Kageyama smells like the earth.
At first, it makes Tsukishima’s nose crumple up in disgust, and he does everything to avoid the younger boy. He’s just a common witch, and he knows Kageyama can’t help it, but he smells like dirt after heavy rains and Tsukishima is terrified of rain. Always has been. Probably always will.
It’s nice, on stormy days, to get lost in the school’s library. He usually does anyways, finds himself engrossed in a book about some ancient civilisation even while his friends are off enjoying the warm weather. The feeling of the sun on his skin through old, grimy windows never gets any less exciting. The way it filters through the gaps in the collections of ancient manuscripts in the restricted part of the library makes Tsukishima’s magic tingle in his fingertips. Nor does the dull light that shrouds the books in a blue-grey tone grow old, the way it reminds him of late nights studying and soft sheets against bare skin.
But he begins to enjoy the rain, in his own masochistic way, as it began to smell like Kageyama, and not the other way around.
They didn’t talk much, at least not until their third year, avoiding each other if only because elementals and witches had split curriculums until then. Even before he knew Kageyama, something drew Tsukishima in. Maybe it’s the way the little flowers growing on his cheeks are in stark contrast to the boy’s expressionless facade, or maybe it’s the way plants seem to curl around his fingers when he thinks no one else is looking, stretching up just for him. Regardless, Tsukishima falls in love.
Love is a strange thing, Tsukishima thinks as his face screws up at Kageyama’s smell. He hates the plant boy, really, but for some reason he can barely contain the sparks of magic that threaten to spill from his pores every time he comes near. He pretends he loathes Kageyama’s presence, but moves over in the booth for him to sit there anyway.
Akaashi Keiji, and his stupid amount of owl familiars (there must be at least 4 now), crowd the other side of the musty booth. They make eye contact, if only for a brief moment, as Kageyama struggles to fit next to Tsukishima, but Akaashi’s silent jeer of “there’s not enough room over here” wins. Stupid Akaashi Keiji.
“Akaashi-san,” Kageyama greets, bowing so far Tsukishima worries he’ll slam his head against the table, “Tsukishima.”
“Nice to see the King of the Plants has some respect for his elders,” Tsukishima smirks.
He hates that he still calls him that. It’s definitely gotten over the top, at this point. Everyone else stopped calling him by that name in their second year and now they’re in their fourth. Tsukishima wonders if anyone, besides Akaashi, knows that it’s a pet name.
Kageyama definitely doesn’t. The flowers on his cheeks turn red. “I told you to stop calling me that.”
“I’ll stop calling you King when you learn to control your face-flowers.”
They bicker. Akaashi gives them a glare from above his textbook. They apologise, but the bickering only continues in the form of an aggressive game of footsies under the table.
All is right in the world.
The smell of wet dirt becomes Tsukishima’s favourite smell. In theory, anyway.
The night after Kageyama sleeps in his dorm, in his bed, Tsukishima lies with his face buried in a pillow that smells like him. His phantom warmth feels boiling against Tsukishima’s skin. He remembers reaching out to run his hand through ever-soft hair, only to realise that tiny flowers existed beneath it. They seem to bloom at his touch, opening up to reveal almost microscopic pink petals that feel so connected to Kageyama he’s afraid to disturb them.
Something tickles his cheek. His eyes crack open to see one of those petals, perfectly pink, resting on the pillow. His magic hums as he picks it up and takes it over to a miniature jar on his desk, one just waiting for something of Kageyama’s. He plugs it securely, binding it with a spell, and attaches it to a necklace chain.
A ward. His magic roars in his chest. The bond is sealed, and he feels himself fall deeper in love.
He doesn’t tell Kageyama he knows about the flowers, at least not until Akaashi points them out. They’ve grown bigger since that night, now clearly visible. There are 11 of them. They’re not a type that Tsukishima’s seen before, and it sends him into a research spiral.
He searches through old flower magic books, first all the ones in the general section, and then in the restricted section, but comes up with nothing. None of the flowers in any of the books look like the ones on Kageyama’s head. They’re orange, mostly, with black edges and a browny-gold centre. As he passes through the library one day, his eyes fall on the elemental part of the library. He doesn’t have clearance to enter, much like the elementals can’t enter the witches space and so on, but he knows someone who can.
He finds Sakusa on the roof, as usual, hovering just above the tiles. The wind tousles his unkempt hair and his coat, and Tsukishima once again questions whether Sakusa’s a plain old air elemental or whether he’s an ethereal being.
