It had been brother's idea, had been muttered into my hair the second day that we were reunited and after we had fallen, tangled, into bed together. Though it had only been a couple years, three, to be exact, I was already taller than him, a fact that he cursed when he thought I wasn't listening. He was cute when he frowned, caught into a dream where he kicked and growled and muttered something about not being a shrimp, though I usually had to leave the bed when it got too violent (which happened more often than not).
I didn't mind. The floor was cold, bitter, icy, and the wood was rough, and it all felt amazing. I don't remember the time when...brother and I... but I knew enough to take advantage of every feeling, every spark of nervous system as it flared. I knew... I knew what had been lost, even if the memories were locked, erased, and disposed of.
Nightmares, however, hardly lied.
Now we sat in a bright office, medical halogen lights craned in all directions while a soft hum filled our ears and thrummed into our flesh. Our hands were linked, fingers braided together as their ink-filled guns rode closer to matching left shoulder bones, tearing little hisses from my lungs only. Brother, however, looked resolved, his nose wrinkling only here, there, along the outline when the pain could even crack him.
A mark. A brand. Something to remind us of each other, and to remind us of the art that brought us together again.
It also tore us apart, brother.
It all depends on how you look at it. Have you ever felt closer to anyone now that we're here, that we're...?
And he was right, true in everything he said. I see brothers everyday that pass by, that don't talk to one another, that don't think or write or anything, and yet brother and I are so close, so...
I can't be without him. Three years was too long, too heartbreaking. Sensei had been so understanding, but even so it wasn't enough, couldn't fill me up in the same way. My soul was damaged, though my body was whole; I had only been traded for a different sort of hardship. Not until I had him in my arms, under my fingers, in my eyes, would anything be all right again.
And then that day happened, the one where I met him on the side of the road after the array... after the array...
I looked to the side, seeing the creation lines, of swoops, black and forever. Serpent, crown, wings, holiest of unholy crucifixions, and it was being etched into the matching flesh of our arms. We were the art, and the art was us; the metaphysical lines always blurred, and the world, life, was a hue of gray.
Thirty-seven minutes. That's how long the tattoo took, and afterwards, it glistened with salve and shone darkly against our skin. The edges around the black were red with the abuse of needles, and beads of blood sought to the surface, tangled with the ink. And even though it had just been done five minutes ago, it didn't even hurt now.
If it had, I might have savored the feeling.
We returned to the rooms we had rented across town, and brother and I had touched each other's marks, marveling at the way the alchemist sigil seemed to radiate against our flesh. Shirts were discarded, traded for the cool air of a drafty hotel, and our arms wrapped around one another, tugging ourselves close, closer, until air couldn't slide between and separate us. My lips memorized the taste of his sweat, of his skin, feeling both the pliability of his body and the cold unwavering metal of artificial limbs. Fingertips drifted over curves, up over hips and thighs and the dimple of ribs, and if my eyes were closed, I could have told you in detail every perfect flaw and scar.
He didn't laugh at me when I cried. He didn't tease me or call me stupid or tell me I was overreacting. His hand, his good flesh and bone hand, settled in my hair, combed through it and let my tears build a little pond in his navel. No words interrupted my hiccupping sobs, but actions always scream when words are simply a little whisper.
He pulled me up, and our tattoos pressed against opposing arms, creating a never-ending circle between us, a unifying ring. His lips were on my cheeks and my fingers were stealing the band from his hair, letting it fan over the borrowed pillow. Somewhere, we had lost the remainder of our clothes, and I couldn't remember where, when, which made it even better. The heat of a body, of the only body that mattered made it more significant, made it more fulfilling to know that I, that we, could be ruled by passion in this way.
This was what love was. This was what truth was.
As we finished our ring, as we completed our circle from the inside out, we melted into feather and linen, and I threw back my head.
I could feel. Tears and flesh and bone and breath.
I could feel.