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Broken Wings

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Ash didn't want to admit how anxious or nervous he was to step out of the train and come face to face with Eiji again. He was beyond excited, thrilled even, but the thought of him possibly bringing more harm to Eiji by coming here was a thought that kept nagging him since the plane landed. As hard as he tried to not succumb to the dark depths of his mind, it was inevitable; he would always fall victim to himself. The memory of Eiji getting hurt and nearly dying still haunted him. The sound of the gunshot that caused a bullet to pierce straight through the person he most cared about reverberated in his ears as the train came to a screeching halt. The commotion of the passengers getting up and dispersing brought Ash back to the raw reality; 
He had just arrived in Izumo.

Suitcase in hand and duffel bag slung around his shoulder, he followed the others and exited the train. His eyes instantly darted around for any sign of Eiji, since they had texted earlier and he had said he would be waiting for him at the stop, and he could start to hear the drum of his heartbeat thump against his ears. He hated crowds, they always put him on edge. He wasn't sure how long it was going to take for him to get domesticated and get used to people. How long was it going to take to accept the fact that he no longer needed a gun? Or that he no longer needed to be so defensive all the time?

How long was it going to be until he could finally be... normal?
The amount of doubt in his system seemed to be doubling by the second, and he suddenly felt the urge to just turn around and get right back on that train and just return to where he came from.

I don't belong here. I can't be what Eiji wants me to be. I'll only cause more trouble for him. He doesn't deserve that, he deserves to be happy without m—

"Ash!"

He turned his head in various directions as he desperately looked for the source of that familiar voice he had so longed to hear for what seemed like years. It had only been four months, but it had felt like a whole lifetime since he had last seen Eiji.

And then there he was. 
A smile stretched from ear to ear, chocolate eyes that were now turning glassy, and his face contorted with an overwhelming feeling of happiness. Ash forgot all about his doubts when he saw that angelic face again, forgot about New York and forgot about violence and guns and gangs; this was Japan. He was in Japan with Eiji. He wasn't just here but he was going to live here. This was his new start. This was his chance to throw away being Ash Lynx and to start being Aslan Callenreese.

Ash felt every single feeling of anxiousness melt away as a wave of pure joy washed over him. He made his way over to the Japanese boy, and instantly, Eiji's arms were wrapped firmly around the taller American. Ash could feel Eiji's light cries as his arms tightened around him and he clung onto his shirt for dear life. Ash respectively did the same, tucking his head into the crook of the older boy's neck and keeping it there as an indescribable emotion filled the both of them. Deep down Ash knew the real reason behind Eiji's clinginess. Sure he was happy to see him, but he knew that those tears weren't just because of that. He had almost died, after all. But he didn't want to remember that. He didn't want to think about New York, not now and not anytime soon he hoped. He just wanted to forget about it all and start here, fresh with Eiji. That's all he wanted.

Finally, after a few minutes of embracing each other, they reluctantly pulled away. Ash watched Eiji as he quickly wiped any remnants of tears away from his face and let out a nervous giggle.

"I-I'll help you with your bags." He quickly sniffled and took Ash's suitcase from him.
"My home is not far from here, but it is best we get a ride." The blonde nodded and grinned down at the other male, who in response blushed, then quickly ushered them out of the airport.

We're finally going home.

***

The Okumura house was small but filled with an odd yet comforting warmth. Eiji's mother was the first at the door, greeting her son as they stepped into the home and then greeting the new stranger that was trailing Eiji's footsteps.

Eiji had already warned him that his mother's English was extremely limited, so he wasn't surprised when the only thing she was able to say was, "Hello, welcome."
Ash flashed a smile and bowed, using the Japanese phrase Eiji had taught him on the way here.

"Arigato."

The smaller woman grinned then turned to the Japanese boy and spoke some words that Ash couldn't quite catch. Then he heard a loud thud upstairs and then footsteps shuffling. He averted his gaze to the stairs to see who was causing such a ruckus.

"AMERICAN!"

His brow raised at the feminine voice, and then he saw a smaller girl come running down from the steps and dashing towards them.

"Asako!"
Mrs. Okumura shouted, a thick trace of frustration in her voice. The raven haired girl stopped and scowled, now walking over to them rather than running. As Ash studied her further, he realized how similar she was to Eiji.

Ah. That's his little sister.

He looked over to Eiji who also wore an annoyed look on his face. He smiled then looked back over to his sister.

"Kon'nichiwa."
She pushed her eyebrows together and crossed her arms as she stood right in front of Ash.

"I speak English," she said bluntly.

"Oh."

She neared closer to him and narrowed her eyes.

"Eiji said you were pretty," she smirked, "He was right."

Eiji's face immediately flushed. He quickly snapped something back in Japanese causing his sister to frown. She stepped away from the blonde as she let out a small huff. The older boy rolled his eyes and slid his shoes off as Aslan did the same.

Ash smiled as Eiji tugged on his arm and led him to his room upstairs, setting his suitcase by the closet.

"I'm sorry it's not much, but–"

"Eiji." Ash stopped him before he had the chance to ramble some silly apology. "This is perfect," he reassured. He sat down on the small bed and took the chance to admire Eiji's room.

Photos of nature were scattered across the walls, some manga posters, and then an old calendar that had a bunch of writing on it. Ash stood up from the bed and made his way to it, his finger tracing the writing in the small box of September 15th.

'NEW YORK!'
A nostalgic feeling rose in the pit of his stomach as his heart fluttered a bit.

"This was when you came to New York for the first time."
Ash heard Eiji hum behind him as the sound of an unzipping suitcase and shuffling around filled the room. He should be helping him unpack since it is his stuff after all, but he was too caught up in looking around the room. 
He was happily admiring the different photographs that Eiji had taken when something particular caught his eye.

"What's this?" Ash asked and ran his finger over the gold medal that was hanging from the wall.

"Pole vaulting," Eiji replied bluntly. His voice was off, and it contained a tone Ash couldn't quite put his finger on. Disappointment? Resentment? Anger? Sadness?
He had remembered Eiji explaining to him and Shorter how he could no longer pole vault professionally due to some type of injury, but Ash wasn't sure if he believed that. He did jump over a wall to save him and Skip and he seemed to do it with ease. Ash thought about asking, but he decided against it. Eiji didn't seem too fond of the topic right now, so maybe he'd ask him later.

The noise of drawers sliding open and closed pulled him back to the ground.
He turned around and saw Eiji standing in front of his suitcase with a dumbfounded look on his face.
He raised a brow and glanced over.

Oh.

His underwear was the only thing left to put away.
Ash chuckled lightly.

"I'll help with that, onii chan~"

***

"I told you that I'm not letting you sleep on the ground! This is your room, Eiji."

"And you're the guest! Therefore I am sleeping on the floor."

They had been at the same argument for what seemed like hours now and Ash was starting to become impatient.

How can someone be so stubborn?

"Eiji. I am sleeping on the ground—"

"No, I am!"

Ash pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a dramatic huff. Eiji puffed his cheeks out in that cute little pout of his and crossed his arms defiantly.

"So it's settled?" Eiji asked, a bit of a playful dominance in his voice.
The blonde smirked, knowing exactly how to direct this.

"Or we could just both sleep on the bed?"

Eiji blushed and flicked his eyes away from Ash.

"If you want..." his voice came out as a small whisper, but Ash was close enough to hear it. Ash chuckled and threw his arm around Eiji's neck teasingly.

"Aw, come on onii-chan! I was kidding."
Eiji raised his gaze back up to the American and glared. Ash smiled small then pulled away, looking towards the bed.

"So it's settled?" Ash said, mimicking Eiji. The older boy rolled his eyes and replied with a dry 'yes.' With that, Ash grinned warmly and got ready for bed with Eiji. He was exhausted even though he didn't want to admit it when asked by the older male earlier, but the bags under his eyes said otherwise. 
Some good night's sleep was definitely needed, especially since Eiji wanted to take him around his hometown tomorrow.

***

Golzine's large, filthy hands were wrapped tightly around Ash's wrist pinning him to the mattress beneath him.

"You're beautiful," he whispered, trailing slobbery kisses down his neck then bare chest. Ash kicked and wriggled trying his best to get out of his reach but wasn't strong enough. He never was.
Then he was being flipped over and pain was filling him. An intense sharp pain that he almost couldn't bare. His lungs felt frozen and his chest hurt, and he suddenly felt like he was drowning. He clawed at the messy bed sheets and screamed hoping someone would hear him.

