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Title: Sound of Your Heart Under Your Skin
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: None/Gen
Wordcount: 6366 words
Warnings: Minor drug use

Summary: Music echoes in every beat of Dean Winchester's life, and he lets his skin show what he remembers.

Author's Notes: tdorian, I'm sorry I haven't managed to hit every beat of your beautiful prompt, but I hope you enjoy this anyway. It was a pleasure working with you and I hope you like the little extras.

Please check out her beautiful artwork here (she did extra!)

Second (extra) story here 'When Dean Met Lemmy'

Fanmix here: Dean Winchester - Citizen Soldier




His memories of his early years are scatter-shot. The earliest is a dreamy, haze-like unfocused image of his mother, blond hair down her back reading the paper at the kitchen table. Hotel California is playing on the radio quietly, the song she sometimes picks him up and dances to, round the kitchen table and into the hallway, singing out of tune. There’s no dancing at this moment though. His four year old self doesn't understand the look on her face but he remembers it because it frightened him enough that over twenty years later it echoes in his mind. He can guess now what she was reading, because when he looks at a paper, his eyes skip straight to the freak show bits, the ones where a man gets his head crushed by a coconut on holiday, or a mother drowns her child in a tubful of syrup.


He skips straight over the headlines, has never told anyone that he didn't even know 9/11 had happened until a day later. T.V. and radio are not his life, not his music. It's porn and cassettes, the steady thumping rhythm of his headboard during sex- nothing else evokes the same swift memories. He knows now that there was a hunt, that her trained eye had jumped to it, whatever it may have been: man trapped under an immovable rock, two sisters skewered on the same metal pole, a man with sulphur in his mouth and down his throat, eyes open in a wide glance of dying surprise. He doesn't know what it was, but he knows she walked away. She did nothing and the world didn't end.


When he's twenty three, he kinda wishes things could be that simple for him, too. Put down the paper, Dean, walk away. Not your battle. Sam at Stanford, a phone that never rang, a deep silence between him and Dad that can’t be broken. No wonder Dad went away, left Dean on his own with the parting instructions that like always, he had to care for Sam, even if it was from a distance. He drives hundreds of miles and the only thing he hears for days on end is music. Local stations pass in and out of reception like wavering thread-thin thoughts. He buys tapes for the car, plays them until they wear out, sings along hoarsely out on the highway where no one can hear.


In the end, it was pure impulse that made him duck into the shop and stand there, awkwardly looking around. It was small, that was his first thought. Small but scrupulously clean. It was miles away from most of the hole in the wall tattoo studios he'd passed by in the past. Across one wall, separately mounted photographs showed finished pieces, and on the other, a bizarre collage that haphazardly depicted a human body covered with tattoos made up of various photos of different people. It was more than a little bit creepy and he was about to turn and walk out, cursing his stupid thought in the first place, when the girl behind the counter came out to greet him. He tried not to stare at the gorgeous tattooed snakes twining their way down her arms, because Jesus fucking Christ but it was a losing battle when he saw how they twined round her neck and the ivy dipped between her breasts. She was pretty under all that ink, and he'd always had a little bit of a thing for girls with tattoos, (just not as many), so he gave her a cocky grin. "I'm thinking about a tattoo," he said casually.


She arched her brows and gave him a long look. "I would never have guessed," was the cool reply, and he wondered if she had taken exception to his staring at her tattoos. Why wear a tank top though, if you didn't want to show them? "Do you know what you want?" she asked indifferently.


He pulled out the grubby bit of paper tucked in his jean pocket and handed it over, expecting her to call someone out. He was surprised when she unfolded it and beckoned him to the back room while calling for Laurie (whoever they were) to take the desk for a bit. "You're an artist?" he asked, surprised though he barely knew why.


She gave him a look again and bent her head back to the piece of paper. "This is shit," she said impatiently. "We don't do this kind of douche-bag tattoo." She pushed the paper back at him. "Take a hike to Marty's down the road. You'll be in and out in twenty minutes. You could get a tribal tattoo to complete it, or maybe some twisted barbed wire around your forearm.”


Dean felt his irritation rise. "I don’t fucking know how to draw," he snapped. "How am I supposed to design a tattoo?"


