Tattooed Hearts
by JJ and TA Ellis
Dedicated to my friend Jill who is bravely fighting a battle with breast cancer.

March 15, 1967

Lance Corporal Jackson Ellis leaned his head back against the seat. He was finally headed home after finishing his tour in Vietnam; the longest thirteen months of his life. Before leaving, he had done the stupidest thing ever and when he closed his eyes, he could remember it vividly.

“You did what? Why?” the beautiful, black-haired girl asked in astonishment. “I can’t believe you did that!”

“I volunteered to go active and serve in Vietnam,” he returned quietly.

“Damn it, Jack! Why did you do that? I can’t believe you could do that to me,” she cried. “You could be injured…or worse!’

“You think I don’t know that, Buttercup?” he replied. “This is just something I need to do.”

“Why? Why do you need to do this? And don’t call me Buttercup! Not now.”

“Fine Fran, I won’t,” he replied angrily. “I guess my leaving will allow you to find a man who only thinks about you.”

“That’s not fair,” she whispered. “How am I supposed to let you go? I can’t do this, I can’t stand the thought of…”

“I’ll tell you what,” he cut her off. “I’ll let you know when I’m coming home and if you still love me, meet me at the airport. I love you enough to come home to you Francesca, and I hope that over the next thirteen months you realize you love me enough to wait for me.”

Jackson stood there, hoping she would tell him that she had just been shocked and would now support his decision. But after a moment, when nothing happened, he turned around and walked away. His heart was breaking. Sadly, it seemed that Fran’s was not.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking,” a voice crackled over the intercom jarring Jackson from his memories. "We are beginning our final approach to Anchorage International Airport. The current temperature is thirty-three degrees with clear skies. Thank you for flying with us today.”

Jack let out a sigh and took a deep breath.

The older gentleman sitting next to him looked over with a smile. “You’re meeting your gal, I’m guessing.”

“I sure hope so, sir,” Jack replied with a weak grin. “When I left, things didn’t end well and I stupidly gave her an ultimatum.”

“That son, could have been a mistake,” the man replied with a slight frown. “Lucky for us men, the women who truly love us are very forgiving.”

“I certainly hope so, sir,” Jack said, looking over to his seatmate. “You make it sound like you speak from experience.”

“That I do,” he replied. “Where are my manners, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Donald.”

“My pleasure to meet you sir. I’m Jack.”

“Well Jack, I hope your sweetheart is like mine was all those years ago.”

“Yes sir, I think I can agree with you completely on that.”


Francesca Templeton sat uncomfortably on the hard airport chair, shifting positions every few minutes and tapping her left foot rapidly. Once again, she looked at the wall clock and let out a sigh. His flight still wasn’t due for another fifteen minutes. “How can you sit there so still?” she asked her brother Tyler, the uniformed Marine sitting next to her.

“It’s called discipline, Fran,” he replied. “It’s more than a word, you know.”

“You are so funny, brother of mine," she replied with a smirk. “This wait is killing me." She had been waiting thirteen months for this day and it was dragging so slowly she thought she might go out of her mind.

“Imagine how he feels. Jackson doesn’t know if he will see you here or not.”

A chuckle came from across the aisle, causing Fran to look up. Her father was sitting there quietly laughing at her discomfort. She stuck her tongue out at him, making him laugh even harder. Sitting back, she closed her eyes, trying to relax. Her mind suddenly filled with images from the last time she had seen Jack, a week before he left.

“I’m shipping off to Vietnam next week,” he'd said as they walked along Creek Street, hand in hand.

“What, did your unit get activated? I hadn’t heard. Oh God, you and Tyler,” she sputtered, stopping in her tracks.

“Not the unit, just me. I volunteered.”

“You did what? Why?” she remembered asking in a fog.

Snapping out of the painful memory, Fran came back to the present. That encounter had gone downhill from there. And now she was at the airport waiting for him because she still loved him so very much. The realization had hit right after he left, but she wouldn’t let herself act on it until it was almost time for him to return. For some reason, the pain was easier to tolerate that way.

