Growing up was hard. Recess was too short, the math was getting long, and fifth grade meant no more naps. Yamaguchi had made one friend, an orange haired energizer bunny who liked gym way too much. The rest of the kids were all nice, yet Yamaguchi always felt out of place playing with them. The introverted child tended to stay on the outside of the social group, only joining when Shouyou dragged him to play. He did fine in school, though it wasn’t enough to catch the attention of his teachers. He was told he was a handsome boy, though to an eleven-year-old, that didn’t mean much. What did make his ears burn was when someone brought up his freckles.
“You’ve got so many freckles!”
“Do they show up even more in the summer, Yamaguchi?”
“Have you always been so freckly?”
His whole family had the same spotted fate as him. His mother was the worse, but he always thought it looked good on her. His father had grown out of his own before he had Yamaguchi, though he always stated he never had as many as his son. It was true that more showed themselves in the summer, no matter how tan his skin got from riding bikes or going fishing (attempting, really, since Hinata screamed too loudly to catch any in a twenty-mile radius). When winter came and hid the sun, Yamaguchi’s sunspots seemed to run for cover. Yet many stayed, and they weren’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon.
Though the freckles on his cheeks were embarrassing, he didn’t mind the ones on his arms. They were spaced out, and when he was in a creative mind frame, the dots looked more like stars than blemishes. Sometimes, when he finished his quiz early or Hinata couldn’t convince him to come out and play, Yamaguchi tried to make shapes out of the dots. The lines were scribbles at best, and never really made sense. His mother would always scold him after catching him with the inky drawings on his arms. Each time she would scrub his skin a little rougher than he thought he needed, reminding him that he wasn’t the only one who was left marked up.
“Your soulmate is not going to like you if you write all over them!”
Soulmates could live a thousand miles away or just down the street. Some weren’t even able to speak the same language. Sex, age, race, and religion played no part in whoever your soulmate was. There was a chance that you’d never meet them in person. But despite all of the things that could keep two soulmates apart, there was one thing unable to be broken. If one wrote something on their skin, like a phone number or a note to pick up milk on the way home, their soulmate would receive the same treatment. It was a bond that no science could explain, though people hadn’t stopped trying. Hundreds of years and experiments had been unable to predict the phenomenon or why people craved meeting their soulmate so strongly. But the sanctity of the soulmate was known throughout the world as something sacred, and people couldn’t help but be awed by it.
Except Yamaguchi hadn’t heard a peep from his other half. No matter what the design or object was, Yamaguchi received no response. When the summer days went long and the marks were left for hours at a time, the freckled boy was sure he’d receive some sort of complaint. The mark wouldn’t disappear until the original ink was scrubbed off, meaning the soulmate was left branded all day. If Yamaguchi really liked a picture he had drawn, he would keep drawing over it to keep the lines fresh until he mother forced him to wash off for dinner. Yet there was no complaint or payback drawn on him; his arms remained clear of new patterns.
Sometimes, at lunch or at recess, the brunette saw marks appear on Shoyou’s arms. They were always horrible stick drawings or sloppy handwriting that was illegible at best. Half the time Hinata didn’t notice while he played, and one of his friends would have to point it out.
“Hinata, your soulmate is talking to you.” One girl had said, giggling when Hinata twisted his arm in confusion.
“Oh, thanks. Yams, come play red rover with us!”
The energetic boy would brush off the message to jump into whatever game was going on. It was expected from a free spirit like him. Nobody questioned his lack of concern, assuming that Hinata had no time to focus on something so theoretical. He was a ‘here and now’ kind of kid. But after the bell rang and they were back in class, Yamaguchi always caught his friend staring at the newest marking in obvious awe. Yamaguchi had never gotten a response to his work. His drawing skill began to improve through the fifth and sixth grade, and his freckled shapes started resembling animals he had learned about in social science. When he moved into seventh grade, he had signed up for art class as an elective.
“Woah, you drew that? It’s so cool! I wish I could draw like you, Yamaguchi.”
It was fun to hear Hinata gawking at his art projects. They were asked to draw fruits and winter sceneries, lots of things that were challenging for the introverted child. None of his pictures compared to the satisfaction he got when making his arm art. His freckles had multiplied since fifth grade, but Yamaguchi used the extra blemishes for new art designs. Sometimes they wouldn’t cooperate with the picture he had in his mind, and he’d abandon the idea to go to the movies or bowling with Hinata. He’d always draw on his arm in his room before bed, where he knew he could wash off in his morning shower. Though his mother had given up on stopping her son’s doodles, she still didn’t like to see his work. He tended to daydream in class as well, and hardly noticed how often he connected his freckles with whatever writing utensil he had available.
