Title: Challenges

Author: kyoko_godaikun
Pairing: Maruyama Ryuhei/Nishikido Ryo
Other Characters:  The rest of Kanjani 8
Genre:  Romance / Angst
Summary: Maru is in an abusive relationship. Can an unexpected friend help him?





Maruyama Ryuhei had learned as a small child that love was pain. His mother had showed her love by the fist, by the belt. She loved him; she insisted that was why he had to be punished. Maru had learned early that to love meant that there would be pain. That was why he had always been attracted to those who would give him the discipline he knew he deserved. He didn't like the beatings, but he knew it was necessary. His latest lover was a member of Kanjani 8. It was someone he trusted, until that first time when his lover found fault in him. Then like always, Maru was beaten.


Maru and Nishikido Ryo were alone in a dressing room. Maru had just changed out of his everyday clothes and into the clothes he would wear on TV. He could see Ryo in the mirror, his friend was angry. He was suddenly afraid, would Ryo beat him? Maru's lover had always insisted that Ryo was just like him.  Maru thought in a way he was. Ryo had an edginess that Maru found attractive.


"What happened?" Ryo had asked him that day, when for the countless time; he had seen the bruises that peppered his body.


"I must have fallen." he lied.


"You fell on a belt?" His friend snapped. "Your back has strap marks!"


"I told you, I fell." Maru insisted.


"Why do you let him beat you?" Ryo's eyes narrowed. "Don’t' deny he beats you!"


"No one beats me," another lie.


"You don't deserve this." Anger flashed in his friend's eyes.


"He loves me, that's why he has to discipline me." Maru looked away from Ryo. "I'm not perfect, I have to do better."


"Do you like being disciplined?"


"Of course I don't!" He looked back up to Ryo. "Do you really think I like this? I hate it!"


"Is he really worth the bruises?"


"What do you know about this?" Maru demanded.


"I was beaten by my father. He insisted that he loved me. But he didn't." Ryo paused. "Just like your boy friend beating you isn't really love."


"I don't get a choice." Maru confessed. 


"There’s always a choice." Ryo countered.  "If you ever want to leave him, tell me. I'll help you get away."


Just then the door opened, and Yokoyama Yu came into the room. He went to Maru; he grabbed the bass player's shoulder, squeezing it so hard that Maru knew there would be a bruise. He leaned down and whispered hostilely into Maru's ear. "What did I tell you about talking to Ryo?"


"I'm not allowed." Maru repeated.


"Good boy." Yoko hissed.


Yoko dug his nails into Maru's skin. Maru had to bit his bottom lip so he wouldn't scream. Tears stung his eyes. He didn't want this, he wanted to get away. He looked at the mirror, Ryo was still watching him. Maru wished that Ryo didn't have someone else, someone he cared for. Perhaps they could be together. Maru knew he was dreaming, he knew his life was destined to be one of pain.




Ryo had been watching Maru for a long time. He was angered and frustrated by the bruises he saw on his friend. The day that Maru had confessed that he was being abused was a milestone. Ryo grew closer to Maru, all the time trying to convince him that the boy friend wasn't worth it.


It wasn't because Ryo liked him; at least that's what he told himself. Ryo was crazy for Maru, but Ryo had been going with Yamapi for years. Ryo realized that just as Maru was trapped, perhaps he was too. Not with fists, he wouldn't let anyone touch him. Instead, Yamapi used his words to hurt Ryo.


It had been two months since the Maru's confession. His friend's abuse had grown steadily worse. Ryo wanted to make the boy friend stop beating Maru, but he knew he couldn't. It was up to Maru to leave. His friend told him that he was planning to tell him it was over after the taping they were doing that day. They were on location; he thought it would be better that way.


Ryo made sure that he had the hotel room next door to Maru's. He would keep an eye out for him. He quickly took a shower before he went to bed. When he got out of the shower, he could hear noises coming from Maru's room.


"It’s over! Maru screamed. "I'm never coming back to you!"


"It's not over until I tell you it's over!" The unmistakable voice of Yokoyama Yu told him.


There was another sound, like someone being thrown against the wall. Then the sound of flesh being hit, over and over.


Maru needed help, and Ryo decided that he was going to give it. He checked the door that separated the rooms. It was unlocked. Maru was on the floor, with Yoko kneeling over him, hitting him again and again.


Ryo tackled Yoko, knocking him to the floor. Maru sat up, his nose bleeding heavily. His lip was split and one is his eyes were swollen.


"Go to my room." Ryo ordered.


"Hai," Maru got to his feet and ran to Ryo's hotel room.


Yoko hit Ryo hard. Something inside Ryo snapped, and he pounded on Yoko. He hated Yoko, for being a monster, for abusing Maru.


When Ryo got up, he glared down at the oldest member of Kanjani 8. "If you ever get near him again, I'll kill you!"


"You wouldn't do that," Yoko mocked.


"Want to bet?" Ryo said as he went to his hotel room. He locked the door that separated the two rooms. Then Ryo hit the wall. He tried to still his mind; he had to be calm for Maru. He had lost it; he had turned into the monster that he warned Maru about.


When Ryo was calm, he turned to his friend. Maru was sitting on the bed, a blood stained towel pressed against his nose.


"It's all right; I don't think he'll bother you again." Ryo moved closer to him, but he backed away.


"Thanks," Maru crossed his arms across himself protectively.


"How's the nose?" Ryo went to his friend, who flinched. "Don’t' worry, I won't hurt you."


"I'm sorry, I shouldn't be afraid of you." The bass player looked away from him.


"Love isn't fear."


"Isn't it?" Maru looked into his eyes. "I've always been afraid of the ones I love."


"Then it really isn't love."  Ryo made up his mind. "Until we can get him totally out of your life, I think it's best if you stay with me."


"Are you sure?"


"Of course I am!" Ryo tried to smile. "We have to keep you safe."


"All right," Maru agreed.


That was the beginning, though neither of them knew it. Ryo just knew that he had to help his friend. He had to help Maru be free from the pain of being abused.


Kanjani 8 had been given a mission for a TV show the group would film. Even the planning sessions had been filmed.   The group met in a room large enough for a table and the cameras. Ryo had sat beside Maru. He glared Yoko when he sat down across from Maru.


Hina picked up the envelope the producers had given him earlier, and then he took out a piece of paper. He read out the instructions to the rest of the group.  The group had been assigned to go camping for five days at a Girl Scout camp. The camp would be very primitive, with everyone sleeping in tents.


'Girls," Shota sighed under his breath. Shota was the one member in the group that had troubles faking liking girls. He went out as they all did, making sure they got their faces in the press. The problem was Shota hated pretending that he wasn't with Subaru.


"What's wrong with girls?" Subaru whispered.


"I just don't think I can go a whole week pretending I like girls." he muttered. "If it were tenderfoots or Brownies I could help them. But what can I do with a bunch of Rangers?"


"Rangers are high school age." Maru tried to explain.


"How would you know so much about Rangers? Have you dated them?" Yoko interrupted. "You'll date anyone wont' you?"


Maru looked down to his hands; he didn't want to argue with Yoko. He had gotten up the courage to leave his former love a month before.


"Idiot!" Yoko reached over the table and slapped Maru hard. His former lover was hitting Maru more and more in public. The older man got away with it because they all hit each other in play. Maru noticed the way that Ryo glared at Yoko.


"“Quit hitting Maru!” Ryo demanded.


"I'm just playing around." Yoko pretended innocence as he looked at the camera.


Leave Maru alone," Ryo snapped.


"Leave it Ryo!" Hina ordered. "We're being filmed."


"Keep your hands to yourself." Ryo warned.


"Mirakami-kun, why do we have to go to Girl Scout camp?" Ohkura asked. "Aren't there other places we could go?"


"Are the girls cute?" Subaru asked with pretend interest.


"We're going because the agency told us we're going." Hina said firmly. "We're not to date, we're not to flirt. It will be filmed for a TV show."


"A race?" Shota asked.


"Not exactly."  Hina looked at the paper. "It's for that new show "Celebrity Challenge." If we pass the challenge four million yen will be donated to our favorite charity. That's four million yen for each of us."


"Four million yen," Subaru mused.


"But none of us have been to the camp." Yoko said.


"Maru's been to Girl Scout camps before," Ryo told them.


"When did you go to Girl Scout camp?" Shota asked.


"I went there with my little sister's troop."  Maru admitted.


"Why did you go with your sister?" Yoko teased. "Because you're really a Girl Scout?"


The table laughed everyone except for Ryo who looked very serious. "So you've been to this camp?"


"Yes, I have." he admitted.


"Good, we'll need you." Hina decided.




The group was resting in a dressing room. Maru was sitting on a couch. He had put his bag on the other seat. He didn't want Yoko to sit by him. Ryo and Yoko weren't there yet; he was off talking to Hina.  Ryo had decided that Hina needed to know about Maru's abuse, but Maru had talked to Hina before, and he knew Ryo wouldn't be believed.


Maru was spending his time looking at the book they would use as a guide, a translated version of the 1920 book "Scouting for Girls." All the activities during the challenge would come from this book.  Maru was surprised how primitive the producers expected them to camp.


"Maru-Chan, can I ask you something?" Shota asked from the other couch. Shota was one of his best friends. He knew about the abuse, and had helped him stay away from Yoko.


"Yeah?" Maru looked up from his book.


"How many times have you gone camping with the Girl Scouts?"


"A few," he admitted. "Enough to know what I'm doing."


"But why the Girl Scouts? Isn't your little brother a Boy Scout?"


"My sister wouldn't have a troop if there wasn't a leader, so I volunteered." Maru shrugged.


"What about you and Ryo?" Subaru asked changing the subject. 


"What about me and Ryo?" Maru countered.


"Are you two... you know, together?"


"We're only friends." Maru admitted.


"Kimi thinks the two of you are lovers." Shota said very gently. "You do know that he’s very jealous."


"I broke up with Yoko a month ago." Maru pointed out. "I don't really care what he thinks."


"But you do like Ryo?" Ohkura persisted


"Who says I like him?" Maru tried to play innocent.


