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It's The Sunrise, And I See Your Jade Eyes

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"That wasn't how I expected my morning to go." Eiji drove on the highway, body slack with relief and perhaps too calm for someone who almost died that morning. The view whizzed past them in a blur and Ash was suddenly too tired for anything else. He remained silent from the passenger seat instead.

"Anyway, is there any place you need to go?" Eiji chirped. How was he too cheerful?

"Nowhere," Was Ash's terse reply. "Nobody wants someone who brings trouble wherever they go." That was pure dismissal. He hoped the man would drop it and drive on, maybe Ash could leave in the next couple of blocks.

"Great! Let's go get breakfast." Eiji grinned. Ash was surprised. He inclined his head to look at the man if he was serious.

"You almost got shot because of me and all you thought is to get something to eat?"

"Technically I wasn't able to eat a while ago because of what happened, but I guess you're right. You're pretty beat up. Do you want to go to the hospital first? I mean I have a first aid kit in the back and- oh! You can borrow one of my shirts if you want."

Ash stared at the guy like he was crazy. He was taking all this too easily.

"You're the one who fell fifteen feet and landed on the floor without any mats." Ash pointed out.

"The dumpster broke my fall," He laughed. "Ehh come to think of it, I should change too." Eiji waved off any other concerns. "Also we're going to McDonald's."

Ash peered at the man with disbelief. How could he be so untroubled? Ash had seen different men fall into deep panic after going through what they've just gone, and they were bigger, tougher men. This man didn't look anything like them, and yet... 

"Why isn't any of this bothering you?" Ash asked because it was making him suspicious. There was usually a catch, a barter, a trade. Everything Ash lived in ran in the law of equivalent exchange. Whether it was dangerous favors, lifelong debts, or mind blowing sex, people always asked Ash something in return.

"Any of what?" Eiji asked for a clarification, not tearing his gaze from the road. Focused.

"This," Ash gestured at himself. "Everything. Nobody gets a near death experience with a stranger and offers to drive them to McDonald's."

Ash thought to the fear in those dark eyes from earlier. They were real. He thought about how Eiji trembled in the midst of the gunfire and wondered how this was the same man. And yet this same man had jumped over a wall without the safety of any mats on the other side, and somehow get little to no injuries from that jump.

"We aren't really strangers though, not anymore." Eiji said in between Ash's stream of thought, tethering him back to the present. "I know your name is Ash Lynx and you know my name is Eiji Okumura. I came from Japan and I'm a photographer travelling the world. There, isn't that enough?" 

"You don't know anything about me." Ash wanted the man to understand, wanted him to know that he was more trouble than he's worth, that previous events had proven that being with Ash was never a good idea for anyone. His name wasn't really even Ash Lynx for goodness sake.

"You can tell me along the way," Eiji shrugged. He was too careless. Anybody could take advantage of him. "But only if you want to of course. Besides I think you're a good person."

Ash paused. His thoughts grinded into a halt. The world seemed to have stopped. And it started spinning again, faster than the previous one, all because of that one sentence.

"Why?" He managed to croak out. He wasn’t a good person.

"Because you saved me. Any other person would leave me to die." He replied simply, as if it was the most obvious thing, as if it was the truth he faced everyday like how hot is hot and cold is cold, and the sun rises from the east, as if this wasn't the first time Ash heard it in his life and was the most absurd thing he's ever heard too.

Ash laughed. It was short and sad, a hollowed clipped sound. "You were only in trouble because you were with me."

Eiji set his jaw. His grip on the wheels tightened that his knuckles nearly turns white.

"No. I was just unlucky," He insisted with an edge on his voice. "Although I don't think meeting you is anything but lucky."

Unbelievable. Ash found his toothy grin so. This man was probably the most stupid, reckless person born in this world. He was the most unfathomable man he's ever met. He knew arguing about it now would be pointless. He knew what level of stubbornness was worth the fight and which was not.

"Whatever." He said instead. "You're paying anyway." Ash leant on his seat and rested his legs on the dashboard. They'll probably part ways after the meal and this would be something Ash would look back with bewilderment, and he'll probably recall the bizarre encounter at some point. And the man will forget him as time passed. Ash scowled.

