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Fortune & Fate

Chapter 1: Fortune & Fate

by isilelensar

Kuroo strolled casually along the length of the pier, his eyes taking in the brightly colored lights of the seaside carnival at night. Summer’s heat had cooled with the ocean breeze, and it felt good to just walk along, enjoying the sights and sounds of happy people. Tents with all manner of games, souvenirs, and great smelling food lined one side of the wide pier. But none of it really interested him. He was looking for one specific tent.

One he’d been told about from a few of his friends.
One he was equal parts curious and skeptical about.

From the moment the carnival started at the beginning of the week, his friends raved about a fortune teller who just *knew* things about them that no one else could possibly know. Especially not some fortune teller from another prefecture. It was done as part of the reading, they said.

“The fortune teller does it to prove they’re the real deal,” Inuoka said excitedly. “And depending on your reading, he’ll talk to you, ask questions. Sometimes it’ll be something he shouldn’t even know!”
“Really?” Kuroo asked, voice laden with skepticism and his eyebrows raised nearly to his hairline. “What did he tell you?”
Inuoka tilted his head to the side a bit, and grinned. “That’s between me and the fortune teller, Kuroo.”
Kuroo snorted, and stuffed his practice clothes in his bag. The old team still played from time to time, especially when everyone was available to meet. Like this afternoon, for instance.
“He’s right, you know,” Kai came to Inuoka’s defense. “I was like you. Sounds a bit too… I don’t know… farfetched, to think someone could ask or say something that only you’d know.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yep. Do you remember the first day we introduced ourselves to the volleyball club during our first year in high school?”
“Of course, I do.”
“The fortune teller knew, too.”
“Really? How do you know he wasn't tipped off somehow?”
“One: we were the only two people in his tent at the time. That’s how he does his readings; just him and the customer. Two: this is the first year he’s been to this carnival. Three: he’s from a prefecture to the north. Look, Kuroo, I know you are skeptical, but you should go. The carnival ends tomorrow.”
Kuroo finished changing into the clean track suit he’d brought with him. He slung his bag over his shoulder and shrugged.
“Maybe I will.”
“Might as well, you know,” Kenma added quietly from the corner of the locker room.
“You went, too?” Kuroo asked in disbelief. Kenma was the last person he thought would go see a fortune teller.
Kenma shrugged. “I wanted to know something, and since I was with everyone else, I figured why not.”
“So then, this fortune teller proved to you they were real.”
Kenma nodded once, his gaze sharply focused on Kuroo.
“What was it?”
“He told me about a friend of mine, from way back when we were kids. How this friend was super shy, and who had just moved to Tokyo from far away.” Kenma’s eyes never wavered from Kuroo’s. “The fortune teller described you perfectly, Kuro. I never even said a word about you.”

And that’s how he found himself looking for a particular tent on a Friday night; a black tent with orange designs on it. It wasn’t brightly lit, in fact, it was the exact opposite. Only a set of four lanterns were hung from the tent’s finials, and the interior was barely any brighter. His friends told him it was near the end of the pier, almost hidden from view, and so that’s where Kuroo headed.

~*~

With white silk gloved hands, Tsuki gathered the cards from the last reading together, and replaced them in the velvet bag associated with this deck. With efficient movements, he tightened the drawstring, tied a single knot, and placed the whole thing in an oak box. He’d cleanse them later, so they’d be ready for tomorrow.

It was a good thing he only had one deck left. Tonight hadn’t been especially busy, and for most readings, he had his customers choose from any of the standard playing card decks he kept. They were basic, cheap, and best of all, he didn't have to cleanse them after use. He could just give the deck to the customer, and buy another one to replace it. Most of those customers were only there for the novelty of a reading, anyway, and playing cards made it fun, and gave them a souvenir to take with them. Nearly all of their exiting conversations revolved around figuring out how to read them during a game of poker.

Only special customers chose from a small variety of tarot decks, kept in a glass case. Customers he felt needed more than a simple reading; those who were seriously looking for answers and not just there for entertainment. There were twelve decks; each one was different. From fantasy to geometric, traditional to animals; Tsuki had picked each deck as they called to him, and he was as selective in choosing his decks as he was in most other things in his life. Including lovers.

But that's another story.

Calmly, and with as little extra movement as possible, he took off the gloves and threw them in the bag he kept for such things. As a rule, if he was doing a special reading, he touched the deck as little as possible. Even with gloves on. This was so the cards could absorb the energies from his client. It made for more accurate readings, and it opened their minds just enough for him to gain a little insight into who his client was. Even a hard core skeptic would leave his tent believing his reading was the truth. And it was. Tsuki didn’t use his skills for dark purposes, no matter what anyone might think. His path might not be as brightly lit as others, but he knew right from wrong.

Rising from the table, he slowly walked to the front of his tent, and lowered a piece of fabric that announced he would be open again in thirty minutes. This was another part of how he worked; a small break between guests so he could burn a small amount of sage to cleanse his space. This was so the energies between guests didn’t clash, and the readings could be solely focused on each new guest.

He set an alarm on his watch, lit a sage stick and let it burn, waving it around the perimeter of his temporary domain. Then, he set the stick in a teak holder, and went to the cooler he kept under the table, opened it, and took out a snack bag of grapes and strawberries, a plastic sandwich box with a ham and cheese on honey wheat bread, and another frosty can of lemon lime soda. He spread out his place mat and began to eat his late night snack.

Tsuki polished off the last grape when his alarm chimed. He cleaned up after himself, cleared away the holder and ashy remains of the incense, double checked his image in the mirror before covering it up, and raised the fabric sign to indicate he was open for business again.

