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Sweet Ink

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Wes woke up to a sharp, stabbing pain in his wrist.

  Surprisingly, this was quite normal. In a world where the tattoos of your soulmate appear on your skin until you meet them, sometimes you end up with someone who has a lot. That means you'll experience a bit of pain in the area as a nice little signal that there's another one. That's just how it is.

  Turning over groggily, Wes rubbed his eyes, yawning. What was it this time?

  He looked to his wrist: fangs.

  At least it's pretty cool, right?

  Whoever Wes's soulmate was, they were some kind of mixture of someone with a nice taste in pop culture, but also a huge nerd. That was just fine with Wes; he was quite the nerd himself.

  He already had quite a number of designs temporarily showing up on his skin: a Batman symbol on his inner upper arm, some kind of Star Wars design on his leg, something written in Japanese that Wes couldn't read, and some sick looking gears over his heart. He always wondered what that one meant.

  Oh, and a sword running along his spine -he often forgot about that one, seeing as he can't exactly see it easily, but by God, he'll never forget the pain of that one -the first one that appeared.

  As Wes reminisced on the tattoos, his alarm rang.

  Dammit, he thought, of course it happened right before my alarm.

  He dragged himself out of bed, shuffling to the bathroom to shower. He had to be at work in an hour, and if he was late for the third time this week, he'd probably never hear the end of it from his boss.

----

  Being a barista sucked. Sure, he made good tips and the coffee shop he worked in smelled great, but it's not that fun making the same 7 popular menu items and trying to spell names right.

  What did make it bearable was that he worked with one of his best friends. He and Mari always had the same shifts, which made the day go by faster at least. She was always good to get advice from.

  "I've been getting them for years, Mari! When am I gonna meet them?!" Wes complained, mixing a frappe vigorously.
  "Not sure, Wes, but make sure you don't spill that," Mari replied, looking back at him from the front counter, laughing.
  "This is serious, Mar!" Wes whined playfully, handing her the now-mixed drink. "Do you think I'll meet them soon? I mean, what if I meet them but never realize, and then never find them?" he continued.
  "I doubt fate would let that happen. Anyway, do you mind closing tonight? Peter and I have to go to dinner with my parents," Mari ended, softening her voice at the end to appeal to Wes's pathos.
  Wes sighed. "Yeah, no problem, good luck."

----

When Wes woke up the next morning, it wasn't by his alarm. He didn't even have work that day. It was by Mari, calling him for the fourth time that morning before he finally woke up.

"What?" he mumbled into the phone, half asleep.
"Wes. I need you to come in today. It's important."
"Wha-"
"Dress nice, I'll see you in five."

Mari hung up, leaving no explanation. Mildly concerned, Wes forced himself out of bed. Dress nice, Mari had said...what was going on?

Clearing his mind of all the negative possibilities of what could be going on, he pulled on a pair of jeans and a button down shirt. Noticing the way the short sleeves showed his - er, his soulmate's - tattoos, he smiled and grabbed his keys, rushing out the house.

----

In a matter of minutes, Wes was bustling into the small coffee shop, worried about what could've happened to cause the urgency in Mari's voice. He looked around trying to find her, quickly spotting the familiar purple braid behind the counter.

"Mari! What's going on?" Wes asked, making his way towards her.
"I saw a dude with the same tattoos as you."
"Oh, o - wait, you what?" Wes asked, doing a double take at what Mari just said.
"Keep your voice down, Wes, he's still here!"

Wes looked around frantically. "What?" he asked again, still not fully processing what was going on.
"Okay, okay, calm down. Just come to the back," Mari lead the way behind the swinging doors to the break room, "Sohinki's got the shop covered."

Wes lifted himself up onto a counter, running a nervous hand through his hair. "So, what the hell is going on?"

"There's a guy in the shop. Ordered an iced coffee. I could see some tattoos: fangs on his wrist, Bat Symbol and something in written in Japanese on his arms, and I think I saw some gears peaking out of his shirt. Wes, that's your soulmate!"

  Wes's mind raced at a million miles an hour. His soulmate? It couldn't be true....

  "What do I do?" he asked, looking up at Mari.
  "I was thinking you could put an apron on as if you were working and go ask if he needs anything? Like, make sure your tattoos are visible, and if they fade, well..."
  "...then he's my soulmate," Wes finished.

  He looked to Mari, nodded, and grabbed a black apron off a hanger in the break room. Without a word, he took a deep breath and walked through the door. He could see Sohinki give him a wink out the corner of his eye.

  He spotted the man instantly. He was definitely handsome - black hair styled with maybe-too-much gel, a bit of stubble, and glasses that highlighted his eyes. Oh, yeah, Wes was into this guy.

  It's now or never, he told himself, bouncing with the first step he took towards the man sitting in the corner, typing away on his laptop.

  He cleared his throat and put on his best chirpy customer service voice.

  "Hi, can I get you anything? More coffee?"

  The man looked up at him. Wes made eye contact for a split second, then looked down at his wrist and arm.

  The black-haired man did too, and gasped.

  The tattoos were fading.

  Wes didn't know what to say, and it seemed that the stranger didn't either. It was almost like he was in a trance, until he could clearly hear Sohinki whisper-shout to Mari that it happened.

  The boys made eye contact again.
  "Uh, hi...I'm Joven."

   "I'm Wes."

   "Soulmates, huh?" Joven said after a moment, a smile tugging at the side of his mouth. Wes could only nod.
  "Yeah, uh, my friend saw your tattoos and literally woke me up and rushed me here," Wes laughed, rubbing the back of his head. "You have some pretty cool tattoos," he continued.

  Joven smiled fully now, looking down. Wes swore he could see a slight blush creep across the man's face. "Ha, thanks...real nerdy though, huh?" Joven responded.
  "Yeah, but I like that. It's...cute," Wes told him, feeling his face heat up as well. Joven laughed. It was music to Wes's ears.

  "So, um, wanna join me?" Joven asked, motioning to the empty chair across from him. Wes nodded enthusiastically, taking off his apron and sitting down across from his soulmate.

  Wes could hear arguing coming from the back room, and soon Mari stumbled out  avoiding Sohinki's grasp.

  They were arguing over who would come serve us...fuckin' idiots, Wes thought lovingly about his friends.

  "Well hellooo, gentlemen! Wes, what can I get ya?" Mari chirped, looking back and forth between the two sitting across from each other.
  "Just a cookies and creme frappe, Mar," Wes answered, beaming ear to ear. When Joven looked down to his computer, Wes mouthed a quick thank you to his friend.

----

  Hours had passed and Joven and Wes were still sitting in the exact spot, chatting away.  There was now a basket of donuts between them, courtesy of Sohinki wanting to bring them anything to be able to see the two together.

  Wes and Joven talked for hours about anything and everything - childhoods, interests, likes and dislikes, and more.

  "Hey, guys? Hate to kill the mood, but it's almost noon, shop closes early on Sundays," Mari butted in shortly after.
  "Oh, yeah, no problem. Do you wanna maybe go to lunch?" Wes acknowledged Mari, then turned to Joven to ask. Joven nodded.

  "Have fun you two!"