"Glad to know we're on the same page." Eiji nodded absentmindedly. They made a turn to the right.

"You might want to ditch the car. The men after us might recognize it." Ash pointed out. Although the men weren't able to see the plate number and even if they did, they're already dead. Ash made sure with a bullet to the head. Plus that run down diner didn't have any cameras. However a little precaution wouldn't hurt. He wasn't sure if there were any others hiding in the shadows.

The man might protest to abandoning the car though. It looked kinda expensive, despite getting slightly wrecked. Ash tried to think of a way to convince without resorting to violence or any kind of argument. Ash had no energy for a verbal show down and the man proved to be stubborn when he set himself to it.

"Sure. I'll call for a replacement. I'll ask them to dispose of this one too." Eiji shrugged.

Wow. That was...surprisingly easy. People usually put up a fight first.

"You a son of a millionaire or something?" Ash asked in jest. Because nobody just does that. But this man was starting to prove himself as not just somebody.

"Something like that. Yeah." Eiji chuckled. Ash was ready to laugh at the punchline but when he stared at the man, he looked dead serious. Only the faint traces of a smile left in his face. Suddenly all humor left Ash and was replaced with disbelief.

"No shit?" He asked. Just to be sure they were on the same page and he wasn't trying to pull his leg.

"Yep." Eiji's grin suddenly became too wide.

"So you're filthy rich?"

"I'd say we're comfortable." Eiji said with calmness. "Have you heard of the Okumura group of companies?"

Ash did. He thought it was a coincidence at first of course. They owned a great chunk of the stock market. The Okumura Corporation was responsible in manufacturing technology of the latest model with different branches from across the world. Cars, phones, TV's, computers, cameras.  Eiji wasn't the son of a millionaire.

He was the son of a multi-billionaire.

"Don't look at me like that," Eiji clucked his tongue, slight admonishment in his tone, though his eyes reflected nothing but mirth. "It's not like I'm a different person already. I'm still the same man you met at the diner. I'm sure you have your own skeletons in the closet."

Ash did. But his secrets weren't as easy to spill or to confess.

"Why are you telling me this? Shouldn't you worry I might use this to my advantage? Didn't your parents teach you about stranger danger? Other men can hold you ransom you know. America isn't anything like Japan."

"Mhmm...you won't." Eiji said with an air of unfounded confidence, at least it was unfounded confidence to Ash.

"I can." Ash narrowed his eyes. Maybe it was because he was a foreigner. He knew Ash screamed danger just from the last thirty minutes’ events.

"But you won't," Eiji said. And there was finality in it. "Otherwise you won't be telling me this." He looked smug as he drove to the parking area. "You're going to slowly earn my trust and use me later. Maybe even trick me. Either way, kidnappers don't tell their plans ahead. They most certainly don't worry about people like me telling them about how rich they actually are."

Damn the man and his strange unfathomable logic. Telling Ash was gamble. Anybody can take advantage of him. Ash felt something deep inside him stir, an urge he couldn't explain and it was irksome, frustrating. He was too susceptible to danger. Someone needed to keep him out of it.

"Besides," He continued, oblivious from Ash's frustration. He rummaged around his backpack, pulled out a pink sweater and handed Ash a loose grey shirt. "Weren't you the one who wanted to know more about each other?" He winked at the man, opened the car door and slid out, leaving Ash with his bewildered self.

Crazy. Mad. Unbelievable.

Ash slipped the grey shirt on before getting out of the car. It was tight on his body and it stretched out far too much for comfort, but it was something and at least he wasn't shirtless anymore. He probably had to do something about his bruises.

Ash got out of the car with a scowl. He followed Eiji to the door.

Eiji changed shirts from inside while Ash lined up at the counter. They ordered food and settled down.

"I've never seen an American who doesn't like burgers." Eiji said as he munched on one.

Ash snickered. "That's an American stereotype." He opted for just fries.

They continued eating in silence. 

"So..." Eiji started. "What now?"

"What do you mean?"

