Invisible Ink

by llamajoy

"That really is marvelous work."

They're on the shoopuf, northbound. Nobody else in the basket with them-- apparently it's not been long enough, and the southbound incident is still on everybody's mind. Jecht doesn't let it get to him, though; not too much. He's a changed man, after all.

But now Braska is gazing in frank admiration at the inkwork on Jecht's chest, and maybe it does go to his head a little. It's not every day that Braska lets on, really, that there's more in his head than pilgrimages and Sin. Good that he's loosening up-- and damn good to feel an appreciative look, you know? Jecht stretches, not subtle at all.

Auron rolls his eyes. "Ostentatious," he says, but seeing Braska's smile the word doesn't make it past his lips. Jecht laughs--

But then Braska-- unselfconscious, always-- Braska is tracing his hand over the inked skin and Jecht's laugh catches in his throat. (Catch! Ha; rather, he doesn't catch; it was a beautiful clean pass but somehow the ball soars right over his head, and he's spinning in the water trying to figure where it's gone.) It's just fingertips and skin, he's felt it before; what lucky fan didn't swoon to touch his fine tats?

"Um," Jecht says. Trying for casual. Trying not to see Auron's hellfire glare. Trying to figure out what the hell Braska is doing to his nerve-endings.

Surely Braska notices; he is no fool, he is a priest, a summoner. A listener. He wouldn't have to bend any closer to hear Jecht's heartbeat hammering away beneath the triple-whorl design. But he says nothing. His fingertips follow the pattern, his sleeves belling and his wrist curving; he's making it a prayer. Holy, somehow, blessed and sacred. Jecht has never been religious, but his skin is tingling.

Too late Jecht remembers Braska is a mage; small wonder his concentration is shot and his teeth are on edge. "Pretty cool, isn't it?" he says, voice coarser than usual.

"Was it painful?"

Oh yeah. Just like one of the fans back home. Jecht eats it up. "Hurt like hell," he says, leaning back and grinning. "By the time the guy got to the center of it, I was hollering, let me tell you."


The little thoughtful noise was not what Jecht expected, so he presses the point. "Sort of like having your skin caught on fire, but having to stand still for it-- not for the faint of heart, right?"

Jecht wonders why Auron is suddenly smiling; that never bodes well. Can't be because he's forgiven him for the shoopuf thing, that's for sure.

Braska, without even a hint of affectation, says: "I don't remember any pain... but I suppose it's different for everyone!"

"You--?" It only takes half a heartbeat: Jecht's line of thought passes clean by the expected mortification, and lands goal-center in total fascination. Braska! Holy inviolate Braska, so pale. Barely a glimpse of his wrists in all their days traveling together, and now all Jecht can think about is-- well--


"Where?" The question wrests its way out of him, but it's not words he wants, it's hands and tongues and touch, ink to ink. Wherever it might be doesn't matter; it's on Braska, hidden beneath acres of fabric and that impenetrable smile.

But the hypello is calling and the shoopuf is shambling to shore, and Braska, if he hears the question, chooses not to answer.


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