Alec closed the door after his last customer for the day before making his way into the back, more than ready for an early finish. He always closed at midday on a Saturday and took the rest of the weekend for himself. All that was left to do was to clean down his workspace and put his machines away.
“Nearly done,” Alec said when his huge black wolf, Shadow, greeted him with a lick of his hand. Scrubbing his hands behind the wolf’s ears was the only way she would let him get any work done so he took a moment to scratch, laughing when Shadow tried to lick his face. “If let you me finish this we can leave,” he said, nodding when Shadow trotted to her bed in the corner.
Alec moved to finish up, deciding to dismantle and clean everything by hand. When Shadow perked up once more and started whining, he paused in his task of removing the needles from his favorite machine. The ring of the bell above the front door had Alec sighing out a breath of impatience as he discarded the needles.
“We’re closed,” Alec called out, silently berating himself for not locking the door. “Hey, lie down,” he said to Shadow when the wolf decided to check the front of the shop out, raising an eyebrow when she looked at him with a ‘what the fuck?’ expression before doing as she was told.
When he didn’t hear the bell a second time, signaling that whoever it was had left, Alec poked his head around the door to tell the intruders to leave. The words died in his throat at the sight that met his gaze.
Instead of telling him to leave, Alec stepped out into the short hallway that connected the front and back of his store, gesturing for Shadow to stay. His eyes raked over the pretty Asian guy who was inspecting the art on the walls, his work.
The guy was wearing red plaid skinny jeans, maroon-colored Doc Martins, a white shirt and black vest. A pair of loose hanging suspenders and a couple of chains and rings completed the look. He also had dark makeup on his eyes and his hair was styled into an undercut, similar to his own. Though the stranger had slicked the hair on the top of his head back into a topknot, instead of leaving it loose as Alec usually did.
The gorgeous stranger clutched several shopping bags but Alec wasn’t looking at those, his eyes were fixed on the half-sleeves the guy was sporting. Beautiful, familiar symbols were tattooed into the guy’s forearms where the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up.
When the guy turned to face him, Alec noticed several piercings in the guy’s ears, bottom lip, and septum. “I’m sorry, we’re closed,” he said, wondering if the pretty stranger had heard him.
“Oh, I didn’t realize. I just saw that guy leave and thought you were still open. I’m Magnus, by the way,” Magnus said, shifting his bags to one hand to shake the tattoo artist’s hand. Thankfully, the guy took it. He had been sitting on a bench across the road, deliberating whether to come in and make his request. Something had told that today was the day and this was the place.
“Alec. I close the shop early on Saturdays,” Alec said, shaking Magnus’ hand. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips when Magnus didn’t let go immediately. He couldn’t say that he wasn’t flattered by the elevator stare Magnus gave him. Or that he hadn’t done the same.
“Is there any way I could persuade you to stay open a little longer? I didn’t want a tattoo. Not much room left for them,” Magnus chuckled, holding his arms up. He was covered in tattoos. As was the hot artist.
Magnus let his eyes wander up and down the guy, taking in the tattoos that covered every inch of Alec’s exposed arms and chest, his black ripped skinny jeans, Black Sabbath tank top, black beanie hat, and combat boots. The guy had a full, neat beard and while his right ear sported several studs, his left ear had a stack of hoops from the top to the lobe.
“A piercing?” Alec asked, watching the light bounce off the ring in Magnus’ septum.
“Several, actually?” Magnus asked hopefully, watching Alec’s eyes dart up to check the time on the clock behind him. “We can be quick. It’s just, I’ve wanted this done for a long time and have finally worked up the courage. If I don’t do it now, I never will,” he said, flashing his brightest smile.
Alec couldn’t stop his eyes from flicking to Magnus’ crotch. A Prince Albert was usually the big one that guys had to work up the courage to get.
“Already had it done. I can prove it if you like,” Magnus winked when he saw where Alec’s gaze had wandered to. Before cringing at the cheesy line. “Sorry, that was inappropriate,” he muttered.
“Now I’m intrigued. What did you have in mind?” Alec asked, waving away the rediculous line as he folded his arms over his chest to grip his right elbow. His eyes widened when he realized how that could be construed. “Piercing wise, I meant.”
