Title: Tattooed me
Warnings: sexual activity and angst. It seems to be what I write.
Summary: You never forget your first love.
Notes: This is my second original short story. I know a few people read the first and thanks to those people who took the time to comment. I would really appreciate any comments about this one as I want to improve.
I'm dying; I've known for a while now, but I'm over it. So I'll never see the year 2000, I can live with that or die with it. When you reach over 75 you know your time is limited, despite what they say about everyone living longer. After all, for there to be an average some people have to die below that age and I guess I'm going to be one of them. I've left everything in order. Jenny and the kids will be alright, after a while. I married late and she's young enough to remarry. I've told her to find someone else and I've told the kids to let her. I'm sorry I'll miss my grandchildren growing up but these things happen in the best regulated of lives. Cancer kills; it took both my parents so I wasn't surprised that it got me. My stomach has always been a bit delicate but you don't want to hear about that, and I left it too late. So here I am, waiting to die, pressing my morphine drip to ease the pain and thinking about him.
Sorry, did that surprise you? Jack, who I met when I was 18; whose name is tattooed on my shoulder, with whom I spent twelve glorious months in the middle of a war. He was older than me, but not by much. We'd been called up the year before the D-Day landings and trained together. He wasn't anything special to look at but then neither was I. He'd been down a pit and suited that work, being small and wiry as many from the Black Country were. Ten stone of muscle and sinew and only five foot four; he was definitely no matinee idol. He also swore like a trooper and got placed on a charge more than once for insubordination. I watched him cut grass with a pair of scissors all afternoon once.
The sergeant major got him to box, to channel his aggression they said, after he'd threatened to deck someone. I never did discover what had been said. Jack wasn't really a talker which was just as well as his accent was thicker than mine. I was his second in the ring, towelling him down, feeling those muscles. I didn't understand at first why my stomach did cartwheels just touching him. I told you my stomach had always been dodgy. Or why my hands shook trying to tie up his gloves. When we sparred together I loved the way the sweat ran down his chest and when he clutched me, bringing us skin to skin, my body seemed to respond on its own and in a way I didn't really understand. Don't get me wrong I knew about sex, I'd grown up on a farm after all, but I guess I was naïve at first. Sometimes I caught him looking at me differently. His gaze seemed to take in all of me and I found myself blushing as if he'd caught me doing something wrong. I found myself making excuses to touch him, rubbing him down after a bout, pressing my fingers into his skin. I was thankful that he couldn't see me. He was a popular guy, winning as often as he did. All the services loved their boxing and Jack was good. He could have been professional in peace time but he fought for the army, against the navy and the RAF, and beat all comers.
After one successful fight, which won a lot of money for those that bet on him, he got a two day pass for us both. I remember being surprised that he wanted to take me. We went to London. Neither of us had been before. I'd been brought up on a farm in the wilds of Cumbria. He was from a small mining town. My family had kept sheep on the hills for generations. Later, I got into looking after animals in the army and trained to be a vet. I had my own successful practice. It's where I met Jenny, when she brought in their family's prize border collie, but I digress.
We booked into a hotel. The capital was still busy, despite the bombing. We shared a room. No one thought anything about that back then. We were both in uniform, and on leave, so we could sort of be heroes, even if we'd seen no action as yet. We had plenty to drink; alcohol wasn't rationed and people bought us rounds. Girls hovered about us and we danced a bit, but neither of us wanted to take one back with us, or screw one against the wall in a dark alley. All sorts went on in the dark in those times.
We fell into the room around midnight and on to the bed, laughing at some joke Jack had told. I remember that he looked at me. He'd shaved that morning but dark hair was already creating stubble on his chin. There was a small chink in the blackout curtain and the beam of moonlight hit his face and lit up his eyes. He kissed me, his stubble rasping against my skin, and suddenly everything fell into place. I knew why I wanted to touch him and why my body had responded as it did. I didn't want to give it a name though. I was hard in what seemed like seconds and I could feel him rubbing against my thigh. I reached for his trousers and undid the buttons needing to touch more of him. His cock was shorter than mine but thick and he groaned as my fingers closed around him. I opened my own trousers wanting to press myself against his body, desperate to feel every part I could.