And that’s when he saw him. Standing with his back to the tent, dressed in a well-worn, faded red track suit. Across the back of the jacket was the word “NEKOMA.” In hindsight, he should have been able to connect the dots, to know exactly who Inuoka, Kai, and Kozume were thinking about. Especially because they were all former teammates with Kuroo. He’d seen glimpses, in the thoughts of his clients, of his bedhead black hair, silver-gray eyes, and a smirk that could slay… or bewitch, depending on the situation.

Kuroo was tall; only just a little shorter than himself. He was still fit and muscular after all these years. The bedhead hair had somehow been tamed, and even looked a tiny bit lighter than before. As if the man spent hours in the sun. Tsuki knew without a shadow of a doubt that Kuroo would be just as handsome, if not more so, as he was back in high school. And yet, Tsuki didn’t connect the dots, never thought of who the person was at all, far too busy concentrating on his clients instead.

He should have guessed. No. He should have known.

“Hello, again. Kuroo Tetsuro.”

~*~

That voice! He’d know that gentle tenor tone anywhere. It was one he hadn’t heard in a long time, except in his dreams. Slowly, he turned until he was facing the speaker, and his heart did a little flip. Kuroo felt the heat of his blush, and thanked his lucky stars that there was barely any light to see by.

“Hello, yourself, Tsukishima Kei,” he replied quietly. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

The man at the entrance of the tent simply smirked, and slid to the side, gesturing for him to enter the tent. Kuroo hesitated only a moment before he walked in, stopping as soon as he reached the table. Tsukishima still kept quiet, but he heard the sounds of the heavy fabric “doors” being closed, shutting out the world.

Kuroo looked around, his curiosity getting the better of him. Soft light from flameless torches illuminated the tent from each corner. From above, a small, intricate chandelier hung from the apex of the roof, lighting the table and chairs beneath it. It was dark, but obviously because the tent was black, and yet, the light was caught in various prisms around the tent, lending the place a whimsical atmosphere.

The table was draped in black fabric with gold patterns drawn around the edges. On the other side, a smallish glass case sat to the right of the chair, with what looked like a single box in the center of it. It had a pattern in gold on the top, but he couldn’t see it enough to tell what it was. On the left-hand side, a dark stained wooden box was open, and several pouches were inside.

“What do you think?” Tsukishima asked as he slowly walked around to his side of the table. Now, Kuroo could see him properly, and he couldn’t help the gasp that left his mouth at the sight.
“Beautiful,” he whispered, knowing his eyes never left Tsukishima’s golden gaze. He was treated to the sight of a blush across lightly-tanned skin.
“Not what I meant,” Tsukishima said bashfully. “I meant…”
“I know,” Kuroo interrupted. “Mind if I look a little longer?”
“Not really, but…”
“But… what?” Tsukishima seemed a little lost for words. But, Kuroo knew he was nervous.

This was the Tsukishima he remembered. A curious mix of self-confidence and a bundle of nerves around people he didn’t know well. Once he warmed up to them, the real Tsukishima came out. He was as open and friendly as anyone else in the group. He stayed quietly observant, but also participated in lively conversation. When Kei Tsukishima opened up, he was beautiful. His face lit up, his eyes sparkled, he was… well, he was beautiful. Kuroo couldn’t think of another word for it. Except maybe gorgeous. Hot as hell. Irresistible.

Kuroo let his eyes take in Tsukishima as he was now. Golden hair, longer than it had been in school. Long enough to cover his eyes, if he let it. Instead, it fell charmingly across his face, teasing him to reach over and brush it back and watch it fall again. His glasses were gold-rimmed and just wide enough to showcase those golden eyes of his, which were staring at him, laced with a little mischief. In his left ear, he wore a pair of obsidian earrings; one was a small loop, and the other a stud. There was a black chain around his neck and a crescent moon pendant dangling in the hollow of his throat. Kuroo wanted to touch that little moon, not to mention the skin underneath.

What fascinated him the most, what made him want to ask so many questions, was the tattoo he saw peeking out from the neckline of Tsukishima’s gray, v-necked t-shirt. Was it a snake, or a dragon? How long was it? Where did it end… or begin? Kuroo grew hot just thinking about it.

“Shall I turn around in a circle?” Tsukishima asked quietly, the smile still playing on his lips.
“Would you actually do it if I said yes?”
Tsukishima held his arms out to the side, and turned slowly.
“Satisfied?” he asked once he came back around.
“Not nearly enough,” Kuroo replied, his voice rough with want. He let the statement hang between them before he cleared his throat and smiled.
“I didn’t know you did this sort of thing,” he said casually. “When did you start?”
Tsukishima’s face fell, and his eyes lost the mischief. He drew himself up and Kuroo saw the flash of disappointment before it was gone behind an emotionless mask. Damn. He hadn’t meant to say the wrong thing, but clearly he did.
“It’s not something I just pick up and play with like a shiny new toy.”
“I didn’t mean…”
“No, it’s okay. You didn’t know. I understand.” He narrowed his eyes. “But you’re skeptical. You’re not sure whether to believe me or not, right?”
Kuroo blinked. “That’s not it…”
“Why don’t you sit down? I’ll do a reading for you, and you can make up your own mind about me.”
“Tsukishima…”
“You used to call me Tsuki.”
“You hated being called that.”
“Maybe at first,” the blonde admitted, sitting moments after Kuroo did. “I hated Bokuto’s nicknames more, though. But,” and then he looked at Kuroo. “I didn’t mind so much when you called me Tsuki.”

~*~

Tsuki felt a smile tugging his lips as he prepared for the reading. Kuroo was still looking stunned as he watched him. Still, he couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. It might have been several years since they last saw each other, and it’s true that Kuroo didn’t know about his gift. But, still, Tsuki thought that maybe he was more open-minded than this.

