It was raining again. It had been doing that a lot lately. Maybe the weather was picking up on his mood Eiji thought, sighing and pressing her cheek against the window pain. It was starting to get dark. Usually the light lasted a bit longer in September but the gathering clouds seem to have other ideas today. Eiji knew that he should start working on dinner, his parents would be home soon and they'd be hungry. Besides making dinner was a good way to avoid another scolding, and he was getting really sick of those.
For the first three months or so since he returned from America Eiji parents had been tolerant of his moodiness, his silence, and his depression. They had been so glad to have their son back, so worried about him after he'd been shot, that they'd let basically everything else slide. Around month four however, the conversations began. He had come downstairs one night to find his parents deep in conversation about him. He remembered vividly hearing his mother stay.
“And you know the whole reason he went to America in the first place was to get over his depression and now look at him, worse than ever.”
“I wonder,” his father had mused, “what happened to him over there. At first I thought the way he was acting was a result of him getting shot, and I wouldn't blame the kid if that's what was upsetting him...”
“it must've been quite traumatizing.” His mother agreed.
“But,” his father continued, “I don't think that's it anymore. The wounds healed and I tried to talk to him about it but he just shrugged it off like it was no big deal. I don't know what he so upset about but I wish he could get past it.”
At that point Eiji had tiptoed his way back up the stairs and down the hall and into his empty bedroom and his empty bed where he had proceeded to cry himself to sleep.
Around month five was when Eiji parents’s had begun urging him to apply to college. He'd enrolled in a few photography classes at the local university around month three and was actually doing fairly well but his parents wanted him to do more, to "get a real education" they said. He supposed they had the right of it, especially since he probably could get in somewhere decent. He'd had very good grades before his injury and now he had a portfolio of photos that he could submit as well. There was just one problem. Eiji couldn't bring himself to care. Applying to college took energy, drive, and motivation, three things that he hadn't had in a long time. So he hadn't done it, and his parents alternated between nagging at him and worrying about him, and now, halfway through month six, Eiji was heartily sick of it.
Eiji continued watching the rainfall. He'd get up to make dinner in a moment he promised himself. It had been months since he believed in those sorts of promises but he made it anyway. In the meantime Eiji leaned into the window pane, his breath tracing foggy patterns across it and his eyes beginning to close as he lost himself in daydreams, his only comfort these days.
A loud, jangling, noise cut through Eiji’s thoughts and he jolted upright, glancing around wildly before realizing that it must've been the doorbell. He sank back against the window pane, deciding to let his sister get. He didn't feel like talking to anyone at the moment.
It rang again. Whoever was outside must be really impatient Eiji thought. This time, though, the sound of the bell was accompanied by the sound of bare feet running down the stairs, Eiji sister, Mari. A moment later he heard the sound of the lock turning in the door opening.
Eiji let his mind wander again. Distantly he could hear his sister saying something and he assumed another person responding, although their voice was so muffled by the rain and the fact that they, whoever they were, was still outside, and Eiji’s own haze, that he could barely pick up the fact that someone else was speaking, let alone the sound of their voice or anything they were saying. With a sigh Eiji put whoever it was out of his mind and returned to his daydreams only to be unceremoniously yanked from them again, this time by yell from his sister.
“Eiji! There’s someone here to see you!”
hu?Eiji blinked, then shrugged. Who would be coming to see him? He wasn't sure. He didn't care. He didn't move.
He still didn't reply. He heard his sister say something to the visitor, whoever it was. It was probably “one moment” or something along those lines but over the sound of the rain he couldn't make it out. A moment later though the door to the living room opened and Mari's head appeared around the door frame. She looked irritated.
“Eiji! There's someone here to see you.”
“Who is it?”
“I don't know. He just says he's your friend.”
Friend hu? Eiji hadn't spent much time with his friends since he’d gotten back. He didn't seem to have much to say to them anymore. He suppose he should go talk to whoever it was, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
“I don't want to see him.” Eiji told her, turning away from her and back toward the window.
Mari let out a snort of irritation and muttered something about him being stupid and about her not being an errand runner, before stomping back out of the room. She didn't bother to close the door behind her. That was probably why Eiji could hear her fairly clearly when she told his so-called friend, whoever it was, that “he says he doesn't want to see you.”
Eiji winced. Okay, yes, that was what he had said, but he still hadn't meant for her to put it like that. Now he’d have to figure out who it was so that he could apologize to him later. He hoped that, whoever it was, wasn't too offended, although they probably were since Mari had been quite rude. He listened for their response but, over the rain, he still couldn't catch a word the other person was saying.
