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Winter.

 

Seonghwa drove slowly to his shop, nodding his head to the beat of the music blasting in his car. The vibrations of the bass made him feel somewhat happy to be going to work after such a long time of being away. Snow had made it impossible for him to get to his shop, so he had Mingi run it until he could manage to squeeze his camry through the big towers of ice.

 

They rarely plowed his shopping center, as most of it is abandoned. He didn’t really mind, as it just meant less work for people who don’t get paid enough to do so. As long as he could get to work after a few days of waiting for the white blanket to melt, he was fine.

 

Turning past Yunho’s studio, he wondered if anyone had come in during the blizzard. Mingi had mentioned that he had done some piercings here and there, but for the past week the parlor was pretty much empty. None of his regulars came by besides Wooyoung, who dropped off some croissants for Mingi to eat.

 

He never paid the boy to be kind to his business partner, but some would say it sounds like it. Every week or so, he’ll drop by with something for both of the parlor workers. Seonghwa usually gave whatever he couldn’t manage to eat to Mingi, who took any food with open arms. After all, he was still trying to gather enough money for his own place.

 

Seonghwa bit his lip once he started coming up to the intersection closest to his shop, hoping that it wouldn’t be difficult to park his vehicle behind the building.

 

Everything was covered in the powdery snow, but it had cleared just enough for him to get around the back safely. He sighed deeply, a small part of him growing warm just thinking about being back in a place he was comfortable in.

 

He hummed his music quietly as he worked his way through the maze of visible ice down the pavement, making a left before backing into his parking space next to the back entrance of “Mars’ Tattoos.”

 

Gathering his coat and his phone, he wrapped his charging cord around the case, and prepared himself to step out into the negative degree weather. He opened the door and draped his coat overtop of himself, rushing to get inside.

 

He exhaled, seeing his breath cloud up in front of him as he dug in his pocket for his keys. His fingertips were already freezing, but he shoved the key inside the lock without much hassle, and darted into the back of his shop, shutting the door behind him.

 

From far away, he could hear Mingi groan slightly, his blankets bunching up as he sat up on the futon. “Hwaaa.” He grumbled with a groggy voice.

 

Seonghwa tossed his keys onto the counter and threw his coat aside on one of their chairs, stepping into the main room of the shop. There Mingi was with a massive bedhead, rubbing the tiredness out of his eyes. He looked as if he were beat up with a bruise on his face, but Seonghwa chose against asking him about it right now.

 

“Hwaaa.” He sang again, holding his arms out in a half asleep manner. “C’mere.”

 

Sighing, the older walked over and sat beside Mingi, who hugged him tight.

 

“How have you been doing, Mingi?” Seonghwa asked, giving Mingi a little squeeze back before detaching him from his neck.

 

Mingi hummed. “Fine. Wooyoung brought some food earlier, if you want some.” The tired co-worker pointed to the front counter, and there was a to-go bag placed on it. “I’m not hungry.”

 

The blonde haired man ran his hands through his hair, watching Mingi’s head hit his pillow once again, him back to snoring within seconds. Once he turned to his side, he could see the extent of the bruising on his arms and on his stomach. The splotches were a deep purple, and almost blended in with his own tattoos, but Seonghwa knew that those weren’t there before.

 

Maybe he went out last night, Seonghwa thought. I’ll ask him about it later. 

 

Seonghwa stood, and went to examine what Wooyoung had brought. His stomach was growling, and he was secretly despising himself for skipping breakfast. He stuffed his head into the bag, spying a note that the baker had left for Mingi.

 

Dear Mingi,

 

If Seonghwa returns today, then you better share this with him. I hope these are big enough for you two to be filled up. Enjoy! I made this with a ton of love.

 

Love, Wooyoungie

 

Oh how this boy made him cringe. He was perhaps too affectionate sometimes.

 

Anyway, Seonghwa opened the styrofoam to-go container and he was greeted with the fresh scent of chocolate filled croissants.

 

How did he know to bring these today? Does this man see into the future? These were Seonghwa’s favorite.

 

Humming loudly to himself, he snatched a napkin from the bag and carefully picked up one of the croissants, biting into the delicate baked goodness before about crying tears of joy. God, he loved these things. But he never told Wooyoung that he did.

 

While he ate away at his breakfast, he lit up the ‘open’ neon light in front of his store, and sat back into the desk chair he had, waiting for his first customer to arrive.

Chapter Text

“Mars, can I have this?”

 

Yeosang was hanging with Mingi in the piercing room, but he came over to ask about a can of soda he had put in the mini fridge.

