“I’d like a tattoo, please,” says a deep, gravely voice, one that Dean’s never heard before, but admits in a fleeting moment of vulnerable shock that he wouldn’t mind hearing it more. It’s got a nice tone to it, like hot unadulterated sex dragging over hot lava.
Dean looks up anyway, sees a flustered looking man in a rumpled trench coat–which is seriously the ugliest thing that Dean has ever seen, but somehow he can take his eyes off of it, in a weird, appraising sort of way. His hair is tousled, chocolate brown fluffs sticking out in every which direction, his lips are slightly chapped, but look soft to the touch. His eyes are the only thing that make him pause, though; they’re a rich cerulean color, one that he’s never seen before and he can’t help but be a little mesmerized by them. They’re bottomless pools and he’s sure he could spend all day looking into them and not even realize it’s even happened.
Today’s supposed to be an easy day. He has no appointments scheduled because Jo is off being deathly ill with the flu in her bed, and it’s hard to run a tattoo parlor with only one person–even if he remains the only tattoo artist–and instead has been busying himself with updating the tattoo portfolios and costumer information logs.
“Pardon?” Dean asks, because he doesn’t think he’s ever heard a customer talk to him like this–not that he minds, he likes when they’re authoritative and know what they want; it makes his job easier (he’s a tattoo artist, so this rarely ever happens).
The man looks at him, a little petulantly. “A tattoo,” he repeats.
Dean nods. “Right,” he says. “Of course. Appointment?”
The man tilts his head, almost like he’s confused. “I wasn’t aware I needed one.”
“This is a tattoo shop,” Dean points out, maybe a little snappy and rude, because who doesn’t know that most tattoo shops are run on an appointment basis only–though he accepts walk-ins when there’s nothing better to do, he likes the stability that appointments provide. They guarantee him a job and more money and there’s nothing better than more money to Dean Winchester (except sex, or pie, or his Impala). “They’re generally run by scheduled appointments.”
He purses his lips, looks over at Dean intensely for a few moments longer than is strictly necessary. He finally nods. “No to the tattoo, then?”
Dean let’s out a breath, exasperated and he’ll admit begrudgingly that it’s kind of amused underneath the twenty layers of other emotions. “What is it that you want?”
He pulls out a piece of paper from his coat pocket and slides it over the counter to Dean. “That.”
Dean nods, takes the nearly crushed paper in hand, and unfolds it, smoothing out the edges and glances down. He runs his fingers over the various symbols, tracing the familiarity.
“The language of the Angels, huh?” Dean asks, curiously.
The man’s eyes color in surprise. “You know what Enochian is?”
Dean nods. “Yeah,” he says, “my brother was kind of obsessed with mythology in high school. He’d make me read all of the books and articles and watch the documentaries with him.” He doesn’t add on about how he liked reading and watching those books and shows, because, it’s not like he’s going to sit here spilling his heart out to someone who is still, essentially, a stranger.
Dean laughs self-deprecatingly; it’s not like this stranger actually cares about what his over-emotional, hotshot lawyer brother was interested in when he was a smelly, lanky teenager. Dean knows he sure wouldn’t care if he was on the other side of the conversation.
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Dean starts, “but isn’t this a quote of some sort?”
“It is,” he says, and when he doesn’t further elaborate, Dean decides to drop it with a sigh.
“I can do this for you,” Dean says, “but I’m going to need your information on file, and I’m going to need you to pay me upfront. I normally wouldn’t request such a thing, but we’ve run into some recent problems with clients ducking out.”
He doesn’t look very offended, which is nice; it’s not like Dean wants to deal with a morbidly insane person today. There’s something quiet about this man that makes him want to know everything about him, and if there’s one place to bond with someone, it’s when they’re getting tattooed. Most people are oddly comfortable and relaxed, willing to say whatever it is they’ve been holding in, or back from, and Dean likes listening to other people’s problems.
Most of the time, they’re almost strong enough to take him away from his own.
“I understand,” he says, finally, intense blue, so blue, eyes focusing on Dean’s face again.
