The white room whirred quietly, accompanied by the bleep of monitors and other hospital equipment. A heavy and unsteady breathing could be heard through the oxygen mask that covered a beautiful, delicate face. All kinds of wires and machines were hooked up to the patient, helping him heal.
Nuriko was out of the danger zone, for now. The doctors had managed to patch the idol up nicely, stopped the bleeding, and replaced a lot of the lost blood. Hotohori promised himself he'd make a large, anonymous donation to both the hospital and the blood bank when things had settled.
Now the prince simply watched the sleeping figure, confused, lost, and hurt at all that had happened. Nuriko was hurt and it was his fault; Chichiri was hurt and it was his fault; Tasuki was hurt and it was his fault...things weren't looking too good for the noble youth. Not that anyone really blamed him, except maybe Tasuki, but he couldn't help but feel miserable and worthless, like a bad curse affected him.
As he gazed at the figure on the bed, the singer's eyes slowly opened, registering on the visitor. A happy, yet weak, smile lit up the violet-haired youth's face, and he carefully lifted a hand to remove the oxygen mask, even though such a task was difficult in his state. "That's just the face I wanted to wake up to," he said softly and slowly; the lack of strength was evident even in his voice.
"I...I don't know how to repay you," was all Hotohori could manage to say.
"You don't have to."
"But I want to. I can't thank you enough...but I can't understand why you did what you did. Why did you put your life in danger for me?" The noble youth looked down, "is it...because I'm the prince?"
The idol gave a weak laugh, and paused a moment to gather some energy for what he was about to say. "I did it because...I like you," he smiled softly, "I always have. From the very first time I saw you, lost in the crowd at a concert.... Even before I knew your little secret. I would have done it no matter who you were." He looked as though he wanted to go on, but didn't have the strength.
The reply shocked Hotohori, and confused him even more; he didn't quite understand the concept of doing things for a prince without expecting something in return. "How? How can you so easily endanger all that you have, your fame and your life, for someone you simply like?"
"It's more than that," Nuriko smiled, "more than 'like'. I feel...." He paused for a moment, being worn down even by just talking, and yawned. His makeup lined eyelids  fluttered a bit, remaining only halfway open. "I feel as though I've known you for the longest time. Like...even in a past life I may...have...." 
Without finishing the sentence, the star's eyes gently closed as he fell back to sleep.
There was a loud crashing as a body was drug across the nurse's station, knocking the contents everywhere. Bandages, syringes, rubber gloves, and bedpans, all kinds of things went flying as a teal-haired man drug his flame-haired partner through the hospital, making sure to be extra rough with him. Tamahome had a firm grip on Tasuki's shirt, and couldn't care less if the other hit a wall or two as they exited the building. Tasuki, for his part, was letting out a stream of curses as he tried to free himself of the other's hold, in vain.
Once outside, in an empty area behind the hospital, the youth slammed his friend against the wall, hard. "You call yourself a man!? Huh!?" He pulled back a bit, giving himself enough room to slam the other against the wall again. "If you were really a man you'd fight for the one you love and stop being such an idiot!" Catching the confused and somewhat frightened look on Tasuki's face at the word "love," he gave a smirk, still not loosening his hold. "That's right, love. Maybe you won't admit it, but I can see it in your eyes plain as day. You love him." His look became hard again, as he glared at the other man. "Are you really going to just let him get away?"
Having long since shut up, Tasuki now glared calmly at his partner. "Tama...put me down." He was released, and walked past the other youth, bumping his shoulder as he went by. "You wouldn't understand," he said without looking back, "you've never had to go up against royalty for Miaka. Just...stay out of it."
And he left, with Tamahome yelling after him, "you can't just walk away!"
When given the word that Nuriko was out of danger, but not allowed any visitors (besides Hotohori), the group went their separate ways. Everyone was tired and mostly just wanted to be alone for a while. Tamahome had fetched Miaka, who got not much of a response when asked where Tasuki went; Mitsukake, Chiriko, and the twins each went back to their homes.