She found herself thinking about how stupid she’d been. She’d had a whole week to let him know that she loved him and always would. And now it had been thirteen wasted months. Could they make up for the lost time?

“I can’t believe the lines at the ladies room,” came the familiar voice of her mother, Victoria. “Is every woman in Alaska here today?”

“Great, now I have to pee. Thanks Mom,” Fran sputtered as she headed for the long lines.

“Look, the plane is coming in early,” Tyler spoke up, causing Fran to stop in her tracks. “Just kidding! You are so gullible, sister.”

“Go screw yourself,” Fran sneered as she turned to head off again. “Your right hand is lonely.”

When she was out of earshot, Tyler pointed outside. “No, seriously Mom and Dad, the plane is arriving early. I’ll go out and meet Jack on the tarmac and try to delay him.”

“You’re a good boy,” his mother told him. “No matter how much you try to torture your sister.”

“Yes Mama, you’re right, I love her even if she’s a pain in my ass.”


Tyler stood waiting for his best friend to exit the plane. After a while he began to wonder if he’d missed his connecting flight, but then there he was, the last person off the plane. Their eyes met and he saw Jackson’s face fall. His friend was obviously disappointed that Francesca wasn’t there.

“Welcome home, Jack,” Tyler said, shaking his friend’s hand. “I’m glad you made it home safe.”

“It’s good to see you Ty. I didn’t think anyone would be here since I can’t go home to Ketchikan until I check in with the unit tomorrow morning.” Actually he’d hoped that Francesca would be there, alone, but instead he got Tyler. At least someone cared.

“Mom and Dad are just inside. We wanted you to see a familiar face or two when you stepped off the plane.”

“How is everyone?” Jack asked, hoping for word on Fran.

“Everyone is good. The whole town is looking forward to seeing you.”

“Everyone? Are you sure about that?”

“Well, maybe not the cat. You two never got along,” Tyler replied with a chuckle as he turned to head into the terminal. “I don’t know about you, but my balls are turning to ice out here.”

“I just spent near a year in the jungle, what do you think?” Jack said, hoisting his bag higher on his shoulder. God damned comedian. Would he ever get away from them?

Walking into the airport, Jack scanned the room with his eyes. Not seeing his Buttercup anywhere made his heart sink. However, Victoria and Harrison Templeton stood there waiting for him and that in itself lifted his spirits a bit. Forcing a full smile, Jack quickly closed the distance between them. They had taken him in when his mother, then his father, had passed away. They were his family and he owed them so much.

“Welcome home, Son,’ Harrison said, giving Jack a firm handshake before pulling him in for a hug. “It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to be home, sir,” Jack replied, gladly returning the hug.

“Well young man, I’m certainly glad you made it back in one piece,” Victoria stated, smiling from ear to ear. “After all, you are a son to me.”

“Thank you ma’am. I mean Mama Vickie,” Jack sputtered as he embraced the older woman. “I must say that I’m glad to have made it back to you guys.”

A movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Across the room the petite, raven haired beauty who had been his girlfriend emerged from the restrooms. She was wearing a simple yellow ribbon in her hair. His heart leapt into his throat at the sight of his beautiful Buttercup. His forced smile suddenly became genuine.

“Jack!” came an emotion filled squeal. Fran began to run, totally unaware of the people she nearly ran over. She leapt into his waiting arms and wrapped herself around him. “I was so…”

“Don’t say it Buttercup, just don’t say it.” He cut her off with a deep kiss.

“You know, I’m not going to carry your bag, now put my sister down will you,” Tyler interjected, causing the couple to reluctantly pull apart. “Your uniform is going to wrinkle.”

“You’re just jealous, big brother, because I have someone,” Fran replied as she dropped down off of Jack.

“He just spent a little over a year in the jungle,” Tyler stated with a wink. “Anyone would look good to him.”

“You do realize I didn’t spend all of my time in the bush,” Jack said, entering the conversation to break up the sibling fight. “Sorry brother, but she looks a lot better than you do.”

Harrison cleared his throat. “Let’s get out of here and grab a bite to eat so Jack can get to wherever he’s staying tonight and we can get home,” he cut in. “Uncle Joe should be ready to fly us back in a couple of hours.”