"You give him this special look when he comes near." The drummer told him.  "Come on, it's just the three of us. We know that you really like him."


"What if I do?" Maru admitted.


"You have to be careful. We don't want you to be hurt again." Shota said gently. "Ryo-Chan’s a nice guy, but he has a tendency to be a bit self centered."


The door opened and Yoko came into the room, closely followed by Ryo. Yoko gave Maru a smug, satisfied look. Then he walked to the couch.


"Move your things." Yoko ordered.


"Sit somewhere else,” Maru told him.


"I told you to move your things!" Yoko almost screamed. He raised his hand and slapped Maru hard across the face.


"You need to get your ears checked." Ryo grabbed Yoko's arm, pulling him away from Maru. "The man said he didn't want you to sit by him."


"This is because of you, did you know that?" Yoko demanded. "He was always such a good boy friend until he started hanging with you."


"You mean he was your slave." The younger man spat. "I didn't have to liberate him, he freed himself."


Ryo moved Ryo's things over and sat down beside him. It was a tight fit, but Ryo didn’t' seem to mind.


"I'm going to pay you back for this!" Yoko threatened, and then he went to an empty chair and sat down.





The group took a plane to Kyoto. Ryo made sure that he sat beside Maru. He had to make sure that Maru was safe. He had a talk with Hina about the abuse, and Yoko and insisted that Maru had made it up to get Ryo to feel sorry for him. Yoko was a child hood friend of Hina's so he was believed and Ryo wasn't. Instead, Hina insisted that Ryo control himself.


After they arrived, the group went to the passenger pick up area. There was supposed to be a van waiting for them, but there was nothing. Instead, they had been told their ride would be there soon.


While they waited for their ride, Ryo quickly texted Yamapi. "It's over. I no longer want to be with you. Sorry to break up with you this way, but I've found someone else. Sayonara."


His phone beeped. It was a message from Yamapi. "You’ve always been a bastard. Can't even break up the right way.  I have someone else too, who’s better in bed then you've ever been. So I won't miss you.  Sayonara."


A few moments later, the phone beeped again, Ryo read the message from his former lover, then deleted it. Just then another message, one even more abusive. Then a third message. When the phone beeped for the fourth time, Ryo hit the ignore button.


"What's going on?" Maru whispered.


"It's just Yamapi," Ryo sighed. "He's mad at me again."


"Perhaps you should call him," Maru suggested.


"There's nothing I want to say to him." Ryo admitted.


The bus finally pulled up to the airport door. It was an old rickety bus with Girl Scouts of Japan written on the side. Maru had told him he was going to donate his winnings to the Girl Scouts to pay for a new bus, everyone had laughed at him. But Ryo now understood why.


The cameras had begun to follow them, as this was a part of the show. Ryo was all ready sick of the cameras even though he knew they would be constantly on them for five days.


The producer’s assistant came up to them, carrying a box. "You're to put your phones and any electronics in this box."


"Will we get them back?" Subaru asked. “I have this girl friend that has to get a hold of me.”


"As soon as the challenge is over, we will give them back to you." She promised.


Maru was the first one to empty his pocket of his cell phone and MP3 player. One by one, the group members gave up their electronics.


"Are you sure we should do this?" Ryo asked. "What if there’s an emergency?"


"The crew will be there, they will be able to contact outside help."


"Ryo...." Hina growled.


"All right, all right." Ryo took out his cell phone and put it in the box. He felt free. He would be going a week without Yamapi. Knowing his former boy friend, he would be over him by the time the trip ended.


They got on the bus. Maru was in front of Ryo and sat down. Yoko pushed Ryo hard in the back trying to trip him. He caught himself on the seat. He spun himself around to face Maru.


"Don't even try it with me." Ryo whispered to him. "If you abuse me, I *will* get you back!"


"I’m not afraid of you." Yoko snarled.


"You should be!" Ryo growled.


"Ryo-Chan, sit down." Maru suggested gently.


Ryo sat down beside Maru. He wasn't just a guard to Maru, he considered the bass player to be his friend. He had broken up with Yamapi, so now he was free to be with Maru, but he didn't know if Maru liked him that way. Then he felt Maru’s hand on his. He moved his hand so that pinky was interlocked with his friend's finger.  He looked up to Maru who smiled at him. Ryo couldn’t help it, he smiled back.






Kanjani 8 weren't worried about camping. They had done camping shows before. Ryo hadn’t expected was for everyone to be given heavy back packs and a map with a compass.  Ryo was angry that the camera crew and staff didn't have to carry back packs. They even had lodge they could stay in.


The group stood on a gravel street that would be the path they would follow to the camp site.  The camera as always was filming them.


It was cold and damp. Everything at the camp seemed to be covered in a thin layer of mud. Ryo didn't like the mud.  So far, he didn't like anything about this camp site.


 He didn't want to be camping; he wanted to be at home in Osaka with Maru. He wanted to take Maru by the hand, to kiss him, to prove to the older man that love really didn't have to hurt. He wanted to let his guard down around Maru. He had been doing it more and more around his friend.


Ryo badly wanted some time off, real time off. Not the kind where when one group was taking a week off, that he had to fly away to his other group. To work hard when his other set of friends were relaxing. He wanted to spend that time with Maru. It didn't have to be long, just a few days. He didn't want to pretend around his friend.


Ryo needed a smoke. He hadn't been allowed to bring the nicotine patches that he usually used when he was on location. So therefore, he felt edgy.


Maru kept looking up to the sky, which was grey and murky. He didn’t smoke, and for the first time Ryo was jealous of that fact. Ryo wished that he had never started to smoke.


"How long do we have until it starts raining?" Ryo whispered to him.


"Not sure, an hour or so." The bass player whispered back.


"We better get started." Hina told the group. Hina was one of the few people that Ryo considered a friend. That is, until Maru entered his heart. He had gone to Hina several times about Yoko abusing Maru, but he hadn't been believed. Hina had been the one that had taught Ryo that real friends believed you when you told them something. So, even though it was painful, he no longer had Hina as a friend.


Maru was the first one that put on his back pack. He had gone camping many times before, so he had practice. Ryo too put on his backpack. It was different then the rucksacks they were used to.  The backpack was very heavy.


"Do you think you can find our camping spot?" Ryo asked.


"No problem." Maru said confidently.


Ryo kept his eye on Yoko. The older man strolled behind them, pretending to go to Hina.  Then he reached out and shoved Maru hard in the back of his Back pack.  The bass player lost his balance and fell to the ground.


"You're such a klutz!" Yoko chided. 


Maru looked up to Yoko; his face was bleeding from a scrape to the forehead. Yoko moved closer to Maru, he reached down to grab Maru.


Ryo acted before he could think. He had to stop Maru being hurt.  Ryo pushed Yoko away from Maru. "Leave him alone!"


"It's not my fault that he fell." Yoko said looking into a camera.  "I was just trying to help Maruyama stand up."


"Bullshit!" Ryo thundered as he grabbed Yoko by the shirt. ""You were trying to hurt him!"


"Ryo! Let him go!" Hina snapped. "It was just an accident!"


"Yoko pushed Maru down on purpose. I saw him with my own eyes." Ryo insisted.


"I'll be all right," Maru told him. He was trying to get to his feet, but it was difficult because of the backpack. Shota and Subaru jumped in to help him.


"Next time be more careful." Ryo shook Yoko hard, and then let him go. He turned back to look at Maru, who was trying to wipe the stones from the scraps on his hands and arms were he fell. Maru's face was also scrapped.


"Come on Maru-Chan; let’s get you some first aid." Shota led Maru away from Ryo.


Maru looked back to Ryo, who ran to his side. "It's okay; I'll take him to get help."


Shota nodded. "I'll keep an eye on Yoko for you."




 Maru was embarrassed that he had allowed himself to be pushed down. He was the klutz of the group, he had fallen down so many time that he had lost count. It hurt, and it shouldn't hurt. Maru kept telling himself. He shouldn't be bleeding. He was a man, he should be stronger.


Ryo took charge of caring for Maru; he went to the producer’s station. It was against the rules, but Ryo was always one that thought of others before the rules. He even ignored the cameraman who followed them.


"Where is the camp nurses?" Ryo asked the assistant producer.


"The agreement is to camp like they did in 1920. The camp didn't have a nurse at the time." The assistant producer told him. "You've been given first aid kits. You can use those to help Maruyama Kun."


Ryo went back to Maru, who was sitting on a bench. "I'll have to give you first aid myself."


"Have you ever given first aid before?" Maru asked.


"Of course I have," Ryo lied as he looked up to the camera that had followed them.  Ryo reached out to Maru who flinched. The bass player was suddenly terrified. "What's wrong?"


"You're going to punish me."


"Why would I do that?" Ryo sounded confused.


"You're mad at me," Maru whispered.


"Not at you, never at you." Ryo tried to reassure. "I just want to help."


Maru nodded, and Ryo took off the first aid kit that they all had to wear.  Then he began to care for Maru's wounds. The scrapes on his arms had been deep. There were small pebbles embedded in them. It hurt to get them out. Maru was bleeding, he felt as if he was weak because he yelped in pain.


Ryo's hand was so gentle, unlike the personality he usually showed everyone. His hands weren't bitter and caustic. Instead, they loved. When Ryo touched him, Maru felt something from Ryo.


He looked around for the rest of the group. Shota was standing away from everyone else; he was trying to watch Maru.  The bass player gave him a small wave. Shota began to walk to them.


"We'll get you bandaged up, and then we'll get back to the group." Ryo promised.


"All right," Maru agreed.


'How's the patient doing?" Shota tried to keep his voice light, but his eyes were worried.


"He's fine," Ryo bandaged Maru's arms. Then Ryo applied a bandage to Maru's scrapped forehead.


"Really Maruyama kun, how are you doing?" Shota looked into Maru's eyes.


"I'll be fine," Maru promised. "I have a good doctor."


Ryo smiled as he finished working on Maru. Finally the last bandage was fastened. "There, it should be all right."