Reaching behind him, he brought out a pair of black gloves and slid them on his hands. Kuroo’s eyebrows lowered a bit, and Tsuki could just feel the questions start forming. With a tilt of his head, he made sure to keep himself from reading into Kuroo’s emotions too soon. Reaching over he carefully lifted the glass from the case.

“You may take the deck, if you please,” he told Kuroo softly.
“Okay,” he replied, standing up and reaching to take the deck.
Tsuki replaced the glass. “Open the box and take the cards out. Please shuffle the deck as much as you like, and stop only when it feels right. As you do so, I want you to think of what you want to know. Do not speak of them to me. Anything goes, but please, I need you to take me seriously. I will stop everything if you cannot.”
“Any specific way to shuffle?”
“No. Do it as you would a standard deck of playing cards. For this reading, the cards are yours.”
“Alright.”
“When you feel ready, I want you to set the deck down on the table, face down.”
Kuroo nodded his understanding and started to shuffle.

Tsuki waited patiently while Kuroo opened the box, took out the cards, and held them for a few minutes. Perhaps it was fate, he thought wryly, that this deck was being used. Personally, it was his favorite deck, and the same one he used for his own reading before he came down for the carnival. A solid black background, a gold crescent moon with eight short rays, and a single long arrow pointing down the center. The card faces were also rather spartan, also on a black background, but brightly colored with clear depictions of both major and minor arcana symbols.

Kuroo handled the cards carefully, even after being told he could do as he pleased with them. His long fingers gently caressed the cards, making sure not to bend them too far. Tsuki found himself mesmerized by the movements, and did his best to suppress a shiver when Kuroo ran a fingertip across the gold design on the back of the cards. He only just managed to do so, but couldn’t help the goose bumps that appeared on his arms.

Gold eyes clashed with silver. Tsuki chuckled. Of course, Kuroo knew exactly what he was doing. They stared at each other; neither willing to lose by looking away first. The sibilant sound of shuffling cards slowed to a stop, and as he’d been told, Kuroo set the deck on the table.

“With your dominant hand, cut the deck, and then set it on your opposite side. Do your best to spread the cards in an arch.”
“Right.” Kuroo did as he was told. When he was done, he waited for further instruction.
“We’ll start with a standard three card reading, and then pull more cards until you have your answers. Understand?”
“Yeah.”
“You’re nervous.” It wasn’t a question, and Kuroo looked startled that he knew, but he answered anyway.
“Maybe a little. This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this.”
“I’m surprised, to be honest. Surely you’ve seen similar tents at other festivals or carnivals?”
“Yeah, but I was never terribly interested in them.”
“Ah.” Tsuki refrained from asking anything else. For now. “Please pull your first three cards and flip them over.”
“Do I pick from anywhere specific?”
“Wherever you want.”

Kuroo chose his cards like many others before him: one from the left, one from the center, and one from the right side of the arch. Tsuki smiled. He might be a skeptic, but Kuroo was predictable in his curiosity. Once he chose his first three cards, he flipped them over. Once again, their gazes clashed, and Kuroo smirked, making Tsuki’s heart flutter.

“Now what?”

Tsuki blinked. Mentally shaking himself, he looked at the cards, and almost began to regret offering a reading. He schooled his face to show calm, almost clinical reactions. But inside, he was screaming. It didn’t help that he offered his own favorite deck, and that he forgot to cleanse it before putting it in its box. The three cards Kuroo pulled first, the ones lying face up on the black table top, matched the same three cards he pulled for himself several days ago. They were the exact same cards, even after shuffling, though the orientation for one card was different.

“Tsuki?”
Shaking himself again, he knew it was too late to start over. “I’m sorry. Would you like to know the meanings?”
“Please.”
“Alright.”

~*~

“You’ve drawn The Emperor, Death, and the Two of Cups,” Tsuki began telling him, gently touching each card with a gloved fingertip. “In most readings, the cards represent your past, present, and future. But…”
“But?”
Tsuki looked up at him and smiled. It was the first little crack in his otherwise impassive face. Which meant he was either treating this as any other reading, or hiding his own reactions.
“The Emperor card is just so… you! It symbolizes accomplishment, confidence, wealth, stability, leadership, achievement, and a capable person. Upright, it means you are aggressive, brave, bold, and in command. A charismatic leader. This is exactly how I see you, how others see you. Such a perfect card for you!”
“You see me like… all that?”
Tsuki nodded emphatically. “That you also drew that card could also mean your reading will be a good one.”
“Don’t tell me there have been bad readings?”
“Unfortunately, and depending on the cards, not all readings are good. At least, not in the exact meaning of the word. Think of it as constructive criticism, via metaphysics.”
“Okay. So, what about the other two cards?”
“Alright, since you asked, the second and third cards basically represent your present and future. But because The Emperor is your card, the other cards will also define you, and your life. You’ve drawn Death, reversed, and the Two of Cups.”
“The Death card doesn’t sound good.”
“Well, it doesn’t mean literal death. Usually, it just means major changes, which aren't easy and can be painful. Keep in mind, this also pertains to what you’re asking of the cards, so it’s up to you to figure out how it fits.”
“So, what does it mean?”
“In reversed position, Death means immobility, slow changes. You're resisting change, and that's not good. You need to let go and move forward into a brighter future.”
Kuroo shifted in his chair. If he were to truly believe in what he was told, he’d have to let go of a part of his past he’d been irrationally holding onto.
“Kuroo, did someone close to you suddenly leave when you were younger?” Tsuki asked, and Kuroo’s attention snapped up to his face, which was no longer impassive, but scrunched up with concern, and tilted slightly to the side. “An older woman, dark hair. Kind, but distant?”
“It could be my mother, or my sister,” he said quietly. “Can we not talk about them?”
Tsuki blinked as if coming out of a trance. “Forgive me.”
“It’s okay,” Kuroo sighed. “What about this one?” and he gently nudged the Two of Cups.
“Certainly. The Two of Cups in Tarot symbolizes the beauty and power of the sexual attraction between two people. It can also represent the union of any two entities. A very good card. A love card, and one of the best. You will meet someone, or have already met them, and the connection will be strong.”
“I like that card,” Kuroo whispered, his silver gaze unwavering from Tsuki’s. “A lot.”
Tsuki nodded. “It’s one of my favorites, too,” he replied softly, another blush coloring his face. Kuroo was captivated.
“So, what now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is that all for my reading?”
“It could be. Does it satisfy your requirement of the cards?”
“To an extent. I’m more curious to know what else there could be if I drew more cards.”
Tsuki smiled and waved a hand over the arch. “Then pick three more and we’ll see if that satisfies you.”