“You owe me, sis,” Tyler said picking Jack’s bag up. “He should be carrying this, but I’ll let him hold your hand instead.”

“If it gets too heavy for you, I’ll carry it,” Fran snickered.

“Maybe I should just go back,” Jack muttered with a smile. “It’s probably safer there.”


The reunited 'family' stopped at their favorite diner. As they walked in, a large man looked through the serving window and greeted them. They seated themselves in the corner booth, and a buxom blonde quickly arrived and handed them menus before taking drink orders.

“I wish I had big boobs,” Fran pouted. “Guys always like big boobs.”

“Jack seems mesmerized by your teeny tinys,” Tyler pointed out. “He didn’t even notice the waitress.”

After tossing Tyler a dirty look, Jack pulled Fran close to whisper in her ear. “You’re perfect the way you are.”

Goosebumps formed on her arms. “Jack, I know one thing that needs to change between us,” she whispered back before giving him a quick kiss and running her hand across his lap.

His eyes widened and he looked deep into her eyes. “Baby…”

“You did miss me,” she murmured in his ear.

Despite odd looks from Harrison and Victoria, Jack whispered back to her. “Of course I missed you but he has only known your hand.”

“He’ll get to know much more…soon. I’m sure of that.”

“Don’t tease me like that here,” he moaned. Thank God her parents couldn’t hear all of their whispers or he might just find himself dead on his first day back.

“I can hear you,” Tyler spoke loudly as he pulled a key ring from his pocket. “Uncle Joe and I got you a room for the night Jack. And you’re to keep Fran here with you. I packed her a bag and everything.”

“Mom, Dad, did you hear what we were whispering?” Fran asked in a near panic.

“No we didn’t,” Victoria answered. “I’m sure I don’t even want to know. What your brother just said is of more importance.”

“I think Tyler, Uncle Joe, and myself will be having a nice conversation on our flight home,” Harrison said, frowning at his son.

Catching her daughter’s eye, Victoria gave her a wink. “Now Harrison dear, they are both adults.”

“Plus, Buttercup probably opened her petals before Jack left,” Tyler joked as he quickly dodged the thrown spoon his mother launched.

“I did not!” Fran screeched.

“It’s okay dear, your brother is just being a child,” Victoria remarked, giving her son her infamous Italian evil eye.

Harrison, still a bit puzzled by everything going on mumbled, “Just behave and stay safe kids.”

Jack breathed a sigh of relief when the waitress came back with their drinks. Everyone quickly placed their orders for the daily special and turned to more mundane talk.

“So, Jackson have you been completely discharged?” Harrison asked.

“I’m off active duty as of midnight tonight,” Jack said, intentionally using a time reference that everyone could understand. “I’ve decided to stay in the active reserves for the next few years."

“At least I only lose you one weekend a month and a couple of weeks at some point each year now,” Fran sighed as she leaned against Jack. Her head shot up and she ran her hand along his arm. “I swear they are harder than when you left.”

Leaning close to his sister, Tyler whispered, “The only thing he had similar to your hands, in the jungle, were his. Definitely a muscle builder.”

Without thinking, Francesca punched her brother in the arm. “Shut the fuck up you ass!”

“That’s enough from both of you,” Victoria commanded. “Keep it up and Jack will want to go back.”

“Wouldn’t want to tempt fate,” Harrison added. “She can be fickle.”

“Yes sir, that she can,” Jack replied. “Oh hey, here’s the food.” He breathed another sigh of relief. He loved his family, but damn, right now he just wanted to be alone with Fran for a while.

The group dug into the food hungrily. As they ate, chat turned to small talk. Jack and Tyler traded barbs like they always did and Fran had trouble eating because she couldn’t help but keep her full attention on Jack. At least until Victoria spoke up. “He isn’t a slab of meat, dear.” Of course, everyone at the table, minus Fran, had a good laugh.

When dinner ended, the group headed out, dropping the young couple off at the hotel. Victoria gave both of them a hug and whispered into her daughter’s ear. A slight blush showed on Fran’s face as she whispered back.

