Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine, Lancelot
Summary: A brief history, told through ink
Warnings: Menage a quatre
Word Count: 693
Author's Notes: Not entirely sure what I wanted to get from this, but it was fun to write anyway... so have a drabble!
Arthur has a tattoo.
It’s not a large one, nor is it intricate. It’s in monotone, a tiny black star. It sits just under the hem of his pants, on his right hip, so it doesn’t show even if he’s in swimming trunks.
It was his first little rebellion. His father was away for his eighteenth birthday, Morgana had classes in something or other so wasn’t due back for a while, and he wanted it. Just somewhere that it wouldn’t be noticed.
He picked the star while waiting in the tattoo parlour, in the folder of tattoo ideas that would cost the cheapest. It wasn’t ostentatious; from a distance it might even look like a birth mark, and it spoke to him somehow. A uniform black star, stamped into his skin. Condensed and constrained, fitted into a mould when there was so much potential in it. Bitterly, he saw it as a kindred spirit and had it inked.
Now, with the ink a little faded, the crispness gone, it’s as if the little star’s grown with him.
Merlin gasps at the little imperfection, as he peels off Arthur’s boxers, and he can’t help but lean in to kiss it, feel its story with his lips, hold it to him as something precious; loved, fiercely, as he loves Arthur.
He has a tattoo as well, a band around his wrist. But unlike Arthur, he hates it.
Merlin had it inked using a fake ID aged seventeen, before he’d met any of the men he now loves, before any of the good in his life had come to him. He’d been seeing Cedric, a bit of a creep, and a mix of self-loathing and depression and wanting to impress Cedric had sent him to the seedy parlour down an alley in Ealdor.
The bracelet of Celtic knots is pretty enough, but Merlin hates it; covers it with a leather band. It reminds him of that time, when he hadn’t quite found himself, realised what to do with himself and with his magic. And he hates being reminded.
No one asks him to take off the bracelet. They all understand, in a way, and Merlin trusts them enough with his insecurities that he’s shown them the tattoo. But it would be unfair to make him bare the worst of his soul, the worst of his past, just for the sake of nakedness. Merlin leaves the band on until it becomes battered, then buys another.
Gwaine’s tattoo sits on his shoulderblade. It’s an eagle, suggested by a series of strokes, like a calligraphy pen. He claims to have had it done for purely aesthetic purposes, but Lance thinks otherwise. There’s more to him than that, no matter what he would have the world think. He suspects it has something to do with Gwaine himself, whose feelings were quite sidelined in his childhood of being passed from parent to parent, competing for their children’s attention.
What he will tell them is that he designed it throughout his late teens and saved the low wages he was earning – Lance suspects to distance his new tattoo, with his new life, from his family – to pay for the inking.
Sometimes Arthur catches him in front of the mirror just staring at his shoulder. When he does, he leaves Gwaine to it; he knows well what he’s going through.
Now, Lance sucks a kiss over the tip of the eagle’s wing. When the skin moves, it’s almost like it’s flying. And Lance is a little jealous.
Because Lance is the only one with uninked skin. It seems a little sad, in a way, that he was the only one who didn’t feel the need. But he had a happy childhood, happy teenage years, albeit adopted ones. And he has never wanted to experience the pain without reason, or to have something permanent which he, like Merlin, may later change his mind about. In a way he’s a little left out, but it’s not one of the things that matters. Not when Arthur’s hand is stroking down his chest, his lips picking out the curves of muscle. It doesn’t really matter at all.