“You ready?” Max asked.
“Yep, I’m ready to go to Japan,” Ash nodded, determined but worried.
Max had gotten Ash to the airport and told him what to do, being a veteran of air travel. Ash looked around nervously, spooked by the wide spaces and carefree people.
“They can’t take guns or knifes on the airplane,” Max affirmed, which slightly alleviated Ash’s nerves, before adding, “but that’s not what I’m asking about,” Max smiled mischievously. “Are you ready to see Eiji?”
“...Yah…” Ash wistfully spoke, the idea of meeting Eiji making his insides wiggle with joy.
“I know that you too love each other,” Max said happily, putting an arm around him in a fatherly manner.
“That’s bullshit!” Ash retorted, his face turning a shade of pink that Max had never seen. He does, he just won’t admit it to me .
He folded his arms and turned his back like a pouting child, adding, “and how are you and the old lady?”
“Don’t call my wife an old lady!” Max yelled back, Ash giving a successful side glance. “And if you are wondering, we are doing amazing, thank you very much!”
A general announcement went over the intercom, snapping them out of their bantering. Ash looked at his watch.
“I should probably get going.”
“Probably,” Max shrugged, walking him towards security. “Now, tell Eiji that everyone says hey.”
“I will,” Ash laughed, turning and walking away from New York.
Despite the hectic yet organized synergy of aerial travel, to Ash, the whole passage was too mundane. He ordered a lot of unhealthy snacks, a sandwich, and other essentials before heading to his plane, which was equipped with efficiently constructed beds.
* * *
Eiji jumped out of bed that day and put clothes on, running out to meet Ibe-san and drive over to the airport, which was less crowded with people. The process was painfully slow, parking the car and walking out the baggage claim. He felt like he was moving in slow motion, and wasn’t able to determine whether it was the fatigue or the anticipation. Either way, they stood out and waited in the large airport, people walking here and there, quieted words flowing around their heads like a haze.
But there he was.
Ash, standing out among the paler, black haired Japanese people as a tall, skinny American boy with blond locks and jade eyes, waiting expectantly. Eiji sprinted towards Ash, shouting his name, causing him to perk up. Ash, spotting a blurred figure, dropped all that weighted him down and crashed into a hard, heartfelt hug. They were both crying like kids, so happy to be wrapped in each other’s arms, and for both to be alive after all they went through.
The pedestrians around were somewhat spooked by the sudden emotional scene, but promptly resumed their business once Ibe-san finally reached them.
Eiji just held Ash in his arms and was the first to collect his emotions, whispering, “Welcome to Japan.”
Ash forced a laugh, and pulled away to see Eiji’s tearstained face. They both separated awkwardly and wiped their faces, and Ash gave Ibe-san a manly hug-pat.
Ash bought himself a hotel room and Eiji told his family he was out with friends while he took Ash sight seeing. It was a whirlwind of planned outings, museums, and restaurants, each one better than the other. They laughed, teased, goofed off, and felt that the burdens' of adulthood had vanished for the short time that they were together.
Sadly, however, the week did not last long enough, and Ash had to go back to New York. It wasn’t a sad affair, but there definitely was a cloud hanging over there heads when they got to the airport. Neither wanted this to end, their short week of adventures across Tokyo.
“I had an amazing time,” Ash affirmed.
“Me too,” Eiji smiled somberly. “You’ll be missed…”
Ash swiftly gave Eiji a kiss on the cheek and whispered seductively in his ear something that sent shivers down his spine.
“ I can’t wait to come back .”
Ash winked charmingly before walking away, leaving Eiji a fluttered mess with his cheeks burning and a pounding heart, keeping his eyes trained on the small figure striding away giddily.