It was the middle of seventh grade when Yamaguchi learned about the Mesozoic Era. Though the brunet had never been very interested in science, he did like the exotic looks of the dinosaurs from each period. While the Triassic period was cool and the Cretaceous period was home for the Tyrannosaurus Rex, it was the Jurassic period that hooked Yamaguchi’s interest. The long necks of the Brachiosaurus and the bright colors of the Allosaurus were dazzling to the artist in him, and he often found himself sketching pictures of the dinosaurs on the side of his notebook. They were a lot more fun to draw than fruit. And it wasn’t long until his freckles started to become the blueprint for his funny looking creatures. Though the first few were disasters, it was when he found a short and stout dinosaur with large scales in its spinal cord that Yamaguchi was able to do the creature justice. He took all of lunch designing the picture, finishing up the spikes on the tail just as the bell rang.
Yamaguchi was so proud of his work that he forgot about the math test until the packet was dropped onto his desk. For the next half hour he was distracted by PEMDAS, and though he hadn’t studied, the freckled boy felt confident in his skill. From math the class jumped right into English, a class that Yamaguchi needed a little more practice in. It didn’t help that he had Hinata sitting next to him, or that his arm had started to itch from where he had drawn. Did he use a different type of ink today? He didn’t want to scratch it because he wanted to clean up the design later on, so he tried to ignore the feeling as he watched the teacher lecture about an english poet whose name he couldn’t remember.
When the last bell had rung for school, Yamaguchi finally noticed there was something off about his picture.
Stegosaurus: meaning “roof lizard”.
The handwriting was much neater than his own, which had more loops and squiggles than his teacher liked. The letters of the short comment were wrapped around the outside of the dinosaur, framing the tiny creature like a picture. Yamaguchi was so stunned by the appearance of the words, that he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the sight. The result was the freckled kid bumping into the doorway of his classroom when he tried to walk out, thankful he was the last of his classmates to leave. Yamaguchi’s fingers quietly brushed over the words in wonder, unsure why his cheeks were burning in heat.
It wasn’t until Yamaguchi stumbled into his seat on his bus that he found the courage to write back.
Do you like dinosaurs?
He tried not to be impatient for the answer, and having Hinata as a distraction was helpful. The two talked about the school’s volleyball club, and how Hinata planned to join. Yamaguchi was hesitant to agree to any type of sport, knowing he wasn’t the most athletic of his friends. But even as they got off the bus and walked toward their houses, Hinata persisted. And by the time the two parted ways, Yamaguchi had told his energetic friend he would think about it.
But all thoughts of volleyball escaped him when Yamaguchi walked into his bedroom, a familiar itch pricking his arm.
It wasn’t a long sentence, and told the boy little about his penpal, but Yamaguchi’s heart soared regardless. He had gotten an answer! For the first time in his short twelve year life, Yamaguchi had confirmed that he had a soulmate. One that seemed to like dinosaurs, from the next sentence scribbled on Yamaguchi’s wrist.
The Stegosaurus could only move five miles per hour.
The appearance on the lettering on his skin tickled over his wrist, and Yamaguchi laughed at the sensation while falling backward onto his bed. He wondered if any of his drawings had tickled his other half, or if they even noticed the ink on their skin. Was the soulmate like Hinata, who only liked to acknowledge his messages in secret? Were they unsure of what to say until now? Yamaguchi closed his eyes as he pressed the arm to his chest, wondering what his soulmate looked like. It was hard, considering he had no clue if the person was a boy or a girl. He didn’t even know where the person came from. They spoke the same language, but that didn’t mean they lived close. There were so many questions that Yamaguchi wanted to know, and he was unsure how to go about asking them.
So for the rest of seventh grade, Yamaguchi stuck with what he did know about his soulmate; dinosaurs. Every morning, Yamaguchi would wake up and shower, then stencil out a morning greeting to his penpal.
Good morning! Today it’s really cloudy here; I hope it’s sunny where you are.
Just under that, the freckled boy would draw a dinosaur that he had picked out the previous night. They came from all different periods and categories, from small to large and detailed to simplistic. Having the extra freckles aided him in his drawings, and his improvement in his skills helped each creature form more realistically. Then Yamaguchi would rush through breakfast, barely saying goodbye to his parents before he ran to catch the school bus with a rambunctious Hinata.
That’s a Juravenator. Meaning “Mountain Hunter”.
His soulmate always could guess the name of the dinosaur before Yamaguchi had gotten into his first class, no matter how rare or little research was done of the species. It felt like a game that Yamaguchi secretly never wanted to win. He liked seeing the correct answer from his soulmate before opening his history book. From there until lunch, the facts would come pouring in. The size, weight, any weird things they did while hunting or mating. The snippets of information were always spot on, as Yamaguchi had asked his science teacher a few times for confirmation. With neat, polished handwriting, his other half would educate the freckled boy on all sorts of things revolving around the dinosaur. It was something to look forward to in-between classes, and he never found himself disappointed with the information.