Tyler clasped Jack’s hand and pulled him in for a quick one-armed hug. “There is protection in Fran’s bag,” he whispered, as he presented the overnight bag he’d hidden so well from his parents.

“Son,” Harrison said, motioning Jackson over to him.

This could potentially be an awkward moment. Jack swallowed hard and looked at the older man. “Yes, sir?”

“Truthfully I knew this was coming, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to act like nothing is happening.”

Jackson sighed. “Would you prefer if she came home with you?”

Harrison laughed. “No, it’s going to happen one way or another and Vicky is right, you are both adults. Just take care of my girl.”

“I will. I love her, sir.”

“I know. You’re a good man, Jack.”

Jackson smiled and turned back to Francesca. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” she breathed.

The others loaded back into the rental car and took off. Harrison could be heard beginning his ‘discussion’ with Tyler. Jackson and Francesca laughed and headed inside to find their room. He unlocked the door and held it open, ushering her inside.

“I’m so nervous. This is so unexpected,” Fran said quietly. “Hell, I think I’m even a little scared.”

“You and me both, Buttercup,” Jack said as he began rubbing her shoulders. “I knew this would happen soon when I saw you at the airport, but reality is staring me in the face now.”

“Are you sure we’re ready?” she asked.

“We’ll just see what happens,” he replied. “If fate decrees, then it will be easy.”

“I didn’t think you believed in fate,” she whispered, turning to face him. He always teased her about her obsession with fate. They had eventually agreed to disagree.

“I didn’t, until I saw you running toward me,” he whispered back, caressing her face.

Francesca’s heart exploded. “Why don’t you take that uniform off, Marine.”

“Good idea, Buttercup. It’s hot to wear.”

“You know, I think I like calling you Marine,” she stated, running her hands down his strong arms. “From now on, you’re my Marine.”

“I’ll take it,” he laughed as he began to remove his uniform. “I should warn you…it…I look different.”

“I felt your arms. I know they’re bigger.”

Jack sighed. “You’ll see.” He finally pulled his undershirt off revealing his muscular chest and arms, now covered in tattoos.

Fran let out a shocked gasp. She never would have expected it. She didn’t know what to say.

Turning his left side toward her, Jack let Fran see his upper arm was covered with a chain of buttercups. “This arm was inked to remind me of you.”

Fran sat there, mouth agape, looking him over. His left chest was covered by a bear, the right a coiled dragon. The detail was amazing. When her eyes set on his right arm, they grew wide at the sight. The entire upper arm was covered with skulls, entwined by wire. Only a small hole in the middle remained uncovered.

“If the left arm is for me, what is the right arm for?” she asked.

Jack looked at her to make sure she was really listening to him. “That one is to remind me of me,” he replied, finally having to turn away. Across his upper back was an eagle, its wings spread out.

“What do you mean by that?” Fran asked curiously. That didn’t sound like the Jack who’d left thirteen months before.

“Each skull represents a man,” he began. He stopped to take a deep breath. “A man I killed.”

Fran sat in the side chair in silence for a moment. “How do you know for sure?” she whispered.

“I just do,” he replied with a faraway look, as if he were remembering something. A shudder wracked his body and he turned back to her. “I just do.”

Fran paused for only a moment. “So Marine, do you have any other surprises for me?” she asked with a smile. She needed to break the tension. He obviously wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. But hopefully someday he would be.

“No, but I am surprised you still have your shirt on,” he answered with a laugh. “You’ve seen my decorations, how about I see yours?”

Fran raised an eyebrow. “My decorations? Oh, oh, you mean the girls!”

“Decorations are meant to be admired,” he grinned. “I would like the chance to admire yours. I’ve never had more than a glimpse before.”

Francesca’s breath caught. This was it, the moment she’d waited for and dreaded at the same time. Her breasts were the part of her body that she was most self-conscious of. Would he like them? Would he find them too small?”

“Buttercup?” he questioned.

Fran took a deep breath and peeled her shirt away from her naked breasts. Her eyes remained closed until she heard a hiss come from across the room.

“Even more perfect than I imagined,” he breathed.