“Awesome. After you pay, I’ll transfer this design over onto some paper and then we can modify it to your liking,” Dean explains, he doesn’t know why he does, but he’s getting the creeping suspicion that this is his first tattoo, and he’s heard that his voice is oddly calming. Plus, sometimes it helps to hear the step-by-step directions on something before you do it.
Some people enjoy that type of information that they’re able to fall back on.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine regardless,” he says.
Dean barks out a laugh, surprised. “Thank you for your blind faith–” He trails off, not knowing his name. “Though, you should be careful where and who you put that in.”
“I’m Castiel,” the man says.
He quirks a suspicious eyebrow, because seriously, how drunk were his parents when they named him?
“Castiel,” he murmurs, mostly to himself, testing out the weight of the name in his mouth. It’s nice, kind of a mouthful, but nice, and he can’t help but be grateful he doesn’t have some stupid generic fratboy name like Chad or something equally as erection-murdering. “Interesting.”
“Your name?” Castiel asks.
Dean looks up from the computer system. “What?” He asks, stupidly.
Castiel’s face remains emotionless, but he sees a glimmer of amusement light up his eyes, and Dean’s struck breathless with how good it looks on him. “What’s your name?”
“Dean,” he offers, soft and gentle, and he has no idea why. “Dean Winchester, at your service.”
“Fascinating,” Castiel mutters, and suddenly the amusement morphs into something far too mischievous to not suggest that he’s teasing him.
Dean snorts. “Hilarious.”
Castiel shrugs. “I thought so.”
He watches as Castiel reaches into his coat pocket to retrieve his wallet and then he slides over his credit card. "I assume this is alright?"
"Yeah," says Dean, taking the card and running it through the system. Once the approval message pops up on the screen, he turns to the other man with a smirk. "Congratulations, you just bought yourself a brand new tattoo," he intones.
He doesn't smile, but his eyes light up in amusement, and well, Dean figures that's just as well, too.
Dean turns away before he can get lost in his eyes–so fucking blue, man–and busies himself with getting out the first-time customer paperwork and then hands it over to Castiel. “Here,” he says, “it’s pretty standard, but if you need help or anything feel free to ask.”
Castiel nods, a quick jerk of his head, nervous. “That sounds reasonable,” he says, like it’s completely and totally unreasonable to ask for help, and whatever, most men–including Dean–are like that anyway, so he’s not too bothered.
He goes over in the corner where he has a small drawing studio set up, because he hates those tattoo shops where the tattoo artist draws on the counter and leaves a big mess everywhere. Dean may be unconventional, he’s a tattoo artist with only two tattoos, but he’s clean and sanitary and enjoys when his employees, patrons, and himself don’t catch Tetanus and shrivel up and die.
Castiel’s making grunting noises every so often, and Dean tries to ignore them, he really does; he has a job to do and he’s getting the inkling that if he messes this up, Castiel would be the type of person to sue him and make his life a living hell. The last thing that Dean needs right now is a lawsuit hanging over his head (though maybe Sam will get some steady work now, and how ironic that it would be to help Dean out this time around). So he tries, but they’re getting increasingly annoyed and uncomfortable, like Cas has no idea what he’s doing and he finds this incredibly unnecessary.
“You alright?” Dean asks, finally.
Castiel doesn’t look up, but he goes rigid. “Yes,”
“Sure,” Dean agrees easily. They both know he’s not, but Dean can’t help but find the first-time-tattooed jitters kind of endearing–this goes for anyone that doesn’t scream and thrash, but especially for Castiel.
He doesn’t know why.
He goes for something simple, because Castiel seems like the kind of guy that appreciates simplicity. He makes the script slightly slanted, almost like it were in italics with thick upstrokes that blend in nicely. He does want people to be able to see the thing, after all.
He decides to have it slither down wherever he decides to place it (adaptability is a strong suit for most tattoos, Dean thinks), almost like a snake would–it’s not every day you see a quote like that anyway, most people tend to go for the whole block text look, and while Dean finds that pleasing enough, he’s always been someone to angle more towards something obscure. He chooses a dark grey ink, because the man is exceptionally pale and while he normally does go for jarring tattoos on most people, he doesn’t think that this blue-eyed wonder would appreciate such a thing.
