“Anyway, my only daughter, bless her, she’s just gotten accepted into Berklee College of Music. I want something to really commemorate this journey she’s had, you know? It felt like we both went through Hell and back, but, well, she’s done it.” The man smiles, pride and affection for his daughter shining in his eyes, turning his face into a roadmap of the life he’s lived. “Do you think you can come up with something really, you know, special?”
Jungkook hums, hunched over the counter, the toe of his boot tapping against the floor. He stares down at the photos the man laid out in front of him, taking his time to scan and absorb each one - there are three photos; one, of what is no doubt the man’s daughter, a young woman with caramel dyed hair, swept up in a no-nonsense ponytail, smiling the same smile as her father towards the camera. The next photo is another of the girl, but this time seated at a piano, eyes closed, her head tilted to the left as if she’s tugging her melody straight from the universe.
Moving on to the third photo, Jungkook chews on his lip; the third photo is a scan, actually, of handwritten sheet music, drawn into the page of a notebook. Half the page (of what looks like chemistry notes), is written harshly, as if scrawled with no regards to neatness or lines; but the hand-written scale seems painstakingly etched, and the notes themselves, each full, half, each chord, each tenuto, seem to breathe on the page.
“That’s the original composition that she played at her audition,” the man says, his voice full of fatherly haut. “She wrote it in an hour.”
The sketch surfaces in Jungkook’s mind, hazy and half-formed - but it’s enough.
“Yes, sir,” he says, lifting his face and offering the customer a smile. “Just give me a week or so to draw something up, and I’ll call you when I have something.”
The morning is fading into noon, as Jungkook sends the man on his way with the promise to call him by the end of next week. The bell dings above the door, as he leaves, resounding through the hushed, sleepy space. Now alone, Jungkook perches at the front counter, his sketchbook in front of him, to finally get the image that’s haunting his mind out.
As he tends to do, while sketching, he spaces out - all he can see is the tip of the pencil stroking across the page, lines billowing out as his hand moves. He’s not sure how long he sits there, as the image comes to life on the page, but by the time he has a solid first draft, and is sitting up to stretch his neck, Hoseok is walking through the door, two plastic bags in the crook of one elbow.
The elder smiles, pushing his sunglasses up to rest on top of his head. “You eat? Brought lunch.”
Still resurfacing, Jungkook actually has to think back to his morning: Taehyung had wandered home around four AM, in someone else’s shirt, and had tripped over Jungkook’s mattress; it’s as big a hassle as it sounds, crashing on the floor of Taehyung’s dorm, but it saves a ton of money (Jungkook almost, almost has enough saved to move to his own place).
After the face-stepping, the cursing, and the icing of his nose, Jungkook had been awake for a while, adding a few details to some pieces he’s doing this week. He’d fallen back to sleep sometime around seven, had gotten up at nine, and been at the shop by eleven.
So… “No,” he responds, making grabby hands for one of the bags, “I didn’t.”
They sit at the counter while they eat, and Hoseok peeks at Jungkook’s sketch, eyes going wide as he licks his lips of sauce.
“Oh, shit, I like this. Who’s it for?”
“Man whose daughter got accepted to Berklee. It’s her song, these notes around the outline.”
Hoseok clicks his tongue. “It’s nice. Simple and straight, but it feels… mysterious. You know, sometimes I’m kinda pissed about how many clients you get, but at the same time, I never could have thought of that.”
“That’s not true, hyung,” Jungkook mutters back, while Hoseok continues to stare at his sketch, pulling the book over to see it better.
Jungkook prefers, though when there’s good money involved he tries not to be, eternally engraving his own designs onto clients. Some come in, like the man, with a story and some photos, no clear idea; some come in and know exactly what they want, and it can take Jungkook anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get inside their head enough to be able to create what it is in their mind’s eye.
Then, the bane of Jungkook’s existence, there are the people who come in with their Google Images printouts, photos of someone else’s tattoos - nothing stresses Jungkook out more than when his creativity is being suppressed. But money is money, in his world sadly, so he does what he can and he does his best (it helps that most of the time, Jungkook can sweet talk them into letting him come up with something original).
Finishing up his burger, Jungkook tugs the sketch back to him so he can scrutinize it, letting Hoseok stand and greet the two girls entering the shop.
“Hello, hello,” Hoseok says brightly, moving around the counter. “What can we do for you today?”
He’s actually pretty proud of this sketch, which is rare when it comes to his first drafts. Like Hoseok said, it is simple, but, Jungkook can only hope, its meaning will be obscure enough to anyone but the man and his daughter; he took all three photos into account, using elements from each; the outer lines are bold, clean, but, taking the first photo where she’s smiling, Jungkook sketched the outline of the girl’s head. He used her expression from the second photo, though, where she’s completely in tune with the piano, eyes closed and hearing what only she can.
The lines of her face, her curved lips, straight nose, the serene way in which her lashes lay across her cheeks - even the locks of hair that flow around her ears - all of this is made up of the sheet music, her song, delicately sketched to look organic.
Yeah, Jungkook is proud - so proud that he has to shove past the urge to call the man back right now, in fact; but, knowing himself, he’ll find something to change before he even goes home tonight. So for now, he closes his sketchbook, and heads back to his station.
Hoseok is still chatting with the girls as he passes by. “You can go back and sit at his station until he gets here,” he tells them with a smile. “Maybe he’ll get his late ass into gear when he realizes two pretty girls are waiting on him.”
Jungkook resists the urge to roll his eyes at the elder - like he isn’t late half the time; meanwhile, the girls perch themselves on the low chairs in Jimin’s station, across from Jungkook. But he ignores their (interesting) gossip in favor of finishing up the final draft for his two PM appointment.
Twenty minutes later, Jimin bursts in the door, his blond hair mussed by the summer wind. He stops dead center of the foyer, as all eyes turn towards him.
“I found a dog,” he says into the silence, “at the busstop.”
“And?” Jungkook prompts, when the elder doesn’t continue.
The other turns to him with an expression that speaks volumes. “ And ? And I took her home. I named her Snorlax.”
Hoseok scoffs, from his side of the room. “Poor dog.”
Jimin smiles, a semi-sweet, sly smile. “She reminded me of you, hyung-”
Knowing that the other two can go at it for hours, Jungkook speaks up, nodding his head towards the waiting girls. “You got two waiting on you, Jimin.”
“We should really look into hiring a second piercer,” Hoseok mutters, hunching back over his sketchbook. Jimin sticks out his tongue, but he moves further into the shop, smiling at the girls who’ve now been waiting half an hour for him.
One look at Jimin, and they don’t seem to care.
“Hello, hello,” he greets, dropping his backpack on his worktable. “What can I do for the loveliest ladies in the world today?”
Shameless flirt , Jungkook thinks, smiling to himself. Not that he has room to talk, though; he’s flirted on occasion, sometimes if only to distract his customers from the fact that he’s shoving vibrating needles into their skin. Flirting usually shows good results when it comes to people tipping him, too.
Jimin claps his hands, suddenly, heading for their store room. “Nose and nipples,” he announces cheerily, “fun, fun.”
One girl turns beet red - it’s no secret who’s getting her nipples pierced, now.
“God, Jimin,” Hoseok scolds, “don’t embarrass her.”
“I’m not embarrassed,” she says quickly. “Just… nervous.”
Jungkook lifts his head to smile at her. “Don’t be nervous. Jimin’s really gentle, for what it’s worth, and the pain only lasts a split second.”
She looks at him, eyes wide. “Really?”
He nods, setting his pencil down. “Yep. I had mine done about… a year ago, now?” He stands, lifting his shirt up to do what he can to prove he knows what he’s talking about. “I mean, it’s going to hurt because there’s a giant needle being shoved through your nipple, but afterwards, the pain is pretty chill.”
“Good,” the girl says. “I’m a student, and I don’t think I’d be able to sit through class if it felt like they were… falling off.”
Jungkook thinks for a moment, trying to think of the best way to describe the soreness he he’d felt after Jimin was done with his nipples.
Hoseok comes to his rescue. “I had a customer say it felt like, PMS pain?” He swivels in his chair. “Like, it doesn’t really hurt. It’s just tender.”
“Right,” Jungkook nods girl, moving his eyes away from Hoseok. “And that soreness will overpower any… sensitivity you had previously. But it’ll come back in around four weeks.”
Jimin, packaged needles and other supplies in his hands, returns. “I’ll give you a form on aftercare, but just so you know,” he jumps in, “they’ll heal up in about four to six weeks, but you should forever take care of them the same way you will while they’re healing.” He sits down, grabbing a pair of gloves from a box on his table. “So, who’s first?”
Jungkook sits in his own bubble from most of the afternoon, after his one appointment (a quote across a guy’s shoulder in his native language, a testament to his grandmother). It’s a quiet day, despite the traffic zooming across the street outside, made almost serene by the sound of Hoseok’s machine softly humming, and the scent of green soap in the air. He sits in the sunlight that slants across the room and sketches, with no real idea in mind, just seeing what comes out - he almost dozes, too, his sleepless night catching up with him.
But he knows the peace won’t last, not with it being Friday night; Fridays and Saturdays are when they take walk-ins. In short, they’re free-for-all, first come, first serve tattoo marathons. If Jungkook can’t talk a customer into letting him design something original, then he’ll be stuck carving photos from Google or their gallery for six or seven hours, same with Hoseok. Jimin will be stabbing people left and right, flirting to keep their mind off the fact that he’s the only piercer in the shop, not to mention he’s a turtle-esque perfectionist; he’ll take a good ten minutes to make sure a naval piercing lines up, a solid twenty to ensure someone’s lobes are even.
So Jungkook answers the phone, greets the occasional customer as they walk in, and savors the calm before the storm.
Sure enough, as the evening sun shifts to blare through the wide windows at the front of the shop, the crowd on the street thickens; as it does so, people began to trickle in, some just out of curiosity, but some with intention. At some point, Jimin moves to the back with his iPod, hooking it into their speakers, and music fills the small space, deep, thrumming bass with the scattered synthetic orchestral bit. They aren’t allowed to play music before five PM (it irritates the ladies and gentlemen at the salon next door), so as soon as the song begins, it’s like a Pavlovian response - Jungkook goes to the front, Hoseok behind, ready to sell their unconventional art.
In half an hour, Jungkook is sitting down with a man, probably in his late forties, who’s eyes look a little sad; he has a photograph in his hand, of a woman, her smile brighter than, but somehow reminiscent of, the setting sun.
He doesn’t ask about her - he doesn’t have to; he knows all about the man’s late wife in a short time. The man is nervous, it’s in his voice, the way his hands shake as he takes the quick sketch Jungkook shows him, and while Jungkook wouldn’t normally take on a big job like this, not on a night like tonight, he makes an exception. It takes him an hour to finish the outline before he transfers it to the man’s chest, right over his heart.
The rest of the shop fades away, while Jungkook works. Everything narrows down to the buzz of the needle, the feel of the pedal beneath his foot. He hunches over the man, who speaks in low tones, talking of his wedding night, the honeymoon, and forever inscribes the likeness of a lost lover into aged, weathered skin, wiping blood and excess ink away. He doesn’t flinch, or complain, and it gives Jungkook the impression that this isn’t the greatest pain he’s ever dealt with.
Two hours in, just as the outline is done, Jungkook asks for a bathroom break.
“Sure,” his customer, Jaejin, his name is, gives him a kind smile. “You wouldn’t happen to have any water, would you?”
“Yes, sir, there’s a water bottle in the back, I’ll bring you a cup.”
Ripping off his gloves, Jungkook stands to throw them away. The dome of seclusion that had settled over he and Jaejin while he was engrossed in his work shatters, and he’s assaulted by noise.
People, music, Hoseok laughing at something Jimin says across the room; there’s a lot of people in the small shop, too. They aren’t busy, in the true sense of the word. People always come in in pairs, twos and threes, either because that was the plan for their night, or because they don’t want to have needles plunged into their skin alone, so the small shop, just a speck in the big city, is full to bursting.
