Author's Note: this is my first fan fic, so please don't hate me. if you have any comments or concerns go ahead and tell me, and nothing rude please. Sorry if it seems a bit rushed towards the end, but I wanted to get this posted quickly since I've been putting it off for a while. Thanks for reading!
Chapter One: Northern Lights
Deep in the heart of a restless city full of fast-talking star-struck wannabes, and the never-ending flow of potential artists, stood a small beacon to the masses of outcasts and drunken idiots; a tattoo parlor by the name of 'Northern Lights.' This one shop just seemed so different in comparison to the others in the town of Burgess, mostly because of those who inhabited its colorful space. It seemed like a cool summer breeze, full of life and hopeful promises, in comparison to the wintry chill that ran rampant through the rest of this small world.
The parlor was ran by a large, Russian man named Nicholas St. North; one look at him, and you would think he was Santa gone rogue. He stood thick and tall, a giant to his customers and employees, and was especially intimidating with his intricate tattoos on his arms which read 'naughty' and 'nice.' His bushy beard and thick eyebrows added to his Russian look, silver strands of white dancing in compliance to his face. But he had a heart of gold that contradicted his brutish appearance, especially when he smiled or talked about how much he loved children and my how he loved children. Not to mention a large sum of his earnings went to orphanages, earning him the nickname Santa Claus among the youth in town. He even wore a large, fluffy red coat just to humor them.
Alongside him worked an equally self-contradicting man by the name of Aster. He was a well-defined man, always catching the eye of passing women (and a few men), and practically had them swooning when he started to speak with his strong Aussie accent. Along his tan skin danced intricate tribal symbols, looking like they had been done by some cockamamie shaman with a steady hand, as some would say. Even though he put up a tough exterior, with a sharp tongue to match, he was actually quite the sweetheart, doing kindhearted things in his free time when no one was around to see. He also had an interesting pastime that the others didn't know about: he liked to collect Faberge eggs.
One of the artists, whom seemed quite the oddball, was a stout man called Sandy. Unfortunately, due to his tendency to daydream and fall asleep in the lounge, he had earned himself the title Sandman. He couldn't complain though, in fact he couldn't say anything at all, he was mute. Sandy made up for it though by doing some of the best tattoos people had ever seen, weaving complicated colors together in an absolute mesh of fantasy and dreams. He didn't sport any blotches of ink himself. No, he was happy with his gold skin and spiky, sand-colored hair. His choice of clothing ran opposite to the weather, since he liked to wear what could be considered California casual in their city plagued with a never-ending autumn.
The only female to work there (and not be scared off by the strange trio of men) was Toothiana the receptionist or Anna for short. Of course some found her name to be strange, but not as weird as her appearance that seemed to fit perfectly like a puzzle piece to the parlor's atmosphere. She sported locks all assortments of the rainbow, her hair gliding back and coming to a spiky point in the back, almost like some exotic bird had lent her its feathers. Her eyes also shone a bright variation of pinkish-purple, drawing in and dazzling the potential suitors that watched her with fascinated gleams as they sat in the waiting area, either waiting for their turn under the needle, or coming in to say hello. She always wore creative and colorful clothing, showing off all the highlights of her bubbly personality, which shone brightly alongside her busy-bee attitude. Toothiana did have an odd fetish though: an unnatural fascination with teeth. She had always wanted to be a dentist, but had decided to work in the shop instead beside her friends, much to everyone's delight. Although to their dismay, she had the tendency to check everyone's teeth, had a model of choppers set on her desk, and even got a tattoo of a tooth on her shoulder. How charming...
One of newest employees to start working there was Jack. His birth name was Jackson Overland, but he quickly discarded that title in favor of something more suitable: Jack Frost. To fit his new name, he dyed his brown hair a pure, solid white and got colored contacts in a crystalline-blue hue to cover his bright brown irises. Well, this was all done before he joined the team, when he had turned 19 and moved into a nearby apartment complex. He always chose to wear form-fitting clothes, including his favorite blue hoodie for venturing outside, and tank tops around the shop to show off his tattoos. A majority of them rested on the right side of his body, including but not limited to: a black snowflake on his shoulder, a henna flower that wound around his upper arm, and a set of small jaguar spots on his neck. Aster said he looked like a massive gumby running around with such an odd assortment of ink, but he couldn't really complain since business kicked up when the lad started working. Yep, once Jack signed up, the shop had a sudden influx of girls all wanting to get a splotch of ink from him (and to ogle when no one was looking). And of course he flirted back with them, but he always made sure to get the job done before he could snatch up their digits; because if anyone caught on, especially Aster, he would never hear the end of it. Endless ranting about how inappropriate that was, and how he wasn't supposed to shag his customers, blah blah blah.
Today was a somewhat cool autumn day, barely slipping into the brink of winter. Nevertheless, people continued to buzz about the streets like hummingbirds to hidden flowers, just lollygagging about with no important business or agendas. Albeit, there weren't a lot of people in the town to begin with, but this is what they considered to be busy. Among a few stragglers chatting against a nearby building walked a young man whose hair fluttered like a blizzard in the breeze. He shuffled along on his way to work, his blue hoodie clinging to him like a child, while his khakis danced along with his movements. The few people in front of him eyeballed him, some confused, others intrigued. He even heard one girl some spaces ahead of him mutter to her chum, "Oh my gosh, did you see that cute guy with the white hair?!"
He didn't really care though, he had his headphones on playing some crap on Pandora radio he liked.
"Hey!" A voice called out amid the minuscule chaos.
He kept walking, passing in front of a cafe that glowed amber and wafted the scent of fresh coffee beans.
"Hey Jack!" It called again, this time closer.
Pulling down the frosted blue headphones to around his neck, he turned around to see an 11 year old boy trotting towards him, a cap resting snugly around his cranium and a smile plastered upon his face.
"Hey Jamie!" Jack immediately threw back a beaming grin, tossing away his neutral gloom in favor of something more inviting.
The boy finally caught up to him, letting out a 'whew' as he slumped a bit, resting his hands on his hips.
