A month had flown by, and Ash finally opened up to his therapist. Much to Eiji's dismay, he wasn't allowed into any session. Healing must be done independently and it would only worsen the situation if Ash became too reliant on Eiji. Therefore, it was mandatory for them to have separate sessions. Although it was intimidating and extremely frightening to accept that he would have to do this alone, Ash obliged. He needed this. He needed to start talking of course, that was the first step. At least that he had done. Sure, it required pushing, but that was a given. Admittedly, it's helped him relieve some of the pressure crushing down on his shoulders. Though, not all of it's gone. He knows this is only the beginning and that there's a hell of a lot more before he's even close to full recovery.
For once, just once, he allows himself to feel hope.
Currently, Ash's gaze was fixed on the window, his eyes focused intently on the limp tree branch that swayed softly with the wind and occasionally tapped on the glass making a quiet 'bang' sound. Though therapy helped with certain aspects of his life, like accepting the fact that it's okay to feel happiness and the fact that he no longer needs to be as vigilant and wary of danger, it didn't soothe his restless nights at all.
So, as usual, he couldn't sleep. He tried to occupy himself with whatever else he could find distracting so that his mind wouldn't wander elsewhere, but, that always seemed to happen no matter how hard he tried. His thoughts always ranged from the events that happened in New York, his traumatic childhood, faces of those who had left their disgusting permanent marks on him, names of people who were dead because of him, and Eiji. Currently, the thing that had taken center attention was the boy sleeping soundly next to him.
Ash huffed, extending his arm so that his fingers could play with the rough spirals of a notebook that rested on the nightstand. He glanced at the alarm clock, the red digits reading '2:06'. The blonde shoved his face into the cool pillow wanting so desperately to just fall asleep and let his body relax. His head always prevented him from doing so.
He tried to push away thoughts that plagued him, but one in particular lingered around.
You don't know Eiji.
That one Ash hated, not because it had a negative aura to it, but because it was true. God, it was true. The silent suffering Eiji went through, the forced smiles, the times he caught those brown eyes dimming...
He's known Eiji for more than two years, they've been through hell together, and yet, there's so much about him that still remains a mystery to Ash. To make matters worse, Eiji doesn't talk. He refuses to. Eiji is seemingly perfect in almost every way, but his own nature is his flaw. He doesn't want to be a burden to anyone or worry Ash therefore he doesn't talk.
Ash bit his lip lifting his head from the soft cushioning of the pillow to look at Eiji who's back was facing him.
Let me in.
Ash didn't realize when he had drifted off, but the next time he woke up sounds of whimpering bounced off the walls. His eyes slowly opened and adjusted to the dim yellow light across from him, his senses sharpening when he recognized a figure sitting on the edge of the bed trembling.
Usually, Ash acted like he was asleep whenever Eiji woke up like this, just to preserve the older boy's dignity. Obviously Eiji didn't like to talk about (or admit to) the nightmares or whatever it was that woke him up, so he didn't pry.
But tonight was different. Ash was going to get to the bottom of this, whether he like it or not. He's had enough. No more waiting, no more watching.
Ash sat up, his hand reaching for Eiji's shoulder. He would be lying if he said he didn't jump with the raven haired immediately flinched away from him.
Eiji turned towards him wiping his face free from any tears that had managed to escape. He smiled softly though his gaze stay averted. His eyes were glassy; Ash could tell that much. He brought his pale hand up towards Eiji's cheek using his thumb to wipe away a tear that was trailing its way down soft skin.
Eiji hummed, his own hand wrapping around Ash's wrist bringing it back down towards the bed.
"Bad dream, that is all."
Ash frowned, "What was it about? You know I said that you can talk to me."
The raven haired shook his head, "I'm okay. Let's go back to sleep, yes?"
Ash watched Eiji begin to turn away from him but he reached out, tugging on his arm to regain his attention. The older looked at him inquisitively, brows raised with blatant confusion.
"Eiji, please. I want to help."
Eiji shook his head again, the feign smile forcefully tugging at the corners of his lips as he tried to convince Ash of the idea that truly he was fine.
"I told you, I'm—"
Eiji's expression turned into one of frustration, his body tensing at the accusation.
"I am not ly—"
"You are. I know you have bad dreams. I know they wake you up. I know you lie about it. I know because I hear you every damn night. Stop being so stubborn." Ash huffed, regretful of the harsh tone he had used towards the end but took a breath and recomposed himself. He continued, voice much softer and gentle that came out as a low whisper, "Please, just... Just let me help."
Eiji swallowed thickly, wishing so dearly that Ash would just let this go and let him sleep everything off, but of course, he wouldn't.
"Can you at least look at me?"
Eiji hesitantly lifted his eyes to meet Ash's, the greens of them light and vibrant; streaks of emerald highlighted by the moonlight bleeding into the room completely contrasting his own dull browns that were beginning to dim with each passing day.
"Talk to me."