She pulled the paper back and turned it to him. "It's just words," she said. "Seriously, I know it sounds harsh, but we're good and we want to make a name for ourselves. We can't afford to put our name to stuff that you could have gotten anywhere for twenty dollars."


"Well, if you're so picky about your customers, no wonder your place is such a shithole," Dean said, his temper rising. "Look I don't know the first thing about design. I really don't, you can take my word on that. So why don't you spend five goddamn minutes giving me a hand with something decent? Something you could ‘put your name to.’" He echoed her words then folded his arms and sat back to stare at her.


She sighed. "Fine. Let’s get started if you’re sure about this.” Taking down a pad of paper and a pencil, she stared at him expectantly. "What's the tattoo for?" she asked and he almost squirmed.


"It's a lot of things," he hedged. "I like the song.”


“Steppenwolf,” she said a little incredulously. "Born to be Wild?"


"Yeah," he snapped, hit on the raw. "I like it okay? Nothing wrong with Steppenwolf."


"Of course not, if you like hair metal," she replied. Then, as though she had decided to cut him a break, she switched to businesslike. "Just getting lyrics tattooed on you is the lowest rung of tattoos, I promise you. No matter how much it means to you, most people are not going to care. What is it you like about the song, other than the title?"


She waited while he thought until he then said defensively. "I *like* the lyrics. I like the line 'Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.”             


She smiled, an unexpectedly sweet expression. "See? Now we're getting somewhere." With swift strokes she drew a firework on the pad in front of her. “There's a thought. What else? I mean is there anything you want this to commemorate or something? A loved one?"


He hesitated, caught, but something in her manner reassured him that she wasn't going to laugh, despite her previous callousness when it came to the sacred matter of Steppenwolf. "My mom died when I was little," he said. "My dad raised me and my brother, and we travelled a lot. We're kinda close, except my brother he left, didn't want to go into the family business."


"Which is?" she said, busy noting something down.


"The military," he replied. Close enough after all. "He went to college."


She nodded. "So you want something that's family, and you like those lines? How about this?"


He can only nod. Words died in his mouth as he looked at her, her bright clear eyes scanning him like he was a canvas for her thoughts, her smooth marked skin, traced in black and red. She handed him her sketch, a crested rendering of his family and him: fireworks in a night sky, two smoking guns. It’s old fashioned and a little ridiculous and it’s him.


It makes an odd ironic kind of sense that the first time he lay down and let someone mark him up indelibly it’s a petite Chinese girl who inks him carefully, swiftly. And he feels the 'me ink you long time' jokes die in his mind before he can even think of relaying them to Sam. It's artistry in her fingertips, a smooth whirl of ink blossoming under her fingers.


Her hands are so cool and smooth on his back that he shivered instinctively. She knows what she's doing, though; he can feel the assurance in her even through the latex gloves. She did the drawing straight on his skin. He could feel the cool strokes of the pen against him and he shivered again in the chill of the room. Like the professional she is, she asked him if he was planning on having more work done and had nodded when he told her no, it was just this one. She'd warned him against the positioning anyway. "People change their minds, you know," she'd said. "The ink can be addictive. Some people just don't stop. If you ever wanted to get a back piece someday, they'd have to work around this one and it's a little too singular to be well incorporated into a design well."


"I thought you said it was douchey and unimaginative," he teased.


She grinned, a bright smile. "The design was before I got my hands on it," she said with a sharp tap on his back. "But when I'm done it'll be pretty unique. You mind if I take a picture for the wall when I’m done?" He hesitated and she seemed to read his mind. "Just a back shot, no face," she said. "No-one will ever have to know." This smile is naughty and he imagines her saying it in another context and grins.



"Sure," he said with a shrug. There's nothing wrong with that, though it gave him the creeps to think of people looking at his skin like that. He leaned forward again and she got up to get the gun and start the procedure. "I'll hand-ink part of it," she said, and she's strictly professional again. "But most of it can be done by gun just as neatly and much quicker." He nodded and she leant over to flick on the CD-player.