"Geez Jack, I finally caught ya! You move too fast!" Jaime joked, catching his breath.
"Hey kid, you're young. You should be faster than me, I think you need to work out more."
Jack jokingly poked at Jamie's belly, as if he had a bit of girth there. The boy just giggled as he swatted away the blatant hand, as they started to pick up their pace, moving towards an unannounced goal.
"Wait a minute... Shouldn't you be in school?" Jack looked down to his left at him, stuffing his chilled hands in the hoodie's pockets.
"Nah, I can't go today, I got a doctor's appointment." Jaime responded, looking down as he kept up with Jack's steady gait.
"Well, hey look at the bright side." Jack said as the boy glanced up in his direction, "Maybe the doctor can do something about your fat head!"
"Hey!" Jaime nudged the older boy with his shoulder, trying to sound angry, but his slipping smile started to give him away.
After a few chuckles, and a couple more steps past an alleyway, the duo was almost three-fourths of the way there.
"Uh, Jack? Can I ask something?" Jaime broke out into the silence that previously enveloped them.
"Uh, sure kid. Shoot." Jack shot a questioning glance over at his young companion.
"Have you ever had this feeling that something is going to happen, but you just don't know what?"
Well this morning was heading towards an interesting destination, away from the typical norm to a light rain of confusion.
"What, err, what do you mean?"
"Well, it's not a good feeling, but it's not bad either. Just sorta in between I guess."
"What? So you mean like a change?"
"Yeah, I guess. I mean, I just have this feeling that something's gonna change. Hmm..."
Jaime looked off into the distance, question wriggling on the tip of his tongue, while it seated itself tightly into the mindset of the white-headed young man. A change? What sort of change could there possibly be? Perhaps like the winds change the delicate balance of nature, or maybe the birth and/or death of a soul? The question danced among his brain cells, dragging him into the unknown, venturing into his very spirit in search of light among the confused and conflicted darkness. It was amazing how such a simple question from an innocent being can leave us wandering ourselves, searching for the answers we are afraid to learn, and if we already had the answers, we were left trying to find the questions they belonged to.
The soft voice broke off the train of thought that seemed to have no destination and ran in complete circles.
"Hmm? Oh!" Jack turned to Jaime, whom of which stared back at him with an arching brow of concern.
"Maybe you should stay away from the shop for a while, the fumes are getting to your head!" Jaime joked as he dashed forward into a small crowd, with a wave and a smile before disappearing among them like dreams into reality.
Jack looked around a little lost for the moment. He pinched his face slightly as a thought popped into his head. Did, did Jaime just screw with his mind? Well there was another term for that, but he didn't want to use that term when it comes to little boys. Just ahead the gleaming sign of his occupation flew high above his head, like a pink cloud among the shit storm. In intricate letters and airbrushed scenery said the name "Northern Lights," covered in fluorescent blues and greens, yellows and reds.
Jack silenced his iPhone, which was still playing music unbeknownst to him, as he quickened his pace somewhat and finally made his way into the parlor.
"Oi! Finally, mate! What took ya so long?" Said a gray-haired Aster, wiping his hands with a tattered purple kerchief. The man walked directly in front of him, arms crossed while giving his signature look of nastiness to the frosty lad.
"Oh, Bunny! Leave the boy be, I'm sure he has a good reason." Said Anna, as she clicked away on her keyboard, never looking up from the screen. Aster's full name was actually E. Aster Bunnymund, which a good amount of people laughed about. Well, that is until he stared them down with his powerful set of green eyes.
"Whoa, okay. For one thing, I've told you multiple times not to call me that. And for another thing, Frostbite here was almost 10 minutes late!" He gestured with the rag for emphasis.
"Not even! Only 5 minutes at most, Bunny Boy!" Jack snapped at him, pulling the hoodie over his head, revealing the striped tank top underneath.
"Aha! So you admit it! What's you're excuse this time, Ice Pop?"
"Look here, you egg-sucking pain in the-"
"Jack! So nice of you to finally show up!" A Russian voice bellowed from behind.
All eyes shifted to the voice's direction, already knowing who it was.
"Oh, hey North." Jack murmured as he placed his beloved item on the coatrack near the door.
Aster mumbled, stuffing away the kerchief into his back pocket as he made his way into the backroom, concealed by a decorative curtain.
"Look North, I'm sorry-" Jack started to explain, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Is okay Jack. I understand. Just try to be on time tomorrow, hmm?" He cut in with a sugary smile, his strong blue irises watching the young man with never-ceasing glee.
All doubt was shoved out the way upon seeing such a kind display of affection from a man Jack considered to be a father-figure. With a nod from both men, North gestured to a man to follow him into the back, so he could have his turn under the sharp needle. The man looked a little nervous, as he hesitatingly followed the large Russian like a lost kitten behind the curtain. Jack watched, interest peaked at seeing this, or at least hearing the man scream.
Curiosity yanked him towards the spectacle, when a light tug on his wrist caught him. Jack turned around to see a perky, platinum blonde female with dark eyeliner, wearing a Sex Pistols t-shirt along with short-shorts and boots to match. Ooo, what have we here? Okay, forget about that dork behind the curtain, who's this?
"Can I help you?" Jack put on his sexiest smirk, making his voice come out as smooth as brandy.
She returned the look, letting go of his wrist delicately, "Um, yes I would like to get a tattoo right here."
She lifted up the back of her shirt lightly, pointing to the blank canvas that was her lower back.
He nodded, admiring the soft flesh, "Any idea of what you want?"
Jack was still checking out the space, curling an inquisitive finger underneath his chin as if in deep thought.
"I was thinking a tree branch, with little cherry blossoms on it." She said, pulling down the cloth as she turned to face him.
He maintained his position, pretending to run the idea over in his head. On the contrary, he didn't give two-flying-fucks of what tattoo she wanted, all he knew was that she wanted a tramp-stamp and he was more than happy to do it.
"Hmm... Okay, do you have a picture you want me to use?" Jack inquired, borderline between dirty thoughts and getting the job done, running a hand through his hair.
