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Kageyama snapped his gum, turning the page of his book. He was going through one of his filled sketchbooks, looking for designs that might be popular enough to display in the shop. His shop. 

It still felt strange to think that this shop was his. He had been tattooing for about seven years now, heading into an apprenticeship right out of high school. He'd worked his ass off, putting in sweat, blood and tears (quite literally) to achieve his dream. It wasn't always easy - hell, it wasn't often easy - but this was what he wanted. 

Here he was, at last, co-owning a tattoo parlor with his friend and teacher Iwaizumi.

He flipped the page over to the following page where he had sketched out a variety of tattoos for his best friend. There were a series of volleyball-related tattoos – what else – that his friend had absolutely adored, and Kageyama couldn’t even talk. It wasn’t like volleyball wasn’t prevalent in his sleeves of tattoos.

The chimes above the door to his shop dinged, causing him to look up. Iwaizumi entered – one of his closest friends and business partner. By pooling their savings and taking out some killer loans, they had managed to scrape together enough to buy this building and get enough equipment to start up their crazy business. His business partner was tanned, built thickly and often trailed by his clingy and ridiculous boyfriend, Oikawa.

“Tobio-chan!” Oikawa called, waving from behind Iwaizumi.

Of course he was here.

“I brought you some breakfast!”

Okay… maybe he wasn’t so bad.

Oikawa hopped up onto the desk, handing Kageyama an iced coffee and a wrapped-up breakfast sandwich. It smelled good – must have been bacon. For all of his annoying behaviours and whining, the brunet was a good friend and he never got his order wrong.

“Thanks,” Kageyama nodded, biting into the peace offering. “Not working today?” He managed to work out between bites.

“No, not today!” Oikawa was grinning as he turned his attention to Iwaizumi, clinging on to him. “I’ve got a few more days in town before they send me off again.” He worked fighting forest fires during the summers, and since this summer was scorching hot it meant he had a lot of work, and spent a lot of time fighting for time on the satellite phone to call his boyfriend.

“That’s nice,” Kageyama noted, as he finished his food. They fell into an easy conversation until the bells chimed again. This time, in walked two customers.

One, a young boy with dark hair and an array of freckles adorning his face. He had come in last week to start up a tattoo on his forearm – Kageyama recognized him as one of Iwaizumi’s clients. He waved, smiling and engaging in conversation with Iwaizumi, who brought him to the back.

Beside him was a tall blonde, wearing glasses and looking judgemental.

Kageyama’s stomach turned at the sight of him. Takes an asshole to know one, right?

Thank god Oikawa was here to engage in the whole social part of things. He would be ever-so grateful from the many conversations the brunet had saved him from.

“Can I help you with something?” Oikawa asked, flashing a smile at the blonde who seemed rather unaffected.

“Just looking.”

“You’re contemplating getting something done?” He spun in his seat, standing up to direct Tsukishima over to the wall where they displayed previous tattoos as well as a book of potential options for tattoos. “Have a look here, you can see all the stuff that my Iwa-chan and Tob-….Kageyama have done.” He turned to Kageyama, who winced at nearly being called by his embarrassing nickname. He’d made Oikawa promise to never use it in the shop.

“Sure,” the blonde said gruffly, busying himself with looking. Oikawa came over to offer him a peace sign.

“I’ll bring lunch by later. Bye bye!” He waved and disappeared off, leaving a very awkward Kageyama in his wake.

“So this is yours?” The blonde finally spoke, pointing to a photo of a tattoo on the wall. He’d done it for his friend Yachi; it was an intricate and beautiful design that ran along her ribs.

“Yes,” he responded automatically.

“Hm.” He clicked his tongue. “It’s alright.”

It’s alright? If that now means amazing then yes-

“What about this one?”

They pretty much went through every picture like that.

“So you do custom requests, then? If I don’t want something in here?” Glasses guy asked, flipping through the book of tattoo options.

“Obviously I do. You just spent twenty minutes looking at them.” Kageyama forced himself to reply.

“Wow, you’re not very friendly, are you?” He clicked his tongue as he slammed the book shut.

“No. Besides, you’re kind of an asshole yourself.”

The asshole shrugged, seemingly unbothered by the accusation. “Whatever. If I talk to you about what I’m picturing, think you can try and sketch it out?”

“I won’t try to, I’ll do it.”

The blonde smirked a little. “Alright then.”

They talked for the next half an hour, right up until his friend’s tattoo was nearly complete.

“Got enough?” Blonde-asshole-glasses guy asked, raising an eyebrow in doubt.

“Yes,” Kageyama told him. “More than enough.”

“Can I come back in a week to see your progress?”

“Sure.” Kageyama sighed, “What can I call you, blonde-asshole-glasses guy?”

“Tsukishima.”


The chimes dinged on the door of his shop, alerting Kageyama of a customer. He was in the back, cleaning up from his last appointment. It had been a small tattoo for a new client who seemed very pleased with the final result of their tattoo.