"I like my music," she said, and he nodded. Her taste isn't bad, but it's not what he would have imagined; all smoky soft jazz, female voices rich and deep, then it’s Louis Armstrong kicking in on Cab Calloway's turf. He let himself drift off as she works on round the scars that had posed such a problem to him before. Her strokes were deep and confident, and she worked quickly. It didn't hurt, though she'd warned him that it might, said he didn't have enough fat to cushion the sting like normal people did, that it'd hit right to the muscle. He'd seen her looking at his scars, but most people didn't know how that felt. The pain is mild, background, a deep-veined accompaniment to the music playing, like the low thrum of an exposed wire. It was more familiar than anything else, like he remembers it from a long time ago. He doesn't know how long it took her, thinks he might almost have drifted off, but then she was done, shaking out the cramps in her hands, bending her arms back until they meet each other, then swabbing him down and bringing the mirror. It was perfect and he couldn't stop staring at it. Suddenly he wanted a copy of the picture she's going to take. She smiled at him with no mocking edge.



"Looks good," she said mildly, the quiet pride of an artist in her work in her voice. "Come back anytime, we'll find a patch of clear skin and you can add to it." He wasn’t listening though, wanted suddenly to get out of there, to be alone, and he thinks she kinda got that, because she patted his shoulder and told him she needed to pop out. He waited there on the edge of the chair and let his head fall for a second, the sharp pain-tingle beginning to kick in now.


It’s like he’s carrying a little bit of what matters around with him now. They couldn’t take this from him, unless they skinned him for it, which frankly might happen he knows. But yeah, it’s a risk he’ll take. He breathed in deep and felt the skin stretch and twinge, tried to keep himself still and silent until she came back with a glass of water. “What no whisky?” he asked and she gave him a dry look.



“No whisky,” she confirmed. When she explained how to care for the tattoo, he listened carefully because, dude, he’s not dying from sepsis or skin rot or whatever from this, it would just be ridiculous. When she was done telling him how to clean and bandage it, when it’ll come off, she wrapped him up tight after taking her picture and he handed over the money in folded bills. She tucked it away in a pocket, gave him a hand to get off the edge of the bed and handed him his jacket from the chair. “I mean it man,” she said finally. “You want some more work done, come back here. I thought you’d be a squealer but you stuck it pretty well.”



He moves towards the door. “Worse things than needles in the world I guess,” he shrugged. “Thanks again. And can I have a copy of that photo?”


“Sure thing,” she said. “I’ll have it developed this afternoon. Can you drop by tomorrow to pick it up? It’ll give me a chance to check on the tat anyway.” He agreed and got out as fast as he could.


That’s not the story of his first tattoo though. The first tattoo is when he used a needle dipped in tepid water and the ink out of a bic to trace the outline of metal horns on his leg. His dad had flipped out when he’d found it, scrubbed at it until the skin was raw and red and sore, but the ink was still there under it. You think this is a joke boy? Marking the devil on yourself? Dean had tried to explain that it was just metal but John had let go of his arm and rubbed his hands tiredly over his eyes.  Told him that, “someday Dean, you’ll understand some things just aren’t a joke.” The ink was gone in a few days, absorbed into his blood. The bruise stayed longer, like a reminder of his stupidity.


John chose most of the music they listened to. His taste had stopped somewhere about 1979 and frozen itself there. Rock music mostly. The Eagles, Boney M, The Yardbirds - nothing too heavy. Sometimes he let Dean play his tapes, heavier stuff Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeath. Greatest hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Sam bitched about it of course even as a kid. Moaned that he couldn't sleep, that it didn't even make sense. After a while in one of his few concessions to Sammy's moods, he bought him a Walkman of his own so that he could listen to his own things. Dean was helplessly silently jealous, unable to say anything because being jealous of your own brother was shitty, he knew that, knew he couldn't be angry at Sammy for that.



Especially when it meant Dad treated him like a grownup, let him sit shotgun, played the music real low in the front of the car, a litany of men on guitars singing about lives they'd never live. And he'd talk about the job, about Dean's job, how he was gonna be a man someday. Tell him little stories, little tidbits of what he'd fought when Dean had been too young to join in. Jesus, he remembers himself at ten years old wanting to know what a Wendigo was, drinking it up like there was nothing in this life that could be better than hearing his dad's war-stories. He knows now that's what they were.



Sammy couldn't hear them, not with his headphones and his eyes fixed on his schoolbooks if it was day, curled up sucking his thumb if it was night, looking out the window until he got bored and took them off, and started annoying Dean to get his attention.