"Aslan!"

Ash sprung forward and clutched his chest, sweat dripping down his forehead and his eyes leaking tears. He couldn't see. Everything was black. He was scared. Where was he anyway?

He felt hands wrap around his wrist and he instinctively flinched and tried to yank them away, but the grip around him tightened. He felt his hands being moved until they meet soft, warm skin.

"Aslan, it's me."

His vision focused and his heart slowed down at the tenderness of the voice, and he looked up to be met face to face with Eiji. He dug his face in between the space of his head and neck and sat there letting the last of his cries out. Eiji rubbed slow, gentle circles on his back and murmured some things like 'you're okay' or 'I'm here'. Ash fisted the fabric of Eiji's pajama shirt and cried out, "I'm sorry." The Japanese boy pulled away and looked at the other, his brown eyes full of an emotion Ash couldn't quite describe.

"Don't apologize, that's what I do," he smiled briefly, "You have nothing to be sorry about anyways." Ash didn't feel like arguing back with him right now so he just nodded and lay back down with Eiji, the raven-haired pulling him close to his chest so he felt more secure. Ash bathed in Eiji's warmth and the feeling of pure horror he had a few moments ago vanished as he felt fingers combing through his hair soothingly.

"Try to sleep, yes? You're tired."
Ash hummed in agreement and snuggled in even closer, his breathing now slowing to soft huffs as he let himself drift to a peaceful sleep while being covered in Eiji's warmth, acting as a blanket of security.

***

Ash woke up the next morning to the light smell of coffee as well as muffled Japanese chatter. He sat up in bed and glanced over to the alarm clock on the bedside table.

11:07 a.m.

He internally groaned but got up anyways and shuffled downstairs.

"Good morning!" Eiji smiled brightly as he started heating breakfast up for him. Ash greeted back and brushed his hair down to not appear like a total slob; he didn't want to give the Okumuras a bad impression.

Ash ate breakfast and not too long after they got ready for the day and head out.

Izumo was remarkably beautiful, the trees swayed softly with the wind and the overall aura was exceptionally peaceful. It was definitely the opposite from what Ash was used to. If this peace was the only thing Eiji had ever known, Ash couldn't imagine what it was like for him to be thrown into the world of gangs and violence.

How did he adapt so quickly?
And why would he ever trade such tranquility for living under constant risk of getting killed in New York?

Other questions Ash would have to ask later, but for now, he was focusing on Eiji pointing out different landmarks, like the grocery store they usually visited, the small park they could go on a walk on later, and his high school.
When they reached his school, Ash gave in to the small bubble of curiosity that rose in him.

"Do you still talk to your friends from high school?"
Eiji usual smile faltered a bit but then shook his head.

"I haven't talked to anyone since I was seventeen."

"Why?" Ash asked, quickly realizing that that was probably too blunt of a question to ask. It also seemed to make Eiji uneasy, so Ash spoke lowly, "You don't need to answer. I shouldn't have asked."

The raven-haired hummed as they continued down the sidewalk, the gentle breeze tousling Eiji's dark curls and colored leaves gently trickling down from the trees above them. Ash spotted a cafe on the corner and nudged his friend.

"Wanna grab a bite?"
Eiji perked up and nodded.

"I'll pay, yes?"
The American rolled his eyes.

Not this again.

***

When they got home it was already a bit late, and they were already filled with the food they had had at the cafe earlier so they excused themselves from dinner. The two went up to Eiji's room and got ready to clock out just like they had done the night prior. They climbed into bed and snuggled up close to each other.

Silence fell over them and the sound of Eiji's light breathing was the only thing audible to Ash's ears. The Japanese boy's hands were running through his blonde locks and he hummed in delight at the light touch.

"I'm sorry for last night, by the way," Ash muttered. Eiji almost chuckled.

"Don't apologize. I said I'd be here forever, right?"

"...right."

The room fell quiet again and Ash decided to shift the topic.

"Your sister is cute."

Eiji scoffed, "She's annoying."
Ash chuckled at his child-like response.
"She looks a lot like you."

The Japanese shrugged, then flushed when he realized the real message behind those words. Ash grinned amusedly when he watched the reaction of the indirect flirt unfold on Eiji's face. Flustered, Eiji just mumbled some words in Japanese, which was something he quite commonly did when he became embarrassed without knowing it. It made Aslan's heart soar. 

Ash sighed in content as the moonlight seeped from the window nearby and shone on Eiji's face just perfectly, the browns of his eyes now appearing like pools of honey. The blonde listened to the other's faint snoring and was left alone with his thoughts, which was never a good thing.

He frowned because today he realized that he barely knew anything about the person he most cared about. He didn't know what Eiji's life had been like before New York, he didn't know what made him so uneasy about talking about high school, and he didn't know what really happened when he was seventeen and cut off communications with his friends from school. What if Eiji had problems previous to coming to New York? What if he was hurting too? Ash wouldn't know; it had never occurred to him to ask.

And what happened to Eiji's father? He didn't seem to be at home or mentioned at all.

Ash wrapped his arms around Eiji's body and pulled him close.

I want to know everything about you.

Chapter Text

Two weeks had flown right by since Ash had arrived in Japan. Eiji couldn't be any happier to know that Ash was here and was safe and sound. He was overjoyed at the fact that he no longer had to wait all day in a cramped up apartment or some kind of crack house until Ash returned. He no longer had to fear if Ash would stop coming home one day. Here, they were safe. Eiji knew that. Ash may doubt it from time to time, but he also knows deep down that they're finally safe. They can finally be at peace.

But the past still haunted them. They couldn't just forget about everything that happened in New York; it wasn't that simple. Sure, they had a clean slate now but it wasn't like the dark memories of Golzine and everything that happened with banana fish could be wiped from their minds. Ash constantly had nightmares and it became typical for him. It was something they went through in New York and now it was happening here. Eiji was always there to comfort him and coax him back to bed though; it almost became normality.

It was always the Japanese boy comforting the American. It always was. But inevitably their roles changed.

Eiji's eyes flew open as he reached across the bed to wrap his arms around Ash, but he was met with nothing but cold bed sheets. Immediately his heart picked up and he shot up in bed, his eyes desperately darting around the room. Eiji could feel the familiar feeling of an anxiety attack creeping up quickly as he caught no sight of his friend.

"Ash? Ash? Ash!" He cried out a bit louder with each repeat of the other's name. He started to hear a static fuzz in his ears he knew too well as the dead silence wrapped around his throat and started choking the air out of him. His breaths came out as short, quick huffs and his chest felt too heavy. His vision became blurry when the tears in his eyes began to build rapidly.

Ash is dead. Ash is dead. Ash is dead. Because of me. It's my fault. I should have given the letter to him personally. If I had just done that he would be alive. I was a burden.

I am a burden.

He felt the sensation of something clamping tighter around his neck closing his windpipe and blocking it off completely. Its claws sank into his neck and his skin started to feel like it had been ignited.

It's your fault. It's your fault. It's your fault. You're a failure. You hurt him. You're worthless. You're a dead weight on someone's shoulders. Despicable.

His mind yelled the phrases and the monsters in his head grew with intensity. Eiji clutched at his pajama shirt to try to get ahold of himself again, but his mind kept echoing the poisons that were suffocating him.

Then he felt hands on his shoulders and a blurry blob of white in front of him appeared. He heard a distant, muffled voice but he couldn't hear it clearly due to the voices in his head that continued yelling at him. The static in his ears was still prevalent and with every breath, it felt like daggers were being pierced into his lungs.

"Eiji."

The soft voice tainted with a thick worry behind it finally came into focus. Eiji blinked as the blob slowly took form and turned into a boy with silky blonde hair and beautiful green eyes that glimmered in the moonlight seeping from the window nearby.

"Eiji?" Ash's call to him came out more like a question rather than just a statement. The raven-haired took deep breaths as he felt a hand on his back tracing gentle circles. He hadn't realized when Ash sat next to him or when his face had hidden for safety in the crook of the blonde's neck, but he finally felt at ease again. The demons stopped yelling and the static came to an end, and the only sound that he heard now was Ash's soft whispering of reassuring phrases in his ear.

