Chapter Notes - By popular demand, we're going off into Ryu-land for a little while. It's an important part of this story after all, so I suppose I couldn't really gloss over it... and folks seem keen on it =D

It will probably come as no surprise from the speculation going on in the reviews... that you'll be seeing a whole bunch of Tatsuha... starting right about... NOW!

Tatsuha was busy sweeping out the temple at the crack of dawn with a splitting headache from a full night of drinking and karaoke with friends. His father had made sure to torture him for it by waking him up plenty early to work off his hangover. Still half drunk, he wasn't much in the mood for this slave labor routine, but that's what was happening and he just had to suck it up and deal with it. With his brother off living the high life in Tokyo, their father was tightening his grip on Tatsuha's leash, thinking he still had a prayer of keeping him in line.

"This is so lame…" He sighed, leaning on his broom and trying to keep the world from swimming in front of his eyes.

If only he had been allowed a single cup of coffee, he might have been in better shape. If only he had backed off on the booze a little, he might not have tripped on the way into the house that night and been caught red-handed by his father from the racket. Another sigh and he got back to work until he noticed movement out of the corner of his bleary eyes.

"Huh?" He looked around, "Dammit, I'm still drunk…" He went back to work again ignoring what he was sure was his imagination playing tricks on him… Then it got too close to be his imagination and he focused, staring at the person in the bench area, "Holy crap I'm hallucinating too… I'll never drink that much again!" The hallucination waved at him with a smile. "Uh…" It now peered back at him uncertainly. "Sa… Sakuma?" He asked and watched him smile.

"Oh, good… It is you! Hi, Tatsuha! I wasn't sure. You always look different in the different kimono things!" He grinned, waving at him.

"Holy hell… What are you doing here?" He blinked, mouth hanging open.

"I came to visit you!"

Tatsuha shook his head in disbelief and put aside the broom, going to sit next to the hot dream he was having, "So, hey… You're up way early."

"I guess. I didn't sleep last night. I was walking around, looking for your temple." He shrugged, "Are you mad that I came?"

"No…" He kept blinking but the dream was still sitting there.

"Your face looks unhappy, though."

Ryu reached out and poked Tatsuha's cheek, letting him know that the guy was really there, wasn't just the after effects of the drinking and a sex drive on overload. A stupidly happy smile spread across his face.

"No way, Ryuichi-kun. I'm happy to see you any time of day! It's just that I was out late last night doing karaoke with some friends… and my father wasn't thrilled with that so he got me up first thing to sweep the temple out so..."

"Oh. Karaoke is fun."

"Yeah, it is. Sweeping sure isn't… Why'd you come all this way?" Most of him wanted to jump Ryuichi right there and then now that by some miracle he had the guy alone, but there seemed to be something wrong… So for some strange reason his horny vibe was being overridden by a concerned vibe.

"Well, I forgot your email address."

"You… forgot it? Isn't it in your address book?"

"No." He shook his head, "I checked. A lot. It's definitely not there."

"Did you delete it by accident?"

"I don't think so…" He looked upward in thought, rubbing his head.

"So you hopped a train to Kyoto because you couldn't remember my email…" He laughed.

"Yeah. I remembered you lived in the temple where Touma-chan got married. Now I found you! So give me your email address now!" He took out a pad and pen from the bag he had with him.

"Okay." He wrote it down and gave it back to Ryuichi.

"Thank you, Tatsuha!" He grinned, putting the pad back into his satchel.

"Welcome. Hey, are you hungry?"

"Yeah. Very." He nodded.

"Come on. We'll have breakfast."


He brought Ryuichi out of the temple and down the path toward his rooms, indulging his hormones by casually slipping an arm over his shoulders.

"Holy crap I am so lucky! I'm actually touching him!"

He gritted his teeth, trying to keep from screaming, but still the horny was doing battle with the concern he felt, especially when he realized there were none of the NRG security staff there with the studio's superstar. That was just plain weird. Usually they were hovering around this guy like vicious watchdogs… but here he was, all alone. Had been there in town over night, wandering around just looking for the temple. Something was very wrong with this picture.