Once he’s finished with the design, he walks over to where Castiel is sitting patiently and thrusts the paper into his hands, which are folded on his lap.
“I’m not sure if this is the placement and design you wanted but I thought it’d be a good starting point,” he explains, taking a breath. “I can change anything about it, man, I just need to know specifics ‘cause you’re stuck with this for the rest of your life, and you better choose something you like.” He’s babbling, and he knows he is, but there’s something about Castiel that makes his blood thrum hotly, makes his heart beat just that much faster. It throws him off kilter, but in the most pleasant way.
Castiel stares at the paper for a while, not saying anything.
“You can tell me if it sucks, man,” Dean lets out a forced laugh, “I’ve got thick skin, promise.”
He opens his mouth as if to say something, looks down with red cheeks, and his eyes crinkle at the corners. Dean tries not to stare. He’s pretty sure he fails.
“It’s lovely,” Castiel finally murmurs, fingers running appreciatively over the design. Dean heart stutters in his chest in pride.
“Yeah?” he asks, preening.
Castiel either doesn’t catch on or doesn’t care enough to call him out on it, because he continues briskly with an, “It’s exactly what I wanted.”
“Sweet,” he says. “I know I should have asked this before, but this was supposed to be a slow day anyway, so where did you want the tattoo?” He asks, sheepish. Maybe he’ll throw in a discount so Castiel won’t give his professionalism a bad review.
“Oh,” Castiel sighs, like he didn’t think of that either. A brief flash of relief runs through his veins. “On my forearm,” he says.
Dean nods. “Nice choice,” he comments, and then heads over to the first chair. “Take off your shirt,” he says.
“Your shirt,” Dean gestures to the blue-grey-and-white pinstriped button down wildly. “I can’t tattoo your arm through a shirt,” he says, though he mentally puts that on his ‘to-try-while-fantastically-smashed’ list.
It could prove to be fun.
“Oh,” Castiel repeats, and starts to unbutton his shirt with shaking hands.
Dean has to look away so he doesn’t stare, and instead busies himself with sanitizing the equipment and chair–even though he already did yesterday, it makes him feel better to know that the chances of someone getting infected are drastically diminished.
“Where do you want me?” Cas–and when the fuck did they get on nickname basis anyway?–asks, looking at him expectantly.
Dean ignores the feeling of fiery hot lust that shoots through him as he imagines what it would look like in a situation where their clothes were off and scattering his apartment floor, and points to the chair beside him. “Here,” he says, even though he doesn’t have to.
Cas sits down, kind of hesitantly and it makes Dean throw a broad, reassuring grin at him in return.
“Don’t be nervous,” he says, for the sole purpose to make him more nervous.
Dean sometimes is a colossal dick.
“Alright,” Dean mutters, before Cas can say something like “I’m leaving” or “Nevermind, let’s do this another time,” because he comes off as fickle when he’s not completely sure about something, and Dean can tell from the way his eyes brightened earlier that he wants this. “This might hurt a little.”
He doesn’t say anything, just looks at him stupidly pretty and Dean brings the needle toward his skin, carefully, not wanting to throw the guy off guard or anything.
As expected, Castiel winces, even if it’s subtle enough that Dean would’ve missed it if his eyes weren’t trained to catch body language–no matter how slight or obvious–and Dean tries not to feel bad about it as he starts the first stroke.
“So, what made you want to get a tattoo?” he hears himself ask. He honestly doesn’t like the whole small talk thing, but Cas looks like he’s five seconds away from bolting and Dean obviously doesn’t want that to happen.
Castiel tenses slightly as Dean focuses on making the text exactly how it was on paper. “I have always wanted to be marked,” he says slowly, and Dean nearly chokes. “With a tattoo,” he adds, hastily.
“They are a gorgeous art,” Dean says around the lump in his throat.
Cas doesn’t notice, but Dean’s quickly realized that he probably does notice but just chooses not to say anything.
They’re quiet for a while, Dean focusing his full attention on the tattoo, trying to make it perfect, and Cas probably either doesn’t want to interrupt or is trying to concentrate on being still and quiet. It’s not like Dean’s complaining, because normally he would be basking in this type of silence, but it’s odd and it drags against his nerves unpleasantly.