"Uh. Wait a minute..." She said pulling a folded picture out of her pocket. "Yeah. Right here."
Jack plucked the small square from her extended fingertips, unfolding it to reveal a detailed drawing of a twisted branch, and soft blossoms blooming right before him.
"Did you already talk to Anna about payment and all that?"
"Yeah, okay! Just take a seat over there, and I'll get this baby ready!" He motioned his hand to a nearby chair.
She took her sweet time walking over, sashaying her round backside with an innocent smile, immediately catching the young man's eye. Taking her seat, she crossed one curvaceous leg over the other, batting eyelashes as she folded her fingers in her lap. Oh boy. Jack wasn't stupid, he could take the hint. And oh man, she was dropping them like breadcrumbs for him to follow.
"I'm getting lucky tonight!" Jack sang in his head as he headed to the backroom.
In the back behind the curtain, the shop had four chairs set up like a classroom, while in the corner was the drawing room, where the pictures were set, a small space in comparison to the rest of the room.
Jack made his way over, paper in hand, as he passed a few occupied chairs. At one of them, sat the nervous-looking man, now bug-eyed as North scrawled in the ink across his left shoulder. On the opposite side, to the right, sat the stout Sandy sketching a complicated koi fish on the upper back of a 30 year old woman. Aster was nowhere to be seen, so he was probably in the lounge, behind yet another curtain on the wall opposite of the drawing room.
"Hey Sandman." Jack motioned with a slight wave to the Buddha-esque man.
Sandy returned a simple grin, along with a quick wave before he stopped to clean his needle and the woman's flesh. As Jack opened the door to the small room, the man under North let out a squeal and whimper, eliciting a small bout of giggles from the workers.
"Yep, I remember my first tattoo." Jack said to himself, reminiscing the first time the black ink made contact to him. It sure as hell wasn't an enjoyable experience, but luckily it was North who did it for him, and not Aster. Because if it was old Bunny Boy, Jack would now be wearing a crudely drawn penis on his arm instead of North's Celtic snowflake. He glanced over at the snowflake tat in question, and it stared back at him as a fond memory.
Instead of tracing it, he decided to use the thermal-fax instead, to save him some time so he could get back to ogling the blonde. Carefully putting in the picture and carbon paper for transfer, and making sure everything was set correctly, he pressed the print button on the little machine that worked unannounced wonders. Jack listened to the noisy hum and clink of the mechanism, until he heard the paper slide out along with a clunk signaling the fax was done. He took a look at the picture, clean and lifelike, turning out much nicer than him tracing.
The blue-eyed youth grabbed the sheet with care as he slinked his way out, and carefully peeked out behind the curtain. She was still there, thumbs jabbing into her phone's keyboard, noisily texting the day away.
"Uh, hey." Jack called out.
Slightly startled she looked up at him, clicked three more buttons before popping the phone back into her pocket, and stood gracefully like a pampered starlet (more like a porn star, in my opinion).
"You ready?" He asked, while she stepped closer into his proximity, breasts bouncing a bit like an excited schoolgirl.
"You bet!" She cooed back.
Jack pulled back the curtain allowing her to enter the work space. He looked over to his coworkers to see that North was trying to calm the flinching fellow and his half-done picture, while Sandy was already done with the incredibly detailed ink on the neutral-faced woman.
"Okay, just sit down right here." He motioned to a chair in front of North.
"Don't you have something a bit more, hmm... Private?" She purred the last word, like some large cat lulling her prey into a false sense of security.
"Well, ah, there's a room back there, if you want." He gulped a small amount of dry air, the word 'private' leading to all sorts of conclusions and possible outcomes.
Jack pointed to a door in the middle of the wall in directly in front of them, amongst two other doors on both sides, for customers who wanted a little privacy from peering eyes.
"Perfect!" She exclaimed with a giddy kick in her voice. If she didn't seem like a porn star before, she certainly did now.
He led her past the two men, North waggling his eyebrows at him while Sandy gave him a quick wink, and she clung to his side like some paid mistress of the night. Once the door popped open with a tiny crack and the light switch flipped with a click, the atmosphere shifted to something much more intimate.
The chair looked more like a massage table than a regular run-of-the-mill bench, suited out in a lush purple, invoking a hidden lust into anyone who looked at the color. The pinup poster of a nude woman on the back wall didn't help either.
"Okay just take a seat there, and let me get everything." He gestured to the area, while grabbing the needed supplies from the nearby table.
On the dark, chestnut desk sat a case full to the brim of colorful inks in their separate tubes, and the needles prepped for the impending work ahead. The desktop also contained some rubbing alcohol, disposable razors, soaps, etc. Right next to the desk, hidden against the wall, dwelled a small sink which couldn't be seen from the doorway.
"Could you lift up your shirt, please?" He inquired, feeling somewhat awkward about the request, albeit it was necessary.
She complied, peeling away the material from her flesh, yanking it up far enough to expose her upper back as well as her brassiere. Pulling on a pair of black latex gloves, Jack then plucked a fluffy white cotton ball and doused it with some alcohol to clean his canvas from any small-scale obstructions. Once the singeing liquid contacted her skin in a cold embrace, she hissed slightly, but allowed him to carry on. He then produced a small, plastic razor to clear off any fine hairs from the workspace, even though none were visible. This was the moment when he felt important; when could shape the paper to suit the pen; when he could choose the clay to fit the sculpture; when the canvas was set, ready for his paintbrush to bring it to life. And he hasn't even started yet. Once done, he cleaned the spot once more, rubbing in small circles to calm the nerve-struck epidermis.
"So have you been doing this a long time?" Her voice struck out into the silence, shattering the sensual calm.
"Hmm? Oh, well, uh. Not very long, actually. Maybe a year or two." Jack flipped his gaze towards her head, before returning to the spot, which he started moisturizing with water. Once completed with the prep work, he applied the transfer paper to the tattoo's permanent home, pressing it until he peeled it away to reveal a purplish-blue outline.
"It's looking good so far… uh. Umm, I didn't quite catch your name?" The thought finally slipped into his thick head. He was already planning how the rest of the night was going to go, and yet it completely slipped his forsaken mind this one crucial detail.