"Uwaaa…This place is so cool and old fashioned. You're way lucky to live here." Ryu's voice jarred him out of the argument that was going on between his brain and his dick at the moment.

"You think so? It kinda sucks because I have to work so much though."

"I think it would be worth it. It's better than my apartment. It smells nice too."

"It's all the incense."

"I'll have to get some."

"I can give you some. Careful you don't burn down your building." He grinned like an idiot.

"I'd be super careful!"

Upon further questioning, it turned out that Ryuichi hadn't eaten since early the day before. He had been lost in Kyoto since the early afternoon. Now, he was stuffing himself hungrily while Tatsuha admired him as they sat together on the floor, there in the privacy of what he called his home.

"Do you want me to go on the train with you back to Tokyo?" He hoped, "That way you won't get lost." And I can find out where you live.

"Umm… I don't want to go home yet."

"Oh? How come?"

He shook his head, face becoming uncharacteristically sullen, "Can I ask you a question?"


"You have to tell the truth. Promise?"

"Of course."

"This is reeeeally important…"

"Yeah. I follow. What's up?"

"Well… We were playing a racing game… Right?" He looked at Tatsuha nervously, "Online… Like a week ago. Weren't we?"

"Yeah. Gran-Turismo." He tilted his head, not getting why that was so important and why it seemed to relieve Ryu to hear and make him more frustrated.

"I don't have that game anymore…" He wrung his hands.

"You deleted that too?"

"No. I didn't. I'm so sure I didn't. But it's gone. You wouldn't lie to me, would you? This is really, really important, Tatsuha! Please tell the truth!"

Tatsuha gulped, seeing tears coming to his most adored Ryuichi's eyes. It was freaking him out more than he could describe, the horny totally getting overrun by worry. He grabbed Ryuichi and hugged him tightly, listening to a sob come from him as he hugged back.

"I'm telling the truth. I'd never lie to you… What's wrong? Why are you freaking out over a game and email?"

"I'm so confused! What's happening? Why is everything going away?"

"Going away?… I'm sure there's a perfectly normal explanation for everything. It might have happened by accident… I kinda wondered why you quit playing but I figured you had plenty of other stuff to do."

"I wanted to play! I kept going back every night to see if it came back, but it didn't… And then I downloaded it from the web and I couldn't find you anyhow. I couldn't remember your game ID or mine or your email… Tatsuha… I'm so scared." He whimpered.

"Don't be. I guarantee you there's a perfectly logical explanation for all of it."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I'm sure."

"I'm forgetting everything… I think there's something really wrong with me… I didn't used to forget so much…"

"It's okay… Just relax…"

"I forgot your name… When I got to Kyoto… I forgot that, too."

"You're just getting worked up. That's all. You didn't forget it totally, did you?"

"No… I guess not because I got here after all… The people at my house… I think they're different, too… But they keep saying they're not. That they've always been there. I don't remember them though. And I can't find stuff I used to have..."

"Did you ask Seguchi-san about it?"

"Yeah… He said there wasn't anything different… but I know there is. Maybe he doesn't know… Or maybe he does and he won't tell me."

Tatsuha frowned deeply, giving the guy a squeeze, trying to calm him down a bit. He was starting to get the sense that someone was really screwing with Ryu in a bad way… but why? Seguchi and Ryu had always been the best of friends, even if Seguchi was a real shark type of guy. It didn't make sense that Seguchi would be doing something to upset Ryu.

Ryuichi's eyes were sagging… He was falling asleep. Tatsuha sighed now, stroking his hair, glad that he was at least relaxing. For a long time he just watched, his heart pounding. He remembered seeing Seguchi and Ryu together at his sister's wedding to Seguchi. Seguchi looked uncharacteristically nervous and Ryu was doing his best to keep his best buddy steady while Tatsuha peeked in on them.