They stayed like that for a few minutes before Eiji finally pulled himself away and looked away from Ash as a sudden wave of embarrassment washed over him.

He's pathetic.

"I-I'm sorry," Eiji spoke barely audibly, and if it hadn't been that they were so close to one another, Ash would have probably missed it.

"Do you ever not apologize?" Ash teased lightly, clearly trying to diffuse the tension.

Ash wasn't quite sure when the tension rose to the surface, but it was clear that it was there. He didn't know why it was there either.

Eiji fidgeted and averted his gaze elsewhere taking a moment to respond.

"I'm not apologizing for what just happened."

Now Ash was confused.

"What are you saying sorry for then?"

Then something formed in the atmosphere around them that Ash couldn't explain. It was tight; almost like tuning a violin and the string continuously gets tighter and tighter.

The Japanese slumped his shoulders and shook his head, wanting to forget that this had even happened.

"It's nothing. I'm just being dumb." 
Eiji looked up and tried his best to put on a smile, which he prevailed in doing but the pounding feeling of guilt thumped hard in his heart as he looked at those bright emerald eyes in front of him and was captured by them.

Ash saw past the cheap facade.

"Eiji, don't lie. If it was nothing you wouldn't have woke up and–"

"I'm fine Ash, really."

The atmosphere grew tighter.

"You're not."

Tighter.

"I am."

Tighter.

"Hey–" Ash placed a hand on the other's arm who instantly flinched away, then seemed to regret it immediately.

"I–sorry I just–"

"You just what?"

Tighter.

"I, um.."

It's too tight, too much, I can't take it anymore.

"Eiji."

It finally snapped. Eiji's thin wall that was barely doing its job of keeping Ash away crumbled.

His eyes became glassy again and his chest clenched as the sobs ensued shortly after.

"I'm sorry. It's my fault. Y-You almost died and it was my fault and I can't..." Eiji's own sobs cut him off and his body began to tremble uncontrollably. He hated this so much.

The moment Eiji arrived back in Japan he knew deep down that it was only a matter of time before his anxiety caught up with him again. He knew that he could only keep it at bay for a certain amount of time before it finally came back to torment him, but he didn't think it would come back with this much intensity. He didn't know why he couldn't just get rid of it.

But now to make matters even worse, Ash was seeing him for the true, weak man he was. Eiji had hoped so dearly that Ash would never get to see him like this, but here he was, his shaking body being held securely by Ash as his strong arms wrapped around him. He let out a few more cries and gripped onto Ash's loose shirt.

He remembered so vividly when Max had called and said that it was probable that Ash wasn't going to make it. The doctors confirmed that he had lost a critical amount of blood and were trying to do their best to save him, but it was better to prepare for the worst. Eiji held on even tighter as small bits of the nightmare he had just had replayed in his mind.

Blood was pooled around Ash's lifeless body and stained his side. Eiji's letter lay carelessly in his pale hands and he could see the droplets of red sprinkled all over it.

The raven-haired felt more tears leak out and he could hear his own pathetic whimpers bouncing off the walls of the dark room.

"I'm here, Eiji. It's not your fault. If anything, I'm alive because of you. Don't blame yourself for something that isn't on you."

Eiji pulled away from the embrace and looked up at his friend.

"We're here now, right? I'm okay, Eiji. I'm not going anywhere." Ash smiled small in hopes to at least calm the man in front of him.

Eiji inhaled deeply and nodded. He wiped the final of his tears away then let out an awkward chuckle.

"W-We should probably go to sleep."

Ash smiled and brushed the bangs away from Eiji's face to get a better look at him.

"Yeah, we should."

The other boy grinned warmly in return as the two threw the covers over them again. Eiji wasted no time in wrapping his arms around Ash and nuzzled his nose into the fabric of the back of his pajama shirt. His muscles relaxed at the familiar scent of mint Ash encased. His mind finally relaxed and went back to normal when the other whispered a soft, 'good night Eiji.'

Eiji smiled and breathed in the comforting aroma as he drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

***

The next morning Ash woke up to the faint snoring of Eiji, who's arm was hugging the blonde's torso. Usually Eiji was an early bird, but considering the events of what happened last night, he could understand why he needed some well-needed rest.

Ash slowly moved the other's arm off of him and headed to the bathroom to wash up to start his routine. He tossed his pajama off and stepped into the shower allowing the warm water to rain over him and relax his muscles. He was left alone with his thoughts again, and his mind drifted to seeing Eiji's trembling form. He had gone down for a drink of water since he couldn't sleep, and when he went back upstairs he was met with an Eiji he had never seen before.

The boy who's smile and joyful aura never faltered disappeared and turned into a full blown panic attack. Ash couldn't wipe the way Eiji's eyes looked; they were full of horror and fear, as well as being completely lifeless. Eiji was always the one comforting other and it had never once crossed Ash's mind that he might've needed the same in return.

Even through all the shit that had happened back in New York Eiji never once showed signs of anxiousness or fear. In fact, he was probably one of the boldest Ash had ever met; he wasn't scared of some street thugs or gun shootings. He stood face to face with it and didn't falter for a second.

Or what if he had been hiding his emotions the whole time? What if it was all just a mask he wore?

Ash turned up the heat of the shower to the point where the water almost became scalding.

Maybe it was because life in New York was so fast paced and there wasn't time to stop and think. Maybe now that they were in Japan and things had finally slowed down, Eiji's brain could finally register all the trauma he had went through and it just him all at once like a truck.

It was something they should talk about though.

Ash exhaled turning the shower off and stepped out, using the towel to dry his hair. He wore the same pajamas as he went back to the room to check on Eiji. Last time he had left the Japanese boy by himself he had come back to see him barely being able to breathe.

That was something he didn't want to see again.

"Eiji?" He whispered softly as he called out for him.

The raven-haired stirred, letting out a groan that probably shouldn't have caused Ash to blush but it did anyway. Thankfully Eiji was laying on his stomach and had his face dug into the pillow so he couldn't see the obvious pink on his pale skin.

Ash took a seat next to Eiji making the bed sink which in turn caused the older male to look up.

"Ashhu?" His voice was raspy and tired which only made Ash's heart excite even more from how cute he sounded.

"Hey." He greeted with a smile which Eiji returned.

"You slept in today, onii-chan~"

Terror washed over Eiji's face as he looked around for a clock.

"What time is it?"

"Almost noon."

Chocolate brown eyes grew in size and his pink lips parted in shock.

"Noon?!"

Ash laughed at Eiji's terrified expression.

"What? Shocked that you woke up later than me for once?" Ash smirked teasingly but the other just shook his head and tore the covers off of him quickly.

"We have lunch with Ibe-San at noon!"

Oh.
That's right.

Ash watched a desperate Eiji run off to the bathroom in a haste to get ready quickly.

The blonde shook his head in amusement as he opened the drawers of the dresser to get ready as well.

***

"Welcome!"

Ibe greeted the two boys with a wide smile and motioned them inside.

"Food is almost ready, I just need to get everything plated. Any drinks while you wait?"

The two shook their heads as they took seats across from each other

A few moments passed and the smell of some kind of freshly cooked bacon filled the room. Ibe placed bowls of food in front of Ash and Eiji, and Ash carefully watched as his friend's eyes widened in excitement seeing the steaming dish in front of him. Ibe seemed to have caught it too because he retorted, "Missed my pork cutlet bowl, didn't you Eiji?"

The raven-haired nodded and blushed slightly being teased on the spot like that, especially by an elder who wasn't known for doing it a lot.

"Arigato, Ibe-San." Eiji thanked, and Ash mimicked the phrase making Ibe's head turn.

"Learning Japanese I see?" He inquired as he picked up his chopsticks and began eating.

"I'm slowly catching on," Ash replied as he tried to use the chopsticks which kept slipping in and out of his grip.

Ibe hummed then looked over at Eiji who was already nearly done with his bowl.

"Slow down, Eiji. You'll choke." The older Japanese said with a bit of amusement in his voice watching the younger boy shove noodles in his mouth.

"R-right." Eiji swallowed the food in his mouth and ate with a bit more patience.

Ibe shook his head and shifted his eyes over to Ash.

"He's loved my pork cutlet bowls ever since I've introduced them to him. Although he had to watch himself back then since he couldn't risk gaining that much weight as an athlete." 
Ash hummed and took another slurp of the noodles.