 

Seonghwa just hummed a response, too busy tatting a customer with a wolf he drew on her bicep. It was turning out pretty well, and she was being pretty brave, considering it was her first tattoo.

 

“Why is your name Mars?” The girl suddenly questioned, causing Seonghwa to part from her arm to glance at her.

 

Seonghwa laughed a bit and shook his head. “It’s just a nickname I got called when I was younger. It’s not my real name. But it sounds cool, huh?”

 

The girl giggled, and continued to ask questions here and there while he finished up, like: “How old are you?” “Are you single?” “Can I come back to you again?”

 

Seonghwa didn’t answer the first two questions directly; instead, he turned the questions around for her to answer. He found out that she just turned 18 and was single. That was kind of surprising to find out, since she was actually very attractive. He told her that if she wanted another and she was happy with the job he had done, she could come back. After he explained the details of how to take care of her newly inked skin, she left.

 

“Hmm. She was cute, wasn’t she?” Mingi swung himself around the doorframe, watching his friend see his customer off. He shuffled over to his side, wiggling his eyebrows. Yeosang emerged from the room as well, resting himself on the wall nearby. “You’re a big fan of the brunettes, aren’t cha?”

 

Seonghwa spun around and threw a pen at Mingi. “Shut up.”

 

Yeosang laughed. “Hey, well if it makes it any better, anyone with a pair of eyes can see she was attractive. Mingi’s just dumb.”

 

Mingi grunted, facing Yeosang. “Listen, man. You weren’t even in this conversation! How the hell are you gonna jump in and call me dumb?”

 

Yeosang shrugged. “I thought you deserved it. Don’t tease him for liking what he sees.”

 

Seonghwa chuckled, watching Mingi pull Yeosang into a very weak headlock. “She was just nice for a first timer. That’s all.”

 

“Sure, sure.” Mingi said in a teasing tone. Following those words, Yeosang bit Mingi’s finger, Mingi immediately releasing him from his grasp.

 

Seonghwa observed the two tussle it over, bickering and wrestling over the waiting room furniture, overall making a mess of the place. Meanwhile the older sat back, sipping at his drink, chuckling at the two immature people brawling in his store.

 

Sometimes he questioned why he had such rowdy friends, and he always answers with some memory of them fighting. It’s always very entertaining.

 

Sometime after the Rocky fight, Yeosang and Mingi— who were no longer on speaking terms— cleaned up the lounge area. The older had to make sure they weren’t going to fight again while also greeting another customer.

 

“Hey Mars!”

 

It was his regular, Yunho.

 

“Hey Mingi. Sup Yeosang.”

 

The two said hello almost simultaneously, glaring at each other with this newfound hatred they had for each other.

 

Seonghwa rolled his eyes. “Don’t you dare, you two. I can always throw you in time out.”

 

He could see both of them drop the act through his peripherals, both of them realizing what that meant.

 

“Anyway, what’s up Yunho?”

 

“Mmm. Nothin much.” The blue haired dancer mused. “You got any new ones in your catalog?”

 

“As a matter of fact I do. And I have some that I have yet to add if you want to see them.” Seonghwa offered, sliding the somewhat final sketches in front of the man.

 

He rummaged through the binder Seonghwa had set up, flipping through the new category before slapping his finger on a small, simple black keyhole. “This one.”

 

Seonghwa was interested in his choice, but he said nothing as Yunho strolled into his ink room like this was his own shop.

 

He shrugged, and took the design out of the laminated page, setting it beside his desk as a reference.

 

Before he closed the door, he glared at the younger boys, making sure they knew that he’d have their ass if they trashed his lobby up again.

 

He could see the fear in their eyes as they started frantically cleaning, probably hoping to finish before he wrapped up Yunho.

 

Once the door shut, Yunho’s smile grew.

 

“What’s got you in such a giddy mood?” The dancer was always in such a good mood but this... this was different. He could tell by just looking at him.

 

While Mars got the tools set up for the job, he listened diligently to Yunho as he spoke about a girl he’s been talking to, and how much he adores her. She had been attending his classes with a friend of hers who dragged her along. He seemed to like to stress that this woman didn’t really have the right coordination for dancing as a whole, but she was really sweet and tried her best.

 

She and her friend had been attempting to create their own routine to show friends, and she needed help nailing down certain parts of their made up choreography. Yunho had been helping her out without her friend knowing, hoping that she could surprise her when it came time to perform.

