Cold. Freezing cold. A bathtub full of ice, it's occupant shivering violently.
Men and women in white lab coats monitored the various reactions coming from the young boy in the tub, checking machines and scribbling down notes.
The leopard seal teeth impressions fit uncomfortably over the boy's own teeth, and he shuddered again, harder this time. He suddenly gasped, and slumped down into the tub, his head almost plunging beneath the surface and into the icy water.
One of the men in white shook his head, disappointed, and the others immediately started ripping tubes and needles out of the unconscious boy, red staining the icy water he was surrounded with.
The next time the boy opened his eyes he was in one of the showers, being doused with hot water.
That was when the pain hit him. Immediate and excruciating pain, everywhere on his body at once.
The scream tore itself free from his throat before he even had time to consider it. It was not a scream any human being could make.
It was long and powerful, a shriek that made two or three of the people in white coats cover their ears.
The scream of an animal.
Ken's eyes snapped open, bringing him back to the present.
Right, the shower.
The blond shuddered out a breath and ducked his face under the hot spray once again, as if determined to wash the memories down the drain along with the water.
He drew back and shook his head like a dog, then shut off the water and stepped out, wrapping a towel around his waist and grabbing a second one before exiting the bathroom.
As he walked into his room, he avoided the gaze of the only other person in the building with him, throwing on a pair of underwear and pants before he shook his head once more. After the shaking subsided, he left his room, still toweling at his hair.
The raven-haired boy sitting on the windowsill looked up when his friend came into the room, his eyes narrowing slightly as if in pain when he beheld his body.
Scars traced over both of his shoulders and arms, down the side of his neck, over his back, across his chest, down his stomach.
Scars from anything and everything imaginable.
Needle marks all along his left arm, lacerations from scalpels and burns down his right.
Self-inflicted claw marks criss-crossed over his shoulders and neck, the ugly scars from stab wounds over two years old clustered over the same spot on his stomach.
The starburst-shaped scars from bullets across his chest and back, where numerous other scars were obtained from backing or running into blades or other weapons.
And then there was the scar across his nose.
The raven shuddered.
He didn't want to think about what they had done to his friend for him to carry that scar. He still remembered the day that they…No! Do not think about it. Not now.
He thought of himself instead, the scars he too carried beneath the shirt he was wearing…
The blond had felt Chikusa's eyes on him from the beginning, and he sighed, turning around to glare at him.
Chikusa looked up and met his eyes, and Ken snarled, "If you want some scars to stare at, go look at yourself in a fuckin' mirror."
Chikusa flinched, and the snarl left Ken's face. He sighed again and turned away, drying the last bit of his mane. Chikusa's hand was suddenly on his shoulder, squeezing gently.
"I'm sorry." The whisper was barely audible, and Ken reached out to take Chikusa's hand before he could take it away.
He turned around and softly pressed his forehead to Chikusa's, closing his eyes.
In that moment, what he wanted more than anything was to curl up in the pile of blankets and pillows he called his bed and take Chikusa with him. He wanted to sleep curled around the raven's body, just to make sure he was still there. Remind him that he was there, and no one would ever take the raven away from him.
The things that had happened to him were terrible, and they weren't any better for Chikusa. They had both gone through hell and survived, and Ken wanted to make sure that they would never go back to anything remotely like it. Ever.
They both still had nightmares. Awful, horrible, real nightmares. Nightmares that woke them up and kept them awake at 2 AM, or until one climbed into the others' bed. It had been their agreement, ever since the first night they spent away from that place.
The agreement, the promise, had been kept all these years, no matter how mad they would get at one another. Because no one else could understand the pain, the misery, the sickening, gut wrenching fear they shared.
He hadn't noticed he was crying. His shoulders shook with sobs, and warm tears spilled down his cheeks.
He opened his eyes and found Chikusa's eyes brimmed with tears as well. He blinked and they fell, and Ken heard them plop onto the floor.
Chikusa's arms were around him before he knew it, and he pressed his face into the raven's neck, feeling fingers slide through his hair as he wrapped his arms around Chikusa's chest.
He felt a slight pressure at his temple where Chikusa kissed him, and he gripped the fabric of the raven's shirt tightly.
He released a choked sob, then brought himself face-to-face with Chikusa. He dove in and kissed him, roughly, desperately, and Chikusa tilted his head into it, kissing back fervently.
Ken ripped himself away and hissed, somewhat shakily, "Don't you ever leave me alone, you got it? What the hell am I gonna do if you're gone? …when you're gone…"
The blond broke down into more sobs and Chikusa held him in a crushing grip that the other returned.
"I ask myself the same thing…Just…promise me one thing?"
Ken pressed his nose into the hollow below Chikusa's throat, "What?" he sniffed.
Chikusa rested his chin gently on Ken's damp mane, "That you'll wait for me…if you go first. If it's me, I'll wait for you…"
Ken's eyes widened and more tears spilled over.
"Promise?" Chikusa's voice broke.
Ken nodded, laying against Chikusa's chest, hearing, feeling his heart beating, "Promise."