Magnus laughed, staring at the beautiful hazel eyes that widened when Alec realized his gaff. “I wanted a few dermal piercings on my back. If you have the time?” he asked.
“My afternoon is free. I was going to spend it watching trash tv anyway,” Alec shrugged. Crossing to the front door, he flipped the sign to closed and grabbed a clipboard from behind the counter. “Follow me,” he said, making his way through to the back.
Magnus did follow Alec, checking his ass out in the tight jeans the whole way. Alec led him into a room with a chair in it, the walls covered with shelves full of inks and bottles of creams. And a dog. No, a wolf , Magnus thought, backing away when what he was sure was a pure black wolf lept up from a bed in the corner and ran at him.
“Shadow, behave. Magnus is our guest,” Alec said, raising an eyebrow at his wolf when Shadow met his gaze. “She won’t hurt you, Magnus. She’s very… tame. She’s just curious,” he said, smiling when Magnus held his hand out cautiously. Shadow wasn’t the only one who was curious. Magnus was an enigma.
Magnus held his hand out to be sniffed and held his breath the entire time. The wolf was gorgeous, her black coat gleaming. The bright yellow eyes that looked up at him held a vast amount of intelligence in them. Shadow, was in fact, beautiful. And very gentle. Before she grew bored and wandered back to her bed after a good sniff of his hand, legs crotch and ass. The wolf was just like an overgrown dog.
Magnus poked around while Alec set the chair up. There were machines and tools arranged neatly on the countertop that ran the length of the room and the smell of Dettol hung in the air. One of his favorite scents. The place was spotless, which bode well. It meant Alec wasn’t a cowboy with a tattoo machine, ripping people off and leaving them with infections.
“Have you had any coffee or alcohol today?” Alec asked, gesturing for Magnus to hop up onto the chair.
“Is that how you ask your clients out on dates?” Magnus asked, grinning as he dropped his bags in the corner and hopped up onto the chair. The way Alec bit into his bottom lip when he looked up to meet Alec’s gaze was hot.
“No, you’ll bleed more if you’ve had too much caffeine or any alcohol,” Alec said, handing the clipboard over for Magnus to fill in his personal details and consent.
“Shame. No caffeine today,” Magnus answered. It had been worth a try. He was a little disappointed that Alec didn’t take the bait but he still had time to convince the hot artist to agree to a date. “And even for me, it’s a little early to be drinking. Although, I’d take a martini if you’re offering,” he winked before getting to work on the form Alec had handed him.
Magnus fudged the DOB question, writing that he had been born in the late 1980s, instead of the late 1580s. For occupation, he wrote that he owned a bar but left out the part where he was High Warlock of Brooklyn. The tattoo artist didn’t need to know that he was a warlock. Mundanes and the Shadow World didn’t mix well. For sex, he simply wrote, please.
When he took the consent form back, Alec noted that Magnus had scrawled his cell number in huge writing in the appropriate section, complete with a little heart. The surname on the form was a surprise but not an unwelcome one. He had to shake his head when he read some of Magnus’ answers, chuckling at the overtly flirtatious nature of them.
“Take your shirt off,” Alec said, putting the form aside and grabbing a marker and a pair of purple latex gloves, snapping them on when Magnus’ face lit up.
“So authoritative. I like it!” Magnus said, pulling his vest and shirt off. He didn’t look away from Alec’s eyes as he stripped, almost laughing when Alec remained professional and only ogled him a little bit. Maybe Alec would deny it but he had seen the artist checking him out earlier. Alec was strong-willed. He liked that.
“Behave, Mr. Bane. Show me where you want your piercings,” Alec said, only drooling slightly when Magnus pulled his crisp white shirt off. He didn’t know if he liked the guy’s bulging muscles or tattoos more. “May I?” he asked, fingers hovering over the tattoos that spread across Magnus’ chest and neck.
Magnus just nodded, watching Alec pour over his tattoos. “I saw them in a book somewhere. I forget where. I thought they looked cool,” he said, not meeting Alec’s gaze.
“The artist knew what they were doing,” Alec said, fingers skimming over the symbols. He knew for a fact that Magnus was lying about where he had found them but didn’t say anything. He simply admired the artwork.