Eventually, Dean can’t stand it anymore. “What do you do, Cas?”
Castiel levels a confused stare at him, a slight head tilt an all. It’s hard not to find it endearing. “Excuse me?”
“For a living,” Dean clarifies. “What do you do?”
“Oh,” Cas murmurs, looking kind of sheepish. “I own a bookshop.”
“Yeah?” He grunts. “Have I heard of it?”
“I’m not sure if it’s really your scene,” he offers. Dean bristles, probably visibly because his eyes soften. “It doesn’t get much traffic,” he amends.
He nods, still a little offended, but he otherwise lets it go. There’s no reason to get in a prissy fit with a customer, one that he nonetheless, absolutely knows nothing about–which isn’t uncommon, but Dean likes to have a consultation appointment before the actual tattooing process begins.
“Are you new to the business?”
“No,” Castiel shakes his head. “My sister classifies the bookshop as being ‘hipster’, but I’m afraid I don’t understand that reference.”
Dean can’t help but smile at the general area of his forearm–and god help him, find him adorable–as he finishes the first letter. “Kind of means that it’s unknown, or appeals to a certain group of people.”
“I see,” Castiel says, the it’s clear from his tone that he really doesn’t.
“You like books?” Dean asks, when he’s halfway through with the design.
It looks tremendously better on Castiel’s skin than it did on the paper, and Dean’s kind of glad, because he was worried about it being dimensional and proportionate.
Cas lets out a sound that’s halfway between a snort and an amused, disbelieving sigh. “I do own a bookstore, Dean.”
Dean shrugs. “Could just be to pay the bills,” he points out. There are plenty of people that work because they have to, not because they necessarily want to.
Dean can’t help but find himself lucky that he likes what he does.
For some reason, he finds himself hoping that it’s the same for Cas, too.
“I do like books,” he confirms. “I like them very much.”
Dean smiles. “Yeah? Got a favorite author?”
“I like Milton,” says Cas, wincing in pain, but otherwise staying stock still, his face composed despite the discomfort from the tattoo.
“You know, I’m not even surprised, man,” he snorts, shaking his head slightly.
Cas looks like he wants to be offended, but he’s caught between the pain in his arm and whatever else is churning around inside of him and seems to let it go. Dean sighs, and takes the time to focus–for some reason he actually wants to do well; it’s not like he always doesn’t, anyway, but there’s something about Cas that makes him want to impress–on the Enochian symbols. It’s definitely one of the weirder requests he’s gotten for a tattoo, but he’s enjoying it nonetheless.
He tries not to think about how much that actually might be related to the man receiving it, though.
When Cas doesn’t offer anything else at length, he meets his eyes for a brief moment while fixing the needle. “I like Vonnegut myself.”
Cas says nothing, but there’s a gentle quirk to his mouth that suggests he finds this endearing.
An hour later and Dean’s putting the finishing touches on the tattoo, broadening the lines, and adding color to the strokes. It’s a simple tattoo in retrospect, but it was hard to place and even harder to draw on, especially with Cas making these abortive little movements, almost like he wanted to push Dean away. He would’ve found them annoying if they weren’t such a view into how the man was really feeling. Even though they hadn’t spent a lot of time around each other, it was obvious that Cas was a pretty stoic guy, and to know that he was bringing out a little bit of emotion in him–no matter how small–made a warmth spread throughout his chest.
Cas’ face is pressed into the arm that isn’t currently being worked on, hiding his face from view, his hair sticking out in fluffy tufts that curl around the nape of his neck. Dean turns off the needle, taps him gently on the shoulder, and says with an evident smile in his voice, “You’re done.”
He slowly lifts his head up, and blinks at Dean bleary, eyes half-mast and unfocused and Dean’s struck with the sudden thought about how delicious those eyes would look in the bedroom. He bites back the witty retort that dances along the edges of his tongue, and puts the needle down.
“That was,” Cas starts, and licks his lips. Dean tries not to track the movement with his eyes. “That was faster than I expected.”