Kuroo straightened up and chose three more cards, a little less carefully than before. He’d told the truth; he really was curious about what else Tsuki’s cards might tell him. But would it satisfy him? No, not even in the slightest would he be satisfied. What he wanted, what he knew would achieve his complete satisfaction, would be to hold Tsuki in his arms. Forever.

~*~

Tsuki could barely contain himself. How in the metaphysical universe could Kuroo even draw another three cards that matched Tsuki’s reading? How? It couldn’t be possible. It *shouldn’t* be possible! And yet, Tsuki found himself looking at the Ace of Wands, Page of Cups, and Three of Swords (reversed). All orientations matched as well.

He had a hard and fast rule to not know what the client was asking. That was between them and the cards. What Tsuki empathically gleaned from the reading ultimately meant he knew what they’d asked. Plus, the emotions elicited from the clients, the light conversation and questioning, gave him further insight. But this? Nothing had ever happened like this. Ever. Not even when he read for…

Well.

As he explained the meaning of each card to Kuroo, he thought back on his own reading. He’d asked a specific question, and the cards gave him their answer, albeit, he hadn’t yet reached full understanding.

The Emperor was a good thing. It usually indicated an older man was going to enter his life. Well, Kuroo was two years older, and he did re-enter his life, though not necessarily in the way he’d originally thought. Granted, that was more dream than anything, but still!

The Death card was a little more disconcerting. An old relationship he was holding onto? Tsuki had been single for the last few years, and they’d parted amicably. They were friends, and still kept in touch from time to time. But did it mean he had to let it go completely? The rest of the meaning suggested he had to in order to move forward with any future relationships.

For the cards, the answer was cut and dried.
For Tsuki, it was as clear as mud. Maybe that’s why he shouldn’t read his own cards.

Ah, but the Two of Cups was crystal clear. For a single person, which he was, it meant a new romance was forming, ready for him to reach for. It meant that someone he’d been longing for felt the same way. That someone was seated across from him, alternately looking at the cards and then up at Tsuki, his eyes glimmering silver in the soft, low light in the tent.

“So, from what you’ve told me. The first two cards are also really good,” Kuroo’s deep, raspy voice penetrated his thoughts. Tsuki blinked and focused again on the dark-haired man before him.
“Yeah, they are. It’s time for you to move, to seize the initiative, push beyond your limits, and reach for new heights. It’s time for passion and the time to assert yourself. It’s also time for childlike happiness, as well as the desire to be silly. It's a good time to play and be wild.”
“I like that, too.”
“Well, you would. The Ace of Wands and Page of Cups are also pretty much you, in a nutshell,” Tsuki said with no little irony.
“Is that a compliment?”
“Kuroo, think of how you were with Bokuto and Akaashi, and then tell me I’m wrong, that the cards are wrong.”
After a few minutes of silence, Kuroo smirked. “You’re not wrong. Which reminds me; they were asking about you the other day. I couldn’t really answer them.”
“You can give them an update when you go home.” So, it seemed they didn’t tell him he kept in contact with them. Perhaps he should call Akaashi…
“True. Maybe you could give me your contact info, too.”
“Are you asking me for my number?”
“I’m asking you for your number.”
“After we’re finished,” Tsuki said, gently reminding him they weren’t done.

Kuroo once again touched the last card he’d pulled from the arch. The Three of Swords. Reversed. Tsuki calmed himself and waited for the inevitable questions.

“What does the Three of Swords upside-down mean? Is it good, like the others?”
“It all depends on how you choose to interpret what I’m about to tell you.”
“That sounds… ominous.”
“Not really. Sure you want to know?”
“Might as well. Tell me.”
“It means it’s time to let go of pain and move past sadness. It indicates forgiveness and letting go of past hurts.” Tsuki looked at Kuroo. “I can’t help but feel that this card and the Death card combined are sending you a message about the woman in your past.”
“Let’s not talk about her.”

Tsuki didn’t recognize the warning in Kuroo’s tone. He was already tuned into the strength of his emotions, roiling in great waves, and receding just as quickly. Images of a very young Kuroo, not much older than a toddler, smiling and laughing on his mother’s hip. His mother was kissing him and laughing, too. But that vision dissipated and another took its place. Kuroo was a little older, and he was being held by a man, presumably his father. He was reaching out with one little hand over the man’s shoulder, crying hysterically as he watched his mother leave…

“Oh, Kuroo,” he whispered, feeling the prickle of tears in his eyes. “Why did she leave? Why didn’t she come back? I don’t understand. Was it bad?”
“Tsuki…”
“It doesn’t feel as if it were a bad situation,” Tsuki muttered, trying to piece together what he was seeing and feeling. “Just, incompatible. They didn’t fit. She loved you, that much was obvious.”
“Tsuki, please…”
“She didn’t want to leave you, but she couldn’t stay, and your dad…”
“TSUKI!” Kuroo yelled, finally breaking through his haze. “I’m sorry. I gotta go.”

