"Live a little!"
The words echo through Rodney McKay's thoughts, a souvenir of the dressing down given by his sister for missing another family dinner earlier that week. He'd made excuses and promised to make it up to her.
"It's not me, Mer. It's Madison." Jeannie's eyes lit up at the thought of her young daughter. "She adores, you. And Caleb is used to you, as well," she continued, earning a derisive snort. "I'm just... You're the only family I've got left. I don't want to lose you."
"You won't," he promised.
"Yeah, well... I'm ordering you to do something else. Get out of your routine. Do something different."
Rodney furrowed his brow at her tone. "Like what?"
"Here," she said, while thrusting an envelope into his hands.
"What is it?" He ripped it open and squeaked. "A tattoo?!"
"Yes, Mer. A tattoo." Rodney gawked, though she ignored him and continued. "I went with Amy the day her divorce was final, while she got one. She said it symbolized a new beginning. And, now," she aimed her sisterly glare at him, "you are hereby ordered to have a new beginning. Get your head out of your lab for once." Jeannie squeezed his arm, then turned and marched off, leaving Rodney holding his gift certificate, speechless for once.
Rodney fidgets in his car, eyes darting between the gift certificate in his hand and the fluorescent lights of Pegasus Tattoo & Body Piercing Studio. A man in a tight black tee shirt walks by, his right arm decorated in an Asian-inspired theme. The man turns back to squint suspiciously at Rodney before disappearing into the shop.
"Might as well..." Rodney grumbles, lumbering out. (And if the attractive guy happens to be the deciding factor - well, nobody ever needs to know.) He strides to the door, pulls it open, and is immediately accosted by the overwhelming scent of disinfectant. He marvels at the brightness and overall cleanliness of the studio as well as the relative normalcy of the patrons, and decides to push the preconceived notions he's had - sailors and dirt and bodies pierced within an inch of their lives - out of his mind. He checks out the artwork adorning the walls instead of watching the needles punch ink into the flinching skin of the man in front of him.
"Hey, stiff." Rodney hears someone call. He looks up from a picture of tribal symbols to see black tee shirt guy again, noticing just how damn attractive he is, tattoos and all. "What can we do for you?"
Rodney crosses to the counter, showing his gift certificate and ignoring the 'stiff' remark. "Well, my sister gave me this." He hands over the paper and looks back at the displays, "But I don't know if there's anything I'd want to put on my body...permanently."
"You could get something pierced, you know."
Rodney's whole body seizes for a second and he rejects that idea immediately. "No. I don’t think so..." he avows, then asks, "I mean, I just don't get the whole piercing thing..." He trails off as he notices the small silver hoop spiked through the man's eyebrow, mostly hidden behind a flop of dark hair. The smoothly curving lock is in sharp contrast to the wild spikiness of the rest of it. "Oh... Well, that. That looks good on you," he says in a conciliatory tone. "Do you, uh...um, have anything else pierced?" he asks, holding out his hand in introduction. "I'm Rodney."
"John," is the response he gets, along with a firm handshake. "And as for other things pierced, well..." John looks down towards his crotch, while watching for Rodney's reaction from under his eyelashes. When Rodney flinches again, John gives a dirty chuckle. "I'm just fuckin' with ya. Just this," thrusting his tongue out at Rodney, displaying a silver barbell gleaming in the fluorescent light.
"Wow... That's... Wow." Rodney studies the piercing, distracted by the tongue wagging John seems to be doing for extra effect. "Doesn't that..." he starts.
"Didn't hurt a bit. And no, doesn't get in the way or anything. If anything," John continues, "it makes things fun." John leans in and husks, "More fun."
It takes Rodney a few moments to come back to reality. "Yes, well... Piercings are right out."
"I can draw up almost anything you want, you know," John adds, sounding smug. "Tell me. What was the first thing that went through your head when your sister gave you that?"
"Honestly? I thought 'why the fuck did you just give me a gift certificate for a tattoo?'.”
"Or body piercing," John injects, distracting Rodney again.