But what he enjoyed even more was the slight change of topics when eighth grade hit. Mornings were still filled with greetings and little doodles of dinosaurs, despite it getting harder to find ones he hadn’t drawn before. His soulmate had once told him that there were 700 named species of dinosaurs, but many were similar to others or didn’t have enough remains to make accurate guesses as to how they looked. Because of the lack of choices for drawings, Yamaguchi’s morning greetings didn’t always come with a hand-drawn dinosaur.
Stop slacking on the drawings; you haven’t even tried an Olorotitan yet.
His soulmate would gripe about the lack of his design, yet didn’t close off conversation because of it. Yamaguchi had learned that his pen pal was a boy and that he was only older by a few months. He was tall for his age, and had told the freckled boy he was pale and had natural blond hair. His older brother was also blond, though a darker shade than himself. The sight was rare in Yamaguchi’s area, and he hadn’t seen a single kid his age with those features. Did that mean that his soulmate lived a distance away? Though he always knew that was a possibility, Yamaguchi couldn’t help but feel sad about it.
How was school today?
The same as every day. Boring. Draw me something.
Yamaguchi also found out that his soulmate struggled to admit that he liked much about his life. From some persuasion, he got that the man enjoyed strawberry shortcake, music, and reading. Science seemed to be his strong point, but the way his other half spoke implied he was all around smart. He was snarky when in a good mood, and down right mean when his day was bad. Still, he seemed to soften with time, and even admitted to enjoying their conversations.
When it came to explaining himself, Yamaguchi felt inadequate. Every day he wrote with his soulmate, the freckled boy couldn’t help but admire him. He sounded so cool and composed, mature for their age. Yamaguchi couldn’t even make it through a week without tripping over something, still not used to the changes adolescence brought him. Hinata didn’t grow much, but puberty had been nice to him in other ways. His face was blemish free, and his features were attractive to anyone they came across. He had expressionate eyes, a beautiful smile, and was starting to get muscle from their volleyball practices (Yamaguchi finally caved after Hinata’s persisted it would give him something to brag about with his soulmate). People whispered about his friend, wondering if he would forsake his fated soul mate to try making a relationship with them work. It was rare that someone would give up on the person made for them, but it had been done before. Hinata was a sweet, funny guy who most considered a good potential boyfriend.
Yamaguchi highly doubted the same could be said about him.
Highschool had been a tough transition. Though he had gained a new friend through volleyball named Kageyama Tobio (a “rival” to Hinata despite their instant chemistry on the court), Yamaguchi’s docile appearance was targeted by older schoolmates. Girls tended to be friendly to him, treating him like a younger brother. The guys were less compassionate, consistently pointing out the cowlick and shaky voice of the recently turned 15-year-old.
“You still draw on yourself? Are those dinosaurs? What are you, five?”
Those insults never bothered him as much as when they’d trash his love of art. Despite the encouragement of his freshman art teacher, Yamaguchi began to shy away from drawing. His arm sketches started to get washed off faster than before, and sometimes Yamaguchi couldn’t build up the confidence to draw his morning picture. Hinata tried to get him to show off his artistic ability for Kageyama, always bragging about something Yamaguchi wished he’d stop bringing up. Why didn’t Shouyou see it was just another thing for people to make fun of?
His soulmate questioned him about it, though the freckled teenager stopped responding to his inquiries. It pained him to ignore his other half. For the first time, his soulmate was showing Yamaguchi he was concerned, something he didn’t do often. But if he confessed that someone was wrong, he’d have to admit that he was the laughing stock of school. He tried to focus on school or volleyball, not wanting his other half to realize his unfortunate fate. Who would want a freckled loser as their perfect match? He’d be better off with someone like Hinata, not Yamaguchi.
By the time summer came, his soulmate stopped writing to him.
It’s better if he doesn’t waste his time caring about me, Yamaguchi thought, trying to ignore how blurry his eyes had gotten from his tears. Summer had gone by slow, with Yamaguchi wishing he’d wake up feeling okay with himself. He rarely did, and his joy of art became buried under his lack of confidence. His mother had questioned the missing art on his arms, seeming to accept the drawings when Yamaguchi showed how much his soul mate like them. It was a hard time for the growing teen, who just wanted to go back to seventh grade. Hinata and Kageyama came by often to keep him company, but there were days Yamaguchi refused to leave his bed. And every night, he’d stare at his arm in hopes of his soul mate reaching out to him again.
Entering sophomore year was easier, the seniors who teased Yamaguchi now missing from the hallways. New freshmen meant new meat for upperclassmen to pick on, and remarks on the sophomore's unappealing features were non-existent. Joining the high school volleyball team had given him some school popularity, though nothing like the “freak duo” of Hinata and Kageyama. Despite this, the quiet teen couldn’t shake his low self-esteem. He kept his head low in classes, and didn’t dare try his hand at drawing again. The last thing he wanted was to bring attention back to himself. He fought the urge to greet his soulmate every morning, his fingers twitching in their desire to sketch something. He hadn’t received a complaint for the lack of images in months, and Yamaguchi wondered if his soulmate still wanted them. Had he lost his interest in dinosaurs? Or maybe just in Yamaguchi. Too scared to ask, the freckled brunette remained quiet, wondering if he’d ever talk to his soulmate again.