Their eyes met, and in two strides, Jackson was in front of her, taking her into his arms. Their lips met in a long overdue, all consuming, passionate kiss. Her nipples puckered when her soft bare skin met with his firm, muscular chest. A moan escaped her as his hands caressed her back.
Jack pulled away when he felt her trembling. “It’s okay sweetheart. There’s no reason to be scared. I’ll take care of you.” That was when he noticed the tears in her eyes. “Francesca, what’s wrong?”

“I missed you,” she sobbed. “So much. And I’m so sorry…”

“Shh,” he whispered, putting a finger to her lips. “It’s over and we’re back together. Please don’t do this to yourself.”

“But I feel so bad,” she murmured through tears.

“Don’t,” he stressed. “Please don’t. I love you Buttercup, and I missed you too, but that part of our lives is over. Now we move on. Okay?”

Fran nodded and dried her tears. “Every moment that you were gone was like a year in hell. Sometimes I couldn’t catch my breath when I read your letters or looked at your picture.”

“I know how much you missed me,” he smiled, gently taking her face in his hands. “Because I felt the same way.”
Their lips met again, this time softly. When they pulled apart, Jackson took her hand and led her over to the bed. He sat on the edge and pulled her to stand between his knees.

Fran reached out tentatively to touch his arms. She began to trace the outline of the tattoo of the buttercups and smiled. Looking to Jack, she could see him smiling too. “So, if this was to remind you of me, then why is there more than one?” she teased.

“There’s one for each month I thought about you.”
“That’s so sweet,” she replied as she turned her attention to the other arm, running her fingers over the empty area. “Why is this area blank? If you don’t want to tell me, I understand.”

“That is for my heart, whether whole or broken, to be decided when I got home," he replied as he ran his fingers up her side, sending shivers through her body.
“Seeing you waiting for me completes my heart.”

“If I hadn’t come then I would have broken it,” Fran finished the thought. “I’m happy to know I’m part of your heart.”

“Francesca Marie Templeton, you are my heart, my soul…my everything. I have waited a lifetime for this,” he declared, sliding off the bed to kneel before her. "Will you take this broken-down, tattooed Marine to be your husband? Will you become my wife?”

“On one condition,” Fran replied suddenly.

“Oh, and what might that be?”

“That you agree we get matching heart tattoos, one on you and one on me.”

“How could I deny you anything?” he replied with a smile. “So, may I take that as a yes?”

“Yes, of course yes!” she squealed in joy. “Yes, I will become your wife.”

Jackson took her into his arms and kissed her. “Thank you,” he murmured.

Fran stepped back and pulled her skirt down to step out of it. Jack was struck silent at the sight of his fiancée dressed in nothing more than a garter belt, thigh high stockings, and frilly underwear. Reaching out, Fran took Jack’s hands and placed them on her hips. “I believe you should have the honor of removing these?”

Jack hooked his fingers in the waist of the panties and with a huge smile, he tore them off of her body, eliciting a squeal. The garter belt and stockings disappeared just as quickly. “Now my buttercup, I do believe you should help me,” he said as he stood up. “I can’t seem to take my hands off of you.”
Fran reached forward and fumbled with his belt. After a moment she felt it release, followed quickly by the button and zipper of his trousers. They fell to his feet. His excitement spilled out of his boxers as he kicked off his shoes and pants to discard the undergarment. She reached out and stroked his length until he looked like he might explode. “Sit,” she whispered. He did as she asked then she knelt before him to take him into her mouth for the first time. Oh how she had wanted to do this for so long. She couldn’t believe it was possible, but he grew even harder under her touch. She began moving her mouth, up and down and in circles, taking more of him with each motion. With her free hand she reached up and caressed his sensitive flesh. Soon, Jack let out a deep guttural groan as his climax overtook him.

Breathing heavily, Jack looked at Fran and smiled. “We should have done that sooner.”

“I told you,” she chuckled.

“It’s your turn now,” he said as he pulled her to her feet. Lifting her easily, he laid her on the bed and knelt between her knees. His hands started at her stomach and ran up to her breasts where he teased her with feather-light touches. Fran gasped and raised her upper body to his caress.