 

But their relationship seemed to blossom more than he thought it would. He started falling for her, figuratively and literally. While Yunho spoke, he could really see the glint of joy in Yunho’s eyes. It was more prevalent than it had been previously; and that not only got him feeling for his friend, but it rose some concern.

 

“So, are you getting this tattoo for her?”

 

Yunho shook his head. “Not necessarily. It’s for whoever I end up being with. I want to have a keyhole and if the person I marry would like a tattoo, I want theirs to be the key that fits it.”

 

Seonghwa couldn’t help but smile at that adorable idea. He knew Yunho was a romantic, but not like this. He’s always been a free-spirit, ever since he met him a few years back. His smile never faltered, and he always seemed content, even when he was single. But this... this was a whole new side of him.

 

Is this how people looked when they're in love?

 

“Mmm. Okay. How big do you want it to be, and where do you want it?” Seonghwa sat on his little tattoo stool, wipes in hand, ready to sanitize the area before starting it.

 

Yunho rolled up his sweatshirt’s sleeve, revealing his two almost fully done arms, shining in their colorful, tattooed glory. Seonghwa hadn’t done all of them himself, but he does recall most of them. Especially the pirate flag one. That was one of his favorites he’s ever done.

 

He pointed to a primarily empty spot, one that was directly above his left elbow, just to the right of it. “Here. Do you think it’ll look good there?”

 

Mars bit his lip. “It should look fine, yeah. Are you sure that you want it there?”

 

Yunho scratched his neck nervously. “I’m really not sure. Like, I did pick out that spot and whatever, but I do have other places that it could go.”

 

He proceeded to point at his left wrist, where there was a gap between tattoos that could be patched with this one, and one on the middle of his right forearm.

 

“Do you want my personal opinion?” Mars asked him.

 

Yunho nodded. “Please? I just want it to look like it belongs there.”

 

Seonghwa pointed to his left wrist. “I personally prefer smaller tattoos to be lower on the arm, right around the wrist. That’s how I have most of mine done.” He said, pulling up his sleeve slightly to showcase his little doodles of tattoos he had dotted around his wrist. It consisted of a pair of his initials, a tiny rose, a tattooed on intricate string bracelet, a sharktooth, and a small picture of saturn that paired with a crescent moon.

 

Yunho was amazed by his tattoos, seeing as people don’t see them that often. Seonghwa had a habit of wearing long sleeved collared shirts; something that was very odd and unheard of in a tattoo parlor. They weren’t something Seonghwa voluntarily showed off to everyone.

 

“Did you do these?”

 

The tattoo artists gave him a slight nod. “Most of them.” He flicked up his wrist, knocking his sleeve upward and cleared his throat. “So do you want it where I recommended it? Or somewhere else?”

 

“Nah, put it on the wrist. You’ve convinced me.” Yunho said with a chuckle.

 

The dancer knew the drill, he took off his sweatshirt he was sporting to allow Seonghwa the power of not having to pull up the sleeve if it slipped down, and laid his arm out straight onto the table.

 

Mars wished that all of his clients were this considerate.

 

While his pen buzzed away onto Yunho’s skin, he could hear the faint jingle of the front door’s bell followed by muffled conversation. Maybe it was another customer for him, but after a while he couldn’t hear much anymore. Mingi might’ve snatched them up.

 

“So, since I spent all of my time talking to you about the girl I’m swooning over... do you have anyone you’re meeting?”

 

Seonghwa raised an eyebrow. “Not really, no. I don’t really socialize outside of my parlor; I’ve told you this.”

 

Yunho huffed. “I know I know. But I always gotta ask, y’know? Things can change.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t. I mean, you’re a handsome dude. I’m sure you could get someone.”

 

Seonghwa desperately wanted to change the subject from his incapability of landing a date to something more cheery.

 

“Haven’t you gotten numbers from people who come in here?”

 

Seonghwa nodded, still perfectly focused on filling in the shape he had outlined.

 

“Why don’t you follow up with them?”

 

“Because, Yunho. That would mean I’d be following up with Wooyoung.”

 

Yunho frowned. “No, really hyung. I’m sure you’ve gotten numbers from people, right?”

 

Seonghwa paused himself from the filling in to dab away a little splotch of blood coming out. “I usually don’t take them.”

 

“Oh. Why?”

 

“Because I’m not somebody looking for something at the moment.” Seonghwa answered.

 

“That’s fine, but couldn’t you make moves on them once you’re looking?”