"Flora. I should've told you when we met. I mean, you're gonna be putting a needle in my back, for god's sake! So, your name's Jack, right?" The previously nameless woman finally announced, with an added hand gesture or two for emphasis.
"Yeah, Jack. But the folks 'round here have the tendency to call me Jack Frost. You heard of me?" He made his way around the chair, back to the desk so he could grab the essentials.
"Yep. Someone from back home got a tat from over here once and told me about this cute guy with white hair. I'm going to assume that would be you?" Flora said with a wink.
"I guess so, since the only other person here with white hair would be North. Unless you're talking 'bout him, right?" Jack smirked over his shoulder, before turning back around to start preparing the tattoo machine. He started placing the needed inks into little cups, or ink caps, and then removed the needles and tubes from their sterile pouches to be placed in the machine.
"Maybe, I mean Santa Claus out there sure does look good in this lighting." She stated, creating a silent round of giggles from the both of them.
"So where you from?" Jack scooted over to the sink, filling a small cup with water for cleaning the needles.
"I moved to Nevada a while ago, but I'm from a little town in the Faroe Islands, between the U.K. and Iceland." Flora smiled nostalgically.
"Whoaly shit! Dude, you're a long way from home!" He plopped a tiny tub of Vaseline on the counter for her.
"Yeah, it's a little place called Berk. Cold as hell, but its home."
"You here on vacation, or what?" He leaned against the counter, crossing his arms across his chest and looking straight at her.
"Nah. I'm here with my cousins and some friends of theirs. We're here seeing off a friend, he just moved to the city. That poor dragon boy needed some help adjusting, so we decided to pay him a visit."
'Dragon boy?' Slipped into his skull. But he would ask that in a minute, there was work to be done.
Jack motioned for her to slip into a comfortable position, so she rolled over onto her stomach in the chair, the model ready to be sketched. The cover was stripped away from the paper, the pencils were ready for action, and the artist could now bring his art to life. She looked more like a beach goer though, with her arms resting beneath her chin, and back exposed.
Oh, oh geez. Jack had to mentally slap himself out of his hormonal trance from seeing her like this, especially since he could see a portion of her knickers. He smacked a good glob of ointment onto the area and rubbed it in, for Flora's comfort and to make his job easier. The machine was ready, so he handled his needle cautiously; it was time to prove his worth.
The buzzing instrument vibrated lightly between his fingertips as the first line was traced, the first of many to follow.
She groaned at the odd feeling, comparable to a dancing bee sting across the skin cells, splitting her nerves down the middle in the process.
"So... Dragon boy?" Jack wanted to ease her into it, trying some conversation to make the moment more tolerable as he continued to scrawl in the ink.
"Hmm?" Flora hummed, and followed with a hiss.
"Sorry, you should get used to it in a minute. And you said 'dragon boy' earlier, what's that supposed to mean?"
"Heh, it's just a little nickname we got for him, except we don't use it very often. We started -ow- calling him that when we were kids. He is absolutely obsessed with dragons!"
"Yeah?" He was tracing a flowering bud.
"Yep, the little dweeb has a good lot of dragon tattoos all over him. I think one on each arm, and on his back. I mean, these aren't little drawings, they're freaking gigantic!"
"Where'd he get them?"
"From a shop back home." Her accent slipped out slightly, so she cleared her throat to force it back down. "Th-the place is called Gobber's, it's where I got my first tattoo. Actually the Dragon Boy worked there as an artist for a while."
Now he was a little intrigued. Who exactly was this Dragon Boy? After a few steady minutes, the tracing was complete; a fine outline of the branch blossoming before him and now was the moment to be creative. It should've taken him a lot longer but his ability to get things done in half the time was one of his secret skills.
"So, he just moved here right?" Jack cleaned off the needle before dipping it into a dark brown pigment in one of the caps.
"Yeah." Flora relaxed, the pressure on her lower back fading into an odd, sharp numbness.
"Where exactly?" His pen glided along the twisted curves, shading the edges with practiced precision.
"Uh, let me think... Oh, yeah. It's an apartment complex four blocks up from here. I think it's called...hmmmm... what was it? The-the Mayfair! That was it! The Mayfair."
That was a name Jack heard before. He knew it because the building, along with a majority of the businesses in Burgess, was owned by some big corporate company in the middle of town.
"The Mayfair, huh? That place is pretty nice. I live in the apartments two blocks down from here." He cleaned off the color and switched to a hue similar to terra cotta.
They stayed silent for a moment, the only noise being the buzzing needle which sounded like a beehive hidden in the room.
"So, you guys gonna stay here a while? You and your friends, I mean." Jack asked, swirling the brown against the darker color to form an almost complete branch.
"They are, I'm actually leaving tomorrow." Flora turned her head slightly to look at him from the corner of her vision.
"Oh, ok. So where you heading?" Well, his plans were just tossed out the window and lit on fire. Along with his dream of a hot one-night stand.
"I have school, so I have to head back." She rubbed the corner of her eye, unaware of what she did to the boy who apparently couldn't keep it in his pants.
The conversation slowly died over time, since the prospect of Jack getting laid was shot point-blank, and seemed to smother any words he had left. The painting was nearing completion, the branch now fully formed as the flowers took shape with bright cherry and fuchsia hues. With the quick flick of the wrist, the final detail was applied and the magic spell he cast became reality. No longer was it some picture in the back pocket of a teenybopper's shorts, now it was a full blown concoction of whimsy and creativity. He had to admit, even though he didn't care what image she wanted in the beginning, he swelled with pride at seeing his own completed work smiling back at him in rich detail, like a reflection of his soul.
"Oookay, and we are done!" Jack stood at his full height, stretching out his arms behind his back with a few pops.
"How's it look?" Flora sat on her posterior as she clutched her bunched shirt in the front to keep it away from the sore, color coated wound.
Only one word came to his aid, "Sexy."
"Yeah?" She turned to look at the young man, a slight pink dusting across her nose and cheeks.
"Yeah, wanna look?" He motioned to the floor-length mirror on the wall.
