A/N: I hope you enjoy this first part and please express any comments, questions, criticism, opinions, feedback, critiques, recommendations . . . etc. They will be greatly appreciated!
Ace stood anxiously before the terrorizing structure before him; taking nervous breaths as he carefully observed the worn-out harsh exterior of the tattoo parlour situated in the heart of the city. Conflicting feelings flashed hastily through his mind as he registered the whole ordeal; the building in front of him could easily be a horror house of live human experimentation with instruments of slow brutal torture, ideal for the perfect gore movie; which to an extent, frightened the man out of Ace. But at the same time, there is a burning fire within him, an unexplainable source that emitted a thrilling adrenal gut-feeling deep inside him that longed so eagerly for permanent art to be inked upon his body. This place was atrocious. Ravishing. Dreadful. Extraordinary. Repulsive. Exciting.
Gray eyes continued to study the architecture of one of society's most controversial professions; the weathered black brick-work crafted by time that structured the whole establishment, the transparent windows that welcomely displayed the crowded interior of the parlour, the elaborate graphics of characteristics that are defined as plain 'awesome' (skulls, exploding lights, silhouettes and Ace's favourite, flames) decorated the front and finally, the highly acclaimed name of the tattoo and piercing business, Whitebeard & Sons Tattoo, dominated Ace with intimidation and admiration as he stared into the bulky store label.
Fisting his hands in confidence and eyeing the door, Ace marched toward the metal entrance; taking in one last deep breath before pulling the cool handle and softly whispering, "For you, Sabo."
Walking in was easy; but the real fear had yet to come. Ace stood idly in the middle of the waiting room, suddenly contemplating about whether or not getting ink was a good idea. Maybe flowers every week was a better tribute to his late brother. His thoughts were soon distracted by an approaching figure.
"Hello there, yoi. How can I help you?"
Ace was met with a pair of lazy azure eyes that gleamed in the bright fluorescent lighting and a warm smile that lined the lips of the man in front of him. The man was tall, lean and muscular in appearance; his bodily frame donning a casual yet classy attire of knee-cropped grey pants with a blue sash masterly adorned and a detailed gold belt hanging loosely, black sandals strapped up the creamy delicacy of his lower leg with a tribal-like accessory wrapped above his left and finally, a silky vibrant purple buttoned-up blouse clothed his upper body that perfectly clung to the right curves of his frame. To top the cherry on the cake (a rather delicious cake), the man had a hairstyle of short fine light hairs that protruded the back and sides of his head and long locks of blonde on top that dabbed uniqueness into sophistication.
Ace felt the uncertainty before, slowly fade as he looked at the smiling blonde once more; there was something about the man in front of him that somewhat . . . Reassured him. Like he knew of Ace's nervousness, and implied that it was all going to be okay and to simply just 'live your life'. He suddenly thought of Sabo.
Unhesitating, Ace drew a grin at his said string of determined words, "I want a tattoo."
The blonde slightly widened his smile before quickly turning. "Follow me." He softly instructed, flicking a finger towards Ace as he disappeared into another room. Ace followed closely behind and found himself in quite a spacey sterile enclosure that held an abundance of artwork designs on its walls; remarkably detailed Celtic dragons and knots, exquisite floral designs, extraordinary animal beasts, diligent and complex text and symbols. . . The potential tattoos demonstrated on the walls intrigued Ace into wanting to put them all on his body, that is, until he remembered his true contention of coming here. But that didn't stop him from continuing his appreciation towards the artwork.
Ace reverted his attention back to the man and saw him pointing to the leather seat that sat in the middle of the room and highly resembled a dental chair you would see at the dentist, in which Ace was not too particularly fond of.
"Take a seat." The blonde insisted as he rolled a chair and slid it beside the restraining contraption and sat down. Suddenly, Ace was feeling nervous again, an awkward pooling of distress filling the pits of his stomach as he made his way towards the chair. Maybe he should just back down now. He eyed the man once again, only to see an encouraging grin plastered on the blonde's torpid face. Before he could realize it, Ace found that he was already sitting upright on the chair; what witchcraft did this person use?!