I wouldn't want to stop eating this, either. It's much better than natto.

"Well, I don't have to watch my weight anymore." Eiji replied a bit bitterly.

Ibe raised an eyebrow then sighed softly.

He's still not over it.

Although he didn't expect him to be, since losing the opportunity to compete in the Olympics and make a name both for yourself and your country wasn't just handed to you, a small part of Ibe had expected him to be a little more forgiving of himself being that it wasn't his fault.

It wasn't anyone fault, really. Accidents happen all the time. And now that he was with Ash he expected more than ever that Eiji would've at least let some of it go but he didn't.

Ibe shook his head and shifted the conversation to another topic.

***

They finally finished eating and said their goodbyes to Ibe and head out. They walked along the pavement as the usual evening wind started up again. It was still pretty early since it was only two o'clock, so Ash nagged Eiji to take him to see more things of his childhood.

They were walking past Eiji's high school again, and this time, Ash decided to prod.

"Hey, Eiji?"

"Hm?"

A pause came after that. Should he just be direct about it or ease the question into the conversation?

Ash weighed his options and finally just shrugged, deciding it would be best to just be blunt.

"What happened when you were seventeen?"

Chapter Text

Eiji didn't want to talk about it. He didn't want to hear about it or mention it; he just wished that he could forget about that period of his life. He hated that it was his own fault for what happened and he was still being a baby about it. Even after all the years that had passed since then, it was something he dread talking about.

So when Ibe-san mentioned it lightly, Eiji inevitably grew uncomfortable and frustrated because the elder knew that he hated the topic.

And now Ash was the one asking about it.

"What happened when you were seventeen?"

The raven-haired instinctively tensed at the question remembering the exact moment he had over calculated his jump and ended up shattering his ankle. He thought back to when he found out his mother was having sex with other men while Eiji's father lay helplessly dying in the hospital. That especially had contributed to him pushing himself harder in pole vaulting so that he could get his sister and himself out of that corrupt household and to pay off his father's medical bills, but he messed up his one chance. He remembered becoming depressed and–

No. 
What matters is that he's with Ash and he's happy now; he didn't want to think back to his darker days.

Eiji sighed and thought carefully about how to explain things to his friend. He knew his past problems were nowhere close in severity to Ash's, and Ash always came first, so he decided to just sugarcoat it; he didn't want his friend's pity over something so stupid.

"That was the year I got injured and had to stop pole vaulting. I shattered my ankle so my career as an athlete ended when I was seventeen." Eiji explained trying not to sound as cold as he had been with Ibe-san.

"But you can still pole vault? I remember that day when me and Skip saw you jump over that wall."

"That was different. I can't risk breaking my ankle again since it's already damaged. I only did it that day because we were in a desperate situation."

Ash opened his mouth to refute but then shut it and accepted the answer.

They continued walking as the breeze blew a bit harder and tousled their hair. Eiji giggled when a small leaf whacked the blonde right in the face making him jump from the sudden unexpected contact. Ash stuck out his tongue and the Japanese boy did the same.

When the two reached a corner, Eiji tugged on Ash's arm lightly and pointed across the street.

"When I was younger, I used to eat there all the time! I didn't know it still existed," Eiji's face lit up and a genuinely excited smile that stretched from ear to ear formed. Ash beamed down at him feeling his heart mush at the sight of the raven-haired being so happy over something so trivial.

"Let's go eat there then, yeah?"

A bit too eagerly Eiji nodded and grabbed the other's hand guiding him across the street to the small restaurant.

They reached the front door and entered, a hostess exchanging a few Japanese phrases with Eiji. Ash noticed a crimson paint across his face when the hostess asked something, and at that moment Eiji let Ash's hand go and whispered out a stuttered 'sorry'.

A moment later the woman seated them at a nearby booth and handed them their menus leaving the two alone.

"What was all that about?" Ash asked with a hint of tease in his voice. He could easily tell what had likely happened between the hostess and Eiji. Even if he didn't know Japanese, Eiji's expression gave it all away.

"She asked if we wanted a romantic table set up for us," the older muttered, a strong hue of red making its way to taint his cheeks again. He was obviously hiding behind the menu which only made Ash grow more amused.

"You should've said yes then, onii-chan~! We could've gotten special treatment!"

Eiji looked up from the menu he was holding and glared, his cheeks red and puffed out in a pout.

Ash shook his head amused and continued looking at the menu before he realized that he couldn't read any of it.

"Eiji?"

"Yes?"

"I can't read."

"Tch, of course you can! Stop being so childish!"

Ash raised a brow and lifted the list of foods written in Japanese symbols towards Eiji.

Eiji sighed, "Oh. I'll just order for you, it'll take too long to explain everything."

The blonde scoffed.
"Yeah right! I don't trust you enough to order for me, you have terrible taste."

Eiji pushed his eyebrows together in playful anger and put his hand on his chest defensively.

"I do not! Just because you're too blind to see how good natto is doesn't mean that I'm the one with terrible taste."

This time it was Ash who was pouting.
"Just don't order me anything gross."

Eiji smirked and folded his menu as the waitress came over.

"No promises."

***

By the time they got home, it was already eleven and everyone in the Okumura household had gone to bed. They both had full stomachs from the food they ate earlier (Ash was admittedly surprised that Eiji had gotten him something really tasty to eat) so they could skip dinner and just head to bed.

Eiji was organizing his things in his nightstand drawer when he heard a loud burp echo behind him. He rolled his eyes and sent a hard look at Ash who had a prideful smile imprinted on his face.

"Has anyone ever taught you manners?" Eiji muttered, continuing to tidy up his belongings in the drawer.

Ash shut the door behind him and spoke mockingly.

'Has anyone taught you manners?' He did his best impression of Eiji making sure to include a thick English accent just to set him off a bit.

He knew that Eiji hated it when Ash poked fun of his choppy English.

Without a doubt, the words burned straight through the Japanese boy turned around and narrowed his eyes.

"What is it now onii-chan? Gonna beat me up? Teach me a lesson?" Ash challenged him by putting his hands on his hips giving Eiji a daring look.

The raven-haired stood and neared him with a grin, "Don't doubt it."

"Try me then."

Eiji's smile grew into a determined one as he pounced at Ash making them fall onto the bed and roll around. Eiji knew that Ash was physically stronger than he was but that didn't stop him from trying to win the wrestling match.

The older male toyed with his friend's arms trying to hold them down so he had an advantage but Ash was much faster than he was so he easily slipped out of the grip and rolled them over, their bodies aimlessly tumbling around the bed. Their laughs filled the room as they continued their attempts to conquer one another.

It wasn't until when Ash finally claimed victory by successfully pinning Eiji's wrists above his head that the loud laughter subsided.

Eiji was still letting out the final of his giggles when Ash felt his heart start to pick up its pace looking down at him.

His dark hair was disheveled, cheeks a bit flushed, his smile wide, and his eyes half-lidded from his slight tiredness.

Ash gulped knowing that he shouldn't be looking at Eiji like this; his heart shouldn't be beating as fast as it was and he shouldn't be feeling the sensation of warmth spread throughout his body. Eiji's sounds of amusement stopped and a lazy grin formed on his face when he looked up at Ash.

"You're lucky I'm tired. I can still kick your butt any day."

Ash cleared his throat that had apparently grown dry.
"Y-Yeah right."

The small warmth that had been dispersing around his body grew into a fire when he felt Eiji's hand slip from his loose grip and use it to comb his blonde locks, tucking one behind his ear. He was probably blushing by now and he was only praying that Eiji couldn't tell or more so would assume it was from the physical activity they had just been doing.

I shouldn't be feeling this way. I don't know why I feel this way. Eiji–he's not–he doesn't deserve someone like me; he never did. I can't–I'm disgusting. This–we—

"Let's sleep now, yes?" Eiji whispered as he continued to brush Ash's hair back that continued falling in front of his face.

The blonde nodded and climbed off of the other. They tucked into bed and Eiji turned off the night lamp next to him. Just like every night, Ash felt arms wrap around him and a head tuck into his neck, except this time his body felt oddly hot at the physical contact.

"Good night, Aslan."

Ash took a deep breath and reciprocated, his arm wrapping around the Japanese and pulling him closer.

Why am I feeling like this? Does Eiji feel the same?

No, of course not. I'm gross. He knows that.