A shudder ran through Magnus when Alec’s gloved fingers skimmed over his abs, as though Alec was reading the tattoos. Which was ridiculous. Mundanes couldn’t read warlock symbols. The gentle touch, however, felt nice.
“Lovely. You’ll have to share the name of the artist when we’re done,” Alec said, inspecting the tattoos on Magnus’ arms too. A smile ghosted his lips when Magnus’ skin erupted in goosebumps wherever his fingers brushed. They might have lingered on Magnus’ biceps for a few seconds longer than was polite. “Okay, show me what you want,” he said when he had looked his fill.
Magnus stood up and turned, showing Alec his back. “I want a dermal piercing in the tip of each one,” he said, gesturing to the tentacles that were tattooed on his back.
Alec rolled his stool forward, fingers brushing over the orange tentacle tattoo on Magnus’ back. His eyebrows were somewhere in his hairline, shock running through him. There were eight tentacles, all curling out from a single point on Magnus’ lower back, slightly off to the right of his spine. One or two curled over Magnus’ ribs and hips, and one curled around his shoulder but the rest took up most of the guy’s back.
“Are you sure about this?” Alec asked. Now he understood why Magnus had had to work up the courage to get the piercings. He certainly wouldn’t recommend it but it was Magnus’ choice after all.
“Absolutely. I’ve wanted this for a very long time,” Magnus said, looking over his shoulder. He let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when Alec nodded and started marking his skin with the marker.
Shadow came and sat beside Alec, watching his every move. It’s his decision. It won’t do any harm , Alec thought when he saw the disapproval in Shadow’s eyes. His wolf was more judgemental than he was. And that was saying something. And stubborn, staying to watch when he tried to send her back to her bed.
“I’ve marked the center of each tip. Is that okay?” Alec asked, holding up a mirror when he was done so that Magnus could look over his shoulder and see what he had done. When Magnus nodded his agreement, he rummaged through a set of drawers and selected eight white stoned dermal anchors to put into Magnus’ skin.
Magnus nodded with a grin when Alec showed him the dermals. He hadn’t been able to see all of the tips of his tentacles but from the ones he had seen, Alec had understood his requirements perfectly. The stones in the studs reflected the light beautifully. They were perfect.
“Okay, lie down on your stomach,” Alec said, pressing the button on the chair until it lay flat like a bed. While Magnus made himself comfortable he grabbed a tray. Filling it with a dermal punch, the packages of anchors, dermal forceps, and some gauze. The entire time, he silently wondered why anyone would choose to do what Magnus was doing.
Alec was no stranger to odd requests. It was part and parcel of his job. But what Magnus was asking him. Well, it was as odd as the requests came. He set the tray down on a stand and flicked an overhead light on before pulling his stool up to the side of the bed and lowering it with a click of the button.
“These are gorgeous,” Alec said, brushing his fingers over the ancient Thai symbols and the mandalas that ran across Magnus’ shoulder blades. They ran from one shoulder to the other, the craftsmanship exquisite. They were a true work of art and something that he had seen on very few people. He recognized the artist straight away from the dot work.
“Just something I saw and liked,” Magnus shrugged, propping his chin on his crossed arms in front of him on the chair, refusing to meet Alec’s gaze once more. He jumped when something rippled across his skin. It had felt like… no, that was impossible.
“Okay, I’m starting now. I can stop anytime, just say the word,” Alec said, grabbing the dermal punch and a set of dermal forceps. He set them up methodically and worked quickly. Dermal piercings were becoming a popular choice so he was used to doing the piercings.
“Do you know how these work?” Alec asked to distract Magnus as he pushed anchor after anchor into Magnus’ skin, unable to stop himself from wincing a little with each new piercing. When Magnus shook his head, he elaborated, mopping the blood up from around each piercing until they stopped bleeding while he did.
“I use the punch to remove a small chunk of skin. Then push the anchor under the skin. As your skin repairs itself, it grows over the anchor to keep it in place, the stud sits flush to the skin. If you notice the stud start to move away from the skin over the next couple of years, you’ll either have to get them redone or removed. It means your body is rejecting the piercing,” Alec said, making his way over Magnus’ hips, back, and shoulder.