"Yes, well... Well, the second thought was- Actually, there were two things."
"So, what were they?"
"A tardis and the number '42'.”
"Doctor Who versus Douglas Adams? You know who wins that fight, right?" he asserts, stepping out from behind the counter and into Rodney's personal space.
It takes a second for Rodney to realize that yes, the hot tattooed man in front of him knows science fiction, specifically his two favorite subjects, invalidating yet another prejudice he hadn't even realized he had. "Umm, no?"
"Easy," John adds, pulling at the button fly on his jeans, easing them open slowly as Rodney blushes to the roots of his hair. John pulls his boxers along with the waist of his jeans, and reveals a small blue tattoo amongst the swath of hair on his hipbone. "Tardis," he says, matter-of-factly.
This time, Rodney's mental journey of imagination lasts even longer, and ends only when the decorated skin is tucked roughly back into John's pants. "So..." he begins, finally able to look John in the face again. "Tardis it is."
"Great!" John offers. "Now - where?"
"Oh, here, of course," Rodney answers.
"No." John starts pointing and poking different parts of Rodney, from arm to chest to back to butt, "Here? Here? Here? Or..."
"Oh! That. Well," Rodney adds, tossing around the possibilities. "I'm - umm. Not sure. Where would you suggest?"
"It's going to depend on a few things. Like how big you want it," he waggles his eyebrows suggestively, "and how much you want to show it off."
Rodney considers the options. "I think I should be able to cover it up. You know, not have it on display all the time." Rodney thinks for a minute, then adds, "But not totally hide it, you know what I mean?" When John looks quizzical, Rodney offers, "I'm a physicist. In labs and offices all day long. Meetings with some pretty conservative people."
"Cautious. That's understandable," John replies, nodding. "Follow me?"
Rodney nods. "Sure."
As the two make their way to the back of the shop, John stops at a station. "Hey, Lorne. Could you give me the temporaries?" he asks his heavily tattooed coworker.
Lorne tells his customer to relax for a minute, then puts his tattoo gun down and strips off his gloves. After a quick stretch, he searches his cabinet and finds a large manila envelope, handing it over to John with a smile. "Here ya go."
"Thanks." As they start up again, he explains, "It's a little more private back here. Plus, we got a setup just made for you." He leads Rodney into a room about the size of a large walk-in closet and flips on lights. The walls are dull beige, with one large full-length mirror hanging on the back of the door, two more angled on either side - for almost a full 360 degree view. As John shuts the door behind them, he says, "Okay. Here we go."
"'Here we go' what?"
"Since you're not sure where you want your tat, we can put on some temporaries," he pulls the application fluid out of the manila envelope, then waggles it and the sticker-filled envelope at Rodney, "and you can check them out in the mirror. I suggest you strip out of any clothing covering up your options, and we'll see what you like, and what's covered up enough." Rodney doesn't notice John palming a temporary with the bottle of applicator liquid.
Rodney throws John a questioning look. "Strip?"
"Yep!" he replies, eyes suggestive.
Rodney gawks at John for a moment before doing as he's told, easing his pants off his hips and letting them puddle at his feet. He hesitates slightly before pulling his orange fleece and tee shirt over his head in one fluid motion and discarding them to one side.
John ogles Rodney briefly before positioning him in front of the lighted mirror, being careful not to let him trip. Rodney blurts, "It hurts?" which makes John drop his hands quickly.
"Jesus, Rodney. I was just moving you to-"
"No, no, no." Rodney meets John's eyes in the mirror. "Will the tattoo hurt?"
"Ooh, that? Naah," John dismisses. "It mostly feels like somebody's scratching you. Also depends on where you get it." When Rodney throws him a questioning look, he adds, "You know, nerve endings and stuff."
"What do you mean?"
"Well," John starts, happy to have an excuse to touch Rodney. "Like here," he touches Rodney's ribcage, fingers light and ticklish, earning him a nervous grin and a flinch, "there're plenty of nerve endings, so it can be a little more painful. But here," John runs his fingers down Rodney's back near the shoulder blades, caressing easily, "see, not as many nerve endings."