 

Ash inhaled sharply through his nose and squeezed his eyes shut trying to shove the weird feelings that had risen to the surface away.

"Good night Eiji."

***

"Ash!"
Ash woke up to being hit in the face with a pillow and the sound of Eiji's aggravated voice.

The blonde sat up and rubbed his eyes letting out a dramatic huff.

"It's late, Aslan! It is almost one o'clock!"

Ash stretched and shrugged, "So?"

Eiji hit him with the pillow again and heaved annoyedly, "So we're heading out. Get ready."

With that, the raven-haired turned around leaving the room. Ash groaned into the pillow and flopped onto his back.

 

Eiji is such a housewife.

 

The sun was far too bright for Ash to bare being that he had just got up from bed not too long ago, but Eiji seemed far too content because of it.

"It's such a nice day, don't you think?" he asked smiling. Ash hummed back in blank agreement as they continued walking side by side.

They had been walking for a while and Eiji hadn't really explained where they were headed off to, and Ash's curiosity sparked when they started walking down unfamiliar streets. The area seemed more populated than by where they usually resided and it only made him feel more on edge. He tried not to show it much but he hated being around large groups of people; it made Ash Lynx's instincts dig their way out. So he tried to accommodate and be Aslan instead, but the majority of the time, it didn't work. New York and it's gang-filled streets was what he was used to, so the idea of no one hunting out to kill him in a crowd always seemed unlikely. He hated that a large portion of himself couldn't just accept that he lived in tranquility with Eiji, but his brain was wired to think the worst.

That's just how he was. 

 

Soon enough they reached a large building which Ash didn't recognize from Eiji's previous tours, but he followed his friend inside.

He looked around the walls painted with different murals and displays with different types of trophies.

"Where are we?"

"This is the college Ibe-san recommended to attend photography classes at lunch yesterday, remember?"

Ash let out a small 'oh, yeah' as they reached the registration desk.

Like usual, Japanese words were exchanged back and forth too quick for Ash to catch, but at the end of the conversation, the woman smiled and handed Eiji a piece of yellow paper. Eiji thanked her and motioned Ash that it was time to leave.

"You're gonna take college classes?"

Eiji nodded, "My mother and Ibe-san are pushing me to go to college, and Ibe-san said that I can start working as his apprentice again once I show him that I'm taking classes."

The younger let out a small, 'hm' as the warm air outside hit them in the face.

Once they were walking, Ash started thinking.

If Eiji was going to be taking college classes then that meant he was just going to be at home alone all day.

Home.
Ash smiled that he could finally call someplace home.

But the thought of staying home and lounging around like some couch potato made him seem useless. Which in actuality, wasn't far from the truth; he didn't do much except help clean and sometimes cook, but there really wasn't much he could do. He wasn't used to the domestic life yet and it was something he was still getting used to.

"Ash?"

Knocked out of his thoughts he looked over and raised his brow.

Eiji exhaled, "You're being quiet."

Ash stuffed his hands in his pockets and slugged his shoulders.
"I feel useless."

Eiji gave him a soft look, "Why? You're not useless, Aslan."

Ash begged to differ. All he did was follow Eiji everywhere he went and trail behind him some like lost child, so yes, he was useless.

"I don't do anything. Your family is paying the bills and buying groceries and all I do is sit around and clean. I don't do much, Eiji."

The raven-haired pushed his brows together, "You are doing what you can." He paused.
"Is there something you want to do?"

Aslan bit his lip, not really knowing exactly what he wanted to do yet. Sure he was smart, but he came to Japan with a fake I.D., so it wasn't like someone would hire a delinquent. But maybe he could settle for something less?

"I want a job. I want to start help paying the bills and stuff. I also..."
Ash paused, not really knowing if Eiji would agree with what he was about to suggest. It was something they hadn't touched on before so he wasn't sure how he would react to it.

"You also...?"

"I want to get us our own place." 
Ash then felt a bit flustered from how intimate that phrase sounded out loud.

It sounded much better in my head.

"Or, I-I can get my own place. I just don't want to be some kinda leech or anything."

Eiji chuckled and shook his head, "You are not a.. 'leech'. I have also been thinking about leaving my home. I'm already twenty-two so I think it is time I leave the nest."

Ash hummed, then suddenly a lightbulb flickered over his head.

"I still have money leftover from Golzine. We can use that to–"

"No."

The blonde was caught a bit off guard by the other's blunt reply. He was about to argue back but Eiji beat him to it.

"I want to help too. I don't want to be a 'leech' either?"

Ash smiled at Eiji's unsureness at the use of the phrase he had just learned.

He's really cute when he makes that face.

Ash caught his thoughts and unwillingly a blush rose to his cheeks. Eiji tilted his head confused, a thick black strand brushing over his face as he did so.

It was best not to look at him right now since it would probably only make the shade on his skin deeper.

Damn it. This shouldn't be happening, can't

"What is it?"

Ash shook his head, motioning that it was nothing as they stopped at another street corner and waited for the pedestrian light to flicker.

"Okumura Eiji!"

Eiji turned at the call of his name and felt hands grip his shoulders and a hard shove throw him back. Ash instantly reacted, pushing whoever was responsible away and locking their arm behind their back.

"Let go!"

The voice spoke in familiar Japanese, and when Eiji looked up, he recognized his old pole vaulting friend, Bunji. Eiji winced when he saw the tight grip he had him in. He hated how dark Ash's eyes had grown and the menacing look he wore on his face.

The Ash Lynx in him will never fade away, will he?

Chapter Text

He knew this would happen.

He knew that it was something inevitable and only a matter of time before it happened but he had been too selfish and had decided to just ignore it. 

 

Now here they were.

 

Eiji could see the remorse Ash wore behind his mask of charm as he spoke with the man he had just been pinning not even an hour ago. Eiji knew that he had been selfish; Ash was built to see any threat coming and Eiji knew for a fact something like this was going to happen at some point. But he ignored it. He shouldn't have, but he did.

They got lucky; if it had been someone else who Ash did that to, they probably wouldn't have been so understanding. Luckily Bunji believed Eiji's explanation to as why Ash had reacted like that, so all was fine in the end.

Now they were back at the Okumura house and talking like nothing happened. Even then, Eiji was thankful for that; he didn't want to talk about it since it would probably make Ash uncomfortable. They could talk about it tonight when it was just the two of them.

 

"I didn't know you almost made it to the Olympics."

 

Eiji flinched away from his thoughts and shifted his attention back to the conversation.

"I-yeah-I almost did." The raven-haired sighed leaning back into the chair and almost fell out of his seat when he felt strong arms wrap around his neck and pull. From the corner of his eye, he could see Ash instinctively flinch.

"Don't be so sad, eh Ei-chan? I thought you grew out of your old self!" Benji smiled ruffling Eiji's hair in an attempt to be playful. The other Japanese pouted and pulled away from the hold his friend had him in.

Ash watched the two bicker in a Japanese that he no longer could keep up with. Eiji had an annoyed expression while the other brown haired male wore a coy smile. Ash couldn't help but automatically shift at every shove or touch Benji gave towards Eiji. It wasn't that he thought that he was dangerous, but the lynx inside him was screaming at him to act. The voice was pounding in his head, and as much as he tried to keep it silenced, the roaring of it didn't cease.

Instead of giving into it, Ash kept his breathing steady and drummed his fingers on the wooden table they were seated at. He was thankful that Eiji taught him this little technique; it somehow kept him grounded when his mind got too loud and taking even breaths prevented him from breaking out into a full panic attack.

So for now, he kept his eyes trained on Eiji and tried to ignore the lynx that was desperately trying to claw its way out into the light. He carelessly observed the two as they continued in their childish quarrel.

Guess he did have some friends in Japan after all, huh?

***

Nighttime fell rather quickly and Benji eventually left leaving Ash and Eiji alone. They were in the bedroom getting ready to clock out for the day but something kept pestering the back of Ash's mind.

'I thought you grew out of your old self!'

Old self? What did that even mean?

Come to think of it, Ash didn't know anything about Eiji's past. In a way, it made him feel slightly distant; he knew little to nothing about the person he most cared about. He knew that Eiji had deep brown eyes that lit up like a lightbulb when he got excited about something. He knew that he scratched the side of his cheek when he got nervous. He knew that he had the biggest heart that always welcomed Ash with open arms. He knew that much about the Japanese boy. But how he grew up, where his father was, what troubles he's been through, all of it was unknown territory to Ash.