'Take them off,' he whispered. 'We'll get them stained and end up on a charge.' We took everything off and lay pressed up against each other, cocks rubbing as we moved. His hand grabbed us both, pushed us together. The feeling was glorious and it didn't take long for either of us to come. I felt the sticky wetness between us but didn't want to let go. I couldn't believe what I'd done, what we'd done. I lay trembling in his arms, terrified that we'd been too loud and that the police would come bursting through the door to arrest us but other than our breathing there was no sound. I was safe; I'd never felt safer in my life.
'That was,' I started, but I didn't really know what it was, not really, or what it might mean, not then, but from that time onwards we took every opportunity to be together. Little touches when we could, kisses when no one was looking and more when we dared. In a barrack there wasn't much time to be alone. We knew about queers, everyone knew but we didn't give ourselves that name at first because we weren't like them; some people thought that queers didn't join the services because they were all cowards but I came to know better, especially after I'd served for a while. I discovered that when your eyes had been opened that you saw more. At least that's something that's changed over the years. I wish we'd been young now, not then, and in wartime, because everything was so fleeting.
The first time he buggered me I thought I'd never feel anything so glorious again in my life. I suppose using that word would be considered wrong today. He called it fucking but I've never used that word, never felt comfortable with it. I was full of him, as close as two people could be. It was winter and snow lay on the ground. I'd taken him home for Christmas as he didn't have a family of his own. I was his family he said and I cried hearing those words. We'd been rounding up the sheep and we were tired and sweaty, in spite of the cold. The straw in the barn was warm and welcoming. We had a chance to be alone and we took it. I asked him to do it. I wanted to be his, to consummate what it was we had. I don't know what he felt; we never talked about feelings. Men didn't talk about feelings not then. People didn't back in the day. You just got on with things. I remember thinking that I must be a queer after all if I wanted him to do this. I also remember being terrified that it would hurt or that we'd get caught but need overcame fear. We had nothing but spit and what we got from our cocks but he took care with me, stroking me to divert attention, even so it burned like hell when he pushed in slowly, carefully taking his time, checking with every thrust. I felt whole in a way I've never felt since. He'd made me his, made an invisible mark on me so I couldn't help myself as the words slipped out.
'I love you,' I whispered afterwards, but he didn't reply. Maybe he didn't hear me. He never said it to me, well not in words.
Four weeks before D-Day he was posted to the South coast. We were going to be parted. We'd known that it might happen. In war nothing lasted forever. The night before most of us got drunk on alcohol someone had smuggled in. It was illegal stuff, strong enough to kill. The sergeant turned a blind eye and we knew we'd all have to get up in the morning regardless. When I woke up the next day I felt an unfamiliar sensation in my shoulder. I had a vague memory of pain the night before and of me and Jack laughing outside in the moonlight. I looked in a washroom mirror and saw it. He'd carved his name with his penknife. JACK there on my shoulder and inked over with the fountain pen headed stolen from the office. It looked angry outlined with red and I had to cover it up so no one could see.
He wrote to me once only after we parted. I'm looking at that letter now, over fifty years later. He didn't say much. It was wartime after all and letters were read but I knew what he meant. I know he landed on one of those beaches on the first day, what became known as the longest day. The British fared better than the Americans but he was reported missing. His body was never found. There were rumours that he'd deserted but I knew he was dead or he'd have come back to me. My squad went over after the main attack. I was there when we opened the camps in Germany. Such things we saw.
From then on I was Jack. It made it easier to explain the tattoo as a diminutive of my own, although I'd always been John until then. Time passed; my life continued.
I folded the letter and put it back in my box. I've never regretted my choices. I love my wife and children but I know that when my eyes close for the final time it'll be his face I see and if there's a heaven it'll be his face I'll want to see. He tattooed me, named me anew and so stayed with me forever.