 

“Can we just drop this subject while I finish this up? I can’t concentrate.” Seonghwa said, grumbling over how much longer this was taking. He had run over places he didn’t need to several times due to him losing track of it. It still looked fine, but there were spots that appeared darker than the other ones.

 

Yunho muttered something under his breath, but he changed the subject to something else. “Have you got any weird customers lately? Cause I can tell you a story of a man that I had signed up for one of my classes who clearly didn’t want to be there. His wife paid for the classes so he could ‘get his ass out of bed and get fit’. He’s a decent dancer, actually, but his attitude towards it hasn’t changed much.”

 

Seonghwa couldn’t really recall of any weird ones as of late, since it was winter and this was pretty much an off season for him. Many people can’t reach him in all of the snowy conditions, so that calls for a smaller amount of people coming by. “We haven’t had many customers lately, so I couldn’t tell you. I mean, we had a guy who wanted a tattoo of a toenail.”

 

Yunho burst out laughing. “A toenail?”

 

The tattoo artist chuckled with him. “I couldn’t tell you why he wanted it, but I gave it to him.”

 

“What an odd idea for a tattoo. It must’ve had a lot of meaning to him.”

 

“Or he was piss drunk. That’s always an option.” Seonghwa added, pulling his pen away from Yunho’s skin, glancing over his work from afar before patting it down.

 

Yunho looked at his new ink with a level of admiration that always made Seonghwa feel fuzzy inside. “Dude, it’s great. Thank you.”

 

Seonghwa stood up, putting his tool to the side and twisting his neck, hoping to remove a cramp he had in it. “You remember what to do to take care of it, right?”

 

Yunho stared at him as if he were insane. “Of course I do. I’ve gotten enough of these that I’ve memorized the routine.”

 

Seonghwa patted him on the shoulder, giving him a small grin. “Good. As long as you do what you’re told, it’ll look great for a very long time.”

 

Yunho and Mars headed out of the room together, the tattoo artist making sure he paid before he snuck off like he did last time. Of course he did end up paying, but sometimes he forgets to.

 

“See you later, Mars.” Yunho said, showing his signature smile off once again. “Bye Mingi!” He called out.

 

“Bye twinkle toes!” Mingi replied, too busy with his customer to come out and bid him farewell.

 

Once Yunho stepped out, his attention went from the door to a new client, who was sat patiently on the futon, scrolling through something on his phone.

 

Aish. It was the third customer and despite calling the parlor place home, he was already tired.

 

It was gonna be a long day.

Chapter Text

Seonghwa finally was able to turn off the open sign once Mingi’s last appointment fled into the night. Both of them sighed deeply, Seonghwa throwing himself on the futon, running his hands through his hair.

 

“Busy day for this time of year.” Mingi stated, tugging at his ear lobe. He and Seonghwa had been busy ever since Yunho visited, and once Yeosang left, he gained about ten more customers than he would’ve had on a normal day. For some reason, Yeosang somehow brought more business in whenever he hung out with the two of them, and although Mingi was grateful, he got tired of socializing after a while. “The Yeosang effect never fails to happen.”

 

Seonghwa shrugged. “You gotta admit, whatever he does helps with the house budget, doesn’t it?”

 

Mingi nodded, walking to the fridge and pulling out a can of beer. The can hissed as he cracked it open and took a long sip before settling down beside Seonghwa. “I really hope I can get out of here soon. I’m sorry that I’ve been slacking, hyung.”

 

Seonghwa shook his head. “It’s fine. Take all the time you need to get the money. I’m just glad to help you out.” He said, unbuttoning his sleeves and top button of his shirt. Finally, he got to relax.

 

“What did I do to you for you to be so kind to someone like me?” Mingi asked, wrapping his arm around Seonghwa’s shoulder, pulling him closer.

 

Though Seonghwa isn’t a big fan of all the touchy feely, he knew Mingi appreciated it and so he let him. “You just reminded me of someone who I once knew. I wanted to help out someone I knew was in need.”

 

Mingi’s expression told him he was about to start tearing up, so he wanted to change the subject. He patted Mingi’s hand, prying it off before standing up. “Do you want anything to eat? I’ll pay.”

 

“I can grab myself something. I don’t want to bother you for anything.”

 

Mars rolled his eyes. “Mingi. It wasn’t really an offer I’m going to allow you to shut down. What do you want?”

 

Mingi’s eyes were glossy, and he looked down at his lap. “Ramyun?”

 

Seonghwa wasn’t surprised. This man pretty much lives on ramen. Sighing, he pulls up a number of a Japanese restaurant across town, and orders some takeout ramyun for the both of them. “Okay, should be here soon.”