Chichiri went home too, after first stopping by the arena to pick up his mask. He briefly made note that the authorities had picked up Ashitare's body, but was too tired to think much about it. It had been a long day.
Now the blue-haired teen was just lying in bed, unable to sleep, but too tired to do anything else. The day's occurrences ran through his mind, both the good points and the bad, as he stared at the ceiling. His heart hurt as he remembered what Tasuki had said to him.
So, he had the idol's affection, something he'd never believed could actually happen. But what good did it do him? He still wasn't able to be with the fiery star. At the same time, he had something that thousands of people around the world would die for.
"Still doesn't do me any good," he said out loud, to himself.
The situation was far too confusing for his tastes, and he found himself wishing things could be easy and normal again.
And what about Hotohori? The prince! He had his affection too. 'Gee, aren't I popular all of a sudden,' he snorted at himself in sarcasm. But the noble youth knew he didn't return his feelings, and was understanding and content with it, so why couldn't Tasuki see that too?
He lifted the mask that he held in his hand, and stared into its ever-smiling face. For some reason, he didn't feel like wearing it right now...didn't feel like pretending to be happy. For once, he wanted everyone to know he was upset and hurt. For once, he wanted to be true to himself.
"Hikou...." he breathed a name that hadn't left his lips in years. "Help me. I don't know what to do."
When a warm presence surrounded him, he was finally able to curl up on his side and fall asleep. The mask left his fingers, falling gently to the ground.
Amber eyes stared into yet another alcoholic drink. The bar wasn't too crowded and the noise level was low, creating a pleasant, comfortable atmosphere. Music played in the background, the drinks were good, the girls hanging out were pretty....
Tasuki felt like garbage.
Now matter how nice the place seemed, everything looked bad to the fiery youth. Even trying to drink himself into a stupor wasn't doing any good. He kept hallucinating, seeing blue-haired guys everywhere, which spat in his face where his mind really was.
All he felt like doing was staring into the half-empty glass in front of him, but even that wouldn't settle his heart. Not even the booze could quiet the raging emotions that ran through him.
He pushed the glass away and leaned back in his chair with an exasperated "shit." Then, after throwing some bills on the counter, more than enough to pay his tab, he left.
Nuriko's mauve eyes  opened and instantly took notice of the longhaired youth who was sleeping in the chair next to his bed. He smiled at how beautiful the other was when he slept, though he looked rather uncomfortable.
Next he looked around and noted that he was in a different room then before; even though he was only awake a brief moment previously, he could tell from the coloring. Where the other room was an extremely clean looking white, this one was a soft yellow in color, and had cheerful pictures of kittens and flowers hanging on the wall. And this room was a double, two beds for two patients, although the other one was currently empty. 'This must be the recovery room. How long have I been out?'
He also noticed the oxygen mask and some of the other equipment had been unhooked, though he still had an IV and a few monitors attached here and there.
He turned his attention back to the sleeping prince, and moved to sit up and wake him. Bad idea. When an agonizing pain shot through his chest he had to bite his lip to hold back a yell, and lay back down, still until the pain subsided. With a sigh and some controlled breaths the aching stopped, and he resigned himself to simply look at the other while he rested.
A sound caught his attention, and he turned his head to see the window opening...from the outside. When the glass was fully opened, a figure pulled itself up from the outer ledge and entered the room.
"Hi," the guest gave a fanged grin.
"Tasuki!" He gave his partner a big smile, happy to have someone to talk to. "How's it going?"
"Shitty," the other replied with a smile, "but shouldn't I be the one askin' that?"
"I've been worse," he joked, then winced at the pain the laugh caused him. "Can't think of any times at the moment, but...hey, it only hurts when I move...and laugh...and breathe...and think."