"Thanks Ryo,"


Ryo looked into his eyes and smiled. "I'm glad to be of service."




It was Maru's turn to shine. Maru was the one that was always the funny one. Ryo thought it was strange, when given responsibility, Maru suddenly stopped being funny. Instead he was very serious.


The group had a ten kilometer hike, but all the time Maru knew where he was going.  For the cameras he acted lost, but the group knew it was just an act. He would always have the rest consult the map with him.  Then he would subtly gesture towards the direction they should go on.


Ryo walked beside Maru. He had grown closer to Maru in the past few weeks. Ryo could still remember the day he had discovered the reason for the bruises that peppered Maru's body. Yoko was the kind of lover who showed his love with his fists.


Ryo tried as hard as he could to stay at Maru's side. He wanted to make sure that Yoko kept his hands to himself. Maru needed a defender, and Ryo appointed himself to be that defender.


They arrived at the camp spot. It was a good spot, with shade and a water supply nearby. It wasn't too muddy.


"Can we take off our packs?" Subaru asked.


"Yes, this will be our camp." Hina told him.


Subaru took off his backpack then collapsed onto the ground. Shota and Yoko soon joined him.  They were quickly followed by Hina and Ohkura.


Ryo wasn't sure they were acting this way for the cameras. He was tired too, but he didn't want them to look bad. Besides, Maru had taken off his backpack and had gotten to work.


Ryo took off his backpack and joined Maru.


"What are you doing?"


"We need to start pitching tents." Maru glanced at the sky. 'We might have rain, so it's imperative that our tents are pitched."


Ryo didn't say anything; instead he concentrated on helping Maru. But after awhile he noticed that they were the only ones working. He felt in a way that the rest were picking on Maru by refusing to work.


He went to the rest of the group that was resting. "Get up!"


"We're taking a rest," Shota told him. "What would ten minutes hurt?"


"Maru says it's going to rain."


"What' does Maru know?" Yoko countered. "Nothing!"


"Maru has a lot more experience in this then you do!" Ryo felt his self control snap.


"Give us a few minutes and we'll help." Subaru told him.


"Get the fuck up you lazy shits!" Ryo screamed. "Maru isn't your fucking slave!"


"We'll help," Hina got to his feet. He nudged Ohkura who also stood up. Then Hina glared at the three that stayed on the ground. "If you don't help, you don't get to use the tents. I suggest you help!"





The rain started almost as soon as they got the last tent up. Maru was relived. He didn't want to be the one that was blamed for half the group getting wet. Yoko might beat him. His former lover had been more and more open about his abuse.


They had drawn lots for tent mates. Maru knew it had been rigged so that Hina could stay with Ohkura and Shota with Subaru. Ryo had chosen the ball that said that he would stay with Yoko. That meant that Maru got a tent to himself. Maru was afraid. He knew what would happen once everyone went to bed Yoko would join him in the tent.


He was surprised when the flap to his tent opened and a very wet Ryo came in, carrying his pack. He set the pack in the corner.


"What are you doing here?" Maru asked.


""I can't stay with Yoko." Ryo told him. "I knew we drew balls, but if I have to stay with Yoko I might strangle him."


"What did Yoko do this time?"


"He made you look bad on camera. Besides that, he hurt you badly when he pushed you down." he whispered. "I don't betray my friends."


That was one thing Maru really liked about Ryo; he was very loyal to his friends. Even though Ryo was very popular among Johnny’s, the people Ryo actually considered friends were very few. Maru had never been called friend by Ryo before.


"You're always welcome to stay with me." The bass player said truthfully. He took a towel out of his backpack and handed it to Ryo.


"Thanks," Ryo took the towel and dried himself off.


"I have something else for you," Maru rummaged around in his bag, taking out cigarettes and a small ashtray.


"I thought you didn't like my smoking." Ryo reminded him. "That's why I never smoke around you."


"I'm not too crazy about it," Maru admitted. 'But you're an addict."


"I can go outside and smoke."


"It's all right, you can smoke here." Maru smiled at him.


Ryo took a cigarette out. He felt in his pocket, he still had his lighter. He lit his cigarette and took a long drag. It felt good to know that Maru understood him. He had accepted Ryo just the way he was, not demanding he change. Ryo felt his heart soften any more. Perhaps when they were finished camping, they might possibly have a future together.

.  *****


Shota and Maru were in the kitchen tent, getting the things together for the campfire activities the group had been invited to. Maru wasn't sure what Ryo was doing. The producers needed him for a shot without Maru.  So Maru worked with Shota. The guitar player was his oldest friend in the group. He was never on his guard around Shota.


Shota scurried around, trying to get ready, chatting almost constantly. Maru knew that his friend had become very nervous after they had been told about spending the day with Ranger Girl Scouts.


"What's bothering you Yassan?" Maru asked.


"What do we do at a campfire?" Shota asked Maru as they packed.


"We go, we eat. Then we sing songs." Maru tried to explain. "Perhaps we'll even play some games."


"With girls?"  Shota sounded worried. "I mean this place is crawling with high school girls. What did you call them? Rangers?"


"Well, this is a Girl Scout camp." Maru pointed out.


"It's just..."


"You don't want to pretend around girls?" Maru asked gently.


"I know we have to." Shota confessed. "It's just since Subaru and I've gotten close, I feel like its cheating."


"We're not dating them."  Maru reminded him. "Think of it as just filming a show."


"You must understand, after all you and Ryo are dating."


"You think I'm with Ryo," Maru realized.


"Don't you worry that Ryo's bi?" Shota continued. "He like girls."


"I'm not worried because I'm not his." Maru pointed out.


'But you want to be his?" Shota persisted. "He's got an open relationship with Yamapi. They’re both free to date others."


"Ryo's relationship with Yamapi isn't really my business." Maru tried to sound unworried. "It's really isn't yours either."


Maru went back to working, he felt like he was lying to Shota. Ryo had become more than just a friend to him. They weren't lovers, not quite. He wasn't sure what the relationship he had with Ryo. But Shota was right, Ryo had a boy friend.


"I need to back up a bit don't I?" Maru finally asked Shota.


"You act like you're in love with him."


"I do?"


"It's better for you in the long run if you give him some space." Shota paused. "You don't want to get hurt again."


"You're right of course," Maru decided. "From now on I'll watch myself."




The group hiked to the Girl Scout troop’s area. Maru had briefed the group on what to expect. They would spend the day doing activities, then in the evening sit around a campfire.


Ryo walked alone behind Maru. His friend had been strangely silent since he had packed for the campfire with Shota. He didn't look or talk to Ryo. It's was almost as if Ryo wasn't there.


 Ryo had a feeling that something wasn't quite right. Shota and Subaru had been hovering around Maru. Perhaps they were having problems. That was one good thing about Maru; he liked to help his friends.


So Ryo concentrated on watching Yoko. Maru's ex lover was walking with Hina and Ohkura. He hadn't acted up since the time he pushed down Maru, but Ryo was afraid it was simply a matter of time.


Ryo quickened his pace so that he was beside Maru. "Ryuhei-Chan, how long is it until we get there?"


"Not far," he sounded distracted.  "I think that it would be best if we paired with others."




"He doesn't want to talk to you." Subaru said getting between Ryo and Maru.


"I don't understand, we're friends." Ryo said.


"You've gotten too close to him." Subaru snapped. "What are you going to say when you get back to Tokyo? What's Yamapi going to say when he finds out about Maru?"


"Ryuhei is none of Yamapi's business!" Ryo growled back.


"I just need some time," Maru told him. "Please Ryu-chan."


"If that's what you want." Ryo decided.


"It's what has to be," Subaru pulled Maru away from Ryo, they walked quickly to Shota.




Soon the group arrived at the Girl Scout troop’s camp site. Ryo knew what to expect from the girl scouts, what happened every time he got near a group of girls.  Ryo was surprised that the girl's didn't scream when they saw them. 


The girl scouts were working on various things. Some were cooking, others working on crafts. A couple looked up from what they were doing, but then got back to work.


The leader finally greeted them. Ryo stood with the group like he had hundreds of times. He tried to keep his mind on the leader, not the person standing next to him. Maru wanted time. He knew someone said something to him. But he couldn't do anything about it.


They were told they would have to break up into pairs. The camera person followed Hina and Yoko as they went to have a separate meeting with the leader.


 Subaru grabbed Maru's hand, "We'll be together."


"Then I'll take Ryo-Chan," Shota's eyes flashed with jealousy.


"All right," Ryo sighed.


"You don't mind do you?" Maru asked him gently.


"I don't really get a choice do I?" Ryo snapped. "Suddenly you're not my friend, and I can't figure out why."


"I'm getting too close to you," Maru tried to explain. "I'm really falling for you. I like you a whole lot, but you have someone else."


"Ryuhei-Chan," Ryo breathed. "You wanted to know why I was being texted while we waited for the bus."


"It doesn't matter anymore."


"It does to me!" he insisted. "It means everything to me!"


"Ryo, we're being filmed." Maru reminded him gently.


"I know, I know. We're always being filmed." Ryo suddenly needed a cigarette. He knew he had some back at the camp, but he couldn't use them. They were really Maru's.




The group did various activities with the Girl Scouts. They learned to tie knots by making friendship bracelets.


“Why do we have to make bracelets?” Ryo complained. “What are they for?”


"When you make these, you have to think of someone you like." Eri the Girl Scout that had been assigned to help Ryo and Shota explained. 


"Someone we like? Like a girl friend?" Shota asked.


"You could make it for a best friend. Sometimes it’s good to share things with your friends."  Eri smiled. "What kind of string do you want?"


"I want something that goes with orange. My best friend really likes orange." Ryo decided. 


The girl left him to get some more thread.  The cameraman followed her.


"Did you mean what you said to Maru?" Shota whispered when they were finally alone.


"Of course I did,"


"What were you going to tell him?" Shota asked.


Ryo decided to tell Shota the truth. "Maru needs to know I broke up with Yamapi."


"You left Yamapi?" Shota sounded like he didn't believe him.


