The worst of the blood had been wiped off, but the smell still hung about them both. China realised Korea's hair was matted and greasy, and now he didn't have better things to worry about he noticed the sour stink of unwashed flesh. "No offence, but we should get you into a bath."

"Oh, yes, please! They stopped letting us bathe when they couldn't restrain us properly for it."

The "us" thing was still a little unnerving, but China decided it was the least of his worries. If it helped Korea, he'd let him go on with it.

Korea filled his own bath, hot enough to steam the room up, but when China turned to leave Korea grabbed his arm. "I-I ... we ... I don't want to be alone. No touching, I promise. Just don't leave us in here. I haven't actually seen another person apart from the doctors in months, I can't face being alone again."

China nodded, looking away politely as Korea dropped his robe and slid into the bath. The boy hugged his knees, for once uncomfortable with his body. Understandable; it was so much thinner and more fragile than usual. He was too tall to have stretched out in the tub, but now he looked tiny.

"I know you said no touching, but shall I help with your hair?" Korea nodded, and China knelt beside the bathtub. "Okay, hold still." He scooped up some water in his hands, wincing slightly at the heat, and splashed it into Korea's hair.

Korea moaned softly and pushed back into China's hands. "S-sorry. I don't mean anything by it, really, not now. I just ... it's been so long since anyone touched us and it didn't hurt. Not just in that place. Japan never did either. Before you came along I got hugged twice in thirty-five years and got a beating for trying to start one."

"Okay, I understand. It's okay." China took Korea's left hand in his own and squeezed it firmly, using his other hand to continue with the hair-washing. "How's this?"

"Great," Korea sighed happily. "Thank you."

Chunks of Korea's hair came out between China's fingers, breaking off at the scalp. China frowned. He really needed to get some food in the kid. He took the shampoo bottle from beside the bath and tried to flick the lid off one-handed. "It's fine, just don't touch my chest for a while. The scar from the- ... from 1938 is still sore."

Korea shifted in the water. "So, um, if you don't mind me asking ... what happened to you?"

"A lot. I don't want to burden you with the details. I don't think it was as bad as what they did to you. At least mine was over sooner," China said sadly, pouring shampoo into Korea's hair.

"I'm sorry," Korea said, staring at his knees.

"You don't have to be, you didn't do it."

"Still. I can't believe Japan would do that. I mean, he's been a dick to me, but I didn't ever think he'd rape anyone-"

China dropped the shampoo bottle and held up his hands. "Whoa! Where did you get the idea Japan did it? His people did it, yes, but he wasn't even there!"

Korea blinked. "He wasn't? But when I asked if he knew anything he hit us, I just assumed ..."

"No, it wasn't him. He was actually pretty horrified when I told him."

"You told him?! When?"

"Soon after it happened. But ... his boss took advantage of how upset he was."

Korea put two and two together, and his eyes widened. "Shit. And all this time I've been blaming him for ... I thought he was going to ... oh, Balhae ..."

"Sh, sh. Don't worry about it now. We can handle everything later when you're feeling a bit better. Okay, little brother?"

Korea sniffled, and murmured "O-okay."

China rubbed foam into Korea's hair, stopping when Korea gasped. China poked at the front of his hair again, and Korea swatted his hand away. "Careful, that kind of hurts."

"Sorry. Hold still ..." China parted Korea's fringe, exposing the tiny stub of a much thicker hair. "Well, here's some good news - Spirit's growing back!"

Korea reached up and touched it. "Hey, it is! Heh. Told you they couldn't keep us down for long!"