“You were easier than most,” says Dean, and he mostly says it to calm the nerves that are still clear in his cerulean-blue eyes, but there’s a ring of truth to it, too.
“I would hate to cause you trouble,” he says, and then his cheeks flush brightly in the dim light of the parlor. “Especially with the entrance I made earlier. I do apologize for that.”
Dean raises an eyebrow. “What?”
“I only behaved like that because I knew if I did not get the tattoo then, then I wouldn’t get it at all,” Cas explains.
“I know,” Dean says.
“It was written all over your face.”
“What do you think?” Dean asks, after he’s sanitized the needles, walking over to where Cas is checking out the finished product in the mirror.
Cas looks up briefly from the mirror. “It’s perfect,” he murmurs.
Dean smiles. “I’m glad you like it, then,” he says, and breathes out a subtle sigh of relief. There’s always that moment of doubt right before that clinches Dean in places that he never knew he had.
He’s pretty sure Cas notices, but as always, he says nothing. “Thank you,” says Cas, gratefully.
“My pleasure,” Dean grunts.
Before Cas can get another word in, Dean throws up a finger and goes off to get the care supplies.
He brings out a bandage and holds it up pointedly. “I assume you know what this bandage is for,” he says.
Cas tilts his head kind of adorably and nods. “Of course. A tattoo is like a cut on the skin,” he says this like he’s dumbfounded as to why Dean even questioned him knowing that.
Dean beams. “Correct,” he says. “And because of this, we need to protect it. Leave the bandage alone,” he orders, though he knows that Castiel probably already knows this, but he feels like he should say it anyway.
“Leave the bandage on for a minimum of two hours,” he explains. “It’ll let the tattoo heal and won’t cause an infection. After your done with that be sure to wash it gently with a mild antibacterial soap, and when you dry it be sure to pat only.”
“Of course, Dean,” Cas nods.
Dean takes that as his cue to continue. “And lastly, if the tattoo itches, please don’t scratch it. I’d hate for you to ruin such a pretty mark,” says Dean.
“Alright,” he says.
He steps closer to Cas, and gently takes his forearm in one hand, and with the other, he carefully unwraps the bandaid, and places it over the new wound, his touch so tender it’s almost like a caress. He smooths out the edges.
“Well, I think that’s all,” he says, and hands Cas the papers that basically explain what he just told him. “If you have any questions, refer to that, and if you run into any problems – well, I don’t usually do this, but feel free to call the parlor.”
Cas peers at him thoughtfully, and Dean wonders idly how long he can go without blinking, seriously.
“Thank you,” he repeats.
Dean waves a dismissive hand. “Thank me by taking care of that for me,” he retorts, a light chuckle seeping into his tone.
“I will,” he promises, and then looks around, a little confused. “Is it alright if I put on my shirt?”
Dean nods. “You do have a bandaid over it,” he says, “which will help protect the tattoo until you take it off. Luckily you wore a loose top today anyway, so just be sure to keep that up for the next couple of days, and if it’s looking a little dry, moisturize it, which will help with the scabbing.”
Cas nods, soaking up the information like a sponge, and pulls on his shirt carefully. Dean’s fingers twitch with the urge to button it for him, but he refrains, mostly because he doesn’t want to get punched in the face.
“I have to go now,” Castiel says, after a few moments of thick and heavy–but comfortable–silence. “I need to go back to the bookshop, I left it in the hands of my brother and I really don’t think he knows what he’s doing,” he explains ruefully.
He chuckles, low and sweet in his throat. “Go on,” he says. “I hope you enjoy your tattoo.”
“I have no doubts that I will, Dean,” he says, and grabs the papers that Dean handed him.
He’s three steps away from the door when Dean clears his throat and speaks up. “Cas?”
He turns around. “Yes, Dean?”
He bites his lip on a smile, and asks, “What’s the name of your bookshop?”
“Heaven’s Rest,” he says.
“I’ll drop by sometime,” Dean says, and he doesn’t know why he does, but once it’s out it’s too late to take it back.
He realizes soon after that he means it.
Castiel smiles, more than just a little quirk of the mouth, showing just a little teeth. “I’ll be there.”
Dean can’t help but think that his smile feels like a promise.