"Yeah, well," Rodney says dismissively, "sensitive or not, if it's on my back, I won't ever be able to see it." He looks at John, "So I think my back is probably out."
"I guess that means your ass is out, too?" John asks. "That's a shame - you have a spectacular ass," he adds in a husky voice, making Rodney blush deeply.
Clearly pleased with how much he's flustering Rodney, John starts, "So, I would suggest here or here," pointing to the outside of Rodney's biceps, "here or here," as he trails down to Rodney's hips, "here and here," running his hands along the backs of Rodney's thighs, "or here and here," bending to finish up with his palms warming the outside of Rodney's calves. "Those are probably the most appropriate, and," eyeing Rodney as he straightens up, "easiest to cover up. And if you always wear a tee-shirt under your shirt, well then..." John's voice trails off as he gently touches Rodney's pectoral muscle, knuckles lightly trailing over a perky nipple as he moves.
"Yes. Well. That.... Okay." The affect John has on Rodney's verbal, and all other body function centers becomes quite apparent to him. Hit by a wave of modesty, Rodney puts his hands in front of his boxers.
John passes behind Rodney, running his hand from pectoral, over his shoulder, and down his back. "Unless you want a tramp stamp," he asks.
"Tramp stamp?" Rodney scrunches his face in confusion.
"Yeah," John runs his hand over Rodney’s lower back again, applying a small temporary in the same fluid motion. "A tattoo right here. Some folks say it started to remind you of the name of the, um - let's just say 'popular person' you're having fun with," he smirks.
Rodney feels the dampness and looks over his shoulder, but John dismisses his concern, showing him the applicator bottle while trying to hide a grin. "Sorry. I must've gotten some on my fingers. Go ahead and finish pulling your shoes and pants off, so we can do this a little easier," John says casually. He pulls a few transfers out of the envelope and finishes, "Boxers, too."
Rodney thrusts his head up at the request, losing his balance half a second later.
"Here," John steadies him with a hand on each hip (rather than his hunched shoulders), and squeezes suggestively.
"What kind of-" Rodney starts to demand, but is quickly cut off.
"Look, do you want the damn tattoo or not?"
Rodney sighs heavily, thrown off balance by the whole situation. "Fine..." His boxers land at his feet, and he kicks them onto the stack of the rest of his clothes, muttering quietly. He cups his hands in front of himself, though John seems to be focusing more on his rear. "Can we just..." he demands, gesturing with his hands before realizing that it leaves him waving in the breeze. As he clamps back down over his crotch, he finishes, "Can we just get on with it?"
"Fine." John hurries about his work, applying temporary tattoos with a light covering of application fluid in rapid motion, hitting the outside of Rodney's biceps first, then moving on to the outside of his right calf before Rodney gets a look at the designs.
"What is that?!" he demands, pointing at his leg.
"It's a temporary, Rodney," John replies with obvious patience.
"It's a Hello Kitty sticker!"
"Well, yeah," John allows, standing up. "These are the temporaries we give kids who come in with their parents. You did say you wanted to do this, right?" he asks a bit impatiently.
"Yes, but... It's Hello Kitty."
"And a Teletubbie," tapping Rodney's right bicep, "and a My Little Pony over here," on Rodney's left bicep. "Just a few more and we're done." Rodney sputters as if to protest, but when he closes his eyes and hunches his shoulders in defeat, John makes quick work plastering more temporary tattoos over Rodney's body. As he gathers up the stray paper, he asks, "Are you sure you don't want one on your ass? Kind of a shame to not decorate something so pretty."
"No, thank you," Rodney retorts, stretching his lips into a thin line of disdain.
"Well, can't blame a guy for tryin'." He steps back and says a little more clinically, "Think we're just about done. You wanna take a look?" He gestures Rodney towards the mirror, then says in the tone of a thousand repetitions, "Go ahead and take a look. Remember, you're looking at area, not substance."
