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Chapter 23.1

 Chapter 23.1

There's one thing I've never expected I will think of myself - that I'm a wimp.

But today I'm obviously proven wrong.

It all starts pretty relaxed - we've been to the tattoo studio twice before to see the artists' works firsthand and talk about our designs. While Bella has been fussing over hers together with Mandy, the owner's daughter who Bella instantly connected with, I've decided to pretty much wing it. Carlos, the owner himself, is an acclaimed free hand artist, and I trust him to get the dragon on the canvas of my left upper arm right.

It's weird how downright giddy I feel, but for obvious reasons I can't be as exuberant about it as Bella is - at breakfast she's been pretty much unable to concentrate on anything else, and when we meet up at the tattoo studio after work she seems a step away from squealing with delight. I still wonder if part of it is due to Jazz not hanging around, as he chooses to go running instead of eating with us.

As she and Mandy have the design all planned and already drawn up, the stencil is quickly transferred to Bella's right shoulder over her shoulder blade, and after a last check that everything is where it belongs, Mandy sets to work. Bella barely winces as she remains hunched over her chair, looking serene and nearly relaxed except for the constant chatter going on between her and the woman wielding the tattoo gun. She has decided to get a heavily shaded Calla lily, no extra colors added, but the outline alone promises to yield a stunning, elegant flower to soon bloom on her back.

Meanwhile Carlos is busy sketching the dragon on my arm, and we don't really talk that much - then again I get the impression he's equally amused about Bella and his daughter giggling and laughing away like old friends, and I don't feel like breaking his concentration. It's fascinating to watch him draw a few lines that seem only like a natural emphasis of my muscles at first, then keep building up on them until I have a red penciled fierce predator curled around itself all over the outside of my arm, from the shoulder down to nearly my elbow.

"About what you had in mind?" Carlos asks, and I nod.

"Even better. Let's do this."

When he starts mixing the colors I'm still somewhat calm, but from the moment he turns on the tattoo gun, I feel my cool slipping away. And damn, that stuff is uncomfortable.

At first I try telling myself that the feeling will pass - after all it's quite ridiculous that I of all people should have problems with a little pain - but it doesn't. In fact it only gets worse when he moves up from the fleshier part of my arm to the bones at the shoulder, and I feel myself break out in cold ysweat all over. For half an hour that goes mostly unnoticed, until Bella asks Mandy to take a break because she has to use the restroom - and when she returns and looks over to us to check the progress, she gives a strangled guffaw that doesn't sit well at all with my ego.

"Everything alright with you?" she asks, her voice unable to hide the laughter she tries to hold back, and at her words Mandy of course turns to us, too. Her critical gaze rakes me, then she shrugs.

"Maybe you should take a break. Eat and drink something, you'll feel better in a few minutes."

Carlos stops after finishing the next line, then glances at my face.

"Dude, you really are pale."

"I'm fine," I hiss between clenched teeth, then give up when I realize just how ridiculous I'm acting. Bella bats her lashes at me as she sits down again, then ignores my glare when she resumes their chat with, "You know, normally he's not such a wuss."

Oh girl, you've got it comin'!

Carlos is nice enough to pretend he needs to call another client when I'm done jugging down a can of coke so I get a little more respite. When we resume our session I'm still not exactly enjoying myself but the discomfort is more tolerable; seeing the tattoo slowly come to life on my arm is helping a lot, too, and I can't help thinking that it would still be worth it even if it hurt ten times as much.

With the head start they've had from Bella's tattoo being completely planned already when we got here, and the whole piece being smaller than my dragon, it's no surprise Mandy is done long before her father. After giving Bella a short respite Carlos and Mandy switch places to include the parts Bella and I have agreed on before - a stylized black dragon soon circles the stem of her lily, while my half-finished dragon clutches a lily in the talons of his left front leg. Each of us will now bear a part of the other with us, wherever we go, come what may.

Once Carlos takes over again, Mandy and Bella leave the room, the tattoo artist murmuring something about showing her the rest of the studio. There are no other customers left as it's very close to closing time already, and to me at least it seems as if Mandy is aching for a smoke.

Finally on our own Carlos clears his throat, then chuckles softly.

"It's usually the slight girls who are the toughest. Don't let her get to you, you're handling this well. Just last week I've had to stop after twenty minutes because a guy couldn't handle it anymore. Not a problem, we all have our good and bad days."

