Summary: Lorne and Zelenka get matching tattoos... kind of
Shay glanced up as the shop bell rang. Her eyes slid over the two figures as they stepped inside. They nodded at her and moved towards the rows of flash the shop offered.
One looked military, in spite of his civilian clothing. He was taller than his companion, a few inches shy of six feet. Solid build, short black hair, maybe a few flecks of gray, but that could have been the lighting, since he only looked to be in his early thirties. He glanced at the 'cut and paste' artwork, but he either knew what he was getting for himself already or he was here as moral support for his companion, who was poring over the flash and talking quickly in a language Shay couldn't interpret. From his looks, he could have been from anywhere in Europe; medium height, a few inches shorter than the other man. His brown hair had definite hints of grey, as well as tints of red and blond. The fly-away nature of it made her think of a young Einstein. His face showed him to be in his later thirties, though both had an air of men who had seen too much.
"No, I think I'll get the same as you," the shorter man finally said. "If I get something fancier, I'll design it myself."
"You sure? I kinda like this one ..." the taller man gestured at one of the larger pieces of flash – a small castle seascape.
"You're more than welcome to get that one yourself, Steven, but I'll stick with a few letters and numbers until I know how painful it'll be."
That settled, they approached the counter Shay sat behind. "Can I help you, gentlemen?" she asked with a smile.
"We have a question, first. Do you do simple writing, letters and numbers and the like?" the foreign man asked, his accent mild but notable, and quite charming.
"We can, but we have a no-names policy except for parents, children, siblings and other blood family." She hated to exclude wives and husbands but it was the shop policy; too many people changed their minds. She gestured behind him at a blown up poster sized Photo of Johnny Depp's 'Wino Forever' tattoo with a 'Don't let this happen to you' heading under it.
They chuckled. "I understand that. No, we wish, ah, this. Information." He fished a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. In very neat writing, she read a name and what looked like vital stats. Dr. Radek Zelenka, Civ. Jun. 15 1965, AB-, Czech Rep. 5'8"
"Ahh, we can do this." She nodded. They had some military in here from time to time, but she was surprised to see a civilian getting one like this. Normally, civilians that worked with the military didn't find themselves in combat situations, where tattoos like this might be helpful.
Before she could ask, the other man handed over a similar piece of paper, the writing a little less neat. Lorne, Steven, USAF, Feb. 3 1970, B+*, USA, 5'9.5"
"We have a machine we can type this on, for transfer, or I can do it free hand," she offered. The machine was just a fancy typewriter that would transfer the text onto transferable paper for easy overlay.
"You're the professional." Steven's smile was disarming, and they moved towards one of the semi-private work rooms, after the paperwork had been taken care of and money had changed hands.
"Don, you're up at the counter," she called as she poked her head into a staff room as they passed.
"If I do it free-hand, it'll take up less space, but a lot of people prefer the look of the typed copy, it'll look more like the dog tags."
"Freehand, then, for me," Radek insisted. "I'm only doing this to make him happy." He gestured back at Steven, who didn't look pleased.
"Radek, we can't-" Steven's voice was half warning, half worried and his blue eyes flicked to Shay.
"Who will she tell? And before now we could have been brothers." Radek said with a grin Shay could only think of as cheeky.
"No one," Shay spoke up as she laid out her equipment, getting a small cup of black ink ready. "My kid brother met his husband in the army, and it was hell for them until they both put in their twenty." She gestured at a picture, stuck into the frame of a large mirror, of a pair of men in their late forties, both sporting dog tags and cuts similar to Lorne's, clearly together and happy. "Alright, gentlemen," she said, clipping her silver hair back out of the way. "Who's going first?"
"I can go, so you can see it's not a big deal," Steven offered, and Radek shook his head.
"No, you're a sissy about Carson's needles. I can imagine how this will be for you. I'll go first. I promise to hold your hand after." This had the feeling of an old argument played out a thousand different ways ten times a day. Without prompting, Radek pulled off his shirt. "I was thinking here," he gestured to his side, where his thick chest hair hadn't encroached on the lightly tan skin.
"Alright, if you'll lie down ..." She arranged the folded paper he gave her on the table so she could see it, then pulled on a pair of gloves. "First, I'm just going to prep the skin." She took a disposable razor and swiped it over the target area. Then she wiped the area with rubbing alcohol before changing her gloves and getting the machine ready. "Okay, I'm going to do the name on the first line, the date of birth and blood type on the second and everything else on the third, that alright?" He nodded, and Shay hid a smile at the fact that Radek seemed more at ease with the procedure than Steven. "First I'm going to do the D so you'll know how the rest of it will feel, okay?"
Neither man had mentioned previous ink, and she knew customers tended to feel better if they knew exactly what was going on, and were talked through the process, even if many would never ask for or admit it. At his nod, she drew the D in a single motion, then glanced up for a reaction.
"It's not that bad. Painful but as soon as it stops, no pain," Radek was telling Steven as if to reassure him. "Ahh, endorphins ..." He gave a little smile.
That was another reason; give the first line or two and let the endorphins kick in before getting to the rest. "Ready for more?" He nodded and she resumed. "So can I ask how you two met?" She kept her voice conversational as she worked, letting them decide whether to answer or not. It varied by customer.
"In the service. I'm a civilian working on a base he was assigned to. It was love at first laundry." Shay saw Radek's blue eyes sparkle with fondness for the other man as she glanced up between letters.
"Are you a medical doctor?" she asked.
"No-no, blood makes me queasy." He was pointedly not watching her work, though the bloodshed was minimal.
"He has three PhD's, working on a fourth." Steven sounded very proud of that and Shay grinned. She always loved working with couples.
"Electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and theoretical astrophysics, plus he's working on one on statistical improb-"
"That's not a doctoral thesis, it's just a paper on how you military types can keep being stupid time and again and, against all probability, you survive. You're as bad as the colonel, you know," Radek grumbled.
"You love me and you know it." His words were very soft and his expression guarded, and Shay caught the hesitant, almost suspicious and worried look cast her way.
She just smiled and finished up Radek's ink. "All done, now let me bandage it." She wiped it clean one final time, changed her gloves again and applied a layer of clear cellophane over the ink and taped it down. She then gave them the basic safety rundown and handed over two copies of the treatment rules as Radek checked out his new body 'art' in the mirror.
"Alright, tall dark and handsome, your turn." She smiled as Steven tugged off his own shirt, settling onto his back. His chest hair was far more sparse and he indicated a patch on the side of his stomach.
She went through the same prep motions, then read over his information, reading it aloud to be sure she had it right. "Can I ask with the asterisk is about?" she asked once the test was done and she was working on the tattoo.
"Whether or not I've had the chicken pox," he answered and Shay nodded as if she accepted that. She'd never heard of something that innocuous being necessary military information but she also knew that with the military, gays were not the only thing one Didn't Ask about.
Once they were done, Steven checked his own ink and nodded his approval. He shook her hand, palming over a tip with a smile. "If we want any more ink, we'll head back your way." He smiled and the two departed.
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