Hell, it hadn't been the Walkman he was jealous of. He'd been jealous of how Sammy had wanted it and got it. Even then he'd known it was childish, but it'd been true. Somehow, that music is his now and he doesn't think of his dad while he listens to it, doesn't remember the long long nights in the blackness listening to Deep Purple softly growl their way through ‘Smoke on the Water’, and his dad with his eyes fixed on the road in front, talking to him like he was a man, like he was all grown up. Sometimes, it flickers across him like someone stepping over his grave and he shivers and shakes it off.



But it's there, like the inevitable soundtrack to his life, and when Sam went, and Dad started letting him hunt solo, started disappearing for weeks on end even when he wasn't hunting, the music stayed. Dean buys new tapes every now and then; bargain bins in concession stores and gas stations. Sometimes he meets a girl with a tape deck and a preference for rock. Making tapes reminds him of highschool, of Alice Walker and her bedroom and letting Metallica sing out, flood her house, like a red-hot signal to everyone in the neighborhood that someone was doing something they shouldn't. Remembers afterwards, lying there and letting it wash over him, looking at Alice with her smooth skin, and her pot smelling clothes, and the sweet smile that never left her, and just wanting to stay for a little bit. But sooner or later her parents would decide they'd had enough of Led Zeppelin for the day and call them downstairs, and he'd go home, still smelling of her and weed and a little bit of happiness. When he left she gave him a tape to remember her, told him to look her up if he was ever in town. When he played it Dunwitch blared out and he could have laughed until he cried. It was like she knew.



Sam though, Sam’s always been more mellow. Liked his indie music, listened to British stuff Dean had never heard of (and didn’t think was that bad, not that you’d ever get him to admit it.) Dean used to tease him by buying him Celine Dion tapes just to see the automatic bitchface. One song, Dean, and I swear to God, if you wave that in my face one more time I’ll punch you. It’s probably why Sam is at Stanford taking notes at lectures, and he’s getting tattooed on a back street somewhere. He’s surprised at the heavy bitterness of the thought. He’d thought he’d come to terms with Sam going, understood it was best for him in some obscure way that will never make proper sense to him. Sam wasn’t born for this life, never had been; Dean was. He imagines that a few years down the line Sam won’t know the words to Run to the Hills, will be the sort of prick who puts on soft jazz for dinner guests, nothing offensive, nothing loud or crass or crude. Nothing like Dean. He wonders if Sam will remember him.

It’s not like the signs weren’t there from early on. He sneaked out to a gig when he was fourteen years old. It is, he thinks almost wistfully, the closest to a normal rebellion he ever got. He wasn't the only kid at the concert who clearly shouldn't have been there, lurking nervously on the outskirts of the crowd, hoping like hell to not be asked for ID. He doesn't even try the bar; the music is worth more than trying to get a stale beer or two. Instead he squirms his way to the centre of the crowd, breathes in a lungful of dirty air deep, and waits for it to begin. He can't know he's picked the worst spot for his first gig, the bit where circle pits form and walls of death.


He knows vaguely what moshing is, but when it starts the panic grips him tight, closes off his throat and he lashes out in blind terror. He's smaller than the dudes in leather jerkins around him, but he's tough, doesn't take any shit, manages to clear himself a whole half foot of floor space before he's almost knocked down again. It repeats itself three times until someone takes pity on him. An angular old man with cheekbones that could cut and long grey hair pulled back in a ponytail, grabs his arm and shouts at him, that he needs to let go. Needs to stop fighting the crowd because he can't win. It's alien to Dean Winchester's mind. Winchesters don't give up, don't sway with the tide. There's no denying the truth in what the old man is saying though, that if he doesn't do something he's going to be crushed, trampled underfoot.