I try to take that with the humor the situation deserves, but my ego is still bruised.

"Sure. But it's a little embarrassing."

He gives a noncommittal grunt before he sets to switching colors one last time, adding green highlights to the blue scaled beast.

"Guess that depends. You one of the guys who can't handle his girl being better at anything than him?"

"Oh, I know she's better than me in pretty much everything."

"But?"

"I'm not used to being the squeamish one."

Carlos seems to weigh my words as he cleans up some of the residual ink.

The tissue halts for a moment at the faint scar close to my elbow, right next to the lily.

"Single-tail?"

His question surprises me, but a glance at his knowing look he's giving me makes me shake my head, laughing.

"No, bullwhip."

"Ah," he wisely surmises, then gets back to working on the scales. I wonder if I should say more, and part of me feels the need to clarify that I'm more comfortable with being the one on the other end of the whip, but then I figure I might as well let him believe that Bella beats me up on a daily basis.

Eventually we're done, too, and I take my time admiring the piece of art now covering my arm. The animal looks ready to jump right off my skin, sinewy and strong, while at the same time he is ready to protect his precious flower. I just love it, and when Bella and Mandy rejoin us, I'm nearly as jumpy as she's been all day to show it to her. So much so that it takes me a full minute to realize that she's a little white in the face herself, but I figure that is most likely from her tatt hurting more now that it's done than it did in the process of creation.

Before we go, Mandy takes a few pictures of our tattoos, then a few more of us both together, from the side with my arm curled around Bella's side so that my dragon ends up right next to her lily - and two more with us kissing that way. She already has Bella's email address and promises to send us the best ones, while two print-outs will join the huge wall of their happy customers at the back of the studio.

Armed with a whole arsenal of cleaning products and instructions we finally take our leave and head back home. Bella is unusually quiet in the passenger seat, but I don't worry too much when I see her lift her right shoulder periodically where it sits very lightly against the backrest of the seat. It costs me a lot not to add a few taunting remarks but I decide to act more mature than my ego wants me to and hold my tongue until we're back home.

I have to admit, it feels like a small weight has been lifted off my chest when we find the living room empty, and a note from Jazz telling us that he's out with a few of his colleagues, trying to round up a few more people for his business - and won't be back for several hours still. To me at least it seems like he's making an effort not to get on our nerves too much, and I appreciate that, even though Bella keeps frowning at the note for nearly a minute.

"Would you really prefer if he'd be so broken that he's all curled up on our couch the whole time?"

She must have been lost in her own thoughts because she jumps at the sound of my voice, then hastily puts the note down and shakes her head.

"No, of course not. I just hope he doesn't take an example from Alice and goes into full-blown avoidance mode now."

Nothing I can add to that, really, so I hug her from behind and pull her against me, relishing the low laugh she rewards me with.

"Stop it, you insatiable beast you!"

"Beast, huh?"

"Yes, a beast," she huffs, then tabs the bandage over my tatt lightly. "That dragon really fits you perfectly. Although I think it still lacks some smoke coming from its nostrils, when it's huffing and puffing indignantly."

I accept her jab with a grunt, then retaliate by letting my arms slip from around her so I can tickle her sides. Now she's squealing, and before I can catch her again Bella dances away from me and towards the bedroom.

"No, you don't!" she complains when I make as if to grab her again, making me raise my eyebrow.

"Says who?"

"Says me."

"I can't help it, you seem awfully cocky tonight. I think something must have gotten to your head. What you really need right now is a good lesson in proper behavior."

Her eyes light up at my 'threat', but then she bites her lip and shakes her head.

"Not tonight. And I really need to use the bathroom now. Gotta see the tatt from up close."

Then she's gone, leaving me with the distinct feeling that my girl just cockblocked me in the most blatant of ways. Following her upstairs, I stay in the bedroom and give her what time she needs in the bathroom, which is an awful lot as I soon realize. I'm even a little concerned by the time she exits it again and pads over to me. When I kiss her I taste a hint of something I didn't really expect.

"Painkillers? That bad?"

She shrugs, avoiding my gaze, but when I catch her hand and draw her down onto the bed next to me, she offers me a small, apologetic smile.

"Not the tattoo."

I mentally go through all the conversations we've had today, wondering if she's mentioned something like the onset of a headache, but come up blank. Then something else occurs to me.

"Just what were you and Mandy up to when she was giving you the tour?

As far as I remember the studio's not that large."