"It's only natural to be nervous. It's a big change, right? But it's the one you want more than anything, too. So just get on in there and it'll be over before you know it." Ryu laughed and punched him in the shoulder, "Hurry up and make our family bigger, huh?"

Touma laughed too and punched him back, "Who would have thought that I'd get stage fright on such a tiny stage?"

"Not me, that's for sure. I can hardly wait to see what Mika-chan is gonna be wearing!"

"Yeah…" Touma sighed, an awkward smile playing on his lips. "I'm really lucky, right? To find someone I love who loves me."

"The best thing ever." Ryu nodded, "Finding someone who can put up with a guy like you."

"Aaa, you're supposed to be nice to me today, Ryu-chi!"

They both started shaking each other by the shoulders.

"I'm trying hard, Tou-tan!"

"I guess I love you anyway! Uwaaah!"

"I love you more, man! Don't make me cry already! Waaah!"

Ryu was the only one in the world that Seguchi would let his guard down around like that… at least as long as Tatsuha had known him, anyway. Usually the guy kept himself on a real short leash otherwise. He was all about control in so many ways.

Right now, one of the only people that could control Touma Seguchi was falling comfortably asleep in Tatsuha's arms. The feeling of Ryu's closeness distracted him from both his worry and his hormones. Warm reddish brown hair with dyed black tips slid through his fingers… It was Ryu's natural hair color with grown-out remnants of the offensive stuff that had covered its natural beauty. Long eyelashes. Peaceful expression.

"Gaa… I can't believe I have you here all to myself but I'm too worried about you to do anything fun…" He hugged Ryu and planted a kiss on his forehead. "Don't worry… You'll be okay. We'll figure it out."

"Mmh…" Ryu sighed softly, causing a surge in Tatsuha's heart that brought tears to his eyes.

"Holy hell… I really am in love with you after all."

Eventually he managed to get Ryuichi off the tatami mats and onto his futon, tucking him in. He left a note and a glass of water with some rice balls if Ryu should wake up before he got back from his cleaning duties. The only way he was going to keep his little treasure a secret was to go back to work before his father realized he was missing. It was hard to concentrate even on sweeping when he knew that his dream was asleep in his bed. Eventually he took a break from greeting visitors to have a smoke only to have his phone ring. It was his brother.

"Yeah?" He answered.

"Hey, have you happened to see Ryuichi Sakuma?"

"Huh? No. Why would I? Not to say I wouldn't like to… The less clothing the better, of course."

"Chh… Put it back in your pants. I don't have time for your fantasies." Eiri chided.

"Aww… I do!"

"Seriously, if you see him call me that minute. He's been missing since yesterday. Not even his trained monkey body guards know where he is."

"He's probably just following your hot little roommate on tour. You know how much he loves Bad Luck."

"Yeah, we thought of that. No sign of him yet. Keep your eyes open."

"Don't have to tell me twice, bro. If he does show up here I'll be sure to keep a close watch on every gorgeous inch of him."

"Get over it…"

"No way… Why are you so worried anyhow?" This was his best chance to get some better information but he had to be careful not to set off any alarms in his brother's mind while doing so.

"I'm just doing Touma a favor. I guess Ryuichi was acting a little weirder than normal before he disappeared and they found out he stopped taking his medication."

"What medication?" His interest was piqued.

"I keep telling you the guy has serious issues. It's just stuff to keep him stable. That's all."

"Oh… Okay."

"So be a man and turn him in if he shows up. Don't take advantage."

"Righto… I'll do my best."

"And if you see our old man, tell him to go to hell for me."

"You bet, bro. He's been working me like a dog all day because I came home drunk last night."

"Ow… He's as much of a hard-ass as ever."

"Yeah, you bet he is. And since you two got all official he's been watching me like a hawk… He's taking you out on me… Fucker. You ruined my good-time teen years, you know that? Thanks a fucking lot, Eiri."

"Don't mention it." He laughed, "Later."

