It started as a normal mall date. Tanjirou had managed to convince Inosuke to leave his boar head mask at home, much to his distain and Zenitsu's joy. Leaving his mask meant having his face on full display. His cheeks that squished upwards when he smiled at Zenitsu's jokes and his eyes that Tanjirou thought held a world of love and strength in their emerald green depths. To say the least, his face being uncovered was blessing to his boyfriends. They loved it, and for a long time, so did he. Until the whispers started.
It seemed that the longer they stayed just wandering around, the more people tended to look at Inosuke and realize.
"Do you see that? I think she thinks she wants to be a boy". The hushed words reached Zenitsu's ears before they reached his boyfriends. He took a deep breath and squeezed Inosuke's hand, before tuning back into the conversation he had missed out on. Tanjirou gave him a glance over the youngest's shoulders, red eyes asking a million questions. A quick shake of Zen's head, and a small smile silenced them all.
"Ooh! Hey, let's go in there!"
Stopping in front of a mirror in the store they were in, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Inosuke appreciated it. He really did, the effort that his boyfriends put into not letting him hear the whispers. He knew they tried. But they couldn't hide the glances over his shoulders or the hand squeezes when they passed a group of people. He knew what they were saying. Everyone they passed whispered something.
"She thinks she's a boy. Don't look at her." A woman had said to her daughter as they rushed passed. Slurs like "tranny" and the like that rolled off of their tongues with zero shame.
The first few times it happened, it had been a passing remark. It wasn't is his nature to pay attention to fleeting comments, so it didn't really affect him much. But, eventually the words start getting louder, and instead of whispers, people had started to stare at him, making their distain clear on their faces. The bolder the comments, the more his mind started to self-destruct.
His eyes opened and he instantly focused on his appearance in the mirror.
'My hair's too long. My eyes are too soft. My face is too round. I'm too curvy. Maybe I shouldn't have worn this.'
He had started to style his clothes around his binder, and on a good day he would have been proud with how the grey fabric of his binder, paired with his off the shoulder mesh long sleeves, black ripped jeans and flannel he had tied around his waist. But now? He realized how obvious to a stranger's eye it was that he wasn't the gender he wanted to be.
Inosuke sighed and shook his head. It wasn't the time to be thinking about that. He turned back to where Tanjirou and Zenitsu were fighting over the last white hoodie.
"That one's good but what about this-"
Tanjirou had noticed Inosuke's mood shift dramatically when he walked back over to join them, and soon after they settled the hoodie dispute and left the store, he had suggested getting food. His boar of a boyfriend had perked right up at the mention of getting some sustainace, quickly creeping up in volume, egging their yellow haired boyfriend into a French Fry eating competition.
'Well, at least he's back to his loud self for now' Tanjirou thought, laughing behind the pair as they walked to the food court.
For the most part, Tanjirou's plan had worked. Inosuke had completely forgotten about the comments and remarks throughout the day. And he was too engaged in shoveling pizza and Zenitsu's fries in his mouth to care much about anything but annoying his boyfriends the way he knew best. All the tension seemed to fade from the trio as Tanjirou laughed at Zenitsu's loud complaining at the sword fry battle happening across the table from him.
Tanjirou's fry broke with a particularly hard hit from Inosuke's, hitting Zenitsu in the face and landing in his drink.
Both culprits froze, making eye contact with each other, slowly looking up to see their boyfriend scooping a now soggy French fry out of a soda cup. Zenitsu blinked a few times, and held up the fry. With one clean flick, it landed solidly in Tanjirou's hair, effectively causing him to aggressively try and shake it out with one hand, the other too occupied flipping Zenitsu off. Though in Tanjirou's honest opinion the genuine snorting belly laugh reaction it got out of Inosuke was worth getting soggy French Fry his hair for. Zenitsu folded over wheezing and Inosuke almost fell out of his chair from laughing so hard.
"OH MY GOD YOU SHOULD'VE SEEN YOUR FACE-"
It was a normal date. Until one particular comment, as they were leaving the food court. And that was the finishing touch on the boar's already impending self-destruction.
It was a guy. He was obviously full of himself, and not at all concerned about the two people holding Inosuke's hands.
"Hey pretty baby. I saw you just now and thought you should know you look gorgeous. You even have them perfect curves so damn pretty, ain't ya doll face?"
Inosuke froze, his grip on Tanjirou and Zenitsu's hands almost vice like. His smile faded faster than Zenitsu and Tanjirou could register, and he started so unconsciously curl in on himself. His head ducked down and he could feel himself fighting off tears.
'Don't you fucking dare start crying Hashibira. You're stronger than that, don't show his weak ass you were affected-' He told himself, taking a series of deep breaths.
"Awe, come on darling, no need to get flustered. Just stating fact. My name's Yujien." He drawled.
Inosuke felt someone let go of his hand and looked up to see Tanjirou draping his checkered letterman jacket over his shoulders, Zenitsu pulling him away and securing it over what needed to be covered. He fliped the hood up, effectively keeping Inosuke's face hidden.
Yujien's smug smirk told them he knew exactly what he had done. And Tanjirou and Zenitsu were not having it.
"Oh yeah?" Tanjirou said, turning back to the stranger, his maroon glare and quick words as sharp as a blade. "Well, his name is taken."
Zenitsu's honey eyes seemed to flash a dangerous shade of white as he started talking.
"Oh and guess what else, dipshit! He's a boy! Always has been, and he always will be!"
Tanjirou and Zenitsu held Inosuke close in between them that night. The warm mass of muscle nuzzled into the blankets, and clinged to the nearest person, who just so happened to be Tanjirou.
"Are you doing ok?" Zenitsu asked.
"Zen, you didn't have to punch him you know." Came the muffled reply from Tanjirou's chest. Inosuke had changed into an overly large hoodie almost as soon as the three of them had gotten home, though now he was back to not wearing a shirt, like he did every night.
Zenitsu hummed, burying his face in the black and blue hair. "I know. But at this point I don't really care. and I dont think Tanji does either."
A soft afirming noise came from the youngest, followed by a half asleep response. "He's right. I don't. We'll defend you our whole lives if we have too. If that means defensing you against other people or yourself, we will. We think you're perfect. We think your face fits you perfectly. And if Son and I have to kiss evert inch of it to convince you, then so be it."
Inosuke looks up from Tanjirou's chest to look between his two boys. "Y'know. I may need a little convincing"
They both grinned, albeit one sleepier than the other.
His boys thought his face was beautiful. They though it fit him perfectly. They thought it always will. And maybe, for the first time, Inosuke did too.