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I'll Protect You

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"So tired…" Ann let out a loud yawn as the group stood on the train platform. The group had seen Ren for the first time since their infiltration of Sae's palace and were relieved to see that he was safe.

"I agree… Now that I know Ren-kun is safe, all my previous worrying has caught up to me…" Haru mumbled tiredly, rubbing her eyes. Ryuji absent-mindedly tapped his foot against the tiled floor as he thought over the night's events. He had been worrying constantly since Ren was caught, so when he saw his best friend's fluffy hair, he couldn't help himself from leaping at him and hugging him. Although, he couldn't help but think that Ren was acting a bit off… The group left him about ten minutes ago, with Futaba carrying Morgana off with her to the Sakura household while the rest of them headed over to the train station to catch the last train of the night.

"Although… I do have to wonder… Just what did Shido stand to gain by having Ren killed?" Yusuke muttered, scowling thoughtfully.

"We'll discuss it tomorrow, okay? I think it's best to make sure that we're all well rested before we even think about tackling this…" Makoto declared with a tense expression. Everyone quietly agreed. Obviously everyone was on edge after learning that the top candidate for prime minister was the mastermind behind everything, but Ryuji was more worried about Ren. After a while, his worry got the better of him.

"Ah, crap… I think I left my phone at Leblanc! I'm gonna go check!" He lied as he patted his pockets, including the one which held his phone. He quickly began jogging off before anyone could stop him.

"Wha-? You're gonna miss the train!" Ann shouted out after him.

"Hurry up, Ryuji!" Makoto commanded.

Ryuji just waved dismissively at them as he flew out of the station and onto the street. As he turned the corner, he spotted Sojiro outside Leblanc, locking up for the night.

"Yo, Boss, uh… Do ya think I'd be able to check up on Ren? I'm just… like… I know he's safe but I'm still worried, y'know?" The blond teenager awkwardly requested as he jogged up to the bearded man.

"Sure thing, don't worry, I get it. Although, just make sure that you don't talk too loud or anything… He's been a bit jumpy since he got back…" Sojiro chuckled softly, giving Ryuji a quick warning as he unlocked the door.

"Alright, thanks for the heads-up." Ryuji thanked Sojiro before quietly slipping through the cafe door. The knowledge that Ren had been acting jumpy worried Ryuji even more. As he walked up the stairs, he spotted Ren sitting at his desk. However, Ryuji couldn't tell what he was doing as the raven haired boy had his back to him. He did notice him drop something into the trash can, though.

"Hey, Ren." Ryuji softly called out. Ren flinched at the sudden voice.

'Boss wasn't kidding…' Ryuji thought as a sad frown made its way onto his face.

"I thought you guys went home already." Ren remarked, keeping his back facing Ryuji.

"Yeah, but I came back 'cause I was worried about you." Ryuji explained, shoving his hands into his pockets and shuffling over to the fluffy haired boy.

"I-I'm fine, there's no need to worry about me. You should be heading home. You need rest." Ren quickly replied, still facing away from Ryuji.

"But I wanna check up on ya. So I'm gonna." Ryuji insisted with a smirk. As he stepped closer to Ren again, he saw what he had dropped into the bin. It looked like some wipes with some weird coloured stains on them. Ryuji recognised the stains as makeup from the times Ann had forced him to let her give him makeovers.

"Hey, Ren…"

"Well, I was just settling down for the night, y'know? Thought I'd read a book." Ren spoke up hurriedly, picking up a book that was sitting on the desk.

"Ren-"

"It's funny, I bought this book ages ago but I haven't had a chance to read any of it yet!"

"Ren-"

"I've heard that it's really good! Apparently there's some kinda big twist and-"

"Ren."

Ryuji's stern voice finally 'caused Ren to stop rambling. The raven haired boy sat there in silence, completely motionless.

"Look at me." Ryuji requested softly.

"..."

"Ren."

"..."

"Ren, please just look at me…"

"... I don't want to."