He almost is for another death-defying minute, before he's out, squeezed into the calmer main crowd, like a fish thrown back into the sea, and he chokes in air, knowing he looks like exactly what he is, frightened and battered. He tries to work up the courage to dive back in, but he is thwarted by the steady mass of the bodies repelling all entry. The music is like the background thump of his heartbeat, and he can barely hear it, doesn't even think about giving up and just listening to the band that he's going to get his hide tanned for on Monday (stealing from his dad's wallet, leaving Sammy alone with their drunken snoring father when he’s been told time and time that he stays. He’s never going to get up the guts to suggest that if that’s one of the things John’s worried about, maybe he shouldn’t drink.) He's determined to make his way back in, waits for his opportunity and when a gap opens up he worms back in, this time prepared. When the rush comes, and the feet leave the floor, he doesn't fight, but lets himself mold to the crowd, feels what they feel, jumps when they jump. It's the first time he's ever felt a part of something that wasn't his family.


When he gets back, he crawls into bed with Sammy and his brother flings a sticky hot arm over his neck like the kid's four, not ten. "Can I come with you next time?" he asks, his voice a whisper for fear of waking their dad.



Dean closes his eyes, squeezes them tight shut and tries to remember the setlist. "Maybe, Sammy," he says, knows it's a cop-out. Sam knows a maybe is a no in their family, and he settles, silenced but not chastened, and Dean knows he'll nag him for days about it. Never in John's hearing though, Sam knows better than to let him hear him whining or moaning or nagging, even if a seething resentment has begun rooting itself in his soul.


He used to tell Dean his thoughts, Dean remembers that much. Used to hang off Dean's hand, and talk to him earnestly about everything, from how much he hated the girl in school who stole his pencils, to what he thought Dad did for a living. (Does he sell Bibles, Dean? Is he a spy?) He still did even as he got older; Dean was the only one there to talk to, and Sam had to talk, that's how he worked things out when he was a kid. Dean remembers countless days of making pack-lunches for school, brown-bagging them no matter how much Sam hated that, saving up his occasional allowance to buy Sam the knock-off Superman lunchbox he wanted. Remembers Sam hugging him, and always with the presents, like he couldn't tell Dean he loved him any other way than sticky sweets and broken toys. Not that his love has ever been in doubt, nor what he'd do for him. But Sam watched John with dark, wary eyes now, like he's not sure if he'll get bitten when he talks too loud or too much at all, held tight and close to Dean, like it’s there that he gathers the strength to fight.



It's right after that first Motorhead gig that Dean picked up a guitar. It was in school, after lessons where he was identified as a problem kid, despite the fact that he kept his head down like he always did (John Winchester didn’t make a good impression on teachers,) and the school has a programme for people like him. The title sat sullen and heavy on his shoulders, he's always been a problem kid no matter what school he's at. He could have laughed at their stupid simplistic kindness, their too-clearly read faces so young, what a pity, could be a good kid if it weren't for the homelife. Did they think a guitar would fix what they thought was wrong?



The dude they bring in to teach them though, is familiar. He was the old man who gave him his first lesson in moshing. Dean's heart sank when he sees him, if he's a teacher, then he's going to raise hell if he remembers seeing Dean there. He shouldn't have worried. Charles (call me Charlie) Dankebaum remembered him just fine, -but like he said as he lit up a smoke in the confined room, in clear violation of school rules, he ain't a teacher. He just did lessons. He didn't mention seeing Dean at Motorhead, just let Dean just fiddle with the guitar for a little bit, pluck the strings and run his hands carefully down it.


Then he coughed, a harsh choking sound, and took another deep drag. The guitar is acoustic, mellow deep wood sound and he grinned at Dean. "Not your type of instrument hm kid?"


Dean said nothing, just handed it back. It wasn’t, it felt wrong in his hands, like it couldn't make the music he wanted to hear. In Charlie's hands he was proved wrong, the guitar yielded up its music in wandering melodies he half recognized. Charlie explained it to him, how songs are made, how they don't start fully formed on stage being whacked out by Meatloaf. Dean listened, learnt and assimilated. The closest he'd ever been to a musical instrument before is a few clumsy notes on a piano one time in second grade.


Charlie wouldn't let him touch the guitar, until he thought Dean got what it was about. Then, at the end of their first lesson he handed it over.


Dean was terrible at it. It was the worst he's ever been at something, and that alone was a shock. He was no brain like Sammy, didn't have the time, energy or inclination to pursue top grades, but he knew he could get them if he tried, really tried. Knew that if he played his cards right he could totally get Kelsie Smith to kiss him, that for a fourteen year old he’s a damn good hunter. But he couldn't do that, not even a little bit. Charlie didn't seem discouraged, let him try again and again, gave him tips, told him to practice. Even if he'd been better at it though, he didn't have anywhere to practice. It was hard enough to hide the guitar let alone play it.