“This is so much better than fumbling around inside your bra or shirt,” he groaned as he squeezed her small, round mounds.

“Yes,” she moaned. “So much better.”

Jack leaned forward, placing a hand on each side of her head. He quickly kissed her lips then worked his way down to her breasts. A smile lit his face as he studied her for a moment before softly placing his mouth on her nipple. His tongue darted out causing her to gasp and grab at his wrists. When a puff of his warm breath caressed her wet skin, she called out to him.

Jack chuckled and moved his attention to the other nipple before trailing kisses over her ribs and stomach. He felt her legs tighten and her knees try to turn inward. “Relax baby,” he murmured as his hand caressed her hips. “Please don’t deny me what I’ve wanted for so long. I need to taste you.”

“I just…” she whimpered, but her legs relaxed and came apart.

Jack gazed upon her, his eyes taking in every inch of her body.

“What’s wrong, Marine? Why are you just sitting there looking at me?”

“I’ve always imagined what you would look like. I just needed to take it all in."

“Are you disappointed?" she asked uncertainly, turning her head away.

“Buttercup, look at me.”

Slowly, she turned her head back and looked into his eyes.

“You are more beautiful, more perfect, than my imagination ever led me to believe,” he reassured her as his hand ran gently down her folds. “Every inch of you. I want to gaze upon every part of you, always.” One hand gently eased her open while the other stroked her, brushing against her sensitive inner flesh.
A whimper escaped her as he eased a finger inside. Her hips raised up, off of the bed, presenting the perfect opportunity for him to finally taste her. As his lips met her core, she momentarily froze, then relaxed as the new sensations overtook her.

Jack gently added a second finger as his mouth teased just inside her slick walls. His tongue relentlessly stroked the one spot guaranteed to drive her out of her mind.

“Jack,” she gasped. “Oh God…What?” Her fingers dug into his shoulders.

He chuckled, her body swallowing the sound. His teeth grazed her hypersensitive, swollen flesh, bringing her apart beneath him in an explosion of passion unlike any she had ever felt before.

“What…how did you…”

Jackson chuckled again as he moved up to lay next to her. “I spent thirteen months sitting around listening to a bunch of guys talk about what they do to their girlfriends. I learned a few things.”

“Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!” she exclaimed as she pulled him down for a kiss. “I think girls taste better than guys,” she murmured when he pulled away.

“You’re not going to leave me for another girl are you?” he joked. “I don’t think my heart could take it.”

Francesca giggled. “I love you Jack, not a girl. I only want you. Right now,” she said quietly, hoping her meaning came through.

“God I want to take you right here, this second,” he gasped. “But there is something I need to do first." He slipped off the bed and Fran felt her heart leave with him.

“Where are you going?” she asked, almost afraid this was the end of a really good dream.

Jack grabbed her overnight bag and fished out the foil packets that Tyler had provided.

“We don’t need those Marine,” she said when she realized what he was doing. “It’s only been four days. We’re safe.”

“Are you sure you’re willing to take that risk?” he asked hesitantly as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “We don’t need a baby right now, Buttercup.”

“I know,” she agreed, moving to sit next to him. “But I’m so regular and I really want my first time, and yours, to be just us. I don’t want anything getting in the way. Please?” The last word came out as an agonized whisper.

“Okay Francesca,” he said as he grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips. “I trust you.”

“Someday though, right?” she asked, slowly looking up into his eyes. “Someday we can have babies.”

“Of course, my love. Someday we can have as many as you want.”

Fran smiled slyly at her fiancé. “Are you ready to do this?”

“I’ve been ready for years. You’re the one who made us wait,” he laughed.

A serious look crossed her face. “Promise me something, Jack.”

“Anything,” he agreed.

“Don’t stop unless I ask you to,” she said, averting her eyes.

“I hate the thought of hurting you,” he whispered softly as he grasped her chin, forcing her to look at him.

“It’s only pain, Marine. It won’t last forever, and then it will feel so good. Promise me!”

“I promise,” he finally agreed, kissing her softly. “Move back up onto the bed.”