“Happy birthday, Yamaguchi!” Hinata’s loud shout across the shiny gymnasium floor caught the attention of their teammates, the orange ball of energy not seeming to mind. He was vibrating in his shoes in front of the pinch server, eyes bright with excitement.
“Ah, th-thank you,” Yamaguchi murmured quietly, cheeks dark as he fiddled with the volleyball in his hands.
“Me and Bakayama got you a gift. Open it!” A bright blue envelope waved in the air, the shorter boy grinning as if it was his own birthday. Though Yamaguchi wanted to shed light on the fact that the two teammates were now buying presents together (something edging away from friendship), the introverted teen humbly took the envelope and opened it. The card was a horrible attempt at a drawing, and Yamaguchi could barely decipher the small stick figures that were scattered around a square that he guessed was a volleyball court. The freckled teen could only smile at the attempt; Hinata was never a good artist, but he had tried for Yamaguchi. The pinch server opened the card, nearly dropping the small piece of paper inside.
“What’s this?” Yamaguchi asked, flipping the rectangular paper over.
“It’s a ticket to the dinosaur exhibit in the city Saturday! They spent all summer remodeling it, and it’s opening for the first time to the public. I guess there’s some really cool new fossils and bones that nobody else in the world has seen.” Grinning in pride, Hinata pulled two more tickets from his back pocket and waved them in front of the stunned teens face. “We pooled our money together and got tickets so we could go with you. It’s a long train ride, but isn’t this awesome?!”
“This is really cool, Shouyou. Thank you.” A smile pricked at Yamaguchi’s lips as he looked at the t-rex roaring on the front of the ticket. His thumb brushed over the waxy texture, unwillingly letting his thoughts travel to his soulmate. Would he want to go to something like this? If Yamaguchi asked, would he meet the pinch server there? Did he even live close enough to go? The questions burned through his mind as the week went on, though they were never asked. Even if he lived closer to his soulmate and he wanted to meet, Yamaguchi wasn’t sure he could do it. What if his other half was disappointed? Could he handle being rejected by the only person who he knew was supposed to be his?
Saturday came, and Yamaguchi tried to keep his mind off his soulmate throughout the entire train ride into the city. Hinata helped (unintentionally) when he nearly threw up on the train, Kageyama having to rub his back while Yamaguchi distracted him with conversation. The rambunctious spiker was back to full energy when getting to the museum, pulling the birthday boy everywhere. They explored the fossils and played ‘guess the dinosaur’, to which Yamaguchi excelled in. Kageyama found interest in the smaller exhibits, the pinch server doing his best to explain the Aquilops and Leptocyon from what his soulmate had told him. Hinata leaned more toward the large, scary-looking dinosaurs. Yamaguchi had information about the Argentinosaurus and the well-known Tyrannosaurus Rex. When hearing that the second part of the dinosaur’s name meant ‘king’ in latin, Hinata eagerly claimed it was the ‘Kageyama of dinosaurs’. In retaliation, the setter chose a Micropachycephalosaurus for Hinata, smirking when Yamaguchi announced the name meant “tiny, thick-headed lizard”. The freak duo started to argue, and the brunet took the distraction to slip away.
It wasn’t that he hated hanging out with his friends; Hinata and Kageyama were really nice. He was taking space from them because he knew the truth. One month ago, Yamaguchi had accidentally discovered after practice that Kageyama was Hinata’s soulmate. The setter had sworn him to secrecy, as Hinata had still claimed to not know who his other half was. While Yamaguchi wasn’t sure why Kageyama wanted to hide the truth, he respected his friend enough not to spill. That didn’t mean that he would sit idly by. Hinata had shown obvious interest in Kageyama. Everyone on the team would tease the two about acting like an ‘old married couple’, and Hinata didn’t seem to mind the title. Yamaguchi hoped that giving them some time alone would help the awkward setter finally reveal the truth to his soulmate.
Yamaguchi wasn’t sure how he stumbled into the older parts of the museum, which lacked the flashy feel of the new exhibit. The loudness of the crowds was muffled as Yamaguchi ventured in further, only passing two people as he walked. The long hall, with smaller and incomplete skeletal remains, was a comforting area for the pinch server, taking his time to read the information under each exhibit. The facts felt like deja vu, and Yamaguchi traced the old images with his fingertip on his arm to connect familiar freckles. A bittersweet feeling rose in his chest. Why had he let the opinions of others shame him into avoiding something that had brought him joy? Did being cool mean more than being happy? His stomach clenched when he gripped his arm, pushing out of the hall with a downcasted stare.