"See ya."

He closed his phone, sure that he had kept it light enough that his brother didn't sense his lie. The last thing he needed was to have Touma Seguchi's NRG goons descending on the temple looking for their lost superstar. While he hadn't gotten all the information that he wanted at least he had a bit more. Something about medication and keeping him stable... As much as he wanted to ask, any other questions would have definitely tipped Eiri off. He sighed and took off from the temple to get lunch and bring it back to his part of the house. Ryuichi was missing from the futon though and so were the rice balls. He found him quickly on the back porch, staring out at the greenery.


Ryuichi looked back at him over his shoulder, "Hi."

"You feeling better?" Tatsuha sat down next to him. The guy looked completely wiped out.

"Not a lot. I'm glad you left the note because I didn't know where I was when I woke up."

"There's lunch if you want."

"Okay… You look so cool in the black robes." He smiled wearily.

"It's all for show. I'm still the same jerk underneath."

"I think you're very nice, not a jerk… Can I have a hug?"

Tatsuha gulped back another shriek of joy, "Absolutely." He rasped and felt like he'd have a heart attack when Ryuichi came and hugged him yet again. "Gyaaa… You smell so good."

"I know I can trust you, Tatsuha. You'll always tell me the truth, won't you?"

"You bet… Hey… My brother called looking for you."

Ryu gasped and sat back from their hug, "You didn't tell him I was here, did you?"

"Nope. I lied for you. I figured you weren't ready to deal with getting dragged home quite yet."

"Good." He sighed and smiled happily, "I'm sorry you have to lie for me."

Tatsuha gulped back a wave of hormones again, "Don't be an asshole, he's having a problem. Get yourself under control Tatsuha. You can't take advantage of him. He thinks you're a nice guy so don't prove him wrong…" His shoulders dropped, "Hey, Ryu-kun… I know you can't live here forever, so when you are ready to go home I'll go with you and we'll figure out together what's going on. Okay?"

"O… Okay."

"But for the time being, my home is your home so just relax. There's no time limit."

He nodded, "Thank you for explaining."

"Hang on… I'm gonna go change and then we can eat."

"Food is always good."

"Do you have any other clothes?"

"Just a couple shirts in my bag."

"I'll loan you some pants. You must be sick of wearing those."

"Yeah. I don't know why I thought of shirts but not pants. Thanks!"

"Hey, don't thank me. Not many people can say that Ryuichi Sakuma borrowed their pants!" He smiled.

"It isn't that special!"

"Oh, to me, it is."

After lunch Ryuichi took a bath and changed into a new shirt and borrowed pants.

"You're totally taller than I am." He was pulling at the pant legs so Tatsuha rolled them up for him, "You're tall like your brother. Your sister's pretty tall for a girl, too."

"Yeah. Dad's pretty tall. We're definitely halfs somewhere in the family history but no one's admitting it." He stood up, looking down on Ryu with a grin, "Shortie!" He patted the top of his head of damp hair.

"At least you can't look up my nose! Gross!"

"I'm not gross! I'm the ultimate in cool! Don't you forget it! Ha!"

"Boo-gers…" He pretended to be looking for some.

"Hey! Quit it!"

"Ewwww… You have big ones!"

Tatsuha put him in a headlock, Ryu laughing at him, "Take it back, you."

"I can't take back the truth!"

"Fine… We'll settle this like men. Video games!"


They were into several hours of racing by the time Mika called him.

"Dammit!" He put the game on pause.

"Don't tell…" Ryu looked instantly worried.

"I won't." He answered loudly, "What?"

"My God! What kind of way is that to talk to your sister?"

"You're screwing up my game! I'm in the groove! What do you want?"

"So you're being a little bitch because I interrupted your video game?"

"Yeah! So get to the point or I'm hanging up!"

"Did you see Ryuichi yet?"

"No! Can you get off my back? Dad's already riding me until the ends of the earth. I don't need any more passengers!"