It was the longest they’d ever spent in one town as far as Dean could tell. Dad didn’t tell them why, (but then he didn’t tell them anything,) and after two months he took off, and left them again. It’s not the first time, and Dean got good at lying, faking his dad’s own fake signature, reassuring teachers. They seemed to have decided by this point, that he’s not a bad kid, but the lessons with Charlie continued since they were budgeted anyway. He didn’t bother hiding the guitar from Sam, but resisted any urge to do anything with it. It sits alone and unused in the room, and he got worse if that’s even possible. Got worse and Charlie eventually gave him a friendly clap on the back and told him without malice that he sucked, there was really no point in him continuing. Soon after, Dad came back and they moved again. Dean gave the guitar back, and that was that. Being a rockstar is down the chute.

If he looks too close he suspects it says something about him. He can't stop wanting, there isn't anyone alive who can stop that, but you can be stronger than the want, move past it. When he was fourteen years old he wanted to be a rockstar, wanted to be Lemmy up on stage drawing everyone closer, feeling the music flow through his veins. He knew sooner than any fourteen year old should that the closest he'd ever get to that was howling out the window on the motorway, drumming along to the greatest hits of AC/DC.


The disappointment fades, playing music isn't for him. Playing music is for smart people like Sammy, who wanted to take up flute, knew even then the importance of college admissions, and for geniuses like Jimmy Page who could make a guitar sing in his hands like nothing else he'd ever heard. Doesn't mean the music isn't his. He grabs it tight and holds it close, an endless parade of music thrilling through him. Tapes wear clear through, but the tracks in his head don't die.


His body bruises, batters, breaks and shatters over the years, is fixed and put back together. Everything that happens to him is marked on his skin and underneath it. He adds to it though with things he chooses himself. He marks on his body the things that mean something to him. Bruce Springsteen, a man of the road, Kansas, Sammy, Cas, they all have their place, have their time, all share his body between them. Words are too difficult to find sometimes, he needs to rely what others have said and sung, and written before him. Not his job to make the words, just to live them.


He saves a tattoo artist in Nashville from a vampire one time, after Hell and Death and Life have wiped his skin clean, and in gratitude they ink him back to his specifications, the hand that took him from the grave, rescued him. Sam is the brother on his left, he doesn't need more, because everything about him is etched into Dean's skin and into his heart. The years go by, and sometimes he needs them renewed. He watches his skin get covered with the proof that he's lived, lets the choices he's made mark him visibly, can't bring himself to regret anything that brought them this far.It's never over until the fat lady sings, his dad used to say. It looks like she's got a few performances in her yet.

                                                                                Epilogue-


When he comes back over ten years later, the place he got his first tattoo is gone. Some shitty little shop selling floral candles, cushions and 'antique style' washstands has taken its place. It seems busy enough for a shop that could be found in a thousand towns across America, only a little different each time. It's cleaner in a way, more sterile than the tattoo parlour ever could've been, the smile on the assistant's face like a slash of blood across teeth too white. Still he tries, asks them if the previous place had been shut down. Her eyes are like charcoal, dark and smokey and she bites her lip as she replies that <i>no, no, Kandy Korner Kitchen had been gone for a year now.</i> He thanks her and backs out, surrounded by the strong clinging scent of potpourri.



Sam comes up and he's got his bitchface on, firm, square and tight, lips folded in, and suddenly Dean wants to hug him, wants to alternately praise something and shout into the heavens that they've won. Sam is here, and he looks just for this one moment like he did thirteen years ago, lines all smoothed out and into the Sam who kicked the back of his chair in the car until John Winchester told him what he'd get for laying a foot on his precious Impala. He doesn't think Sam would like to hear that though, not in the street so he grins as wide as he can, like that will somehow explain what he feels and restrains from trying to yank him off his feet. Sammy is still his kid brother, but he’s probably too big to be swung up anymore.


