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Skipping Stones

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“Didn’t think you had it in you.”

Eiji had been expecting to drive in silence. Or maybe he had just hoped they would drive in silence. Ash’s voice made it all too real. A large part of him had wanted to concentrate on what gear to shift to and when the lights would change. That would distract him from the feel of his heart trying to escape from his ribcage and his hands shaking on the steering wheel.

“I didn’t think I had it in me either,” Eiji said. His voice shook and he tried to give a shaky laugh to cover it up.

Ash was looking at him. He could tell. Those eyes pierced into the side of his head. He swallowed, trying to think of something – anything – to say. The whole city seemed like a big grey blur. He drove where Ash said, but he couldn’t separate roads.

“I’m sorry I didn’t visit you – alone,” the words came out. He’d been meaning to say them, they’d been playing on his mind for days, but he didn’t expect them to outpour now.

“What?” Ash asked. He had his feet up on the dashboard, tapping in time to music in his head.

“In jail. When we visited – you said to come alone next time,” he flicked his indicator, pretending to peer into his wing mirror so that he wouldn’t look at Ash. This wasn’t helping. This was making the heart beating and the hand shaking worse.

“It was an act.”

“I know,” turn. Indicator off. “I just – I meant to.”

Ash was silent. Eiji swallowed, his face warm.

“I didn’t like to think of you there without anyone coming to see you. It can’t have been easy.”

“I wouldn’t have wanted you there,” Ash said. He paused. “No offence.”

Eiji could feel himself frowning, but he also felt his lips quirk upwards. Ash’s bluntness was charming, in its own American way.

“None taken?” he said, but at least his laugh was a little less shaky this time.

“It’s not that I don’t – like you,” it was the first time Eiji had heard Ash even remotely nervous. “You’re a decent getaway driver, I suppose.”

“Are you sure? I don’t think I’ve broken any traffic laws,” Eiji adjusted the rear view mirror and got a glimpse of Ash’s green eyes in it. He found it hard to concentrate on the road again. “Aren’t getaway drivers supposed to be a little more daring?”

“I don’t have to break the law all the time,” Ash said. He gave Eiji’s shoulder a light shove. “It’s better that we don’t get pulled over by the police right now, anyway.”

His voice was serious. Eiji glanced at him to see him glancing in the wing mirror intently. God, he was serious about this. He was serious about this and this was an average day for Ash Lynx. Even that name. Ash Lynx. It didn’t matter that he chose it, it was his name. Who in the hell went by Ash Lynx and lived up to that name?

How did Eiji come to be mixed up with this boy? He had been here little over a week and he was already stealing a car for this boy. This Ash Lynx. He was driving a car for a gang leader so that he could take out his old boss. He was serious about murder.

“I wouldn’t have wanted you to see me like that,” Ash said. His voice had a softness that Eiji hadn’t heart before. He stopped at a light and looked over. It was Ash’s turn to avoid his gaze. “It was bad enough that you visited the day after-“

“After you got beat up?” Eiji edged the car forward as the light turned amber.

“Yeah,” Ash took a deep breath in. “It wasn’t just –“ he had taken his feet off the dash and was staring at his knees, his hair falling over his face. “More than that.”

It took Eiji a moment, but then it came to him.

“Oh,” he didn’t know why, but he flicked the indicator again and pulled over to the side of the road. They got beeped by a handful of cars. “Oh.”

He didn’t know what to say.

“I knew they were going to,” Ash tapped his fingers on the windowsill. “I needed to get to the infirmary – to get the pill to give to you. It – it seemed like a decent plan.” Eiji stayed silent. He couldn’t understand it, and he couldn’t think of something that wasn’t completely cliché to tell Ash. “It was bad enough that Max knew. I didn’t want you to…”

“You’re telling me now,” Eiji said.

“I am.”

“You don’t have to.” Eiji didn’t know what Ash expected him to say. He had no experience of this.

“I know.” Ash ran a hand through his hair. “I know. But you already know about the other stuff, so…”

Eiji swallowed again. His mouth felt dry and his stomach churned at the thought.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he didn’t think they would be close enough to, but maybe stealing a car with someone brings you closer together.

“No. Not – yet. Not yet. One day. One day I’ll have the words .”

Eiji didn’t want to say that he could be back in Japan by the end of the week. He didn’t want to be – in fact a large part of him that he didn’t understand very much wanted to stay. He wanted to stay here with Ash. He didn’t want to go back to Japan.

Japan.

“It happens in Japan, you know,” he eventually said. It was the only thing he could think of to say. “It’s a whole – Lolita and stuff.”

“Like the film?”

“There’s a film?”

“It’s - an uncomfortable experience,” Ash his head back against the headrest. The corners of his mouth lifted upwards slightly. “You changed the subject well.”

“I didn’t mean to – I just – I know that stuff happens,” Eiji’s hand tightened on the wheel. “I needed you to know that I – I know that.”

“That’s a shame,” Ash’s voice was light and he meet Eiji’s gaze. His mouth was curved upwards in the way it always was when he was teasing, but there was a light missing from his eyes. “I liked it when you were nice and innocent.”

“You took my first kiss, you know,” Eiji wondered how he felt comfortable enough to tell him that. Surely he wanted Ash to think he was wiser and smarter as well as older. But he smiled and his hands relaxed on the wheel.

“Really?” Ash’s pale eyebrows rose.

Eiji nodded, his cheeks flaming. Ash chuckled under his breath, but his smile faded.

