Title: Decorations Made By Children
Pairing: Ryo/Maruyama friendship
Summary: A Christmas Eve storm makes both Maruyama and Ryo think of events that happened in the past
The Johnny's agency had ordered that Nishikido Ryo have a roommate. Maruyama Ryuhei wasn't sure the reasons, but he let his friend move into the spare bedroom. Maru didnt' mind, Ryo was a good friend. He was part of the band.
The alarm clock rang. Maru didn't really want to get up. The group had been working hard on New Years shows. Besides, Ryo was in town, which meant they had doubled up in their tapings. It was almost the first anniversary of News getting back together. Ryo had been very, very busy since then.
Maru went into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. Then he walked to the window. The street below was covered in something that resembled a soft white blanket.
"What's happening outside?" Ryo came into the kitchen.
"Snow mixed with some ice."
"Dangerous to drive?'
"Probably," Maru admitted. "I know it's going to be hard to get to work today."
Just then the phone rang. Ryo went and answered it. Maru didnt' listen to what he was saying. He was thinking of the snow. How beautiful it looked.
"That was the agency, all works today been canceled." Ryo told him.
"What about you? Don't you have to take a plane to
"The airports closed, so my trip as been canceled."
"You'll be able to get a break then," Maru told him.
"It's been a long time since I've had a break." Ryo finally told him. "It will be nice spending some time relaxing."
"I'm decorating the Christmas tree today," Maru began.
Ryo's entire demeanor changed. Suddenly he looked very bitter. "You know I don't celebrate Christmas!"
"I know just...."
"Just what?" he demanded. "How can you stand to remember the day? Didn't you loose your brother on Christmas eve?"
"That's why I celebrate. To remember him." Maru tried to explain. "When I remember him, it still seems as if he's here with me."
"You're strange." With that, Ryo stormed off, slamming the bedroom door behind him.
This time of year always gave him bitter sweet memories. Maru was reminded of the years he had lived in a Children's Home. Some people called it an orphanage, but most children had at least one parent still living.
No one in the group knew Maru had lived for five years in a Children's home. How could he tell the rest of the group just how poor his family had been? His parents were both body builders. They spent most of their money trying to further their careers. He didn't tell anyone that when he was five he had been sent to the home to live until his family could afford to raise him.
Maruyama went to the Christmas tree he had set up in the corner of the living room. He looked at the box of ornaments. Every ornament made him think of the past, of a terrible time that had changed his life forever. He took out the first ornament; it had been made by a young boy.
The ornaments made him think of his room mate. The tiny boy with big eyes who had been dumped at the orphanage on Christmas Eve. Maru wondered what happened to little Akira.
He could still remember the first time he had met Akira. It was Christmas Eve. Maru had only been five years old. It was a cold day; he could still remember the snow that fell that day.
While everyone else was out playing in the snow, Maru stayed in his room. He was drawing a picture for his parents. He would send it to them, if only he knew their address. He had only been in the home a month, and was very lonely. He wasn't sure he liked this place. It was the custom of the home to give the children a new name. He didn't like his name. He didnt' feel like a Jun.
The house mother tapped on the door. Maru looked up to her. "There is a new guest in our house," The woman said. That was what the children were called, guests. "Since you have an empty bed in your room, he'll stay with you."
"All right," Maru agreed.
The woman went into the hallway and brought in the little boy. He was dressed in a dirty short sleeved shirt; his jeans had holes in them. His dark eyes blackened.
"This is Akira; he will be staying with you." The woman introduced.
"Hello Akira, I'm Jun." Maru told him.
The house mother excused herself and left the room. The boy, who was very tiny, ran to the only window in the room. He pressed his hand against it. "Mama!"
An hour passed. Akira wouldn't talk to Maru. He would sit on his bunk, fingering the photo he had brought with him. Maru wondered how old Akira was. The boy was very small.
"How old are you?" Maru asked him.
"I'm four," Akira told him. Then he turned his back to Maru, so that he couldn't see him.
Maru finished his drawing. Then he began to work on making a Christmas ornament.
"What are you doing?" the kid had a heavy
"I'm making an ornament for Christmas."
"It's so when my family return for me, I'll be able to place it on their tree."
"Your family left you?" The boy asked.
"My mom and dad are bodybuilders. They travel the world, so I was put here." he tried to explain.