 "When I found someone that I want to protect with my life, I realized that my other life was a lie. I'm closer to Ryuhei then I've ever been with Yamapi" Ryo admitted. "All we used to do was hunt for new lovers. I'm tired of hunting. I want someone who I know loves only me."


"You love him," Shota realized.


"I think I found the right stuff." Eri came back, carrying some string, the cameraman following her.


Ryo concentrated on making his bracelet. He glanced at the girl who was an expert at making knots, she was helping Shota. Ryo decided that he would give the bracelet to Maru.  Perhaps, just perhaps Maru might be his friend again.





Ryo looked up to the sky; it hadn't warmed up at all. The sky was grey and miserable. It was a good weather to curl up and read a book, but they were stuck outside doing task after task for the challenge. He was beginning to think this entire challenge thing was stupid. Really, really stupid. The Girl scouts were a bit on the cute side, but they were too young for Ryo. Besides for some reason they seemed to gather around Maru, which made Ryo jealous. So jealous he wanted to go to the girls and tell them to leave Maru alone.


Ryo was also going through nicotine withdrawal which made his mood even worse then it usually was. He thought it was stupid for the camp to have a rule that forbade smoking. Yes he was well aware of the danger of fires, but couldn't they understand how it was like to really, really need a smoke?


Ryo had a reputation of being angry all the time, but he wasn't usually. Most of the time Ryo was frustrated. Frustrated that half the group never believed half of what he said, simply because of something that happened when he first joined the agency.


Kanjani 8 were gathering leaves, it was one of their tasks.  It was one of the few times that the cameras weren't following them. Ryo didn't like the leaf gathering. It was stupid, really stupid. It was something that he did in grade school. But they had to pretend that they liked it. Ryo was sick of pretending on camera that he was excited about everything.


"What is it with you and Maru?" Subaru brought up the thing that made Ryo the most frustrated. The group kept poking its nose into his relationship with Maru.


"What do you mean what is it with me and him?" Ryo repeated.


"I've noticed you've spent a lot of time with him."


"Your point?" Ryo couldn't keep the hostility out of his voice.


"Maru's a nice guy. He might not understand that all this attention is just you being friendly to him." Subaru began.


"Is that what you think?" Ryo interrupted harshly


"It's what we all think." Subaru's voice dropped. "I don't want you to hurt him."


"I won't do that,"


"He really likes you," Subaru told him. "He doesn't realize that with your open relationship with Yamapi that he's just a lay to you. He thinks you like him the way he likes you."


Maru came back into sight. As usual, Maru was surrounded by a group of adoring Girl Scouts. Maru smiled when he saw Ryo. For the first time, Ryo realized it was a special smile.


"Ryo-Chan," Subaru growled. "I mean it, stay away from him."


"You don't understand, I like him too." Ryo snapped.  'And yes I mean that way! So stay out of our business."


Shota walked to Subaru, he was carrying a handful of leaves. Shota really liked the challenge of gathering leaves.


"Babu Chan, I need to talk to you," Shota smiled.


"You need to talk to me?" Suddenly Subaru's mood changed.


"Did you know that Ryo-Chan’s in love with Maru-Chan?" Shota asked his voice playful.


"He's not in love with him."


"Come on Babu, we need to have a long talk."  Shota guided Subaru away from Ryo.


Ryo wanted punch Shota. He had told him a secret, and the idiot had blabbed it to Subaru. Ryo knew it was only a matter of time before his secret got out to the rest of the group including Yoko. Once that happened, Maru would be in terrible danger.





The group gathered around the Girl Scout leader. Again it was time to have a challenge. Ryo stood off a bit to himself. His friend was in a bad mood. Maru knew it had to do with the fact that his friend was probably exhausted. He hadn't had a day off in over a month.


Shota had told Maru a secret. The guitar player told him that Ryo was in love with Maru. That was something the Maru couldn't believe unless he heard it from Ryo.


"The next challenge is first aid." The Girl Scout leader told them.  "For this activity, one group of four will work together; the other group will have three."


"I'm not working with Yoko." Ryo said harshly.


"The groups have all ready been decided," Hina told Ryo. "You'll be working with Ohkura, Shota and Maru."


"Come on Ryo-Chan!" Shota said brightly. "It will be fun."


"Sure it will." Ryo plastered on a fake smile. There was always frustration behind his eyes.


Soon they group went to their side of the camp. Ryo hadn't talked or looked at Maru since they were put in the team. Instead, he chatted to Ohkura. Maru tried to fight down his jealousy. Ohkura had once been a boy friend of Ryo's. They still considered each other good friends. Most of Ryo's ex boyfriends considered him a friend. Maru would have to put the jeliousy behind him, if he was going to like someone who gave his love as freely as Ryo. Besides, Ryo wasn't his. He was with Yamapi Maru reminded himself for the millionth time.


There was a table in their area. Shota picked up a piece of paper and began to read to himself.  Soon Ohkura joined him at the table.


That gave Maru the chance to get closer to Ryo.  "Ryo-Chan, are you angry at me?"


"Of course not," Ryo's eyes were frustrated. "I just need a smoke."


"I didn't agree to Subaru and Shota separating us." he admitted.


"You didn't?"


"I wanted to stay with you." Maru confessed. "We make a good team."


Ryo's eyes changed, they went from the cold and frustrated look to warm, happy. "Maru-Chan, I think you need to know...."


"All right love birds, enough of that!" Shota teased. "The cameras are coming!"


Ryo glared at Shota. "I HATE CAMERAS!"




The team jankined to see which one was the once that pretended to be hurt. Since Maru won, he got to lie on the ground while everyone else took care of him. The ever present cameras were filming them.


"I think my leg is broken." Maru said as he played his part.


"You need help now." Ryo insisted.


You'll have to be the one to help me." Maru suddenly became very serious. ““Use the book. There should be something in there."


Ryo took out the reprinted handbook. He looked up broken leg in the first aid section.


"I'm going to put a splint on your leg?" Ryo asked has he read the book.


"Will it hurt?"


"Yes, it will." he said honestly. "But it needs to be done."


"All right," he nodded.


Ryo found two thick sticks. Then he wrapped his ankle and applied the splint.


"I have to get you to help," Ryo decided. "I'll have to carry you to help."


"Maru's too heavy to carry." Ohkura pointed out.


"Why don't we make a stretcher?" Shota suggested.




Soon Shota and Ryo were working on the stretcher. They were weaving cord in a frame that they had made. The frame was long, and one side the poles stuck out a meter.  The cameras had moved onto the other team, so they worked alone.


Ohkura had been put in charge of being Maru's minder. Pretending to care for the injured patient.


"What's bothering you?" Ohkura asked him. "Is it Yoko again?"


 "The only thing I want from Yoko is for him to leave me alone." Maru looked at Ryo who was hard at work on his task. "You're still close to Ryo, aren't you?"


"You think me and Ryo?" Ohkura guessed.  That was one thing that Ohkura was good at, guessing what people were thinking.


"It doesn't matter; I'm not really with him."


"Ryo and I were just fuck buddies. We never had anything serious." Ohkura told him. "Nothing like what you have with him."


"But I don't have anything with him." Maru insisted.


"Oh yes you do." Ohkura gave him a knowing smile. "You have to be understanding of Ryo-Chan; He's never been in love before."


"But he's had so many lovers." Maru pointed out.


"But love is a different thing then simply being a lover." Ohkura reminded him.





It was dark outside. The group had built a large campfire. Kanjani 8 and the Girl Scouts sat around the campfire. Ryo was still going through nicotine withdrawals, but knew the campfire was the last activity of the night.


"Next is the bracelet ceremony," The Ranger leader told them. "Everyone has to get up one by one and give the bracelet they made to a friend, and state a reason."


When it came to Ryo, he stood up. "I made this for my friend Maruyama-kun. The reason I'm giving it to him is because until recently, I didn't realize how good a friend he was. Now I know that the group wouldn't be the same without him."


Ryo handed the bracelet to Maru, who bowed formally. "Thank you."


Ryo sat back down. He watched as Subaru gave his bracelet to Hina, Hina gave his bracelet to Okura, Shota gave his bracelet to Subaru, and Subaru gave his bracelet to Shota.


Yoko stood up. "I give this bracelet to Maruyama-kun. The reasons why: He is always such a good friend."


Maru took the bracelet from Yoko, he bowed and said thank you. Instead of doing what everyone else did, he sat down by Ryo.


Yoko gave a stupid smile, and then sat back down.


"Maruyama Kun, it's your turn." The leader told him.


"I want to give this to Nishikido Kun," Maru told the group. "I've gone through a lot lately in my life. Nishikido Kun has been there as a friend. Without him, I'm not sure what would have happened."


Maru gave the bracelet to Ryo and sat down.


The Girl Scouts began to exchange their bracelets.


"Ryo-Chan, will you put my bracelet on me?" Maru whispered as he held out his arm.


"Sure," Ryo tied the bracelet around his friend’s wrist. When he was finished, he smiled a bit. "Can you tie my bracelet?"


"Of course," Maru gave him a special smile as he tied the bracelet around his wrist. "Now everyone will know you're my best friend."


"Best friend, no one's ever called me that." Ryo admitted.


"You're very special to me Ryo-chan. I love you." Maru admitted before he turned back to the campfire.


Ryo could feel the bracelet on his arm.  It felt good that someone would make something special for him. Then Maru moved closer to him, so they were sitting close. He wanted to reach out, to touch Maru, but as always they were being filmed. This time, for the first time, Ryo realized that Maru was his.

After the bracelet ceremony, Ryo thought that the group would return to their camp. Instead, they were told they would spend the night at the Girl Scout camp. Maru had told Ryo he knew about an out of the way place that no one would see them.  It was a little area surrounded by trees. Ryo had passed it several times without a second glance.


"Remind me to always take you camping with me." Ryo told Maru. "You know all the good spots."


"It's nothing," Maru said modestly. He took something out of his pocket. "I found some more cigarettes for you."


"Where did you find them?" Ryo asked as he took them. "I thought Girl Scouts weren't allowed to smoke at camp."