Stretching, various joints cracking, Jungkook does his business, washing his hands in soap strong enough that it might as well be bleach. Halfway back to his station, a paper cup of chilled water in his hands, he spots a flash of color, and his entire existence hones in on it.
It’s a man, he realizes, his hair a muted shade of mint, like the pebbles that rest at the bottom of the water fountain outside of Taehyung’s dorm. He’s not the tallest, but people seem to give him space, so he’s easy to observe, despite his black on black outfit, a t-shirt tucked into tight denim. His skin, though, his skin is pale, so pale in contrast to the black, paler than even Jimin in the dead of winter, when he covers every inch of skin in wool because, even after seven years, he isn’t used to the cold temperatures of the city. The man is small, but his shoulders are broad, his hips wide, and Jungkook wonders if he’s been shot with something suspiciously resembling an arrow.
He has never seen anyone as pretty as this stranger, and if the man is here for a tattoo, Jungkook would give all the toes on his right foot to be the one to do it; he has to be the one to do it.
Two girls move out of the way, then, moving towards the counter to speak with Jimin, and Jungkook almost pouts; Hoseok is talking to the man, nodding and listening intently. Jungkook has never once gotten jealous over the elder beating him to a customer, they tend to delegate pretty well, but this time, his throat sinks in and for a moment, he thinks he may walk over and toss the cup of water at Hoseok.
But then Hoseok is turning, eyes searching. When they find him, he points and waves Jungkook over.
“Here you go,” Jungkook tells Jaejin, handing over the water. “Just a sec.”
He all but hurdles over everyone to get to the others.
“You almost done over there?” Hoseok asks him, while Jungkook shamelessly stares the stranger down; the other is turned around though, speaking lowly to his friend, another man, tall and dressed in a pale pink blazer.
The younger nods, forcing himself to look at Hoseok. “Yeah, I just have the shading left.”
“Okay, good,” the elder says, turning back to the other. “Jungkook can get you in about an hour. I’m about to start on this massive thigh piece, but he’s almost done with what he’s doing.”
The man looks at Hoseok, then at Jungkook, and it’s like he’s kicked Jungkook straight in the chest; it’s hard to breathe, suddenly, as he meets dark, lazily sharp eyes, made that much darker by the tendrils of mint falling into them. He gives Jungkook a once over, his expression revealing absolutely nothing.
“Okay,” he finally says, and Jungkook feels like falling over because the depth in the stranger’s voice makes him feel like he’s underwater; he sounds bored, almost, but there’s another tone, held just on his tongue - reservation and apprehension. “We’ll be back in an hour, then, this one needs food,” he continues.
“Be nice, Yoongi, I came all the way out here with you. Don’t throw me under the bus,” his friend says, not bothering to look away from the wall where Jungkook and Hoseok have hung some pictures from their portfolio.
Yoongi, the one with the jade-toned hair and eyes like smoky quartz, only smiles, pink lips tugging to the side. “We’ll be back,” he repeats.
“Please do,” Jungkook finds himself saying in a rush.
As they walk out the door, discussing food, Jungkook feels himself yearning to follow; what stops him, probably the only thing stopping him, is Hoseok’s wry smile, eyebrows raised.
“What?” he asks, shoving his hands into his pockets.
But Hoseok only shakes his head. “Nothing. Go finish up, I have a feeling that tall one can pack it away in no time at all.”
Good idea, Jungkook thinks.
Despite his eagerness, and the obvious instant attraction he felt towards Yoongi, Jungkook is a professional; he keeps his mind firmly on his work, on the task at hand. Nobody needs to know that he has one ear perked, straining to hear that languid voice, or that he lets his eyes dart around the shop every time he sits up to wipe excess ink from Jaejin’s chest.
After Yoongi had left, he’d come back, switched his needle to a curved magnum, and gotten started on the gentle shading on the portrait of Jaejin’s wife - the tattoo itself isn’t big, barely covers a handspan across the man’s heart, so while the outline was easy, the shading is a little tricky. Jungkook takes his time, filling in shadows, laugh lines, doing his best to pay homage to the life well lived he can see in her eyes from the photograph.
Even so, he knows the exact moment Yoongi returns to the studio; he forces his eyes to stay on the nearly-done tattoo in front of him, and he ignores Hoseok’s smile across the way.
Finally, after roughly three or so hours of work, it’s done.
Stretching his arms above his head, Jungkook nods towards the back of the shop. “Go take a look, there’s a mirror on that wall.”
Standing, Jaejin does, looking ten times as stiff as Jungkook feels; but once he gets to the mirror, his eyes go soft, fingertips rising to trace around the tattoo. Jungkook can’t help but smile as he changes his gloves.
“Thank you,” Jaejin says, returning. “It’s… more than I could’ve hoped.”
“No, thank you,” Jungkook replies genuinely. “This is what I love, and you gave me the chance to do that, while honoring your wife. I can’t thank you enough for that.”
The elder goes silent, and sits back down, allowing Jungkook to smooth healing balm over the irritated, red skin, and cover it in a bandage. “Rinse it in warm, unscented soapy water when you get home,” Jungkook instructs, “and keep it moisturized. Just don’t drown it. It’ll start peeling in a week or so, don’t pick, just let it shed. When it’s done and fully healed, you can come back anytime, and I’ll touch it up, no charge.”
“Got it. Thanks, kid.”
He can see the shine in Jaejin’s eyes, so he smiles, deciding to lighten the mood. “And tell everyone who did it,” he jokes, and it works. The old man’s eyes wrinkle as he laughs, but he agrees to do just that. “Let me clean up here, and I’ll meet you up front.”
Ten minutes later, after he’s cleaned up and taken Jaejin’s payment (and generous tip), Jungkook makes his way over to Yoongi, through a group of young business men, in black pants and white shirts, who’re speaking to Jimin. Jungkook overhears the word “Albert”, and ducks out, fast - he’s already shown some of what he has, today, so he’ll let Hoseok model this time.
“Hey,” he manages to say without tripping over the single syllable as he comes upon Yoongi.
The other turns those eyes on him, so bright for being so dark, and Jungkook fights the urge to physically swoon. “I saw the tattoo you did on that guy,” Yoongi mentions. “It was good.”
“Thanks.” Jungkook looks around at the semi-crowded shop, feeling a little claustrophobic shoved into a corner with the other; Yoongi’s friend, the tall, sassy one, is nowhere to be found. “Do you smoke?” he asks on a whim.
Instead of answering, the other just shrugs, and leads Jungkook through the door.
Outside, despite the Friday night crowd, there’s more room to breathe. The air, thick with a springy balm, sticks to Jungkook’s skin in a way he’s always liked, as he fishes his lighter and pack of menthols from his pocket. By the time he lights up, Yoongi’s already lit his own, the cigarette hanging from his long fingers.
Unwilling to let the silence become awkward, Jungkook takes a drag, exhaling into the night. “So, what are you looking to get?” he asks, turning to look at the other. “Yoongi, right?”
“Yoongi, yeah,” the other says. “I don’t, uh, actually know what I want, though.”
Jungkook can’t help the look he gives the other, his eyebrows rising. “You.. don’t know?”
“Like… at all?”
Yoongi huffs, smoothing down his hair to hide his scowl. “Nope. I just want something… masculine.”
“Hm,” Jungkook comments, taking another hit. “Like flowers?” He’s joking, sort of, but Yoongi gives him a sharp look.
“Flowers aren’t masculine.”
Raising his eyebrows again, Jungkook settles his cigarette between his lips, freeing his hands, so he can lift his shirt, for the second time today. It’s a bold move, and he can feel his face warm as Yoongi’s eyes drop, darting between the stylized, gradient roses he has tattooed across either hip. Most of the pieces are below his waistband, but enough of them are showing to prove his point - it works, and not to mention, Yoongi’s eyes drag over his skin in the best way.
But people began to stare, so Jungkook drops his shirt, giving the other a pointed look.
“Okay, well,” Yoongi admits, “not the masculine I had in mind.”
Nodding, Jungkook finishes off his cigarette, dropping into the ashtray outside the door. “Fair enough. Let’s go talk about what you did have in mind, then?”
Returning back into the AC’d interior, Jungkook motions for Yoongi to follow him back to his station. He’s stopped, however, by a hand fisted into the sleeve of his t-shirt as he passes by Jimin.
The elder, hanging up the phone with a “See ya tomorrow!”, drops his face onto the counter, wide eyes peeking up at Jungkook through his bangs.
“Help me,” he groans. “They all want Prince Alberts. All. Five. Of. Them.”
“Hey, that’s money we need, dude,” Jungkook comments, weakly flopping his arm, trying to shake his sleeve free. “This is a good thing.”
Jimin just makes a small sound, sitting up and shooting a dirty look back towards his station - the curtain around his space is pulled shut, and Jungkook can only assume there are five, half-naked men behind it. “None of them have piercings, not even their ears. They’re going straight for the hardcore shit.”
“Well,” Jungkook smiles, “at least PAs are quick.”
Jimin follows them back down the aisle, sighing dramatically. “Wish me luck,” he says wistfully, disappearing behind the curtain.
Jungkook offers Yoongi the chair pushed to the side of his station before he sits in his spinny chair, reaching to the shelves below his desk for his portfolios. “Okay,” he begins, scooting over to Yoongi, “look through these. I’ve done a ton of different styles, let me know what stands out to you.”
“Do you have time for this?” Yoongi asks, taking the first binder. “I mean…” He looks over towards the front of the shop, where people are still milling about, his brows drawn together. “You guys are kind of busy, and I might take like, a year to decide.”
“It’s fine, if they really want to get something done tonight, they’ll wait. And actually, I was hoping you’d let me draw something up just for you,” the other admits, searching for his notepad. “I prefer it this way, really. It won’t get done tonight, though, so if that’s a problem…?” Jungkook turns, meeting Yoongi’s eyes.
The other, his lips parted slightly, seems a little shocked. But he recovers quickly. “No, no, that’s fine… okay.”
Jungkook leaves Yoongi to browse, figuring he might as well check on everyone that seems to be waiting. He books two appointments for larger pieces for the following week, has two more customers willing to wait on Hoseok (who is finishing up in the back with his current client), and has a couple wanting matching key tattoos agree to wait for him to get done with Yoongi. The other handful in the shop are either browsing, looking around for ideas, or waiting on Jimin to be free.
Returning to Yoongi, he finds the other frowning, completely engrossed in his portfolio. So he sits, and scribbles Yoongi’s name at the top of a blank page in his notebook; under this, he writes masculine, and underlines it twice; he wonders what’s up with that.
“How old are you?” Yoongi asks suddenly, without looking up, as he turns a page.
“I’ll be twenty-one this year,” Jungkook tells him.
The other snorts, glancing up at Jungkook through his lashes. “You’re young, and talented? Life continues it’s triad of unfairness, it seems.”
Knowing it’s a compliment, albeit a bit of a cynical one, Jungkook smiles. At least he can safely assume Yoongi is older than him, now, which helps clear up a lot of his nervousness. “Did you see anything you like?”
Yoongi literally slams the binder closed, puffing out his cheeks. “I like it all,” he sighs. “But I still have no idea what I want.”
Jungkook thinks he can help with that. “What do you do?” he asks, pen poised to take notes.
The elder shrugs, eyes on Jungkook’s hand. “I didn’t know there’d be an interview.”
If he weren’t smiling, his tone of voice would have made Jungkook do a double-take; as it stands, his smile, a gesture both breathtakingly beautiful and playfully teasing, has Jungkook struggling to remember his own name. “W-well…,” he clears his throat, “just to give me a sense of who you are, to help me come up with something.”
“So you want to know who I am, what I want, and why I’m here? And you’ll tattoo that into my skin permanently?”
“In short, yeah.”
Yoongi nods, taking the entire thing much more seriously than Jungkook has ever seen anyone do. “Okay, well… I’m a,” the elder pauses, crossing his arms. “I’m a rapper. I make music.”