Magnus was almost dozing off from Alec’s low, almost hypnotic voice. He had expected there to be more pain. Actually, there was no pain, he realized.
“I didn’t know you used numbing cream for these,” Magnus said, holding still when all he wanted to do was look over his shoulder. Not just at the hot guy’s pretty face, but also at his new piercings.
“I uh… you’ll want to keep these covered up with bandaids for a few days until the skin starts growing over the anchors,” Alec said, inspecting each of the pretty diamonds that glittered on the surface of Magnus’ skin before pressing the dermal punch to the last tentacle.
“You don’t want them catching on anything until they start healing. You’ll also want to sleep on your stomach,” Alec said, keeping up the charade. He had his suspicions about how Magnus would take care of the piercings once he left the shop but he didn’t say anything. He simply pushed the last anchor below the surface of Magnus’ skin and mopped up the blood with a fresh piece of gauze.
“Maybe I should have someone stay over, just in case I roll onto my back in the night?” Magnus asked, chancing a look over his shoulder.
Alec snorted, pressing the gauze down over the last piercing. “Do lines like that work for you often?” he asked, peeling the gauze away to see that the bleeding had stopped. His eyebrow quirked up when he noted the blue sparks that rippled subtly over each of the other piercings out the corner of his eye. They wouldn’t have been noticeable to most people. Then again, he wasn’t most people.
“It was worth a try,” Magnus chuckled. When Alec said that he was done, he sat up, rolling his back. It felt numb for a moment- until Alec touched the small of his back. Then feeling returned. His head snapped around to meet Alec’s gaze.
“Are you going to show me them?” Alec asked, looking away from Magnus’ eyes to inspect each piercing once more. They were all healed, with not even a red mark in sight to show that they had only just been done.
“Show you what?” Magnus asked, turning to face Alec fully.
“Magnus, I stayed open late just for you. I think the least you can do is show me the results of my hard work,” Alec said, quirking an eyebrow at Magnus. A sigh escaped him when Magnus’ eyes narrowed at him. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” he said.
“How did you… yours?” Magnus asked, his eyes going wide.
“Please. You found all of those symbols in a book?” Alec asked, tugging his hat off and dropping it on the bed next to Magnus. “I recognize every symbol I’ve seen so far. There’s no way a mundane could bare a symbol from the book of the white on their skin. Whether in tattoo form or not,” he said, slicking his hair back, keeping it in place with a snap of his fingers.
Magnus gaped at Alec’s use of magic. The tattoo artist was a warlock. He also stared the tattoos on Alec’s head, one either side, on the shaved sides of Alec’s skull. Two dog ears, black around the edges and pink in the middle. They weren’t actually tattoos. Just as his tentacles weren’t.
“You have a familiar?” Magnus asked, dumbly. They were right there in front of his face. A mark that could be mistaken for a tattoo but wasn’t actually one. The mark linked a warlock to their familiar. A familiar was an animal who stayed with a warlock, providing companionship and help when the warlock needed it. His eyes went wide when they landed on Shadow.
“She’s not a pet, is she?” Magnus asked, grinning when Shadow huffed indignantly at him. “Shadow, I apologize. It was stupid of me to assume you were a pet,” he said, nodding to the wolf. He knew he was forgiven when Shadow trotted forward and pushed her muzzle into his hand.
Alec shot Magnus a wink before letting his familiar mark out. Two ears sprang from his head, wiggling in Magnus’ direction, embarrassingly enough.
“How did you know? Actually, when did you know?” Magnus asked, fighting his hands. He wanted to reach out and scratch Alec behind his adorable puppy ears. Wolf ears , he corrected himself. They were an exact replica of Shadow’s ears. He settled for scratching behind her ears instead.
“A few things tipped me off. Like the symbols on your body. And the fact that you have metal tubing tattoos on your back. Those ones are very distinctive. I know the warlock who did them. Not only did he tattoo me, but he also taught me how to do them,” Alec said, tugging his tank top up to show Magnus the similar tattoos on his own ribs.
“This particular technique mostly died out when Apinya died. It would have done if he hadn’t let a lucky few of us apprentice to him,” Alec said with a sad smile.