Kuroo rose from his chair and stalked out of the tent. It took another few minutes for Tsuki to realize what happened, and then he was also on his feet and chasing after Kuroo.

~*~

Kuroo walked at a quick pace, nearly to the start of the pier before he knew it. Once again, he blindly ran away from someone when they mentioned his mother. But this time, it was Tsuki, and he had delved far deeper than anyone else had done. His friends were right. Tsuki was the real deal when it came to reading cards and knowing things he shouldn’t.

Slowing down, he put his hands on his hips and looked up at the night sky. He could only vaguely make out a few stars, and the moon was just a sliver, but still, it somehow calmed him. Cursing, he looked down again, rubbed his face in his hands, and went over to the wooden railing to watch the tide wash in through the posts of the pier.

It wasn’t long before he heard footsteps come nearer, and then slow to a stop. He didn’t have to turn to know who it was that stood next to the railing, but several feet beyond his reach. Tsuki stood there, trying to breathe normally, and held his hands together in front of him. The very picture of nervousness and insecurity. Kuroo felt rotten for making Tsuki feel this way, but he wouldn’t stop talking about his mother…

“I’m sorry.”
Kuroo sighed. “Me too. Your psychic abilities were a little too much for me to handle.”
“Understandable. But… I’m not psychic.”
“What? You knew about my mother.”
Tsuki shook his head. “That’s not it. I was only able to find out about her through you.”
“Isn’t that what a psychic does? Read minds?”
“I’m sorry. It’s a little hard to explain.” His hands gripped tighter, and his fingers looked like they might break. Kuroo took a few steps closer, but Tsuki backed away. “No, please. Let me explain. Or at least try to.”
“Okay, but can I at least…?”
“Maybe after I explain? This is difficult enough as it is, and I can’t think straight if you’re close.”
Well, at least that felt like a balm to his ego, a little bit. Tsuki’s brain scrambled when he was close, huh? Kuroo wanted to test that, but then, he knew his brain would scramble just as much.
“Alright.”
Tsuki released a breath, as if he’d been holding it in. “I’m not psychic, not really. I can’t read minds. I pick up on feelings and emotions. The stronger they are, the easier it is to read. Sometimes, I’ll even see images, pictures, of what my client is thinking of through those emotions. It’s not always clear, so during my readings, I’ll talk or ask questions. This helps open my clients up a little more, and then they can make better sense of their reading.”
“You’re an empath.”
Tsuki nodded. “When the Death card showed up, plus the Three of Swords, your emotions were like… like a hurricane. I couldn’t help but feel them. And seeing your mother…” he broke off abruptly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. I went too far. Please forgive me.”

Kuroo didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. Part of him wanted to tell Tsuki about his mother, but the other part still felt as if it wasn’t anyone’s business. Not even Kenma knew about his mother, and they’d been best friends for, well, forever. Over two decades passed, and it was still like picking open an old wound.

“It’s not your fault,” he heard Tsuki say quietly. When Kuroo focused on his eyes, he noticed that they’d clouded over a bit. Tsuki appeared as if he were in a trance-like state. And then he blinked rapidly, his eyes clear once more. “I’m sorry. I’ll go back.”

He turned and started walking away. Kuroo couldn’t leave it like this between them. Not if the feelings he realized were true.

“Tsuki, wait,” and he stopped, his blonde head turning just enough to look back. He wanted to ask for his number, wanted to take him out for a snack or something. Wanted to clear the air between them. But… “Will you be here tomorrow?”
Tsuki’s head turned away. “I don’t know.” And then he walked away.

It hurt to stay where he was, but Kuroo didn’t chase after him.

~*~

Once back at his tent, Tsuki started his closing chores. He brought down the lanterns, turned them off, and set them just inside his door. He folded up the chairs and large umbrella, and then he lowered the awning over the door. Lastly, he strung a safety line through everything and locked it, so that it had less chance of being stolen. The carnival would continue on for several more hours, but he was done. Done with everything.

Walking into his tent, he mechanically went through the process of cleaning up. First, he collected the cards from the table, placed them back in the box, and put the box in its velvet pouch. Once they were settled in the oak box, he brought out a smudge stick and lit it, walking around the tent three times and whispering the words to help clear his space of all energies. Even Kuroo’s. When he finished the third circuit, he removed the black fabric from the table, and set the smudge stick on a stand to burn the rest of the way.

Tsuki moved the chairs to the side, and pushed the glass case and oak box in front of the chairs. Then, he went to a chest and brought out a futon mattress, blankets, and a pillow. Thanks to modern technology, and a little help from his neighbor, he was able to plug anything that needed charging in the power strip he had. So, he made sure the lanterns were charging, as well as the torches inside his tent. He brought out his tablet to check email and his socmed pages while he waited for the smudge stick to finish burning. Maybe cruising the internet would help calm him down, take his mind off Kuroo.

Since tomorrow was the last day of the carnival, he had a choice of whether to stay or go. Tsuki was tempted to go. There really wasn’t anything to keep him here, not even Kuroo. Although…

Tsuki sighed. Even if he wanted to go, he couldn’t bring himself to leave. And it was because of Kuroo that he couldn’t. Because, and if he was completely honest with himself, he didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to leave things as they were between them. He didn’t want to lose him. Not after finally realizing he was in love with Kuroo. If he ran away now, Tsuki knew he’d never be able to reconnect with him again. Not as anything more than a friend. No, less than that. An acquaintance. Someone who only showed up a few times, long enough to politely catch up, and then go away again.

