He lay on the tattooists' table as the man prepared his tools. He tightened his hold on the edge of the table, shacking with a mix of anxiety and anticipation, a combination that had him neatly out of his mind.

He was becoming desperate. The knife no longer held the cure he needed to escape this grey nightmare. His arms were a mass of white and pink scars. So where his thighs and chest, nothing worked anymore.

But maybe this would.

The man cast a glance at him, unconcerned and uncaring but curious. He had seen the map work of scars on the boy's body, the half healed testament of the struggle to remain real. A struggle that the boy was losing, and fast.

"You ready kid?" the man's voice was like gravel and as cool as a winter's night.

"Y..yeah, go ahead." His voice was shaking, and his body wanted to as he clamped down, forcing himself into a vibrating stillness as needle met flesh. He gave a startled gasp and felt his body welcome this strange sensation. It was like being killed then resurrected.

The artist was calm as he began to etch the design into the untouched skin of the boy's back. Ignoring him when the boy's eyes filled with tears, as long as he didn't say to stop

He hadn't expected this, this intensity of pain. He had only hope for it. He kept his eyes tightly closed as visions seared their way across his brain.

Fire and blood, knives and pain. His body spread open and on fire. Tied to a St. Andrews cross as a whip danced patterns across his back and ass and legs. Razor decorating his flesh with blood and severed skin.

His senses were on fire, sight and sounds and taste and touch blasted beyond what he had ever dealt with before.

Then the sensations started to fade as the man began to finish the piece off, but not the feeling. That stayed with him as the man pulled away to take care of the clean up. He remained where he was as he rode this new wave. Shaking now that it was over.

But was it?