"I told them that the famous Nishikido Ryo was badly in need of a cigarette. You wouldn't believe how quickly they found some for you." Maru smiled. "Go ahead, the cameramen won't come here."


"All right." Ryo lit a cigarette, took a long drag and let it out. It felt so good to have a cigarette.


They chatted for a while. Ryo quickly finished his cigarette. He shoved the rest into his pocket, for later.  He knew that Maru didn't like his smoking, and he didn't want to expose his friend to too much smoke.


 "I wanted to thank you for giving me the bracelet."  Ryo told his friend.


"What will Yamapi say when he sees it?" Maru teased gently.


"I don't care what he says." Ryo admitted.


"You have one of those kind of relationships, don't you?" Maru said sadly. 


"Those kind of relationships?"


"I mean open," Maru corrected. "You don't belong to each other. So both of you date others. But in the end you always return to your real lover. The other is just a sexual partner."


"That's not what you are to me..." Ryo began.


"It's all right," Maru smiled sadly. "Your friendship means a lot to me. I just read more into it then should have been there. I thought there was a chance we could be together." Maru looked away from him embarrassed. "Please Ryo-Chan, don't tell anyone about this. They'll laugh at my one sided love for you."


"There's something you should know. Something I've been trying to tell you since we came to this camp." Ryo told him. "I broke up with Yamapi when we waited for the bus at the airport."


"You've been with Yamapi since NEWS was formed. That's a really long time." Maru reminded him.


"I know, but the problem is:  I never loved him, I love someone else. Someone who’s everything to me."  Ryo asked. "I broke up with Yamapi because I really like you."


"You do?"


"Perhaps my one sided love for you can meet your one sided love for me." Ryo touched Maru's chin, turning his head towards him. Then he kissed the taller man very gently on the lips.




The producers wanted to talk to Ryo alone. Maru decided to go to the rest room. To call it a rest room would be an overstatement. Instead, it was an outhouse.


"Ryuhei, I want to talk to you." Yoko told Maru as soon as he left the outhouse.


"There's nothing that needs to be said." The bass player told him.


"Why did you refuse to sit by me after I gave you my bracelet?" Yoko asked.


"I didn't feel like sitting by you."  Maru tried to sound casual.


"Why aren't you wearing my bracelet?" he grabbed Maru's wrist, his grip got stronger, and the bass player yelped in pain. "You're wearing his. Why would you wear that slut's bracelet?"


"Ryo-Chan’s not a slut!"


"Come back to me," Yoko told him as he pulled him close. "I'll forgive you for falling for that baka."


"I don't want to be with you!" Maru struggled against Yoko.


Yoko kissed Maru hard on the mouth. Yoko's grip on Maru's arm relaxed just a second. It was enough to allow Maru to get his arm free. Then he pushed Yoko as hard as he could away from him.


Yoko countered by punching Maru hard across the face. Maru fell to the ground. Yoko took out a pocket knife, with a flick, the blade came out.


"Leave me alone!" Maru screamed.


"Ryo put you up to this, didn't he?" Yoko demanded. "That asshole thinks he can have my girl!"


"I'm not a girl, I'm a man."


"You're a girl if I say you're a girl!" Yoko kicked Maru hard in the stomach. "Where's your bitch? He can't always guard you!"


"Leave me alone," Maru gasped.


"He's just like me!" Yoko thundered as he kicked Maru in the face. "You watched that drama he was in. He beat his woman, the same way I beat you!"


"The drama wasn't real. It was only a part that Ryo played." Maru breathed. "Please Kimi, leave me alone."


"Never! You're mine! You'll always be mine!" He slashed at Maru, cutting his cheek "If you don't do as I say, I'll kill you."


"The man said he wanted to be left alone." The unmistakable voice of Ryo told him.


Yoko turned to face the younger man. Ryo didn't give him a chance; he hit him as hard as he could. Yoko fell to the ground.


Ryo grabbed Maru's hand. "Come on; let's go back to the camp."








Ryo thought the group would return to their own camp area after the campfire. Instead they were told they would spend the night with the girls. The group had been given two large tents to share.  Maru, Ryo, Subaru and Shota shared a tent.


Maru and Ryo were the first go into the tent. Ryo unfastened the first aid kit that they all wore around their waist. He took out an alcohol pad and cleaned Maru's cut cheek. Then he covered it with a bandage.


"There, it's all taken care of." Ryo's voice was soothing. "The cut wasn't big at all."


"I'm sorry I was so weak," Maru apologized.


"You're not weak Ryuhei." Ryo touched Maru's cheek. "Does it hurt?"


"Yeah, a little." he admitted.


Ryo's lips caressed the hurt cheek. "I wish I could make it go away."


"Thank you for rescuing me."


"All part of the job." Ryo kissed Maru gently on the lips.  This was everything Ryo always wanted. Maru put his arms around the smaller man, pulling him close.


Ryo heard a noise behind him. He let go of Maru and turned. Shota and Subaru came into the tent.  "What are you doing here?"


"We're sharing a tent, remember?" Shota asked.


"I hate this camp!" Ryo pulled away from Maru. "By the time we wake up, everyone's going to know about Maru and I aren't they?"


"No one's going to find out!" Shota put an arm around Subaru. "Are they Babu?"


"They all ready know darling," Subaru told his lover. "You blabbed it to everyone, including the girls."


The four men settled down to bed.  Soon Shota was snoring. 


Ryo couldn't sleep. All he could think of was Maru lying beside him. His friend loved him. The thought made him happy inside. He felt as if his whole world was new.  He didn't want to go to sleep. Didn't want any of this to end.


Ryo's sleeping bag was beside Maru's.  "Ryuhei, are you still awake?"


"Yeah, I am."  Maru turned so that he was facing Ryo.


"I wanted you to know, I've never been in love before." he confessed. He closed his eyes, waiting for Maru to laugh.


Instead of laughing, the older man reached out, touching Ryo's cheek. "Thank you for giving me the honor of being your first love."


"It feels wonderful." Ryo whispered.


"Love always feels wonderful." Maru moved his hand so that he was holding Ryo's in his.


"Why do I suddenly feel like the virgin who’s never been with a man before?" Ryo asked. "I've been with so many, I've lost count."


"Perhaps it's because you didn't love them." Maru squeezed his hand. 


"I've always felt so special when I'm around you."


"That's because you are special Ryo, very, very special."  Maru kissed him gently.


"I'm even looking forwards to fishing tomorrow." Ryo told him. "Fishing's always been boring, but if I'm with you. I don't think it will."


"Will you two shut up and go to sleep!" Subaru said loudly. "When we get back home you can spend a week in bed if you want."


"You want?" Ryo asked Maru.


"Oh yes, I want." Maru said seductively. Then he pulled away from Ryo. "Good night Ryo-chan."






Maru got out his badge book. He was the one that was keeping track of what the group was earning. He put a check by each of the requirements in the flower finder badge. One more badge. The group had earned four. They had to do six to complete the challenge. 



They would fish in pairs. What they caught would be dinner.  Ryo had been the one that picked out their tackle and poles. He had fished a lot with his grandfather when he was a kid.


A camera crew followed them. Ryo wished they could go away.  He wanted to spend time alone with Maru. They had shared a few kisses. He wanted to do a lot more than just kissing in secret, but they couldn't with the cameras bothering them.


"Know any out of the way places we can fish?" Ryo asked Maru as he brought the items to him.


"Sure, several." Maru shrugged. "I know of a good fishing spot, it isn't even far from the camp." 


"I never used to like fishing," Ryo admitted. "But now I do."


"So do I," Maru looked at him and smiled. That was when Ryo realized he wanted to spend his life at Maru's side. 


Maru's lips beckoned to Ryo, but he couldn't do anything. The camera crew was filming them.


"We better get fishing," Maru finally said.


"You're right, we better." he agreed.



Ryo felt so good when he was with Maru. It wasn't like Yamapi or any other boy friend he had ever had. He had been friends with Maru first. He kept his real self hidden, but he realized that he could show that real self to Maru and his friend wouldn't laugh.





Ryo was smiling more. That made Maru feels good. He loved it when Ryo smiled. He never liked the fake smiles Ryo did from the camera, those smiles always seemed insane to Maru, but the real smiles were something different. 


The camera crew filmed Maru fishing with Ryo for a while, and then they left. Ryo seemed to visibly relax as soon as they were alone.


"I am so glad they’re gone." Ryo confessed.


"I am too,"


Ryo looked at him, really looked at him. Then he kissed Maru very gently on the lips. "I've wanted to do that all afternoon."



They kissed again. Maru was afraid to do much more. The camera crew might return.  They pulled away from each other. Maru took his hand. "Why don't we discuss this more tonight?"


"Tonight?" Ryo suddenly sounded as if he was deep in thought. Then he nodded and smiled his wonderful smile. "All right, tonight."


Maru realized that someone was standing behind Ryo. It was Yoko, and he looked furious. The sun glinted off his open pocket knife. He advanced towards Maru. Suddenly Maru could hear Hina calling for Yoko. The older man closed his knife, and then walked away from them.

****Maru had camped a lot in his life. He had spent countless hours at the Girl Scout camp. Usually it was to help his little sister's troop. This time it was different, he was with his group, his friends. There was something else; something that Maru had never thought would happen again. He had fallen in love.


Finally, after spending the day with the Girl Scouts, the group returned to their own camp.


Maru was preparing the fish they had caught for dinner. He looked across the table, to the one that had helped him catch the fish. Ryo smiled again. He loved Ryo's smile. So warm, from the heart.


"What are you thinking of?" Ryo's smile grew wider.


"How lucky I am to have you." Maru admitted. "How wonderful you are."


"You're wonderful too." Ryo paused. "We won't have roommates tonight."


"I know," Maru smiled back. Then he caught sight of Yoko, watching them from several meters away.


"What is it?" Ryo looked where Maru was looking.


"Yoko's been following us around." Maru whispered. "He's got a pocket knife."