“Sakusa,” he hums, sitting a meter or so away from the other boy. Sakusa’s pearly white eyes open, blink, and revert back to their normal appearance.
“Could you do me a favour?”
Sakusa falls silent for a moment, and so too does the wind in their little bubble. “Is it to do with Kageyama-kun?”
Tsukishima would hide it, but Sakusa was far too observant. “Yes,” he admitted, “I need you to grab some books from the restricted section for me, specifically ones on plants and flora elementals.”
“What do I get in return?”
“If you get me what I need? I’ll sweet talk that little fire elemental you’ve been eyeing off for the past three years into chatting you up.”
“Consider it done, Kei.”
A few days later, Tsukishima returns to his dorm to find a stack of books a mile high and a piece of paper on his desk. It’s a thank you note from Sakusa - he’d been far quicker on his end of the deal - with a tiny crow scribbled in the bottom left corner.
He stays up late that night, scouring through books on plants first. 5 books and 4 hours later, he still can’t find the flowers that are so perfectly growing from Kageyama’s head. Considering he covered flowers from all four corners of the world, he decides that the flowers are purely a flora elemental thing.
Just as the sun is beginning to rise, he finds it. In a flora elemental book, under the love section, he finds the information he needs.
Flora elementals thrive with love, and unfortunately can’t hide their infatuations. Flowers will grow from a flora elemental’s head when they’re in love. These flowers have a few important characteristics.
1. The number of flowers determines the age in which the elemental first met the one they pine for, regardless of whether they spoke then or not.
2. The inside, pollen part of the flowers will be the same colour as their infatuation’s eyes. The colour may not match perfectly, but it is close enough that the flora elemental should recognise it.
3. The outside petals show the love they have for the other person. A bright colour means that they are completely infatuated, a dark colour means that they have fears. The ratio of these colours may change depending on their interactions with the person they’re for. When the petals go completely dark, the flowers will die and the flora elemental will fall out of love. It is near impossible for a flora elemental to regrow flowers for the same person.
Tsukishima doesn’t end up sleeping. Everyone notices the bags under his eyes, in particular Kageyama, but the realisation that the boy he’s been pining over for more than a year might possibly like him back, love him back, has him replaying every interaction they’ve ever had.
Why would Kageyama even like a boy like him? He’s mean and unapproachable and his magic isn’t even that powerful, especially when you take into consideration that Kageyama has single-handedly held up the school’s garden since his first year, but he supposes that he has no real reason to love Kageyama either.
That’s a lie. He has every reason to love Kageyama, the other boy’s practically perfect, but surely they would never work out. He’s far too brash to ever be seen as a good boyfriend, and all their relationship has consisted of harsh comments and jabs at each other’s insecurities (though Tsukishima is definitely more guilty). To top it off, Kageyama’s basically been giving heart eyes to Akaashi since he was assigned to him as an understudy, and there are countless other guys on campus who have good personalities and are attractive.
He lets out a groan and drops his head to his desk. The rest of the class looks at him, but he ignores them. He’s way too busy thinking about seeing Kageyama during the break.
“Tsukishima-kun?” Takeda-sensei asks, his crow familiar squawking.
“Don’t mind me,” he replies, lifting his head and twiddling his pen between his fingers.
Kageyama is acting weird. He stutters over his words, more than usual, and the flowers on his face can’t decide on a colour. When Hinata, a fire elemental with a voice far too loud for his own good, joins them on the roof, Tsukishima understands.
Kageyama and Hinata have been… well, friends isn’t quite the right word. Kageyama and Hinata have been a duo since first year, always on each other’s toes about everything. They were put in a dorm together during orientation week, and apparently it ended with the whole room being set on fire and Kageyama almost going with it.
They made up, the bickering had turned into what Tsukishima could only assume was friendly banter, and they’ve been thick as thieves since. He’s never thought that the web of his friends is a web of romantic tension, but by the way Kageyama’s flowers bloom a gorgeous red at Hinata’s arrival, the thought has him scowling.
Maybe he’s overthought the whole thing. The middle of Kageyama’s flowers, the ones in his hair, could easily pass as a light brown, and the orange of the petals seems to be a perfect match to Hinata’s hair. Stupid.
Tsukishima Kei, top of pretty much all of his classes, is stupid. Kageyama likes Hinata. But Hinata doesn’t like him, he likes Sakusa. The black around the petals must be because it’s unrequited.
“Tsukishima,” Kageyama says through a mouthful of rice.