"Now", the man started, "where do you want your tattoo?"
Ace felt himself alleviate to the soothing voice and a burst of courage and exhilaration perk into his response. He shifted to give the man a clear view and ran a hand down his broad left shoulder that was clothed within his yellow shirt, stopping at his exposed elbow with a toothy grin on his face, "Upper-arm please." He was dead sure it was going there.
The blond gave out an impressed whistle, "Good choice in placement, yoi" he then leaned into Ace, sapphire orbs burrowing in wonder as he continued, "Do you have a design in mind?"
Ace nodded, hands digging into the dens of his pant pocket before pulling out a neatly folded piece of paper. As he passed the paper to the man, who firmly grasped and unveiled the thin sheet, Ace couldn't help but notice the small metal name-tag amidst the amethyst silk that read 'Marco'.
"Hmmm, this is a rather interesting design, yoi."
Ace let out a coy laugh as Marco continued examining the articulate illustrated text, "Yeah, I'm not much of an artist."
The idea was a vertical arrangement of inky onyx words that spelled out 'ASCE'; with a distinguishable cross that marked out the 'S' and a solid ecliptic that filled the void of the 'C'. Marco had to hand it to his customer; the typography was visually stimulating, very respectable for someone who claimed else-wise.
He couldn't help but smile at the artist of the blue-print, "I can fix the edges for you to smooth it out. How about that?"
"That sounds awesome!" Ace agreed, now sufficiently valiant and confident on getting the tattoo.
Marco softly chuckled at the enthusiasm, a deep vibration that sent chills down Ace as much as his next few words, "Take off your shirt and let me see your arm."
. . .Ace was dumbfounded at the request. Here? Now? In front of him?!
He felt his face flush in heat and abashment as Marco suddenly stood up, still retaining a lazy grin as he stepped towards a storeroom, "I'll be right back. Take your time now, yoi."
Sure enough, Ace did take his time; slowly picking out the buttons down-up and releasing their clasp, feeling the cool vented air gently caress the pores of his abdomen and chest. There was no escape from this; he gladly would have just rolled the short yellow sleeve up to denude his arm but the vast muscle that his shoulder possessed was reluctant to allow such a thing, oh curse all that heavy training!
Ace undid the last button of his shirt and slipped it off his shoulder when Marco returned with a tray of rather curious tools. He eyed the blue vinyl gloves, the compartments of darkly opaque indelible ink, the bottles of ointments and creams, the white medicinal patches and then- as dramatic as it was to perceive last and from what Ace could identify from endless hours of torturous research on the topic- the two-coiled tattoo machines came into view, both liner and shading. The barred needles twinkled at sight, a provocative yet alluring shine that had Ace swallowing hard.
Marco placed the tray on the table beside the chair of honour, noticing the younger man's slightly staggered look.
Wanting to avert the customer's tension, he spoke up, "I never quite got your name. I'm Marco, yoi", gesturing to the small name tag that hung on the breast of his shirt, "And you are?"
Ace had barely registered the question; shifting around to confront Marco, he quickly spurted out "A-Ace!", before realising the rudeness of that short introduction. Pulling a small smile, "I'm Ace. Pleased to meet you." he tried again with a hand extended towards the older man.
Marco gladly took it, "No. no. The pleasure is mine, yoi."
At this; Ace was somewhat relieved, and Marco noticed when he stole a glimpse of Ace's freckles dancing in delight as he let out a beaming smile. Cute.
Being so up-close and personal had its perks; the blonde noted how Ace's lustrous ebony tresses parted in the central of his fore-head, like an open-curtain where it showcased and framed his youthful face. Ace had such a peachy complexion of vanilla tinted skin that shimmered, even under the artificial light; accentuating tender youth that Marco found himself, was quite envious of. Youth . . . When was the last time he considered himself that? How old was he again?
A gentle sigh escaped the older man's lips as the thought of growing old crept into consideration; after all, age always got the best of him. . . Oh damn this brat for reminding him of his maturing character! It was always a subject that those close to him, knew was off-limits to even think about. Damn this brat indeed.
