If this whole original fic thing is too much for you, you can always pretend that the characters are named Sirius and Remus, and it will in fact almost work out.
comments and suggestions are welcome (stupid adverbs), and nitpicking by ramen_addict is always appreciated.
without further ado, I give you:
The Going Rate for Permenant Body Defacement
“Are you sure you’ve thought this through?” Kate asked, peering into the building. She wanted to look away from the peeling letters stuck to the glass door, away from the faded cardboard pieces that suggested generic tattoo designs, all punctuated at the bottom with an encouraging "Or design your own!" She wanted to look anywhere but at this building, but the only other places to look were up or down the block, an endless row of brick buildings on either side in equal or worse stages of disrepair, litter decorating the sidewalk in front, and Kate wondered if the car would really be all right in the back lot where they had left it.
“Stop asking me that,” Madison answered, giving the door a shove and striding through, Kate tugged along in her wake.
It's not like she's actually getting it today, Kate thought, willing herself to calm down. She's only making an appointment.
The inside of the tattoo parlor was of slightly less concern than the outside, but Kate remained twitchy as she glanced from the overstuffed waiting couches to the glamour magazines strewn about the coffee table (Mmm, she thought irrelevantly, Orlando Bloom) to the counter, where a man with tattoos of his own was already talking to Madison as she pulled the paper with her design out of her back pocket.
He had a lot of tattoos. Kate thought he had long sleeves on for a second, before she realized that the leather bracelets were actually inked on and the man was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt. She drifted closer to the conversation, almost against her will.
“…just black? Just the line drawing?” the man was saying.
“That’s right,” Madison nodded. “How long, do you think?”
“Hm,” the man tapped the design with his finger once. “Half an hour maybe, not much more. In fact, I’ve got an artist open until 3, if you want to go now.”
“Yes,” Madison answered, as Kate was opening her mouth to protest.
“Shouldn’t they ask you if you’re sure?” Kate whispered as the man turned around to fish some paperwork out of a cabinet.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” Madison snapped. “Only an idiot comes to a tattoo parlor if they aren’t sure.”
“But you aren’t sure, don't lie about it, I know you aren't!” Kate pressed. “Madison, it’s permanent, I know you’re pissed off at your mother, but…”
“You don’t know anything!” Madison interrupted, too loudly, but the man with the not-sleeves didn’t seem to notice. Madison took a deep breath before continuing. “I am getting a tattoo because I drew this and I like it and I want it stuck to me forever and it has nothing to do with the fact that my mother tried to throw me out on the street and now is acting like nothing ever happened, all right?!”
“Madison, I don’t think…” Kate tried again.
“Shut UP!” Madison snarled, clearly at the end of her patience. “You didn’t have to come along, did you? I don’t need you talking down to me like I don’t know what I’m doing! Go sit down or something!”
Madison turned back to the man at the counter with a pleasant “Thank you” as she took the consent forms out of his hand. He seemed nonplussed by their exchange, and Kate imagined that he saw that sort of thing an awful lot here as she slunk over to one of the couches and sank into it heavily, chewing on her lower lip. She snatched up the magazine she had spotted earlier and flipped through the pages, hoping that pictures of half-naked pop icons would soothe her nerves.
Madison flopped down beside her a minute later.
“Ninety dollars,” she said.
“Is that the going rate for permanent body defacement?” Kate asked, turning a page so violently that she nearly ripped Johnny Depp in half.
“Oh, give it a rest, could you?” Madison asked. “I’m sorry I snapped at you, but honestly, do you think you could stop lecturing me? It isn’t like I’m making you get a tattoo or anything.”
“You’re just upset because you want one too,” Madison continued, reaching out with a foot to toe one of the magazines on the coffee table in vague interest, “and you don’t have the balls to actually do it.”
Kate forced herself to stop grinding her teeth and answer reasonably.
“Perhaps I’m simply more in tune with the fact that I can’t stay interested in a boyfriend for two weeks running, so maybe I shouldn’t set anything into my skin, hmm?” Kate responded.
Madison dropped her foot back to the floor, having found nothing scintillating, and glanced over at the magazine Kate was holding.
“You’ve got the Orlando Bloom one, haven’t you?” she asked.
“Yes, but I’m not sharing because you shouted at me,” Kate answered, knowing she sounded petulant and not caring.
“Oh, come on!” Madison reached for the magazine, but Kate held it above her head, out of reach.
“No!” she sniffed. “You were mean to me, and now you may not partake of the Orli.”
“That’s cruel and unusual!” Madison cried, launching herself over Kate’s lap in an attempt to snatch the magazine out of her hands. Kate waved the magazine higher, pinching Madison to drive her off, maybe just a bit harder than was necessary.
The voice startled them both into stillness, and the magazine slipped out of Kate’s hand and flopped to the floor. Cheeks burning, Kate looked over to find a tall twenty-something staring at them with amusement from underneath the dark hair he was brushing out of his eyes.
He bent down to retrieve the magazine and flipped it closed to find Orlando Bloom lounging seductively on the cover.