Then Eiji blinked, his mind belatedly registering that Mari hadn't been speaking Japanese to the visitor, she'd been speaking English. Mari’s English was pretty good, it was one of her best subjects at school, and Eiji had been so used to everyone speaking English in America that he hadn't even noticed at first. Strange.
Slightly curious now Eiji finally peeled himself away from the window and headed for the front hallway. As he stood he heard the door click and he presumed that, whoever it was, had gone. Good, he thought, he didn't really fancy facing whoever it was after Mari’s comment, he just wanted to know why she'd been speaking English.
“Who was that?”
Mari had been on her way back upstairs when Eiji spoke but she turned when she heard her brother's voice.
“Now you want to know?” She asked, rolling her eyes.
Eiji rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Sorry about that. I just heard you speaking English and wanted to know why.”
“Because he was speaking English, obviously."
Eiji blinked. “Hu? Why?”
“Because he's some American, idiot.”
Eiji’s eyes widened. An American? an American who claimed to be his friend? Could it be someone from New York? Max maybe? Or maybe, was it possible, that Sing had somehow ended up in Japan?
“Yeah, you know, as in from America, as in that place you disappeared to for an entire year, although I don't know how you managed to make friends with him because he looked…”
Eiji didn't hear the rest of his sister’s words. He was already running to the door, throwing it open, and peering out into the rain. There was a figure walking away from his house around the curve of the nearby corner, but, through the downpour, Eiji couldn't make out anything about him.
Guilt at having sent, whoever it was, away so unceremoniously after they'd come all the way across the ocean and curiosity like he hadn't felt in six months drove Eiji, still barefoot and without a coat, out into the rain. He ran after whoever it was until he rounded the corner and got his first good look at the man's back.
The man was walking slowly, shoulders slumped, head lowered in obvious dejection. Beyond that though he was tall, slender, and had beautiful blonde hair. Eiji stared at that back. It was the rain, he decided, the rain, and his daydreaming blurring his vision, making him see, making him see’
He hadn't meant to shout it, but the cry burst from his mouth before his brain could think to take it back. The figure in front of him froze, then slowly, slowly, he turned around, and Eiji forgot about the rain, and his soaked hair and bare feet and cold hands and everything else, because he hadn't been wrong. It was Ash.
The sound of Ash’s voice broke the spell that seemed to hold Eiji frozen and staring at this impossible miracle, his dead friend. With a half strangled cry Eiji began running again, as fast as he could. He had closed most of the distance between them when his foot skidded on the wet sidewalk and he stumbled forward. Strong arms caught him, keeping him upright, and Eiji looked up into a pair of achingly familiar jade green eyes.
Ash’s voice sounded soft, shaky, unsure but all that registered for Eiji was that it was Ash’s voice, impossible miracle although that might be. With another cry Eiji threw his arms around Ash and buried his face in Ash’s shoulder. Ash hesitated for a moment, then he too tightened his arms around Eiji.
Eiji wasn't quite sure how long they stood like that, embracing in the rain, but at some point Eiji realized that he was crying, the sobs racking his entire body. Ash held him, one hand rubbing soothingly against Eiji’s back.
“you're here?” Eiji asked, his voice still choked by tears.
“Um ya.” Ash smiled tentatively down at him. “If you still want me anyway. If you want me to go I will.”
“No!” Eiji’s eyes widened and his arms tightened convulsively around Ash. “Please, please don't leave me again.” His voice cracked.
Ash looked away, not meeting his eyes. “If you're sure… I know you said you didn't want to see me so…. And it's okay, I get it…”
Eiji decided that it was a good thing that Ash probably had been unable to bring a gun with him to Japan since if he had Eiji would probably have borrowed it so that he could murder Mari.
“I am sure!” Eiji shouted, cutting Ash off. “I only said that because I didn't know it was you. I thought it was just some acquaintance or something!”
“But nothing!” Eiji glared up at him. “I said forever Ash, and I meant it.”
Ash looked back down at Eiji, his eyes widening and filling with a moisture that had nothing to do with the rain.
“Hu?” Now it was Eiji’s turn to look confused.
“Me too, I mean, that is…” For the first time since Eiji had known him Ash actually seemed to be struggling for words. “As long as you want me.” He finished awkwardly.
“So forever then?”
Ash nodded. “Ya. Forever.”