She stood, stretching out her muscles with a groan, both from exhaustion and pain. He backed up so she could have some room. With a turn and a tug, she eyeballed the tattoo over her shoulder.
"Oh my gods." Flora murmured.
Jack felt his stomach sink a bit.
"Wow. I just- holy shit dude! This is amazing!" She stammered with a glowing grin enveloping her countenance.
Nothing could describe the warm feeling that grew in his being with every pump of his heart. His smile beamed back at her, a glistening white, at the woman who recognized his ability and talent.
"Oh hey, could I take a picture of it for my portfolio?" He shook himself out of the pride-fueled daze as he glanced over at his neglected camera resting on the table.
"Yeah, sure. Go ahead." Flora said turning around to look at him, the smile still evident on her peach lips.
The young man took a two long steps before he stretched out and grabbed it square off the space, messing with the buttons and lens.
"Okay. Just hold your shirt up so I can get a clean shot." He moved behind her as the device made itself comfortable in front of his eye.
Doing as she was told, she held the cloth in a pair of tight fists that remained close to her chest like a frightened child. The lens of the mechanism came in and out of focus between his withered fingers. A blue eye focused intently as the blurry image came into view while the other eye closed itself tightly as if it were sewn shut.
The sound, though small, shook him back into reality. Jack removed the camera from its setting and held it far out in front of him. A smooth image flowed through the light to meet him: a pixelated view of the artist's devotion.
"What do you think?" The youth flipped the digital instrument over so the screen was facing his customer.
"Damn, Jack. I-I just can't, wow. Thank you so much." Flora let her exposed skin be covered once again as the black material fell from her grip, providing a new sense of warmth against the chilled flesh. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders in a light hug as she placed a chaste kiss to his left cheek.
"Uh, ahem, you are welcome. But I'm not finished just yet, still gotta bandage it up." A shy grin grew on his lips, bright against the growing red of his face. This was the sort of affection he wasn't used to. It made him feel like a high schooler who finally discovered romance. The white-haired teen had become accustomed to loose people in search for quickies; those who weren't afraid to state what they wanted or stick a tongue in a stranger's mouth. In all honesty, the only word that could describe the feeling it gave him was giddy. Alas, this was never meant to last, and the thought put a grim grip on his chest. It wasn't the girl that gave him this feeling. It was the motion in general. He adored cutesy moments like this, contrary to everyone else's belief.
"Of course." She let her arms fall and backed up a pace.
Jack scooted over to reach for some protective ointment and bandages meant to be applied to the fresh ink, in one of the table's drawers. He motioned for her to move the shirt out of the way once again, rubbing in the bacteria-killing lotion before adding the white gauze and some tape to keep it in place; all done in a cinch. The clock on the wall ticked above their (air-filled) heads and greeted them with the time, saying only about an hour had passed during the entire ordeal. Geez, time sure does fly when you're being baited by some foxy harpy, only to have her shut you down.
"And here are the aftercare instructions." The lad pulled a small notepad from his pocket alongside a blue pen. With nimble fingers, he pressed it against the wall as he wrote down what to use, what to avoid, how long she should keep the bandage on, etc.
"Okay, first thing..."he began.
Both North's and Sandy's patrons had left, the woman glowing with absolute delight while North's bug-eyed fellow looked like he had fought in 'Nam.
"Bunnymund, where are you?" Bellowed the Santa Claus doppelgänger as he cleaned around his workstation.
He turned to Sandy, who shrugged in response before hopping down from his perch and ventured out beyond the curtain, into the front of the shop with Anna. North tossed some paper towels and a disposable razor into a mini plastic trashcan tucked away in the corner of the room, all the while letting out a long sigh as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"Where is man when I need him, eh?" He huffed as he checked behind the curtains for a sign of the grey-haired Australian.
He peaked into the front, to be greeted by the sight of a few customers flocking in and talking to Anna or Sandy, so he moved over to the lounge to see that it was void of any life. Aster couldn't have been in one of the private rooms, since North would've seen him go in.
"He better not be doing what I think he is doing..." The man mumbled to himself as he went through the lounge to the door that led outside.
With a hearty shove, the metal door gave way and allowed the brisk air to surround him in a quick blast before settling to a cool breeze. That didn't faze him though. He was more focused on the burning scent of tobacco that wafted against his face and stung his nose.
"Bunnymund!" North called out as he closed the door and searched for the man at the back of the alley. In the shadows near a trio of garbage cans, an accented voice hissed an 'oh shit!' before flicking a cigarette on the ground and snuffing it out with his shoe. The shady figure then coughed the remaining smoke out of his lungs, waving a hand to disperse the toxic clouds. A grey head and a pair of green eyes stepped forward in to view cautiously, like a child under the scrutinizing gaze of their teacher.
"Oh, h-hey North." Aster sputtered and coughed on the last word.
The large Russian responded by staring him down under a powerful set of blue eyes and crossing his thick arms across his chest.
"Hello Bunny. What-ah, what are you doing back here?"
"Nothing." He folded his arms behind his back, covering his pack of cigarettes.
"You know you are supposed to be working, yes?"
"Uhh, yeah. I, ah, I came out for a bit of air, ya know?"
"Bunnymund, you know I've told you thousand times, you shouldn't be smoking. Especially when on the job."
"Aw come on North. It's just one gasper. It ain't gonna do anything." The man slipped his hidden carton of tobacco filled treasure into his back pocket before letting his arms fall to his sides in defeat.
"No. I have told you and will tell again. No smoking around the shop. Is not good, and makes the customers sick. Besides, I thought you said you quit." North rubbed an exhausted hand against his face.
"I did, but this is just a onetime thing. I needed it to help calm me down is all. The little Snowflake is getting on my nerves again. Would you rather I have a puff out here to cool me off, or me smacking him upside the head?"
"Fine! Fine. Just stop doing it around where I can catch you, okay? And leave Jack be, he is trying his best."
"Wh-what? Trying his best? He doesn't even have the decency to show up on time! You need to stop covering for him." Aster gestured to the boy inside and the large man with an extended hand, pointing an accusing finger.