"You've probably got him tied to your bed, you little pervert! I'm coming down there!"

"Fine! Whatever you want, Mika. Maybe you can help do some sweeping, too!"

"Ugh… Sweeping… Screw that noise. Dad's on that, huh?"

"Yes! So let me have a few hours of peace please!"

"All right, all right, I feel you. Later."

"Argh!" He hung up and smiled at Ryu, "Dramatic huh?"

"You're pretty funny."

"Comes from a long life with a dysfunctional family." He tossed the phone off to the side and lit a cigarette.

"Do you like being a monk?"

He shrugged, "Kinda."

"Is there anything else you'd rather do?"

"Ummm… Be a wealthy, international playboy with no cares in the world! Woo."

"Seriously…" Ryu poked him in the arm.

"I suppose this is what I'm cut out for, being here… Hey, are you ever going to go back to singing again? You did a show back when Bad Luck was getting started and then just quit again."

"Touma is too busy with running NRG Studios to play music much. It's fun to sing with Shuichi though. I got to see their first show of this tour in Tokyo. It was incredible!"

"Yeah, I heard that he did a song my bro wrote for him. How was it?"

"Awesome. Eiri-kun is a great novelist and songwriter. You can tell Shuichi loved putting his words to music, and your brother had this big smile on the whole time he was singing. He doesn't smile like that so often so that was pretty special to see."

"Yep… Eiri sure has changed a lot." He exhaled, watching the smoke billow upward.

"It's almost weird to see him happy again."

"Yeah, no kidding!" He chuckled sardonically.

"You're happy for him though, aren't you?"

"Sure. Maybe more jealous." He smirked.

"Awww… Don't be jealous."

"Hmmm… You really should keep singing, you know. I've got everything you ever sang in and I still can't get enough."

"Thank you. That's so nice."

"Not nice, just true… You don't need Touma Seguchi in order to sing… Or Noriko Ukai… Or anyone. Just you. You write amazing songs that you and you alone make into platinum with your amazing voice."

"Tatsuha…" Ryu's expression had completely dropped into sadness for some reason.

"Don't get upset. That wasn't supposed to make you sad."

"Sorry." He sniffled, "I'm just having a really hard time right now in all kinds of ways."

"You're gonna be fine." He draped his arm around Ryu's shoulders and pulled them together, leaning against him, resting their heads together… Somehow there was a deep well of affection now along with the horny-boy attitude he usually wore. It was really killing him to see Ryu so upset, "I don't want you to cry any more." He said softly.

He nodded, "I'm trying to stop."

"I hope you won't have to try soon. That you'll just smile again."

"I just want to feel normal again."

"When did you start feeling not normal?"

"I don't know… I can't remember."

"Do me a favor… Try to start writing music again. I bet that will help."

"I'll try..."

"At least it will help me." He smiled, watching Ryu smile too… So close, "Hey… I got some comp tickets to the Bad Luck show this weekend. You wanna go?"

"Okay. That would be fun."

"Heh… I have a date with Sakuma-san!" He laughed.

"You're so funny, Tatsuha-kun!"

"Nya… Back to the game!"

He almost had his fantasy… So close but yet so far. Ryuichi lay on the futon in the dark beside him, sleeping peacefully in borrowed shorts and a T-shirt. Tatsuha's inner pervert still wanted to jump him. The rest of him just wanted to protect Ryu. The latter was completely winning out. It was different to actually spend time with him as a human instead of just a fantasy figure. He gave up staring and fell asleep at last, bathing in the close scent of Ryu.

In the morning he sat bolt upright at the sound of banging at his outer door.

"Tatsuha! Time to get up! Hurry up! You have a memorial this morning!" It was his father.

"Gaa!" He shook his head, "Do you have to scare the crap out of me?"

"It's the only thing that works with you, boy! Get moving!"

He scowled, rubbing his head and yawning then looking down and smiling at seeing Ryuichi who was just peeking out from under the covers.

"Morning. How do you like my alarm clock?" He smirked.