"Yes, well. It's hard to not to consider the substance when I have Hello Kitty staring up at me from my thigh."
"Come on, Rodney. 'S just temporary."
"So take it off."
"Sorry, buddy. It's there for a few days." John says, smirking.
"A few days?!" Rodney shrieks, garnering a nod from John.
"You can go ahead and get dressed now," John says, as he leans back against the wall, to enjoy the view.
"So," Rodney demands, anger curled in his voice, "was this even necessary?", pointing to his clothes.
"Yeah, well," John temporizes. "Kind of."
"Kind of?!" Rodney barks back.
"I said you had a nice ass... I just wanted to see it. Uncovered."
"You. You. MASHER!" Rodney spits as he buttons his pants. "I'm going to report you," he threatens, voice muffled and arms flailing as he tries to get the orange fleece back over his head. "That is a clear violation of ethics, and protocol, and-"
"Jesus, Rodney. Ethics? It's not like tattoo artists take the Hippocratic oath or nothin'! I'm free to ogle any fine ass I can!" John laughs internally at the old-fashioned slur as Rodney almost loses his balance while shoving his feet back into his shoes. Jovially penitent, he starts, "I just-"
"Good day, Sir." Rodney growls at him, eyes cut to a slit. He dismisses John with a pointed look and storms out of the room. John starts after him, but stops to retrieve the piece of paper settling to the floor in Rodney's wake. He picks up the gift certificate, turning it in his hands.
The phone clamors through the Miller household, breaking the stillness and threatening to wake a napping Madison. "Hello?" Jeannie says quietly.
"Umm, Jeannie Miller?" comes the uncertain reply.
"Not if you're selling something!"
"No, no, no. This is John Sheppard from Pegasus Tattoos. You bought your brother a gift certificate?"
Jeannie growls, "He is not allowed to exchange it for cash. Put him on the phone. Now!"
"No, no, no, Jeannie," John stops her. "He uh... He actually came in and we had a session so he could decide where he wanted his tardis placed."
"He did?" she asks, voice rising with incredulity. She wasn't sure she'd be successful at glowering her kid brother into doing what she told him to. "So a tardis, eh? Figures."
"Yeah, well, he liked mine."
A smile blossoms at the thought of John Sheppard getting her stodgy brother to open up enough to consider a tattoo. She remembers how at ease he'd made her and her friend Amy feel, exuding calm and charming the both of them.
"So, Mister Sheppard. What can I do for you?" she asks. "Or rather, what did he do now?" she restates.
"Well, he kind of left in a hurry. Left his gift certificate behind. I had to go through the shop records to get your info, because I want to get it back to him. Thing is, I don't have his contact information. Could you, maybe, give me his number or his address?"
"No problem. His apartment is-" Jeannie stopped herself. "Wait. Why did he leave in a hurry?"
"Well, that's kinda my fault," he confesses. "I had him in the back room with the mirrors, so he could see what a tattoo would look like on different areas on his body. I, uhh.... I think I came on a little too strong." John stops for a second, then adds, "Plus he was a little mad that I'd gotten him naked-"
"Eew! That's my brother - as far as I'm concerned he doesn't have a naked!" Jeannie spat.
"Sorry," John offers unrepentantly. "He is cute, though. I would like to make it up to him." This time he does sound sincere.
Jeannie smiles at how bad the slinky tattoo artist seems to have it for her brother. "Okay. But you be nice to him!" she commands. She gives him Rodney's details, though, since he doesn't keep regular work hours, she can't tell him which phone number to try first.
Rodney's mind had not been on work for most of the day. It was still with John in the booth at the tattoo parlor, wavering between seething and intrigued. The seething was starting to lose out. In truth, he couldn't really be all that mad at John. Any man who went to those lengths to flirt with him couldn't be all bad. Radek had been muttering most of the morning, interspersed with yelling at Rodney for being distracted enough to knock things over in the lab. The muttering turns to frantic yelling (and, most likely, cussing) in Czech when Rodney twitches his laptop into a beaker, sending it shattering to the floor and splashing industrial solvent over their pantlegs.