That’s not what he wanted.

Quickly, almost desperately, he reached for his backpack and dug into one of the pockets. His phone was still charged, good. Swiping and tapping quickly, he found the number for an old friend. He hesitated only a moment before tapping it, and waiting for them to pick up the phone. When they did, he breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hello, Akaashi? It’s Tsuki. Do you think you could help me with something?”

~*~

Later that night, while Kuroo glumly cruised the internet for anything that could distract him, he heard his phone ping with a notification. Since it was a familiar sound, he opened the tab of the website associated with the messaging app, and clicked on the most recent text.

[Good. You’re still awake.]
[Hey, Akaashi! You’re up late. Anything wrong?]
[No. Not really. Just thought you might need an ear to bend.]
[Now, I remember. You’re the psychic one. Not…]
[Tsuki?]
[Now you’re being scary. How did you know?]
[Wild guess. Look, I have an email to send you, okay? You need to watch the video attachment.]
[Well, okay. But… is it really that important? I just cleared my box.]
[Just open it, okay? I think you’ll understand once you’ve seen it.]
[Alright. You sound like you know what it’s about.]
[Partially.]
[What does that mean?]
[You’ll figure it out. Ttyl, okay?]
[Sure. Sleep well.]
[You too]

Looking at the time, he realized he should also get some sleep. If he wanted to get up early and get down to the pier before the carnival started for the day, he needed to at least try to sleep soon. So, he closed down each tab, making sure to log out of his accounts, and bookmarking pages he wanted to come back to, until he had only one up.

And the email Akaashi sent was already waiting for him to open.

Clicking on it, he realized Akaashi merely forwarded the email. The original address wasn’t one he recognized, but since Akaashi sent it, he trusted there wouldn’t be any viruses. Still, there was a little note, and the video attachment Akaashi told him about. Clicking on the file, he read the note while waiting for the video to download.

“Please don’t be mad at Akaashi or Bokuto. We’ve only been in contact again for the last year or so. Anyway, I don’t know if you received any answers from your reading earlier. I hope you did. I thought you might like to watch this video. Before I came down for the carnival, I did my own reading. Anyway, if you want to stay in touch, here is my contact info.

Yours,
Kei”


By the time he finished reading Tsuki’s, no… Kei’s note, the download was complete. Without thought, he opened the video file and started watching. The camera had been set up to show the table over Kei’s shoulder. On the table was the deck they’d used for his reading. He watched as Kei opened the box, carefully took out the deck, and held it in his hands. His ungloved hands.

“I felt compelled to do this reading now, the day before the carnival in Tokyo,” Kei’s voice said on the video. “I’ve been meaning to ask this question for a while now, so here we go.”

Kei shuffled the deck, his long, pale fingers gently holding the cards, barely bending them. He even put the deck on the table and messed the cards all up before reorganizing it. Then, with his dominant hand, he spread the cards into an arch. Everything was going exactly the same way as it did earlier, with the exception of the messed up cards. But what caught his attention, what held him in his place, unwilling to move a muscle, was when Kei drew his first three cards.

The Emperor.
Death.
Two of Cups.

They were the same three cards he drew! He listened to Kei walk through the meanings of his cards, all with minor differences. Earlier, he’d said the Emperor card was absolutely representative of Kuroo himself. But in Kei’s reading, the card was specified for an older man. Him. He was the older man in Kei reading. Death meant for him to let go of an old relationship he’d been holding onto, so that he would be open for love. The Two of Cups (and here, Kei traced the outline of the cups) meant that a new romance was ready for him, and that someone he’d been longing for felt the same way about him.

Every part of that was true. Well, the part about someone longing for him. Kuroo had only just realized that’s what he’d been doing for years; pining for Kei in a soft, gentle way that didn’t intrude, but was always just… there.

Again, Kei drew another three cards, and Kuroo nearly fell out of his chair. Kei had just pulled the Ace of Wands, the Page of Cups, and the Three of Swords.

“Ace of Wands. Sparks will fly. I’ll be swept off my feet. A whirlwind romance? Well, I want it to last longer than that. I don’t think he’s the love ‘em and leave ‘em type,” Kei was just muttering to himself, but Kuroo was struck again by how right he was. He wasn’t the type for a fling; he wanted more than that.

“Page of Cups. Opportunity for love, a chance to experience a real romance, one that is deep with emotion and pulls on the heartstrings. I can’t say I’ve never experienced that already, but maybe I haven’t. We broke it off before it really went anywhere.”

“Former boyfriend, or girlfriend?” Kuroo asked the screen. He touched a blonde wisp of hair that appeared in the camera shot. “There’s just so much I want to know about you, Kei Tsukishima.”

“Three of Swords. Indication of sadness or heartbreak. Well, there’s the down side to this reading, I guess. But, it could also mean I’m still heartbroken over a past relationship and haven’t moved on. But I’m not. Never was. So, it has to be the former meaning. You wouldn’t do that to me, would you?”

Kuroo closed the video, closed his email, and shut off his laptop. He stood up and paced around his room, finally moving to the window and looking up at the sky. He could still make out a few twinkling stars and that sliver of moon, but his heart felt heavy.

“You wouldn’t do that to me, would you?”

Kei had asked that as if he was standing right in front of him. Kuroo wanted to say he’d never cause Kei any sadness or heartbreak, and yet, that’s exactly what he did. He wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to the pier and found Kei gone. And he knew he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t risk the chance that Kei would be gone before he returned to the pier in the morning.