"Well, we don't have ta worry 'bout the thinkin' part." The flame-haired idol smiled and moved to sit by the bed, then stopped upon seeing the sleeping youth in the chair. "He been here all this time?"
"I don't know," Nuriko replied softly, "I just woke up and there he was."
Tasuki stared at the Hotohori for a moment, fragments of things said what seemed like ages, yet was actually only days, ago running through his mind. After considering him a minute he leaned over and gently gathered the noble youth in his arms, briefly surprised at his weight. He looked at the prince another moment before softly muttering "troublemaker," and carrying him over to the empty bed on the other side of the room.
After he returned to the patient's bedside and taking the now empty chair, Nuriko smiled at the other star softly. "Don't blame him; it's not his fault things happened. He was just trying to make a better life for himself. He didn't want any of this to happen."
"I know," Tasuki grumbled.
"So," the violet-haired idol resumed his usual cheerfulness, "how's Chichiri and the others?" He grinned and winked at his partner.
"Tama and Miaka are fine," he nodded. "Chichiri..." he looked away, heart suddenly down. "To tell ya the truth, I haven't seen Chichiri."
"Haven't ya noticed yer prince over there's affection for him?" Nuriko scowled. "I can't...won't compete with that. He's royalty. I'm nobody. He's the prince. I'm-"
"You're Tasuki!" the other interrupted, "of TNT! And you're the one that funny looking kid loves!"
There was that word again, 'love'. Tamahome's words came charging back at him, 'fight for the one you love...I can see it in your eyes'. He bowed his head in thought. Even Nuriko saw it, so how come he was the only one who didn't realize it?
"Besides," Nuriko cut into his thoughts, looked around, and whispered slyly, "I think Hotohori is starting to like me." He giggled and winked. "I just had to get myself nearly killed to get his attention."
Tasuki smiled and shook his head, glad to know some things never change. "I really am an idiot."
He stood up, intending to take his leave. With a "thanks for your advice" and a hug goodbye to his friend, he made his way back over to the window from which he'd came.
"Oh, and Tasuki?"
"Yeah?" he looked over to the other.
"...Why the Hell are you going through the window?"
The fiery idol grinned, "they're not letting visitors see ya yet. Immediate family only an' all. Kinda sucks that yer on the third floor though."
Nuriko laughed, then winced again. "You know, you'd make a great bandit." Then, as an afterthought, "what are we going to do about the concert? I can't perform in this condition."
"We'll think of something."
Hotohori chose that moment to awaken, sitting up on the bed and shaking his hair out of his face. He blinked, vision not quite focused yet, as Tasuki waved and exited the building. "What the-" He turned to Nuriko. "Did you just see something fly out the window?"
The idol smiled at the other, who looked so cute in his confusion. "You must be imagining things. Now...come sit over here by me."
The teen had been sitting in the same spot in front of his computer, staring blankly at days worth of backlogged e-mail that he just didn't feel like responding to, for a good half hour. Most of the electronic letters were from 'TNTML', the computer mailing list he was proud owner of, but he really didn't want to answer to all the rumors that Nuriko had been attacked, shot, raped, kidnapped, deported, and/or died of a drug overdose,  or even discuss the band at all.
When the knock came at his door his first thought was to ignore it; he'd taken a few days off of school because he seriously didn't feel like being around anyone, and a visitor would defeat the purpose of his time off. Then, on second thought, he decided to answer it after all, never mind the fact that he was sitting around in nothing but boxers and a tee shirt.  His guess was that maybe it was Hotohori; he kind of missed the nobleman, and felt he owed him an apology, though he didn't know why. Or maybe it was Mitsukake or one of the gang, dropping off homework and checking in on him again. Either way, it was better than staring at a computer screen.
Upon opening the door he discovered it wasn't one of his friends after all, but rather, an orange-haired idol that stood on his doorstep, holding a brown tube of sorts.
After the briefest moment of hesitation, Chichiri took a step back, inviting the other to enter. He motioned to the living room couch, saying "have a seat," then went to the kitchen and got some refreshments. "Excuse me while I...go put some clothes on."