He'd admittedly been waiting for Eiji to be the one to open up and tell him overtime since that's what he did for Ash, but maybe he needed a bit of pushing. Eiji never really talked about his feelings and that was something Ash came to realize about him.

He heard the raven-haired quietly climb out of bed and leave to go to the bathroom almost every night. When he felt the warmth next to him leave, he always woke up. Eiji tried to be quiet but the emptiness in the bed without fail woke him up. Ash, however, feigned sleep for Eiji's sake. He usually waited for the raven-haired to tell him about the dreams that kept him up at night the following morning, but that never happens.

He knew that Eiji was probably having nightmares or something of that sort being that his brain finally had the chance to slow down and process all the trauma from New York. Everyone dealt with their things in their own way and Ash didn't want to tamper that for Eiji. Although, he was starting to worry.

What if Eiji was having a panic attack every night and he hadn't bothered to help him through it? What if he needed Ash all this time? Eiji's always been there for Ash, but when is Ash ever there for Eiji?

Ash was starting to succumb to the idea of being a useless piece of shit as well as being nothing more than just a waste of air until he felt a hand wrap around his shoulder.

"Ash?"

The blonde glanced up and was met with large cinders of dark brown.
Eiji had something hidden behind those innocent eyes of his and Ash could tell; he was desperate to know what it was.

Even so, he didn't want to push too hard because it might make Eiji even more secretive than he already was about his feelings. It might just scare him away.

 

He'll just listen for now.

 

"Yeah?"

 

Eiji sat down next to the other, his hands a bit fidgety which usually meant he had something to say. By now Ash could easily read his body language; Eiji was like an open book when it came to that.

"Have you ever thought about..." Eiji bit his lip, clearly thinking about how to use his words properly.

"...seeing a therapist?"

Ash pushed his brows together and opened his mouth to respond but nothing ended up coming out. The question took him completely off guard and the bluntness of it slapped him in the face.

"I...I've never thought about it much." Eiji sighed softly, "I think you should see one."

"Why?"

Eiji's immediate thought was 'What do you mean why?' but he decided to keep that to himself.

"Ash, you know why. What happened today—"

"Was nothing. It won't happen again. Eiji, I'm okay."

"No, you're—"

"I don't need one. I'm fine how I am—"

"Aslan."

Ash huffed, staying silent at the sound of his name. Eiji knew that was Ash's weak spot, especially when the name rolled off his tongue.

The blonde gave Eiji a hard look when he saw the sympathy in his eyes. He hated how Eiji treated him like a fragile porcelain doll; like if he'll just shatter at any second. He didn't need to be babied, not by him or anyone.

"I don't need a therapist, Eiji."

The Japanese huffed, starting to get a bit impatient at the other's stubbornness but willed himself to stay understanding.

"They can help you better than I can. You're still suffering. You still fear crowds and you still get nightmares. You're still not... A therapist can help—"

"Eiji, I said no."

Ash moved his focus back on getting ready for bed. He's done with the conversation. He didn't want to hear it anymore. He'll get better. He just needs time. A therapist isn't going to help with that. Besides, they would never be able to understand what he's been through. No one could.

"Ash you're being stubborn—"

"You're one to talk."

Eiji fell silent at the sharpness of Ash's voice that dragged a knife across his throat causing it to tighten.

What?

Seeing the obvious confusion written all over the other's face, the blonde scoffed and shook his head.

"You don't talk to me about how you're feeling or about the nightmares or whatever it is that wakes you up almost every night, and you still haven't told me about your past. Every time I ask or even just hint at it, it's like you want to change the topic. I don't know you, Eiji. You won't let me." Ash glanced over at his friend whose eyes had grown wide. He breathed out and brushed back the blonde bangs that had fallen over his face.

"So yeah, you're one to talk about being stubborn."

Eiji felt his body go rigid and a small wave of anxiousness wash over him not knowing how to respond. He was rendered speechless.

Of course I don't tell you about my past. It doesn't matter. Besides if you knew...

You'd think differently of me. I've only been a disappointment, so why would I tell you about that?

Eiji hated the familiar feeling of anxiety and self-pity that was settling at the bottom of his stomach. He hated that Ash noticed when he woke up almost every night due to the recurring nightmares that preyed him without fail. His anxiety had finally come back and it definitely hadn't made a subtle return. The dreams that tormented him constantly weren't helping much, either.

Seeing as how Eiji was at a loss for words, Ash decided it was best if they just went to bed and slept on it.

He didn't want to start an argument over it, and it was obvious that the tension was starting to escalate.

Ash was making a motion to crawl into bed when the sound of Eiji's quiet voice made him freeze.

"I'll go."

The blonde turned, puzzled.

"I'll go to a therapist too. We both need it, Aslan."

Ash frowned when he saw the sadness in Eiji's eyes. When had his eyes gotten so dark all of a sudden? Usually there was a bright light in them that glimmered constantly, but it seemed to be dwindling away slowly. He didn't want that light to leave.

Why was it leaving in the first place?

 

He didn't want to be left in the dark.

 

The blonde gnawed at the inside of his cheek. He didn't want to tell his past to a stranger. He really, really, didn't. But maybe Eiji was right; going to a therapist was probably a step into healing. Maybe it made sense for both of them.

"Please?"

The simple word rippled throughout Ash's body like a raindrop hitting the surface of a puddle. Eiji's voice came out yearningly, and that alone hit a soft spot Ash didn't even know he had.

How was it that this Japanese boy had so much power over him? Even with the simplest things...

Blanca warned him of it. He explicitly told him that Eiji was his weak point. It was dangerous and Ash Lynx knew that. 

But Aslan Jade Callenreese didn't. 

Besides, Eiji Okumura was only capable of good. If he had ill intentions, they would have surfaced by now...but they haven't. The only thing he's felt from the older Japanese is acceptance, care, nurture, and...

Something else Aslan couldn't put a name to. It was a peculiar feeling, yet somewhat familiar. It was warm, so so so warm, and endearing. Every time he felt this so called emotion his heart fluttered, his body felt lighter, and a smile would slowly make its way to his face. This feeling was strong; it was strong enough to pull him out of the dark pits he had been thrown in and introduce him to the light that shone remarkably beautiful. It was hard to adapt to light once being in the dark for too long, and it was taking him a while to adjust, but the strange emotion that Eiji bathed him with was working miracles. 

What is it called?

Ash simply breathed out looking over to Eiji who still sat at the edge of the bed, eyes begging like a sad puppy. He sighed reluctantly before he spoke up again.

"Okay. I'll go."

***

The therapist Eiji found nearest to them and with the best reviews was located in Unnan; a neighboring city not too far from where Izumo was. The car ride there was around twenty minutes, but that short span of time seemed like an eternity for Ash.

Eiji made them separate appointments since Ash pointed out that starting out separately would probably work best for them. He needs to learn to deal with things himself; he can't depend on Eiji all the time. Maybe over time they could integrate and have a session together when they were ready.

Ash couldn't help but fidget the whole trip there; his leg bouncing up and down, teeth scraping against his bottom lip, fingers aimlessly searching for some task to keep busy.

Usually, his hands would be preoccupied with spinning around a pocket knife, but that was no longer the case. In a weird way, Ash missed it. The familiar feeling of the smooth handle splayed across the palm of his hand, the cool metal teasing the tips of his fingers, and the slight prick of pain that would make him jolt when he accidentally spun it too fast and the blade would slice his skin.

 

He missed it.

 

They came to a stop and the light vibration of the car faded. Ash raised his gaze to meet Eiji's which brought him a feeling of reassurance.

The raven-haired wore a soft smile and delicate eyes. His voice came out as a soothing lullaby, something that instantly seemed to soothe Ash's nerves.

"It'll be okay, Aslan. I'll always be here." Eiji hummed thoughtfully and tried to recall the saying Ibe-san taught him.

Ah!

"Just take...baby steps..?"

The younger couldn't keep the grin of amusement that grew on his face away.

"You should keep watching Sesame Street. Elmo can really help you, you know," Ash teased to which Eiji responded by sticking his tongue out at him.

Ash let a small spurt of laughter escape his lips.

He's supposed to be an adult but still acts like such a child.