And because for once good things come in threes, Sam finds a cafe that actually has meat options, and right there inside on the noticeboard is a flyer for the tattoo studio. They've moved to a bigger location; (looks like the idea of quality over quantity had paid off.) The pretty waitress brings them coffee, takes an order for the healthiest goddamn meal he's had in years, but the menu doesn't offer much choice. At least there is up to 80% less tofu than in the similar establishments they've passed by. Sam just looks at him with eyes shaded, emotions drawn back until his face is blank and sponged clean. "You got an idea?" he says, stirring in the creamer with a steady hand.


Dean smiles at him, open and joyous and laughing. "I do, Sam," he promises, and he's filled with the same sudden sweeping affection for his brother he’d felt in the street outside. Whoever would've thought that twenty nine years on from a burning house they'd be here, alive and mostly themselves? He tugs the piece of paper out of his pocket. He's been more careful this time, tried to draw something, but Sam snickers, as he tugs it out of his hands anyway.


"Jesus Dean, is that an eagle," he says, something like awed horror tinging his voice, like he can’t believe even Dean could be that ridiculous. “You’re going to look like some gangmember.”


"Wrong again Sammy," he says, filled to the brim now with good humour and relief, and he won't tell him what he means until later.


He hadn't thought she'd recognise him- ten years was a long time for a business that generally didn't look at faces- and he's right. She's older now herself, but the snakes are vibrant, the ivy retains its glossy sheen, she's still wearing a tanktop and her arms are firm and strong. It's like he's wandered back in time, and he feels a weird sort of affection for the place despite the fact he’s never been here. His face doesn't ring a bell at first with her, but when he spends three minutes browsing through the walls for his picture, and shows it to her it brings her memory back. He's unsurprised that he's still made the display cut; she did damn good work that day. Now she tells him that she remembers him, remembers his back and his silence, and his scars, though she doesn't mention how odd they are now.


Like she's a physician, he subjects to her scrutiny, and she's not shy of giving her professional opinion. The demon sigil she touches once and withholds judgment (but: clean lines she tells him, whoever did it had a good hand but a lack of imagination,) and the other tattoos she yeas or nays with impunity. It's like first inking him gave her the right to an opinion on how the canvas was used, Dean thought but didn't object. There's just one thing left to shock her, and he's pleased she hadn't lost the photo she’d taken years ago. Resurrection and fixing had fixed all impurities and harms, and it had taken his tattoo with it. She touches his skin differently now, reverently. "Where's it gone?" she asks, barely audible. There's no scarring there, none of the tell-tale signs of laser-surgery on his skin. It's smooth and bare, and he can almost feel her heart speed up when he doesn’t offer an explanation.


"Same one again please," he says, tells her his secondary request as well, and she nods, absently, cancels appointments and shuffles them just for him. He knows that’s kinda special, and when she’s done preparing his back, she gets straight down to it. It’s like going back in time, turning the clock back, the slight tingle suffusing him, her plastic coated hands a silent witness on his skin. He smiles deep down inside himself and she flips on the music. Time’s moved on here as well; no CD player anymore. She’s got a small ipod hooked up to some speakers, playing right down low, Etta James crooning low and sexy like the perfect contrast to the ink that crawls over his skin. Hours of blues pouring out, suffusing the room, followed by some guy called Humphrey Lyttleton, the artist tells him about, keeping her voice soft and quiet. It’s in this twilight gloaming of notes pinning him to the table as surely as the needles, that she asks him, head up close and bent against him as she concentrates, what the rest of them mean.



He tells her that he remembers what she said about lyrics, but that sometimes they sum up everything anyone needs to know, and they keep a better secret than painting your knowledge on your skin. He could spin her a story he knows about marking your experiences on your body, fixing them fast in blood and ink, and it could mostly be truth. In the end though he tells her the little bit she might not know. That they remind him that he’s alive, that whatever else happens the music stays with him. He tells her the tattoo she’s re-inking is family. Tells her the one she will finish on is him.




Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
ohcuetheviolins
Nov. 22nd, 2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
This is so good! It's bittersweet and lovely and I think you've got Dean down so perfectly here, that I would completely buy this as canon. :) Perfect!

You're right about them being kind of addictive ha, I got my first in feb and I'm already really wanting my next!
stripytights
Nov. 22nd, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC)
<3 Thank you so much! I was very worried about this particular piece, so it's lovely to hear that Dean worked for you in it.