As the teen left, Tasuki chuckled "but I like the way yer dressed now," to himself, quiet enough so that the other wouldn't hear. When the boy re-entered the room, now wearing khaki pants and a green and yellow 'Adidas' shirt, he handed him the tube he'd been carrying. "Present for ya."
"What is it?"
"A peace offering...kinda."
The blue-haired youth popped the top off the tube and pulled out a long, rolled up item. Unrolling it revealed it to be a beautiful looking 'TNT' poster, one that he'd never seen in stores before, featuring Tasuki in the center with Tamahome and Nuriko on either side of him. In the corner a short message was written, 'To Chichiri.. Luv ya lots! Tasuki', with little hearts drawn around it.
As the masked teen stared at the gift, Tasuki continued, "I've been a real dumbass lately. I know that won't make up for it, but I was hopin'...ya know...that ya could forgive me an' all."
Chichiri continued to stare at the poster - more specifically, at the message that was written. His eyes read 'Luv ya lots!' over and over, until his vision began to get blurry, wetted by tears. He stood still until the fiery idol stood and grabbed him gently, yet firmly, by the shoulders, startling him. He looked up into serious amber eyes.
"Can you forgive me?" he asked slowly, carefully, making sure his accent didn't leave him misunderstood. This was important to him.
Images of the first time they'd met, when he had made the same request of the singer, flashed through Chichiri's mind, followed by all the times they'd shared since that fateful night. They were the best times he'd had since the accident that took his family away, and he couldn't help but feel this was a chance at a new life. Slowly, he nodded and whispered, "of course I forgive you."
Relief and joy spread through Tasuki's eyes, and he moved a hand up to caress the teen's cheek for a second before pulling the mask off his face. He felt the other's body tense for a brief moment, then relaxed, and the idol was happy that he again had his trust.
After a moment of gazing into each other's eyes, the taller youth slowly, ever so slowly, began to lean down, making his intentions clear yet still giving the teen room to back off if he wanted to. He wanted the moment to be perfect, not uncomfortable.
But the other didn't back off. He stood, waiting patiently, and when their lips finally met he felt all his dreams come true. As they held each other close, he knew he would no longer be alone. That piece of him which was once taken away was now returned, shiny and new.
And he knew it would be there forever.
It's over! Woo! I'll try to stop crying now...so my co-workers will stop looking at me funny....
 like I said before...I have no idea how hospitals work (which is actually a good thing, seeing as it means I've never had to deal with 'em). I don't know if they'd take the time to wash makeup off a patient's face or not.... I just assumed, since it was an emergency situation, that they wouldn't. ^^
 another thing I've mentioned before...I have no intention to make this a reincarnation fic...but the hints are awfully fun!
 'ahou' = 'idiot' or 'dumbass' ^__^
 it took me forever to decide the right color of Nuriko's eyes! but I think I got it right ^_^
 rumors can be so silly...or stupid
 no reason...I just wanted a gratuitous 'Chichiri in his underwear' scene ^.^
Now...you're probably all wondering what happened with Nakago.... ^^** Me too. I couldn't think of anything to do with him, but the story ends before there's time to worry about that anyway, so it's ok. ^^ I'm still wracking my brain for ideas, so there just might be a sequel! ...But don't get your hopes up.
The scene with Chichiri getting the poster...that idea came from one of the pics that Chikki-chan drew for the fic. ^_^ So it's her doing. She drew the pic just for fun, but it worked into the story wonderfully, so I had to put it in. Thanks, Chikki! ^_^
And I'd like to give a big 'THANK YOU!!' to everyone who read this fic. It's probably the longest and best thing I've written so far, and has developed a special place in my heart. Now that it's over...I feel kind of empty...but also glad that I accomplished something. My baby's all grown up now.... ::sniffle::
Arigato! Tanoshii kata!