"Eh, I have my reasons. Just get inside and get back to work." North sighed before cracking open the door once again and stepping in out of the chilled weather. All the while, Aster glared at the ground, rubbing the back of his neck. He was beyond glad North was so lenient, especially since this isn't the first time this happened.
"So you got all that right?" Jack asked the female standing next to him as they made their way out of the private room.
"Yep, I should be good. Thanks again for everything." Flora tucked his instructions away in her pocket, before giving him a slight squeeze around the shoulder.
"Yeah! No problem, it's been a pleasure." He smirked over at her, a gleam shining out his eye.
He shifted over to allow her out first, surreptitiously eyeballing her backside as she sashayed out past the curtain and into the front, him following suit.
Flora waved and said a quick goodbye to the workers, before exchanging a quick hug with her tattoo artist.
"Oh, and by the way Jack. The 'Dragon Boy' and his friends are gonna be dropping by tomorrow." She whispered to the lad after she let go.
"Really?" His interest became peaked once again.
"Yeah, but I came in today 'cause I wanted to see it first." She said as she stepped towards the entryway.
"So wait. What's his name?" Jack stopped her before her hand could push open the door.
"Wwweeelll, I don't wanna say. I kinda wanna leave a bit of mystery. It's more fun." She said with a smirk.
"Okay, fine. So what does the 'mysterious' Dragon Boy look like?" He laughed a little.
"Why do you wanna know so much?"
"Hey! I'm curious. A fresh face into the city, and he worked at a tattoo shop! Come on, he might have some trade secrets or some junk."
"Yeah, sure." A bit of sarcasm laced her words. "Trust me, you'll know him when you see him. He's got those massive dragon tattoos of his, remember?"
"That's not very-"
"Well that's all you're getting." She pulled open the door, letting its cool breeze enter and bring down their temperatures. "And thanks for everything Jack, it's been fun." Flora pecked him on the cheek and walked out, from both the parlor and the young man's unspoken affection.
The rest of the day passed like a dream, filled with a few more patrons and the endless buzzing of the needles before the sky darkened into a rich plum mixed with gloomy grey clouds expanding over the horizon. Since no one came in for a long while, North decided to close shop up early, much to young Jack's delight.
"Oh Jack, could you sweep up for me please?" North said to the boy across from him in the lounge. Toothiana sat on the couch with Sandy, chittering away since the little man couldn't respond (nor complain) while Aster leaned against the wall, staring off into complete nothing with a burning glare. Geez, perhaps this guy should consider picking up a doobie instead of cigarettes.
"Yeah, sure thing." Jack stretched as he moved over to the back wall, grabbing a well-worn broom complete with dustpan.
"I'm gonna go ahead and get going, see you lot tomorrow." Aster yawned, scratching his neck and moving out of the room towards the front.
"Bye Bunny!" Anna called after him, to which he groaned loudly as the front door was opened and closed.
Sandy hopped off the couch, waving a goodbye to the colorful female along with the two white-haired males.
"Aww, ya leaving too Sandman?" The bubbly woman cocked her head at him.
He nodded, passing through the curtain and eventually the front entrance.
"Well, in that case, I'm going too I guess. See you fellas tomorrow!" She stood with a bounce, waving before she disappeared as well.
"I guess that means it's just you and me, North." Jack looked over to the large man, broom stilled.
"No, just you." North headed towards the exit.
"Sorry Jack. I've got things to do, you understand, yes? I trust you'll lock up?" The man called as he moved from the lounge, past the work area into the front, holding open the door halfway.
"Sure, fine, whatever." The boy waved him off as if he were swatting away a fly.
The door closed with a jingle from the bell atop it, letting the silence consume the once busy parlor.
"Yeah, this is great. Leave me all alone in the place. Sure, why not? Go ahead! It's fine, it's not like we might get robbed or some shit. Yep, it's a great idea." Sarcasm drawled out of his pale lips as he swept around the area.
A steady rhythm was built, going from one side of the room to the other, as the clock ticked away on the wall. It was somewhat peaceful for a couple of minutes, before a lurching pain settled in. The silence mixed in with the broom's bristles scratching against the floor became overbearing with every pump of blood; the simple quietness shifting into a horrific, sadistic killer waiting for a chance to strike. He could feel it ring in his ears, pounding against his psyche like a thief of sanity. Jack always had a fear of this quietness, it held so many atrocious meanings behind it. It meant anything bad could happen in a flash. It meant old memories and thoughts could come crashing like waves to the bridge of his mind. But most of all, it meant he was all alone, and that was his greatest phobia.
Jack felt a pump of panic rush through his veins in an instant at the very thought. 'Alone' bled into the mixture like black ink against the serene white paper that was this moment. It felt horrific settling in the pit of his stomach, practically a form of vomit-inducing herbal drug. He wanted to drop the broom and dash for an available exit to be able to breathe in some cold air, since the air in the room began to feel tighter in his throat somehow. All shadows seemed to stretch and grow before his eyes, the epinephrine in him making the dark creatures scratch and growl at him with every blink.
A loud slam from a car door shook him out of this state of paralysis (since he stopped and stared at nothing in that moment), causing a gasp to escape his lips before stretching out in to an exasperated sigh.
"Son of a bitch! It's too freakin' quiet in here!" Jack snapped at no one in particular.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPhone in its icy azure case, typing in the password and scrolling through the applications as quick as his fingers would let him. There on the screen shining like a sign of God himself was an orange square labeled 'Music.' Pressing the shuffle button and cranking up the volume, the area was immediately filled with the high -pitched wail of whatever song it was set to. Relief swept over him like a hot shower as Starry Eyed by Ellie Goulding started playing, soothing his nerve-struck soul with her soft voice calling out to him and casting away the silence with its hidden creatures. The boy quickened his pace, shoving all collected dirt into the dustpan and dumping it in the nearest trash bin before shuffling over to the work space.