"It kinda stinks." Ryu whispered.

"No lie. Welcome to Tatsuha's life." He flopped back down.

"What's a memorial?"

"Funeral service."

"You do that, too? Wow."

"Someone has to. Breakfast time!"

They ate together on the back porch and then Tatsuha went off to the bath, coming back in appropriate attire for a memorial.

"Wow… You look so cool." Ryu was admiring him.

"Thanks." He winked, "Hopefully it will be good enough to make the dead happy… Are you going to be okay here on your own for a while?"

"I'll be fine. I'll just be quiet and play some games. Keep out of sight."

"Perfect. I'll be back as soon as possible."


He waited until he got out of view of the back house before he jumped in the air for joy. In a weird way he was living with Ryuichi Sakuma.

"This is so cool! He even said 'yay' like he's going to miss me! He's sooo hot…" He took a break and sat down, just thinking about it all, "He's so nice… Augh… What am I gonna do?"

It was a couple blissful days of cohabitation before Ryuichi was feeling somewhat better again. Tatsuha had managed somehow to keep himself under control and just look after the guy, doing his best to keep a smile on his face. Ryu was looking forward to seeing the concert on the weekend, even if that would blow his cover.

While Tatsuha did his regular work around the temple Ryuichi took his advice and started to write some new music. That really seemed to be the key to him. When he was focused on that, he was a different person… the intense guy that he was on stage confident and unshakable. Of course that just turned Tatsuha on even more.

They kept playing video games when Ryu wasn't writing. It was great to have someone at home to play with. It had been ages since Tatsuha had lived with his brother so having another guy on hand to mess around with that way was fun.

His latest victory dance was interrupted by Ryu grabbing him around the knees and knocking him to the floor. They wrestled until Tatsuha pinned his much lighter rival to the floor.

"I freaking win! Ha!" He grinned.

"You're a very poor winner Tatsuha-kun!"

"You are a looooser… I am a wiiiner. Face it… Come on. Say it. Tatsuha is a God!"

"Tatsuha is a nerrrrd!"



"Argh!" He yowled as Ryu nailed him in the side, right in the one ticklish spot he had. He fell down and Ryu pounced on him, reversing their positions.

"Now, I win! Ha ha!"

"Cheater!" He couldn't stop himself, looking up at that gorgeous smile. He pulled Ryu down and kissed him, feeling surprise at first and then his body relaxed… Tatsuha eased up and kissed him slowly, heart pounding, arms wrapping around his slender body. Ryu pulled away suddenly, looking down at him. Tatsuha was mute, wondering what was going to happen, how he'd react.

"Tatsuha… You… kissed me."

"Yeah… Sorry…" He shook his head, "No. I'm not sorry. I've always wanted to."


"Yeah… You're amazing, Ryu-kun." He reached up and stroked his cheek… and then his soul sighed as Ryu came back into his arms, kissing him sweetly.

"Tatsu… Kissing you is so nice." He said softly as their lips parted, "Can I keep kissing you?"

"Yeah… As much as you want…" He sighed again, "Always kiss me… Ryu…"

Ten minutes into heaven his blood ran cold from a new banging at his outer door. They both stiffened at the sound, all groping coming to an unfortunate and complete halt.

"Tatsuha, get your lame ass out of bed or I'm going to come in there and kick your ass!"

"It's your sister…" Ryu whispered, eyes wide.

"Augh… Hurry and go hide." He groaned from the interruption.

"But it's comfy on Tatsuha." He smiled happily.

"Don't even do this to me cause it's not like I want you to get off me right now, but you gotta. Go go go!"

"Okay!" He rolled away and snuck off to the bedroom while Tatsuha pulled on a yukata over his shorts and T-shirt and went to the door.

"What the hell do you want, Mika?" He blustered, annoyed beyond belief at having his perfect moment broken.

"Well… Nice to see you, too!" She pushed past him, "God, what a pig sty. Clean ever?"