Jungkook jots the words down, his eyes never leaving Yoongi’s face - though the elder’s eyes are on the floor, his head cocked to the side, and Jungkook wonders why it seemed so hard for him to say those words.
“A rapper?” he asks, hoping to prompt Yoongi to continue - it seems to backfire however; the elder’s head jerks up, his eyes hard.
“Is that so hard to believe?”
The younger shakes his head. “Not at all, I just… are you, like, famous? Or underground?”
This time, Yoongi shakes his head. “Not famous, no, but I’d like to think people underground know who I am. I put my mixtape out a few months ago, so.”
Completely forgetting he’s supposed to be taking notes, Jungkook lets his excitement get the best of him. “Oh my God, then you probably know Namjoon! I used to apprentice at his shop, like, a year ago! He did the roses on my hips, actually.”
The elder’s face changes to an expression of humored disbelief. “Namjoon does tattoos? Well shit,” he sighs, tangling his fingers in the short hair at the back of his head. “I could have just gone to him, then. No offense,” he adds quickly.
“Nah, it’s cool. He does good stuff,” Jungkook admits. “So, you do know him?”
Yoongi nods. “Yeah, I know him. We’ve done a few shows together, actually. He seems to be at, like, all the shows and competitions.”
“He’s a force of nature, that’s for sure,” the younger laughs.
Before he can continue, several things happen in the span of fifteen seconds.
One, Jimin’s voice carries over from behind the curtain, exasperated. “Dude, no, if you want this piercing, you need to get your dick hard. Sorry not sorry, that’s just how this shit works.”
Second, one of the guys back there with him, assumingly the one having… stage fright, replies, a little too loud. “I’m trying, but he’s scared!”
And finally, Hoseok, at the front taking his payment for the thigh peice he’s just finished, hollers over his shoulder, tossing Jungkook into the deep with no buoy in sight. “Jungkook could help with that, probably.”
The shop goes silent, save for the music still thumping overhead - Jungkook knows it’s due more to Jimin and his customer yelling about dicks, and less about Hoseok just outing him in front of everyone (read: Yoongi), but he still feels his face turn red, feels his ears burn. Clearing his throat, aware that Yoongi is staring at him, Jungkook picks up his pen again.
“So, do you perform under an alias?” he asks, picking a spot on the floor and giving it his best stare.
He can’t see Yoongi, but the elder answers anyway. “Agust D,” he tells him. “So you’re…?”
There’s the space of a heartbeat where Jungkook is afraid to look up at meet Yoongi’s eyes; he’s lost clients over his sexuality before, and it kind of sucks, but considering their shop is named Top to Bottom Tattoos, he can’t help but wonder why people don’t get it - or maybe it isn’t as obvious as he thinks (Hoseok thought of it while drunk, admittedly).
Even so, Jungkook really, really wants to do Yoongi’s tattoo. Swallowing, he looks up, just in time to see Yoongi press his lips together, nodding.
“That makes me feel better, somehow,” the elder muses, before clicking his tongue, and Jungkook barely catches the silver ball settled on the center of his tongue that flashes between his curved lips. Then Yoongi’s eyes are on his and he’s watching him, waiting on Jungkook to continue.
He has no idea what Yoongi’s words mean, but he knows a blessing when he sees one, so Jungkook, licking his lips, pulls a question out of his ass. “So, uh, why do you want a tattoo?” It’s not the dumbest question out there, at least; it makes sense, anyway.
Yoongi seems surprised, though; his eyes soften, widening a bit, and a red tint creeps just above the neckline of his t-shirt. “Oh, that,” he mutters; he looks away, hesitating, but Jungkook, now so curious his chest hurts, waits, his cheek between his teeth.
Finally, turning back to look at him, Yoongi sighs.
“They call me pretty,” he says quietly. “They… respect my music, they respect Agust D, but when it comes to me, to Yoongi.” Pausing, Yoongi frowns (though to Jungkook, it looks more like a pout). “Their teasing is all in good fun, I mean, I know this. But I’m just really sick of being, well, not taken seriously unless I’m on stage. They joke about my skin, my legs. Not that there’s anything wrong with being feminine,” he continues quickly, shaking his head. “But I’d, well, rather not be the impression that people take away from me.”
Not really knowing what exactly to say, because he’s guilty of doing the same, actually, Jungkook hums. “Who, uh, are ‘they’?” he asks, mainly out of curiosity, but also to move the conversation along.
“Everyone. Other musicians, event coordinators at shows, hell, even Agust D fans,” the elder sighs again, a little pinker than he was before. “Maybe it’s dumb… well, I know it’s dumb, but I want a tattoo because I want to, I dunno, prove that I’m not as soft as everyone thinks I am.”
“Not dumb,” Jungkook lightly assures him, taking note of the look on the elder’s face. “I mean, even though I have them, lock me in a room with a guy with tattoos, versus a guy without, and I’d probably be more afraid of the dude with ink. That’s just, well, society and hive mind, for you.”
“You sound like Namjoon,” Yoongi comments, smiling a bit. Jungkook opens his mouth to apologize, for some reason, but the elder beats him to it. “It’s a compliment. Namjoon’s a smart motherfucker.”
Jungkook laughs. “That he is.”
In truth, Namjoon had taught him a lot, about tattoos, the art of it, and about people. Jungkook had always been observant, always got lost in listening to people around him talk; he always found himself spacing out, when listening, their lives unfolding in his mind’s eye like a 3D panorama of images. He still has notebooks from when he was a kid, where he’d sketch, doodle, scratch out these thoughts; but it was Namjoon who taught him to take these images, these feelings he absorbed from others, and mold them into the art that he etches into people’s skin.
It’s a never-ending circle, in a way; Jungkook listens, observes, and he learns, in turn, and the cycle keeps repeating itself, over and over. At the moment, with Yoongi, it’s the same; his first impression of the elder had been no different from anyone else’s apparently - he’d noticed Yoongi’s beauty, the way he glows, all of his surface-level traits that stand out. But it wasn’t until the elder began talking, and Jungkook began listening, that he’d seen the intricacies that wind beneath Yoongi’s skin like branching blood vessels, miles and miles of hidden thoughts, of insecurities.
Jungkook, the accidental asshole, learns another lesson, here tonight.
“Well?” Yoongi asks, nearly startling him out of his reverie. “Will you draw something?”
Blinking himself back into reality, Jungkook nods. “Yeah,” he says, nodding quickly. “It might take me a few days, though.”
“It’s probably better that way,” the elder admits. “I mean, I did come in on a whim. I might as well get something, you know, meaningful.”
“That’s my motto.”
Yoongi smiles at him, then he looks past Jungkook, squinting. “Hey, is that clock right?”
Glancing behind him, for no reason because he already knows there’s a Mickey Mouse clock on the wall back there, Jungkook nods. “Yeah, give or take a couple of minutes.”
Yoongi purses his lips. “Oh, shit. I, uh, gotta go then. Do you need anything else from me?”
Jungkook passes his notebook to the other, blushing at the doodles on the page. “Just your number. I’ll call you when I have something ready.” He watches Yoongi scribble across the page, momentarily distracted by his interesting (horrid) penmanship. “Is there like, a good time to call, or?”
Passing it back, Yoongi shrugs. “Anytime is fine. I work mornings, usually, but if I don’t answer, just call until I do. I forget I own a phone, sometimes.”
Jungkook walks with the elder back outside, avoiding those waiting for him in favor of squeezing in another smoke. This time, though, he smokes alone, lighting his cigarette as Yoongi walks away.
But he stops, turning back, his eyes shifty. “Uh, thanks,” he says quickly. “For like, you know, the tattoo thing.”
Jungkook smiles. “You’re welcome.”
Yoongi looks like he’s going to leave, again, but he hovers. “My roommate is seeing someone,” he says suddenly. “The tall one, from before? I mean, it’s fine, but he’s sneaking some guy into our apartment, and I’m trying to catch them just so I can prove that I’m right.”
Startled, Jungkook stands, cigarette halfway to his mouth. “Um. Okay?” He isn’t really sure what he’s supposed to say to that - though, he kind of sympathizes with the elder. He loves Taehyung to bits, but he’d love him even more if he wasn’t always stumbling in after being dicked-down and stepping on his face in the middle of the night.
Even in the alien, buzzing glow of the streetlamps, Jungkook can see Yoongi flush. “I just, didn’t want you to think I was chickening out,” he mutters. “I like, have a reason for leaving. Just wanted you to know.” He takes a step back, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Uh, call, if you have anymore questions.”
“Got it,” Jungkook says, not hiding his laugh. “Go catch ‘em, dude.”
Yoongi gives him a smile that screams subtle gratitude, before he swivels, walking away. Then he turns the corner, and he’s gone - Jungkook, despite everything, still feels that yearning to follow.
Later that night, Jungkook creeps into the dark dorm room, quietly toeing off his shoes. For once, Taehyung is home before him, already sprawled across his bed, one hairy, tawny leg sticking out from beneath his blanket. Taehyung doesn’t snore, thank God, but he does have a habit of making this random sound, sometimes, like some creature climbing its way out of the sewer. Tonight, though, the elder is peacefully asleep, so Jungkook does his best not to disturb him.
Jungkook takes his backpack and his bag from the corner store over to the desk in front of the window, and eases himself into the old, squeaky wooden chair to eat, setting his laptop up in front of him. He quickly dims the screen, and eats his late, late dinner (or early breakfast, depending), while he scrolls through social media; he likes and shares the photos people have posted of his work, leaves a quick comment here or there.
At some point during the busy, eventful day, his Instagram surpassed three-thousand followers; with a smile, Jungkook quickly posts a not-quite-old selfie, captioned with his gratitude; hard work, dedication, and all that aside, it’s about time.
Finally, when he’s done unwinding, he fishes out his headphones, and goes to Youtube. Once there, he clicks on the search bar, and types in the name that’s been in the forefront of his mind all night.
He doesn’t intend to, it’s already nearly three AM, but Jungkook spends the next two hours feeling like, one, a lowkey stalker, and two, a fanboy; there are dozens and dozens of videos of Yoongi performing as Agust D, from crappy camera phone captures, to legit, thirty minute long fancams taken in HD. There are even a few fan-made music videos floating around, and Jungkook is in as much awe at these as he is at Yoongi’s music.
Because Yoongi’s music is good; it’s damn good.
The elder doesn’t seem to have a Youtube channel, at least not that Jungkook can find, but he does have SNS and a Soundcloud account - Jungkook follows them both instantly, blushing to himself in the darkness of the dorm, with Taehyung rustling the sheets behind him.
He almost falls out of the chair when his computer dings, indicating that Yoongi has followed him back.
Calming the little thump-thumping in his chest, Jungkook retrieves his notebook, and focuses on listening to Yoongi’s tracks, one by one. He makes note of the lines and lyrics that stand out to him, while chewing on his lip, tounging at the bar that sits in the center of his lip.
It’s weird, and will always be, even to him, the way he sees a vague notion in his mind, the way his hand twitches to sketch it; but years of honing his talent has proven to Jungkook that he should listen, so, this time he pulls his sketchbook out of his bag, scribbles Yoongi at the top of the page, and lets his hand form the image that his mind can’t quite do.
After an hour or so of touch and go, and not a few discarded pages, Jungkook thinks he’s onto something. No matter how many times he listens to Yoongi’s mixtape (for the record, it’s been three times), he keeps coming back to one song, to one line. It burrows into his chest and unfolds itself, begging for attention, to be acknowledged.
I was born from a tiger so I can’t live like a dog; the rest of the song, too, it’s screams within Jungkook, and he relates to it more than he’d care to admit. But this one line, about tigers of all things, keeps looping itself throughout Jungkook’s mind, slamming against his skull until he looks down, and realizes he’s sketched a pair of dark, feline eyes.
