A/n: **I posted this in the Original story because I wanted it to fit there, but after thinking about it, it really fits better here. So if you read it in Ink and the Reaction this is the same thing just moved it! Sorry for any confusion and for being indecisive.**
This is when John actually talked to his tattoo artist about the Violin tattoo. Forgive me if this is improper etiquette for getting a tattoo. I don't have any tats so I'm making this up as I go along.
John and Mal
The bell clanged over the door as John stepped into the shop. Three heads poked out of doors, but only one man came out to greet him. John couldn't help but smile. It had been too long since he had been here. Mal Thomas was John's tattoo artist. He ran his own shop with his own rules and John had been coming here since he was 22 to have his artwork done. His earliest ones had been done in his hometown, but when he came to St. Bart's for medical training he had decided to find a place in London to do his ink. Mal had been in business on his own for exactly three days when John opened his door for the first time. Now here they were almost eighteen years later.
"John! It's good to see you! I haven't done any artwork for you in…what is it? Over a year?" Mal smiled as John walked into the studio. His tattoo artist was a big guy. At nearly six foot five inches, Mal dwarfed John, but they had always been good friends. Mal knew more about John's tats than anyone else and he could read John like an open book because of it.
"Its good to see you too." John laughed a little as he stepped inside the familiar space. The studio was open and friendly just as he remembered it. Things hadn't changed since John had been here, but life outside had changed so much. Mal was just a little off. John hadn't gotten a new tattoo since living with Sherlock. The fall was almost six months ago so his last tattoo was almost two years ago. Nothing that bad or that good had happened in the course of that time to ink onto his skin, but now…
John had been drowning in doubt and sorrow. He was trying to pull himself out since his best friend had jumped off the roof of the hospital. The doubts plagued him like disease. Every morning he woke up sweating and screaming and at night it took him ages to fall asleep. He saw Sherlock every time he closed his eyes. Even remembering the dreams now was unsettling. The images were like torture. He shook himself a little bit to dislodge the dark thoughts before he started talking to Mal about the design.
John handed over the sketch to Mal. His hands were almost shaking as he did so. He had been working on the drawing for days and the design for almost two months. Mal cocked at eyebrow as he looked down at the design.
"Let's step into my office." Mal motioned with his head as he continued to study the design. The elegant body of the violin was detailed magnificently. The real challenge would be getting the S to look as it did in the drawing. The S looked burned into the wood while the rest of Sherlock's name was spelled out in strings from the instrument. It was different than anything John had ever suggested to him, but it was still very John. Filled with emotion, deep meaning and well thought out. John never brought in a half finished design. He always had his ideas well developed when he came in.
As he stepped into the office, John turned to confront his friend.
"I know what you are going to say." John blurted out. Mal now raised both eyebrows. "I've been thinking about this for weeks. I'm not going to ink a name on my just because. You know I'm smarter than that. I know Sherlock is gone and I know you don't do names, but Mal I have to do this. I need to get this design done. I wouldn't ask to break your rules if it wasn't important."
Mal waited until he was sure John was finished. Mal had a rather strict rule that he would not ink names onto any of his customers. He rarely broke his rules especially the one about names, but he smirked a bit as he looked down at the design. As his longtime friend and customer, John wasn't someone who he could deny much of anything.
"Actually I was going to ask you where you thought you might want it?" the larger man smiled at John who was now staring at him with his mouth open. "I know you aren't going to do something rash. I've done too much work for you to think that. So where?"
"Here." John presented his left arm to Mal. The arm didn't have any ink on it. Mal considered this as he looked at John.
"It's fairly wide for your arm…" Mal mused. "The body would be obscured down around the sides of your arm."
"Then make it skinnier."
"It would distort the design which you have obviously put some work into."
"Not that much time..." John shifted back and forth knowing he was lying.
"I could suggest somewhere else." Mal mused.
"Where else do I have room?"
"Here." Mal pointed right in the middle of John's chest. The center of John's chest over his heart was a glaring patch of bare skin.
"No. It's too suggestive." John told him while shaking his head.
"That this is something more than it is." John threw his hands up in the air.
"Suggesting to whom? I've never known you show off my work. I've told you how I find it insulting." Mal teased and John relaxed a bit. It was true. He never told anyone who didn't need to know about his artwork. Even the man who he was making this tribute to hadn't know.
"I don't know." He ran his hands through his hair.
"You've never cared for anyone's opinion about your ink and you've never desired for people to influence it. I get a little bit of say, but only if I'm convincing and not much even then. I don't think you should worry about them." Mal put "them" in air quotes. "Put it where it feels right. This doesn't feel like an arm piece to me."
John didn't speak for a few moments.
"I used to have nightmares about Afghanistan. Dying. Getting shot. Those dreams I could handle because I knew the truth of what happened. It was rough, but things got better eventually mostly because of Sherlock and the Yard letting me work with them. Watching your best friend get framed, proclaim he's a fake and jump off a roof isn't something that is going to get better. I still have doubts and I want those doubts out of my head. He wasn't a fake. He was real." John hung his head. "I've dealt with everything else this way. I need to deal with this like that because if anything is going to help it's this, but putting it over my heart? That is suggestive that we were more than we were. We were friends Mal. Nothing else. Absolutely nothing else."
"I don't think it reads like that, not with the design you've created."
"Really? Even on my arm, I think people are going to see this and assume..." John trailed off.
"They might." John raised his eyebrows. "Some will."
"Thanks that's helping." John scoffed and Mal gave him a lopsided grin.
"I didn't assume anything." John gave him a look. "Ok maybe a little, but when you really look at the design and when you explain it then no."
"I still think I want it on my arm."
"It won't have the same impact there."
"I'm not showing this off to anyone."
Mal stood looking at John for a few moments.
"I don't do names because love never lasts as long as the tattoo. John you're inking this name on your body out of loyalty, respect and honoring the man. I can ink that, but I don't think your forearm is the right place for such loyalty and, I believe, admiration even if it's just for yourself. Trust me on this." Mal put a hand on John's shoulder as he spoke. John sighed heavily.
"I think I've lost this battle." He laughed and hung his head. "All right on my chest it is."
"Think about this. You can still wear sleeveless shirts for one side!" Mal clasped him on the shoulder again as they began working out when John could come back for the tattoo.
A/n: Input always appreciated
PS: I'm thinking about writing a new story about the moments when John decided to get tattoos and the inspiration behind them. I'm not sure if I have enough ideas for it and there might be enough in the original story. Let me know what you think.