The open room he walked into was spacious, Yamaguchi’s eyes widening as he stared at the huge exhibit in front of him. Low lights shined on the skeleton, and it didn’t take the freckled teen more than a few moments to realize what dinosaur it was. Still, he went to the description, his fingers brushing the small podium that proudly proclaimed ‘Sophie, the most complete stegosaurus skeleton ever found’. The small description spoke of how 85% of the stegosaurus was from the same dinosaur, the 150-million-year-old exhibit being unheard of. The information continued, but Yamaguchi lifted his head to stare at the long deceased creature. His heart quaked, though it had nothing to do with fear. This had been the first sketch that he had ever drawn his soulmate. It had felt like forever ago, yet the emotion that had spiraled through him was still fresh.
He tried to ignore the constriction around his heart by shoving his hands into his pockets, Yamaguchi blinking when feeling something poking into his thumb. Pulling the mystery object from his jeans, Yamaguchi was surprised to see the black marker now sitting innocently in his palm. Instantly his mind went to Hinata, who had a habit of sneaking random objects he no longer wanted to hold into Yamaguchi’s possession. ‘For sake keeping’ Shouyou always claimed, and Yamaguchi couldn’t deny it was much less likely to get lost with him than his forgetful friend. Now, the marker rolled in his palm, and Yamaguchi glanced down to his arm quietly.
“I don’t even remember how I drew it,” he griped as if having a discussion with himself about his next actions. He seemed to lose the argument seconds later, the cap returning to his pocket while the tip of the marker made contact with his skin. Like second nature, Yamaguchi’s fingers moved, brown eyes lifting to look at the real life model before back down at his cramped arm. It was by no means his best work, and his artistic skills were rusty from lack of use. He tried to ignore his own negative talk, simply focusing on the curves and edges of his design. It didn’t take long, Yamaguchi knowing he had no time to add the details he had the first time he drew his stegosaurus. Hinata and Kageyama would eventually come looking for him, and he’d have to wash off his art before his shorter friend caught sight of it. But when he added the final mark to his dinosaur’s back, Yamaguchi pulled his arm far enough away to look at what he had drawn.
Then, fueled on the adrenaline of drawing again, Yamaguchi scribbled ‘thinking of you’ under the feet of his stegosaurus. His cheeks were dark as he finished the sentence, instantly regretting it. How embarrassing could he be? He was missing somebody he had never even met. Now his soulmate would definitely think he was a loser! He needed to find a bathroom or a water bubbler before he saw-
“Took him long enough.” A snort followed the haughty voice, Yamaguchi nearly squealing in surprise. His wide eyes travelled across the spacious room, realizing that he was no longer alone. So engrossed in his freckle design, Yamaguchi hadn’t noticed the new person who had entered the exhibit. The man was taller than Yamaguchi, which wasn’t an easy feat considering the teen looked to be about his age. Blond hair was short and curled around the temples of thick, black glasses. Behind the lens was an annoyed golden gaze, a color that stopped Yamaguchi’s breath for a moment. The guy in front of him was really attractive. His jawline was alluring, scowling lips catching Yamaguchi’s attention longer than was normal. His neck was adorn with white headphones, while his shoulders remained straight and strong despite the attention the cute teen was now focusing on his left arm. And though Yamaguchi’s eyesight wasn’t exemplary, he could see why. There, on the forearm that had been exposed from the long sleeve of the blonde’s jacket, were black markings stretched across the pale skin.
Markings that were identical to his own.
“No way.” The words tumbled out of Yamaguchi’s mouth before he could check his volume, his denial loud enough for the other teen to hear. The blond lifted his head at the sound, and the pinch server felt panic flood his veins. Quickly he tried to back out of the room, but his lack of coordination flared up with infamous precision. Feet tangled in themselves, and Yamaguchi let out a yelp when his butt connected with the hard floor of the museum. Pain shot through his back, but Yamaguchi was sure the embarrassment would kill him first. Because now the cute, tall blond who he was sure had his scribbled drawing on his arm was aiming his beautiful gaze right at him. Sure his face was as red as a stop sign, Yamaguchi could only stare in panic as the other teen casually walked across the deserted floor toward him. Cursing himself for letting Hinata borrow his jacket, Yamaguchi tried to hide his arm behind him as his eyes moved everywhere but to the person now crouching in front of him.
“First time with your new legs?” The smug tone was only out shadowed by how attractive Yamaguchi found the blonde’s voice. It was made to make fun of people, and Yamaguchi didn’t mind being the victim. Unable to ignore the natural pull to this new person, the freckled teen looked up at him, enamored by the casual way he rolled his eyes. “Mute, too? Should I call your Ariel?”
“N-No, I’m...I’m Yamaguchi,” Yamaguchi forced out, a shiver running up his spine when he got a raised eyebrow in return.
“Ah, so you do speak. Good. I was afraid you could only converse in written language.” A showing of his marked arm implied that the other boy had picked up on the same observation that Yamaguchi had. “I’m Tsukishima Kei.”
