Wholly of Blue
by Rana Eros
Written for the Yuletide 2006 Rare Fandoms Secret Santa Challenge. Requested by Jedi Buttercup. Betaed by Eliza and Rune, with the title taken from the King James translation of the Bible, Numbers 4:6. Any mistakes are mine.
It's the last stop they make before they leave the country, and they can't even say which of them first turns in the right direction, the other follows almost on the same thought. It's coming on twilight and the shop's properly closed, but Siobhan's their cousin, and the last work she did on them was afterhours. She'll do this now, as a way to say farewell.
Siobhan's flat's above the shop, so she sees them coming and goes down to meet them. She opens the door as Connor's about to raise his fist and pound on it. He grins and cuffs Murph instead, who thumps him in turn. It turns into a scuffle and they enter her shop brawling.
She turns away, checks her tools and notes she's still got one needle gun in a sterile bag. She drops another in the autoclave and starts the cycle. She ignores the noise behind her; she's used to this from them.
"I hope you've told your ma about this one," she says. "I'm not up for one of her rages again."
"She knows," Connor says. His tone is serious, and when she turns back to them, she finds they're both quiet, ostensibly watching her but with that energy between them that's only partly to do with how they shared the womb. They've a calling, the whole family feels it, and sometimes it lays on them as glorious and awful as Old Testament angels.
It's Murphy who says, "We're leaving, Siobhan. Boston."
"So I heard." She doesn't want them to go; for all the trouble they've caused her since they were born, they've made her smile. A hard thing, when her own brothers keep dying. "It's likely a better place for you."
"It's where we're sent." Connor breaks out into that bright smile of his again, all resemblance to angels falling away like sluiced water. "I understand they're experiencing an overabundance of beer."
Siobhan snorts, tilts her head. "You'll help with that, no doubt. So, what's it to be?"
Both brothers move their fingers as though pointing a gun, Murphy's right hand and Connor's left, then flick their index fingers forward.
"Veritas," says Connor.
"Aequitas," says Murph.
Siobhan moves forward to take Murph's hand in hers, run her thumb over the length of his finger, envisioning the blue ink, the font. That's her gift, and they leave it to her. She releases Murph and steps back, looking over her inks. "Wash."
Connor looks at Murph and makes a grand gesture toward the sink. "After you."
"As you've been since birth," Murph declares complacently. Connor squawks at that, swiping at his head and missing as Murph ducks, his own rare grin breaking out. Then Connor seems to remember something and eyes Siobhan with a speculative gleam.
She cuts him off before he can even start. "I already told you, I wasn't there and I haven't asked, so you might as well save your breath."
"You could ask," Connor says, undeterred. "She might tell you."
"She'd want to know why I want to know. Which I don't. Wash."
"You're a cruel woman, Siobhan."
She gives him her own grin. "And I haven't even started sticking needles in you yet."
Murph steps away from the sink and she gestures him into the chair after spraying her workspace down with disinfectant. Once Connor's finished, she washes her own hands and reaches up on the shelf for ink and ink cup, choosing the same shade of blue she used when they came to her asking for Mary on the sides of their necks. It's the color of their eyes, the color the sky was on the rare clear day they were born, the summer she was thirteen.
No family had died that day; she's always loved the color.
She dons gloves, then shaves and disinfects Murph's index finger, the back of his hand, and freehands the design on the surface. She draws strong, ornate letters like the ones she's seen in photographs of The Book of Kells, starting where the hand flattens into a long line that points toward the knuckle that wraps around the trigger. Aequitas, flowing out to mark those who disrupt the balance God has ordained. Satisfied, she sets the pen aside, then looks up to see what Murph thinks.
Murph looks at the design, then looks up past her at Connor. She doesn't have to look to know Connor's nodding along with Murph.
She uses an outline needle to ink the design, it's simple and small enough. She's glad she has lots of the blue onhand for layering. It's the only color she's ever used on her cousins. It's the only color that's right.
Both brothers murmur as she works, prayer or profanity, she's not sure which. It's too quiet to make out, and probably in a language she doesn't speak. Murph's got a hold on Connor with his left hand, and she sees his grip go white-knuckled when she's over bone, but the litany never changes cadence.
It's a simple design, so it doesn't take her long to finish. She sets her tools aside and unwraps a sterile bandage, placing it over the design.
"Well, that's that. You know what to do with it now."
Her eyes slide to the autoclave, which is still running, and when she turns back, Connor and Murph are changing places.
"I don't want to wait," Connor says in explanation, "and we shared the womb."
"Aye, and likely you'll share a grave too," she mutters, but she takes his hand and repeats the process. Veritas she writes inward, pointing past the cross on his forearm, more of her work, toward his heart.
"You've a gift, cousin," he says softly to her, and she looks up at him, sees him too clearly for the clenching in her chest. She looks aside to Murph next to him, who returns her gaze with soft, soft eyes. She knows what these men can do, and still she sees in them that mild summer sky.
"So do both of you," she says, then bends back to her task.
Later, when they've left her in the dark of her own shop, later, when they've bid her farewell and asked her blessing and bent down to take her kiss on their foreheads, later, the tears come. She stares at the tattoo machine a long, long time, then makes herself take it apart for sterilization.
While the autoclave runs again, she takes the bottles of a certain shade of blue ink down from their shelf, puts them in a cabinet at the back of the shop. She won't throw them out, but she won't use that color again, now the clients she saved it for are gone.
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