When Jack was twelve and Charlie was thirteen (he'd had his birthday already, and even though Jack's was only a few weeks away, he couldn't help but feel there was something cool about Charlie now--he was a teenager, after all), they found the kitten. It was a tiny black thing, small enough to hold in one hand if they could catch it--which they hardly ever managed--and mewed pitifully. The boys discovered it in spare lot, which wasn't really a spare lot at all, just a house that'd never been inhabited for as long as either could remember. There was something of a rumor of a haunting, and Charlie had wanted to check it out. Jack was less than enthusiastic about the prospect, but Charlie's eyes shined whenever he talked about it, so that was that.
Really, in Jack's mind, the kitten was a blessing. If it hadn't leapt out from behind the bushes when it did, Charlie would've finished prying the boards off the windows and they would've actually had to go in the house. But the little black streak was more than enough to catch Charlie's attention. They knelt down under the porch it had escaped to and found reflective green eyes staring back at them.
Charlie wanted to keep it.
Parents were asked and promises of chores and feedings and doing well in school this term, honest, were made. But Charlie's mom was allergic to cats, so that was a failure. When Charlie stormed out of the house, fists clenched to his side and most decidedly not crying, Jack knew that it was his turn to ask. He knew equally well that his family didn't want a pet, but it's not like he could just say that to Charlie.
But it ended up a moot point anyway, because they found the kitten's body later that afternoon. It had ventured a little too far from the house in the spare lot, and a passing car was all it took. Jack would never forget the stricken look on Charlie's face as he stood at the curb and gently cradled the lifeless body of the kitten in his arm. They buried it at the back of the spare lot, and never went there to play ever again.
Which is why, really, a few years later Jack was a little surprised when Charlie turned up at his window a little before midnight and asked him if he wanted to pay a visit to the old spare lot.
"'Why?'" Charlie echoed Jack's question, a grin spreading across his face. "If I told you that, mate, it'd ruin all the surprise, now wouldn't it?"
Jack rather thought that Charlie turning up outside his window a little before midnight, shirtless and floating in midair was enough of a surprise, but he kept that to himself. "I'm already in my pajamas," he said.
Charlie shrugged, the lines of the tattoo coiling and uncoiling over his skin like shivering black serpents. "So what? It won't take long. I promise."
"...if I get in trouble for sneaking out, I'm blaming you," Jack grumbled, and grabbed Charlie's hand. It wasn't as impressive a flight as his first one--the neighborhood wasn't very big, after all, and they only had to go a few blocks. All the same, the wind whipping through his hair and under his thin pajamas and the maniac grin Charlie turned on him when he squeezed his hand tighter made it exhilarating nonetheless.
They landed in a patch of scrub grass behind the dilapidated house, the remains of a "for sale" sign twisted and broken to one side. Charlie let go of Jack's hand and started off across the lawn, the tattoo crawling across his back. It looked pitch black against Charlie's skin, which shone faintly in the moonlight. Jack had to follow at a slightly slower pace, afraid he'd step on a rusty nail with his bare feet. The last thing he wanted was to get tetanus. Especially in front of Charlie.
Charlie stopped in front of a big tree and crouched down in front of it. "Watch this," he said, glancing over his shoulder at Jack. With a stick, he began drawing strange, squiggly sigils on the dirt at his feet. Feeling a little foolish, Jack crouched next to him.
"What are you doing?" he whispered. He wasn't sure why he was whispering, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
So Jack watched. Charlie dropped the stick and held out his arms straight in front of him. And slowly, so slowly he thought he might be imagining it at first, the sigils began to glow. They filled with a cold blue light that hurt his eyes if he looked at it directly. He turned to look at Charlie. The tattoo had nearly covered his skin in darkness, and his brow was furrowed in concentration.
And suddenly Jack realized what Charlie meant to do. "Stop!" he yelled, grabbing Charlie's wrists and yanking his arms down. The glow disappeared.
"The hell did you do that for?!" Charlie exclaimed. The tattoo writhed.