Eiji clenched his fists, shaking his head once more. His voice was so soft, so inviting, but he can't—couldn't. Not now, not when those eyes are staring at him with such tenderness. Not when he looks at him with pure sympathy. Not when...
Not when he looks at him as Aslan.
"Eiji. What is it—"
"Nothing. It's nothing. Let's go back to sleep—"
"No. I'm not gonna keep doing this. I can't watch you anymore, Eiji. Something's wrong and—"
"I'm okay. Just, bad dreams."
The raven haired gnawed at the inside of his cheek as his mind raced to come up with something—anything that would serve as a believable lie in the meantime. The boy sitting next to him didn't give him the chance.
"You can talk to me too. I know it's...I'm the one who usually does the talking but Eiji..You can talk to me too."
Eiji brought his hands up to his face wiping his eyes that kept on leaking without him wanting them to. He knew how bad he looked, he knew this was inevitable, and he knew how unbelievably pathetic this all was. Ash was so patient, so kind, and truly blind to see how much of a disaster Eiji was. Here in Japan he was Eiji Okumura; a complete disappointment and a what if. In New York, he was no one; a just another face in the crowd. Now, more than ever, Eiji found everything at odds.
Ash was breathing, heart beating, and alive. He was a miracle; barely surviving a stab wound that was Eiji's fault. Now they had the chance to be happy and yet the Japanese boy couldn't come to terms with it. All of it was ironic and ridiculous. Ash was given another chance at life. The roles were reversed; Ash was no one in Japan, simply the odd American that stuck out from the rest. He was given a clean slate. In contrast, Eiji had a name and a failed career here. It seemed as if in just a flicker things had begun to become increasingly difficult for the Japanese boy.
Eiji felt another light swipe against his cheek as the tear that was rolling down his skin was stopped in its path.
"You don't have to talk to me if you don't want to. I'm sorry..I just wanna help, you know? You've always been there for me so it's only right if I'm here for you too."
The raven haired chuckled shaking his head, "I'm the one who apologizes, not you." Eiji looked up at Ash again who still wore a soft, caring expression.
Eiji cleared his throat and flicked his eyes away, not being able to bare the tender look Ash was giving him. He took a deep breath and held onto the fabric of his pajama pants to keep himself grounded.
"They're about you."
"My dreams–nightmares. They're about you."
Ash raised a brow perplexed. Out of all the things, he's the perpetrator at fault for waking Eiji up every night?
"The day...T-the day I told Sing to give you my letter..." Eiji hated this. Saying it out loud–
"The day Max called me and said y-you weren't gonna make it."
An overbearing tightness was wrapping around the raven haired's throat and his chest began to clench. Every bit of his body rejected this; to admit to being the cause of Ash's almost death out loud. Confessing this to Ash himself was even more miserable. He'd touched upon the subject at therapy but this? It made him want to throw up.
"It was my fault. I should've given it to you personally–"
"No, Ash. It's my fault..." Eiji's voice trembled as the sobs began to unleash, his body shaking in a way that he couldn't control.
Ash almost died because of you.
Ash watched as the strongest boy he knew; the boy who was not afraid to go up against New York's most feared gangs, not afraid to shoot a gun, not afraid of any danger whatsoever crumble right in front of him. All this time, God all this time Eiji blamed himself for everything. Ash was so oblivious to what was right in front of him. The wall that Eiji had put up between them began to disintegrate piece by piece. Everything was falling apart so quickly that he couldn't catch the pieces in time before they shattered.
Of course it was the letter, of course it was him almost literally dying. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to be thousands of miles away to receive a phone call telling you that the person you most care about is on the brink of death.
If it had been Eiji...
He remembered how much desperation he had felt when Eiji took a bullet for him, seeing his blood pool around him until he passed out. Watching him leave in an ambulance without being able to follow and without knowing if he would be alright. Ash almost couldn't bare it.
So of course Eiji was traumatized by that fucking phone call. Though of course it's not his fault. Ash deliberately chose to sit there and bleed out. He thought it'd be better if he were gone; he'd put Eiji out of any danger. Obviously that was one of the most fucking selfish things he could have done and he knows that now.
"Eiji, it's not your fault. Hey." He pulled Eiji in and wrapped his arms around him. Ash could feel Eiji hold onto him for dear life and could feel every sob that wracked havoc throughout his body.
"I should've been there... I should've given you the letter. I should've–"
"I'm alive, aren't I? I'm here Eiji, I'm not leaving. Not anymore."
The older pulled away, "I'm sorry Ash. For everything."
"You apologize too much. You have nothing to be sorry about. Eiji you saved me; you fucking saved me. If it weren't for you I'd still be in New York doing God knows what."
Eiji's teary eyes looked at Ash. He sniffled then smiled, "You deserved to be saved, Aslan. You deserve that and so much more."
Ash grinned, "Thank you. For everything. I don't know how else to show you...everything you've done for me Eiji I don't know how to pay it back."
