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every dark night

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There is the sun, and he walks the earth like it belongs to him; he’s blistering fire and scorching hot ice all rolled into one, with a beautiful face and fierce eyes. Someday, he will become so hot and so cold, he will burn himself from the inside out, dead by his own hand.

He shines like a beacon in the darkness, and, for a long time, he things the world revolves around him, though not always in worship; he thinks this when the dying stranger cries and begs for help and hands him his own death’s harbinger, he thinks this when the world’s wealthiest and most powerful call for either his head or his hand, and he thinks this when the young boys pledge their loyalty to him, begging for his protection without even knowing it.

He does not think this when the strange boy appears in the bar minutes after leaving his brother in the second bedroom of his apartment, speaking with broken English and light even in the dark glow of the neon lamps; the sun finds himself shrunken to the size of the ant, being burnt by the very thing he calls himself, amplified times one million by a magnifying glass. He is awestruck at the boy with dark hair and dark eyes and a huge smile, who stares at him with some unreadable expression located somewhere between admiration and curiosity and shock, and surprised when the boy says he is older than him, if only by a few months; he thinks this annoys him, this comment on his youthful exterior.

The sun is taller than the boy, who asks almost instantly about his gun, and markedly scrawnier, with more presence and power, but with less confidence in his own safety. So this is what normality means; he’s not sure if this is something he desires.

“Is that a real gun?” he asks, like it would be fake.

For a moment, he wishes for a life where he couldn’t tell the difference either, but he quickly pushes wishful thinking away. The boy’s face turns bright red when the sun asks what he means.

“Can I hold it?” The air in the bar goes still, and he can sense the shock of the patrons when he agrees. He’s not sure what possesses him to do it – the earnestness in the boy’s query or the unfounded yet strong desire to share something of himself with the stranger. The boy is excited to hold it, grasping it carefully so it doesn’t drop, but crookedly so it’s not pointed at anyone. “Thank you for trusting me with it.”

Their hands touch for a moment as he hands him back the gun, and, for the first time in so many years, Ash is not tempted to recoil from the contact.

“Have you ever killed anyone?” the boy asks.

His face darkens with his mind, “Yeah.” The boy acts shocked, and he cannot tell if his reaction is genuine or not; he wonders if he wears the face of a killer on his skin.

He hears Skip talking to the boy about him while he stays alone at the bar, and they act like old friends although they met mere moments before. His eavesdropping is cut short when Shorter calls to warn him about Arthur, and his call is cut short with they come in with guns and knives. He hears them leave and, before he can take a second to think, he’s running after Skip and the boy.

The sun stops the bike at the entrance to an abandoned packing plant; the sky is dark and starless, light pollution killed them all years ago. He doesn’t hide the bike or himself, walking into the trap without hesitation but with all the strength he could muster – a sizeable amount at that, and his hand on the gun tucked into his pants. He’s indignant towards Arthur, but raises an eyebrow when Marvin steps out with some goons, Skip, and the Japanese boy.

“Let them go,” he demands.

“Ash,” Arthur says, and the word sounds dirty in his mouth. “Who is this boy?” Ash says nothing, and, after his eyes slide back to the prisoners, Arthur commands, “Kill him.”

The boy recoils and quakes in fear as one of the goons puts a gun to his head. “Hold it,” Ash says. “You and your ways disgust me.” He throws his gun onto the floor toward Arthur. The boy’s eyes flash from the gun to the sun and something in them awakens.

“What an admirable boss,” Arthur says. “Looking out for his boys.” And then he punches him in the jaw.

They throw him onto the concrete floor, arms tied behind his back; it smells like metal in this room. “Be a good boy now,” Marvin says; his words are like acid. “You know it’s no use disobeying Papa Dino.” His stomach lurches at the name. Marvin picks him up by the collar, moving his face close to his own, and his bones begin to shake, though he does not allow the movement to radiate outward. “What did that man give you?” He spits on Marvin’s face, only to be dropped onto the hard ground, head throbbing.

