A month ago, Tsukishima took six hours to work up the courage to finally press send on a fan message for Akaji, his favorite doujin artist. He’d already left countless comments under their words, but for as much as he loved their content, he wanted to try, just try, to say something a little more.
Akaji is the biggest doujin artist for his favorite ship from a hockey manga. Sure, he could have gone for literally any of the beautifully written main characters, but no, he was immediately drawn to these two minor characters, rivals on opposing hockey teams. Tsukishima didn’t choose his OTP. CenterWing chose him. Their banter in canon was delicious. He needed more. Tsukishima fed himself his own content, pumping out fics for this rarepair and shouting into the void of the internet looking for more people who were just as obsessed as he was.
And then he sound Akaji’s work. A fantasy AU. It took the rivals to lovers trope and turned it into enemies to lovers and Tsukishima was here for it. Suddenly CenterWing weren’t rivals on different teams. They were knights from warring kingdoms. Instead of a dependable center, captain of his team, there was a paladin, a defender of all that’s good and light. And the sniper of a right winder? A necromancer. The costumes Akaji drew were so detailed. The action scenes were incredible. And the NSFW scenes were so spicy they had Tsukishima shutting his laptop so no one in class could see what was on his screen when he was supposed to be taking notes in lectures.
More than anything, the way Akaji drew the necromancer was outstanding. It took Tsukishima’s favorite character, already this mouthy, arrogant but secretly soft hockey player, and turned him into this hot, vicious leader of the dead with a troubled past. Incredible.
So yeah. He had to send a message. It took him forever to finally press send, but he did it.
And he got so much more than he expected.
EternalEnnui: Hello. I don’t mean to bother you, but I’ve been reading your Fantasy AU and I love it. Your art is incredible. The writing is fantastic. There’s so little content for this ship and your take on them is so authentic to canon but then takes their dynamic and makes it so much more powerful. Just, thank you. It’s been a joy to read.
Akaji: Wow, thank you! It’s not a bother at all. Thank you for taking the time to reach out and tell me what you think. In the frightening sea that is the internet, it’s nice to get some random positive comments, too. I’m very glad my silly idea has been so enjoyable for you.
Akaji: Also, is your screen name the same on other platforms? Are you the writer of “Rules and Roses?”
EternalEnnui: I am. Have you... read it?
Akaji: Absolutely! Look, there’s, like, 47 fics for this ship. I read them all, but yours is so good. Looking forward to the next update.
EternalEnnui: I can’t believe you read my fic.
Now they had plans to meet up at Akaji’s booth at a con they were both attending.
With his one-day pass hanging proudly around his neck, Tsukishima’s walked every aisle of Artists’ Alley except for one. His fingers tug on the straps of his messenger bag. It’s still light because he’s only gotten a few stickers and charms so far. He’s been saving money and space in his bag for one booth in particular.
And it’s right down this aisle.
People are pushing past him as he stands frozen, off to the side and unable to take another step.
He unlocks his phone to re-read their last few messages, sees the clear invitation to stop by Akaji’s table and say hello.
There’s a possibility Akaji was just being nice, or was just being a solid salesperson, but the fact of the matter is Akaji reads his fic, somehow likes his fic, and he want to say hello. He can manage that.
Tsukishima tights his grip on his bag strap, tucks his head down, and walks briskly towards the table.
As he approaches, he can see that their booth is understated -- some wooden racks out front displaying doujin and prints. Holographic stickers dot the table covered in a cute, printed tablecloth. When he gets closer, he can see that all the NSFW covers he recognizes so quickly are all cleverly covered up by other art. He keeps his eyes glued to the merch while he takes those final steps and when he looks up--
He’s greeted by a man in full paladin gear with a person so stupidly beautiful sitting down next to him that Tsukishima almost turns and leaves.
But the person who must be Akaji lifts a hand to give a small wave and smiles kindly. “Fan of sports manga? I’ve got a lot of the popular ones covered here.”
“Hello. Yeah I am. Hi. I’m actually -- we talked the other day -- I’m EternalEnnui. Nice to meet you.” Tsukishima’s words leave his mouth in a jumbled mess that he hopes is decipherable.
In every other aspect of his life he’s purposefully quiet and aloof, but today he wants to put himself out there and actually try. Too bad it’s mortifying. He can feel his ears reddening traitorously already.
“Oh! Hello. It’s so nice to meet you. I was wondering if you’d be stopping by.” Akaji stands and gives a little respectful nod.
Tsukishima pinches his lips together, grips his bag, and dips his own head down quickly in response.