That sentence shook Ryuji. He knew that something was definitely wrong at this point. He carefully placed his hand onto Ren's shoulder and gave a comforting pat.

"Ren, please… I just wanna help…" The blond pleaded. Ren thought for a little while before slowing turning around and showed Ryuji what he had been hiding. He had bruises littering his entire face, a black eye, a large cut on his lip, a strange looking dot on the side of his neck… The injuries were endless.

"W-What the hell did they do to you…?" He choked out as he gingerly cupped Ren's cheeks. Ren remained silent as he looked down at the floor. He almost looked ashamed…

"If I knew that you were gonna come back, I would've kept my makeup on for a little longer…" The bruised boy muttered.

"Why'd you hide it from us?" Ryuji asked, desperate to know what had happened to his best friend.

"I've worried you guys enough, you didn't need to know about this…" Ren answered with a whisper.

"Like hell, we didn't! I get that you being caught was part of the plan, but we never thought this would happen! If I knew this was gonna happen, I never would've let you do it!" Ryuji gasped, scowling as tears filled his eyes. Ren was also close to tears as he continued to avoid eye contact. Ryuji had never been this angry in his life. He was able to show mercy to Kamoshida, he still didn't know how he did that, but he did. But these people? These monsters that did this to a defenceless boy? To Ren? All Ryuji could think about was how he wanted to kill them.

"We're a team, aren't we? You're always helping us… Why won't you let us help you?" Ryuji whispered, shakily grasping onto Ren's shoulder as his tears began to fall. Ren grimaced as Ryuji clung to him. He didn't want to trouble him… but in the end, it seemed that he did anyway. The raven haired boy gently gripped onto Ryuji's t-shirt, much like a scared child. Just that small gesture was all the reason Ryuji needed to pull Ren into a hug. Ren cautiously wrapped his own arms around Ryuji.

"Look… You don't hafta talk about it if you don't want to… Just… Remember that we're here for you… okay?" Sighed Ryuji, soothingly stroking Ren's hair as he spoke.

"...Okay." Ren eventually agreed.

"You're safe now." Ryuji assured him. Ren hummed quietly against Ryuji's chest. As the blond gently pulled away, he noticed the large bags under Ren's eyes.

"Have you been sleeping properly?" Ryuji asked him.

"No…" Ren admitted.

"Do you want me to stay with you tonight?" Ryuji suggested, softly squeezing Ren's hand.

"Yeah…" Ren mumbled under his breath.

"Alright." Ryuji chuckled softly. He gently lifted Ren's hair and placed a comforting kiss on his forehead. As Ren flushed a deep pink, Ryuji pulled out his phone and sent his mother a text, letting her know that he wouldn't be coming home tonight.

"Okay, you need some rest. So, c'mon, go to sleep." Announced Ryuji as he carefully lifted Ren from his desk over to his bed.

"Yes, Morgana…" Ren huffed sarcastically. After placing him down, Ryuji just stared at the fluffy haired boy.

"How dare you." He pouted as he sat himself down next to Ren. The raven haired boy just giggled sleepily. Ryuji couldn't help but chuckle himself before slipping Ren's glasses off his face and placing them on the nearby shelf.

"Do you want me to turn the light off, or do you want it to stay on?" Ryuji checked, gesturing towards the light switch.

"It's alright, you can turn it off." Ren answered with a yawn. Ryuji complied, then carefully laid himself down next to Ren. He instinctively wrapped his arm around Ren's waist, wanting to protect him. Ren snuggled into Ryuji's chest and let out a peaceful today.

"Ryuji."

"Mm-hm?"

"Thank you."

"Idiot, you don't need to thank me… I'm always here. I'll always protect you… You know that, right?"

"...Y-Yeah…"

Even though he couldn't see his face, Ryuji could tell that Ren was blushing. Chuckling, Ryuji placed a soft kiss on Ren's cheek.

"Good night, Ren."