Eiji wiped his fingers with a tissue. "I don't know. What are your plans after this?"

"Nothing." Ash scowled. "Wander around aimlessly. Get out of the country I guess." He huffed.

"Well.." Eiji looked at his hands. "You can always come with me? If you don't have any plans that is."

Ash stared at the man.

"What?"

And suddenly he was shy. It was a rather interesting contradiction from his stubbornness from a while ago.

"I mean if you want to wander around then you can come with me. I'm going to drive to Vancouver today... Or at least I was going to." He laughed with nervousness.

Silence.

"What is up with you and the disregard for safety? Why are you so insistent on being with me?"

"Nothing!" Eiji raised his hand in defense. "I just think it's beneficial since we might be headed to the same direction. Plus traveling alone is lonely and I'm starting to like you a lot."

Ash gave him a look.

"What? I say whatever I'm thinking and I follow whatever I feel." Eiji seemed to have felt the need to defend himself.

This was ridiculous. Ash should say no. He should leave. He should walk out and forget about a man named Eiji Okumura. He should forget about this Japanese man with the accented English and dark dark eyes. He should keep him away from danger. Ash was a nonbeliever. He didn't believe in signs from the universe. Some things happen because of a coincidence, a happenstance in the order of events.

After all, it was the only explanation why he was in the passenger seat of a brand new Fisker, ("It's electric because we should be environmentally friendly Ash, stop looking at it with judgmental eyes.”) On his way to Vancouver with the radio blasting random American songs.

"Well this wasn't how I imagined my afternoon to go." Ash confessed after the silence. "Why are you going to Canada anyway?"

"Hmm.."

The man hummed with a thoughtful expression crossing his face. Ash couldn't help but feel the anticipation in the air. A bated breath. Perhaps it was something important, something he couldn't say, something suspicious. Ash imagined a son of a rich man would have many important things to do.

"I want to eat pancakes with authentic Canadian maple syrup." Eiji replied after the lengthy quiet he spent in contemplation. He said it in an abrupt manner that Ash would've been surprised if he wasn't waiting for it.

He wouldn't say he was disappointed, but he didn't think the long pause was necessary. "So a vacation?" He tried not to let his feelings bleed into his words.

"I wouldn't say that," The Asian exhaled and Ash thought perhaps he detected the hint of his dissatisfaction. If he did, he simply looked amused to it. Ash didn't know what to feel with this. "I'm going to Alaska. Then I'm going to ride a ship to Russia. Then I'd travel from there to the end of Europe. So it's more of a road trip really," He grinned as he turned to Ash. "It's going to be fun." They were out of the city by now, the buildings were replaced by trees. They were riding through the highway. The heavy concrete buildings were replaced by dirt. The rich earthy scent was nothing like the city.

The windows were rolled down and the crisp smell of pine was fragrant to their nose. The greenery outside passed in a blur, the sun was sinking from the horizon and bathed the sky with its golden light. Ash thought it looked pretty. It was different from the sunset in New York. It looked nothing like the one he saw in Seattle.

"So you're planning for a long ride." Ash closed his eyes and leaned back to the plush seat of the car. "Must be nice."

"Yes," Eiji answered. "I'd like to think it will be."

"Why would you want to go?" Ash stole a glance at the man.

And then there was amusement once more in the curves of his face, in the dip of his lips and the lines of his skin. It made him look even younger, younger than he already look. "Do you always ask about everything to anyone you meet?" His tone wasn't accusing, nor was it irritated. He just sounded amused.

Ash shrugged. He gave an indifferent noise. "I don't like not knowing." It was a force of habit. It was of essence that he knew everything. He needed to think of every move, of every factor, of every possibility. He needed to think five, ten, twenty steps ahead. But Eiji didn't know this so for now, so Ash let him be with his amusement.

This time Eiji sighed a deeper sigh. One that was drawn from deep your soul and left your bones tired. It was a sigh that made you weak, not exactly resignation but not also contentment. It's something that existed in between.

"I just wanted to run away from it all, I guess?" Eiji's voice pitched into a whisper. It sounded just a bit reverent. "I think we're the same in that way. I could feel it."