"Oh, everybody's starry eyed..." He sang in a hushed tone inaudible next to her blaring voice located in his pocket. Before he knew it, he started adding some movement to his monotonous sweeping rhythm. He made small circles across the floor, collecting dirt in the process, while unknowingly shaking his hips in minuscule movements. The youth began to mouth her words, shifting to the beat as he danced in rotations with his inanimate partner, a.k.a. the broom. A cheeky grin formed on his face as he spun one final circle at the ending, dipping the handle with gusto. The dust was quickly swept into the pan and discarded while Radioactive by Imagine Dragons came to play. Jack slid into the front, bopping his head once the beat started up. He mouthed the lyrics with emphasis, lip-syncing precisely to the singer and added at slight fist pump or two just for the hell of it.
"Whoa-ho, hey! We having a dance party?" Someone called out from the doorway.
"What the in the shit?!" Jack dropped his tools before flipping around to see a girl entering the shop.
"Geez, Frosty, I know for a fact that you can dance better than that." She cooed and crossed her arms.
"Oh! Jesus-fricken-Christ, Baby Tooth! I thought you were a prowler or some shit." He ran a hand down his face, eyeballing the intruder.
The young woman, a few years older than Jack (yet a couple feet shorter), stared him down with a smirk. Although her real name was Beatrice, she earned the moniker 'Baby Tooth' because of her relation to Toothiana. Or more so for the reason she wanted to become a dentist and was utterly fascinated by teeth, just like her aunt.
"Yeah, I came to shank you in the butt and take your lunch money." She moved closer and into full view.
You would think she was a younger version of Anna, since the two looked almost exactly the same. Baby Tooth's hair varied in its green, blue and yellow hues, mixing together beautifully in her short haircut. Her outfit consisted of torn, black skinny jeans covered in white polkadots and a loose chartreuse shirt that hung off her left shoulder, completed with a pair of peacock feather earrings dangling from her petite ears.
"Why in the butt?" Jack picked up the fallen items and silenced the phone still blaring music from his pocket.
"Cause that's the best place to shank!"she poked him in the side with a giddy smile, light bouncing off her amethyst eyes illuminated by pink eye shadow.
"Yeah, okay. Whatever floats your boat, I guess." The white-haired lad continued to sweep around the area, reaching underneath one of the chairs.
"Well, are ya done yet?" She watched him as he moved behind the front desk.
"Cause we're going out, remember?"
"Out where, dare I ask?" He lazily peered in her direction.
"Holy molars, Jack! Remember? We had plans, to go to that new club that just opened?" Her voice squeaked as she gaped in disbelief. Gosh, did he have the memory of a rock or what?
"Oh-OH! Crap, sorry. Just slipped my mind."
With a sigh, Baby Tooth leaned against the wall and smiled sadly at the ground, "Frosty, I swear, if your head wasn't attached you'd forget that too."
"More than likely." He scooped the remaining pile of dust and dirt into the pan and tossed it in the garbage.
"Yeah, well, ya better hurry up. 'Cause I invited some of the girls, and I don't wanna keep 'em waiting."
"Oh fan-freakin-tastic. Your little harem of cackling hens."
"Aw, come on. They're your friends!"
He turned sharply and pointed a long finger at her, "No, nononono. They're YOUR friends, I'm just the jackass you drag along."
"Well, you are a jackass." A smug grin formed on her glossy lips.
"You-you know what I mean." He walked back into the lounge to deposit the cleaning utensils.
"Can we go now? I've been waiting all day, Snowball." An exaggerated sigh slipped out her mouth.
Jack returned, walking out the curtain while wiping any remnants off his hands on the sides of his pants, "Yeah, just let me lock up, ya little Tooth Fairy."
The shop's keys dangled on a small hook near the front desk, glimmering like silver switchblades ready for the attack. With a flick of the fingers, the boy knocked them off their perch and into his waiting palm with a jingle. Baby Tooth bounced giddily out the front door as Jack grabbed his beloved hoodie and jabbed one of the multiple keys in the lock, turning and clicking it into its nightly security. As he tugged them out, he realized something: he had the keys. As in, HE would have to get up a little earlier than usual to open the parlor, since this was the only set and North usually took them.
"Sonofabitch." He said to himself, as his partner-in-crime yanked his arm harshly and ushered them up the street. You know, for a little bird, she sure had a grip.
They stalked past some middle-aged couples (who would look at them funny), a few teenagers, and even a few ladies of the night before crossing several blocks and spotting a large crowd forming in front of a building. It was chock-full of youngsters dressed in ripped shorts, clingy shirts and excessive jewelry, practically a rainbow of idiocy. A mammoth sign with the name 'La Luna' in a neon fuchsia light called out the masses like a hot flame to the colorful moths. The sign also had a giant, full moon staring back at them against the plain, brick building. Looking back at its bright face, Jack felt a tinge of nervousness climb into his stomach. It glared at him, scrutinizing him under a set of invisible yet powerful eyes; it could read him like a book and scanned through every dumb choice and mistake he made like some sort of failure catalog. Although the moon brought him some comfort on lonely nights, it also came with a sense of dread he couldn't wish away. Even this artificial moon gave him mixed feelings, much more negative than he originally thought. Amidst the unrelenting chaos of fun-seeking partygoers and the never-ceasing flow of booze, for once in his young life, Jack just felt so out of place underneath that painted moon.
"Jack? Jack?... Yo Frost-Butt!" Baby Tooth's squeaky voice cut through the late night chit-chat.
"Hmm? What?" He blinked a couple of times to discover they were in line. Since when did they move?
"Dude, you totally spaced out." She dropped her voice to a whisper, "Are you on drugs? 'Cause if you are, you gotta share some with me."
She grinned at him like the Cheshire cat while he gave back a look that said 'that's not funny'.
"Nah, I was just thinking." A small puff of vapor flitted from his mouth into the air due to a drop in temperature.
"Well cheer up! I thought you were excited about coming here. You kept going on and on about it."
"Yeah, but it's been a long day." He rubbed the left side of his neck.
"What happened, huh?"
"Ah, it's nothing. Let's just wait."
"Come ooonnn, tell me and I'll buy ya a drink?" She poked him in the belly.
