Ink in my Coffee
By CS WhiteWolf
Torchwood, the sign read, Tattoo & Piercing Studio. The large, bold lettering was painted in thick black above the doorway of the sizeable building tucked just off North Broadway Street, in downtown Chicago.
He hesitated a moment; fingers unconsciously clenching and flexing at his sides as he took in as much of the edifice before him. Three large road-facing windows dominated the front of the building, reaffirming his knowledge that the store had been converted from a car showroom some years before. The middle window of the studio contained a large black logo composed of hexagonal shapes which were arranged into a T-shape.
His eyes drifted to the door. A hanging sign let him know that the shop was ‘OPEN’. He took a deep breath, trying to gather his wits about him as he tentatively reached out to grip the handle. This was it; there was no going back from this point onwards. Everything was ready, every plan, counter plan and back up plan was put in place. This was the last step, the last and perhaps the most vital part of this whole elaborate scheme. Once he stepped foot in here, once he’d set up his appointment, once the first drop of ink was permanently etched into his flesh… well, there’d be no going back from it then.
This was it. His fingers curled about the handle, clinging for one desperate moment before he made his decision. He pushed his hand down and forward, opening the door and forcing himself to step inside. He held his breath, waiting as his eyes adjusted from the bright glare of sunlight outside into the shaded but still brightly lit room he’d just walked into.
The first thing to catch his attention was the colour. The walls, though they in themselves were painted a neutral cream, were trimmed in dark rouges and lively oranges (of all things). He smiled despite himself at the sight, finding that the brightness of the room helped to alleviate the nervousness currently clawing at his belly.
It was strange to think that a simple combination of colours could put a mind at ease. The thing with places like these, he supposed, was that it took a certain type of person to just walk in and feel immediately at home. From his limited experience, he’d found parlours like these to be small and pokey spaces with battered chairs shoved against walls which were plastered with pictures of inked men and women. Over laden tables tended to be squashed in between whatever seating was obtainable; their once sturdy structures buckling under the weight of the magazines and folders stacked high atop them, displaying all the designs and piercing possibilities on offer to the waiting customer as the constant humming of a needle in an equally small and pokey back room dominated what would otherwise have been an eerily silent room.
There was a memory there, he knew. One of which he’d rather not dig up right at this moment. He looked around, quick eyes taking in every inch of detail available to him. There were no tattoo designs plastered over the walls, he noticed with mild surprise, spotting only a few artistically placed paintings and some A4 sized house rules about having ID and the procedures for booking and cancelling appointments. There where three sofas (two white, one black) stretched out across the street-facing wall, the two small tables slipped in between them containing only a pot plant each and a handful of magazines.
If he didn’t know better, he thought to himself, he would have assumed he’d stepped into the reception area of a building that most assuredly did not encourage the permanent marking of ones own body. It was strangely comforting.
“Good afternoon,” a soft voice called and he turned his head to see a young Asian woman step out one of the back rooms. She too was not what he’d expected to see at all, and he was struck once again with the idea of this being anything but the tattoo and piercing parlour the sign outside proclaimed it was.
The woman stood before him wouldn’t have looked at all out of place in the structural engineering firm where he worked. Not with the respectable black pencil-skirt and the white bell-sleeved shirt and black waist-clencher combination she wore. The only tell-tale signs he could see which told him he was possibly in the right place, came in the form of the killer-looking 4" ankle boots she wore, and the gothic style pendant hung around her neck.
“Hi,” he greeted in return and she smiled at him before slipping herself behind the reception desk. He stepped closer. The desk before him was made of glass, and hosted a display case of piercing studs, bars and cleaning products meticulously exhibited within.
“Do you have an appointment?” The young woman asked him, flipping open a nearby diary. He shook his head.
“No.” He answered. She looked up, still smiling.
“Looking to book an appointment?” She tried.
He hesitated. “Something like that.” He answered and she cocked her head, waiting for him to continue.
“I’ve a particular idea in mind,” He began, “for a tattoo. I’ve got the designs I want, I’m just looking for the right kind of artist to do the job.”
“You already know who you want, don’t you?” She asked; a knowing look in her eyes.
“Yes,” he answered, nodding again as a wave of calmness descending upon him, “I’m looking for Ianto Jones.”
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