"Don't be afraid." Ryo tried to soothe. "You have me now. I won't let him hurt you."


'You're right, I do." Maru smiled again.


Maru knew that Ryo couldn't be with him all the time. There would be times Ryo returned to Tokyo to work with NEWS. No matter what Ryo wanted, he couldn't always protect Maru.


The bass player had a feeling that time he would have another run in with Yoko. He just hoped that when it did happen, that no one else would get hurt.



It was another night of Ryo and Maru sharing a tent. Ryo was frustrated that all he had done with Maru the night before was hold hands before they fell asleep.


"It's going to be cold tonight," Ryo told Maru.


"No it's not," Maru corrected him.


"I heard it was." he glanced at the camera, and then gestured to the two of them.


"Your right, it might be cold again." Maru agreed. "I was freezing last night."


"If we zip our sleeping bags together, we might be warmer." Ryo suggested.


"You're right, we might." His friend smiled.


They set out to get ready for the night, zipping their sleeping bags together.  They put in on the floor of the tent.


"That looks much better." Maru told him.


They shut the tents flap, keeping the prying eyes of the camera out. The cameras could film from the outside of the tent, but not the inside. Both knew that they also had the microphones. Maru was the first to turn his off. He put his in the storage bag. Soon Ryo's microphone was turned off.


Maru slowly began to take off his clothes. Ryo had seen Maru nude many, many times. But this time it felt different. His friend was doing it for him.


"Are you going to keep your clothes on?" Maru asked almost seductively.


"My clothes." Ryo repeated.


"Let me help you." Maru helped him off with his shirt, and then kissed him.


"We better get into our sleeping bag. We don't want to get caught." Ryo said between kisses.


They got into the sleeping bag. Then Maru was kissing his lips again. His hands running over Ryo's body.


"Ryuhei-Chan?" Ryo asked.


"Yeah," Maru breathed as he bit down lightly on Ryo's neck.


"Did you bring any lube?"


"Any lube? You mean you forgot the lube?" Maru teased as he wrapped his hand around Ryo's hardness and began to stroke.


"Yeah, I did." Ryo groaned.


"That's okay, I brought some." Maru let go of Ryo, he rolled over and took something out of his backpack. "The Scout's motto is be prepared."


All Ryo could think of was his hunger for Maru. He kissed him back hard, forcing his tongue into Maru's mouth. His new lover caressed his tongue, as he did he pressed the lube into Ryo's hand.




Ryo had insisted that they zip their sleeping bags together.  It made Maru feel closer to his new lover. Maru had expected Ryo to leave as soon as they were finished loving, instead Ryo snuggled against him. Ryo had been such a sensitive lover, more worried about how Maru felt then himself. Maru didn’t want to ever get out of bed.


“I’ve been wondering, why Hina doesn’t trust you." Maru asked.


"He knows me." Ryo told him. "I've spent most of my life being a self centered brat."


"You're not a brat." Maru insisted.


"I used to be, back when I was one of the up and coming stars." he said. "When I first became a Johnny, I used to make up stories. Hina’s never forgiven me for that.”


"So what made you change?"


"Your friendship, I've never had anyone trust me unconditionally." he confessed.  "When I'm with you, I'm not afraid to show you the real Ryo."


"I like the real Ryo," Maru moved closer to him. "I like him a lot."


Ryo moved a lock of Maru’s hair out of his eyes, and then suddenly the younger man was kissing him. As he did, he ran his hands across Maru's body.


"You're mine, no one else’s." Ryo whispered between kisses.


 Then Maru put his arms around him, pulling him close. It felt so good to be held by Ryo.  Maru knew that was different, he wouldn't betray him. For the first time in a very long time, Maru was happy.




Morning finally came. Ryo didn’t want to get out of bed. He finally had Maru. Ryo had a strange feeling that the night they shared would be the only time they would be together.  He was more afraid Yoko doing something to Maru than he had admitted.


His new lover was more sensible.  Maru smiled at him as he dressed. “We have to work today.”


“I know it’s just…” Ryo began.


“We can be together tonight,” Maru kissed Ryo gently.


They got dressed and almost as soon they left the tent, a production assistant ran up to Ryo, carrying a clip board.


“So this is where you went.” The assistant told them.


“Sorry, we slept in.” Maru apologized.


"Nishikido Kun, the producer needs to speak to you," The production assistant ordered.


Ryo looked at Maru, who smiled at him. "It's all right."


Ryo left with the assistant. Ryo looked back to Maru, who smiled at him. He hoped that he would finish the meeting soon, and be back at Maru’s side.




As soon as Ryo was finished with the producer. He went back to the camp.  He looked around. Maru was gone. .


Ryo finally found Maru, who was in the tent that doubled as the kitchen. The older man held one of his arms, it was bleeding!


Yoko stood in front of him holding his pocket knife. 


"It's Ryo isn't it?" Yoko mocked. "You've decided he's your prince charming.  You've slept with him! I heard you last night. You're going to die for what you've done."


Ryo rushed into the kitchen, not before Yoko lunged at Maru. His lover screamed inhumanely as he was stabbed in the stomach.


"Please Kimi, don't hurt Ryo-chan." Maru said as he collapsed to the ground.  "It’s my fault, I seduced Ryo."


"He's going to die too!" Yoko declared as he pulled the knife out of Maru.



Ryo realized he had to help. He ran to his lover. He gave Yoko a hard shove, trying to get him away from Maru.


 Maru looked up to him. "Ryo-Chan, get away. Please, if you love me, save yourself."


Yoko spun around stabbing Ryo with the knife. He could feel the pain as the knife entered him. Ryo had never imagined that being stabbed would hurt so much. He moved towards Yoko, but the pain grew too much.  Ryo sank to the ground.


Ryo realized that he had failed Maru. He couldn't protect him. It took all his strength to crawl to Maru, protecting his lover's body with his. 


Ryo could feel the knife plunge into his back. Then Yoko pulled the knife out and stabbed Ryo one more time. 


Ryo could hear voices, one being Hina. Someone tackled Yoko. He could hear someone screaming that Yoko had fallen on his knife and he wasn’t breathing.  Yoko’s condition didn't matter to Ryo. The only thing that mattered to Ryo was Maruyama Ryuhei.


"Ryo-Chan," Maru gasped.


"I'm here," Ryo realized he was going to die.  He took Maru's hand in his.


"We're dying aren't we?" Maru asked.


"Why do you say that?" He fought the blackness that tried to overcome him.


"My wounds have stopped hurting. You've been hurt worse than me." Maru's voice was only a whisper. 


"I love you," Ryo whispered.


"I love you too. There's a light, it's so beautiful. Go towards it. Don't be afraid." Maru's eyes closed, and Ryo realized that his lover had stopped breathing.


Ryo could feel hands on him, trying to take him away from Maru. With his remaining strength he held onto Maru's hand.


 He could see a light, Maru had been right, it was beautiful. The pain from his wounds faded into nothingness. He stopped fighting the blackness, and let it take over everything.



Ryo woke; he could hear a strange noise. There was an oxygen mask on his face. He hated oxygen masks; they always made him feel like he was suffocating. There was something around his neck, it felt like some kind of neck brace.  Ryo was in agony, his stab wounds felt like they had punctured his soul. He tried to move, but his arms and legs were strapped down.


"Nishikido-kun, try and stay still." A voice told him.


"Where am I?" Ryo opened his eyes.


"You're on a med-flight helicopter." The paramedic explained.


He could hear the paramedics working on someone else. Was it Maru? Had his lover survived?


"We need to call him." the second paramedics said. “He’s obviously dead.”


"We'll wait until we get on the ground." the first paramedic told him.


"What's going on?" Ryo finally croaked.


"Don't worry, you'll be all right." A third person told him.


"Maruyama-kun, did he survive?" Ryo asked.


"He's in a different helicopter," the first person explained. "We can't tell you anything else."


Ryo could feel his eyes grow heavy, then he fell back to sleep.



Ryo woke. He was in a hospital room. He had some type of bandage wrapped around his chest. His wounds still hurt. He couldn’t remember much of what happened after the being on the helicopter. He had vague memories of an operating room, and a mask being put on his face.


Ryo looked around the room. There were other beds in the room. In the corner of the room was a desk that a nurse worked on paperwork. 


"What am I doing here?" Ryo gasped.


The nurse walked to him, carrying a chart. “You’re in recovery. You had an operation to repair your wounds.”


“I was stabbed.”


"Do you remember what happened to you?" The nurse asked.


"Yokoyama Yu stabbed me." He paused. "I was with a friend when I was attacked. His name's Maruyama Ryuhei."


"Maruyama Ryuhei," the person wrote down something in a chart. “Is Maruyama Kun all right?"


"Yokoyama-kun lost a lot of blood." The woman told him. "We weren't able to save him."


"What about Maruyama Kun?" Ryo asked.


"He’s fine."  She was lying. Ryo could tell she was.


The nurse checked Ryo and then she went back to the desk.


Ryo hated himself. He had promised Maru he would protect him. He had promised and he had lied. He had overheard that someone had died. He knew it had to be Maru.


Another nurse came into the room. She checked Ryo over, but wouldn't tell him anything. She put a television remote where he could reach it. Then she was gone.


Ryo turned on the TV. He looked for some news. He finally found a news channel. There was a report on the life of Yokoyama Yu.  He had been stabbed in the same attack that had injured Ryo and Maru. Yoko was dead.


Ryo wanted to throw his remote. He didn't care if Yoko was killed; all he could worry about was Maru.  He could feel something on his arm. He had an IV tube connected to a shunt on his left wrist, and on his right wrist was the bracelet Maru had made for him.




Ryo was soon transferred to a private room. He didn’t like the room, with the guard outside the door. He was so weak that he couldn’t get up and look for Maru. He knew if he could only search for Maru, he would be able to find him.


People began to visit. Ryo was told that Hina had been the one to get Yoko off of Ryo. He had fallen on his knife, and had died on the way to the hospital. .  Because of what happened, Hina was suspected of murdering Yoko. He had been arrested.