"You tempt me Madame with the promise of liquor? Well I never!-okay, I'll tell you. Some chick came in, smoking hot by the way, but she's leaving tomorrow and I never got a chance."
"Chance? Chance to what? Screw her? 'Cause that's all you do Jack." She put her hands on her hips.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, come ON Jack. You are quite the dandy! You pick up girls all the time, and take them back to your place then never talk to them again."
"Just what are you insinuating?"
"You're upset over one bird, when there are plenty here to choose from."
"Well, pardon! Please excuse me for thinking she was the one." He jokingly put a hand to his chest as if he were seriously offended.
"Oh, this old shit again?" Baby Tooth rolled her eyes in the opposite direction.
She put a hand on his shoulder, "Jack, I hear you saying that a lot, and yet you've never had a real girlfriend."
She chucked that in his face like a flying brick. He's never had an actual girlfriend for more than a couple of weeks, even though he did pick a good sum for one-nighters.
Seeing the shocked/disappointed look on his face, she quickly added, "Look Jack, it's just like, uh... Romeo and Juliet!"
"Remember from the play? Romeo falls in love with Rosaline, but she doesn't return the feelings. You just need to wait for your Juliet to come along."
"You are aware that both Romeo and Juliet die at the end, correct?"
"Y-you know what I mean!"
Before Jack could retort, the line had moved a good amount. The group ahead of them moved inside, exposing the larger-than-life bouncer in all black to the duo.
"ID please." The man watched them with dark eyes, extending a hand.
Baby Tooth slipped a small card out of her pocket and handed it to him with an unwavering smile. He glanced at it, switching his gaze from the card, to her and back.
"Okay, go ahead." The bouncer stepped to the left to allow her in the entrance.
Now it was Jack's turn, which he absolutely hated.
"ID please." The man repeated.
Unwillingly, the white-haired youth reached into his pocket for his wallet, plucking his driver's license from its secure case. With a sigh he handed it to him, watching as the man's face changed from stern to confused whilst looking at the picture. There was a good reason Jack hated his driver's license: he looked nothing like the picture. When he had gotten it, his hair was still brown as well as his eyes, and he didn't have any of his tattoos at that point.
"O-okay, go ahead." The man looked at him quizzically before stepping over and returning to his usual, brutish stance.
Jack pushed his way past some screaming morons making duck-faces and taking pictures before the place came into view. Under some hypnotic and repetitive beat, lights flashed and danced across the crescent-shaped dance floor with a circular bar set at the center against the wall. Dark, round booths suited out in leather encased the walls, filled to the brim with drinking friends or passed out dorks covered in a pool of alcohol. He carefully avoided a stumbling couple leaning on each other as they walked past him on their way out, and scanned his eyes across the space before noticing a head of colorful hair belonging to his friend, seated at a booth.
"Oh! Jack! We're over here!" Baby Tooth spotted him coming towards the table, and waved as she tried to yell over the blaring combination of techno music and drunken fools.
The boy stepped forward to see her and her small group of girlfriends, who all gave him funny looks before returning to their squeaky chatter. Oh, it was going to be a long night.
Most of the night, the girls clucked away like chickens while Jack just sipped on whatever drink Baby Tooth got for him (he was just a year shy of being able to legally purchase liquor). A few girls kept flocking to him and flirted, doing things like sitting in his lap or leaning over and exposing their cleavage to his lusty eyes, but other than that he remained quiet and uninterested. Was this because of one girl? Perhaps it was because she got away from him before he could ask anything? He couldn't really wrap his mind around it. Another addition to the problems Jack already had was that he had the tendency to fall for people easily, even if they just met. Guess he and Romeo had something in common after all.
"Jack, are you okay?" His female companion leaned over and asked him.
"Hmm? Uh, y-yeah. I, ugh, I just have a little headache." He took a swig out of his beer bottle.
"Oh. Do you want me to get you something?" Some of the girls stopped talking and looked at him.
"Uh, no. It's fine. I'm just gonna go ahead and get going, okay?"
Woozy and tired, the lad stood and stretched as he got out of the cramped booth.
"Aww, you're leaving? Come on, Jack. Just stay a bit longer?" Baby Tooth cocked her head at him with concerned eyes.
"No, no, sorry. I've got work tomorrow and would prefer not going in hung over." He joked as he waved a quick goodbye to the girls who just waved him off with dirty looks planted on their faces.
"O-okay... Do you need me to walk you home?" She shouted as he got farther away.
Jack just shook his head as he stumbled towards the exit and out of view. He walked around the bouncer and the swarming crowd of happy-go-lucky young adults around the building, stepping forward until they all disappeared into memory.
His vision became a little blurry as he stalked along the streets, as the people and moving cars doubled in a slight haze; he could still hear the music pounding against his eardrums in its hypnotic and (slightly) annoying rhythm.
"Watch it!" Some man said as Jack almost tripped near him.
It didn't quite register in his brain though, as he followed a small crowd across the crosswalk, since the lights still shined like strobing stars in his eyes. A different light caught his attention though, something soft and homey. The boy blinked a couple of times before realizing it came from a balcony far above his head, yet it's contents could still be seen.
Trying to focus, he squinted his eyes to see someone leaning over it looking at the city. From what he could tell, it was a young man (at least he thought it was) wearing brown jeans and a green hoodie. His auburn hair reflected all sorts of amber-colored light, while his pale flesh seemed to be covered in a small assortment of freckles. Jack didn't know why he was staring, maybe it was the alcohol, but he became somewhat entranced with this foreign figure. That is until the figure in question peered over in his direction. An odd tinge of nervousness climbed into his gut at the pair of eyes focused on his being, concerned and questioning. But all time seemed to stop as well, until someone called from the inside. The young man looked over towards the balcony door and headed towards it, stopping halfway to look at Jack once more before entering and leaving view.
Jack stood in place dumbfounded for a minute more, staring at where the boy had been, before coughing the accumulated phlegm from his throat and stumbling forward once again. Young Jack continued into the night, with it's bright stars being overshadowed by puffy clouds, hiding the moon as well.