating lost sleep.
Tanjirou’s lost in thought for a few minutes, staring off-handedly at the top of Zenitsu’s head before softly whispering, “Zenitsu?”
The blonde only responds with a curious hum, eyes still closed as he attempts to get whatever semblance of shut-eye he can.
It’s then and there that he almost misses the feeling of chapped lips on his cheeks.
The redhead pulls back, a satisfied grin on his face as he closes his eyes. “Night.” He whispers, tugging the blonde ever so slightly closer.
Zenitsu blinks once or twice before dissolving into a flailing mess of feelings in Tanjirou’s arms, screaming how ‘he’s never going to get any sleep now’ and ‘you’re going to have to take responsibility for de-virginizing his cheeks how dare you tanjirou’.
Tanjirou takes all of his complaints in stride, by just keeping his eyes closed throughout the whole ordeal.
Zenitsu remains awake for far too long than he would have liked, but when he does go to sleep for the night, he finds himself dreaming of blue skies and a boy with hanafuda earrings, smiling at him with so much love.