“I’m Ya-Yamaguchi Tadashi!”
“So you’ve said.” Trainwreck was an appropriate description for this conversation. Before Yamaguchi could think of something to reply with, a hand was placed in front of him while Tsukishima rose back up to his full height. Realizing that it was a sign for assistance, Yamaguchi took the offer and allowed his body to be pulled up to his feet again. The blonde’s eyes observed Yamaguchi’s face for a moment before it dashed away to the floor. “You forgot something.”
“Huh?” Brown eyes darting down, Yamaguchi glanced at the marker that laid innocently next to his partner’s foot. Before he could retrieve it, Tsukishima crouched down, swiping the writing instrument into his own possession. Glasses were pushed back up the bridge of the blonde’s nose as he glanced at the writing on the side of the marker, a displeased look marring his lips.
“You do know this is permanent marker, right?”
“I...I didn’t,” Yamaguchi admitted, rushing to finish his explanation. “I borrowed the marker from a friend, and I hadn’t planned on using it. But then I saw the stegosaurus, I just…”
The first impression that Yamaguchi was sure he was giving to his soulmate was worse than he ever thought possible. In a matter of minutes, he looked like a bumbling idiot with far too many freckles and not enough vocabulary to entertain a goldfish. The embarrassment of his own self-image made Yamaguchi lower his gaze, afraid to meet Tsukishima’s judging stare. Would he laugh at him? Was this going to be just like the nightmares that had plagued him through freshman year? No matter what the outcome, Yamaguchi was sure it wouldn’t end nicely. Tsukishima was everything he thought his soulmate would be; stunning, self-assured, and very cool. Nothing like the artist now rubbing his arm in a desperate attempt to get rid of the markings. Marking that would be around for days, since Hinata was stupid enough to use a permanent marker to speak to his soulmate.
“Don’t do that.” A warm palm pressed onto the back of his hand, freezing the motion instantly. The touch was soft, and it filled Yamaguchi’s stomach with butterflies. When he looked up, the taller teen was there to meet his gaze, though not with the disgust or judgment Yamaguchi was expecting. “You’ll smudge the drawing.”
“It’s fine, the drawing is childish anyways,” Yamaguchi argued, though the narrowed gaze of Tsukishima showed he disliked the response.
“Everyone. Only little kids like to draw on themselves, and I look weird enough without the marker.” Feeling self-conscious at repeating the words once thrown at him, Yamaguchi squeezed his own arm and blinked hard to keep tears from starting. “I’ve got a funny looking cowlick and my voice is really soft for a guy. And I’m covered in these stupid freckles-”
“Did “everyone” tell you that, as well?” There was an edge to the voice that questioned Yamaguchi, the irritation barely peeking out from the stoic tone. Yamaguchi hesitantly nodded, the scoff he received making him flinch.
“Sorry,” he apologized, sure that Tsukishima was starting to realize just what kind of disaster he had been stuck with by fate. Maybe Tsukishima would end up deciding to defy the rules of soulmates and find someone better. Yamaguchi couldn’t blame him. He had always assumed that once his other half saw him, he’d want to bail out. Now, the crushing feeling of abandonment was surrounding him, making it hard for Yamaguchi to breathe. He just wanted this over with; why wasn’t Tsukishima saying anything? Feeling anxious, the artist tried to step away, though the hold on his arm made him barely move a foot. “I’m sorry.”
“Unless that’s an apology for the ignorant morons that decided you weren’t attractive, therefore causing you to have a skewed view of yourself, I’d advise you stop apologizing.” The commanding tone left no room for Yamaguchi to argue, despite the lack of expression now showing on the blond’s face. While keeping his grasp firm on Yamaguchi’s hand, Tsukishima lifted his other hand to cup the cheek of the shorter man. The cool plastic of the marker was twined between two of Tsukishima’s fingers, the tip aimed away from the freckled teen’s face. His look of indifference contrasted the overwhelmed feeling Yamaguchi was experiencing, practically shaking in his shoes as Tsukishima’s thumb smoothed over the speckled brown spots on his face.
“In China,” Tsukishima interrupted, making sure Yamaguchi’s full attention was on him before he continued. “They have uncovered fossils that have created debate on the coloring of the Anchiornis, a eumaniraptoran dinosaur that was petite and mostly feathered. In this research, they had discovered that melanosomes indicate these particular creatures were riddled with ginger-colored freckles. This discovery has been a focal point of conversation with some of the most intelligent people in the world.”
“It is?” Yamaguchi asked, his skin warming with ease firm stroke on his face. Tsukishima responded with a nod, his tone never changing through his explanation.
“So if scientists are so enthralled by the freckles on a Mesozoic species that died millions of years ago, then it stands to reason that someone could be just as intrigued by your freckled skin’s landscape.”