“Babe,” Akaji looks over at the paladin cosplayer, “this is the writer I was telling you about. This is my boyfriend.” Akaji gestures towards the man now proudly standing with his hands on his hips and his chest puffed out. “He and his friend kindly volunteered to be decoration for my booth over the weekend.”
“More like you told us we were helping. But, you know I’d do it anyway.”
“Oh! I made something for you.” Akaji dips down below the edge of the table and Tsukishima is left to avoid eye contact with the other man and glue his gaze to the table as he snags a physical copy of his favorite doujin in the series with one hand while the other hovers over the stickers he’ll definitely be buying.
“It’s small but,” Tsukishima raises his eyes just enough to see the small, postcard sized sketch and recognizes it immediately. It’s the coffee shop scene from his latest fic update. Tsukishima’s so taken by surprise that he forgets to move to accept the gift. It’s only when Akaji chuckles to himself that he reaches out his hands and accepts it.
“Thank you,” Tsukishima says in a small voice, still not believing any of this is happening.
“Please, it’s just a messy sketch, but I knew you were coming and that scene was so sweet I had to.”
Tsukishima gathers the strength to look up and smile back, so very aware that the embarrassed flush on his chest is threatening to creep up his neck. Curse his pale skin.
“No, no, it’s perfect, I--”
“Gah, ‘kaashi, the crotch on this thing is so weird.” Another voice comes booming from beside the booth.
Tsukishima looks up to see a near-perfect recreation of the necromancer - the dark robes, the black vines in a circlet across his forehead, everything… on a man who’s currently adjusting himself very publicly.
“Oh,” the necromancer’s eyes fall on Tsukishima and widen. He quickly dips his head in apology at both Akaji and Tsukishima. “Sorry. Customers. I uh--” he straightens his back, grabs for a staff that’s been leaning up against the table, and announces in a powerful voice, “For the glory of Nekoma!”
“Nice save, bro,” the paladin laughs, slapping his friend’s back.
“Eh, I try.” A sly grin stretches across the necromancer’s face as his gaze lands on Tsukishima and seems to look him up and down appraisingly.
His grin gets wider. “That’s a good one,” he says, gesturing to the book in Tsukishima’s hands.
Tsukishima’s ears get redder, remembering that he’s holding the very lovely, very R-18 book tightly against his chest.
“Yeah! I helped with the poses!” The paladin smiles.
“He means he helped me figure out some of the anatomy,” Akaji replies.
“If that’s what you want to call it,” his boyfriend mumbles, adding an incredibly not-subtle eyebrow wiggle.
“Anyway,” Akaji claps their hands, “I’d love to help you meet your rarepair needs today. What’ll it be?”
They spend the next few minutes idly chatting and gushing over their favorite characters, both in their quiet but intense ways. Tsukishima relaxes the more they talk, glad that Akaji, while approachable, seems to be almost as reserved as he is.
It’s odd, Tsukishima thinks, how being in this huge convention space could feel so comforting, but there’s something special about being surrounded by people who are just as into stuff as he is. That maybe they all pretend to be one way in class, too, and then return to their apartments to walls covered in their favorite fanworks. That even his favorite artist, someone he’s idolized for over a year now, is another fan. Quiet and nerdy in their own way, with their own life--
With two very loud friends in cosplay who keep hamming it up for people walking by, trying to rope in visitors with quotes from both the anime and the doujin.
Tsukishima keeps trying to look away, but his eyes keep landing on the chiseled jaw of the necromancer, his wild hair barely contained by the circlet, those ridiculously ripped arms peeking out from beyond the robes.
And more than once, he can absolutely feel his gaze returned. It makes him hot under his collar. He feels beads of sweat dripping down the small of his back from more than just he heat in the convention center.
He leaves a few minutes later, but not before learning that Akaji’s real name is Akaashi and that he needs to stop back by, if he can, before Artists’ Alley close for the evening because, “I’ll have another sketch for you!”
Tsukishima nods appreciatively, still baffled by the idea that this interaction happened at all, let alone that he’d be walking away with two personally drawn sketches by the end of this.
He lifts the prints in his hand in a little wave, a small gesture of thanks before he walks away, but with his shaky hands he bumps his glasses almost clear off his face instead. His other hand jumps to his rescue as they straighten his glasses, but as the world comes back into view, he sees the necromancer staring back at him, that same smirk on his lips.
Tsukishima clicks his tongue and looks back at Akaashi. “See you later.”
Then he disappears back into the crowd, hoping he doesn’t run into the necromancer again.
It’s one thing to imagine your favorite character in that outfit.
It’s another thing entirely to see it in person.
Stretched on top of what is a very fit man.
Who wouldn’t stop smirking at him.