 

“Thank you.” Mingi croaked, his nails circling the rim of the can in his hand.

 

“Mhm,” Seonghwa replied, strolling over to the TV they had set up in front of the shop, showcasing his handiwork in a slideshow. He tilted the screen over so it was visible on the futon, and plugged in the work laptop he had sitting idly by. He set on some random music playlist he had saved on youtube, just so the empty environment they were in was filled with some sort of noise other than themselves breathing.

 

He grabbed his own drink from the fridge, and then tossed himself into the dark leather seat they had invested in a few months ago. It deflated beneath him, but the man was so tired that he didn’t really care. It was comfortable enough for him to sit there and fall asleep.

 

“What did you want to talk about?”

 

Seonghwa took a drink of his beer, settling more straight in the chair, before placing his can in front of him on the coffee table. “Those bruises of yours.”

 

Mingi’s small smile he was wearing faded. “They’re nothing, don’t worry about it.”

 

“Who’d you fight this time? Was it the same guy you were having trouble with?”

 

The younger didn’t seem comfortable with responding, but the subtle shift in his seat gave it all away.

 

“What were you doing out there? I thought I told you you needed to stay away.”

 

“I was just grabbing something I had forgotten at a friend’s.” Mingi admitted. “Honest. I wasn’t going back to fight.”

 

“But you did.”

 

“Only to protect myself! It’s not easy having a memorable face. I don’t remember people, but they sure as hell remember who I was with.”

 

“I told you that if you needed something from over there, I’d go and get it. I don’t need you working in that condition.”

 

“I’m fine, okay? It’s nothing serious.”

 

“That’s not the point.”

 

“I know, I’ll let you know if I need to go back. Next time.”

 

Seonghwa didn’t like this part of his past. Mingi had dabbled in gangs; something he wasn’t aware of when he started dating the girl that had let him crash at her place. She was the daughter of a gang leader, and therefore he was a valuable target. He had been taught to fight to protect himself, but the life got too much for him and he fled. Now they were in the next state over, in an area that the gang didn’t touch. He was safe here, but if he kept going back, he wouldn’t be.

Sure, Seonghwa barely knew how to fight, but he cared for Mingi; probably more than Mingi believes he does. Because of this, he would do anything for him if he asked. This was something he would gladly do for him, just to make sure he was safe and wasn’t going to come back to the parlor with a broken rib or two.

 

“Do you need some painkillers?” Seonghwa questioned, glaring at the black bruise on his stomach.

 

He shook his head. “I should be fine. It’s nothing compared to what I’ve had before.”

The tattoo artist sighed. “Okay. Then, I’m gonna go work on some sketches. Do you want me to put on a movie?”

 

The bruised man finished his can before responding. “Nah. TV maybe?”

 

Seonghwa set up his Hulu to show live TV, and then put on what he remembered was Mingi’s favorite channel.  “Anything else, you sap?” Twilight was showing on the channel, and he could see Mingi huddle underneath the blanket he had stored next to the futon, ready to binge watch.

 

“Will you get me another drink? This movie tends to be less cringey while you’re a little tipsy.” He asked, fiddling with his piercing right above his eyebrow. It was a habit of his that his coworker noticed had come about recently. He twirls it around in a circle, despite it being a ball shaped piercing.

 

Mars gave him a small chuckle before fetching what he requested. “Don’t drink too much, alright? It’s not good.”

 

“Okay, Mom.” Mingi teased, opening the can and sipping some more beer before tuning into the movie.

 

Seonghwa watched him as he scooted closer to the screen, his eyes wide with wonder as it came to the scene where Bella figures out Edward was a vampire.

With a small snort of laughter, he retreated into his work room, closing the door behind him.

 

“What a weirdo.” He said aloud, giggling to himself.

 

Now that he had time to himself, he shoved in some earbuds, and got to work. He grabbed his beaten up sketch book, some pencils and a ballpoint pen and he begins to draw whatever came to mind. At first it was a pirate ship, then a cross, then a meteor, and then something close to a distorted LED light bulb.

 

He had to pause what he was doing for a little bit to pay for the food and eat with Mingi, and that time only caused him to gather more ideas of what to draw. 

 

Though Seonghwa verbally abused the idea of the Twilight movies, he didn’t mind them. So he sketched a few characters from the show to get it out of his system on a separate piece of paper before returning to his tattoo page. 