The thumb stopped its motion, and the hand pulled away as Tsukishima took a step closer to him. Yamaguchi’s breath was shaky while he peered up at his soulmate, unsure of what to expect. It seemed that Tsukishima wasn’t big on showing his emotions physically, unlike the mess of freckles in front of him. Golden eyes held his own for a few more seconds before Tsukishima looked between them, casually writing something on his own flesh. The itch that felt reminiscent returned to Yamaguchi’s skin, but he didn’t look down. Instead he watched his soul mate’s face, admiring the slight curl of his eyelashes and the subtle indent on his nose from his glasses. Despite the knowledge that Yamaguchi paled in comparison and had no right to claim Tsukishima as his own, the artist wanted to do just that.
Whatever Tsukishima had decided to write was short, and his attention was brought back to the face he had been observing before. Realizing that the blonde had been last to comment in their conversation, Yamaguchi struggled to think of how to reply. In the end, it didn’t matter. A smug smirk on Tsukishima’s face was quickly followed by the dinosaur enthusiast leaning down to press a kiss onto Yamaguchi’s mouth. The pure confidence that of taller teen had wiped away Yamaguchi’s fear, and his anxious thoughts were thrown to the back burner. Both hands grasped onto the sweatshirt of Tsukishima, Yamaguchi unsure where else they would go. The larger hands lingered on the back of his neck and his arm, anchoring Yamaguchi to the warm chest in front of him. He wasn’t skilled at kissing, but that didn’t seem to throw off the tempo of his partner. The kiss was innocent, lips hesitating before barely parting against each other.
Tsukishima didn’t let his lips linger long, showing his own lack of experience when pulling back without deepening the touch. Did that mean that Tsukishima had never kissed someone before? From the slight pink at the edges of pale cheeks, Yamaguchi was pretty sure he knew his answer. Despite the embarrassed look, the taller teen held an air of arrogance that came from years of practice.
“You’ve got until I take a shower tonight to text me where you’d like to go to dinner next Friday.” Tsukishima’s words were heard, but responding to them was a whole different battle for Yamaguchi. The artist could only nod when Tsukishima stepped away, casually brushing his thumb against Yamauchi’s lower lip before turning to leave the room. Sneaking a glance at his arm, the freckled teen blushed when realizing Tsukishima had written a phone number. He really wanted to see Yamaguchi again? This wasn’t a dream? He looked back up at his soulmate’s back, wondering how someone as cool as Tsukishima would want to go on a date-.
“Oyoy?” The loud sound echoed in the large room, Tsukishima’s spine seeming to tense when a man with messy black hair peeked his head from the exit the blond was walking toward. Cat-like eyes zeroed in on Tsukishima, and Yamaguchi thought his soulmate’s eye twitched at the feline smirk.
“Oyoyoy?” A second head, with black and white hair and an owlish stare, popped out next to the first, and Yamaguchi was confident this time the eye spasm was real.
“Where is your handler?” The dry tone Tsukishima used while trying to pass the two older men did not seem to bother them, the first companion quick to sling his arm over the tall blonde’s shoulders.
“Akaashi? We slipped away from him at the weird dino with the horns in his head.”
“Kuroo-san-” Tsukishima’s voice seemed irritated, but the man in question grinned before yanking his friend’s arm into view.
“Relax; we left a note.” In horrible handwriting, the words ‘Be back sometime, get us food!’ were scribbled out onto the second man’s forearm. Tsukishima didn’t seem as pleased with the statement as Kuroo, his sigh and hunching shoulders presenting his lack of appreciation.
“Please return Bokuto-san to him.” The man with the rounded eyes blinked, and Yamaguchi had to hide his giggle when realizing how similar he looked to and owl.
“Who? Me? I’m a grown man; I don’t need a handler!”
“You still have Akaashi-san cut the crust off your sandwich.” Tsukishima’s blunt reply made Kuroo cackle and Bokuto scowl, crossing his arm and tilting his head up in protest.
“He likes doing that. That’s what soulmates do for each other.” A dull stare from Tsukishima made the man named Bokuto toss his hands into the air, waving them in exacerbation. “And the crust tastes funny!”
“We’re getting away from the point,” Kuroo redirected, his mischievous gaze focusing on the teen under his arm. “Tsukki, my prodigy-”
“Not a prodigy.”
“Were you trying to pick up the cutie over there? Me and Bokuto saw your attempt at being suave; it was adorable.” Tsukishima tensed under the arm on his shoulder, which got a snicker from the black-haired man. “Where’d you learn to kiss like that, hmm? Maybe from a handsome senpai?”
“Is this the little soul mate you’ve been asking Akaashi advice over? Did you do what Akaashi told you to? It’s crazy that he knew your soulmate would be here, right? He figured out how close your soulmate was just by the weather he always gave you. You must be really happy since you bought us all tickets to come with you!” Bokuto chirped out his questions like a baby bird, his head bobbing and legs eagerly shifting in front of the unamused blond. Yamaguchi caught the side glance his soul mate gave him, a blush seeming to form when realizing the freckled teen was still there.