“Be right there!” He called, throwing out his used gloves and materials from sanitizing the equipment. He quickly scrubbed his hands in the sink, drying them on his jeans as he headed out.

Standing at his desk was none other than Tsukishima. He said he’d be back in a week to check the progress of his tattoo art, after all – and he seemed like the punctual type. He was flipping through the book of tattoos on the front desk.

"If I'm such an asshole, why do you keep coming back?" The question had been eating him alive for the last week, since Tsukishima's last visit, so Kageyama blurted it out as soon as he saw him. 

At hearing the question, Tsukishima looked at him quizzically. One eyebrow shot up as he cocked his head to the side ever so slightly. "I'm not blind."

"Uh..." Kageyama was stumped. "What?"

The blonde sighed loudly, rolling his eyes. "You might be an asshole but you're the best in the district. I'm not blind, I can see that, and I don't want anything other than excellence."

Excellence.

The word rang in Kageyama's ears so loudly he couldn't respond, instead only nodding dumbly. Why did that fill him with such pride?

"Here," he managed to force out after a moment of awkward silence, "Check out these sketches I did. I took into account what we talked about last time and well... some additions I thought you might like. Just, take a look."

Tsukishima seemed apprehensive when he mentioned some additions, but he looked anyway. Kageyama handed him a sketchbook from behind the desk, flipping up to the most recent page. Tsukishima took it and laid it out on the desk. He grinned as his eyes swept down the page, fingers tracing the thin lines of the drawing. 

"See? Just what I told you... the best. You knew what I wanted without me even having to say anything."

You did tell me, though, Kageyama wanted to say, but he couldn’t find the words. His social ineptitude won yet again.

"Should we make an appointment to have it tattooed, then?" Tsukishima's voice broke him out of his thoughts.

"Sure," Kageyama nodded. He turned over to his computer, pressing a few buttons to bring up his schedule. “When are you available?”

“Weekends and evenings, mostly, although I get every second Thursday off. I have next Thursday off.”

“Okay, would next Thursday at noon work? I had a cancellation.”

“Yeah,” Tsukishima nodded, passing him back the sketchbook. “That works fine.”

“Hey, Tobio!” Iwaizumi called from the other room. “Tooru’s bringing coffee, you want some?”

Tsukishima punched his appointment into his phone before waving a hand. “Thanks, I’ll see you then,” and with that he was gone.


The whir of the tattoo gun was something that always relaxed Kageyama.

While some people got worked up or afraid by the noise it made, certain that it was going to pierce their skin (despite Kageyama’s reassurances that no, it doesn’t pierce, it merely scrapes) he liked it. It seemed that Tsukishima was unbothered by it as well, because he didn’t even flinch when it turned on.

“Can I put my headphones in?” Tsukishima asked, gesturing to the white pair he had brought. Kageyama nodded.

“Sure. Just tap my knee then if you need me to stop.” He blushed a little at saying that, but Tsukishima was facing away from him so he thankfully couldn’t see. He was laying on his stomach, shirtless, back completely exposed. His arms rested in front of him, on armrests. He scrolled through his iPod before choosing a song, pulling his headset up and over his ears. He stretched out one last time before relaxing back down, his hand resting on Kageyama’s knee.

He did his very best not to shake that knee, as he often did when nervous, considering he needed to be very careful with what he was doing right now.

Kageyama closed his eyes. He let himself relax, pushing out every thought other than the image of what he wanted the finished product to look like. A calm fell over him, as it always did when he was beginning to tattoo, and nothing else mattered other than the needle gun, Tsukishima’s pale skin and the final product.

Tsukishima didn’t flinch when the needle came in contact with his skin and Kageyama began his work.

They didn’t move until about an hour later. Kageyama had reached away, to refill his ink when Tsukishima tapped his knee. The shorter of the two pulled away, rolling his chair back to put down his needle gun.

“Are you okay?”

Tsukishima nodded, pulling down his headset. “I’m fine, just thirsty.”

“I’ve got water, soda, iced tea and Arnold Palmers.”

“Arnold Palmers?”

“Yeah, it’s iced tea and lemonade half and half. It’s really good.”

“Okay,” Tsukishima chuckled. “I guess I’ll try that.”

Kageyama nodded, stepping up and taking off his latex gloves. He tossed them, washed his hands and headed into his back staff room. Iwaizumi was sprawled on the chair back there, flipping through his phone. A half-eaten sandwich lay in front of him.

He glanced up to meet Kageyama’s eye, nodding. “So how’s it going?” He asked, biting down on the sandwich.

“Good. Outline is almost all done now.”

Iwaizumi nodded, and from the front of the store they could hear Oikawa whining. He clearly did not like that his boyfriend asked him to come over just so that he could take a long lunch break in the back room and have him mind the desk for him.

“Awesome, I saw the sketches man – they look great.”

“Thanks,” Kageyama said, opening the fridge to grab a few cans of the cold drink. “Hopefully he’s pleased with it.”

“You seem to care an awful lot about this guy,” Iwaizumi observed, munching down more of his sandwich.