It takes him over a week, between other sketches and appointments, to finish the first draft of Yoongi’s tattoo; in the end, it’s simple, and shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but he likes it, he thinks. He’s more concerned with how Yoongi will feel about it, though. So he calls the elder (Yoongi doesn't answer, but Jungkook is too nervous to call him more than once), and leaves a message, telling him he can come by the shop anytime to give his approval and set up an appointment.
Early on a Tuesday, Jungkook has his tattooing chair reclined back as far as it’ll go, and he’s in it, wondering if he can squeeze in a nap before his one o’clock appointment. He was up late, long after closing the night before, adding onto a back piece he started months ago. He also feels the beginning of a headache, just behind his left eye; he hasn’t slept well in weeks, between work and trying to accommodate himself in Taehyung’s tiny dorm. He entertains the idea of checking into a hotel for a few nights, one with a tub and a big, plush bed, while he listens to the sound of Jimin quietly moving around the shop, an aerosol can in one hand, a cleaning cloth in the other.
Oddly enough, it isn’t the sound of the vacuum turning on that tugs Jungkook back to consciousness, but the sound of it turning off that does so; this, and the jingle of the bell over the door.
“No problem, you can go on back. Hey, Jungkook, look alive!”
Ignoring Jimin, Jungkook tosses his arm over his eyes. “No.”
Then he hears a familiar, but still new, chuckle, and he almost falls out of his chair.
“Well, good morning,” Yoongi greets, leaning against the wall that divides Jungkook’s station from the office. “In my defense, you said any time.”
More awake than he’s ever felt in his entire life, Jungkook sits up, scrambling to right himself. “S’fine, fine, here, please sit. Good morning.”
Face on fire, Jungkook tears through his bag, while Yoongi sits in the same chair as before, looking a thousand times more fresh that Jungkook feels. He glances up, wanting to shoot Jimin at least one dirty look, but the elder isn’t even in the shop - he’s outside, on a little step stool, scrubbing their windows clean.
Finally finding Yoongi’s page in his sketchbook, Jungkook decides to save his dirty look for later.
“Uh, here,” he says, passing the book to the elder. “This is, this is what I came up with.” He’s nervous, which he always is, when presenting a draft to a customer. But this is a whole new calibre of anticipation, bred from one too many sleepless nights attempting to perfect the sketch, and too many hours of creeping Yoongi’s account while listening to his mixtape.
Jungkook has a crush, okay? It doesn’t help that Yoongi gives him a soft smile, either, before he turns his attention to the sketch.
It’s absolute torture, watching the way Yoongi’s eyes travel across the page, noting every detail; so, to save himself the pain, Jungkook looks elsewhere. He takes in the way the elder is dressed, today, much the same as the night before, but different; today, he’s in baggier, light jeans, and a dark t-shirt, the sleeves stopping mid-forearm. There’s a logo embroidered on the chest, that almost seems familiar, but the elder is hunched over, so Jungkook can’t quite make it out.
His hair seems mintier, too, since the last time Jungkook saw him; but that could just be because that it is, indeed, mint, and Jungkook still finds it the strangest, prettiest color he’s ever seen on another human being.
Too soon, Yoongi is shifting, his eyes lifting to meet Jungkook’s; they’re unreadable.
“Is this how it’s going to look on me?” he asks, passing it back.
“It’s just the first draft,” the younger says quickly, looking at the sketch. “I can change anything you-”
“No, no, I like it. Don’t change anything.”
Jungkook’s ears buzz, as he finds himself in that same strange sense of euphoria that hits him when he’s done something good; it’s made several times better, though, because Yoongi is smiling, his eyes so bright they light up the entire shop.
But he’s speaking again, so Jungkook subtly takes a deep breath, willing himself to not, like, jump for joy.
“Will it be black and white?”
“Do you want it to be? I mean, I had planned on color, uh, well, sort of…,” Jungkook trails off, but Yoongi just looks at him, head cocked, so he clears his throat. “I was thinking, watercolor? Like, shading the tiger itself with soft grey and white, which will look really cool, I think, next to the stark stripes, and these paint splatter bits here, and here? I imagined really cool toned blues, maybe even some red?”
Yoongi frowns, so he pauses, mouth open slightly, words caught on his tongue; but when he sees, the elder only laughs. “I’m just trying to imagine it. Keep going.”
Nodding, Jungkook looks back at the sketch, licking his lips. “Well, because your skin, it’s…”
“No, well, yeah,” Jungkook, admits, swallowing, “but you’re, pretty neutral? Warm tones would look good, too, but these colors would really stand out, I think.”
For a second or two, it seems like Yoongi might reject his entire idea; he’s silent, eyes on the book in Jungkook’s hand, and Jungkook can hear the faint clicking of metal on teeth. But then he lifts his eyes, looking damn near straight through Jungkook. “Can I see it with color?”
He’s startled into an embarrassing silence, but Jungkook recovers quickly. “Yeah, sure, just, uh, let me make a copy real quick.”
It’s disconcerting, to say the least, to have Yoongi watch him color the copy of the sketch, but Jungkook can proudly say he makes no mistakes, even with the elder leans in, his face less than a foot away, to watch him darken the stripes around the tiger’s face.
He also finds pride in the overall picture, now, too; in a way, it’s a classic piece, a full-bodied tiger that seems to be stalking its prey. But the colors, and the serene, almost observant expression it holds, gives it a fresh perspective, makes it seem gentle, but dangerous all the same. It has one paw forward, and it’s spine arches, curving slightly so that its back legs seem on higher ground, and its tail droops, before curling upwards.
While the stripes are bold and black, the outline of the animal is soft, faded; this is where Jungkook melts grey into blue, shading with care, the brush barely touching the paper. He’s using actual watercolor, to give Yoongi as true an image as possible, and although it’s been awhile since he painted, it’s turning out beautifully (he must admit). While the shades of blue are drying, he focuses on creating the perfect hue of red for the spots and splatters around the edges, the parts that give the entire piece a genuine, artistic aspect.
Though it makes his chest burn, Jungkook turns to look at the elder, scrutinizing what little of his skin he can see. He could be imagining it, but he knows he isn’t - Yoongi sits still, and doesn’t question him, but his face warms, going the gentlest, palest pink.
On a separate palate, Jungkook attempts to recreate the pure color, simply because he has to.
At some point, just as he’s adding the last drops of color, Jimin swings by, a big pout on his face. “I’m hungry,” he announces, patting his stomach for emphasis. “Hoseokie said he’d bring lunch, but he’s not coming until two and I might die. So I’m going to go get something. You guys want anything?”
Jungkook turns to Yoongi, first, who shakes his head. “I’m okay, thanks,” the elder says. “I had breakfast.”
“Where are you going?” Jungkook asks, setting his brushes into water.
“I really want pasta, so I’m thinking that pizza place a few blocks down.” Jimin smiles. “Plus, they have free bread, and I love bread.”
“Oh, yes, get me one of those roast lamb subs, with the garlic-butter bread.”
“Got it,” Jimin nods, before turning to Yoongi again. “You sure you don’t want anything?”
“I’m sure,” the elder grins. “I have to get to work soon, thanks, though.”
Spinning on his heel, Jimin waves. “Okie Dokie.”
Once he’s gone, Jungkook turns back to the drying picture, but Yoongi looks after Jimin. “You know,” he comments, grabbing Jungkook’s attention, “I thought about what you said, before, about being locked in a room with someone with tattoos, versus someone without. That guy, Jimin? He’s pretty nice, from what I’ve seen the whole two times I’ve been here, but he does kind of look a little scary, at first glance, because you can see how many tattoos he has.” Yoongi looks at him, lips pressed together. “You were right, about the perception thing.”
Because he understands, Jungkook nods. Jimin has both thighs completely covered, and he would know since he’s done most of them; the art is visible through the massive rips in his jeans, not to mention the unfinished pieces on his rib cage that he displays with low cut, sleeveless shirts - at first glance, Jimin would seem like the type you don’t want to run into at night. Which is bullshit, because he’s one of the sweetest people Jungkook has ever met.
“Well, he also has resting bitch face,” Jungkook jokes. “He is cool, though. Once loaned me two-k when I broke my arm and ended up owning the ER money.”
“How did you break your arm?”
“Mattress surfing. Down a stairwell. While helping him move.”
Yoongi squints at him. “You deserved that, then.”
After they’re done laughing, mainly at Jungkook and his bad, bad life choices, Jungkook moves the conversation on, handing over the finished product. Yoongi takes it, the planes of his face smoothing back into a unreadable state.
Jungkook counts his heartbeats, though at the pace they’re going, they’re not a very good account of how much time passes; he counts one, five, then ten, before the elder smiles, then he loses count because his heart is beating so fast.
Passing it back, almost reluctantly, Yoongi gives his seal of approval. “I like it, it’s… yeah, I like it. So, what now?”
Biting his cheek, Jungkook shrugs. “All that’s left is to, well, decide where you want it so I can get the dimensions right, and set an appointment.” He turns, raising his eyebrows at the elder. “You wanted it visible, right?”
Yoongi nods. “Yeah, yeah I do.” He lifts an arm, reaching over his left shoulder. “I was thinking, maybe here? It’ll come down my arm, and the tail would be about, about right here, on my neck, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh, you want it big,” Jungkook comments, before he can stop himself. He snaps his mouth closed, aware that his ears are burning. “I mean, it’s… it is your first, right?”
“Yeah,” the elder shrugs, dropping his hand. “I mean, go big or go home.”
“... Or go big and pass out from pain.”
“Says the guy who tried to ride a mattress down a flight of stairs and broke his arm.”
Knowing the elder has him there, Jungkook chuckles, raising his arms in defeat. “Okay, okay. Well… in that case,” he mutters, averting his eyes. “Take off your shirt, let’s see what we can do.”
He hears Yoongi obey, but he doesn’t look. Instead, he focuses on fishing around in the top drawer of his desk, searching for a magic marker. He doesn’t want to look (lie, he really wants to look), because he’s trying to be professional. He knows the moment he turns around, he’s going to be hit tenfold by his attraction to the elder, so he takes a moment to compose himself, before he swivels his chair.
He was right - it feels like a giant, smitten train hits him square in the chest.
In the sunlight still blaring through the front of the shop, Yoongi looks just as pale, but it’s a warmer pale, almost like he’s lit from within; he glows, gently, his skin a mix of cream and honey tones, subtly muscled, not at all frail or thin. He’s broad, broader than Jungkook, for sure, and completely unblemished, save for a scattering of freckles on his torso that only add to his charm.
Without him having to say so, Yoongi turns, offering Jungkook access to his shoulder; there are more freckles on his back, and although some part of him wants to play connect the dots with his marker, Jungkook ignores this, and leans close, focusing on the task at hand.
He isn’t wearing gloves for this, there’s no need, so the second his fingertips make contact, he has to take a deep breath to avoid sinking - this just leads to him getting a big wiff of Yoongi’s clean, soapy smell, and he starts to hate himself. But he gets through it, glancing back and forth between the canvas of Yoongi’s skin and the sketch, using lines and ovals to map out the general location of where the tattoo will be.
This part tickles, he knows, almost a mockery of the actual pain that comes with getting a tattoo, so Jungkook isn’t surprised when goosebumps rise beneath his fingers. The texture seems almost precious, in this case, across smooth, untouched skin. Jungkook would never admit it, not to Yoongi anyway, but he loves being the one to do someone’s first tattoo - he feels a sense of honor about it. Ask a random person on the street, and their response will probably be that he’s taking away from his customers, marring their skin and making it unclean; but to Jungkook, and the people he tattoos he likes to think, he’s adding, not subtracting, giving them something they felt like they were missing.
In some cases, admittedly, it’s simple decoration; some people like the adornment, feeling pretty or sexy, or just simply more like a badass. These are people who are easy to please, most of the time, with dynamic, vibrant colors, intricate designs; they aren’t concerned with deeper meaning or with sentimental value. They’re here for the aesthetic, and they are both a blessing and a curse.