Marco felt a small frown crease his mouth as he begin rolling his violet sleeves up; having not even secured the sleeve of the first arm when he heard an excited gasp, followed by, "HOLY SMOKING HAMS!"
Marco gazed at his astonished customer who had his jaw lowered and eyes widened at the sight of his exposed arm. Marco raised an eye-brow in question as Ace pointed a finger to the limb of his attention, continuing his last outburst, "THAT. IS. AWESOME!"
It really was. Ace was in awe at the sight before him; it was amazing and it was cool, it was overwhelming and it was breath-taking. There, on the single arm of Marco the tattooist, was one of the most incredible things Ace had ever encountered. In mixes of azure, cobalt, cerulean and sapphire blue, came intricate patterns of fiery swirls that consumed the whole arm. And, despite being a still form of art, it still flickered with life in Ace's eyes; he felt the chilliness of the diverse hues of blue, clash with the heat of flaming designs. It mesmerised him… it drew him in. Like fire.
Smiling, Marco could see the admiration and wonderment drip from Ace's eyes as the freckled-face continued gluing eyes onto his sleeve tattoo. Liking the appreciation, he decided to roll up the sleeve of his other arm, displaying two fully tattooed arms before Ace as he slyly asked with an equally sly smile, "Like them?"
Ace looked up at tattooist, ferociously nodding his head as he exclaimed, "YES! OF COURSE, YES!"
Marco heartily chuckled, "Thank you, yoi."
There was no sign of Ace's amazement dying down, "WHERE DID YOU GET THEM?"
Marco thought that was quite an amusing question to answer. Closing his eyes briefly and smiling at the memory, he looked at Ace; "Here," Marco pointed to the chair in which Ace was on, "I did them myself."
Ace paused, a new form of surprise washing over his face as he muttered out, "Y-You… d-did… what?"
"I did them myself." Marco repeated, still retaining a crafty smile.
Ace found his eyes sink to the floor, thoughts in deep concentration as silence fell throughout the whole room. Holy crap; if this guy was able to get a tattoo done, by himself, on both freakin' arms, then I should be able to . . . Ace began thinking into more depth as the floor seemed to scream epiphany to his ideas. Marco remained quiet but patient, knowing exactly what was going through the younger man's mind. It was time to decide. He also knew the answer and pulled a grin when Ace finally looked up, gray eyes locked onto blue.
Ace was stern, "I want it" and absolute, "I want the tattoo."
"Then let's get started."
Marco slipped his fingers into the sheath of the gloves, stretching the rubber elasticity against his hands until a thick smacking clapped against his skin when he released, just like doctors before examination on their patients. He smirked. Bending towards Ace, Marco grasped the subjected left arm, silently remarking the strong, sturdy yet soft and pastel triceps as they stiffened to his touch. He ran slender fingers across; lightly tracing the design onto the bare skin with sheer certainty as he pulled back to look at Ace.
"In black?" he questioned, eyes boring and searching for any decline within the youthful glassy eyes of his client.
Ace nodded with a sunny beam, "I can't think of any other colour" He then crooked an eye-brow in thought, "Though pink sounds tempting."
Marco genuinely laughed at the remark, surprising Ace who felt a sense of accomplishment despite the horribly shallow humour of the stupid joke. Marco never had such a patron who would so easily shrug off the severity of getting a tattoo; any other normal person would act solemn and rather reserved. Tattooing is serious business, but this young fellow just waved it off like 'permanent' and 'extremely-disregarded-body-modification-within-modern-society' was a natural part of his vocabulary. The lad reminded Marco of himself during his youth, which didn't seem as long ago as it did before the youngster discovered his sleeve tatts.
Ace conscientiously watched as Marco dispensed an opaque liquid onto a clean cloth and begun rubbing it against his upper left arm. Ace's breath slightly hitched as the cool liquor was stroked onto his skin in gentle circular motions, gradually warming with each shift of the cloth.
"Alcohol, yoi" Marco informed him "to clean the area."
Ace nodded in response as Marco discarded the used cloth and began tearing sterile packaging that contained all the materials necessary for the tattooing process. He picked out an inky cartridge and installed it into a hand-held instrument, before connecting it to an electric motor through a tubular network.