Ryo asked about Maru, and had been simply told he was resting. Even his friends in the group insisted that Maru was recovering. None of them gave Ryo any details. That fact made Ryo wonder if his friends were lying to him. He slowly realized that Maru had died.


"Hello Ryo-Chan," a woman said as she came into the room. "How are you doing?"


Ryo looked at the woman. It was someone who Ryo had always tried to avoid. She was rude, gruff and had an acid tongue. He didn’t know why his father insisted that Ryo was so much like her. His father had beaten him often when he was a child to break him of his mother’s sprit.


 "What are you doing here?" Ryo sighed.


"I'm your mother.” She set a basket of fruit on the bedside table. “The agency informed me that you were stabbed, so I came right away."


"I see," Ryo didn't want to argue with his mother.


"Now that you're healing, you'll be getting back to work soon."  Nishikido San said encouragingly.


Ryo knew that his being hurt wasn’t the real reason his mother visited. She only ever had one reason to contact him; it was all about how much he could help his family.  "If you're worried I'll stop sending you money...."


"You have to help support the family." Nishikido San reminded him. "The sooner you get back to work, the sooner our family’s bills will be paid."


"If that's all you're worried about. I have a life insurance policy. You'll get money if I die." Ryo snapped.


"Good I'm glad." she looked him over. "The press has been speculating about your stabbing. Some say it was a lover's triangle or you walked into a murder suicide."


"You shouldn't read the tabloids." Ryo reminded her.


"How else would I learn anything about my son? You never call." She said accusingly.


"I get busy." Ryo growled. "I am in two groups!"


"Sometimes I wish I had listened to your father and kept you in boarding school."  She told him. "Then there wouldn't be all these rumors of you being gay in the press."


"I've told you before, I'm bisexual."


"So which one were you sleeping with? Yokoyama or Maruyama?" His mother demanded.


"Stay out of my business!" he thundered.


 "You are so ungrateful! I don’t know how I had such an ugly, stupid child!" Nishikido San snapped.


"How is my hating you because you sent me to boarding school at the age of six ungrateful?" he countered.


"We wanted the best for you!"


"Bull shit! You wanted me out of the way and you know it!" Ryo screamed. "If you want your money, you'll get it. But you're too late to be a real mother to me!"


"Fine, I'm leaving!" she stomped out of the room, pushing past Shota.


Ryo closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. He couldn’t lash out at his friend. Shota was one of the few people that told him the truth. The rest told him lies that he knew came from the agency.


"Who was that?" Shota asked as he came into the room.


"That was my mother." Ryo sighed.


"Now I can see were you got your temper." Shota mused. “Boy she’s mean. She didn’t even think of how you were just how much money you could give her!”


"Is there something you want?" Ryo demanded.


"I just wanted to tell you that the rest of the group has to return to Osaka."  Shota explained. "Hina's going to court in the morning, and the agency doesn't think it's a good idea if the rest of us are in town."


"I'm sorry I can't come with you."


"You worry about getting well." Shota told him.


"Hina and I never got along, but I do owe him for his saving my life." Ryo admitted. "I just wish it had been enough to save Ryuhei."


"Why do you think anything happened to Maru?" Shota said a little too innocently.


Ryo watched as Subaru came into the room. He looked exhausted.


"I was holding his hand when he died." Ryo told him. "I tried to protect him, and I couldn't. He died because of me!"


"Ryo-Chan, Maru isn't...."


"Shota, we have to go." Subaru interrupted them.


"But Babu!" Shota protested.  "Ryo needs to know the truth about Maru."


"It’s all right, I all ready know the truth." Ryo insisted.


"Ryo-Chan, you don't know the truth!" Shota countered.


"I'd rather face up to the fact that I lost him, instead of pretending until I get well." Ryo told them. "Have a good trip back to Osaka."




Ryo thought of what Shota said. Could his friend be alive? He knew everyone was lying to him so that he could get well. He would have to get someone to confirm what Shota told him. That was almost impossible, because no one would talk to him about Maru.


Jin Akanishi visited. He had given Ryo a made up excuse about why he was in Kyoto. Jin was an old friend of Ryo's and Ryo knew he could get Jin to tell him the truth.


"Jin, have you visited Maruyama kun?" Ryo asked.


"No, he's not on this floor." Jin looked even more clueless than usual.


"Where is he?"


"I'm not sure," Jin told him.


"Is Ryuhei alive?"


"I don't know," Jin confessed. "I don't know anyone who’s talked to him."


"He's dead," Ryo realized.


"We're not supposed to talk about Maruyama with you." Jin confessed.


"Who told you that?" Ryo snapped.


"Johnny-sama said it would affect your recovery." Jin paused.  "You and Maruyama?"


"He was very special to me." Ryo admitted. “Can you leave? I really want to be alone.”


“Sure, see you later.” Jin told him as he left.


Ryo realized that Maruyama was dead. He felt his heart breaking. He tried as hard as he could to keep the tears in. But they came anyway.


******Maruyama woke; he was in a hospital room. He could hear the pinging of a heart monitor. He really wasn't sure how he got here, the last thing he remembered was a bright light and Ryo holding his hand. He had other memories, most of them like dreams. That he was wearing a mask, and he was being operated on.


There was a brace on Maru's arm. He felt very weak and confused.


"You're finally awake," a familiar voice told him.


Maru looked around, his eyes centered on his father.


"How long have I been out?" Maru gasped.


"A week. You lost a great deal of blood in the attack." he tried to explain. “You were in a coma.”


"Ryo-Chan...I mean Nishikido-kun. Is he all right?" Maru asked concerned.


"From what I've been told, he's recovering. The agency has a guard outside of his door. They are restricting his visitors." Maruyama San looked him over. "I need to tell the nurses you're awake."


"All right," Maru still felt very weak.


With that, his father left the room.


Maru looked at the TV; it was on a news channel. There was a story on about Hina. There had been new evidence about Yoko's murder. The entire attack had been taped by one of the cameramen. The evidence was compelling, and the prosecutors had dropped all charges against Hina. There was a statement by the Johnny's agency that said that they were satisfied with the results of case. Hina was still the leader of Kanjani 8 and would return to the group soon.


Yoko was dead. A part of Maru wanted to mourn, that part remembered the good times, before the abuse started. The tears began. Maru was too weak to stop them.




Maruyama Ryuhei was a concerned man. The man he loved was lying injured in a bed somewhere in the same hospital he was in. The problem was, he wasn’t well enough to visit Ryo.


Maru felt embarrassed, he had thought after he had been stabbed that he was dying. He thought he saw a bright light, which meant that he was going to die; instead he realized later that he had been looking into the sun.


Maru spent his days watching TV; there was little else he could do. 


His father visited, his family was concerned for him.  Maru had requested that his mother not visit him.  Even though his mother insisted that she changed, Maru still couldn't quite forgive her for the abuse he suffered as a child.  


"Feel up to a visitor?" A very familiar voice asked as he came into the room. Maru looked up, it was Hina.


"Hina! How are you doing?" Maru couldn't help but smile.


"Better, I never thought I would see the sky again as a free man." Hina pulled the sleeve down on his arm, which didn't quite cover a very large bandage.


"They shouldn't have charged you." Maru said firmly. "What happened was an accident."


"I feel like the attack was my fault." Hina admitted. "If I had believed you about Kimi, none of this would have happened."


"You don't know that."


Just then Maru's ten year old sister Akiko came into the hospital room. She was wearing her blue Junior Girl Scout Uniform.


"Murakami kun!" She gasped.


"Good afternoon Akiko Chan," Hina bowed slightly to her. Then he glanced at Maru. "I probably should go."


"Please Murakami Kun; I have to tell you something." Akiko said quickly.  "I just came from my troop meeting. We voted to award you the "Precious Lifesaving Award."


"The Precious Lifesaving Award?" Hina echoed.


"It's the highest award a Junior Girl Scout troop can give someone. It's very hard to get. Only five were given out in the whole country last year." She explained.


"I don't deserve an award." Hina said humbly. "I just did what anyone would have done if they saw their friends being hurt."


"You saved the life of Nishikido Kun and Ryuhei without thinking of the risk to yourself." She gestured to Hina's bandaged arm. "You were cut too, weren't you?"


"Yes, I was." He admitted. "But..."


"Don't argue with her," Maru warned. "She's very persuasive."


"She's a lot like you that way." He turned to Akiko. "Thank you so much for the honor."


"I brought some cards from my troop." Akiko took a large envelope out of her book bag. She handed them to Maru.


"Thank you." Maru said as he took the package.


"We made some for Nishikido Kun too." She told him. "Can I take them to him?"


"I'm not sure they'll let you see him." Maru told her. "But you can try."






Even though the stream of visitors had stopped, Ryo never felt alone. He wished everyone, even the hospital staff would go away. He just needed time to think. He looked out the window.


He could hear someone talking in the hallway. He could see a girl in about ten years old wearing a blue Junior Girl Scout uniform. She was holding a large envelope. She was talking to the guard. Ryo knew the girl, she was Maru's little sister Akiko.  Why would Maru's sister try and visit him after he brother died? She handed the guard the envelope and left.


The guard brought the envelope to Ryo. He thanked the guard, who left. Ryo opened the envelope. Inside were cards that had been made by some of the Girl Scouts in her troop. He couldn't believe that they still wished him well, after everything that happened at their camp.


A few minutes after Akiko left, someone else came to visit. This time the guard let him through.


"How are you doing?" Hina sounded concerned.


"What does it look like?" Ryo snapped. "I'm recovering from being stabbed."


"I just came by to tell you I am very sorry I didn't believe you when you told me that Kimi abused Maru."  Hina told him.


"Why didn't you believe me?"


"I knew Kimi before we joined Johnny's. He was abused as a child." Hina tried to explain. "I couldn't believe that after everything that happened to him, that he could be capable of abusing someone else."


"So now you want me to forgive you." Ryo guessed.


"That would be nice."


"I do owe you one." Ryo admitted. "You saved my life. I just wish it had been enough to save Ryuhei."