On the other hand, or hands, rather, there are many, many different ways to sort through those who are looking for the deeper meaning; there are a myriad of facets to these pieces, ranging from those like Jaejin, who are looking to add what is now missing, to the man whose daughter plays piano, looking to forever commemorate his pride with a emblem in his daughter’s likeness.
Drawing small dots and scribbles across Yoongi’s shoulder blade to indicate where the outermost edges of the tattoo will be, Jungkook considers the elder’s reason for this tattoo. In Yoongi’s case, it’s about craving to add that something that he feels he’s missing; it’s about the desire to embellish himself with a symbol that will scream out a warning to those around that he’s to be taken seriously, or else.
And because Jungkook is Super Stalker #1, it’s a testament to Yoongi’s music, his life, his pride, of which he has a bounty.
“Annnd, done,” Jungkook breathes, capping the marker. He passes Yoongi a mirror, so he can see the furthest angles of the outline. “Here.”
Craning his neck, Yoongi snorts. “I love it, thanks,” he jokes. “It looks great, just perfect.”
“I’m so glad you like it! Gosh, I was worried that I used too much purple.” He drags the words out comically, mainly laughing at himself because the marker he used is purple. “Seriously, though, is the size okay?”
Twisting his torso even further, the elder nods. “I’ve never had anyone ask me that, but yeah, I think so. It’s a little hard to tell, but I like the placement for sure.”
Jungkook lifts the sketch to Yoongi’s back so he can see, holding it just below the lines. “This,” he points at the blob the furthest down, on Yoongi’s upper arm, “is the foot, here,” he points at the sketch. “These two lines, they’re the full length of the tiger, from the toes, to the tail.”
He continues pointing things out, dragging his finger across the edler’s skin, encouraged by Yoongi’s nods and hums of understanding. In time, the curiosity and apprehension in the elder’s eyes morph, and before long, they’re bright, glowing with excitement.
“How soon can you do it?” he asks, after Jungkook has gotten a general measurement and sent him to the bathroom to wash the marker off. “Not to like, rush you, or anything,” he adds almost shyly.
“I can do it this week, if you want,” Jungkook offers, understanding his impatience. “I’ve got appointments at… well, today at one, then I have two on Thursday, one at noon and one at three. Any other time, I’m free.”
Yoongi, tugging his shirt back on (Jungkook can finally breathe), narrows his eyes, thinking. “How early do you come in?”
“However early I want,” he tells the elder, stifling a yawn. “ I have a key.”
“I’m off Friday morning, but I have a show out of town on Saturday. I planned to just take a train Friday to save time…,” he trails off, meeting the younger’s eyes. “What about Friday morning? Ten-ish?”
Jungkook nods. “Works for me.”
Instead of leaving, Yoongi sits back down, casually reaching for the sketch. “About how much will it cost?” he asks. “Not that it matters, I mean, I’m just curious what you charge for pieces like this.”
“Because its size, and the fact that it’s custom, I would usually charge three-hundred,” Jungkook explains. “But it’s your first one, so I’ll cut it to two-twenty. That, and I’m still not sure you’re going to make it through the pain.”
Knowing he’s joking, Yoongi doesn’t react, aside from looking at him. “Is that standard? The price?”
“Well,” Jungkook shrugs, “pretty much, I’d imagine. But I only keep fifty percent of what I charge.”
“Why’s that?” the elder asks. “I mean, I have no idea how any of this works.”
“It’s all on commission, the rest goes to the shop,” he clarifies. “For bills, rent, supplies, stuff like that. I pay fifty, Hoseok only pays forty, since he’s more experienced, and he generally gets more clients than I do, anyway. Jimin’s case is a little different. He charges certain prices for certain piercings, but he gives ten percent to the shop, and just pays us three hundred a month for expenses.”
“Oh! Like booking fees, then.” Jungkook has no idea what the look on his face suggests, but it has Yoongi laughing. “Like, when I book a show, if it’s at a place where I’ve performed a lot and people know me, I have a deal with the venue to make a certain amount, no matter how many people actually show up, and no matter how much revenue they generate that night. But,” he pauses, turning words over on his tongue, silver flashing, “if it’s at a new place, I typically ask for a split-door fee, which basically means I’ll get whatever percent, usually forty, of the money they make that night.”
Jungkook can’t help the bubbling giggle that escapes his chest. “It’s… exactly the same,” he points out, covering his mouth. “Like, wow.”
They both jump a little as the door opens, dinging away while Jimin walks in, two bags hanging in the crook of his arm. He lifts his sunglasses off, sweeping his hair from his face. “Oh,” he says, as he spots them. “Wait, didn’t you have to get to work?” he asks Yoongi.
“Shit,” the elder groans, getting to his feet entirely too slowly for someone who is possibly very late for work, in Jungkook’s opinion.
“Where do you work?” Jungkook asks him, curious, since the elder doesn’t seem in any real hurry to rush off.
Yoongi points to the right, off into space. “That cafe down by the college, I’m the day manager.”
“Oh, that’s only, what, fifteen or so blocks? That’s pretty close,” Jungkook comments. In truth, it’s a half hour to forty minute walk, especially at the pace Yoongi seems to be moving.
Yoongi laughs. “Yeah, I’d just gotten off work when I just, well, wandered in the other night. I don’t usually work in the evening, I was covering for someone, so passing by this place when it was busy…”
Jimin, with a mouthful of pasta, cuts in from across the room. “Hey, you’re still late, you know.”
“Shit, yeah, okay.” Yoongi turns to leave, then turns back fast enough to give Jungkook whiplash. “Friday and ten, right?”
“You said ten-ish,” Jungkook reminds him.
“Ten is ten-ish,” Yoongi corrects, “but yes, okay, bye.”
Despite the rush of his words, the elder strolls the length of the shop, and doesn’t seem to pick up his pace once outside; it makes Jungkook laugh, as he opens the bag Jimin passes him as he comes to the counter.
“Here’s your foot long,” Jimin says teasingly, “since the other is gone.”
Jimin rolls his eyes, dipping a slice of bread into his pasta sauce. “Please, Kook. Between the two of you, it was like the Battle of the Bulge in here.”
Jungkook’s face bursts into flames, and he shoves his shoulder into Jimin’s to hide this face. “Oh, my God, hyung. Why were you staring at his crotch? Why were you staring at my crotch?”
Jimin ignores both questions. “I think you should go for it,” he continues. “Just saying.”
“And I’m just saying, you need to stop going to so many bars with Hoseok. You’re starting to lose brain cells.”
The elder laughs at this, cracking into a can of Sprite. “You’re probably right, actually. But as gay as Hoseok is, which, we both know is pretty much a ten, he attracts all the damn girls.” Jimin winks, chugging his soda. “It’s just… so hard to resist being in the right place, at the right time, and being, well, not the gay one, in that situation.”
“Didn’t you live with a guy for two years in college?” Jungkook reminds him, taking a hefty bite of his sandwich. “If I remember correctly, you also dated Hoseok’s friend, I forget his name.”
“Eh, I’m just not as into guys as you two are, unfortunately,” the elder shrugs. “But that’s okay, being sexually ambiguous adds to my charm.”
“You’re just lazy and would rather let Hoseok do all the work for you.”
“Well, you got me there, babe.”
It takes roughly three years, two-hundred days, three hours, and five minutes for ten-ish Friday morning to arrive, or maybe it just feels that way to Jungkook; in any case, by the time Friday at almost-ten-ish arrives, Jungkook is just getting to the shop, unlocking the door while the bright-as-hell sun beats him into the concrete.
He slept okay, anxious for today, but, in his defense, Taehyung arriving home at one AM, smelling faintly of cologne and pizza, didn’t help Jungkook get to sleep any earlier. He ended up playing video games and eating leftover pizza with his friend until too late, both of them quietly acknowledging that they hadn’t gotten to spend too much time together since the semester started. He hasn’t known Taehyung as long as he’s known Jimin, or even Hoseok, but he finds that the elder is just one of those people who you meet one day, and know everything about the next. He’s open, genuine, not quite as big a fuckboy as Jungkook likes to joke about him being, and he has a heart the size of an elephant.
So the XXL coffee in Jungkook’s hand is fully justified, as he drops his bag in the spare chair, and starts setting up.
His setup hasn’t changed much since he started out apprenticing a few years ago - back then, he only got the chance to touch up old pieces, or adjust lines here or there; now, he’s doing full, magnificient pieces, but he refuses to change anything about how he sets up.
Taking a sip of coffee beforehand, he washes his hands, then shoves the fingers of one hand into a glove, and places a layer of paper towels over his table, just in case there’s spillage or ink droplets. From there, he goes on autopilot; using his bare hand, he opens all the drawers he needs, grabbing stuff with his gloved hand: bags to cover his bottles and machines, some sheets of cellophane to cover and protect the armrest he uses, his tube packs and needle packs, ink caps, rinse cups, A&D ointment.
After he has everything he needs, he goes about covering the alcohol and green soap, the armrest, never touching anything with his bare hand. He bags his machines, feeding his clips and cords through, ensuring the contact points poke out, then he plugs them in, setting then gently back onto his work surface. Using one hand, he squeeze some ointment onto the paper towel in a row, using it as adhesive to secure the ink caps in place.
Just as he’s disposing of his glove, the door dingdongs, alerting Jungkook that it’s now ten-ish, and that Yoongi is here.
He looks great, of course.
“Good morning,” he says with a smile, sipping his own coffee. Then he catches sight of Jungkook chugging from his cup, and he snorts. “Or not.”
“Morning,” Jungkook greets, “have a seat, let me lock back up.”
With the door securely locked, and the blinds pulled down over the large windows so that nobody comes knocking before they open because they see people inside, Jungkook washed his hands again before returning to Yoongi.
The elder isn’t sitting, however; he’s standing, off to the side, looking more nervous than Jungkook has ever seen him.
“Hey, your throne is ready and everything,” the younger tells him, hoping to calm him. “You’re gonna have to straddle it, though, so it’s not very throne-like, I admit.”
While it doesn’t seem to calm him, Yoongi does smile a little. “Sorry, I’m just… I’m not quite ready to sit down, yet.”
“Want to smoke, first? We have plenty of time.”
Snorting, Jungkook grabs his coffee. “C’mon, let’s go out back.”
Two cigarettes and half his coffee later, Jungkook begins to understand Yoongi’s mind, a little bit, partly due to him explaining that he always does this, and partly from observation.
It seems that the elder hypes himself up so much, whether it be before a show, getting a piercing (his tongue and all of the ones on his ears, he says), even before getting his license, and now, before a tattoo, that he needs a moment to wind down, to ground himself. Jungkook, the over-excited child that he is, half the time, understands completely, so he does nothing in the way of rushing the other.
Leaning against the wall, one arm crossed across his abdomen, the other at his side, cigarette dangling from his fingertips, Yoongi asks Jungkook what it’s like.
“I mean, painful, obviously. But, like… specifically?”
Taking a hit, Jungkook thinks. “It’s like… having fresh sunburn,” he begins, “and having a cat knead at it with two-inch long claws.”
“Shit,” Yoongi sighs. “I’m not a big fan of cats in the first place, either.”
Jungkook laughs at this. “The smaller needles, well, it’s a cluster of needles, actually, they hurt worse, in my experience. They’re what I’ll be using for the outline. The bigger ones I’ll be using for the shading, basically the majority of your tattoo.”
“How long will it take?” Yoongi asks, eyes on Jungkook.
“Few hours, but we can take as many breaks as we need to,” he assures him. “Also, for the record, a lot of people have fallen asleep in my chair while getting tattoos. The area eventually goes almost numb.”
“Are you telling me to fall asleep and trust you to stab me?”
Laughing, Jungkook suddenly remembers Jimin’s words from the other day; Jimin had told him to go for it, and, honestly, Jungkook had been thinking about the elder’s words a lot since then. He’s not ready to really go for it, not yet, but he does take those words to heart as he reaches out, gently pressing his fingers to Yoongi’s shoulder.