Marco lifted his head from the general procedure to quickly notify Ace, "I'm skipping the stencil transfer. Won't be necessary with your design."
"Or your skill" Ace quickly stated, turning his heated head to avoid the surprised look on Marco's face.
The blonde shook his head, "I haven't even started yet and you go on praising me." The older man didn't resist the grin emerging from his lips, "Am I that good, yoi?"
"They're yours?"Ace slowly directed himself towards the tattooist, pointing to the art filled walls he had earlier admired.
Ace then lifted his right hand, thumbs up with a wink and a stupidly long smile on his face, "Then I have every right to praise and trust you."
Marco felt himself pause on the spot and linger onto the words that just sounded from the younger man. No one; no customer or friend or family member, had ever remotely come close to saying what Ace just said. Sure he was praised as an artist by clients and trusted as a brother by friends and family, but praised and trusted by a complete stranger? That was a massive strike to his general train of thought.
Blinking, "…Thank you, yoi" were the first words that escaped his mind through his lips as Marco regained himself.
Though Ace found himself squinting in confusion at the sudden expression of gratitude, "Why the hell are you thanking me?"
"You just sa-"
Ace interjected with a stern palm raised in parallel to the blonde's face, "You haven't even started yet and you go on thanking me?" seeing Marco's sleepy eyes lift in surprise, Ace continued "I'm pretty much an idiot out there in the World but your sense of logic is very questionable right now Marco."
Strike two on his train of thought; Marco didn't know whether the sudden shock came from the brutal rebuttal or how his name so casually slipped from Ace's lips for the first time. Then, there was a moment of silence; not awkward but almost lifeless, where both he and Ace stood still, where he could hear the faint breaths of the youngster, where he felt the tattoo machine begin to slip from his grasp until he quickly entwined his fingers around it, where suddenly; Marco felt his insides elevate and loosen into ticklish spasms. He began to snicker to it; then the sensation got more intense and the snickering got louder and before long, he was unable to suppress an uncontrollable laugh that Ace was awkwardly chuckling at.
Slowly recovering from his vocal expulsion; Marco managed to get out between haggard breaths, "You- are such- a brat, yoi."
"Hey! I'm a customer here" Ace huffed, "Do your job and get this tattoo done already."
Marco agreed with a small nod, before twisting open a jar of ointment and caringly applying it to the left triceps, as it would help the needle to slide along the skin more smoothly. But he needed not to tell Ace that, for he knew a sense of trust had been established between them. Finally picking up the two –coiled tattoo machine, Marco leaned into Ace, "Don't hold your breath. I don't want you fainting on me, it's happened many times before."
Ace didn't flinch to the new information but grinned, with his index finger pressed against his thumb in an 'okay' hand gesture.
Marco returned a smile before further instructing, "I want you to relax. Take a nice slow and deep breath."
Ace instantly abided, filtering and adjusting his breaths to Marco's advice, loosening himself to the forthcoming moment of make or break. He looked straight ahead; pass Marco's shoulder where he imagine Sabo to be; standing there with a toothy smile (with that obvious gap between) at his courage to get a tattoo. Sabo would have definitely wanted one as well. Ace suddenly heard the hum of the electric motor initiate, but he was more than ready; he was looking forward to this and promised to never look back.
Feeling a gloved hand clutch his shoulder, he turned his head and Ace was met with a pair of lazy azure eyes and a warm smile that lined the lips of the man in front of him.
"No regrets, yoi?" Marco asked, the barred needle ghosting above Ace's skin; ready to paint art upon the open canvas of his arm.
"No regrets" Ace said, "Never."
A/N: Dear reader; who has reached this point of the page, I commend you for your efforts and will-power to pull through this abomination of literature!
I have no idea as to whether I should thank you or apologise about that fact D:
Anyways, depending on you lovely readers, I might just upload a second part because I honestly do not know if this is even good enough for a second part. But YOU can determine that outcome so . . .
Remember to please express any comments, questions, criticism, opinions, feedback, critiques, recommendations . . . etc. They will be greatly appreciated!