“Apinya is dead?” Magnus asked, his stomach plummeting. It was always hard to hear that a fellow warlock had died. Especially when they were someone he respected so much. The warlock had perfected the art of poking ink into skin with a single needle or a sharpened stick and infusing his tattoos with magic.
“I’m sorry, I thought you would know,” Alec said gesturing to Magnus’ tattoos and his own. “He died about a hundred years ago,” he gave Magnus’ hand a squeeze when Magnus shook his head. The warlock had lived in a very remote part of Thailand so it was understandable.
“I only knew that you were a warlock. I realized who you were when I saw your surname on the consent form,” Alec said, allowing Magnus to step forward and inspect the tattoos on his ribs. A shiver ran through him when Magnus’ fingers brushed over his skin. The other warlock was standing very close.
“When I realized that you wanted me to pierce your familiar mark I thought you’d lost your mind. Shadow wasn’t too impressed either,” Alec said, his voice coming out a little shaky. “So, are you going to show me?” he asked.
Magnus reluctantly removed his fingers from Alec’s ribs and took a step back. Rolling his shoulders and back muscles, he let his mark out, turning to show Alec his tentacles.
You should mate him. He’s pretty. And he has nice tentacles, Shadow thought as she stepped up and sniffed at one of the tentacles that dangled in front of her muzzle.
Alec choked when Shadow’s thoughts reached him. That’s not how it works. You don’t just decide to mate someone , he thought as he inspected the tips of Magnus’ tentacles. Each one was pierced perfectly, each white stone gleaming in the tips of them. He had to admit, they did look good there.
Magnus fought the shiver that wanted to run rampant through his body when Alec’s fingers skimmed over his tentacles, completely ignorant of the silent conversation that Shadow and Alec were having.
Come on. You’ve been on your own for ages. Tell him to put some pups in here. I want someone to play with , Shadow thought, bumping Alec’s stomach with her muzzle.
I’m a male, he can’t put pups in there , Alec thought with a roll of his eyes.
You put some pups in there then , Shadow replied, bumping Magnus’ stomach when he turned around.
Nobody is putting pups in anyone else , Alec sighed. Giving up on explaining that neither he nor Magnus, could carry pups. Babies ! He thought to himself. His wolf rubbed off on him in the worst ways, sometimes.
“What’s she saying?” Magnus asked when Shadow kept bumping his stomach with her wet nose.
I want to meet his familiar , Shadow thought.
No! Alec silently replied.
“She likes you,” Alec said when Magnus just raised his eyebrows.
They like me. We should meet his familiar , Shadow thought when the tentacles snuffled over her head and into her ears.
Behave! Alec admonished his familiar. He had no control over her whatsoever.
“I like her too,” Magnus chuckled when Alec’s familiar licked one of his tentacles.
Come on, we have to meet his familiar if you’re going to mate him , Shadow thought, rolling onto her back so her warlock’s new mate could pet her tummy.
“You’re a beautiful girl,” Magnus whispered, bending down and scrubbing his hands through Shadow’s belly fur. His tentacles all surged forward and started petting the wolf too.
He isn’t my mate! My boyfriend, I mean. He isn’t my boyfriend, Alec thought, staring open-mouthed at his wolf. She was lying there at Magnus’ feet, basking in Magnus’ attentions like a common house pet. You’re far too spoiled for your own good , he thought.
So, he likes me. Hurry up and mate him before he changes his mind and leaves, Shadow said, pushing her muzzle into Magnus’ hand lovingly. Yes, he would do nicely for her warlock.
“Would you like to meet my familiar?” Magnus asked Alec, chuckling when Shadow jumped up and started licking at his face and neck. She was like an overgrown puppy. “Maybe we could make a date of it? I make a mean cocktail,” he asked.
“Sure, why not,” Alec said, knowing that he would never hear the end of it if Shadow didn’t at least get to meet Magnus’ familiar. Plus, Magnus was gorgeous. It certainly wouldn’t be a chore to spend at least an afternoon with the guy.
Magnus put his tentacles away and pulled his shirt and vest back on while Alec snapped his fingers and cleaned everything away. When he noticed something white, sitting in Alec’s hair, he reached out and pulled it from his head. A piece of packaging from his dermals.