“Sorry,” he said dropping his gaze. He bit his lip and Eiji had to look away, his throat tight. “Your first kiss shouldn’t have been because I was trying to pass you a message.”

“It’s not a big deal. I – it’s just a kiss, and it was important, so-“ Eiji tapped his fingers on the wheel, watching the cars pass them. “Why did you choose doing that to pass it to me?”

Ash shrugged, his fingers curled over the gear stick and Eiji decided not to notice.

“Because I wanted to?”

It was such a classically Ash answer that Eiji had to grin. He flicked the indicator back on, waiting for an opening to join the traffic.

“Right.”

“It’s a compliment. I’m saying your boyfriend material.”

Eiji turned the car back into the traffic, his fingers shaking again. He hated that. But he was starting to enjoy the feeling of his heart racing. It had always raced when he had ran up to the high jump stand, the pole in his hands, but that was adrenaline. This wasn’t that. This was something else. This was remembering the feeling of Ash’s hand on his cheek and Ash’s hand on his butt. This was remembering Ash’s mouth against his and his tongue poking into his mouth. It was remembering that even though his brain was hay-wiring at it, his skin felt like sparks were running over it and the feeling wasn’t unpleasant. It wasn’t unpleasant at all. It was a feeling that he kept thinking about. A feeling that he’d want to feel again. He wanted his stomach to leap the way it did when he heard Ash call him ‘sweetie.’

But Ash probably didn’t want that. Ash probably hated that, after all he’d been through.

He couldn’t say all of this – he could barely even admit it to himself. So, instead, he smirked, and said “well, thanks.”

Ash laughed. It sounded almost genuine. “Turn here. Did you want to keep it going, then? Were you going to come back on your own and play along with me?”

Eiji obeyed and found he couldn’t keep the grin off of his face. His nerves and anxiety had given way to some kind of euphoria. But maybe that was just Ash saying that he was boyfriend material. He still hadn’t figured out if he had a crush on that boy or not.

“You didn’t need me anymore,” he said. “I’d done my part. You didn’t want to see me anyway.”

“Well, maybe if you’d told me you were going to pose as my boyfriend…” When Eiji glanced over to Ash he found the blonde resting his elbow on the windowsill, his head in his palm. There was that teasing smirk and there was that spark in his eye.

The tightness returned. This was all too real. He couldn’t tell if this was banter or if this was serious and he didn’t want to get hurt. He just rolled his eyes, bit his lip and turned his eyes back onto the road. He wouldn’t be able to ask Ash if he was really-

He hadn’t really asked himself. He had never had time for something like that. Surely he – they – didn’t have time for that now.

“You can stop here – we can walk the rest of the way.” Ashe said.

“On the side of the road? Just leave it?”

“Why not?”

“It’s a little conspicuous.”

“Do you want to waste time finding somewhere to park? It’ll be easier for them to find the car like this.”

“Right,” Eiji wasn’t entirely convinced, but the car was starting to feel unbearably hot. He needed air.

His hand went to switch gears, and he found himself cupping Ash’s. It made him jump and he was suddenly meeting those piercing green eyes.

“Sorry,” Ash murmured, pulling his hand away. Eiji felt oddly empty without it underneath him. He held his breath as he saw Ash’s hand hover over his thigh. Surely not. Surely that was too far for a joke.

But then they were parked, Eiji was certain it was on yellow lines, and Ash was opening the car door and swinging out.

Eiji blinked. His hands felt glued to the wheel. That entire conversation seemed bizarre. This entire situation was bizarre. What was he doing? Was he flirting with a gang leader?

Did he want a gang leader to flirt with him?

He had to stop. Ash wouldn’t want that. And he wasn’t the untouchable hero that Eiji saw in his mind. Just those few moments in the car had shown him that. It hadn’t popped the crush in his mind. If anything, he wanted to see more of that Ash. That Ash with the real laugh.

His door opened and he blinked again.

“You coming?” Ash was ducking so that he could see into the car, his hair falling across his face. His hair shone in this light.

“Yeah,” Eiji forced a grin and stepped out of the car, pushing the door closed behind him. They suddenly seemed close, his own converse in between Ash’s.

“Sweetie,” Ashe murmured, in that soft tone of voice again. His fingers grazed the small of Eiji’s back, sending sparks up his spine. Eiji felt like he was short circuiting. Was he going to kiss him again?

No. Ashe turned away and started down the street.

Eiji swallowed, pushing his rogue heart back down to where it belonged, then followed.

“Would you have wanted me to?” he found himself asking, matching Ash’s step.

Ash glanced at him, his face unreadable.

“I wouldn’t have pretended in the first place if I couldn’t see myself dating you,” he wasn’t even looking, but he seemed to send how red Eiji’s face was, because he continued. “It helps that you’re a good kisser.”

He even nudged Eiji’s hip with his.

“Speak for yourself.”

“I’ve had experience. It was a good first kiss.”

“So what you’re saying is it wasn’t good at all?”

“It’s been a while – do you want to refresh my memory?”

Eiji had to admit he was tempted. Without getting a pill pushed into his mouth, he was sure he’d enjoy kissing Ash Lynx. But also-

“You have to stop saying stuff like that – I can’t tell if you’re joking,” he said.

“You’ll never know.”

Eiji took in those sparkling green eyes and that playful smirk and couldn’t help smiling back, even if his cheeks were burning. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to tell when Ash Lynx was serious or not, but he wasn’t sure he minded. He was so incredibly different from everything else he had ever known and he was hooked on that – drawn to him like a fish on a hook.

This was where Eiji belonged. He belonged next to Ash.