“I don’t know what you’re after,” he hears Arthur say, “But if you want him to talk, cut off their ears.”

“He’s made a fool of me all this time, let me enjoy this a little bit,” Marvin replies, and slides off his belt. His mind flashes with memory, and his body convulses from the same; he raises himself to his knees before Marvin hits him with the belt.

He’s pushed onto another floor, this time into a much smaller room. “Ash!” Skip exclaims, and the door slams far away.

“Are you all right?” the boy asks, and the pair help him to sit up. He hears fabric ripping from beside him, and then he continues, “Give me your arm.”

Ash frowns, “What? Why?”

He’s already tying the fabric to his arm, where it was cut open and bleeding from the belt. “We need to stop the bleeding.” He finishes the bandage and says, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Ash looks away from the boy’s face, “You might wish I didn’t.” He sighs. “It doesn’t seem like they’ll let us die so easily now.”

The room is dark and cold, the only light coming in from the faraway lights of the city through a small, grated window. They pile up by the tarps in the room, clutching themselves to try to stop the frigidity from reaching their skin.

“How are you feeling, Ash?” Marvin asks as he slides open the door, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He’s not sure how much time has passed since he’s been in here.

“What are you going to do?” he says.

“Depends on you,” Marvin grins. “If you’re a good boy, I could put in a good word to Papa.”

The sun’s breath leaves him. “I want to talk to you in private.”

“Sure,” Marvin agrees, and then demands the others leave, closing the door behind them.

He hears Skip talking to the boy, but shuts out the noise.

“So what now?” Marvin asks.

He rubs his hands over his chest, then pouts, “Not in front of them.” He reclines against a tarp. “Take me somewhere we can be alone.” Marvin grins in response. “My ribs are broken, could you help me up?”

“My poor baby,” Marvin says, walking towards him. He helps him up. “I’ll take good care of you afterwards.” There is a sinking feeling in his stomach.

“I’ll be counting on that.” He knees Marvin in the groin, who doubles over, and then slams him on the neck with his fists; he drops to the ground. Skip and the boy stand, the latter with his hands over his chest.

“You did it!” yells Skip, “I knew you would!”

“Let’s get out of here.” They escape the room, opening the door a mere crack and slipping out, and sneak passed the guards before breaking into a run; they notice their absconding quickly in the dawn’s light and begin to chase after them in the labyrinth. They make it down three or four hallways before coming to a brick wall with barbed wire on top and no conceivable exit.

“A dead end?” the boy asks.

“Shit,” Ash whispers, leaning against the wall and clutching his stomach.

“Damn it, we came this far!” Skip exclaims.

He plans to surrender the necklace, if it means letting these two out, but the boy walks to the wall and pries a metal pipe off the side.

“Wow, I didn’t know you had the guts, Eiji,” Skip grins. “I really like you. I’ll put up a fight, too-”

“No,” he says. “That’s not it.” He analyzes the wall for a moment. “I’m going to jump over.”

“Are you out of your mind?” Ash asks.

“I’ve jumped higher walls in Japan,” he returns. “I’m a pole-vaulter.”

“You’re crazy.” Ash pulls himself off the wall. “If that rotten pipe breaks, you’re dead.”

“Yeah, there aren’t any mats either,” Skip agrees.

In a sudden burst of passion, Eiji says, “Then are we just going to die here? If I’m going to go anyways, I’ll at least die trying.” Before anyone can protest and as the men run toward them, he takes a running jump and soars over the wall and wire.

Ash’s breath hitches in his throat, watching the strange boy soar through the air, the rising sun cradling him perfectly. He’s free.

They turn to see the guards standing behind them. They knock Skip out first, his tiny body limp on the ground. Marvin holds him by the collar and slams him against the wall. “Where did you hide him?”

“He flew,” Ash says, releasing the tiniest hint of a smile. “Like a bird.”