Eric knew Jack had a tattoo, of course. They'd shared a locker room for two years, and Eric may have been assiduous about Not Staring--and, where Jack was concerned, barely even looking--but he'd caught plenty of glimpses of that dark bold color over Jack's spine.
No one talked about it, the way no one talked about a lot of things about Jack, so Eric had never asked. He barely even thought about it; it wasn't as if a tattoo more or less was what mattered to him about Jack. Also, honestly, any time he did have a chance to see Jack from behind, Eric was looking a little lower than his back.
He had just about forgotten the tattoo's existence completely by the time he and Jack found themselves with an unexpected hour's privacy during Jack's Fourth of July visit. The door closed behind Eric's parents and they just stared at each other for several seconds, paralyzed by the opportunity. They'd stolen kisses and touches in the last sixteen hours, and Eric had been mentally drawing and redrawing the lines on what he was willing to do in the semi-privacy of the darkness out by the lake after the fireworks were over, but now...
The frozen moment broke and they ran for the stairs together, jostling each other all the way up to Eric's room. Eric slammed the door--Jack darted across the room to close the blinds--and they met at Eric's bed, kissing hungrily and yanking at each other's clothes. They mostly just got in each other's way, knocking wrists and elbows, shoving and tickling, but eventually they managed to get out of their clothes, too.
They folded awkwardly onto Eric's twin bed, both of them trying to cling and touch at the same time. The results were as clumsy as the undressing had been, but Eric could barely think about it with Jack's naked body pressed to his; they were both laughing breathlessly, and he wasn't sure if they were play-wrestling or having sex almost until he came, letting out a sharp, startled cry as his cock spurted against Jack's belly.
Jack froze for a second, watching him, but before Eric could feel too bad about going off so fast, Jack was kissing him hard, breaking away only to mutter fierce, hot little bits of French. Jack's cock was hard, pressing firmly against him, and Eric finally had the presence of mind to wrap his hand around it. He got about two strokes in before Jack groaned against his lips and Jack's cock jerked in his grip.
Jack slumped against him, his face tucked down where Eric couldn't see; after a moment he said, "I had plans. I was going to... it was supposed to be nice for you. For your first time."
Eric giggled helplessly. "If that wasn't nice I don't know what would be, Jack."
Jack huffed at him and picked his head up enough to kiss him, but Eric had the giggles for real now, and soon Jack was laughing too. They tussled a little more, but Eric felt too warm and loose now to put any muscle into it. After a few minutes he let Jack flop down on top of him, all sweaty and sticky and squashing him into the mattress where he'd spent so many nights alone, dreaming wistfully of someday having a boyfriend who--
Eric picked his head up, squinting down Jack's back, trying to make sense of the dark stripe down his spine. It was his tattoo, of course, but what on earth was it?
Then he managed to mentally flip it, and the odd little triangular bit became the serif on the top of a 1 in navy blue, edged in white and lighter blue.
Jack had his own jersey number tattooed on his back in his team colors.
Eric started laughing again, harder than ever, wriggling and kissing at Jack's ear and temple as he giggled and snorted and howled. "Jack, you--you're--number one--"
Jack moved up off him enough to look him in the face; he was smiling bemusedly. "Are you chirping me about my tattoo?"
Eric sat up so he could see it better, and Jack obligingly stayed where he was, lying face down, though he turned his head to watch as Eric traced his fingers down the thick bar of navy ink, still laughing. It filled the valley of Jack's spine from between his shoulder blades to the small of his back, rising up higher on the right side than the left, because the numeral was perfectly centered, including the serif on the left.
"Lord, yes, I’m chirping you, why doesn't everyone--"
And then it caught up with Eric, and his laughter froze in his chest.
No one chirped Jack about his tattoo, even though it was the epitome of Jack in hockey robot mode--decorating his chassis with his numeric designation. Eric could almost hear Shitty saying it.
But these weren't Falcs colors, even though they nearly matched; Jack had had this tattoo since before Eric knew him. These were Rimouski's colors. That tattoo was a relic of Jack's time in the Q, and... well. Everyone knew how that ended, so of course no one joked about it.
"No," Jack said softly. "Laugh at it, that's better. I'd rather it was funny."
"Was it?" Eric asked, dragging his eyes away from the tattoo to meet Jack's gaze. "When you got it? Was it...?"
One corner of Jack's mouth tucked up. "It, uh. It depends. I don't know if you can see--there's part of it that's older. The outline, and the very top?"
Eric leaned in, running his fingers gently over the ink, and he found that he could feel it, a little. The border of the navy area, and a little of the top of where it filled in, was slightly raised, and a very slightly different shade from the rest.
"That part was funny," Jack said. "Or, well. I'd been drinking, and Kenny had been drinking, and we were talking about what tattoos we'd get. He thought it was a horrible idea and dared me to do it. But that was as far as it got before it started bleeding--pretty badly, I guess?--and the tattoo artist realized I'd been drinking when I said I hadn't and kicked us out."
Eric snorted, shaking his head, and stroked his fingers down Jack's spine. "When was that?"
Jack tucked his head down. "About a week before the draft."
"Oh, honey," Eric whispered.
"After... after everything," Jack said quietly, still talking into the mattress. "I would look at it and think about how that was me, that was... Nothing else left a scar. Drinking didn't. Hockey didn't. Kenny didn't. I overdosed, I almost died, even that didn't leave a mark. Half a tattoo, that was--all of it, that was the mark it left. It was ugly and unfinished and messy and stupid, and for a while I thought... that was what it deserved to be, that was... what I deserved to be carrying around. That was what my hockey career amounted to."
Eric hadn't ever known that his heart could physically ache like this before, that it could feel heavy in his chest for his sadness at someone else's long-ago pain.
"But you didn't leave it like that," he offered softly, tracing his thumb down the bright white and blue border. "You didn't stop there."
Jack shook his head, and turned enough to look at Eric again. "When I was coaching and I went back to CEGEP, and started thinking about university, and playing again, I..." He smiled a little. "Partly I thought I'd mind having a stupid tattoo less than such an ugly one, if I was going to be in a locker room again. And partly... I wanted to tie it off. Do it right, show the colors. Wherever else I went, whatever came next... Rimouski was important. It did leave a mark. But it didn't have to be only a scar, eh?"
Eric wriggled down to lie next to him and kissed him again, softly, sweetly, until Jack said, "So for my Samwell tattoo, I was thinking--"
He started to trace the digits on his chest, and Eric yelped and caught his hand, setting off another wrestling match. "Jack Laurent, don't you dare!"