Alec couldn’t stop his eyes from closing, rolling in his head slightly, when Magnus’ fingers brushed over his dog ears. He almost leaned into the touch and asked Magnus to scratch him. If he had hind legs and a tail, they would be wagging and thumping against the floor when Magnus’ fingers lingered.
A smirk lit Magnus’ face up at Alec’s reaction to his touch. He wondered if Alec secretly liked getting his ears scratched and would be more than happy to oblige if Alec asked him to.
Pulling his hand away from Alec’s ears, Magnus pulled his wallet out to pay for his piercings.
“This is on the house. It’s not every day I get to pierce someone’s familiar mark,” Alec said, holding his hands up. “Let’s just chalk this one up to a learning experience,” he said. He could see that Magnus wanted to protest but it had been good practice so he didn’t mind so much.
“Then I definitely owe you a cocktail. And maybe dinner?” Magnus suggested, grinning when Alec nodded. There was a sweet pink tinge to Alec’s cheeks and his smile was blinding.
Alec locked up with a snap of his fingers and took Magnus’ elbow when it was offered as Magnus created a portal.
Magnus buried his fingers in Shadow’s fur to guide her through the portal to his loft. When they stepped through Shadow immediately started sniffing the place out, tail wagging. Alec, however, made no move to remove his arm, so he pulled the artist over to a tank that took up most of the far wall in his living room.
“Alec, meet Maurice, my familiar. Maurice, this is Alec and his familiar, Shadow,” Magnus said, scooping the small orange octopus out of the tank to make the proper introductions. Shadow and Maurice seemed to hit it off immediately, the wolf snuffling the octopus.
Alec stared at the tiny octopus in Magnus’ hands. He was no bigger than one of Shadow’s paws. From the mark on Magnus’ back, he was expecting some thirty-foot killer squid. Lifting a finger, he laughed when one of Maurice’s tentacles wrapped around it. As though the octopus was shaking his hand. He had to admit, it was pretty cute.
“Nice to meet you, Maurice,” Alec said, being gentle when he shook the octopus’ tentacle. When he let go, he turned his attention to the tank Magnus had taken Maurice from. It was a stunning piece of spell work. It looked like Magnus had scooped a private cove up out of a beach somewhere tropical, and shrunk it down. It even had its own beach, palm trees, and a waterfall. The ‘sea’ inside the tank even had waves.
Is this your new mate? He’s much nicer than the last one. You should have let me drown her , Maurice thought to Magnus, watching his warlock’s new mate.
You can’t drown a vampire. They don’t need to breathe, remember? Magnus silently chuckled. Maurice hadn’t liked his ex, Camille, at all.
Stake through the heart, plugging her nose up with my tentacles while she sleeps, it’s all the same thing, really , Maurice thought. So, are you going to put some eggs in him ? He asked.
We’ve been through this, Maurice. Warlocks don’t put eggs in each other, Magnus sighed.
Eggs, pups, babies . The same thing , Maurice nodded. I like his familiar, she’s warm and fluffy. Put some eggs in him so they’ll stick around .
I haven’t even offered him a drink yet , Magnus said, raising an eyebrow at his familiar. It was no use trying to explain warlock biology to Maurice, he never listened.
What are you waiting for? Make the man at home. And don’t cook that awful lasagna you always make. One bite and he’ll be off, Maurice silently said, rolling his eyes when Magnus swiftly put him back in his tank. Just be yourself, he’ll love you!
“So, how about that cocktail?” Magnus asked Alec when he saw the questioning look on Alec’s face. Alec didn’t need to know how chaotic Maurice was.
“Lead the way,” Alec said, looking around for Shadow when Magnus led him over the couch and offered him a seat. His familiar had curled up at the foot of Maurice’s tank and fallen asleep. She had made herself right at home. He had a feeling he was going to have a hard time getting her to leave after dinner. His familiar had well and truly picked him a new mate.
Looking up at Magnus when his fellow warlock offered him a martini glass, Alec couldn’t say that she had done a bad job of it.
“To new… friends,” Magnus toasted, clinking his glass with Alec, sincerely hoping that they would be more than friends before too long.