Unfortunately, the universe doesn’t choose to be kind to Tsukishima. For the rest of the afternoon, he sees the necromancer everywhere.
In line for lunch at an onigiri stand.
In line waiting for overpriced lemonade.
Posing with Akaashi’s boyfriend for photos with fans.
And every time--
Every single time--
His eyes find Tsukishima, follow him as he briskly walks away, that same smirk on his lips.
It only gets worse when, tired and desperate for a break, Tsukishima finds a place to sit on the convention center floor in a tucked away corner by some panel rooms. Not even a minute later, Akaashi, with the necromancer in tow, settle down on the floor across from him.
The necromancer is out of costume now. Since they met, Tsukishima’s reasoned that the man was only attractive because he was dressed as his favorite character. That had to be the case.
No. Out of costume, he’s somehow even hotter. And now he’s all sweaty and smiling. He cackles. Loud. The obnoxious sound fills the space around him.
Still hot. Impossibly given the nature of that laugh, still hot.
“Think Bokuto can handle the booth by himself for a few?”
Akaashi shrugs. “He’s a good salesman. Customers like him.”
“And what about me? Am I not the biggest contributor to your sales today?” The man asks, hand splaying across his chest in mock offense.
“Eh,” Akaashi glances away, feigning disinterest, “you’re alright, I guess, Kuroo-san.”
“Whatever,” he-- Kuroo laughs. “I’m getting some tea. You want anything?”
The necromancer has a name now. Tsukishima lets himself stare for a moment too long.
Akaashi’s eyes snap to his. He smiles and waves.
Tsukishima doesn’t wait for Kuroo to notice him, too. He waves back quickly, ducks his head, and awkwardly gets up from the floor, slipping off to some busier areas to sit.
But as he walks away he gets that feeling deep in his bones that someone’s watching him.
It’s nearing the end of the day and Tsukishima’s “people bubble” has well and truly burst. Even with the added dose of con energy, he’s dead on his feet and ready to return home with a bag filled to the brim with goodies he can’t wait to put up inside his apartment.
But he has one last stop to make.
Artists’ Alley is still crowded, but it’s not nearly as insane as it was earlier. Tsukishima can actually breathe and it helps calm his nerves as he approaches Akaashi’s table for the second time that day.
Until he notices that both Bokuto and Kuroo are sitting with Akaashi behind the booth, out of costume, talking and laughing.
The necroma-- Kuroo’s eyes crinkle when he laughs.
What a dangerous thing to notice.
Tsukishima wills his skin to not show anything this time, to obey his mind and stay calm. He takes a deep breath and steps up to the table.
“Perfect timing!” Akaashi smiles as Tsukishima stops in front of him. “I have,” Akaashi digs inside a bag, “two sketches! They’re tinier than the other one. Just doodles from downtime in between customers today.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you,” Tsukishima says, still tired from the day but suddenly feeling a lot lighter on his feet as he looks at the two cute doodles in his hands now. His two favorites. Chibi-style. Absolutely precious.
“Did you draw him something spicy, ‘kaashi?” Kuroo laughs.
“No,” Akaashi corrects, “something cute. Not everything needs to be porn, Kuroo.”
Tsukishima hears that cackle again and he looks up to see Kuroo with his head tossed back, laughing.
“Doesn’t have to be, but you’re so good at it.” Kuroo stops cackling long enough to look at Tsukishima.
“Akaashi says you’re a writer.”
Even his eyes are nice, Tsukishima notices as Kuroo’s grin stretches wider. “Do you write sexy stuff, too?”
Tsukishima raises an eyebrow and tries to ignore the way his heartbeat races.
“Quit teasing, Kuroo. He’s a friend.” Akaashi shoots him a look before turning back to Tsukishima. “You can message me whenever! I have, like, two people I can talk to about CenterWing that I’ve met in real life and I’d love to keep chatting.”
“Can I get in on that chat?” Kuroo asks, phone at the ready.
“Do you even read it?” Akaashi asks.
“I’ve started! Had to know who I was dressing up as. Though, I stared with Akaashi’s AU so it kinda messed with my head when they were all playing hockey instead of fighting in a magical war, but--” he strikes a pose, one that Tsukishima immediately recognizes as his favorite character’s pose when he makes a goal. “It’s all for the glory of Nekoma.”
“No! Fukurodani will reign victorious! Your team sucks, man.” Boktuo laughs, the two of them quickly falling back into character as they deliver lines from the manga.
It’s entirely too much for Tsukishima’s poor heart.
When he looks back over at Akaashi there’s a knowing grin on his face. “Apologies. They’re idiots, but they’re my favorite idiots. We all went to high school together and now that Bo and I are together, I think I’m stuck with Kuroo forever, too.”
