He drags the calligrapher's pen over her skin and wonders when he was roped into this twisted reality. "No" always seems to be a foreign word when poised to be thrown in her direction, tasteless on his tongue and useless in the long run. She is sprawled elegantly on the bed, stomach pressed against the bed cover, arms wide and hair wound up over one shoulder and out of his way. She had always balked against any type of tattoo, set against any type of permanence and unsettled by a changeless world, but attracted to the idea of being a work of art.

He bites his lip, in disappointment when a slip of his hand causes the pen to go off track and he uses his thumb to wipe away the offending mark. His hand has grown more steady, the lower the design gets, but it's almost finished and the unsteadiness returns as he's unsure how to end it. A red line of abused skin appears beneath the smudge and he winces in sympathy. This has to be some type of masochism, he decides after another moment, pausing to gently touch the irritation. He doesn't think that's the reason for it, but it's been years since he's understood her completely. She has a high pain tolerance, but in all the time he's known her, she's never liked to cause it or receive it.

It's like a painstaking process that is sometimes painful, but for some reason, she sees it as worth it. His doodling skills leave much to be desired and it's not even permanent—at the first touch of water or sweat, the design will run and leave trails over her back and clothes. Like a sand mandala, he muses, and the thought makes him give a soft snort of laughter.

Her profile opens one eye and focuses on him with a raised eyebrow.

"It's like a sand mandala," he explains and when she frowns in an amused confusion, he realizes it's not much of an explanation at all. He shrugs helplessly, the words not appearing, and comes to the sudden realization that maybe he's a much a mystery to her as she to him. The thought is as much comforting as it is unsettling and he tosses it aside to mull over at another time.

The last line ends at the small of her back and he sits back to take in the damage. The black ink coupled with the ridged lines of his design stretch from the base of her neck to the small of her back and seem harsh and out of place against the swirling blues, purples, and pinks of the room walls she painted herself and he is again uneasy.

He sighs, sitting back on his heels, and taps the uninked length of her bicep. She sits up, struggling to pull her hair into a bun and clutching an old T-shirt to her front before rushing into the bathroom. He follows her wearily and watches her try to wrap her her head all the way around to get a glimpse of the design he's drawn on her back. It's slightly amusing to see her as she turns fully around before realizing it's not helping and cranes her head again.

"A bridge?" she asks, puzzled for a moment. He nods mutely, meeting her eyes in the mirror. Her sudden grin puzzles him, but her laugh even more so. She shakes her head at him, saying, "Thank you."

He shakes his head and all the questions that he wants to ask suddenly desert him and he is left fumbling for words.

"You're welcome," he says instead, biting his lip. And it's enough.