 

All of the drawings on this page didn’t make any sense or correlate with one another, but some came out better than he thought they would. He’d definitely come back to the pirate ship; that sketch if he added thicker lines around the border… it would look phenomenal.

 

He sat back, massaging his hand, as it had gotten stiff after the small amount of time he had been sketching. Normally it didn’t cramp up this early, so he checked his phone to check how much time had passed.

 

11:30. He had spaced out so much that two hours had rolled by in the blink of an eye.

 

He needed to start heading home.

 

When he emerged from his hobbit hole of an office, Mingi was sound asleep, sleeping through the fight scene of the last movie. He doesn’t know how he went from the first movie to the last, but he really didn’t want to question it. Instead, he closed his laptop, and went back to Mingi to tuck him in.

 

In his drunken, tired state, Mingi opened his eyes slightly, smiling and giggling away when he saw his boss caring for him like that.

 

“Cuddle cuddle.” Mingi sang, reaching outward to pinch Seonghwa’s arm.

 

Seonghwa declined Mingi’s offer this time around. He had to get home; he had a pet he needed to feed.

 

He quickly shut down everything, and locked the front door, pulling down the blinds they had installed not that long ago.

 

Then, he snatched his keys from the counter where he left them, grabbed his phone and his charger he forgot in the other room, and stepped outside, his coat draped over his forearm.

 

Immediately he was greeted by the frigid air surrounding the building. He hissed, knowing if he didn’t hurry he’d probably be an icicle by the time he entered his apartment on the other side of town.

 

And like that, he shoved himself in his car, and sped away, desperate to get to his cat, Anko, who was most likely patiently waiting for her midnight feeding.

Chapter Text

Three days after the Twilight night, Seonghwa pulled up to work in his usual long sleeved attire, except he was sporting a deep v-necked sweater, which was quite unusual for him.

 

Lucky for him the weather had warmed up a bit, enough for him to only wear a light insulated jacket over top of his sweater. This was a blessing to the blonde haired man, as he despised the cold. He could tolerate it pretty well, but deep inside he was always desperate for some sort of warmth.

 

He took a long swig of his coffee he had grabbed from Wooyoung’s bakery, and began piling out of his car, strapping his belt from his jacket around him tightly.

 

Something was off about him today, but Seonghwa wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Maybe it was that when he spoke, his lip quivered, but that was barely noticeable. Or maybe it was that the goofy smile he always wore had morphed into a look of worry.

 

Anyway, Seonghwa was aware that if anything happened to his baker friend, he’d come here. He’s done it before whenever something was stressing him out; he’d probably do it again.

 

The tattoo artist rested his forehead on his steering wheel, regretting that he even came to work today. He had an awful hangover, and he almost certainly knew that the buzzing of his pen will only turn the headache that he currently had into a migraine.

 

His stomach churned. Maybe he should’ve let Mingi hold the fort, but since he was already here, he’d try his best to be useful.

 

Once he walked through the door, Mingi greeted him in his half-naked glory, downing an iced coffee Seonghwa purchased for him a few days back in the kitchen.

 

Suddenly, the smell of eggs penetrates his nostrils, and he scrunched up his nose. “What the hell, man? Is today your day to actually use this shit kitchen?”

 

Mingi blinked. “You’re the one that decided to buy an old restaurant, moron. Besides, if you have one, why not use it?”

 

“Since when can you cook?”

 

He shrugged. “I’ve been watching videos on how to cook certain things. I’m not an expert, but y’know.” He slammed the glass bottle on the counter, making Seonghwa wince. “You look like you just crawled out of a dumpster.”

 

Mars gritted his teeth, closing his eyes and rubbing his temples. “It wasn’t a great night last night. Don’t make me start the week day with a hangover and an urge to strangle my co-worker.”

 

“Oh, but it’s Monday. Doesn’t everyone want to strangle someone today?”

 

Seonghwa glared at him. “Just. Get a shirt on. We open soon, and I don’t need you walking around with your chest exposed like that with the customers.”

 

“Ah, c’mon. You like it, eh?”

 

His boss had to resist throwing his old iPhone at this man’s face as he crawled into his hobbit hole, shutting out every irritating sound that could drive him past his limit.

 

He decided to rest his head on his desk for a few moments, keeping the lights off to avoid any more pain that might come his way eventually as the day rolled on.

 

Lucky for him, he only had a few appointments today, and since the weather conditions would be somewhat rough today, he didn’t expect any walk-ins.

 

The only thing he would hope for was that he’d get through the day without a hitch. Though, with how he felt, he knew it would be tough.