“Here,” he says, running his hand along the bone, “will hurt worse. It might be a little unbearable, since it’s your first. And here, too,” he adds, fingers brushing bare skin at the top of the elder’s spine, “because it’s bone.” Moving his hand to the more muscled part, between Yoongi’s shoulder blade and spine, he presses a little harder. “It’ll just feel like a massage, here.”
Taking a deep breath, so deep that Jungkook feels it, Yoongi tosses his cigarette butt into the bucket of water they use as an ashtray. “Okay,” he breathes. “I’m ready.”
Back inside, Yoongi takes the bathroom, while Jungkook washes his hands at their second sink in the storage room. Then he’s instructing the elder to remove his shirt, and get comfortable - he has a feeling Yoongi is going to try to sit through as much as he can before they break.
Just like before, he’s struck by the sheer beauty of Yoongi.
The elder’s skin is tinted pink, around his neck and chest, showing his nervousness. As the cool air of the shop hits him, his skin goes bumpy, from his neck down, hardening his nipples and sending the air on his arms standing. Jungkook pretends not to notice, as Yoongi swings his leg over the chair, and settles with his front to the back rest.
“Is this good?” he asks over his shoulder, dark eyes on Jungkook.
“Perfect,” Jungkook replies, averting his eyes so he can put his gloves on without missing.
He goes about prepping Yoongi, explaining as he goes, trying not to get too lost in the feel of the elder’s skin beneath the glove.
“I’m just cleaning the area now,” he says, wiping the skin clear of soap with a paper towel, before adding a bit more. “And now I’m gonna shave around it, just to make sure there isn’t any peach fuzz that could interrupt the process.”
“Okay,” Yoongi responds softly, his forehead resting on the chair. “That smells… nice.”
“Green soap, the aphrodisiac of the tattoo world.”
When that’s done, Jungkook wipes Yoongi’s skin clean, then douses a clean paper towel with alcohol; he has to stifle his laugh, when Yoongi hisses, muttering something about cold . He also gets a little distracted by the way the elder’s muscles move beneath his skin.
“Sit up, for me,” Jungkook tells him, “and hold your shoulders straight. I’m gonna put on the stencil.”
He dampens the skin before hand, and reaches for the stencil that’s been ready for days; he had it redrawn to be a little cleaner, and resized it to the specifications of Yoongi’s measurements. He places it against the elder’s skin, going a millimeter at time to ensure he doesn’t skew it, smoothing it down bit by bit. Once it’s fully against Yoongi’s shoulder, he presses his fingers over it gently, coaxing the outline to transfer.
Peeling it off, and inspecting it to make sure it’s perfect, Jungkook taps gently at the elder’s skin. “If you can reach it, grab that mirror and take a look.”
“Holy shit,” are the words that fall from Yoongi’s lips as he does so, craning his neck to see. “I kind of liked the other one better, though.”
“Ha-ha.” Jungkook rolls his eyes, secretly relieved that the other is still being sassy, despite his anxiousness. “Really though, you like it? I can redo it, if I need to.”
“No,” Yoongi assures him, taking one last look before he puts the mirror back down. “It’s good, it’s big, but it’s good.”
He’s not wrong, at least - the tattoo is huge, at least in terms of someone who has no tattoos, but even Jungkook has to admit that it’s an extensive piece.
“It’s gotta dry, first, here, help me pick out colors.”
Removing his gloves (again; it’s ridiculous how many boxes of these they go through in a week), and using a drop of hand sanitizer, Jungkook opens the third drawer of his desk, where he keeps his colors - needless to say, the small space is overflowing with bottles.
“Well, that’s a rainbow if I’ve ever seen one,” Yoongi comments.
They go through damn near every red and blue Jungkook has, which is about a lot, comparing and contrasting them with each one again and again. He doesn’t mind, though, because he gets to see Yoongi get really interested, testing out the saturation of the actual colors on a clean paper towel. And while Jungkook is firm on his choice of blues, a deep, true navy and a slightly brighter cobalt, he lets Yoongi pick the red shade he likes best.
But. “That’s almost pink, hyung,” he points out, the familiar term slipping from his tongue before he can stop it.
Thankfully, Yoongi seems more concerned about Jungkook’s judgment on his color choice, than him speaking so casually with him. “No, it’s ‘light cool red’. Says so on the bottle.”
“I said almost.”
Yoongi laughs, before shrugging. “I like it, though. Don’t you?” he asks, turning his dark gaze on the younger.
Swallowing, because he must have a death wish at this point, Jungkook raises his hands in a confused gesture. “I mean, yeah, but.. I thought we were going for the opposite of pretty with this whole tattoo thing.”
Sighing through his pout (CUTE) so hard that it ruffles his bangs, Yoongi gives him a dead-eyed look. “That idea went out the window the second I let you draw something,” he says without blinking. “Everything you draw is fucking pretty.”
“Uh… thank you, I think? I feel like I should apologize, though.”
The elder shakes his head. “Anyway, I don’t so much mind being pretty, or being called pretty, even, it’s just… I want to be a respected, badass pretty.”
He’s a little lost at this point, but it’s a feeling he’s becoming accustomed to, it seems. “Oo-kay,” Jungkook says, “light cool red it is.”
The elder goes silent, as Jungkook fills the ink caps with the colors they’ve picked, as well as plenty of black and white. He fills his rinse cups, and reaches for his gloves, and all the while, Yoongi remains quiet, but he doesn’t have to say anything for Jungkook to hear him loud and clear.
“It’s dry, but I want to show you something, here,” he says, passing Yoongi a single glove. “Put this on.”
Giving him a curious look, Yoongi does, while Jungkook tugs his own on. He takes his machine, going through the motions of readying it for the actual tattooing process, laying his needles and tubes out flat, before choosing what he needs first. With the elder watching over his shoulder, he inserts the needle into the tube, trying to show Yoongi what he’s doing as best he can. Keeping the enclosed needle secure, he eases it into the machine, positioning it to where he needs it, careful not to disturb the plastic around the machine itself.
Once everything is looped, adjusted, and tightened, he attaches the clip cord, and scoots the pedal closer; he presses down gently, testing that it’s on, and he has to force down a laugh when Yoongi visible startles at the sudden buzz.
“Grab my arm,” he tells the elder, “with your gloved hand.”
“Uh, why?” Yoongi says, but he does it anyway, his fingers curling almost all the way around Jungkook’s wrist.
Instead of answering, Jungkook simply presses his toes down again, and the machine in his hand vibrates to life, buzzing loudly. He knows his arm is vibrating nearly as hard as the machine, and he knows that Yoongi is probably thinking there’s no way he’s going to be able to draw a straight line like this.
He’s wrong, of course.
He has the power turned up a little high, only to show Yoongi, so this time, when the elder’s eyes widen and he stares, Jungkook allows himself to laugh.
Clearing his throat, Yoongi takes his hand back, eyeing the machine. “That’s, uh, intense. Why would you show me that?”
“Because,” the younger shrugs, turning the dial back to where he needs it, “the more you know. Insert meme here.” Scooting his chair back a little so Yoongi cas toss his glove into the trash, he meets the elder’s eyes. “Ready?” he asks.
Looking a little more calm than he had when he walked in (so maybe his plan worked), Yoongi nods, turning back to offer his shoulder to Jungkook. “Yep,” he says.
Jungkook dips the tip if the needle into the ink, and takes a clean paper towel in the other hand, using one finger to smooth ointment over the part of the outline, the tiger’s tail, that’s closest to Yoongi’s spine. “Okay, really ready? I’m gonna try and get the most painful spots out of the way, first.”
“Yep,” Yoongi repeats, and, guessing that’s as thorough of an answer that he’s going to get, Jungkook leans in, his foot pressing down on the power.
He draws the first line easily, without interruption, nearly four inches in length down the tiger’s tail. There is where he pauses, sitting up and wiping the excess ink away, watching Yoongi’s carefully for any reaction.
He doesn't have to ask, at least.
“That… was not as bad as I expected,” the elder comments, his shoulders sagging, evidence of how tense he was. “God, I thought I was going to cry, or something.”
“Did you cry when you had a thick ass needle shoved through your tongue?”
“Yes, actually, and I cried for a month after because I couldn’t have spicy ramen.”
Jungkook goes back in, this time without warning the elder, continuing where he left off and raising his voice a little to be heard over the buzzing. “I bet you tried anyway, didn’t you?”
“.... I want to remind you that you broke an actual bone trying to mattress surf,” the elder responds.
“Well, maybe I’ll tell you about how I broke my ankle, in that case.”
“I don’t want to know.”
Jungkook laughs, once again wiping excess ink, and this time, blood. “Just let me know if you need a break, okay?”
Yoongi nods. “Yeah.”
Silence ensues, aside from the alternating harsh and soft buzzing of the machine, as Jungkook focuses on his work. He does keep an eye on Yoongi, just in case, but as far as he can tell, aside from a lip bite here and a deep breath there, he seems relatively okay. Jungkook remembers his first tattoo, remembers the striking, alien pain, so he makes a point of tracing the outline in smaller, swallowable increments.
It’s an experience, though, watching Yoongi’s subtle reactions to the pain. It’s not true for everyone, of course, but for some, the pain is almost like a balm, a blanket used to shield themselves. This is true for both Jungkook, though he still has plenty of canvas left, and for Hoseok, who has ink spanning the entirety of his back. What they say is true, it’s addictive, and it’s interesting to see those that fall into the habit.
It’s also true that to some, the pain is paramount to pleasure, and by the flush on Yoongi’s cheeks, Jungkook thinks he can safely assume that the elder is no stranger to sharper tastes.
Jungkook has, in the past, been attracted to clients on occasion, but never like he is to Yoongi. He’s tattooed beautiful, hot, stunning, and sexy; but he’s never tattooed Yoongi, before, who surpasses any adjective that he can come up with. There’s an otherworldly softness to the elder’s skin, in not only the color and tone, in the texture, but in the way it reacts to touch. Yoongi is relaxed, in a sense, but he seems to move, adjusting to wherever Jungkook’s hand is without the younger having to say a word; it’s only slight shifts, like lifting his shoulder a millimeter, or twisting to the the right a hair, but it has Jungkook on his toes, a deeper, darker side of him wondering just how obedient the elder can be.
And despite the elder’s vehement denial of his soft side, the side he rebels against with a quick flow and harsh lyrics, Jungkook can’t help but see that side, in the lines of Yoongi’s body; it’s there, if only barely, in the lines of his face, the angled kindness in his eyes, the plush curve of his bottom lip. It’s in the way he breathes, deep and evenly, in the arch of his spine, that says he’s never had decent posture in his life.
Jungkook, with every drop of ink he deposits under Yoongi’s skin, can feel himself sinking just as far; it’s terrifying, in the most beautiful way, much like a permanent image engraved into one’s skin.
Surprisingly, Yoongi doesn’t ask for a break until the outline, the majority of it, at least, is done. It’s been a solid hour, over an hour, in fact.
“Do you need to pee or smoke?” Jungkook asks him, gently covering his shoulder in cellophane, before tossing his gloves.
“Both,” Yoongi groans, getting stiffly to his feel.
At this, Jungkook makes a mad dash, taking advantage of the elder’s slow movements. “Me, first,” he calls after him, a second before he slams the bathroom door shut. He can hear Yoongi’s laughter through the thin walls, and he smiles to himself, groping around for the lightswitch - he doesn’t need to laugh, he’s already five seconds away from peeing on himself; but that’s what he gets for being so focused on getting Yoongi through the outline in one piece.
They go out back again, this time Jungkook stretching this way and that to avoid getting stiff, while Yoongi yawns and wipes his eyes.
“Getting sleepy?” the younger teases, flicking his lighter. He breathes in and out, smiling at the other, and passes his lighter because Yoongi doesn’t seem to remember how to human. “I told you.”
