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Breaking Skin

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“Well, Pence doesn't wanna do it, and I really don't wanna go on my own...”

Roxas sighed heavily. He had no plans for that afternoon, it was true, and he did kind of owe Olette a favour. But he'd kind of been thinking of letting her copy his Chem homework, or lending her some munny; escorting her to a tattoo parlour was certainly not what he had had in mind. Still, a deal was a deal, and so, sighing, Roxas picked up his bag.

“Fine. But this place had better be legit,Olette.”

“I hope it is.” The crease in Olette's brow suggested that she hadn't actually considered the reputability of the venue she had selected for her tragus piercing. There again, Roxas hadn't really known what a tragus was until today. “I think Selphie got her nose done there...”

People didn't often talk about Selphie's nose piercing, out of kindness, but it had become quite badly infected, so Roxas wasn't remotely reassured by this piece of information.

“Well, it's your ear...”


The parlour was aptly named Needles, and Roxas was impressed by the cleanliness of the reception area. Of course, nobody was going to be getting a piercing at the reception area, but it helped. The receptionist was a tall, older man, maybe in his early thirties, though the large black eyepatch and grizzly red-brown scar across his cheek made him look far older.

“Can I help you two?” he asked, glancing up from what Roxas had first thought was paperwork, but was in actual fact a photo.

Olette glanced to Roxas for help. “Uh, not me, thanks. Just her.”

“I'd like, um, I'd like my tragus pierced?” It came out as a question.

The man snorted. “You and everyone else in this damn town. You got any ID?”

Olette started to rummage around in her handbag, and Roxas glanced awkwardly up at the shelf behind the receptionist's head. It held a row of bongs, each prettier and more expensive than the last, and Roxas found himself vaguely wishing he did weed just so he'd have an excuse to buy paraphernalia.

“Here you go!” She presented the bored man behind the counter with her provisional driving license.

After a moment of squinting, he reached for something under the desk. “Here,” he said, pulling out a sheet of yellow paper with a flourish. “Consent form. Fill it in, hand it back, pay, and go into the waiting room.”

Olette looked nervous now, but one of Roxas' duties as piercing buddy was to prevent her from chickening out. He handed her a pen and she began to print her name in block capitals on a dotted line.

“That'll do,” said the one-eyed man at long last, “now off you go, waiting room is just around the corner.”

And off they went.

“What if it hurts, Roxas?” Olette whispered as they entered the waiting room. It was an odd mix of people; blonde girls dusted with fake tan that probably wanted their belly buttons done, and people with dyed hair who already looked like pin cushions. There was only one empty chair left, and Roxas let Olette perch on it, hovering next to her with his hands crammed into his pockets.

“I mean, of course it'll hurt, but it'll be over in a second.” He knew he probably wasn't being particularly reassuring. “Besides, think how cute it'll look. And I heard Hayner saying something the other day about how much he likes girls with piercings.” It was a lie, but Olette lit up, and her nervousness seemed to fade almost completely as people trickled one by one into the small room with a door marked “PIERCINGS.”

Finally, a pair of blonde girls scuttled out of the piercing room and a voice called out, “Olette? Olette Pendleton?”

She stood up, grabbing Roxas's wrist instinctively. “Oh, I'm scared!”

“Come on, you'll do fine.”

She took the lead, not letting go of his wrist, as they walked into the room to see the back of someone in a black shirt, with red hair -

“You must be Olette!” He turned around, and Roxas swallowed, almost choking on his own spit. He was – he was - “I'm Axel, come on in, bring your friend, don't be shy.”

Regaining his composure just enough to notice Olette's palm sweating on his wrist, Roxas nudged her, then looked apologetically at Axel. “She's really nervous,” he explained, and she nodded silently.

“Oh, you'll be fine, hop on that chair.” She shuffled towards the chair, hands shaking, whilst Axel busied himself with nitrile gloves and alcohol wipes. “Tragus, was it?”

“Uh-huh.” Olette wriggled on the tattered leather chair, while Roxas was once again doomed to standing awkwardly by her side. “It's my first piercing since my earlobes when I was like eight,” Olette confessed, squirming a little more.

Roxas couldn't stop staring as Axel pulled a pre-packaged needle out of a drawer, followed by some tongs and finally a silver stud. He was... to put it bluntly, he was really fucking hot, but Roaxs didn't want to put it bluntly. Roxas wanted to put it poetically. Roxas wanted to express fully in his own head how beautiful this guy – this man – was.

“You'll be alright. Which ear?” His briskness seemed to be reassuring Olette, or at least not allowing her time to think about what was about to happen.

She pointed to her right ear. “This one, if that's okay.”

“It's your ear.” He shrugged, then opened up his alcohol wipe and started to clean the ear in question. “What about you, blondie? You fancy getting anything done? I'll do it for free.”

Roxas flushed. “Nah – nah, I'm just, Olette's nervous so...”

Axel chuckled as he clamped tongs onto Olette's ear. “Now both of you look terrified! God, is it me? Xigbar told me the hair was a bit much...”

“Xigbar?” Roxas enquired, as Olette reached out for Roxas's hand, and he let her press her too-soft, too-sweaty palm against his.

Axel picked up the needle. Olette had her eyes screwed tight shut, but Roxas was barely paying attention to her. (He was a terrible piercing buddy, he thought distantly. Olette should have enlisted Pence instead.) “Yeah, the grumpy one-eyed dude on reception.” All of a sudden he was pushing a needle into Olette's ear and she was squeaking in pain, crushing Roxas's hand. “There you go, now we've just gotta get the jewellery in and you're done.

“It huuurts,” Olette wailed, eyes still shut. “Roxas, it huuuurts.”

Unimpressed by Olette's whining, Axel glanced at Roxas before starting to fiddle with Olette's new tragus stud. “Roxas, huh? Cute name. Say, you're alright standing there, aren't you? Should've offered you a seat...” There was another squeak from Olette, then, “All done! Let me get your aftercare instructions, then you're free to go.”

“I'm alright not sitting. There were no chairs in the waiting room for a while so I had to stand then too.” Roxas shrugged. Olette had let go of his hand in order to admire her new piercing in the reflection on her phone, and he subtly wiped her sweat off on his jeans.

Axel tutted as he presented Olette with a sheet of paper. “You should have told someone there were no chairs! I'd have let you sit on my lap.” He winked, then turned to Olette. “You do exactly as that says, and if you have any questions, come back and see us.” She nodded, still looking at her reflection. “Alright, you guys are free to go!”

If Roxas had been more like Hayner, he would've got Axel's number. If he were more like Pence, he would have added him on Facebook. And if he were more like Olette, Axel would probably have made the first move.

But he was passive, awkward Roxas, and he shuffled out of the piercing room after Olette without another word.