 

~~~

 

Four appointments into the day, Mars’ headache has turned into an almost debilitating migraine. This was how it always was after such a long night of excessive drinking, and he always regretted it, but the temporary relief he gets from the alcohol was worth it sometimes.

 

This was maybe his twelfth time he’d had gone through this headache-migraine progress in the past year. Was he getting worse? Possibly. But that wasn’t his focus right now.

 

His lights were off once the client left, and if Mingi came in with news of another person arriving, he’d gladly imagine himself stabbing him with very... very dull daggers.

 

At last, he read the calendar they scribbled on in front of the store, reading that he only had one more appointment left. But he didn’t remember having it yesterday.

 

“Mingi?” Seonghwa mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “When did Wooyoung set up an appointment?”

 

“Oh, he called earlier today. He said that the bakery was closed today for some reason, and that he wanted something done.”

 

Seonghwa raised an eyebrow, but he failed to question it, instead he shuffled back to his room, clutching a fluffy pillow Mingi owned, laying it down on his desk as a cushion to hopefully numb the pain.

 

Before he knew it, he was being thumped on the head with a toy hammer by no one other than Wooyoung himself. The squeak was obnoxious in itself, but this small man had whacked him hard; so hard that the back of his head stung.

 

“Aish, what was that for?” Seonghwa asked, rubbing his head gently.

 

“You’re sleeping on the job! You deserved to be punished.” Wooyoung argued, pouting.

 

“Listen, man. I had a rough night. Give me a break. Plus my head is literally killing me.”

 

“Huh, I probably didn’t help your migraine, right?”

 

Breathe, Seonghwa. Don’t punch the aggravating baker. Or else you won’t get your croissants.

 

Mars’ eyes took a little while to adjust to the brightness of his own office LED lights, but once they did, it wasn’t hard to see that Wooyoung was clearly in some sort of distress. The wrinkles on his forehead were more pronounced, and his face was a soft red and was stained with tear marks.

 

“What’s happened? Why’s the bakery closed?”

 

Wooyoung’s playful smile faded. “We had some issues. It’s nothing to worry about.”

 

The tattoo artist, now perplexed, frowned. “Bullshit. What happened? You know you can tell me.”

 

Wooyoung was subconsciously running his fingers over his arms, his thumb pressing into his wrist. There laid a tight bandage, wrapped and pinned masterfully. Both of his arms were almost completely covered in them.

 

He winced once he realized his nervous habit was hurting him, and pulled his hand away from his arm. “We had an incident. The oven... it broke. I was unfortunate and got the brunt of what happened.”

 

Seonghwa’s jaw dropped. “How in the hell did it break?”

 

“Well, it didn’t break per se, it was just... used in the wrong way, and that lead to it pretty much malfunctioning...” He trailed off, pinching the bridge of his nose out of frustration. “It’s just a little complicated.”

 

“Used in the wrong way, how?”

 

Wooyoung dug his fingernails into his unharmed shoulder. “I don’t want to talk about it right now. I’m fine, and the bakery will be fine. I should be back to work in a few days. That’s it.” He said, seeming like he was choking back tears. “I didn’t come here to be apart of one of these conversations, I came here for a tattoo.”

 

Seonghwa found it a little odd for the boy to get so defensive over something, so he dropped the conversation as he requested. But what was even more intriguing about Wooyoung’s visit was that he wanted a tattoo.

 

He had told him personally several times that he never wanted one; as he was taught when he was young that it tainted your blood and that his parents would practically disown him if he got one.

 

Why did that change all of the sudden?

 

Wooyoung walked out of the room, and came back with Seonghwa’s binder of tattoo sketches. “Which one would you recommend for this kind of spot?” He lifted up the hem of his shirt carefully, exposing the bottom of his left side. It was right above his hip, in a very sensitive area to get a tattoo.

 

“Mmm. That’s not a question you want to ask me. Also, this spot in particular is very painful. Do you want to move your location you had in mind up a little bit?” Seonghwa asked, a small wave of nausea hitting him like a truck at this moment.

 

Oh no. Oh no.

 

“Mars, are you okay? You don’t look good.” Wooyoung chirped up, staring at the older with worry in his eyes.

 

“Excuse me for a second. I think I’m going to be sick.” Seonghwa tried to be as polite as he could, but the sound of his voice was shaky and not at all what he wanted.

 

He slapped a hand over his mouth, scrambling out of his chair and into the kitchen, snatching the garbage can from under the sink, and vomiting into it.

 