It might have been impulsive, and quite possibly downright stupid, but still. Kuroo grabbed a light jacket, a blanket, and a camp chair. Running downstairs, he raced to his car and threw his stuff in first, and then himself in the driver’s seat. He was going to spend the rest of the night outside Kei’s tent, waiting and hoping he could fix everything.

And maybe, just maybe, Kei would stay with him. Forever.

~*~

“I’d forgotten how much you hate waking up early,” a deep, raspy voice said quietly, but laden with amusement.

Kei was only half-awake, but he’d recognize that voice anywhere. He opened his eyes to see Kuroo sitting on the floor next to him. Then, he smelled the rich aroma of coffee, and suddenly, a large foam cup was set down in his field of vision. His glasses also materialized, and he put them on. Wincing at the light, he pushed himself up so that he was sitting in front of Kuroo. He scrubbed a hand through his mess of hair, and reached for the cup of coffee, taking a sip, and wincing again at the bitter flavor.

“I don’t know how you like your coffee, yet. Sorry.”
“There’s creamer and sugar in the cooler,” he muttered, gesturing in the general direction of the cooler, taking another sip of coffee and wincing again.
“On it.” A few minutes later, small containers of both were in Kuroo’s hands, along with a spoon. “Which first?”
“Don’t care.”
“Here,” and the creamer was in his hand. He popped the top and upended the creamer over the cup, holding it there. “Oh my god, Kei! What are you doing? When are you going to stop?”
Kuroo reached to take it from him, but Kei growled… actually growled! He handed back the creamer, what was left of it, and held his hand out for the sugar, repeating the process.
“That’s not coffee anymore,” Kuroo told him.
“Yes it is. It still has coffee flavor.”
“Really?”
Kei held out his cup, offering it to Kuroo. “Try it.”
“Uhhh… no thank you. I’ll take your word for it.”
“Good boy.”
“Grumpy and sarcastic if woken too early. I’ll remember that.”
“Of course you will.” Kei waited a beat before asking, “why are you even here?”
“You make it sound like you don’t want me to be here.”
Kei glared at him. “I do want you here. But why…?”

Kei watched Kuroo fiddle with his fingers, pick at the lid of his own coffee cup, and overall just fidget his way into silence. He might be a grump in the morning, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t patient. However, he was hungry, so he handed Kuroo his cup and maneuvered himself so he could reach the cooler. He rummaged around and pulled out an airtight container of cream cheese, and a plastic container with bagels in it. He reached in for a bento box, which had egg, ham, and cheese sandwiches in it. He passed all of it to Kuroo, closed the cooler, and returned to his spot.

“Gimme that,” he ordered, and proceeded to fix them both breakfast. He gave Kuroo a sandwich, and a bagel loaded with cream cheese. “Tuck in.”
Kuroo smirked. “Yes, your majesty.”
“What? I’m hungry. I’m guessing you are, too.”
Kuroo shrugged. “I could use some sustenance.”
“Thought so.”

They ate in silence, polishing off the sandwiches, bagels, and Kei went to fetch another container of strawberries and grapes. When they were finished, Kei suggested they go for a walk before the horde descended, and they left the tent.

“Feel like answering me now?” Kei asked quietly as they walked.
Kuroo glanced at him and smirked. “Well, it’s a little less rude, but I’ll take it.”
“I didn’t mean…”
“It’s fine.” Kuroo walked in silence for a little bit more before he sighed. “It started as an arranged marriage. Both sides of my family are pretty powerful in the Kanto region, and my grandparents thought it would be advantageous for the families to be joined through wedlock. At first, my parents loved each other, or so they thought.

“Life was good for them. My sister came first. They had me ten years later. Then, when I was six, they fell out of love. It was slowly and steadily wearing them down, so before things could get worse, they decided to get a divorce. It was all very amiable, too. However, due to the agreements made between my dad’s family and hers, she had to leave. Alone. She couldn’t take me, or my sister, with her.”
“Oh, Kuroo…”
Kei walked further, but then realized Kuroo wasn’t beside him. Turning, he saw him standing there, staring at him. The ocean breeze ruffled his dark hair, but his gray eyes never wavered.
“First, call me by my given name. I want to hear my name on your lips,” he said just loud enough to be heard over the breeze and morning noises from other tents preparing for the day. And his eyes…
“Alright… Tetsuro,” Kei replied. He took a few steps forward so that he could be heard. “May I call you Tetsu?”
“I’d like that.”
Tetsu’s face softened and his smile was brilliant. Kei thought Tetsu had never looked more beautiful than in that moment. Of course, he was always gorgeous, drool-worthy, able to stop traffic or cause wrecks with his tall, dark, and devilish good looks. Kei’s heart was racing a mile a minute.
“Second,” Tetsu continued, he smiled fading. “Don’t pity me. At first, my mom didn’t know she could still see us, talk to us, so for the next few years, we didn’t know where she was, how she was doing. It was complete radio silence. During that time, my dad moved us to Tokyo, and we’ve been here ever since.”
“And has she contacted you?”
“More or less,” Kuroo shrugged. “She sends a gift and a card on my birthday and for Christmas. She’ll call or email me every few months. It’s not the same as it was before, but she’s making an effort. I do, too, so it’s not completely one-sided.”
“Have you seen her?”
“No. When she left, and after she grew used to the idea of not being able to see us, she decided to start over. Her new family doesn’t know about us, and she wants to keep it that way.”
“Do you…”
“Two step-sisters, and a step-brother. I’ve even met them a couple times, but kept it short, like an accidental meeting, I guess.”
Kei bit his lip. “You don’t have to keep answering my questions.”
“I know. I want to.”
Tetsu stepped closer, and reached out to take Kei’s hands in his. Kei was grinning like a lovestruck idiot, trying so hard not to squeal like a girl. But he couldn’t help the little bounce on his toes.
“Third,” Tetsu continued again. “Three of Swords.”
“Pardon?”
“Three of Swords, from your reading,” Tetsu clarified. “I didn’t mean to make you sad, and I’ll do my best to never make you sad again. I promise, here and now, to never break your heart.”
“Tetsu…”
Kei felt the slight tug, and then his body was flush against Tetsu’s. Their faces were close enough that it would only take the slightest move to kiss. In fact, their lips were only just a breath away. All Kei, or Tetsu, had to do was connect…
“If you’ll have me, I’ll do my utmost best to keep you happy,” Tetsu promised. “If you’ll have me, I’ll make sure you’ll never have to do anything other than what you want to do.”
“It sounds like you're saying your wedding vows,” Kei said as Tetsu wrapped him in his arms.
“Maybe I am,” Tetsu replied happily. “So. Will you?”
“Will I what?”
Tetsu blinked, but then started laughing. Kei was smirking.
“Smartass.”
“True. But I’m your smartass.”
Tetsu blinked again, completely stunned.
“Do you mean it?”
“Oh sure. Absolutely.” Kei was on a roll, and Tetsu laughed again.
“I love you, Kei Tsukishima. I have for years, you know.”
“And you’re just now telling me?”
“I only just realized it.”
“I guess I can accept that,” Kei said playfully. “But also, same. I’ve loved you for years too.”
“Oh good. Now that we’re on the same page…”

