I was here. I’d searched long and hard for him, the best in the world at tebori, traditional Japanese tattoos.

“I want…”

“I will not give you what you want,” he said. “Just what you need. Take off your clothes, my dear.”

His voice was neutral. I wasn’t a woman, but a canvas for his art. I did as he asked, turning slowly around.

Eventually, he said, “Yes, I see. Lay down.” He gestured to the mat before him. I did as he asked, laying face down, and pulled my hair aside for him to work. I felt the first prick of the needle, closed my eyes, and everything faded away.

“Done.” My eyes snapped open. How long he worked. Hours? Days? My world had shrunk down to the feel of the needles.

I stood up and looked in a wall mirror. Black wings stretched from the scars on my shoulders to halfway down my legs. Blood dripped from the tips. I fought back tears.

“Well, fallen angel?”

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised he knew. “Until I earn mine back,” I said, my voice unsteady, “they’re just what I want… No. What I need.”

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