"Do they ever visit?" the boy asked.
"Not yet." he looked at the boy. "Would you like to make an ornament Akira?"
The boy didn't answer.
"Akira?" Maru repeated.
"I'm sorry...I'm still getting used to my new name." Akira told him.
"I am too." Maru admitted. "Everyone gets a new name when they come here."
"Why would they do that?"
"They say it gives us a fresh start."
"No! I don't want a fresh start." Akira decided. "I want my family back!"
"Would you like to make an ornament?" Maru offered again. "That way when your mom comes back for you, you'll have something to put on your tree."
"It will bring my Mama back?"
"I believe it will." Maru told him.
Maru turned the corner in the hallway of the Children's home. Two boys had someone cornered. Maru wanted to rush away. It was a set of brothers that dominated the house.
"You're all alone!" One boy taunted.
"NO one loves you!" The second boy said.
"That's not true!" The unmistakable voice of Akira said.
"Everyone here has a family member!' The first boy gave Akira a push. "Everyone except for you!"
Maru realized he had to try and rescue his friend. He pushed his way through the boys to Akira.
"Leave my brother alone!" Maru told them.
"Your brother!" The first one said.
"Leave Akira alone!"
The oldest brother tried to charge Maru. He stepped aside and the boy hit the wall with his face. His nose began to bleed. The younger brother moved to take care of him.
Maru grabbed Akira's hand and they ran back to their room. Maru shut the door. He wished he could lock it, but they didn't have locks.
"Why did you lie?" Akira asked. "I'm not your brother."
"If we're brothers the bullies will think twice about picking on us." Maru took his hands in his. "We are brothers. No one will ever know any different."
"Brothers." Akira looked into his eyes, thinking. "Yes! We will be brothers."
From that day onwards, the two friends called each other brothers. Maru became very close to Akira. He was the one that held Akira at night when he had nightmares. They played with each other during the day. They sat beside each other at school. Akira never laughed at Maru's reading problems. They were brothers after all.
They called each other brothers, as if wishing it would make it come true. They had been at the children's home for four years. It was the anniversary of Akira's admittance to the home. Every year the two friends made ornaments, to wish for the return of their parents. Akira still did it, though he couldn't remember what his mother looked liked. His mother in all the time Akira had been in the home had never visited.
The fourth anniversary was the day that Akiraís mother came for him. She wanted to take him home. She had gotten back together with Akira's father and was expecting another baby.
Maru wasn't allowed to meet Akira's mother. He had to wait for his friend to return to the room. He had been ordered to help him pack Akira's meager belongings.
"I don't want to go," Akira told him.
"Your wish came true." Maru told him.
"My wish is to be your brother forever." the boy said seriously.
"You will always be my brother." the older boy told him. "We will find each other in the future."
"Promise me." Akira was on the verge of tears.
"I promise." Maru vowed.
Maru packed Akira's things for him. Taking the ornaments he had made for his family off their bunk. Finding the special shoe box and packing them into it. In the bottom he had placed a photo of the two of them. To make Akira understand that he would never forget him.
Maru wanted to beg Akira's mother to let him stay, but he knew that wasnít'
good for Akira. They all wanted to go home. So he saved his tears until Akira
had left. He put on a brave face as he waved to Akira one more time.
Maru hated himself. He had lied to Akira. He had never been able to find him. His little brother had vanished as if he never really existed. Now he decorated, in memory of the boy he had called brother.
Maru put the lid back on the box. He had to stop worrying about Akira. He had to think of Ryo, his friend. A friend so much like Akira. They both had the same large expressive eyes. But he knew he wasn't the boy who had been his brother. If Ryo had been Akira, he would have told Maru about it long ago.
Maru decided to make cookies. He would do what he did every Christmas, eat the cookies with some cocoa, and remember the boy he used to call brother.
Kanjani 8 had gotten too close to Ryo. So he pushed them away from him. He had learned that as a defense mechanism when he was small. It would be better in the long run.
Everyone in Kanjani 8 had promised Ryo that
nothing would change when Kitagawa san assigned him to be in NEWS. But as time
passed, Ryo realized things had changed. It was nothing intentional. The
group's lives went on, even when he was gone to
When Ryo pushed his friends away, he made himself in control. No longer was he the little boy who had been abandoned at a childrenís home. This time, he was in charge.