We're the same in that way.

He's heard of this many times and it disgusted him. It made his skin crawl. They were lies, nothing more.

At least they usually do.

But these words were uttered with innocence. These were said without the taint of his past, unsullied, clean. Perhaps now this was truthful and perhaps this was someone who truly empathized with him, truly understood the feeling of being shackled down by something. He thought it was funny that he would feel this from a man who knew nothing about him.

Why someone like him would want to run away was beyond him. Ash couldn't figure out this confusing, unfathomable man. This reckless, unbelievable Japanese. He was a mystery, a puzzle, a conundrum. Ash wanted to break it down, he wanted nothing more but to understand.

"Hold up. I love this song." Eiji turned up the volume of the radio. It echoed in the tiny space of the car, guitar riffs starting. He broke into a large grin as he started singing with his accented English. It sounded awful in the most comical way but Eiji didn't seem to care. He didn't seem to be the type who would care about many things, and it wasn’t bad in any way.

I was told a million times
Of all the troubles in my way
Mind you grow a little wiser
Little better every day
But if I crossed a million rivers
And I rode a million miles
Then I'd still be where I started
Bread and butter for a smile
Well I sold a million mirrors
In a shopping alley way
But I never saw my face
In any window any day
Now they say your folks are telling you
Be a super star
But I tell you just be satisfied
Stay right where you are
Keep yourself alive, yeah
Keep yourself alive
Ooh, it'll take you all your time and money
Honey you'll survive

It was Queen playing on the radio while Eiji banged his head to the beat, albeit being a bit off. And perhaps his energy was infectious because Ash could feel his lips quirk up a little.

"So you like Queen?" Ash asked in the middle of the guitar riff between verses. Eiji giggled with this giddiness that made you laugh with him. It reminded you of the rush of water in the stream, or the sound of bells chiming in the wind. It reminded you of sweet honey.

"Like it? I love Queen. It's almost ridiculous." And he laughed in the most carefree way, in a way Ash had never done in so long, in years. He felt a flicker of envy deep inside him. But he quashed it before it grew, before it can consume him with its flames. Instead he smiled ever so slightly and committed these few precious days of calm into memory.

Well I've loved a million women
In a belladonic haze
And I ate a million dinners
Brought to me on silver trays
Give me everything I need
To feed my body and my soul
And I'll grow a little bigger
Maybe that can be my goal
I was told a million times
Of all the people in my way
How I had to keep on trying
And get better every day
But if I crossed a million rivers
And I rode a million miles
Then I'd still be where I started
Same as when I started
Keep yourself alive, come on
Keep yourself alive
Ooh, it'll take you all your time and money honey
You'll survive, shake

Eiji swayed with the music.

There were few cars around them and they were too far from Seattle now. The smooth thrum of the car's engine was lulling him to sleep. Ash tried to keep his eyes from drooping. He tried to stifle his yawn.

"Don't you have a favorite band?" Eiji's question snapped him from his drowsiness. But the lovely orange sky that dipped into the horizon and softened everything for Ash, making everything else prettier in his eyes.

"I never had the time to think about it." He finally said.

The sky steadily mixed into inky black and blue, the first stars revealing themselves with subtlety. It was a stunning picture.

Keep yourself alive, wow
Keep yourself alive
Oh, it'll take you all your time and money
To keep me satisfied
Do you think you're better every day?
No, I just think I'm two steps nearer to my grave
Keep yourself alive, c'mon
Keep yourself alive
Mm, you take your time and take more money
Keep yourself alive
Keep yourself alive
C'mon keep yourself alive
All you people keep yourself alive
Keep yourself alive
C'mon c'mon keep yourself alive
It'll take you all your time and a money
To keep me satisfied

“That’s too bad.” Eiji said. He stopped singing, allowing the music started to fade away all together into nothing but a soft humming in the background.

 “It’s not that bad.” Ash kept his gaze outside the window, letting the last of the music resonate away until it was the only thing echoing in his ears and his mind.

Keep yourself alive
Keep yourself alive
All you people keep yourself alive
Take you all your time and money honey
You will survive
Keep you satisfied