“This is dumb.” Tsukishima tried to remove Kuroo’s appendage from his shoulder with a shrug, but Bokuto was quick to jump on his other side, laying his arm over his friend’s. The movement jostled Tsukishima’s glasses, the annoyed teen trying to hide his irritation with a straight face.
“What’s his name? Did you ask him to dinner? Or are you still nervous? He looks really cute! HELLO TSUKKI’S SOUL-” Bokuto’s loud call to Yamaguchi was interrupted by a swift punch to his stomach, the energetic man wheezing as he keeled over. At the emergence of a third man, Kuroo seemed to sober up, taking a casual step away from Tsukishima to avoid the same fate.
“I told you to leave him alone.” The black-haired man glanced up to Tsukishima with sleepy eyes, giving a small bow while snatching the ear of his whining companion. “I apologize for losing track of them, Tsukishima.”
“It’s fine. Thank you, Akaashi-san.” The two shared a respectful nod before Akaashi yanked on the ear of Bokuto, sending a look to Kuroo that was impossible to defy. The trouble making man held his hands up in surrender, whistling as he casually walked away from the blonde. To Yamaguchi, it seemed that the late comer was not one to be messed with, like a mom with two troublesome teenagers. Akaashi was close behind Kuroo, a flailing Bokuto still in his grasp.
“I am too old to be babysitting you.”
“Akaaaaaashi let go!” Bokuto’s cry was loud as they disappeared from sight, leaving the blond alone on his side of the room. Yamaguchi found the golden gaze back on him, seeming to notice his skewed glasses only after the fact. A pale nose scrunched as Tsukishima casually tilted his glasses back to normal, Yamaguchi smiling at the sight. The blush was still there, even as Tsukishima mumbled a quiet ‘excuse me’ and left the exhibit the same way his friends had gone.
Despite their weird behavior, Tsukishima’s friends did have a positive side; they exposed that Tsukishima was nervous to meet Yamaguchi. Even though the freckled teen saw nothing but the good qualities of his soul mate, it was still a fear that lingered in the back of the blonde’s mind. And maybe he didn’t have to really worry about liking to draw dinosaurs or his wide span of freckles. Tsukishima seemed to like him just how he was.
That’s why he’s your soulmate. His heart chimed in, and Yamaguchi couldn’t help but agree for once. Being himself was okay, because there was at least one person who liked him for it.
“Yamaguchi!” The brunet lifted his head when hearing Hinata’s voice, the look of concern evident as the short man burst into the room. “We’ve been looking all over for you; what are you doing down here?”
“Ah, sorry!” Yamaguchi bowed in apology to his friends, Kageyama shrugging before his eyes glanced over to Hinata.
“It’s not like he noticed until five minutes ago.”
“Bakayama, don’t tell him that!” Face red, Hinata whirled onto Kageyama to engage into another bickering match to hide his embarrassment. Yamaguchi watched the two, the normal pain of jealousy gone from his chest. Instead was a slight tickle from his arm, the artist casually glancing to his wrist to see new letters forming in a familiar handwriting.
Stole your marker. I’ll return it Friday.
The fact that the cap was still in his pocket, meaning the utensil would be useless in a week didn’t seem to register in his intellectual soul mate’s mind. He had every mind to find another marker and tell him that, when another message came in slower than the first.
I like your freckles.
It took him a half hour to break up his friend’s argument and locate a writing utensil in the gift shop. Overpaying and smiling too much when the cashier handed the stegosaurus pen to him, Yamaguchi didn’t care. He barely made it on the train bringing the three home, Hinata getting them lost with his lack of directional skills. Night had crept in, and Yamaguchi watched his finally worn out friend flop his head onto the shoulder of the stiff setter. Kageyama looked panicked for a second, before Hinata snuggled into his side and mumbled something Yamaguchi couldn’t pick up. The taller teen accepted the touch, finding his own dreamland after wrapping his arm around Hinata’s shoulders. Yamaguchi watched the scene for a moment before turning his attention to his arm, moving with the train silently. The speech bubble he drew appeared in front of his previous drawing’s mouth, his penmanship still as loopy as it was in seventh grade.
It’s a date! And I like your glasses. They make you look cute!
Shut up, Yamaguchi.
Ah, sorry, Tsukki.
Stop apologizing and draw me something. I’m two seconds away from suffocating these two morons. Akaashi-san might help me, if I ask.
Yamaguchi laughed at the statement, ignoring the looks he received while brushing over the words with his fingers. Even though they weren’t next to each other, and they had lots to learn about their soul mate, Yamaguchi wasn’t scared anymore. His shoulders were lax against his seat, and his heart was lighter than it had been in months. And when he lifted his pen to comply with Tsukishima’s request, he didn’t feel worthless.
Growing up was hard; but having Tsukishima made it seem a little easier than before.