“Ah, the Orli issue,” he nodded sagely. “Now I understand.”
“Er, right,” Madison slid off Kate’s lap. “We were just waiting…”
“For the tattoo artist?” he grinned. “That would be me.”
“Oh,” Madison blinked, then “Oh!” as she leapt to her feet. “I’m Madison.”
“I’m Brian,” he replied, shaking her hand. Kate let out a snort, and Brian raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry,” Kate said, “it’s just such a normal name. I thought all tattoo artists were named Spike or Axel or something.”
“Brian’s my stage name,” he winked, earning another giggle from Madison while Kate barely suppressed another snort. “So, ready to go?”
“Yes!” Madison said, and Kate clenched her fists in response to the speed at which this was all happening. “Can…can Kate come back with me? I have a little thing about needles…”
“Sure thing,” Brian assured, grinning. “Just follow me.”
Brian led the back past the front counter and down the hallway behind it. All the walls were painted a pale blue that clearly somebody thought was soothing, but neither that nor the framed landscapes hung at casual interviews did anything to calm Kate's nerves. She tugged Madison back out of Brian’s earshot, taking her last chance to have a moment for private conversation.
“You do not have a thing about needles!” she whispered.
“Damsel in distress,” Madison smirked, pulling out of Kate’s grip to follow Brian closely, before Kate got a chance to voice any more of her last-second concerns.
Kate trailed behind, into a small, well-lit room that was filled with a few desks along the wall, bookcases filled with art books, and several chairs and stools. Brian picked up a clipboard from one of the desks and pulled something that looked like an overhead transparency off the top before consulting the paper still attached. He glanced up at Madison
“You want this on your…”
“Shoulder,” Madison answered, tapping the shoulder that she meant.
“Damn.” Brian faked a pout, and Madison laughed while Kate considered dragging her bodily from the room and listing all the reasons why permanent markings were ill-advised at this point in their lives.
Brian held up the clear paper, and Kate saw the outline of Madison’s tattoo design on it.
“What is that?” Kate asked.
“It’s a transfer, like a temporary tattoo,” Brian explained, showing it to Madison. “You show me exactly where you want your real tattoo, and I’ll put this on as a test run. When you’re happy with how it looks, I tattoo right over it. Nothing to it, see?”
“Easy,” Madison agreed, although her laugh was a little tight. She pulled off her sweatshirt and tossed it to Kate, straightening the white tank top underneath. “Best just to do it, right?”
Kate watched with reluctant interest as Brian retrieved a cloth and a bottle of rubbing alcohol off the desk and disinfected the shoulder in question. He held the transfer over Madison's shoulder, moving it around slightly until Madison nodded in approval, then pressed it onto her skin with the cloth, rubbing hard enough that Madison rocked forward a little with each push.
“There,” he said, peeling the transfer off to reveal a perfect, if purple, replica of Madison’s tattoo.
“What do you think?” Madison asked Kate, twisting her neck around to try and get a better look.
“It’s purple,” Kate replied. It was the most charitable thing she could think to say that was true, and she had already decided that she wouldn't lower herself to the level of outright lying.
“You aren’t very helpful,” Madison said.
“There’s a long mirror out in the hall,” Brian told her. “Go have a look, see if you want it moved at all.”
There was an awkward silence as Madison brushed past Kate and left the room. Kate took another long look at the tattoo artist, who didn't look that much older than herself, and seemed to get younger every time she looked.
“So,” Kate said after a moment, “you do this a lot, right?”
“Nervous?” Brian asked, raising an eyebrow. “I was under the impression that you were not the person being tattooed here.”
“I just think Madison should think about this a little more.” Kate crossed her arms.
“I think you should relax,” Brian shrugged, shifting through a drawerful of ink packets and pulling out several black ones.
“I’ll bet you think I should,” Kate’s lips tightened, “you’re getting paid for this.”
“No,” Brian straightened up and looked Kate in the eye, “I think you should relax because you’re going to make your friend all twitchy, and one twitch at an inopportune time means I tattoo things that shouldn’t be tattooed.”
“This isn’t funny!” Kate snapped, managing just barely to keep from stamping her foot.
“It’s also not your skin,” Brian reminded her. “I’m assuming that if you haven’t managed to talk her out of it by now, you aren’t going to in the next five minutes, so maybe you ought to take a backseat here, hmm?”
Kate was too indignant to squeeze words out of her throat even if she had had a snappy retort to that comment, and she was still groping for something to say when Madison returned a minute later.
“I like it,” Madison announced, oblivious to the entire exchange. “Let’s do it.”
Brian showed Madison the ink and needles, explained how the whole tattoo gun thing worked, and opened the packet of needles in front of her. Kate leaned against the wall, radiating disinterest. Madison shot her a strange look, but Brian pulled her attention back to the task at hand.
“They’re hollow,” he explained, holding one of the needles up for her inspection. “They snap into the gun, the ink gets sucked in through the hole, then the needle pops down just far enough to penetrate the top layer of your skin and back up again.”