Yoongi only smacks his lips in response, staring over at Jungkook with one eye closed against the sun brightness of the midday sun as he lights his own.
It takes a smoke and a half before the elder seems to wake up, still yawning a bit. “Shit,” he groans, staring at his cigarette. “I swear, there’s always that one in every pack that never stays lit.” He borrows Jungkook’s lighter again, nearly shoving it into his own pocket, before Jungkook stops him, his fingers curling around the elder’s. “Oh, sorry.”
“S’okay, but I’m the only one here that smokes, so if you take this, I’m out of luck for the rest of the day.”
Yoongi nods, then cocks his head; he’s giving Jungkook A Look, one that hints at a forthcoming question. The anticipation has him on his toes, but Jungkook remains silent, meeting the elder's eyes until he feels his face start to warm.
“Stay out of the sun,” he has to gently warm him, noticing that the elder has migrated closer, and is standing directly in a beam of sunlight sneaking through the buildings.
Yoongi moves back into the shadows, and clears his throat. “What made you decide on a tiger?” he asks, his tone muted. “I forgot to ask.”
To YOLO, or not to YOLO, Jungkook wonders, putting off his answer with a shrug - just go for it, he thinks, just so it. “It’s, well, because of your lyrics,” he says slowly, staring at an ant crawl across a loose chunk of brick at the foot of the wall. “Born from a tiger, and whatnot.”
There’s a moment of silence, Jungkook’s ears buzzing, and then Yoongi’s face breaks into a huge grin, his eyes disappearing. “You,” he cackles, “listened to my mixtape?”
“You creeped on me?”
“... well, sort of.”
Yoongi, still laughing, shakes his head, running the fingers of his free hand down his hair. “I should have known,” he admits. “It’s the first thing I thought of, when I saw the drawing. Good choice, by the way,” he adds, meeting Jungkook’s eyes.
“No offense, but I had to learn about you in some way,” he tells him, snapping playfully. “You weren’t very, like, forthcoming at all.”
“I’m not good with words.” Yoongi shrugs, tossing his finished cigarette. “My lyrics are the best place for that, I guess.”
This, Jungkook understands more than he can say. “Yeah, neither am I. That’s why I draw, that why I’ve always drawn, I think.” He thinks about it, and the words feel right, so he keeps going. “I see… concepts, in my head,” he tries to explain, “but I would never be able to show them or bring them to life with words. With drawing, though, or with any hands-on art, really, it’s… almost a relief how easy it is.”
He doesn’t realize that Yoongi is looking at him until he finishes speaking, and a flush creeps it’s way under his skin at the heaviness of Yoongi’s gaze.
“What… did you see, with me?” the elder asks, his head turning to the side ever so slightly.
Just go for it, Jungkook reminds himself.
“Beauty,” he begins honestly, finding it hard to look away from Yoongi’s eyes, “at first, and strength, too. Shyness, or maybe apprehension, I’m not sure, just… there was a wall, between you and everyone else in the room.” He’s not sure how much he should say, but he’s come this far, he thinks. “After listening, that didn’t change, but it seemed… reasoned, justified. And after, today, and just talking to you, there’s warmth, like… like a fire.” It’s a lame ending, but it’s all he has.
Yoongi smiles suddenly, and Jungkook can swear he’s blushing. “That’s the vaguest shit I’ve ever heard,” he teases, rolling his eyes. “But, I get it.”
“I told you, I’m not good with words,” Jungkook grumbles, flicking his cigarette into the ashtray.
“I know.” Yoongi smiles again, or maybe he never stopped. “I can see you, you know, in your art. All those tattoos you did, you showed who each person was, but there’s a huge slice of you in them, too.”
His throat tightens, for some reason, as he nods; it’s a little vague, go figure, but it’s the most thoughtful compliment Jungkook thinks he’s ever gotten, from anyone. To hear it coming from Yoongi, of all people, not just because of his crush, but because the elder’s own air of reservation, makes it seem that much more significant.
“Is it supposed to itch?” Yoongi asks out of the blue, rolling his shoulder. “Because it does.”
“Yeah,” the younger laughs, reaching for the door. “C’mon, let’s get back to it.”
Soon after, just as Jungkook is finishing up the outline completely, they hear the door being unlocked; it opens, and in walks Jimin, sunglasses on his face, earbuds in. He sees them and waves, tugging his phone from his pocket before saying hello.
“Aye,” he greets, dropping his bag. “Oh, oh, I wanna see!” He comes around, inspecting Yoongi’s shoulder as Jungkook wipes it clean, revealing the finished outline. He makes a sound of awe in the back of his throat as he moves away. “Damn,” is all he says.
Yoongi raises his eyebrows at Jungkook, but the younger has no idea, either.
“Okay,” he says, switching his machine to the one with the larger needle, “time to color in these stripes. You good? This might hurt a little worse, since it’s already tender.”
“I’m good,” the elder says sleepily.
Snorting, Jungkook scoots his chair back. “Pull that knob, and the chair will go back a little further, if you want,” he says, grabbing a fresh paper towel. “You’re gonna fall asleep at any minute.”
He’s gotten a good ten minutes in, three stripes completely filled, when his phone starts ringing - it startles Yoongi and Jimin more than it startles him, as he’s too deep in his working mindset, but it still makes him laugh all the same. They ignore it, or they try to, until his messages start going bonkers, beeping in such quick succession that Jungkook can’t tell one text from the other.
“Oh my god, for fuck’s sake,” Jungkook groans. “Can you grab that for me, please?”
Stiffly, Yoongi reaches out, his fingers scraping at the corner of Jungkook’s phone where it rests on his shelf. “Goddamnit,” he breathes, when he has to half-stand to finally grasp it.
“Reaaach,” Jungkook jokes, grinning when the elder sends him a dirty look. “Can you read them for me?”
“No password?” Yoongi asks, unlocking his phone with ease.
“We kept guessing them,” Jimin speaks up, passing by, “and hacking just because we could. He gave up.”
“Right?” Jungkook flips Jimin off, reaching over to dip the needle back into the ink. “Who’s it from?”
“Says Tae. ‘Jungkook. Jungkook. Jungkook’, is the, uh, first seven messages? Holy shit. Okay, here, he said, ‘I went shopping, bought seven pairs of jeans for a date tonight. I’m coming to the shop so you can tell me which one looks best, so I can return the others’. In another message, he says he spent almost four-hundred dollars, oh my God.” Yoongi turns his head, eyes wide. “How the fuck does someone, just, go and spend four-hundred dollars? I’ve never even had four-hundred dollars.”
Jungkook, long past the point where Taehyung’s more eccentric qualities surprise him, laughs at the disbelief on Yoongi’s face. “He’s rich, basically. I’m not sure exactly what his parents do, but they give him, like, three thousand a week.”
“Holy fuck,” Yoongi breathes. “What… does he do with it all?”
“It sits in the bank, for the most part. He doesn't actually spend much, usually, except for spur of the moment, weekend trips abroad.” Jungkook sighs, staring at the ceiling. “It’s so nice when he takes trips. I get the dorm all to myself.”
Yoongi gently tosses Jungkook’s phone back to the shelf, before he settles back down, his face pillowed on on arm. “Dorm? You live with him?”
Jungkook nods, pressing the needle back into Yoongi’s skin. “Yep,” he says. “Oh, hey Jiminie!” he calls, waiting until he hears a ‘what’ from the back. “Taehyung is coming by!”
The other zooms into the room so fast, seemingly gliding to the front of the store. “Taehyungie,” he sings the entire way there, unlocking the front in anticipation.
“Yeah,” Jungkook repeats, ignoring the strangeness that is one of his best friends to finish talking to Yoongi. “I moved in with him… nine, ten months ago? I was living with my cousin, who somehow missed the fiasco that was my coming out at eighteen. He kicked me out when he found me, in my room, by the way, that I paid for, with another guy.”
“That’s kind of shitty,” Yoongi mutters, half-dozing, but half-listening all the same. “My mom was cool with me, uh, having broader tastes, but ironically enough, I was cut off when she found out I’d lied about going to college. Well, I was going to college, but she thought I was taking business classes or some shit, when I was actually taking composition and music-related courses.” He laughs, sniffing a little to hide a yawn. “Even those I skipped half the time to work on my own stuff.”
“I never went,” is what Jungkook says, but what he thinks is ‘ oh my God, please be gay, please, please ’. He keeps this to himself, though, as Yoongi seems to gently drift off, his lashes resting on his cheek as breath whistles lightly between his lips.
Jungkook knew he’d be a sleeper.
He keeps working, moving a little faster now that he knows Yoongi isn’t going to pass out or quit on him; he has half the stripes colored in, and is stretching his arm, when the door flies open; Taehyung nearly falls in, carrying what looks like four shopping bags, two one each shoulder.
The two (fully-grown adults, for the record), collide, falling to the floor just inside the shop in a tangle of limbs and rustling bags. Jungkook smiles to himself, and keeps working, pausing as Yoongi stirs a little.
“What the fuck was that?” he mumbles, lifting his face to rub his eyes.
Jungkook nods towards the door. “A wild Taehyung appeared.”
Sitting up so he can fully turn and look, the elder observes the other two, now heading back arm in arm, chattering about this and that, about Taehyung’s date and how expensive ripped jeans are considering they’re less than half the fabric.
Then the elder gasps, and points at Taehyung. “You! You were the one using my toothbrush the other night!”
Everyone stares, including Taehyung, none of them quite knowing how to react; then Taehyung’s eyes go wide, and he points at Yoongi in turn. “Oh my God, you’re the roommate! The green turtle!”
“The… green turtle?” Jungkook asks, apparently to himself, because nobody answers.
“And I told Jin to apologize for me about the toothbrush,” Taehyung continues. “It’s not my fault that mine is purple too!”
“My toothbrush was blue,” Yoongi shoots back, with no real venom, just annoyance. “Why didn’t you just use Seokjin’s, if you were confused?”
The other pulls a face. “That’s gross.”
“Says the dude I once walked in on eating ass at my dining table.”
“Ok-ayy,” Jungkook cuts in, choking out the word because he’s laughing too hard. He’s laughing so hard, in fact, that the has to put his machine down and move his foot a full six inches away from the pedal. “Wow,” he breathes. “Our roommates have been seeing each other this whole time.”
Jimin, who has taken the entire conversation in stride, looks at Taehyung, his head cocked. “Please tell me there was food involved, or I’m quitting this friendship.”
“There was,” Taehyung assures him cheerfully, dropping his bags on Jimin’s desk.. “Chocolate ice cream, and a ton of sprinkles.”
Yoongi drops his head into his hands, making a sound like a wounded animal, while Jungkook howls with laughter, and Jimin highfives his friend.
“I love you,” Jimin says, wrapping his arms around the other. “So much, dude.”
Jungkook has to take off his gloves, and use his shirt to wipe his tears he laughs so hard. Yoongi shoots him a glare from behind his fingers, but all he can do is shrug. “I’ve been suffering, too, hyung,” he tells him, reaching for another pair of gloves. “You just gotta go with it.”
After a moment, Taehyung makes his way over, holding out a small plastic package to Yoongi. “Here,” he says with a grin. “It’s green, like your hair, so I’ll remember from now on.”
Looking around Yoongi’s head, Jungkook tries to see what it is; it’s a toothbrush, he realizes, brand new and, indeed, green.
It’s almost endearing, to watch Yoongi completely deflate, visibly melting, just another victim to Taehyung’s charms. “Um… thanks,” he mutters, earning himself another grin from the younger.
After that, things calm down, everyone relatively chill. Jungkook continues filling in stripes, while the all assist Taehyung in figuring out which pair of jeans makes him look like ‘a fox on the prowl”. He tries each pair on one by one, not even bothering to shut the bathroom door each time he kicks a pair off; even Yoongi speaks up occasionally, the resident expert on Seokjin’s tastes.