Ryo was working on his laptop. He spent more and more and more time online. He would chat with strangers. That was easier. He didn't even have friends in his other group. It was easier he kept telling himself. He no longer chatted to members of News or Kanjani 8. He no longer felt the need to. They were no longer his friends, simply co workers.
Ryo believed it would hurt less if he didnt' get too close to his band mates.
Ryo was searching on the internet for his
brother Jun. He didn't know why he kept doing it. He could only put in the name
Jun, and the birthday. Jun was from
Maru came into the room and set something beside the laptop. Then without saying anything he left. Maru understood Ryo's need to be alone. Maru was the only one who ever understood. Maru was so much like Jun. He was always treating Ryo like he was a brother.
He knew he should ask Maru if he knew Jun. Both
friends were from
Ryo had been abandoned twice in his life. Once when he was four. His mother had dumped him at a Childrenís home. Then when he was eight, and he had been forced to leave his brother behind. Jun had promised to find him, but it had never happened. Ryo had always felt abandoned by Jun.
He looked down to the cup that his friend had brought him. There was a gingerbread cookie on the tray of the cup. In the cup was some cocoa, with one large marshmallow on top. Ryo closed his eyes. He could see the children at the home. All had been given cocoa with one large marshmallow and a gingerbread cookie. That first morning at the home, Jun had given Ryo his own cookie.
Cocoa and gingerbread cookies reminded Ryo of his lost brother.
"How did Maru know what gingerbread means to me?" He wondered. "It's a coincidence, it has to be."
Inside Ryo was still the little boy who had been left at the Children's home. He could still remember his mother promising it would only be a few days. She would come back to get him soon. Her boy friend would accept him.
It was the anniversary of being abandoned. He could still remember his brother, the boy who was tall for his age. He has smiled at Ryo told him that if he made a decoration for his families tree, that would make his mother come back sooner. Ryo, being only four believed the boy.
The boy for four long years called Ryo his little brother. Ryo wished he could see his friend. He wished that he could remember more of the boyís name. He would find him, and thank him for being his brother. But all he had left of his friend was a memory.
"Jun-Chan, where are you?" he asked before he took a drink of the cocoa.
Ryo went into the living room. Christmas music was playing in the background. He hated Christmas music. Every song gave him memories of the past. But Maru didn't seem to care that it bothered Ryo. He couldn't understand why Maru would want to remember his dead brother. Why didn't the memories hurt?
There was a box on the table, one that looked very familiar to Ryo. It was a simple paper box with decorated with childish drawings. Ryo went to the box of ornaments and opened the lid. Inside the lid was a small stamp. "Kyoto Childrenís Home." Ryo almost dropped the lid. He had spent four years in that childrenís' home when he was young. He picked up one ornament. In pencil was written 'Jun."
He still couldn't believe that the ornament was made by Jun. Why did Maru have things that belonged to his brother Jun? He tried to remember his brother's face. He closed his eyes, trying for the first time in a long time to picture the face of his brother.
Ryo felt tears stinging his eyes. For the first time he realized that perhaps, just perhaps his friend was the boy he called brother. All this time, Maru hadn't been just a friend.
"What are you doing?" Maru asked from the door of the kitchen.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" He snapped. He put up the ornament. He had been caught. He felt ashamed and embarrassed.
"Going through my things."
Ryo put the lid down on the box. "I wanted to help you with the tree."
"All right," Maru smiled a bit. He went to Ryo's side. "Let's decorate."
"I have some ornaments." Ryo told Maru. "I made them when I was young. Can we add them to the tree?"
"Sure, that would be nice."
Ryo went to his bedroom and took out the shoebox from its hiding place. The pain and anger of being abandoned bubbled up fresh. He realized that Maru had known the whole time and didn't tell him. The friendship he had with Maru was a lie he realized. His friend was really making fun of him.
He decided to go back into the living room and confront Maru.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Ryo demanded. "All this time we've been friends, you knew. You knew and kept it to yourself. You lied to me!"
"I've never lied to you." Maru insisted.
"Why are we friends?" he asked. "Why did we become friends almost from the moment we joined the agency?"
"You reminded me of the brother I lost." Maru admitted.
"Didn't your brother die?" Ryo almost shouted. "You told everyone he was dead!"