The blonde followed the other out of the car and into the office where they signed in and sat in the reception room.

The point of today was an introductory; lay out a foundation and work from there. Although it wasn't much, the mere thought of opening up to someone other than Eiji was petrifying. Eiji knew him so well; he knew how to ground him whenever he had panic attacks, he knew how to comfort him whenever he woke up screaming from a nightmare, he knew how to walk down the streets to avoid crowds, he knew practically everything. Now he had to start over and explain it all over again to someone else.

And to make matters worse, it was a complete stranger who he'd be telling his life story to. Deep down he knew that this was a step towards healing, but that didn't help quiet the heartbeat that thundered in his ears.

"Aslan Callenreese?"

Ash felt panic envelope him and he felt a large lump in his throat. Reluctantly he got up and started towards the woman who had just called for him, but he felt a gentle hand slightly tug on his wrist.

"If you need me..."

Ash smiled small, "I know."

Eiji's hand wavered as Ash made his way to the woman once more and followed her to a room in which an older brunette woman sat on a chair with a clipboard in hand.

He sat in the seat across from her and he could already feel his nerves flaring up again.

She's not bad. 
She's not bad.
She doesn't want to hurt me.

I'm okay.
This is okay.
I'll be fine.

Eiji is right outside. I can always—
No. I need to do this on my own. 
I'll be fine.

I'll be—

"You must be Aslan, correct?"

"Yes."

She smiled, holding out her hand.
"Dr. Rose Avery, but you can call me Rose if that's more comfortable."

"Okay."

She hummed and jotted down something on her clipboard, then looked back up at him.

"So, Aslan," she paused,

"Tell me about yourself."

Chapter Text

He was able to push through the first two sessions, but at the third one when Rose suggested support groups and talking to people who have been through similar trauma, Ash lost it. He couldn't fathom how she could even suggest that. His blood boiled and his fists clenched as soon as he saw her reach for the stupid fucking pamphlets.

True, he only told her the very bare minimum of everything he lived through in New York, but she has a doctorate degree; shouldn't she know better?

He told her about how his mother left him, his brother, the baseball coach incident...

And that's all he was planning on telling her. No matter how kind she tried to be, she was still a stranger, and he was not about to tell his life story to a stranger who just so happens to have a degree.

"There are support groups that you can go to. They're not very far from—Izumo I believe Eiji mentioned—and you can talk to people who have had sim—"

No fucking thank you.

He didn't even let her finish whatever bullshit she was about to spit because he was already out the door. He had completely forgotten about Eiji until he reached the parking lot and realized that he was the one with the keys.

"Ash?"

The blonde huffed out an exasperated 'what?' and soon felt the Japanese boy's presence next to him.

"Are you okay? You look mad—"

"She suggested support groups."

Eiji tilted his head.
"So?"

So?
SO?!

Eiji couldn't possibly be on that monster's side. No way.

Ash turned to look at the raven-haired who's expression was drenched with confusion. Ash didn't know if it was his frustration, his own inner monster, or the fact that Eiji seemed crazy enough to say 'so?' as if it were nothing when his voice came out a bit raised.

No, not a bit.
A lot.

"What do you mean 'so?' Eiji?! She said I should talk to other people and that might help—"

"What if it does?"

"Oh what? I'm supposed to tell a whole bunch of people 'oh, hi, I'm Ash and I've been raped more times than I can even count. Oh! I was also a sex slave. Oh, I almost forgot. I kill people too! What's your story?'"

Eiji sighed sadly, his gaze on the other automatically turning soft and sympathetic.

"Killed. Ash, please don't say that."

"Say what? The truth?"

Eiji shook his head, lifting his hand to rest on the blonde's shoulder as gesture of empathy.

"Let's just go home, yes?"

He's missing the point!
Why is he looking at me like that?
I'm not a baby. I'm fine. I don't need that stupid doctor's bullshit. This is—

"Aslan?"

Ash shrugged Eiji off of him shaking his head.
"You don't get it, Eiji."

"Get what?"

Ash hated how soft and oblivious Eiji's voice sounded. He didn't deserve this. He didn't deserve to waste his time on a lost cause like him. He deserves better; so, so, so much better.

"You just–everything Eiji. It hurts and I can't-I won't–"

"It's okay. You don't have to say yes. Next time—"

"There won't be a next time."

Eiji's eyebrows puckered. He knew what Ash meant, but he needed this. Healing hurts and this was just part of the process. Wounds hurt, especially deep ones, and even more if you pick at them again. But it's all a process; wounds turn into scars and when you least expect it, those scars will fade away. Sure they're permanent and they'll always be there, but they'll be a distant memory and show that you've healed.

Ash needed to heal. Right now he was at the picking part. His wounds were reopening and they started bleeding again, but they'll eventually scar.

"We'll talk about it when we get home, okay?" Eiji made a motion to head towards the car but Ash didn't really seem to be done with the conversation.

If anything, he sounded all the more frustrated.

"You don't know what it's like! Back in New York, you said I had a gift. And I told you that my gift was killing people and you said it wasn't, so..." he looked up, jade eyes shining in the noon sun.

"So what is my gift then?"

Eiji smiled small as he felt the usual breeze kick up and blow gently against his skin.

"Loving."

Eiji made his way back to him, wary of not to come too close to upset him again. His brown eyes turned into pools of melted honey as he looked straight at Ash.

"You love Ash. Even with all you've been through. You love Max, Skipper, and..." his voice faltered for a moment when 'Shorter' slipped past his lips. He took a breath to regain his composure.

"You cared so much about your gang. You never let anyone hurt your friends. You put your life before there's. You love, Ash...more than anyone I've ever known. That's your gift."

Ash didn't realize when the tears in his eyes had begun to swell until his vision became blurry and Eiji's face turned into a frantic one.

"Sorry, I-I didn't mean to—"

He didn't get to finish his sentence, nor would he ever because Eiji, God Eiji, he had nothing to be sorry about. Ash's arms wrapped firmly around him, holding him close as his face hid into the raven haired's neck.

"Thank you."
That was the only thing he could say. He knew it wasn't enough, words alone weren't enough to describe how thankful he was towards him. Nothing he thought of could even come close to describe the feeling of pure gratitude. He didn't know how he got so lucky. He didn't know why God, the universe, or whatever it was that controlled things sent him an angel in disguise named Eiji. That was something he could just never wrap his head around. The fact that Eiji saved him, that he cared for him, that he was trying to heal him, the feeling of it was overwhelming.

He didn't know how to thank him. Eiji's soul was so pure and all Ash had done was taint it, yet this silly Japanese boy seemed to care less.

Why?

That was the principal question Ash asked himself almost on a daily basis.

He could never come up with an answer.

Ash tightened his hold around Eiji and felt more tears leak out. He could feel gentle circles being rubbed around his back.

Why, me, out of all people? 
I'm a monster and Eiji knows that.
Then why...

The younger of the two breathed in the scent the other encased and beamed.

"ArigatoEiji."

***

The house was empty when they got home, and the noise of the air conditioning was the only sound audible.

The two had eaten lunch at Eiji's childhood restaurant so they didn't really have much of an appetite. Instead, they settled on lounging in the living room and watching television.

Ash finally agreed to not giving up on therapy (much thanks to Eiji's expert convincing), and Ash felt it would be better to have Eiji next to him during the session for comfort. Although he needed to do this himself, he desperately needed a starting point, and two—no—three sessions in and he still didn't have that.

The Japanese happily obliged.

Ash hummed quietly in content at the comfort of the soft cushions of the sofa as his eyes blankly took in the images of the large screen in front of them.

"Hey, Eiji?"

"Hm?"

Ash tapped thoughtfully on the arm of the couch. He didn't really want to intrude but a large part of him was really curious. Not only that but if Eiji needed him, he really wanted to know.

"What are your therapy sessions with Rose like?"

Eiji glanced at Ash for a moment before looking back up at the TV, "Good."

Of course he needs pushing.

"I mean, what do you guys talk about?"

Eiji shifted, getting into a more comfortable position.
"My dreams. New York. Things like that."

"Dreams? Like...the ones that wake you up...?"

"Yes."

"What are they about? You've never told me."

Eiji scratched the side of his neck, something that made Ash smile a bit in amusement because it's something he always does when he gets nervous.

In all honesty, it's cute.

Ash cursed himself for letting that thought pop into his mind but shook his head and kept his attention focused.