The Japanese boy shook his head and outstretched his hand so that he could cup the side of the blonde's face, "You don't ever have to Aslan. I promised forever and I meant that."
"I know. I mean it too." Ash brought his hand up to meet Eiji's that was cupped on the side of his face, thumb gently tracing knuckles as he let himself bathe in the small warmth of the skin to skin contact. Truly he was on fire; his heart was full and stomach tingling with an odd sensation. He wanted more. God, so much more. It was selfish of him to want more. Eiji had already given him the world yet he couldn't help but crave more. It was like a drug; once you get a taste of it you can't get enough.
Ash was intoxicated.
He didn't know how to handle all the emotions blooming inside of him. They were all new and weird to him so acting on them probably wouldn't be the best idea. He's not sure how to go about it because he doesn't know if Eiji reciprocated whatever this odd feeling is. He doesn't know if Eiji is feeling the same warm, tingling, overwhelming sensation he is. He doesn't want to ask either because he's afraid of the response he'll get.
"We should go back to sleep," Eiji giggled as his eyelids loomed tiredly over dark brown eyes. His cheeks were dusted pink and stained with the remnants of tears. Ash knew that this moment alone wouldn't cure Eiji of his nightmares nor cure him of the belief that it was his fault for what happened, but it was enough for the meantime. The Japanese boy was thick headed so getting him to believe—to realize that he'd done nothing but good was going to prove to be difficult. Though Ash knows this is merely the beginning. For the first time Ash had finally seen Eiji open up, so that was a good start. Obviously there were many things that he wants to know about the raven haired, but he can't force anything. He'll find out when the time comes, and when it does eventually happen, he'll be there. He'll listen and help and do everything Eiji needs.
Ash smiled when he saw Eiji come down the stairs the following morning. His hair was sticking in all kinds of different directions and the shirt of his pajamas was messily unbuttoned towards the top making his chest and collarbone plainly visible.
"Good morning, Onii-chan~"
Eiji pouted taking a seat at the dining table, "Good morning." His voice was audibly raspy and tone annoyed which entertained Ash and all but fueled his teasing of the elder.
"You look great." Ash slid a plate of pancakes towards him and winked. Eiji grumbled something that Ash couldn't quite catch but the warm colors of cheeks were enough to tell him that his teasing had worked.
After breakfast the two decided on going out for a stroll since the weather was perfect; breeze light and temperature just cool enough to wear a coat. The trees swayed gently along with the wind and the sun shed light that danced amongst the leaves. Truly it was a beautiful day.
Eiji looked down towards the pavement, kicking a small pebble back into the grass, "I was thinking..."
"I want to...pole vault again."
Ash looked over at Eiji who's eyes were still downcast. Another thing he did when he was nervous and unsure of something.
"Yeah? I thought you couldn't anymore, though."
Eiji shrugged, "I want to try again... I miss it."
Ash looked ahead watching as the leaves dusted the pavement then asked knowingly, "Miss what?"
Ash smiled, the simple one word answer making him filled with an overwhelming wave of happiness. The first time he'd seen Eiji fly, it was magical. The sun outlined his figure, his beautiful silhouette splashing into Ash's eyes, the sharp look of determination written all over Eiji's face as he took the risk of vaulting himself over a wall; and then he flew. Just like a bird; spreading his wings as he allowed fate to take control of things. In that moment Ash knew. He knew Eiji was different. He knew Eiji wasn't like the others who had all but used him. He had found someone that would risk everything for him and not expect anything in return.
It was then that he stopped in his tracks making the raven haired stop as well as he looked back at Ash perplexed.
Ash wrapped his arms around Eiji burying his nose in the crook of his neck.
"Thank you. So fucking much."
Eiji giggled, returning the embrace, "I told you that you don't need to thank me anymore, Aslan. I only have done what is right. I would do it all over again."
Ash pulled away slightly and rested his forehead against Eiji's, basking in the warmth of one another. He knew they were probably getting weird looks since they were more or less in public, but he didn't care. All that mattered was this. This moment with Eiji was all he needed. They were in Japan, fucking Japan. This is what they had both wanted. This is what they dreamed of. Not once did Ash even entertain the thought of it actually happening. It always remained a distant fantasy but now it was a reality. This was their life. No more guns, no more gangs, no more Golzine, none of that. Just Eiji.
The Lynx inside of Ash was screaming; reminding him of everything Blanca had said. These feelings were too much, what he felt towards Eiji would eventually explode and leave a trail of irreparable damage, but Aslan Callenreese yearned. He yearned for more and he had hope for a better future. For the first time in his life Ash was capable of having hope for himself. Things would get better. Him and Eiji would live the life they always dreamed of. He was desperate to start his life with Eiji, desperate for so much more.
But for now, this was enough. Under the swaying trees and in the cool air of Izumo Ash would learn to repair his broken wings.
He too would fly and soar just like Eiji did.