Like a sewing machine, Kate thought, but remained silent.
Brian perched Madison on a stool, and Kate took a chair in front of heart Madison’s insistence. Madison clenched Kate’s hand, nervous enough that Kate was glad she hadn't made one last jab about permanent disfigurement.
Madison’s mouth made a small ‘o’ of surprise the first time the needle slipped underneath her skin, but then she relaxed noticeably.
“It’s not so bad,” she reported. “I thought it would hurt more.”
“Shoulder’s a good place to get one,” Brian responded, voice vague as he concentrated on what he was doing. “Not a lot of nerves or bone right near the surface.”
Kate stretched her neck to watch the actual tattooing.
It looked strange. The little needle went up and down fast enough that it almost made Kate’s eyes water to look at directly. Brian would slide the gun down the lines of the purple transfer in smooth, one- or two-inch strokes, the lines steadily turning from purple to black. Small beads of blood welled up in places he had passes, but not enough to run down Madison’s shoulder, and Brian dabbed them away after every few strokes.
“Feels like,” Madison considered, “like he’s scratching something on me with a sharp nail.”
“It doesn’t hurt?” Kate asked, unwilling to believe in a complete lack of pain for this bizarre procedure.
“No, it’s more itchy than ow,” Madison answered, much calmer by now.
Kate thought that there really ought to be pain involved when a person had something branded on them.
Twenty minutes later, Madison was marked for life.
“Keep it out of direct sunlight for two weeks,” Brian instructed her as he taped gauze over the tattoo, which had started to bleed a little more towards the end. “Use disinfectant we give you until it runs out, then keep aloe on it constantly until it stops peeling. And don’t scratch at it, the more you bleed, the more it will fade.”
Madison nodded and slipped her sweatshirt back on before taking the care sheet and tube of disinfectant Brian handed her.
“Thanks!” she said again, before heading out the door and pulling Kate out after her. Kate thought Brian looked amused as she was yanked out of the room, which made Kate even more irritated than his meddling before.
Kate lounged against the counter and idly watched Madison paying for her tattoo. While Madison was signing the credit card slip, Kate saw Brian emerge from the back and noticed he was holding a small square of paper.
Brian leaned on the other side of the counter and offered the paper to Kate. Kate eyed him for a moment before tugging the paper out of his fingers. She glanced down to see that it read 'Axel, 384-8672'.
"Call me if you ever get that stick out of your ass," he said, disappearing into the back before Kate could draw enough breath to fuel a properly scathing response.
“Unbelievable,” Madison wrinkled her nose when they had stepped out of the store and back into daylight. “I bleed, and you get the guy’s number! I can’t take you anywhere, you know that?”
“Do you want it?" Kate asked, holding the paper up. "He was a jerk."
"Why, because he told you to suck it up?" Madison narrowed her eyes. "I heard your little self-righteous speech, by the way."
Kate's cheeks betrayed her by going hot before she could deny it.
"I was in the hallway, Kate." Kate wondered why Madison's voice wasn't changing the air to dry ice while she watched. "Not on Mars."
Kate dropped her eyes and scuffed her shoe at the ground.
"You're just like her," Madison continued. "You think I'm just going through a phase and I'll regret this later and I'll grow out of it and this isn't who I really am, and it never occurs to you that I might actually think before I do things and I might have really good reasons and I really might like girls for the rest of my life!"
Kate flexed her shoulders, not enjoying the sudden turn away from the topic of tattoos and towards the topic of Real Life Issues, the ones with capital letters that didn't have pithy answers. She reached up to scratch her nose as a delaying tactic while she brainstormed a way to step back from the Issues.
"What does the tattoo have to do with you liking girls?" Kate asked in the end.
"Nothing," Madison answered, kicking a rock on the pavement and sending it skittering halfway down the block.
Madison started towards the car, parked in a lot around the corner, and Kate trailed after, occupied by avoiding the rocks that were ricocheting into her path after Madison sent them flying into trash cans, trees, or anything else on the sidewalk. It took Madison most of the distance to the car to decide that she had more to say.
"It was a stupid thing to be afraid of," she said. "Lots of people get tattoos, and I wanted one and I realized that it was stupid to be afraid of ink and needles after I survived telling my mother to her face that I had a girlfriend. There's lots of people who can't do that."
Kate said nothing as they reached the car and Madison contemplated a cracked hubcap.
"I want her to know I'm not afraid," she continued, voice hard to hear over the traffic passing on the street behind them. "I want her to remember every time she looks at me that I am not afraid of her."
"I think it would work better if you actually weren't," Kate said.
They stared at the hubcap some more.
"Sometimes if you repeat something often enough, it becomes true," Madison said, opening the car door and climbing inside, slamming the door shut before Kate could reply.
"I will like Madison's tattoo," Kate murmured to herself as she went around to the passenger's side of the car. "I will like Madison's tattoo, I will like Madison's tattoo…"
Kate tried hard not to notice through the car window that Madison' was mouthing nearly the same words to herself.