“Hey, I am always this delightful.” Kuroo shoots back before looking at Tsukishima again. “I don’t have many fandom friends,” Kuroo’s gaze darts away from Tsukishima’s. “Maybe you could be my first.”
Tsukishima’s eyes narrow for a moment, torn between the two sides of his mind -- the thirsty side and the much more welcome rational side. “I guess. It’s nothing to me to have a few more messages in my inbox.”
“Awesome! I’m gonna share so much fanart. Wait, you like NSFW stuff, right?”
“You can’t send that stuff right away!” Bokuto yells.
“Why not? We’re in good company here.” Kuroo gestures at the entire group around the booth. “Anyway, I’d like to read your fic, too. I’ll get it from Akaashi later. Get ready for so many keysmashed comments.”
Feeling his skin tingle in a way he doesn’t appreciate, Tsukishima searches for a good moment to wrap up the conversation and make his exit. Kuroo doesn’t say much more, but Tsukishima’s skin feels warmer under his gaze.
As Tsukishima’s walking away, he sees a notification.
Akaji: ignore this if I read the vibe wrong--
Akaji: he’s obnoxious, but he’s sweet and he’s single
Akaji: Kuroo’s @/KuroNeko69
Of course he is.
KuroNeko69: JKSGFJKHJSKHDIUHLSWIOEUIN YOUR FIC IS SO GOOD. I’m nearly caught up already. I stayed up so late last night.
EternalEnnui: Thanks. I’m really glad you’re enjoying it.
EternalEnnui: Well… yeah. You took the time to say something nice. So, yes I am thankful.
KuroNeko69: Cool. Because your writing is awesome and you DO WRITE SEXY STUFF. I knew it. I could tell.
EternalEnnui: You could tell?
KuroNeko69: Yeah, it was in your eyes.
KuroNeko69: Yeah. And those glasses. Those glasses scream, “I have a tasty secret.” Even when you’re knocking them off your face by accident.
KuroNeko69: So what’s your favorite thing about CenterWing? Because for me it’s the fact that, even though all they do is talk smack at each other it’s like, I don’t know, you can just FEEL the tension on the page, right? In the anime it doesn’t come across quite the same, but when I started reading the manga I was like WHOA. Am I reading this right? Because those two DEFINITELY have something going on. They are completely obsessed with outdoing one another and it’s SO GOOD.
EternalEnnui: Yes! You get it!
EternalEnnui: Okay, so, what really sold me on CenterWing was when--
By the time he’s written the final chapter of his fic, a few months have passed. Tsukishima’s met with Akaj--Akaashi a few more times since then. With the whole group actually. Just coffee or boba tea, but it’s still more than he’d ever expected.
He kind of still can’t believe he has commissioned artwork from The Akaji to post with his final chapter.
Actually, he can’t believe much about where the past few months have taken him.
“Hey Tsukki,” Kuroo’s voice calls out from his kitchen, “are you out of flour?”
“Yeah, why?” He calls back, shutting his laptop closed.
“Because,” Kuroo’s head pops around the corner of his living room, wearing a big grin. “The new manga chapter drops in a few hours and I wanted to make cookies.”
Tsukishima puffs out a laugh. “Cookies for a new chapter?”
“Well yeah!” Kuroo plops down on the couch, nudging at Tsukishima’s laptop until he sighs and sets it aside so Kuroo can stretch out on the couch and lie his head down in Tsukishima’s lap.“It’s gonna be a big chapter. It deserves cookies.”
Tsukishima runs his fingers through his forever-messy hair. “I couldn’t agree more.”
“Good,” Kuroo says simply, then lifts his body up so he can press a kiss to Tsukishima’s lips.
It’s quick, but it’s warm and welcoming, like everything about Kuroo. His boyfriend gently wraps his arms around Tsukishima’s neck to deepen their connection for an instant before he feels Kuroo pull away just enough to smile against Tsukishima’s lips.
“We need chocolate chips, too.”
As his eyes flutter back open, Tsukishima can’t help but smile. “Only if we buy the strawberry white chocolate ones, too.”
“Deal,” Kuroo rubs their noses together then settles back down in Tsukishima’s lap, stretching his legs and yawning. “Did you post your last chapter yet?”
“Not yet. Still revising.”
“Makes sense. You want it to be just right, huh?”
Tsukishima nods, feeling that anxious patter of his heartbeat start to kick up again.
But then Kuroo’s rubbing his thumb along Tsukishima’s chin and grinning softly. “I wouldn’t worry too much, though. You’re already the best.”