When Jungkook teases him on his sudden change of heart, as he finishes up the stripes and gets ready to begin shading in the tiger itself, Yoongi only shrugs. “He makes him happy,” he says shortly. “Seokjin calls him his prince charming. It makes me gag, honestly, but if Seokjin is happy, it’s enough for me.”
This time, it’s Jungkook’s turn melt.
By the time Taehyung, with everyone’s help, has decided on a pair, and recruited Jimin to help him return the rejects, Yoongi is yawning, his eyes fluttering closed.
“Not that I want to, I’d rather chat,” he mumbles, “but I’m gonna fall asleep now.”
“Go ahead, hyung,” Jungkook responds softly. “I’ll be sure to wake you when it’s done.”
It takes him a couple hours, most of which he spends humming to himself and listening to Yoongi softly snore (he wonders if he should tell the elder), and shooing Hoseok away once he arrive, and gets too close; it’s a couple of hours of buzzing, of pausing to flex his hand, of pressing and dragging the needles into Yoongi’s skin - but Jungkook finally finishes the entire tattoo; he must admit, if only to himself, that it looks fucking nice .
He admires it quietly, as he gently wipes away the tiny droplets of blood still seeping through Yoongi’s skin, stunned at how vivid the colors look against the elder’s pale tones.
But the cool colors, the blue, the navy, and the red, even the soft grey Jungkook created to shade in the tiger, seems to warm Yoongi’s skin, giving it an almost ardent glow; or at least, they will, once the redness and swelling subside. It’s still beautiful though, Jungkook thinks.
Before he can wake Yoongi, the elder stirs on his own, lifting his head a little. “Why’d you stop? Smoke break?” he asks, voice thick. “Also, I think I drooled.”
“You definitely drooled,” Jungkook laughs, tugging off one glove so he can pass the elder a paper towel. “And I stopped because we’re all done.”
Yoongi doesn’t seem to be able to comprehend the words. “Done? Done as in, it’s finished, or like…?”
The younger laughs, passing Yoongi the mirror. “All done,” he repeats.
Eyes wide and mouth open, Yoongi looks in the mirror, his eyes scanning slowly over the color, the tiger staring back at him with calm, dangerous eyes. “It’s…,” is all he manages to say, turning his shoulder further into get a better look. Jungkook leaves him be, putting on another glove so he can eventually cover it before the elder leaves.
Jimin walks back from the office and pauses, eyes wide. “Damn,” he breathes. “That’s pretty damn good, Kook.”
“Thanks,” the younger acknowledges with a smile.
“It’s more than good,” Yoongi says as Jimin walks away. “It’s, I don’t know, but so much more than good.” He turns, meeting Jungkook’s eyes. “Is this… how you see me?” He asks the question quietly, and Jungkook almost wants to hug him; he sounds so, so precious, so in awe, like he’s blind to everything that is himself in all of it’s glory.
“Yeah,” Jungkook tells him. “Yeah it is.”
Whether the elder believes him, or not, is another story, but Yoongi stares at him a moment longer, before looking away, back at the tattoo. “It hurts, now,” he comments, mouth turning up at the sides. “It’s going to be a bitch to sleep on.”
“I dunno, you slept pretty well while I was turning your shoulder into ground beef.”
“Nice,” the elder laughs. “So, uh, how do I take care of this thing? All I know is lotion it up.”
Jungkook snorts. “Let me cover it up and go pee before I explode, then I’ll explain it.”
It takes a little while for Yoongi actually let him cover it, the elder is too into staring at it, but eventually, after taking a dozen photos, he allows Jungkook to lay bandages over the tender skin, and bandage it up. He waits for Yoongi to gentle crawl back into his shirt, before he sends him outside. “I’m gonna break this down, and I’ll be right there.”
Grunting in acknowledgment, Yoongi leaves, and Jungkook quickly tosses any tainted materials in the trash, including packages, ink caps, plastic wraps, and the like, and disposes of the needles in a separate bin designated for hazardous waste. He quickly wipes down his station, his chairs, and his desk with copious amounts of disinfectant spray, all the while doing a little dance because he is, undeniably, about to pee himself.
Stepping down from the back door, onto the concrete out back, he finds Yoongi on his phone, chatting excitedly with someone. He smiles when he sees Jungkook, and waves him closer.
“Yeah, it’s fucking beautiful, Joon,” Yoongi says, lifting his chin to blow smoke into the air. “Did you see? Did you see the colors?”
“Joon?” Jungkook asks. “Namjoon?”
“Yeah, here,” Yoongi says into the phone, before passing it to Jungkook.
Grinning, because he hasn’t seen, let alone spoken to, Namjoon since he moved, Jungkook takes the phone. “Hyung?”
He has to jerk the phone away from his ear as the elder screams joyfully at him. “YOU’RE SO GOOD,” he yells, “I’M SO PROUD. TELL YOONGI HE NEEDS TO BRING YOUR ASS DOWN HERE SO YOU CAN DO A PIECE FOR ME, YOU TALENTED LITTLE SHIT.”
Glancing at Yoongi, who is half doubled over in laughter, Jungkook raises an eyebrow. “Got that?”
“Got it,” Yoongi nods, blinking away tears.
After Namjoon calms down, and stops yelling, Jungkook is able to catch up with him a bit, before he passes the phone back to Yoongi so the two of them can confirm times and places to meet up for tomorrow’s show.
“I wish you could come,” Yoongi says, after the call has ended and they’re heading back inside.
Jungkook nods, smiling wistfully. “Yeah, me, too. But the weekends are our busiest time, I can’t just bail.”
Yoongi gets it, of course he does. “Maybe another time, then?”
Yoongi, it seems, is either just as in love with Jungkook as Jungkook feels he is with the elder, or he’s still half-asleep; when he hands Jungkook the cash for the tattoo, and Jungkook quickly counts it, more out of habit than distrust, he almost passes out.
It’s almost four-hundred dollars. “Hyung, no,” he says immediately, attempting to pass some of it back to the elder. But Yoongi just grabs his hand, gently, and pushes it back.
“You earned it,” he presses. “I can’t… explain how thankful? I dunno, but how much I really love this. It’s, I feel…”
“Badass pretty?” Jungkook, staring at the money still in a state of shock, offers weakly.
Yoongi laughs at this, touching his neck. “More like… empowered, but that sounds lame.”
Meeting the elder’s eyes, Jungkook solemnly shakes his head. “Not so lame, hyung.” He takes a deep breath, and forces himself to accept the money, stuffing it into an envelope from the shelf next to his desk. “Thank you,” he adds, turning to look at Yoongi again. “I’m.. honored.”
“You should be.” Yoongi plops into a chair, grinning at him. “Not many people can call themselves my first.”
Jungkook chokes, then laughs so hard he feels his abs ache.
Twenty minutes later, after explaining aftercare and healing to the elder, Jungkook is sending him on his way, a little unwillingly; but Yoongi has a three PM train out of the city to catch, has to go set a crowd of fans on fire, so there’s nothing he can do about it.
“Just call,” he tells him, “if you have any questions. And when it’s done healing, come in any time during the week, and I’ll touch it up, for free .” He stresses the last words, just in case Yoongi has any ideas of paying him even more for something he never charges for.
Grinning, and giving a small (cute) wave, Yoongi nods. “Got it. See you later, Jungkook.”
After he’s gone, Jungkook doesn’t realize he’s pouting, resting half-prone on the counter, until Hoseok tosses an arm around him and points it out.
“He’ll be back,” he assures the younger, chafing his shoulder. “Trust me, I’m an expert.”
Jungkook smiles, but he can’t help the slight melancholy that he feels; he knows Yoongi will be back, probably, but without him there, the shop seems a little dimmer, a little less warm.
Hoseok’s only comment to this is heartening, at least in the elder’s own way. “He totally checked out your ass,” he says with a pat to that very area. “Good sign.”
Life goes on, and Jungkook is suddenly busier than he’s ever been; though he doesn’t know for sure, he’s almost positive that Yoongi is sending clients his way. He saw the photos on the elder’s SNS, but nobody mentions the other by name, so Jungkook can only smile to himself, and take on as many customers as he can - the rest he passes on to Hoseok.
It even generates business for Jimin, who charms his way into the hearts of those waiting, talking them into piercings that they may or may not have wanted before stepping foot into Top to Bottom Tattoos.
Jungkook leaves him to it, more concerned with the dwindling number of blank pages in his sketchbook, and the amount of money he suddenly has in savings. At this rate, he thinks in less than four months, he’ll be able to finally afford a deposit on his own place, and finally move off of Taehyung’s floor.
Speaking of, the week after he’d done Yoongi’s tattoo, he’d properly met Seokjin, too, under the official title of Taehyung’s boyfriend. The elder came by the dorm to pick Taehyung up for a weekend away, and had mentioned Yoongi in passing.
“All he does is stare at it,” he told him. “He’s so proud of it, I’ve never seen him wear so many sleeveless shirts in our six years of friendship.”
It made Jungkook blush, with pride and affection all the same, and he wonders, now, if Seokjin had seen, and passed it onto Yoongi.
Because, too soon for a touch up, but three weeks later, Yoongi comes into the shop in the middle of their busiest hour on a Saturday night, wearing a low-necked t-shirt and tight, tight black jeans.
Jungkook doesn’t notice him, at first, he’s too busy at his station, trying to console a woman who is damn near in hysterics over the fact that she paid someone to butcher a tattoo of her son’s footprint on her shoulder.
“It looks like a frog!” she wails, face in her hands, while Jungkook does his best to assure her that he can fix it.
“It doesn’t look like a frog,” he tells her, “all I’d have to do is clean up these lines here, and go over it again with black, since this pink, is… pretty bright.”
The woman wails again, but she nods, not looking up. Luckily for Jungkook, she waited until the tattoo was completely healed before she sought him out, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to do anything beforehand.
“Give me a few minutes, and we can get started,” he tells her gently, before he gets to his feet.
“Yo, Kookie, you have a visitor,” Jimin tells him, seeing him stand.
Turning around, he hopes, but doesn’t expect - it’s him though, smiling a full, toothy grin in Jungkook’s direction.
Leaving the woman to gather herself, and hoping that she can spare a few more minutes of suffering, Jungkook heads over, tripping over his feet. He goes in for a hug, before he can stop himself, but, to both his mortification and his delight, Yoongi hugs him back for a moment, before laughing and wiggling out of his embrace.
“Ow, ow, it’s still sore,” he chuckles, reaching over his shoulder.
Jungkook warms, barely containing his smile. “Sorry, sorry.”
He takes the elder back with him, to the office, so they can talk while he makes the stencil for the lady that’s waiting on him. Once there, however, Yoongi doesn’t seem to have much in mind in the way of small talk.
“I’m on my way to a show,” he explains, leaning against the doorway while Jungkook fishes around for a pencil. “But I thought I’d stop by and let you know I want another one.”
Pausing, his head jerking up, Jungkook’s mouth falls open. “Seriously? Another tattoo?” He laughs, reaching for a sheet of paper. “The first one isn’t even healed, but okay. What did you have in mind, and if you say you don’t know, I’m kicking you out.”
Yoongi snorts, before stepping a little closer; he bites his lip, a nervous light in his eyes. “Actually,” he begins, clicking his tongue, “I was hoping we could, like, talk about it… over dinner? Next week?”
Jungkook almost doesn’t hear him over the abrupt screaming in his skull. “Dinner?”
“Dinner,” Yoongi repeats, stepping just a smidgen closer, just enough that he can reach out with one hand, and tangle two fingers between Jungkook’s.
The cacophony from the front of the shop melts away, leaving only the sound of Jungkook’s rapidly beating heart. Yoongi seems to be hold his breath, bright eyes on the younger, his fingers trembling against Jungkook’s own.
Wondering if Yoongi hyped himself up for this, too, like he has a habit of doing, Jungkook turns his hand over, letting the elder’s palm fully rest in his.
“Yeah,” he says, whispers, almost. “Yeah, dinner.”