Mingi asked his customer to wait as he went to check on his elder, making sure he’s be okay, placing his hand on his back gently, rubbing his palm in circles as a comforting gesture.

 

It was over quickly, but Seonghwa was really hating himself. He was slumped over next to the trash can, scrunching up his nose, sighing deeply. “God dammit. I gotta stop doing this, don’t I?”

 

“Is this how it usually is when you drink?”

 

Seonghwa shook his head, laughing dryly. “If I get a migraine, it’s almost 100% likely that I will throw up. I know that I will, I just never know when.” He said, despising the taste that was laced in his mouth. He nearly gagged again. “Wooyoung, could you fetch me a soda from there?”

 

“Are you sure you should drink something like that-“

 

“I got a stash of gingerale in there. It should help me. Get me one, please?”

 

Wooyoung reluctantly chucked Seonghwa a can, and with a small thanks he chugs nearly half of the can down, wiling his mouth with his sleeve.

 

“Are you okay to go back?”

 

Seonghwa nodded, humming as he gets himself back up to his feet. “Mmm. Though your tattoo might have to wait for another day.”

 

“I can come in tomorrow if needed. I think i just wanted consulting on the tattoo and where to put it today.” Wooyoung said, reassuring the eldest that it would be fine. “Since I won’t be working tomorrow.”

 

Again, this raised suspicion in the tattoo artist, but he said nothing other than an “Alright. Sure.”

 

They went back into the room to discuss where the ideal spot might be, and what tattoo may look best there.

 

Seonghwa suggested he get a tattoo just below his belly button, but to the left, on the side that he originally wanted his tattoo. It was less painful and was definitely a more common area than the hip.

 

He left the choosing to the younger, who was browsing through his catalog like an excited mom looking through a People magazine.

 

A bunch of Oohs and Aahs erupted from the boy, but Seonghwa paid little attention. Instead, he was trying not to snooze away with his face planted into Mingi’s plushie.

 

“What do you think about this one?”

 

He held up a star which was mainly a solid color, except half of each of the 5 points was just outlined in black. It was a mess of polygons, but it wasn’t normally something people chose for that spot.

 

Seonghwa gave him a questionable glance before groaning and setting his head back on his desk.

 

Wooyoung whined. “You’re not helpful.”

 

“And neither are you. Next time, come in with an idea of what you want, yeah? It’ll make life easier for both you and I.”

 

“For the record I was not planning on getting one; circumstances just changed.”

 

Seonghwa mumbled something completely incoherent, unable to find words to speak anymore. He was dozing off.

 

“Wait, what about this? It’s a lot less clunky.” He held up the entire binder in his hands this time around, pointing to a single word. Freedom.

 

“Now, that one I’m able to write pretty much anything in that font. Do you want that, or something else? One word though, don’t make it too tedious for poor old me.” Seonghwa said.

 

Wooyoung bit his lip, thinking hard about the decision. “Hmm. What about ‘Desire’?”

 

Seonghwa perked up. “Desire?”

 

“Yeah. Desire. Y’know. I desire change in my life, because how it is now... it won’t end well if things don’t change. This is my desire; to break rules set in place and to make new ones focused around my own beliefs.”

 

Mars tossed that explanation around in his mind for a moment before shrugging. “That’s an interesting idea. I like it.” He said, watching a content smile grow on Wooyoung’s face once again.

 

“Really?!”

 

“Yeah. It’s a good reason to get a tat. I’d applaud you, but loud noises don’t help my migraine.” Mars stated. “That one shouldn’t take that long, so you can come in tomorrow at whatever time is best. Just call me.”

 

Seonghwa walked Wooyoung out, and once the baker was in his car, Seonghwa crunched up his sweater in his fist, and sat down in one of the chairs in the waiting area, praying for this migraine to pass by dinnertime.

 

“Hwa, are you feeling better?” Mingi peered out of his door for a split second before stepping outward into the front room, headed to the back for some supplies.

 

“Not really.” He admitted, his head feeling more like it was ran over by an 18 wheeler eight more times than earlier. So no, better was out of the question.

 

“Well, this is my last appointment. Want to lock up after her and just chill?”

 

Seonghwa couldn’t argue with that. As much as he hates showing this vulnerable, sick side of himself, he was tired of being alone. He hated cuddling, but right now, he was craving it. He wanted to be taken care of. Not just by a significant other, but by a completely platonic best friend.

 

God, this was so unlike him. But hey, today was unlike any other. He just had to deal with whatever happened as it happened.

 

And today, he was going to fucking cuddle with his best friend.