She turned and crawled forward. He followed her, mesmerized by the perfect, small rounded backside in front of him. He reached out to caress her and she stopped to rise up onto her knees. He came up behind and wrapped his arms around her. His hands gravitated to her breasts where he kneaded and pinched as he kissed her neck.

“Jackson,” she breathed when his hand slipped down between her legs.

“You’re so ready for me,” he groaned. “Lay down, Buttercup.”

As Fran moved to lay down, his hand shot out to deliver a swat to her backside. She squealed and quickly flipped onto her back.

“What was that for?” she giggled.

“You weren’t moving fast enough, Buttercup,” he grinned as he levied himself over her. “I want you now!”

“Then you can have me now,” she replied. Just seconds before he kissed her, long and passionately. Her body relaxed and he pushed gently, insistently inside of her. She gasped and momentarily tightened, causing his eyes to fly open. He saw small flashes of pain in her gaze.

“You promised,” she gasped. "Don’t you dare stop moving.”

Jack gritted his teeth and did as she asked. Each movement inside of her felt like heaven, every last expression of discomfort on her beautiful face felt like he was headed to the depths of Hell. His eyes closed as he concentrated on the promise he’d made.

A whimper and a movement from beneath brought him back to her. His eyes opened and he saw a smile covering Fran’s face.

“Operation Virginity is complete, Marine,” she murmured. “It’s time to get on with Operation Pleasure.” Her hips raised to meet his and they lost themselves in every new feeling.

“Come on, baby,” Fran encouraged breathlessly.

Jack looked into her eyes and increased his pace, pressing harder and deeper until her eyes fluttered closed and her back arched up to him.

“Yes,” she sighed. “Oh Jack!”

His mouth captured a nipple as her long fingernails clawed at his back causing them both to shudder.

“I…oh God…I!”

“Shh, Buttercup, just let go,” he whispered into her ear. “Come with me, baby.”

Three final deep, hard thrusts and Francesca came apart, pulling him along for the ride. After catching his breath, he rolled to the side and gathered her in his arms. “Are you okay?’

“I’m fine Jack,” she chuckled. “You worry too much.”

“Only because I love you.”

“I know how that goes. I worried about you for thirteen months straight.”

“I’m home safe and sound now, Buttercup. That’s all that matters.”
She knew that physically he was fine, but that emotionally he would be haunted for a long time to come. The skull tattoos testified to that. At least she was there for him in every way now. They would be okay. “I love you Jack. Thank you for waiting for me.”

“No, thank you for waiting for me. And thank you for agreeing to marry me.”

“It’s all I ever wanted,” she said with a yawn. “When can we go get the matching tattoos?”

Jack sighed. He had promised, but… “Buttercup, are you positive you want to get a tattoo?” he asked. “They are quite painful.”

“Like I said, pain doesn’t last forever,” Fran replied with a grin. “Short term pain for a lifetime gain.”

“If you must, I won’t stop you. Promise me you’ll sleep on it and decide in the morning,” he said, staring deep into her eyes. “Like you just said, it will last a lifetime.”

“I promise,” she whispered as she started to drift into sleep in his arms.

Jack couldn’t imagine why she would willingly mar her perfect body. However, wanting a matching tattoo with him was very touching. He laid there holding her until sleep came – his first restful night in months.


Fran woke with a start. Oh God, Jack was wounded and might not make it. A quiet, masculine ‘hi’ came from across the room. Realizing it had only been a nightmare, she looked over and saw him fully clothed, getting ready to report in to his reserve unit. Then they could get on with their life together.

“Get some more sleep, Buttercup. I’ll only be gone a couple of hours,” he said from near the closet. “I left some cash so you can shop while I’m gone.”

“I might as well get up and have breakfast with my Marine.”

“If I had time, you could make me breakfast,” he replied with a wink and a grin.

“I’d kind of like more than sausage for breakfast,” she replied with a wink back at him.

“Get dressed then, Buttercup, and we’ll go get a bite together.”

Fran quickly threw on her clothes and they left the room. After a meal spent planning their future together, they went their separate ways. Fran shopped while Jack reported to his unit and they met back up at the tattoo joint, a couple of hours later.