"It's...they're...nothing much."

The blonde raised a brow, pulling his knees to his chest and resting his arms on them.

"You can talk to me too, you know."

Eiji hummed blankly. Ash pushed his brows together and gently grabbed the remote, slipping it out of the other's hand and placed it on the coffee table in front of them to move his attention from the TV to him.

"Eiji..."

He kept his gaze averted.

Obviously he wasn't going to tell Ash about his dreams. They were solely about him.

Every night he keeps seeing the same damn letter, the same reason to why Ash almost died.

A letter that he wrote and made Sing deliver it. If he had just given him the letter personally...

The voice in his head was dangerously starting to start up again, and he knew that if he continued feeding it, it would only get worse.

So he decided to shift the conversation in another direction.

"I was looking at some apartments."

Ash could plainly see the discomfort written across Eiji's face so instead of pushing further on, he just went with it.

"Yeah?"

Eiji nodded and slumped further into the pillows.
"There's one near the college. I was thinking maybe we could go see it one of these days?"

Aslan made a noise of agreement.
"That sounds good. How much is it?"

Eiji chuckled, bringing his hand to Ash's hair to ruffle it playfully.
"Don't worry about it."

They stayed like that for a moment, the older Japanese playing with silky locks and the two just enjoying each other's company. Ash couldn't help but feel that familiar sensation of warmth pump throughout his body.

It wasn't until Eiji's hand lowered from the side of his head to his cheek that Ash felt his heart pick up at the sensation, his eyes unable to break from Eiji's.

He leaned into the touch letting out a soft sigh of content. He had a voice in the back of his mind that was screaming at him to stop. It was telling him to get up and run away.

This is dangerous.
Eiji doesn't deserve you.
This won't end well.
You're a monster.
A devil.
How could an angel and a devil possibly—

"Aslan."

The tenderness of his voice was maddening. Truly it was.

Ash let out a 'hm?' as he closed his eyes and let himself feel the warmth of Eiji's hand pressed against his skin.

"I–um..." Eiji swallowed feeling his cheeks burning at the soft sight before him.

"You...?"

"I—"

"Onii-chan!"

Asako came bursting from the front door, her sudden voice making Eiji flinch away.

"Have some manners, girl!" Mrs. Okumura scolded, carrying bags in her hands. Ash immediately got up to help.

"Eiji, he's such a gentleman! Why can't you be like this?" The older woman said, sending her son a half-hearted glare. Ash chuckled lightly, "Arigato, Okumura-san."

She pinched the blonde's cheek, "You're catching on fast, eh?"

The younger smiled, continuing to put groceries back where they were while Eiji and his sister were bickering over whatever.

He put things in the fridge where they belonged, and he couldn't stop thinking about the moments with Eiji before Mrs. Okumura and Asako interrupted.

He swallowed thickly, not really knowing what to make of it. It was weirdly intimate, but...
Ash would be lying if he said that he didn't want more. He hated himself for it, but it was true.

Being with Eiji like that...

He shouldn't be thinking about it. It was probably nothing. They're friends. 
Close friends.
Best friends.

That's all they are and that's all they're going to be. Nothing is going to change.

Why am I even thinking about it like that?

Ash's jaw tightened, pushing the gallon of milk towards the back of the fridge.

"Ashuu!!!"

He turned back to see Asako at his feet, tugging on his shirt.

"Can we be together when you're done?"

Ash grinned, nodding, knowing that she meant 'hang out' by that.
Her English was sloppy and it reminded him of Eiji's when they had first met.

Good thing he watched Sesame Street.

***

私の名前は

Eiji pointed at the Japanese symbols with a pencil in hand.

"This means 'my name is'."

Ash slowly tried to mouth the word, struggling with the last portion of it.

"Wata-shi-no-neh-mae-h?"

Eiji giggled, shaking his headed.
"Wata-shino-namae-ha. The shino is pronounced together."

The American nodded and gave it another try.
"Wata-shino-neh-mae-ha?"

"Namae goes together too."

"Wata-shino-namae-ha As-la-n?"

"Hajimemashite. Watashinonamaeha Eiji."

Ash thought back to previous lessons, "Nice to meet you, my name is Eiji?"

The raven-haired smiled and clapped excitedly.
"Good job! Guess that," Eiji shoved his index finger against Ash's forehead, "this isn't empty after all."

Ash shook his head amused, "Don't be so sure, onii-chan. You were the one who had to learn English off of Elmo."

Eiji snorted pulling back his hand.
"I'm going to bed now."

The blonde tittered as Eiji put the notebook with Japanese letters written all over it away and snuggled into bed. The room soon grew dark and the room was illuminated by the moonlight bleeding in from the window. It was quiet. The silence wasn't a bad thing, but it meant that Ash could only hear the voices in his head.

So to try and block them, he decided to stir up some conversation.

"Eiji?"

"Hm?"

"Have you told your mom?"

Eiji flipped over so he could face Ash.

"About?"

"Moving out. The apartment and stuff?"

The raven-haired groaned at the reminder of something he really needed to do soon. To be completely honest, he was just putting it off. He was just going to tell her when he had bought everything.

His mother and him didn't really have the best relationship. Surely they got along in front of Ash and Asako, but behind closed doors, it was a different story. Eiji had yet to forgive his mother for everything she had—and hadn't—done. She gave her body to countless men while her husband and father of her children lay dying, she paid little to no attention to her son or daughter because she was giving herself to men in the bar, and she never bothered to call Eiji when he was in New York. The only time she seemed to care was when he almost died.

And to let him know that his father had passed.

Eiji didn't want to think back to that.
Guilt was choking him alive. Between not being to comfort his sister, not being able to attend the funeral, and being a mere burden to Ash and the gang, it only seemed to get worse.

But now it had probably reached its peak.
Although he'd rather not talk about it.

"I haven't. I was waiting until we were settled."

Ash scoffed, "So what? Surprise her?"

"No, I just–" Eiji sighed again, rolling onto his back to look up at the ceiling.

"If I told her now she wouldn't approve."

Ash propped himself up on his elbows, confusion echoing through him.

"Why? Your mom doesn't seem like that type of person."

Eiji rolled his eyes and gave a cold smile, his voice coming out as a muttery murmur.
"If only you knew."

"Knew what?"

The raven-haired boy shook his head, flipping back over to his side so that he was facing away from Ash.

"Good night, Aslan."

Ash plopped back down onto the mattress making the whole bed shake which nearly led to Eiji falling over the edge.

"Ash!"

The younger smirked and did it again, this time making sure his weight was enough to throw Eiji off the bed.

"ASH!!!"

Ash laughed, then quickly let out a 'oomf' sound when he felt a sudden weight on top of him.

He then recognized the bush of black hair that was muffling his laughter.

Eiji seemed really amused by it as well and before they knew it, their laughter was bouncing off the four walls of the room.

Eiji lowered his head into Ash's chest, his ear intently listening on the strong heartbeat beneath. He felt a prick of guilt surge through him but he tried to ignore that feeling. Ash was here, he was safe, and he was alive.

He wasn't going anywhere. He's breathing and his heart is beating.

Ash is alive.
Ash is alive.
Ash is alive.

He hadn't noticed that he had wrapped his arms around the other's torso, his head firm on Ash's chest.

"Eiji...?"

Eiji hummed softly. 
"Good night."

Ash didn't question further. If anything, the warmth of Eiji made his body relax, and his mind was completely mushy. No more darkness, just light.

Eiji breathed in the minty, hardwood scent Ash encased. The slow, rhythmic beating of his heart was enough to lull him to sleep.

Like a lullaby.

Chapter Text

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... 
Everything.

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.
Please.

***

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...?"

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.

"You okay?"

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—"

"You're lying."

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.

"I..."

"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."

"About?"

"Nothing. I—"

"Eiji."

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.

"Ash..."

"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.

 

Ah, right.

 

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."

 

Silence.

 

"What?"

"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–"

"Eiji–"

"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.

Your fault.
Your fault.
Ash almost died because of you.
Pathetic.
Useless.

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.

Forever.

***

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.

"Ash?"

"Hm?"

Eiji looked down towards the pavement, kicking a small pebble back into the grass, "I was thinking..."

"About?"

"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?"

"Flying."

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.

"Eiji."

"Yes?"

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.

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.

Soon.