Kei had been kissed before, but none of them could compare to Tetsu. His kiss started slowly, tantalizing, teasing him with little nips and sips of lips and teeth. Kei’s brain scrambled, but he somehow managed to keep up with Tetsu, copying him and making him groan. Then, Tetsu used his thumb to pull Kei’s open just enough so he could use his tongue. Kei nearly combusted right then and there. Still, he copied Tetsu, using what he learned and turning it back on him.

Eventually, they parted, breathing heavily and resting their foreheads against each other. It was slowly becoming more crowded, but it wasn’t yet time for the carnival to open. Smiling at each other, Kei and Tetsu walked back to the tent and formally set up a closed sign. Then, they went inside and spent the rest of the day together, only emerging when absolutely necessary.

~*~

[One year later…]

“The Empress,” Kei’s voice said quietly from the laptop speakers. “If I want my wishes to be fulfilled, I need to exercise patience. But also, I need to get out and meet/greet potential suitors, one of them may actually be my match. But… what if I already know who I want?”

Tetsu paused the old video and looked up. Kei sat next to him at their kitchen table, arms wrapped around Tetsu’s chest, his head resting on his shoulder. They were finally watching the rest of Kei’s reading, like Tetsu wanted. It was the weekend, and breakfast was getting cold, but neither of them really cared enough to move.

“Did you really know who you wanted?” Tetsu asked.
“Well, maybe not right then. I mean, you were always a soft memory, someone who never really left my heart. I guess, in a way, I did know. But I was still pretty clueless about it until I came here.”
“Right.” Tetsu leaned his head against Kei’s and hit play.

“Ten of Pentacles. Material success. Wealth. Prosperity. Okay, that’s nice, but… I’m not terribly concerned about all that. This is a good card, though, because it also means I’ll find someone whose values are similar to mine. Someone to build a future with.” The Kei in the video stretched out his fingers and lightly touched his left ring finger, right where an engagement ring or wedding band would go. “Maybe it’s you.”

Tetsu paused the video again. Kei moved slightly, and Tetsu lifted his head. He felt Kei’s lips barely touch his cheek; a butterfly kiss.

“I gotta know something,” he said quietly, looking over at Kei. “Throughout this whole video, you make little comments like that.”
“Like what?”
Tetsu rolled his eyes, but answered anyway. “You just said ‘maybe it’s you.’ There are other random comments like that before this one. I always thought it was because you were imagining me there with you.”
Kei shrugged. “I might have. But you’ve seen me during readings now, so you know I also do it then, too. I’m tuning into the emotions of my client.”
“Right. But you were reading for yourself, here.”
“Well, I guess my emotions caught me up in my own reading,” Kei said lightly, kissing Tetsu again before standing up. “Want another coffee?”
“Sure. Do we have any more strawberries?”
Kei chuckled softly. “Maybe. Be right back.”
“Okay.” Tetsu hit play once more.

“The Sun. Satisfaction, success, and joy. Everything is looking up. Everything is going to work out just fine. We’ll be happy, and everyone will know it. They’ll be happy, too.” The camera shook a little, and Kei’s hands disappeared. Then, the shot panned upward, so that Kei’s face was fully visible, if slightly out of focus. “The Sun card also means an engagement or happy marriage. Whether that’ll happen soon, or still in the future, I don’t know. But if we do meet again, I hope it’s the former.” Tetsu recognized the inward sort of look on Kei’s face, until he blinked rapidly and smiled at the camera. “It sounds like my time in Tokyo is going to be a rollercoaster of emotions. And you know what? I can’t wait! For anything, for everything! I can’t wait to see you again!”

The video ended on an abrupt fade. Tetsu closed the viewer, shut down his laptop, and closed it. Then he stood up and joined Kei at the sink, washing dishes. He slowly wrapped his arms around his husband, and rested his chin on Kei’s shoulder. Kei hummed happily, and leaned back against him.

“I love you,” Tetsu said softly, taking Kei’s left hand in his, the light glinting off their rings.
“I know. I love you, too,” Kei replied with a little laugh.

//end