As soon as the shop opened up, they walked in together. The proprietor, also the artist, greeted them with a warm smile. “So young man, looking to add to your collection,” he asked as Jack took his jacket off.

“Actually, we’re both here to get matching tattoos,” Fran replied.

“Yes sir, I want to add a heart to this one right where the blank spot is,” Jack said pointing to his right arm. “And she would like a matching one.”

"I’ll have to make it smaller, but I think I can cover her arm in skulls,” the artist said with a laugh. Fran’s face dropped. “Just kidding. I know you only want the heart.”

Fran’s expression made Jack burst into laughter. The dirty look she finally tossed to him only caused him to laugh harder.

“Who is going first, the lovely lady or the…”

“I’m first!” Fran exclaimed. “I want mine the same size, but put it right here,” she said pointing to the top of her left breast.”

“I can do that no problem,” the artist replied. “Don’t worry, I take pride in my work. Skin is my canvas, no matter what part of the body it's on.”

“Sounds perfect!” Fran gushed. “Hey Marine, what color?”

“Pink,” was his reply.

“Oh, my favorite color. Are you sure about that?” she asked. “They are forever.”

“I’m positive, that was my plan all along. My heart is your favorite color.”

“Okay, give me a minute to set up. By the way, my name is Jason.”

Fran sat in the chair and took off her blouse. Meanwhile Jack let Jason measure and trace the spot on his arm to draw up the heart design. When he was ready, the artist placed the stencil above Fran’s breast and handed her a mirror.

“How do you like the placement?” he asked.

“It looks perfect, don’t you agree Jack?”

“As long as you’re happy, Buttercup.”

“Then it’s settled,” she stated. “Time for you to get busy, Jason.”

The man finished putting his machine together and dipped the needle into the first cup of ink. Placing his hand on her to steady and stretch the skin, he set the high-speed needle to work.

“Holy fuck that hurts,” Fran gasped. “It will stop right?”

“Buttercup he just started the outline, he has to finish that then fill it in,” Jack smirked and chuckled. “It just started.”

“Just be glad it isn’t your ankle,” Jason said to distract her. “It tends to be much more sensitive.”

Thirty minutes later, Jack was in the seat having the stencil put on. Checking the placement with the mirror, he nodded his approval and Jason set to work as he talked with his customer about the tattoos he already had.

“The bald eagle is because I’m from Alaska, the bear is Francesca’s favorite animal and I like dragons,” Jack explained. “The buttercups are of course to remind me of my love.”

“I can probably guess what the skulls are for. No need to explain if you don’t want to,” Jason assured him. “I prefer not to talk about some of mine.”

“No, it’s okay,” Jack stated with a sigh. “I can tell you. It’s to remind me of the war and what can happen. About six months in, I started to snipe. The skulls remind me to never forget what I’m capable of. The heart is because I came home to her,” he said, nodding toward Francesca.”

“I saw and did some things in Korea that I would rather forget. But we can’t, can we?”

“No sir, we can’t.”

Jack’s admission hit Fran like a ton of bricks. That’s how he knew that each skull was for a single man he’d killed. He was a sniper! Her poor baby, he had been in a war where it was kill or be killed. Knowing that Jack was such a gentle soul, Fran knew that this would eat at him for the rest of his life. At least she was there for him now. She wouldn’t be going anywhere.

When Jason finished up, Jackson pulled his wallet out. Holding his hand up, the man waved it away. “This one is on the house for both of you. Just let everyone know about my work.”

“Thank you, but I insist on paying for them,” Jack replied. “You put a lot of time into these.”

“I said they’re on the house. Don’t make me mad,” Jason smiled. “Besides, a reference from you will send people my way for sure.”

With a nod, Jack and Fran thanked the kind artist and headed out. “We still have a few hours until Joe will be ready to pick us up and checkout isn’t for another hour,” Jack mentioned after they started walking.

“Race you to the hotel,” Fran said. “The first one there gets whatever they want.”

Jack laughed as he quickly followed her – his love, his heart - the real one, not just the pink tattoo they now shared.