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I'm trying to find the book that is about a boy and a lizard-alien. The lizard-alien can only survive if it lives on the skin of its host as a tattoo and can only be away from its host for a set period of time before he fades. The lizard-alien is a guardian of some sort and lives by a code.

I forget what the book is about exactly. I only remember it is set in space.

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This is Dragon and Thief, by Timothy Zahn

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It could also be some other book in the Dragonback series.

This is a book about a boy who acquires a dragon-like alien that can become a tattoo.

As the rest of his body reached Polphir’s, each part altered from three-dimensional to two-dimensional form as it flowed onto his host’s body. A split second later the transformation was complete, leaving Draycos stretched like a living tattoo across Polphir’s back and legs and arms.

Indeed, the dragon will die if it is too long away from a host:

“After six hours had passed, I would die,” Draycos said softly “But I am a warrior of the K’da. I will not force myself upon you if you do not wish it.

Incidentally, this also demonstrates that Draycos lives by a code, as mentioned in the question.

Similarly:

Jack was his host, and there was a high debt of honor between a K’da warrior and his host.

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