Oikawa called from the desk, “Yeah, that’s because Tobio-chan is totally into hi-“

“I SHOULD GET BACK!” Kageyama yelled loudly, hopefully covering whatever Oikawa was about to say. He dashed back to the room, relieved to see that Tsukishima was wearing his headphones before.

“Okay, we need about twenty more minutes to finish the outline. Is that okay?”

Tsukishima nodded as he downed the majority of his drink in one go. “Let’s finish this.”


One appointment turned into two, then three, then a fourth. They didn’t talk much – Kageyama was focused on his work, completely in the zone, and Tsukishima distracted himself by listening to his music.

During their fourth session, Kageyama was finishing up the shading. He carefully moved the tattoo gun down his back, inking a trail of dark blue in his wake. He turned, to switch ink colours, when Tsukishima tapped his knee. This was definitely becoming more normal now; he didn’t freak out when the blonde rested his hand on him. In fact, it was sort of comforting, oddly.

“Almost done,” Kageyama promised with a nod. Tsukishima slid off his headphones anyway, nodding.

“Okay, good.” He put the headphones down on the chair next to Kageyama, which confused him. Tsukishima always listened to his music. Why not now?

He got comfortable again, which Kageyama took as his cue to continue. “Can I… start?”

“Yeah,” Tsukishima said easily, like this wasn’t totally breaking their routine; their secret pact.

So he started.

His tattoo gun began to whir as he danced elegant lines across his back, thin and thick lines wherever they were necessary. He began to focus, slipping into a state of relative calm. He forgot all about the fact that Tsukishima wasn’t listening to music until he finally put down his tattoo gun to hear the blonde say, “You know, the sound that it makes is sort of nice. Relaxing.”

Kageyama nodded, “I know! I agree. It’s um. It’s nice.” He scratched at his chin before sliding his chair back. “I’m done. Do you want to look?”

So far, Tsukishima had refused to look at his tattoo. Something about not wanting to spoil it before seeing the finished product. The tattoo artist still asked him every day regardless, although the answer didn’t change. Clearly, he was trusted. He felt a sort of wild anticipation in knowing this was the first time his client was seeing any part of his tattoo whatsoever.

“Yeah.” His voice came out quiet, with a shiver of emotion in it. Kageyama stood up, directing him over to the far end of the room where they had a full-length mirror installed.

Tsukishima breathed in, then out. Kageyama considered turning around – this felt private – but for some reason his body just wouldn’t move. He watched as Tsukishima turned around, tipping his head back so that he could get view of the tattoo.

His breath hitched.

“It’s…” he paused, and Kageyama wondered if he might hate it. “It’s exactly what I wanted. It’s perfect.” His gaze turned over to Kageyama, who was still watching in silence. “Thank you.”


“So I guess this is it,” Tsukishima said almost forlornly as Kageyama had finished giving him the first-time tattoo prep talk about what he could and couldn’t do with it, along with tips and advice for getting it to retain its colour for longer.

“Yeah. I mean, uh. If you ever want any other tattoos, you know where to find me.”

“Right,” Tsukishima nodded. His gaze flicked over to Iwaizumi who was messing around on the computer, totally oblivious to this moment. That is until Kageyama coughed loudly and Iwaizumi got the hint, walking back to the staff room with a mumbled “you’d better ask him out already.”

Kageyama blushed, hoping that Tsukishima hadn’t heard. He just couldn’t tell, though.

“Um,” Kageyama began, turning back to face the blonde. “I… I really enjoyed having you here. You’ve… you’re… well you can be a bit of an ass but so can I, so do you think we could do that together sometime?”

Tsukishima outright laughed. “Is that your way of asking me out on a date?”

Kageyama nodded. “Is it working?”

“I guess it is.”


A year later, they sat out on Kageyama’s porch. It was dark, the only light coming from a lantern lit on the patio table. Tsukishima was sprawled out on Kageyama’s chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him and resting on the foot rest. Kageyama was snug in between his legs, back pressed up against his chest, hands pushing back the fabric of Tsukishima’s sweater.

“Hold still,” Kageyama chuckled, fingers running along the length of Tsukishima’s arm. The blonde shivered under his touch, painfully ticklish, even though Kageyama wasn’t even trying to torture him. Today.

He let a blunt fingernail drag down his arm, stopping just before his elbow. “Here?”

“Yeah,” Tsukishima nodded. “I’m not so worried anymore about them being able to be seen.”

Kageyama just snorted. “Am I rubbing off on you?” He rubbed his tattooed arm against Tsukishima’s pale, blank skin, fingers sliding down to intertwine with his.

“I guess you are.” Tsukishima whispered the words, leaning in closer to press a kiss to the back of his head. They snuggled up close together, warming themselves as the cold fall breeze tried to steal their heat away. “Thanks,” the blonde whispered, face buried in black locks of hair.

“What? What for?”

“For not letting the asshole scare you off.”

Kageyama laughed, “I’m an asshole too, remember? Plus, I’m tough. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know.” Long arms wrapped around his middle, squeezing him tightly. “I know.”