"My brother didn't die. I lost him." Maru looked away from him. "He was taken from me. I promised him that I would find him. But I was only nine. I didn't even know his real name...."
"What was his name?"
"They called him Akira." Maru wiped his eyes. "That wasn't his real name. They changed our names in the Children's Home. They said it was to protect us."
The anger suddenly left Ryo, as if it had never been there in the first place. "Did you want to find him?"
"Of course I do!" A tear rolled down Maru's cheeks. "He was my brother. He was everything to me! I thought... if I became famous, he might recognize me. He would come looking for me....We could be brothers again."
"What would happen if you found your brother?"
"It would be the happiest day in my life." he whispered. "That's why I do all of this every Christmas. I have to remember him. He's my brother. No matter what happens, he'll always be my brother."
Ryo realized that Maru was telling the truth. For the first time, he knew that Maru was hurting in his own way. Making Christmas important was one way of coping with his loss. He also knew that Maru had no idea he was really Akira.
"When I was little, my parents separated. My mother moved to Kyoto to have a fresh start." Ryo told Maru. "She didn't realize how hard it would be to hold a job and raise children."
"You lived in Kyoto?" Maru asked.
"For four years." Ryo looked down to the box. "My mom tried her best, but she couldn't care for us. All right, honestly, she had a boy friend that beat me up. She sent me to live in a Children's home. She said it was for my protection. Four years later, she had returned to my father and took me home."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"In the Children's home was a boy, he was a year older then me. He was like a brother to me. He told me to have faith in my mother. Then he helped me make ornaments for me to take home when I was able to come home.' He paused. "But my family didn't celebrate Christmas, so I kept them, secret, hidden. Just like I hid my real name when I was at the Children's home."
"You went by another name?"
"Akira." he handed the box to Maru. "Until I saw the box, I didn't know that you where my brother Jun."
"Akira, you found me at last." Maru looked at the box, with its childish decorations on the lid. Tears were pouring down his cheeks. "I can remember when we made this. I told you if you kept making ornaments every year that they would come back."
"I believed in the magic." Ryo told him. "Did your parents ever come back for you?"
"Yes, I was ten." Maru touched the outside of the box. "All this time I wondered what happened to Akira, when he was at my side."
"I'm sorry I left you."
"You had to go back to your family." Maru began to sob tears of happiness and regret.
Ryo took Maru into his arms. "I'm so glad we found each other."
Maru clung to his friend. "I hoped, oh god I hoped it was you."
"Things will change," Ryo vowed.
Ryo held Maru as he cried. He stroked his friend's hair. For the first time in a long time, Ryo felt whole. He hadn't been rejected by his brother; instead, Maru had been looking for him.
"Why donít' we put up your decorations?" his friend suggested when he finally finished crying.
"I would really like that." Ryo opened his box and they began to decorate.
When they were finished, the tree was decorated in decorations made by children. Every ornament a wish that their family would be whole again.
Ryo looked in the bottom of his box. There was a piece of paper in the bottom; it had been cut so that it would be as big as the shoebox. He moved the paper. Beneath it was a photo of Akira and his brother Jun.
"I have another decoration." Ryo told him. "One that is very, very special. The one that is the most magical. Can I put it on the tree?"
"Of course, it's your tree too." Maru pointed out.
Ryo took the photo and placed it on a branch of the tree.
"Did you know that was in the box?" Maru asked him. "I put it there, so you would know we are always brothers."
"I never emptied the box until a few minutes ago." Ryo smiled sadly. "It's like my life, all the lost chances. I lost all of my friends because I wanted to protect myself from the pain."
"Theirs always time to change things." Maru reached out and took his hand. "Start being yourself with everyone. They will accept you."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I did, Akira." A tear rolled down his cheek. "You will always be my brother."
The clock struck midnight. It was now Christmas. Ryo found himself smiling. "Merry Christmas, Jun."
"Merry Christmas to you too." Maru smiled at him.
Maru wasn't just a friend to him, but a brother. A brother Ryo now knew would never be taken away from him. He didnít protest when Maru put his arm around his shoulders. Ryo put his arm around Maruís waist. Then they looked at the tree together. Ryo knew from now on, he would celebrate Christmas Eve, as the anniversary of his family finally becoming whole.