"You... you can't just bring something back to life!" Like many of his recent conversations with Charlie, Jack couldn't help but feel this one take on a surreal edge. "Dead things are supposed to stay dead!"
Charlie scowled. "Says you. I say if I have the power to do this kind of stuff, I should be using it!"
The skin where the tattoo lurked was burning under Jack's hands, but he held on. "And what," he said, laughing weakly, "if you accidentally unleash an invasion of zombies? This isn't Shaun of the Dead, man. Can you see me with a cricket bat?"
"Hardly," Charlie said with a snort. Slowly, the tattoo began to recede. It crept back up his arms, coming to rest on his shoulders, twisting around his spine. "But, y'know, I was just trying to help," Charlie finished, looking down at the ground.
"Yeah, mate, I know." Jack sighed. On a whim, he followed the tattoo's path with his fingers, tracing a spiky whorl up Charlie's shoulderblade. Charlie shuddered, his lips parting faintly. Jack blinked and did it again.
"That's... weird," Charlie finally managed to say. He frowned down at Jack's hand, a contemplative look on his face.
Jack pulled his hand back. "Er, sorry," he muttered, and flushed. He was doing it again. The thing where sometimes he'd stare at Charlie a little too long in the locker room, or enjoy roughhousing a little too much.
But Charlie caught his hand. "That didn't mean stop," he said, a little gruffly.
"...okay?" Jack's voice came out oddly squeaky. Biting his lip, he brought his hand onto Charlie's back again. Slowly, carefully, he began to trace the ever-changing spikes and whirls of ink with the tips of his fingers. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Charlie's eyes flutter closed. As he ran his fingers over a particularly complex set of lines straight down his spine, Charlie made a pleased sort of noise. This was weird, Jack thought. Really, really weird, but he was sort of enjoying it and Charlie seemed to like it, so he wasn't going to stop. Even when Charlie started arching up into his tough, and his breathing turned to little breathless gasps. When Jack dragged both hands down over the tattoo, which looked a little like wings at the moment, and Charlie outright moaned, Jack realized that he was hard. "Um." he said. "Um, Charlie, I--"
Charlie looked over his shoulder at him and Jack found that he couldn't finish his thought. Charlie's eyes were dark, almost the same dark as the tattoo, and they seemed to see right through him. "Hey, Jack? You're my best mate, right?"
"Yeah," Jack said, automatically. Questions like that didn't require thought.
"Then shut up, okay?"
Charlie moved with inhuman speed, something that was becoming oddly familiar. What wasn't familiar was the way that Jack's back hit the ground because Charlie was pinning him there, on top of him. And for a panicked moment Jack was sure that this couldn't be what he thought it was, and there was no way Charlie could miss how Jack had reacted to the whole session with the tattoo--
And then Charlie grinned at him, right before closing the distance between the two of them and kissing Jack hard. Charlie's mouth was hot, too hot, and behind the taste of toothpaste there was something almost like blood, but darker. Before Jack could worry about this, though, his position got the better of him and the next thing he knew he was kissing back. He'd never really kissed anyone before, but he could sort of figure it out as he went along, especially if it always felt this good. And of course Charlie was a better kisser than he was, his tongue sliding lazily between Jack's lips in a way that could only be described as possessive.
Jack clutched at Charlie's back, making an embarrassing sort of whimpering noise into his mouth. Charlie didn't laugh, though. He just shifted his weight so that one of his thighs was between Jack's, and moved. And, yeah, judging by what he could feel, Jack wasn't the only one getting into this, and that's about when his brain shut down. He rocked against Charlie, with Charlie, and part of him almost felt like he could feel the tattoo threading between his fingers but that was impossible and then it all went white.
He blinked dazedly up at Charlie, who of course managed to make tousled and sweaty look sexy, and wondered how he was going to explain the grass stains on his pajamas. And why he couldn't help but feel like there was something wrong about all this. But Charlie laughed, and Jack couldn't help but laugh either, a little weakly, so it must have been okay after all.