Ooh I'm jealous, I haven't even had one yet!
sanshal
Nov. 23rd, 2012 06:15 am (UTC)
Really enjoyed this... and honestly, while i got the part about music & lyrics (and i agree with Dean here-"they keep a better secret than painting your knowledge on your skin") ; before this fic, I never really thought about tattoos that much- liked them (on others), sure; appreciated their beauty; but never thought about what they meant. This fic changes that.

Thanks for sharing!
stripytights
Nov. 24th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I think tattoos can be quite a powerful symbol of what people love enough to keep with them permanently. Cheers again :)
tdorian
Nov. 23rd, 2012 09:41 am (UTC)
I loved the first unfinished draft. This, left me with a clenched gut. The way you describe Dean's first concert is a thing of beauty. How he struggles with his guitar lessons is such a wonderful idea and so much Dean.
I hoped when I put this drawing for the challenge that it would be picked by someone who loved tattoos and music as much as I do. I haven't been disappointed in the sligtest and you even gave me more.
Thank you, thank you, this is just wonderful.
stripytights
Nov. 24th, 2012 09:27 am (UTC)
I am so glad that it worked for you! Your prompt was lovely, and the whole collaboration has been great :) thanks again!
snickfic
Nov. 23rd, 2012 08:10 pm (UTC)
Aw, this is a neat character study, tattoos and music all intertwined. I really felt for Dean in this, so often lonely, and I liked the tattoo artist. She's clearly a character. :)

Was I supposed to know what Dean's last tattoo was? The thing Sam thought was an eagle?
stripytights
Nov. 24th, 2012 09:29 am (UTC)
Appreciate that, thank you! OCs are always hard to judge so really glad to hear you liked the tattoo artist :)

That's probably something I should go back and fix heh, as Rincewind below guessed, it was supposed to be a phoenix.

Thanks once again
rince1wind
Nov. 24th, 2012 05:48 am (UTC)
Very moving writing. I almost cried when I got to "He wonders if Sam will remember him." I really felt for him -- and it seems so true of Dean, even if he never "really" had guitar lessons -- that he would want desperately to be able to play the music he loved, but be unable to make himself practice. He'd have wanted to live it from the start. And the "eagle" ... You never say, but it feels like it ought to be a phoenix -- since Dean is recreating himself from the ashes of his own history. I really liked this.
stripytights
Nov. 24th, 2012 09:36 am (UTC)
Thank you very much, so glad it rang true! And have a prize because you're completely right, the tattoo was originally designed to be a phoenix (and uh I should probably go back and edit that into the final paragraph because it got swallowed up somewhere!) Really appreciate the comment, thank you
eleni81
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:30 am (UTC)
WOW! Just...WOW!!
It took my breath away and surprised me! It's so sad and fulfilling and to the point! It's like being inside Deans head and spell out his thoughts and feelings!
Great work for amazing art *nods*
stripytights
Nov. 24th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm really glad that you enjoyed it (and the art is amazing :)
dont_hate_me01
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
Great fic! Loved how you portrayed Dean in this fic!!!
stripytights
Nov. 25th, 2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Really glad that Dean rang true :)
judith_88_g
Nov. 26th, 2012 07:44 am (UTC)
Wonderful fic!

I really loved how the music and tattoos symbolize who Dean is and give great insight into his character without being too obvious about it. The atmosphere of the story really moved me, such quiet, a bit melancholy writing but still very poignant.
I especially liked the line:

nothing offensive, nothing loud or crass or crude. Nothing like Dean.

Excellent read!
stripytights
Nov. 26th, 2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed the atmosphere of the story :) thanks again!
pinkyapples
Nov. 28th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
Bittersweet, just like life is for Dean and Sam. Sad to think that both in canon and fandom the only moments of peace for Dean seem to be when some sort of pain is being experienced. At least here it is something he can control, make positive, make his own. I could totally see that Steppenwolf tattoo being Dean's along with the Demon protective one. Nice imagining.
stripytights
Nov. 29th, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you kindly! I'm super glad the idea that the pain of the tattoo is something Dean has chosen for himself instead of having it thrust on him came through.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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