Bella shrugs again, the gesture obviously too offhand to be real, but when she sees that I don't buy it, she drops the act of innocence. Instead she's back to gnawing on her lip, her standard nervous gesture, but her gaze is laden with something heavier than just chagrin at avoiding me.

"We might have been up to something else, too, yes."

"Something else, huh?"

"Yes," she said, pronouncing the word very precisely, before she crawls backwards off the bed until she's standing right next to me. I follow her movements with my eyes only, and watch in silence as she wrings her hands, then ditches her sweater and halter top she's wearing underneath, leaving her in her pants and the dark blue halter bikini top she's chosen to avoid any bra straps causing her discomfort over her new tattoo.

"You know, this is probably just because I've been watching too much porn."

"There is nothing like too much porn," I reply, grinning up at her. She huffs, then smiles back.

"Okay, scratch that then, maybe I've been watching just enough porn to get curious. Not that I want to attempt a new career as a Suicide Girl, but, you know, I'm a terribly curious person."

"Thankfully."

Another smile, but the way she keeps wringing her hands I wish she's just go on, which she finally does after hooking her thumbs into the waistband of her pants.

"So, well, when I was over at Mandy's last week to see her updated version of the design, we got talking, and one thing led to another, ..." she trails off, then shrugs as she reaches into the cups of her bikini top to get rid of some cotton swaps, in the same motion pulling the top down to pool around her waist. "And then talking led to this."

I let my gaze follow the motions of her fingers as she plucks the fabric from her tits, revealing her nipples hardened in the cool air of the room - and somewhat puffy from the barbells now piercing them. I feel a wry grin come to my face as I look back up to her face.

"Naughty."

She laughs, the sound holding more relief than I think is warranted, but is at the same time so like her.

"Yeah, I'm such a rebel," she offers, then crosses her arms over her stomach in a way that squishes her breasts together enticingly.

"So you like it?"

"A lot." As does my dick.

Bella smiles, her eyes for a moment jumping to my crotch, but then she goes on while she pulls the bikini top off completely.

"Of course that means that my poor, tormented nipples are off limits for you for the next days. No sucking, licking, rubbing, twisting, pretty much no touching because I know how much of a temptation that all must be for you.

And me."

"Don't you trust me to behave myself?"

She considers my question a little too long, but then grins brightly when she sees me frown.

"Of course I trust you. But I also don't want to tease you too much if I can avoid it."

"Really." No question, but a statement.

"I'm not done yet," she offers in turn, then blushes, that in itself as adorable as it is strange. Unless, of course, that talking has lead to more still.

"No?"

"No. You see, when we were done with the tattoo today and Mandy and I were in the back room, getting everything ready for my nipples, I was kind of, ah, afraid. And she kept going on how the pain is not that bad, just like a harder pinch that's over within a few seconds, and, you know me, of course I had to blurt out that I know I can take a lot more than just a few moments of pinching. I think she was still grinning knowingly when she told me to raise my arms so she could place the marks for the needle symmetrically, and I was still rambling when she took it out of the sterile wrapping - and then it was all over, really not more than a pinch, it was nearly disappointing. I mean now it hurts more, but I really thought it would be worse. Mandy was clearly amused by my reaction, and then quite casually told me that it doesn't really get any worse anywhere else if I didn't find the nipples that painful. At least she didn't feel like any of her other 27 piercings were much more painful. And of course I had to ask where else she's pierced, with her tongue, lip, and ears leaving another 13 unaccounted for.

Then one thing led to another, and welll-"

"You're rambling," I interrupt her gently, and Bella actually rolls her eyes at me.

"Yes, I know that I'm rambling! Sheesh! I've worked on that speech the whole way back and now you're interrupting me!"

"I'm sorry."

"Yes, I can see just how sorry! Stop smirking like that, or I'll insist on her fourteen days no sex safety instructions!"

Now that's a threat if I've ever heard one.

"Fourteen days?"

"Well, some people insist on that," she replies haughtily, before her previous grin wins over again. "Anyway, what I was trying to say is that after piercing my nipples was a nearly anti-climactic experience, as far as my worst fears went, I got a little light-headed. And cocky. Impulsive. Like I sometimes do when something I've been dreading turns out to be better than I've hoped for."

Very like her, I agree silently. I've seen it happen time and again, although right now I'm really wishing that she goes on and quits talking.