"Yeah, I clean plenty. Every inch of the temple and grounds. So what if my place is messy. Why are you here in the middle of the night, Mika?"

"Just checking in… You haven't seen Ryuichi yet, have you?"

"No. And even if I had, I wouldn't send him back to you and your shark husband at this point! Get out of my hair!"

"So sensitive… Come help me look for him. We got a lead that he came down to Kyoto."

"No! All power to him! I hope he stays lost from you freaks forever!"

"He needs us to take care of him, Tatsuha."

"Who the hell needs you guys? Just leave him alone and he'll come back when he's good and ready." He sneered.

"Who are you? His white knight?"

"Screw you. You just don't get it."

"Yeah, yeah. Go launch into your 'I love Ryuichi' drama. You don't love him. You don't know anything about him."

"Maybe I do!"

"No… you don't." She scowled.

"Maybe you don't know anything. Why'd he run off? Huh?" He challenged.

"I think he got a little freaked out, that's all."

"What do you mean, freaked out? What'd you do to him?"

"I didn't do anything… It's your damn fault anyway, Tatsuha."

"What the hell do you mean by that?"

"Touma found out you'd gotten in contact with him, that you were playing online games with him. So he had all your contact info wiped from Ryu's computer, hoping that he would just forget… Apparently he didn't… When his care-taking staff was replaced, because he thought maybe they'd given you Ryu's email, that really sent him over the edge."

"What the hell? Why would you do that?"

"Don't 'you' me. It's for his own good. You're the worst possible 'pal' for Ryuichi. Stay out of his life, Tatsuha!" She vented.

"No! Someone needs to protect him from you nuts!"

"Now there's a laugh, Mr. Ulterior motive."

"Why would you do that to me?" They stopped arguing, turning to see Ryu leaning in the doorway to the bedroom, "Why, Mika?"

"Ryu… Oh, hun… We were so worried about you."

"No… I don't think you were. If you were, you wouldn't have done that… I thought you were my friends…"

"We're just looking out for you. That's all. Don't be upset. Just come home, Ryu-chan."

"No. I don't want to. I don't want those people there anymore. I don't like them. I don't want people screwing with my mind anymore!" A sob interrupted his speech for a moment, "It's hard enough… to feel your mind slipping away from you day by day… without it being helped along!"

"Ryu… Calm down… You need to come home and start taking your medicine again."

"It's not helping. It's only making me not care so much. I want to care. I want to remember what I was like when I could think clearly."

"You're not thinking clearly now…"

"Yes, I am… As clearly as I can and it's getting better the longer I don't take that stuffPlease get rid of those people. If you really care about me you will… And get me a doctor that doesn't work for NRG. I want a second opinion from outside… I know I'm never going to get better… but I don't want to be worse. I want to be comfortable in my own skin up until the end. Please!" His hands were balled into tight fists, shoulders hitched up, shaking a little. Tatsuha gulped, resisting the urge to go grab him and hug him, try to calm him down.

"Okay. I'll make sure of it." Mika nodded, "I'm sorry, Ryu. We just wanted to help, we didn't want you to suffer. You were just staying up for days on end with no sleep and then Tatsuha was bugging you, too… and…" She sighed, shaking her head and looking rather helpless.

"I like Tatsuha… He's always so nice to me. He's always honest with me. Always willing just to take my mind off my mind and play a bit. Please don't keep trying to cut him out of my life."

"Honest?… Why don't you be honest with him, Tatsu? Tell him all about you and how you feel about him. All the dirty little details." Mika folded her arms indignantly, tapping her foot expectantly now that she'd put Tatsuha on the spot.

He looked over at Ryu where he was waiting for an explanation, feeling ashamed of all the focus he had had but knowing one thing for damn sure so he made sure to say it as clearly as possible, "I love you. More than anything in the whole world, I love you. I just want you to be happy, Ryu."

Ryu smiled a bit, "That's nice. Nothing wrong with that."