"McKay..." Radek sighs, pulling out his phone to alert the front desk that there's been a chemical spill. He acknowledges the response and their next actions, before dragging Rodney out of the lab.
"Where are we going?" Rodney asks. When Radek throws him a look, he realizes. "Ooh, great. Silkwood shower time."
Radek grimaces as he starts scrubbing with the industrial soap. Though the spill had only affected their legs, the policy was clear on actions to be taken after any type of caustic chemical spill. Rodney's muttering prompts Radek to ask, "What?"
"Nothing," Rodney says defeatedly, giving up scouring the temporary tattoo on his leg when he realizes that it's not going to come off.
The glance Radek threw Rodney's way at the muttering turns into pointed staring. "McKay? You have something on lower back."
"What?" Rodney twists, trying to see the offending item. "What is it?" Radek leaves his shower to get a closer look at the object. "It's burning through my skin, isn't it? It's gonna eat through my spinal cord I just know it... Leave me paralyzed until it melts my brain. Why is it the smart ones always die first?"
"Rodney!" Radek commands, dismissing the scientist's gloomy tone. "Chemical only splashed on front of our legs. Hold still. Let me see." Radek squints, to overcome his current lack of glasses.
"I just knew it. My skin is sloughing off already. Damn it! Tell me the truth! You can see clear to my spine, can't you?" Rodney hunches over, desolate.
Radek leans in further, rubbing his eyes as he examines the blemish. When he realizes what it is, he shoots up. "Oh!"
"Rodney... Rodney! Is not sloughing. I was merely surprised. You have a small, blue-"
"-creature, woman thing-"
"-at the base of your spine." Rodney stops trying to feel the spot, realizing what it is. "Is not something I expected to encounter today, that is all. And may I say," he adds, looking Rodney over, "that I also did not expect you to have all these other tattoos of cartoon characters. Also - I wish I still did not know this fact."
Radek goes back to finish his own shower, as Rodney stands under the warm stream of water, face planted deeply in his hands.
With the rest of the day shot, Rodney decides to leave Radek in charge of the chemical spill paperwork and head home early. He's no use, anyway, and always gets unnerved with all the foreign swearing. As he pulls up to his apartment, he sees a man standing outside his door, though it takes a second to realize that it's John Sheppard.
Stomping away from his car, he calls across the parking lot, "What? Are you stalking me now? Didn't get a good enough look at my ass yesterday?" A soft gasp makes him look to his left as he grabs his mail. "Oh. Hi, Missus Ratzenburger."
"Oh, I got a plenty good enough look at your ass," John challenges, voice loud enough to ensure that Ratzenburger and the rest of Rodney's neighbors hear. As Rodney puts his key into the lock, he adds, "Came by to give you this," placing the gift certificate on Rodney's stack of mail. "And to apologize," he adds, voice quiet and uncertain.
Appeased (against his better judgment), Rodney rests his forehead against the door. "You wanna come in?"
John brightens and he follows Rodney in, closing the door behind them. "Look, Rodney, I'm really sorry. I know I came on a little strong."
"You think?" Rodney asks. "I was - you know. Flustered. And you're all..." he gestures at John, "with the hot."
Blushes bloom across both men's faces. John shifts closer and brings a hand up to Rodney's chin. "With the hot?"
"Shut up," Rodney demands, before grabbing two fistfuls of John's shirt and pushing him against the wall, kissing him pointedly to ensure his obedience.
Rodney fidgets on the bench, ignoring the burning sensation as he clutches at the pants crumpled next to him. "Be still," John demands. "I'm almost done."
"Yes, yes. Hurry up!"
A few more strokes and John pulls back. "There. That'll do it!"
Rodney finally allows himself to look down, surveying the inked skin covering his hipbone, admiring the newly placed tardis tattoo. "Wow... It's perfect." He looks it over again. "And we match, too."
John thinks of his own inked hip, bearing a design identical to Rodney's. "Yeah buddy. We sure do."