"Long story short, I finally got my courage back together after Mandy was done taping my nipples up and asked her right away just how much worse the more, ah, fleshier parts of the female anatomy hurt. And she shrugged and said that depends on just how sensitive I am, to which I replied not that much, and -"

"And one thing led to another?" I helpfully supply, causing her to emit a cute growl.

"Yes, it did! So while you were sitting out there, all white in the face and sweating like a pig I ditched the other half of my clothes, jumped up onto Mandy's chair and asked her if my labia were anatomicallysuited to be pierced. Happy now?"

"Very," I reply, now smirking at her defiance while my cock is begging me to just shut up as not to incur her wrath. "Outer or inner?"

"Outer," she huffs back, then in an unconscious move she crosses her arms over her chest, which in turn makes her wince when she brushes against her sore nipples. She tries to keep up her stubborn act but I can already see it crumbing, torn apart between her badly contained laughter and more wincing. "And seriously, that bitch must have a hell of a high pain tolerance, because that's so not true with the not much worse!"

"Aw, come 'ere!" I beckon her with my arms open, my belligerence instantly answered by her sticking her tongue out at me. But then she reconsiders her stance and crawls back onto the bed, letting me comfort her with a warm hug.

It has never been so hard to keep my hands mostly to myself, though.

Taking pity in me - or in herself as I am sure that even the soft fabric of her trousers must be irritating her - Bella finally peels the rest of her clothes off.

I grin at the sight of her white cotton panties, that choice telling me that she must have considered needing something less restricting than a thong when she got dressed this morning already, but wisely hold my tongue.

When they finally come off Bella remains lying on her side, her knees still pressed together, but at a gentle nudge from me she lets her thighs fall open so that I can catch a glimpse of the four rings now adorning her pussy lips, two on each side.

"No touching, tugging, playing around with. Cleaning two times a day, I have to keep them as dry as I can manage. No tight clothing that can cause friction, and when I do have sex again, condoms until the wounds are closed. Healing time between three to six months," she murmurs, sounding very clinical as she does.

"Fourteen days, eh?" I ask again, the implication of that meaning a possible twenty-six days since I let her come the last time if she really sticks to it kind of baffling.

"Well," Bella hedges, "some say two weeks without sex. When she realized that was about the only thing making me hesitate Mandy told me that she didn't last two hours herself when she got hers. But she advised, if possible, only doggie style, and still no touching of the piercings. Anal's okay, though."

That last part makes me chuckle, and Bella lets her thighs fall closed again, but in a way that keeps the pressure off her tormented pussy.

"I know you must find that incredibly funny, but seriously, twelve days is bad. Twice that much and I'll be a tight-wound bundle of insanity."

"Do you really think I would keep you hanging that long?"

"You might," she muses, then grins at my playful frown. "As punishment for not talking with you about getting pierced beforehand maybe?"

"Why the hell should I do that?"

"Just a thought."

While she shrugs that off I feel like she needs a little more reassurance, so I wait until she looks at me again, gnawing on her bottom lip. Again.

"Of course I wouldn't. It's your body, you can do with it whatever you want to. You don't need my permission for that, or anyone else's."

I'm glad she doesn't seem surprised at my words, but definitely relieved.

"Thank you for being so thoughtful."

"Thank you for being such a smart-ass," I retort, then kiss her with more heat than before as I let my mind run high with the possibilities her quest for rebellion - or whatever it is, I really don't mind either way - now opens for me. Her answering moan makes me want to just fuck the living shit out of her - which right now I obviously can't.

Fuck.

She looks at me weirdly when I disengage myself from her, chuckling under my breath, but she doesn't protest when I ditch my own clothes in turn. My arm is burning under the bandage and the urge to rip it off and scratch is at the forefront of my mind even with my cock screaming for attention, and I wonder for a moment just how much worse that all must be for her. That makes me somewhat obliged to help her scratch that one itch I can, at the moment.

"So what do you want to do about that twelve days situation?"

"You're really asking me this?"

Her disbelief causes another chuckle to escape me, this one a lot darker.

"I'm open to suggestions. But if you don't want to offer any, we can just roll over and go to sleep -"

"No, no, suggestions sound good!" Bella muses about that for a few seconds, then frowns. "You know, this new temporary living arrangement is one huge cockblock!"

"Last time I checked it was just the two of us here."

"Yeah, but we can't really do anything downstairs!"

"We still have the bed," I offer. "Most people don't even know you can have sex outside of it."