"Maru-Chan’s fine." Hina told him. "I just came from his room. He's well on the road to recovery."


"Please don't lie to me." Ryo's' voice was hoarse. "I held Ryuhei's hand when he died."


"Maru's not dead." Hina insisted.


Ryo was about to say something, when a nurse came into the room. She checked Ryo's IV bag. By the time she was finishing checking on Ryo, Hina had left.




Jin had come for another visit. Ryo ignored him. Instead of going away, his friend kept babbling. It was like Jin was convinced that if he just stayed cheerful enough, that Ryo would get over his bad mood.


Jin looked to the hallway. Ryo was able to see Yamapi before he dunked out of sight. Great, that was all he needed, his ex boy friend showing up to gloat.


"Yamapi wants to visit you." Jin said helpfully.


"Can you explain to him why I can't see him right now?" Ryo asked. "I know it's only been a few days since we broke up. But...."


"You don't want to discuss Maruyama with him?" Jin guessed.


"Yeah, I don’t."


"Sure I will." Jin promised.


Ryo didn't want to go back to singing, didn't want to be a Johnny. He just wanted to go home and rest his hurting heart. Perhaps in a few years he would feel like a normal human, but now he just felt like hiding away from everyone.


"I need a piece of paper and a pen." Ryo decided. "I really need to write something. There's a pad and some paper in the bed side table."


Jin took the pad and paper out of the drawer on the bedside table, he handed them to Ryo.  Ryo quickly wrote a resignation letter. He folded it and gave it to Jin.


"I want you to give this to Johnny-sama."  Ryo decided. "I'm resigning from the agency."


"Why would you do something as insane as quit Johnny's?"


"I can't pretend nothing happened. If I go to practice, I'll think of Ryuhei. On stage, I'll look for Ryuhei, and he won’t' be there." Ryo admitted.


"I don't understand why won't Maru be on stage with you?' Jin said cluelessly. "I saw him a few minutes ago. He's woken up from the coma, and he's doing quite well."


"I know you're not supposed to tell me, but I know he's gone." Ryo told him. "I need time to morn for him."


"You think he's dead." Jin guessed.


"He's dead, I know he is." Ryo said firmly. "If he was still alive, he would visit me."


"Ryo, you're a baka!" Jin insisted. "How can a man who just got out of a coma visit you?"


"Go away Jin, I want to be alone." Ryo snapped.


Ryo looked out the window, the tears came again. If he could just get away from the agency, perhaps just perhaps his life could return back to normal.



Maru wished he could get out of bed. It still hurt to even turn over. He had an arm broken in the attack, a collapsed lung, and three ribs broken by paramedics trying to revive him. He didn't even try and think about his two stab wounds.

Maru was having visitors. He didn't really think of them as his visitors. Several of Ryo's Tokyo friends had flown to Kyoto to visit Ryo. Maru knew that he must have kicked them out. That would be the only reason why Akanishi Jin decided to camp out in his room.

Jin was rattling on about his very large group of friends. Since Maru didn't hang out with them, he was a bit on the bored side.

"How is Ryo doing?" Maru interrupted Jin.

"I am worried about him." Jin admitted. "He wants to quit Johnny's and return home.

"Why would he do something like that?"

“He thinks that Yoko killed you. He won't believe any of us that you’re still alive." Jin paused. "If you care for him, even a little. Please let him see that you're still alive. He thinks he caused your death. You need to visit Ryo."

"I'm still not allowed to get out of bed." Maru reminded him.

Jin took a folded up piece of paper out of his pocket. “Ryo wanted me to give this to Johnny-sama.”

“What is it?” Maru looked at the paper. It took him a bit to open it with one hand. He quickly read it. “He’s resigning?”

“Don’t’ worry; we’ll get him to change his mind.” Jin promised. “But for now, I think it would be best if you kept it.”


After Jin left, Yamapi came into Maru's hospital room. If Maru had anything to say about it, he would have banned Yamapi. But he couldn't. He would have to go through the agency, and he didn't have enough pull to get Yampi barred from his room.

"Ryo refuses to see me. So I decided to visit you." Yamapi sat down in the chair beside Maru's bed. "I mean, you're not allowed out of bed. So you're not going anywhere."

"If you think I'm going to talk him into coming back to you..."

"No, I don't think that would be a good idea." he paused. "In the last few months we were together, Ryo and I fought a lot. It got to the point that we really hated each other."

'"Then why visit him?"

"Because after all of this, I still think of him as my friend. If you want to know the truth, I was jealous of you." Yampi admitted. "I know Ryo and I had an open relationship, but when he started getting feelings for you, I knew I had lost him."

"You still care for him." Maru realized.

"I think that a part of me will always love Ryo." Yamapi told him. "But he has you now. I want him to be happy. If that happiness is with you, then so be it."


Maru’s doctor visited, telling him for security purposes, he was going to be moved to another room. He wasn't sure how he was going to be moved, because he couldn't get out of bed.

It wasn't long until two orderlies came into his room. Both orderlies wore surgical scrubs, hats that covered their hair and white masks across their lower face. They unlocked Maru's beds wheels.

"You're being moved Maruyama Kun," one of the orderlies told him. The person's voice sounded very familiar to him.

"Don’t' worry, we'll take care of you." the other promised.

With that, the orderlies wheeled him into the hallway. They pushed him down a very long hallway then around a corner. Then down yet another hallway to a group of elevators. One pushed a button. When the doors opened, they pushed him into the elevator.

"We're taking you to the top floor." the first orderly explained.

"Yeah, the rich people's floor," the other said.

The elevator door opened, the orderlies pushed him out.

"What room was it again?" the second orderly asked.

"Baka, its room 1018." The first orderly chided.

They pushed Maru's bed to the new room. There was a guard there. He seemed to be waiting for them. He opened the door and the bed was pushed in.

This room had another bed it in. The room's other occupant wasn't there. There was a display of cards that were very much like his own display that the nurses had packed up for him. The cards made for him by his sister's Girl Scout troop. Maru’s bed was put the empty corner.

"We're going to close the privacy curtain. Don't want to spoil the surprise." The first orderly told him as he pulled the curtain.

"Thank you," Maru told them, though he wondered why on earth he had been moved.

He could hear the orderlies walk away, but not until one said. "We did it Yamapi!"

"Shut up Jin!" Yamapi snapped. "He's not supposed to know we were the ones that moved him!"

"It’s not my fault that the hospital said if we wanted him moved, that we would have to do it!" Jin whined.

"Let's get out of here before Chibi-chan gets back!" Yamapi told him.


Ryo was sent for a cat scan, to check how his wounds were healing. When he got back to his room, it had been rearranged. His bed had been shoved to the side of the room. The other bed had a privacy curtain around it, so he couldn't see who had invaded his space. Ryo to put it mildly was not a happy man.

"I see you have a roommate," Jin said coming into his hospital room, Yamapi was close behind him.

"I don’t' want a roommate." Ryo snapped. “Why don’t you leave Tomo? I told Jin I didn't want to see you!”

"You'll want to see this roommate." Yamapi ignored Ryo’s bad mood.

"No, I don't!" Ryo almost shouted. "Ryuhei's dead! Can't you just let me mourn for him?"

"Tell you what, after we leave you can have a pity party if that’s what you want.” Yampi promised.

“Will you go?” Ryo turned so he was looking outside. It was such a beautiful day.

He heard something moving around the room. He ignored it. The privacy curtain was pulled back.

"Ryo-Chan?" Jin asked playfully.

"Shut the fuck up Jin! Can't you go home or something?" Ryo thundered.

"What are you thinking of?" Jin asked ignoring Ryo's bad mood.

"How I'm going to strangle both you and Tomo."

"Come on Ryo-Chan, you should look at your new roommate." Yamapi told him.

"Why don't you tell the hospital that I don't want a roommate!"

"What's wrong with being my roommate Ryo-Chan?" a very familiar voice asked lightly. "I've always wanted to be your roommate."

Ryo couldn't believe it. He turned to see Maru in the bed besides his. Ryo's two friends quickly left.

"Ryuhei, you're alive." he gasped. Ryo wanted to reach out and touch Maru. "I can't believe you’re real."

"Oh yes, I'm real." Maru smiled. "I didn't mean to put you through so much worry."

"How did you get here?"

"I'm not sure what Yamapi and Jin told the hospital, but these two really strange orderlies brought me here."

"Really strange orderlies?" Ryo repeated.

"The hospital told them that if they wanted me move, that they had to move me here themselves." Maru shrugged. "So they did."

"And now you're here," Ryo couldn't help but smile. "I still can't believe it."

"I wanted you to know that you're my hero, you saved my life."

"I don't feel like a hero." Ryo told him. "I promised to protect you."

"Ryo-Chan, if you hadn't walked in when you did, Yoko would have killed me!" Maru insisted.

Ryo said in almost a whisper. "Why don't you hate me?"

"Because I love you silly." Maru took a very familiar piece of paper out from under then blanket. “Do you still want to quit the agency?”

“Of course I don’t!” Ryo said without thinking. “I only quit because you were dead.”

It took some effort for Ryo to get out of his bed. He went to Maru’s bed lowering one of the bars. Then he crawled into bed beside Maru.

"I hope you don't mind, I just want to touch you." Ryo confessed.

You're always allowed to touch me." Maru told him. "But you have to be careful. I have broken ribs."

Ryo took Maru gently into his arms and held him. Then he kissed Maru very, very gently. When Ryo pulled away from Maru, he took his hand. He looked down to their hands, around Maru's wrist was an orange bracelet; it was a contrast to Ryo’s yellow bracelet.

"You're wearing the bracelet." Ryo marveled.

“You’re wearing mine,” Maru reminded him.

"I have to; it's your first gift to me."

"I've given you gifts in the past." Maru said gently.

"As friendship, but this one is special, because it's the first one you gave me as a boy friend." Ryo tried to explain. "You're very special to me Ryuhei-chan."

"You're special to me too. I love you." Maru kissed Ryo lightly. Ryo could feel tears falling down his cheek. This time the tears were tears of happiness.