"And they're trying to keep you away from me because they think I'm not right for you, mostly because... I have about a million dirty thoughts about you during the course of any given day." He actually felt himself blushing.

"Oh… A million?"

"At least." He nodded.

"That's a lot of dirty thoughts."

"Yeah. No lie." He smiled sheepishly, "It's amazing I get anything done at all."

"Even when you do a memorial?"

"Well, no… I focus on my work. It's rude to be a perv, then." He shrugged, "But I make up for it later."

Ryu laughed, smiling more and coming over to stand with him, "That was pretty honest." And with that he reached up and pulled Tatsuha down to his height, kissing him much to his joy.

"Oh, shit…" Mika groaned at witnessing this.

"I think he told the truth, didn't he?" Ryu asked her.

"Well, yeah. The tidy version of it. Unfortunately we've been hearing about his hots for you forever… We were just afraid he'd take advantage of your condition."

"Wow. So that explains that..." Ryu laughed softly.

"Hey, I know my own brother. The other one's no snow white prize either." She scoffed.

"But, Eiri-kun is in love now. I've seen him smile a lot. He'd never let anything happen to Shu-chan. So I'm happy for him."

"Yeah, me too… Well… Okay… I need to just walk away from this for a while."

"Please don't tell, Touma." Ryu smiled neatly at her, "Not quite yet. I have a hard time saying no to him."

"All right, all right… I'm going." She went out the door shaking her head, which was pounding now. She was relieved now that she'd found Ryu, but wasn't thrilled with where she'd found him. Breaking it to Touma was going to be tough.

Now that they were alone again Tatsuha grabbed Ryu and held him tightly, overwhelmed by everything he'd just heard, "I don't want your mind to slip away…"

"I'm trying hard to make it stay… but it's really, really hard sometimes… and it's so scary."

"I know… I know… Because I am so scared for you." Against his will the tears just came. "I love you… so much."

"I love you, too… Tatsuha… Keep me company until I'm gone. Will you?" Ryu's fingers curled against his back, arms holding on to him.

"Yes… Yes, I will… Oh God… Ryu… I don't want you to hurt."

"It's okay… I'm not in physical pain or anything like that."

"It still sucks anyway. Physical pain doesn't have to be the only kind of pain." His fingers dove into Ryu's hair, cradling his head against him as though he could protect his mind, "I want you to stay with me. Always… I've always wanted to be with you."

"You'll take care of me…"

"Of course I will… but not like they did… I know they meant well, but Touma just takes stuff way too far… and I know he's been your friend for a long time, but it's just fucking true."

"Yeah, I know… but I kinda like that about him, too." He sighed, nestling against Tatsuha, "I feel okay now. It's not so scary knowing you'll be with me."

"Always… Always…"

He settled down that night with Ryuichi in his arms, love in his heart… Overwhelmed… But determined to be there for Ryu until the very end. Ryu told him about the things that the doctors had told him over the years as his strange condition worsened. They didn't know what to make of him, but they were sure that it was progressing more quickly, recently. Nothing had been found to slow it, just mask the effects from his consciousness, reducing his stress for not noticing the changes so much. They'd changed his medication when he'd been awake non-stop for about a week. He remembered that now… and that things had been really hazy around then. It was all very hard to listen to, to accept, but Tatsuha knew that he had to hear it and believe it all in order to go on.

"What frightened me most… was that I forgot your name. I don't ever want to forget you."

"I won't let you." He dried a tear from Ryu's cheek and kissed his forehead softly, "Get some rest… It's probably going to be a shitty day tomorrow. I know Mika won't keep her mouth shut."

He smiled now, "It's so funny that I have always known your family so closely and they kept trying to keep me away from you!"

"Yeah, well… Maybe that was for your own good after all."

"I don't think so."

They both slept hard from emotional exhaustion. In the morning Tatsuha woke to Ryu kissing him… and for the first time he found true satisfaction in making love.

Thus ends chapter 26 - Please review / comment / complain about how much Tatsuha swears / etc.