“What do you want?” he spits.
“I-I,” Kageyama stutters, “I just w-wanted to know if y-you were feeling okay. You l-look kind of sad.”
“I’m fine, Kageyama. Stop digging your nose into other people’s business and learn to speak properly instead.”
Fuck . He did not mean to say that. He doesn’t trust his mouth to say anymore, so he gets up and leaves without saying anything else. Even Akaashi’s calls of his name don’t make him turn around.
He’s really fucked up this time. Even Sakusa, a guy who didn’t get involved with drama, is avoiding him. He brought him everything under the sun that usually cheered him up, but to no avail.
He pours himself into schoolwork to drown his swelling anxiety. His magic has gotten antsy, he almost set fire to some maths work by accident, and he can’t stop thinking about the way Kageyama’s face dropped at his words.
He’s never hated himself more. Kageyama did nothing wrong, he never has, and yet Tsukishima snapped at him for something he was so clearly insecure about. He cries, when his roommate's out with his girlfriend, cries until he hurts as much as Kageyama probably did. He’s a horrible person.
Akaashi storms into his room after almost a week of avoiding him. He arrives in a flurry of feathers, and yanks Tsukishima’s sheets off of his sorry body.
“What the fuck was that, Kei?” Akaashi says, voice calm. The fact that he hasn’t raised it terrifies Tsukishima.
“I know I messed up, okay? You don’t need to remind me.”
“No.” Akaashi says, “you did more than ‘mess up’. Kageyama-kun’s flowers are dying because of you. The school garden isn't growing any more crops because of your selfishness.”
Tsukishima sits up and bypasses everything else Akaashi said. “His flowers are dying?”
“Yeah. You know the ones on his head? The pretty ones that were just starting to bloom? They’re almost completely black. He grew them for you, Kei.”
The book he read a week or so prior comes back into his mind. It is near impossible for a flora elemental to regrow flowers for the same person. He pulls himself out of bed and tugs on the clothes he wore yesterday.
“Well?” Akaashi asks, watching him.
“I’m going to go talk to him.”
He finds Kageyama in the greenhouse, squatting over a few tiny plants. He looks so small, so afraid, and Tsukishima’s heart aches. Even from here, he can tell Kageyama’s flowers are almost completely black.
“Kageyama,” he says, startling the younger boy.
“What do you want?” Kageyama says, mimicking Tsukishima from a week earlier.
“I… I just wanted to apologise. For snapping at you. You didn’t deserve that, and I’m sorry.”
Kageyama didn’t even turn to face him. “You assumed. You a-assumed that I like Hinata. A-And then you got mad a-at me.”
Tsukishima takes a tentative step forward. “Your flowers. They’re for me, aren’t they?”
Kageyama tenses. “How did you k-know?”
Ah. So he was right the first time. He feels awful now, for blowing up at Kageyama. He reaches out to touch one of the petals of the flowers on his head, allowing himself to smile at the way it lightens at his touch.
“I’m sorry, Kageya-Tobio. I got mad because… I got my hopes up, jumped on the idea of you liking me way too early. And then you got excited about seeing Hinata and I took it as something far different. What I mean to say is,” he swallows thickly, “I think I’m in love with you.”
The next few seconds pass by in a blur. The next thing he registers is Kageyama’s lips against his own, slightly chapped. His magic flickers, he can feel the literal sparks between their lips, and Kageyama gives a light giggle at the way it tickles. It’s the best noise Tsukishima’s ever heard. When he pulls away, and his eyes open, he can’t help but smile.
The greenhouse is blooming again, and so too are Kageyama’s own flowers. The ones on his face are a beautiful gold, little glimmers of magic illuminating them in the dark of the greenhouse. The ones on his head have become orange again, and Tsukishima reaches out a shaky hand to press his fingers against them. They’re so soft and surprisingly warm.
“How long?” Kageyama asks.
“How long what?” Tsukishima replies, voice far too soft, far too revealing for his own good. Kageyama looks down at the little jar on his neck, not hidden by his vest like it usually is.
“How long have you had a charm on me?”
“It’s not on you,” Tsukishima explains, “I just wanted to keep you safe. It’s a ward against harm.”
Kageyama cups his face in his hand, “Then how long have you been in love with me for?”
Tsukishima thinks about it for a moment, tries to find a time that he wasn’t hopelessly in love with the boy in front of him.
“Since the day I met you, I just didn’t know it at the time.”
The warm press of Kageyama’s lips against his will never get old.